Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Just Rambling

Wow, I can't believe how bad I am at paying attention to this space.  That's about to change....sort of.

I'm in the process of developing a monthly newsletter.  I hope to have the first issue out in January.  I'm not sure whether that will link to this spot or whether it will replace this blog.  Decisions, decisions.

IOU NO MORE 2.0 is nearing completion.  Well, it's nearly ready for editing anyway.  I had hoped to have it finished by now, but work, farming and life in general keep getting in the way.  The core of the book is the same, but there are some nice additions and a few other changes that reflect the current economic conditions and some changes in my thinking.  The new version will be larger and some of the budgeting and saving sections have more detail and will be even more practical than before.

Now is a great time to take advantage of some great bargains in our store, before the end of the year.  Of particular note is the extremely good buy of going to Amazon and downloading the Kindle version of the book.  It's a rock bottom price and will only be available for a few more weeks.

It's looking like I will begin offering the Budget Boot Camp Home Study Kit around the end of January or beginning of February.  That should be a lot of fun.  It will include all the Starter Kit information and 6 audio lessons just like in a live Boot Camp.  I'm really excited about it. 

Another piece of random news is that traffic to our website has boomed recently as have requests for information.  We've heard from, teachers, govt. workers, universities, single parents, pastors and many others.  It's quite a good feeling being able to help others take their first steps towards financial fitness.

Have a Happy New Year everyone.  We'll talk to you soon.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Coming Foodflation

I've been warning my friends for months that inflation is coming.  I've certainly posted it on facebook more than once.  Now it's starting to hit the headlines.  For example, Read this article from the Financial Times that I found on Drudge this morning.

I have interrupted the writing of IOU NO MORE 2.0 to write a short e-book, "Simplify Your Way To Prosperity" about how to thrive during the coming inflation.  I believe preparing NOW is urgent and I want to help.

Glenn Beck is making similar suggestions on his radio show.  He has a very large platform, I have a handful of readers.  He will get the word out faster that I will, I imagine.

There is one fundamental difference between Beck's views and my own.  He would suggest that gold is an excellent hedge against the coming tsunami.  I would say that gold is secondary to FOOD. 

Those who know me well, know I keep saying, "You have gold, I have food.  If things get really bad, I will have your gold in exchange for some of my food."  I don't say that to be ugly, I really believe it. 

Consider this passage from the Bible in Revelation 6:6 "Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, "A quart of wheat for a day's wages, and three quarts of barley for a day's wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!"  WOW!

I'm not against gold, in fact I strongly recommend saving up a year's worth of living expenses in cash.  Keep it in a jar, or in an easy to access money market account.  But I even more strongly recommend putting aside 6 months to a year of basic food stuffs and necessities. 

B and I have a room loaded with beans, rice, coffee, wheat, sugar, home canned goods, powdered milk, mustard, toilet paper, soap, etc.  We didn't buy the 'survival food storage' stuff off the internet, because I'm not really interested in eating MREs for a year.  Call me crazy.  But if that's the way you and your family want to do it, I'll not argue.  Just PREPARE.

After you have your CASH and your FOOD, if you want to invest in some gold coins, go right ahead.  But do is as insurance, not as an investment.  In a real crisis, investments won't matter a hoot.  What you have in hand WILL matter.

Watch this space or the website for "Simplifying Your Way to Prosperity".  But don't wait, start preparing TODAY.  I'm not suggesting the end of the world.  I am suggesting trouble ahead.  The bridge is out and I don't want anyone to fall.

Feel free to send your questions.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Preparing for Inflation

Inflation is coming.  I feel it in the air.  Commodity prices are insanely high.  Oil prices are rising.  That all means the cost of producing and transporting basic necessities like food and clothing are going to go up dramatically.  Sooner or later, manufacturers and producers have to pass that cost on to the consumer.  When you add in the effects of a weak and watered down dollar, the coming inflation could be pretty dramatic.

The best thing we can do is prepare.  We don't panic.  We don't hide.  We get ready.  If you do not already make storing up 6 months to 1 year of basic food a part of your emergency fund, then please begin to do so now.  You will be glad you did.  I will discuss the subject in more detail in IOU NO MORE 2.0, which should be out early in 2011.  But for now, if you have any questions about starting a Food Bank, then send us an email and we'll be glad to answer them.

I recommend buying some extra clothes as well.  Watch for sales, clearance racks, etc. and buy some extra jeans, jackets, sweaters, sweatshirts, shoes and the like.  This is especially true for articles made from cotton.  Cotton prices have shot through the roof and are headed to the moon.

One more thing, while I'm thinking about it.  Plan now to grow at least some of your own food next year.  

B and I have already begun our 'storehouse' and are mostly done.  We feel very good about our readiness.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Back to Basics

B and I have made the decision to go back to the beginning of our financial journey and start again so we can save to pay cash for farm land.  We have built our budget around the survival plan and are even going to use envelopes again.

This is something we want very badly and are taking the necessary steps to help us stay focused.  It's always nice to have a goal.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bankruptcy and The Crystal Cathedral - Pathetic or Prophetic?

The Crystal Cathedral has filed for bankruptcy.  I have no doubt that critics, skeptics and naysayers are smirking in their cheerios this morning.  My heart aches.  My hypotheses and philosophies of the future of Church finances have been supported by this event, but I find no pleasure in it.

Please, let me explain.  First, I love Robert Schuller.  In the early years of my time in full time ministry, his book, “Your Church Has Real Possibilities” was very influential in helping me form practical direction for British Isle Evangelism.  I have been to the Crystal Cathedral a couple of time and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  I’ve never been a big fan of “The Hour of Power” and believe it has painted a terribly incomplete picture of the ministry of Robert Schuller and life of the congregation there in Garden Grove.
Despite my fondness for Robert Schuller, I do have some rather strong doctrinal variances from him.  It is not, however, doctrinal, but practical and financial weaknesses that have brought this crisis upon the Crystal Cathedral.

All living organisms reach maturity, then age and die.  A local congregation is not exempt.  Even a mega Church will eventually experience the phenomenon.  The death may be slow, even very slow, but eventually, regress happens.  

Real estate (at least the buildings), are subject to the laws of science (eg. Thermodynamics).  Buildings, parking lots, fixtures, and the like, wear out, atrophy, eventually to the point that repair is no longer viable.  Restoration or replacement can be extremely expensive. The Crystal Cathedral was once the cutting edge of Sacred Architecture, now it is a dated, aging monument to days gone by.

