Immigration . . .

The USA is a nation of immigrants . . . and their descendants. The only folks who can claim their family as always having been Americans are Indians . . . what are commonly referred to as Native Americans. In spite of that truth, history shows that immigration has largely been a struggle legislatively for our young nation.

The United States experienced major waves of immigration during the colonial era, the first part of the 19th-Century and from the 1880s to 1920. Many immigrants came to America seeking greater economic opportunity, while some, such as the Pilgrims in the early 1600s, arrived in search of religious freedom. From the 17th– to 19th-Centuries, hundreds of thousands of African slaves came to America against their will. The first significant federal legislation restricting immigration was the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. Individual states regulated immigration prior to the 1892 opening of Ellis Island, the country’s first federal immigration station. New laws in 1965 ended the quota system that favored European immigrants, and today, the majority of the country’s immigrants hail from Asia and Latin America.

As the 20th-Century arrived there was a great wave of immigrants from across Europe over the first couple of decades. Congress became concerned over the large numbers arriving and slowed the process down. In truth, the 20th-Century will be historically ear-marked as book-ends of two decades of immigration, as the last two decades also saw another large wave of immigrants from South American countries . . . they came as illegals by entering the country unlawfully. Unlike the immigrants from Europe, this group from the South has been less willing to assimilate into the American culture . . . hanging onto their own flags, languages, and cultures. Today, there is a serious legislative struggle over what to do with these folks’ children . . . who were brought here as children. The determining factor about immigrant’s children has always been that a child born inside the USA was an American citizen just because of that birth. That is not the case with these children whose future status is currently being debated.

After months of failed negotiations, the Senate voted down four immigration proposals on Thursday of last week. The bill that had President Donald Trump’s blessing received the fewest votes. The only comprehensive bipartisan proposal on the table not only failed to win enough votes, but was also panned by Trump’s administration. The week was meant to be dedicated to robust and open immigration debate — a promise Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made to Senate Democrats to end the three-day government shutdown in January. But what was supposed to result in an immigration bill ultimately ended in only an hour and a half of actual action on the Senate floor, and nothing to show for it.

The Trump administration has pledged to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by March 5, a date by which Congress has to pass some kind of legislative fix for the roughly 690,000 undocumented immigrants whose legal protections will be put in limbo. The issue is left unsolved and the Senators have left Washington for a break. Who knows what will happen with these DACA folks?

This thing called immigration is a messy thing . . . but then it has pretty much always been messy. The truth is that our ancestors pretty much just came in large numbers and overwhelmed the Indians, and today the folks from the South are pretty much doing the same thing to us.

R.I.P. Billy Graham . . .

I woke this morning and learned that a good man went to his reward, the Rev. Billy Graham. I immediately thought of the Apostle Paul’s declaration in 2 Timothy 4:7: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord will award me.”

I am confident that Billy was well received and perhaps even applauded as he entered the portals of Glory (I believe that there is that great crowd of witnesses who cheer us on (Hebrews 12:1).

The skinny preacher with the booming voice evangelized to nearly 215 million people over six decades and prayed with every U.S. President since Harry Truman. Asked what he’d like people to say about him when he died, he simply replied, “I want to hear one person say something nice about me and that’s the Lord, when I face him. I want him to say to me, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.'” I am confident Billy Graham did, indeed, hear those very words. Having said that, I must also share an observation that many of his admirers have made over recent years. After a long, solid, stellar, and scandal-free ministry for a half century, in his old age he seemed to have sort of just flung the gates of Heaven open and welcomed everyone in regardless of what they might believe.

Personally, I never allowed that observation to alter the way I thought about him. I was able to process it to my comfort level by thinking of it in terms of him having had such a strong burden for souls that he was often overcome with sympathy for those who could not hear, those who could not see. That, combined with the mellowing that comes with age, seems to have left that impression; however, I also know that for a half century he stood strong and focused that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and “salvation is found in no other, for there is no other name given under Heaven whereby we must be saved!” Acts 4:12.

He consistently delivered that uncompromising message to the people of the world for six decades, without a hint of apology. That is what I chose to remember . . . not the ramblings of an almost 100-year-old man who had likely slipped some mentally and emotionally.

