The 2016 Election and Social Security

As stated clearly in a new, 2016 report from the Economic Policy Insitute (EPI),

Social Security is a pillar of the American economy. It is the most effective anti-poverty program in the United States. For more than half of the over-65 population it is more than half of their income.”

Throughout this year – that is, the remaining nine months of the election campaign – you will hear a lot of talk about how Social Security is broken, bankrupt and needs to be cut or ended. None of that is true. Here is the short version of why from that EPI report:

”Social Security is self-sustaining and solvent; it is neither broken nor bankrupt. It faces a manageable shortfall over a 75-year actuarial window that is a reflection of long-term trends in the economy, whether they be good (increased life expectancy), bad (increased inequality), or simply a change from the past (declining fertility rates).”

As the campaign moves forward, first the primaries and then the general election, Social Security will become a debate football, as it always is. So, to begin, here is what the major Republican candidates have said about the program so far:

Jeb Bush wants to raise the retirement age and “encourage” 401(k) plans for young people.

Ben Carson appears to be in favor of raising the retirement age for Socia Security.

Chris Christie would raise the retirement age, cut Social Security for the wealthy and otherwise institute means testing for anyone who makes more than $80,000 per year. He says Social Security is bankrupt.

Ted Cruz would raise the retirement age and cap cost-of-living (COLA) increases. He has also suggested allowing workers to save up to $25,000 a year in special accounts.

John Kasich hasn't said much about Social Security but in a book ten years ago he appeared to believe that Social Security was insolvent.

Marco Rubio would gradually increase the retirement age, reduce the rate of growth for upper income recipients and “strengthen” the program for low income elders, but no details yet.

Donald Trump opposes both cuts to Social Security and raising the retirement age.

Just in case you don't trust me in regard to the viability of Social Security or that EPI rerport, here is another statement, this one from an expert on financial security of elders who writes for CBS Moneywatch.

”Doomsday statements about never receiving anything from Social Security or calling it a Ponzi scheme are simply off base and don't reflect the reality of how Social Security is financed.”

As you might imagine, the two remaining Democratic candidates for president have a stronger grasp than many of the Republicans on the realities of Social Security:

Hillary Clinton, on her campaign website says she opposes “closing the long-term SSA shortfall on the backs of the middle class, whether through benefit cuts or tax increases.” Some progressive groups believe this is not a strong enough statement against cuts or increases.

Bernie Sanders stands in long-time opposition to any and all SSA benefit cuts and has proposed legislation in the Senate to expand Social Security across the board.

Undoubtedly, as the field of candidates in winnowed down, the candidates will all be asked to provide more detail about their proposals on Social Security, and Medicare too.

What often amazes me – and many of you, also, if comments here over time are an indication – too many elders vote against their own best interests. So as we move deeper into election year, here are some resources for you to keep informed on Social Security. (I'll add information on Medicare in time.)

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) has just launched a new campaign website called Senior Vote 2016 where they will keep readers up to date on all candidates' positions and other news in regard to Social Security and Medicare.

They are convering not just presidential contenders, but congressional races in all the states. You can also sign up for a regular email newsletter from them. This looks to grow into a good, one-stop-shop for Social Security and Medicare election information.

Here is the home page of Senior Vote 2016.

As a couple of the Republican candidates' statements reveal, there is still a lot of belief that Social Security is on its last legs. President George Bush started this rumor back in 2005 when he barnstormed the country trying to “privatize” Social Security.

Whoever the Republican presidential candidate is, along with many Republican (and some Democratic) congressional candidates, will try to convince voters that privatization or something similar is necessary to “save Social Security,” as they like to say.

Nothing could be further from the truth. If you would like to create your own list of talking points about that, I have two more excellent sources for you.

That Economic Policty Institute report I mentioned at the top of this post is specifically written to explain and demystify Social Security to young people – too many of whom believe it won't be there for them. You can read and download it here for free (PDF). It's just as good for old people who need a refresher.

My old friend, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Saul Friedman, who died in 2010, wrote for this blog twice a week during the last couple of years of his life. I'm so proud to have hosted his words and thoughts and his posts are as relevant today as they were then.

Here is one from Saul about Social Security that tells you in easy-to-digest chunks everything you could want to know.


ELDER MUSIC: Australia's Classic 100 Opera Arias (10-1)

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.

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As I mentioned last week in the countdown from 20 to 11, Australia's ABC Classical station had a listeners' poll on their favorite opera arias. These are the big cheeses, so counting down from 10 to 1.

10. RICHARD STRAUSS - Der Rosenkavalier - Hab' mir's gelobt, ihm lieb zu haben

StraussR4

Rich isn't related to the Strauss family who wrote all those waltzes. He's probably best known for the tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra because the initial part of that was used at the beginning of the film "2001, A Space Odyssey.”

“Der Rosenkavalier” was wildly successful when it was premiered in 1911 and has remained popular ever since. The trio Hab mir (etc) is towards the end of the opera when the main bloke has to decide between the two women in his life (one of them saw the light and left him to the other).

Today we have ELISABETH SCHWARZKOPF, ANNELIESE ROTHENBERGER and SENA JURINAC playing those roles.

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf&Anneliese Rothenberger&Sena Jurinac1

♫ Richard Strauss - Der Rosenkavalier ~ Hab mir's gelobt, ihm lieb zu haben


9. CHRISTOPH GLUCK - Orfeo and Euridice - Che faro senza Euridice

Gluck1

“Orfeo and Euridice” belongs to the genre of the azione teatrale. Ah ha. Dr Google informs me that that means an opera on a mythological subject with choruses and dancing. Okey doke, it looks as if everything is covered there.

From that we have the contralto MAUREEN FORRESTER performing Che Faro Senza Euridice or What shall I do without Euridice?

What he does is to decide to top himself – a lot of that goes on in opera – but his mate Amore talks him out of it. In spite of Orfeo being a bloke, his part is usually sung by a woman. Strange things, operas.

