February 28, 2014

Gun culture

Here is a good example.  I read recently that we are getting close to where gun deaths (including suicides, accidents, etc) will surpass traffic deaths as the leading source of fatalities.  Say what you will about the second amendment, but doesn't that make it a public health issue?  Isn't it reasonable to ask questions about the role that guns play in our society without being accused of not respecting the constitution?

Rand Paul adds hurdle for surgeon general confirmation - The Washington Post

February 11, 2014

This is how families go hungry

Starting to feel like a redundant blogger, but I really, honestly have no idea how to process the push to cut food stamps in a slow growing economy where the deficit is going down, and the upper class are doing more than fine.

This MSNBC piece does a nice job of detailing the story.  In the 70s, while we had certainly not conquered poverty, or racism, or sexism, we had put hunger on the back bench.  Food pantries existed only as a rare "get me to that next paycheck" or rainy day source of food.

In New York, says Berg, there was so little need for emergency food services that in 1978 the city had only 28 operating feeding agencies. By 2014, that number had ballooned to about 1,000 agencies.
That occurred across the country, of course, to the point that more people rely on food pantries for the bulk of their food.  Meanwhile, Republicans and some Democratic allies have cut into that safety net to strengthen requirements, reduce benefits, and overall reduce the food available.  What conservatives seem to miss is that when the economy goes down, a couple things happen.  Not only does need go up, and with it pressure on non-profit private charities, but the same economic factors that harm the economy harm the very nonprofits that conservatives think will take care of the "truly needy."

Nonprofits rely on a lot of sources for their funding.  Some of it is private donations, but I will bet you right now that there are very few successful ones that rely only on private donations.  Most supplement donations with grants from other nonprofits and government grants.  Of course, those other nonprofits have the exact same pressure as the food bank--more demand and fewer incoming funds.  And also of course, we are cutting those federal and state dollars that the granting nonprofits use to help the variety of smaller nonprofits who serve people.

I am working with a nonprofit right now, though not one that is devoted to anti poverty.  But it has given me a new insight into the pressures of that world.  The constant push toward privatization means that more and more organizations are competing with more and more other organizations for fundraising dollars.  Schools fundraise for equipment and books, competing with charities who feed the hungry, or house the abused.

I started to write "what bothers me more than the cruelty," but realized that was not true.  The Republican cruelty toward the most vulnerable in our society bothers me the most.  But second, I am stunned by the ignorance of most conservatives as to how government works.  I truly believe they have no idea that federal money goes to the alzheimers daycare center that provides needed respite care for the families.  Or that federal money combines with private money to assist the disabled.

Or just the simple fact that cutting food stamps means that people go hungry.

February 8, 2014


When I read back through  my blog, I am struck by how at each conservative jag to the right, I was stunned by their lack of compassion.  This all started in 2000 when during a good economic time, all conservatives could focus on was tax cuts.  Not helping people.  Not building things.  Not taking care of our parks or our research.  Tax cuts.  Gimme.

It got worse.  Compassionate conservative George Bush told people to go shopping to fight terrorism, but refused to ask Americans to pay more taxes for his wars.  Or his Medicare Part D.  Or anything.

Fast forward to 2009 when Republican priorities after the crash were to see that Obama was not reelected.  Not to fix the economy, or get people back to work.  Stop the black Democrat from being reelected.  2010, they decided that expanding healthcare was either fascism or communism, or that Obama was like Hitler.  They openly lied about death panels to the point that reasonable people I know believed they were in the bill.

Yesterday, I read about Arkansas Republicans gleefully planning to take back the Medicaid expansion, meaning that people who had coverage last year won't next year.  And the Republicans are happy about that.  Harvard study says that thousands will die because of the unwillingness to expand, but Republicans insist that if they allow it, Obama will get the credit.  And they cannot have that.  Cruz, Rubio and Mike Lee are all urging the court to not allow federal subsidies to people in states that haven't formed their own exchanges.  No cost to the state, just spite.  We won't set up an exchange and we don't want people to have healthcare.  About that simple.

