American Healthcare and the Caduceus of Hermes

I have already cited Mike Stathis’ book, “America’s Healthcare Solution,” which is the source of the following summary.  I chose a few connections that seem the most crucial.  It’s not my purpose to fully describe the debate and the proposed solutions, only to use this information in pursuit of a new way of talking about healthcare.

At this time, healthcare is the fundamental national security interest of the United States.  To put this into perspective, Libya could never match healthcare in economic urgency.  Further, the decision to ignore Libya will not cure what ails us.  The healthcare crisis has overriding potential for harm largely because of its effects on American business, especially since the advent of NAFTA. It is well known that healthcare costs have increased much faster than other basic necessities.  Because health insurance in America has been employer-based since World War II, high costs have directly affected employers’ ability to compete with foreign companies whose governments provide universal healthcare.  This turn of events leads to strategies of outsourcing, freezing pensions, and relocating overseas.  For Americans the ensuing loss of jobs means the loss of health insurance.

Regardless of politicians’ claims, there is no fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans on this issue.  The democrats have proposed and continue to defend a plan that won’t solve anything.  It is claimed that forcing the uninsured to buy insurance will help solve the crisis.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, many Americans with full health insurance are not covered adequately.  “Of the two million personal bankruptcies each year in America, more than one-half are attributed to medical bills or medically related events, accounting for the nation’s number one cause of bankruptcies.  Furthermore, of the one million Americans filing for medical bankruptcy each year, most had full medical insurance…in fact one could argue that America’s health insurance system does not provide true medical insurance.  Rather, it resembles a pre-paid medical plan with co-pays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses that can add up fast.”  For their part, the Republicans simply obscure the issue with patent lies meant to retain the old system with all its fatal flaws.

It can’t be denied that lobbyists who continue their treasonous activities for the “medical-industrial complex” deserve much of the blame.  Whatever the initial cause may be, their activities have led to widespread abdication of responsibility on the part of lawmakers and even healthcare professionals.  Again, the same interests control both Democrats and Republicans, so any perceived differences are illusory.

As so often happens, once the seriousness of the problem is understood, it only seems to illustrate the impossibility of a solution.  One begins to wonder whether healthcare is the problem, or something more fundamental?  How can a solution be found or implemented when all parties have become so invested in the status quo?   On the surface, the question provides the answer.  Feasible, short-term corrections have been proposed; the failure to act indicates a lack of will.  The problem with this analysis is it lumps all the players together as the source of the problem and discourages further attempts at reform.

That said there is an interesting element of the current reform legislation that might tie this debate to its underlying structure, the bedrock of principle.  I refer to the use of the commerce clause as a legal basis.  In order to discuss the significance of the commerce clause as a justification in current healthcare reform, it will be necessary to examine the history of the symbol of medicine in the United States since 1917, the caduceus of Hermes, god of messengers and merchants.

Bill Maher on Egypt’s Million Woman March

I saw Bill Maher on The Arena tonight. He thought it was an ominous sign for democracy in Egypt that a thousand women attended the Million Woman March only to have the men deride them. It was obviously humiliating for the organizers, but I had a different take on it.

No one said how many men were there, but the ones I saw were very young and there were not very many of them. I thought it was interesting that although the mobs that attacked the political demonstrators were revealed to be hired thugs, everyone assumed these boys were legitimate.  Women can be discredited so easily. I know this, although I’ve never been to Egypt. I learned it in America.

I could say that Maher grew up with a different crowd, but I don’t think it’s that easy to explain. It seems we all have an official picture of ourselves as Americans. I’ve often believed the official picture, although I’ve seen countless situations similar to what happened in Egypt. And yet we have democracy.

If the Egyptians are willing to fight and die for democracy, they must be ready for it. We can’t really say. People tend to be more conservative in conditions of political and economic hardship, and the Egyptians were having a difficult time even before the revolution. That, combined with religious attitudes about women could explain what those boys did, if they did act on their own.

However, if Maher was trying to say there is a correlation between respect for women and free societies, I think he’s right.

