February 26, 2007


(For the sake of greater clarity, I made a number of revisions to this essay about seven hours after I posted it. While the language is now a bit more precise, the underlying conclusions remain unchanged. My heartfelt thanks to Barbara M., Mike B., Gretchen, Barb G., Traci K. and Barbara B. for the conversations, online and in person, that led to the insights here expressed.)

JUST AS MOST REPUBLICAN leaders instinctively seek to criminalize those of us who oppose capitalism, fascism, theocracy or the now-ever-more-apparent triumvirate of tyranny that combines all three, so do most Democratic leaders reflexively scheme to impose forcible disarmament and thereby abolish the right to self defense and the right to keep and bear arms -- even unto outlawing, as New York City and New Jersey have already done, the civilian ownership of certain kinds of archery equipment. In either case, Republican or Democrat, the long-term intent is to reduce the United States citizenry to absolute powerlessness, the ultimate purpose of which is creation of a 21st Century equivalent of serfdom: a commonality of victimhood that mandates slavish dependence on the good will of an elite and thus unquestioning obedience to its every whim: reduction to the same degradation of subjugation no matter whether one must bow to the corporate fat-cats themselves or to the bureaucratic factotums who, under capitalism, are so often enforcers of the bosses' zero-tolerance demands.

Nevertheless, the Democratic and Republican positions on these matters are not equivalent demonstrations of some dark imperative to class warfare that -- just as a few of the more conspiracy-minded critics are now claiming -- link the two ends of the established domestic political spectrum in a collaboration for oppression that is allegedly as old as the Republic itself. Instead the Democratic and Republican positions each arise from separate sets of conditions that are related only distantly -- though there is no doubt they all fuel the ongoing subversion of the Constitution and thus lead inevitably to despotism.

The Republicans who seek to combine the tyrannies of corporation and church into a unitary patriarchal state are merely being true to their party’s ultimate function as the U.S. vessel of fascism, the counterpart of the fascist parties of Italy, Germany and Spain, a traditional Republican role at least since the Herbert Hoover years. That this is a role unbeknownst to most of us is merely another tragic example of how our public schools -- ever the obedient servants of the board-room barony -- have robbed us of the knowledge of history prerequisite to even the most minimal political understanding. But once we uncover these long-suppressed facts, it is slap-ourselves-on-the-forehead obvious the Republicans could hardly be expected to pursue any other course, especially since the death of the Soviet Union has relieved capitalism of its former competitive necessity to conceal its implacably tyrannosauric core. Indeed, the Republican intent is now demonstrated beyond a scintilla of doubt, not only by Enron and Iraq, but by the genocidal threat equally apparent in post-Katrina New Orleans, at Walter Reed Army Hospital and in the Medicare Prescription Drug Lord Benefit: the conversion of the United States into a kind of rat-maze Fourth Reich -- succeed or die -- with each and every one of us who suffers even the slightest degree of poverty damned as pariahs of failure, implicitly blamed for all the troubles of the nation and, like the Jews under Hitler, increasingly in jeopardy of being lethally scapegoated.

Even the Republicans’ apparent support for the right to keep and bear arms is tacitly in keeping with the fascist agenda of gradually restricting firearms ownership to an-ever-more-limited aristocracy. RKBA is a Grand Old Party shibboleth that -- though only after the Democrats repudiated the New Deal -- has recently seduced innumerable votes from those of us dismayed by the Democrats anti-gunowner hysteria, especially its periodic frenzies of spit-in-our-faces hatefulness. Why not? The parties are otherwise indistinguishable. But the fact remains that while the Republicans dependably go through the motions of battling new firearms legislation, in the end they almost invariably surrender to the advocates of forcible disarmament. Note for example how Republican collaboration enabled enactment of the Brady Laws during the 1990s. Note too the much more obscure fact the Republicans have never (at least to my knowledge) sought to repeal any existing firearms laws, no matter how much power they had or how hurtfully restrictive the laws themselves.

Thus, especially in the forcibly disarmed corporate-headquarters domains like New Jersey, Massachusetts and New York City (where we see today the inevitable gun laws of tomorrow), RKBA has already been abolished as a right and redefined as a privilege -- an increasingly exclusive one at that -- a privilege ultimately determined by whether one is rich enough to hire lawyers and bribe officials. Thus too these circumstances provide an instructive example of how the anti-gunowner fanaticism of the Democrats actually serves longer-range Republican causes. It reinforces the two-class system that capitalism inevitably spawns -- infinitely wealthy, absolutely powerful bosses lording it over desperately impoverished, utterly powerless workers -- and (just as I already noted) it generates huge defections from the Democratic rank-and-file. Even Bill Clinton admits the Democrats’ anti-gunowner crusade not only cost the party congressional power for an entire decade but afflicted us with George W. Bush, the worst and most tyrannical president in U.S. history.

