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.]

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Class That Stands Together

There may be a glimmering among the Rabble that not only is Trump no populist, he's a fairly accurate representation of his class. The class of billionaire oligarch/gangsters who set out to rule the world some decades ago and have nearly achieved ultimate victory.

It isn't talked about in class terms, not in the US at any rate, and that's too bad. These people rule us, they own the government, and they are bad news. They seek to steal everything they can from the masses, and provide just enough in return to keep the Rabble fighting over the scraps. Dog-eat-dog, survival of the fittest, yadda yadda.

You may note that for the most part the Overclass is silent about Trump -- or enthusiastically and actively supporting him. Almost none actively -- and openly -- oppose him and his rule. Instead, it's left to a shadowy "deep state" to hamstring and undermine him, neutering his worst impulses from time to time, but otherwise leave him be.

Why not? He provides endless entertainment that can be marketed to the Rabble, and as long as what he does or wants to do is confined to what the Overclass deems meet, what's to worry, right?

Trump was effectively neutered as President by the end of February. Apart from his twit-storms, he really hasn't been able to do anything on his own since. To say he's figurehead is being charitable. Government is delegated to his family and cronies and he can go golf. This is essentially how enterprises of the sort he's familiar with operate. The Jefe doesn't actually do much. He doesn't have to. He has people for that.

Interestingly, he's failed with the congress, he's been slapped down by the courts, the military seems to ignore him (and treats with his son-in-law instead, knowing where the "real power" behind the throne is), and the media makes mock of him day in and day out.

According to the polls, his popularity, never great, has collapsed. He is a king without a country.

However, and we should be clear about this, the Trump regime is being allowed to set precedent. A precedent that says that direct oligarchic rule is OK by The Powers That Be. The Rubes are too stupid to say otherwise.

In other words, what comes After Trump won't be much different. Style wise it may be less tawdry, but substance? Pretty much the same.

The US is now over the notion that someone who knows what they're doing should be in charge. As long as the class of the Rulers is Ruling Class, Overclass, Oligarch-gangster, it's OK. Whatever.

The Rabble is to be barred forever more from the levers of power. Even the professionals and experts are to be barred from the halls of the Mighty until they are vetted for loyalty first and foremost.

What will be will be.

I long ago pointed out that if the Revolution ever comes to the US, it will come from the Right. And so it is. We're in the midst of it.

Ultimately, Trump himself is not the issue. It is the class he represents, the class that's seized power and intends to rule directly for ... eternity?

The Left, such as it is, appears to have given up on the US some time ago. The Left has been almost entirely absent from politics in the US since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and even before that, it was weak and ineffective.

So Democrats have been cast as "The Left" -- but they're nothing of the sort. They are little more than the somewhat less brutal rightist party. For a time, Libertarians tried to claim the "Left" mantle, but it didn't work. Their key concept -- "I demand the liberty to impose my authority on you, without government interference" -- is hardly a Leftist notion.

If there can be no Revolution from the Left, the question will be how to survive the shitstorm brought to us by the Oligarch-gangster class. Combined with climate change and everything else, it should be clear by now the Rabble is in for a world of hurt, unrelenting and increasingly cruel.

What a whirled...




Monday, April 3, 2017

"Zoot Suit"

The current revival of Luis Valdez's "Zoot Suit" in Los Angeles has turned into quite a phenomenon, as if something has been brought back from the dead, still a little musty maybe, but thrilling as heck to see and hear, reanimated, again. ¡Que Viva!



The video is a high school production in Monterey, CA in 2008. I'll have more to say about it later.

I had to brush up my 'Chuco slang (Caló) because I didn't think I remembered much, but I was surprised in the end at how much I did remember, including being called a bolillo or even a weddo once or twice. Well, I'm white, tending toward unnaturally pale sometimes. What can I do?

