Monday, 30 May 2011

Memorial Day

"A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic." Joseph Stalin

On this memorial day, it doesn't really feel appropriate for me to say much of anything at all - this day is about remembering the men and women who have been sent into battle in our name. Thousands of US soldiers have died overseas in the past, terrible decade. With the numbers so large, it would be easy for these men and women to be just nameless statistics. I think the very least that we can do for them is to learn some of their names and listen to some of their stories. 

So here are a few first person accounts from the widows of the fallen.
My daughter never met her father, Spc. Hoby F. Bradfield Jr. I was seven months pregnant when he was killed on July 9th 2005. I have never lied to my daughter. When she asked where he was for the first time I told her that he died and that he was in Heaven. Later when she asked what Heaven was I told her it was a place in the sky where the angels are. To this she looked up and goes I don’t see him. When I finally convinced her that she couldn’t see angels she asked where she could go to see her daddy. He is buried in Arlington and she is terrified to go there because everytime we do she hears ‘boom sounds’. So instead we look at pictures of her ‘Daddy’s stone’. The other day we were driving in the car with my niece. I overhear them talking about daddy’s (This is normally a weekly conversation). Emma looks at Kloe and says, “No Kloe, your daddy is just in Heaven with my doggie”. Kloe turns and looks at her, a light-bulb goes off and she goes “OH I KNOW, we can just go to my daddy’s stone, dig him up really really fast, I’m a good digger, and pump him back up with air. That could work!”. It was at that moment that I had to stifle a laugh and explain to her why that could not happen. Of course she doesn’t believe me, so today we will be thankful for ‘boom sounds’ so I don’t have to worry about any after school digging projects. Only from the mind of a four year old! 
Let's take a moment to remember Spc Hoby Bradfield, Junior
My husband, Tim, shot himself on July 26th, 2008.  We knew each other since high school; we were married for 11 months and 1 day on the day he died. He was my whole world. He is a Veteran of the Iraq War.  He was a 1/5 Marine.  He was very active in the Veteran Community in town. I miss him tremendously and I struggle every day.  
The death certificate says he suffered from clinical depression, and that he died from an apparent suicide, gunshot wound to the head.  His Vet Center therapists have told me that they didn’t see any red flag signs that he was suicidal, I didn’t either.  I was with him when he died. We were having a normal afternoon on the day that he died.  On July 26th we went to a wedding reception up the street from our townhouse and left early, around 9:30 PM he took a generic Ambien, which I didn’t know about until we were walking the dog and he started to stagger.  Instead of going to sleep he insisted upon walking the dog again and walking to the store to buy cigarettes, we argued about this.  He started acting unlike himself; his eyes were “funny”.  His therapists say he was probably sleep walking and sleep talking.  We think Tim was sleep walking, dreaming, not in his right mind b/c of the medication when the gun went off around 11:00 PM, he didn’t know what he was doing, or thought it wasn’t real.  Suicide or accidental self-inflicted fatal gunshot wound to the head doesn’t make me feel any more or less better about Tim being gone from my life, his family’s life his friends’ lives.
We didn't do right by you, Cpl Timothy R Nelson, USMC. I'm so sorry. 
My husband, Daniel James Johnson, was 23 years old when he was killed when an IED detonated in his vicinity. He was and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician for the United States Air Force.
I am not sure that I will ever be the same person I was before Dan’s death. I am not sure that I will love again with all of my heart, or that I can begin to think of a future without him in it. But I do know that I have to try. Dan would be so upset with me if he knew that I was letting this beat me. I have to survive, for him. I have to move on, for him. So I will continue on this rollercoaster ride that is my new life. I will return to work in a few short weeks and I will attempt to get my life back. Key word: attempt. 
Thank you for your service, SrA Daniel James Johnson.
I was married at 19 and widowed at age 20….not even old enough to go to the bar to get a drink. Life has been so incredibly difficult yet also rewarding, learning about my grief and cherishing the time I had with Ricky. Almost three years later I’m just now feeling like my head is above water and I can breath a little deeper.
A widow by 20. Just too much, too young. Anyway, you are not forgotten, CPL Richard Nelson.

You can read more stories from the widows of fallen soldiers here:

And here, Michelle Obama and Jill Biden talk about Joining Forces, a new program that they have just launched to call upon people to give service members and their families support within their communities.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Blog Housekeeping: Installing Disqus Commenting Tool

Hi all, just a quick heads up that I am making an effort to install Disqus commenting on the blog - I'm hoping this will make things a little easier for you guys and might encourage more of you to register before commenting. I know that a lot of you post anonymously just because it's easier than registering with Blogger's tool. Please let me know if this works better. Or if it works at all! Entirely possible I may permanently break my blog at this point.

