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This Week in Elder News: 8 March 2008

In this regular weekend feature you will find links to news items from the precedng week related to elders and aging, along with whatever else catches my fancy that I think you might like to know. Suggestions are welcome with, however, no promises of publication.

The powers that be backdated U.S. Daylight Savings Time this year, so don’t forget to turn your clocks ahead one hour tonight. “Spring forward, fall back” as they say.

Today marks the launch of a new group blog, Wowowow which stands for “The Women on the Web”. The blog features a bunch of New York’s elite, elder women such as gossip maven Liz Smith, actors Candace Bergen and Whoopi Goldberg, TV journalist Leslie Stahl, “Miss Manners” otherwise known as Judith Martin, comedian Lily Tomlin and a few more. I have no idea yet how “wow” this idea is, but you can read more about it here.

Dr. Robert N. Butler who invented the term “ageism” and who is CEO and president of the International Longevity Center-USA, published an issue brief on elders and drug safety [pdf]. Although elders use 40 percent of all prescription drugs, the FDA does not require us to be included in trials on efficacy and safety. This is crucial information you and your physician should know.

On the same topic, manufacturers increased the prices of prescription drugs by an average of 7.4 percent last year - two-and-a-half times the rate of inflation. The price of the sleep drug Ambien jumped 27.7 percent.

Tenure can be hard to come by for college professors; many wait decades. But 68-year old Victoria Rauch Lichterman, assistant professor of humanities at New York City College of Technology who focuses on the negative effects of ageism, was recently granted tenure after just six years of teaching at the school. Score one for elder academics. [Hat tip to Naomi Dagen Bloom of A Little Red Hen]

When Crabby Old Lady posted her objections last Tuesday to Hillary Clinton Feminists, she quoted but did not comment on a NOW leader’s swipe at black women who choose not to vote for Senator Clinton because – well, Crabby is white and doesn’t believe she can properly speak for black women. Now, G Bitch has done it for Crabby in a colorfully worded and no-uncertain-terms rant.

Remember the old Tom Jones hit, Delilah? Wait till you see this version from the Red Army Choir and Leningrad Cowboys. Crank up your audio; the louder the better because this performance is - well, BIG. Sorry, but embedding the video is not allowed, so you’ll have to visit YouTube. [Hat tip to Chris Locke of Mystique Bourgeoisie]

When, through some glitch in the system, Social Security declares you dead, it is nearly impossible to convince the agency your heart still beats. “’I don’t think people realize how difficult it is to be dead when you’re not,’ said [Laura] Todd, who is very much alive…even though the federal government has said otherwise for many years.”

It happens more often than you would think. Between January 2004 and September 2005, Social Security had to resurrect 23,366 beneficiaries and plenty more who remain active and above ground are still on the dead list.

Apparently, a town in France will not have the problem of people being mistaken for dead. Because the cemetery is full, the mayor of Sarpourenx has forbidden anyone to die in the parish. "Offenders will be severely punished,” he added.

Quote of the Week from editor and priest, Edward Dowling (note the date). [Hat tip to Danny Schechter, the News Dissector]

“The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first the widespread delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it.”
- Chicago Daily News, 28 July 1941

The Democratic Delegate Game

[POLITICAL/ENVIRONMENTAL NOTE: Today is the final day to protest the"Berlin Wall" the Homeland Security Department intends to build on the border between Texas and Mexico. Cowtown Pattie has issued a plea for anyone who can or will to help with the protest. You will find the details at Pattie's blog, Texas Trifles.]

[HOUSEKEEPING NOTE: Late yesterday, I discovered in my junk mail folder a trove of unread, blog-related email dating back to January. I don't know how they got there, and I apologize for not responding. I will catch up with each of you as fast as I have time for.]

When Crabby Old Lady was a little girl, she and her playmates amused themselves with multitudes of games. Before they began each one, they established the rules by which they would play.

