Monday, November 02, 2015

Remembering John Lindsay

New York Magazine's website has an article celebrating 50 years since John Lindsay was elected mayor of New York City.  It briefly describes what made him different and memorable, backed up by some testimonials from now famous or influential people who worked on his campaigns or mayor's office.

I met or at least heard John Lindsay when he was a member of the US House of Representatives, before he ran for mayor.  I must have read an article about him, describing him as the Republican's JFK.  (In the above mentioned piece, Bob Dole talks about serving with him in Congress in the mid-60s, the time of Civil Rights and the War on Poverty.)  Lindsay spoke at a college near me (Seton Hill) and I went, and shook hands with him afterwards as I recall.  (But I could be wrong, because I think I took a date.  Who takes a date to a speech by a congressman from another state? In high school, me.)

This article describes Lindsay as frustrated by New York unions as well as unsympathetic administrations in Albany and Washington, but excelling in personal leadership--walking black neighborhoods almost every day, talking to people, getting involved personally in a jail hostage situation and thereby preventing bloodshed.

Lindsay was the Republican JFK (though he later switched to the Democratic party) also in that he inspired a generation, and is remembered with such gratitude and lasting admiration.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Washington Sticking It To Seniors (With Surprising Update)

This hits home, literally. The recent announcements from Social Security and Medicare raise multiple issues, but the very local bottom line amounts to what for me is a hefty cost, as my medical insurance monthly rate will increase by 50%.

 As per stories like this one in the Washington Post, Social Security announced there will be no cost of living increase in payments next year, because the Consumer Price Index formula they use says that costs haven't gone up.

 Then in the very next breath, the Medicare branch of Social Security announced that medical costs have gone up for them so much that the charge for Medicare part B (covers doctors) will be raised from around $100 to over $150 a month.

 The logic of this is incredible. Cost of living hasn't gone up, and mine has just gone up by $50 a month. First of all, anybody alive in California and most places in the US know that costs of almost everything essential have been going up all year--you know, little things like food, clothing and shelter. Just about the only thing that hasn't increased lately is gasoline.

 So where does gas figure in the costs of seniors I wonder? Except for the RV crowd, not very high--certainly not as high as food, clothing and shelter--and medical care.

 The situation is crazier because not all seniors will feel this Medicare increase--just some of those collecting Social Security, and all of those of us who aren't yet but have Medicare. We're waiting to claim when the benefits get a little higher. They will still be inadequate, but they'll be a little higher. Except thanks to this increase, they won't be even as much as they would have been--because this premium raise will be deducted from those monthly checks, which otherwise haven't been increased because the cost of living hasn't gone up. Right.

 So let's review: Congratulations, the cost of living hasn't gone up so neither does your Social Security check. And incidentally, we'll be deducting an extra $55 or so from your check because our medical insurance costs have gone up by 50%. It's a new definition of fixed income.

 I'm paying Medicare B even though I've yet to use it but that's perhaps beside the point. It's insurance. Still I'm one of the unlucky ones who gets to pay even more--a lot more.

 As this Post story indicates, some people in the federal government--in the White House, even in Congress--recognize the multiple injustices in these announcements. But thanks to our non-functional Congress, the chance of something actually being done in a timely fashion to correct any or all of this, approaches the vanishing point. Like an indecent proportion of my limited income.

Update 10/30: A unique set of circumstances--the retiring GOP House Speaker leaving a "screw you" as he walked out the door, to the rabid rightists who made his life hell being the main one--allowed for swift passage of a budget deal through both houses (with mostly Democratic votes--a situation that could have happened anytime in the past several years.)  Part of the bill was a provision rolling back this $54 a month price rise for Medicare B, though there is a larger than usual uptick--$18 a month.  Still not nothing, and still not fair, but better than it was.  And totally unexpected.   Democrats, by the way, pushed for this provision, and Democratic votes passed it, with a relative few Republicans in the House especially.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Year That Was, The Year That Is

They are called the 60s, a single ten year lump to praise or blame. But those of us who lived through them know that each year of that decade was different, had its own shapes and smells, and each was filled with momentous events sufficient for a decade, so the 60s were as crammed and as various as a century.

 Those of us who were young then were a big part of those events--as participants, victims and instigators as well as observers and receivers. Those events--those arcs and moods, revelations and confusions--marked us, influenced the flow of our lives in the crucial decades of our teens and twenties, and to one degree or another determined our fates.

 And as this decade of fiftieth anniversaries for various events of the 1960s, it is well to look at the context of an entire year--like 1965. There's a book about that year that centers on the music but includes other elements, called 1965: The Most Revolutionary Year in Music by Andrew Grant Jackson. The possibly inflated claim of the title notwithstanding, it suggests how much was happening.

 Slate further emphasized this recently by selecting a single week from 1965, that included the recently commemorated Selma march, but also the release of Bob Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home (almost every song was great, but one side of the albums also had Dylan singing his songs backed by a rock band--and that much was revolutionary.)

It was also the beginning of a less well remembered but vital at the time phenomenon, the first "teach-in" on the Vietnam war. The teach-ins set a certain standard for debates on college campuses, and an anti-war movement grew out of factual information and reason as well as principle and emotion. That kind of nuance is missing from the three-word, three-note push button references to elements of the 60s. 

There's even more about this year at the blog The '60s at 50.

 This Slate article and probably the book also bring to light another aspect of remembering the 60s, which is the 60s weren't and aren't the same for everyone. Some events may unite us in a single year, but the flavor of a year for each us depended on when we got "turned on" to a particular record or musicians, book or author, etc. and what our particular enthusiasms were, as well as those of our friends.

 The author's contention that "technology was the root cause underlying all the changes" may pander to today's worship of new technologies, but seems to me to be way overstated. Yes, technologies like television and some invented drugs (The Pill, LSD) played big roles, but they were not the root cause of much of anything about 1965. (It's also a stretch to call pharmacology "technology." If it is, almost everything is.) I will stipulate however that without electricity for microphones and electric guitars it certainly would have been a different year.

Sunday, February 15, 2015


Paul McCartney takes the subversive power of rock and roll into the post-human future, but with a poignancy at the end that speaks for all human music.  Watch it, you'll appreciate.