Baby boomers: Documenting a Generation’s Fall

(Photo by Sam Newman/NYT) George Ross, a former IT project manager in  Livermore, Calif., and his wife, Linda, as seen in the documentary "Set for Life,'' by Susan Sipprelle and Sam Newman.
(Photo by Sam Newman)
George Ross, a former IT project manager in Livermore, Calif., and his wife, Linda, as seen in the documentary “Set for Life,” by Susan Sipprelle and Sam Newman.

By Michael Winerip
New York Times, Jan. 17, 2013

One of the lasting effects of the Great Recession has been the economic spiral downward of the American middle class, and no group has been harder hit than the boomer generation, men and women in the prime of their working lives.

From 2007 to 2009, workers 55 to 64 year old who lost jobs had been making an average of $850 a week; those lucky enough to be re-employed by January 2010 were earning $647 a week, a 23.9 percent drop in income.

Younger boomers, ages 45 to 54, had been averaging $916 a week; the jobs they were able to find after the recession paid $755, a 17.6 percent decline.

That is the story Susan Sipprelle tells in her new documentary, “Set for Life,” about the generation that was so sure that they were — until their lives came undone during the Great Recession.

Read more here.

NY Times: That Loving Feeling Takes Lots of Work

imagesBy Jane Brody
New York Times Jan. 14, 2013

When people fall in love and decide to marry, the expectation is nearly always that love and marriage and the happiness they bring will last; as the vows say, till death do us part. Only the most cynical among us would think, walking down the aisle, that if things don’t work out, “We can always split.”

But the divorce rate in the United States is exactly half the marriage rate, and that does not bode well for this cherished institution.

In her new book, “The Myths of Happiness,” Dr. Lyubomirsky describes a slew of research-tested actions and words that can do wonders to keep love alive.

She points out that the natural human tendency to become “habituated” to positive circumstances — to get so used to things that make us feel good that they no longer do — can be the death knell of marital happiness. Psychologists call it “hedonic adaptation”: things that thrill us tend to be short-lived.

Read more of Jane Brody’s piece in the New York Times’ WELL blog here.

“In my 50s, for the first time, I can look at a woman and say ‘she’s really hot.'”

BLAKE SMITH, a veteran of counseling and men’s retreats. Photo by Monica Almeida/NY Times

Sometimes you read stories and think, “Really?” This was certainly one of them for me.

It’s about men who are “ex-gay.”

I guess it’s kind of hard for me to understand because I like men, always have and can’t picture myself being ‘counseled’ into liking another gender. Then again, there are a lot of people that believe gender and sexual attraction are fluid so perhaps it can work in reverse–only permanently. Or not. Who knows?

In the article by Erik Eckholm, the ex-gay men argue “reparative therapy” worked for them. Read on …

‘Ex-Gay’ Men Fight Back Against View That Homosexuality Can’t Be Changed

By Erik Eckholm

LOS ANGELES — For most of his life, Blake Smith said, “every inch of my body craved male sexual contact.”

Mr. Smith, 58, who says he believes homosexual behavior is wrong on religious grounds, tried to tough it out. He spent 17 years in a doomed marriage while battling his urges all day, he said, and dreaming about them all night.

But in recent years, as he probed his childhood in counseling and at men’s weekend retreats with names like People Can Change and Journey Into Manhood, “my homosexual feelings have nearly vanished,” Mr. Smith said in an interview at the house in Bakersfield, Calif., he shares with his second wife, who married him eight years ago knowing his history. “In my 50s, for the first time, I can look at a woman and say ‘she’s really hot.’ 

Read the rest here

The ‘Arizonification’ of America continues to frame the national immigration debate.

Photo via

By JEFF BIGGERS of the New York Times

Phoenix, Ariz.

With the “papers please” provision of Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 immigration law now in effect, Bill Clinton roused an overflowing crowd at Arizona State University last week with a special shout out to the state’s “dreamers,” the highly organized ranks of undocumented youth seeking permanent residency either through education or the military (and sometimes both). Appearing on behalf of the former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, whose surging campaign to become the first Latino Senator in Arizona now leads in the latest polls, Clinton drew some of his biggest cheers for his support of the DREAM Act merely by calling it the “right thing to do.”

