Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Prayer for Peace for a Grieving Family

This story is particularly touching to me and my family.

I was Artemis Rand's pastor. His father and mother were faithful members of the church. His father Larry was a trusted deacon and trustee. His mother Sherri was a beloved deaconess, usher and member of the Women's Ministry. I watched Artemis grow up to be a wonderful young man. Our families spent many happy moments together in and out of church. Artemis' grandmother was a kind, loving and supportive member. His grandfather is a delightful man. Artemis would take care of their yard almost every weekend.

I performed Artemis' and Katrice's wedding ceremony.

I preached his funeral.

It's my sincere hope and prayer that this family finds much deserved comfort and peace. I hope you join me in that prayer for them.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Remembering Medgar Evers (1925-1963)

This year is the 80th anniversary of the birth of Medgar Evers, one of our country's most significant Civil Rights freedom fighters.

Recognition of Evers often gets lost between that given Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X, yet for 10 years, ending with his assassination in 1963, Medgar Evers was a prominent figure in the struggle for equal rights, serving as field secretary for the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples) in Jackson, Mississippi.

Chronicled in this film clip, Medgar Evers' life and death was a watershed episode in the movement. The excerpt from the documentary 'Eyes on the Prize', gives the context of the movement - the institutionalization of the culture of injustice, the intimidation of those who sought to register to vote (briefly shown is an example of the 'literacy test' given to actually disqualify voters. The same type of test recommended by Tom Tancredo at the recent TEA Party Convention). It also shows how the legal system gave cover to those who committed such heinous crimes, such as the assassination of Evers.

His widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, devoted her life to keeping her late husband's memory alive and pursued justice for him, which ultimately resulted in his murderer Byron DeLa Beckwith being convicted of his killing in 1994.

She was elected the first woman president of the NAACP in 1995. She continues to be an elegant and eloquent spokeswoman for human rights.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

White House Health Care Summit

The historic bi-partisan health care summit has concluded.

Here are Senator Tom Harkins' remarks. It highlights the urgency of health care reform needed in this country.

Did you watch?

What do you think?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sanctifying Rage

When my son died about three years ago, someone was saying to me that his death didn't make sense. I told my comforter, 'If you want to drive yourself crazy, start trying to make sense out of something that doesn't make sense.'

I've been thinking of this in light of the news of Joe Stack, the 53 year old software engineer who, in an act of madness, rammed his plan into an Austin building to protest his grievance against the IRS.

It doesn't make sense. Its not supposed to.

It is, as I wrote, a tragic, nonsensical, act of blinding, mind-numbing madness. We can learn from his online ravings his rationale for this violence. We can know the troubles that he had and the failures of his efforts to resolve them. But we will drive ourselves crazy if we try to make this a 'desperate act' of a 'victim' of a government bureaucracy.

No law, or tax statute warranted this act, and nothing we find out about Stack, his troubles, his anger will make sense of this.

"Before flying his single engine Piper PA-28 into the hulking black-glass office building Thursday morning, A. Joseph Stack III apparently posted a rambling screed on a Web site in which he railed against "big brother," the Catholic Church, the "unthinkable atrocities" committed by big business and the governments bailouts that followed."

"In the note, signed "Joe Stack (1956-2010)" and dated Thursday, he said he slowly came to the conclusion that "violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer.""

"My dad [Vern Hunter, who died in the crash along with Stack], in that building, he didn't write the tax laws," Ken Hunter said. "If he would have talked to my dad, my dad would have helped him."

In a statement, Hunter's relatives said their thoughts also are with Stack's family.

"We are not angry at them because they did not do this," the statement said. "We forgive Joe for his actions, which took Vern's 'pound of flesh' with him."

We can grieve with Vern Hunter's family. We can feel sorry for the family of Joe Stack. But what we cannot do is what Stack's daughter Samantha Bell intimates we try and do: sanctify this senseless act of rage.

"According to his daughter, he was taking a stand against the government."

""His last actions, the suicide, the catastrophe that caused injuries and death, that was wrong," said Samantha Bell, Stack's daughter in an interview with Good Morning America. "But if nobody comes out and speaks up on behalf of injustice, then nothing will ever be accomplished. But I do not agree with his last action with what he did. But I do agree about the government.""

I'm sorry, this was no martyr dying for a cause. This was not a movie in which the tragic figure gets to vent his final frustration in some orgasmic blaze of cinematic glory. This will not go down in history as a watershed moment in which the government will be confronted with its own institutional heartlessness.

This is madness, pure and simple. Any attempt to conflate this act of madness with the countless other acts of sacrificial patriotism on the part of countless other sacrificial patriots, amount to selfish, senseless attempts to sanctify it far beyond its significance. And in doing so, insult true acts of patriotism. This is not a dramatization of Thomas Jefferson's quote about 'The tree of liberty...'

It was a crime. A senseless crime. Two families are left grieving and searching, as we humans must do, to find meaning in the madness of this moment. Eventually, they will find meaning, if not 'meanings'. The meaning or meanings will bring inspiration for one family and shame for another. But the act won't make sense.

