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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Tales Our Fathers Told

There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.
Ursula K. LeGuin

It is surprising where we as activists get our inspiration sometimes. One of the best sources is from the stories our parents told us as children. Be it tall tales of the big fish in the river to dramatic stories of survival in the face of adversity. The movie ''Big Fish'' gives insight into the sources of such stories.

We have no doubt all heard the stories about our fathers and grandfathers having to walk five miles to school, in the snow, across a river, uphill both ways. But have you ever really listened to the stories they tell? If you have, have you thought about what lessons you could draw from them?

Take my father for example. I have know since I was a young boy that my father was in the Vietnam War and repaired helicopters there. But I learned something new about him my senior year in high school.

He was taking college courses at the time at San Jacinto Junior College in Pasadena, Texas, and was naturally required to complete an english class as part of his curriculum. I recall it was our ''Senior Skip-Day'', but my father needed help in typing up an english assignment. I took him up to the high school where I had access to computers, being a data processing student. I felt so special, having my father ask for my help like that. Little did I realize it was a day that would change my view of my father.

My father and his buddies were relaxing in their barracks, playing cards, talking about their families that they missed, the usual stuff guys thousands of miles from home talk about. Then the alarms sounded, the base was under attack.

My father and his buddies grabbed their weapons and dashed out to their defense positions. His position was located in the third defensive line, the last line before the base would be considered overrun by the enemy.

He could see the enemy approaching the base and hear the bullets flashing past him. The first line was wiped out within moments, left dead or dying as the enemy penetrated. The fighting was so fierce, he didn't have time to think. Round after round was fired from his rifle, trying to stave off the onslaught of Vietnamese soldiers. The second line of defense was forced to fall back, joining my father and his buddies at the third line. The base was in danger of being totally routed.

Suddenly, as quickly as it had begun, it ended. The enemy withdrew for unknown reasons and retreated back into the jungle.

My father returned to the barracks which had taken a mortar hit at one corner. Picking up his watch from his bunk he realized the whole thing had only taken fifteen minutes.

It was the first time I ever knew my father had actually seen combat. It had been over twelve years, yet he remembered. I felt honored to have him share this story with me.

Now you may ask ''what lessons could this man draw from such a story? How does this relate to social policies and activism?''

The answer is, several ways.

First, we as Americans are well known to face untold adversity when we are fighting for a good cause. We are willing to endure being separated from our families, deprive ourselves of even the most basic comforts, and even put our very lives on the line when fighting for something we truly believe in or in the defense of our families. Our national forefathers swore their lives and fortunes to the cause of American freedom. Can we say the same for our causes? Do we believe in them enough to risk everything we have and are to see them through?

Second, we are a nation truly at war, not just in Iraq, but throughout the world. It is mostly a war of beliefs and economics, but a war none the less. Our first line of defense has all but crumbled, giving in to the powers of globalization and corporate profiteering at the expense of our society and communities. Our second line of defense is our non-governmental organizations, our charities, schools, and churches. They are, even as we speak, under seige by organizations and movements that are undermining our American way of life. They have been infiltrated by subversives. Our organizations have been turned into bastions not of knowledge, compassion, or enlightenment, but of multiculturalism at the cost of knowledge, programs that encourage irresponsibility and self-victimization, and citadels of divisivenesss and conflict within our communities. It is up to us, the citizens of the United States, to stamp out these problems. A handful of organizations have fallen back with us in the third and final line of defense. Are we ready to pick up arms to defend what made America great?

Lastly, listening to such stories, we learn to never give up. It would have been easy for my father and his buddies to retreat, leaving the base for the enemy to take, but they were defending their home, what there was of it. Should we be doing any less, simply because all too often the face of the enemy is someone of our own nation? Or that wears the badge of a governmental agency?

Thomas Jefferson once said, "the price of liberty is eternal diligence." To ensure the strength and continuation of America, we must defend it and its founding principles against all enemies, foreign and domestic. If our government has failed us, then it is up to us to change things. If big businesses no longer serve the economic interests of our country, they are no longer worthy of our patronage. If any nonprofit foundations or organizations are taking actions that we disapprove of, then they should no longer benefit from our contributions.

