Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lies, lying and liars

 
 


 
"A very common line from the past forty years is 'What did the President know, and when did he know it?'"
 


I have been fascinated by lies, lying and liars for quite a while. We all do it - story embellishments, "white" lies, and yes, even deceit. Lying has been around since the Garden of Eden. It is one of the oldest sins. Most of us know it is wrong, yet today, it still goes on, and goes on with vigor.
 
Watching the news shows last night, the decades old question came up over and over again. "What did the President know, and when did he know it?" The conclusion that most pundits came up with was two fold: 1) He (POTUS) is SO out of touch (President Bystander), that he just did not know or 2) He was at variance with the truth.
 
What kind of dribble is that? Variance with the truth? When I got caught lying to my parents as a young boy, the question was, "DID YOU LIE TO ME?!?! It was a direct question demanding a direct answer. Right now, every one is afraid to use the word "lie". Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) was asked last night if the Secretary of HHS lied to her during the hearing. Ms. Blackburn used every synonym in the book for liar. She could not force herself to use the word, even though the evidence is very strong that both the Secretary and President have lied, and lied frequently about the ACA.

So why do people lie? I believe many people lie because they don't believe they are lying anymore. They have become "accomplished liars" (a term some used for Bill Clinton). They have "drunk their own bathwater" for so long, the line between fantasy and truth goes from firm, to blurry, to gone. They have become like Walter Middy in their everyday lives. My belief is the desire to get this unpopular and controversial health care law passed was so strong by so many zealots, ANYTHING and EVERYTHING was "in bounds" in order to sell it.

However, here is the rub about lying. As we all know (as most all have told a lie at least once), keeping a lie valid takes a whole lot of work. In fact, to keep a lie alive, it often involves telling supporting lies which surround it. If for some reason the main lie and the supporting lies drift out of alignment, the whole story collapses like a house of cards. Ladies and gentlemen, that is exactly what I see happening today in Washington. The "great lie" about the ACA is becoming exposed, and quickly.

So what do we do with liars, especially those who we elect to serve us? We tried to impeach Bill Clinton. His loyalists in the Senate failed to throw him out of office. His supporters began to support his lies. "It depends on what the meaning of is, is", or "Oral sex in not really sex."
However, the best I heard during the Clinton era was "Oh, all men lie. It is okay, because he has done so much for women." I expect the similar defense to soon be hoisted for President Obama. "Sure he lied, but he NEEDED to in order to get this most important bill signed into law."

Mark Twain would often say there are "Lies, damned lies, and statistics". Today, I think we can replace that with there are "Lies, damned lies, and politics."


 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Bitter Couple

 
 


"A house divided against itself cannot stand"

Abe Lincoln
1858



I remember reading a story a few years ago about a married couple who had drifted apart. Okay, that is not really true. They hated each other. Their relationship had gone from like to love, to indifference, to animosity. They were two people, living separate lives under the same roof. They thought that staying together would have been good for the kids - it was not. The sparks that would fly between them was uncomfortable for anyone to watch, especially the kids.

For people living outside our country, we must be a spectacle to behold. If we do like each other, we do an excellent job of hiding it. The land of debate, discussion and eventual consensus has turned into a real life "War of the Roses". It has gotten very bad - so bad, it is embarrassing. Every Sunday many of us go to church and learn the teachings of grace, mercy and peace. On Monday, it is back to business as usual. We castigate, decimate and discriminate against anyone who might disagree with us.

Every year someone from "leadership" steps forward and declares they have never seen things this bad. They say our national discourse is terrible. Every year when we don't think it could get worse, it does. It has been a long time since one thing, one single thing could be discussed with agreement or consensus. To quote something I recently heard, our country is in need of "Dr. Phil, Dr. Ruth, Dr. Oz and maybe even Dr. Seuss".

I have friends who are not as conservative as I am. I am fine with that. I have said many times that I love the politically diverse fabric of our country. I love getting in a GOOD, non-emotional discussion with people of good heart that have opposing viewpoints. I don't yell, swear, or hang up. If someone has a good point, I will tell them - I expect the same in return. As the saying goes, we can disagree without being disagreeable.

That being said, recently our pastor has said that "forgiveness and justice are not opposites". In other words, if someone robbed our bank, we could forgive that person, but there would still be jail time. If a bank president embezzled, we could forgive that person, but that person could never work in a bank again. If some government employees really screwed up the launch of the ACA portal, we can forgive them at the same time telling them to look for another job. We all should be able to agree on this.

I started this posting yesterday. By coincidence there was an article in this morning's paper about how this country started to split ideologically - how we entered the Viet Nam war fifty years ago. It cemented positions - hardened hearts - made many of us tone deaf. We stopped loving, liking and tolerating each other. Now every thing, every issue has turned into "Ying and Yang".

A famous Beatles song has the lyrics:

You say yes, I say no
You say stop and I say go, go, go
Oh, no
You say goodbye and I say hello


Rather than emulate the contrary nature of this song, I would prefer to live in a country that has the motto, "It is he (or she) and me, not he (or she) or me." In other words, we need to relearn how to talk to each other, and not around, through or over each other. We are in this together - there are no good guys or bad guys. We are us - we are Americans. Just because we have lost our way relationally does not mean we are not all stakeholders. We can continue to live together in hate as a bitter couple, or we can forgive each other (with justice if necessary). We can love each other as we have been taught how to love. Most of all, we can be respectful to each other over our differences.
 
If we can't do this, if it is too hard, if we no longer have the will, we should shutter up our places of worship and just sleep in on the weekends. We can then start laying the plans for the secession of certain states, as well as the exodus of parts of our population. In other words, we can prepare for divorce. As I have seen in my lifetime, no matter now well planned or intended, divorce seldom turns out well for everyone.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Steak Fry

 
 


"Not to brag, but my steaks are some of the best meat you will ever put in your mouth..." 

 

Not too long ago, I was able to purchase some of the finest steaks that have ever been sold. They were aged perfectly, cut correctly and sized to fit my grill. I also was able to find the perfect seasoning and oil. These steaks were the ones that not only would melt in your mouth, but also would set the bar much higher for better adventures in eating.

