What I've been thinking about lately.


Update? Yeah, well, this page has been static since I barfed it up a couple of years ago, so I thought it was time to revisit some things. Not going to change my original statements, just give my "current" perspective. Most importantly, I welcome correction of any facts which I cite on this page. My opinions and experiences are my own.


Pension reform in Illinois


My only source of income at present is a modest pension with no COLA. I was against pension reform in the state of Illinois until I read this. After experiencing the unprofessional and unethical behavior of the local Fire Department/EMTs I took a closer look at this using their benefits as a barometer
. I found that their compensation and retirement benefits are out of proportion to the contribution they make to the community and risks they face and how dangerous their occupation actually is. Their compensation appears to be  representative of their peers across the state. Read the information at the link above and you will agree that the current pension system is unsustainable, I think. As a result of reading this article, I now support a reasonable tax on existing pensions which would also impact me, though that is only one reform which must be made. PENSION REFORM NOW!!!! Don't bankrupt your children and grandchildren!!!


Update: I absolutely stand by my statement about the local fire department. Whenever I hear a siren here, I automatically wonder if it is someone doing their job, or just betraying the trust of the community that pays their salary and pension by taking a joy ride in the county vehicle they have access to. I am not saying this behavior is widespread and always malicious but I have seen it happen several times. I am going to have an opportunity to see if this is a larger problem as I am going to be spending some time in a nearby city, soon. I have already spent some time there and note that their equipment, while seemingly very outdated in style, appears to be well maintained, so maybe they are behaving more responsibly, but I really don't know what that means, if anything, yet. The real thrust of my comment in this section was not about the local fire department, but about the importance of pension reform to get my state out of the horrible financial mess it is in due to pension mismanagement. The behavior of the local fire department is what first caused me to look at this issue but clearly shows how unsustainable the coming pension crisis in Illinois is going  to be.


Since I started this by talking about firefighters, here is some data. Average yearly pay for a firefighter in 2018 in Bloomington, Il was $82,285 (76% above the national average) and $83,016 (78% above the national average) in the town I am moving to, based on the linked sources. Average yearly household income in Bloomington is $67,507 and average yearly household income in Pekin is $61,567.The danger and heroics of being a firefighter are greatly exaggerated as they are generally very well trained and wear sophisticated protective gear including an oxygen tank. No college degree is required. A recent NPR story found that 12 firefighters in nearby Peoria County, IL died "on the job" between 1880 and 2021. A close examination of those 12 deaths might shed more light on actual causes of death and lend more clarity to the relatively small number of deaths and perceived dangers of this profession. Both towns' firefighter salaries are about 80% higher than the national average/median salaries for a firefighter. This also skews their retirement compensation which is really the major issue as retirees will receive ever growing pensions funded by their communities for their lifetime. If average salaries in other Illinois cities are similar, then it is huge burden on tax payers. Firefighters are not the problem, this is just a symptom of the disaster that our state is heading towards due to unfunded pension obligations. I welcome correction if any of my statistics are wrong. The fault with these over generous compensation packages lies squarely with the folks who approved them not with the firefighters.

BTW, I observed the same unprofessional behavior in my new town but do not know if the motivation behind it was positive or negative.

I don't really mean to single out and bash firefighters. They have a tough, physically demanding job which might contribute to physical disabilities later in life.I think some are probably decent, honorable and dedicated professionals. That being said, do I think putting on firefighter's uniform makes anyone a hero? No, I don't. The same way I do not feel I was a hero for joining the Army during the Vietnam War and putting on an Army uniform. If I had died in the line of duty I don't feel that would have been heroic, either, unless it was a result of an heroic act. Maybe some people do think anyone who puts on a uniform is a hero, but I just don't see it that way. I think that slights people who actually perform heroic actions. Several young men I knew during my service died but none of their deaths, in my opinion was heroic. In the line of duty, yes, but not heroic. My highest yearly pay after 4 years of active duty was under $600 so we were not paid like heroes... We weren't welcomed home like heroes, either, but I did not expect to be treated like one, just like someone who had honorably served their country, if singled out at all. It was a disappointing homecoming.

