Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ninety-four to Nothing

It's been mentioned, but not with the jaw dropping surprise I thought would accompany it. Barack Obama leads Mitt Romney 94-0 with black Americans in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll. 

At the threshold of the GOP convention, no candidate in the modern era has polled at ZERO. There appears to be no angst at all among the Republicans. It's possible they think they can at least get 3-5 percent of the presidential vote as a matter of course. Or, perhaps they have decided that they will just cede the black vote and focus on the votes of white males. But if he runs, let alone win, by almost totally ignoring a fairly significant part of the country's population (black people represent 13% of the America), what does that say about our country. 

The mistaken notion that as a demographic, blacks are so in love with the first African-American president that they won't vote for anyone else is a false predicate and an unfortunate one. 

The problem with the lack of appeal of Mitt Romney and the Republican Party. In the mind of many people I've talked with, throughout the for years, black and white, there has been an appalling lack of respect shown the President and it's being attributed almost solely to his race. 

Therein lay another reason why Romney finds himself losing in the poll with black Americans by 94 points...

The Republican Dominated House of Representatives

There are blacks who neither understand nor appreciate the stimulus package (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) or ‘Obamacare’ (the Affordable Care Act), but they do understand that Barack Obama has had to play under a different set of rules than virtually any other President.
An example: those unfamiliar with the process of government or only tangentially familiar with the way government works, do understand, for instance that votes taken in the 100 member United States Senate, under President George Bush, were one with a simple majority (51 votes). Under the first black President, there needs to be a ‘super majority’ (60 votes) making it much harder to get anything done. Blacks are familiar with having the game changed once we get in places of authority traditionally ‘reserved’ for whites.

The confirmed story that while the President was being inaugurated;  while nearly 2 million people stood freezing in the cold to watch a penultimate moment in our country’s history, leaders in the Republican Party met and conspired to make him unsuccessful, is a story rings true with what most black Americans have experienced at one time or another, and what many expected would happen when Obama became President. 

Black people actually heard Mitch McConnell say that the number one priority of the Republicans in Congress was to make Barack Obama a one term president. Now, to be honest, that is usually the priority of the opposition period. But, again, this is the FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT. The publicly stated goal of making him a failure does not sit well, with most black Americans.

Blacks are also familiar with what it means to get a job held by a white predecessor has failed royally and been expected to work miracles in order to be considered successful. Nearly every black child is familiar with the admonition: ‘you must be twice as good to get half as much respect’. And in this, blacks find a great deal of resonance with the President.

To hear the President called ‘a failure’; ‘a disappointment’; ‘ a catastrophe’ by the same people who have publicly stated that they would obstruct his agenda in order to make him a failure is, again, something with which blacks can identify. To have, for instance, House Majority Leader John Boehner, refuse to take his calls; or to have Representative Eric Cantor, storm out of meetings with the President are all signs of disrespect that one cannot imagine being countenanced by say a Nixon or a Johnson.

Early on in the Obama presidency, black people barely shook their heads in disbelief when almost everything that he proposed was either met with opposition, or, when won took massive effort. They also watched the budget battles which almost brought the country to the brink of insolvency, with Republican leaders refusing to budge on tax cuts for the wealthy over against cuts which disproportionately impact black and poor communities. So that the calls for cuts for ‘entitlements’: cuts for food stamps, cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, cuts in education are all couched in terms 'coded' for cuts in benefits for black people. While black people may be disproportionately impacted by the issues these programs are designed to address, the largest demographic of the poor are whites. Yet, these issues are spoken of in ways in which conjure up images of blacks who seek dependency on government. And Obama is spoken of as the one who is responsible for the growth of these programs. He is seen by Republican Party, as Newt Gingrich promulgated, ‘the food stamp President’.

This condescension, which ignores the depth of the Great Recession (some say ‘depression’) which he inherited, and which suggests that ‘normal’ means of recovery were ignored for some ‘exotic’ form of ‘foreign’ financial policy efforts, belies the fact that Republicans and Democrats embraced stimulus as a means of economic recovery before the age of Obama.

One other thing, even in the realm of foreign policy, the efforts to diminish are equally astounding to the black community. And may be the one with which average black Americans are familiar.

In killing Osama Bin Ladin, there was a bending over backwards to make he has been denied credit. He is criticized for ending the Iraq War – a war in which we should never have been engaged, and in which the leader had been deposed and executed, leading to an occupation which the current leaders were telling the U.S. it was time for us to leave. We credit Nixon for ending the Viet Nam War; FDR for ending WWII; Lincoln for ending the Civil War and yet, the GOP has found ways to criticize the President for ending the wrongheaded misadventure in Iraq and authorizing the mission in which the author of the most traumatic attack on American shore was killed. 

The Congressional Republicans have helped confirm the worst suspicions, if not fears, of a great number of black Americans. If Republican elected representatives can't show the most basic modicums of respect for a President whose election symbolizes the aspirations of at least 13% of the population, how can that same demographic be 'for' their nominee to challenge that President?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Why Do Black Voters Prefer President Obama Over Mitt Romney 94-0?

