California . . .

I subscribe to a daily briefing from the New York Times, it is equivalent to the old clipping service we use to engage . . . meaning that it keeps you abreast of what is being written on what is happening in different arenas for which one has an interest.

The article that captured my attention this morning called attention to how the hot economy had impacted the California housing market, where a full-fledged housing crisis has gripped the state, which is marked by a severe lack of affordable homes and apartments for middle-class families. The median cost of a home there is now a staggering $500,000, twice the national cost. As a result of the booming economy, people’s desire to live in the sun and be able to access the beach, and community resistance to affordable housing development, homelessness is surging. The article told of a nurse who earns $180k annually, but has to commute 100 miles to work daily because she cannot afford to live closer to the hospital where she works.

This is certainly not a new problem for California, but it has some new dynamics. I recall my introduction to the California housing market. The year was 1984, and I had traveled to San Diego to facilitate a seminar for the San Diego Housing Commission. In those years, the seminar always closed out with a group dinner/party on the last evening. I would appoint a committee to plan the party and make arrangements. At this particular seminar, a young lady had just purchased her first home and asked the party committee to allow her to host the gathering. They accepted her invite. As we toured the house, she told us that she had made a really good deal and had purchased the house for only $300K! I almost fainted . . . it was a modest 2-bedroom, 1-bath house and I would have guessed it as being a $40K house . . . at best. Later, I asked her how on earth she could afford such an expensive home (I knew her position and likely salary would not support such a mortgage . . . housing interest rates were around 10% at that time). I was dumbfounded when she told me that her loan was structured as a five-year, $50K loan, with a $250K balloon. When I regained my breath, I inquired how she would be able to deal with that large balloon. She explained that when it matured, the house would have doubled in value . . . she would sell the house, pay the note off, and reinvest her capital gain in another home . . . this time having more equity in her home. I recall having thought such a market was all smoke and mirrors and a day of recognizing would occur. I suspect that day is rapidly approaching.

The new dynamics which I hinted at above is the hypocrisy in it all. California’s culture is well known for its liberal practices and tolerance . . . being pretty much ‘anything goes.’ Well, it seems that falls by the wayside if a developer wants to build an affordable apartment complex in the community . . . then the attitude seems to be, “We don’t want those folks living in this area!” The result and the reality is that they have those folks living in their area . . . but now living out on the streets, in shelters, or in makeshift vans. I know . . . I have some kin out there living in the madness . . . and they certainly can’t afford to live there . . . but they stay anyway . . . bouncing from one flea-bag motel to the next, sleeping on the beach, or in an old truck. Really sweet people, but they just march to a different drumbeat . . . and they are in Sunny California to stay!

Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ depicts a person’s most basic of needs involves shelter and suggests that until that need is satisfied, the individual’s ability to move further in the life experience will be severely restricted. That certainly has proven true in my kin’s situation. Sadly, when they call seeking help, they reject sound advice about relocating to a more affordable area . . . they ain’t leaving California . . . it is the place to be . . . it is where the action is!

The article reports there are many like-minded pilgrims . . . and more arriving there daily!

I think Sandy and I will just continue living in this same old 30-year-old house, in this small Texas town with our two zip codes and 6 traffic lights.

Hope . . .

Oxford’s on-line dictionary defines hope as:

1. a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. “He looked through her belongings in the hope of coming across some information”
2. synonyms: aspiration, desire, wish, expectation, ambition, aim, goal, plan, design;
3. More: archaic–a feeling of trust.
verb–want something to happen or be the case. “He’s hoping for an offer of compensation . . . synonyms: expect, anticipate, look for, be hopeful of, pin one’s hopes on, want.

