Just so you know, my REAL name is Petula and I was actually born in Kenya, of all places. Imagine that, Barack Obama and I share a heritage (other than Kansan). 

Want proof? Here's my birth certificate:

I just saw this headline: Why Dems Are Poised to Lose House.

Don't need to read it. I already know the reason -- They dared to put a black man in the White House and a 60-something woman in charge of a House full of (mostly) guys.  

Enough said.

Fall in New England is generally short, but this year the show has gone on and on. Maybe it was the tropical weather pushed forward by a few hurricanes. Or maybe, the weather gods just went on vacation and forgot to flick the switch. Whatever, thanks!

Color up here starts out slow in mid- to late-August and picks up steam in September. One week, you’re swimming in the lake; the next, night temps hover slightly over freezing. That water cools down nicely.

Peak color was in late September in southern Vermont, but it is just now peaking in parts of western Massachusetts. Last week, we had our first few nights of hard frost in VT, ending the color show for good and warning of what’s ahead. One night, we got more than frost on the pumpkin (or truck). 

Massachusetts is enjoying a brief reprieve, but it’ll catch up to Vermont real soon.


Wonder who is paying for those ads? Read this from Sunday's Washington Post:

Although GM suspended its contributions while it solicited the government for financial help, it is now back in the game of political giving, increasing donations from its federal PAC steadily over the past few months.

It is not alone. Companies that received federal bailout money, including some that still owe money to the government, are giving to political candidates with vigor. Among companies with PACs, the 23 that received $1 billion or more in federal money through the Troubled Assets Relief Program gave a total of $1.4 million to candidates in September, up from $466,000 the month before.

Most of those donations are going to Republican candidates, although the TARP program was approved primarily with Democratic support.  President Obama expanded it to cover GM and other automakers.

…The bailouts have become campaign fodder for Republicans to use against their Democratic rivals. In a television commercial, former Republican senator Dan Coats pillories his opponent in the Indiana Senate race, Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D), for supporting "the Obama-Reid-Pelosi agenda," including "the disastrous bank bailout."

Coats  has received more than $30,000 for his Senate campaign from companies, including J.P. Morgan Chase and GM, that took government money. No companies on the bailout list have donated to Ellsworth. Neither campaign responded to a request for comment.

For the entire story, see:


Let’s take a closer look at Ted C. Fishman's new book, Shock of Gray: The Aging of the World's Population and How It Pits Young Against Old, Child Against Parent, Worker Against Boss, Company Against Rival and Nation Against Nation.

(IMPORTANT: At this moment, Google has the entire book up for free, at http://books.google.com/books?id=UZMvbAjwjPIC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Shock+of+Gray&source=bl&ots=qc-foXW9S9&sig=cbltXejIJ8uoVcF1CKWm9LyeF94&hl=en&ei=X2q_TJuKLtGLswbf-421DQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CBkQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false )

This book could not have been released at a better time.Think about it -- around the globe, populations are aging, and soon many countries will have more old people than young people.

Last week, the French took to the streets in huge protests over the government raising the retirement age. At almost the same time, Britain dismantled government programs across the board, eliminating almost a half million jobs much to the shock of many. We're facing an election in which many are expected to vote in favor of reducing -- or eliminating -- entitlements for the old and the disabled, in favor of (supposedly) making life easier for the middle-aged, middle-income family. (Whether that equation would work or not is yet to be seen but I don't want to go there, at the moment.)

It’s entitlements that are at issue here, and most of those entitlements are pseudo-sacred programs set aside for those no longer in the workforce due to age or disability. People don't want to fund programs for those not contributing to the tax base, only eroding it. 

For those of you who missed reading excerpts from Shock of Grey published in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, here are a few quotes (in italic) that appear to support my belief that the success of this country lies in its ability to attract immigrants, especially young, skilled ones.

The world’s population is aging … the number of older people is expanding faster than the number of young.

China’s youthful labor force thus helps the country maintain its low-cost economic ecosystem and attract foreign investment that seeks the higher returns a “younger” economy offers, whether or not any particular pot of foreign money goes to employ young people.

