Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Health Care Reform Rally, V

Hartford, CT, 9/22/09

A lot of people had made their own signs for the rally.

Some of the signs reflected research into the issues, not simply slogans. (Click on any of the pictures to get a larger, easier-to-read view, then use your browser back button to return.)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Health Care Reform Rally, IV

Hartford, CT, 9/22/09

Along with the many home made signs at the rally there were also printed signs distributed by a variety of organizations. Among the groups represented were the New England health care workers of SEIU, MoveOn, HealthCareForAmericaNow, and the AFSCME, AFL-CIO. Probably more that I didn't spot.

A reporter and cameraman for the local ABC News affiliate spent about fifteen minutes at the rally and interviewed one of the organizers, from AFSCME. There didn't seem to be any coverage by print media, though a number of people were shooting stills and video for the organizing groups. One conspicuously missing element was any hint of counter demonstration. There was no sign anywhere of anti-reform sentiment.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Health Care Reform Rally, III: Street Theater

Hartford, CT, 9/22/09

The SEIU strikers (see yesterday's post) joined a crowd already gathered in front of the Aetna Insurance headquarters before the scheduled 3:30 start of the rally. People had a range of signs both handmade and printed. The union folks marched and chanted, to be joined by newcomers representing other unions, and people from a number of progressive organizations. All watched over with what struck me as quite a sympathetic eye by the Hartford police assigned to keep order and protect public safety. Private security stayed a little farther away but to me looked edgy and nervous compared to the cops.

One of the striking health care workers from local 1199 told the crowd what she'd told me earlier on the picket line, that their employers were trying to lower both wages and health benefits even though their compensation is already painfully low. Other people came to the microphone and recounted their own heath insurance nightmare stories.

Then some street theater began. The man with a bullhorn waving wads of (play) money around announced himself as "a big insurance CEO." He shook the bills and proclaimed that he only made $24 million last year, and "that's no where near enough! I work hard denying your claims, I should make much more than just 24 million dollars."

One of the hand written sign clarified the reference, alleging that Aetna's CEO's 2008 compensation amounted to $24.3 million (click on any of the pictures to see a larger version, then use your browser's back button to return).

Later two people played the role of insurance company executives sitting at the "Corporate Profit Protection Board." Others presented case histories of people whose claims had been denied or insurance rescinded. These claims of course were then rejected again by the insurance executive impersonators. These routines were strangely affecting. The crowd reaction combined laughter at the satire with outrage that the satire was based not on exaggeration or hyperbole, but on actual claim denials.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Health Care Reform Rally, II

Hartford, CT, 9/22/09

After driving past the Aetna headquarters to scout the location for yesterday's rally (see previous blog post) I went looking for a place to park my truck, and spotted another demonstration dealing with health care, just a couple blocks away. Once I'd managed to park, I walked back and talked with the demonstrators.

They are members of Local 1199, SEIU (Service Empolyees International Union). They told me they are health care workers who deal primarily with disadvantaged and disabled clients and are employed by two different companies. The firms pay them $11 to $12 an hour.

The union was out on a two day strike because their employers are demanding a cutback in both their wages and their benefits, including health care. One of them pointed out that at those wages none of them could possibly afford a private health care plan.

They had been out picketing, marching, and chanting since 6:45 AM. I asked if they knew about the health care reform rally scheduled for 3:30 PM around the corner and was told they'd be marching straight over there in a few minutes, so I waited and then went along with them.

Hartford, CT, 9/22/09

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Health Care Reform Rally, I

Hartford, CT, 9/22/09

Insurance is big business in Connecticut, and yesterday there was a rally for health care and health insurance reform at the Aetna corporate headquarters.

Hartford, CT, 9/22/09

The demonstrators brought a portable generator to run a public address system. That's Hartford's Cathedral of St. Joseph in the background, directly across the street from the insurance company campus.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Skeptical Dog

Woodbury, CT

One part of the 350th birthday celebration for Woodbury was an invitational show of work by the rather large number of artists who live here, staged in the old town hall building which has just been restored. But this little dog seems unimpressed.

Monday, September 21, 2009

350th Anniversary

Woodbury, Connecticut

This past weekend the town of Woodbury, where I've lived for nearly twenty years, celebrated its 350th anniversary. Lots of folks in Colonial Era garb as nearly everyone in town turned out for block parties and other festivities.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Washington Depot, CT

Exhibition opening, 9/19/09, at The Washington Art Association.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

At the Fair, IX: Avalanche

Goshen, CT

More than twenty years ago I did two separate long term projects on a traveling carnival (one in color the other in b&w). There was a pretty big carnival section at the Goshen Fair, and I still find the interplay of carnival equipment, workers, and patrons to be endlessly fascinating.

You can click any image on the blog to see a larger view of the details, then hit your browser back button to return.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

At the Fair, VIII: Judging Ring

Goshen, CT

The competition class right now is for Nigerian Dwarf Goats. According to the judge, both ewes are outstanding specimens. On the outside of the barn there's a notice of a pair of kids for sale.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

At the Fair III, Finishing Touches

Goshen, CT

Last grooming before the show ring.

Goshen, CT

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

At the Fair II, Heifer in a...

