This May Explain Some Things….

Not that the explanation is reassuring. Quite the contrary.

Vox recently ran an article about the healthcare perks that members of Congress enjoy while they are working hard to deny poor Americans access to basic health insurance. Here’s the WTF section of that article:

Mike Kim, the reserved pharmacist-turned-owner of the pharmacy, said he has gotten used to knowing the most sensitive details about some of the most famous people in Washington.

“At first it’s cool, and then you realize, I’m filling some drugs that are for some pretty serious health problems as well. And these are the people that are running the country,” Kim said, listing treatments for conditions like diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

“It makes you kind of sit back and say, ‘Wow, they’re making the highest laws of the land and they might not even remember what happened yesterday.’”

The article noted that the current Congress is the oldest in our history. It appears that more than half of the senators who plan to run for reelection in 2018 are over 65. (Dianne Feinstein just announced that she plans to run for another 6 year term; she will be 85 at election time.) The average age in the House of Representatives is a (comparatively) youthful 57, and the average age in the Senate is 61.

We all age at different rates, and thanks to breakthroughs in medicine and nutrition there are growing numbers of people nearing 100 who remain mentally and physically sharp. It is also true that most of us begin to figure life out as we grow older–there is some validity to the adage that wisdom comes with age. So I would oppose a blanket rule requiring lawmakers to retire at an arbitrary age certain.

That said (since today is my own birthday, and at 76 I am by no means a “spring chicken”), I can personally attest to the indignities the years bring. Memory and recall play tricks on the aging mind; the accelerating rate of technological change is especially disorienting to those of us who grew up with typewriters and rotary phones affixed to walls. Cultural changes embraced by our children and grandchildren can be difficult for us old folks to assimilate and accept.

And all of that is what aging does to healthy seniors, those of us who have retained substantial amounts of our physical vigor and intellectual capacities.

One positive consequence of the 2016 election–assuming we live through the disaster that is Donald Trump–is a new appreciation of the importance of a President’s mental health. It is likely–again, if we survive this–that along with a mandatory disclosure of taxes, a clean bill of physical and mental health will become legal requirements of presidential candidacies.

We need to seriously consider imposing a similar requirement on candidacies for the House and Senate. It’s bad enough that we have only cursory background checks for gun purchases; surely, voters are entitled to similarly cursory physical and psychological checks on people seeking positions where they can do considerably more harm than a deranged shooter.

We may not be able to disqualify the wackos like Roy Moore, but surely we can make Alzheimers a disqualification for public office.


  1. When you realize that Washington is merely political theatre, they aren’t really looking for young spry minds. We have nothing more than a puppet regime for the corporate Oligarchs.

    The money required to run requires candidates who conform to one of the two corporate-owned political parties. I watch young people joining the Democratic Party in their region hoping to make a difference. They quickly become disillusioned.

    The vision was a representative republic if “citizens remained vigilant.” Albert Einstein told us in the 40’s it was a facade. It’s only gotten worse as the billionaires and corporate machines grapple for power.

  2. Dan; we will never know when Reagan’s Alzheimer symptoms began or how they effected his decisions and this country. We are now dealing with a 71 year old, blatantly mentally unstable president who is being supported by our 57 year old average aged Representatives and 61 year old average aged Senate who continue to support the mentally unstable president. What is their mental age compared to their physical ability and their actual years on this earth” I had a 104 year old friend who was more in tune with reality until the day she died shortly before her 105th birthday. Age is a vital issue but…mental competency cannot always be judged by chronological age.

    I am 80 years old and have been watching Donald Trump’s sexual and financial antics and fiascoes for more than 30 years; I recognized who and what he was throughout those years. Republicans, the majority of Congress, had access to much more information about Trump years before they opted to name him as their guiding light, their vaulted leader, their nominee and assured his election via the Electoral College. Who should we fear the most; Trump or his supporters, such as turncoats Tellerson, Mattis and Kelly and the Congress we allowed to be elected who prop him up no matter what lies and fabrications spew from his mouth?

    Todd; those “billionaires and corporate machines” no longer “grapple for power”, that power is firmly in their grasp now. They own the Legislative, Executive and Judicial bodies of this government; in turn they currently own all of us. We have become indentured servants, we are paying them to keep us enslaved via our taxes. President Abraham Lincoln wisely said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” A political party divided against itself cannot stand; we now have both parties divided against themselves as Trump is dividing us from our allies with his destruction of diplomacy while also “deconstructing” the United States Government.

