Activist, Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, art as social inquiry

Healthinsurance.org Interviews Activists including Pussi Artist

02.23.17 | | Comment?

2017 Healthinsurance.org screenshot

Republicans have been on a crusade for the past seven years to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Now, with the votes in Congress to scrap the law and a president who campaigned to do the same in the White House, congressional Republicans are facing a torrent of push back from voters worried about losing their health insurance.

In the past few weeks alone, Republicans around the country have seen their phone lines explode and crowds packed into town hall meetings nationwide – many of which have become quite heated. Despite the law having struggled to gain wide popularity over the years, the growing realization that its repeal could deal a real blow to millions of Americans has started to sink in – and it’s sparked a political fire among voters nationwide.

How much of an impact will voters’ pleas to protect health insurance have? Time will tell.

But to get a sense of how congressional representatives are responding to their constituents’ calls about the Affordable Care Act, whether callers reached a real person and whether they felt their concerns were heard, I reached out, via social media, to a handful of folks who contacted their representatives asking them to preserve the Affordable Care Act.

Here’s what they had to say.

Social artist and activist, Pussi Artist

Pussi Artist is writer, performance artist and advocate. As the Affordable Care Act was first being discussed back in 2009, she started interviewing people about their health insurance coverage and costs, and began painting portraits and telling the stories of the people she spoke with, a project she’s chronicled on her website, Art as Social Inquiry.

 

To continue reading the healthinsurance.org article, please click here.  

Affordable Care Act/Obamacare

Kliff’s Notes: A Health Policy Book Club

02.09.17 | | Comment?

Vox Headline pt 1VOX headline pt. 2

To understand what’s going on with the law, it’s helpful to look back at how it was created.

art as social inquiry, Congress, healthcare, Huffington Post

Pussi in Huff Post

02.09.17 | | Comment?

 2017 Huff Post heading hearings

I have been getting quiet encouragement to share more about attending Congressional committee and subcommittee hearings about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). I started attending and live-tweeting these meetings since President Trump threatened to repeal the ACA.

Congressional committees are small bodies tasked with gathering information about a specific issue. For example, one committee meeting I attended was about stabilizing the individual health insurance market. Senators or representatives make up the committees. Witnesses are called to give expert testimony.

I would encourage anyone who can to do it. Many meetings are open to the public. Getting there a little early is good especially when the topic is contentious. There was a line to get into all three meetings I attended. At one, people were turned away. The room was full.

Please click here to read this Huffington Post blog. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017 Women's March, Activist, Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, art as social inquiry

Pussi Artist in Huff Post

02.03.17 | | Comment?

Huf Post heading March

photo credit: Maureen Ferguson

photo credit: Maureen Ferguson

On 2017 Women’s March day, my posse included photographer Maureen Ferguson. See what we saw. Click here for more of Maureen’s pictures.

On the upside, the uniformed police presence was light, barely noticeable. Wonder if all the undercover cops wore pink pussy hats too?

On the upside, the organizers and authorities expertly directed the crowds from the Metro to the March. None of the marchers knew where we were. We just knew we wanted to be together. The crowd spilled into the street as we walked to the March. The police politely asked us to stay on the sidewalk. We lined up, and patiently waited our turns to get off the street. There were no bullhorns, bulletproof vests or other riot gear.

On the upside, we happened upon Kate from Ireland. She wanted to be connected and in a group for the March. “Kate’s with us now, everybody.” Introductions all around. She was ours because she asked to be, and needed something from us. Our hearts were so full and open we would have given her our food, our money, our shoes. We would have given Kate all we wanted for our country – understanding, sisterhood, brotherhood, caring, empowerment, justice, peace, inclusivity, diversity, vision, strength, trust, respect, equality, indivisibility, joy, security, creativity, kindness, courage, generosity, integrity, intelligence, self-awareness, honesty, civility, gentleness, friendliness, constancy, companionship, love. We gave Kate love because she was one of us. And after a time Kate flitted off into the crowd to make her own music on this great day.

