Thursday, September 30, 2010

Creating wealth for the wealthy

This report appeared in the Philanthropy News Digest and suggest that the wealthy in the U. S. receive numerous hidden benefits, many obvious and some not so obvious to the uninformed.  Certainly, the source of the report is well-respected and the basis of the information grounded in solid research and investigation.  Not something we're likely to hear about on the Sunday morning talk shows this week.  Have you noticed, no one seems to talk about "the poor,"  those folks who live in and struggle with poverty. 

Study Finds Federal Asset-Building Programs Reward the Rich, Penalize the Poor
Posted on September 24, 2010

The federal government spent nearly $400 billion in fiscal year 2009 to help people save money and build wealth, but the vast majority of the money went to the nation's richest taxpayers, a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Corporation for Enterprise Development finds.

According to the report, Upside Down: America's $400 Billion Federal Asset-Building Budget  (26 pages, PDF), the top 1 percent of families received an average of $95,000 in assistance last year, while families making $100,000 annually received $1,600, and the poorest received less than $5. The inequitable distribution is all but invisible, the report found, because the wealth-building strategies are tucked into the federal tax code — as deductions, credits, and preferential rates — rather than in the government's annual discretionary budget, where they would receive more scrutiny.

By embedding asset-building strategies into the tax code as deductions and exclusions, the federal government naturally favors those who bear the heaviest tax burden. Indeed, the wealthiest 1 percent of taxpayers received 45 percent of the federal asset budget while contributing just 27 percent of total tax revenue. Policies that depend on direct outlays in the annual budget, including the Assets for Independence program, which provides matched-savings accounts for low-income families, have proven successful in encouraging savings, homeownership, and business startups. Yet, because they are visible, such programs often become fodder for partisan political battles.

"If we are serious about cutting the deficit, Congress could start by trimming these upside-down subsidies and creating a more equitable approach," said CFED president Andrea Levere. "As Congress debates whether to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy and the president's fiscal commission develops recommendations to balance the federal budget, they should remember that we could shave $1 trillion off the deficit in the next decade simply by capping some of these benefits."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Truth and lies

“The lie of poverty speaks with abuse.

The truth protects.

The lie ignores.

The truth listens.

The lie criticizes.

The truth praises.”

from Compassion International

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Prison costs and judicial wisdom

This article appeared in The New York Times on September 18, 2010.  Another result of the recession. 

Working with men, women and youth here in inner city Dallas has taught me that for many offenses prison is not the best solution.  As a matter of fact, prison, at least the way we do it in Texas, often makes things worse for everyone.  And, it cost us all an arm and a leg and one life after another harvested out of already weakened communities.  I'm not talking about violent crimes here or sexual crimes.  For the most part, I am talking about how we handle addicts and users. 

Read the article and consider the "cost benefit" analysis that seems to be at work in the concept.  Then, tell me what you think.

Missouri Tells Judges Cost of Sentences

Published: September 18, 2010

ST. LOUIS — When judges here sentence convicted criminals, a new and unusual variable is available for them to consider: what a given punishment will cost the State of Missouri.

For someone convicted of endangering the welfare of a child, for instance, a judge might now learn that a three-year prison sentence would run more than $37,000 while probation would cost $6,770. A second-degree robber, a judge could be told, would carry a price tag of less than $9,000 for five years of intensive probation, but more than $50,000 for a comparable prison sentence and parole afterward. The bill for a murderer’s 30-year prison term: $504,690.

Legal experts say no other state systematically provides such information to judges, a practice put into effect here last month by the state’s sentencing advisory commission, an appointed board that offers guidance on criminal sentencing.

The practice has touched off a sharp debate. It has been lauded nationally by a disparate group of defense lawyers and fiscal conservatives, who consider it an overdue tool that will force judges to ponder alternatives to prison more seriously.

But critics — prosecutors especially — dismiss the idea as unseemly. They say that the cost of punishment is an irrelevant consideration when deciding a criminal’s fate and that there is a risk of overlooking the larger social costs of crime.

“Justice isn’t subject to a mathematical formula,” said Robert P. McCulloch, the prosecuting attorney for St. Louis County.

The intent behind the cost estimates, he said, is transparent: to pressure judges, in the face of big bills, into sending fewer people to prison.

To read the entire story click here.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


If you are interested in considering the impact of Fundamentalism on American life and thought today, a good place to begin would be the pulpit of Dr. John Fiedler at First United Methodist Church, Dallas

Click here to go to the "Video Archives" and select the messages on Sunday, September 12 (A Covenant of Grace) and September 19, 2010 (Prayer and Mediation). 

Interesting, balanced, thoughtful. 


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Owen in goal

Few things are as entertaining as youth soccer, especially when the players are 4-years-old! Here's a clip from my grandson Owen's match this morning. What a player in goal!

Steve Berg: What ending homelessness looks like

Steve Berg blogs. 

Here's one he titled, "What ending homelessness looks like." 

She’s not going to be homeless, even though her boyfriend beat her and disappeared with her money. Even though her job disappeared next, she and her babies had to move in with her mom, and now her mom’s boyfriend wants them out.

She’s not going to be homeless because the domestic violence counselor sent over a woman who mediated, found some places that were hiring, contacted a new day care center, connected her with a different landlord, and paid the security deposit and her storage bill.

She’s not going to be homeless.