I grew up -- at least until I was ten years old -- among Chicanos, Filipinos, African Americans, immigrants from Europe, Asia, Latin America, some Natives mixed in -- some of whom were Pachucos or would be 'Chucos --  and I've always felt a kinship to the people and the culture. It's not mine, and I make no claim to it, but it is a comfort nonetheless.

El Teatro Campesino in San Juan Bautista was a big thing when I started working in theater in Central California in the early '70s, and there was plenty of farm worker resistance and agitation throughout the state. It was difficult at the time, however, to integrate the campesino back-of-the-truck morality and experimental plays Luis Valdez and his troupe were doing primarily for the farm workers (anybody could attend, though) with the Shakespeare and standard musical theatre offerings we were churning out by the great-gross, with the occasional Chekhov and Ibsen and Strindberg and whatnot for "diversity." (Seems so funny now...) So while we knew about Teatro Campesino, and some of us had seen their works, we couldn't do them in our repertory.

That changed (somewhat) when Luis was commissioned by the Mark Taper Forum (Center Theatre Group?) in Los Angeles to create a Hispanic play for a broad audience. I think it was in 1976 or 77. Hispanic was considered exotic as heck. Luis didn't disappoint. The result was "Zoot Suit," a ground breaking theatrical exploration of Pachuco culture during WWII, the Sleepy Hollow murder and subsequent trial and conviction of numerous Chicano youth and the "Zoot Suit Riots" that followed.

"Zoot Suit" exposed the deep seated prejudice against Mexicans in California and throughout the Southwest, and it demonstrated the "cool" and the strength of Pachuco culture even as it was being violently suppressed during World War Two.

I remember zoot suits and 'chucos and all that from my childhood, but just how I knew about them, I can't say anymore. In Los Angeles, some of our neighbors were Mexican or Mexican-American, and my mother's closest friend was a woman named Ignacia who lived in Chavez Ravine until they were thrown out so the City Fathers could build Dodger Stadium. Were they the source of my memories? I don't know. Maybe.

I don't recall whether I saw "Zoot Suit" onstage. It wouldn't have been at the Mark Taper. I only saw a few things in Los Angeles in the Seventies (one I do recall was the "Rocky Horror Show," featuring Tim Curry at the Roxy on Sunset Blvd.) But I may have seen it later in either San Juan Bautista or in San Francisco. I know I have met Luis at least twice in my wanderings, in Sacramento and San Juan.

The video above of the high school production in Monterey evokes many memories for me, so I feel I must have seen the stage version of "Zoot Suit" but where and when, I can't remember. The  production is rough, of course, but it's high school students, and it's remarkable for what they were able to accomplish. Luis Valdez apparently advised on the project and thought highly of it. This story in the Monterey Herald gives a fuller picture about the production than I can here. Some of the commentary on the YouTube video is harsh -- because the play isn't like the movie (no, no it isn't; the play is different, sheesh) or because the actors aren't all raza (no, they aren't; but they don't have to be, and some of them probably shouldn't be, eh esé?)

When Ms Ché was young, she said she was forbidden to use terms like "pachuco" and such -- probably because they were dangerous. Prejudice was strong in California -- in many areas it still is -- and it wasn't considered worth the trouble to get the Anglos upset. Well, not until César Chavez and the Farm Workers Movement overturned many long-standing California discriminatory practices. As we got to know more Chicano artists and writers, "'chuco" lost its taint.
Dolores Huerta was honored Saturday at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque. She's a survivor from the campesino days, no doubt about that, and she is a magnificent presence, an abulelita you don't mess with. She talked of what's been gained and what still needs to be gained. (Oh so much.) During the presentation that I heard on the radio while stuck in traffic over Sedillo Hill on Saturday (there were snow flurries, oh my!) music from "Zoot Suit" was played (sounded like both live and recorded pieces.) That's part of what brought all this to mind. They didn't identify the music as from "Zoot Suit" -- but I recognized it. So my memory isn't completely shot. Not yet!

Que rico.

¡Que viva!

Deleted guero (weddo) zoot suit dance scene from 1943 movie, "I Dood It" featuring Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra.



