Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
"The Austin group Save Texas Schools says that closing low-performing schools, which are almost exclusively in poor neighborhoods, is an unproductive strategy. This coalition of parents, students, teachers and community leaders is standing together to improve schools, instead of closing buildings. Among the group's work is urging support for HB 1238, which provides effective alternatives to school closure or "reconstitution."
Sunday, March 29, 2009
I thought this was a brilliant analysis and exchange by Dr. Zibignew Brezinski on MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' the other morning.
Brezinski contextualized the anger on the part of many regarding executive compensation, bonuses and excessive wealth in our country.
It has been wealth not obtained by production and manufacturing, but built on a fiscal house of cards propped up just enough for you and I to be able to participate as consumers, with flat wages, more accessable credit and relatively low interest rates.
The most insidious part of the the culture has been perpetrated by representatives of the 5% of Americans in control of 85% of the country's wealth. They became highly skilled at getting themselves defended by those whom they deluded into believing that when 'their ship came in' they could be just like them! And that those who weren't benefiting were either lazy, incompetent, unlucky or unmotivated.
The fact is, as the game was played it wasn't designed for the 'average' American to become 'one of them'. It was designed to allow the sleight of hand to be played one more round, until finally one round too many had been played.
Is there such a thing as 'social responsibility' for those who have benefited excessively from the game? Is it really true, as Kramer pointed out, that 'anybody can do it'?
Or is Dr. Brezinski right: it shouldn't be the government that should call the uber rich into account, but a sense that winning big, should mean that giving big is an 'social obligation'?
Is it merely a Biblical suggestion that "...to whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask more." Luke 12:48?
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
The D.R.E.A.M. (the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act, would provide certain immigrant students who graduate from an American High School, are of good moral character, arrived in the US as children, and have been in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill's enactment, the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency. The students will obtain temporary residency for a lapse of six years. Within the six year period, a qualified student must attend college, and earn a two year degree, or serve in the military for two years in order to earn citizenship after the six years period. If student does not comply with either his/her college requirement or military service requirement, temporary residency will be taken away and student will be subjected to deportation.
Without passage of the D.R.E.A.M. Act, children and youth, many of whom know no other country but ours, risk deportation through no fault of their own. Critics suggest that these children's simply suffer the 'illegal' action of their parents. But consider the fact that we accept responsibility for AND pay for their public education in most cases for 12 years. They've played on football teams, been valedictorian or salutatorian. They have volunteered and been members of churches. They only ask for the opportunity to continue their education or serve our country and have the prospect of becoming citizens. This country can only benefit from the passage of this legislation.
The D.R.E.A.M. Act is an important interim step. It would probably be totally unnecessary, if our country had a coherent immigration policy. Until that time comes allowing children who are already a part of our society - who are not causing trouble and only want a viable future only makes sense.
Liz Cedillo-Pereira, a wonderfully committed immigration attorney in Dallas had the wonderful opportunity to ask President Obama that the D.R.E.A.M. Act needs to be passed. His reaction? "When it comes across my desk, I'll sign it..."
Let's get it on his desk!
Thursday, March 26, 2009
I heard it was 'brave' of him to write this open Edward Liddy, the current CEO of the now infamous insurance company whose credit default swaps have helped cause the near collapse of the nation's economy.
In reading it, I couldn't help think that there are many sides to this tragic story. I also thought that it doesn't make much sense to really believe that the impersonal forces of the market are to remain unchecked and unfettered.
DeSantis may not be as hurt by this recession/depression as some people, but the disillusionment, distrust and sense of betrayal seemed to be what trickled down this time. More than an ideology or a political party failed this time. This is more than the 'risk/reward' aspects of doing business in a free market. Most of us understand this...
This time real people got hurt...
DEAR Mr. Liddy,
It is with deep regret that I submit my notice of resignation from A.I.G. Financial Products. I hope you take the time to read this entire letter. Before describing the details of my decision, I want to offer some context:
I am proud of everything I have done for the commodity and equity divisions of A.I.G.-F.P. I was in no way involved in — or responsible for — the credit default swap transactions that have hamstrung A.I.G. Nor were more than a handful of the 400 current employees of A.I.G.-F.P. Most of those responsible have left the company and have conspicuously escaped the public outrage.
After 12 months of hard work dismantling the company — during which A.I.G. reassured us many times we would be rewarded in March 2009 — we in the financial products unit have been betrayed by A.I.G. and are being unfairly persecuted by elected officials. In response to this, I will now leave the company and donate my entire post-tax retention payment to those suffering from the global economic downturn. My intent is to keep none of the money myself...
