Friday, February 28, 2014

Rex, Dick Help our Neighbors and We'll Help You!


So Rex Tillerson, who is Exxon Mobil's CEO has an issue with a water tower built near his home in Denton County...
"It can’t have been what Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson expected when he joined a lawsuit to try and stop a big water tower from being built near his Denton County horse ranch.
"But that was before a report in Friday’s Wall Street Journal took the small-town dispute around the globe and spawned outrage over perceived hypocrisy.
"“Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson Sues to Block Water Tower That Might Supply Fracking Operations,” cried the Huffington Post online news site. “Exxon Mobil CEO: No fracking near my backyard,” reported USA Today.
"A congressman even jumped in. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., issued a news release saying Tillerson was “trying to prevent a hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ tower from being constructed near his Texas home.” (Whatever a fracking tower is.)
"Tillerson is part of a lawsuit filed against a water company by several property owners, including former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who live near the tower site in Bartonville, a community between Flower Mound and Argyle.
"But its argument is quite a bit more nuanced than most of the Internet headlines, which zero in on one sentence in the lawsuit which warns that water could be sold for drilling operations and lead to heavy truck traffic. The suit’s main contention is that the tower will be an eyesore and hurt the value of the million-dollar properties around it.
"Michael Whitten, a Denton attorney who represents Tillerson, Armey and the other landowners, said Monday that he wishes he’d been more careful drafting the language in the suit.
"“This is not an anti-fracking lawsuit,” Whitten said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”"
Now I don't have any problem with Tillerson or former Congressman Dick Armey not wanting an unsightly water tower near their properties. People tend to develop neighborhoods so that they can be free of such eyesores. And I think Michael Whitten doth protest too much when it comes to explaining that this is an anti-fracking lawsuit. I doubt if they want fracking going on near their domiciles either.
But I do wish Armey and Tillerson would be equally as concerned with the poor people who have to put up with unsightly properties near their homes. Things like...
  • Metal recycling facilities
  • Payday and auto title loan shops
  • Rendering plants
  • Multiple fast food joints
  • Vacant, run down buildings
  • Unsightly tire shops
  • Neglected apartment buildings
  • Unkempt, unmowed vacant lots
  • Vacant school buildings
  • Graffiti
  • Liquor stores
  • Billboards that advertise liquor
  • Vacant gas stations
  • Visible powerlines
  • Active railroad tracks
  • Highways, complete with traffic noise

I'm sure I could come up with a few more if I tried. It is interesting, although Tillerson, Armey and others are being portrayed as hypocrites, the fact is they are doing the work of citizens who have means. Their complaints are about a water tower in plain sight of their private property. Our neighbors don't have lawyers and lobbyists to plead their cases. They either put up with these issues in silence (with the 'consolation' that these are 'businesses' provide 'jobs') or they get blamed for conditions for properties they don't own. Our neighbors rely on organizations like CitySquare, or community organizers to fight the conditions that keep poor communities poor. 
Tell you what Rex and Dick, we can get a few neighbors to come help you with your problems if you'll help them with theirs...




Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2014/02/24/5597785/water-tower-suit-involving-exxons.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Yeah, That's Right...You Better RUN!


Arizona's controversial state law, SB1062 which apparently gives business owners the right to discriminate against people with lifestyles with which they disagree (gay, lesbian, LGBT, etc) is about to get a profound test. But the test is going to be pretty simple: is Arizona willing to lose it's Arizona Diamondbacks, Phoenix Suns and Cardinas and the Arizona Wildcats AND next years Superbowl (the latter indefinitely) over its religious principles? 

After that, the questions get exponentially harder. Clearly these legislators are to young to remember the protests that made Arizona 'the flyover state' when they dawdled over recognizing Martin Luther King's birthday as a national holiday. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Another Shade of Soldier


Dr. Robert Graetz and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We make a horrible mistake and do a grave injustice we don't remember the white men and women who fought along side blacks in the search for equality and freedom. The price they paid as the true nature of their friends, neighbors and co-workers was revealed to them in the struggle may seem to pale in comparison to that suffered by their brothers and sisters, but nothing I have ever read suggested that this was the truth. 

