Friday, June 19, 2009


Panorama by Kara Walker ("Slavery!Slavery! Presenting a GRAND and LIFELIKE Panoramic Journey into Picturesque South Slavery of 'Life at ‘Ol’ Virginny’s Hole’ [sketches from Plantation Life] -- See the Peculiar Institution as never before! All cut from black paper by the able hand of Kara Elizabeth Walker an Emancipated Negress and leader of her Cause" -- cut paper on wall, 12 X 85 ft., 1997, collections of Peter Norton and Eileen Norton, Santa Monica, California)

I slept over ten hours of uninterrupted, restorative sleep last night. It's only now, at 5:00 in the afternoon, that I've realized today is June 19th. A day of triple significance for me.

First of all, it's Juneteenth. I wrote about it last year and will direct you to that post for what I had to say: Juneteenth.

(Bill Barnett circa 1965, Dilley, Texas, age 8)
Second, on this day in 2001, shortly after noon, my little brother Bill died, alone and in horrific pain. I've written about him, too, at William David Barnett. It makes no sense to me that he's been dead eight years.

(Alice Neel. painter, self-portrait)
Finally, it was on this night three years ago that I had my first Ginny Bates dream, the dream that launching writing a book. I commemorated the anniversary of beginning the book in last year's post Happy Birthday, Ginny.

The past is not dead. It is not even the past.



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...

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]


Thursday, June 18, 2009


Akula remote-controlled toy submarine
Note: I haven't been able to start on editing yet. But characters keep appearing in my dreams and quiet moments during the day, demanding I write this or that. After a week of holding them off, I'm trying out the idea of putting some of it down on paper.

8 June 2020

Myra and Ginny didn't get up until almost 10:00. Claire and Leila had left for SeaTac much earlier, sharing a cab with Nate and his family. Cathy was sticking around for a couple of days, however. She was at the dining table with a newspaper and a carafe of coffee.

"Where's Sima?" asked Myra, noticing her reflection in the convection oven glass door. Fuck, was that a bite mark on her neck?

"Hanging out by the pond. I think she's wishing she had an Ecto-Containment Unit" said Cathy. Ginny burst into laughter. Cathy added "There's still cake left, are you going to freeze a piece to eat in ten years?"

"My god, no" said Ginny. "I wouldn't eat it in ten days." Myra was distracted from examining her own neck by the idea of cake for breakfast. With pancetta, she thought.

Ginny sat down next to Cathy with an imperceptible wince. "Will you make me some toast?" she called to Myra.

"Okay. We have some of those pumpernickel rounds left over" said Myra.

"Perfect. With cream cheese and lox" said Ginny. Myra turned on the kettle as well, thinking Does this mean I make our breakfasts, too, now that I'm a wife? She cracked herself up, giggling as she put her All-Clad skillet on a front burner and lined it with pancetta.

"Do you need help?" asked Ginny belatedly.

"No, talk with your sissy-poo" said Myra.

Ginny saw the side gate open. Gidg and Moon gamboled through, rushing first to greet Sima, then streaking for the back door. "Here comes Margie" Ginny called. Myra set aside two crumbs of meat for the dogs. Margie sat beside Sima for a few minutes before they both came into the house and joined the dining table crowd. Margie kissed her mother and aunt, then asked Ginny "So? You feel different today?"

Ginny's eyes went a little flinty. "I always feel different the day after our anniversary."

Atta girl thought Myra. She called through "Anybody else hungry?"

Sima shook her head. Margie was focused on Ginny. "What's your plan for today, then?" she asked her mother.

"Well, Myra's getting fitted for a diaphragm" began Ginny. She and Myra burst into giggles as Myra came to the table with plates for them both. "Teapot's on the counter" Myra said, and Ginny retrieved it, dodging the dogs who were unbudging lumps between her and Myra's chair.

"We need to drop off those clothes" Myra said to Ginny, "see if the drycleaners can keep that linen from being damaged by its dunk in the pool. Allie's tux is still here, too, might as well take it in with ours."

"Last time I saw her top hat was when Charlie was trying to get Moon to wear it" said Ginny.

