INTERESTING STUFF – 22 September 2018

BUTCH, SUNDANCE AND ROBERT MUELLER

Washington Post columnist Max Boot, this week, marvelously compared Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III to the sheriff who relentlessly tracked down Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

ButchandSundance2

Yes, that Butch and Sundance who tried mightily to elude the guys who were persuing them:

“'Those guys,' wrote Boot, “turn out to be a collection of the best lawmen in the West, led by a legendary sheriff named Joe Lefors, who have been assembled to finally hunt down the bandits.

“Robert S. Mueller III is the real-life incarnation of Lefors, and his special counsel team is the real-life superposse. Like Lefors in the movie, he never says a word. Instead, he lets his work speak for itself...

“As Mueller’s investigation advances, methodically and relentlessly, Trump is acting as rattled as Butch and Sundance — minus, of course, the charm, wit and good looks of Redford and Newman.”

Exactly. You can read the entire column here.

In case you're interested, Max Boot, who is so much more than an opinion columnist, has become one of my favorite regular reads. You can find out more about him here.

NEIGHBOR SPOOFING

This happens to me once every day of the week at the same time each day:

”More than half of all complaints received by the Federal Communications Commission — more than 200,000 of them — are about unwanted calls. The FCC said Americans received about 2.4 billion unwanted, automated calls each month, according to 2016 estimates.”

The spoofing comes in when you answer a call because the phone number displayed shows your own Area Code so you might think it is a friend or neighbor. (I never learn; it gets me every time.)

You can read more here and this video has some information to help you keep calls to a low roar:

REMEMBER VICTOR BORGE?

When I was growing up, Victor Borge was a staple on television variety shows of the era. I'd forgotten him until I ran across this video with one of his classic comedy routines:

FREE CREDIT FREEZE

Credit freezes are an important tool to keeping your personal financial information safe. As The New York Times

”Security freezes, often called credit freezes, are 'absolutely' the best way to prevent criminals from using your personal information to open new accounts in your name, said Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy with Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a consumer advocacy nonprofit group.”

Before now, the three major credit agencies, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian charged a fee for consumers to freeze their credit. The first two dropped those charges awhile back and now, Experian has joined them in accordance with a new law that went into effect yesterday, 21 September.

Those links above will take you to each agency's credit freeze page. You can read more at The New York Times.

JOHN OLIVER WEB EXCLUSIVE - RETRACTIONS

When John Oliver's HBO program, Last Week Tonight, is on hiatus, he sometimes posts a short, web-only video to carry us over until the next full show.

Here is one about retractions of previous statements he has made in error. Or not.

THE LAST SCISSOR CRAFTSMAN IN JAPAN

Not many people can afford these scissors. It's an amazing story and sad, too, that this man is the last one who knows how to do this.

AIR POLLUTION LINKED TO DEMENTIA

There is a new study linking air pollution to dementia. Here's a short news video:

As The Guardian reports:

”Air pollution has already been linked with cardiovascular and respiratory disease, but this is one of the first studies to examine links with neurodegenerative illness.

“Frank Kelly, professor of environmental health at King’s College London and one of the authors of the paper, told the Guardian: 'The study outcome suggests a linkage [between air pollution and dementia] but cannot inform on the cause. However, I believe that we now have sufficient knowledge to add air pollution to the list of risk factors for dementia.'”

More at The Guardian and the Daily Beast. The full study is at the BMJ [pdf].

@#$%^&* TECHNOLOGY

This is no exaggeration. It happened to me almost word-for-word a few days ago. My friend and attorney John Gear sent it, perhaps in response to Crabby Old Lady's elder tech complaints last Monday.

WINDOWS:
Please enter your new password.

USER:
Cabbage

WINDOWS:
Sorry, the password must be more than 8 characters.

USER:
Boiled cabbage

WINDOWS:
Sorry, the password must contain 1 numerical character.

USER:
1 boiled cabbage

WINDOWS:
Sorry, the password cannot have blank spaces

USER:
50damnboiledcabbages

WINDOWS:
Sorry, the password must contain at least one upper case character.

