We Found You Hiding, We Found You Lying

Courtesy of Mr. Blogenfreude comes this nearly rational bon mot from Jonah Goldberg:

I don’t trust Dana Priest that much, and I am suspicious of some of possible motives behind the series, so with those caveats in mind, I still think the Post’s series (See here and here ) on what some of our wounded troops go through is must-reading. Hospitals for vets returning from the front should be palaces and the last thing in the world any of them deserve are bureaucratic hassles. Though I should say that I’ve visited wounded troops and from my very limited experience they are surrounded by people who really do care.

Still, here’s an idea for Fox News. Take Geraldo Rivera off the Anna Nicole beat and put him full time on this one. I’m not exactly a huge fan of Rivera’s but he launched his career exposing the scandalous condition of mental hospitals if I recall, and he has just the right amount of preening self-righteousness (see Hurrican[sic] Katrina) to scare the bejeebers out of the relevant bureaucrats and politicians.

“Bejeebers”? Jonah, you can say “shit” like other grownups now.

See, even if we spot him a few points for attempting to behave like a human, Jonah’s still a mouth-breathing, basement-dwelling blob. He does, however, have a point: Geraldo’s insufferable. I’m suprised those Hurrican[see above] Katrina survivors Geraldo carried out of the wreckage didn’t slap him, at least a little. That, friends, is every bit as important as Jonah’s trust issues and specialized language-mangling. What’s “must-reading”?

On the worst days, soldiers say they feel like they are living a chapter of “Catch-22.” The wounded manage other wounded. Soldiers dealing with psychological disorders of their own have been put in charge of others at risk of suicide.

Disengaged clerks, unqualified platoon sergeants and overworked case managers fumble with simple needs: feeding soldiers’ families who are close to poverty, replacing a uniform ripped off by medics in the desert sand or helping a brain-damaged soldier remember his next appointment.

“We’ve done our duty. We fought the war. We came home wounded. Fine. But whoever the people are back here who are supposed to give us the easy transition should be doing it,” said Marine Sgt. Ryan Groves, 26, an amputee who lived at Walter Reed for 16 months. “We don’t know what to do. The people who are supposed to know don’t have the answers. It’s a nonstop process of stalling.”

Soldiers, family members, volunteers and caregivers who have tried to fix the system say each mishap seems trivial by itself, but the cumulative effect wears down the spirits of the wounded and can stall their recovery.

“It creates resentment and disenfranchisement,” said Joe Wilson, a clinical social worker at Walter Reed. “These soldiers will withdraw and stay in their rooms. They will actively avoid the very treatment and services that are meant to be helpful.”

Danny Soto, a national service officer for Disabled American Veterans who helps dozens of wounded service members each week at Walter Reed, said soldiers “get awesome medical care and their lives are being saved,” but, “Then they get into the administrative part of it and they are like, ‘You saved me for what?’ The soldiers feel like they are not getting proper respect. This leads to anger.”

There is, once again, no excuse for this bullshit. When you consider the costs of war, you take for fucking granted you will be caring for the injured decently. If you don’t, you haven’t calculated your probable costs correctly. Now, tack on some bigotry.

Family members who speak only Spanish have had to rely on Salvadoran housekeepers, a Cuban bus driver, the Panamanian bartender and a Mexican floor cleaner for help. Walter Reed maintains a list of bilingual staffers, but they are rarely called on, according to soldiers and families and Walter Reed staff members.

Evis Morales’s severely wounded son was transferred to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda for surgery shortly after she arrived at Walter Reed. She had checked into her government-paid room on post, but she slept in the lobby of the Bethesda hospital for two weeks because no one told her there is a free shuttle between the two facilities. “They just let me off the bus and said ‘Bye-bye,’ ” recalled Morales, a Puerto Rico resident.

Morales found help after she ran out of money, when she called a hotline number and a Spanish-speaking operator happened to answer.

“If they can have Spanish-speaking recruits to convince my son to go into the Army, why can’t they have Spanish-speaking translators when he’s injured?” Morales asked. “It’s so confusing, so disorienting.”

And how about some plain incompetence?

Three times a week, school buses painted white and fitted with stretchers and blackened windows stream down Georgia Avenue. Sirens blaring, they deliver soldiers groggy from a pain-relief cocktail at the end of their long trip from Iraq via Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and Andrews Air Force Base.

Staff Sgt. John Daniel Shannon, 43, came in on one of those buses in November 2004 and spent several weeks on the fifth floor of Walter Reed’s hospital. His eye and skull were shattered by an AK-47 round. His odyssey in the Other Walter Reed has lasted more than two years, but it began when someone handed him a map of the grounds and told him to find his room across post.

A reconnaissance and land-navigation expert, Shannon was so disoriented that he couldn’t even find north. Holding the map, he stumbled around outside the hospital, sliding against walls and trying to keep himself upright, he said. He asked anyone he found for directions.

Shannon had led the 2nd Infantry Division’s Ghost Recon Platoon until he was felled in a gun battle in Ramadi. He liked the solitary work of a sniper; “Lone Wolf” was his call name. But he did not expect to be left alone by the Army after such serious surgery and a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. He had appointments during his first two weeks as an outpatient, then nothing.

“I thought, ‘Shouldn’t they contact me?’ ” he said. “I didn’t understand the paperwork. I’d start calling phone numbers, asking if I had appointments. I finally ran across someone who said: ‘I’m your case manager. Where have you been?’

As if that weren’t bad enough, contempt for the injured is standard operating procedure.

Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, commander at Walter Reed, said in an interview last week that a major reason outpatients stay so long, a change from the days when injured soldiers were discharged as quickly as possible, is that the Army wants to be able to hang on to as many soldiers as it can, “because this is the first time this country has fought a war for so long with an all-volunteer force since the Revolution.”

That emphasis is mine because I just can’t stand it. That is so far beyond the bounds of decency I want to sit up and bark like a dog so I don’t have to share a species with douchebags like this:

Part of the tension at Walter Reed comes from a setting that is both military and medical. Marine Sgt. Ryan Groves, the squad leader who lost one leg and the use of his other in a grenade attack, said his recovery was made more difficult by a Marine liaison officer who had never seen combat but dogged him about having his mother in his room on post. The rules allowed her to be there, but the officer said she was taking up valuable bed space.

“When you join the Marine Corps, they tell you, you can forget about your mama. ‘You have no mama. We are your mama,'” Groves said. “That training works in combat. It doesn’t work when you are wounded.”

Whether you are military or civilian, you know – or you should know – that in their most vulnerable state, patients absolutely need someone watching out for them. Even the most attentive medical practioners make mistakes, let alone caregivers who can’t actually find their patients. It should be the military looking out, but apparently the military cares more about keeping up its numbers than caring for its constituent individuals.

I could toss my waffles. I could just puke.

You Fail, We All Fail

This morning, my co-worker handed me a baggy of Box Tops For Education. I wish I could say the baggy was filled with something far more exciting in a socially recognized sense, like Peruvian marching powder. You’d say, “What an invigorating life Miss Tata leads, and just look at all that danger! The possibility of imminent arrest! The eventual need for reconstructive rhinoplasty! That tears it! I’m going to run right out and develop a drug habit so I can be just like her!”

Well, of course, you’re dying to be just like me, and who can blame you? Today is one of those days you’re going to have a new and delightful idea. Yes, you will! And here it is: despite our early conditioning that leads us to think otherwise, teachers are not actually locked in closets at night, only to emerge each morning, a little L’Eau du Mothball dabbed behind each ear, to bore us senseless. No! They’re our friends and neighbors. Teachers live among us, just like normal people. There’s just no shame in it anymore. And these teachers struggle with taxes and budgets and equipment-this and expectation-that more than you might realize – especially the really good ones – to educate children each and every day.

You can help, even if you can’t bring yourself to go to one of those stultifying school board meetings where they’re planning a universe-changing vote on chalk. If you live in a wealthy school district, you can even help level the playing field for poor districts. It is breathakingly simple: put an envelope in the corner of your kitchen and when you see this logo on something you bought in the grocery store, cut it out. Drop that little piece of paper or plastic into the envelope. As the envelope fills, you now have an exciting opportunity to be – yes! you’ve been so patient! – just like me.

The Box Tops For Education site offers you credit cards, if you want to go that far but I can’t see how creating personal debt for public finance makes sense. You can create an account, they offer coupons. If you use a whole lot of these products: good for you! If not, you may fill up that kitchen envelope once in a great long while – which is fine. Kids will still need school supplies when you’ve finally finished that bag of flour in two years.

I don’t have school-age children. Miss Sasha is 23, married and living on an Air Force base in the Deep South. There’s nothing personally in it for me to save and send off these things in a capricious manner to a random school in a struggling school district or hand them off to friends who teach. There’s hardly a stigma anymore to meeting them in public! Since I’m always in a mood to have a delightful secret, I mail them off anonymously and smile for a week.

So I’m staring at this baggy and thinking: do I send this to one struggling school? Divide it in half and mail it to two? Where can it do some good? I’m breathless, just thinking about it.

