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Are You Ageist?

category_bug_ageism.gif Last Friday, David Wolfe of the Ageless Marketing blog, left a comment about how almost everyone is ageist:

“I find that even people who think they are not ageist often in fact are. I have referred a number of people to the Harvard Implicit Association Test (IAT) which is designed to reveal a variety of negative biases including ageism. Some very good friends of mine who lovingly work with seniors have been shocked to learn that they are biased against aging.

“You will remember from my current series on Jung's Seven Tasks of Aging that the first task is ‘To face the reality of aging and dying.’ I submit that until one fulfills that task, one will likely have a negative bias against aging.”

He followed up with a challenge to readers of Time Goes By to take a test to determine their level of ageism.

As it turns out, I wrote about this test on TGB two years ago and many of us were surprised to find that we had biases against elders ranging from slight to moderate. Two years ago when I took the test, I received this result:

“Your data suggest a slight automatic preference for young compared to old.”

Yesterday, I received this result:

“Your data suggest a strong automatic preference for young compared to old.”

Ahem. Not encouraging for someone who considers herself an advocate for elders.

David notes that rather than be troubled if our test results are less than stellar, we should ask ourselves “what we are going to do to transcend the bias so that no negative actions flow from it…

“Getting older doesn't do it,” continues David.

“I've met countless people in their 70s, 80s and older who are ageist. The battles that take place in senior housing "facilities" waged by the relatively fit against those in wheelchairs and on walkers coming into the same dining room are the result of ageism - the relatively fit rejecting those who are visibly less fit because the former associate aging with infirmity. People who wage such battles have failed to fulfill Jung's First Task of Aging.

"Incidentally, scores of non-profit organizations wanting to do good works for seniors call the communities they build for them "facilities." Is that not an ageist term? No one calls housing for younger people ‘facilities.’”

So try the test (you must have Javascript enabled) and then come back here and tell us how you did.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, new contributor Barbara Skinner tells us about searching for the perfect retirement home in Italy in A House in San Venanzo.]


A Good Death

[EDITORIAL NOTE: If by the time we reach our 50s or 60s, we have not buried a parent, we will. And when we do, in addition to our grief and in addition to the shock sometimes of becoming the oldest generation, it speaks also to our own mortality. The death of a parent is one of the great passages of life.

It is a blessing when there can be a "good death" whatever one's definition of that may be. In my case, caring for my mother during the last months of her life remains the most profound experience of my life; 15 years later, nothing has yet matched it. A blogger who I've known since my earliest days of blogging, Jill Fallon of Legacy Matters and The Business of Life, recently traversed this milestone and has written eloquently about it in three parts. Below is part one, My Mother is Dying. There are links to parts two and three at the bottom of this story. I urge you to read them all.]

This is a hard post to write because the words themselves have a certain finality that's not here yet. My 85-year-old mother last fall had abdominal pains that, after a visit to the emergency room and a CAT scan, turned out to be colon cancer. Surgery followed a couple of days later and we were encouraged to think that the tumor blocking her colon had been completely excised and her colon stitched back together.

Recovery was slow but seemed complete and while she had lost lots of weight despite my cooking, she was back bopping around in her sports car. About a month ago, she began having abdominal pains again. It was the cancer back. She doesn't want chemotherapy at her age which seems to me to be quite sensible, so the focus has been on reducing her pain.

My sister Colleen is a nurse and immediately took medical leave from her job to come out for the duration which she counts as a privilege and a blessing to be able to do since her two daughters, my nieces Jessica and Chrissy are away from home, in college. My brother Kevin, his wife Melinda and two daughters, Taylor and Lucy, live in the same town as my mother as do I just two blocks away. For Mother's Day, Colly's husband Robin came, brother Billy came from Switzerland and brother Robby and his wife Jennifer with their two baby girls, 21/2 and 4 months, Zoe and Adia from California.

We all had a lovely time, my mother included, playing with the babies and looking at old family and childhood photos, about 1200 of them that I had digitized so every one could have a copy and telling stories. Now numbering about 16, we had a delicious Mother's Day lunch at a local restaurant.

In many ways we are very blessed. Mom -we call her Ruth - is completely herself, if much frailer and more tired. She laughs, makes jokes, gives orders, goes through her mail, makes calls, gets her hair done, and is forever putting Vinny her beloved Jack Russell terrier out when he's in and bringing him in when he's out and making sure he gets all three of his dinners. She carried long term care insurance for in-home care because she hates being in the hospital even though she too is a nurse and never wanted to go into a nursing home. Now the benefits are apparent because she's home where she wants to be and Colly is even being paid, making up for some of her lost income. Colly got a new MacBook, put in wireless, got a new bike and is testing some of Ruth's best, baking recipes and I'm going to make a book out if it.

We have an elevator in the house which my parents put in about 15 years ago when my sister Debby, wheel-chair bound with multiple sclerosis, was living at home. So Mom still uses her bedroom and bath but can come down easily to the kitchen, the living room, office and yard during the day. Heat gives her the most tactile relief for her abdominal pains so she sits with a heating pad at her back, holding a hot water bottle against her stomach, a heat sandwich.

Two weeks later it's a different story. Hospice has started and they have been wonderful, delivering my mother's exponentially increasing pain medications, an assigned nurse, Peggy, who visits several times a week to check on her status and making sure we have everything we need. Since Ruth was only eating about 300-500 calories a day, she was becoming even thinner although her pain does seem to be under control.

"Two to four weeks" we were told in one of Colleen's daily emails to all concerned. In just a few days, Robby was back from the West Coast, Billy from Geneva, and Julie, my youngest sister, due in Tuesday.

Her affairs and finances are all in order so there's nothing to be done there. My mother is enjoying lots of visitors, family and friends alike, basking in all the love and banter, sometimes glowing. The weather is beautiful. My brothers have found projects to do around the house and yard. Patty, Colleen's dear friend from Florida is visiting for week and cleaning up gardens, planting the window boxes, and impatiens in every corner. We all eat dinner together that one of us makes or takeout and we have cases of beer in the garage so we'll never run out. These are wonderful times for the family. The loss will come soon enough.

This is the way to go, a vigorous old age and a fast decline, at home surrounded by family and people who love you.

My Mother is Dying
A Beautiful Death
Eulogy For My Mother

[Today at The Elder Storytelling Place Ronni Prior has a funny story you'll enjoy titled Community Theater.]


Life (Part 2)

As I wrote last February, I traveled then to St. Paul to tape three episodes of a PBS series about aging titled, Life (Part 2). As their website describes it,

“Each week, Life (Part 2) offers ideas, insights, conversation - and of course, humor - on aging vitally and vibrantly. Each week’s episode will explore issues facing the 26% of the American population who are 55 and older. Hosted by actor (and backgammon champ) Alan Rosenberg, guests and contributors bring smarts, humor and experience to the art and science of aging.”

