Monday, August 17, 2015

How Quickly We But Not All Forget

August 29, 2005;
How Quickly We But Not All Forget
By Jim "Gymbeaux" Brown, August 16, 2015

The following was copied from the Wikipedia Internet page:

Monday, August 29, 2005[edit]
At 5:10 AM CDT (1010 UTC), Hurricane Katrina made its second landfall as a strong Category 3 hurricane at Bay St. Louis, MS, with sustained winds of more than 125 mph (205 km/h), although Category 4 winds may have briefly affected the area.[14] Katrina also made landfall in St. Bernard parish and St. Tammany parish as a Category 3 hurricane for a total of three landfalls in Louisiana.[citation needed]
By 8:00 AM CDT (1300 UTC), in New Orleans, water was seen rising on both sides of the Industrial Canal.
At approximately 8:14 AM CDT (1314 UTC), the New Orleans office of the National Weather Service issued a Flash Flood Warning for Orleans Parish and St Bernard Parish, citing a levee breach at the Industrial Canal. The National Weather Service predicted three to eight feet of water and advised people in the warning area to "move to higher ground immediately."[15]
By 9:00 AM CDT (2100 UTC), there was 6–8 feet of water in the Lower Ninth Ward.[16][17]
At 10:00 AM CDT (1500 UTC), Hurricane Katrina made its third landfall near Pearlington, Mississippi and Slidell, Louisiana, with sustained winds of 120 mph (193 km/h) after crossing Breton Sound. Also at 10:00 AM. while at a Medicare event in El Mirage, Arizona, President Bush said, "I want to thank the governors of the affected regions for mobilizing assets prior to the arrival of the storm to help citizens avoid this devastating storm."[18]
It is fast approaching August 29, 2015 and I cannot help but be amazed at how quickly so many have forgotten so much.  For me, that date will live on in infamy much like President Roosevelt said about the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Pearl Harbor is a page in the history books for me, Hurricane Katrina literally struck home; hard for me to forget so quickly.
This Nugget is not about how Katrina affected me, although that is a great part of this Nugget, it is more about how one commercial entity responded to the people within that organization on very short notice.  Like so many organizations, we had a plan, somewhat, describing the duties that must be followed should our area be struck by a serious storm/hurricane.  Like most folks it was on paper but no one really thought it would ever be implemented.  We were all wrong; so very wrong.
For me it started like any Friday except in addition to going out for dinner, we were going to take in a concert by Chris Botti at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi, MS.  The concern was fabulous!  Arriving home late at night we went to bed.  Since it was then Saturday, for me it was an early rise to play golf with the guys.  None of us had any idea what was soon to befall us all.  On the fifth hole, I distinctly remember one of the players asking "where are all the birds?"  Our course was typically inundated with birds of all types but on this early Saturday morning, August 27, there were no birds, no ducks, barely a sound.  When we stopped at the club house after the 9th hole they had the television on the weather channel and Hurricane Katrina which was suppose to pass us far to the east was instead bearing directly upon Slidell, LA and the surrounding areas.  We immediately went home and all of us packed for evacuation.
It had always been my plan to evacuate to the Birmingham, AL area should the need ever dictate an evacuation.  I had prearranged with the Keller Williams Realty Market Center there to do so.  My daughter had a home there and even though she was overseas visiting family, she welcomed us and others to her home.  We arrived late Saturday evening.  I checked in with the Keller Williams Realty Market Center in Hoover, AL my home-away-from-home for the next 4 weeks.  Even though it was a Sunday, I was welcomed with open arms.
Before the storm actually struck landfall, the cell phones stopped working.  Remember it was 2005 and texting was a relatively new phenomenon.  The storm struck early Monday morning.  When the seriousness of the storm became evident, I went to the Hoover Keller Williams Market Center and began calling my 75 agents and staff to make sure they were safe and out of harm's way.  That is when I suddenly realized that the macho exterior I had was all a fake and that I cared more deeply for my crew than I had ever known.  I could make contact with so very few that first day; the phones simply did not work  It wasn't until Wednesday or Thursday that we all realized that even though the voice part our cell phones would not work, the text portion did and we all went through a very quick self-training on how to text.  By texting I was able to make contact with about 60 of my crew over the next 7 to 15 days.  Still about 15 were unaccounted for and panic really began to set in.  The agents of the Hoover office realized just how bad off I had become and would not talk to me but instead would just pass me by and put their hands on my shoulders.  Just the thought of that even today brings tears to my eyes.  Finally all were accounted for and they were safe but a lot of their homes were another story for another time.
