Friday, July 31, 2009


By : Mr. L. Paul Bremer, III, B.A., Yale, M.B.A., Harvard Business School; Risk Management Consultant, Marsh & McLennan Co., Inc. (2008-present); Chairman of the Iraq Reconstruction Project under the Coalition Provisional Authority (2003-2004); Terrorism Expert at the Department of Homeland Security (2002); U.S. Ambassador to Norway (1986) and The Netherlands (1983) under President Ronald R. Reagan; Speaks fluent French, Dutch and Norwegian, with a special emphasis on Norwegian/Dutch terrorism dialects spoken in Trondheim, Norway and Rotterdam, Holland; Real Estate Owner; Connoisseur of French Cuisine (excluding Algerian varieties); Republican.

We have a responsibility to bring freedom to Iraq. As Chairman of the Iraq Reconstruction Project during 2003 and 2004, I led key initiatives intended to eradicate Saddam Hussein’s legacy. Consistent with the President’s instructions, I had full authority to institute measures designed to introduce Iraqis to the joys of democracy. Due to increased security regulations during those years, I was unable to report the very great strides I made in Iraq. Now, however, I have received clearance to discuss my achievements. In my view, Americans will be proud to know that we are winning the war on terror. Iraqis are freer now than they ever were under Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. Thanks to my efforts, Iraqis have become less prone to terrorism. And thanks to my efforts, Iraqis have begun embracing American ways.

When I landed in Iraq six years ago, I recognized that Iraqis had to change their diet. I quickly observed that insurgents, Ba’ath Party officials, Republican Guard soldiers, al-Qaeda agents and rocket-toting children all shared one thing in common: They ate Iraqi food. They gorged themselves on pita bread, Iraqi-raised grain balls, falafel, Iraqi-grown wheat shoots and Iraqi myrtle berry cola. I knew from my diplomatic work in Norway that terrorism thrives on Arab-raised food; when Arabic-speaking people eat Arab-raised food, something happens to their DNA. After ten years eating falafel and pita, every Iraqi develops a dangerous propensity to build roadside bombs and chant violent anti-American slogans. I hired a consulting group to confirm what I already knew: Every time an improvised explosive device blew up in Baghdad, falafel crusts and myrtle berry soda bottles were not far from the blast site. Every time our troops shot an insurgent, they found terrorist-raised wheat seeds on his jacket, hands and beard. This evidence told me what I had to do: I had to change Iraqis’ diets.

I knew that freedom could never take hold in Iraq as long as Iraqis continued eating terrorist-raised crops and terrorist-bottled soda. I recognized that the road to freedom began with food. Only democratically-produced American foods could instill respect for democracy and freedom in the Iraqis. No matter how many troops we deployed and how many roadblocks we built in Baghdad, I knew our efforts were bound to fail unless we required Iraqis to eat foods that would set them free.

To combat terrorist diets, I did two things. First, I outlawed Iraqi farmers from harvesting their crops or saving the previous year’s crop. Iraqi-raised crops are terrorist crops. They contain nutrients that foster terrorism, anti-Americanism, violence and al-Qaeda sympathy. Iraqi crops turn Iraqi children into murderers and Iraqi women into suicide bombers. Under Provisional Order 81, I ordered troops to burn all Iraqi-raised crops and destroy all granaries. I made drinking myrtle berry soda crime punishable by imprisonment in Abu Ghraib prison. Similarly, I outlawed all domestic falafel and pita consumption.

At the same time, I understood that these measures would inspire some resentment in the native population. Thus, I provided several key exceptions. Notably, I allowed Iraqis to eat falafel and pita bread provided they contained only American ingredients. After all, American ingredients do not transform children into terrorist bombers or hijackers. To the contrary, American ingredients instill American values, including a desire to start businesses, purchase private health insurance, file tax returns, join sports clubs and buy cable television packages. Additionally, I permitted Iraqis to drink any soda not manufactured by Arabs. In this way, I ensured that they would not drink myrtle berry soda. But I preempted popular resentment by allowing them to drink Coca-Cola®, Pepsi®, Dr. Pepper®, RC Cola® and Mountain Dew® (in addition to all Diet and low-calorie variants for the same brands) on the express condition that they were bottled in the United States. According to my consulting group, Iraqis would not be angry as long as they had access to some sugar-based carbonated beverage. In this sense, my Provisional Order struck a satisfying compromise, all the while reducing terrorism and instilling freedom.

But eliminating terrorist diets represented only one step toward ultimate freedom in Iraq. In order to fully bring liberty to the country, I had to make Iraqis start to think like Americans. Americans don’t want to kill other Americans. Therefore, I had to transform Iraqis into Americans, at least in spirit. Once again, food offered the answer. After destroying terrorist-raised Iraqi crops, I instituted a massive food delivery program from American farms. Specifically, I secured a $14 billion contract with Monsanto Corp. to provide genetically-altered American seeds to Iraqi farmers. These seeds would grow into American crops filled with nutritious American values. By transforming the Iraqi diet, Iraqis would slowly forget RPGs and IEDs and start believing in Domino’s Pizza®, Cadillac Escalades® and investment retirement accounts. In this way, I literally “sowed the seeds” for a democratic Iraq.

Democracy can only take root in a country that thinks the way we do. Iraq represented a difficult task for me because Iraqis are very different from Americans. For one thing, they speak Arabic. Arabic does not sound anything like English, or even Spanish. In fact, it does not even use the same alphabet. Basically, it looks like a bunch of dots and wavy lines. It is difficult to advertise American products to people who speak Arabic. Moreover, Iraqis dress differently and believe in a different God than most Americans. They also worship Osama bin Laden and pray five times a day. These are all sentiments that foster terrorism and hostility to traditional employment. I knew it would be difficult to overcome these differences. I knew it would be difficult to make Iraqis free. After all, Iraqis would not be Americans until they truly wished to work 50 hours at an insurance company or bank, then take their children to soccer practice on Saturdays. Iraqis would not be Americans until they bought their own health insurance and took out at least $90,000 to get an education. I understood my challenge. But I knew that American food would start Iraqis on the road to freedom—and being American.

Time proved me right. Over time, Monsanto’s seeds took root in the Iraqi soil, yielding American crops. American crops made their way into Iraqi stomachs, slowly changing their minds from terrorism to free market enterprise. By 2006, most Iraqi children said that they no longer wanted to be like Osama bin Laden, but rather John Mayer, “because he gets all the hoes.” Similarly, most Iraqi adults said that they would rather see a movie featuring Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt than attend a Friday mosque rally denouncing George W. Bush as Satan. Attacks on American troops fell. Pizza Hut® and Burger King® franchises sprouted up. Strip malls, nail salons and Starbucks® Coffee houses replaced bombed-out insurgent strongholds. Iraqis began opening branch banks to provide mortgages and business loans to hopeful young entrepreneurs. Iraqis even slowly began abandoning Arabic for English. Thanks to their new diet, Iraqis were turning into Americans.

Although my work in Iraq had ended by 2006, I took quiet comfort in a job well done. I salute the Iraqis for their commitment to freedom. It takes intelligence to recognize that being American is better than being Iraqi. Yet Iraqis did not just become Americans to own larger cars and open banks. No, they understood that being American is much safer than being Iraqi, especially in a country under American military administration. By changing their ways from terrorism to Americanism, Iraqis saved their children from certain death in airstrikes, helicopter missile attacks and firefights. They also saved themselves from being randomly shot by American contractors. Diet did all this. After Iraqis began ingesting American crops, they no longer wanted to take up arms against the “hateful invaders.” Rather, they saw the Americans for what they were: Liberators bearing the torch of secular free enterprise and private profit for all—even for former terrorists and Arabic speakers. They not only wanted to abandon their old ways; they also wanted to be successful Americans with substantial incomes, homes, credit cards and garages.

Terrorism is a losing proposition. No suicide bomb or hijacking can stop the United States. We have too much to offer. We are too seductive. It makes no sense to wage futile war on the country that produces iPods®, Blu-Ray Disc® players and PlayStation 3®. Your children want to be like our children, no matter what terrorist dishes you feed them. Once they start eating American food, they will never take up arms against America again. Everyone wants our freedom. They just need to eat right first.

I performed a miracle in Iraq. But I achieved my goal because everyone on earth really wants to be an American. Those who say otherwise are just confused. They simply must change their diet to see the light. Once American food arrives in your country, it is just a matter of time before you start hungering for freedom. And super special sale deals at well-maintained shopping centers.

Thursday, July 30, 2009



I have written about health care for three straight days now. Everyone agrees that it is a significant issue; The New York Times seems to run an article about it every day. So far this week, I have explained, lampooned, recommended and even dismissed things concerning the "health care debate." To be blunt, I am frustrated that Congress cannot see the simple truth about health care. Rather, "politics as usual" threatens America's best opportunity to bring meaningful change to a profoundly unjust system.

