Lest we forget

In this age of 24/7 distraction things fly by so quickly that we barely have time to consider one before the next wet turd comes whizzing by.   Our current POTUS, who won election with a historic, never before seen landslide of almost 100,000 votes, is the master of this ADHD-inducing tactic, launching a constant stream of odiferous torpedoes that leave everyone too dizzy to analyze any single torpedo.

Lest we forget, prior to the 2016 midterms the failing NY Times published a huge, highly detailed story about the corrupt practices Fred Christ Trump, the president’s ethically challenged father, used to avoid paying taxes as he made his children multimillionaires.  The lede of that October 2, 2018 (the day Jared Kushner’s friend, fellow prince MBS, was having a journalist murdered and dismembered) story was:

The president has long sold himself as a self-made billionaire, but a Times investigation found that he received at least $413 million in today’s dollars from his father’s real estate empire, much of it through tax dodges in the 1990s.

It went on, for many pages, like this:

President Trump participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the fortune he received from his parents, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

Mr. Trump won the presidency proclaiming himself a self-made billionaire, and he has long insisted that his father, the legendary New York City builder Fred C. Trump, provided almost no financial help.

But The Times’s investigation, based on a vast trove of confidential tax returns and financial records, reveals that Mr. Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, starting when he was a toddler and continuing to this day.

Much of this money came to Mr. Trump because he helped his parents dodge taxes. He and his siblings set up a sham corporation to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents, records and interviews show. Records indicate that Mr. Trump helped his father take improper tax deductions worth millions more. He also helped formulate a strategy to undervalue his parents’ real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars on tax returns, sharply reducing the tax bill when those properties were transferred to him and his siblings.

These maneuvers met with little resistance from the Internal Revenue Service, The Times found. The president’s parents, Fred and Mary Trump, transferred well over $1 billion in wealth to their children, which could have produced a tax bill of at least $550 million under the 55 percent tax rate then imposed on gifts and inheritances.

The Trumps paid a total of $52.2 million, or about 5 percent, tax records show.

A lesser man would have been put on the defensive by the exhaustively researched and very damning expose.    Trump had his lawyer [1]  threaten the Times.  The Grey Lady quoted the essence of his threats in the article:

20181029_184055 (2).jpg

If Trump’s direct participation in this long pattern of fraud, tax evasion and other crimes is debatable (at least when he was an eight year-old millionaire), he was certainly the primary beneficiary of his father’s generosity and criminality.   What is not in debate is that Mr. Harder never sued the Times.  I love the way the Times casually dropped his threat in the middle of its expose, without comment, hilarious. 

It is worth not forgetting that Trump is the lifelong beneficiary of fraud and tax evasion, among the self-made financial genius’s other endearing traits.  Still, defamation is defamation and the truth of the matters alleged, a separate question.  The facts of the recent blockbuster lawsuit Trump v. The Lyin’ NY Times speak for themselves.  As every American school child knows, Mr. Trump won over fifty billion dollars from the now shuttered NY Times for its defamatory article.

Another detail that should not be lost, in the clouds of gas that pour out of POTUS’s twitter feed many times a day, is that current A.G. William Barr [2] auditioned for his job as Trump’s loyal consigliere by writing Trump an unsolicited NINETEEN PAGE LEGAL MEMO, putting his lawyerly skills on display in the service of explaining to the embattled president that he would protect him no matter what.  

Trump’s first attorney general, who had lied about conversations with the Russians and then properly recused himself from supervising Robert Mueller’s investigation, had long been mocked and humiliated by the president as disloyal, stupid and no Roy Cohn (that last is actually a compliment).  Every American school child could see that the loyal Sessions was skittering on very thin ice.  Up stepped the esteemed Mr. Barr, promising to do what the weak Jeff Sessions could not do, protect the president from Barr’s close friend Robert Mueller no matter what. 

So far Barr is doing exactly that.  Stonewalling.   Nothing to see here.   The careful, thorough, incorruptible Robert Mueller punted, as they say.   According to the non-summary of the report by his new boss, William Barr, Mueller presented evidence that POTUS obstructed justice, along with arguments that he did not actually obstruct justice.   Therefore, you dig, it’s a wash, tie-breaker going to Mueller’s boss, Barr.  Nothing to see here, says Barr, cagey as a man who endorsed preemptive pardons for untruthful, law-flouting superiors in the past [3].  

No reason for anyone to read all the sickening details laid out in Mueller’s report, according to Barr, the main thing is that Mueller found no evidence of direct collusion with Russia (no criminal conspiracy)  and took no position on indicting the sitting president for obstruction of justice.  Another main thing: he did not subpoena the compulsively lying chief executive to testify under oath.  As anyone who has ever heard the president speak understands, that would have been a perjury trap!

