Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Time Is At Hand For The Left To Make A Serious Stand That Cannot Be Ignored!

The Time Is At Hand For The Left To Make A Serious Stand That Cannot Be Ignored!

That stand cannot be token or "Fair Weather Weekend Political Theater"; It Must Stop The Presses, Scream In The Headlines And Make Every Sunday Talking Heads "News" Broadcast.

“Most problems between countries and within countries can be handled with peaceful means. Violence and fighting is a last resort. But unfortunately, the U.S. has used it as a first resort too often.” - Marjorie Cohn-

U.S. Reps. John Dingell (D-15th District) and Dave Camp (R-4th District) were asked to respond to some of the concerns people are voicing across the country about the crucial issue of health care coverage for all American citizens.

In seeking comment from both political sides, The News-Herald Newspapers spoke to Dingell because he not only is the author of the 1,000-page plan under discussion, but also has represented southeastern Michigan for more than 50 years.

The newspaper also sought comment from the Republican Party, asking four members of the U.S. House of Representatives to respond to the issues before Camp agreed to participate. U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-6th District) initially was on board to participate, but at the last moment was involved with a deportation case. U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-8th District) did not respond to requests to participate.

U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter’s (R-11th District) office declined to respond to the issues, calling them, “Republican talking points.”

A third, neutral source, FactCheck.Org, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization formed in 2003, has written extensively on House Resolution 3200 and other proposals and also is cited.

FactCheck.Org is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania and receives no funding from business, labor, political parties, lobbyists or individuals.

Journalist Brooks Jackson, director of the organization, who covered Washington, D.C., politics for 34 years for The Associated Press, the Wall Street Journal and CNN, replied to three issues that FactCheck has not addressed. Those issues are Nos. 5, 9 and 10.

Issue 1: A “death panel” will be formed deciding what medical procedures are worthwhile to cover for people 50 years old and older on the national plan.

Dingell: There would be no “death panels” under the health care reform legislation currently before Congress. Some opponents of the bill have perpetuated such a lie in an effort to avoid an honest dialogue on the merits of health care reform.

The myth about “death panels” is nothing more than a fabrication to scare people into opposing the bill and has no grounding in reality.

Under the bill, the federal government would set minimum coverage standards for insurance plans, but would not set maximum limits on medical care.

The bill would not permit euthanasia. Opponents of the bill have pointed to Section 1233, which would allow Medicare to pay for seniors to have advance directive consultations with health care professionals to lay out their wishes for life-extending measures under various scenarios.

It would not require anyone to use the benefit, nor would it penalize those that do not. Patients and their families would consult with health professionals, not government officials, if they choose to use the benefit.

The provision has nothing to do with euthanasia and suggestions to the contrary are misinformed, at best.

Abortion would not be funded using federal tax dollars. An amendment was added to the bill in the Energy and Commerce Committee that explicitly states no public money can be used to fund abortions.

Camp: I understand why seniors are worried when their government starts advising them on end-of-life decisions. Those of us who care about protecting the most vulnerable in society do not want to see these sorts of policies enacted.

You, your doctor and your families should make decisions about your health care; not federal bureaucrats in Washington.

What’s more, the Democrats’ plan allows for taxpayer-funded abortions, and when Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee tried to prohibit this, the committee’s Democrats voted it down.

FactCheck: Death panel: The term “death panel” is not in the bill.

The phrase was first used in a Facebook entry by Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee. It surfaced over a portion of the bill allowing Medicare to reimburse people for consultations about end-of-life care, and would pay for those sessions, rather than making patients pay for them.

The sessions are not mandatory and come at a patient’s request or that of the family, not the doctors. The bill does not require patients to receive a counseling session.

Abortion: The bill currently being considered allows for the coverage of abortion, but does not require it.

The Capps amendment prohibits using public funds for abortion coverage, but the prohibition only applies to the “affordability” credit” of the public option, not all public funds. And there is nothing in the Capps amendment that prohibits the use of any type of public funds for abortions in the public option.

Euthanasia:There is nothing in the bill requiring euthanasia.

Page 425 addresses end-of-life services, which can include a consultation with a doctor regarding end-of-life issues, such as advance directives, living wills and durable power of attorney; palliative care and hospice care is voluntary under the bill.

Issue 2: Employers and employees who choose not to participate in a company-provided insurance will have to pay hefty fees, and if they choose not to pay they will go to jail or be fined.

Dingell: HR 3200 would require employers to provide health insurance to full-time employees.

An amendment that was added to the bill in the Energy and Commerce Committee markup would increase the number of small businesses exempt from the requirement.

Therefore, employers with payrolls under $500,000 would be exempt from the requirement. Employers with payrolls between $500,000 and $585,000 would pay a 2 percent fee for not providing insurance; employers with payrolls between $585,000 and 670,000 would pay 4 percent; and employers with payrolls between $670,000 and $750,000 would pay 6 percent.

Employers with payrolls over $750,000 would pay 8 percent. Employers would be required to pay some benefits for part-time employees on a basis proportional to what they pay for full-time employees.

Credits would be available to help small businesses afford health insurance for their employees.

The bill would also require that individuals carry insurance. Millions of Americans cannot afford insurance today, and the bill allocates affordability credits to help low- and moderate-income working families afford coverage, regardless of the plan they choose.

They would be able to purchase insurance through a health insurance exchange, in which individuals would be able to easily compare public and private plans and determine which plan best suits their needs and their budgets.

Individuals that choose not to carry coverage would be subject to a modest 2.5 percent surtax and there would be a hardship waiver for individuals who may not qualify for subsidies but are still unable to afford insurance.

Camp: Employers face hefty fees if they choose to not provide health insurance to their employees. Using the methodology of the president’s own economic advisers, these new taxes could cost millions of Americans their jobs.

FactCheck: Any individual who does not have acceptable health care will be taxed 2.5 percent of their modified adjusted gross income for the year as a penalty.

The total cannot exceed a national average premium for individual coverage or family coverage.

There is nothing in the section about part-time employees’ families, but the provision does call for employers to contribute toward part-time employees’ health insurance.

The amount of the minimum employer contribution will be a proportion of the minimum contribution for full-time employees.

Issue 3: Illegal aliens will have health care coverage if a health care reform bill passes.

Dingell: Section 246 of HR 3200 specifically prohibits federal funds from being spent to cover undocumented immigrants.

Camp: The Democrats’ health care plan would allow illegal aliens to obtain health care coverage, as there are no provisions in their bill prohibiting it. When Ways and Means Committee Republicans proposed an amendment be included in the bill to prevent this, all committee Democrats voted against it.

FactCheck: The bill says illegal immigrants can’t get any government money to pay for health care.

About half of illegal immigrants have health insurance now, according to the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center, which says those who lack insurance do so principally because their employers don’t offer it.

