Maybe the virtue of Art is that it is transgressive. It jumps over the fence but lands in exactly the right place.

Leonard Cohen’s hit song ‘Hallelulia’ should have been sucked dry of all meaning by now. In fact, the old guy has got a lot of nerve to still be rocking. I played ‘Suzanne’ with three chords and a voice that never would be trained in 1976. We all thought he was blessing our own various religions. Leonard Cohen was no spring chicken even then.

I posted a clip of him singing about a month ago and thought it was the definitive version. Darned if he didn’t have other amazing performances. Here’s the one my minister,Rev. James Ford, placed on Monkey Mind Online.

Hi Neighbor!

Just time for a quick post. I drove to work at 8am this morning and got off Rt. 95 at the Elmwood Avenue exit. The radio was saying the highway was closed in Cranston and Warwick. Everything was copacetic on the streets I was driving on. I thought of the tales about the Indonesian tsunami. If you were one foot from where the wave ended you would be just fine.

My visits were in South Providence, North Providence, and Cranston off Cranston St. No problem anywhere. A few puddles, but I drove around them.

When I left work at 4:15pm, just South of Roger Williams Park, I reconsidered my plan to pick up Rt. 10 to Rt. 95 N. I was under the highway bridge and noticed that the cars were driving backwards–reversing their way to the off-ramp to Elmwood. I continued up Elmwood through downtown. The traffic was light. I had the radio on listening to reports of hellish traffic jams on 95.

Some of our neighbors got inundated. They can’t even go home until the water recedes. Some of our roads and bridges will need major repairs. We really didn’t need this trouble. Not in the middle of a recession with both the private and the public sector hurting.

Hi Neighbor. I hope you’re okay. We had a lot of rain and it’s a real mess. Let’s pull together.

Pick Another Bird

What is it with the Republican Party and birds? I’m not talking about pigeons, parrots, or even vultures. I’m talking about American Eagle. Yes, the majestic national symbol that would be extinct by now, or only seen in zoos if it weren’t for some liberal tree-hugging conservationists.

We just saw the Young Eagles get their wings clipped. (With all the depressing stories coming from the Catholic church the RNC is giving us a much-needed laugh). I wonder if this is causing any discomfort in Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum? Do Young Eagles graduate after age 45 to the Eagle Forum? Are any of the Young Eagles girls? Apparently the excursion was organized by a female RNC staffer named Alison Meyers, who is the only one who got fired over this. Is there something she’s not telling? I’m just asking.

I recall another disturbing story, from the Bush administration. The Attorney General, John Ashcroft, was alleged to have subjected staffers to what arguably could be called abuse

‘Let the Eagle Soar’, written by John Ashcroft, sung by John Ashcroft. You can actually injure yourself if you’re forced to look serious when your boss is singing this…

Let the eagle soar,
Like she’s never soared before.
From rocky coast to golden shore,
Let the mighty eagle soar.

Full lyrics here.

I regret that all this eagle hunting has blown some feathers off America’s finest eagle moment. That was when Neil Armstrong announced that ‘the Eagle has landed’, on the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Americans believed we could go to the moon, and we did. How much smaller our horizons have become since then.

Please, Republicans, do not besmirch that memory. Pick another bird.

White Like Me

Via Media Matters, a story is flushing through the internets tubes. Glenn Beck had a guest host on his show, a radio ranter named Doc Thompson. Media Matters has a clip from Thompson’s show where he says that taxing tanning booths is racist discrimination against ‘light-skinned Americans’.

This is so funny that I suspect some of the leftie sites are being roped in by satire. I listened to the clip, and Thompson can definitely claim he was just joking, and probably will.

I don’t know if I want to be called a light-skinned American. I actually like to think of myself as a Celt-American, though I checked off ‘white’ on the census form. Maybe some day none of this will matter. We’ve come a long way.

Anyway, I found an answer to the embarrassment of having skin so light I practically glow in the dark, and it’s not tanning booths.

When I was in my early twenties I used to lie out on a beach towel in the blazing sun with the rest of my friends. You can’t read comfortably, especially if you are a Celt whose ancestors came from gloomy lands where it rains all the time. The sun makes me squint.

I got my share of sunburns too. Used tubs of Noxema. All for beauty.

Then one day, I saw a photo of an Irish politician named Bernadette Devlin. She was called the ‘miniskirted member of Parliament’. I didn’t know much about her radical politics, which I do not endorse, but I was struck by her personal style. She had skin the color of Irish soda bread. She could have been my cousin.

Those of us who check off ‘white’ on the census form can lose touch with our ethnicity. Especially if our family has been American for several generations. Bernadette Devlin was a public image of a woman like me. Puffy, pale and unashamed. There really is an Irish look. I decided not to fight nature, and to just be who I am.

I’m glad I had that epiphany in my early twenties– I’m fairly wrinkle-free today. I like the sun, but I stopped baking in it decades ago.

I don’t know if Doc Thompson is a big user of tanning booths. He might be worried that a tax will strain his budget. If so, I’d urge him to accept his true nature without shame. A nice tan looks good on most people, but some of us weren’t made that way. Why lie on a towel on a lawn when you could be taking a nice walk? Why lock yourself up in a tanning booth when you could be blogging? Life’s too short.

