I just flew in to Kansas City to visit relatives for the 4th of July week. I was able to take a shuttle service into Kansas since I wasn't able to get a ride from a friend or relative at a relatively late notice. The ride turned out not only to get me from KCI to point B, but it also took me through what my Kansas friends tell me is not unusual for the state of Kansas politics. If you would like to hear about the conspiracy theories that made the trip alternately interesting and saddening, join me over the Orange Spaghetti.
I appreciated the driver waiting for my late plane - turned out he was the last driver of the evening and had I missed him, I'm not sure how I would have been able to get home. The driver invited me to sit up front as I was the last one on and I gave him a bit over 20% of a tip up front because I really was grateful that everything was working out.
Even before getting out of the airport, the driver commented on my area code for my cellphone. It turned out he used to live in the Denver metro area and indeed used to work for my old company prior to the last couple of acquisitions. We talked about shared memories of the old place; I informed him of some of the changes in the recent years including the fact that the buildings on the main campus have now all been scraped off by the buyer.
I asked him how he had wound up in Kansas being a shuttle driver and he said that he had left Colorado when the politics had gotten crazy just a few years ago (3 or so). This, being a Kossack, piqued my curiosity so I asked for some examples.
The first example he gave was of a bill a few years back that would have automatically added $3000 to the bill for anyone admitted to the hospital to generate funds for Denver General's Hospital. I've been living in Colorado for 20 years now, but that one didn't ring a bell. I admit I might have missed that one, or perhaps it was on a ballot that I didn't get to vote on because it might have been a different district. Still, there are a number of regional initiatives like the Regional Transportation District (RTD) that serves all of the local counties as well as the Science and Cultural Funding District (SCFD) that funds the various museums and arts programs. Well, I didn't push it, as I wasn't familiar with it.
The next example was a bill to raise fees by adjusting how cars and other vehicles are registered. Late fees were imposed or made higher. People who let their registrations lapse would not be able to just register again and skip the intervening period payments. I do remember that issue. He said that people wound up owing tens of thousands of dollars to the state. Did I remember people owing thousands to the state? No. I do know that people were upset that there were late fees that could be substantial, in the hundreds of dollars, but given how Colorado can't raise taxes thanks to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR - thanks (not) Doug Bruce) fee increases are necessary so government doesn't shut down. If they just paid the fees when due rather than letting them run on for months, they wouldn't have the fines. I wouldn't change states for that issue, but to each their own.
Then the shuttle bus went off the rails, jumped the shark, passed through crazytown or whatever metaphor you might want to use. I was almost wondering whether I was literally going to safely reach my destination. You see, the driver then brought up how Halliburton had purchased all of South Table Mountain and they were planning on removing it in its entirety to get at the minerals underneath. They weren't telling anyone because it's against the law to change the view of the Front Range so he thought they were likely going to start from the middle and then work their way out. He knew this because a friend of a friend works for Halliburton guarding the location. I pointed out Coors Brewery has their location on the west end of the mountain, and the National Renewable Energy Lab is on the south side of the hill. Most of the rest of the mountain is Jefferson County Open Space - oh yeah, I used to serve on a Jeffco Open Space citizen task force, so I was pretty sure this was just bunk. That didn't deter him - Halliburton just wasn't letting anybody know their plans.
The conversation went on from there. The driver went on through a series of conspiracy theories (he complained that he can't use his Celestron 11" $3000 telescope anymore because the government has polluted the sky so much it makes seeing anything very difficult). When he went to the atmosphere stories he was joined by a rider from the back of the shuttle. They both were not quite sure exactly what they'd read/heard, but they were swapping half-truths, full-blown conspiracies and outright headscratchers back and forth. I heard, for example, how the government is flying B-52's over America releasing some form of Aluminum substance to try and reflect sun rays back into space and counter global warming. Since this was not the first time I'd heard of this (thanks to MasterKey) I was able to still participate in and understand the discussion. Apparently there are videos on the web from private pilots who have followed these planes and taken video showing the chemtrails being launched.
I learned that cattle died after eating genetically modified grass in Texas (CBS news here says it's a hybrid, not a GMO as originally reported, but it backed up their story about the grass giving off cyanide).
I learned that when the polio vaccine was discovered by Jonas Salk it was taken from monkeys and when they took the material to fight polio they also took cancer-causing cells that have caused cancer in millions of people who took the vaccine.
I learned that the government will only allow treatments for illnesses if companies can patent the treatments, but they'll shut down any treatments made from unprofitable drugs that can't make money for the powers that be. There were two teas cited for their anti-cancer properties. I didn't recognize the names, but perhaps they were Essiac and Rooibos tea. The other passenger says he and his wife drink the tea faithfully. I didn't think to ask if they also drank Kool-Aid.
That led to a statement about how the government shut down about half the medical schools at the beginning of the last century because homeopathic treatments were not allowing drug companies to make money. I couldn't remember the term "Osteopathic" but I'm sure they would have had a theory about how they're being pressured into the ground by the government as well.
Eventually the talk came around, as it was going to, to the ACA. Doctors are going to be paid by the patient outcomes rather than providing care. While I don't recall that being exactly what's in ACA, I think it's good if the focus is on helping people get better rather than ordering tests that aren't necessary and getting paid more by recommending unnecessary drugs and treatments because they get perks if not outright kickbacks for doing so. The passenger said that his wife was from Peru and they have government health care there but "nobody goes to the government doctors because they aren't any good". I was going to just bite my tongue with this issue as well but as we pulled into the lot where I was to be let out, I just couldn't let it lie. I said, without turning around to face the fellow passenger, that I thought ACA was a terrific thing for the country. We engaged in a little back and forth about how I felt it was better not to be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions and that I preferred not having corporate death panels where a CEO's bonus depended upon his denying treatment to me and at least there would be standards of care they'd have to meet. He said everything the government has ever done they have screwed up but by that point we were parking and I was getting out. There was not going to be any way I was going to convince him that ACA was not the disaster for America.
As the driver was helping me with my bag, he said that he did kind of agree with me that the health care bill was not such a bad thing. That was a sliver of hope that was a better way to end the ride than I expected.
I had a friend meet me in the parking lot; he used to run one of the most liberal stores in town and he's definitely progressive. He and his family have been manning the barricades against the ravages of the right wing here in Kansas but I have a new understanding of just what they've been going through on a daily basis. I get to return to Colorado in a few days but they have to live with these types of people on a day-in day-out basis. I've never been much for tracking Conspiracy Theories. I do believe there are many, many conspiracies that are kept out of the light of day that, if exposed, would really shake accepted reality. I did not expect the dose of that that I received on that ride. Really, I feel sad for, and admire, the folks on the front lines of crazy, for keeping the fight for reality and truth going and never, no matter how nuts the opposition, letting it get the best of them. My last thought for these people is positive vibes for keeping strong in the face of so much idiocy.
*Minor Update, but Major Thanks. This is my first Recommended diary that wasn't a Cheers and Jeers fill-in. Just, wow, thanks.