She’s going to unwrap the dishes. On one of the newspapers she’s using there’s a story about The Last Homeless Person in America. She laughs, thinking, “That could have been me.” She’ll have to read it later.

He’s not going to be homeless even though he came back from overseas and couldn’t talk to anybody. Even though his girlfriend, his boss, his friends and parents all made him so furious he couldn’t be around them.

He’s not going to be homeless because the last time the doorbell rang, he let in the Veterans Affairs officer – a man who had rung twice before. Before he was ready. He’s not going to be homeless because the VA officer showed him how the Department of Veterans Affairs could help him – with job programs, benefits, landlord assistance, even a rent voucher if he can’t get work right away.

He’s not going to be homeless. He’s going to explore his options with the VA. Before he left, the VA officer showed him a newspaper clip entitled, The Last Homeless Person in America. He told him that not so long ago, tens of thousands of veterans would return from abroad only to live on the streets. “But no more,” he said. “’I will never leave a fallen comrade’ means that if it means anything.”

To read the entire post click here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tweet from Cornel West

Cornel West (@CornelWest)

9/21/10 10:50 AM

"We've allowed the souls of our young people to grow emptier, our schools have become a disgrace, & our communities shattered."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Press Release: Love Downtown? Live Downtown!

City Walk @ Akard Offers Opportunity for High Quality, Affordable Housing

Apartments in the heart of downtown, conveniently located near transportation, business, and entertainment are now available, offering a unique opportunity to live downtown, where residents can enjoy high rise living without the high prices.

Dallas, TX., September 21, 2010 --- City Walk @Akard is more than a recently renovated 15-story apartment building. It is a unique opportunity – an opportunity for moderate income wage earners to have a convenient, new apartment home set in the heart of downtown – an opportunity to live in a historic building that offers many of the same amenities found in upscale, urban high-rises but at a range of affordable prices.

Marble lobbies welcome residents and guests. A 24-hour doorman and on-site management provide worry-free living. City Walk @ Akard provides fun with an on-site activity director and a community room complete with organized youth activities, a fitness center, library, computer room, game room and music sound room.

Available now, loft-style apartments are being offered by Central Dallas Community Development Corporation, Central Dallas Ministries’ nonprofit, housing developer. “Central Dallas CDC's goal is to bring beautiful, sustainable design to housing for people at any income level,” explained John Greenan, Executive Director at City Walk. Units come furnished with appliances, stainless steel lighting fixtures, painted accent walls, cabinets, and polished floors, plus free WiFi access and on-site laundry facilities. Electricity, Heat/ & Air conditioning are included in rent. Most apartments have spectacular views of the Dallas skyline!

City Walk @ Akard has easy access to all major thoroughfares and is a short walk to the DART Rail and all public transportation. According to Andrew Fortunato, executive consultant to City Walk, “affordable housing is an asset to residents and our community.” Residents can enjoy downtown shopping, dining and entertainment all right outside their “front door”. For those individuals who work downtown or who are looking to live close to transportation, City Walk offers convenience and affordability.

City Walk is more than an opportunity to live in a beautiful high-rise building. It is an opportunity to “move-up”! To learn more about all that City Walk has to offer, go to or call 214.468-8826.

# # # #

For more information on contents of this release, please contact: Lou Ann York 214.343.1599 or

Civil courts and the poor

Central Dallas Ministries offers free and sliding scale legal services to low-income individuals and families in our Legal Action Works Center (commonly known as "The LAW Center").  Our four full-time attorneys work through 25-300 cases annually.  Over 80% of the cases we take involve family law matters.  Much of what we do relates to protecting very vulnerable women and children.  Click on link to the LAW Center to watch video on our legal work. 

Most people don't think about the fact that poor folks have very little access to legal counsel on civil matters.  I was reminded of the vital nature of this part of what we do at CDM by this note from the University of North Carolina Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity and the UNC Pro Bono Program regarding a conversation they offered the public:

Poor People's Justice: Denying Access in Civil Cases

It is widely estimated that 80% of the legal needs of the poor people in the U.S. go unmet. Unlike criminal cases, where poor defendants are appointed an attorney, there is no constitutional right to counsel in civil cases. The choices for someone facing the legal system without representation are bleak and few: represent oneself without legal expertise, or forgo legal claims entirely, sometimes with dire consequences.

I'm grateful for our LAW Center and its important work.  Ironically, it is one of our initiatives that is very hard to fund annually, but its impact is enormous in the lives of those we represent.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Embrey Family Foundation and Human Rights

The story below appeared in The Daily Campus, the student newspaper at Southern Methodist University.  It reports on the groundbreaking work of the Embrey Family Foundation in estabishing the Chair of Human Rights at SMU. 

My dad and Lindsay Embrey were business partners for over 40 years in Richardson.  The investment of the foundation in this sort of work inspires me.  The Embrey Family Foundation made a catalytic investment in the development of the "Opportunity Center" that Central Dallas Ministries is developing at Malcolm X and I-30 to the tune of a $1,000,000 program related investment.  . 

Enjoy the story!

Embrey expands program
By JESSICA HUSEMAN, Editor-in-Chief,
Published: Friday, September 10, 2010

The Embrey Human Rights program expanded into new offices in Clements Hall this year and is now the fastest growing program at SMU, thanks to the donation from the Embrey Family Foundation. .