Mitt Romney trails President Barack Obama 94-0 with black voters according to a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

I think there are a number of reasons why. I'm sharing some over the next few posts...

The TEA Party Take Over of the Republican Party

While there have been cries to the contrary, the country’s introduction to the TEA Party included a reintroduction to the racist underbelly still existent in this country. This includes people showing up to political rallies with guns, or images of Obama as a witch doctor, the Joker or Hitler. The TEA Party’s language that suggests – and in some cases outright proclaimed – Obama is a socialist,  un-American, hates America, and or is evil and treasonous. They said all of this about the FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT in the history of our country.

There are many black people who, like whites and Hispanics, may not totally buy (or even understand) all of Obama’s policies, yet these attacks were seen as by a number of African-Americans as attacks on black people, not just on a politician they liked. There is sense in which the election of the first black president was more consequential to blacks than to the country at large. The Presidency was the last elective office that appeared 'reserved' for white males. It was a glass ceiling that many thought a woman would break long before a black man would do so. The insults hurled at Barack Obama are felt viscerally by a large swath of black America because the slurs resonate personally.

The nit-picking on virtually every aspect of his person or his policies looms larger than anyone can imagine in the black community, because blacks can relate to the nit-picking:
  • Barack Obama isn't confident; he’s ‘arrogant’. 
  • His education is suspect (how’d he get to Harvard anyway? Let's see those transcripts. As if being elected President of the Harvard Law Review was disconnected from his academic performance). 
  • Black people, whether in executive, supervisory, or managerial positions, know what it's like to have their qualifications questioned; to have it whispered, if not said out loud, that the color of one's skin is the reason why they were promoted, rather than because of hard work, greater vision or superior experience. 
No president in the history of this country has ever had to produce his birth certificate, but the first black President has to produce his to quell nearly three years of nonsense around this issue. And this, in a country which a few years ago, entertained the conversation about changing the Constitution to allow Arnold Schwarzenegger to run for president!

These are just a few of the insults which many a black Americans have taken personally. In most cases, they were passed off as simply an 'angry' middle class. The problem is, black America has been 'angry' for a long time. But the 'anger' of blacks in America is dismissed as 'whining'. The 'anger' of the TEA Party, was given wide play, taken seriously and co-opted by the Republican Party (before the TEA Party took over the Republican Party). Very few establishment Republicans challenged the rhetoric and the dark, 'other' descriptions and suspicions which targeted the President. Most found ways to excuse interrupting the Obama's State of the Union speech, by calling him a liar. Or elected officials openly voicing (and thereby giving an air of legitimacy) to the birther questions, or worse. Even now during the campaign, both the Republican Party nominee and GOP Party officials descriptions of his economic policy as 'foreign' and European, are easily promulgated. And Mitt Romney recently repeated the 'birther' meme, as a 'joke'. As a result because of the TEA Party takeover of the Republican Party, the insults are associated with the Republican Party.

Are all Republicans racist? No, of course not. Are all TEA Party members? I don't believe so. But the noisemakers and extremists are the ones who find the camera and have become the faces and the voices of the party. And I think that factors in significantly into the 94% - 0% lead for Barack Obama among black voters.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mitt Romney, Losing 94-0 Among Black Voters - And it's No Surprise

Can you win a national election by ignoring, by virtually not speaking to the issues that are important to 13% of the population?

I don’t think so. Yet, one of the most phenomenal polling numbers that very few are talking about – an historical polling number – could be the most telling: President Barack Obama leads Mitt Romney among black Americans 94% - 0%!


To my mind, no presidential candidate of a major political party, in the modern era, has polled zero this close to Election Day. Not Barry Goldwater. Not Richard Nixon. Not Ronald Reagan. Not George Wallace!

Going into the Republican Convention the conversation is how Romney will increase his appeal to women (with whom the President holds an 8 point lead over Romney). How he will make inroads into the America’s Hispanic community (which Obama leads 68-23). But virtually no meaningful discussion about how he will make up a NINETY-FOUR PERCENT gap among blacks in the country!

Going into the convention, Republican’s appeal to blacks is projected to be even worse than in 2008, which hardly seems possible. The GOP convention that tagged John McCain and Sarah Palin as their standard bearers, only 36 black delegates were there to voice their support for the Republican platform and candidates. This year, the black delegates will constitute 2% of the delegates to the convention. Meaning that on issues such as housing, poverty, unemployment, health care, economic development, education, access to capital by small business, all issues which impact black Americans disproportionately and in some cases to greater degree to any other demographic in the country, the Republican Party – intentionally has nothing to say. Has the Republican Party given up on reaching black voters? According to one conservative black GOP delegate:  “Giving up is not the point,” the former delegate said his friends tell him. “They’ve thrown them overboard; don’t need ‘em, don’t want ‘em.”

So is it simply that black people are blindly in support of a black president, so much so they won’t even consider an alternative?