Even great ministries and their campuses reach a plateau.  Some, especially those which are legacies to a single man’s (or woman’s) vision, are likely to survive little more than the lifespan of the founder.  Those with the vision and savvy to create a succession plan, will live, and can even prosper for generations.  But, time and circumstance happen to us all.

The churches that last the longest continue to morph and reinvent themselves by moving campuses, changing formats and maintain a certain balance between longevity and turnover of staff.  Some even change their names as a part of the metamorphosis. 
I have nothing against those things, but I submit that those changes may actually mean that a new congregation has been birthed rather than a simple location change.  Some of the core may be the same, but the differences are significant enough to suggest the organization is different.

Churches are also subject to the laws of economics.   When we spend less than we earn, when we avoid debt, when we budget wisely , give generously and when we save appropriately, with an eye to the future, we prosper.  When we run up debt, spend ahead of our income, expand too quickly and have no financial cushion, we risk much.

Our current economic crisis in America (and the world), has highlighted a fundamental crack in the traditional financial thinking of many congregations.  A large number of ‘boom’ Churches are in serious financial trouble.  As the communities around them blossomed under the economic and housing bubble of the 90s and early 00s, congregations grew and expanded.  Following the example of their members, large numbers of Churches built McMansions in the suburbs.  Using easy credit, they took out huge mortgages and built oases of peace and faith that were reverent and (often) simultaneously flamboyant.

These relocated congregations frequently experienced a huge burst of activity and growth when they moved into their new facilities and added staff and ministries accordingly.  We justified our extravagance by pointing to “God’s blessings” and our noble purpose.  We convinced ourselves that we were “casting our bread upon the waters”.  Oh, what a grand time it was.

Then, like the children’s chorus, “the rains came down and the floods came up”.  The American economy collapsed.  The bubbles burst and all Hell broke loose.  Businesses closed or laid off employees by the train load, unemployment exploded, banks failed, the stock market crashed, the housing market melted, money vanished. 

Amidst the rubble of foreclosed homes, unemployment lines and broken dreams, we see church after church struggling to stay afloat.  Offerings in many places have dropped by nearly half.  Attendance has taken a hit in those places where families are being forced to leave in order to find work elsewhere.

It is a bleak reality, where once thriving Churches are faced with cutting staff and programs.  Churches born with the best of intentions and the most Holy of goals, are finding themselves struggling, or unable, to pay their mortgages.  Banks don’t want to foreclose of places of worship.  That’s not good PR.  Despite the efforts of everyone involved, both borrower and lender, Churches are defaulting on loans at a record pace.  The Crystal Cathedral is simply the most high profile example to date.

The future requires a paradigm shift, a radical change in the way churches operate financially.  I pray daily that we awaken and make the necessary changes before it’s too late to do so.

For Churches that are in financial crisis, it is imperative that we begin immediately to budget like a family rather than like a corporation.  Most congregations may be structured like a business, but we function like a household.  We would be better off to budget that way. 
On a high level, that means:
1.       Repent
2.       Pray
3.       Stop borrowing.
4.       Establish a perimeter (it looks a little different than for a household, but essentially the same)
5.       Create a Budget (a zero based budget)
6.       Develop a baseline emergency fund
7.       Eliminate Debt
8.       Have a fully funded emergency fund
9.       Pray

There will be some tough, heartbreaking decisions in the process.  It may mean some salary reductions.  It may mean some staff cuts.  It will most likely require the cutting of some ministries and services the congregation provides.  It may mean selling the building or some of the land (if you can find a buyer).  It will certainly mean scaling back on opulence.  

Budget cuts do not have to mean quality cuts.  It is better to do a few things well, than offer many things poorly done.  

Restructuring will not be fun.  It will not be easy.  Feeling will be hurt and some may even leave over it.  If that happens, so be it.  We have to do the right thing, regardless of the consequences.

I’m going to interject a very personal frustration here.  Typically, one of the first cuts congregations make in times of financial difficulty is to the Missions budget.  I find that both bizarre and counterproductive.  Our prime directive is to disciple the world.  If the first financial cutbacks we make are related to evangelism, then we really have some mixed up priorities.  

A better way might be something like this (it’s only an example):  We say we have to cut 10% across the board.  After cutting all the fat we can find, we ask the staff to take a 10% cut and we share our situation with our mission partners and explain that we are doing the same with our off campus staff.  We let them know that as soon as the crisis is over, we will return to our normal level of giving.  

Let me spend a moment offering my unsolicited and unwelcome advice to recent or future Church plants: Don’t do debt!  The economic landscape has changed, maybe forever.  The tectonic plates of our financial basis have shifted.  The Church is not in the real estate business.  I urge you to stay in rented or borrowed facilities either permanently or at least until you have cash to purchase. 

If you feel you must take out a mortgage, only ever do so on your first structure, and absolutely NEVER of future expansions.  Did I say NEVER?  Good.  Build the minimum that you can get away with.  Make sure that your mortgage can be paid with the current income, and do not rely on any projected future income that will come from wished for growth.  

Make absolutely sure you use a zero based budget.  Each ministry, each service, each program, must justify its existence.  Do not expand in either staffing or campus until there is cash flow to do so.

Focus on ministry rather than facility.  The Great Commission says, “GO!” It says nothing about “Invite”.  We can be more effective and more involved if we take our work to the hurting rather than finding a way to get the hurting to us.  I think of ministry more like ‘search and rescue’ than an emergency room where the wounded are carried.  I’m all for emergency rooms, I just think a pro active role is more Biblical.

I intend to flesh these thoughts out in a future book (working title, “Paradigm Shift: a Quest for Revival, Reformation and Revolution in the Church”), but for now, I hope this rant get you thinking. 

I am cross posting this in “Recession Proof Living” and in “Paradigm Shift”.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Freeze on Reposession - Sounds Compassionate, but is Bad Business

We're all pretty much aware that home foreclosures are at an all time high and the number just keeps on growing.  You may even have followed the story of the family in Denmark, ME who refused to pay their mortgage for years, but had the foreclosure fail because of shoddy paperwork by the bank.

As that story unfolded, the world discovered that the subprime loan debacle was not the only skeleton in the closet of the embattled mortgage industry.  We have learned of falsified signatures, 'robo' signers, clerical errors, and more.  The banking world has given itself another black eye.  I've even heard stories of people who were current (and always had been) on their loans, being foreclosed on!

Now we have another mess at just the time we need some stability.  What we don't need is a knee jerk reaction that cripples the already wounded housing industry.  But what we're getting is a knee jerk reaction.  Go figure.