You can find out more about it at the PBS website which is still being created, and get my immediate reaction to the tapings in this post from February.

This is an important series with a wide variety of topics and viewpoints from some fascinating folks about getting older, and I’m not saying that just because I appear on it or because the producers are old friends of mine.

The series begins airing this week on throughout the United States, but it is broadcast in different cities on different dates and at different times, and may not start until later in the summer in some places. There is a Zip Code search to find out when and where you can find it in your town.

More cities are being added every week so if you happen to see it and have something to say, please come back and post a comment.

Shameless plug: Although there are about 12 or 13 episodes in all, the titles of ones I appear in are:

Adapting to Change
Men vs. Women
Fears

I’ll be posting more about the series in the near future.

[We live in a vastly mobile society and today at The Elder Storytelling Place, Ian Bertram writes of the value of stories to our understanding of one another in Stories Can Change Our Lives and the Lives of Those Around Us.]


Social Security and Medicare Blog You Need to Read

category_bug_politics.gif About once every week or two, a commenter who calls himself joe objective leaves a rant on a previous post about universal healthcare. He is anything but objective with slurs such as "shallow" and "loser", and without apparent understanding of it, equates universal healthcare with Marxism.

Joe's style of argument is not uncommon among those who don’t mind that one-sixth of Americans go without any healthcare at all, a style sometimes shared by those who would eliminate or privatize Social Security.

As an antidote, I would like you to know about a blog, entitled to know, which is an extension of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare against the forces – even within government - that would degrade, privatize or eliminate these two necessary and successful programs. The goal of the NCPSSM, which has been around for 25 years, is to

“…protect, preserve, promote, and ensure the financial security, health, and the well being of current and future generations of maturing Americans.”

Last Friday, the entitled to know blog pointed out the scare tactics members of the Bush administration are using to promote the idea that the United States cannot afford Social Security and Medicare, in this case by lumping together the costs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid into one humanly incomprehensible number.

“This shock and awe approach,” writes entitled to know, “is clearly not designed to provide solutions. In fact it appears the end result is just the opposite…”

To the charge that Social Security will bankrupt future generation, entitled to know states:

“No solutions in sight? You've got to be kidding. Is that really the message being left by these Paul Reveres for reform? There are scores of Social Security reform options out there. Some more politically viable than others. Here's just one example from Robert Ball, Social Security Commissioner under Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. A simple Google search will lead you to countless more.”

Anyone who regularly reads Times Goes By knows I write about these issues frequently, but I can’t keep up as thoroughly and with as much detail as the people who write for this blog. I urge to bookmark entitled to know. It’s important stuff you need to know as we track the pressures against Medicare and Social Security and the coming 2008 election. You can also subscribe via rss or receive posts by email through Feedblitz as I do.

[Today at The Elder Storytelling Place, Jo Ann gives us an amusing tale of "Teenage Trials" that involves spiders in the bathtub and a revelation, years later, of her son's morning tiredness.]


Modern Innovations

category_bug_journal2.gif There are 16 windows in the home I bought last year in Portland, Maine, which is only a little older than I am, built in 1899. The 16 windows were also that old. Some opened, some didn’t, some were missing screens or storm windows, one had only a storm window and two that did open, sometimes closed unexpectedly with a crash that sent Ollie the cat for cover under the bed.

And so last month, at a cost that choked me to write the check, I had all the windows replaced with the new, vinyl sort that meet Energy Star requirements and can be cleaned by opening them inward.

These are a marvel of modern engineering and ease of use, but more important to me and Ollie is that they all open now and all have screens. I get the benefit of pleasant sea breezes and Ollie can watch the world go by from every vantage point in the house. I am certain he would like to join the many neighborhood cats who are allowed to wander, but – well, too bad, Ollie; you’re stuck with ka-ka-ka-ing at the birds, some of which are as large as Ollie himself.

Olliewindow

Sometimes Ollie will deign to acknowledge me when I call his name, but his attention is on the street life, especially first thing in the morning while I am posting to the blog and answering email.

Ollieposing

As tightly as these new windows fit the frames, some bugs do get in and now Ollie has become the great spotted bug hunter. He can spot them from three rooms away and none escape his pounce.

Olliehunter

Another modern innovation I had known nothing of for 40 years in New York City is having my own washer and drier. Want something clean right now? No need to go down the block to drop it off at the laundromat; just take ten steps from the kitchen and it’s done within an hour.

What I had not anticipated, however, is how much I loathe folding laundry. In New York, it was returned to me ready to put into drawers. Now, in Maine, that I’ve got over the thrill of having clean clothes on a moment’s notice, I am prone to leaving it in the drier until, with a sigh, I set myself to the dismal task of folding.

Moneysm_2 Such was the case last week when I opened the drier to find a splendid surprise, big enough to give me the impetus to retrieve the laundry with a little more speed in the future. Can you tell from this photo what I’m talking about?

Here’s a closeup. They tell us money doesn’t grow on trees, but maybe it does grow in the drier. Or perhaps it’s just payment for all those socks the drier eats to keep itself in working order.

Moneycu

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Betsy Devine writes the Portrait of a 1918 Blogger.]


Elder Storytelling Place Error

On Friday at The Elder Storytelling Place, there was a glitch in the blog host software - or, more likely, my brain - and the end of Norm Jenson's story, The Repo Man, was truncated so those of you who read it must be scratching your head. Without the last paragraph, the story makes no sense. So please go back and re-read it. It's a funny, scary and terrific and you'll love it.


Elder Media Bias

category_bug_ageism.gif Ageism of the casual sort is so deeply embedded in American culture that even "the newspaper of record" lets it slide without acknowledgment.

In a business story about reasons for the slowdown in growth of online sales, it is suggested that consumers are suffering from "internet fatigue" while retailers are improving the in-store shopping experience. Then the reporters, Matt Richtel and Bob Tedeschi, drop in the obligatory man-on-the-street quote:

"John Johnson, 53, who sells medical products to drug stores and lives in San Francisco, finds that retailers have livened up their stores to be more alluring.

"'They're working a lot harder,' he said as he shopped at Book Passage in downtown San Francisco. 'They're not as stuffy. The lighting is better. You don't get someone behind the counter who's been there 40 years. They're younger and hipper and much more with it.'"

The New York Times, 16 June 2007

The story then continues as though nothing mean, stupid or ageist has been said leaving the implication, with no challenge, that anyone who is old enough to have been working for 40 years is stuffy, unhip and not with it.

As every advertiser knows, repetition sells and it is this kind of casual, off-the-cuff remark, repeated day in and day out on television, in magazines and newspapers without a peep from anyone, that makes ageism, age discrimination in the workplace and all the other biases elders are subject to, acceptable.