As an example in the WTC disaster do I think every firefighter who died was a hero? Most had no idea that it was possible that the towers could collapse and that they were facing such serious danger. Most were victims of poor organization and communication problems which prevented evacuating them which their superiors attempted to do. There were a handful of firefighters who, at some point, realized the danger and stayed, anyway. I consider that heroic behavior and those men as true heroes. Read the linked article above.

Yes, I am rambling. I don't completely agree with the pension reform article at the beginning of my rant. I think for some state workers, a smaller pension with no COLA, buying into the Social Security system and a 401K would be a better choice. I am skeptical about 100% 401K based retirement systems. I am using my not huge, non-COLA pension as a bridge to collecting maximum social security benefits which will be a bridge to starting to draw down my 401K savings. It is an elegant solution for me as I was able to work until age 63 and retire. Could a firefighter, who, undoubtedly has one of the most physically demanding occupations work into their 60s? I don't know. It might not be the best solution for them but what they have now is not sustainable for our state. A three legged system might work very well for other state workers. Glad I don't have to figure this out, but something has to change. I am not optimistic, however, and planning my exit from the state within the next decade.



Greek societies


Why am I strongly opposed to Greek societies on university campuses? In my academic and professional careers, I routinely observed people with Greek society affiliations consistently violate their ethical, moral, professional oaths and responsibilities, and often just common decency, instead putting their affiliation with these organizations first, to the detriment of their employers, coworkers and those who they were sworn to serve. These organizations are often in the news because of moral and ethical violations which, in general, calls into question the need for, and actual purpose of, such "societies". Whatever "good deeds" such organizations loudly proclaim themselves to the world as doing, the unadvertised liberties taken with whatever power they have can certainly negate those deeds. The universities I have attended, in my opinion, do not benefit from the existence of such societies on their campuses, nor does any university. One thing, in my opinion, that any university could do to improve the reputation of their university is to ban such societies from their campuses.

Update: No update needed.

ISERS

Intellectually, Spiritually, and Emotionally Retarded Subhumans. Read about them here.


Reparations

Let me start by saying that I support some form of reparations. But reparations for what? For slavery? I don't think so. There is no question that slavery is a stain on our nation's honor, but it was legal, if not ethical or moral by any standard. Everyone who was a slave is long dead and before long anyone now living who knew someone else who even knew someone who was an ex-slave will be dead, too. I don't find any logic in the argument that present day descendants of slaves deserve some form of compensation for the work their ancestors did to build this nation before slavery was ended.

BUT..... Once slavery was legally ended, freed slaves and their descendants were due the same opportunities that every other citizen was entitled to. Black people, in general, including descendants of non-slaves and post Civil War immigrants, were denied those opportunities. Actually, those opportunities were stolen from them using institutional racism at the local, state and federal levels. Therefore, I support reparations for the institutional racism that all black people in the US (not just descendants of slaves) have experienced since 6 December 1865 when the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution was ratified.

What made me come to this conclusion? I was largely skeptical of the need for some type of reparations until I discovered that black soldiers returning from World War II were denied the veterans benefits (good article) that white soldiers received. As a veteran who used some of these benefits, I know how life changing they can be, and that began to put this injustice into perspective for me. These benefits gave me the opportunity to improve my life and "build wealth". Learning about this injustice caused me to take a closer look at this and other examples of institutional racism since 1865. I began to understand how black Americans have been denied equal access to the benefits of American society, the opportunity to "build wealth" and everything which comes with that.

Our government certainly owes all black Americans who need it compensation for that discrimination. There are many questions, though. What form should reparations take? The comparison of monetary reparations paid to living Americans of Japanese descent for the discrimination they experienced during and after WWII is not a reasonable one for obvious reasons. The core issue is how can black Americans be given the ability to experience life changing opportunities? Should there be some form of means testing (Ta-Nehisi Coates, Henry Gates, and their families, etc., are doing just fine, thank you)? Should DNA testing be used to confirm ethnic ancestry? And...?

