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February 20, 2008

Learnin' the Blues -- Jazz Players Living Without Health insurance

This doesn't really surprise me, but it's still stunning to realize how many good people are surviving on a wing and a prayer:

Not quite a month ago the alto saxophonist Andrew D’Angelo had a major seizure while driving his elderly landlady to a store in Brooklyn. “I was convulsing all over the place,” he later wrote on his blog, “grabbing onto the steering wheel violently, biting my tongue and basically acting crazy.”

Fortunately, the driver behind him recognized what was happening, and after quite a bit more drama — in the ambulance, Mr. D’Angelo apparently tore through the straps of his gurney and tried to strangle an emergency medical technician — he underwent testing that revealed a large tumor on his brain.

Within days he was scheduled for surgery and had started writing about the experience at andrewdangelo.com. He was clear about the fact that he had no health insurance.

The health of jazz, as a topic of conversation, has long inspired a lot of hand wringing among sympathetic parties. When the focus turns toward the health of jazz musicians, the discussion assumes a different, less abstract character: solicitous and supportive. Most people who play jazz for a living are accustomed to self-reliance. When that system fails, they lean on one another.

It's ridiculously hard for even the best jazz players to eke out a decent living. When a health crisis like cancer or kidney disease hits, it wipes out the current bank account and puts players and their families squarely in the grip of endless debt. Thankfully, musicians like Joe Lovano, John Scofield and Wynton Marsalis -- as well as many other greats -- are making it easier for their fellow players who are in dire straits because of serious illness. The benefit concerts they're giving will help, but what about next month, and next year? Go check out Sco's and Lovano's webpages. They each have a nice post (with photos) about the upcoming benefit at Lincoln Center.

Americans living without health insurance and health care is just a crime. Too bad the presidential candidates are only willing to go just so far. They still think that letting insurance companies have a hand in writing the legislation is a viable option. It isn't.

So, for jazz players at least, and for the near future, getting by with a little help from their friends will have to suffice.

Posted by shoephone on February 20, 2008 at 11:58 PM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (3)

February 12, 2008

Mr. Dodd Goes to Washington -- and Gets Screwed by his Fellow Democrats Again

With today's votes, retroactive immunity for telecoms means illegal spying is actually legal, at least according to the Senate. Oh well, Huxley and Orwell warned us. The House bill doesn't include protection for the telecoms. At this point in time, though, I wouldn't dare make a bet that Pelosi and her House Dems will put up a strong resistance. That would be naive, considering how weak they have been at beating back the crimes of the Bush mob. And hey, I seem to recall a five-year war and occupation still rumbling along somewhere...

Who really loses? The Constitution and the People of the United States, as usual.

Despite the best efforts of Senators Dodd and Feingold, certain Senate Democrats refused to help present a united front. Nope, when it came to holding companies accountable for spying on America's citizens without the proper warrants since February 2001, certain so-called Democrats jumped the fence to support Republicans in their abdication of responsibility to protect and defend the Constitution.

These are the names of the traitors:

Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)

Evan Bayh (D-IA)

Daniel Inouye (D-HI)

Tim Johnson (D-SD)

Herb Kohl (D-WI)

Mary Landrieu (D-LA)

Claire McCaskill (D-MO)

Mark Pryor (D-AR)

Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)

Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

Ken Salazar (D-CO)

Tom Carper (D-DE)

Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)

Jim Webb (D-VA)

Ben Nelson (D-NE)

Bill Nelson (D-FL)

Kent Conrad (D-ND)

Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

And in case anyone was interested in which corporations are supporting the telecom criminals, Starbucks has just entered into a new contract with AT&T -- one of the main offenders of unconstitutional spying -- for its Wi-Fi services.

AT&T replaces longtime provider T-Mobile USA and brings with it 17 million of its customers who will pay nothing additional for access. The new service will also be free for two hours a day to anyone who has and uses a Starbucks card.

An instructive note: T-Mobile, a local company, has not been participating in the illegal spying program.

You might want to check with your favorite neighborhood Wi-Fi cafe to see who they are doing business with.

Posted by shoephone on February 12, 2008 at 11:36 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (5)

February 06, 2008

Port of Seattle Hires Legal Firepower -- at Our Expense

While everybody and his brother is busy picking apart the meaning of the Super Tuesday races, I found this news from the P.I.'s Kristin Millares Young to be worthy of our attention: The Port of Seattle has hired a pricey team of lawyers to defend it against the federal investigation into corruption uncovered by state auditor Brian Sonntag. And you know who's paying for it. I guess the $97 million of our tax money that Port staff already squandered on under-the-table, no-bid contracts didn't satisfy their penchant for misusing public funds.

The lawyers are Arthur Harrigan Jr. and Timothy Leyh of Danielson, Harrigan, Leyh & Tollefson for $526 and $400 per hour, respectively, and an as-yet unspecified lawyer from Yarmuth Wilsdon Calfo.

"Is this the best use of taxpayer dollars?" Sonntag asked, noting that the port staff has been picking apart the audit's findings since late summer.

"The Department of Justice is using the audit report merely as a launching point to delve deeper into certain types of activities," Sonntag said. "They are certainly not going to use the audit report to bring criminal charges -- they are going to go deeper -- so I don't know what the benefit would be, other than to obfuscate and defend."

According to the article, Port commissioner Gayle Tarleton applauds the hiring of the high-priced lawyers.

Plus ca change, and all that...

Posted by shoephone on February 6, 2008 at 01:20 AM in Policy, Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (4)