I swear, sometimes it is hard to tell the difference. It looks like ACA/Obamacare will tank worse than the Titanic, since the website/websites appear to be an exercise in frustration, and those who have succeeded in finding out what their new plan will cost are reeling and stunned with sticker shock. I am spared the worst ravages, since I am on Tricare, and the quarterly payment has only gone up by about 10$. But Blondie, bless her little cotton socks, very carefully sought out her own insurance coverage earlier this year, and as an unmarried and relatively healthy (although somewhat service-dented and dinged) young adult secured coverage through Humana for a little over 80$ a month. This week she received a long explanatory letter from Humana that her basic plan would now cost a dollar or two more – but that if she chose to go with the plan which would meet the standards for Obamacare as ordained by governmental powers which have wriggled and squirmed with sufficient agility as to exempt themselves from Obamacare’s clammy embrace – that would cost her a cool $233.

I have read here and there that is about par – the costs of coverage will double, and what they will get for it will be even less than at present. Big government – is there nothing it can’t do? A rhetorical question, obviously. There are those also who mutter darkly that Obamacare was deliberately designed to fail, in that it would wreck medical insurance entirely and throw us all onto the tender mercies of single-payer. From which I presume that those with ‘pull’ will get their treatment in the gold-plated clinics and wards set aside for the higher nomenklatura, those with money will go off-shore or to concierge-care, and the rest of us will take our chances in places which will make the public hospital wards of the 19th century look like the Mayo Clinic, or study up on home-remedies.

As my mother used to say – never attribute to malice that which can be accounted for by stupidity, but in this case I am hard put to make a distinction.

Pretty much the same with the semi-theatrical government shut down, which with obvious and malicious intent closed down national parks which were pretty much open anyway, were run by third parties at a profit, or merely had the ill-luck to be on park service property. I thought the veterans and their supporters protesting by peacefully storming the Barrycades around the WWII and Vietnam memorials in DC, hauling them to the White House, and leaving them piled up with sarcastic notes “return to sender” and “please recycle” was genius. I guess we’re the counter-culture now, even as the media tries to write it all off as a Tea Party thing. What-ever! (insert contemptuous teenage mock-sigh)

I don’t suppose it’s news to anyone on the independent or libertarian/conservative side of the blogosphere that the actions of certain offices of Eric Holder’s Department of Justice with regard to the Martin/Zimmerman trial were, to the very least, questionable. That office deliberately injected their activists into a local investigation with what would appear to be a desire to pour ever more gasoline on what would have been barely a squib of an incident otherwise. They appear to have connived with malice aforethought and the equally malicious assistance of mainstream news outlets to insist on prosecuting a case which the local constabulary had already investigated and concluded was pretty open and shut. A budding seventeen-year-old semi-delinquent with delusions of career thuggishness on a mama-directed visit to his biological father in a semi-enclosed townhouse development, who once there had a mad impulse on a rainy evening to walk to the nearest convenience store … and on his return apparently attracts the attention of a resident Neighborhood Watch volunteer, who has the temerity to notice a young teenage-something who he doesn’t recognize, seeming to prowl around the development in a suspicious manner. The concerned volunteer calls the police on his mobile and follows after the apparent interloper for a short distance. Upon being told that he doesn’t have to follow any farther and assured that the forces of professional law and order are on their way, the volunteer returns to his vehicle … where he is accosted and knocked to the ground by the innocent young scamp who sits on his chest and appears to be then bent on smashing the volunteer’s head repeatedly against the sidewalk … oh, heck, I shouldn’t need to repeat this.

It’s all out at the trial, for which I give mad props to Legal Insurrection. I suppose that the part of this saga that I am most indignant about is that everything about this case that was first put out by the national media was wrong, and in some details and elements, certain national media outlets lied outright. They edited and fudged the material. They lied, in service to a constructed narrative. That’s the part that takes my breath away. They lied. Coldly, openly, and with the appearance of – if not malice aforethought – then with the mission of upholding the carefully constricted narrative of a cute middle-school teenager on an innocent errant, coldly stalked and gunned down on the front porch of his father’s townhouse by a raging white racist. Again – none of what we were told, by this narrative was true, although the usual suspects – the low-information-voters and the fellow-travelers who feed them their daily requirement of politically-correct crap still believe it. Which is a depressing prospect, actually; against all evidence to the contrary, I had reason to expect better from the public at large.

