Thursday, February 25, 2010

More Random Thoughts

It is random thought time again. Fasten your seat belt and be prepared for quick changes.

The news this morning is about a killer whale which killed a trainer at Sea World in Orlando. It was a whale with a history of killing two other people - one a trainer and the other an ill-advised individual who jumped into the tank to go swimming. The trainer's family understood the risk the trainer was taking in working with the whale. Think about it. The species has "killer" in its name. As tame as my basset hound is, when we go to the vet he has a star on his chart that dictates that the vet hands me the muzzle and I put it on. Sam doesn't like vets and my vet is wise enough to not trust him. You should never be surprised when a dog acts like a dog or a killer whale acts like a killer whale. Having said that, you should also never put yourself in a position to pet a killer whale that has a history of killing people.

President Obama had a novel idea. Hold a health care meeting with the democrats and republicans to discuss how to go about health care reform. The meeting is going on as I type. The first quote that got my attention was, "Health care is a right, not a privilege." Wrong. Health care is a commodity. A right is something that you may exercise without infringing upon someone else's rights. You cannot provide health care for everyone without implementing a confiscatory taxing system and government control of benefits.

My second quote to hear from the health care meeting was that people are "Entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts." That is an awesome quote. The legislator then went on to give an anecdotal story about a person who was denied benefits because of pre-existing conditions. The story was a fact, but anecdotes are a terrible basis for making policy. Generally, laws made based on anecdotes tend to not work well in practice. While an insurance market needs to be provided for people with pre-existing conditions, the issue does not warrant a government take over of 1/6th of the nation's economy. There are much less intrusive and less expensive solutions than those being proposed.

And finally, a staffer in our district office called to tell me of a constituent whose son attends UTSA in San Antonio. Apparently, there are signs on campus promoting an event coming up sponsored by some atheist organization that instructs students to bring their Bibles, Korans, and other holy scriptures and they will exchange them for pornography. When the constituent called the university, he was told that it was a freedom of speech issue. (Don't explode. We are working on it.)

And so, the thought for the day is, Proverb 18:17 He who states his case first seem right, until the other comes and examines him.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Illusion of Security

The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2

Yesterday it was the non-stop coverage of the plane crashing into the building in Austin. Prior to that it was the lock-down of the Capitol due to the man firing a gun on the south steps of the Capitol. Before that it was the underwear bomber, the shoe bomber, 9-11, Timothy McVeigh, the attack on the USS Cole and the list goes on and on and on.

Horrible, terrible no good things happen and people try to make sense of them. In an effort to create the illusion of security, the government generally intervenes to "close the barn door" on a particular situation so that it will not recur. So, we have long lines at airport security. Barefoot and beltless, we walk through the check points. Our finger nail clippers, nail files, and bottles of water are confiscated. We are subject to metal detectors, pat downs and searches of our luggage.

Does having the government employee search you make you any safer? It doesn't me. But then I don't generally carry anything other than my knitting needles that could be used as a weapon in the first place. And, oddly enough, airport security does not care that I have knitting needles, somehow thinking that ten inch long, pointed, metal rods do not pose the threat of something more sinister like nail clippers.

At work, I swipe my security card to get in the parking garage, use it again to get into the building, and yet again to get out of the building, and again to exit the parking garage. My every move in the halls of the Capitol are watched by DPS officers or security cameras. Great time and expense is gone to to ensure that I and my fellow employees are not a security risk. Meanwhile, the general public usually has unfettered access to the Capitol without question. Hence, the gunman on the front steps.

In all honesty, the security risks do not bother me as much as the loss of liberty in the name of security. The only way government can make our environment totally secure is by taking away all liberty. I would rather not see that happen. I prefer the approach of Todd Beamer, the great American who, after praying the Lord's Prayer and reciting Psalm 23, led his fellow passengers to take back control of the fourth hijacked plane on September 11, 2001. It was the only hijacked flight that day that failed to reach its intended destination.

Your security lies in your relationship with your Lord and Savior. Once you establish that, you do not have to spend much time fretting over the news of the day.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


There are two things for which I have a low tolerance - incompetence and a lack of logic. Having worked in retail sales for years, incompetence in employees who meet and greet the public grates on my nerves. It is generally caused by a lack of training, and therefore the fault of management. Presumably, if an individual is properly trained and continues to be incompetent, he moves to the status of former employee. He should never be the first impression a customer receives about a company.

