Huzzah to Barney Frank!

Think Progress » Frank slams protester comparing Obama to Hitler: ‘On what planet do you spend most of your time?’

Last night, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) held a contentious town hall in Dartmouth, MA to discuss health care reform. The crowded hall of more than 500 people had both supporters and opponents of health care reform, but the opposing side was “much louder and more raucous.” At one point, Frank asked the crowd: “Which one of you wants to yell next?” Frank then excoriated a woman who asked a question while holding up a picture of President Obama defaced to look like Hitler:

QUESTION: Why do you continue to support a Nazi policy as Obama has expressly supported this policy? Why are you supporting it? […]

FRANK: On what planet do you spend most of your time? … You want me to answer the question? Yes. You stand there with a picture of the President defaced to look like Hitler and compare the effort to increase health care to the Nazis. My answer to you is, as I said before, it is a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated.

Frank concluded: “Trying to have a conversation with you would be like arguing with a dining room table.”

Loss, Sacrifice, and Hope for Renewal

For my 40th birthday, I asked my friends to shave my head in an unintentionally bloody fireside ceremony in Chaco Canyon. I half-jokingly referred to that as a ritual sacrifice. As an atheist, I have to create my own communal rituals and rites of passage to mark the milestones of my life.

Twenty four hours after Lucky’s death, I shaved my head again. In some cultures, the grieving ululate, whip themselves, and rend their clothing. Now I wear my sacrifice as a disfigurement I cannot hide. Still, in time, some of my hair may come back in a slow indication of renewal. Life does go on.

Although Lucky took to Merri immediately, he wasn’t so sure about me. He eyed me suspiciously and kept his distance. The first time I entered our bedroom as Merri slept, Lucky barked a warning. We considered it might be my maleness, about which I have never been able to do anything, one way or the other. In desperation, I shaved off my goatee (my pride), as a sacrifice for the pack. Eventually, Lucky came around and the goatee came back.

We’ll bury my hair with Lucky’s ashes, as well as with shards of his food bowl, which I shattered. A part of me will always be with a part of him, and vice versa.

maark justice hinton with shaved head

More Rightwing Nonsense

I held my nose and fought my gag reflex to push my way through a recent column by Victor Davis Hanson, the corporate shill. His thesis today is that Obama is Big Brother. I’m not interested in debunking his, ahem, insights, although I’m certain they will sweep through the community of Deep Thinkers faster than a photo of Obama with a swastika carved in a slice of watermelon.

There are just two things I won’t let stand unanswered, as futile as it is to respond to people who are intentionally ignorant and too angry to reason with.

“Once praised dissent has become subversive.” Once praised by whom, Vic? Certainly not by your side, which argued it was the duty of all citizens to shut up and take of their shoes for the good of the Homeland. (How many people actually read the PATRIOT Act. Talk about newspeak and double-think.) It’s not surprising that Hanson doesn’t understand “dissent” doesn’t mean carrying guns and signs calling for the death of the president or that simulated lynchings are not an act of moral courage. Or does Hanson believe those incidents were manufactured by leftists and the “state-run media” (no, not Fox, anymore). (I’d be laughing it I weren’t terrified by the reality that thousands of gunnuts are having wet-dreams about becoming the great liberators thanks to the overheated rhetoric of Hanson and his ilk. When blood runs in the streets, it won’t be a leftish holding the gun.)

“Bush is somehow culpable for the newly projected $2 trillion annual deficits.” Uh, “somehow”? Doesn’t Hanson remember the big taxcuts followed by the invasions of two countries, one of which was just to show Daddy who has the bigger Dick? Yes, BushCo turned a surplus into a deficit and turned taking your shoes off into an act of loyalty. Gawd love the violent, dangerous, mean, and ugly Deep Thinkers and the lies they sing to each other.

I recommend Animal Farm to Hanson. A tale about lying pigs seems more relevant to him.

Less Heat, More Light

A friend had an encounter with a health care reform opponent and threw up her hands in frustration. I wrote and gathered a few things for her [thanks, Newmexiken, et al.]:

To opponents of health care reform: The word "socialist" means absolutely nothing anymore. It frightens a minority of Americans and makes just as many groan and roll their eyes. It has become a red flag that says "I’m not listening to anyone because I know what’s wrong with everything." So, what do you say to someone who isn’t listening? Nothing at all.

"Nobody in America is going without health care at this time.  True, the current situation is inefficient,  expensive, and to some degree unjust.  Yet, there are not any people in this country who can not get treatment if they are hurt or sick."

Wow. How can anyone believe that. Normally, opponents of reform say that, yes, there are those without coverage, but most don’t need it, many don’t want it, and the rest are illegals. (and therefore, not deserving? even though actual criminals get state-funded healthcare).

Surely, reform opponents would agree that sending every person with any ailment into an Emergency Room is horribly inefficient. That inefficiency is expensive and we all pay for it somehow. People need to see doctors before they’re sick. People need access to
General, Primary, and Urgent care, not just Emergency. Do opponents really believe that everyone in America could schedule a routine annual exam if they wanted one? Or get a tetanus shot anytime? Aren’t we pissing away money on delayed and ineffective treatment and tests?

