November 5, 2014

Tough day in Democracy

I knew yesterday's vote would be rough for us.  I read enough about Nate Silver's projections to know that my hopes for a better outcome would be dashed.  But it is still incredibly disappointing.  Republicans promise to harm the poor and the sick, and they still get elected.  Democrats actually provided healthcare reform, and they then stupidly run away from it.

As it is ever, my biggest disappointment is knowing that the faith of my youth has become so tribally Republican that I am not sure they can differentiate between conservative economic views and those of the Christ they worship.  I went back and reread my post the day after Bush's reelection, and it is still incredibly timely (to me, at least).  (Streak's Blog: One of my darkest days, (PS. American Christianity sucks!))

For the life of me, I just can't quite get my mind around good moral people voting for sociopaths who take great glee in "punching down" at the powerless and the weak.  Their religion says to feed the poor and help the prisoner.  Their faith says to help the sick and the old.  Their vote is diametrically opposite.  It shores up power and wealth, and erodes the fragile lives of the poor, sick, elderly, and middle class.

In the last year, we added a puppy to our house, and in the last week, we added yet another rescue, bringing our total dog population to four.  I have felt a little defensive about that as some seem to think we have lost our minds, or exceeded some norm for animals.  I feel just fine about it for several reasons.  1), our new rescue, Scooby was in a bad place and headed for trouble, and we helped him and his former owners.  My vote was to help people, and outside that, I am trying to do what I can in my circle to help people.

And 2), having four dogs reminds me of how much more I like them than people. Dogs bite each other when one is being abusive or bullying.  Republicans seem to elect them to office.

October 28, 2014

Good man with a gun becomes bad man with a gun

Report: 'Buzzed' Man Allegedly Killed Boy In Game Of 'Gun Tag'

This is how this works.  Up till this man killed a three year old with his gun, he was most likely a good man with a gun.   What is a good man with a gun?  Just a legal gun owner, and the gun rights people want there to be more and more of those.  Because freedom.  And because more guns is always better.

Gun culture demands it.  The NRA tells you to be very afraid--that criminals will break in, and the police won't respond, or that the UN and that evil Barack Hussein Obama will take your guns away.  Or that ISIS will come across the border and you will need that nine mil.

Gun culture doesn't filter our irresponsibility, or history of drunkenness, or youth or anger issues.  Nope.  More guns make us safer, they say.  Good people with gun will stop the bad people with guns.  And anyone who questions that becomes a bad person--presumably without a gun, though that is irrelevant.  The Gun Tribe doesn't like anyone who questions access to guns, and those people are bad.

So when a good man with a gun kills someone, the gun culture just says, "they will go to jail for using their gun wrong."   (unless they are a cop, of course, and kill a young black teen).  But you never know who the bad people are until they shoot someone they aren't supposed to.  And any effort at restricting those people, or even discouraging young and stupid people from getting guns is a violation of freedom, and makes you a bad person.

October 27, 2014

Just guessing, but this political message about guns will not upset gun right's advocates

NRA's Election Message: "Vote Your Guns" Because ISIS Might Be Outside Your House | Blog | Media Matters for America

Even more dishonest than the woman blogger.  Even more destructive.  Even more paranoid and crazy.

Yet, the supposedly adult and sober and reasonable gun owners will just look the other way.

September 9, 2014

Remember when Republicans talked about compassion?

Or even when they, under George W. Bush, spent a lot of money to fight HIV in Africa?

We may be to that place where even W looks reasonable by comparison, as the modern GOP House just moved to gut spending for Ebola.  Evidently there is nothing worth paying tax dollars for, if you are a conservative Republican.  Why don't those Africans just pay for their own medical care?

This isn't new, but every time I hear one of these Republicans quote the Bible or reference Christianity, I feel the bile in the back of my throat.  I keep wondering when the grownup Republicans I know will stand up to this stuff. There appears to be absolutely no bottom to their malevolence.

August 19, 2014

The end of chronic homelessness?

For a break away from my frustration about Ferguson, a note about my reinvention.  My networking resulted in an invitation to a stakeholder's meeting regarding homelessness in Norman, and my education continues.  I am learning so much about homelessness and about the effective (and no so effective) methods of fighting it.

Here in Norman, as in many communities, we have several different "shelter" agencies who all deal with aspects of the homeless population.  As one person put it this morning, they have effectively managed homelessness here, in that it is largely hidden from the population.  But that isn't solving the issue.  So, they formed the organization One Vision One Voice to combine forces and share information and resources.  Pretty cool stuff.

