Archives For December 2011

About 2011….

December 31, 2011

It is time for some year-end meditations. I’m not sure they do any good but at least it gets me to thinking on a higher level once a year.

I will start out with a very short list of things I regret about 2011.   (There is no use in dwelling on the negative.)

  • I regret the apparent hold the radical right has gained in the U.S. in 2011. Much of our political agenda seems to have been driven by a small fringe group in this country. I regret that so many of our politicians seem to be totally intimated by this group.
  • I regret that there appears to be a significant portion of citizens in the U.S. who are either very gullible about healthcare issues or very uncaring about their brothers who are financially destroyed by healthcare bills or even die because they cannot afford private coverage. Obamacare as they call it does need some changes but to call for its total repeal is very unchristian and uncaring.
  • I regret that there is not a compassionate one among all those candidates for president in the Republican party. They all seem to pander to the extremes of their party. Our country is in desperate need for a true leader but there appears to be none among this current crop for the presidency.
  • I regret that another 18 million people on this earth have died in 2011 due to hunger or inadequate drinking water! We have the means to stop these totally tragic deaths if only we cared enough.

Here is a longer list of things that happened in 2011 that I am thankful for:

  • First and foremost is that neither my wife or I had any major medical events this year. Things pertaining to health seem to predominate us seniors’ lives. If we can stay healthy we can enjoy our autumn years.  This was a year of staying healthy thank the Lord.
  • I am grateful to finally be on Medicare. My previous employer’s threats to take away the medical portion of my pension now has no effect on me. The Medicare Advantage option he offered was actually no coverage at all so now I am 100% on my own for healthcare coverage but at only one-third the pre-Medicare 2011 costs!  I am also grateful that the radical right has not yet managed to take Medicare away from me and I pray they never will.
  • I am so happy we as a nation are finally out of Iraq, sort of.  Sort of is because we still have thousands of soldiers there to “guard” our embassy. Iraq now has the largest embassy staff anywhere in the world. But at least far fewer of our kids will be in harm’s way in that country. I am praying that we can also get out of Afghanistan in 2012 and not rush into any other conflicts around the world.
  • In a serendipitous sort of way I am happy that the congressional super-committee was unable to come to an agreement on slashing spending in the U.S.   The result, at least until  devious ones in congress find a way around it, is that our military will have to take a 10% cut in its budget. With less money I am hoping that we will manage to keep our noses out of at least a few foreign countries in the coming years and to give peace making efforts a chance where we do.  But like most else in Washington, the 10% budget cut commitment will likely be revoked.
  • I am happy to see at least some of our U.S. citizens are taking to the streets in the “Occupy” protests. This is the most basic form of democracy that can occur. I wish them all the luck in the world at reigning in some of the great disparity in wealth in the country. The super rich in this country should feel morally obliged to give some of their wealth for the common good. If they don’t  choose to do it on their own then we should at least put it back to where it was before Mr. Bush gave them massive tax breaks at the expense of the middle class.
  • I am grateful for being able to spend a month visiting our neighbors to the north in Canada. It was a very enjoyable time even if it did end with a serious cold for both me and my wife.  There is some very beautiful country up there. PEI was probably my favorite. I wish we would learn from them that universal healthcare is a right for all our citizens and not a privilege for a few.
  • I am grateful to have been able to serve another year at Backstreet Missions, our local shelter/soup kitchen and as long as my health holds out I am looking forward to serving again this year.

Occupy DC??

December 30, 2011

via Will bank branches wither away? – USATODAY.com.

In the past year, the number of bank customers who prefer to bank online has jumped sharply, according to a survey conducted in August by the American Bankers Association. Sixty-two percent of bank customers said they prefer banking online to all other methods, up from 36% in 2010. Only 20% of customers said they preferred using a branch, down from 25% last year.

I can remember as a youngster taking some of my hard earned grass mowing money to the bank to open a savings account. The lady there that handled all the money praised me for saving some of it. After that I regularly visited the lady behind her big counter to add to my account. I don’t remember how much I eventually had in the account or even what I used the money for but the bank itself made a big impression on me. It seems like local banks are going the way of many other institutions in relenting to cyberspace.

I know personally I very seldom am in the door of our local bank. I do visit their bank machine on a regular basis but only go inside when I need to do something with my vault box.  Everything else is done electronically as I seldom even use paper checks anymore. So, I guess I am contributing to this trend. As the article state that last year 36% preferred on-line banking and now 62% do. That is a very drastic increase in a little over a year. How much longer will banks, especially locally owned ones like I bank at, be able to afford keeping tellers behind the counters if no one actually goes inside? I’m sure the local small business owners frequent the bank on a regular basis to get currency for their cash registers so I imagine there will always be someplace to accommodate them but vast majority of the tellers will likely soon disappear. I wouldn’t be surprised if they disappear faster than our local video stores.

It seems that the internet is eliminating quite a few previously well established job opportunities and I expect this trend will continue in the future. The trouble with all this is that there just doesn’t seem to be many newly developed jobs opening up to replace them.  I don’t know what percentage of middle class jobs that are disappearing are due to technology as opposed to off-shore outsourcing. That would be an interesting statistic.

Most middle class jobs today require some post high school education and the U.S. is doing poorly in that category compared to other nations. Are all the kids who have only a high school education or less (almost 1/3 of U.S. kids don’t even finish high school) doomed to working for fast food and retail stores throughout their lives? Their doesn’t seem to be any leadership around today to change these trends and that is the saddest thing about all of this.

As a senior citizen I am mostly an observer in this type of thing. They say the average person today will change jobs about ten times in his/her working life.  I guess I was very fortunate to have worked for one  employer for 30 years and managed to retire with a pension plan.

Source: Ford’s Theatre, citing errors, refuses to carry Bill O’Reilly’s ‘Killing Lincoln’ – CSMonitor.com.

Just because you write a book doesn’t mean you are an expert in something. Fox New’s Bill O’Reilly I’m sure has a large following on his news show. I know he rants and raves just like most do on that network. He often mentions that he is a self-proclaimed expert on Lincoln who was the founder of the Republican party. However, it seems that his book on the subject of Lincoln’s assassination will not be sold in Ford’s Theatre where the killing took place. The historians there say there is just too many errors in the Reilly account to be sold there. They don’t want the historic site to lose credence.

It sounds like Reilly was no more true to facts about Lincoln than the current day Republicans are to the party that he founded.  Lincoln was if nothing else a president for the people. His words and actions backed up that world view. Today’s Republicans have given up that mantle to the Democratic party. I don’t know exactly when that happened but it is fully obvious today. The Republican party’s mantra now seems to be “I got mine so screw you”.  They are now the party of big money, ultra-conservative fundamentalists, and not much else.

But we can’t really put any of the errors in the book on Bill O’Reilly himself as he “co-authored” the book with someone else. Who is to know what percentage of contributions he actually made? I always wonder about that whenever I see two names on a book. Is one there for name recognition only in order to sell more books? I’m sure this is not the first time that errors appear in supposedly historical works. I recently read  the book by Herndon, who was Lincoln’s business partner in Springfield. When it came out it was scorned by many of the current historians as it had places where Lincoln was not shown in the best light. In fact Mrs. Lincoln was depicted at a downright “loony”. It has only been in the last forty years or so that the book has gained respect.

Maybe someday the book by whichever person on the cover actually wrote it will get respect. The current denouncement of it by some noted scholars just gives Fox News something else to yell about with the “liberal” press. As if they don’t have enough ;)

But what do I know….