Will the 9/11 First Responders Law Do the Job?

[Note: The following is a guest post by Barbara O’ Brien, whose blogging at The Mahablog, Crooks and Liars, AlterNet, and elsewhere on the progressive political and health blogophere has earned her the honor of being a panelist at the Yearly Kos Convention and a featured guest blogger at the Take Back America Conference in Washington, DC. Her piece here is just another worrisome indication that we must keep fighting the opponents of health care improvement on all fronts.]

In the final days of the 111th Congress, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health And Compensation Act, also called the “9/11 First Responders bill,” finally passed. The Act will provide medical monitoring and care for those who worked on the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks, as well as for many who lived and worked nearby.

However, at the insistence of some senators, the final bill was considerably watered down from what it had been originally. More than $3 billion in funding was cut from a previous version of the bill, for example. Will the revised bill still do the job?

When the Senate passed the bill, initial news reports said that the monitoring and health care program would end after five years. However, the actual language of the bill provides for funding limitations for monitoring and health care after fiscal year 2016, which suggests the program might continue if Congress authorizes funding for it.

The monitoring issue is particularly critical. The collapse of the mammoth World Trade Center towers released thousands of tons of toxic particles into the air. For many weeks after the attacks, people who lived and worked in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn suffered burning eyes and hacking coughs from the foul air. Yet at the time, the federal government and the city of New York assured people the stinging fumes were not dangerous, just unpleasant.

Several days after the terrorist attacks, some independent researchers slipped past the police barricades to take samples. They found the air contained more than twice the number of asbestos fibers considered “safe,” as well as deadly levels of benzene, dioxin, and other toxins.

Why should people exposed to the toxins continue to be monitored? Asbestos in particular is a very slow killer. It has been well documented that the first symptoms of the deadly lung cancer mesothelioma may not show up for 20 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos. But early detection should prolong lives and make mesothelioma treatment and other medical care more effective.

The final bill does close the Victims Compensation Fund in five years, which is separate from the health monitoring and care part of the bill. It also provides for more stringent monitoring of benefits, which might make it harder for people to get into the program.

Today — more than nine years after the attacks — many rescue and recovery workers are suffering deteriorating health. A study published in April 2010 in the New England Journal of Medicine found that New York City firefighters and emergency workers continue to suffer from severe and persistent lung problems because of their exposure to the World Trade Center debris. Some of these 9/11 heroes already have died.

Firefighters, police officers, and other responders who had been begging Congress for help for nine years called the passage of the bill a “Christmas miracle.” Let us hope the final version of the bill will do the job.

Health Care Reform Will Help Everybody

This is a guest post by Barbara O’ Brien, who regularly posts at The Mahablog, Crooks and Liars, AlterNet, and elsewhere on the progressive political and health blogophere, and who has earned the notoriety of being a panelist at the Yearly Kos Convention and a featured guest blogger at the Take Back America Conference in Washington, DC.

Please feel free to re-post Barbara’s piece and let me know if you do by commenting here.


Many Americans assume the new health care reform act will benefit mostly the poor and uninsured and hurt everyone else, according to polls. As Matt Yglesias wrote, “Basically, people see this as a bill that will take resources from people who have health insurance and give it to people who don’t have health insurance.” Those who still oppose the reform say that people ought to pay for their own health care.

We all believe in the virtues of hard work and self-reliance, but these days it’s a fantasy to think that anyone but the mega-wealthy will not, sooner or later, depend on help from others to pay medical bills. And that’s true no matter how hard you work, how much you love America, or how diligently you take care of yourself. The cost of medical care has so skyrocketed that breaking an arm or leg could cost as much as a new car. And if you get cancer or heart disease — which can happen even to people who live healthy lifestyles — forget about it. The disease will not only clean you out; it will leave a whopping debt for your survivors to pay.

And the truth is, we all pay for other peoples’ health care whether we know it or not. When people can’t pay their medical bills, the cost of their health care gets added to everyone else’s bills and insurance premiums. When poor people use emergency rooms as a doctor of last resort, their care is not “free.” You pay for it.

Another common fantasy about medical care is that the “free market” provides incentives for medical companies to develop innovative new drugs and treatments for disease without government subsidy. It’s true that private enterprise is very good at developing profitable health care products. But not all medical care can be made profitable.

For years, the U.S. government has been funding medical research that the big private companies don’t want to do because there is too much cost for the potential profit. This is especially true for diseases that are rare and expensive to treat. An example of a recent advance made possible by government grants include new guidelines for malignant pleural mesothelioma treatment developed by Sloan-Kettering mesothelioma cancer researchers. Another is a blood screening test developed by mesothelioma doctors like thoracic surgeon Dr. David Sugarbaker. The health reform act provides for more dollars for such research, from which even many of the tea party protesters will benefit.

The biggest fantasy of all was that people who had insurance didn’t have to worry about health care costs. But the fact is that in recent years millions of Americans have been bankrupted by medical costs, and three-quarters of the medically bankrupt had health insurance. And yes, insurance companies even dumped hard-working, law-abiding patriots. But the health care reform act will put an end to that, and now America’s hard-working, law-abiding patriots are more financially secure, whether they like it or not.

Myrln Monday: a daughter grieves

For a while before his death in April 2008, non-blogger Myrln (aka W. A. Frankonis, i. frans nowak), posted here on Kalilily Time some kind of rant or other every Monday. Our daughter, who has salvaged his published, performed, and none-such writings, continues to send me some to post posthumously.
On this Myrln Monday, however, she adds her own grieving voice:

Myrln Mondays: There have been a few in a row now, I think, that I have missed. Forgotten. And then when I remember that I’ve forgotten I feel terrible. And ironic. Because while I have forgotten I have not nearly FORGOTTEN. Not even close. It creeps up on me unexpectedly. Often at night as I’m trying to fall asleep. And suddenly it’s upon me. The too soon-ness. Too quick-ness. Unfairness. Eeriness. Incomprehensible
-ness. Surreal-ness. And I am overcome. All the clichés exist within me at once: it’s a bad dream and I’m going to wake up and he’ll still be here.

Just one more day — one more day to be sure we said everything. Wish him back – on a star, on the moon (“I had a talk with the moon last night,” he’d say to me, “and it’s all going to be fine”) — on my worry beads. Self-admonitions, I should have gotten out there more. I should have heard something was really wrong when we talked. I should have gotten out there more. The truth of the phrase “sickening feeling” because every time it comes my stomach hollows out and I feel like I’m going to be sick.

Then it’s gone. The same way each time: full of feeling foolish, selfish, sorry-for-myself. Like I’m the only one who has ever lost someone. Only one who has ever lost her father. Who has ever lost him too quickly, unfairly, unexpectedly. The only one who has had to continue on after…

I may forget the Myrln Mondays amidst painting new rooms, preparing for homeschooling, living my life (as my father would be demanding I do anyway as he pointed out in number 8 of his life lessons poem: “Remember the dead in your heart, but honor life and the living with your time and attention because afterward it’s too late”. but I have not FORGOTTEN. Not even close. And as everyone has told me, as painful, unbearable, agonizing, maddening, sad, lonely and empty remembering is, forgetting is far, far worse that all those together. So I am remembering. And missing. And hurting. And crying. And remembering. Always.

They excavated sand,
this father and daughter,
digging to China.
I knew it’d really be closer
to Afghanistan,
but their game had a tradition
to follow.
Fathers and sons
have growing between them,
which can be another kind of hole,
fathers and daughters
share games and imagination.
And dug holes
always come out in China.
I wonder where the holes Chinese dig
Come out?
Waf jul99

Myrln Monday: Poem Written in the City..

For a while before his death in April 2008, non-blogger Myrln (aka W. A. Frankonis, i. frans nowak), posted here on Kalilily Time some kind of rant or other every Monday. Our daughter, who has salvaged his published, performed, and none-such writings, continues to send me some to post posthumously.


(for mdf)
bobbing seaborne
on flashing flat planes
of sun’s bouncing image,
a single dory —
oars shipped and tucked
inside for keeping —
seems adrift and lost
from coves safety.
but horizon blocked,
navigator waits —
         (dancing dolphins
         side the gurgling surf
         astride the swollen thighs
         of seaweed waves…
…candy apples and taffy twists
and caramel is a candy) —
with sleeping eyes
and fingled breath
and hands for firmly guiding.

Myrln Monday: Legacy

Myrln is gone, but his spirit remains with us in the power of his words, thanks to our daughter, who salvaged his collection of writings.


My children:

I want to leave you something –
but what?
My images are either silver compound
or airy theater –
both without example or duration:
mere light reflecting a moment of existence.

I was, my children,
but how to prove that to you?
What will serve as evidence –
for what is legacy but proof
your forebears were something more
than momentary makers of egg or sperm?

There is only this:
I came from shadows,
and toward shadows I inexorably moved;
I dove (or sank) deeply into shadows,
skirted the light flanking them, reflected awhile
then wrapped myself in them.

(Wrapt myself in them.)

waf 1977

Myrln Monday (3)

Myrln is gone, but his spirit remains with us in the power of his words:
From a scrap of paper on his desk — quickly hand-scrawled, a stray thought, bit of story, strand of memory:
Dinner table – metal goblets

These goblets belonged to my mother. Asked us to drink a toast from them because had she lived she would have been 89 years tomorrow. She was 23 when she had me, and had only 4 more years left to live. There are 4 generations sitting here today. I ask you, in her memory, to remember to make the most always of the time you have with those you love and who love you. So, Mamma, here’s to you…salut…by remembering you, we remember ourselves.

See www.myrln.com for information about the remembrance party being held in his honor on May 25, as well as plans for publishing his non-published works.

