According to the Pentagon, the US will spend more on the war in Afghanistan next year than it will in Iraq — about $65 billion for Afghanistan versus $61 billion for Iraq. With no timetable set for withdrawal and the daunting task of building (not REbuilding) a country that is mostly in the Stone Age, largely illiterate, lacking in basic infrastructure like roads and electricity, and wrecked by 30 years of continuous war, military experts are predicting that the total budget for the war in Afghanistan will eventually cost more than the Iraq war.
So I thought it would be interesting to take another look at Charlie Wilson’s War, the true story of America’s clandestine war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and the philandering Texas congressman who made it happen. But by radicalizing Afghans, arming and training the mujahideen (who would later become Al Qaeda), then abandoning the war-ravaged country as soon as the Soviets had been defeated, the US arguably sowed the seeds of 9/11 and the war we’re still fighting there today — with no end in sight.
Click the pic below to watch my ReThink Review of Charlie Wilson’s War (you’ll be redirected to YouTube due to copyright silliness).
To see me on Cenk Uygur’s XM/Air America show, The Young Turks, discussing Charlie Wilson’s War, the Soviet Afghan War, and why the US is still blowing our occupation of Afghanistan, click here.
If you want to learn why waging a war in Afghanistan is so much more difficult and expensive than it is in Iraq, I’d recommend checking out part three of Brave New Film’s ReThink Afghanistan series, The Cost of War. I worked on this series and conducted many of the interviews used in the videos. The whole series is definitely worth a watch if you want to learn why our continued occupation of Afghanistan is such a bad idea.
By Stephanie Condon at CBS News
The White House and other Democrats are increasingly taking aim at the insurance industry to promote health care reform, but one Democratic congressman reportedly says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi went too far when she referred to the industry as “villains.”
Rep. John Yarmuth (D- Ky.) sent a letter earlier this month to the chief executive of the Louisville-based insurance company, calling Pelosi’s comments “inflammatory” and “misguided,” according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
“They are the villains in this,” Pelosi said of the insurance industry in a July press conference. “They have been part of the problem in a major way.”
“Regrettably, with passions inflamed throughout the country, Speaker Pelosi recently made inflammatory statements that assailed the character of health insurers across the board. I unequivocally reject those misguided comments,” Yarmuth wrote in an Aug. 4 letter to Humana executive Michael McCallister, the Courier-Journal reports. “Not only do such overtures distract from a constructive debate, they are simply untrue. That certain insurers have engaged in unscrupulous practices cannot be denied, but to paint an entire industry with a single stroke is unfair.”
Yarmuth reportedly wrote the letter after Humana requested a discussion with Pelosi about her remarks. He said he was concerned about the impressions of the 7,000 Louisville workers employed by Humana.
The insurance industry has warned health care reform supporters that attacking them would be unproductive. The industry is seen as largely responsible for killing health care reform efforts in the 1990’s.
That has not kept President Obama, however, from assailing insurance companies that he said “reaped windfall profits from a broken system.” As doubts have grown about some of the more controversial parts of Mr. Obama’s plans, such as the government-sponsored insurance option, the president has increasingly focused on emphasizing the need for new regulations on the insurance industry.
Meanwhile, outside pro-reform activists are likwise hitting the insurance industry hard. Director Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films, for instance, have launched an online campaign called Sick for Profit that targets well-paid insurance executives.
Brave New Films’ Robert Greenwald joins us. As Congress breaks for recess and the health insurance industry prepares to blitz the American public with attack ads on health care reform, Brave New Films kicks off its new “Sick for Profit” online campaign at http://sickforprofit.com. The first video contrasts the lavish lifestyle and extravagant earnings of United Health Group’s (UHG) CEO with their policyholders, who suffer from severe medical conditions but have been denied proper medical care. According to Forbes magazine, United Health Group CEO Stephen Hemsley owns three-quarters of a billion dollars in UHG stock options, and his 2008 compensation was a whopping $3,241,042.00.
Robert Greenwald’s newest production, Sick for Profit, takes a hard look at the need for health insurance reform. His website, and new video, titled “Sick for Profit”, includes first hand testimonials from patients denied treatment from insurance companies.
Sick for Profit also slams greedy CEO’s for living lavishly. According to the site, “Instead of helping policyholders attain the health security they need for their families, big insurance companies get rich by denying coverage to patients. Now they’re sending lobbyists to Washington, DC to twist the arms of lawmakers to oppose reform of the status quo. Why? Because the status quo pays.”
The testimonials in the Sick for Profit video include a young woman in need of intravenous nutrition. While she waited, made phone calls, and was told more paperwork was needed, she was ultimately denied life saving nutrition, because it was deemed “not medically necessary”. Most insurance companies have an appeal process, and the whole story may not be evident at first glance. Nevertheless, Greenwald is on a mission. You can watch the video below.
