2.28.2010

Maddow: If the Tinfoil Hat Fits....

Also from Friday night's show, Rachel Maddow decides that this is the most tinfoily conspiracy theory that the teabagging, right-wing birthers have come up with yet:

For the GOP, if the tinfoil hat fits...

Feb. 26: Chris Hayes, Washington editor of The Nation, talks with Rachel Maddow about the strange development on the right of embracing the conspiracy-minded fringe instead of purging them to preserve credibility.

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Maddow Addresses Rep. Trent Franks: Slavery Was Better for Blacks? (UPDATED)

A couple of days ago, Congressman Trent Franks told blogger Mike Stark that, "African-Americans were better off under slavery" because of the abortion rate in today's African-American community. Keep in mind that Franks is also lying about that 50% figure. Here's that full video:



Rep. Trent Frank: (R-AZ) In this country, we had slavery for God knows how long. And now we look back on it and we say "How brave were they? What was the matter with them? You know, I can’t believe, you know, four million slaves. This is incredible." And we’re right, we’re right. We should look back on that with criticism. It is a crushing mark on America’s soul. And yet today, half of all black children are aborted. Half of all black children are aborted. Far more of the African American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by the policies of slavery. And I think, What does it take to get us to wake up?
On Friday night's show, Rachel Maddow took on Congressman Trent Franks for those remarks, as well as Franks' homestate legislatures, who are nearly 50% birthers, for voting to force President Obama to produce his birth certificate."
AZ Rep.: Slavery was better for blacks


UPDATE I:

You can read more about Franks' unbelievably ignorant comments at Think Progress, TPM, Daily Kos, AmericaBlog & Media Matters.

UPDATE II:

Trent's comments are almost as dumb as Virgina's Bob Marshall, who believes disabled children are 'God's punishment' for abortions (via Crooks & Liars):

When a group of religious-right poobahs unveiled their effort in Virginia last week to attack Planned Parenthood and its funding, one of them -- a Republican legislator named Bob Marshal, as Josh at RightWingWatch reported -- declared that God punished women who've had abortions by giving them disabled children later:

“The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children,” said Marshall, a Republican.

“In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest.”

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2.27.2010

Jon Stewart Reviews the Health Care Summit

Jon Stewart reviewed the Health Care Summit, as only he can, on Thursday's night's show:

Bipartisan Health Care Reform Summit 2010

Something strange happens at the health care summit when Republicans and Democrats actually start having a conversation.


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WALL STREET PUPPETS: How Wall Street's Front Group is Trying to Trick Montana

Americans United for Change is coming to Sen. Jon Tester's defense against attacks from a Wall Street front group not happy that they haven't been able to buy him off:

The Wall Street crackdown bill is a "Big Bank Bailout" bill according to an attack ad sponsored by A a shadowy group called the "Committee for Truth in Politics". Who is really behind the ad? Follow the money.

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FACT CHECK from Chuck Todd: Dem Not Trying to Pass Entire Health Care Bill w/ Reconciliation

Yeah, I get to post something not negative about NBC's Chuck Todd.




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Marco Rubio and the Florida GOP Credit Card Scandal: Priceless

Have you heard about uber Conservative Florida Gubernatorial candidate Marco Rubio's credit card scandal? No, well then here ya go:

Don't want to read all about it, then the DNC compiled this montage just for you:
Marco Rubio and the FLGOP Credit Card Scandal


And now the DNC has created a new ad:
FLGOP CREDIT CARD SCANDAL: Priceless

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Drumline in the White House (VIDEO)

From the White House Website:

An 8 person drumline from Virginia State University plays in the Cross Hall of the White House before an event honoring Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

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Angry Films: "Sorry Ryan You Don't Have Health Insurance"

From the cuties over at Angry Films Production:

So the kids brought home the health care debate again and now they want to keep it. And seeing how we're in a good mood as the Men's hockey team beat Canada's hockey team we said they could, as long as they feed it and promise it'll never kill them...



Support the boys!!

Website: http://angryfilmsproductions.com
Facebook: http://angryfilmsproductions.com/fb
Twitter: http://twitter.com/angryfilms
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Guest Blogger Jason Leopold: Documents Reveal Anthem Blue Cross Manipulated Data to Justify Massive Rate Hike

Last week, Anthem Blue Cross announced 39% rate increases, claiming it was doing what it needed to do to keep up with the rising cost of health care. People were not only outraged, but as it turns out, that was a lie.

Documents expose Anthem was using manipulated data & tying their rate increases to their profit margins.

This is Jason Leopold's piece
about these revelations on t r u t h o u t, which was originally posted on Wednesday 24 February 2010:

Documents Reveal Anthem Blue Cross Manipulated Data to Justify Massive Rate Hike

by: Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t | Investigative Report

Internal documents show one of the country's largest for-profit health insurers, in an effort to maintain profits, manipulated data to justify a rate increase on individual premiums in California this year by as much as 39 percent.