MaureenForrester2

♫ Gluck - Orfeo and Euridice ~ Che Faro Senza Euridice


8. GIUSEPPE VERDI - Rigoletto - Bella figlia dell'amore (Act III quartet)

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We have the big guns now, Giuseppe with the opera, and JOAN SUTHERLAND and LUCIANO PAVAROTTI as Gilda and the Duke. Sounds like a TV program from the eighties.

Luciano&Joan4

They perform Bella figlia dell'amore, which is called a quartet on the CD, but I don't know who the other two are.

♫ Verdi - Rigoletto ~ Bella figlia dell'amore


7. RICHARD WAGNER - Tristan and Isolde – Liebestod

Wagner2

Rules are meant to be broken and I'm about to break one of my own self-imposed rules that has held sway for the entire life of this column until now. That is, I wasn't ever going to play any Wagner. Oh well, the good burghers of Australia have ensured that that's gone by the wayside.

The only thing that has made this palatable to me is that I have the incomparable JESSYE NORMAN performing Liebestod from “Tristan and Isolde.”

Jessye Norman

♫ Wagner - Tristan and Isolde ~ Liebestod


6. GIACOMO PUCCINI - Madame Butterfly - Un bel dì (One fine day)

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Just about every soprano worth her salt has had a crack at this one. I have quite a few versions of this particular aria but I'm rather fond of RENATA SCOTTO's version.

RenataScotto1

Okay, I'm rather fond of them all but Renata's is the one you're getting (just to vary the singers a bit).

It's mostly known as One Fine Day, or Un Bel Dì Vedremo in Italian. Cio-Cio San sings about how Pinkerton is going to return one day and take her back to America as his wife. Is she in for a surprise.

♫ Puccini - Madama Butterfly ~ Un Bel Dì Vedremo


5. HENRY PURCELL - Dido and Aeneas - Thy hand, Belinda… When I am laid in earth (Dido's Lament)

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Dido and Aeneas was Henry's first opera and one of the first operas written in English. It was initially performed around 1688 at a girls' school in London.

It is based on Virgil's Aeneid (or part of that work, anyway). JESSYE NORMAN is on hand to sing Thy hand, Belinda, When I am laid in Earth.

Jessye13

♫ Purcell - Dido and Aeneas ~ Thy hand, Belinda - When I am laid in earth


4. WOLFGANG MOZART - Così fan tutte - Soave sia il vento

Mozart

My favorite operas of Wolfie's weren't selected but I can't quibble because any from him is worth listening to.

Actually, this aria is sublime and it's performed by MONTSERRAT CABALLÉ, JANET BAKER and RICHARD VAN ALLAN. It's Soave sia il vento (or May the wind be gentle).

Montserrat&Janet&Richard1

♫ Mozart - Così fan tutte ~ Soave sia il vento


3. LÉO DELIBES - Lakmé - Sous le dôme épais (Flower Duet)

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This aria is hugely popular so it's no surprise that it came in at number three. It's been used in other settings – in films, TV and (alas) advertisements.

The opera is set in India and all the bigwigs go off to the temple to do whatever they do leaving Lakmé behind. She goes down to the river to gather flowers with her servant and they sing this as they collect them.

Performing those roles are ELINA GARANCA and ANNA NETREBKO who sing together quite a lot.

ElinaGaranca &AnnaNetrebko1

♫ Delibes - Lakmé ~ Sous le dôme épais


2. VERDI - Nabucco - Va, pensiero (Chorus of the Hebrew slaves)

Verdi4

Va, pensiero/dm (or Chorus of the Hebrew slaves) gives choral music a good name. It makes you want to sing along or conduct along as I was doing as I played this piece of music.

The choristers are the Ambrosian Opera Chorus. Be warned: there are three really loud chords about 30 seconds in.

♫ Verdi - Nabucco ~ Va pensiero


1. GEORGES BIZET - The Pearl Fishers - Au fond du temple saint

Bizet1

The voting public got this right. There are many duets in opera but none of them are better than this one.

Georges is better known as the creator of "Carmen" (which was a total flop when first performed) but I prefer “The Pearl Fishers” as does the listening public here in Oz it seems.

Again, I had several versions from which to choose, and settled on JUSSI BJÖRLING and ROBERT MERRILL performing Au fond du temple saint (or In the depths of the temple).

JussiBjörling&RobertMerrill3

♫ Bizet - The Pearl Fishers ~ Au fond du temple saint



INTERESTING STUFF – 6 February 2016

THE ULTIMATE CAT LADY

Except when I was married for awhile half a century ago and we had four cats, I have always had one cat at a time. There is a reason for that: I'm pretty sure if I starting taking in more cats, I wouldn't stop and I'd become the crazy cat lady on my block. I have never wanted to be that.

But this lady, 67-old Lynea Lattanzio, does. She has 1100 cats (that is not a typo). This is her story:

Learn more about the Cat House On The Kings at the website.

JOHN OLIVER ON THE TONIGHT SHOW

John Oliver's HBO program Last Week Tonight returns next weekend.

Meanwhile, a week or so ago, he visited Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show to explain why interviewing Edward Snowden in Russia was much less legally safe than founding his own church - both of which he did last season:

FASTEST RUBIK'S CUBE SOLVING ROBOT

”They” keep telling us that the robots will conquer the world, take over everything and eventually rule humanity.

Perhaps a step toward that outcome happened a couple of weeks ago when, for the first time, a computer solved Rubik's Cube faster than any human has.

Two friends, Jay Flatland and Paul Rose, built the robot that solved Rubik's Cube in 1.04 seconds. The human world record is 4.904 seconds.

Here's the video. I don't understand a word these guys are saying but it's worth sticking around to the end to see the speedy robot solve the cube.