It is worth pausing from time to time to look at things like this with some care.  The devil, as always, is fucking his way through the mischievous details.

 

[1]  from that NY Times article:

The president declined repeated requests over several weeks to comment for this article. But a lawyer for Mr. Trump, Charles J. Harder, provided a written statement on Monday, one day after The Times sent a detailed description of its findings. “The New York Times’s allegations of fraud and tax evasion are 100 percent false, and highly defamatory,” Mr. Harder said. “There was no fraud or tax evasion by anyone. The facts upon which The Times bases its false allegations are extremely inaccurate.”

[2] Communist mouthpiece Business Insider published a recent capsule bio of Mr. Barr.  You can read it here.   A  couple of teasers:  

Additionally, Barr supported one of Trump’s most criticized moves as president — the firing of FBI Director James Comey. Barr wrote an op-ed in 2017 stating Trump “made the right call.” Trump has faced accusations of obstruction of justice over Comey’s ousting.

In a separate op-ed, Barr expressed approval of Trump’s firing of Acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she refused to enforce the president’s travel ban that targeted predominantly Muslim countries.

Barr has also been critical of Mueller’s team of prosecutors, questioning their political leanings. “I would have liked to see him have more balance on this group,” Barr said on the subject last year.

[3]  When President George H.W. Bush lost his reelection bid, Iran-Contra principal Cap Weinberger was about to finally stand trial for his long ago misdeeds, including obstruction of justice.  Although Reagan’s Secretary of Defense was innocent until proven guilty, pretrial discovery would have allowed prosecutors to see his detailed meeting notes.   These notes contained references to Bush being present at meetings he denied knowledge of.   The elder Bush would have been put on the spot had Weinberger gone to trial.  

Barr took care of the problem for the man who appointed him Attorney General by recommending and endorsing six pardons days before the end of Bush’s tenure in the Oval Office.  Weinberger was pardoned.  There was no Weinberger trial, no revelation of Bush senior’s repeated lies about what he did or didn’t know about the secret sale of arms to Iran and using the proceeds to illegally fund right wing Central American death squads. Nothing to see here!

Wikipedia summarizes the nothing burger thusly:

Iran–Contra affair[edit]

The Iran–Contra affair concerned the selling of US missiles to Iran. The funds received from Iran were then channeled to guerilla rebels known as Contras, who were fighting the socialist government of Nicaragua.[22]Such funding had been specifically denied by the US Congress.

Though he claimed to have been opposed to the sale on principle, actually Weinberger participated in the transfer of United States Hawk and TOW missiles to Iran at that time.

This resulted in a large scandal with several investigations which resulted in fourteen Reagan administration officials being indicted, including Caspar Weinberger who resigned before trial.[23][24][25]

Following his resignation as Secretary of Defense, legal proceedings against him were continued byIndependent Counsel Lawrence E. Walsh. A federal grand jury then indicted Weinberger on two counts of perjury and one count of Obstruction of Justice on June 16, 1992.[26] He was defended by defense attorneyCarl Rauh.

Prosecutors brought an additional indictment just four days before the 1992 presidential election. This was controversial because it cited a Weinberger diary entry contradicting a claim made by President George H. W. Bush. Republicans claimed that this action contributed to President Bush’s later defeat. On December 11, 1992, Judge Thomas F. Hogan threw out this indictment because it violated the five-year statute of limitations and improperly broadened the original charges.[27]

Before Weinberger could be tried on the original charges, he received a pardon on December 24, 1992, from then President Bush, who had been Reagan’s Vice President during the scandal.[24][28]

I add:  Barr had been in office less than a month when he helped Mr. Bush out of a terribly embarrassing situation.   Imagine the damage to Mr. Bush’s image had it been revealed that the former head spook had been lying for years about his involvement in the secret, illegal dealings? 

Extra-democratic Means

If you are born to great privilege you will often find your own interests different than, say, the smelly bum on the subway.   In some cases that malodorous layabout can walk into a voting booth (provided he has an address and is registered) and cast his vote for a candidate who may hate your freedom.   You can bet the vote such a person casts will go against the liberty interests you cherish — the liberty to be left alone by the government, except in case of fire, crime, sewage, roads, airports, etc.

In the same way America learned that a judicial process (or even a criminal charge) is not always necessary or desirable before executing a fiercely dissenting American citizen, wealthy Libertarians learned that electoral politics is not the best way to accomplish their goal of keeping all of their money.    Extrajudicial killings by the American government, once super controversial, are now routine.   Extra-democratic means, while taboo in theory, have always been used to protect the privileges of our most privileged persons and their eternal avatars.  Extra-democratic means (for passing unpopular laws) are now the preferred method of the ruling oligarchs here and abroad.  

