Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mary Ellen Winter: Homeless Lady, Angel, or Both?

by, Mark Baker

It's unique how the aging process mellows us and gives us a perspective that often is quite different than the ones we held in younger years. A good friend got me to thinking today when on Facebook, she posed the question, "What 10 Things do you value most in life?" Intrigued, I took a notepad and jotted down the ten things in my life that mean the most to me; the list included of course our Lord & Savior, Jesus, my wonderful Woman, Annette, my three Sons, Family and Friends, etc. But as I neared the end of my list, somebody came to mind whose impact on my life I couldn't ignore and even though I spent less than two and a half hours with her, her impact on my life was profound and life-changing in nature.

It was 1999 and I'd been sent by my employer, a large Life Insurance & Annuity Company, where I worked as a Business Analyst to San Diego for a Technology Symposium & Convention at the Marriott Marquis Hotel & Marina. It was my first time visiting San Diego and while I was interested in seeing some of the sights of this most beautiful city in my personal time, I wanted to show my boss what a responsible steward I could be with company funds. So after reaching my suite, realizing I was quite hungry since leaving Michigan that morning, I called Room Service to ascertain what a Club Sandwich would cost me. Learning that a Club on Rye with Chips and a soft drink would be approximately $18.00, I declined as I noticed the small fridge in my suite's kitchenette, which I decided I could stock myself and eat from much cheaper than using room service. I secured my luggage and stopped by the front desk on my way out; I asked a Bell Hop which direction I might find the nearest grocery store and he gave me directions to a 'Safeway' a few blocks away, so off I went.

As I walked along, I couldn't help but notice how beautiful and clean San Diego was, and although a large city, it wasn't the least bit intimidating like I'd found LA, or San Francisco before it. Before long, I saw that I was approaching the Safeway from behind the store and as I rounded the corner to the front entrance I noticed a homeless Lady sitting at a little round table in front of the store. For whatever reason, I hesitated as we made eye-contact and I said "Good Afternoon Ma'am." She smiled back and retorted, "Good Afternoon young man." It was somewhat awkward in that I was entering the store and there was a guy right behind me that kept me from stopping as I entered. However, there was something very odd and unique that came over me as I met that Old Lady. I was (and am) generally a very observant person, but I noticed was completely AWARE of her during that brief moment. She had a large two-wheeled cart next to her that had three large plastic bags stuffed into it containing whatever homeless people put in such bags. She wore brownish nylon slacks and a San Diego 'Sea World' sweatshirt under one of those old '70's style green parkas with a fake fur snorkel with an orange lining. I noticed that her shoes were a men's pair of old Converse 'Chuck Taylor' black canvas high-tops, which looked especially odd in that she wasn't wearing any socks which was very evident as her slacks drew-up her thin pale ankles as she sat there. Her face was clean and she wore a vibrant, sincere smile and her blue eyes sparkled with life and brilliance. Those sockless ankles however would become very symbolic over the course of the next two and a half hours...

Anyway, I entered the store and quickly busied myself with gathering some staples for hunger-free high-rise bachlorhood for the next four days: Orange Juice, Milk, 'Grape Nuts' cereal, Apples, Bread, assorted lunch meat, cheese slices, Fruit Juice Boxes, and assorted snacks and spray starch to touch-up my clothes. I didn't give the old lady a lot of thought as I shopped, and as I checked-out, I assumed she'd left as I couldn't see her sitting beneath the window at the front of the store. As I exited the store, I caught her in the periphery of my right eye as she indeed was still sitting at that table. There was a brief yet awkward moment as I stutter-stepped, then hesitated not able to decide if I should just turn left outside the store and head back to my Hotel or turn toward her. Something inside me told me to turn right which I did. Again we looked at each other and again I said "'Ma'am" feeling rather awkward standing there holding two large bags of groceries which I sat down in order to extend my right hand to shake hers. I introduced myself, "Mark Baker, pleased to meet you..." and she responded with a wide smile saying, "Mary Ellen Winter, not Spring" offered with a little laugh that came from her heart. I asked her if I could join her at the little table to which she stated, "Set Down, sit down." All this was very strange for me, because I had no idea why she'd caught my eye to begin with, but seeing myself as a nice guy, I'd said hello, now I was feeling rather odd, in uncharted waters now sitting down with a homeless woman whom I knew nothing about in front of a grocery store in a town I'd never been to before, while my hungry stomach growled at me. But there I was.

She opened the conversation by asking, "What brings you to San Diego Mark Baker?" I responded, what makes you so sure I don't live here with a chuckle? She said, "well Mark Baker, your too pale to be from here and you're wearing a tie, and NOBODY wears ties in San Diego unless they have to; your dressed too formal for a tourist, so my guess is your here for business, am I right?" I laughed and said "Wow, you got me figured out, I'm staying around the corner at the Marriott while here for a technology convention, and I'm pale because I'm from Michigan and I'm wearing a tie because I'm square." We both laughed together and from there on, it was easy, like I'd known her a long time. Over the course of the next half hour or so, I came to learn a great deal about Mary-Ellen Winter and how she'd come to be a homeless lady living in San Diego.