I have the utmost respect for the civic duty that you are now performing at A.I.G. You are as blameless for these credit default swap losses as I am. You answered your country’s call and you are taking a tremendous beating for it.
But you also are aware that most of the employees of your financial products unit had nothing to do with the large losses. And I am disappointed and frustrated over your lack of support for us. I and many others in the unit feel betrayed that you failed to stand up for us in the face of untrue and unfair accusations from certain members of Congress last Wednesday and from the press over our retention payments, and that you didn’t defend us against the baseless and reckless comments made by the attorneys general of New York and Connecticut.
At no time during the past six months that you have been leading A.I.G. did you ask us to revise, renegotiate or break these contracts — until several hours before your appearance last week before Congress...
I think your initial decision to honor the contracts was both ethical and financially astute, but it seems to have been politically unwise. It’s now apparent that you either misunderstood the agreements that you had made — tacit or otherwise — with the Federal Reserve, the Treasury, various members of Congress and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo of New York, or were not strong enough to withstand the shifting political winds...
This choice is right for me. I wish others at A.I.G.-F.P. luck finding peace with their difficult decision, and only hope their judgment is not clouded by fear.
Mr. Liddy, I wish you success in your commitment to return the money extended by the American government, and luck with the continued unwinding of the company’s diverse businesses — especially those remaining credit default swaps. I’ll continue over the short term to help make sure no balls are dropped, but after what’s happened this past week I can’t remain much longer — there is too much bad blood. I’m not sure how you will greet my resignation, but at least Attorney General Blumenthal should be relieved that I’ll leave under my own power and will not need to be “shoved out the door.”
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
"Students at the affected campuses would attend school for up to five extra school weeks, under the plan. Hinojosa said that would provide the students with more learning time and attract good teachers, who would receive $5,000 to $6,000 more in base pay.
"Hinojosa is also suggesting enhancing $6,000 bonuses that were offered to lure top-notch teachers to the neediest campuses. Those bonuses have not been successful, but raising the amount to $10,000 for teachers highly qualified in math and science could make the difference, he said.
"The teachers would automatically receive two-year contracts – an incentive for good teachers who fear losing their jobs if the campuses don't improve quickly.
""We needed to do something different than what we were doing," Hinojosa said. "Our intent is to try to drop in some high-caliber teachers."
"At Walter Payton College Prep, a citywide magnet school, black students make up roughly 25 percent of the student body and Hispanics constitute roughly 21 percent.
"Duncan’s record in Chicago suggests he is up to the challenge of fostering the growth of more schools like Payton. He pushed for consistency and rigor in the K-12 curriculum and, amid other reforms, championed the creation of small, more engaging schools across the city. At the same time, he created the largest Chinese language program in the United States and, in Walter Payton College Prep, established one of the country’s best public schools focusing on international education.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
But there are any number of people who understand that poverty impacts real people.
These children are real. Their stories are real. They're not just our future. They are our present. And the solutions we employ, have to make their lives better and give them hope...
They really are us...
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
Evidently that's a real danger in Texas!
Governor Rick Perry has rejected $555 million in unemployment insurance benefits available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the stimulus package). He's afraid that Texas' antiquated policies means that extending unemployment to part-time workers, the three month extenuation in benefits and the additional $25 a week that the unemployed would receive, will end western civilization capitalism as we've come to know it (and we all know how bad that would be!).
But there's another inherent danger that we've all never considered: the state and the unemployed could get 'hooked' on unemployment insurance benefits!
Bill Hammond, the president of the Texas Association of Business, says that expanding unemployment benefits for laid-off workers was like giving crack cocaine to an addict, “It’s like a drug dealer,” Hammond said. “The dealer gives you your first hit for free to get you hooked, and then you are addicted.”
It's a line he's obviously been polishing...
Texas and the unemployed - addicted to unemployment insurance? Seriously?!
Maybe Central Dallas Ministries Social Services can start a new 12 step program, "I've Been Laid Off Anonymous"...No, that's just silly.
So is that comparison!
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Thanks to Alan Bean, a Baptist preacher and executive director of Friends of Justice for his courage. You can read the full text of his post here.
"White people don’t talk about racial history. When we do we emphasize the great strides we have made. Our ancestors made some big mistakes, no doubt; but all wounds have now healed, all wrongs have been righted, every valley has been exalted, and all’s well in the world.
Which means that when black people dwell in the past they are just hurting themselves.
When we consider the career trajectory of an Eric Holder or a Barack Obama it is easy to buy into this ahistorical narrative. When a black man can become president or attorney general, how bad can it be, really?