Let’s be clear: Barack Obama is nearly universally popular as a black president, but his policies are not universally embraced. There are black people have a problem with the President’s lack of a ‘black agenda; there are those who have a problem with his stance on immigration; still there are black people who have a problem with his stance on the war; others have issues with his economic policies. There are those who have problems with his stance on gay marriage. But in terms of support, the number willing to vote for Romney vs. Obama, statistically amounts to ‘0’!

It is one of the reasons why Mitt Romney is likely to lose this election - even if he wins it! And it will, if they don't change, spell the demise of the Republican Party, even as we know it now, if it doesn't change.

Why does it appear that black Americans have totally rejected the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney. I'm going to try and answer this in the next few posts. I think it's interesting, but I also think it's frightening, not only for the Republican Party, but for the state of politics in America.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Poor Give More...Really!

I tend to like interactive maps that deal with demographics.

For everyone with a focus on fundraising, this one is a doozy! The Chronicle of Philanthropy has an incredibly interesting report entitled 'How America Gives'. It's an interesting report on America's generosity - or in some cases lack of the same.

Although I've not explored all of it, here's what I've found out - poor communities give a greater percentage of their income than more affluent communities. 

How so? Glad you asked...

In my July Dallas Morning News column, I referenced the concentrated poverty which characterized one area of our city, zip code 75215. The problems really catch few people by surprise. The information uses IRS data inclusive of people who made $50,000 or more after taxes and household expenses. These were chosen because people at this income level tend to itemize their taxes.

But 'The Chronicle of Philanthropy' gives us still another view.

The median discretionary income in the area is $35,700.
Total donations for the zip code 75215 totaled almost $950,000
The median charitable contribution in 75215 was $4275
The percentage of income given was 12 percent

Now take for instance a more affluent zip code: 75220

The total contributions totaled $36.5 million
The median contribution was $3331
The median discretionary income was $71,000
The percentage of income given amounted to 4.7%

There are a number of conclusions you can draw about this and perhaps a number reasons for the disparity. But among those conclusions and reasons may be this: the closer you live to those who have less, the more generous you are. Now one could argue that the poor should fund their own charities since they are so generous. Maybe, but there's another possibility: a true spirit of community would recognize those with less as neighbors and make generosity the norm rather than the exception.

Check out the interactive map and see how generous your community is...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Redemptive Nature of Tension

"What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him." 

"Man's Search for Meaning"
Victor Frankl

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Satchel Paige

Professional Baseball Player

"Ain't no man can avoid being born average, but there ain't no man got to be common."

Thursday, August 16, 2012

An Endangered American Right

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

"Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves..."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

We Ain't Mad about the Chains

Anger. We've heard a lot about it for over three years now. It has been used as an excuse for carrying guns to political rallies. To excuse incivility. It has been used to make wild personal and political accusations. 

But anger is also an excuse to dismiss those with whom you don't want to deal. For instance, this has been branded as 'angry' and 'hate'...

Now let's be clear. I think that Joe Biden tends to hyperbolic. You never know what he's going to say next. The Vice-President easily gets in places where he goes 'off script'. And this is clearly one of them. But the Vice-President was not using 'hate speech' or even being offensive to what has been acknowledged as an audience with a significant number of black people present. There are those who seem to delight in insulting the intelligence of black Americans. We don't know that we 'code words' when we hear them. We don't know when someone is talking in derogatory ways when we hear it. And if we do recognize 'code' or derogation, it must be either someone 'misspeaking'. And we must be told when someone is using real hate speech, because we are incapable of recognizing it. 

It is really offensive...

Mitt Romney has only appeared before one black audience - the NAACP. He has, to my knowledge, visited no other black group. He has not spoken out on any issue that disproportionately impacts blacks except for unemployment, for which he has put out no comprehensive plan for any American, black, white or green. He has not spoken out on the voter suppression laws that have seeped like a virus throughout more than half the states in our country and threaten to 'fix' the election on behalf of his party. And, when true hate speech has been used by members of his party, he has remained eerily silent. A strange silence for one who wants to turn down heated rhetoric so that we can have a campaign on 'big ideas'. 

In the meantime, this exchange with a Romney surrogate sounds more like 'anger' to me...

Black people do indeed have a right to be angry. In more than 30 states, laws have been passed to suppress the minority vote. Black wealth was destroyed as a consequence of the 'trickle down' economic policies - the same policies proposed as a remedy for the mess they've gotten us into. 
The first black President has been disrespected, publicly, not just by citizens, but by sitting members of Congress, by governors, by federal judges and by candidates for his office, based on his race. By percentage, black poverty and black unemployment has always been higher than white poverty and white poverty in this country. Our schools are worse and disproportionately more likely to go to prison than to college. He has been painted as an 'other', having had his citizenship, his patriotism not just questioned but defamed. And each slur, each hateful accusation been dismissed as being an 'honest difference of opinion' or, oh yeah, because people are 'angry'. 

No 'anger' stoked by Vice-President Biden's use of the imagery of 'chains'. No, the anger has been there a long time. It's simply that it's easier so far, to stay among those who won't challenge you, so you can ignore that anger. It's too bad. Because if he would take the time to talk with an audience of black people, he'd find out what we're really angry about. And it has nothing to do with Joe Biden's use of the word 'chains'...