But despite the claims of the conspiracy theorists, I doubt the Democrats’ forcible-disarmament schemes grew out of any conscious intent -- even in the clandestine sense -- to collaborate with the Republicans and the boardroom despots who finance and control them. Instead, the advent of the Democratic Party as the executive-action arm of the anti-gunowner cult was among the major expressions of the party’s transmogrification from its New Deal persona to its present-day incarnation as the voice of the mostly white and infinitely self-obsessed urban and suburban bourgeoisie.

The Democratic Party of the New Deal -- of which I was a proud and presumably lifelong member -- was not just the might of working America but an ongoing effort to guarantee the common good by acknowledging the murderous reality of the capitalist tyrannosaur and ensuring that it remained caged. Not only was the New Deal party implicitly pro-RKBA; one of the most vocal proponents of an armed citizenry was Eleanor Roosevelt herself, our nation’s finest First Lady and thus the proper companion to Franklyn Delano Roosevelt, our nation’s finest President. But the cumulative aftermath of the McCarthy era, the political murders of the 1960s, Lyndon Johnson’s fiasco in Vietnam and Richard Nixon’s criminal conspiracies all increasingly subverted the New Deal’s ideological self-confidence even as the unprecedentedly selfish and self-centered Baby Boom generation rejected any and all pretense of socioeconomic concern. As a consequence the Democratic Party increasingly abandoned its implicitly socialist and humanitarian values and became instead an ideological vacuum.

It was a vacuum that (as invariably happens, whether in politics or elsewhere in nature) was quickly filled by whatever was available: in this case diverse fanaticisms -- one of which was the anti-gunowner cult: in the main a coalition of aggressively militant pacifists left over from the Anti-Vietnam War Movement and a growing faction of radical feminists who viewed firearms (and weapons in general) as extensions of the hated penis. Thus when the Democratic Party became the party of feminism, it also became the party of forcible disarmament and mandatory pacifism. The party’s leadership had decided that pandering to fanatics was the new key to electoral success and -- surprise of surprises -- the corporations opened their checkbooks: the bosses were quick to recognize that self-centeredness and fanaticism combined into an ultimate psychological tool for union busting and the destruction of workplace solidarity in general. Not surprisingly -- and absolutely indicative of the emerging nature of the post-New Deal party -- one of Jimmy Carter’s first official acts was to reveal his hitherto-hidden malice toward the poor by imposing savage welfare cuts including a total ban on federally funded abortions.

In this context, the Democratic opposition to RKBA is merely another example of the party’s post-New Deal opportunism and hypocrisy: the conditions that make the party’s weakness painfully obvious and demonstrate precisely how it has been reduced to permanent uselessness as a platform from which to mobilize a before-it-is-too-late defense of political and economic liberty -- the cause that should be every working American’s central concern.

To bring the Democrats’ hypocrisy into sharper focus, witness how they repeatedly proclaim their support for working families and Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms even as these same Democrats erect impossibly contorted ideological constructions to rationalize their shameless collaboration with their own ever-more-generous corporate benefactors (and thus too make common cause with the Republicans) in undermining the entire Bill of Rights: not just the Second Amendment, but the suppression of First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights as well, whether in the name of forcible disarmament and the carefully undeclared wars against firearms owners and the poor (especially the homeless); the only slightly less-euphemistical war against illegal drug users; the allegedly necessary (and thus more forthrightly declared) wars against spouse-beaters and sex criminals; and the undeniably vital (but unspeakably mismanaged) war against terrorists.

Also in this context -- that is, as an idiot-light on the instrument-panel of the mind, a red warning that that glares whenever hypocrisy afflicts the engine of the body politic -- the right to keep and bear arms is almost without peer. Like First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment freedoms, it is equivalent to the canary in the coal mine whose sudden death reveals the presence of toxic gas. When we hear a politician claim faithfulness to the Four Freedoms -- freedom of expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear -- but then seek to forbid us not only the right of self-defense but prohibit the very tools that enable us to defend ourselves and thus live free of fear (prohibitions the entire Democratic leadership and virtually all of our nation’s self-proclaimed “Left” demand in their attempts to impose forcible disarmament and mandatory pacifism), then we know we are either dealing with hypocrites or morons.