Oh sure, newspapers publish stories about elderbloggers, elders who run marathons and "still" do things supposed by young reporters to be extraordinary achievements for someone old - you know, positive stories, sometimes ageist in their own way. They do not make up for this kind of regular, offhand contempt for elders.

Had Mr. Johnson's statement referenced blacks or women instead of old people, it would never have seen print - or at least, not without further commentary.

[Norm Jenson is back at The Elder Storytelling Place today to tell a very scary tale with a very funny punchline. It's called The Repo Man.]


A Little Elder Humor

It has been entirely too serious around this blog lately or at least it feels that way to me. Maybe it's the deadly serious books I've been reading and I need break.

Each month, Marian Van Eyk McCain publishes The Elderwoman Newsletter. It's filled with stories, poetry, photos, book reviews, ideas, thoughts, humor and more. You can subscribe for free by emailing Marian here, and it is definitely worth your time. Marian also blogs at Elderwomanblog.

In the June issue of The Elderwoman Newsletter, Marian published a list titled "21 Things That Elders Have Learned." It was just the laugh I needed when it arrived in my inbox last weekend and here it is for you:

  1. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.
  2. Don't worry about what people think; they don't do it very often.
  3. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian anymore than standing in a garage makes you a car.
  4. Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.
  5. If you must choose between two evils, pick the one you've never tried before.
  6. A person, who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.
  7. For every action, there is an equal and opposite government program.
  8. If you look like your passport picture, you probably need the trip.
  9. Bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of checks.
  10. A conscience is what hurts when all of your other parts feel so good.
  11. Eat well, stay fit, die anyway.
  12. Men are from earth. Women are from earth. Deal with it.
  13. A balanced diet is a muffin in each hand.
  14. Junk is something you've kept for years and throw away three weeks before you need it.
  15. Experience is a wonderful thing. It enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.
  16. Thou shalt not weigh more than thy refrigerator.
  17. People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them.
  18. You will never find anybody who can give you a clear and compelling reason why we observe daylight savings time.
  19. Never lick a steak knife.
  20. You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests that you think she's pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging
  21. from her at that moment.
  22. The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that deep down inside we ALL believe we are above average drivers.

Now when you're through laughing, go thank Marian for this terrific list.

[At the Elder Storytelling Place today, kenju tells about her two Most Embarrassing Moments. Have you noticed that given the passage of time, events that made us cringe when they happened become great, funny stories?]


Older Women on Television

category_bug_ageism.gif If movies were one’s only view of American womanhood, it would be easy assume they are sent into exile on their 40th birthday. No matter how many Botox injections and face lifts actresses undergo, there are few leading roles for women once the bloom of extreme youth passes.

Yes, a few great actors – Maggie Smith and Judi Dench, for example – are retrieved from exile once or twice a year when they reach the age of doyenne, most frequently for the one-note role of indomitable matron on a mission. But women are generally absent in meaningful numbers during those years between 25 and 60.

Television, on the other hand, is increasing its offerings of dramas with women well past puberty in leading roles. The progenitor in the 1980s starred Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote. Not long after that, Helen Mirren played the lonely, alcoholic police inspector Jane Tennison in the British import Prime Suspect. But there hasn't been much else of note until now.

This year, Kyra Sedgwick (42), returns for a second season as police detective Brenda Johnson in The Closer on TNT. The extraordinary success of that show has led to the debut of at least three, new dramas this summer starring grownup women: Holly Hunter (49) in Saving Grace also on TNT, Glenn Close (60) in Damages on FX and on Lifetime, Lili Taylor (40) will play a psychiatrist in “State of Mind.”

This is good news for women of all ages. There may not yet be a series starring elders, but the idea that there is life for women after the age of bimbohood is beginning to be represented among the shows starring men of middle age.

Except for one thing…

As Alessandra Stanley writes in last Sunday’s New York Times,

“Older stars who once had to resign themselves to playing frustrated spinsters or docile moms are suddenly flaunting their ripened sex appeal on television. It’s not The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone anymore. This season marks the summer of hot cougar love…

“…Holly Hunter plays an Oklahoma sheriff with a ravenous appetite for cigarettes, booze and sex with younger men. Lili Taylor plays a successful therapist with family troubles of her own…She catches her husband, also a psychiatrist, in flagrante with their marriage counselor, then quickly finds a much younger lawyer to take over her husband’s office, and perhaps his place in bed…

“…Glenn Close [plays] a rapacious top litigator who terrifies her opponents and her subordinates. Ms. Close could turn out to be the exception to the rule because at least in the beginning her character is married to an age-appropriate businessman. But he does go out of town on trips.”

Booze, cigarettes and bad behavior are not bothersome necessarily - that is often the stuff of good drama. But coupled with boy toys in the bedroom, what television appears to be telling us is that women are allowed to get a little older than in the past, but only if they emulate the worst traits of men and young women who don’t know any better yet.

It is not fair to judge new series without seeing them, but if Ms. Stanley’s description is accurate then simulation of youth is once again being promoted as the only acceptable behavior for older folks and I can't decide if we should applaud these shows for giving older women a presence or if we should weep for their retro portrayal.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ronni Prior gives us tale of mahjongg and opium in Chinatown Alley.]


Ageism is Alive and Well - Notoriously So in the Tech World

Crabby Old Lady has run across a nasty bit of ageism debate that has erupted in the higher echelon of the tech blogosphere about whether youth or age is better capable of furthering the development of the web. It appears to have started with New York City venture capitalist Fred Wilson who wrote:

“It is incredibly hard to think of new paradigms when you've grown up reading the newspaper every morning. When you turn to TV for your entertainment. When you read magazines on the train home from work.

“But we have a generation coming of age right now that has never relied on newspapers, TV, and magazines for their information and entertainment. They are the net natives. They grew up in AOL chatrooms, IMing with their friends for hours after dinner, and went to school with a Facebook login.

“The Internet is their medium and they are showing us how it needs to be used.”

This is nothing more than the hoary false stereotype that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks dressed up in internet lingo. It was disproved so long ago that Crabby wonders if Mr. Wilson has just awakened from a Rip Van Winkle sleep.

Who does he think invented the web? And has he forgotten that it is the “kids” with no business experience to whom venture capitalists like him gave millions of dollars that helped bring about the dotcom bust?

Dave Winer, a man Crabby believes to be in his 50s and who, due to an unpleasant encounter some years ago she’d rather ignore, responded in a manner to which Crabby can only say, “right on, Dave” – if that phrase doesn’t date her too much from being allowed to have an opinion in this debate:

“At this point in my career I’m ready to do the really big ideas,” writes Mr. Winer, “and it sucks that attitudes like the one exemplified by Wilson are in my way. Stop thinking about who can’t do what, and start paying attention to who actually does it.