When did that egregious and notorious race-monger, Al Sharpton, become the epitome and standard-bearer of honesty and truth in matters of race? And he is just one of the guilty parties, in media, entertainment and in so-called intellectual circles perpetuating this narrative. I still cannot imagine why he was given a contract and a position in the higher reaches of the establishment news media. That he was so honored is likely indicative of how we are being steered down the rat-hole by our current political elites, towards a third-world and faction-ridden society – where the colors (and perhaps religion) of the accused and victim matter more than what actually happened and can be proved in a court of law.

Look, I live in a socially and racially mixed neighborhood myself; and most of the other residents take a proud interest in our homes, our gardens and the general welfare of our neighbors. We do notice things, people, events like yard-sales or robberies – last year there was even a double murder (by a disgruntled former employee of a resident), which freaked out everyone, as the murder ran off on foot through the neighborhood, to be apprehended a short time later in the parking lot of the nearby HEB grocery store. We have a volunteer patrol – and while I doubt that they actually patrol while armed, it’s a safe bet that the number of concealed carry permit holders here is above average. I do believe that we in Texas generally can and will resist. But the knowledge that being concerned and taking action with regard to the welfare of your neighborhood might make you the focus of political show-trial with a pre-ordained verdict – that has got to have a chilling effect on the individual, at least as much as the IRS vendetta against Tea Party associations did for organizations.

I have noted recent news reports decrying incidents of Sandy Hook trutherism with a certain degree of cynical un-surprise. This then, is the fruit of modern journalism; now we have news consumers who are absolutely convinced that the mass murders either didn’t happen, didn’t happen as most reports have it, or believe that it was a put-up job entirely. Of course there have been conspiracy buffs since human history began; wherever there was a tragic or shocking event there have always been unexplained details, dangling loose ends and things which just seemed to convenient, too coincidental. Supposing a conspiracy existed explains shattering and usually random events all very well, which is why people are attracted to conspiracy theories in the first place. Since I was in grade school, I’ve been hearing about the plot, or plots which supposedly took down JFK. It’s to the point where I can paint myself as a a radical just by insisting that Oswald was a lone radical nut-case and no, it wasn’t that hard a shot. And sometimes suspicion of a conspiracy has been very well based; look at the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

So, nothing new here, that there should be whispers of conspiracies with regard to the Sandy Hook murders, and nothing new that with the rise of the internet, conspiracy-minded people have no problem finding a wider audience for their particular obsessions than they would have, back in the day when getting the word out as a single activist or group meant a mimeograph machine, a mailing list and sufficient postage. The element that I suspect is new would be the widening lack of trust in the establishment media; broadcast and print alike. I’ve often lamented the manner in which formerly respected news outlets perceived by the public as being generally trustworthy have been pissing away that trust for the last two decades. Of course, up until about fifteen years ago, the internet wasn’t developed to the point where it was relatively easy to fact-check the establishment media; they may have have been just as craven, partisan or incompetent back then, (Hello, Mr. Duranty, your table is waiting!) and there would have been no way for any but a tiny number of people to know for sure.

But now we do know … and one of the things we also know is that just about everything first reported about the Sandy Hook murders, or the Zimmerman-Martin shooting, or the shooting of Gabby Giffords and a hundred other more news stories-du-jour turned out to be wrong. Just about everything said about the Tea Party by the major media turned out to be wrong – and this I know form personal experience as a local Tea Party activist. On the other hand, we know practically nothing about the takeover of the American consulate office in Benghazi late last year and the death of four Americans there. As a candidate for the highest office in the land in 2008, Barack Obama was treated as a precious and lustrous pearl by the national media, given only the lightest buffing and polishing, while his experience, qualifications and past associates went carefully and (to all appearances, deliberately) unexamined.

