Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day 2014

This year, 2014, is the 100th anniversary of the start of the war that culminated in an Armistice signed on November 11, 1918. Thus ended the "War to End All Wars" on the Western front. Why specify that it was only for the Western Front? A few years ago, I transcribed my best friend's grandfather's autobiography which included quite a bit about his Army experiences along the Mexican border in the years before WWI and his experiences in Europe during WWI. Here's a couple of sentences:

After the Armistice was signed, we couldn’t get transferred back to the 18th, no matter how hard we tried. We were given a choice of going in a military police outfit, prisoner-of-war escort company, or the expeditionary force to go to Russia to help the white Russians to fight the Bolshevicks at Vladivostock.
Yes, US troops "intervened" in the Russian Civil War/Revolution. Some things seem to never change.

Since the end of WWI, US troops have participated in numerous activities. I'm not able to quickly find much information about US military actions between WWI and WWII but this bio of Chesty Puller covers a few of the military actions between the wars. After WWII, we have Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Gulf War I/Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and Iraq War. Oh, and the "Cold War" from the 1950s into the 1990s. That's a lot of shooting and a lot of dead and wounded in the 96 years since the end of the War to End All Wars.

I am a Veteran. I served in the US Air Force from 10 December 1976 to 9 September 1982. There were no shooting conflicts during my time in the USAF, thankfully, although I was always reminded of how quickly that could change. Especially during the fifteen months I was stationed at Wurtsmith AFB, MI as a member of the 379th Bombardment Wing.

I have a lot of family members on both sides of the family who have served. US Army, US Air Force, US Navy, and US Marines. WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War I, and Iraq. I have friends who served as well, some of whom were injured in combat. For all the veterans around the country, there are probably as many reasons for serving as there are veterans. Economics, education, escape from problems or parents, patriotism, and so on. In many parts of the country, the military has been an accepted and respected means of upwards social mobility.

I know that I get uncomfortable when I am told "Thank you for your service." To be honest, I really don't need that thanks. If you want to thank me, make sure you keep the Veterans Administration fully funded. Make sure the VA hospitals are open, fully staffed with competent medical personnel, and quit making "wounded warriors." Quit using people up and throwing them on the street. Quit making things so that organizations such as Final Salute are necessary.

And because I can:

Friday, October 3, 2014

October Is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Although October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we have actually (I hope) gotten quite a bit more aware of domestic violence these past few months. We never know what action or incident is going to be a tipping point for an issue and cause it to dominate the news cycle. For domestic violence, apparently seeing Ray Rice carry his unconscious fiancée from an elevator in Atlantic City, then seeing the NFL's original, minimal punishment before the video from the elevator itself showing Rice knocking her out was leaked, became the catalyst for this issue.

I have written about this issue in previous years (2009, 2012 on Domestic Violence alone and in 2010 and 2013 I combined Domestic Violence with Breast Cancer Awareness.) As I have stated previously, I do not know why this issue is one I feel so strongly about but it is.

The web site DomesticViolenceStatistics.org offers some very sobering statistics:

Every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten.

Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. Most often, the abuser is a member of her own family.

Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.

Studies suggest that up to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually.

Nearly 1 in 5 teenage girls who have been in a relationship said a boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup.
These are just a few of the Domestic Violence statistics and SafeHorizons.org has some more sobering facts.

Most of the time when people talk about Domestic Violence, it is meant as adult on adult violence but the reality is, child abuse is also a form of domestic violence. Wiki offers definitions for Intimate Partner Violence, Domestic Violence, and Family Abuse (including child and elder abuse.)

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence offers some history:
Domestic Violence Awareness Month evolved from the first Day of Unity observed in October, 1981 by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The intent was to connect battered women’s advocates across the nation who were working to end violence against women and their children. The Day of Unity soon became a special week when a range of activities were conducted at the local, state, and national levels.
As I noted above, the NFL seems to have helped the awareness efforts these last few months, albeit I'm sure it was not intentional. While the Ray Rice case has garnered the most attention, USA today had this article yesterday covering their not-so-good history with domestic violence:
Since September 2006, law enforcement authorities have pursued 50 domestic violence cases against NFL players, including one for murder and at least five allegations of assaulting or choking pregnant women.

...snip...

