Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Evidently Grenfell Tower Was Unsafe for Habitation

There is a kind of panic in Britain right now due to the Grenfell Tower fire and what it has exposed about the high rise buildings (4,000 of them I'm told) used for "social housing" all across the UK.

Many have exterior cladding supplied by the same company as that which supplied cladding for the Grenfell Tower, cladding which undoubtedly contributed to the spread of the fire on the exterior of the building.

It's puzzled me why the fires burned so fiercely inside the flats, however, and why so many people were unable to escape.

Supposedly, these buildings are constructed to confine fire to individual flats. Fire shouldn't be able to spread like it did at Grenfell, even if the exterior cladding is combustible. Or so you would think.

But other factors appear to have been involved that ensured the building lit up like a torch, inside and out, within minutes of the flames first being spotted on the outside -- which was itself within minutes of extinguishing a "fridge fire" in a fourth floor apartment.  As far as I can tell, that fire was caused by a shorted out refrigerator plug, but I'm not entirely sure because I've seen no details of just what set off that fire.

Other factors include wiring within the flats that may have been "illegal." Wiring and positioning of plugs was of particular concern according to the residents' association. This may have contributed to the "fridge fire."

In addition, new-ish gas piping was exposed throughout the building, though promises had been made to box it in with fire resistant materials. Some of that boxing had been accomplished, primarily the vertical runs in the stairwell (singular) but there were exposed gas pipes running to each flat near the ceilings in the hallways on each floor. Some residents who escaped said they heard explosions and saw blue flames emitted from these pipes as they fled the building.

Finally, there was only one stairwell for escape; once the upper floors were involved in the fire, there was no way to reach it or use it. Most of those on the  upper floors were trapped with no way out.

Some died in the stairwell from smoke and fumes.

There were no fire sprinklers in the building because they were not considered necessary due to construction that was supposed to isolate and confine fires. There may not have been interior fire hoses (not entirely clear). Residents stated there were no building-wide fire alarms, and residents themselves went door to door to warn of the approaching fire.

Residents also stated that the window frames were vinyl and melted in the heat of the exterior fire which allowed the flames to enter flats from the outside.

Given all these factors, the building was manifestly unsafe for habitation, unsafe in part because of recent "improvements" -- such as the combustible cladding and the exposed gas piping. It was a torch waiting to be lit.

How many other social housing towers in Britain are like this is anyone's guess, but at this point, every building whose cladding has been tested has failed. There are said to be 600 + buildings across Britain with suspect cladding; not just housing but schools and hospitals as well. Almost all of them -- of course -- serve the less well off.

How many of them also have hazardous or "illegal" wiring? How many of them have exposed gas pipes?

How many of them have only one stairwell exit that becomes unusable in a fire?

How many of them have vinyl window frames that will melt in a fire?

How many of them have no fire alarms, no interior sprinklers, no interior fire hoses?

In other words, how many of them are as manifestly unsafe as Grenfell? Why in the name of all that's holy were people living (and then dying) in Grenfell, and what will be done about all the other unsafe buildings people are living in?

According to reports, thousands of residents have been told to leave their tower blocks while "safety repairs" are undertaken. Some are resisting as people will do under the circumstances. Reports indicate that ultimately hundreds of thousands of people may be displaced, schools and hospitals closed, and so on, as the extent of the cockup and the fire hazards become better understood.

From the beginning, though, I've suspected that there was a deliberate intent, if you will, behind the suddenly discovered fire hazard. The cladding was known to be combustible but it was used anyway because it was a little bit cheaper than comparable less combustible cladding. The exposed gas pipes were hazardous on their face, and promised to enclose them were not kept in a timely fashion. The building was designed with only one stairwell, too bad if residents couldn't make use of it to escape.

In other words, the hazards were known, the failure was built in, and in a sense the tragedy was meant to happen, an inevitability given the unwillingness of The Powers That Be to ensure the safety of the residents. Those who say it was murder have a point. At the very least it was negligent homicide.

And given the way these sorts of things have devolved in the past, nothing will be done to improve the situation for the victims. But quite a few people will see their power enhanced and their wealth improved from "trying."

What have we done to deserve this?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Bill

Yesterday I got a more comprehensive bill for Rituxan infusion treatment that makes somewhat more sense than the previous summaries and payment demands.

Yes, it is criminally expensive treatment, far more expensive than I was told it would be, more than $46,000 vs $4,600, but what's billed and what's paid are completely different things, and as far as I can tell, the $46,000+ figure billed is nonsense, a place-holder at best, a figment of imagination mostly.

The more comprehensive bill (which says "This is not a bill" just to keep me on my toes) includes all the labwork and the preliminary medications (in case I had a reaction) and the various "pushes" to get the Rituxan into me. It includes the charges for all of this and how much the "Plan" paid for various things. Interestingly, the "Plan" paid nothing for most of it, and I will have no co-pay for it either.

Well, that's a relief, right?

But all these charges add up to get to the $46,000+ figure, and it looks to be little more than bill-padding. Something that has a long and inglorious history in the practice of medicine.

Where it gets interesting is the charge for Rituxan itself.

I thought that 5mg were being administered each time I had the infusion, but according to the bill ("This is not a bill") it was actually 50mg, and each time I had the infusion, the charge for Rituxan was $21,202.

For 50mg.

Whoo.

However. The "Plan" allowed $9,492 for Rituxan and paid $8,543, leaving me with a 10% co-pay for the drug each time, or $949, which adds up to $1,898.

And literally, that is all I am being billed for. Everything else is covered by the "Plan."

Well, who knew?

Obviously those who tried to find out for me didn't and couldn't.

We'll see what the charge actually ends up being when all is said and done. While Ms. Ché and I have too much income to qualify for Medicaid, our income is low enough (so I understand, but who knows) to qualify for financial assistance from the hospital, and I've applied for that. According to what I've been told, if the application is approved, the co-pay/cost sharing will be cut in half.

We'll see.

Nevertheless, I'm stunned at the cost for 100mg of Rituxan. It's outrageous, beyond belief truthfully, yet I'm sure there are plenty of drugs on the market which I don't know about that cost quite a bit more.

We know PhARMA has zero social conscience, but still, my question is why do "Plans" pay these outrageous amounts? How much mutual back scratching is built in to this system? Who benefits? Who ultimately pays?

And what can we do about it?

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Economics of Chronic Illness

Our income is too high to qualify for Medicaid, but if we could, Ms. Ché and I would receive rather strictly rationed care for our conditions at no out of pocket cost -- or very little cost -- to us.