I spent a number of years traveling around the USA conducting seminars on professional development, and that always presented the challenge of trying to motivate those in attendance . . . motivating them to grow, develop, and return to their work place and use the new tools they had learned in the seminar. Much of what I focused on was related to the subject of hope. Hope is a powerful motivator. What we love, we pay attention to, and if we hope to get something from what we love, our hope will motivate us in that direction. Hope influences us either to take or not to take certain actions, depending upon what we hope for. We will generally do all that we can to make sure that what we hope for happens the way that we foresee it happening. If we hope something does not happen, we generally do what we can to see that it does not happen. Hope motivates us to move in a certain direction and to do certain things.

The Apostle Paul in writing to the Church located in Rome offered the encouragement, “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13 KJV). He also wrote to the folks at Corinth and in addressing the subjects of love, behavior, and the future, he wrote, “And now these three remain, faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love” (I Corinthians 13:13 KJV).

Professional marketing firms strive to leave folks with the sense of “You can’t live without . . .” (whatever good or service they are pitching at the moment). Well the truth of the matter is that one simply cannot live without hope. It is the mother’s milk of living in a broken world! Hope drives us on and on . . . and on some more.

The Psalmist said, “I would have lost heart if I had not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of living” (Psalm 27:13). Of course, he was speaking of hope . . . of what he hoped to see, discover and experience and that hope motivated him to go to “the land of the living.”

May I ask what it is that you hope for today, this week, this month, and this year? I would wager that it can become reality . . . provided you are willing to do what you need to do to bring it about. The Lord really gifted us with a terrific ability to hit that which we aim. Consider that you can take an eight-year-old kid and with some basic instruction and a few minutes of practice that kid can shoot a BB gun at a soda can from a distance of 40- or 50-feet and actually hit that can. Consider the physics involved in sending a spherical metal projectiles of 0.177-inches in diameter and 0.33 to 0.35 gram of weight hurling through space at the rate of some 1,000 feet per second and actually hit an object about 2-inch width.

I would argue that ability to hit what we aim at is one heck of a good gift!

God Revealed . . . Psalms 19

1968 was a troublesome year for the USA. I was a Jr in high school, living in Hobbs, NM, and I remember what a troubled time it was. My older brother, Willie, had been drafted into the army and shipped to Asia to fight in a crazy war.

Here are just a few of the struggles in that historically noteworthy year:

. . . In January, North Korea captured the USS Pueblo, an intelligence gathering vessel;

. . . Also in January, North VietNam launched its TET Offensive against the USA and South VietNam;

. . . In April, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, a man of peace, was murdered in Memphis;

. . . In June, Robert F. Kennedy was murdered in Los Angeles;

. . . The nation was struggling with the expansion of the Civil Rights Act . . . and tensions were high on every side;

. . . In October, during the Olympics in Mexico City, two Black American athletes shocked the world, and embarrassed the US, by staging a silent protest during the Star Spangled Banner in which they raised their fists in defiant protest (bringing politics into the games);

. . . In October, Hollywood got into the act as the TV series Star Trek aired the first interracial kiss on the national airwaves;

. . . Then, on Christmas Eve, Jim Lovell, Bill Anders, and Frank Borman manned Apollo 8 as it was the first manned flight around the moon. As the crew circled the moon, an amazing video of what has since been described as, “the earth rise” was transmitted back to earth and shown on national TV.

Given the season and the historical significance of the mission. NASA administrators instructed the men to say or read something appropriate for the moment. The men read Genesis 1: 1 – 10, which reads:
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the vault “sky.”And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

In spite of how beautiful it all appeared through the lenses of the camera, the world was a troubled place, and on that evening, humanity was confronted with some great, undeniable truths:

1. God’s creation is greater than we can even remotely conceive;
2. The earth is not the center of the universe (nor are we);
3. We actually dwell in a sun centered . . . what is known as a Heliocentric . . . solar system; and
4. There is much more in the universe than a sunrise and a sunset.