She shared with me how she'd been a school teacher in Missouri for 27 years, had a teaching degree from Oklahoma and been married for over 30 years to her late husband who'd died of cancer. She moved out to San Diego to live with and help take care of her older sister who was dying of leukemia and eventually passed away. One thing led to another and she only had a small fixed income from her husbands social security and her small teachers pension, but couldn't afford a home or apartment here. As we talked and the sun began to set, the way she dressed began to make sense to me as I felt myself getting chilled as we spoke; the sweat-shirt and old parka now were beginning to take on a new light; I was getting my first lesson that evening. However her bare ankles stuffed into those man-sized Converse tennis shoes kept bothering me.

At one point as I was telling her about my life and showing her wallet pictures of my three sons, we were interrupted as a San Diego Police cruiser pulled up to the curb in front of us. A female officer stepped out of the car and I was about to get my second lesson of the evening, that of 'stratification' and that we DO live in a cast-system here in America wither we wish to face it or not. As the officer exited her car, she at first glanced at me with a warm, friendly look, slight smile and subtle head nod and stated to me "Sir." Then I watched as her glance moved over to Mary-Ellen. In that quick a space of time, I personally witnessed her face change from friendly to cold and semi-hostile as she addressed Mary-Ellen, "You need to be moving-on now, alright?" I immediately, but politely interjected, "Officer, everything is fine, we're just talking here, we shouldn't be that much longer." She gave me an odd, confused glance and stated "all right, but SHE will need to be moving along soon," as she re-entered her car and pulled away from us. Lesson-3 was well on its way to my thick skull as I realized that that officer had viewed the two of us very different, even though she didn't know either of us. I didn't like the feeling even though I was on the 'acceptable-side' of that viewpoint. Lesson-4 beat me over the head as soon as the officer was pulling away and I was contemplating what I'd just witnessed when Mary-Ellen offered, "That's ok honey, she was just doing her job." Here I am fully expecting that this poor old lady would be spouting something not so nice about the cop who had just treated her rather badly (which I would have felt myself had I been in her shoes), but yet this kind old homeless Christian Lady reminds me that she 'was just doing her job.'

Now as the sun was nearly setting and dusk closed-in I noticed how very chilly it gets in San Diego after the sun goes away, yet there again, my thoughts went to her sockless feet and I mentioned it to her asking her if she'd allow me to go back into the store so I might buy her a package of tube socks I'm sure they had. She laughed at me and stated "No Mark, I've got socks, but they're hanging up outside one of my places." I told her that it really was bothering me and that I had a lot of socks back at my room and that the ones on my feet were clean and sweat-free and that I'd feel better if she'd please let me give her my socks. Again, she laughed at me and said she didn't want my nasty, stinky socks. At this point, we were running out of things to talk about and I WAS starting to get quite cold. Then she said, "Well Mark, it's been great talking to you but I better get moving before I get in trouble with the police." At that point I insisted that she allow me to give her some of my food-things and she very reluctantly did after I basically put them into her cart. Then after another awkward moment, where we were about to separate, something came over me that I've never experienced before, I felt a strong urge to pray with her, so I asked her if it would be all right for us to pray together? She didn't hesitate to say "Sure, I'd love that." So we held hands and I awkwardly offered-up a prayer to the Lord for Mary-Ellen stating how it was an honor to have met her and asking that He watch out over her, etc. Without missing a beat, she chimed-in and thanked our Lord for having met me and asked Him to surround my boys with His Angels and that He watch over me during my stay and on my trip back home, etc.

We said our Amen's and then as I was getting up to leave, I hear a skateboarder coming down the sidewalk behind me. I think nothing of it as San Diego is full of oddballs desperately attempting to extend their adolescence. Anyway, this late 20-something skate-boarder comes along right beside the table we've been sitting at for two and a half hours and suddenly everything slows down like slow motion as he passes us in his dread-locks with a 'JansSport' bag slung over his shoulder, partially unzipped. At the EXACT moment he's right beside our table, I watch as a perfectly clean pair of 'Russell' Athletic Socks fall out of his bag to the sidewalk one foot from our table. My first thought is to yell to the kid about his socks, but I resist and instead reach down and pick them up and bring them up to Mary-Ellen who I hand them too. Now expecting to see her face as amazed as mine, I get my last lesson of that night as I look at her and she takes my left hand with her right, squeezes it and with a bright smile and those brilliant blue eyes, says to me: "See Honey, I told you He takes care of all my needs, and He Loves YOU just as much." My eyes immediately filled with tears I could hardly contain as it hit me that He hadn't provided ME to be a blessing to her, but rather He provided HER to be a blessing to ME. I hugged her, said goodbye and returned to my palace on the harbor as she returned to wherever she called home that cool evening. I called my boys to tell them what happened and to a person they pretty much thought the 'old man' had lost it. I never saw or heard from Mary-Ellen Winter again even though I have paused to think of her and that odd night twelve years ago many times. I don't worry about her or her bare ankles, or me for that matter, because I learned that night that our Savior is ALWAYS with us.

Press On...

