Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Big Brother is Watching--Part 1: The Internet

My website went down last night.  No, this was not an ordinary server crash.  Nor was it a 404 error or even at "Sorry, we can't find this webpage" error.  The website was gone--as the ServePro commercial says, "Like it never even happened."

I had been on my website in the morning so I know that the disappearing act took place sometime between 8:45 AM and 7:00 PM.  My emails are tied to my domain name, so they went down too with a notice that the Domain Name was unavailable.

Since I know that my domain name is pre-paid and registered for another several years, I was not really concerned.  AT&T manages my domain name and my webhosting, so I assumed that they might be conducting some kind of general maintenance and that everything would come back up on its own.  But when I got up this morning with still no website I knew there must be a bigger issue.

Five phone calls and three emails later, I learned that ICANN had suspended my domain name.  ICANN is the International Committee for Assigned Names and Numbers.  ICANN has managed the Internet since October 1, 2016.  Assignment of domain names and registrations now happens on their watch.  Although Obama got the blame for the transition, the seeds of ICANN were planted in the Clinton Administration in 1998.  The Clinton, Bush and Obama Administrations all made the determination that global governance of the Internet was the best way to protect and manage it.  In September of 2016, CBS News quoted Michael Chertoff former Homeland Security Chief under both Bush and Obama, on the subject of surrendering Internet governance to ICANN “If we don’t make a transition to a more global form of governance, many people will say, ‘Look, this is a U.S tool, and we’re going to make our own Internet. We have to realize that even though we know our motives are good motives, there are people who will argue that if we don’t give it up that we have bad motives. To maintain credibility we have to go through this process.”

Before the transition, many conservatives were worried about ICANN shutting down sites they don't like--about regulating and controlling speech and thought. Obama supporters insisted that they were just being paranoid and silly.  After the transition life seemed to go on as before and most of us forgot about ICANN.

So what does any of this have to do with my website?  I learned this morning that ICANN is now sending a yearly email to all domain owners to make sure that they are still active and want to remain registered.  The email is sent to the email on file with the webhost--which is typically a different email than the host provides.  In my case ICANN sent an email to an email address I have not checked in almost 10 years.  When the email does not get a response within 15 days, ICANN suspends the domain until the party to whom it is registered confirms it.  This annual check-up does not take into consideration that the domain name may have been paid in advance for a certain period of time and that the owner may be accessing it daily. 

After four confirmation emails and a text message confirming that I am still using the domain, I was able to get my website back up.  And I confirmed with AT&T that I can change the email in their system so that ICANN can reach me next year so that I don't have to go through this again.  But the experience has shown me how quickly this "global governing body" can flip a switch and cut off anyone's website or email and make it disappear without a trace--as if it had never been there. 

That's a scary thought, and it portends a scary future for all of us if ICANN ever does decide to regulate content and not just domain names and numbers.

Alexandra Swann's novel W: The Set, incorporates her novels The Planner and The Chosen which tell the story of  an out-of-control, environmentally-driven federal government implementing Agenda 21 and NDAA.  The set is available on Kindle. For more information, visit her website at http://www.frontier2000.net.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Search and Rescue

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost”  Luke 19:10 KJV  

The end of every year is a fitting time to take stock of our lives.  We count our failures and successes, our blessings and our losses, and we look at where we have been and where we are going.

Many of us will make resolutions to change some aspect of our behavior in 2018.  We may want to lose weight, or get in better physical condition or to get promoted at work or develop better personal relationships, but for most of us when night falls on 2018, most of those resolutions will still be unfulfilled, shuffled forward to another year as we continue in a never-ending desire to become a better us.
Our newest release is Precisely at Midnight, the sequel to The InvitationPrecisely at Midnight begins with Carol Pensworth's invitation to begin a new life.  Unlike her brother, Kevin, Carol has a very good and satisfying life.  She does not believe she needs a rescue, but when she accepts her own invitation she realizes what is really being offered to her--the chance to impact not only her own life, but to change the lives of many others who are not in a position to  help themselves. 
We just finished celebrating Christmas, and we looked at nativities and sang songs of the child in the manger, but Christmas is so much more than a sweet story about a little baby who was born in a stable.  The cave in which Jesus was born is symbolic of the tomb where He was laid after his crucifixion, and the swaddling clothes in which his parents wrapped him represent the grave cloths.  He did not come to earth to be a good man or a good teacher—He was born to die for us in the greatest search and rescue operation of all time.  The God of the universe looked down and saw our lonely, lost, dysfunctional world—a world which we were powerless to change—and loved us so much that He sent His only Son to save us. Jesus is our Kinsman Redeemer who came to release our debt, and He extends to each of us the greatest invitation we will ever be offered. But for His invitation to impact us, we must recognize the immense opportunity which we have been offered; then we must be willing to accept it for ourselves and fully embrace our new life.  And we have to understand that as we accept the invitation for ourselves, we take on both the ability and the responsibility to impact and change the lives of others.
As we start the New Year, I invite each of you to see 2018 as more than an opportunity for a new resolution.  2018 can be a year for a rescue—a year for salvation and a new life.  Accept God’s invitation to you in 2018. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Alexandra and Joyce Swann's newest novel, Precisely at Midnight, was released October of 2017.  For more information, visit their website at http://www.frontier2000.net.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The God Who Saves