The person quoted above seems to think there is no need for any reform whatsoever, despite admitting the current situation is "inefficient, expensive, and, to some degree, unjust." Really? His own words seem to demand reform. Isn’t there a single issue about health care and insurance that the extremes can agree on?

As for the rush: I sympathize with this view, although I know for a fact it is a straw man for those who will NEVER support change. Why did we pass the odious "PATRIOT" Act so quickly? Where we these "slow down" people then? Letting fear rule them.

I hope somewhere there is a single opponent of healthcare reform who thinks, if only we’d taken care of this 17 years ago, we’d have saved billions and a ton of acrimony. But, holding one’s breath is unhealthy. peace, mjh

– – – – –

Family Health – Health Care Reform Simplified and Myths Dispelled by President Obama | Health News

The reason of reform was laid out by President Obama in June during a speech to the American Medical Association (AMA). “Today we are spending over $2 trillion a year on health care—almost 50 percent more per person than the next most costly nature. And yet, as I think many of you are aware, for all of this spending, more of our citizens are uninsured, the quality of our care is often lower, and we aren’t any healthier… So to say it as plainly as I can, health care is the single most important thing we can do for America’s long-term fiscal health. That is a fact.”

The need for reform came from millions upon millions of Americans who expressed as much during the presidential campaign and since the Obama administration came into power. Not only are there now more than 47 million people in the United States known to be without health care coverage of any kind, but a growing number of people are being added to that list who have insufficient coverage, are on the verge of losing coverage due to unemployment and rising insurance costs, do not get treatment even when covered because of deductibles and copayments, and or have gone bankrupt due to medical costs. The demand for reform came from the majority of the American people.

Ezra Klein – The Actual Debate Over Health-Care Reform

[mjh: after two paragraphs of things legislators agree on or are discussing…]

Here are the things legislators don’t agree about: whether we should have a public option that is open only to the minority of Americans on the exchanges or a co-op option. How to handle abortion. How to handle geographic disparities in insurance costs.

Here are the things that aren’t under consideration but are alive in the public debate: socialized medicine. Euthanasia. Government-driven rationing. Death panels. Illegal immigrants. …

The Democrats conceded so much up-front that the actual range of debate is strikingly slim. The public option attracts most of the attention, but the reality of the policy, even in the liberal House bill, is that it’s limited to the insurance exchanges and isn’t expected to serve more than 12 million people by 2019.

In part, that’s why the debate has had to move toward fear-mongering and lies: There just aren’t that many scary elements in the bills, because the legislation is oriented toward preserving the existing system and avoiding points of controversy. You can make an argument that the policy is worse because of its modesty. A more ambitious approach could save more money and do more to fix the system. But that’s the way it is. …

‘This law is really well thought out’

I think I read about 50 or 60 pages of it, legal language with lots of references to other parts of the legislation and even standing laws going back to the 1950s. And I’ve got to say: this law is really well thought out. (Keeping in mind that it won’t get really cluttered with special interest crap until it goes to conference.) The protections in the law for people who don’t want to give up their private insurance are detailed and comprehensive.

It got to be kind of fun. My friend would email me a complaint, and I’d go find the relevant portion of the legislation and discover that the rightie scare story he was reading had the law exactly wrong. It’s going to forbid companies from offering private insurance! No, it’s not. It’s going to force me into the government plan! No, it’s not. If I have another kid, that kid will have to go into the government plan while the rest of the family stays in the private plan! No, it’s not. If I decline the government plan, I’ll have to pay a tax penalty! No, you won’t.

The legislation bends over backwards to let people and companies make their own choice, but to hear the opposition tell it, it’s a Nazi takeover. Instead of town meetings, politicians should host small-group readings of the legislation. I thought the afternoon was fascinating.

House Health Care Bill – H.R.3200: America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 – U.S. Congress – OpenCongress

And, as a thoughtful contribution from the other side:

GOP Congressman: There are ‘death counselors’ authorized in the health care bill.

Rep. John Mica (R-FL) told a Florida radio station today that the health care legislation being considered by the House of Representatives will authorize the creation of “death counselors“:

“They create a whole new category,” Mica, a Winter Park Republican, said on WDBO. “There are death counselors. There is authorization for reimbursement for those counselors for Medicare. You have a whole new cottage industry.

Mica joins several other conservatives in promoting the conspiracy theory that health reform legislation is secretly designed to kill old people.

– – – – –
FACTBOX: How do healthcare proposals compare?
Fri Aug 14, 2009 8:11am EDT

(Reuters) – When Congress returns September 8, lawmakers will continue work on an overhaul of the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system. There are three different plans in the works, all containing changes that would be phased in over a number of years.

In the House of Representatives, three committees have each approved changes to one House bill. The changes will be melded by House leaders into final legislation before a floor vote expected in September.

In the Senate, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has approved its version and the Senate Finance Committee is working on a separate healthcare overhaul bill.