There are those who will politicize this moment and try and make Joe Stack a 'hero'. I hope anyone who does this will be shouted down and shamed.

I don't know if Tea Party activist Pam Stout had Joe Stack in mind when, in she tries to explain the possible 'necessity' of the use of arms or civil war in achieving it's goals, she says, "Peaceful means are the best way of going about it. But sometimes you are not given a choice."

Yes, you have a choice. But the choice is not acts of violent madness by the deeply disturbed. When they happen, they shouldn't even faintly be cited as the rationale for violent protest by rational men.

Such reasoning is the essence of madness.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The 50th Anniversary of A Simple Act of Defiance

I didn't know very much about how the sit-ins of the early '60's started. I knew, of course, that SNCC (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee) was a force behind the most organized of the protests. In connection with that, I knew that these protests propelled Atlanta democratic congressman, and Civil Rights icon, John Lewis into the national spotlight. And I had also heard that it began with four college students in Greensboro, North Carolina.

What I didn't know was how compelling and revolutionary the story of these young men and their protest was. But Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair, Jr.(now known as Jibreel Khazan), Franklin McCain and David Richmond, four college freshmen from North Carolina A&T College, had no idea that simple act of sitting at a segregated lunch counter would, literally, transform America.

It was 50 years ago this month that the Woolworth department store of Greensboro was confronted with the challenge of ending the humiliating and dehumanizing practice of refusing service to black people on the basis of their skin color. It was the non-violent protest that focused the country's and the world's attention on the failure of our country to live up to the lofty claims of its democratic ideals. It set off similar protests that sent shock waves throughout America and freedom loving, as well as freedom demanding peoples around the globe.

As I watched 'February One', I was left encouraged and inspired by this tremendous story. It comes alive through the diary of the manager of the Woolworth lunch counter manager; the young black woman who worked at lunch counter who chided these young men for causing trouble, but who was conflicted by the humiliating realization that she was good enough to serve customers, but not good enough to eat at the counter; the elderly white woman who came and encouraged the young protesters by saying she was 'disappointed' that it took them so long and white female students who joined them in the demonstration, unplanned and unscripted, but in total solidarity with the their 'sisters' from Bennet College and the 'Greensboro Four' along with their compatriots who later joined them.

It is a wonderful, amazing story of how an unjust system which was the mentally, spiritually and psychologically poisonous fruit of what amounted to state sanctioned (and in many cases state sponsored) terrorism was broken by a simple act of defiance.

It was exhilarating to see the courage, the adventurous spirit and the commitment of these, then, 18 year old young men who so prized their dignity and self worth. And not without cost. Those who think that at 18 they had nothing to lose, are totally unmindful of the atmosphere and culture of the times - when not only the prospects for violence, but the stigma of jail, the possibility of expulsion from school and the trouble that could extend even to the families of these young men, were all a part of the cost that they courted to stand up (or sit down, if you will) for freedom.

Spend an hour, watching the "February One" and celebrate, not just Black History Month, but America's history and realize that patriotism comes in varied forms.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Remembering Dr. Manuel Scott, Sr.

I've written before about some of my preaching heroes. Few of them mean as much to me as the Rev. Dr. Manuel Scott.

Dr. Scott was a man of slight stature, lyrical eloquence, profound towering intellect and godly wisdom. His were two of the first books I purchased as a young freshman preacher at Bishop College. He was designated by Ebony Magazine as one of the 15 Greatest Preachers in Black America. I, along with professors, classmates and other preachers and pastors from across the nation, thrilled to his exposition of the scriptures, whether during our Religious Emphasis Week, or the L.K. Williams Ministers' Institute, or even during Friday chapel services when we had the special treat of his being in town.

I had the great privilege of getting to know him and spend time with him when he started pastoring in Dallas at the St. John Baptist Church, after 35 years at Calvary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, California.

He was a kind and gentle man. He had a kind and gentle spirit. He was patient with young preachers and he loved his parishioners and was devoted to their spiritual well being and nourishment.

This clip barely does justice to his tremendous talent. It's merely a very brief sample of what those of us who loved him and were blessed to receive from him as he inspired, encouraged and ennobled us.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Political 'Conviction'?

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

There are those who think it did no good, others who think it was too big, some who think it wasn't big enough. Still there are others who think the focus was wrong: it should have been focused on jobs; banks and financial institutions, and the auto industry shouldn't have been bailed out. Arguments can be made on both sides. As a matter of fact, they have and they will.

I personally believe that the ARRA is a qualified success and the degree to which it has been unsuccessful is the point at which we have to realize just how bad the economy was and how much fiscal danger this country was in.

The rebound has obviously has not been as robust as anyone would want. And we still have to do something about jobs - fair enough.

But is it fair to evaluate the effectiveness of the stimulus by the criticisms of those who were against it before they were for it?

"Sen. Christopher S. Bond regularly railed against President Obama's economic stimulus plan as irresponsible spending that would drive up the national debt. But behind the scenes, the Missouri Republican quietly sought more than $50 million from a federal agency for two projects in his state."