The Zoot Suit Riots were in the summer of 1943. Thus the deletion of this number from the movie.

[Note: the necessary and continuing farmworker struggle is another topic for another day.]


Saturday, April 1, 2017

1917

1917 was the year that my mother, her mother, and her step-father came out to California from Indiana, changing their lives and future forever.

My mother said she remembered very little about her natural father -- or Indianapolis, for that matter -- but as I've written elsewhere, after doing a lot of research, I don't think she remembered her biological father at all. He was gone from Indianapolis, establishing a new life and family in St. Louis, by the time my mother was two years old. She could have had some vague memory of him, I suppose, but it's not likely. Also, her mother sued my mother's father for divorce in the summer of 1912, when my mother wasn't even a year old. The parents were not living together at the time and it's possible they never lived together as man and wife.

I always thought that Leo, the man who became my mother's stepfather, was Irish-American, but in fact his grandparents were German. I'm pretty sure my mother thought he was Irish, too. Maybe he pretended to be Irish for the hell of it. "Passing" as it were.

Leo was definitely a romantic, and he must have believed that something wonderful was inevitable. He worked as a machinist in Indianapolis, but when he went out to California, he worked as a mechanic at the Dodge Brothers dealership in Santa Maria -- after a brief sojourn in Santa Ana, the end of the line for the railroad that brought him and my mother and her mother to California. Leo and Edna (my mother's mother) were married in Santa Ana in October of 1917. Edna stated on her marriage certificate that she was a widow. Leo claimed it was his first marriage, but I've found records that suggest he was married before in Kansas City where he lived for about ten years, married, if he was married, to a woman who died in an asylum in 1921. I found no record of a divorce, and it is possible he was still married to her when he married Edna in Santa Ana. Which would be ironic as hell, since my mother's biological father had another wife and family in St. Louis when he was killed in that rail yard incident. We won't even get into my mother's grandfather, shot and killed by his mistress when he threatened to leave her...

As far as I can tell, Leo did very well for himself and his family in California. He became the service manager at the dealership, he was able to buy a nice bungalow a few blocks from the shop shortly after he started work, he had a car of his own, and my mother said he always provided very well for her and her mother. All of this would have been almost impossible had they stayed in Indianapolis among the suffering and seething working class.

But sometime in the early '30s Leo quit his job at the dealership and bought a filling station which he ran profitably for a while. He sold that and bought a motor court cum filling station in Willits on the Redwood Highway which he operated until 1939 when he sold it in order to invest in a "mine" in Nevada -- a phony mine as it turned out. He lost everything, and I think he just barely escaped going to jail for fraud, though it didn't appear that he knew that the partners in the mining operation were engaged in swindling their marks, chief among them Leo.

Leo and Edna returned to California in 1941, where he went to work at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard building Liberty Ships for the War. Edna was sick with the cancer that would shortly kill her. Leo himself died in 1945, still working at Mare Island.

1916 was the year that started this sequence. My mother's father had been killed in a rail yard incident in St. Louis in December of 1916 -- actually just before Christmas. His funeral was on December 23. My mother said she remembered going to his funeral (she was five) but she never mentioned St. Louis. I think she "remembered" all of this happening in Indianapolis. She never mentioned the trip to California, either, but she had strong memories of living in Santa Maria from a very early age -- she was still only five years old when they arrived.

She considered herself a California girl for the rest of her life  -- even though she was born in Indianapolis. She never really wanted to live anywhere else, and if she'd had her druthers, she'd have stayed on California's Central Coast the rest of her life.

1917 was the year the US entered WWI, and although I only heard about that  from my father -- he was a junior officer on the Home Front in Iowa during WWI -- I think the War was a critical element in the decision of Leo and Edna to move to California. The opportunities were greater on the West Coast, or seemed to be.

It was a risky move as I doubt Leo had a job lined up before the departure from Indianapolis. But what did it matter? There would be plenty of opportunities once they got there. And so it was to be.

