Saturday, May 31, 2014

Payday Lending: A New Court Victory, Two More Cities Protect Their Citizens and a New Movie Details the Threats!

Thanks to Jim Mitchell of the Dallas Morning News for a great story regarding the fate of payday lenders. In a recent blog post, Jim lets us know that the payday lenders have lost again in court...

"The coalition of cities  standing firm against abuse payday lending practices continues to grow. As important, the courts are backing local regulations to control payday lending. On Friday, an appeals court upheld the authority of Dallas’ landmark rules restricting certain  payday operations and practices"
"All I can say is great news..." 
And all I can add to this is 'Amen'! Dallas' ordinance is holding up through legal channels. And though I fully expect this to end up in the Texas Supreme Court, I also expect that should that court be made known of the eggregious usurius practices of this industry, it may threaten to severely curtail those practices. So yes, this, along with the fact that Baytown, Texas, a suburb of Houston has now adopted this ordinance - providing financial protection for more than 7 million Texans - is indeed 'great news'! 


And even more good news, in San Antonio, where I was told government was balking at the prospect of actually enforcing their payday lending laws...guess what? They are prosecuting! And pretty vigorously, at that...

"Some two years after the City Council cracked down on predatory lending practices, San Antonio officials said Thursday they are prosecuting seven payday lenders for allegedly violating a city ordinance that mandates fair practices."
"The defendants face fines up to $500 for each alleged violation and for each day the violation may have occurred."
"The payday lenders facing prosecution are accused of conducting business without the required city registration certificate; four of the seven also refused to allow the city to inspect their business records, a requirement in the ordinance."
"“Our primary concern is compliance. At the end of the day, the interaction between the lender and the consumer is what's most important to us,” said Councilman Diego Bernal, who spearheaded the creation of the payday lending ordinance. “The lenders have to recognize that we're serious about our commitment to treating people fairly and following the law.”"
"More than 200 payday and title loan lenders operate in San Antonio, and 96 percent have been compliant with the ordinance, city officials say....
...“"The good news is that the ordinance does have teeth, and it matters,” City Attorney Robbie Greenblum said. “Most everybody is in compliance. The very few who aren't in compliance have been or will be prosecuted.”"
Now you see why lobbyists for the industry were trying to get rid of these local controls in the last session. 
In the meantime, the attack on this business is hitting another front: cinema! 'Spent: Looking for Change' is a documentary which, again, outlines the greed of payday lenders, check cashers and other places that appear to be the last resort for the 'unbanked'. It's clearly an important film. CitySquare's Public Policy Department is trying to obtain the rights to screen it. 
I was sharing this news with Dallas City Council member Jerry Allen, our city's champion on the fight against payday lenders, while I can't repeat all that he said, it's enough to say that it leaves us both very excited about the fight.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Ahhh, Joe the Plumber's at it Again...

You remember 'Joe the Plumber', the contractor, cum Sarah Palin surrogate, cum failed congressional candidate. The every man citizen who was all uninformed opinion? He's reared his ugly head again in light of the devastating shootings in California last weekend. Decided to give his non-opinion, opinion on the efforts of the Richard Martinez, the father of Chris Martinez who was gunned down in the latest gun fueled orgy of violence last weekend. Joe's salient, relevant and wise response? "Your dead kids don't trump my constitutional rights..." 

I'm actually glad he said it. I've long waited for someone to give an honest - Neaderthologic response to a tragedy they have no intention of trying to help or victims they have no intention of trying to comfort. 

I've also waited for what you will read further. In this case Erika Lafferty, the daughter of Dawn Lafferty, the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary, who died in a hail of gunfire not so very long ago. Her words are a lot wiser than Joe the Plumber....

____________________________________________

Every day in this country 86 lives are cut short with guns. Multiply that number by 365 and you get more than 30,000 families who suffer from gun violence over the course of a year.

