Friday, January 29, 2010

NATIONS AND STATES ARE NOT THE SAME THING : IS THERE AN AMERICAN NATION AT ALL?

AN ESSAY

What are nations? What are states? Are they the same thing? If you listen to mass media in the United States, you might think they are. Politicians talk about the "American Nation." Colloquially, we hear terms like "all over the Nation" and "nationwide." Somehow, we have equated the word "Nation" with "country" or "state." But the word "Nation" exists for a reason: It has its own meaning. And upon closer inspection, we see that the United States really may not be a "Nation" at all.

Nations are not political entities. Nations are human populations that share common ethnic, religious and linguistic traditions and values. States are political entities. It makes sense to create a State from a Nation, but it is not necessary. In that sense, States are artificial while Nations are genetic. People in a Nation intuitively understand one another because they all speak the same language, look basically the same and represent the same cultural traditions. By contrast, there is no need for people in a State to understand one another. Several Nations can agree to live under the same State. States simply administer the law and keep order. But Nations exist regardless of the State that rules them.

States are artificial because they depend on artificial members: Citizens. The word "citizen" is a technical term. It has a specific definition by law. True, the definition varies depending on the State that creates it. But it is still a legal conclusion, not a genetic fact.

Aristotle defined "citizen" in The Politics. He said that "citizens" are people who are qualified to participate in government and to hold office. The Politics, Book III ch. i § 1275a22. "Participating in government," in turn, means "deliberating or judging" on all matters relevant under the Constitution. Id. at § 1275b13. And only States create Constitutions. Aristotle continued this reasoning by concluding that "a number of [citizens] large enough to secure a self-sufficient life we may, by and large, call a state." Id. He then posited that states only exist to the extent that citizens associate with each other under a particular Constitution. The Politics, Book III ch. iii § 1276a34. By this reasoning, states are technical: They exist only to the extent that citizens continue to recognize a particular Constitution. When they no longer agree to abide by the Constitution, the state ceases to exist. Id.

What is so significant about these definitions? They are significant because they say nothing about nations. According to Aristotle, a State exists only as a matter of law; it does not require national identity. States are technical fictions created by people who want to secure a better life. To achieve that goal, they create a Constitution that delineates government power and the rights of citizens. Citizens take their identity in the State from the Constitution, not from their national origins. As a legal matter, nations are irrelevant to the State. Strictly viewed, states are not nations, and nations are not states.

But that is just the legal view. Reality exists quite apart from law, and reality shows that national identity greatly influences state power. States function more effectively when their citizens all come from the same national background. States are more cohesive when all their citizens speak the same language, represent the same cultural traditions and live by the same basic values. When States create Constitutions to reflect shared national values, they simplify the business of government. No matter what anyone says, it is much easier to govern a relatively homogeneous population in which everyone views life in a similar way.

Perhaps it sounds archaic--or even racist--to suggest that States function best when they comprise a single Nation. After all, popular American rhetoric holds that America's strength flows from its diversity. According to that rhetoric, anyone can be an American "citizen" no matter what "nation" they represent. As long as they "participate in government and hold office" under the Constitution, they are "citizens," even if one comes from Iraq and the other from Holland. In other words, the United States--at least on paper--takes pride in the fact that its "State" represents every "Nation" on earth.

That may be so. But it is inaccurate to call the United States a "nation." Our Constitution certainly makes the United States a "state." Everyone within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States abides by technical laws passed in compliance with a Constitution that every citizen theoretically supports. Every "citizen" under that Constitution may "participate in government or hold office." That suffices to call the United States a "state." But it does not suffice to call it a "nation."

Our American republic is unique among world States because it has virtually no national identity. Our citizens represent every possible cultural, religious, linguistic and racial group. Culture, religion, language and race all influence the values that people hold dear in their lives. As such, the United States is at war with itself; its citizens hold every conceivable value and they frequently clash. There is no simple cultural unity. While every "nation" in the United States might contribute to the state's overall strength, they certainly do not contribute to a united American culture. American culture exists only as far as a particular "nation" within the United States observes it. As such, it is confusing discuss "American identity." To really understand "American identity," it is insufficient to examine whether a person is a citizen. Rather, one must look further into the person's national identity to figure out who he is. And in a state that comprises a thousand nations, that is a hard task.

Despite America's uncertain national character, there are other ways by which to measure cohesion between American "citizens." There are other ways to assess whether people come from the same "nation." Indeed, Americans from every cultural tradition have created "pseudo-nations" that link them in ways that language, race or ethnicity cannot. For example, millions of Americans love football. That makes them part of a "football nation" with a common culture and language. Millions more love television shows. That makes them part of a "television" nation with shared values and traditions. These might be weak replacements for true national identity. But Americans make do in whatever ways they can.

People yearn for national identity. States that encompass a single Nation generally radiate that identity without trying too hard. But the United States is a problematic case. Americans yearn to be "American" without really understanding that there is no "American nation." To fulfill that longing, they rally around things they all like, especially commerce.

Americans are notoriously commercial. They turn to commerce for meaning in life more than many other people in the world. I argue that this is due in part to the fact that they long for something to define them as a national group. If Americans can't all belong to a single value system or cultural heritage, they at least can all represent a worldview based exclusively on commercial success.

For better or worse, this "replacement identity" has stuck: Most people in the world associate Americans with business success, enterprise and "do-it-yourself" entrepreneurship. That is America's "national identity." If the United States cannot be a "nation" in traditional sense, it can simply rewrite the rules to suit its situation.

Commerce is America's national identity. We are a "money nation." We don't all speak the same language or have the same hair color. We don't all worship the same God or observe the same holidays. But money unites us: The maniacal, ruthless, insistent, all-consuming urge to amass cash. German-Americans do it. Irish-Americans do it. Chinese-Americans do it. Russian-Americans do it. Sengalese-Americans do it. Mexican-Americans do it.

That is our Nation. That is our culture. That is our language. That is our common ground.

One Nation, under cash, with liberty and justice for all.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

HEALTH INSURANCE BILLERS REFUSE TO GO QUIETLY

AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA ON BEHALF OF ALL PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE BILLING PROFESSIONALS NATIONWIDE

Dear President Obama,

For months now, my colleagues and I have watched you with trepidation. We watched as you and your Democratic majority in Congress rammed through a health care reform bill that threatens to upend Americans' control over their lives. Although Scott Brown's amazing Senate victory in Massachusetts promises hope for the future, we nonetheless feel it necessary to voice our concerns as Americans and health care professionals.

During your State of the Union Address last night, you vowed to continue the fight to reform health care in America. You said that millions of Americans remain uninsured. You declared that "private health insurance companies" reap "massive" profits while "common people" struggle to pay inflated bills. You claimed that privately-administered health insurance is the reason why America fell into a "health care crisis." You even suggested that America must move closer toward government-run health care to curb the influence of insurance companies and lobbyists.

Mr. President, you are gravely mistaken. Government is never the answer. Only private enterprise can deliver quality goods and services to Americans at reasonable prices. Only vigorous competition between rival economic interests can ensure the innovation Americans expect from any industry. Just because the health care industry deals in human illness does not make it different from any other business enterprise. People who work in health care need incentives like anyone else. If government starts meddling in health care, doctors might not earn what they deserve. Inventors might not enjoy the protection they need to profitably guard their discoveries. And every day Americans will certainly lose the cherished freedom to choose where to seek health care. As Americans committed to liberty, we find this appalling.

But health care reform will not just destroy liberty. Health care reform will also destroy jobs. Mr. President, our American health care system works because it runs like a well-oiled business machine. Like any good business, the American health care system has great accountants. Everyone pays what they owe; no expense ever falls through the cracks. This encourages both responsibility and financial discipline. Americans know that they must pay for everything they receive in a hospital or at a doctor's visit. That encourages them to be judicious in seeking medical care, as well as to make prudent economic decisions when addressing their health care needs. Health care is a consumer product in America. And stringent health care billing practices are the reason why American health care is so good.

Health care reform will curtail private health care opportunities. If the government intervenes to pay medical bills, there will be little need for private health care insurance billing professionals. If government suddenly steps in and says: "This man has diabetes. We are handling his care and paying the bill," that man will not receive a private bill. Consequently, there will be little need for hospitals and insurance companies to employ hundreds of accountants, actuaries and typists to draft thousand-page itemized bills for every patient. Yet thousand-page itemized bills are precisely the things that make the American health care system so wonderful. Thousand-page itemized bills make the health care world go around in America. If health care reform succeeds, thousand-page itemized bills will become unnecessary. And so will the millions of American workers who make them possible.

We are Private Health Insurance Billing Professionals. We refuse to allow President Obama to destroy our jobs. We refuse to allow Obama-Care to eradicate our livelihoods. We refuse to stop itemizing charges for 5g of hospital pudding on 4/3/08 ($459.90), 30cc of Titrium Chloride on 4/4/08 ($1,983.08), one night, hospital room (standard special rate) on 4/4/08 ($7,000), and lower rhomboidal surgery plus anesthesia on 4/5/08 ($497,632.26). We went to school to do what we do. Billing is not easy. Yet it is essential to run any business, including the American health care business.

