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.