Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cannery Row

While getting infused with Rituxan the other day, I read John Steinbeck's 1945 novel "Cannery Row," a work I was vaguely familiar with but had never read.

I was familiar with it in part because Steinbeck and Monterey (the setting for "Cannery Row") had been important in my youth, he as a writer who seemed to capture the essence of life and people on California's Central Coast and Monterey as the place where so much life-changing experience occurred when I was 18 or 19.

I knew somehow of Ed Ricketts who was the inspiration for the character of Doc in the novel. It's hard to say how I had any knowledge of Ricketts, but years ago, I spent a day at the Steinbeck Museum in Salinas, and I suspect there was a display that described him and his laboratory in Monterey -- and how it was important to Steinbeck.

I didn't finish reading the novel at the infusion center on Monday, but I took the book with me and finished it while waiting for Ms Ché to have her sonogram at the radiology center yesterday (she's developing edema in her legs, something new and needing monitoring along with various heart checks to see if she's developing congestive heart failure, the cause of her mother's and grandfather's deaths.)

I confess, I shed a little tear at parts of Steinbeck's story of these wayward souls on the margins of society and the edge of the ocean. Oh yes, it was quite a moving tale, and I have no doubt that Steinbeck intended to draw a tear or two from his readers. Tears of recognition, sympathy, empathy.

According to what I've read about it, Steinbeck himself was trying to get back some of the joy he felt when he lived in Pacific Grove, next door to Cannery Row in (New)Monterey during the Depression.

The novel was a way for him to recapture some of the spirit of the time and the place and the people and to bring some joy back to his increasingly complicated life.

Fame and fortune had done so much for him, but it had changed his life in ways he could not have anticipated-- and not entirely for the better.

What I noticed first was the structure of the story. The novel consists of a series of mostly very short chapters which are constructed as stand-alone short--short stories strung together like the firecrackers from Lee Chong's which figure toward the end of the novel. It's quite a trick, not easy to pull off at all, but Steinbeck seems clear about what he wants to do with this story and how he wants to tell the tale. Quick glimpses, vignettes, sketches, some quite elaborate, but others merely outlines and shadows.

I could see a lot of it in my mind's eye, though the image wasn't much like my memories of Monterey. Not at all, really. This was a very different, colder, and surprisingly darker Monterey. In fact, most of the story seems to take place in twilight or darkness. My memories of the place are mostly sunshine and fog, oh my the fog, and the chill that comes with it, even in high summer.

Or especially so.

In Steinbeck's telling, there's little daylight, and no fog at all. Seems impossible. You can't live anywhere on California's Central Coast and not be immersed in morning and evening fog, sometimes all day fog, fog that set the pattern for your days and nights, fog that's sometimes very comforting but sometimes very annoying, too, as the eaves and the trees will drip and drip and drip, and a chill will grab hold of you and penetrate deep into your body. After a warm and sunny day, you may suddenly shiver with that fog-brought chill, wondering how the warmth of the day can vanish so completely and quickly as the sun lowers in the west over the sea, and the fog rolls in flowing over the coastal hills and filling the little valleys where lettuce and strawberries and artichokes are grown.

Sometimes here in New Mexico, high in the mountains, there will be morning fogs like those on California's Central Coast, and for some moments when the fog comes down like that, I'm puzzled about where I am, because here in this little valley in New Mexico's central highlands, I'm often reminded of the little valleys along California's Central Coast. No, there's no ocean here, but there are plenty of evocations, and they say that many long years ago, a "warm shallow sea" penetrated deep into what's now New Mexico, and there might have been fogs from that vanished sea that swathed the region's dinosaurs in dripping mists.

Indeed, our location now was the shore of a lake not that long ago, a lake the size -- and about the elevation -- of Lake Tahoe. Fogs easily could have arisen.

But they don't figure in Steinbeck's tale of Cannery Row in Monterey c. 1938 or 39.

It's not really clear when the story takes place, but it's almost certainly before the War, during the latter portion of the Depression.

The characters are familiar types to me, Mack and Doc and Hazel and Dora and The Girls and Lee Chong, and even the dog Darling. These are roughnecks for the most part, not a refined and high-faluting one among them, though some like Doc and Dora are clearly closer to the ideal of the era than others.

Marginal people at the time, maybe particularly in California, had a rough go of it, and whether they lived or died mattered not at all to their betters, the self-appointed and self assured leading lights of communities and cities and the state itself. California was for the winners. Still is.

So here are the characters of Cannery Row, flotsam washed up on the shores of Monterey, lucky to be there, happy to be there, living out their simple-complicated lives, getting by as best they can with little or no money, stealing, swapping, borrowing or creating what they need from the throwaways and debris around them. There's a lesson for the rest of us if we could learn it, as some have tried  in times past and more are trying now.

These rough people in rough times live lives with more humanity and joy, it seems to me, than many of our well-off modern people can imagine, and they might read the story now and believe it is all fantasy, a never-was fantasy.

But it was more real than they can imagine. I knew these people, some of them. I still do. They were my neighbors when I was growing up in California, and they are my neighbors now in rural New Mexico. There may be more broken down cowboys in these parts, but no one in "Cannery Row" would be out of place in my adopted home.

I'm one of them.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Rituxan In the Morning

Yesterday was another infusion day, so I spent the morning hooked up to an IV drip in a comfy bed at the Infusion Center reading "Cannery Row" by John Steinbeck which I had not done before despite my enthusiasm for Steinbeck and his dyspeptic vision of California's Central Coast and its society.

In that regard, I should mention that my (new found) cousin sent me a journal kept by her mother and our aunts that has an extended section  telling tales about their cross country rail expedition from Washington DC (where they were working at the WPA headquarters) to The Coast, where they did and saw everything. They saw all the sights from the Redwoods to San Francisco's Golden Gate and International Exposition at Treasure Island to Hollywood and Beverly Hills where they hob-nobbed with the movie stars and studio honchos. They went out to the beach and sunburned lobster red, they even went to Mexico, briefly, and saw a disgusting bull fight.

This was 1939. They passed through the Salinas Valley on their way to Los Angeles, but I can't imagine they noticed much. Certainly not the wretchedness and waves of travelers up from Mexico and still crossing the country from Oklahoma. What they reported and what they saw was the idealized tourist vision of California. There was always some truth to it, but it never told the whole story. Not by a long shot.

Steinbeck fills in some of the blanks, but he was hated for it in and around Salinas. His stories of his home place and the people there were stories you weren't supposed to tell. I grew up in other parts of California being socialized to that same notion. There are simply things you do not mention. If you're smart, you won't even look into them.

For example, I spent years studying the Gold Rush and the people who made their way to California between 1849 and about 1855. I reviewed all kinds of original documents kept at the California State Library and other places, and scoured the Gold Country for remaining clues to what was going on in those days.

The picture that emerged was nothing like the glorified and romantic image of the Gold Rush we were taught in school -- and I guess is still widely believed. For many who made the trek, it was horrible. Many died along the way or shortly after arrival. It cost a fortune to make the trip, and the chance of finding gold or even surviving more than a few months was slim to none.

And yet they kept coming. By the hundred thousands and ultimately by the millions they kept coming. My mother and her mother and stepfather among them. Most of my father's siblings -- but not himself -- came and settled in California, too.

Ms Ché and I left, though. She was born in California, and I lived there almost all my life, and the two of us could hardly wait to move to New Mexico.

Where I think we've never been happier -- health issues for both of us aside.

And so it goes.

Yes, there are plenty of challenges in front of us, and many memories left behind (along with a storage unit full of... stuff, including some of those memories...)

Perseverance, yes. But ultimately relaxation and freedom, too.

More to come.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Yet Another Impetus for a Coup?

Look, if the golpistas were going to do it, they would have done it by now. They haven't, so I'm going to go out on a limb and say they won't.

No coup.

Too many unknowns, I guess.

And who, really, wants a Xtian Dominionist like Pence in the Big Chair?

I'd say he'd actually serve a useful purpose if he were briefly to sit on the throne, but he would have to be removed -- or remove himself -- pronto. The presidency of the USofA is not where he belongs.

The Millennial Coup of 2000, when Bush Jr was handed the throne by a lawless Supreme Court, didn't work out so well in the end. Precipitating another one because of Trump's  erraticism is probably out of the question due to the unpredictability of results if for no other reason.

But something has to be done.

And quickly.




Sunday, May 14, 2017

An Updated Condition Report -- with Update to the Update

It''s now just short of a week since I had the first of four Rituxan infusions. As I reported, after the infusion I felt pretty darned good. No pain for the first time in weeks, months. Almost  complete freedom of movement. A lingering twinge now and then but the feeling of release from pain and restricted movement was magical.

It lasted three days.

Friday, I started noticing moderate joint pains and a dull throbbing pain in my lower back; in addition, there were signs of pain returning to my left hip, along with numbness in my left leg -- sciatica returning.

I took a Flexeril muscle relaxant as a precaution, and the pains seemed to diminish. But Saturday, they returned, focusing in different spots -- the way RA pain does, leading me to believe that I was having or trying to have another RA flare (for many weeks, weekend flares were routine). But then, almost magically, the pain of a flare seemed to disappear, and by late Saturday morning, I felt well enough to start mowing some of the out of control herbage out back.

Mistake. The pain came on again. I didn't take another Flexeril, but I did have to rest. I stayed up quite late Saturday night, monitoring my condition. When it seemed like the pain was not going to worsen, I went to bed.

When I got up Sunday morning, pains in my hips and shoulders were noticeable. Wrists and finger joints were painful as well. It was flare all right.