"I think the hat is a lost cause" said Myra. "What's that you got?" she said to Margie, pointed to a small padded envelope on the table in front of Margie.

Margie grinned. "DVD of the, ahem, multimedia performance project."

Ginny's face lit up. She stood instantly and said "Let's watch it while we eat." Myra followed her to the living room and snagged the spot next to Ginny on the couch. The video opened to a static shot of the closed gate. They could hear Gillam's friend Kyle saying nearby "So my idiot roommate pulled off a wooden panel from behind the stove and torrents of roaches poured out. I shut the door to my room, pushed a towel into the crack at the bottom, and left the house."

"Jesus H" they heard Gillam reply. Amplified from the pool area came Mimi's voice jeering "You have buggers hanging out both of you noses", and Leah yelling "I do NOT". There was a wet smack, and Gillam jostled the camera as he went to intercede, swearing softly.

"Who was that man with Kyle again?" asked Ginny.

"Jesse. Her father, you remember" said Myra.

"Oh yeah. And why didn't Jared come with Jen?" continued Ginny. Sima answered "I think Poe asked Jen to leave him behind for once, because he's not part of the long-time friendship network."

"Hey, there's Allie poking her head around the gate" said Myra, her pulse starting to race. She put her plate on the floor for the dogs to lick clean and pushed close to Ginny. The next several minutes were delicious. Ginny took the remote away from Myra eventually because of one too many slo-mo replays, but then she rewound the section where Myra shoved Pat into the pool five times herself, crowing each time.

Finally they reached the end and sat, hands clasped together, grinning at each other. Myra said to Margie "This the only copy?"

"No, I have the original."

"Guard it with your fucking life" said Myra. "Press out there would kill to have this."

"To answer your earlier question" said Ginny, "We're meeting Liza for a late lunch. And we're going to stop by a travel agent to look into Alaskan cruises."

"What?" said Margie, startled.

"Yeah, we've always wanted to do it, and this is a good summer for it" said Myra. "After we all go to the beachhouse for the Fourth and Lucia's birthday, but before my birthday, that two week period is when we want to take the cruise. You're all invited. But we're going to have a private stateroom with a balcony overlooking the iceberg-calving side."

"Jane mentioned something about taking the kids to Yellowstone after your birthday, before school starts" Sima said. "Seems like a fun-packed summer is on everyone's minds."

Ginny said softly "It was such a hard year", looking at Sima with sorrow.

Margie stood, saying "Well, I have to get some work done." The dogs scrambled upright on the parquet floor. "Are you eating lunch with them or hanging out with me?" Margie asked her aunt.

Cathy looked at Ginny before answering "I think I'd like to watch you work. Ginny and I are spending the evening together."

"Annie's bringing some muscle over to erect scaffolds for Carly and Eric's project" said Sima. "I'll be there if anyone needs me."

The house cleared out. Ginny did dishes while Myra carried the DVD to her computer and made a short wav. file that featured her palm connecting with Pat's shoulder and Pat sailing backwards, the big splash, then Pat leaping forward to meet Myra's hand again and get shoved once more. She sent a copy to immediate family in an e-mail titled "Who let the wasps out?"

She then did research on Alaskan cruise options, finally settling on three possibilities and calling in Ginny to look at them. "Send an e-mail about it to the family" suggested Ginny. "I'm willing to bet Jane and Gillam don't go, trying to keep their five entertained on shipboard sounds daunting. Plus they were talking about going to Fresno for a week after the Gulf Coast."

Myra noticed Ginny kept twisting her new ring around and around on her finger. She was wearing on her right, dominant hand. Myra said "I remember feeling those stones slipping in and out at my opening." Ginny gave her a smudgy look and said "I was trying really hard to be gentle."

"Just right" said Myra. "How is it painting and drawing with a ring on, challenging to get used to?"

"The sensation of wearing a ring, or the symbolism?" asked Ginny. "Yes to the former, but being coupled with you is ancient comfort."

They looked at each other a long minute. Myra said "I'm going to work on my manuscript. Qiana is picking up a copy tomorrow morning, I think she can edit this particular book as well as my poetry. Also, Nika told me she has a grad student to recommend for the Chris journal project."