Issue 4: Employers will drop health care coverage for their employees and switch them to the national public plan because it’s cheaper, or they’ll pay the fee for not providing health care and citizens won’t be able to keep their existing plans.

Dingell: HR 3200 would not lead to employers discontinuing health care coverage in favor of government coverage. Based on an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, HR 3200 will actually increase the number of people who get health insurance coverage through an employer compared with current law.

Camp: Republicans believe if you like your insurance, then you should be able to keep it. However, an independent, non-partisan analysis has estimated that if the Democrat bill was enacted, nearly two out of three Americans will lose their current health care coverage.

FactCheck: No one is forced onto the government health care plan under the proposed bill; but, there is nothing the government can do to prevent an employer from changing health care options it offers.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 3 million who now have employer-provided coverage would lose it under the House bill, as their employers find that paying the penalty is cheaper than providing coverage.

The CBO also said these employers would likely have lower-wage employees eligible for federal subsidies to help them purchase insurance.

Issue 5: If there’s no money to pay for certain medical services or procedures, people will have to go without.

Dingell: Reform is urgently needed to control costs of and expand access to health care. Since 2000, health care costs have doubled, yet wages have remained unchanged.

If current trends continue, health care costs will continue to consume a growing share of household budgets and will become an increasing portion of the (gross domestic product) in years to come.

Health care-related costs are currently a leading cause of bankruptcy inthe United States — about 60 percent of bankruptcies in 2007 are attributable to medical expenses. HR 3200 would help control costs across the system to help slow or reverse the cost trend.

It would also prohibit termination of insurance if a patient becomes seriously ill, end the practice of denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions and eliminate lifetime limits on health insurance payouts.

It would also establish caps on out-of-pocket expenses. These new measures would help protect Americans from financial ruin if they need expensive medical care, and would in no way prevent them from receiving the care they need.

Camp: We have seen evidence of this in other countries. As with the concerns about illegal aliens receiving health coverage, there are no provisions preventing rationing in the Democrats’ health care plan.

There was also an amendment on this offered by Ways and Means Republicans that would have prohibited “rationing” that again was voted down by all Democrats.

Jackson of FactCheck: The House bill would expand health care coverage to millions of people who don’t have it now; and if they don’t have it now, they wouldn’t be able to get treatment.

The bill says it will appropriate funds when necessary and premiums would fund a public plan. It remains to be seen if there would be a public option.

Issue 6: The government plan will ration national health care, or we’ll end up with a plan that mirrors Canada and Great Britain and socialized medicine.

Dingell: HR 3200 would not create a socialized health care system; rather, it would improve the current market-based model that relies on employer-provided health insurance.

A reformed health care system under HR 3200 is a uniquely American solution and would not resemble the government-run health care systems in Canada and the United Kingdom.

The bill would expand and improve the availability of quality health care for all Americans, not ration it.

Under this proposal, doctors, nurses and patients will make medical decisions, not big insurance companies or the government.

Many opponents of the bill seem content with the status quo and want to leave patients at the mercy of big insurance companies that make decisions to protect profits, not patients.

Doctors’ wages would not be capped. In fact, many doctors such as primary care physicians would actuallysee an increase in pay. Energy and Commerce Committee passed an amendment that would mandate that the public plan would negotiate rates that it will pay to doctors — not set rates.

Private plans would arrange payments separately, as they do today. The bill would not decrease the availability of specialists, and actually would increase the physician work force in many underserved areas.

Camp: Under the Democrats’ bill, the federal government would set prices for doctors and hospitals. Undoubtedly, this bill would lead to a rationing of health care, much like other countries have.

For example, in Canada, the lack of any empty beds in a neonatal unit forces parents to seek care in the United States. As we have learned, rationing of health care is a byproduct of government takeover of health care.

FactCheck: The bill as proposed says nothing about rationing. It places an annual cap on what they could pay out of pocket if covered by a basic “essential benefits package.” The limit would be $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for a family.

No government committee will decide what treatments and benefits you receive. It sets up a “private-public advisory committee” that has the power “to recommend” what benefits are included in basic, enhanced and premium insurance plans. It would have no power to decide what treatments anyone gets.

The new “health choices commissioner” will oversee a variety of choices to be offered through the new insurance exchanges.

It specifies minimum services to be covered and nothing prevents insurance companies from offering more benefits.

The House bill as introduced would set payment rates to doctors at Medicare rates plus 5 percent in this federal plan. Medicare rates are about 20 percent lower to doctors than payments by private insurance.

It doesn’t “reduce physician services for Medicaid” (which wouldn’t pertain to seniors anyway); instead, it modifies a section of the Social Security Act that defines physicians’ services.

The section also doesn’t say that doctors will be paid the same “no matter what specialty you have.” Instead, it sets up two categories of physician services with different growth rates for fees under those categories.

Claims that the government sets value on doctors’ time, their professional judgment, are misleading.

It’s true that Page 253 refers to “relative value units” to be used when determining payment rates for doctor’s services, and that such RVUs would weigh factors “such as time, mental effort and professional judgment, technical skill and physical effort, and stress due to risk.”

But this is nothing new; the government already uses RVUs when setting rates it will pay under Medicare.

Issue 7: Medicaid, which is health insurance for low-income families, and Medicare, health care coverage for senior citizens, will be eliminated altogether or the benefits provided by those programs will be significantly reduced.

Dingell: Medicaid and Medicare have proved to be highly successful programs and HR 3200 aims to ensure that they will remain viable over the long term.

The bill would expand Medicaid to increase the availability of health care services to low-income Americans that would otherwise be unable to afford health insurance.

The bill would strengthen Medicare by allowing it to pay higher rates for primary and preventive care services for seniors. It will also reform the sustainable growth rate formula, which determines the reimbursement rates for doctors that participate in Medicare, to avert the scheduled 21 percent cut that will otherwise take place in 2011.

In other words, the bill would expand Medicaid and improve Medicare. It would not eliminate either program.

Camp: So far, the Democrats’ health bill calls for $500 billion in cuts in Medicare alone. Seniors simply do not believe that you can cut Medicare by $500 billion and not have a negative impact on benefits.

FactCheck: The health care bill would trim a net total of only $219 billion from the projected growth of Medicare spending over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

It also proposes what the CBO estimates is a $245 billion increase in spending for doctors by canceling a scheduled 21 percent cut in physician payments.

It’s not true that any of the health care overhaul measures that have been approved by committees in Congress would add "a trillion to the federal deficit," as one ad says.

The Senate bill would add roughly $597 billion over 10 years, and the House bill that was approved by the Ways and Means Committee in mid-July would add a much smaller $239 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Issue 8: The government plan will go bankrupt because of the influx of baby boomers burdening the system.

Dingell: HR 3200 is 100 percent paid for. It would be financed through a combination of payment reforms from within the health care sector and through revenue-raisers.

While the plan would costabout $1 trillion over 10 years, it would not increase the deficit. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has affirmed that the reforms would be deficit neutral over the 10-year budget window.