In an interview with The Daily Campus, Lauren Embrey explained that her inspiration for facilitating the million-dollar donation was Professor Rick Halperin’s History of Human Rights class, which she took while pursuing her Master’s degree at SMU.

“I learned that information, and I knew I had an excellent, amazing education, and I knew that you’ve never heard of any of this information before. That was really the catalyst,” Embrey said.

At the conclusion of the course, Embrey decided to go on the course’s annual trip to visit death-camp sites in Poland with Halperin and bring her two sons, both freshmen at the time–one in high school and one in college.

“I don’t think they really knew what to expect,” Embrey said, whose sons were extremely receptive to the idea of spending their winter holiday on the trip.

“We spent Christmas together, the snowy Polish Christmas, traveling in a bus to different concentration and death-camp sites,” Embrey said. “It was a profound experience to be there and to feel the energy of these places. It gets you at a pretty deep level.”

As soon as she returned from the trip, Embrey set the wheels in motion to expand the Human Rights Program through the help of her family’s foundation. She set up a meeting with her sister Gale Embrey, Halperin and Pat Davis to discuss its expansion.

Once they had mapped out their vision, Embrey brought the idea to the Embrey Family Foundation’s Board of Directors, which quickly approved her suggestion.

“We have a very, very supportive board that understands our vision and what we want to do,” Embrey said. “So it passed through rather quickly.”

Four years later, the program has become a mainstay on the SMU campus. Embrey believes that the program fills a gap left open by the educational system. “In a sense, it was, ‘how dare my educational system think that they don’t have to give me this information, and that this information isn’t important to me as a human being,’” Embrey said.

She said the program is the perfect way to address the need for more education on human rights and that the applied version of classroom learning used by Halperin is the best way to meet this need.

“Sitting and reading a book is fine,” Embrey said. “But when you actually experience something on top of that, it compounds it and reinforces it and makes it stronger.”

Embrey wants the program to continue to expand and to become more integrated into the SMU student body.

Lauren Embrey’s father, Lindsay Embrey, founded the Embrey Family Foundation in 2004, and its original goal didn’t necessarily include the promotion of human rights.

"Dad was always big in education, and we believe that as well, and we have held to that,” Embrey said. “He pretty much formed it and left it to Gale and I to decide its direction.”

That organization has become a human rights-focused foundation which funds human rights education opportunities into which the SMU Human Rights Program fits neatly.

Embrey says she is thankful that expanding the program has been a relatively easy process. She says that the administration and the staff at SMU have been welcoming of her ideas, and she is confident that, with their help, the program will continue to improve and expand.

“We are just really grateful that it is a partnership, and that people understand our vision and are with us on it,” Embrey said.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Texas poverty growing. . .

This press release came on Thursday, September 16, 2010 from the Texas Food Bank Network:

Census: 17.3% of Texans Live in Poverty

2.5% Increase in Child Poverty Demands Action, Say Advocates

New Census data released this morning revealed that 4,262,000 Texans (17.3%), including 1,774,000 children (25.6%), lived under the federal poverty line in 2009. These new numbers represent a 1.4% rise in poverty statewide, and a 2.5% jump in child poverty over the previous year.

The sharp rise in child poverty comes at a time when Congress is considering legislation, known as the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, that would feed more hungry children.

“If these numbers don’t convey a sense of urgency, I don’t know what will,” said JC Dwyer, State Policy Director of the Texas Food Bank Network. “We need Congress to act now to ensure that all our children have access to basic nutrition as they learn and grow.”

In 2009, the poverty line for a family of four in Texas was $22,050. Research has shown that growing up in persistent poverty poses high risks to child health and development, particularly when children are faced with malnutrition.

The legislation under debate would strengthen the nation’s most successful child nutrition programs, including school meals, summer meals and after-school snacks. However, advocates are concerned that legislators may try to offset the cost of improvements by cutting other programs for the poor, notably SNAP (aka food stamps).

“Clearly, now is not the time to divest in the institutions we’ve created to address these problems,” said Dwyer, referencing both federal and state programs. “We need them now more than ever.”

The Texas Food Bank Network provides a unified voice among nineteen food banks in support of a common mission to end hunger in Texas. Follow breaking news, commentary and analysis at

Monday, September 20, 2010


For several years we've been working to promote passage of the Develop-ment, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM. Act) which would grant legal status to children of undocumented immigrants who entered the U. S. with their parents as minors. 

A new twist in the proposed bill's current status involved the U. S. Department of Defense.  Pentagon leaders have included the DREAM Act in their latest strategic plan for military operations.  To see the plan go here, paying particular attention to section 2.1.1. 

Senate Majority Leader Reid will bring up the DREAM Act as an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill this week. The amendment needs the support from Texas Senators, since 12 percent of individuals who will benefit from the DREAM Act live in Texas. Senator Hutchison's vote is crucial to make the DREAM Act a reality. Possibly now that the U. S. Military has documented its support for the bill, even Senator Cornyn might be convinced. 

Julieta Garibay, who holds a Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Texas added, "Senator Hutchison knows the right thing to do. She voted with us in 2007, and we ask her to vote with us again on Tuesday."

If you live in Texas, call Senator Hutchison (202-224-5922) and Senator Cornyn (202-224-2934) to express your support.  If you live outside Texas, call your two senators today as well.  You'll  find their phone numbers here.