Three trends emerged:

--A brief suspension: In at least 14 cases, the league or the team suspended or deactivated the players, mostly for just one game. Only one of those was suspended more than two games prior to the league's recent controversy involving then-Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was suspended indefinitely after video surfaced that showed he punched his now-wife in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino.

--No suspension: In 16 cases, the league did not suspend the player, often in accordance with how prosecutors viewed those cases. Seven of those cases resulted in legal charges being dropped, plus one acquittal. Six others entered diversion programs to avoid prosecution.

--Grandstand justice: In 15 cases, players were released or not re-signed by their teams soon after their arrest and then never played another NFL game. These players often had marginal talent, but teams could make a show of their release by appearing to have a zero-tolerance policy toward domestic violence
While the NFL has gotten the lion's share of publicity recently, the NBA and Major League Baseball are not immune from the problems. Sports Illustrated did this article about the NBA Domestic Violence policy a couple of days ago. It looks like Major League Baseball has started making some attempts at updating their policy as well, going from this article in July decrying their efforts to this from a couple of weeks ago on Joe Torre's efforts to formulate a new policy for MLB.

We do not know how many of our friends and family have been victims (or perpetrators) of domestic violence. A few years ago I might have claimed no or very limited knowledge of this amongst my family and friends yet now I know that I have both family and friends who have been victims of this. These last two or three years, I have been getting to know a number of my second cousins. We have not been close since my maternal grandparents were divorced when my mother was two years old. I have one cousin I will never be allowed to know as she was killed by her husband nearly forty years ago.

I have no solutions but I will do all that I may to highlight this issue. All I can say is "Do not hit spouses, parents, children."

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

May 2014 Jobs Reports: Good News, Bad News

According to this article this morning from CNNMoney, the official BLS Jobs Report for May, due this Friday morning, will show that the US economy will finally have recovered all the jobs lost in the Great Recession:

Set your sights on this number: 113,000.

That's how many jobs the U.S. economy needs to hit its break-even point, to finally recover all the jobs lost in the financial crisis.

Get ready, because we're about to get there this Friday.

That's when the U.S. Department of Labor will release its May jobs report, and the outlook is rosy. Economists surveyed by CNNMoney expect the U.S. economy added 200,000 jobs in May.
I guess that's the good news. But as the article also notes, it is a purely symbolic measure:
Breaking even is a key milestone, but was a long time coming. It took just two years to wipe out 8.7 million American jobs, but it took more than four years to recover them all, making this the longest jobs recovery on record since the Department of Labor started tracking the data in 1939.

Plus, the jobs that have returned are not necessarily the same ones we lost, nor are they in the same regions.
Here's the key - through all these four plus years of job growth to get back to where we were at the start of the Great Recession, we have been falling behind as it takes roughly 90,000 new jobs each month just to keep up with the new people entering the job market each month. If we take it back to the beginning of the Great Recession in December 2007, we are still in the hole on needed jobs by a bit over 7M (6.5 (years) x 12 (months per year) x 90K (jobs per month) = 7,020,000.)

The current month report from ADP continues the good news/bad news. The good news is 179K new jobs in the private sector (though fewer than "economists predicted.") The bad news (although painted as good news by Reuters):
U.S. companies hired far fewer workers than expected in May, but an acceleration in services sector growth supported views the economy was regaining strength after sagging early this year.

While other data on Wednesday showed the trade deficit hit its widest point in two years in April, a rise in imports to record highs underscored the economy's resilience.
Why is the increase in service sector jobs bad news? Because service sector jobs tend to be lower wage.

This blog post from the Washington Post's Wonkblog from 8/31/2012 covers this:
The United States lost about 8.1 million jobs after the recession began in late 2007. The economy has since recovered about 3.3 million of those jobs, starting in early 2010. That, in itself, should alarm policymakers. The labor market is still in a deep, deep hole.

But in some respects, the situation is even bleaker than that. The types of jobs that have come back so far don't seem to be paying as well as those that were lost.

A new report (pdf) from the National Employment Law Project finds that low-wage jobs, paying $13.83 per hour or less, have dominated the recovery to date. In many cases, they appear to be replacing higher-paying jobs that were lost in the first place.
That article was not the first time the Post had noticed the low wage aspect of the "recovery" as I noted in this blog post from April 2011.