    Is there a pill for any of these ills?

  3. It is not surprising that one of the members of Congress has Alzheimer’s. There are 535 members in total. I suspect that there are more.

    What is surprising is that once diagnosed, the poor soul does not have the judgement to leave; perhaps bolstered by those around him/her who have much to loose if he/she does. Sad for everyone.

  4. JoAnn,

    Is there a pill for any of these ills?

    Yes, but not manufactured in America. Presently, we’re now like a post-third world country incapable of controlling our own destiny. The only capability we have left under Trump/Pence/Bannon is the ability to create a NUCLEAR WAR.

    Is there anything else, in the long run, we are good for? Please tell me.

  5. First of all, Happy Birthday to you Sheila!! I hope that you have a truly fabulous day!!

    I totally agree with everything that you’ve keyed in your piece. President’s definitely should have mental fitness checks made on them given the grueling workload that they normally have. The jury’s obviously out on the current one, but anyone that serves as the Commander-in-Chief has to be capable of fulfilling those duties beyond any and all others.

    In regard to both Chambers of the Congress something akin to this needs to also be set up, again due to their responsibilities but also since what they enact or fail to enact obviously affects this country for generations. The SCOTUS, as well should fall under such a system for the same reasons.

    Still, the ultimate responsibility for gauging the fitness and qualifications of all elected officials still rests with us which makes it all the more critical that we stay informed of what they are doing and saying while campaigning and in office in think past partisanship for the good of the country. We cannot escape from our duties as voters and as citizens regardless of how much me may want to.

  6. Tom Lund,

    I agree with you, and would add that perhaps the ones who need to have a mental fitness test are the voters. There sure was a large number of wack jobs voting this last time.

    And Sheila, Happy, happy!

  7. Happy Birthday, Sheila! Imagine! You have occupied your niche in time and space for (count ’em) 76 years, having made your entrance less than just two months from Pearl Harbor, a war in which I served (to give you some perspective). I tell the merchants here in Florida that I am not a Senior Cititzen, that I am instead an Ancient Citizen; that I don’t want their Senior Citizen discount of 10% on Tuesdays, that as an Ancient Citizen I want 20%, and to their responses that people like me would drive them into bankruptcy I respond that that would not be the case since there aren’t that many of us left. Poor economists, those merchants!
    You are a credit to the race and have elucidated many. Thanks for being here.

  8. Marv – “Is there anything else, in the long run, we are good for? Please tell me.”

    The weary nonagenarian pessimist– Yes, Marv, Noise, crumbling streets and roads, TV commentators, commercials, football, rock & roll, fast food, CocaCola, traffic snarls, late breaking news, divisive politics, disasters, poverty, crime, war drumbeat, preachers, and the list goes on…

  9. First, Happy Birthday, Professor!

    Every day I pray for the continued health and life of The Notorious RBG” and other old farts just like her. John McCain is making more sense now than he has in some time. There is a certain freedom in being old. I am fast approaching the big 70 and doing everything in my power to stay mentally and physically healthy. Still, I know just how tricky it can be to determine mental fitness. I watched my father, who had full blown dementia, pass each test they gave him.

    How about, in addition to health and mental checkups, we require each candidate for office to pass the naturalization test given to those seeking to become citizens. At least that way we would be assured that our elected officials had an inkling about the functions of government and had read more of the Constitution than just the second half of the Second Amendment.

  10. Marv – Still, there is balm in Gilead:
    Oct 21, 7:30pm, Schrott BUTLER SYMPHONY
    Oct 27, 8:00pm, Hilbert INDIANAPOLIS SYMPHONY with HADELICH
    Nov 1, 7:00pm, Schrott THE THREE PENNY OPERA
    Nov 7, 7:30pm, Duckwall, WOODWINDS
    Nov 10, 8:00pm, Hilbert, DEPUE & HUNTINGTON play Brahms
    Nov 14, 7:30pm, Duckwall, LARRY SHAPIRO, violin
    Nov 17, 8:00pm, Hilbert INDIANAPOLIS SYMPHONY with pianists
    Nov 28, 7:30pm, Duckwall, HEIDE RADIKE, saxophone
    Dec 21, 7:30pm, Palladium MESSIAH

  11. Thanks Theresa!!

    Given what I’ve been dealing with while talking with otherwise sane people and friends about politics and where this country is headed I totally agree with you!!!! It’s very disturbing and these are people I know and know well or so I thought.

