Saturday, August 22, 2009

Health Care Town Meeting NM01

The inside photos above and immediately below are from What's the Word's flickr pics of today's event. Thanks to the photographer (who may or may not be the Peter who put the link on the live blog).

On Saturday afternoon NMI hosted a live blog of Heinrich’s health care reform town hall meeting at the University of New Mexico’s Continuing Education Building in Albuquerque. Click [here then click in the box indicated] to read a transcript of the conversation.
--New Mexico Independent

I had four small signs with me. The above graphic is one of them. No signs or placards were permitted inside the auditorium but I never made it in. The auditorium seats 600 and they put 300 in an overflow rooms with screens to watch it. Hundreds of us were turned away. I drove home and caught the second half online.

Heinrich was joined by Michael Richards, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at UNM’s School of Medicine; John R. Vigil, CEO and medical director of Doctor on Call; and Paul J. Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation.
--New Mexico Independent

The two panelists who spoke the most, besides Heinrich, were Dr. Vigil and Mr. Gessing. Since I missed the beginning, it was not until later that I found out who these people are. I easily figured Gessing for a Libertarian by his comments and, sure enough, the Rio Grande Foundation is a libertarian-leaning group.

If you wish to see the detail and read the signs in any of the photos below, you may click on them to enlarge them.

Here is one view of the line just after I arrived. As I comment on these photos I am also scrolling through the live blog to see what others perceived. When Rep. Heinrich entered there were boos but they say those were drowned out. The MC was totally awesome, laying out ground rules at the beginning and being very clear about expected and demanded behavior, frequently breaking in to remind people to let people speak and act civilized.

Near the beginning Heinrich said, "Democracy is messy, but it sure beats the alternative." I heard him say it again in his closing remarks. He and legislators were accused by one speaker near the end of ignoring the Constitution and other laws. While I am sure none are perfect, I find it rather puerile to make such an accusation today after the blatant lawlessness on a grand scale of the previous White House administration/thugs.

It is evident in some signs and some remarks that some folks are really angry. Well, come to think of it, anyone who reads this blog knows that I am often furious, so fair enough. At least we care.

Just in case of emergency, we had the AFD present. The truck had just driven up right next to where I was standing in line. I was thinking, "Hmm, things could get hot." It was a warm sunny day. A good day to have a water bottle and avoid heat stroke.

The telly folks arrived just after the fire truck.

Marjorie Childress commented on NMI's live blog:
18 percent of GDP is spent on Health Care, Heinrich just said.
Some context: Gallup just came out last week with a report that 25.6 percent of New Mexicans have no private insurance.
Someone commented that there were over 100 viewers on the live stream; when I watched it was around 180. Not bad for a local event on a Saturday afternoon.

There was huge applause for the public option as well as boos. Most of the folks I saw in line were in favor of reform now. Some of the PRO signs were a bit snarky but most were simple and rational. ANTI signs were a bit heavier on the outrageous (and sometimes misleading). I saw at least two signs about not paying for abortions with government funds. Well, folks, that is not in any of the versions of bills under consideration, so you win: we won't include that. Now, wasn't that easy?

One commenter on the live blog asked: "Is this just going to be a debate between Heinrich and Gessing?" Based on what I heard online the answer is mostly, Yes. Gessing was a consistent naysayer but aside from his general anti-government stance I did not hear him offer solutions to our dilemma. But don't get me started on free-market fundamentalists.

Childress of NMI records: Dr. Richards: We pay for the care of uninsured in many ways. Long waits, uncompensated physician care--in my emergency department it results in lower wages, longer hours, they're in the lower-quartile of physicians. this health care is mandated now--at the E.R. So we do mandate it--but its incredibly expensive. 3 to 4 times more expensive than care in other nonacute venues

Someone challenged Heinrich about being in the elite of Congress with their health care. He responded (per the blog): "Heinrich: I'll take your bet and raise you one. First, I kept what I had before because [it's] better than what I got as a congressman, and if we get the bill in the house, I'd be happy to sign onto it. I think other folks for whom the answer is different, they ought to be able to pursue that also"

Heinrich: if we can't succeed in pulling all Americans into the pull, we won't succeed. If this doesn't pass, we won't stop. We can't wait another 20 years. We'll get everything we can, but we won't quit just because the President signs a bill.