But, that is not my point for this missive. The news on talk radio this morning is about the National Organization for Women's (NOW) objection to a proposed commercial to be aired during the Super Bowl. "Is their objection about the scantily clad females portrayed in beer commercials?" you might ask. Or, have they risen up in objection to the abuse of frogs in Budweiser commercials?

Of course not. They are opposed to an ad featuring Tim Tebow and his mother. For those of you who live in closets and don't know, Tim Tebow is a Heisman trophy winning college football player for the Florida Gators. (Yes, he is going to make a lot of money when he goes pro.) Why does NOW object to an ad with this young man? Because the ad talks about the fact that when pregnant with Tim, his mother was seriously ill and doctors recommended that she abort the pregnancy for her health's sake. She chose not to, and, as they say, the rest is history.

NOW is petitioning CBS to pull the ad, saying that it is divisive and could cause some women to not take the advice of their physician. Once again, the logic of my gender disappoints me. NOW is pro-choice. Tim's mom made a choice. However, NOW doesn't like her choice, so they don't want anybody to hear about it. What kind of logic is that?

The truth is, NOW is a group of women who are misguided and blind to the truth of God's purpose and plans for their lives. Lord, forgive them. They know not what they do.

And, Lord, forgive me for my judgmentalism (about NOW and incompetence). I know better.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Suck it Up!

But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Joshua 24:15

Thanks be to God the election is over!

I have a confession to make. I hate politics. The Lord wired me as a policy wonk and though I try to pretend to care about politics, it is really only a means to policy implementation for me. Some people in this realm crave the crowds and enthusiasm of a political campaign and are bored by the legislation and policy discussions. Give me a stack of legislation to read and access to the legislative reference library and I am as happy as a basset hound chewing on a pig’s ear.

Having been the candidate in two campaigns myself, my response to the election this past Tuesday was the same as to my own – Thank God that’s over! In one of those elections I won the seat I was running for. Circumstances eventually made me regret the win on some days. In the other election I lost the seat I was running for. Circumstances soon made me rejoice the loss on most days.

So, how do I respond to the election of a candidate with whom I disagree on just about every level of every fundamental policy near and dear to my heart? After giving thanks that the process is over, the answer for Christians is easy. We are to pray for our leaders so that we may live a peaceable life (1Tim: 2:2).

My prayer before the election was that the Lord would have mercy on us as a nation. God always answers prayers. There is the “yes” answer where I see exactly what I asked for. The “no” answer where I see my will was not lined up with God’s will. And then, there is the “bet you didn’t know that what you asked for would look like this” answer.

I have the distinct impression I have received the last type of response. But it did not come as a complete surprise. Two weeks before the election the Lord prompted me to read Micah. As I wrote in my journal that day, “As I read through the book there was much on judgment and destruction and little on hope and mercy. It is the prophecy of a nation getting EXACTLY what it deserves for its sins.” But then the lord showed me a scripture to meditate over:

“But as for me, I will look to the Lord, I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my call and executes justice for me. He will bring me forth to the light; I shall behold deliverance.”

Our nation is suffering the consequences of its actions. Our core issues continue to be spiritual, not political. We should be on our faces before the Lord, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office.

So, suck it up. If you are grieving, get over it. If you are rejoicing, enjoy it in moderation. Either way, begin fervently to pray for our nation. Pray for godly wisdom and protection for our president-elect and his new administration. Pray about what you can do to help to heal the division in our nation between political parties and races. Pray the Lord will have mercy on us and deliver us.

Monday, November 3, 2008

"The Call"

Do not be afraid of sudden panic, or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes; for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.

Proverbs 3:25-26

I’m back! Did you miss me? I realized this morning that since I last wrote the price of a gallon of gas has gone down at least a dollar, the weather has changed from summer to fall, and the headlines were dealing with the economic bailout, not the upcoming election. Wow! A lot can happen in a month.