Not that the Democrats’ (now-temporarily hidden) agenda of forcible disarmament and abolition of the right to self-defense is the party’s only jarring example of hypocrisy. There is also the Democrats’ breathtaking hostility to the First Amendment, chiefly in the name of “pornography” suppression (a cause in which feminists and Republicans -- especially Christian theocrats -- invariably unite); and the equally frenzied Democratic opposition to the Fourth and Fifth amendments, typically rationalized by an alleged need to deny judicial protections to men accused of sex crimes or wife-beating, a demand argued so convincingly by feminists that the suspects in such cases are now effectively guilty until proven innocent (and even if acquitted at trial suffer the irreparable destruction of their lives). Indeed these arguments, labeled “feminist jurisprudence” but based ultimately on the Marxist principle that “oppressors have no rights,” became the foundation for the much more devastating abrogation of Constitutional rights characteristic of all the other wars: the puritanical hysteria under which children suffer lifelong condemnation as “sex criminals” merely for studies of comparative anatomy that were hitherto considered a normal part of childhood, the presumption of guilt under which the authorities enrich themselves by confiscating personal property in drug cases, or the denial of habeas corpus under which virtually anyone can now be imprisoned for life and without trial as an “enemy combatant.”

An even more glaring example of Democratic hypocrisy is the party’s claim it defends reproductive rights despite its simultaneous support of economic policies that inflict wholesale prohibitions on reproductive freedom. This hypocrisy is facilitated by a condition unique to the United States: the fact the U.S. is the only industrial nation in the world in which health care is a privilege earned only by wealth rather than an inherent civil right guaranteed everyone. Thus access to reproductive choice in the U.S. is determined exclusively by one’s income. Which means the Democrats who voted for the permanent impoverishment inflicted on us all by job-theft via NAFTA, CAFTA and GATT were in effect voting against reproductive freedom. Yet these politicians -- a group that includes my own Washington state senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell -- brazenly continue to trumpet the Big Lie they are advocates of women’s rights, never mind the fact their votes for the Global Wage-Slave Economy are as demonstrably anti-choice as the doctrinal pronouncements of the Pope himself.

The Democrats’ anti-abortion policy -- and however it may be disguised, a policy it clearly is -- began with Carter’s decision to forbid abortions for the poor. While this was utterly predictable in light of Carter’s avowed (and implicitly theocratic) Christianity, the Democrats were even then in total denial about the core tyrannies of Abrahamic theology. Carter’s decision was therefore a stunning betrayal not only of the poor but of all his secular supporters, especially the feminists -- a betrayal all the more outrageous given his smugly self-righteous rationalization that “life isn’t fair”: the first modern expression of the “let-them-eat-cake” hostility to the poor that has since become the defining characteristic of all U.S. politics whether Democratic or Republican.

I remain astounded that the women’s movement refuses to utter so much as a peep of protest against such policies. Apparently the feminists are frozen, as if they were the broken-souled, mutilated wives of some Abrahamic patriarch, in perpetually silent subservience to the Democratic Party -- the party by which rural and blue-collar women, like organized labor and the nation’s socioeconomically disadvantaged minorities, have all been so shamelessly co-opted and betrayed. Worse, it is increasingly obvious the feminists’ subservience is by choice and choice alone: where once I assumed it was hold-the-noses pragmatism, I am now convinced the silence is not only voluntary but pro-active, another expression of the fact the ruling circle of the U.S. feminist movement is not radical at all but is merely another (overwhelmingly white) expression of the implicitly capitalistic yuppoid ethos: "I can have it all -- and to hell with those who fall by the wayside." Thus feminism's response to the denial of reproductive choice that is increasingly part of U.S. economic reality is accurately reflected in the repeat votes for Cantwell, Murray and all their Global Sweatshop Economy ilk: the ballot-box equivalent of chanting Barbara Bush’s “why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that”-- the ultimate (and implicitly fascist) slogan of too many present-day Americans whatever politics they claim.

Even so, man or woman alike we should never forget that the legal process by which our Constitution has been subverted -- probably forever -- began with the Democrats’ imposition of the Gun Control Act of 1968, in which for the first time in U.S. history, the government presumed a group of citizens guilty of various specified and unspecified crimes and thus required us to declare our innocence (and sometimes to prove it judicially) before granting us permission to purchase a firearm. This is the ultimate significance of the RKBA fight: the fact all such laws assume us to be guilty subjects rather than innocent citizens. And the fight over reproductive rights is an absolutely equivalent question: whether a woman is assumed to be a subject who is somehow invariably “guilty” of sexuality (and is thus denied control of her own body) or a citizen with all rights of sexual expression protected in presumption of her ultimate innocence. Recognition of the underlying principle of human dignity common to both causes would be a great stride forward in the building of a new political party that genuinely represents all of us who are not part of the plutocracy.

As for me, I will dwell neither in a place where law-abiding citizens are denied the right to keep and bear arms, nor in a place where women are denied the right of reproductive choice.

