History is always written in blood

History is always written in the blood of the powerless.  Famously written by the “victors,” it casts the suffering and deaths of those who wound up on the short end of things as somehow necessary, a historical necessity for a greater good.   “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs,” some winners are prone to saying, by way of expressing minor regret about the inevitable — that some “eggs” had to be “broken” so we could enjoy what we have on the table in front of us now.

We watched the public lynching of an American man recently, under the knee of a cop who kneeled on him for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the last almost 3:00 of which the dying man was already unconscious.  We know the exact time frame because of an uninterrupted video of the slow-motion murder by suffocation. 

The video, taken by a high school girl who filmed the entire 8:46 without flinching, left no doubt that we were watching a lynching, a brutal murder committed with, at minimum, depraved indifference to human life.   The man who was killed was handcuffed, subdued, lying face down on the ground begging for his life, in the end calling for his mother.   

George Floyd’s public murder woke people up.   With a serial scofflaw as president, condemning those who took to the streets to protest this lynching as “antifa” extremists (being anti-fascist was until recently a mainstream American value), invoking police violence against peaceful protesters as “law and order,” the time was past due for an accounting.    America has never had a reckoning of any kind with our murderous history of enforced inequality at law.   

That’s an uncomfortable thought for the powerful (and even more so for the powerless, I dare say).   You cannot have forgiveness without some kind of process of reconciliation, some remorseful acknowledgement by the perpetrator that it was wrong to — say, tolerate lynching for hundreds of years.     The symbols of American racism are all around us.  The Edmund Pettus Bridge, where the recently departed John Lewis had his head split open by police while peacefully protesting, in fact, kneeling to pray, in 1965, was named for a Confederate officer, US Senator and Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.   Very uncomfortable!!!

Mike Pompeo, to the rescue.  The Koch Brothers’ former personal congressman from Witchita, one of America’s most powerful religious Evangelical Christians, did a little history writing of his own the other day.   With supreme confidence, he made the following remarks at a recent meeting of the Commission on Unalienable Rights.    Note the several sleights of hands Mr. Pompeo employs to make history right.

“These days, even saying that America’s fundamentally good has become controversial… They want you to believe that America’s institutions continue to reflect the country’s acceptance of slavery at our founding.   This is a dark vision of America’s birth.  I reject it.” 

“They want you to believe…”– how ominous!    Pompeo, Trump’s Secretary of State, went on to single out and flay a favorite right-wing whipping girl, the New York Times. 

“The New York Times’s 1619 Project, so named for the year that the first slaves were transported to America, wants you to believe that our country was founded FOR human bondage.   They want you to believe that America’s institutions continue to reflect the country’s acceptance of slavery at our founding.     They want you to believe that Marxist ideology that America is only the oppressors and the oppressed.”

You understand the logic here:  only a Marxist (godless Commie) could see any connection between our centuries of race-based chattel slavery, a bloody Civil War followed by a hundred years of unchecked, violent Ku Klux Klan rule in the former Confederacy, racist laws nationwide well into the twentieth century [1], a punitive criminal justice system singling out people of color for incarceration and destroying countless lives for non-violent “drug crimes”, the murder by police, without legal consequences, of unarmed civilians, mostly people of color.   This is clearly a strictly Communist-only reading of our great history.  Only a godless Marxist could see it in that hateful way, real Americans understand that, says Pompeo.  

“The Chinese Communist Party must be gleeful when they see the NYT spout this ideology.   Some people have taken these false doctrines to heart.  The rioters pulling down statues thus see nothing wrong with desecrating monuments to those who fought for our unalienable rights, from  our founding to the present day.  This is a dark vision of America’s birth.  I reject it.”

Reject away, sir.   Historical facts, documented and recited, equal Communist-approved “ideology,” nicely done legerdemain, Mike.  Great men, including men who took up arms against our nation, heroes like Edmund Pettus and Nathaniel Forrest Bedford, daring Confederate general and founder of the Ku Klux Klan (photo below) must be remembered in monuments to their greatness, whatever lawless, godless, Marxist, America-hating  rioters might feel about it.

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“It’s a disturbed reading of our history, it is a slander on our great people.  Nothing could be further from the truth of our founding.”

That the first slaves arrived on these shores before the Mayflower brought the families of our founding fathers here, false!   A disturbed reading, a slander.  Nothing could be further from the truth!   

What the hell do you actually mean by these fighting words, Mike?

I’m tempted to simply say “fuck that fucking pig-faced puto,” but that will change no hearts or minds.   Assuming hearts and minds are still involved, once this kind of angry, determined erasure of history is forcefully undertaken by powerful men.

Do you have a duty to forgive someone who has badly hurt you and then tells you to just fucking get over it, asshole?   Kneeling on your neck until you’re dead — your problem, jerkoff, not mine.  Critical “history” — a bunch of deliberate Commie slanders, NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH.  Who are you going to believe, the lying New York Times or my unidentified riot-geared federal troopers and their tear gas, truncheons and blanket immunity from prosecution for breaking your head?

Ah, fuck that fucking pig-faced puto.  America is better than his ilk.

 

 

[1]  Bill Moyers: Let me read to you. Here’s a quote from a Maryland statute in 1957 — 1957! — that you include in the book:

All marriages between a white person and a Negro, or between a white person and a person of Negro descent, to the third generation, inclusive, or between a white person and a member of the Malay race or between a Negro and a member of the Malay race, or between a person of Negro descent, to the third generation, inclusive, and a member of the Malay race, or between a person of Negro descent, to the third generation, inclusive, and a member of the Malay race or between a Negro and member of the Malay race, or between a person of Negro descent, to the third generation, inclusive, are forever prohibited and shall be void; and and any person violating the provisions of this section shall be deemed guilty of an infamous crime and be punished by imprisonment in the penitentiary for not less than eighteen months or more than 10 years.

That was Maryland law. 

