Monday, June 29, 2009

Phone Call Excerpt

My Agent Has Represented Me Since the 50's
He's allowed to call me "kid."
Bob: Well, that's good news about the foot. I called "the star" and told him that you would need a stool for the shows. They said no problem.
Me: If I'm slinging an electric guitar and there's anyone sitting down I'm not doing my job.
Bob: Just use the stool. You could also just try saying something like "Gee, thanks for looking out for me Bob."
Me: Gee, thanks for looking out for me Bob.
Bob: I love ya kid.
Me: I love ya back cowboy. I rode with you this whole trip and I got no complaints.
Bob: Me neither.
There's more...

Why Medical Care in the U.S.A. Sucks ASS

That's My Left Foot

And yes, I know it's pretty damned beat up. I have pretty good healthcare through my union, which when playing the healthcare game in the U.S. puts me way ahead of most of the population. Those scars and stuff are the cumulative result of many years of bad parachute landings, horse wrecks and other debris of an active life.

Several months ago I began having extra pain in the foot and leg. By extra pain, I mean that pain free walking has not been a part of my life since 1974. The last major surgery I had was a sub-talur fusion in 1994. Things were pretty workable, I've been able to walk within reason, ride a horse and function on a daily basis.

As these things go, I've been petty lucky. Things around traumatic injury happen slowly for the most part. First you go into twinge and little hurts, then, you go into good days and bad days mode. Several months ago I went into bad days and really shitty fucking days.

Using my good insurance I went to see my "gatekeeper" doctor. He looked at the ankle, listened to me describe my pain and problem, then he ordered a blood panel to rule out gout.

I said "Dude, I know that you're a nephrologist, but, will you please just fucking look at all those goddamned scars and maybe think about ordering X-rays?"

He said he would write me a referral to a Podiatrist. I said "Dude, I hate to sound all one note on you, but, Look. At. All. Those. Fucking. Scars. I don't need a Podiatrist, I need an orthopod who does feet."

He said that his girl would get back to me and she never did. I'm at the beach in San Diego right now, doing a semi-working vacation. One of my neighbors here is a retired NBA superstar who might be one of the few men in the world whose feet are more fucked up than mine. He saw me limping while walking the dog and hooked me up with one of his favorite doctors.

She turned out to be exactly the care that I needed. The problem is that she's outside my insurance. I just deposited a hefty check from my Jeopardy appearance, and I'm getting another hefty payday from working over the 4th, so I just said "Fuck the cost, I'll pay for it out of pocket."

My plan was to get my ass in to see the specialist, get an expert opinion, then use that to find a doctor who takes my insurance.

The good news is that there's nothing structural happening with the bones. The fusions are still solid, and the arthritis surrounding it is less than could be reasonably expected. She finally said, "I can inject the heel and the foot with cortisone and if there's instant relief from the lidocaine, we'll know it's a nerve or other soft tissue problem."

I said "Cortisone is my friend. Shoot the foot."
There was about ten minutes of excruciating pain while she dug around with a needle the size of a goddamned shot glass. Then the lidocaine took hold. I've had the first bearable pain steps that I've had in months.

As I was checking out the front desk girl gave me the bill.

Office Visit: $150
X-Rays (8): 80 each
Cortisone Injections 3 sites: 200

The grand total was close to $1,200.00. I sighed and handed my Visa card over and the Doctor came out and told the clerk "He's a personal pay patient, call it 300 even."

I said "Thank you, there will be truffles come Christmas."

There are so many things wrong with just my simple little tale here that I'll just start with having to go through a "gatekeeper" doc. He's only there to keep costs for the insurance company down, just like claims representatives are there to deny claims. It's all about the bucks.

He, by specialty and training, is a nephrologist, so he naturally looked at my symptoms ready to treat to his specialty. Every minute I've spent with him for my ankle was wasted time and wasted money. I knew more about the causes of my pain than he did.

I have nothing but praise for my newfound hero doc who treated me outside the system. But, the sliding scale for the treatment of a patient who is not insured shows how much money is used to keep a profit margin viable for people who have nothing at all to do with making any illness better.

$300 cash, or $1,200 to an insuror. Who the fuck needs the extra $900?


I've been in countries where the best available medical care is considered to be a basic human right, you know about those, stuff like haebeas corpus was until Bush.

While medical care remains a product in a marketplace we will never solve the problems. There are too many motherfuckers who are using part of the $900 cut they would have gotten from my case to buy lobbyists who then buy Congressmen and Senators (yes, that means hacks like you Diane Feinstien).

I rather be called a fucking commie socialist hippie bastard than deal with this shit any longer.

There's more...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Dancin' to My Revolution

A lil something to make you glad we're human, from the Central Train Station in Antwerp:

(Hat-tip to Ian at Dykes To Watch Out For.)

There's more...

Friday, June 26, 2009

R.I.P. (updated)

The Magna Carta, signed in 1215 and providing much of the basis for the U.S. Constitution
No, not Michael or Farrah: Habeas corpus (1215-2009).

The idea that we are citizens instead of subjects. The rule of law instead of Presidential whim.

ProPublica reports that the White House is considering an "executive order that would reassert presidential authority to incarcerate suspected terrorists indefinitely".

Citing "three senior government officials with knowledge of White House deliberations", the ProPublica article states Obama's administration has turned away from the option of creating a national security court "to supervise the incarceration of detainees deemed too dangerous to release but who cannot be charged or tried". The reason give for this decision is that "legislation establishing a special court would be both difficult to pass and likely to fracture Obama's own party."

No shit, Sherlock.

If you have legitimate grounds to detain someone in prison, you have enough grounds to charge and try them. At least, that used to be the way things worked, under habeas corpus. Even in 1215, they grasped the justice of this principle.

I hope this article is wrong, utterly wrong. I hope it's the work of Washington Post reporters who are in the pocket of the Religious Right, who would LOVE to see the gains insured by the Magna Carta rolled back to further their chances of restoring theocracy. I hope Obama and his power-hungry, manipulative terriers are not even considering such a step. But I'm starting my mourning now, because it looks bleak.

At least I was born into freedom.

UPDATE: Digby at Hullaballoo has two posts today I recommend reading. The first is Transparent Obscurity, where she speaks of seeing clearly through the "haze of hopenchange" to understand "The irony, of course, is that the man who ran on transparency is actually turning out to be less transparent than the president he excoriated on the campaign trail for his secrecy."

This is a follow-up to her post Legacy, where she directs us to The Nation's article reporting on and validating the ProPublica/Washington Post report I quoted above, Obama Courts Disaster With New Detention Plan.

In each post, Digby refers us to Glenn Greenwald, first to his fact-bearing report Overwhelming majority oppose preventive detention without charges. The second link is to his updated and definitive Obama contemplates Executive Order for detention without charges. Read 'em and do WHATEVER YOU CAN to stop this man's continuation of The Worst of Bush.

There's more...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mischief Managed

Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs have announced an updated version of their Marauder's Map, including portions of the Appalachian Trail as it extends into the 2-mile coastal road of Argentina.

There's more...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Matchless Valour

Wind In The Willows four friends preparing to retake Toad Hall
When I was in fourth grade, our beloved teacher, Frances Wilmeth, told us about a new program which would provide free school lunches for anyone who needed them. In that small South Texas town, each grade in elementary school comprised an A class and a B class totaling about 60 students altogether. The A class held whatever white children there were (around 8-15) and Latino children who were not from migrant families, who had arrived at first grade able to speak some English, and/or were the children of "important people". All the other Latino children were in the B classes.

Yeah, it was that overt.

Children who registered for first grade without being able to speak English were held back for a year to be taught by an elderly white man whom every one of us knew was the meanest teacher in any grade. We heard him screaming at his kids all day long, interspersed with whacks from his wooden ruler on terrified small hands and shoulders.

My family, new to town, was at the very bottom of the white social register. This meant one of the unspoken rules that we cling fast to our whiteness, not associate with any brown children, and try to prove our worth by being "good poor". Mama herself was conflicted by these pressures, facing ends of month (each month) when there wasn't quite enough to feed us, and her not eating didn't close the gap. I responded by becoming anorexic, which only upset her more. My only refuge was in books and learning. This made me a favorite among teachers, not so much other kids.

