Archive for February, 2008

28
Feb
08

Whose Responsible For the Disadvantaged? Church, Charity or Government?

Here is the question; why should I help some poor bum who sits at home all day drinking cheap wine or shooting himself up with crack and gets monthly benefits from various government programs?  Next question: Why should I share of my resources with someone who was stupid enough to live next to a river, over a fault line, on the coast or in a part of the country prone to tornadoes?  Final question:  Why should I feel it is my responsibility to act as a social worker, psychologist, lawyer, nurse or chauffeur for someone I don’t know, am not related to or have nothing in common with?

These three questions form the basis of why we are seeing a crisis in the care-giving community.  More and more people are taking the “hands off” approach to sharing as a direct result of problems in their own lives.  The sad reality of this quiz is that if there is no good reason to do any of the above; other than if private citizens don’t do these things, the responsibility will be transferred to various levels of government which will entail raising taxes to pay for more services.

Let there be no mistake about this; the vast majority of Americans would rather walk naked down main street eating cockroaches than personally get involved helping someone they don’t know or are related to.  Yet, these same people will without hesitation write a check to a major charity to provide help for these people.  What is the deal here?  Why is it so repulsive to think of personally helping another yet it is so fulfilling to “write a check”?

Look at this way, if a bum approached you on the street; which would you rather him say: “Got a dollar you can spare” or “Can I come work for you in return for a hot meal”?  Of course 99% of all people would prefer the request for the dollar.  No one wants to say no to a person trying to do the right thing, but no one wants a stranger coming to his house and stealing him blind, killing his kids and burning his house down either.   As much as no one really wants to give a dollar to a stranger, it is much easier to do than face the possible scenarios of dragging a bum home.

My wife and I watched an old episode of “Leave It To Beaver” the other night.  The storyline was simply one of a lost cat who kept being fed by Beaver and even after being taken home to its owner, would escape and come right back.  The moral of the story was that if you put food out for a cat, it will keep coming back to get fed.  The same moral would be true of helping those who are downtrodden and downcast. 

Far too many programs are set up to simply provide a bowl of food for people.  Of course it is appreciated, but what is really being accomplished?  Pavlov proved many years ago that dogs and people are conditioned to respond a certain way.  Put the bowl of food out at the same place at the same time every day and the dog or cat will become a permanent guest within a few days.  The unfortunate reality of many charity and most government programs is that it amounts to setting a bowl of food on the porch daily.

Simply writing a check to the Red Cross or having money payroll deducted for the United Way sounds good, but does the person have a clue where the money is going or whether it is helping anyone?  Yet, by “giving” this way, the personal responsibility is removed from having to actually get involved with other’s lives.  Refusing to help “the bums” who won’t work sounds noble, but if taxes are being paid, the person is “helping” anyway through massive governmental welfare programs.

Studies indicate there is a huge number of very angry people in this country who detest the idea of providing any help to the downtrodden.  Most of these angry people are white men who can’t stand the idea of any of their money helping some lazy black or Mexican man.  I appreciate this sentiment, but it does not make it right.  First of all it is extremely prejudicial and racial in tone.  Second of all it is incredibly short-sighted and narrow minded in scope. And finally it flies in the face of the attitude of charity this country was built on and which has allowed it to survive and prosper through the years.

These same people who self-righteously proclaim their resistance to helping others because of the color of their skin or nationality will gladly offer help to one of their “good buddies” or their families.  They will go to church and offer to fix the roof on the building or donate lumber for a Sunday School room addition.  In their minds, this giving is allowable for it is helping the church.  But, the idea of giving to help a poor person is “anathema” to them.

Here is the truth in all this.  If the church would crawl out of its hallowed walled chambers and get involved helping people in their community; there would be no need for expensive government programs and no need for all the humanitarian charities to be begging for money all the time.  If the church started offering programs to help the disadvantaged learn skills and receive tutoring in basic elements of surviving then these people could learn to stand on their own feet and not need others to help them all the time.

But no, the church is too busy buying new pews and putting new carpet down to worry about helping the bum down the street.  The church is too busy hosting wedding receptions, baby showers, 50th anniversary celebrations, funerals and teas to spend a lousy dime to keep the kids down the street from dying of malnutrition.  The church is too busy locking its doors all but a few hours a week rather than have someone there to counsel and help a person facing a life changing crisis.

Somehow many churches think all they are there for is to provide a place for people to show up to on Sunday mornings.  These types of churches have totally missed the point of their very existence.  The church is there to help people.  Sure, part of that help is spiritual feeding through services and programs, but help is much more than a sermon once a week.  Genuine help involves getting involved with a person’s life to the point needs can be established and then met. 

For those who are far too angry to help anyone get out of the mess their life has become; I ask you to pause and think about who is going to help YOU when the world caves in around you?  I know you say it never will, but sooner or later everyone will have to face the day in their lives when the music ends and friends depart, when death of a loved one causes pain too hard to bear and disease saps the once strong body of all life and energy.  Sooner or later everyone faces the day of reckoning in their lives when all they once took pride in fades and all that once made them so arrogant melts before their eyes.