USER:
50DAMNboiledcabbages

WINDOWS:
Sorry the password cannot use more than one upper case character consecutively.

USER:
50damnBoiledCabbagesShovedUpYourAssIfYouDon'tGiveMeAccessNow!

WINDOWS:
Sorry, the password cannot contain punctuation.

USER:
ReallyPissedOff50DamnBoiledCabbagesShovedUpYourAssIfYouDontGiveMeAccessNow

WINDOWS:
Sorry, that password is already in use.

WOODPECKER VERSUS SQUIRREL

Have I shown you this video before? I know I saw it sometime in the past but I don't recall if I posted it. Anyway, it's just as amusing the second time around for me and maybe for you too.

And let's give the writer a hand – it's a great script.

* * *

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog.



The Age of Presidents and The Alex and Ronni Show

A couple of days ago, TGB reader Jean Gogolin asked me when I believe a person is too old to be president of the United States.

This year's midterm election is still weeks away but politicians are already been testing the waters for a presidential run in 2020. So I did a background check to see how old some of the possible contenders will be on inauguration day 2021. Here are a few of them in alphabetical order:

Joe Biden – 78
Cory Booker – 51
Kamala Harris – 57
Eric Holder – 70 (the day after the inauguration)
Bernie Sanders – 79
Donald Trump - 74
Elizabeth Warren – 72

For no good reason other than just because, during our Alex and Ronni Show recording on Wednesday this week, I put Jean's question to my former husband.

Here's the video we made; the presidential age question begins at about 11:30 minutes from the top. As you will see, we disagree.

I'm more articulate on paper than verbally and what I meant to make clear is that because humans age at remarkably different rates, I don't believe it's fair or possible to put an age limit on the presidency. Nor would I want to. There are people who might not be able to handle the job at 50; others would be fine at 80 and up.

An important question in placing an upper age limit on the presidency is when it would be imposed. If, arbitrarily, the limit were 65, would that mean a person could be elected at that age or would the candidate need to be 61 or 57 when elected to not pass the 65-year limit before the end of a four- or eight-year term?

At the other end of the age scale, the Constitution requires a president be at least 35 years of age. That seems to be a rational choice of the Founding Fathers to me. Although I might like to see a bit more seasoning that most of us have gained at that age, it is probably enough time for any serious person to be up for the job.

More to the point and after having somehow survived these past two years, it might be prudent for the country to consider a political science test to be sure a presidential candidate has a working knowledge of how government operates. Maybe a psychological test too. And is there such a thing as an ethics test?

Okay, I'm kidding in that last paragraph. But not by much.

What's your take on the presidential age question?



What Was Your Most Difficult Birthday?

As we have discussed here many times, most western democracies are profoundly ageist cultures.

It starts in the cradle, this antipathy toward the no longer young and from there, the number of ways that have been invented to marginalize people older than 50 – even, often, older than 40 – is boundless.

Just last evening, in an otherwise excellent novel I'm reading, this description of a newly introduced character appeared: “She was a woman of about 60 who in her younger years must have been a beauty.” There had been a similar sentence 50 or 60 pages earlier about another woman.

Are you saying that now she's a hag? I thought. It is the most common dismissal of women (and, occasionally, men), that if they are old – calculated by young people's standards – they are ugly.

Of course, the ramifications of such judgments are more serious than simple scorn: people are fired from jobs due to false stereotypes of older adults, not hired in the first place, subject to sub-par healthcare and generally discouraged from participating in public life.

But that's a story for another day. What I want to note today is that even while lamenting all that, we who are old generally abide with ourselves and our kind quite well and actually, life does get better.

These days, at age 77, I wake most mornings with a smile, eager to get on with whatever I have or have not planned for the day. That daily appetite is new and undoubtedly some of it is a consequence of surviving, so far, pancreatic cancer and being more fully aware than at any time in my life how precious is each new day.

But it's not all as a result of cancer. A lot, maybe the largest part, is having been surprised at some of the advantages of advanced age and the real changes I've experienced in my own attitudes and behavior.

