Monday, August 31, 2009



During my break from writing this week, I have had time to read some interesting history. I am always searching for historical material to flesh out my satires and inspire essays that link modern-day problems to ancient precedents. I found a good one in the story of Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat (1667-1747), a Scottish Baron who had the honor to be the last man beheaded at London's Tower Hill.

I have studied capital punishment at length. I think it measures a society's moral progress. You can tell how advanced--or barbaric--a society is by investigating three things: (1) Does its government kill its own citizens "by law?"; (2) If it does, how does it "officially kill" them? and (3) If it does, how many does it kill every year? For over a year now, I have cataloged which countries (and US States) allow capital punishment. I have also investigated which methods they use to execute people. It is a grim business, but I think it reveals a lot about human societies and their claims to "civilization." Capital punishment, after all, is the ultimate government action vis-a-vis the individual. Government can take many things from you. It can take all your property, your dignity, your self-respect, your money, your liberty and even your children. But it can't take anything more than your life.

Yet it impossible to talk about capital punishment without talking about history. Throughout the ages, capital punishment and brute political power have gone hand in hand. Political power uses law to advance its own purposes, not in order to vindicate abstract principles like justice or right. Victorious governments execute rebels and others who commit "treason" against them. In this sense, capital punishment masquerades as a "legal sanction," when in fact it is merely an exercise in raw, arbitrary political power. The strong man kills the weak one who opposes the "establishment." The strong man deploys judges to cover up the killing with official-sounding legal gobbledygook.

But law doesn't fool me. Law is supposed to speak against killing our neighbors, not kill them itself. I have profound difficulty believing legal rhetoric that justifies capital punishment when the same legal rhetoric condemns common, intentional homicide. If intentional homicide is "wrong" when a citizen commits it, how is it different when a State officer does the same to a citizen? There is a glaring inconsistency here. And this inconsistency persists because governments have always claimed a power to kill their own citizens. In my view, blind tradition is no reason to keep foolishness alive in our time.

In all my studies about capital punishment, I routinely run across ironic tales that expose these philosophical inconsistencies. Simon Fraser's story is a perfect example. Fraser was sentenced to die because he conspired with Jacobite rebels during their attempt to overthrow King George II in the 1740s. He "had to die" because he threatened to dislodge those with political power. He lost, so he "had to die." If he had won, he probably would have executed the losers. It had nothing to do with principle; it was about power.

In any event, Fraser went to Tower Hill. Huge crowds gathered to watch his head roll off the block. The government built wooden scaffolds to accommodate the overflow crowd. They wanted to see this "traitor" die. But before the headsman struck, a scaffold collapsed, killing 20 bloodthirsty spectators.

I laughed when I learned this. I found it ironic that men and women died while waiting to watch an execution. They paid for their perverse desire to watch the government ritually kill someone. Something turned the tables on them. They thought the law supported them against the "traitor," but they died, too. Victorious political power might have killed Lord Fraser, but some other power killed the spectators who prepared to celebrate his death.

In my view, this shows that executions do not prove that the government is "right" about anything, even if the condemned person is guilty. No matter what legal arguments the King's judges and prosecutors made to justify Lord Fraser's death in law, they could not prevent "innocent" spectators from dying, too. In short, government had power to order Lord Fraser to die, but it had no power to prevent the spectators from dying. Thus, the government's own claim to "power over life and death" appeared pitifully limited.

In principle, then, government is not "naturally right" when it kills its own citizens. It has simply arrogated the power to execute people "by law" because power creates law. There is nothing in nature that entitles government to put citizens to death. All the procedures, trials, rules and rhetoric underlying modern capital punishment are mere inventions, not a priori truths.

There is not much I can do to dislodge power. I just like to think that government should aspire to something better than the crude, human urge for revenge against "trespassers." I have written before than men will always kill each other. Men are emotional animals. They have individual weaknesses, passions, idiosyncrasies and even delusions. Yet government is supposed to be better than the individual men who compose it. Just because men constitute government does not mean that government must mirror all men's weaknesses. To the contrary, government has a unique power to stand on principle and dignity, even when individual men cannot. To my mind, there is no substance to the argument that "government can kill because men can kill." Rather, I believe that government has a unique opportunity to insist on behavior that transcends human weakness. Principles might not work for individual men, but governments can demand them.

Law should mean something more than mere power. Lord Fraser's story reveals power at work through law. Yet his story also reveals that neither law nor power can control everything, despite their claims to the contrary. While power might have ordained Lord Fraser's death, it did not ordain the spectators' deaths. No legal solemnity or argument killed the spectators. Law may have justified Lord Fraser's death with florid rhetoric and even legal citations. But its pretentious reasoning could do nothing to justify--or prevent--the spectators' deaths.

In short, power has limits. But power acts as if does not. I love stories that reveal those limits, chastising those who adhere to power. The spectators at Lord Fraser's execution confidently took their seats on the scaffold to behold "their" power at work on a man "their" law had condemned. They felt justified in exercising "their" power. But they wound up dying, too, even though the "law was on their side." They didn't "deserve to die;" but apparently--to quote The Unforgiven--"deserve's got nothing to do with it."

What sweet, maddening irony. The history of power--and capital punishment--abounds with stories like this. In the end, you get the impression that no one is right, no matter who dies and who invokes law to justify death.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


This is really the first year I've noticed that people don't do anything in August. They don't do much in July, either, but August in New York is just catatonic. There's no one here. They've all gone to beaches or retreats. All the "professionals" are "summering." Try making an appointment or a prescription in August. It's a nightmare.

I've even noticed that traffic on my blog has dropped off dramatically in August. In that light, I think I am going to jump on the bandwagon and reduce my own work load for the rest of the summer. This does not mean I will stop writing altogether until September; I will just post more sporadically than usual. I don't like to stop writing, but in my experience I've always found that it's a good decision to close up shop for a while. This seems like the best time to do it, since no one is around anyway.

I will write some short pieces over the next week or so, but I will hold off from diving into my usual "issue list" until the temperature drops and people come back (both physically and intellectually) from the beach. I still have major questions to address. But I won't waste my time analyzing them until life resumes in September.

Thanks again to everyone who logs in for Reason, Commerce, Justice and Free Beer! If my output over the next week is too low for you, I welcome you to simply check out my archives. There's never a shortage there.

Enjoy the rest of the summer!


Tuesday, August 25, 2009



Two weeks ago, a student loan creditor (I have many) sent me a letter. It was basically a computer-generated message disclosing some vapid stuff about interest rates, new policies, a self-righteous-sounding commitment to green issues, contact information and other gibberish. But vacuous as it was, it still took up eight whole printed pages. I think it even mentioned the bank's "concern" about the "financial crisis;" yet it did not provide any debt relief. To help borrowers cope with these "difficult times," the bank suggested "paperless statements" and even went so far as to open a telephone payment center for "borrower convenience."

What generosity! Who knew the bank cared about me so much that it offered a new way for me to pay my existing debt! Wow, I feel so loved!

But this wasn't the most important thing in the bank's eight-page letter. The most important thing lay buried somewhere in the fine print on page six or seven, I can't remember which: A "Voluntary Opt-Out Provision." Essentially, it said that the bank "shares information about me" with "affiliated and non-affiliated entities" in order to provide "more effective financial services products" and to "offer better opportunities for consumers (like me) to enjoy financial services products."

In other words, the bank was telling me that it tells every other bank about me so those banks can bombard me with unfair loan offers, credit card applications and (naturally) look into my "personal credit score" to determine whether I am a "responsible commercial actor." Thanks to this "Voluntary Opt-Out Provision," however, the bank said I could FORBID them from sharing anything about me with any other bank, "affiliated" or not. I just had to check a couple boxes, sign my name, get a stamp and send in the page to some god-forsaken "processing center" in Nebraska.

I opted out, signed my name and mailed the form to Nebraska quicker than you can say: "Would you like capitalized interest with your loan, sir?"

When it comes to frustrating banks, I'm all over it. The "Voluntary Opt-Out Provision" gave me a chance to stop a bank from making even more profits from my debt. It gave me a chance to wield some power--however insignificant--to prevent the bank from exploiting my economic inferiority for even more gain. The bank already has a lien on my financial lifeblood. They get enough. It sickens me to know that they can make even more from me by selling off my name and address to other banks who just want to do the same thing to me. Generally, the bank holds all the cards over me. When I get a chance to tell the bank "No," I take it, even if it doesn't really change anything. I like knowing that I can strike back once in a while, even if only symbolically.

I know that banks are important. They lend money, which encourages private enterprise and risk-taking. That, in turn, increases the amount of goods and services in a free market economy, blah blah blah. But I don't care about all that. All I know is that I had to assume virtually unending debt to (drumroll, please) learn about contracts, torts, corporate law and civil procedure. I don't regret my legal education. I just think the bank winds up getting a lot more from the relationship than I got. After all, the bank sent a check or two to help me pay my tuition over three years. In return, the bank got a legal right to demand cash from me every month until the year 2036. By that time--if I'm still alive, which I doubt--I will have paid ten times as much as I received in 2003-2006.

Is this fair? Does it matter? The law certainly doesn't think so. The law calls such results "informed commercial bargaining in a free market system." I call it pure economic tyranny. But I'm a radical and I have no power. Plus I signed a paper and the law favors the bank. So the bank wins.