Reasonable, un-paranoid and non-tinfoil-hat-wearing Americans these days have every reason in the world to distrust what has been printed or broadcast. Rich soil in which to plant the seeds of paranoid conspiracy theories – and the funniest and most ironical part, is that the professional mainstream news media have laid down the deepest layer of that soil themselves, in seeming to trim the sails of coverage to suit the favored political and politically correct winds of the moment. As ye sow, ladies and gentlemen of the establishment press – so shall ye reap, a full crop of suspicion and paranoia.

So it is not like violence by union members in Michigan against pro-right-to-work activists came as any big surprise to me … or should have to any other sentient being. I mean, this comes after a couple of years of incidents involving members of the SEIU – better known as the Purple People Beaters – and Tea Party protesters going at it. Not that our gutless establishment press organs ever seemed to take notice … or as little notice as they can and still retain a few lingering shreds of credibility, while they remain prostrate and adoring the mighty figure of Ozymandius … sorry, Obama. And in pop-culture circles, historically unions seem to enjoy at least a token respect, for which I hold Hollywood responsible. Why the entertainment industry adores unions, as they are full of plucky, honest blue-collar laboring types, and if it weren’t for unions, why we would be working seven days a week, up to our knees in toxic sludge, owing our soul to the company store, and breaking rocks in the hot sun … oops, sorry, flashback there to about a million Phil Ochs pseudo-folk songs.

This sentimental fondness persists to this day, even though it would appear that most people in the here and how who have had any personal encounters with any sort of union, either public employee or the private sector do not seem to have been left with a good impression generally, either as a consumer, a customer, a worker, manager or business owner. I’d venture to guess that most of the public also do not have a terribly good opinion of the senior management cadre of unions like … say, the Teamsters. Theoretical good will towards the historical struggle for the rights of working men and women is balanced against a present-day monstrous, self-serving, and possibly criminal – or criminally incompetent reality.

Anyway – the kerfuffle in Michigan will resolve itself one way or the other. My own personal hope is for criminal prosecution, or a civil suit, but in this current atmosphere, I am not holding my breath. No, what concerns me about this is something a little deeper … the willingness to do violence against the ‘other’ and a perfect willingness to do it in public, before cameras, and apparently in the assurance that there will be no repercussions … ever. Shades of the brown shirts and black shirts of the twenties and thirties in Italy and Germany, energetically going after political opponents and even relatively uninvolved citizens … because it is perfectly OK to bash opponents over the head and beat them bloody. Why … oh, just because they deserve it, because they don’t agree enthusiastically with the prevailing and carefully-cultivated orthodoxy. And because they disagree, and because they have been effectively ‘othered’ or ‘monstered’ it is thus perfectly OK, even laudable to beat them up, shout them down at public speaking venues, harass their families, sneer at them on television, flame them on the internet, libel them in publications and movies, ‘swat’ them, and trash whatever area they might be using for a meeting place or headquarters, vandalize their motor vehicles and other property … all that and more is legitimate and acceptable.

I have noted this going on increasingly since 2004, and picking up steam in 2008, although certain elements have been in play for longer than that. I watched it happen close up when posting at Open Salon over the time that I was blogging there, although I tried to avoid the more fetid depths of political nutbaggery on offer. I had the disconcerting experience of being active in a local Tea Party from the earliest days of that movement, and then observing how easily and efficiently – and without any basis in fact at all – that the meme of Tea Partiers as racist-stupid-red-necked-reactionaries was perpetuated in the general public by a consortium of the mainstream press, on TV and among the commentariat. Now that vicious meme is embedded in a good segment of the public like an impacted wisdom tooth – even among people whom I would have thought might know better. It was frustrating and frightening to me, how thoroughly it took hold among the OSers and in the general public who had never, ever actually gone to a Tea Party meeting or rally – and just about all of it without a single element being true. Now and again I did try to point out the dangers of reducing people with whom one had political differences to a caricature and then metaphorically burning the caricature at a stake. That way leads eventually to burning real people at a stake, or consigning them to reeducation camps. I don’t know that I had any success in making this plain with any but the most thoughtful and philosophically-inclined.

And very likely it is too late to make this clear to those who are already ready, willing and eager to work out their frustrations by beating up on the ‘other’ – as has been demonstrated in Michigan this week.

