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Home for the Holidays … and Beyond

Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies recently released its annual state of America’s housing report. It shows more young adults’ living with their parents than at any time since World War II.

Half of Americans aged 20 – 24 live at home. And more than a quarter of those aged 25 – 29 bunk up with their folks.

In the past ten years, the number of American adults under age 30 has increased by 5 million, but the number of households headed by adults under 30 has increased by only 200,000.

These statistics are surely triggering Millennial jokes across the country. Comedian John Crist has certainly gotten a good laugh out of his generation. His “Millennial International” spoof is spot on.

At the risk of appearing tacky or insensitive, Crist parodies common “adopt-a-child” advertisements by humanitarian organizations. He offers an opportunity to sponsor a Millennial for $2,900 a month.

“The need is enormous,” a sponsor explains. “There are over ten million Millennials who have graduated with no work ethic, no job, no discernible skills at all. And they have expenses.”

Three stereotypical Gen Y-ers itemize their expenses: housing, student loans, credit card debt, Volkswagen Jetta lease, beard wax, Spotify premium, pet food for a rescue dog, spin cycle membership, Ubers home from a pub crawl, essential oils, Kale Krunch.

The sponsor adopts “Declan” from Beverly Hills (played by Mr. Crist).

The sponsor describes the program: “It’s the same as a traditional sponsorship program except instead of getting – say – a soccer ball for his birthday, he’s getting an Audi.”

Is Declan capable of getting a job with his art degree? Sure, he says.

“But I sort of feel like employment right now would be stifling to my creativity.” He’s an aspiring photographer. He’s also gluten-free, lactose intolerant, allergic to peanuts, and sensitive to pollen.

***

I recently met a gentleman who was helping support his 30-year-old son in Hawaii. The son is an occupational therapist by day and a surfer by afternoon. He isn’t making enough to pay all his expenses.

The man’s other son, 28, had recently moved back in with him. His garage is full of furniture the son had won on a game show while living in California.

All dresser-ed up with nowhere to go.

Many Millennials drive for passion, meaning and authenticity. To them, rolling out in pajamas, facial hair and dreadlocks is not a sign of laziness. It shows you’re being real.

But “real” is not reality. The participation trophy mentality has short-circuited many young people’s understanding of value. Everyone getting a medal is the same as no one getting a medal.

The good news is for every 25-year-old living at home, there’s a 25-year-old contributing mightily, such as one who works for me. She recently juggled two complex jobs at once while we filled an open position.

As in all of life, there is light in darkness and hope amid malaise. There are new opportunities to take responsibility and to learn to add value.

For both Millennials and the generation that raised them.

 

Follow Kevin Thompson at http://www.kwt.info.

Can Trump Pull It Off?

The early voting line at my elections department stretched down the sidewalk and around the building last week.

“I feel for people in the neighborhood,” one friend commented. “People were parked everywhere.”

I would like to postulate who these people might be by resurrecting an acronym from 2008. Remember the ABC voters?

“Anybody But Clinton.” In 2008, ABCs swept the Democrat base to thwart a Hillary Clinton coronation. They anointed instead a first-term U.S. senator with an uncommon name and an eloquent tongue. I think the ABCs are back, though perhaps in a slightly different form.

“American democracy is offering a choice between a crook and a clown,” wrote historian Andrew Roberts in The Wall Street Journal over the weekend. Record numbers of early voters may be choosing the clown.

With all the talk about the American Dream dissipating and the country heading in the wrong direction, I can’t see droves of people getting out early to vote for a relic of America’s political past.

America may hunker down with the known quantity Clinton in the end, but my hunch is Trump, for all his improprieties and insanity, has an early lead – because of the ABCs.

Many ABCs don’t want a pervert in the White House. They prefer interviews with Sean Hannity, not Howard Stern.

But they also don’t want more of the same: debt, spending, regulation, executive orders, selective application of the law, identity-based political correctness, reverse discrimination.

If there’s anything the deluge of concerning stories from the Clinton State Department, the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton campaign reinforce, it’s this: Bill and Hillary Clinton are no Bill and Melinda Gates.

The Clintons’ commingling of money, power and charity makes one wonder about their altruism. Helping the weak doesn’t seem to be their ultimate goal. Power seems to be their goal.

So, given the choice between a candidate who needs the power and a candidate who needs the fame, many will take the latter. Credit may not get shared, but there’s still a good chance some good will be done, they’ll figure.

Late last week, I turned on the conservative Joe Pags talk show on my way home. A man was talking. He sounded like a passionate pundit or an articulate reporter. He had a grasp on the issues and, more importantly, a grip on the discontent Americans feel toward their small-G governors.

