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Religion, Politics, & Culture: Defined and Explained

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Three Signs That Are Stranger Than Fiction

First is what I call the whisper campaign against Sheriff Scott Jones.
A series of red signs targeting the Sheriff have popped-up all over the county. Per the story linked below, 140 signs were purchased by the Latino Policy Coalition.



Posters targeting Sheriff Scott Jones inspired by ‘Three Billboards’ movie

The poster asks, “Is Sheriff Scott Jones for mass deportations? Call him & find out!” Ok, so let’s imagine that you call the Sheriff to find out.

Recording “Thank you for calling the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office. This line is not for emergencies, if you are having one please hang up and dial 911 otherwise please stay on the line.”

After a short wait…

Deputy “This Deputy Bob, how can I help you?”

Miguel “I’m calling about deportation.”

Deputy “One moment, I’ll transfer you to the I.C.E. liaison.”

Lt. Smith “This is Lt. Smith. Can I please have your name and address?”

Miguel “I’m Miguel in Oak Park.”

Lt. Smith “Miguel, how can I help you?”

Miguel “Does Sheriff Jones really enforce the law, including the Federal ones; like deportation?”

Lt. Smith “Miguel, stay where you are, we’ll be there in five minutes and you can see for yourself.”


As of today, the Latino Policy Coalition has zero articles or information posted for 2018. Their website is completely silent on their campaign against Sheriff Jones. Much of their website has not been updated since 2014. This lack of care and the financial data below leads me to believe this is just another shell organization that Liberals can pull out of their toolbox when they need it otherwise it lays dormant.

Latino Policy Coalition

More proof of their sketchy past is found looking at their financial statements.


Non Profit Facts—LPC

Muslim Now Recruiting
Sorry I don’t have a photo but I’m giving you directions so explicit that even Mr. X could find this spot in his airport rental car.

The second sign is actually two signs along the road as you are entering West Sacramento from downtown. If you drive west on the elevated freeway called the W-X Freeway which technically is Highway 50 and cross over the Sacramento River, just past the Jefferson exit which takes you to Raley Field, on the left side is a billboard sign with the word “MUSLIM” in very large letters and a bunch of tiny words that I can’t read passing it at 70 miles per hour and directly across from this sign on the right-hand side is another billboard that has the large words “Now Recruiting” and a bunch more tiny words that I can’t read travelling 70 miles per hour. Thus reading the legible portions of these road signs, the message is Muslim Now Recruiting.

Lastly, is a message that continues the theme of Mr. X’s blog from yesterday concerning Jennifer Aniston.

In Elk Grove, at the northwest corner of Big Horn and Elk Grove Blvd is a strip mall.


In this strip mall are two businesses side-by-side. The double glass doors where you enter these adjacent businesses lead you to very different places. The right-hand door is Express Fitness for Women and on the left, a veterinarian.


At a glance, I could easily envision people getting confused and entering the wrong establishment. Maybe it’s my military background, but I thought that it would be helpful to have supplemental signs on the door that direct customers to the proper business. To this end I suggest the wording “Hot Chicks” and “All Others.”


Posted by william on 05/17 at 02:49 PM

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

CRA Week at UC Berkeley and the #METOO Thing

Editor Note: This dispatch from X was sent yesterday but my family activities resulted in a delay.

By “X” the man with no name

Greetings on a rare Tuesday blog from your humble correspondent! I just wanted to check-in with some thoughts regarding recent goings on in Soviet California.  First, I want to thank the CRA Board and current President Thomas Hudson for renting the “stress” llamas for the use of their membership.  These llamas were at UC Berkeley last week for students to hug, cuddle, etc. to relieve stress from final exams.  Yeah I guess that’s a thing now……

Llamas in Berkeley are so cute they could melt the heart of a snowflake

Here’s something stressful, being a CRA member and knowing full well that Donald J Trump is literally kicking butt and winning at everything important; yet somehow you still despise the man!  Seriously, the whole Board, including President Hudson, hates this man so much that I heard they even offered to write the articles of impeachment of our president!  Problem is they approached their great white God, Theodore Cruz (who I think most believe was the victim of a rigged primary), to be installed as President following the impeachment of Donald Trump, however true to form, Theodore voted no, saying we need to have a President with a conscious. 

So, to the CRA, President Hudson and the entire Board…… you made a great investment with those llamas.  They should go on tour to all CRA meetings, everyone should get to hug those llamas and relieve the stress of Donald Trump as President!  You might even make them available to former members as well because I remember so fondly that endorsement convention where, with the nomination already wrapped up, Trump was not endorsed by the CRA, instead it was Theodore Cruz (Loser-TX).  I rest my case, please hug a llama, relieve your stress lest you be tempted to harm yourself or others.

Oh, and if your life is stressful now, just wait until the votes are counted in June. By then, the llamas will be gone but take comfort in the fact that Governor Garvin has promised to fight against Trump with all his being. Both Bush I & II taught us that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” so naturally I expect for CRA to endorse Newsom in November.

I need to say my piece on this #Metoo thing. I never could grasp this phenomenon. I don’t have a tweeter or whatever it’s called.  I used to think the hashtag was a pound sign, so I would read that as POUND ME TOO. So just like any other red-blooded American man would do, I was waiting for Jennifer Aniston to have her turn holding said sign.  Sadly, I found out what it really meant and naturally…well embarrassment set in.  Like I said, thank god there’s no tweeter for me.

Jennifer at last year’s Oscar Awards

By the way, as for the two paranoid CRA members in Sacramento County who keep trying to track down my identity; rest assured, I am a former board member living in exile.  You both knew me very well.  I am so glad that I’m gone from the CRA and that the Blog Father departed as well.  By the way William, I heard the statute of limitations is up for my “shenanigans at the salsa bar” at our favorite Mexican place, shall we go when I’m out your way in a couple months?


Editor’s note: Hey X, the statute may be up but I’m confident that she stills remembers you.

Posted by william on 05/16 at 06:59 PM
News & PoliticsPermalink

Monday, May 07, 2018

Church Discipline: Good in Theory But…

Disclaimer #1 Generally speaking, this blog is about what I think and feel. It allows me to work out issues in my life and vent to the ether about things that I see going on around me. I do think that from time-to-time, other folks will agree with me.

Disclaimer #2 The topic that I’m addressing today is one of the minefields that Protestants tend to inflict on each other much more often than they should; I never hear of these conflicts in Roman Catholic or Orthodox circles. On balance, it seems that Protestants do this way too much and the other two branches of the Church not often enough.

This topic came up at the monthly men’s meeting at my church yesterday. The topic was a most unsatisfying discussion on church membership. As one of my MBA professors used to say, “Quit circling the airport and land the plane.” The discussion was meandering all over without much point.

The conversation tried first to talk about becoming a member of a church. The kneejerk reaction was baptism makes you a member. Then I threw the bomb on the table and said, “What about a person that was already baptized ‘in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost’ and then is told that they must be baptized again because the other baptism is not valid”?

Then one guy piped up, “As an adult”?

I replied, “Why does it matter? The Bible only knows one baptism. There is no biblical warrant for rebaptism.”

Without dealing honestly with my question which is very much something that my wife and I are actively dealing with (see my previous blog on When Baptism Doesn’t Count/ ) the pastor just shut the discussion down and went to another subject.

Soon the discussion was about Church Discipline. Again, the kneejerk reaction was that we should recognize the discipline of other churches. The default position was that someone disciplined by another body would not be welcomed to membership in our church or allowed to Communion. (More on this in a minute.)

The next question that was raised was does another body in another church or denomination have the right to discipline someone in our church? Again, the kneejerk reaction was “NO”.

I then cited one of the most well-known examples in Church history. St. Patrick once had to deal with this very issue. A man that the English Church refused to discipline was sailing to Ireland, murdering men, and kidnapping women and children and selling them into slavery.  Oh these men, women, and children were Patrick’s Christian converts. Since the English Church refused to act, Patrick wrote a letter of excommunication for someone that was technically outside of his jurisdiction and not part of his flock. This letter survives to this day. It is the Epistola.

Per Cahill and “How the Irish Saved Civilization” , Patrick’s goal was to isolate Coroticus, hopefully having his Bishop even excommunicate him, until his captives were free. Serving an excommunicated leader would cause his soldiers to fear serving him as they would believe they too would be damned.

Download: Coroticus

I was promptly cut-off with a derogatory comment about Catholics. However, I did retort that the Church in this part of the world was not controlled by the Roman Church until much later. Casting pearls gets me nowhere with this group.

I tried to point to an historical incident because first it is true and second it should not have the emotional response that may be attached to a contemporary example.

It was at this point that everyone started piling on about the problem with the church being that we don’t recognize each other’s discipline and a member can simply move to the church down the street without fear of repercussions. I understand their initial response but if these guys would do an honest examination of how churches use discipline then they might be more charitable.

I can say straight-out that half of the excommunications that I have been in, under, and around were completely unbiblical. Let me cite a few instances.

Disclaimer #3 If you are offended with me mentioning real situations then please stop reading now. Any names mentioned are fictitious, but the events are true.

#1 Gentleman and Lady

Jay was attending a conservative Protestant church. He was a college student (or had just recently graduated). He met a young lady at school and fell in love. He was serious about this girl. She was a Christian but went to the wrong church. Upon finding out that Jay was in a serious relationship with this girl, apparently, he was ordered by the pastor to breakoff the relationship. Jay refused and was excommunicated. Later, Jay and the young lady were wed.