[not ruled unconstitutional until 1967]

and

Moyers:  Bilbo [powerful racist Senator from Mississippi, Theodore Bilbo] said, “One drop of Negro blood placed in the veins of the purest Caucasian destroys the inventive genius of his mind and palsies his creative faculty.” Is it true that the Nazis thought the one-drop rule too extreme?

Whitman: They did indeed. They never proposed anything nearly as extreme as the one-drop rule.

(source– an excellent, if chilling, rundown of some of America’s racist laws and their influence on racial law in the Third Reich)

Of course, as every real American knows, Bill Moyers, long time PBS talk show host (PBS… yo), who, as a young man, worked for and applauded LBJ for his Civil Rights legislation, is a freedom hating old Marxist who spreads slanders against our great, white, Christian nation.

Mitch, Lindsey and Bolton did nothing wrong!

Any indignation about the processes and procedures involved in “exonerating” our serially “exonerated” president, a blameless man however you slice it, is written off as “Trump Derangement Syndrome”  [1].  This syndrome is the same one performed by a childhood bully who uses the victim’s own hand to smack the victim with while saying, with feigned concern, “why do you keep hitting yourself, are you deranged?”  It is also a witty variation on “Bush Derangement Syndrome”, the wild attacks made by angry liberals on history’s second greatest president, George W. Bush.   

While some Americans would consider the open collusion between Republican Senators and the impeached president’s legal defense team, publicly announced by the Majority Leader on the eve of the impeachment trial, another successful chapter of an impressively detailed book of Obstruction of Justice by an innovatively brazen and lawless administration, we can safely dismiss that belief as a symptom of “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”

At the risk of expressing a bit more of this serious emotional disease:

Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, two of the president’s most passionate supporters, declared up front that they’d work closely with the president’s defense team and do whatever was necessary to quickly acquit the president after an expedited trial pursuant to baseless partisan accusations based on no direct evidence.  Mitch and Lindsey further stipulated, before the trial, that  previously blocked witnesses and previously withheld evidence would probably not be allowed at the trial.  What would the point be, if the goal is to quickly acquit their leader?   

This is kind of arrangement is generally called “collusion” or “conspiracy to obstruct justice”.  A trial without firsthand fact witnesses or documentary evidence  is usually called a “show trial” and has traditionally been allowed only in dictatorships or theocracies.   Before officially assuming their special roles as impartial jurors (the law stipulates that jurors must be free of obvious bias), Mitch and Lindsey (and their 51 Republican co-conspirators) took an oath,  administered by the impartial Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, solemnly swearing to listen to all evidence and render an impartial judgment based only on that evidence.  Hence, the banning of any and all potentially damaging evidence at the trial.  No harm, no foul, no evidence to ignore, no possible jury bias!

Mitch and Lindsey (and fifty other Republican Senators) did nothing wrong, their apologists will say.    If they had, they’d have been arrested and prosecuted for perjury, the “argument” goes, since we are, as we’re often reminded,  a nation of laws.   As it was argued by the president’s lawyers during the impeachment “trial”– Obstruction of Congress is not a crime, particularly when members of Congress participate willingly in the so-called obstruction.  Taking a false oath is no crime for a Senator, nor is it an ethical matter — except between the taker of the false oath and the God they swear to.  Only an actual provable federal crime, which the president himself cannot be indicted for (or even investigated for) while in office, rises to the level of an impeachable, or even censurable, offense in the United States of Trump.

John Bolton has long been a raging asshole who loves the projection of American power through war.   He has argued for years that the U.S. must destroy Iran.   During the time he was Trump’s national security advisor he was seen as more hawkish that the impulsive  Transactionalist-in- Chief, The Artist of the Deal, Mr. No Quid Pro Quo Why Not Quid Pro Quo? himself.   Bolton was fired by Trump, Trump says now, on September 10, 2019, day 83 of the “hold” on military aid to Ukraine, the day before Trump finally allowed the aid to be released.  Bolton and Trump apparently had serious policy disagreements, one being the illegal hold on military aid to Ukraine.   Bolton seems to have finally won that argument, hence his firing the day before the shakedown on Ukraine was ended by releasing the aid.  Bolton claims to have resigned.   Flip a coin to decide which of these unimpeachable public servants is lying.

In a case of having your cake and eating it too, Bolton after refusing to appear in the House Impeachment Inquiry, publicly offered, if subpoenaed (LOL!), to testify in the Senate during the trial itself.  This was great publicity for sales of his soon to be released tell-all book about his time as National Security Adviser to Trump and a safe bet for Bolton.   He had little worry about anyone actually sending him a subpoena for a trial without witnesses and could appear to finally be doing the principled thing, the correct and patriotic thing, without risking book sales or spoiling the dramatic revelations of wrongdoing set forth in the soon-to-be bestseller. 

In refusing to testify in the House, Bolton lawyered up to wait for the court’s permission to testify over the objections of his former employer who was asserting a blanket privilege to block any testimony that could incriminate him.  Presumably this was a byzantine new, Bill Barr-inspired variation of the famous Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.   

It will require a precedent shattering 5-4 partisan Supreme Court precedent to uphold a president’s right to obstruct an impeachment by any means at his disposal.    Much more limited claims of presidential immunity were made by Nixon and Clinton [2] as their impeachment inquiries proceeded.  Only Nixon’s executive privilege to withhold evidence claims reached the Supreme Court, where they were unanimously denied in a precedent that stands until today.  

No matter, John Bolton did nothing wrong, that is, nothing illegal.   Mitch and Lindsey are cool too, the same way.   These are honorable men we are talking about.  And we all know what they say about honorable men.