There is talk of a moratorium on foreclosures and some lenders have enacted voluntary freezes.  On the surface, that sounds compassionate and responsible.  In reality, it has the potential of hurting everyone who is trying to sell a house or even buy one.  Here's why I think so.

First, if I'm a title insurance company, I am much less likely to risk underwriting anything.  No title insurance, no mortgage.

Secondly, if I'm a lender, what motive do I have to loan money?  If there is no guarantee and I must bear all the risk, I have no incentive to put my money out on the table. 

If I'm a homeowner, I'm tempted to to say, "Hey, why should I pay my mortgage?  The guy down the road hasn't paid his in 2 years and nothing has happened, why am I being punished for being responsible?"

If I'm trying to sell my house, I'm stuck because even if someone wants to buy my house, the buyer's trouble in finding title insurance or a willing lender may kill the deal.

There is no excuse for the shoddy business practices that have led to this mess.  The perpetrators should be uncovered and dealt with accordingly.  But let's not damage our economy more, by over reacting.  In my opinion, the suggested moratorium is a political move rather than a financially sound one.  Deal with each case, each mortgage and each lender on an individual basis.  Grant assistance where assistance is required.  Dole out justice where justice is required.  Repossess where appropriate, and fine or close up those businesses who have done wrong.  But don't, please don't, risk us all.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Fed is Making Me Nervous.....AGAIN!

I'm not an economist.  I don't want to be one and I don't play one on T.V.  I'm just a guy who wants to live on less than I earn, avoid debt, build enough wealth so that I don't have to worry about economic down turns and upticks and help others do the same.

Like I said, I'm not an economist, but as I watch our Federal Government and the Federal Reserve pile bad decision upon bad decision, I grow concerned that sound economics is an endangered category.  I read this morning that the Fed is considering printing more money, with the intent of driving down the dollar and driving up inflation.

To my simple Hillbilly mind, that sends the wrong message.  First, driving prices UP via inflation just before the Holidays, in a time of high unemployment, does not indicate a concern for the welfare of the average American.  The focus appears to me to be on foreign investment, by making it less expensive to invest in America;  kind of like a big sale.

Perhaps it will work, but it's just as likely to make foreign investors run for the hills.  It will not spur borrowing, which is another desired outcome.  As long as people remain out of work at a near 10% level, we are not going to see the spending that the Fed keeps wishing for.  Creating inflation will not do that, either, though it may ward off deflation.

It seems to me that we should look to ourselves, rather than to the outside to solve our economic uncertainties.  Lower taxes, cut spending and let the markets take care of themselves.

For the average individual or family, the way to face the future is increasingly clear; eliminate debt FAST, put God first, live on less than you earn, grow and emergency fund of 1 year of living expenses, store up one year of staples, save at least 10% and slowly increase that to 20%.  Everyone who works this plan for the next 7 years will find themselves secure against whatever the future holds.  I am convinced of it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Moving More to Facebook

As some of you know, I am trying to maintain (poorly) three blogs, three websites and two facebook pages.  That's kind of silly.  Especially in light of my current efforts in getting some new books and home study courses created.  So, in order to manage my time, yet try and stay in touch, I'm going to cut back on my blogging for a while and increase my facebook presence.  Please encourage your family and friends to follow the IOU NO MORE facebook page.  And stay tuned for an announcement regarding a brand new newsletter coming this fall.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

An Inconvenient Fee

It's Property Tax time in Georgia.  Oh, joy!  Regardless of any resentment or questions about value for money, it's time to pay.  As I normally do with bills, I went online to pay my property taxes.  Our local Govt. has a nice page so we can pay without the bother of writing checks or affixing stamps to envelopes and walking out to the mailbox. 

I went through the usual routine of entering all my information and debit card number.  I hit enter and get a 'review payment' page.  Nice touch.  It is there I noticed that there was a significant difference between the total I was paying and the actual tax bill. 

Reading through the darned thing, I discover a $58 'convenience charge'.  Convenience Charge?  $58?  I think not.  I already feel gouged by taxes and now they hope to get more with a convenience charge?  No, thank you.  I cancelled the order and am writing a check. 

The moral to the story is, always watch for hidden fees.  Some of them are doozies. 

In a related note, Suntrust Bank, where we keep our farming account has just announced the end of our free checking program.  We will be assessed a monthly fee if we don't maintain a minimum balance.  The problem is, we don't maintain anywhere near a $1k balance in that checking account.  We opened it for two reasons; 1. we want to keep our farm business as separate from our personal accounts as possible and 2. they offered us 'free checking'.  Well, now they've removed the 'r'. 

I have great news for Suntrust, we are going to make their administrative duties a bit easier.  We are closing our account.  That way they don't have to do all that adding and subtracting and fee assessing.  I'd rather have an account.  But I'm not paying fees for such a small regular balance.  So, we're going cash. 

Decision made.  As the radio commercial says, "Day one, living solid".  Much more solid without Suntrust fees.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Falling off the Wagon or Just Getting Lazy?

As some of you know, I'm working on an updated edition of IOU NO MORE and a BUDGET BOOT CAMP audio and workbook home study workshop.  As I've worked away on the project, I've become aware at how lax I've become in financial matters over the last couple years.

It's not like my Bride and I have started ringing up credit card debt again, or took out a car loan or something, but a lot of cash has flowed through my fingers in frivolous spending.  I'm sad about that.  I've been really good about the big things, but little leaks have meant that we have not saved as much as we should. 

So, while I haven't fallen off the wagon, I have certainly become somewhat financially lazy.  I wanted to share it with you for a couple of reasons.  First, by making my own foibles public, I add a layer of accountability to my life.  Secondly, I am hoping that it will help others will understand that money management is a lifetime commitment like our health.  We all make mistakes.  I am a fellow traveler.  On beggar showing another where to find bread.

In some ways, being debt free (except for the mortgage) has been more difficult that trying to become debt free.  It's been easier to lose intensity.  So I'm it the process of trying to refocus and get back on track with my financial goals.  And my goals are lofty ones.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Having Fun on New Curriculum

I have been working the last couple weeks on a new Budget Boot Camp home course.  I'm having a ton of fun with it.  It will essentially be a home based version of a Boot Camp live event.  It will have an audio presentation (available in both electronic or cd formats) and a workbook with forms, instructions and other helpful materials.  I'm confident that this project will take 'the simplest money management plan on earth' to a whole new level.  Instead of taking weeks to get through a system, imagine being able to get the whole program on a single cd or mp3.  Now, imagine getting a 'realistic budget plan' (as one recent email to us said), at a greatly reduced financial investment from other programs on the market.  It works.  It's fun.  Its simple.  It costs less.  I love it. 

