Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Courage to Be Christian 
The Pope's gentle humility and insistence that we can do better in our efforts to love our neighbors as ourselves sent shock waves through the Catholic community again (though what is deeply disturbing is that this message would send shock waves through the Catholic community).

Pope Francis has now taken a strong stand in favor of banning the death penalty and life imprisonment.  Further, he 'denounced what he called a "penal populism" that promises to solve society's problems by punishing crime instead of pursuing social justice.'

This puts Pope Francis and Michelle Alexander on the same a book we all need to read!

'Using techniques similar to those of racist regimes of the past, the pope said, unspecified forces today create "stereotypical figures that sum up the characteristics that society perceives as threatening."'

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Protect Family Values or False Equivalency?
For all our talk about the importance of family values, recent data demonstrating that middle class parents increasingly lack the resources needed to raise their children should be of primary concern to our elected officials and candidates…yet there is a stunning silence on these questions in this campaign.  Perhaps because our campaigns and elected officials are increasingly dominated by those who hate government?

Data from the Center for American Progress demonstrates that middle-class families are increasingly squeezed economically such that ‘parenthood’ has become unaffordable.  While too many of our elites like to dismiss the idea of it taking a village, they are advancing a political-culture that is undermining even their more limited view of ‘family values.’ 

Middle class parents are “caught between stagnating wages and the exploding cost of basics like housing, health care and children’s education.”   The cost of childcare has risen “nearly tenfold” since the 1960s.  “Most families today don’t have enough saved to meet basic needs for three months, let alone save for college or retirement….”

“Higher-income families spend six times more than working-class families on child care and educational resources, such as high-quality day care, summer camps, computers and private schools, which are increasingly indispensable investments in long-term success. This spending inequity has tripled over the last four decades and is only accelerating, which is likely to widen the achievement gap, creating a vicious cycle.”

At the same time, our leaders continue to abandon public schools, the social safety net, successful programs like Head Start, childhood health care programs, and living wage jobs…widening the inequality and class divide in America to redistribute opportunity upward.

David Lauter, from the LA Times, reports on recent data from the Pew Research Center.  Perhaps this can help us figure out why the most pressing conflicts described above are taking a back seat in this election to empty posturing and distracting hyperbole.

Lauter begins with this conclusion:

“Die-hard liberals and down-the-line conservatives have segregated themselves into strikingly different news universes, relying on sources of information that often reinforce their views and discussing politics mostly with others of like minds, according to an in-depth new study.”

On the one hand, it is not news to learn that many of us listen to and talk with friends and family in our daily lives who largely share views remarkably similar to our own.  The Pew Research Center project demonstrates what Fiorina had shown earlier, that this polarizing tendency is more prominent among the very few of us who qualify as the most politically active Americans. 

The bulk of Americans remain much more moderate, but it is important to see that our most active and elite fellow citizens are increasingly polarized—meaning they see the other side not as fellow citizens with competing ideas, but as existential threats to America.  This matches our observation that Congress is paralyzed into inaction by polarization.

It is also not surprising to find that these ultra-partisans rely on different sources for their daily news.  Or that, for these ultra-partisans, the sources relied upon by their mortal enemies are deemed untrustworthy.  What is somewhat disturbing is that Lauter chose to frame this as ‘both sides are doing it,’ when the data tells a very different story. Lauter notes that,

“Nearly half of consistent conservatives (47%) named Fox News as their main source of information about government and politics…. [But] No single source dominates the audience on the left the way Fox dominates the right. CNN, MSNBC, NPR and the New York Times each were cited by 10% or more of consistent liberals as their chief sources of political and government news.”

As we would expect from the Mann and Ornstein analysis, this ‘both sides are doing it’ frame is both fundamentally misleading and a significant part of the problem Lauter is attempting to draw our attention to here.  Lauter goes on,

“Because of its ubiquity among conservatives, getting coverage on Fox has become crucial for Republican political candidates.  Among 36 news sources in the survey, including print, online and broadcast outlets, liberals rated 28 as more trusted than not, and conservatives trusted just eight, including Rush Limbaugh, the radio talk show host, and the online Drudge Report.”

So, the data suggests that conservatives have far fewer sources of news and that these prominently include sources that scholarly analysis repeatedly demonstrates are misinforming their viewers (Fox News, Limbaugh, and Drudge).  Liberals, on the other hand, have a much larger range of sources and nearly all of these fall into that ‘liberal’ category some call mainstream professional news organizations.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

LeBron on the Importance of Engaging in Conflict
“Winning a championship is a process and it’s not right now when you accomplish a championship, but it is right now where you create habits.” LeBron James

“You have to go through something in order to create a bond—for the worse. We have to lose a ball game we should have won. We have to get in an argument, just to test each other out. It has to happen. I know is it going to happen. A lot of guys don’t see it, but I see it. That’s the only way we’re going to be able to grow. You don’t define yourself during the good times. It’s the bad times.” LeBron James

Here we can hear LeBron speaking on a topic where he has lots of expertise: Winning and getting the most out of your talent to win as a team.

Like our coaches told us in high school, LeBron is embracing the paradox that to win we need to be intense without being tense, we need to see the big picture to focus on the immediate picture, we need to engage in conflict (rather than avoid it) because it through 'the fight' and through taking advantage of the minor, lower stakes conflicts that are inevitable that we learn the skills we need to win, to SEE what others do not see, and to build the relationships that make winning possible.

This is another reason it is important to SEE the ongoing struggle over the meaning of the law and to understand the dynamics of the conflict, including those parts of the dynamic that are not black and white but paradoxical, like we do not win championships now even though we do create the habits needed to win championships now.  It is and it is not, at the same time.  Insisting on it being one or the other might feel better, but is not a pathway to victory.  LeBron gets it spot on here.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Counting on us not paying attention?
Those now loudly critical of Obama's choice of ebola czar are also those who have continually claimed the federal government has no place in health care.

Those now loudly critical of Obama's response to ISIS were delighted to invade Iraq when it had zero Islamic terrorism and was in-fact a strong force against Islamic terrorism to topple a government, waste billions of dollars of 'our money' and thousands of lives, and leave a nation so weak it is now the perfect incubator for the growth of ISIS.

Thursday, October 2, 2014