Monday, October 31, 2011

Black Republican's Tiresome Rhetoric

I've always been interested in efforts to wrench the votes of minorities, particularly blacks, away from the Democratic Party. The efforts usually range from caustic demonization of the party itself (Democratic); superficial appeals to the historic roots of the party as 'the Party of Lincoln'; or berating Black Democrats as 'slaves' on the 'plantation'. Personally, I find none of these particularly useful or appealing. I'm not impressed. 

Relatively new, is  the assertion that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Republican. To which I say, 'Yeah, ok...?' I've read about Dr. King extensively, going back before my teen-age years. I don't recall anything specifically about his party affiliation, but it's highly probable that he was a Republican. In an age in which we want to see official documents on significant historical figures, it's interesting that no one has produced voter registration information. But be that as it may, I don't find the prospect of MLK being a member of the GOP unsettling at all. He may have been. He may have not been.

Martin Luther King, Sr. was a Republican - until John F. Kennedy's intervention into King, Jr.'s imprisonment (not jailing, imprisonment) on a traffic arrest prior to the 1960 Presidential election. The younger King would still not endorse Kennedy, but the elder King had no such compunction and publicly gave JFK his support. Did Daddy King's previous allegiance to the Republican Party influence not only MLK but the entire King family. It wouldn't surprise me, in the least. But it wouldn't surprise me if, if at some point, King asserted his independence at the ballot box. He had no problem in his determination to be his own man. 

There have been no shortage of efforts on the part of conservatives to try and appropriate the image of King as 'one of them'. The most egregious efforts, of course, have been around the most 'harmless' portions of King's 'I Have a Dream' speech. "I have a dream that one day...[we] will be judged by the content of our character and not the color of their skins'. 

Of course, their appropriations are selective. The event at which this, judged by many historians as one of the two or three most important orations in American history, goes totally unacknowledged by those who wish to make King their conservative ideological mascot. We call the event 'The March on Washington'. But, it was fully known as 'The March on Washington for Jobs and Justice' - it was, in some respects, an Occupy Wall Street moment. 

And, of course, that subsequent legislation passed by a Democratic President in response to King led and or influenced by King demonstrations, led to the break with Southern Democrats (or Dixiecrats) with the Democratic Party, many of whom, if not most, became members of the Republican Party. Those landmark laws were the laws that recognized the full citizenship of Black people: the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

Again, the conservatives also are determined to ignore King's commitment just before his death to economic justice in which he called for 'a guaranteed income for every American' and his vehement opposition to the Viet Nam War. I wonder if GOP conservatives so quick to claim King as 'one of them' would have been so quick to claim him, had a bullet from the rifle fired by James Earl Jones prevented him from delivering the sermon he had prepared entitled, 'Why America May Go to Hell'.

But politically, what was King's assessment of the 1964 election that swept Lyndon Johnson into office by a landslide? 

"Another indication that progress is being made was found in the recent presidential election in the United States. The American people revealed great maturity by overwhelmingly rejecting a presidential candidate who had become identified with extremism, racism, and retrogression. The voters of our nation rendered a telling blow to the radical right. They defeated those elements in our society which seek to pit white against Negro and lead the nation down a dangerous Fascist path."

Let's be clear: superficial and caustic appeals to the 'values' of the GOP which are supposed to resonate with those of Black voters are not going to work. 

What would?

A platform including greater access to capitol for minority businesses; increased investment in public schools, including charters. If you are going to support vouchers, means tested vouchers for parents low income parents that include money for transportation as well as tuition, so that it actually covers the cost of public schools; more money for job training, college and community colleges; greater tax breaks for business that hire the hard to unemployed and provide a track to move beyond entry level employment; tax breaks, revenue enhancements AND tax cuts; condemn state implemented voter I.D. laws; serious, sane immigration policy; meaningful, even if limited, regulation of financial institutions;
repeal of 'three strikes you're out' laws for drug use offenses. 

These would be a good start. 

Insecure Black GOP activists with apparent chips on their shoulders toward their own people because their political views aren't popular only reveal that they're the ones who have thoughtlessly adopted standard GOP rhetoric. 

By the way - the strict, constitutional, GOP conservatives, wouldn't nominate Abraham Lincoln - he was the president who suspended habaeus corpus during the Civil War and by passed Congress when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. 

This 'Party of Lincoln' wouldn't even have Lincoln!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday Morning Blessing

One of the most prolific writers and Gospel musicians produced by the Black Church is Andrae Crouch.
He has been a towering figure (particularly in the Black Church) for more than 30 years! His songs not only speak of the longings of the human soul for God, but he has a way of striking the balance between music that is culturally appealing but worshipful as well.

I'm betraying my age, but there was a time when 'We Are Not Ashamed' was considered 'contemporary' Gospel Music!

