EDWINS

The EDWINS Project: a model from Cleveland for reentry

EDWINSA couple of weeks ago I got to tour a new residential project that is taking shape a few blocks from where I live. It’s not a new a development or a swanky condo high rise. It’s a campus to house students from the EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute. The students are former prisoners, mostly from correctional institutions in Ohio, who are working to build new lives on the outside by training full-time for careers in the restaurant industry. The campus will provide a safe, convenient living space for people who might otherwise be homeless.

So far, about 89 students have completed their training at EDWINS in 2 years. The placement rate is over 90%. The recidivism rate: 0%. That’s a much better success rate by far than any sports team in Cleveland could ever hope to have–and one that is far more important.

EDWINS restaurant is in the northwest block of the Shaker Square commercial district. The cuisine is classically French and the atmosphere is upscale enough that we often feel not dressed quite right to even stop at the bar for a cocktail (although last winter, on a blustery, snowy night we holed up by the fireplace in jeans, and no one seemed to have a problem with it).

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gazprom

Chill, baby, chill: Arctic oil exploration and climate security

gazprom

image courtesy of gazprom.com

My wife’s engagement ring contains a marquis cut diamond appraised at $2000. I bought it at a pawn shop for $600. The pawn broker was ready to shoot me dead if I tried to steal it. When I paid him the $600 he was asking, he got teary eyed, ransacked his back room for a jewelry box, admitted he would have taken $550 because he could tell I am a good man, and promised that she would have no choice but to marry me in the face of that sparkling gem. It is a thing of beauty, no doubt.

Diamonds are plentiful and relatively indestructible. The second hand market is glutted with diamonds that no one wants because, without the sentimental value, they are comparatively cheap. Oil is not like that. Once it is consumed it exists only as a cloud of excrement. Our collective cloud of excrement has become a life-threatening problem as a result of economic forces set in motion by the General Motors streetcar conspiracy, in which five companies were convicted of conspiring to destroy electric-powered mass transit in favor of oil-powered transportation. Continue reading

Monticello_Reflection

Land of the free, be brave.

Monticello_Reflection

photo credit commons.wikimedia.org

I am a proud Democrat. I think the Democratic Party started with a Virginia planter and Renaissance man named Thomas Jefferson. I am not proud of TJ for owning slaves. Slavery is an abomination, the antithesis of everything for which the Democratic Party stands. Jefferson himself was an abolitionist, describing slavery as holding “a wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go.” He also believed that emancipation would result in a large scale race war which would destroy America, his beloved experiment in liberty.

I believe otherwise. I believe that if one allows a man to stop being a wolf and become a fellow Renaissance man, he will do exactly that. I believe this has been proven time and again during the intervening centuries. I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the Communist Party. I have read Max Weber. I understand that every moment is valuable, not only in the present, but also for the fruits it may bear, properly invested, in the future. Continue reading

Wage_stagnation

American Exceptionalism: It’s the economy, stupid

Wage_stagnation

Image courtesy of Pew Research

My grandfather was a union-buster at Hanes Dye and Finishing Company in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He got his degree on the GI bill after World War Two and worked his way up through the company, all the way to executive vice-president. He was one promotion away from the presidency. He could have made Hanes Dye the best chemical company in the world. Instead they made him the straw boss. Continue reading

church is open for prayer need to rap come downstairs

Baltimore uprising: food deserts, gas deserts and why the media has it wrong on Freddie Gray

church is open for prayer need to rap come downstairsI took a bunch of rich kids to Baltimore in July of last year. We stayed at The Center, a fortified compound on the property of First & Franklin Presbyterian Church. My primary job was to keep the kids safe. I learned the access codes and the panic buttons. I learned which doors not to open, should anyone knock on them. I learned about the gates, a containment cage designed to prevent my empathy from endangering my fellow Christians.

I also learned about food deserts. Basically, a food desert is an urban environment in which the food is far away and the people have no reliable transport. Forget cars, the buses don’t circulate in the poor sections of Baltimore. We waited for two hours. Some empathetic locals emerged from their possibly condemned town house to warn us that the bus wasn’t coming and that we, positive vibes be damned, should be long gone before the sun went down. There is a metro station less than a mile away, downhill. Get going, children. Continue reading

Renewable-Journal-1

An electric car means partial immunity to gas prices – Renewable Journal for 10/18/2014

My Nissan Leaf means that I don’t really care much what gas prices do. It’ll be a good day when most people have this same freedom.

For more posts in this series, please click here.

I was listening to NPR yesterday when a story about dropping gas prices came on. The reporter interviewed a couple of people filling up at a gas station and they, quite understandably, loved that gas prices were going down. While I was thinking about the story and how falling gas prices are not the good thing that the reporter indicated they were (more on that another time), I had an “electric car moment.”