Who is going to help you then I ask of you who are too proud to help another now?  When you are old and crippled and can’t even clean yourself up after soiling your diaper, who is going to want to care for that “nasty old codger” who would never give a dime to help all those “lazy bums”.  What goes around, comes around and that is a fact.  For those too proud, arrogant of selfish to reach out to help others now, don’t be expecting anyone to help you later when you need it.

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25
Feb
08

Crisis Among Caregivers: No Food For The Hungry

There is a shockwave coming that once it hits this country, people are going to be screaming about why they were not warned.  There is soon to be major price increases in most food products.  Wheat and soybean prices have surged to records, corn prices hit a 12-year high this year and rice prices have doubled in the past year to levels not seen in a decade. Meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products prices have also dramatically increased.

Food prices in general increased 4% this past year, and will easily go up that much this year.  For the first time, processed food prices are increasing rapidly and not just grains and fresh products.  Although farmers are rejoicing in the record breaking prices for their commodities, the rest of us will soon be feeling the pinch in our budgets. 

Wheat used to average around $3 per bushel for years.  It is close to $10 now and could go up more.  Due to the demand for fuel, corn prices have gone through the roof.  Very little of the corn grown is the sweet corn eaten by families nearly every night.  The vast majority of corn is either fed to animals or turned into fuel. 

Corn takes much out of the soil.  Corn should be rotated and only planted every other year.  But, if the price of corn keeps rising and the demand keeps rising along with it, farmers will be tempted to plant corn yearly and risk stripping the soil of valuable nutrients.  In the farm belt, corn and soybeans are alternated on thousands of farms.  Wheat is predominantly a product grown in a huge swath from Texas to North Dakota. 

The United Nations recently announced cutbacks on delivery of grain to the poorest of nations, and what shipments are getting through have a dramatically raised price tag.  If the largest governing body and relief agency in the world is having problems locating and distributing food at a reasonable price, what is going to happen to the countless charities who do the same domestically? 

Price increases in raw or fresh products are common place and do not cause much of a stir; but when prices start increasing dramatically for processed food products, then people will wake up in a hurry and take notice.  When most of the products that sit on all the shelves at the grocery store start seeing rapid increases in price, then the weekly grocery bill will rise up and slap families in the face.

Not a week goes by where I don’t stand in utter amazement at the prices of things in the grocery store.  Never have I seen products such as eggs and cheese as high as they have been for some time now.  I know that soon those prices will retreat and the price of milk and butter will skyrocket; for that is how the program is set up.  But, with the sky high price of fresh produce at this time of year and the ridiculous prices for meat; what exactly is left to buy at a reasonable price that is remotely “good for you”?

For years, when the price for fresh food got too high, people fell back on canned, frozen and other “packaged” food to survive.  Stories of people living on cans of beans and boxes of macaroni and cheese were not fabricated.  People with little available to them financially learn to live on what is cheap.  But, what happens if the price of “packaged and processed” food goes up dramatically?  Where then is the “cheap” food?

Food pantries and other charitable organizations which distribute food to those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder depend on processed foods for the vast majority of their supplies.  They do not have the means to store and provide fresh produce and refrigerated products.  Most of what is distributed is canned or boxed goods received from wholesalers and processors because either the expiration date is getting near or they were overstocked.  Many canned and boxed products which have passed the expiration date or are damaged make it into shipments that go overseas. 

Due to raw product shortages and/or price increases, the availability of products at reduced prices is dwindling.  Add on the incredible transportation costs due to the price of gasoline and especially diesel, and the pool of available food products for food banks and pantries is shrinking rapidly.  The result of these factors is reduced supply available for those who need it most and a dramatic rise in the cost of obtaining what supplies are available.

The impact of the upcoming food supply crisis will be felt by everyone who shops for food at the grocery store, all who eat out on a regular basis and especially those who depend on the charity of others to survive.  The days of passing the buck and shifting the blame are quickly ending.  Either we find new and innovative ways to provide food for those involved in the distribution of it to those in genuine need, or we will have to face the unthinkable in this country; people literally starving to death.

Do we really want the United States of America to become the end point for other country’s charities?  Do we really want the sad faces of sick and under nourished children in this country to be plastered on posters in Europe with lines urging them to “Feed the starving children in America”?   Oh but these poor people just need to get a job and pay for their own food.  What if they already are working two jobs?  What if they are 80 years old trying to live on $300 per month Social Security?  What if they have disabling diseases and lost their insurance because their employer went bankrupt?

Oh, but they can get food stamps and they can eat like a king.  Try living for a month on food stamps and see how “regal” you feel.  Am I trying to make you feel guilty?  You bet I am.  We in America need to awake and realize that crazed wild animals sit just outside our door.  The animals of starvation and malnutrition are no longer confined to Africa and Asia; they have migrated to this country and are ready to pounce upon those who for one reason or another cannot help themselves.

It is not the government’s job to feed the hungry.  It is the responsibility of the church.  It is not the government’s job to help the helpless find their way to respectability again.  It is the responsibility of those who claim to live according to the Lord Jesus Christ’s dictates.  Because those entrusted with the “welfare” of the poor have failed to do their job, the government and huge secular humanitarian agencies have had to step in and attempt through pure socialism to provide for those without.

For all the Christians out there screaming about their tax dollars being wasted to take care of poor people; if your tithes and offerings would be used correctly in your church, your tax dollars could be used in other places.  It is very sad to see how the mentality of many Christians has become the very definition of hypocrisy and selfishness.  It is fine to pay taxes to a government who spends them on a strong military and handing out gift checks to people making plenty of money; but it is wrong for either the government or your church to use money to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and provide medical aid to the sick? 

I think people who think this way need to re-read Isaiah 58 and see once again what the true fast of the Lord really amounts to.  I thank God for what many are trying to do in their churches, but for everyone trying to practice charity and help, there are ten who could care less or just want to judge and condemn those who have fallen through the cracks of our welfare system and who teeter on the brink of complete and catastrophic disaster. 

I am all for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but words cannot fill the stomach of one who hasn’t eaten in a week.  I am all for providing places of worship which enable Christians to fellowship with each other, but such fellowship rarely reaches out to the poor and homeless man on the street who only last year had a management job at a huge company.  I am all for sending billions of dollars of aid to starving and hurting people in Africa and Asia, but I feel it vitally important to “let charity begin at home”.  We need to make sure our own poor and hungry families are being fed before we ship all our resources elsewhere.

Please, before it is too late, think about stepping up and giving to organizations whose sole intent is to give to those in need.  Please, when at the grocery store checkout lane and the box to give to the local food pantry looks you in the eye, put something in the box instead of “hoping” the next person will.  Please, when the Boy Scouts leave a grocery bag on your porch, think about filling it with some of your extra canned goods.  Please, when you see the opportunity to give, will you honestly consider giving a little to help someone who just might have been your ex-neighbor whose house was foreclosed a few months ago?  You never know.

23
Feb
08

Food Banks Need Deposits Desperately

As more and more “extra” personal funds are being diverted to pay for mortgages, gasoline, food and entertainment; there is less and less available for charity.  This is the report I am receiving from numerous places scattered around the country.  This alarming trend must be abated for the sake of those suffering in situations they cannot deal with.  A difficult as times may get, economically; we must never lose the fervor which has sparked charities in this country for decades.

At the bottom of the economic ladder are many suffering families.  The needs piling up among those who are trying to scrape by making minimum wage or attempting to live off of Social Security alone are staggering.  In the ultra poor areas, disease, heart attacks, strokes and stress related disorders of all types are exploding.  The corresponding medical bills are staggering.  Crime is dramatically increasing as desperate people are resorting to desperate measures to find the money to feed their families.

I am very aware of the problems with drugs and other addictions that run rampant in poor areas, for I have written about them here.  But, I am also aware of the desperate condition many families are getting into.  They have no hope, no way out and no one to help them.  Countless small charities have shut their doors in the past few months.  They cannot find supplies and in some cases volunteers to help.  Food banks have little food and that which they have has to purchased at very high prices.

If a community outreach center tries to provide a box of food per week for a family to help bridge the gap and keep them from resorting to crime or eating trash out of bins; the cost of the food in that box would conservatively be at least $50.  If the center tries to help 100 families per week on average; that means they need $5,000 of food supplies per week to fill the boxes.  This translates into over $20,000 of food per month.  Where on God’s green earth are these charities going to find this kind of money?

Food banks have “stood in the gap” for years making available canned goods and even frozen foods to charities at a dramatically reduced price.  They were able to do this because of arrangements with many huge suppliers of grocery products that would donate as “gift in kind” excess, soon to be expired or discontinued products.  Food banks would have to pay to get the products shipped in and stored.  They, in turn would charge the individual charities a small price per pound to buy the product.

After a huge disaster, such as hurricane Katrina, vast amounts of food would be donated to the Food Banks, and shipping would be donated also.  As a result, local charities could receive emergency food supplies free of charge for a season.  In the case of Katrina, this went on for well over a year.  Sooner or later the supplies run out and things go back to the old “price per pound” method.

Currently, most food banks are charging local charities around 18 cents per pound for food.  That doesn’t seem like much until you stop and realize how heavy a can of any kind of food is.  A can of corn weighs just under a pound.  That means a can costs a charity 18 cents.  If the charity wants to put a can of corn in each of the 100 food boxes; that amounts to $18 just to purchase the corn.  Now start adding in other vegetables, fruit, pasta products, and canned meat and the price starts skyrocketing.  Just ten different canned products push the food bank bill up to $180 per week.  Add in some frozen meat and other products to fill the box up and one can see how the total bill can end up far past the charity’s means to pay for it.

Here you have the crux of the current problem.  The need is great in poor areas and getting greater by the day.  Local charities are closing due to lack of supplies and/or financial means to purchase them.  The charities which remain, must now handle a marked increase in numbers of clients.  Even if they had budgeted for the year and done fundraisers to get the money to stay afloat; with the increase in volume, they quickly are overwhelmed and find themselves in the same situation as the smaller charities.  It is exactly like dominoes hitting each other and they all end up falling down.

Somewhere along the line, there has to be a domino strong enough to stand.  Somewhere the collapsing charity train must be kept from totally derailing.  Somewhere, someone must receive the wherewithal to keep receiving supplies and/or funds to purchase them so they can take care of the people.  We must continue to fight for the “little guy” in the realm of community outreach, or people will end up literally starving to death.