When I was a pastor, I was proud of the range of our choirs, but they always received special praise and commendation from me when they sung scripture. While contemporary (and traditional) Gospel/church music can drift into the theologically 'unsound', there is almost no way you can go wrong singing scripture. Referenced in this offering are passages familiar to a great number of believers: Romans 1:16; Psalm 119:105 and Luke 4:18.

Beautiful! Simply Beautiful! Enjoy...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

Ella Fitzgerald

Jazz Artist

"It isn't where you came from, its where you're going that counts."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Flat tax Tom Foolery

The unveiling of Rick Perry's flat tax scheme, er plan, has a lot in common with Herman Cain's 9-9-9 contrivance, uh, er, plan - protestations to the contrary.

Of course, like all 'flat tax' gimmicks - plans (darn it) - it does favor high income earners (read: rich). But at least Perry admits that he has no problem with that...

"“My plan doesn’t trim around the edges, and it doesn’t bow down to the established interests,” Perry said, unveiling the plan before a friendly crowd inSouth Carolina. “Taxes will be cut across all income groups in America.”"
"Critics accused him of trying to shower favors on the elite while making life harder for the middle class and took issue with claims that lower taxes will stimulate growth."
"“If I needed evidence that Rick Perry isn’t going to be president, this would be it,” said Michael Ettlinger, vice president for economic policy at the Center for American Progress, a Democratic think tank. “It’s a gigantic tax cut for wealthy people, which ends up either shifting tax burdens to the middle class” or requires cuts throughout government programs."
"The Perry plan would let individual taxpayers stick with the current system, or move into a new “flat tax” system: a 20 percent tax rate with a $12,500 exemption for each member of a household. Taxpayers who earn up to $500,000 could still deduct interest on home mortgages, charitable contributions, and state and local taxes — elements that diverge from classic flat tax plans and could blunt the impact on some middle-class taxpayers."
"Perry’s plan would eliminate taxes that mainly hit the wealthy, on estates, dividends, interest and capital gains."
"The policy rollout comes as Perry retools his campaign staff in hopes of regaining traction, after plummeting from near-instant front-runner status. And he took aim at those in front of him, boasting that his plan was bold compared with theirs — a reference to GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, who wants to reshape the current system without scrapping it..."
"...But it wasn’t clear how Perry intends to whittle down the $14 trillion federal debt. Most analysts said his plan would cut deeply into government revenue. Perry appears to be counting on his plan unleashing robust economic growth, but it’s unclear, even if it could get through Congress, that it would do so."
"Perry promises to balance the federal budget by 2020, and he shrugged off complaints that his plan mostly benefits high-income taxpayers."
"“If folks who have money are going to be creating those jobs, then I don’t have a problem in the world with that,” he said..."
It's a classic line which falls silent with one simple question: "After 10 years of tax cuts for the wealthy, followed by declining job grow, flattened wages and a Great Recession that threatened the globe, exactly what evidence do we have that job growth would be the result of continued tax cuts?!'
No, this similarities, which Perry admits and Cain doesn't, isn't the one I'm talking about. 
The similarity is these contrivances - ok, plans! - don't address the problem with the economy or the systemic root of the problem. The economic near-crash of 2008 didn't have its source in inequitable tax rates. It had to do with an economy that produced nothing and looked to be sustained by corporations whose almost sole success measurement was stockholder dividends and executive compensation. The fiscal house of the U.S. nearly cratered because of a market based economy that relied on debt, broken up and sold multiple times to people willing to bet on the value of that debt and other corporations who insured that broken up debt without the resources to cover what they insured. 
A paper mache economy
A house of cards
Because of that, the rich found loopholes to hold on to their massive wealth, while they gained greater and greater control of the economy. Now, depending upon who you talk to, 5% of the wealthy control 85% of the wealth, or 3% control 95% or 1% control 99%. You can almost make up your figures and come sickeningly close to the truth. 
Almost as sickening, is the fact that candidates are flitting around the edge of the program with gimmicky, contrived versions of a flat tax. In reality, the financial system that allowed such excesses and used the middle class and low income U.S. citizens like pawns in a poorly played chess game is what desperately needs an overhaul. What difference does it make if you rearrange the tax codes if you allow irresponsible corporate barons to acquire so much wealth that they can afford to pay a few dollars more and not feel it? 
There is little appetite or political courage to fix this system which is growing wretchedly unfair. While what we used to call 'the middle class', are now falling into the ranks of the poor, while the safety net is being nibbled away from them. We poorly invest in education. We do not help retool workers for the jobs in a new economy in which modernization has rendered a good portion of manual labor obsolete. College graduates compete with traditional low skilled workers for low wage jobs. And the answer to all of this is a rancid stew of trickle down economics and flat-tax tom foolery. 
This is the 21st political version of an old vaudeville joke. 
A man is frantically and apparently in vain, under a streetlight for a dollar bill he's lost. Soon a man comes along and asks him what he's doing. 'I'm searching for a dollar I lost'. The man gets down on his knees and helps with search. 'Exactly where over here did you lose it?' asks the stranger. 'Oh', says the man looking for his dollar, 'I didn't lose it over here, I lost back there.' He points back to a dark corner where you can barely see the street, much less a dollar. 'Then why are you looking for your money over here?!' The stranger asked incredulously. The man looking for the dollar said, 'The light's better over here!'