My mother was one of the 86 on December 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. A gunman entered the school where she was the principal, and in just minutes he murdered 26 children and educators. She died protecting her students, and now there’s a massive void in my family where my mom and my best friend once was. This past week, hundreds of families experienced similar pain—some in Santa Barbara, and many more scattered in communities throughout the country.
In the 18 months since my mom was killed I’ve decided to use my voice to limit the number of families who have to go through what I went through. In my advocacy work with Everytown for Gun Safety I’ve met hundreds of other gun violence survivors who made the same choice.
So as we enter the world of advocacy—making pleas for such “tyrannical” measures as criminal background checks on gun purchases or gun safety precautions to keep toddlers from shooting themselves—what’s the response from the other side? I’ll give you a few examples.
My dear friend Jennifer Longdon, a gun owner herself, was shot in 2004 sitting in a car with her fiancé. The gunshots paralyzed her, but they gave the gun violence prevention movement a fierce advocate willing to travel the country to speak out. Her focus: keeping guns out of dangerous hands and saving lives.
During a trip to the NRA convention this year, a gun extremist recognized her at the Indianapolis airport. He had seen her face on TV, and decided to spit on her as retribution. Years earlier, Jennifer got home from a gun violence prevention event and found another gun extremist waiting for her at her front door. He pointed a water-gun in her face and said, “Don’t you wish you had a gun now, bitch?” before taking off.
There’s also Steve Barton. On a bike trip across the country he wound up in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado to see The Dark Knight, where he was shot in the neck and down his torso. He became an activist and received death threats for his advocacy. Gun extremists claimed his story was fabricated and that he was never in the theater to begin with, even though he had the scars to prove it.
Then there was the statement I saw this week from “Joe the Plumber.” Yes, you may be saying to yourself, “I vaguely recall that name from heaps of media coverage several lifetimes ago.” He’s the Ohio plumber turned Sarah Palin-surrogate turned failed congressional candidate, and this week he told the courageous father of a Santa Barbara shooting victim, Richard Martinez, “Your dead kids don’t trump my constitutional rights.” Never mind that none of the solutions being discussed by Martinez or any other gun violence prevention advocates in any way threaten the Second Amendment.
It’s actually refreshing to see his comments so unvarnished, so closely removed from this poor kid’s murder. And I wouldn’t have dignified his disgusting comments with a response if it didn’t follow such a disturbing pattern among gun extremists in this country.
In fact, his comments quite clearly encapsulate the id of the small faction of extremists who are influencing our country’s gun laws. Your loss doesn’t matter if it inconveniences me one bit. Gun violence may be real—and it may be 20 times worse here than in any other developed country—but I don’t have a solution for it, except to buy more guns and intimidate more victims.
I know the vast majority of gun owners in America are good, smart, compassionate people. I’ve met them in the last year and a half all across the country. Many of them are NRA members whom I spoke with at each of the last two conventions. This isn’t just a hunch I have from small anecdotes; it’s backed up by lots of data. In fact, a poll of gun owners taken by Republican pollster Frank Luntz found that 82 percent of gun owners—and 74 percent of NRA members—support common-sense background checks.
Given how many gun owners are on our side of the debate—not surprising, when you consider 90 percent of the country shares the sentiment—you would think the gun extremists like Joe the Plumber would get drowned out. We need responsible gun owners to stand up and say “enough is enough.” If prioritizing guns over dead kids makes you angry, stand up and drown his words out with action.  
When I watched Martinez’s speech on TV I was struck by his strength and courage. Those of us who join the club of gun violence survivors do it unwillingly. Sadly, membership has never been higher. We join the club in varying circumstances, from different areas of the country, with unique backgrounds. But I think I speak for many of us when I say Martinez’s words could not have been more true: “I don’t care about your sympathy…Get to work and do something.” At Everytown, we’re trying to fulfill his wish by getting Americans to fill out a postcard to send to their elected officials with one simple message: “Not one more.” 
We can all learn from his strength and do our part to save lives.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Homeless Families

As a society, I find more and more a callousness towards poverty which is chiefly aimed at making proponents avoid any sense of responsibility for our neighbors. But by busting down stereotypes maybe some can see that homeless families are in many ways just like ours - with the exception of the financial tragedy.
Then again, maybe that's the problem. Maybe we do realize that. Maybe we're closer to the problem than we realize....