Later in the day, however, the pains diminished until they were almost gone. That never happened with previous flares. My neighbor Wes came over to help with the mowing, and though I didn't do much, I was able to take care of picking up some of the branches downed by the wind. No noticeable pain. Later in the day, however, when Ms Ché and I went for a supply run, I started experiencing sharp pain in my left shoulder, somewhat less pain in my right shoulder and wrist. Both knees were periodically painful as well.

So the flare isn't over. It's modified. Is that due to the Rituxan? I don't know. I'm supposed to talk to one of the nurses at the Rheumatology department tomorrow about what's been happening. On Thursday I sent an email to my rheumatologist describing my trip to the ER and what seemed to be miraculously pain free days since the Rituxan infusion.

Twice, nurses from rheumatology called me Friday to find out if I was OK. I said yes, but the flare really got going on Saturday.

So, we'll see where this latest episode goes. Right now, I'm feeling pain in my left shoulder, twinges elsewhere. But it's not nearly as bad as previous flares.

We'll see...

UPDATE: (Monday May 15, 2017)  Word came from my rheumatologist that my "good feeling" last week was not likely due to the Rituxan -- effects don't generally kick in for several months -- but was from the high dose of steroids included in the infusion.

I reported my current symptoms -- various joint pains -- and was told that's to be expected. For the time being anyway...

Sigh.

Was the Comey Thing Intended to Mollify Dems?

Interesting speculation I''m seeing in several places that the firing of James Comey from the FBI was intended -- at least in part -- to mollify grudge-holding Dems who were still smarting over Comey's interference in the 2016 election. Odd interference if you ask me, but what do I know about the machinations in DC these days? Not much.

The Outrage!!!™  (FFS are we back to that?) over it seems to be a bit overwrought, but that's how things are done among the political and media classes, for reasons that long ago escaped me. Until Trump actually did it, Dems, by and large, called for Comey's ouster. Now, of course, they are his greatest defenders in the whole wide world.

It's much like the near unanimity of praise for Trump when he picked up the Big Stick and blew some shit up in foreign lands. Despite the fact that he was still the ego-driven blowhard he'd always been, and just as ignorant too.

Of course the Comey Thing is turning out to be the reverse. According to reports, things have never been so chaotic in the White House. And that's saying something, I'd say.

Mollifying Dems seems like the least important thing to those people, the people in Power. Dems, at least in recent times, have been incapable of using Power. They don't like to. It's icky. (Unless, of course, it's pink-misting brown people overseas. With drones. Yay US! Odd, that.)

The Democrats have limited power, but they tend to be reluctant to use what little they have, no matter the provocations. They are often referred to as "feckless," which they are, "corrupt" -- yes, well, who in Washington isn't? -- and "incompetent."

Since the advent of the Republican sweep of government, however, it's clear that the Rs are incapable of governing in the public interest. They just can't do it. To me, this means that they need the expertise of the Ds in order to maintain even the appearance of competence, and getting rid of a "troublemaker" like Comey was expected to gain some Democratic support. Well, it did just the opposite.

The Rs and Trump are in a real pickle right now.  I think the act of firing Comey was an unforced error, but it was also a power play. As if Gulliver were breaking free of the Lilliputian's bonds. Well, maybe so, but in the end, Gulliver becomes the best friend of the Lilliputians, doesn't he? Perhaps Trump thought he could pull off a similar trick.

After all, they say he just wants to be loved.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Power Play

The Comey Thing is without doubt an effort by the Trump regime to consolidate power and neuter any effort by the so-called "deep state" to interfere with the regime's exercise of power.

Analysts are wetting themselves trying to pin this or that meaning or significance to the firing of James Comey by Trump, but they have so far missed the bigger picture.

There have been several opportunities for a coup or coup-lite since the election, and each of them has been whiffed. Those opportunities are disappearing. The regime is learning how to consolidate and exercise power, and soon, it will be almost impossible to get out from under that power. We saw it happen in almost the same way with Bush/Cheney.

From a purely pragmatic point of view, Trump is doing what he needs to do.

From practically every other point of view, it's a disaster.

It may be a disaster we have no way to avoid.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Saving the NeoLibCon Paradigm

So Emmanuel Macron is being hailed as the Great White Hope of the neoLibCons, saving the paradigm from the likes of the nasty and unrepentant white rightists who have been running rampant through the Euro-Anglo-American globalist Empire.

Indeed.

Or perhaps not.

The situation in France still seems somewhat fluid as "doubts" about Macron's mandate continue in the face of his rather thumping defeat of the white rightist candidate LePen. The problem I'm hearing most frequently is that he ran and won without traditional party support and he will have a tough, nay impossible time winning a majority in parliament, leaving him in a kind of limbo with little or no political backing.

On the other hand, there is a remarkable propaganda effort to prop him up as the savior of civilization in the face of the barbarian hordes -- such as Trump and his diminishing cohort of fanboys.

Hillary and Obama apparently are going all in trying to save the paradigm for the next generation, and I even heard Condoleeeeeeezzza Rice on the radio yesterday defending not just the appalling catastrophe of the Iraq invasion and occupation but the neoLibCon ideas behind that and so much of the disaster we've been heir to since (it seems like) forever.

These people are never right, but they are intent on bulling their way forward in their wrongness come what may.

Great.

Just great.

What did we do to deserve this?

Rituxan

I was infused yesterday with Rituxan, an anti-cancer drug that's used in difficult cases of rheumatoid arthritis.

It went well enough I guess, despite all the warnings I was given both before and during the treatment. The worry is that patients will have  "a reaction" -- sounds like an allergic reaction, much as I had to the CT contrast dye the first time I had a CT scan decades ago. I felt the dye coursing through my blood stream and had an inside out feeling of itching, swelling, breathing and other difficulties. I passed out and stopped breathing. I don't know how close I got to the final elbow, but I remember waking up as CPR was beginning and a Benadryl injection was ordered. I was wheeled back to my hospital room where the nurse said I was lucky. They'd lost a patient the week before because they didn't get to him in time. Yes, well...

One patient in the infusion center did have a reaction, and there was no nurse available immediately, so things got a little scary for a time. The patient was in fact stabilized shortly though and did seem to recover fairly quickly. They increase the dosage of  Rituxan very slowly so that if you have a reaction, it will be easier to counteract.

The only thing I felt the whole time was a slight drowsiness and light-hadedness that seemed very similar to the way I feel whenever I take Benadryl for allergies (which is rarely anymore.)

The only thing is, the process takes several hours, in my case, from 9am till 2:30pm. You aren't completely a prisoner to your bed, but you feel like it sometimes. I had a book with me, "The History of American Archeology" -- rather a dreadful tome from the 1970s -- that kept me occupied. More or less.

I have to do it again in two weeks, and then twice again in six months, and then -- the hope is -- not again afterwards. The idea is that the RA will go into remission. I'm for that.

UPDATE: I feel much better today than I have in weeks, maybe months. It may just be coincidence, but it may be due to the Rituxan as well, If it is due to the Rituxan, yay.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Do We Need An Emperor?

[We  might not, but the government may.]

For years, I've been toying with notions of parallels between the late Roman Republic and our own US governmental mess. It is a mess, you understand, at nearly every level, though for the most part, its mechanisms function more or less well most of the time.

The problems are mostly at the ideological and leadership levels. The almost universal operating paradigm is what I call neoLibCon. That is to say, it is a fusion of neoliberal domestic and economic policies together with neoconservative foreign policies. There are many complexities (and surprising levels of denial) along the way. It's not a binary "this or that," it's a multiplicity of "this and that."

The government has run rogue at the top for many years, at least since the days of Clinton and Gingrich hammering away at one another. I saw it as Gingrich's attempt to reanimate and replay the English Civil War with himself as Cromwell to Clinton's Charles I.

The struggle and pageant didn't end well for either of the main characters, but it had a profound effect on government and the electorate. Lessons were learned. Primarily, the lesson was that that Leaders can get away with pretty much anything they want, so long as they keep their constituents entertained (bread and circuses), but they may not succeed in reaching their goals (for example, impeaching and removing Clinton from office.) But then, was that ever their goal? We can't be sure, can we?

Perhaps the impeachment saga took place to diminish the aura of the presidency. Or rather to diminish the aura of Democratic presidents while enhancing that of Republican presidents and legislators.

A sort of sideways statement that we are ruled by Rs no matter which party holds congressional majorities and the White House.

It's not just that they are the ruling party, they are the only legitimate party; the Ds exist merely as foils.

For as long as I've been playing on the intertubez, I've noticed a strong animus toward the Democrats, to the point of urging and working for the "utter destruction" of the Democratic Party. That's almost a core principle for the internet political junkies and denizens. Democrats delenda est! 

They are betrayers, feckless, worse than Rs, and corrupt as hell. Yes? And? Democrats must be destroyed!

Well, OK. But if they are the Washington Generals to the Republican Harlem Globetrotters, then the whole thing is just a show, a pageant, with a pre-determined outcome, meant to entertain the rubes while the real work (and money counting) goes on in the back office somewhere. It's a game, a show, a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

So if that's the case, do we need an Emperor instead of a president? Perhaps to be above the president?

Trump of course is inadequate to the role. Octavian was a masterful politician and bullshitter, however, and it was apparently easy for him to elide the roles he assumed and created (once the civil war was done). He "preserved and protected" the Republic while essentially doing away with it.

Is that what we need?

Sometimes I wonder.

The fantasy world that many Trump supporters, defenders and loyalists created around their devotion is still very strong. To some, Trump is their longed for "God-Emperor," who can never fail, he can only be failed. They actually use the term "God-Emperor" in their devotions. Their longing for... something.... is so strong, they can't see the flim-flam and fraudulence of what they're getting. Those who do see it recoil in disgust.

