Friday, May 27, 2016

The Anti-Trump Riot in Albuquerque

We got home from our day with visitors in Santa Fe the day before yesterday, turned on the TV to find out what was going on with The Voice (Ms. Ché's favorite won), only to witness several interruptions due to the ongoing protests inside and outside the Albuquerque Convention Center where Trump was holding forth the way he does before a crowd of frothing supporters.

People were outside driving around in cars and trucks waving Mexican flags of all things, and surely that was riotous. Tear gas was being deployed. Horse police were moving the crowd of protesters away from the Convention Center, and resistant women were being kicked and hauled out of the rally by police and private security to the cheers of the mob inside.

Oh it was a melée.

A good deal of the reporting on the Albuquerque Anti-Trump Riot later turned out to be false or inaccurate, but that's how it goes, doesn't it? My initial impression from the selection of video I saw was that that there was no riot (of course), and that those who were protesting most vigorously were not Bernie supporters (as they were initially being characterized) but were most probably part of Albuquerque's substantial anarchist community.

This is what they do, and they are good at it. It's not so much "riot" as it is confrontation with Power, and it can be very effective -- because in this country, Power is typically so out of touch with The People that almost any hostile confrontation will produce results. You can't always anticipate what they will be, but you can be almost certain that something will happen to delegitimize Power's authority.

So, that's why these things typically happen, and it seems to me from observations over years that the folks in Albuquerque who engage in this kind of disruptive confrontation know what they are doing and are pretty darned sophisticated about it.

There were people strategically placed inside the convention hall disrupting Himself's speechifying, doing it in a way that would incite Trump to behave badly, and I think they were partially successful in that -- though I saw very little of the confrontations, and it could be that Trump and his partisans bested the protesters inside.

Based on what I saw and read, the outdoor protests were both more confrontational and ultimately more effective --because they not only made their Anti-Trump points, they also pointed to the failures (once again) in the APD's response.

I read that APD was actually behaving much better in response to the "riot" than they have in previous confrontations with protesters. In a sense, that's true I suppose, but in other ways, you've got to wonder. The report I read in the Albuquerque Journal went on and on about how the protesters threw rocks and "urine bombs" (right, sure) and "molotov cocktail-like" devices (what the hell is that supposed to mean?) and how the police and their horses had been injured, and how awful it was and how This Must Not Stand! -- heads (of protesters) must roll. Pictures of likely suspects were shown (two young Hispanic males, ohhh scary).


The police, it turns out, did not use tear gas -- as was erroneously initially reported they did. No, they used smoke grenades. Oh. Never mind then. And yes these grenades were thrown or kicked back at police, a fairly standard response these days.

The horse police were deployed, yes, but not particularly effectively, partly because people are becoming less afraid of the horse police and are very sympathetic to the plight of their mounts.

One horse apparently fell. Not severely injured, but still. I've seen this happen in other confrontations, the officer on the horse unable to handle it carefully enough to prevent a fall on the pavement. This is one reason horse police should not be used on pavement, but who listens to me? Heh. The case can be made that horse police should not be used at all, but I've seen enough confrontations where the presence of horses defuse what might otherwise become an ugly situation, so I wouldn't go so far as to say, "no horses." At least not yet.

At least there seems to have been a recognition that the crowd of protesters was not on the whole -- maybe not even in part -- a Bernie crowd. It was apparently made up of mostly young, mostly male, mostly Hispanic activists who were protesting (rightly I believe) Trump discriminatory statements (which could turn into policies) toward Hispanics, Muslims and other "undesirables" whom he has a penchant for calling "criminals."

You know what? Protesting that kind of crap is necessary, and to be effective, the protests have to be disruptive and impolite.

Trump won no points except among his feverish supporters who would follow him no matter what he said over any cliff he wanted them to. He could not have come to New Mexico thinking he could get away with his anti-Hispanic schpiel. This ain't Texas. Thank you very much.

So this might be part of why the Anti-Trump "riot" in Albuquerque did not get the obsessive wall-to-wall coverage that the Nevada Democratic Convention did -- wherein the Bernie supporters were widely and falsely accused of violence. The Anti-Trump Riot in Albuquerque did indeed become disruptive and at times violent toward Power and Authority. There was one report I saw that claimed the high windows over the doors to the Convention Center were "cracked" by rocks thrown! Yeek.

Just remember, the point is to delegitimize authority and disrupt business as usual. I'd say that goal was accomplished. How much further this can go I don't know.

But it's completely different than what went on in Nevada.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Relations Come to Visit from Way Out West

We've had a few folks over to visit since we moved to New Mexico full-time some four-five years ago. Not a lot, to be sure, but enough to keep things interesting for them and for us.

The past few days, we've been hosting/enjoying the company of Ms. Ché's cousin and her husband from Carson City, Nevada. It's opened our eyes somewhat to our own place in this Land of Enchantment, and it's also reminded us of how much of interest there is to explore, and how the time just flies.

The only places we've been with these most recent visitors are Taos and Santa Fe, showing some of the sights, eating, walking around yakking. One of the things I'm grateful for is that I can walk and actually keep up most of the time. A year or so ago I couldn't have done that due to sciatica, and a few months ago, I wouldn't have wanted to due to the pain and aggravation of RA. Thanks be, I can get around pretty well for a gimpy old geezer, and medication has been effective enough keep me from having massive amounts of pain even after a full day of clamoring about.