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

The Challenges Faced by Poor Children



I remember when the impact of homelessness on children really struck me. 
It was during the first Christmas here at CityWalk@Akard, our 'vertical community' downtown. My intern from SMU Perkins School of Theology, attended the Christmas party for the few children we have here. 
Rachel, our intern, said she was almost moved to tears when one of the kids said to her siblings, "This is a much nicer Christmas than we had last year at the shelter!"
There are several wise people who provide true but useless information regarding homeless children. Information such as, "these people shouldn't have children before they can afford them..' Or 'Two parent families are the best cure for homelessness...' I generally file such tripe under 'true but useless information' and I do so because once a child is here, what a parent should have done is irrelevant.  
Homelessness is hard on children in unexpected ways. This article outlines a few...
____________________________________________
There are more than 1.6 million homeless children living in the United States, says The National Center on Family Homelessness. That's one in every 45 American kids who goes to sleep at night without a bed to call their own. Families with young children now account for about one third of the homeless population. And in case you are wondering why, the recession caused a 50 percent jump in the number of students identified as homeless in school districts throughout the country.
Here are seven things about being a homeless kid that you probably didn't know:
1. Making friends is harder when you're homeless.
Carey Fuller, who lives in her car with her 11-year-old daughter Maggie Warner in the Pacific Northwest, said she "cringed" when she recently took Maggie out to play in a park. Things were going fine until "someone asked her where she lived," Fuller explained. It's the death knell question, the one that throws the wet blanket on the playdate and it's usually just a matter of seconds before the other kid takes off in the direction of someone else.
"Maggie smiled and I changed the subject and off they went to play until it was time to go just before sunset," said Fuller. A happy ending, this time. Yes, it has happened more than once. Not to state the obvious, but you can't have kids over to play or have a friend sleep over if your home is the car.
Fuller became homeless after losing her job in the financial services sector in Seattle. Initially, the family downsized to a smaller apartment, but when that still proved too costly, Fuller bought an RV and moved into it with her two daughters. Maggie was a toddler at the time. The family has since downsized to a minivan. Fuller, who takes whatever part-time work she can find, is well-known as an advocate for homeless kids and writes about her life as a homeless mother living in a van.
2. Birthdays can be disappointing for a homeless kid.
Forget having a big party with lots of friends coming over. Sure you can have a party in the park if it's a nice day. But who is going to pay for the pizza and cake and if people give you presents, where will you put them anyway?
This year Birthday Dreams brought over a cake and a gift when Maggie turned 11. For the past five years, Birthday Dreams has been providing birthday parties to homeless children in the Puget Sound area. A lot of homeless kids have never seen their names on a birthday cakes, notes the Birthday Dreams website. And yeah, they get pretty thrilled.
3. Canned food drives don't actually make much sense.
"Where are homeless people supposed to cook all those cans of food you collect?" asks Maggie Warner. Homeless people have no kitchens, she points out.
Gift cards or a credit to the grocery store where they can buy fresh fruit and pre-made meals makes more sense. But some donors are reluctant to do this because they think homeless people will use the money for beer or alcohol.
4. Homeless kids aren't as healthy as kids with homes.
The National Center on Family Homelessness says that homeless kids have four times as many respiratory infections, twice as many ear infections and five times more gastrointestinal problems. They are three times more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems than non-homeless children.
Being homeless is stressful and practicing good hygiene is harder when you don't have ready access to bathrooms, sinks and showers. Homeless kids are also exposed to the weather and elements. Homelessness is connected to poverty and when you are poor, you often must rely on free clinics for health care; seeing doctors is not a regular thing.
5. Homeless kids may try hard but are more likely to struggle in school.
Of homeless elementary students, only 21.5 percent are proficient in math and 24.4 percent in reading. It is even worse among high school students, where just 11.4 percent are proficient in math and 14.6 percent in reading.
Try as they might, getting good grades is just harder when you are a homeless kid. For one, your parents -- and statistically speaking, you likely live with just your mom -- are probably busy trying to find food and safe shelter each night. There's no dining room table around which to gather, spread out your books and notes and do homework together. A lot of homeless kids rely on the public library as the safe, warm place to do homework -- you can even use a computer there. But budget cuts have reduced library hours and, by extension, study time. You can't study if there are no lights on in your car. Not having a place to study matters a lot. If the teacher gives the class a project, you and your project partners will need to meet in the library or at their house. Same is true for study groups.
Agnes Stevens, a retired teacher, began tutoring homeless kids in a park in Santa Monica, Calif., encouraging them to stay in school and participate in school activities.In 1993, she founded School on Wheels, a program that tutors homeless kids in six Southern California counties. The organization also provides backpacks, school supplies and school uniforms for homeless kids and helps their parents navigate school resources. The group runs two learning centers too.
6. Homeless kids put up with a lot of daily indignities, small things that you probably don't realize.
They appreciate getting your used clothing donations, but once in a while they'd like to wear something without some other kid's name written in it. They also don't feel great sneaking in the school bathroom before class to brush their teeth, but it's often the only place available. Maybe there's a way to issue them a free lunch card that looks like the lunch card everyone else uses? If their family doesn't have a post office box, it's hard to mail home their report card. They don't want everyone to know if the PTA paid for them to go on the class field trip. School projects that involve a trip to the crafts store for supplies pose a special burden on their families who can't afford it. Participating in sports sounds great, but soccer cleats and baseball uniforms aren't exactly in the budget. A lost textbook is a problem for a regular kid; a lost textbook is a catastrophe for a homeless kid.
7. Homeless kids are a pretty resilient lot.
When The Huffington Post asked Maggie what she wanted to say to our readers, this is what she said: "Never give up and never stop hoping things will get better even when you feel like you're at the bottom."