 

 

[1]  A paroxysm of Trump Derangement Syndrome:

The last few weeks have featured contradictory, largely incoherent “arguments” about why Abuse of Power is no vice– the Founding Fathers liked it just fine, they liked it so well that they never specifically made it an impeachable offense, by deliberate design.   If they had meant to ban it, obviously, they’d have used those exact words “Abuse of Power” and only those words, clearly, because that’s how they rolled (see, e.g.. the clear and unambiguous language of the Second Amendment — “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” ).   As for an unprecedented claim of  absolute presidential immunity and unlimited powers to  obstruct all testimony and evidence that could tend to incriminate him as corrupt, including in any of the several ongoing legal actions into Trump’s secret, shady financial entanglements droning on, even as the impeached president actively and openly colluded with his 53-47 Senate majority to further obstruct justice and grrrrr… grrr… grrrr!  At least we had blessed silence from fucking Bagpiper Bill Barr during that time… along with the wall of silence from Mike Pompeo, Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pence, Rudy, etc.

 

[2]  Wikipedia:

In 1998, President Bill Clinton became the first president since Nixon to assert executive privilege and lose in court, when a federal judge ruled that Clinton aides could be called to testify in the Lewinsky scandal.[15]

Later, Clinton exercised a form of negotiated executive privilege when he agreed to testify before the grand jury called by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr only after negotiating the terms under which he would appear. Declaring that “absolutely no one is above the law”, Starr said such a privilege “must give way” and evidence “must be turned over” to prosecutors if it is relevant to an investigation.

Note: Ken Starr, as Trump’s lawyer, confidently asserted exactly the opposite.

Always himself, our man POTUS

TIME magazine named its Person of the Year the other day. Unaccountably that Person was not Mr. Trump, TIME selected Swedish high school climate activist Greta Thunberg. 

You can predict what happened next — the most powerful man in the world took to his phone to cyberbully a sixteen year-old girl. 

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Here’s Trevor Noah— and Greta:

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click on frame above for Trevor’s great segment.

Tucking Melz in (Two)

An illustration of the inherent feebleness of even a well-reputed memory (such as my own).  

I noticed that yesterday somebody had clicked on an old post called “Tucking Melz In” and I told Sekhnet the story.   Later I read the piece and was amazed to find a significantly different anecdote, bearing little resemblance to what I’d just told Sekhnet, which was, minus the first paragraph (which she already knew) which was:

Five and a half years ago an old friend, Melz, succumbed to a rare and deadly form of soft tissue cancer.   When I say succumbed, I mean he died.   The funeral was conducted by his long-time bosom buddy, trained as a rabbi and with a great talent for humanistic public speaking.   He conducted a beautiful funeral.   It’s hard to say how he held himself together the way he did.

Afterwards, at the golf course-like cemetery (no head stones) as we gave our shovels to others who were taking turns burying Melz, according to our tradition, Alan and his wife Terri came up to me.  Alan said (referring to the wonderful funeral oration we’d just witnessed) “you realize, if we die before Sokoll, we’re fucked.  Who’s going to do our funeral?  Think about it!”

I did.  As I was thinking, Sokoll walked by and we told him our concern.  The good rebbe told us not to worry.  “I’ll bury all of you fuckers,” he said, without breaking stride.   Oddly reassuring words.    

After a moment Terri said “let’s go tuck Melz in,” and we walked over and took over the shoveling for a while.

(compare with the original, written a day or two after the funeral)

 

Barr has already been a presidential consigliere

It should not be forgotten, in thinking about William Barr’s long, deliberately misleading infomercial about the alleged non-findings of the Mueller report, (let us not mention his absurd statement about Obama’s “spying” on the Trump presidential campaign or his parroting of other Trump talking points) that the pathetic porcine puppet’s first short term as Attorney General, under George H. W. Bush, was marked by the same kind of toadying personal service to a president threatened by the administration of justice.

George H. W. Bush was defeated in his re-election bid by upstart Arkansas governor Bill Clinton.   Part of the reason Bush lost the election is that the DOJ announced, late in the presidential campaign, that Caspar Weinberger, Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Defense (while Bush was Vice President), was going to finally be tried for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal.   This prosecution had been delayed for years, but Weinberger was finally indicted by a grand jury in June, 1992, on two counts of perjury and a count of Obstruction of Justice.   The DOJ announced that the trial would begin some time after the presidential election.   Suddenly there was a lot of talk about the role Bush, a former CIA director, may have played in the scandal, a role Bush had always denied playing.

Weinberger was a note taker, and had detailed contemporaneous notes of meetings where the plan to secretly sell arms to the Ayatollahs of Iran, at inflated prices, to fund anti-communist death squads in Central America, in violation of American law, was worked out.   Bush knew he would be in trouble if his attendance at these meetings became public, since he had always denied any knowledge of the meetings that Weinberger had notes of, as he had denied knowledge of the conspiracy.   Weinberger’s notes would become part of the court record and likely made public, during the discovery phase of the trial.  

When Bush lost the election, with Clinton capturing 370 Electoral College votes (almost as many as Trump’s self-proclaimed historic all-time high of 304 in 2016) there was a sudden urgency to do something about Weinberger and his notes.   In late November, very conscious of the threat to his legacy, possibly even his freedom, he elevated William Barr to Attorney General for the very short tenure of his remaining presidential term.  Within a few weeks, Barr helped Bush preemptively pardon Caspar Weinberger– before Weinberger could stand trial for perjury and Obstruction of Justice.  His contemporaneous notes were now a moot point, and just in time.

The pathetic porcine puppet also consulted on the pardons of organizer and funder of right wing death squads and convicted perjurer Elliott Abrams (now one of Trump’s top advisors on how to bring freedom and democracy to Venezuela, natch) and the four other remaining Iran-Contra principals.   When Bush and Barr were done, the Iran-Contra scandal was all but erased from the American collective memory.

Barr was a pathetic porcine puppet then, though loyal to his master.  He is behaving with as much integrity today as he did the last time he was Attorney General.  The shameless fuck is loyal to the president, though, you have to say that for him.

