Thursday, July 31, 2014

Last few thoughts on - A New Day

This may close the series of responses to "conservative" thoughts on what they would have us all do to make - A New Day, happen.  I regret to say that I have not seen their opponents offer similar thoughts. As I rapidly approach my 85th birthday, it is with a tear in my eye as I watch so many apparently letting time - and the opportunities, pass away.  Enough of that for now(more to come), let's listen to Wendy Kopp, Founder and Chairperson of Teach for America and CEO of "Teach for All".

"When comparing the American education system with those of other developed countries, the best we can say is that ours performs about average.

In part, our poor standing is due to the enormous and unforgivable opportunity gap between the most marginalized children and their privileged peers.  But even in our top performing State - Massachusetts, high school graduates are on an average at least two years behind their peers among the world's top performers.

Ensuring America's strength and prosperity will require our making a serious commitment to educating our children.  It will mean embracing higher standards that demand critical thinking, just as the other countries have.   It will mean engaging in what I have come to call the Long Game - the long term, all-out effort to build the capacity within and outside schools to ensure all students meet these standards.

For years, we have been looking for a quick educational fix - giving parents vouchers, for instance, or supplying students with computers.  But, if we have learned anything, it is that there is no one silver bullet solution.  Vouchers work only if parents have a large number of high-quality alternatives to choose from, and technology is powerful only when used in the service of classrooms and schools with clear missions, strong cultures and capable faculty - not as a replacement for them.

Transforming American education is going to take massive investments over many years, investments not only of dollars, but also of our mots valuable resource: the time and energies of our most promising, diverse leaders.  It is slow and deep work because it requires change from millions of teachers and administrators, parents, policy makers and civic leaders.  Encouraging the Long Game is the only way to realize the rest of our aspirations."

After reading Ms. Kopp's estimations, I have only one primary thought.  Thank God she has moved to the private sector and should not have access to public monies

Why do I say this?  Let me take you back to 1935 and a one room school house in Brockway township, St. Clair county, Michigan and introduce you to Mina Mosher Armstrong, my first grade teacher whose basic approach to education led me to succeed in the eight years of grammar school as we knew it to be in those days.  Her encouragement would continue to propel me on to graduate from Yale High School, seven years of service to our nation as part of the U.S. Air Force and then, graduation with a BBA Degree in Business from what is now known as Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA.

At no time in the years I invested in that education was I ever known to be a scholar, nor was I ever challenged to be more than just a four year college graduate, by my family, my superiors in the service, except for one Professor who encouraged me to become an Accountant, a thought that made me end any further thoughts of education, per se.

I did become an employment counselor and dealt with more poorly prepared job applicants than I care to recall.  I spent years wondering why our educational systems did such an inadequate job of making certain their graduates were adequately prepared for the multitude of opportunities available to them in the most dynamic economy ever known by mankind.

And as I seriously consider the problem, I think back to Mina Mosher Armstrong.

I don't think she ever went to college - she learned how to motivate people merely by relating their struggles to the one she had to overcome to become a teacher.  More often that not, her wages were paid by the produce grown in the neighboring garden and fields and I still recall helping to slaughter the young calf my grandfather had prepared for my teacher and her family.

Therein is the secret to returning education back to where it once was, when the students did not have so many diversions.  Oh, we had ours.  I got out of bed at 5:30 AM every morning and went to bed at 10 PM, tired.  We didn't have the diversions, but we learned the value of sweat equity.

Every one in my family, my grandparent's families, graduated from high school and I am the only one to ever see the inside of a jail cell.  In fact, even that experience added to my own education.

You can listen to Ms. Kopp and the legions of highly paid advisers available to the local school if you wish to continue - failing our youngsters, if that is your desire.  My suggestion would requite examining what I have suggested - learning to take every day as an opportunity to do more or to do better.  Stop wasting time, talking about the problem; invest you efforts in practical ideas on how to resolve them.

Still more thoughts about - A New Day

Today, we turn to Shelia Bair, former Chairperson of the FDIC.  Currently, on the Board of Santander Bank, a Spanish, based in Boston, MA, with extensive holdings in Europe.

"Apple, GE, Caterpillar, Google.  These are marquee names in the drama of foreign tax dodges.  But really, can you name one top U.S. corporation that hasn't moved some portion of its business out of this country to reduce its tax bill?

Like it or not. foreign tax havens have become a routine part of American business.  Maybe it is time for government to throw in the towel.  For 25 years, we have left the top corporate rate at 25%, while other smarter countries have cut theirs.  Corporate tax revenues have eroded, while millions of jobs and billions of dollars in profits have left our shores.

Is a corporate income tax even feasible in a globalized and digitized economy?  We aren't taxing something tangible like people or property, but rather an extremely portable legal structure.  It is kind of dumb to impose high corporate taxes on doing business here when it is so easy for companies to go somewhere else - where labor is probably cheaper too.  By eliminating corporate income taxes, we ease pressure on U.S. wages, bring back jobs and repatriate an estimated $2 billion in profits stashed elsewhere.

Many will argue that this would be a giveaway to the rich.  But the current system isn't taxing rich shareholders.   It is taxing the corporate entity - and much of that tax is passed on to employees and customers.  Today's policies actually favor the wealthy with lower taxes or capital gains and dividends to mitigate the impact of double taxation.  It would be smarter to tax corporate profits once, at the shareholder level, and apply the same, higher taxes to capital gains and dividends that apply to us working stiffs.

The corporate income tax may apply to our inner Robin Hood, but its economic impact has turned it into a Greek tragedy.  It is time to bring down the curtain."

Where has this lady been?  Yes, I know, lolling away in a plush government job - at the FICA, but now apparently, she has moved her knowledge and obvious expertise to a bank were she is probably making much more money, and would probably be dealing with - and gaining more intimate knowledge of, the minds of foreign bankers and banking systems.  Good career move.

Meanwhile, our politicians are typically ignorant of the way the world works - aside from their armed forces and the potential for danger, if aimed at our shores.

I certainly know even less that they do, but I do know that she obviously has her facts right and they seem to be ignored in the halls of Congress and within the inner workings of the White House.

Next time you hear someone boasting in our financial integrity and the health of our economy. send him or her a copy of the above and ask for their opinions on the subject. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Still more thoughts about - A New Day

Today, we turn to the opinions of Professor Richard A. Epstein of the New York University Law School, entitled:  Deregulate Labor Markets Now.

"Wide-ranging de-regulation of labor markets would produce an immediate economic jolt without costing taxpayers a dime.  Labor markets are hobbled every day by ever-more intrusive regulations and taxes, with two costly consequences.  First, they reduce the opportunities for gains from trade between employers and employees.  Quite simply, if the cost of regulatory or tax compliance exceed the joint gains from the transaction, the deal is off.  Second, these regulations add huge administrative expenses, both in the direct costs of government enforcement and in private compliance costs.  We should never spend tax dollars to reduce productive activity.

So we have to bid farewell to the egalitarian mantra that we can lift the nation up out of its doldrums by raising minimum wages to living wages, by tightening overtime regulation, by strengthening public and private unions, by extending family-leave protection, by continuing with aggressive enforcement of the anti-discrimination laws based on race, sex and age, by imposing health-care mandate on employers, and by extending un-employment benefits.  The tragic truth is that these feel good measures his hardest at the bottom end of the labor markets, especially minority teenagers desperate to gain work experience.  Employers won't hire if they think that reforms are short-term gimmicks.  Protectionist policies never work.  But long-term stable reform could and should reverse those dismal un-employment and labor-participation figures."

Oh how I wish that I had been Professor Epstein' class monitor for this examination.  Avoiding just a few of the pertinent facts was almost a crime in my day and age and it's difficult for me to imagine anyone who knows anything about the pertinent problems regarding employment to allow a passing grade for this "essay".  Yes, I know it was merely an addenda to a politically inspired effort to convince folks that whatever is not working in our society is the fault of the other party. 

