John and Donna McShane, citizens of Alberta, Canada, spend part of each year on vacation in Arizona in their mobile home. In 2012, while vacationing in Arizona, Donna developed a bad cough; she was advised to go to the Western Arizona Regional Medical Center, in Bullhead City, for an examination. Since she had health insurance from AMA, which is owned by Manulife Financial, both of Canada, there was no hesitation in recommending that she enter this regional hospital for tests.

During her five days’ stay at the Western Arizona Regional Medical Center, she underwent different tests, none of which proved conclusive; and even spent 2 days in isolation on the fear that she might have tuberculosis. (She didn’t.)  After a five day uneventful stay in the hospital, she was released, with only a prescription for steroids for her troubles. Her total bill: $105,000!

That’s not the worst of it. Her insurance company, AMA, obviously not wanting to pay the hospital bill, said that, on closer examination, they had “found an error” on the McShane’s insurance application form regarding prescription medication, and as a consequence nullified their policy, making the McShanes, who live on $30,000/year, liable for the entire amount! This is an all-too-common subterfuge employed by insurance companies to keep from honoring a policy where large outlays are to be paid. And, unfortunately, they usually get away with it.

What are the notable points here? First, a simple mistake on an application, found only after a large outlay was to be paid to the hospital, is used as a pretence for cancelling their policy–although no such problem had been detected so long as the McShanes were paying into AMA! But as soon as AMA was faced with honoring their contract, suddenly the McShanes’ application came under the closest scrutiny and—surprise—was decreed wanting.

Secondly, it is nothing short of obscene that after only five days in a hospital—however, not in the ER or ICU, and not involving multiple surgeries, limb replacements, organ transplants, or other expensive, labor intensive procedures—the hospital could charge her $105,000.  Given what Donna McShane underwent while in the hospital—or perhaps one should say what she didn’t undergo—such a huge bill is simply incomprehensible.

Years ago I worked in a hospital in the Northwest and became good friends with one of the ER doctors. He was in charge of organizing lectures, at the hospital, for the physicians. For that year’s lectureship, he invited a well-known physician/professor from an Ivy-League medical school who was an expert on hospital pricing. What he said was unbelievable. Costs—the expert  used as one example open- heart surgeries—astoundingly, were arbitrarily set—literally “picked out of the air;” in this case a “cost” of $5,000 per valve. Not because it really cost that much—it didn’t. None of the costs he mentioned were grounded in reality. They were simply—incredibly—arbitrarily decided upon.

Let’s examine this $20,000 per day expense more closely. A bed at a nice motel might cost $70/night.  That’s a far cry from a hospital’s $20,000 per night, even granted the obvious differences between the two! (Indeed, is there even a super-luxury hotel that charges this much?) Clearly someone—or many people—are making lots of money with these super-inflated costs. As for me, there’s no possible argument that can make me believe that resting your head on a hospital pillow, plus a few tests, could cost $20,000 per diem!  By way of contrast, I see my doctors in Korea for about $4 per visit. I had an endoscopy in the hospital for around $100 dollars. I see both my orthopedist and his in-house physical therapist(s) for about $12 combined. These prices put into stark relief the absolute unreality of the hospital’s $20,000 per diem price tag.

When health care is left up to doctors, for-profit hospitals and clinics, and insurance companies, cases like the McShanes are rife; for their sole concern is how much profit can be made, while the health of the patient is always of secondary importance.

This is why health care is one of many aspects of our modern life that the federal government must take complete charge of–contra the Republican party’s no-government-at-all platform—in order to serve the greater interests of the nation and its denizens. Infrastructure, including the development of mass transportation systems and the repair of bridges, gas and electricity for homes and businesses, the funding of new forms of energy, well-maintained streets and highways, conservation, worker health and safety, the establishment of a livable minimum wage, affordable medications, etc—these are some of the areas in which, for the sake of our nation’s health, safety, and welfare, the federal government MUST take control. Corporations, with their eye exclusively fastened on profit, are unfit to control these vital sectors of our common life. The CEO of Exxon/Mobil put it memorably when he stated, “I don’t care about America, I only care about Exxon/Mobil.” In a nutshell, that’s what makes corporations so dangerous.

Aristotle, in his Nicomachean Ethics, Book 1, Chapter 13, states: “The true statesman…wants to make his fellow-citizens good ….” That is, or ought to be, the true aim of every politician. Today, however, the only thing politicians care about is how to make their corporate clients richer, how to extend the corporation’s (and its lobbyist’s ) power into every crack and crevice of our modern life—but clearly not how to make America’s citizens “good.” Yet until and unless we elect to public office men and women who do fully subscribe to Aristotle’s view, such manifest injustice as has struck the McShanes must continue to wreck and ruin the lives of countless others—all the while making the 1% even richer, more powerful, more callous—and more evil!

