Category Archives: Law

Hallelujah(?)

Like many of you, I still wake in the night with a knot in my stomach.  It’s Donald Trump, of course.  He’s making me sick.  He’s making me anxious.  He’s making me unusually serious.

But of course, we are all here in this country — although I think all of us want to pack our bags and leave a country that just elected such a seriously flawed man.  A man who cheats, and lies and treats all non-white men as if they are less than human.

This video has helped me.  It reminded me that I’m part of the loyal opposition — loyal to the system of government as it should act under the Constitution.  That I’m an American and I value my institutions and I will fight against tyranny. That I am descended from immigrants who helped build our country.

That I have to be part of the solution.  Whatever that may be.

Oh and that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by over 2 million votes, at last count.

Hallelujah.

 

 

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Serious and Silly

cusedToday’s post is stolen.  Copied.  Plagarized (with attribution, but hey, it doesn’t make me any less lazy, just less liable for prosecution.  But I’m good with that).  Sometimes other people just hit the nail on the head and, well, it should be shared/stolen and disseminated all over the sphere.

Serious

One clear lesson I learned in grammar school is that everyone in America deserves a fair trial by a competent lawyer.  It serves to promote confidence in our government, avoid mob actions against accused people, and prevents unjust imprisonment.  In short, it demonstrates that we are a nation of laws.  In fact, it long predates our independence.

My first exposure to it was in 5th grade, when Mrs. Ganley (a wonderful soul, RIP) taught us about the Boston Massacre and how John Adams, later one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence and the 2nd U.S. President, defended the British soldiers accused of killing colonists in December 1770 Boston.

The story of the Boston Massacre and John Adams’ able defense of the soldiers is a noble story.  And it helped establish in the new Republic, formed not too long thereafter, the tradition of capable representation for the accused.

Hillary did just that when she was assigned to defend a man accused of raping a 12 year old girl.

My friend Karen in her blog Why I’m Voting For Hillary and Not Against Trump reposted a lawyer’s excellent Facebook explanation of the duty of lawyers to represent those accused of crimes.  Hillary Clinton’s representation in that long ago case demonstrates that she did what lawyers, including John Adams, have done for centuries.  Ensure justice is delivered.

Gail Webb West
(earlier this week on Facebook)·

[…] Before you run that misleading, disgusting video about Hillary Clinton representing the piece of scum who violated Kathy Shelton or repeat the blatant lies about Hillary Clinton laughing about “getting him off” you might want to think about who, and more importantly what, your mud slinging is hitting. It’s hitting me, my husband, and every other attorney who has ever been appointed to represent an indigent criminal defendant. It’s hitting the United States Constitution and the constitutions of every state, including the Tennessee State Constitution.

I woke up to that b***s*** this morning and that’s when the whole thing got way too personal and, just to be frank, way too ignorant, for me. Until you’ve been in the position of being REQUIRED by your professional oath and license to represent to the best of your capabilities the CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS of an individual charged with a crime, you don’t have a clue. I’ve been there. In a big way. Step into my shoes. Walk with me . . .

Just a small town lawyer, growing a general practice of law, trying to make a living to support your family, and doing the best you can for your clients, you get a call (while on vacation no less) from the local court clerk saying that your name (or my husband’s name) has come up next on the list to represent a defendant who can’t afford an attorney. Then the “other shoe falls”, the defendant is charged in one of the most heinous crimes that your little county has ever known. There’s no choice. There’s no question being asked. You accept the appointment unless you have a valid and real conflict of interest that would be a detriment to the CLIENT . . . the detriment to you and your livelihood and your family can’t even be a consideration.

You represent that client aggressively to the full extent the law will allow. You do it because you took an oath to do that for EVERY client. How they became your client is irrelevant. But you also do that because the Constitution REQUIRES that every person charged with a crime be given DUE PROCESS and EQUAL PROTECTION under the law and it’s your job, defense attorney, to be sure that burden is met BY THE STATE. You also do the very best job you can because 1.) If this defendant is denied due process and equal protection, the precedent is set for any person, even those who may be falsely accused, to be denied those fundamental rights; 2.) If you don’t do this job you’ve been appointed to right, everyone may have to go through this process again based on the appeal process. Everyone means the victim, the victim’s family, the defendant’s family, law enforcement who investigated the crime, the community and the defendant; and 3.) If you don’t do this job, NO INDIGENT DEFENDANT COULD EVER BE CONVICTED OF A CRIME because an indigent defendant is ENTITLED by law to a court-appointed attorney.