#2 Rogue and Wench

Chris was the pastor of a local church. It was his first assignment out of seminary. One day, as part of the service he pronounced the excommunication of a young girl that to my knowledge had never once attended a service at our church. I know that she certainly was never a member of our congregation. Apparently, she had gone to him for counseling and not heeded his advice. She wanted to keep cohabitating with her boyfriend even after being told that it was sinful.

#3 Damned if you do

Pastor Bob had a small mission church. Over time, Pastor Bob’s study of the Scriptures began to lead him toward different doctrinal positions than his current denomination. Bob was an honest and forthright guy. He went to his church’s leadership and told them that his views on some things were changing and asked to leave the denomination. In response the current church excommunicated him. As a result, the church that he was wanting to associate with refused to take him since he was under discipline in his current denomination.

#4 Damned if you don’t

As a seminary student, Nate was an all-star. His church’s leadership really liked the guy. They told him that in time he would be a great leader in the church. The first church assignment that he had was going very well. The Mission plant was up to about 80 members. Nate had been there for about seven years and was in his early thirties. Nate became the West Coast representative for his denomination. But he had grown restless.

He began associating with clergy from another group. Nate’s doctrine and what he taught in his sermons began changing. As word reached his superiors, they decided to investigate. Nate was removed from the pulpit by his boss—under the bylaws this was allowed because it was a still a mission.

Ten days later, Nate sent a letter to all members of his local church stating that he was now a clergy member in good standing with another church and that we should join him. He took half the local church and three or four other churches on the West Coast with him.

As always, I could list a few more but I think the above covers enough ground for me to make my point.

The Bible knows that humans by nature are all the same, but it also allows for the possibility of change. Unfortunately, we humans like our rote categories so we don’t have to use real discernment as we go through life. We tend to be just like the Pharisees, make a checklist and then follow that. It is much easier than judging righteously.

Everybody says they follow the biblical model of Matthew but do they really?

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

Matthew 18: 15 – 22

Let’s breakdown a few parts of this passage.

Greek word translated “trespass” or “sin” Strong’s #264

The “trespass” or “sin” is a moral violation or breaking of God’s Law.

Greek word translated “tell him” Strong’s #1651
Tell him in the sense of reprove, rebuke, or convince

The person that was sinned against is to go to the offender and point it out in hopes of reconciliation.

To escalate the matter further requires two or three witnesses. This is directly from Old Testament Law.

The next level requires bringing the matter before the church. What this looks like is not defined in this passage.

When all else fails treat the person as a heathen.

This sounds simple enough but is it really?

The next stop on the excommunication train then travels to Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. In I Corinthians, we meet a man that is sleeping with his father’s wife. Paul tells them to eject the guy and turn him over to Satan.

It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.

And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.

For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed,

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,

To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

I Corinthians 5: 1-5

The above passage is supposed to be the end result of the excommunication train. My only problem with this is that the process outlined in Matthew was not followed. It is assumed that either the Matthew passage was followed or that Paul pulled rank or some combination of both. Unfortunately, there is no proof of this contention.

The second part of the problem of applying the passage in Matthew is what happens next.

But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all.

Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many.

So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.

Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.

For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things.

To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ;

2 Corinthians 2:5-10

Paul tells the Corinthian church to let the guy back in. While the last part of this passage seems to echo Matthew, I don’t see in Matthew anything about reversing the decision. In fact, the next part of Matthew is about forgiving your brother. Then there is the whole issue of turning the other cheek. This isn’t as neat and tidy as some people want us to believe.

In the New Testament, I think you could count everyone kicked out of the Church on one hand and still have a finger or two left. It was rare.

I think it reasonable to narrow the scope of what is an offense worthy of excommunication. The Church has recognized two authorities that have direct bearing on this issue; God’s Law as found in the Ten Commandments and the Historic Creeds. Sorry but breaking the rules of a denomination is an intramural struggle that does not rise to that level. It should be possible to leave a denomination for another without being proclaimed outside of the Catholic Church.

The Creeds are the fence that defines the pastures of God’s People, as long as we stay within their boundaries we can wander into various aspects of Christendom.

God’s Law is the moral and ethical framework in which we live. Excommunication is the most extreme of all possible outcomes, but many lesser remedies are available as well. A careful reading of Old Testament Laws illustrates this principle, but it complicates the Pharisee’s checklist mentality so other remedies are typically ignored.

In example #1, the college student and his girlfriend were behaving in harmony with the Scriptures. Premarital sexual relations were never alleged much less proven. Both belong to churches that say they affirm the Historic Creeds. Thus, excommunication was wrong in this case.

In example #2, the woman being counseled by the Pastor was not a member of his flock, so even though she persisted in living in a sinful arrangement, excommunication was wrong. Why a young, single man is meeting with a sexually active woman for counseling is an issue no one raised at the time.

In example #3, the young Pastor was trying to be honest and open with his denominational leaders and he was blackballed for being truthful. He never went outside the limits set by the Creeds, he was just moving to a different part of God’s pasture.

In example #4, the Pastor never stuck around to see if he would be charged, counselled, or whatever; he just bolted. Even if he had been disciplined, the new church didn’t recognize the validity of the old so, no harm no foul was his viewpoint. It is not that he tried to go to a different denomination that was his problem but how he went about doing it. He snuck around and tried to do it without the notice of his elders. His intention was to take as many of his flock as he could to the new group. Subterfuge and deception are not the hallmarks of a man that deserves to be in the pulpit.

Denominations should not just rubberstamp the results of excommunication by other groups. They should deal with them on a case by case basis. I think until resolved, it is prudent to have a person voluntarily refrain from Communion until his case has been examined or a person has gone through some type of doctrinal instruction or whatever. If the guy in 2 Corinthians can be allowed back in the church as a member in good standing then excommunication should not be viewed as a one-way ticket or an immutable declaration.

Posted by william on 05/07 at 05:32 PM
Christianity & ReligionPermalink

Saturday, May 05, 2018

When Internet Ads Attack

Cookies are after you. They follow you everywhere. They try to entice you to buy or click on all sorts of things. Once you do a search for something they keep nagging you to buy it, at least until you do a search for something else that they can offer you. Sometimes the results are embarrassing and sometimes they are just stupid. Below is my exhibit as proof of the limitations of tracking cookies.


OK, who thinks this is really a charger for my Surface Pro tablet?

Anyway, have a great weekend.

Posted by william on 05/05 at 01:02 AM

Friday, May 04, 2018

Judgement: Law v Spirit

Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.


In our daily lives we use judgement all the time; in fact we couldn’t function at all without the ability. We would be immobile rocks without it. Sometimes we view it in terms of choices or preference or discrimination or options. Vanilla or chocolate, black or white, left or right, start or yield, etc. However, most of the time we use other words for the judgements that we make in everyday life and reserve the word “judgement” for the “big things” often associated with law of one kind or another. In our society, we have two broad categories criminal and civil and possibly a third for moral.

The Bible does not know or recognize these categories. It has Ten Laws and the about 613 explanations of what these laws look like when applied to daily life. They give us principles that have broad application not a check list of narrow statutory rules.

There is a level of societal compliance to the external demands of the law. This is summed up in the story of the rich young ruler.

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.

Mark 10: 17-20

External compliance is our definition of a “good citizen”. Any of us can judge people at this level. We know about stealing, killing, adultery, etc.

However, the story does not end there. God looks at the heart not just at external things.

Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me. ” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.

Mark 10: 21-22

Jesus then speaks to his disciples.

And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” They were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?” Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.

Mark 10: 23-27

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount contains a multitude of examples showing that external compliance is not enough. God cares about the attitude and condition of men’s hearts. Below are selections from
Matthew chapter 5. (Quotes used from New American Standard Version of the Bible)

“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

“It was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce’; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

Radio listeners were once asked, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”

In real life, God knows and he left us instructions so that we might be able to discern to some degree the condition of men’s hearts. Basically, the New Testament asks us to compare a man’s walk with his talk. Back in the day, my Baptist friends used to comment about fruit inspections and that is certainly one analogy used in the Bible.

If you claim to be a Christian and habitually break the Commandments then we have reason to doubt the sincerity of your profession.

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

Matthew 7:15-17

If you claim to be a believer but never have consequences for your disobedience then we have reason to doubt the sincerity of your profession.

For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

Hebrews 12:6-8

In some things we are told to walk apart from others

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?

2 Corinthians 6:14-15

Jesus said, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” Matthew 10:16

Clearly we are commanded by Jesus to judge and use discernment in this world, not with arrogance and pride but gentleness and love. God’s Word is the Standard of judgement. The law serves not just the purpose of keeping civil order but also shows us our inadequacy and need of God.

But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [to bring us] unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

Galatians 3:22 - 3:25

On the topic of judgement, please don’t forget that not all justice is meted out in this life.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

2 Corinthians 5:10

Sometimes we are to leave room for God to act on behalf of His people.

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

Romans 12:19

We are expected by God to judge based on His Law as revealed in His Word not to condemn the world but to walk in it with wisdom. Further we are to proclaim His Word to those around us as we go. Our prayer should always be that our walk is in harmony with our talk and that it is seasoned with salt.


Posted by william on 05/04 at 08:01 AM

Thursday, May 03, 2018

How Dare You Judge Me

In response to my recent post on youth fleeing the church Universal Trouble in American Churches I was contacted by someone that took offense at the examples that I used to illustrate youth not continuing with church attendance once they reach adulthood.

Part of the response read, “How dare you sit on your high horse and write about me…or those others that you know who aren’t living the way you think they should. Look in the mirror before you judge others.