In addition, they are learning much about ways to address homelessness, and moving away from some of the older models.  That includes the idea of what was called "housing ready," where homeless people were given the possibility of getting housing if they completed some checkmarks.  Addicted people needed to prove their sobriety for ninety days, or the mentally ill needed to demonstrate some management of their symptoms.  This all worked for the short term homeless, but for the chronic and medically vulnerable population, this didn't work at all.  People living under a bridge have enough on their plate just living day to day to try to demonstrate some control of their demons.  It is basic Maslow's hierarchy of needs, if you think about it, but the model persisted because it had a logic to it.

But OVOV and The Homeless Alliance are following the new model of "housing first," where they put these chronic homeless people in housing of some sorts (with guidance and social workers helping them, of course).  The results are pretty startling.  In OKC, the retention rate was in the 90s after a year and a half, and only 2 of those were actually lost back to homelessness.

The other fascinating component here is that we may have been viewing the economics of fighting homelessness all wrong.  Most people agree that people should have housing, just as they think that people should have food.  But I can't tell you how many times I have heard the lament that we "just can't afford to feed or house everyone."

I am not sure about the economics of hunger (though I suspect it is quite similar) but the Homeless Alliance people have some great numbers on the cost of homelessness.  Turns out it is quite expensive to keep them on the streets.  I am not sure I wrote down all the numbers correctly, but here is one stat that I am sure of:  one individual chronically homeless individual in OKC cost the city's taxpayers $160,000 in one year.  He was arrested multiple times, or picked up for being in the wrong place or publicly intoxicated.  He was taken by ambulance several times to the emergency room, and spent time in the hospital for pneumonia.  All of that well before we look at any costs carried by the social workers or social organizations.

Turns out it is much cheaper to house people.  Here in Norman, they figure they can pay the annual rent and utilities for an individual for around $6,000.  Those who are housed are less likely to get arrested or harassed, and if you combine this with access to healthcare, the other costs plummet as well.

Several people made the point that economics should not be the only reason, but it is a compelling one for those who value fiscal conservatism.  If your value is to save money, then why wouldn't we jump on this effort of getting people into housing?  As I noted, I am guessing there is a similar economics to hunger and lack of healthcare--all the more reason to get people into Medicaid or get them fed.  Much cheaper to buy a meal than to pay for a night in the hospital, or for long-term chronic illness associated with poverty.

This fall, Norman's OVOV will undertake a comprehensive census of the homeless population.  Not just a count, but an assessment of where they are on the scale--temporary and unlikely to be homeless if they get their feet back under them to those who have enough mental illness that they would never be able to live completely unattended.  And many of those in that last category will simply die on the street.

I am hoping to get involved in this count and the entire effort to eradicate homelessness.  I am wondering about the response when people learn of this effort.  I fear that the "moral hazard" argument will overpower many who would otherwise want to help.

But we will see.

August 15, 2014

Another young black man shot by police

I am sure everyone knows about this recent event.  There is still much we don't really know about the shooting, but there are enough legitimate questions to question the police action in Ferguson, Missouri. has a nice rundown of the story here.  The Ferguson police released some images and video showing the dead youth robbing a convenience store, but then admitted that the officer who shot Michael Brown did not know of those allegations and was not stopping him for that reason.  The police say that the young man attacked the police officer and even reached for his gun, but several observers note that the young man was retreating from the cops and surrendering when he was shot.  One person live tweeted the shooting, and his account is chilling.

One of the problems with racial issues in this country, in my opinion, is the emphasis on denying the past or larger contexts.  We are told to accept the basic particulars in each individual case as if they occur in a vacuum.  This shooting is a great example.  Perhaps the police are telling the right story, and this young man threatened and attacked a police officer.  None of that matters if he was retreating--certainly not in my mind, but as I said, there is much for us to learn.

But this occurred in a context, and that context is not a good one for race relations.  For all the Supreme Court's conviction that racism is a thing of the past, Ferguson, Missouri is a largely black population run by an almost completely white police force and with only one black person on the city council.  Race, of course, tells us nothing about competence or ability, but this is horrible optics.  Those white police arrest black residents at a much higher rate (much higher) than whites.  The police department handled this badly by militarizing the city and treating those protesting as enemies.

To be fair to Ferguson, Missouri, however, the problem is much broader than this one community.  One only has to think of the different responses between the Bundy ranch in Nevada and this community.  At Cliven Bundy's side, white separatists pointed sniper rifles at federal troops.  That didn't end with tear gas or tanks rolling in.  On the contrary, the government backed off.  Contrast that with the police shooting an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, or the savage beating of a black grandmother on the side of an interstate.  Or that kid shot in Walmart holding a toy gun.

If that isn't bad enough, consider the difference between media portrayal of black victims to white suspects.  Right, not just between white suspects and black suspects, but even the portrayals of blacks shot in violent encounters.  There is plenty of room for criticism of individual criminal behavior, but that disparity suggests that the activists are not completely wrong when they say that the lives of black men count less than their white counterparts.