"Mr. Bond was not alone. More than a dozen Republican lawmakers, while denouncing the stimulus to the media and their constituents, privately sent letters to just one of the federal government's many agencies seeking stimulus money for home-state pork projects."

"The letters to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, expose the gulf between lawmakers' public criticism of the overall stimulus package and their private lobbying for projects close to home."

""It's not illegal to talk out of both sides of your mouth, but it does seem to be a level of dishonesty troubling to the American public," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington."

"In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Mr. Bond noted that one project applying to the USDA for stimulus money would "create jobs and ultimately spur economic opportunities.""

Of course there is a reason for the apparent, shall we say...mixed message?

"He and other lawmakers make no apologies for privately seeking stimulus money after they voted against it and continue to criticize the plan: "I strongly opposed the stimulus, but the only thing that could make it worse would be if none of it returned to the taxpayers of Missouri," said Mr. Bond, who is retiring."

"But watchdog groups say the lawmakers' public talk and private letters don't square, highlighting a side of government spending largely overshadowed by the "earmarking" process."

"While members of Congress must disclose their earmarks — or pet projects they slip into broader spending bills — the private funding requests they make in letters to agencies fall outside of the public's view."

And why, oh why would these Republicans, who branded the stimulus as 'waste', 'socialism', 'placing debt on the backs of our children', go home and celebrate taking the money?

"Rep. Joe Wilson, South Carolina Republican who became famous after yelling, "You lie," during Mr. Obama's addresses to Congress in September, voted against the stimulus. Nonetheless, Mr. Wilson elbowed his way into the rush for federal stimulus cash in a letter he sent to Mr. Vilsack on behalf of a foundation seeking funding."

""We know their endeavor will provide jobs and investment in one of the poorer sections of the Congressional District," he wrote to Mr. Vilsack in the Aug. 26, 2009, letter."

But, Congressman Wilson isn't by himself!

Two days before Sen. Robert F. Bennett, Utah Republican, issued a statement criticizing the stimulus he wrote Mr. Vilsack providing a list of projects seeking stimulus money, saying "I believe the addition of federal funds to these projects would maximize the stimulative effect of these projects on the local economy."

And what about Rep. Pat Tiberi, Ohio Republican who in classic GOP fashion said the ARRA "saddles future generations with mountains of debt"? Well he had a project to, about which he said, "While this project is intended to expand rural broadband in Alaska, I understand that the project could support businesses and jobs in communities across the country," Mr. Tiberi wrote, citing one such company in his district.

There are more examples of what it means to legislate according to one's convictions.

The nature of democratic politics is supposed to be messy. There are times when the messiness gets personal. The Founding Fathers were hardly practitioners of kid gloves politics. And there are always examples of hypocrisy, dissembling and downright dishonesty on the part of elected officials. One hates to admit it, but governing is not easy, and nor are politicians motives always pure. We can strive for the ideal, but grown-ups understand that we fall short.

But come on!

All this angst about 'our children's future'; the 'failure' of the stimulus; and then running to the trough to make sure that one's 'constituents' get their 'fair share'?!

What's more, fanning the flames of discontent and even hatred by pandering to the fears of the public while at the same time seeking political benefit from the very legislation that you publicly brand as 'socialist'?

It all seems a little much.

Let me make this as clear as possible: one can challenge, legitimately the policies of an administration. You can question, whether policy proposals are good for the country. If you want to trot out 'ideas' that have been tried and never worked, as an alternative, that too is a proper response to ideas with which you disagree. But once you do all of that, haven't you taken yourself out of the game, with regard to benefits of the legislation you've opposed? Unless you actually have the heart to admit, 'You know, we've tried and we've lost, so we're going to see if these ideas work'? And once you do that, don't you forfeit the right to claim that the very policies that from which you seek political gain are 'socialist'; 'placing debt on the backs of our children'; 'won't produce jobs'?! And by the way, if you seek to benefit from the policy, and tout the benefits from the policies you have proposed, aren't you then obligated to give those policies the time to work that you would have given your policies had your efforts prevailed?

The 'messiness' of democracy aside, is there a point when statesmanship trumps partisanship?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

'Facing Ali' - A Must See

I am not a boxing fan. I don't have much of a problem with the violence. For a very long time, there's been no art to boxing. There is a brutishness, a desperation and an near artificiality to it that doesn't make it - well, fun anymore.

I think I've been spoiled.

I remember watching Muhammad Ali. To this day, I think of him as the greatest fighter of my lifetime. Maybe ever...

But I also remember the cast of characters that Ali made and who helped make his legend: Frazier, Norton, Foreman, Holmes, Chuvalo, Liston. Ali's incredible stardom elevated the sport and made people wait to watch him on Friday nights (for free), or to watch the rebroadcast of his fights a couple of weeks later on ABC's Wide World of Sports. In the process, he made millionaires out of guys who would have toiled in obscurity for years. And he made young boys like myself marvel as he transcended the sport that made him the most recognizable face in the world.

I remember how his stand against the Viet Nam War. I had one teacher who stopped just short of forbidding us to talk about Ali in class because of that. It amazes me to this day, to remember how reviled he was for refusing induction into armed forces then, and to see how beloved he is today.