And yet... I'm convinced Trump won't last in office (but I've been wrong about coups and such, so we'll see.) It doesn't actually matter whether he serves out his term or not. What matters is what comes After Trump, and my sense is that a precedent is being set which will solidify the oligarchic rule we've been under for many years and enable direct rule from the palaces of our Overlords, one of whom will be periodically selected to be Emperor. We will have good Emperors and bad.

The Republic, then, having given up the ghost, will be lost forever after.

But then maybe it was inevitable.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Healthcare Insurance Trainwreck

It's been odd -- to say the least -- watching so many self styled progressives defend the contraption called Obamacare. A contraption meant to ensure the profits of the insurance cartels in perpetuity. As a side benefit, some people who otherwise wouldn't have health insurance can get it. Others are out of luck.

It looks like the Rs will "repeal and replace" Obamacare with their own contraption that will most certainly punish and kill people -- why not? tough luck suckers! -- as well as ensure the profits of favored members of the insurance cartel. (Molina, watch yer back, hear me?)

And so it goes.

Of course at no time has either major party even considered doing away with the stupid, aggravating and too often deadly health "care" contraption that relies on private/commercial health care insurance through giant companies who intend to profit no matter what.

Until that happens, the trainwreck will continue to plow into the ditch and people who otherwise wouldn't will die.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Gulliver in Lilliput


I had to do a spit-take yesterday as Himself's Twitter-poutrage in the morning contradicted his afternoon effusions over the budget deal worked out by congress. Of course this is par for the course, "normalized" Trump behavior. He'll contradict himself in the same sentence, and hardly anyone bats an eye any more. It's just him being him, yanno?

It's become very clear to me as an observer, however, that his powers and authority are very tightly constrained, more so every day. He can babble all he wants in interviews and on the Twitter Machine, but what he can actually do is more and more limited by the rest of the government apparatus either ignoring his demands or actively thwarting them.

The courts, of course, took the lead in the matter of reining in the God-Emperor (I recently discovered that term has actually been utilized by parts of the White Right -- and Ann Coulter(!) -- in reference to Himself) and I doubt at this point that even the SCOTUS with the New Boy will overturn the lower courts, at least on the matter of what the president can do by diktat.

From my vantage point very far outside the halls of power, what appears to have happened is that the military and the security state have taken the lead in doing their own thing as they see fit and necessary while the rest of the government is in a leaderless anarchic state that could turn chaotic but so far hasn't. Inertia can sometimes be a good thing, no?

I observed a somewhat similar effect during the first few months of the Obama administration. He set out to do this, that or the other thing, and he was thwarted and constrained in his actions by the will of the other branches of government -- and he didn't resist. Not even a little bit. This was disappointing to some of his loyalists who saw it as betrayal, but most saw it as simply accepting "reality".

Trump seems to see Himself as a Boy-God-Emperor in a sandbox who can do anything he wants, because he is a God and that is that. Only he can't. And isn't. As he is thwarted, he yields, though his rhetoric may become ever more shrill and his next move may be even more outrageous and radical.

Will we soon be seeing him drop his pants and pee in the Rose Garden? Wouldn't surprise me in the least.

Something similar to Trump's reining in happened with Reagan, Schwarzenegger and Ventura, among other celebrities elected to high office. They set out to be huge change agents, and really Reagan was the only one who succeeded -- and that by the skin of his teeth. I think he managed to cause as much change as he did because he brought with him 1) a coherent plan (created by his sponsors) and 2) sufficient personnel familiar with the workings of the government apparat to do what his sponsors wanted. That and his personal charm (he could be quite a charming fellow. I met him a few times) were enough to enable many of the changes he wanted.

Trump lacks the charm of Reagan, but he also operates by alienation. Rather than developing allies, and building coalitions, he reverses the process by driving would-be allies away, insulting and dismissing them, and by shattering -- or trying to shatter -- coalitions that might support him so as to work on individuals instead.

This habit became untenable very early in his regime, and one after another, potentially supportive  power centers turned their backs or shut him off.

As other observers have pointed out, you may be able to get away with this sort of behavior in business -- whatever Trump's business really is -- but not in government. Not in the US government anyway. So he's thwarted and the major aspects of government carry on as if he weren't there.

That brings up the question of whether they are operating on a contingency plan: "What happens if the presidency is 'vacant?'" Could be. I don't know.

He's stated directly that he has authorized "his" military to do what they think best -- apparently without consulting him -- in the various wars under way. That kind of carte blanche is dangerous, of course, but it could be less dangerous than letting him direct military operations.

There is one sector of the Security State that appears to be operating on his direction (though maybe not), and that would be the border, customs and immigration forces who have been causing immense disruption and panic in immigrant communities. "Sticking it" to immigrants and their descendants, particularly ones from South of the Border, seems to be something our dauntless border agents have longed for, despite the rather extraordinary deportation statistics prior to the advent of Trump in the White House. WTH?

I look at this targeting of brown immigrants or suspected illegales as potentially extremely dangerous over the long term. The Obama regime exercised considerable discretion in their targeting for deportation. It appears that the Trump regime is consciously dispensing with discretion and is sweeping up anyone and everyone they want and throwing them out with no compassion or conscience at all.

The question then becomes "where does it end?" And you know it won't. Not unless something is done to stop it. Anyone can be targeted. Anyone can wind up in the camps (privately run of course.)

That so many have risen in opposition to the regime is important. Millions upon millions have taken to the streets to show solidarity with one another -- despite many political disagreements -- and their unity in opposition to the regime and its figurehead leader. The streets have filled with protest over and over again, and it has been sobering to The Powers That Be. Elected officials have been confronted over and over again by citizens demanding accountability for their too often gross, cruel and corrupt actions. That, too, has been sobering.

What I see right now is that the governing situation is anarchic but not yet chaotic. Chaos can easily be induced however. Whether we'll get to that point, I can't say. I can't even be sure I'd recognize it if it came because we've been whipsawed so often already.

This is perhaps tangential, but I'd like to encourage people to watch Adam Curtis's "HyperNormalization" embedded below. It doesn't explain everything, and the visuals sometimes seem to be part of some other documentaries, but it offers plenty of clues to how we got to this point and what may have to be done about it. Our rulers always have the option to do the right thing. As a rule, they do just the opposite. Correcting course is difficult and fraughtful, but sometimes there is no alternative.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

"For the Love of God!" -- What Comes After Trump?

For all intents and purposes, Trump's power and authority was neutered toward the end of February (or March, depending on your point of view). He's simply not in charge of the government, which is in an anarchic -- but not yet chaotic-- state.

The interesting thing to me is that he has not (yet) been removed from office by subtle or overt means. So clearly he is serving a purpose on the Throne, even if he can't exercise any power from it other than having his personal Gestapo terrorize brown people in the Heartland. Why that's allowed while almost nothing else is, I'm not entirely sure. Entertainment for the crackers? I dunno.

Having this empty mechanical Thing sitting on the Throne may be entertaining enough for the rubes but it gives everybody else the willies. It's Grand Guignol at best. Walking Dead most of the time. Things are happening quite apart from anything Trump says or does, but what he says and does -- no matter how stupid or irrelevant -- dominates every news cycle, and that's probably why he's being kept on the Throne. So we don't see or recognize what's going on behind the scenes and who is directing the pageant.

Precedents are being set.

The world has been turned upside down and things will never be the same again.

This could be a good thing. Just as Trump or Congress or the SCOTUS might -- for once in their worthless lives -- do the right thing. It could happen. It won't. But it could.

What comes After Trump? How will the White House and the world be changed by his advent and demise?

I've said many times that his advent represents the apotheosis of the neoLibCon paradigm. Many observers -- and voters for that matter -- on the other hand, bethought themselves that Trump would smash and destroy neoLibCon - ism once and for all when that was never his idea or intent. It was a desire projected onto him. (Much the same happened with Obama, and look what it brought us: Trump and the accelerated implementation of the Program).

Many observers now claim that neoLibCon-ism will crash and burn on its own as the rise of the nationalist white right sweeps the global North and West. Somehow, nationalism and white supremacy are deemed the death knell for neoLibCon-ism and Globalism, though I can't for the life of me fathom why. It's simply a rearrangement of winners and losers, it has no effect on the paradigm at all.

The Forever Wars, the exploitation of the Rabble, the looting, the indecency of it all will continue at an accelerated pace. That's all. In other words, nothing changes -- except that scapegoating of selected minorities will become the distraction of the moment.

That's an important addition to the neoLibCon kit bag, but it ultimately changes nothing.

After Trump will we see a succession of clowns and rakes and buffoons on the Throne? Come to think of it, isn't that what we've been seeing since Reagan with few (no?) exceptions?

On the other hand, as mentally incompetent as Reagan was (we knew about it when he was governor of California, but nobody listened to us) he had a crew of wreckers come in with him who were clever and executed a program that essentially changed the nature of the federal government that was accepted by both political parties. It's a legacy that continues.

I've said that Reagan was responsible for uprooting the Progressive operating system (or paradigm of governmental operations) first in California then in the federal government, and I doubt we'll ever get it back, though strangely that's what a lot of the so-called populists are pining for.

We're actually devolving government into something closer to neoFeudalism.

I have many, many reservations about Progressivism, but most of the time it seemed to be better aligned with the public interest than its replacements.

No, a government that serves only the interests of the Highest of the Mighty, slavishly, is not in the public interest and cannot be.

Trump -- for all his lack of power and authority -- is tilting the government so far over to favor the rich and well-connected that what will emerge After Trump would be unrecognizable as a government at all.