Dumb luck? I don't know.

At any rate, he did well, and he would have been wiser to have stayed in his position rather than going out on his own with his filling stations and disastrous mining adventure. But I can imagine his romanticism informed his vision. He couldn't believe he could fail.

Of course I didn't know either Leo or Edna, let alone my mother's father, as they had all passed on by the time I was born.

In fact, all my grandparents were dead by the time I was born. At the time, it was a fairly unusual situation, as nearly everyone had grandparents. I didn't.

Not having the anchor of grandparents -- among other things -- has helped differentiate my point of view from that of many people who did have grandparents. I see and experience things somewhat differently than most people, and I always have.

1917 -- and WWI -- are considered the era when the US "came of age." That is another topic for another day, but I would agree there's something to it. Given the devastation in Europe and the creation of the Soviet Union, the impending collapse of the global economy and the breakup of the European Imperial Projects, the role of the US in world affairs had to change. It did. We thought for the better, but recent events -- say, over the last 60 years or so -- bring that into question.

We (collectively) seemingly aren't better at all. In fact, many of our collective worst aspects are on display. There's little or nothing "good" about it. And our model is being adopted widely.

I don't know that Leo learned his lesson with the collapse of his mining venture, My mother had nothing good to say about him afterwards, but I didn't know him, so I have nothing to base an opinion on. The indications prior to the collapse all seem positive, so whatever happened afterwards I think would have to grow out of that.

Much the same can be said for the US -- many, many positive indications that go haywire toward the end.

We'll see.

[Note: this post has been difficult for me to write,  not so much for the topic as for the continuing problems I'm having with my condition. For the last week or more, I've been experiencing an RA "flare" that has been very painful and debilitating, and has been devilishly difficult to control. All part of the disease they say....]

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Plowing Toward Defeat

The health care "repeal and replace" fiasco follows on any number of other failed efforts by the White House and the Trump Regime to force this or that policy or action.

Politifact has been tracking the "progress" of  Trump Regime policies and promises, and it's interesting to see what is moving forward -- however haltingly -- and what is stalled or abandoned. Most of Trump's efforts to fulfill campaign promises are effectively non-operative, but some are going forth.

The "Repeal and Replace" debacle is a spectacular failure, but the courts have thwarted the Muslim Ban (for now), the "Deep State" continues to undermine the Regime's authority, the Russia Thing continues to metastasize, the military seems to be going off on its own wreaking havoc in foreign lands without oversight by the White House, and so on. This is only part of what Chaos has wrought, and it is only the first 60 days of the Regime-in-Power.

My sense is that Trump and his boys and girls in the White House were effectively neutered during the last week of February. The courts would not yield to his Authority over the Muslim Ban, the signs were that the Health Care saga would result in defeat or at best a Pyrrhic Victory, the permanent government (the bureaucracy) was in open revolt, the media continued to taunt and in some ways to terrorize (I know, loaded term) the Regime, the polls were going south fast, and for all intents and purposes, Trump was checkmated. What he wanted, he could not have without the cooperation of the governing cliques, the media, the courts and the congress.

All of whom and more he had spent his political capital threatening, alienating, insulting, and denigrating.

This may work in the gangster real estate/casino framework Trump is used to, but it clearly doesn't work in government -- at least not beyond his loyalists in DHS/ICE/CBP. Hm. Who'd a thunk?

The Loyalist faction is interesting, too.

These elements have the potential to operate as a kind of Gestapo serving Trump's -- or someone else's -- interests, and that seems to be what they want to do. Very much so. I'd say their loyalty to Trump is ephemeral, but it is clear that they see their mission as political, forcing compliance with executive command.

What was wrought with the creation of these entities? We're finding out, aren't we? As long as their efforts appear to be focused on foreigners, brown people, non-conformists, what's to worry, right?

Not a wise attitude it seems to me.