Acceptance of what is, to which I have paid lip service for too long, is how, at last, I live mostly. I suspect it may arrive after decades of various levels of catastrophe that were, to my astonishment when they happened, survivable. Now I don't panic anymore when things go wrong.

This has brought better perspective, an increased ability to weigh events on more reasonable scales. Most occurrences that once fell into my disaster column are not - at least in the long run. Just cleaning up the spilt milk and getting on with living is so much easier than the “oh-my-god” anxieties and fears of the past.

And patience. It doesn't need to be today anymore. Although I will admit to being puzzled that at a time in life when what time I have left is demonstrably shorter, I am quite happy to put off all kinds of things – interesting as well as tedious - until tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the next. I have no idea why it should be that way; it is a mystery.

And now, even in this culture that to a large degree despises people of old age, I welcome birthdays; I like ticking off the years as they go by. In fact, the last birthday that I feared was 40.

I spent my entire 39th year boring every person I knew with lamentations over the impending doom, as I saw it, of turning 40. Looking back at my incessant wailing, I'm surprised any friendships from that year survived.

When the dread day arrived, I found on my desk at work that morning a classic, long white box in which red roses are usually delivered. But my birthday is in April, springtime, and the man I was then dating was much more inventive than that.

Inside were 40 (I counted them) gorgeous, fresh tulips and as lovely as they were, it was the card that made my day: “See how beautiful 40 can be.” (The seventh photograph from the left in the banner at the top of this page was taken on the evening of that day.)

It was still another three decades or so before I began to make real peace with growing old but none of the succeeding birthdays were as fraught as 40. I was learning acceptance – it just took me a long, long time to get there.

Have you had a really difficult birthday?



A TGB Reader Story: The Grapes Aren't Sour; They're Just Not on the Menu Often Enough

By officerripley

I managed to strand myself in my old age in a conservative area and am feeling left out because I'm left of center compared to nearly all the gals in my age group who only seem to be concerned with grandkids, God, gardening and gun "rights."

The few gals in my age group with whom I do share political, social, and world views seem to find me "dull" because I have way less education than they do. (Although they'd never in a million years admit that they're even just the teeniest bit prejudiced against my "sort.")

After trying everything - book clubs, meetup.com, even the few supposedly liberal churches in the area - I keep running into the same old, "Oh, you ONLY have a high school diploma? I see. Well, we only take women with degrees in our feminist group." Or "You CHOSE not to have kids?! I see." Or "You know, you'd probably be happier in or near a large city. What's that? You can't AFFORD to move? Oh, I see."

(And the look on their faces when they say that stuff? Don't get me started.)

Then I did finally find a group that was on the same political/social page as I, a group that I really enjoyed; finally, people that think and feel the same way I do!

I can let my hair down around these gals, yay! Then I began to feel weird about how much I looked forward to this one hour a month, about how I'd daydream about what I'll talk about at the next meeting, stuff that I have no one else I can talk to about.

I wondered why I was feeling worried about how much I relied on this group and realized that that's why I was right to worry: I was relying too much on this group. Even after some attempts on my part, no friendships developed even after two years, which is understandable since the gals in the group are at least 25 years younger than I.

The group was composed of young, still-working, busy gals who also had elderly parents to take care of; they didn't have time for anything else in their lives.

I finally began to see that me looking forward to that one hour a month was not enough. I realize that a lot of people - namely young people - would see this as akin to "sour grapes" syndrome: oh, you're mad at the world because you don't get to have this fun all month long, so you're throwing a tantrum like a bratty kid and saying "well, then, I don't want any fun!"

And I really soul-searched to see if that was what I was feeling, but I really don't think it is. The way I feel is that this is a way of protecting myself; that one hour a month is such a small "helping" of fun and good feelings that it makes the rest of the month that much harder to bear.

It feels like being hungry all the time and once a month, you get one bite of something delicious. After a while you being to realize that the one delicious bite makes the watery soup you have to eat the rest of the month that much harder to put up with.

Therefore, my goal is now to get myself used to the loneliness of spending my old age in an area where I don't fit in. It's cold comfort, but I keep hearing that it makes me a member of a very large club.