The Nixon-Kennedy Health Care Plan - You Read it Right!

There is a long list of presidents who have proposed, dreamed of and longed for healthcare coverage for all Americans. Of course Barack Obama got it done. He failed where Bill Clinton failed; where Truman failed; where FDR failed; where Nixon failed.

Nixon? Yes Nixon. Wait for it, Nixon in partnership with Kennedy. No, wait for it again - PRESIDENT Richard Milhous Nixon and SENATOR Edward (Ted) Kennedy!

That's right, a bi-partisan healthcare bill almost emerged in THIS United States among two of the most legendary politicians in the history of this country (no matter what you think of them).

'Interesting' is too inadequate a word to describe imagining what might have happened. However, it is sad to think that we seem unable to even talk about this type of cooperation between our politicians.


President Richard Nixon
President Nixon inherited the long history of the debate over health care when he took the oath of office in 1969. During the early 1960’s, America had been locked in a controversy about the role that the Federal Government was to play in the health care of the American Citizen.

The Politics of Health Care in the 1960’s
The Social Security Act of 1965, which created Medicare and Medicaid, was part of Presidents Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” vision for the country.. This plan provided health care for the elderly and individuals with special medical needs. Before Johnson's administration took office, The American Medical Association had opposed earlier moves to federalize health care, but now they and other opponents of the proposed bill worked to draft a compromise.

Even with this broad base of support, there was still a great deal of concern among more conservative elements of society, who saw this move towards increased government involvement in health care for the citizenry as a dangerous step down the road to a socialist dictatorship. Future President Ronald Reagan created a televised advertisement expressing these fears, and warned that universal health care would result in nothing less than the loss of all social freedoms for the entire country. More pragmatic concerns over the high cost of the medical assistance that would be offered under such a plan were also voiced by detractors of the plan. Eventually, the Johnson Administration was able to coordinate a bi-partisan deal with the help of Republican Congressman John Byrnes of Wisconsin, and The Social Security Act of 1965 was passed into law.

Nixon’s Plan for Universal Health Care
By the time of President Richard Nixon’s election to office, the debate over health care had once again resurfaced. In the same vein as Teddy Roosevelt’s proposed “Square Deal”, which had first broached national health insurance as a political topic in 1912, Nixon proposed a plan that would provide health insurance for all Americans. Similar to the situation faced by President Johnson, partisan opposition to Nixon's policies was firmly entrenched. In this instance, few were prepared to label the renowned anti-communist president as an advocate for socialism. Instead his opponents, such as Senator Edward “Teddy” Kennedy of Massachusetts, attacked Nixon on the grounds that he was offering a deal that would see the insurance companies benefit.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy
Nixon, for his part, was stalwart in his belief that a national health insurance plan was vital to the country’s future. He stated in his 1974 State of the Union Address that “The time is at hand this year to bring comprehensive, high quality health care within the reach of every American.” Nixon’s own past experience with poverty and family illness made this a personal issue for the President. Yet Nixon’s call for an employer mandate to provide health insurance as part of his planned universal health care coverage for all citizens was seen as inadequate by many democrats in congress. The plan was also opposed by powerful unions such as the AFL-CIO and the United Autoworkers, who lobbied hard to defeat the legislation.

Kennedy and Nixon Reach a Compromise
In a moment of bi-partisan cooperation, Nixon’s staunch foe, Ted Kennedy, agreed to a compromise deal and prepared to work to get the health care legislation passed through congress. However, the brewing Watergate scandal soon took over the headlines and distracted the President from pushing through with this initiative. With the President unable to continue to rally support, the efforts of the Unions, who hoped for a better deal under a new presidential administration, succeeded in derailing the Nixon-Kennedy health care bill.

Read the entire article here...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"Few are Guilty..."

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

"Above all, the prophets remind us of the moral state of a people: Few are guilty, but all are responsible. If we admit that the individual is in some measure conditioned or affected by the spirit of society, an individual’s crime discloses society’s corruption. In a community not indifferent to suffering, uncompromisingly impatient with cruelty and falsehood, continually concerned for God and every man, crime would be infrequent rather than common."

Monday, August 13, 2012

What Does Test Taking Have to Do with Learning - Not Very Much...

Jeffery Weiss, education reporter for the Dallas Morning News, has written what I consider to be a very important article regarding standardized testing. His article reveals what a great number of critics of over reliance on testing isn't yielding the results testing 'experts' would have us believe.

The idea that "....The state’s standardized test scores have relatively little to do with whether the kids know math, English, social studies or science."  is not surprising to any number of parents, educators, business leaders and education policy advocates. It's what we've all been saying for years. Perhaps if enough academics like Professor Walter Stroup of UT Austin continue to confirm what we're seeing everyday, legislators will listen and we can actually fashion something that works...

"University of Texas education professor Walter Stroup says he’s spilling the beans about an open secret among educators: The state’s standardized test scores have relatively little to do with whether the kids know math, English, social studies or science."