Some of their efforts have been thwarted or mitigated by public outrage, but how long that will last is a question. The demonstrations can have an effect, but the returns are diminishing. There's only so much the Rabble in the streets can accomplish. Given our system, there's only so much they are allowed to accomplish, viz: Occupy, Black Lives Matter, NoDAPL, etc.

But something else is going on well outside the purview of the public; Trump is only being allowed so much rope -- apparently to hang himself. And he's doing a bang-up job of it, too.

Under the circumstances, it's looking more and more like he's headed for crash-and-burn defeat, sooner rather than later. Superficially, it may be entertaining as hell, but it's not good for the nation -- for it exposes so many of the weaknesses and worse in our system. We are not prepared to replace it with something better.

Until that time comes, we're in a world of hurt, regardless of who sits in the Big Chair.

What a whirled.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

On the Centenary of the Russian Revolution(s)

Yes indeed. This is the year of the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution(s) -- the first was in March that overthrew the Czar, the second was in October (November) that overthrew the provisional government and initiated the Soviet Union.

The anniversary is largely ignored in the USofA, but in Russia and much of the rest of the world, the Russian Revolution(s) are being closely studied and evaluated critically

In the US, there has been an ongoing obsession with supposed Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the revival of some sort of anti-"Soviet" propaganda to counter "Trumpism." This is beyond foolish as it has led to an even greater level of Fascist resurgence -- in the US and Europe particularly. WTF, indeed.

In light of what's going on, I would just post "October" -- Sergei Eisenstein's 10th Anniversary examination of the Revolutions of 1917.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Going Into Town

I've been driving quite a bit more than I ordinarily do these last couple of weeks. Last week was midterms at IAIA, and Ms. Ché was under the weather thanks to a bug she picked up somewhere, either at school or at the New Mexico Writers' Dinner she attended the week before midterms. She didn't want to take the bus, and I don't blame her. She has fairly long layovers in Santa Fe as there is no direct bus out to IAIA, and mornings especially were cold in town (not so much at our place, but they were cold up there.) She figured she'd get a chill and feel worse. So I drove her up the hill to the campus in the mornings and she took the bus back home (or on Fridays, a fellow student who lives in the next town over drove her back.)

The trips up to Santa Fe are difficult for me, although I'm not complaining. It's hard to breathe, even with oxygen, and that's the main thing. Consequences include exhaustion; after a drive up there and back, I'm pretty well spent for the rest of the day, though I try to accomplish some things at home. I have a whole list of things to get done, and I'm getting through it slowly, slowly, but I'm stunned at how far behind I'm am.

This week is Ms Ché's Spring Break, but this is the only time she has to deal with some of her own medical and dental appointments that she's been putting off because she has no time for them when classes are in session. She's carrying 18 units and her class schedule is tough -- even without a bus commute. Two more semesters, she says, and she should be done. We'll see!

So this week, I've been driving her into Albuquerque for her appointments, and while it's not quite so tough on me -- due to a lower altitude, I guess -- it's still draining, and that bothers me. I'm afraid I'll get so tired that my attention will suffer and I'll run off the road -- as so many truckers tend to do -- and that will be that.

So far though, it's been OK, so again no complaints.

We still don't have another vehicle, and even if we did, I'm not sure Ms Ché would want to drive more than occasionally. She was really traumatized by the wreck, and I wouldn't blame her if she didn't want to drive at all any more. She's been in a couple of other wrecks, but this one was the worst. Thank goodness for the airbags, even though they were the cause of most of her injuries. Had they not deployed, there's no telling how bad it might have been.

There are a couple of things delaying the purchase of another car.

One being my dislike of car shopping. I tend to put it off as long as possible. Lately I've been scouring internet listings, but every time I find something online that I'm interested in, it's gone by the time I'm ready to make contact with the seller. Yes, well. That's how it goes.

So I found this on Hemmings, and thought: Well, here's a car that won't disappear tomorrow!