Monday, February 21, 2011

"I went to the woods..."

by Mark Baker

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and to see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” -Henry David Thoreau

For those of you who've yet to read it, Thoreau's 'Walden' is time very well spent. Funny how certain things in life -even those that are exceedingly brief in nature- can cause our minds to take us places we love or deeply appreciate. The other day when our Michigan teased us with a brief glimpse of Miss. Spring dancing around the bend, I got excited in the same way I have since I was a little kid itching to get my bike out for that first Spring ride. Now, staring-down the barrel of half a century on this big blue marble, I get the same exciting anticipation in my belly -although I'm wiser now and know that Old Lady Michigan's gonna kick us a time or two again in the seat of the pants with another winter blast as she is this morning as I write this blog entry.

There's nothing like a cold, gray winter blast outside to make ya appreciate artificially-sustained in-door environs, warm hugs AND cause you to reflect on what's important. Although I'm NOT especially a fan of winter, however I DO appreciate the affect that four distinct seasons play within each of us -a long, cold, gray, generally miserable winter makes one more deeply appreciate the simple rewards of Spring- and enrich our lives. In short, the 'hard times' make us appreciate so much more, the good times in our lives.

In retrospect, my life's tragedies have always been eclipsed by it's triumphs, but the balance is close, not wide in margin. I watched my Mom die a slow, lingering death from a multitude of ailments that stemmed from a horrendous car accident a decade before; this weighed against the joy of each of my three sons and watching them grow into young men and all the memories in between. I later took care of my Dad for six years as I watched him descend into the dark void of Alzheimer's disease; this weighed against the honor of being able to give him something back as a son, for all he'd given my Mom, Brother and I growing up. The pain and emptiness of divorce after several years of marriage with a person I never really knew, weighed against the elation of finding 'the right one' and for the first time in life feeling a kindred-heart bond and relational harmony I've never known before.

Given the loud, 'neon' nature and nano-second speed by which our lives play out before us, coupled with the shallow nature of far too many of our relationships; we sometimes can feel very alone in a crowd. In those times, be they rare or frequent, pause if you will for a moment and consider all the amazing works of Our Father's Hands. Then (that very DAY), go to a quiet place be it a forest, a quiet river-trial, or a secluded beach and marvel at all He's created and done for us to give our lives peace and harmony. Then, while drinking it all in, realize that we, His children are NEVER alone.

I've taken these quiet walks many times in my life and hope to enjoy many more before my clock is done, and on my last allotted day in this temporal life before eternity, I will know that I have indeed lived. Press On...

Note: If you enjoy or get anything out of my prose or rants, I would welcome your comments and any thoughts below from your experiences in life that tie-in. Further, if you do happen to enjoy my blog, I encourage you to sing-up and become a 'Follower.' All the Best, -Mark

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Finding 'The One' right around the corner...

by, Mark Baker

There are a multitude of reasons that marriages can fade and fail over time. Far too many of us have experienced failed marriages, myself included, and while one of the two parties to a broken marriage may have contributed more to its demise than the other, the truth is that we are all sinners and there are no saints when it comes to failure. BOTH parties failed in some degree because a solid marriage isn't simply a 50/50 proposition, but rather an 100/100% one in nature; neither party has stainless hands.

Contrary to popular belief, successful marriages do not just happen in storybook fashion, but rather require common values of respect, commitment, communication, adoration, kindness, honesty, humility, selfless and total faithfulness, along with good measures of passion, patience and lots of laughter by two people who long to share their lives together. And most importantly, both parties need to realize that they may not always 'Like' their mate, but they should always 'LOVE' them.

Love in my personal opinion is perhaps one of the most misunderstood words in language and certainly the most misapplied and one taken for granted. When we're young for example, it's common to confuse Infatuation with Love. Infatuation is 'emotion' based, whereas Love is 'devotion' based; the difference is HUGE. Infatuation is a temporal feeling predicated on 'outward' attraction whereas Love is an ever-growing feeling predicated on 'inward' attraction of traits, behaviors and common values. Where Infatuation is selfish in nature, Love is selfless in nature.

Reading thus far, you may be thinking that while it appears easy to destroy a marriage, building a strong one requires a lot of hard work? Well, you'd only be half correct. It is indeed very easy to destroy a marriage -just act on your Id as any common narcissist (more common in number then we'd like to think) which hopefully you're not (but another VERY common problem is that far too many nice people marry narcissists and suffer accordingly until the light-bulb goes off one day and we realize, we can't change them). Actually solid, lasting relationships are easy to build if your willing to be patient enough to take the time to allow yourself to discover a mate who shares the same values and commitment that you do. In an environment of mutual values, the sky is the limit, whereas dissimilar values will always lead to divorce or lingering despair.

I'm by no means a genius, but I've always tried to model the example my Dad displayed regarding his love for my Mom. I'm all but certain that Dad may not have always 'liked' Mom, but he ALWAYS Loved her.

Anyway, imagine my surprise, when years after divorce and single-fatherhood of my three sons and taking care of my Dad as he faded into the darkness of Alzheimer's, when I'd all but given-up on ever finding 'Her,' 'She' found me and I discovered that this one was nothing like anyone I'd ever met. So if you find yourself in a place like the one I was in, all I can suggest is that perhaps you should stop looking and start relaying on faith that your one-in-a-million 'The One' comes your way. Try not to dwell on what you want to find, but rather focus on who you are, or more specifically, who you want to be. To find true Love, we all should really understand what it is because we can't truly love anybody unless we know what Love is. Let's look at what our 'Owner's Manual' says about it:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

-1 Corinthians 13: 4-13

I Love You Netti and I'm Blessed to share my life with you...


