Tuesday, March 29, 2011

This Weather...

I would really like it if Spring would come and stay a while...

At least this snow, photographed Sunday night, was gone by Monday afternoon. It was still colder than it should be though, by at least 15 degrees.

I'll even take rain if it warms up...though I would definitely prefer sunshine.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Kansas City EMS Update

Clearly the Kansas City Fire Department's takeover of EMS services is a "work in progress." File photo from the Kansas City Star of the livery change on the city's ambulances.

If you've been keeping up around here, you know that it's been about a year since the actual take over of Kansas City, MO's emergency medical service system. On March 24, Tony's Kansas City posted a bit of insider info on what is going on with the staffing patterns for the EMS Bureau and the comment section just exploded. There is a lot of good stuff there. You can use the link to go there as it has fallen off the first page. Yes, there are 100 plus comments but they are generally from "inside" and will give you a good idea of what everyone is thinking.

I am not surprised at the culture clash between EMS and suppression. I was a member of a volunteer EMS service, and our station was right next door to the community's volunteer fire department. It became readily apparent, even to someone as young as I, that firefighters and EMS peeps were cut from different cloth. It's not just what we know and do--the going into a burning building verses taking care of sick and injured people--that's different, it goes to personality. There are some that can be a part of both groups without conflict or difficulty, but it's hard to swing from group to group. We love each other at the scene, but we can sometimes get crossways outside of our work.

I hope the fire department is carefully considering this 24-hour shift thing. In busy stations, it is going to result in some tired medics, with increased errors and injury rates. In fact, with fire personnel responding to so many EMS calls, it could become an issue for suppression personnel too. They need to watch this. Plus they need to follow the labor laws. Personnel can't work 24 hour shifts and not be paid overtime unless they are firefighters. And if any promises were made during the lead up to the MAST changeover to the fire department, those need to be reviewed. It's possible some may not be able to be kept, but to not be open and forthright about those things just generates resentment and discord.

I wrote most of this on Saturday afternoon, with the mind to post today. Saturday night, I wondered where the Kansas City Star was on this issue. It had been discussed in public council meetings and needed to be reported. Finally late Saturday night (after 10:00 on line and in the Sunday paper) an article appeared in the paper that discussed the 24 hour shift issue and how the entire plan was dumped and no ambulance crew would work a 24 hour shift anymore--everyone would work strictly 8 hours 5 days per week, which was the threat contained in the letter that TKC had earlier. Louie Wright blamed Ed Ford for resisting, for political payback for the Burke defeat and generally sounded in the article like the union thug that he is.

MAST isn't coming back. That's a fact. What we have now is an uncomfortable hybrid of Fire and EMS mixed imperfectly together. Some look at other area fire departments and say their medics work 24 hours without problem or breaking labor laws--but that's the way they were trained and hired. They came to their department knowing that if they wanted to be paramedics, they would also be expected to be certified firefighters. I have heard with my own ears Grandview paramedic unit personnel given fire suppression duties. However, the MAST folks pulled into KCFD signed on with an ambulance company. The majority of them had no ambitions to train and work as firefighters. So we have a mixed bag of folks with different expectations. (Tony's Kansas City linked to the Star article--the 12 comments are good including an excellent discourse on the pertinent labor laws so check out the TKC comments.)

The city did not do its homework with this merger, that is crystal clear at this point. The pension problem, still as far as I know not addressed, is a product of this lack of research. So is this labor mess. Obviously the City Manager and City Attorney did not examine the legal aspect of the labor issue closely enough. Now, the workforce of the KCFD has a lot of conflict, and compromise and something workable will be a lot harder to develop because of that conflict.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Kind of Blocked

There's just so much going on both in my life and in the news. I am overwhelmed.

There are things in my life that DEMAND attention NOW. They sit in my mind and they will suck all the juice out if I am not careful. Some of them have to wait until Monday.

Music shuts them up for a while. Just enough to turn the noise off so I can pray and think.

