Monday, December 24, 2012

Ten Lessons Learned in 2012

Lesson 1:

The difference between weird and crazy is that you can medicate crazy.

I had many run ins with people who weren't really practicing safe mental health during this past year. I live with me so I count myself as a barometer of normal/abnormal behavior. It is sort of like that old poem: "Yesterday upon the stair; I met a man who wasn't there; He wasn't there again today; Oh how I wish he would go away." That little poem depicts my unpredictable state of mind pretty well.

We had a visitor this past year who came into our home and actually spent the night with us. She was an add-on to relatives of my wife. She brought a little dog with her. This dog was a pug-terrier-chihuahua mix or something close. It was easily the ugliest mammal I've seen, ever. We provided a private room for the dog and its master. There was pronounced evidence that the dog slept in the bed with the freshly laundered sheets. I really did not meet the beast until breakfast the next morning after their late night arrival. The dog was 34 years old, diabetic, blind, incontinent and smelled like a necrotic meat ball. My first introduction took me back. You see the little meat ball was seated in a baby carriage at our dining room table being fed with a spoon by its master. This during our group breakfast that my wife had carefully prepared. It is my understanding that the owner has this creature with her constantly due to the need to constantly monitor its health. She administers vaccinations of insulin periodically with salves, potions and eye of newt. Picture in your mind this unusual caricature of an aged lady pushing a baby carriage with this goblin-like pet. Weird, weirder and weirdest of most life experiences I had this past year.

Lesson 2:

I experienced the loss of my Mother this past year. That is a watershed experience.

A mother is a single issue sort of relationship. Eleanor was 82 years of age, a double amputee and a stroke victim. I was born to her in 1946 when she was 16 years of age. So I spent a great deal of life being experimented upon by a child. I also spent a fair amount of time helping to raise her to adulthood. We had a pretty thin relationship by the time it was all over. Still I cared about her and did a lot for her over her lifetime as she did me. 

Our relationship was complicated over her course of life with 4 failed marriages and moving in and out of 113 jobs. In the end her care fell pretty much upon a younger brother in a far away place. I am grateful for that brother. He is resentful of me and my other brother. I don't blame him but she had burned all the bridges between myself and my other brother so he was her only option. 

I attended her funeral and watched the officiator pour her ashes into a little hole in the ground in a countryside church garden. And that was that. The person who had given me life ended up in a hole in the ground. At nearly 67 years of age the realization that I would soon follow her settled in on me and caused me to reflect. I don't find that unsettling but rather find it sort of fixating and relevant to the nature of this life we are given. Use it wisely because it all ends with your being laid or poured into a hole in the ground.

Lesson 3:

Accidents happen quickly and abruptly and can be quite painful.

No matter how careful you think you are accidents befall us. Mine occurred back in February. I was burning some old files in a chimnea. If you don't know what a chimnea is picture a 5 foot squash held upright with a hole at the top and all the innards removed and a window in the front lower portion. This is a poor man's fireplace. They are quite nice for burning yard trash or old files in .They are also useful for setting your house on fire. On this particular day I was burning not noticing that a thunder cloud was approaching. All of a sudden a brisk wind arose and rushed down through the chimnea blowing a piece of cardboard onto my unprotected shin. The cardboard adhered to my flesh for no more than 5 seconds. It left a burn about the size of a baseball. The pain for the first 24 hours was almost unbearable. Then a nice blister produced by my body formed a soothing cushion for it. That blister ultimately broke and there I was with a wound with skin slammed down on top of it. Consulting my Gynecologist ( My physician son-in-law, who is an Ob/Gyn) I was disturbed to learn that according to the Merck manual I was to get some scissors and a set of tweezers and remove the skin from the burn. I did so and the next 4-5 days this wound would keep me awake at night and hurt unbearably. I had to constantly clean it and dress it. It ultimately got better but it left a sizeable scar on my shin. Now I am in the midst of making up a plausible yet outlandish story about how I got it. Something involving napalm and a dark ops rescue mission of some sort.

My daughter-in-law fell down some steep stairs at our church and broke her foot. This was on Fathers Day. It has caused her some serious anguish. It happened quickly and involved some high fashion high heels. She is better now and does not have a neat, baseball sized scar that she can make up napalm stories about.

Lesson 4:

Things change whether or not you want them to.

When I was a child it was very common to have your tonsils removed. When I became a grown up and had children of my own it became very uncommon to have your tonsils removed. Now that I have grand children it has once again become common to have your tonsils removed. Our little 3 year old grandson, Benjamin had to have his tonsils yanked. He was such a pitiful looking little waif before the procedure, now he has a gut and is on his way to being officially chubby. Soon little Samantha Abigail will follow him into the new/old world of tonsilectomies.

The easiest thing you have ever had to do over the course of my life is renew your drivers license. My license came up for renewal this past May. Whereas I used to simply go online and pay the fee and hit the send button and I was renewed, now it is rather like trying to become a citizen. I had to produce a birth certificate,  utility records showing my address, social security information, another form of photo ID, all of my childhood vaccine records, a current liver function test, two MRI's, finger prints, an EEG and an EKG. OK, I am exaggerating some of that, but not all of it. It is a new world post 9/11/01.

I have only flown one time since 9/11. I plan to fly this coming year and am very anxious about how all that has changed. Do you need a passport to go to Albequerque?

Lesson 5:

Developing new friends is a delightful experience.

I made some very good new friends this past year. One of them is a man who is an Egyptian Coptic. He is a practicing physician here in the area and I had the privilege of consulting with him in the purchase of property.
90% of Egyptians are Muslim. This fellow is a Christian and attends services where they perform mass in arabaic. He is a wonderful person with a dynamic personality and incredible work ethic and I count myself fortunate to have made his acquaintance.

I had other clients who came to town to purchase. I became aware of a house two doors down from me that was coming to market subsequent to the husband's death. I had sold them the house before it ever came to market. They are now my good friends and my neighbors.

I met a sweet lady from China who became my client. Her husband had charted most of Florida's coastline during his 43 years of working for University of Florida. She was such a lovely person and moved to Boston to live with her daughter.

The list is longer but I have made my point.

Lesson 6:

Golf is a stupid game.

I have played golf since I was 38 yoa. My wife bought me a set of golf clubs for a Christmas present and I became an addict almost immediately. I play an average of 35 rounds per year. The first time I played I shot a 116. This past week I played and shot an 88. My current handicap is 11. That is the lowest it has ever been.

I have played long years with the same people. Due to attrition such as moving, quitting the game, extensive psycho-therapy, etc. that mix of people has changed. I currently play with a group of guys with whom I do not even keep score ( except in my head ). Before I played with guys who meticulously kept score, enforced the rules and insisted on having some sort of wager going on. I am much happier playing the way I do now and I am scoring better.