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses!

No matter the the mayor, the city manager, the council members, Dallas has the propensity for coming up with every excuse in the world why something cannot be done.

It's true with housing, with education, even with something as basic as food.

Why are there no grocery stores selling fresh food and vegetables in poor communities. The excuses abound: the market, crime, the size of property.

The excuses are particularly irritating when you see that other city's find a way to get things done. Take for instance Rahm Emanuel, Chicago's new mayor is somehow finding a way to do more than get the conversation started. Take a look at this...

In Dallas, we seem to be compelled to take baby steps. So, while Mayor Emanuel is meeting with grocers and providing incentives to get them into low income areas, CitySquare has decided to press for the Dallas Farmers' Market to accept food stamps, or SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) cards. While not quite the same thing, it does provide low income people who are SNAP recipients to have access to fresh produce.

As always, it takes public pressure to make something like this happen. If you support our efforts and you live in Dallas, please signal that support by clicking on the link below and signing our online petition that we will submit to Dallas' City Council to get the Farmers' Market to accept SNAP!

Sign the Petition
Dallas Farmers Market to Accept SNAP (EBT/Lone Star Card)

The Dallas Farmers Market is one of the largest urban farmers market in Texas located close to food deserts. Currently the market does not accept Lone Star Card/ EBT benefits. The Lone Star Card is used for SNAP and TANF. SNAP is the new name for food stamps; TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) is cash benefits.

Accepting the Lone Star Card at the Dallas Farmers Market would allow families receiving SNAP (Food Stamps) or TANF to shop for fresh, locally grown products to which they currently have limited access to due to living in food deserts with few grocery stores.

The Dallas Farmers Market is run by the city of Dallas. We are asking that the Dallas Farmers Market accept the Lone Star Card and call on the Dallas City Council to officially take action.

• Sign the Dallas Farmers Market should accept SNAP (EBT/Lone Star Card) online petition.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Battle Against Payday Lenders Continues...

A couple of weeks ago, Rob Norcross, CEO of the Consumer Service Alliance of Texas, gave a Q&A interview in the Dallas Morning News, explaining why CSAT was suing the city of Dallas because of a zoning ordinance passed this summer to regulate payday and auto title loan lenders.

Suffice it to say that Norcross, I and a number of those of us who fought to get the ordinance disagree. Here's an excerpt of his interview...

"Q: The Consumer Service Alliance of Texas has called the city’s new payday lender ordinance “egregious” and has sued to stop the law from being implemented. What’s egregious about regulating these businesses?
"A: The Texas Legislature has the authority to regulate small, short-term loans. The ordinance limits access to credit for hardworking Texans. Many who qualify for loans today will not be able to access short-term credit under the terms of the ordinance. Those customers will be forced to turn to more expensive, or illegal, choices for credit."
"Q: The law restricts loans that can be extended in an effort to prevent people from becoming trapped in a debt cycle. Is that objectionable?
"A: Extended payment plans with no fees or interest charges are available for customers who experience a financial setback after obtaining a loan. Arbitrary restrictions on the number of allowable payments restrict innovation in the marketplace and harm consumers. Existing products with multiple, smaller payments and new products tailored to fit consumer financial needs would be prohibited by the ordinance."
"Q: Supporters of the ordinance argued that some payday lenders prey on vulnerable customers by charging exorbitant interest rates and fees that they cannot afford. Are any businesses in your industry guilty of that?
"A: Prices are set by competitive market forces in Texas. The Texas Legislature specifically chose not to institute price controls to distort the market and harm consumers. Many of the realistic credit alternatives for small loan customers are more expensive, such as credit card, bank NSF [non-sufficient fund] and overdraft fees."
"Over 56 percent of small loan customers in Texas have at least some college education. They are quite capable of comparing the costs of credit alternatives and making reasonable, rational decisions."
You can read the rest of his interview here.
My column in the DMN this month refutes much of what Norcross says, and explains why the protections afforded by the zoning ordinances are necessary. The column is below in it's entirety.

"The most surprising application of the Malcolm X maxim “By any means necessary …” is its philosophical adoption by certain sectors of the business community, including, apparently, Rob Norcross, head of the Consumer Service Alliance of Texas, which represents payday lenders. His responses in an Oct. 9 Dallas Morning News Point Person interview seem to suggest that profit “by any means necessary” is the intent of the payday and auto-title loan industries."