Once again the Christmas season is upon us.  The Saturday after Thanksgiving I went to Watter’s Creek in Allen, to see the Christmas lights and, as always, I was surprised at how many people were there just to have somewhere to be.  A number of Muslim families were there enjoying the beautiful scene and taking family photos in front of the Christmas tree and the lighted reindeer pulling a sleigh.  Doubtless there were countless other people who were raised Christian but who have long since forgotten what Christianity is who were there as well.  It was an interesting comment on a society that is surrounded by Christmas from before Thanksgiving until January 2 but that has forgotten the meaning behind the celebration.
The story of Christmas is not the story of a refugee family fleeing Palestine, nor is it the story of a struggling single mother.  The Christmas story is the story of how God fulfilled His promise to save a fallen world by being born as a human, living among us and dying on a cross.  Without Easter, Christmas has no meaning and without Christmas, Easter has no victory.

We live in a world of increasingly brutal violence and fear where people long for salvation.  The Psalmist tells us that salvation belongs to God (Psalm 3:8).  Salvation is proprietary--He owns it.  If we don't find it in Him, we don't find it all.
Christmas reminds us that salvation is not far away or out of reach.  Christmas reminds us that God so loved the world that He came to live as one of us.  The name Jesus, Yeshua, is the Hebrew word for salvation.  It is in this name that God has revealed Himself as the savior of the world.  If we don't experience salvation through Jesus, we don't find it all.

I invite each of you this Christmas to experience the God who saves.  He is strong enough to deliver you out of whatever circumstances you are facing.  And He is the only hope for this lost and fallen world.

Merry Christmas.

Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her holiday series, Kinsman, is available in paperback and on Kindle. For more information, visit her website at http://www.frontier2000.net.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Give Thanks

Every Thanksgiving for as many years as I can remember, my mother had a tradition at Thanksgiving dinner. After my father prayed over the food, my mother asked each of us to name one thing that had happened in the last year that we were thankful for. As I got older, knowing that I would have to state what I was grateful for, I started thinking about the year a couple of weeks in advance of the holiday, and I found that even in difficult years, I had a lot to be thankful for. My mother's tradition has helped me to really think about the meaning of Thanksgiving each year.

Having come through a year of intense work, I am ready to list the things for which I am most grateful in 2017:

1. Hillary Clinton is not president.  Yes, I know the GOP is doing a lousy job.  I also know that if they don't get their act together in a big way, next year the elections are going to be dramatically different than they were last year (last night's elections proved that.)  But for today, I am grateful that while the GOP hasn't managed to get anything done, we are not at the mercy of Nancy Pelosi and company who always manage to get their agenda through regardless of how unpopular with the public or destructive to the future of a nation.  (It's really hard to stop a woman who will pole-vault over a wall if necessary just to pass a hugely disliked bill so that we can find out what's in it.)

2. The housing market has rebounded.  Here in DFW, housing prices are 40% higher than they were before the 2008 crash.  That is a great thing for property owners.  For buyers entering the market it creates some daunting challenges, but overall having housing prices and values rebound is a good thing. (And the market is cooling off as buyers are now refusing to pay too much for properties--also a good thing.)

3.  I spent this year working with a great group of people in a great environment.  Even though the hours were long and the work was intense, I could not have asked for a better team.

4.  Proposition 2 passed last night in Texas.  This badly needed change to the Texas Constitution will allow more Texans to borrow against the equity in their homes while still keeping the protections that preserved Texas through the last housing bubble.  This update to the law has been long in coming and we finally got it.