Who knew? President HUMBLE

Not one to brag about himself, fair enough, but how is it possible that this is the first time we’ve ever heard this fantastic news about a fabulous result of the president’s unwavering commitment to protecting us all?  This is from yesterday’s shameful attack by the Democrats.

President Donald Trump: “People are pouring into our country, including terrorists. We have terrorists. We caught 10 terrorists over the last very short period of time. Ten!”

Don’t hide your light under a bushel, sir!

The SAD part is that none of the treasonous, millionaire late night “comedians” are even making fun of him for this one.   No credit whatsoever for an incredible job.  An incredible job.  Incredible, you know, like unbelievable.   Can you believe how unbelievable this is?

Foamy Urine

One from the Don’t Worry About It Department:

My urine had been foamy.   Not just bubbles, but real foam, like soap suds, or the head of a draft beer, or the top layer of a root beer float, to be most precise.   The urologist laughed when I mentioned, in passing, that my urine was foamy.  “Your urine is foamy?” he said with a big smile, like I was pulling his leg.

The first nephrologist told me I had permanent. irreversible scarring on my kidneys and would need a lifelong regimen of drugs, and regular visits to his office, to maintain the functionality of my kidneys.   When your kidneys go you die, of course, but, then again, whatever you do, you die, so there’s that, plus, I’d already lived to sixty, no mean feat.  The doctor was philosophical.  

He made his dire diagnosis with certainty, without having to run any tests, merely by noting the swelling from my knees to my ankles, bilateral edema, and, of course, the foamy urine, proteinuria.  The foaminess of the urine turns out to be an indication of protein being passed in the urine.  Normal kidneys do not allow protein to pass through their filtering system into the urine, the body has more important uses for protein than pissing it out.

Fortunately, the medical insurance I had at that time refused to pay this doctor, so he cancelled our follow-up appointment, when actual tests would have been done.  I found another nephrologist and had tests done.

There was a lot of drama the next year or so, and three or four other nephrologists, the second discovering elevated levels of anti-PLA2R autoantibodies in my blood work.   The presence of these antibodies correlates highly with the presence and progression of a kidney disease called idiopathic membranous nephropathy.   That doctor, though I liked him, was not on my new insurance plan, so I had to take his paperwork to another nephrologist.  

The third one argued vigorously about the meaning of “idiopathic” (which she eventually had to admit does mean ’cause unknown’) and urged me to undergo an immediate kidney biopsy and begin the twelve month immunosuppressive protocol without delay.   The kidney biopsy confirmed that I had this rare disease with the unknown cause.   The good news was that the biopsy also showed no scarring of the kidneys, organs which, in my case, continue to function in the normal range.

The last nephrologist I saw recommended that I have a short course of treatment borrowed from cancer treatment, infusion of a powerful immunosuppressive agent called Rituximab, or Rituxan.   It is tolerated well (far fewer debilitating side effects)  and requires only two infusions, as opposed to the twelve month course of infusions that has long been the standard treatment for this disease, a regimen that includes intravenous steroids and other powerful, potentially harmful chemicals designed to shut down the immune system, every month for a year.   Rituxan is expensive, the doctor told me, but apparently my health insurance in 2017 would cover it.  

When I showed up for the first round of infusions I was asked to sign a paper that included a paragraph where I stated that I’d been informed of the price of the treatment and agreed to pay any balance the insurance company refused to pay [1].  I asked the woman at the desk what the price of the treatment was.   She said she had no idea, and no way to find out, actually.   I asked her how I could possibly sign off on the paragraph I pointed to.  

“Cross it out, baby,” she said nonchalantly, and I did.  “They’ll tell you the price upstairs,” she told me, photocopying my papers.   

All they knew upstairs is that Rituxan is very, very expensive.

A few months later I learned the price when the insurance company sent me the EOB (everybody in America knows what an EOB is– Explanation of Benefits).   The EOB stated that the list price for the two small bags of immunosuppressive infusion was $88,000.   My insurance company had paid a small fraction of that, maybe 10% or 15%.

Since the infusions a year ago my blood and urine work has been heading steadily in the right direction, though my urine continues to be foamy, indicating that it still contains protein, and the numbers are still far higher than normal.  The last time I saw him the nephrologist suggested that, just to be safe, we do another round of Rituxan.   I asked if we could hold off on this, as I was just getting back toward 90% of my health and fitness levels from before the infusions had induced persistent asthenia (weakness, lack of energy).   He told me there was no harm to wait, that we should check in three months from now, which is currently about three weeks away.

It suddenly occurred to me, since I have only a few weeks to select my health insurance for 2019, that I ought to see the nephrologist before the enrollment period ends, to determine whether he still recommends another $88,000 round of treatment.  If so, I need to be sure the insurance I buy will cover it.   In 2018 I’m paying a fraction of what I paid in 2017 for my current insurance, based on my 2017 income.  My current appointment, December 18, is three days after the deadline to purchase health insurance for 2019 or be ineligible for a year.   Fair is fair.  He had no earlier appointment available but would discuss my blood and urine test results on the phone as soon as I could get them done.  I had them done last Tuesday.

Of course, none of this is anything a patient should have to worry about, which tier of the health insurance hierarchy he or she is on and what medicines and treatments are covered on each tier.    This is a profit-driven American sickness. Under the Affordable Care Act, the tier of medical insurance you may purchase is based exclusively on your income.   Your income level determines the level of medical care you may buy.  To purchase a QHP (“qualified health plan”) like I had in 2017, your income must be something like a minimum of 200% of the official poverty income.  If your income is only, say, 167% of that number, you will be required to buy what is essentially pay-as-you go Medicaid.    Medicaid famously does not pay for cutting edge treatments when far less expensive old standbys are available.

In other words, if you want to pay 10% or more of your annual income for health insurance, to ensure you can continue a medical treatment for what used to be called a “preexisting condition”, you are prevented by the ACA from doing this.  You must have an income sufficient to purchase a QHP.   If your income says you are too poor to do that, well, whose fault is that?