Ali was great, he was funny, he was courageous, he was profound, profane, he was cruel, he was graceful and he was The Greatest.

Do yourself a favor and watch 'Facing Ali'. It documents the memories of some of Ali's opponent: what they thought of him and what it was like to fight him. It's always touching to hear how Joe Frazier still feels about the terrible taunting Ali used to build their rivalry. Equally as touching are Ken Norton, Sr., account of what it meant, financially, for he and his son, to have fought Ali.

It's not surprising that the story and impact of the Greatest, would be...well...GREAT! Check you're local SPIKE TV listings.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Great Expectations and Our Disappointment

Who are you blaming for the current apparent dysfunction in American politics? Obama? Congress? The GOP? Dems?

According to Jacob Weisberg, editor in chief of the Slate Group, maybe the blame shouldn't be placed on the people inside the Beltway.
Could it be that we citizens share some blame...?

"In trying to explain why our political paralysis seems to have gotten so much worse over the past year, analysts have rounded up a plausible collection of reasons including: President Barack Obama's tactical missteps; the obstinacy of congressional Republicans; rising partisanship in Washington; the blustering idiocracy of the cable-news stations; and the Senate filibuster, which has devolved into a super-majority threshold for any important legislation."

"These are all large factors, to be sure, but that list neglects what may be the biggest culprit in our current predicament: the childishness, ignorance and growing incoherence of the public at large."

"Anybody who says you can't have it both ways clearly hasn't been spending much time reading polls lately. One year ago, 59 percent of the American public liked the stimulus plan, according to Gallup. A few months later, with the economy still deeply mired in recession, a majority of the same size said Obama was spending too much money on it."

"There's nothing wrong with changing your mind, of course, but polls over the last year reflect something altogether more troubling: a country that simultaneously demands and rejects action on unemployment, deficits, health care, climate change and a whole host of other major problems. Sixty percent of Americans want stricter regulations of financial institutions. But nearly the same proportion says we're suffering from too much regulation on business. That kind of illogic – or, if you prefer, susceptibility to rhetorical manipulation – is what locks the status quo in place."

There is no doubt that a great deal of poll pandering takes place in Washington. The facts are, there is a new poll coming out everyday. Enough to make one roll one's eyes when a pundit or news anchor say, "The majority of Americans say..."

I've certainly made reference to certain polls but admittedly any political leader who is seeking to chart the course of this country on how the 'majority' of the people feel, is helping to steer us toward a shipwreck. Such 'leadership' leaves us vulnerable to politicians who will tell us whatever we want to hear to get elected and stay in office. It happens on the left and on the right.
It makes us a poorer nation because of it.

A 21st century version of JFK's "Profiles in Courage" would be about as thick as "Who Moved My Cheese"!

Of course this isn't anything new. Read the op-ed and then read a couple of polls, any couple of polls and think about what Weisberg says:

"Our inability to address long-term challenges makes a strong case that the United States now faces an era of historic decline. Our reluctance to recognize economic choices also portends negative effects for the rest of the world. To change this story line, we need to stop blaming the rascals we elect to office and start looking to ourselves."

Monday, February 15, 2010

NIMBY to the Nth Degree!

Thanks for Mike Davis for his post and for this clip...

View more news videos at:

It amazes me that there are people who think that the labor which provides the quality of life, is wonderful as long as it doesn't encroach on their living space!

Its a good thing that city officials in Frisco, Texas (at one time one of the nation's fastest growing and most affluent cities), recognizes that our cities should places that everyone can live!

Mike says it best: "For the gentleman in opposition in the news clip: the people that you're so scared of are already in the city. There the ones working in the Target and other stores near Stonebriar [Mall].

Read the post and Mike tells us what Frisco citizens should probably be more concerned about...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

An Uplifting Voice

I heard this young lady sing a few years ago and found her absolutely amazing. Metzo soprano Denyce Graves has one of the most beautiful voices in opera or any other musical genre.

This clip was recorded at the memorial service after 9-11 in the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. Her powerful rendition brings comfort and inspiration even now.

I hope you enjoy it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Room For All? We'll See...

What's wrong with the Tea Party Movement? It's been my opinion that there's nothing wrong with it, if you like your politics monochromatic.

For my money, in a country as pluralistic as ours, there's something wrong with a movement that has appeal to only one particular group. The Tea Party has seemed to me the default place for disaffected attendees of the 2008 Republican National Convention. Remember how diverse that group was!

While I may not buy into the Tea Party's agenda, I may have to rethink my understanding of its appeal to almost exclusively white people. There are apparently a growing number of African-Americans with whom their message resonates...

"The ad-hoc conservative protests against an expanded government role that started shortly after President Obama was inaugurated last year is growing into a "Taxed Enough Already" movement that is backing candidates for political office and influencing public policies. Among these movement conservatives are a small but increasing number of black conservatives and libertarians who - attracted to the tea party movement's call for smaller government, lower taxes, and less government spending - are getting involved in the protest movement."