My response to this individual was:

My point is how does someone transmit their faith to the next generation? My other point is nobody in our culture seems very successful at it. No matter their denomination. Sorry you took offense….It grieves me that so many are forsaking the Lord for whatever reason. …I’m concerned about many people. I named no one in my examples but remember them in my prayers. I hope that people will return to their faith in later life but the statistics aren’t supporting that idea. God’s Law is the standard not me on a high horse and by that measure, we all fall short.

When my wife got home from work last night, I asked her to read the post on Universal Trouble and then showed her the response that I had received. She couldn’t see the connection to anything I had written and the person’s reaction. I told her which example in the article was related to the response and the wife’s reaction was one of surprise. We agreed that I should do an edit (which I did) and fix some grammatical errors while I was at it.

I used four examples in my blog post and previously wrote about a two others about a year ago. Of these six examples of youth that left the church, I have been in contact with four after their departure. On the subject of leaving the faith, to a man, every one played the “don’t you dare judge me” card.

This is my dilemma; do you tell folks heading off the proverbial cliff to have a nice trip or do you try to warn them that going the way they are will end in disaster? I’m not advocating being a “busybody” but as I live my life I occasionally have a chance to nudge someone in what I hope will be a better direction. Truthfully I expect more of people that have believed the gospel and then fall short of the light they have been given.

This is the nature of my disagreement with George and Aaron Park, Sue Blake, and a host of others in the political world. They claim to be good, church going folks but their faith does not make a difference in how they treat others. Their friends are treated one way and all others like something they accidentally stepped on in the doggie park. Power politics is their focus instead of Christ.

Those that have left the church are legion and it breaks my heart to witness this phenomenon. I know that it is the result of divine judgement that men’s hearts are hardened. Conversely I know it is divine grace when men are given a heart of flesh. God grieves over those that have forsaken Him and so do I.

This brings us back to Keith Green’s comments:

You see, God is the most hurt and dishonored being in the universe. He could stop all this mess, all the perversion and crime and corruption any time He wishes, but He doesn’t! Why? Because He waits for the souls of men and women. “Regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation,” Peter said. (II Peter 3:15) But the Church, which doesn’t have one millionth of the compassion that God has, has turned around and created a god in its own image and likeness. A carefree, cheerful, above-it-all God. And then the Church has conveniently removed from the “gospel” it presents all reference to the pain and sorrow in God’s heart. The Church doesn’t want a God who’s grieved with sin, because then this God would be grieved with them… (and He is!)

What’s Wrong With the Gospel? Section 1: “The Missing Parts”

To the person who complained about my pervious post, what I stated is true. You left the faith and it has always bothered me. If my wife doesn’t even know who I was referring to then why be angry? I never used your name or anyone else’s. If your conscience is bothering you then your problem is really not with me, it’s with God. Please go to Him, he’s a better friend to you than I’ll ever be.

Posted by william on 05/03 at 10:19 AM

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Won Big Mistake

This is one of the funniest business stories that you will ever read. Now funny can be defined as humorous or occasionally as peculiar. This story has elements of both. Had this happened to some little backwater company it might even be viewed as tragic but when the company is one of the biggest multinational technology companies in the world then it’s funny.

This story happened in South Korea a few weeks ago. Samsung—the guys that make a galaxy of electronic devices including a certain line of smartphones—also happens to own a brokerage company. An employee at Samsung Securities was trying to key in a dividend payment of 1,000 won (the local currency used in South Korea) to a group of 2,018 employees. Now 1,000 won is about 94 cents in US dollars. Instead of keying-in this amount for a dividend payment for each share the employees owned, some Samsung employee issued 1,000 shares of Samsung stock for each share owned by the employee group.

Samsung—home of the biggest math error in the Galaxy

The dividend was supposed to be 1,000 won ($0.94) per share. But the employee mistook the form of measurement, confusing won and shares. The error caused Samsung Securities to issue a dividend that was 1,000 times the value of each share held by the group of employees.

In all, the company deposited 2.8 billion shares worth more than 111.8 trillion won ($104.8 billion) into employee accounts—more than 30 times the company’s existing issued shares. 

A Samsung Securities spokeswoman said the firm realized the mistake shortly after, but failed to take immediate action.

Sixteen staff members sold a collective five million shares worth about $186.9 million minutes shortly after receiving them. It took the brokerage 37 minutes to completely block employees from selling the accidental shares, according to South Korea’s Financial Supervisory Services, a financial watchdog.

Some of the 16 staffers sold stock despite receiving warnings from the company not to do so, the FSS said. Samsung Securities said employees who had done so—along with the employee who had made the initial calculation mistake—have been temporarily suspended from their duties.

A $105 Billion “Fat Finger” Accident Is Samsung’s Latest Headache

Ronald Reagan used to tell folks to “measure twice and cut once” looks like the principle still holds true in the digital age.


Posted by william on 05/02 at 06:09 AM
News & PoliticsPermalink

Monday, April 30, 2018

Universal Trouble in American Churches

Folks we have a problem of biblical proportions in our midst and most people haven’t noticed.

Let me give you a few examples. All are true because I know the people personally. My complaint is that these examples are not the exception but the rule (or breaking thereof).

At about age 12, a young girl goes to a church camp and makes a profession of faith. She raises her hand, walks the aisle, prays the sinner’s prayer, and the whole deal. She later gets baptized again—because her new church doesn’t recognize her infant baptism. She begins attending the church on a regular basis—Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. Towards the end of high school, she becomes sexually active and is four months pregnant when she graduates. She marries the young man who has no history of church attendance.

After the baby is born, she and her husband move from where they are to a major city so her husband can pursue better career options. A few years later, another child comes along. When the second child is very young, she finds it too difficult to manage both children on Sunday mornings and quits going to church.

Boy and girl grow up in the church. After college, they marry and have two children. The family regularly attends church. The children grow up thru the ranks, nursery, children’s church, profession of faith, baptism, youth groups, etc. Then they go off to college. By the end of college, neither child goes to church or has any part in the church.

Five siblings are adopted by a young Christian couple. The family has no electronic devices for entertainment. They watch no live television; only VHS or DVD recordings that are screened by their parents. They are homeschooled and only associate with other homeschool families. The family is wary of sending their children to college. They strongly believe in courtship and oppose dating. My point is this is a very different paradigm than either of the churches described in examples 1 & 2.

When oldest child is 19 or 20, he renounces God and is excommunicated from the church. At the same time, he enlists in the Marine Corp and burns every bridge in his life on the way out of town.

Child is born into family with three sisters. His dad is a minister. He is raised in the church. When he is about seven, dad has a stroke and nearly dies. Dad takes about two years to be able to walk and talk. Others in the denomination, remove all pastoral duties from dad. When dad tries to resume his duties, the new minister that was tending his church won’t let him. As a result, the family can’t even attend services at their own church. After a period of time, dad is transferred to a church in another state. Dad struggles with fledgling mission church for many years. Finally, it folds and he takes a church in yet another state. About two years into his duties at the new church, dad dies of a heart attack. Two years later, the son—barely into his 20’s—is living with his girlfriend, campaigning for Bernie Sanders, and advocating for abortion on demand.

I could go on listing many more that have fallen. Irrespective of denomination or upbringing or socioeconomic circumstances, the Church in America is hemorrhaging members, especially its youth. No surprise in a statistical way but it is in the sense that no orthodox Christian group has a solution.
Is the church model broken? Is the message lost? Why has Christianity fallen out of favor?

Never has the Bible been so available to the masses. The Gideon’s International, Wycliffe Bible Translators, and of course the Internet have made the Bible available to virtually every tribe, tongue, and nation in the world. Within the next few years, everyone in the world will have the Bible available in both print and digital formats.

In parts of Asia and Africa, Christianity is flourishing like never before but Secularism in the West has opened the floodgates to Islam and Atheism.

In the past, it has been tempting for some within the church in America to dismiss the declining numbers as the exodus of those that are really not believers—I have heard some people making this exact claim—but my experience and those of others prove this is a false claim. No, what is occurring is actually worse than that.

Whether you believer in a profession of faith (age of accountability and all that stuff) or a covenantal view (with paedo-baptism and paedo-communion) or something in between, the youth in our churches are not making the faith of their fathers their own.

As I ponder this subject, the words of Keith Green are rattling around in my head. Below are excerpts of a two part article that he wrote many years ago called What’s Wrong With the Gospel? I beg you to read these articles and be mad; not at Mr. Green but with a righteous indignation.

Keith Green—October 21, 1953 – July 28, 1982

Unless people are truly convicted of sin, if they do not fully see that they are totally condemned by the requirements of God’s Law, then it is virtually impossible to show them the need for a savior. Why, what would they need to be saved from? Fun?

Another stranger-than-truth doctrine is that blessed refuge of backsliders called “the carnal Christian.” In this example of pretzel-logic, we are led to believe that any “believer” who isn’t really “walking with the Lord” at the present time, and is indulging in the things of the world and the lusts of the flesh, can still be considered a “Christian,” but not a Christian of the 1st class, no, a Christian of the 2nd class… a “carnal Christian.” Here we have a case of the “believer” who doesn’t believe. Oh, he still “believes” that God is God, and that there is a heaven and hell, and so on (but don’t forget, the devil believes all these things too!-James 2:19). He knows all the right things to say to convince granny, the pastor, and his Christian friends that he’s still hanging in there. He even sort of believes it himself. Seems he’s got everybody fooled - everybody that is, except God! The Bible is clear that “If we say we’ have fellowship with Him, and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. ” (I John 1:6)

One of the most well-known phrases of modern evangelism is “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!” But the sober, biblical truth that needs to be presented to the sinner’s mind is “You have made yourself an enemy of God, and in your present state of rebellion there is absolutely no hope for you.” In fact, God’s “plan” for the sinner at this point in his life is to separate him from His presence forever, in hell. However unpopular or unlovely that may sound, it is the only truth and reality about anyone who is an enemy of God through sin.