I realized that gas prices don’t matter to me, at least not directly. Continue reading

CATEGORY: Guns

Guns, knives, pit bulls and the new Gallup poll

CATEGORY: GunsThis morning I walked past a man about my age, sixty, who was wearing camouflage and a fatigue-style cap. He had two Bowie knives on his belt and was walking a ferocious-looking pit bull that had to weigh eighty pounds.

My immediate thought was, “Who’s this guy and what’s he afraid of?”

Who knows? Maybe he’s got good reason to be afraid. Maybe he’s in witness protection and the Mafia just put his home address up on their Facebook page. Or he just started a Salman Rushdie fan club. Or he’s a disguised federal prosecutor from Texas.

But I doubt it. I suspect he’s an extreme example of a surprisingly large group of people who are paranoid, perhaps not in clinical psychological terms, but in a not-quite-right sort of way. He’s obviously afraid of something, and whatever it is might show up at any minute on a quiet residential street in a nice small town like Bloomington, Indiana.

I’ve spent much of my life around poor and poorly educated white people and have met many folks who remind me of this guy. I’ve had them proudly pull handguns out from under their car seats and when I asked why they needed guns in their cars, the generic answer is they want to be ready in case somebody “messes with them.”

Who are the somebodies that’re going to mess with them, I always wonder?

I’ve asked that, too.

Sometimes the answer is enemies of the U.S. It’s hard to see how Muslims, or Russians, or Mexican cartels are going to mount an attack in the U.S., especially in central Indiana, but it’s always possible I suppose. No doubt those Bowie knives will scare a Spetsnaz or mujahedeen with an AK-47 right back to whatever unpronounceable place they came from.

Sometimes the answer is the government. However, most of the paranoid people I know are right-wingers. If the government helicopters ever do come, it’s far more likely they will have Christian crosses on the side and be coming not for righties, but rather for lefties like me. The great victory of the Nixon Youth has proven not to be a successful ideology that won most Americans over to their way of thinking, but rather a concerted and successful plan to infiltrate and take over the U.S. military. Motto: If we can’t convince ‘em, we can still kill ‘em.

Sometimes it’s their neighbors who might mess with them. This isn’t so silly a fear. According to the FBI, there are over a million violent crimes per year in the U.S. That means on average, a citizen has a one in 300 chance of being assaulted, raped or murdered each year, which says that one in four people will be assaulted, raped or murdered in their lifetimes. Now, of course, most of the people being assaulted tend to be young minority men in urban areas, not college-educated white people who live in the suburbs. But the man with the pit bull didn’t look well-to-do, and it’s entirely possible he lives in one of those neighborhoods.

Sometimes it’s people of color who will invade their homes in the night. According to hot-off-the-shelf Gallup data, 43% of Americans own and keep a gun in the home (I’m one of them.) Of these, 67% own one for self-protection (I’m not one of them.) Obviously, there’s a real fear here. Perhaps In Cold Blood scared the shit out an entire generation. It’s hard to say how real the perceived home invasion threat is. There are no reliable statistics on how many occur each year. Violent home invasions are probably relatively rare. But they happen and they are horrible. When they do happen, it’s usually to the poor and vulnerable. My mother was the victim of a violent home invasion by a man of color.

So the guy with the knives could be afraid of lots of things. Mujahedeen. The government. Neighbors. Strangers that come in the night.

Or not. I suspect President Obama had it right back in 2008. What people like the man I saw walking his dog really have to fear is that the world is leaving them behind. They lack the skills and education to catch up. The world economy is messing with them, it ain’t gonna stop, and they should be afraid. They can’t easily buy cheap protection against economic trends, so they arm themselves in the ways they can. They cling to defenses they know against threats they don’t.

I once worked on a dredge in Louisiana, a mammoth crane on a barge that dug canals through the delta. The digging was done by what’s known as a clam bucket which hangs by thick wire ropes from a boom. The bucket had two inch thick steel walls and was eight feet tall and big enough to put a half-dozen men in.

One day the bucket took a big mouthful of dirt and water and snagged a muskrat. The small animal was caught by one leg, and it hung there suspended fifty feet in the air, frantically trying to push open the bucket with its other foot. Kenneth, the operator, opened the bucket and let it go. He laughed about it for weeks, the idea of a muskrat trying to outmuscle a giant machine. He’d mimic the muskrat, contorting his face and imitating the animal’s frantic efforts.

Of course, if you’re a muskrat, and some giant force from the sky suddenly grabs you in massive steel jaws, you have to bite and push, because that’s all you know to do.