Q: What about tort reform? Doctors have to raise their prices because of the insurance. Heinrich: The nonpartisan CBO under Bush said they thought it was about one percent. Texas has probably been as aggressive as anyone on that issue, and they still have out of control costs.

I think Heinrich is pointing out, in a genteel manner, that the fuss over tort reform is not an answer to health care costs. Tort reform is a big conservative thing and one that Dubya was very fond of. While we all know horror stories about outrageous legal action, most measures for "tort reform" take away one of the few tools that people have to defend themselves against damage, especially damage they suffer from the careless or outright evil actions of corporations. Thus tort reform becomes a method the powerful can use to insulate themselves from retribution for their wrongdoing, sold to the populace as something noble.

As I scroll through the live blog I learn the Gessing's group is one of those organizing teabaggers. As irritating as I found Gessing, it was clever of Heinrich to include him so no one can cry that they were excluded.

Gessing trots out the tired old canard about a massive federal system of health care being unconstitutional. I had my answer for that ready in one of my signs, shown immediately below.

If health care is not part of the general welfare, then WTF is?

Heinrich: there's nothing in the bill that I'm aware of thats unconstitutional. And there are plenty of attorney's to keep us honest. America is one of the best at innovation, and we need to foster that environment, we need the kind of R&D that drives advances. This is why you see this pragmatic careful approach to reform

This poll was included in the live blog. I am in the second category. I pay 100 percent of my premiums. That is just over $9600 a year (including dental and life insurance). For one person. Then I have my copays. Anyone wonder why I favor health care reform?

Just in case you came to this late, the event took place in New Mexico. Love the tat.

On why such a rush?
Heinrich: We started that discussion in 1992, thats hardly a rush. (Massive outcry from audience--boos and yeas)

On "death panel" (Gawd, what crock-of-shit framing!)
From's discussion of the death panel issue:
The fact remains that the bill wouldn’t require patients to receive counseling sessions, nor would it require a doctor to offer one. Rather, it modifies Section 1861(s)2 of the Social Security Act, defining what services Medicare will pay for. So if a patient receives a counseling session from a doctor or health care practitioner, he or she doesn’t have to pay for it – Medicare will. As we pointed out in our earlier story, Medicare will also pay for prosthetic limbs, but that doesn’t mean that every recipient gets those, too.

--Gwyneth Doland (NMI)

Heinrich: but we do need to get it right, which is why we said we need to take a month to talk to our constituent. On the death panel, this is the most disappointing tactic, at least if we read the bill we can look at where we agree and disagree. there is nothing in there that takes choice away. my dad is on medicare, if i subjected him to a death panel, i wouldn't be able to visit. I do think its important if someone wants to consult with their doctor in advance planning they should be able to (that last bit was a paraphrase--there's a woman constantly yelling in my ear. )

Heinrich: if we want to talk about rationing, lets talk about the rationing thats happening today. Health insurance companies push costs downstream, in a market where everything turns over every few years, there isn't enough stability in the system. We need a system where a health care pro is making the decision, not the government or a health care insurance company.

One of the most vocal hecklers just got his name called.

Q: I liked you on CIty Council, glad you went to WAshington, but you seem to have forgotten the mandate of the people, we sent you to DC to take care of business, not to socialize the medical system. We have spent over 80 billion dollars to bail out the auto companies, they still had to declare bankruptcies, (audience says ASK YOUR QUESTION! he says SHOW ME COURTESY). THis country is in econ. chaos, if you can't run the economy (in a nutshell) you expect us to give you our money to run socialized medicine?

Heinrich: I'll keep it short since that was for your benefit rather than mine. If I wanted to socialize medicine, we'd do single payer. We'd eliminate insurance companies, and that woudl be that. I dont' think it would pass, I don't even think its a good idea. But at least we can have an honest conversation and let people have the options. Medicare is a subsidized system, but if you look at the public option its a system that people pay into.