A few years back Sandy and I were on a cruise across the Gulf of Mexico. One evening I sat out on the stern and marveled at the night sky . . . without the distraction of city lights. It occurred to me that I was frankly quite ignorant about the universe in which I live. I had read for years of celestial navigation, and yet I was unable to even identify the North Star. That night I made a commitment to educate myself, and upon returning home I began an in-depth study of God’s creation . . . and how it works . . . the Tide coming and going created by the gravatational pull between the sun and the moon and such.

My study has been interesting in that much of what is written on the universe was published by scientists who, by and large, reject the notion of God and cling to theories such as put forth by one Charles Darwin and what is simply known as the “Big Bang Theory.” In Romans 1, the Apostle Paul (one super smart dude) described that lot as, “Professing themselves as wise, they become fools.”

David, the man who God referred to as, “A man after my own heart” says in Psalms 19 that all of creation verifies . . . and glorifies the creator. I am in total agreement!

Make no mistake, “In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the earth.”

He did not ask anyone’s permission or advice. Duh . . . There was no one to ask! He stepped out of nowhere, and stood on nothing, and created all of this . . . from nothing! He did all of that because he is God . . . and He is God all by himself!!! HE DOES NOT NEED OR REQUIRE confirmation or affirmation of any human . . . now or ever. However, if one can simply believe . . . God offers an abiding and enduring relationship to that confessing sinner. I hope and pray that you are not one who is unable to believe. If you are, please tell me some time and allow me a few minutes to tell you about a couple of blind men who never saw a miracle in their lives, but they had heard enough to summons the courage to believe . . . to believe in spite of having lived lives filled with pain, rejection, darkness, set-backs, turmoil, frustrations, and heartbreak. A simple declaration of faith for those blind men forever changed everything!

It did for me too . . .

We can’t even count the stars, yet God calls each one by name . . . by the name He gave it. Here is a thought for you: if God knows those stars by name . . . He certainly knows your name!

Greed, Crime, and Corruption . . .

. . . grieves a nation’s soul, and the USA is soul-sick.

Almost eight years back, we had a terrible socialized medical system forced upon us. Today, that rotten system is a real mess. People are forced by the government to purchase a substandard product/service . . . even if they can’t afford it (if they don’t purchase it they are heavily fined). The real problems with the system are:

1. The premiums are very expensive;
2. The deductible that must be met are much greater than the average person can pay;
3. The required coverages are crazy (sex change operations, prostate cancer coverage for women, breast cancer coverage for men, and it goes on and on); and
4. There is far too much government involvement.

The thing is such a mess and it seems that no one actually knows how to fix it. For eight years the Republicans have been crying foul and pleading with the voting public to empower them and they will kill the thing. That plea was answered and the Republicans now control both houses of Congress and the White House . . . yet, they are totally clueless, stalled, and the situation becomes more severe by the day.

Then, on Thursday morning, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, M.D., announced at a press conference the conclusion of a massive takedown operation by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, involving $1.3 billion in fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid billings. A nation struggling with how to assist citizens with accessing medical services now discovers that many of those who provide such services have been ripping off the system . . . terribly!

The sad truth is that by and large, most of those in the medical field who have been doing this cheating and stealing were already quite well off financially! Because of their foolish greed . . . many will be humiliated, convicted, punished, and stripped of their credentials and licenses. These are professionals who spent years of their lives studying and preparing for a career in medicine . . . and then threw it all away for something as simple as money.

Last week Sandy had a former student staying here as she tutored her for a college entrance exam. One morning the girl came out to the pool and hung out with me. The poor girl has had a pretty bad life up to this point, and Sandy is concerned that she is about to make a poor decision that will surely create more problems in the future. As we chatted, I challenged her to think about the two things in life that only she can give herself . . . and only she can steal from herself. She struggled with it for a while and finally said that she didn’t know what those two things were. I told her that they were: honor . . . and integrity!

It seems to me . . . that it one thing for this young girl from a terribly dysfunctional family (her parents went to prison for crimes they imposed upon the girl) to not yet know about honor and integrity, but it is a totally different matter for doctors not to comprehend it.