The legislation would not exempt members of Congress. The health care plan that covers members of Congress — the same plan that is available to all federal employees — would be subject to the same rules as all other employer-sponsored plans.

Camp: Despite $800 billion in new taxes, the costs of the Democrats’ bill will balloon in future years, driving up a massive federal deficit.

Again, Republican members of Ways and Means offered up an amendment so all members of Congress had to be on the plan they would impose upon the American people, but Democrats defeated the measure.

FactCheck: The president isn’t promising to reduce health care spending below current levels, only to cut the rate of growth in spending. The Congressional Budget Office says savings in Medicare spending resulting from the House bill would fall short of what is needed to pay two-thirds of its costs, which is Obama’s goal.

Those savings come only in what the government pays, not what families pay.

Issue 9: A large group of people say the government can’t run anything efficiently, and they point to Social Security and Medicare as examples.

Dingell: Social Security and Medicare are two of the most popular government programs in American history. They have both provided generations of seniors with financial and medical security.

They have not been mismanaged; rather, their budgets have become increasingly strained as a result of an aging population and increasing medical costs.

While administrative costs for private insurance plans vary, Medicare is highly efficient in comparison, as it generally spends significantly less on administration than private insurers do.

Camp: That is exactly the concern, and one we heard across the country over the summer. People want to make medical decisions with their doctor and families, not have it made for them by a federal bureaucrat in D.C.

Jackson of FactCheck: Hedisputes Camp’s answer and said no bureaucrat in Washington, D.C., will make medical decisions for individuals.

“You can look at any public opinion poll and see that Medicare and Social Security are, indeed, some of the most popular government programs enacted. Why wouldn’t they be? They hand out millions of dollars to citizens, particularly elderly citizens, who would be in poverty without them.

“At the same time, it is true that both of these programs face enormous financial difficulty in the relatively near future, particularly in Medicare. Costs are rising faster than our ability to pay for them and Congress can’t get their act together to do anything.”

He said the two most productive options to addressing the financial difficulties of Medicare and Social Security are to restrain the growth of future benefits or to increase taxes or a combination of those.

“But,” he said, “neither choice is very popular and Congress, being afraid to do that, shies away from it and falls into bickering.”

Issue 10: Private insurance and the national plan will “cherry pick” or deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

Dingell: HR 3200 explicitly bars private insurance plans from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions.

Camp: Republicans believe everyone should get affordable, accessible health care, regardless of if they have a pre-existing condition. What is particularly disturbing about the Democrats’ bill is it prohibits private insurance plans from enrolling new people — meaning millions of Americans, including those with pre-existing conditions, will not be able to enroll in a private health care plan.

Jackson of FactCheck: “That is completely false. The whole point of any of these bills is to cure the very problem this questioner is complaining about … so companies would no longer be allowed to do that.”

Both Republicans and Democrats agree that pre-existing conditions should be covered and some insurance companies are for that, as well, he said.

The insurance industry is not lobbying against a health care program overall like it did in 1993 when former President Bill Clinton and then first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton attempted to change health care.

The insurance companies, however, are “against a public plan because they see if as unfair competition.”

“But they are pushing for something like the Massachusetts system, where individuals are required to get insurance as Obama and HR 3200 envisioned and have subsidies where people can’t afford it,” he said.

Insurers Tally Up Baucus Bill Provisions

(And It Raises The Possibility That Some Healthy Americans Will Do The Math And Conclude That It Is Cheaper To Remain Uninsured -- Paying The Fine And Avoiding The Coverage Premiums.)

The health-system overhaul proposed by Sen. Max Baucus would create millions of new insurance customers without subjecting health insurers to government-run competition -- two key victories for the much-maligned industry.

But insurers will come out on top only if a requirement that all Americans carry health insurance has teeth. Insurers have argued that the so-called individual mandate is essential to get healthy people paying premiums and balancing out the costs of adding coverage from an influx of sick people.

Deliberations last week on the bill by the Senate Finance Committee have raised the possibility that such an individual mandate could be significantly weakened.

Republicans have criticized the provision as an affront to individual liberty.

Mr. Baucus, the finance committee's chairman, proposed reducing a fine he originally proposed for uninsured Americans who fail to comply with the mandate. That raises the possibility that some healthy Americans will do the math and conclude that it is cheaper to remain uninsured -- paying the fine and avoiding the coverage premiums.

Heath insurers are trying to forestall that possibility, warning that uninsured people could wait until they got sick to purchase coverage, driving up the costs for people who have insurance. The industry's lobbying group, America's Health Insurance Plans, said the original mandate envisioned was already too weak.

"Market reforms need to occur in tandem with an effective and enforceable coverage requirement," said Brad Fluegel, chief of strategy at insurer WellPoint Inc. "Already in the original bill the mandate was not adequate and weakening it makes it worse."

Mr. Baucus originally proposed a top fine for families without health coverage at $3,800 a year, and has since reduced that to $1,900. Mr. Fluegel said an average family policy costs around $12,000 a year.

The industry's other major win contained in the original proposal by Mr. Baucus -- the absence of a public plan to compete with private insurers -- could also be bittersweet. Instead of a public plan, Mr. Baucus proposed that nonprofit health-insurance cooperatives be formed to provide coverage for those not obtaining it from private insurers.

But that idea could pose some of the same problems for the industry as a government competitor would. Government seed money for the co-ops could give them an advantage, and the government might have to take them over should the co-ops fail, executives say.

"We're concerned about the possibility that the co-ops are a back door [to a public plan]," said Ron Williams, Aetna Inc.'s chief executive.

The industry is also worried about potential new taxes on high-end health plans, which it says will subvert the legislation's goal of making coverage more affordable. Some argue the bill should be funded better by squeezing costs out of other parts of the health-care system.

Any tax "is going to get passed right on [to customers] in terms of premiums," said G. William Hoagland, Cigna Corp.'s vice president of public policy.

Despite these industry concerns, critics say the Baucus bill as proposed overly favors insurers. Health Care for America Now, a liberal coalition that includes, calls the bill a "gift" to the companies.

The outcome is still uncertain. "I think there's only a limited chance that this could get worse [for the insurance industry]," said Sheryl Skolnick, who follows health-care services at financial-services firm Pali Capital Inc. "When all is said and done, the health plans should say a prayer of thanks to the Senate Finance Committee."

Write to Avery Johnson at

Friday, Sept. 25, 2009 | On The Legal Front, George W. Bush And Dick Cheney Have Few Bigger Enemies Than Marjorie Cohn, A Professor At San Diego's Thomas Jefferson School Of Law.

Cohn, president of the liberal National Lawyers Guild, is a leading voice demanding that members of the Bush Administration be prosecuted for war crimes. She also condemns the Afghanistan and Iraq wars as illegal under international law, which she says the United States. It's a debate that hinges on whether the wars were launched in self defense.

