Friday, June 29, 2018

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.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Big Brother is Watching Part II--Does the Dodd-Frank Rollback Really Encourage Discrimination Against Minorities?

This week, Donald Trump signed into law the "Dodd-Frank Rollback".  In reality, this law is not much of a rollback.  It is really just a fix to help smaller banks and lending entities better cope with the crushing tsunami of regulations that have been enacted over the past eight years. 

This blog was originally started because of Dodd-Frank.  The Dodd-Frank bill always benefited larger institutions at the expense of small ones.  Today, in 2018, the cost of complying with regulations has made the cost of doing business so high for small lenders that many companies are closing their doors.  The company I have worked for during the past eighteen months closed its doors May 31, 2018.  When we notified our vendor partners that we were closing, we received an email back from our quality-control auditor that the cost of doing business is so high now that he is seeing many companies our size close the doors because they can no longer be profitable. The small mortgage bank is rapidly disappearing, due in large part to burdensome regulations.

In spite of this, big government devotees rail against ANY changes, however slight, to Dodd-Frank and so they are demonizing this rollback, which really just changed a few provisions of the law.  One of the complaints from the media is that the new law will make it easier for small banks to discriminate against minorities by exempting them from some reporting requirements under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA)

The funny thing about this particular complaint is that the same people who are squawking about how Facebook treats data collection and individual privacy believe that all financial institutions should have to make a full report to the government under HMDA. That being the case, I thought a little comparison between Facebook and HMDA might be in order, so let's consider the facts.  1. Facebook is a private site which is joined voluntarily by individuals who choose what data to post.  2. Individuals can and do choose their own levels of privacy on Facebook.  3. Cute animal videos and photos of lunch continue to make up a large percentage of content shared on Facebook.

HMDA is quite different.  1. Until this week, virtually all institutions were required to report data from their mortgage loans to the U.S government.  (The new law exempts smaller mortgage companies and banks producing fewer than 500 mortgage loans per year from the reporting requirements.)  2. There is no way for an individual to opt-out of reporting his or her data to the federal government under HMDA since it is a regulatory requirement.  3. Very little of the 2018 HMDA reporting has to do with race. 

In 1975, when Congress enacted the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, the few questions were about race and gender.  Originally the law DID allow regulators to see who was making loans to minorities and who was not and to determine where under-served populations were for mortgage lending.  The data was general in nature but it could serve as a tool to help regulators determine where minority communities were being concentrated and where they might be having trouble moving into homeownership.

Fast forward to 2018.  Today, race and under-served communities is only a small part of the over 50 data points required by HMDA.  In 2018, mortgage lenders are REQUIRED to report to the federal government the following information about every person who gets a mortgage loan:

  1.  Name
  2.  Age (date of birth)
  3.  Credit score (for both you and your co-borrower if you have one)
  4. Which credit score model was used for your credit score
  5. Address of the property along with census tract data for the precise location of the property.
  6. Loan amount
  7. Amount of down payment
  8. How much debt you have (debt-to-income ratio)
  9. Whether the property is a primary residence, second home or investment property
  10. The interest rate you paid
  11. The exact points and fees (if any) that you paid
  12. Your sex (gender)
  13. Your race  (as I explained before race was the original reporting on HMDA, but in 2018 race was expanded to include your exact origin.  For instance, if you are Hispanic, you will expected to disclose whether you are from Mexico, Cuba, Central America, South America, etc.  Asians are expected to disclose whether they are Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, etc.  Persons from India finally have a category on the HMDA chart--which is actually long overdue in my opinion since they were traditionally categorized as Asian--but interestingly there is still no category for Middle Easterners.

In addition to all of the above-information, the lender also has to disclose how your file was underwritten and to share some details about the types of systems used to make the determination of your credit worthiness.  In all, there are over 60 separate data points that must be collected on borrowers and their finances.

Now, if that seems intrusive--it is.   Not only is the new reporting onerous and invasive, it is very specific.  In the past, HMDA reporting was general.  Lenders reported the number of loans made to various racial and ethnic groups but the reporting was part of a general pool of data. 

Not so in 2018.  In 2018, for the first time ever, the federal government is assigning each mortgage loan a Universal Loan Identifier (ULI).  This is essentially a federal loan number that will follow the loan as it sells from investor to investor.  Although when your loan sells, your loan number with your new servicer will change, your ULI will remain the same.  That means that the federal government no longer just tracks information about loans made by XYZ company to borrowers in Chicago.  The government can now track mortgage loans made to John and Jane Smith on all the properties that they have purchased using a mortgage.  And using that data, they can determine how much property John and Jane Smith own, how much they paid down on each property, how much they borrowed, how they manage their credit, etc.