The CNN article linked at the top of the page also showed a little "moving of the goalposts" in the world of economic and jobs reporting. Buried way down at the bottom of the page were these two paragraphs:
Back in 2006 and 2007, the unemployment rate hovered between 4% and 5%, but that work level was associated with an overheating housing market. Aiming for that rate may not be an achievable goal now, as baby boomers retire and some of the long-term unemployed may be permanently out of work.

Instead, economists surveyed by CNNMoney now define "full employment" in the economy as an unemployment rate at 5.5%. At that level, there's still normal turnover in the job market, which is considered healthy. The unemployment rate was 6.3% as of April, and economists expect it could take at least two years to get to 5.5%.
The official "unemployment rate" is already a fiction as it does not account for the long term underemployed, those who are "self-employed contractors" and the people who have given up looking for work. It does show how bad things are though that the economists feel the need to redefine "full employment" while recognizing that we are still a couple of years away from achieving even this revised figure.

As Bloomberg was reporting on the trade gap in April hitting the highest point in two years, Reuters was reporting that WalMart is once again trying to push "American Made." Not surprisingly, it is not going to happen easily:
When Walmart pledged last year to buy an extra $250 billion in U.S.-made goods over the next decade, it appeared to be just what was needed to help move America's putative manufacturing renaissance from rhetoric to reality.

But suppliers trying to reshore production as part of the initiative by the world's largest retailer are running into practical problems as they try to restart long-idled corners of U.S. manufacturing.

Companies that make the leap have to grapple with a host of challenges, including a shallow pool of component suppliers, an inexperienced workforce, and other shortcomings that developed during the country's long industrial decline.
It is not at all a surprise that there are these types of problems. As the article further notes:
Now, the retailer is asking companies to come back home - though they need little prompting. The forces pulling production back to the United States are powerful and real and include lower domestic energy prices, increasingly competitive wage rates, the benefits of greater automation, and a renewed appreciation for the value of being able to respond quickly to shifting U.S. customer demands.
My bold. "Increasingly competitive wage rates" = squeeze salaries down to as close to minimum wage as possible.

CNNMoney headline that 6 in 10 Say American Dream Is Unreachable is not a surprise at all.

And because I can:

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day and the VA

Today is Memorial Day 2014. It's been a few years since I last posted on Memorial Day. As I noted then, this holiday was originally known as Decoration Day though the name gradually changed over the years and in 1968 the date was changed from the traditional date of May 30 to the last Monday in May.

The US Department of Veteran's Affairs ("the VA") has been in the news quite a bit recently and not for good reasons. I hope to write something on this soon but am still trying to formulate my thoughts.

But there is a strong link between the VA and Memorial Day. Memorial Day is a day to honor and remember the dead of war. Many of these dead are buried in our National Cemeteries. According to wiki, the VA maintains 131 of the 147 National Cemeteries with the US Army maintaining Arlington National Cemetery and the US Soldiers' and Airmen's Home National Cemetery. The National Park Service maintains fourteen cemeteries "...associated with historic sites and battlefields." The American Battle Monuments Commission maintains twenty-four military cemeteries overseas.

The VA has three primary missions; Veterans Health Administration (the VA Medical Centers in the news are part of this), Veteran's Benefits Administration (including education benefits, i.e., the "GI Bill," and home loans among other areas), and the National Cemeteries.

Eligibility for burial in a National Cemetery is fairly straightforward for the actual veteran:

(1) Any member of the Armed Forces of the United States who dies on active duty.

(2) Any Veteran who was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. With certain exceptions, service beginning after September 7, 1980, as an enlisted person, and service after October 16, 1981, as an officer, must be for a minimum of 24 continuous months or the full period for which the person was called to active duty (as in the case of a Reservist called to active duty for a limited duration). Undesirable, bad conduct, and any other type of discharge other than honorable may or may not qualify the individual for Veterans benefits, depending upon a determination made by a VA Regional Office. Cases presenting multiple discharges of varying character are also referred for adjudication to a VA Regional Office.