Here is a dirty little secret no one knows; the government social agencies when confronted with a starving family can do nothing more than refer them to a PRIVATE charity to find help.  So, for those who insist it is the government’s problem, go tell exasperated social workers that.  Well, if not the government, it should be the big charities.  Bless their hearts, they are doing the best they can, but are slowly but surely having the same noose tightened around their necks when it comes to food.

Then surely the local churches will help the people.  The truth is, very few churches have any money available in their budgets for local mission work.  What few churches that do have the funds, usually can’t help more than a handful of people and then run out of supplies.  They quickly refer the people to the local community outreach centers; and they cycle starts anew.

We are truly facing a crisis in a realm no one believes exists.  Very few Americans really believe there are people in this country starving.  Don’t just take my word that there are, go find out for yourself.  Sure, some of these people brought it on themselves and need to go get a job.  But, there are countless tens of thousands who through no fault of their own, find themselves without shelter, heat and worst of all food.  Many of these people are over 70 years old with no family to help them.  Many are single mothers or families being raised by the eldest child because the parents are strung out on dope.

There are many reasons why people end up at the end of road with nowhere to go.  There are many reasons why people end up homeless, penniless and hungry.  There are many reasons people cannot afford medical care or insurance.  To lump all these people together and say it is “their fault” and refuse to offer aid to them is paramount to abuse.  To dump all these people on governmental agencies, big charities, churches or community outreach programs; and NOT SUPPORT THEM is nothing but hypocritical arrogance.

Please, any of you reading this, if there is any way you can help; there are thousands of innocent victims suffering out there.  These are not people in Africa or Asia, although there are millions suffering in those places also, they are in this country.  These are people who may have at one time been your neighbor or co-worker.  They may have checked you out at the store for years.  They may have had children who went to school with yours.  They may have gone to school with you.  The people in greatest need just might be someone you know but don’t know it.

How can you help?  The food banks need major donations from suppliers, retailers, distributors and wholesalers.  Mid-level charities need supplies such as truckloads of boxes of food, baby products and senior items such as meal-drinks and adult diapers.  Smaller community outreach programs need FUNDS to purchase food from the food banks to keep providing a little help to those who are most desperate.  Individual families need SPONSORS who will develop relationships with them and honestly find out what they need both short term and long term.  Individuals need someone to work with them and direct them to a path that leads to self-sufficiency.

Please, America, don’t become so self-absorbed you forget to “love thy neighbor as thyself”.  Please remember the golden rule of “doing unto others as you want done unto you”.  Instead of smugly criticizing those who have fallen on the hardest of times, why not try sympathizing with their situation.  Who knows, you might be in the same boat they are in sooner than you think.  If America rolls up its collective sleeves NOW, we can head this crisis off at the pass.  If America turns up its collective noses now, then it is only going to get worse and more painful to deal with in the future.

If you want more information on various groups desperately in need of help; please go to my Heart2Heart SHARE website and click on SHARING PARTNERS.  Here is the link to that website:

www.heart2heartshare.com

Thank you for your prayerful consideration in this matter.  It really is a matter of life and death for many people.  God bless you.

17
Feb
08

Are Conservatives Really “Fake Christians”?

I recently watched an interview with “sir” Charles Barkley the former NBA basketball player.  He was endorsing the campaign of Mr. Obama and cutting ties with the Republicans he had been thought to be affiliated with.  All this means absolutely nothing to me, except he used a phrase that has really bothered me.  He said all conservatives were “fake Christians”.  When pressed as to what he meant, he used the typical line that he was pro-choice and pro-gay marriage and that those who oppose those positions were “fake Christians” because they were guilty of “judging” others.

The implications of this remark are very interesting.  If a conservative is a “fake Christian”, then logically a “real Christian” must be a liberal.  If a “fake Christian” is such because of believing abortion and gay marriage are wrong; then logically a “real Christian” believes abortion should be the preferred form of birth control and that men should be married to men and women to women.  I just wanted to get this all straight before attempting to understand it’s what it means.

I have no idea if this term “fake Christians” was invented by Mr. Barkley or whether it is used extensively among people who despise conservative Christians as a whole.  But, I do know that the chasm that separates liberal and conservative Christianity is as wide as the Grand Canyon.  Huge denominational splits have occurred as a result of the infighting over “social” issues.  The bottom line to the conflict comes down to one concept—judging/liberty.

Certainly there are places in the Bible that prohibit believers from judging others.  “Judge not, lest thou also be judged” is about as clear as is possible.  But, in other places God is perfectly clear as to which behaviors are not to be tolerated.  The first chapter of Romans is very tough on the “gay rights” crowd as well as numerous other outward “sins of the flesh”.  So it is not right to say there is no judgment against certain things God deems as sin.

Over the past few years, there has been a relentless attempt by liberal Christians to promote liberty as the right of people to do as they please without “religious constraints”.  Liberal Christian denominations basically turn their head when confronted with the very same social issues that make conservative Christian denomination’s hair on their neck stand straight on end.  To one group certain issues are “non-issues” for they deal with personal preference and individuals exercising personal liberty.  For other groups, the exact same issues are cause for crusades to expose and eliminate such behavior.