Meantime, there's the world. Gas is 3.449 today. Buying gas is a speculative act. Although since the price only seems to be going up buying now looks like a win. The United States seems to have gotten in another military action, this time in Libya. I hear all these pundits: No, we should stay out of other countries business. Yes, we must help those who wish to have more say in their governance. Yada, yada, yada. I also keep thinking about money and this country's debt. Can we really afford to fight another war? (Not to mention the human capital of our stretched-way-too-thin military.)

Meantime, locally, we've elected a new mayor, but in some quarters there are already people bagging on him. The grifters and hangers-on are around Sly James, looking for jobs and angles. The race baiters are already accusing him of not being able to relate to the third council district; that he's not in touch with the crime situation. Jeez, guys, he's only been elected--he doesn't even officially take office until May. In addition, I never heard him promise that it was going to be easy--nothing in this economic and social environment is going to be easy and only a fool would think so, or impart that thought to someone else.

I was pretty young in the 1970s but I knew we were dealing with some tough stuff. There was unrest and a lot of hurt. I think we are headed that way again. Despite myself, I'm a little bit apprehensive about both my own future and that of my city and my country.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Economy: What Was Once, Seems to Have Come Around Again.

What is called "conservatism" might better be called infantilism. Those of us blessed with small children recognize childishness when we see it. Increasingly the nation, like a child, wills the end without willing the means to the end. The end is a full platter of government services. The means to that end is the energetic government that does the inevitable regulating and taxing. Today's "conservatism"? The average voter has looked into his heart of hearts, prayed long and hard, and come to the conclusion that it is high time the government cut his neighbor's benefits.

The tendency to will the end without willing the means is one reason why the government is out of resources, and why Carter has problems with his arithmetic. The United States is no exception to the rule that in democracies the appetite for government benefits is increasing, and the willingness to pay for them is diminishing. Carter's arithmetic reflects this. No matter how imaginatively he fudges his assumptions, he cannot plausibly argue that he can deliver his laundry list of blessings while balancing the budget and avoiding substantial new taxes.

...He [Carter] is driven by simple arithmetic to the specious suggestion that substantial new revenues can be painlessly wrung from "special interests" such as the "rich corporations" and "the rich," especially those "big shots" who consume "fifty dollar Martini lunches."

It is naughty to suggest that the Democratic platform's proposals can be paid by revenues derived from measures like making business lunches non-deductible. And before Carter imposes new taxes on corporations he should consider Irving Kristol's cautionary thought:
"There is a powerful argument to the effect that corporations, by their very nature, do not ordinarily pay taxes so much as collect them. After all, where does a corporation get the money to pay its taxes? There are only three possible sources. (1) It can get it from its stockholders by holding down or cutting their dividends--in which case, we are talking about a concealed tax on dividend income. (2) It can get it from its customers in the form of higher prices--in which case, we are talking about a concealed sales tax. In the normal course of events, these are the ways corporations do raise their tax money--or, to be precise, these are the means of collecting it.

"But if , for any reason, a corporation cannot lower or omit its dividend or raise its prices without crippling the business, it does indeed pay taxes instead of merely collecting them. It then (3) gets the money from retained earnings which would otherwise be re-invested in new plant, new processes, etc."

Given Carter's proper concern about unemployment, he cannot be serene about increased reliance on option 3, because capital formation is job creation.

George F. Will, October 4, 1976

I found Will's book, The Pursuit of Happiness and Other Sobering Thoughts in a used bookstore the other day. Copyrighted 1978, it has Mr. Will's columns over the late 1970s. I've been dipping into here and there. This bit jumped off the page at me. You would not have to change much to cause this to sound like it was written about the 2008 election or any time during our current economic situation.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sly James is Kansas City's New Mayor

Sly James at a forum in the southland.

Well, the new mayor of Kansas City is Sly James. Mr. James won with 54% of the vote. It will be interesting to see how the vote played out in the various neighborhoods of the city; if it came to pass, as has it been posited that the 6th and the southwest corridor of the 4th provided the deciding votes.

Jim Glover and John Crawford are separated by a mere 8 votes with Glover in the lead in the 4th at large.