We ate mostly beans and rice at home, whatever vegetables Mama could grow, lots of macaroni and homemade red plum jam which I complained about but I'd give anything for one of those jars now. These sorts of meals didn't translate readily into lunches Mama could pack in a metal box. (This is before the days of Tupperware.) Bread, bologna and bananas cost money at the grocery store. Thus, each Monday morning was a tinderbox of tension as Mama tried to find enough change to send us off with the 1.20 cents it cost to eat in the cafeteria for a week. My brothers stayed out of her way. I didn't. I was already making the choice to allow her to dump on me rather than face our situation alone.

Once every two weeks, Daddy came home with a paycheck and, usually, steaks or chicken he'd bought along the way. I didn't enjoy those feasts, because I understood instinctively what came out of his pocket for the steaks would have to be made up by us after he was gone.

So, Miz Wilmeth's offer of free lunches arrived like a hand from g*d. I carefully folded the mimeographed sheet she handed out to every one of us and took it home after school with enormous excitement.

Mama was in the kitchen, trying to make rice and beans into something different. She was a consummate cook, and often succeeded. I stood out of her path and opened the hand-out. "How much money does Daddy make each month?" I asked. "Is it less than $250?"

"Shit yes" said Mama, distracted, giving a bitter laugh. Then she realized who was asking and focused on me. "What do you have there?"

I began explaining. I can still recall my extreme joy: I'd found a way to help. Painfully skinny and shy, asthmatic, only nine years old, I was at last going to be able to contribute something to the survival of my family.

She snatched the sheet from my hands and read it swiftly, disbelief on her face. "This is about that goddamned government program Johnson signed off on!" she shouted at me. "This is charity, do you understand what charity means? Ever la-di-da shitass in this town will be able to spit on us if we take charity!" She ripped up the paper and threw it on the floor. "Don't you EVER bring home one of these goddamned forms again, you hear me?"

However, by the following year, the school had become smarter in handling the issue. Not only were free lunches offered, but also free breakfast and a free mid-morning bottle of milk. Families were given a form where they could apply for a "discount", and enough folks did that there was no longer such a stigma attached to it. Furthermore, it was done privately, at the principal's office, not through the teacher collecting lunch fees at the start of every Monday.

The difference this make can hardly be described. Kids stopped falling asleep in class by 10 a.m. Boys having fist-fights virtually stopped. Test scores climbed. I'm crying as I write this, because it is graphic proof of how much hunger there was in that small town, and how many children were suffering.

In fifth grade, we passed from everybody's favorite, Miz Wilmeth, to the care of Eula Farmer, who was reputed to be strict but fair. That is, those of us in the A class did. All the B class teachers were allegedly mean and bad-tempered. Miz Farmer was as tall and lean as Miz Wilmeth had been short and round. She was grey, hair color, eyes, clothing, even her skin seemed to be slightly metallic. But she was a fabulous teacher, it turned out.

She worked us hard in the mornings. After lunch and a raucous recess, however, she had us lie our heads on our desks and she read aloud to us from a book. I think she probably instituted this practice after decades of teaching hungry children who might have had their first meal of the day half an hour earlier and needed a chance to let their systems crash in relief.

Some of the kids did, in fact, take a nap on their desktops, without shame or reprisal. But a lot of us lay with closed eyes listening to Miz Farmer's surprisingly expressive voice take us magical places. That first semester, she read us The Wind In The Willows. It remains one of my favorite books of all time. The second semester, she read us Magnificent Joe and made blazing animal rights activists out of us all.

But back to The Wind In The Willows: I imagined the four friends, Ratty, Mole, Badger, and Toad, as leading the kind of all-one-gender unmarried lifestyle I dreamed of having one day. Messing about in boats, having picnics, keeping each other in good spirits. They had plenty to eat and community respect. It was all I dared allow myself to want.

Toad was a problem, of course. Impulsive and unable to learn from his mistakes, he was like Daddy, but Badger and Ratty had a handle on the situation. It looked grim when weasels and stoats moved into Toad Hall. But I can still remember the afternoon when the four friends used one of Badger's mysterious tunnels to come up under the Hall itself, burst in and retake the place. Nobody napped that day; we were all sitting upright in our desks, fidgeting with tension, then giving a loud spontaneous cheer when at last the vile vermin were handcuffed, beaten senseless, or driven away into the Deep Woods.

I was reminded of that satisfaction today when I read Lance Mannion's post Everything I Know About Writing, I Learned From Beatrix Potter (hat-tip to Batocchio at Mike's Blog Round-Up, who published the link). Mannion writes about Pat Buchanan's scorn of Sonia Sotomayor learning English from stellar children's books, how misplaced his sneering is, and only a thin veneer for woman-hating and racism.

I realized we've been cheated, in this country, from the redemption we'd feel at our own taking of Toad Hall -- in our instance, reclaiming the Constitution and real American values. We need to see Rummy in handcuffs, Rove frog-marched to the stationhouse, Cheney rained about the head and shoulders with Ratty's cudgel, and Mole confiscating all their weapons for none to use again. I'm not talking about revenge, I'm talking about simple justice and setting the house to rights.

Think about what a difference that would make.

Or lay your heads down on your desks and follow the words of Kenneth Grahame himself. We'll start in the middle of Chapter XII, "The Return of Ulysses", where the four friends have prepared themselves and plunged into Badger's dark tunnel, following him in the direction of Toad Hall:

So they groped and shuffled along, with their ears pricked up and their paws on their pistols, till at last the Badger said, `We ought by now to be pretty nearly under the Hall.'

Then suddenly they heard, far away as it might be, and yet apparently nearly over their heads, a confused murmur of sound, as if people were shouting and cheering and stamping on the floor and hammering on tables. The Toad's nervous terrors all returned, but the Badger only remarked placidly, `They are going it, the Weasels!'

The passage now began to slope upwards; they groped onward a little further, and then the noise broke out again, quite distinct this time, and very close above them.

`Ooo-ray-ooray-oo-ray-ooray!' they heard, and the stamping of little feet on the floor, and the clinking of glasses as little fists pounded on the table. `What a time they're having!' said the Badger. `Come on!' They hurried along the passage till it came to a full stop, and they found themselves standing under the trap-door that led up into the butler's pantry.

Such a tremendous noise was going on in the banqueting-hall that there was little danger of their being overheard. The Badger said, `Now, boys, all together!' and the four of them put their shoulders to the trap-door and heaved it back.

Hoisting each other up, they found themselves standing in the pantry, with only a door between them and the banqueting-hall, where their unconscious enemies were carousing.

The noise, as they emerged from the passage, was simply deafening. At last, as the cheering and hammering slowly subsided, a voice could be made out saying, `Well, I do not propose to detain you much longer' -- (great applause) -- `but before I resume my seat' -- (renewed cheering) -- `I should like to say one word about our kind host, Mr. Toad. We all know Toad!' -- (great laughter) -- `Good Toad, modest Toad, honest Toad!' (shrieks of merriment).

`Only just let me get at him!' muttered Toad, grinding his teeth.

`Hold hard a minute!' said the Badger, restraining him with difficulty. `Get ready, all of you!'

` -- Let me sing you a little song,' went on the voice, `which I have composed on the subject of Toad' -- (prolonged applause).

Then the Chief Weasel -- for it was he -- began in a high, squeaky voice --

`Toad he went a-pleasuring
Gaily down the street -- '

The Badger drew himself up, took a firm grip of his stick with both paws, glanced round at his comrades, and cried --

`The hour is come! Follow me!'

And flung the door open wide.

My! What a squealing and a squeaking and a screeching filled the air!

Well might the terrified weasels dive under the tables and spring madly up at the windows! Well might the ferrets rush wildly for the fireplace and get hopelessly jammed in the chimney! Well might tables and chairs be upset, and glass and china be sent crashing on the floor, in the panic of that terrible moment when the four Heroes strode wrathfully into the room! The mighty Badger, his whiskers bristling, his great cudgel whistling through the air; Mole, black and grim, brandishing his stick and shouting his awful war-cry, `A Mole! A Mole!' Rat; desperate and determined, his belt bulging with weapons of every age and every variety; Toad, frenzied with excitement and injured pride, swollen to twice his ordinary size, leaping into the air and emitting Toad-whoops that chilled them to the marrow!