At a closely watched Congressional hearing Wednesday, Rep. Henry Waxman, the Democratic chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, blasted WellPoint Inc. executives for publicly stating that the country's economic turmoil and rising health care costs was the reason its Anthem Blue Cross subsidiary intended to move forward with a massive rate increase in California when the company's own documents say otherwise.

Waxman said the company "may have manipulated its actuarial assumptions to keep its medical loss ratio (MLR), a key measure reviewed by California regulators, 'flat.'"

"WellPoint says the rate increases are a result of medical inflation and healthier policyholders dropping coverage," Waxman (D-California) said. "But the thousands of pages of WellPoint documents we have reviewed tell another story ... WellPoint says that its rate increases have nothing to do with increasing company profits. But an internal company e-mail says that its rate increase would 'return CA to target profit of 7 percent.'"

The email Waxman referred to was sent October 7, 2009, by WellPoint executive Barry Shane to Cynthia Miller, the company's executive vice president, chief actuary and integration management officer. It says:

Re CA rate filing ... I will try to keep you better informed re: key increases. Average increase is 23 percent and is intended to return CA to target profit of 7 percent (vs 5 percent this year). Still have another 1-2 weeks of discussion before we get finalized. Also, this has been a collaborative rate development process [with another executive] and his team fully engaged and encouraging a higher rate increase (while being aware of the risk associated).

Backlash

Last month, it was revealed that Anthem Blue Cross notified thousands of its 800,000 customers in California who hold individual plans that they would be affected by a rate hike as of March 1. The increase has been delayed by two months pending an independent review launched two weeks ago at the behest of California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner.

Poizner, a GOP gubernatorial candidate, said he "instructed" an outside actuary "to review the rates with a fine-tooth comb" to determine if the rate hikes are excessive and ensure that Anthem Blue Cross is spending 70 cents of every dollar on premium medical care as required by state law.

If the actuary finds "that these rate increases were unwarranted, I will immediately take action to get Anthem Blue Cross to follow the law and lower their rates," he said.

When news of the rate hike broke, it resulted in a major backlash against the health insurer and underscored the urgency of passing legislation to reform the industry.

Wednesday's hearing was chaired by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Michigan) and comes a day before Republican and Democratic leaders gather at the White House for a hotly-anticipated bipartisan health care summit that will be broadcast live on C-Span.

The meeting will be led by President Barack Obama and is intended to get both parties to agree on provisions to be included in a health care bill, the cornerstone of Obama's domestic agenda. Obama has cited the Anthem Blue Cross rate hike several times in recent weeks in an effort to rally lawmakers behind his health care proposal.

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services released a report, Insurance Companies Prosper, Families Suffer: Our Broken Health Insurance System, that identified how other for-profit health insurance companies were planning massive rate increases in Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington.

The timing of Wednesday's hearing was not lost on some Republican lawmakers, such as Congressman Michael Burgess (R-Texas), who said it was a political ploy scheduled to promote Obama's "six-hour photo op."

Burgess, a doctor, defended WellPoint's rate hike, stating it could be due to a variety of factors, and "any number, no matter how big, may be acceptable."

But Stupak said the committee's probe "discovered internal documents that suggest a closer relationship between the proposed premium increases and WellPoint profits."

"The documents reveal that WellPoint sought inflated premium increases as a negotiating tool with the California Department of Insurance," Stupak said.

One such document released by the committee last week called into question recent claims by WellPoint to justify Anthem Blue Cross's rate increase in California. The company pointed out that healthy individuals had decided to drop their coverage. But according to data the company submitted to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, in 2009 enrollment actually rose by more than 7 percent, from 583,967 individual policyholders at the end of 2008 to 627,082 individual policyholders at the end of the third quarter of 2009.

Cooking the Books?

California law requires WellPoint, as well as other health insurers, to spend 70 percent of its premium costs on medical care.

According to the committee's investigation, "to meet this requirement, WellPoint reported to the California Department of Insurance that its anticipated medical loss ratios for each plan as of March 2010 ranged from 72.0% to 78.9%, with one outlier of 144.8%."

"One factor that can have a great impact on medical spending is the number of healthy people, who are relatively inexpensive to insure and chose to leave a particular plan. This is known as 'adverse selection,'" according to the committee's analysis of internal WellPoint documents.

"If a company projects that a large number of healthy people will exit a plan, the estimated spending on medical care for the remaining sicker population is expected to rise and result in a higher medical loss ratio," the committee's analysis concluded. "Even if premium increases generate more revenue for a particular plan, if the pool of policyholders for that plan becomes more expensive to insure, the medical loss ratio will appear higher."