Food Stamp Program . . .

The USA is much like a kaleidoscope . . . what one sees depends on where one stands. One might look and see a benevolent nation that seeks to improve the standard of living for lower-income families, while another sees a system that keeps some folks at the bottom of the food chain as a means to serve those at the top of the heap.

Regardless of where you stand and what you see, it must be acknowledged that the government spends vast sums of money on food, shelter, medical, and the like. The food-stamp program is a pretty good case study. Picture two hills with a gorge between them. On one hill stands the hard-working and productive American farmer with a large surplus of food stuff . . . on the other hill stands a mass of lower-income city dwellers struggling to buy food. The food-stamp program was designed to serve as a bridge over the gorge. But like most acts of benevolence, there are abuses. Today the program has swelled to a cost of $70.9 billion in FY 2016 and supplied roughly 44.2 million Americans (14% of the population) with an average of $125.51 for each person per month in food assistance. That is a whole bunch of folks . . . that is a whole bunch of money . . . and that is a whole bunch of food. The Inspector General of USDA has suggested that there is likely as much as 20% waste, fraud, and abuse. I wouldn’t be too surprised to learn that number was even higher.

Donald Trump is on a quest to overhaul the economy and lead the USA back to a place of national pride. That includes some belt-tightening and cutbacks. It includes providing an environment that encourages the business community to re-invest in the nation . . . creating jobs and opportunities. It includes incentives for ‘from welfare to work’. In spite of the amazing success that has already been accomplished, democratic representatives have fought tooth and nail to stand in the way of change.

Trump is the racetrack rabbit that keeps Democrats running in a perpetual cycle of outrage. Currently, he is proposing changing the food-stamp program from a cash/credit award to a combination of food stuff in a box and a reduced amount of cash/credit. His argument is that the program costs can be significantly reduced by purchasing much of the goods wholesale as opposed to individuals buying retail. It has been said that we are a nation that enables folks to use their $800 smart phone to check the balance of their food stamp account.

I don’t have a dog in the fight, but I would argue that Trump’s plan ought to be given a chance . . . the goofy-acting rascal has sure been right on a bunch of other stuff!

I recall a few years back being in D. C. along with a group of folks who also work in the affordable-housing field. We were there to lobby for some desired legislation. As I left a Congressman’s office in the Cannon House office Building, he told me that he would be voting against the legislation and said, “Melton, think about it . . . if Neal Armstrong had somehow been stranded on the moon, we would not have spent a fraction of the cost trying to get him off of the moon as we have spent trying to get someone out of government housing!”

It Seems to me . . . that a good argument could well be made about the food-stamp program in that same context.

Something for Which to be Thankful . . .

I have the high honor of sitting on the Board of Directors of South Texas Children Home Ministries (STCHM), a Baptist benevolence. STCHM is a wonderful organization that does the Lord’s work day-in and day-out, and touches many lives through child-care, counseling services, and family assistance. Today is the Board meeting.

I love STCHM for a number of reasons and I love going out to the campus. Yet, I never go there without thanking the Lord for my sweet Mama and Sandy’s Dad. My Mama held our large family together and kept us kids from needing to be placed in such a home . . . I know that was no easy thing, but she did it, and never complained. Sandy’s Dad raised her and her three siblings all alone. He never complained, but it was no easy task.

Frank . . .

I meet some really interesting people in the pool . . . some which might be described as different . . . a few might even be referred to as odd. Sometimes I chuckle and wonder what that might say about me.

Today I met a fellow who introduced himself as “Frank from San Antonio.”  It was obvious that my new friend Frank had a serious handicap/disability . . . he had an electric cart poolside and was wearing a flotation belt in the pool and clinging to a floating noodle to help keep him upright.

As we walked and got acquainted, he said he had heard of me from others in and around the pool and had been encouraged by my rehab story. As we worked out, he related his sad story. He said that he had been a truck-driver for 30 years. His said his truck was experiencing some mechanical problems so his dispatcher sent him to a repair facility in the Dallas metro-plex area to have it repaired. He said that he had taken a tumble out of the cab of the truck and hit the ground. He said he didn’t know what had happened but he regained consciousness as he was being loaded into an ambulance . . . he added that he was terrified as he could not move any part of his body: feet, legs, arms, or hands. After an MRI at the hospital, he was told that the fall had caused both spinal cord and neck injuries. A neurosurgeon performed surgery and he spent a long period in rehab . . . with limited success.