Myrln Monday (2)

Myrln is gone, but his spirit remains with us in the power of his words:
Fathers and Daughters
Little girls are nice,
but we do them wrong
fussing with their hair and dressing them up
like dolls –
teaching them from the start
they are decorative playthings.
Better we should feed them
words and numbers and tools
to remind them
that before women, they are people.
Teach them love and caring and nurture, yes,
but not as the entirety of their being,
else those qualities
become walls and prisons.
Give them, as well, wings
and teach them to fly –
in case later in life
someone builds walls around them.
Little girls are nice,
but daughters who are their soaring selves
are better.
Fathers and Sons
All the time they’re growing up,
sons try hard to please their fathers.
They play ball, follow dad’s interest in cars,
or in building things,
or in fishing –
whatever it is that pleases dad.
Mostly learning how to be a man.

If they’re lucky,
they’re not required to embrace any of those
for a lifetime.
If they’re lucky,
somewhere along the way,
they’re let loose
to strike out after their own interests
and to please themselves.

And fathers,
if they’re smart,
realize that somewhere along the way
is a turning point:
a time when sons become teachers,
and fathers can learn
what their sons became on their own,
how manhood is not a fixed concept.
And say to their sons,
“Good job.”

Then both will know
they did right
in pleasing each other.

William A. Frankonis, 1937 – 2008

Myrln Monday (1)

Monday was the day that Myrln (aka William Frankonis and my once-husband) posted his rants here on Kalilily Time. He wrote a great deal more than political rants, however, and from now on, Mondays will be the place where Myrln will post some of his best writings, posthumously, through the auspices of our daughter.
Snippets from “A Letter to My Grown Children” — post 9/11 2001
…We live in the Now. Sometimes drastic events make us aware of that simple fact we tend to forget or ignore; we always live only in Now. As Buddhism has been telling us for centuries. No matter how or how much the world changes, we can still live only in the right Now. How is ours to determine. We may mourn loss and worry what’s to come, but here we are – Now. And Now is sometimes good, sometimes bad; sometimes easy, sometimes hard; sometimes joyful, sometimes sad. But whatever it is, it is, and we have no choice but to live in it. Which, when you think of it, is a fine thing.
It makes sense, then, to make Now the best possible o us because we never know. And that fact should teach us: no delaying, waiting around, procrastinating, habituating, sinking into torpor. Look. See. Be. Whether alone or with others, do it. Now…not tomorrow.
So how do I know the validity of what I’m preaching? Because in many ways, I have always delayed Now for dreams-to-come or for fear of future consequences. But I know – Now – those dreams/fears will never come to pass. And even if the fears prove true in the end or the dreams went unfulfilled, so what? Why didn’t I at least make my Nows what I wanted them to be?
Only love lives still in past and future. Strange thing, love. It’s why I can always say I love you Now, always have, and always will.

in memory of myrln

My once-husband was my Monday guest blogger, Myrln (AKA William A. Frankonis), who passed away lalst Thursday. In honor of his memory, our daughter asked me to post the following, which she found in his extensive files of his own writings. He doesn’t have to be here to be here.

Lessons from the Wonderground: a Father to his Children

Try not to hurt anyone, which includes yourself.

Try to make yourself whole, knowing all the while that’s a lifelong process.

Be true to yourself, whatever that is at the time, for like everything else, your self changes.

Speak out against wrong, however you define it and no matter who is the culprit.

Honor children and always listen carefully to them; they are all smarter than we credit them and beyond you, they may have no voice but yours.

Find and honor all the wonder in all of Nature and in all of yourself, and reconnect, for you, too, are a part of Nature.

Keep close to family, blood or otherwise, for you are, and always will be part of each other.

Remember the dead in your heart, but honor life and the living with your time and attention because afterwards it is too late.

Laugh often, cry as necessary, fear what should be feared, love deeply, hurt when there’s pain, be courageous, know the holy value of breathing and of everything else that makes up living.

Find and regularly visit the stillness at the heart of life.
I love you dad.

he can’t go home again

Myrln fidgets in the hospital bed in the emergency room, where they have him hooked up to various machines that beep and chime and whir.
“I just wanted a few more days. I needed a few more days. I needed time to think….” He looks at me with eyes angry and sad at the same time. He is back in the hospital after only two days at home from a week-long stay for tests and such. I have been with him for the past 36 hours, including this morning when we had to call a Rescue Ambulance because he couldn’t breathe, even with an oxygen tank.
We have been divorced now for twice as many years as we were married. But time had healed our wounds and we had developed a friendly relationship.
“I will be eternally grateful,” he wheezes, “for all you are doing for me now.”
My eyes fill with tears. “No problem,” I say.
“I have to tell you something,” he says. “Even through it all, there was always a little love left.”
“Yes,” I say. “Me too.”
And I’m crying and we are holding hands the way we once did long before I begged him to stop smoking.
Tonight he is temporarily hooked up to a respirator. b!X arrived from Oregon, and his sister and family from Massachusetts. He has not yet been awake for b!X and him to have a little time together. I hope he wakes, for both their sakes.
Meanwhile, I am back on the mountain with my mother, but I suspect will be be leaving again in a day or so.
They will take him off the respirator. He will either breathe or not. Either way, he won’t be going home again.
Myrln, who once blogged here on Mondays, is my former spouse, the father of my children. He has inoperable lung cancer, which has spread to just about every vital organ.