(3) Any citizen of the United States who, during any war in which the United States has or may be engaged, served in the Armed Forces of any Government allied with the United States during that war, whose last active service was terminated honorably by death or otherwise, and who was a citizen of the United States at the time of entry into such service and at the time of death.
Depending on the circumstances others eligible for National Cemeteries include members of the Reserves, Commissioned Officers of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Public Health Service, World War II Merchant Mariners, The Philippine Armed Forces, and some Spouses, dependents, Parents, and selected others.

Not all of the 131 National Cemeteries are "Open," i.e., available for new burials or cremations. This page allows you to see what cemeteries are in your state as well as whether the cemetery is "Open" or closed to new internments. On this Memorial Day - or any day for that matter - visiting a National Cemetery is a sobering experience. Unfortunately, there are far too many new internments in these past dozen years from active duty deaths.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My Thoughts On Essay Anne Vanderbilt

I am hesitant to write about Essay Anne Vanderbilt but I have been bothered by some of the responses I have seen, even from writers that I have a great deal of respect for. Be forewarned that this post is going to cover some uncomfortable topics. I would like to ask forgiveness in advance if I say something or phrase something inappropriately.

Friday evening, I was scrolling down my timeline on Twitter and started noticing tweets that did not make much sense to me. After following a few links, I finally figured things out. ESPN's Grantland had published an article a couple of days earlier titled Dr V's Magic Putter. I have no recollection of seeing this article when it was first published but that doesn't mean anything. I am not a golfer, pretty much have zero interest in golf equipment of any sort and would have passed by this article. However, when I started seeing the tweets, many of them with the hashtag #JusticeForDrV I read the article.

The best I can say is that I was horrified.

The article starts as a story about how the author had been watching a show and seen about a supposed wonderful new putter that was developed on 'scientific principles' that were flipping a lot of golfing conventional wisdom on it head. Then about halfway through, the article morphs from a story about a putter and how it was developed into an investigation of a "con" that includes the outing of a woman (the inventor) as transgender. The author, while investigating the credentials, ultimately outs the inventor to one of her investors! At this point, it was difficult to control my outrage. Then I read how Essay Anne Vanderbilt committed suicide after back-and-forth emails with Hannan after he had already outed her to an investor in her company.

It was tweets from sportswriter Dave Zirin that first got my attention and it was through other of his tweets that I read this article from Cyd Ziegler of Outsports.com titled How ESPN and Grantland desperately failed the trans community. Think Progress had this piece titled 10 Questions Bill Simmons And ESPN Should Answer About ‘Dr. V’s Magical Putter’ by Alyssa Rosenberg.

By Sunday night, ESPN issued a statement to Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch:

ESPN has offered a statement on Grantland's Dr. V story:

"We understand and appreciate the wide range of thoughtful reaction this story has generated and to the family and friends of Essay Anne Vanderbilt, we express our deepest condolences. We will use the constructive feedback to continue our ongoing dialogue on these important and sensitive topics. Ours is a company that values the LGBT community internally and in our storytelling, and we will all learn from this."
Monday afternoon, Grantland posted a piece from Christina Karhl, herself a transgender employee of Grantland:
We’re here because Essay Anne Vanderbilt is dead.

And she’s dead because — however loath she was to admit it — she was a member of a community for whom tragedy and loss are as regular as the sunrise, a minority for whom suicide attempts outpace the national average almost 26 times over, perhaps as high as 41 percent of all trans people. And because one of her responses to the fear of being outed as a transsexual woman to some of the people in her life — when it wasn’t even clear the story was ever going to run — was to immediately start talking and thinking about attempting suicide. Again.
Deadspin had this post last night from Tim Marchman titled How Grantland Screwed Up The Story Of Essay Anne Vanderbilt, Inventor:
The second is that Hannan crossed an ethical and moral line when he outed Vanderbilt to an investor in Yar Golf. There was no compelling reason to do so; it took the choice of whether or not to disclose her status away from Vanderbilt—a choice that is, barring fairly extreme exigencies, solely to be made by the person it most affects. As Christina Kahrl put it in her review of the piece that ran on Grantland, "revealing her gender identity was ultimately as dangerous as it was thoughtless."
My bold

Last night, Bill Simmons, the editor of Grantland posted a "Letter from the Editor." The thing that bothers me most is here:
To be clear, Caleb only interacted with her a handful of times. He never, at any time, threatened to out her on Grantland.

...snip...