Another perhaps less noble, but very real, reason you do this job is that failure to do it and do it right could result in being sued for malpractice and loss of your law license = your ability to provide for your family.

Which brings us to the realities for the defense attorney in an appointed case:

1.) You’re going to be paid approximately 1/5 of what your normal hourly rate is. But your overhead is going to stay the same. And the time required for that appointed case is going to mean there are cases (that would pay your normal rate) that you won’t be able to take while the appointed case is ongoing. Bottom line is you’re going to lose money. The reality is that you may come to the brink of financial ruin because of this one case and what it does to your cash flow situation and your client base in the community.

2.) People in the community who either don’t understand all this or who don’t give a flip or are just ignorant or mean are going to treat you and your family like crap. In the grocery line behind you and your two small children, they’re going to say that the defendant deserves public hanging and any attorney who represents that defendant deserves to be hung, too. They’re going to tell your five year old (at school, no less) that her daddy works for the Devil. Under the cover of night, they’re going to hang a gutted, black cat from your office door to “greet” your office staff the next morning.
3.) And when it’s over for the community, it’s not over for you. You get to go through the appeal process and even post-conviction relief. Post-conviction relief is where the defendant you represented gets another lawyer appointed whose job requires him/her to go through everything you did in representing that defendant with a fine tooth comb to try to find anything you did wrong or not well enough to use to say the defendant should get another trial because you didn’t do your job. So, in a sense, you go on trial.

But enough about the appointed defense attorney, what about the prosecution? The Constitution requires the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in every criminal case. The prosecution carries that burden. The defense does not have to prove anything except that the prosecution did not meet it’s burden of proof for the result (theoretically) to be a not guilty verdict. And long before a trial, that burden of proof is being weighed in the minds of the prosecution. If the prosecution believes that the evidence is not strong enough, or the witnesses are not credible enough, or that the process of testifying or going through the trial is too much to ask of the victim and would victimize the victim all over again, or that there were problems/mistakes made in the investigation or in handling the physical evidence that would make that evidence less convincing to a jury, or that there are any other number of reasons that a guilty plea to a plea agreement would better serve the community they represent or justice as a principle, then they negotiate and extend a plea offer to the defendant. None of that is an easy process for the prosecution. There are factors the prosecutor and law enforcement officers involved know that the general community does not know. So when you hear about a “plea deal”, don’t be so quick to judge the prosecution for making the offer. You don’t know what he/she knows.

Now about the tape. Have you seen the whole thing? I have. I’m not talking about the put together commercial video that’s going around. I’m talking about the full footage of the actual interview. It is an interview in which Hillary Clinton goes through a discussion of the role of the appointed defense attorney. Taken in context, her “laughter” (which is really just what I, myself, use as a “shaking my head, you can’t make this shit up” sarcastic chuckle) is in terms of what her client claimed had happened and the role in it all that she was forced to play as the appointed attorney required to do her job. There is no way anyone with sound mind and reasonable judgment could view that tape in its entirety and say she was laughing about what happened to that victim or about “getting off” the defendant.

In fact, Hillary Clinton didn’t get the defendant “off”. Her client accepted a plea offer made to him by the Prosecutor on the case. A prosecutor employed by the State of Arkansas hired by someone that the voters of Arkansas elected. Have you seen the recent interview with that prosecutor? I have. He says that Hillary Clinton did her job and did it well. He says there were problems with the investigative part of the case concerning mistakes made and mishandling of physical evidence. Those issues rest with law enforcement employed by the State of Arkansas hired by someone that the voters of Arkansas elected. So if you have a problem with the result on the case, you need to look to the voters of Arkansas.

You STILL don’t like the part Hillary Clinton had in this case? That’s understandable, you may have no frame of reference. But if ever, you (or someone you care about) stand accused of any crime, whether you’re guilty or innocent, you’ll get frame of reference real quick. And you’ll want someone who’ll do just what Hillary Clinton did in that case standing on that wall defending you and your constitutional rights.  [Emphasis added.]