It was Eric Trump, second son of presidential candidate Donald Trump. He spoke as one on a mission to restore something great, as cliche as his father’s campaign slogan sounds. “We have to take the country back from the politicians.”

More than a fight for a party or a philosophy, Donald Trump is trying to bring a fight for the people – or at least a fight against the politicians.

You can’t get more politician or politics-as-usual than Hillary Clinton.

Trump is the antithesis. With his tweets and earned media appearances, Trump has turned political campaigning on its side, if not its head. Can he also turn American politics on its head?

Judging from the early voting lines and the drip drip drip of Clinton corruption tales, he may yet pull it off.

A Bright Spot in the Election

 

“Hey, Dad!” my fourth grader announced one evening. “I heard a joke at school: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were on a boat. The boat sank. Who got saved?”

“America!”

Without a doubt, this is a difficult election cycle. The party with which I’ve affiliated for years has nominated an unconventional candidate. I can’t decipher some of his positions and I can’t condone some of his behaviors.

There is a bright spot in the race, however. It’s Governor Mike Pence. For all his question marks, Donald Trump picked a bona fide conservative as his running mate. I might not easily vote for Trump, but I can certainly pull the lever for Pence.

A brief rundown of Pence’s fairly innocuous resume shows a regular Joe American. Growing up the son of a gas station operator and the grandson of immigrants, his is a common man story.

Pence took a stab at public service in the late 1980s, losing two bids for Congress to the same opponent. Recognizing it wasn’t his time, he returned to private law practice, staying involved in policy issues through conservative think tanks.

Describing himself as “Limbaugh on decaf,” Pence entered the conservative talk radio scene in the mid-90s. His show aired on about twenty stations across Indiana, giving Pence statewide name ID for a return to competitive politics in 2000.

As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Pence championed many conservative positions during his twelve years on the hill.

On limiting government, Pence opposed expanding Medicaid entitlements and federal encroachment on education (No Child Left Behind). He pushed legislation and a constitutional amendment to reduce government spending across the board.

On national defense, Pence supported President Bush’s efforts in the Middle East as a House subcommittee chairman on the region. After 9/11, he favored the passage of the Patriot Act and sponsored a bill in 2009 to extend several of its provisions.

On economic policy, Pence was a free market defender. He voted against the string of corporate bailouts during the last recession. He consistently advocated for less regulation, a flatter tax structure and sound money.

On social issues, Pence has strongly supported religious freedom as Indiana governor. He unapologetically attributes societal ills to the breakdown of the traditional family, taking stands in a calm and thoughtful way. He is more ration than emotion, even in highly charged debates.

This demeanor makes him most attractive. One gets the sense he’s interested in serving his country, not in political gain. He has no need for a private email server because he believes his official actions will survive scrutiny.

The biggest question of Pence’s judgment comes from his decision to forego re-election as Indiana governor to hitch his wagon to a reality TV star.

After mutedly supporting Senator Ted Cruz in the primary, Pence is fully behind Trump even though Trump’s web site still lacks a Pencebio.

The 2016 Republican primary field was full of Mike Pences – i.e., popular, conservative governors. For some reason, he wasn’t in the field as some thought he would be.

As it stands, Mike Pence could be a heartbeat away from the presidency in a few short months. That’s something to vote for.

 

Follow Kevin Thompson at http://www.kwt.info.

 

 

 

 

 

 

State of Texas v. Yours Truly

“Do you want to play flag football with your coach from last year?” I asked my ten-year-old. “No,” he replied, much to my surprise. I thought he had fun last fall.

“I want to play tackle.”

His friends are playing tackle. A physician is letting his son play tackle. Mom is okay with tackle. Our 13-year-old is on his third season of tackle, after all. I’d still prefer flag.

It felt like me versus the State of Texas, where Friday Night Lights is as much religion as Sunday morning sermons.

I’m conflicted on football. I never played organized ball growing up. Dad got me into soccer early on to keep me distracted from it, I suppose. He never directly said I couldn’t play, but I somehow perceived his perspective.

I loved playing football in the neighborhood – even tackle, especially tackle. The physicality of tackling tickles something in a boy’s development.

For years I regretted never knocking heads and testing strength with pads on. I thought it would have done me some good to take on the next city state with a band of fifty-five brothers.

So which do I want for my sons?

The camaraderie of football is its greatest selling point. The sport is simulated battle, border-lying on barbarism. It is modern, somewhat socially acceptable gladiation.

For me, however, the attraction of football is not the violence. It’s the grace. The streaking, passing, route running and needle threading; not the smashing, bashing and crashing.

Naturally, I like the pad-less seven-on-seven summer passing leagues that teams play in the off-season. I wish there were similar competitive, non-contact options in the fall for high schoolers in lieu of traditional tackle.