Our conditions (she with diabetes and a number of chronic conditions that come from it; me with RA and a number of complications) are rather startlingly expensive to treat, starting with medications which, if we had to pay rack rates for them would run about $4,000 a month. Her's run approximately $1,200 a month at full price, mine around $2,800.

Thankfully, we don't pay that. She gets hers at no charge from IHS, and even though I am now in the Medicare Part D donut hole, my meds are expected to cost me only $600 or $700 a month until my total drug spending for the year tops $3,700 which will then trigger catastrophic coverage (how reassuring) which I understand will mean I receive future medications at no out of pocket charges -- though I'm not entirely sure about that. Co-pays before reaching the donut hole usually ran $10 to $45 a prescription.

My most expensive medication is mycophenolate; hers is insulin. Mycophenolate is prescribed to control my ILD (interstitial lung disease, ie: pulmonary fibrosis) caused by RA -- which is not to say I don't have other lung problems thanks to years of smoking cigarettes (stopped about 20 years ago).

In the original capsule form I was taking it, mycophenolate was running about $900 a month at full price. My doctor changed to tablet form when I told her how much it cost, and that's running about $500 a month  I think (I haven't got a complete statement yet). The other medications I take for RA and other issues run another $2,300 or so a month. Wow. That's for nine other prescriptions.

Then there are the infusions which are supposed to control or even suppress the RA to the point where I go into complete remission. So far so good. I've had two infusion treatments, the last one a month ago, and since then, I have had only minor joint pain and discomfort, and as a rule, whenever the pains come on, they self-correct within minutes or an hour. It's remarkable compared to what I was going through -- days of intense pain week after week that apparently nothing would abate apart from -- on occasion -- heavy duty opioids which I'd rather not take. (Gee, ya think???)

Shall we talk about the cost of the infusion treatment? Sure, let's talk about it.

I just got the bill for the infusions in May: total is $46,583 for the two infusions (and I may have to do this again in six months.) Most of the cost -- $42,562 -- is for the Rituxan (I think I received 5mg of the specific drug in an IV drip each time.)

I'm.... stunned.

This is literally ten times what I was told the treatment would cost.

I'm flabbergasted. Who wouldn't be? My co-pay -- at this point, as adjustments are still possible -- is $1,898, whereas I was told it would be between $500 and $900 depending on how much "insurance" paid, and it was possible there would be no co-pay at all if "insurance" picked up the whole bill.

Insurance being a Medicare Advantage plan. OK then.

$46,583 for 10mg of Rituxan. It seems to be working, so I'm not complaining about that, not at all. But the cost? What the Feuk?

This is a cancer drug that is used for RA in particularly difficult cases (such as mine) that aren't responding well or at all to more conventional treatments. What happened in my case was that my rheumatologist tried a variety of "standard" treatment medications, and they all ultimately failed. For the three months leading up to the infusion treatments, I was experiencing repeated RA flares, essentially every week, each one lasting five days or more, during which I had terrible, debilitating joint pains which none of my usual medications seemed to control. I wound up in the ER due to sciatic pain which was alleviated with a muscle relaxant. But the RA issue remained, and doing something outside the usual treatment seemed to be required.

I agreed to the infusions because my rheumatologist seemed to have run out of options. My condition was clearly getting worse, and medications weren't working.

So. Infusion it was to be. I asked about cost a number of times, and it was difficult to get a straight answer. It all depended on factors that couldn't be known in advance. Ultimately, I was told that the standard rate for treatment was $4,600. How much I would be liable for would depend on how much "insurance" paid, which could vary between 90% and 100% depending. So I should be liable for no more than a $460 co-pay, and I could conceivably owe nothing.

Well, that's not even in the same ball park with what I was billed. Not even remotely.

First, of course, the treatment cost is not $4,600, it's over $46,000 which -- if it was known --  was concealed from me and apparently from the nurses and patient advocates I was trying to get information from.

Second, "insurance" has paid nothing toward the cost. Instead, there was an unexplained "adjustment" of $44,584, which is how my co-pay of $1,898 is arrived at.

What I suspect is happening here is that -- like so many other hospital billing practices -- the hospital is presenting an absurdly high initial bill for payment by "insurance." I was told the initial bill would go to Presbyterian Senior Care which would then bill Medicare for my treatment, and the amount I would be charged would depend on how much Medicare paid. But that doesn't seem to be the case.

In fact, nothing I was told seems to be the case.

At least at this point, it doesn't appear that "insurance" is involved at all, and I am being charged the "patients'" rate for treatment as if I'd come in off the street. But I don't know that that's the case because the billing practice is so opaque, and nobody seems to be able to penetrate it.

This is a very strange way to engage in economic practices, but it seems to be universal in the health care industry. It works for them. More or less. But it doesn't work for anybody else. It wasn't meant to, was it?

I'm not sure how to proceed at this point. I was talking to a friend yesterday who came over to pick up some tomato plants. The issue was, "Do I feel better?" I do, much. Pain is almost completely gone, and that counts for a LOT. Compared to where I was before I started Rituxan infusions, it's night and day.

Therefore: "whatever they charge is 'worth it', no?"

Pretty much.

Just wanted to get some of this down before I forgot.

UPDATE: I got a detailed breakdown of charges and who pays what today. I'm still going over it, but it makes somewhat more sense (well...) and I'll try to get into it in another post.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Medical Care Boondoggle Continues

It's become almost impossible to sort through the charges and countercharges being leveled over Obamacare and the efforts to "repeal and replace" it with something is "better" by making things worse for millions upon millions of Americans.

What is wrong with these people?

The fact is that Obamacare is widely disliked for its absurd complexity and -- for many users -- sky high costs for premiums and deductibles. For some users, it's been a godsend, and that should be acknowledged. The fact is, many of those people will lose coverage and access to healthcare that arguably keeps them alive should the current Trumpcare proposals be enacted. Tough luck suckers, this is making America great again, don'tchaknow.

The problem, of course, is that Trumpcare is just a crueler version of Obamacare, and given their druthers, Americans don't want either neoLiberal boondoggle.

They want universal coverage and universal access to healthcare, paid for like they do almost everywhere else, through taxes.

"Medicare for All" is one way to do that.

But our political class on both sides of the aisle avoid that obvious solution like the plague. They will not consider it.

Absolutely will not consider it.

This is yet another example of the rulers deliberately governing contrary to the public interest and the popular will in order to serve the special interests of well-connected campaign donors, lobbyists, and would-be Royals.

