Monday, January 7, 2013

January 2013

             It is January; the holidays are over, the bills are starting to arrive for most, and the thermometer has become our enemy, it seems.  And, as always happens in January, I face yet another birthday.
            I have to say, though, that this year may be a little different, as I’ve recently survived a few very near-death experiences.  There are, I’ve learned, things much worse than aging, or even dying.  The 21 days I spent on the Rehab Floor at the University of Utah Medical Center opened my eyes to many things:  my roommate was a man, not much older than me, who can’t walk, talk, feed himself, or use the bathroom because of a stroke.  SO MANY stroke victims…some younger than me!  It made me cry to see people that were working SO HARD just to be able to take one more step than the day before, or to stand, or to be able to extend their arms and hug their loved ones.  It makes me cry, thinking about them, as I sit here and write this. 
            I was SO lucky…I’ve asked myself, and God, several times since…”WHY ME???”.  Not, “why me” as in “why did I have to go through this?”, but “WHY ME??”, as in “why was I lucky enough to survive, or be rehabilitated, when so many are not?”.  Every day, while reading the newspaper, I look at the Obituaries…as Mark Twain said, “To make sure I’m not in there…”.  Every day, I see listings of men and women that are my age or younger, who weren’t so lucky, and my mind flashes those two words on my inner marquee… “WHY ME”?
            My wife, who is much more “left-brained” than I, simply says, “Because you were in the right place, at the right time, with the right professional help”.  I wish I could be satisfied with that answer, but part of me is not. 
            I’m deciding, though, that I can’t get muddled down in self-reflection.  While it IS a great place to visit on occasion, it’s not a great place to live your daily life.  I will never know why I survived, when others don’t, and that will have to be okay.  The best thing I can do is try to keep those memories fresh in my mind, so that I stay motivated to make the changes I said I was going to make when they finally released me from the hospital.  I got too caught up in the typical holiday excitement and, while I didn’t go completely overboard, lost my focus for a while. 
            I have to remember that my aches and pains are, for me, badges and medals for experiences I have survived in my life.  I need, every once in a while, to take stock of my achievements, give them their due, and then get back to the work of living.  I have to remember that:
·         Both my father and my grandfather were dead by my age.
·         I have survived a brain tumor.
·         I have survived a heart attack.
·         I have survived an intracerebral  hemorrhage.
·         I have survived having holes drilled into my skull to relieve pressure from said hemorrhage.
·         I have survived a brain herniation.
·         I have survived 21 days of hospital food!

·         I am the husband of the most beautiful, loving woman anyone ever married.
·         I am the father of the two most darling daughters any father ever had.
·         I have been fortunate to see my daughters marry good men who respect them, are committed to them, and love them as much as I love my wife. 
·         I have the most beautiful granddaughter in the world. 
·         I have so many friends that, when needed, took time from their hectic schedules to reach out to my wife or me, when we needed their love and support the most.
·         I have God-given talents that I must not waste.
·         I need to smile more.
·         I need to laugh more.
·         I need to live my life as if I’m thankful for all I’ve been given.

      I need to read this letter every day...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dear Governor Romney...

Dear Governor Romney,

During your RNC speech, and several times over the course of your political campaign, I've heard you utter an old question, "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?".  I have to say that this question was especially intriguing since the first time I heard it was during the first Presidential election I was allowed to legally vote in...the 1980 race between Ronald Reagan and President Jimmy Carter.  It was an effective center-piece of Reagan's campaign; you're now trying to portray both yourself as the "new" Reagan, and our economy as being as bad as it was in 1980.

Governor Romney, neither is an accurate portrayal.  You are no Ronald Reagan, and this is nothing like 1980.

I've done a lot of research, so that I could say that I'd honestly considered your question, and I'll share what I've found.  But first, let me make one important point:  your question, sir, is not a fair question.  But then, you already know that, right?  If you wanted to ask a fair question, or suggest a fair review of President Obama's record, you would suggest people compare where they are today with how they were at the lowest point of this recent recession.  Four years ago, you see, we weren't yet fully engulfed in the recession...we were still sliding downward and hadn't hit bottom. The Republican leadership at the time had set the stage for what has since been called "the greatest recession in American history", and seemed completely incapable of cleaning up the mess they had created.  Just prior to leaving office, they passed a bill that required massive spending; the bailout's that it mandated would not affect then President Bush's record, but President Obama's.  It was, in effect, a preemptive strike against the winner of the recent 2008 election.

To honestly answer your question, Governor, I did a little research.  My facts are drawn from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and accurately reflect the past four years.  You may want to read them, if you ever get a chance.

Here, then, are the results of my research:


During 2008, as the recession began, our national unemployment rate rose over 68%, from 4.9% to 7.2%.  As the recession deepened, unemployment continued to rise until October of 2009, where it topped out at 10.2%.  This was just 8 months after President Obama took office.

Since that time, the actions of our current administration have brought unemployment rates down to the current 8.3%, or a reduction of over 20%.

Summary:  A little worse than exactly four years ago, but much better than the lowest point of the recession.