Why do you suppose I am playing better? I think it is because of the approach. In that we do not wager nor keep score I play very relaxed and lackadaisical. I think I have learned that the harder you to try to score in golf the harder it is to do so. If you just don't give a rip, you will play much better.

Lesson 7:

Good guys don't always win.

I carefully make this statement so as not to offend my friends who are Democrats, one of them being my wife. It was my great pleasure to meet Mitt Romney at my church here in Tallahassee on Thomasville Rd. in 2007. I sat right beside him and asked him the question, " Can a Mormon become President of the United States? " His answer to me was, " That is entirely up to good men like you.". He owned me body and soul from that moment on. I became an official Mitt Head henceforth.

I know somewhat of the standards by which he leads his life. He and I share the Mormon faith. He has served as a Bishop and a Stake President. I know of the caliber of life a person who fills those jobs must align himself with. My wife graduated from Brigham Young University with him. I have a high school friend who served in the mission field of France with him.

Mitt Romney is one of the most moral and all around good people that has ever run for political office. We all know how far that carried him. To a resounding loss. Good guys don't always win.

Lesson 8:

Old friends are the very best friends.

This past year I renewed two relationships that have been very important to me. One is a friend with whom I worked at DuPont. I was going to Orlando for a training meeting at my church. I called to see if he wanted to get together to go to dinner. He insisted that I spend the night with him. It just so happened that he lived 10 minutes from where my meeting was being held. We went out to dinner and stayed up late and visited. It was just like discovering lost money.

The other relationship is with a friend that I used to call on during my sales career with DuPont. He and I play golf almost every week together now. He is one of the most grounded people I have ever known. I know his entire family and he knows mine.

Old freinds are very special.

Lesson 9:

Roles eventually get reversed,

My children are gradually morphing into looking out for me and my wife more than they used to. I hope to not ever become dependent on that role reversal. However, it is surely sweet and reassuring to have them there. They truly are my very best friends.

My son, Drew, had to go to a convention in Nashville this past year. His wife was unable to attend with him as planned because she broke her foot in an accident. He asked me if I would care to go with him. I decided why not. So I loaded up and accompanied him on a 3 day trip.

He and the rest of our family used to accompany me when I went on such trips. Now here I am sleeping late while he went to meetings. Taking off and playing golf all by myself on an unfamiliar course. Most importantly finding a good restaurant to eat at after hours. One such restaurant was Mortons steak house. The steaks there litterly melt in your mouth.

We stopped and ate at a fast food place across from a building where I worked in Montgomery before moving to Tallahassee. It was during my sojourn there at that building in that town where my world blew apart in 1971 precipitating my move to Tallahassee. Here we were in almost the exact spot that represented one of the extreme low points in my life. However, I was with my son who was born in 1974 after I came to grips with that personal crisis. He provides me with strength and assurance that the world is in good hands.

Lesson 10:

Trust your gut.

Nancy and I own a 2005 Mercury Mountaineer. It has 143,000 miles on it. Our daughter, Beth invited us to accompany her and her family over Thanksgiving to a condo in Helen, Ga. It is a 300 mile trip one way. Her husband had to work until after hours on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. We therefore planned to leave around 10:00 AM with our three little grand-daughters.

Something in my gut told me to rent a car for the trip. I did so. We went up in a brand new Tahoe and the trip went well except for the traffic around Atlanta.

A week ago as we were out looking at Christmas lights our transmission practically fell out of the Mountaineer. Had we taken it to north Georgia we would have surely been sitting on the side of the road between Tallahassee and Helen with our little grand-daughters.

Always trust your gut.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Mortgage Tax Deduction

I wrote to Senator Rubio re: the fiscal cliff and the possibility that Congress may take the mortgage interest tax deduction off the books. This is his response. I think it is classic pol-babble.

Dear Mr. Vass,

 Thank you for contacting me with regard to the housing market. This is an important issue for Floridians and I appreciate the opportunity to discuss it with you. As you know, misguided government policy fueled excesses in the housing and real estate markets throughout the 2000s, leading to a peak in the market in 2006 and a subsequent crash. The losses to American homeowners were enormous. Families across the country lost more than thirty percent of their home's value, in many cases leaving them underwater on their mortgages, and many have still not recovered to this day.

Nationally, the housing market is beginning to recover, albeit slowly. Though the worst may be passed, homeowners continue to struggle. Policymakers must learn the correct lessons from the recent crisis and not repeat mistakes. Past promises of assistance have only resulted in financial ruin for millions of Americans. Federal legislation passed during the downturn served only to make matters worse for Floridians by prolonging the negative impacts of government favoritism.

 The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, passed under a Democrat-led House and Senate and signed by the President in 2010, imposes stringent regulations on small and community banks, the most important lenders in a housing market recovery. One community bank president described the Dodd-Frank regulations as, "Costly, both in time and personnel to implement," and, "confusing to our [customers]." By placing burdens on the lenders and creditors most vital to recovery, this law will continue to hurt homeowners and families in Florida.

 Additionally, the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and the government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have served as short-term band-aids for the housing market and further distort the true value of Americans' homes. The FHA recently said it may need a federal bailout of as much as $93 billion. With more than 90 percent of all mortgage originations backed by the government, a larger government role in the market and more bailouts are exactly the wrong solutions for taxpayers.

 Floridians know that if the government created a mess of the housing market, it cannot be trusted alone to be the solution. We cannot ask our children and grandchildren to finance Washington's risky lending and irresponsible government policies by accumulating more debt. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac must be wound down and reformed, allowing a fair market for housing to return in the private sector. The federal government must learn the lessons of the Great Recession and allow lenders and borrowers to make informed decisions without excessive government meddling.

 A healthy housing market is a goal shared by all Floridians. Restoring choice and an open marketplace in housing will revive economic growth for all Americans. I will keep your suggestions and thoughts in mind when considering issues that will impact the housing market in Florida and the nation as a whole. It is an honor and a pleasure to serve the people of Florida.


 Marco Rubio United States Senator

 I've heard so many stories from middle class Americans about their financial struggles and accomplishments. As the result of an empowered middle class, I want to continue to be your voice in the Senate and give you a seat at the table. I hope you take a minute to visit my website and tell me more about your story. Each week I provide a weekly update on issues in Washington and ways in which my office can assist the people of Florida. Sign up here for updates on my legislative efforts, schedule of events throughout Florida, constituent services and much more.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I am a Mormon and a CHRISTIAN

I have been a member of this church for almost 50 years. I was educated at a Methodist College, Huntingdon, in Montgomery, Alabama. It is owned and operated by the Methodist Church. A huge percentage of the people I attended that college with are now Methodist ministers. One of my class mates was Senator Jeff Sessions one of the two U S Senators from Alabama. All that I was taught in that college I believe. I had to take 12 hours of religion in order to graduate from there. I was not taught anything that runs counter to what I have been taught as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints.