Voting has little or no effect on that constant condition.e

Trumpcare, the current Republican version of neoLiberal Obamacare, makes health insurance and health care matters demonstrably worse for tens of millions of Americans, and it does so consciously and deliberately while preserving the basic structure and mechanisms of Obamacare.

Bizarre? Well, no. It's what these people do. Once they have an idee fixethey stick with it till the bitter end, and even then... Look at the endless wars. Same thing.

And the electorate cannot -- generally speaking -- affect the situation in any way.

We are stuck in a loop.

No way out.

Or is there?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

OT: Another Cousin Emerges

My my.

Yesterday, I was contacted by a woman who said she was the great-grandaughter of my mother's father. I'm sure there are more than a few of those around, but this one was interesting because she was descended from the son of a young girl (she was then 16) who gave birth in an unwed mother's home in Indianapolis the same year my mother was born (1911).

My mother's biological father was listed as the father of the boy named Virgil. My mother's name was Virginia (a feminine form of Virgil.) Later on, my mother's (and Virgil's) father would sire a daughter named Helen.

Seems to me he must have been fascinated by Virgil's Aeneid for some reason. Yet something else to find out about. I could make up stories...

Meanwhile it turns out this new cousin has been to Indiana to do research on the mystery-father of her grandfather Virgil, and she says she made discoveries in the state archives she'd like to share.

That'll be fun, and no doubt it will... modify....what I thought I knew about our mutual ancestor.

My my.



Monday, June 19, 2017

Is It Getting Real Yet?

I've been pondering the Grenfell Tower fire in London as possible arson, or a deliberate "let 'em burn" incident.  Once I saw that many/most of the residents and victims were of the Muslim persuasion, I couldn't shake the idea that somehow the fire was revenge for the Manchester incident and the London Bridge incident.

I've seen Teresa May on the teevee stumbling and bumbling through her talking points, points which she repeats by rote no matter what the question is. That says to me she knows something she dare not state. She's too frightened to state it.

Or something.

The Grenfell Tower fire was awful but very evocative too. It reminded me of the World Trade Center fires after the planes hit in 2001; it reminded me, too, of the Odessa Trades Union House massacre in 2014.  Both were deliberate -- and opportunistic.

They were meant to inspire fear and terror, which they did. But they took advantage of weaknesses and unknowns to full effect as well. Did the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks know that the World Trade Center buildings would collapse causing far more damage, death and destruction than if only parts of the buildings had burned but the rest had remained standing? I doubt it. But they knew how to take full advantage of the situation.

The cause of the fire at the Union House in Odessa is pretty well understood; the mob outside was using Molotov cocktails which started a number of small fires inside and outside the building. It is said that those holed up inside also had access to and used Molotov cocktails against the mob outside.

Somehow, it's not exactly clear how, one or more cans or barrels of gasoline or other petroleum in the lobby of the building exploded sending fire up the stairwell, incinerating dozens of people.

The effect of the fire was to shut down the Odessa resistance to the Nazi coup in Kiev. Worked like a charm by taking advantage of fortuitous circumstances. I doubt the mob outside the Trades Union House in Odessa had any idea they would be able to spark such a level of death and destruction inside. But once they did, they made the most of it.

And so it goes.

Which is why I wonder about the Grenfell Tower fire in London. There had been a number of attacks, after all, against soft targets in London and Manchester, leading to several dozen deaths and injuries. These attacks were said to be the work of "ISIS" or whatever the most current iteration of Islamic Terror is. While the death toll and destruction was quite low comparatively speaking, and in each case the perpetrators were dispatched (either self-dispatched or shot by police) the incidents inspired an enormous level of shuddering terror in the British public -- which I assume they were intended to do.

It has become the custom to take revenge after a terrorist attack against targets in the West. But in the case of the recent British attacks, there was no one to take revenge against.

The pent up rage could easily lead to something like the Grenfell Tower fire or to what appears to have been an attack by van on Muslims worshiping in North London last night.

Tit for tat, don't you know?

Of course I don't know that's what's going on, but that's what it feels like.

There have been any number of relatively small scale attacks on Muslims in this country. Some of it is just silly, like the recent March Against Sharia. But some of it is deadly, too -- such as the apparent murder of a Muslim girl in Virginia.

Trump and his minions opened the Pandora's Box of violence against the Designated Others (including Muslims) during the campaign last year, and we are witness to or victims of the consequences. Random acts of violence which had been routine are becoming focused on certain targets.

Nothing quite like that had been common in Britain, though the Brexit campaign had opened a Pandora's Box of violence against the Other there as well. Thus, something like the attacks we've seen -- tit for tat in a way -- was almost inevitable, and so was something like the Grenfell Tower fire (even if it wasn't deliberate.)

This sequence of violence is far from over. I see no desire among Our Rulers to end it in any case. What they want, of course, is protection for themselves. The rest of us, as far as they're concerned, can disappear tomorrow and they wouldn't care.

Is it getting real yet?

More to come, no doubt.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Do We Need A Regent?

The Queen and Prince  William and Jeremy Corbyn all visited warmly with the Grenfell Fire survivors in London.  Teresa May went hop and skip to visit with the first responders on Thursday -- avoiding the survivors like the plague they are -- and on Friday made a non-public appearance at one of the shelters for the Grenfell evacuees which she scuttled out of promptly to the jeers and catcalls from protesters and survivors in the street. "Coward! Murderer!"

Well.

I bring this up to show the completely different approach to calamity displayed by those who hold power (such as May, Trump, et al) and those who show simple human decency in the face of calamity (Corbyn, The Queen, are there any American examples under the age of 90?)

As Trump continues to stumble badly in his role as president, he seems to revel in hurting people as much as he can with as limited powers as he has. And ignore pretty much everyone else. This appears to align well with Teresa May's conservative position in the UK. One has power, apparently, so as to cause harm to or ignore the many while protecting and defending the few.

The assertion is often made by his defenders that Trump hasn't done anything "bad" so far, so it's "too soon" to criticize him. Of course, it's horseshit and has been nothing but that since the defense was offered during the campaign.

The idea is that he doesn't have a history. Somehow he sprang from Zeus's brow apparently, with no past to point to. His gangster behavior in real estate is forgotten, just like his behavior as a tv host. The fact that he's been in the public eye for decades, and has a long and inglorious record of misbehavior was simply erased.

And nothing he's done really matters, you see, because he hasn't triggered a nuclear war with Russia -- which Mrs. Clinton still longs to do.