We decry the fact that US companies – including Microsoft, Apple, HP, Ford, for example – have moved at least some of their manufacturing to younger countries (China and India, for example), dumping their older US workers along the way. Because they must satisfy shareholders, corporations move jobs so they can offer the same service/merchandise for the same price.

We lose jobs, in this exchange, but maintain our ability to buy goods cheaply from younger countries. US companies thrive, even if some of their former employees don’t. The US consumer is happy about getting cheap goods, but not happy about a high rate of unemployment and increasing national debt. Around and around we go, shortchanging one segment of society to augment another.  

The population of nearly every developed country is expected to shrink before midcentury.  

Young countries like China will be the countries that in the not-distant future go shopping for younger workers in younger places [like Africa and South America]. Those places will be transformed by satisfying an older China’s needs.

[The US] is subject to the same two big trends — longer lives, smaller families — that are aging much of the world’s populations, but we are not growing old as fast as countries in East Asia and Western Europe. Our median age will climb only 3 years, to 40, by 2050, a rate slowed by the arrival of young immigrants, including millions from Latin America.

China will be older than the United States within a generation, making it the first big national population to age before it joins the ranks of developed countries. One of China’s biggest fears, expressed repeatedly in public pronouncements, is that it will grow old before it grows rich.

Power rests on how willing a country is to neglect its older citizens.

You might want to read that last line again. 

According to Fishman, our older, unemployed workers can blame their predicament (that is, the loss of their jobs before they were ready to retire, and the threat of a reduction in their government-supported retirement benefits) on their own opportunity to live longer than their parents and grandparents, thanks to expanded public health programs, literacy and other life-extending practices. They may blame immigrants all they want, but immigrants are not the problem. Living long, is.  

Still want to go after immigrants?

If we want to live long lives, enjoy and maintain some level of comfort in life, we better kiss every immigrant we see for coming here and keeping US businesses flush with talent. All those employed green-carded workers pay into Social Security, Medicare and the general fund, while they keep the economy clicking (or slogging) along.

I thank my Albanian physical therapist, the French hospice nurse who took care of my mother in her last days, the Thai restaurant owner in our town, my friend’s Moldovan beautician, my nephew’s Mexican-engineer wife, a Russian doctor I know and all the Jamaican migrant workers who keep our local orchards and fields in production.  Without them, we’re screwed. Our own children either don’t have the talent or the inclination to take on some of these jobs, so thank goodness there are others who do. 

MOST IMPORTANTLY, if young people from young countries aren’t willing to come here to work and pay into entitlement funds, our businesses will fail. Just ask IBM, HP and Microsoft. They’ve already figured out that they must move overseas to make it easier to recruit top talent in China, India and Mexico. When they open plants in China, they also get a big break on how much they pay toward employee benefits. So it's a win/win solution for business, a lose/lose solution for US elders and families.  

Remember: If more of our big companies fail, not only will our senior citizens lose entitlements, but more of OUR young people will leave to find opportunities elsewhere.

It's hard enough to be old and poor, but imagine losing your children and grandchildren on top of that?  My daughter-in-law's parents did, and they're heartbroken. I certainly sympathize. 

Our kids haven't left (yet) but we know a handful of young people who have already gone to China, Japan, Argentina and other places, to work for big US companies with offshore facilities.

Want to keep your kids and grandkids in this country? Then support immigration reform that makes it easier for talented young people from other lands to come here to live and work.

If they come here, our kids are less likely to have to go there.

Otherwise, you may find yourself looking for Waldo thousands of miles away, just like part of our family does:

Not that I didn’t already know that Birds readers are a hardworking bunch, but at least three have added new books to their list of publications and accomplishments. Now that’s worth celebrating!  
Research psychologist, prolific blogger and novelist Jacqueline Ann Christodoulou  of Manchester, England, who blogs at Dirty Sparkle, has written Identity, Health and Women: A critical social psychological perspective, published by Palgrave Macmillan. For some of Jacqui’s thoughts on identity and the premise of her book, see
http://dirtysparkle.blogspot.com/2010/10/narrative-therapy-and-power-of-owning.html .

Retired college professor and poet Jane Rowan shares her stunning memoir of the sexual abuse she endured as a child, resulting PTSD and painful path she followed to begin the healing process, in The River of Forgetting, published by Booksmyth Press. For more about Jane and how she used her own creativity in recovery, visit her blog at http://www.janechild.blogspot.com/ .