Shadows On Our Eyes

Tonight’s new moon wipes clean the slate. We begin again, rewriting creases in now-smooth palms. You don’t have to say anything. We have been here before, between breaths, the heartbeat drummed by the stylus from song to song. And I know you. I have always known you. This balance, this hunger, quiet inside first morning light. The blue light of centuries has been nothing but hazy dreaming, though I’ve said that a thousand times, in a thousand lives and in a thousand voices, and now, your itinerary is off. Write all of our names in the dust by the train station.

Come to me, while there is still time.

Pulling Mussels From A Shell

Dear Accountanting Family,

How are you? I’m well. I’ve given it some thought. I’ve been your customer or client or adorable mess for more than twenty years now and you’ve done an admirable job of keeping me out of the hooskow. Everyone has a reason to be very pleased.

When we first started out together, getting my taxes done was pricey for a single mom making $5.50 an hour but well worth it, considering that gal couldn’t add and subtract. The cost of a simple tax return is still kind of pricey, but I propose we look at this from a long-term perspective. Chances are, your grandchildren will be doing my taxes in another thirty years because why mess around with success, eh? Whenever someone asks me about accountants, I send them straight to you!

Please consider charging me a bulk rate, by which I mean if we stacked up my tax returns for fifty years, that might constitute adding a wing to your office.

My proposal is very silly, but so am I, and that’s why we need each other. Happy Tax Season, friends!

Hugs and kisses,
Princess Tata

I Am Spartacus

As Driftglass says:

1. The scripture-barking, Christ-defiling demagogies who run the show carefully and deliberately angry up the dung people.
2. They glean votes and dollars and ratings and its all a lot of fun until Tim McVeigh blows up a federal building because he took them at their word.
3. Then the scripture-barking, Christ-defiling American Taliban who run the show swear they had no idea it would ever go this far.
4. Then they do it all over again.

A great many people in the center and on the left believe that if you ask a person to stop doing something unpleasant, that person will simply stop. The lesson of the last 13 years is that no, that belief is simply wrong when mania is in play and money and power are at stake. The Right Wing Noise Machine practices a scorched earth policy its opponents either pretend not to notice or pretend won’t scorch them. Well, events of the last week have demonstrated that no one is safe and for the noise machine, no tactic is beyond the bounds of decency.

It is long past time to recognize that bullies and blowhards have no power we don’t grant them.

It is time to go further and treat the Christofascists to a little doing unto them as they do unto others. It’s simple. There’s nothing to it. …And you’ve done something marvelous for free speech, for women’s health and reproductive rights, for Jews, Muslims and gays, not to mention a presidential campaign that’s barely started.

Whatever you do, don’t just sit there and feel powerless, because if you do, then you fucking are.

Moving Under Ice

Sharks killed four people and bit 58 others around the world in 2006, a comparatively dull year for dangerous encounters between the two species, scientists said in their annual shark attack census Tuesday.

…As usual, the United States had more shark attacks than any other nation, with 38 last year. That was down from 40 the previous year and well below the 53 recorded in 2000.

I hate when sharks bite. It’s so tedious. “Oh,” I say, “Not again. Get your boring teeth off me. I’ve got dinner plans.”

My Way Back To You

I get annoyed when bloggers use pictures of people who aren’t, you know, them on their, you know, blogs. By this, I mean I dislike when a blogger I respect gets nervous and deploys sweet images of plastic strangers. Thus, I am a complete hypocrite this evening because that face is not my face. I am vain. Grief and stress have made me look and feel run down, so let’s not kid ourselves. If you think I’m taking pictures of myself wearing an herbal masque, sipping chardonnay through a bendy straw and watching General Hospital, you are mistaken. I found that green gal in Google Images; I like her quizzical What, me wrinkle? expression. She probably even likes chardonnay and kind of resembles Siobhan’s younger sister. Yahtzee!

Today, I was reading my email at my desk and heard myself laugh. I was so surprised I stopped laughing. But that’s silly, so I went back to reading what made me laugh, and it was still funny.

Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you’ve had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean.

Jim Guigli
Carmichael, CA

Feel the glee! Depending upon one’s taste and peculiar education, one may find the funny in some entries and not so much in others.

“I know what you’re thinking, punk,” hissed Wordy Harry to his new editor, “you’re thinking, ‘Did he use six superfluous adjectives or only five?’ – and to tell the truth, I forgot myself in all this excitement; but being as this is English, the most powerful language in the world, whose subtle nuances will blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel loquacious?’ – well do you, punk?”

