Friday, March 26, 2010

The fallen, the wounded, the war

26-year-old Erin Leigh McLyman died March 13th serving in Iraq when the US base in Balad was attacked with mortars. KVAL (link has text and video option) notes, "Citizens braved the wind and the rain to wave American flags as the funeral procession for an Oregon soldier rolled through the streets of Eugene on Thursday en route to a memorial service." Alex Drude (KMTR) adds, "Jessica Koski went to grade school with Erin in Eugene, and after being out of touch for several years, discovered that Erin was serving in the Army with her husband. They reconnected about a year ago. 'The only word I can find for her is amazing. She had this incredible personality,' says Koski. 'She never let anyone go without getting them to smile'." Survivors include Brian Williams, her husband. Rebecca Woolington (Register-Guard) reports, "Brian Williams tucked a folded U.S. flag under his left arm and clutched it with his right hand. He followed the U.S. Army soldiers who were carrying his wife’s casket up some stairs and out of the Eugene Faith Center. Williams stopped outside to watch an ivory hearse led by police officers and Patriot Guard Riders carry the casket down Polk Street. He watched until every motorcycle was out of sight." Dan Corcoran (KEZI -- video) reports on the memorial. Yesterday Ted Kulongoski's office issued the following:

(Salem) -- Today Governor Ted Kulongoski ordered all flags at public institutions to be flown at half-staff on Thursday, March 25, 2010, in memory of Private First Class Erin L. McLyman of Eugene.
McLyman, 26, died on March 13, 2010 in Balad, Iraq, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked her base with mortar fire. She was assigned to the 296th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
"Erin was an honorable soldier who served her country with distinction," said Governor Kulongoski. "She will be dearly missed by her friends and family, but her selfless service to our state and our nation and ultimate sacrifice will never be forgotten."

Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth is the Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the VA and she writes the following at MSNBC:

It was exactly eight months to the day from when I first arrived in Iraq. My crew woke up early that morning and we flew the entire day -- it was a really good day.
On the way back to Balad from Baghdad, we received a radio call asking us if we could divert and pick up some soldiers in Taji who needed a ride north. In 2004, riding on a convoy was one of the most dangerous things to do in Iraq.
After making the stop, we took off again. I had just handed over the flight controls when we flew right into an ambush. I heard the tap, tap, tap on the fuselage, and I knew we were hit.
When events like that happen, your training kicks in. You just do the job that you have trained to do, because it takes everyone in your crew doing their job, to get out safely. I was in and out of consciousness. The last thing I remember thinking was that I needed to try and do an emergency engine shutdown to prevent a fire. I didn't realize that I had been severely injured. I didn't know my legs were gone. My brain and body just kept trying to fly.

MSNBC notes in an intro to Duckworth's essay, "Her story, told in her own words, concludes's series of essays by Iraq war veterans who, like the victims of the Haiti earthquake, are a growing number of amputees learning to rebuild their lives after limb loss." Meanwhile Roger Brown (Bristol News) reports that 170 Bristol and Lenoir City members of the Bristol National Guard Armory departed for Iraq yesterday after saying goodbye to their loved ones and among those departing were Jonathan Heck who leaves behind his wife Ashley and their two songs Peyton and Justin. Heck states, "This is my third time [deploying to Iraq], so the biggest thing is probably I don't have the nervousness a lot of the others might. I'm more like, 'Alright, here's the mission. Let's do our job and get finished and back'." In the National Guard and now deployed to Iraq for the third time. Jake Armstrong (Pasadena Weekly) notes that Tuesday the Iraq War was 2,544 days old.

This is Brain Injury Awareness Month and Brain & Spinal notes:

The Pentagon will now remove soldiers exposed to roadside bomb blasts from combat for 24 hours, whether they show signs of injury or not.

The required 24 hiatus from combat will allow the soldiers to be examined for symptoms of traumatic brain injury, an article in the San Bernardino Sun reported. The soldiers’ short-term memory and concentration skills will be tested, and doctors will check for double vision and ringing ears, among other symptoms. Part of the government’s recent attention toward brain injuries among troops relates to a 2008 RAND Corporation study revealing that almost 20 percent of soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan had suffered some form of traumatic brain injury, the article continued.

The director of the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center, David Hovda, consults with the Pentagon on brain injuries. Hovda’s take on brain injuries is more serious than most. He suggests that anytime you hit your head, it could result in a very mild traumatic brain injury, even if it is never diagnosed as such. Dr. David Patterson of Casa Colina Centers for Rehabilitation said, “traumatic brain injury can be thought of as any temporary alteration in mental status,” the article reported.

We'll note this from Physicians For A National Health Program:

Pro-single-payer doctors: Health bill leaves 23 million uninsured

A false promise of reform

For Immediate Release
March 22, 2010

Oliver Fein, M.D.
Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., M.P.H.
David Himmelstein, M.D.
Margaret Flowers, M.D.
Mark Almberg, PNHP, (312) 782-6006,

The following statement was released today by leaders of Physicians for a National Health Program, Their signatures appear below.

