Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Forgotten Parable and God’s Plan for Debt Relief

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Jesus told parables to hide certain truths from those powerful men who would seek to harm him or his followers if they could be shown to be openly teaching those truths. He knew that he would eventually go to the cross, and that his followers would suffer persecution, but it was also necessary for him to put off those things until their due time because the church needed an opportunity to be established. Nearly all of his parables are now well understood and taught daily in churches around the world. Except one.

I can almost guarantee you that you have never heard Luke 16 preached from any pulpit, anywhere. Scholars can’t even agree what to call it. Some call it the parable of the dishonest steward, others call it the parable of the shrewd manager. The story itself is simple, but the meaning is complex, and unlike many of Jesus’s parables it has both earthly and heavenly implications.

Jesus told this story to his disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a manager handling his affairs. One day a report came that the manager was wasting his employer’s money. So the employer called him in and said, ‘What’s this I hear about you? Get your report in order, because you are going to be fired.’
3 “The manager thought to himself, ‘Now what? My boss has fired me. I don’t have the strength to dig ditches, and I’m too proud to beg. Ah, I know how to ensure that I’ll have plenty of friends who will give me a home when I am fired.’
5 “So he invited each person who owed money to his employer to come and discuss the situation. He asked the first one, ‘How much do you owe him?’ The man replied, ‘I owe him 800 gallons of olive oil.’ So the manager told him, ‘Take the bill and quickly change it to 400 gallons.’
7 “‘And how much do you owe my employer?’ he asked the next man. ‘I owe him 1,000 bushels of wheat,’ was the reply. ‘Here,’ the manager said, ‘take the bill and change it to 800 bushels.’
8 “The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light. Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.”

Uncharacteristically, Jesus even provides an explanation for this parable. He wants nobody to miss the meaning. And yet today, a point Jesus tried to hammer home is lost on nearly all of us. It is a point that he made central to the Lord’s Prayer as well, yet we still do not see.

Right now, people, banks and governments owe money they simply cannot pay. Those who are owed the money are in a hardly more enviable position: often they are producers of goods and services whose goods and services won’t be bought unless individuals, companies and nations have money to spend. So long as the debtors are prostrate, the producers will also suffer. God is aware this always happens, and like always he has a plan we could follow that would minimize the result of our human failings.

The ancient Hebrews followed one of God’s laws that wiped the debt slate clean every 50 years, called the year of Jubilee. In modern times, a Russian economist named Kondratiev rediscovered the cycle of debt creation and destruction that underlies the need for the year of Jubilee, and he named the four parts of the cycle after the seasons, with winter being the season where the economy crashes due to debt overload. I think hardly anyone could look at Kondratiev’s work and deny that we are in Kondratiev Winter.

It is easy to see the rich man as God and the manager or steward as ourselves. But there are deeper levels to the parable, which is why Jesus was at pains to explain it. The rich man in the parable did not care as much about his wealth as the manager thought. The manager’s write-downs were completely transparent to the rich man, and when the rich man saw them he was pleased rather than being angry. Likewise, God looks for all of us to realize that just as each of us owed a heavenly debt we could never repay until Jesus paid it for us by dying on the cross, our earthly debts must be written down when they become unpayable.

The modern equivalent of the year of Jubilee is the bankruptcy process, which is available to debtors every eight years. However the process has become expensive and less effective with respect to many creditors, while it is entirely ineffective against student loan debts. The latter category has affected many of our young people as college tuition has skyrocketed to consume the maximum amount of loan guarantees available each semester.

Not only individuals, but banks and even nations are now affected, and it is time to do something systemic. Other writers have spoken for a need for a kind of global reset button. Whatever they’re going to do, they need to do it soon. Historically global financial collapse has a single outcome: war.

New World Order Will Achieve Euthanasia Through Extortion

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

A few months ago on a different blog that I maintain, I blogged about filial responsibility statutes and how they were going to surprise many adult children of aging parents when they discovered that Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and their parents’ assets are not enough to finance a long term stay in a nursing facility: http://financialhopeseries.com/Test/wp/blog/?p=3. Filial responsibility statutes will place the costs on the adult children. Involuntarily.