WellPoint uses the concept of "adverse selection" to justify its premium increases, according to the documents. During discussions WellPoint executives had with Energy Committee staff last year, the company disclosed that as much as seven percentage points of the average 25 percent increase in premiums is due to "adverse selection."

According to internal e-mails obtained by the Energy Committee WellPoint "may have manipulated its adverse selection projections to achieve a desired medical loss ratio."

In a September 3, 2009 email, David Shea, WellPoint's vice president for individual pricing, proposed for health plans regulated by the California Department of Insurance to “add 1.0% to margin for adverse selection to ultimately keep MLR flat.”

In the same e-mail, he also proposed for health plans regulated by the California Department of Managed Care to “[a]dd 2.0% to projected claims for adverse selection to lower the margin to flat.”

The medical loss ratio is the proportion of premium revenues that a health insurance plan uses to pay down medical claims. The rest of the money is booked as profit and also used for other expenses, such as marketing and administrative costs and executive compensation.

According to documents obtained by the committee, WellPoint put together a 12-point plan to reduce its medical loss ratio.

In a document titled "WellPoint Individual Business 2010 Plan 1st Pass," the company identified "[o]pportunities (not reflected in forecast/Plan). Under the "Risk Management" heading, the plan indicates that WellPoint's medical loss ration "should improve as we eliminate subsidies and other Risk Management Initiatives.”

That was followed by 12 risk initiatives followed, which included:

  • “Application for those with prior coverage will be dated no earlier than the day after receipt.”
  • “Pre-existing waiting periods have been adjusted to be the either 12 months or the legal maximum if less.”
  • “Reinstatements will only be allowed for a period of 60 days post termination and will require underwriting and payment of back premiums.”

WellPoint executives also identified key issues confronting the individual market in California that helps to better explain why it was targeted with a double-digit rate increase.

"Lack of attention to risk management, decreased ability to use pre-existing claim denials and rescind policies, and maternity policies have led to first year loss ratios climbing from less than 50% five years ago to over 65% today," the company's 12-point plan document says.

Denials

WellPoint Chief Executive Angela Braly testified Wednesday that the rate increase in California, filed last November, was reviewed by an "independent actuarial firm" that concluded the company's "methodology was reasonable.

"Raising our premiums was not something we wanted to do--but we believe this was the most prudent choice given the rising cost of care and the problems caused by many younger and healthier policyholders dropping or reducing their coverage during tough economic times," Braly said, adding that the company "clearly" understands "that rate increases create a challenge for many of our members."

"However, it is important to know that many of our members often have a choice of coverage," she said. Still, WellPoint "determined that a rate increase averaging approximately 25 percent (excluding aging) was necessary."

Braly said she "was very disappointed to see the health reform debate change . . . to an attack on the health insurance industry, specifically pointing to our profits and citing this as the primary reason for premium increases, which is very misleading."

But Waxman wasn't buying any of it and he again pointed to the company's own internal documents, which he says show the health insurer's reasons for hiking rates are purely profit-driven.

In a November 2, 2009, email, Bryan Curley, WellPoint's regional vice president and actuary, wrote: "Note: we are asking for premiums that would put us $40 [million] favorable. Just a week earlier, Curley told Brian Sassi, president and chief executive of WellPoint's consumer business, that "[i]f we get the increases on time, we will see an op gain upside of $30 [million] after downgrades and rate caps."

The committee also took issue with Braly's statement that "raising our premiums was not something we wanted to do" noting that other documents "suggest that WellPoint padded its rate increase by five percentage points to counteract anticipated concessions to [California] state regulators concerning the size of its premium increases."

In an internal email dated October 24, 2009, Shane, WellPoint's vice president of consumer actuary, told Sassi, that WellPoint executives needed to "reach agreement on a filing strategy quickly - specifically in the area of do we file with a cushion allowed for negotiations/margin expansion, or do we file at a lower level that maintains margin, but does not allow for negotiation."

"It appears that WellPoint elected to file with 'a cushion,'" according to the Energy Committee's review of WellPoint's internal documents. "In an October 21, 2009, presentation to the WellPoint Board of Directors, Mr. Sassi identified the 'Key Assumptions' in pricing for the individual market in 2010. This slide differentiated the '2010 Rate Ask' from the '2010 Plan Rate Increase.' According to the slide, WellPoint's 'Rate Ask' would be 25 percent to 26 percent, while the 'Rate Increase' the company assumed in its '2010 Plan' was just 20.4 percent."

Watered Down Coverage

Other documents showed that WellPoint sought to reduce benefits coverage and place some of its California customers affected by the rate increase into less than generous plans.

WellPoint's strategy for shifting consumers into reduced benefit plans has three parts.

First, according to the committee's review of documents, WellPoint’s highest rate increases "seem to apply to their most comprehensive insurance plans."

