Ethics

Martial Law Now a Reality in Michigan

The week of April 10-16 saw the layoff of every public school teacher in Detroit, and the initial fruition of the highly-contested bill that allows emergency financial managers to have unconditional control over a city in a financial emergency. The city of Benton Harbor, Michigan, declared to be in a financial emergency by Governor Rick Snyder, now knows that, according the Snyder, the voter's voice doesn't really matter anymore.

Map of Benton Harbor, MIJoseph Harris, the city's new Emergency Financial Manager (EFM), dismantled the entire government, only allowing city boards and commissions to call a meeting to order, approve of meeting minutes and adjourn a meeting.

The law that allows Harris to "exercise any power or authority of any office, employee, department, board, commission, or similar entity of the City, whether elected or appointed," was passed in March after the urging of Governor Snyder, and despite thousands of protesters who came to the Lansing capitol throughout February and March.

A Prize for Simply Doing What's Right

This week I received a Ridenhour Prize for my book, Deadly Spin. I'm honored to receive the award, especially in light of my fellow recipients: former Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin; the producers of a film called Budrus, about attempts to find non-violent solutions to the strife in the Middle East, and Thomas Drake, an National Security Agency contractor who blew the whistle on what he believed were corrupt practices. Past honorees have included Bill Moyers and Bob Herbert. Elite company.

Wendell Potter, former VP of PR at CIGNAIt is always nice to be recognized for one's work. The prizes are supposed to honor those "who speak truth to power." But the honor is also ironically unfortunate. The need to write the book at all, to illustrate how selfish profit motives too frequently take precedence over the health care needs of real people, remains a tragedy. And sadly, that continues to be the case, even after so much has been revealed about the inner workings of insurance giants and even after a bruising political battle has been waged to change how health care is delivered in America. The fact is, I shouldn't have had to write the book. There shouldn't have to be an award for people who simply do what is simply right.

Indiana Prosecutor's Email to Walker Encouraged Wisconsin Violence

Johnson County, Indiana deputy prosecutor and Republican activist Carlos Lam resigned from his job after the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism discovered an email he sent to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker suggesting the governor have an "associate" make a fake, violent attack to discredit union protesters and influence media coverage of the protests. Lam resigned shortly before the Center published a story containing excerpts of the email sent from Lam's account on February 19 praising Walker for standing up to unions and suggesting a "false flag" attack on Walker. Lam wrote,

...I think that the situation in Wisconsin presents a good opportunity for what's called a 'false flag' operation. If you could employ an associate who pretends to be sympathetic to the unions' cause to physically attack you (or even use a firearm against you), you could discredit the public unions. ... Employing a false flag operation would assist in undercutting any support the media may be creating in favor of the unions. God bless, Carlos F. Lam.

Lam denies writing the email, saying his email account was hacked. It would have been easy to verify whether his email account had been hacked by examining information that could be obtained from Hotmail and his Internet service provider, but Lam declined to reveal the provider's name to the Center so they could check out the hacking claim. This news follows an earlier admission by Governor Walker to a prank caller pretending to be David Koch of Koch Industries that he and his team had considered placing troublemakers in the crowd, but Walker claims to have rejected the idea for political considerations.

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Death Panels: Fact and Fiction

Insurance industry insider Wendell Potter"Death panels" are back in the news and Congress is turning its attention to them once again. The problem is, lawmakers are looking in all the wrong places.

The proposed provision would have allowed Medicare to pay doctors to counsel patients about their end-of-life medical wishes. That idea originally had bipartisan support, but when the provision was brought to Sarah Palin's attention, she accused Democrats of wanting to create "death panels" that would decide when to pull the plug on granny and grandpa. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, now headed by Republicans, sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last week demanding to know how a controversial provision that was excised from last year's health reform bill wound up -- briefly -- in a government "rule" on physician reimbursement.

Fox News' "Madison Protest" Footage Aims to Deceive

On February 28, the O'Reilly Factor aired a video news segment by Fox Channel reporter Mike Tobin, who was shown reporting from inside the state capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin. "News" footage aired during his broadcast of goings-on outside the capitol depicts an angry, out-of-control, crowd of pro-union protesters yelling and pushing people around. But the protesters in the video are wearing shirtsleeves and standing on a street lined with tall palm trees and other green, leafy foliage -- and that is absolutely not February in Madison, where no palm trees live outside of greenhouses and where temperatures have been well below freezing for most of the winter. Fox clearly used out-of-town footage to depict the "violence" it is hyping as happening in Madison. The segment is two minutes, nine seconds long, and the palm tree footage occurs at the 1:42 mark, as wording on the screen says "Union Protests."

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Officials Seek More Than Spin From Walker About "Troublemakers" Statements

Embattled Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's confession that he talked with political allies about potentially hiring "troublemakers" to disrupt the peaceful protests in Madison have drawn more questions from lawyers, police, Wisconsin state legislators and the mayor of Madison -- and a lot of spin by Walker. Through a spokesman, Walker has said that throughout the prank call he accepted with a fake "David Koch" that he "maintained his appreciation for and commitment to civil discourse." He continues to insist that the budget repair bill is about the budget, and that people other than him suggested using troublemakers to disrupt the crowd. Walker also maintains that he says the same thing in private as he does in public. But despite these responses, questions continue. Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz sent a letter to Walker asking him who made the suggestion to disrupt the protests, what was the nature of the suggestion, and asking what was Walker's immediate response to the proposal. The mayor also asked Walker why he rejected the "troublemakers" proposal due to political considerations rather than on legal and moral grounds. Walker has so far failed to publicly answer the growing number of questions about his statements, and public interest groups have been forced to file Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain the details of Walker's conversations about stirring up violence.

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