Rev. Robert Graetz and his wife Jean, a Lutheran pastor and wife serving a black congregation in Montgomery, Alabama and becoming friend, confident of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were two such people. Their courage and their humility needs to be honored and acknowledged, even today as they continue the fight for brotherhood and the Beloved Community...




Monday, February 24, 2014

The Prodigal Father

Thanks to my cousin Marcus for turning my attention to one of the best Biblical analysis of our culture I've ever read. It's written by David Brooks, who, whether conservative, semi-conservative or RINO (Republican in Name Only), is one of the clearest and most even handed columnists we have today.
You'll need no set-up for this...it's plain enough...
_________________________________________________
We take as our text today the parable of the prodigal son. As I hope you know, the story is about a father with two sons. The younger son took his share of the inheritance early and blew it on prostitutes and riotous living. When the money was gone, he returned home.
His father ran out and embraced him. The delighted father offered the boy his finest robe and threw a feast in his honor. The older son, the responsible one, was appalled. He stood outside the feast, crying in effect, “Look! All these years I’ve been working hard and obeying you faithfully, and you never gave me special treatment such as this!”
The father responded, “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” But he had to celebrate the younger one’s return. The boy was lost and now is found.
Did the father do the right thing? Is the father the right model for authority today?
The father’s critics say he was unjust. People who play by the rules should see the rewards. Those who abandon the community, live according to their own reckless desires should not get to come back and automatically reap the bounty of others’ hard work. If you reward the younger brother, you signal that self-indulgence pays, while hard work gets slighted.
The father’s example is especially pernicious now, the critics continue. Jesus preached it at the time of the Pharisees, in an overly rigid and rule-bound society. In those circumstances, a story of radical forgiveness was a useful antidote to the prevailing legalism.
But we don’t live in that kind of society. We live in a society in which moral standards are already fuzzy, in which people are encouraged to do their own thing. We live in a society with advanced social decay — with teens dropping out of high school, financiers plundering companies and kids being raised without fathers. The father’s example in the parable reinforces loose self-indulgence at a time when we need more rule-following, more social discipline and more accountability, not less.
It’s a valid critique, but I’d defend the father’s example, and, informed by a reading of Timothy Keller’s outstanding book The Prodigal God, I’d even apply the father’s wisdom to social policymaking today.
We live in a divided society in which many of us in the middle- and upper-middle classes are like the older brother, and many of the people who drop out of school, commit crimes and abandon their children are like the younger brother. In many cases, we have a governing class of elder brothers legislating programs on behalf of the younger brothers. The great danger in this situation is that we in the elder brother class will end up self-righteously lecturing the poor: “You need to be more like us: Graduate from school, practice a little sexual discipline, work harder.”
But the father in this parable exposes the truth that people in the elder brother class are stained, too. The elder brother is self-righteous, smug, cold and shrewd. The elder brother wasn’t really working to honor his father; he was working for material reward and out of a fear-based moralism. The father reminds us of the old truth that the line between good and evil doesn’t run between people or classes; it runs straight through every human heart.
The father also understands that the younger brothers of the world will not be reformed and rebound if they feel they are being lectured to by unpleasant people who consider themselves models of rectitude. Imagine if the older brother had gone out to greet the prodigal son instead of the father, giving him some patronizing lecture. Do we think the younger son would have reformed his life to become a productive member of the community? No. He would have gotten back up and found some bad-boy counterculture he could join to reassert his dignity.
The father teaches that rebinding and reordering society requires an aggressive assertion: You are accepted; you are accepted. It requires mutual confession and then a mutual turning toward some common project. Why does the father organize a feast? Because a feast is nominally about food, but, in Jewish life, it is really about membership. It reasserts your embedded role in the community project.
The father’s lesson for us is that if you live in a society that is coming apart on class lines, the best remedies are oblique. They are projects that bring the elder and younger brothers together for some third goal: national service projects, infrastructure-building, strengthening a company or a congregation.
The father offers each boy a precious gift. The younger son gets to dedicate himself to work and self-discipline. The older son gets to surpass the cold calculus of utility and ambition, and experience the warming embrace of solidarity and companionship.
New York Times columnist David Brooks may be contacted through nytimes.com.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Congressional Budget Office's Report on the Minimum Wage

There's been a lot of talk lately about a rise in the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Just for giggles and grins I thought I'd look up the Congressional Budget Office's report on it. The first part is kind of the 'executive summary' and the box is the full report.
Still think this country can't afford to raise the minimum wage?