Unlike some medical professionals and parents who restrict young boys from playing tackle, saying their brains and bodies aren’t developed enough, I prefer the opposite.

I’d rather them play early when they’re like marshmallows bumping into each other. It’s later on when testosterone starts doing damage.

Stronger muscles create speed, force, impact and contortion that the human body was never meant to absorb. At some point laws of physics take over. No matter how thick the muscles around it may become, the fibula is still less than an inch in diameter.

Today, grown men across the country walk around with disabilities, mostly minor, resulting from high school football. I have a friend who traveled to and from his senior year Cuero High School football games in an ambulance. He needed treatment before and after to rein in the pain.

Despite purported advances in padding and technique, injuries seem to be no less prevalent today. Just ask the Champion High School player who recently suffered a gruesome facial injury or the Dallas Cowboys’ Tony Romo who went down, yet again, before the season even starts.

I don’t have nagging football maladies and I’m thankful. Others do and they’re thankful, too – for their experiences in the arena, for participating in something bigger than themselves. Football in Texas certainly fits that bill.

As for this fall, the State of Texas has won. My 10-year-old is playing tackle.

Cops Face Catch-22s

When Dallas Police Chief David Brown said recently that we’re asking too much of cops, he meant we’re demanding the impossible.

Not only are we asking the blue to salve a variety of societal ills, we have also put officers in a perpetual catch-22.

On the one hand, we expect them to sniff out horrors before they happen. On the other, we have restricted their instincts and their ability to use past experiences to predict future events.

Across the decades a few rogue officers have certainly committed atrocious injustice against civilians of all races. But most agents enter law enforcement because they believe in order and rightness. They want to give and serve.

Most are like Boerne Police Officer Jason Abbott. He and other local law enforcement faced a catch-22 in recent weeks.

Gun advocates are scattering the countryside to flex their Second Amendment rights. They are walking populated streets of various jurisdictions with arms overtly born. One carried a rifle through Boerne recently with his cell phone camera rolling.

The law allows open carrying so long as no alarm is caused. Unfortunately, defining alarm is about as subjective as choosing the best breakfast taco in San Antonio.

What I find alarming is different than what my six-year-old finds alarming. Yet, cops must decide what’s actually alarming.

The rifle-carrying activist posted his interactions with officers on YouTube. You could tell by his tone he wanted a tussle. “Am I being detained, officer?” he asked as Abbott approached him near the intersection of Main and Blanco.

“No, sir,” Abbott responded respectfully. “I just want to ask you some questions.”

“I feel like I’m being detained. My rights are being violated,” the visitor replied with profanity mixed in.

“If you’ll stay calm, I just want to have a dialogue. Is the gun loaded?” Abbott inquired.

The gentleman pleaded the Fifth Amendment for a moment, but then couldn’t help himself.

The remainder of the video consists of the activist lecturing Officer Abbott on how he should handle calls from concerned citizens about people like him.

It also shows Abbott explaining that he is not taking away anyone’s rights by approaching the subject of another citizen’s call to determine whether a safety concern exists.

Tactfully, Abbott kept the interaction subdued. He seemed to understand that simply allowing passionate voices to be heard usually defuses their intensity.

This situation represents the classic quandary cops face:

Intervene when a situation is safe and get accused of harassment and rights violations; fail to intervene when something is wrong and get accused of missing the chance to stop a tragedy.

I asked a good friend and San Antonio policeman how he’s changed as an officer in recent years.

“I’m less proactive. I’m still willing to lay down my life to protect innocent people like those guys in Dallas did, but I’m more cautious. We all are. That’s why violent crime is up nationwide, 17% in San Antonio this year.”

Along with Chief Brown in Dallas, my friend points to the absence of fathers as the primary driver of the disorder facing our nation. Officers know. They’re on the front lines everyday. They see the decay firsthand.

Meanwhile in ivory towers, distant leaders bark of background checks and gun control. They never mention the best form of gun control ever invented: fathers and sons going hunting together.

Follow Kevin Thompson at http://www.kwt.info.

Challenges at every turn

An acquaintance described life with his four-year-old foster child:

“Early on, she would throw violent fits every single week. They would last an hour. She would roll on the floor and literally foam at the mouth. If we were at a party, our other kids knew we’d have to take her home.”

It makes sense, the anger that abused and neglected children experience both consciously and un. They have endured sordid mixes of depravity complete with drugs, violence, chaos and need.

The foster dad continued, “We’re almost a year in. Things are better. The rages only come around every once in a while.”

Stories of progress and redemption do happen, such as the decorated military officer who recently addressed supporters of Meadowland, a residential treatment facility in Boerne. He had been in foster care there two decades ago.