1948 Studebaker
Not exactly a commuter car, but what fun, eh?

And that's the way I have to look at this situation. Well, not just this situation, but the whole panoply of WTF that we're all immersed in. Life itself is throwing us some interesting challenges, eh? Some we'll meet head on, but others require a more nuanced approach -- or none at all. Just let it go.

I have my own appointments in town next week, so the trips will continue at least for now. The old beat up Astro van which got us here from California is doing heroic work getting us from here to wherever, and we're lucky to have it on hand.

Soon it will be time to start tomatoes. I have Cherokee Purple seeds and starting trays and as soon as the weather turns reliably warm -- probably next week, though we'll no doubt get at least a couple more cold snaps -- I'll start the seeds. Hope to get quite a crop and share the plants with the Cherokee group in town.


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Note on What Condition My Condition Is In

Well, I don't rightly know. Still trying to find out. At least there's no sign of multiple myeloma which is what I was at the doctor for the other day. It's being monitored because of a blood abnormality due to rheumatoid arthritis and the medications I'm taking for it. But there is no sign that either one is leading to the development of multiple myeloma, so that's good.

My rheumatologist has been trying to get me in to see a pulmonary specialist at UNM to see if there is something that can be done about my pulmonary issues -- which seem to be worsening. This is the real danger of rheumatoid arthritis if it affects the lungs as in my case. Untreated, it causes interstitial lung disease, pulmonary fibrosis, which eventually but inevitably makes it impossible to breath and you die.

I am being treated, but I'm not sure the treatment is all that effective any more, and the doctor is concerned enough to want me to see someone who is specially trained to deal with what she says is a rare enough pulmonary condition that she has no expertise in treating it.

Well, that gets us into the medical insurance bureaucracy big time. I have HMO Medicare Advantage coverage, and I'm finding out just how limited it is. I cannot have treatment outside The Network without advance approval from On High. Getting that has literally taken months of back and forth between my doctor and On High. It's almost unbelieveable what has been going on. I got approval -- however.

When I tried to get an appointment at UNM, the first available they had was in June, which my rheumatologist says is too long a wait, and I would agree as I feel worse and worse practically every day.

So she's trying to get it moved up. But who knows?

Part of the issue has been the HMO pulmonologist -- who I've seen and who has been essentially useless. He says treat the RA and the pulmonary problems will be mitigated. The rheumatologist says, no, there are specific immunosuppressant treatments for interstitial lung disease caused by RA that are not generally used to treat RA itself, and she needs a competent pulmonologist to guide those treatments.

So.

We'll see.

The Russia Thing -- Out of Control

It's always struck me as bizarre that the Russia Thing -- whatever it's morphed into at the moment -- is the crutch the internal governmental "resistance" to Trump is leaning on. Why that? And why build Russia and Putin up into such Enemies?

The echoes of anti-Soviet propaganda campaigns have been strong all along, but never do we hear the answer to the question "Why?" Nor did we back in the day for that matter. It was just a Thing. We hated and feared the Soviets because we did. They were the Evil and we were the Good and that was that.

And we saw how silly, dangerous and bloody this scholarly concept was in the war in Southeast Asia, wherein the clash of Good v Evil led to the devastation of a whole region and the extermination of millions of innocents as well as combatants, and the supposed Evil won, only to transform itself into one of the US's economic allies in the region, and to prove itself to be far less Evil than the propagandists had us believe.

But then, the hippies knew it all along.

So here we are, far down the road to another contest with the Evil, this time in the person of Vladimir Putin and his iron fisted rule over the long-suffering Russian peasants. Is the Czar or the Party Chairman? It's hard to tell, given the fog of falsehood we are immersed in.

Of course he is neither, and Russia is no actual threat to the United States, nor to Europe, nor, in fact to any likely western target at all. And yet, here we are in the midst of another furious propaganda campaign making Putin out to be the Devil Himself, and the Russian Federation into the Greatest Enemy in History Since Hitler.

Why?