Update: Again, no update really needed. The fact are the facts. I will say, if you have trouble getting your head around this, I do not think anyone should just be given money as part of reparations. What has been stolen is the opportunity to be successful, the opportunity to equally participate in American society. Reparations should be targeted at redressing that disparity. People smarter than me need to figure out what is needed to fix that. Educational assistance? Housing assistance? Legal reforms? I do not know. If the concept of fairness it not enough for you to embrace this need, then looking at this from a logical perspective may help. If everyone in our society has an equal opportunity to succeed, our society will benefit through people making more money to pay more taxes, lower crime rates, higher quality of life for our society, in general, and ? One of the largest boons to our society was the GI Bill after World War II which increased the size of our educated work force resulting in a higher standard of living (for some) and making the U.S. more globally competitive. The U.S. continues to lag behind other industrial nations in producing an educated workforce and countries like China and India are going to outperform the U.S. by a wide margin if that trend continues. Free community college is one thing that should be done, anyway, as it would benefit our society, but at the same time directing additional assistance Black Americans might be one part of addressing this issue. I focus on education, as that is how I turned my life around.


The Dumbing Down of Public Radio

For the past 20 years I've gotten much of my national and world news and information about society from National Public Radio (NPR). The local radio station, WGLT, has always been very light on news and education, being more focused on entertainment. So, though I have lived in the town where WGLT is broadcast for over 20 years, I have never listened to it after an initial sampling of their content. Why? Aside from the fact that I like to learn versus being entertained, I have never been impressed with the quality of music programming on this station, though it purports to present styles that I listen to. Therefore, even when I am in my car and can only get WGLT, I would rather listen to nothing or to CDs until I am in range of a better station. I actually did not remember how poorly WGLT performs as an information/learning platform, until my public station of choice, WCBU, was evicted from its home on a college campus in the town where it was being broadcast about 50 miles distant. The building that housed it was demolished. Sadly WCBU was forced to form an alliance with WGLT and apparently had to cede some of their control over programming. For example, BBC world news was moved form core evening listening hours starting at 9 pm to MIDNIGHT(!!) to make way for two-three hours of fluff music programming. As a result, WCBU is becoming a clone of WGLT (Fluff Radio) with music programming (very poor music programming) in core hours where there was once news (BBC World News, for one) and educational programming. Very sad and a comment how WGLT views the intellect and needs of their audience. Before, Central Illinois had one mediocre and one excellent public radio station and now has two mediocre public radio stations. I am looking for something I can stream over the internet. WAMU  looks promising.


Update. Apparently, I was not the only squeaky wheel or maybe the station recognized the dip in their ratings as a result of the changes made by their collaboration with WGLT. I don't know. Much, though not all, of WCBU's previous character has been restored. There is still a distressing amount of lower quality music programming, but BBC World News is back at 9 pm, there is more talk radio programming, etc. When I worked, I listened to this station during the day when I had the opportunity to do so and while I drove home and was intellectually entertained. Crap music programming starts now toward what would have been the end of my work day and drive home. Evening programming on Friday, Saturday and Sunday is still a disaster, though. I am glad I am retired.


The First Immigrants (AKA Native Americans)

The term Native American used in describing First Immigrants is not accurate. Anyone born in the Americas is native to those continents without regard to how long their ancestors lived here. The term American Indian is more appropriate, though that too, can be problematic since "Indian" was a label applied by later immigrants from Europe to these earlier immigrants. The American continents have been in their current configuration for about 2.6 million years and the First Immigrants from Asia probably arrived less than 20 thousand years ago, which is a tiny fraction of this time, about .007%. They and later human immigrants are parts of the same blink of an eye in terms of human presence in the Americas. Since human beings are by no measure native to the Americas identifying early immigrants as "indigenous" is also not accurate. It is becoming more difficult to determine exactly when the ancestors of First Immigrants living today arrived, if there were earlier waves of unrelated immigrants or what other factors contributed to the makeup of the First Immigrant population before the arrival of Europeans as tribes seek legislation to prevent examination of remains of these early immigrants. So, while First Immigrants, may or may not, be accurate, based on current understanding of the early migration pattern of humans to the Americas the term "First Immigrants" is probably most accurate.

Much has been made of the "extermination" of First Immigrant populations which, after contact with Europeans, possibly declined from 60 million people to about 6 million after 1492. Up to 90% of those deaths were unintentional, brought on by the First Immigrant's lack of resistance to diseases carried by later immigrants, i.e., Europeans, who were immune to, or little affected by, them. This "extermination" was, in fact, Natural Selection, not a great conspiracy. There was no corresponding mass die off of European immigrants due to diseases they encountered in the Americas.