Stuart Vasepuru
Edinburgh, Scotland

Do I? I’m a damn blogger! The competition has interesting categories you might expect. In the category of Detective Fiction:

It was a dreary Monday in September when Constable Lightspeed came across the rotting corpse that resembled one of those zombies from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” except that it was lying down and not performing the electric slide.

Derek Fisher
Ottawa, ON

Fantasy Fiction:

It was within the great stony nostril of a statue of Landrick the Elfin Vicelord that Frodo’s great uncle, Jasper Baggins, happened to stumble upon the enchanted Bag of Holding, not to be confused with the Hag of Bolding, who was quite fond of leeks, most especially in a savory Hobbit knuckle stew.

Camille Barigar
Twin Falls, ID

Purple Prose:

Her angry accusations burned Clyde like that first bite of a double cheese pizza, when the toppings slide off and sear that small elevation of the oral mucosa, just behind the front teeth, known as the incisive papilla, which is linked to the discriminatory function of the taste buds except, where Clyde was concerned, when it came to women.

Pamela Patchet Hamilton
Beaconsfield, Quebec


Sex with Rachel after she turned fifty was like driving the last-place team on the last day of the Iditarod Dog Sled Race, the point no longer the ride but the finish, the difficulty not the speed but keeping all the parts moving in the right direction, not to mention all that irritating barking.

Dan Winters
Los Altos Hills, CA

And my favorite, Special Salute to Breasts Category. Is it hot in here?

As she sashayed out of the police station, her high heels clicking a staccato rhythm on the hard tile floor, like a one-armed castanet player in a very bad mariachi band, her ample bosom held in check only by a diaphanous blouse, and bouncing at each step like a 1959 tricked out Low-rider Chevy with very good hydraulics—she smiled to herself as she thought of the titillating interrogation from Detective Tipple about the Twin Peaks Melon Heist.

Wayne Spivey, Major, USAF Retired
Huntsville, Texas
When she sashayed across the room, her breasts swayed like two house trailers passing on a windy bridge.

Stan Higley
Fairport, NY
Although Brandi had been named Valedictorian and the outfit for her speech carefully chosen to prove that beauty and brains could indeed mix, she suddenly regretted her choice of attire, her rain-soaked T-shirt now valiantly engaging in the titanic struggle between the tensile strength of cotton and Newton’s first law of motion.

Mark Schweizer
Hopkinsville, KY

On Saturday, Siobhan and I have appointments at a spa for massages and facials. You may hear laughter from wherever you are.

Dance If We Want To

This image came from the panda gallery on CNN.com, which credits Reuters. That’s three degrees of separation from fuzzy panda baby happiness, which I must have. Please know that I am not stealing. I just want to play with the adorable baby pandas. Really. I think the baby pandas would make excellent playmates for me, despite their sharp claws and limited conversation. We could go to restaurants and order off the kiddie menus together. “Please, waiter, we’d like bamboo tenders, bamboo fries and bamboo shakes. And no skimping on the bamboo!” Oh, how popular we would be! Later when my panda friends grew to three times my size and reached the pedals with ease, I could teach my panda friends to drive. If my panda friends wore baseball caps, I bet they could get a job in the food service industry, perhaps bussing tables in one of the many fine restaurants in town catering to the upwardly mobile. As we lumbered down the street together, my panda friends and I would certainly turn heads. I feel extra pretty just thinking about it.

A House of Hope For Me And You

I bake my own bread. This winter, I’ve learned to make a multi-grain loaf that I like. It’s rich and dense and I like it very much. This morning, I set up bread dough, brewed some coffee and dragged myself to Sears, where I walked around and around and around the paint section like I died and went to Martha Stewart Everyday. Since Sears had just opened, I had a tough time finding an employee to help me figure out what I needed for what I wanted to do. I found a couple of people at a bank of cash registers and one came to my rescue. She limped and most of her teeth were missing, yet she took one look at me and spoke to me quietly. I said I had a dark blue closet I wanted to paint the lightest green we could find. She limped to a spot and pulled out a card to test my resolve. I said that looked fine. She told me she couldn’t choose colors for customers. I said I picked it, and that happened to be the right one. She helped me find primer and painters tape. Emboldened by these successes, she asked if I wanted a plastic tray liner. I allowed as that might be an excellent idea and we added that to my merchandise pile.