That millions of Americans in immigrant communities are facing greater and greater levels of terror tactics from ICE doesn't matter because it isn't nuclear war with Russia. That tens of millions of civilians are under threat in the expanding war zones overseas and tens of thousands have been killed since Himself's installation doesn't matter because it isn't nuclear war with Russia. And so on and so on and so on. That he's literally turned over military policy and strategy to the Generals should put the fear in his believers, but it doesn't because it hasn't (yet) triggered nuclear war with Russia.

To the extent there is a functioning Trump Administration, it's a mess. That's considered a bonus by his defenders because it "breaks the rice bowls" of the status quo. As long as the "Clintonites" are punished, anything goes it seems. After all, it isn't nuclear war with Russia.

Except the Empire, the American Empire, and its government can't operate like this, not for long anyway, without shattering to pieces. This too is considered a bonus by some of Trump's defenders who want more than anything for the Empire to disappear. Well, I'm not a fan of the Empire, either, but this kind of perpetual chaos is not the way to end it.

Observers of the mess have started to campaign for a Regency. A Wise Man or a Committee of Eminence to "help" Trump to govern "correctly." Or to govern in his stead should need arise. Something like, oh I don't know, Cheney was to Bush Junior.

Or GHW Bush was to Reagan. Or George IV was to his father Mad King George III. And so on.

A Regent is to the side of the Emperor (or king or president or ruler of your choice) under a regency, and is not necessarily directly in line to the Throne at all. A regent can literally be anyone who is respected and who can be counted on to exercise the powers and authorities of rule responsibly on behalf of the nation, empire or what have you.

The key term is "responsibly" -- which Trump has shown himself to be incapable of, necessitating corps of fixers to come in and clean up yet another mess he's made of things.

You can't run a government like this, let alone an empire.

Some time ago I asked whether we need an Emperor, someone above the president, to deal with the important matters that the Presidency was never intended to.

Or -- as we see under Trump -- can't.

An Emperor would be more in line with the course of devolution our government has been on for quite some time now. Much as Augustus "restored" the Republic while ruling from Above it, an Emperor might "restore" missing or abandoned elements of the American republic while effectively ruling as a benevolent autocrat.

Of course, whether regent or emperor, there is no such position in our current form of government. Regents of sorts have functioned on behalf of or in place of presidents, but never so far has there been someone in a position above the president -- at least not openly.

Is it time?

Friday, June 16, 2017

It Was Fifty Years Ago Today...

My oh my. How time flies.

Monterey International Pop Festival Poster
June 16, 17,18, 1967
I actually don't remember how we got there or exactly when we left the Central Valley for the Coast, but I do remember arriving in Monterey in the late afternoon and checking into a motel (the name of which I don't recall) a short distance from the fairgrounds where the festival would be held. There were four of us, I think: myself and soon-to-be Ms. Ché and Rick and Jackie. That's my memory, but Rick and Jackie may have had their own room. Rick (changed the spelling to Ric ) became one of the more notorious members of the Cockettes (performing as ?? Maxine??) in San Francisco. I don't know what happened with Jackie.

We had tickets for some of the performances, either afternoon or evening. Friday was evening only; Saturday and Sunday were afternoon and evening shows.

The line up was stunning.

Faulty though my memory has become, I think we had tickets for Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and evening and Sunday evening, but we didn't go to the Saturday afternoon show, or possibly we didn't have tickets for Saturday afternoon but listened to it outside the venue.

I recall we spent quite a lot of time on the fairgrounds in the daytime enjoying the people and the booths, and the smells of incense and patchouli and marijuana, and it was probably Saturday afternoon because I don't remember seeing Country Joe and the Fish, Canned Heat, Steve Miller, Quicksilver and the other performers (including Janis and Big Brother) that afternoon. I remember hearing them, though.

Of course when the movie came out, memories got even more confused. Because I remember the movie performance of Big Brother in the afternoon, but my memory of seeing them perform was in the evening. Janis and a whole lot more.

We had box seats for some shows, seats on the flat arena floor for others. The venue was the Monterey County Fairgrounds rodeo arena, also used for the Monterey Jazz Festival and other events throughout the year.

I remember it was cold outside most of the time, and foggy much of the time. Drippy. There wasn't anywhere to escape the wet. So you just went with it.

About 25,000 attended over the three days of the festival. It was a lot of people but it wasn't too many, not even close to too many. We never felt too crowded, and everybody was mellow including the sheriff's deputies manning the fairgrounds and directing traffic and so on. In fact, they were so mellow we wondered if they were enjoying certain substances with much of the crowd.

I don't remember acid, though Rick may have had some. Marijuana, however, was pervasive, and it may have been there that I first indulged. I'm not sure. Marijuana has never agreed with me -- raging headaches and puts me to sleep -- so I rarely indulged back then, and haven't at all for decades.

Rick was tripping most of the time so I imagine he had dropped acid, but I didn't know him well, so I couldn't tell for sure, and we rarely saw him during performances. I think he was backstage for a while, but he was with us during Jimmy Hendrix and The Who. Jackie was with us pretty much the whole time, but I didn't know her well either. They were friends of Ms Ché's but I'm not sure how they and she had hooked up.

Ms. Ché had long been involved with teen bands in the Valley, so I assume that's how they and she got together.

At the time, I looked something like one of the members of a British duo, tall, thin, longish reddish hair, glasses, vaguely hippie-ish garb, mostly castoffs and thrift-store finds thrown together. I remember I had a navy pea coat and a green woolen Eisenhower jacket. Suede boots. Flowered shirt and a bright blue one. A cream-colored knitted turtleneck.

We had no money at all. How we afforded this adventure, I have no idea. At the time, we didn't have a car, so I think we must have ridden with Rick and Jackie, and it may have been Jackie's car, come to think of it. I don't think it was a GTO but it may have been a Pontiac Le Mans, 1964? Maybe. I don't remember.

But we had a motel room for all three days, and the fairgrounds were within walking distance. I think we ate at a nearby Sambo's a time or two. Again, where we got the money, I don't know. But we had enough for food and gas and lodging; we'd bought the tickets well in advance.

When we left on Monday morning, we went to San Francisco and dropped Rick off in the Haight and then headed back to the Valley. We'd go to San Francisco as often as we could and even took to flying down to Los Angeles now and then on the $19 PSA flights to see shows or visit with friends.

This pattern went on throughout the Summer of Love, and though I don't think we were hippies or wanted to be, we were definitely counterculture in that we were living far less materialistically than we'd been brought up to be, and we were living simply compared to most of those we knew and our families. Focus was on music and people and finding new answers to old problems.