In a new book, "Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent," she and a co-author write about members of the military who have resisted service in the current two wars on legal grounds. She's also written a book about the Bush Administration called "Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law."

So far, Cohn's opinions aren't gaining much traction in Washington D.C., although the Obama Administration is slowly making strides toward some torture prosecutions.

So Cohn fights on. In an interview, she talked about the responsibility of soldiers to disobey wrongful orders, the prosecution of government lawyers and the country's ability to withstand the distraction of putting a former president and vice president on trial.

What are your biggest recent successes on the war-crimes front?
I have testified as an expert witness in courts martial and military hearings for service members who have refused orders to go to Iraq and Afghanistan. They have argued that those wars are illegal. My testimony has corroborated those beliefs by citing the U.N. charter, which is part of U.S. law, which says one country cannot invade another country unless it's in self defense or the U.N. Security Council agrees. And neither of those wars is lawful under the U.N. charter.

Under our law, there's a duty to obey lawful orders, but there's also a duty to disobey unlawful orders. The order to deploy to an unlawful war is an unlawful order.

My testimony has corroborated the reasonableness of the belief of some service members that it would be illegal for them to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan. We've had some success with that testimony.

How so?

In one case, the service member was given no time in custody. In another case, he was separated from the military under very favorable conditions.

I also testified in front of Congress last year on the Bush Administration's policy of torture and abuse, and that testimony has been useful in the move to bring to justice the people who set the policies and the lawyers who wrote the torture memos to justify the policies.

Can someone be prosecuted for merely having a legal opinion?
They would be prosecuted for advising the president on how he can break the law and get away with it. There were lawyers who were prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity after World War II advising Hitler on how to deport people to secret camps "legally" and get away with it.

What do you think should happen to the lawyers in this case?
They should be investigated and prosecuted under U.S. statutes.

Should they go to prison?
If convicted, yes, they should go to prison.

How far up would you extend the prosecutions for war crimes?
All the way up the chain of command to the commander in chief.

So you would have Bush and Cheney prosecuted?
Absolutely. And there's tremendous evidence to support prosecutions for torture, which is a war crime, and for leading us into an illegal war under false pretenses which has resulted in the deaths of thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis.

When you look at these issues, is it purely from a legal perspective or do you also think about how trials like these might affect the nation?Both. My legal training makes it very clear to me that they have broken laws, and we are a nation of laws. The Constitution requires the president to faithfully execute the laws.

It's also clear to me that if we don't bring people who have committed these high crimes to justice, then future administrations will think they can get away with war crimes. People in other countries will hate us even more because we let our leaders get away with murder and torture.

What do you think will be the negative consequences if Bush and Cheney are prosecuted? Will the country be torn apart, and does that worry you?
The Republicans will oppose it. The country is divided on many issues; it's divided on health care and the war in Afghanistan.

The fact that some people, especially Republicans, might be upset if members of the Bush Administration are brought to justice should not prevent the president and attorney general from doing the right thing.

What about the issue of distraction? A trial would be all the country would think about for months or years when there are other issues out there.
There are all kinds of distractions. We are capable as a country of taking care of business in many different areas at the same time. That's a red herring.

What do you think President Obama should do now regarding the wars abroad?
He should pull out and use diplomacy and foreign aid and more peaceful means of resolving problems than escalating the military involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

Is there anything that will change the tide in your favor?
What could change the tide is a strong and vigorous anti-war movement. We don't have that now. We did during Vietnam, and one of the reasons was that we had a draft, and college students protested.

What is your vision of humanity? Some people look at war and conflict and think that humans fight, this is inevitable. Then there are the peace activists who say we can work things out through diplomacy instead of violence.
I'm not a pacifist. There are times when people have to act in self defense. But the United States government has not been acting in self defense.

Most problems between countries and within countries can be handled with peaceful means. Violence and fighting is a last resort. But unfortunately, the U.S. has used it as a first resort too often.

(ED. That failure and our failure to respond in adequate fashion is feeding a glowing fire that promises to erupt into more serious violence any day now.)

Perfect timing for CNN. Hugo Chavez gets cut off as he berates the U.S. for the genocide of our indigenous Americans, and CNN switches to live coverage of the G20 protests. The anchors are too dumb to realize the police are using sonic cannons, instead referring to it as "an annoying siren."

Our America Grows More Authoritarian By The Day, And The Election Hasn't Changed That. Citizens Are Seen As The Enemy, Corporate Interests Are Sacred And The Police Are The Ultimate Authority, Answering To No One. They Deploy Weapons Developed For War Zones Against Civilian Populations - And Nothing Happens. The Media? Don't Make Me Laugh.

Should Americans Have a Right to Healthcare?

By Mary Ratcliff

[Here is the case for universal health insurance which I wrote for the Commonweal Institute.]

One hears: “Why should I have to pay for healthcare for people who don’t take care of themselves?” Many complaints about extending healthcare access to the uninsured are grounded in the longstanding argument about what role government should have in our lives. Nothing defines the difference between the formal worldviews of the conservative right versus the progressive left more than this: the idea that individuals are solely responsible for their lives versus believing we have a shared responsibility for the communities and societies in which we live.

From the conservative right’s point of view, the failures and successes of one’s life are one’s own – sometimes matched by a conviction that God marked you for failure or success based on His plan. For the progressive left, our personal failures and successes are determined by how we’ve applied our blessings or faced our trials within this life shaped by our inherent luck, the support we have from those around us, and the benefits provided by our communities. Progressives see government as a tool for enacting our shared responsibility for people far beyond our family or tribe because we see all our fellow citizens as our brothers and sisters. We know that we are stronger and our lives are enriched when we take care of our shared obligations to each other. We see access to affordable healthcare in this light.

Recently the founder of Whole Foods, John Mackey, wrote that there is no inherent right to healthcare, and indeed, that the majority of Americans have only themselves to blame when they get sick. Mackey believes that healthcare should be no different than food or housing and is best left to the market and personal choice. And he believes Americans “consume” too much healthcare because they don’t know what it costs. The lack of charity inherent in these remarks seems to be particularly resonant in America where the culture of individualism and personal responsibility align with the belief that the free markets do the best job of distributing goods and services, even when those services are caring for the sick – and even while our private healthcare system costs more per person than any other industrialized nation and still delivers worse outcomes. But just what type of community are we building if we refuse to help someone who gets sick through bad luck or even their own personal failings?

And so many of us know someone who is desperately ill through no fault their own, and how that affects their entire family. They are like my friend Tess who was diagnosed at the age of 14 with juvenile diabetes inherited from her paternal grandmother. Her grandmother died in her early 30s from this deadly chronic disease. Now tell me, how, exactly, should Tess take personal responsibility for having diabetes? Or cut back on her use of expensive medical care?