“I listened to an interview on public radio with one of the founders of YouTube, a young guy. The things he says were new 20 years ago. He’s a good marketer, and no doubt has attracted the people he needs to build a wonderful system. But he doesn’t have all the answers. Sometimes a bit of experience can help, not hinder, progress.

“In every other creative field people are active into their sixties, seventies or eighties. For some reason in tech we assume people are washed up at 30?”

Following on from Dave Winer, Steve Hodson, a man after Crabby’s own heart, minced no words in letting Mr. Wilson know where he stands:

“To Fred - kiss my ass. Just because I have gray hair, fathered a couple of kids, been divorced more than once - you know - that thing call Real Life - doesn’t make me or any of my generation any less of a potential to shift more than an occasional paradigm.

"Your assumption that anyone over the age of 30 isn’t a net native is arrogant at best. Who the hell do you think invented the net you duffus - it was us gray haired old farts when you were probably still in pampers.”

Clay Shirky then chimed in, in support of Mr. Wilson:

“I think the real issue, of which age is a predictor, is this: the future belongs to those who take the present for granted...

“...one easy way to fail is to assume that the past is more solid than it is, and the present more contingent. And the people least likely to make this mistake — the people best able to take the present for granted — are young people, for whom knowing what the world is really like is as easy as waking up in the morning, since this is the only world they’ve ever known.”

What a bunch of hooey. George Santayana comes to Crabby’s mind, a thinker whom Mr. Shirky might want to bone up on a little.

There are many more arguments pro and con in the comments sections the above links. The bottom line, however, is this: the ageism expressed by Mr. Wilson and Mr. Shirky is no less prejudice against old people than some others practice against people of color and women. (And come to think of it, there is a remarkable dearth of women engaged in this online argument.)

It is the kind of ageist thinking expressed by Mr. Wilson and Mr. Shirky that forced Crabby Old Lady into early retirement after a year of fruitless job interviews with condescending 20- and 30-somethings led to selling her home of 25 years and leaving New York City.

Crabby Old Lady is not alone. Even a cursory glance at chat rooms and forums on employment websites over several years turn up thousands of technology professionals in their 40s and 50s who cannot find work. It is age discrimination pure and simple and in case Mr. Wilson and Mr. Shirky don’t know it, it is illegal.

If that gives no one pause, the human cost of age discrimination in the workplace is profound - in mortgage foreclosures, college funds for children depleted, loss of livelihoods and of dignity. And in the bigger picture, taxes lost to the community, unrealized profits to business and innovation that will never happen in numbers so high over time that they cannot be calculated.

Ageism is not taken as seriously in the United States as racism and sexism, but it is no less destructive to the commonweal and the continued debasement of older workers is repugnant and contemptible.

It is long past time for the Fred Wilsons and Clay Sharkys of the world to realize this. If they and others like them do not, Crabby Old Lady is sorry she won’t live long enough to gleefully watch when they are shoved off their youthful perches perhaps, as with many elders now, they the best they have ever been.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Leah Aronoff tells us about her special relationship with New York City's little lighthouse in The Times and Me.]


Meeting Thoroughly Modern Millie

category_bug_journal2.gif As she pointed out to me in an email last week, Millie Garfield of My Mom’s Blog and I first “met” online almost four years ago. We reference one another’s blogs, we have sometimes been quoted in the same newspaper stories, we appeared in the same program on Retirement Living Television and we speak on the telephone.

But even though we live on the same coast not all that far from one another – she in Boston and me in Portland, Maine and before that New York City - until last Friday we had never met in person.

Millie2007_06_15 Because I needed to be in Boston on business last week, we arranged to meet for lunch at Joe’s Bar and Grill in Woburn along with her son, Steve Garfield, who blogs at a number of places and is undoubtedly the number one video blogger and vlogger evangelist in at least the U.S. if not the world.

Millie is no slouch at vlogging herself. Her “I Can’t Open It” series is a web classic and she’s more recently been teach Yiddish in a video series.

Millie has often been heard to say that one of the things she likes most about blogging is that no one interrupts her when she’s speaking (writing). Except me. I think I did some interrupting at lunch and Millie was gracious enough not to point it out to me.

As I mentioned last week, meeting online friends in person always feels like seeing an old friend. And so it was with Millie on Friday. There is no getting-to-know-you time because we already know each other better than non-bloggers would probably understand.

We spoke about how we spend more time with our online friends than with our local friends (whom we might see only occasionally) through reading one another’s blogs, discussing what we’ve written in comments, exchanging email and sometimes talking on the phone. There is fodder here, I think, for someone’s doctoral thesis one day. This is a new kind of relationship that transcends the pen pals of our childhood probably because of the immediacy we did not have with snailmail and the camaraderie that develops among those bloggers who hang out in the same blogs.

One of the terrific things about Millie is her laugh, and she is always ready to laugh. If Millie could bottle her good humor, she’d be right up there with Warren Buffet and Bill Gates in the Fortune magazine list of richest people. But that doesn’t matter, we are all richer for having Millie in our midst.

And meeting her in person Friday makes up for my jealousy of Claude of Blogging in Paris and savtadotty of Cousin Lucy’s Spoon who met in Paris recently.

Millie is the elderblogger extraordinaire. It is so good to have finally met her in person and Steve caught the moment in a much better photo than mine above from lunch.

Ronni Bennett and Millie Garfield

[Over at The Elder Storytelling Place, Nancy Leitz explains how frugal living leads to a long life in Aunt Sue and the Electric Typewriter.]


Happy Father's Day Redux

Last Sunday, we celebrated Father's Day here at Time Goes By and at The Elder Storytelling Place. Since not one of you pointed out that it was not Father's Day, you are either as confused as I am or remarkably polite. Or perhaps because so many of us here are old enough that our father's are dead, we don't pay as close attention to Father's Day as we once did.

Whatever the reason for last week's error, we are celebrating again today with not one, but three father stories - worthy repeats all - at The Elder Storytelling Place.

If I have the date wrong again, please do let me know...


Publicly Funded Elections

category_bug_politics.gif [This is a long, serious essay, so in case you don’t make it to the end, today at The Elder Storytelling Place, E.L. Lee writes of passing down stories through the family generations in Wisdom.]

[EDITORIAL NOTE: There was something technically wrong with this post that produced a 404 error when Comments and Permalink were clicked. So I'm reposting it from scratch and including within the post below the four comments that did manage to make it through the glitch. Let's hope this fixes the problem because like the four commenters below, I think this is an important post and I'd like to read what others have to say.]