Michael Brooks and Ken Bacchus are separated by a mere 111 votes with Brooks in the lead in the 5th in district.

Sharon Sanders Brooks LOST to Jermaine Reed--and not by a little. SSB managed to garner only 35% of the 7,885 votes cast in the 3rd district. It appears as if all of the votes cast for Michael Fletcher went to Reed giving him the win. Other in district winners are Davis, Johnson, Marcason and Sharp. Terrence Nash ran an aggressive race, but only received 33% of the votes cast in that 6th district race.

Other At Large council winners are Wagner, Ford, Curls, Circo and Taylor. In that 6th district race, Tracy Ward received 38% of the votes cast with 62% going to Mr. Cathy Jolly.

So there will be new blood in the mayor's office and some new blood on the City Council. Not so much for the 6th district, alas...

I also anticipate some re-counting, especially in that Glover/Crawford race. Get your pencils out.

Next: Earnings tax, and for Hickman Mills C-1 patrons, the school board--April 5th, two weeks from now.

Election Day: Turnout Likely Light (Again)

Today's ballot. (I almost always vote using the paper ballot. Call me old fashioned.)

Turn out for today's election in Kansas City, MO is looking light once again. It was thought that it would be about 20% at first, but some are thinking it will be the same as the primary--about 15% or about 50,000 votes cast. This particular election may feel anticlimactic to some, coming closely on the heels of a primary vote that ejected the incumbent mayor and a campaign that was, in general, pretty quiet. However the question of voter turnout in general does come up. Why is voter turnout so poor for elections at all levels in the United States? Even for our presidential election, that only comes around every four years, we only get about 50% of registered voters out to cast ballots.
When I came of age to vote (a million years ago...), I felt like I had entered into a great privilege. It wasn't quite as exciting as getting my driver's license, but it was close. There was just something special about getting a say, even just a small say, in who and how I would be governed. It seems now that this excitement does not occur for people any more. Why?
A couple of reasons come to mind easily--people have become cynical, believing that their vote won't matter, or that there is little difference between the candidates. The large amount of money that has become part of both campaigning and governing has alienated the majority of citizens from the election process. Some may have come to take our right to vote somewhat for granted, assuming that it will always be there as part of the landscape of civic life. The other wrinkle in this is that people has become progressively less informed over time. They are following Snooki and Dancing with the Stars, not the evening news. It's a paradox that in a time when we are frequently awash in information, sometimes to the point of tsunami, that many are very ill informed. Furthermore, people are not getting the education in history, civics and government as they did in the past.
All this adds up to a general lack of interest in the process of selecting the people who will govern the city-state-country, both in terms of voter participation and the type and character of those running for office. None of that is good for the country.
Polls in Kansas City are open until 7 p.m. If you are registered to vote, please take the time to do so.
According to The Kansas City Star, we should see first results around 7:30 p.m. and fairly conclusive results by 9:30-10:00 p.m.

Monday, March 21, 2011

From the Desk of John Sharp...

This came in an envelope and everything, from the Sharp campaign late last week. Complete with fake Post-It note. Amazing, I believe I have never received literature like this from a candidate. It appears that Mr. Nash is making Mr. Sharp nervous with his sharp criticism of Mr. Sharp's work as a council member on behalf of the sixth district...

Oh, and I got this comment on the blog...it rocks! (Do I miss robocalls because I only have a cell phone? No, not really. However, I do lose the opportunity to make fun of them!)

Anonymous said...

I got a robocall from John Sharp yesterday. I transcribed it, and then edited it for truth:

Hi, this is Councilman John Sharp. Thanks for letting me serve as your councilman the last 4 years. The recession's been tough, and we are caught helpless in its grip. The feds are keeping 2,000 jobs in our area by keeping the new Honeywell plant in South Kansas City and starting the job of poisoning a new generation of workers. The new headquarters for the police south patrol is being built just south of Bannister, though no one knows why. Red Bridge Road's being supersized, while destroying a historic park. Sidewalks are being built on Blue Ridge, though they won't take you anywhere. Trader Joe's is coming to Ward Parkway, which I found out about the same time you did. All of this would have happened even if a used refrigerator like you might have seen on Blue River Road (which is closed due to my negligence) were sitting in the 6th district seat. Hope you'll send me back for another 4 years so I can start proving my worth to the predatory political interests that will give me a nice job lobbying for them when I get off the council. And to fatten up my pension, too. Thank you. Suckers.