"An alarming number of testimonies from people victimized by the practices of short-term lenders, along with statewide and national statistics that support those stories, expose the exploitative nature of this industry. Against that backdrop, Norcross’ group has filed suit against the Dallas City Council’s unanimous adoption of a zoning ordinance designed to rein in the lenders’ most egregious, predatory practices. That legal action clearly demonstrates the industry’s desire to continue to take advantage of our most desperate citizens."

"Nearly every statement in the Norcross interview evinces gross insensitivity to the pain suffered by individuals and families who are now mired in debt because of exorbitant interest rates disguised as fees and rolled over multiple times because of the customer’s inability to repay these short-term, short-dollar loans."

"Norcross points to the minimalist legislation passed by Texas lawmakers this past session as evidence that there’s no need for tougher regulation. But he fails to mention that the industry paid an estimated $8 million to $10 million to lobbyists to suppress efforts to close the Credit Service Organization loophole, resulting in what state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, called “the most over-lobbied issue this session.”

The industry arguments that the Dallas ordinance is unnecessary because most customers repay their loans on time are specious at best. Besides, there is nothing in the ordinance that prevents repayment in one to four payments if desired. If the payday lenders wish to offer installment loans of more than four payments, they simply need to become licensed lenders with the state."

"Norcross asserts that the market determines conditions under which payday lenders proliferate and interest rates grow. But the numbers used to support the need for a market for the loan services include the second and third loans (and beyond) that are taken out to pay off initial loans. While marketed as short-term fixes, the terms make these loans nearly impossible to repay. For instance, “fees” on a $4,000 auto-title loan are more than $1,000 a month."

"While Norcross testified before a Texas Senate committee that 392 percent interest was “too low” for the industry to survive, SmallCap Network reports that business is booming for the small-dollar loan industry."

"Unlike their customers, operations such as EZcorp, Advance America, Cash Advance Centers and Cash America International are watching their stock double in an economy on life support. In a natural disaster, we don’t allow anyone to charge $20 for a bottle of water. So why allow lender exploitation during times of economic crisis?"

"Payday and auto-title lenders are not the victims here. Do not confuse their problems with the plight of the nearly 20 percent of Catholic Charities clients in Texas who are forced to seek financial assistance after becoming ensnared in debt because of payday loans or the 40 percent of people who came to CitySquare seeking aid to pay rent or utilities after they got further into debt through payday loans. Consider the elderly woman about whom I received an email just before I testified in support of the city’s regulatory ordinance: Her car was repossessed after missing one auto-title loan payment."

"The Dallas City Council took stringent measures for one reason: When any predatory industry declares itself determined to exploit desperate citizens under the guise of market legitimacy, those citizens must be protected — by any means necessary."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Another Reason to Invest in CitySquare!

The work at CitySquare continues to remain challenging...and satisfying!

Because most of our staff are 'in the weeds' so to speak...with their heads down, doing great work...we all often lose sight of the great work and great people we are involved with.

For instance, Keven Vicknair who heads up our administration of the AmeriCorp program and Sonia White, who gives leadership to all of our food service initiatives, not only make us all proud, they also help us touch lives, literally by the tens of thousands.

The partnered work of AmeriCorp and Food Services was recently recognized by a visit from Robert Velasco II who is CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. What follows in an article outlining the evaluation of that visit and a snapshot of the impact it is making. The video is about Chris Oliver and how CitySquare provided him an opportunity to not only turn his life around, but also an opportunity to help others. An update on Chris' journey: he now in school to become a teacher, while working with our Homeless Outreach Team, to get some of the most hard to reach homeless citizens of the street.


Congress is proposing cuts in funding to the AmeriCorp program. Why not share this blog post with your Senator of Congress member?

"Many Americans struggle with poverty issues. According to the Census Bureau, 1 out of 6 Americans are living in poverty. In the Dallas-Fort Worth Metro Area, more than 14.6% of individuals live below the poverty line and statewide, 4.6 million Texans live in poverty, putting Texas 3% higher than the national average."
"In the face of unemployment and poverty, one Dallas resident found a pathway to opportunity throughAmeriCorps in his search for food and shelter."
"Employed his entire life, a three year stretch without a job left Chris Oliver evicted from his apartment with no food or shelter. Oliver turned to CitySquare, a local nonprofit that provides vital services to neighbors in search of food and housing. It was there he discovered AmeriCorps."
"“Before leaving, I filled an application out to become an AmeriCorps member and was accepted that day,” said Oliver. He started work the next day, helping those who were in his shoes one the day before."
"At CitySquare, there are currently more than 70 AmeriCorps members who work every day to help feed the hungry and tutor at-risk youth. Since 2006, CitySquare has placed and managed more than 1,000 AmeriCorps members. Over a five-year period, AmeriCorps members and CitySquare have partnered with 39 community agencies in afterschool and summer programming and served more than 14,000 youth throughout Dallas and San Antonio."
"As the issues of hunger and poverty affect more Americans each day, the number of Dallas residents who have turned to City Square has steadily increased. In 2011, AmeriCorps members with CitySquare's Hunger Programs have fed more than 18,500 neighbors and are on track to surpass last year's totals."
"“The food pantry has seen longer lines of people waiting for food assistance and more neighbors repeatedly having to turn to the pantry for help,” said Amanda O'Neill of CitySquare..."