Today, Tess has outlived her grandmother by a couple of years but only with a long struggle, significant bouts of near-death experiences, years of dialysis after her kidneys gave out due to complications from the disease, and yet with deep courage and perseverance. Indeed, knowing Tess makes me aware of what it means to have true courage despite tremendous challenges. Nevertheless, Tess is one of the lucky ones – she’s someone who is covered through our shared generosity by government-funded healthcare (Medicaid). And yet, because she is sick, her mother has spent most of her working life not being able to work. Tess’ mother has acted as the primary caretaker of Tess and her family, with scarcely a time when she was covered for healthcare herself. My friend’s mother should not have to worry about whether she can go to the doctor when she feels a pain in her chest. But today she does. And everyone wonders what would hold the family together if my friend’s mother fell ill herself.

The latest Senate Finance healthcare bill sponsored by Max Baucus (D-MT) incorporates the same faulty belief that we spend too much on healthcare because people aren’t aware of the cost of their health services. Clearly this is a fallacy because there are many people who don’t have health insurance or don’t have adequate health insurance who are completely aware of the costs, because when they are seriously ill they must get treatment, even if it means going deeply into debt. And because our system is so dysfunctional, they will spend most of their time fighting to get care and staving off the calls of the bill collectors. No wonder 62% of personal bankruptcies arise from someone getting sick.

Furthermore, how would making healthcare a consumer choice work? Michael Moore’s film SickO showed that many underinsured people already have consumer choice: remember the fellow who had two fingers chopped off in an accident and he decided that he could only afford to have the cheaper finger reattached? That is consumer choice in today’s world. And that type of choice shouldn’t be one we wish on our worst enemy.

We need a strong public option so that we can have a healthcare choice that matters. One that makes it easier for people to get the care they need without having to haggle for every penny of coverage. We can have more effective, more humane and sensible healthcare when we realize “I am my brother’s keeper.” And we could have some peace of mind knowing he is our keeper too.

[A condensed version was originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle.]

Devastating Report Documents Israeli Crimes Against Civilians in Gaza: Where's the Outrage?

Roane Carey, The Nation. September 26, 2009. The Goldstone report has been denounced in Israeli and ignored by the U.S. press, unless you count theNY Daily News, which called it a "blood libel against Israel."

Disturbing: 375 Palestinian Children Jailed By Israeli Military Every Month

Mel Frykberg, IPS News. September 26, 2009. Most Palestinian children are held for stone-throwing, which can bring a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment, five years less than the average murder sentence in Israel.

Arguments Against "Birth Right" Citizenship Run Against Constitutional Principles

Elizabeth B. Wydra, Immigration Policy Center. September 17, 2009. For over a decade bills have been introduced in Congress to end automatic citizenship for persons born on U.S. soil to parents who are in the country illegally.

Latinos to CNN: Dump Lou Dobbs Now!

Roberto Lovato, AlterNet. September 16, 2009. As studies document the link between anti-immigrant hate speech and violence against Latinos, Dobbs continues to fan the flames.

Why Are African-Americans So Frequently the Subject of Glenn Beck's Ridicule?

Devona Walker, The Loop. September 16, 2009. There are a lot of problems in America, but right-wingers and the GOP seem to be stuck on making controversy over issues involving black people.

Controversial Anti-Immigrant Network Invades the Nation’s Capitol

Eric Ward, Imagine 2050. September 14, 2009. The mainstream media chose to ignore the racist connotations of Obama as nothing more than man in Black Face.

Book Says Obama's Life Is at Risk

Christopher Moraff, The Philadelphia Tribune. September 11, 2009. Author Ronald Kessler warns that the rise in threats and inadequate govt. resources may be putting the commander in chief at risk.

Action Editorial: Why the Secret Service and FBI Must Investigate Threats Against Obama and Beef Up Security to Protect Him

Don Hazen, AlterNet. September 9, 2009. With Obama the target of hate speech and over 30 death threats a day, the FBI needs to hear that it can't let budget shortfalls get in the way of the president's life.

Wow!!! We’re Nabbing “Terrorists Without Torture…

Former President Bill Clinton says the right-wing conspiracy that attacked him during his presidency now is after President Obama.

When asked whether the "vast right-wing conspiracy" is still present today, the former president answered without hesitation, "Oh you bet."

"It's not as strong as it was because America has changed demographically, but it's as virulent as it was," Clinton said today on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"Right-wing conspiracy" was the term used by former first lady Hillary Clinton to describe the tactics her husband's political enemies used to attack his presidency after revelations of his affair with Monica Lewinski.

"I mean they may be hurting President Obama," Bill Clinton said of the current attacks. "They can take his numbers down, they can run his opposition up, but fundamentally he and his team have a positive agenda for America. Their agenda seems to be wanting him to fail, and that's not a good prescription for a good America…

This summer's town hall outbursts, Washington "tea party" protests and disparate array of contradictory grievances weren't about specific health-care proposals. At the heart was the Wall Street bailout, bonuses and the General Motors takeover.

The right-wing rage over health-care reform is motivated by fear that hard-working middle class Americans will have their money taken away by President Obama so "someone else" benefits. The someone else in their mind set are always the poor minorities and undeserving deadbeats who somehow (despite their sorrowful state) have immense powerful influence over Washington and receive endless undeserved benefits.

It's always the people too lazy to work, illegal immigrants and the ever-increasing people below the poverty line.

It is true that "the fed" engages in a socialist redistribution of middle class income, summarily seized for someone else's benefit. But the "someone else" is the super-rich, small number of huge corporations that literally own and control government. Politicians are beholden to special interests and are stealing our economic future for the benefit of the small undeserving 1 percent.

This minority isn't what the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs mean by that someone else. These clowns bow to the god of mammon.

The corporatists who literally write our laws in every case, always end up benefiting. A small sliver of CEOs are laughing in their suites, while greedy racists do their bidding in the streets.


Dear Veteran For Peace, and Friend,

Please help us cast a wide net for volunteers for October 3rd in DC.
Forward this note as best you can.

On the weekend of October 3rd and 4th, Military Families Speak Out and
American Friends Service Committee will be undertaking the first Eyes Wide Open Exhibit showing the Cost of War in Afghanistan. Over 850 pairs of combat boots representing the fallen troops in Afghanistan and 100 shoes, a fraction of those civilians killed during 8 years of war and occupation, will be displayed on the Ellipse in Washington, DC. (For more information visit

We need your help to get the word out about this display!

There are several ways for people to be involved with this display:

So far we need the most help on the Ellipse near the White House on Saturday October 3 between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. and Sunday PM between 3 and 6 - we can't set up any earlier than 6 a.m. on Saturday and have to be off the Ellipse by 6 p.m.on Sunday. If you can be in the DC area during the weekend of October 3-4, please contact if you can help.

Anybody can join this effort.

We also need about 20-25 people if possible on Saturday and Sunday during exhibit time to oversee the exhibit.

