Capitalist Grotesque: Symbiotic Tyranny of God, Greed and Governance
The Fearful Heartbreak of Witnessing the Death of Mass Transit

After All Those Years of Effort, I'm Back to Writing Obituaries Again

Harvest Home 2
Photograph and posterization by Loren Bliss copyright 2010: Sunflowers and squash from the land I gardened. (Kodak 400 color negative film, Pentax K-1000, f/4 Tokina 70-210 zoom, c. 1997 or 1998.)


THOUGH IT HAS surely been said before, nothing focuses the mind like impending death.

For years I dismissed a vaguely squirmy feeling of minor muscle spasms beneath my sternum as a symptom of the gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD that had plagued me occasionally since my late 30s and turned severely chronic immediately after I quit smoking 15 years ago.

But last week I discovered that – while there's no doubt I have GERD – that mildly spasmodic sensation I've been experiencing all this time is atrial fibrillation – a killer heart condition that avoided diagnosis because it never before occurred in the presence of medically trained witnesses.

Yes I'd had two episodes of cardiac arrhythmia scary enough to warrant 911 calls, but these had ended before the paramedics arrived. I was hospitalized only because of my history of skyrocketing blood pressure – into the stroke-zone of 225/110 – though after a night or two in the hospital I was sent home to resume as “normal” a life as is possible given the limitations of official disability, poverty and the resultant pariahdom.

Based on the paramedics' attitudes during the second of these cardiac incidents, I am now forever damned in some 911 computer as a hypochondriac who phones in the medical equivalent of false fire alarms. Hence this time when I discovered my wildly irregular pulse, I spared myself another encounter with paramedical contempt and called a taxi, hastily borrowing money from a friend to pay the fare.

Because I am a member of Puget Sound's superb Group Health Cooperative – the sole reason I remain in this otherwise appalling region of xenophobia, ignorance and reflexive hostility to intellectuals (especially “Jew Yorkers” like myself) – I have immediate access to urgent care. Therefore I received instant treatment and was sent home a few hours later.

As long as my miserly Social Security retirement stipend and Medicare Advantage will allow me to pay for it, I will receive the best, most coordinated follow-up care available anywhere in the U.S.

But as is typical everywhere in this sweatshop Moron Nation of ever-increasing capitalist savagery, I soon found myself genuinely terrified by the prospect that what will actually kill me is not heart failure but the exhaustion of my (minuscule) financial resources.

This is because I have since discovered that anytime I eat more than a bite or two of food, what the medical people call “AT-fib” invariably follows, at least for a few minutes – never mind the now-mandatory abstinence from coffee that has reduced me to nearly the same brain-dead state by which I was afflicted for more than six years after I quit smoking.

The lack of caffeine makes writing so unpleasantly difficult I am literally back where I was after I smoked my last cigarette on 23 September 1995 – mentally paralyzed by dyslexia and able to assemble coherent prose only by the most tedious effort imaginable.

Denied coffee, it has already taken me six hours just to write these paragraphs – I who (with my dyslexia suppressed by cigarettes and caffeine) was the fastest rewrite man ever on the city desk of The Jersey Journal c. 1969-1970.

Obviously the darkest suspicion of my life is now proven: that because I am a dyslexic (and therefore was dependent on various chemicals to achieve any meaningful degree of verbal competence), all claims I might have made to being a “real” writer are entirely bogus.

Nevertheless – not that anyone gives a damn – I am toughing it out, inspired by a quote from Geronimo I encountered in one of the trash novels I fetch from the senior center to read for entertainment now that my television has died and I will never have the money to replace it.

The author, Patricia Cornwell, who writes her fiction with a vividness characteristic of old-time  journalism,  quoted Geronimo as having said, “I cannot believe that we are useless...the sun, the winds, the darkness are all listening to what we have to say.” After I confirmed the quote is real, it seemed as good a reason as any to continue to follow the advice Barbara Mor gave me a few years ago: “Try to proceed as if writing matters.”

Fortunately most of the rest of this piece is an editing job, assembling text I wrote before the coffee ban forever robbed me of my last defense against the genetically imposed idiocy I have battled all my life.