It has been my privilege to have taught in the church’ Seminary and Institutes division 6 years. I have shared lessons with 100’s of students. I have drawn on the things that were taught to me in college. I find no incongruence between the theology of the Latter Day Saints and that of the Methodists.

However, I have been told by countless people that I am a member of a cult. I don’t even comprehend what they are talking about. I had this well meaning client explain it to me. He said that a cult is any organization that teaches you have to do extra stuff to be saved. That is beyond the acceptance of the Savior and confessing his name. Incidentally this guy’s life looks like scrambled eggs resultant from the choices he has made over the years. However in his vernacular, he is a Christian and I am a non-Christian.

I approached a big mouthed radio talk show guy about hosting a member of our leadership on his show. The intent was to have a local Bishop and/or a Stake President speak to his listeners and handle questions. The reason was that the GOP candidate, a latter day saint, worked in those two positions for a sum total of 12 years. I suggested that the venue might be of interest. Following is his response back to me.

“ As for your offer, I will pass.  Gov. Romney's religion was discussed on the program last week when I received just one too many e-mail from people telling me that they would not vote for him due to his faith.  Suffice to say that I think it is a foolish position.  Though I believe there are vast and important differences between Christianity and Mormonism, I completely support Governor Romney as a good, moral, upright man.

 Feel free to listen to the segment (maybe Thursday).  I have no interest into getting into a protracted debate over Mormonism and Christianity.  I got a couple of e-mail to that effect from Mormons in the audience.  I have studied the faith, along with other world religions for eight years.  I served as a vocational pastor for about sixteen or seventeen years and studied the bible in three languages.  My position on Mormonism is rooted and not changing.

 I have learned over the years that practicing Mormons believe it to be their mission, in part, to convince people like me that the faith is fully compatible with Christianity.  I disagree and I would much prefer to leave it as that.  I lament that Christians do not live their faith out as completely as do Mormons, because Mormons that I call friends are among the finest people I know.

He reveals his contempt for Latter Day Saints in his words. It is sort of what a racist does when he castigates a general group of people by their ethnicity and/or demographics. “ Let me preface this by saying that some of my best friends are African Americans, orientals, gay people, muslims, etc, etc.”

I will tell you that I just don’t get it. Years ago I was sort of drawn to the message of The Promise Keepers . I was in a position to provide them with a spectacular family values display put together by my church and meant to be a standing display on family values. I put this display in the State Capital of Florida here in Tallahassee, the Leon County court building, numerous malls and other court buildings in outlying areas. My intent was to share it at a  Promise Keepers rally that was to transpire in the Donald L. Tucker, civic center here in Tallahassee. It was to be put up by volunteers and would have cost them nothing. They could have afforded it because the price per head to attend the rally was about $75.

I got back a scathing reply from one of their leaders, a protestant minister. He told me in no uncertain terms that theirs was a Christian venue and that they would not be accepting any help from a cult. He told me, in the name of Christ, that I should examine my allegiance to such a non-Christian organization as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Back during the Republican primaries this drama developed at a rally of evangelicals in Texas. This venue was early in the candidacy of Texas Governor Rick ………………(oops)…………….Perry.

It was no ordinary opener from the prominent Southern Baptist Convention leader, Pastor Robert Jeffress, who endorsed Perry on Friday. Jeffress praised Perry for defunding Planned Parenthood in Texas, calling the provider of women’s health and abortion services, “that slaughterhouse for the unborn.”

He also lauded Perry’s “strong commitment to biblical values.”

“Do we want a candidate who is skilled in rhetoric or one who is skilled in leadership? Do we want a candidate who is a conservative out of convenience or one who is a conservative out of deep conviction?” Jeffress said. “Do we want a candidate who is a good, moral person — or one who is a born-again follower of the lord Jesus Christ?”
Jeffress called Perry a “genuine follower of Jesus Christ.” The pastor did not mention Perry’s rival Mitt Romney by name, but he told reporters after his remarks on Friday that Mormonism was a “cult.” (USA Today)

I will tell you that I just flat don’t understand this assertion from so many people and avenues. I   worship Jesus Christ. He is my Saviour and my master. I pray to the Father through him every day. I read about him in the Old and New testaments. Everything that comes out of our church’ publishing division has His name in it. If I went out and drank myself off of a stool every night people would call me an alcoholic. If I shot myself up with heroin 2-3 times a day people would say that I am a dug addict. If I chased women and added up monthly conquests they would call me a fornicator. Here I am trying to live a Christ like life. I speak of Christ, I live my life around His teachings and I have taught my children of Him. Yet people call me a member of a cult. If I worship Jesus Christ, then I am a Christian, period, end of discussion.

Jan Shipps author of  Sojourner in the Promised Land (2000, by University of Illinois press)  is an authority of sorts regarding we Mormons. She describes her acceptance into the Mormon culture in sort of a Diane Fossey’s “ Gorillas in the Mist” fashion. She is an academic. A Ph D in history, BA from Utah State University and a practicing Methodist. She sums up her 400 page text with this alarming statement:

“ In the light of a contemporary rhetorical shift that seems to be turning Mormon into an adjectival modifier used to signify a particular kind of Christian. I may seem to be making too much of the fact that at a critical juncture in the establishment of their church , the Saints accepted and came to relish Mormon and Mormonism as alternative labels. But there can be little doubt that their embracing the label Mormon in lieu of being called Christian contributed to a perception that Mormonism is not Christian” ( pg. 345 3rd paragraph)

She goes on in her summary to take the position that we Mormons are not Christians. I find that amazing. Not only does she begin sentences with prepositions but she spends 40 years studying our faith and does not have a clue as to whom we follow. That is simply illogical and extremely ignorant. She actually believes that we invented the terminology Mormon and prefer it to Christian. I have been taught from day 1 of my membership that we follow Christ. Mormon is a nick name given to us by outsiders because of our belief in the book of Mormon. We did not invent that nick name. Outsiders did that.

I suppose that the best we can do is live our lives in a fashion that tells people that we are Christian. Let them call us whatever they like. I have been alive almost 67 years. The people that I know that are the very best example of Christ like demeanor come from amongst my associates in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cranky Old Man

This sort of touched me. Likely because I am becoming the cranky old man. It is said that this poem was found amidst the personal belongings of a stroke victim who passed away in a rehab hospital.