"If you tell him a student’s score on a math TAKS test from any year, he says he can predict with some precision how the student scored in previous or following years in math. And on every other kind of test — English, social studies, science."

"If Stroup is right, then TAKS, and now the STAAR exams, aren’t very specific at identifying the effects of classroom instruction. He says that less than 30 percent of the differences in student scores can be related to content knowledge, teaching skill, and differences in curriculum design. But the tests are used to rate the effectiveness of teachers, schools and school districts. And Texas is spending about $90 million every year on the testing regimen."

"His critics say Stroup is making a statistical mountain out of a well-known molehill: Students who are good (or less good) at one subject tend to be good (or less good) at others. And they say the tests can be used properly as one part of a comprehensive system of accountability."

"Pearson is the company that designs the standardized tests for Texas — and for many other states and programs. Walter “Denny” Way is senior vice president for measurement services. He’s not remotely persuaded by Stroup’s analysis. Regardless, he said, Stroup’s 30 percent figure is not shocking. It’s in the ballpark with other estimates of how sensitive such tests are, he said.
“I don’t think this is anything other than the way kids really do, the way they really perform,” he said."

"Stroup and his supporters, however, say the performance being measured is really about how good kids are at taking these particular kinds of tests..."

The rest of Weiss' article can be read here...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Olympic Medals, Christian Role Models, Winning & Losing

Michael Phelps Most Decorated Olympian Swimmer
So how much of the Olympics have you watched? I have to admit, I don't know that I have ever watched as much of the Games as I have this time. And I've enjoyed nearly everything I've seen! I've paid some attention to a little bit of archery, diving, field hockey, weight lifting and of course, gymnastics, track and field, as well as basketball.

Then, of course there are the personal stories. To me, that's really at the heart of sports. The stories of the athletes and the adversity they have overcome, the hard work they've put into their sport, the emotional investment they've put into doing their best. I am moved by their patriotism. Not just the Americans, but all of the athletes. It is touching to see that everyone wants to represent their country with dignity, honor and by performing to the best of their capabilities. In that regard, when they return home whether they have medaled or not, they will be known as 'Olympic athletes' and they will have the gratitude of their nation for their service.

And then there is the matter of faith. It was especially noticeable for the American athletes. Gabby Douglass gained the most recognition, but so did Lolo Jones and others who praised God and credited Him for their opportunity to compete in the Games.

Gabby Douglas falls off the balance beam
I was also challenged by the attitudes of Christians back home. We tend to be eager to take anyone who 'wins' and extol them as Kingdom Champions because, in this case, they 'bring home the Gold'. I guess that's fine. But I wonder where our full throated affirmation is when they don't do as well as they or we had hoped? Lolo Jones, for instance, didn't get the same support after coming in fourth in the women's 100 meter hurdles. Yet, she had been almost incessantly promoted because her faith was the foundation for not only her participation in sports, but because of her the misfortunes in her upbringing and her commitment to maintaining her virginity. No social media posts that I read lifted her up as a great example of the Christian faith or a 'role model' when she came in fourth place. Why? Is she any less a principled and devoted Christian, even though she didn't receive a gold, silver or bronze medal?

And what about Gabby. I think all of our hearts broke a little when she didn't continue to win gold medals. Not only that, she fell off the balance beam! Suddenly, there were not as many posts repeating her praise "The Praise goes up to God; the blessings fall down on me...' Wasn't Gabby equally as blessed when she failed as she was when she succeeded?

I'm not talking about her attitude, I'm talking about ours...

My point is there were other Christians in participating in the Games who were not as vocal or as 'quotable' as were Lolo or Gabby. Dawn Harper (who won gold in the 100 meter hurdles in Beijing), for instance, whose life story was filled with challenges also thanked God for her silver medal, but no one seemed to be interested in calling her a role model.

At the same time Michael Phelps, in winning his 21st career Olympic medal and being extolled as the greatest Olympic athlete ever (for my money I still say it's Jim Thorpe - but that's another story), has never, to my knowledge, ever expressed faith in Christ or credited Him for victory. What, if anything does that say about God, victory and earthly honors?

Personally I think American Christianity acts like someone with some type of inferiority complex that suggests that the only way we can prove the merit of our faith is if we can find some type of 'winning example'; some Lolo Jones, some Tim Tebow, some, Gabby Douglas. Someone whose 'success' proves to the world that we can 'compete'. It usually ends up with us being embarrassed by some 'failure'. I remember a book on leadership written by a former pastor who lifted up Enron, as a company whose executives had excellent leadership values. Suffice it to say, the example doesn't stand the test of time - or arguably eternity.

Lolo Jones
Here's the thing: the proof that faith in Christ transforms our lives isn't found in how much money you make, how well you do in a classroom, what possessions you have, how happy your marriage is or how many championships or gold medals you win. All of our stories are incomplete. Some of us who look like winners today, may look like losers tomorrow - and vice-versa. In the world's eyes, the Apostles, including Paul and even Jesus of Nazareth, looked like failures. It is only through our faith that we understand their victory. And the real 'proof' of our victory is in our capacity to remain devoted, faithful, committed, to God and to our fellow believers, win or lose.