`Toad he went a-pleasuring!' he yelled. `I'll pleasure 'em!' and he went straight for the Chief Weasel. They were but four in all, but to the panic-stricken weasels the hall seemed full of monstrous animals, grey, black, brown and yellow, whooping and flourishing enormous cudgels; and they broke and fled with squeals of terror and dismay, this way and that, through the windows, up the chimney, anywhere to get out of reach of those terrible sticks.

The affair was soon over. Up and down, the whole length of the hall, strode the four Friends, whacking with their sticks at every head that showed itself; and in five minutes the room was cleared. Through the broken windows the shrieks of terrified weasels escaping across the lawn were borne faintly to their ears; on the floor lay prostrate some dozen or so of the enemy, on whom the Mole was busily engaged in fitting handcuffs. The Badger, resting from his labours, leant on his stick and wiped his honest brow.

`Mole,' he said,' `you're the best of fellows! Just cut along outside and look after those stoat-sentries of yours, and see what they're doing. I've an idea that, thanks to you, we shan't have much trouble from them to-night!'

The Mole vanished promptly through a window; and the Badger bade the other two set a table on its legs again, pick up knives and forks and plates and glasses from the debris on the floor, and see if they could find materials for a supper. `I want some grub, I do,' he said, in that rather common way he had of speaking. `Stir your stumps, Toad, and look lively! We've got your house back for you, and you don't offer us so much as a sandwich.' Toad felt rather hurt that the Badger didn't say pleasant things to him, as he had to the Mole, and tell him what a fine fellow he was, and how splendidly he had fought; for he was rather particularly pleased with himself and the way he had gone for the Chief Weasel and sent him flying across the table with one blow of his stick. But he bustled about, and so did the Rat, and soon they found some guava jelly in a glass dish, and a cold chicken, a tongue that had hardly been touched, some trifle, and quite a lot of lobster salad; and in the pantry they came upon a basketful of French rolls and any quantity of cheese, butter, and celery. They were just about to sit down when the Mole clambered in through the window, chuckling, with an armful of rifles.

`It's all over,' he reported. `From what I can make out, as soon as the stoats, who were very nervous and jumpy already, heard the shrieks and the yells and the uproar inside the hall, some of them threw down their rifles and fled. The others stood fast for a bit, but when the weasels came rushing out upon them they thought they were betrayed; and the stoats grappled with the weasels, and the weasels fought to get away, and they wrestled and wriggled and punched each other, and rolled over and over, till most of 'em rolled into the river! They've all disappeared by now, one way or another; and I've got their rifles. So that's all right!'

`Excellent and deserving animal!' said the Badger, his mouth full of chicken and trifle. `Now, there's just one more thing I want you to do, Mole, before you sit down to your supper along of us; and I wouldn't trouble you only I know I can trust you to see a thing done, and I wish I could say the same of every one I know. I'd send Rat, if he wasn't a poet. I want you to take those fellows on the floor there upstairs with you, and have some bedrooms cleaned out and tidied up and made really comfortable. See that they sweep under the beds, and put clean sheets and pillow-cases on, and turn down one corner of the bed-clothes, just as you know it ought to be done; and have a can of hot water, and clean towels, and fresh cakes of soap, put in each room. And then you can give them a licking a-piece, if it's any satisfaction to you, and put them out by the back-door, and we shan't see any more of them, I fancy. And then come along and have some of this cold tongue. It's first rate. I'm very pleased with you, Mole!'

The goodnatured Mole picked up a stick, formed his prisoners up in a line on the floor, gave them the order `Quick march!' and led his squad off to the upper floor. After a time, he appeared again, smiling, and said that every room was ready, and as clean as a new pin. `And I didn't have to lick them, either,' he added. `I thought, on the whole, they had had licking enough for one night, and the weasels, when I put the point to them, quite agreed with me, and said they wouldn't think of troubling me. They were very penitent, and said they were extremely sorry for what they had done. but it was all the fault of the Chief Weasel and the stoats, and if ever they could do anything for us at any time to make up, we had only got to mention it. So I gave them a roll a-piece, and let them out at the back, and off they ran, as hard as they could!'

Then the Mole pulled his chair up to the table, and pitched into the cold tongue; and Toad, like the gentleman he was, put all his jealousy from him, and said heartily, `Thank you kindly, dear Mole, for all your pains and trouble tonight, and especially for your cleverness this morning!' The Badger was pleased at that, and said, `There spoke my brave Toad!' So they finished their supper in great joy and contentment, and presently retired to rest between clean sheets, safe in Toad's ancestral home, won back by matchless valour, consummate strategy, and a proper handling of sticks.

There's more...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Strong Public Option: Our Right and Preference

Pouring Concrete woodcut (Pouring Concrete V, woodcut 2000 by Linda Lee Boyd)

Everybody has to have health care. If you don't get it when you need it, you get sick or sicker. Your productivity drops, and eventually you either (a) go to a emergency room where indigent care is covered but the expenses are exponentially higher, for a condition which might have cost a few dollars if it was treated way back when; (b) you wind up on disability (if you're lucky); or (c) you die.

How can any of these options be called in the common good? More to the point, how can any of these options be called "profitable"?

A well-constructed national study, Medical Bankruptcy in the United States 2007 was recently published in the American Journal of Medicine. It begins "As recently as 1981, only 8% of families filing for bankruptcy did so in the aftermath of a serious medical problem. By contrast, our 2001 study in 5 states found that illness or medical bills contributed to about half of bankruptcies."

The study abstract states (emphasis added by me):

Since then [2001], health costs and the numbers of un- and underinsured have increased, and bankruptcy laws have tightened. RESULTS: Using a conservative definition, 62.1% of all bankruptcies in 2007 were medical; 92% of these medical debtors had medical debts over $5000, or 10% of pretax family income. The rest met criteria for medical bankruptcy because they had lost significant income due to illness or mortgaged a home to pay medical bills. Most medical debtors were well educated, owned homes, and had middle-class occupations. Three quarters had health insurance. Using identical definitions in 2001 and 2007, the share of bankruptcies attributable to medical problems rose by 49.6%. In logistic regression analysis controlling for demographic factors, the odds that a bankruptcy had a medical cause was 2.38-fold higher in 2007 than in 2001.
Forget about the stock market, or even foreclosures: The economic threat to working Americans is lack of affordable health care. We do NOT have the "best health care in the world", not unless you are rich or a member of Congress whose government-funded medical plan is phenomenal.

We out here know this, of course. I'm not telling you anything you don't already lie awake nights worrying about. But the debate that is going on is, as usual, full of distortions and "compromises" that are no such thing.

Bottom line: Strong public option or else. This means if a law is passed insisting you have health care insurance (as exists already for car insurance), one of your options is to buy it at an affordable rate from a government-run program, or have it provided free a la Medicare if your income qualifies. You will not be denied coverage for any reason, such as pre-existing conditions, and your insurance will be accepted at any public facility in the nation. It will be completely portable, not linked to a job or living in a particular state.

What Republicans want is to force us to buy insurance from private companies -- the same companies who are already making millions in profits by denying us coverage, cancelling coverage if we get ill, or delaying payment so long we die before we get the care we need. The crisis in health care is currently caused by private insurance plans linked to PROFIT.

Republicans, and Democrats who work as lobbyists for the insurance industry or have major contributions from said industry (cough cough Daschle), claim that insisting on a public option will mean too many people will choose that instead of private insurance. Some of their mouthpieces are pushing a "co-op" option, knowing full well that states with small populations will never have enough clout to create co-ops that survive against private insurance. Other mouthpieces complain about the competition that will force private companies to lower rates and provide better coverage. In other words, they want corporate welfare once again.

They also claim it means a government worker will decide what kind of treatment you get. Well, currently those decisions are being made by cubicle drones for private insurance companies who receive bonuses for denying you care. Your disability and death have no impact on their bottom line. But a "government worker" will have no such incentive to keep you away from necessary treatment, and in the big picture, having more citizens alive and productive is better for the government's bottom line. You tell me which one looks more attractive.