For a helpful summary of the DREAM Act and its importance in American life check out this editorial in the Silicon Valley Mercury News published on September 16, 2010.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Strange "holiness" for 2010

"The Gospel of Christ knows no religion but social, no holiness but social holiness... You cannot be holy except as you are engaged in making the world a better place. You do not become holy by keeping yourself pure and clean from the world but by plunging into ministry on behalf of the world's hurting ones."

--John Wesley, Preface, Hymns and Sacred Poems, 1739

Friday, September 17, 2010

Student apathy and national leadership. . .

Here's an interesting op-ed essay from Thomas Friedman that appeared last weekend in The New York Times.  As usual, Friedman presents a unique take on the failure of American public education and the place of the nation in world affairs as a result.  Tell me what you think.

We’re No. 1(1)!

Published: September 11, 2010

I want to share a couple of articles I recently came across that, I believe, speak to the core of what ails America today but is too little discussed. The first was in Newsweek under the ironic headline “We’re No. 11!” The piece, by Michael Hirsh, went on to say: “Has the United States lost its oomph as a superpower? Even President Obama isn’t immune from the gloom. ‘Americans won’t settle for No. 2!’ Obama shouted at one political rally in early August. How about No. 11? That’s where the U.S.A. ranks in Newsweek’s list of the 100 best countries in the world, not even in the top 10.”

The second piece, which could have been called “Why We’re No. 11,” was by the Washington Post economics columnist Robert Samuelson. Why, he asked, have we spent so much money on school reform in America and have so little to show for it in terms of scalable solutions that produce better student test scores? Maybe, he answered, it is not just because of bad teachers, weak principals or selfish unions.

“The larger cause of failure is almost unmentionable: shrunken student motivation,” wrote Samuelson. “Students, after all, have to do the work. If they aren’t motivated, even capable teachers may fail. Motivation comes from many sources: curiosity and ambition; parental expectations; the desire to get into a ‘good’ college; inspiring or intimidating teachers; peer pressure. The unstated assumption of much school ‘reform’ is that if students aren’t motivated, it’s mainly the fault of schools and teachers.” Wrong, he said. “Motivation is weak because more students (of all races and economic classes, let it be added) don’t like school, don’t work hard and don’t do well. In a 2008 survey of public high school teachers, 21 percent judged student absenteeism a serious problem; 29 percent cited ‘student apathy.’ ”

There is a lot to Samuelson’s point — and it is a microcosm of a larger problem we have not faced honestly as we have dug out of this recession: We had a values breakdown. . . .

To read on click here

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Labor and income in Texas

Labor Day report of interest from the Center for Public Policy Priorities.

As Texans celebrate Labor Day, new numbers show their personal income loses ground to other states

Recent data on personal income and per capita personal income released by the Bureau of Economic Statistics (BEA) demonstrates the devastating effects of the recession on Americans across the country, especially in Texas where per capita personal income fell from a rank of 26 to 29 in the United States. Despite a 2 percent population increase in Texas between 2008 and 2009, total personal income declined by 1.6 percent to $904.2 billion. Although Texas had a lower unemployment rate (8.2 percent) compared to the national average (9.7 percent), per capita personal income in the state declined faster than the national rate. Twenty-one out of the 25 Texas metro areas (MSA) experienced declines in per capita personal income. Statewide, the decline in per capita personal income has been most pronounced in the larger MSAs during the recession. The data also indicate the role of unemployment insurance (UI) as an income stabilizer. Without the state UI program and federal UI extensions, per capita income would have fallen as much as 4 percent in 2009.

Read more here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Economy forces families to streets

Sunday, September 12, 2010, The New York Times reported on what we are seeing every day here in Dallas and across the nation.  Times are tough for families.  Central Dallas Ministries (CDM) has been involved in engaging an increasing number of families in danger of becoming homeless, more families this year than any year in our history. 

The City of Dallas received funding from the federal stimulus program to bring the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program to the community.  CDM, thanks to our effectiveness in getting the housing dollars out, recently received a second allocation of funds to help pay rent and utilities for families in distress. 

Here's the Times report: 

Number of Families in Shelters Rises
DENCE, R.I. — For a few hours at the mall here this month, Nick Griffith, his wife, Lacey Lennon, and their two young children got to feel like a regular family again.

Never mind that they were just killing time away from the homeless shelter where they are staying, or that they had to take two city buses to get to the shopping center because they pawned one car earlier this year and had another repossessed, or that the debit card Ms. Lennon inserted into the A.T.M. was courtesy of the state’s welfare program.

They ate lunch at the food court, browsed for clothes and just strolled, blending in with everyone else out on a scorching hot summer day. “It’s exactly why we come here,” Ms. Lennon said. “It reminds us of our old life.”

For millions who have lost jobs or faced eviction in the economic downturn, homelessness is perhaps the darkest fear of all. In the end, though, for all the devastation wrought by the recession, a vast majority of people who have faced the possibility have somehow managed to avoid it.

Nevertheless, from 2007 through 2009, the number of families in homeless shelters — households with at least one adult and one minor child — leapt to 170,000 from 131,000, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

With long-term unemployment ballooning, those numbers could easily climb this year. Late in 2009, however, states began distributing $1.5 billion that has been made available over three years by the federal government as part of the stimulus package for the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, which provides financial assistance to keep people in their homes or get them back in one quickly if they lose them.

