Adjusting to Changes
The Drums of War

This Week in Elder News: 28 June 2008

In this regular weekend feature you will find links to news items from the preceding 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.

I've been a George Carlin fan since he began standup comedy decades ago. Of course, it helps that mostly he said things out loud that I'd been thinking privately and there's hardly any riff of his I disagree with. We lost a great truth-teller last week, and I'm not sure there's anyone to take his place. Here's a short Carlin piece on euphemisms for aging and death. (Hat tip to Nancy Leitz)

"Older" sounds a little better than "old," doesn't it? Sounds like it might even last a little longer. I'm getting old. And it's OK. Because thanks to our fear of death in this country I won't have to die - I'll "pass away." Or I'll "expire," like a magazine subscription.

If it happens in the hospital they'll call it a "terminal episode." The insurance company will refer to it as "negative patient care outcome." And if it's the result of malpractice, they'll say it was a "therapeutic misadventure."

You become 21, turn 30, push 40, reach 50 and make it to 60. You've built up so much speed that you hit 70! After that, it's a day-by-day thing: you hit Wednesday! You get into your 80s and every day is a complete cycle. You hit lunch; you turn 4:30; you reach bedtime.

And it doesn't end there. Into the 90s, you start going backwards: "I was just 92." Then a strange thing happens. If you make it over 100, you become a little kid again. "I'm 100-and-a-half!" May you all make it to a healthy 100-and-a-half.

Let's not depart from George Carlin too quickly today. This recent piece, The American Dream, is Carlin at his politically angry best. [4:49 minutes] (Hat tip to Darlene Costner)

Following on Carlin's American Dream, on Thursday 39 Senate Republicans blocked a bill - H.R.6331, which had passed overwhelming in the House - that would have prevented a 10.6 percent cut in reimbursements to physicians who accept Medicare patients.

The reason? Money for maintaining the pay level would have been taken from subsidies paid to insurance companies that sell Medicare Advantage (i.e. Medicare privatization) programs. Those subsidies cost taxpayers 13-plus percent more than it would cost traditional Medicare for the same beneficiaries.

Undoubtedly some of the 600,000 doctors who accept Medicare patients will stop doing so. Just what the country needs as the baby boomers soon begin reaching the age to qualify for Medicare. More here.

We all know that walking is excellent exercise for elders, but some places make it easier than others. Now you can find out how "walkable" your neighborhood is at WalkScore. On a scale of 0-100, my score here on Munjoy Hill in Portland, Maine, is 68. My previous address in New York City gets 100. How does your neighborhood rank?

I've been bothered for a long time that I use too many plastic bags. To cut down, I recently bought some re-usable grocery bags, but I accept plastic bags at some shops because they are good - even essential - for one chore: scooping out the cat litter box. I hadn't found a better solution - until now.

I discovered biodegradable dog waste bags made from corn starch. You can buy them at pet supply websites and stores (here's one brand; there are others). The manufacturers and retailers haven't yet twigged to the fact that they are good for litter box cleanup, so you need to look in the dog section. I've found all kinds of kitchen uses for them too.

No link associated with this item, just a question about which I'm genuinely puzzled. Senator Barack Obama held a fundraiser last week asking large-money donors to contribute to paying off Senator Hillary Clinton's $20 million primary campaign debt.

Even though the debt includes at least $11 million of Clinton's own money that she chose to spend on her campaign, political pundits mostly agree that paying Clinton's debt is the right thing for Obama and donors to do.

Am I nuts to think that Democratic dollars would be better spent on the Democratic presidential campaign and that if Senator Clinton owes more money than she raised, it is her personal debt? If I am nuts to think this, here's a deal for you: I overdid my credit card a bit last month and could use some help paying it off.

Many of the 47 million Americans without healthcare coverage are children, a condition few would deny needs to be rectified. On the other hand, maybe not. Here is a report from The Onion with new information you may not have considered. [1:35 minutes] (Hat tip to Lia of Yum Yum Cafe)


There is nothing wrong with you. I, too, cannot get over how "we" have to pay back the Clintons for their own money used up! I certainly never asked nor wanted her to keep on running in those primaries! Good grief!

Thanks so much for that advice about biodegradable doggie bags for my Ada's litter box. Woo Hoo!


I loved the video about the "Big guys" who really run the country.
I agree with that.

I have always felt that if the powers that be in this country REALLY wanted us to vote, the polling places would be open from 7 A.M. Saturday until 7 P.M. Sunday, instead of what we have now which is 7 A.M. Tuesday until 8 P.M. Tuesday; just when most people are at work. I have worked at our local polling place for years and I see the exact same people every election. Mostly retired people because all of our younger citizens are at WORK during those hours.The politicians know this and would change the hours if it was to their benefit.