6. Frontier 2000 Media Group has produced three new books in the last 12 months.  Last year we launched the Kinsman series by publishing The Invitation on Christmas Eve.  This year we have two more releases:  Precisely at Midnight, which is Book 2 of Kinsman, and N: Plain Sight, which is the third installment of N.  I am very excited to see our company growing and to have new releases for the start of the holiday season. 

7. God hears us. No matter how dire our circumstances may appear or how desperate we may feel at times, we are never alone when we know the Lord.  I went through years of extreme sadness, loss and stress and to not be in that place any more is a huge gift.  I spent much of this year--as I have spent the past decades, praying and working.  Much of what I prayed for and worked for is still left undone.  But I trust that God has this and that He hears us when we call out to Him for help.  So I will continue to pray for America and ask Him to save this nation.  And I will continue to trust that He sees both the big circumstances facing our nation and the individual circumstances of our lives and that He cares equally about both.  "Don't worry about things--food, drink and clothes. For you already have life and a body--and they are more important than what to eat and what to wear. Look at the birds! They don't worry about what to eat--they don't need to sow or reap or store up food--for your heavenly Father feeds them...And why worry about your clothes? Look at the field lilies! They don't worry about theirs. Yet King Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as beautifully as they. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won't He more surely care for you....So don't be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time." (Matthew 6: 25-34 TLB)

Now that's something we can be thankful for every day! Happy Thanksgiving.

Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her holiday series, Kinsman, is available in paperback and on Kindle. For more information, visit her website at http://www.frontier2000.net.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A GOP Indistinguishable from the Dems--Do You Want to See Something Really Scary?

This marks the seventh annual edition of "Do you want to see something really scary?" The recurring title of this post is, of course, a tribute to Twilight Zone--the movie. I did not see it--my mother was extremely strict and never allowed us to watch horror movies or even light comedy containing anything that smacked of the occult. But I remember my father coming back from a trip and telling us that he had been driving with his nephew on a dark, wood-lined road when his nephew told about the scene from Twilight Zone where a set of characters are in a car at night trying to scare each other. Finally, one of them says to the driver of the car, "Do you want to see something really scary?" When his friend agrees, he turns his face away, and when he turns back he has become a monster who kills the young man who is driving.

Over the past seven years that I have been writing this post, I have used it to highlight the scary problems in our political world.  And every year there is more and more to fear.  The real life events taking place in our country today are worse than any scary film plot ever hatched in the mind of any Hollywood producer.

Last year I was writing the post three weeks away from a national election that was going to make either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton president, and I thought that was scary stuff.  Of course, as we know, Trump won states that have gone blue for scores of election cycles, and the GOP retained control of the House and the Senate.  So, for a few weeks, anyway, it appeared to the na├»ve and uninitiated that we might actually see at least part of the conservative agenda passed into law.

A few weeks after the election last year I was talking to my brother, and I remember telling him confidently that at least now we could expect to see Obamacare repealed.  "Don't be too sure," he cautioned me, and then went on to remind me that health care constitutes 1/6 of the economy and that government officials from either party don't easily relinquish control.

Now, nine months into the Trump Administration, with no major legislation passed, no legislative end to Obamacare in sight, a tax plan that will almost certainly die an agonizing death before the end of the year, no immigration reform, etc., I have to admit that Chris is right.  In fact, the only really positive comment I can make about this Administration is that nothing has been accomplished legislatively and so that does actually signal that we are better off than we would have been under a Hillary Administration.  After all, Democrats get their priorities passed legislatively--even if, as Nancy Pelosi famously said about Obamacare, they have to "pole vault over a wall" to do it.  Because this is a proven fact, I can state confidently that if Hillary were president right now the House and the Senate would be rubber stamping whatever new idiocy her Administration was promoting, rather than just keeping the status quo.

Having said that, other than the GOP's complete lack of backbone, the two parties are basically indistinguishable.  A vote to repeal Obamacare died on the Senate floor this summer simply because the GOP is not a party of limited government. The GOP, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and big business are all united in a push to keep a system in place that picks the winners and losers through excessive regulation and arbitrary enforcements of those regulations.  Nobody wants to return the power of government to the states, nobody wants to reduce the welfare rolls, nobody wants to curtail entitlement programs.