Banks get away with everything. Few things arouse my cynicism as much as banking practices. Even the concealed "Voluntary Opt-Out Provision" shows how much banks hoodwink people. After all, banks assume they can share information about you with their profit-hungry partners-in-finance. They assume you don't know you have a right to opt out. So they conceal an "opt-out" provision in some long, boring letter that most people will simply throw away without reading. That lets them just get on with "business as usual," namely, peddling off your identity to other banks for a fee. When you are in debt, banks have you by the throat. They control the information you receive and sell everything they know about you. If it weren't for Democrats in Congress, you'd never even have the illusory right to opt out from squalid "information-sharing" like this. If banks got their way, you'd never know about their "secondary market" for "borrower information." But banks get around your rights easily enough; they just bury them in fine print and claim "they sent you a letter about it." Getting around laws is easy; you just need to read them.

Debt is a pernicious relationship. Banks exploit the relationship to the fullest. I have friends who recoil in horror when they hear about all the insolent little things that banks do to "screw them," like charging "overdraft fees," "stocking fees," "late fees" and "extra interest charges." They wonder how such unfairness is possible. Without shrugging, I explain that banks get away with everything because they can. It is very simple, actually. Before a bank lends money, you must sign a contract it wrote. That contract essentially empowers the bank to do anything it wants to you after you take the money. The common law evolved to vindicate the rights of creditors--like banks--against debtors. Fairness has little to do with it. Once the bank establishes its debt relationship with you, it assumes a massively superior position. It can knock you about with legal impunity. It can charges any fees it wants. After all, you took its money. From the law's perspective, that entitles the creditor to take virtually any liberty with the debtor. Prostitutes can't complain about mistreatment after receiving a patron's money, either. Like a whore's patrons, banks pay; and they play.

I don't even know who my creditors are anymore. When I started law school, I had to borrow from several lenders. This was the only way for me to cobble together the amount I needed. I had four separate banks. Since then, a few of those banks sold off their accounts to other banks. A few others changed their names or merged with other banks. I sometimes got letters about these changes. But sometimes I didn't. I had nothing to say about it. The banks just sold off my debt like an old shoe, leaving me wondering to whom I actually now owed money. Sometimes a new bank would threaten me with collection action because I didn't send payment to the right place. I would call and stay on hold for 90 minutes in order to say I didn't know they were my creditors now. Then, a year later, that bank would sell my account to another bank and I'd have to repeat the procedure. If my credit goes to hell, it won't be because I didn't pay my monthly tribute to the bank. It will be because the bank shuffled my debt to someone else, and I didn't get the message.

Yet sometimes I face bright moments. "Voluntary Opt-Out Provisions" represent such a "bright moment" in my endless scuffles with creditors. In the usual case, I am a worthless maggot in the bank's eyes, a despicable "account." I am not "Balthazar Oesterhoudt," the man who writes a satirical blog every morning and tries to fend off bills. I am "file number 5670-AC," an "account receivable" worth $413.28 per month until 2036. In short, I am inferior. The bank can squash me if I fail to pay. It can obliterate my credit rating and garnish everything I own. It can even break out the moral invective and call me an "irresponsible delinquent," even though it has no real authority to morally judge me. In the usual case, the bank gets to toss me around, scold me, take my money and do whatever else it pleases.

Yet in "bright moments," I get to say "Fuck off" to the bank--and get away with it. When I opt out, I assert my own power against the bank, maggot that I am. I might be a mere "account receivable" to the bank, but when I opt out from its "information sharing programs," I deny the bank a profit from selling my name and address to some other bank. That is oddly satisfying. After all, the bank is already making a hefty profit on me every month. It is accustomed to taking my money and even making a few extra dollars by selling my information to credit card companies. It is accustomed to doing what it wants with me. But when I opt out, I get to say: "No. You can't do whatever you want with me. Now I get to assert my own power over you. I hereby stop you from using me for your own gain."

This probably makes no difference at all. But I do it anyway simply to show that I am Balthazar Oesterhoudt, not just an "account receivable." I like the idea that I can say I am not for sale, no matter what the bank thinks.

When it comes to unfair power relationships, I OPT OUT. Banks can devour my property, but they'll never break me.

Two years ago, I learned that there is more to life than property and bodily comfort. If you understand that, there is nothing a bank can do to hurt you.

Monday, August 24, 2009


By : Mr. George F. Schwender, B.S. (1984), Kankakee Community College (Financial Administration magna cum laude); High School Diploma (1980), Sheboygan Crossing High School (Prize for Excellence in Arithmetic); Owner, The Milwaukee, La Crosse & Rockford Loan Company, Inc.; Member, The American Pawnbrokers’ Union (1988-2004); Editor, I Like Loans Magazine (1990-present); Unmarried; Millionaire.

I have a good life. I am a pawnbroker and I am happy. People say that pawnbrokers are nasty parasites who prey on others’ misfortunes. They say that pawnbrokers profit from others’ misery and hard times. They say that pawnbrokers cannot love or experience happiness because they mercilessly track down debtors and sell off prized family heirlooms without a shred of concern. They say that pawnbrokers have no compassion and would sooner die than lose money.

Yet I defy the stereotypes. I am happy. I can love. I have compassion. Specifically, I love security interests.

Security interests made my fortune. Do you know what a security interest is? According to the Uniform Commercial Code, it’s an “interest in personal property or fixtures which secures payment or performance of an obligation.” U.C.C. Article I § 1-201(37). That might sound like legal mumbo jumbo, but it’s actually quite simple. Basically, it means I give you a loan. In exchange, you give me an interest in your personal property. “Personal property” means anything you can move, so I can’t give you a loan on your house. Banks do that. You don’t need to own a house to get a loan from me. Rather, you can come on down to the Milwaukee, Rockford & La Crosse Loan Company and get a loan on stereo equipment, candlesticks, family portraits, video game consoles, hickory chests, jungle gym sets, record players, old chairs, used televisions, table cloths, bottles, watches, clocks and anything else in your house, except maybe the kitchen sink or the furnace. I give you the money and you promise to pay me back. You also promise to pay me interest every month. And if you don’t pay up, I take your pledge because I own it by law. That’s what a security interest means. You can look it up in the Uniform Commercial Code, Article 9.

I run a brisk business. People always need money in a pinch. And people always have something somewhat valuable lying around the house, so they bring it down to my shop. I look it over. I do some calculations. I ask him how much he wants on it. If he only wants $100 after pledging me a $14,000 silverware set, I know he probably stole it. But if he wants $4,000 for the same silverware set, I know he probably owns it; and I make it out whether he pays me back or not. After all, I get a security interest in the $14,000 set. If he doesn’t pay me back the $4,000 I loaned him—plus 15% interest per month over 12 months—I get to take the set and sell it for $14,000. So it’s a great deal for me. True, sometimes people get emotional when they pawn family heirlooms like silverware sets. But who cares about them? I’m just trying to run a loan company. And I’ll tell you, in tough economic times like these, I couldn’t be in a better business. I’m not just recession-proof; I’m recession-powered.

I hear the craziest stories these days. People come in saying they lost their jobs and they can’t pay a medical bill. They tell me they just got divorced and can’t make a child support payment. Other people say the car company is going to repossess their car unless they pay the note. So naturally all this puts me in an excellent bargaining position. I don’t have to risk much money if the borrower is desperate. What do I care if the borrower doesn’t pay his child support with the money I loan him? That’s between him and the woman, not me and him. If he doesn’t pay me back the $175 I lent him on time, I get to keep his $1,500 golf club. Yes, people scream at me and call me an avaricious old leech. But it doesn’t faze me. I know success when I see it. If I make a $1,325 profit on a golf club for a measly $175 loan, that’s a success, no matter who calls me a heartless miser.

One woman said I would burn in hell because I took away her dead mother’s diamond ring. I hear this kind of thing all the time. But a security interest is a security interest; shrieking women and hell have nothing to do with it. I loaned her $1,000 for a very nice antique ring worth about $9,400. She told me she lost her job at an insurance company two months before and she needed the cash to pay her rent. I gave her six months to get her ring back, at 12% interest per month—that was a discount rate, too. After six months, she had only paid me $456.21; she told me she still hadn’t found a job and had gotten on welfare. So I foreclosed on the ring. She started hollering and yelling about her dead mother right in the middle of the shop. She scared some customers away. I tried to console her. I said: “Well, you got $1,000 from me. You only paid me back $456.21. By law, I can’t report your default to a credit bureau, so actually I’m helping you out. Your credit is still good. Would you like to pawn something else?”

She didn’t listen. She started saying the devil would get me one day and that I was a predator. She stormed out of the shop sobbing and even threw a pamphlet up in the air.

That’s the last I saw of her. Two weeks later, I sold her mother’s ring for $9,000. That was a good day. By then I had completely forgotten about the outburst.

I don’t allow my emotions to interfere with my loan business. But that does not mean I am not happy. Just because I keep my emotions under control in the pawnshop does not mean I do not feel happy. To the contrary, I am very happy with my life. I made $976,812 last year after taxes. My inventory is worth $1,200,000 and I have a $2,000,000 credit line through First Wisconsin Bank, N.A. I never have to worry about loaning money because I have a strong customer base. That’s the great thing about security interests; if someone defaults, you just take their stuff and sell it. It’s a beautiful thing. You win even when you lose. I feel happy because I am in a good business position and I have plenty of money for myself.

Yet people keep telling me that I am not really happy. They say that I can’t be happy because I take advantage of people every day and “peddle negativity.” They say that pawnbrokers cannot be happy because they profit from misery, and happiness cannot coexist with misery.

This is nonsense. I know how I feel. I feel happy. What does it matter how I make my money? I have been very successful in my life. I provide a valuable economic service to people in the community. I help people survive tough times with fast cash. If it weren’t for me, people might not make their car payment, even if I wind up taking their bracelets or silver chains. I feel good about helping others, even if they can’t see it. I feel happy to live in a country that allows people to make informed economic decisions without government intrusion. Yes, I’ve done well. But isn’t that everyone’s end goal? Why should I not feel happy that I have made a lot of money pawnbroking?