There were 17 Keller Williams Market Centers and over 750 Keller Williams agents and employees who were ultimately affected by Hurricane Katrina, some far more than others.  Yet with the electrical power being out throughout the Region, communication and business operations were impossible.  Not only were agents worried about their own homes and their real estate businesses, they were very much concerned about the buyers and sellers they represented.  Contracts were all put on hold; nothing would close and no one was making any money.  Some seller's homes survived, a lot did not.  Some homes that buyers had contracts on survived, a lot did not.  Sadly one thing that none of us predicted or considered was that some homeowners where very unscrupulous in their business dealings.  Some sellers who had contracts on their homes that survived wanted to cancel their contracts at any price and jack up their asking prices.  Seller of homes that survived but as yet received no contracts, immediately jack their prices up - a simple matter of supply and demand at work.
It was during the first days following Hurricane Katrina I witnessed firsthand how some people sought to reap rewards and heretofore unseen benefits from the storm and a very select few stepped to the plate to provide purely selfless activities in support to those affected.  Keller Williams Realty International (KWRI) was one such group of people.
Several years before Katrina, KWRI established a non-profit charitable account where Keller Williams agents and employees could make contributions that would be used for charitable endeavors and to help Keller Williams agents who found themselves in perilous situations through no fault of their own.  It was a noble endeavor.  If memory serves me, on the day Katrina struck there was about $500,000 in the account; maybe less.  Nonetheless, then CEO Mo Anderson contacted the 17 affected Market Centers and made this profound declaration.  The account, Keller Cares, will immediately deposit $5,000 in each of the over 750 members accounts and all that was needed was the name of the financial institution and account numbers to which the deposits would be made.  Just receiving that info when communications were so bad, was a monumental task.
The math was quite simple, 750 members, $5,000 each, no questions asked as to need, meant that deposits exceeding $3,750,000 were to be made from an account that had $500,000 on record. 
Step 2.  Mo Anderson contacted all of the remaining Market Centers and asked them to do three things.  First, contact all of their agents and ask for donations to the Keller Cares fund.  Secondly she asked each ownership group from every Market Center to until further notice volunteer to donate 10% of their Market Center's profits to a fund that would be utilized by the 17 affected Gulf Coast Keller Williams Market Centers to insure they remained solvent during the upcoming weeks they would be non-operational.  That was huge!  And the movement was on.  The last thing she asked was that anyone who could, to help affected Market Centers and agents in any way they could, and they did!  There may have been like-minded CEOs who did similar miracles for their companies but I have heard of none that actually did.  One organization simply directed its membership to seek help from the Red Cross.
Step 3 and this may have been the most critical of all.  Mo Anderson established a program whereby another Keller Williams agent would literally adopt another adversely affected Keller Williams agent and become their advocates.  They would contact the agent as soon as communications would permit to ascertain their situation and determine what they needed just to survive.  Additionally Keller Williams Market Centers did the same for the affected Market centers.  With 75 agents in my Market Center it would be impossible to list all of the help the agents received from cars, yes cars, to clothing, money, food, and simply things like tooth brushes and soap. Until it happens, you have no idea just how much you need and cannot get with all the stores being closed indefinitely and money being in very short supply if available at all - remember the power was out, banks closed, ATMs not working and this went on for as long as 4 weeks.  On top of all that - IT WAS HOT, VERY HOT!  I know that in one such incident one of my agents was asked what she needed.  She said that all she needed was a place to wash her clothing.  Suddenly and I mean suddenly, a washer and dryer appeared at her home.
About 6 weeks after the storm hit there was a Keller Williams training function in Austin TX primarily for Owners, Team Leaders, Brokers of Market Centers from all over the world.  I remember saying I was going to attend to get away from all the destruction and heart break and just hide out among the 3 or 4 thousand people who would be in attendance.  That didn't last long.  I remember it as if it were yesterday when Mo Anderson asked me to sit on stage with her and to tell everyone about the experiences of Katrina.  What I remember was that leading up to the time I was to talk, Mo Anderson kept rubbing my back.  When it came time to talk, I could not; I just stood there and cried.  Just before I was to say anything they announced that they had taken up a collection of those in the audience to help support the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast Market Centers and it exceeded $35,000 which was just from the money in their pockets. I literally became a basket case in front of over 3000 people.