We started by going up to Taos the day before yesterday. There was a time I hated going to Taos, because I felt I couldn't breathe there. Well, that time has passed and I actually enjoy it quite a bit now  -- as long as it isn't too full of tourists. And movie stars. And war criminals like Donald Rumsfeld.

We went out to the Rio Grand Gorge Bridge first... It's one of Ms Ché's favorite sights in New Mexico, and we hadn't been there for a while, and we had not actually gone out on the bridge previously.

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge outside of Taos, NM. Clickage will embiggen. (Wikimedia Commons)

Well, we did this time and -- oh my. The Rio Grande River flows about 600 feet below in a deep-deep cleft in the plateau under Taos Mountain on which the town of Taos and the Pueblo are situated some ten miles away or so.

You hardly expect the gorge is there until you come upon it, and then it takes your breath away. It's much smaller and less varied than the Grand Canyon, but because you're so close to it -- in fact, you can walk right over it on the Bridge -- it feels almost as stunning and in some ways is more exciting.

Vertigo is a definite hazard -- as is suicide. How many people have thrown themselves from the bridge in the fifty or so years it's been there is something I don't know, but it must be quite a few given the number of padlocks memorializing the dead which have been attached the bridge along its entire length. In fact, when the bridge was renovated a few years ago, it was suggested that barriers be put up to keep people from jumping off. That wasn't done, but suicide hotlines were installed at each of the viewing platforms to help talk down some of the potential jumpers.

The weather was beautiful and we enjoyed every minute there. But we had to leave to go visit the Pueblo. Ms. Ché and I had never been to the Pueblo of Taos, the international heritage site of the room blocks beneath the sacred mountain, the oldest continuously occupied village in North America.

Of course we were familiar with it from pictures and stories from way back, but being there and hearing the stories from our very-well-spoken and informed guide was the experience of a lifetime. We stayed only a couple of hours, but those hours were rich and full, not just with sight-seeing but with a definite sense of shared heritage and humanity.

One thing I was particularly struck by were the ruins of the original San Geronimo church beside the Pueblo. I knew the story of what had happened there in 1847, but seeing it for myself, surrounded as it is by the graves of countless Indians massacred by US militia in revenge for the assassination of Charles Bent, appointed governor of the recently conquered New Mexico Territory, was a moving experience.

(Curteich-Chicago C.T. Art-Colortone) Vintage postcard depicting the ruins of an old Indian Mission, Taos Pueblo. The back of the postcard has this caption: "The Mission of San Geronimo, built in 1635 by the Franciscan Fathers, was constantly in service under this order until destroyed in 1847 by Col. Sterling Price, who shelled it during the Taos Indian uprising and massacre."
Perhaps 150 were killed in the bombardment of the church -- mostly old men and women and children who'd taken refuge there when the troops came to the Pueblo on a "punitive expedition" after Bent's killing. Another 200 or so rebels and Taosenos were killed in the foothills of Taos Mountan where they'd run off to escape what would certainly be a massacre. Another dozen or so were captured and hanged in the Taos Plaza pour encouragé les autres. It was a bloody mess that still (of course) resonates on the Pueblo, and those who know the history of what happened are taken aback by the violence and horror of it all. But then, Donald Rumsfeld had a vacation time share in Taos, and I imagine he relished the history of what happened in 1847.

We were planning to go to the Taos Art Museum and the Harwood, but time flew the way it does, and after we had a few snacks and looked around the Pueblo for a while, we headed back to town and a brief visit to the Mable Dodge Luhan house where Ms Ché had attended a writers workshop a couple of years ago and then drove back to Santa Fe for dinner at Harry's Roadhouse.

It was more than a full day.

Yesterday, we "did" Santa Fe, starting at the campus of IAIA where Ms. Ché is an Honored Elder and a full-time student. We ran into and yakked for quite a while with some of her friends and with a fellow from Haskell there for a educational conference. He was fascinated with the campus and the whole framework of the IAIA concept and experience. It struck him as very different from the Haskell experience. But their histories are very different, too.

We then went to the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture where I was able to introduce our guests to the director, Della Warrior -- who had previously been president of IAIA. We talked a bit about some of the challenges of mounting the current Lloyd Kiva New exhibit and how the Cherokee Nation essentially ignored it -- despite the fact that New, a co-founder of the Institute of American Indian Art, was a very prominent and at one time very well-known Cherokee.

The exhibits at MIAC were almost overwhelming for our guests, and basically we only had time to see about half of what they show -- we skipped the Turquoise, Water and Sky exhibit  altogether.

We had to get to the New Mexico Museum of Art downtown, to check out their exhibits. Then it was off to the Dan Namingha Gallery and then the Allan Houser Gallery where we yakked for quite a while with David Rettig, the general factotum of the Gallery and the Allan Houser art park -- and the keeper of the legacy of the artist.

Finally, it was off for some ice cream and then... home.

Today, our guests are off to Bandalier Monument and then they say they'll be coming by our place in the afternoon. So. What fun.

What we've all discovered is that there is way too much to see and do in New Mexico in a brief visit of a few days. It would take much more time....

We've been exploring New Mexico for over 30 years, and we've barely scratched the surface ourselves.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

World Woman -- Ms. Ché Gets Her DNA Test Results

This is really something, as in "we had no idea."

