Look Away at Your Peril, Citizens

Terrible things happen regularly in our world, under the heading of “man’s inhumanity to man.”   At any given time one group of humans are catching hell from another.  For example, in 1921, a group of angry men in Tulsa, Oklahoma decided it was an intolerable outrage that another group of men, men who didn’t look like them, were prosperous while they themselves were struggling economically.   They went on a full-scale rampage, burning down a large section of Tulsa and killing an untold number of the other, hated, ethnic group.  After the pogrom, the survivors of that orgy of destruction, their former fine homes in ruins, were herded into an outdoor holding camp, presumably for their own protection from the still murderous mob.  

We don’t hear much about this particular racist massacre by a group of men who honestly believed they were superior to the people they were slaughtering, and fully justified in their violent actions.  Next year, when the centenary of the massive Tulsa Pogrom comes around, this particular little known slaughter will be placed before the public again. as if for the first time.

We can observe the sickening echoes of history, the sequences of unfolding events that “rhyme” with the most troubling episodes of the past.   We can see a familiar progression before every outpouring of mass rage:  legitimate grievance, harnessed and enflamed by finger-pointing demagogues, an “other” vilified (often as rapists and child murderers) and then, after sufficient time for this malignant brew to fully ferment, the chants begin, torches are lifted, men with guns ride to the rescue, the villains are brought to “justice,” swiftly, violently, without regard to the ordinary niceties for determining guilt or innocence.

It is a human instinct to look away from this kind of horror.   The impulse is understandable, even if it can also be fatal.   Historical comparisons are always slippery, often used to advance supremely idiotic arguments.   Certain things, however, always follow the same pattern.   In times of vast economic insecurity, for example, when massive transnational corporations employ armies of the world’s poorest, at slave wages, to maximize their profit margin, it is predictable that masses of their former decently paid workers, now without the prospect of employment for a fair wage, will rightfully feel betrayed and angry.  Angry people look for somebody to blame.  Demagogues direct their righteous rage towards some historically powerless group, the scoundrels who are to blame for this savage injustice.

It is predictable that when hundred year killer storms become the norm, instead of rare exceptions to the natural order — despite the robust right wing cries of hoax, fraud, lies, hysterical liberal alarmism — people affected by the storms will feel enormous desperation.  Every news report of a deadly tornado in an area that had never seen one, earthquakes in areas that had never had them, another large city flooded by a killer hurricane, landslides, wild fires, drought, rising sea levels causing floods … increases anxiety.  

It’s impossible to fully quell the thought, with the regular front page news of these now frequent natural disasters, that maybe this increasing natural destruction is not all a Chinese hoax invented by evil job-killing enemies who want to destroy our freedom.   The awful thought that maybe a hundred years of man’s wanton pollution has caused this scary change of the climate will creep in from time to time, especially after your own home is destroyed by an aggrieved Mother Nature.

Look away if you must.  Politics has become an ugly blood sport, the instinct to look away is stronger than it’s ever been, by deliberate design of the game.   As you turn your gaze inward to your own life, and making it as good as you can, in spite of the horrors around you, understand that only one side in the tribal wars has been actively and energetically organizing and preparing for this war for decades.  

Right now that side is winning bigly, while the other side cowers, afraid, torn by debate, many of its would be advocates turning away from “politics” and clinging to the things in life that make them feel most comfortable as the terrible rhymes of the worst episodes of history are jangling like ominous, maddeningly loud wind chimes agitated by a killing breeze.

Here in America only one side of our political divide, the extreme right, has organized a methodical long game to “right the scales” in the culture war.   One party now embraces views that, forty years ago, were the unthinkably paranoid, self-interested (and, frankly, racist) magical thinking of extreme fringe fanatics like The John Birch Society  [1].   The well-funded, smartly engineered campaign that created and funded influential “think tanks” to intellectually argue for their preferred public policies and shape national debate, endowed chairs at hundreds of universities for professors who espouse their liberty-loving views, founded, and funded, an influential national society of ambitious young lawyers and law students to ideologically indoctrinate and promote, through a fellow-traveler career ladder, future federal judges who will act as one to advance their agenda, given a case with the wiggle room to do so, funding national “grassroots” campaigns that appear on television to give the appearance of a massive, spontaneous public outcry, really has no analogue on the left. 

The protection of vast financial privilege, inequalities of wealth and grotesquely unequal chances for life or dignity, has long been the project of the privileged.  There is nothing mysterious about this; you or I, if we were cynics, would probably do the same, under these conditions.   If you stand to inherit a billion dollars from the family trust, and the government seeks to claim half of that in a punitive Death Tax, you will donate however many millions you are required to kick in for the cause of keeping it all.

Liberty, in fact, according to this orthodoxy, demands that the government not be allowed to coerce its citizens or unfairly confiscate the rightful property of  citizens.    An army of desperate poor people will be assembled to stand on the mall in Washington D.C. and every other major city and, in one voice, rail against this vicious government intrusion on human freedom!   Give ’em each fifty bucks and a free lunch, pay an additional ten if they make their own signs.   Why not?   That’s democracy in action, after all.   USA!  USA!!!!