In Mother May I, you had to go back to the beginning if you took a step before asking, “Mother, may I?” In hopscotch, if a token landed on a line, you lost a turn. In croquet, God help anyone who got caught surreptitiously moving a ball or nudging it through a wicket.

In these games, Crabby and her friends learned life lessons about playing by the rules, the consequences of cheating and how to win fair and square. They also learned that there is always someone in the crowd who won’t play by the rules and ruins the game.

In politics, a game in which players have been known, in some countries, to kill for the win, some of the rules are made to be deliberately squishy so that they can “legally” be bent when the race is tight. And so we have, in United States presidential elections, the phenomenon of delegates.

Each of the two major parties controls its own delegate rules. This year, only the Democratic Party delegates are in contention and depending on how those rules come to be bent, it is possible that the nominee will be decided by an elite group of about 800 super-delegates, party officials and former elected officials who may vote for any candidate they individually choose. Even those who have already pledged their vote to a particular candidate are free to change their minds.

To make the game more complicated, the committed (also called pledged) delegates, those who represent the voice of the voters in state primaries, are allocated by different rules in each state including proportional to the vote, winner take all or whether the vote is through ballot or caucus or a combination of both. In some states – but only some - the committed delegates are required by law to vote for the candidate to whom they are pledged, but only on the first ballot should the selection go to the convention.

As difficult as all that is to sort out, there is a new twist this year. In an effort to gain greater media attention, Michigan and Florida moved up the date of their primaries. This enraged the Democratic Party leadership who announced that the delegates from those two states would not be counted in the final tally, effectively disenfranchising those voters.

Not fair, you may say, and you would be correct. But the fact is, the party has the right to make their own rules in regard to their own delegates just as Crabby and her friends had the right to control the rules of their games and once a game has begun, the rules may not be broken.

The final two Democratic candidates, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, are in a tight race now, so some people want to reinstate the Florida and Michigan delegates. But according to the lessons Crabby learned playing hopscotch and Mother May I, this is a travesty of game justice.

As anyone could guess since she won both states, Senator Clinton demanded that the Florida and Michigan delegates be counted. This is patently wrong. The vote was unfair in both states because

  1. Barack Obama’s name was not on the ballot in Michigan
  2. Barack Obama, knowing the Florida delegates would not be seated, did not campaign there

In Crabby Old Lady’s childhood world, Senator Clinton would have been shouted down when she tried to change the rules in the middle of the game and if she didn’t back off, she would have been thrown out. (In either case, Crabby's nemesis, big, mean Brenda who angered easily, would probably have given Clinton a bloody nose just for emphasis.)

The positions of those who have a stake in this year’s nomination game are changing fast. At first, Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean said that rules are rules and the two states’ delegates would not be seated.

Senator Clinton countered with the idea of do-over primaries in Florida and Michigan, but the states cannot afford to pay for new elections and the Democratic National Committee would rather not, although it may, ante up money already allocated for the national campaign.

On Wednesday, Dean waffled a bit in saying that the Committee would consider proposals from the states to seat delegates, but he also said,

"The Democratic Nominee will be determined in accordance with party rules, and out of respect for the presidential campaigns and the states that did not violate party rules, we are not going to change the rules in the middle of the game.”
Huffington Post, 6 March 2008

Late Thursday, Senator Clinton said she would accept a primary do-over, but not a caucus do-over. Barack Obama’s campaign has said he will participate in any do-overs, but the decision to hold them is up to the Democratic National Party and the two states.

"We're going to abide by their rules as they exist now and whatever happens in the future," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe told reporters Wednesday.
Huffington Post, 6 March 2008

By the time you read this, positions may have changed. Crabby is hard-pressed to keep up with the latest yes-I-wills, no-we-won'ts in this crucial battle.

In a contest as close as this one, every state’s delegates are potential gold to the candidates. But even if they stick with the rules set up before the primaries, there remains the squishiness of the delegate pledge rules.

If only the Democratic Party elite had played hopscotch with Crabby and her friends - they understood how games are supposed to be played (and they never heard of do-overs).