CIA RELEASES SECRET “X FILES” DOCUMENTS

Maybe you know that after 25 years or so, The X-Files TV show has returned for a six-episode reprise.

I watched the old series now and then. I was not a diehard fan in those days but for some reason, I've made this go-round a must watch and I am thoroughly enjoying the update. It may be that the CIA is also enjoying it. As Raw Story reports:

”Prior to the relaunch of Fox’s supernatural and conspiracy series The X Files, the normally secretive Central Intelligence Agency became less publicity shy, releasing documents and photos detailing their own top secret investigations into UFO sightings.

“On their blog, — yes, the CIA has a blog — the agency invited the world to 'take a peek into our X Files,' providing photos and links to documents dating back to the early 50’s.”

For some reason I find this charming. You can read more at Raw Story and check out the CIA documents here.

THE U.S. ELECTION FROM ONE EUROPEAN POINT OF VIEW

There was a lot of response here last Monday when I broke with precedent and wrote about our presidential election campaign.

A few commenters said they were not paying attention, or not close attention. On Thursday, a TGB reader in Germany, Freya, explained why she wants all Americans to keep a close eye on the campaign. A couple of excerpts:

”Believe it or not, I followed the Iowa caucus live on TYT Network online, staying up all night till 5 in the morning. I found it very exciting. My heart goes out to Bernie Sanders.

“Why would I be interested?

“Who will be the next POTUS is relevant and important to the whole world, not only to the US alone.

“Enough is enough, quoting Mr.Sanders, appears to be right on so many fields, not only wealth distribution, but also regarding messing up the Middle East and up to a certain extent, the whole world...

“Please do not walk away from being interested in politics, your decisions matter for all of us. Greetings from good old Europe!”

Freya has a lot more good reasons for wanting us to pay close attention to the campaign. You can read her full comment here.

UPDATE: After preparing this post, Freya left another note about the importance of political news coverage and compares U.S. (she lived in the U.S. in the past) and German news. It's interesting to have an informed European perspective and worth your time to click over and read.

BERNIE SANDERS ON RELIGION

Speaking of our presidential campaign, last Thursday evening CNN held a Democratic Town Hall with candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Personally, I don't believe a candidate's religion should be anyone's business, including voters, but that's not the way the U.S. works these days.

So CNN anchor Anderson Cooper asked Mr. Sanders this question:

“You’re Jewish, but you’ve said that you’re not actively involved with organized religion. What do you say to a voter out there who says - and that who sees faith as a guiding principle in their lives, and wants it to be a guiding principle for this country?”

You can't ask for any better answer than Bernie Sanders gave – better than any politician of any party or religious leaning I've ever heard:

“I believe that, as a human being, the pain that one person feels, if we have children who are hungry in America, if we have elderly people who can’t afford their prescription drugs, you know what, that impacts you, that impacts me.

“And I worry very much about a society where some people spiritually say, it doesn’t matter to me, I got it, I don’t care about other people. So my spirituality is that we are all in this together and that when children go hungry, when veterans sleep out on the street, it impacts me. That’s my very strong spiritual feeling.”

Yes. We are all in this together, folks, and I don't understand why so many political candidates and voters, too – often the ones who proclaim their faith most vociferously - don't believe that.

100 YEARS OF CARS

You would think that I, as someone who didn't own a car for nearly half a century and sees them still as nothing more than a means to get from here to there, wouldn't care but this video. But you would be wrong.

The producers of this video have chosen one glorious auto design example for each decade of the last hundred years and lovingly photographed them. Beautiful.

FIRST U.S. AIRPORT EXCLUSIVELY FOR THE RICH AND FAMOUS

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) has won approval to build a new terminal. But you'll never get to use it. The plan is

”...to redevelop a cargo hangar into the US’s first terminal dedicated to the rich and famous. The airport said the Los Angeles Suite, which will allow celebrities and diplomats to avoid paparazzi, or protesters, by allowing cars to drop off guests behind closed doors...

“It will cost [passengers] $1,500-$1,800 per trip to use the new terminal, which will include exclusive lounges, dedicated catering and separate security and border checkpoints.

“Deborah Ale Flint, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports which operates LAX, said allowing celebrities a private route through the airport will also make travelling more pleasant for the general public, who have often been caught up in media scrums.”

Yeah, right. You can read more at Raw Story.

TEEN CLIMBS GREAT PYRAMID OF GIZA

Eighteen-year-old German tourist Andrej Ciesielski got a view that few people ever see - Egypt from the top of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Climbiing the ancient pyramids is forbidden and he was caught by police when he reached the bottom. It took only eight minutes to get to top, says Ciesielski, but 20 minutes to get back down. Here's part of the video he shot.

The police released Ciesielski after questioning. You can read more at Gizmodo and the full eight-minute video is here.

THE ELEPHANTS THAT CAME TO DINNER

As the YouTube page explains,

”At [Mfuwe Lodge] a five-star lodge in Zambia, a bizarre phenomenon is stumping wildlife experts and delighting tourists. An elephant family, led by a matriarch named Wonky Tusk, is overtaking the lobby.

“Though elephants can be violent in the wild, here they climb the stairs of Mfuwe Lodge and grace past reception without bumping a chair.”

You'll see immediately why the matriarch is called Wonky Tusk and it is a fascinating story. (I keep thinking I've posted this before but it's such a good story, who cares.)

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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” in the 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 IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.


Reporting From the Country of Old Age

As I've told you ad nauseum here, I started studying ageing 20-odd years ago because the received wisdom everywhere in those days was that getting old is awful, the worst thing that could happen to anyone.

It consists, they all said, of decline, debility, disease and death but I just couldn't or wouldn't believe it and I still don't.

So in addition to keeping up with ageing as it relates to health, medical research, social issues, discrimination, politics, entertainment, news reporting, humor and more at Time Goes By, I have also made it a point to discuss the everyday indications of growing old that no one younger (you know, the people who do the most writing about age) have any experience with.