July 26, 2014

The Ghosts of Recurring Dreams

My career reinvention is still moving slowly.  I have reached out to several people in the non-profit world and have essentially offered my services pro-bono.  Of course, they all use volunteers, and I am willing to do that too, but am hoping that I can use some of my analytical skills as well.  My latest idea is to try to get on a few more boards.  My work on my current board has really given me a chance to use some chops.  To put it another way, when I volunteered for a session at the food bank, while it was a very worthwhile afternoon (and I need to go back), my contribution was no different than the teenage girl next to me on the assembly line.  Absolutely nothing wrong with that either, but I am hoping to do something for these orgs that she might not be able to.  Yet.

So, we will see.  I continue to talk to people in that world and the cool thing is that I am learning much about homelessness and hunger.  All of that is worthwhile, whatever comes of this tactic.

But back to the title.  I don't feel that stressed or depressed about my career right now, but I still cannot shake my recurring dream where I am, once again in the classroom.  The dreams always include the fact that my teaching is coming to an end.  I wake up depressed and it often takes me most of the day to shake the dream.

I am a little unsure why I keep having these dreams.  I have always understood dreams as part of unresolved business.  I used to have a dream every summer where I went to class unprepared.  That was my cue to get going on prep for the coming year.

Perhaps I am still unresolved about my career.  I find myself pretty angry at the state of higher education, and occasionally find myself annoyed with former colleagues when they complain about students or some university nonsense.  When I think of that world, I have to say that there is much I don't miss.  I don't miss the bored students.  I don't miss the texting and sleeping during class.  I don't miss the insipid questions about grades and exams.  I don't miss the consumer approach to learning.

But I do miss those moments with students when we connected on something cool.  I miss those connections with students outside class when they related how something from our class informed their life.  I know I made a connection with some of those students that may last for a lifetime.  I miss that.  Perhaps that is the source of these dreams.

July 24, 2014

Another botched execution

Though have no fear, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer assures us that he didn't suffer.  This, of course, following the Oklahoma botched execution and the Ohio botched execution.

But this much is also true.  Americans don't really care.  Certainly not enough to vote differently.  When it comes down to it, these are bad people dying, and if they suffer along the way, no conservative I know will stand up and say it is wrong.  And, of course, for the very same reason that they sat on their hands during the torture debate.  Bad people coming to bad ends is ok, even if the process makes us more like them than we would like to admit.

July 15, 2014

What would Jesus do, exactly? Surely not yell "go home" at immigrant child refugees, right?

The stories are amazingly gripping.  We read about the life expectancy in Central American countries and realize that parents there reasonably believe that sending unaccompanied minors on a long dangerous journey to the US is actually safer than just staying home.

Right.  As dangerous as it is to journey on their own to the Promised Land, it is less dangerous than just staying with their family.  It boggles the mind.

But as boggled as my mind is with that, I look at the conservative response to these children and find even less humanity and less reason.  We have border militia (thankfully, well protected by the NRA and 2nd Amendment groups) saying that we should shoot immigrant kids.  We have Republicans across the map suggesting every possibly conspiracy you could imagine--from Obama is doing this on purpose to bring in more Democratic voters (because poor illegals vote in such high numbers, right?), to Sarah Palin's brilliant suggestion that Obama is letting in all these kids to fundamentally transform America (because he isn't really American, of course, and hates it the way it is), or those who believe this is a plot to bankrupt the country (because illegals just go on welfare and commit crimes).  Now that I think about it, most of the conspiracies are that Obama is doing this on purpose for some reason or another.  And yes, the spelling skills that the Tea Party was so famous for (who can forget the famous "Get a brain, Morans" sign at one of their rallies?) has not disappeared.  We have seen all sorts of misspellings about illegals or immigrants, or whatever--though this one takes the cake--'No Illeagles' Graffiti Discovered On Proposed Shelter For Unaccompanied Children | ThinkProgress.

Then, of course, we had a prominent faith leader from Dallas (Southern Baptist, no less) who said that we should, of course, show compassion to the children, but first and foremost we should secure the borders.  He said this after noting that Christians were looking to people like him and Fox and Friends for the "right answer."

I know many people of faith who are dedicated to making the world a better place.  They volunteer and feed and house the homeless.  They work tirelessly for the disabled or the elderly or the immigrant.

But it is time to recognize that many American Christians are causing more harm than good.  The Reverend Jeffries comes to mind, but there is a long list of people who are so tribally conservative that they can't see the problem with yelling at immigrant children.  But then again, they don't seem to have a problem with their party actively discouraging people from getting health insurance.