Ms Ché and I have had our DNA tested through For years I think their DNA tests were considered borderline fraud since so often the results were at significant variance with documented family history or seemed wildly wrong for other reasons. Their answers to questions about the tests sometimes didn't provide useful information. And the tests were expensive.

Well, they seem to have refined their efforts quite a bit and they've been much better about providing information rather than deflecting, and so, when the price dropped somewhat, we went ahead with the test. 

Mine came back rather quickly, simple as it was -- comparatively speaking.

I'm mainly British (from my mother), Irish (from my father), and there is a smattering of Scandinavian, Eastern European and Iberian -- Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, etc.

Except for the missing German, it seemed OK. Ancestry DNA tends to explain the absence of German ancestry in my DNA with the claim that 1) my father's grandparents were not ethnic Germans at all (possibly); or the German is masked by and is found within the British and/or Scandinavian elements.

Could be.

Ms Ché's test results took longer.

But then, her ancestral DNA is a lot more complicated than mine. In fact, it spans the globe.

What she knew prior to the DNA test was that her father was from the Philippines and her mother was full-blood Cherokee (Yes, they exist!) from Oklahoma.

That seems straightforward enough, but turns out it's not straightforward at all.

From her parents, Ms. Ché inherited 37% Native American and 37% East Asian (which includes Filipino) DNA. But there's a complication: 16% of her DNA is Polynesian. Eh? How does that work? 6% is African. Oh? Interesting. Then there's Central Asian at 3%. And curiously, a trace percentage is Finnish/Northern Russian.

We're thinking the African DNA came through her mother. Some Cherokees had black slaves, and after Emancipation, many stayed among the Cherokee in Oklahoma. They are called Freedmen and are considered tribal members to this day. One of Ms Ché's ancestors was therefore probably a Freedman or descendant of one.

The Polynesian DNA probably came through her father. Filipinos and Polynesians are distinct, but they are ancestrally closely related. It's possible that Spanish or Anglo colonialists brought Polynesians from the Pacific Islands to work in pineapple or other plantations in the Philippines. But if her father knew of a Polynesian ancestor, he never said. On the other hand, it's possible that we're seeing a genetic echo of the ancestral relationship between Polynesians and Filipinos, something that has long been alluded to.

The Central Asian and Finnish/Russian components are relatively slight, but the fact that they are there at all is a head scratcher. Where did they come from? We don't know, and looking into it is a project for the future. Because the percentage is low, whoever contributed these elements probably did so a long time ago. How long ago, and with whom... is mysterious. It could have been anywhere along the line, on any branch.

Ms Ché saw it as possibly a genetic echo of the Asian and Far North origins of Native American peoples. That would be interesting if true. Central Asia has been identified as one of the loci from which ancestral Native Americans made their way into the Americas. They also went west into Europe. But there were other areas of the Asian continent from which Native American ancestors originated, including the Far North, home today to globe-spanning Inuit and related peoples. Could that be where the trace percent of Finnish/Northern Russian DNA comes from? Interesting if it were, but I'm not sure how we'd find out.

So that's what came through on the DNA tests we both took. They raise more questions than they answer to be truthful. I ask "where's the German?" in my ancestry -- for none is identified specifically or more generally in my DNA. In Ms. Ché's case we're asking how the minor and trace elements from so many different ethnic sources came to be found in her DNA.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

DNA Results, COPD, RA, and Other Things, Oh My

Well, one of Ms Ché's cousins and her husband are coming to visit from Nevada tomorrow, and we're preparing to show them the sights. Some of them, anyway. They've been all around the world, but have never been to New Mexico, and they want a fix of "vibrant art." This is the place, right?

It's gonna be a whirlwind, as it's only two-three days, and we're planning adventures to Taos to see the Mabel Dodge Luhan house and take in the exhibit on her at the Harwood, then to the Fechin house where the Taos Art Museum is located, then out to the Pueblo. Next day, Santa Fe. The Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Native Art, the Georgia O'Keefe Museum, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, several galleries (we couldn't possibly do more than a few of them) and then out to eat at Harry's Roadhouse (a must-stop-in for all out of town visitors though if it is as crowded as it can get, we'll happily go out to La Plancha in El Dorado.)

Then finally the next day, if we can swing it, out to our place, and the Route 66 tour into Albuquerque and possibly beyond. We live near what I believe is the longest stretch of the Old Route 66 still in use -- at least it's the longest stretch of it in New Mexico -- and while it isn't particularly touristy, it's actually a nice drive, and  when the weather is good, the Mother Road is always a treat.

I'm wondering how much of this I can actually do, however. One of the problems associated with RA -- rheumatoid arthritis -- is fatigue. Fatigue is also a factor in recovery from pneumonia. I've tried to do some work outdoors, catching up a little bit on spring-time chores I wasn't able to do before, and I've found I become fatigued in only a few minutes. Twenty minutes is about the longest I can go at a stretch. Each of these days of adventure next week are going to be long... We'll see how much of it I can do...

Ms. Ché and I did the DNA test. Until fairly recently, it was considered a borderline fraud, in part because DNA tests are not yet able to state with certainty the specific ancestry of testees. The results obtained give general possibilities at best. Because Ancestry really didn't clarify how non-specific the results were, they got a lot of complaints from people who did the test and got results that appeared to have nothing at all to do with their actual (documented) ancestry.

I got my results back. We're still waiting for Ms Ché's.

Mine were interesting, and I think they are fairly accurate, though they require interpretation to understand.