Also, maybe this will help anyone younger who happens to read this, or any of you high-energy, busy-all-time elderly – how the heck do you do it?! Espresso or what?! - understand why it seems as if some of us elderly have "given up." Self-protection; that's all it is.

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: This feature, TGB Readers' Stories, appears every Tuesday. Anyone age 50 and older is welcome to submit a story. You can do that by clicking the “Contact” link at the top of every TGB page or at the Guidelines/Submissions page.

Please be sure to read and follow the guidelines before submitting a story. It will save me a lot of time.
]



Crabby Old Lady and Elder Tech

When Crabby Old Lady was growing up, the most ubiquitous radio and, later, television commercials for health remedies were about tummy upsets (Pepto Bismol), headaches (Bayer aspirin) and sore muscles (Ben-Gay) – nothing serious enough, most of the time, for a doctor and the products were relatively benign.

These days, drug commercials have gone big-time. They are all about cancer, diabetes, COPD, stroke, heart disease, dementia, and the rest that strike fear into those who are diagnosed and are, you will note, almost entirely to old people.

Although Crabby resents the constant presentation of elders as diseased and sick, she understands that to advertisers, we are where the money is - a large, still growing cohort that does, after all, use more of these drugs and treatments than younger people.

But nowadays it's not just hangnails and cancer. There is a burgeoning industry of “smart technology” specifically for old people. At least one writer calls it “gerontechnology” and by that he means:

”...devices or solutions, including telehealth, telecare, information and communication, and robotic options.”

Crabby Old Lady calls it elder tech and it is both much more intrusive than is mentioned in the reporting about it, the brochures and the advertising.

Writing at Atlas of Science, Stephen M. Golant tells us the goal of elder tech is to help elders lead healthier, more independent and active lives. He then lists specific solutions which Crabby is quoting in full because you should know what is available, in development and/or being planned for us:

'This technology relies on sensors found in the bracelets, necklaces, clothing, watches, or smartphones of older adults, inserted in the walls, floors, lighting, appliances, or furniture of their dwellings, or even implanted in their bodies.

“Robots with human-like appearances may also incorporate these sensors. They can continually monitor and evaluate the physical health conditions of older persons, their cognitive (e.g., memory and reasoning) and sensory (e.g., hearing and vision) performance, physical agility, activities in their dwellings, and social connections.

“They also monitor the comfort, safety, and security of their homes by measuring their air pollutants, dampness, water leaks, mold, bacterial infections, poor lighting or visibility, accident risks, and extreme temperature conditions.

“These sensors communicate their monitored information to older persons and designated family members and professionals who can respond to their unmet needs or problems.”

That's a whole lotta elder tech going on.

Given the amount of time Crabby has spent with physicians and other health care professionals over the past 15 months, she is most looking forward to telehealth and telecare. It exists in a few quarters but is, apparently, slow to be adopted.

If it were available to Crabby, she could have avoided about half the dozens of in-person visits she made with health care individuals in the past year. And it would be a boon to people who cannot or do not drive any longer.

Some of this technology, such as home sensors, bracelets, smartphones, etc. (the ones aimed at old people) have been on the market for at least a decade, becoming more sophisticated with each new release. Some others are at various stages of development, all often marketed to the adult children of elders, and not to elders themselves.

And that's the part about this equipment that makes Crabby Old Lady dubious, deeply so, with the use of these phrases:

“they can continually monitor”
“implanted in their bodies”
"communicate their monitored information”

It's just plain creepy that someone would know and make note if Crabby slept in past her usual waking time. Or that she stayed up all night. Or if it reported her to some anonymous monitor for “accident risks”.

Not to mention that if someone has not yet incorporated Alexa-type listening devices into these monitors, they soon will so that nothing an elder says or does in his/her home is private ever again.

Some elders may like all this peeping Tom elder tech and certainly many can attest to the importance of their medical alert buttons if they have fallen or have needed another kind of help. The difference is that no one is listening 24/7 through those alert devices and they are activated by the persons wearing them.