Posted by Loren at 05:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 19, 2007


THANKS MOSTLY TO PRESIDENTS Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the genocidal policies President Richard Milhous Nixon initiated 33 years ago with a curiously under-reported declaration of economic war against the American people have now escalated into a mercilessly savage crusade against each and every one of us who is not part of the increasingly omnipotent corporate plutocracy -- the fat-cat faction in whose exclusive interest the war is being waged.

Nixon issued his declaration of class-war during a 1973 post-inaugural interview by William Randolph Hearst Jr. Curiously, Nixon was at the peak of his popularity -- an apparent paradox on which Hearst himself briefly commented -- especially given the vindictive gloom inherent in the president's economic intentions. But in retrospect -- and in a decidedly eerie sense -- it was almost as if Nixon had somehow foreseen the future and was already declaring his vengeance: within slightly more than a year, Watergate would reduce him, deservedly so, to the most despised president in U.S. history -- the title for which he is now being challenged by Bush.

Hearst's 1973 interview is thus memorable for reasons both personal and political. It -- or rather its implications -- provided all-too-rare intellectual stimulation while I was suffering the brain-numbing misfortune of being a Manhattanite (as I then thought of myself) stranded in Seattle, which from almost any perspective is a startlingly small-minded town, not withstanding the fact it is cobbled together amidst huge and breathtaking physical beauty. But not even the dark loveliness of its Pacific Northwest environment is sufficient antidote for the bigotry and personalized hatefulness with which its natives habitually confront those of us who foolishly venture there from the City -- the place even the most politically “correct” of Seattle’s self-proclaimed “leftists“ secretly damn as “Jew York” -- as if it were indeed the ultimate daemonium of Planet Earth. It will therefore come as no surprise I was never an appreciative reader of either of Seattle’s two daily papers, each of which (even now) routinely reflect the fierce pride in vindictive xenophobia that is Seattle’s chief and most identifying sociological characteristic. But on this particular day the dependably mediocre Post-Intelligencer had momentarily abandoned its customary provincialism and instead was approximating serious reportage, beginning Hearst’s bylined special report atop Page One and jumping it to fill an inside page, every column inch describing the details of Nixon’s plans for his second four-year term. Having noted all this while enduring the wretched bus service that in Seattle passes for adequate public transport, I actually thought it worthwhile to walk some distance (in the omnipresent drizzle of course) to hunt up and purchase my own copy: so I remember the whole episode very well -- not just the contents of Hearst’s report (nearly as thorough as anything I might have read in The New York Times I so sorely missed), but how I came to have the report's text and the manner in which it later influenced my thinking.

To me, Nixon’s second term stands out for two reasons that put the entire aftermath of the Watergate breakin, especially the ouster of Nixon, into what I believe is its proper historical context -- a genuine counter-coup that truly saved the nation -- no matter its later betrayal by the pardon so traitorously granted Nixon by President Gerald Ford. The first of these two context-setters is Nixon’s statement that “this is the last election,” the comment with which he opened his 1973 inaugural address. (If you doubt me, listen to the tape or perhaps, if you are old enough, dig into your memory for the brief flurry of apologetics that followed: the argument -- one I believed then and now to be patently spurious -- that it was a mere slip of the tongue in which Nixon, always a deliberate and careful speaker, really meant “my last election” but somehow accidentally substituted the more implicitly tyrannical and surely more disturbing form.) The second context-setter has, unfortunately I think, remained far more obscure: Nixon’s assertion to interviewer Hearst that all but the wealthiest Americans “have it too good,” and his strong implication that for the rest of his administration (and to the greatest extent he could manage), all federal policy would henceforth be directed very specifically at re-inflicting the myriad hardships the New Deal had either abolished or substantially minimized.

Recognizing the probable (and probably dreadful) significance of Nixon’s quoted remarks -- especially in light of his “last election” term-opener -- I clipped the article (the very reason I bought my own copy of the paper), and I kept it in my reference files for the next ten years, indeed until all those vital resources (and so much else) were destroyed by the fire that was such a ruinous turning point in my own life. Assuming the clip would be relatively easy to replace, I did not seek it out for several years afterward, but then found myself in a quarrel with a perennially antagonistic relative who in effect had called me a liar and implied I had made the whole thing up. Fortunately, though I don’t have the sort of memory that is commonly described as “photographic,” I do have fairly accurate recall of historical details -- even of amusing trivia (such as the nearly forgotten fact the Norman warlord we know today as “William the Conqueror” was known in his own time and even by his own people as “William the Bastard,” not because he was bastardly in conduct -- though surely he was -- but because his mother’s conduct had led to his birth in bastardy). In any case, for reasons I already made clear (and despite my relative's intellectual bullying), I did not succumb to doubts and therefore would not relent. But when I contacted The Post-Intelligencer in an effort to prove my point by obtaining a replacement copy of the interview (presumably a Xerox made from the microfiche on which all daily newspapers of that period are archived), I was told it was no longer available. Subsequent requests have yielded the same result, which leaves me wondering if perhaps the entire story has conveniently vanished down some Orwellian memory-hole.

(If someone can steer me to an unrevised copy of this seemingly lost interview, Nixon’s first after his ‘73 re-inauguration, please do; I would be appreciative enough to thank you in print.)

But no matter if the text of the interview has vanished or not; the evidence of deliberate class-war -- class-war that includes policies expressly crafted to inflict (plausibly deniable) genocide -- is now so overwhelming, even corporate mass-media is forced to acknowledge it, no matter how euphemistical or apologetic the acknowledgement. Here, thanks to the radical news-service Truthout, are no-registration-required links to reports of five outrages that exemplify capitalism’s tyrannosauric assault on all of us who are neither members of the board-room baronage nor part of the trust-fund plutocracy:

The United States has deteriorated into the most savage place in the industrial world to raise children, with the highest percentage of children living in poverty, by far the worst incidence of teenage obesity, and the deadliest records in child safety and the availability of health care for children -- all this according to a United Nations Children’s Fund study released a few days ago. Anyone who doubts this deterioration is an accident should reflect not only on Nixon’s remark that Americans “have it too good” but on the policies of every administration since Nixon’s -- especially Clinton’s, which began, via NAFTA and the outsourcing at the core of the Global (Wage-Slave) Economy, the methodical theft of jobs and demolition of opportunity that has flung so many of us (and hence our children, grandchildren and in fact all our future descendants) into inescapable and steadily worsening poverty. No wonder so many Americans are so (rightfully) hopeless they seek the seductive solace of the slow suicide that is drug addition.

Meanwhile the Bush Regime has deliberately increased the lethal hardships of poverty by knowingly (and almost certainly with what in courtrooms is called “malice aforethought”) providing Katrina refugees with house trailers that are defacto gas chambers and thus potentially deadly to inhabit. As a result, thousands of children, women and men are sick and getting sicker -- most probably terminally -- and at least one elderly person is already dead, all afflicted by formaldehyde fumes. The administration’s response? More of the hostile indifference typical of the entire post-Katrina horror: yet another example of what many African-Americans -- folks with whom in this instance I totally agree -- already believe is deliberate genocide, whether by action or neglect it matters not.

Again due largely to the destruction of the socioeconomic fabric begun by Nixon’s hardship plan and dutifully continued by each of his successors, U.S. military families have (of course) become as economically non-traditional as the families of all the rest of us. As a consequence, child-rearing duties are now shared by a huge number of folks who are not birth parents -- grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, unwed lovers -- each of whom should be entitled to the child-rearing stipends traditionally paid to the spouses of soldiers slain in battle. But instead they are methodically denied such funds -- and the problem, increasingly evident since the Gulf War, has now reached crisis proportions. Moreover, though this Washington Post report only hints at the truth, veterans' advocates tell me the federal bureaucracy flatly rejects any and all possible remedies. Thus I have little doubt the real barrier is Bush and his band of JesuNazi theocrats (many of whom do in fact infest the Pentagon), vindictively obstructing all efforts to secure such payments for non-traditional parents -- obstruction that extends even unto brazen defiance of wills written by the now-dead veterans themselves. Obviously -- beyond its expression of the malicious absolutism that is the keystone of Christianity -- here is another example of the ongoing policy of deliberately inflicted misery and methodically worsened impoverishment.

Today’s wounded soldiers fare no better. Indeed, the long-term convalescence section of Walter Reed Army Hospital is as rat-bedunged and roach-infested as 19th Century Bedlam -- and again (once more no doubt in keeping with the Nixon policy of imposed degradation), the overwhelming evidence of neglect proves beyond a scintilla of doubt the Bush Regime doesn’t give a tinker’s damn: never has, never will. That anyone would be so treated anywhere in the industrial world is an outrage; that wounded soldiers would be so treated is an atrocity: another classic example of the venomous contempt with which Bush and his entire family (“why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that”) regard those of us who are neither corporate fat-cats nor otherwise destitution-proof plutocrats.