In the case of America’s wealthiest, we call them philanthropists and job creators, not oligarchs. Sure they wield disproportionate political power, exert massive, decisive influence on the policies that affect us all (particularly the most vulnerable among us), but that doesn’t make them oligarchs.  We reserve the epithet “oligarch” for Russian and Chinese billionaires, or the occasional Ukrainian or Uzbek, who acquired their wealth through suspicious and probably illegal deals with their corrupt, anti-democratic governments.

Which brings us to President Fuckface.  Born booted and spurred, entitled to ride the rest of us like the beasts of burden we are, he has never known a desire he needed to resist.   His fortune is largely the result of decades of his wealthy father’s fraud, tax cheating and abusing government generosity, as documented by the NY Times, who published the detailed account in the face of toothless threats from Trump’s lawyer.   He is the personification of the kind of wanton privilege that has long championed extra-democratic rule by the truly deserving elite.  His cabinet, same powerfully smelling ilk.  His mandate: fuck you, wasshole.    

Mr. Trump always lawyers up, as any good scofflaw with the money does.   He hired for the Justice Department the people most supportive of his right to do whatever he likes.  He vigorously attacked and resisted the DOJ investigation into his ass-kissing of Vladimir Putin, publicly denied his many public attempts to obstruct the investigation and was shielded from the “perjury trap” the cunning yet uncontrolled man would have walked into had he taken an oath not to lie to the Mueller team.  It is universally recognized that he has absolutely no control over his lying. His candid remark to a television interviewer that he tries to tell the truth whenever he can instantly went the way of his dozens of often imbecilic daily tweets.

The famous vanity of the vainglorious self-promoter allows calculating people to openly audition for government positions.  Boof Kavanaugh had written a law review article laying out why what any dodgy president might fear need not be feared.   Somebody described the article to Trump and the president was very interested in a Supreme Court justice who believes the president is essentially a king.  Kavanaugh was his man, went to the top of the list of 25 carefully vetted right-wing zealots selected by the Koch-funded Federalist Society.  William Barr sent Trump an unsolicited letter opining that Trump’s excrement has a delectable odor.  Barr became Trump’s obvious choice for head of the Justice Department, to succeed  a loyal but disappointing supporter too racist to be appointed to the federal bench.   Imagine how racist that is!

The thing to remember is that although these liberty loving, government hating privileged few have a vastly louder voice than you or me in our democracy, easy access to their elected officials, direct ways to influence legislation, etc., that we still have elections and the results, though they might sometimes be in question, are binding.   Trump won the slaveholder’s Electoral College by less than 80,000 votes while losing the popular vote “bigly” (he has the best words).  There was no revolution or even any outbreak of violence when the raging asshole was sworn in, in spite of the horror felt by perhaps 200 million Americans who didn’t vote for him.  

Elections still matter to us, whatever extra-electoral shenanigans are always going on behind closed doors in the halls of power.   We need to continue organizing, being smart, protesting this administration’s worst excesses, and raising important issues (like slowing catastrophic climate change and protecting safety regulations).  We have to keep the pressure on the lawless, lying, compulsively doubling down, prone-to-bankruptcy demagogue.

Most importantly, we need to vote out the world’s most conceited exhibitionist wanker in 2020.  In the meantime, there’s a strong, multi-pronged case for impeaching him, too.

The Privileged Hate Democracy

If you have every advantage in a rigged game you will naturally hate any proposed changes to the rules to make the game more fair.   The hateful anti-majoritarian Koch belief system that is now in full force in our government has advanced largely by stealth.   If the majority of Americans understood the real goals of their many think tanks and other public influence machines, the extent of their dark money funding of extreme right partisan candidates and “grassroots” groups like the “Tea Party”, they’d be horrified.  Sunlight may be the best disinfectant, but these motherfuckers hate it.  As for a fair fight in the court of public opinion– fuck that!   We’re winners, not losers like the rest of you assholes!

So, while it’s sickening, it’s not surprising that the party of Trump, of Fred Koch’s restless ghost, of his vampire heirs Charles and David, of the racists and xenophobes, and the rest of the hateful creatures we thought might have left the stage, cast not a single vote to make our electoral democracy less of a rigged game favoring the rich and powerful.  Money is speech, yo.  If you have a thousand bucks, that’s how loud you speak.  If you have a billion, yo, you speak louder.  Fair is fair.  One man, as many votes as he can buy.