As much as we would like to join the celebration of the House's passage of the health bill last night, in good conscience we cannot. We take no comfort in seeing aspirin dispensed for the treatment of cancer.

Instead of eliminating the root of the problem - the profit-driven, private health insurance industry - this costly new legislation will enrich and further entrench these firms. The bill would require millions of Americans to buy private insurers' defective products, and turn over to them vast amounts of public money.

The hype surrounding the new health bill is belied by the facts:

  • About 23 million people will remain uninsured nine years out. That figure translates into an estimated 23,000 unnecessary deaths annually and an incalculable toll of suffering.
  • Millions of middle-income people will be pressured to buy commercial health insurance policies costing up to 9.5 percent of their income but covering an average of only 70 percent of their medical expenses, potentially leaving them vulnerable to financial ruin if they become seriously ill. Many will find such policies too expensive to afford or, if they do buy them, too expensive to use because of the high co-pays and deductibles.
  • Insurance firms will be handed at least $447 billion in taxpayer money to subsidize the purchase of their shoddy products. This money will enhance their financial and political power, and with it their ability to block future reform.
  • The bill will drain about $40 billion from Medicare payments to safety-net hospitals, threatening the care of the tens of millions who will remain uninsured.
  • People with employer-based coverage will be locked into their plan's limited network of providers, face ever-rising costs and erosion of their health benefits. Many, even most, will eventually face steep taxes on their benefits as the cost of insurance grows.
  • Health care costs will continue to skyrocket, as the experience with the Massachusetts plan (after which this bill is patterned) amply demonstrates.
  • The much-vaunted insurance regulations - e.g. ending denials on the basis of pre-existing conditions - are riddled with loopholes, thanks to the central role that insurers played in crafting the legislation. Older people can be charged up to three times more than their younger counterparts, and large companies with a predominantly female workforce can be charged higher gender-based rates at least until 2017.
  • Women's reproductive rights will be further eroded, thanks to the burdensome segregation of insurance funds for abortion and for all other medical services.

It didn't have to be like this. Whatever salutary measures are contained in this bill, e.g. additional funding for community health centers, could have been enacted on a stand-alone basis.

Similarly, the expansion of Medicaid - a woefully underfunded program that provides substandard care for the poor - could have been done separately, along with an increase in federal appropriations to upgrade its quality.

But instead the Congress and the Obama administration have saddled Americans with an expensive package of onerous individual mandates, new taxes on workers' health plans, countless sweetheart deals with the insurers and Big Pharma, and a perpetuation of the fragmented, dysfunctional, and unsustainable system that is taking such a heavy toll on our health and economy today.

This bill's passage reflects political considerations, not sound health policy. As physicians, we cannot accept this inversion of priorities. We seek evidence-based remedies that will truly help our patients, not placebos.

A genuine remedy is in plain sight. Sooner rather than later, our nation will have to adopt a single-payer national health insurance program, an improved Medicare for all. Only a single-payer plan can assure truly universal, comprehensive and affordable care to all.

By replacing the private insurers with a streamlined system of public financing, our nation could save $400 billion annually in unnecessary, wasteful administrative costs. That's enough to cover all the uninsured and to upgrade everyone else's coverage without having to increase overall U.S. health spending by one penny.

Moreover, only a single-payer system offers effective tools for cost control like bulk purchasing, negotiated fees, global hospital budgeting and capital planning.

Polls show nearly two-thirds of the public supports such an approach, and a recent survey shows 59 percent of U.S. physicians support government action to establish national health insurance. All that is required to achieve it is the political will.

The major provisions of the present bill do not go into effect until 2014. Although we will be counseled to "wait and see" how this reform plays out, we cannot wait, nor can our patients. The stakes are too high.

We pledge to continue our work for the only equitable, financially responsible and humane remedy for our health care mess: single-payer national health insurance, an expanded and improved Medicare for All.

Oliver Fein, M.D.

Garrett Adams, M.D.

Claudia Fegan, M.D.
Past President

Margaret Flowers, M.D.
Congressional Fellow

David Himmelstein, M.D.

Steffie Woolhandler, M.D.

Quentin Young, M.D.
National Coordinator

Don McCanne, M.D.
Senior Health Policy Fellow


Physicians for a National Health Program ( is an organization of 17,000 doctors who support single-payer national health insurance. To speak with a physician/spokesperson in your area, visit or call (312) 782-6006.

Physicians for a National Health Program
29 E Madison Suite 602, Chicago, IL 60602 ¤ Find us on a map
Phone (312) 782-6006 | Fax: (312) 782-6007 | email:
© PNHP 2010

And, from California OneCare, let's note this video.

Lily Tomlin is part of wowOwow and Women's Media Center and Not Under The Bus online. Offline, she's one of the greatest and most insightful comics the country's ever had and a pretty incredible actress as well.

The following community sites updated last night:

The e-mail address for this site is

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends