Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dividing Lines

This is not an original idea, but I think it’s one worth re-examining once in a while: the fact that one’s life seems to divvy up into a series of Befores and Afters, not like a fashion make-over, but that in regard to major changes and other events, life After is never quite like life Before, and while something is often gained, inevitably something is lost: being a little girl/getting your first period; being a virgin/having sex for the first time (often with the wrong person); living at home/moving out into a place of your own; years of working for others/starting your own business; emotional insecurity/learning to like yourself; spiritual uncertainty/discovering what you believe in. The dividing lines in my life often seem visible, palpable, markers which separate That time from This time in a way that literally haunts me.

The Befores and Afters noted above are mine (though surely not mine alone). And there are many other life-altering divisions that others experience that I never have: before college/after graduation; can’t drive/get your license & first car; single/married (not to mention: married/divorced); no kids/parenthood. Etc. Sometimes we make our own lines, sometimes they’re drawn in the sand in front of us, but one way or another, they appear.

There are some dividing lines that are both personal and universal, like youth/aging/old, and life Before and After the deaths of particular family members and friends. Then there are the end of other things – special friendships, longtime homes, long-term jobs, precious items lost or stolen. Life is an endless series of beginnings and endings and difficult periods of adjustment in between, sometimes illuminating, sometimes just exhausting. For many of my generation (the now-increasingly-detested-and-resented Baby Boomers), the assassinations of the 60s, Vietnam, Woodstock, and the murder of John Lennon (which paved the way for the disenchanted, cocaine-driven, greed and glamour of the 80s) are the major dividing lines.

Nations, cultures, societies, all have profound dividing lines. Here in the USA, our major wars have been particularly deep dividing lines, especially the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. I put the Befores and Afters of World Wars I and II and the Vietnam War in the category of major cultural divisions, along with the waves of immigration from abroad in the early years of the 20th century, the Great Black Migration from South to North after both World Wars, and of course, the Great Depression. Then there are the lines between slavery & segregation/”freedom” & integration (perhaps better described as: overt racism/covert racism), social tradition/feminism, old music/new music; and drugs – life in America Before and After diverse and extensive drug use and society’s (and government’s) inappropriate, ineffectual response to it, is as bold and significant a dividing line as anything already mentioned. And as we all know, life today is extremely colored by the bloody dividing line of 9/11, an event, both real and manipulated, that literally marks the true beginning of the 21st century.

Science and technology have created huge dividing walls, not just lines: life Before and After the discovery of agriculture; centuries later, the invention of the printing press; and a few centuries more: modern medicine, including (especially) the discovery of germs and the invention of The Pill; the Industrial Revolution; The Bomb; trains, planes, automobiles, electricity, the telephone, photography, cinema, radio, television, space travel, computers, all great big lines. And now, today’s digital (revolution? abomination? okay…) New Reality. I’m probably leaving out some other biggies; you fill in the blanks.

There are, of course, many political dividing lines, from the origin of, as well as changes within, political parties, to major changes in the political process itself, including the entry of new elected players (racial minorities and women) and new voting players (racial minorities and women). The election of Barack Obama is perhaps the widest dividing line in our country’s political history.

Right now, what we’re calling a Deep Recession, but actually deserves to be called The Great Neo-Depression, is creating a whole new series of dividing lines, which can perhaps be grouped together as: rampant materialism/diminished materialism. The major sub-division is: wasteful & indifferent/green & alarmed, followed closely by: keeping up with the Joneses/focusing on what’s really important. The economic dividers are in flux, but they seem to be boiling down to: cluelessly, selfishly rich/in for a big fucking surprise; thinking you’re middle class/realizing you’re working class; and being poor/being poorer. I know that’s a simplistic summary, but I think it captures the spirit of the thing.

Last night in England, the spunky, inspiring and beautifully talented Susan Boyle came in second in the final round of Britain’s Got Talent. The winner was a dance troupe called Diversity, an interesting group of multi-racial, gender-inclusive tweens, teens and 20-somethings. Their skill is undeniable; their talent, although derivative (Bob Fosse meets Michael Jackson), is considerable. For me, the decision marked yet another significant dividing line in our fast-changing popular culture: mature, solo, shy, courageous competition/developing, collective, bold, confident display. She was very gracious in defeat; they were seemingly humble in victory.

And I am a displaced person, cut up and confused by the powerful dividing lines in my life and the myriad of Befores and Afters all around me.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Justice For All

It seems that from the moment President Obama nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, there’s been a lot of fretting and tisk-tisking from every political quarter. We’ve all heard the story of her hard and steadfast journey from “the projects” in the Bronx to Ivy League universities, major law firms, and several tiers of judicial command. But in case you haven’t yet had the opportunity to learn more about her than the fact that she settled the longest major league baseball strike in history, has a good summary of her key cases and opinions that’s worth checking out.

I must say that the objections on both sides (which boil down to: the conservatives think she’s too liberal; the liberals think she’s not liberal enough) surprise me – further proof that I’m more na├»ve than cynical, because I keep trusting that balance, fairness and a spirit of bipartisan cooperation during a period of national/global crisis will ultimately out (look up idiot in the dictionary and note my photo…). When everybody finds something to criticize (I think “nitpick” is the more appropriate word here), that’s a good sign that middle ground has been found. In the case of Judge Sotomayor, the middle ground is supported by considerable educational accomplishment, followed by several decades of intelligent, informed, and highly respected legal and judicial experience that reveal a diversity of opinion and a dedication to the spirit and intention of the law, rather than a fundamentalist application of 18th century concepts to 21st century concerns.

This ersatz controversy says more about the growing political polarization on the part of nearly all players on all points of the spectrum than it says about Sotomayor herself. It also says a great deal about the stubborn determination of many Republicans/Conservatives to find nothing but fault with Barack Obama – despite the fact that he is coping simultaneously with a greater number of urgent issues than any president in modern history, including FDR. Rush Limbaugh is clearly not alone in hoping that Obama fails – regardless of the cost to the nation – and I think that’s unconscionable and downright disgusting.

During the president’s First 100 Days press conference, when Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times asked Mr. Obama that now-famous question about what had surprised, enchanted, humbled and troubled him the most during his initial period in office, the president said: “Troubled? I’d say less troubled but, you know, sobered, by the fact that change in Washington comes slow. That there is still a certain quotient of political posturing and bickering that takes place even when we’re in the middle of really big crises. I would like to think that everybody would say, you know what, let’s take a timeout on some of the political games, focus our attention for at least this year, and then we can start running for something next year. And that hasn’t happened as much as I would have liked.”

The phony, self-centered, politically obstinate “concern” about the clearly qualified Sonia Sotomayor is but one more troubling, sobering example of how enormously difficult it has become to effect change in this country, even when the leadership is commendably moderate/centrist in his efforts. I wish Sonia Sotomayor the best of luck in her upcoming ordeal of the Senate confirmation process. I wish our politicians luck in recognizing a sense of shared urgency and stop running for re-election for 20 minutes and start running the country instead. And I wish all of us luck in surviving this beastly, no-holds-barred practice of tainted democracy in action.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

Having just watched the 20th annual National Memorial Day Concert on PBS, I feel compelled to say: let us indeed remember and honor those military men and women who died in defense of this country, from the Revolutionary War over 200 years ago to yesterday in Iraq and Afghanistan. But let us also add some genuine meaning to the putrid schmaltz that comprised the majority of this holiday special by creating a new standard for patriotic pride, one that advocates peace and diplomacy, and demands that our government also honor those who fought and managed to survive, by giving them all the medical care & therapy, financial benefits, education & training, housing, family assistance, and anything else they need or want, because no matter how much they get, it’s still much less than they deserve.

I understand that because we are in the midst of active war on two grisly fronts, it is appropriate on Memorial Day 2009 to acknowledge living veterans – particularly those severely wounded and those (largely) intact who have served in our current wars. That said, one of my longstanding civic pet peeves is that so many flag-waving Americans don’t know the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, so let me make that distinction clear for anyone who may be confused.

Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, was first commemorated in 1868 to honor the military dead of the Civil War and continues to be the holiday that honors all war dead, held on the last Monday of May each year. Veterans Day, formerly known as Armistice Day because it commemorated the end of World War I on November 11, 1918, is the day we honor military veterans (war survivors) of all wars in which Americans participated, and it is held on November 11th each year, no matter what day of the week it falls on. For decades, both holidays have been primarily viewed by the oh-so-patriotic populace as occasions to go shopping, and, in the case of Memorial Day, participate in cook-outs and start wearing white for the summer.