"Taking down" the Russian government and dismembering the Russian Federation for the pleasure and profit of western oligarchs has been a Thing within the government of the United States for a long time, at least since the publication of "The New American Century" in 1999 or whenever it was.

Just as the chaos in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa (much of the rest of Africa, too, but that's somewhat different) has been induced as partial fulfillment of the plans sketched out so long ago, so the demonization of Russia and Putin are part of ensuring US global hegemony.

China will have its turn once Russia is defeated and dismembered.

Of course it's a seriously daft plan, but oh well. It's apparently been burned into the skin and psyches of the US government's foreign operations with a hot iron. Immutable and unchangeable.

So it has been written. So it must be done.

Why?

Obama tried to change it and failed. Trump seems to have given up on changing it, if he ever intended to, but the fall out from trying has metastasized into the Russia Thing that bids fair to take down his entire regime, one at a time or in batches.

I have no love for this man and believe sincerely that he should not be president and his people should not be anywhere near the levers of US power let alone the nuclear launch codes. On the other hand, the anti-Russia full-court press (with the intent of controlling him or bringing down his regime) has never made any sense.

This long article at Politico "Trump Takes on The Blob" helps us see how the shift away from anti-Russia, anti-Putin (and other things) literally terrifies the permanent government (aka "The Blob") and I recommend it for perspective.

But what are they so afraid of?

BTW, there are so many echoes of the initial phases of the Reagan regime in this situation. It's déjà vu all over again.

What a whirled what a whirled.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Catching Up -- Sort Of

Been feeling pretty run  down lately. Have a doctor's appt. today and more coming up in an effort to get a handle on difficult to control rheumatoid arthritis symptoms that were responding well to medication and now are not. So, we'll see.

Consequently, I haven't been keeping up with events quite as much as I once did, and I haven't got all that much to say about the Chaos swirling around us. There isn't necessarily much we can do about it for all that we might rage at the clouds and such.

I've held up the Water Protectors at Standing Rock as examples of how we might approach what's going on in an effective manner, but the eviction and destruction of the camps and the continued construction of the pipeline belies that, doesn't it? In other words, the effort has failed, hasn't it?

Well, yes and no.

Yes in the immediate cause of preveniting the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, no in the sense of highlighting the issue and planting the seeds of resistance to the corporate state and its obsession with money and power all over the country.

In fact, Ms Ché is in the preliminary stages of working with some Standing Rock veterans planning an action against a pipeline in Oklahoma that is slated to cross the Trail of Tears. There are similar actions planned and under way all over the country. The Water Protectors are not going to win every struggle -- they know that -- but by keeping the pressure on, through their presence and their determination, they help those of us who can't do what they do see a way forward in the face of an increasingly militarized police state.

That seems to be what our rulers have in store for us now. From appearances, the Trump Regime and their allies in congress are depending on their loyalists in the police state to protect and defend them against the public outrage at their corruption and destruction of a decent society.

When Steve Bannon announced that their aim and goal was the "deconstruction of the administrative state" I took him at his word -- as should everyone. He's actually been rather clear about it for a long time. To most people, a statement like that is just gobbledygook, as the notion of an "administrative state" doesn't mean much of anything to them. Who or what is it?

Of course Bannon is not going to say in detail. He can't without provoking even more unrest and outrage than the Trump regime's actions already have.

The "administrative state" is anything that stands between direct rule by the oligarchy and the Rabble. That was easy.

Another term of art, shorthand, is "Clintonites." Anyone or any institution that tries to interfere with the oligarchic rule, any individual who stands in the way, any interest that does not align with the Trump regime is by definition "Clintonite," and is part of that "administrative state" to be deconstructed.

Whole swaths of the federal and state governments, as well as local and regional governments and compact would be subject to abrupt termination. Others, however, would be enhanced and given nearly free rein to enforce the rule of the oligarchs.