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My Column in Monday's Dallas Morning News

Fight continues to realize Brown vs. Board of Education’s goal


Rev. Gerald Britt, Jr. 

When Oscar Brown, a Kansas welder, challenged the system in what became known as Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education, he wanted nothing more than to not drive past a white school seven blocks from his home to get to a black school, several miles away. Could he have known that his lawsuit represented the end of legal segregation, propelling America toward a greater realization of its democratic promise and setting the stage for a more perfect union?
The May 17, 1954, Supreme Court ruling said that segregation held no place in our country and that the process of school integration should take place with “all deliberate speed.” Before this clung the standard of “separate but equal” in public facilities and accommodations, based on the 1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson decision.
In reversing itself, the court declared that segregation produced public institutions that were inherently separate and unequal. The ruling validated the NAACP counsel’s argument, led by future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, that segregation did psychological harm to black children by reinforcing a sense of inferiority that could last a lifetime. Or, as Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote, “To separate [black children] from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.”
Sixty years after the decision, America proceeds to move toward compliance with deliberate lethargy.
The most famous attempt to nullify the law took place at Little Rock Central High School and, later in Richmond, Va., where the governor shut down public schools rather than comply.
It took Dallas nearly 50 years to reach full compliance; it took Richardson ISD almost 60 years. Both achieved compliance only after the schools reached majority-minority status. And yet, even then, additional suits had to be filed.
In 2009, a year after an $80 million shortfall in DISD, then-Superintendent Michael Hinojosa proposed and the school board adopted a budget that took away special funding from learning centers in South Dallas and spread the money “equally” among all district schools. This came despite the fact that the learning-center strategy was developed by Judge Barefoot Sanders and the plaintiffs in the DISD lawsuit Tasby vs. Estes to address the economic and social ills brought about by de facto segregation.
The momentous decision of Brown vs. Board of Education is still vulnerable to attack. Exacerbated by poverty, our schools are just as segregated today as they were 60 years ago. White flight and shrewdly drawn attendance boundaries threaten the moral sanctity of Brown. More than 7.5 million students attend schools designated as “high poverty” campuses, and more than a third of those students are black. In the 50 largest cities in America, only 53 percent of students graduate on time. Nineteen percent of black students attend schools that don’t offer Advanced Placement courses.
A do-nothing Congress and a more conservative Supreme Court provide little hope. But first lady Michelle Obama, in an address to high school seniors in Topeka, Kan., on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the ruling, talked about the momentous events that began in their hometown:
“Our laws may no longer separate us based on our skin color, but nothing in the Constitution says we have to eat together in the lunchroom, or live together in the same neighborhoods. … So the answers to many of our challenges today can’t necessarily be found in our laws. These changes also need to take place in our hearts and in our minds.”

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Reparations and H.R.40

Ta-Nehisi  Coates has written in interesting article for Atlantic Magazine, entitled, "The Case for Reparations". The idea that whites owe blacks for the sufferings of slavery, Jim Crow and the pain, the violent separation of families and the deaths associated with the heinousness of slavery, was something I'd never bought into. To the degree that I did believe, I considered it a moot point because, as I've said before, 'They ain't paying...!'

But Coates (who also had problems with the idea of reparations), makes a compelling argument. A very compelling argument. His article looks at black life from the time of the first blacks arrival to America in 1619 to the present and in doing so looks at reparations from the how big a check each black person should receive.