We don't shy away here from frank talk of female baldness, incontinence, memory lapses, muffin tops, disappearing butts, sex in old age, becoming invisible to the world, losing old friends, fear of dementia, plus the biggest one of all, facing death – and that list doesn't begin to cover it.

For today's post, I had been fussing with an essay about the difficulty of telling the difference between age-related slowness versus laziness. I was getting nowhere useful or worthwhile until an email arrived from my friend, Ken Pyburn, with this quotation from British writer and Booker Prize winner, Penelope Lively, who is currently 82 years old:

“One of the few advantages of age is that you can report on it with a certain authority; you are a native now, and know what goes on here...Our experience is one unknown to most of humanity, over time. We are the pioneers."

- From Dancing Fish and Ammonites – A Memoir (2013)

Exactly! I thought. That is exactly what I do here, “report on old age with a certain authority” - as do other elders, you in the comments, for example – because we are living it, this country of elderhood, as no one can until they get here.

In regard to that reporting, a large part of what I do to produce this blog is keep an eye on myself as the years pass, to watch the changes and compare them to what I read and hear from others about this experience of growing old.

Ms. Lively's quotation being a native now of this land clarified my thinking on the original topic I had planned so I can now shorten it from 15 or 20 rambling paragraphs I was working on to three or four. It boils down to this:

Whether it is household chores like vacuuming and dusting or outside events – a meeting, lunch or dinner with a friend, a movie, a day trip to the coast or a winery – I seem to be doing fewer of these.

It breaks down to one planned event a day that I find tolerable. If I have a dental appointment - come on, it's only an hour - I won't book a social engagement. If this is the day I choose to clean the bathrooms, vacuum, do the laundry and scrub floors, I won't go to lunch.

And, whenever I do plan a day with others, I go to great lengths to be sure I am free of engagements on the days before and after to be alone.

Compared to most people I've known, even in youth and middle age I needed more time alone. But I seem to need much more now of what I think of as a psychic renewal period after being with others before I'm ready to face the outside world again.

Since I've noticed this phenomenon, the puzzle has been whether desiring more quiet time is common to growing older or if I am just being lazy. Or maybe I want to slow down life itself – that is, even if my walking pace doesn't appear to have changed, perhaps my life pace might be slowing, taking more time to move from one activity to the next.

Most of the literature on age and social life is concerned with people who are isolated and lonely which doesn't shed much light on what I'm talking about.

So today, let's take Ms. Lively's assertion that we are pioneers in this country of old age, that we know a bit of what we speak, and take a crack at this question of laziness or natural slowing of daily life. Have you noticed this? What do you think?


An Elder's Life – A Little Masterpiece of a Movie

There is a burgeoning industry of media about being old. The past few years have seen an increase in the number of movies - theatrical and TV - starring old people, a large amount of the daily health reporting is related to old age issues and there are hundreds of new books each year about old people.

Most of this explosion in age media is dreck. Trust me. I wade through way too much of it for this blog. But maybe that is what makes it so thrilling when a gem comes along.

Last week, The New Yorker released online the latest short film in its Screening Room series titled “Mend and Make Do.” In the magazine's discussion of it, reporter Sarah Larson explains that in the opening,

”...we see images of a real-life living room—old framed photographs, doilies, sewing baskets, a lace-covered window, a spoon stirring sugar into a cup of tea—and hear the voice of an elderly woman with a vigorous Merseyside accent.

“'There is no embarrassment! Nothing like that today, about asking a man to go to bed with you, or get in the hot tub with you,” she says. “It wasn’t done when I was young.' As she remembers the past, objects in the room come to life.”

Well, I was hooked.

It is an eight-minute biographical documentary about 87-year-old Lyn Schofield who relates episodes from her life as the stop-motion animation illustrates them. The 25-year-old filmmaker, Bexie Bush, is as compelling as her film:

”...her main influence was working at Betty’s, a hairdressing salon that her grandmother opened in the fifties. 'All the ladies are still going there now, so it’s quite a sweet place to work,' she said.

“She listened to their stories while shampooing, brushing up, making tea, cleaning the windows, mopping the floor. It was very much a Cinderella job...

“Bush’s grandmother died several years ago, and her aunt now runs Betty’s. 'That generation of women is changing, too,' Bush said. We’re seeing the last of the era of 'blue rinses and perms and hair in rollers.'

“Bush admires not just the people but the aesthetic; she wants to capture them as they are while they’re here. 'I kind of dress like them as well,' she said. 'I do my hair like them. Victory rolls, and I sleep in rollers. I love everything about it. Making the most of what you’ve got. Making your own clothes.'”

Before I introduce “Mend and Make Do,” take a look at this delightful two-minute animation that Ms. Bush made about Betty's hair salon four years ago. That's four years ago- when she was 21.

Bexie Bush's films are such unique charmers that I couldn't resist tracking down more information about what she is like. Here is a short interview with her last April when she was showing “Mend and Make Do” at the European Independent Film Festival:

Finally, without further ado, here is “Mend and Make Do.” I'm pretty sure you're going to be as enchanted as I am.

TGB reader, Tom Delmore, brought this film to my attention. You can read more about it at The New Yorker and more about Bexie Bush and her work at her website.


Am I Exhausted From the Campaign Because I'm Old?

Or is it something else?

[RONNI HERE: As the subtitle says in the banner above, Time Goes By is about “What it's really like to get old.” That's what I cover here, ageing, and that's what it will continue to be.

But when it came time to write today's blog post, I was in such a bad mood about U.S. campaign politics and the news coverage of it, that was all I could think about. Maybe it's an opportunity for us all to vent for a day (it is for me).

Our regularly scheduled programming will resume on Wednesday.

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The Iowa caucuses take place today. At last. It seems to me that the lead-up has been going on for at least a year (it feels like 10) and I wasn't sure this day would ever arrive. I cannot be the only person who is suffering from campaign fatigue, worn out, sapped of the strength to care about any of them anymore.