Here’s the pertinent blurb, from today’s Democracy Now broadcast:

The House passed the For the People Act on Friday, a wide-ranging bill that seeks to expand voting rights and curb gerrymandering, reduce big money in political campaigns and strengthen ethics requirements for political candidates. One of the bill’s provisions would make voter registration automatic. This is Democratic Congressmember John Lewis speaking on the House floor Friday.

Rep. John Lewis: “If not us, then who? If not now, then when? The time has arrived to tear down the barrier to the ballot box. Today we are able to do our part in this long fight for the very soul of our nation.”

Not a single Republican voted in favor of the bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already said he will not bring the bill to a vote.

(source)

And Mitch, we all know, is an honorable man.

Fair is Fair

This bears repeating.

America’s greatest genius, the man who figured out that America loves to shop and loves convenience, and designed and built the vast empire that makes this American dream come true, makes almost $9,000,000,000 AN HOUR.

Per hour, Jeff Bezos makes $8,961,187  — roughly 315 times Amazon’s $28,466 median annual worker pay.  An Amazon worker earning the $15 minimum wage would need to work about 597,412 hours, or 24 hours a day for about 68 years, just to earn what Bezos makes in one hour.  

(source)

Working more than half a million hours to make what your boss makes in one HOUR?   Fair is fair, we live in the land of unlimited freedom, but… something about the grotesqueness of  this disparity seems… I don’t know…

Accumulating a billion non-hereditary dollars means the person is a very successful genius, smarter and harder working than the average bear.  Here we call such persons philanthropists, when they choose to give some of their money back in the form of charity.   We often call the billionaires in other countries by less flattering names, like oligarch and kleptocrat.   In America there is no connection between any sinister motive, or simple greed, and the accumulation of a few billion dollars.   That’s why we are the land of the free, baby.

But 597,412 hours to make what your visionary boss makes in ONE HOUR?   I don’t know, something seems rotten about that arrangement.  Doesn’t smell fair, somehow, though I can’t quite put my finger on it.

White People’s Problems, Whining Complaint Dept.

The shorthand of this title, which I already regret, typically renders a more complicated universal problem black and white, in that moronic (to the death) way that racist formulations always do.   This problem I am referring to is a consumer problem, affecting any customer who needs service from virtually any company, though in this particular case it only affects consumers with enough money, and options in life, to be messed with by it.  It applies to a large class of privileged consumers believed, rightly or wrongly in our racist nation, to be disproportionately white (which most likely they are).  

It is part of our generally downward plunging expectations for anything flowing down to us from our masters, the corporate psychopaths and their human avatars, by way of “service”.    The corporations are not in business to serve anyone but the shareholders, who regard the rest of us as ungrateful, eternally taking serf motherfuckers, useless for anything but generating revenues.  In their defense, corporations do care enough to create lovely ads telling you how much they care, and their recorded announcements are also eternally upbeat and grateful for our business, and our patience.

Admittedly, I am an almost broken man.   Friends have been urging me to take a restful mental health break from my unpaid toils here, leave New York City for a week or two, breathe some fresh air, hike in new hills, play music with strangers far away, walk the streets of a city I don’t know by heart, refresh and reset. It is good advice.   I had an invitation to visit friends on the other side of the country, by the Pacific.   I finally took them up on their offer.  All I needed to do was book a flight.  

Not as easy as it used to be, unless you’re prepared to pay at least twice the “economy” fare, of course, for a particular seat.   If you have arthritis in both knees, for example, and need to get up and move around frequently to avoid pain, you might want to be sure you have an easy access seat.  

The situation I’m describing is a purely middle class, middle-aged problem — a wealthy person will not be affected by it, nor will a healthy young person, a poor person can’t even consider it.   You need to have the free time to travel, some extra cash, the need for an airplane to take you three thousand miles and the need not to spend all your vacation dollars on air fare.   These are not things the average American needs to worry about.   They will only afflict you if you qualify for a vacation in the first place, have some extra money and you are a squirmy baby with a so-called medical need to stretch your legs when you need to during a long flight.

I have been on a short hold with the airline now, after twenty minutes on their website yielded no answer to my yes/no question– is my aisle seat guaranteed?   I have ten hours left to cancel the tickets if that’s not the case.  

The hold was predicted to be about eight minutes but is already twice that (thankfully without ads or muzak) waiting to cancel flight plans I made last night.  I assumed that the cancellation line would be shorter than the other lines, wrongly, it turns out.  I will have plenty of time to edit this piece, once it’s done, before my simple yes/no question is resolved by a simple yes or no.    The answer is nowhere on their snazzy website, where you are instantly afforded the chance to evaluate their services in a survey.

I think about the arthritis in both of my knees, my need to move them frequently to avoid pain.   The flight west is about six hours, strapped into a seat.   I was looking for an aisle seat.   A seat on the aisle is now, apparently, a premium seat, even in “economy”, the rearmost section of the airplane.   Airlines no longer guarantee that the seat you buy in economy class, which used to be called “coach”, one of two former “classes” on a plane, will be the seat you reserved when you bought your ticket.  You buy a cheap seat at your own risk, asshole.   Guaranteed sufficient legroom must now be purchased also, loser.

I ring off after 36 minutes on silent hold and again check my other customer service options.   I send the following email (not all that easy to find the option for email, I assure you).

I need to know that the additional $300 (tickets more than twice the price of “economy”) I spent last night on airfare ensures me an aisle seat. I could not confirm this on your website and it has proved impossible to reach a representative on the phone in well over an hour of trying. If my seat is not guaranteed, I have a few more hours to cancel my reservation. Please advise.

To which a robot promptly replies:

Thank you for your questions and comments. As a valued customer, your input is most appreciated and we will make every effort to ensure a quick response.

Note, I would not have spent the extra $300 for this “peace of mind”, I probably would have cancelled my trip.  Thankfully my mate, a wage-earning shopping machine, has racked up a large store of credit card points over the years she was generously willing to spend a portion of on this ticket.

Back to the answer to my simple yes or no question.   Delta airlines, on the case!    This arrived just a few minutes later:

Dear Eliot,

RE: Case Number 29940314

This is an automatically generated message to acknowledge the receipt of your email.  Please do not reply to this email.

Thank you for taking the time to write to us; what you have to say is important.  Emails and letters are answered in the order they are received. Usually you’ll hear from us long before 30 days have passed.  Sometimes though, it can take almost that long.  We appreciate your patience.

If you need assistance with a current reservation, please contact Reservations directly at 1-800-221-1212 or visit delta.com for our international reservations offices.  They will be happy to assist you.

Thank you!

Got to love the human emotion behind that exclamation point on the Thank you!

Nazi bastards.

As my father always said of me, whenever I belly ached about anything:  “you’d complain if you were hung with a new rope.”

This is customer service in 2019.  If you don’t like it, send us an email, we will try our best to reply within 30 days.  Don’t hold us to that, you cheeky rascal, it’s not a promise, only a promise to try to promise, a precatory promise, if you will.

Maybe I’m just extra touchy today because I never received the corrected blood pressure medication I requested ten days back, after hours and hours resolving that potential health fiasco.   The drug the kindly psychos sent me was four times the strength of my prescription.  Thankfully the snafu got resolved in only five business days!   Still haven’t received the meds, though I got the other prescription I ordered a few days later, a Vitamin D super-pill, in my mailbox within four or five days.   Oh well.  I know those hardworking Nazi bastards are working harder to serve me better!

Bill Maher did a piece a few weeks ago about the death of a thousand cuts that it is the nickel and diming of the airline industry.  This stands in for the ever-diminishing piss pot of what the masses of Americans are entitled to, by the reckoning of the corporations we do business with.  Maher conceded that he has flown only first class since becoming a rich, successful comedian many years ago.   Still, he did an excellent piece about how customer comfort and convenience has been whittled down, piece by chintzy piece, by the ever grasping, ever more ingenious, airline industry.   Their independent subcontractors are undoubtedly working on a way to monetize the amount of oxygen you get on the plane.   Those corporate airline persons are truly the psychopath’s psychopaths, though the healthcare industry is not far behind in its concern for the safety, comfort and convenience of its customers.

Just to be safe, I’m going to bring food for the flight crew and the captain, just in case the airline no longer provides them with a meal, or even a snack, on the long flight.   I figure it’s the least I should be expected to do, and I wouldn’t want any of them to be cranky or off their game.   It’s going to be a long flight.

Why I Hate the Rich

There is only one game in town for real success in America.   The game is won by the person who acquires the most money, and fame, along the way.   To finish respectably, you have to have, at minimum, by the time you’re old, more money than you will ever need.    Ensuring yourself of this uncertain amount is a tricky proposition in an eternally insecure culture that operates on the casino model — big rewards for big risk but you can lose everything on a bad turn of the wheel.   (That’s why you diversify, schmuck.)   It’s also why, all other things being equal, it is best to inherit a hundred million dollars or more from your parents, who inherited it from their parents and on back several generations.  Old money, there is nothing that smells quite like it.

I am a bitter man when it comes to the fucking rich and their endless privilege.  I am disgusted by how their distorted worldview and values play an overly large role in public discourse, the laws we live by and the brutalizing poverty many must live under while others enjoy unimaginable luxury.  Not content to enjoy their vast wealth and leave others alone, they frequently extend their slimy tentacles into the personal lives of millions upon millions of people who will never meet one of their filthy rich ilk.   What the fuck is up with that?   I’ll write more about my specific reasons for hating these supremely entitled fucks as soon as I set the stage a bit.