Monday, October 17, 2011

Purposeful Living

"Some guys who've chosen another path, wake up every morning and talk to their accountant; I wake up every morning and talk with Nelson Mandela. Who has the better deal?"

Actor and activist, Harry Belafonte, on how his commitment to human rights has enriched his life.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

Susan B. Anthony


"If all the rich and all of the church people should send their children to the public schools they would feel bound to concentrate their money on improving these schools until they met the highest ideals." 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Anyone TRYING to Understand Health Care Reform?

Health Care Reform, the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, or ORomneyCare, or whatever positive or negative spin you put on it, is one of those issues which leaves people with their eyes glazing over. Which is one of the things that is amazing about this poll, which is part of an update on health care reform by Holmes Murphey & Associates done for The Kaiser Family Foundation.

It appears that the more people know about it, the more they like it - or dislike it - until they are asked about various components of the plan independently. Then they like it - or not - if they think its going to raise their taxes. If its going to raise their taxes then they like it - or not - if they see that more uninsured are going to have health care. 

 Americans, according to the poll, have barely know about the lawsuits brought by states to determine the constitutionality of the legislation. Those who do, apparently don't know the status of the legislation. There are those who don't think that it has been brought to the Supreme Court (actually the Obama Administration has asked the Supreme Court for a ruling on its constitutionality).

So take a look at this poll. It is one of the clearest and most objective cases for the law and of its current status. It may help keep your eyes from glazing over when its brought up again next time...and believe me it will be!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

When He's Right, He's Right...

I've written before about my feelings regarding Tavis Smiley and Cornell West's antipathy toward the President. Simply stated, I believe that no politician, not even the president, is immune from critique or criticism. I also believe that every citizen has the right to speak out against policies that he or she may disagree with. However, I do have a problem when motives are not transparent and when it questionable as to whether or not those motives are spurred by spurned ambitions.

All of that being said, there is a truth that Smiley and West are speaking regarding the danger of rampant and growing poverty and the lack of urgency with which it is being addressed.

Smiley and West's Poverty Tour is rightfully focused on calling attention to this national shame. It is a shame so great that not seriously confronting it makes continual boasting of our country's greatness the most egregious hypocrisy before God and the world.

This commentary by Tavis Smiley is right on and it is unfortunate that to date, this is a message that is going unheeded by the people we have elected to office. The greatest threat to our national security is this country's wealth gap and the policies of both parties who pursue a balanced budget when our country is so economically imbalanced.

The campaigns for the 2012 presidential election has gotten underway and, like 2008, there has been virtually no mention of the poor in our country, or the rising poverty rate. Well, Herman Cain did mention it and blamed poverty and unemployment on the poor and unemployed. Those protesting the immoral imbalance of the control of the wealth of our country have been called a  'mob'. And while all of this is going on, the pastor of one of the largest churches in our country doesn't mention God's concern for the poor when Rick Perry at a 'Values Summit', he touts the questionable economic policies of our state (very questionable economic policies) and picks a fight with the Mormons!

There's nothing right about any of this. It used to take a presidential election to have this conversation. It appears we'll have to find another venue. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Reconciling Christ's Commands and Occupy Wall Street Demands...

Sunday, my CTW post focused on the irony of the Occupy Wall Street protests and the outpouring of affection and sympathy for Apple, Inc founder and multibillionaire, Steve Jobs. Unbeknownst to me, my musings found synergy with those of another preacher/blogger/friend, Rev. Eric Folkerth. Eric, is pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church, and had taken part in an OWS protest in Dallas. In his blog, he explained to his congregation his rationale, providing a scriptural context for those demonstrations. He illustrates that context with a delightful story of an encounter his wife had a few years ago. Eric is married to the lovely State District Judge Dennise Garcia. Here's an excerpt from his post...

"A few years back, somebody at the courthouse came in to see Dennise to ask her about a Bible passage. Bless their hearts, people just assume that because she's married to a minister she'll be able to know, and interpret, everything in the Bible. As if somebody could come to me and ask me to recite the Texas Family Code."

"Anyway, this person came to Dennise and said, "Hey, Judge, where is that passage in the Bible that says 'Give a man to fish, feed him today. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime?""

"Dennise paused for a moment, and said, "Um, that's not in the Bible...""

"But this person was absolutely unconvinced, and looked at Dennise with eyes full of pity, that seemed to say, "Oh, you poor don't even know the Bible...""