(Cross-posted at Chicagoboyz)

… that there was some kind of secret high-sign or signal that we could give to other conservative-libertarian-Tea Party adherents in casual social situations. Even in Texas, a mostly red-state and stronghold of prickly independent free-marketers, there is enough of a leavening of blue-state Dems and Obama worshippers that one need be constrained in discussing politics … by good manners, if nothing else. Especially in the neighborhood where one lives; there are, I know, at least a few Democrats sufficiently enthused about the One to actually display bumper-stickers and yard signs. One of them is a very sweet and cordial gentlemen dog aficionado; he and his wife always adore and pet our dogs, when they see us, and we recently mourned together when they had to put one of their own dogs to sleep. He and his wife are nice people, decent people; good neighbors, home-owners who keep their place beautifully – they fly the Texas and American flags, and a military service flag with two stars upon it – but… But on the back of his truck he has a home-made magnetic bumper sticker implying that the Tea Party in combination with the GOP equals the screwing of America. So there is one thing that we can never talk about, not without risking neighborly amity, and I just don’t want to take the risk. He had an Obama-Biden yard sign the last time out, anyway, so we can’t say we weren’t warned. The nice older couple with the lovely garden just down the street from them were precinct-walking for a Dem candidate this year, so any casual conversation with them also must avoid politics. My own next-door neighbor, an irreproachably middle-class retired civil servant of African-American heritage has an Obama tee-shirt that she has worn now and again, so there again … a careful avoidance of my Tea Party sympathies.

But now and again we have stumbled into a potential political minefield in conversation, most often when the other person ventures an opinion to do with the economy, race-relations, or the upcoming campaign, and then hesitates, looking at us nervously until we assure them of our own libertarian/conservative Tea Party leanings. This happened most recently last weekend, during a venture into the Hill Country, and a stop in a small shop featuring vintage Americana. The place was empty, and the owner was probably very bored, when Blondie and I wandered in. Soon we were comparing our favorite episodes of American Restoration, mutual in our wish that they would show more of the actual nuts and bolts of the restoral job, instead of the manufactured interpersonal drama. Then Blondie mentioned a similar show – Abandoned, which features a couple of guys spelunking through abandoned buildings, looking for stuff they can refurbish, refinish, or repair and sell at a profit. I said how I thought it was just tragic, these factories and churches like the neo-gothic monument in Philadelphia featured on a recent show were just left to ruin, where once they had been the pride of the cities and towns where they were located. In the 19th century and early 20th, people had spent good money to build solidly and well, had manufactured good and useful things, paid wages … and now, it was all left to rack and ruin, and the rag-pickers, raking through the ruins looking for something to sell. The shop owner sympathized, and made a remark about eastern and rust-belt cities which the political leadership had essentially trashed … and then he got a very nervous look on his face, obviously fearing that he had said too much and possibly to the wrong people. Until we assured him that we were Tea Partiers from way back. And then we had a nice conversation, speculating on the eventual outcome of the various campaigns … and really, that is why I wish there were some kind of secret handshake or signal that we could give, so we know right off the bat when it is OK to risk being open about political leanings.

(Cross posted at chicagobotz.net)

That is what I have finally reached this week, in the wake of the Rush Limbaugh-Slutgate imbroglio: the far frozen limit. I’ve never been one to flounce off in a huff, having neither the figure for flounces or possession of a late model huff-mobile. That was my Granny Dodie’s style; she was the one who was prone to throwing hissy-fits in public places at being the recipient of bad customer service. I personally always rather preferred the model provided by my other grandmother, Granny Jessie, who would simmer quietly, depart silently … and then never darken the door of the offending establishment ever again. Which, as Granny Jessie lived to the age of 96, probably resulted in a lot of establishments being vaguely puzzled as to why the heck they didn’t ever see the tiny, grim-faced old lady in the print rayon dress ever again … or maybe not. Say what you will, at least Granny Dodie’s method left the offending establishments in no doubt that they had offended grievously, which from a customer-service point of view, at least clued them in to the fact that there was a problem. And that they just might have to take steps to fix it.
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