I hate labels being placed on people, groups and beliefs.  I believe it is slightly short of absurd to only classify people as conservative or liberal.  I understand there are true liberals and conservatives; but the vast majority of people are somewhere in between.  To label such people as “independents” is not literally true.  An independent may be fiercely liberal in certain beliefs yet a strict conservative in others. 

A conservative Christian obviously has very “legalistic” beliefs concerning what is right and wrong.  This is because their belief system is based on the literal interpretation of the Bible.  Although not all conservative Christians are “fundamentalists”, they all share the fundamental belief that there God sets forth a system for the administration of justice that includes what is right and wrong behavior.  A conservative Christian is usually one who knows what the Bible says about matters and believes the Bible is the final authority on all matters.

A liberal Christian has very “lenient” beliefs regarding moral issues.  Because their belief system is not rigidly tied to the literal interpretation of the Bible, there is far more latitude to allow certain behavior under the pretense of “individual rights”.  A perfect case in point is how many liberal denominations allow gays to be priests, whereas the conservative ones would never allow such a thing in a million years.  A liberal Christian believes the Bible is to read and taught, but not necessarily believed to the infallible “Word of God” and final authority on all matters.

I suppose, to a liberal Christian or a non-Christian, the conservative Christian beliefs regarding gay marriage, abortion, etc. would be considered as infringing upon individual rights.  I guess I can see how the term “fake Christian” could be used to describe the adamant conviction on the part of conservative Christians on these matters.  But, to call every conservative a “fake Christian” is so stupid it never deserved to be called a “news story”.

There are many conservatives who are not Christian.  They simply hold to a belief system that happens to reflect the one held by Christians who are conservative.  Thus, the entire pretense for the silly statement is wrong unless the point was to say that all conservatives ARE LIKE fake Christians.  I don’t want to keep harping on this, but generalized statements by ignorant people will always be full of holes when it comes to logic.

I believe the vast majority of us Christians defy labeling.  Call us “independent Christians” or “unaffiliated Christians” or whatever you want, but do not put a label on people like me who are fundamentally conservative but yet radically liberal in certain matters.  I believe abortion is wrong and should not be legal.  But, I will not go join a protest around a clinic or attend a rally against it.  I believe gay marriage is wrong, because I believe the whole subject of homosexuality is wrong.  But, I will not become “homophobic” or physically, mentally or verbally abuse someone if they are gay. 

I am judged every day of my life by various people.  I cannot do anything about how others feel about my beliefs regarding subjects.  All I can do is hold fast to what I believe the Bible says about matters and live accordingly.  I have huge problems with many conservative denominations due to “legalism”  and hypocrisy issues.  I have huge problems with many conservative Christians because they refuse to manifest charity and ARE very judgmental in their attitudes towards “sinners”.

I have major problems with most liberal denominations because of their lack of belief in the Bible as the revealed Word and will of God.  I have major problems with liberal Christians who dress up and attend church on Sunday and live like the devil the rest of the week.  Yet, I admire liberal Christians willingness to share and give to others.  I view myself as a “liberal Christian” on matters of service and charity, and a conservative Christian on matters of doctrine and “moral issues”.

There you have it, Sir Charles.  Which label are you going to place on me?  Am I a “fake Christian” or a “fake non-Christian?”  Since I am both conservative and liberal, does that make me “bi-Christian?”  Am I a “fake liberal” because I don’t believe everything liberals say?  Am I a “fake conservative” because I dare hold some liberal beliefs?  Labels are simply methods of classifying people.  The problem is, some people defy classification.  Some people, in fact I believe the real people, cannot be put in a category and classified as anything other than being REAL.

Mr. Barkley; good luck in your planned run for governor of Alabama in 2014.  I am sure your stance on conservatives being fake Christians will go over real big in one of the most conservative states of the union.  I am sure the most Christian state of all will love to have you come and rip their faith up one side and down another.  Stick to what you were fairly good at—basketball, and leave politics and even speaking to those who avoid coming up with phrases which are wrong and flat out stupid.

  

16
Feb
08

Quit Telling Criminals Where To Go Shoot People!

Listen America; listen to the moans of your young people dying in classrooms across this land.  Listen America; listen to the wailing of parents who lost their only child, of brothers who lost sisters and friends who lost friends.  How long will your deaf ear be turned to those who are needlessly losing their lives because of laws which only protect the criminal? 

Every time you walk into a building which is classified as a “gun fee zone”, you are walking into a perfect location for a crazed madman to kill you.  No one can defend you and no one thinks they will need to; for it is a gun free zone.  That is except for someone with a gun.

Since when do criminals obey signs?  Would putting a sign on the front door a convenience mart stating: “No armed robbers allowed” deter them from entering?  Put a sign that says; “All employees carry a loaded gun and know how to use it”, and there would suddenly be no more hold ups at that store. 

Since when have we, as Americans, become so stuck on stupid that we cannot understand the most elementary aspects of human behavior?  Do “speed limit” signs stop people from speeding?  The only thing that slows people down on the Interstate, besides accidents, is the presence of law enforcement vehicles.  Amazingly, the speed limit signs suddenly are obeyed when the potential consequence of disobedience is sitting in the median.