If people come to Jesus mainly to get a blessing, or only to get forgiveness, they will ultimately be disappointed. But if they come to give Him their lives in honor and worship, then they will truly have forgiveness and joy - more than they could ever imagine! (I Cor. 2:9)

But there is a great danger when man (or even God) designs a tool to be used for God’s glory, and then as time passes, people’s attention starts to be fixed on the tool itself, rather than on the glory of God (which it was originally designed to promote).

The greatest reason I believe that God can be grieved with the current use of such tools as the “altar call” and “sinner’s prayer” is because they can take away the conviction of the Holy Spirit prematurely, before the Spirit has time to work repentance leading to salvation. With an emotional splash that usually doesn’t last more than a few weeks, we believe we’re leading people into the Kingdom, when really we’re leading many to hell - by interfering with what the Spirit of God is trying to do in a person’s life. Do you hear? Do you understand that this constitutes “spiritual abortion”? Can’t you see the eternal consequences of jumping the gun, trying to bring to birth a baby that isn’t ready?

It pains me to see the beautiful truths of Scripture being plastered about like beer advertisements. Many think it is wise to “get the word out” in this way but, believe that we are really just inoculating the world with bits and pieces of truth - giving them their “gospel shots.” (And we’re making it hard for them to “catch” the real thing!)

In my studies of the life of Jesus, it has amazed me that He never had “a follow-up program.” It was usually His habit to let people “follow Him up.” He never had to go door to door, looking for that fellow who He healed last week, wanting to share another parable or two. He always seemed to have the attitude of, “If they want life, then they’ll have to come and follow Me.”

Can’t you see what fools we are? We preach a man-made, plastic gospel. We get people to come forward to “the altar” by bringing psychological pressures that have nothing to do with God. We “lead them” in a prayer that they are not yet convinced they need to say. And then to top it all off, we give them “counseling,” telling them it is a sin to doubt that they’re really saved!

Beloved family, the world around us is going to hell. Not because of communism, not because of television, not because of drugs, or sex, or alcohol, or the devil himself. It is because of the Church! We are to blame! We alone have the commission, the power, and the truth of God at our constant disposal to deliver sinner after sinner from eternal death. And even though some are willing to go… into the streets, the prisons, foreign lands, or even next door, they are taking a watered-down, distorted version of God’s message which He has not promised to anoint. That is why we are failing. And unless we admit that we are failing, then I’m afraid there is no hope for us or the world around us. We have the choice between causing eternal tragedy for our whole generation, or bringing our beloved God a whole family full of “good and faithful servants.”

What’s Wrong With the Gospel?

What’s Wrong With the Gospel?: Part I

What’s Wrong With the Gospel?: Part II

Mark Twain is credited with saying, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics” but that young people are fleeing the organized church cannot be disputed. Here are a few sources to explore but please be aware as you read that some numbers are teens raised in the church and others are all teens.

At an unusual series of leadership meetings in 44 cities this fall, more than 6,000 pastors are hearing dire forecasts from some of the biggest names in the conservative evangelical movement.

Their alarm has been stoked by a highly suspect claim that if current trends continue, only 4 percent of teenagers will be “Bible-believing Christians” as adults. That would be a sharp decline compared with 35 percent of the current generation of baby boomers, and before that, 65 percent of the World War II generation.

While some critics say the statistics are greatly exaggerated (one evangelical magazine for youth ministers dubbed it “the 4 percent panic attack”), there is widespread consensus among evangelical leaders that they risk losing their teenagers.

Evangelicals Fear the Loss of Their Teenagers


These are the most recent and most cited studies that I could find:

88%:  The Southern Baptist Convention’s Family Life Council study in 2002 (unfortunately, I can’t find the actual study and methodology)
URL SBC Annual Meeting

70%:  LifeWay Research study in 2007 (LifeWay also found only 35% eventually return)

66%:  Assembly of God study (again, I can’t find the actual study, only references here and there)

61%:  “Barna study in 2006—“Most Twentysomethings Put Christianity on the Shelf…”

How Many Youth are Leaving the Church?

On the other end of the spectrum, here is an article about children that stay in church.

Link: 3 Common Traits of Youth Who Don’t Leave the Church

I feel strongly about this issue but I am happy to give credit to others that have come before me in taking the time to write about it. My prayer is that I will do better with my teenage son.


Posted by william on 04/30 at 09:29 AM
Christianity & ReligionPermalink

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

4/25/2018 A National Day of Mourning for the CRA

By “X” the man with no name

Today was a horrible day for the CRA  (whatever the heck is left of it, I should add).  In a move not foreseen by anyone in either this organization or the Tea Party; Senator Theodore Cruz R-Tejas has endorsed President Donald J. Trump for re-election in 2020.  There you have it ladies and gentlemen….shut it down. is now a worthless domain name.  For those of you who think there may still be Hope…sorry she left the White House a month ago.  As the Blog Father and I have stated all along, Donald is here for 7 more years, get over it.

Oh, true believers may want to help Lyin’ Ted to make sure he gets re-elected first, he is barely edging out a liberal democrat in early polling for his senate race in November; otherwise CRA will be Can’t Re-elect Anyone.


CRA President Thomas N Hudson, has moved to declare today a National Day of Mourning for the organization. Note: the spelling of MOURNING, not to be confused with MORNING, like “Its morning again in America.”  CRA flags should not be flown at all (actually this has been the case for many years, but I digress), endorsement meetings scheduled for the rest of the month will cease to take place, and all should tune in to CNN to be sure this is not fake news. 

I was aware that the organization was losing members, but now I hear entire units are shutting down and may never meet again. This news is a huge blow to CRA’s moral. Both a crisis prevention hotline and suicide prevention hotline are being made available to all members free of charge. 

Speaking of suicide prevention…

Never Trump media figures lamented Cruz’s support for Trump’s campaign. Glenn Beck, a fervent Cruz supporter during the 2016 primary, described himself as “profoundly sad” following Cruz’s endorsement of Trump, whom Beck strongly opposed. Beck later described America as a “petulant child” worthy of divine punishment for making “the wrong choice” in nominating Trump.

Ted Cruz Endorses Donald Trump in 2020

For the sole purpose of impeaching President Trump, CRA leadership is mulled over a proposal to allow endorsement of democrats running for Congress in the People’s Republic of California.  Since most voted for anyone but Trump in the last election, this effort will likely prove just as futile.

Good luck, hopefully you will find the strength to overcome this setback.



Posted by william on 04/25 at 07:10 PM
News & PoliticsPermalink

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Camden Croc

Last Friday after returning home from work, I called Mr. X to chat. (Do long distance rates still drop after 5 pm.?) Anyway, as is my practice, I usually walk around the neighborhood while talking on the phone.

I noticed a scantily clad Asian woman that was with some guy that was operating a commercial grade camera on hefty tripod next to the nearby lake. The back door of a nearby van was open and some opened large equipment cases were visible. I’ve always wondered what Victoria’s Secret is and somehow I think this gal had the answer but I was too busy to ask. Nearby, a beaver and a few geese were frolicking in the water close to the camera.

As I walked a minute further down the path, I saw the KOVR Channel 13 live truck off in the distance. Knowing this was out of place in my neighborhood, I wandered over to see what was going on. I was stopped by some lady that said she was President of the Camden Neighborhood Association. Again I saw a commercial camera on a tripod and an info-babe that had a microphone in her hand checking the area. Without stopping for a breath, the President then said I couldn’t walk any further down the path. I told Mr. X to hold for a minute and then asked what the commotion was all about. That is when I heard the news that people not only had seen an alligator in the little lake at this exact spot but they even had the photos to prove it . The explanation that I was given was verbatim what you saw if you turned in to KOVR-TV or saw the report that was posted on their website later in the evening.

“It came up and it would go straight under and up and under. We saw a head come up. The body was like three or four feet long,” said Karen Keeslar, who first spotted the alligator.

Keeslar says the first encounter was on Wednesday, and on Thursday, she saw it again. She says an alligator was inside Camden Lake right across the street from her home. She snapped a photo and shared it on social media.

Gavin Crutcher lives in the community and says he didn’t hesitate to check it out. Thursday night, he and other neighbors gathered around the lake to take a peak. Crutcher says the gator wasn’t aggressive, even walking the shoreline alongside its spectators.

Sharon Anderson, President of the Camden Neighborhood Association, also saw it.

Possible Alligator Spotted In Elk Grove Lake

Screen capture from KOVR broadcast

In the wake of the alligator report, crime tape and warning signs were used to create a perimeter that separated the lake from the paved path around the northern edge of the lake. The next day, I saw wary fishermen casting their lines over the crime tape to try and continue recreational fishing.

Gator warning sign

I have seen some interesting critters in the lake: beavers, otters, white pelicans, and geese that illegally emigrated from Canada just to come here to mooch off our food and have anchor babies and I know that people do dump their pet turtles and probably other critters in the lake but an alligator? If true, it either isn’t very big or hasn’t been there very long or it would have been sighted before now.

Offspring of illegal Canadian Geese—Anchor babies

While we pondered the merits of the sighting, no government employees were seen near the lake on Saturday or Sunday. The last time that I know Fish and Game was in the area was about five years ago when they drove thru the same area writing tickets to people fishing in the lake. People in the neighborhood waited to see what would happen on Monday when the G-men were back on the clock.