Golant's purpose with his article is to explain his study into whether elders will even use these smart devices. He has come up with four factors that would influence their decisions:

How serious they are about their health conditions
How resilient and receptive they are to new ideas
How persuasive the information is about the product
How good and/or bad past personal experience with technology has been

It sounds to Crabby that according to Golant she, at age 77, would make a decision pretty much on the same bases as she did at age 27. He suggests that elders focus on three attributes in choosing to purchase these products and services:

  1. Usefulness
  2. Ease of use
  3. Collateral damage

To Golant's credit, he mentions “assaults on privacy” as an example of collateral damage.

Overall, Crabby Old Lady is unsettled by these devices and solutions even as she can see some of their merit. A big problem for Crabby is that we know now after several decades of computers and related technology, that nothing is private anymore.

Not to mention the omnipresence of surveillance wherever we go. These new products just add indoor home cameras and microphones to the public ones that track us on every block.

Really now - Crabby Old Lady would like to walk around naked in her own home when she feels like it with the certainty she is not being watched.

What about you?

Just for fun here at the end, this is a trailer for my favorite robot movie, Robot and Frank starring Frank Langella and Susan Sarandon. As one of the YouTube commenters wrote:

”A brilliant piece of science fiction and drama without a single alien or spaceship."



ELDER MUSIC: Play it Cool

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

* * *

Iciles

I had to Google those things because we don't have them where I live. I hope you aren't too cool to read the column as that's what it's all about.

I was driving to the library and my classical station was playing some really boring stuff so I switched over to the jazz station. I came in the middle of an interesting interpretation of some Leonard Bernstein music from West Side Story. "I wonder who that is", I thought. At the end the announcer said it was the BILL CHARLAP TRIO.

Bill Charlap Trio

"I have him", I retorted (in my head). When I got home I decided to check whether I had that track. Indeed I did and it inspired this column which has a whole range of different genres. Something for everyone.

Here's the inspiration, it's simply called Cool.

♫ Bill Charlap Trio - Cool


Getting quite a long way from lovely piano jazz we have the SONS OF THE PIONEERS.

Sons Of The Pioneers

The group was formed in the 1930s by Leonard Slye and a couple of his friends. Old Len is probably better known to most of us as Roy Rogers. He'd left to pursue a film career by the time this track was recorded, and we have long time front man Bob Nolan singing lead.

The song is one many have tackled over the years but none better than this one, Cool Water.

♫ Sons Of The Pioneers - Cool Water


BING CROSBY has the help of one time Mrs Ronald Reagan, JANE WYMAN. Jane had the good sense to bail out of that marriage.

Bing Crosby & Jane Wyman

There are a bunch of other singers warbling in the background but Bing and Jane are who we're most interested in. They sing In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening.

Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman - In The Cool Cool Cool Of The Evening


Hudson Woodbridge was born in Georgia and later went to Tampa, Florida where he polished his guitar playing. Later still, like many blues performers, he ended up in Chicago where he took the name TAMPA RED.

Tampa Red

Although renowned for his guitar playing, the track today is mostly piano based. It's She's a Cool Operator.

♫ Tampa Red - She's a Cool Operator


Eugene, Charles, and James Strider got together with their friend Earnest Griffin and formed a singing group called THE STRIDERS.

The Striders

Along the way they backed Savannah Churchill on a record and it went so well she joined them. Due to various shenanigans on the part of record companies and the like, their records weren't very successful in spite of the quality of the music.

One of those is Cool Saturday Night.

♫ The Striders - Cool Saturday Night


The Doowop group The Rays originally recorded a song called Daddy Cool. Normally, I would have included their song. However, that one inspired the name of Australia's greatest rock band (that Americans have never heard of) called DADDY COOL.

Daddy Cool

It's probably no surprise that they made a record of the song as well, which I think is better than the original (or maybe I'm biased). Anyway, see what you think.

♫ Daddy Cool - Daddy Cool


Another total change of pace will give us the great THELONIOUS MONK.

Thelonious Monk

The track is not piano based for a change, it's more trumpet and sax oriented than we're generally used to with Monk. It's from quite early in his career as a front man, and the tune is Let's Cool One.

♫ Thelonious Monk - Let's Cool One


There are few cooler performers around than TONY JOE WHITE.