The surprise was that I show no German ancestry, nor do my cousins who have also taken the test.

It's taken me a while to fathom that because my paternal (their maternal) grandmother's parents emigrated from (what would become) Germany in the 1850s. There's no doubt about it. We know where they came from, we have documentary evidence, yadda yadda, but there is no German ancestry identifiable in our DNA. How can that be?

Well. Could be they weren't ethnic Germans. That's the easiest explanation. It's one that fits some of the stories I've heard that suggest they were descendants of Jewish conversos. Of course, wouldn't you know, my DNA shows no "European Jewish" ancestry, either.

It does show what I take to be an overabundance of British ancestry (67%). That's much higher than I figure it should be because I only inherited British ancestry from my mother (who was essentially of British ancestry all the way down, though her people had come to America starting soon after the Mayflower -- and there are hints that she had at least one ancestor on the Mayflower itself.)

My father, on the other hand, was half Irish and half German. Well, that's what he thought. So I should be a quarter Irish, a quarter German, and half British.

The test showed my DNA was 25% Irish, no German, 67% British, 7% Eastern European, and less than one percent each Scandinavian and Iberian.

Oh. What happened to the German?

It turns out Ancestry DNA doesn't even have a German category. The closest thing it has is "Central European," and if you dig around enough in their articles about the test, they state that the test cannot distinguish between British, German, and Scandinavian ancestry with any certainty. A test report may come back, as mine did, with an overabundance of British DNA, but no Central European ancestry. The "missing German" ancestry may well be folded in with the extra-British DNA. In fact, that's probably where it is.

My cousins, on the other hand, show an excess of Scandinavian ancestry in their DNA, and once again, that may be where the "missing German" is.

The 7% Eastern European ancestry indicated in my DNA is likely from my German great grandparents, and it may be a hint of their Jewish ancestry, but I don't know. As there are no specifically Jewish markers, I'll have to let that rumor rest for a while. There are records in Germany, so maybe one day I'll probe them more deeply and find out, but for now I'll let that ride.

The tiny bit of Scandinavian ancestry indicated in my DNA is probably from my Irish-German father. His Irish ancestors claimed to be "Irish" -- ie: Celts -- but that's likely a crock, as practically everyone in Ireland has some Scandinavian ancestry from the Viking and Norman invasions. Particularly so for red-heads like me whose red-head is a variation on blond, as opposed to the red-heads who may be Celt whose red-headedness is a variation on black hair.

The tiny bit of "Iberian" -- which could be Spanish, Portuguese, French or Italian -- ancestry I attribute to my mother's father. His last name (Olive) is possibly French, possibly Scottish. Could be both given the way the French and the Scots were intertwined at one time (ie: during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots and before).

My mother's father's mother was from Colonial New England stock -- going back as far as I could trace in America and then in England as far back as I wanted to go. My mother's father's father's line stubbed out in Virginia with my mother's father's grandfather who was born c. 1798. That's all I could find out. There was no record before that.

My suspicion is that the original Olive immigrants came from Scotland or Northern Ireland at about that time, settled in Western Virginia, then moved to Kentucky, then, finally to Indiana as the Indians were expelled and the West opened to settlement.

My mother's mother's people were British from the dawn of time.

I had thought my mother was at least partially Irish -- she seemed to think so herself, but she didn't really know, because she didn't know much of anything about her biological father. Then years ago, I saw a film version of D. H. Lawrence's "Sons and Lovers," and I was stunned that one of the very British characters was the spitting image of my mother, both visually and more importantly behaviorally. Wait I thought, was my mother actually British?

Indeed, that's what I found -- at least on her mother's side as well as on her father's mother's side, and probably significantly on her father's father's side too.

Huh. Who'd a thunk? What still intrigues me is that I recognized my mother's character in a movie of a novel by British author D. H. Lawrence, based in part on his own experience and family. Well, how about that?

Oh yes, COPD. Part of the treatment I'm undergoing is for COPD, which I never really thought I had, but apparently I do, thanks to repeated bouts of pneumonia and scarring from emphysema which is a result of smoking. I stopped smoking twenty years ago, and I thought I was doing pretty good at healing my lungs from the Devil Tobacco, but apparently several things have conspired to set me back. One of them is rheumatoid arthritis. Turns out that lung inflammation (like joint inflammation) is a consequence of RA, and lung inflammation can and does make RA patients susceptible to pneumonia.


My doctor told me that the prednisone I take for RA symptoms is an immunosuppressant which may be exacerbating my tendency to get pneumonia, but others say that prednisone actually suppresses the inflammation which makes it less likely that I will get pneumonia. So. Who knows?

We'll see what the rheumatologist has to say about that...

UPDATE: Ms Ché just got her DNA results back, and it is astonishing, practically a book in the making. No time to go into details, but the upshot is that her DNA spans the globe. Literally,

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Political History

The attacks on Sanders over the Nevada State Democratic Convention debacle are only going to intensify. We can expect redoubling of these attacks if the Sanders campaign doesn't collapse before the California and other primaries on June 7.

The point is to de-legitimize the Sanders campaign and Sanders himself so as to remove any possibility of them having influence and/or power over the Democratic Party, its chosen and anointed candidate, and ultimately any influence over the People.

Bernie has dared to propose an alternative -- a very modest alternative -- to the status-quo, powers-that-be, NeoLibCon paradigm that rules globally throughout the Overlord Class. As the Baroness Thatcher was ever so fond of putting it:


You Hippies can get in line, sit down and shut up. Now.