Other customers appeared in the paint department, a married couple who spoke incessantly about how she was unable to keep from spending money without his help. This was supposed to be hilarious, I could tell. They were accustomed to an appreciative audience for this routine. I was busy with my welling emotions and the paint expert addressed them crisply and professionally. They bought laundry detergent while I looked away. I announced that I was off to find painters tape. The salesperson directed me without skipping a beat with the other customers. When I returned, the other customers had gone, and it was just about this time that I realized the paint expert had been treating me with extraordinary gentleness. She gave me the materials I needed, advice I needed, and told me a very funny story, which I desperately needed. When we finished wrapping up my paints – I had to keep this secret from watchful neighbors – I mentioned I needed a throw blanket. She directed me to a cart, the elevator and the basement. I thanked her. In the basement, I found a cocoa-colored throw and a small green rug for my kitchen to replace the one I recently discarded.

Tata: Guess what! I painted my bedroom closet.
Siobhan: That’s great.
Tata: I dumped everything on my bed and painted the closet a green indistiguishable from white unless it’s next to white.
Siobhan: That sounds…strange.
Tata: It was, but not like when I realized people at Sears were speaking to me gently. Apparently, I look really bad.
Siobhan: Remember I said you looked like you’d been punched in the face a whole lot? Well, you did.
Tata: That’s what happens when I cry my eyes out for a month. But now I have a new kitchen rug. And guess what else! It’s recycled!
Siobhan: Look at you, helping the environment by redecorating!
Tata: Yeah, if only I’d driven my solar-powered unicorn coach to buy latex paint.

Don’t let the scale fool you: this bag of clothing and shoes on the floor is about half my size. Out it goes with no regrets. The other bag is just junky stuff I no longer need. It’s a bit of a test of my relationship with the cosmos:do I believe what I say, that the lighter I travel the better? Yes. I believe that. Does it serve me well to hold onto material things I have outgrown? No, they weigh me down. They cause heartache. If I want a tranquil home, I must refuse to dwell on the sad weeks and remove evidence of suffering. If I want joy in my home, I must prepare a place in my heart for it first.

And that, friend, requires a lot more elbow grease than you might think.

Lawn Chairs Are Everywhere

I have little talks with Me about Us.

Tata: I am sad! Waaaaaaaah!
Tata: Listen, princess, how do you feel? Do you feel I Want To Die! bad?
Tata: …No…I don’t!
Tata: Do you feel It’s Hopeless! bad?
Tata: I don’t!
Tata: Right, then you’re not depressed. You’re appropriately sad.
Tata: I am sad! Waaaaaaaah!
Tata: Okay, so what do you want to do about it?
Tata: Blow my nose on Our sleeve?
Tata: Yecch. Listen, I’ve noticed we’re currently running up a flight of stairs. If you think back, this is how we’ve always gotten over the bad breaks. This stairwell, lap after lap of the stairs over the last twenty years.
Tata: Sniff! …I remember! Man, there ought to be a plaque!
Tata: And you know what else? Everyone who has ever shared an apartment with you knew that if they opened the door and smelled bleach, they should walk away – just walk away!
Tata: Yeah yeah, I used to throw furniture but polishing it is miles better!
Tata: And what else do you do to recover from something?
Tata: Start smoking?
Tata: Yeah…let’s skip that one, huh?
Tata: Oh. Okay. What then?
Tata: You’re an artist. Get off your ass and get to work. Your best work has always come out of surviving something awful.
Tata: Huh. So I could’ve spared myself the years of writing band reviews by –
Tata: Yep, one craptastic trip to a shark tank.

Siobhan, who nearly died a week ago Thursday, and whose doctor kept exclaiming like a broken cuckoo clock, “You almost bit it!” until she threatened to punch him in his mechanism, is at home, finally. Last night, I called her with a commission.

Tata: I have a job for you you will enjoy, oh Queen of All the Net Purveys.
Siobhan: I can’t fucking imagine but go ahead. Try me.
Tata: Larry, the little black cat once bent on stealing your soul, peed on the couch and told me he peed on the couch. I cleaned it but this couch came from Daria’s house, where children and a dog peed on it. It must go.
Siobhan: …Bored now…
Tata: Buy me a couch.
Siobhan: …Really bored now…
Tata: I will give you my credit card. These are the rules: it must be less than $400, it only needs to last a year, it must be delivered before St. Patrick’s Day, comfortable, stain-repellant and red.
Siobhan: Hmm. That challenge is worthy! Red, eh?
Tata: It’s the color of life. So said Isadora Duncan.

Even with the random bursting into tears, I feel pretty good. I’m out from under the weight all caregivers feel when a sick person or animal dies. I went as far as I could for as long as I could, and the outcome was exactly as it should have been. I loved him madly. We are free.