"The woman asked Dennise, "Can you call Eric and ask him?""

"Dennise said, "No, it isn't in the Bible...""

"I'm pretty sure this person spent the rest of the day on Google, trying to find where in the Bible this phrase is.

"But I'll tell you what IS in the Bible: The feeding of the five thousand."

Jesus and his disciples are surrounded by five thousand hungry people. They only have two fish and few loaves of bread. But! Some of Jesus' disciples are actual fishermen.

"So, this could be the perfect time for Jesus to pull out a fishing lesson. It would be the perfect time for:  "Teach these folks to fish so that they may be fed for a lifetime...""

"But instead, when the disciples say: "Should we send them home?""
"Jesus says: "No, YOU give them something to eat.""

"So, to Wall Street, and to all of us, I would say that this is what Jesus has to teach us:

"The world will always say: "Don't get involved, hoard what you have.""
"Jesus will always say, "Give of what you have. It doesn't belong to you anyway. It belongs to God.""

Media continues to say that the Occupy Wall Street protesters lack a singular focus. I'd say our focus is too diffuse get it. Our quality of life and security in life doesn't rest solely on our efforts to achieve personal prosperity. We have to have a society that offers opportunity and access for all. It's really pretty simple. 

Read the rest of Eric Folkerth's post here...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Loss of Steven Jobs...and Our Sense of a Common Good

Kevin Kelly's blog post, 'The Soul of Apple', explains something I've been trying to put my finger on for a while.

He points out an irony most of us have missed...

"This week something unusual happened. At the very same time that tens of thousands of ordinary citizens were camping out in New York, Washington, and Seattle to protest corporate greed, and the capitalistic wealth of the very rich, a similar number of ordinary citizens were depositing flowers and spiritual offerings at the corporate stores of the wealthiest company in the world (with earnings larger than most countries), in memory of one of the richest people in the world, the late Steve Jobs. Why would a billionaire elicit such affection and love during this moment of fierce dissatisfaction with global capitalism?"

Exactly, 'why'?

In all of the complaints (well, ongoing monotonous whines) about 'class warfare' and 'soak the rich' and 'hatred of the rich', Steve Jobs death has evoked outpouring of emotion reserved for precious few. There were those of us who were stunned, in a haunting sort of way, as if someone we actually knew and had recently spoken to had died. And Jobs was rich - 'insanely' rich. 

Steven Jobs was worth an estimated $5 billion. Yet no one picketed his house. No protesters were outside of Apple headquarters. As far as I know, no one called him names. That company, which Jobs founded, from which he was fired and to which he came back, is worth an estimated $300 billion. But no one talks about Apple's culture of corruption, or uses Apple as an example of why capitalism needs to be overhauled or abolished. 


But Kelly's post answers the question 'why', at least to my satisfaction. 

Steve Jobs and Apple are an example of what is right about capitalism. People were moved because, however he did it, Jobs provided us with something which made many of our lives better...all over the world. The iPhone, the iPad, the iPod, the MacPro and the iTune Store, have all become staples of a well connected life. Apple and Jobs essentially rendered every other producer of computer technology, whether lap top, desk top, smart phone or tablet, a variation of its theme. We all understand instinctively how much better we think our lives are because of Jobs' work. We made him rich beyond our wildest dreams and when he died last week, it was clear that we didn't begrudge him a penny. Jobs was the quintessential corporate citizen in the classic sense: he used his product to enhance the well being of his fellow man. 

Jobs didn't flaunt his wealth. I'm sure there was a corporate jet somewhere. Perhaps there was more than one home. But his lack of ostentation made us think of him as accessible. And we waited breathlessly for each new iteration of his creative genius. I remember when I couldn't wait to upgrade my iPhone 3G to the 3GS and within weeks the iPhone 4 was introduced (I won't make that mistake this time). Somehow what the phone could do was made to feel almost indispensable. The iPad, allowed us to work, communicate, create or recreate virtually anywhere, nearly replacing the lap top. The computer in all of its versions was really personal, and Jobs was responsible. 

Now, I don't mean to suggest that Jobs, Apple or its products are perfect. But everyone who is able to use a computer or a smart phone knows why he or she thinks that it benefits them. It's an answer they hold in their hand and can point to and no matter what anyone thinks of the cost, the owner doesn't feel ripped off. 

What does that have to do with the thousands occupying Wall Street? And other government and financial centers? 

They are protesting a system that, by and large, doesn't make them feel like...well, like Apple does. The economy collapsed. It was, no matter what anyone else says, due to greed. It wasn't the greed of poor people. It was the greed of rich people, playing on the greed of people who wanted to be rich. There were people who concocted a 'Ponzi scheme' if you will. Where mortgages were bundled, broken up, sold off, bet on and billions made by those who did the buying and selling. Those who bought the houses, did so with tricked up mortgages. People were encouraged to buy more home (or homes) than they could afford. The people who were supposed to be watching, weren't. The people who should have known better, didn't or didn't care. Homes were lost. And then jobs. Credit tightened. Loans dried up. The banks which made and bought and sold those mortgages were in trouble. The banks got bailed out; first by Bush, then by Obama. And now that recession is over, the country sits on mountains of debt. But the banks sit on mountains of cash. So do corporations. Banks won't lend. Companies won't hire, because they are...uncertain.