The radical right has played a clever long game, learning from its mistakes, tweaking the program like a skilled engineer does to fix bugs in it.  It doesn’t hurt that they have unlimited money to deploy in sustaining their ever more effective long game.  Every beneficiary of the tangible privileges accorded to wealthy followers of the ideology will gladly kick in to advance the agenda for her own children and the children of her children’s children.   This is simply human nature, which you are free to judge, but powerless to do anything about.  

On the progressive side, historically, and presently, we tend to argue from entrenched positions — incremental change advocates (the practical art of the possible) versus institutional change advocates (justice delayed is justice denied).  We have moderates, urging us to not attempt to frontally attack long-time institutional injustices.   We have liberals, telling us that certain intolerable social evils should be reformed, must be reformed, to the extent possible in our divided political culture,  but that it may take a generation or two, or perhaps, as our recent history shows, a century or more.  

We have a few public radicals on the organized left, pointing out, correctly in my view, that the long slide toward autocracy (and bear in mind, the wealthy architects of the right wing revolution, in their hearts, prize their own liberty to be free of social coercion of any kind above everything else– autocracy for all!) cannot be countered with half measures.  We are fighting unscrupulous reactionary radicals, controlling untold wealth, who are busily spending to entrench themselves in permanent power, and only an equal and opposing energy, organizing and willingness to fight can make any difference.

The dilemma in a nation trained from birth to be pliant consumers — if you are appalled by the rapid advance of an extreme right wing agenda, there is really no place you can visit today, and directly participate to fight, that compares to any of the effective and massively well-funded one-stop shops of the formerly radical right.   If you are a young Libertarian, there is an easily findable career network and ready funding, from a variety of sources, for your liberty-enhancing ideas and a group of likeminded idealists ready to welcome you to their ranks.   Young leftists?  Good luck to you finding an organization to work with, finding people to organize, strategize and march with, in your city or town.

So, to the traumatized people of good conscience I know, I understand 100% your revulsion, and the reason you turn away from the ugly spectacle as our nation drops even the pretense of democracy.   It is painful and scary to witness, and a feeling of helpless anger is difficult to sit with.   There are wonderful entertainments to take our minds off this unsettling state of affairs, a host of diverting and excellent, healthy things to do– rather than watch in horror as the dark clouds of autocracy blot out all hopes of the light ever returning.   I get it, absolutely.   

And I will do my best to console you, sickeningly insistent realist (or unhinged, overwrought imaginer) that I am, in the cattle car, on our trip toward the relocation center.   At that point it will be senselessly cruel to remind anyone that all evil needs to flourish is for people of good conscience to look away, to do nothing.   How were you to really know how bad it was actually getting?   The New York Times was not freaking out, that much.

And, more to the point, it is not as if it was our children, or the children of anyone we know, who were snatched from their mothers’ arms and lost in a system of cages spread across many states, in the name of enthusiastically chanting crowds, for the profit of politically connected entrepreneurs who, flushed with a love of liberty, increased their bottom line bigly with government contracts to house these miserable sons and daughters of rapists and drug dealers.  

Do you think that on our way to the retraining center I would be crass enough to reproach anyone for their natural turning away from horror?   Not at all.   You won’t hear a word of reproach from me.  Why would you?

 

[1]  One of these wingnuts, the wildly influential, opiate-addled Rush Limbaugh, was decorated with the nation’s highest medal for a civilian, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, hung around his neck by First Lady Melania.   Why not?   Rush was one of the pioneers of this brutal new politics, and one of the most successful promoters of ideas previously considered too insane to publicly advocate.  Without Limbaugh, you don’t get to Trump.   A grateful president acknowledges his debt, without getting too close to Rush, whose late stage cancer might be contagious, after all.  Wind farms also produce cancer, a shit ton of cancer, people are saying.  You can’t be too careful, if you want to live to see the full ripening of your movement towards absolute liberty from government coercion.

This will come as no surprise

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Hannah Arendt writes, in her masterpiece Eichmann in Jerusalem:

there had existed two categories of Jews in the camps, the so-called “transport Jews” (Transportjuden), who made up the bulk of the population and who had never committed an offense, even in the eyes of the Nazis, and the Jews “in protective custody” (Schutzhaftjuden), who had been sent to German concentration camps for some transgression and who, under the totalitarian principle of directing the full terror of the regime against the “innocents,” were considerably better off than the others, even when they were shipped to the East in order to make the concentration camps in the Reich judenrein [“free of Jews” — ed.].    (In the words of Mrs. Raja Kagan, an excellent witness on Auschwitz, it was “the great paradox of Auschwitz.  Those caught committing a criminal offense were treated better than the others.”  They were not subject to the selection and, as a rule, they survived.)   [1] 

Think about any fundamentally lawless regime, ruled by a dictator, using terror, the threat of certain, merciless, violent reprisal, to enforce its absolute will in the face of potential resistance.   These regimes conduct one-sided unappealable show “trials” without witnesses or evidence, where loyalists take oaths in vain and vote on straight party lines to endorse their leader’s abuses of power and obstruction of justice.   These trials can also be used to publicly humiliate, convict and eliminate all enemies, real or percieved.   

In totalitarian societies actual criminals are often regarded as a lawless (outside of the leader’s will, which has the force of law) regime’s bold and beautiful, rewarded as men worthy of respect because they take what they want, rejecting weak, liberal social constraints, and the restraints of liberal “conscience” on their great appetites.  Criminals are the natural aristocrats of a totalitarian society, as long as their crimes remain above politics, or are committed in the service of the leader.  Punishment is for the weak and the timid, for the millions and millions of cowering losers who, even momentarily, seem to refuse to obey blindly.  They must all be made examples of!