Fingers crossed...

UPDATE: So the Disqus installation seems to have worked, but I now need to wait for the import of old comments to take effect. Nervously waiting to see if when the hundreds and hundreds of previously posted comments will come back. Come back comments! I miss you already...

A "Serious Debate on Medicare"? Don't make me laugh...

Joe Nocera of the New York Times has written an interesting Op Ed about Paul Ryan, author what Nocera accurately describes as "radical vision for turning Medicare into, essentially, a do-it-yourself voucher program." Otherwise known as the budget bill recently passed by House Republicans.

Nocera is unimpressed by Ryan's plan. But he also says:
Yet I found myself disheartened as I read about the Democrats’ gleeful reaction to the victory in New York. They had a strategy now: bash the Republicans into submission over the Ryan plan. In the Senate, the Democratic leadership forced a vote over Ryan’s budget purely to force Republicans to cast a vote “against” Medicare. Clearly, the Democrats are going to make hay over the very idea that Republicans were trying to mess with Medicare, the most sacrosanct federal program of them all.

Nocera thinks that Democrats should treat the Ryan plan as a launching pad for a serious debate about how to reduce health care spending and secure the future of medicare.

It just seems so reasonable! And Democrats have been arguing for years that we'll need to bring down overall health spending as a matter of priority.

Now I'm all confused. If we agree about so much about the proposed end goal, despite our differences in approach, why exactly is it that we can't have a serious debate about medicare reform?

Oh, that's right. NOW I remember. Do you?

Do you remember when Obama talked about the importance of bending the cost curve on medicare expendiature? Remember how one of the ideas he included within the Affordable Care Act was that the government would pay for end of life counseling in which a patient would sit down with their doctor and tell their doctor how THEY wish to be cared for in the case of serious medical breakdown? Remember how this optional but compassionate option was designed so that those people who do want extraordinary measures to save their lives could make this wish clear, with the benefit of expert medical opinion, and those for whom the idea of living indefinitely as a vegetable, or dying in hospital away from their loved ones was abhorent could work with their physician to understand what level of care was right for them - would they want a focus on pain reduction and being comfortable? Who would they want to make decisions about their care if they were unable to do so themselves? Remember that this policy, a modest change to medicare's coverage options, was seen by geriatric specialists and end of life counselors as a way of eliminating UNWANTED medical spending and preventing people from being forced into heroic measures that they themselves would have seen as tortuous and undignified?

Do you remember? Would it jog your memory if I said:


Democrats put forward a reasonable compromise solution aimed at comprehensively reforming the existing health care system to both reduce costs and expend access to care. We pointed out that America spends more per capita on public health care alone than any other country in the world without even covering our entire population. We pointed out that medicare costs alone were skyrocketing beyond what the federal budget could sustain in the long term, and that if we made a serious effort to reform the system now, which might include modest additional tax revenue on a targetted basis, we could bend that cost curve and expand care. But that it would involve some people having to modestly trim the benefits they could expect and some others having to pay a bit more.

The Republicans acted as if we wanted to kill their grandmothers. Indeed, they outright SAID that we wanted to kill their grandmothers.

We can't have a serious debate about medicare because Republicans don't want one. They want a debate about how to reduce government spending. That's why they tried to privatise Social Security during the Bush administration. That's why Paul Ryan's plan isn't about improving the delivery of Medicare but scrapping it and replacing it with private vouchers. But when Democrats suggest that maybe there could be modest revisions to the way that Medicare operates to direct more of its expenditure towards care and less towards, for example, the profits of the private sector suppliers who have benefited from George W. Bush's medicare reform boondoggle, Democrats are demonised by Republicans for supposedly wanting cut to the program! Even though Republicans want to scrap the program entirely! Even thought Medicare itself is a Democratic policy, and one of the party's proudest achievements! It's enough to make your head explode. We're supposed to reach out to Republicans in the hope of creating a serious debate? We're supposed to use Ryan's utterly unserious proposals as the launch pad for such a discussion? It's not possible for Paul Ryan to start a debate about these issues when Democrats have been shouting into the wilderness for years.

But if you want a serious set of policies aimed at improving Medicare, Democrats have many such policies. One form of said serious policies, which, while imperfect, does in fact reduce the deficit and expand care is called the Affordable Care Act. Perhaps Paul Ryan may have heard of it?