Silly

From today’s  Abbreviated Pundit Round-up at Daily Kos (which I highly recommend)

What more can anyone say about the GOP nominee than this:

… perhaps the most eloquent condemnation of Trump came from one of the houses of state parliament in New South Wales, which, according to BuzzFeed Australia, just passed a unanimous motion to declare Donald Trump a “revolting slug.” The motion—a symbolic declaration of sorts with no real legislative heft—was tendered by a member of the Greens Party:

“I move that this house condemns the misogynistic, hateful comments made by…Mr Donald Trump, about women and minorities, including the remarks revealed over the weekend that clearly describe sexual assault…and agrees with those who have described Mr Trump as ‘a revolting slug’ unfit for public office,” the motion read.

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(Un?)Intended Consequences

In January 1998 John, Jacob and I visited the town of Canterbury, home to Canterbury Cathedral.

Canterbury Cathedral

Image from Wikipedia because it was a damn good picture.

It is a a beautiful cathedral.  But part of the fascination with it is it’s history — the fact that it was the site of the assassination of Archbishop Thomas Beckett at the behest of King Henry II.  Sort of.

Reportedly, the King was famously infuriated with his former friend, the Archbishop for a number of transgressions, including excommunicating a bunch of English nobles.  He famously uttered:

“Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?”

Being the King, folks took it as a command.  Wikipedia names the four knights, Reginald fitzUrse, Hugh de Morville, William de Tracy and Richard le Breton, either carried out the king’s command, or misinterpreted the king’s intention.  Either way, they assassinated Archbishop Thomas Beckett on the altar of Canterbury Cathedral.

Canterbury Cathedral Altar

Google Image

In case you are hiding under your bed trying to get away from news about the election, Trump opened his trap again today, and once again said something that should disqualify him for the presidency.

Today’s vomit from Trump can be heard here:

Yeah, I know you didn’t click on the link.

He said:

“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”

Now let’s see.  Did Donald Trump just call for the assassination of Hillary Clinton?  Or will one of his followers, you know, one of the disgruntled, racist, misogynistic white guys get out his gun(s) and do Donald’s bidding.

“Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?”/

“Who will rid me of this troublesome girl?”

Especially since, in spite of the fact that Trump’s campaign is tanking and he is hemorrhaging in the polls, and he’s claiming that the election, if he loses, will be rigged.

What could possibly go wrong.

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Vote Out These Cowards

You’ve no doubt heard the news from last night.

The GOP voted down four different measures designed to protect you and me.  Designed to keep folks on the terror watch list from getting assault weapons.  They did this in spite of the fact that:

A new poll from CNN shows 92 percent of Americans support expanded background checks and 85 percent support preventing those on terror watch lists from buying guns. As we’ll explain in the post below, though, none of the below proposals aimed at these things are likely to pass. (Washington Post — https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/06/20/the-senate-will-vote-on-4-gun-control-proposals-monday-heres-everything-you-need-to-know/Emphasis added.

Senator Chris Murphy, who I am proud to say represents my home state of Connecticut in the Senate said the following:

“We’ve got to make this clear, constant case that Republicans have decided to sell weapons to ISIS,” [Senator Chris] Murphy said, using an alternative term for the Islamic State militant group. “That’s what they’ve decided to do. ISIS has decided that the assault weapon is the new airplane, and Republicans, in refusing to close the terror gap, refusing to pass bans on assault weapons, are allowing these weapons to get in the hands of potential lone-wolf attackers. We’ve got to make this connection and make it in very stark terms.” (Daily Kos — http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2016/6/21/1540914/–ISIS-has-decided-that-the-assault-weapon-is-the-new-airplane).

Senator Murphy made clear that he will look to November, to make sure that those opposed to gun sanity don’t return to the Senate.  That’s just what I’m going to do.  So here’s where to start:

All Democrats favored the Democratic version of a bill to restrict assault weapons from folks on the no fly list except the following:  Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Jon Tester of Montana, and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.  ALL Republicans voted against sensible gun laws except Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)  who backed it; he voted with Democrats on all four measures.

Elections matter.