Through various steps and travels it led us eventually to New Mexico -- where we might have gone long before, but we didn't -- where a remnant of the counterculture remains, much as it does in enclaves all over the country. Some of it is very stupid and stupefying. Yet some of it is deeply rooted and fundamental. There is a tendency to want to throw it all out and start over. But you know what? There always was.

Onward.

[Pennebaker has blocked most of the clips from his film of Monterey Pop from YouTube and the other video sites, but a restored version of the film will be shown in Santa Fe next month. We'll probably go -- if our health permits.

Highlights  of the Festival for us included Janis Joplin with Big Brother, The Who, the Animals, Simon and Garfunkel, Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, Mamas and Papas, Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds, Hugh Masakela, and some I don't remember. Eg: I barely remember the Dead at all... so it goes...]



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

One of the Very Few Times ...

...that the High and Mighty have been targeted by the American Lone Gunman happened in Alexandria, VA, this morning at a softball practice involving congress members and staff.

Details are sketchy -- to say the least -- but apparently one congressman was wounded (Steve Scalise) as well as a couple of cops on protective duty. The suspect is said to be in custody.

Some wag said, "Well, he must be white then."

This wouldn't be the first time a congressmember was shot and wounded by the Lone Gunman, and it will be interesting to see what kind of outrage emerges from this one. Gabby Giffords was shot and critically wounded in 2011 and had to leave congress on account of her injuries, but all the outrage her shooting provoked had zero effect on her former colleagues who rather ostentatiously and arrogantly refused to consider legislation that might further restrict access to firearms for people with mental illness. As I recall -- but my memory is failing -- congress actually passed legislation easing access to guns in the wake of Gabby Giffords' shooting.

How much bigger a "Fuck you!" could they have engineered?

Shootings by these Lone Gunmen are commonplace, of course, but they almost never target people with money or power. That's why the Giffords shooting was so odd. Today's incident is also odd.

Ah, but  we've been in this chaotic matrix for some time now, and these sorts of oddities are bound to become more and more common. The question is not whether they will happen -- they will -- but rather what the response of the Powers That Be will be.

If as I suspect the shooting today can be labeled "terrorism" -- even better if the shooter is brown, black, or Muslim(!) or better still a "damn dirty librul"*-- then we will see a prompt response from Power and Authority to tighten the ratchet on all sorts of irritating people and behavior.

This isn't a Reichstag Fire type incident, but given the hysterics of Our Rulers (well, some of them) over the Terrorist Threat (to themselves, of course, they don't give a shit about the rest of us) the reaction is liable to be similar.

As if we didn't have enough of that already.

It's the world we live in.

Gak.

UPDATE: * And so, here we are:
His Twitter profile shows that Hodgkinson is a left-wing supporter of Bernie Sanders who has also posted several memes on his Facebook page critical of President Donald Trump. He also called Georgia Republican congressional candidate Karen Handel a “b*tch” for saying she didn’t support a living wage during a debate with Democratic rival Jon Ossoff.
http://www.rawstory.com/2017/06/gop-baseball-practice-shooter-identified-as-66-year-old-james-t-hodgkinson/

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Swallows Return



We've had swallows nesting under the front porch eaves for almost as long as we've had this old house out in the Wilderness of Central New Mexico.

Except last year, they didn't come back, and the year before that, they abandoned the nest before the chicks were fledged. And the year before that a mean boy who lived in the 'wild house' across the street came over when we weren't here and smashed one of the nests...

This year, however, two pairs of swallows came to investigate the property right around the first of June, and one pair set up housekeeping in the one surviving nest, even adding some skunk hair to the decor.

They're wary of the cats, of course. The cats love to sit on the table by the St. Francis statue near the front door and watch the swallows hungrily. They never know when they might get lucky, and this year, they've been very lucky indeed with the many doves that congregate here and nearby. The other birds, though, stay very well away from the cats and so far we've only found a couple of sparrow babies (probably fell out of the nest) and one yellow-breasted young bird (don't know what kind) among the cats' bird catch.

People say that feral cats devastate bird populations, but I don't think it's true. We've had a feral cat colony here for over a decade, and this is the first year I can recall that between them they've caught more than five or six birds. The birds aren't dumb, for one thing (you should see the grackles tease and mock stalking cats) and for another, there's balance that gets worked out every year. This year the doves have more casualties than I can remember, and not just from the cats. Something is going on in dove-land to control the population, for even with casualties, there seem to be more doves than ever.

This year, because there's been a lot of spring rain, all the birds seem to be flourishing. We have a bird-bath outside our kitchen window, and the variety of birds that come to drink and bathe is astonishing. They keep an eye out for cats, but they love the water, too.

We're happy to have the swallows back. Here's hoping they stick with the job of raising a family. It's been a while.

Meanwhile, we gave away the first lot of Cherokee Purple tomato plants at the Cherokee meeting in Albuquerque. Sixteen plants, raised from seed, the first time I've tried growing tomatoes from seed in New Mexico. They seem to be doing well.


We have dozens and dozens more plants in various stages of growth, most of them slated to be given away to neighbors and friends over the next couple of weeks.

This was a project I decided I needed to do to counter some of the consequences of my condition as it were. There wasn't a lot I could physically do because of pain and other issues, but growing some tomatoes seemed like something I could do, had to do.

So here we are, starting to give them away, and I feel good.

The swallows are back, the tomatoes are doing well, and there are big smiles on the faces of those who receive the plants. Life is good in so many ways. Let's not forget that.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

On Falling

Every time I visit the doctor -- lately several times a month -- I'm asked whether I've fallen in the last 90 days, and I've always said "No". Next time I will have to say "Yes," because the day before yesterday, I had a bad fall, and this morning, I can barely walk (though I think that's a consequence of an RA flare coming on as well as any lingering effects of the fall itself.)

It happened this way: Ms. Ché and I were talking the afternoon away in the house when I thunderstorm came up the way they've been doing almost every afternoon for weeks now. No big deal. Ms Ché got up to let a cat in and casually remarked, "Oh look, it's hailing!."

I said "Oh shit!" and got up. "The tomatoes!" We needed to cover them fast or they could be destroyed. One year, the hail pretty much destroyed everyone's tomatoes in the area. Our friend across the highway had a wonderful crop on the way; the hail not only destroyed her plants, it ruined all but a few of the tomatoes on the plants.

That year our plants were damaged but survived. The crop was minuscule, but at least there were a few.