My grandfather was a wounded veteran of World War I and received several medals. My father was a Merchant Marine veteran of World War II, during which he survived two major fires on two different oil tankers. My uncle is a WWII Navy veteran who served in the Pacific. And over the years, I’ve had friends who served in the Army, Navy and Marines, including a lesbian who was drummed out of the Navy during a gay witch-hunt in the 50s. I may be a 60s peacenik, but I have never disrespected war veterans, and, I’m proud to say, was never among those who greeted returning Vietnam War veterans with shouts of “baby killers!”

Throughout history, some wars have been morally necessary, others were totally contrived for cynical, often purely economic reasons. But all of them wounded and/or killed persons who (very often) voluntarily put themselves in harm’s way, because they believed they were doing something essential in defense of their country and the values for which it stands. This is true of the military personnel of all countries, whether they’re our allies or our enemies. And for a while, there were Rules of War, a perhaps oxymoronic concept that said “this form of brutality is allowed, but this other form is not.” Among those rules at various times were Don’t Kill Civilians, Don’t Attack Hospitals and Schools, and Don’t Torture Prisoners of War. I think it can be fairly said that the gloves have been off on all those fronts for some years now, and America is hardly alone in this regard.

But to return to the purpose of Memorial Day: one of the great ironies of modern warfare is that battlefield medicine has been so enormously improved, many of those who would have died of horrendous injuries in wars gone by are now patched up sufficiently to make it home, only to endure countless surgeries, tortuous physical rehab, and existence of either lifeless vegetation or grossly limiting disability. Is this progress or torment? I imagine that those with severe, lifelong injuries have different opinions; unfortunately for them, many of them can't tell anyone what their true wishes are.

It’s worth noting here that (as of April 2009, per 4,278 military personnel have so far died in Iraq and Afghanistan; and 31,215 have been wounded, most of them severely and 20% with completely life-altering brain or spinal injuries. reports that 30% of returning troops develop serious mental/emotional problems within 3 to 4 months of their return, and 140 veterans of the Army alone have committed suicide – a trend that is increasing by all accounts. It is also worth noting that through mid-2009, $800 billion has been spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and President Obama recently requested another $76 billion. It costs over $300,000 per year to deploy one soldier. All facts worth remembering this Memorial Day.

One of the few musical moments in tonight’s concert that didn’t prompt me to roll my eyes with nausea or despair came from country music singer Trace Adkins. He sang a beautiful, plaintive song called “`Til the Last Shot’s Fired,” the chorus of which says: Say a prayer for peace/For every fallen son/Set my spirit free/Let me lay down my gun/Sweet Mother Mary, I’m so tired/But I can’t come home/`Til the last shot’s fired. Let’s honor the war dead – and the war survivors – by finding a way to fire the last shot; to finding new and better ways besides war to stop tyranny and other ills in their insidious tracks.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

On Abortion

The brouhaha over President Obama’s commence-ment address at the famously and officially Catholic University of Notre Dame this past Sunday, his comments in that speech about abortion, and the pending nomination of a new justice to the Supreme Court, have combined to focus a new wave of attention to and discussion about one of the thorniest problems of modern times. I don’t pretend to have the answer to the Abortion Question, but the President’s remarks at Notre Dame, particularly his call for open hearts and open minds in the search for some common ground on this issue, prompt me to offer this post.

First, let me be clear about my own position. I believe that any woman who becomes pregnant under any circumstance should have the right to make a personal decision about whether or not to bring that pregnancy to term, and if she chooses abortion, that procedure should be safely and readily available to her, regardless of her age, marital status, or ability to pay for it.

That said, I also agree with the President, who said in his First 100 Days press conference on April 29th that “Abortion is a moral issue and an ethical issue. I think that those who are pro-choice make a mistake when they suggest that this is simply an issue about women's freedom and that there's no other considerations. …The reason I'm pro-choice is because I don't think women take that position casually…they struggle with these decisions…and I think they are in a better position to make these decisions, ultimately, than members of Congress or a president of the United States…that's been my consistent position. The other thing that I said consistently during the campaign is, I would like to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies that result in women feeling compelled to get an abortion…and so I've got a task force within the Domestic Policy Council in the West Wing of the White House that is working with groups both in the pro-choice camp and in the pro-life camp to see if we can arrive at some consensus on that.”