photo credit: Maureen Ferguson Pussi at the 2017 Women's March

photo credit: Maureen Ferguson
Pussi at the 2017 Women’s March

On the upside, there was no lousy place to be. None of us could know how large the crowd was. On the ground our myopic vision only told us what was immediately around us. Where did the stamina to hold a sign over my head for hours come from? The spirit and strength emanating from marchers carried me. Each spot at the rally was a microcosm of what was happening for the 500 thousand plus in Washington DC., and the sister marches in each of the 50 states, 75 countries and 7 continents. Early predictions put our total number over 2.6 million marchers worldwide. The 2017 Women’s March was thebiggest one-day protest in US history. Wherever each of us was, it was the perfect place to be.

On the upside, the world was listening. Our size commanded the attention of domestic and international press. I googled “2017 Women’s March on Washington” and got 64,100,000 results one day after the March. A microphone appeared before me and many other ordinary people. I don’t remember what the interviewer asked, or what I answered. I think I said something about calling myself Pussi because I never wanted the country to forget. If we can overlook the depravity that gave us the Pussy Sun King then let’s reoccupy that same inner space, and overcome our discomfort when calling me Pussi. Get over it.

I wish I had said, “What is happening in this country? We elected a man-boy sexual predator who demeaned women; mocked the disabled; pandered to white supremacists;trampled on LBGTQ; mocked Blue Star families; denied climate science; used rhetoric to terrorize immigrants and Muslims; fostered hate to get votes; alienated allies in NATO;destabilized relations with China; quashed morale in our intelligence agencies; with over 3500 lawsuits,used the courts to bully large and small businesses; swindled Trump university students; withheld tax returns that would settle conflicts-of-interest charge;stacked his Cabinet with unqualified billionaire ideologues who aim to gut the agencies they serve; named a racist as top advisor; does not take daily intelligence briefings; has complained about briefings longer than a page; turned his press secretary into a carrier pigeon to deliver the Pouter-in-Chief’s messages about his inauguration crowds being YUUUUGGGGE.

 

Photo Credit: Maureen Ferguson

Photo Credit: Maureen Ferguson

I want to say FUCK THE PUSSY SUN KING, FUCK THE PUSSY SUN KING, FUCK THE PUSSY SUN KING. But I cannot say that because it would not be dignified. And my grounded self would say the only reason I would flip out like that is because I am scared. And my grounded self would be right.

Trump could get us all blown up with a 3am Twitter rant. He’s a toddler with the keys to the Ferrari. I’m scared.

President Trump did not come to Washington to serve anything but his ego.

On the upside: The undefeated at the 2017 Women’s March on Washington and across the country are having none of it. The March was just the beginning.

On the downside: Not enough toilets.

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Activist, Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, art

Pussi Artist Speaks at ACA Rally

02.03.17 | | Comment?

1.15.17 Intel Masthead

1.2017 ACA rally new hope1.15.2017 ACA Rally Intel article1.15.2017 pg 2 Intel rally article

2016 Election, Huffington Post

ASI Artist, Pussi, Published in Huff Post

11.17.16 | | Comment?

Donald Trump is now President-Elect of the United States, the most powerful and only superpower in the world. Let’s keep it real. Read on.:

The United States is the world’s only superpower, dominating the world’s economic and political systems. With the strongest military and economy, the United States is capable of global power projection, giving it significant influence worldwide. Few countries dare to oppose America’s political agenda.

(Oh, btw, I was “with her.” For reasons in the aforementioned definition.)

2016-pussi-painting

The peaceful transition of power has been established. Now we can get down to brass tacks.

This dribble about “uniting the country” looks like a stray dandelion growing in a garbage heap that Trump made with all his hate speech, pussy-grabbing, no content, fact-denying demagoguery.

We would love to unite. Unite around what? Build a bridge to what?

