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Why Do Elders Oppose Health Care Reform?

HEALTH CARE ESSAYS: When I listed links to everyone's health care reform essays on 20 August, somehow Pete Sampson's got lost. His topic, in a very personal story, is end-of-life consultation. You can read it at his blog, As I Was Saying.

category_bug_politics.gif It has been around no more than a month and already it's a tired, old joke: “No socialized medicine and keep your hands off my Medicare.” Except that it is all too true. In every poll, people 65 and older – those who have Medicare – oppose similar health care for everyone else by about two to one. What could the reason be?

The “death panel” explanation has been pretty well put to bed now, and if anyone still believes Medicare benefits will be cut, they are operating on mental fumes.

In major stories on Sunday, two journalists addressed the question - Matt Bai in the magazine of The New York Times and Ezra Klein on the Opinion page of the Washington Post. I hoped, when I dived into the newspapers yesterday, that these two journalists might have an answer for me. Both disappointed.

Mr. Bai attributes elders' disinclination to support health care reform to political ideology:

“[A] 70-year-old American today, born in 1939, probably has no personal memory of F.D.R., but he would have lived through the pain of disappearing manufacturing jobs and family farms, and the rapid deterioration of urban neighborhoods and schools, conditions unabated by government experiments in welfare and public housing.

“For these new senior citizens, even the Social Security and Medicare on which they often rely may be viewed less as instruments of beneficent government than as a partial repayment for decades of taxes.”

Mr. Klein, noting the “incoherence” of elders on this issue, agreed with Bai that today's elders are Reagan conservatives, not FDR liberals, but disagrees with me that everyone, by now, should be disabused of the propaganda that Medicare benefits will be cut to pay for health care reform:

“From the beginning, Medicare has been named as one of the potential sources of savings that would fund subsidies for the uninsured. That sounds like service cuts, even if the specific changes don't involve anything of the kind (most of the savings would come from reducing overpayments to the private insurers that participate in the Medicare Advantage program).

“So the fear is not of a welfare state but of changes in their welfare state.”

From placards and yelps at August's town hall meetings, that last statement appears to be so, but Messrs. Bai and Klein have no more hard information as to elders' reasons than I do. We're all three guessing.

One of my guesses is that the Reagan conservative argument is suspect. I'm only 18 months shy of Mr. Bai's mythical 70-year-old and like the majority of people I've known in my age group, my mother, who came of age during the Depression, put the fear of god into me about it. Even if, like my mother, they didn't like FDR or his policies, they grudgingly respected his efforts.

Elders are the only age demographic that President Obama did not win in the 2008 election. Mr. Bai in the Times (and others elsewhere) suggest that racial prejudice is in play with the generation who grew up in a still segregated U.S. It pains me to think that a majority (27 or 28 million of the 35 million 65 and older population) of old people haven't come around in the 45 years since the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Even if they have not, wouldn't the fact that some reasonably large number of those elders have adult children - and a grandchild or two without health coverage - change their minds? Wouldn't they set aside their less charitable leanings for the betterment of their families' health?

Or, more greedily, wouldn't they support reform to guarantee the continued existence of their own health care program?

Projections tell us that if nothing is done to reform the health care system in the U.S., Medicare will run out of money in just eight years. Within a decade, it is said, health care costs will be three or four times what they are today if nothing is done. Congress knows that elders vote in much larger numbers than young people. All of the House and one-third of the Senate are up for re-election next year so they will pander to the old-age crowd, and if elders hang on to their fear or dislike of reform, that scares the hell out of me.

The only reasons on the table for so many elders' opposition to reform are political doctrine, greed and bigotry. Is it really that or are we missing something? What do you think? And what can be done to change elders' minds?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: The Bird Parade

ELDER MUSIC: Original Versions

PeterTibbles75x75You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.

There are some songs that have been so widely recorded or so associated with a single artist that we often forget who wrote them. I’ve generally always preferred the version by the writer of a song (notable exception: Maria Muldaur’s version of Bob Dylan’s Heart of Mine. I know there are people out there who prefer anyone’s version of Bob’s songs to his own, but that’s them).

Reason to Believe is one of those multi-recorded songs, so much so I won’t even bother to mention them all (or even some of them). You’ve heard several versions, no doubt. I’ll just play Tim Hardin’s.


A case of a song being strongly associated with a single artist is Everybody’s Talkin’. The film Midnight Cowboy made it such a successful single for Harry Nilsson that hardly anyone knows, apart from obsessives like me, that Fred Neil wrote it, and recorded a superior version on his album “The Dolphins.”


Jimmy Webb has written many songs that have been hugely successful for others, most notably Glenn Campbell. This is Jimmy ‘s wonderfully atmospheric version of Galveston.


Speaking of Glenn Campbell, he had a huge hit with Gentle on my Mind. This suited John Hartford very much as he could pretty much live off the royalties for the rest of his life, playing music when he felt like it, indulging his love of the Mississippi by becoming a riverboat pilot.

I saw him (only the) once in a club in Greenwich Village with The Dillards. At one stage, he brought out a sheet of five-ply that he proceeded to tap dance upon. He also sang and played the fiddle, the tap dancing supplying the bass line. Great entertainer.


John Stewart was more than skeptical when it was suggested his song Daydream Believer be recorded by the Monkees. He was actively opposed to the idea - the record company wanted to change some of the words - but reluctantly gave in. All that reluctance changed considerably when the royalty cheques started rolling in. “That Monkees’ version works really well” he said.


This Week in Elder News: 29 August 2009

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.

Care Giving If you go by the advertising in magazines and on television, all old people are active, healthy, beautiful and easy-going. According to the same sources, all the rest of the old people have Alzheimer's. But the majority who are never mentioned are more like Cowtown Pattie's mother – not a candidate for the cover a Medicare Advantage brochure, but not sick enough for the dementia ward either.

The adult children are caught trying to make reasonable choices and decisions, never quite sure they've done the right thing. Pattie writes about her experience with exasperation, humor and the truth of it at Texas Trifles.

Aging Minds Based only on personal anecdotal information, I have questioned the trope that old minds don't hold on to newly-learned information well. Now there is a study from the Max Planck Institute that elder minds, absent disease, remain sharp. More here.

Your Letter to the Editor There is a new service in town, a website that makes it easy to submit a letter to the editor of key newspapers in the U.S. and around the world. And just in case the letter is not printed, it can also be published on the website itself. The website is politically neutral and does not welcome mass mailings so it can be an important additional avenue to have independent voices heard. It's called

Animal Cams Live cameras trained on house pets, highways and zoos are an internet staple. But these from Flickr are special. Recordings of live cams mounted on cows, armadillos, wolves, chickens and ducks as they go about their business in the wild, and even – wait for it – crickets and bees and flies. My favorite is a falcon soaring over the earth. See them all here. (Hat tip to Stan James of Wanderingstan currently wandering in Berlin)

Too Big to Fail and Even Bigger Now Did you know that one dollar in every 10 is on deposit with JP Morgan Chase? That same percentage applies to Bank of America and Wells Fargo for a grand total of 30 percent of all deposits in those three megacorporations. Add in Citigroup, now owned by me and thee, and you're talking about 50 percent of all mortgages and two-thirds of all credit cards issued by just four big banks. This is not good for the future. Read more here.

Edward M. Kennedy Today, a significant elder who has done much to make all elders' lives better, is being buried at Arlington Cemetery. Undoubtedly you have seen the same footage and read the same stories as I have this week. A couple of them stand out. Here is part of what Senator Kennedy wrote in Newsweek published in July:

“Every American should be able to get the same treatment that U.S. senators are entitled to...This is the cause of my life. It is a key reason that I defied my illness last summer to speak at the Democratic convention in Denver — to support Barack Obama, but also to make sure, as I said, 'that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American…will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not just a privilege.

For four decades I have carried this cause — from the floor of the United States Senate to every part of this country. It has never been merely a question of policy; it goes to the heart of my belief in a just society. Now the issue has more meaning for me — and more urgency — than ever before. But it’s always been deeply personal, because the importance of health care has been a recurrent lesson throughout most of my 77 years.”

Exactly 365 days before his death, Senator Kennedy rose from a hospital bed to attend the opening night of the 2008 Democratic convention in Denver. Even sick and in pain, he delivered an astonishing, passionate speech which is no less so today - a great moment in political history. [9:56 minutes]

Elders For Health Care Reform – Quotations

category_bug_politics.gif A week ago, many Time Goes By readers who are also elderbloggers joined together writing in support of health care reform. All that day, I was scrambling to get links posted to every story written and to contact media organizations to perhaps take notice that, unlike so many elders at town hall meetings, there are a lot of us who are informed, passionate and believe everyone should have access to health care at least as good as our Medicare.

None of the media folks took notice (oh well, I tried), but a whole of lot readers did. Maybe we changed some minds, or maybe we were preaching to the choir. If the latter is all that happened, it is still important. I know a lot more about health care and reform now than I did before 20 August and anyone who read through these essays must also have learned a few things.

Another plus for me was how terrific it felt to have us all come together on one topic at the same time.

Because I was so busy that day, I have gone back during the past several days to carefully re-read every post. Each one in its own way is well-thought out, informative, compelling and useful. Please take a bow, everyone.

While re-reading them, I pulled out some quotations and today, I've organized them into some broad categories to give you a sense of what we have been thinking about health care reform. Writers names link to their 20 August posts.

Anne Gibert:
“Here’s what happened to Jerry’s wife. Some years after he took out the insurance, she discovered that she had metastasized breast cancer, the same thing Elizabeth Edwards has. It would eventually kill her, but there were treatments which could significantly prolong her life. She was given chemotherapy and the cancer went into remission. The tumors were not gone, but they were no longer growing. After another year they came back. Jerry got a letter from Group Health saying they would no longer cover Susy’s cancer.”