SPONSOR A PAIR OF BOOTS or SHOES- For a contribution of $5 you can support the effort to open the public eye to the true costs of the Afghanistan War. Your individual sponsorship will be acknowledging your thoughtful reflection of the terrible consequences of war and inspiring everyone one who passes by on October 3rd and 4th to consider what this exhibits means. Click Here to sponsor boots or shoes.

PARTNERS OF THE EXHIBIT- Please consider having your faith based community or other organizations you are affiliated with to support MFSO by becoming a partner in this important exhibit. The minimum contribution to be listed as a partner is $50. Exhibit partners will receive the following benefits:

* A listing and a link to the organization on the exhibit website
* Mention in all press releases or referred to on the website
* Listing in the media packet provided to press both days of the event
* Listing on the display board of sponsorship acknowledgements at the event
* Certificate of acknowledgement with photos from MFSO and AFSC

*Additional shared benefits for sponsors of boots and partners of exhibit will be a small booklet listing sponsors and partners on display at the event.

If you know of a group that would like to become a partner of this event please have them contact Deborah Forter at Military Families Speak Out. or by phone: 617-983-0710

Please help us bring the true cost of the war in Afghanistan to our nation's capital!

In Peace and Solidarity,

Military Families Speak Out

The American Friends Service Committee | A Campaign

National March on Washington on Saturday, March 20 Fri., March 19 Day of Action & Outreach in D.C.

People from all over the country are organizing to converge on Washington, D.C., to demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan and Iraq.

On Saturday, March 20, 2010, there will be a massive National March & Rally in D.C. A day of action and outreach in Washington, D.C., will take place on Friday, March 19, preceding the Saturday march.

There will be coinciding mass marches on March 20 in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The National Actions Are Initiated By A Large Number Of Organizations And Prominent Individuals. To See A List Of The Initiators, Click This Link.

Click here to become an endorser.

Click here to make a donation.

We will march together to say “No Colonial-type Wars and Occupations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine!" We will march together to say "No War Against Iran!” We will march together to say “No War for Empire Anywhere!”

Instead of war, we will demand funds so that every person can have a job, free and universal health care, decent schools, and affordable housing.

March 20 is the seventh anniversary of the criminal war of aggression launched by Bush and Cheney against Iraq. One million or more Iraqis have died. Tens of thousands of U.S. troops have lost their lives or been maimed, and continue to suffer a whole host of enduring problems from this terrible war.

This is the time for united action. The slogans on banners may differ, but all those who carry them should be marching shoulder to shoulder. Click here to become an endorser.

Killing and dying to avoid the perception of defeat

Bush is gone, but the war and occupation in Iraq still go on. The Pentagon is demanding a widening of the war in Afghanistan. They project an endless war with shifting battlefields. And a “single-payer” war budget that only grows larger and larger each year. We must act.

Both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were predicated on the imperial fantasy that the U.S. could create stable, proxy colonial-type governments in both countries. They were to serve as an extension of “American” power in these strategic and resource-rich regions.

That fantasy has been destroyed. Now U.S. troops are being sent to kill or be killed so that the politicians in uniform ("the generals and admirals") and those in three-piece suits ("our elected officials") can avoid taking responsibility for a military setback in wars that should have never been started. Their military ambitions are now reduced to avoiding the appearance of defeat.

That is exactly what happened in Vietnam! Avoiding defeat, or the perception of defeat, was the goal Nixon and Kissinger set for themselves when they took office in 1969. For this noble cause, another 30,000 young GIs perished before the inevitable troop pullout from Vietnam in 1973. The number of Vietnamese killed between 1969 and 1973 was greater by many hundreds of thousands.

All of us can make the difference — progress and change comes from the streets and from the grassroots.

The people went to the polls in 2008, and the enthusiasm and desire for change after eight years of the Bush regime was the dominant cause that led to election of a big Democratic Party majority in both Houses of Congress and the election of Barack Obama to the White House.

But it should now be obvious to all that waiting for politicians to bring real change — on any front — is simply a prescription for passivity by progressives and an invitation to the array of corporate interests from military contractors to the banks, to big oil, to the health insurance giants that dominate the political life of the country. These corporate interests work around the clock to frustrate efforts for real change, and they are the guiding hand behind the recent street mobilizations of the ultra-right.

It is up to us to act. If people had waited for politicians to do the right thing, there would have never been a Civil Rights Act, or unions, women’s rights, an end to the Vietnam war or any of the profound social achievements and basic rights that people cherish.

It is time to be back in the streets. Organizing centers are being set up in cities and towns throughout the country.

We must raise $50,000 immediately just to get started. Please make your contribution today. We need to reserve buses, which are expensive ($1,800 from NYC, $5,000 from Chicago, etc.). We have to print 100,000 leaflets, posters and stickers. There will be other substantial expenses as March 20 draws closer.

Please become an endorser and active supporter of the March 20 National March on Washington by clicking this link.

Please make an urgently needed tax-deductible donation today by clicking this link. We can't do this without your active support.

The initiators of the March 20 National March on Washington (preceded by the March 19 Day of Action and Outreach in D.C.) include: the ANSWER Coalition; Muslim American Society Freedom; National Council of Arab Americans; Cynthia McKinney; Malik Rahim, co-founder of Common Ground Collective; Ramsey Clark; Cindy Sheehan; Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK; Deborah Sweet, Director, World Can’t Wait; Mike Ferner, President, Veterans for Peace; Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition; Heidi Boghosian, Executive Director, National Lawyers Guild; Ron Kovic, author of “Born on the 4th of July”; Juan Jose Gutierrez, Director, Latino Movement USA; Col. Ann Wright (ret.); March Forward!; Partnership for Civil Justice; Palestinian American Women Association; Alliance for a Just and Lasting Peace in the Philippines; Alliance for Global Justice; Claudia de la Cruz, Pastor, Iglesia San Romero de Las Americas-UCC; Phil Portluck, Social Justice Ministry, Covenant Baptist Church, D.C.; Blase & Theresa Bonpane, Office of the Americas; Coalition for Peace and Democracy in Honduras; Comite Pro-Democracia en Mexico; Frente Unido de los Pueblos Americanos; Comites de Base FMLN, Los Angeles; Free Palestine Alliance; GABRIELA Network; Justice for Filipino American Veterans; KmB Pro-People Youth; Students Fight Back; Jim Lafferty, Executive Director, National Lawyers Guild - LA Chapter; LEF Foundation; National Coalition to Free the Angola 3; Community Futures Collective; Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival; Companeros del Barrio; Barrio Unido for Full and Unconditional Amnesty.

Does Wendell Potter Both Mirror the Worst, and Model the Best in Ourselves?

By Tammie Fowles (about the author) Page 1 of 1 page(s) Permalink

For OpEdNews: Tammie Fowles - Writer

“That which we witness, we are forever changed by, and once witnessed we can never go back.”Angeles Arrien

Wendell Potter is a former CIGNA executive turned whistle-blower, and current fellow at the Center for Media and Democracy. He had a successful career with Cigna as director of corporate communications, liked his co-workers very much, and was well compensated financially in addition to enjoying numerous perks. So why did he leave and then become adversary to an industry that had treated him so well?