It would be little more than a service to the rich and a disaster to everyone else.

By design, not accident.

That would truly be the apotheosis of neoLibCon rule, and it could easily become a permanent (well, long lasting) state.

The Future looks bleaker every day.

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Mob Rules

It seems that some of Trump's  partisans are beginning to wake up to the fact that they've been conned, big time. Of course they're reluctant to admit it and they still rationalize Trump's many betrayals and about faces as due to his "capture" by the Deep State Clintonites, but I think that misses the point.

First of all, he wasn't supposed to be elected. The fact that he won enough electoral votes, not popular votes, to ascend to the Throne came as a shock and surprise to everyone, including Himself.

I truly expected a coup of some sort before he ascended the Throne, but apparently those who might perpetrate such a thing backed off -- repeatedly.

I attributed that to dissidents within the ranks who essentially said, "No deal" because nobody had a clue to what was to come next if a coup was successful.

They chose instead to let things play out.

Of course chaos ensued.

Trump has no idea how to president. It's all bluster and optics with him. Show Business if you will. He's way out of his depth, and he seems to know it. A coup became unnecessary when he turned the wars over to his generals to do as they wanted without his active input, and he turned over everything else to Jared and Ivanka to do as they will -- or can. Which isn't much.

This happened by the end of February. I notice, however, that some of his partisans think it happened toward the last week of March. At least they noticed.

Trump is not in charge. He literally can't do anything independently, prolly not even take a piss, and it appears that the government itself is hamstrung to the point that nothing (much) can happen while The Powers That Be sort out some kind of future path.

I would say this is a least-worst outcome. Not that it's any good. It isn't. It's terrible. Another shade of terrible.

Yet mob rule -- as in gangsters -- is on the ascendance and there seems to be nothing we can do about it.

Even some of Trump's partisans have noticed parallels between the Corleones and Trump's attempts at ruling from the Throne. It's not just the movie versions of gangsters, though. Our governments have long had a parallel operational model that is not that different from the operations of a large scale crime family -- mob. In fact, I think the two go hand in hand, and essentially always have. The Genius of our Founders.

But we note with interest that El Jefe is tied down almost as securely as Gulliver was in Lilliput.

What gives, and who is really running this battle wagon?

It's not Trump -- he could go into retirement at any time now, become President Emeritus like Pope Benedict and I doubt many people would notice. It's not Jared or Ivanka. Not President Bannon, They say even Gorka is being forced out of the Inner Circle in the White House. The little fascist pissant Miller is still stalking the corridors of power, but to what object remains unclear.

So who is running things? My guess, based on his frequent junkets abroad and his nearly constant presence on the teevee, is Pence. He's not acting on his own, however. He's acting on behalf of...

who(m)?

Ah, there's the question. Who actually constitutes the Shadow Government, and what are their objectives?

I long ago noticed that We, the Rabble, have no champions among the Masters of the Universe. None. This is quite unlike the situation during the previous Gilded Age. Then, quite a few of the Gentry and High and Mighty Titans of Industry, yadda yadda, were at least ostensibly on the side of the People, calling for reform -- gradually, of course -- and doing Good Works in the teeming slums, blah blah blah. Some spoke out, loudly and frequently, against the horrible conditions too many of the Rabble were forced to endure, just so some Vanderbilt somewhere could erect yet another pseudo-palace.

Action was taken, too, with any number of experimental projects launched (mostly funded from private fortunes) to ameliorate the conditions of the poor and working class.

It was not enough, but it was something, something practical that inculcated civic virtue, improved public infrastructure, and bettered the lives of millions. At least for a while.

There's nothing like that today. It seems that every one of Our Betters (so they think of themselves) lives to exploit and oppress the Lower Orders and can't conceive of not doing so. The idea of Good Works is alien to their class.

They can't imagine...

And this, I think, is one of the reasons a false champion like Trump could achieve the White House, despite all the efforts of the Powers That Be to thwart his rise.

Even a false champion is better than no champion at all -- at least it is emotionally fulfilling.

Trump's attempts at rule -- mostly inoperative -- are those of a crime family boss, not those of a President. And yet some of what he commands/orders from On High does get implemented -- such as the deportation efforts carried out by his personal Gestapo ICE.

The killing spree in the Middle East and elsewhere has accelerated under Trump as well.

Anything that benefits the exploiter class appears to be fast tracked, while anything that might benefit the Rabble is put on hold or not bothered with at all. After all, what can the Rabble do about it? Right?

The Mob takes care of itself first, right?

The rest can take care of themselves. Or not.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Falling Apart -- The Saga Continues

"What a drag it is getting old..."

Welp, they hauled me off to the ER early Thursday morning, as I had reached the point of immobility and excruciating pain thanks to what I recognized was a sciatica episode, and Ms. Ché and I agreed there was nothing for it but to get checked out and treated in the nearest emergency room.

After calling my Senior Plan's 24 hour advice nurse -- she was a sweetheart, too -- and getting her recommendation that I "be seen" pronto (call 911 you old codger, it could be worse than just sciatica which is bad enough!) I called 911 and shortly four burly EMTs showed up, two from the local fire department and two from the local ambulance provider. We discussed how best to get me to the gurney since they couldn't get the gurney inside.

I said I would try walking but I would definitely need help. Sure enough, fifteen or twenty minutes later, I made it to the gurney, an EMT in front and one behind, the others riding shotgun. The pain was just incredible, but I made it.

The drive into town takes 40 minutes at a good clip, and it seemed like the ambulance driver was booking, so we may have made it in thirty or so. At any rate, the first vitals check after they hoisted my bulk into the ambulance was pretty scary. My BP was high, much higher than it has been anytime recently (in fact I'm not sure I recall my blood pressure being that high), and the EMT said that it was often the case that people in pain show high blood pressure.

Just before we got to the ER, he checked again, and it was closer to my norm, though still high compared to my usual.

I felt like I was being loaded into a warehouse at the ER. There was nobody around except for the woman who buzzed us in, but we seemed to pass by an endless number of empty cubicles on our winding way to wherever. Finally got to cubicle #13 and there I was deposited.

Service was pretty quick and efficient if largely impersonal and soon enough I was seen by a Nurse Practioner, apparently the only ER quasi-physician on duty. My experience with NPs in the past has been very positive.

Anyway, we went through my symptoms and signs again (third time, I think, since calling for the ambulance). The NP determined that it was indeed sciatica (without additional complications) and offered several different injection options to try to control the pain. I chose cortisone injection because that's what I'd had before and it seemed to work remarkably well and quickly too.

Interesting that this time it seemed to work almost instantaneously in reducing the pain level from a 9 or 10 to a 4 or 5. The next issue was to see if I could now walk on my own. This proved a challenge, to say the least, but I made it to the rest room and back to my cubicle (peeing on the way) so that seemed a good sign.

But the pain was coming back. So the NP gave me another injection, which seemed to work as before, but by the time they got the paperwork ready for my discharge, I felt just about the way I did when they brought me in. Hm.

It seemed like the cortisone was wearing off very quickly.

Another check of the vitals, and I was free to go.

Go where? This was the most bizarre part of the whole episode. Having been discharged from the ER I was now on my own, to find my own way out of this maze of cubicles, and to go wherever I wanted.

Ms. Ché had not arrived yet, and I had no idea how to get out of the place. I stood in the doorway to the cubicle looking miffed and lost. "Free to go where?" I asked the disinterested nurses at the counter. "Home or wherever you want," one of them said. I said "I don't know how to get out of here." One of them pointed to a corridor that he said led to the exit, all I had to do was turn left and continue down the hallway. OK.

So I start on my shuffling way, in great pain but determined to find my way out. The exit corridor seemed long and intimidating. But I shuffled along, and who do I spy coming through the exit door way down the hallway but Ms. Ché looking thoroughly annoyed that I was attempting to walk on my own when it was obvious that I was barely mobile. Suddenly, the NP appeared and said he would walk me to the waiting room. Ms. Ché then bolted to get the car, which she said she'd parked quite a distance from the ER wait/deposit room. The NP got me to the waiting room, said I could sit until my wife arrived, and wished me well. I had already told him I was pissed at being told I was free to go without the slightest instruction of how to get out of the ER, and staff seemed to be uninterested in providing such information without a special request. I told him it was "weird." Well, yes.

He said he'd look into it, but I doubt he did.

Meanwhile I sat down, omg -- the pain, and waited for Ms Ché to arrive. It seemed to take a long time; she must have parked very far away. But once she arrived, the struggle to get me to the car ensued, starting with getting me up from the chair. Omg. Again. Well, I finally got up, but all that one foot after another business to shuffle me out the door was proving near-impossible. A security guard poked her head out the ER door and said, "Would he like a wheelchair? I see you're having some real difficulty." Both Ms Ché and I said, "Yah," and she brought one over and got me into it without too much trouble and wheeled me to the car. The load-in wasn't as painful as I thought it would be, and we thanked the guard profusely for her help. As is the case around here, about all she said was "No Problem," as she cheerily wished us well.

We drove home into the sunrise and as I was sitting in the passenger seat, the pain was solid but not intolerable. I didn't realize I was seizing up, however.

We discovered that when we got home. At first I could not figure any way to get out o the car.  But after a number of false starts, I managed to bull my way into an upright position. OK. Now what? I couldn't walk, even after Ms. Ché brought  me my cane. I was stuck. What to do?

After the last episode of sciatica, I bought a "seat-cane" that I took with me to Trinity Site just in case I wasn't able to walk the site unassisted. It proved a god-send, really. So Ms. Ché found it and dusted it off and brought it to me to use along with my usual shillelagh-cane. Would you look at that? As long as I had enough support on both sides, ta da, I could make it into the house and eventually back to bed.