What does a hip young novelist do when he opts out of the rat race to stay home and raise a new baby? He blogs. And, then he blogs some more. Bill Campbell put two year’s worth of his very literate, snappy and irreverent comments into Pop Culture, a collection of essays available as an ebook or paperback. Follow his current escapades and listen to his weekly musical podcasts at http://billanthrope.blogspot.com/.

It’s interesting how phenomena and the observation of seemingly disparate trends seem to converge, pushing along social and even political forces ahead of the curve. Sometimes the catalyst for change is a book.  

The New York Times will excerpt Ted C. Fishman’s important work, Shock of Gray: The Aging of the World’s Population and How It Pits Young Against Old, Child Against Parent, Worker Against Boss, Company Against Rival and Nation Against Nation,  in tomorrow’s NYT Magazine. (They published it online Thursday.)

Don’t miss this story. If you’re old or want to get old, or if you have children or grandchildren, I predict this book will be to them what Future Shock, Silent Spring, Invisible Man, Roots or The Feminine Mystique was to us. 

As Populations Age, a Chance for Younger Nations
Published: October 14, 2010

YOU MAY KNOW that the world’s population is aging — that the number of older people is expanding faster than the number of young — but you probably don’t realize how fast this is happening. Right now, the world is evenly divided between those under 28 and those over 28. By midcentury, the median age will have risen to 40. Demographers also use another measure, in addition to median age, to determine whether populations are aging: “elder share.” If the share, or proportion, of people over 60 (or sometimes 65) is growing, the population is aging. By that yardstick too, the world is quickly becoming older. Pick any age cohort above the median age of 28 and you’ll find its share of the global population rising faster than that of any segment below the median. By 2018, 65-year-olds, for example, will outnumber those under 5 — a historic first. In 2050, developed countries are on track to have half as many people under 15 as they do over 60. In short, the age mix of the world is turning upside down and at unprecedented rates. 

Complete story at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/17/magazine/17Aging-t.html?hpw

Solomon Burke, 1940-2010
Some of you may have listened to Christmas music I posted last year, including the song I Pray at Christmas, written and sung by Solomon Burke with the Blind Boys of Alabama. Here’s a link to that song (scroll down to listen to it).

Solomon Burke, preacher, soul/gospel/ country singer, arranger and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, died today on a plane traveling from Los Angeles to Amsterdam. A giant of a man with a big voice, the music world just got much, much smaller. 

Follow these links to find some background on his life and his music , an interesting tribute and a great collection of his music at his official website.

This is National Mental Health Awareness Week, prompting blogger Leslie Parsley to post a riveting series on Parsley’s Pics about her personal experience with bi-polar disorder. Her posts are brave, candid and extremely informative. You’ll find them at http://www.parsleyspics.blogspot.com/

Meanwhile, over in Minneapolis, George Phenix has hit his stride in a series of posts at Blog of Ages, where he dissects the Tea Party down to a single leaf, then whooshes it down the disposal, with élan. Favorite line: “Take back America----if you still have the receipt!” You might want to start at the top for his take on fall colors, then scroll down to read the next four posts on the TP. See http://www.blogofages.net/
Full disclosure: I have fallen in love with the blog French Letters, but don’t let my Francophilia scare you away from a great site. Food writer Abra Bennett has chronicled her life (and gourmet cooking) on both sides of the pond for several years, with eloquence and grace. Now, she and her husband are on a cruise from Seattle to Panama, having the time of the lives as they navigate the treacherous waters bordering his cancer therapy and their deep-seated love and respect for one another. To follow their voyage, start with Sailing Away, here: http://frenchletters.wordpress.com/

One of my favorite French letters begins this way: http://frenchletters.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/fifteen-and-counting/
Fifteen years ago today we stood together in our garden and cast our collective fate to the four winds.  A garden that I’d fertilized to a faretheewell just to have a riot of flowers surround us as we said yes, we would, in sickness and in health, and in everything else that married couples face.  I didn’t realize it then, but I’d be fertilizing throughout our entire marriage, since love needs to be fed even more than flowers do, if you want it to bloom.