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Rabon Saip tells us how he came to understand at least one of the consequences of Wartime.]

Too Old, Too Experienced to Work

category_bug_ageism.gif There have been a lot of news stories in the past year or so quoting surveys saying the majority of baby boomers, the oldest of whom at 62 can begin collecting Social Security this year, intend to work past standard retirement age. In the same breath, the reporters tell us this is good news because there is a shortage of workers.

However, the reason there is a potential labor shortage is that boomers will be retiring and there are millions fewer people in generation X to take their places in the workforce. I haven’t reported here on these stories because I can’t make sense of them: if boomers are not retiring, there isn’t a worker shortage.

Although it appears that some companies are marginally more enlightened recently about hiring or keeping older workers, age discrimination in the workplace is far from dead. And anyway, I have more faith in Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams to have his finger on the pulse of the working world than surveys and pundits. [Hat tip to Donna Woodka of Changing Places.]


If you are having trouble reading the cartoon, there is a full-size version here.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Darlene Costner follows up on Lia's story a couple of weeks ago about baking disasters with one of her own, Culinary Skills.]

Hillary Clinton Feminists

category_bug_politics.gif Can Crabby Old Lady be the only American or, at least, the only American feminist who feels no surprise and no particular gender pride at Senator Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy?

Over the past two years, gallons of ink have been used examining the senator, her campaign and voters’ acceptance of a woman candidate, and it has been obvious with every poll and every primary vote that the gender issue in regard to the presidency is dead. There will be a woman president this year or another, when the majority of voters believe the candidate is the best person for the job.

The zeitgeist of the country has been right for a woman to be president for some time. Building on that, Senator Clinton carefully prepared her way starting on the day of George Bush’s first inauguration. She never intended to be a bona fide representative of New York's interests as Senator Charles Schumer has been. Using her marriage to the most popular Democratic president since John F. Kennedy, she carpetbagged her way into the job and conducted herself in it for seven years as a stepping-stone to a planned presidential run.

Although Crabby didn’t like what Senator Clinton was doing, politics is politics and she isn’t the first to take advantage of a family member's popularity. Robert Kennedy did the same thing in the same state two generations ago. (Crabby Old Lady has never been able to forgive the voters of New York for falling for it – either time.)

Senator Clinton is an old-time, practiced pol, no different from the men in the race. Her campaign is calculated and calibrated depending on daily polls, just like the men. She stretches the truth in attacks on her opponents and runs misleading ads, just like the men. She gets as good as she gives - fairly and otherwise - just like the men. And she has held her own in one of the two top spots throughout the campaign, even making a fairly dramatic comeback last night.

No one can say the Democratic nomination process has not been fair in regard to Mrs. Clinton - as fair, that is, as politics ever is. Yet there is a coterie of certain women who continue to complain and who, Crabby senses, will not be satisfied with anything less than a unanimous anointment of Senator Clinton as Queen of the United States without all this messy bother of an election.

Yesterday in the Washington Post, there was yet another examination of women's support, or lack of it, for Senator Clinton. The title of the piece, “To Women, So Much More Than Just a Candidate”, is misleading as all the people interviewed for the story are professional feminists who, it turns out from the article, are not representative of Crabby, her politics and, most particularly, not her kind of feminism.

The jumping-off point of the story was the dearth of attendees at an Akron, Ohio rally in support of Senator Clinton where half a dozen prominent feminists were scheduled to speak. Not one, in the Post story, gave a reason to vote for Senator Clinton except that she is a woman wronged.

Marion Wagner, a regional director for the National Organization for women, says,

“The issue that’s not being talked about in this campaign is the blatant sexism. There are some people who promote Barack Obama because they want anybody but a woman. Would they like a white man instead of a black man? Of course. But they'll take a black man over a woman.”

Actually, Crabby is bleary-eyed from all the talk about sexism in the campaign and that last sentence gives Crabby a creepy feeling of old-style racism, or maybe sexism or both.

Marj Signer, president of NOW's Virginia chapter:

"They try to bury her, to vaporize her. They make her out to be a bimbo. I guess the message is that women are still fair game."