Hard-working friends with solid middle class lifestyles (a vanishing breed here in the land of the free) remind me from time to time that I made a conscious choice not to compete for wealth, not to dedicate myself to doing the hard work to advance a career, not to endure even a small amount of abuse in the interest of making good money, not to put in the long years to get a pension, a decent Social Security payment and all the rest.   They suggest that I’ve made a choice they can respect, abstractly, but one that, sadly, identifies me as a cipher, an individual whose life, fundamentally, makes little objective sense in the larger ocean we are all splashing in.  Condensed to a simple question:  if I am so smart, and so talented, why choose to be poor?

It is not easy to explain, even to myself.   Whatever I write here, for example, so much belly aching, no matter how well-written some of it may be.   If someone paid me for it, as happened a couple of times when a guy bought short pieces for publication and swapped in a bunch of random cliches for phrases I’d carefully chosen, well, that’s a different story.   The congratulations emails come flying in when the compromised prose was published.   But this endless stream I produce in my daily writing?   Well, it kind of speaks for itself, duddn’t it?

People literally don’t know what to make of anything we might think of as “artistic”, or even just expressive, unless it is monetized.   If you see it in a museum, it makes you think, provokes a certain awe, you can read learned glosses on the work of art you are experiencing, the depthless insights of the artist, his influences, his place in art history.   If you see something very much like that art work in your friend’s sketchbook, truthfully, what can you say?   “I like the colors,” or “is that supposed to be anything?”  or “is that me?”.   If it arrives in the mail, you can just look at it and shrug it off with a quick shudder.  What the hell is it supposed to mean?

Look, I say god bless you to anyone who doesn’t have artistic pretensions.   My grandmother fucked me up good with that fevered dream of a genius so prolific and undeniable I’d be able to draw on a table cloth at the most expensive restaurant in Paris to pay my bill in full, with a thousand dollar tip.  She didn’t factor in the magnificent ambition and entrepreneurial genius necessary to achieve a fame as vast as Picasso’s, the fame that enables a few brushstrokes on a linen table cloth to create an objet d’art worth the price of a hundred gourmet meals.

To my grandmother’s great chagrin, I was never ambitious or entrepreneurial, I just loved to draw.    At the same time, ever since I was a kid, I realized, on some level, that time is the only real wealth we have.   If you have the treasure of time you can invest some of it in learning to express yourself.   This expression, it always seemed to me, was as crucial to develop as the ability to really listen to other people.   Just to say, I suppose, that I have always had some kind of artistic pretensions about the meaning of my life and my abilities.

Which brings us to the arbiters of who is an artist and who is merely a pretentious person who wants to be one.    Let me say, first, that I have no problem with these arbiters, no burning desire to see my casually scrawled signature painted, 100 times its normal size, on a tastefully lit white museum wall at the threshold of a lifelong retrospective of my work (unless, of course, I had to exert myself in no way and there was a huge cash payment to me when the museum mounted the show).  Years ago it bothered me beyond describing that the “art world” was the province of a cliquish group of born-wealthy connoisseurs who were the gatekeepers of what is High Art and what is, well, simply neuroses made visible.   Let them keep the gates, the palaces of art, the incomprehensibly priceless objets d’art and all the rest.   I can’t use it.

Please believe, it is truly not bitterness about art.  I have as little use for high art as I do for the catalogue of a show I saw as a teenager.   Or my vast collection of Mad Magazines, long ago shipped to the son of an old friend who was also a great lover of the “usual gang of idiots” over at Mad.   Or anything else, really.   Being blessed is its own reward and I consider it a blessing to have these things I love to do, things that enrich my life, that make spending time doing them a blessing to me.  I’m not grasping for any additional blessings, I’m just trying to explain myself.

 Writing, it seems to me, is the most accessible form of expression.   Everybody I know reads, many actually love to read.   A well-written paragraph can break the heart or give a surge of hope.  A handful of times over a long life someone will tell you “that was beautiful,” or “you made me cry”.    Bingo, like a kamakaze finding the smoke stack to fly down, the explosion, the ship sinking, everybody on board killed.

I didn’t start writing this to talk about self-expression, though it is sometimes hard not to.   We have time and we have the expression of our thoughts and feelings.   Picture your life without either one.   How was your day, dear?   I had no time and nothing to say about it.

Onward, then, why I hate the fucking rich.