The fact is in this life Christians don't always 'win', but we always win. It's just that for us, the victor's crown comes later...

Friday, August 10, 2012

S.M. Wright Freeway - Here We Go Again!

S.M. Wright Freeway cuts  right through the heart of  south Dallas. Texas Department
of  Transportation proposes making this a graded six-lane thoroughfare

It's an old, old story. It's what happens when citizens don't have the clout (which means the money,  or the political representation that prioritizes their voice) or the organizational stamina to continue to work an issue until they get the resolution they want; or until an acceptable compromise is reached.

This time I'm talking about Texas Department of Transportation's (TxDOT) insistence on redeveloping S.M. Wright Freeway in south Dallas as a six lane thoroughfare, as opposed to the four lane boulevard south Dallas citizens have said they want.

The TxDOT proposal would devastate the neighborhood, in much the same way Hwy 175 did when it split south Dallas in two, nearly 50 years ago. When I was a pastor in the area and even afterwards in conversations with older, long time residents of the area yielded stories of how C.F. Hawn Freeway severed the cohesion between what became known as the Ideal, Lincoln Manor and Bon-Ton communities. Now a proposed six lane high, explicitly spoken of as intentionally purposed to bring heavy volumes of traffic through the neighborhood without regard to redevelopment efforts within close proximity to SMW and other phases of development that will nearly abut the freeway.

I and other allies working with leaders in the area have seen a boulevard redesign of four lanes a last best opportunity for the type of comprehensive redevelopment needed for south Dallas; an opportunity to put an end to the one off, project based, non-strategic, inchoate redevelopment that costs comparatively little and eventually pits struggling neighborhood non-profits against one another.

A recent Dallas Morning News online article says...

"Neighborhood groups have long argued that the reconfigured SM Wright Boulevard should be just four lanes, instead of the proposed six, as they say the right of way that would be saved as a result could be used to foster neighborhood businesses and bring street life back to the neighborhood many feel has been falling deeper into decay ever since the original Freeway was built to run right through the old neighborhood in the 1960s..."

I'm of the opinion that it's never too late. But there has to be a willingness of government bodies to listen to the citizens who's lives they're impacting. During earlier efforts to challenge TxDOT's proposal, one city official who supported their design talked about the impracticality and the expense of correcting past injustices and mistakes. That is a salient point to make. It's always less 'practical' and more expensive to correct injustice than it is to do what is just in the first place. But if we leave the rationale right there, we don't make wrong decisions going forward less convenient or less expensive. What we lose ultimately ends up being more valuable than what we gain. And we don't usually recognize that until those who have made the 'practical', 'cost effective' decisions have moved on to something else...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sitting Out Medicaid Expansion is not Smart Fiscal Policy

Texas Governor Rick Perry in a display of political bravado, is among 30 U.S. governors who, since the Supreme Courts determination that the Affordable Care Act was indeed constitutional, have decided to refuse to expand Medicaid to cover all citizens in our state.

Perry, along with Florida Governor Rick Scott have adopted the stance that participation in the expansion would 'strain state budgets'.

Except that nearly every other analysis, including that of the Congressional Budget Office shows that it just isn't so...

"Shortly after the Supreme Court ruled that states can choose whether to adopt the health reform law’s Medicaid expansion to cover low-income parents and other adults, some governors declared that they will forgo the expansion, claiming it would place a heavy financial burden on their states.[1]   Claims that states will bear a substantial share of the costs of expanding Medicaid, however, and that the expansion would drain state budgets do not hold up under scrutiny."  

"The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the Medicaid expansion will add very little to what states would have spent on Medicaid without health reform, while providing health coverage to 17 million more low-income adults and children.  In addition, the Medicaid expansion will reduce state and local government costs for uncompensated care and other services they provide to the uninsured, which will offset at least some — and in a number of states, possibly all or more than all — of the modest increase in state Medicaid costs.  Expanding Medicaid is thus a very favorable financial deal for states."

"CBO estimates show that the federal government will bear nearly 93 percent of the costs of the Medicaid expansion over its first nine years (2014-2022).  The federal government will pick up 100 percent of the cost of covering people made newly eligible for Medicaid for the first three years (2014-2016) and no less than 90 percent on a permanent basis."

"The additional cost to the states represents a 2.8 percent increase in what they would have spent on Medicaid from 2014 to 2022 in the absence of health reform, the CBO estimates indicate.
This 2.8 percent figure significantly overstates the net impact on state budgets because it does not reflect the savings that state and local governments will realize in other health care spending for the uninsured.  The Urban Institute has estimated that overall state savings in these areas will total between $26 and $52 billion from 2014 through 2019.  The Lewin Group estimates state and local government savings of $101 billion in uncompensated care."

"Other independent analyses show similar or even more favorable results for states.  An Urban Institute analysis finds that state Medicaid expenditures would likely increase by 1.4 percent over what states would otherwise spend on the program from 2014 through 2019, before taking offsetting savings in uncompensated care and other health services into account, while the Lewin Group estimates an increase in state Medicaid expenditures of 1.1 percent over that period.  These estimates reflect the increased state costs for Medicaid but not the offsetting savings states will also secure in uncompensated care and other health services."