Welcome to the Arizona showdown.

Read more here.

Obituaries: Reubin Andres, advocate of weight gain, dies at 89

Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times

So the headline of this story could have read, “Advocate of Weight Gain dies of Heart Disease,” (because it’s true) but there is more to the story. This guy started looking into weight gain when he was asked to participate in a conference and deduced that one could live longer if they gained about six pounds per year starting at age 40. Obviously, this went against the prevailing wisdom at the time.

“For some reason the idea has grabbed us that the best weight throughout the life span is that of a 20-year-old,” Dr. Andres said in a 1985 interview with The New York Times. “But there’s just overwhelming evidence now that as you go through life, it’s in your best interests to lay down some fat.”

Read the rest of this interesting obit in the New York Times here.

On Labor Day: Two interesting reads on unions

I’ve only been in a union once in my career. It was the Writers Guild East and I had to join as a condition of employment for a company that produced sports news highlights for a couple of New York City news stations. Aside from the night my friend Michele and I got to volunteer at the Writers Guild Awards, I never really felt *part* of the union, but that’s not surprising as it was a part-time job while I worked at a newspaper during the day.

Sometimes I think that if there were more unions around, perhaps we would not have so many laid off Americans who feel hopeless today. I mean, unions were created to protect workers rights, right? Maybe people would have had to take pay cut or a decrease in hours, but they might still have their jobs if their unions would’ve negotiated some kind of deal. Who knows? As I mentioned above, I don’t have much experience with unions at all.

On this Labor Day, I stumbled upon an obituary for Alexander Saxton, a novelist and historian who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on August 20 at the age of 93.

Saxton had a very interesting life. He went from “upper-income youngster to working-class adult; from Harvard student to Chicago laborer; from novelist to union organizer and Socialist; and from activist to academic who wrote many books.”

Among them, as it says in his obituary in the New York Times, was “The Rise and Fall of the White Republic, known as one of the foundations of ‘critical whiteness studies,’ an academic field that examines the assumptions underlying ‘whiteness’ as a racial designation and political organizing principle.”

But it’s his first historical book, The Indispensable Enemy: Labor and the Anti-Chinese Movement in California, that I found interesting. Considered a landmark of labor history, the book describes how “19th- and 20th- century labor unions used racism against Chinese immigrants as a tool for unifiying and organizing white union members.

“It challenged one of the foundational stories of the labor movement,” said Eric Foner, a Columbia University professor and Pulitzer prize winning historian. “Instead of the story of solidarity and democracy usually told, Saxton showed how racism was one of labor’s most important organizing tools.”

Who knew? So some unions were created to protect only a certain kind of worker in this country. Can’t be surprised, I guess. Read more about Saxton’s life and work here.

I’d like to recommend another Labor Day read. It’s by Fordham University sociologist, Christopher Rhomberg. His book, The Broken Table: The Detroit Newspaper Strike and the State of American Laboruses interviews and archival research to examine the labor and management disputes of the Detroit newspaper strike of the 1990s and the effect it has had on business-labor relations and workplace governance.

Listen to an interview of Rhomberg on the Craig Fahle Show on Detroit radio station, WDET, here. Read an article about the book in Dissent magazine here. And stay tuned for a GREAT opinion piece on labor and unions he wrote that I am working on getting placed in the media this week.


We’ve got to do better for U.S. Veterans

A car bomb in Iraq in May 2007 left Ben Richards, then a captain, with a severe concussion. A second concussion left him with debilitating injuries. (Photo by Ben Richards)

War Wounds


IT would be so much easier, Maj. Ben Richards says, if he had just lost a leg in Iraq.

Instead, he finds himself losing his mind, or at least a part of it. And if you want to understand how America is failing its soldiers and veterans, honoring them with lip service and ceremonies but breaking faith with them on all that matters most, listen to the story of Major Richards.

Read more of Nick Kristof’s heartbreaking piece here.