Every day, I become more alarmed at the direction our country has taken in recent years. Not only the debacle of the Iraq War, but the growing disparity between rich and poor, an educational system gone awry, lack of any serious consideration of global warming, dead bees which are needed to pollinate our food and the near absolute power our current president has granted himself. And that is just for starters.

I am not alone. Aside from the diehard right wing, everyone in the U.S. believes the country is “off on the wrong track.” 75 percent say so, according to the most recent AP-Ipsos poll [pdf] dated 7 June 2007.

It is not just ordinary citizens who believe this. Three experienced and distinguished political thinkers have published books recently analyzing what has gone wrong and suggesting solutions:

  • President Carter’s national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski - Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower
  • Middle East envoy for President H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton, Dennis Ross - Statecraft and How to Restore America’s Standing in the World
  • Political scientist Chalmers Johnson - Nemesis: the Last Days of the American Republic

If anyone thinks I’ve hacked my way through a total of 972 pages to bring you today’s post, you’re wrong. For some reason I have less time to read at length these days than I ever did. Instead, I often rely on The New York Review of Books - in this case, an extraordinarily lucid review of these three books titled, “Bush’s Amazing Achievement” by Jonathan Freedland.

The “achievement” Freedland refers to is this:

“…the creation of a near consensus among those who study international affairs, a shared view that stretches, however improbably, from Noam Chomsky to Brent Scowcroft, from the antiwar protesters on the streets of San Francisco to the well-upholstered office of former secretary of state James Baker.

“This new consensus holds that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a calamity, that the presidency of George W. Bush has reduced America’s standing in the world and made the United States less, not more, secure, leaving its enemies emboldened and its friends alienated.

“Paid-up members of the nation’s foreign policy establishment, those who have held some of the most senior offices in the land, speak in a language once confined to the T-shirts of placard-wielding demonstrators. They rail against deception and dishonesty, imperialism and corruption. The only dispute between them is over the size and depth of the hole into which Bush has led the country he pledged to serve.”

Many of us have been doing this with our friends for several years now. Even if we do not have the knowledge and expertise to lay it out in clear, unequivocal text as these three writers and their reviewer do, we know in the depths of our being that the citizenry of the U.S. has been deceived, lied to and stripped of important Constitutional rights.

It is not news that our government has long been held hostage to corporate power at the expense of the people. Nor is it difficult to figure out how that has been accomplished. But I liked reading how it works in detail. From Freedland’s review:

“What's driving this is a nexus of military, political, and financial interests, all of whom benefit from ever-increasing military spending. [Chalmers] Johnson provides an anatomy of one particularly egregious example, the expansion into space weaponry represented by the so-called National Missile Defense program (NMD).

“Patiently he demonstrates why a system aimed at intercepting nuclear bombs before they can land on America does not and could not work. For one thing, no one has yet worked out how to identify a hostile launch and no interceptor has yet been designed that can tell the difference between an incoming warhead and a decoy.

“The result is that NMD is nothing more than a boondoggle in the sky, at last count pulling in $130 billion of American taxpayers' money, a figure which on current plans would reach $1.2 trillion by 2015.

“But the NMD pork-in-space project is far from exceptional. Seeking fat contracts, the big defense companies give donations to those politicians who will pay them back by commissioning expensive defense projects; the contractors then reward the politicians by locating their firms in their districts; finally the voters, glad of the jobs, reward the politicians by reelecting them.

“Johnson offers dozens of examples, including Florida's Democratic senator Bill Nelson, a member of the Armed Services Committee, who in the 2006 federal budget ‘obtained $916 million for defense projects, about two-thirds of which went to the Florida-based plants of Boeing, Honeywell, General Dynamics, Armor Holdings, and other munitions makers.’ Since 2003, Nelson has received $108,750 in campaign contributions from thirteen companies for which he arranged contracts.

“It's a cycle perpetuated by everyone involved: contractors, politicians, voters. Everyone benefits from this untamed form of military Keynesianism - except the next generations of Americans who can be expected to drown in a debt that now measures $9 trillion and grows daily.”

Of course, it is not just military contractors who gouge the public treasury in this manner. It is the healthcare industry, agribusiness, financial services businesses, the Fortune 500 companies, etc. and so forth.

By coincidence (or not), Multinational Monitor editor Robert Weissman last week reviewed another important book at counterpunch.org - The United States Since 1980 by Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research which analyzes corporate power and influence on policy in the past 25 years.

“He concludes,” writes Weissman, “by identifying the U.S. political system's failure to address three overriding problems: provision of healthcare to all at an affordable cost, the spiking trade deficit, and global warming…

“Indeed, by far the most serious barrier to addressing each of the three overriding problems that Dean Baker highlights as challenges for the United States…is overcoming entrenched corporate practices, privileges and prerogatives.”

Weissman provides an easy-to-understand list from Baker’s book detailing the means by which the corporatocracy, which has no interests beyond short-term profits, has bought the United States out from under the citizenry.

And it will only get worse unless corporate influence is removed from politics and government. It will not be easy – if it can be done at all. But if it is not, the republic is doomed and we will have nothing left but tyranny to leave coming generations.

Returning to Jonathan Freedland’s review of the three books:

“Most radically, [Brzezinski] advocates for a shift in the American social model, away from excess consumption and income inequality toward a more ecologically sustainable pattern that would appeal internationally.

“One of Brzezinski's most striking observations is that an ‘awakening’ is underway around the world, a stirring, if vague, sense of injustice - and that the United States can only succeed if it is held to be on the right side of the divide. ‘In today's restless world, America needs to identify itself with the quest for universal human dignity,’ he writes. What that will take, he adds provocatively, is both ‘a cultural revolution and regime change.’

“Necessarily, it is Johnson, who has diagnosed a more radical problem, who has to come up with a more radical solution. He cannot merely call for greater powers for Congress, because by his own lights, ‘the legislative branch of our government is broken,’ reduced to the supine creature of large corporations, the defense contractors first among them.

“Instead, he urges a surge in direct democracy, ‘a grassroots movement to abolish the CIA, break the hold of the military-industrial complex, and establish public financing of elections - but he has the grace to recognize how unlikely such a development is.

“So he is left offering not an eleven- or twelve-step program, but rather a historical choice. Either the United States can follow the lead of the Romans, who chose to keep their empire and so lost their republic. Or ‘we could, like the British Empire after World War II, keep our democracy by giving up our empire.’ That choice was neither smooth nor executed heroically, but it was the right one.

“Now much of the world watches the offspring of that empire, nearly two and a half centuries later - hoping it makes the same choice, and trembling at the prospect that it might not.”

To accomplish this is an enormous undertaking against almost impossible odds; global corporations have, among themselves, trillions – perhaps quadrillions – of dollars at their disposal to purchase any government they need to meet their goals, which are not yours and mine.