"Kevin Jackson, a former ACORN and union organizer who currently works as an advocate for the homeless in Charleston, S.C., began attending tea party events "because I saw the Left under Obama seeking to destroy the freedoms that we as Americans have fought so hard to have, and the Left's determination to take socialize, to over the state", he said."

"Although he has been active in Republican Party politics, Ron Miller, an information technology consultant in Huntingtown, Md. who is running for the Maryland State Senate, said that the tea party rallies were his first foray into protest movement activities. "The movement embodied my beliefs in limited government, low taxes, individual liberty and free enterprise", he said. Miller organized and emceed the first tea party in Maryland last year, and has been a featured speaker at four tea party rallies. He has attended many other tea party events, including the large 9/12 March On Washington event last autumn."

"As the tea party movement increasingly presses for changes in American politics, some observers have wondered if the movement is relevant to black America's aspirations, issues, and challenges. Jackson questions whether black America is organized around specific goals, contending that galvanizing around the interests of 40 million African-Americans is unrealistic."

"However, Lenny McAllister, a political commentator and author based in Charlotte, N.C., who has spoken at various tea party rallies, sees a linkage between the tea party movement and black America's goals. "The vast majority of tea party activists focus on smaller government and on politics. I feel that it's my responsibility as an African American activist to talk about things that are bigger than that," he said. "I think a lot of tea party activists and also black conservatives seemingly miss that point: political activism must be coupled with community activism if smaller government is going to work 50 years post-[Lyndon B.] Johnson Great Society.""

"McAllister added that he believes that the focus shouldn't be on whether there are more black people in the tea party movement, but on a "smaller government, bigger people" approach. He argues that the tea party movement has focused a lot on the first half of the equation and not enough on the latter part, in articulating how smaller government remedies issues like black student achievement, single-parent households, crime, and entrepreneurship. "The issue is taking the message and crafting it to people who grew up in urban conditions and who deal with government", McAllister said. "And if you don't have a way to take the tea party movement and make it tangible to Charlotte, to Chicago, and other places, then that's a problem. You have to be able to cross that bridge.""

In other words, at some point politics has to do more than give citizens an outlet for spewing angst and rage. There has to be an outreach to people who don't look like you - which means you can't simply create a space where the populism gives voice to your own frustration.

Personally, I'm not sure this movement can do that.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Interesting poll cited in a column by Bruce Drake

"Fifty-eight percent of Americans say the Republicans are not doing enough to comprise with President Obama on important issues and 44 percent put the burden on Obama for not finding ways to work with the GOP, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted Feb. 4-8."

"But more Americans say Obama has got it right compared to the Republicans, with 45 percent rating Obama's efforts at compromise "about right" while only 30 percent say that about the Republicans."

"Some of the findings are similar to a Fox News poll conducted Feb. 2-3 which said 44 percent believed Obama was trying to reach out to the GOP while 41 percent said he was more concerned with enacting the Democratic agenda."

"Sixty-three percent said Obama and lawmakers should keep trying to pass a comprehensive health care reform measure -- something that will depend heavily on whether both sides can break through the partisanship that has stalled the legislation. Eighty-eight percent of Democrats want to press ahead as do 56 percent of independents. But Republicans favor giving up by 55 percent to 42 percent."

Looks as if the 'Loyal Obstructionist' tactic may be wearing a bit thin. Pretty soon someone will have to resort to putting real alternative ideas on the table!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Creative Thinking About Community Health

Baylor Hospital is preparing to open its new Diabetes and Wellness Institute in a low-income section of Dallas. It has the potential to be an extremely valuable venture.

While it is diabetes and the issue of wellness in general is a critical issue in poor communities, narrow interpretations of what it means to fight the disease and the general lack of health, could mean limited effectiveness.

John McKnight, in his book, "The Careless Society: Community and its Counterfeits", has some interesting suggestions for how medical institutions can contribute to the overall well being of economically distressed neighborhoods.

"While it is true that the environment has always been a primary determinant of health status, medicine has offered a remedy without environmental change. It is the truth of our times that that offer is now failing. We are forced to seek improved health through improved environment because the medical alternative is steadily diminishing in efficacy. Nonetheless, Rene Dubos observes that "to ward off disease or recover health, men as a rule find it easier to depend on the healers than to attempt the more difficult task of living wisely.""

"A 1984 study determined the number of dollars provided by federal, state and county sources designated for the low income residents of Cook County - the county that incorporates the city of Chicago. The study found that a total of $4,851,113,300 was appropriated by these three governments to specifically benefit low-income people. This amount, divided equally among the Cook County residents with incomes below the official poverty line, would have provided a per capita income of $6200. Thus a family of three including a mother and two children would theoretically be the beneficiary of $18,600 on a capitation basis. This figure was, at the time, near the median income for a family of that size."

"Further analysis of the Cook County data indicated that 35 per cent of the total allocation was provided in direct cash benefits to Cook County's low-income people; 65 percent of the allocation for low-income people was provided in the form of services or vouchers for commodities. The medical care system received 38 percent of all the dollars allocated for the benefit of low-income people."

"Statistically, the data indicate that on a per capita basis, the family that might have received an $18,600 income would find $7,068 given to the medical system."