Frankly, I don’t buy the argument that you can’t be happy if you deal in misery. Lots of other business profit from misery, or at least involve misery. Bankers deal in misery every day. So do lawyers, doctors, accountants and even psychotherapists. Yet no one says they can’t be happy. Why do people single out pawnbrokers for dealing out misery? Making money requires misery somewhere along the line; pawnbrokers are no different from anyone else. Someone needs to lose money in order for another person to make money. That’s going to make someone miserable. That’s called “economics.”

I don’t let others get me down. Ironically, most people who say I can’t be happy are unhappy themselves because they owe me money. How can they criticize me about something they don’t even know? They are just angry because they defaulted and I sold off their jewelry to some wholesaler.

To hell with my critics; I can speak for myself. Here’s what I know: I love security interests and I am happy about it. You don’t need to love other people in order to know happiness. Quite the contrary, I am living proof that you can love security interests and still be happy. Security interests are not people. They are property interests that guarantee that debtors will pay me back for a loan. Property interests don’t talk back, they don’t cheat and they don’t suffer depression or anxiety. They don’t cost money to feed and they don’t complain. They just sit there until you sell them. They increase in value sometimes, too. And they never lose their looks or get ornery. I simply can’t understand why people say that happiness can only flow from human relationships. In my experience, happiness flows much better from property relationships. Just look at my house; I did not buy it because I cultivated nurturing “human relationships.” Rather, I bought my house because I cultivated nurturing property relationships.

Property pays. People don’t. In that light, why bother with people?

Philosophers waste so much time debating about happiness. If they only knew how simple it could be. By loving security interests, I found happiness. Security interests opened the door to happiness for me. That is my precious secret. There is no need to love people. You simply must learn to love interests in property that secure payment or performance of obligations that run in your favor. When you love security interests, you don’t care what people say about you because they owe you money and you hold their lacquered dining room table as security. When you love security interests, the law lets you take stuff away from people without consequence. Security interests immunize you against anything people will ever say about you. Security interests save you from depending on people. In my book, that is a good recipe for happiness.

Sunday, August 23, 2009



I don’t like confessing things. But I don’t mind “voluntarily sharing” my thoughts and impressions. When I do, I try my best to recall my own actions as accurately as I can. “Confessing,” on the other hand, implies that I must “tell the truth” to some fatherly authority or face unappetizing consequences. Confession is freighted with judgment; the listener judges and decides for himself whether you’re telling “the truth.” And if you do “confess the truth,” the listener has the power to approve or condemn it. In either case, the speaker is the weak party. I avoid such unfair power relationships whenever I can. That’s why I don’t “confess things.”

Even if I could use language to precisely convey what I did, thought or felt at a particular moment in time (a doubtful enterprise), I don’t like the idea that I must “tell the truth” or face negative consequences. I try to tell the truth because I have a conscience, not because some higher authority compels me to speak. Confessions require external pressure and even subservience; conscience, by contrast, comes from within. I try to be honest with myself; and that’s the only way I can accurately recall my impressions. I do my best to remember what I see and hear. I try to be honest when I recall those impressions. That is my truth; I don’t need to “confess it.” I simply honestly recall what I sensed. And sometimes I forget “the truth” completely. After all, there are too many details in life. You can only grasp a precious few.

Today I want to “voluntarily share” some impressions and thoughts. First, I like dancing. Some might call this a confession. I simply call it a preference. Dancing is not easy. We constantly face social pressures impelling us not to dance. Generally, no one really dances until they get drunk. But have you ever danced while perfectly sober? It’s liberating. It feels really good to move your body simply because you are personally exhilarated about something. Your spirits rise when you let your body move like that. After all, in “everyday life,” we accustom ourselves to holding our bodies in relatively few positions: sitting, standing, walking, lying down. Social custom expects us to hold our bodies in these positions: For example, no one dances at work. Yet when we move in “unexpected ways,” we break those customs. I find that fun. I like controlling my own body. It’s a welcome change.

Second, sometimes I dance when I walk the New York streets. Ever since I was a kid, I have loved walking in New York. I grew up in suburban, sleepy Connecticut. Not much moved on the Connecticut streets. But in New York, the streets burst with energy, even drama. There is always something to see; you rarely see the same thing twice. Put simply, New York moves. During my first years in New York, I used to get excited just to go outside and walk. I walked everywhere, just to feel the energy. I didn’t really have a destination. I just moved because it felt good to move around in such exciting surroundings. And because I felt so good during those walks, sometimes I would break out a dance step. Why the hell not? I felt good, so why not let my body show it? Even now—fourteen years later—I still sometimes feel giddy on the New York streets. True, they’ve changed a lot. But there are some things about New York that never change, like nonstop, vibrant movement on the streets.

I march, too. Just about everyone who walks alone in New York listens to music. Hip-hop started in New York. Hip-hop is basically funk music interspersed with spoken, rhythmic (hopefully) rhymes. Of course, it has changed profoundly since the 1980s; I really don’t like it anymore. But in essence, hip-hop is New York marching music. In the old days, it propelled you forward with attitude. Back then, a good hip-hop song made you want to get up and move with purpose, just the way you feel when you move through the New York streets. It makes you want to say: “Yeah, look at me. I’m in New York; what are you going to do about it?” Hip-hop beats are marching beats. You can dance to them as easily as you can keep in step with them.

Yet people think marching is old fashioned. It isn’t. In fact, marching influences all modern dance music. If you can move to a song, it most likely has a march beat in it somewhere. Soldiers march because marching boosts morale, just like dancing. Marching brings people together under a rhythmic, even hypnotic pulse, just as a great dance song does. Marching is also extremely “manly;” it oozes with masculine braggadocio. When soldiers march, they parade their physical discipline and strength. When people watch soldiers march, they admire their lockstep and smart uniforms. They hear the beat pulsating in the background. They hear hundreds of boots hit the ground as one. And they see the soldiers moving as one with the music, like an inexorable, proud machine. Meanwhile, the soldiers themselves feel strong and united under the music. They move together and they know they are powerful. There is something about a march beat that makes every listener confident and proud. Marches replicate the tempo of a brisk walk. A march beat makes the listener want to move with purpose. Dance beats do the same thing.

Dance beats are little more than embellished marches. Every great dance song is also a march. Listen to one. Can you walk briskly to it? If you can, it’s a march. Is there a bottom line drumbeat that propels you forward? If there is, it’s a march. All modern American dance music derives from marches. Funk, hip-hop and even electronica derive from New Orleans jazz. New Orleans jazz, in turn, took its snare/bass drumbeats from 19th Century military bands. Armies have always known that propulsive music makes soldiers feel strong and unified. Early jazz musicians took marches and made them “fun” as well as “unifying.” Marches have attitude; so does jazz. Marches make want you get up and move with confidence and purpose. So does jazz. And so do all the other funky genres that developed after jazz. They all trace their origins back to the military march. Dance music appeals to us for the same reason that marches appealed to our earliest ancestors. They both spring from a common root: Beats that inspire unifying, powerful movement.

I think about this legacy when I march through New York. It’s easier to move over long distances with a strong beat behind you. That’s why armies always had drummers to spur tired soldiers another mile down the road. Just as marches lifted soldiers’ spirits through movement in the past, dance music lifts our spirits today. Both marches and dance music target our bodies. They make us feel good because the music makes us move our bodies in more daring ways than usual. When we do, we feel confident. When we dance—just as when we march—we dare the world to look at us and we don’t mind. Both marches and dancing immunize us from the normalizing judgments of the outside world. In fact, if we dance or march with enough zeal, those normalizing judgments give way to admiration and even awe. After all, the public always respects a company of soldiers marching to a powerful beat. They might move their bodies in “uncustomary” ways, but they project such raw, confident strength that they inspire respect. Who wants to mess with soldiers who march well? The same goes for good dancing.

I march in New York because marching fits the city’s pulsating energy. In many ways, New York is one vast theater. Everyone knows that everyone else is looking at them, even if they try not to show it. Everyone is playacting on some level. Everyone wants to be special. Vanity is everywhere, even when unwarranted. But that’s what creates the city’s crackling energy. Everyone is striving for something and moving somewhere. Quite simply, everyone is marching.

I like contributing to that energy. That’s why I march in New York. I’m not afraid to say it. But no matter how strange this sounds, this is no confession. I am not at all ashamed to say that I march every day; I am proud that I can let music move me. When a march or a dance song triggers good feelings in my body, it makes me happy. That emotion is mine. No one else experiences it at that moment. Why feel ashamed for a happy moment? Leaving happiness to one side, I think it’s fair to say that it is better to feel confident than to feel insecure. Confident people dance because they don’t care what others think about them. They also march because marching inspires confidence. Put simply, if you can march, you can dance, too. It really doesn’t matter who’s drumming the beat, as long as it moves you.

Friday, August 21, 2009



By : Mr. Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice, United States Supreme Court (1991-present) (appointed by President George H.W. Bush; confirmed by the United States Senate 51-48); Chairman, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (1982-1990); J.D., Yale Law School (1974); Affirmative Action Beneficiary; Affirmative Action Opponent; Republican; Champion, Supreme Court Building Cafeteria Cheeseburger n’ Fries Eating Competition (1998, 2003, 2005)(Runner-Up to Sandra Day O’Connor (1999); Runner-Up to William H. Rehnquist (2004)); Member, The Federalist Society; Republican.