Cranky Old Man

What do you see nurses? . . .. . .What do you see?
What are you thinking .. . when you're looking at me?
A cranky old man, . . . . . .not very wise,
Uncertain of habit .. . . . . . . .. with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food .. . ... . . and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice . .'I do wish you'd try!'
Who seems not to notice . . .the things that you do.
And forever is losing . . . . . .. . . A sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not . . . ... lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding . . . .The long day to fill?
Is that what you're thinking?. .Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse .you're not looking at me.
I'll tell you who I am . . . . .. As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, .. . . . as I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of Ten . .with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters .. . . .. . who love one another
A young boy of Sixteen . . . .. with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now . . .. . . a lover he'll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty . . . heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows .. .. .that I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five, now . . . . .I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide . . . And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty . .. . . . . My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other . . .. With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons .. .have grown and are gone,
But my woman is beside me . . to see I don't mourn.
At Fifty, once more, .. ...Babies play 'round my knee,
Again, we know children . . . . My loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me . . . . My wife is now dead.
I look at the future ... . . . . I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing .. . . young of their own.
And I think of the years . . . And the love that I've known.
I'm now an old man . . . . . . .. and nature is cruel.
It's jest to make old age . . . . . . . look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles .. .. . grace and vigor, depart.
There is now a stone . . . where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass . A young man still dwells,
And now and again . . . . . my battered heart swells
I remember the joys . . . . .. . I remember the pain.
And I'm loving and living . . . . . . . life over again.
I think of the years, all too few . . .. gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact . . . that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people .. . . . .. . . open and see.
Not a cranky old man .
Look closer . . . . see .. .. . .. .... . ME!!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Post election blues

I am posting here today just to express my depth of depression over the recent election. You see my candidate lost. I had supported him heart and soul with my time and my money. I am trying to disect my depression. Am I depressed because of the idealogical departure that the majority of Americans have taken which is polar opposite from mine? Or is my depression rooted in the experience of losing. The same as I experience when my Alabama Crimson Tide loses. Or when I pick an investment opportunity and lose my money.

I suppose it is a little of all of that. I was discussing this with Bellamy, my grand-daughter who is wise beyond her years. I think she may lean a little left because she likes the president. She finds him entertaining sort of in the same light as she likes Big Bird or Barney the dinosaur. However she is not seasoned in the ways of the world. She finds repeated episodes of Baby Einstein fascinating and frankly I don't get that at all. After all how many times can you watch a puppet puppy dog bark at a puppet baby duck and laugh out loud. 

As I watch and listen to her I come to the conclusion that she is not that far removed from where I am. After all I have to admit that I was entertained by repeated TV ads of my guy saying the same thing every time his ad came on TV. I would sit and smile at him and hang on every orchestrated word implanted by the puppet master. For the amount of entertainment I received from this Baby Einstein experience, I also have to admit that I would stare menacingly at the TV, often even mute the sound, when the opponent came on with his puppet master derived soundbites.

I am two days into our defeat. I am still not all that happy and upbeat. I feel dejected and have a dismal attitude of our path forward in this America that I have lived in for almost 67 years now. But I have to admit that I still got up this morning and had a couple of waffles, fed Bellamy some cereal and will later on this morning go to a petting zoo at my other two grand-children's preschool in a bright and sunny part of NE Tallahassee.

I tend to forget that most of what matters to me happens in the very tight circle of those that I love and am privileged to walk the walk of life with. The President never gives me a thought. My loser candidate has actually never given me a thought. I doubt that he would let me sit down and climb up on my lap and watch Baby Einstein with me. I doubt that he would listen to the same stories that I tell over and over and politely laugh at the punch lines. 

As Thanksgiving approaches and I gather with my family to give thanks, all the political candidates will do the same with their families. They never give me and my circumstances a single thought. I need to try hard to practice that same approach. I will look forward to putting little two year old Bellamy on a pony this morning and watch little 4 and 5 year old Benjamin and Georgia feed some grain to a billy goat. All the rest of the chatter is meaningless obsession over things that I can do very little about. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Re post on Real Estate Commissions

thursday, may 29, 2008

Wal-Mart and Real Estate commissions

I am biting off a hard subject here today. Realtors and their commissions. I read an editorial this morning in USA Today. It had to do with a recent agreement, under pressure from court action, between National Association of Realtors (NAR) and so called internet real estate brokers. One such broker is Redfin which is an online brokerage that supposedly gives its users a big break on real estate commissions. The meat on the table is access to the 800 something Multiple listing services (MLS) around the country. Redfin insists that they should be able to access that information just like all other brokerages. NAR decided that they would share the information. Let it be said that they sure don't share that knowledge with me, a licensed real estate broker, unless I pony up about $1200 a year. The big, all knowing, USA Today Editor accuses the real estate industry of collusion, antitrust violations and downright meanness. He is as uninformed as he is opinionated.

First off, I am positive that this editor does not donate his time to USA Today. I will bet that he makes a pretty decent salary and probably some incentives. Why? Because he knows how to run a newspaper, or at least a department within a newspaper. So we can assume that the nasty old profit motive runs deep to his core beliefs.

The belief that the commissions realtors earn is out of line is not a new concept. When I first got into this business I had no clue how a Realtor made a living. I was advised that the average Realtor makes about $36,000 per year. I would be willing to bet that Mr. USA Today makes a lot more than that in a year. You must then take into consideration that a Realtor pays all, and I mean ALL of their own expenses. No company car, gasoline credit card, health benefits, etc. Add a 15% self employment tax on top of that and you will find that most Realtors make less than minimum wage. That does not take into consideration the costs for membership to the MLS, Licensing fees, Education costs, Lock box dues, cell phone, PDA, laptop computer,ISP costs, errors and ommissions insurance, etc. Then a salesperson has to split their commissions with their broker. My first broker splits were 50%. The negotiated 8,7,6,5% commissions are split between the Listing agent and the Selling agent, one representing the Buyer and the other the Seller.

I was fortunate to enter the business 6 years ago when the boom was on. I attained several listings from people who knew me and thought me to be a pretty savvy business man and wanted me to sell their houses. I had this "friend" who was a Broker who went around behind my back telling the people I had listed that he would have charged them 1/2 of what I was charging them to sell thier home. I confronted him and he told me that we Realtors make too much money in commissions. He spent his career in the Public sector so I laughed him off as just not quite understanding the good old American profit motive.

I told him this story that was told to me by an economics professor when I was in college back in Alabama. Seems that there was this manufacturer of widgets located up around Sylacauga, Alabama. He turned out 10,000 widgets a day which he sold for $1 each. He had several employees and business was good and life was rewarding to all involved. One day his assembly line came to a sudden and alarming halt. Over the next couple of days he called his engineers together to address the problem. Nothing, 4 days passed without a single widget rolling off the assembly line. They finally had no other choice but to ask for the Tech rep of the manufacturer of the assemblage machinery to come have a look. Into Sylacauga on a private plane comes the Tech rep. He comes to the factory with an attache' case in hand and walked up and down the frozen assembly line. He finally stopped at one particular place and opened the atache' case. He pulled out a hammer and gave a mighty whack to the line and it came to life rolling along without a hitch. Business was back on track and the widgets rolled off the line as before. A couple of days later the CEO recieved an invoice from the manufacturer for $10,000. The old man was livid. He told his Secretary to call the company and demand an itemization on the invoice. The itemization arrived a few days later. It said: $1 for hitting with a hammer. $9,999 for knowing where to hit. He paid the bill.