But for Coates, this is not just a new form of 'race entitlements', it's bigger than money,  "Perhaps no number can fully capture the multi-century plunder of black people in America. Perhaps the number is so large that it can’t be imagined, let alone calculated and dispensed. But I believe that wrestling publicly with these questions matters as much as—if not more than—the specific answers that might be produced. An America that asks what it owes its most vulnerable citizens is improved and humane. An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future. More important than any single check cut to any African American, the payment of reparations would represent America’s maturation out of the childhood myth of its innocence into a wisdom worthy of its founders."

What is unquestionable, is whether it is 'Black Wall Street' in Oklahoma, Rosewood in Florida, the case of SNCC workers, Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner, or Emmitt Till, or the assassinations of Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr, the fact is whites have visited on blacks unusual cruelties and through White Citizens Councils and other systemic injustices. The question is, to what degree is American society, complicit in the crimes of its citizens when those crimes are 'legal' or condoned by tradition as a state. 

The clip below is Ta-Nehisi Coates, seeks to answer that question in his interview with  Bill Moyers...



The second clip is from the online version of the article which looks at 'contract buying' in Lawndale, a community in Chicago. Contract buying was the means by which an owner my buy his house for $15,000 but sell it for $30,000 yet the 'home buyer' actually never buys the house. Never accrues any equity and in fact never really has any security. If the home buyer misses one payment he or she can be evicted. The process led to redlining of communities and other types of, what are currently illegal practices. Civic, state and federal law, either upheld these racist practices, condoned them or set up similar statutes and laws...



This is one of the reasons U.S. Representative John Conyers, has, every year since 1989, has presented H.R. 40, a bill that each session establish a commission that would study the need for reparations. Its never been brought to the floor for a vote.

As I said, prior to reading this article by Ta' Nehisi Coates, I've never been a proponent of reparations. I'd long since relegated this to a side issue which didn't deserve par with more important issues. But frankly, this is the type of conversation we need to have in this country.

I still have hope its possible...

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Brown v. Board of Education: Success or Failure - We Must Decide



In the very early '70's I and most of my friends in Hamilton Park became the first children in our families to attend predominantly white schools. A group of us went to feeder patterns that led to Richardson and Berkner High Schools, in Richardson, TX. Another group went to Dallas ISD's Lake Highlands High. None of us had any idea that the wheels on the buses that initially emptied historic Hamilton Park Elementary, Junior and High Schools (all in one building) and forced us to assimilate into different cultures, friendships, rivalries and, yes, enemies began rolling almost twenty years before in Washington, D.C. with a Supreme Court decision known as Brown v. Board of Education.

We knew almost nothing about this, through our anger and tears, we had no idea that we were a snapshot of a large collage in history regarding school integration, which the SCOTUS decision was supposed to resolve.

The rationale expressed by legendary NAACP attorney (and future Supreme Court Justice) Thurgood Marshall, was that black children, attending schools that were inferior to white schools and in most cases miles past these white schools to attend these schools, were done irreparable mental and emotional damage by being told by a nation that they and not just their schools were deemed inferior. The only recourse, Marshall continued was integration, where studies showed, blacks fared much better academically when taught equally with their white peers. Was that true?

The fact is we will never know whether or not the education we received in the schools to which we were bused was 'better' than the one we would have gotten at Hamilton Park. The fact that old friends had to be transferred to new allegiances and successes in the classrooms and extra-curricular activities was a part of a grander freedom 'scheme' that was playing itself out in our nation. What we wanted to equality in education which ultimately meant more than sitting next to white kids in class or competing with them on high schools gridirons and band chairs. It meant sharing in the best of laboratories, school journalism, drill teams uniforms and the like. It meant being exposed to a larger world, with larger ideas about whites, about ourselves in the world and learning how to navigate those choppy waters with our parents initially and on our own as we grew up.

This is the 60th anniversary of that august decision. We have no real successes to report about the fulfillment of the idealism of Thurgood Marshall's argument, although it won the day. Our schools have become more segregated, not less. Those segregated schools in urban communities are primarily as black, smaller in many cases, poorer, with less well educated students and less experienced teachers than were ours. We have no Mrs. Madge Harrison (my 4th grade teacher) with decades of experience in teaching black children with sternness and love. Seldom do black teachers live or want to live, in these communities. It doesn't mean that there are no black academic, athletic or music successes. No, we have to understand that the education of black children produced W.E.B. DuBois, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Adam Clayton Powell to name a few among millions. What it means is that those who are educated in black schools must overcome the suspicion that they are less than if not the outright confirmation. The feelings of inferiority are still real. And in a world rife with more prejudice and in which racial hatred is becoming more and more prevalent, we are now fighting to be economically as well as educationally relevant.