Early this week, my colleagues issued an extraordinary order granting Troy Davis—a Georgia death row inmate—an opportunity to challenge his conviction for a murder that happened 20 years ago. Three courts have already reviewed his conviction. A Georgia jury found him guilty in 1991. Georgia wants to just get the show on the road and put him to death. My good friend Justice Scalia dissented from this madness and I joined him. He basically said that the law requires some finality in death penalty cases. He said the law does not permit us to free convicted killers because we think they are “actually innocent.” And he said that the Constitution allows States to execute people even if they are “actually innocent.” After all, if you’re guilty “in law,” it doesn’t matter if you’re not guilty “in reality.” Here at the Supreme Court, we only care about the law, not reality.

I joined Justice Scalia’s well-reasoned dissent. But I have a right to add my own thoughts about this case. All too often, Justice Scalia gets to say all the fun stuff and I just silently sign on. This time I want to say a few things myself because I care deeply about this issue. This is a case about black men on death row. I just want to say for the record: I don’t give a brother a break. If a brother wind up on death row, shee-yit, he ain’t gonna get no love from old Uncle Thomas. That be what it is.

Justice Scalia did a fine job explaining what the law says about so-called “postconviction relief.” But Justice Scalia can be a little technical. I like simpler language, even if it involves the law. So today I’m going to explain what Justice Scalia meant in laymen’s terms. I’m also going to talk about why I don’t give a brother a break. Bottom line: When States want to execute black men, they can count on my full support. After all, the law says that States can execute convicted black men. The law says that black men can only appeal their convictions under certain circumstances. If they don’t follow the procedures—or the appeals court affirms the conviction—that’s it: Dead playa walking. I respect the law in this area. And the law says we need finality after juries speak, innocence or not. Not just that, I’m a Federalist. States have a right to execute black murderers. As a Federal judge, who am I to stand in their way?

Let’s start with the Constitution. Let’s get rid of the argument that the death penalty is unconstitutional. Like Justice Scalia, I believe the text provides the answers here. We just need to look it up. First, the Constitution doesn’t use the words “death penalty,” “execution,” “innocent” or “actually innocent.” All it says is: “..nor shall any State deprive any person of life…without due process of law…” (U.S. Const. Amd. XIV, § 1). Well, if it says the State has to give “due process of law” before “depriving life,” that necessarily implies the State can deprive life. There wouldn’t be a rule qualifying how the State deprives life it couldn’t deprive life in the first place. So the text says States can execute people. That’s enough for me.

American tradition allows executions, too. Justice Scalia always likes writing about colonial history and 17th Century England to make sense of what the Constitution says. I like it, too. I basically just follow his lead. He is right that States used to execute people in 1787. In fact, they executed lots of people, even for stealing and adultery. They just hanged them from a sour apple tree and buried them in the pasture. They even burned and whipped slaves to death. But back in those days, killing a slave wasn’t even capital punishment, because slaves weren’t people by law. You can only execute a person. Life sure was easier back then.

Of course, liberals like to say that capital punishment is “cruel and unusual” under the Eighth Amendment. Well, we resolved that argument in Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1977). Call me old fashioned, but I’m all about precedent. When we decide a case, we need to stick by the result. In that case, we said that the death penalty was not “cruel and unusual;” so out goes that argument. Who am I to contradict the Court? We need to follow what we said in the past, and in 1977 we said that capital punishment is not “cruel and unusual.” That’s enough for me to throw out any liberal contention to the contrary. Precedent is precedent.

Being a Supreme Court justice is not as hard as you think. You just look at the text, listen to Justice Scalia’s lectures about American tradition and check to see if the Court has already said something about the issue in the past. If it has—and you agree with the result—you follow it. If it hasn’t, you do whatever you want. In some tougher cases, the Court says something in the past and you don’t agree with it, like in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973). In those cases, you need to overrule the law. But that’s not the case here.

This case involves a Federal law called the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA). Although Justice Scalia discusses the statute at length in his dissent, I want to discuss it in simpler terms. Basically, AEDPA makes it tough for convicted black murderers to throw out their convictions. Congress enacted the law because black guys were gumming up the system by filing hundreds of Federal petitions asking for “writs of habeas corpus.” For those who don’t know, “writs of habeas corpus” allow black guys to challenge their State convictions in Federal court (don’t ask me anything else, like what it means in Latin, because I don’t know; ask Justice Scalia about that). This took up way too much time. I’m talking decades; executioners got out of practice. Some black dude might have committed murder in 1978, yet the State wouldn’t get around to strapping him down to the lethal injection table until 2007. I echo Judge Joe Brown when I say: “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Thankfully, the AEDPA cut down on these delaying tactics. Now, black guys get one shot at habeas corpus. And Federal courts can’t overturn a State conviction unless it rests upon a “clear violation of constitutional law as construed by the Supreme Court.”

Basically, AEDPA says: “Screw you” to all black guys who think they can land a “Get out of Jail Free Card” from some Clinton appointee in Federal court. And there is nothing wrong with that. After all, the law is the law. Who am I to question the law?

But this is where Troy Davis comes in. Troy Davis is a convicted black man. He appealed all the way through the Georgia State courts, then applied for habeas corpus in the Federal courts. He lost every time. In every case, the appeals courts said that the “evidence was sufficient” to sustain his conviction. Under AEDPA, he had his one shot at habeas. He lost. Now, he’s trying to appeal directly to the Supreme Court. After losing three times, his lawyers dredged up some new evidence. They say that all the witnesses who said he killed the security guard perjured themselves. These witnesses have even sworn out affidavits recanting everything they said about Davis; they all say the accomplice killed the guard, not him. In other words, Davis is trying to say that he is “actually innocent,” and that it would be unconstitutional for Georgia to execute an “actually innocent man.”

No it wouldn’t. Like I said before, the Constitution doesn’t say anything about “innocence” and “execution.” Rather, the law requires us to allow Georgia to carry out the execution as scheduled. This is not about innocence. This is about law and procedure. Procedure says that black guys get only one shot at habeas under AEDPA. Davis got it. Our court rules say that black guys can appeal directly to the Supreme Court only in “exceptional circumstances.” U.S. Supreme Court R. 20.4(a). Yet these are not “exceptional circumstances.” Davis is not the only black murderer who says “he’s innocent.” I don’t care whether all the witnesses recanted their testimony. This is not a new argument. AEDPA bars federal courts from rehearing any argument that has already been made. Davis is just repeating himself, no matter what affidavits he’s shuffling. Procedure says Davis is done. Who am I to question procedure?

I fully join Justice Scalia’s remark: “This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually innocent.’ Any claim based on ‘actual innocence’ is not constitutionally cognizable.” In re Davis, 557 U.S.___ (2009)(slip op. at p. 2). Let’s be honest here. Troy Davis had a full and fair trial. It does not matter that all the witnesses recanted their testimony and that police investigators admitted they coerced people to accuse Davis. Georgia paid for the trial; are we going to make Georgia pay for another one? Nor does it matter that Davis’ attorney bordered on ineffectiveness. Davis had a fair trial. The jury found him guilty. By law, that verdict subjected him to Georgia’s criminal code. Georgia’s criminal code prescribes the death penalty for murder. The jury imposed that sentence. The State afforded Davis all the procedures it could possibly give him. Not only that, Davis took his innocence claim all the way through both Georgia’s court system and the Federal courts, despite the AEDPA’s prohibition.

Put simply, Davis has had too many chances. The State has paid exorbitant sums defending against Davis’ frivolous arguments. He has exhausted all his legal remedies. It’s time to let Georgia inject this guy with some potassium bromide. This is what the law requires. I follow the law.

I also join Justice Scalia’s observation that Davis’ case represents a “capital conviction in full compliance with law.” In re Davis, 557 U.S. __(2009)(slip op. at p. 5). Here on the Supreme Court, we look no further than the law, provided we agree with it. In this case, the law is the AEDPA. The AEDPA prescribes procedures intended to stop black guys from gaming the criminal justice system with frivolous “innocence claims” decades after they shoot police officers. Additionally, the AEDPA preserves the State’s interest in quickly executing black criminals, as well as protecting the finality of jury verdicts. Remember, we’re talking about law. Under law, we must believe the jury. Juries decide facts, not judges. In this case, the jury said that Davis killed the security guard. Who are we to question a jury, even if we later learn that the jury heard perjured testimony? We need to put our foot down on appeals like this. Every black guy on the planet is going to say “it wasn’t me.” Does this mean we have to grant a new trial every time?

I can tell you this: “Not on this negro’s watch.” From where I’m standing, juries are always right, especially when they sentence black guys to death. I’m not going to contradict a jury, nor am I going to stop a southern State from executing a black man. Federalism says that States have a right to execute black men in their own borders according to local law. There’s nothing unconstitutional about that. States have rights, too, not just black murderers. The Constitution gives you the right to fair trial, not the right to escape execution for “innocence.” Like I said, the Constitution doesn’t use the words “innocent” or “execution.”

I need to say a few more things about “innocence.” All these liberals are up in arms about Justice Scalia’s remark that the Constitution does not prevent the State from executing “actually innocent” black guys. They say it shocks the conscience to allow States to execute people who may be “guilty in law” but are “actually innocent in fact.”