I cannot begin to think of how to control the corporatocracy in other countries, but here I believe the one solution is to remove them from politics and government. That means outlawing lobbying and most of all, creating publicly funded elections.

Many experts believe the latter is unconstitutional and they may be correct. The reason is complex having to do with corporations having won “personhood” in the courts (there is a fairly clear explanation here) and therefore having the same rights to free speech as you and I. But unless we can remove – or at least control – corporate financing of candidates, there will never be universal healthcare.

Nevertheless, I cannot live with myself without speaking up however small my voice is. There are some organizations that work toward establishing publicly financed elections or at least educating the public about them. They are timid and they are not making much headway where it counts, in Congress. But here are a few:

Public Campaign

Fair Elections

Campaign Money

Citizen Works


PREVIOUS COMMENTS

Have you ever heard the folk song "We, the People" by Schooner Fare of your own fair state of Maine? It speaks of a time when We, the People must take back control.

C-Span recently broadcast a speech by Al Gore talking about many of the same things you mention. He spoke of how our President is outright lying and how the media is allowing the lies to go unchallenged for fear of loss of revenue. And he spoke of how the public is more concerned with Paris Hilton antics than concern about the direction our country is taking. His was a call to action that Americans must take to heart.

Keep at it, Ronni. Blogging may be our last stab at hearing truths.

Ocean

Amen! Oh, amen!

This is huge.

Here in Texas, a small group of us are fighting this battle on a grass-roots level. As well as all the industries you mentioned, raking in our tax dollars, the is also the Prison Industry. The country is becoming studded with for-profit prisons, charging taxpayers an arm and a leg to confine (in the case of the one near us) whole families awaiting deportation. There are little children in prison scrubs 15 miles away from me. These prisons are proliferating far faster than the demand would indicate, and the biggest losers are taxpayers. $7000 per month per person.

Who is next? Dissenters?

We are in a very dark cycle, and most of us don't know it. I used to wonder how Nazism got started in Germany in the 30s, and I think we may be about to find out.

Ronni Prior

It does look seriously sick from out here. Most non-USians think the USA is self-destructing.

The only way to fight the big money is at grass roots with a serious citizenry using little money to support young candidates so that by the time they get into the halls of power they've not had to sell their souls to get elected.

Election reform should also demand a shortening of the election period so that the first job of every elected politician isn't positioning himself to win his next election! Sometimes it looks like Congress needs to abolish itself so that reasonable rules, reasonable pay and benefits and reasonable responsiveness to the public can restart with a whole new elected body.

They no longer seem like the elected head of anything, but the big greedy mouth of a monster eating itself.

Judith in Umbria

Yes to everything you said. One of your most important posts ever. Three cheers for Ronni.

Election funding and lobbying are not systems that will self-correct. Too many pockets get filled from keeping it the way it is.

I see hope from the blogosphere and internet. More and more the internet makes television news seem like a freak show. I'd like to see a candidate run an entire campaign on $100,000 using only the internet. A success, or near success, from a candidate like that would create a tipping point that could lead to change in the US election process.

Virginia


Reconsidering Age Humor

Crabby Old Lady has been collecting a few elderjokes from around the web:

  • You don’t know real embarrassment until your hip sets off a metal detector.
  • The most frustrating thing about getting older is that every time you see an expensive antique, you remember one just like it you once threw away.
  • Let's face it, traveling just isn't as much fun when all the historical sites are younger than you are.
  • Heck, I don't feel a day older than I did a hundred years ago.
  • I'm suffering from Mallzheimer's disease. I go to the mall and forget where I parked my car.
  • Age always corresponds inversely to the size of your multi-vitamin.
  • You know you're past your prime when you start getting air-guitar elbow.

As old folks jokes go, these are not so bad. Crabby can recognize a bit of herself in each one except the first and the difficulty of air travel these days substitutes fairly well for a metal hip joint.

The fact is that some people within any affinity group – age, nationality, interest, religious – have enough common characteristics that they can easily become objects of humor. They are funny for just that reason: they occur frequently enough within the group to become emblematic.

Golfers often wear funny clothes and it’s funnier that they wear the same kind of funny clothes.

Is not Paris Hilton the epitome of the pretty, dim-bulb blonde? Or is she dumb like a fox? Either way, it works as a joke because we all recognize the type.

Every elder has lost a car in the mall parking lot. That it happens to younger people too doesn’t make it a less successful age joke.

But Crabby particularly likes the last one-liner in the list because of the unexpected modernization.

It is in the nature of humans to categorize things, even themselves, and mankind has always laughed hardest at its own foibles. Crabby thinks political correctness has removed a lot of great humor from our lives. Why shouldn’t we laugh at jokes about old people – or any other group?

The answer is usually that the jokes are mean particularly when they perpetuate stereotypes of groups that are commonly discriminated against.

For example, workplace humor about older folks being slow to take up new technology could be funny (some elders are technology-phobic) if elders were generally respected in the workplace. But because they so often are not, the jokes sting.

It comes down to respect – from others, surely, but it is also about respecting ourselves enough to acknowledge our time in life and its physical effects. Writing in Salon [subscription or day pass required] recently, Gary Kamiya explained this well:

“…resisting old age makes you old. It makes your losses serious. When you accept those losses, on the other hand, they become comic. You defeat old age by making friends with it. By letting it win. And you might as well, because it's going to anyway.

“By comedy, I don't mean simply cracking jokes about our impending decrepitude and doom - although that's an excellent idea. Nor do I mean an approach to life that refuses to acknowledge tragedy. I mean a spirit of regeneration, one that paradoxically springs from an abandonment of illusions.

“The comedic attitude offers a kind of resignation, a calm surrender to the inevitable. And it's regenerative because it doesn't see change as the enemy. It's an invincible, self-fulfilling belief, one that bubbles up from somewhere unseen.

“The comic state of mind is irrepressibly buoyant. Take away my knees, it says, and I've still got my feet. Take away my feet and I'll laugh at you all from my wheelchair. Take away my wheelchair and I'm still on the sunny side of the grave.”

Crabby Old Lady doesn’t mean to accept or ignore prejudicial age humor without protest. But by acknowledging our aging selves with honesty and finding the humor in it, we can help foster a culture where everyone can laugh about frailties, failings and shortcomings (of any group) without falling victim of the PC police. Laughter is a good thing...

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Chuck Nyren takes us on a strange and wonderful fantasy about the extremes of the contemporary art world in A Minimalist Afflatus.]


Getting From Post No. 1 to Post No. 1000

On Monday's post about the 1000th Time Goes By blog entry, lilalia of Yum Yum Cafe asked what has changed in my writing and thinking since post No. 1. An interesting question to contemplate, so here goes:

Although I have believed for as long as I can remember that "The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair", it has never been proved more true for me than on this blog.