Although my original post treated this topic from the perspective of individuals planning for the practicalities of paying the costs (or in some cases, avoiding them by using statutory and constitutional provisions to reduce or eliminate them), the societal impact of a shift from collective approaches to financing long term care during the 1965-2005 time frame to again looking to the families of those elderly has been slowly dawning on me as well. And the picture isn’t pretty.

The New World Order advocates have, since then-governor of Colorado Richard Lamm‘s 1984 declaration that “we have a duty to die” been very clear that euthanasia was on their wish list of societal innovations. Long a feature of life in Holland, euthanasia was championed here in the U.S. by the mainstream press’s continuing coverage of Dr. Jack Kevorkian during the 1990s, however during the first five years of the last decade, coverage of the Terri Schiavo case had the exact opposite of its intended effect on public opinion. Despite media efforts to drive home the point that Mrs. Schiavo had no brain function, videos of her  responding to commands left Americans deeply divided over the subject and unwilling to move toward making euthanasia a feature of American medical policy.

Now, led by states like Pennsylvania dusting off their pre-revolutionary filial responsibility statutes, the New World Order is poised to enforce its euthanasia directives not by enacting them through the front door, but by blackmailing cash-strapped American families into making horrifying choices in order to escape penury. The cost to maintain an elderly person in a nursing home in Pennsylvania is over $70,000 annually. For many families picking up a significant portion of these costs is not a realistic possibility, particularly if there are not several siblings willing to shoulder a portion.

The laws are on the books in thirty states and there have already been calls for a national filial responsibility statute. In the post-health reform statutory environment, states will be under increasing pressure to cut costs and find new funding sources. That will mean that those states not making use of their filial responsibility statutes are likely to make increasing use of them and states that lack filial responsibility statutes are likely to go where three-fifths of the nation has already gone. It is not difficult to envision sons and daughters pressuring vulnerable parents to sign advance health care directives eschewing even the most basic life support measures in favor of starvation, dehydration and overmedication as a means of minimizing their cash outlay. All of this will happen with approving nods from the medical establishment and the political apparatus.

Americans whose values have been under attack from every quarter have yet another pressure to worry about.

Another Huffington Post Comment Mysteriously Gone Missing

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

I commented on this story: Stricter Regulations Will Keep Reckless Banks from Killing American Jobs and my comment vanished.

“Has anyone noticed that the Teamsters got what they wanted in all of this. They’re still standing, and the company survives with them. How ironic that the force that so many think tears down companies (and the manifestation of that force that most people believe to be the most hard-core, intransigent and even violent) is the one that SAVED the company.

Teamsters have no need of the NLRB–they kick ass by themselves. And if you think they’re incompatible with competitiveness, look at Costco … it’s unionized, and the union there is the Teamsters.

Americans need to unionize against banks that get their money at 0% and charge 30%. And YouTube phenom Ann Minch’s debtors revolt http://www.debtorsrevoltnow.comm) is the vehicle. An American version of Mexico’s “el Barzon” will pwn these bad banks.

If you personally have money troubles, you need to take a free look at this book: http://www.scribd.com/doc/25443175/Debt-Hope-Down-and-Dirty-Survival-Strategies-Evaluation-Version-Complete

What the Huffington Post Doesn’t Want You To Know I Said

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

The following mysteriously vanished from the comment thread of an article I commented on:

“I’m going to make a point about the housing bubble I haven’t seen made. Briefly, blame it on 9/11. The economic repercussions of the attack on the U.S. made it unthinkable that there would not be an economic response that assured continued strong growth, at least until 9/11 could slip from being fresh in the memories of the American public and our enemies abroad. In short, we took a hit of a powerful drug so that nobody could see how badly they hurt us, knowing full well that there would be a hangover later. The Bush administration rightly did what they had to do to keep the economic wheels from coming off.