"Too bad it's not Nika herself" said Ginny.

"Yeah, but she's too busy as a professor now. The student she's promoting is named Robert but they call him Booray. He's Yurok, from Northern California."

Ginny looked at Myra with interest. "Like Umai, you mean?"

"Yeah. Not gay but his parents have both been very involved in the resurrection of Yurok language. He sees Chris as a hero, Nika says."

"So not gay, and not a woman. You trust him to sort through Chris's journals?"

Myra replied "Not yet. I'll hire him to do what Nika began with, scanning every page of Chris's work into readable files, and I'll see what notes he keeps about which entries he thinks would be good for a graphic biography. If I agree with his judgment, I'll use him more. He's without a job at the moment and if I give him full-time hours, he could maybe finish all the journals before we leave on the cruise. Which means Allie and I would have everything on disk to begin collaborating on the book while we travel."

"Speaking of book, this afternoon I need to create an outline for that volume of my work that my agent wants. Can I interrupt you if I need to bounce ideas off somebody?"

"Yeah. Why don't you haul your slides in here, use the other work table behind me?"

Ginny stood, then said "What are we doing for dinner? I'm pretty sure Gillam and his crew are coming over to eat, because they want to see Cathy again."

"I bet Margie and Frances do, too. I'll send out an e-mail saying it's potluck, we'll do salad, bread and some veggies, okay?" Myra began composing it.

"Plus leftover wedding cake" grinned Ginny.

They broke in an hour to go have lunch with Liza before she left town, returning to plunge back into silent, focused work. At 5:30, Myra heard the beep of the back door alarm and children's voices shouting "We're here!" She and Ginny went downstairs together.

Gillam was unloading three large pots from the little red wagon. "We've got pink beans with pork, white beans with fennel, and a monster batch of brown rice" he said tiredly. "Best I could manage with kids on hand all day."

"Sounds delish" said Myra. Ginny handed out baskets and gloves to the children and they headed toward the veggie beds. Two minutes later, Carly and Eric arrived. Carly said "We stopped and picked up two kosher hens. I was thinking about doing beer-can chicken on your grill, but I just realized you might not have beer."

"I do have beer, in the storage room fridge, but it's in bottles" said Myra. "Let's spatchcock them instead, they'll cook a lot faster."

Carly headed for the storage room, returning with four bottles of Jarlsburg which he handed out to Eric, Gillam, and Jane. Eric was already pounding chickens flat with the meat hammer. "I'll go start the grill" said Carly.

"I'll walk out with you" said Myra. As Carly filled two coal starters and lit a match, Myra said "I want to ask you how it is with -- you and Gillam. And Eric. And Jane, for that matter. Your perspective."

Carly met her eyes, then blew out his match. "I've hated not telling you. But I had to honor Gillam's choice."

"I figured as much. He has to build his fences where he can, he's so attuned to his family. Well, especially me, I guess" said Myra.

"Eric loves Gillam, and Jane. As do I. It's very comfortable between us all. Of course, we're careful to not rub each other's faces in anything" said Carly.

"I try to imagine it but I honestly can't. Which is fine, I can't listen to the music you all do, either. For me, the troubling question is..." Myra trailed off. Carly waited.

"It was my older brother, you know, who -- came after me. I always thought, do think, of you and Gillam as brothers. I don't know how else to ask this, Carly, but isn't this some kind of incest for you?"

"Wow. Never occurred to me." Carly leaned against the brick half-wall. "No. I mean, yeah, Gillam was like a brother, but I had a brother and Gillam was way different from Truitt. In mostly good ways. And...We messed around before it became really sexual, if that makes any sense. After puberty, it became different, but by that time we were best friends in a new way. Facing the world together, not just playmates. In love the way friends are."

"I know that kind of love. So, then, did you never hope to become his life partner?"

Carly looked away. "I did, for a while. But I'm gay, and Gillam -- whatever he is, he's not one thing. He wants women in a way I do not. It was tough for a while. We fought a lot. I was so scared he'd go away. Finally I believed him when he said he'd never leave me, we'd find a way to make family together. He said he knew how, he'd grown up with it. And that I could understand."