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why defend insanity?

by Mark Baker

Nine year old Christina Green is no longer with us. Stolen from her parents. It took her violent, untimely murder before we knew her and the wonderful little child she was. She came into this world on the most tumultious day in modern American history, September 11th, 2001, and she was taken from her family and us, on what is now yet another sad day in American History when an angry, hedonistic, young man decided to kill innocents as the enemy has always (and will continue to) hungered for. Let us also not forget that five other innocent people were killed by Laughner as well that day.

Now that the dust as settled a bit on the darkness that is Jared Laughner, it would serve us well to consider how far the news-cycle pendulem has swung as to 'who' this monster is and 'why' he did what he did, or what caused him to become the murderer he became? I, like many of you wasn't surprised that the media attempted to establish Laughner as a 'Right Wing Extremist.' Interesting then, that as the dust started to settle and the facts surfaced, that quite to the contrary, Laughner was instead established athiestic, angst-ridden leftist who may or may-not suffer from one or more forms of mental illness. While the socialist left at first attempted to assign Jared to "the far right" or as some manifestation of the TEA Party, so too now has the right begun to try to occupy the high-ground as again, the FACTS began to appear that I figured would substantiate that he had nothing to do with the TEA Party or Constitutionalists for that matter, but rather that he was simply what he is. The bottom line for me isn't to point blame at anyone or anything beyond Jared Laughner himself; a society that views personal responsibility as passe or unapplicable, is a society in severe decline.

Like many of you, I've watched and listened to some on the left decry those who call for the timely execution of Laughner. They view our viewpoint as barbaric and bend over backwards to attempt to offer excuses for his actions. Here's a reaction typical of the left, that aggressively attempts to assign blame for Laughner's actions to everyone and everything but the person who pulled the trigger and ended innocent lives, Laughner himself:

I don't blame liberal Pima County Sheriff Dipnik for failing to act on several apperent red-flags that Laughner's past frightening statements and actions had raised. Anyone familar with the nature of American Law Enforcement understands that a Free Society religates law enforcement to largely 're-active' in nature, however I didn't appreciate Dipnik's attempt to politically exploit the situation either.

As is always the case in these situations, the socialist left will attempt to use tragedy to further irrode our freedoms (although the foundations for their typical arguments are falling apart quicker then usual in this case), so we must not allow ourselves to get side-tracked by their hysteria, but rather remain focused on the task we've all set our hands and will to, that being to re-establish our Constitutional Republic by educating others about our Constitution and unique American history.

Sad that little Christina Green now will never have the chance to finish living her childhood and the chance to grow-up in the country we grew-up in. To Christina and those who were murdered with her, Rest In Peace. To Jared Laughner, seek forgiveness from our Lord & Savior for you're short upon this earth and your eternity will be spent forever in one of two very different places...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Without Ethics Twentyeight Years Equals Two Cardboard Boxes.

by Mark Baker

'Processing.' Processing is a word you'll never hear spoken in corporate meetings, but it nonetheless exists and is the means by which many companies rid themselves of 'Legacy Employees.' A Legacy Employee is one who has served the company for many years and is nearing retirement age where upon they look forward to enjoying the retirement benefits they earned in exchange for decades of dedicated service to said company.

The problem is, many companies having already divested themselves of ethics and integrity, follow the path laid out by their 'Human Resources' staff members, whose goals are no longer to manage 'Personnel' as much as limit or totally eliminate the companies debt obligations, the largest of which is often future retirement and health care obligations to their retirees. The surest way to eliminate these future obligations is to fire the employee before they can qualify for same and this is where 'Processing' comes into play. Companies deny they practice systematic 'age discrimination,' but it's widespread nonetheless and in fact it's an accelerating trend in America as it's pool of late 'Baby Boomers' (those born between 1946 and 1964) who entered the workforce in their late teens or early twenties approach 30 years of service where they would become eligible for early retirement.

Perhaps this trend was enviably as 'Personnel Management' segued from a niche to a professional concentration becoming 'Human Resource Management.' Personally, I never cared for the term Human Resources as it connotes a cold, impersonal feeling far different from that of the 'Personnel Departments' of old. Where the old model placed emphases on employee development and personal enrichment, the latter focuses on worker management. Even the words and terms have grown colder and impersonal. Where in the past, you'd be an 'Employee' of a company, you're now an 'Associate,' or other such term that paints a wall of separation between the worker and the company.