For example:

Maternity care is a marker for a more comprehensive package of benefits. A chart of proposed rates shows that WellPoint’s highest rate increases apply to the only two product families regulated by the Department of Insurance with maternity coverage. The chart also shows that for the most part, WellPoint proposed lower increases within specific product lines for the versions with higher deductibles than for the versions with lower deductibles.

Second, WellPoint is developing new products, called “downgrade options,” to promote to consumers facing the high rate increases. In one e-mail, David Shea, the Vice President for Individual Pricing, states: “Jim has asked Bryan to price 5-6 downgrade options to be made available in conjunction with the upcoming rate action.” In another internal e-mail, Mr. Curley, the Regional Vice President and Actuary, proposed that WellPoint “create 5-6 CA look-alike plans for CA with a benefit or two removed to create a downgrade option upon renewal.”

WellPoint also introduced a completely new product line called CoreGuard, advertised to have “some of our lowest monthly rates” and a “higher percentage of member cost-sharing in exchange for lower premiums.” One of the CoreGuard plans has a $20,000 deductible for a family for in-network services and a separate $20,000 deductible for non-network services. On top of that, a family can spend an additional $15,000 for co-payments for non-network services. Enrollees can be liable for another $4,500 in prescription drug costs. This adds up to a potential $59,500 out-of-pocket maximum for a family, who are still liable for the cost of drugs not on the formulary and maternity services.

Third, company officials discussed scaling back benefits for existing plans. Indeed, in an October 2, 2009, email Shea sent to Curley and James Oatman, another executive, Shea wrote: "During our Plan review this morning Brian was mentioning that, in CA in the past, we mitigated rate increases by introducing product changes for existing members. We brought up the introduction of new products but he wanted to pursue existing product changes."

In another e-mail, Curley described different scenarios that would result in 6 to 10 percent reductions in benefits for four plans, such as raising deductibles in three of the four plans and adding 25 percent coinsurance payments.

Waxman said "actively developing...'downgrade options,' effectively reduces benefits for its policyholders."

"This 'purging' process cuts coverage for WellPoint policyholders when they need it most: when they get sick," he added.

The committee also heard testimony from three of Anthem Blue Cross's individual policy holders. Lauren Meister testified that she was notified that WellPoint will increase her rates by 38.6 percent this year. She said that WellPoint offered her an alternative plan that does not cover the brand name medication she needs to treat a chronic condition. Meister said WellPoint told her that the alternative plan would require her to pay $5,000 out of pocket before the insurance kicks in.

And Jeremy Arnold testified that he has experienced rate increases on his WellPoint policy totaling 74 percent between 2009 and 2010. Anthem has proposed to raise his rates by 38 percent this year.

Corporate Getaways

Waxman and other Democratic lawmakers on the Energy Committee criticized WellPoint for spending tens of millions of dollars on retreats for top executives and doling seven-figure salaries.

"One question we asked is where does all of this money go?" Waxman asked in his opening statement. "We have learned that in 2008, WellPoint paid 39 senior executives over $1 million each. And the company spent tens of millions of dollars more on expensive corporate retreats. During 2007 and 2008, WellPoint spent $27 million on 103 executive retreats. One retreat in Scottsdale, Arizona, cost over $3 million."

"Corporate executives at WellPoint are thriving, but its policyholders are paying the price," Waxman said. "WellPoint executives may get richer, but our nation's health is suffering."

The committee included photographs of the luxurious five-star hotels, such as the Four Seasons in San Diego and Hawaii, that corporate executives stayed at during their getaways.

WellPoint generated $4.75 billion in earnings last year and its profit margin soared to 7.8 percent, compared with 4.1 percent in 2008. Over the past 12 months, the company's share price increased by 50 percent. According to BusinessWeek, WellPoint shares rose 90 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $59.91 Wednesday in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

(Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: mciarleg, Ervin Bartis)

Creative Commons License

This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

Jason Leopold is the deputy managing editor of t r u t h o u t.org and is a co-founder of The Public Record.

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Guest Blogger Jason Leopold: National Archives, Watchdog Demand DOJ Probe Destruction of John Yoo's Emails

This is Jason Leopold's latest piece on t r u t h o u t on the latest revelations about torture memo authors John Yoo & Jay Bybee: Missing emails.

In short, after DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) released a long-awaited report, on what Jon Yoo & Jay Bybee did relating to Bush's torture programs, the National Archives and the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), noticed something strange. There were very few email communications.

They are calling on the Justice Dept to investigate.

Jason Leopold's piece was originally posted on Friday 26 February 2010:

National Archives, Watchdog Demand DOJ Probe Destruction of John Yoo's Emails

by: Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t | Report

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include new information about the filing of FOIA request by a good government group seeking documents related to the destruction of the emails.