We're also working on a newsletter.  I think the newsletter may be ready by the end of the year.  The Budget Boot Camp Home Version may  not be complete until near the end of January.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Lottery Fun....

As I often do, this morning I stopped by the gas station to fill up the car. At the cash register, I had to wait in line behind the lotto crowd.

I am amazed that otherwise sensible, ordinary, hard working men and women would stand in line to throw money away. They could have handed it to me out in the parking lot and saved themselves the time and energy of walking all the way into the QT and waiting in line. I’m just sayin’………

The appeal of the lottery escapes me entirely. It is the ultimate impulse buy. For multitudes, it is an irresistible Siren Song. For the managers of the lottery it is a never ending cash cow.

I was thinking about the sheer volume of potential combinations of numbers that could come up and had to get online and see what the odds are. According to the official Georgia Lottery website, the odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 175,711,536. If you buy 2 tickets, you don’t reduce the odds by half, as some people think. The actual odds in that case are 2 in 175,711,536. The odds of winning the Powerball Grand Prize are 1 in 195,249,054. The odds of being struck by lightning are 1 in 280,000.

If you take that $1 you spend on the lottery and stick it in a jar, the probability of having $52 at the end of the year is 100%.

Conclusion, the best way to guarantee winning at the lotto is to save the money instead. Now THAT’S what I call FUN!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Getting Radical

I found this article on ways to get serious about money management, so I thought I should share it.  Have Fun.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Integrity Tests

I don't travel on business as much as I used to.  I'm ok with that. But this week I had occasion to travel out west to a business conference.  I was reminded just how many integrity tests business travellers take every day.  There is little accountability on the road.  There are many opportunities to hedge, fudge, accomodate and compromise core values.  I will share a simple one that relates to money.

Two of my colleagues and I shared a taxi ride from our hotel to the airport.  Our driver was a pleasant woman who seemed to enjoy her job and chatted politely about the usual surface topics that accompany these kinds of routine shuttles. 

When we arrived at the airport, I paid the fare and tipped her generously (for the record, I am a pretty good tipper. Good service deserves good rewards.).  She thanked me and asked if I needed a receipt.  When I replied in the affirmative, she pulled out the company receipt pad a proceeded to tear off a copy for me.  She handed it to me and thanked me again for my generosity.  As I took the slip of paper, folded it and put it in my pocket, I noticed it was blank.  I smiled, somewhat saddened.

Our company will gladly reimburse me for the cab fare, but not the tip.  I have no problem with that.  A blank receipt provides me a perfect opportunity to put whatever number I choose on that pink piece of paper.  No one in my company will question the amount I write down.

Integrity tests.  We take them daily.  Who are we when no one is watching?  Some are big ones.  We've all heard, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."  Some a little ones, like fill in the blank taxi receipts. 

For the record, in case you're wondering, I passed.  This time.  But each new day has fresh challenges.  I tremble at the prospect of facing the constant barage of attacks upon my character.  I am flesh and flesh is so frail.  I try and follow two simple rules, that are framed by questions; 1.  Would I be embarrassed if my wife or Jesus walked in on me right now?  and 2. What would I do in this situation if my wife or Jesus was standing beside me?  Since both are always with me, one in my heart by a commitment we made before God and witnesses, and one quite literally omnipresent, it's hard to get away with much.  :-)

Have a great day.  Good luck with your test.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Protect Us From The "Consumer Protection Bill"

Yesterday congress passed the "Financial Overhaul" or Consumer Protection Act  bill.  But who will protect us from Govt.  As with the Health Care Bill, the 2300 page bill was not read and passed with the help of three liberal Republicans.

The short version of what happened is, this bill will grow Govt. but not the economy.  This was bad for America and it's very sad.

All these things remind us that we must each take charge of our own financial lives.  Pay attention, live within your means, avoid debt like a plague.  Use cash.  Trust God.  Win.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Back Online

Twice now, I've tried to lay this blog to rest.  Twice now, it's been resurrected because of demand and need.  Perhaps I should learn my lesson.

Thank you to everyone who has emailed me over the last few months.  It seems that the IOU NO MORE revolution still resounds with many people.  I am touched and blessed.

In the spririt of full disclosure, some of my money management views, especially regarding wealth building have changed in the three and a half years since IOU NO MORE was published.  Those changes will probably require a rewrite of some portions of the book.  But since discretionary time is an endangered species with me, I'm not sure when that writing will happen. 

The final incident that drove me back to this blog came in two steps.  Working backwards, I read an article last week of the continual growth of bankruptcy claims in the USA.  It seems that even with all refinancing of delinquent mortgages and low interest rates, people still can't get a handle on their debt and are giving up.

That article instantly reminded me of a conversation I had with an attorney from the midwest who said that he has become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of bankruptcy cases that have come to his office.  He said the number of files in his drawer is staggering.

With those two pieces of information nagging at my mind, I feel God is leading me to reopen this door.  I don't know what will happen once it's open, but here goes.......

Monday, March 29, 2010

A New Look at How Americans are Addressing Economic Conditions

Found this interesting article from  Thought I'd share it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

When Faith and the First Amendment Conflict

An interesting storm is brewing in Texas.  And we know what kind of dust and mud can be kicked up down there........

A college in Stephenville (SW of Ft Worth), is planning a performance of the 1998 play, 'Corpus Christi' which portrays Jesus and many of His disciples as gay.  You can read about it by clicking here.  In the play, Jesus and Judas share a passionate kiss and Jesus performs a gay wedding for two of his followers.  Ultimately, Jesus is crucified under a banner that reads, "King of Queers".  Alrighty, then.

Is anyone surprised that this little play might ruffle a few feathers and incite a mob scene or two.  Somebody wire Arizona and get the Earp brothers to Texas in a hurry.  There's gonna be trouble.

In 1999, some Muslim clerics, upset that Christians did not take what they considered a strong enough stand against the play, issued a fatwah (death warrant) on the author.  I remember the tempest at the time.

Meanwhile, back in Texas...... conservative Christians are lining us, crying, "Blasphemy.  Shut that play down," and the college administration is throwing up their hands, claiming, "First Amendment".  It's High Noon.

Nobody wins when something like this happens.  The college comes off looking like rabble rousers and the Christians come off looking like wild eyed extremists.  How very sad.