11:33 AM, March 21, 2011

Monday's Mail: Getting Their Last Say In

So here is what I found (along with a water bill, and an invite to do business with Bank of America [:-P]) in the mailbox today, the day before election day. The two on the bottom are both from the Citizen's Association. Also included is the infamous hit piece on Tracy Ward from Scott Taylor and my very first mailer from Sly James.

Mailers of the past week have included District 1 at large candidate Scott Wagner , several more from Mike Burke (I have received at least four since the primary) and a couple from John Sharp, including an amazing letter that you will have seen in a subsequent post.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Links I Liked These Last Few Days

I don't usually do a link list, but sometimes, in your travels through the interwebs you just find stuff that is interesting that you want to share...

In Overland Park, KS on Friday, firefighters and police officers trained to do a vital but somber duty--being part of an honor guard for a fallen comrade. The Kansas City Star offered this photo gallery of their activities.

Boston.com's photo blog The Big Picture has a new gallery of Japan earthquake photos, this time looking at life one week post temblor. Do the pictures of people poring over lists of names remind you of anything?

The New York Times auto blog summarizes some of the disruptions that have hit the Japanese auto makers since the earth quake as of March 11. Since then, GM had to close a plant in Louisiana due to parts shortages.

This human interest story about The Marching Cobras' founder, director and mentor Willie Arthur Smith's illness was a good read. The only bad thing, as this summary of the activities of St. Patrick's Day related (in the fourth paragraph down) that Mr. Smith suffered a burglary Wednesday night. The moral of the story is that if you are mentioned in the paper and you are not at your home, get a good friend with a big mean dog and a CCW permit to stay in your house for a few days. Burglar, you suck stealing from this man who has given the community so much--I'm praying you get caught. No Irish luck for you.

Someone has started a blog about councilman John Sharp running for reelection. It is worth a look see before this coming Tuesday. Lots about his (mis)management of MAST.

How unlikely is it that you can come up with the perfect NCAA men's basketball brackets? As this Kansas City Star article points out, extremely unlikely. Let's put it this way--how many zeros in a quintillion? So please, no crying over Richmond and Morehouse State.

That's about it around here. We were under a Severe Thunderstorm Watch but most of the severe activity has move south and west of the metro, so none of the five Kansas City metro counties (Jackson, Clay, Platte in Missouri, Johnson and Wyandotte in Kansas) are included in the watch which extends back into southeastern Kansas and northeastern Oklahoma. There is still rain around and even some small hail, so be careful out there.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The New York Times Wants--No, *Needs*--You to Pay

A snip of tonight's New York Times internet front page.

I grew up reading the New York Times. We were Times people when we lived in New York. When we moved to Vermont, we continued to seek out the New York Times, including a mail subscription. My father especially enjoyed the bounty of riches in every edition. It is not a perfect paper, as it certainly interprets events through it's liberal/left leaning New York based lens, but in my opinion, it is consistently one of the most well written papers, and is a paper that is willing to take the time to write the kind of long considerate article that newspapers do best. The on-line edition continues the tradition quite capably. It has been free. The model that newspapers publish under is broken--the print editions are not getting the advertising to support the enterprise and most papers are losing copious amounts of money. Attempts to get ads on line have been faltering. Trying to get people to pay for content they have gotten for free in the past has not worked at all. Indeed, The New York Times tried it before.

They are trying it again. You will be able to read 20 articles a month for free. Otherwise you will have to pay $15. I don't know if there will be free access from any smart phone. Costs are high for smart phone access. Here's a link to the article on the topic. The piece came out this morning. To say that people have a reaction is to put it lightly. As I write this, there have been 2,141 comments to the article--they've stopped accepting more.