"Critics argue that state budgets will be hit hard by the costs of extending Medicaid to people who are already eligible for the program but unenrolled under current state rules, but will enroll as a result of health reform.  States will receive the standard federal Medicaid matching rate for covering these individuals (57 percent, on average), which is well below the 93 percent average federal match noted above for people whom the Affordable Care Act makes newly eligible for Medicaid.  But the CBO, Urban Institute, and Lewin Group estimates all account for the cost to states of covering the already-eligible individuals who will enroll.  CBO’s 93 percent average federal share of the Medicaid expansion’s costs and the estimate that state Medicaid costs will rise just 2.8 percent on average — and the even lower Urban Institute and Lewin estimates of state costs — reflect this cost. 
Moreover, health reform’s other provisions, such as the individual responsibility requirement to have health coverage (sometimes referred to as the “individual mandate”) and the measures to simplify Medicaid enrollment procedures, will remain in place under the Supreme Court decision.  These provisions will themselves boost enrollment among those already eligible for Medicaid regardless of whether states take up the expansion.  Thus, the additional cost to states of expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income people is smaller than the CBO and other estimates would indicate, because those estimates don’t distinguish the increased costs due to higher enrollment of already-eligible individuals that will occur from the other features of the bill from the increase in cost and enrollment that may result just from the Medicaid expansion."

"In short, the Medicaid expansion will cover 17 million low-income people at a very modest cost to states — a cost that will be at least partly offset by savings in uncompensated care and other state-funded services for the uninsured."

"A state’s decision not to go ahead with the Medicaid expansion, despite this extremely favorable financing, would have adverse consequences for many poor individuals and families without health insurance."

Failure to adopt expansion of the Medicaid benefit is as fiscally short sighted as it is morally indefensible.

Read the rest of the report here...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


BIG mistake. And I apologize to all of my Sikh friends for making the mistake of identifying the Sikh religion as 'Muslim'. My sincerest apologies for unintentionally misidentifying your faith. And credit to where credit is due: thanks to Anonymous 9:46 on Larry Jame's Urban Daily Blog for pointing out my error! Correction on something this significant is always in order, whether or not one agrees with the point of the post...

Ignorance, Hate, Violence and Shout Outs to the Fringe

This past Sunday Wade Michael Page walked into a Wisconsin Sikh temple and murdered 6 worshipers and wounded about 12 others. Shortly after his rampage, he was shot and killed by police.

Page, a white supremacist and a founder of a hate group rock band 'End Apathy'. Wade Page was apparently yet another 'outlier' another marginalized individual who trekked through life as a loner. Kicked out of the Army for drunkenness. Kicked out of a band he was a part of in Colorado after suffering the indignity of having his girlfriend leave him for another band member. Page is another sad figure emblematic of the futile 'anger' that seems to have engulfed those who seem to barely have  a finger tip grip on reality and incapable of obtaining the most minimal significance, even in their tightly wound circles of relationships. That's Wade Page.

Or is it?

We should grieve what happened in this Wisconsin temple on Sunday. Sikh Muslims are erroneously linked to the attacks on the World Trade Towers on 9/11. These men and women - American citizens - whose right to worship undisturbed is just as sacred a right as that of any Christian church, deserve protection from domestic terrorist attack.

This is profoundly sad because Christians like me, are going to disavow any 'faith' relationship to Wade Page or anyone like him. As will most white Christians. We are all going to say that he is on the fringes of our society and that nothing he did represents the Christian faith. And we will want people to believe us.

Yet when adherents to the Muslim faith begged to not be painted with so broad a brush, a good portion of this country didn't believe them. When they tried to explain the true meaning of 'jihad' and educate us about their religion, still we shouted them down. When tried to explain that they had extremists and fanatics in their religion, just like everyone else, we took umbrage at the suggestion that 'extremists' exist within the Christian Church in America. No, 'godless Islam' was to blame for the downfall of America...

Our media, web based, cable and network, gave voice to nearly every ill informed, partially hinged ranter that could be found. Some outlets let the understandable pain, anguish and bitterness of some who were 9/11 victims be the only filter through which construction of the mosque/community center in New York was viewed and interpreted to the rest of the country. We allowed politicians clearly pandering to a constituency whose fears they had continually stoked, be allowed to voice those irrational fears as if they were serious people. They were interviewed again. And again. And again. Until a few thought that having had a microphone thrust in their face enough times was a call to run for the presidency - of the United States.

Wade Page is a product of some of this and to call him an 'outlier' let's the rest of us off the hook. All of us who thought we were sophisticated enough to tell the difference between Muslims from Indian, from Iraqi, from Afghan or Palestine and who shunned, whispered about or just feared anyone they saw with olive tone to dark brown skin, share some blame.