I disagree. On the Supreme Court, we deal with the law, not with facts. From where we sit, there is no truth beyond what the law prescribes. I don’t care if a convicted defendant totally undermines the basis upon which the jury found him guilty. In law, we must trust the jury. We need some finality in our system. As judges, we cannot philosophize about “truth” and “facts.” And we don’t need to: Who needs “truth” when you have law? Law provides all the answers, even if they are fictional. We don’t listen to conscience. We listen to law. Conscience is uncertain; law is crystal clear. In Troy Davis’ case, the law clearly dictates that he “had his chance.” It does not matter what “actually happened.” If we had to weigh the “truth” in every death penalty case, States would never get to lethally inject, shoot, hang, electrocute or gas anybody, black, Hispanic or Cherokee. As judges in a Federal system, we cannot tolerate that result. We must follow the law, not the truth.

Truth is for philosophers. Law is for administrators. We are just trying to settle on some orderly administration here. That’s all Justice Scalia was trying to say. I agree with him. I’d also like to add one personal comment about Troy Davis’ “actual innocence” argument: “Playa, pleeze.”

Now would you please excuse me? I have more important things to do. It’s lunch time and there’s a cheeseburger n’ fries competition today. If I don’t practice now, I might lose to Justice Alito.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Today I'm taking a break from posting so I can study the Troy Davis case. Earlier this week, the United States Supreme Court issued an "extraordinary" order directing a lower Federal court to review a convicted death row inmate's claim that he is "actually innocent." To untrained ears, it may sound strange to call such an order "extraordinary." After all, if the man is innocent, it is hardly "extraordinary" to save him from execution. But we're talking about law here, not humanity or even common sense. Once written, positive law muddles a question; even the most ordinary, obvious things suddenly become "extraordinary" and "unprecedented." Justice, as ever, has nothing to do with it. You learn how to forget justice in law school.

It is also "extraordinary" for the Supreme Court to do anything at all during the sleepy summer recess, let alone intervene to save potentially innocent black men from southern lethal injection tables. Supreme Court justices have more important things to do in the summer, like go on safaris and watch operas. After all, they work hard from October to June. They need some down time. All that talk about collateral estoppel and jurisdiction is exhausting.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a dissent to this "extraordinary" order. In essence, he wrote that the Constitution poses no barrier to a State executing an "actually innocent man," as long as he receives a "full and fair trial on the merits." After all, the words "innocent" and "execution" don't appear in the Constitution. And we need some finality in our justice system; we can't just free people who say they're innocent, even if all the State's witnesses recant their testimony and there's no direct physical evidence linking the defendant to the crime. Actual innocence, in other words, does not save you from "legal guilt." It doesn't matter how tainted the legal process might be; once a jury speaks--even on the basis of admittedly false testimony and perjured facts-- you're pretty much done.

Yes, you read it right. And yes, you might even wonder whether satire is even necessary in these circumstances.

But satire is necessary. It is necessary to combat foolishness like this. It is necessary to illustrate how counterintuitive the law can really be. That is why I am taking my time to grasp Justice Scalia's latest ode to positive law and procedure. Tomorrow, I plan to castigate this madness with vigor.

Moments like these make me realize that I will never exhaust the satirical well. As long as people like Justice Scalia breathe, I will have ample opportunity to mock callous absurdity.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009



I’ve been doing some promoting lately. Whenever I meet people, I try to get a feel for their social leanings. If I think they might like my blog, I tell them about it. I’m even thinking about advertising in some newspapers. But I know everyone won’t like it. In fact, I like that idea.

When I talk to people who have spent some time reading my catalogue, I hear familiar refrains: “Do you plan on writing anything for mass consumption? Do you plan to write a novel? A play? A book?” In truth, I have never wanted to be popular. I don’t want to be John Grisham. I don’t want to compromise my ideas in order to write something that is “conventionally pleasing.” I don’t want anyone to transform my writing into Hollywood adaptations, and I don’t care if Oprah Winfrey finds my essays compelling. She’s welcome to enjoy my essays; I just don’t thirst for her recognition. That’s all I mean. She’s welcome to like my writing. But nothing will make me write a lighthearted romantic comedy, like the New York Fire Department Captain who wrote a feel-good novel in his spare time. I just can’t do it. It’s hard for me to be frivolous. It makes me sick, actually.

Still, I have larger designs. For one, I want to compile all my satires into a “pamphlet.” I think my satires all dwell on consistent themes. They all mock powerful people and their pretentious, condescending arguments. I plan on editing my satires and organizing them in such a way that they could be read as a “book.” My essays travel over more varied ground, but I think they, too, could be organized into a relatively consistent format. In this sense, I think my blog already qualifies as a “book.” I just need to hash the ideas together and bind it up.

Second, I want to write a longer piece. I really like novels. But I don’t like English and American novels (with some exceptions, of course). I like German and Russian novels. There is an immense difference. German and Russian novels generally have loose, skeletal plots that merely provide a framework for dark, philosophical expositions. English and American novels generally go heavy on plot and light on philosophy. I’ve written before that I don’t like plot. If I want plot, I’ll read a newspaper or police report. When it comes to literature, I want something more, something challenging and daring. Sappy love stories don’t interest me, nor do swashbuckling commercial success stories. These are conventional stories. When I talk about love and commercial success, I’m usually mocking them. Dostoevsky and Kafka did, too.

So what kind of novel will I write? For two years, I’ve been mulling a novel about a new American revolution. What better way to make mordant observations about society than through a fictional revolution? I’ve said before that revolutions excite me because they represent times during which old orders collapse and the law fails. They spark radical changes in values. They make powerful people scurry and run. They force people to rethink their lives. That’s exciting. By the same token, I’ve written that revolution will not happen in America because too many people are “relatively pleased” with their lives; they don’t want to think differently. After all, enough people have homes, cars and televisions to risk everything for a shot at “something better.” So they let existing power structures persist, no matter how subtly pernicious.

But this broaches a question: What would push Americans over the edge? What would make Americans risk everything to reshape their society? What kinds of pressures and injustices would spur significant numbers to risk armed revolt against the old order? And how would the old order respond to those revolts? I always thought health care would be a good metaphor here. I envisioned an America—maybe forty years from now—in which wealth and power disparities grew to intolerable levels. In this unequal society, some people have access to miraculous medical treatments, while others die on the streets. I thought injustices involving health care would provide a good literary vehicle for a “fictional revolution.” Eerily, I thought these things long before the current “health care crisis” and the irrational debate it has unleashed in recent months.

My novel will pursue familiar, satirical themes. I often write about health care on my blog because it is a proxy for numerous subsidiary themes, including inequality, fairness, justice, death, money, commerce, profit, American life, hypocrisy and compassion. It touches upon life, yet it intertwines with money and profit. It touches upon our deepest humanity, yet it is also a commodity. No matter how you slice the health care issue, some people live and die because they can’t pay. That provides plentiful opportunities for commentary. Emotions run high in the health care debate because people worry about getting sick and dying. They become irrational when they think government might impede their access to a doctor, or because government tolerates a system in which they cannot afford to ever see one. I can envision emotions running so high over this issue, in fact, that revolution could ensue. We just need the right internal and external circumstances to make enough people angry and desperate. My novel will describe those circumstances.

I don’t think my novel will be gloomy. I often worry that readers find my writing too bitter and too scathing. Yet every time I try to make it less biting, I find I do not fully address the issue. I write satire because I see hypocrisy and injustice everywhere. You can’t take down injustice and hypocrisy with kid gloves. My writing might appear bleak because it reflects a bleak world. I don’t intend to depress when I write; I follow the old Russian tradition in this regard: I laugh through tears. I find so many injustices perversely funny. Maybe I’m unusual for thinking that. I don’t know. But I know I don’t intend to be gloomy. I can control my intentions, and every time I write a satire, I intend to provoke laughter about something that is really quite abominable about our society. When I write my novel about “the American revolution of 2048” it will aim to provoke laughter as much as it provokes a good, hard look at our society.

Anyway, these are my long-term plans. In the meantime, I plan to continue posting on the blog as I always do. This blog is my laboratory. Here new ideas spring forth and bubble up to the surface. Sometimes they are rough and undeveloped. Other times they pick up where an earlier one left off. No matter what, they are insights into my mind. I am proud that I have created this testament. I have reduced so many thoughts to writing over the past year. If I hadn’t, who knows how many thoughts would simply have vanished into time? Thoughts tend to do that. If you don’t seize them and develop them, they escape you. My blog helps me rein them in and keep them. After all, life is one immense distraction. It can blow you off course before you even know what’s happening to you.

Thanks to everyone who tunes in to read my latest stuff.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009



Law firm websites amuse me. I get priceless satirical material from them. Generally, they take themselves extremely seriously and want to show that they are “winners.” They toss around words like “success,” “results,” “every time,” “reliable,” “professional,” “result-oriented,” “highly successful,” “preeminent,” “unique,” “client-focused,” “team spirit,” “effective” and “experienced.” This all makes me laugh because I know what law firms are like. There is nothing rarefied or glorious about them. They are profit mills in which lawyers pool their efforts to twist the law in their favor. Their “experience,” “results” and “success” flow from their dogged ability to wear down their opponents, then either make money or save money for their clients. For all concerns and purposes, American law practice is an elaborate game. One side wins. The other loses. It is adversarial. And it is seethingly bitter, as all competitive games are.

Big law firms like to report their “recent victories.” After all, “victories” show that the law firm has “won many games,” and potential clients want to win “their game,” too. When betting on a sports team, you want to choose the team most likely to win. You can tell whether a team is more likely to win if you know how often they have won in the past. A law firm’s “past victories” create the impression that it can defeat the opposition again, make money and deliver “success” to a new client. The “victory” metaphor is sport-like, even warlike.