Of all the ridiculous laws dealing with guns, there is none so insane as putting signs up on the doors to public assembly locations telling a madman “this is where to come kill defenseless people”.  Who exactly obeys the sign anyway?  Is it not the law abiding citizens who are licensed to carry concealed weapons?  No criminal will ever obey a silly sign on the door.  To the contrary, any criminal worth his salt would go looking for such a sign to establish his “killing fields”.

I do not mean to be morbid here, neither do I mean to belittle the severity of this situation.  To the contrary, I am deeply concerned about what is taking place in this country.  Only one week ago, in a suburb of St. Louis, a crazed gunman stormed a City Council meeting and killed five people, including two armed policemen.  In fact, this person used the policeman’s gun to kill some of the people.  Once this madman took out the only person in the building with a gun, who was there to stop him from doing what he set out to do? 

Unless we, as a society, re-evaluate some of the absurd laws governing where people licensed to carry concealed weapons can do so; I fear events such as what took place yesterday in Illinois, last week in Louisiana and Missouri, and recently in Chicago, Colorado, Minnesota and Virginia will keep happening more and more frequently.  Is this what we want in America? 

The answer to stopping these needless bloodbaths is not in outlawing guns; for criminals will find guns somewhere the same way drug addicts find illegal drugs someplace.  The answer is not to forbid law abiding citizens from carrying a gun into a public building.  All this does is give the armed criminal “carte blanche” to do whatever he pleases.  The answer is not to erect metal detectors at the entrance to every school, hospital, university, library, municipal building, etc.  There are not the resources nor the will of the people to subject themselves to this type of security everywhere they go.

I do not own a gun, nor do I want to.  That is my choice and I have that freedom in this country.  But, I do hope and pray that if I were in an elevator and suddenly a man pulled a gun and demanded my wallet, that another person would pull his gun out and hold it to the criminal’s head and politely tell him, “I don’t think so”.  I would pray that if a wild person entered the restaurant where my wife works and fired one shot, that someone in the place would pull their gun and shoot the SOB before he could do any more damage.

How many criminals barge into the local police station and start shooting?  How many criminals disrupt a legal gun show and start pulling the triggers of all those guns?  The answer to both questions is NONE.  That is because it cannot and does not happen due to the presence of people trained and ready to defend the rights we have in this country. 

The answer does not lie in giving everyone a gun.  The answer lies in allowing those who have proven themselves worthy of being a licensed gun carrier to carry such a weapon anywhere.  Then, and only then, would a criminal stop and think twice before pulling his weapon out.  He would not know who in the audience also had a gun, and how good of a shot they were.

Random drug tests help employers keep drug users from being an employee.  Random gun carriers would greatly help law enforcement personnel by making criminals stop and think before committing a crime with a weapon.  This is the only answer to a problem that is quickly escalating into a form of terrorism no one saw coming, yet promotes just as much fear and dread in people as jets flying into buildings did. 

Take down the signs for a month and watch these brazen actions cease.  Put up signs warning potential criminals of others having weapons, and they will take their business elsewhere.  It is truly amazing how a little common sense could bring this horrible national tragedy to a quick and final conclusion.

  

15
Feb
08

FEMA & FORMALDEHYDE = FIASCO

In June of 2006 I first started hearing about the possibility of formaldehyde in FEMA travel trailers housing hundreds of thousands of Katrina victims in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.  When the initial reports started surfacing, they were of course totally rejected by FEMA as well as all agencies charged with the oversight of these deathtraps people were living in.

During the long and hot summer of 2006, more and more people who were exposed to various chemicals in the Katrina flood waters began suffering horrible skin problems.  People who had continued living in water damaged homes began to suffer from mysterious breathing problems.  People who had been confined to FEMA travel trailers were complaining of headaches and other strange symptoms.  All these physical complaints were basically ignored and the people suffering them were more or less told they were “hypochondriacs”.

By the summer of 2007, the initial symptoms reported by many had progressed to the point of death or hospital confinement.  Indeed, it was revealed that toxic chemicals had been in Katrina’s flood waters and anyone exposed to them who had not received a special “bath” soon afterwards was seeing their skin pretty much disintegrate.  Those who had initially torn into flood damaged dwellings without proper protection, were being diagnosed with black mold related illnesses.  There is no “cure” for this, only treatment of symptoms.

Last summer, more and more of the unfortunate people still confined to FEMA travel trailers were getting sick.  A movement was launched to get Congress to deal with the problem.  Many people had their trailers independently tested for formaldehyde and the results were staggering.  Readings five to ten times above “safe” levels were common and readings far higher were found also.  Still, nothing was being done to solve the problem except denying it existed.

Just yesterday, the following article was filed by an Associated Press writer dealing with FEMA’s sudden reversal of policy regarding these trailers.  Here is the link to the story:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080215/ap_on_re_us/toxic_trailers

The people of the United States of America want the Federal Government to take care of them from the time they are born until the day they die.  They want Federal assistance for everything from health insurance to house repairs after a storm.  Because the people want the government to provide help, they are going to receive it, even if it kills them. 