Darlene Costner:
“...if nothing is done, you probably won't be able to afford your health care in a very few years. Even if you are able to get insurance, or are on Medicare, you will no longer get the quality of care you now enjoy. Those who are frightened by the lies being put out by the insurance industry should really be frightened if nothing is done.”

Lois Cochran:
“My daughter recounts her recent experience at the pharmacy where she was told that her insurance company would not pay for the medication prescribed by her doctor until she first tried another medication. WHAT?! The insurance company knows better than her own doctor what she needs to be taking? Ridiculous!”

Cowtown Pattie:
“It's easy to sit back and tout that America has the best doctors and hospitals when you are amply insured with a good job; far different viewpoint if you were among the people affected by loss of employment, impossible COBRA payments, and/or suffering from a possible terminal illness that your insurance company denies coverage for.”

Ruthe Karlin:
"My mother lived to 89. She was completely demented; did not know who my father was, or who I was; saw visions and finally spent most of her last days unconscious...For the next two days my comatose mother was enthroned on a kind of pedestal bed with multiple tubes from her body to multiple machines. Then she died. Those two days cost Medicare $10,000 in 1995. Assuming those multiple machines could have saved her, what would be the point? So more money could be spent on maintaining a completely meaningless life?"

“The one time we did file a claim against our (at that time) $5,000 deductible, was when my husband was sent to our regional hospital by ambulance with a life threatening case of pneumonia. He had woken up at 4AM coughing blood. It was our doctor's decision that he needed to be in the intensive care unit at the larger hospital. Our insurance refused to allow the charge saying he wasn't ill enough to be in the hospital. That's how much you can trust insurance companies.”

Nancy B: (a nurse)
“A woman went to the hospital for surgical removal of a suspicious breast lump. When the surgeon went to remove it, it was obviously malignant and spread to lymph nodes. He removed the breast lump, the breast and some of the lymph nodes. The HMO denied coverage because the surgeon did not call the managed care organization for pre-authorization for a mastectomy instead of lump removal.”

Rain Trueax:
“In any HMO today, you cannot go to a specialist without prior approval unless you are paying for it yourself. You can only receive covered second opinions from those who are in the same insurance package. What makes some Americans believe that insurance companies care more about them than the government? Where is the evidence for that? Our current system? You jest.”

Elaine Frankonis:
“I just don’t understand why people think that corporate-run health care will look out for their interests. Corporations, by their very nature, are in it to make a profit. So, logically corporate run health care needs to maximize premiums and minimize payments so that they can make a profit.”

Jan Adams:
“There are, of course, people who don't want you to think health care is a moral issue. In fact, they want you to believe you couldn't possibly understand the issues. Mostly, they are folks who make a profit from selling medical care, drugs, and above all insurance. (Aside from the insurers and the drug companies, some of them also do care if you are sick and try to help you, if it is not too costly for them.) For them, health policy is complicated, because they are continually redesigning the system so they can make the most money out of it for themselves. They are fighting for survival and will do anything they have to do to hang on to their profits.”

Alexandra Grabbe:
“Every discussion of health care reform should begin with a recitation of the facts: the growing number of uninsured, the fact that we spend 16% of GDP on health care compared to 7-9% in Canada and Europe yet have inferior results, the fact that the reform plans being discussed are middle-of-the-road compromises between people who want single-payer and people who want the status quo. This week came word the public option might be dropped. This is dreadful news, capitulation to the powerful insurance companies and evidence their scare tactics may have worked.”

Robbin Roshi Rose:
“Health Insurance companies, on average, keep 35 cents of every dollar as profit. This is more than casinos (who are notorious for tricking you into giving them all your money)!”

Paula H. Cohen:
“Today, we’re both on Medicare, but buy a mid-level Medicare supplement HMO plan from Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts. The supplement includes a drug plan and costs $119 a month, bringing our total outlay for health insurance to $216 a month/per person.

“Thanks to Medicare and the supplement plan, we’re saving about $800 per month for the two of us. Thank you, US taxpayers and government bureaucrats.”

Marion Vermazen:
“On the whole, people with Medicare like it. My Dad who is a Rush Limbaugh Republican and who has Medicare and great cheap secondary insurance through his former employer has no complaints about Medicare. A lot of people think government can't possibly run an insurance program well but it seems to me that Medicare is proof that a public insurance program can work.”

Bobbie Harvey:
“I’m also a hospice worker, and I’ve seen close up what happens to people who choose the rationed, socialized, death panel way: they die peacefully, at home with their loved ones.”

Frank Paynter:
“ seems likely–after we are both retired–that in order to get complete health care coverage, we’re going to have to spend four or five hundred dollars a month (including $200 that goes straight back to the government). Oh, well. I’m one of the fortunate ones. I’ll have coverage and I can just about afford it.”

Faith Davis Ferris:
“I'm aware that no solution or plan is without it's costs, downsides or difficulties. But it's far harder to imagine how the potential of losing everything one has by having no health care insurance (or avoiding treatment due to the same) is preferable?”

“Any procedure that is needed to be done immediately [in Germany], you usually can get an appointment at a specialist or hospital right away. For preventive procedures, you might have to wait a 2-3 weeks for an appointment at a specialist. “Your state insurance company compensates you your income if you are ill for longer than a six-week duration. Under six weeks, your employer continues to pay your salary. “The insurance costs are a fixed percentage of your monthly salary. At the moment, the costs are somewhere between 12-13% of your salary.”

Ian Bertram:
“Without the NHS [in the United Kingdom], I probably would be dead by now, because of the stresses of the crippled life I would have faced. Without the NHS I wouldn't have a wife - she has MS and would probably again have died by now without the health and social care we can take for granted here. Without the NHS I wouldn't have a daughter - my wife had several miscarriages and without NHS treatment she would never have carried a pregnancy to term.”

“I nursed my husband through Cancer over six years; all but nine weeks were at home. The [U.K. health service in Northern Ireland] services came to us. A hospital bed and many items were provided to aid me in looking after him. I suppose with hind-sight I could have made more noise and demanded more help. It was my wish to look after him myself and kept going as long as I could. All medications were provided and on one particular difficult day alone, I had three Doctors call to our home.”

Sven-Olaf Rudstrom:
[Comparing systems in Sweden, France and the U.S.] “I do not know one European who would want the American system. In general, Europeans pay half, or less, compared to Americans, for good health care. There is nothing wrong with a government-run program, and it is much cheaper, in fact.”

Marian Van Eyk McCain:
“Please ignore the lies about health systems in our country [U.K.] and others that are being pushed by U.S. healthcare companies. Our national system of public healthcare works very well and enjoys extremely high levels of public support. Yes, there is room for improvement. Sure, for some non-urgent procedures there are waiting lists. But our system ensures that treatment is available for every man, woman and child in this entire country, and that nobody ever gets turned away when they need medical help.”

Ursula White:
“So, our teeth may not be as white or regular as yours, but we [in the U.K.] live without fear of astronomical health care costs, secure in the knowledge that we will be taken care of if the need arises. I sincerely hope that the same will one day be a reality for all Americans , not only those who can afford it.”

Cile Stanbrough:
“...all of us who cheerfully said, 'Oh YES! We know we are going to have to help Obama! We know the election is just the beginning…' Well, recess is nearly over, literally. If we do not make a strong presence when class reassembles on health care reform, we are going to be witness to a great deal more suffering and disappointment than is necessary.”

“What can I do? There are many small things and one very important big thing that I can do. The most important thing I can do is to study the issues and understand what is truth and fiction.”

Betty Hurst:
“Tell our elected officials that we did not vote for change last November to run scared because the hate- and fear-mongers yell ’socialism’ and ‘government control.’ If people had listened to these threats a few decades ago, we would not have Social Security and Medicare today.”

Kimberly Hanson:
“Let's do something good for our country. Let's debate this, let's figure out together how to come up with a health care system that is better for everyone.”

Cynthia Friedlob:
“This is no time to bow out of the decision-making process; we all must participate to make sure that we get the health care reform that we need. Our lives depend on it.”

Peter Lott Heppner:
“The next cry of socialistic medicine, should be met with the question, 'On a scale of one to ten how would you describe your pain?'"

Diane Widler Wenzel:
“Because vases are often given as a symbol to remind the gift receiver of their similar values, I think it is important to define in ceramic vases what it is we most value in times of noisy confusing arguments. With the kindling of good feelings and our similar bonds we can then work together effectively to make a good bill to bring about a caring health system.”

Mage Bailey:
“It’s time we find another solution. We need to follow the better medical models now available like that of France or Canada. Arguing at forums, urged on by PAC’s and insurance companies, is not the solution. Taking action is. I wish everyone could live in physical comfort getting the medical care they need at a price they can afford. This needn’t be a dream for American families today.”

George Phenix:
“It’s time for the Democrats and the Obama administration to cowboy up. Forget the Republicans. They are too much in the pocket of the insurance industry and the drug companies to ever vote for health care reform. We the People urge you to use your muscle, guys.”

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Brenda Adams: The 211 Bus Follies

REFLECTIONS: Edward M. Kennedy

SaulFriedman75x75 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Saul Friedman (bio) writes the bi-weekly Reflections column for Time Goes By in which he comments on news, politics and social issues from his perspective as one of the younger members of the greatest generation. He also publishes a weekly column, Gray Matters, on aging for Newsday.

Category_bug_reflections I confess that I did not think much of Ted Kennedy when I was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard during his 1962 campaign to win the Senate seat that had been held by his brother, John, who was president.

My Nieman class had met with his brother, Robert who, I felt, was more suited to the job. But Robert had decided to be the attorney general. And I think I wrote that Ted was a Kennedy lite.

How utterly wrong I was became clear when I got to Washington. It was clear to me that Robert, who was in the Senate representing New York, wasn’t the senator Ted was. Indeed, I caught hell from Robert’s press person for a piece pointing out that while Robert was more an executive type, impatient with slower-witted conservative colleagues, Ted was a born legislator. He knew how to listen, argue, make concessions and get things done.