Income & Prices
                                                 2008                  10/2009*                     2012 (or latest reporting data)
Corporate Profits:              $1.2 Trillion               $1.4T                $1.9 Trillion
DJIA                                       13,044                    9,035                      13,089
Inflation                                    4.3%                     5.2%                        2.3%
Household Debt                       18.4%                   18.5%                      15.9%
Mortgage Rates                        5.76%                   5.06%                      3.91%
Median Home Price               $232,400              $208,600                 $235,700
Gas Prices                                 $3.16                    $1.74                        $3.73
Ex, Home Sales                     4.2 Million          3.8 Million               4.6 Million

*10/2009 is generally accepted as the lowest point of the recession

National Debt**                     2008                   10/2009*                    2012 (or latest reporting data)

Federal Discretionary Spending as percent of GDP:
                                                  7.9%                     8.9%                        8.5%
Fed. Mandatory Spending as percent of GDP:
                                                 11.1%                    15.0%                      14.4%
Annual Federal Deficit        $458 Billion          $1.41 Trillion             $1.33 Trillion

** It is important to note that the rises in all these numbers, as shown in the 10/2009 column, were brought about by legislation passed during the Bush administration, and, as law, could not be changed by the Obama administration. 

I could keep going, but I think I've adequately represented the results of my research.

So, in answer to your question, Governor Romney, as to whether I am "better off now than four years ago?", I can honestly say the following:

Yes.  Based on facts, I have found that President Obama's team has effectively dealt with the recession, and the Republican-mandated Federal spending of 2009.

Homes (on average) are worth more...
More homes are being sold...
Mortgage rates are lower...
Inflation is lower...
The Stock Market is higher...
Household Debt is lower...
Corporate Profits are higher...
Inflation is half of what it was...
The sky-rocketing rate of unemployment of 2008 has been controlled, and even brought down.


while all the Federal spending numbers are too high, President Obama has lowered them and is moving in the right direction.

So, yes, Governor Romney, I AM better off than I was four years ago, and I see NO REASON to change administrations.  But, hey...thanks for asking!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

We Have Become a Nation of Bullies

        We have become a nation of bullies. 
        Everyone has memories of at least one in their lives…those “playground” bullies of our youth…the kids from school that never seemed content, unless they were picking on the weaker and smaller kids at recess.  Much has been written about them in recent years, and how the fallout from their actions continues to haunt adults, many years after the physical torment has ended. 
        We’ve heard about it on Facebook…how parents actually help their children bully others, or, in some rare cases, actually do the bullying themselves…FOR THEIR CHILDREN!  A few cases have made the national news because they ended, sadly, in suicide by the victim.  Not only can we read about the incidents, we can actually watch them take place, if we choose to search YouTube.  For every story we hear about, there are surely hundreds or thousands that we don’t hear of.
        Bullies, in general, rarely “pick on someone their own size”.  They prefer to seek out the weak, the vulnerable, and those that won’t fight back.  There is no cause for which they fight, other than their own self-esteem.  Most often, experts tell us, bullies are themselves victims of similar attacks…usually at home, at the hands of siblings or abusive parents.  They’ve been made to feel small, weak, and stupid, and, therefore, set out to prove, if only to themselves, that such is not the case.  The tears of their victims serve as their intoxicant, and like alcoholics, their appetites continue to grow with each incident.
        There has been an outcry for something to be done…some sort of national referendum banning bullying…but it has little chance of succeeding.  Bullying has become the new national pastime, overtaking baseball, apple pie, and summer picnics.  We are a nation of children, who have been made to feel small, weak, and stupid, and so, we strike out at those who are weak, afraid, or unwilling to fight back.
        The traditional family has been on the decline for over 50 years, with divorce increasing, and the number of single-parent households almost equaling two-parent homes.  But, rather than confront the issue head-on, using the scientific method to root out the causes of this decline, Americans have chosen instead to blame a group that has absolutely nothing to do with the issue.  They looked around the playground, and saw a few gay and lesbian kids over on the swings, and they pounced.  Now all we read about is how gay marriage is destined to destroy traditional marriage, and how abhorrent and anti-Christian the whole idea is.  It always amazes me when I see coverage of a gay marriage protest, with pictures of people spouting Gospel to make their case, all the while acting in the least-Christian manners possible.   No one has yet explained that I know of, how gay and lesbian nuptials are actually destroying traditional marriage.  While I have seen and heard of a few people who chose to end their traditional marriages when they decided to acknowledge their real sexual preference, that number is miniscule compared to the overall number of divorces.  It’s not like people are racing to court to end their marriages so that they can “become gay”.
        The case is the same with illegal immigration; no one cared about illegal immigration, it seemed, until the economy went into the crapper.  For generations, we have accepted and tolerated illegal immigration as a vital necessity in our economy.  When jobs started drying up, though, everyone started blaming “them”.  People stand and shout about how illegals are stealing jobs from Americans, and how they’re going to bring down the country, all the while ignoring the real cause of our latest economic woes…those red-blooded, born-in-the-USA managers of financial companies.  People write to their congressmen about how we need to build fences around the country, to keep us safe and protect our jobs…when we already have fences built to surround those responsible.  They're called “prisons”, and for some reason, none of those responsible for this mess have yet to see the inside of one.   People cry out that illegals are taking their jobs, but, honestly, many of those that are here illegally are sought by employers because they will do jobs that Americans won’t do, without complaint, and be thankful for the opportunity. 
        The list goes on and on, and it’s not limited to our own borders.  When another country dares to stand up to ours, our common recourse, it seems, is to bully them into submission, usually with the help of a “gang” of our friends…i.e., the United Nations.
        Americans have fallen into this habit because they are scared, they feel they have no power whatsoever to change things, and they’re convinced they are stupid.  Just like in an abusive home, our country has been led for too long by those that used fear as their primary tool.  It is much easier to rule a people who have no belief in themselves than it is to rule a strong, proud nation.  While the ideal situation would be for Americans to suddenly understand that they are NOT powerless, that they CAN make a difference, and that they are far from stupid, my fear is that this has been going on for so long now that it is too deeply engrained in the national psyche.    
        Our only hope, I’m afraid, is for us all to be sent back to kindergarten, where we will once again be taught how to “play nice”.