We talked about health, life, handicaps, and finally about faith. He asked what had been my objective as I struggled through my ordeal. I told him that I prayed like my recovery depended completely on The Lord and I worked really hard as it depended completely upon me, and that I had found that to be a winning combination.

As we parted company, I promised to pray for him . . . for strength, peace, health, and that he discover the reason for his struggle. I live with a strong faith that Paul was spot-on in his declaration in Romans 8:28 when he said, “we know that all things work together for good for those love the Lord, to them who are called according to His purposes.”  I read that to mean that the Lord has a purpose for every event in my life.

What Happens When We Die?

I drove my friend Pedro to Lowe’s to look at the pavers I want to use in the courtyard. As we drove up Wheeler Ave, we drove past Charlie Marshall’s funeral home, where there was obviously a funeral being held. As we passed by, I asked Pedro, “What happens with this person who passed away?” Without even a second’s hesitation, Pedro answered in his heavily accented English, “Thees man is no more . . . he is gone . . . he goes into the grave and remains there until the resurrection . . . there is nada!  It ‘ees what da Bible says!”  I chuckled and asked him if he was certain . . . to which he assured me he was and insisted the Bible said that very thing. I asked him where in the Bible I might find that. He paused and quite sheepishly admitted that he didn’t know where I might find that in the Bible, but he did know it said that very thing.

There are many views about what happens at death. Did you know that medical science is in the process of changing its mind on this very subject? I just read a pretty interesting news report (medical) in Newsweek (2/10/18) concerning the subject of what happens when one dies.

For many years it was just accepted that when one’s heart stopped beating and blood circulation ended that one died, but since the invention of CPR, that view seems to be changing. Many who were pronounced dead have been brought back to life over recent years.

Contrary to what has always long been accepted, it seems that over the last few years scientists have seen repeated evidence that once you die, your brain cells take days, potentially longer, to reach the point past which they’ve degraded too far to ever be viable again. This does not mean you’re not dead; you are dead. Your brain cells, however, simply may not be.

“What’s fascinating is that there is a time, only after you and I die, that the cells inside our bodies start to gradually go toward their own process of death,” Dr. Sam Parnia, director of critical care and resuscitation research at New York University Langone Medical Center, told Newsweek. “I’m not saying the brain still works, or any part of you still works once you’ve died. But the cells don’t instantly switch from alive to dead. Actually, the cells are much more resilient to the heart stopping—to the person dying—than we used to understand.”

Moreover, Scientists working on human cadavers have from time to time observed genes that are active after death, according to University of Washington microbiology professor Peter Noble. For a 2017 study published in Open Biology, Noble and his colleagues tested mice and zebrafish and found not just a handful, but a combined total of 1,063 genes that remained active, in some cases for up to four days after the subject had died. Not only did their activity not dissipate—it spiked. “We didn’t anticipate that,” Noble told Newsweek. “Can you imagine, 24 hours after [time of death] you take a sample and the transcripts of the genes are actually increasing in abundance? That was a surprise.” Perhaps you might want to reconsider that cremation thing. If it is true that the brain cells are still alive . . . that just might be the proverbial ‘rude awakening’ . . . pardon the pun . . . I just couldn’t help myself!

My personal belief is based upon my reading of 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, which I interpret the Apostle saying in vs 8 that absent from the body means present with the Lord.

New Technology . . .

When I was growing up, there were pay phones everywhere. Actually, they were still a pretty common sight just a few years back. The airport lobby had a large bank of these phones, as did most hotel lobbies. There were always phone booths on the corners in the downtown area. Just a few years back, I had an AT&T calling card for calling ‘Long distance.’  That was actually a rather important phrase and expedited one’s call when it was said, “Long distance calling.”