I am one of those conservative Christians.  'Corpus Christi' is in direct conflict with what the Bible says about Jesus, the Gospel and Biblical morality.  My convictions require me point out the affront.  My heart is broken that Jesus is presented in this light.  My God is mocked and I ache over it.

The letter of the law may very well be on the side of the college.  Christians must allow alternative, even contradictory views to be expressed.  Sometimes those views will sting.  Sometimes they will offend.  But we must take the high ground.

We are outraged when Christians are persecuted in other countries.  We decry the absence of freedom of expression in certain religions and nations.  We must not become what we loathe in others.  We need to occupy the high ground.  The eternity of millions is at stake.

Why in the world would we expect those who don't share our belief system to conform to it?  On the other hand, why would those who demand 'tolerance' of Christians deliberately incite?  That is disrespectful.  But let's face it, there is no greater example of iconoclasm than the American college campus.  There is something about youth, higher education, restlesnness and the first amendment that bring out the rebellion in our young bucks and does.  Has it ever been different?

Dear Christians in Stephenville:
You are justified in your sense of indignation and hurt.  But I urge you to reply by speaking the truth in love.  By all means, confront the issue head on.  Do so, however, with reason, dignity and grace.  Let the force of your argument and the power of the Holy Spirit be your plan of action.  Leave the flailing, video bites and castigating to lesser groups.  Jesus is Lord, even of the First Amendment of the Constitution.  The Truth will win out.  I guarantee it.

Dear Tarleton State University:

You are correct.  You are entitled to host a public performance of 'Corpus Christi'.  But is it wise?  Are you being true to freedom of expression, or hiding behind a technicality to deliberately offend your neighbors?  Sometimes wisdom directs us to subjugate our rights for the sake of community and good will?  Your coice. Exercise your rights or demonstrate discretion?  Tough call.

Dear combatants:

You are in the public eye now.  Choose your words and actions wisely.  We are watching.  You are each, both, in a position to win the argument and lose the war.  You are all in my prayers.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Irony of Expensive Bargain Grocery Shopping

Anyone who has read this blog or flipped through IOU NO MORE, knows that I really believe in bargains. Saving money, spending less than you earn, are mantras I've chanted for years. But I've modified one of my long held tenets, bargain groceries.

The more I study, the more disturbed I become regarding what we're putting into our grocery carts, and ultimately into our bodies. Have you read the ingredients label on a can of tomato sauce or a box of cereal lately? If you were to take a few items in your cart, sit down and google the list of ingredients, you would be horrified at what you are ingesting yourself and feeding your loved ones.

I can't help connecting the dots and finding a link between our desire for cheap food and our ever increasing health care costs. Common sense tells us that we can't fill our bodies with all these chemicals and avoid the consequences. Ever wonder at the growing numbers of colon cancer victims, ADHD in children, obesity? We're killing ourselves with food. And not just at the dollar menu (Why is fast food cheaper than fresh food? That's another story).

I don't really want to throw blame, we all, the grocery chains, manufacturers, big agra, big government, big pharma, consumers,  carry some of the responsibility. And we all can play a role in changing our diets, our health and our future. But it will have an associated financial cost at a time when many, most, families are living on budgets so tight the cash can hardly breathe.

Our cheap groceries are making us unhealthy, yet we can't afford to pay the prices for healthier choices. What are we to do? This is what you might call, a conundrum.

I am a proponent (and participant) in what's known as the 'slow food' movement. I believe in eating fresh, eating local and 'eating with the seasons'. B and I drink only raw milk, eat pastured eggs, grass fed meat and even make our own cheese and butter. We grow nearly all our own fruits and vegetables. We are on a plan to remove ourselves from the current retail food system. I hope millions will join us.

If you are on a budget, you probably can't do it all at once. I get that. Eating right, is expensive. It is a tragic reality. I recommend small changes. Every bite of something good for you means that many fewer bad things are entering your body.

Try buying a pound or two of grass fed hamburger. Maybe a dozen pastured eggs from a local farm. Support your local farmers' market. Grow a single tomato plant, or bell pepper plant. Make a window box for herbs or plant some in your flower bed. Many herbs are as pretty as they are healthy. Get creative.  One or two small changes are a GREAT start

Read. Research what you eat. Investigate. Start slowly if your budget requires, but by all means start. Drop us a note for more information if you have questions. Alternatively, check out our other blog, "Our Edible Suburb". I truly want to help you save money, but spending a little more up front on groceries, might just save you a ton of money in medical bills. Chew on it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Random Thoughts on the Health Care Reform Vote

I was disappointed to see the result of the Congressional vote on the Health Care Reform Bill. It is unquestionably another step in relinquishing our rights and responsibilities and having them handed to our Government. That is always a poor choice, even when the motives may be noble.

Governments botch everything they touch. New infrastructures will be built, new taxes levied and ever increasing layers of bureaucracy formed. It is inevitable. And the bigger these things grow, the less efficient (read, more expensive) they become. Look at Social Security, which has become nothing more than a Ponzi scheme that is on a path to leave tens of millions of baby boomers (and subsequent generations) out in the cold.

I believe it is a tragic mistake to allow Government to take over health care. I pray that this fails quickly or is repealed by the next congress. It is bad business. There are less expensive, more effective ways to lower health care costs and improve coverage. Tort reform and and opening the door for interstate insurance competition are just two things that would create dramatic change overnight without added cost to the American people or the American Government. But we wouldn't expect a room full of trial lawyers career politicians to push a plan like that, now would we?

Having said that, I would suggest that the Church has been somewhat culpable as well. It seems to me that conservatives and evangelicals have often been so caught up in a right wing political agenda that we have neglected our responsibility to preach and teach God's word in a way that brings such a revival to America that our society changes from the inside out.

Sometimes, I can't tell the difference between a church service and a Republican National Convention. I see more tears and emotion at Memorial Day and Fourth of July Services than at Easter. I get the feeling that we are more excited about the freedom symbolized by the flag than the freedom bought on a cross.

Liberal and Mainline denominations have become virtual spokespersons for the Democratic platform. I am often dismayed at the emphasis on 'Social Justice' replacing a call to repentance. It's honorable to be concerned for the poor and disenfranchised, but it is cowardly and unbiblical to hand our individual responsibility over to secular government. What a waste of resources and a travesty of stewardship I see coming from the Christian left.

My heart aches to see Christians take up the Bible in one hand and a trowel in the other. I long for a day when we preach with revival fervor and work like crazy to change the culture at the same time.

