24 March 2012

What Will You Wear To Church Tomorrow?

I will follow the lead of the notorious rabble rousing demagogue… 

Marian Wright Edelman.  Yes, that’s her on the left, and you can find out why she is dressed that way by reading her words at Child Watch® Column: "Walking While Black"

I’ll be wearing my black hoodie tomorrow, even though a suit would be be appropriate.  But since it would be even more appropriate for Tayvon Martin to be alive, I will be sacrifice my ‘dignity’ for a day because he was forced to sacrifice his forever.

This is what social responsibility is – making visible the costs of injustice, and then taking responsibility for keeping it visible.  I ask those in the church I lead and those in the GR Urban League I chair, and those in the communities in which I live to do the same.  Make injustice visible, until those who can ignore it cannot.  That’s when change happens. 

21 March 2012

A Brutal Answer to a Brutal Law

Ok, here is what happened.

Zimmerman was patrolling the neighborhood, looking for suspicious characters. He saw someone that was unknown to him. He told authorities what he was doing. He interceded. Martin then perceived a threat. Zimmerman interpreted Martin as evading him, as a criminal would evade authority, and thus pursued him. When confronted by Zimmerman, Martin rationally perceived himself to be under attack. Then Zimmerman, facing resistance, now perceived himself to be under threat. He fired his weapon in response to that perceived threat.

Zimmerman made four bad judgments, and someone died because of them. What makes this a national travesty is that because of the Florida “Stand Your Ground” law, Zimmerman is likely immune from prosecution. (As Justice Department investigates shooting of Florida teen, doubts arise about federal charges - The Washington Post)  All he has to do is show that he felt he was in danger. How he came to feel that way is irrelevant.

“Stand Your Ground” is license to kill. Two people get into an argument. One punches the other, the second kills the first. He felt threatened. Here in Michigan a man back-ended someone else two blocks from me. They owners argued. The sister of one of them felt frightened and shot the first fellow. In Florida she would be immune from prosecution, feeling her brother threatened. Neither she nor anyone else needs to see a gun or a weapon. They need only feel threatened. And in this case all were the same ethnicity.

“Stand Your Ground” is license to kill. With more concealed carry laws, we all have reason to suspect the other person is armed. In ”Stand Your Ground” states, every argument, car accident, bar fight, or evasive stranger on the street can become a threat, and it will be legal to end it with lethal violence, so long as one felt threatened.

“Stand our Ground” is license to kill. And no sane person, knowing this, will put him or herself at a disadvantage. If we happen to male and black, we will absolutely need guns because it is obvious that being male and black is itself a threat.

“Stand Your Ground” is license to kill. Therefore I call upon people to do two things: Repeal these laws as a clear and present danger to the public. And until they are repealed, that we arm every black man and boy in America. I propose that each state pass a “Safe Black Male” law that will issue a hand gun to every black man over the age of twelve until their “Stand our Ground” law is repealed.

And to make that more than symbolic, I propose that the Nation of Islam provide such guns until those laws are passed, and that people like me contribute money to make it possible.  Tragically, the only way to make black men safe is to arm them.  What a sick country. 

16 March 2012

“You’re Making That UP!”


Long ago, in a lifetime far away, I was a seminary student one Passover, and was at a seder table with some expat Jews and their friends.  It was a thoroughly treyf affair, but in good faith as it were.  We read the story and all that, ate out karpas and charoseth and matzah.  We even tried some of the festive songs, especially “Dayenu.” This is a zipper song, the kind you insert new words each verse and sing the same chorus.  Lots of fun.  Listen for yourself. 

But the tune only works if you sing it in Hebrew. I, who had been to several seders before and had a Haggadah or two in my home, knew it.  So when I started the second verse I found myself singing alone, silenced by the wife of the dean who merrily shouted,

“You’re Making That Up!”

This past week or so the clamoring clowns of Republican righteousness were apparently doing just that. 

Start with this one: Rick Santorum wants to ban hard-core pornography | The Ticket - Yahoo! News.  As unsavory as the porn industry is, the last time I looked it was mostly legal.  Decrying that, and he does, will not make it illegal. Nor would being president give him that authority, notwithstanding his clear moral superiority.  He is making it up.  Maybe it is craven which is sordid.  Maybe it is his honest belief, which is chilling.  But he is making it up.

A few days before another candidate said that as president he would lower gasoline prices to $2.50 a gallon.  Everyone but him, though, seems to think this is impossible.  What makes this really silly is that he and others apparently see no conflict about championing small government and also presidential power to control prices.  By the way, if you want really cheap gas, you can get it in Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Cuba.  And the cheapest gasoline can be found…

… In Venezuela! 

The front runner, meanwhile, has more than once told people we are ”inches” away from socialism.  Our friends at Politifact have twice called this a “pants-on-fire” statement.

For this unreconstructed boy scout, lying is bad.  Lying for the purpose of gaining advantage is especially bad.  Why is a lonesome old preacher so lonesome when it comes to saying so?

05 March 2012

Health Care Weird Thought #17

No, I haven’t actually made sixteen previous weird suggestions, but there have been a few, and the number 17 sounds like a good number. Prime and all that. 

Ok, here is the story.  Start here - Digital Records May Not Cut Health Costs, Study Cautions - NYTimes.com

Feel free to play this several times while reading…

Ok, so digitizing medical records won’t save a bunch of money. Psychology. Go figure.  But here is a weird thought.  See I told you there would be a weird thought:

What if insurance covered the statistical average testing battery.  That is, it would pay for the mean or median or mode number and array of tests for a certain diagnosis.  And if you, the patient, believed you needed more than this, you pay for it. 

Empirical medicine analyzes effectiveness of treatment variations, including testing, and widespread digital records could be tapped without injuring privacy to produce statistical standards for effective diagnosis and the like.  If you think your case requires more testing or treatment than the ‘norm’ you take on the financial risk.  If your doctor thinks you should have more, you and the doctor share the cost.  (Think about that, a physician backing his/her decisions with her/his money not just yours!)

Anyway, the idea is to prevent the risk of ‘moral hazard’ the patient and/or physician should be the one to take on the financial responsibility.  High cost health care is partly about over treatment, doing more than is necessary.  Here is a way to build in a feedback loop so we know when our choices are statistically slim and ask us to take on the financial responsibility for that choice.

Just a weird thought.  What weird responses do you have?