I recall getting a call from AT&T one afternoon asking what was up with my calling card, and informing me that several hundred dollars of use was being charged to my account. I told the guy that I certainly had not been using it at such volume. He then asked me if I had been in any airports on the East Coast in the past 90 days. I said that I had been in several: JFK, Baltimore, and Newark, N. J. He said that a ‘spotter’ had obviously observed me entering my number into a phone and sold it on the black market. I explained how quickly I entered my number and he chuckled and told me those guys watched thru binoculars and were very good at stealing numbers. He was nice, and told me that the charges would be removed and the matter assigned to the fraud unit.

Today everyone has a cell phone . . . even the yard man! I recently read an assessment of this generation as being one in which “food stamp recipients check the balances on their $800 smart phones.” Back when everyone was accustomed to using pay phones, who would have ever believed that a day would come when most everyone would carry a personal mobile device everywhere? Who would have believed all that such device could actually do? Certainly not me . . .

When I was about 15, there was a pretty little gal who had a pretty serious crush on me. She was a nice, sweet girl and I appreciated the attention, but she just didn’t do it for me and I wasn’t interested in ‘going steady’ with her. One afternoon she came out to the football field and called me to the side-line. She told me again of her affection . . . informed me that she was moving on with her life . . . and handed me a quarter and said, “Call me when you grow up!”  I said that it only cost a dime to use the phone . . . she suggested that it would perhaps cost a quarter by the time I finally grew up!  I was startled that it might one day actually cost a quarter. Boy was I short-sighted!

Self-Centered . . . totally

This NFL season has been plagued with confusion, division, and politics . . . and it has not served the league well. As a bit of history, one player (a 2nd string QB . . . a black dude reared by a well-to-do white family) became political toward the end of ‘16 season and started a campaign of sitting during the National anthem. The news media, always hungry for controversy, zoomed in on it. The dude would be interviewed after the game and allowed a microphone to vomit out his vitriolic foolishness . . . all the while wearing his tee-shirt with a photo of Fidel Castro across the front. Mind you, football fans are only interested in hearing from players on the field (playing well) and not with words expressing their views on any other subject. The truth of the matter is that goofy dude said nothing from the playing field as he was always on the bench . . . simply not good enough to be put into the game. Fans generally view players (and actors) as paid monkeys on a stage paid to entertain us.

Foolishly, the NFL Commissioner chose not to enforce the League’s written policy on showing respect during the National anthem. Suddenly, other players decided to join in the protest . . . claiming they were protesting police brutality against Blacks and over social and economic issues affecting black folks. Mind you, these are guys who received a free college education at tax payer’s expense by playing football and are today make several times the amount of average Americans . . . guys living the dream . . . rather than being thankful they elect to be political.

The NFL from office is a bad joke.

After a brutal murder of several policemen in Dallas, the Cowboys wanted to add a sticker on players’ helmets honoring those fallen policemen. The NFL was quick to act and demanded the stickers be removed. One young guy hurting over the death of his mom from breast cancer had a pink cleat made for his shoe . . . the NFL denied him the right to use it. There is a long history of such NFL demands.

Studies are showing that all of this foolishness by players during the National Anthem is carrying a cost. At a campaign-style rally in Alabama, President Trump called NFL owners out on their silence and declared that if a player insults the nation the “SOB should be removed from the playing field and immediately fired.”  His declaration energized patriots and angered Black players, and the foolishness grew by leaps and bounds. Ratings on games are said to be down by some 18 to 20%, advertisers are demanding refunds of advertising fees since viewership is not at the levels contracted for and networks are requiring refunds from the NFL. As the super Bowl approaches, the veteran organization . . . AMVET wanted to place a $30,000 ad in the game’s program. The NFL rejected the veteran group’s request to place that full-page ad in the Super Bowl program because — ironically — the advertisement requesting that people stand for the playing of the National Anthem saying the ad is too “political” for such an arena. AMVET’S proposed ad, which would have cost about $30,000, was denied on the grounds that the game program has “never been a place” for ads that could be considered “political” statements. “The Super Bowl game program is designed for fans to commemorate and celebrate the game, players, teams, and the Super Bowl,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said, according to USA TODAY Sports.