Here’s another angry Jew, Eli Valley, a fine artist with brilliant brushwork, and a wicked sense of humor,  making a related point that some will find overwrought.   We who read history somberly, taking careful notes, never dismiss the murderous power of an angry crowd whose passions are stoked by a master of enflaming grievance and rage.  There are many, many, many examples of irrational appeals to fear, resentment and rage resulting in mass murder. 

Of course, even though it’s happened here many times, more times than most of us are aware of,  it can’t happen here.  Of course, of course!

 

 

[1] Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, Hannah Arendt, (c) 1963-64   Penguin Classics edition,    p. 214

 

Lest we forget Mr. Trump’s greatest achievement

Fairness demands that I point out that Mr. Trump and his billionaire son-in-law, Mr. Kushner,  have done what nobody in history has come close to doing.   They brought peace to the Middle East by brokering a historic peace deal between the eternally complaining Palestinians and our great democratic allies in Israel.   

Don’t take it from me, here’s Jared Kushner, author of the detailed eighty page plan that solved an explosive and long-festering problem that has generally been considered insoluble.   Jared summarizes his delicate diplomatic work in ten seconds or less HERE.

Taking Concerted Action in a Budding Autocracy

Once you remove the last legal restraints on a lawless person, the results are easy to predict.  

I’m haunted by the image of Mr. Hitler, already the dictator of Germany for a year and a half, finally sending the Gestapo out to liquidate his enemies in “The Night of the Long Knives”.   Everyone on Mr. Hitler’s voluminous enemies list was murdered that night, June 30, 1934, including a nationally known ultra-conservative politician and decorated German general named Kurt von Schleicher.  He was shot seven times while sitting at his desk, his wife was also killed; a year later Schleicher’s cook, the only eye witness to the shooting, mysteriously drowned. 

The killing of Schleicher was sold the next morning as an act of self-defense by the men sent to take Schleicher into custody for treason.  The Nazi story in the Nazi-controlled mass media was that they’d shot the accused traitor when he resisted arrest by opening fire on them, as desperate, insane traitors often do.  Two weeks later Mr. Hitler could nonchalantly drop the lie during a Reichstag speech and simply tell the nation: “I had Schleicher shot.”  

Even though “jobs are booming, incomes are soaring, poverty is plummeting, crime is falling, confidence is surging and our country is thriving and highly respected again” I am feeling unaccountably uneasy.  I keep thinking of what our infallible leader tweeted right after Mueller’s investigation “completely and totally exonerated” the man about whose obstruction of justice Robert Mueller III wrote “we could not exonerate him.”  

Mueller, the lifelong Republican who completely exonerated Trump, of course —  a traitor– and the treason of his witch hunting partisan investigators is being criminally investigated by the aggressive Attorney General’s most aggressive investigator even as we joyously celebrate the unprecedented greatness of our great land.  Here’s the part of the president’s tweet I can’t manage to forget:

“It is finally time to turn the tables and bring justice to some very sick and dangerous people who have committed very serious crimes, perhaps even Spying or Treason.”

Before he actually gets to do that, I, personally, have to get busy.  Voting every few years for an attractively packaged corporate candidate, the one with the most persuasive public relations campaign, has not prevented the frightening historic moment we find ourselves in.  I have a strong need to sit in a room with other determined people who are organizing to fight the forces of autocracy.  I have a gnawing need not to accept my individual helplessness as a citizen of our great democracy, as even  the pretense of that democracy is poised to perish from the earth.

I found one organization to check out just now, with headquarters in Brooklyn NY.  One of its leaders is one of the women who stopped a sheepish Jeff Flake in an elevator, on the eve of the Judiciary Committee vote to send the nomination of the angry, crying, self-pitying, intemperately partisan “Brett” Kavanaugh to the full Senate, and asked Flake on camera to do the right thing.   The short video went viral.  As the result of this direct public pressure, Flake did as much of the right thing as any Republican not dying of brain cancer can do these days (I refer to John McCain’s thumbs down to narrowly defeat the vote to end the Affordable Care Act, not long before his own death).

We should also pause to note Mitt Romney’s heroic and lonely vote of conscience to allow a fair trial, with witnesses and evidence, prior to the president’s acquittal — an unthinkably radical notion today among Republicans in Trump’s America.  (Susan Collins, shameless apologist for Kavanaugh– among other things–  has to lose her contested election, and good riddance).

Anyway, here’s the organization I want to check out:

The Center for Popular Democracy is an American advocacy group that promotes progressive politics. CPD is a federation of groups that includes some of the old chapters of ACORN. The group’s stated goal is to “envision and win an innovative pro-worker, pro-immigrant, racial and economic justice agenda.” Wikipedia

Alas, not as easy as simply going to their website:
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I’ll have to phone them tomorrow.
“And God bless these United Shayssssh…”

License to Lawlessness

Spoiler:  [ Here is the on-line consumer complaint form, that quickly solved the problem described below.  I have to figure out how to publicize it.}

With the largely incoherent “arguments” about why Abuse of Power is no vice and justifying absolute presidential immunity for obstructing multiple corruption investigations droning on in the foreground of American democracy — let’s examine what happens to the average citizen when the law that protects their health care can be routinely violated without consequences.