This year's plants are still very young and quite fragile. They'e Cherokee Purple grown from seed, and we have way more plants than I thought would come through the various disasters of trying to grow tomatoes from seed at this altitude. Close to 100 plants at the moment are in various stages  of growth, and some have been transplanted to containers scattered around the place and are growing well.

Hail, though, could mean the end of many of them. So we raced to get as many as we could under cover. As we did, the hail came down stronger and stronger, and as I headed back to the house get more covering, I tripped on a wire -- actually a section of chicken wire laid on the ground to keep the cats from using a patch of lawn as a toilet.

BAM! I fell hard on the gravel -- the rough gravel we use for some pathways -- on my knees, and the pain was amazing. I thought I had broken both knees. Ms Ché saw me down and hollering in pain, while the hail storm intensified. Oh doG, what to do now?

I asked her if she could help me get up, but that didn't work, so I sat there in pain while the hail pelted the both of us and we became soaked to the skin. I couldn't get up on my own, and I was pretty much convinced that at least one knee was shot, if not broken. After sitting there for a while, I asked Ms. Ché to bring over a couple of milk crates that we use to transport things around the place. She did, and with some effort, I was able to hoist my bottom onto the crates, and once there, I was able to slowly and gingerly get myself into an upright position -- with the help of a walker that Ms Ché brought from the studio.

Now what? Could I walk? I didn't know. But I tried one foot in front of the other and sure  enough I was able to shuffle through the hail to the back door and make it up the steps and into the house. Whoo-hoo!

The pain in my knees was pretty bad, though, and slowly, I peeled out of my soaked duds. Both legs were pretty banged up from knee to ankle, the left one much more so than the right one. The left knee was quite bloody, and it looked like I'd done more than scrape the skin. I asked Ms Ché if she had any Bactine, and by golly she did. We sprayed it on the wounds.

And I sat for twenty minutes or so in my damp underwear, catching my breath and trying not to get overwrought.

Not a pretty picture.

Ms Ché was soaked, too, of course, but she tried to take it all in stride. I said, "Get into some dry things, I'll be all right." She went off to find something dry to put on while I continued to sit and contemplate my wounds. Apart from the scrapes and what looked like a broad puncture from a piece of gravel, it didn't look too bad, and because I could still bend my knees -- carefully -- I figured nothing was broken. I got up and...walked... ha ha... to the bedroom to find some dry clothes, and Ms Ché and I chatted about what had happened as she re-dressed in dry things. Well, you know, it was just one of those things.

She was worried that I shouldn't be walking, but I said I better figure out how lame I was, and see if we could deal with the wounds as best we could. Some Neosporin and bandages should be enough.

So over the next hour or so, we sorted out our various conditions. Ms Ché wasn't injured in the incident, but she's dealing with leg and foot issues of her own thanks to diabetes and an outbreak of psoriasis that makes her have difficulty with her own mobility. The stress of this incident didn't help at all, but she's developed some remarkable strategies to get and keep going no matter what.

I'm not nearly as good at it, but nevertheless, I didn't want to make too much of falling, but I wanted to make the best of it, no matter.

After an hour or so, I was pretty well bandaged up and recovered enough to go out and check the tomatoes. The hail had stopped and it was barely raining.

We only got the plants in the side yard covered. Those on the north side of the house were on their own.

I noted there was a bit of damage here and there, but nothing too serious. It looked like most of the plants would pull through just fine. Whew!

And I could walk. Pain was still pretty bad, but I could walk and get myself up and down steps, so that was good.

By bedtime I was afraid I wouldn't be able to sleep because of the pain. I'd taken a couple of Aleve, though, and the pain was fading. I slept fine. Got up the next morning and was nearly pain free. Wow.

Took it easy yesterday just the same.

But last night when I headed to bed, I felt more pain in my knees, and this morning, I woke up in severe pain -- both knees and ankles. I could barely walk at all. Oh.

I attribute most of it to a developing RA flare. It's been more than two weeks since the Rituxan infusion, and I've had no joint pain or flare. Doctor says, however, I most likely will continue to have flares for at least another month. I took a couple of Aleve which has moderated some of the pain, so I suspect that not all of what I'm feeling is RA related.

We'll see. Today we were planning an expedition to Santa Fe to explore the "Counterculture" exhibit at the history museum. I think we'll have to pass.

So it goes...

UPDATE: By yesterday afternoon, all of the pain was gone, and I could walk without difficulty, though both legs were still stiff and sore from the fall.

I emailed my rheumatologist about it asking whether the absence of pain after what seemed like the start of an RA flare was a sign that the Rituxan was starting to work. It's been a month since the first infusion and she's said that it generally takes six weeks to two months for Rituxan to have measurable effects on RA.

No word back yet.

UPDATE 2:

Got word from my rheumatatologist that it's possible for Rituxan to work within a month though it is rare. The situation as I reported it suggests that in fact the infusions may be working. I need to keep monitoring symptoms and response. And not fall down!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

As The Russia Thing Metastasizes

I've never made much of the Russia Thing because it has always struck me as a stupid and very marginal effort -- to the extent it was an effort at all -- to affect the US elections. I'm sure that some of it had a slight effect here and there, but for the most part, it seems to have been more of an exploratory expedition than anything else.

It was mostly a propaganda effort that salted the internet with both real and fake "information" primarily about Clinton and her corruption and nastiness. There were other elements, of course, but dissing Clinton and the "Democrat" Party apparat appeared to be the primary objective along with seeding Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) about the validity of the election itself (on the assumption, of course, that Clinton would win, and therefore the election must have been rigged, right?)

One of the biggest items in the anti-Clinton kit bag was the  absolute certainty that if she won, she would start WWIII by attacking Russia. This would lead to nuclear annihilation, no doubt about it.

Many people still believe it with utter certainty though there has never been the slightest evidence that it is/was true. In fact the evidence points in the opposite direction, and if anybody had critical thinking skills anymore, they'd realize that if Clinton was expected to win by everyone in the wholewide world, then the likelihood of nuclear war with Russia was judged to be slim to none by... nearly everyone. Despite all the certainty of the hoo-hah.

Nevertheless, Russian involvement in spreading  anti-Clinton propaganda and memes should not have been an issue. In other words, so what? The domestic political propaganda industry is quite capable of coming up with endless falsehood, lies, fabrications, and satire about candidates. They are experts at oppo-research, and yes, they'll use or make up anything at all to destroy the other candidate. It's politics, it's the way it's been done in this country for practically ever. Russian or any other foreign participation shouldn't matter.

But apparently we are to launch into a phase where the Russia Thing is to become All Important, as important as Watergate. So they say.