Trying to put the genie of free access back in the bottle will be extremely difficult. Most that have tried it and have a little success have used this model of some free content and the rest behinds a pay wall. Our local Kansas City Star does this, although they do not set limits for articles and the smart phone app is free.

Newspapers have to find a practical way to finance their operations--they are rapidly going broke for a multitude of reasons. I think the Times' experiment will be watched. Their success or failure will have implications for the entire industry. In the meantime, I am sad. I will miss reading the often thought provoking content of one of the nation's leading newspapers. Twenty articles don't go very far...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

More Mailers: Forth District At-Large Race

This forth at large race has gotten contentious. This was the first mailer that hammered Jim Glover's record...
Mr. Crawford wants everyone to see him as a very different choice for council.

Now this mailer just came today...When I first handled it, it was this side I saw first. I couldn't even tell what candidate it was from at this point. I anticipated a positive message to be honest, "Hi, I'm running for office and I promise 'not politics as usual'."

I found this when I turned it over. Get the hammer out!
Getting muddy out there folks!

Mailers: In-District Sixth District Race

The mayoral race may have gone all nice-nice, but some of the council races are starting to get a little bit testy, shall we say. Here are two recent mailers from the campaign of Terrence Nash to the south KC households of possible voters.

This writer observed at the forum that these two do not seem to like each other much.

Just in case you were not paying attention to the first one, Mr. Nash sent this along for your consideration...
Just six more days before the election day. Well, all signs of spring are welcome around here, even elections and the Royals...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Sixth District Indentity Crisis

The sixth district has an identity crisis in my view.

It really is in three parts--three regions of the district that are populated by very different populations.

First, is the part east of Highway 71. This is the poorest and Blackest part. This part includes the 64134, which has the second highest rate of foreclosure of the zip codes in Kansas City. It has a higher crime rate too. It probably has more in common with the fifth district then it does with much of the rest of the sixth district.

Next is the part from 71 west to about Holmes Road--maybe Blue River Road would be a better dividing point. It has some of the characteristics of the eastern part of the district, but to a much lesser degree. It is Whiter, and less poor. Portions of the Martin City area share character with this middle part of the sixth.
Finally there is the part of the sixth district from about Holmes/Blue River Road to State Line and down south excluding Martin City. This is the Whitest and richest part of the sixth district without a doubt. The folks here may not be as hip as Brookside and Waldo, and are probably older, but economically are more kin then not to the folks in the forth district.

The "problem"--and I put that in quotes because I am not completely convinced it is a problem--is that the sixth district does not vote as a block, nor do members of the sixth district turn out to vote in a uniform proportion. I would bet good money that the voter turnout percentage gets progressively higher as you move west in the district.

Candidates for at-large and city wide offices can either embrace the district's diversity and visit each part, talking with all the citizens or they can chose to give the sixth short shrift due to not being assured of one reliable block of favorable voters. It's their choice.

Candidates, I think you neglect us at your own risk, especially the parts west of 71 Highway who tend to turn out to the polls in greater numbers.

Oh, and when you are elected, you do need to represent all of us...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

South Kansas City Candidate Forum

The candidates--from left, Burke, James, Taylor, Ward, Nash and Sharp. The lady in the back is the moderator.

The crowd: Mostly white, and mostly over 55, with a substantial portion over 65. Probably around 100 or so.

A pretty good crowd of folks came out to see the mayoral candidates and 6th District city council candidates today at a forum held at the Red Bridge Christian Church this afternoon. It wasn't especially dynamic or head line making as forums go.

Questions were submitted from the audience and by and large they weren't too bad. This not being a debate format though but a forum, aside from a brief clash between Terrance Nash and John Sharp over time for the opening statements, the candidates did not confront or challenge each other. Too bad, for that might have been truly interesting. Truthfully, I am fishing for things to report that are actually noteworthy, that might help the reader who is planning to vote in this election. Stuff beyond style, or the fact that half of the panel left to go hang out with the swells in the 4th at 2 pm.