In recent years I have been wondering why you can vote via telephone or computer with almost 100% accuracy for your favorites on "Dancing With The Stars" or "American Idol" but we can't have a referendum on abortion or the death penalty or homosexual rights,
etc. by the same method.

I believe it is because "They" as George Carlin pointed out, really do not want us to have a voice in government.They prefer to have "Smoke screen" issues to throw up to get the Evangelical Right all steamed up at the Liberal Left and while we're fighting with each other over whether homosexuals can get married, THEY are declaring war in Iraq and 5 years later 4,000 of our troops are dead and 30,000 are severely wounded. WE never had the opportunity to vote on whether or not to attack Iraq.

George Carlin was right on in his assessment of how our government is run. I will miss his commentary very much.

R.I.P. George.

You’re NOT nuts. I, too, was shocked with the news regarding Hillary’s campaign debt payoff plan. I’ll be voting for Obama, but the only way I’ll forgive him for this is if he does NOT choose Hillary to be his running mate! :) I’m really hoping he has decided she will not be his running mate and this is his concession (even though it’s an awful one).

AND I really, really agree with Nancy on the voting day thing. Why not have voting on the weekend, for heaven's sake? Why haven't THE PEOPLE protested? I never hear anyone complaining about it! Of course, given the fact that most Americans don't bother voting, maybe I've just answered my own question...

Maybe I'll ask Obama to pay my bills - surely he'll show me the same consideration he shows Hillary.....LOL

I am hoping that our doctors don't decide to quit taking Medicare patients. We would be truly up the creek without a paddle.

On the voting day issue, there's an even simpler solution, and Oregon state does it. It works great. It's call vote-by-mail. There's no polling place at all. We all get our ballots in advance of election day, we fill them out, we put them in a double envelope (inner secrecy, outer id'ing us), sign the outer. Then we drop it in a drop-off box (just about every library and town hall has one) or in the mail (assuming it's at least 3-4 business days prior to election day when we send it!), and tada, we have voted.

It's sane, it's easy, it adapts to just about EVERYONE'S schedule, and it is also good for people whose transportation options are limited since they don't have to get to a specific polling place...just their mailbox. No gas expense, no time on a bus, no any extra effort.

I have a friend who does voting security work and I should note that vote-by-telephone and vote-by-net and electronic voting is not necessarily secure. Electronic voting at the polling place with a paper trail for each vote is okay, I gather, because you can audit it, but the rest are risky. That's not so important for Dancing With The Stars, really - but I wouldn't want to see government elections take the risk. At least in vote-by-mail we're dealing still with real physical recountable ballots. (And if you don't trust the post office, you've only to get to your local drop-off box any time the location it's in is open - many are secured boxes in parking lots and available 24/7 during the voting period.)

Hi Everyone!

The Medicare cut in primary care fees is just the beginning. Meltdown day for Medicare is in 2017 according to experts. A retired couple of 65 already will spend a quarter million bucks on out of pocket costs in a normal lifetime. That figure is going up unless someone summons the political will to do something. I don't wait up for that to happen.

We head a lot about Social Security problems, but it is easily fixable. Medicare is very tough; Medicaid is too.

And yes, we spend billions on wars and millions on political tv commercials that say nothing. I guess we are all old enough to realize that life is not fair. But we are all young enough to keep hoping.



See, this is what I like so much about blogging and communicating with each other.

I didn't know Oregon voted that way. That's a great idea. Do you get volunteers to open all those envelopes and count the votes?

We only do that physical counting on the absentee ballots. On the regular votes we use electronic machines with touch screens. At the end of voting we put in a code and the machine tabulates the votes and sends out a long tape with all the votes on it, so we have a "Paper trail" in the case of a recount.

I like the idea of voting as Oregon does. Laura, what percentage of the registered voters in Oregon actually vote in a mayoral or senatorial election? How about a Presidential election? I'll bet you get a lot more voters than we do with your better system. In the Bush - Kerry election of 2004 we had 990 voters out of 1,400 registered in my little district. I think we would have had more if the voting process were simplified and made more convenient.

The thing with the insurance companies being paid to play the Medicare system for all it's worth is only getting worse. Now CMMS is removing almost any risk to the insurance companies by adjusting for risk in its payments to them. Naturally, doctors are now being incentivized to document every conceivable complicating comorbidity. It would seem to me that, if there's no risk left to speak of, then it's not insurance at all but simply skimming.