Health care reform is steadily losing steam in Congress. You can just sense the fatal impasse. Representatives and Senators--even Democratic party allies--cannot agree on costs. They cannot agree on regulation, nor can they stomach the idea that "people can't choose their own doctors." They recoil from raising taxes because they worry they'll lose the next local election if they do. They flee from the talismanic specter of "socialized medicine" as soon as they perceive a tad too much "government involvement," even if proposed legislation is not remotely socialist in nature. Republicans, of course, simply refuse to do anything the Democrats want. So the fate of health care rests in the Democrats' hands. And they just bicker endlessly about costs and fine print. No one has the political courage to demand sweeping change.

Politics, politics, politics. Cowardly and pathetic as usual. It is even more pathetic when you consider that many representatives oppose health care reform because they worry about their own political futures. In other words, it is "all about their jobs," not beneficial decisions for the country. At times like these, it would be nice to have an Aristotelean Philosopher-King who wisely does what must be done for the people, vested interests be damned. But alas, we are stuck with stooges worried about their goddamned two-year jobs.

Yet there is something else going on here, something even more vexing. According to a New York Times article today about Obama's struggles to get a bill passed before the summer break, many Americans say they don't want universal health care reform because: "they [are] concerned that the quality of their own care would decline if the government created a program that covers everyone." See N.Y. Times, New Poll Finds Growing Unease on Health Plan, July 30, 2009.

This is rank selfishness in its most unabashed form: Americans don't want to allow others to get health care if it would somehow complicate their own access to health care. They don't even know whether universal care would restrict their existing health plan; they just "think" it will. God forbid. We certainly don't employed people to wait 40 minutes in the doctor's office instead of the usual 25 so that a lousy unemployed bum can get a free flu shot. That would affect "the quality of existing care."

I do not deny that I am intractably cynical on many issues. I am committed to cynicism as a "belief system" because it reliably explains human behavior as we observe it through experience. See, e.g., Cynical? Or Just Realistic? published September 25, 2008. Cynicism provides a reliable framework to analyze human motivations. Put simply, cynicism assumes that everyone acts selfishly. It doubts people's sincerity, mocks their claims to nobility and explains all their behavior by reference to crude self-interest. It may be lazy to be cynical. But in case after case involving economic questions (as almost all social questions do), experience reveals that cynical assumptions generally prove correct in the end. After all, people are selfish. They act to better themselves. Their actions merely reveal their motivations.

Cynicism works. It provides a clear explanation for America's hesitancy to embrace sweeping health care reform. Politicians might quarrel about amortization, costs, interest, long-term savings, expenditures and even "socialized medicine." But all these catchphrases are mere chaff to cover the real explanation: People just don't want to suffer inconvenience to help others. Universal health care is a revolutionary proposition because it challenges America to put others before themselves. It will not necessarily reduce the "quality of existing care." Yet it is precisely the selflessness inherent in the idea that repels the American mind. After all, Americans generally don't like doing anything that makes their lot more difficult. Helping others is simply not very lucrative and it requires effort. It pays no bills. If helping people is not somehow profitable, Americans typically won't do it. They have their own "responsibilities" to worry about.

Universal health care involves "helping" people on a grand scale. Strictly viewed, there is no individual, selfish reward for accomplishing it. At most, the reward for universal health care will be justice and humanity in a society that claims to treasure both. Yet justice and humanity are "just words;" no one does anything in this country if it brings home no bacon. Universal health care brings home no bacon. It gives bacon to people who traditionally could not get it, and those with bacon resent the idea that they might not have as much bacon as they used to. The idea that we might achieve a society with just access to bacon does not compensate for the anger that wells up in a bacon owner who loses his bacon hoard.

This is the cynical explanation for American resistance to universal health care. It is based in selfish notions of property entitlement and personal convenience. And it is absolutely accurate.

I really have no idea how the health care debate will turn out. When Barack Obama won the White House last year, I really thought that America wanted to re-order its value system. But if the bitter recriminations over health care reform are any indication, it is clear that America has a very long way to go on value change. We're just as selfish as ever. And no promise of justice for all will convince anyone to give up their "entitlements" or "existing advantages."

Cynical? Yes. But I'm just being realistic.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009



By : Dr. Herbert G. Butts, M.D. (Gastroenterologist Specializing in Anal Repairs & Sphincter Reconstruction); President, Union of American Physicians for Fiscal Strength, Washington, D.C.; Contributing Editor, The American Medical Journal (Finance & Insurance Section); M.B.A., The Wharton School of Business (Thesis on ‘Margin Management in Health Care’); Top 25 Donor, Radiologists for Unlimited Investment Opportunity Without Taxation (Houston, Texas).

Once again, Congress debates health care reform. Once again, our Nation’s representatives want to squander America’s treasure on wasteful programs intended to provide medical treatment to those who cannot afford private health insurance. They say they want to bring justice and humanity to a system that should care about people, not profits. They say they want to turn a new page in the history of American medicine. They have not really said how they will do this. But one thing is certain: It is going to cost a lot. And when government programs cost a lot, taxes go up. When taxes go up, people with money wind up footing the bill for those who don’t have enough.

As a physician, I welcome Congress’ efforts to reform the health care system. I support any initiative that will bring quality health care to more Americans. But there is a caveat to my support: I will not support any Congressional action that does not guarantee that every doctor will make at least $2,000,000 net annually under the new system. Put simply, doctors are trained professionals. People need us. We know how to fix damaged hearts and sew on severed limbs. We don’t work for free. And we’re not here to help. We’re here to make a living—a really good living. Congress cannot expect us to work our miracles without paying us what we deserve.

Congress must recognize that health care would be meaningless without doctors. Doctors are the only people in our society with the technical knowledge necessary to heal the sick. True, mothers from coast to coast know home remedies for sore throats and colds. But very few mothers know how to anaesthetize their children, draw up detailed charts documenting their health in illegible handwriting, drape them in the customary supine manner, monitor their heart rate then perform precise anal surgery on them with laser equipment. Mothers may be able to cure a mild flu with chicken broth and bed rest. But only we can excise anal cancer polyps or save their children from massive head trauma. No spices, orange peels or herb soups will stop a cerebral hemorrhage. For that, you need a doctor. When the chips are really down, you need us.

Yet many Americans—including dangerous liberal Democrats in Congress—think that we doctors entered our profession because we truly want to relieve suffering. They think we perform anal examinations on 700-pound women because we care about their health. They think we remove ugly intestines because we truly want to save people from cancer. In short, they fatally misjudge our motivations. We doctors would not have gone to school for 25 years if we did not expect to make a fortune after age 40. We would not have spent decades in operating rooms and labs if we did not expect a massive reward for our efforts. And we would not have sacrificed our youth working sleepless 140-hour shifts every week after medical school. Put simply, we have worked extremely hard. It is not about the patient; it is about us. We have suffered to get where we are. As physicians, we will not allow Congress to insult us by paying us less than $2,000,000 every year. It’s about time that someone thought about the doctors for once, not the patients. After all, we do all the work. Patients just lie there under anesthesia and wake up later. That’s pretty lazy, if you ask me.

Doctors need something to look forward to. As President of the Union of American Physicians for Fiscal Strength, I speak for every doctor when I say that we like money. No one in our society works as much as we do. No one in our society delivers such tangible worth as we do. Think about it: When you bring your sick mother into the hospital, our skilled work saves her from death. Isn’t that valuable? If we didn’t spend our whole lives studying and scurrying around hospitals, we could not have saved your mother. Don’t you think we deserve a big salary for that? We are happy to save your mother, but remember what we go through every day, too. We expect to be well compensated for our services. If we did not have large salaries, bonuses and insurance incentives to look forward to, we would not want to get up in the morning. How would you feel if you knew you had to stitch an immigrant’s anal canal for 14 hours for a paltry $500,000 per year? What if you had to stick your finger up a homeless person’s anus for a lousy $500 weekly stipend from a city bureau? And what if you faced medical malpractice charges for creating a vaginal fistula knowing that Medicaid will pay you pennies—if anything at all—for your toils? You wouldn’t like it, let me tell you. In a word, physicians face tremendous stress and difficulty every day. Only sufficient salaries can provide the motivation necessary for physicians to cope with the pressures unique to their trade.

We sincerely hope that Congress will recognize that health care reform will not succeed without our support. No matter what Congress decides to do, it must ensure that every doctor in America receives at least $2,000,000 per year. We leave it to Congress to decide how to organize our pay rates. Obviously experienced doctors must receive more than the minimum salary. Obviously radiologists must receive double the going rate for comparable internists. And obviously doctors who secure favorable results for more patients should receive “performance bonuses.” If Congress really wants to reform health care, it will provide suitable incentives for doctors. If doctors know that they will receive a $750,000 performance bonus if they remove 15,000 polyps per month, they will more zealously remove polyps. A world with fewer polyps is a better world. Congress can achieve goals like these if it simply pays doctors what they deserve.