When I began Time Goes By, I had spent a lifetime writing in other peoples' voices for television. It doesn't take long to get the hang of the rhythm and cadence of program hosts and correspondents, but as a result of all those years, I had no idea what my own writing voice is.

As I slowly discovered it over the first few months, writing what I meant to say got easier and especially so as I adapted some television techniques to print. Among other challenges, almost always in television, one must shorten the copy to meet time limits which usually means dropping adjectives. Sometimes it was necessary to find synonyms with fewer syllables to shave a second or two off a voice-over to fit the video.

In applying those techniques - omitting unnecessary adjectives, figures of speech, excessive verbiage we use in speech - my writing got sharper, more focused and clearer.

And clarity, for psychological reasons I understand but are too boring to explain, is usually at the top of my list of reading and writing needs which has led me to write more slowly than in the past. I think for much longer now - sometimes days - about what I mean to say, about what I believe before I hit the keyboard.

Often I am inspired to write a blog post from a visceral reaction to newspaper story, a comment (as this one), another blogger'™s post, something I heard or saw on television. It i€™s easy to say I liked it or hated it, but unless I can winnow out the reason and add some value, it is not fodder for the blog.

So although my writing is better than when I started Time Goes By, more important is that I think more deeply, thoroughly and clearly than I did before. E.M. Forster said about his writing, "How do I know what I think until I see what I say." Me too, and so I often start writing a blog post without knowing where it is going or what the conclusion will be. This leads to dumping some that turn out to have no focus, or setting them aside - sometimes for months on end - until "I know what I think."

There have been unexpected developments over three-plus years and 1000 posts. My original intention was to write about what I had learned researching aging for nearly a decade and to explore further what getting old is really like. What I didn't anticipate is that I would become such a fierce advocate for elders. And I didn't see it happening until it was long established on Time Goes By.

I also did not anticipate the community that develops around blogs and blogging for everyone but especially, I think, for elders. Before I began, I read or briefly dipped into hundreds of blogs over several years, first to suss out what this new phenomenon was (when only a few techies were doing it) and then to get a feel for what it was becoming. Either the strength of community was not yet evident then or I stupidly didn't notice it. But it cannot be missed nowadays.

We are friends, real friends, we bloggers who gather in the same online places. That we can come to know one another as well as in-person friends is proved with every blogger I meet. When Claude of Blogging in Paris visited here last fall, it was as though we were old friends who just had not seen one another in awhile. It was thus also with Frank Paynter of listics, Tamar of Mining Nuggets, Steve Garfield of Off on a Tangent, Tish Grier of The Constant Observer, others I have met and no doubt any I will meet in the future.

No one can blog for long on a regular schedule without revealing who they are - their values, beliefs, sense of humor, interests, likes, dislikes, passions, all the things that make us who we are. In a sense, we "meet" far more often blogging that we do with our in-person friends whom we might see once a week for lunch or the occasional celebration. And by "meeting" so frequently, becoming familiar with our personal voices, we become friends. In a profile published in the current New York magazine, editor Tina Brown says:

"Blogging isn't a particularly good training for writing. There's too much voice, in a way."

She is wrong and for the very reason she gives. No one can help but become a better writer by doing it every day, and in addition to our blogs being "little First Amendment machines", they are also little op-ed columns where our personal voices shine through the facts of what we are writing about. When we do that well, it is not hard to discern fact from opinion and there is great value in having so many more points of view to consider than only those of the anointed few who write columns in newspapers.

So that, lilalia, is some of what I have learned in 1000 blog posts - from the micro to the macro. What about the rest of you. What has changed in your writing and thinking while you have been blogging?

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Darlene Costner explains how she, a newly-married city person, wound up herding heifers on a Colorado ranch in The Wild Ride.]


Let’s Call Them Elder Community Centers

According to the Boston Globe last week, baby boomers are horrified that new senior centers in the towns of Franklin and Northborough might be named “senior” centers. In fact, the town of Medfield is calling its new facility “Adult Community Center” which sounds like it might be engaging in some x-rated activities.

“Bob Pitman , chairman of the National Institute of Senior Centers, said baby boomers surveyed by his organization overwhelmingly rejected the word ‘senior,’ feeling it has a negative connotation. While only 7 percent of people age 75 and older had problem with the word, 90 percent of respondents in their 50s didn't like it.”

I don’t like “senior” any more than boomers do because with long-term overuse it has a dusty, boring feel to it and when appended to anything else – community center, discount, etc. – produces yawns. And I strenuously object to how frequently the media use “boomer” to refer to all old people as though those of us born before 1946 don’t count.

We’ve had this discussion here at TGB and even took a vote on what word or words we like best for those of us who are getting old. Although some readers dislike it (M Sinclair, are you listening?), “elder” is my chosen word for us. Long neglected except in reference to tribal old people, it is ripe for resurrection. It connotes age, is respectful and works for boomers as well as the rest of us old folks.

But Mr. Pitman prefers the word “boomer”:

"We boomers like the term 'boomers,'" said Pitman, who is 57. "Even though we're in our 50s and 60s, it has a very useful feel."

Which leaves one to wonder if Mr. Pitman would allow anyone born before 1946 to join. Wouldn’t it be an excellent idea if instead of senior center or boomer center, such facilities were named “elder centers” to include everyone.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Judy Carrino gives us a taste of her Summer Memories just in time for the change of seasons next week.]


Blog Post No. 1000

According to my host, Typepad, today marks the 1000th blog post on Time Goes By. Who knew I had that much to say about getting old.

A couple of dozen are guest posts from fellow bloggers who filled in so well when I have been away. And more than a hundred are the Timeline photo biography that was re-posted and somewhat edited from its original iteration on fotolog.net in 2003. Most of the rest are essays, reports, meditations and some exhortations on various aspects of aging.

Round numbers invite, even require, acknowledgement, so I thought it would be good to mark the occasion by mentioning some of my favorites. Not an easy proposition since I mostly forget them once their day has passed and I’m not about to re-read 1000 entries. A few do come to mind…

It’s hard to believe Crabby Old Lady wrote so much – 24 entries! - in 2005 protesting President Bush’s campaign to privatize Social Security. Crabby would like to take credit for defeating the president’s misbegotten proposal, but even she doesn’t have that much ego.

I’m still proud of the “mom series” about caring for my mother full time during the final months of her life. It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever written, and I’m glad I did it even if it did take 12 years to happen.

The first post is titled “40 Versus 62” which, it appears from an editorial note, I wrote in September 2003. Obviously, I was a slow starter since the next post did not appear until March 2004.