His staff was always top notch, liberal and activist and often I worked with them and the senator I covered, Phil Hart, of Michigan. They were on the same wave-length and gave me many a fine story on the latest efforts by business and conservatives to undermine worker rights, the new Medicare and Medicaid legislation and the consumer movement. On occasion, I visited Ted Kennedy in his office. Nearly always he gave me one of his illegal stash of Cuban cigars.

My best memory, however, was St. Patrick’s Day in 1970. In the summer the year before, Kennedy had driven off a bridge in Chappaquiddick and his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne had drowned. I believed Kennedy when he said he tried to rescue her. But he delayed reporting it and went to his staff instead to concoct a story.

Phil Hart helped me make sense of it. Ted was especially agonized by Robert’s murder, which left Ted the head of their huge family. He caved in, drinking, driving and acting recklessly and almost trying to destroy himself, Hart confided. Ted’s career hit a low point when Senator Robert Byrd took away Kennedy’s leadership position in the Senate. Hart and Kennedy, both Catholics, trusted each other and Hart slowly brought Kennedy back to life.

That led Kennedy to make his return to political life on St. Patrick’s day, and I was one of two reporters who got to spend the day with him – in the adoring crowds in South Boston - that nearly crushed him and me. And during the rides along the Massachusetts Turnpike (Kennedy took the wheel from his driver), his wife of 24 years, Joan was with us. I discovered the pressure she was under to be a Kennedy. I learned to see the Kennedy behind the tabloid nonsense. I came to learn that Ted Kennedy sat at the bedside of his son Patrick, who lost a leg to cancer, and that his other son, Edward Jr., had come close to dying from asthma.

Learning such things gave me an understanding of why Ted Kennedy was as passionate as he was. He easily won re-election in 1970. But I think he would have made a helluva president.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mark Sherman: Paul Simon and Me

How Much Do You Use the Health Care System?

EDITORIAL NOTE: The monthly Gay and Gray column, which is written by Jan Adams, who also blogs at Happening Here, is on hiatus this month. It will return toward the end of September.

category_bug_journal2.gif One of President Obama's health care reform goals is to reduce waste and unnecessary spending.

Due to the high number of medical-related lawsuits in the U.S. and the consequent high price of malpractice insurance, physicians often order many more tests than are needed. That increases everyone's insurance premiums. If you've ever spent time in a hospital, you have probably seen such charges as a $10 aspirin. Private insurers' administration costs are sky high and although that's not true for Medicare, fraud sucks billions of dollars a year from that system.

Those are just a few of ways unnecessary costs pile up. But patients can be at fault too.

Before I go any further with this, you should know that I am biased in living as close to a physician-free life as I can get away with. I suspect I just don't want to ever be told that I have a frightful disease and if I don't see a doctor, that can't happen. I know, not too bright, but there you are.

I also believe, deeply so, that my body ought to toot along with minimal disruption until it wears out and I die. I sometimes get stupidly extreme about this belief.

Ten or 15 years ago, roundish rough spots began appearing here and there on my body. Some were the color of my skin and some were dark brown. If there had been one on the end of my nose, I suppose I would have consulted a doctor, but none were and I just thought of them as barnacles.

When I became eligible for Medicare three-and-a-half years ago, it was required that I name a primary care physician. Not being entirely an idiot about medical care, I thought it was also a good idea at my age to have a doctor who had a bit of experience with me and whatever ails me, so I engaged one soon after I moved to Portland, Maine.

During my initial examination, he noticed those brown and skin-colored eruptions and asked if I wanted them removed. Although I can't remember what he called them (I prefer barnacle), they are not dangerous, he told me, they are never cancer. But that red spot on the back of one leg was probably cancer, he said. A biopsy proved him correct, a basal cell carcinoma. It was removed and there have been no recurrences.

A friend or two who know that everyone in my family has died of one kind of cancer or another, suggest that I am being monumentally stupid not to see a doctor more frequently and they undoubtedly have a point. But I still don't see how going to the doctor more than what is minimally required is going to do anything except make me nervous about about what I might be told.

Certainly that medical mindset affects my attitude, but it seems to me too many people spend way too much time in doctors' offices adding unnecessarily to the nation's astronomical health care costs - double per person what other countries spend. I've known a few hypochondriacs over the years, and I was married to one. They can drive you nuts. Not one I've known who went rushing off the to a doctor for every pimple was ever diagnosed with anything.

It is estimated that 30 percent of babies in the U.S. are delivered by Caesarian section. That cannot possibly be medically necessary. Doctors have been prescribing antibiotics for decades for viral infections, for which they are useless, often because patients demand them. MRIs are routinely ordered for back pain when most back pain disappears on its own within about six weeks.

I'm not saying there are not people who need a lot of medical attention to control chronic conditions and diseases. That is reasonable use. But between overuse by doctors themselves and demands of some patients, billions of dollars are being wasted every year.

Dr. Kay Schwebke, medical director of the Hennepin County Medical Center Coinfection Clinic in Minneapolis, believes that because doctors are forced to see more patients than they reasonably can, health care suffers for it. She had this to say recently at MPR News:

“Although I have no data to prove it, personal experience has convinced me that when we spend less time with patients we are more likely to order tests and medications.

“During medical training we are taught that 90 percent of the diagnosis comes from a good history, asking the patient questions before diving into action. When we fail to obtain a comprehensive history, we resort to something we can do quickly - prescribing a medication or ordering a test.

“Meanwhile, we have created a cultural expectation that more is better. And if something is new and expensive, it must be great.”

Now I wouldn't argue against the fact that I am extreme case of medical underuse which may be to my detriment in the future. When a doctor wants tests, I ask for the rationale and when I don't feel they are necessary I refuse.

In the past, my reason for avoiding doctor's offices was my personal dislike of all medical procedures, even simple ones. But having read so much now during our summer of health care reform debate, I've come to believe that if health care is to be made affordable for all, we must each do our part to use that care responsibly. That doesn't mean curtailing necessary medical attention and treatment, but we should ask ourselves if all of what we use is really necessary.

How much of the health care system do you use?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Apocalypse?

THE TGB ELDER GEEK: You and Your Files – Part 1

VirginiaDeBolt75x75Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words. You will find links to Virginia's previous Time Goes By Elder Geek columns here.

This will the first in a series of articles about file systems and file management. That was the most frequent question when I asked what you would like to have me write about a couple of weeks ago.

Today I'll talk about general principles and finding files. In the next parts of the series, I'll cover creating files and folders, naming and saving files where you want them, renaming files, and more.

Everything I say here applies to particular versions of Windows and Mac in my possession, if you don't have the version I'm using, you will see something similar but not exactly the same.

Like the file cabinet metaphor that computer filing systems were copied after, the system is based on the idea of storing file in folders. The folders are given appropriate names and any documents about that topic are stored in the folder. Sounds pretty straightforward, but if you've ever tried to find a file in someone else's file cabinet, you know that filing systems are as individual as the people creating them.

If you are the only person using your computer, the names you give to things only have to make sense to you. If you share a computer, you have to either agree on a naming system for things or create different accounts on the computer. With different accounts, each person can have their own filing system. If you do use different accounts, remember that something you saved under one account may not be findable under the other.

To view your documents, open the My Documents folder on Windows or the Finder on a Mac. On Windows, you can start with My Computer and then select My Documents in that window. Windows may have a separate folder for images that is similar to the My Documents folder.

the Mac finder and the the Windows my documents

On the top of the image above, you see the Mac Finder, with the Documents folder selected. Under that you see a Windows My Documents folder.

There are many alternate ways of viewing the contents of the Documents folders besides the views shown in the image.

With the Documents window open, look at the View menu. On Windows, you have the options to view Large Icons, Small Icons, List, Details, and Thumbnails. On the Mac you can choose to view as Icons, List, Columns, or with Cover Flow. Each view has its merits and is useful for different things. For general use, I like a Mac set to columns and Windows set to Details, but you may have a different preference.

some view options on Mac and Windows

I suggest you play around with all the views and try to see how different views might be useful in different circumstances. For example, when I'm looking for a file, I like a list, but when I'm looking for an image, it's nice to see the thumbnails. I don't like the icon views the items are too big and it's too hard to scan for names but some people love icon views. Different views have different features.

If you don't spend some time playing around with the views, you won't learn when to use one view or another to help you do something more easily. Go on a first date with your View menu and learn all about each other.

One important point to know about the Details or List view is that clicking on something in the title bar rearranges things. This is an image of the Windows title bar.

the Windows title bar

If you click "Name" the files will sort in either ascending or descending alphabetical order. I like to keep files in alphabetical order because they are easier for me to find. If you click on the word "Modified" in the title bar, you can sort files from oldest to newest, or from newest to oldest. That helps if you're looking for something you saved yesterday!

If you click "Type" you can sort by file type, for example, all the .doc files together, all the .jpg files together, all the .pdf files together and so on. Click around in either List or Details View on your computer to play with this to see what happens.

To look inside a folder, click it. (In Icon view, you may have to double click.) If there are folders inside folders, just keep digging down folder by folder until you find the individual file you are seeking. In the image below, I started from Documents in the Finder, selected Elder Geek Posts, then selected Zoom, and finally I see some individual files. If I want to open one of them, I double click it.

An important feature of either the My Documents window or the Finder window is the search option. On Windows, a search area opens up to the side when you select Search. On a Mac, there is a search box at the top of the window. Select the folder you want to search by clicking the folder to highlight it. You may want to search your whole computer or just the documents folder or perhaps some other folder. Then type in what you want to search for hope the results list is short!

searching for a word on a mac

The image above shows a search in a Mac Finder. If you look carefully, you'll see that I was searching in the Documents folder for a word in the contents of a file. If what I wanted shows up in the results, I can click the name once and see where the file is stored. (You can see a file location displayed at the bottom of the image above.) Double click the name to open the file.

I suggest you play with the search on your own computer and try searching for files, file types, words or phrases and anything else you can think of to try. Try to search only certain folders or your whole Documents folder. Figure out how to tell where something is stored and how to open it. (Saving your files and getting them stored in the right place to begin with saves a lot of searching. We'll talk about how you do that in a later post.)

Your My Documents folder and the Finder on a Mac both have back buttons. If you've dug your way down into several folders, you can find your way back to the top using the back button. On Windows, you may see some pull down menus that let you move back up the way you came to the My Documents folder. If you see anything like that, spend some time and figure out what it does.

Understanding how to use the My Documents or Finder window is a big step in learning to find your files. I urge you to click around and play with it. It's the best way to learn.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dell Pendergrast: A Fleeting Encounter with History

American Madness, Stupidity and Ignorance

After following the debate on health care reform this summer, if it were up to Crabby Old Lady, she would require an IQ test for the privilege of voting. The ignorance and stupidity of vast swaths of the American public astounds Crabby. The ones who are not idiots are lunatics and some of both groups are dangerous to the lives of others.

Here is a partial list of lies, distortions and just plain dumb-ass ideas that too many people believe:

  • President Obama is not an American citizen

  • President Obama hates white people

  • Health care reform is Nazism and President Obama is another Hitler

  • The White House is keeping an enemies list of people who oppose health care reform so it can surveil them

  • Health care reform will allow the federal government access to people's bank accounts

  • Health care reform will require old and/or disabled people to be euthanized at the discretion of death panels

  • Health care reform will require the government to pay for abortions (personally, Crabby believes abortion is health care, but we'll save that for another day)

  • With health care reform, government bureaucrats will make people's health care decisions (instead of the current corporate insurance bureaucrats)

If Crabby Old Lady knows all these beliefs are lies - not to mention crazy - why doesn't everyone? It's not hard to find out what's real and what isn't these days. Crabby is reading the same stuff that is available to anyone.

And it's not that Crabby trusts politicians necessarily. As a group, it's hard to match them for venality. But with the exception of a handful of Congress members who align themselves with the tinfoil hat brigade, she doesn't think any would cross the line into the above list.

We can argue whether these wingnuts are stupid or more benignly ignorant, but as widespread as these beliefs are, Crabby is leaning strongly toward stupid. To wit:

In a survey [pdf] released last week by Public Policy Polling, 25 percent believe President Obama was NOT born in the U.S. and another 14 percent are not sure.

If that's not stupid enough for you, 39 percent who were polled say the government should stay out of Medicare.

These numbers are in a poll where 96 percent of the respondents claim a high school or better education. What can have happened to schools since Crabby Old Lady's day?

What's worse is that the mainstream, not even fringe, media give these outlandish beliefs equal weight with honest information. And now that that bastion of faux and hate news, Fox, is beating the pants off CNN and MSNBC in the ratings, the two formerly almost reasonable news channels are taking their cues from Fox. Crabby Old lady will let Jon Stewart of The Daily Show tell that story:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
CNN's Just Sayin'
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealthcare Protests

Jon Stewart is a funny guy (Crabby wishes she had his talent for making political points with humor), but the sad reality is that as television news dumbs down reporting to third-grade level, the stupid quotient of the public multiplies.

Lately too, there has been an uptick in television pundits using phrases that should offend anyone who expects hard information from places that label themselves news organizations. Phrases like, “What the American public doesn't understand...” and “Health care reform is too complex for most people...”

Hull-oh, you blowhards. That's your job – to make it clear and understandable. Most of the time, however, their commentary takes place in a fact-free zone of kneejerk partisanship – left and right.

In any circumstance, it is madness to carry loaded guns to places where there are large groups of people and more particularly so when emotions run high as at congressional and presidential town halls.

These aren't only handguns. At least two people showed up carrying assault rifles. One man, when asked why he brought a loaded gun to a town hall meeting, said: “Because I can do it. In Arizona, I still have some freedoms.” Crabby thinks her freedom to live without feeling threatened by homegrown terrorists - yes, they are terrorists - comes first.

At least one of the people toting a gun also carried a placard calling for armed revolution. Anti-health care reform protesters write blogs urging their readers to take guns to town hall meetings and John Velleco, of Gun Owners of America (a far right organization that makes the NRA look like a lemonade stand), told Chris Matthews on MSNBC that legal gun owners should be allowed to carry loaded weapons to presidential events and anywhere else, including airplanes.

Not that there are many town hall meetings to attend here in Maine, should one turn up Crabby Old Lady will think hard and long before she goes to it or to any other large gathering of people in this increasingly adversarial and dangerous political summer.

And Crabby is furious about it. Furious that she is forced to worry that she or anyone might be shot.

Injecting a note of sanity into all this, Washington Post Op-Ed columnist, E.J. Dionne, wrote last week, “Free elections and open debate are not rooted in violence or the threat of violence. They are precisely the alternative to violence, and guns have no place in them.”

“If we can’t draw the line at the threat of violence, democracy begins to disintegrate,” he continued. “Power, not reason, becomes the stuff of political life. Will some group of responsible conservatives, preferably life members of the NRA, have the decency to urge their followers to leave their guns at home when they go out to protest the president? Is that too much to ask?”

With all the above, Crabby Old Lady thinks this summer is way beyond traditional August nuttiness. From her vantage point, it looks like the United States has gone batshit crazy.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dani Ferguson: Dangling the Bait

ELDER MUSIC: (Franz) Joseph Haydn

PeterTibbles75x75You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.


It’s a pity that Mozart and Beethoven came along in Haydn’s lifetime because these two have generally overshadowed the older man in the public’s eye. This is unfortunate as his work was often as lyrical as Mozart’s and as dramatic as Beethoven’s. Besides, he taught them everything they knew.

Okay, not really, but he did teach Beethoven for a while and Mozart respected his opinion of his works. He and Mozart were very good friends and Haydn and Mozart occasionally played string quartets together (with a couple of others).


Here is a string quartet that could be taken as one of Beethoven’s. To be more correct, Beethoven’s quartets sound rather like the later Haydn pieces. First movement of String Quartet Op. 76, No. 2 Hob III/76.

In his early days, Haydn was a busker - at least that’s what we’d call it today. He’d sing on the street (I imagine for money) and it seems he had a very good singing voice (but he was tossed out of a choir when his voice broke – the busking was after that).

With this tenuous link to singing here is “The Creation” (not all of it), an oratorio inspired by the works of Handel after Jo visited England. With Virtue Clad. The soprano is Heather Harper.

People with a physics bent (of which I am one) might think that a baryton is an elementary particle made up of three quarks. It’s not, but it does have charm (particle physics joke) (not a very good one).

The baryton is about the size of a cello and has seven bowed strings and somewhere between nine and twenty-four sympathetic strings (most often twelve). These were often plucked. So, with the bowing, fretting and the plucking, you needed about twenty fingers which may be the reason this instrument is not often played these days.

Haydn wrote 175 compositions for the baryton which seems an excessive amount to me. But these were written for his patron, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, who enjoyed playing the instrument, so I guess he was on to a good thing there, as old Nik was paying for them.

Of those compositions 126 are trios for viola, cello and baryton, this is just one of them - well, part of one of them.

This is a baryton.


This is what it sounds like. The first movement from the Baryton Trio No. 101.

Haydn was rather short, possibly as a result of having been underfed throughout most of his youth. He was not handsome and like many in his day, he was a survivor of smallpox, his face being pitted with the scars of this disease. His biographer (Albert Dies) wrote,

"He couldn't understand how it happened that in his life he had been loved by many a pretty woman. 'They couldn't have been led to it by my beauty'".

Well, looking at some musicians today, we could say that not much has changed.


The complete Piano Sonata No. 51, Glenn Gould twiddling the ivories (and humming along).

Part 1

Part 2

Haydn died at the end of May in 1809, after an attack on Vienna by the French army under Napoleon. He was 77. Among his last words (to his servants) were, "My children, have no fear, for where Haydn is, no harm can fall.” It’s not known if the servants came to any harm.


This is his symphony No. 104 (“London”), his last “official” symphony, although Hoboken (the man who knows all about Haydn, not the place in New Jersey) also includes four other higher numbered works in his "Symphony" category. Third movement Symphony No. 104.

This Week in Elder News: 22 August 2009

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.

Our Aging World Conventional wisdom has it that an aging world population means trouble ahead. Not so, says Zoe Williams, writing The Guardian. For example,

"It is a consensus among environmentalists that a decline in human fertility will, if not solve the planet's problems, at least give us some breathing space in which to solve them."

She makes some other good points too. Read them here.

Old and Happy A University of California psychologist says studies reveal that “mental wellbeing generally improved with age, except for people with dementia-related ill health.” Andrew Harrop, quoted in the story, says:

"It's vital that there is growing acceptance that just because someone is getting older, it doesn't mean they no longer have a significant contribution to make. This study is one of many which shows that later life can be a enormously positive experience."

Read more here. (Hat tip to Claude of Photoblogging in Paris)

Age as a Body Issue Writing at feministe a couple of days ago, Laurie and Debbie make the argument that "age is a crucial body image issue."


"...inevitably (unless you are seriously unlucky)," they write, "you’re going to get to a point where you’re not looking young any more. Then what you’re really supposed to do is disappear (although active versions of people your age will show up on TV all the time...Like so many other body image issues facing us today, it isn’t aging that’s the issue, it’s how we treat aging."

Read more at feminste with more photos.

Nursing Home Sex Ban Apparently, people in most nursing homes give up their human right to sex.

“In the typical nursing home, it's rare to hear the word 'sex' without it being modified by 'inappropriate' or 'offense,'” writes psychologist Ira Rosofsky.