Camille Paglia, the self-defined “dissident feminist,” expanded on these ideas in her now oft-quoted 9/10/08 essay: “Let's take the issue of abortion rights, of which I am a firm supporter. As an atheist and libertarian, I believe that government must stay completely out of the sphere of personal choice… But the pro-life position, whether or not it is based on religious orthodoxy, is more ethically highly evolved than my own tenet of unconstrained access to abortion on demand. My argument…has always been that nature has a master plan pushing every species toward procreation and that it is our right and even obligation as rational human beings to defy nature's fascism… Hence I have always frankly admitted that abortion is murder… I [also] support the death penalty for atrocious crimes (such as rape-murder or the murder of children). I have never understood the standard Democratic combo of support for abortion and yet opposition to the death penalty… What I am getting at here is that not until the Democratic Party stringently reexamines its own implicit assumptions and rhetorical formulas will it be able to deal effectively with the enduring and now escalating challenge from the pro-life right wing. Because pro-choice Democrats…have thus far been unable to make an effective ethical case for the right to abortion.”

I may be wrong, but it is my impression that the current expression of Obama’s and Paglia’s support of the right to abortion with an understanding that there are ethical considerations that cannot be dismissed as mere right-wing idiocy is the first time this combination of ideas has been broadly articulated – and I agree with them, both the persons and their ideas, and see within them a glimmer of hope that something akin to common ground can eventually be reached.

I think there are four central points to be considered and resolved. One: abortion is the taking of human life, especially in the more-developed second and third trimesters. Two: the best way to minimize the taking of life by abortion is to use all practical, possible means to reduce the incidence of unwanted pregnancy. Three: when an unwanted pregnancy does occur, it should be the woman’s decision whether or not to terminate that pregnancy without restriction or limitation by government. Four: women faced with the crisis of unwanted pregnancy must have a greater variety of options to choose from besides abortion.

Like Paglia, I, too, have never understood the pro-choice/anti-death penalty combo and I too am pro-choice and pro-death penalty. Since the dawn of civilization, societies around the world and law throughout time have recognized that there are circumstances in which the taking of another life is justifiable, such as self-defense (or in the defense of endangered loved ones), war, and as the ultimate punishment for the most heinous of crimes. If a woman is unable or unwilling to be a consistent, capable mother and equally unwilling to bring the pregnancy to term, then the taking of life through abortion should be an available option and regarded by law as an instance of justifiable homicide.

Like Obama, I, too, believe prevention is a powerful and woefully under-used practice, and that viable alternatives to abortion are too few and too inaccessible. But in order to improve prevention, increase the number and variety of options, and ensure a woman’s ultimate full autonomy over her body, we as a society, left and right, religious and not, must face certain facts and make definite distinctions between personal values and public policy.

The first and most important fact to be faced is that people are sexual beings, and from puberty on, the sexual drive is very compelling. Many people are uncomfortable with sexuality, particularly active female sexuality out of wedlock, which still carries the stigma of loose morals in some quarters. Those who feel this way must come to accept that this is their personal belief and not a universal truth to be integrated into law and social policy. Therefore, acknowledging the facts of human sexuality and greatly increasing and improving sex education is the first pillar of pregnancy prevention.

The second pillar is contraception – something that should be readily available to all sexually active women and men (and girls and boys) in all its varieties. Persons who oppose contraception and propose “abstinence only” on religious or moral grounds are free to personally behave in accordance with their values. But they should not have the legal right to make their values into society’s laws. Raise your kids with the values you believe in and supervise their behavior to enforce those values as best you can. But also recognize that once they’re physically capable of sexual activity, your children must be equipped to make sexually mature decisions – including choosing abstinence. However, they also need to be well educated about sex (including the nature/expression of intimacy and the responsibility of men in regard to pregnancy and child rearing), being aware of their responsibility to avoid unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases with the correct use of contraception, and being able to have ready access to the contraceptive methods that will enable them to act responsibly. This is essential, not just for individuals but for society as a whole.