I remember back around 1988 putting my home on the market by myself as a For Sale by Owner. Interest rates were 18% on mortgages. Mine was 13.5%. No one was selling houses. My little FSBO sat there for two years. All the while I wondered what in the world I would do if someone came along and wanted to buy it. I had no clue what the next step would have been. I finally woke up and gave it to a Realtor and about 3 months later I attended the closing and got a check. I had little clue as to what happened in between.

You pay a Realtor for what they have between their ears. I have sold a little more than $10 million dollars since I first entered into the business. I have handled over 100 transactions, not all successfully. One thing I have learned along the way is that if you have seen one real estate transaction then you have seen one real estate transaction. They are all unique one to another. You need the professional by your side. Please see my last post.

In our modern world we have, including myself, developed a Wal-Mart mentality. We are all about saving the dollar, getting the best deal. Can we find it at Wal-Mart? You know they ALWAYS have the best price. What about Craigs List, E-Bay, etc. ? Let's take the Realtor out of it and then we can really shuck some corn and save a boat load of money.

I cannot for one minute imagine some faceless person on the internet in front of a keyboard on a computer caring about me in a real estate transaction. I mean really caring about me and my best interests first. You need someone you know well. A person who you trust and believe will put your best interests first and foremost. Most people only buy or sell a house 1-2 times in a lifetime. Wal-mart, E-Bay, Craigs List, Amazon discounting just does not apply in that scenario.

Please visit me on my website:

Enjoy this bottom line philosophy of Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Choosing healthcare coverage

It is open enrollment time for the people of America. If you are now Medicare eligible you can choose to have your government pick up a sizable portion of your healthcare costs. Whereas before you were paying an exorbitant premium for private health care insurance, now you can shift those monthly costs lower. In my case almost $1,000 per month to $68 per month. Now that is a deal !

That is like getting a pay raise of $932 per month. Not only do you get that extraordinary deal but there are hundreds of plans to choose from. There are almost 100 in the nice booklet the government sent me. Now don't worry if this stuff is hard to understand. Anyone of the 100'ish  or so company plans listed in the book will send a representative to your house to explain their particular plan to you and sign you up. There is enough profit in whatever plan you choose that these representatives get a nice commission and renewal fees for the rest of thier lives, as long as they remain licensed and you remain alive. So how can a plan like this save you money and pay somebody else commissions?

What we seniors fail to remember is that we paid into this plan all of our working lives. You remember under FICA in your pay check? You paid in 10's of thousands of deneros over your working career. Now you have lived long enough to start to receive this benefit. The principle of risk-pooling has application in this scenario. While you were paying in money the likelihood of your becoming ill was pretty remote overall. Besides you were paying into a private insurance plan simultaneously that covered those risks. Now you are  in an elevated risk pool because of your age. But not to worry, there has been enough money set aside to cover your costs.

I remember when I used to lobby state legislatures. Anytime there was a proposed piece of legislation that might affect Medicare you could drive by the local airport and see an entire wing of private jets parked there. They had been used to fly in their legal muscle to follow the legislative threat and buy up influence and insure  the safe passage of any adjustments so as to not unfeather their nests. It is a known fact that the insurance companies are rich beyond belief.

So now we are eligible to to benefit from the largess of this system. It is an emotional playing field and has become more costly  simply because of the swelling ranks of beneficiaries. We " baby boomers" are tipping the scale. Add in the fact that the ranks of the worker bees who fuel the system are dwindling and we approach a fiscal and political landscape. You will hear our politicians speak many cumulative sound bites about this emotional subject. One of my favorites is " If I am elected, I am going to see to it that Social Security and Medicare are placed in a lock box and protected from the intrinsic evil of my opponent who wants to throw granny off the cliff."

Who says that getting older is a drag? Just to live long enough to benefit from the many thousands of dollars that have been taken from my pay checks over the years is exciting. Of course the front loaded funds I put in are almost like the poker chips thrown on the table in Vegas or Atlantic City. How far is the gamble going to take us down the road?    

Monday, September 10, 2012

Malpractice Reform

Florida can take lead on medical lia bility

As a physician who has traveled the country speaking to my peers, I can tell you that doctors want to provide better patient care but are hindered by our inefficient system that drives a wedge be­tween physicians and pa­tients and leads to increasing health-care costs.

I was not surprised when a recent study found that $640 billion out of the coun­try’s $2.4 trillion total health­care costs are spent on med­ical tests, procedures or consultations of no clinical value. They are ordered merely to protect the pre­scribing physician from having an attorney attack the care as malpractice. It’s called “defensive medicine,” and it is a fear­driven practice that on average costs each United States citizen $2,084 every year.

Reducing malpractice costs has been imperfectly addressed by malpractice “caps,” which reduce the total payment that attorneys can collect. However, physicians who have been burned by attorneys never want to return to the court room, regardless of the “cap,” and will continue to practice defensive medicine.

Patients should be paid for medical in­juries, just as they should be paid when an injury occurs on the job. Adopting a similar approach to worker’s compensation in pay­ing patients for medical injuries would re­duce the exhaustion of litigation. More im­portant, physicians no longer would seek the false security of protection in defensive medicine.

How can such a change occur, to the ben­efit of patients, physicians and our econo­my? In the next legislative session, Florida will have the opportunity to adopt a solution that works — a Patients’ Compensation Sys­tem.

The Patients’ Compensation System fo­cuses on the patient’s need for both prompt recognition of a medical injury and prompt payment. The doctor is not blamed for the injury, and in fact we may recognize and learn from our mistakes without being sued. This removes the wedge between patients and their physicians, allowing the doctors to choose the best health care for their pa­tients.

Compensation under the Patients’ Com­pensation System would take 180 days, as opposed to the current system that can take up to five years, and there would be defined steps to ensure a seamless process and an­swer key questions:

» A patient advocate: How do I get my claim submitted?

» A medical review department: Is a medical injury present?

» An independent medical review panel: Is this an avoidable medical injury?

» A compensation department: What should be paid for the injury?

» An administrative law judge: Was the patient’s need and physician record re­viewed properly?

» A quality improvement department: How do we reduce preventable medical injuries?

The new system’s patient benefits in­clude access to justice for all patients; deli­vering more compensation to more patients faster; increasing patient safety; encourag­ing medical innovations; avoiding unneces­sary tests; and providing more access to physicians — as additional part-time physi­cians will practice medicine. Economic benefits include lowering health-care costs, lowering employer costs and creating more jobs, as well as decreased state and federal taxes.

Florida has the opportunity to take the leadership role in reducing the real driving force behind skyrocketing health-care costs, while extending patient care to compensate medically injured patients more quickly and compassionately.

