Stuff Older People Remember

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. You might have heard something about that in the news recently. And over the weekend, former CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite died at the age of 92. Cronkite was one of the newsmen who covered that Apollo 11 mission, one of many historic events over his long career, which ended when he retired in 1981.

There is front page coverage of the Apollo anniversary in today's paper, along with an AP article titled "Most Weren't Born Yet," which notes that in 2008, the median age of Americans was 36.8, meaning that most Americans alive today weren't born when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon. If you can remember the moon landing, or watching Walter Cronkite on the evening news, you are officially in the older half of the population.

So what else do older people remember that the young whippersnappers don't, besides the moon landing and Walter Cronkite? Black-and-white television. Eight-track tapes. Pong. Tang. Leisure suits. AMC Pacers and Gremlins. Hippies. Computer punch cards. Johnny Carson. Disco. Vietnam. Watergate. Chappaquiddick. Cars where seatbelts were optional equipment and airbags did not exist.

If you were there back in the 1960s and 1970s, you can probably add at least twenty more things. If you weren't, you're probably just thinking, "WTF?" Don't worry, though. Forty years down the road, you'll be nostalgic about your iPhone and your netbook computer, while the kids will be looking at them and thinking, "Man, how did they get by with those slow, clumsy devices?" Progress moves on.


A Bad Idea Goes Awry

I saw this story in the news the other day:

Oldest woman to give birth dies, leaving twins

MADRID (AP) — She devoted years to caring for her mother, who died at age 101. Then Maria del Carmen Bousada embarked on a quest to become a mom herself. She lied to a California fertility clinic to skirt its age limit, and later pointed to her mother's longevity as a reason to expect she'd be around to care for her kids.

At age 66 she had twins, becoming the world's oldest new mom — and raising questions about maternity so late in life. Now she is dead at age 69, leaving behind boys not yet 3.


Another brother, Jose Luis Bousada, told the AP he was estranged from his siblings and read about his sister's death in the newspaper. Asked who might raise the children, he said he imagined arrangements had been made and "I suppose there will be no problem."

When she revealed last November she had stomach cancer, Bousada said she did not regret having children late in life and that her sons would be well-cared for no matter what happened to their mother.

Addressing her mortality and her children's tender age, she told Spanish television station Antena 3: "I hope God does not ... I want to hang on at least until they are 18."

As the last election should have taught us, "Hope is not a plan." Actuarially speaking, a 66-year-old American woman in 2005 had a life expectancy of 18.70 years, according to the ssa.gov site. But that "life expectancy" means that by that age, 50% of the age cohort will have already died, and 50% will still be around at age 84.70. That's like playing roulette and playing red or black.

I don't know what the difference in life expectancy would be for a Spanish woman aged 66 in 2006 vis a vis an American woman, but it's probably fairly similar (we're not talking Haiti or sub-Saharan Africa). But she came up black less than three years down the road, and the house raked in her chips.

As the article notes, there's a reason that Mother Nature shuts down women's fertility when it does. I'm sure that those babies will eventually be glad that they were born to a 66 year old woman rather than never being born at all, but still, it's a hard thing for babies to lose their mother like that. And it was really a selfish thing for her to do.


Watching the Michael Jackson Memorial Coverage

I'm watching the Jackson coverage, and they just showed some politicians being photographed on the red carpet. It seems to be a very "L.A." kind of thing, very Hollywood. I think that many of those people aren't necessarily going to the shindig to remember Jackson but to benefit their own publicity. They've all got an angle, something to sell, something to shill. The circus is in town and the carnies are swarming. It's simultaneously unseemly and fitting, and I doubt that it could happen in such a way anywhere else.

And a golden casket! What, did they think he was the Boy King?

Where's Steve Martin when we need him?

Now, when I die,
Now don't think I'm a nut,
Don't want no fancy funeral,
Just one like ole King Tut.

Greta and Shep are talking about empty seats in the arena. "There wouldn't be empty seats like this at a Lakers game," said Greta. To which I quipped, "The Lakers had a better year."

Comedian/Senator Upstaged

If a tree falls in a forest and there's nobody around to hear it, does it make a sound? The political corollary: If new U.S. Senator Al "Landslide" Franken gets sworn in at noon EDT as the media focus on the Michael Jackson memorial service in Los Angeles an hour later, will anyone notice? All eyes will be on the Jackson family (and probably the hearse carrying Jackson's coffin) as they make their way from Forest Lawn Cemetery to the Staples Center. The former funny man definitely has been upstaged today.

Picking a Losing Fight?

I was reading in the news about the ethnic turmoil in China's Xinjiang province, where the native Uighurs rioted over treatment by China's ethnic Han majority. About 150 people were killed and a lot of property was destroyed, and now the Han Chinese are up in arms, wanting blood vengeance. I read on the CIA World Factbook web site page on China that about 91.5% of the country's population of 1.338 billion people are Han Chinese -- which would be about 1.224 billion. Is it a good idea to pick a fight with that many of your neighbors if you're the Uighurs?

And just in case you were wondering, the average person in the world is a Chinese man.


Thoughts on Sarah Palin

Like most political observers, I was surprised by Sarah Palin's announcement on Friday that not only was she not going to run for re-election as Alaska's governor in 2010, but that she was stepping down from the job at the end of this month.

Most pundits seem to think that it's political suicide, since from their point of view, it marks her as a "quittter." Others say that she might be crazy like a fox, since it will put an end to the parade of baseless ethics complaints against her (which have built up a $500,000 legal tab to defend against, even though all of them have been dismissed), as well as taking her family out of the public eye, where they have been subjected to almost unprecedented nastiness by the mainstream media in its role as the propaganda arm of the Democrat party.