On Monday morning, I had barely been able to tell folks at work about the commotion in my neighborhood over the weekend when competing television station KCRA—who never covered the initial alligator story on Friday the thirteenth—posted the news that the whole thing was fraudulent.

Fish and Wildlife officials were also out looking for the gator, but a search online found the exact stock photo and video of the reptile taken in Florida.

KCRA has reached out to the woman who first posted the image, but she has not returned any messages.

CA officials: Possible alligator sighting in Elk Grove lake deemed a hoax

Stock Internet image found by Fish and Game-from Sacramento Bee

The station that broke the news on Friday also had to renounce the story.

Monday morning, wildlife officials said their investigation revealed the sighting to be a hoax.

Wildlife Officials Say Reported Alligator Sighting In Elk Grove Lake A Hoax

For many this was the end of the story but..

…what about the witnesses? Much was made by the President of the fact that a minister and his wife were among the witnesses. Clearly, to her this is proof of her credibility. There were at least four people that claimed to have seen the gator at different times. Even with photographic proof they were denounced in the media by a government agency as frauds.

I tried to imagine who in the government would believe the unbelievable. My mind began wandering back to my youth and then it hit me. Agents Mulder and Scully, this is the same setup as every episode of the X-Files and right in my backyard.

Then I tried to think of ways to prove that Elk Grove’s version of Nessie was real.


Given the lack of resources that four individuals would have as compared to the full faith and credit of the State of California, how could they possibly fight back? The witnesses must feel like lone gunmen facing incredible odds. They are the good, the government the bad, and the situation is ugly. Only by regaining the trust of the public could these folks hope to even the odds and salvage their reputations.

I wondered how the witnesses could turn things around. A logic component of this effort would have to include a guerrilla marketing campaign utilizing the public as their eyes and ears in the search for the truth because “the truth is out there”. In this spirit I wish to offer this flyer to post around the lake.


Posted by william on 04/19 at 03:08 PM
News & PoliticsPermalink

Sunday, April 15, 2018

When Your City Has No Leadership and No Plan

By John Slamkowski

I want to take a moment to reflect on what has happened to my hometown of Elk Grove, CA.  Several contributors to this blog live in Elk Grove. First some background. Our City was founded on July 1st, 2000, splitting off from being an unincorporated area in Sacramento County.  The vote passed overwhelmingly; mostly because the folks pushing hardest made some convincing arguments.

The folks pushing cityhood argued that we (Elk Grove residents) were being overcharged and underserved by the County.  The Elk Grove area is represented by one of five county supervisors and the other four could care less about our needs and concerns. Cityhood was advocated to allow residents to control their own destiny instead of being subject to the whims of folks that don’t live here. The cityhood plan was to contract certain services such as law enforcement and leave fire and parks to the Community Services District (CSD) which had been running them for many years while allowing the city council to manage other aspects of a small and fairly rural community.

It was hoped that cityhood would result in less expensive private trash service and a bus system that wasn’t Sacramento County backed Regional Transit (RT).  On the surface the thoughts may have resonated well, RT most definitely was not perfect, and one would figure a private trash hauler would be cheaper than a county run one. 

For a while things started off rosy. Trash bills went down as Waste Management took over garbage collection.  The transition to a new bus service E-TRAN went like any other government takeover….horrific.  E-TRAN was the first 100% hybrid bus fleet of its kind and in hot 100-degree Sacramento Valley weather, most of the buses either died or had the air conditioner go out frequently.  Additionally, the buses had a very difficult time linking up with the RT buses to commute to downtown.  I knew of one example of someone who was a lifeguard at James Rutter School. She would have to catch a bus that left at 6:30 AM just to be able to transfer to an RT bus and get to James Rutter by 11:30!  The City also never understood one simple fact, mass transit is a drain on any budget; let alone when you decide to have a local bus as opposed to one administered Countywide.  Additionally, no one is ever on those buses when I see them pass by! 

A few years after cityhood passed, the carefully balanced cityhood agreement began to be dismantled by the city council. Two of the five council members who were active Sacramento County Sheriff deputies, were able to convince the council to establish its own police department. Before proceeding, I want to make one thing clear; no one writing for this blog is anti-police in any way, but this department is one of the worst run departments in the State of California. 

First, when you form a new department, other departments around the area are more than happy to “pass the trash” from them on to you.  (This term was used by a former lieutenant at EGPD by the way). Then we hired a police chief who resided full time in Renton, Washington, not Elk Grove.  After telling you that, are you surprised our police department gets more complaints filed against it than any other city in Northern California? 

The kicker came last year when a former trainee officer filed a discrimination lawsuit regarding his homosexuality against the city naming ¾ of the sergeant and lieutenants, as well as the outgoing chief and incoming chief of police, in addition to the internal affairs officers. Just as a side bar, not a single officer named in the lawsuit was placed on leave, terminated, or was ever investigated. It looks like a 7-figure settlement will be forthcoming.  Hard to imagine if that is how they harass their own, what they must think of the average citizen who lives, works, or commutes through here daily.


58 percent of City of Elk Grove Budget is law enforcement
38,104,054/65,605,012=58.1 percent

City of Elk Grove 2017-18 Budget page 28

To make matters worse our City Council began appearing in the local and Northern California papers for all the wrong reasons.  Some examples include a midnight vote guaranteeing health care benefits for life for the City Manager and City Attorney.  Then one of our finest, Jim Cooper, who was on the council, also serving as a Sac County Sheriff Captain at the time, voted repeatedly on matters involving a contract between the City of Elk Grove and his own Sheriff department, leading to a grand jury investigation…ouch that had to bite.  He will forever live in infamy with his Sheriff Deputy and councilmen pal Mike Leary—best known for being arrested after losing election for evicting his former girlfriend from their home and forging a document.  Not to mention the City and our Parks, Recreation and Fire District, sued each other for several years regarding who should be in control of the City’s area parks.  Like any other lawsuit, when two government entities sue each other, no side won or lost, lawyers got very wealthy, and the citizens got a Pepperidge Farm sausage to the backside.

During this period, city leaders began to see its residents as sources of revenue instead of the people that they were supposed to serve. Under the guise of helping law enforcement, the city installed “Cooper Cams ” at various intersection throughout the city to raise revenue to fund our ever-expending city payroll. The city doubled its utility tax, in part by calling it a tax cut in the ballot argument—which by the way was unopposed by the CRA and Tea Party folks living in our midst. The amount of taxes and fees just to break ground on a residential project rose to about $100,000 per home.

This was all happening during a time of unprecedented growth in this area. Population growth in Elk Grove was the highest in the United States for three years in a row. Most legislators in Sacramento resided in Elk Grove due to its quality of living and small-town feel. 

Then the housing bubble popped, and Elk Grove found itself being hit extremely hard by its high concentration of subprime mortgages.  This also saw the development of our “going to be better than Roseville Galleria Mall” stopped due to the mall developer’s parent company filing bankruptcy.  The blighted area became a heavy topic of future city council elections allowing Steven Detrick and Steve Ly to get elected to the body.  Suddenly the city that was known throughout the county as being a renegade town quickly became a part of the good ole boy network.  By the way Detrick has more FPPC violations and grand jury investigations than most would have in several lifetimes. 

Not long afterwards, voters decided to implement the election of a mayor every two years as opposed to rotating the job amongst the five council members every year. The original proponents of cityhood had purposely setup the rotating system amongst the five councilmen to allow for more sharing of power. No one person could have more sway with voters than another. Being mayor was just one among equals. The other purposeful distinction of cityhood was that candidates for council were elected by all the votes so that they were accountable to all not just represent their district to the exclusion of all else. It was a purposeful rejection of the model used by county supervisors in hopes that the council would act based on what is best for the city not just their little fiefdom.

It seems like since we got an elected Mayor that this city became Los Angeles on steroids.  Suddenly strip malls start being built everywhere in central and western Elk Grove (Laguna).  Worse yet, the buildings were erected but most never had a tenant, some even sit vacant to this day.  It’s almost like the city just wanted property tax revenue as opposed to collecting tax just based on the land.

While that was going on, more disturbingly we began hiring top positions for our city from other cities throughout northern California, none of whom called Elk Grove home.  Our City Manager Laura Gil?  From ritzy El Dorado Hills.  City Economic Director Randy Starbuck?  Pittsburg, California.  As mentioned earlier, the Police Chief continued to call Renton, Washington home. 

When you hire people with no ties to your city, they tend to not have the best intentions.  Take Randy Starbuck for example; he worked for this city from 2011-2014, a time where cities’ economies were reviving, and the result of his three years of hard work?  70 new jobs in Elk Grove, the majority being minimum wage jobs.  Starbuck was known for the monthly “business trips” to Las Vegas to try to shake down businesses and convince them to come to Elk Grove. He also spent countless hours trying to lobby Major League Soccer to grant Elk Grove a team.  Think about that for a couple moments, Las Vegas trips and a major league soccer team….in a town of 175k? 

Editor’s note: If soccer is so great, how come nobody talks about the success of the taxpayer funded multimillion dollar facility in Stockton?

I attended the council meeting where Starbuck was grilled and had his fate sealed. I remember the meeting like it was yesterday, he was grinning ear-to-ear talking about how he had recruited Green Acres to open a store here in Elk Grove…..yeah….great success.  The council let him have it, as did the actual residents of this town.  Reality is, it wasn’t all Cluster***ks fault. The city manager and council share more than a majority of the blame. They allowed this man to run around unchecked and not held accountable.  Also, Starbuck was not fired. Instead, he was put on paid leave for the remainder of his contract. Yes, folks we have a typical crony capitalist city out here now.