Finally there is the lonely struggle of union members -- we who for the last five decades were ever more cravenly abandoned by an ever-more-subjugated U.S. workforce -- our shrunken ranks bravely soldiering on (literally in service to every employee in America) -- this in the only counter-offensive ever launched against the rat politics of the Nixon/Ford/Carter/Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush class war. Venomously rejected by self-proclaimed “progressives” (who cannot abide the possibility our sweaty-armpit reality might even momentarily overcome their aroma-therapy trance), mostly ignored by so-called “liberals” (who hypocritically inflate their personal wealth by mouthing paid arguments that unions are now somehow “obsolete”), and repeatedly betrayed by the Democrats (who once portrayed themselves as our allies but have since been bribed into eager collaboration with the boardroom barons -- think NAFTA, CAFTA, GATT, WTO ad nauseum), we have finally in the last year or so begun see evidence of a genuine re-awakening of unionism. In the best of all possible worlds, this resurgent activism would be fueled by renewed understanding of class struggle: the fact that, under capitalism, there are only two classes -- the bosses and those of us who have to work for them -- and the corollary fact that (no matter how allegedly “cooperative” the workplace) -- the boss is always “making a list” (as another union guy I know so aptly puts it) and is therefore always the enemy. In truth however what is happening is probably a far less ideological, far more instinctively American response to the ever more undeniable horrors of the Global (Sweatshop) Economy -- that and awakening realization the Global Sweatshop with its obscene wealth and privilege for the plutocrats and its abject poverty for all the rest of us is, already and in fact, our corporate overlords’ ultimate and final response to the double apocalypse of petroleum exhaustion and terminal climate change: in essence, imposition of a new Dark Age -- this one lasting until the end of human time -- with only the fattest of the fat cats exempted from the slave-pens. As during the class conflicts of the 19th and early 20th centuries, labor is again mobilizing, and though this time the mobilization is happening little by slow, it is already obvious enough it has scared the Democrats into proposing the first pro-labor Congressional legislation in decades (maybe since the Lyndon Johnson Administration) -- a measure that would remove some of the many obstructions that now prohibit employees from organizing unions. Dream on: Vice President Dick Cheney pledges the Bush Regime will maintain the obstructions by presidential veto (never mind the fact the Employee Free Choice Act has not even been written). Moreover, Cheney’s predictably vicious reaction implies a by-whatever-means-necessary fight against any other possible union gains. Again, the policy of doing anything and everything possible to deliberately worsen our lot. Obviously, the graffito is true: “Nixon Lives” (not that there were ever many doubts).

Posted by Loren at 05:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 11, 2007


WITH THE LEGISLATURE IN SESSION HERE IN Washington state, my part-time job with the advocacy journal has become momentarily full-time (never mind the fact my pay remains the same miserly sum), and I have simply not had an opportunity during the past week to do any contemplative writing, for which I nevertheless apologize.

Meanwhile, though, here’s something definitely worth contemplating: an analysis by the Medicare Rights Center of how the two parties structured the Medicare Prescription Drug Lord Benefit to do just what the Democrats, the Republicans and their corporate overlords intended:

The confusing array of private plan options for drug and medical coverage can make people with Medicare vulnerable to deception and bullying by unscrupulous insurance agents. Sales reps looking to maximize the commissions they receive from insurance companies often target frail older adults, people with cognitive disabilities and the poor and sick who are worried about paying their medical bills.

It is not enough, however, just to find the bad apples among the brokers and agents. If we follow the money trail, it becomes clear that the abuses are a direct result of marketing strategies and commission structure developed by the insurance companies, the lack of adequate oversight exercised by the federal government and the rulebook rigged up by Congress.

Insurance companies typically pay brokers about $500 for every person they enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan offering both medical and drug coverage, more than five times the commission they pay for signing someone up for a plan that just covers drugs and allows the individual to stay in Original Medicare. As a result, counselors across the country last year answered thousands of calls from individuals who found themselves in a Medicare Advantage plan when they thought they were signing up just for drug coverage. These individuals were often saddled with high medical bills when they discovered their doctors would not accept their new plan, or the plan imposed high cost sharing for major medical expenses.

Each Medicare Advantage enrollee generates thousands of dollars in additional taxpayer-funded subsidies for the insurance company offering the plan. The marketing abuses continue because the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) allows the insurance companies to use higher commissions to steer people with Medicare to these plans, whether or not they are well suited to their financial or health care needs. Neither the insurance companies nor CMS ensures that brokers and agents adequately and honestly explain these plans to consumers.

Of all the Medicare Advantage plans, private fee-for-service plans are the ones most subject to aggressive and deceptive marketing. Typically, agents will tell prospective customers that “all doctors take this plan” or say it is just like Original Medicare. Neither claim is true. The reason insurance companies push private fee-for-service plans so hard is simple: they generate the largest subsidies from Medicare thanks to the payment plan devised by Congress.