It has now been 10 years since Katrina struck and destroyed the lives of so many.  I still get tears in my eyes as I recount this.  I had known Mo Anderson prior to Katrina and I had always known her to be a very caring and dedicated leader in the company.  I also knew that she was in part responsible for the company belief that the order of priority within the company is God, Family and then Business.  On August 29, she violated that belief by putting the Keller Williams Family first and for that I and so many others are forever grateful to both God and Mo for understanding and stepping to the plate!

Monday, August 10, 2015

What Are We Leaving Our Children?

By Jim "Gymbeaux" Brown

From Plunder and Deceit by Mark Levin.  In the very opening of his book, he states:  "Among the least acknowledged facts of American modernity is the extent to which parents, acting in their familial capacity, naturally and tenaciously guard their young children from threat and peril, to the point of risking their own physical and economic security in extreme cases; however, as part of the political and governing community-that is, the ruling generation-many of these same parents wittingly and unwittingly join with other parents in tolerating, if not enthusiastically championing, disadvantageous and even grievous public policies that jeopardize not only their children's future but the welfare of successive generations."

If there has been and still is one HUGE concern that bothers me the most it is exactly what Levin states in the opening salvo in his book.  As the father of 4, grandfather of 9 and great grandfather of 2, how can I not be concerned with the America that WE will be leaving for their futures. 

Think about it. 

  • ·        We and our Government are grossly spending more than we take in or; lack of a balanced budget.
  • ·         We have racial division that has not existed to this degree in 40 years. 
  • ·         The world and America is a far less safe place where Police have been needlessly vilified.
  • ·         The southern border remains open to whomever decides to cross, friend or enemy. 
  • ·         Over 100 cities have declared themselves as Sanctuary Cities and neither the cities nor our Government thinks there is anything wrong with the policy of completely ignoring LAW even as Americans are being killed, robbed and/or raped by illegal aliens. 
  • ·         Corporations like Planned Parenthood are selling baby parts and again the Government fails to see the importance of allowing tax payer dollars to fund such activities. 
  • ·         People openly incite riotous behavior with immunity of prosecution.  
  • ·         The Government solution to almost all problems is to tax more, regulate more and overall discourage entrepreneurship in America.
  • ·         A foreign policy seems to be to reward our enemies while ignoring our long-time allies and the result is that we are more disrespected than in the last 50 years.
  • ·         And now with the world in turmoil we are placing ourselves at more risk by degrading our military.

 And the list can go on.  Is it no wonder I am concerned for the future of my children, grand children and great grandchildren.  Who but only a fool wouldn't be?  And we seem to be sitting idly by as "Rome (or in this case Washington) burns!"Who is responsible for the current state of America.  There are at least five main culprits.  It starts and primarily ends with the President of the United States just as any issues aboard a ship starts and ends with the Commanding Officer who is in charge and responsible for everything!  Period!

Then there is the Supreme Court which was suppose to review cases to determine if the Constitution has been upheld or not.  They are NOT suppose to write what they believe to be the law instead of interpreting the law in accordance with the issue being adjudicated. 

Then of course there is the House of Representatives and the Senate. 

Finally "we the people" have failed in our responsibility to put people into office who will follow the Constitution rather than making up the rules as the Congress and the President wish.

