Monday, November 6, 2017

Border management is not EZ.

A long-time friend whom I respect posted his opinion to Facebook in favor of the U.S. Mexican border wall. I am NOT in favor of that method of gaining control of our border. Here is my response:

Granted. But all these factors and many more would have to be analyzed and publically discussed in a properly executed environmental impact statement process, which is supposed to be completed for federal projects of this scale. I personally think the EIS process is too restrictive for some projects (it's even required for some purely administrative actions -- such as the VA home loan program, for instance) but I am very strongly in favor of strict application of the process for large-scale projects that have the potential to impose significant changes on our world. Yes, we need a secure border. I don't believe that a wall is the right way to get that. Let's start with logical, transparent, and humane immigration laws and policies and then work on political changes that encourage our neighboring governments to work with us. While we are doing that, we can continue to implement border control processes and procedures that make effective use of manpower and technology to minimize unlawful crossings and human suffering. I think we could do all of this for a fraction of the dollar cost of the wall and much less environmental and social cost. How do you control smuggling into Florida? You don't use a wall, yet the DEA, DHS, and Coast Guard are pretty effective. Of course, if we did gain complete control of the Texas/Mexico border, that would increase pressure for unlawful entry for all of the Gulf Coast states and California, so there may be a zero-sum game here (if you ignore the huge financial, environmental, and social costs to the U.S. of the wall), even if the wall were built and were 100% effective. That's one of the reasons that I strongly believe the political, legal, and social reforms are a more effective way to deal with the border issues. You and I would probably have a long and possibly contentious discussion on the way we, in the U.S., treat and control drugs such as marijuana and cocaine. May I comment that I've had some up-close-and-personal experience in working with the DEA and the State Department in counter-narcotic efforts. From that experience, I have deduced that our current policies are counterproductive and cause more human damage than the drugs they are designed to control. Please study the implementation and impacts of early 20th century prohibition (and the long-lasting negative impacts on U.S. politics and society) before we start that debate.

Friday, August 25, 2017

An anniversary date made EZ!

Last night's performance by the Piano Guys in San Antonio's Tobin Center was absolutely awesome! At one point, Steve Nelson was playing an awesome Cello piece with video in the background of him playing that same piece with what appeared to be a high school orchestra-young artists hard at work. They displayed onscreen a quote from Beethoven, “Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine.” It was an inspiring scene, but then, as I watched the video I thought, "Where are the young people of color? There must be young people in tonight's audience who are wishing they could see someone who looked like them in this uplifting scene." Trying to be charitable I concluded that the video must have just been shot in an area where the majority are white, with no intent to exclude anyone. Then--the stage was dark except for the spotlight on Steve--the video switched from the original scene to a shot of 8 young people of mixed complexion, all dressed in black, all playing violins beautifully right along with Steve. Music still sweetly resonating, the stage lights came up and there they were! The same 8 young people, looking very representative of San Antonio in skin tone, size, and shape. As the piece ended, Steve thanked them and introduced them as string players from a local San Antonio high school! Thank you, Piano Guys, for including youth, and especially local youth that are representative of our great San Antonio diversity, one of the things I love about living here. If you don't know the Piano Guys, check them out on YouTube, where they have over 5 million subscribers and over a billion views.

Before the show, we had dinner at Taste, the restaurant at the Tobin Center which serves on performance nights by reservation only. We also splurged on valet parking, so we rolled up and strolled in. The menu included Italian meatball soup, a variety of salad and vegetables, penne pasta, and veal osso bucco with gelato or tiramisu for dessert. A wonderful date with my life-long-love, Glenda! Thank you, Mrs. Moyes, for putting up with me for over 49 years.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Summer vacations are not EZ.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation. An essay by Dan Moyes.

Our first overnight stay of our summer vacation to Costa Rica is in a lovely home in San Antonio, Texas. That's right. OUR home in San Antonio, Texas. We arrived at the airport at 7am this morning for a flight through Houston Hobby connecting to a flight to Liberia, Guanacaste, Costa Rica (LIR), where we were to meet our son, Joel, and his wonderful and lovely wife, Orenda, who were flying from Phoenix by way of DFW. by 9am we were comfortably boarded and our flight from SAT to connect in Houston was taxiing. We taxied. To the end of the taxiway where we stopped. The captain announced we had a short weather hold for the airport in Houston. About 10 minutes later, the captain announced that, while we were waiting for the weather hold to be lifted, our airplane had broken and we'd be returning to the terminal gate and deplaning. Back in the terminal by 10am, the Southwest agents were working feverishly to reaccommodate their passengers, calling people by their intended destination, issuing new boarding passes, and sending them on their way. We waited. As the crowd thinned, we discovered 10 other passengers who were also bound for Liberia, Guanacaste, Costa Rica on our flight. We all waited. We took turns going to the restroom and waiting. We visited and waited. We had a snack and waited. Finally, there were no passengers waiting except the Costa Rica 12. Over time, we became kind of a Cosa Nostra 12. We knew first names. We knew careers and grandchildren's name. We took turns approaching the gate agent to see if there was, yet, any news for us. Southwest agents hammered away at keyboards and spoke furtively into telephones. We waited. The stranded 12 consisted of three couples and one party of 6 bound on a scheduled deep-sea fishing trip. Finally, at about 1:30pm, the agent told us that there was no way Southwest could get us to Costa Rica today, even on other carriers. Everyone was booked or overbooked and the later in the day it got, the less likely it was that anything would be available. Further, Southwest was fully booked to LIR through the weekend. The best they could offer was an outbound flight on United (Oh, Joy!) tomorrow, Sunday, June 25th, at 1:45 PM changing planes in Houston Bush Intercontinental arriving in LIR at 8:00pm local that same day. The party of six threw in the towel and cancelled their plans. The three couples all agreed to the reaccommodations. While they made the new routing arrangements, we... that's right: waited. At about 3:00pm we were told to go home, we'd get our United routing by email before the day was over. By 3:30pm we had reclaimed our bags and were enroute to our overnight accommodations. At home. We did get the United confirmation at about 4:30pm. I guess we'll try this vacation thing again tomorrow. Wish us luck!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

It would be EZ to ignore these thoughts

This sabbath morning has me in an introspective mood.