Robert Greenwald has produced other hard hitting documentaries, which recently include “Rethink Afghanistan.” His launch of Sick for Profit is an effort to bring focus to the need for health insurance reform.
Sick for Profit asks the question “Why are we putting money into the profits of insurance companies, rather than medicine”? You can donate money, follow on Twitter, and post to your Facebook profile. If you have a story to tell about your own tangle with an insurance company, Sick for Profit would like to hear it at http://www.sickforprofit.com.
Sen. Bernie Sanders and filmmaker Robert Greenwald have teamed up to create “Senator Sanders Unfiltered” — a roughly two-minute online “TV show” in which Sanders offers an unscripted take on major issues facing the country.
The inaugural episode of “Senator Sanders Unfiltered” was launched this afternoon. In the future, each new episode will air on Thursday.
While viewers in other parts of the country may be hearing and seeing Sanders for the first time, we in Vermont have to ask: When is Bernie ever truly “filtered”?
Each episode begins with a TwitVid question from a viewer. This week’s question asked how Sanders felt about Wall Street bankers seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses from taxpayer bailout money.
Guess how he answered?
“I think the greed on Wall Street is absolutely out of control,” said Sanders. “These people have no shame. Remember, this handful of Wall Street speculators are precisely the people who caused the greatest economic downturn and recession since the 1930s.”
Robert Greenwald is a successful director in television and film with many nominations and awards under his belt. Around five years ago, he turned to political documentaries with his exposé on Fox News called Outfoxed; Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism. That was only the beginning. Since Outfoxed, Greenwald and his team have made hundreds of short videos, as well as full-length films, that have reached millions of viewers worldwide.
Welcome to OpEdNews, Robert. In recent years, you’ve channeled your success in television and film into filmmaking with a more pointed political agenda. What was the impetus for this change?
I fell in love with documentaries as an art form and as an avenue for creating change. It became a natural path for me to focus on creating documentaries with a more political agenda, so I could have an active hand in effecting this change and helping to inform people.
How did you come up with the revolutionary idea of combining short films and the internet?
The internet is a great tool for democracy, with people spreading information and ideas to their peers quickly and easily. Putting short films on the internet is relatively inexpensive and viewers can watch it for free. Also, people have short attention spans when it comes to the internet, so making short films that were concise, engaging, and accessible seemed like a likely next step for us.
How much has Brave New Films grown since its inception?
It’s grown by leaps and bounds. We started with a small company of three people, and we’ve since developed into a fully staffed, mid-sized non-profit.
Where do you get your funding? What organizations do you work with to promote your progressive agenda? (Would you agree that it’s a progressive agenda?)
A good question! We get a lot of our funding through our “Producers Program.” We have a very large list of folks who sign up on an email list to receive updates, and they help fund a lot of our projects through small direct online contributions. We also work with different organizations, depending on the specific issue we’re tackling. Additionally, we do a lot of work with foundations. Funding is always a challenge and we spend lots of time working to fund raise for our work.
You’ve done hundreds of short films on a range of topics. Many of them fall within a few categories: corporate greed in all its guises, inappropriate political candidates, incumbents, or appointees, victims of public policy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now health care legislation. How do you decide on a subject?
We draw from many sources. First, our great staff, which is very much committed to issues of social justice, and contribute an endless amount of great ideas for important subjects to cover. Second, we draw from the issues currently being debated by the public and in Congress, issues that affect millions of people (like our current discussion on health care reform).
Finally, we are always focused on what is not being discussed, what is not being exposed. In regards to healthcare, we wanted to show the CEO profits specifically because it was not being talked about. This was the same goal we had with Fox News when we started, as well as McCain’s mansions.
In Sick for Profit, your latest initiative, you have teamed up withThe American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and Herndon Alliance. Who are they and what do they want?
A new video puts denied health insurance claims on United Health Care CEO Stephen Hemsley’s doorstep.
The video, made by Brave News Films’ Robert Greenwald, intercuts stories of people suffering because of denied claims with images Hemsley’s fancy homes, along with details about how much money Hemsley’s got ($744,232,068 in unexercised stock options, for example).
Holly Bailey says in the video that United Health Care refused to pay for medicine she couldn’t live without.
“They kept telling my local pharmacy…’Oh we’re just waiting for one more letter, or we’re just waiting for one more script, and then we’ll start paying,’” Bailey said. “This went on for six months, and December 4th both the pharmacy and I received a letter from United Health Care saying they deemed it medically unnecessary and that they were not going to pay any of it.