First off, there will be no "wide-ranging" deregulation of our labor markets without the expressed consent of our Congress.  There may actually be a politically inspired effort to do so, but as long as our government is regulated by the efforts of the Congress and the approval of our President, we should not be intimidated by thoughts as expressed by Professor Epstein.  Don't let anyone scare you into believing otherwise.

And there will be no economic jolts in the labor marketplace as there are few - in any, organizations capable of energizing such an event, the threats of certain legislators notwithstanding.

Nor are there any egalitarian mantras" other than the wishful thinking of those who have been to the "market" and failed in the process.  We get confused by the size of many of out corporations and are tempted to believe that their policies and practices are at the root of many of our problems regarding employment, but the heart and soul of the labor force still carries the proverbial "lunch bucket" to and from their places of employment.  Alas, they do not have any real power.  Proof of this is found in the recent efforts to raise the minimum wage by picketing McDonalds and their closest competitors.

If we want to address the "problems" cited by the good Professor, all we really need to do is have the leaders of the major employers in our nation, to invite the leaders of 100 or more various groups claiming to represent the working class, to a "retreat" lasting a week or more in some exotic place, far removed from the "media" and earnestly address the issues they have agreed upon to discuss.  Then, turn the findings over to the public-at-large for their approval.

Anything less would be an insult to all who earnestly seek resolution to the real problems we are experiencing.  It might be entitled - Democracy in Action.  Who knows, there might even be some who would report having "seen" smiles on the faces of our founding fathers.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

More thought about - A New Day

Today's commentator is Arthur S. Brooks and I really do not know him, but I have been familiar with the organization he leads as President - the American Enterprise Institute.  It has been around for a number of years and has offered wise counsel to all who will listen and respond.  But isn't that one of our major problems, not listening to those who have "been there and done that" but worse, listening to those who are merely being paid to offer theories.  Let's listen...

"The one thing America needs right now is - hope.  I realize how ironic that sounds.  After all, hope was exactly the theme of President Obama's winning 2008 Presidential campaign.  Unfortunately, that promised hope neither elevated the American spirit, nor renewed our economy.  Six years later, a higher percentage of Americans have lost hope, with more saying the country is on the wrong track than when he took office.  We are mired in the longest streak of pessimism since Watergate.

The poet Emily Dickinson once defined hope as "that thing with feathers".  Hope as a campaign slogan was even less substantial - little more than a nebulous emotional state associated with what we imagined the President could do for us.  A 2008 study of the journal Motivation and Emotion shows that this sort of vague hope is actually negatively associated with a sense of personal agency.  It is tied to distant goals that we cannot control, like hitting the lottery or depending on the largess of a faraway government.

Real hope - the practical kind that America has traditionally possessed and needs again - is very different than a bumper sticker.   Social scientists describe it as a continuation of two phenomenon: possibility and responsibility.   Real hope is at the intersection of "it can't be done" and "I can do it if I work hard".  Studies show that this makes individuals likelier to to take initiative and earn their success.  This is the restless optimism that built our nation.

To revive America growth and confidence, we need real hope, not campaign hope.  That requires a policy agenda not of unbounded government, but of jobs, entrepreneurship and educational reform. Most important, though, it means leaders who have hope in the American people - to revive the national greatness through private initiative, hard work and personal responsibility."

As the old comic used to say, "...velly interlesting."   Now I recall why I stopped renewing my membership in the American Enterprise Institute.  We need more than words to move ahead in any enterprise, as even Mr. Brooks suggests, it takes hard work and personal responsibility.  As to private initiative, it should remain in the realm of those who ignore the fact that we live in a democracy, that as a nation we were formed to believe in the creed that we enter this world as individuals and it has meaning only as we make application in our own lives.  We need not fear a government that is "of the people, by the people and for the people".

We also need to recall that we have a history that began with a dream and has survived various decades of war in defense of our liberties as well as unfortunate invasions of situations that were beyond our capacity to reason why we were being involved.  We can cast all sorts of imaginations as why some seem to have rejected our President's interpretation of the word hope, but we should not ignore the fact that he remains our President.  The historians will have a right to make that assessment, but he is our leader and he was given the task of leading us out of the greatest failure of his predecessor and that was to merely imagine the impact of his decisions.  The record is clear, this President has accomplished the impossible task of overcoming the greatest fiscal failure in our history.  And, of course, that debt continues to soar as our treatment of those involved in those fruitless wars has soared far beyond the comprehension of even the darkest assessment of their potential costs.

That history includes our entrance into World War II when that President had to overcome his political opponents of that day and did so with a simple phrase that would serve us well, even today.  "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."  We do not need the advice and counsel of social scientists whose specialties are focused on the imaginary rather than the hard work of "righting the Ship of State" after decades of fiscal insanity that has been nurtured by members of both political parties.

Need a quotation that applies to these times, "Ask not for whom the bells toll.  They toll for thee."

Agreed, we have real problems, but picking on the word hope will not even begin to resolve the tasks that are before us.  Nor will continuing to elect "voices" rather that those who have actually studied the sources of our constant habit of fumbling the ball during the kick off and worse, wasting away our time, blaming the "referees".

Monday, July 28, 2014

More thoughts about - A New Day

Let's hear what Juan Williams if FOX News has to say.  This might be interesting.

"Republican Rutherford B. Hayes won the 1876 Presidential race by one electoral vote.  But he respected Americans who voted.   "To vote is like paying a debt, a duty never to be neglected, if its performance is possible."   Hayes was right - and we should encourage the "performance" of voting and holding elections on weekends.  It is one step that can enhance voter turnout and boost confidence that  the people remain in control of the government.  Legislation to move Election Day to weekends has already been introduced to Congress.  A group of "Why Tuesday" has been working for the past decade to highlight the benefits of weekend voting.

The group notes that the U.S. ranks last in voter turnout among Western democracies in the G-8.  The key difference is that five of those other countries have weekend voting.  Limiting voting to a single day during the weekend is a challenge for people who have to get to the polls before or after work.  On Election Day, they often have to juggle traffic jams, unexpected meetings, day care pick ups or drop offs, in addition to trying to vote.  The Number One reason people give for not casting a vote, is "too busy/couldn't get time off to vote".

In the past two Presidential elections the nation has seen record turnout.  But only about half of the eligible voters got to the polls.   Meanwhile, faith in the direction of the country and government has plummeted.  Giving the American people the best chance to become a part of the democratic process is key to reinvigorating trust in our elected leaders and the idea of self-government that is the basis of our liberty and prosperity.

With the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act coming next year, weekend voting is an idea of whose time is near."

Please, I feel like vomiting.  Read Mr. Williams own words - "...the past two Presidential elections the nation has seen a record turnout."  Now, what caused that?  It surely was not an Act of Congress nor could it become one, given the numerous polls that have revealed the public's interest in Presidential elections.  The essential fact regarding Mr. Williams' conclusion appears to be because the preceding President had left office with a budget surplus, whereas his successor would leave office with a historic deficit.  And something could be said for the fact that four of the five preceding Presidents - prior to Clinton, were very unpopular Presidents.  It could be said that Presidential elections have become more of a popularity contest than an effort to elect a leader.

I must add, based on the 2008/2012 election results, the electorate appears to favor reason over rhetoric, regardless of the date of the election, the opinions of our political commentators notwithstanding.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

More thoughts about - A New Day

Remember Michael Milken?  Some of us do.  I must confess, I only knew him by name and his uncanny ability to get that name into newsprint.  He is now, President of the Milken Institute.  If you don't know about him, it might help to take a look at his Institute.  Meanwhile, here is what he had to say with regard to - Renewing American Prosperity:

:The late social scientist, Gary Becker, once demonstrated that at least three-quarters of natural wealth, can be found in the knowledge, skills and experience of people, what he called human capital.   There are three ways to increase human capital.   Expand knowledge and skills through education, extend the length and and quality of life by investing in health and, welcome skilled immigrants.