Goshen, CT, 9/7/09

She just really wanted to see what was inside the sales tent. Another vendor, watching from the trailer in back, began to laugh and said, "I've heard of a bull in a china shop, but..."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

At the Fair I, Poultry Barn

Goshen, CT

A little after eight in the morning, Labor Day 2009. Visitors are just beginning to trickle through the gate and at the poultry shed a little boy finishes up bringing water to the ducks.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Some Things I've Noticed

Washington, CT, 9/2/09

It has been fascinating to watch the swirl of public political activity surrounding the issue of healthcare reform this spring and summer in rural and small town Connecticut. It’s also been quite disturbing. Freedom of speech is alive, but hardly well. The public debate is distorted and even sabotaged by major failures of government and the mainstream news media. Polls indicate that a large majority of the American public are in favor of health care reform. Beyond that, the “Public Option” as a necessary component of real reform is polling at about 60% favorable. But some politicians have declared that the public option is the choice of only “the left of the left” and some of the stenographers in the corporate media report this as fact.

It has been interesting to observe the reaction of drivers who pass pro- and anti-reform rallies and demonstrations. My unscientific simple observations and counts show majority support from passersby for groups demonstrating in favor of health care reform, and only about a 20% show of support for groups against reform. In an interesting aside, the ‘anti’ groups generally have signs for multiple agendas, like opposition to “Cap and Trade,” to “Socialism” in general, to Obama and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and invariably in Connecticut, well-designed, highly legible posters opposed to Senator Chris Dodd. The “Dump Dodd” signs are the ones most easily read from a passing car. Dodd, like any politician who has been in office for decades, has significantly “high negatives.” I think it likely that if the only signs the anti-reform, anti-administration rallies showed were those against Dodd, they might get that same 20% positive response from passing motorists.

The anti-reform forces are stunningly mis-informed and dis-informed. It’s not just the ludicrous “death panel” meme, or the claims that Obama wants to kill your babies and grannies.

Danbury, CT, 9/2/09

There are several mechanisms—it would be false praise to call them rhetorical tricks—that I saw people use in Congressman Murphy’s formal and informal meetings with constituents this past week (see earlier blog posts, below). One was a sequence of reading out a section of a proposed bill and then announcing “what it really means.” Except the claimed meaning is as far from reality, or plain English, as the death panel accusations. What appears to be open debate is only a sham when tactics like this are deployed.

Another deception is the use of false “personal anecdotes.” This one is sneaky. There are plenty of studies showing that, for example, the health care systems of Canada and Great Britain, which are very different from each other, each manage to provide genuine universal health care on about half the per-capita expenditures of the American system while delivering better outcomes in a wide range of categories. So a simple claim that “the Canadian system doesn’t work” can easily be disproved by data from scientific studies.

There seems to be an organized tactic to get around this inconvenient situation—inconvenient at least to anyone who insists that the current system provides Americans with the best health care in the world. A participant in one of the discussions will tell his personal experience of an aunt in England, a cousin in Scotland, or business associates in Canada, and the terrible disaster those health care systems made of their lives. Problem is, another participant in another one of these meetings on another day in another city turns out to have the same aunt in England, the same cousin in Scotland, those same business associates in Canada. Or the story is about an aunt in Norway, but the details of the specific medical disaster brought about by socialized medicine sound suspiciously familiar. Some of these personal narratives are, not to put too fine a point on it, false.

The biggest whopper I encountered may have been from a man who identified himself as a charter pilot. He said that when he flew into Boston he was amazed to see the huge number of air ambulances parked there. He asked a local associate what this was about, and was told it was for all the Canadians flying in to get heroic medical treatment at Mass General, treatment they couldn’t get in Canada. Really? How many desperately ill Canadian multi-millionaires are we supposed to think are out there? Only the very rich could afford to ignore their own country’s universal health care system to pay out of pocket for treatment, not to mention air ambulances, in the American system. Anyone whose bullshit meter isn’t set off by this tale didn’t grow up in New Jersey.

Lying to fellow citizens and to your elected officials hardly seems like a good way to protect traditional American values. But then elected officials in the Senate and Congress are publicly endorsing some of the most blatantly false claims against reform, so the dishonesty is coming down from the top.

The dominant emotions I’ve seen at these gatherings are concern, worry, and outright fear. The pro-reform people are very worried because they see that our current health care system is a train wreck in mid-crash. Without reform it’s headed straight down the tubes with an immense impact on an economy that is already staggering.

The anti-reformers are afraid of change. To some extent this is because they don’t understand the status quo. Yes, Virginia, I really have in these sessions encountered many people who want the government to stay out of their Medicare. Who think that a self-employed American who doesn’t like the health care plan he pays for can just go buy a better plan from another insurer. They don’t know, or refuse to accept, that half of personal bankruptcies in this country are caused by catastrophic medical bills, and that three-quarters of those bankrupted by medical expenses had insurance. It just wasn’t any good. These folks are frightened to death of “socialism” when what ought to frighten them is the possibility that the health insurance currently provided by their employer is nothing but a sham that will leave them high and dry if they get a serious or chronic illness. If their insurance really is good and takes care of them when a chronic illness strikes, that may mean they will be trapped at their current job because the now pre-existing condition will make it impossible to obtain private insurance if they leave that job, and likely will make it impossible to find new employment that offers insurance. It’s ironic (though of course no accident) that there is so much fear of reform when it is the status quo that is cruel, dysfunctional, and terrifying.

Danbury, CT, 9/2/09

I’ll continue to watch what’s going on and probably manage to make more pictures to post here.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Congress on Your Corner III

Waterbury, CT, 9/4/09

One more open air session with Connecticut Fifth District Congressmen Chris Murphy and constituents, back at Library Park in Waterbury this morning. This time I wanted to concentrate on the citizens who've come out to meet face to face with their representative and express their concerns about the pivotal issue of health care reform.