"But when we move to the lower rungs of the social ladder this rosy portrait fades to white. Why are so many people of color mired in poverty? Why are inner city schools so abysmal? Why do so few poor black children have two parents? Why is the unemployment rate among young black males so high, and why must black people speak of the “just-us system”?
"Now we are face-to-face with history. Can we drive a wedge between these ugly facts and the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow?
"Sure we can. Black people, it is argued, fail due to laziness, broken families, drug addiction and ignorance.
"Solutions to these problems, from the dominant white perspective, have nothing to do with the past and everything to do with choices made in this present moment. The power of positive thinking (the real religion of America) is tied to the liberal dogma of inevitable progress. Every day in every way we are getting better.
"Because this is so, the best way to ease racial tensions is to ignore them. The less said the better. Time, that munificent elixor, will heal all wounds. Bad things happen when you remove the bandage and start picking at the scab.
"Such pablum passes for serious discourse in our post-racial America."
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
There's a great deal of anger being expressed over the AIG executive bonus scandal (I'm sure someone will dub this 'AIG-Gate'!). It's understandable, but I'm beginning to wonder how much of this is projected anger?
To those of us novitiates, its really hard to imagine that no one saw something like this coming - either Congress last year in approving the bailouts, or even the Obama administration this year. Didn't anyone go over the books and see what was due to be paid out in executive compensation?!
AIG was rescued, being given $170 billion because it was 'too big to fail'. If the company was that big, did no one figure in an age of huge executive bonuses, that AIG had some outstanding 'bonus bills'?
Of course some of this is a political posturing (especially Senator Chuck Grassley's call for AIG executives to commit Hari-Kari). But there are those whose angst is real and it suggests to me at least three things:
1. I'm reminded of the junior high teacher of mine who wanted to make sure that his connection to a potential donor went to someone who doesn't 'game the system', and the many people who have always spoken scathingly about the 'undeserving poor' (pan handlers, the homeless and those on welfare, etc.); meanwhile, the Bernie Madoff's and corporate scam artists on Wall Street (AIG and others) were stealing this country blind enough to cause near world-wide economic collapse! Of course, when this is pointed out, someone out there making $35,000 a year, will still standing up for someone with a $3 million bonus, will accuse anyone who says this of inciting 'class warfare' (sigh)...
2. It also shows that those who cry for the market to regulate itself haven't quite grasped the idea that the market has only as much morality as those who operate within it. Even now, those who called for more deregulation while this house of cards was being built are now crying for regulation. It's analogous to a robber crying out to a homeowner, "I've got your jewelry...PLEASE call the cops so I won't take your silver too! I can't help myself!"
3. But probably the most alarming thing is that this giant scheme was being foisted on the country (the world actually), in such a way that all of us benefited from it, and to such an extent that no one asked many hard questions. Jon Stewart, rightly points out that the media finance gurus at CNBC and elsewhere, had to know that what our economy was shifting from a manufacturing base to one built on the prospective value of paper! Yet they encouraged these investments as sound.
And the rest of us, are made to feel somewhat complicit in the sense that our 401k's, the mortgages we couldn't afford with our middle class incomes and the cars we drove all allowed us the illusion of comfort we 'earned' with our hard earned dollars.
The bailouts, being touted by politicians, economists, pundits and everyone in between sink us deeper into debt, without concrete assurance that they will work, or when they will work. And now the guys who 'did it' get paid! Oh some low level grunts will get $1000, some $5000. But others will get millions! Andrew Cuomo, New York attorney general, revealed that 73 AIG executives were paid at least $1 million or more. We feel foolish. We feel angry, because America prizes security above anything else. This is a country which, for awhile, was willing to hand over our civil liberties, almost without question, just so we could feel 'secure'. Now we find out that what made many of us feel most secure: our money, our possessions, our toys, didn't represent the security we thought they did.
I believe along with most others that we will pull through all of this. Not only this, but we can come out stronger. But I wonder whether we will come out of this any wiser, any more charitable. Will we actually begin to see that our greatest resources are our fellow citizens? Or will we return to our selfishness, isolationism and materialism?
A few years ago, we thought we had learned our lesson. Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street, was popular because we recognized the folly of his argument that 'Greed is good...'
And then we forgot...and got greedy.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
Even in this recession, the fact that unemployment among African-Americans is nearly double that of whites (at 13.4%), is confirmation for some that this is not an issue of the economy as much as it is an issue of 'will' and determination.
Barbara Ehernriech, whose book "Nickle and Dimed", really warned of the danger of income inequality in our nation. In an effort to simulate the plight of middle class/working class Americans, she took low wage to middle income employment to show how difficult it was, not just to get ahead, but simply to make ends meet.