The National Archives and a watchdog group sent letters to the Justice Department (DOJ) Thursday demanding an investigation into the destruction of John Yoo's emails from the summer of 2002, when he and other government attorneys prepared and finalized legal memoranda for the CIA that redefined torture and authorized interrogators to brutalize war on terror detainees.

The Federal Records Act (FRA) requires the preservation of government documents. Records cannot be destroyed unless approved by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). According to the DOJ's web site, emails fall under FRA if they pertain to government business.

Last week, the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) released a long-awaited report into the legal work former Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) attorneys Yoo and Jay Bybee did for the Bush administration on torture. Yoo currently works as a law professor at UC Berkeley and Bybee received a lifetime appointment as a federal judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Legal opinions written by Yoo in August 2002 and signed by Bybee cleared the way for the Bush administration to subject detainees to the near drowning of waterboarding and other brutal treatment at the hands of CIA interrogators.

Waterboarding and some of the other interrogation techniques sanctioned by the Bush administration, such as slamming detainees against walls and depriving them of sleep, have long been considered acts of torture and have been treated and prosecuted as war crimes. However, Yoo - working closely with Bush administration officials - claimed that the techniques did not violate US criminal laws and international treaties forbidding torture.

Further, Yoo asserted that Bush's presidential powers were virtually unlimited in wartime, even a conflict as vaguely defined as the war on terror.

But Yoo, the report concluded, was found to have "committed intentional professional misconduct when he violated his duty to exercise independent legal judgment and render thorough, objective, and candid legal advice."

Bybee was found to have "committed professional misconduct when he acted in reckless disregard of his duty to exercise independent legal judgment and render thorough, objective, and candid legal advice." OPR investigators deemed this to be a violation of "professional standards" and recommended that Yoo and Bybee be referred to state bar associations where they could have had their law licenses revoked. Career prosecutor David Margolis, however, downgraded the criticism to “poor judgment," which means the DOJ now won't make the referral.

The voluminous report noted, however, that while OPR investigtors were initially provided us with a relatively small number of emails, files, and draft documents," it became "apparent, during the course of our review, that relevant documents were missing..."

OPR "requested and were given direct access to the email and computer records of REDACTED, Yoo, [Deputy Assistant Attorney General Patrick] Philbin, Bybee, and [fomer OLC head Jack] Goldsmith" during the course of the investigation into the creation of the torture memos. But OPR investigators said their probe was “hampered by the loss of Yoo's and Philbin's email records."

OPR investigators said they were told that most of “Yoo's email records" as well as "Philbin's email records from July 2002 through August 5, 2002 - the time period in which the Bybee Memo was completed and the Classified Bybee Memo ... was created" were deleted and "reportedly" not recoverable. The deleted emails also included other relevant documents the OPR needed to assist its investigation, according to the report.

It is unknown whether any steps were ever taken by DOJ to retrieve the emails before deeming them "unrecoverable." Curiously, the report says that although OPR investigators "were initially advised that Goldsmith’s records had been deleted, we were later told that they had been recovered and we were given access to them." The report does not provide further explanation.

In a letter sent Thursday to Jeanette Plante at the DOJ's Office of Records and Management Policy, Paul Wester, director of the Archives' modern record program, said, in accordance with federal rules governing the preservation of records, if the “DOJ determines that an unauthorized destruction has occurred, then DOJ needs to submit a report to" NARA.

Wester requested a response within 30 days. A DOJ spokesperson was unavailable for comment.

The destruction of Yoo's and Philbin's emails also caught the attention of watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which had waged a years-long legal battle with the Bush administration over its destruction of tens of millions of emails and failed efforts to take steps to recover the documents and preserve others.

Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director, said Thursday, “given the disappearance of millions of Bush White House emails, we shouldn't be surprised that crucial emails also disappeared from the Bush Justice Department."

“The question now is what is the Attorney General going to do about it?" she said.

Sloan also sent a letter sent to Attorney General Eric Holder Thursday calling for a criminal investigation into the matter, a request that will likely go unfulfilled given the Justice Department's and the Obama administration's unwillingness to further delve into the previous administration's alleged crimes.

She said such an inquiry is warranted, however, and compared the destruction of emails with the CIA's destruction of torture tapes, which led to a criminal investigation and the appointment of a special prosecutor by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey. That probe is ongoing.

"The destruction of emails from high-ranking officials such as Messrs. Yoo and Philbin related to a subject of critical important to the Department of Justice and the nation as a whole clearly violates FRA," Sloan's letter to Holder said.

Indeed, the DOJ's web site said emails are federal records if it:

  1. Documents agreements reached in meetings, telephone conversations, or other E-mail exchanges on substantive matters relating to business processes or activities
  2. Provides comments on or objections to the language on drafts of policy statements or action plans
  3. Supplements information in official files and/or adds to a complete understanding of office operations and responsibilities

The DOJ rules for preserving records also said "the unlawful removal or destruction of federal records" can result in "criminal or civil penalties, fines and/or imprisonment."