Katrina was an unprecedented disaster.  The sheer numbers of people who lost their homes was beyond the scope of anybody’s ability to plan for such a thing.  FEMA should have been prepared and they were not.  The states involved should have been prepared and they were not.  The large charities should have been prepared and they were not.  Due to lack of preparation, confusion ruled and where there is confusion there is every form of evil taking advantage of it.

In the two and one years since the Katrina/Rita/Wilma disasters in 2005, much has been done on all levels to better prepare for future disasters.  Most of what has been hammered out is now in a document nobody has ever heard of unless they are involved in disaster relief work.  There is now a National Disaster Response Plan in place that pretty much spells out exactly what is to take place when a huge disaster strikes.  Obviously, if another Katrina hit, there would not be the confusion and tardiness in action started as there was in 2005.

Still, considering that this plan is squarely in the hands of FEMA, one has to wonder how well it would work and whether situations such as formaldehyde in trailers would be ignored for years.  FEMA did not make a lot of friends in Katrina devastated areas.  Constantly changing policy, mismanagement, fraud and confusion of all kinds turned a huge disaster into a catastrophic nightmare.  Perhaps never in the history of this great land was a more shortsighted and irresponsible plan ever hatched than to order travel trailer manufacturers to cut corners and build trailers as fast as possible disregarding health risks, electric and plumbing codes and even structural guidelines. 

The trailers were built in record time.  Thousands of people were herded out of motels and cruise ships into these trailers which ended up many times in FEMA trailer parks.  That was just about it as far as the government was concerned.  Due to labor and material shortages, the repair and rebuilding of homes took well over a year to really begin to make a dent in the numbers of families living in trailers.  All the while, as it turns out, these poor people were daily being exposed to chemicals that were destroying their health.  So what, that they had survived the storm, their lives turned into a living hell in every possible category.

I personally know many sick people who until recently were doomed to living in these deathtraps.  Their only other option was to move back into a mold infested house that was probably unsafe to live in.  Let me very clear here; there are health concerns raging all along the Gulf Coast that no one in the country knows about.  The upturn in heart and lung issues is beyond the point of being alarming.  The mental health issues are so huge that the system to treat them is overwhelmed. 

Some physical issues take time to show their symptoms, while others appear quickly.  The horrific symptoms of mold take quite awhile to become manifested.  Once there, the road to recovery is long and painful.  Ask anyone who has had to deal with mold in their lungs how pleasant the situation is.  There are thousands upon thousands of very sick people in Katrina damaged areas.  The vast majority of these people do not know what is making them sick, nor do they have the means to get treatment.

Those who have been exposed to formaldehyde poisoning should receive complete treatment and a dwelling free from toxic chemicals, at the very least.  But, just as those exposed to “agent orange” found out; the government is not very quick to clean up after its messes.  Due to the sheer numbers of people involved, those who claim to have medical conditions related to formaldehyde in FEMA trailers will probably end up waiting in long lines, then arguing with insensitive agents and put on a list that will take months if not years to bring to full resolution.  Meanwhile, they will be miserable, dejected and many will simply give in and give up.  Is that what the authorities really are wanting?

If any major investigative reporting agency ever really took the time to dig under the surface of supposed progress in the states affected by Katrina; they would quickly find issues that should be at the forefront of political campaigns instead of the meaningless ones that get all the headlines.  There never was much love for the Federal Government down in Katrina land, but after this FEMA travel trailer fiasco, Montana might have another area of the country barking at its heels as far as extreme dislike for the “Feds”.

My earnest prayer is that those in the legal and medical fields will respond to the needs in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and provide free help to thousands of hurting people.  I pray that those trained in mental health will continue to volunteer to deal with the effects of a disaster that lingers on and on for many.  I pray that as a nation, we never forget that although much has been done to repair and rebuild homes and businesses; the rebuilding of people’s lives lags far behind.

For more information on the current state of things down “on the coast”, please go my website at:

www.heart2heartshare.com  and go to the “Sharing Partners” tab and follow the link to “Tri Coastal Community Outreach”.  Please get in touch with this wonderful group and they have ways to get you in touch with whomever you would need to talk to.

Please America, do not forget that the area which provided the nation with its most horrific natural disaster is even now reeling from an even bigger disaster; dealing with yet more fallout from poor decisions made after the storm.  I pray we do all we can to help those who are at this very moment sick, depressed and feeling forsaken. 

13
Feb
08

The Arrogance of Error vs. Simple Truth

We live in an age where “experts” rule everything.  Those who have the proper credentials seem to think they are the almighty master at what they do.  The pride and arrogance that these people project is sickening.  They command a king’s ransom to impart their wisdom to others, whether such wisdom is right or not.  All that counts is that they receive the adoration they feel is due them on account of their profound knowledge and/or training.

The other night the high and mighty people who try to predict the weather said we would have 6 inches of snow today.  The next morning the same people said we would have 4 inches of snow.  By noon they had lowered the prognostication to 2 inches.  I think we ended up with ¼ inch of the white stuff.  The next day we were to have no snow and it snowed lightly all day.  How could these “experts” miss the forecast so badly?  It is because they put their trust in computer models and as it turned out, the models were wrong.