As someone who strongly agrees with Governor Palin's message of smaller, less intrusive federal government, lower spending by our prodigal Congress, and more personal responsibility rather than whining about unfairness, which should be the core values of the Republican Party, I would like to see her take a larger role on the national stage. Is she ready to be president? Probably not, but neither was the guy who got elected last November. Can she be the voice for conservative values? Yes, she can!

In many ways, Sarah Palin is the anti-Obama. The president was elected by offering blandly inspirational slogans like "Hope!" and "Change!" and "Yes, We Can!" He never really articulated what he actually stood for or what he would do if elected. Well, after a few months of his rule, we have a pretty good idea. He stands for a larger, more intrusive federal government that will take more of your money and make your decisions for you, "for your own good." They, after all, are the Best and Brightest, graduates of elite Ivy League universities, who know all the proper theories of how things are supposed to work. Never mind that none of them have ever run a business or had to make a profit. Indeed, "profit" is a dirty word for many of them. And really, why wouldn't you want the same people who ran the economy into the ground to run the climate and your health care? What could go wrong?

All of those Beltway insiders, Democrats and Republicans alike, hate Sarah Palin, hate her with a white-hot passion. Why? Because she scares the crap out of them, because she connects with a large portion of the electorate. She's not an Ivy League lawyer, a Beltway insider, someone who is there to feed at the public trough and enrich themselves and their cronies through politics as usual. She's a hockey mom, state-school educated at the University of Idaho, for chrissakes, who got into politics at the local level to fix local problems and continued to advance against the odds and the old boy's network.

She's not one of THEM; she's one of US. And there are a hell of a lot more of us than there are of them. They know this and they fear this; why else would the Democrat media continue its despicable attacks on her and her family?

I don't know if she'll run in 2012 or not, but if she does and she is articulating the same message she is now, then I would certainly consider voting for her. In the end, 2012 is going to be a referendum on the policies of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and the other Democrats who are spending money like there is no tomorrow, and doing their best to control more and more of the lives of Americans. If things are as bad as I suspect they will be, any Republican who is for smaller government and lower spending will stand a very good chance of winning. If the economy improves, then Obama will probably be re-elected, Sarah Palin or no Sarah Palin.

Vacation's Over

It's always nice to take some time off from work to decompress. I tacked an extra week onto my late June vacation in the vain hope that perhaps things would be back to normal at work when I returned. Regrettably, that is not yet the case. The grapevine says that there may be reason for hope, but it hasn't happened yet.

I'm still reading on Atlas Shrugged. I'm about 750 pages into it now, about 2/3 of the way through. As I'm sure I've noted before, it's very topical due to the current political regime in power. The book does strike some anachronistic notes that let you know that the book is fifty years old: The ubiquity of trains as the way to travel long distances (Eisenhower's Defense Interstate Highway System was in its infancy), classical music as the highbrow music of the day (our heroine Dagny Taggart has a favorite composer), and especially, the common acceptance of cigarette smoking in all social situations. Ayn Rand's cigarettes in the book are so omnipresent that they are almost a minor character.

Still, it is the objectivist philosophy that the book conveys that makes it a must-read. Their enemies, the "looters," are everywhere, and just as in our society today, they tell the productive people that it's their duty to produce for those who leech off of them and give them nothing in return but scorn for their "greed" and "selfishness." The looters promote policies to "make the rich pay their fair share," and in the book, it provokes a strike by the people who make the motor of the world run. In real life, we may be seeing the beginnings of the same thing, as more and more people realize that it is foolish to work harder in order to be taxed at a higher rate.

When Dagny gets to Galt's Gulch, the strikers' secret hideaway in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, she meets a number of productive people who have gone on strike. One of them is a famous doctor. She asks him to give her his reasons for doing so (p. 744):
"I quit when medicine was placed under State control, some years ago," said Dr. Hendricks. "Do you know what it takes to perform a brain operation? Do you know the kind of skill it demands, and the years of passionate, merciless, excruciating devotion that go to acquire that skill? That was what I would not place at the disposal of men whose sole qualification to rule me was their capacity to spout the fraudulent generalities that got them elected to the privilege of enforcing their wishes at the point of a gun. I would not let them dictate the purpose for which my years of study had been spent, of the conditions of my work, or my choice of patients, or the amount of my reward. I observed that in all of the discussions that preceded the enslavement of medicine, men discussed everything -- except the desires of the doctors. Men considered only the 'welfare' of the patients, with no thought for those who were to provide it. That a doctor should have any right, desire or choice in the matter, was regarded as irrelevant selfishness; his is not to choose, they said, only 'to serve.' That a man who's willing to work under compulsion is too dangerous a brute to entrust with a job in the stockyards -- never occurred to those who proposed to help the sick by making life impossible for the healthy. I have often wondered at the smugness with which people assert their right to enslave me, to control my work, to force my will, to violate my conscience, to stifle my mind -- yet what is it that they expect to depend on, when they lie on an operating table under my hands? Their moral code has taught them to believe that it is safe to rely on the virtue of their victims. Well, that is the virtue I have withdrawn. Let them discover the kind of doctors that their system will now produce. Let them discover, in their operating rooms and hospital wards, that it is not safe to place their lives in the hands of a man whose life they have throttled. It is not safe, if he is the sort of man who resents it -- and still less safe, if he is the sort who doesn't."
Topical? You make the call.