But is law practice supposed to be sport-like? Are legal problems really nothing more than games to be manipulated and won? Or are they miniature wars in which the “enemy” must be hunted down and destroyed? Is this really appropriate rhetoric? After all, law is supposed to provide a rational framework in which to resolve civil disputes. It is supposed to provide reasonable, neutral rules by which to adjudicate problems that might otherwise spur violence. Civilizations invented law to neutralize private violence among citizens intended to redress perceived grievances. In that sense, there is nagging irony in the assertion that lawyers should pursue “victory” for their clients. If law is just and neutral, results should flow as a matter of principle, not as a matter of martial triumph. Law, in other words, is supposed to replace armed conflict as a means to solve problems. Yet the rhetoric of “winning” and “victory” suggests that law is no different from uncivilized, violent struggle. Armies win “victories” by killing those who oppose them in battle. Is this what we expect from lawyers in their “legal battles?”

Let us examine the word “victory.” The word has a decidedly martial connotation. There is nothing detached or nonviolent about it; it involves prevailing over another person or group after a fierce competition or struggle. According to Webster, “victory” means: “1. final and complete supremacy or superiority in battle or war; 2. a specific military engagement ending in triumph; or 3. success in any contest or struggle involving the defeat of an opponent or the overcoming of obstacles.” Webster’s New World College Dictionary (4th Ed.). Two of the three meanings deal specifically with war. The third mentions “success” after “struggling with” and “defeating” an “opponent” in a “contest” with “obstacles.” Victory is a hypercharged, even romantic word. It implies the euphoria that flows from armed triumph over an enemy. It feels good to defeat “opponents” and “overcome obstacles.” It feels good to display “complete supremacy or superiority” over an “enemy in battle or war.” There is nothing more primal than proving domination over an opponent through force. It is crude, animalistic and base. Strong lions overpower weaker ones. They win “victory” over their competitors after a “struggle for supremacy.”

But should lawyers be no different than lions in the wild? Or conquering generals bent on defeating their opponents in battle? I thought law was supposed to elevate us from such violent impulses. I thought law was supposed to replace war with rational principle and reasonable discussion. By using the word “victory” to describe legal “success,” however, lawyers debase themselves. They misunderstand the law. They use it as an arena or a battlefield, not as a rational platform for resolving differences. They approach legal questions like battles, not as opportunities to show their civilized ability to transcend warlike thinking. “Victory” is alluring because everyone likes to “dominate,” “defeat” and “succeed” over a recalcitrant foe. But the question remains: Is law really the right forum to pursue that quest?

Perhaps it is. In the English legal tradition, after all, law functions in an “adversary capacity.” Two sides “face off” against each other. Each side has diametrically opposed interests. One wants land; the other one refuses to give it up. One wants compensation for an injury; the other one refuses to pay. One claims he had a contract; the other says there was never a deal. No matter the facts, “adversary justice” places each side in a “competitive” position. The law assumes that people will make the best arguments—and, ironically, “tell the truth”—in order to satisfy their threatened self-interest. Lawyers step in to vindicate each side’s self-interest. They have only one goal: To defeat the opponent’s arguments and convince the court to grant whatever the client wants.

In this sense, we see that “adversary justice” is profoundly “game-like.” Just as two competitors yearn for “supremacy over the other” in a game, two sides in a legal dispute square off to achieve the same thing. Just as sportsmen must adapt their play to acknowledged rules in their quest for victory, lawyers, too, must contend with “court procedures,” “discovery protocols” and various other “steps” on the road to ultimate success. Each side tries to manipulate the rules to obtain an edge over the other. After all, when “victory” is at stake, you do everything you can to increase your chances to win. In the “adversary system,” competition is fierce. After all, only one side can win; and someone has to lose, too. When money is on the line, the gloves come off. Victory becomes an obsession. Just as two generals struggle violently to obtain an edge over each other in battle, so too do two lawyers savagely grapple with one another for the court’s favor. In all these cases—games, war and “adversary justice”—the breathless quest for victory engenders ruthless competition and narrow-minded commitment to one’s cause, even if it is unjust.

This is all very ugly. We all know who people who insatiably pursue victory in all life’s pursuits. We recoil from those who seek in all things to defeat us. True, sometimes we all enjoy competing for accolades and laurels, whether in games or in life. But there is a limit beyond which we refuse to compete for decency’s sake. Those who compete in everything come off as barbaric and swinish, even if they ultimately win. There is something disgustingly selfish about an endless thirst for victory. After all, victory implies a violent struggle for domination. That is a primal, overweening, animalistic impulse. If we live in a civilized community, we seek to avoid coarse brutishness. Yet the insatiable thirst for victory requires exactly that. Those who publicly broadcast and flaunt their “victories”—like so many law firms—appear wretchedly selfish, even gluttonous and shameless. After all, they are advertising their ability to struggle, fight, brutalize and ultimately dominate their opponents in savage conflicts. That is something Genghis Khan might do, not someone who claims to live in a civilized community.

I think lawyers should excise “victory rhetoric” from their vocabulary. “Victory rhetoric” stems from war. In my view, law should replace armed conflict, not imitate it. But this might be asking too much. After all, even “civilized” human beings retain a lurking instinct to dominate their fellow men. They like the euphoria that springs from “victory,” whether in war, sport or commerce. This is why so many things in our lives—including the law—are “gamelike.” Victory in games provides a primal, emotional charge that humans crave. If they can’t get an emotional charge from battle and physical supremacy over other men, they turn to substitute sources, like games, careers and other competitive fields. All these things provide an opportunity to dominate others, even if without violence.

Yet there is nothing noble about “pursuing victory” and the basely euphoric emotions associated with it. Saint Augustine wrote extensively about games and competition in his Confessions. He confessed before God that he routinely pursued the bestial emotions that flowed from “victory in games” as a child: “In competitive games, I loved the pride of winning…even in [these children’s games] I was overcome by a vain desire to win and was often guilty of cheating. Any breach of the rules I would not tolerate and, if I detected it, would fiercely denounce it, though it was exactly what I was doing to others.” Confessions, at pp. 12, 22 (Oxford University Press 1992). Tellingly, Augustine observed that children are not the only ones who seek “victory in games.” He writes: “Behavior does not change when one leaves behind domestic guardians and schoolmasters, nuts and balls and sparrows.” Id. at p. 22. Rather, adults play games, too, and they seek the same base emotions as children. Just like children at play, they cheat, manipulate rules and engage in hypocrisy. He writes: “[The] amusement of adults is called business.” Id. at 12.

Against that background, should lawyers really crow about their “victories?” Are they no better than children? In sum, we should be very wary about transforming life’s pursuits into competitive games. When we do, we lower ourselves into something resembling animal squalor. I find it both sad and ironic that lawyers—through their ugly “victory rhetoric”—bring the law down to the level of children’s games.

I thought we had come further than this as a civilization. I thought law was supposed to elevate us from violent competitions. Apparently not, at least in the American “legal market.” It’s all just a “win-loss column.” Reason and principle have nothing to do with it, especially if you get an “L” for following them. When you thirst for victory, you do anything for a “W.” Principle is an impediment on that path, not an advantage.

Monday, August 17, 2009



By : Mr. A. James Meinecke, M.B.A. (Harvard Business School), President and CEO, Tailor-Targeted Systems Solutions (TTSS), LLC, a Delaware Limited Liability Company; Former Director, Blackwater USA, a consulting agency specializing in private security solutions and diplomacy (1997-2004); Former Chief, Atlanta Police Department (1988-1997); Board Member, The Free Market Society (2001-present); Publisher Laissez-Faire, S’il Vous Plait, an informational newsletter serving America’s corporate boards.

Americans want safe streets and safe workplaces. They don’t want to worry about crime and terrorism on their way to work. They want their children to be safe when they use the Internet and email. Americans also want to know that guilty people are being investigated, captured and punished. America trusts its law enforcement personnel to accomplish these tasks. For decades, government-run American law enforcement kept pace with the criminals.

But we can do better. For a long time, America has trusted Federal, State and local government to enforce its laws. Americans elect representatives to pass laws criminalizing certain conduct. They then rely on Executive agencies—such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the State police and local police forces—to corral anyone who violates those laws. Although Executive agencies generally do a fine job investigating, interrogating, prosecuting and punishing criminals, they face a key limitation: They are public servants. And public servants never do a job as well as competitive, motivated private contractors.

Here at Tailor-Targeted Systems Solutions LLC, we want to help America. Specifically, we want to make public services more efficient by cutting the “public” out of “public services.” As effective as State law enforcement efforts may be, imagine how much more effective they would be if private enterprise competed for better ways to catch criminals. The simple truth is that government employees do not have an economic incentive to pursue criminals. They receive low pay and generally enjoy few avenues for financial advancement. No matter how hard they work and how many drug dealers they arrest, they get the same $29,578 a year. Additionally, they have a monopoly on their jobs: They do not feel pressure to introduce better solutions to existing problems. After all, there are no rival police departments to keep them on their toes. We believe that America deserves better. When it comes to catching criminals, we think efficiency comes first.

Many people think that certain government functions should not be private, including law enforcement. These people think that government agents should investigate crime because crime is a public concern. They think that police officers should not be loyal to their own economic interests, but rather the “public good.” In essence, this argument boils down to loyalty: To whom should police officers be loyal? Yet this argument misses an essential point. Namely, it forgets that law enforcement aims to efficiently stop crime, not vindicate the popular will. If it came between stopping ten rapes and vaguely fulfilling “the popular will,” I think every American would say that stopping ten rapes is more important. Complacent State officers cannot stop rape as effectively as dedicated private contractors with an economic interest in stopping rape. When law enforcement professionals have no personal economic stake in stopping crime, they have no reason to be efficient. That is why we must privatize law enforcement. We owe it to our children. If we want safe streets, we must change the way we look at loyalty.