Despite efforts at economic development, the stores opening in Elk Grove aren’t much better either. We now have four Little Caesars Pizza stores, pretty much every chain restaurant known to man, a Smart and Final, Popeye’s, and a Grocery Store Outlet.  Gone are stores such as Bel-Air, The Fresh Market, and Baguettes.  Essentially the stores coming in match the clientele moving in, lower middle class and working poor families. 

I doubt any legislative staff or legislator calls Elk Grove home anymore. They have all moved to Folsom, Roseville, or downtown.  What do two of those cities have in common?  They are fighting adding more Section 8 housing within their city limits. Again, I’m not being racist here, just stating the obvious. Look at the Franklin/west of Highway 99 area of Elk Grove; most of the government subsidized, low income housing was built there, and crime has skyrocketed.  A friend of mine was hit by a hit and run driver in that area. Upon speaking to a police officer dispatched to take an accident report, he was told “hit and runs are an epidemic in this area now.”  Crime being up and hit and runs are a direct result of police officers not chasing bad guys but instead focusing on writing tickets in an effort to close the budget gap in our town.  Bringing me to my next point.

Remember how I talked about shopping centers popping up on each available square inch of land in the city?  Government buildings are going to start popping up very soon as well.  The city council is spending money they don’t have like a couple of drunken congressmen. In the hopper already is a new library (keep in mind we have two already run by the County), an convention center (the Falls Convention center was built less than two years ago and with private funds) an aquatic center (we have 2 water parks already—run by CSD—as well as two privately owned gyms with Olympic sized pools). Apparently, the city needs to have facilities that they can control, or it doesn’t count.

At the January 13, 2016 City Council meeting, staff presented a conceptual Civic Center Master Plan for the southern portion of the Civic Center site that would include an Aquatic Center and Commons, Senior Center/Community Center, Veterans Hall, Children’s museum, Library and botanical gardens/nature preserve.  At the meeting, the City Council directed staff to proceed with the completion of the refined Civic Center Master Plan, including a Phase 1 of the project, which includes an Aquatic Center, Senior Center/Community Center and Veterans Hall. The site plan and facilities continue to be refined through design team efforts and public outreach.

These Phase 1 projects are estimated to cost approximately $61 million.

City Planning and Special Projects

By the way, our city council thinks we will get some of the summer Olympics events here if California bids for them.  Yup, why would an Olympic swimmer want to swim in sunny southern California with Shamu and Mickey Mouse, when they can choose Elk Grove, that mass of houses in a bedroom community near Sacramento? 

We are building a sports complex in sparsely populated east Elk Grove. I’m not upset because I live out there, I’m upset because if you live on the other side of Highway 99—which goes through the center of our town—you are closer to downtown Sacramento than to Grant Line Road. 

Elk Grove city employees are seeking input on possible features and amenities at a proposed sports complex on property just south of the city.

City staff at a July 11 workshop will provide a presentation on the 100-acre parcel near the corner of Grant Line and Waterman roads in south Elk Grove.

City Manager Laura Gill said the cost to build all of the elements at the complex is estimated at around $110 million.

Elk Grove Citizen: Sports Complex

Also, rather than pay Sacramento County for animal shelter services at 500k per year, we are going to build our own dog pound for 12 million dollars plus salaries, benefits, and upkeep.  Lastly, we will be getting a landfill at some point because…well we could get fees from other cities and municipalities to dump here! 

Bid document for Animal Shelter and Community Center

Again, these will all be government administered buildings, which means more government jobs, pensions and benefits paid out later, paid for by bonds and taxpayer dollars right?  Or will they be? 

Remember that mall that was supposed to get built?  Every 6 months we got an update from one or more of our council members saying we will be breaking ground soon.  Our Mayor at the time, Gary Davis, said in the Fall of 2018 that the mall would be ready to be up and running.

“Outlet Mall. Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC) continues its development and leasing efforts for The Outlet Collection at Elk Grove, which will involve the construction of approximately 775,000 square feet of commercial uses… certificates of occupancy must be issued for 400,000 square feet by November 2018…”  City of Elk Grove 2017-18 Budget page 3

City of Elk Grove Budget 2017-18

Steve Detrick told me to my face that city staff were cold calling and already had half the leases spoken for at our state-of-the-art mall that would make every other city jealous. 

During the mall talk, an Indian Tribe nobody ever heard of before started looking at Elk Grove to build a casino, yes one of those casinos.  We were told again by the same two city councilmen and soon to be Mayor Steve Ly that a possible site could be at the mall, but the casino was just doing fact finding on available options.

Then overnight, the casino was announced. The casino developers promised that between the city and local school district over 132 million would be contributed over 20 years. 

The Elk Grove City Council on Sept. 28 unanimously approved a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with the Wilton Rancheria. The tribe is proposing a $400 million entertainment and gaming facility on a 35.9-acre site near Highway 99 and Kammerer Road.

If the casino opens for business, the tribe would pay nearly $132 million in recurring and nonrecurring payments to the city and community of Elk Grove during the first 20 years of the MOU.

Elk Grove Citizen: Council Approves Casino Agreement

“The total cumulative payment from the Tribe to the community over 20 years is approximately $132 million. This amount far exceeds that which the City would expect to receive from tax revenues associated with the portion of the mall site upon which the Casino would be built.”

City of Elk Grove 2017-18 Budget page 4

The only good to come of this was that the city’s effort for a local sales tax increase was put on hold for a few years. The casino was coming to Elk Grove in the place of the planned mall….let’s call this exhibit 666 from our three congenital liars on the council.  This casino is being built because the city wants to expand and thinks it can legally extort its citizens to do so, via laundering the money through gambling agreements.

I have been harboring my feelings of frustration on the decline of our community for a long time but then the big boom, last straw or whatever you call it occurred when I went to my mailbox the other day and found a city-taxpayer funded glossy with an outline of Elk Grove, the purpose of which was to encourage citizens to spend money inside the lines, so it stays local to fund citywide initiatives.  At that point I felt the need to vent on the mismanagement and hypocrisy that passes for local government from people claiming to represent me.

Shop Between the Lines Newsletter

The article makes a point to avoid the Target on the other side of Calvine Road, even though that Target wanted to locate in Elk Grove before being rebuffed.  Ditto for both the Lowe’s and Costco.  Add the Walmart on Florin Road to that list, Steve Detrick fought it and that propelled him to be a councilmember.  Additionally, targeted, ironically are the CarMax and the new Delta Shores Mall by Green Haven.  This is rich, both entities wanted to be in Elk Grove. CarMax was willing to make every concession possible, but they were told “NO”, so they built just on the outside of Elk Grove.  Delta Shores, a nice brand new shiny mall, should have been here in Elk Grove but instead the council wanted a casino.  Full disclosure we are getting a Costco soon, but this is what happens when you have no vision and no plan.


Posted by william on 04/15 at 06:39 PM

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Natural Gas from Sewers?

I was minding my own business yesterday and as is my usual practice, I went out to the communal mailbox to fetch my daily installment of junk mail and hoping to see a new Netflix DVD. I received a form letter that was from one of our many local utilities. This particular envelope was from Pacific Gas and Electric Company commonly known as PG&E. While the utility does provide electrical service to much of northern California, in our area electrical service is provided by SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Utility District). PG&E only supplies natural gas in my area.

On the face of it, this letter is weird. It appears that PG&E is concerned that past work on their natural gas pipelines has been cross-connected with sewer lines.

As part of our commitment to ensure your safety, we have hired a qualified contractor to perform gas and sewer safety inspections in your neighborhood.

These important safety inspections will ensure that our past natural gas pipeline work did not result in a conflict between your sewer line and gas service line .

Our contractor will use a video camera to inspect your sewer line.

Copy of PG&E letter with proper redaction

All I can think of reading the text of this letter is the San Bruno neighborhood that went up in flames many years ago. However, I know that inferno was the result of a different problem.

When I was a kid, it was common practice to light and then extinguish a match after a person spent a long time sitting on “the throne” to mask the smells in the bathroom; however, I had no idea that such a practice was a life threatening exercise due to PG&E getting natural gas from the sewer lines.

Why doesn’t PG&E spend time checking their own lines? The sewer lines don’t belong to them. I know because we get to write a generous check to the County of Sacramento on a regular basis to have the privilege of flushing our one gallon potty and washing dishes.

If there were any evil gasses escaping from the sewer lines then I would know because we have at least two drain traps in our home that have no seal on them because the fixtures are never used and the water in them has evaporated long ago.

Illustration from Plumbing Info showing how P-Trap seal works

Reading this letter reminds me of the joke about losing something and looking elsewhere because the light is better.

In 1942 a version of the joke appeared in the popular syndicated comic strip “Mutt and Jeff”. Three of the five panels in the strip are shown below. The gentleman in the top hat is Jeff.
Link: Better Light

I’m glad PG&E is able to fund this snipe hunt for cross-connected natural gas lines. I’d rather see them spend extra money on this because it’s at least related to utility service than spending my utility payments fighting traditional marriage like they were doing back when Prop 8 was on the ballot.

Once this vital inspection is completed, I will be relieved that my bathroom is once again declared a sanctuary free of life threatening gasses; in fact I will breathe easier.

Posted by william on 04/11 at 07:38 AM

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Amazon Axing Music Service

Back when digital music downloads were in their infancy, many consumer choices were available. In 2001, Apple began their iTunes music while big music companies like Sony had their own services. Amazon decided to wade into this market as well. One reason was that Amazon got into the market is because Apple—in their typical snob appeal fashion—charged more for music from iTunes than other companies and furthermore, they required that it could only be played back on Apple devices. Amazon felt they could charge less and still be profitable in this market space.