Augusta Meyer is the name of the woman who moderated this and she was awesome!

Well, there you have it folks: democracy in action here in Albuquerque.

Comments have been made over the course of the town hall meetings across the country that some protesters are merely voicing an anti-Obama stance. I would hazard a guess that this is true for the chap pictured here. His poster says nothing about health care, really, just expresses a muddled dislike. (OK, probably hatred.) It strikes me, though I cannot read his mind, that there is an element of lumping the non-pink people together, i.e., racism. He juxtaposes a "biracial" president with some other group he possibly despises (Muslims, who are not a racial grouping at all but are predominantly non-European). Then it gets jumbled with a political system presumably intended to fire up our remembered history of red-baiting. Sigh.

Now this is snarky, but I like it.

Ahem. May we discuss the trillions involved in Bush's optional invasion and occupation of Iraq that has shattered a nation and fucked our economy in order to enrich his cronies? Because if you are not going to go there then you really need to STFU on taking actions to salvage the American economy and the well-being of the American people. Just saying.

This woman was a few folks ahead of me in line. I slipped around to get this photo when it was obvious we were far from getting in to the event.

People just hanging in front after the doors were closed.

OK, peeps, there's my report. Keep on fighting for the general welfare!

--the BB

I have to share this amazing gift/skill

Gail posted this at FB and I immediately wanted to pass it on to visitors here.

Kseniya Simonova - Sand Animation (Україна має талант / Ukraine's Got Talent)

I followed the comment thread at YouTube and am adding notes to enrich this for y'all.
From what I have gathered, it is a generic story - a couple sitting on a peaceful park bench, the war starts, the song in the background tells of a woman waiting for her husband at home with a baby in a crib holding a candle, more bombs fall, she gets the envelope letting her know her husband has died, she visits the graveyard, then looks out the window with her son and sees her husband's ghost before writing "you are always near".

It's about the Nazi invasion of Ukraine, and a love story of a young couple. At the end she writes "I am waiting for you", to the Ukrainian/soviet sailor. That's why people in the audience cry, as Ukraine/Russia suffered such horrendous loss of life during WWII.
It's one of the most original things I've ever seen, and she's brilliant.

I am not sure if you know the history of Ukraine, but I do. Women cut off their own breasts and fried and fed them to their children because the famine was so bad.

These children are now parents to most Ukrainians, and the stories are only a generation removed.
If you were starving, would you watch your mother cut off her breast to feed you? Would you eat it? If you want to know why these people cried, submerse yourself in the history of Ukraine!

Yes, it's depicting Ukraine during WWII. Ukraine was one of the countries hardest hit by the war. One of every four Ukrainians died, I believe.

There were also some very stupid and racist comments in that thread so I am not linking it. The hostility between Ukraine and Russia is strong and the artist is Russian.

Which does not diminish the skill in telling this graphic story.


--the BB

Friday, August 21, 2009

Drought, unemployment, hunger....

I just noticed this post at Daily Kos. I am a child of the San Joaquin Valley. I ask your prayers.

We all know the State of California is in a bad situation. Among the wildfires, and budget crisis there is more trouble brewing in the Central Valley. The state has declared all of the San Joaquin Valley a disaster area due to drought. The valley is the agriculture capital of California, and with the drought at a crisis point thousands of farmers, and farm workers are finding themselves out of work. Recently, Fresno County asked our Community Food Bank to provide emergency food relief to families in 5 rural communities that were hit the hardest: Mendota, San Joaquin, Firebaugh, Selma, and Huron. $4 million worth of food was donated to help with this relief.

With all of that food, there is no reason to be turning away hungry families, but THEY ARE. Not from a lack of food, but from a lack of volunteers. If you or your friends live in or near the California Central Valley we desperately need your help.


If you can help volunteer, know someone who can volunteer, or can help recruit volunteers please contact HandsOn Central California immediately!

To Volunteer Call: (559) 237-3101 or email

For more information visit:

[Emphasis mine]

Who can hear the truth? - updated

Lamentations 2:14
Your prophets have seen for you
false and deceptive visions;
they have not exposed your iniquity
to restore your fortunes,
but have seen for you oracles
false and misleading.