Many liberal Democrats say that doctors need to consider the “common good” in order to change focus in American health care. They say that doctors must play a “philosophical role” in changing the way our country approaches the issue. We strongly disagree.

First, as medical professionals, we are neither politicians nor philosophers. We are technicians. We are bodily repairmen. No one expects a mechanic to care about philosophy. The same goes for doctors. We are no different from any other worker. We ply our trade and we expect pay for our labor. We stitch, cut, suture, order lab tests and write prescriptions. We do not philosophize. The “common good” is not necessary to perform incisions, administer chemotherapy or clear an artery. While our skills may result in “good” for society, the “common good” is certainly not necessary for technical medical work.

Second, we are really not all that different from other workers in the economy. Although our skills may be especially valuable, we want the same things from life as everyone else. We want to own real estate. We want stable investments. We want cars. We want savings accounts. We want to send our children to college. We differ from average workers to the extent that we work harder. We spent a long time in school and even longer in professional training. It is only fair that we receive some special compensation for our incredible sacrifices. That is why we expect to own at least a second home, and maybe some income-producing rental properties. These are reasonable expectations. Every American deserves some reward for performing valuable work. In that regard, doctors are no different from anyone else in our society.

In brief, it is both unrealistic and unfair to ascribe some special “nobility” to doctors. We work for the same reasons everyone else does. Congress must understand that. We are not saints. We are just trained professionals who perform impressive work. Saints work for free. Professionals don’t.

As our representatives continue to debate health care reform, we demand that they remember the doctors. We are the real miracle workers who make our system great. Our system became great because doctors receive the pay they deserve. They have an incentive to work hard. Over time, those incentives led to revolutionary new treatments, medications and procedures. Until now, our system proved that when doctors get paid, anything is possible.

True, some people in our system could not receive care. But that was a small price to pay for the medical miracles we achieved through proper pay. We expect that Congress will recognize that health care in America depends on well-paid doctors. Without at least $2,000,000 a year, the miracle well will run dry. No one will endure 25 years in school and sleepless 140-hour weeks without a suitable reward to covet. Our country has always rewarded hard work and valuable service. Our health care system is no exception.

We do not care whether Congress adopts universal care or retains our private market system to provide health coverage. We simply demand that every physician in this country receive at least $2,000,000 per year. It is a simple demand. We do not care where Congress gets the money for our salaries. We simply remind Congress that without at least $2,000,000 every year, no doctor will have an incentive to repair anal canals, invent new erectile dysfunction medications or deliver deformed children. In this light, it is in the national interest to keep paying doctors, even if that means taxing other professions. We are the only technicians who can save lives. We deserve to be paid commensurate with the importance of our skill and knowledge. If we do not receive what we are worth, we’re walking. We don’t care what the State disciplinary boards say. This is about fair pay, not duty.

You want us to save your mother when she breaks her hip, don’t you? You want us to save your child when he falls down a drainage pipe and fractures his skull, don’t you? You want us to successfully replace your jaundiced wife’s liver, don’t you? You want us to find a cure for cancer, don’t you? Well, we won’t do any of these things unless Congress guarantees that we get at least $2,000,000 a year—every year. We don’t care where the money comes from. We just want it.

We might be doctors. But we’ve worked hard in our lives. We’ve learned how to cheat death and extend life. We’ve learned how to read medical charts and MRI scans. We know what masses are benign and which ones aren’t. This is valuable knowledge. We don’t share it for free. We spent 25 sleepless years to learn our craft. Congress had better pay up or no one’s going to get it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009



I saw a documentary on cable a few weeks ago about health care in India. It drew attention to the “cleft palate epidemic” plaguing Indian children. For some reason, much greater percentages of children in India suffer from this disorder than they do in Western countries. The filmmakers showed that children with cleft palates suffer social ostracism and cannot effectively contribute to society. In many cases, their parents even let them die or give them to orphanages rather than try to raise them.

According to the film, the Indian government made a concerted effort to combat the epidemic. It mustered its best doctors and nationally advertised a program to “repair cleft palates.” These advertisements urged parents with ill children to bring them to designated hospitals, where trained surgeons would repair cleft palates at no charge. Parents simply had to come up with the transportation costs to the nearest hospital. Once they arrived, doctors consulted with them, determined the best surgical procedure and carried it out. In most cases, the surgeries were successful.

After the operations, nurses gathered parents and their children in a conference room. They thanked them for coming and for allowing the surgeons to help them. Finally, they asked their patients to tell all their friends about the government effort to heal cleft palates, and to send them to the nearest hospital for care. After all, said the nurse: “Without patients, a hospital is useless.”

No one ever talked about insurance or money. No one threw anybody out of the hospital because they couldn’t afford it. There were no “care approvals” or “administrative investigations” into “patient solvency.” In fact, all the parents who responded to the government advertisement were destitute. They came to the hospitals because the government told them it wanted to heal their children. After all, it was in the national interest to cure diseases. Money did not even enter the question.

To an American viewer, this seems incredibly foreign. It is impossible to talk about health care in this country without talking about money, insurance, profit, deficits, bankruptcy, debt, loans, Republicans, Democrats and even class distinction. The simple humanity of curing sick people fades into obscurity as policymakers battle over fiscal responsibility, fraud, overbilling, cost analyses and insurance practices. Yet isn’t health care about health? How did health care turn into a vast money game in this country? What happened to the “health” in health care? And what happened to “care?”

Health care is an enormous issue in the United States. America has dubious notoriety as the only major industrial power without some guaranteed health coverage for all its citizens. While it offers the best care in the world to those who can afford it, it also allows millions of others to go without any care at all. This is a profound national embarrassment, especially in a country that has long prided itself on respect for human dignity, equality and “general goodness.” After all, it is hard to argue that “America cares” on the world stage when it does not even provide medical care to millions of its own people.

For decades now, politicians have attempted to address this embarrassment. Many have tried to introduce legislation that provides basic care for all. They have all failed. For better or worse, health care in America is a private commodity, like wheat or oil. Insurance companies and private hospitals dictate policy, prices and access. They compete with one another for “patient business,” just as auto manufacturers compete for customers. Like any private commodity, you can’t buy health care if you can’t afford it, and that commercial reality has frustrated every effort to reform the system. After all, in the eyes of private business, providing universal care would be like giving away oil or wheat for free. That doesn’t happen in other commercial fields, so why should it happen in health care? It just “wouldn’t be fair” or “fiscally responsible” to give commercial goods away. That, at least, is the response from private enterprise. And that response has derailed every attempt to bring more humanity to our health care system.

Barack Obama promised that he would “reform health care” during the 2008 Presidential campaign. He publicly said that he will “get it done,” no matter the opposition. He even acknowledged that many have failed before him. He rode to victory on such noble-sounding promises as these. In 2009, Congress drafted health care legislation. It now founders and threatens to collapse before it even comes up for a vote. Everyone is complaining. The momentum is waning. No one likes the price tag. No one likes the handouts. No one likes the subsidies. No one likes the rules. No one likes the mandatory employer coverage or penalties for refusing to cover employees. Republicans resent any attempt to undercut private enterprise and insurance companies. Democrats are fatally divided between those brave enough to demand universal coverage and those who run in political terror from the costs. In essence, the objections all boil down to money and “responsibility.” Again, the health care debate in America has degenerated into a money debate.

When will our politicians understand that health care is about health, not money? Is it really that difficult to formulate a system in which all Americans can obtain medical care without fearing bankruptcy? Is it really that difficult to change our minds from profit to humanity? Our government should care as much about whether its citizens are healthy as it cares whether its budgets are sound. If citizens die, what good is a budget? In short, the health care debate has lost all focus. As politicians bicker and wage war over costs, Americans continue suffering because they cannot see a doctor. Hospitals care more about their budgets than they care about people’s health. Hospitals are corporations in the United States. I suppose we should have expected nothing less. Humanity, after all, does not produce dividends for the shareholders.

If we really want to solve the health care mess, we need to change our focus. We need to stop hemming and hawing about costs. We must be brutally honest: Health care for all costs a lot. But if we really want it, we have to pay for it. If that means giving things away, then so be it. Health care must be about health and care, not cost and profit. If these values are inconsistent with private enterprise, then we must take power away from private enterprise. I venture that it is foolish to trust private enterprise to handle health care anyway, precisely because private enterprise and humanity are mutually exclusive. After all, private enterprise is private. Humanity is public. Try telling the shareholders that their money is paying to help the public. It won’t fly.