What Options for Increasing the Minimum Wage Did CBO Examine?

For this report, CBO examined the effects on employment and family income of two options for increasing the federal minimum wage (see the figure below):
  • A “$10.10 option” would increase the federal minimum wage from its current rate of $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour in three steps—in 2014, 2015, and 2016. After reaching $10.10 in 2016, the minimum wage would be adjusted annually for inflation as measured by the consumer price index.
  • A “$9.00 option” would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9.00 per hour in two steps—in 2015 and 2016. After reaching $9.00 in 2016, the minimum wage would not be subsequently adjusted for inflation.
  • What Effects Would Those Options Have?

    The $10.10 option would have substantially larger effects on employment and income than the $9.00 option would—because more workers would see their wages rise; the change in their wages would be greater; and, CBO expects, employment would be more responsive to a minimum-wage increase that was larger and was subsequently adjusted for inflation. The net effect of either option on the federal budget would probably be small.
    Effects of the $10.10 Option on Employment and Income
    Once fully implemented in the second half of 2016, the $10.10 option would reduce total employment by about 500,000 workers, or 0.3 percent, CBO projects (see the table below). As with any such estimates, however, the actual losses could be smaller or larger; in CBO’s assessment, there is about a two-thirds chance that the effect would be in the range between a very slight reduction in employment and a reduction in employment of 1.0 million workers.
    • Once the increases and decreases in income for all workers are taken into account, overall real income would rise by $2 billion.
    • Real income would increase, on net, by $5 billion for families whose income will be below the poverty threshold under current law, boosting their average family income by about 3 percent and moving about 900,000 people, on net, above the poverty threshold (out of the roughly 45 million people who are projected to be below that threshold under current law).
    • Families whose income would have been between one and three times the poverty threshold would receive, on net, $12 billion in additional real income. About $2 billion, on net, would go to families whose income would have been between three and six times the poverty threshold.
    • Real income would decrease, on net, by $17 billion for families whose income would otherwise have been six times the poverty threshold or more, lowering their average family income by 0.4 percent

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Gap, Old Navy and WalMart...Oh My!



The Gap, the retail clothing store and it's subsidiary stores such as Old Navy, Piperline, is giving their employees a raise - to $10.00 an hour. It will be $9 an hour next year and $10 by 2015. The Gap employs about 65,000 workers and has discovered that by paying it's workers an increased minimum wage they can hire and retain the best workers. 

Interesting...

There's another retail store that is looking at raising the pay for its employees to $10 an hour...WalMart!

"David Tovar, a Wal-Mart spokesman, told Bloomberg Wednesday that his company is "looking at" supporting a federal wage increase. "Whenever there's debates," he said, "it's not like we look once and make a decision. We look a few times from other angles." For now, the company remains neutral."
"Tovar did give one reason why the company might support an increase. Boosting the wage, he said, would mean that some Walmart shoppers would "now have additional income" to spend at the store. At the same time, "it's really hard to model behavior based on these kinds of changes," Tovar told Bloomberg."
"Wal-Mart has a total of 1.3 million U.S. employees. About 300,000 of those employees earn an average of $8.75 an hour, according to Berkeley's Labor Research Center. Boosting the federal minimum to $10.10 an hour from the current $7.25, which is the proposal from President Obama and Senate Democrats, could have a big impact just from the store's own employees."
"Some economists are on board with the idea. "If suddenly all these low-wage workers have more income, they are likely to spend that money right away," David Cooper of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute told The Huffington Post last fall. "If an employee at McDonald's or Pizza Hut suddenly has additional income," he said, "they could spend it at Walmart.""
"There's not yet enough data out there to suggest the move would work, and Wal-Mart would most likely want to have more to go on than just the opinion of a few wage-increase advocates. But for a company with a problematic image when it comes to how it treats its workers, backing a change here could be a gain in itself. CVS isn't the only U.S. mega-store capable of making a big PR move that could come with serious up-front costs."
Just imagine a world in which WalMart employees didn't need government support supplements as a part of their employee pay packages! 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Poverty Includes Hunger

This is a picture of President Bill Clinton signing a bill into law that 'ended welfare as we knew it'. It was supposed to end poor people's dependency upon welfare as a benefit, but it replaced it with food stamps as a de facto 'right'.