Because these steaks were so special, I invited some of my closest friends over to help me savor them once they were cooked to perfection. I made sure that I had enough steaks on hand to feed everyone (and there were many) that I had invited.

Come the day of the steak fry, the weather was absolutely perfect. The sky was azure blue, and the temperature was in the low 70's. The grill was cleaned and the coals were dry. I had the steaks soaking in olive oil and sprinkled with my “magic rub”. In other words, I was ready.

One person showed up. I had enough steaks to feed many, but only one person showed up to take part in this meal. How could anyone pass this up? In my opinion, this was the meal of a lifetime! People were suppose to come to be fed, and fed to their fill.

This is the way I feel when many of our churches offer “spiritual food” that is the best of the best, and very few people show up to partake in it. One of the real saints that helped prepare food in a church we once attended told me “I like to have my menu and count down pat, because I can’t stand wasting food”. I could not agree more. We should hate wasting spiritual food offered to us as well as physical food.

The next time you run into one of the “cooks” that prepare spiritual food, please thank them. Even better than thanking them, show up for the meal the next time one of life transforming menu items is offered. You will be blessed beyond measure.

The Month the Wheels Came Off...

 
 

 
"I really don't know that is wrong with this thing - it feels worse than just a flat tire..."


Presidential historians will tell you this happens to most Administrations. Usually during a second term. However, my belief is the history books will show October of 2013 as one "dozzie of a month" for Barack Hussein Obama.

Lets take a look back at this month, shall we?
  • ACA Website - The only bad thing about the short term government shut down was it took two weeks off the spotlight from this train wreck. Most people who have only a molecule of IT experience have never seen anything like this. Years to prepare, no beta testing, and hundreds of millions spent on .... nothing. The President has called for an IT "surge" to get this mess up and running before the end of November. Stand by for more sticker shock on this lemon.
  • ACA Costs - "The price of your insurance will come down under my health program." Au contraire El Presidente! (a little French and Spanish added). We are now being told that some plans are going up either because you are being "gouged" by your insurance company, or "you are going to benefit by getting more for more". What if you don't want more? Tough toenails - all policies have to be up to "ACA standards". I guess government "pro-choice" only applies to ....(never mind).
  • ACA Plans - "If you like your insurance plan, you can keep it." Oh-oh. Another whopper told by our Campaigner-In-Chief. It seems there was some fine print, an asterisk so to speak, in that promise. If you have a policy though an employer, it will probably not change. However, for those poor slobs who are self insured - they are receiving "Dear John" letters from their current provider. Oh well - it seems that Hawaii was not like the brochure after all.
  • NSA Snooping - "Plausible Deniability"...or something like that. Or it is like Sgt. Shultz on Hogan's Heroes saying, "I know nothing!" Or it is just a another damn lie. The apologists are already out this morning saying the usual - "Well G.W. Bush did it too!". Maybe he did, maybe he did not. We must remember Mr. Obama ran on the "anti-Bush" platform. You remember - "Bush and Cheney have shredded the Constitution, so now we are hated by everyone in the world." Whether the President knew about this and lied, or did not know about it and is just incompetent, going forward our reset button will need a reset button.
  • Benghazi - All I have to say about Sunday night's expose on 60 Minutes is this - IT IS ABOUT "BLEEPING" TIME SOMEONE IN THE PRESS STARTED DOING THEIR JOB AND REPORTING THE TRUTH!!  If you did not see it, even if you hate CBS or 60 Minutes for what they have done to journalism in the past, I encourage you to go online and see this one piece. The Administration is dirty, dirty, dirty on this one and innocent people died for nothing. Heads should roll, and roll now. David Axelrod said this was an "imaginary scandal" - it does not seem so imaginary right now.
Well there it is - the month that was. By the way - we still have a couple days left in the month in case I need to add to this posting. As the farmers say, when it rains, it pours.

Monday, October 28, 2013

My Friend Alice...

 
 



 
"I was blessed to know her - blessed to grow up with her - blessed to reconnect with her later in life"



I knew her since the earliest primary grades. Oh, she was not my favorite for sure. I told her that in the past few years. I always referred to her as the "curve wrecker". She was always wicked smart in grade school. Made the rest of us look less than ordinary. But I still always liked her. There was just something about Alice that was very likable.

She was in many of my classes in primary school. She was in my confirmation group at church. She was with us until the high schools split. She ended up going to the "other" high school, but still kept in very close contact with her class mates. She came to most every high school reunion, even though she did not graduate from our high school. She was still one of us. Many of us knew her and liked her. We remembered her.

Alice continued her high grades through high school and went on to college. After college, she taught music at a very prestigious college just south of town. She loved her job. She still came to our reunions and enjoyed meeting the people she grew up with. There was nothing snobby or aristocratic about Alice - she never changed from primary school.

She and I sat with each other at our class 60th birthday get together as well as our 45th reunion. We really did enjoy each other's company. Last year at our 45th, I teased Alice about still being in the work force. I told her to retire so she could be like the sloth I turned out to be. She just laughed and told me she loved her job, she loved her students, and maybe when she was 65, she might retire. We agreed to have the same discussion at our 50th reunion, as it seemed like every reunion, Alice and I sat together for a while.

That will never happen. Alice died on October 11th of this year. I don't know how, I don't know why. All I know is this - I grew up with Alice and we became adults together. We were always friends. We never talked politics - it really did not matter. All I know is this about Alice - she was nice and she was my friend. We would talk about a great many things, mostly growing up together. That is all that mattered. What united us so outweighed what possibly could have divided us. She is gone way too early, and I will miss her.

Oh, whatever....

 
 


"The difference between ignorance and apathy? I don't know, and I don't care!"



One of my favorite TV commenters had an excellent talking point this past week. It covered the state of our electorate. One of the things he said which really resonated with me is many of the younger folks (millennial types) are just plain apathetic. Some are "low information", but others just don't give a hoot about much.