  12. This is the predictable result of having an electoral system which through gerrymandering, party inertia, unlimited financial payoffs to incumbents, and moneyed manipulation of the media, consistently re-elects over 90% of all incumbents no matter how poorly they perform. Elective office, which was intended to be an occasional public service performed by people who made their real living and their real reputation somewhere else in real life, has become an endless, lucrative sinecure for a permanent class of pseudo-aristocrats fattening themselves at the public trough. ( )

    Inevitably, these Congressmen-for-Life age and grow old, assisted in prolonging their vitality by a free, gold-plated healthcare plan for which mere citizens are deemed unworthy. (Why should they care about that? They’ve got theirs, Jack.)

    Eliminating the estate tax would, of course, be much to the benefit of a class of would-be hereditary aristocrats. So would the elimination of Net Neutrality and the establishment of centralized control over the distribution of information and opinions over the internet.

    And so we proceed into an age of permanent rule by a permanent class of aged billionaires utterly unconcerned about the welfare of peasants, so long as a sufficient number of them can be bamboozled into voting against their own interests through propaganda, racism, and ostentatious shows of religious bigotry, or election results can be suitably manipulated to keep the gravy train running on time.

    Historically, permanent elite classes like this have been very reluctant to voluntarily cede such a position of supremacy. Madame Guillotine had something to say about a situation somewhat like this in the 1780s; however, George Orwell, observing the unparalleled possibilities for oppression made possible by modern advances, foresaw the future as “boot stamping on a human face — forever.”

    If truly democratic [with a small d] processes cannot prevail in the near future, I wonder which of these two options will come to pass.

  13. Sheila: As a 90-year-old old geezer and regular reader of your daily blog, I wish a happy birthday to you and a special salute to your fan club of young whipper snappers … or old whipper snappers. I’m usually politically aligned with your observations. However, some of your followers make me think of an old Fibber McGee quote: “That ain’t the way I heared it.”

    And that’s what makes life exciting.

  14. Happy Birthday, Sheila! Here’s to many more in a much more pleasant political climate. This one can’t last forever…can it?

  15. Tom Lund,

    For me the most disturbing part of the Trump election win has been learning who some of my relatives and friends really are. And, it has made me doubt my own judgement… I was wrong about so many.

  16. OMG,

    You’re a genius. You’ve outlined the only answer for us here in America, I forgot all about it.

    More specifically, I recommend listening to: “There is a Balm in Gilead” by the London Fox Singers. You can purchase a terrific recording for 99 cents at

  17. Happy Birthday.

    The aging of our government is partly due to Citizens United v. FEC. 92% of them get re-elected. Is it any wonder that the cobwebs grow in their minds?

  18. OMG,

    We must use history as a reference point in order to work out our problems here in America:

    It has to be the CRUSADES. If we have any answers, that’s where we can best find them at this point so “late in the game.”

  19. I too am 80 years old, with a few health problems associated with that number of years – arthritis and progressive macular degeneration. These do not affect my mental acuity, merely my disposition (just a touch, mind you, on rainy days!). I had to give up tennis and “down and dirty” gardening ten years ago, but count my blessings every day that my mind has not deserted me.

    There was a media news story yesterday that highlights the sad question of when is it time for a politician to gracefully retire from office. This 90-something gentleman, a respected member of the Senate, holds a very important Senate chairmanship. He was being interviewed as he walked down a Senate hall for a meeting. He appeared to be very confused by several simple questions related to his political office; his aide responded for him quickly to cover his confusion. Smiling affably, he then turned to enter the wrong room, whereupon his aides again stepped in to gently shepherd him to the right location.

    Now this could be explained by saying he had other things on his mind. I can understand perfectly -I walk into a room for a purpose but can’t remember what
    I was going to do. It could also be a sign that perhaps age is catching up with this good man and it is time to call it a day.

    The benefits of getting older are myriad. The knowledge, experience and hopefully wisdom we have acquired in a long lifetime are gifts to be utilized – as long as we use them for the good of all. Grant me the wisdom to know when it is my time to step back!