In New York State, patients who get their health care through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA” or “Obamacare”) can, on the eleventh day of January every year, have the health insurance they’ve lawfully reenrolled in canceled at the whim of the private health insurance company they pay for coverage.   I learned this sobering fact when it happened to me on January 22 of this year when I called to pay my premiums through June, as I had done every six months for the last few years.    

The reason given for abruptly canceling the policy I’d renewed on December 6 was that I’d missed the ten-day “grace period” for paying the first month’s premium for a new policy.   My arguments that I’d received no notice of any “grace period”, that it was the same policy I’d had for two or three years, same ID number, same ID card, same premium, fell on deaf ears.

The Healthfirst supervisor, Daya (like the vegan cheese), told me, with great certainty, that Healthfirst was following the “guidelines” and that I’d have to quickly reapply at the New York State of Health Marketplace if I wanted coverage starting March 1.  She informed me there was no requirement that health insurance companies give customers any notice of this ten day “grace period” and that the only appeal was an internal one.   She said she’d refer my “case” to “financial” and get back to me.  She told me I’d be responsible for paying the full price of the expensive, on-going heart-related procedure I’d had on January 8th, mistakenly believing I was still insured.    

In her long experience at Healthfirst, she told me, she’d never known “financial” to overturn a valid termination.  True to her word, I had a cheerful voicemail from her the following day and when I returned the call was informed by a representative that the termination was, unfortunately, final, irrevocable and non-appealable.   

Until two business days later when the company called to apologize for their “mistake”.  They took my payment over the phone, right before January ended, apologizing as much as I demanded.  I pummeled that poor woman, bullied her into admitting she empathized, would be equally outraged if she suddenly and without any warning found herself in my position.  My friends sent me congratulations for my tenacity, my legal skills, for prevailing in a high stakes fight nobody should have to fight just to have the basic right to health care granted to all citizens of every other wealthy nation.  I am as angry now as I was when they cancelled my insurance.  Here is why:

While one of the innovations of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was making it much harder for insurance companies to cancel policies for late payments without notice (an industry-wide practice as widespread and previously legal as non-coverage for “pre-existing conditions”), the first ten days of every  new year apparently offer an annual exemption to this rule allowing health insurance companies to cancel policies without warning.   That might be the law, or it might not be the law.  It’s up to the individual affected by termination for not paying in the “grace period” to try to find out what the law actually is and if any official in their state can help them determine the legality of what has just been done to deprive them of affordable health care.  Oh, and if there’s an available legal remedy if the action taken against them was illegal under the ACA.

An internet search took me to the only public agency that handles health care related consumer complaints.    The Better Business Bureau will help consumers with virtually every business-related conflict, excluding anything to do with health insurance.  The New York City Public Advocate does not get involved with consumers as individuals, only matters of “public policy”.   The state entity that has the monopoly on selling ACA plans, the “New York State of Health Marketplace” (NYSOH)  has no mechanism, outside of a three to four month quasi-judicial appeals process, to help health care consumers correct even NYSOH’s own errors that deprive them of health insurance or payment subsidies.  NYSOH also does not inform us of our basic legal rights as patients protected by the embattled Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act [2].  

The job of helping all of the many New York State health care “consumers” (otherwise known as “patients”) who experience problems with their health insurance falls to the small Health Care Bureau, a desk at the New York State Attorney General’s office, a hotline staffed by one or two decent, well-meaning, overwhelmed and powerless people who are very, very busy.

I contacted the Health Care Bureau and spoke to an extremely sympathetic and harried woman who lamented that there was little they could do for me, except to reach out to the company with a complaint and hope the corporation would change its mind.  I got an email telling me my transcribed complaint had been submitted [3].  The complaint, which stated my dictated complaint verbatim, looked very official, here is what is at the top of the copy they sent me:

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The next day the extremely kind woman from the Health Care Bureau reached out to let me know that, sadly, Healthfirst  got back to her to say, in essence, “tough noogies.”  She greatly empathized when she called to give me the bad news, told me she wished there was more she could do and advised me that I’d better get busy re-applying to NYSOH for health insurance if it wanted coverage again on March 1.

I called a non-profit advocate for the poor and elderly where a lawyer had helped me in the past, though even that excellent lawyer’s powers were extremely limited when it came to overcoming the refusal of a private health insurance corporation to comply with the law.   They researched my complaint and called me back to inform me that I’d better reapply if I wanted to be insured again on March 1, since there was probably nothing anyone could do.  In a voicemail they regretted they could not be of more help to me and made a reference to the Department of Financial Services consumer help forms.

I spent many more hours on the internet and on the phone, spoke to many more people at several New York City offices [1].  Eventually I found one who told me to file the consumer complaint form I’d already found at the New York State Department of Financial Services.  I’d found a link to this form during my second full day of research but had been skeptical, due to past experience with that agency. The great woman I spoke to at the NYC agency, Alexa, told me confidently that the insurance company would be forced to reverse its decision as a result of this complaint.  I wrote the complaint, filed it on-line and two business days later, Alexa’s prediction came true.  