Part of me thinks I don't really blame them for tuning out. After all, it is my generation that really screwed things up. You know - the "flower children" who never grew up? The "you do your thing and I will do my thing" group. The live for today, and let tomorrow bring what tomorrow will bring. The sixties mentality of hedonism, nihilism, self gratification and selfishness which has stained our society and stunted our growth.

The other part of me want to take these young folks by the shoulders and shake them - and shake them hard. WAKE UP! This is becoming your country - you need to live here, you will own it. You need to help us un-screw it, so the generation following you has HOPE once again. I can't go back in time and fix things that my generation screwed up. Lord, I wish I could. I will pledge to you this much - there are some of us that are not "kool aid" drinkers that want to help you fix this place. But to do so, we all need to pay attention and most of all, care.

When I was first out of business school, I car pooled with my boss and another man (we lived over 30 miles from where we worked). One day, my boss came up to me and asked if I minded another rider. It was a Episcopalian Priest who was on a sabbatical from his church and was doing some tech writing for the company. I whole heartedly agreed. The priest (Ted) joined our car pool as a rider (as he did not drive).

I was amazed on how smart and engaged Ted was. Without sounding arrogant or like a "know-it-all", Ted was very well versed on most all topics we discussed. One day when Ted was not riding with us, I mentioned to my boss how impressed I was with Ted's understanding of world issues and problems. My boss replied, "That is what happens when you read and stay engaged." My boss was right - Ted was a voracious reader and had a mind like a sponge.

To the next generation, let me say this. Try and be like a "Ted". Don't vote for someone just because they are cool or trendy. Many millennial types voted for the President's re-election just for that reason. Vote for people who have real solutions to real problems. Be concerned about the national debt and how we can fix it. Failure to address it will result in a nebulous or bleak future for you and generations to come. Don't accept the "new normal" on employment as unfixable. It can be fixed. We can be great once again. But it will take guts, innovation, and (yes) change. Change that makes sense, not just a campaign slogan.

Lets wake up, stay informed and get to work. You can blame my generation from now until the cows come home. You would be justified in doing so. However, that is not going to fix the problems. Your two biggest enemies right now are ignorance and apathy - don't them win the day.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Ward of the State....

 
 
 


"How in the world did I get to this point in my life?"



So you are now able to collect Social Security. Congratulations - you are now a Ward of the State. "What in the world are you talking about", one might think. Simply this - all that talk, all that sophism, concerning a "Lock Box" which contains our Social Security holdings was just a bunch of hooey.

How in the world did it get to be like this? Why did our government lie to us for decades about this "Lock Box" that never existed? The truth is simple and painful. The government could not tell you the truth because it would have infuriated too many people. They needed to perpetuate the lie. We, the American people, would not have been able to handle knowing that our "cornerstone" retirement program was nothing more than a Ponzi Scheme. Always has been, always will be - unless we change it.

My retirement has two main sources of income right now - Social Security and Navy retirement. The aggregate of the two is not much, but it is enough for me to live on. The scary thing is neither of these "funds" are funded. Simple as that. The "Lock Box" for both of these funds looks like Mother Hubbard's Cupboard. At any time our benevolent government could send me a letter and say "Sorry - due a shut down, a default, or what ever, you will not be receiving a check this month." Yes, I am at their mercy. You see, I too have become a Ward of the State.

It is not that I did not plan - I did. However, unlike my parents generation, today working for the same company for 40 years is more uncommon rather than common. I ended up working for four different large companies in my career. Because defined benefit retirement plans are not "portable", all I had to take with me in my transitions were my 401K plans. However, due to terrorism attacks, dot com busts, the "Great Recession", and so on, my plans (along with many others) took a bit of a beating. Again, where I am now puts me square in the middle of being a 64 year old Ward of the State.

So long as our government stays solvent, so will I. I will continue to survive from month to month, hopefully year to year. If for some reason our government does not stay solvent, you might see me by the side of the road, cup in hand, holding a sign saying "Hungry - will blog for food".


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Evil Hovers

 
 

 

"It has been said the most evil thing Satan has done to mankind is convincing us he does not exist"


I have read a fascinating book entitled Exodus. This book is about the exodus of bible believing Christians from churches that do not profess the same. In one of the early chapters, Satan is addressed. The topic is talked about because so many Christians today refuse to believe in Satan or the evil he brings.

A while ago I got together for coffee with four other men to discuss Men’s Ministry. The five men present had experiences from four separate churches. All had stories to tell about how Satan had attacked their churches in a unique, yet equally devastating way. It was a sobering discussion. One man stated that the more successful a ministry becomes, the harder Satan comes after the church to make the ministry fail. He was right - I have seen that happen more than once. 

The next evening, one of the men called to discuss the meeting. He had been thinking about it most of the day. He was able to put into a few words what I too, was wrestling with since the meeting. He said “Satan hovers over churches, doesn’t he?” Bingo – that is the problem that so many churches fail to address. Ignoring the evil or pretending that Satan does not exist will not stop the evil; it will just leave you unprotected and vulnerable. Satan knows this and is counting on it.

The good news that we have learned from our teachings is how to be protected – totally. Ephesians 6; verses 10-18, describes the protection, the armor that we need. However, to receive it, we must live it.  We must pray daily for our church, our pastors, our staff, our lay leaders. The Word tells us that when we pray in Jesus name, Satan flees. We must pray individually, pray together, pray continuously.

Satan may hover over churches, but it is the Holy Spirit that will brood over churches that prayerfully call upon Him for mercy and protection. We need to stay strong, stay united, stay in the Word. We need to stay in prayer. These are trying times. We need prayer, our country needs prayer, our churches need prayer, and we need it now. 

Hand Eye Coordination

 
 


"Relax - I know it looks like nothing is getting done, but I am really multi-tasking...."



Can you rub your belly and tap the top of your head at the same time? Can you walk and chew gum at the same time? Do you have good hand eye coordination? If the answer to any of these was "yes", please submit your resume to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in our nation's capital.