Because you don't matter, you have no power, you will never have any power, nobody cares what you think, nobody ever will. 

Yet Bernie keeps winning primaries, and every time he does, he shames Mrs. Clinton and her flacks just a little bit more. So they have their knives out for the kill.

For some reason, known only to the community of ratfuckers who seem to be behind much of the happenings of late, the Nevada Democratic Convention became ground zero for both ratfucking and Swiftboating of Bernie Sanders and his campaign -- probably because it is now or never for Mrs. Clinton. According to the polls (and who can have confidence in them), she's not meeting expectations against Trump, and she could very well lose in the General. This would not be acceptable to TPTB, but as they saw in the R primary, the powers of TPTB and their ability to control events aren't what they used to be.

There are ways, of course, to ensure that Mrs Clinton wins in the Fall, but those ways are not the preferred means of acquiring or holding on to political power. They will be used if necessary, of course, but it would mean triggering a chain of events that could not be controlled.

For some time, I've thought that the Trump campaign was a classic ratfuck of the Rs. It probably started that way, but when Trump found that he touched a chord among disaffected Republicans, one that he didn't expect to find, he ran with it, and now he is sitting on a remarkable power - base and can call the shots.

Their PTB seem to be flummoxed. Trump is one of them, after all -- well, to the extent any billionaire who wants to be among the High and the Mighty can be. There has been no way to "stop" him, not so far. But as I've said, we've been down this path in the past with celebrities taking on the political establishment -- and winning. They may wind up doing the bidding of a faction of the Establishment, but the upshot of their political activity is the disruption and/or dismantlement of established power structures and the substitution of others.

When Ronald Reagan did it, it was called a "Revolution." It's more like a coup or a counter-revolution, but that's for another discussion. The point is that established power structures were disrupted and some of them were dismantled. The Progressive Era came to a final end. We are living with the consequences, for good and for ill.

Trump could do the same thing if got into office, but just what he would do and how is unknown. That's what frightens the PTB. He has no faction backing him within the government (unlike Reagan), and he seems to have no Establishment backing in the public sector either. He's a lone wolf and thus dangerous.

On the other hand, Hillary seems to have all the support in the world, including (apparently) among Republicans, except that she does not have leftist support -- which she and her people seem to be doing everything in their power to alienate.

It would seem odd if it weren't part of the NeoLibCon political playbook: to disable and irrelevate the Left has been a fundamental part of the NeoLibCon program from the get-go. Bernie, therefore, has to be destroyed. It's too late for him to yield. He must be destroyed utterly and his supporters must be dismissed.

So, I see what's going on with a sad sense of deja vu. It doesn't have to be this way. It shouldn't be this way. But there is no alternative is there?

When it happened to Howard Dean, it was literally breathtaking. I'd never seen anything quite like the immediate and coordinated pile-on after the so-called Dean Scream. It was successful, but it didn't help Kerry in the General. Not a bit, not after the Swiftboating he was subjected to.

Meanwhile, Dean recovered quickly and used his electoral infrastructure to become chair of the Democratic National Committee -- something he probably couldn't have done if Kerry had been elected president in 2004.

Dean used that position to get Democrats actually elected (something the PTB was not keen on). He was so successful, he was dismissed the moment Obama was elected to the presidency.

Democratic electoral fortunes have been on a downward spiral ever since -- I believe by design..

Sanders is unlikely to use his political infrastructure in the same way.

But something will come of his candidacy, and it looks like it's got the Establishment scared out of their wits.

They can be nasty when they're frightened.

A little musical history to lift the mood?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Re: Medical Costs with Medicare Advantage

I haven't really got a handle on what all the tests and treatments I've had cost -- along with an ever-growing list of medications -- but it is a good deal more than I anticipated with a Medicare Advantage plan.

I've seen my co-pays go up 50% to 100% over the few years I've had the plan. As long as I'm not using it for medical care, it doesn't really matter how much the co-pays are, but once you start using it, some of the costs can be surprising, even shocking.

And yet, it seems like a lot of costs are very low, such as doctor visits with a $5 co-pay. Labs ordered by the doctor are no charge. Many medications have a very low co-pay -- $4 or so. But many others do not. I paid $100 co-pay for 10 days of antibiotic treatment for pneumonia, after paying $14 for a 5 day antibiotic treatment that didn't work. I have eight different prescription drugs to take indefinitely. Co-pays range from $4 a month to $45, so I'm paying a total of about $160 a month in medication co-pays. I know that some of these meds retail for a great deal more.

Once I get to see specialists, their visits will run $50 each, but pulmonary treatment -- which I may need due to chronic lung inflammation -- will be no charge except for medications, much as it appears RA treatment will be.

Medical imaging, such as CT scans, have a $300 co-pay. Hospital stays are $325 per day for the first 3 days. Beyond that, no charge.

There is a $3,400 cap on annual out of pocket costs for members -- which for me is manageable, but I know that for many seniors it's way more than they can reasonably afford. And yet, if they don't qualify for Medicaid and they don't have Advantage coverage or some other Medicare supplement, they'd be looking at potentially much higher costs.

Medicare is good, but it doesn't cover everything. Far from it.

Medicare Advantage has its good points -- and its surprises. One of the surprises is just how high some of the co-pays are. On the other hand, the cap on out-of-pocket costs keeps medical expenses within some bounds.