J. James Rowsey, M.D., is a longstanding delegate of Florida Medical Association and board member of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology; he also recently served on U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn’s Medical Legislation team.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Chump Change

Perhaps I will post up one day on the chump subject but my post today is about change. Change is an arena that some play in with total and absolute control while others do not. I endured a great deal of change as I grew up. I lived at 18 different addresses up to the time I was 20 years of age. Those addresses stretched from the hills of southern Appalachia to the concrete jungle of Los Angeles to Jacksonville, Florida to Montgomery, Alabama to Tallahassee. I endured changes to new classes and teachers to new jobs and circumstances and so forth. These multiple experiences seem to catch my attention, lately change is an anxiety promoting and filthy beast.

I am speaking of the most minimal change. For example this website that you may be viewing this blog on. I have had the same website since 2003. The people who hosted it decided to sell this side of the business and I had to change. I went from Myers to LinkU. I always was able to fix my website any way that I wanted, in any fashion I wanted. It was easy. Now I have a whole new administrative quadrangle of approaches to accomplishing a particular function. It is decidedly difficult. I have become a pariah to the nice techie people at LinkU. They are nice and patient and always get me to the end point desired. However, I find myself lying in bed at night distraught by the fact that I could not figure it out for myself.

On another front, I very recently went from using a Blackberry to an I-Phone. I had used that Blackberry about five years. It got to where it would not hold a charge for the entire day and some keys stuck and so forth. My children told me that if I was going to change phones then I should get the I-Phone. " It has all sorts of apps that you are just going to LOVE !!!!! " gushed my son-in-law. The one with the IQ north of 150. For about two weeks I could not even answer the phone much less download an app to watch water buffalo drink from a river in Kenya. Needless to say I lost tons of sleep obsessing about how to remember the 6 or so passwords I had created to download apps from the app store via my I-Tunes account. I-Tunes account ????? Nothing like good old Looney Tunes, that I have loved since I was six.

Change is a daunting and terrifying concept. I believe the more advanced you become in age the more daunting it becomes. My wife and I follow the same routine day in and day out. Up at 6:00 to meet our little Bellamy. Bellamy is our little 20 month old grand daughter. The one with the IQ north of 160. Lunch at 12:30, dinner at 7:00, to bed at 10:00 and so forth. Any deviation from that schedule induces meltdown and insecurity.

As my sensibiliies have become more and more lulled by the sameness I have occassional lapses of wanting a change in routine. Ah, a wakeful moment. However enticing such a desire might be I fight it and remain in the endless rut that I am in.

I suppose that there is security in the sameness. I think about the people who are forced to evacuate their homes due to Isaac the hurricane ( same old big wind, different name). Their lives get changed whether they want it or not. I worked a Katrina, Red Cross, temporary shelter here once. As you looked into the faces of the refugees and engaged them I could see the unsettling anxiety I speak of with them.

Change is hard. Sometimes it is necessary for the common good but man it comes at a cost. Not a very successful political slogan " Hope and Sameness". Hmmmmmm, perhaps I could get behind such a candidate. Nah, that would be a complete juxtaposition to that which makes our kind the creatures in charge of this planet. Someone has to find out what is over that mountain. What makes that little blob of matter tick? Bellamy knows all about this from the many episodes of Sid the Science Kid that she makes me watch with her. Maybe there is hope for me. After all I have learned to use my I-Phone and I am making progress on my website. Evidence this totally non essential and boring post to my blog today.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Tallahassee Home Sales

I read an article in the local fish wrapper yesterday morning. It had to do with the fact that home sales were up 18% points. Now I appreciate the attempt at painting the home market in some sort of positive light. The fact is that it is just hard to find any encouraging news concerning the sale of homes in this current market. We are in the worst real estate market since the Great Depression.

If you like graphs and reports that will make your head spin take a look at the following. This is put together by our Tallahassee Board of Realtors and Timberlane Appraisers. You may have to copy and paste it in your browser.

The take away from this statistical monstrosity is this. We had the worst year on record in Leon County 2010 to 2011. Year to date sales of detached homes was 1645 through June 2011. We look at year to date sales of detached homes through June 2012 we see that we sold 1756 detached homes. That is an increase of 7% anyway you want to slice it.

Now we have a tepid increase in sales based on the worst year on record. That is hardly news that should start us dancing in the streets. The attempt to paint a strong positive trend on that news is sort of like putting the lipstick on the proverbial pig. It is still a pig.

A much higher % of distressed sales marks our current path. We are moving more and more properties onto the lis pendens list at the courthouse. Therefore we can predict that trend is going to continue.

The bad news is that house values continue to be driven down by the mix-in of the financially impaired sales. Note current trend past six months average selling price of detached homes is $199,400 as compared to the earlier one year trend with value at $201,100.

When my friends call me about putting their homes on the market I tell them the same thing. If there is any way that you can stay in it, please do so. Try to wait it out. If you simply have to sell then price it lean and mean. Also, make sure you take the professional realtor with you.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tallahassee vs Tallahassee

Posting today on a weird subject. I think it highlights how comedic and entertaining watching government operate is. I walk in my 40 year old NE Tallahassee neighborhood mostly every day. I have noted a vacant house of an acquaintance of mine and wonder about the disposition of the property. Today I noticed that there was some sort of a declarative poster on his door. So I wondered up to the front door to read it. The notice was from the division of compliance for the city. It said something to the effect that numerous attempts have been made to contact you about the code violations existent on your property. This notice serves as a summons and you are to appear at the hearing that is scheduled before the city commission on August 2, 2012.

The notice was printed on official City of Tallahassee letterhead and signed by an official's official. Mr. Herman VanSnoot, Esquire. The ending paragraph declared that failure to appear could result in one or more liens being placed on your property. Later on in the day I am going to call Mr. VanSnoot and ask him if he would, please, let me know if my friend appears at that hearing. That will be immensely newsworthy because, you see, I attended this man's funeral approximately 18 months ago.

Now, let's see, it makes you sort of wonder if the city's computers are networked at all. I would assume that there was a death certificate created when my friend passed away at 87 yoa. It would seem to me that there should have been some sort of data collision within the system when measures were taken to engage this property in code enforcement, allowing that the owner is all dead and stuff.

Sequel this out and you have to imagine that at some point, with the city not being able to collect property taxes on this residence, that perhaps the city would end up owning the property. In that case the city would have placed liens on property that they own. Thusly, the city would have to bring a legal action against itself at some point in the future

.Sort of reminds me of an Andy of Mayberry episode. Old Luke who lived just within the city limits had a dilapidated old house. The town condemned it and placed liens on it and property taxes were delinquent so Sheriff Taylor was given the directive to go down and evict old Luke. Whilst delivering the eviction notice Andy discovered that Luke was in possession of a war bond issued by the township 100 years prior. Andy did some quick math and determined that Mayberry owed Luke over one million dollars.

The town could not pay this debt. So they bartered themselves into the position of helping Luke fix up his house. The city commissioners, mayor, Andy and several locals happily worked replacing shutters and windows and painting up the old place. They did this shoulder to shoulder all the while picnicing and drinking Aunt Bee's famous lemonade having a wonderfully collegial time.