If you’re poor, you buy knives and pit bulls.

Go green, vote blue

A few weeks ago, my friend Katie Della Terza, who writes an eco-friendly lifestyle blog called Shades of Green, asked me to write a blog entry on why progressive and environmentally-conscious voters should vote for Barack Obama this election, and why people should concern themselves with environmental issues this year.

To be honest, there weren’t that many people talking about the environment and our effect on it until Hurricane Sandy ripped through the East Coast this week. In political terms, talking about climate change doesn’t win votes – and it usually gets swept under the rug in favor of more voter-friendly campaign ideas. Every debate series since Jimmy Carter’s election has had a question about the environment, and climate change – until this election cycle.

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Paul Ryan: stock right wing VP hitman


By Robert Becker

Nothing bold, visionary, or adventurous here: the knee-jerk right winger in spades.

Whether you responded with shock, surprise or delight to his V.P. pick, Mitt Romney delivered no bombshell with Paul Ryan. Au contraire. The briefest survey confirms “going hard right V.P.” typifies the modern era for the Gruesome Old Party. That Romney the Null and Void would pick an extreme partisan to shore up his skeptical base was inevitable: lock up the sheeple who trust super-rich Mitt even less than they did Dole, Dubya or that old guy enamored with the Palin.

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America's immigration "problem" is "solved" (a story with heavy implications)

You may have noticed this story in the Wall St. Journal several days ago:

Tide Turns on Border Crossing
– Number of Immigrants Arriving From Mexico Now Equaled by Those Going Home

Net migration from Mexico has plummeted to zero thanks to changing demographic and economic conditions on both sides of the border, a new study says, even as political battles over illegal immigration heat up and the issue heads to the U.S. Supreme Court. Continue reading

If I wanted America to fail…

On Earth Day (which was Sunday – keep up) the inchoately titled Free Market America … er, foundation, released a video entitled, “If I wanted America to fail” in which they tackle the knotty subject of climate change and carbon pricing through the medium of a patronising preppie grossly oversimplifying a complex problem.

No, please, go ahead and watch:

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Michigan rep. introduces a stimulus bill for the rest of us: the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012

Back in 2007, as I was thinking about my little Dr. Sammy in 2008/EdF1rst project, I conceived a heresy. It went like this: What would happen if, as a massive economic stimulus, you forgave all outstanding student loan debt in America?

I knew from experience the impact that loan debt has on consumer spending. You have, at this point, a couple of generations who can’t afford to spend (or save) in service to the debt racked up getting their degrees (degrees, which, by the way, didn’t position them to pay off that debt in anything like a timely manner). My generation is and will continue to be underwater. The Millennials are well and truly fucked in ways that us Xers couldn’t have imagined in the 1980s. Continue reading

War. On. Everything: the Republican prescription for America isn't safe for anyone

[NSFW WARNING: Graphic content. You do NOT want to see the images here, but I think maybe you should.]

I’ve been wanting to write something deep, something analytical, something based on solid policy on the subject of the Republican war on everything, especially women and the poor, and just haven’t been able to do it. Why? Simple. There’s just too damned much material. I’m only one writer. I have but so many resources. I know only but so much, don’t have the experience, and have a list of excuses longer than Ron Jeremy’s arm. Besides, there are already millions and millions of dollars being poured into generating tons and tons of perfectly rational, articulate reasons why government needs to fund little things like health care for women and the poor, why government needs to regulate everything from what may be pumped into the air we breathe to the rapacious behaviors of bankers and power brokers.

Words. Words. Words. Continue reading

Nota Bene #123: Behold the Chickenosaurus

“There ought to be limits to freedom.” Who said it? Continue reading

What can your country do for you?

A President Who Reads

A President Who Reads

In a recent White House email, with “You Tell Me” in the subject line, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Nancy-Ann De Parle sent out an open request for ideas on ways the President can put Americans back to work without waiting for Congressional approval. Since Congress has refused to offer the President anything but hate-speech since the Koch Party took over, opening a dialogue with the American people directly seems like a reasonable strategy. Here’s what I suggested: Continue reading

Nota Bene #122: OWStanding

“When I lie on the beach there naked, which I do sometimes, and I feel the wind coming over me and I see the stars up above and I am looking into this very deep, indescribable night, it is something that escapes my vocabulary to describe. Then I think: ‘God, I have no importance. Whatever I do or don’t do, or what anybody does, is not more important than the grains of sand that I am lying on, or the coconut that I am using for my pillow.'” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #121: Birds of an Ancient Feather

“Television is an invention whereby you can be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn’t have in your house.” Who said it? The answer is at the end of this post. Now on to the links! Continue reading