We as a country have become politically polarized where a politician or politicians of BOTH parties can do no wrong and it goes without saying that the other party is always wrong.  Obamacare is a perfect example of a failed government.  The Democrats wrote the bill in private not allowing any input from the Republican Party whatsoever.  This is so wrong on so many levels.  We elect our Representatives to officially represent our desires and when one party is excluded from the debate, approximately half of the country's voters will have been disenfranchised because they were not represented in the process.  In this case it just happened that it was the Democrats who did it to the Republicans but it could be the other way around as well.  The current process has failed the American people.

Then using Obamacare as an example, the Supreme Court twice failed to follow the constitution by simply determining if the law as WRITTEN and APPROVED was constitutional.  Instead they interpreted what they believed what the terms of the law said and what they believe it should have said instead of returning it to Congress for correction and approval.  By so doing they have become a legislative body instead of the judicial body of government.

All one has to do to see that Congress (House and Senate) is at fault simply by the very partisan votes on any given bill.  It seems like ALL Republicans vote one way and ALL Democrats vote the other and there are very few if any crossovers on major legislation.  A perfect example of this is the Sanctuary City issue.  I fail to see how anyone can believe the country is best served by a city declaring itself a Sanctuary City and therefore completely ignore the laws of the land.  Then to make this worse, the President has also decided to not prosecute these cities for violating the law when Americans are being murdered, robbed and/or raped by illegal aliens; a lot of whom had already committed violent crimes in America.  Even then, these Sanctuary Cities fail to notify the proper authorities that an illegal alien had been captured and who should have been turned over to the federal authorities.  How can anyone exhibiting any common sense whatsoever believe that this is the proper thing to be doing.  Yet the Democrats on this issue vote as one and refuse to enforce the laws of the land.  It's madness!  If they truly want to play by the rules they should submit a bill to reverse the previous bill.Another example.  

Congress not only spends more than the country collects in taxes, they then approve one debt increase after another and then borrow the money, usually from China, needed to fund the various expenditures of the country that Congress and the President have approved.  Any company or individual that tried this in their personal lives or business lives would very quickly have to declare bankruptcy because this type of procedure simply cannot be sustained when the debt holders (China for example) declare the debtors (USA for example) in default because they can no longer pay the principle and interest on the money loaned.

The one segment of our country most responsible for all of this are the voters who continually return politicians to office, some who have been there well in excess of 30 years.  Think about that for a moment.  We return the same dysfunctional politicians that through their actions or inactions have placed the future of America and our children in dire jeopardy.  Year after year these politicians say certain programs MUST be addressed otherwise the country is going to go broke.  Yet these same politicians once back in office ignore the mandate of the people and do what they have done year after year after year - ignore the issues   And the cycle repeats itself every election cycle.  If you want a clear reason for term limits this is it.  Congress is failing the people it has been charged with protecting. They seem to be more interested in cementing and adding to its power than doing the job they were sent to Washington to do.

This is NOT a Republican issue nor is it a Democrat issue - it IS an American issue and these people ought to start recognizing the problem and then setting a path to fix it.  If Congress and the President won't fix the term and budget issues, we the voters should vote every Senator out of office that has been there for two terms or eight years.  We should also vote every Representative out of office who has been there for more than four terms thus giving every member the opportunity to serve for eight years max!

Every elected official should be bound by the terms of every law that is passed and no elected official and no Supreme Court Judge should EVER be exempt from any law passed.  Every elected official should be responsible for providing for their own health insurance for periods once they are out of office and they should be required to provide for their own retirement program.  We should be discouraging career politicians rather than giving them incentives to stay literally forever.

Sadly I do not see any of this ever happening unless the States collectively call for a Convention of States with members drawn from the general public of each state.  A Convention of States could change the rules in spite of Congress and the President.

If nothing happens, the country and our children are in deep trouble and this is all happening while most Americans are simply asleep at the wheel.  They have no clue what is happening and could care less.

It is time to start caring.  It is time to drop the political handles and start doing the right things to alter the course of America.  It is simply time to take up the challenge and provide solutions.  Its time!