I simply do not buy the idea that reforming health care would be “prohibitively expensive.” If India can scrape together the money to surgically repair cleft palates for free, then so can we. India paid the money to heal children because India cared about them as human beings, not paying customers. India did not care whether these children could pay for insurance; it cared that they were suffering. That is a fundamental difference in values. If we really want to change health care in the United States, we need to start caring about our fellow man who suffers, not whether he can afford to pay $4,000,000 for a hospital stay. We need to stop worrying about whether it would be “fair” to treat a sick person who can’t afford it. We must simply have the courage to say: “These are our fellow citizens. They must be cared for because we care as a society, even if it costs a lot.”

Can we do this? Do we have it in us? Can we really change our values and free ourselves from the money spell? I think we can, but I know many people will say we can’t. They will say that universal care is far too expensive and would encourage irresponsibility. They will say it would require excessive taxes and kill American jobs. They will say it would be nice to care for everyone, but not nice enough to raise taxes for.

I think that caring for everyone in our society is nice enough to raise taxes for. If we can raise taxes for infrastructure, navies, wars, welfare and public services, why can’t we raise them for health? Wouldn’t health be a good thing to buy? Sure, it would cost a lot, but many other countries willingly pay the bill. You don’t read horror stories about poor people being thrown out of hospitals in France or England. These countries—like India—simply have different values. They care enough about their citizens’ health to pay to protect it.

Does it not seem callous—and even vicious—that we do not? At this point, however, the familiar objection arises: “But those countries make patients wait 75 years for care and people die in clinic waiting rooms. That never happens in America because doctors make enough money, pharmaceutical companies have an economic incentive to invent effective new drugs and hospitals are cost-effective…blah blah blah.”

While it may be true that a desire for profit impels medical breakthroughs and “top-notch” care for those fortunate to have expensive private insurance, the American system leaves millions without any protection at all. The “private market model” for health care may very well be efficient, but only for those who can afford it. I am deeply skeptical about arguments that link potential profitability to “effective health care.” If we really want to change the focus in health care, our desire to help our fellow man must be just as alluring as securing market shares and outdoing last year’s sales record.

Are there long waits for care in other systems? Probably. But I have a feeling that most invective against “socialized medicine”—especially in Canada—is pure propaganda. For every scary story about a bad waiting room experience in Canada there is another story about timely, effective care. I have a friend from Alberta who required bypass heart surgery and was in the operating room within a week. Since then, he has been fine. His “poorly-paid” doctors were not incompetent. He did not die in a waiting room. He never paid a dime for his care. He even got to take off two months from work—with pay. His story shows once again that health care can really be about “health” and “care,” not money and insurance.

Why can’t we do the same in this country? Why does everything have to generate a profit here? Why is it a national disaster if someone gets expensive, life-saving surgery but doesn’t pay for it? If we really want to fix health care, we need to stop thinking in profit terms. We can do it if we are willing to change our values. We simply need to pay the cost. Yet Americans dislike spending money on others as much as they like making it for themselves. They will do anything to avoid incurring additional costs, especially if they “get nothing” out of it. The psychic—and even moral—satisfaction that flows from living in a community that truly cares about everyone does not impress most Americans. They would rather have more disposable income for themselves. That is the sad truth about why this country does not provide basic health coverage for all.

But isn’t this pitifully egotistic? If a so-called “developing” country like India manages to provide free operations to its citizens, why can’t we? We obviously have more money, more technology and more facilities. Yet our government does not publicly call for “all sick people” to come get cured at State expense. Why not? Doesn’t it sound wonderful? Doesn’t it sound like the State actually cares about its own people when it does something like this? And doesn’t it make us look embarrassingly cruel because we do not do such things?

Put bluntly, we would rather let some people die than give “health care commodities” away for free. These are our values: No money, no beer.

If we really want to overhaul health care in this country, we need to stop thinking in economic terms. Instead, we must think in human terms, no matter how much it costs. I understand that this is politically difficult. But it is the only way to really change the system. There is simply no way to satisfy both private enterprise and humanity at the same time.

We need to start saying: “Without patients, a hospital is useless,” not “Without paying $600 a month for insurance, you can’t be a patient.”

Monday, July 27, 2009


By : Mr. Antonin G. Scalia, Associate Justice, United States Supreme Court (Appointed by President Ronald Reagan 1986); Law Professor, University of Chicago (1977-1982); Annual Hero of the Federalist Society (2007); Defender of 21st Century constitutional liberty by reference to 18th Century grammar; Founder, the Justice Antonin Scalia Institute for Insulting, Degrading and Denigrating Your Professional Colleagues (Pursuant to Law and Ethics Rules, Common Decency Notwithstanding) (2008-present).

You may have heard that government agents took me into custody last week and subjected me to interrogation. For some odd reason, senior officials in our intelligence community obtained information linking me to an al-Qaeda plot to poison children’s lunches in Washington, D.C. public schools. During my custody, I was asked many questions. Since then, the wildest rumors have been circulating about it. Today I write to put these rumors to rest. Put simply, I am fine. A little tired, yes, but otherwise fine.

Nobody tortured me last week. Rather, agents from the Department of Homeland Security, the CIA and the FBI came to my home last week and informed me that they had “information” linking me to a terror plot. I responded that this was nonsense. The agents ignored my response. They told me they had to “take me into custody” to ask further questions. They said that “the safety of American children” was at stake. It angered me that someone provided false information linking me to a conspiracy to kill children. But I did not blame the officers for arresting me. After all, they were merely acting to protect American children. What did they know? They had to get the truth. If I had to suffer temporary incarceration to dispel their suspicions, I was prepared to pay that price for living in a democracy committed to safety for all.

After surrendering to the agents, they handcuffed me and put a black hood over my head. I remember being pushed into an automobile, then an airplane. The airplane took off. We were airborne for what seemed an eternity. No one spoke during the flight. When we finally landed, I was led down from the plane. I heard the agents speaking. Men answered them in a foreign language. I think it was Polish or Bulgarian, but I do not know for sure. It was Slavic, but I don’t think it was Russian. I was put into another car. I no longer heard the American agents. Now, I only heard Slavic voices.

We stopped after driving about two hours. At this point, I was taken from the car. Someone finally took the hood off my head and uncuffed me. It was early morning. I looked around. I was in a forest near an old concrete bunker. There were several trucks and jeeps parked outside the bunker. About fifteen armed men wearing green uniforms milled around the bunker entrance. I had no idea what they were saying. My eyes hurt; I could not look directly into the light because they were still sensitive. I had not slept during the whole trip. After about a minute, two soldiers with slung rifles approached me and said in accented English: “Come with us. We have some questions to ask you.”

I was taken into the bunker. A stairway led about two stories underground. There was a long hallway with steel doors lining either side. Lamps hung overhead, casting a pale white glow from above. The soldiers opened a door on the left and pushed me in. It was a large room. It smelled musty, as if there was not enough ventilation. There was a single steel table in the middle of the room, with a chair on either side. A few old-looking file cabinets stood against each wall. There was a small door at the back of the room.

“Wait here,” said one of the soldiers. “Make yourself comfortable,” he added, pointing to the chair. I sat down. The soldiers left the room. They closed the heavy steel door and locked it behind them. I sat alone for several hours. There was no bathroom and I desperately needed to relieve myself, since I had no opportunity to do so during my journey up to this point. Finally, I had to relieve myself on the floor.

Several more hours passed. I could not sleep. The chair was too uncomfortable. Strange, scattered thoughts started racing through my head. I started fixating on the bright fluorescent lights that lined the ceiling above me. They buzzed incessantly. One even flickered a little. I started scratching my head and staring at the flickering light. I wanted desperately to sleep but I couldn’t close my eyes for more than a second. I started pitying myself and cursing the whole situation. After all, I hadn’t done anything. But I immediately caught myself: “No, you have to go through this to protect the children.” Even though I was innocent, I willingly absorbed my adversity because I knew our agents had to protect Americans from terror.

Finally, the door in the back of the room creaked open. Two officers came into the room. I looked up at them. One of the officers held a file folder. The other one held a rusty steel device that looked like a leg brace. It had screws on either side and two jagged-looking “jaws.” A moment later, two soldiers came into the room with rifles. After them, another man came into the room. He was black. He was not wearing a green uniform. He looked American; the others did not. He closed the door behind him. The two officers looked back at him. “Are you ready, sir?” They asked. “Yes. Go ahead,” he responded. By his voice, I knew he was American.

“Well, Antonin,” began the officer in accented English, setting his file folder onto the table. “We can make this as easy or as difficult as you want. We know you’ve been speaking to al-Rahwiri.”

“I don’t know what this is all about,” I responded. “You obviously don’t have the right man here.”

The officer looked at me blankly. Then he turned to the other officer and gestured with his head toward the table. The other officer threw the steel device onto the table. “You were saying?” He paused, then continued: “There is no point lying to us. We know you spoke to al-Rahwiri. We know about the D.C. school district. We know you discussed cyanide with him.”

“I don’t know where you got that information, but it can’t be accurate.”