Tony Joe White

If you've never seen him live you really should try to do that. Anyway, his song is Cool Town Woman.

♫ Tony Joe White - Cool Town Woman


Of the sixties English performers, there was no one cooler than GEORGIE FAME.

Georgie Fame

He wasn't like the other kiddies; he preferred cool jazz and laid back blues, no roaring guitars for him. Although he recorded a few pop songs, I didn't think his heart was in it. He was more comfortable with songs like the one today, Cool Cat Blues.

♫ Georgie Fame - Cool Cat Blues


I think I first noticed TIBBY EDWARDS because of his first name, one of my (many) nicknames when I was at primary school.

Tibby Edwards

Tibby was a Cajun country singer who played both styles as well as early rockabilly. He contributed the name of the column with his song, Play It Cool Man, Play It Cool. He obviously listened closely to Hank Williams.

♫ Tibby Edwards - Play It Cool Man Play It Cool



INTERESTING STUFF – 15 September 2018

WHEN WILL THERE BE ENOUGH WOMEN JUSTICES ON THE SUPREME COURT?

Here is what Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has to say about that:

SINGLE PAYER CANDIDATES WINNING PRIMARIES

Remember Wednesday's discussion about the future possibility of Medicare for All?

Throughout this year's primary election season, candidates of a single-payer system, have been winning more often that I, at least, would have predicted. And it happened again. From AP about this week's vote:

“Single-payer health insurance advocates came out on top and are aiming for House seats from West Virginia to California and in governor’s races in Maryland and Florida. Elsewhere, Democrats opted for more centrist candidates — but many of them still further left than the old Blue Dog Democrats booted from Congress during President Barack Obama’s two terms.”

You can read more here.

WHY WE SAY OK?

Or, as I prefer to use it, okay. Here's how it came to be probably the most used word on our planet.

CHINESE TAKEOUT SCENTED CANDLE

As readers must know by now, this blog accepts no advertising and I'm strict about what products and services commenters are allowed to promote.

In no way do I mean you should rush out and buy this product. I just think it's really funny. Take a look:

Takeout-Candle-1_1024x1024

If having your home smell like take-out Chinese food seems like a good idea, you can purchase the candle at Cool Material.

TIRES THAT MOVE A CAR SIDEWAYS

Honest, this is real. I'm not sure I need or want it, but it's an interesting idea.

THE LINK BETWEEN STRESS AND MEMORY

Okay, the video is targeted to students, but we're clever enough at our ages to apply anything from this that makes sense to us in our own kind of stress situations.

TRUMP HITS 5000 LIES ON WAPO FACT CHECKER

From the Washington Post which has diligently been counting the president's lies and misinformation day in and day out.

”On Sept. 7, President Trump woke up in Billings, Mont., flew to Fargo, N.D., visited Sioux Falls, S.D., and eventually returned to Washington. He spoke to reporters on Air Force One, held a pair of fundraisers and was interviewed by three local reporters.

“In that single day, he publicly made 125 false or misleading statements — in a period of time that totaled only about 120 minutes. It was a new single-day high.”

Here's a video about it all:

Read more at the Washington Post.

GIVING WHOLE NEW MEANING TO THE AGE-OLD QUESTION...

...why did the chicken cross the road.

While workers in Mooroolbark Victoria, Australia were laying down a new sidewalk, a wayward chicken came out of nowhere and rudely walked across the wet cement, leaving a trail of distinctive footprints in her wake.

* * *

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog.



The Penis Legislation Act

Even with all the controversy and accusations surrounding the hearings of Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, last week, the people who are supposed to know such things are still saying that his confirmation is a done deal.

They may be right. It does not seem to register with Republicans in Congress that polls repeatedly show a majority of Americans want abortion to remain legal, and many people – legislators and voters - are convinced that a Justice Kavanaugh would become the fifth Court vote needed to overturn Roe v. Wade.

My friend Jim Stone sent me a link to a recent post at McSweeney's satirical section by a writer/reporter/author named Devorah Blachor. I had not read her work before but she sure does have my attention now that I have read her latest story.