Vote the bastards who refuse to protect us

OUT OF THE U.S. SENATE

Photo from NBC News

Senator Murphy, talking about Dylan, one of the 20 6 year olds who died in Sandy Hook, CT.  Photo from NBC News

 

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Yup. Let’s Fear 3-year Old Syrian Refugees. 

Yes, it is much better to give in to manufactured terror from folks we don’t know, than terror from the very same folks — the ones with guns and ‘God on their side’ who keep killing people.   To donate to Planned Parenthood:  https://secure.ppaction.org/site/Donation2?df_id=12913&12913.donation=form1

 

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This Sums it Up Nicely — NSFW

As I often do, I’m snagging something else from my bloggin’ buddy, Father Kane over at The Last of the Millenniums.  Because, really, I haven’t seen such a good summary of why folks have guns in a while (Not Safe For Work).

I give you Australian comedian Jim Jefferies:

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The End of My Rope — Again

Just like three years ago, I am anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act.  Three years ago, I was fairly certain that the right-leaning Court would deem Obamacare unconstitutional.  Three years ago, I was lucky.  And I wrote about it here.

Today, tonight, as I wait for the decision on a far more pedestrian case, I’m still worried.  OK, I’m worried again.

You see, the “Prime Directive” of my life, from the age of 17, has been having and maintaining health insurance.

That’s what happens to you when you develop health problems, regardless of the age.  You need to put your square peg of a life into a round hole of getting the treatment that you need.  It never fits.  And you always lose a lot of yourself.  Oh, and all of your dreams.

And frankly, I resent it.

Healthy folks don’t understand just how thoroughly something most people take for granted — good health, good health insurance — can literally mean the difference between life and death.

Because I’m sure — positive — that the Supremes will be reading this blog, and for the new-ish friends who haven’t read this piece, I’m re-posting my most intimate post.

The End of My Rope

Friday, the first of October, 1982, was a really bad day.

Actually, it was a mostly normal day even after I found a memo and a pamphlet in my office in-box. The law firm where I’d worked for more than three years had just changed health insurance companies. The information about our new policy, beginning November 1, 1982, three weeks before my scheduled surgery, would be with Liberty Mutual. I didn’t give it a thought.

But Andrea, one of my bosses, suggested I give them a call. “You’d better make sure they know about your operation and don’t need more information.”

So I called the number on the brochure.

Forty-five minutes later, Andrea found me at my desk, staring blankly at the ‘Sitting Duck’ poster hanging on my wall. It showed a white cartoon duck wearing sunglasses.  He’d been enjoying himself, sitting in the sun in a turquoise blue lawn chair on the side of his house, sipping a soda.  But he was looking in wide-eyed surprise over his right shoulder at two bullet holes in the wall.

Sitting duck poster

Poster by Michael Bedard
http://www.mbedard.com

I knew that if I looked over my shoulder, I’d see some bullet holes as well. I was that sitting duck — I always seemed to be dodging bullets.  Life with chronic illness had become one fucking thing after another.  Now, just when I’d accepted and agreed to the surgery that so terrified me, my insurance was gone.  BANG! BANG!

“What’s wrong?” Andrea asked.

“It’s not covered,” I said, numbly, without a hint of emotion. Then I began to hyperventilate. “’Pre-… pre-… pre-existing condition,’ they said.”

“What?”

I explained what I’d been told, that the new policy didn’t cover anybody for 30 days and that it didn’t cover pre-existing conditions for a year. The firm had changed insurance to save money. Their decision would cost me everything. Everything.

I didn’t want to have the surgery — it terrified me. But I’d adjusted, accepted that I was, in spite of my attempted denial, quite sick, and that I had to have the operation. But I couldn’t possibly pay for it. Where was I going to get the tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars I’d need? I lived pay-check to pay-check, and rarely had a nickle to spare; I had no savings. My parents were retired, living close to the bones themselves. My siblings were likewise broke. And I had insurance!

Loss of the insurance meant one of two things.  I could have the surgery that I really didn’t want to have anyway and pay for it myself. Or I’d face another year of ever-worsening illness — hemorrhages, bleeding, weakness, diarrhea.  Dr. C had been clear — my colitis was not just going to go away, as much as I wanted it to.

Without insurance, even if I could convince my surgeon, the hospital and the zillions of other folks involved in a major operation to actually do the surgery on someone without insurance, I knew that I would spend the rest of my life trying to pay the bills.  Bills that would have been covered just the day before.