The Community of Ancient Israel

Robert Bellah wrote in “The Broken Covenant” that American Civil Religion helped form a unified nation. Bellah assumed civil religion was necessary because America was the world’s first ‘new’ nation, a nation of unrelated immigrants who do not share a common history or religion as the populations of other countries do. However, Bellah was not the first to perceive the need for unifying ideas. It was Enlightenment thinker J. J. Rousseau who first proposed this idea. Both Bellah and Rousseau were in search of a source of political unity in lieu of the Church.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, Ancient Israel is the primal community unified by blood, religion, law, and history. It is assumed that theirs was a natural association not possible in modern times, except perhaps in the case of Israel’s descendants. However in modern Judaism, the idea that Ancient Israel was a separate race of people is a matter of debate. Critics of this idea argue it was religion that united Israel, and that the religion was never limited to Jews. Critics of Zionism also debate whether modern Jews were meant to create the political state of Israel in Palestine. Even the Jewish historian Josephus has been criticized for his nationalistic tendencies.

Hebrew mythology and nomadic custom offer a different explanation for the unity of the family of Israel. Central to nomadic custom is the obligation of hospitality. Nomadic people exist in a hostile environment. Anyone left alone could die, therefore requests for asylum were never denied. You helped each individual or group who needed help because next time you may be in need. Nomadic tribes were bound to welcome refugees for a certain period of time. If the refugees chose to stay permanently the simple statement, “I adopt you,” made the newcomers one with the tribe who sheltered them. In this case, they would take the new tribe’s name and forget their old affiliations. In addition, people often embellished genealogies to explain the new family relationships. Today, genealogies are often assumed to be lists of human ancestors. However, ancient genealogies were mythological and political.

Moses led the exodus of several distinct tribes. (Their shared determination to leave Egypt is significant and will be discussed later.) Nomadic tribes initially took their names from nature and myth. Similar to Arabic tribes who took names such as “the Sons of the Rain,” Hebrew tribes took names such as “Sons of the Longhaired” or “Sons of the Multiplier. These names endured for a long time, eventually serving as names for Jacob’s sons. This was the beginning of the genealogical tradition, which traces the people of Israel to its first father, Jacob and thence goes back to his father and to Abraham.” This indicates a purposeful and methodical creation of family ties as a basis for political alliance.

Now it is interesting to think in this way of the tribes of Judah and Israel after they settled in Palestine. De Vaux laments that during their brief period of sovereignty they wasted time fighting each other. However, this was not exactly a family squabble. The religion and custom of Israel and Judah were not identical. For example, Judah was dynastic from the time of David. Israel was not dynastic until Omri. This is a fundamental difference. They were often allies, however, having more in common than either of them had with the Canaanites.

For the information about tribal names and the material in quotation marks see:

Goldziher, Ignaz and Heymann Steinthal. “Mythology Among the Hebrews and its Historical Development.” Cooper Square Publishers. New York. 1967.

See also:

The Genealogy of Adam and Eve

Adam, Noah and the Snake King

Nomads and City Dwellers: Institutions, Worldview


To think we were once in awe of that tyrannical infant
Even thought he was beautiful
Said his long hair was amber grain

Yet we can’t deny we admired his daring
That he thrilled us in parade
Covered by royalty’s long cloak of purple mountains

But now we see
And turn away from his hideous face
To survey the chaos that is our inheritance

Heavy silence weaves its shroud
Accompanied by liberty’s faint dirge
Drifting on the wind from the east

Peter King and Radical Islam in America

Representative Peter King, is talking about the radicalization of American Muslims. Apparently he plans hearings in the Homeland Security Committee. I would argue that the radicalization of ordinary Muslims, or Arabs of any persuasion, shouldn’t be so easily assumed; the affinity between Arab culture and al Qaeda is not a natural one.

The barbarian invasion of the Roman Empire and its influence on the Christian tradition didn’t culminate with the Emperor Constantine. Islam was brought to the Arab people in a later period, but by the same means. However, it’s missionaries held beliefs condemned as heretical by the Catholic Church. The end result for the Arab people was the imposition of a culture that differed in fundamental ways from Arab culture. It seems that originally, slavery was part of the culture of the Islamic ruling class. Slavery has always been part of Anglo-Saxon culture. In America, the Union was established with slavery in mind, and Thomas Jefferson was not the only influential American who owned slaves. Muslim slave-traders provided many of America’s slaves.  It seems likely that the leaders of radical Islam have more in common with America’s ruling class than with the Arab culture.  Their hostility is simply a result of rivalry for the sympathies of the people. 