How Quickly Things Can Change . . .

As a kid, I always had a job or, some form of enterprise to earn money. One such job was selling newspapers on the streets. I would go by the newspaper office each day at 1 pm and pick up 50 papers and then go about town peddling them. In that era it was a simple proposition to sell the newspaper . . . everyone wanted to know what was going on and the daily newspaper was the best means of doing that.

If someone had said that would change dramatically in our lifetime we would have laughed at such a silly notion. The printed news was big business and solid as a rock. Yet, that surely has changed over recent years. I read an interesting on-line article this morning concerning U.S. news organizations seeking bargaining rights against Facebook and Google to fight the online companies’ dominance in advertising and distribution.

As I read the article it occurred to me that I don’t think I know of anyone who even reads a newspaper today, let alone who buys the thing. The truth is that in this era of technology, one can access information from pretty much any location with the touch of a finger; moreover, by the time news finds its way into the newspaper and hits the streets, it is literally old news. I actually have not bought a newspaper in 10 years and probably have not read one in five years.

Another struggle the newspaper business faces is that some of the industries’ largest publishers are no longer trusted . . . the New York Times and the Washington Post are both under fire . . . accused of making up news instead of simply reporting the news. It seems that they strive to make every story Watergate and every cub reporter is trying to be Woodward and Bernstein.

Recently I hosted a cookout at La Posada. My nephew, Ryan, introduced me to a young guy who is teaching English at Snyder High School and also rents an apartment at La Posada. He said that he was a first-year teacher, and that prior to taking that job, he had been a staff reporter for the Amarillo newspaper. I asked him what that paper’s circulation was like. I was a bit surprised when he told me it was about 5,000. Amarillo is the largest city in the Texas Panhandle and has a trade area of some 250,000 folks.

Social media has certainly created a challenge for newspapers on sales, but a large portion of the paper’s revenue stream has come from its classified section . . . advertisements, and that is quickly drying up. That was the subject of the article. As I read the article, I struggled to remember the last time I paid for newspaper advertisement.

I am reminded that there was an era when candle makers supposed their business would always thrive . . . folks had to be able to see. What about those who sold road maps? GPS technology has certainly impacted that

We are living in a time of great change, and we are being told that we haven’t seen anything yet!

North Korea . . . Back in the News!

Since 1950 the Korean Peninsula has been a smoldering pot . . . always ready to boil over. The tensions began soon after World War II as world powers (weary of direct, brutal, and costly war) decided to play out a power struggle on the Peninsula . . . China and Russia backing Communist North Korea while the USA and her allies backed the freedom-loving people of South Korea.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un follows after his father and grandfather as leader of part of the divided nation. The people are poor and live without hope, while their government works tirelessly developing weapons of war and destruction. The world has watched as this evil little man and his family have flirted with disaster time and time again. It has also watched as our Presidents over the past 60 years have struggled with a suitable course of action in dealing with those mad men.

Over the recent past Kim Jong Un has launched missile after missile in a display of open defiance. It is widely believed that he now has, or is very near to achieving, nuclear capabilities. He certainly has missiles that have the capability of reaching parts of the USA or Japan . . . known as ICBM’s.

The question that looms large and unanswered is why this mad man would go to great lengths to provoke and the USA and the free world. In my mind it is a simple answer. That crazy dude is in the business of selling weapons of war . . . and the media of the world is providing him with billions of dollars of free advertisement. He is demonstrating to the evil groups of the world that if armed well enough, they are beyond the control of the superpowers.

The great question for the USA is, “Have we waited too long to be able to correct the problem? Is this now like a family situation in which a terribly spoiled child of four that is never disciplined, suddenly has become 25 and is ripping the family to shreds?”

There are just over 42-million innocent and defenseless people living in South Korea, and that mad-man would not lose a wink of sleep over nuking the lot of them. It is pretty certain that he has weapons of mass destruction constantly pointed toward Seoul, a city of 25-million.