My mind whipsawed between the injustice of the loss and terror at what would happen to me if I didn’t have that damn operation.

Andrea came around to my side of my desk and put her hand on my arm. “We’ll figure this out, Elyse. It’s late now, everybody’s gone. But we’ll work this out on Monday.”

She sounded reassuring; I was unconvinced.

“Really, it’ll be OK,” she repeated. “But in the meantime, I need you to …”

Her voice trails off in my memory. Andrea was a compulsive workaholic, an A-type personality. Work always came before anything else. Other people at the firm thought it was annoying, insensitive, or worse. But for me, it helped. It was exactly what I needed. It took my mind off me. I did what she asked, finished up and went home.

Of course I fell apart once I was home and told my roommate, Keily, the news. I ranted, raged, and cried — I wallowed all evening.

“I don’t even want to have this operation,” I shouted as loudly as I could to Keily as I sat in the bathroom, the door open. My gut, naturally, was erupting. It almost always was by then, especially when I was upset. Cramps. Diarrhea. Blood. Urgency. My shitty symptoms mocked me, proving that I couldn’t avoid the surgery. That I couldn’t put it off until my insurance kicked in. That I was totally screwed.

Keily sat outside the bathroom at the top of the stairs, stroking Goliath; that was her perch as I got sicker and sicker. She sat there and talked to me. She kept Goliath out of the tiny bathroom (Keily’s only successful effort at getting the Goose, as we nicknamed him, to obey.) That night, she held Goliath, and soothed him and me at the same time. She let me vent, rage, rant.

“It’ll work out. There’s some mistake. They can’t just do this to you. You need to trust the folks at your office.” Keily said repeatedly.

“You mean the ones who agreed to the new policy?” I wasn’t in a mood to listen.

That night I’d skipped Goliath’s after-work walk. It was getting on towards 10 p.m. and he needed to go out. I needed to do something else, or at least cry somewhere else. Walking clears my head, lets me figure out how to fix a problem, helps me find an answer. I knew a walk would help.

“Do you want me to come?” asked Keily. She often did, and that night she was concerned. I was so shaky and upset.

“No, thanks, I think I need to be by myself,” I responded. “I’ll be OK.” Actually, I was wishing I could leave myself behind. I was sick of me. Sick of sick me, anyhow.

So Goliath and I got into the VW and headed to the Capitol grounds, where we walked most nights. It’s such a beautiful, inspiring place. Plus for a woman walking her dog, it’s perfect. Of course it’s well lit — you can see it for miles. But there are also security patrols that never bothered us but nevertheless made me feel safe. A 120 lb. German Shepherd helped make me feel secure, too.

It was a clear night, with a half-moon casting shadows from the beautiful cherry and oak trees, from the enormous rhododendron bushes and other carefully tended shrubs across the expansive West Lawn. Nobody else was in sight.

I let Goliath off his leash. Deep in my own thoughts, I didn’t pay much attention to him. Unusually, he stayed right with me that night. He was as worried as Keily.

I cannot believe this is happening to me, I thought, rage building again at the injustice. Because my whole entire adult life had been focused on making sure I had health insurance.

From the time of my first hospitalization at 17, I had lived my life — made every single decision — with health insurance in mind. My dreams of acting, of singing, of writing? Of doing whatever the hell I pleased? They’d all been flushed down the thousands of toilets I’d had to rush to over the 10 years since my diagnosis.

After my first hospitalization, and with word from the doctor that my ulcerative colitis would likely flare up repeatedly throughout my life, my parents forced me to go to secretarial school – a career path that had never figured into my plans. My mother was an office worker and she’d always hated her job.  It seemed boring and demeaning. Secretarial work had once been a good career path for bright women. But that, I thought in my young “know-it-all” way, was no longer the case. Mom was stuck with it, and she and Dad stuck me with it, too.

I complained bitterly; I was talented, funny, smart. It wasn’t fair.

I was wrong about both the work and the women who worked as secretaries. I quickly became pretty ashamed of my attitude, and some of the secretaries I knew became great friends.

Still when the chance emerged to turn a secretarial job into a job as a legal assistant, I jumped at it. In the job I’d had now for three years, I wrote for a living, analyzed legislation and regulations for the firm’s clients and learned about U.S. politics and policy. It was a terrific job. The firm had been good to me. And my parents were happy because I was still working in an office. With health insurance.

Another wave of anger came as I walked down the groomed hillside.

And then I saw it. Something I’d never seen there in the dozens of times I’d walked that route. Inexplicably, on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building, there was a pole sticking out of the grass with a chain attached at the top, and a ball hanging down.

Tetherball.

I walked up to it and started smacking that ball. I’d only seen cheap sets with rope attaching the ball to the pole. This one had a strong chain that was covered in a canvas sheath. But instead of improving my mood, hitting the ball deepened my feelings of desperation.

SMACK. I hit the ball as hard as I could. “MY BODY HATES ME!” I shouted as I pushed the ball around the pole.

WHACK. “MY LIFE SUCKS!”

SLAM. “Fucking, fucking FUCKING INSURANCE!

SMACK, SMACK, SMACK. “Hopeless. Hopeless. Hopeless.”

With each hit of the ball, I pushed myself towards the end of my own rope. There was no way to unravel all the problems I was facing, the problems that kept expanding.  Just as I thought I’d licked one, it would multiply. No way to fix all the crap that kept piling up. Crap that I suddenly felt that I was facing alone.

That was the moment when I realized, with surprising clarity, that life just wasn’t worth the trouble. At least mine wasn’t.

I decided at that moment to hang myself. I would hang myself from the tetherball chain on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol.  It suddenly became the perfect solution.

I saw no way out. I couldn’t continue, didn’t want to continue. And I’d gotten way past the amount of shit I could deal with.

I sat down on the grass on the hill just above the contraption and allowed myself one last cry. Naturally I didn’t have any Kleenex. Snot running with my tears did not make me feel any better.

The first problem I discovered was that I couldn’t quite figure out what to call the thing. It seemed important that I know what to call it if I was going to die on it.

I wondered: Is it a tetherball set? A tetherball apparatus? A tetherball thing-y? I didn’t know the answer.

Goliath tried to distract me, to cheer me and when that didn’t work, he sat down next to me and let me use his shoulder. He tried to lick my tears away, but they kept coming. He butted his head into me. But he got bored with my misery and wandered away.

I didn’t watch where he went, I didn’t care. It didn’t matter where he went, what he did. Whom he harassed. I was done.

The decision was made.

I got up and walked up to the tetherball thing-y and realized what I hadn’t noticed before: that the chain was actually quite short. Too short, possibly, for my plan. The ball itself fell to just the height of my shoulder.

I was shocked. How am I going to do this?

I reached up, stood on my tippy-toes like a kindergartner, grabbed the chain in my left hand, and tried to pull it down a little more. But it was a chain, so it was very strong and not at all stretchy. It was also pretty thick, about 2-1/2 inches wide and not terribly pliable.

I stood there, grunting, sobbing, trying to stretch my body. I held the ball and the bottom of the tether chain in my hand, trying to figure out a way to make this work. Wondering if I could quickly have a growth spurt.

How can I get this short thick thing around my neck?

Even on my tippy-toes and pulling it as hard as I could, it wasn’t long enough. It just reached from my chin to my shoulder — not even half way around my neck!

What sort of an idiot designed this damn thing with an impossibly short chain? I wondered. You can’t even smack the ball around the pole more than a couple of times.

Not to mention that it wasn’t at all helpful for putting me out of my misery.

I pursed my lips and moved them from side to side like Charlie Chaplin’s little tramp. I rubbed my chin and scratched my head.  Tried to solve the shortcomings.

Naturally, other problems popped up too.

What can I jump off of?

Of course, the answer was “nothing.” I was on the manicured grounds of the Capitol. I couldn’t pile up debris and jump off of it because there was no debris. The neat grounds rarely had much in the way of move-able objects.  I was starting to get annoyed.

I want to die. Now. Tonight. On the tetherball thing-y. How the hell can I do this?

There on the West Lawn of the United States Capitol Building — with security patrols passing every 10 or so minutes — I was hell-bent on committing suicide by tetherball.  I was trying to stretch, to grow, to find a ladder, a chair, anything I could jump off of with a piece of US Government-issued sports equipment wrapped around my neck. Wanting to and trying to die.

And then it hit me.

Or rather, he hit me. Goliath, of course.

SLAM! Something hard hit the back of my legs.

“Owwww!”

From somewhere on the grounds, Goliath had picked up a huge stick – an uprooted tree by the size of it. It was at least five feet long and four inches around. His mouth was stretched to the limit holding it. And he’d hit me with it in the back of my legs.

WHACK! He did it again. I turned and saw that he’d lowered his chest towards the ground into a bow. He kept his rear end high in the air, wagging the whole back half of his body ferociously.

He’d had enough of me feeling sorry for myself. It was time to play. So he rammed me with it again.

“Owwwww, Goliath STOP THAT!” I commanded.

He didn’t listen. He went around to my left and hit me with it again. His eyes caught the moonlight – they sparkled. He was laughing at me.

SLAP! “Owwww, NO! That hurts. Cut it out!”

He bounced to my right side with the long thick branch firmly in his mouth. Pretending to loosen his grip on it. Teasing me. Trying to get me to play. Wanting me to reach for the stick, which he would never give me.

(Come on, Mom, catch me!) He was play growling at the stick and at me. He bowed again, swung his head to and fro, and the long stick swung left to right, wobbled up and down. It got stuck in the ground for a second, and then he forced it back out again with a flick of his massive head. Goliath came close to me and then bounded off with his treasure. Circling me. Approaching me, but backing off before I could get to him. He never got close enough for me to grab that damn stick.

(Come on, Mom, try to grab it!) We were going to play, whether I wanted to or not. And he hit me with the damn thing again.

“Give me that stick!” I ordered. He wouldn’t. He danced around me and the tetherball thing-y and bashed me and the pole repeatedly.

I’m not sure if he knocked me over or I sat down in defeat, crying. He bashed it into me a few more times, but then lost interest. Goliath dropped his weapon — well out of my reach — and sat down beside me. He put his paw on my lap, his head on my shoulder and nuzzled me. Chewed at my hair and my ear. Let me scratch his ears.

“You silly Goose.” I said pulling his ears and tail affectionately. Hugging him. “You’re gonna kill me one of these days.”

I knew then that I couldn’t kill myself, that night or any other. Nobody in their right mind would take my stupid dog.

 *     *     *

I learned when I went back to work on the following Monday that the person I spoke with at the insurance company was wrong.  Mistaken.  My company’s coverage was considered continuing coverage and so my condition was insured.  I had my surgery and became healthy for the first time in about a decade.

Since the enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, started, I have been haunted by the memory of the night I nearly ended my own life in a fit of desperation.  And while I think we can all agree that it was the silliest suicide plan ever constructed, that misses the entire point.

And that point is that folks who lose their insurance or who are without insurance are often desperate.  And close to the end of their rope.  I certainly was .

How many other Americans have been in that position?  Hundreds?  Thousands?  Millions?  How many think, consider, and/or attempt suicide?

The New England Journal of Medicine reported the following:

First, many suicidal acts — one third to four fifths of all suicide attempts, according to studies — are impulsive. Among people who made near-lethal suicide attempts, for example, 24% took less than 5 minutes between the decision to kill themselves and the actual attempt, and 70% took less than 1 hour.  (Miller and Hemenway, 2008)  (Emphasis added.)

I am not a traditional candidate for suicide, I don’t have the risk factors.  But I was, literally, at the end of my rope because of a combination of constantly dealing with a difficult disease, being broke because I was young and just starting out, and suddenly losing my insurance.  I would have had a huge financial burden I would never be able to pay off.  All through the bad luck of bad health.  Simple bad luck.

When I hear the anti-Affordable Care Act folks preaching about how we need to get rid of Obamacare, I want to scream.  Because a flawed system is better than the old system, where pre-existing conditions — the very thing that makes insurance absolutely necessary — will be the very thing that made insurance coverage impossible.

We need this program or we need a better program.  Going back to the old system is already unthinkable.

Is Obamacare perfect?  Nope.  Is there a perfect solution?  Nope.  But it is an improvement.  A huge, huge improvement.  And the problems will be fixed.

Health insurance for many people makes the difference between life and death.  Literally and figuratively.

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