“Antonin, I don’t want to be a bad guy with you. Just tell us you plotted to kill the kids in D.C. and you can go home. If you don’t confess, this is not going to be a good day for you. Please, be easy on yourself. There’s no way out of this. I know you think you’re smart and you know about constitutional law. You think you have rights, even though you routinely deny them to others. Look, don’t be hard on yourself. Just tell us you know about the plot, then we can start talking like two civilized human beings.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t admit to that. It’s just not true. And I will not be coerced into saying otherwise.”

“All right. Have it your way.” The officer gestured to the two soldiers, who violently restrained me. Meanwhile, the second officer picked up the metal device and dangled it in front of my face. The two soldiers strapped me to my chair with ropes. The second officer pushed the chair away from the table and grabbed my right arm. Although I tried to struggle, he placed my right thumb into a slot on the metal device. He started screwing the two jagged “jaws” together around the thumb.

At this point, I was mildly alarmed. The two jaws met around my thumb and slowly crushed it. I could literally feel the bone shattering inside my hand. It hurt quite a lot, but it was bearable. I knew that the officers were simply trying to protect children from terrorists, and that justified my physical suffering. The jaws continued to press together until my thumb was virtually squashed. But I did not cry out, nor did I confess. After all, I hadn’t done anything.

“Why don’t you just say you talked to al-Rahwiri?” asked the officer.

“Because I never talked to him,” I responded despite the bearable pain.

“Well, I don’t believe you,” the officer replied. He then turned to the American behind him. The American nodded and pointed toward a file cabinet. The officer nodded. He said something to the soldiers in his language. They let me go. They opened the file cabinet and removed what looked like garden shears. Then the second officer slowly unscrewed the device from my thumb. I did not have much of a thumb left, but I was managing well.

“Now, Antonin. You can’t hold out forever. You are pretty good liar. You are even willing to take some pain to defend your lies. But no one leaves this room without telling the truth. All right, now where were we? Oh yes, the D.C. school district. Tell us that you bought cyanide with the intention of collaborating with al-Rahwiri to poison children’s lunches.”

“I never did that. I never bought cyanide. And I never intended to poison children. I have just been writing judicial opinions and questioning lawyers at oral argument for the past 10 months.”

He looked at me incredulously. “Well, we’re asking the questions now.” He then picked up his file folder, flipped a few pages and picked one out. “If you did not buy cyanide, why do we have this order ticket from CyanID Co. Inc. memorializing the sale of 500 gallons of liquid cyanide to you, Mr. Antonin G. Scalia on July 1, 2009? You see, Antonin, don’t try to deceive us. We have evidence.”

“That’s a forgery. I never did business with that company. I never bought cyanide.”

“Antonin, please. Evidence is evidence. We even have evidence showing that you transferred funds to CyanID Co. Inc. Now, either you tell us the truth or we will draw it out of you.”

“Go ahead. I never did anything wrong.”

The officer sighed. He nodded to the two soldiers, who again braced me. The second officer tore off my shirt. He then took the garden shears and clipped off my right nipple. “Still don’t know anything, do you, Antonin?”

I did not let the officer intimidate me. “No, I don’t. I will not lie to you.” Although it hurt to lose my right nipple, clipping it off was a necessary measure calculated in good faith to protect American children from terror.

At this point, a cell phone rang. The American answered: “Phelps here.” He stood listening for several minutes, interrupting only to say, “yes,” “oh really” and “un huh” several times. Finally, he said: “Yes, sir” and hung up the phone. He gestured for the officer to approach him. He whispered something to the officer. The officer nodded, glanced over at me, looked back at the American, then saluted. The American pursed his lips, turned around, opened the back door and walked out.

Several silent moments passed. The officer said something to his comrades in his language. The soldiers cut the ropes holding me to the chair. The second officer opened the file cabinet and put away the garden shears. He then took my shirt and put it over my shoulders. Finally, the lead officer said in English: “We have received information indicating that you are no longer a suspect. You may leave now.” He abruptly turned and left the room. The second officer followed. The two soldiers stayed with me. I just sat there.

Within minutes, two doctors came into the room and bandaged my wounds. They gave me a new shirt and brought me a meal and water. Then the two soldiers helped me up, led me upstairs and placed me in a waiting truck. The truck drove to a military airfield, where an American transport jet was waiting for me. Two U.S. Air Force officers greeted me. One said: “Sorry for the misunderstanding, your honor,” then gently helped me aboard the plane. They showed me to a comfortable bed and I laid down for the flight back to the United States.

I recount these details because I believe the American people deserve to know what happened to me. Contrary to all the rumors, I was not tortured. Rather, I was subjected to legitimate investigation calculated to determine whether terrorists planned to kill American children. The Executive Branch of the Federal government has authority to pursue any means necessary to protect Americans from terror, including investigations that may appear harsh. Put simply, when our government has a legitimate purpose—such as protecting children from al-Qaeda—it may pursue any methods necessary to effectuate that purpose. Although I endured some personal discomfort as a result of this investigation, our agents cannot always be perfect. I do not fault them for zealously attempting to root out terror, even in error.

I was not tortured because torture is illegal by treaty. Our government does not act illegally, nor does it ignore its treaty obligations. Under the governing legal standard, “torture” means the “intentional infliction of severe pain for a prohibited purpose.” Applying this definition to my experience, I can say to a legal certainty that I did not suffer torture.

First, I did not suffer “severe” pain. True, the thumbscrew device crushed my right thumb. It inflicted “pain.” But it was bearable pain. Viewed objectively, the pain was not “severe.” I can imagine far worse pain. It also hurt quite a bit when the officer clipped off my right nipple. It also permanently disfigured and degraded me. Again, however, the pain was not “severe.” While no specific case under the treaty has ever addressed nipple-clipping, I am confident that—as a jurist—such mild impositions do not rise to the level of “severe” pain necessary to meet the legal definition.

Second, and more importantly, the agents in this case did not inflict pain on me for a “prohibited purpose.” Cases have held that “prohibited purposes” under the treaty definition include sadism, unlawful information acquisition, revenge and medical experiment. Here, the agents inflicted pain on me in the honest—though mistaken—belief that I conspired to poison children in the D.C. public school system. They were acting to prevent what they reasonably believed to be imminent deadly harm to American children. That is about as legitimate a purpose as you can have. It is certainly not “prohibited” to zealously protect American children. In fact, that purpose justifies everything, including the infliction of “severe pain.” Thus, even if I concluded that the agents in this case inflicted “severe” pain on me, they still would not have committed “torture,” because their purpose was not “prohibited.” To the contrary, it was eminently legitimate.

I am committed to the rule of law. The rule of law in my case clearly indicates that I did not suffer torture. We apply legal definitions as they are written, not as what “we think they mean.” Logic and precedent establish that crushing thumbs and clipping off nipples do not constitute “torture” under the governing legal standard. I therefore reject all the liberal allegations that I wrongfully suffered “torture” while in custody last week. The rule of law suffers when the public irrationally applies “colloquial” understandings to make “legal” conclusions. I refuse to turn my back on the law, even if I endured a personally uncomfortable incident.

Torture is a legal term, not a colloquial one. Under law, I did not suffer torture. In fact, I am proud to live in a society with laws that allow its government to use any methods necessary to protect children from imminent terrorist attack. When our children’s safety is at stake, I think it is entirely reasonable to allow our government to take unrestricted action against the suspected conspirators. Our Constitution is not absolute; after all, our Constitution would be worthless if terrorists could freely attack the population. And what good is government if it cannot protect itself in the most threatening circumstances?

I do not need a right nipple to continue my duties as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. I am ready to get back to work immediately. And I will continue to hold that no one commits “torture” if they inflict pain to protect children from imminent harm.

Sunday, July 26, 2009



Several banks currently offer “bounties” for referrals. Citibank, for instance, offers $100 to any accountholder who tells a “friend” about the bank and the “friend” opens an account. Its advertising pitch entices with the words: “Got five friends? There could be $500 in it for you.” But Citibank likely feared that “really popular people” with “lots of friends” would “cost too much,” so they limited the bounty to five friends. Wachovia offers $75 for referrals; I’m not sure whether there’s a “friend limit” on their offer. So I guess people are worth more at Citibank than Wachovia. One hundred dollars can buy more than seventy-five.

This whole “cash for referral” business disturbs me. Yet it is capitalism at its purest; it assumes that people cultivate friendships in order to exploit them for personal financial reward. That is the reason it bothers me so much. I do not have friends because I secretly wish to make money from them. I have friends because I respect them as individual human beings. In short, I resent the banks’ insinuation that people maintain friendships solely for their economic potential.

Among many other things, Karl Marx criticized free market enterprise for its tendency to reduce human beings to “exploitable labor power” or “amounts” useful to some economically superior master. In the eye of private enterprise, for instance, an employee is no longer “Fred Johnson,” the nice man from down the street with the model airplane collection who dreams to be a violinist. No, he is a “Junior Claims Clerk (Position Code 45A)” who represents 8 man-hours per working day, which in turn translates (after taxes, wages and costs) to $2,000 profit per week. He might be “Fred” to his co-workers. But in the economic hierarchy, he is an instrument. His labor does not even belong to him. It inures completely to his master’s benefit. In short, Marx argued that capitalism depends upon dehumanization and exploitation.