And to help you, check out this video of the Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing on "Terminations of Individual Health Policies by Insurance Companies." Of particular interest is the practice of recission, where insurance companies are cancelling coverage for tens of thousands of patients who developed cancer or other serious conditions, a cancellation which makes these patients liable for medical expenses retroactively. None of the three insurance companies who testified -- Assurant, UnitedHealth Group, and WellPoint -- would commit to stopping the practice of arbitrary recission unless there was intentional fraud in the patient's application. [Starting at 4:48 in the video.] They all indicated they will go on putting profit ahead of patient well-being. Until we demand the government stops them, of course, or we find an alternative to their own cancerous death-grip on our medical system.

The time to act on this is now, before we get sold out again by so-called moderates who are actually far to the right in many human rights aspects. All it would take is for President Obama to say he will not sign a bill that doesn't include a public option. Speaker Pelosi responded this week to a question from Huffington Post about whether she she would allow a reform package without a public option out of the House: "It's not a question of allow. It wouldn't have the votes."

HuffPo states a bill without the public option "would lack the votes because the GOP generally opposes Democratic reform proposals, and the 77 member Congressional Progressive Caucus -- rarely heard from on the Hill -- has been particularly vocal in its commitment to oppose any reform that doesn't include a public option. The public plan's popularity extends beyond progressives and is broadly popular with the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus and even two-fifths of Blue Dogs, the conservative Democratic coalition."

Dr. Howard Dean and Democracy For America have created an explanatory video and petition for a strong public option in health care reform, available at Stand With Dr. Dean. On the same page is a list of other actions you can take with DFA.

Senators Dick Durbin, Patrick Leahy, and Chuck Schumer have created an online advocacy effort to build support for real health care reform that includes a public option. You can read about it and sign their petition at Citizens For A Public Option.

Organizing For America has a Health Care Action Center page where you can enter your address and zip to find your Representative and Senators' phone numbers, along with some calling tips.

We only need 50 votes to get this done, or a President who won't sign a bail-out to the insurance industry. (If he caves on this, you can kiss off the rest of his term.) 76% of the American people want the public option, which is ALREADY all the bipartisan support necessary. Write, call, do your bit. And be well.

ADDENDUM: This issue, what constitutes a human right that should not be determined by profit margins, reminded me of a song by the great lesbian-feminist singer/songwriter and Red Diaper baby Alix Dobkin, written in the late 1970's. I've just received the correct lines from her and share them with you now:

How the patriarchy scars us
From the moment we are born
Heavy hands are interfering
From our mothers we are torn
Everyone's a victim at the hands of men
They've stolen childbirth, they profit on our lives
Through to our earthly end
It's so outrageous to think about it
I have to think about it
I have to think again...
There's more...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Reviewing My Presidential Wish List

(Five Paths, sculpture by Richard Long 2002 at New Art Centre, Roche Court, England)

Reviewing My Presidential Wish List

Let me be up front: Lesbian/gay marriage is not one of my top 10 issues. Nor even in my top 20. I support it, as I support all human rights causes, but I don't believe marriage represents the ultimate expression of love and commitment, and I'd rather the state get out of the marriage business altogether except for a few basic rights accorded in civil unions for EVERYBODY.

The problem with the recent DOMA brief is three-fold for me, none of which really are about supporting lesbian/gay marriage. First, written into this brief is hate: Hateful lies and arguments which will be used by the Right for possibly decades to come. Second, either Obama is not in charge of policy decisions on a hot-button issue or he's lied in a major way about his intentions. Third, the alleged "Constitutional expert" is flat-out wrong on this issue, where law has been perverted to support politics in order to keep one segment of the population separated from Constitutional rights everyone else enjoys.

Believe me, if this kind of language and stance had been taken with regard to any other population in our country, I'd be just as outraged. More to the point, so would be a lot of people who are currently trying to explain it away as either an accident or some kind of "President's sekwet pwan to whip inflation".

In the bigger picture, for all of you screaming about how it's only been four months, this is one of a series of failures in this new Presidency that are far, far more serious, failures which could easily have gone the other way while he had political capital and intense support to make the Change he ran on. Back when I decided what the key issues were for me in choosing a Presidential candidate, here's what I came up with, in order of importance:

Restore habeas corpus. (This includes closing GITMO.)
Stop and reverse unitary executive expansion. (This includes halting the use of signing statements except occasionally for Constitutional issues and releasing access to documents such as who visits the White House.)
Stop torture. Period.
Enact public health care for all (you bet socialized medicine -- insurance not tied to employment or private companies.)
Halt all illegal domestic spying and reveal what has been done in this area over the past eight years.
Rely on foreign policy that uses military force (or the threat of it) only as a very last resort, and which removes the use of nuclear weapons from the table altogether.
Support unions and working people instead of the economic elite. (This means throwing strong support behind EFCA, ending corporate welfare, and penalizing companies who send American jobs overseas.)
Get us out of Iraq fast.
Appoint Supreme Court justices who are not reactionary.
Prosecute the crimes of the former administration. (This would include releasing torture photos and tapes.)
Immigration reform that involves paths to citizenship, increased work visas, and no more imprisonment of families with children.

(Oops. I guess I forgot I was supposed to be "driven by identity politics" or a PUMA when I was writing this list.)

Now let's rate this Presidency according to actual performance, not Obama's speechwriting ability. The red items are where he has ALREADY failed. The green items are where he has lived up to either progressive hopes and/or his own campaign promises. And the blue items are where he could still take positive remedial action.

From 11 main items I looked for in a Democratic Presidency, Obama has already gone the opposite direction entirely on five main items, mostly or partially failed on two more, delivered on only one main item, and left three with room still for Hope and Change.

What upsets me most is that I felt we had one slim chance to stop the power grab Cheney set into place, a power grab begun under Reagan (may he rot in hell), but Obama has gladly clapped onto his head the laurels of Imperial Presidency. Which means it will be that much harder for any future ethical Democrat to roll it back, if we ever get one elected, but the more likely scenario is future Republican Presidents will find it a short hop to dictatorship and theocracy.

All this refusing to assign responsibility or correct insanity eddying around us has not won Obama a single ally or vote from the opposition. It will not grant him kind words in future biographies. I think a more accurate description comes from Jill at Brilliant Hussein At Breakfast, who in her post You Don't Have To Be Gay For This To Piss You Off says "There's Barack and Rahm, still trying to win over the very same Christofascist Zombie Brigade that's been calling Obama a Muslim and a terrorist and appearing all over Fox Noise to whip gun guys into a frenzy." You don't deal with domestic terrorists by going appeasatory on them, and I say that as a Quaker. You also don't reason with authoritarian-based hydrophobia. You do the principled thing and keep going.

Jill, by the way, identifies a large part of the problem as Emanuel Rahm. I can't pass up this quote from her: "Note to the President: Jettison Rahm...the sooner the better. Because he is an albatross around your neck.. He thinks his political instincts are great, but he's just another cheap, glad-handing sack of shit who schmoozes and strongarms and thinks that's what's important. Perhaps you are too. But if you don't want to be thought of this way, get rid of this guy. Because he is going to steer you wrong every damn time."

Whatever the source of the infection, we have to diagnose its effect on our system and cry for a halt. We'll have to seek remedy in Congress short-term, and be honest with one another in public as often as we can. Because we believe in the rule of law, not personality.

(Hat-tip to Distributor Cap for inspiration for this post.)

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Howard Dean Talks With Rachel Maddow About Obama's Deeply Offensive Defense of DOMA (and other updates)

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Quotes from Governor Dean in this interview:

"Of all the things that were done during sort of the anti-gay period, the electioneering period engineered by Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich and people like that, DOMA was probably the most offensive. And this, I think most people believe, never should have been signed. The language in this brief is really offensive, and it really is a terrible mistake. I doubt very much the President knew this was coming. I don't think for a minute this represents the President's position. But he is now going to have to dig himself out of this, because people are really upset about this, and they -- not just in the gay and lesbian community, but in the community of people who are interested in equal rights."

"You cannot talk about gay Americans the way that gay Americans were talked about in this brief."

"I do think it's bad that this kind of language was used in a Justice Department brief, presumably without the President's knowledge. That is really -- you just can't do that. You can't -- It is true that the Attorney General has the obligation to defend the law of the land whether the law of the land they agree with or not. But there are some times when the law of the land is so noxious -- This is not a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. That's not what this does. If DOMA gets repealed, that does not legalize same-sex marriage in places like Alabama and Texas which may not want to have same-sex marriage. But it does recognize the constitutional reciprocity of contracts from one state to another, and that is a basic Constitutional right."
Also appearing today, as the mainstream media wakes up to this issue: From today's New York Times editorial A Bad Call On Gay Rights:

The brief also maintains that the Defense of Marriage Act represents a “cautious policy of federal neutrality” — an odd assertion since the law clearly discriminates against gay couples. Under the act, same-sex married couples who pay their taxes are ineligible for the sort of federal benefits — such as Social
Security survivors’ payments and joint tax returns — that heterosexual married couples receive.

If the administration does feel compelled to defend the act, it should do so in a less hurtful way. It could have crafted its legal arguments in general terms, as a simple description of where it believes the law now stands. There was no need to resort to specious arguments and inflammatory language to impugn same-sex marriage as an institution.

In times like these, issues like repealing the marriage act can seem like a distraction — or a political liability. But busy calendars and political expediency are no excuse for making one group of Americans wait any longer for equal rights.
The Wall Street Journal's Kate Meckler has today printed an article on this story, Gay Group Slams Policies of President. For an excellent analysis of this article and other implications, read the post just up by John Aravosis at AmericaBlog. Among other things, AmericaBlog is making the link between these policy choices and the decision to have Rick Warren deliver a prayer which marred the Inauguration ceremony, and they are also suggesting lesbian and gay leaders boycott the DNC fundraiser planned for the 40th anniversary of Stonewall.

The WSJ Journal article concerns the letter just sent by Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign to the President, the text of which may be read here.

So, the question is: Did President Obama allow policy decisions concerning human rights to be made without his knowledge by Bush-holdover dobermans, or has Toto now pulled back the curtain to show us the administration's actual beliefs in action? Either way, I'm having Clinton vu.

(Hat-tip to Alison Bechdel and commenter Alex K at Dykes To Watch Out For for some of these leads.)
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Sunday, June 14, 2009

God Hates You

Your Sunday morning message of Christian love and hope:

No, this is not a satire, though it took about 30 seconds of watching to figure that out. It's Fred Phelps' followers, harmoniously and deleriously smiling as they inform us that God Hates The World. Their obvious joy in delivering this news is, well, creepy.

What I want to know is: If it's too late to change his mind, why bother?

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Who Obama Picks To Keep Doing Bush's Work For Him

(Poster from Austin Cline.)

Who Obama Picks To Keep Doing Bush's Work For Him

W. Scott Simpson is the Bush-appointed senior trial counsel whose name appears as one of three Obama Justice Department lawyers who wrote and filed the vile DOMA brief this week. Renee S., a commenter at Dykes To Watch Out For, has done some research about his background, and turned up the following:

Simpson was quoted as a lawyer defending Bush's attempted ban on late-term abortions in San Francisco Faith News, June 2004. The relevant portion of the article reads

Federal justice department lawyer W. Scott Simpson said that there is no evidence that extraction abortions are safer than any others and that they cause great and unnecessary pain to infants. Further, he said, "the evidence supports Congress' finding that partial-birth abortion is never necessary to preserve the health of the woman." Finally, Simpson said, "there's no elephant in the room. There's a baby. Congress can prohibit partially delivering that baby only to kill it."

Simpson replaced an attorney during the proceeding regarding FOIA, The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. National Archives and Records Administration, in which Simpson was protecting Bush's interests regarding missing governmental e-mails. Here's a timeline on this case up through March 2009.

Also, for further information about his Mormon background, check his biography at a genealogy-related home-page.

Clearly, when evisceration is on the agenda, Obama's DOJ is able to find the right hyena to do it.
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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Less Honorable Than A Moderate

(Del Martin and Phyllis Martin at home in San Francisco, 1989; photo by Robert Giard.)

Less Honorable Than A Moderate

I find I do not (yet) have anything to add to John Aravosis's reaction to yesterday's decision by the Obama administration to not only decide to defend DOMA (in stark contrast to campaign promises), but to heap wood on the fires used to incinerate the human rights of my people. Read his initial post Obama defends DOMA in federal court. Says banning gay marriage is good for the federal budget. Invokes incest and marrying children. and later follow-ups at America Blog, including reactions from other progressives.

In his reaction above, John says "It's pretty despicable, and gratuitously homophobic. It reads as if it were written by one of George Bush's top political appointees." Bingo: John was right. He later discovered that "one of the three Obama Justice Department attorneys who wrote and filed the anti-gay DOMA brief last night is W. Scott Simpson, a Mormon Bush holdover who was awarded by Alberto Gonzales for his defense of the Partial Birth Abortion act."

And now, today, is an additional post I want to recommend from Joe Sudbay, also at America Blog, A Word About Barack Obama And The Lawyers In Our Midst.

For some, the decision whether to defend or oppose DOMA is purely a legal exercise...It's shocking how many people viewed yesterday's DOMA discussion through their own purely intellectual, legal lens. The condescending tone from some of the legal types, both straight and gay - all Democrat - was insulting, demeaning, and horribly out of touch (with their own humanity). Gay Americans lost rights last November in California. We had fundamental rights taken away by an election. Think about that. When was the last time that happened in this country?

Yesterday, a Democratic President of the United States of America, in the year 2009, and an African-American child of inter-racial parents no less, gave his lawyers the go ahead to compare our marriages to incest on the same day that 42 years ago the Supreme Court ruled in his parents' favor in Loving v. Virginia. And these people, along with our President, are suggesting that the appropriate response is to shrug our shoulders and go home, since, after all, the law is the law?
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Friday, June 12, 2009

Memo to the Right Wing: Put Up or Shut Up

Dear Conservatives:

Your fellow Americans demand an answer -- and we want it now. Just one simple question:

Are you deliberately trying to start a civil war?

Just answer the question. Yes or no. Don't insult us with elisions, evasions, dithering, qualifications, or conditional answers. We need to know what your intentions are -- and we need to know NOW. People are being shot dead in the streets of America at the rate of several per month now. You may not want responsibility for this -- but the whackadoodles pulling the triggers make no bones about who put them up to this.

You did.

The assassins themselves are ratting you out. They're telling us, straight up, that they were inspired to act by the hate radio talkers that you empowered -- one of whom is now the de facto head of the Republican party. They got it from media outlets owned by your biggest donors. They got it from bloggers who receive daily talking points faxed in from the GOP. They got it from activists representing causes that would have never become causes in the first place if the issues hadn't been politically expedient for you.

Beyond that: You've already admitted your own complicity. When the Department of Homeland Security expressed their worries about right-wing extremist violence last April, practically every conservative pundit in the country went into a righteous fit. DHS never named anyone directly, so it was astonishing how many of you on the right were so quick to step up and claim that that memo was slandering you, personally and collectively. Since you were so eager to claim that that memo was all about you, now that the violence has come to pass, we're well justified in holding you to that.

And please don't insult our intelligence by saying that these acts are the work of lone wolves, and that you don't have anything to do with this, and that it's all the fault of the left. It's true that there have always been crazies in our midst. But by choosing to gain power through a politics that only motivates through hate and fear, you've recruited a good-sized army of those crazies, armed them up, and turned them into paranoid monsters that are now running loose on the American landscape.

We know you have absolute and utter contempt for the intelligence of the average American, but trying to blame the left for creating this situation is a fabrication so vast that it tells us you don't even have so much as a shred of respect for yourselves. Even you seem to know that your word is worth nothing to most Americans now -- and you don't seem to care.

You don't seem to give a damn about the future of this country, either. You're just in it to win the next election, increase profits for the next quarter, or boost your ratings in the next book. As long as selling hate accomplishes any of these goals, you'll do it -- without regard for the cultural sewage you're creating, without regard for the way you've polluted the political landscape, and now apparently without even a moment's regard for the innocent lives that are being lost because you seem bent on destroying every shred of trust required for our democracy to function.

But the bodies are piling up. We are demanding an accounting from you. We are demanding that you take responsibility for the situation you've created. We are looking you straight in the eyes and demanding a straight answer:

Are you deliberately trying to start a civil war?

If your answer is yes, then stop this cowardly half-assed screwing around. You speak the language of war and honor; but the honor code of the warriors you pretend to revere demands that you declare your intentions. If you really believe that the only way to get the America you want is to negate a fair election, shred the Constitution, and violently cleanse the country of everyone who doesn't agree with you, then man up and get on with it. If it's a shooting war you want, do not doubt that there are plenty of progressives who will oblige you. If this goal is so important that you're really willing to kill for it, please don't forget that you will also need to be willing to die for it. Because, like martyrs Greg McKendry and Steven Johns proved, we are willing to do whatever is necessary to stop you.

If your answer is no, then you have just one other choice. Knock off the tantrums, grow up, rebuild your party, come back to the table, and sit down and govern with us. (We know this will be a stretch, but we think some of you are capable of it.) You will need to learn, many of you for the first time, to get your way as adults do -- without fear-based politics, polarizing rhetoric, on-air threats against those who disagree with you, and repeating outrageous lies in the face of stone facts and irrefutable evidence.

And most of all: you need to stop feeding the crazies. You need to disavow them in every way possible -- sincerely, emphatically, and with full awareness that every time one of these people acts, it destroys the credibility of "conservatives," "Republicans," and "the right wing" in the eyes of the country. You cannot assassinate your way back to power. And don't doubt for a moment that the majority of Americans -- even those who agree with your ideas -- will abandon your cause forever once it realizes that's what you're trying to do.

Since you're the ones funding the violent radicals on your flank, you need to stop sending them money. Since you know far more about their activities than any one else, you need to be the ones who turn them in. Since you're the ones who make heroes and martyrs out of them, you need to be the ones who call them out as criminals. Until you do this -- consistently, wholeheartedly, and responsibly -- we can only conclude that these assassins are operating with your support and approval, and that you are intentionally trying to start an armed revolution in America.

That's your choice. Are you deliberately trying to start a civil war? Or are you willing to work for real civility, and return to your seat at the table, ready to help us choose the country's future?

Yes or No. Right now. The window is closing fast behind you. And once it closes, none of us -- not you, not us, not anyone -- will have the choice to avoid the catastrophe that will follow. It's your decision. And you need to make it now.

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Musical Tour of American Economics, 1929 - 2009

or, The Sad Sad Songwriters Full Employment Acts of 1929, 1937, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1999, 1989, 1998, and 2008/2009

Al Jolson -- Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

We'd Like to Thank You Herbert Hoover (George W. Bush) -- Kingdom Hearts mashup, music from Annie

Arlo Guthrie -- I Am Changing my Name to Chrysler

Mandy Patinkin -- Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

Tom Paxton -- I Am Changing my Name to Fannie Mae

Roy Zimmerman -- Buddy, Can You Spare a Billion Trillion Dollars?

Lovely instrumental version of Brother Can You Spare a Dime? from Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day

The Austin Lounge Lizards -- Too Big to Fail

Any Questions? There's a quiz....
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

How Real Terrorism Begins

Sara Robinson Hits A Home Run

Stop and read this now.

As always, what Sara has to say about terrorism is brilliant. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

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Jesus's Jihadis Terrorism Watch Part II: Shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum

US Holocaust Memorial Museum interior Interior of the US Holocaust National Memorial Museum, showing photos of Jews killed from a single town.

Jesus's Jihadis Terrorism Watch Part Two: Shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum

A gunman walked into the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum about 12:50 p.m. EST today and opened fire with a rifle, shooting a guard who is reported to be in grave condition. Two other guards returned fire and downed the suspect, now listed in critical condition. Both the guard and suspect were taken to George Washington University Hospital. At least one other person was injured by flying glass from a broken window.

MSNBC reports the suspect is "James Wenneker von Brunn, 88, from the Eastern Shore of Maryland". An individual by that name and age has a rabidly anti-Semitic website at Holy Western Empire. [Reminder: Do not open this website if you don't want a hate-based link to show up in your traffic log.] Below is a screen-grab of his biography.

Biography of James von Brunn (Online biography of James Von Brunn, right wing eliminationist -- click on image to enlarge.)

The front page at his website promotes Von Brunn's "culmination of his life's work" titled Tob Shebbe Goyim Harog! (translated as Kill The Best Gentiles!), a 350 page hate screed that claims to condense 'libraries of information about the Talmud, Democracy, Marx, Genetics, Money, Aryans, Negroes, Khazars, The Holy Bible, Treason, Mass-media, Mendelism, Race, the “Holocaust” and a host of suppressed “bigoted” subjects, all supported by quotations from many of history’s greatest personages. Learn who is responsible for the millions of Aryan crosses covering the world’s battlefields. Why our sons and daughters died bravely but in vain. Learn why the “browning of America will alter everything in society from politics and education to industry, values and culture.” (TIME 4-9-90). Learn who has committed treason - and must be brought to justice! This carefully documented treatise exposes the JEWS and explains what you must do to protect your White family. Kill the Best Gentiles! Is a must for every concerned parent and a manual for every student of World History.'

The sidebar on this front page contains a quote from Rear Admiral John G. Crommelin, USN, about the author: "It is my conviction that James von Brunn deserves the gratitude and assistance of every White Christian citizen of these United States."

Just to remind you: In April the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued the second half of a risk assessment, investigated and primarily written during the Bush administration, titled Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment. One of the conclusions reached in this report states "Returning veterans possess combat skills and experience that are attractive to rightwing extremists. DHS/I&A is concerned that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities." Right-wing response to this report was so hysterical and persistent that Janet Napolitano eventually issued an apology about some of the language used. I hope she takes that apology back now.

However, our Sara Robinson took the information in the DHS report, combined with the monitoring she and Dave Neiwert have done for years at Orcinus, and wrote the increasingly prescient essay The Far Right's First 100 Days: Shifting Into Overdrive at Campaign for America's Future. Her concluding sentence reads "What we've seen so far has been intense and surprising -- but we should also recognize it as the first warning gusts of a rapidly gathering storm." The storm is upon on us. Go read her analysis and suggestions. Let's take care of one another.

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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Waterboarding -- The Musical!

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Women Among Us: Terry Galloway

Terry Galloway
Women Among Us: Terry Galloway

Terry L. Galloway is a deaf writer (poetry, essays, memoir, and plays), director, dramaturg, and performance artist who has an international reputation for scandalous humor combined with incisive insight. Her latest memoir, Mean Little Deaf Queer, has been described as "Running with Scissors meets The Liar's Club" and has just been published by Beacon Press. At this moment Terry is in London doing readings, but will soon return to the U.S. to continue her book tour in many cities.

She's the founder of Actual Lives theater troupe (for disabled adults), cofounder of the Mickee Faust Alternative Performance Club in Tallahassee, Florida, one of the founders of Esther's Follies in Austin, Texas, and a celebrated alumnus of Shakespeare at Winedale. From cabaret to the Bard, she's sunk her enthusiastic teeth into every aspect of theatrical expression and wrestled it into new life. I once saw her perform Allan Ginsberg's "Howl" dressed as a dog, and she had us alternatively convulsing with laughter and weeping from the sudden revealed meaning in Ginsberg's lines.

She was born in 1950 to military parents stationed in Germany. Her mother was treated with experimental antibiotics during her pregnancy with Terry, resulting in Terry being born with profound hearing impairment, some visual deficit, and other fetal nervous system damage. Medical mishap was followed by cultural suppression, as Terry was kept from learning sign language because the thinking of the times was that ASL was not a "real language" and lip-reading offered children a chance to be "normal". We now know this choice can rob a baby of any ability to develop language at all.