More than 550,000 people have received aid, including more than 1,800 in Rhode Island, with just over a quarter of the money for the program spent so far nationally, state and federal officials said.

To read the entire report click here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Coffee diplomacy. . .

Most problems between and among people lose a bit of their edge once folks become acquainted.  Possibly that common sense reality is what we've been leaving out of the current debate on the development of permanent supportive housing for our homeless neighbors. 

And, I am as guilty as anyone on this one.  When I heard that another community task force had been appointed to work on the "problem," my cynicism kicked in prematurely. 

Shame on me!

The result of City Council Member Dave Neumann's appointed work group has been encouraging to say the least.  Clearly, the group set about the tough business of addressing a community crisis in a most creative and pro-active manner.

My hat is off to everyone concerned. 

The following editorial appeared in Tuesday's (9-14-10) edition of The Dallas Morning News.  Take a moment to read about the power of a good cup of coffee and getting to know new folks.

Editorial: A good book and cup of coffee to help mend wounds

Trust, frankly, did not exist. Bad blood doesn't begin to describe it. When the Dallas Housing Authority and The Bridge quietly tried to relocate dozens of formerly homeless people from Dallas' downtown assistance shelter into Cliff Manor, a north Oak Cliff high-rise, angry accusations poisoned the atmosphere.

Despite community protests from several Cliff Manor neighbors, 50 apartments were set aside for the formerly homeless.

But instead of the hard feelings one might expect, a community task force appointed by City Council member David Neumann is helping the new residents meld into Oak Cliff life. The approach includes a "good neighbor agreement" and a nonprofit organization to operate a coffee shop, bookstore and employment training.

Cynics among us might not expect this idea to make much of a difference, but our hope is that it can bring together north Oak Cliff residents and their new Cliff Manor neighbors in a true sense of community. This model could prove especially important as the housing authority moves forward with plans to place formerly homeless people across Dallas.

People who have struggled on the street with mental illness and addiction must feel secure and welcome again in neighborhoods. And by getting to know our new neighbors, the rest of us can learn that many of those who have fallen on hard times can make it back, with a little help.

Yes, it's a learning process for everyone, but it's one that offers great promise for rebuilding lives and neighborhoods in small, meaningful ways.

On "staying foolish". . .

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become…stay hungry, stay foolish.

Steve Jobs

Monday, September 13, 2010

Poverty and education

Eric Jensen has something to say about education and low-income children.  Jensen outlines his learning and approach in his book, Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids' Brains and What Schools Can Do About It

Jensen really "gets it" when it comes to understanding the very real, day-to-day dynamics assoicated with poverty.  Children and families face challenges and difficulties that most of us simply do not understand.  Jensen's research and experience provide enlightenment and insight for anyone interested in really understanding the world of the poor.  Every urban public school teacher or leader needs to listen to Jensen. 

Jensen's understanding leads to hope, not dispair. 

He speaks to "changing brains for the better."  He outlines "upside potential" for children from poor families. 

If you care about public education, you need to spend some time with Eric Jensen. 

To meet Jensen and to listen to his ideas click .

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ghandi's worldview

Mahatma Gandhi listed Seven Deadly Social Sins that he considered to be most spiritually damaging to humanity. This list is more relevant today than when he wrote it more than a half century ago, don't you think?

Here's the sins he identified as most heinous:

Politics without principle.

Commerce without morality.

Science without humanity.

Knowledge without character.

Wealth without work.

Pleasure without conscience.

Worship without sacrifice.

Adequate substance for a Sunday reflection.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


About what do you worry? 

You know, the sort of stuff that keeps you awake or wakes you up at night. 

What's on that list for you?

I'm hoping your list is short and your anxiety level low.

But, we all worry. . .and there's lots about which to be concerned these days.

Of course, I have a very personal worry list that relates to my family, my friends, etc.  No need to go there, at least not here. 

Most of the list I have in mind today rises out of my day-to-day experiences in the community.

I worry about. . .

School children staying in school, not dropping out and then being prepared for higher education once they graduate high school. 

Parents who face a battle every day to keep their children and themselves fed, clothed, and housed.

Men, women and children who have no home to return to at night and little prospect of finding one.

People who want to work and can't find a job.

People who work very hard but don't earn a decent wage.

People who are very ill with no or limited access to the health care that they need. 

People who finally manage access to health care too late. 

Women and children who need protection from abusive and dangerous people and situations, often very close to home or at home.

Young people who want to go to college but can't.

Young folks who gravitate to the street and to gangs out of a sense of powerlessness and disconnection.

People who stand in line to receive food from us.

Keeping things moving and sustainable in my work world, a task that is harder and harder to accomplish.

Injustice in public policy matters, especially in regard to providing for the weak, the ill, the abandoned and the cast out and cast aside.

The responsibility of wealth, privilege and over arching advantage.

The erroneous perceptions and assumptions people operate out of when it comes to "the poor." 

Barriers between and among people that block communication and understanding.

Hate in the name of faith/God/religion.

Hopelessness that emerges from feeling left out.

People who receive limited respect or consideration in the normal course of daily life.

Blindness to racism.

Targets of racism.

The unrelieved grief of so many people who live in poverty. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Creativity and education

Dr. Janet Morrison, director of education at Central Dallas Ministries, continually preachs the gospel of children and creativity.  This notion of experiential education rests at the core of her work with the low-income children she loves so deeply.  Driving toward "creativity improvement" is her mission.