There is a short explanation for why the corporation changed its unappealable decision: it had violated the law by canceling my health insurance, without notice or warning.   The government’s enforcement of its laws is the only thing that can force an unscrupulous person (or “person”)  to behave ethically, or at least comply with the law.   Without public enforcement, a law is as empty as the words of the lawyer for a vicious criminal arguing that since his client truly believed he was doing nothing wrong it was legally impossible that he’d committed the crime the jury had seen the videotape of him committing.   No intent, no crime, no harm, no foul!

The explanation for why the Department of Financial Services was the place to find and file a new, highly effective, amazingly fast-acting on-line consumer complaint against a health insurance company is a little longer.   When New York State became one of the first states to adopt the ACA, it abolished the Commissioner of Insurance position as well as the state’s Department of Insurance.   All of the functions of that oversight agency were merged into a new agency that also oversees banking and finances in New York State.   This was a full three years after the calamitous fallout from the financial industry’s massive fraud came close to causing a world economic collapse.   What could go wrong?  

The last time I had problems with my health insurance, at some point between my two “successful” several month appeal processes at the New York State of Health Marketplace to overturn errors they had made, I contacted the Department of Financial Services.  At the time, their fraud investigators, one of whom I managed to track down and eventually spoke with for a long time, only had the ability to investigate insurance fraud claims lodged by insurance companies against customers.  There was no consumer help available, though they helpfully referred me to the same 800 number that had begun my twenty hours or so in the useless administrative cul du sac I’d described in a long letter to the Attorney General’s office.

This time I was screwed by a corporation and, amazingly, managed to get quickly unscrewed.  Why am I still angry?  A character flaw, I suppose, I can’t help thinking of countless neighbors of mine, for whom English is a second language, who have no hope of finding this well-hidden, highly effective new remedy for the ILLEGAL practice of terminating affordable health care without notice or warning of any kind.  I think of anyone who does not have my particular skill set and perversity, anyone who has not been a lawyer, trying to navigate the impossibly rough waters of not being illegally thrown off an insurance policy.  

WHY DOES NOBODY (outside of a very cool NYC worker named Alexa) IN ANY OFFICE DEDICATED TO HELPING CITIZENS WITH HEALTH CARE KNOW ABOUT THE SECRET NEW 100% EFFECTIVE CURE for this particular corporate abuse?  Why is the public, particularly its most vulnerable members, not publicly and effectively informed of it?  Why is there no requirement that we be informed of how the law to protect patients actually protects patients?

As for the amazing quickness of the legal relief I got (two business days!), I can only conclude that out of the many hundreds or thousands around the state similarly screwed, I must have been one of very few, perhaps the only one, who filed a complaint with the Department of Financial Services on their new secret on-line form.  I can’t think of how else my vexing problem could have been solved so quickly.    Here is the NYSDFS consumer complaint form, by the way.

Abuse is not a crime, unless the law specifically makes it a crime.  If the law doesn’t specifically say you can’t abuse, it’s perfectly legal to do whatever you want, “abusive” or otherwise (within other legal limits) to anybody,.   If there is a law against a certain kind of abuse, but there is no enforcement available for those abused and no penalty to the abuser, well, that speaks for itself.  It says “I know you are, but what am I?!!”   In that case, effectively, even though a practice is actually against the law, in reality there is no law.  If there is no law, you have the democratic government you vulnerable, helpless, pitiful chumps deserve, losers!  It’s up to us all to … oh, never mind… there must be a good reality show we can all watch to calm down…

 

 

[1]   I learned from a great and knowledgeable woman at the New York City Human Resources Administration, Department of Health, Public Engagement Unit (212-331-6266  M-Th  9am-8pm  Fri til 6:30)  that New York City has a new program, NYC Care, that provides an extensive safety net for low-income individuals who lose access to affordable health care.  

This wonderful pilot program can save a lot of lives, because it provides for low cost doctor visits.  It should be well-known and well-publicized until it is.   NYC Care has a helpline at 646-NYC-CARE (692-2273).  The program is only active in the Bronx, so far, but if you go to any public hospital (Bellvue, Harlem Hospital, Jacobi, Lincoln, Montefiore)  you can enroll, at the Financial Planning or Business Office, in the low-cost, pay-as-you-go “options program”.   I will also post this as a separate piece, a public service announcement.

[2]  The inept public agency that has the state monopoly on providing ACA health plans is run by an unaccountable political appointee, Donna Frescatore, who does not allow consumers to contact her, nor does she allow NYSOH reps to divulge her identity to consumers.   Both of my appeals against NYSOH were necessitated by errors made by NYSOH reps that could only be corrected by winning a quasi-judicial appeal months later.   As a result of her excellent stewardship of NYSOH Frescatore has been promoted to Deputy Director of Medicaid in the State.   She must have EXCELLENT people skills.

[3] their email reads, with all the hallmarks of officialdom:

Thank you for submitting your complaint to the Health Care Bureau. Attached please find a copy for your records. Your assistance is vital to our efforts to serve the people of the State of New York.

The Attorney General takes seriously the legal issues of all New Yorkers, and every complaint to this office is carefully considered. Please be assured that we will thoroughly evaluate each of the issues you have raised, and determine if we, or any bureau within our office, can provide assistance. We may also share your submission with other local, state, or federal agencies, as appropriate.