In July of 2007, shortly after Michael Moore's movie “Sicko” was released (a movie by the way that he worked very hard to discredit, only to later admit that it had been “an honest film”) Potter paid a visit to his parents in Tennessee. While there, he read about a health clinic that was being held in nearby Wise county Virginia by the Remote Area Medical Clinic Volunteer Core and decided to check it out. What he witnessed there shook him to the core and brought him to tears. The clinic was being held at the local fairgrounds where thousands of people (some of whom had driven from Georgia, Kentucky, and South Carolina) were waiting in seemingly endless lines for healthcare delivered in animal stalls. When recalling that July day, Potter told Bill Moyers on Bill Moyers Journal, “It was absolutely stunning. It was like being hit by lightning. It was almost– what country am I in? " it just didn't seem to be a possibility that I was in the United States. It was like a lightning bolt had hit me.”

Craig Keilburger and Marc Kelburger, founders of “Free the Children and authors of the best selling book, “ME to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World” explore how perfectly good people like you and I come to defend ourselves against the large scale suffering of others by blocking it out and going about business as usual. One way we do this is to distance ourselves from those who are hurting by “convincing ourselves that ‘they' are not like ‘us.'"We may blame them for their circumstances, emphasizing or imagining all the weaknesses and failures of that group that have led to these circumstances. We may try to ignore the external factors, the political, ideological, economic, military and other forces that shaped their fates from the outside" Seeing people in ‘us' and ‘them' terms makes it easier to dehumanize and devalue them, to assume that there are fundamental differences between us and them, and to blame them for their suffering. Thinking in ‘us' and ‘them' terms also makes it easier to reduce people to numbers, to conveniently forget about their individuality.”

Suddenly confronted with the desperation and suffering surrounding him at the fairgrounds that day, his defenses began to crumble. He'd been insulated in his high- rise Philadelphia office, flying corporate jets, surrounded by the vestiges of wealth, and served lunches on gold trimmed plates. He hadn't truly known “what was really going on,” he explained to Moyers. He was aware that 47 million people were uninsured, and that among the insured, there were many who could not afford to pay their deductibles, but he had never attached real live faces to those numbers. In a town not far from the one he grew up in, Wendell Potter had an epiphany. “There could have been people and probably were people that I had grown up with. They could have been people who grew up in the house down the road from me. And that made it real to me.”

In December, five months after his fateful visit to the fairgrounds, 17 year old Nataline Sarkisyan died the very night that Cigna reversed its decision (under tremendous pressure) to deny coverage for a liver transplant. Here was yet another real person in lieu of a statistic, a young woman with hopes and dreams and whose parents loved her very much, just as Wendell loved his own daughter. In addition to dealing with his feelings regarding Nataline's death, he was inundated with angry and accusatory calls and letters from people all over the country. In January, Potter informed CIGNA that he would be resigning.

On June 24th, in Philadelphia, he testified before a U.S. Senate Committee. His opening remarks included, “My name is Wendell Potter and for 20 years, I worked as a senior executive at health insurance companies, and I saw how they confuse their customers and dump the sick — all so they can satisfy their Wall Street investors. I know from personal experience that members of Congress and the public have good reason to question the honesty and trustworthiness of the insurance industry. Insurers make promises they have no intention of keeping, they flout regulations designed to protect consumers, and they make it nearly impossible to understand — or even to obtain — information we need.”

Three months later he met with the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and warned, “"if Congress goes along with the so-called ‘solutions' the insurance industry says it is bringing to the table and acquiesces to the demands it is making of lawmakers, and if it fails to create a public insurance option to compete with private insurers, the bill it sends to the president might as well be called the Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act.” He further explained that the Baucus plan would enable insurers to charge the elderly and families up to 7.5 times as much as younger people, weaken state regulation of insurers, fail to make affordable coverage for those currently insured more available, or stop the increase in medical bankruptcy. Instead, the Baucus bill would insure a huge new stream of revenue for the insurance companies as individuals were forced to purchase insurance policies and taxpayers were required to finance the necessary subsidies for those who could not afford the premiums.

Potter also stressed to Congress that the public option should “not just be an ‘option' to be bargained away at the behest of insurance companies who are pouring money into Congress to defeat substantial and essential reforms. A public option must be created to provide true choice to consumers or reform will fail to truly fix the root of the severe problems that have been caused in large part by the greedy demands of Wall Street. By creating a strong public option and restricting the insurance industry's ability to enrich executives and investors at the expense of taxpayers and consumers, H.R. 3200 will truly benefit average Americans. The Baucus plan, on the other hand, would create a government-subsidized monopoly for the purchase of bare bones, high-deductible policies that would truly benefit Big Insurance. In other words, insurers would win; your constituents would lose

I am grateful to Wendell Potter. Yes, it's certainly true that he was aware of the unethical and in some cases deadly practices of his industry, and he actively participated in many of them, however, how different was he really from the rest of us? How different is he from those of us who turn away when the faces of starving children flash across our television screen while a narrator urges us to commit to just dollars a day (less than the cost of a large Starbucks coffee) to help feed these children? How different is he from those of us who are well aware of the wrongs committed by our own industries while we continue to show up for work each day and collect our paychecks? How different is he from those who die each and every year from “karosh,i” the Japanese term for death due to job related stress and overwork; those poor souls (my own husband came very close to being one of them) who dragged themselves to work every day while knowing at some level that their current jobs were truly ‘killing' them?

It's been said that evil prevails when good people do nothing to stop it. I am one of those people who on far too many occasions have done nothing. As Rabbi Abraham Heschel wisely pointed out, “In regards to cruelties committed in the name of a free society, some are guilty, while all are responsible.” Wendell Potter, from my perspective, is most definitely a guilty man. He is also a product of his society, a society that according to Paul Rogat Loeb, “has systematically taught us to ignore the ills we see, and leave them to others to handle.” Wendell Potter is working very diligently to right the wrongs that he both witnessed and participated in committing. What about those of us who stand by and do nothing while special interest groups twist the facts and feed the fears of misinformed but perfectly good people? What about those of us who refuse to take a stand while thousands of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and children die each year in the United States of America because they lack access to proper health care? We might, just might, escape the guilt, but we cannot escape the responsibility. United States of America because they lack access to proper health care?

Tammie Fowles is a psychotherapist, celebrant, and author currently practicing in Lewiston, Maine.. She has a Masters degree in Social Work and a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology and is a certified celebrant. She is the author of "BirthQuake: The (more...)


In Search Of Honest Men and Women In Politics, The Media Or Advocacy!