At the end of the episode someone determined that the bond was issued during the Civil War and was worthless as it was to paid in confederate currency. They all laughed it off and Luke was able to stay in his home and all was well.

Can you just imagine that happening today? Even in a small fry city like Tallahassee we are so paralyzed by law and regulation that there is no amount of compassion that could ever be transacted in most any business that comes before the commission.

What was it Mark Twain called it? " Man's inhumanity to man."

Friday, March 16, 2012

Magic's Paradigm

I recently watched an ESPN made for TV movie about Magic Johnson of the L A Lakers, basketball fame. It was called The Announcement. As you recall, back about 20 years ago Magic announced that he was HIV positive. He had contracted the disease through one of his multiple 100's of heterosexual encounters as he starred for the Lakers. This announcement shocked the world as this ailment had been pretty well qualified as a gay man's disease, prior. Now that you were to understand that you could contract the illness through a sexual encounter of your own choosing with some loose floozy at the orgy du jour everyone was more petrified of this disease. There was an enormous amount of misinformation flying around about it. If you will recall, Karl Malone, the star of the Utah Jazz declared he would not play on the same court with Aids infested Johnson for fear of being infected by casual contact.

I worked in the pharmaceutical industry and our company had a candidate for treatment. The government was making all sorts of tax concessions to the pharm industry to come up with treatment for this dark illness. At the time of Johnson's diagnosis there was one drug only, ATZ. This was a antiretroviral drug classified as an NRTI, nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor. After 100's of millions of dollars of research there are 20 or so compounds today that treat the virus. Protease Inhibitors, Non Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors, and on and on. Research is still pressing for a vaccine. The greater bulk of the disease now is found in Africa, amongst children who are born to HIV positive mothers. Little children who had no choice in the matter are afflicted with this fatal disease. The most famous child who was dx'd early was a young boy with hemophelia named Ryan White. He died at 17 from fully engaged AIDS.

Nowadays, if you are dx'd with HIV you get on the meds. You are placed on cocktails of the various drugs and are able to proceed though life living pretty normally. That is if you have access to 10's of thousands of dollars to procure the meds. If you are so unfortunate to live in South Africa where the median income is $500 per year then you are out of luck. You are going to die.

I had an acquaintance through my church who died from the illness in the early 90's. He was an attorney who had contracted the virus through a gay lifestyle. He found the Saviour and changed his lifestyle. He was a brilliant fellow and worked for a prestigious Association of high level corporations. He ultimately became one of the sickest people I had ever laid eyes on. I had been around these patients at a rotation I went through with my company. They were Hatians and the attending physicians at Jackson Memorial Hospital told us that they really did not know how that disease was transmitted. For all they knew, at that time, it could have been airborne during one of it's phases. He had told me that he had the ailment and how he had contracted it. As I mentioned, he had become my friend through our church association. He died at the young age of 37. If he had lived now he would have the prospects of a long life into the 80's. He would simply need to swallow the pills.

In America most of the HIV drugs are purchased through third party payers, the largest of course is Medicaid and Ryan White Title 21 funds. President Obama just signed a new version of the Ryan White funding. It makes it a little more understandeable why there are so many people in our country looking to pass a national healthcare bill with or without individual mandate. The country we live in has the highest standard of healthcare on the globe. Used to be if you had AIDS you wanted to be in the prison system because they were fighting desperately to contain the AIDS epidemic. You sure would not want to be a south African with the disease even today. Not unless you owned a diamond mine.

One thing we know about the disease is that it is spread through serum to serum contact. If you really think about that it gets down to a pretty earthy conclusion. You can greatly reduce your risk of infection by practicing safe sex simply by using a $1 condom. If you want to totally avoid the most minimum chance of contracting AIDS then keep your intimate, serum producing, body parts to yourself. That is until you have qualified a sexual partner through appropriate blood testing and within the holy bonds of matrimony.

Simple conclusion from a simple lesson. Thanks for the Magic lesson Mr. Earvin Johnson.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Phantom Buyer

He called on a Saturday morning. With his unique British accent he advised me that he was relocating to our area. He owned a string of nursing homes in Seattle and had his house under contract there for $790k. His plan was to buy a home here in our area. He would be paying cash for that home and needed it pretty quickly.

The code of ethics of our national association is to ask the question, " Are you currently working with another real estate agent?" He told me that he had been but they had undergone a parting of the ways and he was no longer working with them.

Times are hard in real estate so you at least meet with such a prospect to flush them out. I met them at a small motel in the lobby. We spent some time looking at properties on my computer via the motel's wi fi. He was with his wife who barely said two words. They had been married 30 days earlier. She was from West Virginia.

They had no car. He told me that he had just been released by our local hospital after having been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. They had no cell phone as she had dropped the phone into the commode at the $49 per night motel. Neither did they have a computer. They had no car as he had been forbidden to drive because of the seizures associated with his brain cancer. He had surrendered his license. She had never had a drivers license and did not drive. I asked them how they were going to purchase real estate without photo ID's. He told me that they had passports and that there was no better identification than those.

I elected to show them some vacant homes and spent the next couple of hours taking them to look. They had no cash to swing through McDonalds to get a sandwich. I told them that they took credit cards. His answer was that they had left those in their room. He liked one of the properties we looked at and was most likely going to make an offer.

They were pleasant. He was almost likeable except he dressed badly and needed some deodorant. I dropped them back at their motel and he told me he would call me the next day. I went home got on the internet to try and find a trace of him there to no avail. I checked the property appraiser's database back where he said he was from and there was no record of him owning property there. I smelled a big, fat rat.

He called me back the next PM which was Sunday and wanted to go take another look at one of the houses we had looked at. I told him that before we loaded up to do anymore looking I wanted to see the contract on the home he was selling in Seattle or a letter of financial capability from a banker, attorney or someone back in Seattle. He told me that I would be recieving such in my e-mail in box the next morning. Monday was my golf day.

I loaded up to play golf with my friend who is also a realtor and making small talk told him about the Phantom client. He sells new homes in one of our new neighborhoods here. He described the phantom buyer to me and told me that one of our local brokers had brought him into one of their model homes and that he had met him. Same sort of variation on the no car, from Seattle, had a home under contract there and was paying cash for their home purchase. I called the agent to whom he referred. I advised him that this phantom buyer had called me on Saturday and I put him into my car and showed him property after he had told me that they had parted ways. He told me that he was meeting with this man that very afternoon to look at more houses and that they had never parted ways. Later in the week he advised me that he had discovered that our friend was working with at least 3 other agents.

Now what is the phantom buyer up to? He is obviously not who he says he is and their circumstances are cloudy. I thought back a to visit I had with my Aunt who worked for Traveler's Aid in Los Angeles more than twenty years ago. She was a social worker and had an office in LAX. She described to me her full time responsibilities. She advised me that there was a huge cadre of mentally ill people who travel all over the country constantly. They beg, borrow or steal money for airfare. When they run up against the wall in their hustle they came to them for help. She advised that that they had a budget to assist such travelers. They could help them with lodging, food and transportation to an extent. They would then move on down the road and play some other role to a different audience.