Opus asked, 'Ever feel like a dandelion in your own lawn?'

I had a medical procedure done a couple of weeks ago that caused me to leave the clinic with an industrial-strength band aid on my upper leg. The band aid was removed after a few days, but, even now, I have a grey, sticky residue still on my leg where the band aid had been. I see it every morning when I shower, scrub at it a bit, and think, “I need to get some hand lotion or nail polish remover and see if I can remove that gunk.” Then I finish bathing, dry, and dress. My garments cover the stain and so I forget it. It's not uncomfortable, tugging hairs or such. Out of sight out of mind. And I wonder.

In covering this smudge with my garments and over clothing, am I “putting on the whole armor of God?” Or am I using the covering as pride to cover my filthiness? Is there an allegory here that I should ponder? If the spot weren't covered, I'd see it, remember it, and deal with it. But I don't, so next morning's shower, there it will still be.

Does the act of uncovering ourselves physically have a spiritual component? Can we become more pure when our realities are not hidden? Should I relate this sticky spot on my upper leg to my lack of obedience to certain Word of Wisdom teachings? Is that what confession is really all about, becoming spiritually naked being good for the soul, even when confessing things that are considered inconsequential? Is getting naked physically similar in allowing us to deal with other issues that may be hidden? Could people of similar disposition find strength and peace by sharing and confessing together, naked both figuratively and literally?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Mind maps can make journaling more EZ

I've started journaling. As in hand-written entries to a notebook. We'll see how long I can keep that up. Just that simple act may make my blog entries even more sporadic. I've selected a "theme" for my journaling: Wellness. And my intent is to write regularly (if not daily) about actions taken to support my Wellness mind map:

I started journaling on April 13th of this year (2017). I've written on four days since then, today included. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Our financial systems and rules do not make things EZ.

A couple of years ago, my youngest daughter introduced me to a book by Barbara Ehrenreich titled Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America. The premise was that once you get to living paycheck to paycheck or worse, fall behind, the system will NOT let you catch up (Ehrenreich, 2011). 

I’ve recently watched a story unfold that, I think, provides a perfect example of her thesis.

My wife’s sister (retired and living on her SS) was stranded in San Jose, California, while on travel from her home near Spokane, Washington. Her car was stolen, but recovered, but the towing and impound fees are more than she had – and were increasing daily at the rate of nearly $100. So, various family members tried to find ways to get money to her quickly enough to bail the car out before the fees were worth double the value of the car. We initially sent some money to her bank so she could use her debit card for the payment, but we’ve since learned that this particular form of electronic transfer requires 3 to 5 business days to accomplish, and the impound lot will only accept cash. Her bank is in Spokane and has a daily ATM limit of $400. Other family members set up a GoFundMe account and donated funds. There, too, there is a 2 to 5 business day delay for the beneficiary to get the funds from GoFundMe to their bank account. The fees eat up the funds as fast as we can get them delivered. There are modern ways to do “instant” transfers (PayPal, Facebook, etc.) but the merchant has to accept that form of payment or it doesn’t work, and, again, 2 to 5 business days to get cash out of the electronic account to the account holder’s bank account, and then the daily ATM limit to deal with. I tried to pay over the phone with a credit card, but the impound lot simply refused to do that. On the phone, I asked the impound lot clerk if I could FedEx them a bank cashier’s check—“No”, she said. The stranded sister doesn’t have a credit card. She has no simple way to cash a check or a Western Union draft as her bank is 1,000 miles away. I looked into flying out there to help and to pay the fee but short-notice air fare, one night stay-over, and a rental car would be more than $2,500 even before paying the impound fee and I just can’t afford that. She has appealed to various charities but none can or will help. So: Uncomfortable family drama. I was originally worried the car would be damaged and un-drivable, even if she did manage to get it out, but the impound lot did let her inspect it and drive it within their fence. Her hotel, meals, taxi, and impound fees are increasing faster than we can get money to her. This will eventually leave her essentially homeless in San Jose even though she has a perfectly adequate home waiting for her 1,000 miles away near Spokane. In the meantime, the car is an older Cadillac de Ville. Even though it has low original mileage and has good tires, shocks, battery, brakes, etc., its maximum value is probably only about $3,000—it’s not quite old enough, yet, to be an antique. The initial towing fee and one day of storage gave us a starting point of nearly $500 and it’s escalated very quickly. Then, to add salt to the wound, the Santa Clara County Sheriff's office (who made the initial arrest that led to the recovery) tells her that if she abandons the car, and the impound lot is not able to sell the car for what *they say* is owed them, they will then sue her to recover their lost revenue. What a scam! I finally recommended that she give up and taxi to the airport, fly to Spokane, forget the car and let them sue later keeping a “you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip” (n.d.) attitude.

Ehrenreich, B. (2011). Nickel and dimed: on (not) getting by in America. New York: Picador.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Retrieved March 8, 2017 from website