Adam Shepherd, young college graduate, challenged the premise of Ehrenriech's book with a simulated study of his own. He published a book based on his own experience, "Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25 and the Search for the American Dream". Shepherd takes $25, a relatively low wage job and graduates to a used truck and an apartment.
In his interview with John Stossel on ABC's 20/20, he touts his frugality and the sacrifices he made in order to find the level of success he made. He points to Ehrenriech's 'extravagances' ("she bought $40 pants", he said).
Sunday, March 15, 2009
But all of us must remember that self righteousness and pomposity can undercut the message, no matter how valid. Especially when it drifts into incivility and disrespect.
Perhaps, this is something of what Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts had in mind when he wrote recently:
"Who can be surprised if the sheer absurdity, fundamentalist cruelty and ungodly hypocrisy that have characterized so much "religion" in the last 30 years have driven people away? If all I knew of God was what I had seen in the headlines, I would not be eager to make his acquaintance. I am thankful I know more."
"Including that God and religion are not synonymous. God is, for the faithful at least, the sovereign creator of all creation. Religion is what men and women put in place, ostensibly to worship and serve him. Too often, though, religion worships and serves that which has nothing to do with him, worships money and serves politics, worships charisma and serves ego, worships intolerance and serves self."
It's something all of us who describe ourselves as people of faith should remember...
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
By making that change, Texas becomes eligible for an additional $385 million in unemployment insurance.
Fail to do either and Texas forfeits the $555 billion...
Because of an impending shortfall of $812 mllion shortfall, in the unemployment insurance fund, Texas businesses will have to pay an additional $294 million to make up for the deficit, if it takes the stimulus. If Texas rejects the unemployment stimulus it will have to pay $935 million!
So what's a Governor to do?
"Gov. Rick Perry today stood with Texas employers and the millions of Texans they employ to resist further government intrusion into their business through an expansion of our state’s unemployment insurance program."
"“Texans who hire Texans drive our state’s economic engine. During these tough times, Texas employers are working harder than ever to move products to market, make payroll and create jobs. The last thing they need is government burdening them with higher taxes and expanded obligations,” Gov. Perry said. “I am here today to stand with Texas employers and the millions of Texans they employ to resist further government intrusion into their businesses through an expansion of our state’s unemployment insurance program.”"
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
- 1.5 million children are homeless each year
- 34% of the nearly 3.5 million Americans that experience homelessness are families
- the recession and housing foreclosures are likely to increase those numbers
- Fund 400,000 new Housing Vouchers at $3.6 billion for two years to provide the lowest income households with rent assistance.
- Fund the homelessness prevention component of the Emergency Shelter Grant program at $2 billion for two years to prevent low-income households from becoming homeless and to rapidly re-house those that do lose their homes; 400,000 households will be assisted.
- Set aside one-third of housing vouchers, National Housing Trust Fund resources, and other housing program resources for homeless families and families who are at risk of homelessness (50% of the Federal Poverty Level).
- Fully fund Subtitle B of Title VII of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 11431) at $210 million to ensure that every homeless child can enroll in and attend school, and receive the services they need to succeed.
- Adopt the proposed $2 billion for the Emergency Shelter Grant and ensure that 30% ($6 million) is dedicated to trauma-informed services for children and families. Invest $3 billion into child care vouchers for children experiencing homelessness so that they can receive the early care and education they deserve, and so that their parents can engage in employment, job training, and other activities to lift their families out of homelessness.
- Expand the TANF contingency fund so that states are able to provide cash assistance to the increasing number of very poor families.
- Provide a temporary increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, which states should implement within 30 to 60 days of enactment
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
After watching Michael Steele at the State of Black America on Saturday, and Rush Limbaugh at CPAC on the Saturday night C-SPAN re-broadcast, I was hopeful that Steele as the head of the GOP, would provide his party with a sane, rational role as the loyal opposition, to the Democratic Party and Barack Obama.
No, I'm not disenchanted with the President. I believe the country will be better in the long run.
But after Limbaugh's rant on Saturday, he said the following of CBS Sunday Morning,“I'm not in charge of the Republican Party, and I don't want to be. I would be embarrassed to say that I'm in charge of the Republican Party in the sad-sack state that it's in. If I were chairman of the Republican Party, given the state that it's in, I would quit. I might get out the hari-kari knife because I would have presided over a failure that is embarrassing to the Republicans and conservatives who have supported it and invested in it all these years.”
Saturday night, Steele had the chance to declare that he was the leader of the Republican Party and that Rush Limbaugh spoke for a faction that was no longer viable. On Sunday night he tried...