I have a vision of health care, sustainable agriculture, education and commerce driven, not by political direction, but by devotion to the God of the universe and His great command to "Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself."

I would love to see God's people on the left and on the right ask for a 'Mulligan' and start over using God's Word as a guide for our behavior and doctrine. If we would return to Him, we will begin to see this country change, one life at a time. It will spread to homes, communities, States and finally national level. We can see crime reduced, poverty banished, needs met, divorces abandoned, literacy improved and justice roll like rivers.

Imagine a future that does not require Republicans and Democrats, but leans on something we used to call, common sense. It sounds crazy. But I still believe.

One more random thought: while I think the health care reform vote, if implemented, will be bad for America, I don't believe it will usher in the Apocalypse. I have lived under Socialized Health Care before. It is inefficient and ineffective. It is demoralizing to doctors and nurses. But it is not the end of the world. It is not even the end of America. There are bigger battles, greater needs.

Wake up, Church! Stop being the puppets of politicians left or right. Don't be distracted by the good, when you are called to do the great!

I have more rambling thoughts and even some practical solutions, but not today. It's time to get ready for work.

I am frustrated, but I cannot despair, because Jesus is Lord!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Iditarod Finish Eerily Similar to Quest

The top two finishers of this years Iditarod are the same as the top two in the Yukon Quest, only this time Lance Mackey finishes first and Hans Gatt is second. Well done to both of them. And I suspect we are going to see a lot more Iditarod hopefuls begin competing in the Quest as well.

I'm lovin' it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Man With Two First Names

I’m terrible with names.  Heck, I’m terrible with anything requiring memory these days, but I’m especially bad with names.  Having said that, I’ll likely remember the name, Oliver Chester, for a long time to come.
Frankly, I never should have met the man.  I owe the introductions to my beloved bride who has a soft heart and the ‘gift of hospitality’.
Last evening, after a particularly stressful day at work, I arrived home and we sat down to a quick dinner before B would have to rush out to a neighborhood Bible Study she attends on Tuesday nights.  We had just finished the blessing, when the doorbell rang.  I sighed and made a face.  I was quite prepared to ignore the intrusion and do what I do best, eat.
Brittan, normally the shy one, said, “I’ll get it,” and disappeared.  
For the next ten minutes or so, I grumbled into my plate while muffled voices wafted my direction from our front porch.  The door was open and I could tell the visitor was male.  The tone and cadence suggested the conversation was pleasant and non threatening.  So I remained in my chair and pouted.
Hunger finally overcame my patience and I was just about to get up and dispel the interloper when I heard, “Sam, we have a guest for dinner.  We need to set another place.”  You cannot begin to guess my innermost reaction.  At least I hope you can’t.
Enter Oliver Chester; single father, door to door salesman, dinner guest.
Oliver is unremarkable in appearance.  He is average height and marginally above average in weight.  He is soft spoken, enjoys laughing and wears his after shave a little too heavy.  I noticed that his finger nails could use a trim and that he loves his daughter very much.  He demonstrated a gentle spirit and was somewhat apprehensive about sharing our table.  He is a fairly new Believer in Christ and in case it needs to me mentioned, he is African American.
As his story unfolded, I was smitten afresh with the magnitude of the Grace of God.  God’s grace in Oliver’s life, and in mine.
Oliver was taught to cook, cut and sell drugs when he was seven years old.  His teacher was his own father who also advised him that school was a waste of time and that he needed to make money.
Needless to say, his slope was slippery and facing decidedly downhill.  His slide ended him in jail.  It was there that grace worked its strange magic. 
As a reward for his good behavior, our penal system allowed Oliver conjugal visits from his drug addicted girl friend.  Those visits rewarded him with a daughter, whose name I believe is, Olivia.  The drugs took the life of the girl’s mother and Oliver became a single dad.  A single dad behind bars.
Fatherhood, despite his incarceration, was Oliver’s wake up call.  There, in the bowels of the gray bar hotel,  he became a man.  And along the journey to manhood, he met Jesus.  Between the brown eyes of his baby girl and the nail scars of his Savior, Oliver’s fate was sealed.  He is a man redeemed.  He is not in search of redemption, he has arrived.
We listened has he described his sales job, which he is using to get on his feet.  His dream is to open a BBQ restaurant, “OC’s”  where he will cook up ribs slathered with his own signature sauce.  I have a sneaking suspicion his dream just might come true.  And I hope one day to have a dollop of OC bbq sauce stuck to my own chin.
After supper, my soft hearted wife looked at me doe eyed and convinced me to grossly overpay for subscriptions to two magazines we will never read so that the Chesters can chase their dreams.  Then she loaded our guest down with doggie bags of stew, rolls and diet Doctor Pepper (with cherry). I signed a copy of "IOU NO MORE" and stuck it in his hand as well.  I have no idea why, it just seemed right.
As he left, Oliver said, “It’s going to take me all evening to wipe this smile off my face.  Please remember OC and pray for the Chesters.”  I will not quickly forget.
The book of Hebrews says, “Remember to welcome strangers.  By doing so, some have entertained strangers, unawares.”  I don’t know whether or not Oliver Chester is an angel, but I’m pretty sure he has one on his shoulder.  And I’m darned certain I am married to one.
Amazing Grace.  How sweet the sound.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Different Taking on Creative Saving

At my local bank, they have a giant banner of an attractive professional woman beaming her broadest smile while containing the slogan, "Saving is the new spending."

That's a great sentiment.  Unfortunately, it is merely wishful thinking.  My research indicates that with high unemployment, anemic interest rates and high debt levels, saving is at virtually an all time low.  That is an unfortunate reality.

For my money, I think David Bach is one of the best sources for creative saving.  I've read all his books and while I don't agree 100% on some of his priorities, (eg. he says 'pay yourself first', while I advocate giving to God first), I really like his ideas on ways to save and making it 'automatic'.

I also stumbled on an article over the weekend that has a slightly different take on saving.  So in the spirit of offering a wide variety of viewpoints to encourage thinking and good money management, I'm linking to it here. I want to send up a big thank you to Yahoo Finance for posting it in the first place.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Sleddog Diversion Continues - Iditarod Starts Today

Ok, so mushing has nothing to do with money management and frugal living.  I get it.  But it is, and probably always will be, my favorite sport and hobby.  Today, not one, but two of my top 6 races of the year get under way.