Waitaminit…rightly? Yep. Imagine how emboldened the Arab street would have been if the U.S. had been plunged into economic chaos by the fall of the twin towers. Unfortunately, that drug became powerfully addictive. If you want to lay it all at someone’s feet, blame Zbigniew Brzezinski who influenced Afghanistan in the late ’70s to repudiate the USSR and caused the invasion that we had to counter with the mujahedin, which later morphed into the Taliban and metasticized into Al Qaeda. Without that chain of events we would not be where we are now.”

Dean Baker wanted to blame Bernanke, I pointed out that the failure chain leads back to Brzezinski.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dean-baker/yes-virginia-it-is-bernan_b_383185.html
The Huffington Post makes clear that comments are moderated, but for the life of me I can’t see what was wrong with mine. But I’ve heard that another thing they don’t like is the word “hoax” used in any climate change thread.

In the early days of the web, it was said that internet users would consider any form of censorship “damage” and respond by rerouting around it. I submit that the Huffington post is “damaged” and that readers need to question the credibility of what they read there.

Solving a YouTube Problem With AutoShare Options

Monday, October 5th, 2009

I’m going to make this post blessedly brief. I had messed up my YouTube AutoShare Options and couldn’t change them. I would get a screen back that just said “something didn’t work properly” or a popup window where I might have made an appropriate change would appear only momentarily then close itself and not allow me to do anything. I would also see “uploads won’t be sent to Facebook because you didn’t give full access for YouTube to post to Facebook.”

Then I noticed that when I clicked on the sharing link in my account’s control panel there would be a momentary appearance in the box with the “Twitter” and “Facebook” logos of a link that would let me delete all sharing … and though it disappeared quickly, it would be there long enough for me to click it if I wanted to.

Since both my Facebook and Twitter linking were buggered, I asked myself what I had to lose if I deleted all sharing. Then I did it.

Once I did that I was able to re-establish sharing easily … both Facebook and Twitter are now completely repaired.

10 Ways to Reform Healthcare

Friday, August 7th, 2009

The health care debate has gotten out of hand. Here are some ideas for bringing it back on track:

 

1. Study France. #1 in healthcare, #36 or so in cost. What does France do right? After experimenting since the 1800s, they have settled on a system that provides a very basic level of healthcare to all. Those who want something better join mutuelles, which are like HMOs or PPOs.

2. Follow the money. Have a blue-ribbon commission look at all the players in the healthcare system and assess whether their profits are commensurate with the risks and the effort they put in. Where something seems out of whack, don’t attack it directly—instead, make changes to its environment by say encouraging more competition or decreasing regulatory barriers to market entry.

3.  Curb prescription advertising. There was a time when prescription drugs were not advertised. Later, drugmakers dipped their big toe in the water by advertising the drug but not mentioning its name “ask your doctor if there’s more you can do to lower your cholesterol.” Now you can’t get away from the name-brand ads encouraging us to buy an expensive prescription drug.

4. Get rid of cooked studies. When things sponsored by drug companies show up in peer-reviewed medical journals that directly contradict the findings of independent research, it’s time to start going after those who publish dishonest medical research with federal mail-fraud charges. The fact that prosecutors don’t understand medicine is a problem that needs to be solved by hiring some doctors who are also lawyers as prosecutors. Pronto.

5. Reframe the end-of-life care debate. So many people are afraid of euthanasia, but shouldn’t you be equally afraid of spending your last few days or weeks on a respirator with dozens of tubes and monitors and drugs? The idea that someone would intrude on an elderly person every five years to ask them to plan for end-of-life is of course repellant, but there must be a better way to do it.

6. Embrace alternative healing practices. Other cultures have different ways of healing people, and in many cases they work. Encourage unbiased research into Chinese and Vedic medicine, and the practices of Native Americans for instance, and start covering what works under regular health insurance.

7. Stop attacking supplements. The medical community frequently tells us what not to eat, then turns right around and tells us if we supplement our diets with the compounds that are in the things we’re told to eat that we don’t want to eat, the compounds do us no good. They back this up with cooked studies that use forms of the compounds that the propoents of them know are useless. Let’s have some double-blind studies of the appropriate forms of the compounds.