Caleb’s biggest mistake? Outing Dr. V to one of her investors while she was still alive. I don’t think he understood the moral consequences of that decision, and frankly, neither did anyone working for Grantland.
There it is. At this point, it really doesn't matter that Hannan never "threatened to out her on Grantland." He had already outed her to an investor. Why would or could she believe he was not intending to do the same thing to the world?

Alyssa Rosenberg/Think Progress had a follow-up last night titled The 4 Most Important Points In Bill Simmons’ Apology For Publishing A Piece Outing A Trans Woman. For me, the outing of Essay Anne Vanderbilt is far and away the most egregious mistake in this whole mess. Reading Simmons' note and others, I get a sense of "Hannan made a mistake, but..." on something that should have no "...but...". Hannan made a grievous mistake, period. Everything that falls off after the outing - from the back-and-forth emails, the writing and editing of the piece, the suicide of Essay Anna Vanderbilt, the concentration on Vanderbilt's being transgender, the publication of an article that most likely would not have been published without the suicide - all go back to that bright line being crossed where he outed her in the first place.

There is no apology, there are no explanations, there are no mitigating circumstances that can erase that hard fact.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

NY Times Editorial Board Offers Their Very Serious People Bonafides

I took a bit of a roundabout path to reading this Op-Ed from the New York Times Editorial Board. I am still seething after having first read it a couple of hours ago. It seems whichever member of the Editorial Board that authored this, thinks the military members are not "sacrificing" enough so pay and benefits need to be "on the table." As I looked through the short bios of the various members of the Editorial Board, it is fairly obvious that few if any of them have actually had much experience of military life beyond the obligatory "I support the Troops" or "Thank you for your service" they may have uttered in an airport somewhere.

From the editorial:

Big-ticket weapons like aircraft carriers and the F-35 fighter jet have to be part of any conversation about cutting Pentagon spending to satisfy the mandatory budget reductions known as the sequester. But compensation for military personnel has to be on the table, too — even though no other defense issue is more politically volatile or emotionally fraught.

After a decade of war, the very idea of cutting benefits to soldiers, sailors and Marines who put their lives on the line seems ungrateful. But America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is over or winding down, and the Pentagon is obliged to find nearly $1 trillion in savings over 10 years. Tough choices will be required in all parts of the budget. Compensation includes pay, retirement benefits, health care and housing allowances. It consumes about half the military budget, and it is increasing.
Pete Peterson would be so proud and I'm sure the Beltway Village Idiots Politicians, Pundits, and Courtiers in Washington are chagrined that they couldn't get Very Serious People credit for proposing this first.

Proposals like this are in my mind, another facet of the austerity movement seeking to cut back the social safety net for Veterans and the working poor. The people making these proposals see statistics, they do not see human beings. Please let me assure you, all those military members are first and foremost humans. They are sons and brothers, daughters and mothers. As I wrote on Veterans Day 2012, there are almost as many reasons for people serving as there are people serving.

If they really do see a need for cuts to the Pentagon bloat, there are a whole host of areas that should be "on the table" before member pay and benefits is on the horizon. The F35 Joint Strike Force fighter is a good start with its cost per plane doubling from $81M to $162M. There are currently ten Nimitz class nuclear powered aircraft carriers with an operational life of 50 years. The first (USS Nimitz) went online in 1975 so is still within its original operational window for a dozen more years. The tenth (USS George H.W. Bush) was commissioned in 2009. Planned de-commissioning costs for the Nimitz-class carriers is $750M - $900M (versus roughly $53M to de-commission a conventional non-nuclear carrier.

Then we have the next generation of super-carriers, the Ford class with three scheduled for construction and commissioning in 2016, 2020, and 2025. The current projected cost is $9B for construction of the first of these (USS Gerald R. Ford) on top of $5B for original R&D and Engineering.

I don't know but I just have to think we really do not need a new floating nuclear powered city rolling off the construction gangways every five years from now until 2060.

Since the Op-Ed specified concerns about the costs of health care for military, I googled "military health care costs on the rise." I admit I am skeptical when the first item shown is from "Third-Way," our old "friends" pushing the Grand Bargain to cut Social Security. But let's give them a mild benefit of the doubt. Wouldn't it be an across the board savings and cost benefit to institute a Medicare for All/Single Payer health care system? After all, a major component of the costs of Health Care is actually the cost of Health Insurance, not treatment costs in and of themselves.