Our family is dealing with the illness of my father-in-law. He has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a lung disease that progressively worsens over time. He was a heavy smoker for forty years and worked in a steel mill – both factors contributing to the severity of his condition. In addition to dealing with the disease, we are dealing with the complications of the treatments he has been given over time to lessen the symptoms. Heavy doses of steroids reduce inflammation in the airways. They also leech calcium out of the bones, resulting in extremely painful stress fractures in the spine. In the past six weeks, we have had calls notifying us of three trips to the emergency room, the last one a life flight call.

Each time he has rallied. Each time we have rejoiced that this was not “the call.” My mother-in-law entertains the idea that if we can move him to a better climate, if they can clear up the infections in his lungs, if they can adjust his medications, if they can . . . then he will get better. But, apart from a miracle from God, COPD is what it is. The outcome is determined; the timing is all we are waiting on.

And, so it is with our nation. We have fallen into the quagmire of socialism – with the consent of both political parties. As conservatives waged the war to prevent the spread of socialized medicine, they were unprepared to prevent the socialization of our banking system and auto manufacturing industries. In an attempt to not lose what we have, we have passed policies that will end in our losing our freedoms. Like steroid treatment for COPD, government intrusions into the markets leech economic freedom from our foundation. It is a temporary fix that will kill you.
Socialism is what it is. The outcome of socialism has been determined. It results in higher taxes, fewer choices and creates a disincentive to productivity. Allowing the philosophy to take its natural course will result in the end of those freedoms which make our country great. The timing is all we are waiting on. Will it happen on our watch?

Scripture promises that, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Notice it doesn’t specify whether the Lord needs a Republican or a Democrat in office to achieve His purpose - only His people on their knees.

Tomorrow is Election Day. The results matters. But, regardless of the outcome, do not assume that this is “the call.”

Lord, forgive us for engaging in politics when we should be on our faces in prayer. May our hope only be in You.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.
Proverbs 24:10

Continuing to read about the history of the banking crisis in 1933 . . .

Everyday the crisis was allowed to run meant the closing of more banks, the flight of more gold, the loss of more tens of millions and hundreds of millions in savings, in values, in business losses. But Hoover was powerless to do anything effective without the concurrence of the new President because he lacked powers to act alone and he would nave to get the powers from Congress, or at least an assurance that Congress would validate his assumption of powers. Roosevelt had no wish to stem the panic. The onrushing tide of disaster was sweeping the slate clean for him – at the cost of billions to investors and depositors. The greater the catastrophe in which Hoover went out of power the greater would be the acclaim when Roosevelt assumed power.[1]

It is rather sobering to watch the current events unfolding around us and to see the similarities to the crisis our nation faced in the 1930s. As a freedom-loving, anti-socialism preaching policy analyst, I have often pointed to that period as an historic turning point where the claws of socialism crept out of the swamp and got its first grip on our nation. I have never truly understood how a free people could stand by and allow such a thing to happen.

Now, watching current events and with a better understanding of people, policies and politics, I see history better in light of those circumstances and the future better in light of history. And honestly, I don’t think I like what I see.

Our markets are in a crisis brought on by politicians who wanted to give all things to all people; by consumers with a buy now / pay later mentality; and by a market that overlooked fraud and poor management in its willingness to pocket a profit off the foolishness of the first two groups. The result is ( as any cat owner can picture), we have coughed up one big, fat, slimy fur ball.

I could focus on the solutions. Do we bail out, do we not? Who benefits if we bail out? Who loses? Is it a political ploy to shift the election? If so, by whom? What are the consequences if government fails to act? But, truth be told, I am lacking in mercy and inclined to believe that government gets what it subsidizes. I cannot see any path to solve the problem that does not lead more into socialism and loss of freedom for Americans.

BUT, it is safe and easy to say that sitting in my office where all I have to offer is an opinion. I thank God I am not in the position of offering an opinion on the record as to what action an elected official should take. Interestingly enough, the most important thing that we need at this time is a perception of security at the national level. We need to feel secure in our homes, our economy, and our health. But, security is just that – a perception. In reality we are secure only in our relationship with our Lord and Savior. Everything else is up for grabs.

Our leaders understand that in a way we cannot. One of the primary roles of a president (or elected officials) is to remain calm and champion a solution to such situations. Failure to do so will result in the public losing all faith in our nation’s economy and leadership, resulting in a stampede of fickle followers to the safety of the first person who will promise them prosperity. That’s how you get socialism and communism and dictators – when people perceive that anything would be better than what we currently have.