The failure to understand these relationships may be responsible for a comment made on a network news program, illustrating that racism against blacks thrives on a similar misunderstanding. In a discussion between a conservative woman and a black man, the conservative said she would never understand a culture who sells its own people as slaves, obviously assuming that every black person represents the same culture. In other words, he has no one to blame but his own people. In this way, she dismissed whatever point he was trying to make. This has to be the most viciously racist thing I have ever observed. It was probably all the more damaging because it was so insidious.

When American Muslims condemn the violence of radical Islam, there are good reasons to believe them.  They should be taken at their word.

Libya’s non-effect on U.S. Oil Prices

Libya, Gas Prices, and the Big Payday at Your Expense
Submitted by Michael Collins, for “The Economic Populist” on Mon, 03/07/2011 – 00:23

Another Triumph for The Money Party

The average price for a gallon of gas rose 30% from $2.69 in July 2010 to $3.49 as of March 6. Most of that 30% has come in just the last few days.

We’re about to embark on another period of let the markets take care of it. The Money Party manipulators are again jerking citizens around in the old bottom-up wealth redistribution program. Their imagineers are writing the storyline right now.

The conflict in Libya is causing the spike in oil prices over the past ten days or so according to the media script. Take a look at the chart to the right. Can you find Libya among the top fifteen nations supplying the United States with crude oil?

Why the Current Panic Over Gas Prices?

The general explanation points to the crisis in Libya as the proximate cause. The anti Gaddafi regime revolution began in earnest on February 17. But if the Libyan revolution were the cause, we’d have to attribute a 50% drop in a 2% share of the world’s oil supply as the cause of the panic. We would also have to attribute the increase in US gas prices to a nation that doesn’t impact the US crude oil supply and, as a result, should not impact the price of gas here.

The speculators have an answer. The Libyan situation entails fears of broader unrest in oil and non-oil producing nations in North Africa and the Middle East. There is unrest, without any doubt. Citizens are insisting that their kleptocratic rulers cease and desist from looting their nation’s treasuries and resources. The demonstrations across the region, revolution in Egypt, and war in Libya are all being fought under the banner of broader participation in government, greater access to essentials like food, jobs, and hope for future improvements. Notably lacking is anti-US rhetoric or religious fanaticism. (Image)

Somehow, the opportunity for secular, democratic regimes equals a crisis for US energy prices. The embedded assumption is that the conflicts leading to new regimes will cause a disruption in the flow of oil. With the exception of Libya, none of these countries have reduced their oil production, including oil producing Egypt. In fact, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates increased oil production to compensate for the short fall due to the military conflict in Libya.

If we don’t believe that Libya is the cause, then we get the excuse of emerging democracies. If emerging democracies fail to catch on as the scapegoat, there will be other excuses.

The Money Party bottom line is apparent. It’s time to take some more money from citizens. Any plausible reason will do. When you own the media, you have no worries. Who’s going to bust you?

The Big Payday at Your Expense

The gas price shock and awe is not evenly distributed. The Western states, New York, Illinois, and Nebraska are taking the biggest hits. There’s some explanation for this but not a very good one. All that matters is taking as much in extra profits as possible while the extraordinary events in Libya and the rest of the region allow a plausible storyline. This time, democracy is the villain.

These gas prices will have a direct impact on those least able to afford it. It will cost more to go to work or look for jobs. Commodities will go up even more than they are now. Transportation for the distribution of all products will have an impact on prices. Tourism will fall off. The feeble increases in hiring may be at risk and there will be more gloomy news about how this all impacts the prospects for any sort of economic recovery.

What’s Really Driving Gas Prices?

In a recent Business Insider column, David Moenning noted:

“At least part of the reason behind crude’s rude rise is the price action itself. Hedge funds and other fast-money types have begun to pile into what appears to be a burgeoning uptrend in the oil charts (take a peek at a weekly chart of USO and you’ll see what we mean). Then when you couple the price action with the news backdrop, this appears to be the new place to be for the ‘hot money.’” David Moenning, Business Insider Mar 6

We have the usual suspects looking for hot money. The fast-money types, as Moenning calls them, smell another victory in the air. Their market activity is driving prices in a self-reinforcing cycle of increases that are highly profitable when you get in and out at the right time (and if you pull the strings for the market, that’s easy). (Image: Fuel Gauge Report)

Who is looking out for our interests?

