House progressives are getting some extra help in their fight against attempts by the GOP and Blue Dog Democrats to remove the public option from the healthcare bill. Net activists at

Blue America PAC

, with support from bloggers, are collecting donations online for members of Congress who vow to vote against any healthcare bill that does not contain a strong public option. So far they’ve raised more than $400,000. The money will go to sixty-five members of the House, including prominent progressives like

Dennis Kucinich


Barney Frank

and freshman members like

Judy Chu

(California) and

Chellie Pingree


“Supporters of real reform are being heard, not with thousand-dollar-an-hour lobbyists but with a lot of $10 contributions. It’s great to see,” says New York Congressman

Anthony Weiner

, one of the “Health Care Heroes.” According to

Jane Hamsher

of the blog Firedoglake, one of the campaign’s organizers, the money raised is in the same league as donations from the largest insurance companies. Hamsher says, “We’ve got sixty-five members who have pledged to vote against any bill that does not contain a public plan…. Our task right now is twofold: can we increase their number, and can we hold them?”   SARAH JAFFE


Attorney General

Eric Holder

was, by all accounts, horrified when he learned the extent of abuses committed by CIA operatives without the informed consent of Congress or legal legitimacy. So, despite a last-minute objection by the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Missouri Senator

Kit Bond

, Holder has assigned a prosecutor to determine if a full-scale investigation of torture tactics used during the Bush years is warranted.

Holder does deserve a measure of credit for launching what he calls a “preliminary review”–but only a small measure. His “anemic” response, as the ACLU describes it, seems to lack the focus or firmness needed to achieve accountability. There is nothing

Dick Cheney

and his allies in Congress and the conservative media would prefer more than a narrowly defined investigation of low-level CIA operatives. The right knows how to make “heroes” of those who dutifully carry out orders–even lawless and inhumane ones. It’s not that they care about the grunts. Rather, the focus on those who commit dirty deeds distracts attention from those who authorized the deeds.


Jan Schakowsky

and Senator

Russ Feingold

, the steadiest proponents of an inquiry, are right: a proper investigation must target those who initiated and authorized wrongdoing. Says Feingold, “This investigation should not be limited to those who carried out interrogations…. The abuses that were officially sanctioned amounted to torture, and those at the very top who authorized, ordered or sought to provide legal cover for them should be held accountable.”   JOHN NICHOLS