He incited people, exploited their genuine anger about the status quo and counted on them being “stupid” so they wouldn’t use critical thinking. And boy was he ever right. He peddled snake oil and you bought it. And now you want us to drink the stuff?

People will die because of Trump’s ineptitude, starting with access to healthcare by repealing Obamacare. Starting a trade war with China will greatly damage American businesses. (Do your homework, people.) Open season on Muslims and Mexicans.The KKK is jubilant. Thumbs up! for demeaning women.

You had other Republicans. But this guy — critically thinking Republicans ran away from him like botulism.

Having a view that the establishment is a problem is legitimate. Choosing a “stupid” solution in the person of Trump— what do you want from us — unite behind stupid? That’s like getting in a car when you know the driver is drunk.

Ain’t ever going to happen.

People will die. And no more pretending we don’t think Trump voters are stupid not because they are not intelligent but because they acted recklessly voting for Trump. There is no hate. We just love our country too much not to deal intelligently with problems.

Electing Trump was the dumbest and most dangerous thing Americans have done in my lifetime. (Clinton won the popular vote by about a million votes.) You want to unite? You gotta deal with “stupid” first.

Garrison Keillor said it best. “To all the patronizing b.s. we’ve read about Trump expressing the white working class’s displacement and loss of the American Dream, I say, “Feh!” — go put your head under cold water. Resentment is no excuse for bald-faced stupidity.”

Trump is in now. You got your guy. We just don’t have to patronize and pretend anymore just how stupid we think half the country is for handing over our beloved country to a snake oil salesman.

Hey, you don’t have to waste time with silly little name-calling vacuous rants on Facebook anymore either. You have four years to prove us wrong. Good luck with that. Your guy has been involved in 3500 lawsuits. Many were aimed at screwing the little guy out of money owed. Mr. President-Elect goes on trial at the end of the month for scamming students at his “Trump University.”

You voted for him.

You may have abandoned your critical thinking but we will not. “Stupid is as stupid does.

We refuse to support stupid. That’s why we’ll never “unite.” Unite with what?

Much love,

Pussi Artist

2016 Election, art as social inquiry

Nuclear Trump

11.14.16 | | Comment?

reprinted from Huffington Post

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 9.34.14 PM

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Thank you Republican heroes who refuse to vote 

for Mr. Trump for love of country. I love you…for real.

 

photo courtesy of the artist

photo courtesy of the artist

This painting is a thank you to Republican heroes, both public* and regular folk. They are the ones not lying to themselves about the meltdown that is a Trump presidency. They refuse to vote for a candidate who is grossly unqualified and a danger to the country. Love of country over politics. It takes courage and character to walk away from your nominee, and to do the right thing. Thank you for not voting for Trump. I love you for it.

During the first Clinton/Trump debate over 80 million viewers witnessed the sinkhole that is Trump’s mind. For God’s sake, Man, FOCUS, and say something to show us you prepared. Didn’t happen. Trump’s trippy stream-of-consciousness answers to debate questions scared the hell out of me. This isn’t a Jack Kerouac novel. It’s our lives.

While some Trump supporters relish getting off on misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, and homophobic taunts during Trump rallies like haters drunk on moonshine, the fun stops when Trump’s undisciplined, distracted, rambling mind gets the nuclear codes. A hyped-up Trump at 3:20 AM was exacting revenge on a former Miss Universe by tweeting a link to her sex tape. The thought of adding nuclear codes to a President Trump’s repertoire of adolescent comebacks keeps me up at night.

Politico explains what it means to have the nuclear codes. “With a single phone call, the commander in chief has virtually unlimited power to rain down nuclear weapons on any adversarial regime and country at any time. You might imagine this awesome executive power would be hamstrung with checks and balances, but by law, custom and congressional deference there may be no responsibility where the president has more absolute control.”

Fifty Republican high-ranking national security advisors and experts have signed a letter denouncing Trump-for-President. These officials have served Republican Presidents from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush. They are breaking ranks no matter the consequences. They see a Trump presidency as a national security threat. Their letter concludes, “We are convinced that in the Oval Office, he would be the most reckless President in American history.” They lend their resumes’ gravitas to a #Never Trump movement even if their defection helps Democrats.