A couple of weeks ago, President Barack Obama signed a new farm bill. That cut food stamps by $8 billion, this is after an additional $5 billion had been cut from food stamps last year. It would seem that even President Obama has bought into the idea that the poor have enough food, even though - as is traditionally true - the poor lag behind everyone else in recovery from recession.

It's not the way it was intended to be, either by Clinton's program or Obama's law...




Affordable Care Act: Don't Believe the Snipe!


When the Congressional Budget Office came out with it's estimate that the Affordable Care Act would 'cost' 2.5 million jobs, you could here jeers and 'I told you so's' from the 'anti-Obamacare' crowd. 'Obamacare' is indeed a 'job-killer' said those who couldn't wait for empirical evidence of its failure. 

Of course that's not the case. As a matter of fact there is a difference between the 'cost' of a job and the 'benefit' of someone choosing not to work a particular job simply to have their (and/or their family's) health care covered. In fact according to the CBO there is even a positive impact to the economy: "If a firm chose not to offer insurance coverage under the ACA, some of its workers and their families might enroll in Medicaid or CHIP or be eligible to receive subsidies through the insurance exchanges; as a result, the cost of those programs would increase. At the same time, the reduction in that firm’s compensation to workers that was provided in the form of health benefits would generally be offset by an increase in the compensation it provided in the form of wages and salaries. Because health benefits are generally not taxed but wages and salaries are, that shift in the composition of compensation would raise federal revenues. In addition, the federal government would generally receive penalty payments from the employer and from any employees who ended up without health insurance."  To be sure according to Jason Furman, the president's new chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, health care spending over all, grew  at a pace of 1.3 percent between 2010 and 2013, the lowest rate on record since 1965.                                                                                                                              
It's one of the reasons CitySquare is a huge supporter of the Affordable Care act and is going all out to make sure as many young people as possible in Dallas are signed up for it. That's why on March 1, from 10am -5 pm at our headquarters at 511 Akard, we along with The Young Invincibles, TexasPirge and Get Covered America will host "Rock Enroll", designed to enroll Dallas in the ACA.

Don't believe the 'snipe' come on out and get covered Dallas...

Monday, February 17, 2014

Million Dollar Blocks....Where is Everybody?

"Million Dollar Blocks" it's the name for city blocks where interaction with the criminal justice system on the part of residents numbers in the millions of dollars - multiple millions.

This isn't simply a loss of manpower, its a loss of human capitol. It's a loss of heads of families, of men and women who've left children to be reared by grandparents and great-grandparents. It's a loss of workers and potentially employers, business owners, etc.

Take a look at this...


While it's a little hard to see, the red areas are blocks in Community Districts in Brooklyn, New York where $1-$3.5 million a year are spent incarcerating (figures are from the Justice Mapping Center analysis - using 2009 data). 

Michelle Alexander in her book, 'The New Jim Crow' points out, ''Between 1960 and 1990...official crime rates in Finland, Germany, and the United States were close to identical. Yet the U.S. incarceration rate quadrupled. the Finnish rate fell by 60 percent, and the German rate was stable in that period. Despite similar crime rates, each government chose to impose different levels of punishment." and "The current system of control permanently locks a huge percentage of the African American community out of the mainstream society and economy. The system operates through our criminal justice institutions, but functions more like a caste system than a system of crime control."

When seen in this way, we see that the government is spending money in ways that not only rob society of father and mother figures. Many who, once released from prison, are limited in where they can live, where they can work, as well as where and if they can attend school. Even if when they've attended school in prison, there prospects are severely limited.

I was contacted by the office of a state representative trying to find a job for a formerly incarcerated person - a woman. While in prison, she had obtained a Ph.d. and yet could not find a job. Eventually she moved out of state to look for work. It was almost impossible to help her find work.

In Texas, it's been difficult to find info on Million Dollar Blocks, but we have information on Million Dollar Zip Codes. The information is startling...