Diogenes of Sinope (Greek: Διογένης Σινωπεύς Diogenes ho Sinopeus), also known as Diogenes the Cynic was a Greek philosopher, born in Sinope (modern day Sinop, Turkey) about 412 BC (according to other sources 404 BC),[1] and died in 323 BC,[2] at Corinth. Details of his life come in the form of anecdotes (chreia), especially from Diogenes Laërtius, in his book Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers.

Diogenes of Sinope was exiled from his native city and moved to Athens, where he is said to have become a disciple of Antisthenes, the former pupil of Socrates. Diogenes, a beggar who made his home in the streets of Athens, made a virtue of extreme poverty. He is said to have lived in a large tub, rather than a house, and to have walked through the streets carrying a lamp in the daytime, claiming to be looking for an honest man. He eventually settled in Corinth where he continued to pursue the Cynic ideal of self-sufficiency: a life which was natural and not dependent upon the luxuries of civilization. Believing that virtue was better revealed in action and not theory, his life was a relentless campaign to debunk the social values and institutions of what he saw as a corrupt society.

Diogenes was born in the Greek colony of Sinope on the south coast of the Black Sea, either in 412 BC or 404 BC.[1] Nothing is known about his early life except that his father Hicesias was a banker.[3] It seems likely that Diogenes was also enrolled into the banking business aiding his father. At some point (and the details are confused) Hicesias and Diogenes became embroiled in a scandal involving the adulteration or defacement of the currency,[4] and Diogenes was exiled from the city.[5] This aspect of the story seems to be corroborated by archaeology: large numbers of defaced coins (smashed with a large chisel stamp) have been discovered at Sinope dating from the middle of the 4th century BC, and other coins of the time bear the name of Hicesias as the official who minted them.[6] The reasons for the defacement of the coinage are unclear, although Sinope was being disputed between pro-Persian and pro-Greek factions in the 4th century, and there may have been political rather than financial motives behind the act.

According to one story,[5] Diogenes went to the Oracle at Delphi to ask for its advice, and was told that he should "deface the currency," and Diogenes, realizing that the oracle meant that he should deface the political currency rather than actual coins, travelled to Athens and made it his life's goal to deface established customs and values.

In his new home, Athens, Diogenes' mission became the metaphorical adulterating/defacing of the "coinage" of custom. Custom, he alleged, was the false coin of human morality. Instead of being troubled by what is really evil, people make a big fuss over what is merely conventionally evil. This distinction between nature ("physis") and custom ("nomos") is a favorite theme of ancient Greek philosophy, and one that Plato takes up in The Republic, in the legend of the Ring of Gyges.[7]

Diogenes is alleged to have gone to Athens with a slave named Manes who abandoned him shortly thereafter. With characteristic humour, Diogenes dismissed his ill fortune by saying, "If Manes can live without Diogenes, why not Diogenes without Manes?"[8]Diogenes would be consistent in making fun of such a relation of extreme dependency. He would particularly find the master, who could do nothing for himself, contemptibly helpless. We are told he was attracted by the ascetic teaching of Antisthenes, a student of Socrates, who (according to Plato) had been present at his death.[9] Diogenes became Antisthenes' pupil, despite the brutality with which he was initially received,[10] and rapidly surpassed his master both in reputation and in the austerity of his life. Unlike the other citizens of Athens, he avoided earthly pleasures. This attitude was grounded in a great disdain for what he perceived as the folly, pretense, vanity, social climbing, self-deception, and artificiality of much human conduct.

The stories told of Diogenes illustrate the logical consistency of his character. He inured himself to the vicissitudes of weather by living in a tub belonging to the temple of Cybele.[11] He destroyed the single wooden bowl he possessed on seeing a peasant boy drink from the hollow of his hands.[12] He once masturbated in public, saying "If only I could soothe my hunger by rubbing my belly."[13] He used to stroll about in full daylight with a lamp; when asked what he was doing, he would answer, "I am just looking for a human being."[14] Diogenes looked for a human being but reputedly found nothing but rascals and scoundrels.[15]

When Plato gave Socrates' definition of man as "featherless bipeds" and was much praised for the definition, Diogenes plucked a chicken and brought it into Plato's Academy, saying, "Behold! I've brought you a man." After this incident, "with broad flat nails" was added to Plato's definition.[16]

‘Don’t you fear me?’

‘Are you a good or a bad man?’ Diogenes asked back.

‘Good.’ Alexander retorted.

‘Then I don’t see any re ason why I should fear you.’

The precise scope of the conversation is the demonstration ‘Don’t waste my time. If you must find reason to waste your words and efforts for nothing, find a reason better than wasting my time.’

During another interaction Alexander came to see him and asked him to pay tributes. Diogenes never bothered and simply asked him not to block the sunlight that he was enjoying. Alexander acknowledged his courage and said that if he were to be born someone else he would want to be Diogenes. His practice of ridiculing the world in an attempt to bring man face to face with his follies is highlighted by the most popular instance when he was roaming around the town in bright day light, with a lantern by his side. When asked what he was doing, he replied ‘I am looking for one honest man in town’. He is infamously known to defecate at market place, masturbate and spite people who wore the mask of status symbol and false honor. This was one man who did what he practiced and saw the things in the lights of man as an animal that didn’t need much to survive. He found better friends in dogs than another human being, because dogs like him, were not hypocrites. But where did such a practice come from? He could have easily found isolation somewhere in the forests to practice life the way he wanted to, instead of attempting to prove how unaware people were, but somehow the thought didn’t cross his mind. Perhaps a few more generations of practice could have led the followers to isolation, but the idea itself didn’t blend with the Western school of thought.

The Greek philosopher Diogenes was a homeless beggar who walked the streets of Athens with a lamp, looking for an honest man. As Wikipedia tells us, "Sympathizers considered him a devotee of reason and an exemplar of honesty. Detractors have said he was an obnoxious beggar and an offensive grouch. Believing that virtue was better revealed in action and not theory, his life was a relentless campaign to debunk the social values and institutions of what he saw as a corrupt society. This attitude was grounded in a great disdain for what he perceived as the folly, pretense, vanity, social climbing, self-deception, and artificiality of much human conduct. As he put it, instead of being troubled by what is really evil, people make a big fuss over what is merely conventionally evil. Diogenes is said to have urinated on some people who insulted him, defecated in the theatre, and pointed at people with his middle finger." No wonder they kicked him out of his home town, Sinope.

Well, we,(“the guy left”) haven't done any of that - yet. Besides, to quote Pete Stark, in those cases where people deserve it, "I wouldn't dignify you by peeing on your leg, it wouldn't be worth wasting the urine."

But as an acknowledgment that we should at least have been flipping some people the bird, but could not compete with the teabaggers in offensive opprobrium, I have decided to take the positive approach in addition, and have inaugurated THE DIOGENES AWARD, which will be presented to any honest person we find In Politics, The Media Or Advocacy. Judging will be by a hard standard.

I am going to ask all of you to make nominations for this award! Simply send the name to or submit it/them as a comment and I will take it from there.

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