Do we all get how big this is?

We are witnessing mutiny led by conscience at the highest level in the G.O.P.

Republicans are helping the enemy, the Democrats, stop Trump from becoming President. Their extraordinary gesture shoves political adversaries onto common ground — we all love our country equally when it comes to stopping a threat. Some will hold their noses in this clumsy embrace. But all know they must repudiate Trump if they are to put country first.

Every Republican leader, and rank and file voter thinking critically and acting rationally deserve our respect. They are not voting for Trump. The Dallas Morning News editorial sums it up. “Donald Trump is Not A Real Republican.”

The #NeverTrump Republicans are putting love of country over politics. Thank you. This painting is for you with love.

 

* I agree with President Obama that some Republican leaders and media outlets don’t get credit for disavowing a Trump candidacy when they have been responsible for creating it. “This is in the swamp of crazy that has been fed over and over and over and over again,” the President said. For years, FOX and other outlets have exploited loyal Republican minds with misinformation and half-truths for political gain. In the documentary, The Brainwashing of My Dad, Jen Senko wonders how her dad, who never had a bad thing to say about any race, people or person, came to revile black people, poor people, Hispanics, gays, feminists, and Democrats. The founders of HearYourselfThing.org say they are on a mission “to reclaim America’s brain from media outlets that use fear and misinformation to shut down our ability to think critically and act rationally in our democracy. “

 

This artist is a Hillary supporter without equivocation. There have been and will be policy disagreements with the Republicans referenced in this piece. But today, they are heroes. Credit where credit is due.

2016 Election, art as social inquiry

Being #Pussy in Trump’s World

11.07.16 | | Comment?

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 9.34.14 PM

(The Huffington Post also published this piece. Link is here.)

This is the legacy we pass to our children by voting for Donald Trump.

Wake up, America, before you vote for Trump. Let’s talk about what it’s like growing up and living in Donald Trump’s #nastywoman #pussy-grabbing rape culture world of put-downs. And what it means for our kids.

Twitter queen, Kelly Oxford, asked women to share stories about their first assaults, the New York Times reported. After all social media was tallied, she received 27 million –that’s MILLION — responses in one weekend. We girls know all about Trump’s pussy-grabbing.

The Trump candidacy has drawn women out of the rape culture shadows to tell their storiesObjectifying women makes harassment, abuse, humiliation, and rape possible. “Women, you have to treat ‘em like shit,” the GOP nominee once bragged in a New York magazine article.

I cringe. Do I really have to share my stories too?

In solidarity with my brave sisters who have spoken up, I do. I know I do, but I don’t want to. I have decades worth of #pussy-grabbing stories like most women living in the locker room rape culture Trump embodies. It’s not fun. Society has groomed us to remain silent, and we have obliged like obedient pets.  

A Donald Trump presidency would not only normalize but elevate rape culture. How could we live with ourselves if we did not make every effort to stop this man from holding the most high profile, powerful position in the world? Every little boy empowered to call a girl a disgusting animal by Trump’s example would remind us we did not do enough.

I share my stories so a reinvigorated rape culture mentality does not befall today’s girls and boys like it did me. Perhaps I can prevail upon at least some of their parents not to vote for Trump.

"This Artist #Pussy Trusts #NastyWoman with Nuclear Codes" (36 ins. x 48 ins., oil on canvas)

Title of Painting: This Artist #Pussy Trusts #NastyWoman by Theresa BrownGold (36 ins. x 48 ins., oil and broken mirror on canvas)

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2016 Election, Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, art as social inquiry

Speaking Out in the Local Newspaper

11.03.16 | | Comment?

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Here’s what’s really at stake for health care on Election Day. A future where we can fix our new healthcare law so that sick people can get affordable insurance along with everyone else, or return to a health insurance system that will use every means possible not to insure sick people.