In stark truth, the Human Resource Department views their companies'
Associates as nothing more than 'Units of Production, or at best a necessary means to an end. The idea is to reduce the 'Employer/Employee' relationship to a point void of human connection or friendship. Even outside the HR discipline, today most companies encourage their up-and-coming mid-level managers to NOT develop personal relationships with their subordinates. This allows them to develop a certain degree of what psychologists refer to as 'Cognitive Dissonance' that makes it easier for them to club the unsuspecting 'unit of production' over the head when that day presents itself, with little to no remorse. All this Orwellian 'Newspeak' is also accompanied with a Soviet-style 'Un-Personage' that was perfected during the Gulag years. For example, in the worst companies that utilize these hideous practices, once an 'Associate' is 'Terminated,' the remaining 'Associates' are told the next day that "So and So is 'No Longer with the Company.'" The word 'Fired' NEVER is spoken (for good reason, due to the fact that to do so and call it what it is, would open said company up for potential litigation wherein it would actually have to substantiate 'why' so and so is "No Longer WITH the company.' And God help any remaining 'Associate' who dares to ever speak about, or even mention the name of the terminated fellow associate; to do so will generally land them in their managers office at the receiving end of a stern scolding that often includes disingenuous platitudes such as "We want to look forward, not dwell on the past..." Often these daring associates will find themselves the next candidate in the 'HR Processor.' It's also interesting to note that these 'Un-person' 'No Longer With the Company' (ie, Employee Firings) tend to happen systematically inasmuch as people who have over 25 years, or are over 40 years of age, or have had a 'Medical Procedure' performed that caused them to be off work for an extended period of time, etc.

Even though a companies' longest serving employees tend to often be their best in terms of production, AND they too are often times the 'Go-to' people for younger employees as they refine their skills, the bottom line is that the HR professional always views employees in terms of Diminishing Returns and Growing Liabilities; or more coldly again as 'Units of Production' with a finite 'Shelf-Life.' The 'Science' of their cold trade, is to best determine the point where they feel an 'Associates' Value to the organization is overshadowed by their perceived Liability to it; all under the constant mantra of "Avoid paying Retirement Pension and Long-term Health Benefits AT ALL COSTS!"

The reason I write this piece is two-fold, 1. I happen to know that 'Processing' IS proactively practiced by company HR departments (having had a personal friend who used to do it for a living for a large insurance company we both worked for before she got sick of it and left the field), and 2. Because I just watched it happen to my 48 year old girlfriend who gave 28 years of her life to another big insurance company based in Lansing as well. What's ironic is that I am a devout capitalist conservative who backs a 'Right to Work' arena over a 'Unionist mentality,' so as you can imagine, I get real steamed when I see companies that are wildly profitable, practice what amounts to age-discrimination an an attempt (albeit successfully) to reduce long-term costs at the expense of the very people who helped grow them into the successful companies they are. It may not be illegal, but these practices are gross ethics violations and a sad commentary on the direction of American Business.

So, this all said, on Monday, November 1st of this month at 4:37, I received a text message from my girlfriend informing me that she'd just been fired. As I waited for her to emerge, I watched many of her fellow 'Associates' exit the building at the end of their workday, it struck me as odd how so many of them looked the same carrying their insulated coffee mugs, or walking out with co-worker friends all sharing a look of a captive animal finding its way from its cage. Then after all the others had left, I stood outside the door to meet my girlfriend as she exited her office for what would be the last time after 28 years of service. She was doing her best to be brave and not allow her deep hurt to show as she was followed by two bleach-blonds pushing a wheeled cart that contained two white boxes that contained all my girlfriends' personal affects. I offered a smile to my Netti and then stepped in front of the two emotionless zombie-women who were escorting her belongings. I politely offered to the two automatons "Your indignity ends right here ladies; twenty-eight years of loyal service and her reward is two cardboard boxes; I wonder how you two can stand to look at yourself in the mirror in the morning?" whereupon I removed the two boxes from their cart and loaded them into my car and left.

To Annette and the others before her that have been 'Processed' at this company: You will come out of this treatment better then ever. To those friends of Annette who know her well and miss her, be brave and don't allow yourselves to be bullied into suspending your natural feelings about Annette and the others who have been singled out; watch your backs and stand together. For the management that practices this sort of treatment against your best and brightest (and especially you two sad bleach-blonds with all the emotion of the evil twins from 'The Shining'), well you have to live with who and WHAT you are; if you can, you're sorry excuses for human beings.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Shouldn't Law-Maker Candidates Obey the Law Themselves?

by Mark Baker

Something unique happened yesterday in that I received an anonymous letter in the mail that had no return address, or sender information. Inside I found a five-page document that was titled: "Current Law-Maker Supporting Possible Law-Breaker?" The info in question deals with Cheryl Krapf-Haddock, one of the Republican candidates for Michigan's 71st State House Seat along with Laurie Raines, Deb Shaugnessy and Brett Slocum.

The crux of the information sent to me states that Ms. Haddock, as Executive Director of the 'Child Abuse Prevention Council of Eaton County,' appears to be in violation of the US Code, Tax Laws and the 'Hatch Act,' regarding section 501(c) 3, tax-exempt, non-profit agencies such as the one she runs. Following is the contents of the letter I received:

"Current Law-Maker Supporting Possible Law-Breaker?"

Is Cheryl Krapf-Haddock breaking the law? Is State Representative Rick Jones' reputation at stake by supporting her? Cheryl Krapf-Haddock has repeatedly used her charitable, tax-exempt, 501(c)3 organization's position as "Executive Director" to promote herself for a partisan political campaign, which appears to violate current laws.