I loved the piece by George Carlin. I feel that way, but could never have expressed it in a condensed, listenable form. Good comedians do a great service when they expose current events.

I hadn't thought about the voting issue. I have been an election judge for years and recognize the voters. There are too many people who stay at home, assuming their vote won't make a difference. And, as noted above, the day-time voters are retired, or stay-at-home folks. Those who work a full day, especially the ones with a long commute, are not at home during polling hours.

Ronni, your column ought to be front and center on every computer in the USA. You are more insightful in your topics than newspapers or TV.

Arizona has both; polling places and vote by mail. All you have do to vote by mail is request a ballot (By phone to the Registrar) in time to fill it out and send it in. Once you have voted by mail you will automatically get your ballots in the mail in plenty of time to vote. I believe you check a box in your initial request that you want to vote by mail continuously.

Obama's offer to help pay Hillary's debt is an attempt to buy the votes of those who support her. Hopefully, it won't work.

I fail to understand why this elder community are so pro-Obama -- what is he offered for us? SS payments that actually reflect increase heating & food costs? improved lower-out-pocket-cost medical care -- his medical plan only involves children (here in CT the low-income child already has better coverage than my grandchildren whose parents work & one has a very responsible high-paid position with a health insurance company). Is he going to end our world-wide give-aways & use those funds for needs here in America, such as health care for all American workers & public transport & secure borders? While I don't like the Republican platform, I just don't see anything to recommend an inexperienced, Carter-like dreamer whose early formative years were spent in a foreign culture.

Someone needs to point out to him, when he's on this dreammy kick of brotherhood that the Bottom line is: when the winter gets cold, "love one another" doesn't pay the oil bill. Oh - but if the pundits critize him, they are automatically "racist" or playing the "racist" card.


If the employer health coverage isn't adequate, nothing prevents your "high-paid" son or daughter from purchasing additional insurance.

Or are you suggesting that children of low-paid workers deserve less than your well-off grandchildren?

No, I'm not suggesting that -- merely that her coverage should be equal to that available to those using tax payer's dollars (hers & mine); that her out-of-pocket expenses should not exceed that of the assisted famiy. Re her purchasing more insurace -- no such thing. She works for the primary health insurer in the state & chose the best, premier plan -- and still pays $200 per month out of pocket for daugher's prescription & has 5 weeks less therapy then the Huskey Plan kids have available. Not Fair!

We all agree with you that Sen Clinton should spend from now until Nov paying off her own campaign debt.

She and Bill should tour the country with all 18 million of us organizing fundraisers and planing to form a third party so we never again have to be in the same party with people who we have nothing in common with and who can't even pass the Equal Pay Act when they are the majority in congress.

Let us have no more disgusting Unity campaigning - let BO campaign on his own without using Hillary to pretend he is not a sexist empty suit. Let her stay far away from him and his thirty thousand a plate fundraisers and 93 million dollar a month fund raising campaigns.

But if she does have to [...removed by site owner for unacceptable language...] pretend he is competent, let him pay for her services or do without them.

I just love the Onion's videos. Very clever how they they take a serious situation (in this case children's health care) and use satire to show how ridiculous it is to blame the needy for the problem and absolve the powerful for their refusal to solve it.

Not as raw or blunt as George Carlin, but is accomplishes the same thing.

CT Grammy:

If you want private, employer-provided coverage to equal what the state provides to low-income children, it is a matter to be taken up with the private insurer or the employer.

The government and taxpayers have no control over employer-provided, private coverage.

Until the United States catches up with the rest of the industrialized world in providing universal coverage, we are stuck with this jury-rigged system of healthcare. Some poeple pay more, some less - and private coverage is not regulated.

At least your state provides something for children not as privileged as your grandchildren. I'm sure you don't mean to begrudge them that.


I don't mean to be obtuse, but wasn't Senator Clinton a member of the Congress that didn't pass the Equal Pay Act?

For what it's worth, I would have the same question about paying off Senator Obama's debt had circumstances been reversed.

I could be mistaken, but I seem to remember that former Governor Mitt Romney used his own money to run his primary campaign and no one raised money to reimburse him.

In the interests of civil discourse, a portion of your last paragraph has been removed.

While we are on health care I would like to point out that the medical establishment (doctors, insurance companies, and hospitals) and the drug companies are among the "owners" of this country. They are collectively in the business of soaking us for as many of our dollars as they can.