Goodness or Profit: Democracy or oligarchy: that’s our modern era’s strict either/or. We are in a fight-to-the-death. Either we win and reclaim democracy for America or we lose and become mere slaves of the oligarchic Corporate State. The choice is ours to make.

Len Sive Jr.


“To speak with forked tongue” appropriately, on one account of its origins, goes back to 1699, to the French army in America, which invited the Iroquois Indians to attend a peace conference, only to have the French end up treacherously butchering all the attending Iroquois. Thenceforth, for Indians, to speak with “forked tongue” meant to lie—specifically, the idea that the white man lies and so cannot be trusted.

This unspeakable act of treachery by the French, in dealing with the Indian, has been all too common throughout our history. In the early years of our Republic, we would announce our peaceful intentions towards the Indians, and sign a peace treaty with them; but when the treaty became too inconvenient to honor—when gold or silver was found on Indian land, or land was needed for homesteading, or cattle-raising, or for the coming railroads, et. al.—then the white man would summarily break his “solemn oath” by breaking the treaty…until, that is, he needed a new treaty, and then his oath was “as good as gold.”

Enter our latest expert in the high devilish art of “speaking with forked tongue,” the right-wing extremist from Texas, Ted Cruz (though as far as speaking with “forked tongue” goes, any Tea Party politician more than qualifies, so little is Truth honored among these “very honorable” men and women).

A day watching Cruz is a lesson in this fine art of forked-tongue speaking: or what historically is called “sophistry”—defined as when someone attempts to persuade with half-truths or complete falsehoods. Cruz is against Obamacare because, he says emphatically, “it’s costing people’s jobs and is taking away their healthcare.” But this is pure sophistry! Cruz cites not a single shred of evidence to back up his argument—because he can’t. And he knows it, too. There is no evidence whatsoever that jobs have been or will be lost due to Obamacare. And far from taking away people’s health care, millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions will now be covered—and that is both humane and good. And millions more will be insured for the first time. Again, that is both humane and good.

I suspect that Cruz is against Obamacare in part because big, for-profit insurers will now lose out, as they should—both on account of their amoral behavior (see Michael Moore’s Sicko documentary, which will make you ill to see how our insurance companies let people suffer and die so that they could make more profit)—and because, on principle, health care should be government-financed and thus not subject to the whims and machinations of profit-taking.  It is not just absurd, it is criminal that for-profit private insurers should themselves have the power of life and death over our citizens rather than their physician. Health care before Obamacare truly was Kafkaesque.

If Ted Cruz, presidential aspirant, speaks with “forked tongue” now, when only a member of the House, imagine what would transpire if he were to become president. Without a shadow of a doubt, we’d witness (“Tricky Dick”) Richard Nixon redivivus—and yet another addition to the Dark Ages of conservative Republican governance.

Len Sive


The Republican Party is risking the financial health of the United States, and what recovery the country has made since the 2008 (Republican-made) economic crisis, in order to fight national health care in general and “Obamacare” in particular. So fanatical, so anti-rational, so ideological are these Republicans, that even risking the financial rating of their own country, and its further economic stability, take a back-seat to their “all government is bad government” Tea Party ideology.

Republicans are acting like financial terrorists—willing to destroy the country’s credit and economic health for the sake of their anti-government ideology (ie, government for the poor), failing to recognize that the Affordable Health Care Act is already law, having been passed by Congress and upheld by the Supreme Court. So when house representatives, with support from Republican senators fail to honor law, they undermine democracy. The kind of government envisioned by Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Adams and others—for which they risked their possessions, their names, their honor, and their lives—that government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” as Lincoln wrote, is then effectively a dead letter.

Let’s review first the Republican mantra that national health care is “socialism”. If you should travel to other countries, you would see that it is simply not true. I have lived abroad, East and West, and every modern industrial nation—except the US—has (affordable) health care for all its citizens and not just for the wealthy. “Socialism” is a bogey man used by rich Republicans to frighten ill-educated masses with. “Affordable” is the key term here. A country whose citizens cannot be healthy because health care is beyond their financial means is a demonstrably weak country. And in any event, Republicans cannot win on this issue. Public opinion is not with them, so they must somehow try to emerge from this crisis without looking like the malevolent politicians they in truth are. If ever one had doubts about how patriotic these Republicans are, doubt no more. Patriotism is held hostage to ideology.

But on a deeper level, let us never forget: History judges nations on how it treats all of it citizens, especially its weakest and most vulnerable. The Republican Party is today the Supremacist party: everything for the richest 10% and little or nothing for the bottom 80%. This dogfight over Obamacare must be seen as but one act in this drama, albeit a particularly dangerous one, with our country’s economic and financial health  hanging in the balance. All rhetoric aside (“socialism” and the like), it boils down to this: Is America for all Americans or only for rich Republicans? As Americans decide on this fundamental issue, so goes the fate of America—and democracy.

Len Sive