This week Donald Trump used an executive order to allow consumers to buy insurance across state lines.  I think this is mainly posturing for his electorate--insurance laws are extremely complicated and I believe that this attempt to use his "pen and phone" to change complex state and federal laws will likely be challenged in court.  He also refused to fund $7 billion in federal subsidies for low-income Obamacare users being subsidized by the federal government.  This one actually makes sense--a federal court had ruled that since Congress did not authorize the subsidies they are illegal and it is likely to put pressure on the GOP to pass a healthcare bill.  But since whatever bill they pass is going to try to appeal to the insurance companies, we are not going to get a true free-market bill.  We are almost certainly going to get some version of the Obamacare-lite nonsense that the GOP was trying to pass this summer.  Now that Trump has put some pressure on the system by abandoning the subsidies, there may be more appetite for Obamacare Lite, but that does not make it a good solution to healthcare.

What is scariest about all of this is that last Fall the American people voted for certain initiatives--repeal of Obamacare and immigration reform being at the top of the list.  Working and middle-class Americans wanted to see changes that would help them buy affordable health care for their families, that would incentivize job creation so that they could go back to work or move up at work, and that would keep the country safer.  What the Election of 2016 mainly proved is that the Republican party is really not much different from the Democrat party and that what matters to the American people makes no difference to anyone in Washington D.C.  We are just pawns during election season, but we have no real voice and no real say in our government or our nation. 

After 241 years of "government of the people, by the people, for the people," the knowledge that "we the people" no longer matter is really scary indeed.

Alexandra Swann's novel W: The Set, incorporates her novels The Planner and The Chosen which tell the story of  an out-of-control, environmentally-driven federal government implementing Agenda 21 and NDAA.  The set is available on Kindle. For more information, visit her website at http://www.frontier2000.net.

Friday, July 28, 2017

We Are All Big Government Liberals Now

I have refrained from commenting on the state of healthcare, Dodd-Frank Reform, or any other major policy points while I gave the Republican party the opportunity to keep at least a few of their promises.  As it is now clear to me that this is not going to happen, I can freely speak out.

The GOP promised over and over to repeal Obamacare and yet this morning failed to pass even the "skinny bill" that would have repealed only the most unpopular provisions--the employer and individual  mandates--and kept the rest intact.  Truthfully, most of the Senators who DID vote for the bill voted only with assurances from leadership that the bill would NOT pass the house and would be conferenced into a new bill.  But they could not even get that vote through because the Republicans do not want to give up power any more power than the Democrats do.  And limiting the size and scope of the federal government--and relinquishing a prize as big as health care control--ultimately limits the power of the government.

Although Obamacare is the reason for the rise of the Tea Party movement and the promise of repeal is the reason that most of the politicians currently in Washington have their seats, the attempt for a straight repeal failed earlier this week because there is no genuine desire to repeal the bill.  There never was.  The politicians in Washington have no intention of getting the government out of healthcare--they just want to make more and more Americans dependent on the government for help and assistance so that they can eventually push through a single-payer system.  That is the only place we are currently headed.

July 21 marked the 7th anniversary of the Dodd-Frank bill.  I started this blog in 2010 because of the Dodd-Frank bill.  This bill was crafted to cut off lending to many Americans, to put private business under the thumb of a huge agency with no supervision, and to benefit the huge Wall Street conglomerates at the expense of everyone else.  Never in the history of this country, has there been a more massive expansion of government power than the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  The CFPB regulates through enforcement, refuses to create clear rules and assesses excessive, arbitrary fines.  Since the CFPB self-funds completely through fines, the agency is incentivized NOT to write clear rules and to visit huge fines on businesses so that it can continue to pay its employees six-figure salaries.

Now, in 2017, we have a Republican president, a Republican Senate and Republican House of Representatives.  Is there a move to repeal Dodd-Frank and dissolve the CFPB?  NO!  What we have is the CHOICE Act which will "tweak" Dodd-Frank and rein in the power of the CFPB, but not dissolve it and not even seriously curtail it.  Why? The CFPB is a mammoth agency that has already taken over the regulatory powers of many smaller agencies.  To dissolve it would be too difficult--to dismantle it would be to disarm a major weapon for destroying businesses and individuals and a major mechanism for creating winners and losers in a society that no longer believes that free markets should choose the successes and failures.

We seem to forget that until 7 years ago the U.S. had successfully existed for over 200 years without either Obamacare or Dodd-Frank and had thrived as one of the greatest nations in the history of the world.  Now, we just know in our hearts that if we repeal either of these pieces of legislation we will instantly be transported back to the Middle Ages.

But lest we get caught up in blaming politicians for this mess, we also need to take a good long look in the mirror. The problem with America is not just corrupt politicians, or Fake News, or The Washington Post whose editorial staff daily promises the onset of apocalypse if even one of these big government agendas or programs ends.