The focus of education should be in the classroom.  We give Oscars to actors, Grammys to singers and Nobel Prizes to scientists.   Recognizing that effective teachers and school principals are the most important school-based factors influencing student achievement, the MILKEN FAMILY FOUNDATION launched an awards program nearly 30 years ago to provide similar recognition for great educators.  An affiliated public charity, the National Institute of Excellence in Teaching has developed  extensive programs to to ensure skilled, motivated and competitively compensated teachers.

At least half of economic growth since the Industrial Revolution can be traced to improvement in public health and the results of medical research that have more than doubled average lifespans world-wide.  We can now prevent or cure many of the infectious diseases that plagued mankind for millennia. America's greatest health challenge, representing 75% of current health-care spending is the burden of of chronic diseases.   Public-health programs emphasizing prevention and wellness will help to reduce that burden.  And to assure progress against all diseases, the National Health Institutes of Health budget should be restored to to at least the 2003 level, when it was 25% higher in real dollars.

Immigration restrictions that keep out highly skilled workers, investors and entrepreneurs are counterproductive.  These ambitious people can stimulate economic growth and create more jobs for all Americans.  We should greet them with open arms.

Policies that expand human capital in these three areas (education, health and immigration) will increase productivity and help us to sustain our global leadership."

I commend Mr. Milken for his thoughts as well as is efforts to focus on the reality of the challenges we face and has shone a bright light on the failures of those we have sent to Washington to represent us. Alas, they have given US what WE asked for - more than likely, but the problem has always been, it is what "I, the voter" wanted, rather than offering an accurate assessment of what was good for all of us.  It was NO mistake that our fore-fathers gave us the name, the United States of America.

As a college graduate in the late 50's, I left school wondering why the examples of cooperation with one another appeared to have been so widely ignored while we had just experienced the greatest and most effective example of forces cooperating with one another to achieve a common goal was being lauded - and ignored, on so many levels in our society.  60 years later, we still do.  We seem to believe the competitive nature of collegiate and professional sports should inspire us without seeming to realize, the scores that we use for measurement are achieved only as the athletes cooperate with one another.  We seem to want to believe that the roles we see being portrayed in the movies or on our TV sets are - in fact, real, whereas they represent nothing more than a figment of someone's imagination, brought to life by those behind the scenes, working together for their mutual success.

Yes, of course, we need to laud our teachers at every level in our society, but somehow we tend to ignore the environment in which they are often asked to teach.  It would appear they we have yet to figure out how to provide the necessary tools the students use in their studies, without appealing to the community for help in obtaining those supplies.

Of course, we need to fund our public health facilities and resources, but we also need to examine why the sale of cosmetics and drugs appear to be a critical resource for the revenues required for the public to have access to radio and television. 

And we need to CLOSE our borders to stop the chaos that confuses us when we read and listen to the immigration crises that appear to be happening regularly.

In short, we need "citizen solders" as our representatives in Washington and our State capitols who realize and stand for the citizens of our nation, rather than competitive political forces whose only goals seems to be winning the next election. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

More thoughts about - A New Day

I trust you recognize the name of George Gilder, author of the book "Knowledge and Power: The Information Theory of Capitalism"  (Regenery, 2013)  I will admit, I have not read this book, but when I hear of George Gilder, I stop and listen and have never regretted the time spent, reviewing his thoughts.  I trust you will feel the same after reading the following:

"In 1966, the eminent management sage, Peter Drucker wrote about government regulation in his book, "The Effective Executive" that "at a guess, at least half the bureaus and agencies in government regulate what NO LONGER NEEDS TO BE REGULATED."   (My emphasis - SM).  He added, "There is a serious need for a new principle of effective administration under which every act. every agency, and every program of government is conceived as temporary and as expiring automatically after a fixed number of years - maybe ten, unless specifically prolonged by new legislation following careful outside study.

When Drucker wrote, the U.S. was by far the leading force in world capitalism, and most regulatory bodies were relatively new.  Today, the U.S. is falling behind Asian leaders in capitalistic vitality.  Not only is the U.S. less free than Hong Kong, it is less capitalistic by many measures than China, allegedly a Communist country, China now boasts of government revenues of just 17% of GDP, compared to U.S. revenues of 26% of GDP.

The key problem is the same one that Drucker identified in 1966 - a glut of regulations and programs that that no longer serve their purposes, but which constitute a nearly insuperable barrier to creative new enterprise.  Twenty years ago, initial public offerings in crucial technology domains exceeded mergers and acquisitions by a factor of 20.  Today, there are eight mergers and acquisitions for every IPO.  Large companies that can deal with the mazes of government rules increase their dominance by purchasing potential rivals.

Most efforts focus on making regulations more efficient.  But efficient performance of futile or obstructive functions make the problems worse.  What we need is what Peter Drucker recommended, expiration dates for regulations."

I have to ask, do you - as a voter, as one who serves to elect the people who will - hopefully, go to Washington to heed Drucker's counsel, do you think it will ever happen?  Personally, I doubt it as I have spent far too much of my time attempting to counsel potential voters.  To most, a job is merely a paycheck and the success of their employer hardly ever enters their mind.  When they go to vote, it is far more easier to vote for the Party that seemed to impress the "father/mother" figures at home and they have no concept of the expanding economies that provide the revenues on which our economy is based.

Case in point, many, many years ago, I heard that the government was considering replacing many of the people in their "Department of Employment" offices. as they were known in those years.  The problem as I saw it was the fact that the local employment offices were staffed with people who knew where all of the jobs existed in their area.  They did not need to know the names of the people seeking a job, all they needed to know was their skill and they could identify that by referring to their copy of the D.O.T, a Dictionary of Occupational Terms.   By comparing the individual's code to the codes that were part of every employer's 941 report that was sent to Washington, every fiscal quarter, they could tell whether the job prospects were good or perhaps, not so good.  All they to do was call the employer and inquire about the possibilities.   I went to Washington armed with the suggestion that the applicant could do that and reduce the cost of having employees carry that burden.

What I did not realize was the fact that the people in Washington wanted to do was increase their stature (their incomes) by having "high tech" equipment available in all of their offices - that told them what the applicant's name was, but paid no attention to the D.O.T. knowledge that I understood could be used to facilitate an applicant's job search.  I cannot speak for other areas, but I can assure you that no one in the local Human Resources offices have a clue as to what I am referring to and if they did, nothing could be done until it was forwarded on to Washington and probably be lost in the maze of computer information that has little or nothing to facilitate putting people to work.

For decades I have searched for just one candidate for Federal office who would take the time to sit and listen, with no results.  And I happen to believe, my example is merely one of the thousands that float around only because we prefer to have politicians to represent us rather than skilled technicians. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

More thoughts about - a New Day

Excuse the delay.  I was busy Monday, gathering approvals for a new "job" I hope to be starting soon. It is actually, not a job, per se, but an opportunity to serve, working with a "hospice" organization, attending to fellow veterans in their last days.  Then, Tuesday, I took friend of mine who lives in nearby Pleasant Hill, to the Nashville airport to pick up her son, arriving from Arizona - by way of Charlotte, NC.  I thought that was interesting.  The new airport facility in Nashville is not - interesting.  No signs, no help for someone who had not been there in almost ten years.  Yesterday, I saw my "cancer" doctor for my "Eligard" shot, the third of the four I well get, one every three months.  Apparently, they are doing a good job.  I feel great - even gaining back some of the weight I lost last year. 

So now, listen to Paul Otelini, former President of the Intel Corporation on "Restoring American Prosperity".

"It seems that hardly a summer passes nowadays without a story about how an enterprising child, somewhere has had his or her budding entrepreneurial hopes dashed by some bureaucrat shutting down their lemonade stand.  Recently, we have seen this same drama play out on a large stage with regulatory moves to impede Web-based "disruptive" businesses like Uber, the innovative transportation service that has had to battle entrenched taxi cartels and sympathetic regulators.  America is becoming an increasingly difficult place to do business, small or large.

We can and must do better.  We must put in place a comprehensive approach to allowing free markets to function and capital to flow.  Markets should determine the success or failure of businesses.  What we need is neither hard nor unknown.  First, review all of our regulations from the Federal to the local level to insure they make it easier to start and run businesses and employ workers while maintaining the essentials of health and safety that we have come to expect.  Second, create competitive tax rates that incentivize U.S, companies to operate here and foreign companies to locate here.

Simply put, make America the best place to open and run a business.  Unleash the competitive spirit of America workers and entrepreneurs to do what they do better than anyone, create new products and technologies that improve the human condition.  This edition of the Wall Street Journal celebrates 125 years of its existence.  I can imagine how readers of that first edition would react to our world today.  They would certainly be amazed at the living standards we have and the wonderful gadgets we employ.  But I think they would be appalled at how difficult we make it for people to dream their dream, including that lemonade stand on the corner."

So I have to ask, how do we do this?  My answer would be to send elected representatives to Congress who would embrace Mr. Otellini's thoughts.  That might be easy, IF we had an electorate that understood the advantages of a truly competitive market place.  The hardest part would be finding the people - or a computerized program, that could sort through the millions upon millions of tax codes and employment regulations that would need to be evaluated before we could enact such program.  I get this gut feeling that I won't be around to see that day.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

More thoughts about - a New Day

Today - after my tirade yesterday about "who is responsible for the mess we are in" I am turning to Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, as I just filled out the questionnaire on her web-site and I am hoping she might respond to my response to her thoughts on the future of our nation:

"My grandfather, a decorated World War II veteran, recently passed away at age 98.  He worked two jobs, provided for six kids and he never used credit cards.  The men and women of the "greatest generation" understood that you need to live within your means.  They also worked hard to leave the country better off than they found it.

With over $17.5 trillion in debt and tens of trillions more in unfunded liabilities, our nation's credit card is maxed out.  Republicans and Democrats, with Presidential leadership, need to finally reach the much talked about, but elusive, grand fiscal agreement that "would possibly" (excuse me, Senator, for altering -the language of your claim) put America on a strong financial footing and create a pro-growth economic climate..

First, "an" agreement must address the long-term drivers of the national debt - entitlement programs. Social Security and Medicare are headed for insolvency as early as 2033 and 2026, respectively.  If we don't up-date these programs to reflect the nation's changing demographics, they won't be there for the people who need them.

Second tax-code reform (..."here we go, again" SM)  The existing code is mired in favoritism and crony capitalism that does not drive economic growth.  The code should be made simpler and fairer, with rates reduced for individuals and businesses.  Otherwise, we will continue to see American companies relocate abroad, costing jobs in the U.S.

Tax reform should also allow U.S. businesses to bring back the trillions parked overseas because of our uncompetitive corporate tax rate - so they can invest here, creating jobs, while also adding money to the Treasury for priorities like paying down the debt.

The "greatest generation" had the courage to fight for America's freedom and prosperity.  It's time for our leaders today to honor that sacrifice and secure the futures of (our) generations to come."

Excellent essay, Senator Ayotte.  Excuse me, if you would want to believe I am on my feet and applauding your thoughts.  You and I both know, they are not original.  I have stated elsewhere that my knowledge and understanding came about after decades of review.  I voted for the people I trusted to be my elected Representatives and based on the evidence you and so many others have cited, I - and millions more like me, have been betrayed by the most onerous of all "con" games.  "A little here and a little there and the first thing you know, others will believe in what we are doing."

The game that your predecessors have been playing needs to be closed down, now!

We do not need your words, Senator.   We do need your action, NOW!  You need to initiate legislation that prevents the Congress from initiating even one more action that costs us one more penny.  For anything to be passed, there MUST BE a section that defines precisely where that money is coming from and it's source must be found in previous legislation that has proven to be worthless.

Furthermore, Congress needs to provide legislation that itemizes every Federal agency that exists today, that has as its source of income, the contribution of tax payer dollars.  The Congress and the President will specify those agencies - such as the Department of Defense, that require financing for operations that are beyond the scope of available resources.  All other agencies will be challenged to operate their activities on five percent less that current appropriations and this process will continue until the Federal budget has been balanced.

No "if, ands or buts" will be allowed in determining all appropriate legislation. 

I wasn't with your Grandfather, Senator, but I do know that if his unit was actually engaged in combat with enemy forces, I have it on good authority - my fellow veterans, that every such action was committed to a "do or die" agreement that this battle will be won.  It was not be discussed in committee, nor would it be subjected to interviews with the "press" to see if the results could be do-able.  To a man, they fought and many died.

I suggest that this be the creed of all of our elected Representatives.  They will be directly involved in "righting the Ship of State" or they will resign.  Again, no "ifs, or ands or buts."

We are where we are because many of our elected Representatives were not conscious of their commitments.  They did what they were told to do by their political affiliates - or else they would not receive funding for any attempts to be re-elected.  Let's just get honest with one another.

I understand their predicament.  Unfortunately, they are the ones that have been caught in the proverbial "hen" house and like the "foxes" in my day, they should no longer remain as a threat to the owners of those facilities.

Agreed?  Let me hear a resounding - "Amen, brother"

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Further on - towards a New Day

Let's further examine the thoughts of Professor John H. Cochran, University of Chicago, Booth School of Business and a Hoover Institute Senior Fellow:

"America does not need big new economic ideas to get going again.  We need to address the hundreds of little common sense economic problems that everyone agrees need to be fixed.  Achieving that goal requires the revival of an old political idea: limited government and the rule of law.

Our tax code is a mess - see Paul Ryan.  The budget is a mess.  Immigration is a mess.  Energy policy is a mess.  Much law is a mess.  The schools are awful.  Boondoggles abound.  We still pay farmers not to grown crops.  Social programs make work unproductive for many.  ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank are monstrous messes.  These are self-inflicted woulds, not external problems.

Why are we so stuck?  To blame "gridlock", "partisanship" or "obstructionism" is as pointless as blaming "greed" for economic problems.

Washington is stuck because that serves its interests.   Long laws and vague regulations amount to arbitrary power.  The Administration uses this power to buy off allies and to silence opponents.  Big businesses, public-employee unions and the well-connected get subsidies and protection, in return for political support.  And silence.  No insurance company will speak out against ObamaCare or the Department of Health and Human Services.  No bank will speak out against Dodd-Frank or the Securities and Exchange Commission.  Agencies from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Internal Revenue Serve wait in the wing to punish the unwary.

This is crony capitalism, far worse than bureaucratic socialism in many ways, and far more effective for generating money and political power.  But it suffocates innovation and competition, the well springs of growth.

Not just our robust economy, but 250 years of hard-won liberties are at stake.  Yes, courts, media and a few brave politicians can fight it.  But in the ed, only an outraged electorate will bring change - and growth."

Well, that ought to turn your stomach; it turned mine, but I can remember the day when I opposed the Human Resources experts in Washington when they decided to replace talented employees with computers.  I had seen computers take over an accounting department of a Shell Oil Company district office and watched in near horror as it seemed the employees were going to be inundated with paperwork.  I left them to join a firm selling business forms and began to realize that my job was not going to teach me how to become a salesman, but how to use a pick and shovel in the gold mines I would be visiting seeking their business.

Washington is a wonderful place to visit our tax dollars at work as we are pleasantly escorted to all of the fascinating scenic places, never realizing that those building we pass by are housing the folks whose main interests involve bankrupting our children and grandchildren. 

It's just a job, they say, not seeming to realize that it is their futures as well.   I remember the days when we rewarded and often promoted employees for exposing corruption in high places, but listen to Professor Cochrane.   What are "boondoggles" if they don't suggest there is corruption in high places?

The answer?  It ought to be easy to consider.  It is the politicians that we send to Washington to to be OUR REPRESENTATIVES.   They are being paid to corrupt the systems for which thousands of our best and brightest have given their lives.  That is the bottom line.

Elect more responsible Representatives might be your answer, but the "boondoggles" we have under consideration did not start with the Obama Administration, nor those of the Bush family, not even Bill Clinton's, nor Reagan's, not even Jimmy Carter's, nor the Nixon/Ford contingent's, but the buck could stop with the audacity of a Lyndon Baines Johnson who revealed the dynamics of real persuasive powers in the most powerful office known to mankind.

It must end in the year 2016 or the dreams may die.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Onward.... towards a New Day

Next in line in the Hoover Report - Ideas for Renewing American Prosperity, is an article by Heather MacDonald, a "fellow" at the Manhattan Institute, but I skipped over hers and the thoughts of some others to focus on the ongoing debate between the two reigning "powers" in our nation to focus on the thoughts of Darcy A. Olsen, President and CEO of the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix.

"Conservatives often lament, 'If could only find the next Ronald Reagan'.... The reality is that even Ronald Reagan failed to turn the tide in Washington.  The Federal government has been tightening its grip for a century.  We cannot afford to indulge in this 'knight-in-shining armor' fantasy.

But what if the solution to the Washington problem isn't in the Federalist Papers?  James Madison wrote that the Federal and State governments, each with explicit protections for liberty, would provide a 'double security'.  Alexander Hamilton argued that if either government violated the peoples' rights, 'they could make use of the other as the instrument of redress.'

The framers understood that the real rival to power is power, and the only power sufficient to to rival Washington is the collective body of the 50 states.  The Founders didn't give us one Constitution, but 51.  The Constitution provides a floor for freedom, not a ceiling.  State constitutions can augment freedoms far above the Federal baseline.

Skeptics want  to say that Federalism is dead, States have come too dependent on Washington.   That is too often true - but not always.  When the Supreme Court gutted private property rights with the Kelo decision in 2005, the solution didn't come from Washington.  Instead, 45 States strengthened their own constitutional rights.  When the Obama administration threatened to impose 'card check' rules to unfairly help Unions to organize businesses, the solution didn't come from Washington.  Instead, States drew up laws that are now protecting millions of workers.  

State citizens and State lawmakers must do what the Framers equipped us to do.  Put on the full armor of liberty.  Then it truly will be morning again in Washington." 

Do you sense this literal "breath of fresh air" coming out of the West?  While we wring our collective hands wondering what will happen if California finally dries completely up and blows away, we forget there are minds at work throughout our nation, seeking answers to the enigma posed by our politicians failing to respond to their statutory responsibilities.   That it comes out of the Goldwater Institute does not surprise me!

Who has ever heard of the Kelo decision, nine years ago?  Not I, nor do I want to suggest that I know all of the ramifications of this decision.  This I do know.  Washington isn't working.  You may want to lay it all at the feet of the Obama administration, but remember, I have been awake during every Administration since Harry Truman assumed office as our President and have voted in every Federal election since then is well.   I first saw where our government missed the mark in tying us to the problems involving the governments of North and South Korea, not only through my young eyes, but also through the minds of a friend, a Japanese Colonel who wasted away a huge portion of his life, fighting Koreans.

You think we have problems in the Middle East.  Wait to see those that come about when the North Koreans loose their military preparedness on their neighbors to the South.

I pray it doesn't happen and I also pray that the American public will awaken to my basic premise - Washington isn't working, on your behalf and on behalf of my children and grandchildren

Friday, July 18, 2014

Moving on... towards a New Day

Well now, I find it is interesting to hear that at least one person has commented on my post, yesterday. My problem is, I don't see it, so I have contacted my writing "guru" to understand more about this.

Meanwhile, I'll move beyond George Shultz and examine the post offered by Representative Paul Ryan:

"If I could make just one change in Washington, it would be to fix the Tax Code.

No other reform would inspire as much confidence, because no other policy is as big a drag on our economy.   Today, the Tax Code is about four million words long.   Tax payers spend six billion hours a year, just figuring out how to comply.  But the Tax Code is more than confusing, it is also unfair.  Riddled with over $1 trillion in loopholes, the current code punishes free enterprise and rewards political influence.   And to top it off, we impose high marginal tax rates - including the highest corporate tax rate in the industrial world - which are nothing more than barriers separating working families from job creators.

Instead of pushing people out, we should bring people in.  True tax reform would both broaden the base and lower the rates, so small businesses would have room to grow and job creators would come back to our shores.   Economist Glenn Hubbard says tax reform would boost economic growth by anywhere from half to a full percentage point a year over a decade.   And if economic growth were just a half percentage point larger, the Federal government would save over an additional $1.57 trillion over ten years.  Only by paying  down our debt and growing our economy can we create jobs and increase take-home pay.  Only then can we expand opportunity for all.

To pass such a vital reform, after years of gridlock, would show the country that Washington can still get something done.   And our country would show the world that, 125 years since the Wall Street Journal began, "free markets and free people" is still the way to go."

Well, I trust you know that such advice comes from a Republican perspective, or so we will be led to believe.  Most of us - and I am high on that list, want to tell you that CONGRESS is to blame for our problems, and this is a Republican talking, publically.

I am not changing my mind - I still want to point my figure of blame at those WE elect to become OUR Representatives in Congress as THEY are responsible for the chaos that Ryan describes.  Let's be clear about this, the only bills we are going to see passed by Congress and approved by the President are those that benefit the respective political interests. All the rest of the individuals behind those political slogans you see are willing to go along with the prevailing attitudes that have created the chaos that Ryan outlines.   

It is time - in fact, decades past the time for those of us who vote, to do what needs to be done and it is NOW or probably, NEVER!  That is OUR money that is being wasted because Congress has failed US - for years.  As long as WE cling to OUR political favorites, WE are as guilty as THEY are.

My suggestion is this - take the word rhetoric out of your vocabulary and replace it with these two words that are more easily understood - COMMON SENSE!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Towards.... a New Day

Of course, you ought to know I am getting old and some might even say, senile.  But I vividly remember those days when people really cared for one another - more than just a posting on FaceBook, or Tweeting, or whatever form of "communication" seems to be popular these days.  There are times when I recall those ancient comments about the pending fall of Rome - and others, and wonder, does anyone realize, that unless we get serious about our tomorrows, the life we leave behind could become a torment to the next generation?

Enough, I don't like to complain but I really was disturbed when I forwarded a reference to our future with possibilities and realized, no one responded.  OK, they didn't understand my interest.  For the next few days, I plan on copying the quotes I forwarded and offering my response.  It might be like standing up against a wall and allowing others to shoot at me, but that's OK as well .  Let's see if we can get started on some serious debating.

The reference I forwarded came from the Hoover Daily Report ( under the heading, "Ideas for Renewing American Prosperity".  First up is a voice that used to be heard with regularity in a time when our leaders were actually serious about our future, yours and my offspring.  I have been amazed about George Shultz since the days when he was heading up one of the several divisions of the Bechtel Corporation in California.  I was in recruiting at the time and had an applicant who had just returned from the Middle East where he had held responsible positions with two major engineering firms.  I had no idea who George Shultz might become, but on the day when we talked about possibilities for my candidate, he was most gracious and a careful listener as I related the items on my applicant's resume that I thought might interest Bechtel.  At that time, there was no interest, but he let me have his personal office phone number in case I had others that I thought might qualify.  Then, of course, he went on to greater opportunities.  Now, let's review what he has had to say recently

"Let's get back to governing in the way called for in our Constitution.  In the executive branch, this means the President governs through people who are confirmed by the Senate and can be called upon to testify by the House or the Senate at any time.  They are accountable people.

Right now, the White House is full of unconfirmed and unaccountable people responsible for various subjects and all too often, the cabinet officers work through them.  The right way is for the President to regard his cabinet as part of his staff.  That way, you have access to the career people - something unavailable to White House staff.  I have had the privilege of leading four units of government and, believe me, when you work with career people, they will work with you and they have lots to offer. Among other things, management will improve, something that is sorely needed today.  Of course, for the system to work, Presidential slots must be filled, so the Senate should give nominees a prompt up or down vote.

Don't you think it's about time Congress lived up to its Constitutional duties derived from the power of the purse.  Continuing resolutions are a total cop out.   The way to build a budget is to set a framework and then work from the bottom up.  Hold hearings, understand what the departments and agencies are doing, and help set priorities.  That way, the budget will be up-to-date, and such a process, which in large part is operational in character, will get everyone into more of a problem-solving mode.  So, better budgeting will also reduce knee-jerk partisanship. 

Our country's prosperity and self-confidence will improve when when we see an Executive branch that can set sensible policies and execute them: management matters.  And we will be better off f Congress does the hard work involved in executing the power of the purse."

OK, let's hear come Sherwood-speak.  As I typed those words, my mind went back to the days when we had some actual "debates" on the power of the Presidency vs. the accountability of the Congress. We used to elect a President on the basis of his popularity and a Congress by their pre-determined interest in representing the people of their State or district.  It should be obvious that it is not the people who are uppermost in the minds of our legislators, but the dictates of their political persuasions.  We have a President elected by the so-called liberal Democrats and a Congress yearning to make certain he is the last of his kind.  I used to think it. was a racial issue, but as we see more and more minorities being elected to the Congress, I have the feeling that race is no longer a factor.

Shultz makes a valid point.  The Congress should give the President a prompt "up or down" vote on his nominees.  That has not been the case, regarding many of his appointees.  This, in my opinion, is why we have the impasse.  The President recognizing his responsibilities has had few, if any, other options. I admit, I am prejudiced in favor of the President for far more reasons that just the impasse with this Congress, but my reasoning has more to do with the intransigence of the Congress.  As soon as his opponents get wind of a probable nomination, sheer politics takes over.

I would like to point out that this President inherited a deficit unheard of in our history and within the six years he has held office, we are well on our way to a full recovery and the future seems brighter than at any time in our history, but I won't.  And I expect you will respect my decision.

I am listening....

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A New Day, a brighter dawn

One of the matters I did not discuss regarding my failures over the years, was that along the way, I learned the truth about what the Bible has to say - about me.  That is, the sins of my past are gone and forgotten and I no longer have to wonder if what I am doing is right, or wrong.  That is not to say, I am perfect, but the truth is, I am forgiven because of what Jesus did at a place called Calvary, two thousand years ago.  I know, that is difficult to understand for people who do not believe there is a God, that it was He who created all that there is, wherever we might look, to the North, the South, the East and the West, even to the extremities of what we describe as the universe.

Do you recall my experience on the troop ship heading for Japan?  How I climbed up on top and I could see, wherever it was that I looked, the sky filled with stars and planets and probably objects I know nothing about.  And as surely as He created all of that, He created me and everyone reading what I am saying in this moment.  He knew before all of us when and where we were to be born by the miracle of child birth; that as precious as we might be to our parents, we would follow in their footsteps and make mistakes.  He needed a way to cleanse us of that unrighteousness and thus, He sent His own Son to bear the burden of our the guilt that follows,  How do I know? 

Well, it seems that He visited me that night on a Greyhound bus when I had asked Him about the word repent and He revealed to me, all of the various reasons I had to repent.  I know that He touched my life as after acknowledging my need to repent, my life changed, 180 degrees.  The next person I would meet sensed it in the spring in my step and the smile on my face.  She knew and she paid homage to God by taking money out of her purse and paying for my meal.  I knew by the fact that I was really disappointed when the man I had traveled halfway across the nation to meet was not available to see me.  And I was broke. I did not have enough money to eat and have a place to stay, but I will always believe that it was God's grace that led to a job that not only took care of me for that day, but for the week to follow.  My life was changing and I had no control over it except for the fact, I was acknowledging His presence in my life through my prayers and petitions.  Nothing went wrong for days and when I finally did realize I needed help, I would pray and good things began to happen.

I began to bless people, to thank others for the courtesies they extended to me and I was praying for people I hardly knew.  It was like I could not stop, nor did I want to as my life was changing before my eyes.  I was in church every time the door was opened and I was reading my Bible daily; in fact, morning, Noon and night.  Along the way I was also discovering that not everyone I met in church or in church activities was as free of the problems I had experienced earlier and I did my best to help them to discover what I was learning.  I also found many who disagreed with the way I was interpreting my Bible, and I was also learning how to listen carefully and attempt to help them if I could.  Even when my wife came and  took my sons away after breaking and entering our apartment, I learned how to bless her.  I prayed for her for years until I learned that she was - once again,wanted by the Police.  I have never stopped praying for my children.

Some might ask that if "my" God was so good to me, why didn't He see that my children were restored to me. but I know that I know, He has extended His love to each of them as He had to me and it is up to them to recognize that love.

It has been  over 39 years since that night on the bus and I am here to say, His love has never faltered or failed me.  Have I been perfect in all of those years?  Of course not.  I am a human being and am not perfect as He is, but I cannot recall a time when He has failed me in all of those ensuing days.  I am a blessed man and will close with a prayer for all who have taken the time to read this, that He will touch your lives as He has touched mine.

A Flawed Legacy - 36

Well, I am almost done with "flawed legacies".  I am about to leave one behind, that is for certain, and the purpose of this blog is to offer my children now, a look "into" the person they have known so little about and a life they hardly have had a chance to know at all.

One day, I was there, the next day I was gone, and they were left - almost, on their own.  If there was any way I could change any of that, I would do it in a heartbeat.  I hate the feeling they must have and I am to blame.  However, I was left without a father, literally, from the day I was born and only by the grace of God was I raised in a responsible home with grand parents who loved me as their own.  But, my point will be, I have personally known dozens - if not, hundreds, of fatherless children who have made a better life for themselves.  Something that seemed difficult for me to do and so, what follows will take a closer look at my life through my eyes as they were and are today.

"Nan", our grand mother, took me home to Yale, MI, from Ohio, when I was a little over three years old and used to delight telling others, I stood the whole way, gazing out of the windows.  I guess I wanted to see what I could see.  I don't know of the first time I fell and scratched my knees, but I would bet I ran to "Nan" who would hug me and tell me, ..."everything's going to be OK."

And it wasn't until I saw the neighborhood kids getting new bikes and going to new places that I did not and learning to do whatever I was asked to do, that I began to realize, I was somehow, different.  My mother would come up to the farm and ask how I was doing and sometimes, pull me close so that I got a smell of her perfume, but I soon learned that I was living on a "performance based" schedule as far as she was concerned.  I began to pray that she would marry one of the guys who would tag along on her visits, but that never happened.  I did well in school, very well indeed, but when it came time for others to talk about going to college, I was told there was no money.

Along came World War II and the possibilities of a college education and I jumped at the opportunity, even though I had not completed high school.  I would get my diploma because I passed a GED test and that was all that was required.  During the first week in the service - I think I have mentioned that in an earlier blog, I was left behind and that thought fit perfectly with my experience on the farm.  So, I was gone. No one seemed to care.  Fortunately, the military had to care and so I went where I was scheduled to go, according to their schedule.   It would stay that way for the following seven years.  I did not have to think about where I was going, what I would be doing, who was directing me and all of that - and more, and it all began to sink in.  It was not MY fault if something went wrong, it was THEIR fault.

I would wind up in the Korean War and when I came home, no one seemed to notice, no one asked about where I had been, what I had done, even though if they had asked, I was prepared to go on for hours on just a few of my many experience.  I was in Hawaii four different times, for God's sake. Everyone else would drool a the thought of just going there.  But for me, there were no questions, apparently, no one cared.

I got out of the Air Force to go to school, to get a college degree, go back in and retire when I was forty years old.  That was my plan, but I screwed up.  I wound up living in my mother's apartment and I hated it.  A gal said she loved me and so I got out of that apartment and was married, to a gal who worked for the airlines.  We could fly everywhere she said.  I bought into that as well.  But I was popular in college and soon there were social commitments as I became the President of the student body.  I went alone as she did not want to go.  There were pretty girls everywhere, some even daring to ask about the absence of my wife.  I graduated and took a job I would hate because it offered more money than the jobs I thought I might like.  I quit the one I hated and took one I thought would be great and I failed miserably.  Whose fault?   Hers, of course.  So, I left town, got drunk often, found jobs that I enjoyed and succeeded until it was discovered I drank too much.

One morning, I woke up after a night of drinking, felt bad and so, I went to church.  Guess what.  I found people who loved me and one in particular loved me so much, we went to bed together and she became pregnant, so we hurried on with the wedding plans.  Our first child was born and she was beautiful beyond words.  I was so proud of both her and her mother.  It was - to that point, the greatest moment in my life.  I had a great job, really great prospects and it blew up in our faces.   Not my fault, that time! We moved on with thanks to my sister and with a little effort and a boost from a business associate, we were on our way again.  Another pregnancy, but this one almost aborted as a result of an argument.  She survived, however, and then there was a son.  All the while, my job was working for me - for a change, until something happened that I still do not understand.   However, a friend was standing by with an even better job, this one with a car and the harder I worked, the more success we had.  There was another pregnancy and another son.  Again, life was good.  We even found an apartment where part of our rent was paid by our merely collecting the rents for the other tenants.  Then, there was the case of the missing money and my wife confessed to me, it was her fault. 

What I failed to mention a few lines ago, there was money missing from a neighbor's mail box and it was taken by my wife.  She wound up with a Federal charge and a sentence of ten years in prison, but freed on probation.  Now, with another case of missing money, she was headed for prison, for sure.  I loved her, I did not want her in prison, so I accepted the charge and was tried for grand larceny. Before the trial began, an Assistant AG and I had examined the books of the owners and found a number of discrepancies and referred to them as I was on the witness stand.  The Judge listened and declared that I was innocent.  Of course, that caused some questions in the minds of my employer and they fired me, only I found a new job, a better job with more potential.  Unfortunately, they did not return the payroll deductions taken from employees and the IRS closed that business.

At this point, I no longer believed anyone.  I hated myself for being so stupid on a umber of counts and I suspect that wore on my wife.  She took the children and moved out.  When I lost the job I had, we talked and agreed to get back together, to work hings out and even moved to San Diego to get a new start  life, each vowing there would be no more problems.  That didn't last long.  She was arrested again and when I realized our problems were not all of her fault, I sought help.  It meant leaving our children in "Foster" homes while she was being examined prior to her sentencing and before I knew it, she was back out of prison, had taken the children out of the places they were staying.  As far as I know, they are still with her.

I no longer cared.  I cared for our children but as long as she could get in and out of prison and prison sentences, there was nothing further I could do.  I did my best to provide what the State required me to pay for their support and that was all that I could do.

I know, I was for awhile, re-united with my youngest daughter but I made a mistake she did not care to discuss with me and that ended that.  If you want to know the rest of my story - watch this space in the future

A Flawed Legacy - 35

It was here (Orlando) that I discovered the Good Samaritan Coffee House and the "crew" that kept it moving, day in and day out.  I met Craig Marlatt, the "little dynamo" who had founded it and kept it moving ahead on the strength of his personality and the help of some good friends.  Everywhere I went, people seem to know all about Craig and his background which included time in prison.  (As I write, I discovered him again, still living in Florida, still very much the family man - and a very large family now.  We exchanged e-mails and I was pleased to tell him of the impact his Mother made on my life.  I believe she was a widow and drove school buses for a living, counting her passengers as being a huge part of her life.  She was an inspiration to all who ever crossed her path.

It was always intriguing to me, the impact of the Rescue Mission nearby.  I used to stand in their lines just to meet transients such as I was, just to talk about our mutual experiences.  Of course, my main interest was to invite them to the Coffee House to discover how "life in Christ" was far better than merely, "life" on the streets.  Along the way, I met a young girl who would have a large impact on my life.  It was very hot day and here was this young girl wearing a  beautiful, but very heavy overcoat. She needed to get away from that crowd and one day she appeared at the Coffee House, and was befriended by a slightly older gal and they became best of friends.  One day, she asked me if I had a drivers license, that she needed someone to drive her car and take the two of them to the airport.  Her name was Maryann and I never dreamed that she would, later on, become my wife.  We got lost coming back from the air-port and in the process, became good friends.  On Valentine's Day (1982), church friends invited Maryann and I to their "Sweetheart's Ball" and I wound up singing, "Let My Call You Sweetheart" and embarrassed her, she said, but it wasn't much later, while I was driving her to a revival meeting at the First Baptist Church she blurted out, "I'm in love with you, really!!"  I was not prepared for that.

I had decided to go out the Frank Constantino's "camp" for newly released State prisoners where the idea seemed to be that we could help these guys get acclimated to their freedom.  It was a great idea - I recently read that it still is, but to me with a college degree and solid work experience behind me, I found it to be a chaotic mess.  Frank had great ideas and it seemed to me, so did everyone else, so much so that I became disallusioned, or perhaps it was mt new found love for Maryann and my hopes for a better future.  We decided to get married.

She had been boarding with an older woman who happened to know of lady who had been "wintering" in Florida but was leaving for the summer, offering her house, rent-free, and suggested it would be a good place for us to start our marriage.  It was, but it really wasn't a good time for us.  What I was about to discover that she was still "hooked on" psychiatric medicine and was really angry with her psychiatrist.  I will never know - for certain, but my answer to her dilemma was to just stop the pills. Shortly afterwards, she panicked and wanted to start taking them again.  I convinced her that all she needed was proof everything was going to be OK and took her to the local hospital, to an ER doctor who told her that there was nothing wrong with her vital signs, she was not going to die and she calmed down and I thought, she had won a battle that had been raging for years.

Well, I thought it was, but most of us know, there are "ups and downs" in marriages, especially when both parties had experienced unsuccessful marriages in their past.  We had our share.  I was moving on in years and one of my problems was the fact, I had no real idea of what our future would hold, based on my more recent work experiences.  By now, I had been away from "career" interests for over five years and it troubled me that I could not find anyone who could become interested in the "possibilities" I had to offer.  Inwardly, I was becoming more and more frustrated.  That was a burden on our marriage and it didn't help that Maryann still seemed to have memories of the problems that followed her previous life. She and her husband had two beautiful sons that she adored and her husband seemed to have eyes on other women.  That marriage ended in a divorce and reasons to believe she had mental problems.  That stigma had followed her to Florida where her father had moved - after leaving her Mother to marry another woman and that was a another "problem" to add to her concerns.  I didn't really help.

The fact that I had merely stepped out of my former marriage and left some bewildered children did not help either, only that was not the problem with Maryann and I.  I thought it was the fact I had not found a place for my skills and abilities and finally, when she would not agree to leave Orlando, I did.  I went to Atlanta and as if there were forces in my life beyond my control, I found a job with plenty of potential and an employer who loved to teach me everything I would ever need to know if I stayed and took over the business when he retired.  I was, in fact, more excited than I had been for years.  I came back to Orlando for Christmas, shared my experience with Maryann, hoping, in fact, believing, she would go with me to the apartment I had discovered that I thought she would love, but she had no intentions of leaving an area where she was comfortable, to start over.

I began to realize, I was the ultimate optimist and she was just the opposite.  But I loved her and stayed but everything seemed to get away from me.  We loved the church, used to delight in signing the songs we loved as we drove to and from church.  I was happier then than anytime in my life.  When one Pastor left town, we found another church and when it moved beyond the "family" we had come to love, we found another.  And we had good friends.  Earlier in our marriage, we had met this gal who had been to Dallas, TX, and met this guy, Bob George, who really understood the Bible and convinced we should attend one of his seminars.  So we did and in route we met the guy who would marry the gal who had encouraged us to go.  The four of us became the very best of friends and although Maryann has passed away, the three of us are together, in spirit at least.  They still live in Orlando, I have moved on. 

Our marriage did not survive.  I finally moved away, this time to Tennessee where the miracle f all miracles would happen to me, but we remained good friends, thanks to the Postal services.  Along the way, she met another fellow, another nice guy I had to agree and so, we divorced.  It did not mean that I stopped loving her.  I just set her free and was so glad that I did as she developed cancer and would eventually pass away.   I wound up with a huge hole in my heart. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Flawed Legacy - 34

Tampa was nice, Tampa was hot and I was really not dressed for the heat.  My bag was back at the bus station and I was looking for a cool place to spend the rest of the day.  At least I found what was known as the "Mission" on the streets, but it wasn't what I believed a Mission ought to be.  It consisted of two young girls, volunteers from a nearby church, who knew about Sunday services and that was about it. They turned up their noses at the thought of "any body" working in "this heat".  I headed back to the bus station.  One guy had told me that Orlando had a "neat" Mission.  So, I caught another bus.

There was a bathroom on board and a good place to change clothes.  It was just as hot in Orlando.

I asked about the "Mission" and could find no one who seemed to know anything about one in Orlando, even the Police who were wondering about me.  They stopped me and asked for ID.  "From Texas, eh? What are you doing in Orlando?" and then before I could answer, "Where were you last night?"  It was a good thing that I had kept my copy of my bus ticket.  There had been a rape in downtown Orlando last night and the witnesses had told the Police, "He looked like a transient."  

They told me about the "rescue" Mission and I headed there, being told I would have to wait in line to get a bed  and it was a long line, in the heat   I was really not interested in a bed,  I was interested in finding friends on the streets.  One of the guys ahead of me asked if I knew about the "Coffee" house that was nearby.  "They don't have beds, but they do have good coffee and good music."  I got out of the line and headed for the Coffee house, which was open, even though it was still morning.

I walked in and found some guys sorting through food donations and old clothes.  I asked about the music and was told that it started around Seven in the evening, but they did not have any coffee.  I left to discover more about downtown Orlando.  The first place I found had "rooms" to rent and I signed up for a week.  "Are you sure you want a week?" the clerk asked.  "Yes, of course.  Why do you ask?" "We don't get many white guys in this place" was his answer and I assured him, I wanted to stay a week.  I headed along the same street and came to the Orange Blossom Trail that I had heard about when we were coming back from Miami a couple of years before.  "That is where the 'action' is' I was told then, so I headed South to see what I could see.  Sure enough, I came across a couple of 'ladies' who wondered why I was walking.  I gave them some 'smart aleck' answer and then asked them if they knew Jesus.  "I just knew he was a 'preacher boy' when we saw him coming down the street," one told the other one, "Where are your 'tracts', preacher man?"

I ignored the question and then told them I was just passing through town.  "Any chance there is a place close where we could get a beer?" I asked and they pointed to a place down the street.  "I'll be heading there and if you ladies would like to have a beer with me, come on along."  It did not surprise me that it took awhile, but they eventually joined me.  They had to be in their early twenties and one thing led to another until I had to ask, "Why?"  What did surprise me was that the younger of the two had a tale to tell and when she paused, the other one shared hers.  They had a "man" and I would learn, he lived in the same place I had just rented a room.   That did not surprise me, either.  "I will tell you what I can do if you are interested.  There was a hotel I passed across the street from the Rescue Mission.  Give me a couple of hours and I will rent you a room in that hotel.  Just give me the names you would be are using." They looked at one another and then wrote something down on a piece of paper they got from the bar tender.  It was their names and i told them, their room would be available by 4PM.

They left and the bartender laughed as he had obviously overheard our conversation.  "Man, that was cool and you get to shack up with them for the rest of the night, eh?"   "No sir, I probably will never see either of them again, but if I do, I bet they will be interested in the "Jesus" who they will discover was the name of the guy who rented their room for them."  They were gone from the street when I left the bar and I was glad about that.  If I was to stay in Orlando, I didn't want a reputation of dealing with hookers.

I guess I walked a couple of miles along the "OBT" which was what the 'natives' seemed to call it and when I got tired, I took a cab back to the hotel I had mentioned to the 'ladies'.  With a tip in advance, I had no problem of paying for the room in advance for my "cousins" who would get there about 4PM. He was really surprised when I told him that I was paying for a week in advance.

Then I headed back to the Coffee house and sat down outside of the door that was locked.  I knew that others would be joining me and it didn't take long.  My clothes were not new, but they had been used and I knew that fact would help others to join me.  All I did was ask a lot of questions and listen.  When they told me they thought they were out of coffee, I excused myself and headed for the restaurant across the tracks.

On my way, I took a $50 bill I had hidden in my socks and asked for the manager when I walked in.  "I want to buy a case of coffee," I told him,  "and have you deliver it to the Coffee house down the street. Have your man tell them that it came from Jesus, when He had heard they were out, OK?   It was a deal and I walked the other way to be certain that no one would believe it came from me.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Flawed Legacy - 33

So, it was going to be, a vacation in Europe.  Did I want to come along?  No, not really.  They needed time to be together, doing things, together.  They did not need me..

For the next three weeks, we were all busy plotting where to go, what to do, Dottie's bridge partners had lots of ideas, but Tom ruled most of them out.  What thrilled the both of them was the possibility of a chalet in Switzerland, formerly occupied by Richard Burton.   And that happened.  They arranged for the lease agreements, sent their deposits, scheduled a flight and almost forgot, they had to get passports.

I could live there as long as I liked, but if I decided to move, I was to make arrangements with our friend, the boat owner.  I drove them to Atlanta, saw them off on their flight and headed back, trying to figure out what I would be doing with my time.  Oh yes, there was a substantial check waiting for me when I got back to Florida.   The first thing I did was to "sign" on to one of the fishing boats in the harbor with the thought that ought to help occupy my mind.

It didn't last long.  I was having my lunch when the door opened, to my surprise!  In walked their daughter telling me that she had received a cable from her parents, informing her of their plans and to leave me alone.  Ha!   Then she added, she had caught her husband with another woman and she was leaving him, planning on moving in with her parents until she got a divorce.  I had little to say to her and was glad I had a boat trip arranged for the late afternoon.

Actually, I needed to talk with her parents, so I cancelled the trip and went to a nearby motel to talk with her parents.  They were upset, he was - in a word, livid.   He talked of coming home immediately, but I calmed him down telling him I planned on going to New Orleans for a couple of weeks and would call them when I returned, hoping the daughter might be gone when I returned.  I picked up my things the next morning and left, hoping that in my absence, she might have had second thoughts and returned to her husband.

I really enjoyed New Orleans, actually spent a lot of time getting there with stops in Mobile, the coast and a couple of casinos.  Things sure had changed from the days I had spent in the area while attending a school for the Air Force.  I also started looking for something "new" to be doing.  I actually signed on to a oil rig off of the coast, but when I decided to actually go to work, they had a cancellation and were laying off some of their workers.  I headed "home" and found a mess.  She really knew how to get drunk and mess up the place.  I was in no mood to deal with that, so I gathered up my things while she was passed out and left.  I drove the Mercedes to our mutual friend's house and he agreed to put it in storage and to call our friends in Europe telling them I had left.

I went back to New Orleans, found a nice rental place near to downtown and after reading the papers for a few days, discovered a job working on a production line for household cleaning products.  It was a smelly job, but it was easy and I used the time when we had break downs - and there were several, to clean up the place.  The "boss" thought it was futile.  No sooner would we have it looking better and the mess would start again.   Cleaning up the place made the time pass that much faster and I actually enjoyed it, whether I had help or not.  It wasn't long before my efforts were noticed and they offered me a raise to be an Assistant to the "boss".  I declined; that wasn't going to work.

A few days later, I was heading downtown to a restaurant when a guy stepped out from between two buildings, holding a knife and telling me he needed to have my wallet.  I looked around for the easiest way to avoid him and saw that there were cars passing along the street, in intervals, after stopping for a light and I decided to run as soon as a last car passed.  It worked.  I got to the other side and he was apparently, too drunk to run after me.  I came to a pay phone and called the police, but no one seemed to respond so I kept on walking towards town.  On my way home, I took a taxi. 

That was a Friday night and I saw some police officers talking on the street outside of the restaurant while I was eating.  I went out and told them of my experience and their advice to me was to take a taxi rather than walking on the downtown streets.  I had a hard time finishing my dinner and yes, I took a taxi to get back where I was living.  It made me think, why was I "living" in New Orleans?  It was Saturday so I got on a bus on Sunday morning, headed for Tampa.