Sloan, in her letter to Holder, said, "the apparent failure of the Department of Justice to take any action in the face of knowledge that crucial records had been destroyed reflects a patent disregard of mandatory federal record keeping laws ... Even if Mr. Yoo and Mr. Philbin did not violate their professional obligations by writing the torture memos, they - or others seeking to hide the truth - may have broken the law by deleting their emails."

Last December, CREW and the historical group the National Security Archive announced that they entered into a settlement with the Obama administration over the loss of Bush administration emails.

Under the terms of the agreement, 22 million previously "missing" emails covering 94 days will be restored. That includes emails from the Office of the Vice President that were previously lost and unrecoverable and were subpoenaed by Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor appointed to probe the unauthorized leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson. This time frame also coincided with litigation surrounding the release of documents related to former Vice President Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force meetings.

The emails will be sent to NARA. But whether they contain answers to lingering questions about the CIA leak or Cheney's energy task force meetings will not be known for years, as the documents will not be immediately available for public view.

Congressional Hearing

The destruction of Yoo's and Philbin's email was one of the first issues raised Friday during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, where Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler is currently testifying about the OPR report.

"Have [the emails] disappeared? If they have, and if they have been destroyed, either the Yoo emails, the Philbin emails, will the [Justice Department] make ultimate determination whether the destruction was criminal, in violation of the criminal statutes, which seem fairly clear?" Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) asked Grindler.

Grindler testified that he still needs to gather information from the "information technology experts, including all of the questions of what occurred, what the policies are, and what the archive system is. And at that point I'll be in a position to evaluate whether anything additional needs to be done."

Grindler said the report does not "suggest there was anything nefarious" about the fact that Yoo and Philbin's emails were not turned over to OPR investigatiors and he noted that the report "does include a review of some of Mr. Yoo's emails."

But Leahy said the episode was cause for concern given that other Bush administration officials were found to have destroyed emails in violation of the Presidential Records Act during time frames that coincided with the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, the leak of Plame's covert status and other scandals that engulfed the Bush White House.

"All I'm saying is that the report doesn't have a complete lack of his e-mails," Grindler said. But as soon as I learn the facts regarding this, I will provide appropriate information back to this committee...If they are retrievable, I will direct [technical staff] to retrieve them."

After the hearing, CREW filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Justice Department "seeking documents that would shed light on the destruction" of Yoo's and Philbin's emails.

Specifically, CREW wants "copies of record keeping guidance issued to staff of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) from January 2000 to the present concerning how electronic records, including email, are to be treated for purposes of federal record keeping laws."

CREW "also seeks records indicating, reflecting, or commenting on any problems with the storage or retention of emails of OLC staff, including but not limited to" Yoo and Philbin, "from January 2000 to July 2009."

In a blog post published last Sunday, Marcy Wheeler, who has spent the past week painstakingly dissecting the OPR report, wrote that emails OPR did obtain "provide a key piece of evidence that the White House was responsible for the way in which the Bybee One memo served as a blank check, as well as the pressure the White House put on the lawyers as they were drafting the memos."

"The emails put the White House squarely in the drafting process" of the torture memos, Wheeler wrote on her blog emptywheel. "But that’s all, with most emails from John Yoo and Patrick Philbin still disappeared. It sort of makes you all the more curious about what was in the Yoo and Philbin emails that got deleted, huh?"

(Photo: YooTube; Edited: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t)

This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

Jason Leopold is the deputy managing editor of t r u t h o u t.org and is a co-founder of The Public Record.

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Weekly Presidential Address: In Spirit of Bipartisanship, Let's Get Health Reform Done

From the White House website:

The President takes a moment to congratulate our Olympic athletes. Discussing the unity and pride Americans feel in cheering them on, the President relates that sentiment to his own desire for bipartisanship in Washington. He praises the bipartisan meeting days before and talks about moving forward on health reform.



Read the Transcript
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2.26.2010

Voters Support Public Option AND Reconciliation to Get It

Adam Green from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee sent out this email today. How Democrats haven't gotten the message on this by now is beyond normal comprehension.



Voters support reconciliation on a good bill -- and want senators to fight for the public option in reconciliation.