This calamity is exactly what happened to my Uncle Joseph, who was removed from my grandparents when he was a toddler and sent to the Texas State School because he had begun acting out in rage at his inability to communicate with others. He and the other children there developed their own pidgin form of sign language, a desperate attempt to break their isolation. Joseph was taught a rudimentary trade (shoe repair), married another girl from the school, and never learned ASL or English. He was estranged from most of the family except my mother and father, who made any effort it took to stay in touch with him and converse across the vicious barrier imposed on him by stupid theorists and administrators.

Terry Galloway's middle name should be overcompensation, because she not only became brilliant in the written and oral use of English, she went into theater. But she is no Johnny Belinda, no nice-girl-making-good. She is full-throttle Falstaff with an education and dyke smarts. And to tell you the whole of how I know this, I'll have to tell you something about myself as well.

On July 25, 2000, I had my left knee replaced. I had a great job, savings and sick time set aside, lots of friends to help me, and a good sports medicine surgeon. I made what I believed was an informed decision. I expected to be out of the hospital and into the rehab unit in a couple of days, home five days after that, walking again more or less normally in six weeks.

But a perfect storm of complications nearly killed me, at first outright and then by degrees. I had a period of anoxia during the surgery that went unnoticed. When I came out of anesthesia, I was on a morphine drip that everyone assumed was responsible for my altered mental state. I was not sure where I was, what was happening around me, or sometimes who were people I know have known well. My kidneys failed, a rare side effect to the anticlotting drug I was on left me unable to eat or drink, and I began having a period again despite having reached menopause. Mostly, though, I could not tell anyone what was going on inside my head. My ability to connect my thoughts to language had been hammered. And nobody noticed.

Well, one nurse did. But the doctors argued it was the morphine, and everybody treated me like I was being overemotional when I tried to get past the roadblock in my neurons.

I hope you never know the kind of terror I felt. I hope nobody ever does.

My third night in the hospital, I was physically abused by the overworked nurse on duty. When the evidence was discovered on my body the following afternoon by another nurse, she called in a coworker and they flat out stated to each other what had occurred, but they didn't document it or tell anyone else, just dressed the wound and told me I wouldn't be left in the care of that nurse again. I began refusing to cooperate with anyone, which got me in more trouble. The physical therapist trying to get me walking up and down the monstrously unfamiliar hallway actually screamed at me that I was going to wind up in a wheelchair and die if I didn't follow her instructions. Finally they shipped me to rehab, several days late, and I decided to work my ass off, get out of there and to safety -- anywhere else felt like safety.

But home turned out to be just as strange and frightening, because of my continuing inability to communicate. I had an 18 inch wound in my leg closed with staples. I couldn't wipe myself, I couldn't hear the phone ring, I couldn't write my name, I couldn't read, and a lot of TV sounded like it wasn't in English. My insurance didn't cover in-home care except for a daily 20 minute visit by a nurse or a PT, so one of my friends came once a day to make me a meal, help me clean up, and do a few essentials. Otherwise I was alone. People were calling me but I couldn't hear the phone and thus was not answering.

Mostly I slept, because when I was asleep, I wasn't terrified.

Three days after I was discharged, I returned to my surgeon's office to have my staples removed. Here's a tip: If you are not an athlete, don't choose a sports medicine specialist as your surgeon. They will not have a realistic set of expectations for you. And they're not likely to be what you'd call empathetic. A friend drove me to the office visit and stayed in the room with me while I got x-rayed, but looked away when the doc pulled out my staples. It didn't hurt, so I did watch. And thus I witnessed eight inches of my wound gradually reopening before my eyes, my skin parting in slow motion to a depth of two inches. The surgeon said "Uh-oh" and left the room. After half a minute, so did my friend. It was the doctor's assistant who explained I had a skin condition called dehiscence, which means wounds tend to not stay closed. Since I'd never had surgery before, we were just finding out about it.

I asked him how much longer I'd be in the hospital. He explained, kindly, that this was not considered enough of a problem to require hospitalization. Instead, I'd be bandaged and sent home. The wound would heal from the inside out -- they call it healing by secondary intention, and if you think I haven't tried to write a poem with that fabulously symbolic phrase in it, you don't know me very well. It would take months, and alter my physical therapy program. He added, as an afterthought, that the risk of infection was now very high, so I'd have to go to see the wound care nurse on my way home.

I was given a wheelchair and sent away. Getting in and out of the chair, the car, had now become even more problematic. My friend coped with it silently, tensely. When she wheeled me into the wound care room, I looked into the face of the physical therapist who had screamed at me in the hospital. We both froze.

I was able, by that time, to articulate in a vague what was going on with me, though mostly I still thought it was a reaction to the morphine. To the PT's credit, she apologized for her behavior and turned out to give me a lot of information I needed. Wound care is a euphemism for teaching you how to take care of your own wound when you're not in the hospital. I'll spare you the details. Let's just say I learned to do things I never would have believed I could. She packed up supplies, wished me luck, and I went back home, where my friend got me to my bed and rushed away because she was late for something.

Two days after that, I called another friend, Mack. She told me she'd been hired to videotape a theater project that was being taught by Terry Galloway. I knew about Terry Galloway, had attended every performance of her in Austin for years, some of them several times. I adored her work. Mack said the new project was called Actual Lives: A group of adults with various disabilities met every day for a week, learning theater and writing an individual performance piece about their life, with Terry's hands-on training. On the seventh day, they would perform their work for the public on stage. Mack said she could maybe get me into the group, but I'd have to go that night.

I told her I needed her to come and get me. She crabbed about it -- I lived at the opposite end of Austin from where she was and where the group was meeting. Finally she said I'd have to be ready and waiting on her. I agreed. I got my wheelchair out the front door and sat on my patio half an hour before she pulled up.

I couldn't tell if Terry recognized me from my many attendances at her plays -- I was too overwhelmed by being out of anything close to familiar, with all the clamor of that particular environment, and with feeling like maybe I wasn't a "real" disabled person. I hadn't eaten dinner, either. In the group were two blind women and two people with TBI. Terry was deaf but not a signer, so everything anyone said had to be repeated to her by someone whose lips she could read, plus all action had to be conveyed to the blind women by a visual interpreter. This simultaneous, exhausting translation was hard on the frail and those with cognitive hits on their attention span. There was more than one meltdown that night. But Terry kept pushing each of us, refusing to treat us with pity or keep a distance. She was in our faces -- literally, if she could read our lips -- assuming if we had shown up for this, we had something to say and she was going to make damned well sure we did it artistically, honestly, and with respect for our audience. We were not going to be "see how the poor crips kinda do a play", not on her watch.

I don't remember saying anything that first night with Actual Lives. I know for certain I didn't tell any of them what I was actually contending with. Mostly I remember watching, still in terror but there was a glimmer of hope on the horizon. At the end of the evening, Terry told us we had to go home and write a paragraph on something, I can't remember what the assignment was. I wheeled over to her and, eventually, got across to her that I couldn't write yet.

"Yes you can" she shouted at me. She didn't mean to shout, that much I understood. "You can write two fucking lines, I don't care what it is. I expect you to bring it tomorrow." Then she put her hand on my shoulder and said "No excuses."

I had to wait on Mack because she was gathering up her gear. There were several people in line to use the only wheelchair accessible bathroom in that place, and I stayed at the end of the line because I didn't want anyone to offer to help, to see the huge bandage on my leg. By the time I got into the stall, I'd pissed myself. Mack found a plastic bag in the back of her car and put it on her seat before I got in. Once at home, I told her I could deal with cleaning myself up and she left.

Eventually, I walkered to my computer and turned it on, the first time since I'd been home. Thank god I had the password written out on a piece of paper next to the monitor. It took me 15 minutes to get a fresh document opened, sitting there in front of me. It was another two hours before, drenched in sweat, I'd managed to type out three sentences. It was extremely bad writing, not quite making sense and certainly not what I wanted to say. But it was enough. I printed it out and went to bed.