Antoinette Kraus, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN) said, “Despite the progress we have made in getting more Pennsylvanians insured, we could not expect the Affordable Care Act to fix everything at once.  The rates announced by the Insurance Department today, which include average increases of 32.6 percent for individual plans and 7.1 percent for small group plans, are the result of years of insurance companies denying coverage and care to people who need treatment.”

Repealing the healthcare law would also be a blow to the deficit. In 2015 that Congressional Budget Office reported that repealing Obamacare would increase budget deficits by $353 billion over the next 10 years.

The Affordable Care Act was implemented to address a health insurance system that was leaving 50 million uninsured and 25 million under-insured. A 2012 Families USA study showed that more than 130,000 Americans died between 2005 and 2010 because they did not have health insurance. Imagine if 130,000 Americans died in plane crashes in a five-year period. Would we demand change?

I have spent the last 8 years interviewing people about how they access healthcare. I spent hours listening to people describe personal tragedies because there were no out-of-pocket limits before reform (even those today are still too high). Pregnancy was a preexisting condition. One young pregnant woman died because she could not get health care in time. Another subject’s family started selling jewelry at fairs, which they had no interest in doing. They schemed to form a corporation to qualify for “group” insurance as a way to get insurance for their sick dad who lost his insurance when he lost his job. He still had to pay a $2400/ month insurance premium. He was rationing his oxygen.

When I co-owned two small businesses I saw premiums rise 4 – 20% EVERY year for 12 years. We had no claims. There was no Obamacare then. We tried to control insurance premium costs by raising co-pays and increasing more out-of-pocket expenses. I worried I might be hiring “sick” people who would cause our premiums to rise if they actually used the insurance. I knew that if our small group had claims, the insurance companies would drive us out. The last conversation I had with my agent was about high deductible plans, which is the norm today. Strategies for cost-shifting to the consumers were well underway before Obamacare arrived.

Don’t blame the healthcare law for cost-shifting to the consumers. Blame sick people cutting into insurance companies’ profits.

What to do?

Bring back the public option in the law as originally drafted. Yale University professor describes the public option this way. “A public-insurance plan for working-age people that could compete with private insurers and use its bargaining power to push back against drug-makers, medical-device manufacturers, hospital systems and other health-care providers.” This is the impetus we need to put true competition back into the insurance markets. The insurance companies railed against the public option. The President agreed to strike it from the original law. A public option would force the insurance companies to compete with their very best rates.

Wendell Potter, former insurance executive, explains, “The truth: Because we have many private insurers, none of them—not even the big ones like Aetna—have enough leverage with drug companies and huge hospital systems to strike a decent bargain on behalf of their customers. Yet we continue to be deceived by industry propagandist like I used to be and hold as a tenet of faith that competition among our many insurers will somehow magically control costs.”

Trump’s mantra to “sell across state lines” is a throwaway line masquerading as policy. States can sell across state lines already. They would need to adhere to state regulations, set up doctor, hospital networks, etc. The insurance companies choose not to.

We need Hillary to get the public option back. Let’s keep so much that is working with the Affordable Care Act but rein in costs by giving the for-profit insurance companies some real competition with a public option.

Theresa BrownGold, Chalfont, is an artist/advocate who uses art as a tool to investigate social issues. She blogs at Art As Social Inquiry and the Huffington Post.

2014 Mailing

(image not included in original article)

 

 

Activist, art, art as social inquiry, Huffington Post, Police

I’m an Official Huffington Post Blogger! YEAH!

08.01.16 | | Comment?
07/19/2016 05:40 pm ET | Updated Jul 19, 2016

 

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Before everybody loses their sh*t over this painting about police brutality, know that art can ask big questions and stir strong emotions for a reason. Images bypass intellect, and can transport us into another’s world. Awakened and aware of another’s experience, we just might be moved to become part of the solution. Let’s help one another by being brave enough to understand one another. Art can help with that.