In connection with the income data already on file with the IRS this new HMDA reporting is going to give the federal government a very close and personal look at individual Americans' finances.  Granted, the information on your mortgage loan is a snapshot in time.  Your credit score, debt-to-income ratio and cash in the bank are all fluid and subject to change.  Still, this information gives the federal government unprecedented access to your financial life and your property. 

In an era when privacy concerns are growing, Americans should be aware of this type of data collection.  The media should be championing any rollback that limits the amount of data the government can collect on private citizens rather than criticizing it.  And the current CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney should proceed with his plan to eliminate this massive data collection from those bigger financial institutions which will still be required to collect and report so many details of Americans' lives to Big Brother.

Big Brother IS watching--very closely.  At this moment, we have a CFPB director who has been openly suspicious and critical of the very agency he directs.  Mulvaney's leadership has made much needed reforms to the CFPB and its policies.  But those reforms are not enough because they are tied to his leadership. Eventually Mulvaney's term will end, and then this behemoth agency and its massive data collection tools will be in the hands of someone who may not be as respectful of the rule of law.

We should all be concerned--very concerned.

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.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Problem with Freedom

"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."--John Adams

During the Obama Administration, I created a Social Media meme that read, "The Second Amendment--Protecting the Other Nine Since 1791."  This is really the truth--an armed populace is essential not only for the individual defense of the individual members but for the corporate defense of the whole.  A friend of mine whose uncle was a high-ranking military official during World War II has told me that the Japanese did not attempt a ground invasion after their strike at Pearl Harbor because Americans were so heavily armed.  History, especially the history of the 20th century, is full of examples of foreign invasions and of internal communist take-overs that involved the slaughter of unarmed populations.  Tyranny begins with disarmament.

Since the completely senseless, tragic shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, there are many new calls for gun control.  From the Twitter campaign to #BoycotttheNRA to the bill introduced yesterday to ban assault weapons, we are hearing once again that the problem in our country is too many guns in the hands of too many unstable people. Maybe we can stop these shooting by banning automatic weapons, or bump stocks or increasing background checks or waiting periods or at least by raising the minimum age to purchase these guns.  On the other side, gun advocates claim that we need better treatment for mental illness or more armed guards.

I do not believe gun control will fix any of the issues we are facing--I DO believe that ending gun-free zones could help with the problem of shootings in schools but the issue there is that the teachers would have to be the ones to take responsibility for carrying these weapons and for training on them and for many that is not going to be practical.  Personally, I would not want to be responsible for protecting everyone at my workplace with a gun. Teaching attracts, on the whole, liberal people who support big government at the expense of personal freedom.  Certainly not all, but many, teachers believe that more government is the answer to problems.  On top of that, we have created an environment in schools over the last forty years where teachers have been stripped of personal authority to deal with discipline problems or manage troubled students.  It seems a little na├»ve to now ask teachers to be responsible for the personal safety of the class by arming themselves, training on weapons and shooting assailants when we have spent four decades creating a culture of non-confrontation in our schools.

The real problem in this country is neither guns nor lack of gun control. The real problem is that our free republic, as John Adams said so eloquently in the above quote, was created for a moral and religious people.  Freedom requires individual responsibility and individual morality and as a society we have lost both. When we decided as a culture that we did not want to be "One Nation Under God" and that we did not want the Ten Commandments telling us "Thou Shalt Not Kill" we were sowing the seeds of the crisis we face today. We abandoned a Judeo-Christian culture with an absolute sense of right and wrong for a Secular Humanist culture with a relative sense of morality and told several generations "if it feels good, do it."  Unfortunately, to some people mass murder feels good. Our Constitutional Republic with its protections for individual rights is "wholly inadequate" to govern people with no personal sense of morality who don't know right from wrong.

Banning guns, ironically, will not solve the issue of mass-murder.  People who want to murder others will still find weapons and will still kill people. Gun control just disarms their potential victims and gives them more targets.  But a godless society that relies more and more on the government is going to trade more freedom away to that government so that they don't have to be responsible for themselves.  And as that happens, our country is lost.

For the present, I think the majority of Americans still support gun rights and the NRA is still a force to be reckoned with.  And that is a GOOD thing because the Second Amendment Does still defend the other nine.  But the society is rapidly becoming less moral and less religious rather than more so.  Among, Millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) only 40% say that religion is an important part of their lives and only 27% believe that the Bible is literally true.  And this group will represent 40% of voters by 2020. Millennials are the biggest generation since the Baby Boomers, and they are neither moral nor religious. 

If we as Americans do not return to our Christian heritage our Second Amendment freedoms and the other nine it protects will all be lost to a new generation that does not value them.  We need to pray for our nation more than ever and take seriously the other warning of John Adams:  "A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom can never be restored.  Liberty, once lost, is lost forever."

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, 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.