In a backroom deal enacted late last year, Congress gave the insurance companies offering private fee-for-service plans another favor, allowing them to sign up any person with Medicare into these plans at any time during the year. That means millions more people with Medicare will be cajoled and hoodwinked into joining these plans, and taxpayers will shell out millions more in subsidies to these plans. The author of this provision was then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Republican of Illinois. He may have been repaying a favor. Aon Corporation, one of the largest purveyors of private fee-for-service plans, gave nearly $20,000 to his 2006 campaign.

It is time for the new Congress to do people with Medicare and taxpayers a favor. Congress should lift lock-in, which keeps people with Medicare stuck in a Medicare Advantage or drug plan for the whole year, even if it fails to meet their needs. It should stop overpayments to Medicare Advantage plans, and private fee-for-service plans in particular. Congress should take back the special favor it granted Aon Corporation and other companies pushing private-fee-for-service plans. Finally, Congress needs to hold hearings on these marketing abuses and enact legislation that holds both sales agents and insurance companies accountable and protects their constituents with Medicare.

And don’t let the liars tell you, “O that’s why it’s so important we elect Democrats.” In the original 2003 roll-call on the Prescription Drug Lord Benefit, only 11 of the Senate’s 48 Democrats dared vote no. Despite prophetically vehement protests from advocates for those of us who are elderly or disabled, the remainder of the Democrats -- 37 total (including two who couldn’t be bothered to vote) -- gave us all the metaphorical finger, serving the corporate fat-cats by smugly savaging anyone dependent on Medicare. And though some Democrats later changed their votes (when an amended version of the Prescription Drug Lord Benefit came up for approval a few months later), the apparent flip-flop was nothing more than an increasingly commonplace deception: the initial vote guaranteed the measure’s enactment, and thus the damage was already done.

Posted by Loren at 04:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 01, 2007


ONCE AGAIN THE DEMOCRATS are betraying working-class interests, backing forcible disarmament measures that will guarantee -- just as they did in 1994 -- another decade of Republican rule, with all its attendant outsourcing, downsizing, union-busting and Enron concentration of wealth. Thus -- in keeping with the practice John Ehrlichman acknowledged during the Watergate hearings -- Washington state is again being used as a human rat-maze in which to test techniques of oppression: this time not by Machiavellian Republicans but by fanatically anti-gun Democrats who intend to turn Washington into a national poster-state for forcible disarmament.

As I wrote on 23 December 2004:

It’s not Gregoire’s victory that makes me regret my vote for her. It’s the truly horrific reality implicit in the way she won -- a reality that may require further explanation: Older readers will remember how Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley stole the 1960 presidential election from Richard Nixon by massive vote fraud and gave the presidency to John Fitzgerald Kennedy. What most people do not know is that from then until 1972, when the Daley forces were at last ousted by the coalition that (unfortunately) celebrated its triumph by nominating George McGovern, Daley and his machine ran the national Democratic Party in much the same way Hitler ran Germany: Daley’s word was law. (Hubert Humphrey’s 1968 candidacy would have been impossible without Daley’s approval, and the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention were part of the reaction to Daley’s tyranny.) Similar tyrannical relationships, built on similar coups, were characteristic of local Democratic politics: the Haig and Kenny machines in Hudson County, New Jersey, and the Crump machine in Memphis. Because each of these county bosses delivered critical votes, they (and their local party apparatchiks) became absolute dictators. And thus it will be in Washington state now that the Seattle/King County Democratic machine has handed Gregoire the governorship.

I have already discussed what this will probably mean for Washington state gun owners, but I will say it again. The King County Democrats have sought total abolition of Second Amendment rights in this state at least since the mid-1980s. In the late 1980s, they nearly succeeded in sneaking a total semi-auto ban through the legislature, and Gov. Booth Gardner would have signed it had it not been defeated at the last minute. In 1994, Seattle/King County Democrats pushed through a state law criminalizing any mental disorder for which the outpatient treatment-period was greater than two calendar weeks, a maliciously anti-gunowner measure that Second Amendment advocates cravenly accepted with submissive silence but which was finally (and courageously) vetoed by Gov. Mike Lowry after intense lobbying by mental-health professionals and veterans’ organizations. In 1997, Seattle/King County Democrats organized Initiative 676, which under the guise of mandatory “gun safety training” would have imposed New-York-City type licensing and registration on the whole state. All of these anti-gun horrors will no doubt come back to life again in this year’s legislature. Gun shows will be prohibited. Mandatory storage will be imposed -- mandatory storage as in Canada or Washington D.C., where all firearms not only have to be locked in safes but kept disassembled (and thus rendered useless for self-defense). Concealed carry permits may well be abolished. And because of the debt she and her fellow Democrats owe the Seattle/King County party apparatus, Gregoire and her more rationally minded colleagues cannot resist the anti-Second Amendment onslaught. It is the Washington state version of the Daley/Haig/Kenny/Crump syndrome, and there is absolutely nothing anyone can do about it until 2008.

I was clearly wrong about the timing -- a few valiantly pro-gunowner Democrats kept the forcible-disarmament fanatics at bay during Washington state’s 2004-2006 legislative biennium. But now the state Senate’s Labor, Commerce, Research & Development Committee has scheduled a public hearing for 8 February (Thursday) on Senate Bill 5197, which would prohibit most private sales of firearms and would thereby end gun shows forever. Based on what I know of Washington state legislative practice -- I covered the legislature here during the late 1970s and early 1980s -- the bill would not be brought up for a hearing unless its enactment were already a sure thing, or as close to a sure thing as the always-treacherous realm of politics can produce. Thus I was obviously right about the eventual consequences of King County‘s mysterious “discovery” of the votes that gave Gregoire the election.

The legislative sleight-of-hand evident in moving the bill via the commerce committee (to avoid a pro-gunowner coalition of Democrats and Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, which normally handles such matters), is merely further proof of the Democrats' fervor. Thus the “public hearing” is likely to be nothing more than a sham: the Democratic Party’s forcible disarmament advocates are identical to all other fanatics in that no amount of logical argument can possibly sway them; if the Second Amendment community turned out 500,000 or even a million citizens to testify against SB 5197, it would make no difference at all. And once the bill reaches the Senate floor, its passage -- and eventual enactment by both houses -- is all but certain. As they say in Brooklyn, “da fix is in.”

More to the point, passage of SB 5197 will undoubtedly signal the beginning of a whole new Democratic effort to impose forcible disarmament -- most likely including the unprecedented disarm-the-public-by-criminalizing-mental-illness measure the Democrats schemed up and approved with such gleeful malice in 1994. (The rationale behind the 1994 legislation, a provision in the so-called Youth Violence Act, is the statistical fact that 50 percent of all U.S. citizens will at some time be in therapy, even if only for a few months; thus by criminalizing anyone who is in outpatient therapy for more than two weeks, half the state’s citizenry would have been permanently disarmed.) While the Democrats are no doubt counting on Washington state’s relative isolation to conceal their renewed anti-gunowner offensive -- the state’s politics are generally ignored by national media -- the fact SB 5197 has been scheduled for a hearing proves the party’s hatred, contempt and hysterical fear of firearms and firearms owners has not abated at all. And -- note again the Ehrlichman testimony -- what happens in Washington state will unquestionably determine how the Democratic Party will approach forcible disarmament in 2008: especially whether the agenda will be hidden or openly declared.

Constitutional issues aside -- a gun-show ban (whether de facto or de jure) nullifies not only the right to keep and bear arms but several First Amendment rights as well -- the most important consequence of the Democrats’ resumption of their forcible-disarmament crusade is that it guarantees (just as it did in 1994) the restoration of Republican dominance. Washington state voters, furious over the forcible disarmament measures imposed by the Democrat-dominated 1994 legislature, retaliated by giving the Republicans control of both House and Senate until 2004. Nationally, even President Bill Clinton finally admitted it was “gun control” that cost the Democrats so dearly: not just Congress, but the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections as well. Which means that the Democrats’ fanatical commitment to forcible disarmament actually protects America’s Big Business fat-cat masters: it keeps New-Deal-minded Democrats out of office and thereby guarantees that absolutely nothing will ever be done to end the downsizing, outsourcing, union-busting and employee-subjugation that have all become commonplace as capitalism gives itself ever more fully to the expression of its Inner Tyrannosaur.

Note, for example, how two of the nation’s most notoriously savvy politicians -- Clinton and his wife Hillary -- sabotaged the enactment of national health care, first by conducting all the deliberations in secret (perhaps the better to let the pharmaceutical and insurance interests dominate the process), next by tying health care to forcible disarmament. At the beginning, the electorate was outraged by soaring health care costs and deeply shamed by the fact the United States was (and remains) the only industrialized nation on earth in which adequate health care is not a right but a privilege determined entirely by wealth. But by the time the Clinton wrecking crew was finished, the Big Lies told by the Harry and Louise commercials had been given the most receptive audience possible. And national health care was again doomed, this time probably indefinitely.

Byzantine notion that it may seem, I cannot but wonder if this sort of backhanded betrayal -- fostering the political conditions that guarantee the continued Enroning of America -- is indeed the only real purpose served by today’s Democratic Party.

Posted by Loren at 01:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack