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February 2012
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This political season has been rough on women and it's damned hard to find any other way to define it than as a war on women.

The Washington Post reports this week that advertisers are “trickling” back to Rush Limbaugh's radio show and Robert Pittman, CEO of his distributor, Clear Channel, issued a strong endorsement:

”Pittman called Limbaugh 'the king' of radio and said outrage over his comments was 'part of the normal day-to-day of talk radio.' The controversy, he added, has not had a major financial impact on his company.”

All the more reason to keep this video from MoveOn circulating:

Chuck Nyren is one of the first people I got to know via blogging some years ago. He is a marketing expert who specializes in elders and blogs at Advertising to Baby Boomers.

On the side, however, he writes some wonderfully quirky stories about life and living, a few of which have been published here at The Elder Storytelling Place. Now he has gathered those and whole lot more into a Kindle ebook titled, Underhand and Other Stories.


You can find the ebook at Amazon where it downloads for just $2.00. There is also the “look inside” feature so the first few stories are available free.

Remember how fascinated we were when we read about Cairo, the Belgian Malinois who was a part of the Navy SEAL team that led the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound?

Now there is a book titled Soldier Dogs by Maria Goodavage who stopped by The Daily Show with Jon Stewart this week. It's a terrific interview.

In the first scene of the season opener of Mad Men last Sunday, workers at rival ad agency, Young & Rubicam, are dropping water bombs out the window onto protesters picketing poverty the street below.

Confronting those men in their office, one of the picketers, a black woman, says, “And they call us savages.” Some people said the line should never have been written into the story. But it wasn't. It was – as they say – ripped from the headlines of 1966:


Long-time New York Times reporter, John Kifner – barely more than a copy boy at the time - was in the room during the confrontation and quoted the woman directly. Read all about it here.


According to the first comment on the YouTube page, the video is based on a true story. (Hat tip to Darlene Costner)

Science-challenged politicians notwithstanding, there are real consequences to global warming. Did you know that sea levels have risen about eight inches since 1880? And they continue to rise.

There are 3,000 or so communities at risk on the coasts of the United States and if seas continue to rise as their current rate, by 2100 – well, let's just say it looks like the house I lived in in Greenwich Village will be beachfront property.

Here is a 2100 map – the dark gray areas along the coasts show where land is today:

Sea Level Map

Climate Central has provided this interactive map where you can plug in your Zip Code or click on a coastal city name and using the slider provided, watch how far inland the ocean will extend over the next 90 years.

And you can read more about all this at The New York Times.

TGB reader Marion Dent and Nikki who blogs at From Where I Sit both sent along this video. None of us finds it funny; what about you?

As Pat Henetz reports in The Salt Lake Tribune, 65-year-old Caron Masheter became the oldest women in the world, this year, to reach the summit of the highest mountains on each of the world's seven continents.

”It’s likely she will keep the record,” reports Henetz, “because those who issue permits for Everest in Tibet have since decided no one over 60 can attempt the climb.”

Normally, I avoid stories about elders and extreme sports due to the implication that any old person not behaving like a 25-year-old is somehow failing. But Ms. Masheter, a retired endocrinologist, is whole lot more interesting than that. You can read the entire story here.

You're gonna go all mushy over this story and there is no point in saying more than that. (Hat tip to Karen Snyder)

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog if you have one.

Death and Taxes

Well, not taxes specifically but money, for sure, which affects taxes and I ran out of better ideas.

One evening last week, I attended an event of a local non-profit, Elders in Action. Since 1968, they have worked in a variety of ways to create an age-friendly community in and around Portland, Oregon and since 1993, they have carried out a certification program businesses can take advantage of to meet the group's best practices criteria for helping out elders.

Each year, Elders in Action publishes a directory of age-friendly businesses, a list that now numbers more than 1,000.

None of that is here nor there except that today's post is a result of my attending the Elders in Action meeting and it's always a good idea to mention what works well.

At this event, I met a young woman, Sandra Wagner, an independent financial consultant who lives and works in Portland, Oregon. (She was hard to miss, having in tow her toddler-age daughter – a remarkably well-behaved kid in a room full of grownups.)

About half of Sandra's practice falls into the category of “sudden wealth” which doesn't mean winning the lottery (although I suppose it could).

In Sandra's case, it usually applies to the financial situation of a survivor when a spouse dies and what both shocked me and piqued my interest is that many of Sandra's clients have no knowledge of the family finances.

One widower, who chose to have his wife cremated because it was less expensive than burial, struggled to get by day-to-day for 14 years until he was notified that his wife's life insurance policy was about to lapse. The man had had no idea the policy existed and with Sandra's help was able to improve his financial situation.

The opposite happens too – when survivors believe there is a lot of money or think money goes further than it does and spend beyond their means leaving fewer choices later in life when reality becomes evident.

These things happen when one-half of a couple handles the family money and the other half pays no attention due to disinterest or because the spouse does not want to burden him or her.

Many years ago, when I was still married, my father-in-law died suddenly and unexpectedly at age 60. His wife, my mother-in-law, had no clue, not one, of family finances: nothing about bank accounts, life insurance, if there was a mortgage on the house, credit cards beyond the one she carried with her and she did not even know the combination to her husband's locked briefcase. It took weeks to unravel it all.

This is not uncommon today and Sandra confirmed my guess that although not unknown among young adults, these difficulties turn up mostly among older women – the age group of many Time Goes By readers.

Although it might also be a good guess that a financial consultant like Sandra is dealing with well-off clients who have a variety of investments, trusts and other complications of wealth, some of Sandra's clients have little more than Social Security and, perhaps, a small pension. They need advice for such difficulties as, for example, figuring out how to pay for a new roof on the house.

Either way, family financial records need to be easily and quickly available when we die and Sandra has some good advice so that our spouse or designated person to handle our affairs won't be as knee deep in ignorance as I was when my father-in-law died.

Create a binder or other organized place, says Sandra, to keep all financial records in one place. Include the necessary information for:

Bank accounts
Credit card accounts
Mortgage accounts
Outstanding loans
Insurance policies
Investment accounts
Other financial assets
Safe deposit box

Other useful information could be your will, a household inventory, accountant's name and contact information and attorney's name and contact information

Important: Because increasing amounts of banking and finance are going paperless, be sure to include IDs and passwords for those accounts and keep it all in a safe place.

Update the information as needed and be sure your spouse, adult children, other family member, friend or whomever will handle your affairs at your death knows where to find this information. It will make their life so much easier during what will be a difficult time for them.

It was fun to hear about a burgeoning cultural phenomenon from Sandra: that although it is mostly women in older generations who lack knowledge of household finances, there are growing numbers of young men who are clueless.

This occurs, says Sandra, when the primary breadwinner in a marriage is the woman earning, for example, six figures and the husband earns maybe $30,000 to $40,000. These men tend to hand off family finances to their wives.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Living in the Desert


By A. R. Ammons

The people of my time are passing away: my
wife is baking for a funeral, a 60-year-old who

died suddenly, when the phone rings, and it's
Ruth we care so much about in intensive care:

it was once weddings that came so thick and
fast, and then, first babies, such a hullabaloo:

now, it's this that and the other and somebody
else gone or on the brink: well, we never

thought we would live forever (although we did)
and now it looks like we won't: some of us

are losing a leg to diabetes, some don't know
what they went downstairs for, some know that

a hired watchful person is around, some like
to touch the cane tip into something steady,

so nice: we have already lost so many,
brushed the loss of ourselves ourselves: our

address books for so long a slow scramble now
are palimpsests, scribbles and scratches: our

index cards for Christmases, birthdays,
Halloweens drop clean away into sympathies:

at the same time we are getting used to so
many leaving, we are hanging on with a grip

to the ones left: we are not giving up on the
congestive heart failure or brain tumors, on

the nice old men left in empty houses or on
the widows who decide to travel a lot: we

think the sun may shine someday when we'll
drink wine together and think of what used to

be: until we die we will remember every
single thing, recall every word, love every

loss: then we will, as we must, leave it to
others to love, love that can grow brighter

and deeper till the very end, gaining strength
and getting more precious all the way...

A.R. Ammons

A.R. (Archie Randolph) Ammons was born in 1926, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and after a decade as a sales executive for his father-in-law, joined the English faculty at Cornell University where he also served as poet in residence until retirement in 1998. He died in 2001.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: First Traffic Ticket

The Misconception That Elders are Stuck in their Ways

category_bug_ageism.gif Okay, SuzyR and Cathy, you are IT today. I don't mean to pick on you specifically, but something you each said in your comments on yesterday's post needs to be addressed because it is a widely-held myth that must be debunked and defeated if ageism in general is ever going to end.

Here is the part of what SuzyR wrote I'm talking about:

”We do tend to entrench in our outlook as we get older...”

And here is Cathy's:

”I have come to believe that people cannot change their natures.

Maybe I am mistaken, but if by “nature,” Cathy also means people can't change in old age, the answer is no, no and no. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about old people.

However the idea is worded – set or stuck in their ways, cannot adapt to change, can't teach an old dog new tricks – it is simply wrong. Yet SuzyR and Cathy are hardly alone; it is believed by large numbers of people. A few examples:

From a website about eldercare.

“Many seniors become more stuck in their ways with every passing year.”

From a commercial website for hiring caregivers.

“It can be hard watching your parents age. All the times they were there for you when you had a cold or were hungry, and now they forget things and become more stuck in their ways.”

From a website in support of presidential candidate Ron Paul written by a reader who, a couple of weeks ago, had just attended a Utah caucus:

“The older generations are much more likely to cling to the familiar, are stuck in their ways, and are afraid of change.”

But none of that is true. Old people adapt to all kinds of changes, big ones too, every day: retirement, death of a spouse, reduced income, serious illness, moving to a smaller home, etc.

One of our own elderbloggers, Darlene Costner who is well into her ninth decade, left an eloquent note on yesterday's post about the changes she has lived with as she has grown old.

It is not just life-changing events and physical circumstances that elders navigate quite well. Attitudes and beliefs change too. One project analyzed data from the U.S. General Social Surveys of 46,510 Americans between 1972 and 2004:

”The surveys assessed attitudes on politics, economics, race, gender, religion and sexuality issues. In some cases, such as racial issues and questions of civil liberties for communists, the researchers measured a greater change toward liberalism in older people than in younger people.”

Why then do so many people believe elders become more conservative in old age? One of the researchers answered:

”People might find an average 60-year-old to be more conservative than an average 30-year-old, Danigelis said, but beware of extrapolating a trend. The older person, for example, might have started off even more conservative than he or she is now.

“Danigelis also blamed the misconception on pervasive negative attitudes toward the elderly in our country, and stereotypes that depict seniors as rigid, ornery and set in their ways.”

Elders' adaptability is not a revelation. It has a been well known to psychologists, geriatricians, gerontologists, etc. since at least the mid-20th century but some people – including a large swath of the general public – haven't heard and researchers continue their work to understand how the elder mind operates. A just-released, new study from the University of Illinois

“...shows that improving cognitive functioning in seniors actually changes an aspect of their personality, namely openness to experience...

“'The common assumption about personality is that it is hard-wired and won’t change, but this study contradicts that quite strongly,' said Brent Roberts, professor in the department of psychology at the University of Illnois at Urbana-Champaign and co-author of study.”

The perpetuation of this myth is always damaging to elders. There are others, but one serious consequence is that doctors, nurses, adult children and caregivers of all kinds who believe you can't teach an old dog new tricks will not help an elder learn what is necessary, for example, to monitor diabetes (or any other condition) that affects their health.

By the way and just for fun, the TV Mythbusters guys once tested the literal truth of the old dogs/new tricks adage by attempting to teach two seven-year-old malamutes who knew between them not a single dog trick:

”After four days of training, Bobo and Cece proved Fitzherbert flat wrong. Each could heel, sit, lie down, stay and shake upon command from Jamie and Adam. And since malamutes are known to be stubborn, Bobo and Cece's stellar performances definitively busted the myth and represented for old dogs everywhere.”

My favorite refutation of the myth, however, is found in a New York Times story from last fall about a country mouse and city mouse who each said they were set in their ways. But the story of their late-life marriage is entirely about change and adapting.

“He is economical with his words; she is ebullient. He reads newspapers in the morning; she peruses the Internet. The country house (his) has no TV set; the city apartment (hers) plays the TV news nonstop. And where her idea of preparing a meal typically involved a microwave exclusively, he is strictly a conventional-oven man.

“Yet the inevitable has happened. He is trying to sleep in the city despite the noise. She has become a consummate cook, whipping up bouillabaisse for him, and entertaining his five siblings and numerous cousins, many of whom visit frequently...”

SuzyR and Cathy: I hope you will forgive me for singling out your comments but they were an almost perfect teaching moment about this misconception and I appreciate the opportunity.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Barbara Sloan: Modern Technology in Elder Land

Age and Its Awful Discontents (?)

category_bug_ageism.gif Today's blog post title (but for the question mark) is taken verbatim from a New York Times Op-Ed piece published about ten days ago by attorney and novelist, Louis Begley, age 78. You should go read it now and then come back here. But if not, here are some salient quotations:

”Especially during [my mother's] long widowhood, I feared that unimpeded she would invade my life, the life she had saved. I remained a dutiful son, watching over her needs, but was at first unwilling and later unable to be tender.

“My abhorrence of the ravages and suffering inflicted on the body by age and illness, which predates my mother’s decline in her last years, is no doubt linked to there being no examples of a happy old age in my family.”

Begley goes on to describe a wretched old age of his mother (although there is no way to know if that was her perception too) which, he admits, he did little to alleviate:

”She had loved sitting on a Central Park bench and putting her face in the sun. That humble pleasure was also abandoned; she couldn’t get the hang of using a walker.”

Referring to the protagonist of his novel, About Schmidt, which was made into a film starring Jack Nicholson, and the two Schmidt sequels, Begley writes in his Op-Ed:

”...the reflection of his face in the window of a shop is frightening: he sees a red nose and bloodshot eyes, lips pursed up tight over stained and uneven teeth, an expression so lugubrious and so pained it resists his efforts to smile.

“My appreciation of my own charms is not very different. Like Schmidt, I see that nothing good awaits me at the end of the road...”

Reading Begley's essay half a dozen times slowly and carefully, I tried to understand this man's self-described “bitterness and anguish” at old age. At first I could only pity him and then I became angry.

Taking nothing away from what must undoubtedly be his own perseverance and talent, Begley has lived a life of extraordinary good fortune: a mother who protected him from a Nazi death camp; survival and reunion with his father after the war; immigration to the United States; a Harvard education; successful law career along with international literary acclaim. Not to mention his own family and children, all of whom are accomplished and successful.

I find it distasteful and offensive for someone with so many advantages to complain about what appears to be, so far, a comfortable old age.

And I find it equally distasteful and offensive that The New York Times editorial board highlights the story of a selfish, bitter old man when there are so many others from less advantaged elders who struggle on through whatever infirmities are inflicted upon them with courage and grace.

UPDATE: After writing this on Sunday, there turned up on Monday these four letters to the editor of The New York Times from readers who also disagree with Begley. I particularly like this from Howard Fillit who is a geriatrician and director of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation:

”Old age should never be measured by the metrics of youth. An adaptive rather than a maladaptive response to old age and even frailty is possible. Personally, I hope one day to be 95, and in love with a beautiful woman my own age.”

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joanne Zimmermann: My Statute of Limitations

Elders, the Supreme Court and the Republican Budget

Beginning today through Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing six hours of oral arguments in regard to several aspects of the Affordable Care Act. (That's “Obamacare,” the once derisive name Republicans gave the Act which the Obama administration is now pro-actively claiming for itself.)

The politics of this Supreme Court case (officially titled U.S. Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida) are huge and, depending on the decision, will have far-reaching consequences for the future of health care in the United States. The major issue is whether the individual mandate that, beginning in 2014, requires most adults to purchase health coverage is constitutional.

On the final day, the Court will address “severability.” the question of whether the rest of the law can remain in effect if the mandate is struck down. Lincoln Caplan and Philip M. Boffey at The New York Times have written an understandable and mercifully short explanation of all the legal issues at stake.

Many experts expect the Court to uphold Obamacare by a narrow margin, but you never know and if they do not, there are negative consequences for elders you should know about. One is the provision for states to expand Medicaid, which many elders use and need.

If the worst should happen – if the Court strikes down the individual mandate AND decides then that the entire law must fall – so would such benefits to elders as, among others, the gradual closing of the prescription drug doughnut hole, annual wellness screenings and other preventive tests, along with improved quality and safety at nursing homes.

That the Obamacare legislation is before the Supreme Court at all is a result of several lower court cases brought by right wing, Republican, conservative opponents of the law who from the moment it was enacted two years ago, determined to kill it any way possible.

In fact, those particular political leaders – right wing, conservative, Republican – and their corporate overlords are not relying only on the Supreme Court to limit health care. Last week, Republican Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), as chair of the House Budget Committee, released the Repubican budget proposal for fiscal year 2013. (Full text here [pdf])

The plan is so extreme that it is hard to consider it as anything more than a move farther to the right so that, for example, the Simpson-Bowles proposal will seem moderate by comparison. As the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) succinctly explains, the plan builds on last year's Ryan/Wyden idea to:

”...[balance] the budget by turning Medicare into a privatized program giving seniors a voucher (designed not to keep pace with their health costs over time) to buy private insurance.

“The new twist offered this year is a promise to also keep traditional Medicare as an option. Unfortunately, what that really means is private insurers will siphon off younger, healthier seniors while older and sicker patients remain in traditional Medicare which will increase the program's costs, potentially limit doctor participation, and create a death spiral to Medicare’s demise.”

Richard Eskow at Campaign for America's Future reports that although it is not in the text of the proposed budget, Republicans want to raise the age for Medicare eligibility:

”So how do we know that the GOP wants to raise the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67? Because that's what Ryan and his staff told the Congressional Budget Office when they asked the CBO to calculate the impact of their plan. It's right there in the CBO report on the budget.

“Here's the key sentence: 'In addition, the eligibility age for Medicare would increase by two months per year beginning in 2023 until reaching age 67 in 2034.'"

Eskow also explains two other Republican secrets not readily knowable from the text of the budget: that private insurers would get to set their own rates and per-person spending for Medicare would be radically cut. Go read his whole story here.

Candidate for the Republican nomination for president, Mitt Romney, has endorsed the Ryan budget plan. On the day Ryan released the Republican budget, one of Romney's top economic advisers and Harvard economics professor, Greg Mankiw, published this on his blog titling it, “Fiscal Solution.”

Mankiw Solution to the Debt Program

Uh-huh. Apparently he does not allow comments on his blog but felt enough pressure from somewhere that he posted an update: “Obviously, this is a joke...”

Elsewhere in the political universe, the Ryan budget proposal is seen as so extreme that even some Republicans reject it and Democrats are all but gleeful to be running for election against the Ryan plan in November.

That might be because in addition to slashing programs that benefit the poor and middle class, the budget cuts taxes for the wealthy individuals by an average of $187,000/year for millionaires; cuts the corporate income tax rate to 25 percent from 35 percent; and creates system to exempt offshore profits of U.S. corporations from corporate income tax.

Further, the Ryan budget would shrink spending so much that within 30 years or so, there would be no money left for many federal agencies. From the Center for Economic and Policy Research:

”Since Representative Ryan has said that he wants to keep military spending near its current level of 4.0 percent of GDP, this would leave no money to pay for the Justice Department, the Food and Drug Administration, Education, the National Institutes of Health or anything else that the government does.”

Well, as you can see, I got way too far into the weeds of budgets and health care this weekend. You have no idea the number of details I'm sparing you.

Smarter people than I believe this budget, like last year's Ryan plan, is already dead in the water and I agree. But what is important is for us to keep our eyes on this stuff and understand stand it enough to know when it's time to speak up and make some noise. (Not yet.)

Here's a little item that has nothing – or, possibly everything – to with today's post. Call it the insanity of the one percent:

Billionaire New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has banned food donations to homeless shelters because the donated food cannot be officially assessed for salt, fat and fiber content.

Honest. Unbelievable as it sounds, that has really happened. You can read more here.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Terry Hamburg: He'll Be Baaaack (1962)

ELDER MUSIC: Cecilia Bartoli

PeterTibbles75x75This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

Cecilia Bartoli

CECILIA BARTOLI is the best singer around at the moment. Okay, Jessye Norman gives her a run for her money and one day I’ll probably start a column with the statement, “Jessye Norman is the best singer around at the moment.” That’s for then.

Today is Cecilia’s day. Hmm, I think Shakespeare said something like that, only more elegantly.

A lot of years ago - oops sorry Cecilia, that should read, some years ago - I was in my record store when I heard this divine voice. “Who is that?” asked I of the gentleman behind the counter.

He got out the CD that was playing; it was Cecilia’s first. I bought it immediately. I’ve bought a bunch since (but not all; I’m retired these days and can’t afford to do that). Nevertheless, I have quite a few and music from them will be featured today.

Cecilia Bartoli

Cecilia was born in Rome in 1966 and mum and dad, both professional singers, coached the young Cecilia. Boy, did they do a good job.

She made her first appearance at the age of 8 in Tosca (she wasn’t singing the lead at that stage). Her first real role came when she was only 21, very young for an opera singer, and from then on there was no stopping her.

She’s a favorite of not only the public but her fellow musicians as well. Cecilia is a mezzo-soprano which I find more pleasing to my ears than the standard sopranos. I’d better stop here as I might slobber all over the keyboard.

Cecilia Bartoli

Norma, the Assistant Musicologist’s favorite opera is Norma. This has nothing whatever to do with its name she claims. It’s all about all the terrific singing, especially in the final act.

She also says that there’s none of that boring recitative in it. The opera was written by VINCENZO BELLINI and is a staple on the opera circuit.


It’s claimed that old Vince was a child prodigy and could sing various opera arias when he was only eighteen months old. I find that hard to believe but you never know. He certainly learnt the piano and (it’s claimed) music theory before he was five years old.

Whatever the truth is, he could certainly turn out wonderful operas. Norma - and I go along with the A.M. - is the pick of them. Unfortunately, he died young, only 34, of an inflammation to his intestine (I don’t know if that was the big or little one).

Here is “Casta diva” from the first act rather than something from that tumultuous final act.

♫ Cecilia Bartoli: Bellini - Casta diva

Although most noted for singing Mozart and Rossini, Cecilia also does quite a lot in the baroque field, VIVALDI especially, and we have some of Antonio’s music right now.


On the surface, it looks as if Antonio lived an eventful and rather interesting life. You can find out more about him in this previous column. The facts are more prosaic and he probably spent most of his life composing and playing music.

Cecilia sings “Dell'aura al sussurrar” from the pastorale (a fancy name for an opera) Dorilla in Tempe.

♫ Cecilia Bartoli: Vivaldi - Dell'aura al sussurrar

To my favorite of MOZART's famous operas, Don Giovanni (I also have a soft spot for Idomeneo).


Wolfie has featured quite a bit in these columns and will no doubt do so again so I’ll not bother saying anything further about him and just play “Là ci darem la mano” from Don Giovanni, a duet Cecilia performs with the excellent bass baritone, Bryn Terfel.

♫ Cecilia Bartoli and Bryn Terfel: Mozart - Là ci darem la mano

ALESSANDRO SCARLATTI was the father of another noted composer, Domenico Scarlatti, and another not so well known one, Pietro Scarlatti.

Alessandro ScarlattiAlessandro

Alessandro was born in Palermo and was taught music by Carissimi, then the most celebrated composer in Italy (or what we think of as Italy these days). He turned to composing opera at the behest of his sister who was an opera singer of note as well as being the mistress of an influential noble who was willing to shell out moolah for such things.

Although mostly rooted in the baroque era, Alessandro’s music is also a link to the classical. Here is possibly his most famous aria, “Già il Sole Dal Gange” from the opera L’honestà negli amori.

♫ Cecilia Bartoli - Scarlatti A - Già il Sole Dal Gange

PIETRO MASCAGNI lived to a reasonable age; he was 81 when he died in 1945.


Like most of the composers today, old Pete was Italian. He is often thought of as a “one opera man” because of the huge success of Cavalleria Rusticana. However, I’m going to show that that’s not so.

For a start, he wrote 15 of them, as well as orchestral and other works. He pretty much took over from Verdi when he died, although Puccini might have something to say about that.

He also conducted Verdi’s Requiem in commemoration of him. Pete traveled extensively, to all the famous opera houses of the world and a lot of the others as well.

From another of his operas, L'amico Fritz, this is “Tutto tace.”

On this, Cecilia is joined by a singer probably even more famous than she is, Luciano Pavarotti.

♫ Cecilia Bartoli and Luciano Pavarotti: Mascagni · Tutto tace

GIUSEPPE PERSIANI was an Italian opera composer who had written an opera or two when he married the then famous soprano, Fanny Tacchinardi.


Giuseppe then wrote a whole bunch more operas to support Fanny’s career. However, his most famous opera, Inês de Castro, was written for another famous singer of the time, Maria Malibran, a mezzo-soprano.

Alas, Maria kicked the bucket before it was complete and he reworked it for his wife. This became a great success and was often performed over the next couple of decades. Now the circle is complete with another mezzo performing “Cari giorni a me sereni” from that opera.

♫ Cecilia Bartoli: Persiani - Cari giorni a me sereni

Although CHRISTOPH GLUCK was born in Bavaria and spent as lot of his working life in Vienna. His work is often influenced by French and Italian composers.


Chris was an opera composer of the early to middle classical period. His most famous opera is probably Orfeo ed Euridice. He was so taken with French style that he moved to Paris when he was about 60. There he wrote some more, some of which were hugely successful.

When one of them, Echo et Narcisse, went over like a lead balloon, he spat the dummy and returned to Vienna where he stayed for the rest of his life.

This is “Tremo fra' dubbi miei” from his opera La clemenza di Tito.

♫ Cecilia Bartoli: Gluck - Tremo fra' dubbi miei

ANTONIO CESTI was born in 1623 in Arezzo, in Tuscany. He was not only a composer but a singer of note and an organist. He was considered the foremost composer of his time around his neck of the woods.


He became a monk and joined the Franciscan order. However, he wrote a bunch of secular music for the Medici family and later became a member of court to the Archduke of Austria.

All this secular nonsense got him ticked off by the church bigwigs. It can’t have been too serious as he entered the papal chapel in 1660. That lasted six years and he was off again, this time to Vienna. Not long after that he died in Venice.

He’s known these days as a composer of operas as that’s what he did mostly. This is an aria called “Intorno all'idol mio” from one of them, Orotea.

♫ Cecilia Bartoli: Cesti - Intorno all'idol mio

LEONARDO VINCI was an Italian composer and was born in 1690. He was best known for his operas along with most of the composers presented here today.

Leonardo Vinci

Now, there was another famous person with a similar name but as far as I can tell, the painter of the Mona Lisa didn’t write music. I could be wrong as he seemed to have done everything else.

This Leo was most famous for his opera buffe, which is not opera performed without any clothes unfortunately, but is a fancy term for comic opera. Of course, you probably need to speak the language to get the jokes.

Apparently, Leo was poisoned after an “ill-advised” affair when he was about 40 years old. It sounds as if he got on the wrong side of the Medicis.

Anyway, this is “Cervo in bosco” from his opera Il Medo.

♫ Cecilia Bartoli: Vinci - Cervo in bosco

Cecilia Bartoli


Happy weekend, everyone. Ronni here. Today's Interesting Stuff is almost entirely about animals. It was turning out that way so I just went with the flow. There are several birds, a cat, a whole lot of fish – beautiful fish and one tragic fish. But such is non-Disney nature is life.

There are also a couple of other items so that this doesn't begin to look like an Animal Planet blog.

Also FYI, there has been a recent uptick in suggestions for this weekly series (this is good, keep them coming) and I want you to know that although I don't acknowledge receipt, I do get around to using most of them eventually. When I do that depends on the mix I want for any given Saturday.

I mean it - a thieving housecat who steals on a such a magnificently mega scale that you have to admire him. (Hat tip to Larry Beck)

Deaths from gut infections caused by Clostridium difficile and novovirus more than doubled between 1999 and 2007 and of those who died, 83 percent were older than 65, reports the Centers for Disease Control.

”Both diseases are spread by the fecal-oral route, meaning that people swallow germs found in feces, often spread by people who did not wash their hands after using the toilet.”

Not long ago, I published a story about how to survive a hospital stay; a big part is being sure everyone who touches the patient has just washed their hands.

You can read more about the Centers for Disease Control finding here.

By 1967 America's symbol, the bald eagle, was nearly extinct due to widespread shooting, destruction of habitat and DDT and that year, the federal government listed the regal bird as endangered, banning the pesticide.

That worked so well that in 2007, the bald eagle was removed from the federal endangered list. Now, the number of breeding pairs in Oregon has grown so high, the state removed the bird from its list this month.

Bald eagles are huge, magnificent birds. They are thrilling to watch in the air and I'm pretty sure they have no peers at fishing. Look at this short clip and be sure your audio is turned up:

Spring is here and there are baby birds or about-to-be baby birds all over the land.

Last year I told you about the Decorah bald eagle cam where three eaglets had hatched. This year, there are again three eggs which, the Raptor Research Project tells us, are due to hatch sometime between yesterday (as I write this) and tomorrow, Sunday. Here's the live cam:

Live Video app for Facebook by Ustream

You can see a larger size of the live eagle cam at the Ustream website and find out a lot more at the Raptor Research Project website where there are links to other raptor cams.

This raptor cam is also back for another season online. Last year, a pair of hawks nested on the Bobst Library building of New York University above Washington Square Park which you can see in the background. I love having a live glimpse of my old stomping ground in Greenwich Village.

Watch live streaming video from nytnestcam at

Unfortunately, at the end of last year, the female hawk, Violet, died. This year, Bobby has bonded with Rosie and baby hawk birth is now immanent. You can read more here and also view a larger image.

Do they still teach the Scopes Monkey Trial in school, do you think? You remember the famous 1925 confrontation in a Dayton, Tennessee courtroom between Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan on the teaching of evolution, don't you?

Or maybe I do because in about 1960 or so, I played Rachel Brown, the daughter of the fundamentalist preacher in the play, Inherit the Wind about the trial in a little theater production in Marin County.

Now, 87 years after the famous trial, Tennessee is at it again, the state Senate having approved legislation, 24-8, requiring the teaching of evolution, global warming and human cloning as “scientific controversies” rather than as science.

The bill now goes to the governor for signature. In the same story, Alternet reports,

”Also on Monday, a bill to permit the display of the Ten Commandments in public buildings (HB2658) passed the Tennessee House by a vote of 93-9.”

I become more convinced every day that we are living through the beginning of a new Dark Age. You can read more here.

In this case, I make an exception to my diatribe here yesterday against Facebook; this seems an excellent use of it.

Short background: since giving up his race for the Republican nomination for president, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed legislation excluding Planned Parenthood from the state's Medicaid Women's Health Program because half the Planned Parenthood clinics provide abortion information.

In response, the federal Department of Health and Human Services cut off their funding to Texas.

And then, women went nuts – wonderfully, fabulously nuts – mocking Perry on his Facebook page with hundreds of requests for information on women's health. To wit:

“I would like your opinion since I can’t make medical decisions myself being a woman and all, about what brand of tampon to use."
"Governor Perry, I am experiencing mid-cycle cramping. Is this a punishment from god for not getting pregnant this month?"
“I know you want to be involved in my reproductive health, so I thought I’d let you know my period started a little early this month. Do you think that’s okay?”
"Governor, I have this unusual discharge, but I don't have any health insurance right now. You're an expert on women's health though - could you take a look?"

Commenting on Perry's Facebook page was closed and the “offending” remarks removed but not before some people grabbed screenshots and you can read more about the incident here and all over the web.

Sent in by Carol from CO at just the right moment. No explanation necessary.

Viagra review

Even more wonderful women mocking guys who think they have a right to control us. At the new Government Free VJJ website, the subtitle is, “Dear Men in Congress: If we knit you a uterus, will you stay out of ours?”


At the website, you will find patterns for knitting and crocheting uteruses (uteri?) and instructions on how to have it delivered to your – ahem, member of Congress with a note such as, “Hands off my uterus! Here's one of your own!” Do go take a look; it's just great.

If Republican politicians' unspeakable intention to take control of women's health have you riled up, this is the perfect antidote – gorgeous, soothing, underwater video from Dakuwaga's Garden near Fiji and Tonga, sent in by TGB reader Elizabeth.

I checked around a little and “Dakuwaga” is a shark-god from Fijian mythology. I like this best without the music which seems not quite appropriate to me, but that's an individual decision. Enjoy.

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog if you have one.

Time Goes By, Facebook and Twitter

blogging bug image Several newer readers have emailed about following or subscribing to Time Goes By on Twitter and/or Facebook.

Although there is a long list of posts I want to write that are actually related to being old, I also had two rather lengthy meetings Thursday on local elder issues, city and county, taking up the morning and afternoon and not much time to write.

So this is what you get today, Friday – something that takes no reading or research on my part but may need some explaining and could be useful to some readers.

I have had a Facebook account (ronni.bennett1) and a Twitter account (ronni7) for several years. As far as I can recall, I have never tweeted except perhaps when I created the account to test it.

However, this blog (and The Elder Storytelling Place blog) are set up to automatically post a link at Twitter to each day's story at the time it is published. So if you follow ronni7 on Twitter, that's one way to read either or both blogs.

I pay about the same amount of attention to my Facebook account. I never write anything there but both blogs are set up to automatically post each day's story at FB.

What came to light in some of the email from readers is the fact that there is no way to know here on this page that it is available on Facebook and/or Twitter.

You just have to pity me, I guess: I am so removed and so disinterested in those two worlds that it had not occurred to me to tell you about subscription options beyond email and rss. When I have some extra moments sometime, I might add those links.

Facebook and Twitter aficionados tell me now and then that I am hopelessly out of touch and that I should be tweeting and facebooking throughout the day.

Really? Is that so? When is it I should be doing that? During three-plus hours I'm reading several dozen alerts and newsletters and following their links to stories on aspects of aging, in addition the news in general throughout the day?

Or how about during the two to six hours (depending on complexity) it takes to write a blog post? Could I ask for input, do you think, about the right phrasing or whether a certain paragraph is necessary?

Maybe I should be T-ing and FB-ing while I'm trying to spend enough time exercising each day (not always successfully) or grocery shopping or playing with the cat or vacuuming or cooking or cleaning the bathrooms or speaking with friends on the telephone or answering the couple dozen emails a day from TGB readers. Should I tweet you about that?

I suppose I could cut back on pleasure reading or movies or music listening or the several TV shows I like and fill that time tweeting about what I would be doing if I were not tweeting.

Or maybe – now, here's a thought: whenever I catch myself being still for awhile so as to think seriously about something and maybe gain some insight or new understanding, I could tweet about what I'm pondering. Unless you think tweeting defeats the purpose of thought.

Yes, I'm being deliberately snarky and you may think I'm exaggerating but I honestly do not know where in my day I could fit Twitter and Facebook even if I thought I had anything useful to say. I hear a lot from elders that they follow their grandchildren on FB and I think that's good and fine. But I have no grandchildren.

A couple of other things Facebook/Twitter users should know about my interaction with those two media:

  • I accept all friend invitations – even the names I don't recognize; I just assume they are TGB readers.

  • I reject all other types of invitations on Facebook.

Basically, I have the two accounts to accommodate people who want to read TGB and ESP via Twitter or Facebook.

A couple of days ago, someone said on my FB page that he or she could not find the subscribe button there. As I think this post pretty well acknowledges, I am ignorant of how Facebook works. I do know that it tells me on the settings page that subscribing is implemented. Beyond that, I know nothing and I don't see the button either.

But wait – it just occurred to me: why “subscribe” on Facebook? Don't you receive friends' postings on your own Facebook page automatically so all that's needed is to friend the person you want to read regularly?

On the other hand, what do I know. As I said, I'm a Facebook ignoramus and worse (or better, depending on your point of view), with no interest in being further enlightened about it.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: Precious Memories of Pet – My Pet Squirrel


Orrin Onken Orrin Onken writes the twice-monthly TGB Elderlaw Attorney column in which he discusses legal issues of concern and interest to elders. He is an elderlaw attorney licensed to practice in the state of Oregon. He also keeps his own blog, Oregon Elder Law, and you can read more about his background here. All his Time Goes By columns are collected in this list.

category_bug_elderlaw As I make my way toward the grim reaper, there may come a time when I become so sick that I cannot communicate with those around me. My inability to communicate might be due to a temporary illness, but it is most likely to happen during the last days of life. When I can no longer communicate, I have an advance directive that will talk to family and care givers for me.

An advance directive is a legally enforceable document that manages my medical care when I cannot. As long as I can still lift my head from the pillow and make my wishes known, my advance directive is scrap paper but when I can no longer do that, my advance directive controls who makes decisions for me and what treatments I receive.

The name “advance directive” probably comes from the fact that the document is signed in advance of final illness and gives directions, but that isn’t the only name the document goes by.

When documents with a similar purpose first appeared they were called “living wills.” Lawyers don’t like to stray far from what they know. They called it a will because it looked like one.

The next name to come around was a “health care power of attorney.” Once again, lawyers took something they knew, the power of attorney, and adapted it for another purpose. The document has also been called a personal directive, advance decision, health care proxy and probably a few other things.

Maybe the name “advance directive” will stick, but don’t count on it. No matter what they are called, all these documents all do the same thing: they provide family and care givers with instructions for how we want to be treated at the end of life.

The most important part of an advance directive is the appointment of a health care representative. A health care representative makes health care decisions, including decisions about when to pull the plug, when you can’t make them yourself.

This person is the advocate for your wishes when you can’t advocate on your own. In my advance directive I named my spouse as my health care representative. I have told her what I want at the end of life and I trust her to make decisions about my care that respect my wishes.

The second most important part of an advance directive is instructions to your medical providers about the kind of treatment you want or don’t want. These “directives” are addressed to your doctor. My sister is a doctor and I have never known her to take directions, but I filled out this part of my advance directive anyway.

I didn’t have to. I could have stopped after appointing my spouse my health care representative, thereby leaving everything up to her. I can fill out all or part of an advanced directive and, if it is properly signed and witnessed, the part filled out will be legally enforceable.

If you want or don’t want certain kinds of medical intervention at the end of life and you don’t have my sister as your doctor, you make those wishes happen by putting them in your advance directive.

Once you’ve named a health care representative to advocate for you and you’ve told the medical profession what sort of care you want, the heavy lifting is done.

One of my favorite advanced directives comes from a nonprofit called Aging With Dignity. It is called Five Wishes [pdf] and may be filled out online. This advanced directive is named for five common wishes about dying.

Like all advance directives, it asks you to name a health care representative and give directions about end-of-life care. It goes on to ask how much pain relief you want (we are talking heavy drugs here), what sort of surroundings you want to die in and what you want your loved ones to know.

The Five Wishes document meets legal requirements for an advanced directive in 42 states, but not here in Oregon where I live. I encourage you to find and use the form that is most common in the state where you live.

You need to take your advance directive with you to the hospital when you go in for treatment and have the nurse or social worker scan a copy of the document into your file. The hospitals don’t like to deal with unfamiliar documents. Don’t stress them out. Bring them what they are used to seeing in your community.

Advance directives can be enforced by the courts if they are filled out and witnessed (or notarized) properly, but court is not where you want to go. If you pay attention to the instructions, particularly those concerning witnesses, you have set the stage for end of life care without resort to lawyers.

Some families are so litigious that no document will keep them out of the courthouse but for most of us, an advance directive provides the framework for end of life care that is lawyer-free.

The advance directive is the only legal document that I recommend for everyone. Most legal documents have risks and rewards that must be balanced. The advance directive, however, presents very little risk and big rewards. The end of life is a time for your family to take care of emotional and spiritual matters, not make appointments with lawyers.

A properly signed and witnessed advance directive does as much as a person can do to ensure that the details of your dying do not end up at the courthouse.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Is there an elderlaw topic you would like Orrin Onken to discuss? Leave your suggestion in the comments below and it may turn up in a future column. Remember, Orrin cannot advise on specific personal legal issues.]

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: It's All in the Family


By Langston Hughes

Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So, boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps.
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now—
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.


Langston Hughes, born in 1902 in Joplin, Missouri, was a poet, novelist, playwright, columnist and social activist who, among so much more, sought to depict and raise awareness of the lives of working class blacks as in this poem of resilience – something people of all colors need to find within themselves if they are going to make it to old age.

Hughes died in 1967 and is buried at the Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem where a long time ago, the good folks there helped me with answers to some research questions I couldn't find anywhere else.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dorothy Moffitt: Washing Day the Old Way

The Constant, Wearying Assault on Elders

category_bug_journal2.gif On Sunday, while I was reading and gathering information for yesterday's post about the AARP secret meeting on Social Security, I could feel how tired I am of it all.

“All” being the necessity to maintain a constant watch on politicians and their corporate overlords together with exhausting and usually confusing details of our financial and medical lives.

You can depend on current elected officials, local and national, to have something new almost every week that will negatively affect elders. Maybe this week a legislator wants to cut Medicaid or it could be funds for the local Meals on Wheels they propose slashing and sometimes what they do is just plain – well, there is no other word for it: evil.

Example: where I live, last fall the state, with no notice, suddenly ended a property tax deferral program for elders that had been in place for many years – and they announced it just one month before the tax was due and payable – as though anyone could come up with thousands of dollars in 30 days.

Things like that are just the local guys. Anyone who hangs out here knows how often members of the U.S Congress, some federally appointed commissions (and at least one president) have done their best to privatize Social Security and Medicare.

Actually, they never stop. Today, for example, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), who is chairman of the House Budget Committee, releases this year's federal budget proposal. He even made a YouTube video ahead of today to promote it. Here it is – be sure to swallow your coffee first:

It is expected (as I write this on Monday) by those who know such things that the new Ryan budget will include a revised attempt to privatize Medicare with a voucher program along the lines of the joint proposal he made with Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden last December.

According to one preliminary report on Ryan's new budget, this Medicare provision

“...would still give future seniors a fixed amount, but it would allow them to use the money to stay in the traditional Medicare program. They would have to pay out of pocket if the costs of the program were higher than the government subsidy - or buy an alternative plan.

“...[according to some experts,] most seniors under his plan would face considerably higher costs for health care in some cases many thousands of dollars a year.”

As though the majority of elders can pay that. In 2008, the median income of people age 65 and older was, from all sources, $18,208. For 40.6% of the age group that year, Social Security provided more than 90 percent of income.

Aside from the cost which, as the proposal apparently anticipates, average Medicare beneficiaries would not be able to afford, there would be the annual window of opportunity to change insurers.

You already know what that looks like - we do it for Medicare Supplemental policies or Medicare Advantage policies and/or Part D – prescription drug policies every year.

I'm exhausted thinking about it: dozen of plans each year with different premiums, deductibles, co-pays, networks, etc. all to be weighed against one another as we try to sort out the best coverage we can afford.

Due to the kinds of work I did for 50 years, I have decades of experience at sorting large amounts of information and making sense of it. In addition, as far as I can tell, I still have all my faculties.

So although I dislike the tangled process of deciding if I need or want a new Supplemental or drug policy each year, I know I can do it. But will I always be this sharp? Maybe not. And lots of old people can't do this either at all or without help.

Yet every proposal for Medicare creates increased calculations and paperwork for elders, much of it so poorly explained that I'm pretty sure the people who write the regulations don't get it.

None of what I've mentioned includes the details of bank accounts, mortgages, credit cards and other financial dealings that need constant attention in an era where those corporations are eager to make “mistakes.”

Is there any wonder I'm exhausted. There is no other way to describe this except “assault” - the paperwork and eternal vigilance against the nonstop attacks on programs we spent a lifetime paying into for our old age.

I get so weary of it all and just want some peace and rest.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Stroppy: The Monster in My Garden

AARP's Secret Social Security Meeting

A week from tomorrow, on the evening of 27 March, AARP CEO A. Barry Rand is hosting an “off-the-record, salon-style conversation” at the home of Washington lobbyist, Robert Rabin.

Billed as The E Street Exchange (for that is where Mr. Rabin's home is located), the purpose of the event is to talk about “Strengthening Social Security: Facing Up to the Challenge.” (See the formal invitation here)

Unless you have been under a rock for the past few years, you know that when the words, Social Security, strengthen and challenge are strung together in the same breath or sentence, someone is out to take away your benefit.

According to Huffington Post which obtained a copy of the full invitation,

”The list of invitees to the salon event includes a gallery of powerful Washington establishment figures who are on record favoring cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

“The only firm opponent of Social Security or Medicare benefit cuts on the list, the Economic Policy Institute's Larry Mishel, said he wasn't planning to go and wasn't sure why he was listed as a featured guest...

“Other listed invitees included business leaders and deficit hawks who have long argued for the cuts, including Tom Donohue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, John Engler of the Business Roundtable group for corporate CEOs, and David Walker, a noted deficit alarmist and former head of the Government Accountability Office.”

You will recall that last year, as the Simpson-Bowles Commission debated items of deficit reduction, AARP announced that its board had voted to drop its opposition to cuts in Social Security benefits.

Under the weight of a massive outcry from AARP members along with many membership cancellations, AARP backtracked and today, to help burnish its damaged image, the organization is launching a national listening tour titled, “You've Earned a Say and We're Listening.”

Before I tell you anymore, it must be said loud and clear that AARP members have earned nothing – they pay for their say with their annual dues. Even with that, however, what can AARP possibly expect to hear that 90 percent of Americans of all political leanings have not already told them in a zillion polls and surveys: hands off Social Security.

In a followup story on Saturday, Huffington Post published a message it received from a volunteer who attended two days of training classes for the AARP listening tour:

"We were explicitly told NOT to provide any education; furthermore, they want us to urge participants to fill out the surveys at the beginning of the gathering, then as time permits, allow people one by one to express their opinions.

“I am wondering if all of this fanfare with the surveys will just be a smokescreen for the AARP backing cuts in Social Security and Medicare and using the opinions gathered in the 'You've Earned a Say' sessions as the basis for their EVOLVING policy."

You would be hard-pressed (as of yesterday, Sunday) to find anything about this listening tour at There is not a headline, word, link or anything on the home page.

It takes a lot of digging to find the listening tour page and although the URL includes the navigation to the sections, "politics-society/advocacy," there is no link on the Advocacy section front. So here's the link to make it easier for you.

Can you tell I'm pissed off about all this – extending to the bad navigation? I'm not the only one.

When you get to that page, you will find hundreds and hundreds of comments from people like you and me who are as informed about Social Security, the deficit and useful fixes as you and I and who are furious with AARP about the secret meeting and the tour. Here are just a handful of examples:

”I will also be enthusiastically joining a class action suit to recover my membership costs if AARP advocates ANY cuts to Social Security or Medicare.”
”Hey AARP! We didn't just earn a say in what you do, we PAID for it. Most of your membership are smart enough to see the knife poised to go into our collective backs and I expect we will leave in droves.
”I will not renew my membership. The fact that AARP would even consider closed-door sessions to compromise Social Security tells me that a once-vital organization has been corrupted.
”Social Security does not affect the deficit, and will be able to pay out 100 percent of benefits for the next 30 years. If a fix is needed, it's pretty simple: Eliminate the cap on contributions.
”I have been a member of AARP for about 20 years. I will NOT support any cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Look at what happened with Susan G. Komen. You cannot betray the people who are looking to you to represent them.

There are a couple of places where you can add your voice to others who are demanding that AARP CEO A. Barry Rand cancel the secret meeting on E Street - a petition at firedoglake and another at Credo.

Do it. Please do it. Add your voice. Ask your friends to do so. And to those readers who pipe up whenever I write about AARP's terrible track record on support of Social Security and Medicare to say we should ignore the organization, have nothing to do with them: sure, cancel your membership – that's a strong statement.

But it can only hurt us to ignore the wealthiest lobby group purporting to represent elders that has repeatedly misrepresented what nearly 100 percent of its membership wants. It is all too easy to believe silence equals acquiescence.

Hat tip to Darlene Costner

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: The Car Accident


PeterTibbles75x75This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

After doing a column on “Bigs” last week, it was pretty obvious that I’d do one on “Littles” as well. Here it is.

There are a lot of “Littles” and many I wanted to include didn’t make the cut. Never mind, the ones who did are worth listening to. As with “Big,” most of the tracks seem to be blues or R&B performers but that’s fine with me.

The obvious starting point, at least as far as I’m concerned is LITTLE RICHARD.

Little Richard

Richard Penniman is a somewhat flamboyant artist. He is also one of the half dozen most important musicians in the development of rock & roll. Anyone who has listened to music for the last 60 years can’t help but to have heard his songs.

However, today for your musical delectation, I won’t go with one of Richard’s usual tunes. This is a slow, quite restrained song, Maybe I’m Right.

♫ Little Richard - Maybe I'm Right

LITTLE WILLIE JOHN wrote and recorded the original version of the song Fever that Peggy Lee later made into a smash hit.

Little Willie John 5

William John was born in Arkansas but the family moved to Detroit when he was four. As a teenager, he and his siblings started a gospel group and they performed around town.

He caught the ear of Johnny Otis who put him under contract and recorded several songs that made the charts, including Fever which earned him a gold record.

Apparently, Willie John had a short temper and liked a drink or two (or several). He was banged up for manslaughter but released on appeal and he recorded an album that wasn’t released for decades. He died of a heart attack around then at the age of 30. Here is that original version of Fever.

♫ Little Willie John - Fever

LITTLE JUNIOR'S BLUE FLAMES recorded for Sun records before Elvis got into the recording biz and Sun turned into a rockabilly studio. Little Junior is Junior Parker, or Herman Parker to his mum and dad, and was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, the birthplace of a multitude of blues musicians.

Little Junior

Junior sang in gospel groups as a kiddie and was on the blues circuit when he was a teenager. He played with Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin’ Wolf, Bobby Blue Bland, B.B. King and many others – they’re just the ones I like a lot.

His recording career began when Ike Turner recorded him. Sam Phillips heard this and signed him to Sun records where he cut a bunch of songs including Mystery Train that Elvis later covered, also at Sun.

He died at just 39 while undergoing surgery for a brain tumor. Here’s Junior’s version of Mystery Train.


The legend is that LITTLE EVA, or Eva Boyd to her mum and dad, was a babysitter for Carole King and Jerry Goffin - they were married at the time - and they were so taken with her impromptu dancing style that they wrote a song for her.

Little Eva

The truth is always more boring. They knew before they hired her that she was a pretty good singer so it was only a matter of time before they sent a song her way.

Eva was from North Carolina but her family moved to New York when she was very young. As mentioned, she got this job with the songwriters and when she recorded a demo, with their influence, a real record was released. It was a smash hit.

Another myth is that they were miffed at this, as singers were plentiful but good babysitters were hard to come by. Eva had other songs that weren’t quite as successful and, alas, died of cancer in 2001 at only 59.

The song was later also a huge hit for Australian singer Kylie Minogue, but her version is considerably inferior to the original. The Loco-Motion.

♫ Little Eva - The Loco-Motion

LITTLE FEAT was the brainchild of Lowell George and Bill Payne.

Little Feat

Lowell, at the time they met, was playing in the Mothers of Invention. Bill auditioned for the group but was refused. He struck up a friendship with Lowell and they decided to start their own band.

They grabbed Roy Estrada, also a Mother, and Richie Hayward who was in a previous group with Lowell. They said that spelt Feat that way as an homage to The Beatles.

There are various rumors about Lowell’s departure from the Mothers, all of them revolve around the song Willin’. One is that Frank Zappa didn’t like the drug references in the song; he was seriously anti-drug (apart from his ciggies, I notice).

Some of the other tales are more positive. We probably won’t know the real story as, unfortunately, both Frank and Lowell are dead. Here is Willin’.

♫ Little Feat - Willin'

LITTLE CHARLIE & THE NIGHTCATS began when Charlie Baty, who was studying mathematics at U.C. Berkeley (yay, another maths major), met Rick Estrin and said, “Let’s form a band” or something like that.

Little Charlie & the Nightcats

They recruited other musicians but there has been a bit of a turnover in these over the years. The band’s music is essentially Chicago blues with an element of rock & roll, surf music, Western swing, jump blues and anything else they can think of at any performance.

Rick has turned out to be the dominant person in the group and these days they are called Rick Estrin & the Nightcats. Also, lately Charlie no longer tours with the band.

This track is back when they had their original name. I hear a touch of John Hammond in the vocals, by Rick, on this track and that’s no bad thing. It is I Could Deal With It.

♫ Little Charlie & the Nightcats - I Could Deal With It

LITTLE ESTHER Phillips was born Esther Jones in Galveston.

Little Esther

Her parents divorced early on and Esther spent her adolescence shuffling between mum and dad in Houston and Los Angeles. Her sister pushed her into a talent contest where she caught the ear of Johnny Otis (he seems to have done a lot of ear catching) who was so impressed he signed her to a recording contract and included her in his touring review.

She had several hits in the early Fifties but they dried up after a while, possibly because Johnny had stopped producing her records. Unfortunately, she was a serious drug user and although she made a comeback of sorts in the late Seventies, the writing seemed to be on the wall for her.

She was nominated for a Grammy but Aretha won that year. Aretha gave her trophy to Esther saying she that she should have won it. Esther died at age 48 due to all sorts of complications related to her drug intake. Here she is with Longing in My Heart.

♫ Little Esther - Longing in My Heart

James Campbell, or as he is more generally known, LITTLE MILTON, was born in Inverness. That’s not the place in Scotland; apparently, it’s in Mississippi.

Little Milton

By the time he was twelve, he was already an accomplished guitarist and was playing on the street. He, along with most guitarists of the time and later, was influenced by T-Bone Walker. While still a teenager he caught the ear of Ike Turner (another prolific ear catcher) who got him a recording session at Sun records.

Later, he recorded for Chess records and that’s not really a surprise. Later still, after the death of Leonard Chess, he recorded for Stax records. So he managed to record for the most influential labels in his field.

Here he is from back in the Sun days with Beggin' My Baby. His guitar playing is not noticeable on this track.

♫ Little Milton - Beggin' My Baby

LITTLE WALTER, or Marion Walter Jacobs, was the undisputed king of blues harmonica players.

Little Walter

He was born and bred in Louisiana where he learnt his instrument of choice as well as the guitar. He honed his skills by playing with Sonny Boy Williamson, Honeyboy Edwards, Sunnyland Slim and others. He went to Chicago and found some work playing guitar but he was most in demand playing harmonica.

He further developed his playing style – having the harmonica and microphone cupped in his hands, the mic plugged into a guitar amplifier – when he couldn’t be heard over electric guitars. He played for a long period in the Muddy Waters band.

Here’s Walter singing and playing on Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights).

♫ Little Walter - Boom Boom (out go the lights)

The town of Little River is between Melbourne and Geelong, the state of Victoria’s two biggest cities. It has a population of three or four hundred people and is most notable today for supplying the name for one of this country’s most successful groups, the LITTLE RIVER BAND.

Little River Band

LRB were really a super group in Australian terms, they contained members of The Twilights, Mississippi, Axiom and Zoot, all of them successful on the Oz music scene. The members had only just got together and were driving from Melbourne to Geelong for a gig and saw the exit sign to Little River and decided that was the name for them.

In the way of these things, after success worldwide the group fragmented and lawsuits and other nasty things followed. Here they are at the top of their game with Long Jumping Jeweller.

♫ Little River Band - Long Jumping Jeweller


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a fine speech on women's rights worldwide last week at end of the Women in the World conference in New York and you can see the entire 30 minutes here – it is well worth your time.

As chief foreign officer of the U.S., Ms. Clinton usually keeps a careful distance from commenting on domestic politics but this short clip from her speech, given at the height of the commotion over politicians' continuing attacks on women's rights in the U.S., was a terrific moment:

We don't hear too much about what Secretary Clinton is doing. Her kind of work is not the sort that does nor should end up in the press. So it was good to hear actor Meryl Streep's exceptionally good introduction - tribute, really - to Ms. Clinton at the Women of the World conference.

Yes, I know. It's 14 minutes long but if you've got the time, I think you will enjoy it.