Federal regulations mandate that nursing homes receiving federal funds provide an environment that allows residents to “maintain their highest practicable physical, mental and psychosocial well-being.” But open door policies create a de facto lack of privacy. Read more here.

Town Hall Hate More than once over the years, I've wanted to hug Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank. This is one of those times as he takes on a women who sees Nazis in health care reform:

Can't Let Go of Health Care Reform Joe Bageant, writing at alternet, has a good handle on the big picture regarding health care reform:

"Whatever happens, we will not see Congress stand up against the extortion of its people by the health care industry. We will not see even the most ordinary kind of health care declared as a human right, as it is in so many other nations. We will see, however, greater access to the public treasury by the insurance corporations.

"Every nation in the world is now party to at least one treaty that addresses health as a human right, including the conditions necessary for the delivery of health services. Health care is a right under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Hell, even Saddam Hussein provided health care.

"That Americans cannot grasp this fundamental aspect of human rights (but then, we cannot even get child nutrition, or limiting the number of times you can Taser an old lady in an airport, out of the starting gate) and join the civilized world and assure its people of such things is testimony."

Read the rest of Bageant's argument here.

Middle Age In a delightful story last Sunday in The New York Times Magazine about revisions and updating of the Oxford English Dictionary, this whimsical, real definition of middle age caught my attention:

“between youth and old age, variously reckoned to suit the reckoner”

If you're a word maven, the rest of the story interesting too. Read it here.

Age Discrimination The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit in federal District Court in Manhattan on Thursday against AT&T for refusing to hire anyone older than age 40 who had previously retired from the company. Prior to 2006, At&T had allowed former employees to apply for work after a six-month waiting period. Read more here. (Hat tip to Faith Davis Ferris of My Muse Matters

The Plethora of Age Ailments This video came to my attention from Lia who blogs at Yum Yum Cafe. I can understand, given the unending repetition of TV commercials about icky age-related problems, how the young woman in the video might find aging abhorrent. However, I can't pin down why I'm uncomfortable with the video unless it's that the intended humor - humor does require a modicum of wit - is nonexistant. What do you think?

Cash For Clunkers Sheila Halet sent along this email that is making the rounds. Unlike the video, it gave me a good laugh:

If my body were a car, this is the time I would be thinking about trading it in for a newer model. I've got bumps and dents and scratches in my finish, and my paint job is getting a little dull. But that's not the worst of it. My headlights are out of focus, and it's especially hard to see things up close.

My traction is not as graceful as it once was. I slip and slide and skid and bump into things even in the best of weather. My whitewalls are stained with varicose veins. It takes me hours to reach my maximum speed. My fuel rate burns inefficiently.

But here's the worst of it - almost every time I sneeze, cough or laugh, either my radiator leaks or my exhaust backfires. Cash for clunkers – I qualify.

Elders For Health Care Reform – the Day After

category_bug_politics.gif Remember when we talked about our retirement routines last week? You didn't see “write blog post” on my early morning list. That's because my brain is too fuzzy for the first hour or two to think linearly enough to make sense. Usually I am reading at this time of day.

Now, here I sit Friday morning at 4:30AM, awake for only 15 minutes and, having prepared nothing yesterday as a followup to Elders For Health Care Reform Day, straining to write these simple sentences.

It was an amazing turnout yesterday with everyone who participated putting a lot of thought and effort into their work – a committed community of elders so different from the ones television news programs highlight shouting about no health care reform at town hall meetings.

Speaking of media, between reading and posting your essays, I spent a lot of time yesterday contacting various media to alert them to what was happening here. I know some of you did that, too, along with posting to Twitter, Facebook and other social media websites. It all contributed to the satisfying turnout of readers.

I was particularly pleased to see essays from people whose names are new to me along with some other excellent stories posted in the comments. I don't know if we have changed the minds of anyone who opposes health care reform, but at the least we made it evident that there are a lot of elders who are not part of the I've-got-mine-so-screw-you crowd.

If you haven't read all the reform posts in the list from yesterday, I urge you to do so. They vary widely from personal stories, debunking lies about reform, urging participation in support of reform and some education about how the legislative process works. (Democracy is messy.) You'll learn a lot about health care - and one another.

I also urge you to keep writing about health care reform. Only elders have the experience and can compare life with private coverage to life with “socialized medicine” under Medicare. And, we are the only people alive who remember the days of our youth when health coverage hardly existed.

Most of all, I want to thank you for participating - writers and commenters and readers. We did a good thing yesterday and I'm so proud to know each one of you. Thank you for all your hard work on this.

This is not what I'd like to have written today, but it is all I can muster at this early hour.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mage Bailey: Sometimes a Bargain

It's Elders For Health Care Reform Day

[UPDATE: Be sure to email me the link to your story (use the Contact link in the upper left corner of this page) so I can post your story. I won't know you've written it unless you let me know.]

category_bug_politics.gif You wouldn't know it from television news, but not all elders are as rude and ignorant as those who shout down legislators and other constituents who have serious issues and questions to discuss. Most elders are smart enough to know that “death panels” are a nasty, little fiction, that no one's Medicare benefits will be cut, and we certainly don't screech “Nazi” when we disagree. Seeing those other elders has been a personal embarrassment to me.

Today Time Goes By showcases elders who have followed the health care reform debate, who have informed themselves and want to make a thoughtful contribution. Keep in mind that we, unlike younger people, lived many decades with private health coverage and now have experience with our single-payer system, Medicare, so we are in a better position than many younger people to intelligently compare how these two systems work.

(By the way, Medicare wins.)

My own contribution to this collection of elder essays in support of health care reform is at the bottom of this post. Here are links to elderbloggers' essays on the subject written especially for this project. More will be added to the top of the list throughout the day as I receive their links.


Deciding to End a Life
By Pete Sampson who blogs at As I Was Saying

In Praise of The National Health Service in the United Kingdom
By Ursula White who blogs at Friend of Friko

One American Family
By Mage Bailey who blogs at Postcards

Precious Vase - Thumbs Up For Offering Public Health Care
By Diane Widler Wenzel who blogs at Umbrella Painting Journal

"Government Run" Works, Look Around You
By Peter Lott Heppner who blogs at Alley Patron

Medicare For All Should Be Our Goal
By Robbin Roshi Rose who blogs at Knitting, Singing, the Universe and All

Health Care Reform Reality
By Faith Davis Ferris who blogs at My Muse Mutters

Stop Screaming About Health Care Reform
By Cynthia Friedlob who blogs at The Thoughtful Consumer

Why Health Care Reform is Hard
By Jan Adams who blogs at Happening Here

Slouching Toward Medicare
By Frank Paynter who blogs at Listics

Healthcare Reform - Searching for Facts Through the Noise
By Kimberly Hanson who blogs at The Wild Hare

Onward to Single Payer
By Elaine Frankonis who blogs at Kalilily Times

August 2009 - US Congresspeople Get the Message-Universal Health Care!!
By Betty Hurst who blogs at Oops50!

I'm in favor of Health Care Reform!
By Marion Vermazen who blogs at Marion's Blog

We the People Want Health Care Reform
By George Phenix who blogs at Blog of Ages

Writing About Health Care - Again
By Rain Trueax who blogs at Rainy Day Thoughts

Health Care Reform or Revolt? An Insider's View
By Nancy B who blogs at The Tempered Optimist

Elders for Health Care Reform Day and the Death of the Baby Boomers
By Bobbie Harvey who blogs at Celebrating Time

Setting the Record Straight About Health Care
By Marian Van Eyk McCain who blogs at elderwomanblog

Health Care and the Creative Economy
By Zuleme who blogs at Caturday

What Has Social Medicine Ever Done for Me?
By Lia who blogs at Yum Yum Cafe

Can We Do the Right Thing?
By Lois Cochran who blogs at Guitar Grandma

My Personal View on Health Care Reform
By Alexandra Grabbe who blogs at Wellfleet ChezSven Blog

My Experience with Health Care in Sweden and France
By Sven-Olof Rudstrom who blogs at Distant Mirror Blog

My Tuppenceworth - Health Debate
By Grannymar who blogs at Grannymar

Health Care Reform U.S. Style
By Ian Bertram who blogs at Panchromatica

Questions and Answers on Health Care Reform
By Darlene Costner who blogs at Darlene's Hodgepodge

My Father's Healthcare Conversation
By Ruthe Karlin who blogs at Studio Ruthe

Alternatives to Helpless Rage
By Jan Adams who blogs at Happening Here

Health Care, Aug 20, Time Goes By Challange
By Anne Gibert who blogs at 20th Century Woman

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor - Your Uninsured
By Cowtown Pattie of who blogs at Texas Trifles

10 Things You Need to Know About Health Care Reform
By Paula H. Cohen who blogs at Birds on a Wire

German Medical System 101
By Lia who blogs at Yum Yum Cafe

If It's to Be, It's Up to Me
By MissDazey who blogs at Elder Generation

Do You Remember November?
By Cile Stanbrough who blogs at cilesfineline

It's Not Reform Without a Public Option
By Ronni Bennett of this blog

Here is my question for elders who have Medicare and younger people who have private coverage who oppose health care reform: why is it all right for you to be well cared for by your physician while tens of millions of other Americans are not? How do you justify that?

The American health care system is broken. Insurance premiums are off the charts and continue, as they have for the past ten years or so, to increase at about seven percent annually. For those who want to keep our current system, remember that you're lucky to get a three percent salary increase each year. How long can you continue to afford coverage at these increasing rates?

More than sixty percent of personal bankruptcies are attributable in full or in part to catastrophic health care costs. Each of you covered by private insurance is only an auto accident or terrible diagnosis away from the same disaster.

Median family income in the U.S. is a little more than $50,000 per year. Health coverage generally costs a family of four about $12,000 a year leaving $38,000, before taxes, for everything else. How is it possible to raise two children on that?