The people who are protesting are also uncertain. Uncertain about where they can find jobs. Or uncertain about student loans. Uncertain about the value of any education at all. Uncertain as to whether or not they can buy or keep a house. Uncertain about the money they have in the bank. They are the ones who have been told time and time again, that the uncertainty of the government, of the banks, of the corporations trumps their uncertainty. Banks have to be 'certain' the loan will be repaid. Corporations have to be 'certain' their stock holders will make money, their executives will get their bonuses. Politicians have to be 'certain' they'll get re-elected. They all need to be 'certain' that none of the economic collapse in which nearly all of them have colluded will cause them to end up in jail. 

Kelly's post made me understand the outpouring of sympathy, admiration and deep gratitude for Steven Jobs: he never made us uncertain...we always knew that whatever he produced would make us feel as if our lives had been made better. 

The OccupyWall Street protesters, are spreading word of their movement with the very technology that Steven Jobs made possible. It's no wonder Wall Street doesn't get it...yet.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

In Memoriam: Al Davis (1929-2011)

There was plenty not to like about Al Davis. But there's no doubt, those of us who enjoy the NFL, owe a debt of gratitude to his innovation, his determination and desire to win. Al Davis is one of the architects of the National Football League and, for better and for worse, he's responsible for the game so many of us love today. The fact is, pro football is a more exciting and more inclusive game today because of the influence of his leadership...

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

Dean Acheson

Secretary of State

"The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time."

Friday, October 7, 2011

Could Herman Cain be President?

Herman Cain

In watching the process for nomination for the GOP presidential candidacy play out, an interesting question emerges - could Herman Cain really have a chance to run against Barack Obama for the highest office in the land?

Put aside, for a minute the inanities of some of Cain's statements ('I'm blacker than Barack Obama'; Two-thirds of blacks have been brainwashed', the foolish 'pledge' not to raise taxes under any circumstances, etc.), he does have a compelling narrative and he has a platform that goes beyond the banal talking points of the other candidates. Herman Cain is not simply regurgitating TEA party angst riddled rhetoric. Nor is he ladling out fear laded pablum. Argue with his gimmicky 9-9-9 economic strategy all you want, its simple (or simplistic), its memorable and he explains it without alienating people.

Cain appears to be succeeding where African-American Republicans have failed in the past - when it comes to a presidential run. He has made himself attractive to and is being taken seriously (by various degrees)by that has grown less and less diverse and is making fewer and fewer attempts at becoming so.

Michael Steele
Former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele had the same opportunity, but personal and political gaffes and in inability (or unwillingness) to find and press the leadership reset button, drove him to the pundits chair. Alan Keyes, a perennial black GOP presidential candidate, was arguably TEA party long before TEA party was 'cool'. Keyes was a more articulate extreme, fundamentalist, arch-conservative than Michelle Bachmann. But in an era  when being Republican simply meant having a different philosophy of governance, Alan Keyes was a curiosity, an oddity, usually written off before the race began. Ironically, now, when Keyes could be considered en vogue, his views are the 'mainstream' views of the party - he's no longer special.

Cain also has something else going for him - he's never been elected to public office. He's an extremely successful businessman, the former CEO of 'Godfather's Pizza'. He's used to being decisive. He can credibly articulate the conservative ideology regarding the economy. If you say he'd be weak on foreign affairs going into office, that's equally true of every other president the past 60 years with the exception of Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush. He appears strong and independent. And, again arguably - he looks 'presidential' (I can never really understand what that means).

Alan Keyes
Cain's problem? He's never held elective office. To some that may be a plus. But I think ultimately that will keep him from getting the GOP nomination. Cain's business perspective, without electoral portfolio, is what I think will cause the establishment GOP from really embracing him. At the end of the day, the type of negotiating skills necessary for running for or serving in office are nuanced but significant. There are political consequences to nearly every decision. The number of 'orders' and 'directives' you can give are limited. And fortunately (or unfortunately for a few) both the 'maverick' and 'rogue' tags have lost their appeal.

Without political portfolio, Cain would, with the nomination, have to become a politician. And should he win he would have to be one on day one. I don't think the Republican establishment has the confidence that he would be able to master that learning curve. It can be an incredibly difficult thing for someone whose used to being 'in charge' to find out how much he (or she) is not in charge. President Truman, just prior leaving office said of Dwight Eisenhower, 'Poor Ike. He'll start giving orders like he did in the Army and not a damn thing will happen.'