Like Hollywood, Washington DC is not so much a change agent as a reflection of the changes that have already taken place in society.  Donald Trump is himself, after all is said and done, a big government liberal.  Both parties worked to put him at the top of the Republican ticket because they believed he could be easily defeated by Hillary Clinton.  But he got himself elected by making absurd promises that he could not begin to keep.  For example, he promised that everyone would have great healthcare with low premiums.  He might as well have promised us all a sparkly pink unicorn.  Universal great healthcare with low premiums does not exist.  To get the premiums down we need free market solutions, but free-market solutions are not universal healthcare.  When the government gets involved in a single-payer system, prices go up--a lot--taxes go up and quality goes down, but everyone can have the same universally bad health care.  In a free-market system, competition brings prices down and quality up, but everyone does not have the same universally great health care because in a free-market system no two people have the same amount--some have more, some have less and some have MUCH more and some have MUCH less.

Trump also promised to Make America Great Again through jobs and innovation.  But the government does not create jobs--woe to a city or state or a country whose main employer is the government.  The ONLY thing that government can do is reduce taxes and regulation so that private enterprise can create jobs and innovation.  But to reduce taxes and regulation, the government would first have to reduce benefits and entitlements and increase the power of individuals to make decisions for their own lives.  And yes, there would be winners and losers.

That is the choice between capitalism and socialism--varying degrees of success and comfort versus universal misery.

Unfortunately, Americans no longer understand this distinction because we have been promised our own unicorn so long that we are standing outside waiting for the delivery truck to show up.  And when anyone has the audacity to remind us that unicorns--sparkly pink or otherwise--don't actually exist, or that nothing is free, or that the government that can give you everything you need can also take everything you have, we become enraged.  We don't care about facts, we don't care about simple economics and we don't care about the ultimate cost to our country.  We want our unicorn--delivered on time and as sparkly and pink as we imagined it.  And in a country that increasingly elects politicians not on the basis of facts or proven track records but through a cult of personality that selects the person who makes the most enticing promises, we just have to wait.  In four years we will have another personality who will promise us another sparkly unicorn, and we will run to the polls like lemmings and vote for him.

We don't want freedom, we don't want reform and we certainly don't want our country back.  We just want the guy who promises to help US personally the most.  We are all big government liberals now.

Alexandra Swann's novel W: The Set, incorporates her novels The Planner and The Chosen which tell the story of  an out-of-control, environmentally-driven federal government implementing Agenda 21 and NDAA.  The set is available on Kindle. For more information, visit her website at http://www.frontier2000.net.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Freedom Prayer

 I am often asked to repost this around the Fourth of July.  Our deepest problem in America is a spiritual problem and until we are willing to repent nothing else that we change is going to make much of a difference:

“Lord we come to You tonight to ask for Your forgiveness. The Bible promises that when we seek You, we will find You, if we search with all our hearts.

"Lord we confess that we have not followed Your commands. We have not loved You with our whole hearts--we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not stood for the truth of Your Gospel. We have sat by and said nothing when Your name was blasphemed and mocked. We did not take a stand when we saw Your laws despised.

“We know that many times we ourselves have been among the worst offenders. We have lived sinful lives that are contrary to the word of God. Like Esau, we have traded away our birthright for a little convenience; we have despised this incredible gift of freedom that You provided for us and allowed all of the liberty that our country offered to be trampled down. We have forgotten the words of King David who said that it is better to fall into the hands of God than to be at the mercy of men, and so we now find ourselves living under the rule of a cruel and despotic government who has stolen everything from us and shows us no mercy.

“We know that everything that is happening to us is a result of our bad choices, both individually and as a nation. You gave us the gift of being born into a free nation—the greatest nation the world has ever seen. You gave us a form of government unlike any other that had ever been known by any other people, and we did not value it enough to defend it.

“For all of these things, Lord, we ask Your forgiveness. We pray tonight that You will change our hearts so that each of us will begin to love what You love, to hate what You hate and to want what You want. We ask You to save our nation, for we know that the Bible teaches that salvation belongs to our God—no political party, no ideology, no government can save us. If we don’t find salvation in You, we won’t find it at all.

“Please turn Your face to us again, and give us back our freedom, and restore our country so that we can truly be one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. We ask all these things in the name of Your son, Jesus. Amen.”

Alexandra Swann's novel W: The Set, incorporates her novels The Planner and The Chosen which tell the story of  an out-of-control, environmentally-driven federal government implementing Agenda 21 and NDAA.  The set is available on Kindle. For more information, visit her website at http://www.frontier2000.net.