But such stories are few and far between. The foster care system in Texas faces challenges at every turn. Getting a child out of abuse and neglect is often just the start of a painful and damaging process.

With both the average Child Protective Services caseworker and the average foster family lasting about 2 years, the cards are stacked.

“Some foster/adopt agencies don’t screen or support their families well,” said Jennifer Smith, Vice President of 4 Kids of South Texas, a San Antonio foster/adopt agency.

“They just take the money from the state and rarely follow up. Some foster families seem to be in it for the money, too.”

“We recruit, verify, train and equip our families. We make sure they have adequate support and sufficient respite care for when they need a break. Most of the kids placed in our homes don’t move around.”

In contrast, most children in the foster care system move several times among single family homes, group homes, shelters and treatment facilities.

Exacerbating the problem, the state often fails to meet its requirement to place each child in a permanent situation within twelve months in the system.

“They’ve found loopholes,” Smith added. “They put a child in what is called a ‘permanent managing conservatorship,’ but they don’t terminate the parental rights of people who show no effort to change. Meanwhile, the child remains in limbo.”

Even those who mean well can’t win for losing. Late last year, a federal judge ruled Texas’ foster care system unconstitutionally lacking. The court cited child-on-child abuse in group homes. It subsequently capped the total number of children in any foster home at 6.

But since the cap number includes a family’s biological and adopted children, the supply of foster slots has diminished. Hence, the stories you hear of foster kids sleeping in CPS offices.

Close to home, Boerne’s Heartland Children’s Home cares for foster children with acute medical needs. Though it can serve many more, the center is limited to six children currently.

Last month, the federal judge appointed two “special masters” to review and improve the system. Things certainly can’t get worse. Nine-hundred kids in metro San Antonio await “forever families.”

Of the males who “age out” at 18, 30% will be incarcerated by age 19. Females are twice as likely to become pregnant by age 20. Many will wander the streets: 30% of Texas’ homeless population was once in foster care.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

A look at a contested convention

The last contested presidential nominating convention of a major U.S. political party happened a generation ago.

 

In 1976, President Gerald Ford persuaded undecided delegates at the White House to fend off former California governor Ronald Reagan. Reagan had actually led the pre-convention delegate count according to one national media source at the time.

 

A generation before that, it took Republican delegates five ballots to select businessman Wendell Willkie as their nominee in 1940. He had never served in public office before winning the nomination.

 

Neither of these two events was as contentious as the 1924 Democrat Party convention. It took 103 ballots and 16 days to finally land on compromise candidate John Davis. Davis subsequently lost to Calvin Coolidge later that fall.

 

While contested conventions haven’t born much fruit historically, at least Abraham Lincoln survived one to secure the Republican nomination – and ultimately the Union – in 1860. He promised a variety of cabinet posts to supporters in order to solidify his majority.

 

This year, if no Republican candidate amasses the required 1,237 delegates prior to July’s convention, here’s how the process could play out if rules passed at the 2012 convention hold.

 

Most delegates are required by the Republican National Committee to vote according to the guidelines that governed their state’s primary or caucus.

 

For example, since Trump won Florida and Florida was a “winner-take-all” state, each Florida delegate must vote for Trump on the first ballot.

 

About three-fourths of all delegates are “unbound” on subsequent votes if no candidate takes a majority on the first vote.

 

Texas delegates are slightly different. The Texas GOP held a “pro rata” primary, so delegate votes will split according to the percentage of primary votes cast for Cruz, Trump and Rubio. Again, this is on the convention’s first nominating vote.

 

If a Texas delegate’s candidate fails to win at least 20 percent of the first-ballot vote, that delegate can vote for any candidate on the second vote and beyond.

 

For instance, if Marco Rubio gets 8 percent (i.e., under 20 percent) on the first convention vote, his three delegates from Texas can vote for whomever they wish on the next vote, assuming no candidate won a majority on the first vote, of course.

 

That’s why politicos are descending on state party conventions: to try to get their supporters elected as national convention delegates, even if those delegates must cast a vote for an opponent on the first vote at the national convention.

 

All Texas delegates become completely unbound by the third national convention vote.

 

Conventional wisdom holds that Donald Trump will fall sharply after the first convention vote. At that point, delegates, many of whom will be long-time county party chairmen and state party leaders, are freed to vote their consciences.

 

To win, Trump would have to convince party loyalists to stay within his newly formed circus tent. That will be a tough sell.

 

“I was here,” they’ll likely figure in their yellowed Reagan-Bush ‘84 buttons, “when Trump was writing checks to Clinton, Inc. And I’ll be here long after he fizzles. I’m voting for….”

 

Kevin Thompson writes a weekly column in The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info


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