But the gawdawful thing is that today's caucuses won't stop or even slow the 24/7 campaign and so-called news coverage of it.

The New Hampshire primary is hard on the heels of Iowa, then South Carolina, Nevada is in there somewhere and not too far down the road Super Tuesday, etc.

I am seriously worried that my mind will not survive intact from the useless mush being fed us by the candidates themselves and the media.

The only question left is what good this constant avalanche of campaign coverage is for voters? It's gone on for so long already that anyone who has only vaguely heard some news in the background a couple of times a week pretty well knows where every candidate stands on every possible issue.

Well, except for Donald Trump who has no issues but his poll numbers. Even on that one, the media has spent so many millions of words supposedly to explain him that you would think it's difficult. It is not.

I knew a couple of braggarts exactly like Mr. Trump when I was in fourth grade. The rest of us just ignored them then and they soon shut up. Apparently the news media didn't learn that trick when they were in school.

That's who I blame for my brain having reached meltdown – the news people. It's not like they have used the 24/7, two-year campaign to educate us about the crucial issues facing the U.S. and the world.

Just like Mr. Trump, they are concerned only with poll numbers and fill the time between each new survey with a bunch of uninformed talking heads whose abilities are better suited to covering the Kardashians.

It hasn't always been like this, you know. I spent a great deal of my working life in news and related media and I'm proud of the job my colleagues and I did in those days.

A big part of the deterioration since then is that there used to be time to research the story, do all the homework, track down the facts, check rumors against reality, find real experts on the subject and put it all together in a coherent package people could understand, while aiming for as little bias as can be achieved. We didn't always reach all the goals but we generally did a better job than now.

Today, with the internet and 24-hour TV news, the requirements are different and simple: fill the time - all 24 hours of it each day. It doesn't matter if what you say (or read what someone else wrote for the TelePrompTer) makes any sense or illuminates the story.

There are rare exceptions with a few reporters but the operative word is “rare.”

Simultaneously, the individual campaigns have become full-time, perpetual “shows." That's what they are now, entertainment designed to please and pander this constituency or that, and the candidates have long figured out that they must campaign full time, all the time - no respite for them or us for a day or two now and then - to become well known enough to reach the Oval Office.

I remember the exact moment I came to understand this. It was the evening of election day in 2008. While speaking with a friend on the telephone as we each watched the returns on television in our respective homes, as Barack Obama's win was announced I said, “Well, the 2012 election begins tomorrow.

I was half kidding. I thought so, anyway. But when I turned on the news the next morning, two or three politicians had already announced they would be running against Obama in the 2012 presidential election.

And the worst of that is that I'm pretty sure now that the never-ending, no-break presidential campaign had been going on for a long time by then and I had only just noticed.

I believe the biggest reason Donald Trump leads the other Republicans in the Iowa and New Hampshire contests (and some national polls) is that unlike the other candidates, he is already a reality TV star so no one has work at getting to know him.

But back to the perpetual campaign - how can any president – doesn't matter which party – possibly govern in any effective manner if before he or she is inaugurated, the next campaign has begun? And how is that good for the U.S.? Or in the 21st century connected world?

This 2016 episode of the campaign show feels even worse than in the past because of the boredom induced by the mind-numbing repetition of Trump's poll numbers, his fourth grade braggart's constant attacks on any- and everyone, and his profoundly simplistic solutions to problems he apparently does not grasp.

But that doesn't let the others off the hook.

I am exhausted by the petty and naive nature of this campaign. I don't believe the international community has ever faced such a dire and complex set of issues as there is now, any one of which could change the world as we know it. It frightens me that no one in the field for president seems to know this. Even if they do, I don't think any one has any answers (in fairness, who could?) but at least there should be a reasoned debate in the campaign and there has been none.

FRIENDLY REMINDER: I'm taking a big chance with this post. One good reason not to do politics on a blog is to avoid nasty trolls and other vitriol from commenters against one another. Let me remind everyone today, none of that is acceptable here.

Certainly disagree - with me or any commenter. Argue, in the best sense of the word, with one another too. But the rule here remains the same: keep it civil. No one gets a second chance. If you cross the line, your comment will be removed and you will be permanently banned from this blog.


ELDER MUSIC: Australia's Classic 100 Opera Arias (20-11)

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.

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Once in a while Australia's ABC Classical music station (networked throughout the country) has a listeners' poll on the favorite pieces of music in various categories.

This time it was opera arias and that gives me a chance to play some terrific singers and not worry about which piece of music to include as the selection has been done for me.

We're doing the Top 20, the first half today and the rest next week. Here we go, counting down from 20 to 11.

I could very well rename this "The Puccini Column" as he makes six appearances. He's also in next week (but only once). I'll start with him and one of his lesser known operas “Gianni Schicchi,” but hardly a lesser known aria.

20. GIACOMO PUCCINI - Gianni Schicchi - O mio babbino caro

Puccini

This is one of a trio of one-act operas Gia released around 1917, is the only one of those regularly staged these days and that's probably only due to this aria which is more often performed as a concert piece.

Here is the wonderful RENÉE FLEMING performing O Mio Babbino Caro (or "Oh My Beloved Father").

Renee Fleming

Puccini - Gianni Schicchi ~ Mio Babbino Caro


19. PUCCINI - Madama Butterfly - The Humming Chorus

Puccini

Gia again with one of his famous pieces. Actually, all the ones included are famous because of the selection method. Just the chorus, no individual singers. The Humming Chorus or Coro A Bocca Chiusa.

♫ Puccini - Madama Butterfly ~ Coro A Bocca Chiusa


18. WOLFGANG MOZART - The Magic Flute - Der Hölle Rache

Mozart

Wolfie is sadly under-represented in these columns, only one today and one next week. If I were choosing... (yeah, yeah, yeah, I hear you say).