Steele quickly back peddled: “My intent was not to go after Rush – I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh,” Steele said in a telephone interview. “I was maybe a little bit inarticulate. … There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership.”
[Rush Limbaugh is] “a very valuable conservative voice for our party.” “He brings a very important message to the American people to wake up and pay attention to what the administration is doing," Steele said. "Number two, there are those out there who want to look at what he’s saying as incendiary and divisive and ugly. That’s what I was trying to say. It didn’t come out that way. … He does what he does best, which is provoke: He provokes thought, he provokes the left. And they’re clearly the ones who are most excited about him.” Asked if he planned to apologize, Steele said: “I wasn’t trying to offend anybody. So, yeah, if he’s offended, I’d say: Look, I’m not in the business of hurting people’s feelings here. … My job is to try to bring us all together.”
And for his trouble at an attempt to bring intra-party unity, the Party Chair got this:
I have absolutely no intention of making Michael Steele's leadership a preoccupation (especially now). But I'm that type of voter that abhors uncontested elections. I believe that citizens deserve a choice. I believe that all candidates should earn the votes of the electorate.
We all win when policies and messages are crafted to challenge the ideals and the imaginations of voters. The Republicans lost in November because their policies left out the majority of the country in their benefits. And while it is certainly not true of every Republican voter or politician, Republican leadership was too often viewed as divisive, mean and insensitive. A culture of greed, materialism and excess helped drive the economy into a ditch so deep, that extreme corrective spending by the Obama administration is no absolute guarantee to bring us out. And even now, they are being viewed more as obstructionists than a loyal opposition.
They have the chance to do something other than yell the same message louder.
The entertainer of the faction that brought about that loss disagrees. The newly elected leader of the party can't seem to find his voice and declare a new day.
It's pretty unfortunate....
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009
It is a conversation among politicians, activists, academics, young people, artists like, Na'Im Akbar of Florida State University, Cornell West of Princeton University, Randall Robinson, founder and former head of the TransAfrica Forum and Van Jones, environmentalist and president of Green For All. The conference, broadcast every year on C-SPAN and is about the plight of African-Americans in this country and what we should be doing for ourselves and what public policy is most effective for our communities. Yes, there can be what some would refer to as Republican bashing, and as usual when you get this many public figures together there is a lot of speech making. But so much more is the admonishment and exhortation for black people to do what black people need to do for themselves. And there are, believe it or not, diverse opinions.
This year was special, because of the 10th anniversary but of course because of Barack Obama. This was no Obama love fest altogether. Obviously proud, what predominated the conversation was how to hold Obama accountable while being supportive of him.
In the middle of the conversation on the second panel, was RNC Michael Steele. Steele's presence isn't token, or obligatory. He was there last year. Steele is incredibly interesting to me. He represents a diversity of thought (different from mine in many ways), that I think can represent something I don't believe African-Americans have ever had in this country, in a political sense. If he is doing more than saying the right things, failure on Obama's part to govern wisely and well COULD open the door to options never before considered (sorry the 2008 election just wasn't that kind of party).
Here is Steele's response to open up the second half of the State of Black America session...
But just as I was about to believe that there might be hope for civil political discourse and the prospect of a decent political alternative in this country I saw this...
Let me say I did watch most of Limbaugh's speech. I really hadn't listened to him in many years, and I thought it fair to hear him out.
After listening to Steele on Saturday morning and Limbaugh on Saturday night. The question was left asking is: Which is the real voice of the GOP? And which is the future?
The answer is important, because it determines the fate of our country...
Sunday, March 1, 2009
"Oh, how those people prayed for freedom!" recalled Susie King Taylor of Georgia. "I remember, one night, my grandmother went out into the suburbs of the city to a church meeting, and they were fervently singing this old hymn:'Yes, we all shall be free/When the Lord shall appear." Sam Clement recalled that the dark clouds of slavery would pass away, and they would be as free as their mistresses and masters."
Some believed they'd get freedom and others didn't," Laura Abromson recalled. "They had places they met and prayed for freedom. They stole out in some of their houses and true a wash-pot down at the door." According to Edie Dennis, the pot was intended "to keep the sound of their voices from 'escaping' or being heard from the outside. Then the slaves would sing, pray, and relate experiences a night long. Their great, soul-hungering desire was freedom - not that they loved the Yankees or hated their masters, but merely longed to be free and hated the institution of slavery. Everyone felt the spirit of the Lord," and just before daybreak, after chanting "for fifteen or twenty minutes, all would shake hands again and go home: confident in their hearts that freedom was in the offing."