I occasionally update this page or add new content on no predetermined schedule, just whenever I feel like doing so. Not always going to change my original statements and may just give my "current" perspective as "updates". Most importantly, I welcome correction of any facts which I cite on this page. Comments also welcome. 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 article. It changed my mind. 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.
Unfunded pension obligations are the problem,
not compensation. Decent salaries give workers the flexibility
to build better retirement solutions and relieving the burden
of tax payers to meet these pension obligations might make it
possible to increase worker salaries, instead. Included are
teachers, laborers, municipal workers, fire fighters,
police... See linked article.
Most of these compensation packages were likely the result of
union negotiations and the unions acted rightly in getting the
best deal that they could for their members, but if, in the
end, these pension benefits are not sustainable, how well have
their members been served?
The fault with these often unfunded pension
packages lies squarely with the folks who approved them but
did not fund them, not with the recipients. This article was
published in 2015 and I have not been able to find any steps
that have been taken to address this looming problem.
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 workers with 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 who are able to work longer.
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. The same source as the article
that spurred this rant generated an updated
article in 2023, though the urgency of the warning appears
to be the same.
Just Google "Illinois
Pension Crisis" and you will get a few dozen (hundred?) web site
that kick this topic around.
Some of the information that I found seems influenced by various political idealogies, so it is probably good to read information from a variety of sources to get as balanced a view as possible of the problems and potential solutions.
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 to the organizations they owed them to, and often just common decency, instead putting their affiliation with these organizations first, to the detriment of their employers, coworkers, peers, etc, and those who they were sworn to serve or coexist with. 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. I do not know if all Greek societies the same, they may not be, but my experiences with them have been mostly negative. The universities I have attended, in my opinion, do not benefit from the existence of such societies on their campuses, nor does any institute of higher education. 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.
Let me start by saying that I support some form of reparations to address systemic racism. But reparations for what? For slavery? I am skeptical of the motivations for that. 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, except
possibly for the elderly who have limited earning potential and
time needed to build wealth. 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 social justice is 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. It was pointed out to me that some local news programming has not been restored. I was not a listener to that content so cannot comment. At any rate, I am quite pleased with the resurrected WCBU.
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 appearance 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.
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, but have recently spent the majority of my time at my other house about 50 miles away. 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.
I am not a narcissist.
Someone recently made that comment and they either have a tunnel
vision focus on Narcissism or didn't take time to find out about
me. I think it was probably both things. 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 INTJ links on my home page,
Ya'll have way too much free time if you spent it
reading this far! Get a life! Do something to improve yourself!