8.  Pay doctors for lifestyle changes made by their patients. We need to find a way to compensate primary care physicians when their patients make appropriate lifestyle changes. You get what you pay for.

9.  Focus on environmental disease. MRSA, a deadly form of staph infection, spreads because pigs are fed antibiotics. Influenza is largely the result of the chinese practice of rasing ducks and pigs in close proximity. All the lifestyle changes in the world will not compensate for bad air, water, food and soil.

10.   Stop blaming lawyers. Admit it: if a bad drug poisons you, or a doctor leaves a sponge inside you, you expect to be compensated. Doctors, hospitals and drugmakers cause harm that could have been prevented. Holding them responsible is the only way to motivate them to improve their performance. The notion that attorneys who pursue malpractice cases are what’s wrong with medicine is ludicrous. Instead, you’ll find what’s wrong with medicine in the deposition transcripts that come out of the cases they pursue.

Tough Times Never Last … Tough People Do

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

I believe the headline comes from Pastor Robert Schuller. I’m not taking time to check.

The last 12-18 months have been incredibly tough. Florida Incorporators, my bread-and-butter business since the mid ’90s is experiencing very tough times. A St. Louis Fed graph tells the tale, showing “self-employment” plummeting in the fall of ’07. It has not recovered, and incorporations are way down.

I’m developing a number of business ideas right now, working on each in the hopes that a clear frontrunner will emerge. Some are related and dovetail with each other, others are standalone:

markhankinslaw.com – a basic offering of my services as a business, tax, and estate planning lawyer

textament.com – online sales of a digital Bible translated into text message speech.

leadprompter.com – a business that buys PPC clicks wholesale and sells leads retail

northoftampa.com – a local social media portal for the northern part of the Tampa Bay Area

financialhopeseries.com – the site from which I plan to sell “Debt Hope: Down and Dirty Survival Strategies” an e-book for those with serious debt problems.

eChirpy.com – a service that allows users to e-mail mini-blog entries which are then tweeted out to their twitter followers

There are also a couple of other ideas lurking: a foreclosure clean-out service (this would require the Bay area’s woes to become much worse for it to be seriously needed) and a “Geek Squad” type service to provide help with home technology (a friend who possesses all the skills is currently out of work).

Each day I try to spend my time in the best possible way to move one or two of these a few yards down the field. Some days go better than others. I do a lot of praying now.

After all these years of having my own thriving business, it’s tough to reinvent, and I wrestle with the need to potentially re-enter the job market in order to keep food on the table.

But in the end tough times never last. Tough people do. I’ll do whatever I have to do.

George Will Assaults Americans Who Wear Denim

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

George Will undoubtedly needed a provocative piece to keep his name in the news, so echoing  a Wall Street Journal diatribe by Daniel Akst he has assaulted an American shibboleth: blue jeans, calling them “the carefully calculated costume of people eager to communicate indifference to appearances” and childish to boot. He blames them for what’s been going wrong with the world since the French Revolution, as though things were perfectly peachy when Marie Antoinette thought the solution to peasant starvation was for them to eat cake. Indeed, his thoughts remind me of Lady Bird Johnson proposing a beautification program in America’s ghettos (singer Eartha Kitt told her off right in the White House, and Will needs to get an earful too).

Of course, the antithesis of blue jeans (for daily purposes anyway) is the power suit. Dark blue, grey or black, pinstriped or chalkstriped, accessorized strictly in accordance with John T. Molloy’s Dress for Success and its spiritual progeny, it has brought America such blessings as Worldcom and Enron, Fannie Mae and Bear Stearns and ultimately the entire financial crisis and near-depression. Among the schemers, thieves and fraudsters you’ll hardly find a pair of Levis … no, all of these jokers wore Brooks Brothers suits on Wall Street and in the halls of Congress. Meanwhile, young people in blue jeans rejected communism and were the ruin of the Soviet empire.

The guys who show up to work every day at GM and Chrysler to build the crap cars that have had the souls that were put in by talented engineers and designers ripped out by suit-wearing bean counters wear–you guessed it: blue jeans. The people at Apple who design and sell products that provide one of the few bright spots in our economy go to work in what else?: blue jeans. Same goes for Microsoft. George Will decries the false egalitarianism that blue jeans seem to provide and perhaps he has a point. Maybe we would all be better off if that investment banker had to give up his disguise. Because this time, people who call themselves businesspeople really were the perpetrators of massive financial crimes, and it’s the people in blue jeans who are having to live with their consequences. He seems to want us all to disguise ourselves as them so they can once again blend in … or at least to put a pretty face on a sick patient.

Maybe he thinks he can revive the rag trade. Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada deftly humanized and explained the raison d’etre for an otherwise monstrous woman as providing a little excitement in the lives of ordinary women while keeping the factories and printing presses humming. After all, you can get a good five years out of a pair of blue jeans, and that just doesn’t juice up consumption.

George Will has had his say. And I doubt he has swayed a single American to give up blue jeans. We’ll wear our blue jeans because we strive to be a classless society, knowing that classes, castes and other social divisions were what made Europe and other parts of the world sick places that decent people wanted to escape. That big statue in New York Harbor has nothing on its plaque about skimming the cream of the crop from countries content with their quality of life. We’re looking for the people who want to strive for something better. And the suits better watch out: we’ve got our eyes on you!

Have You seen Kartoo?

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Here’s something fresh: A search engine that displays the pages it finds about your subject scattered around a semantic map (represented as clouds of varying sizes that gather together related terms). http://www.kartoo.com/

It reminds me quite a bit of a site I formerly happened upon occasionally that graphically showed the connections to any person whose name you would enter. The site wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done, unlike what the FBI has apparently been working with. On Coast To Coast AM a few nights back George Noory interviewed author Peter Lance, who bemoaned the destructive corporate culture at the FBI as well as their information systems, which apparently are designed *not* to be effective (and any agent who uses an outside resource to do a better job is at risk for reprisal from an upper-management type who doesn’t want to be made to look bad).

Oh yeah …. that site was http://www.namebase.org

Inc. Magazine’s Growco Orlando

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Last Friday I traveled to Orlando with a family friend to Inc. Magazine’s Grow Your Business Expo (known as Growco) as an invited guest. I had been contacted by Athena Schindelheim and asked if I could pass the word along in some way so I included mention of Growco with the billings I send for my annual registered agency renewals. Later I was contacted by Brent Williams, the Marketing Manager and he offered to comp me and a guest or two, so I included Tina Walker of First Data/Colonial Bank when I went on Friday. First Data is a large credit card processor. 

The venue was the JWMarriott Grande Lakes not too far from Universal Studios. It is a massive hotel with first-class conference facilities. Inc. Magazine was sharing about half the facility with Holland & Knight, the undisputed 800-lb gorilla of Florida law firms.

I wish I could comment on Thursday’s program, but I just couldn’t spare two days out of my schedule. So let’s get straight to Friday. First up at 8:30 was Keith McFarland, author of “The Breakthrough Company,” which explores exactly what it takes for a growing company to achieve market dominance and tremendous growth, and “Bounce”, about companies that have survived tough times. One observation he made was that many of these companies are one and the same … those that break through typically have had to develop extraordinary discipline and focus to survive one kind of existential threat or another. After a short video that illustrates perceptual distortions in business, Keith described the manager’s role as that of absorbing the troops’ anxiety about what’s going to happen to them and replacing it with anxiety about what’s going to happen to them if they can’t effect change in the company, as well as managing money appropriately by cutting things that aren’t working early rather than cutting late and across the board in a misguided focus on perceived “fairness”.  

He pointed out that in many cases the company will need a facilitator to draw out the employees’ real knowledge and wisdom. As an example, he pointed out that a contestant on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire will improve his position to 50% accuracy if he uses the 50/50 option for help. Phone-A-Fried is right 60% of the time. But polling the audience produces the correct result 90% of the time. However, only with a facilitator will the company have the right process to get the right result.