That 46 or 47 million figure that is bandied about as the number of uninsured Americans was released in 2007. Since then tens of millions of workers have lost their jobs. Currently, 6.2 million are collecting unemployment checks. How many others have run out of that benefit? How many have had to drop their health coverage? Some sources, including the president, say 14,000 Americans lose their coverage every day.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress and some Blue Dog Democrats are trying to kill the public option in the health care reform bills. Even President Obama has implied that it is not necessary to reform, although with all the various pronouncements this past week, it is hard to know who in the federal government stands where on the public option.

The idea behind it is that it would keep the for-profit insurers honest, force them to keep premiums at a reasonable level to compete. The insurers are screaming bloody murder about the public option (and contributing millions of dollars to the campaign chests of our legislators to influence them) saying that a public option from the government would dominate the market, even put them out of business.

Is that true, do you think? A good comparison is government Medicare versus private Advantage Plan Medicare. Even though those plans cost more than traditional Medicare, they have captured 20 percent of the elder market.

Insurers would argue that 20 percent isn't enough. Of course not. They want to retain the 100 percent of the non-Medicare market they have now. But they have priced themselves out of the pocketbooks of most Americans. Someone must put a brake on their greed and the public option, along with other changes to the system, would help do that.

Without a public option, there will be no reform in the health care bill that finally emerges from the committees. It will be the same old system, more unaffordable than before and will leave more than one-sixth of Americans still without coverage and therefore without access to a physician.

That is – or should be – morally unacceptable to every American citizen.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Barbara Fifield: Elegy to Another Barbara

Tomorrow is Elders For Health Care Reform Day

category_bug_politics.gif Wow. The response from Time Goes By readers since the announcement of Elders For Health Care Reform Day on 20 August – tomorrow - is fantastic. Many have already posted stories and have been doing so repeatedly since this debate began. Many questions about 20 August have arrived by email. Elders in European countries will be joining in too.

Jan Adams of Happening Here, who is a career political activist, has posted stories at other points around the web about 20 August drawing interest in tomorrow's project from outside the elder blogosphere – which, of course, is the point.

As I noted in my post announcing the project, I am personally embarrassed by the high number of ignorant, uninformed elders at town hall meetings with their fact-free screechings. The now infamous statement of one - “Keep your government hands off my Medicare” - amused me at first. I don't find it funny anymore; it's pathetic and worse, allows anyone who wants to, to believe old people are idiots.

That attitude leads to increased granny bashing as in an Op-Ed in Monday's New York Times in which someone named Richard Dooling denies supporting euthanasia while calling for a cutoff of all ICU treatment at age 85. As if no one should live a day longer.

Tomorrow, I will take on one small area of reform – the public plan, which seems to be losing ground. Without it, reform will be meaningless.

But my main job tomorrow will be to collect, collate and promote all the other posts from elders supporting health care reform. Here is what you need to do:

  1. Post your story on your blog

  2. Navigate here to Time Goes By and click on “Contact” link in the upper left corner of the page

  3. In the email form, send me the following information:
    • The name you want to appear as author
    • The title of your story
    • The name of your blog
    • The link to your story

Give your story a specific title that tells readers what it is about. Remember to check your facts and link to your sources. Avoid scare tactics and name-calling. Raise the questions and concerns you have about the draft reform bills from Congress and the commentary from legislators, pundits and the public without rancor or hostility. We are not the town hall nitwits.

And don't shy away from personal health care stories – those are often the most powerful. Plus, elders have the experience of having lived with private coverage and Medicare for comparison that younger people don't yet have.

Throughout the day as the emails arrive, I will add links to all your posts within my post. Keep them coming all day; this project will live beyond Thursday.

Now. Many readers of Time Goes By and other elderblogs do not themselves keep blogs. If that is so, you can participate too by leaving your stories, opinions and thoughts in support of health care reform in the comments below the main story tomorrow. Do not be concerned with length – that's an advantage the internet has over print: space is limitless.

It has already become a kneejerk reaction for reporters on television, the internet and in print to preface their reports on town hall meetings and other reform events by noting that participants are mostly old people. Their references are sometimes snide and dismissive as they point out the ignorance on display and the raucous nature of the gatherings.

I want to believe those elders are a tiny minority. Let's show the internet world tomorrow why we believe all citizens should have coverage at least as good as the Medicare we enjoy.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Florence J. Anrud: Providence

Happy 84 years, Millie Garfield

When I started Time Goes By in 2004, and was looking around the internet for other elders who might be blogging, there weren't many. The elder blogosphere has grown large since then, but in the beginning, Millie Garfield of My Mom's Blog was one of the few.

Millie is a pioneer among elderbloggers due, in part, to her son, Steve, who is well known around the internet himself as a blogger, video blogger and soon, an author. Her first post at My Mom's Blog, is dated in October 2003. Not many of us can match that.

Since then, she has has been featured on television for her blogging, spoken at tech conferences and she has a collection of funny YouTube videos – most famously, her “I Can't Open It” series which you can find here, among others.

When Millie was turning 80 in 2005, with the help of other elderbloggers – and some younger ones too – I pulled together a big online celebration. Since then, it has become a tradition on 18 August and today is the fifth anniversary of Millie's blogosphere birthday bashes.

It's no secret that Millie's favorite flower is the sunflower. So, Millie, here are about 84 times a zillion of them (whatever that adds up to) for your birthday this year:

Be sure to stop by Millie's blog to wish her a Happy 84th.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today - Linda Ann Davis: Hurricane Lily

REFLECTIONS: American Ignorance

SaulFriedman75x75 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Saul Friedman (bio) writes the bi-weekly Reflections column for Time Goes By in which he comments on news, politics and social issues from his perspective as one of the younger members of the greatest generation. He also publishes a weekly column, Gray Matters, on aging for Newsday. The Reflections archive of of previous essays is here.

I first encountered the abysmal political ignorance of so many Americans during my coverage of the final days of Jimmy Carter’s successful 1976 run for the presidency. That ignorance, I believe, accounts in large part for a society (and the press) that countenances the organized mobs of lumpen proletariat that seek to kill the presidency of Barack Obama.

Make no mistake that’s what they, and their aiders and abettors on radio, television and the right wing of the Republican party are about. I repeat, they’re trying to kill Obama’s presidency, one way or the other.

I was sent by my bureau to South Philadelphia to see if the relatively new issue of abortion was having any effect on the race. A group of Catholic clergymen meeting in Washington had criticized Carter on the issue and embraced the Republican incumbent, President Ford.

I stationed myself inside a coin-operated laundry, across from a prominent church and school, to talk to Catholic women who were doing their wash and waiting for their kids to get out of school. To cut to the chase, fully half these women did not know – in late October – who was running for president. Nor did they care.

The experts I talked to as I prepared my story were not surprised. They made excuses; people are too busy with kids, house, plumbing problems tp pay attention. Such people are discounted by the political canvassers. And pollsters, asking about, say Afghanistan, did not bother to ask if the voter knew where that country was. Indeed, even now the polls don’t reflect the ignorance of the people who answer these polls. I doubt if these hooligans know much of anything.

It’s not only beleaguered working people who are politically ignorant. I have it on good authority that at one time – years before we got into a war in the Middle East – a copy desk person at the Wall Street Journal was heard to ask, “Hey, what’s our style, Iran or Iraq?”

On a bus during one campaign, a political reporter for a major publication wrote that Harry Truman gave them hell in his 1948 race with Dwight Eisenhower. A foreign affairs reporter for a prominent publication once asked me who Dag Hammarskjold was. When I explained that he was the second secretary general of the United Nations, and was killed in a mysterious plane crash in 1961, the reporter said, “Well that was before my time.” I muttered, “So was Abe Lincoln.”

These may be isolated incidents, but they represent an ignorance among my press colleagues that I have encountered and am encountering still. How many reporters continue to write about the imminent crisis in Social Security without knowing how Social Security works? And now, I’ll bet that most reporters covering the White House can’t explain what’s in the health reform bills moving through Congress, so they can counter the garbage they’re hearing.

Nor are they looking beyond the inane questions about Obama’s birth to understand and probe the links between the birthers and the mobocracy seeking to lynch the health care bills and their supporters. At this writing, neither the Washington Post nor The New York Times, nor any White House reporter has gone after this story the way Rachel Maddow has.

But it’s the dangerous ignorance of the mobs that worry me most. One mob, for example confronted, threatened and yelled epithets at Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, the longest-serving member of Congress. How dare they?

I doubt if they knew that Dingell, a life-long member of the NRA, has also been a champion of the auto industry. His father was a great New Dealer who gave us the National Labor Relations Act. And Dingell, who took his father’s seat, has been trying for years to win universal health insurance. But what does a mob know? Especially when the press doesn’t itself know, or bothers to confront the mob with the truth.

As a result, the lies take hold. Imagine. The right-wing talkers call Obama a fascist, when they are encouraging the brown shirts of today. I doubt if any of these goons in the mobs even know what fascism, socialism or even Nazism is. I doubt if they know who fought in World War II.

Comedian Bill Maher has called the country “stupid.” I think ignorant is more accurate, although such ignorance produces stupidity. How else can one explain opposition to a perfectly reasonable (if too complicated) attempt at guaranteeing all of us (as well as them), access to quality health care.

Says Maher, 34 percent of Americans still believe Saddam Hussein was personally involved in 9/11. Nearly a third of Republicans don’t believe Obama was born in the U.S. More than two-thirds of Americans don’t know what’s in Roe v. Wade. Twenty-four percent could not name the country we fought in the revolutionary war.

Sarah Palin and many of the 2008 Republican presidential candidates doubted Darwin because, Gallup found, 60 percent of Republicans believe God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago, and the poll found that 18 percent of Americans believe the sun revolves around the earth.

Such ignorance, which leads to stupidity, makes them suckers for any charlatan or demagogue. Their Republican allies would kill Medicaid and Social Security. Yet they yell, “Keep government out of my Medicare.” They lose jobs and apply for unemployment insurance, part of the Social Security system, and denounce taxes and government without having the faintest idea of what taxes pay for. They are easily turned into a mob by agents working for insurance and drug companies, as Maddow has reported, and they don’t even catch on.