First, The CanAm Crown in Ft. Kent, Maine.  I lived less than 50 miles from Ft. Kent, I have driven my dogs on parts of the trail, I've owned several CanAm finishers and I've worked as a volunteer there many times.  I have wonderful memories of the Portage Checkpoint, where I have spent many a first Saturday in March unloading drop bags, tending to dropped dogs, checking sled bags, inflating air mattresses and I don't know what all.  I would love to be there today.  On the other hand, it's going to be sunny, warm and downright Spring like in Georgia, so I think I'll manage to cope.

The other big event, probably the best known sleddog race in the world, the Iditarod, kicks off in Anchorage, AK later today.  Saturday is just the ceremonial start, but the hoopla is circus like.  I've never been, but I would dearly love to take a long vacation and be in Anchorage for the Fur Rendezvous and stick around for the start of the Iditarod.  That would be a dream come true.

So, dear reader, you can expect a few more mushing posts over the next couple weeks.  But fear not, sleddog season will end soon.  Then I'll move on to something racing! :-)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Streeper Wins Rondy

The Anchorage Fur Rondezvous final results found the top three finishers in the same order they finished after day 2.  Blayne Streeper is this years winner (well done, Buddy).  Arleigh Reynolds was a solid second with Jason Dunlap finishing third. 

One of the really coolest things for me, was seeing Jeff King finish fourth in his first major speed mushing event.  King was driving the Streeper Kennel's second string.  His finish says a great deal about his versatility as a musher and says remarkable things about the athletic depth of the Streeper Kennel.

Well done to everyone who finished and to all those who made the race happen and to all the media outlets who kept fans like me informed. 

On a personal note, I am really longing to stand on the runners again.  Seeing Jeff King, who is a few months older than I am, do so well, inspires me to think that I can still get this old body in shape to race again.  Other commitments conspired against me this year, but one last race WILL happen.  Of this I am certain.  My Bucket List demands it.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fur Rondy Update

After two days and 50 miles of racing, Blayne Streeper has a 33 second lead over second place, Arleigh Reynolds.  Jason Dunlap is holding down the number 3 slot.  Looks like an exciting finale later today.  I'm hoping to be able to tune in on some of the action as it will be streamed live.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Strong Field For Anchorage Fur Rendezvous

Three exciting days of sleddog races begin today in the Fur Rondy Open World Championships.  And this year we have an exceptional line up, including the usual suspects of Buddy Streeper, Egil Ellis, Bill Kornmuller and Arleigh Reynolds.  But those four are not the only powerful teams in the race.  The entry is exciting from top to bottom.  This year's rookie class includes 4 time Iditarod (and past Quest champ) winner, Jeff King.  I love it when mushers cross disciplines like this.  It is quite exciting from a fan perspective.

I am a huge fan of all the drivers mentioned, but I'd be remiss if I didn't give a shout to my sentimental favorite, JP Norris and his Alaskan Anadyr Siberians.  I love all sleddogs, but Siberians still own my heart. 

I have no idea who will win.  I know that Egil Ellis has had a pretty good start this season and that Bud Streeper is fresh off a huge win at the International Stage Stop.  I know that Kornmuller and Doc Reynolds can never be overlooked and that there are a few mushers just behind who will take advantage of any misstep made by the favorites.

You can follow the race via Sleddog Central.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Still Think Student Loans Are A Good Idea?

Then check this out.................

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Something You Thought You'd Never Hear From Me... A Compliment For Obama

As a Christian, Conservative with Libertarian leanings, I have strong opinions about big government and leftist policies.  I have offered my share of criticisms of our current President.  But I also wrote a post commending his very public high regard for his wife and daughters. 

Today, I'm going to compliment him again.  I read that the President is backing the building of a nuclear power plant in Maryland and that he is supportive of continued research and development of nuclear energy.  I am so pleased to read that.  I have been critical of cap and trade, and will continue to be.  That is a competitive and economic losing hand.  But I'm all for advancing our nuclear powered energy options.  I'm also for 'drill here, drill now', shale oil, developing ANWR, wind energy, hydro electric, solar energy and even a bicycle built for two.

So, Mr. President (I'm sure he reads this blog ), I tip my hat (with my right hand, of course) to you on this one.  Thank you, sir. Now, all you have do do is change all your other policies...........:-)  If you need any advice, I'm here to help.

Congratulations, Hans Gatt, 2010 Yukon Quest Winner!

What a fun race.  What a great finish, with two of the Quest's legendary competitors dueling it out to the very last day.  From the Dawson City halfway point, Hans Gatt and Lance Mackey, along with Hugh Neff, had taken and given the best each other could throw.  But on the home stretch, Hans pulled away and arrived in Whitehorse 57 minutes ahead of Lance and roughly 2.5 hours ahead of third place Hugh. Thanks, gentlemen, for a week and a half of great fun and exciting racing.

Here's the kicker, sports fans, all three top finishers as scheduled to line up in Anchorage the first Saturday in March for the other 1000 miler, the famed Iditarod.  Several other Quest participants will also enter the Iditarod. The are truly the iron men (and dogs!) of the mushing circuit.

Next up for this race fan is the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous, Feb 26-28.  The "Rondy" is a three day Speed and Stamina event that will highlight some of the fastest and fittest canine athletes in the world.  I would love to be there in person, but at least I will get to listen to some of it on the radio, thanks to the World Wide Web.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Yukon Quest Update - We've Got a Race on Our Hands

At the Carmacks checkpoint, with only the Braeburn checkpoint left before Whitehorse and the finish line, a mere 5 minutes separates the first three places held by, Lance Mackey, Hugh Neff and Hans Gatt.  These are three gutsy, savvy mushers and anything is still possible.  This race is a fan's dream come true.  I'm pulling for all three of them. 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Grocery Bills

B and I made a tough decision this week that will significantly increase our grocery bill.  We have decided that we will only buy meat, poultry, eggs and milk that have been raised on pasture rather than in a feed lot or on a corn based diet.  The reasons are partly nutritional and partly moral.  Financially, it means eating less meat and paying higher prices.  But this is a case where doing the right thing trumps doing the less expensive thing.