No one. Have you heard of any congressional investigation? The oversight committees for the Departments of Energy and Commerce are two likely starting points. Nothing. President Obama is threatening to tap the US strategic oil reserve to use market forces to push crude oil and gas prices down. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke sees commodity price increases, including crude oil, as a temporary phenomenon. They may create a problem, however.

“Rises in the prices of oil or other commodities would represent a threat both to economic growth and to overall price stability, particularly if they were to cause inflation expectations to become less well anchored,” Bernanke said before Congress last week. Ben Bernanke, March 1

Doing nothing, like Congress, and trying to manipulate market forces, as the president says he might, are not the heavy-hitters needed to stop this latest rip off. They both buy into the belief that there is some sort of occult mystery to why prices are going up. Everyone who benefits will raise prices because they can. They have no concept of enough and there is nobody standing in their way.

What would JFK do?

There was a time when the president of the United States stood up to big business. President John F. Kennedy put his prestige and word on the line when he helped the steel industry and labor unions negotiate a contract that the president thought was fair to all, a deal he hailed as “non inflationary.” Just days after the settlement, US Steel turned around and issued a major price increase. This would have hurt the economy due to the central role of steel at the time.

Kennedy felt betrayed by US Steel and the others that raised prices. He wasted no time in his response. The Department of defense said it would buy steel from the lowest bidder. This would have excluded US Steel and their fellow price gougers. The Justice Department began investigations and issued antitrust indictments by the big steel producers. Kennedy also went to the public to gain support for his efforts.

Big steel backed down. The broader business community complained. The Kennedy administration and others reminded everyone that the government acts in the public interest when business threatens the interests of the people. What a novel concept.

Collins, Michael. “Libya, gas prices and the Big Payday at Your Expense.” The Economic Populist. Available:

American Empire and Political Insanity

The fear that America’s founders were really only interested in empire is not new. What is not clear is whether Americans believe the rise of empire is merely something that might happen in the future. I think this must be the case. There are a lot of Americans who still believe their vote counts, or they did before the last couple of elections. There are countless people on television and the Internet acting as though political candidates matter, elections matter, betrayals of the people’s trust matter.

But then issues of trust would be important in an empire as well. There have been benevolent emperors with prosperous, peaceful reigns. The Emperor Franz Josef of Austria was that kind of emperor. There is nothing in the definition of Empire that dictates injustice, economic collapse, and cynical profiteering. The question of whether we have a viable democracy is only important in this context.  Once an empire sinks so low, who can keep it from pillaging the countryside?

Again it seems important to mention the confusion in analyses of the problem. Sociologist Wayne Baker observed that Americans hold traditional views similar to third world countries, although America is considered a developed nation similar to western European nations. But then he adds that these views are to be expected in third world countries because of their economic and political turmoil—the traditional, conservative outlook is a natural outcome of the overriding importance of survival in such conditions.

Sadly, this comparison makes sense on the surface. I suppose it brings to mind dictators who have been in the news, wars and revolutions in South America, etc. Of course America is nothing like that, is it? But America has had economic turmoil and war, even though lately the wars have been overseas. In American history, industrial interests have been guilty of third world tactics, shamelessly oppressing workers. In addition, big business interests have always had close associations with government. Americans have endured cycles where the loss of family farms was rampant. Recently, wealthy farmers who benefited from the loss of these family farms have dictated the country’s estate tax policy. Today, the current cycle of crisis is merely continuing the destruction of the economic prospects of American families and is accompanied by political disappointment and disillusionment. Yet Baker associates Americans with Europeans rather than with the people of any of the third world countries, saying that our social and political values make us an “outlier” in his analysis.

Another example of confusion is Mike Stathis’ analysis in his book “America’s Healthcare Solution.” Stathis mentions the waste, fraud and bribery in the nation’s healthcare system, and then offers solutions. But one wonders how the same people who could create such problems, and even perpetuate them, would be willing or able to fix them. Profit has eroded even issues of life and death, finally corrupting the caregivers who have sworn an oath to protect life.

If political power is to be measured by the degree of injustice rulers can inflict with impunity, then we are talking about something else entirely than the difference between democracy and empire. We are talking about criminal behavior. But I’ve just stated the obvious again. Everyone knows people should have gone to jail as a result of this recession, and that they never will.

Stefan Zweig called the fascists of early twentieth century Europe politically insane. Today it seems that even Americans who try to address the problems may be politically schizophrenic, not knowing to whom they are speaking or which issues are priorities. Political schizophrenia seems to be as hereditary as the other kind—apparently we got it from our Judeo-Christian forefathers, who deliberately associated Astraea, pagan goddess of the Roman Empire, with the Virgin Mary.