Many of them, alas, are white men who can’t come to terms with their racism. And Glenn Beck goads the mob (and makes a hefty salary) by fantasizing the poisoning of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. I think he should be arrested and charged with threatening her life. Such overt threats are not protected speech. His vicious words falling on the mottled mind of an ignorant, stupid and racist oaf are dangerous. Some of them have already killed.

So, when will responsible Republicans and the press, with the kind of reporting, probing and editorializing that seems reserved only for the sex lives of politicians or the death of rock stars, quit shrugging and call a halt to this assault on our country?

EDITORIAL NOTE: Tomorrow is a special celebration at Time Goes By. Then on Wednesday, there will be a pre-August 20 post with information about Elders For Health Care Reform Day on Thursday. If you don't yet know what that is, see these two posts here and here.

Until then, you can warm up with Saul's Gray Matters column in Newsday from Saturday titled, Don't Fear Health Care Reform.

At The Elder Storytelliing Place today - Jeanne Waite Follett: Dear William

ELDER MUSIC: Musicians You Should Know About II - Part 2

PeterTibbles75x75You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.

category_bug_eldermusic Following on from last Sunday, another singer who should have been more successful than he was is Al Wilson who, like James Carr, didn’t quite make it to the top of the soul tree (as it were). He had more hits than James, but the really big break didn’t quite eventuate.

Al’s range was wide, covering pop, jazz, gospel, rock, blues and funk. Maybe that’s the reason; he couldn’t be pigeon-holed into a single category as seems to be the problem these days (and for the last thirty or so years. If I may editorialise for a moment, listen to everything, folks.

Sorry. I’ve got that out of my system.

Al said, "If you do a thing well, whether it’s soul, blues or rock, you can reach people of different tastes and please them all". That’s good enough for me. Alas, he died recently.

This is Do What You Gotta Do, a Jimmy Webb song.


I have only seen Millie Jackson on TV, not in real life. Maybe one day. Whenever I do see her, I have to sit in an ice bath for about an hour afterwards. This is some great performer. I first discovered her on her “Live and Uncensored” album. From then on I was hooked.

Rather than something from one of her own albums, I’ve decided to include a track from an album she did with Isaac Hayes called “Royal Rappins”, which is worth seeking out, called You Never Crossed My Mind.


Jesse Colin Young fronted the Youngbloods back in the sixties. When he went solo, he recorded a couple of excellent albums. Although these didn’t quite sink without a trace, they really should have sold a lot more than they did. The best of them was “Song for Juli.”

Jesse released a new album just this year which is, well, quite ordinary. Maybe it’ll grow on me. This is a shame considering his first couple. Perhaps it’s living in Hawaii that’s the reason. I’ll go back to that first one and play the title track, Song for Juli.


Johnny Adams was often known as “The Tan Nightingale” or “The Tan Canary”. I think Nightingale sounds better, but this is neither here nor there.

He was born and grew up in New Orleans and like a lot of soul singers he started out in gospel and switched to popular music. He had a big hit in 1959 with I Won’t Cry and a couple of minor hits with Release Me (the definitive version of this much-covered song) and Reconsider Me.

In the eighties and nineties he recorded eight or nine albums (for Rounder records) of exceptional quality covering blues, soul and jazz. He had one of the finest voices around. He died in 1998 at 66.

This track is a bit jazzy, a bit bluesy with a touch of soul. With all those elements, it shouldn’t work, but it does. Walking on a Tightrope from the album of the same name.


Chris Smither has been around since the sixties but I only discovered him about ten years ago. What an oversight on my part. Because of this, I want to ensure you know about him too.

Chris started out as a folkie and then discovered the blues. He’s not a blues singer per se, however, it influences his style. Why don’t I shut up and let you hear?

This is Leave the Light On from the album of the same name.


This Week in Elder News – 15 August 2009

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.

A Calm Beginning Today Because most of the rest of this week's Elder News is devoted to health care reform which is proving to make almost everyone testy, let's catch our collective breath first.

This amazing photograph arrived from Darlene Costner of Darlene's Hodgepodge who is one of the strongest elder supporters of health care reform. It is sunset at the North Pole with the sun below the moon. Gorgeous.

North Pole Sunset

”Deathers” Prevail This is how bad it is in health care reform land this week: Thanks to the ignorant masses at town hall meetings (too many of them elders), right-wing media blatherers and Sarah Palin's fictional death panels - all of whom have scared the pants off our timid legislators - Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, on Thursday, announced that the end-of-life provision in the Senate Finance Committee's health care reform bill has been dropped. Read more here.

End of Life Planning Senator Grassley and the "deathers" need to consider this column about people without end of life plans titled, The Dignity to Die is Part of Our Shared Humanity. (Hat tip to Chancy of driftwoodinspiration.)

ELDERS FOR HEALTH CARE REFORM Next Thursday, 20 August, has been set aside as the day for elders to rise up and show Congress and the U.S. that not all of us want to keep our single-payer system – Medicare – and deny everyone else similar benefits, which is how it appears, to my deep embarrassment, in widespread media coverage of town hall meetings and interviews with elders.

If you have not read it, the initial post for this project is here. Please plan to join in on 20 August if you have a blog.

Spreading the Word Jan Adams who writes the monthly Gay and Gray column for Time Goes By and blogs at Happening Here, has been spreading the word for 20 August around the web. Two of her posts are here and here.

Jan also created this Elderblogger For Health Care Reform badge that you can post on your blog. I've linked mine to my original post for the project. You can link yours to anything you think will explain our point of view and spread the word. (Right click to save the badge to your hard drive so you can post it at your blog.)

Elders For Health Care Reform

Desperation of the Uninsured So many people showed up for the first day of week-long, free health clinic in California that hundreds were turned away. Fifteen-year-old Ayana Kleckner slept on the sidewalk overnight to be sure to get an appointment:

“"This is a miracle, but people shouldn't have to sleep on the street to get medical care,' Ayana said while waiting for an eye exam. 'It was adventurous, if you could put it that way, but I don't think I should have to go through that to make sure I'm healthy.'"

A key point about this free health clinic is that it is run by the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps which, for 25 years, has provided health care services to third world countries.

Read more about the free health clinic in Inglewood here and here.

Uninsured and Dying A study from the Institute of Medical Analysis reports that 22,000 Americans die each year due to lack of health care coverage. Read it here [pdf]. Since 1993, when Hillary Clinton's health care reform failed, that adds up to more than the number of U.S. soldiers who died in World War II, according to Mark Ames at Alternet. Read his report here.

Health Care Profiteers Did you know that the federal government pays subsidies to insurers who sell Medicare Advantage plans (essentially, private Medicare) amounting to between 13 and 17 percent above what is paid for traditional Medicare? A lot of that goes to the obscene salaries and bonuses for insurance company executives. For more information on insurer excess, watch the video:

U.S. Health Care is NOT the Best NPR has posted an interactive page where you can compare the elements of various countries' health care plans to each other. It is an eye opener. Try it out here.

Ten Awesome Things By analyzing the draft reform bills currently in circulation from Congress, Joshua Holland has produced a list of Ten Awesome Things That Would Happen if Health Care Reform Passes. It's definitely worth reading.

More Health Care Reform Resources In addition to the above to help you further in preparing for 20 August, Slate's Timothy Noah has published a terrific guide to some of the best health care reform information on the web. See it here and use all these resources for your 20 August Elders For Health Care Reform posts.

Senior Moment And here's a little fun to end today's list. You think you've had embarrassing senior moments? Wait until you see this one actor and activist Martin Sheen experienced. Enjoy.

Groovy, Man – Woodstock's 40th Anniversary

Online and off, the media is awash in reminiscences of the Woodstock festival 40 years ago this weekend. The irony that a planned reunion concert was canceled for lack of interest warms Crabby Old Lady's contrarian heart. Sequels almost never come off well.

Crabby and her husband drove up from New York City with friends on that Friday afternoon. Not the sort to find sleeping on hard ground among thousands of stoned-out hippies a pleasurable experience, they stayed with a friend's mother who lived in a rural area a couple of miles from the concert grounds at Max Yasgur's farm. As everyone knows, a shower and real beds were an even better choice than anyone then anticipated.

Crabby spent most of the next two days in the medical tent helping out with minor injuries and overdoses. And here is how memory plays tricks: Crabby Old Lady has recalled through the years that she sat on the hill above the stage early Saturday morning as Richie Havens opened the festival by greeting the day with Here Comes the Sun. She has remembered it that way for these 40 years.

Wikipedia, which has a detailed schedule of performers – who played when and what – tells it differently. Richie Havens did open the festival, but it was on Friday evening, nowhere in his set was that Beatles tune and Crabby could not have been there.

On Friday evening, she was at the home of her friend's mother who had prepared such a huge and beautiful feast for her young guests that they needed to walk it off after dinner. So the group of Crabby and her five companions meandered along the winding, two-lane, country road shortly before dusk.

Remember the era: the men were dressed in their patched jeans and tie-dyed shirts; the women in long - probably India-style – skirts and flimsy blouses. The guys' hair was longer than the women's and they mostly wore beards – well, for certain Crabby's husband had one and it is likely the other men did too.

As they rounded a bend, they saw coming toward them on the other side of the road, a group of Hasidic Jews in their long, black coats, black hats and payuses on their way to shul. Each in its own way, but perhaps from similar conviction, both groups thumbing their noses at conventional style.

The Hasids eyed Crabby's group. She and her friends (all secular Jews) eyed them and later laughed about the incident, wondering if other people would be confused about who were the “freaks” (in the hippie vernacular of the era).