We will contact you if we require any additional information. Please do not submit follow-up inquiries through the complaint form, which is for new submissions only. If contacting our office regarding this submission, please refer to Intake #1-129605382. Inquiries may be made by phone at (800) 771-7755, or by email.

Republican Senators Admit Democrats proved their case against the President

But, of course, it’s purely academic now, the vote is in, there will be no actual trial in the Senate and the blameless, or blameworthy, president will be acquitted in this partisan witch hunt too [1].   The Republican position, unified as never before in our nation’s history along a hard “party line” — the president’s defense, come what may — is that a president like Mr. Trump may abuse his enormous powers and repeatedly obstruct the lawful actions of Congress to check and balance this abuse — and these are simply not impeachable offenses, as the demented argument of Alan Dershowitz contends.  

Think about his argument out of the context of the impeachment of a president accused of abuse of power: why would anyone concerned with justice ever try to prevent abuse of power?   It’s just abuse, which is only an actual crime in certain carefully enumerated circumstances.  It’s not like he was kicking a dog in a state that has specific laws against it!

The founding fathers who apparently believed that the will of 51% majority should be the final word on any democratic question, were not concerned, we are told by the president’s most famous lawyer, that a president could abuse his powers if unchecked by Congress and the Courts.   The balancing of the powers of one branch of our government against the overreach of another branch is not what “checks and balances” was intended to enforce, not at all.  There were debates during the drafting of the Constitution about the grounds for presidential impeachment at the time, notes of these debates are available. “Maladministration” was not approved as grounds for impeachment, if the president runs his administration like an inept, even corrupt, fool the remedy is for the People (by their electors in the Electoral College) to vote him out and elect a better one four years later– no harm, no foul.  

Watch this next legalistic sleight of hand carefully, you may have to read it twice to catch the subtle trick.  The same, Dershowitz insists, is true of “misconduct in office” — he claims the Founding Fathers swept this aside as a synonym for “maladministration” and “abuse of power”.   That abuse of power was part of Nixon and Clinton’s impeachments only proves that the smartest lawyers, even Dershowitz himself, at the time, were not smart enough to see through this clearly unconstitutional partisan canard until now. 

79 year-old Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, poised to retire (and who announced his decision to vote with his party for no witnesses and no evidence at trial), issued this statement:

“I worked with other senators to make sure that we have the right to ask for more documents and witnesses, but there is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven and that does not meet the United States Constitution’s high bar for an impeachable offense. …The Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate. 

“The question then is not whether the president did it, but whether the United States Senate or the American people should decide what to do about what he did. I believe that the Constitution provides that the people should make that decision in the presidential election that begins in Iowa on Monday. …Our founding documents provide for duly elected presidents who serve with ‘the consent of the governed,’ not at the pleasure of the United States Congress. Let the people decide.” – Senator Lamar Alexander 

In plain words:  he did it, it was bad, they proved it.   I still love the guy, I mean, not personally, but what he represents for my worldview and my retirement.  It would be a shame to let him get publicly embarrassed by even more evidence and testimony that could only show more dramatically how he is constantly lying about the inappropriate things he did and continues to do, and is now explicitly permitted to do.

Alexander, unsurprisingly, supports the leader of his party for re-election in 2020.

Much more to the ominous point was the statement of Florida Senator  and one of Trump’s rivals for the Republican nomination in 2016, Marco Rubio (Little Marco). Little Marco wrapped his idealistic conclusions in a long, twisting legal-style argument, available at the link above (if you have the stomach for it), the gist being:

“Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a President from office. …
“… I will not vote to remove the President because doing so would inflict extraordinary and potentially irreparable damage to our already divided nation.”

The first statement translates:  just because the evidence shows somebody is guilty of committing a high crime, punishment is not always called for.  A preemptive, under-the-table pardon is sometimes better for the interests of the 51-49 majority and the higher interests they serve.

Allow me to provide a direct translation of that second part, which is much more troubling than even that first bit:

The president has the undying loyalty of a solid 40% of America, this number never changes much, no matter what.  Many of his supporters are very angry, and rightfully so, having been repeatedly screwed by the system.  Many have a lot of guns.   Most are enraged about the ongoing baseless witch hunts that have constantly tried to damage their hero, since the day he exercised his uncontested right to fire James Comey, the traitorous FBI director who would not swear personal loyalty to the president.  Would not swear personal loyalty!!!   Trump’s fans are heavily armed and easily outraged, as shown at boisterous nightly campaign rallies. Impeaching and removing their champion from office could set off a bloodbath.   I am not ready to take responsibility for a second Civil War, on the eve of the sacred Superbowl.

A little taste of Mr. Rubio’s crack legal analysis:

I also reject the argument that unless we call new witnesses this is not a fair trial. They cannot argue that fairness demands we seek witnesses they did little to pursue.

Nevertheless, new witnesses that would testify to the truth of the allegations are not needed for my threshold analysis, which already assumed that all the allegations made are true.

This high bar I have set is not new for me. In 2014, I rejected calls to pursue impeachment of President Obama, noting that he “has two years left in his term,” and, instead of pursuing impeachment, we should use existing tools at our disposal to “limit the amount of damage he’s doing to our economy and our national security.”

Screen shot 2020-02-02 at 4.34.30 AM.pngThis unified, if not 100% laudable or defendable, party line behind the president brings to mind the old Führerprinzip, the ruling philosophy of the Thousand Year Reich: the leader is always right, even when he’s shown to be completely wrong. Especially in the face of such TREASON!