Bimbo? Did Crabby miss that debate? And Senator Clinton has more than held her own in the bury and vaporize sweepstakes on the campaign trail.

Diane Dodge, NOW president in Ohio:

"There are people who say, 'Your battle is over. There's no more sexism anymore,' she said. "Well, at the very least, maybe the whole experience of this campaign will wake those people up."

There is no one to wake up except the feminist leaders who haven't moved beyond 1965. No 21st century feminist believes the battle is over; it's just moved forward from the extreme rhetoric at the beginning of the women's movement, and continues to progress as this campaign proves.

Reporter Eli Saslow continues:

"As Wagner and other NOW executives toured Ohio last week, they repeated a resounding message: Clinton has been mistreated by an opponent who subtly demeans her, by mainstream media that ridicules her, by voters too threatened to vote for a confident woman, by young women who no longer feel the urgency of the women's movement, by African American women for whom race is more important than gender."

Is there anyone these women haven't dissed? If this is the leadership of feminism, Crabby Old Lady is embarrassed to call herself a feminist. Nowhere is there mention of Senator Clinton's strengths, of her positions these women believe are better than Barack Obama's or why she is the best person (person! not woman) to be president. And nowhere an understanding or acknowledgment that politics in the United States is a blood sport and the men, like Senator Clinton herself, will take every advantage they can. Like it or not, it's how the game is played.

The NOW leaders point, according to the reporter, to Senator Obama's pulling out Senator Clinton's chair at debates as evidence of unfairness:

"You can bet that's a calculated move," Wagner said, "and it's absolutely demeaning."

Oh, please. We fought that battle more than forty years ago. Today, it is a polite, social gesture; there is no subtle disrespect it.

"The problem, NOW leaders said," writes the reporter, "is that too many young women [are] turning to Obama because they feel no obligation to vote for a historic first for their gender."

Nor should they. Crabby is with the young women in this argument. Remaining pockets of prejudice aside, this election is not about gender or race or an historic first (although the last item will happen if either Democratic hopeful is elected). It is about digging our country out of the deepest trouble we've known in Crabby's 67 years, and we must choose the candidate we each believe can best do that regardless of gender, race or age.

The only group the NOW leaders did not demean are elders, but the one leader who made Crabby squirm most in this story is a Clinton fundraiser from Cleveland named Lana Moresky, who said,

"I think a lot of women are really in shock about it, and they're going to feel gypped if she loses." [emphasis added]

Where Crabby Old Lady comes from that word, a pejorative for the Romany people, is not used any more than the N word or the K word or all the rest that demean ethnic groups, and Crabby is surprised the Washington Post printed it.

It is hard not to wonder if Senator Clinton's recent slippage in polls and primaries (overcome in yesterday's primaries) was not, in some part, due to feminist supporters like these. If they are the leadership of the feminist cause today, Crabby Old Lady needs to find another way to describe her support of women's rights. In no way do these feminists speak for Crabby.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, David Wolfe is back with another tale from his childhood titled My Errant Behavior as a Grandchild.]

Today’s Primary

UPDATE: In a Wall Street Journal story earlier this week, Republican presidential candidate John McCain said that as president, he would "seek to implement private [Social Security] savings accounts...along the lines that President Bush proposed.” More at Campaign For America's Future.]

Item: Crabby Old Lady has heard hardly a word about Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain for the past week. Instead, the anchors and pundits and columnists and prognosticators have traded shots on whether Senator Hillary Clinton should drop out of the Democratic primary if she does not win both Ohio and Texas today.

Or, whether she should drop out if she wins only one. Or if she wins both, but by slim margins. Or – well, Crabby can’t remember the other options now, but all have been presented as being “for the good of the party” and there’s damned little commentary on what the good of the country might be. It’s all horse race and no substance.

Item: For the entire year of 2005, Crabby spent a great deal of time researching Social Security and reporting (through 24 posts) all the reasons she and others she quoted believed that President Bush’s Social Security privatization proposal was a bad idea.