Music Encryption
You may not remember this but back in the day, all music downloads sold by Apple were encrypted and only their software could unlock the encryption to allow playback. The only workaround for this was to make a music CD using iTunes and then using third party software rip the songs back to your computer. Once that was done, you could play your music on any device that you owned.

Both Apple and Sony had malicious defects in their software.

In 2005, Sony snuck rootkits into their music software and 22 million CDs that they produced. Rootkits operate at a level below the operating system and could be used to monitor your computer usage and download other software onto your computer without the operation system or antivirus programs being aware of its existence. This software reported user data to Sony without user consent or awareness. Sony produced these rootkits for many years before being outed by the Tech community. However, many of the CDs with preinstalled rootkits are still in circulation today. Link: Sony BGM copy protection rootkit scandal

SONY BMG can take two lessons from its recent wayward attempt to fend off digital piracy: One, in a world of technology-astute bloggers, it’s not easy to get away with secretly infecting your customers’ computers with potentially malicious code. And two, as many a politician has learned, explaining your own screw-up badly is often worse than the screw-up itself.

The Rootkit of All Evil

FYI: most Google Android devices are built with rootkit features that regularly report your phone info including address book and text messages to third parties including foreign governments which by the way does not include Russia. (We have previously documented these issues on our blog.)

Apple was aware of an iTunes a security vulnerability in 2008 but didn’t fix it until bad publicity forced their hand in 2011.
Link: Wikipedia iTunes

Apple also has pushed out rootkits in their music software but since Apple calls it a feature of their program, people somehow don’t get bother by it.

Ironically, this news comes on the heels of the recent Sony BMG DRM fiasco, a part of which included an undisclosed “phone home” feature of its own. Is the Apple MiniStore a rootkit DRM? Not from what we can tell, but it is part of a dangerous trend EFF has been witnessing in the digital music space market. When the music players on our computers start monitoring our listening habits, we’ve crossed a major privacy line. After all, my Sony stereo and my Panasonic boombox don’t shouldersurf my listening habits when I turn them on, so where does Apple get off suddenly doing it on my computer?

iTunes MiniStore “phone home” feature part of a dangerous trend in data collection

My recollection is that there were others instances but Apple rarely admits publicly to defects in their security or software.

If you want to get deeper into music encryption, see this article
Hidden Feature in Sony DRM Uses Open Source Code to Add Apple DRM

Amazon Introduces Encryption Free Music
In 2008, along came Amazon and offered essentially the same songs as iTunes for less money and without the digital rights management (DRM) encryption. Eventually, Apple began to relax the DRM requirement and by the time smartphones were a thing (2009), the encryption of mp3 files was eliminated. (Please note that Amazon gets no credit from the Apple folks for breaking the Steve Jobs monopoly on digit music.)

As a result of their overpriced music and lack of trustworthiness, I never use iTunes for anything and am reluctant to install it on any computing devices that I own. Only when some other Liberal company or educational institution grants monopoly status to the iTunes store will I consider using it. Even if Rush Limbaugh or Hugh Hewitt or some other conservative media guy offered their shows for free as a podcast only on iTunes I would still not install it. Yeah, I really hate Apple that much.

Anyway, as time went on, Apple decided to offer a music matching service. The way it was supposed to work was that if you had an LP and recorded the music onto your computer and then uploaded it to Apple, if Apple had a digital version in their library, they would replace your LP ripped version with a clean digital copy—usually at a higher quality that your recording.

Amazon, as Apple’s chief competitor in the music download market, implemented a similar offering. Both companies offered the ability to upload files and get the music match option. With an annual subscription, Amazon offered you the ability to upload up to 250,000 of your own songs; plus any music that you bought from Amazon did not count against the 250K limit. Thus the offer was not a dedicated amount of space on their servers but number of tracks. All this for $24.95 per year. Oh, and just to get you to try it, Amazon would let you upload up to 250 songs for free.

Ten years Later
In December 2017, Amazon eliminated the free 250 song upload offer. This month, the other shoe dropped on their digital music business model. It was announced that the paid subscription for warehousing 250,000 songs is going away.

Amazon Music software warning message

Interestingly, I have yet to see a single article on the tech blogs and news sites that I frequent that even mentions this move by Amazon. I guess maybe not that many folks utilize this feature. I guess the pirated music offered by Spotify is all the rage these days.

Overall, I’ve been happy with Amazon but I do have a few gripes. Amazon has neglected the music software that they produce. For most of its existence, album art that was wrong could not be corrected and sometimes after they rolled-out updates, the album art would be changed.

The music match offer that Amazon made was never well thought out from a consumer’s point of view. Amazon software has never had the ability to give me a visual or other indication of when a music match was successful. This idea of the music match was to give you a copy of the song free of pops and scratches so prevalent in ripping LP tracks to a computer. The underlying assumption was that if you owned the LP copy, you had a license to entitle you to have a digital copy also—for your own personal use. Once matched, in theory you could then download a “clean” copy of the mp3 file.

Amazon website notice of pending doom

Amazon will let me keep what I have purchased from them but everything else is facing the digital chopping block. It is clear that rather I check the “Keep my songs” box in their webpage or not, my personal stuff will eventually go away. If they want, I suspect they could offer to sell hard drive space on Amazon Drive that could link to their media player but I think they are big enough not to bother with a bunch of us pesky customers anymore when they get so much money for hosting corporate data. At least when Microsoft got out of the music service business, their software will still play music warehoused on OneDrive.


I also like Amazon Music because it is not blocked by the draconian firewall where I work so I can stream anything from my vast library of music. I’m sad that this option will soon go the way of Toys R Us.


Posted by william on 04/10 at 07:23 AM

Friday, April 06, 2018

Microsoft & Apple leaving Intel

Lest you thought Toys R Us was the only business with bad news featured on our blog this week, things are not going well for another company whose name you know; namely, Intel. In the PC space, Intel has only one competitor, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). However, in recent years they have faced pressure from the smartphone/portable devices segment of consumer devices.

Previously, we have documented the Windows on ARM initiative which is finally appearing in the consumer space. While Microsoft has yet to get all the bugs worked out of the process, you can now buy devices free of Intel chips that run a full version of Windows 10. The cell phone CPU chips are not quite up to the processing power of Intel’s but these devices can last up to a week on a full charge and unlike Intel’s they can maintain a connection to cellular data and resume from sleep in less than a blink of an eye.

In addition, this year you are seeing a new feature implemented by tech companies across devices that allows you to continue a document or game from one device to another. Here are some things you can or will shortly be able to do:
• Playing a game on your phone, you will be able to pause it, resume it on your tablet device and pause it and resume playing it on your desktop device.
• Working on a document, you can cut or copy to the clipboard on your PC and the paste it into you phone’s text message or tablet’s email.

Device platforms are moving to an always connected to the Internet model. This will allow for seamless operating of many tasks that you do daily.

Also companies like Microsoft are enabling personal devices to be integrated with Enterprise networks so you can use the same phone or tablet to do both your work stuff and your own stuff. If your company’s IT staff is worth a darn then folks on the go don’t need to carry two phones, one for work and one for them.

This week it was announced that Microsoft is not the only company trying to get free of the decades old Intel monopoly, Apple announced that they are abandoning Intel all together and will run all their devices including desktop PCs with cell phone CPUs.

Apple copies Microsoft, moves to abandon Intel

Apple has delivered a shock to Intel’s share price with news of a new project to move their Mac business to ARM-based processors of their own design by 2020.

According to Bloomberg, Project Kalamata would have all Apple’s devices, from iPhones to Macs, running on the low power processors, and would rely on Marzipan, a platform which lets iOS apps run on the Mac desktop.

The move would emulate that of Microsoft, who has already launched their Windows 10 on ARM initiative with two 3rd party laptops already in the market, and who has been working for many years on their UWP platform, which unifies mobile and desktop applications.

ARM Diagram

Two days later, Intel got another blow from Microsoft when they announced that the new version of their virtual reality device—HoloLens—will be using ARM chips and not those made by Intel.

Hololens 2.0 may ditch Intel for ARM processor

Competition for the Microsoft Hololens is finally close to reaching the market, with the Magic Leap’s headset expected to reach virtual shelves later this year.

This seems to have prompted the company to finally get around to releasing version 2 of the headset, according to a leak via the WC.

According to their sources, the headset will use Microsoft’s Always-Connected PC platform, with an ARM processor with LTE modem, have longer battery life and greater autonomy, and would also have an increased field of view.

Folks we are approaching the world of Ready Player One—at least in some respects—and Intel has no part of it. They are becoming a legacy company that has totally missed the boat on computing! Let that sink in, the biggest computer processor manufacturing company in the world has no part in the future of their own industry.

First generation Microsoft HoloLens

Please understand that Intel has spent billions of dollars trying to get into the mobile space but failed at every turn. They actually make Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell look like geniuses and that is really hard to accomplish. While I’m reluctant to say so, Aaron Park’s favorite phrase of “epic failure” is actually appropriate in this case.

Intel quit trying to get into the mobile device CPU business two years ago and look where they are now.


Intel’s new smartphone strategy is to quit

Late on Friday night, Intel snuck out the news that it’s bailing on the smartphone market. Despite being the world’s best known processor maker, Intel was only a bit player in the mobile space dominated by Qualcomm, Apple, and Samsung, and it finally chose to cut its losses and cancel its next planned chip, Broxton. This followed downbeat quarterly earnings, 12,000 job cuts, and a major restructuring at a company that’s had a very busy April. Intel is still one of the giants of the global tech industry, but it’s no longer as healthy and sprightly as it used to be.