Mr. President, screw your health reform. As professional health billers, we say now: "Hell no, we won't go." If health reform means giving up our Excel® spreadsheets and expense logging software, we say: "Hell to the naw-naw, mah niz-aw."

Leave us alone. We are productive American workers. We stay up for days at a time tabulating hospital meal costs, hospital linen charges, surgery costs, financing charges for doctor visits and outpatient anesthesiology service payment schedules. We even tack on progressive interest rates for all this shit. We do not have an easy job. But we receive good wages and we pay good taxes. We support families on the wages we receive from sending angry collection letters to penniless amputees. We send children to school on the cash we receive for mailing book-sized bills to destitute underinsured cancer victims. And our taxes help keep this Nation strong. How dare you introduce reform that threatens our jobs?

Mr. President, you must not reform health care because reform impacts private health insurance billing professionals. American life is all about paying bills. Some even say that the meaning of life in this country is making timely monthly payments on this, that and the other thing. If you attack health insurance billing, you attack the very meaning of life in America. Where would Americans be if they no longer had to fret over insurmountable medical bills? What reason would they have to live? Health care bills dominate American lives. If your "reform efforts" sweep them away, you will open a tragic void in every American's life.

What good will flow from that void? After all, bills keep Americans honest. It keeps them at work. It keeps them responsible. If Americans no longer live to fear bills, they will lose all respect for authority. They will no longer look for employment. They will begin leading debauched, wasteful lives. Only bills maintain order in our society. Think seriously on it, Mr. President. Any effort that reduces the influence of bills on Americans chips away at our country's very core.

And any effort that eliminates bills means that important people don't get paid. When that happens, God help us: I quake to think what a radiologist would do if he knew he would no longer receive $925,000 a year due to "health care reform." Radiologists are not schmucks. As a Nation, we cannot allow radiologists to receive a meager $800,000 a year for their work.

Stop disrespecting professionals. We are private health care billing professionals. We might not be as important as radiologists, but we are nonetheless professionals. We learned how to meticulously track fees and expenses. We even read textbooks, listened to lectures and took exams. We went to school and we learned how to bill like pros. We don't deserve unemployment for our toil and study. No, we deserve a place in the economy. More to the point, we deserve a hallowed place because our efforts keep every American responsible. Our work reminds every American that there are no free lunches in this country. In fact, we remind every American that every little piece of the lunch has a specific price--and they need to pay every penny to avoid financial ruin.

Mr. President, we urge you to scrap health care reform at once. It makes no sense to sacrifice America's commitment to responsible free market principles in order to grant charity hospital stays to a few stinking beggars. More pragmatically, it makes no sense to destroy the private health insurance billing profession. Professions are valuable; government should support them, not destroy them. And our profession is much more significant than most people realize. Without us, no doctor would get paid and no American would fear bills.

For a moment, think about how dangerous our society would be if every American suddenly stopped worrying about bills. It is too terrifying to even consider. That is why you must abandon health care reform once and for all.

Defend private health insurance billers. We remind every American that everything has a price. We keep every American fixed on his duty: Paying prices. The next time you get a thousand-page bill for a two-day hospital stay, thank us. We are actually doing you a favor by maintaining the American economic system as we know it. And you have to admit: It's pretty damn good.

That's because everyone fears bills and works to pay them. You can thank professional billers for that.

Mr. President, forget about reform. Think about jobs and responsibility for once. Enough with the justice rhetoric. Americans don't want hope. They want accurate bills, secure services and competitive prices.

Think about your poll numbers. If you really want to be popular again, drop this foolish health care crusade. Give power back to the private health insurance billers. It is the only way to save America's economic soul.

Yours very sincerely and truly,

Prof. Gabriella F. Trackett-Goode, B.S. (Health Care Billing Systems)

Assistant Professor, Medical Accounting & Billing Science
Amboy Community College, Perth Amboy Twp., N.J.

Consultant, The Bayer Group LLC (a Fortune 100 Company Specializing in Effective Billing Strategies for the Pharmaceutical Industry)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

DO YOU LIKE REWARDS? WHAT A STUPID QUESTION

OESTERHOUDT STRIKES

Everyone likes rewards. Everyone likes receiving things they like. We are programmed to like rewards. It is in our nature to seek them. It is as natural as hunger or thirst. We rarely do anything unless there is some reward for our efforts. Rewards induce human behavior. As such, they drive all economic activity. After all, who would work if he knew he would receive no pay? Who would work harder if he knew he would receive no greater prize for the extra effort?

All this may seem obvious. But I mention it because Citibank® actually poses the question in its latest advertising campaign. On billboards and on computer screens, Citibank® queries: "Do you like rewards? If you do, you should open an account with us." It then lists various perks that new accountholders receive, like a $50 (taxable) bounty, a potential $100 (taxable) payment for new customer referrals and retail "points" that accumulate whenever they use Citibank® debit cards. So if you charge enough Starbucks® coffee on your card, you'll get a $10 "gift" one day.

Those are the "rewards" they are talking about. And who doesn't like rewards?

People love rewards because people are basically selfish. Rewards reflect personal gain; when a person wins a reward, he benefits. He might receive money or gratification. He might receive an emotional payout. No matter what form a reward takes, it appeals to men's base instinct to profit. For that reason, rewards induce behavior. One man offers a reward in order to persuade another man to act as he wishes. He knows that men like rewards, so he knows men will adapt their behavior to get it. This is no different from any other mammal. Dangle a leftover steak in a dog's face and you can it to do every trick in the book.

Yet this basic mammalian urge for rewards forms the basis for all purposeful economic activity in our "civilized" world. The only difference between men and dogs is that you need to dangle paychecks in their faces, not leftover steak. Then they'll do whatever tricks you want.

Put another way, rewards make us human. They might not bring out the best in us, but they are still central to human existence. People live for rewards. Why else would they do anything? Nature intended it that way. After all, why would human beings--or any animals--propagate if there were not some biological reward for propagating? People like sex because it offers an intense physical reward. Without the reward, no one would want to do it. Nature understands how animals think. And man is just another animal: He needs a selfish incentive to do anything. He needs a reward.

When it comes to rewards, man is different from other animals in a crucial respect: He can manipulate rewards to exploit his fellows. Through language and superior resources, a shrewd man can persuade a weaker man to do just about anything for the right reward. And the shrewd man can dictate the conditions under which the weak man obtains a reward. In sum, those conditions reduce the weak man to the shrewd man's control. Rewards, then, become an instrument of tyranny as well as enterprise.

In modern language, exchange influences rewards. Rewards provide a basis for bargaining. In English, for instance, the dictionary says that a "reward" is "something given in return for good, or, sometimes, evil, or for service, or for something lost." Webster's New World College Dictionary (4th Ed.). Rewards, then, are given in return for something else. They must be "earned." As such, superior men can easily manipulate the terms under which they give rewards. They know everyone wants a reward. So they exploit that natural desire to dominate anyone who seeks one.

English is not the only language that implies bargaining in "rewards." German, too, suggests that rewards must be "earned." The closest translation for "reward" is "belohnen," which means: "to compensate a person for his help or effort." Wahrig Deutsches W├Ârterbuch S. 249 (Ausgabe 2008) (my translation). "Belohnen," in turn, builds upon a simpler German word: "der Lohn." "Der Lohn" means "wage," or, more specifically: "payment, consideration or compensation for work performed." Id. at S. 955 (my translation).

As in English, German reveals that "rewards" don't fall from trees. They provide incentives for work and service to others. That means the person who gives rewards has the power to dictate the terms under which others will receive them. Rewards give power. After all, the master has power over the dog because he has the leftover steak; he can demand any behavior before he gives it to the dog. In the same way, the employer has power over the employee because he has the paycheck; he can demand any behavior before he gives it to employee. In both cases, men and dogs want rewards. And they do what they are told to get them.

Just like dogs, all men want rewards. They want to increase their wealth. They want to feel good about themselves. They want to experience positive emotions. They are prepared to do tricks to get them. Rewards provide a reason to live. They induce behavior. Sometimes they induce good behavior. But certainly not always. Every criminal seeks some reward. Personal gratification motivates genius as much as it motivates destructive cruelty. In that sense, rewards cut both ways. Offer a man $10,000 and he might write a beautiful essay in a writing contest. Offer another man $10,000 and he will kill anyone you choose. The principle is the same: Rewards induce behavior.