In state after state, people are perfectly fine with reconciliation for a bill they support. Reconciliation is not inherently seen as corrupt or bad:

• NV - Reid: 55% favor reconciliation to 36% oppose (Independents 64% favor to 23% oppose)
• IL - Durbin: 67% to 26% (Independents 81% to 17%)
• IA - Harkin: 66% to 29% (Independents 83% to 14%)
• WA - Murray/Cantwell: 65% to 25% (Independents 76% to 15%)
• MO - McCaskill: 58% to 35% (Independents 73% to 20%)
• ND - Dorgan/Conrad: 53% to 36% (Independents 66% to 20%)
• VA - Webb/Warner: 60% to 32% (Independents 74% to 17%)

If reconciliation is used, should [SENATOR] fight to include a public health insurance option? In state after state, by large margins, more voters said yes than no:

• NV - Reid: 52% yes to 41% no. (Independents 58% yes to 33% no)
• IL - Durbin: 42% to 7% (Independents 44% to 6%)
• IA - Harkin: 39% yes to 12% (Independents 40% to 12%)
• WA - Murray/Cantwell: 44% to 9% (Independents 48% to 7%)
• MO - McCaskill: 37% yes to 15% (Independents 38% to 12%)
• ND - Dorgan/Conrad 34% to 21% (Independents 33% to 20%)
• VA - Webb/Warner: 43% to 14% (Independents 45% to 11%)

Stephanie Taylor, PCCC co-founder:
"Voters overwhelmingly favor passing a good bill through reconciliation. In state after state, the current Senate bill only has about 30% approval while the public option has about 60% approval. So it's in the best interest of Senate Democrats to embrace the public option vocally, own it, and make health care reform synonymous with the public option in voters' minds."
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MoveOn Ad: "Thanks, John Boehner!"

MoveOn.org would like to thank House Minority Leader John Boehner for showing America who he really works for (hint: it's not you & me):

When he was one of 19 Republicans to vote AGAINST breaking up health insurance monopolies, House Minority Leader John Boehner showed he knows who sent him to Washington. John stands up for the Big Guy.

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Harold Ford's Really Bad Night with teh NY Gays (UPDATED)

Rather than taking anything away from my friend David Badash's account of Harold Ford's run-in with us gays here at a meeting with NYC’s Stonewall Democrats, I'll let him tell the tale of Ford's really bad night.

So please go read both “Harold Ford Walks Into The Lion’s Den, Gets Mauled” and then Watch: Harold Ford Vs. NYC’s Stonewall Democrats – Complete Video!

You can also read about the event at DKos' stef: Harold Ford Meets the NY Stonewall Dems

HCR Summit: Media Does Some Actual Fact-Checking For A Change

Videos via the DNC:

CNN Fact Check: Democrat's Health Care Plan Will Lower Premiums



Norah O'Donnell Sets the Record Straight



Overall, What They're Saying About the Health Care Summit:



Even Fox hosts & regular right-winger guests had moments of journalistic integrity (via Media Matters).

Shep Smith destroys Sen. Thune's false claim that Senate health bill will increase premiums: "That's not true, Senator"

AP FACT CHECK: AP Fact Check: Health care bill would reduce most individual insurance premiums

The [Congressional Budget Office] analysis estimated that average premiums for people buying insurance individually would be 10 to 13 percent higher in 2016 under the Senate legislation, as Alexander said. But the policies would cover more, and about half the people would be getting substantial government subsidies to defray the extra costs.

As the president said, if the policies offered today were offered in 2016, they would be considerably cheaper under the plan, even without subsidies. One big reason: Many more healthy young people would be signing up for the coverage because insurance would become mandatory. They are cheap to insure and would moderate costs for others.

Moreover, the analysis estimated that almost 60 percent of the people covered under individual policies would qualify for subsidies, bringing their own costs down by more than half from what they pay now.

read more...


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Video Highlights From Obama's Health Care Summit

Here are some of the best moments from yesterday's Health Care Summit. The GOP came with their talking points (blank page, start over, abortion!, Reconciliation, Unfair!), but President Obama & the Democrats came armed with facts. Obama dismantled each & every right-wing. fear-mongering talking point -- point by point -- and by the end of the summit you could see on their faces the GOP's utter contempt for him and the television cameras.

My favorite moment -- there are several to choose from really -- has to be Nancy Pelosi's closing. This woman has brass balls. If you want to know why heath care reform is going to pass, and be better than it would have been otherwise, look no further than the Speaker of the House. Just look at the faces. House Minority Leader John Boenher looks like he's been constipated for three days.

The worst moment (for the star of that moment that is) has to be Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's complaining how much time each side had. He was actually counting the minutes.