Below is the first half or so of Blachor's “Why Are Men Getting So Hysterical About The Penis Legislation Act?” At the bottom, there is a link to the rest of it at the McSweeney's website.

This is a great piece of serious fun. (Links within the post are from the original.) Enjoy.

”We get it. Men are overly emotional. Just look at Alex Jones and Donald Trump. Ok, don’t. But the point stands. Your reaction to a perceived threat of the Penis Legislation Act being overturned is overwrought and hysterical.

“Yes, female politicians have been promising to overturn the Penis Legislation Act since it was enacted. And sure, the Vice President has vowed to send the Penis Legislation Act to the 'ash heap of history.' And fine, I concede that even the President has said she will overturn the Penis Legislation Act, which is so strange since she has clearly made use of it multiple times in the past.

“Still. Why do men have to be so loud and disruptive? The Penis Legislation Act is established and totally safe from being overturned, even though so many powerful women keep promising to get rid of it and seem to have no compunction about taking away men’s rights over their own penises.

“Just consider how the latest SCOTUS nominee was chosen. A small group of women who are famously hostile to the Penis Legislation Act carefully selected the best possible candidates.

“One of the women, who is especially committed to overturning the Penis Legislation Act, was an advisor to the President on this weighty decision. And now the nominee, an affable soccer mom, has refused to commit to upholding the Penis Legislation Act and secret emails reveal that she doesn’t believe The Penis Legislation Act is even settled law. Does that sound like The Penis Legislation Act is in peril? Calm down, gentlemen! Smile!

“While you’re smiling (you look so pretty when you smile!) why not consider, for a moment, that men might not actually know what’s best for their penises? What with their hormonal emotions and everything, might it be possible that we women should make the relevant decisions about men’s health, particularly those that are penile-related?

“When you really think about our track record of valuing male life, the answer is clear. You can totally trust us to decide for you.”

You can finish reading “Why Are Men Getting So Hysterical About the Penis Legislation Act? here at McSweeney's. There is no place to comment on that page but if you've got something to say, you can come back here to let us all know.

And, if you like what you've read, you can find out more about Devorah Blachor here.



What About Medicare For All

As soon as someone says “Medicare for All” or “single-payer healthcare” or “universal coverage”, someone else will argue about definitions. And there are important differences.

But today, we are going with what most of us mean when we use one of those phrases: a system of health care under which everyone is covered, however it is paid for.

Most western democracies use some form of this system. As VeryWellHealth explains:

”...several countries have achieved universal coverage, with 100 percent of their population covered. This includes Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.”

No one in these countries worries that a major illness will bankrupt them as happens in the United States.

Currently, in 2018, about 88 percent of Americans, according to Gallup, are covered to one degree or another depending on what they can afford from private insurers.

Among that number, however, there is one group of people in the U.S. who do enjoy universal, single-player health coverage. It's us old folks, 65 and older. It is of course, called Medicare and as it happens, over the past 15 months I've had a crash course in how it works in real life when something deadly serious comes along.

First, back up to 1965 when Medicare went into effect. I paid into the program from that time forward until I stopped working in 2004. Currently, the Medicare tax is divided between employer and employee, 1.45 percent each.

Many people believe that the Medicare tax covers it and that Medicare, once you are old enough to join, is free. Not so. Use me as an example (this is about traditional Medicare, not Medicare Advantage Plans which I'm not discussing today):

Part A - hospital insurance: free.

Part B – medical insurance: a premium, calculated on income, is deducted from the Social Security (or railroad, etc.) benefit each month. There is a deductible, $183 in 2018. Part B covers about 80 percent of Medicare-approved expenses.

Part D – prescription drugs: provided by Medicare-approved private insurance companies. Premiums vary dramatically.

Supplemental (Medigap) coverage: helps pay the 20 percent of medical costs Part B does not. Premiums currently range from about $74 to more than $400 per month.

In addition to all the personal fears and concerns I had when first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year, I was terrified at what the surgery and accompanying care would cost me, and if I could even afford it. I decided to deal with after I recovered from the surgery.

What I learned is amazing: Medicare is a whole lot like universal coverage in those other countries: So far, I have paid not a dime for medical treatment.

My biggest expense has been Part D, prescription drugs. Just this month, I finally climbed out of the so-called “donut hole” having paid $5,000 out-of-pocket for drugs this year. I am now in what the program calls “catastrophic coverage” where I pay a small fee for each prescription until next year when the process begins again.

Until I was thinking about this blog post, I had never added up what I pay per year for Medicare coverage. I was surprised to find that the premiums for Part B, Part D and supplemental come to just over $4500 per year.

That sounds like a lot until you know that my treatment costs are, so far, close to $1 million.

Most of the objections to Medicare for All are about cost. I have seen estimates of between $2.4 trillion to $2.8 trillion per year. Who knows if that is anywhere near what the reality would be.

For decades, in certain quarters of the population, a few politicians talked about Medicare for All. Recently, during the 2016 presidential campaign, it was presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, calling for Medicare for All. The idea began to spread and catch on.

In April this year, Paul Waldman wrote in the Washington Post:

”Right now Democrats are coalescing around a new model for health-care reform. This November’s election could validate it in a way that practically settles the issue among Democrats. That will then determine the discussion in 2020, and in 2021 it could become the basis for a hugely ambitious overhaul of the system.

“Right now we could be witnessing the genesis of one of the most important domestic policy changes in our history.”

Also in April, Democratic Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Senator Christopher Murphy of Connecticut introduced S.2708, the Choose Medicare Act, that would open up Medicare to anyone who wants it and isn’t already eligible for Medicare or Medicaid.

It is such a good idea to just expand Medicare to everyone rather than start of scratch on a new program. The main infrastructure is already in place, it works well, and could be built upon for the entire population.

Of course, the Choose Medicare Act has gone nowhere due to the Republican control of Congress but if there turns out to be a blue wave in the November mid-term election, that bill – or some others with similar intentions - could come to the floor of Congress.

It won't happen that easily or that quickly, but it would be a fine start to the conversation and eventual reality.

Those countries that have had universal coverage for decades pay a lot more in taxes than we Americans do but I sure wouldn't care if everyone could be as free of economic worry as I have been granted, thanks to Medicare, during the wildly expensive treatment I've received.

Most of all, it is the right thing to do. Health care is a human right and the United States, that so glibly repeats that all men are created equal, that the rights of all persons are diminished when the rights of one are threatened, etc. etc., cannot possibly claim those principles if some cannot afford health care.

The United States desperately need this policy change. If you put more than a minute's thought to it, how can we do differently. Are people without coverage or inadequate coverage just allowed to die in the U.S.? I can't find the answer to that question – or maybe it would be too painful to know.

You might want to think about all this as you consider who to vote for in November.



A TGB Reader Story: The Season of "In Between"

By Carole Leskin

Labor Day weekend. The end of summer. Not really, of course. The calendar tells us that happens on September 22nd. But we know better.

The tourists and summer renters go home. Children go back to school. Families return to their normal, hectic schedules. Carefully tended gardens begin to wilt. And the sun sets earlier as if to say, "Time to go back to work. You've done enough playing for now."

Summer is not my favorite season. I love fall - the colors, fruits and vegetables, crisp air coming through open windows. Wearing sweaters and lighting the fireplace. Walks on brightly colored leaves and listening to them crunch beneath my feet. Hot chocolate and spiced apple cider.

And yet, I always feel this strange sadness as I turn the calendar page to September. A longing. A desire to hold up my hand and say "Stop! I'm not ready". Like I was as a girl - not wanting to leave behind my beloved cabin on the marsh by the bay, my sanctuary, the freedom.

Carolleskin

I will look out over the now-almost deserted beach and listen to the seagulls and crashing waves. Watch the sunsets - different now than just a few days ago. I will think about all the summers past and wonder what the fall will bring.

Mother Nature growing older. As am I.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: This feature, TGB Readers' Stories, appears every Tuesday. Anyone age 50 and older is welcome to submit a story. You can do that by clicking the “Contact” link at the top of every TGB page or at the Guidelines/Submissions page.

Please be sure to read and follow the guidelines before submitting a story. It will save me a lot of time.
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