Myra thought about various tensions she'd noticed over the years. "Well, at least now you can come bitch to me about him without censoring" she said, smiling.

"Yep. I mean, I had Allie and Chris -- and David, when he was alive. But you're the mother lode. So to speak."

David? Myra was reeling from this when Leah zoomed around the corner and said attached herself as an appendage from Myra's arm, saying "What are you doing?"

"I'm trying to make sense of something" said Myra. She quickly improvised. "The leviathan just rose up out of the center of the pond, next to the float, standing up on her back fin like killer whales do."

"Nuh-uh" said Leah, turning to stare at the pond. There were ripples from the breeze on the surface, lending credibility to Myra's story.

Carly said "But then, even more incredible, she opened her silver mouth and spoke. It was gill-choked and metallic, but we could still understand her."

"Nuh-uh" repeated Leah, belief in her tone. "What did she say?"

Myra couldn't think of a single word. Carly put on a high lev-voice to say "So long, and thanks for all the fish!"

Leah couldn't take her eyes off the pond. Charlie scooted into the barbecue area with them, and Leah turned to him with the breathless announcement "The lev just talked to Gramma and Uncle Carly! Right there! It thanked them for the fish."

Myra had slyly reached into the fish food canister and pulled out a handful. She tossed this now toward the pond, and it scattered across the surface. In a split second, splashes skittered everywhere as small fish near the surface fought for a pellet.

Charlie broke for the house. Myra, laughing, followed him with Leah glued to her hand on the side away from the pond. "You threw that food, right, Gramma?"

"I did."

"But there really is a lev, right?"

"There really is an unusually large severum in that pond. I'd love a better view of her" said Myra. She had the sudden idea of buying a remote-control toy submarine and fitting it with a micro-camera for exploring the depths. Maybe with a tiny light. She segued from this into outfitting the sub with attached fins and flashing LEDS, having it surface briefly when the children were around -- her own version of the Loch Ness hoaxer. She entertained herself with this fantasy as she checked her sweet potatoes simmering in cream and found they were done.

Leah said "Can I mash those, Gramma?" Myra lifted Leah to sit on the counter and handed her the masher. "Be careful, the pot is very hot. Toss in some salt and pepper first. I'll get you butter to melt in, too, stay put."

Frances, Margie and Cathy had come in the back door, passing Eric carrying marinated-and-microwaved chicken out to Carly. Cathy perched herself on the top of the kitchen footstool, tucked into a corner. Myra realized Cathy had, this last year, crossed clearly over the line from old into elderly. She was smaller than she'd ever been, in bulk and height. Myra kissed her cheek and said "You need a tide-me-over? We've got at least 20 minutes before eating."

"All I need is this river of family around me" said Cathy. Myra could hear Charlie telling his mother in the living room about the leviathan appearance in an insistent tone.

"Where did that beer come from?" Margie said to Gillam.

"There's more in the store room fridge. But Marg, take the small galvanized tub, fill it with ice, and load it with beer plus any juices and sodas in there. Put it by the back door, on the tile" asked Myra.

"What sodas?" she heard David asking as he trailed after Margie. Cathy said to Ginny "My god, what kind of tomatoes are those you're slicing?"

"Oaxacan Jewels" said Ginny. "Here, take a bite."

"Do I need to warm up bread or are we covered?" Frances asked Myra.

"The spelt rustic rolls, yes, in case Lucia needs extra carb" answered Myra. Margie handed a beer to Frances on her way by with the tub on the little red wagon. Half a minute later, they heard Lucia scream "I wanted the Orangina!"

"There's another one" Margie said. "Here, Charlie, you want this Peñafiel? It's strawberry."

"No, I want a pretty bottle" he said.

"Okay, uh...look, this Jarritos has all these bumps on the top, nice, huh? It's tamarind. Here, let me open it for you."

Myra called out "Margie, put a guarana by my plate at the table, okay?"

Mimi said "Can I have a guarana too?"