It is hard to pick out differences between Sly James and Mike Burke--part of the problem is they only stayed about 30 minutes and could only answer a few questions. Burke points a lot to his experience. In their short opening statements James emphasized working together, Burke talked about experience. When asked about caring for the toxic Bannister Road site, Burke noted his experience reclaiming Richards-Gebaur. Both spoke well of the "Focus Plan", a plan for development that Burke helped develop. A question was asked regarding changes at Kansas City International airport. Both Burke and James stated that these changes were FAA mandated and there would be little choice but to go to a single terminal.

Scott Taylor truly is an empty suit. Much of the time he sounded like Mike Burke, but without the cred. He sites his school board service as his big experience. He too left at 2 pm for Brookside, and consequently left not much of a unique impression. Tracy Ward is still very raw in the skills of a politician. Her answers were frequently the shortest of all the candidates. She sees herself as representing the common person at City Hall. One of her positions is that there are too many barriers to business development in the city, including the E Tax. She believes that if the E Tax is removed, tax revenue will go up as a result of more businesses (and thus jobs, etc) coming to KC. She later described herself as an "out of the box thinker" and told us to hold her accountable if elected.

John Sharp is a practical politician. He majors on what he's "done". In many ways, Sharp is very appealing. However, one just wonders who he is really working for--Kansas City or John Sharp. He will be tough to defeat, as he has a large list of "accomplishments" and knows how to handle himself around the crowds. Terrance Nash says that business has gotten too many tax breaks and subsidies and money needs to be directed to the neighborhoods. He is the only one who did not answer a question directly--when asked what he would do about foreclosed houses, he blathered on about neighborhoods not getting "the city services they paid for." It made him come off like a one trick pony.
I wish we could have a debate type format, but with this campaign so concentrated, it would be hard on candidates to find the emotional capital to expend on debates. Debates would take a lot more preparation on the part of the candidates and more investment in the event itself. An event like this is good, but it's harder to assess the candidates' reasoning behind their words. I do wish that Sly James, Mike Burke and Scott Taylor had stayed longer too. I feel like I know far more about Tracy Ward, Terrance Nash and John Sharp then about them, especially Taylor. It will be interesting to see where the election is won and/or lost--in the northland, in the third and fifth, in Brookside/Waldo or in the fighting 6th District?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Japan Quake

Earthquakes are probably the natural disaster that scare me the most.

Storms, tornadoes, even hurricanes strike a relatively confined area. Many times there is warning or hints of the trouble to come. Prediction, while an imperfect science, is a little bit possible.

When I awoke around 0230 this morning, I had no idea that Japan had had a tremendous earthquake followed by a devastating tsunami. I found out when I checked Facebook and found news updates there. There was no hint that any such thing would happen. A large amount of the country felt the quake. Resources for rescue were affected. Roads and communications were compromised.

I kept asking myself, as I listened to the usual emergencies being broadcast on my scanner, how in the world we would find resources to deal with such a catastrophe.

Aftershocks continue in Japan, as strong as 6 on the Richter Scale. Nuclear power plants have been imperiled, and plans are being carried out to avoid core meltdowns right now. There will be much news to follow.

Japan is 15 hours ahead of CST, so it is almost 1300 Saturday afternoon as I write this. Say a prayer for Japan before you go to bed tonight.

There are lots of pictures, but this collection is one of the best.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Car Show Thoughts and A Dodge For Bobby G!

After the big car shows in Detroit, New York and elsewhere, the auto industry fans out and does smaller regional shows all over the country. Ours is always the first week of March, usually just before the basketball post season starts. Sponsored by the dealers and others, it's a good time to take a look at the new models of cars being offered in a low pressure atmosphere. You can get literature, ask questions and not be pressed too much. The only thing you can't do is drive the cars--although a few manufacturers were doing drives this year.

The Dodge Charger is slightly redesigned for 2011 and continues to be a good seller for Chrysler.

The rear is really neat now, taking design cues from the retro Dodge Challenger. Generally the redesign has gotten good reviews from the car press.
Back when I first started going to this show, you would see more concepts and possible future models. Now the shows travel much lighter, with only preview models of cars actually in the pipeline. They rely on dealer stock to fill out the cars for display at their spots on the show floor. Ford brought the most "outside' stuff, with displays, interactive things and preview models. This year two major makers, BMW and Nissan, chose not to participate in our show. I was amazed to find that I missed them!