Obama v "Dr." Sen, John Barrasso: ""You are entitled to your opinion, but not your own facts" (via Organizing for America):



Obama v Sen. Lamar Alexander's Health Care Claims as "Not Factually Accurate" (via TPM):



Obama v Sen. John McCain: "We’re not campaigning anymore. The election’s over" (via CBS):



Obama vs. Sen, John Kyl: "It's a good talking point, but it doesn't actually answer the underlying question" (via Organizing for America):



Obama v piss-ant Rep. Eric Cantor at Health Care Summit (via DNC)



Sen Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Cries about Democrats Getting More Speaking Time (via Daily Beast):



Sen. Jay Rockefeller v Health Insurance Industry: ‘The health insurance industry is the shark that sits right below the water" (via Think Progress):



2.25.2010

Maddow & Olbermann on Weiner's: GOP is a 'Wholly Owned Subsidiary Of The Insurance Industry'

This is what a real Democrat looks like. Rep. Anthony Weiner took to the House Floor yesterday and not once, but twice declared his House Republican colleagues are a "wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry":

As you can see he Rep. Dan Lundgren took issue and rather than whimper away like so many of our Democratic reps might have, Wiener got right back up and continue to assail the lying, bought & paid for minions of the health care industry for standing in the way of and all health care from legislation while claiming to want to be part of reform.

Last night, both Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow had a great segments on it.

First, Keith reviewed the days events, including the Anthony Weiner-GOP slap down before discussing the health reform summit & bipartisanship with the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein:
Will the GOP sabotage reform?


But it was Rachel segment, one that led off with powerful intro about health insurance companies goal of making money before addressing Rep. Wiener's congressional rethug slap down, that was a thing of beauty:
American health is not a business goal



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2.24.2010

Winger on Winger Violence: Jonah Goldberg Attacks Andrew Breitbart

I'm sure he meant this as a compliment....

"He doesn't always come across as a crack addict on ten espressos"
Via Media Matters:
From a February 20 speech at CPAC 2010 by NRO editor-at-large Jonah Goldberg:


Also see: On Andrew Breitbart and charges of "racism"

UPDATE:

Check out this sick encounter someone had with Breibart as reported by Bloggasm's Simon Owens: Andrew Breitbart’s war with progressive bloggers:
While much attention has been given to the conservative’s attacks on traditional media outlets –through his Big Government site, interviews on MSNBC, and speeches at CPAC — he has been actively and aggressively going after bloggers and social media users who criticize him, a trend that has only intensified as more and more controversies surround James O’Keefe III in the wake of his arrest in Louisiana.

“There’s no question that when O’Keefe got busted trying to tamper with a US senator’s phone, it kind of freaked Breitbart out,” Brad Friedman, who owns the progressive Brad Blog, told me. Friedman has been on the forefront of reporting on issues and revelations surrounding O’Keefe, including the recent bombshell that the young conservative never actually dressed as a pimp when he went into ACORN offices, a fact that even Breitbart has been forced to acknowledge. He has also been a frequent recipient of the conservative’s scorn, especially via @ replies on his Twitter account. At one point he even jokingly suggested that Friedman should be subjected to capital punishment.

read more...

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More Winger on Winger Violence: Levin Rips Beck (UPDATED)

A couple of days ago, I posted about Jonah Goldberg's attack on Andrew Breitbart for his unhinged responses to questions at CPAC from people like Max Blumenthal and others:

"He doesn't always come across as a crack addict on ten espressos"
Well, there's more winger on winger verbal violence to report.

Glenn Beck attacked fellow rethugs at CPAC for being just a bad as democrats at times, implying that the GOP has also become too progressive.

Right-Wing hate radio host, Mark Levin, went on Facebook & ripped Beck (via ThinkProgress):
I have no idea what philosophy Glenn Beck is promoting. And neither does he. It’s incoherent. One day it’s populist, the next it’s libertarian bordering on anarchy, next it’s conservative but not really, etc. And to what end? I believe he has announced that he is no longer going to endorse candidates because our problems are bigger than politics. Well, of course, our problems are not easily dissected into categories, but to reject politics is to reject the manner in which we try to organize ourselves. [..]

Finally, Beck is fond of congratulating himself for being the only or the first host to criticize George Bush’s spending. This is demonstrably false. … And as someone who fought liberal Republicans in the trenches when campaigning for Reagan in 1976 and 1980, I don’t need lectures from Beck, who was nowhere to be found, about big-spending Republicans.
He continued his assault on Beck during his radio show yesterday:
Levin isn't the only nutter going after Beck either. Read more about them at Think Progress...

UPDATE:

Also see MeMeMeMeMe's piece, "Glenn Beck is Starting to Scare the GOP Establishment"

UPDATE II:

Now Rush Limbaugh is getting into the act:
Rush Limbaugh rebukes Glenn Beck — for attacking Republicans:

Fox News host Glenn Beck has been a central target of liberals -- they've even pushed to have advertisers boycott his show for allegedly racist comments he made last year. But now he's getting it from the right. Specifically: Rush Limbaugh.

[...]

"I would not have said that the only people who can stop Obama should be excoriated for being just as bad," he said according to Mediaite. "It would never occur to me to say that. I don’t know what the objective would be."

Limbaugh usually doesn't hold back on his criticisms of others, but chose his words carefully when pushing back against the conservative lightning rod and Fox host whose popularity has surged in the last year.

read more...
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