Continued from America and the Constellation Virgo

This brings to mind the fact that many British officers in the Revolutionary War were Freemasons who actually failed to carry out their orders during decisive battles. I’m also reminded that only a third of the Colonists were in favor of the War. A third were undecided, and the final third were loyalists. You could say it was the war of, by and for the new ruling class. Judging from their secret dreams of empire, they certainly had the most to gain.

I wanted to talk about a new model for the future, but the time isn’t right for that yet. It seems it is important to first examine the old models and try to put American history in clearer perspective. The idea that America was the first new nation founded from scratch with ideas about liberty, etc. seems to have disguised the identifying characteristics of the new elite and the government they made. The elite weren’t born under Plymouth Rock. They have a history.

I suppose there are a lot of Tea Partiers who would be up in arms about this—if they ever read it. I’m pretty sure there are liberals who would be just as peeved. The Tea Partiers need rescue. There they are on the conservative bandwagon and they don’t know who’s pulling it. A bunch of old groups who have been hovering around for decades saw their opportunity and swooped in. The aim is to keep everything the same, to protect the status quo and their own place in it.

The liberals should know better than to cling to their dogma, but they don’t. Many of them disagree with union busting but defend the healthcare bill, for example. This makes no sense. The healthcare bill threatens the same people who are protected by unions.

America and the Constellation Virgo

I deleted the last post about cultural differences. I sometimes think I’ve written something readable, only to realize later, it isn’t. Part of the problem is that this story has so many side plots. The antagonists would have to include politicians discussing the healthcare debate, for example. Has anyone noticed that when they get to the part where they say “America has the best healthcare system in the world,” they slow down and lower their voice an octave? They all do it exactly the same way! It is as though they think words can create reality. (Hmmm…didn’t Plato say thoughts create reality, or something like that?) Unfortunately, there is just no sensible way to discuss healthcare when the debate starts with nonsense, although one tries to put arguments in order, group related events, and phrase everything as clearly as possible, to put nonsense in a neat package.

The real problems arise when the nonsense is not out in the open. A clarification of America’s founding ideas, as opposed to popular myths, should probably be the starting point but the attempt to search the distant past seems too complicated, not to mention boring, and the story line goes astray with every plot twist. Even if you could get it straight more eloquent essays abound and they are not really getting the attention they deserve. Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, in his narrative about events surrounding the two World Wars, remembered a time when the written word was quite valuable and people eagerly read everything that was published. That changed during his lifetime to the point where nothing had much of an effect. Through improved communication, societies transitioned suddenly from living isolated, peaceful lives to a state of constant awareness of war and atrocity taking place around the world. What would he have said about the Internet?

I’ll try again to find the beginning. The constellation Virgo was important to America’s founders. The cornerstone ceremonies of the Freemasons were apparently timed with this in mind. There is a paraphrase of Virgil’s Fourth Eclogue’s new age, “novus ordo saeclorum,” inscribed in the Great Seal of the United States. This refers to “Astraea, the virgin goddess of justice, (who) was the last of the immortals to quit the earth at the end of the constellation Virgo. Throughout the Renaissance…she was associated, on the one hand, with the revival of the Roman Empire and…through Virgil, (she) came to be linked with both letters and empire.” Virgil “identified the new age with the Augustan peace, (but) Christian readers, beginning…with the emperor Constantine himself, saw in the Fourth Eclogue a prophecy of Christ’s birth, made the more convincing by the Virgo easily (related) to the Virgin Mary. In the Renaissance, these Christian meanings buttressed a renewed emphasis on Astraea’s imperial associations, as the French and English monarchies annexed her as a symbol of their claims to inherit the mantle of Rome.” (To be continued…)


1.  Ovason, David. The Secret Architecture of Our Nation’s Capital: the Masons and the building of Washington D.C. Century Books, Ltd. London. 1999

2.  Zweig, Stefan. The World of Yesterday. Cassell and Co. Ltd. London, Toronto, Melbourne and Sydney. 1947

3.  Wine, Kathleen. Forgotten Virgo: humanism and absolutism in Honore’ d’Urfe’s ‘L’Astre’e’. Librairie Droz S.A. Geneve. 2000