Today, I pray for our leaders - for our President and his advisors; for the leaders of both parties; and for the leaders in the business realm that they will not faint during this time of adversity. I pray that they will come together for the good of the country and craft a solution for our current economic troubles that will serve the nation and the world well. And, I pray for the people of this country, that they will recognize that the government we have is the one we have chosen. That these situations will continue as long as they believe that government “owes” them something they should be responsible for getting on their own. Finally, I pray for justice for those who have manipulated the politics or the economics of this situation at the expense of the security of their neighbors and the nation. May God have mercy on them.

[1] The Roosevelt Myth, Flynn, John T., Revised edition 1956, pgs. 20-21.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Nothing New

Disclaimer: This is a very short discussion of the economy. It would take a lot more time and paper to fully discuss the issue of bailouts, foreclosures, etc. More than one party is at fault and, yes, I think the heads of some of the mortgage companies and banks should lose everything but their shirts if they entered into shaky loans. They have a fiduciary responsibility to their investors regardless of what the politicians were urging them to do. And, if warranted, criminal sanctions should be considered. On the other hand, people who entered into mortgages which they could not afford do not have my sympathy. The question is, will the solution be worse than the natural consequences for our country?

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; and there is nothing new under the sum.

Current events or historical facts?

Still the reforms, the projects, the adventures in social reconstruction followed “treading on each others heels, so fast they came” – bills to supervise the traffic in investment securities, to prevent the foreclosure of farm mortgages, with one to save the owners of city homes from the mortgage incubus, bills to regulate the railroads, bills for federal action in the oil industry.
Meantime committees were in session investigating the crimes of the past – the sins of big business, of the bankers, the railroads, of Wall Street and of the power barons. Washington had become a headline-writer’s paradise.[1]

I love the bumper sticker that says, “If you aren’t worried about what is going on around you, then you haven’t been paying attention.” While I generally discount worry as a non-productive activity, recent trends in the financial markets have gotten my attention. So, I began to research the most historic banking crisis in our history and found the quote above in a book about Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The economy is an interesting thing. Left to itself without too much interference, it can hum along nicely and serve us all well. There are a lot of technical aspects of economics, but let’s keep it simple. The most important thing necessary to make a sound economy is consumer confidence. When citizens are secure in the knowledge that they will have money tomorrow to buy the goods and services they will desire or need, they tend to freely spend or invest their income. When they are convinced that the “sky is falling” they tend to hold more tightly to their money.

So, the question is, “If enough gloom and doom is preached, can we talk ourselves into a crisis?”
The answer is a resounding “yes.”

When I worked in retail sales, there was a story shared at one of our meetings about the owner of a hot dog stand. The gist of the story was the self-fulfilling prophecy of the owner who was told that business was down. In response to the news, he reduced his orders of hot dogs and buns. He turned away customers because he ran out of food. The more customers he turned away, the fewer repeat customers he had. So, he ordered fewer and fewer hot dogs until, one day, he closed his stand altogether.

We are in an election cycle where one party benefits from the failure of the other. In order to convince voters that a change is needed, voters must “feel the pain” of the poor economy. In all honesty, times may be slower than the booms to which we have become accustomed, but if people were more responsible in their use of credit and the politicians would quit requiring and rewarding bad behavior, the markets might actually make a natural correction.

However, if the politicians succeed in convincing the voters that we are in crisis, that is the one sure way to ensure that individuals will stop spending disposable income, make a run on the banks and hoard their cash. Prices will increase, products will become scarce and pessimism will rule. In other words, we will close the hot dog stand.

Keep things in perspective. The poor in our nation have a higher standard of living than the wealthiest in most nations. We do not have universal health care, but no one is turned away at an emergency room for medical care. Eating out, computers, televisions and cell phones are luxuries, not necessities.

Most of us have everything we need and most of what we want. If you have neighbors who are hungry, feed them. If they need a place to stay, take them in. If they are cold, buy them a coat. If you wait for the government to do it, none of us will be able to afford it.

Lord, give our leaders wisdom through this economic crisis to do the right thing, rather than the politically correct thing.

[1] The Roosevelt Myth, Flynn, John T., Revised edition 1956, pg 12-13.