I no longer get bogged down in the philosophical issues [2].  If you are poor enough to be subject to a law that singles out poor people for a little extra nonconsensual sex, well, whose fucking fault is that?   I can howl at the moon, or figure out the odds of getting the medical treatment I need, to hopefully qualify for insurance, at more than ten times the monthly premium I am paying now, that will pay for a treatment that will only weaken me for three or four months, instead of for a year or more.

I called my insurance company to find out if the well-tolerated cancer drug was in my plan.   They really couldn’t say, beforehand, whether Rituxan is covered under my current plan.   The first rep told me it did not appear to be covered under my plan.   I gave her a svelte version of my rap about corporate “personhood” and the psychopathic self-regarding myopia of such “persons”.  She was sympathetic (I find most people are, if you remain calm and speak very succinctly) and asked me to wait for a rep who could actually answer my question.  The second rep was also sympathetic, but not the expert in pre-auth I took her to be.  She was not sure why the first rep had connected me to her.  I told her I wasn’t sure either, though it had been very nice talking with her.   She asked me to please hold for a third rep, someone who could definitely answer my question, hopefully.

For once the muzak was not oppressive.  It was an anodyne little jazz combo, led by a guitar, playing a completely innocuous, if uninspired, loop of jazzy blues in G. Better than most of the nerve challenging, blood pressure spiking shit the Mengeles out there use for hold music.

The third rep was the most sympathetic of all, and only 40 minutes into my call.   She told me that Rituxan was clearly on the list of drugs not covered by my plan, but that, if the doctor received a pre-athorization, based on medical necessity, it would be covered.  Although, sad to say, she had to check with another expert to be sure and hoped I wouldn’t mind holding.  “In for a penny, in for a pound,” I said cheerfully.

Fortunately, the little jazz combo was still playing that short bluesy loop in G, and I nodded along and made marks with ink, this time with a brush, for about ten minutes, at which time the third expert was on the line with a fourth.   They gave me the number the doctor needed to call at the third party that handles such things for the insurance company.   Tell the doctor to press 1 for “preauthorization” and then 5 for “medical necessity”.  If the doctor can prove Rituxan is a medical necessity, your insurance will pay for it.  If not, take what is behind door number two.

After submitting a few vials of my blood, and a small screw top jar of my foamy urine, I walked over to the doctor’s office where I left Deirdre with a note containing the pertinent numbers from the paragraph above.  She assured me she would follow-up once the labs came back, and that I would get a call from the doctor about the test results.

One last thing for me not to worry about.  Unlike in December 2016 when I was able to merely state my income, for purposes of paying a premium ten times more than I’m paying now for insurance that covered the treatment I need, there is apparently a brand new requirement.   To purchase a QHP you must submit a copy of your 2017 tax filing, showing the income that qualifies you to buy a qualified health plan.   I’ll cross that fucking bridge when I come to it, yo.

 

 

[1] The practice of trying to make the patient pay the balance, the difference between the rate the insurance company has agreed to pay and the sticker price billed by the provider, is called ‘balance billing’, apparently.   Of course, if a provider accepts insurance, the negotiated rate is all they are entitled to be paid. Balance billing, while not ethical, proper or strictly legal, is common.  Of a billion balance billing bills sent out, I’d imagine many millions are paid by conscientious consumers who don’t want to damage their credit rating.   Columbia Doctors recently sent me this kind of bill for $250, only 900% more than I actually owed for the visit.  Balance billing, you dig.  They can do this because there is no government agency in New York State that one can really complain to about this common practice.  Caveat emptor, bitches!

[2]  Though it has not been easy to come by this fragile new dispassion.  You can read some of my selected struggles with this merciless American health insurance and pharmaceutical industry-authored scheme  here.

 

 

 

Provoking vs. Disrespecting: anatomy of a fatal falling out

I will use a personal story to flesh out a mechanism that commonly leads to violence and sometimes death.  It is a mechanism that is particularly ubiquitous in this black and white zero-sum society we are living in at the moment.  It is the reduction of a complicated story to a simple, primary concept, like betrayal, or loyalty.   One party wins all, the other loses all, or it’s mutual destruction — fine, everybody loses and everybody wins, sort of.

In this particular personal anecdote no punches, kicks or bullets were exchanged, though both sides wound up feeling hurt and completely justified in their final anger at the other.  Every person who knows my once good friend, including two who claimed recently to love me, has cut me dead, which is as bad as the underlying impasse with a guy I’ve known since fourth grade.   In some ways it’s worse, more painful, this tribal closing of ranks after an ultimatum to forgive without condition or forever be seen as the vicious loveless party persecuting a weaker man. 

This is an aggravating story Sekhnet, who tries her best to take care of me, urges me to somehow put out of my mind every time I mention anything connected to it.   I don’t know how that’s done, until I am done working through it to my satisfaction.   A gnawing, vexing story untold is just a fucking tumor in waiting, as far as I can see. There is nothing I can do about a lying sociopath president or a lockstep political party who seems to have, with alarming speed, acquired a taste for the inside of their new leader’s ass, but this situation with an old friend I can wrestle with directly.  I believe it also sheds light on our larger problem as a culture, which comes largely from partisan oversimplification and a mass failure of empathy.

The common response to a fight is to take sides, be loyal to your people.  They call this tribalism now, reminding all of us homo sapiens that when it comes to war, we jump with those closest to us.  Loyalty has been elevated to the highest value, they used to call this kind of reflexive patriotism “my country– right or wrong” — you defend whatever America does because you’re American.   Somewhere far down the list of civic virtues, after loyalty, are being analytical, and fair-minded, and trying to find the causes of friction and the best solutions for difficult problems, including interpersonal troubles like I had with an old friend recently.