Mopar has upgraded the interiors of all models--a huge improvement over the previous interior. It's much better finished and feels more lux. Note the screen for the GPS and other goodies to the right of the wheel.
Photographing the car show can be problematic. One can only look so much at pictures of cars, cars, cars. I like to mix it up, car photos and people interacting with the cars and each other photos. I took over 90 photos! There will be more posted on the photo blog, to join the post on the gull wing Mercedes already there.

These here Dodge pics are for my reader Bobby G in honor of the recent ride he had in a Dodge Charger.

The rear of the Challenger. This is the super fancy big SRT model.

A Poem For Lent

The author of this blog is an unapologetic Christian. Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season called Lent that is the anticipation of the Holy Week and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ--Easter. So in honor of Lent--a time in the Christian calender often taken for some spiritual assessment and consideration--is this piece by Ted Loder from the book Guerrillas of Grace. As is frequently the case, a tip of the cap to my friend John who is a frequent pointer to this sort of material. You might find yourself challenged, irritated, worshipful while reading this. That meant you read it with thoughtfulness. Well done.

Catch me in my anxious scurrying, Lord,
and hold me in this Lenten season:
hold my feet to the fire of your grace
and make me attentive to my mortality that I may begin to die now
to those things that keep me
from living with you
and with my neighbors on this earth;
to grudges and indifference,
to certainties that smother possibilities,
to my fascination with false securities,
to my addiction to sweatless dreams,
to my arrogant insistence on how it has to be;
to my corrosive fear of dying someday
which eats away the wonder of living this day,
and the adventure of losing my life
in order to find it in you.

Catch me in my aimless scurrying, Lord,
and hold me in this Lenten season;
hold my heart to the beat of your grace
and create in me a resting place,
a kneeling place,
a tip-toe place
where I can recover from the dis-ease of my
which fill my mind and calendar with busy
that I may become vulnerable enough
to dare intimacy with the familiar,
to listen cup-eared for your summons,
and to watch squint-eyed for your crooked finger
in the crying of a child,
in the hunger of the street people,
in the fear of nuclear holocaust in all people,
in the rage of those oppressed because of sex
or race,
in the smoldering resentments of exploited
third world nations,
in the sullen apathy of the poor and the
ghetto-strangled people,
in my lonely doubts and limping
and somehow,
during this season of sacrifice,
enable me to sacrifice time
and possessions
and securities,
to do something…
something about what I see,
something to turn the water of my words
into the wine of will and risk,
into the bread of blood and blisters,
into the blessedness of deed,
of a cross picked up,
a savior followed.

Catch me in my mindless scurrying, Lord,
and hold me in this Lenten season:
hold my spirit to the beacon of your grace
and grant me light enough to walk boldly,
to feel passionately,
to love aggressively;
grant me peace enough to want more,
to work for more,
and to submit to nothing less,
and to fear only you…
only you!
Bequeath me not becalmed seas,
slack sails and premature benedictions,
but breath into me a torment,
storm enough to make within myself
and from myself,
something new,
something saving,
something true,
a gladness of heart,
a pitch for a song in the storm,
a word of praise lived,
a gratitude shared,
a cross dared,
a joy received.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Guest Post: The NAACP and Rap Music

This is from Mass Appeal News, an enewsletter I get daily that previews parts of the Mass Appeal blog. I have really enjoyed reading the news and views I get. This was just too good not to share. It is written by Wayne Hodges, editor of Mass Appeal News. His photo and bio are at the end of the post. Please see www.massappealnews.com for more good stuff.