Indeed, that seems to be the plan, starting with the apparent free rein given to ICE and CPB to do as they wilt with regard to visitors, immigrants and deportees. The anecdotal stories coming out of these agencies are horrifying, but that's what's wanted of them. Scare the shit out of anyone who could become a target.

Once that's coordinated, it appears the next stage is to give free rein to the local and state police to do as they wilt with regard to "criminals" in their midst with the full backing of the Department of Justice, no matter how egregious their actions.

Then, of course, the real challenge begins. The coordination of the federal police and security forces completes the process of making serious and effective opposition impossible.

Once that's done, there is nothing to stand in the way of a full on purge and deconstruction of the "administrative state" at every level of government as well as within the private sector.

Ta-da! It would take less than a year and it is already under way.

The result? Not good, but perhaps unavoidable. There may be too much institutional support for taking this path to overcome it.

We'll see.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Water Protectors Retreat

I was able to watch a bit of what was going on at Standing Rock via Unicorn Riot's livestream yesterday, and I must say it was dispiriting on many levels.

The Oceti Oyate (formerly, Oceti Sakowin) camp had already been largely vacated and dismantled when the final eviction order was issued early in February. The issue of "clean up" came to the fore, with the authorities declaring anything that had been left in the camp was trash. Some clearly was, but much wasn't. Nevertheless, the bulldozers and skip loaders were sent in to "clear" the campground before the spring floods.

Of course they made a worse mess of things by churning up mud and destroying perfectly useful shelter and supplies.

Yesterday, the remaining Water Protectors lit the wooden buildings still standing on fire, in a ceremonial act. A few veterans and Water Protectors stood in the road confronting riot garbed police. For reasons unclear, the police attacked the unarmed Water Protectors, injuring several and arresting 9 or 10. Then they retreated behind their barricades saying they would leave the 50 or so remaining Protectors and veterans to their own devices, with the proviso that "clean up" would re-commence at 9am this morning. People on site at that time would not be subject to arrest unless they interfered with "clean up."

These are some of Unicorn Riot's videos from yesterday. Unfortunately, they missed a good deal of the action, particularly the police assault.

This is a link to Eric Poemz live video from the scene yesterday. He was apparently shot in the hip with a "rubber bullet" and arrested, along with several other independent media reporters. His arrest is documented at about the 2:57:00 mark in the more than 3 hour video.

Note: I despise Facebook, but for whatever reason, activists are devoted to it.

Truthdig live-blogged events yesterday. So there is that.

Some of the activists have moved to other camps nearby, but I've heard that they may be subject to eviction orders as well. Other Water Protectors have dispersed around the country, focused on the issue of... well, "Water Protection." Pipeline projects; contaminated municipal water systems; riparian and aquifer issues and so on.

I think I may have mentioned that the local municipal water system where I live doesn't meet federal standards for lead and other contaminants, so we don't drink it. Thousands of other municipal systems are in similar non-compliance, not just Flint's, but of course nothing (much) is being done about it.

The issue of water protection is not going away anytime soon, and it goes well beyond the specific matter of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Actions have been taking place all across the country and elsewhere, and they will no doubt continue until water protection really is taken seriously by those who rule us. So far, water is seen as a commodity for profit.

The Water Protectors and their allies made a stand in North Dakota. Hundreds were arrested, hundreds were injured, some permanently. They sacrificed their comfort and convenience and ultimately their well-being for a cause greater than themselves, and I commend them.

They showed that the State is the enemy of the People. Period. End of discussion.

So. What is to be done?

Pipelines will continue to be built. Water systems will continue to be contaminated. Profit seekers will continue to privatize access to clean water. That's how things are set up, and that's not going to change soon.

Nevertheless, the Water Protectors have highlighted just how screwed up the ruling paradigm is, and they have shown the way toward rectification. They didn't succeed in North Dakota but they showed how to succeed over time. It's a long struggle back from the brink, but if no one tries, they will never succeed.

Sustained opposition to what's wrong, positive envisioning of what's right, sacrifice, prayer, and determination all enter into the process of rectification.