What's heartening about the prospects of a Cain presidential run is I don't think race is as much a factor as many of us might reflexively think. It's pretty ironic. Because if its true that the GOP has come to a point where they can seriously imagine a black man being their standard bearer - the credit goes to Barack Obama!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

In Memoriam: Dr. Fred Shuttlesworth (1922-2011)

Dr. Fred Shuttlesworth, perhaps one of the most courageous Civil Rights leaders and patriots of our lifetime, died yesterday at the age of 89. 

Because of my relationship with a few people who knew some of the leaders of the Civil Rights struggle, I have had the opportunity to meet a number of these icons. It was because of my relationship with Peter Johnson that I had the inspiring privilege to meet Dr. Shuttlesworth when he came to Dallas in 2003. 

Those of you who get tongue-tied or star struck when you meet business leaders, celebrities, or sports figures will understand how I felt when I met him. But even greater was the opportunity to spend time alone with him. His very presence here was a demonstration of the largeness of his spirit. Then, in his 80's, of course, Shuttlesworth had come to Dallas to lend his weight to Peter's and my efforts to try and bring water and sewage service to a small unincorporated area south of Dallas called Sand Branch. This historic figure had come here to lend himself to a cause in which he had no relationship other than the compassion that one man feels for his fellow men, even at an age when any one would have understood him saying that he had done all he could throughout his life. 

Imagine again, my thrill at being the one to introduce him at the meeting held at a church in Sand Branch, he spoke with the vigor and fervor of not only a younger man, but of one in whom the fire to fight for justice and equality still raged.

It was quite an evening.

Ironically, it was an evening made even more special the next year, when my wife and I went to Birmingham on our vacation.

I had read so much about Birmingham over the years that I drove directly to Kelly Ingram Park even though it was my first time there. Across from the park is the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. It is a magnificent center devoted to the history of civil rights in Birmingham and throughout the country. But in front of the BCRI is a statue of Dr. Fred Shuttlesworth. Throughout the museum I was reminded of not only how dangerous those times were (Birmingham was called 'Bombingham', not only because of the dynamite and excavation industry there, but because of the violence inflicted on the black community by white terrorists), and the significance and bravery of Fred Shuttlesworth. He was a short man, but I realized on that trip, that I had spent time with a giant.

Dr. Fred Shuttlesworth lived a long and purpose-filled life. Those of us who had a chance to meet him will celebrate that blessing and dedicate our lives to that for which he and those of his generation committed themselves so selflessly.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wanted: More World Changers!

I've written more than 1200 posts on CTW, this will be my first repeat. 

Apple Founder Steven Jobs died today at the age of 56, and it is the end to an absolutely remarkable life! I don't think its hyperbole to say that Jobs will be ranked with Thomas Edison as one of history's greatest inventors. 

I have friends of mine who roll their eyes when I say I have limited computer skills.

It is true! I am very curious about the tools that help me accomplish what I like to do, and I learn fairly quickly, so I've mastered some things, but that knowledge is more limited than some might think.

I say that to say that even someone as limited as I, knows the impact that Steven Jobs has made on the world. He has remained on the cutting edge of technology, in ways that have dwarfed his competitors. I remember most recently, when he unveiled the iPod that held 1000 songs. Most critics asked, 'Do we really need one of those?!' I heard that Jobs has said, 'It's not the consumers job to know what they want.'

An incredible statement. Arrogant, even, if it had been someone who had given us iPods, iPhones, iPads and Mac Air (or is it Air Mac?) computers, when we weren't aware that these were important (some might say indispensable).

My favorite Stephen Jobs quote? In his sales pitch to get Pepsico executive John Sculley to come work for his fledgling Apple Computer company: 'Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or come with me and change the world?' Sculley was with Apple the next 10 years!

I love that kind of spirit. I love that I've had the opportunity to work with people who have had that same type of uber entrepreneurial perspective. So many people make their banal points, criticize and can tell you what should be done after they've already talked themselves out of it.

I just like world changers! It's sad when they step off center stage, but while they're there they agitate and benefit all of us.

Isn't This a Majority?

Occupy Wall Street Manifesto

We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we're working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Why We Cannot Tire of Politics

"Politics is the means by which we determine who gets how much in five areas: who gets how much income; who gets how much education; who gets how much health care; who gets how much housing; who gets how much justice."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Don't Miss Ken Burn's 'Prohibition'...

Even if you have you're week already planned, do yourself a favor and watch Ken Burn's latest PBS documentary 'Prohibition'. He has it right, this early 20th century period is more like our own than many of us know. And the people who are proposing solutions with an ahistoric perspective are either ignoring or are simply ignorant of the consequences of repeating this history.

This video preview ought to...excuse me...wet your whistle...for this five hour, three night offering!

Watch the full episode. See more Ken Burns.

Saturday, October 1, 2011