"As a matter of epidemiological policy, is it healthful to use over one-third of the public income of poor people for healers rather than for wise environments? What would the research of McKeown, Dubos, and Fuchs tell us about this form of public investment? Is it a health-filled policy choice? Does it create wise environments and build healthful communities?"

"Whatever the answer, it is clear that the medical system is a major, prosperous growth industry receiving heavy public investments that are appropriated for low-income people. While this industry consumes a considerable portion of the wealth of poor people, it also has the potential to reinvest that wealth in these same people. It is this reinvestment relationship that has created healthful community-building relationships between local medical systems and low-income citizens. "

"A reinvestment policy recognizes that strengthening the local community economy and income of individuals results, in part, from the economic decisions of the medical system.

1. Purchasing from local producers and suppliers of goods and services.

2. Hiring residents of the local area.

3. Targeting contracts for goods and services to support the creation of new businesses.

4. Investing institutional resources in local financial institutions such as credit unions, co-ops, and community development loan funds."

"As medical resources are reinvest in these ways, the economic status of the local community will be strengthened, with the resulting improvement in health status predicted by community-oriented epidemiologists."

Such comprehensive reinvestments overtime can have collateral dividends that benefit these neighborhoods and this city. Baylor should seriously consider these or some variation of them.

Monday, February 8, 2010

WHO DAT Starting Mardi Gras Early?! Congrats to the New Orleans Saints - 2010 Super Bowl Champs

Professional sports has its problems. But occasionally the spirit of teamwork, the example of what it means to overcome obstacles, to set goals and accomplish them and to extend yourself beyond some of the artificial barriers that tend to divide us, can be absolutely inspirational!

Congratulations to the New Orleans Saints, Super Bowl XLIV Champions!

Mardi Gras may last a little longer this year...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

No Explanation Necessary....

Usually when someone says that something is self explanatory, it needs explanation.

I think this needs no further explanation!

View more news videos at:

Extraordinary sacrifice!

Congratulations Emmitt...and to, uh, Everyone Else!

Congratulations to Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice, Dick Lebeau, John Randall, Floyd Little, Ricky Jackson and Russ Grimm - the 2010 class of the NFL Hall of Fame.

Rice, who played for the San Francisco 49'ers, Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks and Emmitt Smith (who played for the Dallas Cowboys and Phoenix Cardinals), enter in their first year of eligibility. You probably guessed it by now, Smith is the real reason for this post - the mention of the others is my attempt at magnanimity!

Smith is the NFL's all time leading rusher with 18,344 yards and 164 touchdowns. Rice was one of, if not the most prolific receiver in NFL history with 1,549 catches for 22,895 yards.

The seven legends will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio in the Hall of Fame game in August.

I'm going on the record for this one: Indianapolis Colts 42, New Orleans Saints 17. Sorry Saints fans!

Friday, February 5, 2010

There Really is a Difference Between Poor Children & Animals!

"Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer has compared giving people government assistance to "feeding stray animals.""
"Bauer, who is running for the Republican nomination for governor, made his remarks during a town hall meeting in Fountain Inn that included state lawmakers and about 115 residents."

""My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better," Bauer said."

I'm trying to understand (admittedly not very hard), why people feel so comfortable being insensitive. I'm not talking about unguarded, off handed comments that may, or may not, be reflective of deep seated attitudes. I'm talking about people who feel comfortable saying mean and injurious things about others, without thinking about the power of the position for which they make their statements and the impact on the people who will ultimately hear (or read) their statements.

For instance: what if you're on food stamps, or any kind of public assistance - because you lost your job because of the recession? How would it feel if the Lt. Governor of your state compared your children to 'animals'? Maybe you live in public housing because of the death of a spouse, the loss of that income and the inability (or unwillingness) of family to help out. You read (or hear) your second top state elected official that government housing is exacerbating the problem for the society at large. Or more specifically related to the article, your children are on free and reduced lunch. In many cases the only place a child gets breakfast or lunch...because their parents are poor.
These children are like animals, who if fed will reproduce and give birth to other children who will be a drain on society. Because, by taking a free lunch to help the learn in school, they don't know any better. Wow!

I don't know how prevalent this attitude is. I'm trying to accept that people who say mean, racist and hateful things, behind the curtain of anonymity provided by the Internet are basically cowards who would never say those things the same way in person.

But elected, or appointed officials, who feel free to say things about the people the represent and serve, but who say these things because they must prove themselves ideologically pure, or to pander to a particular demographic in their constituency are disturbing.

But what is amazing to me is that these people feel free to say this out loud. In front of witnesses. And they actually think there's nothing wrong with it.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Sad Beginning of A New Day

I last talked with Terri Hodge the day after my post, reacting to her assertion that eminent domain was a greater issue in District 100 than education. She objected to the inference insisted that she understood the importance of and the need for a college education. Her comments came during an interview with the editorial board of the Dallas Morning News. She admitted that she should have phrased her thoughts better and went on to defend her legislative record on education. You can read about all of that here.