This past week former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. ( a stanch Democrat), was on a news show speaking government blasphemy. Yes, I will say it again - blasphemy. He had the audacity to say the President had no business even muttering a word about immigration reform or amnesty considering the mess we have right now in Washington. In fact, I will paraphrase what he said - "The President needs to be focused on getting a meaningful budget deal done before early February, or we will be in the same mess in March. If he as a sliver of time left after doing that, he needs to be focused like a laser beam of getting the kinks out of Obamacare."

When asked by the moderator if Congressman Ford thought the President could walk and chew gum at the same time, he responded by saying, "Not with these huge issues".

This morning in the paper, the news is already starting to leak out that the "grand bargain" being worked on by Paul Ryan and Patty Murray will end up looking more like a trading stamp. They might be able to mitigate some of the effects of the sequester, but that will be it. That is like saying you went to your heart surgeon for a life saving heart procedure, and all he could do was take care of an ingrown toenail.

I will repeat for the umpteenth time, NOBODY in Washington has the guts or the ingenuity to fix our debt problem. We continue to elect the wrong people to represent us. The President is scared to death of this issue. He would like it to go dormant until his term is up and then let the next guy (or gal) take care of it. By that time, our national debt will be close to $20T, with our funding gap being over $100T.

Since everyone in Washington and the media is still madder than hell at the Tea Party, let me close this article with a few words for their defense. This debt thing was the main thing for the Tea Party. They could see the problem clearly and what is doing to our country. They are plain, ordinary patriots, not tainted by Washington cronyism nor too much kool aid. The Tea Party continues to try to get people elected that will keep the main thing, the main thing. They don't give a tinker's damn about phonies who say they can walk and chew gum at the same time. Most of them have shown they can do neither. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Men - never stop being the hero...

 
 
 


"Being a hero does not mean you have to leap tall buildings..."




One of the joys I have had in being a son, a husband and a father is to on occasion, being a hero. Oh, being a hero has not been that tough - it does not involve super human feats. It is just doing the right things for the right reasons for the people in my life who mean the most. However, I do have a confession to make. As much as I have tried - as much as I have tried to open my heart, I cannot understand domestic violence.

I don't think I am alone on this island. Most men that I have known would find domestic violence antithetical to the way their DNA is constructed. I have a wonderful wife and two beautiful daughters. I would stick my arm in battery acid before I would raise my fist to harm any of them at any time. Period.

I know my feelings on this matter come out of ignorance of the underlying issue of abuse. I also know there are many kinds of abuse ranging from physical to emotional. I understand all of that. What I DO NOT understand is why a man would trade his status in the family from hero to villain.

I have counseled young men in the past. About being a hero. How to protect,  praise and edify the women in your life. To me, the single best feeling I can have is when my family looks upon me as a hero. Being a hero does not mean you always have to do super human heroic things. Being a hero often means just being there for the ones you love. Support. Love. Honor.

Being a hero does not have to stop at your front door. You can be a hero at work, in the neighborhood, at church, or where ever. When I was a young lad attending YMCA camp, the meaning of the YMCA triangle was explained in two ways. First, it represented body, mind and spirit. It also represented how your life should be prioritized - God first, others second, self third. I would submit that men who constantly put their life in that priority are often looked upon by others as a hero.

I will continue to open my heart to the understanding of domestic abuse. This is something I need to do to continue to grow in my faith. However, I will say this to any man who even has had the smallest inclination to harm a loved one - seek help immediately. Pray. Talk to a good friend.

Men - stay the hero - don't trade that moniker in for another which you will not be proud of.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Godly People; Godly Nation

 
 


"I am afraid our spiritual compass might be broken and need some immediate repair..."




I worry about our country. I mean I worry about our country a lot. I really don't like the trajectory we are on. In fact, if you look back to how our country was founded, and then look to Washington today, there is a huge difference. Quite simply, this nation was founded on Godly principals. The basis of our Constitution on Godly principals. Our rights did not come from any monarchy or government - they came directly and only from God.

One of my favorite words from scripture is Emmanuel - "God is with us". As a man, I am comforted to know that God is with me; as a family man, I want God to be with my family; as an American, I want our country to walk in the footsteps of God's will. I know in the past,  nations who have turned their back on God have generally not done well. This nation was founded by men and women who spent time in prayer on bended knee. I believe that is the only way we will survive in the future.

It is interesting that some other faiths believe our land is corrupt - it has become a cesspool. It is no wonder they think that when you look at the vision of America which comes out of Hollywood and our music industry. Rather than displaying the best of us, our media often shows the worst. In fact, some nations are encouraging their citizens not to visit here because of the senseless violence which now stalks our land. We are better than this! We have been a country of values. If our moral compass is broken, we need to fix it, and fix it fast.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind if we once again walk with God, many (if not all) of our nation's problems will become more manageable. God has blessed this land before and He will do again. But we must NOT turn our back on Him. Even if you are at a point in your life where you do not believe in God, you can still believe in the way He wants us to live our lives. If you don't think that God talks to you, read His Word - He will use it to talk to you every day.

I hope this does not sound "preachy" - it was not my intent. I have been the biggest offender on how to correctly live my life. But the God of a thousand chances has given me yet another chance to walk in His ways. I love the hope that God has given us. In this life, I will never be able to understand the enormity of His love. I just know that He loves all of us more than we can ever know.

I want our nation to once again be the salt and the light. I want other nations to see us as the "shining city on the hill". More than anything however, I want our path to be totally in line with what God wants of us. Godly people living in a Godly nation - I know this is where we should be right now.

Keep the House - Take the Senate

 
 


"The place is a mess - a disaster. Who is to blame? The landlord of course!"



I will be the first to admit that I sometimes get confused easily. This morning, as I was clearing out the cobwebs, I had on the seldom watched Morning Joe. The Lefties on MSNBC were "licking their chops" as POTUS was going to be "hitting the trail" today. Why you might ask? He is sliding back into his comfort zone, to do the ONLY thing he can do well - campaign.