Here is a story from 11 months ago with photos of my morning walk along Casco Bay. I should do an update soon. Also, there is this silly fantasy from last summer about the plants in my deck garden. I’ll need to update that later this season since there are many newcomers to the fold and it was such fun to write.

And that’s about all the blog nostalgia I can tolerate. On to the next one thousand posts.

[There is a note from moi today at The Elder Storytelling Place about the pleasures of slow reading.]


Your Little First Amendment Machine

For the past two years, there has been a little badge at the bottom of the left sidebar on this blog. It’s cute – reminiscent of World War II posters – but the words, about liberty and blogs, are a critical reminder of our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.

I was inspired to post that badge linking to a bloggers’ legal guide at the Electronic Frontier Foundation two years ago after attending the first Blogher conference in California. At the end of an engaging day of new ideas and new friends where all 300 attendees were gathered in a large meeting room, New York University professor, Jay Rosen (who blogs at PressThink), joined in the wrap-up discussion. I don’t remember anything else he said, only this:

“Blogs are little First Amendment machines.”

“YESSSSS!" I thought. "Exactly!” It is what we have needed for as long as I can remember – a way for anyone, anywhere, any time to have his or her say where any- and everyone can read or hear it. And now we do.

So I posted Jay’s astute observation just below the little badge as a daily reminder to myself – and readers who notice it – that what we do here in the blogosphere isn’t all ego and recipes. Something important is happening that has the potential to change the relationship between the people and the press, and between people and government. In fact, it already has.

On Tuesday, Jay published a story on alternet.org (reprinted from Huffington Post) titled, “A Blog is a Little First Amendment Machine.” Due to blogs and the emerging two-way nature of the web, Jay explains, media is no longer a one-way street from producer to audience:

“As it moves toward the Web, journalism will have to adjust to these conditions, but a professionalized press is having trouble with the shift because it still thinks of the people on the other end as an audience - an image very deeply ingrained in professional practice.

“I'm going to tell you some stories that I think illustrate the disruptive effects that blogging has had, and the democratic potential it represents.”

One of those stories concerns Senator Trent Lott who, in December 2002, appeared to support the segregationist 1948 presidential campaign of Senator Strom Thurmond. America would have been better off, said Lott, if Thurmond had been elected. Mainstream media mostly ignored the story, but as Jay explains:

“It turned out that bloggers from the left as well as the right were puzzled and disgusted by Lott's comments, and they continued to discuss them. For three days the story was the talk of the blogosphere while the news cycle moved on to other things. But political reporters were reading the blogs, and by the fourth day they realized - This was news!

“The story of what Lott had said re-broke in the major press - five days after it happened - and he began apologizing for it while major political figures reacted. Ten days later he resigned as majority leader; his power was gone.

“Here's the part of the story I want you to focus on: the chances of a television producer from CBS or a style reporter from the Washington Post not knowing enough history to see any import in Trent Lott's comments were pretty high. But the chances of the interconnected blogosphere not knowing this background were zero.

“To this day professional journalists do not understand this fact, even though it was one of the things that helped sink Dan Rather when his badly flawed report on President Bush's National Guard service was attacked (and sunk) by bloggers and their readers.”

You may think that’s just a little blog you’re publishing – something about your town, or a book you read or the grandkids. But it is much more than that. So long as there are millions of us keeping watch over media, government, corporations and others who would seek to influence us, they become more accountable, our liberty is furthered and democracy is strengthened.

“The most famous words ever written about freedom of the press are in the U.S. Constitution: ‘Congress shall make no law...’ concludes Jay Rosen. “But the second most famous words come from the critic A.J. Liebling: ‘freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.’

“Well, freedom of the press still belongs to those who own one, and blogging means practically anyone can own one. That is the Number One reason why blogs - and this discussion - matter.

“With blogging, an awkward term, we designate a fairly beautiful thing: the extension to many more people of a free press franchise, the right to publish your thoughts to the world.
Wherever blogging spreads, the dramas of free expression follow. A blog, you see, is a little First Amendment machine.”

Jay includes four more stories about how democracy has and can be furthered through blogs and I urge you to read his important piece.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Frank Paynter shows how expert our pets are in manipulating us, in Searching for Veneta.]


Kent’s U.S. Drive

I met Kent McKamy sometime in the late 1970s, maybe early 1980s. We lose touch for years at a time, meet up again and always, it is like no time has gone by. We pick up where we last left off.

Kent has contributed a couple of stories at The Elder Storytelling Place and now he is spending the summer telling stories every day about his grand adventure driving around the United States at his new blog, kentsusdrive.


kentsusdrive

“I want to talk to as many people as I can in hardware stores, diners, gas stations, bookshops, barber shops, stationery stores and other establishments in small towns across America,” writes Kent. “I want to get a feel for this country on the ground. I want to get a personal sense of the people who call themselves Americans, and a personal knowledge of the geography of this vast nation.”

It can be difficult beginning a grand tour. After a delay due to some problems with the rental car company, Kent deduced that

“Getting out of Dodge is probably easier than getting out of New York…I found that I had about two hours of client work still to finish, find stuff I’d forgotten to plan to take (I now have more electronic gadgetry with me than your average Circuit City), load additional programs into my laptop computer, charge camera batteries…”

But he was finally on the road only one day late. Memorial Day found Kent in western New York State:

“Many of the small towns we passed through were busy with final preparations for Memorial Day parades and other celebrations. (We had to make several detours, because policemen waved us off the main streets.) In several tiny, two-block “villages,” yellow ribbons festooned trees and telephone poles. Patriotism is strong is this part of the country…”

At the Crossbow Inn in Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania, Kent asked Jessica, the waitress what she recommended for dinner:

“…the Susi [sic]. It’s grilled chicken strips and home cut French fries mixed with bacon and covered with spicy ranch dressing. ‘It’s real good,’ Jessica said. ‘It’s my favorite thing to eat here.’ So Jason and I ordered a plateful, which we ate with hot sausage-onion-mushroom-pepper hoagies. The Susi was good. So were the hoagies."

That evening, Kent found himself along the southern edge of Lake Erie in Ohio:

“…huge granite boulders were laid higgledy-piggledy next to each other, separating the ‘beach’ from the icy, clear fresh water of the lake. About 25 people - children and gownups -were stretched out for maybe 300 yards, sitting on the boulders, fishing.

“It was a warm evening. Mist was rising from the water about 100 yards offshore, filtering the setting sun to a pale gold. The water lapped gently against the boulders. The air was still and quiet. So were we.”

Kent will be stopping in small towns all across the United States over the summer. Why not stop by kentsusdrive and give him a holler in the comments.

[Norm Jenson is back at The Elder Storytelling Place with a tale of schoolboy misbehavior titled "Pink Pearl".]