The Hightower Report

Too Big to Punish?; and Begging for Regulation

Too Big to Punish?

One of the most ignominious, most sordid, and saddest chapters in America's presidential history was the decision by George W., Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, and other top officials to soil our nation's moral standing by engaging in torture – even as all of the above publicly denied it was happening and did all they could to cover up their roles in directing it. Instead, they blamed low-level soldiers and CIA agents.

Sadly, this cover-up goes on. President Obama is refusing to release photos and full transcripts of the Guantánamo torture sessions done in our name. Meanwhile, those who soiled our name scoot around fancy-free. Cheney has become a fixture on yakety-yak TV and radio shows, blathering maniacally that torture is "moral." Just as absurdly, Rice has resorted to Nixonian megalomania by declaring that the brutal torture of water-boarding is inherently legal: "By definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the convention against torture."

Then there's John Yoo, one of the authors of the Justice Department memos that gave the Bushites an in-house legal cover for dragging our country down into the immoral muck of torture. Far from being punished, Yoo has been rewarded by The Philadelphia Inquirer, which hired him last October to be a regular columnist. Perhaps fearing public outrage, the paper failed to announce his status, instead letting readers believe he was an occasional op-ed contributor, not a hired hand.

Now that the truth is out, the Inquirer is scrambling to rationalize Yoo's hiring, claiming the paper merely needed to add more "conservative voices to the mix." Come on, are there no conservative scribes who haven't written torture memos?

These people are immoral lawbreakers who sullied America's flag and values. It's time to stop coddling them – and hold them accountable for their crimes against us.

Begging for Regulation

"Regulate the health-insurance giants," chanted the reformers. "Stop denying coverage to sick people," they demanded. "Health coverage for all," they bellowed.

The amazing thing about this recent cry for health-care reform is that those doing the chanting, demanding, and bellowing were not aggrieved outsiders but the ultimate insiders – the health-insurance industry itself!

When the dogs begin demanding leashes, you know that something unusual is afoot.

What's going on here is that the top dogs of this industry now realize that they can no longer stiff the people's demand for an overhaul of America's avaricious and arrogant insurance-controlled health-care system. Obama has moved this reform to the front burner, and his legislative package includes a proposal that has panicked insurance corporations, for it could truly stop their gouging.

Rather than leave us consumers at the mercy of the profit-driven, private insurance giants, his proposal would give us the choice of buying into a new, public health-insurance plan. This public alternative would provide real competition, lower our costs, and bring some honesty into a system that presently lets corporate insurers freely profiteer on sick people.

So, industry lobbyists are swarming Congress to try to kill the public option in exchange for accepting new regulations. Please, they implore, harness us with regulations – but don't make us compete in an honest system.

Of course, they know that down the road their lawyers and lobbyists will be able to weaken any regulatory harnesses, letting them slip away and continue gouging us for fun and profit. By so loudly demanding regulation and opposing real competition, these profiteers are admitting that it's the competition that is needed if we're ever to put "care" back in America's health-care system. We must insist that Obama stand firm on including the public insurance option.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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torture, Condeleeza Rice, George W. Bush, John Yoo, Philadelphia Inquirer, health insurance, health care reform, Barack Obama

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