Fortunately for Crabby Old Lady, but not for this blog post, she avoided most of the festival's chaos, rain and mud, and had a clean bed each night. No exciting stories and she was glad to leave early. The Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden two years later was much more fun. Crabby likes her concerts indoors or, at least, not wet.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz: The Dinner Party

Retirement Routine

ELDERS FOR HEALTH CARE REFORM Calling all elderbloggers. I hope you are planning to join us next Thursday 20 August in posting for health care reform. Let's not let those old people disrupting town halls with shouted inanities speak for the rest of us. Find out more here.

category_bug_journal2.gif Before I was forced to retire four years ago (sorry, readers, I'm going to rag on the stupidity of young hiring managers who refused to see me as useful until the day I die), my morning routine hardly varied.

Whether my job required me to wake at 4:30AM or 7:30AM, I moved in lockstep through the schedule:

  1. Start the coffee water
  2. Feed the cat
  3. Make the bed
  4. Pour the water into the coffee maker
  5. Shower
  6. Dress
  7. Breakfast
  8. Makeup and hair
  9. Check email with coffee
  10. Wash up the few dishes and cup
  11. Give the cat a pet
  12. Leave for work

Since rushing rattles me, I gave myself 75 minutes or so to do this which is about how long it takes for my brain to reach its full functionality after a night's sleep. Any disruptions to the routine could throw the timing off because it all took place in my lizard brain - no thinking required.

When I stopped looking for work and put the plan in place to sell my home and leave Manhattan, the schedule remained the same for about a year. Then I began slacking off. I'd skip bed making until later. Then I put off showering to read and answer email first which soon extended to the morning online news which easily added an hour, even two to sitting butt-still in the desk chair.

I am never hungry until four or five hours after I waken. I had forced a meal for years knowing there would be no time to eat until noon or later, but now I realized I could stop doing that and eat whenever I feel like it.

You know how this progressed. It became common for me to still be sitting at the computer in my flannel granny gown at 11AM – even noon - with nothing changed but having switched from coffee to green tea. Maybe I was researching a future blog post. Or writing tomorrow's post. Or organizing items for the Saturday Elder News. Or just dinking around.

On days that it was noon before I became mobile, showering seemed almost decadent or, at least, beside the point, and I'll admit that if I had no one to see, I skipped it some days although never two days in a row because that is just too icky.

For six months of the year, I shop at the farmers' market on Wednesday mornings which opens at 7AM. It is good to be there early before the best stuff is sold, but this season I found myself resenting the routine necessary to be presentable and even stayed home a couple of times.

All this sloth came to a head a few weeks ago when the UPS man arrived at around 11AM and I was forced to answer the door in my favorite but rattiest, old, granny gown, long, gray hair flying in all directions. It's an old line, but he must have asked himself if it was Halloween.

So I took myself in hand, gave myself a talking to and for about the past six weeks, I have been following a retired routine that is similar to my work-years routine with extra time slotted for internet reading before moving on to chores, shopping, blog work or whatever else is planned by 8AM.

It's harder to enforce than I would have thought. Although I'm quite pleased with myself to be in and out of the shower within an hour of waking; although I think my lizard brain retreats more quickly this way so my mind is sharper at an earlier time; and although no matter how late I sleep (for me, 5:30AM is the goal, but I often wake earlier) lizard brain returns by mid-afternoon when I can no longer do any useful thinking, I am still forcing the routine.

Which means that at some point I will back slide. In fact, the longer I spend writing this post, the more familiar it seems and it may be that I've been through all this before - a couple of years or so ago.

So I wonder, all you other retired people, how you organize your time now, particularly your mornings. Do we inevitably become slothful as our working years retreat further into our pasts? If left unchecked, how far can it go? Does it matter?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: The Band Teacher

Elders For Health Care Reform

category_bug_politics.gif Today's post is long. It may be the longest post I've written in five years, but at least half of it is easy-to-read lists. I hope you will read it all.

If you have watched any of the video of disruptions at congress members' town hall meetings in their home states over the past week or two, you know that elders make up a large number of the crude, rude protesters who are preventing reasoned discussion. Although the guy who shouted, “Keep your government hands off my Medicare” is good for a laugh, he is also emblematic of the ignorance of many of the people opposing health care reform.

That so many if these benighted louts who have no interest in real debate are old enough for Medicare is deeply embarrassing to me. Not that getting old imparts wisdom necessarily; anyone who wasn't too bright in their youth is unlikely to improve with age. But I haven't spent the past five years trying to knock down prejudicial stereotypes of elders to be proved wrong on CNN, MSNBC and YouTube every day those videos are broadcast.

I am not sure a Fox News poll can be trusted, but they report that although 93 percent of seniors rate their health coverage (i.e. Medicare) as good or excellent, 56 percent “say they oppose the creation of a government-run option for all Americans.” Additionally,

"'We get letters every single day from people that are very upset about this bill and about the AARP supporting it,' said Stuart Barton, president of the American Seniors Association. 'So I don't blame them for coming back and saying they are going to tear up their AARP cards.'", 10 August 2009

Ignoring for the moment that AARP's support is tepid, is the point those 56 percent are making that government-run health care they like should be reserved only for them and not their children and grandchildren? I don't want to believe that and I don't want to believe that a majority of elders are that stupid.

Even though it is always easier to rage against an idea – particularly when your argument is fact-free – than to intelligently debate the pros and cons; even though I suspect the kind of people who shout down speakers at town halls and are becoming increasingly violent cannot be reasoned with, that is what I am asking every elderblogger who reads Time Goes By to do – to explain reasonably why you support health care reform.

Here is what I propose:

  • That next week, on Thursday 20 August, elderbloggers rise up on their blogs in support of health care reform including a public option

  • That we denounce the say-no-to-everything Republicans and their handmaidens, the Blue Dog Democrats

  • That we call out the health industry and their lobbyists who are bribing Congress with campaign donations to maintain the health care status quo and preserve their staggering profits

  • That we fact check the lies, half-truths and exaggerations of the scare-mongering media nitwits who dare to compare the health care bill to Nazi Germany and who shout fascism, socialism and Communism without a gram of understanding of those terms

  • That we reinforce the the fact of the backbreaking cost of health care that will skyrocket so high in the next decade, without health care reform there can be no economic recovery.

And so on.

Post your stories in support of health care reform on Thursday 20 August. Then email me the link and I will keep a running list of those links on my post throughout the day. If there are enough, we can make an impact elsewhere on the web and maybe in other media. If there are enough to be impressive, I will do my best to see that word gets around.

And if before then, you post a notice about the 20 August campaign, your readers, who have never heard of Time Goes By, may join in too.

Your 20 August post does not need to be long or cover everything; you could choose a single aspect of health care reform. Here are a few talking points to consider:

  • Refute the euthanasia rumor

  • Expose the amount of health industry lobby money your congressional representatives and others have received

  • Post the statistics showing why the current American health care system is inferior to that of most industrialized countries

  • Denounce the scare-mongering of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Sarah Palin, Lou Dobbs and others

  • Show how health care corporations and/or their lobbyists are behind the town hall protests

  • Explain why you, who have Medicare, support health care reform

  • Talk about why a public plan is better than the co-ops some legislators are pushing for

  • Make clear that health care reform will not cut Medicare

  • Refute the rationed care claim

  • Report on the high number of personal bankruptcies our health care system causes

  • Tell a personal story about our current private health care system (this can be powerful)

  • Canadian, British, French, German and other nationals who read this blog can also join in with stories of how your system works

  • Et cetera - there are many more topics you could choose

And in all your posts, be sure to link to your sources to back up your facts.

Below are links to some of the better websites and stories with facts, information and commentary to help get you started.

• Here is a New York Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner speaking in Congress on the 44th anniversary of President Johnson's signing of the Medicare bill. Weiner is one of the best friends of health care reform we have. You can see more of his videos here.

• A good explanation of health care industry lobbying efforts with a chart showing dollars figures of specific corporations and organizations

• A good group of links about the myths and facts of health care reform at Campaign For America's Future

• The Senate Committee on Aging's Fact v. Fiction list [pdf]

• From Alternet: How the Republicans and health care industry work with the anti-government wackos

• Long-time health care industry reporter, Robert Pear's excellent primer on the details of the health care reform bills

• Here's another video filled with the lies from the Patient First bus tour comparing health care reform to Stalin, Pol Pot and Hitler and telling his listeners to “put the fear of God” into Congress members. He says the reform bill calls for “an end of life order...death.” Don't miss this. [5:01 minutes]

Bill Moyers on the “dangerous alliance" of the health industry and right wingers.

Gallup Poll on demographics of uninsured Americans

• A lot of solid information on health care reform from

Media Matters for America keeps tabs on what the media are saying and keeps them honest.

• A good piece from Dean Baker explains how and why some legislators and media get away with lies and crazed rants.

• Good information from Bill Sher on how to contact Congress and what to say.

• Keith Olbermann can be as overwrought in his own way as some of the objectionable protesters, but this “Special Comment” on how specific congress people are bought by the medical establishment is worth the 13:26 minutes. Pay attention; there are a lot of other solid facts to be gleaned.

Too many elders, who all have their own single-payer system that works quite well, are being selfish in opposing reform for everyone else – I've got mine and screw you.

But unless meaningful health care happens, Medicare will need to be cut way back and then elders will be among the underinsured – or even uninsured – too. (That's another good topic for a post.)

Health care reform is the most crucial element to economic recovery. If it does not happen, or if it is watered down too much to serve the corporate health care industries' interests over people's, only the rich will be able to afford health care. If that happens, I don't want to have to say I sat back silently and watched it happen.

But no one can do it alone.

Maybe I'm just a foolish old woman who is being grandiose in overestimating the impact her little blog on aging might be able to have. But among RSS, email and direct visits, thousands read it each week. Many do not keep blogs, but there are about 400 on the elderblog list and if only a quarter of you do post a story about health care reform on 20 August, it will be impressive.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Meow