I'd been given a prescription for muscle relaxant at the ER, but there was no way I could pick it up myself. I called the pharmacy and asked if they had received the prescription. They said, "No." I asked if my wife could bring the hard copy in and pick up the medication. They said "Sure, no problem." Sure enough, within another half hour or so, she came back with 20 tablets of cyclobenzaprine, whatever that is, and I took one as directed, and almost immediately fell asleep -- as did Ms. Ché who'd been up fretting terribly since my first expression of "extreme pain." We both slept for several hours, and when I woke up, I was still very stiff and sore, but the pain had diminished considerably. Yay.

Another muscle relaxant, back to sleep. This time when I woke up several hours later, I thought I could actually get out of bed without assistance and shuffle to the bathroom to pee. I managed to do it, though there was still a lot of low grade pain, but I found I couldn't get back in bed without assistance as my left leg was still pretty numb and I couldn't lift it onto the bed. Ms Ché helped, and it was back to sleep for both of us.

Several hours later, I took another muscle relaxant tablet, and after a few minutes fell asleep again.

When I woke up about 8am Friday, it felt like the pain was almost gone. I could get up and walk albeit slowly and carefully. I could sit down in a chair. I could use the bathroom. I was still stiff and sore as heck, but it didn't hurt nearly as much. Double plus Yay.

Ms. Ché was delighted if a bit wary. She planned to go to school today -- she missed classes on Thursday -- but she was worried sick that if she left me alone, I'd be in distress. I said, "No, I feel OK and I can walk. You go ahead. I'll be OK."

I've spent the day in  a kind of dream world, able to get around, but lacking energy and seeming to float. The pain has almost disappeared which is great.

I had to cancel two appointments, one with my primary care provider on Thursday. Couldn't make it, sorry. Another with the infusion center where I was supposed to start Rituxan infusion Monday. Couldn't imagine sitting seven hours while they do their thing.

But all in all, this has turned out to be one of the worst bad and quickest resolved sciatica episodes I can remember. The last time, I didn't get treated at all because it seemed mild and I knew it would pass in a few days or a week. It did, but not without reminding me how frail I was.

This time, it seems to have passed in two days. Amazing, though I wouldn't want to push my luck.

And next time? Who knows.




Saturday, April 22, 2017

Here We Go Again...

I woke up this morning (Saturday) earlier than I thought I should, and I could feel the pain coming on. Again. It's Saturday, so it must be the start of a flare. It's been that way for more than a month.

I'm not happy about it. I've decided to keep more of a record about it here than I otherwise would, simply because things seem to be going haywire, and I've never been good at record-keeping of personal events. I can narrate them after the fact, but while this or that is taking place, I usually don't have a great deal to say about it.

But RA has put me in a state of wonderment and bewilderment. "What is going on?" I keep asking the gods and goddesses. A smirk perhaps plays on their lips and that is about all I can find out from them. They know. They're not telling.

For a year or more I didn't have flares. What would happen is that from time to time, pain would affect one or more joints -- not general joint pain -- I would tell the doctor and she would change my medication and the pain would abate for a varying length of time (generally months) before the sequence would repeat. So I've had several different medication routines, all of which have controlled the pain of RA more or less well -- until now.

I take my usual medication -- with the addition of pain pills that I've had on hand for years -- and it doesn't necessarily control the pain at all. Maybe it will, maybe it won't. You never know.

The doctor wants me on rituxan, a cancer drug that is used for RA when other biologics fail. That's the case with me, apparently. The doctor has gone through the standard list -- with the exception of methotrexate which she has been unwilling to prescribe 1) because of nasty side effects, 2) because of RA induced interstitial lung disease which she says the methotrexate makes worse.

Given that situation, she feels she has no choice at this point but to put me on IV treatment that could -- she says -- cause the RA to go into remission. Well, that would be nice.

But.

There's some kind of hangup with the insurance (again.) Doctor recommended rituxan IV infusion a month ago when the current sequence of flares started. Exactly how to arrange that was left up to a nurse who is adept at maneuvering through the twists and turns of the insurance bureaucracy (prior authorization was required, for example, and getting that could take some doing.) Anyway, she thought she had it all arranged, and I was to get in touch with the financial aid person at the infusion center to see what the costs would be (it's very expensive at rack rates, though insurance apparently pays for all but a couple of hundred dollars. How much insurance pays depends on coverage limits and household income. Apparently.)

I got in touch, "touching base" as they say, and then I heard nothing. Stephanie, the nurse, said there was a hangup and I would have to see the doctor again for an evaluation before prior authorization would be granted, and she made me an appointment a couple of  weeks hence.

In the meantime, I received a letter of authorization in the mail the week of my appointment. Got the letter on Monday, the appointment was on Thursday. After the evaluation -- yes, I need treatment because of recurring flares that are at best partially controlled by current medications, at worst are not controlled at all -- Stephanie called the person over at the infusion center, and a very interesting discussion ensued.

Stephanie told her that I had just finished the office visit with my doctor and that I had received an authorization letter a few days previously. What were we to do now?

I shouldn't have received authorization, said the infusion center person (Katrina), as she had personally withdrawn authorization. The letter I received was therefore not valid.

She had withdrawn authorization because she said I needed to be evaluated by a doctor (my own rheumatologist would do) before treatment could be authorized. The earlier recommendation was not sufficient. Needed specific indications that infusion treatment was necessary -- such as the failure of previous rounds of biologics.

OK. So that was done. Now what?

Once Katrina had a chance to review the new evaluation, authorization could go forward, and -- as far as I could make out -- the infusion center would contact me for an appointment. Shouldn't take long.

Or so Katrina seemed to say. You never really know what they're saying when they're talking insurance bureaucracy. It took months and months to get authorization for out of network treatment in Denver (which I likely will not go to) and almost as long to get authorization for out of network treatment in Albuquerque at UNM, and then another several months wait for an appointment (this is for lung disease treatment). So.

Well, a week goes by. I report to the doctor that I am continuing to have flares and the pain is sometimes debilitating when no medication seems to work. She wanted to know what was happening with the infusion center.  I told her I didn't know as no one had contacted me. She said she wanted me treated ASAP and had her nurse (not Stephanie) call to find out what was going on.

She was told that the infusion center would contact me "shortly" to make an appointment.

Well, that was Thursday.

No contact yet. Of course I learned long ago that "soon" or "shortly" could be months. It's already been a month. It could be months more.

Patience grasshopper?

Well, what else can you do?

Alternative treatments are looking more and more promising. Trouble is, during the initial period prior to being diagnosed with RA, I tried a number of alternatives, and not only did they not work, some made the pain worse -- Stop Pain for example doubled or tripled the pain on the meter, for example.

Now I'm studying Hulda Clark's protocols for RA treatment (liver and kidney flush, zapping, major lifestyle and dietary changes) and find it somewhat amusing because what she says is that this will work "temporarily" and the way she describes it "working" is essentially the course RA pain flares take -- whether or not you're being treated with standard medicine or alternatives or nothing at all. You have generalized joint pain which evolves into specific joint (or pair of joint) pains which can travel from joint to joint over the course of the flare, and it will typically last for about five to seven days before fading, sometimes even disappearing, until it happens again, which can be anywhere from a week to a month (sometimes more) later. That's how it works. Standard medications -- at least in my case -- were able to control the pain and flare outbreaks relatively well for about a year. Now, I think the doctor believes she's almost out of options as most of the standard medications in the pharmacopoeia have been tried and have ultimately failed. Time for the big guns.

Hulda Clark's protocols, as far as I can tell, actually have no effect on the course of RA at all. Because they are rather complicated, however, and they involve peripheral issues (such as searching for hard-to-get ingredients, preparing and consuming cleansing formulae on a strict schedule, completely changing lifestyle and diet, etc.using a proprietary electronic device -- Zapper -- to kill internal parasites and bacteria) they might be serving in the place of placebos, and from that perspective, they may actually help some patients by diverting their attention from the pain they're experiencing.

Because I can have a severe allergic reaction to walnuts and coconut, two of her required cleansing ingredients, I can't do the organ cleansing she recommends. But there's no indication that even if I could do it, it would have any effect on RA and the pain involved.

That remains the same no matter what you do.

A lot of it is mind control.

Which I don't discount. It can work. For a while, anyway.

But it seems to me that for Hulda and her devotees, the real objective is cultish, not corrective. Basically, by doing all these rituals and observing certain protocols and systematic lifestyle changes, you are put in charge of your condition. It can't really change or affect the condition, but because it is no longer something outside you, but is now inside, you will have a feeling of control over it that you didn't have before. Any failure of the protocols to work is effectively your own fault ("you aren't doing it right") and it's up to you to follow the protocols more strictly, among other things.

Because others are attempting to do the same thing, you have a community of strivers, which can be a benefit compared to the lonely struggle someone attempting the medical route (and failing) might have to endure.

We'll see.

Meanwhile, on the plus side, I've set out trays and trays of Cherokee Purple tomato seedlings. It's a constant struggle to keep them alive and healthy because it is still early enough in the season that overnight freezes are possible (for example tonight) and our feral cat colony is fascinated with these plants and some of its members have taken every opportunity to overturn the trays and destroy the seedings. We've lost surprisingly few, though. So that's good. On the other hand, at our altitude, it is difficult grow tomatoes from seed, so we'll see how this first effort goes. I planted the first group of seeds on March 18; the seedlings from that planting are OK, but they are still very small, almost stunted. Ones I planted after -- at the end of March -- are doing better, are larger, and they appear to be healthier. Interesting.

Learn something new every day.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Militant Blond People

Solvang in the 50s


Many years ago the theater where I was working opened a new venue in Solvang, CA, "The Danish Capital of America."

I'd been there maybe once or twice in my life. It was off of Highway 101, near Mission Santa Ynez, Flag Is Up Farms, and other Santa Barbara County agricultural and tourist attractions. You turned off at Buellton, home of Pea Soup Anderson's, than which nothing was more quintessentially old time California tourist-trappy.

Solvang, of course, being ethnic and proudly so, beat them all. But wait... This is California, a multi-ethnic paradise, no? Agricultural California, where they raise horses, broccoli, strawberries, grapes, etc. Where field workers are almost all Mexican, and where Mexican American heritage is very prominent.

Or so one would think.

Not in Solvang, no sir. Where Mexicans and Mexican Americans have been almost entirely expunged. Well, the woman who cleans your room at the King Frederik or Royal Copenhagen Inn prolly speaks Spanish only and is brown as a berry (call her "Maria"), but that's OK. You don't hear her speak or see many (any?) of her kind on the streets.

Instead you see many blondes. Many, many blondes. Most of them natural, too. Few seemed to get their glowing yellow locks from bottles, at least not back then. Not in Solvang.

I was in Solvang when the Queen (Margarethe) was slated to arrive for a royal visit. I believe it was the first time a Danish monarch had come to Solvang, and the streets were festive with bunting and flowers. Everyone was in their finest duds. Well, I was working, so my duds weren't by any  means the finest, but somehow I wound up on the royal receiving line anyway, and to my great surprise, Her Majesty and Her Consort (Prince Henrik) -- both young and attractive -- made their way to me and greeted me in perfect English ("How do you do?"). I may have nodded my head, but I did not bow. Many of those waiting to greet the Queen did. Deep bows, deep curtsies, many in native costume with fancy headdresses and knee britches.I think all I said was "Your Majesty" -- and that was that.

The royal couple toured the town, cheered by flag-waving militant blonds lining the streets. They sampled aebleskivers and pickled herring, heard school children sing for them, and met with town and county worthies.

Then they were gone, and I went back to work.

There was a show to put on. Not "Hamlet," too bad. In fact, though I have a vague memory of an actor-friend all in black declaiming over the skull of Poor Yorick, I don't think we ever produced a "Hamlet" in Solvang. Or maybe anywhere at all.

I know we did "Peer Gynt" and some musical -- "Guys and Dolls?". I dunno. Can't say. I know we were up till four in the morning tech-dressing "Peer" and it still didn't work right. The opening was not a total disaster, but it didn't work as well as anyone hoped. Shoulda done "Hamlet."

Anyway, what I remember most about Solvang, apart from evening chill and architectural folly (phony stork nests, anyone?) was all the blond people... everywhere... you couldn't escape them. Some were Viking-ish, others more along the lines of Brunhilda, and some could pass for copies of the then popular Danish, umm, adult movie stars. It just didn't seem like California at all -- and I think that was the point.

Take us out of our ordinary existence and transport us to little corner of Europe where everything was festive and gay (in its earlier meaning) and people were blond and sturdy and sang and danced in ethnic costume before tucking into a smorgasbord.

All without leaving California.

As it happened, I wasn't into blonds much. Nothing against them, but just didn't find them particularly interesting or attractive, either on the screen, on stage, or in life. So I never much cared for Solvang, and wouldn't have anyway for any number of reasons, but the militant blond people clinched the deal for me. To the extent I could, I stayed away after that initial foray, and I think I've only been back once or twice with theater friends in ensuing decades.

This is more the reality of Central Coast California for too many people, then and now
Migrant Mother, 1936, by Dorothea Lang

The photo was taken a little way up the road in Nipomo, where pea picking was under way.

Seeing all the militant blonds facing off against Antifa in Berkeley triggered some of these memories. I never felt that the blonds of Solvang were in any way threatening, but there was -- as I'm sure there still is -- a sense of separation between them and the hordes of brown people surrounding them. Something of a siege mentality, even if it was masked by tourist-welcome. That's kind of what these militant white rightist and fascist blonds up in Berkeley like to portray. "Wypipo Under Siege."

Well, they're not, not really, and that's part of why all this hoo-hah over the rise of the White Right is a bit overblown. Much is made of it, but it's not as much of a Thing as The Narrative would have us believe.

White folks are mostly just fine, and no one is trying to oppress them. Not even all those years they suffered under the Kenyan Socialist Usurper were as oppressive as they want to make it out.

The only point I try to make is that it doesn't take a lot of militants of any stripe to throw things into chaos and potentially take over. It's a risk complacent people need to be aware of. But they largely aren't.

While I'd keep my eye on the rise of the Militant White -- and very blond -- Right, I don't fear it. For all their bluster, they aren't very bright. Of course book smarts isn't the key, is it? It's emotion, determination, and action.

Solvang is an enclave of blondness. Perhaps we'll see the rise of certain other ethnic enclaves as the political situation continues to deteriorate.

Some people are just too frightened of The Other to live in a multi-ethnic community I guess...




Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Berkeley "Riots"

Not to put too much emphasis on it, but there was a sequence of running street battles in Berkeley (the town, not the campus) last Saturday that the white rightist/fascist cadres are touting as the opening of the "Civil War." The combatants apparently will be called "Patriots" (aka Brownshirts, Fascists, White Supremacists, etc) vs "Antifa" (aka Commies, Communists, Pussies, Little Girls, Snowflakes, etc.)

I watched an hour, hour and a half of video of the confrontation and it was surprisingly civil most of the time. Except for the rather striking blondness and red hats of many of the fascist participants (although there was a smattering of black and brown fascists among the militant blond people), it was relatively difficult to tell the combatants apart, as many on both sides seemed to ape black bloc attire and ultimately in the street melees, it looked like black bloc was mixing it up with black bloc.

How special.

There were fights and such, objects were thrown (including a pot of pinto beans) and people got hurt. Word was that all of the arrests were Antifa, which if true is interesting. [Not true, if reports from fascists are correct. One can never be sure...] The police were said to be hanging back, letting whatever would happen happen, until some word came from on high to break it up. If Antifa was targeted for arrest exclusively, then we are looking into the abyss. There will be no Civil War (quote unquote) but the police state will, of its own accord, ensure the safety, comfort and convenience of the fascists against all enemies, foreign and domestic. There will be no ability to fight back openly. The fascists will have won before the contest is truly engaged.

From the first this was the danger of Trumpism and its neo-Fascism. When the roundups of immigrants began under Trump there was a good deal of garment rending, some resistance, but mostly there was fear and acquiescence. What can you do when the Gestapo breaks down your door? Especially when one or more of your family, schoolmates, friends or what have you is in a difficult legal status/condition? Apart from hiding, how are you going to fight them?

The general thinking is you can't. The law protects the enforcers, pretty much no matter what they do, and there is nothing the average citizen or non-citizen can do about it.

The immigrant sweeps have been a demonstration of what ICE (the most Trump - loyal enforcement arm of the federal government) can do -- if they choose to be gentle. As much as we've heard about rough treatment and unwarranted roundups, this is nothing compared to what they could be doing. Mayhem is putting it mildly.

There are rumors that camps to hold tens of thousands of potential deportees are being prepared as we speak, the harbingers of what is to come.

The immigrant sweeps are rather popular with the volk as well.

Mr. Attorney General Sessions, for his part, has made it a point to unfetter, unleash the police to do as they will in crime suppression. Which to him seems to mean limitless mayhem and bloodshed in targeted communities. Ie: Black, brown and Other.

The Stasi and the Gestapo will be allowed to rampage as they want, it would appear, without let or hindrance.

As long as the targets are Black, brown, and Other, Wypipo are not going to raise too much of a stink, even in the coastal enclaves.

It's already happening.

So what do we do now? Hunker down? Disappear? Pledge allegiance -- even if it is false? Do battle in the streets?

A lot of people will not be able to escape. While the initial effort is focused on immigrants, targets are already on the backs of political enemies of all stripes, be they Antifa, liberals, progressives or really anyone who expresses and/or acts on opposition to the regime.

I live out in the country. So far, we seem to be doing OK in "opposition" to the regime, in part because out here few people really care, and those that do, while proudly flying the Stars and Bars, are seen as loons to be avoided in any case. Whether or not...

Fealty to the King is low priority.

But in cities, the situation is far more complicated. While there is strong support for the undocumented -- at least officially expressed -- actions speak louder, and it's not at all clear that officials are acting to prevent roundups and deportations or to defend those caught up in the dragnets and sweeps. Pleasing words have little effect on the Stasi and Gestapo in any case.

Because the cities in New Mexico depend so heavily on federal spending (which has already been severely cut back due to long-standing budget constraints in Washington) we're liable to see less and less civic "resistance" as economic screws are tightened. It's not so much that the poor people will lose -- they've already long since lost -- it is that the striving middle-managerial class will suffer, and we can't have that, good god no.

There are plenty of "patriots" to act as enforcers, even if the majority of New Mexicans don't buy into the program.

One of the things about fascists is that it doesn't take a lot of them to rule over the Rabble; ten percent or less.

So while the combatants in Berkeley were fairly evenly matched (a few hundred on each "side") and the "patriots" declared victory, their "victory" (such as it was) could have come with only a handful of coordinated Brownshirts -- assuming they had obtained police complicity. And even if they had not, depending on what they were prepared to do, a relatively few fascists could have easily overwhelmed the massed Antifa -- had they been massed. They weren't.

So while I don't see a civil war in the sense of battling troops and a physically divided nation, I do see a war of subversion, attrition and threat being waged by officialdom in concert with fascist and white rightist elements to subdue and overwhelm political opposition to a regime that is more and more integrated into the system it was supposedly meant to smash.