My mother always expressed frustration, even anger, at her daughters’ children’s seeming ingratitude.   My sister (my mother’s daughter) always expressed frustration, even anger, that her mother could not just give with grandmotherly generosity without demanding a “thank you”.    I always thought that a skilled mediator could convince my sister to teach her kids to say “thank you, grandma” when grandma gave them something.   This simple act would have gone a long way toward reducing tensions, but they were both too angry, and too stubbornly committed to being right, to ever go to a mediator.   Each one dismissed the idea of mediation as something the other would never agree to do.

Sekhnet reminds me of all the other things I should be worrying about, instead of this intransigent former friend who is too hurt and angry to make peace.   I have worry enough to cover these other things, and have made appointments, or at least calls, about all but one of them. [1]   Seems funny, in light of these other immediate worries, that I’m returning over and over to the sad and now sickening falling out with a friend of more than fifty years, but here we go.   On the other hand, this is the only vexation I have any chance of getting closer to solving today.

Much violence among armed teenagers is over the issue of perceived disrespect.  “He dissed me,” more than one violent young man will say in complete justification of why the person he shot needed to get shot.   Disrespect is a fundamental blow that we are taught not to tolerate.   For purposes of my friend’s case against me, I explicitly told him I don’t respect him and I gave several specific reasons why I don’t.   It would seem to be case closed for our friendship.  

I disrespected my friend, first by my actions and then by explicit words, and that’s all she wrote.  If you don’t respect someone it’s impossible to be friends with them.   End of story.   There is no coming back from this.   It’s as bad as lack of trust, lack of mutuality, lack of empathy, lack of affection.   There is nothing else to tell, many would say, closing the case, though I will tell the rest, as is my way.  The details may be useful in seeing how this sort of irrefutable tribal conclusion is often reached.   

What I was seeking from my friend, by the way, was that when he saw me getting aggravated as he pressed ahead in some conversation — the reddening of my face, the clenching of my arms and hands, the gritted teeth, the labored breathing, the other universal signs of approaching anger, plus my words to that effect — that he could take his foot off the accelerator, apply the brakes a little and change direction.   He was increasingly unable to do this in recent years, as his own life got more and more stressful.

During our last discussion my friend told me, three separate times in the course of about twenty minutes, that he felt disrespected by me.  He felt this because I had been ninety minutes late to meet him for an important discussion to try to save our failing friendship.  He told me at once, and slightly sheepishly, that he knew the feeling was irrational, since we’d been loose about the time, and he’d declined to accompany me on the errands that took longer than planned so that we could meet at the original time.  This talk was important to him and he’d saved the entire day for it, from two pm on.  

He told me we could meet at any point, true, but still, I didn’t show up until almost 3:30 and ninety minutes is past the border line for disrespect.  It was even worse when you start the clock at 1 pm, which was my initial suggestion, making me a full one hundred and fifty minutes late.   It was true, he said, that I’d called as soon as I knew I was going to be late, spoke to him from the middle of a traffic jam on the Grand Central, and that each time I called he’d reassured me that he wasn’t, for once, under any particular time pressure. He’d told me not to worry, in fact.   All this was true, he said, and so it might seem irrational to me that he felt disrespected, but there it was.  Ninety minutes.  It’s hard to ignore ninety minutes.

The second time he told me how disrespectful I’d been to him, about ten minutes later, he was in the middle of denying that he had provoked me again recently, intentionally or unintentionally.  He told me that he’d only apologized to me in the most egregious previous instance because I seemed so peeved.   He had actually been in the right, he told me, to insist in the face of my rising aggravation, on the annoying thing he’d been insisting on me hearing, for a second time in a week, as it turned out.   In fact, he added, he’d do the same thing again, if it came to it.  

I was just wrong, he said, to see what he’d done as provocation.  He is not provocative, he is actually a lifelong peacemaker by nature, and besides, I was the one who’d behaved disrespectfully toward him and was now not accepting his most recent apology.  Ninety minutes, he reminded me, more than enough time for my disrespect, intended or not, to sink deep inside of him.

This line of counter-attack is familiar from my childhood.  My father liked to reframe everything away from whatever I was concerned about to a discussion of my terrible temper, how angry I always was.  When I was young, this used to piss me off pretty quickly, the abrupt pivot from what I needed to talk about with my father to the general subject of my crazy anger.  Once I got mad, I lost any chance to talk about anything.  “You see,” he’d say with a smug smile, “this is exactly what I’m talking about.  The People rest, you’re irrationally angry again.  You really have a fucking problem with your violent fucking temper.”    

My father did me a favor, in a roundabout way, since by the time I was a middle aged man this kryptonite became a weaker and weaker weapon against me.   It took years of work, but years well-spent, in my opinion.

My disrespected friend, on the other hand, had been actively taught never to show anger.   Anger is a threatening emotion, particularly to someone raised never to express it by word or conscious deed.  “I was taught to swallow it,” his mother told me recently, “avoiding conflict at all costs is how I was raised.   My mother used to tell me to use any means necessary, including creatively altering any details of what happened that could possibly make anyone mad.  The only supremely important thing, according to my mother, was avoiding confrontation.”  

I experienced a few untruths from this now very old woman over the more than fifty years I’ve known her, but I never held that personality quirk against her.  She’s a lovely woman, outside of that.   I spent hours on the phone with her last month advising her about a very aggravating and frightening situation I must keep secret.   That’s the other piece about her approach to anger, fear, shame — really emotionally explosive things must always be kept secret.

The son is like her in some fundamental ways.   His occasional bending of the truth was something I just accepted as a regrettable feature.   I always felt I could trust him about the big things, in spite of his tendency to be less than truthful at times about small things.   Funny that this equivocation was never a terrible issue in my friendship with him, I guess because our affection went back to childhood and since I always felt I could trust him in the larger sense, I never worried when he did that dance he sometimes does to try to make sure everybody is happy.   I suppose I never questioned his motivations when he was being less than honest, it was for the sake of avoiding what he saw as an inevitable confrontation, I could always see that.  