The cheer leading section on Morning Joe thought this was absolutely brilliant. POTUS has the Republicans on the ropes after the two week shutdown. Many think their approval numbers are about the same as Josef Mengele. Winning the House back and getting the gavel once again into the hands of Ms. Nancy should be "easy peasy". You know - low fruit on the tree branches, just waiting to be picked.

I have a much, much different take on the matter. The place is a mess. Our government, and our country, under the leadership of this President, has become so much worse. So much so, that the only thing the Republicans have been able to do in the past three years is keep it from getting even more worse. If the President's party was in charge of everything for his entire two terms, I could only imagine the damage - possibly permanent.

If I was a Republican running for either re-election or to unseat a Democrat, here is what I would run on:
  • Jobs - I would tell the real story with real numbers. The U6 unemployment number is still sky high. Most of the new jobs created are less than full time with lower pay and low or now benefits. Our workplace participation is at an all time low. What is being done? Not much. What is proposed to be done in the next two years? Not much.
  • ACA - This is a "steak fry" all by itself. It is a colossal mess, and many think this is just the tip of the iceberg. It was passed into a giant law by people who never read it, amended by almost 20,000 pages of regulations by people who are not elected, and it is being administered by people better suited for a "works program". Even though many of the messier things are being hid by the Administration (like the true costs), I would "peel back this onion" as quick as I could, and tell all.
  • Benghazi - I would tie this around Hillary's neck like a 1,000 pound weight. The Administration and the National Democratic Party are hoping the American people have either amnesia or ADD. This is a HUGE scandal in the State Department, and time will not heal. It has gotten lost in the headlines because of all the other static on the radar screen. We need to stay focused on this. People died and Hillary lied.
  • Energy - Checked your electric bill lately? Mine is outrageous. And it is going to get worse since we are allowing unelected bureaucrats in the EPA to pile more costly regulations on our energy producers. And Keystone - what in the world ever happened to that? The Saudis are about ready to throw us overboard because how we mucked up Syria, and we still have NO energy policy. We are still stuck in energy Groundhog Day.
  • Farm Bill - The "Farm Bill" has become anything but. It is now a welfare bill, loaded up with SNAP (food stamps). It has grown like a fertilized weed under this Administration. Rather than ascertain WHY there are so many people on food stamps (and why the graft is so high), POTUS just wants to keep it growing. Can anyone spell u-n-s-u-s-t-a-I-n-a-b-l-e?
  • Debt - Stay tuned. The elevator is still going up. We are on the 17th floor, headed to the 20th if nobody stops this madness. The true story of debt needs to be told to the American people so they know how this cancer is ruining the country for us and generations to come.
Oh, there is no much more I could list, but I am trying to keep this short. Republicans should be able to have a field day in 2014. They have NOTHING to apologize for - they did not create any of the above problems. Be brave, be truthful, and you will do fine.




Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Spare Tire

 
 

 
"Spare tire looks good - never been used"



Years ago we had a church in our area that had an interesting message on the kiosk in the front yard. It said, “Don’t treat your faith like a spare tire in the trunk, only to be used in time of emergency”. The first few times I drove by the church, I did not think much of it. However, one snowy day when traffic was slow, I passed the church again. All of a sudden, I got it. That was exactly the way that I had been treating my faith. It was in the trunk, out of the way, to be used in time of emergency.

I had not thought about that kiosk for years until a few summers ago when I was at an Alpha conference in the Twin Cities. During one of the talks, the pastor told of Christians who were “CEC Christians” – Christmas, Easter and Crisis. That was me for years. My faith was something that I practiced for an hour or so on some Sundays, Christmas, Easter and when I was in trouble.

I made a commitment to myself and to God that I was going to take my faith out of my trunk and put it under the hood of my life. Rather than use it only in emergencies and special occasions, it was going to drive everything I did in my life. It was out in front of me. It was now the heart of everything I did in my life. Could I still use it in emergencies? Absolutely - but also for so much more.

Having your faith under the hood does not mean that it will not run out of gas – it will. Mine has. However, we are given the opportunity to keep our tank filled up by daily reading of the Word, frequent prayer time, fellowship with other Christians, and yes, weekly worship time.

I think it is good for anybody to determine what location our faith is in. Is it hidden behind to be used as a last resort? Or is in front, driving us in everything that we do.

Thank you to whomever in that church put that kiosk up years ago that planted this seed in my heart.  

The Achievement Gap (revisited)




"There is simple no empirical evidence that one race is smarter or dumber than any other race"
 
 
I am updating this posting I did last year. It seems this vexing topic continues to be in the news and we cannot come up with a solution that works.
 
Many years ago, Dr. William Bradford Shockley, who shared a Nobel Prize in physics for his role in the creation of the transistor, earned the enmity of many for his views on the genetic differences between the races. He preached a philosophy of ''retrogressive evolution.'' Stipulating that intelligence was genetically transmitted, he deemed blacks genetically inferior to whites and unable to achieve their intellectual level.

Shockley's theory on racial differences set off a national argument over the use and applicability of I.Q. tests. Evidence that blacks tend to score lower than whites was discounted by most experts who saw the explanation in cultural and social rather than genetic terms. In short, as much as Dr. Shockley gave to society in the field of transistors and semiconductors, was offset by his unfortunate foray into genetics, intelligence and the field of eugenics. In other words, just about every study conducted since Shockley's theory has proven him wrong - period.

Flash forward to today. It has been again been reported the city of Minneapolis has the highest achievement gap of any large city in the country. The achievement gap being defined as test scores between white and students of color, most prominently, African American. Every time I hear a story on this subject it makes my blood boil. In my career in both industry and the Navy, I have worked with all races, many African Americans, both male and female, from all over the country. I have seen absolutely no difference what so ever in how people learn or apply that knowledge, regardless of race. None.