The bane of Intel’s existence for the past decade or so has been the transition to mobile computing. It wasn’t supposed to be that way. Having secured a commanding lead as the premier provider of desktop PC processors, Intel had a clear-eyed strategy for extending its dominance into the mobile realm.

This has cost Intel dearly, with the company lavishing billions on developing suitable processors and modems to put into its various mobile undertakings. The multibillion-dollar mobile costs have spiraled in recent years — a loss of $3.1 billion in 2013 was followed by a loss of $4.3 billion in 2014 — which eventually forced Intel to combine its mobile and PC earnings reports in order to disguise its unproductive spending.

The tragedy of Intel’s mobile failure is that the company foresaw all the threats to its business and acted to preempt them. It just didn’t do so very well. That being said, Intel’s the victim of its bad decision making almost as much as its poor execution.

Intel Cancels Atom Processor, Could Exit Mobile Industry

While Intel appears to be continuing to dominate the desktop and laptop market with their processors, their mobile efforts haven’t been as successful, with the landscape being mostly dominated by the likes of Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Samsung. So much so that there is now speculation that Intel could be looking to exit the mobile business.

No, Intel Isn’t Abandoning the Mobile Market

Atom has been one of the biggest duds in the history of semiconductors as Intel spent billions designing and producing the chip, then billions more paying hardware makers to use them before failing to get any traction at all and eventually burying the whole project last year inside of its shrinking but still highly profitable PC unit.

Since these articles appeared two years ago, Intel still has not produced a single chip that can connect to either Wi-Fi or the Internet.  In contrast, ARM devices in a single chip can do computing, video, cellular modem, Wi-Fi connectivity, and other functions and just as you would expect, each generation of ARM chips is better and faster than the last. Moore’s law anyone??

Posted by william on 04/06 at 06:54 AM

Thursday, April 05, 2018

What Really Killed Toys R Us

By “X” the man with no name

Unless you are a CRA member, living under a rock, voted for Hillary, or have any Park Family Genes in your DNA, you have likely heard Toys R Us is liquidating their business here in the United States and all over the globe.  What caused a giant big box that controlled 20% of the toy market to collapse you may ask?  Well a combination of things, but the internet, and high prices were none of them. 

First some background on Toys R Us. The company was founded in 1948 by Charles Lazarus who interestingly died the same day the company decided to liquidate all stores.  The company had sustained success and was even referred to as a “category killer” which is similar to how people view today (a company that is almost impossible to compete with). 

Editor’s note: As a child, the highlight of every Christmas was receiving the Sear’s Christmas catalog. In my youth this was Christmas. We only wanted to get toys from Sears because it was literally a one-stop shop for everything. From their catalog, our parents could order anything and have it waiting for us under the tree. Seemingly out on nowhere, along came Toys R Us and stole Christmas from the oldest and most well-known retailer in the country.

Retail icon, Toys R Us, fades into oblivion

The company prospered for many decades but in the late 1990’s Toys R Us started having issues competing with Target, Wal-Mart, and In 1998 it fell behind Wal-Mart in market share. This is when the chain’s issues started. They tried Kids R Us, a clothing discount chain, and it failed badly and was liquidated after 5 short years.  They began growing their Babies R Us chain, to essentially focus on commodities like diapers and bottles, this was also a bad decision.  Even more costly was the expensive remodeling of all stores in 2000 by former FAO Schwartz CEO John Eyler.  This predictably didn’t change the competitive landscape so in 2005 with the stock struggling on Wall Street, it was sold in a leveraged buyout to 3 private equity firms.  This further exasperated the problems facing Toys R Us.  The buyout to take Toys private was 6.6 billion dollars, led by Bain Capital (After Mitt Romney had left) Vornado Realty Trust, and Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts.

Leveraged buyouts are not always bad things, there are benefits to being private and you do not have to answer to public investors on Wall Street and can work out corporate and company issues behind closed doors.  In N Out and Chick-fil-A are both private and the lines are out the door, down the street, and in most cases backed up to the freeway!  Michael Dell—yes that Dell—took the company he founded, Dell Computer, private. Dell Computer had been struggling for many years but taking it private has allowed it to turn around.  Typically, after these types of buyouts, private equity firms wind up taking the company public again (more on this later).

So how do these buyouts work?  When a public company has a major drop in stock price and has fundamental issues like Toys did, then in come the White Knights saying they can fix everything and will offer to buy the shares of the entire company.  In the case of Toys, the private equity guys offered a price 67% higher than what the shares were trading for on Wall Street; banks are happy, stockholders are typically happy, everyone gets paid and then the company is private.  In the case of Toys, it was 6.6 billion. So, did the private equity guys have to pay 6.6 billion for Toys?  No, they borrowed the money from investment banks—think Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, etc.—and used the company’s cash flow as collateral.  Truth be told, the private equity guys in this case likely put up only about 10% of that 6.6 billion. 

So, from the start, Toys had a debt load of 6 billion to pay back, at interest rates likely in the 8-9% range!  Banks extract large fees from these loans and add it to the debt load—think the housing crisis circa 2008. The banks just rolled the expenses into the loan then sold it to an unsuspecting group of investors.  In this case Toys was now controlled by 3 large companies that didn’t know how to run the toy business at all.  However, one thing these 3 companies know a lot about is how to extract money from their investment, (more on this later as well).

So after the dust settled, Toys was saddled with 400 million in annual interest payments to satisfy the terms of their loan.   Think about that, 400 million in annual revenue goes first to paying off debt interest, not keeping the lights on or paying salary, just debt.  Then the private equity companies charge a “management fee” of usually 2-3% of revenue every year, further straining cash flow to pay bills.  Then they pay themselves a dividend every year of around 5-8% on their “investment” once again straining cash flow even further. 

With sales falling, Toys began to run low on cash. As a result, cuts had to happen across the company because no way would the private equity companies take a cut in fees.  In such circumstances, the research and development department gets cuts first, then other sales, general and administrative expenses are slashed next, followed by a hiring freeze, then changes to the accounts payable department.  What used to be 30 or 45 day terms are changed to 60 or 90 day terms.  After that benefits are cut/eliminated and salaries for new hires are slashed to minimum wage.  This is all being done to pay interest and dividends to private equity companies.

The result of this ultimately led to the death of the company.  Because of financial constraints, Toys can’t innovate much. For example, toys are only made by a couple different companies—Hasbro and Mattel being the big ones—so in a sense you are limited by their innovation in that space.  On price, Toys only had about 800 stores in the United States compared to Wal-Mart and Target which have 800 in the western U.S. alone. This hurt the negotiation power Toys had with suppliers. For example, Toys wants to buy one million GI Joe toys from Hasbro, and Hasbro sells them to Toys for $10 a unit.  Wal-Mart orders three million GI Joe toys and Hasbro cuts them a volume discount based on $7 a unit.  As a result Toys sold GI Joe for $14 and Wal-Mart could sell for $10.  Toys then agreed to price match the competition, so now on that same GI Joe instead of making $4 per unit, they were breaking even; such a business model is not sustainable. 

Also, there was no money being re-invested back into the business. Toys used to be known as a huge demonstration and interactive place for children to visit, try out the toys, and then scream and cry until mom or dad bought it for them. Those demo areas disappeared.  Toys became a big box store and worse yet couldn’t compete on price with other big box stores like Wal-Mart.  In a world where price is now everything, Toys had an advantage at one time. The child could play with and decide they want the product and unfortunately for the parents, they couldn’t wait two days for Amazon Prime because little Mike wanted it NOW.

Even as the business declined, Toys still controlled 20% of the market. Finally, the private equity guys turned to turnaround artist David Brandon, you may recognize the name, he turned Domino’s Pizza into the company it is today and brought it back from the dead.  The problem for Toys was that it was too late. Toys remodeled several hundred stores, brought back the demo areas, improved their website, but the damage from private equity had been done. The flow of money away from operations led to customers opting for other big box stores or internet websites.  They couldn’t attract top talent anymore and began to close stores several tranches at a time. 

This spooked suppliers and as a result; Hasbro, LEGO, and Mattel changed the terms under which they would sell products to Toys. The result, Toys ran out of inventory during the Christmas shopping season!   With unsustainable debt, the company could not pay its bills and as a result the only option left was bankruptcy protection. A big store like Toys—similar to Sports Authority and Sport Chalet—no way the creditors would allow them to go through a restructure, they would need to liquidate.  Thus, the end of Toys R Us. But don’t feel bad for the private equity groups. They collected fees and dividends for over 15 years and then during bankruptcy sold the inventory and everything else to liquidation firms.  Additionally the lack of profitability also gives tax advantages to these groups since they tend to own many companies.  The employees?  They got nothing, except a pink slip of course.

Could Toys have been saved…I think so; there is room for a toy store chain in the United States.  This is what I would have done. I would have run the stores similarly to Best Buy or a grocery store. I would have found a tenant or two to sublease floor space, so they could demo their own products.  I would have set up an area to host children’s birthday parties, and maybe reached out to LEGO to see if they wanted to create a LEGO Land in the stores.  This would give predictable cash flow every month and given you a way to spruce up your business to make it more appealing to customers.  Have you been to a Best Buy lately?  I don’t even think Best Buy owns much of its own leased stores; Pacific Sales, Sprint, T-Mobile, Magnolia, Google, and HP/Apple lease a ton of floor space from them.  As far as price match goes, that’s a battle big box stores win by attrition. I would have focused on making the stores into a place both parent and child want to go to because I don’t think anyone admits publically to wanting to go to Wal-Mart.  But alas, a large part of most people’s childhood is gone with the wind.


Posted by william on 04/05 at 04:41 AM
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