Throughout our conversation Terri sounded defeated and defensive. Though we didn't talk about her legal problems, I knew that, as well as a tough re-election bid were on her mind. She didn't sound like she was looking forward to the upcoming debate with her challenger, Eric Johnson. Eric represents, under the best of circumstances, a prospective changing of the guard in Dallas politics. A native Dallasite, from a poor section of the city, with an Ivy League (Harvard) education, who looks to offer himself back to that community in public service. But changes of the guard don't often happen easily or neatly. And the tensions of this race have been palpable.

While Terri vigorously tried to get her point across, there was none of the defiance in her attitude that I've grown used to, indeed, at times, looked forward to across the years.

Early yesterday, I got word that Terri Hodge reached a plea deal with federal authorities, pleading guilty to income tax evasion. In a public statement, Ms. Hodge said, "I freely admit that I violated the federal income tax laws in this regard, and I am prepared and willing to accept the consequences of my actions...I cannot in good conscience continue to seek re-election and I believe that the only appropriate action for me to take is to immediately terminate all of my campaign activities."

As someone who knows and likes Ms. Hodge, I'm sad for her. As a constituent of hers, pity really isn't appropriate. I'm profoundly disappointed. She knows that what she did was wrong. And unfortunately, this is a continuation of the sad saga of corruption in South Dallas politics which casts both politicians and supporters in a very bad light.

Many African-American politicians have run for office in response to issues or the needs of the community. Some who are successful in getting elected either do not count the cost of public service, or are seduced by 'opportunities' once they take office.

A member of the House of Representatives in the Texas Legislature is compensated (I hesitate to say 'paid'), $7200 annually. When the legislation is in session, they get a $128 per diem. Including the annual compensation and per diem, legislators earn a little over $32,000 for their biennial term. There is a small amount of money available for permanent staff. But at the end of the day, those running for office know - or should know this going in. Consequently, those who run for office have to be able to 'afford' to serve.

That probably should change.

It's not going to any time soon.

Cutting corners, unethical and illegal behavior makes the position even more costly, not only to the politician but to his or her constituents, in both the quality of representation received and the consequences of violated public trust. But it also makes it difficult for those who succeed them. Both in the expectations and the increased scrutiny. There is a sense that they must be more pure and have more integrity than their predecessors and their peers.

Mine is not the naive disappointment of someone who expects representatives and leaders to adhere to the type of moral and ethical standards which suggest that we elect, appoint or recognize those who 'do our perfection for us'. Every public servant has feet of clay. And the suggested 'fall from grace' of minority leaders is no more reprehensible than that of their white counterparts. But for a community which suffers from decades of inadequate representation because of segregation and often the growing pains of emerging leadership after segregation ended, these failures tend to have more devastating consequences.

Liking Terri Hodge, Don and Sheila Hill, being appreciative for the good they've done is one thing. Being prayerful for them in they're trouble is the right thing to do. But acknowledging of which they've been accused and for which they've been convicted is equally as right. We cannot and should not be judgemental. There will be plenty of moralizing and editorializing about how 'bad' they are. But, Black or white, they are not the first politicians convicted of corruption - they will not be the last. And there are those who love them all and who are friends with them who will not turn their backs on them in spite of the trouble they've made for themselves.

Those who have been hypercritical of the communities they represented for placing them in office, should remember that they have not received unqualified public support from these communities. There were no protests, there were no demonstrations. There were not threats of 'revolution' nor were there any excuses made for their behavior. African-Americans sympathized with them as people. And perhaps explains why, while there were no overwhelming demonstrations of support, there were also no loud voices of condemnation. The constituencies, of these representatives, without asking for approval from the larger community, decided to sympathize, while acknowledging their failures in their public role. That is far different from approval.

What that larger community fails to understand, is that the African-American community in particular, while recognizing the need for respect from other communities, does not consider that respect a validation of personhood. It is, quite simply a recognition of the communities right to make its own choices. Ultimately, we will know that we've reached a point of true equality, when black leaders can fail and that failure is not a reflection on a entire people - in much the same way as whites don't want the moral failures of a Strom Thurmon to be seen as representative of the moral failings of an entire race.

However, the fine balance that be struck, while not asking for approval or permission to select our own leaders, the character of those leaders and representatives is important, because in them and through them, we show ourselves, our communities, to be accountable to all other constituencies and communities. In those roles, egregious failures in integrity, or lack of competence, tend to get translated into a lack of credibility on the part of that constituency. Anyone can argue all they want that this shouldn't be so, but it is a reality that has to be accepted.

Whether or not the reaction of Black people in Dallas, represents a coming of age of the voters, I don't know. What I do hope is that it represents a coming of age of those who present themselves for public office. Being 'qualified' to hold office no longer means being simply being 'available' or 'willing'. It now means being prepared to withstand the temptations of public service and the scrutiny that goes with it. Those qualifications provide the African-American community what it really needs and deserves - a choice.

That may narrow the pool of potential candidates considerably. But perhaps that may be a good thing.

Yet Another Way We're Mortgaging Our Children's Future

One of Central Dallas Ministries' most important program is our Nurture Knowledge and Nutrition (NKN) initiative. For several years it's primary focus has been providing snacks for after school programs and lunches for summer children's programs.