The second important fact is that not all unwanted pregnancies are genuinely unwanted; sometimes they’re just viewed by the woman and those around her as unmanageable. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control says that in 2007, 40% of births were delivered by unwed mothers, up from 34% in 2002. I don’t know what percentage of these were pregnancies planned by single women who wanted to function as single parents. Interestingly, teen birthrates, which were at 50% in 1970, were down to 23% in 2007. They didn’t say what the stats are for women who are married or in otherwise committed relationships who got pregnant, but didn’t want to be.

Unlike Ms. Paglia, I’m not a libertarian. I strongly believe in the state playing a useful, significant role in the well-being of individuals and society as a whole. Among the options that should be available to pregnant women is meaningful, substantial, financial and social service support if they wish to have and keep their babies, regardless of their age or marital status – support they can count on at least until their child comes of age. The policies, programs and services currently in place are mind-numbingly byzantine and shamefully inadequate.

The increase and improvement of adoption policy is another critical component in addressing the abortion dilemma. Many couples (and singles), straight and gay, who long to adopt, are prevented from doing so by arcane laws and judgmental as well as discriminatory policies. If adoption policy was extensively revamped, it would be an enormous contribution to providing a viable alternative to abortion for some women.

And of course, the establishment of wide-ranging, generous, universal health care is a significant element in reducing abortion. If women of child-bearing age have easy, consistent access to quality women’s health care, they are less likely to get pregnant if they don’t want to. And if they do, and abortion is their solution of choice, they will be more likely and able to get abortions at earlier stages of pregnancy, which will be less traumatic for them and for society.

We are an enormously diverse nation filled with a plethora of moral, ethical and religious beliefs. Unless we want to continue to cope with abortion (legal or illegal; it ain’t goin’ away) on a large and socially divisive scale, it’s time to hit the common ground running.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Optical Disillusions

This is a personal story, but a cautionary tale for those of you who, like me, wear prescription eyeglasses.

I’ve been wearing glasses since I was six years old, which is when my mother figured out that my routinely bumping into light-colored furniture, mis-matching pastel-colored socks, and sitting a foot away from the TV, might indicate a vision problem. She was concerned that I’d never keep them on my face. But I was delighted with them and her only problem was getting me to take them off for showers and sleeping.

For the first time in my little life, the world didn’t look fuzzy, confusing and (consequently) scary. I still remember standing outside the optician’s on University Avenue in the Bronx after I got my first pair and thinking: “So this is what everything’s supposed to look like!” And except for that obligatory period in my teens when walking around in a blur was preferable to being seen in glasses, I’ve been happily and gratefully wearing them ever since. I didn’t even mind when reading glasses became necessary in my 40s. Seeing is so much better than not seeing. (I won’t bore you with why I couldn’t graduate to contacts.)

So, you can imagine how thrilled I was last week when, for the first time in at least ten years, I finally bought new glasses – sort of. I’d been trying to get them since last October, when I discovered that Medicare (which is what I have) will pay for them, but only one pair per year and only from a selection of “approved” (read: cheapest possible) frames. I had no problem with the once-a-year clause, but I need separate glasses for distance and reading because bi-focals don’t work for me.

I subsequently learned that Medicare will spring for a second pair if one’s ophthalmologist requests/approves it. However, there's a hitch (there’s always a hitch): the optometrists who accept Medicare are as rare as the proverbial hounds teeth, and those who do accept it want you to pay upfront and get reimbursed from Medicare. Since I didn’t have the money to lay out, I just kept squinting, reading with the aid of a magnifying glass and writing in 16-point type. Being broke sucks, and I'm hardly alone in being trapped by this coverage "catch 22."

Then, propitiously, last week I got a $250 stimulus payment and I felt like a little kid who had just been given a whole dollar! I considered the variety of things I might do with this unexpected bounty and decided that using it to get glasses made the most sense, and, I figured that with $250(!!!) I could either bypass Medicare or, at least, manage to wait for the reimbursement.

I went shopping. I went to Lens Crafters and Cohen’s Fashion Optical, both in my neighborhood, assuming that the chains would be cheaper than my trusted independent, the place I’d gone to throughout the 80s and 90s. At Lens Crafters, I discovered that all the attractive frames were in the “designer” section and cost between $200-$400, with $300 being the most common price. Resigned to settling for a cheaper frame (from among the myriad of small, wire-rimmed clones), I found that even those were $125-$150, and once the lenses were factored in, one pair came to about $200. Forget about the 2 for 1 deals and the coupons; if you're able to read the fine print, you'll discover that they probably don't apply to what you need.

