View From Table 9

July 31, 2008

You Have GOT to be Kidding Me

An open letter to pro-lifers (all underlying motivations) and Neocons:

Dear Fellow Americans:

Get out of my uterus.

Thanks.

Treating the Pill as Abortion,
Draft Regulation Stirs Debate

By STEPHANIE SIMON
July 31, 2008; Page A11

Set aside the fraught question of when human life begins. The new debate: When does pregnancy begin?

The Bush Administration has ignited a furor with a proposed definition of pregnancy that has the effect of classifying some of the most widely used methods of contraception as abortion.

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A draft regulation, still being revised and debated, treats most birth-control pills and intrauterine devices as abortion because they can work by preventing fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. The regulation considers that destroying “the life of a human being.”

Many medical groups disagree. They hold that pregnancy isn’t established until several days after conception, when the fertilized egg has grown to a cluster of several dozen cells and burrowed into the uterine wall. Anything that disrupts that process, in their view, is contraception.

The draft regulation, circulating within the Department of Health and Human Services, would have no immediate effect on the legality of the pill or the IUD if implemented because abortion is legal. But opponents fear it would undercut dozens of state laws designed to promote easy access to these methods of birth control, used by more than 12 million women a year.

Dozens of Congressional Democrats — including presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama — have signed letters of protest blistering the proposal. His Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, declined to comment.

A RIGHT OF CONSCIENCE

Who should be allowed to exercise the right of conscience? Read opinions2 on both sides of the debate, on WSJ.com’s Front Lines3.

Administration supporters say the left’s concerns are overblown and very few women would have real difficulty getting birth control. Still, some on the religious right are hoping the regulation would create some obstacles.

If the draft regulation were to prompt some insurance companies to drop coverage for prescription birth control, “that would be fantastic,” said Tom McClusky, a strategist with the conservative Family Research Council.

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The draft could still be revised or rejected. Or the administration could enact it at any point; no congressional approval is needed. (The next president could just as easily reverse it.)

Legal challenges would likely hold up the regulation’s enforcement, but even so, the religious right — a key Republican constituency in this election season — could claim an important victory as their views would be embedded in federal law.

The regulation’s stated purpose is to improve enforcement of existing federal laws that protect some medical professionals’ right to refuse to participate or assist in abortion.

In a lengthy preamble entitled “The Problem,” the draft argues that state laws too often coerce health-care workers into providing services they find immoral.

Among the laws considered coercive: Requirements that emergency rooms offer rape victims the morning-after pill, insurance plans cover contraception as part of prescription-drug benefits, and pharmacists fill prescriptions for birth control. The draft regulation would weaken these laws by expanding the right of conscientious objection.

The White House said the administration “has an obligation to enforce” that right and is “exploring a number of options.”

If the regulation is enacted, insurers, hospitals, HMOs and other institutions could claim that a law requiring them to dispense contraception or subsidize an IUD discriminated against their religious convictions. State and local governments would have to certify in writing that they don’t practice such discrimination. Those who didn’t comply could lose federal funding or be sued for damages.

The draft also extends the conscience objection to most staff members and volunteers working for health-care providers. So, for instance, an employer couldn’t punish a clinic receptionist for refusing to make appointments for patients seeking birth-control pills.

“It’s pernicious,” said Janet Crepps, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights. “A few individuals could mess up the whole system.”

Barr Pharmaceuticals, which makes oral contraceptives, took issue with the idea that its products cause abortions and added that “an individual’s conscience should not prevent the timely dispensing of these products.”

With its expansive definitions, the draft bolsters a key goal of the religious right: to give single-cell fertilized eggs full rights by defining them as legal people — or, as some activists put it, “the tiniest boys and girls.”

As long as Roe v. Wade remains in effect and abortion remains legal, that goal can’t be fully realized. But in recent years, abortion opponents have scored notable successes. For instance: Several states now define a fertilized egg as a legal person — an “unborn child” — for purposes of fetal homicide laws, which allow criminal prosecution when a woman miscarries as a result of an assault.

In South Dakota, abortion doctors must tell patients — whatever their stage of pregnancy — that they will be “terminating the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being” with whom they have an “existing relationship.” In Colorado, voters this fall will weigh a state constitutional amendment that would confer full personhood on fertilized eggs, as well as embryos and fetuses. And embryonic stem-cell research is restricted through a variety of state and federal policies.

Even if the draft is never implemented, activists on both sides consider it a potential momentum shift.

“You keep striking away and framing the issue the way you want to frame it,” said David DeWolf, a law professor at Gonzaga University who has advised anti-abortion groups. “That’s the political strategy.”

— John D. McKinnon, Laura Meckler and Sarah Rubenstein contributed to this article.