Page is evidence that we need to figure out how to more tightly control the ability to purchase guns in this country. He is evidence that we need better mental health care in this country. He is evidence that we need to stop accepting hate as a norm, in our country. He is evidence that we need to move politicians who don't know how to be responsible in front of microphones that reach a national audience away from those microphones. We need to shun them first and shame them if they continue to spew hate-filled nonsense and idiocy. Yes, there is free speech. But we must severely and relentlessly challenge and criticize speech that promotes rancor, hate and misinformation. And we should stop dismissing such speech as 'entertainment'. There's nothing 'entertaining' about it.

Page is a reminder that the majority of us may not listen to or hear the fringe element in this country; but in their desperate need for attention and acceptance, that lunatic fringe hears and sees the rest of the world. And all too often they find ways to grab our attention, as Wade Page did Sunday in a temple in Wisconsin.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Authentic Christian Witness

“Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work. 'The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared' (Luther).” 

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

Saturday, August 4, 2012

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

Jesse Owens

1936 Olympic Track Champion

"We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort."

This is 1the 1500th 'Change the Wind' post! Thanks for your support!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Dallas Can't Continue to Ignore the Impact of Poverty

On July 24, in an neighborhood in south Dallas known as Dixon Circle,there was a near riot after a known drug dealer, James Harper was shot and killed during a raid, spurred by a call from a rival dealer.

Residents of Dixon Circle were angry and frustrated especially after reports that Harper, who was unarmed, was shot in the back after a fight with Dallas police officer Brian Rowden. The Dallas County Medical Examiner's report revealed that Harper was not shot in the back (although he was shot four times). 

Controversy erupted over whether or not the officer was used excessive force or whether it was self-defense. But I believe there is a larger picture to be taken into consideration: the issue of what is happening in whole neighborhoods, isolated and trapped in such poverty that they are almost a forgotten subculture. The fact is, we can do something about them, if we do not allow this incident to be spliced and diced into smaller issues that never resolve the underlying problem. 

I explore that idea in my column in yesterday's Dallas Morning News...

Dixon Circle’s tangle of toxic tragedies

"It’s impossible to describe the pain that comes with the loss of a child, especially when that loss is the result of violence. On July 24, those witnessing the near-riot in South Dallas’ Dixon Circle community got a glimpse of that agony on the faces of the parents of James Harper."

"That agony spilled out and mixed with the summer heat, engulfing nearly 400 people who poured into the streets and producing a toxic blend of grief, suspicion and frustration at what they believed — and some still believe — was Harper’s unjust and unwarranted death. That agony rippled throughout other South Dallas neighborhoods, as family friends and even former high school classmates mourned another tragic loss of life."

"This is a multifaceted tragedy, saved from being unimaginably worse by leaders in that community, including Harper’s parents who, no matter what their suspicions, wisely called for calm until the completion of a police investigation."

"Still, other facets of this tragedy must be acknowledged. Those who mourn Harper’s death must come to grips with the evidence that he was apparently involved in drug dealing. The only career path in dealing drugs leads to prison or death, or both. Those who insist that Harper didn’t deserve to die are right. But he chose to participate in a death-dealing business in which his own demise was almost inevitable. Attempts to comfort the bereaved by infusing this incident with sympathetic meaning mustn’t result in making Harper a martyr. Drug dealers forfeit candidacy for martyrdom.
Likewise, those who poured into the streets also must refuse to countenance drug houses in their neighborhoods. No neighborhood can harbor drug dealers in its midst and expect anything good to happen."

"The grief of this family and community is tragic on yet another level. Dixon Circle is an isolated neighborhood of concentrated poverty surrounded by even more poverty. Its average income is about $8,000 a year. Aside from the DART rail line, the newest construction that comes to mind in the area is the Larry Johnson Recreation Center, built in the late 1990s. The nearest middle school, Pearl C. Anderson, is scheduled for closure. The closest grocery store is on MLK Boulevard, one of two for all of South Dallas."

"Dixon Circle is in ZIP code 75215. The Justice Mapping Center estimates that, in 2008, state expenditures for incarcerating residents from this area or supervising them upon release from incarceration exceeded $26 million. The population living in 75215 represents 0.08 percent of Dallas’ population, yet residents are incarcerated at a rate of nearly 40 per 1,000."

"Sympathy for the Harper family and his loved ones is appropriate, but it’s also appropriate to grieve the circumstances of his life. Consider this: Harper was a parolee, ineligible for consideration for most jobs that might provide him a future. He could not live in public housing, nor would he be able to obtain a lease in many privately owned apartments. He was ineligible for food stamps. He couldn’t vote."

"Yes, there are people who have had it far worse than Harper who have nonetheless turned their lives around and are productive citizens — even leaders. These are the exceptional ones. But the conditions breed a daily, dehumanizing hopelessness that often traps the unexceptional."

"Redirecting and investing a significant portion of that $26 million into neighborhood redevelopment, economic development, public education, adult education and job training can help young people avoid the fate of James Harper. Just as neighbors must not look the other way at drug houses in their midst, Dallas should not tolerate neighborhoods becoming such airtight pockets of poverty that they ensnare our citizens in such desperation that they are deprived of hope or humanity."