If you are born into great wealth, you will be given every chance in the world to grow up to be whatever you dream of being.   You can be a contemplative, reading widely and listening deeply and, instead of merely speaking, writing your thoughts on the most beautiful 100% cotton paper available, in fantastically rare ink drawn through an exquisitely perfect writing instrument.    You can go into business, whichever ones you like, with plenty of capital to support you in failure or success.  You can be a lout, a spoiled rich idiot who simply follows his every impulse, shoots endangered animals, fucks people over, has lawyers pay ’em off to shut the fuck up, etc.  If you are born rich, outside of murder with multiple eye witnesses (who are not members of your rarefied social class), there is little in your life that you will ever be held accountable for.

This kind of upbringing, in most cases, results in an individual who believes, as Ivanka Trump apparently does, as does her husband Jared, that anyone who works hard can become a success.   The corollary is that failure is a vice of the lazy, the weak, the unworthy.    If I managed, with a mere few million dollar loan from daddy, to launch a fabulous international brand, what is to stop these whining parasitic takers from doing the same, instead of bitching about how unfair life is?

Chris Hedges uses the phrase The Pathology of the Rich to describe the worldview of people born into vast inherited wealth.   “Pathology” might seem a little unfair, even though I can clearly see the thing he describes, the thing I hate, as a disease.   The simple cause of their rarified, if myopic, view of the world is not hard to see.   If you are born rich you do not have the same experience of life as 99% of the world does.   Hardly anybody can identify with frustrations they have never personally experienced.   If you are sheltered from the most common frustrations of poor people, how will you have any way to relate to them?   The result is a worldview that makes a certain twisted sense.  Hard work equals good fortune equals being rich.   Laziness equals poverty and self-pity, with all the other pathologies appurtenant thereto.

A rich fifteen year-old in an elite boarding school who happens to once make the childish mistake of using an eight year-old boy as an unwilling sexual partner?   No need to ruin the boy’s life, either one of them!  These things are worked out privately, discreetly, no call to get the police and the courts involved, destroying lives and reputations over a youthful mistake.   A few words among gentlemen, the families both need to be consulted, there is a win-win resolution to be negotiated here.   Otherwise the boys will both be shamed and the families’ good names dragged through the mud.   Unthinkable.   The young pederast will be forever tarred a pervert and sex offender simply for one youthful indiscretion.  A terrible outcome, we can all agree.  

If the young pederast had been a scholarship student, from a family of working class swine, well… we rest our case, that’s clearly a different story.  Expel him immediately, after a call to the local constable.  How dare he sodomize his social superior?!

Let the same outrage occur among the poor– these same enlightened philosophers on the board of the elite boarding school will set up a howl for the swiftest and most severe punishment of the savage young child-rapist.  Society must never tolerate such perversion, such predation! How dare they?!

So far it has all been the hereditarily wealthy I’m railing against, but what of the people who, through their own tireless and heroic efforts, acquire vast, self-made fortunes? Some become so wealthy, mind you, that their excrement ceases to emit a bad odor. Universally, it seems, this type is admired and shown as proof that anyone who is talented enough, and dedicated enough, who works hard and smartly enough, can acquire a fortune.  Anyone who makes a billion dollars is automatically considered a genius and a great authority on all matters, often the best possible expert on how to help the children of the poor and dispossessed.

It is no impediment, of course, that most of these self-made successes had many advantages growing up– the best schools, elite universities, crucial business connections, strokes of good luck including excellent timing.   But forget that, these supernovas soon become just like their fellow twits in the highest branches of that cuckoo tree that is super-wealth.  The best of the best.  The only thing they require is vast returns on their already vast fortunes and the lowest possible tax bills.

Rich people necessarily divide the world into people like themselves, the very best people, and that vast and hopeless hoard of mankind who does not share their work ethic, drive, values, faith, native optimism.   I can understand that.   The part I don’t get is why these fantastically fortunate fucks are not content to enjoy their wealth without exerting power over the rest of us.   What business is it of the super-rich if the children of the poor are able to attend excellent public schools?   How are they actually affected if poor people are allowed to have access to affordable health care?   If poor women are able to get an abortion if they find themselves in a difficult spot where they have to make that agonizing choice?

Why can’t these rich fucks just stay in their beautiful enclaves and be content to run the art world, the philanthropic world, corporate board rooms, high culture?   If they could simply do that, I’d have no beef with them.   But they can’t, can they? They need to make educational policies, and environmental laws, and human rights enforcement decisions for all of us.

They want to rule the world.   They do rule the world.   I have always hated the heedless, entitled motherfuckers who dream of nothing but more wealth, more luxury and more power.  Yes, I know there are a some good ones, and just because you’re rich doesn’t mean you’re a grotesquely privileged, empathy-challenged piece of shit, though wealth beyond a certain point is strongly suggestive of it.  I hate the rich for their ability to fuck up without consequence while haughtily judging everybody else.   Fuck them and the whores they rode in on.