Wolfie wrote this originally for his sister-in-law (Josepha Hofer) to sing in the premiere. She must have been quite the performer because those who have tackled the role of Queen of the Night since have complained about its difficulty.

This is the Queen of the Night aria or Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen, performed today by SIMONE KERMES.

Simone Kermes

♫ Mozart - The Magic Flute ~ Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen


17. GAETANO DONIZETTI - Lucia di Lammermoor - Mad Scene

Donizetti

There are a number of mad scenes in opera, some of them even on the stage. This is the most famous of them.

JOAN SUTHERLAND made this one her own over the years; she performed it many times. It's Il dolce suono or just "the mad scene" from Lucia di Lammermoor.

Joan Sutherland

♫ Donizetti - Lucia di Lammermoor ~ Il dolce suono


16. PUCCINI - Madame Butterfly - Vogliatemi bene (Act I love duet)

Puccini

The love duet is performed early on in the opera by Cio-Cio San and the American Pinkerton expressing their undying love for each other. Poor old Cio-Cio is in for a big disappointment.

RENATA SCOTTO and CARLO BERGONZI play those roles today.

Renata Scotto & Carlo Bergonzi

♫ Puccini - Madama Butterfly ~ Vogliatemi Bene, Un Bene Piccolino


15. PUCCINI - La Bohème - Che gelida manina

Puccini

Now for two in a row from the same opera, La Bohème, one of the most famous in the repertoire and one of the most performed. First off it's the turn of LUCIANO PAVAROTTI who made a bit of a name for himself as a singer.

Luciano Pavarotti

He performs Che gelida manina (or "What a cold little hand").

Puccini - La Boheme ~ Che gelida manina


14. PUCCINI - La Bohème - O soave fanciulla

Puccini

There was a terrific production of this opera by the Australian Opera some years ago. Fortunately, it was preserved on DVD (and CD). The two singers are DAVID HOBSON and CHERYL BARKER.

Norma, the Assistant Musicologist selected the photo of David as she's a bit of a fan.

David Hobson

I chose the picture of Cheryl as the same applies for me with her.

Cheryl Barker

The aria is O soave fanciulla (or "Oh lovely girl", the famous love duet).

♫ Puccini - La Boheme ~ soave fancuilla


13. VINCENZO BELLINI - Norma - Casta diva

Bellini

“Norma” is the A.M.'s favorite opera and it's not just because of its name. Or so she says. It's all to do with that final act where the singing just builds and builds and just when you think they can't do any more they up the ante.

The selection today, though, is from early in the opera and we have the incomparable CECILIA BARTOLI performing Casta Diva.

Cecilia Bartoli

♫ Bellini - Norma ~ Casta Diva


12. PUCCINI - Turandot - Nessun dorma

Puccini

LUCIANO PAVAROTTI makes a return visit with almost certainly the most famous aria in opera, Nessun dorma ("None shall Sleep").

Luciano Pavarotti

He performed this as a stand-alone piece numerous times, however, here he is from a recording of the complete opera – that way we get all the extra background stuff usually missing when it's performed on its own.

Because of that, the ending is a bit abrupt as the opera continues without a break.

♫ Puccini - Turandot ~ Nessun dorma!


11. ANTONIN DVORÁK - Rusalka - Song to the Moon

Dvorák

Antonin is better known as a composer of instrumental music, especially symphonies, however, he wrote a few operas. Only one of these is regularly performed these days and it's this one.

From that we have the aria Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém (generally known as "Song to the Moon") performed by LUCIA POPP.

Lucia Popp

♫ Dvorák - Rusalka ~ Song to the Moon


The top 10 of Australia's Classic 100 Opera Arias will appear here next week.


INTERESTING STUFF – 30 January 2016

ACTOR ABE VIGODA DIES - AGAIN

Remember Barney Miller? And remember the loveable Detective Fish on that show. His daughter announced this week that he died in his sleep at age 94.

But he had died once before – sort of – when it was erroneously reported and believed by many news outlets in 1988, that he had died. Here's how David Letterman handled that on his show.

And here's a little clip from Barney Miller with Vigoda as Detective Fish:

You can read more about Abe Vigoda here.

WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR BODY IN SPACE?

As you may know, astronaut Scott Kelly's year in space will soon end. It's been an important trip to study, in preparation for future long trips to Mars, what happens to the human body when it lives in a weightless environment for a long time.

What's unique about this is that Scott has left an identical copy of himself back on earth, his twin and also astronaut, Mark Kelly. Researchers will be able to compare their bodies to when Scott returns.

Mark and Scott Kelly

That's Mark Kelly on the left and Scott on the right.

Meanwhile, a week or so ago, RawStory pubished a list of five things that are known to happen to the human body in space. The short version is:

  1. You get weaker
  2. So does your heart
  3. Fitness suffers
  4. You lose bone
  5. Your immune system suffers

Go to RawStory to read full explanations of those five bodily changes in space.

You can read more about the Kelly brothers twin study here.

GREAT BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN AD

Not being a resident of Iowa or New Hampshire or South Carolina, I probably would have missed this if not for reading Charlie Pierce's blog in Esquire magazine each day. Here's what he wrote:

”Call me an aging Boomer sap, but I think this Bernie Sanders ad is just about the best political commercial I've ever seen. The song is perfect. The selection of visuals is dead on—the little kid carrying the calf just kills me—and it's so welcoming and positive that it makes the old Reagan 'Morning In America' ads look like death-metal videos.

“If all the Sanders campaign does is inject the spirit of this commercial into our money-drenched, dead-assed politics, then it is already far more than merely a worthwhile endeavor.”

I sure don't disagree. See what you think.