"No" answered Ginny and Gillam in a single voice. A few seconds later, there was the sound of breaking glass and David's wail rose up from the shocked silence. Ginny grabbed a dish towel and the whisk broom, heading for the living room.

Gillam said, unusually loud and angry, "Don't take a fucking step, David! Not until we pick up the shards around your feet!" He roared at the other children "Go sit down at the table in your seats. NOW."

Leah's whisper to Charlie was audible to Myra in the kitchen "Daddy's in a bad mood." Cathy stood and headed for the table, calling out "Lucia, you cannot climb into a high chair with a bottle in your hands, give it to me and I'll help."

The children had become very restless by the time Carly and Eric came in the back door with a platter of chicken, but Gillam was ruthless in keeping them pinned to their chairs. Jane released them for hand-washing. As everyone was sitting down again, Sima and Annie came through the yard. Sima apologized for their lateness, and Annie said "I have to scrub off the top layer, don't wait on me." Her clothes were streaked with sweat and grime.

Her dog, whom Ginny had taken to calling "Omar the Oblivious" when Annie wasn't in earshot, stood stiffly by the door for a minute, then walked slowly to a separate dog bed Sima had set up for him in the living room. He was the most phlegmatic canine Myra had ever met. He responded to no one but Annie, and children, cats, other dogs didn't seem to register on his radar.

Myra spooned a chicken gizzard from the sauce pan of giblets she'd simmered on the stove and put it on a small plate, dicing it. She carried this unobtrusively to the living room, except of course Moon saw her and responded with a wounded expression. She set the plate next to Omar's bed, put her hand lightly on his head, and murmured "Dogs who've been working hard all day with their person need a little snack while waiting for real dinner, I bet." She couldn't tell if Omar was even looking at her, the curly hair around his eyes was overgrown. As she walked away, however, she heard a small scrape of ceramic plate on parquet, and she smiled to herself.

The children's soda bottles were all empty and Gillam was offering "Water or nothing". Myra sat down next to Leah and poured her own guarana with a small sense of guilt. Frances said to Annie "You were impressive today, sinking that bolt into the side of the store from a perch 30 feet above the asphalt."

Annie shyly said "Well, I had to be sure of that anchorage, the whole structure will hang from it."

Margie said to Carly and Eric "Wait till you see the patinas she's got for us to choose from for the copper and steel, it's all 'better art through chemistry'-ish."

Everyone ate quickly, because dinner was late tonight. Jane gave the children small pieces of wedding cake, which even Myra had misgivings about after looking at Gillam's stony expression. Jane retreated to the kitchen to start clean-up. Annie said "I'm too exhausted for dessert. What I need most is a long soak in the tub."

"Use our hot tub" offered Jane from the sink. "It's ready to go, it'll do wonders for you."

Annie was going to demur, but Sima said "Thanks, honey, we'll accept." She went to her room to get robes and towels while Annie stood with a groan to feed Omar. Myra reminded her and Frances there were giblets to mix into the kibble. Annie carried Omar's bowl into Sima's sitting area where he preferred to eat in solitude. As she and Sima opened the back door, Annie said to Myra "Okay if I leave him here?"

"Of course" said Myra. Gillam was in the kitchen banging pots into the dishwasher. She heard Jane say "You cooked, go take a break." He disappeared into the hall and up the front stairs.

Margie glanced at Frances and said "We're going to take the dogs on a long walk after they eat, would any children like to go with us?"

David was on his feet instantly. "Can we go as far as that house with the lions by the gate?"

"Sure" said Frances. Ginny pulled small metal pails and flashlights from a cupboard, handing them out to the children with instructions to pick any ripe fruit along fences and alleyways. Myra added "Whoever brings me a full bucket will get an individually make fruit tart for dessert on shabbos." Ginny repeated "Ripe fruit." She and Cathy started up the back stairs for their private time together.

Carly said to Myra "If you've got a few minutes, there's something I could use talking over with you." Eric shooed them both out of the kitchen as Carly said quietly "Mom called me a lunch today. She heard about what happened at your wedding and, well, I think she might be ready to budge."