I predict that the NFL owners will soon come to regret the day they permitted the spineless NFL Commissioner to make such an ignorant decision of not enforcing its long-standing, written policy. I suspect they will come to know that there is still great American pride and respect for our flag and troops in uniform. Today I learned that this year’s Super Bowl will not include the National anthem. As a guy who likes the game of football, I fear the NFL has made a terrible error in ever allowing this stupidity to go this far. This is still the USA and there are many of us who love it more than this silly game. I think the response will be serious. The simple truth of the matter is that the work place is not a legitimate area in which employees are welcome to express political views.

Yesterday was Groundhog Day . . .

The February 2nd tradition of predicting the arrival of spring actually predates any groundhog link, stretching back to the ancient Christian holiday of Candlemas. According to an old English rhyme:

“If Candlemas Day be fair and bright, winter will have another flight;

But if it be dark with clouds and rain, winter is gone and will not come again.”

The idea arrived in the U.S. with European immigrants. Though there are many events, the most celebrated is in Punxsutawney, PA. Each year, a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his winter’s nap at a place called Gobbler’s Knob. (In fact, he’s looking for a mate.) Tradition holds that if Phil sees his shadow, it means six more weeks of winter. No shadow, and an early spring is on the way. Today’s forecast for the Coastal Bend area includes sunshine and partial clouds.

A few years back, actor Bill Murray played in the Movie Groundhog Day about a TV reporter who traveled to Punxsutawney, PA. to cover the annual observance of the event. With no real explanation of why, the Reporter found himself in something of a time-warp in which he relived the same day and occurrences for several days. Then, after some self-reflection at how selfish, self-centered, and rude he had become . . . the time-warp ended and he emerged from the experience as a nicer person.

Motown . . . Then and Now . . .

I punched the button in my car to connect with an On-Star advisor. When the call was answered, I asked to be transferred to The Cadillac technical assistance desk to get help in pairing my iPhone with the car. In a moment a younger guy answered and identified himself as Christopher. Part of what he needed to help me with depended upon me providing him with info and him sending me an email, so there were pauses and gaps in the conversation. In one such gap I asked where he was located (there are several service centers from D/FW up to Windsor, Canada). Christopher said he worked out of Detroit. Just making conversation I asked him how the local economy was doing. He replied, “Detroit is part of the mainline USA and it is doing just like the rest of the nation . . . no better, no worse!”  DUH

It seems Christopher was totally unaware that Detroit was once a city of almost two-million, was one of the foremost industrial and manufacturing centers on the planet, and had many high-paying jobs (a guy straight out of high school could go to work on an auto assembly line at $25 per hour while $8 per hour was the norm across the nation. Housing costs were much higher than most other areas.) The simple truth is that it was Motown . . . the place where automobiles were built and assembled. There were hundreds upon hundreds of smaller firms making components for those vehicles. In fact, back in the day there were over 275,000 businesses in the area, employing some three-million people. For a 20+ year period, Detroit led the nation in commercial development. Then global competition kicked in and changed much. It was all made worse by the Clinton Administration implementing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which sent many Detroit jobs to Mexico . . . where those $25 per hour jobs could be performed by people working for $20 per day.

Today, the crime rate is one of the highest in the nation as is the unemployment rate. Back during that boom era, I did a couple of seminars each year in Detroit . . . usually at Cobo Center . . . the famous facility in the downtown area . . . the place was used for meetings such as mine, but with removable walls so it could also be used by the auto manufacturers for the annual car shows . . . where they displayed the new models. In those years Detroit was an exciting place with a booming economy . . . everywhere one looked there was new construction taking place. Folks from across the planet filled the hotels and restaurants. Motown had it going on back then, but it is a rather pitiful place today. I hope with all that is happening with the economy under Trump . . . a surging Wall Street, the return from abroad of many manufacturers, the wide range of regulation cutting, and the revision to the tax code that will entice American firms to bring back trillions of dollars that had been stashed away in foreign banks to prevent heavy taxation. Exxon-Mobile just recently announced plans to invest some $50 billion into the economy.

Christopher didn’t know much about economics or history, but the rascal did manage to help me in successfully pairing my car and phone. Now, I can lock and unlock the car or start the engine from a couple hundred feet away. Moreover, he was a pretty nice young guy.