I ‘m spelling out my intentions behind the painting like a magician explaining how a trick works because we are all trudging through the emotional carnage of recent events. I’d rather you find meaning through your own experience of the image without me saying anything. But the nuanced leap from What’s that? to How do we make change? is near impossible with racial tensions fraying everyone’s nerves.

The police shootings of Alton Stering, Philando Castile, and now the bloodyretaliatory killings of 5 officers in Dallas and 3 in Baton Rouge leave us despaired. We’re rattled just being in public in stores, restaurants, malls, crowds, always wondering if violence will erupt.

The police brutality painting is about finding peace by way of a reality check. It is the first in a painting series that will examine all voices – victims, families, police, community. The art project is called Art As Social Inquiry. The painting of Alex Landau is from ASI’s  War / Violence series.

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(Courtesy of the artist)

The years have brought different reactions to my activist art. “STFU you lyin’ OFA shill.” (What’s OFA? Had to Google it.) ”F*** YOU!!!!” sent in a private Facebook message meant to intimidate. In person, people were not so free with their taunts as I discovered in 2012 when I demonstrated in front of the US Supreme Court and Capitol in Washington DC. Debate about the new healthcare law raged at the time. I stood with signs and portraits from Art As Social Inquiry’s painting series,Healthcare in the US, to advocate for access to healthcare as a human right. I measured people’s disdain for my message by how loud they yelled. But hey, 1st Amendment, free speech and all that. My line is not easily crossed. I will tolerate a lot.

 

Through it all, though, I have never been censored. Until now.

The untitled painting of Alex Landau before and after a police beating he received in 2009, after being stopped for an alleged illegal left turn, was enough for Facebook to deny my request to “boost” the post, a paid promotion to augment a targeted audience.

I interviewed Alex for this portrait in 2015. The picture for the brutalized Alex in the painting is from a photo Alex insisted be taken before he would let doctors “treat my broken nose, multiple lacerations and serious head injuries including a massive hematoma, a concussion, and a hemorrhage in my right eye. It took 45 stitches to control the bleeding. A doctor with a PhD in neuropsychology later diagnosed the hidden damage — brain injury and PTSD.” Here is an excerpt from my interview with Alex.

Nixon (police officer) headed toward the trunk. I took a couple of steps forward with outstretched arms to signify no ill intent, and again asked to see a warrant. In response, Officers Middleton and Murr grabbed my hands and arms, and placed me in a restraint. I was obviously immobilized. Nixon looked at me and said, ‘You don’t have your license.’ He began punching me in the face. All three cops then began beating me with their fists, a police radio, and a police issue ‘Mag’ flashlight. I heard Murr yell, ‘He’s reaching for her gun.’ As I struggled just to breathe, I yelled with every ounce of energy, ‘No I’m not. No I’m not. I’m not reaching for anything.’

Paintings can make us feel what it might be like to suffer what the Alex-es of the world suffer. Others suffer, but we will not allow ourselves to empathize too much. Words, yes. But pictures, too upsetting. Social media honors those boundaries by censoring images like this painting.

What if we let ourselves feel and see others’ suffering? We just might have to answer the call to participate in finding solutions. Our shared humanity will demand it of us. Yes, it will. We will suffer a crisis of conscience if we don’t. So we avoid asking too many questions, and end up even more uncomfortable with circumstances and ourselves. Wanting to be part of the solution does not mean we abandon our lives for the cause.

Answering the call to act is personal. WE are the answer to the thoughts and prayers being offered after every human tragedy. WE are the instruments of change, large and small. One person’s march on Washington is another’s quiet admission at a cocktail party that she called her congresswoman to demand bad cops be removed from the force.

I paint Art As Social Inquiry’s paintings to help us find our bravery to be truthful with ourselves, and to encourage us to become change agents. Our success is not measured by how big we respond, but that we listen to our sweet inner voices reminding us of our beautiful shared humanity, and act accordingly.

 

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