Now here we were in a real confrontation, and his dance was not at all endearing nor did it give me any reason for optimism.   He simply could not admit, beyond saying the words “I’m sorry”, that he’d been wrong to blame me, based on a casual remark made to his wife in passing, for willfully, or recklessly trying to destroy his long-troubled marriage.   I was his oldest friend, and I tried my best to help him get the full context to that particular, unfortunately weaponized remark.  

I was not at all angry at the pointed accusation, odd to say.  I was on the spot, I was concerned, there was a slight tightness in my gut, I felt under pressure, but I wasn’t angry.  Seeing him in such distress I did what I could to try to help him.  It took an hour or more to get things to a reasonable place that he could offer to his wife and their therapist in explanation of his oldest, closest friend’s alleged treachery.

When I was finally done with that he asked me if I harbored anger at him, conscious or unconscious, and told me I’d never once in our long relationship ever admitted I was wrong, had never apologized to him about anything.   These are faults I work on not having, when I become aware I’ve hurt a friend I do my best to make amends as soon as I can.  He brought up a thoughtless thing I’d apparently done to him years ago and I told him I was wrong and apologized, for what it was worth.

As soon as I was done telling him how sorry I was he accused me, based on something “someone in his family” had disclosed to him, of insultingly treating him like a helpless child.   The vexing information he complained of being spilled by a family member (there are only three possible candidates) was something I later realized that I myself had told him months earlier.   It was quite an emotional trifecta in his car that afternoon.  It took a few days before it began to strike me as an unfriendly, and unfair, assault on my character and my friendship.   My friend kept telling me how impossible his life was, worse than ever, the pressure on him was unbearable.  I told him we needed to talk face to face, that things between us were very bad.

Now I was in a suddenly aggravating conversation, doing what I could to try to save a friendship that was hanging by a thin, fraying thread.   The conversation was hard work, because he’s very smart and quite capable of putting up a strenuous emotional and intellectual fight.   His position was that he’d apologized to me already, about everything, including that “thing in the car”, and that it appeared to him that I was unforgiving, unreasonably demanding more than an apology.   “I apologized to you already, but my apology apparently wasn’t enough for you,” was his opening line to this conversation we needed to have to better respect each other’s feelings if our friendship was going to survive.  

In his defense, I’m pretty sure he honestly does not see himself as capable of expressing vehement hostility.   That, he likely believes, is my area of expertise.  I am the one who expresses anger, after all.    All of his efforts in interpersonal relations are intended to keep the peace, make peace, be a mediator between angry people.  In the short term, his efforts sometimes work, two angry people kiss and make up.   Long term, his record is not as good — as nobody’s can be when “peace” is based on persuading everyone to let bygones be bygones and a polite agreement that everybody loves each other.  That’s not how love, or anger, actually works.  In any event, the impasse between him and me is a special case and he really couldn’t be expected to make peace with someone as angry and unforgiving as I apparently am.   Plus, of course, the disrespect, how do you get past that?

In the end, the third time he brought up the disrespect, about five minutes after the second time, I finally lost it.  Outside of provoking me, I have no other theory for why he kept mentioning this perceived feeling of being disrespected.  I snapped.  I told him he was right to feel disrespected, that I don’t respect him, not the way he treats people, not many of the choices he’s made in his life, not his inability to empathize, to be honest about his feelings, to have any insight into his anger, to make a meaningful apology.   If you apologize for hurting somebody, I said, and you continue to do the same hurtful thing over and over, your apology is a shit apology.   A lie.   A meaningless fucking lie, dude.    

It may be worth mentioning here that we spoke for another four or five hours after that.   We talked quietly, but in circles, each trying our best to somehow rescue our deeply wounded friendship.   Oddly enough, he seemed to calm down and fight much less after making me explode at him.

 My childhood friend now spends a lot of time studying the ancient wisdom of Judaism with an orthodox rabbi, though he chose not to contact me during the Ten Days of Repentance, a time when Jews are supposed to make amends with people they know they’ve hurt.   Feeling the aggrieved party (victimhood is one of the most frequently and potently weaponized feelings in Trump’s America) I am sure he contented himself praying for his soul and the souls of his loved ones.   I thought about this falling out, blamed entirely on me for my inability not to be provoked by what I falsely claim is provocation, extensively during those ten days and beyond.  

I heard a rabbi talking about apology, atonement and forgiveness.   A fascinating seven minute segment on On The Media (click here for the excellent conversation) .  The rabbis apparently require someone seeking forgiveness to apologize at least three times before they can give up with the human and atone before God.   Element number one of an apology is empathy– I know you’re hurt, if someone had done to me what I did to you I’d be hurt too, just like you are, I’m sorry I hurt you, I’ll try my best not to ever do it again.   Remove empathy and you have only the empty form of an apology:  I see you’re hurt and waiting for an apology, so I’m sorry, can we just move on now?

Can we just move on, you merciless fucking irrationally hurt self-righteously enraged prick?

Think about any member of his family who might want to keep in touch with me– impossible.   There is a huge cost to taking sides against your own family, going against the current of your tribe’s strong feelings, even in a small way.  This conflict in the soul when a person opposes the will of the tribe has been the stuff of drama forever.  First, it is seen by those who trust you as disloyal.   Second, if you are critical of the accepted tribal story your head can be next on the chopping block, you see how upset everyone is.   Best to say nothing.  

I have a friend fond of quoting his grandfather’s aphorisms, gleaned from the teachings of the rabbis.  One of our favorites is “yaffa shteeka leh cha-chameem”   beautiful is silence to the wise.   Dig it.

 That said, the only hope we humans have, if we truly seek to change things for the better, is looking as deeply and dispassionately as we can into things that are sometimes, frankly, terrifying.  It is easy to resolve conflict in your own mind by reducing something to a simple scenario.   Few scenarios are actually as simple as we easily convince ourselves they are.