In zip code 75215 the state spends $16.3 million sending people to prison; in zip code 75216, $28.1 million; in 75217 19.7 million and in 75241, $14.2 million. For those who have lost count, that's almost $80 million in four zip codes of predominantly black and Hispanic residents. 

If we are serious about fighting poverty, we'll figure out new ways of spending some of this money. We need ways of redirecting some of these dollars into job training, adult education, public education to keep these people out of prison. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The First Lady of Little Rock


The story about the March on Washington for Jobs and Justice is that no women spoke (I've said that myself). The fact is three women spoke that day: Rosa Parks, entertainer Josephine Baker and Daisy Bates.
The PBS documentary, "Daisy Bates: The First Lady of Little Rock" is her story.

Daisy Bates was the woman who rose to promenance as she guided the Little Rock Nine, and frankly white Little Rock, Arkansas through  the most racially polarized period in its history. As the nine students sought to take advantage the Supreme Courts 1954 Brown v. Board of Education that struck down segregation in schools.

With artful skill and bravery, she led her children through this rough time and they became the first black graduates of Little Rock High School. She's truly one of the Civil Rights Movements unsung heroes.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Dale Hansen's Commentary on NFL's Hypocrisy

By now at least every football fan has heard of Michael Sam, who played for the University of Missouri, will enter NFL draft this spring. We've heard about him because he is gay.

No matter your feelings about gay people, its hard to believe that in the 21st century we are visiting discrimination upon people simply because of who they are.

As much as I love football and as much as I love the National Football League the hypocrisy of the NFL on this matter is astounding and cannot be excused. That's why Dale Hansen, WFAA Channel 8's 'Unplugged' commentary on the matter has gone viral. Here it is, if you're one of the two or three people in the country who hasn't seen it...

 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

"Spies of Mississippi" a Movie that Reminds Us to Maintain Vigilance...


No government of ours can be accused of unfairly spying on citizens in order to break up a civilian movement could it? Their couldn't have possibly been an official effort literally spy on citizen to subvert right to freedom of lawful assembly, free speech or voters rights? It did and it happened with impunity in Mississippi.

The 'Spies of Mississippi' is a documentary that examines the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, an official commission whose sole objective was to segregation and white supremacy, used spies - white and black - to accomplish that purpose. It was effective until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed.

"Spies of Mississippi" is another reason why we must be vigilant and be wary of phrases such as 'states rights', 'succession', they must always be clarified and viewed with suspicion. It's important to understand that this is what happens when federal oversight is lax or missing.

We all own Dawn Porter a deep debt of thanks for producing this fine film. See the the film here...

Texas' 13th City Passes Dallas' Payday Loan Ordinance...See the Alternative for Yourselves!

Tuesday, my column in the Dallas Morning News dealt with the U.S. Postal Service's proposal that they serve the underserved and underbanked populations of our country by providing some financial services - including payday loans. It's an incredibly interesting proposal and has even peaked the interest of Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Tuesday I learned that Bryan, Texas City Council has become the 13th city, including Houston, to adopt Dallas' payday lending ordinance. Read their ordinance here. Congratulations!

"The council also passed the second reading of payday lender regulations, in which the city will cap payday loans at 20 percent of a borrower's gross monthly income. It also caps auto title loans at 3 percent of a borrower's gross yearly income, or 70 percent of the retail value of the vehicle."


"The ordinance will regulate credit access businesses -- or ones that assist a consumer in obtaining a consumer credit extension by deferred transaction -- to protect residents from terms and fees associated with predatory lending practices. It will require credit access businesses to apply for a certificate of registration from the city and keep records of all loans made for at least three years, which will be available for city inspection."
"Repayment loans -- or those that are paid in installations -- cannot be made payable in more than four installments, and each must be used to repay at least a quarter of the principal amount for the loan."
"One person spoke against the ordinance, saying the language needed to be tightened to avoid confusion. Another said the $500 fine for offenses is not high enough."
"The ordinance is set to take effect Aug. 1."

In the press release announcing the adoption of the new law, city officials said....""Families who fall victim to these types of loans are usually experiencing a crisis situation," said Alsie Bond, City of Bryan community development manager. "The loan is to meet a gap in finances, but the loans themselves cause additional stress and are often impossible to repay. It creates a ripple effect throughout our community. This ordinance is about regulating the credit access businesses so that families in Bryan can meet short term needs without the additional financial hardship.""