THE RADICAL BROWNIES

Hey, my fellow elder woman friends here, were you a Brownie when you were a kid? With at least one troop of them in California, it ain't their mothers' or grandmothers' Brownies anymore:

”The Radical Brownies, a social justice-oriented version of the Girl Scouts, was set up only a few weeks ago to 'empower young girls of colour to step into their collective power, brilliance and leadership to make the world a more radical place,' reports the Guardian.

“The group of 12 girls are not affiliated to the Girl Guide movement and there are no badges for hostessing.

“Instead, the members, aged between eight and 12 years old, learn about black history, civil rights and social justice; their reward system includes a 'Black Lives Matter' badge and lessons in sustainable agriculture for a 'Food Justice' badge. 'Radical Beauty,' 'Radical Self-Love,' and 'LGBT Ally' badges are also on the curriculum.”

Fantastic. When my friend Jim Stone forwarded the story to me, he noted in his email, “This picture slays me.” Me too. Take a look:

Radicalbrownies

Read some more about the Radical Brownies here.

WHAT CONGRESS LOOKED LIKE AFTER THE BLIZZARD THIS WEEK

Washington, D.C. took a big weather hit with last weekend's blizzard and wasn't nearly as well prepared for cleanup as New York City. Even so, some Congress members turned up for work on Tuesday. And some did not. Can you guess who they were?

What happened to the men? Senator Lisa Murkowski told Huffington Post that

”...she spent much of her weekend shoveling and was ready to 'be back at work where it's a little less rigorous.'”

SNOWBOARDING IN MANHATTAN

As I think I mentioned last week, I still lived in Manhattan in 2006 when the last gigantic snowstorm hit town. Big blizzards make the city so beautiful and force everyone - everyone - to stop and take a break for a day or two. In my case, I can't resist behaving like a kid - last time it was making snow angels.

I suffered a bad case of envy for not to be in New York last weekend and I sure did enjoy watching these guys who defied the rules (and, apparently, paid the price) to have a great time in the snow, big city style.

AN EAGLE AT THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN

Peter Tibbles sent this story about Oorik the wedge-tailed eagle who “works” at the annual matches:

”With uncommon vision, an enviable wing span and an inbuilt killer instinct, he belonged in this place as much as any tennis player. Holding court on centre court, he walked slowly, claw foot by claw foot, exploring the now empty space where Daria Gavrilova​ had only just dispatched Petra Kvitovz.

“Then he sat still in the vacant stadium, perched on the net, feeding on a bit of fresh rabbit meat, like a dragon alone in his lair.”

Oorikonnetfromscooponest

Konrad Marshall, writing in The Age, continues:

”Such is life for the young rescued raptor, one of many birds raised in captivity and now a star. He is at the Australian Open under a pest control research program, with permission from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. It is the first major study of its kind locally.”

It's a fascinating story that you can read more of here. And this photo shows off Oorik's magnificent wingspan.

Oorikswingspanattennisopen

F/A HORNETS AND SUPER HORNETS

No, not the bugs. These are combat jet planes as they takeoff and land aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65).

“The video includes the aircraft flying in tandem formation at low altitude above the water, conducting banking and rolling maneuvers at high-speed, and making high-speed passes over the aircraft carrier. Filmed from the cockpit and pilot point-of-view.”

I'm not much fond of heights but this is amazing to watch. Maybe you'll think so too.

UNDERCATS

Betcha don't know what undercats are. I didn't but I do now. Photographer Andrius Burba explains that he was at

“...the international cat show which recently took place in Vilnius, Lithuania. The idea about taking photos from underneath came from the similar photo which I randomly found on the internet.

“I was fascinated by their cute little paws which were impossible to resist to look at. But the main idea which I wanted to express through these photos, is that cats feel embarrassed about this part of a body which people don’t get to see daily.”

Here are a couple of examples.

UndercatsGray

Undercatswhite

You can see a whole bunch more of Burba's undercats at Bored Panda.

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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” in the 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 IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.


The Scarcity of Geriatricians

As I had done when I moved to Portland, Maine in 2006, I looked for a geriatrician when, four years later, I moved to Oregon. With each inquiry in both states, I was told that the doctor's practice was full.

That put me off for awhile. I am lucky to be healthy and over a lifetime have spent little time with physicians. But the need for a physical before cataract surgery sent me on the hunt again.

The primary care physician I found is nice enough and apparently competent. As the clinic's staff certainly is. But I'm the one who leads the discussion of my exams, he spends most of our truncated hour together tapping at his laptop keyboard and I find myself wondering if he's paying attention at all.

If you have heart trouble, you need a cardiologist. Pregnant? An obstetrician. Parkinson's? Probably a neurologist. And so on. For old age, that would be a geriatrician but you're unlikely to find one in the U.S.

I have written about the diminishing number of geriatricians in the past and it came to my attention again earlier this week when The New York Times published some well done reporting on the situation. The basics:

”There are about 7,000 geriatricians in practice today in the United States,” writes Katie Hafner. “The American Geriatrics Society estimates that to meet the demand, medical schools would have to train at least 6,250 additional geriatricians between now and 2030, or about 450 more a year than the current rate.”

But the fact is, as Hafner reports, openings in medical schools for the specialty go empty. Further:

”People avoid the field for understandable reasons. Geriatrics is among the lowest-paying specialties in medicine. According to the Medical Group Management Association, in 2014, the median yearly salary of a geriatrician in private practice was $220,000, less than half a cardiologist’s income...

“Since the health care of older patients is covered mostly by Medicare, the federal insurance program’s low reimbursement rates make sustaining a geriatric practice difficult, many in the field say.

“'Medicare disadvantages geriatricians at every turn, paying whatever is asked for medications and procedures, but a pittance for tough care-planning,' said Dr. Joanne Lynn, a geriatrician and the director of the Center for Elder Care and Advanced Illness at Altarum Institute, a nonprofit health systems research organization based in Ann Arbor, Mich.”