Eagle Flies on Friday, Republicans Pay on Monday

In ancient times the Democrats and Republicans actually worked together on a bill for campaign finance reform. Recent events show that we still have a long way to go. If I were a Republican donor I would not be pleased to know that my money was being spent on some tacky ‘Young Eagles’ party.

If one of the old buzzards wants to take some of the young eagles to a strip club, there’s no one to tell him it’s a bad idea. Your donation to the party of family values at work.

It’s worth noting that the buzzard got reimbursed $2,000 for the excursion but got way more than that in business from the GOP. A relationship worth examining– if they care to turn rocks over.

But the Democrats can’t enjoy this too much. There must be some discomfort as both parties spend huge energy in playing up to donors. This time it was the Repubs. Tomorrow it could be the Dems, although Michael Steele does seem exceptionally tone deaf and addicted to perks.

The voracious appetite for money in American politics will continue to grow unless we are able to get some real campaign finance reform. We all have an interest in reining in this corrupting force.

Senator John McCain, of the bipartisan McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill, might want to rethink his pledge not to cooperate with the Democrats on anything anymore, because cleaning up our process is putting our ‘Country First’.

UPDATE: The RNC fired a junior staffer, saying she’d been warned before about this kind of thing. So this was not the first time?

What are we fighting for?

As the public debate over health care reform rages on, the private battles with health insurers for essential coverage continue on, as well. While some fight for political advantage, others fight for their lives. The triviality of the former should be obvious to even the most insensate, particularly when contrasted with the high stakes of the latter. Individually, each tale of medical hardship rends the heart and evokes sorrow and sympathy. Collectively, the tales make a compelling case for the desperate necessity of reform. Consider the following two stories:

Family Learns Pre-Existing Conditions Apply at Birth

Houston Tracy, a 12-day-old boy, has already survived a rare birth defect, a feeding tube and open heart surgery. Now his family is waiting to see how the battle with an insurance company will fare.

Last week, Houston’s parents found out that the term “pre-existing condition” can apply the moment someone is born.

“When he came out, he made one little cry and he didn’t really cry much,” said Houston’s father, Doug Tracy, 39, of Crowley, Texas.

Tracy cut the umbilical cord and watched the hospital staff clean his son. But before his wife Kim Tracy, 36, could touch their son doctors got worried. “We could tell there was something wrong by the way they [the doctors] were acting,” Doug Tracy said.

Houston’s skin wasn’t turning a shade of pink like most newborns because, somehow, his blood wasn’t getting enough oxygen. Doctors rushed Houston, with Tracy riding by his side, in an ambulance to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas.

Within hours the Tracy family would learn their son was born with a heart condition called d-transposition of the great arteries, meaning the aorta and pulmonary artery are transposed where they should meet the heart. Doctors wanted to operate within days to save his life….

Houston was born on Monday, March 15. By Friday that week, doctors operated successfully….But by March 24, the Tracy family formally heard their son was denied health insurance.

“We don’t have health coverage on ourselves because it’s too expensive these days and because of the economy,” Doug Tracy said. The couple are small business owners and would have to buy individual policies, which they have for their other children Cooper, 4, and Jewel, 11.

Doug Tracy said the family had no idea there was something wrong with Houston before he was born.

“Prenatal, every doctor visit was perfect, his heart beat was fine,” he said. But Tracy said he called Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas twice in preparation of Houston’s birth, and he asked if they could get a policy on his son before he was born.

“They said we can’t do that because he wasn’t born yet, but as soon as the baby’s born go online and fill an application out,” he said. Doug Tracy applied for Houston’s insurance March 18, and the first month’s premium of $267 was charged to his credit card, he said.

“Wednesday, the 24, is when I got a letter of decline — they declined it the day after the [health insurance] bill was signed,” Doug Tracy said. [full article]

And about 1,000 miles away in Wisconsin:

Woman’s move triggers loss of coverage for cancer treatment

For nearly a decade, Paula Oertel’s brain tumor was kept at bay by a drug that was not approved to treat her condition.

Then Oertel did something she never imagined would jeopardize her good health. She moved. Less than 30 miles – from one county in Wisconsin to another.

The move triggered a review of her health insurance from Medicare, which eventually led to a loss of coverage, including the drug. And the tumor returned within four months.

What happened to Oertel stunned her doctor, Mark Malkin. Nothing he learned in medical school prepared him for what now is too often a sad and frustrating part of his job as a cancer specialist: fighting Medicare and private insurance companies over life-or-death decisions.

Doctors aren’t supposed to get emotionally involved in the cases of their patients, but tears well up in Malkin’s eyes when he talks about Oertel, the 40-year-old Oshkosh woman he has been treating for several years.

“I wish Paula would have a second chance,” he said, choking up.

Oertel and Malkin are facing an ailment no drug can cure: a complex health insurance system that can overwhelm a seriously ill patient unequipped to deal with its complicated rules.

As America debates health care reform, cases such as Oertel’s illustrate how important decisions made between doctors and patients can be overruled, leaving patients with no options and the likelihood of dying in a matter of months. [full article]

Meanwhile, those who profit from a system that denies or restricts coverage are digging in their heels. The New York Times reports that, “just days after President Obama signed the new health care law, insurance companies are already arguing that, at least for now, they do not have to provide one of the benefits that the president calls a centerpiece of the law: coverage for certain children with pre-existing conditions.” Their stance is clear. They will resist change, to the detriment of us all. It’s sickening.