The president wanted to allow workers to invest two percent or four percent or more of their Social Security contributions in stocks which, according to Mr. Bush, would make everyone millionaires by the time they retired. It was as though the president and his Social Security plan supporters had never heard of recession.

Apparently, a large majority of the country HAD heard of recession and the proposal never made it Congress. Crabby doesn’t like being an old I-told-you-so, but here we are in 2008, with the stock market dropping daily like temperatures in a Maine winter.

Item: In 2006, President Bush tried to resurrect his Social Security privatization plan. It lasted about one news cycle and disappeared, but Crabby made note of one report suggesting that the plan might succeed if Senator Clinton were to be elected president:

“[Senator Clinton’s] husband was considering pushing for legislation that would have put 2 percentage points of payroll taxes into a private account system, [economist Dean] Baker says. But his affair with an intern blocked any decision.”
The Christian Science Monitor, 8 May 2006

[Crabby cannot link to the newspaper’s story; it is now behind a firewall.]

There are four things to know about the idea that Senator Clinton, as president, might try to privatize Social Security:

  1. She doesn’t necessarily agree with her husband on all policies

  2. Senator Barack Obama (and Senator Clinton), as far as Crabby knows, hasn’t said anything about Social Security privatization during this campaign

  3. Campaign rhetoric has little to do with actual practice once a candidate is elected

  4. Anything that benefits corporations over citizens (which Social Security privatization would do in the billions of dollars) will be tried one way or another

Elder issues have not been addressed (yet) in this year’s campaign, but Crabby keeps thinking about that Christian Science Monitor story and about how Social Security privatization would impoverish future elders. Even with her four points above, Crabby wouldn’t be disturbed if Senator Clinton drops out of the campaign after today.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Grannymar recalls a terrorist attack from half a century ago at an Irish hotel named La Mon and how the community overcame it.]

Puncturing One Stereotype to Create Another

category_bug_ageism.gif It is a long-term article of faith that seems impossible to counter: young people are flexible, liberal and eager for the new; old people are rigid, conservative and stuck in their ways. Elders themselves know the latter is not true, but conventional wisdom says otherwise and the stereotype has negative effects every day in age discrimination in the workplace, less aggressive healthcare and a general, cultural sidelining of elders.

Now, there is a new study published in the October 2007 issue of American Sociological Review that shows the reality about both age groups to be the reverse of what is believed.

Sociologist, Nicholas L. Danigelis, of the University of Vermont, studied the political attitudes of 46,510 American adults from the years 1972 to 2004.

“…people age 60 and older became more liberal more quickly than did their younger counterparts on most measures. Indeed, on some issues, such as protecting free speech for unpopular groups, the 60-and-older set became more tolerant over time, while the 40-and-under crowd became less so.”
BNet, January 2008

Beliefs and attitudes analyzed for the study covered a range of contentious issues: “women; blacks; support for civil rights for such unpopular groups as communists, racists and atheists; …opinions about such personal issues as divorce, extramarital sex, and the right to die.” The researchers were “particularly interested in how the attitudes of people age 60 and older compared to the attitudes of people under the age of 40.”

“As people age, their political attitudes grow more liberal and flexible. ‘We found no support for the bogeyman of gerontology, which is that the older you get, the more conservative and rigid you become,’” [Danigelis] says.
BNet, January 2008

Now here’s the interesting part – Danigelis’s explanation for the negative stereotypes elders have borne for so long and seem so difficult to dislodge:

“Danigelis points to two forces that turned Americans against their elders. First, ‘the American Revolution challenged the old systems of patriarchy with newfangled ideas of liberty and equality,’ he says, ‘which led to a systematic dismantling of the stature of older folks.’

“Second, the industrial revolution shifted people’s values away from experience and knowledge that the agrarian life demanded and toward the mobility and youth that factories preferred. ‘It was a 180-degree turn,’ he says. ‘Old became bad and young became good.’”