According to the US Code, Tax Laws AND The Hatch Act, 501(c)3, tax-exempt, non-profit community action agencies like the 'The Child Abuse Prevention Council of Eaton County,' which Krapf-Haddock heads up are STRICTLY PROHIBITED from supporting, engaging-in, or allowing staff to participate-in PARTISAN political elections. Violations for breaking these laws can be quite serious. Non-Profit, tax-exempt, organization's staff and members, particularly 'Executive Directors, CAN NOT use their position or title to affect the outcome of any partisan election or raise money for a partisan candidate's campaign.

Cheryl Krapf-Haddock identifies herself to media sources, in local newspapers and in her political campaign materials as "The Executive Director for the 'Child Abuse Prevention Council'" a non-profit 501(c)3. Krapf-Haddock has made it very clear to the general public that she is running as a "Republican" for a partisan office while actively employed and paid by this publicly-funded, tax-exempt, community action agency. According to the law, that may very well be a violation:

United States Code, Title 42, Chapter 66, Sub-chapter IV, Section 5043:
"...(b) Prohibition on program identification. (1) Programs assisted under this chapter shall not be carried-on in a manner involving the use of funds, the provision of services, or the employment or assignment of personnel in a manner supporting or resulting-in the identification of such programs with-
(A) any partisan or non-partisan political activity associated with a candidate, or a contending faction or group, in an election for public or party office:..."

Also, under the IRS Tax Code, it is clear that 501(c)3's cannot engage-in or support partisan politicians or be used to influence the outcome of an election, as appears to be going on with this candidate flagrantly using their job title and the organization's name throughout her campaign. IRS Penalties may include "revocation of tax-exempt status" and possible criminal penalties for the organization and/or those involved.

According to Anita Lichtblau, Esq., CAPLAW's Update, "For those of you new to the world of Community Action and 501(c)3 tax-exempt organizations, as well as those with many years in the field, keeping track of the rules relating to election and campaign activity is never easy. But understanding them is nonetheless is critical... Here's a list of Do's and Don'ts to steer you through the rules: Don't run for office in a partisan election if you are an Executive Director of a CAA taking a leave of absence doesn't solve the problem; the candidate must resign from his or her position... Do not speak on behalf of the CAA, or use the name of the CAA when supporting or opposing any candidate..." Krapf-Haddock HAS NOT resigned from her Executive Director position, continues to use her non-profit title and cites her active involvement in this organization, repeatedly for partisan campaign purposes to promote herself. Krapf-Haddock has actively sought and received the support of a current law-maker in the midst of this situation, both ignoring te law.

The 'Hatch Act' does cover 501(c)3 public non-profits. In such cases, according to Eleanor A Evans, Esq., found at: "What does the Hatch Act Prohibit? Being a candidate for public office in a partisan election; Using official authority or influence to interfere with, or affect results of an election or nomination for office. If the offense/s are serious enough to warrant dismissal from employment, employer must either: Dismiss employee; or forfeit its federal funding in an amount equal to two years of the employees salary.

The Hatch Act has been enforced against two such organizations in recent years, in one case a county outreach coordinator ran for county legislator and despite warnings, continued their candidacy and faced the consequences. 501(c)3's are already prohibited by tax code from engaging in political activity in support-of or in opposition-to a candidate for office, 26 U.S.C. 501(c)3...Federal and State Election Laws impose additional rules on campaign activities of individuals..."

According to IRS Regulations: "To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)3. In addition, it may not be an action organization; may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates."

In another section of the IRS Code under "Political Activity": If any of the activities (whether or not substantial) of your organization consist of participating-in, or intervening-in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition-to) any candidate for public office, your organization will not qualify for tax-exempt status under section 501(c)3. Such participation or intervention includes the publishing or distribution-of statements. Whether your organization is participating or intervening, directly, or indirectly, in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition-to) any candidate for public office depends upon all the facts and circumstances of each case.

The law is clear, Haddock's campaign materials are clear and so is her support by a current lawmaker. Who's breaking the law and jeopardizing this community organization's future to run as a 'Law-Maker?'

Having served as an officer of two area non-profit organizations myself, I am well aware of the very tight line they must adhere to regarding non-partisanship and political campaigns. We always insured that we were beyond reproach in these areas. I am not an attorney, and do not claim to have any expertise in this area, but given the apparent clear-cut nature of the documentation I was sent, I would hope that this could be looked at by a legal expert to determine if violations have indeed occurred within the Krapf-Haddock Camp.

Many Eaton County Republicans, especially those who have been active in the County Republican Party, have been collectively scratching their heads as to why Rick was so eager to back Haddock early-on, appearing prominently in her mailers, and placing her signs with his? Of course, when questioned Rick was always quick to state that he 'wasn't going to make ANY candidate endorsements for the 71st House Seat before the Primary. Well, that statement proved to be as trustworthy as a promissory note from a crack-dealer as Rick last week formally endorsed: DRUM ROLL.... Cheryl Krapf Haddock! That was about as big a shocker as learning that 'Bears actually do crap in the woods.'