Police officers would do a much better job if they knew they would profit from stopping crime. According to popular understanding, police officers pursue crime because they care about the public good. But the public good pays no bills; money does. If our police officers received a special bonus for every crime they prevent—or for every suspected criminal they catch—we would provide a meaningful incentive for our law enforcement personnel to protect us. In this sense, we propose a corporate model for law enforcement. Rather than requiring “loyalty to the State” from our policemen, we should make them loyal to a private law enforcement company. That company, in turn, would contractually pay them a higher salary than the State, plus bonuses for effective criminal management. When people have real economic incentives to get a job done, they do it much more effectively than someone who receives a discouraging flat rate serving “the public good.” In our view, when police officers have an economic motivation to stop crime, they will stop it much more efficiently than they would “serving the public good” for minimal pay. For example, a police officer would much more willingly investigate a dangerous drug ring knowing he might receive an extra $4,000 per arrest than he would if he knew he would receive nothing more than the usual $29,578 a year for zealously investigating the drug ring. He could use that $4,000 to pay medical bills, car notes or credit card debt. He could use the extra money to buy consumer goods or invest in the stock market. At the same time, he would benefit the public by stopping drug crime. Put simply, when people have an economic reason to do something, they take more chances and get jobs done more effectively than they would without the incentive. That is why we must privatize police forces. Public loyalty does not protect our children. Only private loyalty does.

There is no reason why so-called “traditional public services” should not compete in a free market system. The fact that “traditional public services” are so important only supports the argument that private enterprise should provide them. After all, police services are essential to the community. Private enterprise would provide them more efficiently than the State. In that light, Americans should embrace private solutions to traditionally public services. Private police can catch twice as many criminals as public police in the same time. Results are results. When Americans get better results from private enterprise than public services, they will never go back to public services. Additionally, private enterprise must always stay fresh. There will always be a competitor striving to take a company’s place in the market. In that light, competition will make private businesses even more efficient crime stoppers. After all, if a new police company catches more criminals than the old one, the old company will lose its contract. That will force the old company to invent new, more effective crime control measures to keep pace. All the while, the public benefits. When police forces compete for contracts, the criminals lose and the public wins.

Competition among private police forces will not just reduce crime. It will also drive down costs. Unlike inefficient public police forces, private companies will always need to stay ahead of the curve and deliver results. They will have to stop more crime more quickly than their competitors, all for a competitive price. By competing for contracts, private companies will ensure that taxpayers only pay market rates for law enforcement services, not inflated subsidy rates. If a company can’t cut the mustard, it will lose its contract to a company that can arrest more criminals for less money. This is just the way business works. Yet under the public model, if the police force fails to stop crime, it still costs the same amount. This is not just inefficient. It is also expensive and wasteful. This is why we must privatize our police forces. It will not just stop crime and protect children; it will cost less, too.

Private police forces will pursue criminals much more effectively than public ones. Under the public model, police officers always wear uniforms and other “official, State insigniae.” While this adds a special “government aura” to law enforcement, it also gives criminals far too much warning. They can easily run away whenever they see a uniformed policeman approaching, or they can say: “Put the drugs away; here comes a cop car.” Put simply, public police forces stick out like a sore thumb. And when criminals get away, the public suffers.

Not so under the private model. Private police officers are not really “officers” at all. Rather, they are “employees.” As such, they do not wear uniforms. They do not drive marked cars. They look like regular guys on the street. Criminals will never know whether a law enforcement company employee is nearby, ready to arrest them. This is much more efficient than tipping criminals off by wearing ostentatious silver badges and military-style uniforms. When law enforcement goes private, criminals will start looking over both shoulders. And when criminals are scared, they will not rape women, rob banks or murder children.

Private police employees enjoy another key practical advantage over public police officers: Namely, they are not bound to respect any “constitutional rights.” Public police forces are “State actors.” As such, they must follow the United States Constitution and various State constitutions when investigating and prosecuting crime. This drastically impedes their effectiveness, because constitutions interpose “individual rights” that bar highly efficient crime control practices. By contrast, private law enforcement employees face no such limitations. When they set out to arrest a criminal, they do not need to worry about “warrants,” “probable cause,” “reasonable suspicion,” “privacy,” “the Fourth Amendment,” “Miranda warnings,” “Due Process” or other elaborate judicial fantasies. Rather, they can arrest whomever they please, whenever they please. If they need to tap a phone, they tap it. If they need to search a house, they search it. If they need to wring a confession from a suspect, they wring it. In short, criminals have no refuge when facing private law enforcement employees. And all this adds up to safer streets and safer children.

We should not shrink from privatizing our police forces. We owe it to our children. When it comes to any service, the best solutions are private. Private employees with an interest in success do a job much better than poorly-paid bureaucrats who just want to see 5 o’clock and a pension. Just look at the DMV to see public servants at work. Would you trust your wife’s safety to a DMV employee? Of course not. Yet these people are your police officers. Vigorous private enterprise gives Americans their most cherished goods and services, from medicine to fast food. There is no reason why we should not trust private enterprise to give them something as vital as protection from criminals. Additionally, when we privatize police forces, we will open a whole new employment market, boosting job growth and income levels across the country. Enterprising men and women will study to become law enforcement employees. They will learn to make a decent wage catching criminals. The solution is obvious.

We can do it. America deserves more from its law enforcement professionals, not lackluster donut-eating and clockwatching. We must move away from the idea that only government can do certain jobs. As a Director at Blackwater USA, I showed that privately-employed soldiers could do a better job than the U.S. Army in the field. If private enterprise can wage war in Iraq, it can also protect Americans against dangerous criminals at home. And it can do it more efficiently, too. When employees stand to make more money for doing a better job, everybody wins.

We deserve efficiency. We deserve better pay. We deserve solutions that work. That is why we must bring private enterprise to law enforcement.

Sunday, August 16, 2009



I have many European friends. We communicate all the time on a forum. During the summer, they always write about this and that journey they plan to take. They call them "summer holidays." They talk about traveling far and wide. They talk about taking four weeks off--with pay--to wander around Eastern Europe or France. Some even talk about going to China or India. In short, they talk about vacations with true relish. When they get home, they talk about how refreshed they are. They even say they do not mind going back to work after so much enjoyable time on vacation. They don't feel guilty about forcing their bosses to find replacements while they're gone, nor do they check email or phone messages while sprawled on Brazilian beaches. Put simply, Europeans know how to relax.

I can't resist contrasting these idyllic reports with horror stories about vacation time in the United States. This morning, for instance, I read about a friend who plans to take several weeks to travel through Germany and Bulgaria. He will receive pay during his trip; his boss actually encouraged him "because it's important for you to relax" and "see the world."

In response, I described the typical working American's vacation plans:

If only Americans understood the value of real vacation time. Over here, people hem and haw about taking 5 days off, compromise and wind up taking a "monumental excursion" to a water park in some god-forsaken suburb.

What's the difference, then? For starters, there's the obvious temporal difference. Europeans just get a lot more paid vacation time than Americans. Americans are lucky to get a week off with pay per year (including sick days), while most Europeans--even entry-level twentysomethings--get five paid weeks minimum. But the real difference is about power. Europeans get so much vacation time because they have relatively more power over their work lives than Americans. Over here, people feel obsequiously honored to have jobs. Like good fawns, they are prepared to sacrifice everything to keep them. It is a hopelessly servile approach; it puts full power in the employer's hands. Employers take full advantage; they dole out one week's vacation, no more. All the while, they cultivate a belief that "taking time off is bad," causing workers to feel guilty about leaving the office.

In Europe, by contrast, employers do not dominate workers as much as they do in the United States. Additionally, workers in Europe keep both government and private industry honest through spirited political engagement. When governments in Europe deliberate measures that award more power to employers, workers revolt. When Congress does the same thing in America, workers meekly stay at home and watch Monday Night Football. Given such political apathy, it's no wonder American workers have virtually nothing by comparison to their European counterparts.

Europeans do not seem guilty about taking time off, either. I think this reflects another important difference between Europeans and Americans: The mental relationship to work. In America, workers tend to revere their jobs. They want to impress their bosses, advance and succeed. To do so, they want to make the best showing they possibly can. That means doing work at all times, even on weekends and holidays. This is the attitude that resists vacations: After all, how can you impress your boss in Toledo, Ohio if you are tanning on a beach in Brazil? You're not making the company any money tanning. Americans debate with themselves about taking any time off at all. They worry about making the wrong impression. They feel guilty about foisting their job duties on some poor sot who's stuck in the office. To assuage their guilt, they simply decide not to enjoy themselves when they ultimately go on vacation. They bring laptops and BlackBerries with them to theme parks, casinos and spas. They stay in touch with work when they are supposed to be relaxing. They even try to show their loyalty by agreeing to take off fewer days than the number to which they are entitled. They travel locally, not over long distances, "just in case they need to come back in an emergency."

In short, Americans don't escape their mental relationship to work, even when they are supposed to be on vacation. It's about work, not life. And people wonder why they are unhappy.

But Europeans forget work when they go on vacation. They don't take guilt-ridden 4-day "long weekends;" they take month-long sojourns. If someone has to pick up the slack at the office, so what? That guy will get his time off sooner or later, too. They do not bring office email accounts with them. They do not return work phone calls while drinking or dancing with friends in a Warsaw discotheque. More importantly, they actually have time to unwind, "switch from work mode," reflect and experience the world. At the same time, they are not worried about their bills, nor do they worry about the boss' wrath. Their bosses actually encourage them. This is the European approach to vacations. It is about life, not work.