For years, the world watched as he and his henchmen and mad scientist tried missile launches that blew up or fizzled out on the launch pad . . . and chuckled at how silly they looked in their failure. Suddenly, their technology has dramatically improved . . . and nobody is chuckling anymore.

We have turned to China, Russia, and even Japan for help in reigning the evil empire in . . . but that is an exercise in futility as those nations are rather pleased with where North Korea has the USA.

This is a dangerous and complex situation, and increasingly so in that we now have a man of action in the Oval Office. He has already demonstrated that he has the will and strength to pull the trigger.

Free . . . But Broke!

I read an article about a number of states that have serious budget problems (well, actually it isn’t budget problems inasmuch as they have no budgets . . . it is actually serious financial problems). What is up with these rotten politicians? They run for office, beg for votes, promise to serve the people . . . but then only serve themselves. I read of one state that is proposing to increase income taxes by 32% . . . don’t they know that it is criminal to steal like that from hard-working tax payers?

The federal government is even worse . . . we are $20 trillion in debt and no path out of that debt. In spite of that, our elected representatives are working on a terribly expensive national health-care program.

We are free people and today on the 4th of July . . . we celebrate that freedom . . . but we are also a broken people with idiots running our government. Free . . . but in the poorhouse!

4th of July . . .

I did some studying yesterday and learned some interesting things about this great celebration we observe each year. Several of the 56 men who actually signed the Declaration of Independence went on to serves as Either Congressmen, Senators, or as the President.

Three of those who became President died on July 4th! James Madison and then five years later both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on the same day . . . the 50th anniversary of the signing of that historical document!

I chuckled to myself as I learned this stuff yesterday . . . thinking that I ought to have learned it in American History class in high school. What caused me to chuckle was remembering that pretty much all of my history teachers in high school were also coaches. I can’t remember one of those dudes teaching me one thing that could be taught without the use of a chalkboard and X’s and O’s. Those guys showed lots of films (I also chuckled as the thought came to me that they most likely had flirted with the Librarian and sweet talked her into both selecting and ordering those films. I bet she had to teach them how to operate the projector, too. Most of those dudes couldn’t have spelled cat . . . even if you had spotted them the c and the t.

I Think I have it Figured Out . . .

A couple of years back my sweet little sister, Dorothy (a smart cookie), asked me if I could explain the difference between a republic and a democracy. In asking her question, she pointed out that it was commonly said that we are a democracy, yet the Pledge says we are a republic. I honestly was unable to answer her question, but it did get me thinking and studying. Here is a summary of what I have come up with:

The Pledge of Allegiance says, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

It Seems to me . . . that she was spot-on in her assessment, and her question was quite valid.

In the Pledge of Allegiance, we all pledge allegiance to our Republic, not to a democracy. “Republic” is actually the proper description of our government, not “democracy.”

It Seems to me . . . that a republic and a democracy are identical in every aspect except one. In a republic the sovereignty is in each individual person. In a democracy the sovereignty is in the group.

A Republic is a form of government in which the powers of sovereignty are vested in the people and are exercised by the people, either directly, or through representatives chosen by the people, to whom those powers are specially delegated. The word “people” may be either plural or singular. In a republic the group only has advisory powers; the sovereign individual is free to reject the majority group.

A Democracy is a form of government in which the sovereign power resides in and is exercised by the whole body of free citizens directly or indirectly through a system of representation, as distinguished from a monarchy, or aristocracy. In a pure democracy, 51% beats 49%. In other words, the minority has no rights. The minority only has those privileges granted by the dictatorship of the majority.

It Seems to me . . . the distinction between our Republic and a democracy is not an idle one. It has great legal significance. The Constitution guarantees to every state a Republican form of government (Art. 4, Sec. 4). No state may join the United States unless it is a Republic. Our Republic is one dedicated to “liberty and justice for all.” Minority individual rights are the priority. The people have natural rights instead of civil rights. The people are protected by the Bill of Rights from the majority. One vote in a jury can stop all of the majority from depriving any one of the people of his rights; this would not be so if the United States were a democracy.