What a whirled.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Rough Times 2

I've been going through a difficult period with my rheumatoid arthritis. I told my cousin in California that so many people have it so much worse than I do (including her older sister) and it's not for me to complain (much) about the state I've been in lately.

Primary problem are the "flares" -- episodes of joint inflammation and pain that come on suddenly and aren't controlled by medications. My regular medications have little or no effect on flares, but until these latest episodes, I haven't had flares for more than a year. What's triggered it this time is unknown. I have my theories, but they're more speculation than anything else. I have not been prescribed any pain medication which is interesting. I've temporarily and sporadically self-medicated with left over prescription pain killers from previous episodes of sciatica, and they work sort of. Sometimes.

The doctor wants to put me on infusion treatment with rituxan which is apparently primarily used as a cancer medication. I don't have cancer (knock wood) but my rheumatologist is concerned enough about the return of flares -- and their persistence -- that she thinks it's time for something more heavy-duty.

I'm agreeable enough, although it will be very expensive all in all (I'll still be taking my regular meds, and I'll fall into the Medicare  Part D "doughnut hole" shortly which will mean out of pocket medication expenses of $700 or more per month. We can perhaps barely afford it. But many other expenses will have to be put on hold. I know any number of people are paying much more than that out of pocket for their medications. Thankfully, Ms. Ché has no out of pocket expenses for her meds, including insulin, the price of which has skyrocketed like so many other life-saving medications.

Ms Ché and I went to Los Alamos yesterday, and when we came back I was in so much pain I could barely walk. The pain persisted overnight, but it shifted from my lower extremities to my right shoulder after I took a pain pill. There it stayed till morning when I took another pain pill and the pain moderated somewhat -- at least enough for me to use my right arm (carefully.)

The doctor says the rituxan could make my rheumatoid arthritis condition go into remission, and that's why she wants to try it as she doesn't want me to keep going through these flare episodes.

My sister had lupus (a condition related to rheumatoid arthritis) for the last 20 years of her life, and from what I've learned -- including from my doctor last week -- the pain can be much worse and much more difficult to control than what I've been going through. Yes, I know she was sometimes in excruciating pain for which she got no relief most of the time. She just had to wait for it to pass. I didn't understand the condition she had at all, but now I think I do. Or at least I understand it better. My sympathy for her is stronger to say the least.

So we carry on. What else can you do?

Yes, onward!






Rough Times

The point of "Dr. Strangelove" is that we are ruled by a class of madmen who actually want to blow the world to smithereens. It is their mission in life. "We'll Meet Again" indeed.

This movie was released in 1964, not long after the assassination of President Kennedy (a 20th century pivot point) and just as President Johnson was ramping up the Vietnam War due to the false reports of an NV attack on US ships in the Gulf of Tonkin. False reports. It didn't happen, but because killing gooks or whomever is a necessity for new presidents, it was used to justify the escalation of US force in Vietnam regardless.

In Dr. Strangelove's world, such a non-event would be perfect to justify launching the nukes. It didn't matter whether it was real; nuclear annihilation certainly would be. Yippee! We're all gonna die!

Here we are more than 50 years later, and we see a kind of twisted replay is taking place. What actually happened in Syria or N. Korea or any of the other hot spots the US is making hotter doesn't matter a whit. What matters is whether the propaganda sufficiently justifies more bloody business up to and including nuclear annihilation.

For all the unsupported belief that Trump would keep the US out of war while Mrs Clinton was sure to get us into a nuclear war with  Russia post-haste, some of us Boomers actually had an understanding of the mindset of both candidates, where they were coming from when it came to Use of Force. Neither was pristine by any means, and both came of age during the "Dr. Strangelove" era.

I'm sure both saw the movie during the summer or fall of 1964 as well, and they've probably both seen it several times since.

The impression it made on them, however, was probably quite different.

The issue is simple enough. Hillary went to public school in Chicago. Public school students of the era were socialized (and propagandized) to fear Communism and to fear the Bomb more. Ms. Ché and I were in Los Alamos yesterday (home of the nuclear annihilation labs, dontchaknow). She was reading some of her poetry at the White Rock Library. One of her poems deals with the topic of duck and cover, instant incineration, and all of that and what we were trained to do and believe if the final button was pushed. That kind of conditioning stays with you. It doesn't go away. You can't  really free yourself from.

The upshot of it is that you do not push that button no matter what.

In "Dr. Strangelove" of  course, while leaders tried to prevent the catastrophe, the madmen (militaryjakes) had their way anyway, and Oops! Apocalypse ensued.

Trump had a different kind of conditioning and socialization during the era; he was a student at the New York Military Academy, they say because he'd been such a trouble-maker at his previous private school. Yes, well.

NYMA was at the time associated with West Point which was just down the road. During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, West Pointers on President Kennedy's staff were advocating launching a nuclear first strike against Cuba and the Soviet Union; "it would be survivable."

Yes, right.

It's always been known that some people would survive an all out nuclear war, and that the ruins would only glow for a relatively short time. Reconstruction might be difficult but it would be possible, and the horror of what happened would eventually fade from the survivors' memories. Life of a sort would go on.

None of this was shared with public school students who were being conditioned in one way regarding the Bomb and its effects, but it was an article of faith in the military and was a kind of doctrine in military schools throughout the country.

That's what Trump was taught. And it looks like he still believes it wholeheartedly.

"You can survive, and it's worth the wreckage." To win.

Trump may or may not try for an alliance with Russia -- I'd say he wants to do it, but the current situation won't allow it. But what would this alliance gain? In alliance, the two most heavily armed nuclear powers would be able to threaten annihilation of any competing power (eg: China) and they would be able to follow through. I think that's the point.

It's not to make peace, it's to threaten and control the rest of the world -- and to destroy it if there is a lack of compliance.

Gangster rule, in other words.

Sounds like a plan, no?

Meanwhile, our military has apparently been given free rein to do as they will wherever they are engaged in combat, and the other day, they dropped the Mother of All Bombs on what they said was a "ISIS cave and tunnel complex" in Afghanistan. Whether or not it was targeted on such a facility and whether or not there were casualties is still a matter of some dispute, much as the missile action against the Syrian airfield was maybe not as effective as it was touted to be -- intentionally.

Both actions, it seems to me, were designed to "message" rivals and enemies: Watch that shit or you're next.

It is unlikely that Mrs Clinton would do this sort of thing so overtly, but you never know.

If the skeptics are right, neither action really did all that much, and the demonstrations of US might may have been counter-productive much as the Special Forces raid in Yemen was.

Massacres for the sake of messaging do not inspire confidence or loyalty.

Bombing just to bomb likewise. Vietnam was a good example of how these things unravel. But lessons learned are soon forgotten.

The nuclear annihilation clock edges closer to midnight.

And there's essentially nothing we, the Rabble, can do about it but hunker down and pray.

Rough times indeed.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Bombs Away!



Idiot Trumpists continue to believe that they have slain the dragon once and for all. The Dynasties --- Bush and Clinton -- have been consigned to the dustbin of history so all is well, a new day dawns and joy will reign forever and ever, amen. Unless you're a Clintonite, in which case may every torment and evil descend upon you and your evil spawn forever and ever.

Amen.

We're led to believe that this weekend will mark the Big Man's showdown with the Evil North Koreans who will be annihilated -- whether or not they provoke their own demise. We're told that large portions of Pyongnang and Seoul have been evacuated, "just in case" this is the Big One. We're told that the Mother of All Bombs was dropped on some remote cave complex (shades of Bin Laden) in Afghanistan by Himself's Army -- on their own account, not ordered by either the White House or the Winter Palace. Thus, so the theory is starting to go,Our Own General Turgidson could actually set in motion an irreversible nuclear launch with no call back provisions. General Jack D. Ripper will claim it is to protect his precious bodily fluids, and the US Government, such as it is, will rule the ruins from its various bunkers around country and the world.

Only 20 or 30 million Americans may be lost in the hostilities, but oh well. They can be replaced, right?

Now what this looks like -- appearances can be deceiving of course -- is that the Generals have taken over US foreign affairs and look to produce results (ie: "get the job done") through intimidation, violence and/or annihilation of any and all designated foes. All of the current wars have been ramped up, and more are starting, with death and destruction on an geometrically increasing path. This is supposed to tame the natives by teaching them a lesson they will never forget.

Yes, well. That always works out, doesn't it?

The State Department is being dismantled -- or so it seems -- and the current SoS is limited to keeping up appearances -- but he actually doesn't do anything.

The Three Letter Agencies that spy on all of us everywhere around the world, and some of which conduct "operations" against various foes at home and abroad, appear to have had their wings clipped somewhat in favor of the higher ranks of the military.

As for Trump himself, he appears to have been neutered. Once he turned over power to the Generals, that was it. They don't care what he thinks (assuming...) and they don't care what he says. A great big FU to the (former) Powers That Be.

At one time, a military coup wasn't considered out of the question to deal with the increasingly crazy-making and faltering domestic government. Well, it looks like the coup has taken place with regard to foreign adventures and it may be exercising more and more domestic power as well -- hard to say what with the chaos in Washington and Palm Beach.

Chaos, however, will not be allowed to persist. Trump and his cronies haven't demonstrated that they can control it. They create it, after all. Ergo, intervention is likely -- even as Trump tries to meet the requirements of "presidenting."

I think Trump would be just as happy turning over the government to the military. His happiest time seems to have been when he was in military school (graduated 1964, the year "Dr. Strangelove" was released). He could do anything, and they'd let him.