Contrary to what many very intelligent people say; computers cannot think for themselves.  They must be programmed to process information and lay out different possibilities and probabilities.  Still, a computer in no better than the person who designed its software and operating system.  I have attended meteorological conferences where in rare displays of honesty, the inherent problems with some forecasting models were discussed.  In other words, the poor weather people know they are must build a forecast upon an imperfect model.

Almost a year ago one of our dogs came down suddenly with a mysterious skin affliction which quickly went beyond the local vet’s ability to treat.  As in the past, I took the dog to the University of Missouri Vet Hospital expecting her to get better.  The dog was “diagnosed” with a horrible skin disease called pemphigus which entailed tons of ugly drugs to treat.  This “diagnosis” was made without even doing a biopsy or any blood tests.  The vets went on what they learned out of a book in Vet school.  They saw a picture and said, “the dog must have this.”  In other words, they “went by the book”, which would have been fine if the dog had read the book. 

Over the years, we gave the University of Missouri Vet Clinic thousands of dollars to “treat” our various dogs.  Never again, for they have changed to being only interested in the money and ceased to care about the animals brought to them.  They were 100% wrong in their “diagnosis” of the dog’s problem.  As it turns out, the dog has severe allergies which the University never bothered to test for.  This deeply hurts me, for there were some truly great vets there who cared less about financial compensation and only wanted to see a dog get better.  Obviously those vets are no longer there.

After my mom passed away almost two years ago, I allowed the financial advisor who had done very well with my mom’s investments to handle the small amount of money left to my wife and I in her will.  This person put the money into a couple of “safe” mutual funds and told us to basically forget about it and let it grow.  Periodically I would check on the investment for I wanted to be a good steward.  There was no spectacular growth over the past two years, but there was steady growth.

I actually opened the monthly statement last week instead of putting it in a drawer.  I just about had another heart attack when I read the numbers.  My little investment LOST almost 25% of its value in ONE MONTH.  I immediately called the advisor who sheepishly reminded me the entire Stock Market was down about that much in January.  I reminded him that the funds were supposed to be in balanced funds that offset each other so this wouldn’t happen.  He apologized and said that he too was surprised by what took place.

Here is a man entrusted with someone else’s money who is “surprised” that a person just lost 25% of the value of their investment.  Needless to say, once the market goes up a little; I plan on withdrawing those funds (or what is left of them) and investing them myself.  I fail to see how I could do any worse “investing” in CD’s than he did in fancy Money Market funds.  Once again, an “expert” was wrong because the data he was going on didn’t see the downturn many people did see.

I was driving home after dark a couple of weeks ago on a rural Interstate.  Suddenly the horrible shock of the multi-colored blinking lights appeared in my rearview mirror.  Puzzled, since I don’t speed, I waited for the patrol person to tell me what I had done wrong.  I was informed one of my taillights was out.  My information was entered into the state’s computer to make sure I got the problem fixed.

I took my van to two Dodge dealers who tried replacing a bulb and immediately said I had a broken wire and needed to schedule a three hour visit to their shop.  Not wanting to spend almost $300 on the problem, I kept going to smaller and smaller garages looking for someone to find a better answer.  Everyone said the same thing; it had a broken wire and would probably need three to five hours labor to find it and repair it. 

Finally I was able to take the van in to the local garage to a guy I know quite well.  Initially he thought the problem was a broken wire also.  The mechanic working on the problem kept thinking there had to be another answer.  Finally he went to the computer and found out that the 2003 van I had actually had a fuse control the tail light.  Lo and behold, he replaced the fuse and the problem went away.  Instead of paying over $300 to the so-called “experts” at the Dodge dealer, to fix a problem that didn’t exist, I paid $25 for a guy at the local shop to actually find and fix a very minor problem.

After my mom passed away, I had to take her taxes for the year to a major tax preparation agency.  A year later I get a notice that she/I owed thousands of dollars in unpaid tax.  The Preparer acknowledged their mistake, and corrected the return, but it was I who had to find and pay the money.  How did the mistake happen?  The individual who prepared the return “forgot” to enter a huge transaction that once added, resulted in a quantum leap in tax liability.  Because I failed to “purchase” insurance against such mistakes, I had to pay the whole tax bill.  I assure you H & R Block will never see my face again.

We go to a “professional” because we believe they know what they are talking about and doing.  We entrust our physical bodies to Doctors who spent years of their life attending school, but end up prescribing only drugs the drug rep in his thousand dollar suit says are the best.  Perhaps doctors operating out of brand new multi-million dollar clinics “look good”, but as for me, I will stick with a simple doc who wears jeans to work. 

I watched robot docs hasten both my mom and dad’s demise through their irresponsible administering of drugs, especially narcotics.  Instead of trying to find a means to treat underlying conditions, due to their age, they simply threw more and more high powered drugs at symptoms.  This was even done by some docs who called themselves “geriatric specialists”. 

We live in a world of con-artists.  So-called experts can’t think past the book they learned from and so-called authorities cannot think for themselves.  Many of these people base all they know and do on a computer program; even if it is flawed.  The age of an experienced person trusting his “gut” seems to have faded with last night’s sunset.  This is truly too bad, for an “experienced gut” seems to get things right far more often than the latest and greatest computer program.