I honestly believe Actual Lives saved me. Mostly, it was Terry Galloway. She got to know me, each of us, so she could coax, lead, or hector us into doing the utmost of which we were capable. Over the next couple of years, I lost my job, my savings, most of my friends, and any financial security I'd had. The cat I lived for, my little brother, two of my oldest friends, and my beloved aunts died. I became absolutely a real crip, no doubt about it. But I met it all with courage and humor, instead of being mowed down, because Terry insisted (and modeled) that reality was what you made of it and art is the best transformative tool she knows.

Terry Galloway (Terry Galloway with Rude Mechanicals Theater Group in Austin, Texas; photo by Kenny Braun.)

Early on, I tried to write about what happened to me in the hospital and rehab center. It was grim, desperate stuff. Terry was visibly affected by it, as she usually was by our stories. She weeps easily. She gives her heart away at a moment's notice. But one piece of writing she handed back to me, the account of a nightmarish night when I'd needed a tampon changed in the rehab unit and the staff who showed up had never used a tampon themselves. She told me to rewrite it as comedy. I can clearly remember that my immediate response, inside my head, was "Fuck you." Probably that showed on my face as well, because she leaned in to say, a little too loud, "It could be hysterical, if you give up wanting somebody to feel sorry for you."

I did rewrite it, over and over, until it became the second-best performance I ever created. It brought audiences to their knees, howling with laughter, and at the same time conveyed -- far more effectively than a straight approach would -- the intimate horror of that episode. Terry has recently staged it with her performance troupe in Tallahassee. If you want to read the final script, it's at the end of the post titled My Knees (Part Two -- Surgery and Rehab).

I trust Terry completely. She's never let me down. And from her shove back into writing, I went on to form my own writing group, to find other mentors, and to realize my voice as a writer.

In 2002, we both attended the first (and so far, only) Queer Disability Conference in San Francisco. We had rooms in the same dorm, on the same floor, and this incident happened repeatedly: I'd be in my dorm room when I'd hear a pounding on the door and Terry shouting "Maggie! Maggie! Are you in there?" I'd get painstakingly to my feet, lean on my quad cane and move slowly to the door. But once I got it open, I'd see Terry chugging impatiently down the hall toward her own room, her back to me. At which point I'd stupidly shout after her "Terry! Hey, Terry!" Then I'd smack my head, remembering she's DEAF, you dummy.

That itself would make a hilarious little vignette on stage, I think.

In the late 1990s, before Terry became a friend and mentor, I started a group studying the herstory of lesbian activism in Austin during the 1970s. Eventually I made a documentary about this era, interviewing many women about that period in their lives. One of the names which always came up was that of Terry Galloway, who despite being powerful and socially active appears to have made no enemies along the way. Extremely rare for dykes bent on revolution. I was highly entertained when two different women that I interviewed confided in me, off camera, that they were proud of having been "the woman who brought out Terry Galloway". I was even more entertained years later when I told Terry about it, and she snorted in reply "Neither one of them was my first lover!"

Terry's biography at Beacon Press reads:

Terry Galloway is a deaf, queer writer and performer, who tours her one-woman shows as a cheap way of seeing the world. She has performed her solo shows "Out All Night and Lost My Shoes" and "Lardo Weeping," in venues ranging from the American Place theater in New York to the Zap Club in Brighton, England. In Austin, Texas she gained a reputation for playing comic male roles as a student and Research Associate for the University of Texas' alternative Summer Theater Festival, Shakespeare at Winedale.

She's also known as one of the founding members of Austin's wildly popular 6th street cabaret Esther's Follies and as the founder of Actual Lives, a writing and performance workshop for adults with and without disabilities. In Tallahassee, Florida she is the Head Cheese of the Mickee Faust Academy for the REALLY Dramatic Arts and the co-founder of the Mickee Faust Club, a performance group responsible for the award-winning video parodies, "Annie Dearest, The Real Miracle Worker, " featuring lots and lots of wah-wah, and "The Scary Lewis Yell-a-thon," featuring a Jerry Lewis look-alike and a bevy of inspirational cripples. She writes as well as performs and you can find her articles, monologues, poems and performances texts in, among other publications, Sleepaway: Writings on Summer Camp, Cast Out: Queer Lives in Theater, Out of Character- Rants, Raves and Monologues from Today's Top Performance Artists, Plays from the Women's Project, Texas Monthly Magazine, Austin Chronicle, American Voice, The Dolphin Reader, and numerous anthologies about queerness, deafness, disability, theater, and Elvis.

She has been a Visiting Artist at the California Institute of the Arts, Florida State University, and the University of Texas at Austin. She's won a variety of awards including an NEA, a J. Frank Dobie Fellowship from the Texas Institute of Letters, grants from the Texas Commission of the Arts and the Florida Divisions of Cultural Affairs, five Corporation for Public Broadcasting Awards, three Prindi National Public Radio Commentary Awards, and a Best Swimmer Award from the Lions Camp for Crippled Children.

She splits her time between Austin Texas, and Tallahassee, Florida where she lives with her long-time love Donna Marie Nudd, a professor at Florida State University, and their cat Tweety.

Donna Nudd and Terry Galloway Donna Marie Nudd and Terry Galloway, Dobie Paisano Ranch outside Austin, Texas, March 2008, photo ©Marsha Miller, University of Texas at Austin.

Mean Little Deaf Queer, Beacon Press, 2009.

Out All Night and Lost My Shoes, play edited by Barbara Hamby, Tallahassee: Apalachee, l993.

In The House Of The Moles, unpublished play.

Lardo Weeding, unpublished play.

Deaf As A Post/Tough as Nails, performance at Queer Disability Conference, San Francisco, June 2002.

Out All Night And Lost My Shoes (solo amalgam performance, includes "Mr. Handchops"), performance at Queer Disability Conference, San Francisco, June 2002.

"Heart of a Dog" In The Women’s Project 2, edited by Julia Miles. New York: Performing Arts Journal, l984.

“Taken: The Philosophically Sexy Transformations Engendered in a Woman by Playing Male Roles in Shakespeare", Text and Performance Quarterly 17.1 (1997): 94-100.

What We Carried Away from Winedale, article in the Austin Chronicle, 23 July 2004

Go to the website for her book at Mean Little Deaf Queer , scroll down the page to the Contents and click on "The Performance of Drowning" to hear an MP3 of Terry reading her essay about winning a swimming award at the Lions Camp for Crippled Children. HIGHLY recommended.

One of Terry Galloway's screenplays and directorial efforts is the short Annie Dearest, by produced by Faust Films and Diane Wilkins. This is a video parody of the classic film The Miracle Worker, which originally starred Patty Duke as deaf/blind Helen Keller and Anne Bancroft as Anne Sullivan, Helen's mentor and tormentor. Disability World heralded Annie Dearest as one of the 25 most outstanding disability films in the last five years. This reveals Terry Galloway's trenchant humor at its best and limns her philosophy of refusing to be the inspirational sort of "good cripple". Co-creator Donna Nudd also stars in the video as "Annie Dearest".

Highly illuminating essay by Donna Marie Nudd, Terry's partner, titled Feminists As Invisible Dramaturgs: A Case Study of Terry Galloway's Lardo Weeping.

Two Generations, One Art by Robert Faires in the Austin Chronicle, 25 February 2000

“Deafness has left me acutely aware of both the duplicity that language is capable of and the many expressions the body cannot hide.”

"Reality which so often intimidates us is exposed as just another fiction. Ours for the rewriting." -- from "Deaf as a Post/Tough as Nails" performed for Queer Disability Conference, San Francisco, California 2002

"This is not your mother's triumph-of-the-human-spirit memoir. Yes, Terry Galloway is resilient. But she's also caustic, depraved, utterly disinhibited, and somehow sweetly bubbly, a beguiling raconteuse who periodically leaps onto the dinner table and stabs you with her fork. Her story will fascinate, it will hurt, and you will like it." -- Alison Bechdel, author of FUN HOME

“This is a damn fine piece of work which is unbelievably powerful. This story is true and passionate and fearless and funny as hell when it is not heartbreaking. I expect this book to charm the hell out of great numbers of people, piss off a few, and give hope to many more...” -- Dorothy Allison

Donna Marie Nudd and Terry Galloway, Dobie Paisano Ranch outside Austin, Texas, March 2008, photo ©Marsha Miller, University of Texas at Austin.
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