We are beginning to focus more increasingly on child nutrition and obesity. As our society grows much more sedentary and eats more unhealthily, the greatest damage is seen in our children. With both the lack of quality, accessibility and affordability of fresh food and vegetables in low income communities, poor children are disproportionately affected.

This emphasis is coming at an especially opportune time, as our nation's Michelle Obama, is adopting the same cause upon which to focus our nation's attention.

"The statistics are grim: One-third of young people in the United States are overweight or obese, and one-third will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives. In the Latino and black American community, those numbers go up to almost 50 percent. According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, children today spend seven hours a day using some kind of media device. At the same time, school lunches are fattier, school gym classes are shorter or nonexistent, and the erosion of 1950s “neighborhood” culture means the days of playing outside until supper are long gone."

"Today, said Obama, “medical experts are predicting that this generation is on track to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.” Not only does decreased productivity and life expectancy endanger long-term American economic prosperity, diet-related diseases like asthma, diabetes, hypertension and certain cancers are slowly adding to the national health care burden."

"All of this impacts the black community more severely than the rest of America: Black men are 30 percent more likely to die from heart disease, and black women are 1.7 times more likely to be obese than their white counterparts. Black neighborhoods in major cities have been shown to have fewer fresh food options and grocery stores than the average community. And according to the government’s Office of Minority Health, black Americans have reduced access to quality health care. Children who don’t eat well are performing worse in school. At an event with the first lady at a Virginia YMCA, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said: "the unhealthier we are as a nation the more our health care costs will continue to rise," adding that the Obama administration has "not only a moral obligation but economic imperative to begin to make a change.""

Childhood nutrition is an issue that cuts across the lines of all other issues: this is an economic development issue; its a health care issue; its national security issue; its a moral issue. Its an issue that impacts our generation, their generation and generations to come.

There's a great deal of talk today about 'our children's future'. Almost exclusively we're referring to our country's fiscal debt. But we're leaving a legacy of poor health that will render all talk of any national debt moot, if they're too unhealthy to work, or won't be well enough or live long enough to pay it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Employment SHOULD be the Priority Now

This clip of a presentation by economist Larry Mischel, the president of the Economic Policy Institute. He provides as clear an explanation as I've heard of why our economy is where it is and what it will take to provide relief for hurting individuals and families. It does indeed jibe with the President's proposals in his State of the Union address. The EPI doesn't march lock step with the Administration. It doesn't for instance, agree with the proposal for a discretionary spending freeze, for instance.

Whether you agree with the White House focus on restoring solvency of our financial institutions or not, it is incredibly important that we do focus on job creation. The clip is from early summer of '09. EPI's more current statistics convey the dire nature of the problem to date.
It poses a complex problem for which there are no magic short term solutions. But we've got to follow up the statistical recovery we see in the country's overall economy, with a determined effort to put the country back to work.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Noble Ambition: Changing the Nature of Political Discourse

I confess it.

I'm impatient. I have little tolerance for games, or insincerity. For that reason, there are times when I have to be reminded of examples that have shown me that, as my grandmother used to say, 'there is more than one way to skin a cat'!

I was reminded of that when I watched President Obama last week in his meeting with GOP Representatives.

I may not always agree with his proposals. I certainly wish that he would be more aggressive with his policy agenda. But there is something else that he is after - changing the nature of political debate in this country, which has grown more sour, course and superficial by the decade. It has resulted in a public discourse which has turned voting against ones interests into a virtue. And has demeaned clear thinking as a something suspicion and exalted 'plain spokeness' (i.e. inarticulateness, a lack of curiosity and a capacity to substitute opinions and feelings for facts in a debate), as a sign of sincerity.

Princeton professor, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, reminds me that the accepting the challenge of making public debate and discourse something that can be useful to the common good and, at the same time, a noble art, is a worthy pursuit. Especially if both parties are willing to so engage. Even when that is not the case, it is something pretty admirable. Here are some excerpts from her thoughts on Obama's encounter with the Republicans. You can read the entire post here.

"During the years that I was on faculty at the University of Chicago, my graduate students in political science often took courses with Professor Obama. They universally reported that he was a fair, but exceedingly tough practitioner of the Socratic method. He was willing to entertain any idea, question or observation, no matter how outrageous. But he always subjected the students to a series of logical interventions and arguments that often left students exhausted and sometimes a bit embarrassed. They quickly learned to challenge Professor Obama only if they had fully considered the implications of their arguments and prepared significant evidence in support of their case."

"That Barack Obama showed up today. The President put on a clinic in public discourse, political argument, intellectual dexterity and moral courage. It was a reminder of what democracy could be if we engaged our opponents with substance, patience and civility rather than invectives, gamesmanship and boorishness..."

"President Obama is modeling a different kind of democratic engagement. It is a model he adhered to during the election and he continues to follow it now. President Obama refuses to believe that we can have a functioning democracy if the majority refuses to speak to the minority. He takes seriously his responsibility to govern in the interest of both his supporters and his opponents. He remains committed to the possibility that he and his Party may not always be in sole possession of good ideas."