I must admit, it was a difficult decision.  It probably shouldn't have been, but it was.  And if we were still in debt, we may have had an even tougher time.  Fortunately, being debt free allows us to think and see more clearly.  We are happy with our decision.  We have been discussing it for a while at "Our Edible Suburb", if you feel like hearing more.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Yukon Quest Reaches Halfway Point

The mighty Quest is half over now and the real racing begins.  At the Dawson City checkpoint, Hans Gatt holds a slightly less than three hour lead over second place Lance Mackey and a three hour lead over Hugh Neff.  Folks, these are three mushers who can just plain get it done.  I'm really getting excited now.  Follow the race at

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Introducing........The eKit

(Caution: Unabashed Commercial Ahead)

The simplest money management plan on earth just got easier to acquire, too!  Today, we are launching our, e-kit at only $4.95.  This represents the best value anywhere for a world class money management program.  We cut out the frills and all 'physical' product for this offer.  The eKit includes one copy of the eBook version of IOU NO MORE and a reproducible .pdf of the Transaction Register, Debt Assessment, Basic Spending Plan and the Cruise Control Spending Plan. 

The IOU NO MORE eKit is your Declaration of Financial Independence.  Join the revolution today.

Only available at our online store.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Grocery Store: Is Bargain Hunting Killing Us?

Most of us scour flyers and the internet looking for bargains at the grocery store.  We know that Food is a basic necessity, and we want to feed ourselves and our families in as healthy and as inexpensive ways as possible.  We clip coupons, we rush from store to store in search of the best deals.  Grocery shopping becomes a road trip where we visit multiple shops to complete our lists with the least possible damage to our bank accounts.  I've done as much of that as anybody.  But is there a hidden cost to our bargain hunting?  Why is 'organic' and 'local' so much more expensive than 'non organic'?  Are eggs just eggs?  Why is one chicken $.79 a pound while another is more like $2 or more a pound?  C'mon, it's a chicken, right?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

Last year, I read "The Omnivore's Dilemma", "Fast Food Nation", and "The Vegetarian Myth", which all opened my eyes to different problems and issues related to our food chain and food consumption.  Some issues are nutritional, some are political, some are moral.  I recommend them to you, with the warning that they are not easy to read or digest (pun intended).  I did not agree with some of the world views or conclusions I read, but I do agree with the well researched facts and issues.

Over the weekend, Brittan and I watched "Food, Inc."  which is kind of a synopsis of the issues identified in the above mentioned books.  A kind of 'fast food' version, if you prefer.  There is a more detailed look at the movie at Our Edible Suburb.  Click on the link and have a look. 

Food is so important.  Wise stewardship of our finances, our health and our world is also important.  Balance is not easy.  You and I will have to draw our individual conclusions.  But it's a critical matter, so handle with prayer.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Yukon Quest Begins Today.......Yahoo!

Mushing is a part of me.  I don't/can't participate these days, but training and running sleddogs is never far from my thoughts.  I suppose some people get over hobbies and interests, but this is one I will never shake.  But then again, I don't try.  I love the sport.  And we are in the heart of racing season.  There are a few dryland fun events in the late fall.  The early season races get going in December in those regions with enough snow.  Things heat up in January.  But February and March is where the real muscle is.  Apologies to the very good races that run in January and April, but my favorites, The Yukon Quest, Anchorage Fur Rendezvous, Laconia World Championships, CanAm Crown, Iditarod and Open North American all fall in the Feb/March Window.

Don't get me wrong, there's no such thing as a 'bad' race in my book.  I remember some pretty sloshy, muddy messes back in Scotland and England, but I loved every single one.  Those listed are simply my favorites.

And today, the Yukon Quest begins.  24 teams are slated to leave Fairbanks, AK today with Whitehorse, Yukon Territory as their ultimate destination.  1000 miles of mountains to climb, frozen rivers to navigate and innumerable adventures along the way.  The Quest is a true test of fitness, strategy, stamina, speed and pure pig headedness.  It is not a race I was ever even slightly tempted to consider.  Those people are nuts!  And I love every one of them.

Several good books have been written about the Yukon Quest.  Two of my favorites are "Honest Dogs", by Brian Patrick O'donahue, and "Running North", by Ann Mariah Cook.

You can follow the Quest on the race's official website.  Let the games begin!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

And Also Available In A Handy Kindle Version

I'm so psyched.  I just got the notice that IOU NO MORE is now available for Amazon Kindle users.  So there are three formats to choose from: paperback, Kindle and e-book.  I love this country!


We are making the e-book version of IOU NO MORE available for $1.95.  I'm tired of messing around.  I want this revolution to spread.  Please order a copy and tell your friends to get one, too.  You can order from our store.  Any of the links in this update will take you to the store.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Dark Side of Capitalism

Don't misunderstand the headline.  I'm a free enterprise kind of guy.  I am, as I keep saying, a Christian, conservative, libertarian, capitalist.  It is the first trait that holds the last two in balance.

Socialism and what I call, 'unfettered' Capitalism, have this in common; they are overseen by bullies.  With Socialism, the bully is Big Government.  The Govt wields its might, taking what it wants, from whomever it wishes without remorse, doling it out in measure to those it deigns worthy, while taking the lion's share to feed it's own ever growing appetite ("feed me, Seymour, feed me").

Capitalism, without moral grounding, has corporate greed as it's taskmaster.  Giant corporations and their tycoons forcing their will upon others, without concern for anything other than profit alone.  A moment arrives when the drive for profit exceeds interest in either customer or employee.  "Humanity be damned! Feed me, Seymour, feed me."

For those of us more conservatively inclined, we find it easy to point out the sins of Socialism.  We shout "Danger" from every rooftop, pulpit and soap box we can find.  I have little problem with that.  Socialism, if allowed to bloom, will poison our future.

But the liberal is not without argument when decrying Big Business.  A case in point is right out of today's headlines:  Rupert Murdoch and his ilk have targeted Amazon's pricing of Kindle Books because it is undermining their profits. They are demanding a new pricing model.  Never mind that somehow the Kindle has people reading again.  Never mind that real books may benefit from 'trickle down economics'.  Yeesh.

I meet people almost every day, who say, "I love my Kindle. I've read more books since I got mine that I've read since I got out of school."  And they do it because, a. the Kindle is cool.  Never underestimate the wow factor of a product.  And because the books are priced at the consumer's sweet spot.

Mr. Murdoch is not a fool.  He didn't become a corporate giant by idiocy.  But if they push this too far, and trust me, it won't be hard to do, and people will quit buying and reading again.  Society will be better off for that, how?  He won't care.  He will have crushed the competition and regained market share.

I love my Kindle.  I have always been a reader.  But I read even more because the book pricing of Kindle books makes that possible.  In fact, I have even bought several traditional ink and paper books lately, that weren't available on Kindle, but something I read in a Kindle formatted book inspired me to get it. Take the current Kindle pricing model away and I will go back to buying fewer books.  The big winner...... my local public library, where books are FREE. Rupert Murdoch doesn't care.