Tomorrow (assuming I'm still alive), I will dutifully report back to Group Health that the AT-fib is continuing, after which my life will become an unmitigated hell of almost-daily needles-in-my arm trips to the clinic essential to re-regulate a complicated litany of high blood pressure, cholesterol-reduction, GERD, anti-diverticulitis, scoliosis and arthritis medications to accommodate the addition of a blood-thinner that (maybe) will keep me alive a little longer by preventing the killer clots AT-fib produces.

This alleged “life” – now forever robbed of any work to gave it meaning (because to write with dyslexia uncontrolled by nicotine or caffeine is to expose myself as a moron and because I am too crippled to ever carry cameras again) – will continue either until I exhaust my (very limited) ability to make the $15 co-payments required for the clinic visits or until I drop dead.

I suspect it will be the latter, if only because my sense of impending death is so strong it intrudes not merely on my waking consciousness but on all my dreams as well. For example the interplay of light and shadow in my apartment keeps shaping grotesque caricatures of coal-black skeletons I can glimpse only out of peripheral vision, and some of my dreams are so comically Freudian – myself back in a news editor's slot giving the last ok on Page One of the Final Edition – I've awakened laughing.

The pain of treatment – the real agony of huge cardiac-catheter needles repeatedly jammed into my flesh during an often-fruitless search for adequate veins (a condition resulting from the uncontrollable weight-gain that has afflicted me since I stopped smoking) – frightens me much more than oblivion. Thus my reaction to death, once genuine fear, has been beaten down by long years of physical suffering to little more than curiosity: 

Is death the end we cannot bear to accept? Is all the contrary evidence – ghosts, near-death experiences, credible memories of past lives – merely an expression of an ultimate dementia into which we lapse when confronted by our own extinction?

Do we live again, children of the divine womb, micro-weavers in the macrocosm of some karmic loom inexpressibly beyond our conception?

Or are we trapped in a universe ruled by a divine sadist who hates women, despises nature and damns his enemies to burn forever in his ovens – God the Führer and his cosmos the original concentration camp.

Which formulation will prove correct? I am sorry I will not be able to file a conclusive report. 


One metaphysical hypothesis in which I believe absolutely is Jungian synchronicity – the way seemingly unrelated events and experiences can combine into a meaningful and often revealing whole.

Take a recent discussion on Common Dreams, a 213-response thread – one of its best – prompted by a Guardian piece: “People can't eat hope...The electoral cycle demands more positive answers than the economic cycle will allow, and more positive answers than the Democrats or Obama can provide.” 

Originally I posted on this Common Dreams thread a short rejoinder I had written to some of the New Obama garbage appearing on Reader Supported News, one of the many pseudo-Left websites that behind the rhetoric are merely parts of the DemocRat betrayal machine. Not surprisingly, RSN censored my commentary – this was how I discovered I had been banished by yet another allegedly “progressive” site – but I saved the writing because I thought it might be useful elsewhere. As indeed it was on Common Dreams: eventually the ensuing discussion prompted me to detail the ugly truth – suppressed by the DemocRats and twisted beyond recognition by the GOPorkers – about Barack the Betrayer's war on Medicare and thus on lower-income elderly and disabled people.


The following – written before the AT-fib diagnosis – is only slightly edited for inclusion here:

For me and everyone else of my age and caste (I am 70 years old, a near-lifelong journalistic activist and therefore bottom-level poor), the horrors being inflicted on us by the Obama Administration are real and immediate. 

Obama and his DemocRats are looting our Medicare programs, condemning us to the Moron Nation variant of the Final Solution: death by the untreated maladies and illnesses of poverty and old age.

They are getting away with this atrocity because U.S. citizens are the most reflexively anti-intellectual and incurious people on Earth. Therefore they remain indifferent to Medicare until they or a loved one – whether by old age or adjudicated disability – become eligible for Social Security and Medicare coverage.

This enables DemocRats and GOPorkers alike to lie constantly about the real impact of Obamacare on the public.

Knowing I have already lost 99.9 percent of our younger readers merely by mentioning Medicare – “O god there go those fucking whiny geezers again” – I will nevertheless try to explain the core of the “the Medicare issue” as concisely as possible:

Beyond all the confusion imposed by the deliberate opacities of bureaucratic language, there are two kinds of Medicare programs. 