I will say this - I believe many children of color in the Minneapolis school district are victims of low expectations. Many years ago I knew a man who taught science in a middle school in the district. After many years of being enculturated by the district, he believed that many students of color were in his class to do anything but learn. He gave up on them before the opening bell had even rung. He would start the first day of class by saying "Those that want to learn sit up front - everybody else sit in the back of the room and keep quiet." Low expectations, and sometimes no expectations.

I have thought for years that education is like a three legged bar stool. The bar stool only works if all three legs are solid. If one leg is weak or broken, the stool will tip over - fail for the purpose it was intended. The three legs in education are 1) the student 2) the teacher and 3) the parent(s). As with the bar stool, if one is not involved, the student will probably not succeed.

I believe most teachers care about teaching and want the items taught to be learned. There are some which are just "mailing it in", but I believe the majority are professionals that care. In addition, I also believe that the majority of kids would choose to succeed rather than fail - in other words, they would like to learn. The weakest link (in my opinion) are the parents, or lack thereof.

Someone once said it is possible to raise a family with one parent, but that parent often needs to work twice as hard. What has happened to many single parent families in large metro areas, rather than working twice as hard, the effects of poverty have caused dysfunction which make the home learning environment strained. Being a single parent does not necessarily lead to failure, being a two parent family and living in poverty does not necessarily lead to failure, however being a single parent AND living in poverty greatly increases the chances for failure of the student. And this, is where I see the main ingredient to the achievement gap.

More money poured into the education system is not the answer. The City of Minneapolis, like most big cities, spends more per student on education funding than suburban or rural districts. Nor is the answer that kids of color are not smart enough to learn.  As stated earlier, many tests have been done with the same conclusion - students of color are every bit as intelligent and able to learn as white students. The answer is now and always has been poverty.

This one is going to hurt a bit. Father-absent families—regardless of color—generally occupy a bottom rung of our society’s economic ladder. Not all the time, but generally. Unwed mothers, regardless of their race, are four times more likely to live in poverty than the average American. Female-headed black families earn only 36 percent as much as two-parent black families, and female-headed white families earn just 46 percent as much as two-parent white families. Not only do unmarried mothers tend to earn relatively little, but their households are obviously limited to a single breadwinner—thus further widening the income gap between one-parent and two-parent families. 85% of all black children in poverty live in single-parent, mother-child homes.

We need to stop this needless slide into self inflicted poverty before it becomes generational. If we cannot stop it, or do not have the will to do so, I am afraid that the achievement gap will be with us until the end of time. This is a problem that can be fixed. However, just like with any type of addiction, the first step is problem recognition. Recognize it, address it, and then fix it.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Code of Conduct


 
 
 

 
"I would just like to kill him - kill him with kindness..."



I have a confession to make. I hate the word hate. Oh, I still use it once in a while when it has to do with the weather, the Vikings performance (or lack there of), but NEVER against another person. I get a bad feeling in the pit of my gut with I hear that word used against a person in politics or even our President. We can "hate" their policies, or the direction they are taking the country, but not the person.

A few years ago, my wife and I were at a gas station trying to beat another one of the all too frequent price hikes. The place was packed, and we were waiting for one of the pumps to open up. As our pump cleared, a huge truck pulled right in front of us and took our spot. I sat for a minute and then went to another pump to again wait my turn. My wife turned to me and told me she could not believe I let that incident slide. Neither could I.

Not too many years before that incident, something like that would have resulted in a major “smack down”. I would have gone over to that truck and really gotten in that man’s face. I would have taught him a lesson, and felt good about doing so. However, I can’t do that anymore. I have been acquiring a new code of conduct - one which has given to all of us by the Most High. This code of conduct tells me that I not only need to “talk the talk”, but also “walk the walk”.

I have told this story before. One of the commands I was stationed at had a full length mirror by the main entrance. The purpose of the mirror was to make sure you were “squared away” prior to departing. Over the mirror was a plaque that read “You are not in the Navy, you are the Navy”. When you were wearing the uniform of the United States Navy, both you and your conduct were noticed by others.

The same can be said once we become followers of Christ. We and our conduct are always being observed. If we leave our worship center and fail to “walk the walk”, the world notices. We will be seen as no different than the world. However, when our words and deeds demonstrate to others that we are the church of Jesus Christ, we truly become the salt and the light.

One of my good friends has told me many times the biggest problem with our world is not too much hate, it is too little love. As light conquers darkness, love conquers hate. I am not to where I want to be yet, but day by day, step by step, I am working on it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Real Villian of our Cimate

 
 


"If the Yellowstone Caldera ever blows, it will make most of our country look like something out of Dante's Inferno..."



I don't know about the rest of you, but I wake up every morning feeling guilty. I feel guilty because I am a human who (as I am told) am the biggest culprit of global warming, global cooling, climate change, super storms and so on. I don't know what else to do - we have upgraded our furnace and air conditioner with the most energy efficient on the market, we drive newer vehicles which have state of the air emission systems, we recycle - and yet I am still the villain of our shaky climate.

In 1980, Mt. Saint Helen's blew up in the Pacific Northwest. It was expected, so cameras were at the ready to capture the event. It was bad - even with the warnings some people died. Miles and miles of pristine forest were ruined. However, that eruption was nothing compared to Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991. That was a horrific event, and was the second biggest blast of the 20th Century. Of course, many of us read or saw the movie Krakatoa, East of Java. This volcanic explosion is sometimes referred to as the sound heard round the world. Some scientist believe it could be the loudest sound ever recorded in modern times on Earth.

However, all these volcanos will seem like firecrackers if the Yellowstone Caldera ever blows. Scientists say it has before, and it will again. The last time was about 640,000 years ago, although it has "burped" about 70,000 years ago. If it should erupt with the force it did 640,000 years ago, all the coal burning plants that mankind has ever erected will seem like small potatoes compared to what will happen to our climate. Basically, it will destroy a good portion of our country and plunge the world into a period of "nuclear winter".