Who knows why Rick Jones championed Cheryl Haddock's campaign, my thoughts, for what they're worth, are that Rick wished to have a 'rubber-stamp' in his old seat as he goes to the Senate, but I could be wrong; maybe he just simply wanted to irritate and confound the Eaton County GOP, as well as thousands of Eaton County Republican Constituents (you know, the people he's supposed to be working for instead of Special Interests)? Why else would this man turn his back on a women who had dedicated many years of her professional life to him, both when he was with the Eaton County Sheriff's Department, as well as the last few years as his Constituent Services Aide? A women who dug-in like an Alabama Tic on issues and concerns of the constituents of the 71st District; a women who he knows full WILL NOT compromise on ethical issues, nor 'play along' with the numerous games that are played behind closed doors in Lansing; a women who as the 'Homeland Security Grant Coordinator within the Michigan State Police, uncovered numerous funding violations and gross misappropriation of Federal Monies, and refused to knuckle-under to threats by those who were behind these acts.

This women is Laurie Raines, a dedicated mother of three and wife of Eaton County Sheriff Mike Raines, and a lady I've known since High School. Laurie is a true Constitutionalist Conservative who is a REAL 2nd Amendment Advocate, whose had a concealed-carry permit for over 20 years (and can outshoot many men), been an ACTIVE GOP member and officer and isn't ashamed to proudly state she's behind the TEA Party Movement to take-back our government and restore our Constitutional Republic. Rick Jones knows full well that Laurie Raines is by far, the most qualified, dedicated, uncompromising and educated candidate who has absolutely established beyond any doubt that she will not 'go along to get along' with the Lansing 'Play-Makers.' And I believe that it's for these reasons, Rick Jones fears Laurie Raines taking his old House Seat, because she knows him better than anybody else and he knows she will not partake in 'Business-As-Usual.'

Given the fact that Rick Jones has publicly endorsed Haddock and is a 'Lawmaker' himself, perhaps he should take the lead in looking into this and act accordingly. As our parents used to teach us: "It's NEVER too late to do the right thing." Cheryl Haddock should immediately withdraw from the race and take the steps necessary to save her 501(c)3 organization, and Rick Jones should endorse the candidate he knows full well is the best qualified to represent the people of the
71st District: Laurie Raines.

'We the People' are watching Mr. Jones...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Michigan's 71st District House Race: A Study in How Games Are Played & What We Must STOP.

by Mark Baker

This post shall serve as the final summation for the series I've ran on the Republican Candidates for Michigan's 71st State House Seat being vacated by Battle Creek native Rick Jones, who's leaving same due to term-limits. For those of you who have been following this series, I will reiterate for those who are just now reading the series, that I offered three of the four Republican Candidates the opportunity to share their thoughts on why they chose to enter this race and where they're coming from on the issues and what they hope to accomplish if elected to the seat.

As I mention in the lead-in for each candidates article, I did NOT offer Deb Shaugnessy an opportunity to post an article due to the fact that based upon her demonstrated history of words, behavior and actions, as legislative aide, and Charlotte Mayor, clearly establishes her as the quintessential archetype of what we DON'T NEED as a paid Representative. That said, I will now offer my thoughts and observations (for what they're worth) this race, and how it serves as a microcosm of what's wrong with the system and the games that are played behind closed doors by those in power to hold that power at all costs. I will also offer a case study in how some who enter political office often morph into someone far different than we thought they were after years in office. This metamorphosis is by no means universal, but is exceedingly common to those who lack integrity and a basic ethical foundation.

The four 71st House Seat Candidates again are: Cheryl Haddock, Laurie Raines, Deb Shaugnessy, and Britt Slocum. You can find articles from Raines, Slocum and Haddock below this one in the Blog-Scroll.

The ascension of Barrack Obama to POTUS, and his subsequent unprecedented assault on our Constitution, insane spending leading to an exponential expansion of America's deficit through another round of unbridled Keynesian 'Stimulus' economics, has caused Americans to awaken and rise-up like no other time in the last 150 years. Social Media tools have allowed us to 'find' each other and realize that we were never alone, and that 'We the People' indeed remain the vast majority of America. In short, we are Awake, Aware and Activated to halt the decline-of and assault-upon our Constitutional Republic.

The entrenched power elite, ignored us at first, then as our numbers grew, they still dismissed us yet another passing anomaly that they said would "burn-out." Then as our traction grew and our efforts exposed democrat socialists and RINO's in the GOP who began to either lose races they had become comfortable to winning, or deciding perhaps it was time to 'retire' than face the ugly music that awaited them around the corner, we are seeing that they are now taking one of two general courses to counter us: pathetically attack us as "racists" (which they're making fools of themselves with as 'We the People' are made-up of all races, colors and creeds, or attempt to co-opt us with faux outreach attempts that aren't effective in fooling hardly any of us. Try as they will to paint us at best as a 'passing fad' or at worst, 'dangerous armed racists,' they are beginning to sweat as we continue to grow in size and effectiveness at exposing them and their games. This is not just taking place here in our Michigan, but all across these United States and it will continue for the rest of our lives and be carried-on by our children, who will not surrender their Constitutional Citizenship for Socialist Serfdom.