We are living through disruptive times and now, the venerable Encyclopedia Britannica has announced that the 2010 print edition is its last:

“'It’s a rite of passage in this new era,' Jorge Cauz, the president of Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., a company based in Chicago, said in an interview. 'Some people will feel sad about it and nostalgic about it. But we have a better tool now. The Web site is continuously updated, it’s much more expansive and it has multimedia.'”


Only 4,000 copies of the 32-volume 2010 edition, which weighs in at 129 pounds, have been sold at $1,395. The encyclopedia will continue to be published and updated online where subscriptions cost $70 per year. You can read more here.

During my beatnik period in the late-1950s, Jack Kerouacs' On the Road was required reading. Since then, in one list, the book is ranked at 55 on the 100 best books of the 20th century and it is a touchstone for the beatnik era.

Although there have been many attempts during the past half century to make a movie of the book, it has never been done – until now. With Frances Ford Coppolla as executive producer, On the Road at last has been filmed. It will be released later this year. Here is the trailer:

It's a dangerous thing to translate an iconic book to the screen especially when many who are of the cultural period are still alive. It seems to me that they are bound to get it wrong. Or maybe not.

Did you know this? That during the U.S. Civil War, General Ulysses S. Grant issued Order No. 11 expelling all “Jews as a class” from his war zone? I surely did not know this. Here is a short video from Jonathan Sarna explaining the incident and Grant's later repudiation of his order:

Jonathan Sarna is a professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University. His book, When General Grant Expelled the Jews, resurrects this historical event from obscurity. And, you can watch an hour-long lecture on the subject that Professor gave at Columbia University last fall.

In the four years since the worldwide financial collapse, not a single executive of the banks and Wall Street firms who, there is no longer any question, caused the meltdown, have been accused, arrested or prosecuted.

In their own eyes these bankers are, as Goldman Sachs CEO, Lloyd Blankfrein, proudly proclaimed, doing “God's work.” Well, maybe not everyone there thinks so anymore.

Last Wednesday, in an Op-Ed at The New York Times, Greg Smith who was executive director and head of Goldman Sachs' United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, explained his resignation:

”Today is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it...

“It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as 'muppets,' sometimes over internal e-mail.”

Mr. Smith's statement is a stunning break from the one percents' stonewall defense. Of course, they are already concocting stories to discredit Smith. Go read his whole statement. Nothing there that you didn't not expect, but it's good to hear it from an insider.

It's been a big week for resignations by executives disenchanted with the culture of the big-time corporations they served. On Tuesday, Google engineering director, James Whittaker, explained why he left. This is only the most colorful part of his explanation:

”Google+ and me, we were simply never meant to be. Truth is I’ve never been much on advertising. I don’t click on ads. When Gmail displays ads based on things I type into my email message it creeps me out. I don’t want my search results to contain the rants of Google+ posters (or Facebook’s or Twitter’s for that matter). When I search for 'London pub walks' I want better than the sponsored suggestion to 'Buy a London pub walk at Wal-Mart.'”

Me too, which I why I switched to Bing as my default search engine some time ago.

It's fascinating to watch these high-powered men stop drinking the corporate Kool-Aid. I wonder if two executive resignations from gigantic corporations is a trend? You can read more of Whittaker's explanation here.

Yes, it is a commercial – a long one. Yes, it is for a product far beyond the reach of anyone in the 99 percent, which feels way too decadent to bother with during our current economic clime. But it is also breathtakingly gorgeous. Definitely worth a click on that button for full screen viewing.

This was the viral video of the week. A young couple's record of the nine months of their baby's gestation in under two minutes. Wonderful.

TGB reader Larry Beck sent along this beautiful video of the many ways of pollination – all in slomo and taken from a TED talk. Don't miss it.

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog if you have one.


Today's poem is a repeat, initially published here during Time Goes By's first six months of existence in 2004. Here is what I wrote about it that year:

”This poem is floating around the Web here and there. According to some, it was found among the "meager possessions" of an old woman who died in the geriatric ward of a Dundee, Scotland hospital, and was later published in the News Magazine of the North Ireland Association for Mental Health. That all may be apocryphal...”

Since then, the poem has been posted all over the internet - sometimes reworked, reworded, edited, truncated and/or embellished beyond recognition. The North Ireland Association for Mental Health has been replaced in the backstory with the names of several other institutions probably because, like me, no one can find any reference that it exists or ever did.

Also since 2006, a word-for-word version with male pronouns replacing the female ones has turned up with the backstory that it was found in the pocket of an old man who died in a hospital in Florida, or a hospital somewhere else or just a hospital with no location given. The website truthorfiction says that story is fiction. The poem, they reported in 2009,

”...was written by Dave Griffith of Fort Worth, Texas. Griffith told that he wrote the poem more than 20 years ago and that he meant for it to be simple, and too [sic] the point, from youth through old age in his own personal life, high school football, Marines, marriage, the ravages of his own disabilities.”

Which is, undoubtedly, also fiction. If Dave of Fort Worth (other sources say he lives in Florida) wrote about the infirmities of old age 20 years earlier, I doubt he was still with us in 2009. And, if he is still with us, I wonder how he would explain the female version which undoubtedly precedes his.

Even long-time elder videoblogger, geriatric1927, fell for all the cloying sentimentalism of the male backstory, reading it as the introduction to the poem for his YouTube channel in 2009.

I tell you all this, much shortened from what I found online in under 15 minutes, because it's interesting to know this stuff and it amazes me that many people want to take or assign undeserved credit - or defend false credit - for something with no known provenance.

No one knows who wrote this poem, but it doesn't matter. What I said in introduction to it eight years ago stands:

”This is a cry from the heart, whoever wrote it, to not be made invisible in old age.

“It would do us all well to remember this poem when we are frustrated by someone old moving too slowly in front of us and when we find ourselves with an older relative or friend whose mind is perhaps not as quick as it once was.”

Whatever you read elsewhere online, the poem has no title nor does it need one.

Author unknown

What do you see, nurses, what do you see,
what are you thinking when you're looking at me?
A crabby old woman, not very wise,
uncertain of habit, with faraway eyes.

Who dribbles her food and makes no reply
when you say in a loud voice, "I do wish you'd try!"
Who seems not to notice the things that you do,
and forever is losing a stocking or shoe.

Who, resisting or not, lets you do as you will
with bathing and feeding, the long day to fill.
Is that what you're thinking? Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse; you're not looking at me.

I'll tell you who I am as I sit here so still,
as I do at your bidding, as I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of ten with a father and mother,
brothers and sisters, who love one another.

A young girl of sixteen, with wings on her feet,
dreaming that soon now a lover she'll meet.
A bride soon at twenty - my heart gives a leap,
remembering the vows that I promised to keep.

At twenty-five now, I have young of my own
who need me to guide and a secure happy home.
A woman of thirty, my young now grown fast,
bound to each other with ties that should last.

At forty my young sons have grown and are gone,
but my man's beside me to see I don't mourn.
At fifty once more babies play round my knee,
again we know children, my loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me, my husband is dead;
I look at the future, I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing young of their own,
and I think of the years and the love that I've known.

I'm now an old woman and nature is cruel;
'tis jest to make old age look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles, grace and vigor depart,
there is now a stone where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells,
and now and again my battered heart swells.
I remember the joys, I remember the pain,
and I'm loving and living life over again.

I think of the years - all too few, gone too fast
and accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, nurses, open and see,
not a crabby old woman; look closer - see ME!

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Steve Kemp: From Devil Pup – a work in progress

Elder Shame and Ego

Recently, a friend who is in our age group – about 73 now – dislocated his shoulder. It affected some nerves in his hand and fingers and recovery, even with diligent rehab exercises, is slow. One of the effects is that for a time, he had difficulty tying his shoes.

He could do it, but it was slow-going involving several tries and could take up to five or ten minutes. Although he has come to know some of the young regulars at his gym who are professional trainers and who show him how to get the most from his workout, he told me he was certainly not going to ask any of them for help tying his shoes.

We broke into rueful laughter – instant communion between two old farts who understood intuitively that this was equally ridiculous and understandable.

Ridiculous because we're in our 70s, for gawd's sake - anyone can see we are old and shit happens at our age. Understandable because admitting our infirmities diminishes us in the eyes of younger people - and ourselves, a thought that circles us right back to ridiculous.

In his important book, What Are Old People For?, Dr. Bill Thomas writes:

“We tremble before the loss of function that defines the edge of our social world. There is a calamity, nearly as fearsome as death itself, which is ready to claim those who wander off the path of adulthood.

“Old age threatens us with social death, a banishment from our accustomed place in society.”

So, the shame we feel lies in failing to live up to requirements of a culture that bestows power, influence and prestige on active adults who project youthfulness or can, at least, affect its illusion. Everyone else is ignored, dismissed, made invisible.

No wonder my friend was loath to ask, as I would be in the same situation, for help with his shoes. Because we know society has no tolerance or place for the decline of age, we cling to such shreds of ego for as long as possible.

Not that I much like myself for it.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ellen Younkins: Lost Love

Introducing the TGB Elderlaw Attorney – Orrin Onken

category_bug_elderlaw I would like you to meet someone today. In time, you will come to know him well but first, let me explain.

For many years – yes, years – I have tried to add an elderlaw attorney to the roster of Time Goes By contributors. You would be surprised how hard it is to find someone in that world who even knows what a blog is, let alone cares or wants to help elders understand the many legal questions that come up in old age.

I worked at it in fits and starts, giving up in frustration for long periods when, for example, someone who seemed like a good fit couldn't write an English sentence a non-lawyer could understand.