    BUT I DIGRESS. I had intended to comment on requiring a full physical and mental evaluation of candidates for the presidency. I believe these are SOP for many jobs such as law enforcement, etc. This should be mandated, and while we are at it, tax return disclosures should be required by law. This would separate the wheat from the chaff, would it not?

    Happy birthday, Sheila. I sent a birthday card recently to my 53 year old son that summed up birthdays perfectly: “Be grateful we don’t figure our age in dog years!”

  20. Feinstein needs to get out the way and retire, so does Pelosi. This corporate-establishment guard of the Democratic Party needs to go away. The theme of the Establishment Democratic Party is to entrench and make the Trump the issue.

    What we have is a political aristocracy, it is not a new feature by any means.

  21. mental states,,,im looking at a willful,deliberate disregard from the actions of the law makers,on the American public,(sans the 2%). trumps has a mind bred to take,…republicans have validated colusion as a form of need to do’s at anyones costs,except theirs. and mindful disregard for anyone who helped build this country. packaged to bring you a discount for loosing it all to the moneied intrests(and they think we have issues). get out and vote, mentor someone who hasnt, or help them get to the polls. and dont forget to wave at the russian trolls,with less than 5 fingers.. best wishes..

  22. Monotonou,

    As you said, Pelosi and Feinstein have been there too long. They can’t make the finite distinguishment between politics as usual and domestic warfare. Trump isn’t the basic problem as you have pointed out….. It’s the ENTRENCHED DEMOCRATIC PARTY which is unable to move out of the trenches. Like in any battle, a force who can’t move out of the trenches will eventually be overrun and DEFEATED.

    Happy Birthday Sheila and many, many more!

  23. Sending best wishes for a very Happy Birthday, Professor. Wishing you another great writing year with much health and happiness. From a 65 years young fan.

  24. Happy Birthday, Professor. The greeting I usually send to those of us beyond 70 is to “embrace the possibilities”. You do that everyday to enlighten and inform as well as being hope in a darkening world. Thank you.

  25. There are ignoramuses in all age groups, and there’s no apparent prescription for it – or at least not one that the ignoramuses will agree to take.

    Every institution needs a mixture of age and experience. New folks do bring a breath of fresh air, but what organization could survive with only new folks who have no idea of the history an organization should not repeat? While experienced veterans know that history, they also benefit from the fresh perspectives and insights offered by newcomers.

    Three cheers for diversity in age.

  26. While it might be tempting for some to blame Trump’s inadequacies on his age, that’s not the source of his problems. He has a fundamental personality flaw–extreme narcissism, the cause of which, who knows? It could be related to the fact that he was never his father’s favorite, according to what I read, because his father favored his older brother, Fred, his namesake. Fred died from alcoholism. Then, again, maybe Fred, Sr. didn’t like The Donald for the same reasons the rest of us have. In any event, The Donald lacks any semblance of empathy for anything other than what he perceives to be insufficient attention and praise for himself. He has probably been this way most of his life, and aging hasn’t helped any. Yes, Sheila, most people do get wiser as they get older, and death and losses touch our souls and make us more empathetic and appreciative of the gifts we have been given, but not so for The Donald.

  27. Very happiest of birthdays to you, Professor!
    I am grateful for the knowledge, interests and thoughtful dialogue you bring into my life every day.
    Best wishes for many more happy years!

    Helle KB

    PS: my dad was clear as a bell until his death, just shy of 92.
    My mom is 92, has good days and bad.
    We just never know and I am not sure we want to know!

  28. Happy Birthday, Sheila! May you live long and prosper! May the Force be with you! We appreciate you! And yes, I too believe we must require minimum qualifications as well as a background check, both physical and mental fitness exams, and mandatory tax returns disclosure for all government positions, especially the elected ones. You go girl!!!

  29. @Peggy Hannon:

    “How about, in addition to health and mental checkups, we require each candidate for office to pass the naturalization test given to those seeking to become citizens. At least that way we would be assured that our elected officials had an inkling about the functions of government and had read more of the Constitution than just the second half of the Second Amendment.”

    I agree 100% … we require a driverʻs exam to earn a driverʻs license; letʻs require taking the naturalization test to function as a “public servant.”

  30. I was at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics on opening day and was astonished that the great communicator had such trouble speaking the ten words that opened the games. Yet, he was re-elected a few months later. Apparently no one in the mass media took notice.

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