Now, as an old man, that experience may well be informing his actions as President. Only to find that like the New York Military Academy (now owned by Chinese) what he thinks is his freedom to do what he will...isn't.

Ah well...

What have we done to deserve this?




Sunday, April 9, 2017

Himself and Global War Fever

Oh my.

As was easily anticipated, Himself''s blooding in Syria over the supposed gas attack supposedly launched by the Devil Assad "against his own people" has led to one Hosanna after another, and the beating of pretty constant war drums targeting just about anyone and everyone who gets in his face or way. Always with the eager snapping of the media flacks for moar war, and with a surprising eagerness by foreign leaders to join in the fray.

Well, of course. War distracts from misrule like nothing else, it gets the patriotic juices flowing, it provides enormous ratings boosts to the media cartels, it delivers piles of money to the arms makers and all their subsidiaries, and it gives meaning to so very many lives (h/t Chris Hedges).

Now of course, the imagery going in to the latest phase of this bloody - permanent business was that Himself, the Peace and Deal Maker, would keep us out of War (cf: Woodrow Wilson, heh heh heh) because nationalist priorities, while Herself, the Hag, would immediately precipitate WWIII, nuclear annihilation, yadda yadda, all of which was fantasy and bullshit, and now that the curtain has been partially pulled back, I want to yell, "Told ya so!" but nobody would listen anyway.

We're so far through the Looking Glass now, nothing seems real anymore.

The bullheaded naivete of those who have no clue how government works, and who think that somehow beclowning the presidency with Trump will keep the peace or that elevating the Hag to the Big Chair will provoke Immediate War has been a feature not a bug of the latest round of delusions about the election and Important Matters.

These people appear to be gamers with no insight at all because they have no knowledge and don't wish to learn. They wish to assert, boldly, blindly. Because they can.

Those of us who do have some idea about the workings of the government are ignored simply because it's inconvenient to those whose assertions rule their understanding of reality.

They believe Trump is something he never was.

More like them, and that means.... who knows what?? They don't know themselves -- except for their anti-establishment yearnings. And then when they unexpectedly become the establishment... implosion ensues.

As for Hillary, Red Queen indeed.

Projection, rather.

No, she was not the ideal, far from it. Would she have been so chaotic? No. Would she have launched WWIII on her first day in office? No.

Would we have seen the same sequence of bloody-business in Mosul, the Yemen, and Syria? Uh, probably.

In other words, nothing -- really -- would change regardless of who sits in the Big Chair. The style would differ one from another president, oh yes. But beyond that? Not much.

Why? Well, because. We have a permanent government, a permanent governing class, and everyone involved is socialized to it. Including Trump himself. He's been a playah for decades, though perhaps on the margins rather than in the center. The point is, he's a known quantity to the Power Elites, he is more easily controlled than his acolytes want to believe, and he's basically a gangster.

No problem.

So here we go a-wilding, not so much because of him -- or in spite of him -- but because that's what our governing class does, chaos or no, public interest and popular will be damned. They do not care.

It's an infection that's spread throughout the West -- and parts of the rest of the world to boot.

Maybe the Kremlin thought they could take advantage of it. I don't know. Maybe they wanted to be part of it. Who can say?

But things are spinning -- once again -- out of control. Who knows where we will wind up?

What a whirled.

Friday, April 7, 2017

WAR!



Yesterday marked the hundredth anniversary of the US entry into World War I, a transformative exercise to say the least.

So what does El Caudillo do? He authorizes a missile strike on a Syrian airbase while at dinner with China's Xi Jinping at the Winter Palace in Florida. Hm. Who'd a thunk?

This is supposed to be the Peace-Maker, Deal-Maker God-Emperor who will keep the US out of Syria, make nice with the Russians and preserve, protect and defend us from that horrid warmonger Hag who was just itching to engage in nuclear annihilation with Putin.

Clintons, Obamacrats, and all they represented delenda est! 

Of course it was all fantasy and bullshit, but what the hell. We saw our politics fall through the looking glass a long time ago, and there seems to be no way back. Fantasy and bullshit rule for the duration. Make the most of it.

I pointed out a long time ago that there was never much difference in the policies of Clinton vs Trump on most matters. Their rhetoric tended to emphasize differences, but when you drilled down, their policies were close, in some cases identical. Where they differed was in implementation -- whether radical and harsh (as Trump wanted)  or incremental and "softer" (as Hillary seemed to want -- it was never clear with her.)

So here we are now with Trump executing Hillary's Syria policies without a qualm, a near 180° turn around from statements out of the Regime just days ago.

Of course, things change. Assad (once again) "gassed his own people." The way he does. Ergo, something had to be done. After all, such monstrousness cannot be allowed to stand!

Never mind that Assad may not have intended any such thing, but in WAR!!! strange things happen.

Never mind the hundreds of civilians (including "beautiful babies") slaughtered in Mosul by an American air attack the other day. "Collateral damage, too bad, so sad."

Gotta root out them terrrisss.

Ya.

It's all stupid -- much as WWI was -- and follows a course of events that cannot be controlled.

We should know that by now.

And even Caudillos and God-Emperors cannot make events conform to desires.

They say the cable news nets are wetting themselves with delight over WAR!!! frenzy. Not surprising. It is their stock in trade. They enjoy slaughter for its own sake, for the ratings boost, for the patriotism of it all.

But no.

This won't end well.

Any more than WWI did.

What a whirled.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Why Wypipo Are Dying

I've been reading this deeply flawed Brookings study (60 pg pdf) on morbidity and mortality in the 21st Century. It has so many problems it's almost useless, but it nicely fits the narrative of suffering, despairing rural white folks -- who elected Trump in their misery -- that it's become something of a go-to "proof" that white folks are dying in their multitudes (ostensibly from despair at their future-less lives.)

The statistics do not support the conclusion. The  simple facts don't. But don't let that stand in the way of a good narrative.

The primary issue for the authors is the increase in opioid addiction leading to overdose deaths in rural America -- even though it is not the leading cause of death, but so what. It involves drugs, and everyone knows drugs are eeeeeevil.

There have been any number of reports that parts of rural (white) America have been flooded with prescription opioid pain killers; millions and millions of doses sent to pharmacies in areas that have populations in the tens of thousands if that. Surprisingly, these areas then experience a spike in opioid addiction and overdose death. How interesting.

The authors of the Brookings study, however, are careful to hold harmless the prescription drug manufacturers, pharmacies and doctors in those areas. The problems associated with opioids are entirely on the shoulders of the patients who, apparently, falsely claim to be in pain in order to procure a scrip, then trade the meds among themselves. Or something.

It really doesn't make sense given the already restricted access to opioids and other narcotic pain medications. And at least 9 times out of 10, patients presenting with pain are in pain, not "despair," real, physical pain, and the medication is intended and used for pain relief.

Yet the narrative says, "No, no! These people are not in physical pain. They suffer from Wypipo-despair!"

OK.

Interestingly, in other drug abuse frenzies (the crack epidemic, the crank era) nobody cared a whit about the why of such drug use. They wanted to see the users and their unpleasantness eradicated forthwith.

And so it was with the ever-present War on (some) Drugs and (some) Drug Users.

Now, though, the issue is Salt of the Earth Wypipo in rural communities who voted for Trump and all of a sudden, treatment, love and compassion for the despairing victim-users is the general  attitude toward the Unfortunates.

No war on these people and their drug use at all. No sirree.

Except.

Well, there is an exception. What is being proposed and in some cases enacted are further tightening of the restrictions on the prescription and dispensing of opioid pain medications.

In other words, the point is not to "help" the victims -- poor, rural Wypipo that they are -- the point is to make it difficult or impossible for people in pain to legally obtain opioids for pain relief. There. That should solve the problem, right?

Jeebus.

In some areas it is already nearly impossible for people in pain to legally obtain opioid or other narcotic pain relief medication because doctors are terrified of the DEA and refuse to prescribe it -- or any effective medication for pain.

They refuse outright and patients are left on their own to find medications to deal with their pain -- or just live with it. Too bad, so sad. The proposed additional restrictions and prohibitions will simply mean that more people in pain will be refused medications to alleviate their suffering.

I think that's the point of the narrative. "Suffering is good for the soul," right?

Whatever else Our Rulers want to do, they want to impose sufficient suffering on the Rabble to keep them in line, and they want to punish anyone who gets out of line.

That's Doctrine.

Of course I have a personal interest in these things. Until recently, pain associated with my condition was fairly well controlled without specific medications for pain. But about two weeks ago, I started having what they call a "flare," something that hasn't happened since before I started treatment, and it lasted a good long time, despite attempts to mitigate/control the pain with steroids. I received no pain medication at all.

Steroids alone were supposed to be enough to control the pain, but they weren't. What was happening was that generalized joint pain would concentrate in one joint or pair of joints and at one point I could not walk because of the intensity of pain. Standard pain killers like Aleve had no effect.

As it happened, I had some left-over pain medication from a previous bout of sciatica, and sure enough, within minutes of taking it, the pain was controlled.

But it's an opioid, and it was never offered by my doctor -- nothing was -- for pain relief, only the steroids, which did not control the concentrated joint pain that made basic functioning impossible.

According to what I'm being told, my condition has "evolved" into a new and more serious phase that requires more aggressive treatment with stronger immunosuppressants an other drugs that can have serious or fatal side effects. But that's how it goes. I'm not as concerned about that as I am about being stuck in a painful situation (another "flare" for example) without access to effective relief.

Given the urge of policy-makers to further restrict or prohibit the use of opioids for pain relief, I wouldn't be surprised...

[This Politico article explores some of the criticism of the Brookings study. Still, the general thrust of it is accepted.]