Certification in geriatrics requires one or two more years of training beyond completing study for family or internal medicine. In addition to clinical care, geriatricians are

”...skilled in navigating the labyrinth of psychological and social problems that often arise in the aging population.”

According to The Times and I've heard it before, some primary care physicians do not believe geriatrics, even as a specialty, is necessary, that their training is sufficient.

“'This is simply untrue,' Dr. [Elizabeth] Eckstrom, [a geriatrician] said. 'Just think about dementia, or delirium caused by a medication. Those are just two conditions you seldom see in middle-aged adults.'”

Exactly. While other kinds of physicians are accustomed to treating and curing individual medical problems one at a time in younger adults, elders often have multiple diseases, issues and conditions that make treatment more complex as they often can not be cured but can be managed. However, reports Hafner,

”Young physicians in training find it difficult to muster interest in the slow grind of caring for older patients, and days filled with discussions about medication management, insomnia, memory loss and Meals on Wheels deliveries.”

Even though there are not enough of them, some young medical students see it differently (and thank god for them):

”An old family member is often the inspiration for medical students who choose geriatrics. 'My grandmother was one of my best friends when I was growing up,' said Dr. Emily Morgan, 37, who recently joined Dr. Eckstrom in her practice.

“Dr. Morgan said that watching her grandmother’s decline after a car accident, followed by a terribly painful death, instilled in her a deep belief 'in the inherent dignity and worth of a life, especially towards the end.'”

One hopeful sign from The Times story is that some geriatricians think beliefs about their field are changing and that it

”...will soon receive the recognition it deserves. New payment models that hold doctors and health systems accountable for keeping people healthy are on the rise, and geriatricians foresee a day when they are better valued and compensated.”

Although there is nothing I can do personally to increase the number of geriatricians, I find myself feeling frustrated and resentful that at this time of life, even healthy as I am for the moment, I cannot have the kind of physician who could best keep me that way.

With the growing number of elders over the next 30 or 40 years, the shortage of geriatricians is a serious social problem. The Times story is a good explanation of where we stand on the issue as a country and you should give it a read.

With all that, the same newspaper just reviewed a new book, Remaking the American Patient, in which author Nancy Tomes, a professor of history at Stony Brook University, “outlines in a seamless and utterly fascinating narrative, [that] the good old days never really existed.”

Excerpts from the review:

”Do you feel dehumanized as a 21st-century patient because modern medical care is all about the technology? Sad to say, that process began long ago. It was back in the 1920s that doctors’ offices first loaded up with machinery in order to impress patients with 'new and improved' medical care.”
”Do you feel battered by the pharmaceutical marketplace, full of noisy ads masquerading as information? Ms. Tomes points out that it was always thus: Drugs have been enthusiastically hawked from the dawn of advertising.”
”Are you perplexed by our regulatory chaos, with layer upon layer of well-meaning but persistently ineffective efforts to guarantee the safety of medical services? It turns out we come from a long tradition of such inadequacy: Patient safety has been the holy grail for everyone, long sought, never achieved.”

The book sounds fascinating. You can read more about it at The New York Times.

Recently, a friend mentioned in an email that his primary care physician told him that he should get a geriatrician.

”I said 'ok',” my friend told me, “but I knew it was about as close to possible as me getting on the next moon shot. The people on the 'inside' are clueless [about] what...patients go through just to get competent care. Live hard, die young, is a positive message!”

Are you lucky enough to have a geriatrician? Or, are you comfortable that your primary care physician is informed enough about elder medical issues?


Alive! 55 Plus and Kickin' - Inspired and Inspiring

Ordinarily, I leave anything about music to Peter Tibbles in his Sunday Elder Music column at this blog. Peter's knowledge, with the aid of “assistant musicologist” Norma, is wide and deep. Mine, although I am an appreciator, is haphazard and thin.

But I have some music for you today because this particular music carries great significance for us elders beyond its intrinsic beauty.

I came across it accidentally while absently clicking around the television dial last Sunday – a rerun of 60 Minutes, a year-old episode from January 2015, titled “Alive and Kickin'”.

That's the name of a theatrical presentation of the stories and songs from people age 55 and older, each of them an amateur singer who has harbored a life-long dream to sing professionally. But life got in the way of that pursuit.

The production is the brainchild of a theatrical producer, Vi Higginson, who told 60 Minutes that her mission in developing the show is to preserve African-American music from gospel to soul to R&B that is rarely performed anymore in a world of hip-hop and its derivatives.

The 60 Minutes story unfolds nicely so I don't want to tell you too much up front. If you have seen it, you will understand that. But there are a couple of moments in the story to watch for – there will be a quiz on the other side.

I'm kidding about the quiz but these are pertinent to you and me and being old:

  1. When Ms. Higginson explains that she is not just indulging some old farts' dream. She's taking it the kids too.

  2. When one of the singers says, “It's never too late for anything.”

  3. The last line of the story - “I just love being an old man.”

This is a longer video that I usually post, about 25 minutes, so settle back and let it flow over you.

You know what? I just love being an old woman. I didn't have to overcome anything like that man did, although I have my sorrows and the look on his face when he says at the end, “I just love being an old man,” is exactly how I feel about being the age I am.

There are not many people in the world doing as inspired to do as much as Vi Higginson for the perception of old people and she's found a way to go so much further with it.

The scope of her project is profound. There is the personal redemption of the singers and a chance to live a dream. The staging of a show which is enough in itself for most producers. And the larger mission to preserve the music b passing it on to young musicians:

"The older people carry the music in their body, in their mind,” says Higgingson. “If they die, then that sound may be gone forever."

Amen. There are even more projects you can find out about at Higginson's Mama Foundation for the Arts website - “Musicials, Concerts and Education in Harlem.”

Not to mention that Alive! 55+ and Kickin' is an annual show and if you're in the New York City area, you're in luck. The 2016 season begins next month and runs until June.

You can find out all about it at the show's website and think about attending. If I were still in New York, I sure would.