I didn’t learn anything about the prices at Cohen’s, because after waiting there for 20 minutes among other potential customers ahead of me without my presence even being acknowledged, I got pissed off and left. I went back to Lens Crafters, only to discover that in the 40 minutes since I’d last been there, the price had gone up to between $250-$300 per pair, because, they said, they hadn’t included some of the little extras, like anti-glare coating (not to be confused with UV protection coating; that’s separate), which they said was $89.

Speechless with anger, I then went to three different chain drugstores in search of clip-on readers to see if they might suffice. I couldn’t find out because none of them had any. So I went home, dejected and perplexed. When had glasses become a $300 proposition with the cheap frames, easily $1,000 total for two pairs with nicer frames?

My next step was to search online to see what I could see (so to speak), and discovered that there’s a whole world of online prescription glasses retailers who have a wide variety of really nice looking stuff for very little money. By way of comparison, most frames ranged from $10 to $40 and on those sites that carried the designer brands, the frames that were $300 at Lens Crafters were $150 and less. And the $89 anti-glare coating? That was $4.95 (yes, four dollars and 95 cents). Some sites have better reputations than others for quality and delivery, but you can get a complete pair of cheaters with all the bells and whistles for way less than $100. All you have to do is provide your lens prescription and frame size.

As it happens, I had my lens prescription (courtesy of my ophthalmologist), but it was minus two important numbers: the PD (pupillary distance) figures, which are essential to making the correct lenses. I've learned that eye doctors routinely leave these numbers off the prescription so that the optometrist (hopefully the one with which he/she is affiliated) has a reason to give you another eye exam (price not included with the specs) when you go to buy your insanely overpriced glasses. As for the frame size, all the Web sites said there is usually a tiny set of numbers on one of the arms of the frame that constitutes the size. After careful scrutiny (bright light, magnifying glass), I realized that no such numbers were on my distance glasses. I don’t know if they’re on my reading glasses, because I couldn’t see the numbers without wearing my reading glasses!

All the sites said that if you ask your eye doctor for the PD numbers, they’re probably part of your prescription record and the doc should give it to you. My doctor, who’s a sweetheart, was willing to give me the PD number, but didn’t have it, because he doesn’t include it in his exam; he leaves that calculation to the optometrist (anyone, but preferably the one who shares his office…). However, he said that if I went to see her, she would give me the PD numbers at no charge.

Great! But my doctor’s office (the office of the best eye doctor available to me through my HMO-managed Medicare plan) is quite far from me, and I have mobility issues that make using public transportation a drag and financial issues that make taking taxis (my normal mode of transportation for decades) severely prohibitive.

So I called my old, neighborhood independent optician, the store I wanted to use in the first place, and asked what he would charge to give me a PD reading. $15 he said, and I said okay. When I got there, it occurred to me to ask how much it would cost to just get new lenses for my old frames, which I like and are in good condition. It turned out that with all extras included (like anti-glare coating…), he charged me $123 for the first pair, $103 for the second pair, threw in the PD determination for free, and gave me the PD numbers for my future reference. When I go to pick up my glasses, I’ll ask him to give me my frame size. He was very nice. We chatted at length about how the chains are a rip-off and everybody thinks they’ll be cheaper than the independents, but more often than not, they’re not. We also talked about how Internet retailing is changing many industries, including his, and he’s mindful that the bricks-and-mortar outlets are going to have to change with the changing times.

So, this week, I’ll get to pick up my new-old glasses. I had to use what had been my distance frames for the reading glasses and vice versa so I’d be able to see during the waiting period. But in the final analysis, I’ll once again be able to see well and my $250 stimulus gift will cover it all.

For your reference, there’s a wonderful Web site called Glassyeyes, which reviews and rates the online glasses sites. Next year, when I go for my eye check-up, I’ll be sure to get the new PD numbers with my new prescription (should I need one) and will give one of the online retailers a try (and won’t have to depend on another stimulus payment to keep the world in proper view). And considering that it was recently announced that there will be no Social Security cost-of-living adjustment in 2010 and 2011, but there will be an increase in the monthly Medicare deduction in both years, I’ll be getting smaller checks in an increasingly inflated economy, making it all the more essential that I find bargains for my glasses.

Please Mr. President, there’s gotta be a better way – and we need it now!