One is labeled “Traditional Medicare”; the other is called “Medicare Advantage.”

Both labels are recently contrived euphemisms, each born of ongoing 'Rat/'Porker campaigns to engender confusion and foster illusions of democratic process. 

So-called “Traditional Medicare” is what is left of JFK's assassination-terminated effort to move the nation toward socialized medicine by building a socialized-medicine program for elderly and disabled people.

“Traditional Medicare” is what we got after LBJ and Congress scaled down JFK's original proposal. 

The scaling-down was to ensure Medicare's compliance with the Big Rhetoric/Little Change principle that governs all U.S. social services: programs designed to look good and sound good but do little or nothing for their alleged target populations. 

In truth capitalism allows such programs only two purposes: propaganda and jobs for the bourgeoisie. 

That's why the real “welfare queens” are bureaucrats not recipients: why – from 1970 through 1990 – the administrative costs associated with welfare increased by 5,390 percent (not a typo) even as stipends and services were slashed by 66 percent. 

It's why “Traditional Medicare” is a meaningful social service only if you're wealthy enough to pay at least half your medical costs out-of-pocket. 

It's also why "Traditional Medicare" gatekeeper fees – exactly what they are – are so viciously prohibitive they are literally a death sentence to anyone in the socioeconomic basement as I am.

With “Traditional Medicare” you have to be a competent enough bookkeeper and clerk to cope with billing the government, keeping your own medical records and above all else making sure you aren't killed by clashing prescriptions – a drug prescribed by one of your doctors interacting fatally with a drug prescribed by another.

Because of the prohibitive co-payments required by “Traditional Medicare” – the fact that nobody at the lower income levels can afford to shell out as much as $250 or even $375 every time we need to see a doctor – “Traditional Medicare” is really (yet another) taxpayer-funded government subsidy to the rich.

Which brings us to what was originally called “Medicare Plus” and has since been (maliciously) renamed “Medicare Advantage” – no doubt to imply that we lower income people who depend on it are “taking advantage” (god forbid!) of the largess with which capitalism rewards the rich. 

Contrary to present-day DemocRat lies, Medicare Plus aka “Medicare Advantage” was created by the Clinton Administration and rather brilliantly shoehorned through a GOPorker-controlled Congress.

The only humanitarian measure ever born of the Clinton White House, Medicare Advantage evens the health-care playing field, giving lower-income people like myself the same access enjoyed by the rich. It sidesteps the “Traditional Medicare” obstacle course by melding Medicare with non-profit health care cooperatives, non-profit HMOs and for-profit insurance-company HMOs.

Medicare Advantage benefits include instant no-fee access to consulting nurses; access to urgent care and scheduled appointments with minimal co-payments (typically no more than $15 or $20 as opposed to the $250 or $375 of “Traditional Medicare”); computerized record-keeping (the one sure protection against death by drug-interaction); and – above all else – a plethora of services like dentistry and eye-care “Original Medicare” deliberately excludes.

Again the contrast, this time in implicit messages: “Traditional Medicare” tells us that if we can't afford to pay out-of-pocket for dental care or eyeglasses, we don't deserve either, while Medicare Advantage provides us affordable access to both.

This is why Medicare Advantage costs the government about 15 percent more than “Traditional Medicare”: the price of providing low-income people with basic necessities like glasses and tooth-fillings the rich can easily afford. 

This is what Barack the Betrayer and his DemocRats are denying us. This – our access to eyeglasses, dental care, hearing aids – is what we are losing forever to Obamacare and its $500 billion Medicare reduction. 

Traditional Medicare – Medicare for the rich – is untouched. It is only Medicare Advantage – health care for the poor – that Obamacare is destroying. It is only those of us who are impoverished who will be exterminated as a result. 

This is the hideous reality behind the death-panel scare; this is the class-war savagery that gave the scare such traction among the elderly – even amongst those of us who voted, as I did, for Obama.

For me – an old cripple afflicted by a variety of ailments – Obamacare is literally a death sentence. Which makes any claim the GOPorkers would somehow be worse than the DemocRats utterly absurd.

LB/13-19 September 2010


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