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The Kaji Family Speak Out on Donald Trump's COVID-19 Policy on CNN

Rethinking Afghanistan: Alternatives to War

By Robert Dodge M.D. at truthout

President Obama is reviewing the way forward in Afghanistan. His decision will define his presidency much as Vietnam defined the legacy of President Johnson’s presidency in the 1960s.

At a time when so much opportunity and necessity for change is at stake from health care reform to climate change legislation, education and nuclear weapons policy and the economy, the war and its costs will trump all.

The president would be well served to reflect on the words of Iraq veteran, Marine Corps Capt. and Afghanistan Foreign Service officer Matthew Hoh. As the senior US civilian in Zabul province, he became the first US official known to resign in protest over the Afghan war. On September 10, in a letter to his department head he wrote:

“I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan. I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end.”

His frustration and realization that the war effort itself fuels the insurgency and continues the cycle of violence speaks to the truth that there is no military solution in Afghanistan. There is only a political and diplomatic solution.

Dropping bombs and killing civilians angers whole populations and creates ill will. Respected international mediator John Paul Lederach has said that bombing to vanquish the al-Qaeda network is like hitting a mature dandelion with a golf club. It just ensures another generation of al-Qaeda.


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Ex-Blue Cross spokesman says health insurance ‘worst product in American history’

By Raw Story

Teaming with the liberal Brave New Films, a former Blue Cross pitchman is now pitching against Blue Cross.

Andy Cobb, who once tried to sell Floridians on a Blue Cross health insurance plan, says he’s fed up with the industry.

“I was a spokesman for BlueCross and Blueshield of Florida,” Cobb says. “Call me a spokesjerk. People who make money for buying things you don’t need. And we’re telling you lies.”

“They, by which I mean I, make money by standing in the way of reform,” Cobb says in the ad, which appears as a spoof of something like a ad. “It’s time for change.”

“That’s why I’m calling on leaders from the spokesjerk industry,” Cobb continues. “The guy. The Shamwow dude. And Senator Bill Nelson, recipient of big money from insurance companies — to lead us. To walk away from their cash cows and tell American people the truth.

“And us spokesjerks, we’ll be fine,” Cobb adds. “There’s plenty of room in entertainment for people who tried to sell you the worst product in American history. Private health insurance.”

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Former Blue Cross Blue Shield ‘Spokesjerk’ Cuts Ad In Favor Of Health Reform

By Zaid Jilani at Think Progress

The House is nearing a vote on health care legislation that is expected to be very close. At this critical juncture, a former Blue Cross Blue Shield spokesperson is doing what he can to help pass reform.

Actor and comedian Andy Cobb, who used to be the spokesman for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, has teamed up with Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Films project “Sick for Profit” to produce a new ad in favor of health care reform. In the ad, Cobb calls himself a former “spokesjerk” for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, and says that his job was to “sell you the worst product in American history: private health insurance.” Cobb calls attention to Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) for his signficant contributions from the health care industry, and asks him to vote in favor of health care legislation with a public option. Watch it:

This morning, Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman interviewed Cobb. He told her, echoing remarks from Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), “This is the time when we have to say, ‘Which side are you on? The insurance companies or the American people?’ And for too long I’ve been on the wrong side of that.”

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Senator Seeks to Break Up Banks ‘Too Big to Fail’

By Cyrus Sanati at New York Times

Senator Bernard Sanders, the Vermont independent, is taking aim at banks that are considered too big to fail. He introduced legislation on Friday that would force the Treasury Department to break up all financial institutions whose failure could cause a major disruption to the nation’s financial system.

“If an institution is too big to fail, it is too big to exist,” Mr. Sanders said in a statement. “We should end the concentration of ownership that has resulted in just four huge financial institutions holding half the mortgages in America, controlling two-thirds of the credit cards and amassing 40 percent of all deposits.”

The four banks cited by Mr. Sanders are Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase. Three of those banks have made major acquisitions as a result of the financial crisis. But Citigroup, which received a $45 billion government bailout, is in the process of selling off nonbanking assets.

Mr. Sanders’s legislation would give Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner 90 days to compile a list of commercial banks, investment banks, hedge funds and insurance companies that he deems too big to fail or “any entity that has grown so large that its failure would have a catastrophic effect on the stability of either the financial system or the United States economy without substantial government assistance.”

Within one year after the legislation became law, the Treasury Department would be required to break up those banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions identified by the secretary.

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Breaking with Former Employer, Actor and Self-Described Insurance Industry “Spokesjerk” Andy Cobb Calls for Public Healthcare

By Democracy Now!


As House Democrats prepare to vote on their version of a healthcare reform bill this weekend, a man who used to be the face of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida decided he’s had enough with the way the health insurance industry is impeding reform. Actor and comedian Andy Cobb used to promote Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida. But now he’s broken with his former employer and is speaking out against the entire private health insurance industry that has strongly opposed any government-run health plan.


Andy Cobb, Actor and comedian. He was the former television spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida.

JUAN GONZALEZ: As House Democrats prepare to vote on their version of a healthcare reform bill this weekend, a man who used to be the face of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida decided he’s had enough with the way the health insurance industry is impeding reform. Actor and comedian Andy Cobb used to promote Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida. But now he’s broken with his former employer and is speaking out against the entire private health insurance industry that has strongly opposed any, quote, “government-run health plan.”

Andy Cobb teamed up with Brave New Films to create this video, released Thursday.

      Hey, Stretchy, what are you paying for health insurance?

    Well, how much are you paying a month in diapers?

    Do you have twenty bucks in your pocket? Then you can afford our Blue Options insurance policy.

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Exclusive: Sanders Tackles Too Big To Fail In Two Pages

By Sam Stein at Huffington Post

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced new legislation on Friday that should, he claims, solve the phenomenon of massive and failing financial institutions holding the nation’s economy captive.

It’s all of two pages long.

The Vermont Democrat-Socialist unveiled the “Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Exist Act” — which he billed as a succinct remedy for tackling financial risk and avoiding a repeat of the taxpayer-funded bailouts that occurred just one year ago.

The act is straightforward. It would require that 90 days after its passage, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner “submit to Congress a list of all commercial banks, investment banks, hedge funds and insurance companies that the Secretary believes are too big to fail.”

Subsequently, one year after the law is enacted, the Treasury Secretary would be required to “break up entities included on the Too Big To Fail List, so that their failure would no longer cause a catastrophic effect on the United States or global economy without a taxpayer bailout.”

The rest of the details — like, say, how to do that, how the broken-up entities would be structured, and what authorities would be granted for preempting institutions from becoming too big to fail in the first place — would be filled in during the legislative process, Sanders’s office said. The goal is simply to immediately preempt a duplication of last year’s economic meltdown.

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Former BlueCross Pitchman Switches Sides, Comes Out For Public Option

By Ryan Grim at Huffington Post

Andy Cobb has had enough. A former pitchman for BlueCross Blue Shield of Florida, Cobb is breaking with the firm and speaking out in favor of health care reform and a public health insurance option.

“This is the time when Americans have to choose which side we’re on,” Cobb told HuffPost, quoting Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio). “Is it the insurance companies or the American people?”

Cobb calls on what he dubs his fellow “spokes-jerks” — singling out the guy — to stop hawking products that hurt the American people.

Cobb teamed with Brave New Films to create the short video.

“I do know that 19 percent of every dollar of our premiums goes to administrative costs, for executive compensation and people like me. We can’t afford people like me any more in this country,” he said.

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Veterans groups boost lobbying

By Jen Dimascio at Politico

With a White House decision on the direction of the war in Afghanistan still up in the air, and President Barack Obama considering whether to send as many as 40,000 additional U.S. troops, veterans groups on opposite sides of the debate are storming Capitol Hill this week to sway congressional opinion.

With U.S. deaths in Afghanistan rising and the Taliban resurgent, officials from the hawkish Veterans for Freedom and the dovish Veterans for Rethinking Afghanistan said they are increasing their lobbying campaigns to dramatically change how America conducts the eight-year war.

Veterans for Freedom kicks off Thursday at the District of Columbia’s American Legion post with a breakfast and strategy session, followed by a meeting with Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who represents the district where part of Fort Campbell — the military base that houses the 101st Airborne Division — is located.

After a news conference, and armed with embedded media, a group of 50 to 100 veterans will fan out across Capitol Hill for meetings with the staffs of key senators, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrats John Kerry of Massachusetts and Jim Webb of Virginia and Republicans John McCain of Arizona and John Cornyn of Texas.

“This is a very important litmus test for Obama,” said Pete Hegseth, chairman of the group and a supporter of surging more U.S. forces into Afghanistan. He noted that, during the campaign, Obama called Afghanistan the “good war” and has endorsed continuing to fight a counterinsurgency there.

If Obama backs a request by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, to send more U.S. forces to the country, “we’ll stand right next to them and support that,” Hegseth said.

On the other side of the issue is Veterans for Rethinking Afghanistan, a relatively new group, with a handful of members, that is trying to persuade lawmakers that U.S. war strategy in Afghanistan is a massive failure and that the military is part of the problem.

The group is starting to receive notice in the national media, particularly after a debate it had this week against Veterans for Freedom. Veterans for Rethinking Afghanistan met with the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and will check in with anti-Iraq war Democrats — including Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Reps. Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee of California — trying to stuff their briefing books with reasons to end the military commitment to Afghanistan.

“Listen, you’ve got to stop falling in love with the military solution; it’s not feasible,” said Jake Diliberto, one of the group’s founders. “This is a war of poverty and cultural misunderstanding, and it’s an Afghan problem that we don’t have the means or the wisdom to figure out.”

In between the two groups is, a veterans group with closer ties to the Democratic Party that has staked out the middle ground and is watching this week’s lobbying activities from the sidelines.

In 2007, Veterans for Freedom supported the surge of U.S. forces in Iraq, and opposed it, advocating a drawdown from Iraq instead. But for now, the organization is still debating its position on the war in Afghanistan, said VoteVets Chairman Jon Soltz, and it is concentrating its efforts on climate change.

“The only mission that we think we’re sure can be successful is the military option,” Soltz said. But that’s not a matter of simply beefing up troops, he said, and it doesn’t address questions about whether Afghan President Hamid Karzai is a legitimate political partner, how much Pakistan cooperates inside its own territory in the fight against Al Qaeda and whether the U.S. government can provide the kind of humanitarian support and reconstruction that is required to boost security in Afghanistan.

VoteVets wants to see how the White House defines the goals of a troop buildup, Soltz said. “We’re waiting to see how they define success and whether these other elements can be achieved.”

Of the three groups, Veterans for Freedom has the most extensive lobbying background. The organization began in 2005 and helped cement support for the U.S. troop surge in Iraq by saturating Washington with advertising and sending 400 of its members to the Hill on two occasions to twist arms.

And history suggests that if Obama does not support McChrystal’s request for more troops, Veterans for Freedom may turn on the president. The group actively ran a whisper campaign in western Pennsylvania to defeat Democratic Rep. John Murtha and has backed a slate of largely Republican veterans for Congress.

The group’s founder, David Bellavia, who in 2008 ran unsuccessfully for Congress in New York, attacked Kerry and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy in 2005 for supporting statements that Iraqis wanted the United States to leave their country, claiming in an article on that the comments were “a political attack on the troops, an attack that is aiding our enemy.” The publication is run by Holocaust denier David Horowitz.

With the U.S. drawing down in Iraq and on the brink of ramping up in Afghanistan, Bellavia’s group is now courting Kerry and says it has a meeting scheduled at the White House to discuss war strategy. That’s completely consistent, Hegseth said, because Veterans for Freedom is dedicated to a single issue: winning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The newest group, Veterans for Rethinking Afghanistan, has outside backing from Brave New Films and its president, liberal activist and filmmaker Robert Greenwald, who created documentaries including “The Real McCain” and “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism.” Greenwald has been a regular donor to liberal members of Congress and supported Kerry’s 2004 presidential bid.

Members of the group say that one of the arguments they will make to lawmakers on Capitol Hill is that the price of remaining in Afghanistan is simply too high. Leighton Akio Woodhouse, political director for Brave New Films, asserted that supporting one soldier for one year costs American taxpayers $1 million.

“The American people need to be aware of exactly what a counterinsurgency means,” said former Marine Sgt. Devon Read, a member of the group who served in Iraq. “A counterinsurgency campaign is going to mean not 40,000 troops but 150,000 troops or more, 10 years of a presence in Afghanistan and tens of thousands more dead troops.”

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