Before the arrival of Europeans, First Immigrant tribes warred with each other and also conquered and enslaved members of other tribes. The largest and most sophisticated First Immigrant civilizations (Aztecs, Mayans, Incas, etc.) also practiced human sacrifice, including the killing of women, children, infants, and other cruel and inhumane practices, including slavery. After the arrival of Europeans, some First Immigrant nations sold members of other nations (tribes) to them as slaves and some First Immigrant tribes took Africans as slaves.

First Immigrant civilizations also destroyed entire ecosystems through mismanagement of resources before the arrival of Europeans. This caused the collapse of some larger First Immigrant civilizations. The a
ppearance of humans in the Americas also closely coincided with the mass extinction of mega fauna on those continents suggesting humans were a primary cause, quite possibly THE primary cause of this extinction. So much for a “special connection” with nature. Most of these First Immigrant nations were not without negative aspects and none have special characteristics which elevate them above other humans. There are recent efforts to bury this past behavior and build a romantic myth of the First Immigrant's absolute harmony with nature. It is probably true that, with the collapse of many First Immigrant nations after first contact with European diseases, the remaining population was forced into a deeper connection with nature as any survivor group would have been.

First Immigrant descendants in the U.S. now number about 5 million, around 2% of the population. As is true with Black Americans, they have often been denied rights and opportunities due to them by law and that should be redressed, though calls to "return" large swaths of lands, large cash settlements and other unreasonable demands are likely to fail, and rightly so. What would be better, and more practical for U.S. society, is to address the issues of discrimination, education, health care, voting rights and other impediments which prevent First Immigrants from being successful in U.S. society while at the same time retaining their ethnic identity if that is important to them. 


UPDATE: Minor changes for readability and consistency were made. Archaeological discoveries suggest that the first immigrants to the Americas may have been here before 30,000 years ago, which is still just minute fraction of the time that these continents have been recognizable in their current configuration. It seems certain that there will continue to be resistance to testing to examine the DNA of First Immigrant populations.


Face Blind

I am moderately (?) face blind which means I don't recognize or remember people's faces very well and it has gotten a bit worse as I get older. Maybe because I am out of practice since retiring? It began after I suffered a depressed skull fracture when I was in my mid 30s. I wasn't born with it. Then, around 2000, I got laser surgery (modified monovision) one eye for close up vision and one for distance vision which seriously affected by depth perception starting a few yards from me, which is probably why it began to get worse.

Before I retired it was usually easy to place people by where they were at, their clothes, their voices, physical characteristics, etc. Away from work or a setting were I was accustomed to seeing them, I sometimes recognized people by things like their cars, their walk, etc. It has not really had a huge impact on my life, I don't think. This has not really been a problem at all since I retired as I don't have to deal with people much and when I do has not been really important that I recognize them quickly.

One thing I can do really well, though, is recognize facial expressions which is something I find very useful and maybe developed to cope with this. Well, actually, only two facial expressions I have seen a lot are something I find useful enough to look for. That is the most I usually get from quick encounters with people like passing them on the street, in crowds or driving by them in my car.

So, that being said, it is definitely likely that I have in the past, and will in the future, encounter, walk by people, drive by people in cars, etc., who I was supposed to know or at least recognize or remember but didn't/don't, though no one has ever commented to me about that so guessing that it has not been a huge issue. I have been pretty (ridiculously?) easy to contact for many years as I have had the same Internet domain (KevinDaniel.com!) and email address (Kevin@<---that domain!) based on my name since 1999 and not heard a peep from anyone about this, probably because I coped so well with it when it mattered most? I have also lived at the same address since 1998, though that will soon change. I don't put much effort into trying to identify people any more but the potential impact is much less critical to my life, now, I think. So, I am not ignoring you, I just don't recognize you.


Narcissist?

I am not a narcissist. Someone recently made that comment and either they have a tunnel vision focus on Narcissism, didn't take time to find out about me, or are a little greek bitch. I think it was probably all three. Actually, I suspect that the person who made this comment is a narcissist as they have spent a great deal of time studying this concept and their CV goes into a level of detail just short of cataloging their bowel movements. Some of my INTJ traits my seem vaguely narcissistic. See the links on my home page, www.kevindaniel.com

TIME

Ya'll have way too much free time if you spent it reading this far! Get a life! Do something to improve yourself!


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