When the wooden horse was being delivered, all the Trojans were exultant, save one: "Cassandra cried, and curs'd th' unhappy hour;/ Foretold our fate; but, by the god's decree,/ All heard, and none believ'd the prophecy." Oh, how Cassandra must have suffered. Imagine: she could see it all, the deaths of everyone, even herself, but because she refused to fuck Apollo, she was damned with the gift of prophecy, of being right but never being heeded. Think about that hell for a moment. Think about seeing the destruction of your city before it happens and then having to live through the actuality of it. Think about telling everyone you love that it is going to happen and then being ignored. All because a simpering god didn't get his rocks off. Eventually, Cassandra got used to it, though. By the end of her life, she merely accepted her fate.
--the Rude Pundit

He is writing today of Tom Ridge's non-revelation that Homeland Security alerts were elevated before the 2004 election to help get Shrub elected. No shit, Sherlock.

During the Bush years many of us could tell what was going down but the world at large would not believe. One could well feel like Cassandra.

Contrary to the popular understanding of Schadenfreude, there is no joy in being able to say, "We told you, motherfuckers, but you wouldn't listen!" It is only painful, distressing, and sad.

Watching today's horrors - crowds of screaming people parroting the lies they have been fed by those in power and their minions, lies that will help keep these same crowds in economic bondage and anxiety and unhealth - one wants to cry out, "Can't you see? That way lies death!" But they do not believe you.

Ἄπολλον Ἄπολλον
ἀγυιᾶτ᾽, ἀπόλλων ἐμός.
ἀπώλεσας γὰρ οὐ μόλις τὸ δεύτερον.

"Apollo, my destroyer, for you have destroyed me - and utterly - this second time." (Aeschylus, Agamemnon 1080).
Cassandra, naked, cowers at the feet of the image of Athena;
Ajax grasps her hair to drag her away
Attributed to the Kleophrades Painter
Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale 2422

Lamentations 3:17
My soul is bereft of peace,
I have forgotten what happiness is.

Clytemnestra kills Cassandra -
Athenian red-figure cup 430 BC

O God of truth, deliver us
for we are surrounded by lies
and our own hearts deceive us.

You may read more about the lies and deception at Informed Comment. The vileness has no end.

Why are they not behind bars?
--the BB

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Yes, I'm spoiled, your point being...?

Good friends, good food, good wine. A lovely evening (and a nice interlude in a truly crappy week at work, in the lives of my friends, and the world could do better too).

Homegrown garlic and peppers (both roasted) with goat cheese on great rich-in-various-grains-and-seeds bread.

Homegrown cabbage in the lightly dressed coleslaw and homegrown cherry tomatoes and basil.

Homegrown eggplant, sliced, basted with olive oil, and grilled; homegrown corn on the cob; grilled salmon with a salsa of diced cantaloupe, homegrown New Mexico peppers, homegrown mint (?), and lime juice.

Clafouti of raspberries and homegrown figs.

Maggie's Reserve Zinfandel from Rosenblum (thank you, Steve!).

Summertime, and the livin' is easy....

Chatting, then dining in the front courtyard with the fountain at my back, the zinnias in bloom, Jupiter shining in the heavens.

Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Bill and Kathy. Thank you, Steve. Wopila, Ina Maka, Ate Wi, Tunkasila Wakan Tanka, and all my relations.

--the BB


08/19/09 :
DoD Identifies Marine Casualty
Lance Cpl. Leopold F. Damas, 26, of Floral Park, N.Y., died Aug. 17 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force...

08/19/09 :
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
Sgt. 1st Class William B. Woods Jr., 31, of Chesapeake, Va., died Aug. 16 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, of wounds suffered when he was shot Aug. 14 while on patrol in Ghanzi, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion

DoD Identifies Marine Casualty
Gunnery Sgt. Adam F. Benjamin, 34, of Garfield, Ohio, died Aug. 18 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 8th Engineer Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Let us pray for the people of Afghanistan - updated

Elections are taking place in Afghanistan. The Taliban is trying to intimidate voters and keep them from participating. Allah only knows how many forces are struggling in the politics of that nation and the United States is intimately linked with it right now.