Nothing to worry about here in America, though, we ain’t fucking Nazis, we’re the world’s greatest democracy.  Kick back and enjoy the Superbowl, you’ve earned it, y’all. 

 

[1] And, fuck me in the eye, it was literally by a vote of 51-49 suck it!

Danger! Democracy, Danger!

We are about to witness the acquittal of a man as guilty as OJ was of what he was charged with, as guilty as Jeffrey Epstein was when he got that sweetheart “child prostitution” deal from the feds (jobs well done, Al Dershowitz).   We are told by the president’s lawyers and members of the sworn impartial jury that the charges, even if true — OK, let’s say they are true and proven, we’ll stipulate to that, some of their unified party say now —  do not amount to any reason for anyone to go to the extreme partisan step of putting a duly elected American president on trial to establish his guilt or innocence for non-impeachable offenses less than a year before the election he may or may not be actively trying to cheat in (and such a hissy value judgment, that).

Once the Republicans acquit Trump, on charges arising from facts not in dispute, on the tortured grounds they gave (and to be straight, the grounds were always strictly: 51-49, suck it!), there is no longer any basis for impeaching and trying a corrupt-looking American president, no matter how openly corrupt he is.  Even (if he is a Republican with a Republican Senate) if he shoots another American in the face on Fifth Avenue, live on camera (can’t arrest him, can’t indict him, can’t investigate him, as his lawyers already told the Federal court, defending Trump in one of numerous ongoing cases against him, lost and now on appeal by his diehard legal team).   Suck it, libs!  51-49.

Jay Sekulow, Donald Trump’s loyal remaining personal lawyer, was probably the weakest of Trump’s lawyers at the impeachment trial.  To call it a “trial” is a bit of a stretch, when you consider the shamelessly partial jury, and the supine behavior of the presiding “judge” (it’s his first trial, give the good man a break, Widaen!) who is not even enforcing the Senate Impeachment Rules that Senators must remain in the chamber during arguments and may not make public statements during the trial proceedings (Rand Paul promptly went into the hall yesterday to release the whistleblower’s name after Chief Justice John Roberts would not read his question that would have done it on live TV during the impeachment–  contempt of court?   ROTFLMAO!). 

This may be the first public American trial of any kind in history where the judge did nothing to ensure that new evidence would be seen or testimony from previously blocked fact witnesses heard and cross-examined.  It’s worth keeping in mind that this is a trial to decide if the president committed, and continues to commit, a high crime by asserting unprecedented powers not to cooperate with lawful investigations into his personally motivated shakedown of a foreign ally.   Trump had his lawyers’ (on AG Barr’s advice and blessing) make repeated blanket refusals to participate in investigations or to obey legal process of any kind in any investigation of his wrongdoing, up to and including impeachment.

Every American knows that the Checks and Balances power of Congress, particularly vis a vis colorable wrongdoing by the president, is at its peak, and Executive Privilege at its nadir, during an impeachment.  It is established principle that every presumption should be construed toward Congress’s right to uncover the truth, according to the Constitution, especially during an impeachment  — or, if you prefer, its updated restatement:  51,49 suck it, losers.   As they continue to insist (leaving out the actual timeline, of course) the Democrats should have simply waited 15 months for full resolution by the courts on appeal, of all of the controversial evidentiary claims by Trump, losers!   It would have all likely gone in the Democrats favor in the end anyway, LOL!  Too bad all the subpoenas would have expired by then!

Back to loyal Jay Sekulow and his largely incoherent recitation of Trumpian innuendo about a vicious, baseless partisan attack sprinkled with the attendant hollow legalisms.   He did keep saying one indisputably true thing over and over, to underscore the deathly seriousness of the proceedings America is half-watching. “Danger!” he said, then paused, then said it again “danger!” —  a trope he’d repeat throughout his presentation of the impartial Mr. Dershowitz’s constitutional views.   Danger, Will Robinson!   Danger, America, danger!

No truer warning  could be sounded at this moment.  The danger to democracy is being rubbed right into our loser faces, America.   Whatever you think of this messianic figure who is radicalizing the federal judiciary, who hates abortion like the plague, who brought peace to the Middle East, and jobs to all Americans and who is making America greater every day, this precedent-setting non-trial on Trump’s impeachment is the end of democracy’s ability to even have a fair hearing about corruption and abuse of power by the Unitary Executive.  Nobody is above the law, but some, a privileged few (OK, a very privileged VERY few), are simply, and indisputably (by a 51-49 binding vote) beyond its reach.  (Danger.)

Republican senators even thinking about supporting a fair trial in the Senate are now considered traitors within the party of Trump.   It is now a risky, partisan position to support a fair trial.  Think about that for a second — a fair trial is unfair to the accused.   The Republican party’s position is that hearing previously blocked fact witnesses and new evidence at a trial, as at every other impeachment, every other trial that is not a kangaroo court is — OUT OF THE QUESTION!  Republicans supporting anything resembling a fair trial, in favor of even a vote on  a”radical” proposition like hearing new evidence that arrived after the indictment/impeachment or hearing from previously blocked fact witnesses, are continually threatened to stay in line.  Danger.