 

[1]  I have a CAT scan of my kidneys, bladder and ureters early next week, then a camera on a long stick up the penis into the urethra to look for the source of a large blood clot, gross hematuria, some emergency dental work I need to set up and a bit of fancy footwork to do playing the insurance odds, by the December 15 deadline to buy health insurance for 2019, trying to learn before then if I’ll need another $88,000 infusion of chemotherapy for my eventually life ending kidney disease.  

A Fair Hearing — by a lynch mob

The worst part to a summary trial by a lynch mob has got to be the superior, mocking good cheer of everybody present in the moments before your inevitable death sentence, which has already been decided.   The sick feeling you have looking around at the smiles of the people about to cheer your execution must be what a tiny prey animal feels like when it’s being batted playfully between a cat’s paws.  Imagine that feeling of powerlessness seared into you by the satisfied smiles of the assembled sadists and voyeurs, before the actual sadism of the deliberately painful execution starts, as the leaders of the lynch mob make their cruel jokes at your expense.  What the fuck are they laughing about?  you must think, as they begin cutting your fingers off in preparation for the fiery grand finale of the lynching.   What indeed are they laughing about?    

I have had many opportunities to ponder this lately.  SAD!   I keep thinking of Judge Martha Kavanaugh’s now famous rule for a judge, the one she taught her choir boy son:  use your common sense, what rings true?  what rings false?  If you apply this rule, most of what passes as legitimate process in Trump’s Washington D.C. doesn’t pass the smell test.  Of course, this is a partisan statement, made by a hater, a loser, someone jealous that a young genius could be given a tiny million dollar loan from his father and parlay that into countless billions in personal wealth and then the world’s most powerful office.   OK, perhaps he exaggerated a little, maybe the small loan was more like $60,000,000 (his lawyers are poring over the scandal rag NY Times hit piece that laid out their detailed lies about their client’s mere puffery, there must be some grounds to sue those fucks…) but that’s fake news for you, folks.   The failing NY Times, am I right?  Am I right?

I have to say, applying Martha Kavanaugh’s test– a very unfair test, by the way, very unfair– the woman sent by Bill and Hillary Clinton, Oprah and George Soros to destroy a good man, a pious and even saintly man, rang a little bell of truth when she said that she clearly remembers the laughter of the two drunken older boys who had locked her in that upstairs bedroom and turned the music up when she started protesting.  That particular detail rings true (which is undoubtedly why Soros and the Clintons wrote the line for her).   Two drunken prep schools boys would laugh after one of them forced himself on to a young woman, held his hand over her mouth, to scare the crap out of her, at minimum.

When you get a trial from a lynch mob it’s got to be quick.  That’s the main feature, the extremely speedy trial.  The speed of that trial is blinding because there is no need for cross-examination, testimony, investigation, motions, objections, evidence, doubt, remarks from the judge, pointless discussions about so-called justice.  Justice is we get to kill this guilty fuck. Or, in other cases, justice is we have a 51-49 majority so we win– whatever you might think, whatever millions in the streets might think, whatever the mothers and fathers of every fifteen year-old girl in the country might think.

But here’s the funny part about all that, if we can take a brief break for a bit of levity and a raspy laugh, the mothers and fathers of at least 40% of the millions of American fifteen year-old girls believe that their daughters would never, under any circumstances, drink a beer in a house where the adults were gone, with a bunch of already drunk seventeen year-old guys and only one other girl there.   Inconceivable, you understand?  Our daughter is not a little slut!   If we ever found out she is, we’d beat the fuck out of her– with sanctions I mean, sanctions:  we’d ground her, take away her allowance, force her to come to church with us every Sunday.  If this supposed assault really happened, why didn’t the girl tell her parents and take her punishment like a man?  You see?  You see how we know she’s a fucking liar!

The beauty of a quick trial, from the point of view of a lynch mob, is that so-called good Samaritans don’t get a chance to self-righteously ride up on their white horses and call time out.  Even the people in the crowd, laughing and smirking, if their blood had a chance to cool down, and an appeal was made to their consciences, if other facts were brought out, might not be cheering when we took this sick bastard to pieces before we hung him over a fire and roasted his guilty ass.  Do you see the point of a speedy trial?  It’s in the Constitution!

I heard a discussion between investigative journalists recently, talking about their investigations.   They all agreed that the most important single element of an investigation is time.   The kiss of death, as far as truth emerging fully, is an arbitrary time limit imposed on the investigation.  It takes time to talk to enough people, to find enough corroborating evidence, to come to publishable conclusions.   If you write an investigative piece you need to have multiple sources for your reporting.   Finding and interviewing them, and carefully checking out their stories, takes time.   Before the investigative report is published it will be critically read by a team, including lawyers, who will challenge every detail, make sure the piece contains no uncorroborated speculation that could lead to a lawsuit for defamation.  All of these things, the investigation, the vetting of every source, confirming the accuracy of the report based on the sources and other evidence, take time to do properly.  

Which is exactly why a lynch mob has to act quickly, while they have the moral hot hand.   We’re going to give this fuck a fair trial and then, before any bleeding heart bullshit artist outside troublemakers can start making a stink, we’re going to lift him up by his neck and watch his feet kick, which is exactly what he deserves, good ladies and gentlemen of the jury.

As far as the president being a liar– well, everyone knew that when he was running for office.  He’s honest about the fact that he’s a liar– he makes no attempt to hide it, which makes him very truthful, in a way.   He’s lying because he’s up against liars, you understand, he’s lying for us!   His lawyers threatened to sue the NY Times for their vicious hit piece on him and they are going to sue the lying NY Times and put them out of business, watch.   Just because he’s lying doesn’t mean they are not much worse liars than him, much worse liars.  

You’re giving me a headache.  

As for me, I have just one question– where are the people who are supposed to have the president’s back about his hair?   They’re photographing him from his bald side now, those lying fucks?

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