Janet sent me this article from the July 10. 2010 edition of Newsweek.  Worth your time.  Love to hear your reactions.

The Creativity Crisis

For the first time, research shows that American creativity is declining. What went wrong—and how we can fix it.

Back in 1958, Ted Schwarzrock was an 8-year-old third grader when he became one of the “Torrance kids,” a group of nearly 400 Minneapolis children who completed a series of creativity tasks newly designed by professor E. Paul Torrance. Schwarzrock still vividly remembers the moment when a psychologist handed him a fire truck and asked, “How could you improve this toy to make it better and more fun to play with?” He recalls the psychologist being excited by his answers. In fact, the psychologist’s session notes indicate Schwarzrock rattled off 25 improvements, such as adding a removable ladder and springs to the wheels. That wasn’t the only time he impressed the scholars, who judged Schwarzrock to have “unusual visual perspective” and “an ability to synthesize diverse elements into meaningful products.”

The accepted definition of creativity is production of something original and useful, and that’s what’s reflected in the tests. There is never one right answer. To be creative requires divergent thinking (generating many unique ideas) and then convergent thinking (combining those ideas into the best result).

In the 50 years since Schwarzrock and the others took their tests, scholars—first led by Torrance, now his colleague, Garnet Millar—have been tracking the children, recording every patent earned, every business founded, every research paper published, and every grant awarded. They tallied the books, dances, radio shows, art exhibitions, software programs, advertising campaigns, hardware innovations, music compositions, public policies (written or implemented), leadership positions, invited lectures, and buildings designed.

Nobody would argue that Torrance’s tasks, which have become the gold standard in creativity assessment, measure creativity perfectly. What’s shocking is how incredibly well Torrance’s creativity index predicted those kids’ creative accomplishments as adults. Those who came up with more good ideas on Torrance’s tasks grew up to be entrepreneurs, inventors, college presidents, authors, doctors, diplomats, and software developers. Jonathan Plucker of Indiana University recently reanalyzed Torrance’s data. The correlation to lifetime creative accomplishment was more than three times stronger for childhood creativity than childhood IQ.

Like intelligence tests, Torrance’s test—a 90-minute series of discrete tasks, administered by a psychologist—has been taken by millions worldwide in 50 languages. Yet there is one crucial difference between IQ and CQ scores. With intelligence, there is a phenomenon called the Flynn effect—each generation, scores go up about 10 points. Enriched environments are making kids smarter. With creativity, a reverse trend has just been identified and is being reported for the first time here: American creativity scores are falling.

Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary discovered this in May, after analyzing almost 300,000 Torrance scores of children and adults. Kim found creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990. Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward. “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant,” Kim says. It is the scores of younger children in America—from kindergarten through sixth grade—for whom the decline is “most serious.”

To read the entire article click here.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Hiding behind religion?

The thought has occurred to me often and increasingly that much of contemporary Christianity has become an elaborate system of ideas, experiences, traditions and ceremonies functioning as justification for American lifestyles and culture.  In a real sense, organized religion works to shield adherents from the radical values and expressed directives of Jesus.  Our lives have gone so far afield from what the founder championed and from the difficulty of real, devoted adherence to his seemingly near impossible demands. 

Our response?   We've fashioned a substitute or replacement religion that allows us to go on with our lives as they have been formed by our culture, while also inviting us to waiting for the next life to arrive. 

An irony is that embracing the protective substitute version of the faith is not limited to the well-to-do or even the middle class, but affects the underclass as well.  Media and marketing allow us all to believe that the rewards and certain outcomes of the American Dream will someday and soon be ours as well.  Embracing the gospel of the status quo sets us free to compartmentalize life into manageable sectors that may or may relate to one another at all. 

Countervailing voices to this mainstream, accepted accommodation get shouted down as "liberationists," "heretics," or worse.  Clearly, Jesus would not be accepted by much of the contemporary Christian community, just as he was rejected by the religious of his own day. 

Now comes conservative columnist, David Brooks whose words in an Op-Ed essay published on September 6, 2010 in The New York Times follow much the same train of thought. 

Tell me what  you think.

The Gospel of Wealth


Maybe the first decade of the 21st century will come to be known as the great age of headroom. During those years, new houses had great rooms with 20-foot ceilings and entire new art forms had to be invented to fill the acres of empty overhead wall space.

People bought bulbous vehicles like Hummers and Suburbans. The rule was, The Smaller the Woman, the Bigger the Car — so you would see a 90-pound lady in tennis whites driving a 4-ton truck with enough headroom to allow her to drive with her doubles partner perched atop her shoulders.

When future archeologists dig up the remains of that epoch, they will likely conclude that sometime around 1996, the U.S. was afflicted by a plague of claustrophobia and drove itself bankrupt in search of relief.

But that economy went poof, and social norms have since changed. The oversized now looks slightly ridiculous. Values have changed as well.

Today, savings rates are climbing and smart advertisers emphasize small-town restraint and respectability. The Tea Party movement is militantly bourgeois. It uses Abbie Hoffman means to get back to Norman Rockwell ends.

In the coming years of slow growth, people are bound to establish new norms and seek noneconomic ways to find meaning. One of the interesting figures in this recalibration effort is David Platt.

Platt earned two master’s degrees and a doctorate from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. At age 26, he was hired to lead a 4,300-person suburban church in Birmingham, Ala., and became known as the youngest megachurch leader in America.