Whites and blacks who have left public schools because of low performing schools and school districts are actually finding that test scores go down the blacker, browner, less well academically proficient as whites and middle class blacks move farther and farther away from 'the problem'. The consequence is that charter schools are on the rise, public schools are being closed and true public schools are becoming more worse.

As test scores in the poorer urban schools continue to plummet and the consequences (economics, housing values, fewer grocery stores, etc.) the consequences and the solutions become more and more pronounced.
Unfortunately there is no other Thurgood Marshall to fight for our cause. There is no Oliver Brown, nor 200 other parents to bring a class action cases to challenge the SCOTUS to bring another legal challenge.

Some 40 years later most of us who were initially integrated from Hamilton Park are doing pretty well. Most of our children have and are doing well. Even our grandchildren are doing well. But the peers of our children's children suffer. Sixty years after Brown we need to continue to the fight for education and equality for black and brown poor children.

We don't need another Supreme Court decision. We need courage and our children need hope...


Friday, May 16, 2014

Education and the New Labor Market



Richard Froeschle,  Deputy Director of the Texas Workforce Commission gave a very interesting lecture on what it means for us to align public education with the labor market. 


Speaking at the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce he spoke to why Texas' workforce has not only fared better than the rest of the country, but the challenges that represents to educators. Froeschle's forecast that we are becoming a state in which those without an adequate education are destined to take their place among the very poor while those with education that trains them to work with their heads and hands provides empirical evidence for what most of us in the non-profit world see daily. In effect the gap between the haves and have nots is becoming wider. 

Froeschle's gives remedy for most of his diagnosis but it all goes to money (its redirection) and the redirection of youth and college age young adults towards professions which prepare them for a world in which real skills are necessary. He's not calling for an end to liberal arts, but education that teaches the arts and literature but one that teaches students skills that make them more gainfully employable. 

This video is the speech he gave in Dallas (only its recorded in Houston). It has implications for not only public education, but adult education and more particularly job training. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Myth Buster: You Don't Have to be Old to Have a Stroke...

As I wrote before, May is National Stroke Awareness month. One thing is true, you don't have to be an old guy like me to have a stroke. Here's the story of a 24 year old woman, whose health crisis came earlier than she believed possible...




Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Human Evil, Sowing and Reaping


Early televisions' greatest morality plays were performed in a classic television show called 'The Twilight Zone'. The creator, Rod Serling had ways of reminding us, somewhat uncomfortably, of what life's sowing and reaping.  And this one, 'Deaths Head Revisited', is one of my favorites.

It revisits darkest periods of mankind as a former Nazi nostalgic' for the 'good ol' days, revisits Dachau and runs into the evil he has inflicted upon humanity. What happens after that is the quid pro quo that life liberally distributes to those who commit such evil unrepentantly. 

While The Twilight Zone has many episodes more a little more relevant to it is a reminder that there is a law that transcends our decadence and corruption. We can run from it but we cannot hide. And those of us whose fears, or self-sufficient fearlessness force us to give ourselves over to them can count on an unrelenting retribution...

Monday, May 12, 2014

May is National Stroke Month

May is National Stroke Awareness Month.

It has special meaning for me as a survivor of two strokes last year. It's a difficult and challenging illness no matter your age, your health prior to having a stroke or the change in lifestyle brought on by having a stroke.

Each year over 800,000 people a year are affected by strokes. It is a brain disorder that can rob you of motor skills, speech, or cognitive functions.

The last stroke I had in December caused me to spend time in a rehabilitation hospital. I had a team of doctors, nurses and aides devoted to making sure that I got the best care possible. Mine was somewhat strange because they still don't know what caused it. I will say, learning how to walk, how to express my thoughts clearly and literally how to manage my life again, are very, very humbling experiences. I am still challenged by issues of weight and diet. I told a friend that by the time this year is over I will have lost almost 100 pounds - the same 40-50 pounds twice in a year! But I'm still determined to do it. I'm probably about 85-90 percent better and although my lifestyle is still not perfect, I'm getting there.

I never once thought about dying. I had the support my wonderful wife, children, supportive friends and co-workers. I definitley appreciate the prayers and well wishes of friends and family from all over the country. And the one thing I can say with perfect confidence...God has been extremely good to me! Much better than I deserve.