In essence, Marx made a humanitarian objection. Marx posited that human beings are unique individuals with hopes, dreams, ambitions and emotions. They are not mere commercial objects to be exploited for others’ gain; they have non-economic value, too. I certainly agree with Marx on these points. But it is impossible to talk about Marxism without considering the inevitable objection: “Well, it doesn’t work. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. People want to exploit each other and make money. They don’t want to be equal. It’s against human nature.”

This is the familiar “human nature” response to Marxism. According to this argument, socialism does not work because human beings are inherently selfish and only want to enrich themselves, even if that means trampling on others. To a large extent, experience bears this argument out. In our society, commercial hungers induce people to ruthlessly exploit one another. Everyone works for personal reward, and those with greater power take full advantage over those with less.

Still, is this not a pathetic admission? Put simply, the “human nature” objection to socialism assumes that it is “in our nature to exploit one another.” It assumes that human beings enjoy exploiting each other and—to some extent—being exploited. It assumes that human beings don’t really mind being reduced to instruments and amounts, as long as they get what they want from the exchange. In this sense, the real objection to socialism reads as follows: “We can’t be socialist because we are only human. We like exploiting and being exploited. Exploitation gives us lots of neat things and we like having more neat things than our neighbor. It would be really nice if we all were equal and everyone owned the same things. But that makes us feel angry because we want the full rewards from our work.”

In short, socialism “fails” because human beings lose emotional control when they think that others benefit from their work. It is too much for the human mind to accept. To avoid that emotional response, people prefer the old exploitation system. It might be unfair. It might be difficult. But at least it feels “natural.” It accords with people’s emotions. Hey, people in a free market system might face exploitation. But one day they might get to exploit others. And at day’s end they get to own as many cars as they want and take home their own pay. Who doesn’t want that?

In this light, is it not sad that the “human nature objection” to socialism reveals itself to be based entirely in emotion? There is nothing intellectually better about capitalism. It just panders more effectively to the innate emotional satisfaction that flows from exploiting others and being exploited. After all, it feels good to exploit. So everyone strives for it. Plus they get to own stuff in the process.

This explains why people willingly see themselves as amounts. In our society, people simply do not mind thinking in instrumental terms. They do not mind thinking of themselves—and others—as economic units. True, they also regard themselves as unique individuals with talents, desires, dreams and ambitions. But those “non-economic” characteristics take a back seat to economic viability. If becoming an instrument pays the bills or helps amass a fortune, that is exactly what most people will do. Judged against these objectives, individual “talents, desires, dreams and ambitions” mean little. After all, this is the mental outlook necessary to win in the great competition for the right to exploit others and get rich.

This is not just cynical resignation, either. This is merely the logical consequence of the bleak “human nature” that galvanizes capitalism defenders. The same “human nature” that rendered socialism an impossibility also transforms every person into a drab economic entity that alternately exploits and endures exploitation. This “human nature” reveals an inherent willingness in people to both debase themselves and to act with ruthless self-interest. Humanitarianism goes out the window in this analysis. If this is our “nature,” then it is hardly surprising that banks assume we view our “friends” as potential $100 “cash bounties.”

I suppose I should have expected these sentiments from a private bank. After all, banks are quintessentially capitalistic institutions. They provide capital to individuals, who in turn start enterprises. These enterprises instrumentalize employees, bringing the “investors” capital as a “reward.” In short, banks provide the grease that keeps the exploitation gears turning. They provide the means by which human beings sate their “nature” as commercial creatures. They indulge the “natural” human desire to both exploit and be exploited. It is thus no surprise that banks expect people to regard their friends as potential profit opportunities. Even more insidiously, there are two layers of exploitation at work here. Through their “referral rewards” programs,” banks exploit people’s natural desire to exploit others. In the end, two exploitations result: The man who refers a friend gets $100. At the same time, the bank makes untold interest on the new accountholder. “Everybody wins.” And everybody “feels good about it.” Personality had nothing to do with it. This is instrumentalism at its finest.

People are perfectly willing to engage in this sort of common exploitation. Banks know it. They would not offer rewards for referrals unless they knew people would respond to their entreaties. Economically, it makes perfect sense. But I still don’t like it. I like to think that people regard themselves as more than mere amounts. I like to think that people have other motivations for friendship than transforming the relationship into a check. I try my best not to exploit others, even when it may be economically prudent to do so. Still, it is difficult to escape the “exploitation cycle,” precisely because it is allegedly “part of our nature.” Because exploitation and its rewards provide such emotional satisfaction, it is difficult to fully ignore them. Human beings do not like abandoning things that make them feel good.

Marx was right that there is more to human beings than purely commercial motivation. But he failed to understand the deep psychological desire in most humans to exploit one another. That is why socialism did not work, at least in the 20th Century. It angered too many people because they did not get to exploit others as freely as they would have in a capitalist system. Worse, they did not get to own as much; they felt resentful that their work went to help others, rather than themselves. This failure was not about theory. It was about emotion: Namely, anger and resentment. People wanted to be selfish and the government did not let them. That was a recipe for failure in the 20th Century.

But what about the future? Will we ever escape the seductive emotional intoxication that flows from thinking in exploitive economic terms? Socialism failed in several countries because it required too much hyper-intellectual commitment. It required that people adhere to abstract principles, such as practical equality, common property ownership and humanitarian commitment to one’s fellow man. Those principles offered no outlet for the human emotional need to exploit and gain. As appealing as the principles were in theory, they could not subdue the burning emotional desire in most people to exploit one another, compete with one another and win personal rewards. People were not intellectually ready to surrender their own comforts for the common good. After all, there is no personal emotional reward in knowing that a poor person can get health care. Yet there is an immense personal emotional reward in knowing you just earned $500,000 that belongs solely to you.

Until human beings change the way they feel about personal gain, they will continue to regard one another as “instruments” and “amounts.” The strong will dominate the weak. Meanwhile, the young, enterprising weak will work to dominate those who come after them. Emotion drives this cycle onward. Perhaps emotion will play a lesser role as our species evolves. But for now, people are quite happy with the way things are.

Humanity will have to wait. For now, you are not my friend. You are $100 in my pocket. I think you’re great and everything, but $100 is $100.

Friday, July 24, 2009




By : Mr. Franklin F. Tottenham, Chancellor of the Federal Department for Living/Dead Relations; J.D., Yale Law School (1989); Consulting Expert in Health Policy, The Brookline Association, Boston, Massachusetts (1991-2004); Deceased 2005; Vice President of the American Walking Corpse Federation for Fair Employment Opportunities in the Private Sector (2005-2008); Corpse (Living).

When President Barack Obama won the White House last autumn, he promised America “change we can believe in.” Unlike his predecessor, President Obama grounded his political philosophy in a society of inclusion, not exclusion. In short, President Obama ushered in a new day in American political life. Under President Obama, everyone has a chance to succeed in America. Everyone counts. The President’s own life story proves that anyone make it in this country. Minorities and historically-marginalized groups all over America wept for joy to celebrate Obama’s victory. For the first time in their lives, they felt real hope that America would finally make a place for them: African-Americans no longer felt that they were doomed to repression and “dead ends” in society; gay men dared hope that they, too, could marry; and immigrants proudly stood up to say that they had a place.

This is a new America. This is an America that believes in itself. This is change we can believe in. President Obama, you said: “Yes we can.” We say: “Yes we did.” We salute your commitment to the American dream for all Americans. You understand that everyone in America—even those without economic power or education—can contribute to our Nation’s success.

This is a significant achievement. All Americans means all Americans; that means both living and dead Americans. For too long, America has failed to consider the needs of the dead in political life. For too long, America simply buried its dead and moved on. It not only maliciously discriminated against dead people; it literally forgot about them. But President Obama understands injustice when he sees it. Freedom does not exist unless all people enjoy it. It does not matter whether a person’s cells have perished. It does not matter whether a person’s heart has stopped or his flesh has rotted away. It does not even matter whether a person died in 1694. Americans are still Americans—and Americans deserve freedom. That is why President Obama commanded Congress to pass the Dead Matter Too Act (DMTA). This act represents a gigantic step toward justice in the United States. For the first time in history, America told its dead: “You have a voice, too.”

Mr. President, as Chancellor of the Federal Department for Living/Dead Relations, and as a dead man, I salute you for your commitment to American ideals. I speak for every dead body in America when I say: “We will help you realize the dream.”

But despite all the recent gains, our road has not been easy. We cannot guarantee immediate progress. For centuries, America has stamped the dead with a badge of inferiority. The living lived as if they were the only ones here. For centuries, the law permitted them to bury us, burn us, toss us into ditches and even sink us to the ocean bottom without so much as asking our opinion on the matter. The living branded us with epithets that cut deeply into our collective self-esteem: stiffs, stinkers, stenches, funeral parlor bait, coffin crud… the list goes on. Laws not only authorized this unequal and demeaning treatment; laws did not even mention us. From a legal perspective, we were not even second-class citizens; we were nothing at all. Although the living spent money on headstones and even set aside land for us, they simply ignored us afterward, leaving us to slowly decompose six feet underground. To add insult to injury, they took away all our property and distributed it to grandchildren, estranged wives and even creditors. In sum, dead Americans face a legacy of State-sponsored discrimination. We have been purposely suppressed, marginalized, demeaned and forgotten. In some cases, we are completely gone. We ask the President to remember our dead brethren who faced cremation, obliteration, vaporization or worse.

But those dark days are over. We are turning a new page in American history. Now, the Federal government has finally recognized that we deserve a chance, too. Despite all the historical prejudice against us, President Obama recognized that we deserve a chance to influence policy in the United States. Through the DMTA, the Federal Department for Living/Dead Relations has two goals: (1) To help eradicate the practical handicaps created by historical discrimination against dead Americans; and (2) To make policy suggestions to living lawmakers concerning national legislative initiatives.

Today, I want to educate the public about our mission. Concerning our first goal, I want to remind all living Americans that dead people are people, too. We ask you to remember that President Obama promised a bright future for all Americans, whether black, white, Native American, Asian, immigrant, disabled, homosexual or dead. We recognize that it used to be “OK” to discriminate against the dead. In days past, polite people rarely invited dead neighbors over for dinner. Top-rate universities never accepted dead applicants. Living Americans assumed that all dead people smelled, were ugly, acted irresponsibly and looked like they were sleeping all the time. But that was pure bigotry. In 2009, we no longer make assumptions about people simply because they are dead. We evaluate people based upon their character and their achievements, not their cellular status or pulmonary/respiratory function. We do not stereotype about dead people, just as we do not stereotype about Hispanics or Asians. Today, every American deserves a chance.

We want to set the record straight about dead Americans. We are not sleeping. We do not smell. We are not ugly, even if we may have decomposed in whole or in part. Despite our appearance, we have achieved great things. Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity and he is dead. Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone and he is dead. Dwight Eisenhower defeated the Nazis in Europe and he is dead. Henry Ford introduced mass production and revolutionized industrial society; he is dead, too. Thus, there is no substance to the claim that “all dead people” are irresponsible or lazy. To the contrary, many dead people have achieved tremendous things. Babe Ruth, for instance, is one of the greatest baseball players in American history. And he is dead. We believe America should open its mind to the reality that dead people have done—and will do—great things. We must move beyond superficial generalizations. We believe the Federal Department for Living/Dead Relations will help living Americans cast aside their historical prejudices against the dead. After all, you likely have dead relatives. You wouldn’t treat them with disrespect, would you?

When Americans learn that the dead are people just like you, we are confident that dead Americans will overcome the practical roadblocks that have held them back for so long. When Americans learn that dead people do not just “sleep” or “smell,” we are confident that private employers will proudly offer them jobs. We are confident that dead Americans will prove their worth by their own merit and intelligence. For that reason, we do not advocate mandatory quotas to forcibly assimilate dead Americans into the workforce. We do not believe this because we fear that the United States Supreme Court will rule against us. Rather, we do not need quotas because dead Americans have the ability to succeed without additional assistance. Many dead people achieved success during life. There is no reason to think that minor impediments such as death should bar them from resuming their winning ways. All Americans face adversity. All Americans can overcome adversity. Death is no exception. A determined American dead person can get any job he or she wants, as long as she has the talent, drive and ambition to get it. In short, we are confident that dead Americans will soon be respected, productive members of American society, just as they were when they were alive.

Dead people want to work. They want to be responsible. They want to send their children to college. They want to pay taxes. We believe they should have the chance to prove themselves on a level playing field. Although we acknowledge the concern that living people may lose their jobs to the dead, we point out that death affects us all. Living people, too, will one day be dead. While a living person may feel stung to lose a job or university seat to a dead person, we merely note that for centuries the dead had no opportunity whatsoever either to work or study. In that light, we believe that living people can bear some incidental burdens to compensate dead people for centuries of unrestricted social exclusion. Colloquially, we also note that “what goes around comes around.” When a living person sacrifices for a dead one, he or she should do it cheerfully, for one day she, too, will be dead. Once she is dead, she will want all the same opportunities she had when she was alive. In this sense, it is only fair that both living and dead Americans enjoy equal access to every advantage in American society. And fairness is important in America.

Dead Americans also have a right to participate in the democratic process. The Federal Department for Living/Dead Relations gives substance to this right. Under the DMTA, the Department has authority to advise Congress concerning all legislative initiatives. This does not mean that the dead will dominate the national debate; it merely means that the dead have a right to be heard in legislative decisionmaking. This is not revolutionary. To the contrary, the dead have special insights into practical problems. Taken as a whole, dead people possess boundless wisdom. We have seen everything under the sun. This collective experience will translate well into prudent legislation.

Yet we cannot effectively consult on legislative matters until Congress recognizes that dead people have needs, too. We agree with Congress that health care must be reformed. But we will not solve the health care mess by ignoring the dead. We must take steps to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable health care, including American corpses in various states of decay. How is it just that only wealthy living people have access to top-notch treatments? How is it just that lower-income living people and every dead person cannot even visit a doctor when they need to? Both the economy and the government depend upon people. Without a healthy population, people cannot effectively serve either the economy or the government. We must find a solution to the health care mess that delivers compassionate, high-quality care no matter whether the patient is a wealthy living banker or a bankrupt dead day laborer. And we must do so in a fiscally responsible manner.

We believe that dead people can help end the health care impasse in many ways. For one, dead doctors can volunteer their time to treat living patients. Contrary to longstanding social prejudice, dead doctors can perform examinations, administer medications, write prescriptions and oversee surgery just as well as—if not better than—living doctors. In fact, many living doctors learned what they know from doctors who are now dead. Additionally, dead doctors have simpler salary requirements, do not require lunch breaks and do not suffer as much fatigue as living doctors. Second, dead financial advisers can help iron out solutions to funding national health care programs. Many well-respected dead financial advisers have key experience needed to balance the unique fiscal risks inherent in any national health program. We should harness that experience. Third, dead office personnel can handle the tremendous administrative burden that surely will accompany any national health plan. Millions of dead Americans lived their lives managing charts, organizing files, pulling patient records and stapling medical documents for hours on end. We should put their experience back to work to guarantee well-administered national health care for all. In a word, dead people have varied talents. And they all can help write America a clean bill of health.

As dead people, we just want to be heard. We acknowledge that there are certain questions in the national debate we may not be fully qualified to handle. For example, the death penalty perplexes us. After all, what good does the death penalty do for offenders who are already dead? In our view, the death penalty is no penalty at all for a dead American. Yet we acknowledge that we are not qualified to debate this issue. We are fully prepared to defer to our living colleagues to handle it.

All in all, we are happy to live in an enlightened era. For the first time in American history, we have achieved equal opportunity. We finally matter. We are not just forgotten relics. We are confident that we can contribute to American society. We salute President Obama for his commitment to freedom for everyone, including the dead. No longer are we condemned to a bleak future in caskets and urns. No, for the first time in American history, we have a chance to speak. We have achieved so much. And so has America. We truly now live in an era of freedom.

It is 2009. Discrimination is dead, not us.

Thursday, July 23, 2009



For almost a year now, I have written essays and satires criticizing “the law.” Some mock the legal profession. Others mock the inane factual intricacies of the common law. Still others criticize the unfair power relationships underlying so much contemporary legal doctrine. Still, when I criticize “the law,” I am not advocating anarchy. I am actually criticizing something much more subtle, including people who use law for bad purposes. When it comes to human law, there are men who win and men who lose. It is “game-like.” Some men sit as judges between other men who desperately want to win. It is not neutral because men are not neutral by nature. Men use the law to advance their own causes, whether to protect or acquire property or to condemn men’s bodies to pain. It is instrumental, not academic. Yet human law is supposed to be detached, at least in theory. It is supposed to represent larger principles, not petty interests. But in using law, men pervert principles for their own gain. They could care less whether they do “abstract justice.” This tension represents the focal point of my criticism.