Write to Stephanie Simon at stephanie.simon@wsj.com4

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July 29, 2008

Finally, Back to Where We Were

Filed under: Uncategorized — table9 @ 10:47 am
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A little more than three years ago, after much discussion and thought, we picked up and left our lives in Virginia and moved north. It was not easy. We had lived in Virginia for 16 years, and being a military family, had made many good friends who were in many ways our extended family. That is one of the wonders of military life – you learn to make your family wherever you are, and you learn that you’ve got to take care of each other, because you’re all you’ve got.

This would be our first move as ‘civilians’, and we were moving to an area with basically no military presence, nor any real awareness of that life. Where we were in Virginia, there were 238,000 active duty, easily the same or more retired or former service, and the military was woven throughout the community. Here, there was barely a thought. Believe me, I still have to do mini-education of our doctors’ offices on how to file TRICARE, and even then 1/2 the time they don’t get it right. *sigh* They just don’t see a lot of it.

One of the things that saddened me most was the loss of our network, our surrogate family, in Virginia.  Would we ever be a part of this again, especially without the military constructs?  Granted, not all of our friends were related to the military – we met some through my jobs, school and other activities.   Still, I wondered.  And I worried, in our first year here when we were missing them so much.  How would we meet people?  Would they be as fun?

One of the routine activities of summer in Virginia was the backyard BBQ.  We had many of them, as did our friends, they were good times.  When we came here, there was no one really to have a BBQ with, which left us feeling pretty lonely.  Fast forward three years to last weekend.  I found myself in the yard with good friends, our kids running around playing with abandon, enjoying a lovely summer evening with laughter.  Oh, my, it’s good to be back.

July 25, 2008

Wounded Warriors, Empty Promises…Shame of a Nation

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All I can say is….right on.

July 25, 2008
Editorial

Wounded Warriors, Empty Promises

The bad news about the Army’s treatment of wounded soldiers keeps coming. The generals keep apologizing and insisting that things are getting better, but they are not.

The latest low moment for Army brass came on Tuesday in Washington, where a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing to examine the sorry state of the Army Medical Action Plan. That’s the plan to prevent the kind of systematic neglect and mistreatment exposed by The Washington Post last year at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

After a flurry of apologies, firings, investigations and reports, the Army resolved to streamline and improve case management for wounded soldiers. Under the plan, “warrior transition units” would swiftly deliver excellent care to troops so they could return to duty or be discharged into the veterans’ medical system. Each soldier would be assigned a team to look over his or her care: a physician, a nurse and a squad leader. It all sounded sensible and comprehensive.

It has not worked out so well. Staff members of the House subcommittee who visited numerous warrior transition units June 2007 to February found a significant gap between the Army leadership’s optimistic promises and reality.

Among other things, the Army failed to anticipate a flood of wounded soldiers. Some transition units have been overwhelmed and are thus severely understaffed. At Fort Hood, Tex., last month, staff members found 1,362 patients in a unit authorized for 649 — and more than 350 on a waiting list. Of the total, 311 were identified as being at high risk of drug overdose, suicide or other dangerous behavior. There were 38 nurse case managers when there should have been 74. Some soldiers have had to languish two months to a year before the Army decided what to do with them, far longer than the goal the Army set last year.

Under skeptical questioning during a hearing in February, Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, the Army surgeon general, told the subcommittee that “for all intents and purposes, we are entirely staffed at the point we need to be staffed.” He also said: “The Army’s unwavering commitment and a key element of our warrior ethos is that we never leave a soldier behind on the battlefield — or lost in a bureaucracy.”

That was thousands of wounded, neglected soldiers ago. There are now about 12,500 soldiers assigned to the warrior transition units — more than twice as many as a year ago. The number is expected to reach 20,000 by this time next year.

The nation’s responsibility to care for the wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan will extend for decades. After Tuesday’s hearing, we are left pondering the simple questions asked at the outset by Representative Susan Davis, the California Democrat who is chairwoman of the military personnel subcommittee: Why did the Army fail to adequately staff its warrior transition units? Why did it fail to predict the surge in demand? And why did it take visits from a Congressional subcommittee to prod the Army into recognizing and promising — yet again — to fix the problem?

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

July 7, 2008

Improving On Camp Staple Perfection?

Filed under: Uncategorized — table9 @ 8:02 pm
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Being a great lover of food, and a lover of camping, one of the things I enjoy very much about being out in the woods is the pleasure of making and eating s’mores.  There’s something about the marshmallow-on-a-twig toasted over a campfire on a stick then mushed between two graham crackers and a half of a Hershey bar that is divine.  I’ve tried it other places – at frou-frou restaurants and at home toasting the marshmallow over the stove and it’s just not the same.  Maybe it’s the ambiance, maybe it’s the lack of smoke, who knows?

Well, when we went camping at Knoebel’s (see previous post), one of the parents suggested substituting a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (full size, of course) for the Hershey bar, so we tried it.

I now have a new favorite culinary delight for camping. It was heavenly – even dear hubby who does not care for s’mores (he forgot to tell me that the first time we camped in the backyard 2 years ago with our son until AFTER I had made like 12 of them) thought they were amazin.

Enjoy.  🙂

July 6, 2008

A Tale of Two Parks

In the past month, we’ve had the opportunity to visit two amusement parks. As DH and DS are both   roller-coaster junkies, this has been a sort of heaven for them.

First, we went camping for a weekend at Knoebel’s in Elysburg PA. Don’t know where Knoebel’s is?  Welcome to the club. I grew up in PA and I hadn’t heard of it until some friends suggested it. Best description of where it’s at would be either “Near Danville” or “Middle of Pennsylvania”.  It’s been around for many years, someone described it once as a place where old amusement rides go to die, and that’s not totally inaccurate.  I saw rides there I hadn’t seen in years, along with two very big wooden roller coasters.

We camped with a group of families in a campground directly adjacent to the park itself, which was great because anytime we wanted to go, we just walked.  The park itself and the campground were both very clean and full of trees for shade.  Campground sites are not big, and there’s a variety of camping styles going on from big RVs down to simple tents.

The park itself has no entrance fee, and rides are cheap – average price is $0.50 to $0.70, I think the most expensive was $2.50.  A child 44″ or taller will be able to ride just about any ride, including the big coasters (with an adult).  The staff were very friendly and nice and the food was surprisingly very good – much better than your typical amusement park overpriced tasteless fare.

We had a blast there.  My son the Roller Coaster Junkie rode the Phoenix twice in a row, my husband said each time he actually came up off the seat for some of the vertical drops, laughing the whole time.  We spent about $35 on tickets (they never expire) and rode everything we wanted at least once.

They do have a swimming area that’s spring-fed and looked lovely.  It was very crowded the days we were there so we opted for a quick dip in the less sophisticated (reminded us of the swimming pool at the campground in National Lampoon’s Vacation) but clean and cool small campground pool.

Next time we go (and there will be a next time) if we camp, we’ll bring more fans (there is power at each site, bring an extension cord and a power strip) for comfort.  Other than that, we would not change a thing.  Knoebel’s is a terrific park we’d recommend to anyone.

Next up was a trip to King’s Dominion in Doswell, VA, near Richmond.   This has long been one of our more preferred parks, especially compared to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, as it has both many more roller coasters and a water park inside that’s included in the admissions.  So we were looking forward to the trip.

The park looks pretty much like it did the last time we were there, which was about 8 years ago, even though it’s changed hands since then.   It was clean, and the staff were again nice.  This is an admission park, they’ve added some ‘additional fee’ attractions inside of it, one of which, a trampoline getup, we paid $5 for.  You also pay for parking.  We purchased our tickets online in advance and saved quite a bit.

We did not expect at this park that our son would be able to ride the ‘big coasters’ as he’s not tall enough.  We had checked in advance and seen there were a few roller coasters he could ride and hoped that was enough.  They also had a Nickelodeon area that promised character visits and a slime station which sounded great, especially as the boy has recently discovered Nick (read: we recently unblocked Y7 programming) and loves it.

What we were surprised and disappointed with was the water park.  Their water park has many different slides.  All but 2 of them require the rider to be 48″ or taller (including the ones attached to the ‘water factory’ structure designed for kids) and the two that did allow kids under 48″ tall were closed that day.   All we could do with our son was the wave pool (fun), the water factory without the slides (fun, but the slides really were not dangerous enough in my opinion to warrant the height restriction.  Not fun for the Roller Coaster Kid or his parents.

The other disappointment was the Nickelodeon tie-in.  Slime station was basically a big one level water structure, but not close to the water park area and without changing areas.   No characters (on a Sunday), and the old Days of Thunder motion ride (fun!) was now Sponge Bob 3-D (also fun, but we’d seen it before in 4-D at Adventure Aquarium in Camden NJ).  Especially on the heels of a recent Disney jaunt, it was really a sad, seemingly carelessly done brand tie-in.  I’ve seen better character stuff at Dutch Wonderland’s “Danger Ranger” show.

For now, we’ll stick with Knoebel’s for our amusement park fun, along with the Jersey Shore.  The “Big Parks” simply aren’t worth it for a thrill-seeking short kid and his family as there’s not enough ‘tween’ stuff to do.  Everything he could ride at the ‘big park’ was too babyish for him and everything he couldn’t ride he wanted to.

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