Just as my father and all the other veterans of our conflicts have stood up for American values, so too must we today in our own society. If America falls because of us sticking to our values, then at least we have fought honorably for what we believe in. If it falls because we betray it and/or allow traitors to undermine it, then we are all dishonored and unworthy of anything more than slave collars about our throats.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Loyalty, Honor and Integrity

In my research, I have come across many complaints about the lack of loyalty in employees. This lack of loyalty is cited as a factor in the increased costs to businesses of hiring and training new employees. Due to this, many employers are today requiring a Bachelors degree or higher and/or three to five years work experience in hopes of limiting the amount of training they must do with a new employee.

The net effects of such educational requirements effectively shuts out a majority of newly educated or non-degreed employees who might otherwise be fully qualified to do the job. It has long been acknowledged that many potential employees who have a degree may or may not be ready for the job, being book-smart but not world-smart. It is also acknowledged by many that the lack of a degree does not necessarily mean the potential employee doesn't already have the skills for the job. Add to this the fact that most employers expect these highly educated/skilled employees to begin at the lowest pay rates in the company and one quickly begins seeing employee loyalty being undermined. Why should the employee show loyalty to a company that is disrespecting their skills, education and experience by not paying them livable wages?

For example, a new employee earning $8 an hour would have to work 40 hours normal time, plus 40 hours overtime, just to earn $40,000 a year, slightly over the amount the Colorado State government cites as being necessary for an acceptable quality of life here. This is based on a 2000 hour work year assuming 50 work weeks at 40 hours per week with two weeks unpaid vacation. The majority American workers do not get that many hours and many never qualify for the vacation time. As is my custom, let us turn to the words of our ancestors.

A wealthy landowner cannot cultivate and improve his farm without spreading comfort and well-being around him. Rich and abundant crops, a numerous population and a prosperous countryside are the rewards for his efforts.
Antoine Lavoisier

Rule #1 - Employers who expect loyal and skilled workers must be willing to pay a fair wage for them.

Another area of loyalty undermining is the practice of arbitrary and discriminatory promotion and firings. How many times have we heard of an employee getting promoted not based on skill or experience, but on currying favor by taking undue credit for themselves? Or a highly skilled employee getting passed over for promotion or even fired over getting sick and not being able to work for a short time? Or a seasoned, skilled woman getting overlooked for a management position because of her gender or age? Or a loyal white male employee who is highly qualified getting passed over because the company must show themselves diversified by promoting a less qualified woman or minority.

Throw in employers outsourcing good paying jobs to third world countries and laying off thousands of American workers and I think you get the point. Loyalty earns loyalty.

Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It's beyond me.
Zora Neale

Rule #2 - Employers who expect loyal and skilled workers must treat them fairly and reward their hard work and loyalty.

I read an article recently about a Japanese technology development company. Employees were encouraged to take naps when they needed them and to take activity breaks throughout the day. They must have been doing something right because they had a third the amount of employee sick days as we have in America and about twice the productivity. I'll let you read into that what you will.

Here in America we balk at being required by law to give our employees a couple fifteen minute breaks and a half-hour for lunch each day. Forget about naps, we'll just fire them if they make mistakes due to fatigue. God forbid an employee plays solitaire on our computers, even if it is during their fifteen minute break.

The companies that are more flexible on such issues laud the increase in productivity and profitability, yet most companies still don't get it.

Pleasure in the job put perfection in the work.

Rule #3 - Employers who expect loyal and skilled workers must never patronize nor underestimate the abilities or willingness of their employees.

In summary, if American corporate society wants American workers to be more loyal, they must be more loyal and respectful to the employees. When we ignore the needs of our workers, disloyalty and betrayal are the least of our worries.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Supporting the Cause

Al Gore has received a lot of criticism about his relatively new-found role as a 'planetary' advocate, but this week he put his money where his mouth is.

As a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Al Gore received a considerable sum of money along with it, but announced Friday (10/12/07) that the money would be given to the Alliance for Climate Protection (www.climateprotect.org), a year-old advocacy group fighting the effects of global warming and climate change.

Mr. Gore is truly setting a good example for any advocate. It would be easy for him to just keep the award money for himself, but he is putting it to good use. The first thing we as advocates must do is prove that we are truly behind our cause. We must be willing to dedicate considerable time campaigning for and be willing to financially support our cause.

It is not cheap to support a cause if you truly want to make a difference in the world. In the United States, even establishing your nonprofit/non-governmental status can cost 1000 USD or more. Add to this the expense of registering for donation solicitation with one or more states, the cost of organizational material publishing, and the cost of fundraising postage and it adds up very quickly.

If you have financial constraints, there is an option to get your project going without incurring this sizable expense. It is called a 'fiscal sponsorship' and can allow you to start your project by negotiating the sponsorship with an existing organization. In essence, the sponsoring organization would agree to accept accounting and management responsibilities over the project in exchange for a (usually) small percentage of revenues the project attracts. By entering into a fiscal sponsorship agreement, your small organization might also be able to attract foundation funding that it might otherwise not have access to before registering as an independent organization.

There are several nationally and internationally known organizations who act as fiscal sponsors, such as the United Way, but many of them require that you have a one to five year previous track record as an unregistered organization before they will accept your new organization or project.

Even beyond the idea of a fiscal sponsor, there are other avenues to potentially fund a fledgling organization. Fundraising-Ideas.org (http://www.fundraising-ideas.org) has an incredible list of creative fundraising ideas that small organizations can use. DIY Fundraising (http://www.diyfundraising.com) also has a great list. You can get some additional ideas and tips from the Squidoo Fundraising Lens (http://www.squidoo.com/diyfundraising).

Friday, October 12, 2007

Dude, Where's My Country?

When I started this blog, I had genuine concerns that we, as a nation, were bordering on becoming a de facto fascist nation. Little did I realize that it has already happened.

President Bush has, over the course of his presidency, signed over 700 new laws, and almost every time has included a presidential statement to the effect that he will follow the new law only if he thinks it is constitutional (regardless of what the Supreme Court says) and only if it does not impede his agenda for making the United States safer from terrorism.

The Brady bill, signed years ago, already made it possible for the government to track every gun owner in the nation and to deny gun ownership to anyone the Federal government deems undesirable. Several states have also made it a felony to militarily train yourself or to belong to a paramilitary organization not sanctioned by the state or Federal governments, whether you train with them or not.

The Federal government passed the Real ID Act two years ago, not by virtue of its merits, but by hiding it in a bill to reauthorize budgeting for the Department of Justice. Add to this the Federal courts' rejection of our long accepted right not to be required to carry an identification document and the increasing arrogance of and detainment of citizens by our law enforcement community, it may not be too long before someone with a hat and overcoat steps up to you and says, "Papers, please," just like Nazi Germany in the movies.

Am I over-reacting? I think not. There have been countless cases in the past five years especially where citizens have been arrested for refusing to show identification when arbitrarily demanded by law enforcement officers. After the Oklahoma City bombing, all the members of an otherwise peaceful paramilitary group in Colorado were arrested, most for simply being associated with the group, some for merely being on their mailing list. Several Arab-Americans have been arrested in the past six years, detained for months, subjected to brutal interrogations. Some of them have been released without so much as an apology, others are still MIA. Congress recently passed a law requiring the president to cooperate with Congressional investigations, a law which the president signed, then summarily declared he was going to ignore with or without the Supreme Court declaring whether it was constitutional or not.

Add to all that the administration's labeling of anyone daring to oppose them as unAmerican or potential insurgents and the governments long standing position that Federal laws supercede state laws, especially when the state laws seek to protect the rights of American citizens, and the recipe is almost complete for the United States to become the Fourth Reich.