In a pure democracy, 51% beats 49%. In a democracy there is no such thing as a significant minority: there are no minority rights except civil rights (privileges) granted by a condescending majority. Only five of the U.S. Constitution’s first ten amendments apply to Citizens of the United States. Simply stated, a democracy is a dictatorship of the majority. Socrates was executed by a democracy: though he harmed no one, the majority found him intolerable.

An example:

Democratic Form of Government: An environmental organization proposes a bill for the ballot that every individual should reduce his household water usage by 25%. To assure that this goal is met, the government, or private sector, will monitor every individual’s household water consumption rate. If an individual does not meet the goal, his first offense is a $500 fine. Second offense is a $750 fine and 30 days community service. Third offense is a $1,500 fine and 30 days imprisonment. Fourth offense is $1,750 fine and 90 days imprisonment. Fifth offense is a felony (1-year imprisonment) and $2,000 fine.

The people argue this environmental issue back and forth. They argue the pros and cons of the issue. This great debate is held at town-hall meetings. Strong opinions are on both sides of the matter. One side preaches, “It is for the common good!” The other side rebuttals, “This is control and not freedom, and lose of choice!” Election day occurs. The people go to the ballot box to settle the problem. The majority won by a vote of 51% whereas the minority lost with a vote of 49%. The minority is ignored. The majority celebrates while the minority jeers in disappointment. Since the majority won, the bill goes in effect. As a result of the majority winning, every individual must reduce his household water usage by 25%; for the reason that the majority has mandatory powers in a democracy. Those who wish to go against the collective (whole body politic) will be punished accordingly. The minority has neither voice nor rights to refuse to accept the dictatorial majority. Everything is mandatory in a democracy. This brings dictatorship and lividity to the realm.

Republican Form of Government: An environmental organization proposes a bill for the ballot that every individual should reduce his water household usage by 25%. To assure that this goal is met, the government, or private sector, will monitor every individual’s household water consumption rate. If an individual does not meet the goal, his first offense is $500 fine. Second offense is $750 fine and 30 days community service. Third offense is $1,500 fine and 30 days imprisonment. Fourth offense is $1,750 fine and 90 days imprisonment. Fifth offense is a felony (1-year imprisonment) and $2,000 fine.

The people argue this environmental issue back and forth. They argue the pros and cons of the issue. This great debate is held at town-hall meetings. Strong opinions are on both sides of the matter. One side preaches, “It is for the common good!” The other side rebuttals, “This is control and not freedom, and lose of choice!” Election day occurs. The people go to the ballot box to settle the problem. The majority won by a vote of 51% whereas the minority lost with a vote of 49%. The minority may have lost, but not all is gone. The majority celebrates while the minority jeers in disappointment. Since the majority won, the bill goes in effect. As a result of the majority winning, it is advisory that every individual reduce his household water usage by 25%; for the reason that the majority has advisory powers in a republic. Bearing in mind that each individual is equally sovereign in a republic, he is free to reject the majority. He may choose to follow the majority and subject himself to the rule, or he may choose not to follow the majority and not subject himself to the rule. The minority has a voice and rights to refuse to accept the majority. Everything is advisory in a republic. This brings liberty and peace to the realm.

Simply stated, It Seems to me . . . the real difference between a republic and a democracy is found in the tension within the Constitution known as the Madisonian Dilemma. The Framers intentionally placed this tension within the Constitution . . . that being the right of the individual to not be governed vs the right of the majority to govern. It was forever intended that this issue would need to be reconciled in every generation.

It also Seems to me . . . that there is a subtle difference between the two . . . and there will likely always be a danger of some trying to create confusion on the subject. The tragedy is there will always be those who insist on making others behave as they dictate.