My son who is a law enforcement person told me that there was no law that he knew of against being crazy. I had just lost 3-4 hours of my life entertaining these people. he said that they were usually harmless and just traveled around getting by.

I was a bit bristly about being hustled and wondered how I could measure out some retribution. However, I played a decent round of golf and enjoyed being with my friends. I got home to a loving wife in our comfortable home, pulled my car into the driveway next to my other car and retrieved nourishment from my refigerator. I then thought of the phantom and ultimately began to feel somewhat sorry for him. I suppose that is just what drives him onwards to another town to another realtor, medical provider, social worker to play the same game.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Groundhog's Day

Happy Groundhogs Day to all my friends, relatives and the other two people who might follow my BLOG. I just watched Punxsutawney Phil's prediction from Gobblers Knob in Pennsylvania. They held the chubby little fellow up and took him to his podium where the President of the Punxsutawney Phil club via his magical cane deciphered for us what Phil's prediction was. Today it was for 6 more weeks of winter predicated on the length of shadows cast about on the Knob and of course, Phil’s own shadow.

One of my favorite movies, starring one of my favorite actors, Bill Murray, is Groundhogs Day. Of course the plot is a train of recurring days that are just alike in every detail. I sort of feel like the election cycle we are in is sort of a Groundhog’s day. Every day we hear the same stuff, almost verbatim, from the same candidates.

In place of the President of the Punxsutawney Phil club on Gobblers Knobb, Pennsylvania we have the ever present news media to interpret what the candidate is really saying. The left media takes whatever the right says out of context and vice versa. Ergo the final product we have going into our ears is about as reliable as the same pronouncement we had from Phil this morning. America has largely given up thinking for themselves and judging by their own shadows the remaining days of winter or who is right in the Presidential posturing. We have our own “Phil” prognosticator be their name, Beck, Limbaugh, Krauthammer, Malkin, Palin, Coulter, Hannity, etc.

It is enough to drive you mad as the meteorologist played by Bill Murray in the movie. Let me give you some advice. Stop listening to all of them. Get yourself a good book and read it. Watch C-Span. It is so boring it will coagulate your blood but it truly is fair and balanced. That is except for the crazy people who call in on the open lines who all have anger issues, dementia and just downright mean spiritedness.

So for those of you who believe that a groundhog can predict the weather, get a life. I used to shoot those things back on our farm in West Virginia. They are very destructive to pasture land and golf courses ( reference another Bill Murray movie “Caddy Shack’). For those of you who think all the talking heads have any more insight than you do about who needs to be President, rethink that issue. Determine who has the tool sets to fix the economy, keep us safe and lead the country and vote. Forget all the vindictive chatter that America likes to feed on. You will be better off.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I am a Mormon

I am posting up on this subject today to make a point. The point is that we live in a nation principally built upon the basis of freedom of religion. I converted to the Mormon church in 1963 in Montgomery Alabama. My family lived next door to a family of Mormons. He was a Navy Chief assigned to Gunter Air Force base in Montgomery. I had never heard of the Mormon church. I was religious having attended many churches my entire life. I had been Presbyterian, Baptist, Church of Christ, Jehovah’s Witness until I was 16 and joined up with the Mormons. I was granted a bachelor’s degree by Huntingdon College. Huntingdon is a small private college owned by the Methodist church. I never heard anything in that four year curriculum to convince me that I was practicing my faith in a cult. The formal name of our church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I have had many people tell me that I was not a Christian. How can that be if my church carries His name?

Now I will have to admit that over the almost 50 years that I have been a member of this church in the south, I have felt the sting of bias, bigotry and intolerance. At one time, if you were a Mormon, and lived in Missouri there was a standing gubernatorial extermination order issued by Governor Lilburn Boggs in the 1840’s. That extermination order was only recently rescinded by the legislature of Missouri. In my lifetime of membership in this church I have seen it grow from 1 million members when I joined to a number rapidly approaching 15 million members worldwide. It is the fourth largest congregation in America. It follows Catholicism, the Southern Baptists and the Methodists.

I married a girl who was born into the church. She was as all American as any girl could ever be. Her Mother raised her in the church. She was immensely popular in her school. She was a cheerleader, a beauty queen, a beta club member and always set an example of living her life to a very high standard and does that to this day. She attended and graduated from Brigham Young University in 1970. Mitt Romney was her classmate.

She and I have raised 3 children in this church. Our son is a college graduate and is a law enforcement officer for one of the biggest agencies in Florida. He played baseball in High School and some in college. He served a two year mission in Argentina. He speaks fluent Spanish. He married a Mormon girl who is cut from the same bolt of cloth as his Mother. She is superlative in any way you want to analyze her. She is beautiful, hard-working, a faithful wife and Mother and a college graduate. They are raising their little daughter in the church.

Our oldest daughter has always been a top performer in anything you would like to measure her in. She graduated from a high school of more than 2,000 students. She was top 50 in her class. She played softball, was all Big Bend. She was a member of the National Honor Society. She was elected prom queen and was a member of the homecoming court. She went on to graduate from Florida State University, cum laude. She married a young man who served a two year church mission in France. He speaks french fluently. He graduated magna cum laude from Florida State and from their medical school. He and my daughter completed a medical residency in Pensacola where he was chief resident. He is a practicing Obstetrician/Gynecologist. They have three wonderful, bright and popular little girls that they are raising in the church.

Our youngest daughter is immensely talented and is a graduate of the University of Florida. She attended the University of Florida on an academic scholarship. She has always worked hard and made fabulous decisions. She played tennis in high school . She is beautiful and has an immense cadre of friends. She married a young man who served a mission in Venezuela. He speaks fluent Spanish. He holds a BA from U of F and an MA from Florida State University. He worked as a software consultant for a worldwide company. He traveled internationally and performed well for them. He currently works for the Florida State University helping to administer their People Soft program. They are raising their three children in this church.

I worked for a Fortune 400 company for thirty years and advanced to work at an executive level . I currently run my own company as a sole proprietor. I have volunteered as a little league president, boy scout leader, been a Kiwanis club member, volunteer at the local homeless shelter, etc.

All of this information is in order to communicate to the reader that my Mormon faith has contributed to making my family MAINSTREAM American. At the same time we are in the midst of a presidential race and a frontrunner to the nomination is a Mormon. Most of the talking heads characterize him as unelectable. They soft shoe around the reason why. It is not that he is too moderate, too rich, too much of a flip flopper, too this and too that. The basic reason that most people proclaim him to be unelectable is that he is too Mormon.

Bias, prejudice and intolerance reigns supreme in the hearts of way too many Americans. We are a better country than that.