"Austin, Dallas and Houston have passed similar ordinances to regulate credit access businesses. The City of Bryan looked to these cities, as well as others, to model similar regulations for credit access businesses in Bryan."

"Under the new ordinance, credit access businesses must be licensed and certified by the City of Bryan. These businesses will also be required to post notices about fees and collect and maintain data on its operations. The ordinance will allow the City to regulate the maximum amount of a loan and restrict the number of times a consumer can refinance a loan."

"The City of Bryan community development department, among others, will partner with local financial groups to improve financial literacy and independence for Bryan families through outreach programs."
Two days before my column ran, this story about the USPS proposal ran in the Brownsville paper...
With all of the attention, I thought you might want to read the Postal Service's proposal for yourselves...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My Column in Yesterday's Dallas Morning News


The public argument regarding payday lending is gradually shifting from a focus on the problem to focus on solutions.
The best answer is for more banks to populate underserved communities and offer more affordable products. But that’s not happening. In fact, 93 percent of the 2,300 bank closures in 2012 were in communities below the national median income.
So what if we had an institution — one already in these neighborhoods — that could offer short-term loan products that didn’t send working-class and poor people into bankruptcy? Something like the U.S. Postal Service.
Yes, the post office. The Postal Service inspector general’s office published a white paper late last month that outlines how it could offer services that mirror some of those offered by banks and payday lenders. The idea is for the USPS to partner with banks to serve a population that those financial institutions have shown little interest in serving.
Consider that post offices are often where traditional banks aren’t. Fifty-nine percent of post offices are in ZIP codes that have zero or one full service bank.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who favors the idea, says, “USPS could partner with banks to make a critical difference for millions of Americans who don’t have basic banking services because there are almost no banks or bank branches in their neighborhoods.”
Few people realize that from 1911 to 1967 an institution called the Postal Savings System served as a gateway to the banking system for immigrants and those who didn’t trust banks. The U.S. Postal Service is older than the nation itself and has more employees than any other U.S. company except Wal-Mart.
But mostly what we know — or think we know — about the postal operation involves its own financial woes. The Postal Service doesn’t take a dime of tax money; it operates solely on the revenue it generates.
Required to break even, in the first quarter of 2013, the USPS suffered $1.3 billion in losses. Congressional oversight makes it almost impossible for the service to diversify its revenue to compete with private carriers like UPS or FedEx. And that sea of red ink is on account of the congressional mandate requiring the Postal Service to hold assets in its pension fund to cover the next 75 years of pension costs.
Post offices, with fairly little trouble, could expand services to include debit cards, savings accounts, bill payment centers and small-dollar loan services. And the inspector general white paper stresses that its own offerings, rates and fees would be “more affordable” than that of payday lenders.
Nationally, payday loan patrons spend $89 billion in fees and interest every year. So if the USPS, as it projects, could capture 10 percent of that market, as well as 10 percent of the 68 million currently underserved, through the use of a postal banking card, that would help its own cash-strapped operation.
The proposal represents a potential win-win situation.
The Rev. Gerald Britt Jr., vice president of public policy at CitySquare, may be contacted at gbritt@citysquare.org.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

'Black Like Me' a Story of a Willingness to Identify with the Pain of 'Otherness'



CitySquare's Urban Engagement Book Club reviews books that deal with politics, culture and society and the relationship between the three and CitySquare values of faith, stewardship, community and justice. 
One such book is 'Black Like Me' by John Howard Griffin. In the early '60's Griffin who was white, chemically altered his color to live as a black man. 'Black Like Me' is the story of his life as he went through this experience.
Randy Mayeux doesn't read the book to us, nor our we required to read the books. He reads them for us and reviews the books for us to provide attendees with an exciting discussion of the book. 
We had a great time with 'Black Like Me'! Below are the Randy's notes he provides for all of us. I hate you have to explore this sans discussion, but we meet every first Thursday at Wilshire Baptist Church (4318 Abrams Road, 75214) and every third Thursday at First United Methodist Church, 1928 Ross Ave, Downtown Dallas, 75201. 
Hope we see you next time!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Thirty-one Percent Better? I'm Not So Sure...

Go here to read and see the City Council hearing in which in Dallas' new City Manager, A.C. Gonzales' compensation is deliberated upon.

Let me be clear: I have no quarrel with A.C. Gonzales. I think he will make a fine City Manager. I think that while a good faith effort was made to explore alternatives, he was the best of those under consideration.

I have issues with the amount of his compensation.

I also know the previous City Manager, Mary Suhm. I have no problem with her. I think that she was an excellent public servant, no matter the issues may have shadowed  her departure.

Ms. Suhm's compensation was $305,000 a year. Mr. Gonzales is coming in at $400,000 a year. There's something wrong with that.

I think this is an issue of gender discrimination. I see no reason why Gonzales' salary should be 31 percent more than Suhm's. All of the success that Councilman Carroway mentioned came under Ms. Suhm. At what point was it decided that he was worth that much more than his predecessor. I think that we need to look seriously at this.

This is not a matter of whether or not Mary Suhm is doing well with her retirement compensation. She won't be on public assistance anytime soon. Nor is it a matter of whether or not A.C. Gonzales will build upon her accomplishments, of course he will. This is whether or not there is pay equity in the city of Dallas when it comes to gender. If this is the case with the City Manager's position, you can bet its the same in every other position.

I believe that Mayor Rawlings needs to form a commission to look at this. Because if the only reason why A.C. Gonzales is making 31 percent more than Mary Suhm is that he's a man and she's a woman, something's out of whack...

Someone missed what President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union Address...


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Commercials, Culture and Utter Nonsense


See more US News from ABC|ABC World News

Coca Cola is a commercial product. It has no national 'brand'. It has no cultural creative context. No more than Bugs Bunny, Welch's Grape Juice or Kentucky Fried Chicken.

There is no 'American' language. We speak English, but it is English derived from our an amalgam of different languages. When we say us the word 'bourgois' or say something isn't 'kosher', or 'gumbo' we use different languages we have incorporated into our 'English' language to explain class, fairness and food.

'The Star Spangled Banner' is the National Anthem...not 'America the Beautiful', the song sung in the commercial.

When Coca-Cola showed its commercial with people of different languages singing 'America the Beautiful' people got upset.

Silly people got upset.

I'm glad they showed it again...

Friday, February 7, 2014

The King's Kids
















On April 4, 1968, when Martin Luther King was killed by an assassin in Memphis, in terms of net worth, he died the death of a man almost as poor as the garbage collectors with which he identified. Harry Belafonte paid for his funeral and burial. 

Coretta King immediately became the single mother of four children. We have no idea what Martin and Coretta's hopes and dreams for their children were. But I'm almost sure it included seeing them getting along with one another and continuing their work. 

I don't think it included this...

I have no idea what it's like to live in the shadow of a father and mother about whom books are written, schools, streets, recreation centers are named. I don't know what it's like to stand before a crowd and be expected to be as eloquent as your father, to have his breadth of knowledge wisdom, experience. I don't know what its like to grow up with a father who was vilified in life and sanctified in death. I don't know what it's like to have lost a sibling. And I have no idea to feel like, at whatever cost, America must pay if they want anymore of my parents...I just don't know.

Pray for the King family.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The GOP Celebrates Black History Month - Really

The Republican Party is celebrating Black History Month...

No really!


Now before you go ballistic (or celebrate too wildly), I prefer to take this as a sign of the GOP's coming of age. Seriously. Too many Republicans want to act as if black people don't exist or as if they are dark skinned white people who really haven't tried hard enough. An acknowledgement of the contributions of black Americans who happen to be Republican is a significant thing. 

Outside of Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell or Alan West, most people probably wouldn't believe that there are any black Republicans. They'd be surprised to know that Frederick Douglass, Jackie Roberson and Edward Brooke (the first black Senator from Massachusetts) were all black. And they by far, are not the only ones. They might also be surprised to know that former Black Panther Party member Eldridge Cleaver, author and poet Zora Neal Hurston, Alphonso Jackson and James Weldon Johnson were all...you guessed it: Republican!

Believe it or not, black people are not congenitally opposed to GOP politics. Their political ideology regarding business, their ideas about self-help and their notions about freedom appeal to the longings of black Americans. So the party is absolutely right recognize their contributions. 

Why so few black Republicans now? A couple of reasons. First there can be a difference between Republican and conservative. The GOP as currently constructed, ascribes to a political ideology that sees the world through an almost entirely different lens than the party of Jack Kemp and Nelson Rockefeller. The influence of the TEA Party is still another reason. And yes, the treatment of the first black President in ways that go far beyond disagreement on policy issues, has something to do with the near lily-white appearance of the Republican Party. The 2008 Republican Convention had 36 black delegates.

There are also some fundamental political differences between Republicans and Democrats. The Republican Party was celebrated by blacks from the time of emancipation forward as 'the Party of Lincoln'. The Democratic Party was the party of South, which meant the party of segregation. It remained so initially until the presidency of FDR. Roosevelt's policies brought the country out of the Depression which helped a number of blacks. 

In 1948 when Strom Thurmond walked out of the Democratic Convention over the Democrats insistence on adding a plank to its platform that included integration it would nearly solidify the split among blacks, particularly in national elections, for at least another decade. That was about the time presidential candidate John F. Kennedy intervened in an arrest of Martin Luther King, Jr. and was judged more sympathetic to the cause of Civil Rights than his opponent Richard Nixon who considered the same action but did nothing. Still the rift became more complete after Kennedy's assassination and Lyndon Johnson's ascendancy to the Oval Office and his inaction of policies which would cement Kennedy's legacy by the passage of JFK's Civil Rights bill and Johnson's own passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. 

Afterwards a series of missteps by the GOP dealing with race, from the popularity of George Wallace, to Nixon's 'Southern Strategy', to Reagan's mythical 'Welfare Queen' to Bush's Willie Horton ads all told blacks that they were no longer welcomed in the Republican Party. 

Is an homage to blacks by a celebration of their history enough to make up for this history? No? But it can be a pretty good start. If Republicans can listen to black people, talk about issues that are in their interest in a way that appeals to them, broaden their solutions beyond tax cuts and smaller government, in short give blacks a real choice between the two parties, it's possible. 

But for now, I'm willing to accept this at face value as a pretty fair good faith effort. 



Monday, February 3, 2014

I Don't Get It...


OK, everyone knows the Seattle Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII 43-8. I found it to be a great game. but then again I'm a fan of blowouts. I think in a championship game its pretty compelling when one team shows itself clearly better than another. But that's just me...apparently...

But another even more controversial part of the championship game was one particular commercial - featuring Coca-Cola no less! 

The makers of Coke decided to show a commercial with several voices of several nationalities singing 'America the Beautiful' in their native languages. Evidently twitter was ablaze with people who objected to this display of people extolling the beauty of America in their own languages. 

I don't get it...

There is no 'native' American language (unless you count the languages of actual native Americans) and America is beautiful in any language. So what's the problem? The only issue I can see is a number of nationalists Americans attitudes have become hardened and crass.

I remember a time when Americans were criticized for their lack of foreign travel, lack of familiarity with foreign cultures and languages. That wasn't that long ago. And to that, Americans all said it was a good idea that Americans travel abroad and become familiar with the rest of the world. I'm not sure what's happened, but that type of broad interest in the rest of the world has devolved into a sad and sorry xenophobia.

Things go better with Coke...but apparently only if the language you know how to say that in is English (or 'American'...whatever language that is)!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Best Version of 'The Star Spangled Banner'!


It's Super Bowl Sunday and of course as much as the game itself, one great thrill is always who will sing our National Anthem? About 20 years ago the very best rendition of this sacred ode to freedom was performed by the late Whitney Houston! No one I know of has forgotten it. As a matter of fact, whenever we gather to listen to 'The Star Spangled Banner' before the big game, someone invariably says, "Yeah, that was good, but no one has ever sung it better than Whitney!"

One of my favorite anecdotes come from Whitney's cousin, Dionne Warwick. This version of the anthem was released as a single! Dionne says Whitney came over to her house not long after the release and she said to her, 'What you gonna do next, the phone book?'

No doubt it would have been a hit! Enjoy!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

BULLY!!

Doris Kearns Goodwin is one of my favorite author/historians. She makes history come alive and the lives of Presidents are made more intelligible and important through her lens.

Here she's talking about her new book about the presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, 'The Bully Pulpit'