MIRS (Michigan Information & Research Service) released the following article this week:

'Top Ten Open Primaries to Watch (except from

3. 71st House District, Republican - Only a couple weeks after all four candidates signed a "clean campaign" pledge, an e-mail popped up that linked two of the candidates to a pair of bankruptcies and all of the candidates are complaining about disappearing signs. Former Rep. Rick JONES staffer Laurie Raines (the wife of the local sheriff) is in the race, but Jones isn't supporting her or the "establishment" Republican candidate and outgoing Charlotte Mayor Deb SHAUGNASSEY, who staffed former Rep. Susan TABOR when she was in the House. Jones likes Cheryl Krapf HADDOCK, the executive director of the Child Abuse Prevention Council, but some observers see Britt SLOCUM, a local school board member and owner of three Jersey Giant restaurants as the strongest Republican. The winner will face a comparatively competitive general.'

Interesting that the Michigan Information & Research Service (MIRS) IS part of the Michigan (Lansing Insider) GOP Establishment and they're admitting herein that they view Deb Shaugnessy as their "Establishment" Republican candidate? Hmmm? That helps make my work of pealing-back the layers of this onion to expose the stink a few layers below easier because by that they're admitting that they are RINO's (Republican In Name Only) also because this this the same gal who as Charlotte Mayor, tried to use 'Eminent Domain' to snatch-away Family Farms in order to expand the Charlotte Airport which there was/is no need for. She also spent over $90k for the 'Study' on same, but when pressed about this wasteful spending, tried to squirrel-out by saying that it was Federal Money (Ah hum, WHERE Ms. Shaugnessy do you think the Fed gets their money?); with a thought process like that, she displays that she's neither the brightest bulb in the package, nor in anyway, a 'Fiscal Conservative.'

Then, Shaugnessy somehow receives the Farm Bureau 'Agri-PAC' endorsement over Raines, Slocum, and Rick Jones 'Pet Project,' Cheryl Haddock (I only state this because I, like thousands of other 71st District Constituents, have noticed that Rick is hermetically attached to everything Cheryl does or mails out? Could it be that Rick is extending his support to Cheryl not because she's the most qualified (which she CLEARLY IS NOT) as he's been stating in private for months (even though he'd stated he would not endorse any of the 71st candidates before the primary), yet most of her mailers make the two of them appear as conjoined twins who were recently cut apart yet suffer separation anxiety, but political hacks and RINO's, like the democrats they pride themselves for "reaching across the isle to WORK WITH," have no problem doing what they said they wouldn't and now Jones has... Brace Yourself- publicly endorsed Cheryl Haddock; what a surprise that one was huh. Of course in doing this Jones broke his earlier-made statement that he'd "make no endorsements before the Primary", but again people without integrity don't lose much sleep over such things unless it causes them bad-press.

Now, how do you suppose it could be that of the four GOP candidates for the 71st Seat, the only one who based on well-established facts and history, SHOULDN'T have in anyway been seriously considered for the Farm Bureau 'Agri-PAC' endorsement, end up getting it? It couldn't possibly have anything to do with the fact that Mr. Fred Marquardt sits on the Eaton County Farm Bureau Board, as well as the 'Agri-PAC' review committee (the plot thickens) or that Mr. Marquardt is the father of Linda Marquardt (it's getting deep, where's my waders?), who until she was supposedly fired (according to the Shaugnessy Camp) after she let her temper get the best of her and public ally referred to Rick Jones as a "Media Whore" served as Deb Shaugnessy's Campaign Manager (and although the Shaugnessy Camp is telling those who ask that 'that Person is No Longer Associated in anyway with Ded's campaign', Linda's been seen unlocking the doors to Shaugnessy's Campaign HQ? Oh the games, they know no limit). When I researched this most strange and odious endorsement at Farm Bureau's HQ level, everyone I spoke with pointed me in the direction of the LOCAL Eaton County Branch which "handles" the candidate interview process independently and then sends their decision to Farm Bureau HQ in Lansing for publication. So, to all you great Eaton County and especially, Charlotte-Area Farmers, and tax-paying residents, who like me wondered how in the hell Deb Shaugnessy could possibly have gotten the Farm Bureau Agri-PAC Endorsement, perhaps this was how! Games being played behind closed doors.

By the way, notice if you will, the ONLY candidate whose last name wasn't capitalized in the MIRS Report... Yes, Laurie Raines (RAINES), the wife of Eaton County Sheriff Mike Raines, who is a bold Constitutionalist Conservative Sheriff in the mold of Arizona's Joe Arpaio. Of the four candidates, my objective opinion is that only Laurie Raines and Britt Slocum are sincere, quality candidates who should be considered by any true Constitutional Conservative demanding an honest, fiscally responsible Representative, who I feel will serve with honor and integrity.

While I have publicly endorsed both Britt and Laurie and sincerely like both as individuals, my vote will go to Laurie Raines as I feel she represents the very best total package as a Representative in that her fifteen plus years of experience with the Eaton County Sheriff's Office, Department of Homeland Security/Michigan State Police, and last few years as Rick Jones' Constituent Services Aide, make her the best choice to serve the people of the 71st House District.