As for the makeup of those employees, Keith pointed out that the best companies spend 10% of their effort finding the right people and 90% of their effort grooming and retaining those poeple for years and years.

Keith was followed by a panel made up of Inc.’s Bo Burlington, World Poker Tour founder Steve Lipscomb and Jack Stack, the CEO of SRC Holdings Corp.

Steve describe how World Poker Tour has had to reinvent itself, because the TV money is gone and so they are now entirely sponsorship based. He bemoaned the fact that the Justice Department is making minimal efforts to enforce the anti-internet gaming laws on the one hand, while as a publicly traded, legitimate company he can’t get involved in it at all on the other hand. For his part, Jack described competitors who cut too much during tough times as the competitors who will be outsourcing their functions to your company when they can no longer service their customers as they once could.

Tina and I attended a breakout session by Mike Faith, the founder of Headsets.com, who described how to grow through Customer Love. Essentially, his company had plateaued and he realized that you’ve either got to charge twice the price or give half the service. He decided to focus on service. As a result, he began to measure customer satisfaction and to focus on choosing phone reps who could stand to sit still all day on the phones and smile while doing it, as well as pass periodic tests about product lines and policies. Instead of measuring the length of their calls and driving them to keep them short, he measured whether customers thought they gave outstanding service and got rid of the ones who didn’t–including the automatic attendant. He put all of his key staffers’ names and e-mail addresses right on his website for any customer who had a problem or question to contact. Every year he sends customers a thank-you letter–minus any sales pitch. Mike also advocated being your own customer … calling and using your own website to make an order from start to finish (actually receiving and inspecting the package rather than abandoning the cart before checkout).

Finally (for us) we attended another panel sessionwith Christos Cotsakos, founder and CEO of Pennington Ventures and Gay Gaddis, CEO of T3. Gay recommended highly LinkedIn, Facebook, Myspace and Twitter, and described her internal social network, “The Tank” built on Jive software’s platform. Cotsakos recommended converting the unproductive time that employees are surfing the internet and playing games into social networking time … the employees will still be recreating rather than working, but their recreation will have benefits for the business. He mentioned that social networking’s next frontier is mobile phones because there is a 4-1 ratio of mobile phones to PCs. Although Cotsakos didn’t discuss it, Korea is the undisputed leader in this area … their mobile phones will alert you to the presence of a member of the opposite (or same) sex nearby whose dating profile dovetails with yours and even cause both phones to ring. Also you can have a feature on your mobile phone there that will pick out your friends as dots on the map. Cotsakos pointed out that it’s free to be on social networks and that they provide extremely low-cost marketing platforms to any business. He cited the surprising statistic that at 175 million users, Facebook would be the world’s 5th largest country. He advocated collecting prospects’ e-mail addresses and delivering periodic e-mails that they would find valuable … if opt-out ratio creeps above 1%, the messages are either too frequent or not helpful enough to the recipient.  Gay stressed updating a website’s content frequently because search engines like new content, and also adding Google Analytics to the site. She pointed out Angie’s list, Yelp and Citisearch as websites important to businesses. She pointed out that video blogging could best be done with a $300 Flip Video camera that is designed for immediate uploads to websites like YouTube. She also advocated website owners spend the money for an SEO Audit and described ihandy.biz as a site she admired for its simple, focused approach.

Tina and I unfortunately had to return to Tampa and our respective family responsibilities before we could hear Ping Fu, a computer pioneer who worked on the Mosaic project that ultimately became the Netscape Navigator browser and who has founded a company that amazingly can take a 2-d photograph of an object and render it as a 3-d engineering drawing. Since she did so without the benefit of formal schooling, I’m sure it would have been a fantastic story to hear.

I’m also leaving out a handful of very interesting people we met among the vendors and at our lunch table … one of the contacts I made could well affect what you see on TV in the near future (don’t worry, you won’t have to look at me).