Healthcare update: no update

The quality of the healthcare you receive in the United States is determined by your income and the terms of your employment contract.   Why not?   It is delivered by for-profit corporations for the benefit of executives and shareholders.   Again, why not?   American healthcare outcomes are not among the best in the world, though they are pretty good for many Americans who have decent health insurance plans through work.  American healthcare is, far and away, the most expensive, and the most profitable in the world, so that’s something to be proud of, isn’t it?

I got the good news and the bad news yesterday about my kidney disease and the $88,000 treatment I might need in a few months.   The nephrologist’s receptionist called with good news that my recent tests came back rosy and that I don’t need another round of the fancy drug at this time.  The bad news is that the doctor won’t be picking up the phone, he told his receptionist to tell me he’ll give me all the details when I see him in a few weeks– three days after my deadline for purchasing health insurance for 2019 — and that we’ll test again in three months.  He emphasized to me at the beginning that this idiopathic disease is unpredictable and little understood, numbers can go up or down dramatically at any time and we cannot put much faith in patterns like the steady downward tic of the concerning numbers.

I called back today to ask to speak to the doctor for a minute.  Sadly, not possible.  I explained my insurance dilemma to the receptionist, that my deadline for choosing insurance for 2019 is three days before my appointment.   I told her I didn’t want to put her to any extra work but that I needed to know if they were likely to get pre-authorization for a drug that would cost me $88,000 “out of pocket” if it wasn’t pre-approved.    The alternative, the longtime standard protocol for my disease until this new wonder drug came along, is a much cheaper but more debilitating twelve month course of intravenous steroids and infusions of a more harmful immunosuppressive agent (as opposed to two infusions a month apart).     I’ll ask the doctor for you, she said.   I hope to hear back in the next few days, though, of course, one never knows.  Only the weak and fretful worry about these sorts of things…

I called the insurance company and punched in the option for pharmaceuticals.  Spoke to a very knowledgable rep there at the third party that pays drug claims for my insurance company (and many others), explained my dilemma.   She told me, after a long investigation, that since this drug is not sent directly to the patient but administered in a hospital, I had to go through the medical department of my insurance company, that this drug did not fall under “pharmaceuticals”.  

I explained to her that during my previous hour long call the medical department had referred me to her company, the third party that approves all pharmaceuticals, including hospital administered ones.   She told me this was not the case, that somebody at the insurance company had made a mistake.   I read her back the provider-side 800 number I was given by her company for pre-authorization.   She agreed it was the proper number, the number my doctor would have to call to get pre-authorization for this drug.  I told her it had taken me almost an hour to get that number but that it was not one I could call myself, being a patient, not a provider.   I was patient as hell itself.    She gave me an 800 number for patients to call for “Speciality Drugs” and then noted that I seem to have spoken to someone there last week.

I explained to her again that my worry and my question both appeared to be fairly straightforward.   In 2017 I had a QHP and Rituxan, the $88,000 drug, had been approved.  In 2018 I was on a lower tier plan, and it was uncertain whether Rituxan could be approved, particularly since it was on the “excluded list”.    “Unless the hospital gets pre-authorization,” pointed out the helpful rep.  She was unable to determine whether it was also on the excluded list for the QHP.

She simply could not tell me if in 2017 the drug was on the “excluded list” and had to be pre-authorized.   If that was the case, it would give me some comfort.  In other words, I was trying to determine whether the insurance  product I was about to be forced to buy for 2019 would cover the expensive drug I might well need in 2019.   Not a very tricky question, outside of an unregulated corporate environment where the primary concern is maximizing profits and the health and well-being of patients is on an as-needed basis.  

The confusing labyrinth of disconnected and walled off corporate sub-offices is perfectly allowable (and virtually unregulated)  under the terms of Obamacare and under the “Business Judgment Rule” (a given business is in the best position to make judgments about how it should be run).  These internal walls make it impossible for anyone within the corporation (or outside of it, for that matter) to have a global view that would allow them to answer a fairly straightforward question about what products and services are covered under a given plan.    The rep seemed a little offended, telling me she’d been working there for many years and had a pretty global view, but that I was asking a question that was just impossible to answer. 

The bottom line, it will take a lot longer than two hours, if ever, to get the answer to this simple enough question.   The helpful rep who tried to help was sorry she couldn’t give me the answer I was seeking, but it was simply impossible.  She could take a grievance from me, if I liked.  I declined her kind offer and thanked her for her time, somehow not giving vent to the bitter sarcasm that was flowing over my tongue like battery acid.