Interestingly, I had to study law for years before I could safely formulate these views. I came from a family that ridiculed lawyers. I was told from an early age that lawyers were “sleazebuckets,” “liars,” “thieves” and “gladhanders” who said anything necessary to make a few dollars. My parents labeled them “rude,” “impolite,” “unscrupulous” and “mean-spirited.” My father had one encounter with the civil justice system in his life. He often recounted it to me. During a deposition about some air conditioning sale gone wrong, the opposing lawyer cast spiteful doubt on every single thing he said. He said it made him feel horrible. He said the lawyer gave him the impression that he thought my father was lying about everything, when in fact he was telling the truth. He also said the lawyer asked convoluted questions in such perplexing language that he could not even really figure out what he wanted to know. Then, after the deposition ended, the opposing lawyer and my father’s lawyer joked around and talked about playing golf on the weekend, as if the foregoing inquisition had been “just another day at the office.”

These pejoratives burrowed deeply into my consciousness. I did not harbor good impressions about lawyers. In my early experience, I did not know many lawyers firsthand. They seemed rather boring and aloof. More often, I saw them mocked in television shows, movies, jokes and literature. These lampoons commonly tracked my parents’ criticisms: lawyers were unethical, mean, ridiculous, fast-talking, text-parsing word-benders determined to make money no matter what. Even Shakespeare’s generation pronounced the dominant judgment on lawyers: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” King Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, sc. ii. Apparently, for centuries people have just not liked the way lawyers make them feel. In a word, my upbringing taught me that lawyers were “bad” because they condescended to any artifice to win arguments, all the while manipulating inscrutable language. In essence, lawyers were “bad” and “mean” because they did not speak plainly. And because they “did it all for money.”

But somehow I wound up in law school. Perhaps I was fighting against my own nature when I decided I would study law. At the time, I just wanted an income in life. I studied literature in college. To my chagrin, I found no “literature firms” that paid living wages. In my early twenties, I had knowledge—some would say “useless knowledge” because it did not readily translate into “corporate employability”—but no trade. Yet I needed a trade to pay rent and buy food. I struggled with this for a while. I bounced around doing translations and freelance German-language jobs. I jostled my brain to figure out how to bandy my existing knowledge into a paycheck. Ultimately, I settled on the law because it involved language, rhetoric, writing and—in some sense—government and principle. Despite all my childhood distaste for lawyers, I nonetheless came to understand that there was something redeeming about the law, something intangible and good. I always loved studying history, philosophy and government. I knew that law played a role in these disciplines. It may not have been obvious, but I knew it was there. There was a “hidden allure” in the law beyond mere squabbles for property. It could bring about positive social change and cut through injustice. I did not know how it did these things, so I decided I would learn how it did. At the same time, I said to myself: “I’ll find out what the law is really all about and I’ll get a paycheck in the end, too.” This is how I landed in law school.

Six years later, I can confidently say that you will never meet a lawyer who detests the law as much as I do. Yet there is more to that statement than meets the eye. I learned that the law does indeed prompt the criticisms my parents taught me as a child. But I also confirmed that there is a “hidden allure” in the law that undermines those criticisms. I came to despise the law because—on the whole—the law’s negative characteristics outweigh its positive characteristics. Practice wins over theory in the law, even though much legal theory is thematically pleasing. In short, there is profound tension in all legal discourse. There is tension between practice and principle. Principles transcend; practice does not. Principles exist no matter what result follows in a particular case; practice aims solely to achieve particular results. Principles work only when their adherents follow them; practice demands “flexibility,” even if that means abandoning principle to win. In my “legal career,” I fell in love with principle because principle represents something larger than winning. That made me a terrible practitioner. Law firms do not want discerning legal scholars who insist on adherence to principle. They want discerning legal scholars who are willing to ignore, manipulate and distinguish principle in order to win a case and make money for the firm. This is what repulses me about the law: Principles are all well and good; but principles don’t pay.

Still, not all legal principles are good. I do not restrict my criticism to shameless legal practice. The law indulges in pure intellectual foolishness, too. For example, many lawyers proudly say that we live under the “rule of law.” The “rule of law” requires that government reference written laws and follow authorized procedures before taking adverse action against men’s bodies or property. Government must act according to verifiable law or not at all. There are great advantages to this theory. It prevents “tyranny” because it stops government from arbitrarily imprisoning people or seizing property. It bars government from harming people based solely on individual caprice or ill-will. In that sense, the rule of law cuts down on arbitrariness and “unreasonable conduct” in government. Additionally, by imposing rigorous procedures on government power, everyone theoretically has a chance to defend themselves prior to adverse action. In theory, everyone can know the laws under which government acts.

But the “rule of law” can lead to absurdity, too. After all, if government can act solely according to law, what happens if laws are evil? The government can be evil? In short, the rule of law can insulate the government from internal challenge as much as it can help to ensure order and transparency. Lawyers tend to think that as long as something is “written in law,” it is “right,” even when common decency, intuition, conscience or natural feelings of justice might dictate a contrary conclusion. For example, the “rule of law” in 1954 dictated that government could lawfully segregate African-Americans and whites in public accommodations. Lawyers in the Brown v. Board of Education case could point to no written law requiring that blacks and whites enjoy equal access to public accommodations. In fact, written law explicitly authorized segregation. Yet the Supreme Court ignored the rule of law in that case. It said that the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause did not tolerate “State-sponsored racial segregation” because such segregation stamps blacks with a “badge of inferiority.” I agree with the Court, even though no written law directly supported its conclusion. But under the “rule of law,” this was an abysmal decision. If the Court had been truly faithful to the rule of law, it would have followed precedent and applied the law as written. At the time the Court decided Brown, there was nothing in the law about “badges of inferiority” or “psychological trauma.” It made these things up. In short, the Court did not just look to the law to render its decision. It looked to principles beyond the law, or at least implied in the law.

To our ears, this sounds courageous. It even sounds noble. But as a technical matter, the Court disparaged the “rule of law” in Brown. In this sense, Brown provides a fine example for the proposition that the “rule of law” can enslave as much as it can protect. When it comes to the rule of law, the result depends on what the law says, not what conscience or justice says. When the law is bad, the result is bad. Viewed strictly, judges have nothing to say about it.

Yet Brown also shows that inspiring principles do sometimes penetrate the law. I love Brown because it testifies to the “intangible allure” hidden in the law. It shows that justice and “natural right” do sometimes prevail over unjust written laws. And more importantly, it shows that justice and “natural right” constantly pull against the law, even if they disrupt its “orderly administration.” Justice always looms in legal questions. Often legal rules are consistent with justice. Sometimes they are not. In theory, judges and lawyers are not allowed to consider anything beyond the law. That is another reason why I criticize the law: It makes it difficult for judges and lawyers to follow their conscience. Rather, it induces them into a “culture of compliance” in which wooden adherence to written requirements supplants principle. In Brown, the Court refused to “comply” with unjust written requirements. Unfortunately, that does not happen very often. More often, judges and lawyers simply follow the path written in the law; and most troublingly, it rarely bothers them.

My struggles with the law mirror the tension between written law and intuitive justice. I think the tension between law and justice fascinates many people, not just those who have studied law. Movies like The Dark Knight become popular because they tap into this fascination, challenging the idea that the law is supposed to deliver justice, or even cares about it at all. At the same time, people confuse the law with justice. They expect the law to deliver results that are consistent with their intuitive sense about what it is right. Often, they discover to their horror that written law dictates a far different result. Those unlucky to be caught up in civil litigation quickly lose all illusions about lofty principles as cases drag on for years, costing both sides millions while lawyers battle over schedules and copy costs. Moreover, when people “get to know” lawyers, they do not see men and women committed to finding justice. Rather, they see men and women committed to complying with technical requirements in precisely such a way as to avoid punishment and to maximize their chances of winning (and fees). Professional ethics rules provide the best example for the proposition that lawyers do not need a conscience to win: They just need to follow what the rulebook says, even if they have no respect at all for the spirit behind the rules. This is the spiritual and intellectual vacuum that flows from fanatical commitment to the “rule of law.” Justice has no place in such a technical maze. It is all about compliance. If compliance results in justice, fine. If it doesn’t, that’s fine, too. In both cases, it’s “legal.”

These are the reasons why I despise the law. But it is a selective repugnance. I do not like the law for its fanatical devotion to form, compliance, technicality and procedure. I do not like the law for its tendency to lure people to believe that its “administrative rules” lead to justice. I do not like the law because it teaches practitioners to ignore conscience and principle when pondering questions that involve both. I do not like the law for the “culture of compliance” it creates in order to replace intuitive justice. In short, I do not like the law because there is nothing noble about complying with rules, especially if they are bad.

Yet I love the law for the brightness it offers. There are principles in the law that offer avenues to justice. There are principles in our Constitution that exalt individual rights, conscience, belief and self-definition against government power. Daring judges and lawyers see the brightness in these principles and apply them to break stultifying legal traditions. While I believe in the rule of law to the extent necessary to protect individuals from tyranny, I do not blindly comply with unjust rules because they are rules. Nor do I feel just for complying with rules simply because they are rules. Rather, I put my trust in principles that may not find expression in written law. And I truly care about those principles, even if they are not profitable.

This makes me a renegade among lawyers.