It is difficult to disagree with the majority of writers here. When I heard and read the news is the funds to help retire Hilary's campaign dept would probably not be used for the money she loaned herself she is expected to absorb that cost.
It is a tradition in party politics that one the vote is in everyone "kisses and makes up." This is what we are seeing.
My first reaction was to say let it go the primaries are done. Let's get going on getting the Republicans out of power.
I was a supporter of Hilary and will now be voting for Barrack Obama. When I read todays post and comments I feel very alienated.

If we want woman to run for public office we have to support them financially and with votes other wise we have a continuation of the old boys club running things.


Go on Obama's site and check out his positions on issues before you claim things are true based on what you don't know.

His health care plan is outlined here, for instance:

Obama's advisors are quite good, especially on economic issues. His health care positions are fairly centrist and I really don't think your concerns over children getting cheaper health care than your grandkids are at all valid. Whatever benefits those low-income kids might get, certainly your grandkids with "well off" parents who have good salaries are far better off economically, now aren't they?

If you somehow think that's not fair, then work for single payer universal health care coverage that is fair to everyone -- believe me, you're already paying the costs for the uninsured in those higher premiums and bigger deductibles you're complaining about.

Obama is my choice for president based on the issues and character. I read the comments above and obviously others saw it differently but please not because of gender or race. When someone acts like being president is owed due to past actions, it seems wrong to me. I will never vote for a woman purely because she is female. I cringe every time I hear a woman say she felt so disenfranchised when she heard about the man saying iron my shirt. It was a plant. Who irons shirts today? I believe this was done to rile up older women and it worked. Listen to what is being said and think about whether it makes sense. Much of the political system is about creating an emotional reaction. It's our job as responsible voters to be informed and sort out the tricks.

This morning, I read Maureen Dowd in NY Times about the women who flew to Unity to diss Obama and felt like this is why men didn't want women to have the vote believing they were ruled by emotions, not sense. As a woman I know women don't have to be that way but the woman who stuffed tissue in her ears to not hear was acting like a small child not a mature woman. I just wish there had been no coverage of that immature action as it makes all of us females look bad.

Nobody can give us everything we want. It's never happened and never will. There is no free lunch. Every government program requires someone to pay for them. If some politician promises you solutions with no way to pay for them, throw out the solution.

What really gets me though (and yes, this is a rant) is women who wanted Hillary and now say they will vote for McCain.. say what??!! Who will that hurt? I guess they figure Obama supporters but when the next right winger is appointed to the Supreme Court, it will be everybody who believes in any rights at all other than making money, I guess. I hope women who are so enraged over Hillary's loss will pay attention to the issues at stake before November comes. Four more years of Bush policies will not get them revenge that will have any lasting satisfaction.

Ronni, on these issues I agree with you and George Carlin. Here's an idea about Clinton's campaign debt: since she and Bill are in the millionaire league, let her pay off her own debt and all those additional funds that Obama raises go to curing something. The ridiculous amount of money spent on political campaigns could feed a lot of hungry Americans who have slipped between the social services cracks and eat cheap dog food and cut their medications in half to survive. I’m convinced presidential elections have been manipulated and decided by the “owners” Carlin described years in advance and they let us “vote” so we think we “elected” a president. Sadly, as long as material possessions are more important than moral values, there’s no way we can ever return to the standards that built our country.

Like the WalkScore but was really surprised they rated my neighborhood only 54. I have access to just about all the basic needs (except my Dr.)and much more within a block, two or three.

You "buy" bags? That's not too frugal. ;-) I'm given recycled biodegradeable free paper bags I bring home with my groceries. Then, I use them to hold my trash, another into which items for recycle trash container. We can get plastic grocery bags, which I occasionally accept, but are encouraged to return them to store where they recycle them.

Like the Onion video! Good ole G. Carlin's humor will be missed.

Frankly, I don't care if BO pays off HC. I just want to focus on the issues and what we want changed and fine-tuned in case there's actually a chance we can have some influence.

The idea of having another four years like the last eight is more than any sane person should have to bear and could result in this nation's demise -- a disaster that our founders would find incredible.

Kenju, doctors have been quietly stopping accepting Medicare patients for a long time (started on the East Coast years ago I understand.) Supposedly they can't do it, but age discrimination is illegal, too. Try proving it. There's a line, "The Doctor isn't accepting new patients right now" which is certainly the doctor's right.

What we might also ask is how much extra is being billed by the medical community, doctors, hospitals over and above the fee Medicare and the patient's supplemental insurance will pay. Is that amount gradually increasing? Even those who think they have really good insurance coverage may be paying more and more.

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