BNet, January 2008

In all the reading I’ve done about ageism over the past dozen years, I have never run into an explanation that makes as much sense. It doesn’t make the prejudice acceptable, just more comprehensible. Dangelis believes some stereotypes are diminishing, but, he continues,

“…I fear that we’re creating new stereotypes that are just as scary…” including that of ‘old people as an interest group whom you don’t want to cross because the AARP and Gray Panthers are going to come after you.’ Like their predecessors, these new views do not acknowledge that old people change their attitudes and behaviors in the same way that young people do.

“’Yet organizations should know that older workers are gems to be cherished, he says. ‘Older people have experience, they have knowledge, and they have the ability to adapt.’"

BNet, January 2008

So the conclusion appears to be that when one stereotype is punctured, another will be created to take its place.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Herchel Newman reveals his rascally humor in Valentine Trick or Treat.]

This Week in Elder News: 1 March 2008

In this regular Saturday feature you will find links to news items from the precedng week related to elders and aging, along with whatever else catches my fancy that I think you might like to know. Suggestions are welcome with, however, no promises of publication.

In the city of Manchester in England, a playground for elders has recently opened in a local park right next to the kiddie playground. "The equipment is great,” said one elder. “It's laugh-a-minute. If it makes people laugh and there is exercise involved, then how can it be a bad thing?” I think it’s a great idea and I wish there were one in my town. (Hat tip to lilalia of Yum Yum Café.]

Great strides are being made in DNA testing for identifying the potential for contracting certain diseases and conditions. But The New York Times reports and HuffPost follows up on a trend of people terrified to have the tests for fear of losing their health coverage. There’s an easy solution: Congress can legislate against providers taking that advantage – and it should.

Last summer, we reported on producer Sue Perlgut's documentary, 100 Ways to Retire. Now she's looking for some help with a brief survey of older women about advice given and received. It would be nice if you could help her out.

When a Fedex courier filed an EEOC age discrimination suit against her employer in 2002, it was disallowed by a court because the EEOC failed to inform Fedex within the required 60 days. Finally, last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the lower court must allow the suit to continue, that plaintiffs cannot be made to suffer when a federal agency errs in its responsibilities. Can someone explain to me why this took six years and the Supreme Court to decide it?

In another age discrimination case last week, the Supreme Court wimped out. The question involved whether testimony from other employees of Sprint, laid off at the same time as the plaintiff, could be allowed. A lower court had denied it. The Supreme Court sent the question back to the federal district court. This case, too, has been going on for six years. The wheels of justice grind on.

All too often we hear of prescription drugs pulled off the market for previously unknown side effects. One reason that happens is that it's not easy for people to report their own side effects. This month, March, the FDA will announce its decision about whether to include an 800 number for patient reporting on TV prescription drug ads. Consumer Reports is collecting signatures on a petition supporting this move. You can find out more and sign the petition here.

In a money-saving move, beginning 1 June, all major airlines – 240 of them – will require etickets for all passengers. Although the number seems high to me, the Washington Post reports that 97 percent of U.S. passengers already fly on etickets. Those without access to the internet will still be able to book by phone or through agents, but will be required to pick up their etickets at the airport rather than receiving them by mail.

In a week in which Senator Hillary Clinton pounded away at Senator Barack Obama for borrowing some speech language from a friend, it amuses me to discover that senior White House aide, Tim Goeglein, plagiarized nearly every word of his column for home-town newspaper, the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. As soon as Nancy Null Nall revealed the theft on her blog, the paper removed the column and printed Geoglein’s apology.

Voters and election officials alike have serious doubts about Diebold and other brands of voting machines. With that in mind, enjoy this parody from The Onion of a news report about a nightmare event that some people worry isn’t humor at all. (2:43 minutes)

Quote of the week:

"Although most industrial Western (as well as Eastern) European countries have national health services, the American taxpayer is not allowed this amenity because it would be socialism, which is right next door to godless communism and free love, followed by suicide in the long white Swedish night."
- Gore Vidal