Platt grew uneasy with the role he had fallen into and wrote about it in a recent book called “Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream.” It encapsulates many of the themes that have been floating around 20-something evangelical circles the past several years.

To read on click here.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Get Up and Give!

Today, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Central Dallas Ministries will take part in Get Up and Give! North Texas Giving Day. With hunger still a major problem in our community, we pledge to put every penny raised from today's effort into our hunger relief and nutrition programs.

Today only, every donation above $25 will be matched if you donate to us through, an online resource connecting donors with nonprofit organizations like Central Dallas Ministries.

Our goal is to inspire at least 200 individuals to donate at least $25 to this effort.

Please visit, today -- any time between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Search for Central Dallas Ministries and click “Donate Now.” Your donation will go far in helping us build genuine community in the inner city— plus every dollar given at any time during the day will receive a portion of $700,000+ in matching funds – making your dollars go even further.

Thank you for your support!

Britt: For-profit schools, a closer look

My partner at Central Dallas Ministries, Rev. Gerald Britt, VP of Public Policy and Community Program Development, published the following thoughtful Op-Ed piece in The Dallas Morning News last Wednesday, September 1, 2010. 

As always, Grerald's ideas deserve careful consideration. 

Gerald Britt: For-profit schools can be dead end for job seekers

Although there is truth in the maxim "education is the pathway out of poverty," all academic pathways are not equal. Working class and low-income adults are finding this out the hard way as they enroll in for-profit universities in record numbers. For-profit schools are privately owned or publicly traded academic institutions that promise career-focused curricula stripped of remediation and traditional liberal arts classes.

These schools advertise offers of licenses, certifications and degrees that can be obtained through easy admissions and flexible schedules, all paid for by government and private student loans. Many of the schools also hold out the prospect of job placement at graduation.

Many job seekers, including the unemployed and underemployed, want to increase their marketability with additional education. For-profit schools often appear to be a shorter route to this goal – with a bigger and more certain payoff than traditional post-secondary schools.

To read the entire essay click here.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

In the shadow of Downtown. . .

Dan Hopkins, the project manager on the Central Dallas Ministries' side for our new "Oppor-tunity Center," captured this image last Friday morning early.  The proximity of our new site to Downtown is striking. Located at the corner of Malcolm X and I-30, the new property sits on one of the strategic gateways into South Dallas.  The new facility will offer health, healing, nutrition, employment, training, community connections and hope to thousands.  Design is underway.  Demolition is about complete.  I love thinking about how this new development will help in the renewal of such an important part of our city.  We're looking for investors!  Join us!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Labor Day History

The history of Labor Day in the U. S. isn't understood by many people today, but it's worth remembering.  Here's what appears on the U. S. Department of Labor website regarding the history of the holiday.  Worth reading.

The History of Labor Day

Labor Day: How it Came About; What it Means

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Founder of Labor Day

More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."

But Peter McGuire's place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

The First Labor Day

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.

In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a "workingmen's holiday" on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

To read the entire essay click here.

Prayers for Labor Day

We are workers, God, just like you. But we confess that our work is not always done in a manner that affirms and honors each other. Our work is not always done in a spirit that is pleasing to you. We confess that, on some occasions, we have blindly bought goods made by people who are paid too little or work in unsafe conditions. We admit that we have failed to end an unjust system in which some workers have jobs that provide good wages, health insurance, sick leave, a pension, paid vacations, and other benefits, while others have jobs that do not.

Creator God, help us to build a new world out of the ashes of the old, a world where all workers are valued. One where those who clean houses are also able to buy houses to live in. A world where those who grow food can also afford to eat their fill. And one where those who serve us in stores, schools, nursing homes, and many other places are also served by us. It will be a world where all workers everywhere share in the abundance that you have given us.
Words of Assurance:

Our God is a God of grace and transformation. When we ask, God will give us the courage and strength to live out our faith in the workplace and the marketplace, as well as in the sanctuary.

UFW Prayer

Show me the suffering of the most miserable, so I may know my people’s plight.  Free me to pray for others, for you are present in every person.  Help me to take responsibility for my own life, so that I can be free at last.  Grant me courage to serve others, for in service there is true life.  Give me honesty and patience, so that I can work with other workers.  Bring forth song and celebration, so that the Spirit will be alive among us.
Let the Spirit flourish and grow, so that we will never tire of the struggle.  Let us remember those who have died for justice, for they have given us life.  Help us love even those who hate us, so we can change the world.


Sunday, September 05, 2010

Courage to speak up. . .

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute."

Proverbs 31:8 (New International Version)

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Her world

A couple of years ago my friend, Dr. Janet Morrison captured the image in the photo positioned as the masthead of this page. 

Janet was working on an assignment I gave her:  "Give me photos of 'the Dallas no one wants to see,' I had instructed her.  She came back with some amazing shots that we used in an educational presentation designed to awaken folks to the realities of poverty here in inner city Dallas, Texas.

But, back to the image that appears here every day. 

I find the photo haunting. 

Who is this little girl? 

I know she lives in South Dallas. 

I know the photo caught her looking out a broken shutter of an open window.  She seems to be waving, or possibly just moving her hand.  She appears to see Janet.

What kind of world does she deal with living in her ramshackle, old house? 

What does she face day-by-day? 

Where is she headed? 