Myra saw Jane look around at them with interest. "Do tell" said Myra.

"Let's go out by the pond" said Carly. As Myra opened the back door, she saw Omar standing motionless in the hall. "Care to join us?" she offered. After a long moment, he trudged toward her and out the door in front of her. She sat on the middle of the pond bench and lifted Omar to one side of her. The bench retained heat from the sun now set. Omar circled twice, then settled with a sigh. Myra reached to rub behind his ears as she turned toward Carly, who was saying "I think she's finally figured out Pat's shit had nothing to do with her." Half a minute later, she felt a feather-light tongue cross the back of her hand, then Omar returned his head to easy reach of her fingers.

Margie and Frances kept the children away for an hour. When Myra and Carly went back in, trailed by Omar, Jane was asleep on the living room couch and Eric was watching a movie in Sima's sitting area with Sima and Annie, damp-haired and nearly asleep themselves. Eric left with Carly. Myra went upstairs and discovered Gillam asleep on her daybed. Ginny whispered to her "He came up here and unloaded on us, I'll tell you later what's up."

Myra whispered back "David knew about Carly and Gillam, Carly used to go to him for advice. Also, Patty called Carly today and change is afoot. I'll tell you later about it."

Ginny looked shocked, but Cathy didn't. Myra went to her computer and turned it on. She heard Ginny say "Well, hello, there." She looked around and Omar was standing in the doorway to her study. She took the unused quilt pushed from the daybed by Gillam's feet and made a pallet from it under her desk. Omar shuffled to her and lay down with his back close enough to her bare feet to touch them. Keller's fur was bristled and her smooth forehead was peering over the edge of the desk. Myra whispered "It's okay, he needs safe harbor." She rubbed his head again, noting grease and grit in his tangled fur. She entered "remote control toy submarine" into her search engine and pushed Enter.

After the children returned and were herded home by sleepy parents, Myra emptied the pails of assorted fruit into a large colander for rinsing before freezing. She discovered a snail in the mix, and was stumped, trying to figure out what to do with it besides murder. Finally she carried it out the front door and two doors down to the yard that nobody ever tended. When she got back, Omar had disappeared into Sima's bedroom. She put the fruit into ziplocks, opened a second guarana, and returned upstairs to write. Ginny would be up very late with Cathy, who was flying home the next day.

(chapter not yet finished)

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.



(Bright knots of glowing gas light up the arms of spiral galaxy M74, indicating a rich environment of star formation. Messier 74, also called NGC 628, is slightly smaller than our Milky Way. Click on image to enlarge.)

Every Thursday, I post a very large photograph of some corner of space captured by the Hubble Space Telescope and available online from the picture album at HubbleSite.

We circle around, we circle around
The boundaries of the earth

We circle around, we circle around
The boundaries of the earth

Wearing our long wing feathers as we fly
Wearing our long wing feathers as we fly

We circle around, we circle around
The boundaries of the sky

~~traditional Arahapo song


Wednesday, June 17, 2009


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

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 yellow 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.)

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]


Tuesday, June 16, 2009


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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.)

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]



Here's the weekly best of what I've gleaned from I Can Has Cheezburger efforts. There are some really creative folks out there. As usual, those from little gator lead the pack.


Monday, June 15, 2009


Here's your weekly time-lapse video showing a fascinating natural event. Hat-tip to WordWeaverLynn for the original link, and Wired Science for the article which brought them all to our attention.

Corn Growing, created by mindlapse.
Time lapse sequence shot using Pentax K110D and Harbortronics DigiSnap 2100 set to take a frame each 29 minutes 45 seconds. The time lapse spans 10 days. Two 90 watt compact floresecent lights where used for both the camera shooting light and the grow lights. The lights were on for 24 hours. Check out the interesting mold growing on the kernels, it did not seem to bother the corn. Amazing how fast the corn grew - for scale, the pot in the last part of the video is 5 inch. Music by Tony Rice Monroe's Hornpipe (The Bluegrass Guitar Collection).


Sunday, June 14, 2009


(Poster from Austin Cline.)

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.

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]