Of course back in the day, Watergate wasn't intrinsically that important at all. The break-in was dastardly and illegal to be sure, but given its political nature, it hardly mattered in the vast eternal scheme, and at first few had much interest in it. It metastasized, however, once it became clear that the White House was intent on covering up the fundamental fact of White House and Presidential involvement. Of course there was also WaPo publisher Katherine Graham's vendetta against Nixon, precisely why we don't know.

That sort of thing seems to be taking place again, and tomorrow's testimony by James Comey is supposed to blow the whole thing "wide open". Expectation managers have put a whole lot on the Comey testimony, and I think they're in for a disappointment.

That aside, however, the permanent government (aka "Deep State") seems to believe that the Russia Thing will lead to the legal removal of Trump from office, whether or not "collusion" took place or is proven. Because, after all, Americans hate Russians, particularly Putin the Devil, right? And legally, it's the hatred of Americans that drives Presidents from office, right?

It's not so much what Trump has done in and out of office that will do him in, oh no. It's the Russia Thing -- and only the Russia Thing and how much hatred for Putin can be whipped up -- that matters.

I'm dismayed.

This won't end well, of course, but in the meantime, the obsession with Russia serves as a distraction from whatever is really going on.

I've said it before, Trump is the apotheosis of the neoLibCon paradigm. It will survive and flourish no matter what happens to Trump and his gang of thieves. The idea that Trump is not one of them, and that Trump will bring it all crashing down is fantasy more than reality. Yes he's a gangster and a conman and a buffoon and a liar and an abuser. Yes? So are most of the members of his class and so are most of those most fully aligned with the neoLibCon paradigm.

Gee.

Getting rid of Trump is getting rid of the Googly-Moogly, the Boogey-Man. Not at all getting rid of what he and his kind represent or want to do.

Basing his removal on the Russia Thing is idiotic. And doing it to enable Pence to ascend to the Throne is sick.

So here we are.

Tomorrow is another day...




Monday, June 5, 2017

Two Weeks

Well.

It's been two weeks since my second infusion of Rituxan, and who'd a thunk? No pain. Well, almost no pain. Occasional twinges, yes. Momentary annoyances. Difficult mornings getting going. But nothing like the situation just a few weeks ago when I dreaded weekends because I would almost certainly start a flare on Friday which wouldn't fade away until the following Wednesday.

I would be lucky to have one or two "good days" a week. Yikes.

But now? I'm far from a cure -- in fact, they say there isn't one-- but it is possible I could go into remission (with medication), and if I do, I'll probably need infusions every six months for some time to come. But for now, I'm grateful to be almost completely pain free, even if it's only temporary.

During all this RA business -- been going on for two years now (longer when I think back to early symptoms) -- I've had no pain relief medication (except what I had on hand from previous sciatica episodes).

I thought it was odd that no matter how much pain I was in my doctors never prescribed pain medication of any kind. At one point, early on, I was self medicating with Aleve which initially provided some relief, then it didn't. I increased the dosage again and again, until I was up to 1600mg a day or maybe more, and still very little or no relief. Doctor said, "Whoa! Stop! That's too much!"

Well, what will you give me for pain relief? Eh?

The answer was steroids. Prednisone (which I tolerate pretty well; some people don't).  High doses tapering off to low doses. A maintenance dose until other medications kick in.

No specific pain medications at all.

The other medications might work for a time -- a few weeks or months -- but then not. I went through a half dozen or more meds trying this and that (I didn't keep track) to see what worked. Nothing did for long.

At one point, three-four months ago, I had tapered the prednisone to 7.5mg a day, the lowest dose I'd taken for over a year. That's when things started going haywire, and I was facing weekly flares. Doctor said increase prednisone dosage: I took up to 40mg a day with only partial effectiveness. This went on for months. The only relief offered was higher doses of prednisone, and when I pointed out even that wasn't working, it dawned on my rheumatologist that something else was called for at least as a bridge until the Rituxan could work.

And so, for the first time in years, I was prescribed an opioid (Tylenol 3) -- which I haven't had to take due to the apparent effectiveness of the second Rituxan infusion. If I do have a flare, however, and the Tylenol 3 doesn't work, doctor is prepared to prescribe (drum roll) Oxycontin.

She also prescribed a stronger version of prednisone in case of otherwise uncontrolled flares.

So far, however, I haven't had to take either one.

Whoo.

I know there is currently a hysteria over opioid addiction among lower class whites, largely due -- they say -- to overprescription of pain relievers among the Lower Orders. So there are any number of restrictions on doctor prescriptions, and I had to jump through all kinds of hoops to get what I got.

And I haven't taken it. I haven't even opened the package.

If the Rituxan works, I won't, either.

I will keep it on hand, however, just in case.

You know what? Chronic pain is a terrible and debilitating thing. I've experienced my share, and I know others who have had it much worse than me. Doctors face a serious problem in prescribing for pain relief -- except, apparently, in certain ruralish white enclaves where anything goes -- because of the opioid hysterics.

I assume that's why nothing was provided to me specifically for pain relief for years.

Of course, if you're among the High and the Mighty, there are no problems at all in getting what you need to control your pain -- or anything else.

None at all.

So...

We'll see how this goes.

So far, so good.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Doing the Wrong Thing

Doing the wrong thing seems to be the way of our governing class, and that includes Trump. That he continues to be lauded and supported at all is interesting, "clarifying" you might say, because it shows up his prime supporters for who they are: nihilists, racists, reactionaries and would-be revolutionaries if they only had some courage. But they don't. They're cowards looking to lord it over someone, somehow, preferably by divine right.  IE: delegation by the God Emperor.

That's what they are supporting him for. They are hoping that he will assume the Purple and finally Rule once and for all as he should, from the Throne, brooking no opposition, giving no quarter to his enemies, enforcing obedience with whatever violence the situation requires.

Doing the wrong thing, indeed.

Except that's what his supporters and defenders want.

Enough of the business of politics. Enough with listening to the losers. Enough with mollycoddling the snowflakes. Enough with the Clintonites.

Time to put a final nail in the coffin of the Democrat (sic) Party.

Destroy! Destroy! Destroy!

They revel in every wrong move from On High.

Withdrawing from the Paris Accords (which apparently is a symbolic thing, but I'll get to that eventually) thrilled them. Of course it's been pointed out that the United States is now the only nation on earth that doesn't support the aims and goals of the Accords to deal with climate change as a common cause among peoples and nations. The two other nations that have not agreed to the Accords, Nicaragua and Syria, have their reasons -- Nicaragua because they didn't go far enough and Syria because the Assad regime was not allowed to represent the nation at the negotiations and thus no one was empowered to agree to the Accords for Syria.