Americans criticize Europeans for precisely that reason: They don't care about working enough. But what has America's dedication to work really won? Americans are generally more unhappy than their European counterparts. They face more anxiety and stress because they do not have a safety net. They face more workplace guilt and obligation. True, Americans keep more of their income than Europeans. If they're lucky, they can even own more property than Europeans. But what Europeans pay in higher tax they receive in a more compassionate existence. Their high taxes finance their month-long vacations and free medical care. And in some sense, their high taxes provide them more happiness. An existence with less guilt and less obligation is a happier existence.

But America won't change its mind about vacations any time soon. Employers hold far too much power here. It is not just economic power; it is psychological power. It is deeply entrenched, too. Until Americans stop feeling guilty about abandoning their poor-paying posts for more than two days at a time, employers will continue to hold their psychological edge. That pyschological edge maintains political apathy; and political apathy keeps employers strong.

In an abstract sense, vacation time is just a proxy for the much more significant difference between Europe and America: Who really holds the power? If you feel guilty about failing to serve your economic master even though you are entitled to take time off, are you really in control of your life?

Employers in America do not just control time. They control emotions, too. That is power.

Friday, August 14, 2009



By : Sarah Louise Heath Palin, B.S (Journalism/Communication, University of Idaho, 1987), Former Republican Candidate for Vice President of the United States (2008); Former Governor of the Democratic Republic of the State of Alaska (resigned 2009); Foreign Policy Expert (Russian Studies); Clay Pigeon Champion, Anchorage Gals With Guns Club (2006); Champion, Alaska State Women’s Basketball Tournament (1982); Master Chef (Specializing in Patented “Big Game Burgers,” including Moose Macs® and Elk-O-Steaks®); Health Care Expert; Republican.

Before the election last year, I wrote about my foreign policy experience. See In that article, I warned that America had to take swift action to protect Portugal against imminent Russian aggression because Russia and Portugal share a long border. I know all about Russia. I live right next door to them. And I know you can’t trust Ivan.

Thankfully, the Soviets never attacked the defenseless Portuguese. I am confident that my strong stance on the matter dissuaded Moscow from launching an attack on its Portuguese neighbor. I received wide praise for my foreign policy work. Although I did not win the election, I gained valuable experience in foreign policy matters. The Northern Alaska State Polytechnic Institute at Dead Gull even honored me with a Professorship in Russian Studies. So when it comes to Russia, I know what I’m talking about.

In the months since the election, I have gained insights into other policy areas. Now, I am not just an expert in Alaska State highway law and local drilling ordinances. I have also learned a great deal about health care. I resigned my post as Alaska governor in order to fully focus my efforts on national matters. In short, our country faces immense dangers from within. Specifically, we face an evil man: Barack Obama. It is my duty to unite all Americans against him. If we do not, there is no telling how many children he will kill.

I am determined to oppose Barack Obama’s health care reform efforts. Last week, I informed the public that Obama’s proposed health care legislation will constitute Federal “death panels” that will decide whether certain people receive medical care. As the mother of a disabled child—and as a Republican—I know that Obama’s “death panels” will refuse care for disabled Republican children. Obama’s “death panels” will only award care to black mothers, welfare recipients, anti-gun activists, conservationists, homosexuals, Democratic firebrands and smug CNN newscasters. They will not award care to innocent Republican children or FOX news anchormen like Shepard Smith or Bill O’Reilly. If Obama succeeds in passing this bill, Shepard Smith and Bill O’Reilly could go without medical care. Obama’s ruthless “death panels” will let good-looking liberals like Anderson Cooper live, but let crooked-faced conservatives like Greta van Susteren die. This is injustice. We must stop him.

As a health care expert, it is my duty to alert the American people about Obama’s plans. I have information that is not yet publicly available. I must speak. I owe it to America. America faces grave danger. Although Americans are rising up in opposition to Obama’s plan for many reasons, they will not truly stop him unless they know all the facts. At the moment, Americans resist Obama because they fear his plan will prevent them from seeing their own doctors or reduce their benefits. They do not know whether this will happen. They just fear it. Americans are rightly afraid. But they would be terrified if they knew what I know.

Let me put all doubts to rest: Obama’s health bill creates “death panels.” This is not a rumor. No matter what the New York Times says, Federal bureaucrats will soon decide whether people receive medical care. But it gets worse. According to my sources, Obama intends to staff his “death panels” with convicted criminals, hip-hop artists, gay DJs and radical filmmakers. Only Democrats will be allowed to serve on death panels. Additionally, Obama has personally drafted a “Death Panel Protocol” governing medical care award decisions. The Protocol creates a presumption that Republicans do not deserve care. The Protocol gives death panels full discretion whether to deny care to a Republican, but limits its discretion whether to deny care to a Democrat. Worse, the Protocol creates a universal right for African-Americans, immigrants and minimum wage employees to receive top-notch medical treatment, but denies that right to everyone else. In short, if you are not black, Democratic or an immigrant, or if you make more than $5.45 an hour, an Obama death panel might just let you die a horrible death.

This is not all. According to my sources, Obama’s Death Panel Protocol also creates a Special Death Panel Executive Arm. In essence, this Executive Arm empowers death panels to “eliminate unworthy life.” Thus, if Obama-Care prevails, “death panels” will not just decide whether sick Republicans get medical treatment. They will also have the authority to seek out and kill anyone—and any animal—they consider “unworthy of life.” My sources have revealed that Death Panels will have full authority to conduct secret investigations to locate “unworthy life” without court approval. Once a person has been identified as “unworthy,” he or she may appeal to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor for mercy. But President Obama has instructed Justice Sotomayor to deny all appeals unless “eliminating the targeted individual would jeopardize the overall goals of the health care reform effort.” This means that no Republican will survive.

Americans have a right to know about this. We cannot yield to Obama’s sweet talk any longer. If we do not take a stand against Obama-Care now, we will lose far more than the contractual right to see whatever proctologist we choose. Quite simply, if we do not fight back now, Obama will kill our grandparents, children and pets. What’s to stop Obama’s death panels from declaring that our sick grandparents are not “unworthy of life?” What’s to stop his vicious bureaucrats from investigating our housecats and targeting them for execution? And what’s to stop the death panels from slaughtering our newborn Republican young? We cannot depend on Justice Sotomayor to save our grandparents, children and pets. We must do something now. We must resist the death panels before they open for business.

Information will win the health care debate. Obama thinks he can win the battle for health care by concealing the truth from the American people. I refuse to let him deceive us. I refuse to let him channel the debate away from death panels and government-run health care. I refuse to let him fool Americans into thinking that he wants to care for them, when in fact he wants to cut my grandfather's throat. Obama is not a savior. He is the angel of death. I will not rest until every American knows the truth.

Democracy cannot survive when the public lives in ignorance. President Obama has skillfully manipulated the health care crisis in order to implement his sinister plan for social reconstruction. He knows that Americans are worried about health care. He knows that no one has a straight answer about the facts. He knows people are confused. So he employs his artful rhetoric, hoping to gloss over his secret plan to kill our grandparents, children and pets. He says he believes in Democracy and “compassionate care for all.” Well, if “compassionate care for all” means drowning Republican children, gassing Republican seniors and butchering Republican puppies, we will have none of it. We refuse to support a system that will care only for blacks but kill everyone else. Americans deserve to learn the truth. This is not about hope or compassion. This is about killing Republicans and letting innocent pets die.

Join me in bringing rationality back to the health care debate. In my view, there was nothing wrong with the American health care system in the first place. It is not difficult to get private health insurance as long as you have a job, you’re healthy and you do not fall under a contractual exclusion in the policy. It’s your responsibility and right as an American to bargain for whatever contract you want. It’s your responsibility to read the contract, and it’s your responsibility to accept the consequences if the insurance company decides against you. This is the way it’s always been. Health care is no different from any other business.

As a health care policy expert, my solution is simple: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I have health insurance. I paid for it. I am responsible. So I have no complaints about the American health care system. If others don’t get health insurance—or if their existing insurance does not cover some special eye improvement surgery—well, they bargained for it. In this country, you get what you pay for. That’s what it’s all about, whether you’re buying health care or a car. Some people buy Mercedes-type health care. Others buy Hyundai-type health care. We can’t all have a Mercedes; that’s just not the way things work around here.

Yet this is why Obama’s rhetoric appealed to so many: He promised to give everyone Mercedes-type health insurance. Of course it struck a chord. Hey, I’d like to get a free car, too. But Obama blinded America with his idealistic promises. He wants to give blacks and immigrants Mercedes-type health care, all right. But he also wants to kill Republican grandparents, children and pets. He thinks he can slip in “death panels” as long as he gives away enough free health care, just as the ancient Roman emperors thought they could commit political atrocities as long as they gave away enough free entertainment to the mob.

We refuse to be manipulated. We are not ignorant Roman plebeians. We are 21st-Century Americans. We know when we are being hoodwinked. As a health care policy expert and a patriot, I am committed to dispelling the sinister lies about Obama-care. I am committed to telling America the truth. If we allow Obama to pass health care reform, we will give government the power over life and death. If you love your grandparents, children and pets, you will stand with me against this tyranny. When you stand with me, you tell Obama: “I am a rational person. I do not believe government has a right to kill my grandma or my parakeet.” When you stand with me, you tell Obama: “I believe in information and democracy, not death panels.” Obama thinks he can beat us by concealing the truth. But the truth will always come out in the end.

Informed Americans are powerful Americans. Informed Americans drive our democracy. Get informed. Learn the truth. Stop Obama-Care before it kills your grandfather, son and dog.

This is America. We care about everyone’s life in this country, not just Democrats and blacks.