Ms. Ché has medical coverage through the Indian Health Service which means that for most services and medications she pays nothing. However, she used her Medicare Part D drug coverage to pick up insulin injection pens at the local pharmacy (since the IHS pharmacy in Albuquerque didn't carry them) and she was charged a $380 co-pay -- which was her annual deductible plus the regular co-pay for the pens. Come to find out later, though, that the pharmacy at the First Nations clinic she use carries the pens and they are provided to Natives at no charge. They had been prescribed at the clinic and were on hold for her pickup, but she didn't know that because no one told her. That's been one of the issues with the clinic -- inadequate communications. On the other hand, she's been able to see specialists for various medical issues, and she has undergone a number of tests and other procedures that ordinarily would cost thousands and she has had to pay only a very small charge. Right now, for example, she has a bill for $32 for a number of tests she had a couple of months ago.

In the end, they are both more complex than they need to be.

But at least it's something.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Banishing the Left -- So Called

An interesting phenomenon during these hectic Primary Wars (if that's what they are) is the ongoing attempt to banish the "left" as represented by Bernie's and some of Trump's policies which might be seen as meeting the needs the People.

Yes, some of Trump's policies (to the extent he is actually broaching policies) are considered leftist, even to the left of Hillary, approaching Bernie territory. Particularly when it comes to trade and employment and even now and then things like universal health care and so on.

Well, can't have that.

Bernie has been campaigning on what I would call "New" New Deal/"Greater" Great Society principles. They're practically antiques by now. Historic at any rate. They're not particularly leftist, or they are only considered to be "left" in the United States where rightist politics is so entrenched and NeoLibCon ideology is so triumphant anything that benefits people is seen as essentially communist, anti-American to the core, and deeply antithetical to the interests of the Ruling Class, Our Benevolent Overlords.

Hillary has been running on a theme of "No you can't!" from the get-go, and she seems to be doing well enough with it to capture not only the Democratic nomination but potentially the Presidency itself.

"No you can't!" It's gobsmacking. Is that what people really want? Or do they even hear it? Areha they even hearing her nay-saying? If they are, why do they accept it?

She's also running on a theme of "Go away you ingrates."

Yes well, that'll get her far.

On the other hand, Trump is running a similar sort of negative campaign focused on hate and fear of The Other. It's politically smart. You should never underestimate Americans' susceptibility to be duped by hate and fear. It's been a constant since the arrival of the first Europeans however long ago that was. So much of what's been wrong about the United States has been based in hate and fear of The Other. So much of what has been right about the US has been based in conquering hate and fear of The Other.

Stirring up passions of hate and fear has been a winning strategy for Trump in the Republican primaries, whereas "No you can't!" has paid off pretty well for Hillary on the Democratic side, though she's been sliding in the polls as Bernie's message of "Yes we can!" catches on. Trouble is there's no time left for him to catch up enough delegates for the Democratic nomination -- not that he ever could have got the nomination to begin with.

He couldn't. He absolutely couldn't. Our Rulers would not have allowed it. Under any circumstances. At all. Look what's happened in other countries where supposed Leftists have been elected; they've been kneecapped, removed by coup or other means, coopted, irrelevated, yadda yadda.

The point is that the dominant global political paradigm does not allow for the existence of effective and functioning leftist politicians, policies, parties, etc. The dominant paradigm posits Baroness Thatcher's principle: "There is no alternative."

Even as modest and mild a leftist as Bernie has been, he wouldn't be allowed anywhere near the levers of power, ever.

Meanwhile Trump is able to throw quasi-leftist bones out every now and again, bones on a string of course, a string he promptly reels back in, so he's allowed that.

That's truly as far left as the political class is allowed to go, however. Tease.

And effectively, the Left is banished from consideration, legitimacy, presence, or power.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Survival Notes... As It Were

Sometimes I feel like I'm in a strange stringy soup of one health crisis after another. It's a bizarre feeling, especially when I've got friends who insist that if I hadn't drank and smoked and whored around when I was young and believed myself to be invulnerable, I wouldn't be in this condition now.

Well, may-be, but I'm not convinced. It is something that certain preacher-men like to retail to their impressionable flocks, though -- as they drink and smoke and whore around the way they do.

I'm not in as bad shape now as I was a week or so ago, so there's that. I had a CT scan -- without the iodine dye which I'm deathly allergic to -- last Tuesday, and the extensive report came back very quickly:

There are two masses in my right lung that look like "chronic inflammation" and evidence of "moderate emphysema" in both lungs. I knew about the emphysema from a CT scan five years ago when I was suspected of having TB -- because of my pneumonia symptoms and because the flow chart showed I'd been to Mexico (except I hadn't, I'd been to New Mexico). It apparently hasn't gotten worse. Yay. I haven't smoked in almost 20 years, so at least I haven't been adding more tobacco smoke to my lungs. In fact, I can't stand to be around tobacco smoke any more.

I'm somewhat puzzled and intrigued by those "masses" however, It's possible they've been there all those years, too. But as I researched the chronic inflammation aspect, it turned out that that is actually a potential consequence of rheumatoid arthritis and/or other autoimmune conditions, as is indeed pneumonia. Oh.

So it's quite possible that the double whammy -- RA and pneumonia -- that I went through for the past couple of months was all of a piece, not separate illnesses that just happened to strike at the same time. And it's likely I will continue to be vulnerable...

OK. Getting used to this.

Or at least learning. Interestingly, my PCP suggested that the interim treatment for RA (prednisone) was contributing to the persistence of pneumonia as prednisone acts as an immunosuppressant. Interesting because a routine treatment for lung inflammation due to autoimmune conditions is... prednisone.

I guess finding the balance is the issue.

I asked for and received a prescription for "low-dose" prednisone, and it seems to be working out reasonably well. I no longer have pneumonia symptoms (yay!) and whatever pulmonary inflammation there is seems to be under control. The doctor prescribed inhalers -- which are complex to use, whoa -- for breathing difficulties, and now, in addition to follow up with a rheumatologist, I'll be seeing a pulmonolgist, too.

So. Moving right along...

But I loathe being ill.


Monday, May 9, 2016

When You Lie Down With Dogs

Is it time for hysterics and panic yet?

Seems that the elevation of Trump to be the Republican Nominee Presumptive has unleashed a veritable shitstorm of panic and dread on both sides of the political aisle -- because it seems the Party Apparatchiks and Nomenklatura of both the Dems and the Rs fear their chosen one, Mrs. Clinton, will not be able to withstand Trump's withering attacks and his rosy-orange public persona. And he might fucking get elected.

Really? I mean really?

Are they that freaked out by their own creation, or is this all just a game to stampede the masses into voting against their best interests (again) in order to stock the larders of the Highest of the Mighty and stoke the flames of Fear, Panic, and Dread just one more time before the inevitable Collapse?

Somehow, there's an element of unbelievability about all this hoo-hah over Himself, simply because Trump is one of the Oligarchs Who Rule the World, or at least he plays one on TV. He's been around for decades, Asshole of the Western World, repeatedly bankrupted Real Estate Mogul, finagler, deal maker/breaker, bully, freak, yadda yadda. Everybody knows him, everybody. He's like Schwartzenegger only worse.

Electing him to any office, let alone the Emperorship -- er, Presidency -- of the United States of America, (LLP), is absurdity on stilts. Yet here we are, with the distinct possibility of a President Trump in our future... who would have thought????

Of course we've been down this path before, haven't we? Sure we have. Schwartzenegger captured the governorship of California away from Gray Davis in one of the most ill-conceived political actions in my lifetime (and there have been many) when Davis was recalled mere months after an overwhelming electoral victory when he dared -- dared, I tell you! -- to let the vehicle registration fee rise substantially in order to help fund government operations. The nerve!

Schwartzenegger stood for election because he was convinced by some of California's Big Money Boys that he could do better than Davis, and that he was needed in the Capitol to fix what ailed the State of California. Of course that meant looting on behalf of his sponsors, but who cared? He was certainly decorative if not particularly functional.

Who cared that his reign was a failure -- a failure that led to much hardship and suffering, let it be known. Nobody liked Gray Davis, and he made some people's skin crawl, so having Schwartzenegger in the Corner Office was better all around. No?

No. But there are still those who think the presence of a Movie Star in office makes perfect sense.

After all, there was Reagan, wasn't there?

I'm old enough to remember when he was elected governor of California the first time, to the complete shock and dismay of the Establishment at the time. They couldn't believe it, oh no. The impossible had happened, though, and on January 1, 1967, Reagan was inaugurated according to Nancy's astrologer's prescriptions, and the dismantlement of Progressive California began.

Jerry Brown's father, Pat Brown, was stunned. Well, nearly everyone was stunned. Except for those who had voted for Reagan, those for whom the Status Quo had become intolerable.

Which happened to be a majority.

How could it be????

Well, it was easy to fathom, but nobody wanted to fathom it: racism and anti-student-privilege rose to the forefront of public consciousness thanks to progressive efforts at expanding civil rights, urban riots, and widespread student rebellion. Reagan promised to end these problems (once and for all?) and take care of all the other annoyances well-off (and would be well-off) white people in California were complaining about.

So it was.

Perhaps the greatest legacies of the Reagan Era in California were the destruction of public education (through the brilliant tactics of making higher education expensive and administering to death the academics of primary and secondary education) and the termination of public mental health services, leading to untold levels of homelessness and suffering.

That's what happened, and progressive California has not recovered.

It's possible Progressivism will never recover.

But that's another issue for another day.

What we're seeing now is a rerun of sorts, the elevation of a rich, wild, semi-buffoon to the highest office simply because it's possible to do so. Our system has some built in resistance mechanisms against too blatant capture by populists and/or oligarchs, but in the case of popular entertainment figures who sell themselves the way Trump has (a man of the people, no doubt) there is little or no functional systemic resistance. Too often they get elected and there is nothing -- or rather nothing legal -- the Establishment can do about it but yield.

That's what happened in California with both Reagan and Schwartzenegger, and if things turn out the way they've been going, it's what will happen with Trump. Washington has a far more illiberal governing system than California, and yet it yielded to Reagan when he was elected President (pretty much with relief, never having accepted Carter, the peanut farmer) just as it will most likely yield to Trump -- no matter how crazy -- when and if the time comes.

So long as he maintains a rightist populism and keeps the masses tame and entertained, what's the problem, right?

Clinton is in a total bind. She is no populist, and she is unlikely to become one during the remainder of the campaign. She is a rigid, no-nonsense elitist, the definition of the Establishment, and she and her surrogates have been going out of their way to court disaffected Republicans while hurling invective at Bernie Sanders supporters and ignoring or dismissing their interests.

You would think that this would be political malpractice on a massive scale, but apparently those who advise the Clinton campaign insist it's a winning strategy. I don't see it myself, but what do I know?

They've even taken a leaf out of Baroness Thatcher's playbook, touting the notion that "there is no alternative" to electing Clinton in the fall.


But "No you can't" is hardly a slogan I can get behind.

The institutional resistance could not prevent the Bush-Cheney regime from causing havoc. In fact, the institutions of government largely enabled the Bush-Cheney regime. I suspect those institutions would be even less effective against Trump. As long as he kept the masses distracted and entertained...

Much has been made of the apparent collapse of the Republican Party Establishment in the wake of the Trumpist Rebellion. There is a lesson there which apparently cannot be learned by the Establishment or the rebels on the (so-called) Left.

Of course, when the Rs lay down with dogs...

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Can the Democrats Pull This Out of the Fire? Do They Want To? Do They Care?

The election that I really wasn't much interested in this cycle is starting to look more promising. The question is for what, though?

It's clear enough that the Bernie phenomenon has put the fear of the Devil into the Hillary camp. That wasn't supposed to happen. Bernie's entrance and presence into the primaries was supposed to be nothing more than a footnote. Similar to O'Malley's. These two would be allowed to bookend Herself, but not at all to threaten her Victory. (There were other Democrats in the primaries for a bit, but I've forgotten who they were already, not being all that much interested in the Pageant at the outset.)

Well, Bernie surprised everyone, including himself. It seemed like no one knew beforehand that there was such a deep reservoir of resentment toward the Democratic establishment -- partly because no one "who mattered" was paying attention. Ah, power politics and how it works!

No, the People had been dismissed long before by the Powers That Be in both of the major political parties, and literally nothing the People had to say about much of anything was something the PTB believed they had to listen to. "Governing Contrary" to the public interest and the will of the People was ingrained in the System. There was -- and would be -- no alternative.

"No you can't." No, you CAN'T! NO, YOU CAN'T!!!!

That was Hillary's opening gambit, and she's pretty much stayed with it ever since. And it's honest. Honest for her, certainly. But an honest reflection of the attitude of the Establishment -- regardless of party -- toward the Rabble everywhere, expressed as directly and openly as you could want.

No. You. Can't.

It goes to the heart of the political system, its beliefs and its workings, and there is and can be no alternative for the Rabble. None. Ever.

This is the Neo-LibCon statement world-wide to anyone and everyone who wants something better. "You can't have it. You will never have it. There is no alternative."

Yes, well. Bernie upset that applecart. So did Trump. This wasn't supposed to happen.

More and more, I'm suspecting Trump is a ratfuck. His campaign was never intended to be real. Instead, it was supposed to be little more than a sop to the Other Side's Rabble, while preventing the emergence of a popular (not populist) Republican candidate in order to grease the skids for a Hillary Victory.

Yeah, it looked from the outset that both Party's establishments had chosen Hillary to be the next President, and they believed it would be a piece of cake to get her in. The rest would be Show Business.

But a spanner or two has been thrown in the works.

A lot of Hillary Haters simply cannot understand her appeal. Why, they wonder, would anybody vote for her given her obvious and notorious Evil?

To me, this is just silly. Her Evil is no worse or better than any other presidential contender's. The idea that she is somehow Uniquely Evil -- because she's a Clinton or something -- is ridiculous. She is what she is, and she's reached the level she has in US and Global politics because she's useful to the Powers she serves. She's also a known -- and generally respected -- quantity globally. She may not be all that popular when you get down to it, but she's popular enough at home and abroad.

People vote for her because they know her. That's the simplest way to explain it. There's a little bit of nostalgia involved, but it's mostly because they know her story very well, those old enough to remember the Clinton presidency followed it like a soap opera, and many expressed deep and abiding sympathy for Hillary that they've carried to this day.

So a "coronation" was not out of the question at all. It should have been easy, but it wasn't, an it may get even rougher. I have little doubt she can sustain herself no matter the onslaught, but it's not clear that her path to Victory is still open wide. It may turn into a real contest, and that would be something.

Let's be blunt. There was no way in Hell Bernie would be allowed to defeat Herself in the overall primary contest. None. Those who rule us have many, many ways to ensure that upstarts like Bernie are kept well away from the levers of power, oh yes. This is basic to the theories of Neo-LibCon primacy. Nothing and no one an ever be allowed to interfere with their rule, and anyone who seriously tries to shall be crushed with extreme prejudice.

But I don't think Bernie ever intended to be a serious challenge to the PTB or Hillary.

His intent was little more than to move her and her sponsors leftwards, on the premise that it would be better for everyone (including Hillary and her sponsors) to do so. Continuing the rigorous path of TINA and LibCon rule would be a disaster.

It was not difficult at all for Hillary and her sponsors to move slightly left in response to Bernie's hectoring, but oh my. He tapped such a reservoir of resentment on the part of the Rabble.

Just as Trump did on the other side.

And now what wasn't supposed to be looks possible.

Hillary could go down to defeat.

Oh. My.

Even Trump didn't expect that.

Flop sweat, panic and desperation is growing over the events of the last few months, and Our Rulers appear to be entering Defcon 4, preparing the bunkers, and holding their breath.

Uncharted waters ahead.