To understand why I say these things are evidence, let's look at the typical characteristics of a fascist society. A fascist state is one where the needs of the state are viewed as outweighing the rights and needs of individuals and local communities. The following points are symptomatic of a fascist state:

#1 - Powerful and continuing nationalism

Fascists try to wrap themselves in symbols of the nation and encourage others to do the same. Flags end up everywhere and anyone who resists this trend is looked upon with suspicion of seditious tendencies. In the United States, this comes in the form of politicians rallying people behind ideas like a Constitutional Amendment making flag burning or desecration a Federal offense.

#2 - Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights

Read "approval of torture, extended imprisonment without charges, and denial of habeas corpus" in this one. All things our current administration is guilty of. Might as well throw in President Bush's effectively ignoring our right of representation by ignoring the laws passed by our duly elected Congress here, too.

#3 - Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause

Okay, this one is blatant. Let me think ... Iranians, terrorists, latent communists, sex offenders (all of them), anyone opposing the administration's policies, anyone who objects to the war in Iraq, and anyone wearing tennis shoes on planes. Oh, and let's not forget anyone who dares spank their kids for misbehaving.

#4 - Supremacy of the Military

What does that mean? In part it means the build-up of military forces and weapons at the expense of social support services, especially the cutting of funding for them that is diverted into military spending. Plenty of that going on these days.

#5 - Rampant Sexism

This includes "strengthening" gender roles, discouragement of alternate lifestyles including homosexuality, bisexuality, and BDSM, which the administration all considers deviant or asocial behaviors. None of that going on you say? What about the push for gender-specific education and gender-segregation in education? Or the push to outlaw same-sex unions? Pink and black triangles anyone?

#6 - Controlled Mass Media

Let's see here, control over the media ...

  • Imprisonment of reporters for refusing to divulge sources
  • Governmental censorship of key events by failure to make public notices
  • Illegal propoganda aimed at American citizens
  • Official denial of official actions
  • Arrest of reporters who "get too close" to the truth

Shall I go on?

#7 - Obsession with National Security

Does this really need any explanation or examples? Look at today's newspaper. Bet there is a story related to this issue again today.

#8 - Religion and Government are Intertwined

Officially they deny this has happened, but many years ago the Supreme Court recognized humanism as fitting the legal definition of a religion. Humanism is, for all intents, the refusal of religious icons as inspiring the concepts of right and wrong in favor of humans themselves embodying such concepts. Just look at how atheists have influenced our social policies over the past 40 years.

#9 - Corporate Power is Protected

Okay, several points on this one:
  • Corporate welfare (bailing out bankrupt corporations, subsidies, etc.)
  • Immunity to Constitutional provisions (freedom of speech/privacy)
  • Deregulation of industries (lowering safety and other expectations)
  • Tax breaks of shipping jobs overseas
  • Ignoring of anti-trust and monopolistic action laws (wanna go to Walmart anyone?)

No doubt there is more, but I am getting tired here.

#10 - Labor Power is Suppressed

Herein lies our dearly departed unions ... and any rights we had as corporate employees. (Walmart again, anyone?)

#11 - Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts

Okay, one side of this is obvious, the other, well, almost as obvious. On one hand we have multiple professors and teachers loosing their jobs or getting arrested for politically incorrect views and on the other we have "art" that insults the meaning of the word, entering into the realm of total obscenity in many cases while true, meaningful art languishes near death for funding.

#12 - Obsession with Crime and Punishment

How long have our politicians cried out every election "I'm tougher on crime than my opponent is!" Our jails and prisons are bursting at the seams and our leaders are all-too-ready to put more in them.

#13 - Rampant Cronyism and Corruption

Don't get me started on this one, you will be reading for the next three days.

#14 - Fraudulent Elections

Want some real insights into this issue? Read Arianna Huffington's "How to Overthrow the Government" and you will learn more than you want to know, I promise you.

Most lists like this stop here, but I am going to add one more to give you something to think about.

#15 - Charismatic/Popular Leader/Dictator

When Hitler and Mussolini came to power, they did so on the backs of peasants and down-trodden citizens whom they wooed with promises of a better future under their "benign" rule. I think this is the only thing missing before the United States becomes totally fascist.

From here, I leave you to think about all this, but first, I shall give you some sources for additional information.

First, Old American Century is the source of the original list I used in writing this blog entry. They have many links to support articles and information. I highly recommend them.
And second, a wonderful article from CommonDreams.org, The Rise of Fascism in America
And lastly, The Dawning of Fascism in America, an article from SpiritOne.com.

As our good Lord said more than once, "He that hath ears, let him hear."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hope for Expansion

I have sent several invites to people I respect in hopes that they will join me in publishing articles to the Social Policy Center.

Today I have invited Ernest Callenbach, author of Ecotopia, Ecotopia Emerging, Ecology: A Pocket Guide, Living Cheaply With Style, Bring Back the Buffalo,Humphrey the Wayward Whale (with Christine Leefeldt) and A Citizen Legislator (with Michael Phillips). Mr. Callenbach is a wonderful, intelligent man that I sincerely hope will accept my invitation to participate in the Social Policy Center.

I am also attempting to invite Joel Garreau, author of The Nine Nations of North America, Radical Evolution, and Edge City: Life on the New Frontier. Mr. Garreau is also a wonderful, intelligent man that I feel would make a wonderful contributor to the Social Policy Center

The third person I am trying to get on board is Arianna Huffington, political commentist and author of multiple books, not the least of which was How To Overthrow the Government, a book I have just finished reading and was impressed enough by it to include Mrs. Huffington in my invitations to the Social Policy Center.

If any of them are reading this blog to check it out before responding, I will state my solemn oath now that I will never censor a contributing author. I want your views and ideas to come through so that we can develop a dialog with the public about the truly important issues that are all too frequently ignored by mainstream politics.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Barnes Business College
The (non)Education That Keeps on Giving.

Over 20 years ago I made several major mistakes.

One was getting into trouble with the law, a mistake I am paying for to this day because so many potential employers slam the door in your face if you have ever had a felony conviction.

Another was signing up to attend Barnes Business College which is now defunct. Ironic, a business college that went bankrupt. I don't even bother to tell most people I ever went there out of sheer embarrassment.

Anyway, when I signed up for Barnes I was given many sweet-sounding promises. Full accreditation that would be transferrable to higher schools. To sum it up, a pack of salesman lies. I was just out of high school and was very naive. I started classes okay, but then I met a young lady with whom I ended up in serious legal trouble.

About half way through my training at Barnes, I was arrested and held in jail for almost six months. When I was released on probation, I was told by my probation officer that I would not be allowed out of my house past nine at night for the first six months of my probation unless it was for work. No sleep-overs at a friends, no nightclubs or concerts, and no night school until after the six months was over.

I finished the six months of intensive supervision totally without incident. The day after it was over and I was finally on regular probation, I contacted Barnes Business College to get back into classes as soon as possible. That was when I was given the bad news.

Because I had been out of classes for more than six months, Barnes Business College had closed out my contract with them, supposedly giving a refund of the unused tuition back to the bank. The problem with that was they also claimed I owed them close to $1,000 that I would have to pay before they would even talk about me getting back into classes. In addition, I would have to pay the new tuition rates that had increased by 20-25% just days before I called them.

So, here I was, unemployed and unable to complete my education to get a decent paying job in the first place. Over the years, my student loan with the bank sat collecting interest because of my inability to pay.

Finally last year the bank turned the loan over to the Department of Education and I began receiving collection calls, first from a company called Windham. I tried repeatedly to explain that by this time I was on total disability and was receiving only SSI as income. They kept insisting that I would have to pay at least 20% of the loan before we could even talk about rehabilitating the loan. By that time, 20% was like $2,000. No way in hell I had that kind of money and being on SSI there wasn't any bank that would lend me the money. After about two months, they finally took some information from me about my disability and told me I would hear from the Department of Education shortly about possibly getting the loan discharged due to my disability. That was like nine months ago.

Finally, I get a call from a new collection agency called Progressive starting the whole collection process over again last week. This time they started claiming they could seize my SSI payments if I didn't start paying at least 1/6th of my income to them immediately. Understand that on SSI the payment is currently $623 a month. 1/6th of that would be equal to half my food budget for the month. Because of my income and assumed expenses, food stamps would only give me $32 a month, even with me paying over $100 a month on my student loan. I went round and round with the collector for almost a half-hour over the phone about this, trying to get him to see reason to no avail. He insisted that I would have to make such payments for at least 9 months before I could even apply for a hardship consideration. Reluctantly I told him, before hanging up, that I would see what I could do.

Then I called the Department of Education.

I was informed that I would have to fill out a form to request discharge of the loan based on total and permanent disability and was told it would be 10 to 14 days before the form would arrive. Once the form was in (after being signed by my doctor) then it would be reviewed by them for approval. Never mind the fact I have been receiving SSI for the past four years after going through hell to prove I was disabled in the first place, they want confirmation from my doctor. Even then, it would only be a tenative discharge. The final discharge could take up to three years to finally be approved, during which time, as I understand it, they would monitor my disability to see if I improved enough to go back to work.

In the meantime, any tax returns I might be eligible to receive would be confiscated by them. Fine, let 'em. Maybe they will get an idea of how little I have been earning each year for the past twenty years because of this. Hard to pay $80-100 a month when you are earning minimum wage because you have a half-finished, worthless education.

Anyway, to top it all off, I discover that they can not take my SSI payments. Seems the Department of Education representatives and collectors need a lesson in Federal law. According to 31 CFR 285.4(2)(b), SSI payments are exempt from seizure. Section 285.4 is entitled 'Offset of Federal benefit payments to collect past-due, legally enforceable nontax debt' and describes various provisions and definitions that regulate what Federal benefits departments like the Department of Education can seize to pay things like defaulted student loans. The relevant portion reads:
Covered benefit payment means a Federal benefit payment payable to an individual under the Social Security Act (other than SSI payments), part B of the Black Lung Benefits Act, or any law administered by the Railroad Retirement Board (other than payments that such Board determines to be tier 2 benefits). The amount of the covered benefit payment payable to a debtor for purposes of this section will be the amount after reduction or deduction required under the laws authorizing the program. Reductions to recover benefit overpayments are excluded from the covered benefit payment when calculating amounts available for offset.

There are two interesting points here. One is that SSI payments are not included in the definition of a seizable Federal benefit payment. The second is, even if it were, then the limitation requirement would come into play. Guess what. SSI payments are less than the limitation amount in the first place and would thus not be touchable anyway.

Federal bureaucrats would do well to educate themselves on what the laws that apply to their activities actually say. Perhaps it would make them look less like heartless bastards.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Age of Hipocrisy

It started out as a normal day, travelling the metro by bus after taking my fiance to work

Shortly after we left our start point, the driver called back to a young lady in the back of the bus to remove her feet from the walk space. At first, I took this in stride, recognizing this as a safety concern.

A couple miles down the road I heard an emergency siren approaching us and looked around to see where it was coming from. I quickly realized it was coming from behind us. I looked to the driver, expecting her to pull over and stop, as required by law, but she kept going, forcing the ambulance to come around us. This troubled me.

Understand, the old me would have simply walked away from the situation, but the new, activist me was upset by the hipocrisy of the driver.

When we got to the end of the line where I was to catch my next bus, I paused before getting off and looked to the driver. The conversation went something like this.

ME: Can I give you a piece of advice?
ME: Before you get onto someone about some dirt on their face, maybe you should wash the mud from your own. You got onto that girl earlier about her feet in the walk space and rightly so. Someone could trip and get hurt. But then you had an ambulance coming up from behind a few minutes later and you failed to pull over to let it by.
DRIVER: But it pulled to the left and went around, didn't it?
ME: And what if it needed to make a right turn at the corner? It is a safety issue and why the government requires drivers to pull over and stop. You do not know where that vehicle might have been heading. In Michigan such an act can get you a thousand dollar fine.
DRIVER: I see, perhaps I was in the wrong, I'll be more careful.

Yes, she really did accept responsibility, which in honesty surprised me. I smiled at her, tipped my hat, and headed off to catch my next bus. If I was sure she wouldn't get in trouble over the ambulance incident, I would call her supervisor and compliment the professional way she accepted my criticism.

It also made me think about my own responsibilities in life and the example I am setting for my young nephews.

My seven year old nephew at one point took to refusing to do his chores around the house. His excuse was that I and my 22 year old nephew were lazy and didn't do any work, so why should he.

Understand, I work almost exclusively on the computer with research, advocacy activities, and website development. My 22 year old nephew has ADHD, aspergers and Turet's syndrome, the combination of which makes it very hard for him to keep a job in the main stream economy due to employers not understanding the conditions and subsequently discriminating against him. Both of us have household chores to do like cooking, taking out the trash, cleaning our rooms, and doing dishes. All of which we normally do when my younger nephew is at school. When he is around, he sees me working on the computer and my older nephew playing games on the other computer.

I had to sit down with the younger nephew and explain everything that goes on when he is not there before he would once again begin doing chores at his house.

Children learn what they see us adults doing. At times, it is not what is actually going on, but how they interpret what they are seeing. If they don't see how hard we are working to make our households and communities work, they judge us accordingly and learn that perception. If they see us using aggression and violence to get what we want, they think that is the way to do things. Equally, if they see us cooperating with each other to make things better in our homes and community, they will learn this instead.

Personally, I am going to try harder and make sure my younger nephews understand the work I am trying to do with House Wyldstar and the Social Policy Center blog from now on.

The Home Team, Sports Fans, and Team Owners

Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Colorado Rockies are in the playoffs.

Oddly enough, thinking about the team made me realize there are some lessons for activists in sports. Follow me a moment...

In sports, you have a team who must work together to achieve their goal, much as you have such a team in your organization/cause who must work together to achieve their goal.

In sports, you have the fans who root for the team to win and who try to involve themselves in the game as much as possible (hooting loudly just as the pitch gets to homeplate, etc), much as you have fans in the real world rooting for your success as an organization/cause who help pay the bills and speak on behalf of the organization with authority figures.

In sports, you have a team owner or owners to whom the team answers for their performance. But who does your organization/cause answer to, you? In part, but not quite.

The ones your organization answers to is everyone affected by its activities, the government who expects you to account for your activities and the funding of the activities, and lastly the general public who frequently holds up a magnifying glass to every activity and report your organization produces.

Keeping all these people happy is not always easy, particularly if your activities/cause is controversial, or if it can be addressed by many different techniques. Finding a balance between these issues is complicated at times, but my advice is to never give in to what public opinion polls say the public wants. The polls can be influenced by too many things to go into in this blog. I would probably have to write a book to address that adequately. Let's use an example instead.

A few years back, Colorado had a significant surplus of tax revenues in its coffers. Rather than doing the smart thing by paying off some of the state debt or keeping the surplus in the coffers for leaner times, the government was badgered into giving the money back to the people immediately. The officials caved in to public pressure (via the polls) and hamstrung Colorado's opportunity to put itself in a better financial situation.

As social change leaders, we must often make controversial and/or unpopular decisions for the good of our society. This comes with the territory. If you can't make the hard decisions and stick to your guns, maybe you should try something safer, like skydiving or tiger-wrestling. Whatever you decide, go forward boldly. If you have make a mistake, accept the responsibility and learn from it, but the biggest mistake is to walk on eggshells the rest of your life.

I wonder what would have happened if Matt Holliday (Colorado Rockies winning run) had second-guessed himself about what to do in that thirteenth inning on the way to homeplate. Guess taking that head-first slide was the boldest decision of the evening.