What does all this mean? Should we not be good stewards of our environment? Absolutely we should. It is right and many believe it to be biblical. However, we do need to keep things in perspective. First off, more and more natural gas is being used over coal. Gas is cleaner. Most people (myself included) feel we are at the end of the age of fossil fuels. There are energy sources we will be using which are more abundant, cheaper and cleaner. Trust me - they are out there. They are just not ready for "prime time" as yet (windmills are NOT one of them).

Just as the Earth has cleansed itself after every volcanic event (yes, even after Yellowstone blew over 600,000 years ago), the Earth will cleanse itself from all the fossil fuels we have used over the years. The Earth will go on. We just need perspective. We are on the right track - we are doing the right things. We need to stop feeling guilty every morning like we have done something wrong - we have not. We need to just get up, feel blessed, and enjoy the day.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Stress Testing

 
 


"We are going to go over and over and over this until it is right. Then we are going to go over and over and over it again to make sure we were right..."




Not that long after I started with IBM, I met a man who was on temporary assignment from the "head shed" in New York. His name was "Steve" and he was in town to oversee the launch of a brand new web portal called "Target.com". This was huge. It was going to make or break the type of shopping many people would be able to do on a large scale, big box retailer like Target.

Because I worked out of my home, when I visited a client's facility like Dayton's (it had not yet switched over to be called Target Corporation), I had a simple cube when on location. The cube right next to where I sat was occupied by "Steve". I got to know him, had coffee with him, helped out on the legal terms with corporate Legal and always made myself available for anything I could do before the "go-live" day.

As "go-live" day grew closer, the more nervous everyone became. We went over the launch from top to bottom and back again. Every possible scenario was envisioned. "Steve" had been through many of these things before, but none this big. Even though he had been with IBM for many years, he knew if this thing "bombed" he would be gone in a heart beat. The system was stress tested to the max and back again.

Finally the day of the launch arrived. It was all hand on deck. No problem - it went fine. Sure there were some minor problems along the way, but the site worked. Happy, happy, happy - everyone was happy.

Compare that with the disaster with the portal in Obamacare. Very little works. The news today told a grim story - they might have to take it down and start a complete re-do. A complete re-launch. After spending untold millions on this thing, much or it using 10 year old technology, it works about as well as a ten year old Yugo with no oil in it. And guess what? The person in charge of this mess is not going to lose her job. She will oversea us pouring good money after bad into this sink hole.

This web portal might just be the "canary in the coal mine" for how well the entire health care program will work. We have taken the best health care in the world, run by some of the smartest health care professionals anywhere, and put it in the hands of the most incompetent government bureaucrats. In other words, we let kids just starting driver's training drive the most expensive car in the lot.

In the next few weeks, the Administration will continue to try and put lipstick on this pig. However, even Max Factor does not have enough cover all to make this mess look good. We were warned about this, and we went full speed ahead anyhow. Now we are in the back seat of Thelma and Louise's car looking at the view as we drive over the cliff.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Our Brother's Keeper

 
 


“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
 
Matthew 25:40


I don't know about anyone else, but I grow weary of being called selfish and greedy just because I am a Conservative. In fact, most of the people I have met in the Conservative movement have been firmly grounded in not only the Constitution, but also in God's Word. The same holds true on many on the other side of the aisle. The purpose of this article is not to glorify nor criticize people on their giving - Lord knows I should probably receive the first stone. No, the purpose is to remind myself of how important it is not forget the least of us, as that number seems to grow higher every day.

One of the things I have learned over the years is how to properly vet charities to ensure the monies or gifts I give will have the maximum impact. This is something which is important to do, as some charities are not all the are cracked up to be. Other charities, are extremely efficient, using very little of the donated money for administration.

By far and away the MOST INEFFICIENT place to send your money to help people who need it (and I hate to say this) is the United States Government. For example, look at how much aid never reached people in New Jersey after Super Storm Sandy. Look at Haiti years after their devastating earthquake. Look at our own country in getting provisions or help to those who really need them. The basic truth is this - our government is not, nor was never intended to be, "Our Brother's Keeper".

If not our government, then who? Quite simply, the answer it is this. The vast relief efforts could and should be carried out by organizations that are skilled in how to do it. Organizations for example like Samaritan's Purse. This is a faith based organization run by Franklin Graham which is dedicated to reaching the most, with the most, having to use the fewest administrative resources. Operation Christmas Child is a part of Samaritan's Purse. What a wonderful event that is every year! Shoe boxes are made up for children all over the world who have literally NOTHING! These shoe boxes contain basic hygiene supplies, clothing items, and some simple education tools or toys. The cost to box a box together is usually less than 20 dollars (including shipping) and make affect a child's life for weeks or months.

Minnesota is the home base for Feed My Starving Children. Another life changing ministry. Meals are put together with the basic nutritional needs of a growing child. They are packaged by volunteers, packed and then shipped to areas where the need is the greatest. The cost and effort are amazingly little for impact which affects so many.

Even though the shrill voices will continue to call many of us selfish or stingy, our gift of giving will continue to shine though the darkness. We have always been a compassionate and giving people. The opportunities to give wisely are there, and keep growing all of the time. I am proud to live in a land which has been so blessed that we in turn can be a blessing to others. Are we "Our Brother's (or Sister's) Keeper?" You bet - that and more so. We do it and expect to get nothing in return. We do it only because it is the right thing to do.  

Fix it or die....

 
 
 

"His crime against humanity? He lived too long...."


Last year my wife and I were shopping at the local Wal Mart. Being a good husband, I was kicking around waiting until she had found what she was looking for. I came across some books which had some interesting facts about different years people were born. Since I was born in 1949 (yes, I am that old), I picked up the book with fun facts about that year. One fact really stopped me dead in my tracks. The average life expectancy for a male born in 1949 was 61 years old. I was 62 when I read that depressing fact.

What is even more interesting is this fact - my Dad lived to be 90, my Mother is almost 95 1/2, and my Father-in-Law is about to turn 90. I am sure that if the life expectancy in 1949 was 61, it was less than 61 when these folks were born. So what does all this have to do with the price of tea these days? When you look at the core issue of our debt and resulting government shutdown - everything.