I read about a man on food stamps.  He used to be a plumber, but then had a stroke.  He is just a few years older than me.  Now disabled and can't work, he relies on food stamps to eat.  His food stamps run out with 10 days left in the month, and he knows that the farm bill will reduce that by more.  I go to the grocery store every day to prep for dinner.  He can't buy food for 1/3 of the month.

Here in Oklahoma, our governor wants to cut taxes on the rich from 5.25% down to 5%.  We have a budget shortfall.  She still wants to cut taxes.  And pay for that tax cut by cutting public art, history, and of course, healthcare for the poor.  Who does that?  Who looks at the well-heeled and comfortable and says, let's give them more money, but those people who don't go to doctors at all because they can't afford care?  They need fewer services.

My Republican friends still stun me.  I get their opposition to abortion.  I get that they are fearful of gay marriage and cultural shifts.  I get that they fear the government getting too big.  I get that they fear the Mexicans are taking over.  I even get their fear of Muslim extremists.

But I do not get, nor will I ever get, their acquiescence in the face of cruelty to the poor and the sick, especially for those who speak often of Jesus.  This isn't rocket science.  If Christianity doesn't care about the sick and the poor then Christianity is no longer a religion or a belief system.  If their God cares more about teaching bad science and forcing kids to pray in school than he does about hungry children--then he is not God.

February 4, 2014

The Super Bowl and failure

I have been a Bronco fan since the 80s, and remember well the painful Super Bowl losses of the past. This last Sunday was one in that mode, though one I didn't suffer through long.  I know well enough that putting my mental health in the hands of a game I can't control is a losing bet.

But the aftermath has been a little unsettling, though rather predictable.  Today, SOF and I enjoyed a nice lunch at our favorite Mexican place while the muted TVs had panels discussing whether or not Peyton Manning was to blame for the game, or if his legacy was tainted by the game.

That game has little to do with the life.  Of course, I knew that, but was reminded of it when the Broncos won their first Super Bowl.  I had believed that was a big deal, but when it happened, the joy was fleeting at best.  We often forget that the joy is in the journey, not the end game.

But while this game has no bearing on how I live my life, I feel a personal connection to Peyton Manning.  I feel for someone who has been so good at his craft that he is often considered to be one of the best to ever play the game, yet constantly has to hear idiots on TV question whether or not he is really that good, all because of two or three games out of many.

I have never been that good at anything.  But I do understand a little of how it feels to be looked down for not measuring up to a certain standard.  I was a good teacher.  Some of my students would say even better than good.  Yet, for all the people who told me how good I was, no search committee thought me worthy of their faculty.  And I have watched people with (frankly) lesser minds go on to tenure and security.

I would never have been as good at history as Manning is at football.  No question.  I don't have the drive.  But anyone who doubts that man as an athlete and competitor reminds me of the people who sneer at phds who never make the big time.  There is something to be said for experience being a really bad teacher.  Those who find a profession easily can often mistake that ease for ability, and that translates very quickly into entitlement.  It is a simple step to then assume that those who haven't made it into the cult simply weren't good enough.  To complete the circle, those who watch football understand that Joe Montana didn't win those SBs because he was a superior athlete.  He was a very good QB with an excellent defense and offense.  The same could be said for Aikman or even Elway for his two victories.  Or, for that matter, Manning's own individual Super Bowl championship.  How odd that idiots on tv could compare him to Marino in this way and forget that season where the Colts ran the table.

But none of them did it on their own.  That is one of the redeeming parts of football.  It is team.  It means that those who win championships are fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.  Archie Manning, after all, never had that luxury.

So for those who have succeeded at life, be wary of assuming that success comes only because of your ability.  Or because God smiled on you.  Experience doesn't always teach us well.