But it is just dumb to ask: "Do you like rewards?" That is the same as asking: "Do you like eating a meal when you're hungry?" Everyone does. It is perfectly natural. It might not be very grandiose to spend your whole life seeking rewards. But it's not very grandiose to spend your whole life eating meals, either. Yet both are quintessentially human activities.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

LAWYERS ARE BAD MEN AND CLIENTS ARE ONE-DIMENSIONAL SIMPLETONS...AND THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT

AN ESSAY

Over the last few days, I have been paging through my old law school ethics casebook, The Law and Ethics of Lawyering (Foundation Press 4th Ed. 2005). When I took this course in law school, I immediately recognized it was different. No other course investigated ethical quandaries in law practice. Sadly, our professor seemed less concerned with the abstract philosophical dimension to the course than with its technical aspects. After all, it is hard to get lawyers to understand ethics because lawyers understand law.

Contrary to popular belief, law and ethics are distinct from each other. Ethics are internal, subjective conceptions concerning the "right" decisions to take in life's ever-changing circumstances. Ethics depends on individual conscience. Law, by contrast, is nothing more than an official collection of written rules that a State formulates to govern external behavior. Law does not require conscience; it requires only technical compliance.

Applying these definitions, it is easy to see that a person can act legally without being ethical at all.

I have written at length about the incongruous relationship between ethics and law. The relationship is uneasy not just because ethics and law stand at opposite philosophical poles. Rather, the relationship is doubly uneasy because "lawyering" in America is adversarial. It is hard to adhere to ethical norms when you are constantly trying to "beat" your opponent and win money. By the same token, American lawyering is extremely commercial. Successful lawyers win their cases because they want to make money. This makes them "result-oriented." That's bad for ethics because ethics is less concerned with results than with means. An ethical person refuses to act in certain ways or even conceive certain actions. Put another way, ethics disqualifies particular means from consideration. Yet a "result-oriented" person--like the average American lawyer--refuses to take any means off the table. When you want to win, you don't refuse to play all your cards.

Yet this is how lawyers must think. After all, they serve the law, not ethics. The law prescribes conduct through language. Lawyers advise clients how to exploit ambiguities in language to avoid the law's reach. All language is imperfect. The law is no exception. Lawyers seize on the law's linguistic imperfections every day to make a living. How can ethics survive in an atmosphere where everyone just wants to game the system?

Sure, lawyers all must take "ethics courses" just like I did. But teaching "ethics" to a lawyer is something like teaching dining room etiquette to a wild animal. Law students take the ethics course because they must: It is required to graduate. And even then, most students view the course as a meaningless formality. Rather than using the course to cultivate ethical sensibilities and become "ethical people," they learn how to read "official ethics rules," then tailor their behavior to avoid censure from professional boards. In essence, then, the "ethics" course devolves into yet another course on law: How to read written standards and make arguments designed to exploit weaknesses in language.

But I am not your average guy. I might have done well in law school, but I hesitate to call myself a "lawyer." No, I am too interested in theory to be a lawyer. I am too interested in ideas and philosophy to blindly advocate a client's selfish financial interests until I die or retire. Put simply, I think deeply about the law and its relationship to civilization. That disqualifies me from everyday "law practice." My commitment to theory might drastically reduce my income. But it dramatically increases my understanding about the world we inhabit.

When I read text from my old ethics casebook, I relate it to all my other ideas about law and civilization. Recently, for example, I re-read Oliver Wendell Holmes' musing on the lawyer's role in American society. He said: "If you want to know the law and nothing else, you must look at it as a bad man, who cares only for the material consequences which such knowledge enables him to predict, not as a good man, who finds his reasons for conduct, whether inside the law or out of it, it the vaguer sanctions of conscience." The Path of the Law (1920) at p. 169.

Holmes' remark closely tracks my own views about the law and human nature. In short, Holmes understands that the law essentially serves "bad men" who just want to know whether they will lose their bodily freedom or their money, not "good men" who seek answers in the "vaguer sanctions of conscience." In essence, Holmes suggests that the law is fundamentally cynical; it merely provides explicit written standards that enable men to modify their behavior for maximum personal gain. And because the law is cynical, so too are the men who empower it: They just want to enrich themselves.

Holmes calls such men "bad." But in fact, he just means "selfish." It is not necessarily morally "bad" to be selfish. But no one would dispute that "selfishness" is neither noble nor especially praiseworthy. No one remembers men who just want to remain free and make the most money they can. They are selfish; and the law exists for them. Bad or not, the law advances an entirely selfish view of human nature. And there is nothing really wrong with that, because the law holds power over money, property and bodily comfort. Those are selfish men's concerns.

If the law only serves "bad men," where does that leave the "good men?" Holmes draws an important distinction here that mirrors the distinction between law and ethics. He says the law stands for selfish men and their petty motivations, not men who find "reasons for their conduct…in the vaguer sanctions of conscience." By that reasoning, "good men" must have nobler motivations than property acquisition and freedom from jail. "Good men" must craft their lives to follow the "vaguer sanctions of conscience," not just cynical legal commands. In essence, then, "good men" are ethical. Unlike law, ethics is internal. It depends on conscience. An ethical man looks within his own heart to know whether something is right or wrong, not a statute book. He does not exploit ambiguity to slither away from consequences. That is noble and "good."

Does this mean that a person who depends upon his own conscience has no place in the law? It almost appears so. After all, to properly serve the law, one must be cynical. One must look at it as a "bad man." If the law enshrines the "bad man's" motivations, then conscience apparently has no place in it. An ethical man might be cynical about others' motivations. But he will not always act cynically. True allegiance to the law, however, requires constant attention to cynical concerns. Litigants would not win their cases if they suddenly started following their own conscience rather than their hunger for money. If ethics means allegiance to conscience and "higher" motivations than the body and property, then it really has little place in the law. Holmes said as much.

Later in my casebook, I ran across an article that criticized Holmes' "bad man" argument. See William H. Simon, The Ideology of Advocacy, 1978 Wis. L. Rev. 29. In it, Professor Simon contended that Holmes' cynical conception about law compromised clients' "individual dignity" and "personal autonomy" because it required lawyers to assume that all clients have the same ends: Property and bodily comfort. The professor found it distressing that the law induces lawyers to both presume what clients want and "to lobby for a peculiar theory of human nature." Id. at 30-52. He found it lamentable that the law basically reduces "individual clients" to one-dimensional "hypothetical people" with a "few crude ends," namely "maximization of freedom of movement and the accumulation of wealth." Id.

I strongly disagree with this critique. First, while I agree that human individuality is precious, a person cedes any claim to uniqueness the moment he seeks legal redress. When a person invokes the law, he is not trying to soothe his conscience or prove his individuality. Rather, he is trying to win as much property as possible or to avoid going to prison. No matter what a client says, "justice" and "right" are not the main objects for his decision to take legal action. He takes legal action because he seeks to gain what the law can offer. The law does not offer abstract justice or right. It offers property and freedom from bodily restraint. This is all a person can hope to win from legal intervention. It is sheer ignorance--or sheer delusion--to believe it can deliver anything else. Courts do not award "good feelings" or a "sense of justice" with their rulings. No, they enter judgment in particular monetary amounts. If a client wants a spiritual reward, he should go to a church, not a lawyer's office.

Second, there is nothing wrong with imputing goals to a client. The law is not about conscience. It is not about ethics. There is a reason courts are called "Courts of Law," not "Courts of Ethics" or "Courts of Conscience." Clients could rightly complain about sacrificing their individuality if they sought to voice their conscience or their ethics. But when they file suit in a law court, they necessarily subscribe to far baser values. The law can deliver only money or bodily freedom. There is nothing wrong with imputing those base goals to a client, because those are the only things he can hope to gain from the law. If this renders lawyers "lobbyists for a peculiar view of human nature," it is not the lawyer's fault. It is the law's fault. The law is about cynicism, not conscience.

That is why the law really does exist to serve "bad men." And that is also why "good men" have little place in it. Once conscience enters the picture, law supplies no answer. Only ethics can appease the conscience.

Consequently, ethics and law do not mix. I don't care what any Bar Association, court or law professor says to the contrary. Law is external compliance. Ethics is conscientious belief.

And law cares not a fig for either conscience or belief.

Monday, January 25, 2010

WELCOME TO THE PROBLEM SHOP


A WORD FROM OUR SPONSORS

COME ON DOWN !!!!

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First-time problem buyers should start slow. Here at the Problem Shop, we want our customers to get only the problems they want--and only the problems they can handle. Although it would benefit us to sell you the biggest, most expensive problem on the shelf, we know it would not benefit you. In that light, we care about you. We do not want to sell heroin addiction, mental illness or terminal disease to a bright-faced young college student. Nor do we want to sell paraplegia to a 15-year-old. These are expensive problems. They are hard to handle. We would prefer to sell them to older folks who already have some experience dealing with problems.

So come on in for a free consultation. If you've never had a problem before, talk to us. We can offer you heartbreak following a kiddie crush for only $19.95. Or perhaps debt collection letters for a small bill, again for only $19.95. Parental abuse is a bit more expensive at $24.95, but you might learn more from a parent's fists than a debt collector's incessant phone calls. But that's why we are here: We are here to provide information to help you make the most intelligent decision you can about the problems you want in your life.

Once you've experimented with minor emotional and financial problems, you can graduate to more serious ones. Our "second-tier" problems will really build your character. Your friends will never ridicule you again if you purchase a home foreclosure for $49.95 or an eviction for $54.95. They might even have pity on you. If you are really feeling adventurous, you might even buy a moderately-severe health problem, such as Crohn's Disease, for just $59.99. Or you could try a serious emotional problem, such as divorce, starting at just $74.99. Acrimonious divorces--complete with court battles, custody fights, mutual recriminations, physical abuse and death threats--are more expensive; we recommend purchasing a simple divorce before experimenting with an acrimonious one.

We run the best problem retail outlet in town. We are so certain that our problems are better than our competitors' that we will match anyone's price. If you buy a stalker for $12.99 at any of our competitors' stores, we will match that price. PLUS we'll throw in an additional problem. With us, you will not just get a stalker for your money. You will get heartache following a child's death--a $9.99 value--ABSOLUTELY FREE. That's right, you heard it. ABSOLUTELY FREE. Here at the problem shop, we will not be undersold. We take problems seriously. To show you how much we care, we even GIVE AWAY free problems. We are committed to our customers.

At the Problem Shop, we not only offer the lowest prices. We also sell only top-quality problems. Sure, our competitors might sell bargain paternity suits for $49.99. But our paternity suits are much better. With us, you not only get the agony of court process, wage garnishment, arguments with your former lover and wrangling with police officers over money. You also get the added difficulty of having to prove that you are not the child's father--and failing in that quest. Our competitors offer simpler problems. Their paternity suit is too easy. With us, you get the basic problem PLUS emotional, financial and health complications. Who else can offer that? When you're buying a problem, you deserve all the little problems that come along with it. Don't settle for less.

So what are you waiting for? Haven't you had enough ease in your life? Step up to the plate and buy some problems. Be a man. Stop living for enjoyment and comfort. Show that you can handle adversity, too. Grow as a person, will you? Get off that couch and buy a debilitating accident for just $149.99. Show that you can get over the emotional turmoil that flows from losing a limb for just $159.99. Lose a parent for a special introductory price of only $99.99. Suffer unjust persecution and racial hatred for $199.99. Get some real problems and grow as a person.

No one will remember the guy who sits around in comfort. They will remember the guy who faced unimaginable difficulty and survived. If you act NOW we will even sell you a DOUBLE PROBLEM for one low price, such as our special Marital Betrayal/Homicide package or Sexual Dysfunction/Suicidal Depression combo.

Stop waiting. Buy some problems TODAY. Don't let our pricing scare you away. We offer competitive financing to all those who apply. There are no credit checks. There are no hidden fees. There are no contracts. There is no obligation. There is no "catch."

At the Problem Shop, we have a simple philosophy: Everyone who wants a problem should get one, regardless of their ability to pay. If you act NOW we will sweeten the deal even more. Starting TODAY, we offer zero-percent interest financing through 2014. That means you can buy sudden spousal disability with a lifetime homecare commitment TODAY for NO MONEY DOWN. No, you didn't imagine it. We meant what we said: NO MONEY DOWN. You won't owe us a dime for your problem until 2014. This is not a joke. Act TODAY and we'll even throw in a collector's edition coffee mug featuring the words "YOU THINK YOU GOT PROBLEMS?" ABSOLUTELY FREE (that's an $8.99 value).

So do yourself a favor. Start thinking about yourself for once. Don't be afraid. Come on down to the Problem Shop and pick out the problem that is right for you. Our friendly, professional sales team is ready to assist you. You can do so much with your life; we have a problem to match every lifestyle. It is never too early to complicate your existence. It is never too early to start worrying and suffering. Here at the Problem Shop, we can guide you in the right direction. We offer every imaginable life problem. If you want to be un-friended by a love interest on a dating website, we've got you covered. If you want to find out you have cancer, we've got you covered. You name the problem; we deliver.

At the Problem Shop, no problem is too little. We can sell it to you at an affordable price, every time. We even offer FREE SHIPPING!

Stop making excuses. Stop being happy. It's time for some problems. It's time for some challenges. You need adversity in your life. You want to grow as a person, don't you? And you want that free coffee mug, don't you?

Friday, January 22, 2010

THE POST OFFICE : A WORLD FREE FROM BUSINESS PRESSURE

A REFLECTION

Several weeks ago, I walked down to the post office on 18th Street. I had to send a letter by "Certified Mail," and it's easier to do that at the post office. So off I went to Old Chelsea Station.

Old Chelsea Station is old. Very old. The building probably dates from the 1920s. It has faux stone pillars and pale green deco linoleum floors. Notices about wanted criminals and special postal offers line the peeling walls. Some notices are over ten years old. The employees work behind ornate, dull bronze bars and a marble counter top. It even smells old in Old Chelsea Station. It is a place that time forgot. And it's oddly comforting.

I filled out my Certified Mail form on a marble table that probably has been in the same place since FDR ruled the White House. I stuck the form on my letter and put it in the "Certified Mail" slot. The slots looked original, too. Faded gold letters adorned them: "Regular Mail," "Express Mail," etc. I looked up and saw a faded gold Federal emblem with an eagle on it. It said "The United States Postal Service" under it.

I left Old Chelsea Station. I thought to myself: "So this is what the world would be like without private enterprise."

I felt at ease at Old Chelsea Station because I could feel continuity with the past. All too often in America, things change overnight. Businesses open and close. Buildings change with the times. People move in and out. Commerce is tough. People either hack it fast or they lose. They need to stay current to compete. If they don't, they go out of business. In the process, they lose touch with the past and live perpetually in the present.

Not so at the post office. Under the Constitution, the Federal government has a "postal monopoly." U.S. Const. Art. I sec. 8, cl. 7. The government manages post offices. They are public institutions. They do not exist for private profit, nor must they worry about the rent. Rather, they get their money from Washington. They don't have to worry about bad months or changing times. They can just keep doing what they have always done.

That is why Old Chelsea Station looks and smells the way it does. It does not need to change. The buidling opened in the 1920s to handle mail services in the neighborhood. It does exactly the same thing today. It does not have competitors. It does not fight a frantic battle every month to scrounge enough money to pay the bills. As such, it can move leisurely. It does not need to renovate every few years. It does not need expensive decorations or gaudy advertisements. It does not need to install creature comforts for customers. It can just stay the way it has always been.

Private enterprise pushes businesses into a life-or-death struggle. Unlike the post office, private businesses need to adapt to survive. They need to constantly change their look. They need to advertise and promote. They need to remain attractive to consumers. In short, they need to stay modern. If a private business operated like the post office, it would have failed decades ago. In private commerce, people need to stay on their toes. They can't worry about continuity. They need to change fast or die.

Perhaps progress depends on this life-or-death struggle. Perhaps society benefits when private economic actors ruthlessly compete with each other to deliver better products and please more people. But that struggle transforms life into one vast, bitter, breathless race. And that race lives in the present moment. The past vanishes. The future does not exist. The race is all. In private commerce, it is all about today. No wonder Americans have such short memories: They can't think about yesterday or they lose the economic battle today.

It is so easy to forget what came before us. I marvel at history. People find it strange that I obsess about things that used to exist in New York decades ago, like the Third Avenue El and S. Klein's Department Store on Union Square. They wonder why I care. I care because the past means something. We can understand the world better when we know what existed before we showed up. We can put things in historical context. Yet it is so easy to lose sight of context because commerce sweeps the past away without a trace. Commerce swept away S. Klein's and the Third Avenue El long ago.

But it did not sweep away Old Chelsea Station. The post office is immune from private commercial pressures. It gives us an insight into bygone times. And it shows us what life might be like without financial worry. True, it might be slow and inefficient. But sometimes it's refreshing to slow down and just remember once in a while. Sometimes it's refreshing to put the present on hold and just look around.

You can do that at Old Chelsea Station.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

PEOPLE UNITED FOR A SHIRTLESS ABERCROMOCRACY UNDER LAW


A STATEMENT OF POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY

By : Mr. Archer D. Whipporwhorol IV, Party Spokesman and Abercrombie & Fitch Model; Age 18; pure Anglo-Saxon ancestry dating to 986 AD; Fifth-generation student, The Bluemeadow School, Upper Valeridge, New York (Specialization in Lacrosse and Croquet); Owner of 56 pair of flip-flops, 34 button-down shirts, 76 adjustable-collar polo-style shirts, 18 pair of torn jeans, 27 pair of cargo-style knee-length shorts, 34 assorted bracelets and necklaces, 86 pair of khaki trousers; Member, Fairhollow Beach Club (a private beach association on the Atlantic Coast); Photographs extremely well in black-and-white.

Our country is ready for Abercromocracy under law. We have experimented too long with popular government. Democratic government does not work. Rather, only Abercromocracy can rescue America from its woes: Government by impossibly good-looking, shirtless, post-pubescent Abercrombie & Fitch models like me.

America deserves exceptionally good-looking people in the highest offices. For too long, America has allowed extremely ugly, old and out-of-shape people to run its affairs. This is unfair to the American people. The American people want sex-drenched youthful exuberance in their leaders. They want their rulers to rule by merit: Merit in rippling teenage abs, merit in luscious lips, merit in inaccessible yet alluringly vacant looks, merit in dreamy yet intent eyes, merit in slanted nipples, merit in chest definition, merit in gorgeous smiles, merit in sand-covered tanned skin, merit in sparkling toes, merit in volleyball ability and merit in sun-tossed blondishness.

It's time to end ugliness in government. It's time to let beautiful people run the show.

Let's face it. America loves looking at us. We are the most stunningly beautiful people in the country. Whether male or female, we excite lust in everyone: Gay, straight and everything in between. Our carefree youthfulness transcends class barriers and unites everyone. Everyone wants to be like us. Everyone wants to frolic shirtless with us in the sand and wear our flip-flops. Everyone wants to dance naked with us near a beach bonfire late into the night. And everyone wants to wake up half-naked next to us as the summer dawn breaks over the beach horizon. In short, we turn every American on: Just look at all the clothes they buy from us.

We believe that our ability to excite lust makes us uniquely qualified to handle American government. After all, there is little difference between wise political rule and lust. A great politician arouses passions in the people, just as our impossibly good looks arouse insistent cravings in our followers. Leadership requires passion. We can generate that. And we are sure that most Americans would rather hear about job creation from a beautiful 19-year-old beach god than some stunted 67-year-old with bad hair.

Good-looking people command obedience. People like to look at us. They are more willing to look at us than some overweight career politician who eats donuts and never surfs. When people look at us, they get lost in our fantastically blue eyes. They drift away thinking about our beautiful skin and sun-tossled blond locks. They do anything we say. That is what leadership is all about. After all, we have good ideas. We are the best people. We are Abercromocrats.

Not everyone can be an Abercromocrat. Only current Abercrombie & Fitch models qualify. America does not want wrinkled people making top political decisions. America does not want facial hair and beer guts deciding what happens to our economy. And America does not want old people telling it what to do. Rather, America wants aloof, youthful, seductive and carefree teenagers dictating policy. Americans listen to us. They want to be like us. We are beauty incarnate. And beauty is power.

It is only natural that we should hold political power in this country. Our stunning beauty entitles us to rule everyone who is less good-looking than we are. We do not have pockmarks or pimples. We do not have back hair or bad breath. We do not have canker sores or discolored skin. We are not bald. We are not lame. We are strong, slender, sun-bronzed and mind-numbingly sexy. We dominate the lacrosse field and the volleyball square. We have merit. Not everyone can be an Abercrombie & Fitch model. Not everyone can stare at a camera as intently as we can with our piercing Anglo-Saxon eyes. And not everyone has nipples like us. Put simply, we are perfect. It is only fitting that the perfect rule the imperfect.

Our opponents say that beauty is not the only thing in the world. They say that our impossible beauty does not qualify us to handle the complicated intellectual issues that arise in American government. They say that we are too young to understand how to resolve foreign crises, manage the Federal Reserve system and save the economy from destruction. Worse, our opponents claim that we are arrogant, overprivileged and superficial rich kids who know nothing about real life.

Our opponents can moan all they want. They are ugly and overweight. No matter what they say, they shop at our stores. They secretly admire our pictures and wish they could watch us dance naked on the beach. We are more powerful than they will ever be. And to their criticisms we say this: Beauty makes perfection. We are perfect. Any course we adopt for America will be perfect, too. We are certain that America will rally behind us. When Americans drool over their political leaders, there is nothing we cannot accomplish as a Nation.

In the Abercromocratic State, image is everything. Whenever we appear in public, we must be filmed in grainy black-and-white in a carefree atmosphere. We will give press conferences from the beach. Male Abercromocrats must always remain shirtless. Female Abercromocrats must always wear short shorts and tight-fitting tops. For important policy statements, male Abercromocrats must lie down, rest their heads on their hands and wear only tight underpants. Justices of the Abercromocratic Supreme Court must wear sexy bandanas, tank tops and flip-flops. In our perfect Abercromocracy, we will solve every problem with youthful beauty alone. We need nothing else.

America is tired of listening to ugly old people talk about complicated political issues. America wants change. America wants a youthful face. For that reason, we must embrace Abercromocracy. This is the only natural thing to do. We have merit. We have abs. We are not old and tired. We play beachball all day and party deep into every night. We are unafraid to kayak naked or climb mountains in our underwear. Our pictures hypnotize everyone who beholds them. We deserve to rule because we have already won America's respect. We do not need to fuss around in elections or convince people that we know how to solve problems. Our ability is self-evident: We are shockingly beautiful half-naked men and women whose youthful lustiness oozes from every pore in our bodies. What more do we need to rule the greatest country on earth?

Democracy is overrated. It is a deviant government because it permits unnaturally ugly people to participate in important State policy. It has failed. Government by short, fat, hairy people has led this country to the brink of economic collapse. It is time to restore natural order to government. To do that, we must abandon Democracy and adopt Abercromocracy. When the most beautiful members of the species rule, we please nature. And when we please nature, our State can do no wrong. Just as the strongest and lustiest lions rule the pride, so too must the strongest and lustiest Abercrombie & Fitch models rule the United States. Nature chose us not only to excite lust in everyone who buys flip-flops and prewashed high-collar polo shirts with the emblem "92" on the sleeve. Nature also chose us to rule everyone too ugly to rule themselves. That is why we must adopt Abercromocracy: It is the only natural thing to do.

We can no longer afford to delude ourselves that everyone is equal in the United States. Just look at us. Our staggering beauty proves that we are not equal. We are the best. In that light, it makes sense to let us rule. Just as a coach chooses only the best players to make the team, so too must America allow the best people to rule the rest.

We are the best people. We have the best faces and the best teeth. We have the best skin and the best tongues. Our bodies are immaculate. They inspire envy and awe in all who see them. What more do we need to convince America that we must rule?

Join us in our quest to end the deviant social experiment called "American Democracy." If you are tired of unqualified, fat, ugly, hairy people dictating how you live, you must yield all political power to the Abercromocrats. We know how to rule. Nature chose us for a reason. It is pointless to resist nature. Plus we look oh-so-good in flip-flops.

Do the natural thing. Establish Abercromocracy before this country slips into oblivion.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

DOMINIC CARTER, CRIME AND CHANGING PUNISHMENT IN AMERICA

AN ESSAY

A few months ago, I wrote a short article about Dominic Carter, the former New York 1 anchorman who allegedly beat his wife. I used Mr. Carter's story to illustrate how difficult it is to "prove" things in our empirically-based evidence system. Now, a State court in New York has sentenced Mr. Carter to an unusual punishment for attempted assault. This presents compelling new issues.

Just as Mr. Carter's case provided an excellent vehicle to discuss evidence law, his sentence now provides an excellent vehicle to discuss criminal penalties in modern America. Put simply, criminal penalties are changing in America. And they are drifting far from their traditional purposes. In my view, this is not a good thing.

According to the New York Post, Mr. Carter was convicted of attempted assault for pervasively abusing his wife since 1997. See N.Y. Post, Crying shame of jailed NY1 journo, Jan. 15, 2010 at 5. Although his wife denied that Mr. Carter beat her, the trial judge--Arnold Etelson--referenced police reports detailing marital strife in the Carter home for over a decade. Id. He sentenced Mr. Carter to 30 days' imprisonment. Id. He also ordered Mr. Carter to "stay away" from his wife for two years unless "he is prescribed medication by a psychiatrist able to assure the judge that [he] is well enough to see her." Id. Additionally, the judge gave Mr. Carter an article from New York Magazine detailing Matt Damon's views about "honesty and humility." Id. During sentencing, he told Mr. Carter: "Try some humility and honesty--it goes a long way." Id. Finally, the judge gave Mr. Carter's wife a sticker with the words "Attitude Makes the Difference. " Id. He instructed her to affix the sticker to her bathroom mirror so that Mr. Carter can see it when he visits. Id.

This is highly irregular judicial work. As a general rule, the criminal law forbids specifically defined conduct. The criminal justice system decides whether the defendant engaged in that conduct, then neutrally decrees the legal consequences. While morality animates all criminal codes, it is not for judges in the criminal justice system to pontificate about it, let alone publicly scold criminals for sport. This New York judge transformed his courtroom into an entertainment circus. And the spotlight was not on Mr. Carter--it was on the judge.

To start, it is strange that Judge Etelson characterized these facts as "attempted" assault. At common law--and under New York State law--an assault means an intentionally harmful or offensive touching. See, e.g. NYPL § 120.00, et seq. Any intentional crime can be "attempted" if the defendant intends to achieve the bad result envisioned in the criminal code, then takes some action corroborating that intent. But it is no longer "attempt" when the defendant achieves exactly what the law forbids. Here, the judge relied on police reports that detailed Mr. Carter's abuse. They all but verified that he had routinely hit his wife since 1997. If the judge believed those reports, then he should have convicted Mr. Carter of assault, not attempted assault. If Mr. Carter succeeded in harmfully or offensively touching his wife, it was no longer attempted assault. It was just plain old assault--and it's a worse crime than attempted assault.

But Judge Etelson's legal errors pale in comparison with his bizarre approach to criminal penalties. Traditionally, criminal penalties in America--as in all Western countries--target the body and property. The law assumes that people do not want to suffer bodily pain or lose their property, so penalties targeting those things ostensibly dissuade potential criminals from making "bad choices." The death penalty, imprisonment, fines and corporal punishment encompass everything a State can realistically do to penalize crime.

In modern America, imprisonment is the preferred penalty. Fines follow in second place. Most consider corporal punishment an archaic penalty; it really never happens anymore. The death penalty is more common. Still, State-ordered death is quite a rare punishment, too.

Judge Etelson did not give Mr. Carter a traditional punishment. Rather, he theatrically used Mr. Carter as an instrument. The only traditional part about Mr. Carter's sentence was his imprisonment. To some, thirty days in prison for attempted assault might appear harsh. But no one would call it bizarre. People expect either fines or imprisonment for crimes in America. The criminal justice system works in part because the public knows what to expect for certain transgressions. They trust judges to declare penalties that everyone expects. At the same time, they understand that even a convicted criminal is entitled to some dignity before the law. He need not be publicly humiliated, ridiculed or belittled in the courtroom. His prison term and social ostracism accomplish that on their own. It is not the judge's role to morally grandstand or scold. He simply must pronounce sentence. Legislators moralize when they write the laws. Judges should not.

What does a New York Magazine article or a sticker have to do with the law? When did Matt Damon become a legal authority? True, "honesty, humility and a good attitude" are virtues. But it is not the law's role to chastise people for failing to be virtuous. The law's only role is to decree whether a person acted in a defined way. It does not matter whether he was virtuous or not when he did. A defendant suffers enough when a judge declares the penalty for violating the law; he does not need to "rub it in" by acting the moralist. In fact, I argue that judges overstep their bounds when they do.

I understand that people like to see criminals squirm. But their convictions should make them squirm, not a judge's moralizing antics. If every judge took it upon himself to act like Judge Etelson, our criminal justice system would look more like a Catholic school than a neutral forum for just laws. In a word, it is not a judge's job to castigate a convict's moral failings. Moral failings are irrelevant to the law. And the law is the only thing that judges are constitutionally empowered to decide. Anything else they say is unauthorized fluff.

Judge Etelson-style grandstanding is not the only abomination that occurs in our criminal justice system. Now, criminal penalties also increasingly intertwine with psychiatry. Mr. Carter's case is no exception. In his sentence, Judge Etelson conditioned Mr. Carter's future with his wife on his agreement to take psychiatric medications. He also retained discretion whether to permit Mr. Carter to see her, depending on whether a psychiatrist could assure him that he was "well enough."

Are these judicial inquiries? If they are, do they not negate the State's moral outrage against Mr. Carter? After all, if the court believes that Mr. Carter needs psychiatric medication, that means he is mentally ill. If he was mentally ill at the time he struck his wife, that makes him far less morally blameworthy. After all, the criminal law depends upon free, rational choice for its moral strength. It is easy to condemn someone who knowingly makes a bad choice. But it is not easy to condemn someone who lacked the mental composure to make choices, let alone recognize they were wrong.

In this case, Judge Etelson tried to wear too many hats. He wanted to punish Mr. Carter for doing something that violated the law. But then he stepped back and ordered Mr. Carter to take psychiatric medications for his "mental problems." Put simply, judges are not psychiatrists. They are not social workers. It is not their job to monitor people's behavior once they serve their sentences. Nor is it their job to declare whether people are "normal." Rather, they are mere judicial officers, and it's not a complicated job. It is not about management; it is about judgment: Did the defendant do this or not? If he did, he goes to jail. If he didn't, he goes free.

There is undoubtedly a relationship between law and psychiatry. But a judge's only concern with psychiatry is to determine whether a defendant is mentally well enough to be criminally responsible. If he is, that ends the inquiry. In fact, judges must be extremely wary when dealing with psychiatry in criminal cases. After all, the entire rationale for criminal punishment collapses as soon as psychiatry shows that the defendant cannot make rational choices. In that light, judges should tread lightly when tampering with psychiatric issues. They might just discover that the "evil defendant" is really no ogre at all. He might just be "sick." And it is not proper to morally condemn sick people, let alone jail them for choices they could not make. For better or worse, the law only works on sane people.

I doubt that Judge Etelson understood all these issues when he entertained the news media during Dominic Carter's sentencing last week. From his perspective, he was in the spotlight and he was going to relish the moment. He was not content to play the neutral magistrate who calmly decrees the legal consequences of statutory violations. No, he had to play the scolding father, too, as well as the psychiatrist and the actor.

I do not like this. While it may be impossible to separate law from popular morality, judges should consciously try to do so. True, laws enshrine popular morality. But they are not moral weapons. They are technical guidelines. It does not matter whether a law-abiding citizen is moral; he must merely not violate the technical guidelines. Morality is about character. Law is about conduct. It is much easier to control conduct than character. And a judge simply declares whether the individual in question violated the conduct guideline.

Well, at least that's what a judge is supposed to do. American criminal law is changing for the worse because the distinction between morality and law is eroding every day. Just look at the Carter case. It's all right there to see.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A PRIVATELY-OWNED FIRE DEPARTMENT MEANS GREATER SAFETY FOR ALL

AMERICAN ENTREPRENEURS' SERIES

By : Mr. F. Harrison Feuerbach, M.B.A., C.P.A., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Wellstone Solutions & Financing Co., Inc. (a Delaware Corporation specializing in service to private-sector incursions into public markets) (1991-present); Member, the Princeton Club of Greater Washington, D.C. (1975-present); Spokesman, Investors for Freedom, a private-interest organization committed to deregulation and economic self-sufficiency (2003-present); Antique Coin Collector; Owner, Harry's Red-Hot Frank Stand (1983-present), Chicago, IL; Victoria's Secret Enthusiast.

It is hard to read the newspaper without encountering a story about brave firefighters. We hear about daring rescues and self-sacrifice. We hear about fearless men who risk everything to pull children away from deadly flames. We even hear touching tales about firefighters who save treasured pets from certain death. On 9/11, firefighters' sacrifices elevated them to near-mythic status in our society. In New York, they even publish a calendar in which they model their flawless bodies for all to admire. Put simply, firefighters enjoy hero status.

People like firefighters because they fight for everyone. They do not distinguish between rich and poor. They risk their lives to save people from burning buildings. That is a noble enterprise. And they do it because it is "a public service." The public likes firefighters because they think firefighters are "working for them," not just for a paycheck. There is a "firefighter spirit" that many find extremely appealing. After all, most people in life just want more money. Firefighters, by contrast, take fulfillment from saving lives, not expanding their bank accounts.

But do you have any idea how expensive it is to maintain a fire department? Fire trucks and fire stations cost money. Every time a fire truck goes out on a call, it costs hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. Every time an ambulance hauls some burn victim to the hospital, that's another few hundred grand. And that's not all. Just keeping firemen fed and ready costs a fortune--those guys can eat. In this sense, while people may admire firefighters for their public service, they sure are paying for it.

In the final analysis, we maintain fire departments because we trust them to keep us safe. Expressed in market terms, fire departments sell safety and safety-related services. If a fire department cannot keep us safe, it is not doing its job. A fire department is "good" if it delivers effective safety-related services in a timely manner. That is really what it's all about. All the mythology and hero worship are really just secondary to the main issue: Selling safety.

In America, it is always more efficient to entrust market activity to private actors. Yet for some reason, municipalities all over the country have decided that fire departments should survive on the public dole. This makes no sense. If municipalities want greater safety, they should open up the market to private entrepreneurs who can compete to deliver more safety to the buying public. At the same time, when private entrepreneurs compete, they have a direct financial interest in satisfying the consumer. That leads to greater innovation and development. Think about it: Because firefighters never faced private competition, they just kept using the same fire-fighting technology that their great-great-grandfathers used: They just spray water on them. But if private firms compete to fight fires, who knows what miraculous new fire-squelching technologies they will discover.

It is time to break the hypnosis surrounding public fire departments. It is time for innovation and customer satisfaction. It is no excuse to say that fire departments have "always been public organizations." In America, we do not rely exclusively on tradition to light our way on modern questions. Rather, when it comes to product delivery, we trust the market. Fire departments deliver a product to market. There is no reason why private firms should not have a chance to deliver a better one at a better price. When they do, the public will receive better fire protection. Consumers will also have greater choice in deciding which fire companies to hire for their safety needs. And firefighters will have a real financial interest in putting out fires. What better way to motivate a fireman to put out a fire than to promise him a healthy profit for a job well done?

We believe that private fire departments will stop fires far better than public ones. No longer will citizens wait for fire trucks to show up. No longer will they tolerate antiquated firefighting methods. And no longer will they pay exorbitant taxes to sustain outmoded "public servants." In a word, when private enterprise competes for business in any area, the public always wins. In this case, the public will benefit from competition in fire protection because the public will be safer. Hiring private fire departments is the answer.

We recognize that it will take some time for the public to adjust to private fire protection. After all, people are accustomed to free public fire protection services. When their houses catch fire, they expect the fire department to show up, put out the fire and charge in to save their lives. They do not expect a bill for those services. After the fire, they simply thank their rescuers. Then they start picking through the ashes to put their lives back together.

But private fire protection services require different protocols. Efficient safety delivery services are not free. In order to enjoy top-notch fire protection technologies, private fire department customers will need to pay first. When a house catches fire, the owner must come downstairs to negotiate a price with the firm's fire safety delivery sales representative. Private fire safety delivery personnel will not begin work until the affected homeowner signs a contract promising to pay the firm's rate, as well as to indemnify all firm employees against harm or injury. Firm employees will not begin fighting the fire until they verify the homeowner's credit and back account information. Homeowners with insufficient funds or credit will not be able to obtain professional fire protection services.

These protocols may surprise citizens accustomed to free public firefighting services. After all, it may seem callous that firefighting professionals would let children burn to death simply because their parents cannot pay the firefighting bill. But timely payment is essential to private enterprise. The entire system would collapse if private businesses do not receive timely compensation for their services. No business would have an incentive to deliver top-notch private fire safety services if it were not assured that customers would pay. As we saw, it is not cheap to run a fire department. Unless customers pay fair market rates for fire protection services, private enterprise would not effectively do its work. Thus, affected homeowners must pay in advance for fire protection services, even if that means their family burns in the meantime. Ensuring payment is the only way to assure vigorous, efficient free market competition.

In the end, firefighting is about safety. Safety is a market product like any other. Private enterprise always delivers products more efficiently than public bureaus. Just as private security firms sell security more efficiently than the police department, so too will private fire protection firms sell fire protection more efficiently than the fire department. Some may find it unfortunate that private services cost money. But money makes things get done so much better.

And the fact remains that better services go to those who can pay for them. Private firefighters do their jobs twice as hard as public firefighters because they actually stand to gain something beyond a bum city paycheck; if they work hard, they might even earn shares in the company. That means private firefighters deliver much more safety than comparable public firefighters. In sum, then, private fire departments will deliver greater safety than public ones.

Privatizing fire departments is an American solution to a genuine national problem. While some say that public service is its own reward, we must disagree. For every critic who claims that a public fireman comes home happy that he "helped people" on the job, we will show you a private fireman who comes home far happier that he just made $100,000 for rescuing children and an antique billiard table. When firemen work harder, everyone is safer. Public service does not induce firemen to work harder. After all, what incentive does a fireman have to put out more fires if he knows he'll get $41,000 pretax a year no matter how many fires he puts out? Why not entice firemen to work harder? To do that, we must make it worth their while. That means instilling the spirit of private enterprise in our firemen. And to do that, we need to make fire departments for-profit ventures.

America does not want governmental interference in private business arrangements. If a product can be sold, Americans want fair prices and innovation, not long waits and lackluster service. Fire safety is a product like any other. In that light, there is no reason why the private market cannot deliver it far more effectively than some ponderous government bureau.

Fire safety is about protecting people. It's time to let Americans choose how to protect themselves from fires. Public service is not the answer. Only motivated, private firefighters will deliver quality fire safety services at the price Americans deserve. It's time to make firefighters into something more than heroes. It's time to make them entrepreneurs with a stake in quality product delivery.

This is not just about saving people from fires. This is about the freedom to choose. Choose private enterprise. You and your children will sleep better in the knowledge that efficient, cost-effective fire protection services are just a phone call away.

Stop the inefficiency. Stop the stagnation. Privatize NOW.

Monday, January 18, 2010

IS AMBITION A BAD WORD?

AN ESSAY

I am ambivalent about ambition. In America, people generally think that ambition is a good thing. It reflects the urge to "do better" and to "get ahead" in society, or in any competitive endeavor. It only makes sense that "ambition" finds a cozy home in America. After all, this country perpetuates a myth that "anyone" can succeed here as long as they work hard and persevere through difficulty. Ambition is all they need to force their way to the top.

Or, at least, that's what the myth says. In my experience, I have learned that success in America is not so simple. Many things can go wrong. Ambition alone will not deliver success. Some people are born into the wrong families. Some suffer accidents and mishaps. Others just lose interest. Often, it's not their fault that they fail. Chance and timing have a tremendous influence on success. Ambition alone does not cut it.

Despite this, American mythology extols ambition. In most cases, Americans favorably use the word: "He is so focused and ambitious; he will be successful." Even those who already have achieved success say to others: "I was ambitious. I made it. You can, too." At funerals, eulogists sing hymns to ambition: "As a young man, he was so ambitious. He succeeded and he provided for his family." And some even equate ambition with progress. Abraham Lincoln alluded to ambition when he suggested awarding royalties to patent-seekers: "Patents add the fuel of interest to the fire of genius." Second Lecture on Discoveries and Inventions (1859).

If ambition is so great, why am I ambivalent about it? I'm ambivalent about it because there is a very dark side to ambition that reflects fundamental problems in our society's values. Lincoln's quote provides a good introduction. He uses a "fire" analogy to describe ambition-fueled "genius." Ambition is like a flame that consumes the individual, driving him toward a coveted goal. The goal might not be praiseworthy at all, but the ambitious man will burn until he fulfills it. Ambition is consumptive. It overwhelms the individual. It makes him ruthless, unscrupulous and uncompromising. In short, it possesses him.

But consumptiveness is not the only thing that makes ambition problematic. It is also problematic because it has an exclusively external focus. Grammatically, ambition requires an object. In almost every case, that object is external "success." People are ambitious for fame, wealth, advancement, recognition, praise, influence and power. They want to be seen by others in a particular way, or they want to possess things that give them authority over others. To achieve these things, they must focus their energy outwardly. They need not look within themselves for strength or meaning. They do not even need to be true to themselves. No, their fulfillment comes from external success--and the tangible rewards it brings.

Ambition is about recognition. It is about the audience. After all, only the audience can decide whether to recognize the performer. And only the audience can give the coveted ovation.

Ambition bothers me because I believe that external success frustrates individual virtue. To win recognition, you need to play by others' rules. You even need to be unscrupulous. A truly ambitious person "stops at nothing" to achieve his goal. That makes it difficult for him to adhere to principles that would constrain his actions. Honor requires a person to think as much about how he achieves a goal as the goal itself. But ambition drives a person to disregard everything as long as he achieves the goal. In this sense, ambition and honor exclude each other. Virtue is honor. That is why ambition frustrates individual virtue.

Aristotle supports my position on this point. While analyzing the Spartan Constitution in The Politics, Aristotle strongly criticizes Sparta's legislative body--the Board of Elders--because election to the Board required ambition. See The Politics, Book II, ch. ix ¶1271a9. He writes: "[I]t is all wrong that a person who is going to be deemed worthy of the office should himself solicit it. Whether he wants it or not, the man to hold office is the man who is fit for it." Id. In other words, Aristotle found a flaw in Sparta's decision to entrust politicians with a choice whether to run for office, because only ambitious people would ever make that choice. For Aristotle, personal virtue was much more important than personal ambition. Only personal virtue makes a man "fit" for office--or any other honor in life.

This may seem unreasonable to a modern American reader. After all, we learn that ambitious people are the ones who make all the money and win all the success. To the American mind, it is only natural that the most ambitious man would nominate himself to hold political office. In America, personal virtue is irrelevant next to ambition. Personal virtue does not amass fortunes or start businesses; ambition does. In a strange transmutation, ambition became virtue in America. Ambition makes a man "fit," not adherence to metaphysical principles. The fact that only "really successful" people win high office reveals how strongly commerce has infiltrated American culture. Commerce has drowned all personal virtue. And it has supplanted honor with ambition as the most essential social characteristic.

In commercial America, people want power. It takes money to get power. And it takes ruthless ambition to make money in our brutally competitive free market system. In this environment, honor does not stand a chance. Ambition is the only thing that can steel men enough to survive it.

This is not a good development. When ambition overtakes honor in society, we can expect bad things. Aristotle warned about ambition in strong terms: "Yet the truth is that men's ambition and their desire to make money are among the most frequent causes of deliberate acts of injustice." The Politics, Book II ch. ix ¶1271a9.

Aristotle knew what he was talking about. He correctly equated ambition with "deliberate acts of injustice" because ambition necessarily overshadows honor. Honor imposes limits on the means by which people achieve goals. Ambition lifts those limits. When men no longer observe honor in dealing with others, they gladly commit injustice. Their burning desire to make money overwhelms all other considerations; results are everything. They are not afraid to bend rules, dissemble, exploit and cut corners to achieve the results they seek.

By contrast, an honorable man would refuse to do these things. He would insist on "justice." But in commerce, this places an honorable man at a material disadvantage; an honorable man will always lose to an ambitious one. An ambitious man does not tie his hands with "ethics;" he is not even afraid to fight dirty when he must. In the end, the ambitious man achieves the goal, wins the power and ultimately takes high office. When ambition leads to such tangible rewards, who wouldn't want to be ambitious?

Probably not many. Nonetheless, I venture that honor offers its own rewards. Success can be measured in ways beyond salaries and fame. Some success is purely internal. Some success flows from personal excellence and adherence to personal standards. Put differently, it can be rewarding to be ethical. Although ethics may impede ambition and external success, it leads to virtue. It may be an antiquated sentiment to say that success means being honorable. But I really think it does.

External success is overrated. I leave it to the ambitious to chase external recognition and rewards. For my part, I am content to live according to my own heart and my own principles. I strive to do wrong to no one, not to make a certain salary. I strive to help those who need it, not to win praises from a supervisor. I burn to express my own personality, not to tailor my speech for a money prize. Call me old-fashioned--or even antiquated--but honor is very important to me.

But I can't be ambitious for honor. True honor exists without a need for external recognition or reward. Honor does not bestow career advancement, at least not consciously. No, ambition only works for those who crave external rewards. By contrast, honor is an internal reward. It is inwardly fulfilling. As such, ambition will not help you find honor--or "achieve" it. In fact, while it may be an achievement to live with honor, there's no trophy or plaque to commemorate the day you became honorable.

That's what an ambitious person will never understand.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

AID TO HAITI IS AID TO AL QAEDA : DON'T BELIEVE THE LIES


DICK CHENEY SPEAKS OUT FOR AMERICA

By : Mr. Richard B. Cheney, Former Vice President of the United States of America (2001-2009); Chairman of the Board of Directors, Halliburton Co. (1993-2000); Secretary of Defense Under President George H.W. Bush (1989-1993); Energy Expert; Security Expert; Last Published Gross Income (2001): $36,100,000.

Two days ago, President Barack Hussien Obama pledged a fortune in U.S. aid to Haiti. He said that America "has not forsaken you" and that "the entire world stands with you in your hour of need." Even now, President Obama is earmarking huge shipments of American food and medicine to Haiti. He even sent 5,700 American soldiers and physicians to aid "relief efforts."

President Obama is treading dangerously close to treason. In a word, America must provide no aid to Haiti, because Haiti is a Caribbean al Qaeda stronghold. Al Qaeda caused this earthquake, not Mother Nature. America must not support countries that support terror, especially countries that commit geological genocide on their own people. Put simply, President Obama is to blame for failing to spot this disaster before it struck; intelligence sources clearly indicated that al Qaeda was planning a seismological attack. Now he seeks to deflect the blame by playing the "humanitarian."

In 2003, I said: "We know to a certainty that terrorists are doing everything they can to gain even deadlier means of striking us." See N.Y. Times, Cheney Defends Administration's Handling of Iraq, Oct. 10, 2003. As the case in Haiti shows, the terrorists recently learned how to cause earthquakes using sophisticated fault manipulation techniques. CIA reports indicate that Haitian al Qaeda cells obtained quake-inducing equipment from Osama bin Laden's deputy chief--Yasim bin al-Faqda--in December 2009. They then traveled to a remote site south of Port-au-Prince where they triggered the massive quake that left 100,000 dead.

It is unfortunate that so many people died. But we can take solace in the fact that Haitians are al Qaeda supporters who hate America. For that reason, we cannot send aid to our enemies. We are in a War; our enemies are prepared to harness geological power to kill us, just as I warned in 2003. How can we win this War if we try to save our enemies? For every Haitian we pull from twisted wreckage, we save a future underwear bomber. Every time we save an injured Haitian mother with free medical care, we allow her to bear yet another al Qaeda murderer in the future.

No matter what the networks say, this is no "humanitarian disaster." This is terrorism; and America must not support it. When terrorists die, no American should shed a tear--let alone send donations.

President Obama cannot handle the War on Terror. In just three months, President Obama has failed to act on credible intelligence that could have averted three major terror strikes. First, he failed to stop al Qaeda's Fort Hood shooter from killing soldiers in Texas. Second, he failed to prevent Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from boarding plane in Holland with a bomb in his underwear. And last, he ignored clear warnings that al Qaeda possessed seismological terror weapons in Haiti.

Mr. President, when will you wake up? The American people refuse to live in fear. But they cannot live peacefully without protection from the Federal government. If President Obama continues to allow terrorists to strike freely, our entire country will collapse. Worse, President Obama perpetrates deliberate fraud on the American people by claiming that the attack in Haiti was actually a "natural disaster." Adding insult to injury, he now sends American treasure to the very people who mean to kill us.

Leaving terror to one side, America has no duty to help other countries in need. Even if Haiti were not a hornet's nest of anti-American Muslim extremism, America has no business solving other countries' problems. We do not provide free medical care to our own people. We expect self-reliance from them. Yet the moment some "disaster" strikes abroad, we immediately send elite American doctors and expensive pharmaceutical products to foreigners for free. I'm sure many Americans would like the same treatment that impoverished Sudanese and Haitians receive for nothing.

This is a national disgrace; it must stop. Health care is expensive enough for Americans. We can neither allow nor afford to waste resources on Caribbean geological thugs.

Furthermore, we cannot allow ourselves to pity people who could have protected themselves. Every human being has a duty to look out for his own safety. If people suffer injury because they put themselves in harm's way, they do not deserve sympathy. And they certainly do not deserve handouts.

Haitians should have known that they lived on a major fault line. They should have heeded warnings that al Qaeda was planning to cause an earthquake along that fault line. They should have purchased airline tickets to safely carry them from the danger zone. In short, they should have minded their own safety. Yet millions stayed put. Just as New Orleans residents had a chance to flee imminent danger before Hurricane Katrina struck, so too did the Haitians have a chance to leave Haiti before al Qaeda triggered the earthquake. The fact that they suffered reflects their own negligence and stupidity, not "random misfortune." In that light, it makes no sense to pity Haitians--or send them money--for deliberately ignoring clear warnings. We do not pity people who lay on railroad tracks, then complain that a train cut off their legs. They could have just gotten off the tracks.

In sum, we cannot tolerate aid to Haiti. Aid to Haiti rewards irresponsibility and supports al Qaeda. Aid to Haiti sends a message to our enemies that we not only tolerate their attacks, but also that we will even give them free money when they strike. At this dangerous moment, we cannot allow pity to blind us to the fact that al Qaeda is stronger than ever. The attack on Haiti was merely a test; if we let down our guard now, San Francisco might be the next city to crumble.

President Obama has betrayed the American people. He not only ignored intelligence that could have prevented three terror strikes, but now he even aids an entire Nation of terrorists by cynically labeling the effort "humanitarian support." This is not what a Commander-in-Chief does in wartime. A Commander-in-Chief punishes enemies; he does not feed them or give them free American medicine. At a time when millions of Americans desperately need health care, President Obama should be ashamed for wasting American medical expertise on terrorists.

We should not waste our time or our money saving Jihadists in Haiti. Rather, we should be searching worldwide for al Qaeda's weapons of tectonic destruction. Who knows what fault lines they are now reconnoitering. Who knows what geological terror they are now plotting. As the Haiti attack shows, we are in very real seismological danger.

We must remember that the War on Terror is very real. We must not allow President Obama and his fawning networks to mislead us into thinking that the Haiti attack was a "natural disaster." This was no "natural event." This was deliberate mass murder.

I believe it my duty to tell the American people the truth. I am--and always will be--a public servant. When I perceive threats to the country I love, I disclose them to the extent permitted by applicable Homeland Security protocols. And when I see the President of the United States defrauding the Nation by masking support for terror as "humanitarian aid," I must speak.

Stop pitying Haiti. When terrorists die, America takes one step closer to victory in the War on Terror. Not only that, America has no duty to help impoverished Caribbean islands when they suffer difficulty. Americans make their own way; other countries should, too. We don't get free lunches; and we don't give them away, either.

Turn off that television set. Stop listening to Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper and Obama's other propagandists. Do not allow them to trick you into thinking that injured Haitians are worth saving. They are not. And don't even feel bad about it. It's not your responsibility to help them, even if they weren't terrorists.

Instead, listen to me. I was Vice President for eight years. I was Secretary of Defense for four. I led one of the Nation's most successful private corporations. I listen to CIA briefings. I care about this Nation's safety more than anyone else here. I know what I'm talking about. And I am looking out for you.

Protect yourself and your family. Stop worrying about Haiti. They got what was coming to them for supporting al Qaeda.

Now we must focus on ourselves. We must find al Qaeda's earthquake machine before bin Laden uses it on American fault lines. And we have no time to waste.