When Social Security was established as part of the New Deal, it was never intended to be a retirement program. It was an insurance program. Should you be stuck here on the Planet Earth after turning 65, the government would help you out by giving you some extra money. Not much, but just enough. The bet was that most people would not make it to 65, so the ones who won the "lotto" by making it that far, would be able to access the fund. Actually, at one time the fund made sense. Today however, it does not.

One of the statistics the government will NEVER disclose is the amount of our REAL debt. No, it is not $17T. That number is scary enough. The real debt is tens of trillions of dollars higher due to the obligations left to pay on Social Security and Medicare. Now I am not the sharpest blade in the drawer, but I am not stupid either. Right now we are still using a system designed on the premise that most people will not live to be 65. It was never intended to support a whole bunch of people in their 80's and 90's. Unless of course, everyone had a dozen or so kids that would work to support this group of geriatric citizens.

I will now use a term the Left loves - to make the system SUSTAINABLE, we must do one of two things: 1) Adjust the system to reflect today's lower birth rate and longer lives or 2) More people need to die earlier. Although this sounds flip, there is some truth in this. We refuse to adjust the system. We keep giving yearly COLAs as well as allowing more people to access the system early.

As we go through the next twelve weeks doing the same stork dance we have many times before, remember this - the Social Security fund (of which Medicare is part of) is the Mother Lode. It is the 600 pound gorilla in the corner of the room. Until the truth tellers can win the argument with the American people that this NEEDS to be fixed, our only other option is to lay down and die early.

The irony of the fix, is that it is not hard. It needs only four things to start with:
  • Gradually, over the next ten years, increase the retirement age to 70.
  • Eliminate COLAs immediately.
  • Don't let people in who have not contributed to the fund.
  • Take the cap of Social Security earnings.
For the sake of all of us, please, please, let's be serious this time about fixing the problem. Our time is running out.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Mitch, the Dam, and the Tea Party

 
 


"Is he the enemy? No - but he certainly is a road block..."



I think after this week, the new poster child for "Why we need a Tea Party" should be Mitch McConnell. His behavior has been beyond shameful or reprehensible. To cave with no tangible results to the President and Senate Leader was one thing - to accept a bribe in the form of a $2.9B earmark was quite another. It was yet another example how the corrosive nature of Washington corrupts and corrupts totally.

Every bill that goes though the "sausage factory" has pork in it. When the Super Storm Sandy bill for $50B was pushed through Congress, there were some truth tellers shouting at the top of their lungs about the pork which was stuffed into it. No matter. The truth tellers were then shouted down by the Democrats and establishment Republicans. The bill was signed into law and all that pork (we can't afford) is now ingrained in our system. I won't even go into the pork stuffed into our now infamous Stimulus Bill - this post would end up longer than a novel.

Back to the bill which ended the shutdown. It should have been a very short ten page bill at the longest. Even with that, it is estimated by many of the talking heads that few in Congress read it. Playing "hide the weenie" with $2.9B was no sweat - you can't find it if you don't read it. The problem these days is more and more "grass roots" folks are reading these monstrosities. They are reading them, they are understanding them, and they are exposing them. Many of these citizen bill readers have Tea Party connections.

So the people in Kentucky are going to end up with a dam, paid for by the rest of us. I'm sorry - wrong choice of words. Paid for by our kids and grandkids since we DON'T HAVE ANY MONEY! Is the Tea Party the only group of people that seem to get that? We have spent our last dime and now we are maxing out our credit cards. Is the drug so powerful that people like Mitch McConnell are oblivious to it?

Watching some of the Lefties in the press continue to excoriate the Tea Party yesterday, one of the "Wizards of Smart" asked, "Why is the world do we even need a Tea Party?" As the Peter, Paul and Mary song goes, "The answer my friend is blowing in the wind." All you need do is see what happened this week with the $2.9B earmark which was snuck into this simple bill BY A REPUBLICAN!

To me, the only group standing between us an total chaos is the Tea Party. We should not only be grateful to them, we should support them any way we can. Are they a perfect group? Of course not - they are just people. Are they effective? Absolutely. The barbarians are at the gate and they are on watch. Thank you Tea Party, from all of us. Whether we want to admit it or not, we need you.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Leverage

 
 



"Quite often when you enter a negotiation not having any leverage, you end up with only table scraps..."



Everyone who has had any negotiation experience, down to buying a car, understands leverage. Putting it in simple terms, you always need to know where the cards on the table are and how your cards compare. Sometimes in a negotiation you are dealt a losing hand. Plain and simple - no leverage. You do the best you can and usually come back with table scraps.

The "Scolder in Chief" had a presser today addressing the recent two week government shutdown. Unlike last night, he was not very magnanimous. In fact, he wagged his finger and scolded the scoundrels who dared shut down his government. You know, those who worry about our national debt. Democrats and "responsible" Republicans (who don't seem to care about the debt), got the kudos.

Now I don't really care if he chooses to spike the football or not. If he thinks he won this round, fine. I, like many others, think we all lost. However, the next round of this battle is right around the corner. Even though supper is not yet in the oven, the table is already being set. He is setting the table to ensure after the twelve week "negotiation" period, it will not end in yet another government shut down.

If the Republicans agree to a "no shut down" policy, they are nuts. All the President and his Democrat allies would have to do is run out the clock. They would get everything, and all the rest of us would get is more unsustainable debt. We need to be firm and strong that this next time is the last time. Either we fix this thing for once and for all, or we all go down together.

Two more things:
  • I don't know if this is true or not about the Senate Minority Leader. If it is true, that he got an $2 to $3B earmark as a "buyout" for his support, I don't want him within 100 miles of the negotiation table.
  • POTUS is already saying we need a "balanced" approach to fix our long term debt issue. Most of us know his "code speak" by now. "Balanced" means tax the rich even more, with very little real spending. 
I will very interested in how things play out in the next twelve weeks. I know some are still licking their wounds, but it is time to get over it. Failure to prepare for the next round with strategy and resolve will end up in another train wreck. That, none of us can afford.