I will make one proposal that will definitely save a fair amount of money in salary and benefits across the board. As I wrote here back in 2010, it would be beneficial on a myriad of levels to cut back on the numbers of Flag Officers and associated staff. That is the ultimate definition of a "win-win" for all concerned.

And because I can:

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Season of Shopping

Well, here we are, the Saturday after Thanksgiving and the shopping season is upon us. Of course, some stores have had Christmas decorations up since before Halloween. Remember when the shopping and calendar years had distinct seasons? I do understand the desire of retail stores to push the envelope since for oh so many retail stores, the Christmas sales are the difference between an annual profit and loss for the year. While the term "Black Friday" did not originally have this definition, the idea that the Friday after Thanksgiving is the day where a business passes from the red (loss) into the black (profit) has gained some credence.

I started working in a men's clothing store (M. Goldberg, Inc) as a sales clerk/stock clerk/janitor when I was thirteen years old until I was twenty. During most of the year, we opened at 8AM Monday through Saturday, closing at 5:30 M - F and at 6PM on Saturday. After Thanksgiving though, we were open until 8PM, all six nights a week until Christmas Eve when we would close at 5PM. Even as I attended military high school and college, any weekends or holidays I was home and most summers, I would be put to work. We didn't have or need special sales to get people to come into the store. The big sale was always post-Christmas with the "January Clearance." We also had a "July Clearance," conveniently enough after Father's Day. Most years, the day or two before Father's Day in June, we would have daily revenues comparable to the days in the week before Christmas.

During the years I worked at the store, my small hometown of about 5500 people (with surrounding county total population of about 15,000 or 16,000 people) could and did support two fine men's stores (Gordon and Smith was the other men's store), four or so fine ladies shoppes, two or three jewelry stores, two locally owned hardware stores, two "five and ten cent stores," a Dollar store, a sporting goods store, a couple of department stores, a couple of furniture stores, and a Sears & Roebuck catalog store. In multiple cases these competitors would be side-by-side, directly across the street from each other or on opposite street corners. Although Cincinnati was 60 miles north and Lexington was 35 miles south, few people would drive to those cities as it was seemingly a l-o-n-g trek to do so. They pretty much shopped locally or not at all. The reality is, most people could park their car somewhere downtown and do a days shopping and not walk as much as they do today when they go to a mall.

I've always felt that those days could have served as a Master's class in micro-economics. Each of these businesses had been in town for decades. Each of them carried good, name brands. The men's store I worked for started from a bit of a disadvantage as we did not carry boy's clothing at all (which kind of made it difficult for me when I started working there as I was not quite large enough to fit small men's sizes so my options in purchasing good clothing were initially limited.) In those days, there was parking on both sides of most streets plus the traffic flowed in both directions and the downtown area was vibrant with cars and people on the street. I do not know how the other businesses operated but we had a section in one back corner of the store where all the lay-aways were kept for the people who wanted to hold something and pay for it as they went along. We also had two thick "credit books" (A - L, M - Z) with each book being 3 to 4 inches thick. I was "trustworthy" so would charge most of my clothing and that's where most of my earnings went - to pay the clothing bill.

The day after Christmas (and the Monday after Father's Day) usually had quite a bit of traffic in and out of the store but maybe not so much in the way of sales as those were big exchange days. Wrong size, wrong color, damaged, etc. When we were doing exchanges, we always tried to find the identical item in the correct size as that made it so much easier all the way around. Then we would close the store for a couple of days to get ready for the big sale, with all the mark downs on that season's men's fashion (even though most of the styles did not change in men's clothing that much).

As a kid, we always were looking forward to receiving that year's Sears & Roebuck Christmas catalog (also known as the "wish book.") I remember looking through that catalog every year. First time through it was always, "I want that and I want that and I want that..." on and on with all the toys I wanted. Sometimes it might even be a toy that had been "as seen on TV!" A couple of years, I even received some of the things I had wanted from the catalog!

Now of course, it seems that every child's television show has the marketing tie-ins for just about any product you can imagine. So Toys R Us opens on Thanksgiving with special deals already gone hours after the stores open.

I'm thinking progress has been a bit like a regression in some ways.

And because I can: