Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hey Partner, who has the biggest dog in here ...?

Many of you probably detest Cheney for he makes it pretty easy to take that position about him.  The title of today's blog comes from Goodyear lore which was a true story and captured the culture of the giant tire company.  In a meeting, an underling was making a presentation to the CEO and others.  The CEO listened, the presenter was obviously not getting to the point and thus no credibility with the CEO.  The presenter posed a very thinly clad negative shot at the CEO and the CEO retorted calmly, "hey partner, guess who has the biggest dog in here right now you think?"  The presenter's manager fell on his sword for the bad presentation conduct but a lesson was burned into my brain as a value system.  KNOW what you are talking about and have the guts to talk about it whether people like it or you or not!

Cheney perfectly epitomizes the tip of the spear and I always enjoyed his focused energy, knowledge of the subject, his ability to sense the political waters and was a solid NUMBER TWO guy. He did not aspire to be President and sought ever day to be the best he could be FOR HIS COUNTRY. His memoir is about to be published and it will unleash much ink in the blogosphere and media but here are some points as to why I chose to use this as my blog for today, ready?

I think there is simply not enough confrontation and the Congressional lame turkey debacle on the debt ceiling showed the world that clearly.  I have yet to see the President clear him out a spot and explode.  I believe leaders that care have to show they care both in the positive and the negative based on the situation.  Cheney was "W"'s bad cop and he was a master at that. So for my new students and all my former, assessing the situation, determining the competency and motivation level of the subordinates that determines the correct leadership style is an ABSOLUTE for leaders.

I want people around me that are strong and passionate about their beliefs and drives. I hate political motivations and detest neutral. The Bible speaks about spitting out lukewarm water as I would also.  Leadership is a kinetic energy force where there are winners and losers. BE A WINNER and it is a choice.  I think Mr. Cheney is a world class Bad Cop that was good at what he did.

In parting, every day. MAKE A DIFFERENCE in your world ... E V E R Y D A Y!

The Wall Street Journal

'I Didn't Change. The World Changed'

In an interview, Dick Cheney says 'It's important to have people at the helm who are prepared to be unpopular.'

No one should have expected that Dick Cheney's memoir would be anything but frank. Make that brutally frank. Such as this characterization of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's description to President George W. Bush of her proposed nuclear-weapons agreement with North Korea. It's on page 487:

"Looking for a way to explain this situation, Rice said, 'Mr. President, this is just the way diplomacy works sometimes. You don't always get a written agreement.' The statement was utterly misleading, totally divorced from what the secretary was doing, which was urging the president, in the absence of an agreement, to pretend to have one. . . . "


When the Bush presidency ended, Dick Cheney thought he was done with public life. In May 2009 he was back, delivering a speech at the American Enterprise Institute and defending the Bush anti-terror policies. Worth noting was that the White House, as counterweight, scheduled a speech by President Obama on the subject the same day.

It was a familiar place for the former vice president—in the eye of a public controversy's raging storm. Seated peacefully now in a soft, tan leather chair in his home on the outskirts of his former congressional district in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and with his memoir about to be published, Mr. Cheney reflects on the dueling speeches between a sitting president and "the old has-been vice president."

"When I left the government in January of '09," he says, "I did not anticipate that I was going to be some kind of a public spokesman on behalf of those policies. I thought I had 40 good years in the business. But I found there wasn't anybody else out there, and when they started talking about shutting down these programs, prosecuting the people who carried out these policies, frankly I got angry. That's why I made the speech."

Friend and foe would agree—vintage Cheney. He won't back down. He's lost plenty, as the book makes clear, but not for lack of effort or argument.
Associated Press
The prologue of "In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir" (co-written with his daughter, Liz) describes Mr. Cheney experiencing the attacks on September 11, a day whose events would consume the next seven and a half years of his life. One of the vice president's famously terse summaries of this period was his response to Brent Scowcroft's remark that Mr. Cheney's personality had somehow changed. "I didn't change," he replied. "The world changed."

The first thing I asked Mr. Cheney was how he and President Bush became targets for such intense, visceral animosity after the national unity of 9/11 dissolved, lasting the length of two presidential terms.

"I want to be careful how I say this," he replies. "I didn't write about this in the book." The answer that emerges adds no insight into the opposition's mind—"I don't want to say there was a political motive involved." Instead Mr. Cheney's instinct is to compare his understanding of the facts with the positions taken by an opposition operating with the same facts. He replies that if one looks at what prominent Democrats were saying about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction in the years before 9/11, "you can't tell those statements apart from our statements." What their critics mainly were looking for, he thinks, was a way to "put distance" between themselves and the administration.

No doubt squads of opposition researchers will comb the pages of the Cheney memoir for proof that "Bush lied." But the more compelling and relevant stories found inside Mr. Cheney's book involve opposition and dissent inside the administration. These were the events that ultimately affected the direction of the war on terror and in Iraq.

Foremost were the "wiretapping" controversies over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which the administration expanded to monitor phone calls from foreign terrorists into the U.S. After its approval, the program required presidential reauthorization every 30 to 45 days. Mr. Cheney described for me the briefings on the program by CIA Director Michael Hayden to the congressional leadership. "The Big Nine, we called them," Mr. Cheney says. They included Nancy Pelosi, then a member of the House intelligence committee. No one, he says, objected to the program.

The FISA program worked until 2004. Then the administration's internal unity fell apart. White House aides who had gone to have the authorization renewal signed by Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was in George Washington hospital, found the recently appointed deputy attorney general, James Comey, was already there.

Before the aides had left the White House, Mr. Cheney told me, "it's my understanding that Ashcroft said fine, send them over and he'd sign. Between the time of the phone call and the time when they got there, he'd done a 180 and Comey was in the room." Mr. Ashcroft refused to sign. Mr. Cheney relates in his book that Mr. Comey also convinced FBI Director Robert Mueller to withdraw support.

"There clearly was a development inside the Justice Department that led Comey and Mueller to express their disapproval (of the surveillance authority) after it had been approved 20 times," Mr. Cheney said. With resignations threatened, President Bush altered the program, despite assurances of its constitutionality.

Against this backdrop, I ask what advice Mr. Cheney would give the new CIA director, David Petraeus: "If I were Gen. Petraeus at this point, taking over, I'd want to come to an understanding with the president in person as to what methods are going to be tolerated to collect the intelligence you need to succeed and what policy guidance has been given to the Justice Department. Some of the intelligence that was collected was done by means that Obama found objectionable, and I hope Petraeus has an understanding with President Obama that he needs to maintain the level of intelligence required to defeat the enemy."
Equally big was the crack-up in the relationship between the White House and Colin Powell's State Department. Mr. Cheney calls it a "watershed moment." And it came early.
In April 2002, Secretary of State Powell suggested an international conference on Israel and Palestine, a departure from administration policy. Mr. Cheney writes that he called National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to suggest she tell Mr. Powell "he was once more out of line with the president's policy." She did so and Mr. Powell apologized.

Looking back, Mr. Cheney writes, Mr. Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, seemed to take this walk-back as "a personal affront to the secretary." Mr. Cheney then picked up through the grapevine that both men "were not only failing to support the president's policies, but were openly disdainful of them." He writes: "Now it was as if a tie had been cut." Secretary Powell continued to serve until January 2005.

I asked Mr. Cheney why there isn't a stronger tradition of firings or resignations in American government. He chuckled, noting that one of the chapters left out of the book was "People I have fired."

"It's an important issue in terms of trying to manage an administration," he says. "My experience generally has been that it doesn't happen often enough. That's sort of a general statement of why government doesn't work."

One of the administration's greatest internal disruptions occurred after President Bush decided to support Gen. Petraeus's surge strategy for Iraq in 2006. When the opposition to the surge intensified in early 2007, press stories based on leaks from inside the administration suggested that some officials wanted a policy change because of doubts about whether the surge would work.

A deeply annoyed Cheney tells Mr. Bush that these leaks are a disservice to the president's policies and to his troops in the field. When the meeting ended, the national security adviser, Steve Hadley, took Mr. Cheney into his office and closed the door. Mr. Hadley told the vice president that he was the source of the leak and had done it "at the instruction of the president." In the event, the surge succeeded, and Mr. Bush's commitment to it—described by Mr. Cheney as "truly courageous"—was validated.

The biggest internal breakdown, however, is described in arguably the book's most compelling chapter, about the negotiations over North Korea's nuclear program. This, Mr. Cheney told me, was "our biggest problem."

In 2006, Secretary of State Rice and her assistant secretary, Christopher Hill, decided to engage North Korea bilaterally, stepping away from the six-party regional talks that had been President Bush's policy until then. "Hill and Rice," Mr. Cheney writes, "made concession after concession to the North Koreans and turned a blind eye to their misdeeds." Mr. Cheney's characterization of Secretary Rice's description of the proposed agreement as "utterly misleading" may be the memoir's strongest single statement.

Subsequently, on Oct. 10, 2008, Mr. Bush agreed as part of this process to let Ms. Rice remove North Korea from the State Department's list of terror-sponsoring states. Mr. Cheney writes: "It was a sad moment, because it seemed to be a repudiation of the Bush Doctrine and a reversal of so much of what we had accomplished in the area of non-proliferation in the first term."

Sitting with Mr. Cheney amid the summer splendor of the Grand Teton mountains, I ask the obvious question: What happened with this odd and ultimately futile decision by President Bush?
Mr. Cheney ponders his answer: "Ultimately the president made the decision and it was his to make. I didn't agree with it, but that's not the first time I ever disagreed with the president I worked for. Condi was pushing very, very hard to get something accomplished here, and I think she was badly served by Chris Hill. Ultimately the president makes the decision."


Politics most of the time seems to be about organized factions fighting over competing policy ideas, and Dick Cheney is a policy guy to his marrow. Ironically, what comes through in his memoir is how often the turns in history, for good or ill, are made by little more than what is inside this or that public official's head at a given moment in time. Dick Cheney spent 40 years in "the business" fighting mindsets he thought were pitching U.S. policy in a wrong or dangerous direction.

After two event-filled terms as George W. Bush's No. 2, I asked Mr. Cheney to sum it up. Characteristically, the answer had nothing to do with anyone's approval rating:

"I think we did a pretty good job after 9/11 for those seven and a half years. I think the record reflects that. I think the president gets a lot of credit for that. Partly it's a question of political leadership. It's important to have people at the helm who are prepared to be unpopular, to take the criticism and the hits that go with implementing policies."

As we finish up, Mr. Cheney diverts into a consideration of the sorts of responses governments may have to make when confronted by things in the news now, such as "flash mobs" using social media to organize riots through London. "It's going to present us with some pretty significant challenges that we've only begun to address."

"Tough problem," the public-policy lifer says, before finally stepping back from a challenge: "My generation is not going to have to deal with it. But yours is."
Mr. Henninger is the deputy editorial page editor of the Journal.

Let's meet by the river ...

This week is a week of new beginnings and endings which means, for the Christian, a new beginning as well.  I am pasting in a chorus lyric of a song, Let's Meet By the River, by the Spencer's that captures perfectly this week as it begins to unfold so you can click on the link and hear this great song but I want to focus on the potency of the chorus.

At 11 today I will attend a memorial service for a 92 year old simply precious lady from my church that I have come to love she and her daughter so much for their kindness, supportiveness, encouragement and love for me.  This lady, tiny in body and frame, was powerful in spirit and strength of character.  I count it an honor to say I knew her, shared many songs with her which she loved so much and she always made me feel really special.  The greater news, I know she is standing by the river now waiting on her loved ones to join her; I will be one!

At 11 am Thursday will be another memorial service for a man that touched millions of lives, was responsible for leading great armies, fathering Army-wide doctrine, the AirLand Battle concept, instrumental in many military innovations, commanded Army posts, Armor School, TRADOC and the list going on and oh yes, a Four Star General, Donn Starry.  I blogged recently about a two minute meeting with GEN Starry when I was attending AOBC at Fort Knox when he was Post Commander and he cared for my two year daughter that had gotten lost in a huge Commissary until her frantic dad, a second lieutenant at the time, me, found them both as the General patiently cared for her through her tears of fear.  I remember feeling like the air was sucked from my lungs when I got to her and realized it was a Two Star General Starry there with her ... a moment burned in my memory bank to this day.

The even greater reality of GEN Starry today is in being allowed access to his wife and her family via a blog I wrote about him after I saw they were living here in Canton which was amazing.  I picked up the phone and called in hopes of speaking with the General to find out his health was failing quickly. At 1100 Thursday this great warrior will be memorialized in full military honors and regalia which he so richly deserves. I want to salute this great one one last time as I did that day at Fort Knox in thanking him for caring for my daughter who will be at the service with me.

Two people, two people that could not be more different on this walk of life on earth but now both people residing across that River ... that to me is a powerful message of the beauty of being a Christian and it is that that is so compelling to me.  Listen / watch the video and really listen to the words. You may or may not care for the style of the music but the power of the lyrics are undeniable.

So with the death of two great people in my life, I swing back to the beginning yesterday of a new semester of young minds, fresh thoughts, fears, worries, $207,000 in student loan debts and the work before us.  That is so exciting to me to be part of that journey.

This morning I find myself basking in the joy of living, in getting to celebrate the home going of two very different and yet very great people in my life against the backdrop of new beginnings with my Kent State class.  I get to teach, I get to sing songs about my God and that Heaven where I know I will go and join all these great people like GEN Starry, Vestal and Howard Goodman, my mother and on and on.  Yes, I am feeling really, really blessed this day!


Let's meet by the river over on that beautiful shore
Let’s meet by the river where loved ones dwell
Who've gone on before
If you leave here first,  just wait by the river  
If I leave you here, that's where you'll find me
Let's meet by the river over on that beautiful shore 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

"reserved for war ..."

Good morning!  I have pasted in  Tom Friedman's excellent editorial in today's New York Times for he has perfectly framed what the world is experiencing which is Perfect Storm of four dependent variables each of which is potentially catastrophic.  As New York is being pounded by Irene as I write this, there is a sick parallel to that I feel in my belly; sad but true. 

For me the really sad and frightening thesis of Mr. Friedman's work is the simple question, can America regain her composure and will and stabilize the global tsunami that is pounding us all now and for the foreseeable future?  I must admit that with what I see of the political machinery at local, state, region and national even globally, I doubt it. I think we are in for an "Irene" in our markets, bonds, our currencies, etc, etc and, oh yes, the future of this nation for the next two generations.

I titled this missive for this morning from Mr. Friedman's concluded paragraph for as you will attest that read my commentary with any regularity, I have made the same point that it may and perhaps will require a major war to truly shake us by the shoulders and slap us, the global village population, around to learning to live with each other again; at least for a period of time!

As the eternal and perpetual optimist, ME, these thoughts and words do not come easily but they come after daily assessing the dots of our world and seeking to properly connect them. Why? to provide decision makers that follow my thoughts more and more accurate information with which to do just that, make good, solid, focused decision and execution.

August 27, 2011

All Together Now

HOLD onto your hats and your wallets. Since the end of the cold war, the global system has been held together to a large degree by four critical ruling bargains. Today all four are coming unstuck at once and will need to be rebuilt. Whether and how that rebuilding happens — beginning in the U.S. — will determine a lot about what’s in your wallet and whether your hat flies off.

Now let me say that in English: the European Union is cracking up. The Arab world is cracking up. China’s growth model is under pressure and America’s credit-driven capitalist model has suffered a warning heart attack and needs a total rethink. Recasting any one of these alone would be huge. Doing all four at once — when the world has never been more interconnected — is mind-boggling. We are again “present at the creation” — but of what?

Let’s start with the Middle East, the world’s oil tap. Libyans just joined Tunisians, Egyptians and Yemenis in ousting their dictator, while Syrians and Iranians hope to soon follow suit. In time, virtually every Middle East autocrat will be deposed or forced to share power. The old model can’t hold. That model was based on kings and military dictators capturing the oil revenue, ensconcing themselves in power — protected by well-financed armies and security services — and buying off key segments of their populations. That lid has been blown off by an Arab youth bulge that today can see just how everyone else is living and is no longer ready to accept being behind, undereducated, unemployed, humiliated and powerless. But while this old Middle East system — based on an iron fist and a fistful of petro-dollars holding together multiethnic/multireligious societies — has broken down, it will take time for these societies to write their own social contracts for how to live together without an iron fist from above. Hope for the best, prepare for anything.

Farther north, it was a nice idea, this European Union and euro-zone: Let’s have a monetary union and a common currency but let everyone run their own fiscal policy, as long as they swear to work and save like Germans. Alas, it was too good to be true. Large government welfare programs in some European countries, without the revenue to finance them from local production, eventually led to a piling up of sovereign debt — mostly owed to European banks — and then a lender revolt. The producer-savers in northern Europe are now drawing up a new deal with the overspenders — the PIIGS: Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain. It is unlikely that the Germans would just break out of the European Union, since a good chunk of their exports go to those overspending, uncompetitive countries.

Instead, the northern Europeans are trying to force stronger, rule-based discipline on the PIIGS. But how much more austerity can these countries absorb, especially if there are further social stresses from deeper recessions? More than Londoners will take to the streets. One way or another, the European Union is going to get smaller or tighter, but in the process it could go through a chaotic, world-shaking transition that is not priced into the market yet.

Going East, China has been relying on a model built on a deliberately undervalued currency and export-led growth, with low domestic consumption and high savings. This has allowed the Communist Party to sustain a unique bargain with its people: We give you jobs and rising standards of living, and you give us power. This bargain is now under threat. Persistent unemployment in China’s American and European markets is making Beijing’s undervalued-currency/low-consumption/high-export model less sustainable for the world.

As for America, we’ve thrived in recent decades with a credit-consumption-led economy, whereby we maintained a middle class by using more steroids (easy credit, subprime mortgages and construction work) and less muscle-building (education, skill-building and innovation). It’s put us in a deep hole, and the only way to dig out now is a new, hybrid politics that mixes spending cuts, tax increases, tax reform and investments in infrastructure, education, research and production. But that mix is not the agenda of either party.

Either our two parties find a way to collaborate in the center around this new hybrid politics, or a third party is going to emerge — or we’re stuck and the pain will just get worse.

When the world is experiencing so many wrenching changes at once — with already high unemployment and weak economies — the need for America, the most important pillar of all, to be rock solid is greater than ever. If we don’t get our act together — which will require collective action normally reserved for wartime — we are not going to just be prolonging an American crisis, but feeding a global one.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The tie that binds ... the power of Values!

One of the great songs of the church has a first verse that goes:

Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love;
the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.
As I have a new Principles of Management class beginning Monday, and cannot wait to meet these thirty new students and become part of their lives for a quick fifteen weeks, my mind a couple of days ago went on a journey. That journey was in assessing the world into which these young minds are now residing and preparing to be part of commercially in a few years and how this perspective is so very different than the time when I sat in those seats listening to a professor teach.  So the question, when that old song came to me is, what is that tie that binds our hearts, the fellowship of kindred minds?  Worthy question I think you will agree!

As my mind probed that that binding tie individually and organizationally, the power of Values came into focus and thus became the rudder on this great ship of life and learning.  The ship's rudder is relatively small but has power influence in the direction of the vessel which I think is a wonderful analogy for Values.  Values define who we are. Values establish our boundaries. Values determine direction and velocity.  Values are, then, that tie that binds us into the sum total of our behaviors which I define as Culture.   So I guess we could assess that you can have Values without Culture but you will never have a Culture without Values, right?

So the question .... if you had to write down three values that define you, what would your list be?  Go ahead and develop that list.  My class will hear much about Values in the upcoming semester for how can you manage effectively if you are irrelevant to the Values, right?  It is amazing that the longer I live the more inquisitive I become about things that just "were" most of my life but in questioning and probing, I begin to see the depth of the boundary markers in our world. 

Make this day a day of seeking to understand yourself better; that will always make for an interesting dissertation and I challenge you to embark on that journey!  Be blessed!!!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Living in a Shadow

Yesterday afternoon turned into an epiphany of sorts for me.  The selection of the title, Living in a Shadow, came to me last night about 11:30 pm as I lay in bed thinking about the day.  Let me share a story of me that may surprise some but hey, it's my story, right?


When you open that link, you will see a story and a photo of a young ma n,a friend, I knew from the athletic warfare zone of Alabama basketball.  The name Randy Hollingsworth will doubtfully ring any one's bell that will read this but that name was synonymous with a mold that I longed to be poured into as to skills and talents with basketball. 

There were many in the mid 1960s when Randy played at Butler High School in Huntsville, AL and I a Emma Sansom High School in Gadsden, that drew comparisons and parallels with he and I.  We were both about the same height, both has long arms and legs, both loved the game, both had crew cuts and high cheek bones and we both had a similar way of trotting the floor.  Randy was a natural shooter; the best I had ever seen to that time in my playing life.  He had a smooth move to his left or to his right, a very quick release of the ball with deadly accuracy from 20 feet and could drive the basket very well.  Again, the shooting parallels are quite similar for me as well but for me that came from hundreds and hundreds of hours of hard work every day from early morning to late at night in my backyard, the local YMCA, anywhere there was a basketball hoop attached to something. I loved it but it was not natural, the skills, for me for I had to build it into a way of life. I longed to be that good. 

All of that built a value into my repertoire of values that create the real you.  The message ... if you work hard enough and long enough, you can accomplish anything!  There were many that affectionately would refer to me as "Hollingsworth" and that was always a tremendous compliment. I admired Randy and was in awe of what he was given so naturally.  He had two nick names, Bones and Silk and he was both!  My college coach was refer to me as "Randy" many times and that was a lifter for me for I admired Hollingsworth so much. 

Our senior year, 1966, our two schools played three times with two being home and home battles with Butler beating us a total of 64 points; it was not pretty.  Then we drew Butler in the quarter finals of the AHSAA 4A State Basketball Tournament at the University of Alabama and David (ESH) defeated the mighty Goliath (BUTLER) soundly. It was simply amazing and at sixty-three years old the game is so vivid it is striking as I sit here typing this.  But the vortex of this writ is about the life of a man I know not about for through the years I have often wondered what became of Bones, Randy.   He was scholarshipped to play at the University of Alabama and I at a much smaller Livingston State University. Was I envious?  On a grand scale which I am quite ashamed of even to this day.  But to my knowlege, given that tremendous academic opportunity, Randy never played or but very little at Alabama and I believe dropped out his freshman year ... what a waste of opportunity!

As I lay in bed last night, into the early morning hours thinking about what I might write this morning, what prompted the Hollingsworth revival in my mind was not the similarities nor the vividness of  the three years we did battle with each other but more in an article I came across, the link above.  Upon some further investigation including a phone call to the Huntsville Times reporter that wrote the article to learn Randy had died in 2002 apparently in a poor / sad state of circumstances in Randy's life.  The writer I spoke with even used the term "snake bit" to describe the fate of the five young men named to the All Decade team of the 1960s in Madison County, AL three of which I knew well from playing against them.  That just struck me as so unbelievably sad to have so much talent and to have wasted it away for waste is a commodity in life I detest; especially potential... another value in my tool sack of life!

So why Living in the Shadow for a title?  Randy Hollingsworth was a man I admired and yet was extremely envious of for he did not have to work for his talent and I did.  That silky smooth jump shot would keep me up at night and long hours practicing to emulate that move, that silk.  A core difference, however, was in the operational focus of the team coaches. Randy's coach built the Butler Rebels around Randy in a fluid offensive onslaught.  My coach was very conservative, defense-driven, pace control strategy that would seek to keep the score low, play execution paramount and if you were over six feet tall, you were made to block, set picks and rebound and not shoot.

Totally different ends of the spectrum were these two schools. But still I realized yesterday when I realized Randy was taken from this life in 2002 that I have discreetly, quietly but in  very real sense had lived my life longing to bask in the shade of Randy Hollingsworth.  Perhaps that is a sad revelation to the many that know me as confident, focused and passionate but, well, this is a piece of me you now have so maybe my investigative research was in some way therapeutic for me!

While on the phone with the Huntsville Times reporter learning of Randy's demise, I suddenly was taken with pityfor a life gone, lost and apparently wasted. A talent unfulfilled is simply a waste and I sense that the case for this great athlete with the crew cut I envied so much for his natural gift.  It all created within me a metaphorical lifting of my mirror to assess, now, my life against the context of the Randy Hollingsworths of my life and there have been a few I realize.  I am sure each of you have a few bouncing around your mental faculties.

The journey God has brought me on to this very morning has been filled and fraught, mountain tops and gorges, oceans and trickles but the story of Randy brought dimension to my life today.  Why has God allowed me life, a great life that is blessed to touch so many people in so many ways via my teaching, my singing, my ministry, why and yet took this other man from this earth a few years ago, why?  Well, the quick answer is that I have no clue nor should I for only God knows that but here is what I know ... God has a purpose for Jim Williams as he did Randy Hollingsworth, the Shadow in my young life. 

For whatever the reason, God is allowing the more years to seek and utilize the talents and passions innate in me to fulfill that purpose.  I may not smoothly launch a 20 foot jump shot like Randy could but God allows me to launch lifted spirits, a soothing word, a song sung from the heart that soothes and lifts, to be part of the lives of students that has a life long touch and influence. So, for me from yesterday, the only Shadow I long to cool in from the hot sun of life is that of my God and His plan for me.

So the question ... whose shadow are you seeking refuge in?  Think about it!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Telling ...!

Before you read a word, scroll down and study the chart! Now go throw up, look at it again, hold it, hold it, hold itttttttttttttttttttt!  Let it out!!

This has to be a bit humorous for it is so sickening.  Which makes the sickening even worse is in realizing that all the hoopla with the debt ceiling we watched before The Break, was, well, ahhh, based on the Great Alabama Theory of Economics ,,, pick a number, any number and work it.  My Alabama friends will not like so, SO SMILE, but really!  CBO is a supposed non-partisan numbers bunch who are to provide unbiased, REAL numbers for legislative workings on legislation.  The CBO numbers that were at the core of the war on the hill were, well, blatantly conservative meanings things are worse than discussed. That, for me, furthers my lack of believe or credibility for any number floating around Washington!

When you study the chart it is so simple in its message but so complex to grasp how to turn the trajectory downward for most of the spike to the north is entitlement spending, excuse me, borrowing.  I believe the great societal issues of the Baby Boom generation will be in the implementation of true austerity initiatives.  There is much talk, rhetoric, around the stark reality that this system is broken, the outgo is light years ahead of income with not change in sight to alter that that I can see.  The bickering and politicking turns my stomach.

On a somewhat sick but funny note ... do you know how bad it is in Washington?  No Jim, how bad is it?  It is soooo bad that the jokes in the last 24 hours about the earthquakes and hurricanes have now become political fodder for the late nighters, Facebook has been hot with varying funnies.  The sad part is that, well, as bad as things are, the jokes really are funny because the human being will always find someway to find humor in a terrible situation.  Oh well, just indicative of the poison. 

So go ahead, read the article now, STUDY THE CHART some more and let's FIX THIS THING!

By the way, we are blessed to live in this great country; never lose sight of that for I have seen far too many other countries for my comparison and not one would I leave this one for. 

The Wall Street Journal

What Austerity?

Federal spending will hit a new record this year.

With the recovery sputtering, the White House and its allies have been blaming government spending cuts, or what the neo-Keynesians call "fiscal contraction." This is a dubious economic theory even if spending were being cut, but yesterday's mid-year report from the Congressional Budget Office shows definitively that there's been nothing close to contraction in Washington.
That's the real news in the CBO numbers, which show that spending in fiscal 2011 (which ends on September 30) will hit a new high of $3.6 trillion, up $141 billion from 2010. That's higher than the previous record in 2009 of $3.5 trillion, which was supposed to be the peak of the "temporary" stimulus spending.

As the nearby chart shows, that is also nearly $900 billion more spending than in 2007. Total federal outlays will have increased by roughly one third in a mere four years. This hasn't happened since the U.S. was trying to stop the Nazis.

Related Video

Editorial writer Steve Moore on the Congressional Budget Office's latest budget report. OpinionJournal.com Assistant Editor Allysia Finley on how Republican candidates match up against President Obama in swing states; and Susan Dudley, director of the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center, gives the facts about President Obama's purported regulatory rollback.

Give President Obama and the two Pelosi Congresses credit for this much: They said they would spend our way out of recession, and they sure gave it the old Beltway try. The problem is that we got the spending without the promised economic growth.

This is the real cause of our current deficit and debt woes. As a share of the economy, spending will once again come in at nearly 23.8%, up from 20.7% as recently as 2008. Defense spending is expected to increase by only $14 billion to $703 billion in 2011, despite the surge in Afghanistan. The bigger increases are in Medicare, Medicaid, and the usual panoply of entitlements and other payments to individuals.

All of this means the deficit will roll in at nearly $1.3 trillion, or 8.5% of GDP this year. That's down a mere $10 billion from fiscal 2010, and we suppose taxpayers should be grateful for small fiscal favors.
The reason for this small deficit dip is that total tax revenues will climb in fiscal 2011 by about $150 billion. Individual income tax receipts will increase this year by about 21%, or $190 billion, though tax rates have stayed the same. Even with this good news, revenues will still come in at only 15.3% of GDP, which is far below the modern historical average of more than 18%.

Revenues would have been about $115 billion higher without the temporary payroll tax cut pressed by President Obama. But that tax cut hasn't provided any economic lift, and overall growth simply isn't fast enough to get revenues back to normal. Merely returning to an average economic expansion would reduce the deficit by 3% of GDP a year, or hundreds of billions of dollars.

Looking forward, CBO forecasts a sunnier fiscal picture, but it is based on assumptions that will never come true. The deficit is projected to fall to $973 billion in fiscal 2012, then fall again to $510 billion in 2013, and to a mere $265 billion in 2014.
But this assumes that federal spending will grow by only $12 billion in 2012, a level of spending control that even Ronald Reagan never achieved. President Obama wants much more spending next year and so does the Senate. Oh, and Medicare payments to doctors will fall by nearly 30% starting in 2012. Congress has been promising this cut in payments since 1997, but it never happens and would hurt medical care if it did.

The rest of CBO's fantasy forecast comes from what it says will be "the sharp increases in revenues that will occur when provisions of [the Bush era tax cuts extended last year] expire." So CBO estimates that federal taxes as a share of GDP will leap to 19% in 2013 and 20.2% in 2014 from 15.3% today. And we are supposed to believe the economic growth will soar to 4.4% and 5% in 2014 and 2015 after huge tax increases on capital gains, dividends, small businesses and workers in 2013. Beam us up, Scotty.

With these amazing assumptions, CBO is able to forecast that federal debt held by the public will rise only to a peak of 73% in 2013 before falling to 66% in 2016. We think economist David Malpass is closer to the truth when he predicts a debt to GDP ratio closer to 85% in 2016 and 100% in 2021 without significant reform.

The real story told by the CBO report is that the federal government is still pursuing a very loose fiscal policy, despite lamentations from Democrats and the Keynesian economists who populate Wall Street. The best that House Republicans have been able to do so far is to battle Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats to a draw, delaying tax increases until 2013 and preventing even larger spending increases. To really control Washington's appetites, the voters are going to have to back up their message in 2010 with reinforcements in 2012.

The Black Widow's bite ...

Mr. Barro has done a good work with this writing. I think he has rightly brought a higher degree of clarity on the spin approach to Keynesian economics to, well, you know, Supply & Demand real economics and I applaud him. I have not been bashful in my bashing of Keynes and his theories that have bankrupt more than a few nations such is the case with the US and many others now in Europe. Having worked extensively for over ten years in countries striving, yearning to get out from under a Centrally Planned Economic system where the citizen but does and not thinks or decides, I have a rather jaded view of Keynes' work in a very negative view.

 Keynesian economics is the easy, less painless approach in the short term but, like a black widow bite, the bite is not what kills you but the poison the courses its way into the various systems of the person / organism like a government or a citizenry. WHY, from so much historical proof, would governments today, especially the USA, be allowed down that back alley of Keynes is beyond belief and reproach for me but that is, in fact, where we have been rowing steadfastly with mountains of deficit spending, more and more government control and less and less spirit of risk or entrepreneurial spirit being birthed to show for it. Keynes saps the very inventive spirit of Man we have seen in regime after regime but here we are in 2011 just paddling away! SICKENING!

Keynesian Economics vs. Regular Economics

Food stamps and other transfers aren't necessarily bad ideas, but there's no evidence they spur growth.

Keynesian economics—the go-to theory for those who like government at the controls of the economy—is in the forefront of the ongoing debate on fiscal-stimulus packages. For example, in true Keynesian spirit, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said recently that food stamps were an "economic stimulus" and that "every dollar of benefits generates $1.84 in the economy in terms of economic activity." Many observers may see how this idea—that one can magically get back more than one puts in—conflicts with what I will call "regular economics." What few know is that there is no meaningful theoretical or empirical support for the Keynesian position.

The overall prediction from regular economics is that an expansion of transfers, such as food stamps, decreases employment and, hence, gross domestic product (GDP). In regular economics, the central ideas involve incentives as the drivers of economic activity. Additional transfers to people with earnings below designated levels motivate less work effort by reducing the reward from working.
In addition, the financing of a transfer program requires more taxes—today or in the future in the case of deficit financing. These added levies likely further reduce work effort—in this instance by taxpayers expected to finance the transfer—and also lower investment because the return after taxes is diminished.
This result does not mean that food stamps and other transfers are necessarily bad ideas in the world of regular economics. But there is an acknowledged trade-off: Greater provision of social insurance and redistribution of income reduces the overall GDP pie.

Yet Keynesian economics argues that incentives and other forces in regular economics are overwhelmed, at least in recessions, by effects involving "aggregate demand." Recipients of food stamps use their transfers to consume more. Compared to this urge, the negative effects on consumption and investment by taxpayers are viewed as weaker in magnitude, particularly when the transfers are deficit-financed.

Vilsack, the administration believes that the cumulative effect is a multiplier around two.
If valid, this result would be truly miraculous. The recipients of food stamps get, say, $1 billion but they are not the only ones who benefit. Another $1 billion appears that can make the rest of society better off. Unlike the trade-off in regular economics, that extra $1 billion is the ultimate free lunch.

How can it be right? Where was the market failure that allowed the government to improve things just by borrowing money and giving it to people? Keynes, in his "General Theory" (1936), was not so good at explaining why this worked, and subsequent generations of Keynesian economists (including my own youthful efforts) have not been more successful.

Theorizing aside, Keynesian policy conclusions, such as the wisdom of additional stimulus geared to money transfers, should come down to empirical evidence. And there is zero evidence that deficit-financed transfers raise GDP and employment—not to mention evidence for a multiplier of two.

Gathering evidence is challenging. In the data, transfers are higher than normal during recessions but mainly because of the automatic increases in welfare programs, such as food stamps and unemployment benefits. To figure out the economic effects of transfers one needs "experiments" in which the government changes transfers in an unusual way—while other factors stay the same—but these events are rare.

Ironically, the administration created one informative data point by dramatically raising unemployment insurance eligibility to 99 weeks in 2009—a much bigger expansion than in previous recessions. Interestingly, the fraction of the unemployed who are long term (more than 26 weeks) has jumped since 2009—to over 44% today, whereas the previous peak had been only 26% during the 1982-83 recession. This pattern suggests that the dramatically longer unemployment-insurance eligibility period adversely affected the labor market. All we need now to get reliable estimates are a hundred more of these experiments.

The administration found the evidence it wanted—multipliers around two—by consulting some large-scale macro-econometric models, which substitute assumptions for identification. These models were undoubtedly the source of Mr. Vilsack's claim that a dollar more of food stamps led to an extra $1.84 of GDP. This multiplier is nonsense, but one has to admire the precision in the number.
There are two ways to view Keynesian stimulus through transfer programs. It's either a divine miracle—where one gets back more than one puts in—or else it's the macroeconomic equivalent of bloodletting. Obviously, I lean toward the latter position, but I am still hoping for more empirical evidence.

Mr. Barro is an economics professor at Harvard and a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tingling like a little boy ...!

Have just had one of those moments that leave you breathless and acting all giggly and tingling all over like a little boy at Christmas ... In 1976, my wife and our almost two year old daughter, Jeannine, and I were stationed at the US Army Armor School at Fort Knox, KY for me to attend the Armor Officer Basic Course.  As Jeannine's second birthday approached, my wife, Jeannine and I were at the Post Commissary looking for a tricycle for our baby girl.  I had my work uniform on and proudly wearing my "butter bars" as a second lieutenant.  I realized Jeannine had gotten away from us and I was frantically looking for her in the crowded story. As I gazed up one aisle and then another, panic began to overcome me.

I saw what I thought was a small child several yards in front of me at the end of one of the aisles with this man also in uniform bent over talking to a small child which I assumed with Jeannine.  My heart stopped!  I proceeded quickly to what was, in fact, Jeannine.  She was heavily engaged in a conversation with this man I did not even look at for I was so happy to see my baby.  THEN, as he stood and offered a handshake of assurance and a shoulder pat of calm, I realized it was the Commanding General of Fort Knox, General Donn Starry.  You think, well yahoo, who really cares?  Well this 2LT cared enough at the moment to snap to, salute him and could not even put two words cohesivly together except, "thank you, Sir.!"

I have today just gotten off the phone with GEN Starry's wife.  She and the General reside very near us in Jackson Township.  In today's Canton Repository is a wonderful article on GEN Starry so when I saw it and realized he was living very near me, I could not catch my breath.  He, GEN Starry, is the definition of class, leadership and honor. I have watched him, studied him, read his books, learned his doctrines on armor and cavalry operations and, of course, met him that day looking for the tricycle for my daughter.  Ihave been trained in and trained me and machines using his doctrines honed in combat in Vietnam.  So many classes I took at Fort Knox seeing him via video teach us new platoon leaders about the use of armor.  He spoke to our entering class. I saw him again a few years later when, at Fort Knox and I then a Captain, stood and applauded he and dozens of other generals including General Patton's son for the Armor Update as they entered the massive auditorium.   

So enthralled after seeing the Repos article, I went to White pages and sure enough, found his phone number, called and had a wonderful conversation with his wife, Karen. I shared with her all the above.  GEN Starry is not doing well from a health standpoint so I was unable to speak with him but am left, well, breathless, thinking about the whole Starry impact on my life to this very day.  It has not been two weeks ago he came to my mind and I went to You Tube and found several award ceremony videos of this great man and savored every minute of them.

Most of you will probably not care at all about this but this, for me, has made this a truly amazing day.  The world owes much to people like GEN Starry. For me, many years past, I remember that handshake, his taking the time to be a comfort to my daughter until her dad found her and to realize the millions of lives this man has touched.  I wish more than anything I could return that handshake now and render a sharp hand salute to thank him properly.

My pastor preached just yesterday on encouragement ... today memories encouraged me and I know my call encouraged both GEN Starry and his wife.  I told my wife that I feel like I have met one of the Beach Boys or Billy Graham as an illustration of being so close to someone so great that has done so much.


Why Do Americans Hate Economics?

I read this a couple of days ago and then watched the video of the writer speaking on this topic.  So I asked myself that very question given the experience of close to 8,000 students I have been honored to teach in the last seven years and their comprehension on the subject.  One of the foundational principles of learning, I believe and teach, is that learning comes at the confluence of history, geography and economics.  To grasp the dimensional depth of an issue in a global economy, one must have a working understanding of all three pathways to that understanding.

Harry Truman once rightly stated to bring him a one armed economist for he was sick and tired of the economists around him answering his questions but then retorting, "but on the other hand .."  meaning what he got was fluff and fluff is not fodder for decision makers. 

I have taught Economics, have a minor in my undergraduate degree in Economics but believe Economics, as a science, to be common sense and relatively simple to grasp.  If people want something, that means they are willing to redirect their purchasing power away from a planned expense toward something else.  That is called Demand.  The factors of production determine what velocity and capability to provide the good or service; that is Supply.  Where the Demand and the Supply curves cross is the Equilibrium point or what we call Price.  Demand more than the Supply capability and Price goes up.  Fix Supply and Demand increases, Price goes up.  Fix Supply and Demand and Price do not change. There you have Micro Economics 100A. So generally speaking, DEMAND drives Price.

Given that caveat in the last paragraph, it is most interesting to me to hear pundits, politicians and economist tell us of late that the problem we face is not too much debt (a joke) but a lack of demand. If people had the resources / money or disposable income, they would buy more thus forces the investment in more goods / services production capability. Thus the flawed logic of government stimulation meaning pour more borrowed money and print more paper monety into the system and people wil beging to buy, create aggregate Demand.  Then we hear that the supplier network, corporations, are hoarding money, money is sitting on the sidelines, etc.  Given the poisonous political environment and disdain for government in general, can you blame these companies for being reluctant to spend their cash especially in the US?

Another interesting corollary is that the capital business is investing is not in more people but in technology thus increasing aggregate supply to meet the diminishing Demand via machine productivity and less with more brick and mortar plants and bodies.  Really, what is wrong with that for we are a Service Economy not and not a smokestack economy, right?  By the way, American workers are now the most productive workers in the world.  It is matching the productivity output to a buying public.  Therein lies the issue. 

There are many gray heads that long for a return to the Smokestack days when manufacturing ruled when it comprised a 70% portion of the GDP. That WILL NOT HAPPEN for when economies mature, they mature through three phases: first is Agriculture, second is Manufacturing and third is Service.  We have exited the Manufacturing / Industrial Age in America and have entered fully into the Service / Information age but finding we are not competing due to technology and intelligent, lower cost labor in a global economy.  So what we are witnessing are countries like Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, South Korea blowing into their own Industrial Revolution and doing it well; we are not faring well in our adventure into the Service Age.

So why do Americans hate economics? People only fear that which they do not know or understand therefore Americans do not hate economics as much as they fear the not knowing of economic forces.  They are actually, the forces, are actually quite predictable if you watch the trends and indicators.  Do not fear Economics but embrace the principles, watch the trends and it actually becomes an enjoyable viewing. 

I hope this helps this morning!

AUGUST 19, 2011

Why Americans Hate Economics

In university classrooms—and especially the Obama White House—fancy theories of macroeconomics defy basic common sense.

Christina Romer, the University of California at Berkeley economics professor and President Obama's first chief economist, once relayed the old joke that "there are two kinds of students: those who hate economics and those who really hate economics." She doesn't believe that, but it's true. I'm surprised how many students tell me economics is their least favorite subject. Why? Because too often economic theories defy common sense. Alas, the policies of this administration haven't boosted the profession's reputation.
Consider what happened last week when Laura Meckler of this newspaper dared to ask White House Press Secretary Jay Carney how increasing unemployment insurance "creates jobs." She received this slap down: "I would expect a reporter from The Wall Street Journal would know this as part of the entrance exam just to get on the paper."
Mr. Carney explained that unemployment insurance "is one of the most direct ways to infuse money into the economy because people who are unemployed and obviously aren't earning a paycheck are going to spend the money that they get . . . and that creates growth and income for businesses that then lead them to making decisions about jobs—more hiring."
In today's Opinion Journal video: Editorial writer Steve Moore explains why Keynesian economics doesn't make sense; and OpinionJournal.com assistant editor Allysia Finley on Mitt Romney's tax flip-flops.
That's a perfect Keynesian answer, and also perfectly nonsensical. What the White House is telling us is that the more unemployed people we can pay for not working, the more people will work. Only someone with a Ph.D. in economics from an elite university would believe this.
I have two teenage sons. One worked all summer and the other sat on his duff. To stimulate the economy, the White House wants to take more money from the son who works and give it to the one who doesn't work. I can say with 100% certainty as a parent that in the Moore household this will lead to less work.
Economic bimboism is rampant in Washington. The Center for American Progress held a forum earlier this summer arguing that raising the minimum wage would create more jobs. For this to be true, you have to believe that the more it costs a business to hire a worker, the more workers companies will want to hire.
A few months ago Mr. Obama blamed high unemployment on businesses becoming "more efficient with a lot fewer workers," and he mentioned ATMs and airport kiosks. The Luddites are back raging against the machine. If Mr. Obama really wants to get to full employment, why not ban farm equipment?
Or consider the biggest whopper: Mr. Obama's thoroughly discredited $830 billion stimulus bill. We were promised $1.50 or even up to $3 of economic benefit—the mythical "multiplier"—from every dollar the government spent. There was never any acknowledgment that for the government to spend a dollar, it has to take it from the private economy that is then supposed to create jobs. The multiplier theory only works if you believe there's a fairy passing out free dollars.
Associated Press
White House Spokesman Jay Carney
How did modern economics fly off the rails? The answer is that the "invisible hand" of the free enterprise system, first explained in 1776 by Adam Smith, got tossed aside for the new "macroeconomics," a witchcraft that began to flourish in the 1930s during the rise of Keynes. Macroeconomics simply took basic laws of economics we know to be true for the firm or family—i.e., that demand curves are downward sloping; that when you tax something, you get less of it; that debts have to be repaid—and turned them on their head as national policy.
As Donald Boudreaux, professor of economics at George Mason University and author of the invaluable blog Cafe Hayek, puts it: "Macroeconomics was nothing more than a dismissal of the rules of economics." Over the years, this has led to some horrific blunders, such as the New Deal decision to pay farmers to burn crops and slaughter livestock to keep food prices high: To encourage food production, destroy it.
The grand pursuit of economics is to overcome scarcity and increase the production of goods and services. Keynesians believe that the economic problem is abundance: too much production and goods on the shelf and too few consumers. Consumers lined up for blocks to buy things in empty stores in communist Russia, but that never sparked production. In macroeconomics today, there is a fatal disregard for the heroes of the economy: the entrepreneur, the risk-taker, the one who innovates and creates the things we want to buy. "All economic problems are about removing impediments to supply, not demand," Arthur Laffer reminds us.
So here we are, three years of mostly impotent stimulus experiments and the economy still hobbled. Keynesians would be expected to be second-guessing the wisdom of their theories. Instead, Prof. Romer recently complained that the political system will not allow Mr. Obama to "go back and ask for more" stimulus.
And that is why Americans hate economics.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

En - COURAGE - ment

My pastor preached yet another powerful sermon using Barnabas as the focal character to drive home the potency of encouragement.  He is basically a little known character in the Bible but made his mark by his drive to lift people around him, such as Paul, to higher levels.  The message has so touched me that I have invested some time digging deeper in the meaning of encouragement.  So I went to Webster for some synonyms: 

Synonyms: boost, impulse, goad, impetus, incentive, incitation, incitement, instigation, momentum, motivation, provocation, spur, stimulant, stimulus, yeast

Pretty heavy lifting words in a world that is screaming for more people to encourage more people and organizations and systems.  In looking at the word, the root of the word is what leaps of the screen to me which is "courage." So a word, a handshake, a card, a letter, an email, etc can inspire a person to take on more courage, wow?  As I listened to Dr. Frazier and knowing him as I do, here is a man heading a large church with a large set of complexities on a daily basis and he exhibits the gift of encouragement in so many ways.  I also then realized the many people I encounter of a daily basis that, well, don't utilize that powerful tool.

If you look at the context of all the synonyms for encouragement you see that there is kinetic energy is the verb or the movement of energy from one point to another. Kinetic energy is something you can see, watch, realize something did in fact just happen as a result of an act or action.  Those of you that know me, really know me, know I love to be an encouragement to anyone around me.  Those of you that do not yet really know me, like a new semester of students, probably sense overwhelming concern about the journey before them. 

Encouragement is a life preserver for the drowning regardless of what your sea might be.  I love to sing but not for the sake of singing for singing, to me, is a powerful mode of encouraging people.  When you sing the gospel through music, you see quickly the music and the message of the song is touching people where they are hurting.  Sure, it is easy to just enjoy the rhythms or melodies or the parts but when you listen to the message of a song a writer somewhere was inspired to write, and see a heart touched via tears, a smile, a gentle head nod or just  face of relaxation, then you know the joy of singing to encourage.

Souls in danger, look above, Jesus completely saves,
He will lift you by His love, out of the angry waves.
He’s the Master of the sea, billows His will obey,
He your Savior wants to be, be saved today.

Read those words and feel that message by that great hymn, Love Lifted Me.  You cannot help but feel encouraged if you are in your sea of pain and distress and we all try to row through our own waves don't we?   So my challenge, as my Pastor challenged us ... find a way TODAY to encourage someone.  Find something good a person does, LOOK FOR IT, and tell them how much you appreciate it.  There is power, kinetic energy, that is unleashed the moment it happens.


Pick a Battle, please!

We have all heard the adage about one must pick your battles.  I am one that firmly believes that even though I will tend to end up fighting an eclectic set of foes at times yet as my hair continues its journey toward total whiteness, I acknowledge I am becoming more selective in the battles I fight.  But fighting a battle is a good thing for it for it causes all resources to be inventoried, marshaled and focused / aimed in a common direction.  Got it!

As I watch this political climate continue to deteriorate due to what I believe to be because of a lack of real political will, fighting the battle, and even worse, appearing to target no battle is simply inciting to me.  There are hosts of battles to be fought but what I long to see is PICK ONE, please!  Americans are fighters ... when we finally have to fight.  Americans are aching for a fight I believe; this one is at least. I want to go ye therefore and slay the dragons of debt, corruption, entitlement manipulation and more than any of them, the lack of delivery of real education to a whole generation that will be faced with managing the resources of this Earth in the next fifty years.  Let's go fight for something, please.

When I watch the unfolding of the debt ceiling crisis, the Super Committee which will be a farce of mega proportion charged to reduce $1,500,000,000 in Federal spending, a President that seems aloof and disconnected but loves to campaign in corn rows with a Congress blissfully enjoying a forty day vacation with my taxes; let's decide an enemy and go slay it!  This nation is in really bad shape but the worse part is what seems to be the "white noise" which means there is noise but it is now not unsoothing to the ear. We have adapted to the terrible noises.  I used to do that on tank gun ranges with guns firing all night but I never heard them even with the ground beneath me was shaking from each fired round.  This is not a good thing.

Victor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, wrote a book speaking to this that regardless of how bad things are, Man by the very nature of Man, will find a way to rationalize his situation and thus adapt to it and therefore is a defensive mechanism to facilitate the person to go ahead like nothing is really wrong or out of the norm; yes, even in the Holocaust at Auschwitz. Killing and prison work was, well, normal over time.  That is where I sense Americans are or are headed. It is so bad, so noisy and so distasteful yet our lives go on with work, marriage, football practices, life that we just rationalize that it will get better so why worry about it. That is, well, dangerous!  I highly recommend Dr. Frankl's book for perspective.

On this Sunday morning after a nice rain and as I prepare for a full day of being at church with people I love to be with and worship with, I am yet again moved to the state of not only our nation but our culture.  Abortion is now the norm, gay marriages are now the norm, prison populations exploding and yet we turn prisoners out into society because we cannot afford to jail them, church attendance wanes year after year, preachers that will PICK A BATTLE and preach passionately against the societal wrongs and shifting are becoming part of a storied past and on and on.  I want my President and my Congress to humor me and act like they really care as much as I. I want them to embrace one, just one battle and together choose their stones wisely as David did, assist each other in bore sighting the sling and jointly march together to the field of battle where the Goliaths of the world are taunting this great nation and together pull tension to the sling and bury a stone in the forehead of one, just one, Goliath, PLEASE! Is that really asking too much, really?  Me thinks not!

But know this as I close this, my belief in the goodness and the greatness of this nation is vigilant and strong for I believe that horizon we see out there will bring a new ray of sun light but I prefer to spell it SON light for it is our belief in a God that loves us, cares for us and wants the best for us that will lift us from this morass that WE have created.  It is that same God that, time and again, had to get the attention of the desert people call the Israelites but then I realize we today are in that desert of pain but are we listening and leaning on the Promise?  I am listening and I welcome you to join me!!

Be blessed

Friday, August 19, 2011

"Come on Poppy, time for a Shave ..." .... my grand daughter Isabella!

The sun is going down on a very good day ... Praise God from whom ALL blessings, right?  My grandson, Noah, and I attended a good baseball game on a beautiful night so see the Akron Aeros last evening. As I begin to write  this my mind immediately returned to a moment that will not be forgotten at the entrance to Canal Park as the crowd gathered.

Noah is a precious young man, eight years old. He is very inquisitive, loves any sport but especially baseball and his excitement, while muted to the world, was apparent to me.  As we stood on the sidewalk waiting with Noah looking all around at the sights and smells, my mind was captured by what I knew to be an injured soldier there with this family of wife, three beautiful children and others.  He never knew I was watching him nor how he has affected me. I have seen many soldiers in varying degrees of injury in my life.  Let me explain!

This young soldier looked to be in the mid thirty range of age.  He was tanned, military camouflage cut off shorts and simple tee shirt.  He was jumpy, jittery but very engaging with his family.  None of that is what caught my eye but seeing him with one eye sewn together and a wide scar extending across his skull from one ear to the other drew me to him realizing what he had experienced to leave him so scarred. 

The scar was healing well but with his "Marine" hair cut, my assumption was that he was the victim of an IED in one of the wars and was in recovery.  But even with that obvious physical indicator, it was his attention to specific detail of all around him that captured my attention. Adjusting baseball caps, pulling strings off tee shirts and with each action he would grasp the son or daughter and pull them closely to him. I was watching all this through tears and then I realized a wonderful teaching opportunity!

As my radar was on, both my hands gently caressing Noah's hair and shoulders making sure he stayed near me in the crowd.  My heart was taken by the two of us, the soldier and me, touching, protecting, holding those that we love most irrespective of injury, pain, people staring, which they were shamelessly, but protecting the gifts God had given this soldier and me.  Every fiber of my being wanted to walk up to the soldier, shake his, salute him and and hug and thank him for what he did for me which I do often when I see a veteran.  But I chose discretion for I did not wish to call more attention to the soldier but it was then I realize the opportunity ...

I bent down speaking into Noah's and began to explain to him about soldiers and what they do to protect us, to let us sleep in peace, to guard us.  I showed him the soldier and quietly told him why I loved that man and did not nor would I ever know him but the love was based on not who he was but what he did for me and all of us gathered there at the ball park.  To see Noah respectfully look up at this soldier caused me to tear up again for it was one of those moments I will never forget with one of my grandsons and I hope he will not forget it either.  I hoped and tried to see the soldier inside the park but never did for I wanted to shake his hand so badly especially after the tears of last Saturday and the funeral of the Marine killed just the Saturday before in Afghanistan.  Oh how precious life is!

Can it get better?  Well, my beautiful grand daugther Isabella and her brother Logan stayed with me most of the day today.  While Logan was watching TV, Bella came to where I was and said, "come on Poppy, time for a shave and a back scratch ...!"  Ah, now can it get any better?  So my face got lathered six times and those little hands with a real razor caused us both to be gentle to not cut Poppy.  She was excellent and I think learned all over again how loved she is which is completely.

There is so much hurt and pain and worry in our world but it is The Moments that melt the sorrow and anguish away.  Last night and today, caring less what the markets did, the impotency of a failed governmental system, partisan politics, etc, etc, ... I was given a small taste of how just how beautiful heaven must be so the lyrics of that great song will be my wrap for the night:

How beautiful heaven must be
Sweet home of the happy and free
Fair haven of rest for the weary
How beautiful heaven must be

Pure waters of life there are flowing
And all who will drink may be free
Rare jewels of splendor are glowing
How beautiful heaven must be

The angels so sweetly are singing
Up there by the beautiful sea
Sweet chords from their gold harps are ringing
How beautiful heaven must be

How beautiful heaven must be
Sweet home of the happy and free
Fair haven of rest for the weary
How beautiful heaven must be