The reason for Trump's withdrawal: Selfish, pissy, "nyah, nyah" to the rest of the world. That's about all. And that's what thrills his supporters and defenders. "Sticking it" to whomever is their prime objective. Sticking it, essentially, to anyone and everyone who disputes or disagrees  with their chosen Ultra-Alpha.

Many have claimed that Trump intends to destroy the ruling neoLibCon paradigm, freeing us and the world from its horrors. No, I think not, and I have argued that instead, Trump intends to consolidate it and impose it far more thoroughly and harshly than it has been heretofore (the example of Greece under the neoLibCon thumb is instructive). We see every indication of it in his budgets, statements, and actions, but his supposedly "progressive" supporters especially let them pass as if they were angel's wings, nothing to be alarmed at. Nothing at all.

It's more of doing the wrong thing. Sometimes in hopes that eventually the Right Thing will emerge and whatever horrors arise in the interim --oh well. Christian Martyrs, you know. Can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs. Eggs are losers. Too bad so sad.

In addition to doing away with politics, they seem to want to do away with the bulk of human population, disposing of practically everyone who is... well, let's be honest.. not white enough.

"Overpopulation" is a constant theme with them. The answer is disposal. They celebrate climate change because it will eliminate a shit ton of brown people. Whoo-hoo!

So of course Trump's withdrawal from Paris would be seen in a positive light.

The problem is that our less radical neoLibCon rulers are intent on doing the wrong thing too. Only less short term destructively. It's amazing.

There is really no one at all among the elites of governing, business, or finance who sees doing the right thing for the masses and the rabble as important or necessary. No one.

We cannot rely on them to do what should be and needs to be done.

There is only one way to solve a governing crisis of this magnitude. The upcoming elections in Britain may give a clue, but I suspect the results will be disappointing given the recent attacks in London and Manchester. We'll see.

At some point, the People, the Masses, the Rabble have to put the fear in the governing classes, particularly those in the Trump camp, but not solely them. So far, the Rabble has not been able to do it, not consistently and effectively at any rate, and it is partially because the Rabble are divided, almost atomized, and do not see a common interest with one another --unless of course it is to "stick it" to some other element of the Lower Orders.

There is no agreement about what Doing the Right Thing entails.

And so it goes.

The devolution will continue.



Thursday, June 1, 2017

It's How They Know Their Own

[Side note: it's been well over a week since I had the second infusion treatment with Ritrxan, and so far, knock my wooden head, I have not experienced a flare or even any pain to speak of associated with RA. I'm astonished and pleased. Let's see if this lasts.)

I've been seeing signs of consolidation of the White Rightist cohorts among us. I try not to follow it too closely because it is genuinely toxic to living things, but they seem to have an extensive and spreading presence online -- probably always been there but I didn't notice -- and a  genuine belief that "now is our hour."

Hm.

Of course we've known for a long time that the State will crush any perceived threat from the (so-called) Left with extreme prejudice. We've seen it happen over and over, two recent examples being the Occupy movement and the NoDAPL actions in North Dakota.

The violence inherent in the system was on full display -- as a means of educating the masses to know and stay in Their Place, subservient and obedient to their Betters.

But we note with interest that no such violent repression of white rightist/supremacist agitation takes place. Bluntly, the State tends to molly-coddle white rightists, most clearly apparent during the arrest of Dylan Roof in Carolina (which one, I forget at the moment), for the murder of so many black Bible students at the Mother Emmanuel Church. The police treated him with kid gloves and took him to Burger King because he was hungry.

That's the way it goes. It''s one way we know where we are, and who is important to the Powers That Be.

What I've noticed recently (well, since before the election) is a significant uptick in white rightist propaganda and violent rhetoric, not solely online but penetrating the mainstream news media as well.

I guess I'm lucky to live in a rural area that voted for Trump overwhelmingly (something like 70%) but which so far mostly rejects as ridiculous the white-rightist thrust of Trumpism. An exception down the road about ten miles (in Santa Fe County, for criminy sakes) is a cracker household that proudly flies the Stars and Bars (multiple examples fluttering in the wind beside the interstate) and appears to be trying to recruit more of its ilk to The Cause.

So special.

Of course flying the Stars and Bars is one way these people can know their own. For a few days before the election, some dude flying a huge Stars and Bars flag from the back of his pick up was frequenting a local park -- maybe to recruit, I don't know-- but he disappeared fairly quickly, and I doubt he found much support.

A rallying cry for many white rightists seems to be "You will not replace us," perhaps a co-optation of "He will not divide us" that was frequently heard among anti-Trumpists  (particularly among those participating in Shia LeBeouf's project).

Other means of knowing their own include incessant references to "globalists," "Clintonites," "Snowflakes" and mockery of "identity politics," "safe spaces" and other "liberal" ideas primarily confined to the academic realm.

While I think it is stupid, it is surprisingly effective. Or maybe not so surprising. They are by no means a majority, far from it -- except in certain regional enclaves. (The irony being their belief that their enemies -- all "he" live only in coastal enclaves.)

They get their news -- such as it is -- from Fox, Breitbart, Stormfront, the Red Elephants and the like.
They believe a wide range of falsehoods and seem to be especially frightened of the Clintonites who rule the world, mostly through their tentacles in academia and the Deep State.

They may have a point about some of what they fear, but they have no answers except paranoia and more and more frequently murder.

Is this what we're coming to?

Looks like it.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cannery Row

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or especially so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm one of them.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Rituxan In the Morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so it goes.

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

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

More to come.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Yet Another Impetus for a Coup?

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

No coup.

Too many unknowns, I guess.

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

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

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

But something has to be done.

And quickly.




Sunday, May 14, 2017

An Updated Condition Report -- with Update to the Update

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

It lasted three days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We'll see...

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

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

Sigh.

Was the Comey Thing Intended to Mollify Dems?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Power Play

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Saving the NeoLibCon Paradigm

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

Indeed.

Or perhaps not.

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

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

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

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

Great.

Just great.

What did we do to deserve this?

Rituxan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 5, 2017

Do We Need An Emperor?

[We  might not, but the government may.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is that what we need?

Sometimes I wonder.

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

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

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

But then maybe it was inevitable.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Healthcare Insurance Trainwreck

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

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

And so it goes.

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

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


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Gulliver in Lilliput


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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