The following is a comparison of major points in the various proposals. …

A Good Death

I wrote Lucky’s obit the night before the end. Although I do feel it is terrible to have to euthanize a loved one, euthanasia is amazingly quick, peaceful, and a necessary release. Lucky’s long-time vet, Dr. Barb McGuire, and her tech, Amanda, could not have found a better balance of professional conduct plus heartfelt compassion. We put Lucky’s bed in the shade of the sideyard. Merri gave him his last piece of bacon. I picked him up and gently laid him down on the bed. He sighed. He didn’t flinch at the sound of the electric razor used to trim fur from his leg. We were all as ready as we would ever be. From pinprick to expiration couldn’t have taken 10 seconds. Merri and I sat with him in the grass until the animal cremation company arrived and kind Ely carted him away. That was the moment I felt the most regret – the loss felt more real suddenly — but we agree cremation makes sense.

It also makes sense that any person who is suffering beyond all hope of relief should have the option to end his or her own life with the help of a compassionate physician.

Thank you to everyone who has read these entries and to those who have written. Grief feels lonely, but it unites every living being. Death is the price of Life. Grief is the price of Love.

Lucky Dog

Lucky Dog

I remember the first time I saw Lucky. I was in my office at home and glanced out to the front sidewalk to see a very happy-looking dog prance down the street. I waited, expecting to see the owner follow, but none did. A few minutes later, up the street came Lucky again. Based on just that look, we could have called him Happy.

Eventually, we learned that most of the neighborhood had seen the stray dog in recent weeks. Many had put out food and water. All of the neighborhood kids wanted him for their own.

We were cat people at that time. Even so, one morning, Merri was talking to the neighborhood kids about the stray dog, when he rolled over into her lap. She was always his alpha and omega, his queen. Later, when we recognized that Lucky loved kids, we joked that he must have thought all those kids were Merri’s. If so, the joke was on him.

Before we took Lucky in – well before his name appeared – we had a meeting. Merri and I and Miss Kitty sat in our yard, while he sat in the next yard. “You have to leave our cat alone,” we insisted. He agreed to our terms – a pack is a pack.

Of course, we expected him to live in the yard. I remember looking out into the backyard to see Lucky standing on the narrow cinderblock wall, balanced perfectly. I raised a portion of the back fence and improvised a gate.

And then he ran away. I think he was gone at least a week; I was sure we’d never see him again. I was in the kitchen one night as it rained and I saw some movement next door. “Merri! He’s back.” He dragged himself into the house, apparently injured and weak. I fixed a lead to his collar and he stretched that lead as far as it would go into the dining room. He settled on a sleeping bag with a sigh. He slept inside for the next 10 years, usually under our bed, on Merri’s side.

Over those next 10 years, the three of us were constant companions. We bought a truck and a camper and drove to Hinton, Alberta, in a 5,000 mile, five week trip that first summer. We’ve camped up and down the Rockies, in New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona, plus a trip to Memphis, Tennessee. When we weren’t camping, we walked the neighborhood twice a day. Lucky introduced us to neighbors we’d never met. We were all lucky and happy.

We took one last trip to Colorado in late June. It rained every day, of course. Lucky slept in his own tent, the first time he wasn’t with us in the camper. I wondered if he would make it past the 4th of July, which he feared so. This year, the noise was nothing to him. I never expected him to last until August, but he did.

Lucky suffered his whole life from an autoimmune disease called pemphigus foliaceus, which constantly eroded his nose. We kept that disease in check through diet, making his raw food every few weeks. Eventually, we had to put him on steroids.

Old age isn’t a disease. Every body wears out and fails in some way. It was arthritis and, possibly, nerve damage, that slowed Lucky and dragged him to the ground, as surely as any predator. His decline became most noticeable this year. His gait grew more painful and his walks shorter. He could no longer stand in one spot without falling over, so he paced until exhausted. When he fell, often he couldn’t get himself back up. This was the only time he cried, from frustration. Still, his spirit never changed and his large heart beat strong.

It’s hard to kill someone you love, but there comes a time when more time really isn’t worth much. I wanted Lucky to live just long enough and to die in his sleep, but Life is too tenacious. The body struggles on beyond all reason and hope, even when living holds no more pleasure. In time, the kind thing is the hardest and one must find an impossible strength and resolve. The one thing worse than watching someone you love suffer is to end that suffering the only way possible. So, we ended Lucky’s suffering this afternoon. Ours will go on a while longer.

utah (662)

The Heaven of Animals

The meadow is his home now.
Up high in the mountains,
he lies in the shade
in a circle of trees
among the wild iris.

He yawns and stretches,
flips over
and rolls and rolls,
groaning in pleasure
in the tall sweet grass.

At any moment
he will sit up, alert,
ears sharp,
sniffing the air,
eyes intent on something
we can’t see
off under the trees.

His world is perfect now,
though I know he misses
the pats, the belly rubs,
the love in our voices:
lie down.
stay now.
good boy. mjh


I wrote this poem five years before Lucky Dog died, remembering a beautiful spot the three of us discovered. And, imagining the inevitable, I sobbed. This supports my hope that “any horror could be faced / and become a poem.”


America, we’re better than this. How about toning down the rhetoric, stopping the violence, and instead putting our efforts into attempting to understand each other and come up with real solutions to our problems? – Heath Haussamen