Because May is National Stroke Month, I wanted to share a bit of this and let you know how to be aware of the signs and symptoms of strokes...

Strokes often lead to serious, life-changing complications that include
  • Paralysis or weakness on one side of the body.
  • Problems with thinking, awareness, attention, learning, judgment, and memory.
  • Problems understanding or forming speech.
  • Difficulty controlling or expressing emotions.
  • Numbness or strange sensations.
  • Pain in the hands and feet.
  • Depression.
Should you or anyone you know, experience any of the following, call 9-1-1 immediately!
  • Numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding.
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance and coordination.
  • Severe headache with no known cause.
Remember, getting immediate medical attention for stroke is crucial to preventing disability and death, so don’t delay—dial 9-1-1.
A primary focus is on the ABCS to prevent cardiovascular disease, including stroke, and contribute to overall health:
  • Know your ABCS of health:
    • Appropriate Aspirin therapy: Ask your doctor if taking aspirin is right for you.
    • Blood pressure control: Keeping your blood pressure under control reduces your risk of heart attack and stroke. More than half of the world’s stroke deaths are caused by elevated blood pressure levels.
    • Cholesterol management: Get your cholesterol checked regularly and manage it with diet and physical activity or with medication, if needed.
    • Smoking cessation: Get help at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat a healthy diet that’s low in sodium.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Prevent or control diabetes.
  • Limit your alcohol intake (fewer than two drinks per day for men, or one drink per day for women).
Let me say it again, a stroke can be a devastating experience. You don't want it to happen to you...

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The L.A. Clippers' Deliverance

Yesterday was a day of true schadenfreude, an exulting in another's misery. David Silver banned Las Angeles  David Sterling from the National Basketball Association. Banned Sterling from attending any function having anything to do with the L.A. Clippers. He has is forbidden to attend, let alone participate in owners meetings. He is no longer an owner of an NBA team.

David Silver, the new NBA Commissioner faced his first big test. And when he had to act, he acted decisively. The bigoted and least liked owner in the NBA was brought down by racist language directed at blacks on tapes in a secretly recorded conversation with his girlfriend. Silver really had no other choice. In his first real test as commissioner he was forced to come off as a commissioner in another sport: baseball.

The first commissioner of baseball was Kennesaw Mountain Landis, hired and made all powerful by the owners to get baseball under control. His big test was the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal. When about eight Chicago White Sox, were found guilty of trying to throw the 1919 World Series, Landis had them all thrown out of baseball...for life. The difference between Landis' scandal and Silver's dilemma was the White Sox all cut fairly sympathetic figures in retrospect. Not so with Sterling.

I'm in favor of Silver's decision because it's about race and its about the human experience of being humiliation. Let's face it, neither Doc Rivers or any of his players will be done irreparable harm because they work for a racist. Every player on the team is free to bail when their contract is up. But there is something terribly humiliation about getting your paycheck from someone who hates you because of who you are. Nearly everyone black (and brown, and yellow, for that matter), knows what its like to get your daily bread from someone who thinks you are less than them and has no trouble saying it.

I know, I know, it's not like there aren't owners out there who don't feel the same way. But at least they don't parade women through the locker room and invite them to look at his 'magnificent black beasts'. Nor do they patriarchically consider the men whom he pays people who he feeds and clothes. There's something darker and sinister about that. Something that speaks to something darker about stern that men, and women where applicable, shouldn't have to deal with.

Sterling is an 'owner' without a team because he shared privately what he felt aut the players on the team: he didn't respect them, as men, as human beings. He didn't care about them anymore than he cared about the tenants in his run down apartment buildings, or the employees he was forced to pay by the government because he didn't respect them enough to treat them as human beings.

Anyone who thinks that this absolves the NBA from complicity in putting up with Sterling's ownership, or that this does something to eradicate racism in professional sports, isn't thinking right about this. It won't, anymore than Kennesaw Mountain Landis' judgement kept gambling out of sports. Anyone believing that is naive or sarcastic.

In the end actions like the one taken by Silver are about acknowledgement. Acknowledgement that there is something twisted about the American character that we have done to ourselves and we have to take conscious, costly acts to correct them. And if we have to take such actions 50 times, we have to correct them each time. America's to great a country to allow institutionalized racism and disrespect to become something much more evil.