Or, more commonly, I'd throw up my hands in disgust when attorneys I contacted, some recommended by their colleagues, couldn't be bothered to respond to my queries. Not even a polite “no, thank you” in some cases until I followed up a couple of times.

Organizations of attorneys showed little interest. One wanted to provide us with articles of canned generalities more suitable to sales brochures than education and information.

It was a disappointing project for a long time and then one day Orrin Onken, located right here in Oregon, showed up on my screen.

At the basic level, he has all the appropriate professional credentials – and more: After college, he attended Willamette University College of Law where he was editor-in-chief of the law review, graduating cum laude in 1982.

He is a current member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, the Oregon Gerontological Association, the Guardian/Conservator Association of Oregon, the Oregon Mediation Association and the Elder Law Section of the Oregon State Bar.

Orrin occasionally writes about elderlaw for a blog he keeps here and there is more about his law practice at this website. You can see in both places that the law has not corrupted his ability to write in English. In fact, Orrin also writes novels. I'll let him tell you about that himself:

There is another thing you should know about Orrin. “I may be the only practicing lawyer in the state of Oregon,” he writes, “to have been disbarred and readmitted to the Oregon State Bar.”

It was serious business that got Orrin disbarred – taking client funds. More than a decade later, he applied for reinstatement and at first, he seemed to have convinced the powers-that-be of his renewed good character:

“The Applicant has maintained complete responsibility for the thefts,” wrote the chairman of the trial panel.

“The Applicant has been faithful to his sobriety, and has strengthened his relationships with his family, friends and co-workers. The evidence of reformation of character is not only clear and convincing, it is substantial and impressive in the complete reversal of habits that consumed the Applicant for years.”

That sounds like a win to me. But it wasn't. It took another year of additional legal proceedings until Orrin was readmitted to the Oregon bar in 2003. If you are interested in the details, you can read more here. Orrin has been in recovery now for 20 years.

So with Orrin's professional elderlaw experience, his writing skills and 'tude on his blog, his openness about being disbarred further convinced me I had found the right person.

Then I discovered one more thing that made finding Orrin feel like a match for us.

At about the time I was beginning to vaguely formulate the idea for this blog, Orrin wrote and published his Older American's Pledge. He could have been reading my mind:

• We will not be judged by the values of youth.

• We will not be expelled from work or play.

• We will not equate aging with illness.

• We will not be a subject matter for experts.

• We will not be the objects of condescension or ridicule.

• We will not be a social or economic problem.

• We will not be trivialized.

• We will not be docile.

• We will not be interned.

• We will treat our later decades as a unique stage of human development.

• We will grow and learn.

• We will integrate our social, our psychological and our spiritual lives.

• We will take care of our own.

• We will cooperate across generations to create a better world.

• We will nurture and guide the young.

• We will contribute according to our abilities.

Nice, huh?

Twice a month, Orrin will write about legal issues elders should know about. It is amazing how much new legal stuff there is to learn when we get old: wills, living wills, trusts, guardianships, powers of attorney, advance directives, tax planning, long term care, patient rights, elder abuse, employment discrimination, a whole lot more and even pet trusts.

But today, it's your turn. To give us a sense of where to begin, let Orrin know in the comments below what legal information you are interested in knowing about and discussing here. IMPORTANT: Keep in mind that Orrin cannot answer questions about your personal legal circumstances.

So please welcome Orrin Onken to the Time Goes By tribe. I am so pleased to have found him and even better, that he has agreed to take on this assignment.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mark Sherman: How to be an Aging Parent

Slow Internet Day

category_bug_journal2.gif It is late Monday morning as I write this and for hours now, I would have been better off with a Dixie cup and a string than the internet. Still would be. It has been taking up to ten minutes for each and every web page to load – if they ever load at all.

I could check around and see if it's the internet itself or my provider, but my teeth are already on edge and I just want get away from it all. Still, I want you have something here on Tuesday but it needs to be simple and easy to prepare.

Some time ago, our inimitable musicologist, Peter Tibbles, who writes the Sunday Elder Music column, sent me a whole batch of individual, uncategorized musical selections to use one-at-a-time on days when I have something better to do than research and/or write. This is one of those days.

They slipped my mind for a long time but today (Monday), in desperation to finish up the blog for Tuesday so I can get away from the becalmed web, I managed to recall Peter's kindness.

So here, from Peter, is a tune you might recall from you childhood: Dear Hearts and Gentle People from Bing Crosby. Pop music sure was different in those days.

♫ Bing Crosby - Dear Hearts And Gentle People

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Leisure Suits and Mini Skirts

Elders and Voter Suppression

Are you registered to vote? Are you sure?

Using a pretext of widespread voter fraud, Republicans in the 50 states have been on tear creating an array of new, restrictive voter ID legislation that makes it difficult, expensive and, in some cases, impossible to register and/or vote in some states.

In an analysis of just 19 of these new laws and two executive actions passed in only 14 states, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law concludes:

“These new laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.

“The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012 – 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.”

(Some say the number of voters these laws would disenfranchise is as high as 21 million.)

Before I get into the weeds on this, you should know up front that the Republican claim of voter fraud is hollow. It is so rare that the Brennan Center notes, “one is more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit voter fraud.”

There are two exhaustive reports of the Brennan Center's investigations into the myth of voter fraud here and here (both pdfs].

So there is no reason for these Republican-backed laws except to restrict and repress voting.

How is that being done? Through a combination of methods. This from National Conference of State Legislatures website. (Keep in mind that legislation is being passed, blocked, introduced, reintroduced, challenged in court, etc. at such a pace that the numbers change almost daily.)

"Thirty-one states require all voters to show ID before voting at the polls. In 15 of these, the ID must include a photo of the voter; in the remaining 16, non-photo forms of ID are acceptable.”

You might say requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote is not unreasonable and you might be correct. That is, until you know that at about 11 percent of Americans overall do not have photo IDs and that number shoots up to 25 percent among blacks.

Lack of photo ID – most commonly, a drivers license - is spread disproportionately among the poor, people of color, immigrants and – ahem, elders.

Some states with new ID requirements to vote now issue non-driving IDs, but it is not easy for people to gather the documents, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, etc. and there are always fees for copies of them. Plus, some elders, born at home or whose births were attended by midwives, have no birth certificates.

And women, if you live in one of these states, watch out when you apply for a non-driving ID. If you changed your name when you married and it, therefore, does not match the name on your birth certificate, be prepared to go through many hoops to prove that you, Mary Jones, are the same person as Mary Smith before your wedding day.

The website thinkprogress reported last fall on how these new restrictions are working out for some elders they spoke with in Tennessee:

”As predicted, the law is disenfranchising the poor, elderly, and minority voters, including a 96-year-old African-American woman, a 91-year old woman, and now, a 86-year old veteran.”

"Under the law, any resident without a photo ID is supposed to get one free of charge. But when [Darwin] Spinks asked for an ID, he was told he had to pay an $8 fee...He was sent from one line to another to have a picture taken, then was charged.

“I said, ‘You mean I’ve got to pay again?’ She says, ‘Yes,’” explained Spinks.”

So even when the state does not charge to issue the ID itself, it finds other fees to impose, violating the Constitutional ban on poll taxes.

There have also been accusations that in some Republican-controlled states,

Departments of Motor Vehicles have been closed down in minority neighborhoods requiring people to travel long distances to get their new IDs.

And, apparently, not all government IDs are created equal. On Super Tuesday last week, an 86-year-old World War II veteran who has voted in his community all his life was denied his right to vote because his VA identification did not meet Ohio's restrictive requirements. Paul Carroll was

“...turned away from a polling place this morning because his driver’s license had expired in January and his new Veterans Affairs ID did not include his home address.

“'My beef is that I had to pay a driver to take me up there because I don’t walk so well and have to use this cane and now I can’t even vote,' [said Carroll].”

Tennessee voting was back in the news again last week when former U.S. Congressman, Lincoln Davis, was denied his right to vote on Super Tuesday in the precinct where he has voted since 1964. He spoke about the incident last week with Keith Obermann:

In addition to purging voter rolls without telling residents, as happened to Representative Davis, and requiring a photo ID while making it difficult and/or expensive to get one, states have changed requirements for absentee voting, cut back on length of time for early voting and imposed restrictive registration procedures. Maine, for example, has repealed election day registration.

In some cases, students are no longer allowed to vote in the town where they attend college which means, mostly, they can no longer vote.

Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders discussed this issue not long ago with Rachel Maddow.

He points out a double political whammy – that just now when the Citizens United decision is allowing the haves of our nation to buy candidates and elections, simultaneous voter suppression efforts are depriving the have-nots (especially those who might disagree with the haves) of their much smaller right to be heard at the ballot box:

Voting rights are being attacked relentlessly in nearly every state generating a huge amount of reporting. Thinkprogress, which is one place is doing a good job of keeping up, has dozens of stories from around the nation on their website. Update the list by entering “voter suppression” in the site's search box.

This is like the contraception issue, isn't it? We thought birth control was settled in the 1960s. Now they – mostly Republicans – want to change that. We thought the vote was settled with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Now they - Republicans – want to disenfranchise millions of Americans.

And they are succeeding.

So. Be sure to let your state representatives know where you stand on the voting rights issue and most important:

• Check now that you are registered to vote in your state/town

• Check that you are still registered in the precinct where you believe you should vote

• Check that you have all the required credentials to vote

• If you need a non-driving ID, start now to meet the requirements to obtain one

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz: Jimmy