Afghan election: security by region
BBC News - ‎53 minutes ago‎
On the eve of Afghanistan's presidential election on Thursday, a snapshot survey by the bbc's Afghan service suggests the government has limited or no control in just over 30% of the country.

Let us pray for peace, justice, and the well being of the people of that land. Let us pray for our troops there and for their safe withdrawal and return home

--the BB.

Traditions can be way cool

Granted, traditions can also become straitjackets, but they also provide rhythm and stability, identity and comfort. I am emphasizing the positive side right now.

One tradition of cooking that emerged over the years with my ex is the once-a-year raspberry and fig clafouti. Tomorrow is the designated evening. I am running off after work to enjoy a lovely meal with friends, with the clafouti for dessert. Heaven!

Julia Child's recipe for a cherry clafouti may be found here and a blackberry-lemon clafoutis here (whence I snaffled the photo above).

[The word is clafoutis in French and clafouti often in Anglophone countries, in case you were wondering.]

Bon appetit!

--the BB

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Her Magnificence, the Black Lion

I have written very little since last Friday. Too much going on. Tonight I thought about logistics, about an escape scene in the first volume, some visits to the capital in volume three, and the battles raging all about the capital now. What is the layout of the walled city? Of the castle within it? Of the outbuildings around it? Where are the gates and what are their names? The main streets?

One must make certain these various scenes are consistent. Every description in the first volume circumscribes descriptions in subsequent tomes. Fortunately, there is one more revision of volumes 1-2 before they go off in hopes of publication. My last chance for coherence!

From this evening's exercise in more specific layouts I learned at last how to say "Her Magnificence, the Black Lion" in my artificial language.

It is, after all, the title many have longed to ascribe to our princess - the title she reluctantly now accepts.

I borrow almost all the roots of my words from European languages, with occasional Armenian and Hebrew thrown in. I amuse myself with the modification of sounds and blending of sources. There is actually a sloppy theory behind why this blend would occur in my parallel world. Göran will know instantly where I borrowed "magnificence."

Sweet dreams, my leaping lioncels!

--the BB

Caption Competition

From the blog: Hoff Hoopla

With all the disgusting things going on in political circles I thought I would toss out something for Mimi to coo over. (If you are new to this blog, these are my twin great-grandnieces.)

OK, then, get those thought bubbles going!

(Jonathan, behave.)

--the BB

Quick note on the opera

While I really did not care for the snippets posted at the Santa Fe Opera site, when it comes to the totality of the experience this evening I really enjoyed The Letter. Well sung, well acted, well staged. I was, I admit it, dreading atonal bellowing but what we got instead was lyrical, with some nice harmonies and orchestration. The portrayal of racism by British colonials against Asians was absolutely painful, but a good reminder of how far we have come and how far we have yet to go. I think my favorite line is when "the Chinese woman" (she is never given a name) tells the sleazeball attorney "I forgive you." That contains volumes on topics of wrongdoing, power, race, culture, the overthrowing of assumptions, etc.

More later. A good night (and delicious dinner at Gabriel's north of the opera beforehand).

--the BB

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Newly discovered "principles"

GOP officials John Boehner, Thaddeus McCotter, Johnny Isakson, and Chuck Grassley all voted in 2003 for a measure very similar to the one in the current House health care bill they now suggest in various ways could lead to government-encouraged euthanasia.

As Time’s Amy Sullivan reported late last night, Grassley voted for the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill, which — ready? — provided coverage for “counseling the beneficiary with respect to end-of-life issues and care options, and advising the beneficiary regarding advanced care planning.”

The only difference between the 2003 bill and the House Dem one that’s inspired the “euthanasia” talk, Sullivan reports, is that the earlier one “applied only to terminally ill patients.”

--Greg Sargent at The Plum Line

Sort of like their horror at deficit spending after enabling Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy and throwing unaccounted for money at his Iraq fiasco so Halliburton et al. could get rich. When money is spent to save our own economy or create jobs they are suddenly outraged. Very strange.

--the BB