Is she hungry? 

Is she safe?

Is she healthy?

Is she afraid? 

How about school. . .does she go? 

What does she see, dream and hope as she looks out at the outside world? 

What story can you read in her big, brown eyes? 

What surrounds her behind the surface of this image?  What is her "back story"?

The image calls me to wonder, to pray, to think, to work. 

Frankly, it's all about her. 

Friday, September 03, 2010

Futuristic Housing New Orleans Style

Back in the November 2009 issue of The Atlantic, Wayne Curtis offered a great report on housing renewal in New Orleans since Katrina.  Worth taking a look.  Could be lessons for the entire country. 

Reactions invited!

Houses of the Future

Four years after the levee failures, New Orleans is seeing an unexpected boom in architectural experimentation. Small, independent developers are succeeding in getting houses built where the government has failed. And the city's unique challenges—among them environmental impediments, an entrenched culture of leisure, and a casual acquaintance with regulation—are spurring design innovations that may redefine American architecture for a generation.

To read the entire essay click here.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Once proud vets. . . now homeless

James V. Carroll's article, "The Secretary's War on Homelessness," appearing in the August 2010 edition of The American Legion Magazine provides a useful overview of the current state of homeless persons who've served in the U. S. Military.  

Veteran's Administration Secretary Eric Shinseki vows to end homelessness among vets within five years, a very ambitious goal.  However, if the statistical trends reveal anything, there is reason to hope.  In 2010 it is estimated that there are 107,000 homeless veterans in the U. S., down 18% from 2009 and down from an estimated 195,000 in 2004. 

Shinseki will spend $3.2 billion during 2010 to continue to move the data in the right direction.  Of his pumped up budget, $2.7 billion will go to medical services.  Only $500 million will go to housing efforts, a mistake in my view.  Medical costs could actually be contained and driven down by the provision of permanent supportive housing, much like exercise and diet programs can have more impact on a person's health status than clinical medical approaches to chronic diseases. 

Consider these facts about U. S. Veterans who live on the streets of our nation:
  • 3% Homeless population who served in Iraq or Afghanistan
  • 20%  All homeless persons who served in military
  • 33% Adult homeless men who served in military
  • 550 Number of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who have been treated in VA-connected residential programs
  • 3,700 Number of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan in VA homeless-outreach programs
  • 56,000 Number of veterans released from prison each year
  • 92,000 Number of homeless veterans served in 2009 by VA specialized homeless programs

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The challenges of simple timing. . .a challenge to you

For over 16 years now, I've been involved on a daily basis working directly with low-income people and families.  I've talked to, met with, learned from and come to love countless individuals who suffer in various forms and fashions as a direct result of the poverty they know all too well. 

I think I've learned some important lessons about "the poor" and what it takes to stay engaged in the battle against poverty. 

The picture is not simple. 

There is no romance to be found here. 

The people are wonderful, as I've written here on many, many occasions.

But the work is very hard, and that in numerous ways.. 

Ironically, the more effective an organization becomes, the more difficult the challenges.  Things change as you figure out how to relate to more people in a more efficient and effective manner. 

The cycles of difficulty become predictable. 

We're in the midst of just such a cycle that exemplifies the challenges of which I speak. 

Here's the equation:

Increasing opportunities to serve and to assist in solving the problems facing our poor neighbors come in many forms--partnership offers, new funding opportunities, public grants and contracts.  Each of the opportunities reveals yet another step toward assisting more individuals and families.  Still, no matter how promising or effective, the funding backing each new option never covers all of the costs associated with the endeavor to be funded. 

Add to this reality the fact that most funding from both public grants/contracts and some foundations arrives only after the work is completed.  In other words, most of these funds involve a reimbursement  process.  Depending on the fund--and there are many, the payback can be anywhere from days to months in length.  For some reason the State of Texas is the most notorious in this regard.  We've carried accounts receivable owed to us by Texas for as much as 5 months!

During that "waiting period," organizations like Central Dallas Ministries must carry the expense and endure the cash flow pressure for work already successfully completed. 

Add to this reality the seasonal nature of private donations.  No matter what the economic conditions, the second and third quarters of the year are always the toughest. 

We're in the midst of that calendar reality just now.

Add to this the dismal situation in the current national economy, a reality that hasn't hit Dallas as hard as other cities, but has affected our psychology and our decision making about philanthropy.

Finally, we face the fact that the economic downturn has definitely affected those at the bottom of the economy, as is evidenced by the amazing increase in people who are coming to CDM, many for the very first time, seeking assistance, opportunity and hope across each of our program areas

Of course, these folks are the whole point of our existence! 

Currently, we are working hard to raise capital dollars to build what we refer to as an "opportunity center" in S. Dallas near Fair Park.  The time is right for this effort thanks to a large donation for the purpose and to a corporate partner who will help us bring jobs and economic development to this part of south Dallas for the first time in decades. 

Every day we work hard on this important new development--a development that will impact our economy for the better and lift countless individuals and families from below the poverty line.  And, our business plan once in the new center provides for more sustainable financing since we will have partners who actually pay us rents!

But, all of this exciting new development doesn't pay the bills for our already bustling, growing work.  We face a virtual constant, especially at times like this:  we need to increase our unrestricted operations funding as  never before to strengthen the stability of our organization. 

We must develop our means to survive the challenges of, well, the challenges of simple timing,
now and for years to come!