One powerful Republican who probably didn’t need any threatening was life-tenured “neutral” balls and strikes umpire and corporate hero John Roberts (inventor of the brilliant arbitration clause that squashes class-action– or any other kind of — lawsuits against negligent corporations), the principled “tie goes to the runner” tie-breaking “swing vote” Justice who is quietly “presiding” over the impeachment trial, with his eye on history, as we are told.  This fair-minded legal moralist has positioned himself as the towering, impartial Switzerland of this vicious war between patriots and traitors.  Danger.

The president’s band of loyal legal defenders, the lawyers at his impeachment trial, made a series of arguments against why the impeachment trial should have the minimum for a traditional fair trial — fact witnesses and evidence that the president impeached for Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress has been abusively obstructing during a long and seamless campaign of obstruction of justice going back at least to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.  He successfully obstructed justice in that investigation, including into his well-documented pattern of obstruction of justice, by the brilliant final stroke of appointing a diabolically capable extremist ideologue AG who auditioned for the job by promising Trump to get him off the hook no matter what.  Now, all of that publicly displayed personal ugliness and disregard for law, norms and rules (things that bind only “losers”) is about to become one more big, fat “Nothing to See Here! LOL!”  Danger.

The president’s lawyers’ fierce, often quite intelligible arguments (some, like Dershowitz’s demented claim that whatever a candidate for public office does, if he honestly believes it is in the public interest, can’t be wrong, were also intelligible, but in a bad way) set the table well enough to give grounds for at least one of the very few “vulnerable” Republican senators who might vote in favor of a fair trial to publicly announce that he will stop supporting calls for anything even mimicking what anyone  might think of as the appearance of due process for the fair administration of justice.  Case proved, he said, but I still don’t care, it duddn’t mean shit.  Danger.

There is no purpose, they said, to have any previously blocked fact witnesses testify, since the president might well have an assertable privilege of some kind that could  be upheld 5-4 in the Supreme Court in a precedent-shattering decision.  A ruling on the president’s claim of absolute immunity to withhold all evidence and testimony in any investigation including impeachment, of course, would require a new precedent, since Nixon and Clinton both lost on similar, far more modest, privilege claims during the lead up to their impeachments.  No matter,  it is merely the president’s legal assertion of a theoretically facially valid privilege that is the question under discussion, not if the court would actually overturn long precedent to decide in Trump’s favor stating, unappealably, that he has no obligation not to interfere in an investigation into him.   Danger.

Why should the House be able to overrule the will of the American voters, the authority of the Supreme Court, the president’s lawyers ask?  (Both of those were answered by the Framers, in the Constitution itself)  Their ultimate argument is their unified insistence that, even if the facts of the case already establish that the president abused his power for personal gain and obstructed the lawful powers of Congress, that it doesn’t matter, those things aren’t impeachable under their brand new Originalist definition of High Crimes and Misdemeanors.  (Pulled, after all, directly from Alan Dershowitz’s completely unbiased, liberal ass.)  Nothing further that could point to the president’s known guilt can be introduced at trial because it would only hurt a great man who will never be removed from office anyway, and it would nullify the decisive votes of those 78,000 Americans in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin who voted with surgical precision to put Trump into office by giving him an Electoral College victory.  Even Ken Starr, principle ideological architect of the partisan Clinton impeachment, argued against the horrors of partisan impeachment.    You want a “fair trial”?  Danger.

No reason to hear from even one witness, a man with highly relevant, even dispositive, facts who is suddenly willing to testify (after refusing the same request from the House).  That mad, vindictive liar, out of a personal grudge against the innocent, well-meaning man who fired him, could give sworn testimony harmful to the president’s insistence that he’d done everything perfectly and blamelessly, and in the best interests of America!  The job of a defense attorney is to acquit his client by any means necessary.   A majority of the jury had already publicly announced its commitment to working with the defense to acquit their client no matter what, and everyone knows their “oath” to carefully weigh the evidence and be impartial jurors was a legal requirement that bound them to nothing but the party line, so why drag things out?  If the Schitt don’t flit, you must acquit!   DANGER.

No legal way to restrain an impulsive and corrupt president with a long history of fraud [1], criminality and the aggressive, sometimes absurd, use of expensive, bludgeoning litigation and endless appeals to bully, cow and bankrupt opponents, defrauded customers and creditors, women he molested and everything else?   To paraphrase Trump loyalist former Tea Party insurgent Mick Mulvaney:  get over it, losers. DANGER.

Stay tuned for the actual terrorist arson of the House of Representatives right before the 2020 election, the first arrests in Barr’s criminal investigations into the evil traitors who orchestrated the baseless Mueller witch hunt, the publication of the first official presidential enemies lists, and eventually, silence from this viciously opinionated, f-word bristling blahg.   I’ll send you a postcard from the vacation camp they send me to, don’t worry.   The weather’s great, the food is good and I am being given all the hard, honest work I can handle!

 

 

[1]  Trump University: small $25,000,000 settlement in early 2017 to end a frivolous suit, and an agreement, with no admission of guilt, to close down the supposedly fraudulent business.     The dissolution of the Trump Foundation in 2019 for its illegal practices, and the court-ordered payment of $2,000,000 to other charities, but no admission by Trump of anything fraudulent about the foundation that is now legally shuttered.  NOTHING TO SEE HERE, you fucking HATERS!!!  A conspiracy of fucking haters!!!