Folks, I’ve seen enough.
It’s time to deep-six the NAACP, Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, and anyone else profiting from contemporary racism.
Allow me to expound.
After captivating the nation by abolishing the “n” word a few years ago, the aforementioned organization inexplicably tossed out a ghetto lineup of hip-hop performers to partake in the 42nd Annual NAACP Awards this past Friday (March 4). You heard me right. “N” word spewing artists Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, B.O.B., Diddy and Dirty Money were asked to either perform, present, or appear as honorable nominees during the once prestigious event.
Can’t say I’m surprised.
After all, hypocrisy and black incompetence (not the white man) are most instrumental in the socioeconomic decline of Urban America. Hell, no wonder black unemployment rests at 15%, while the rest of the nation sits at 9%.
As blacks, we’re sleeping with the enemy.
“It is a complete outrage that the NAACP and some of this country’s largest corporations would endorse artists that degrade women, use the “N” word, and promote values that are antithetical to the goals and aspirations of most Americans,” said Rev. Delman Coates of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Maryland. “Lyrical content, not commercial success should be the standard by which such nominations and sponsorships are given. At a time when we have witnessed social and political progress in America, it is disheartening to see established civil rights organizations and leading American corporations promote some of the most stereotypical and offensive images and messages in the popular culture.”
Rev. Coates is 100% correct.
Why should blacks trust an organization that publicly curses the “n” word, yet promote the filthy artists that profit from its use?
Gimminee Christmas!
With organizations like the NAACP, who needs the Ku Klux Klan?
“On one side these are young black men that are great business men, but on the other end it is like the tobacco business,” said Rev. Lucious Smith, pastor of Pasadena Friendship Baptist Church.“In the end you get cancer.” There you go. Rev. Smith, perhaps appropriately, has drawn parallels between gangsta rap and cancer.
I can’t think of a more perfect analogy.
See, the "n" word is kinda tricky. It's not uncommon for comedians and artists to incorporate its use for entertainment purposes because it's usually accepted by the general, cash-paying public. For example, comedian Tony Rock performed live at the Kansas City Improv this past weekend. The boy spewed the "n" word like Richard Pryor "Live on the Sunset Strip." Yet, nobody in the audience took offense because Rock made it clear from the get-go the "n" word would become an integral part of his act.
The problem with the NAACP is the organization publicly condemned its use, then turned around and seduced the perpetrators; looking like hypocrites in the process.
As a society, we must decide to either abolish the "n" word or approve its use. And, if approved, should people of all colors be allowed to say it? The issue probably deserves a national address from President Barack Obama himself. I'm serious. Lots of people have gotten hurt, if not killed, over the "n" word. “A few years ago, Don Imus lost his job for using language that pales in comparison to the messages conveyed by some of these artists,”said Rev. Coates. “The messages of the Image Award nominees are not any more acceptable because they are said by Black artists and celebrated by the NAACP.
‘These are not images that any respectable civil rights organization or responsible American corporation should endorse. (The) program will have long term implications for the reputation of the NAACP and the corporate brands of the program’s sponsors.”
Rev. Coates is basically labeling the executives of the NAACP a group of ’sell-outs.’
And he’s right.
But what else is new in Black America?
Our plight is historical.
Think about it.
Word on the street claims greedy African merchants were primarily responsible for the slave trade. Yet, the history books teach us a posse of evil white men kidnapped us, placed us in shackles, then threw us on the plantation. Hell, from where I’m standing, the terms ‘African-American’ and ’sell-out’ are practically synonymous. Look, we can blame the mythical white man for the ineptitude and futility that continues to plague Black America. He’s both an easy and futile target. However, as African-Americans, to bring about positive change, it’s imperative we understand the real culprit exists solely inside the mirror.

Wayne Hodges, an MBA from St. Mary University, is the Editor-in-Chief of “Mass Appeal News.” He also serves as District Committee Delegate in Johnson County, he’s a candidate for the Shawnee Mission School Board, and he’s an adjunct professor in Kansas City. Wayne welcomes your comments 24/7 at

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sprint Center

Had a long way to walk to my car after visiting the auto show yesterday. I thought the Sprint Center looked pretty cool all lit up in the early evening light...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Another Try at Redeveloping Bannister Mall Area

A new $590 million plan proposed for the area previously occupied by Bannister Mall has been proposed by Lane 4 Property Group got some play in the newspaper Thursday. The proposal called for retail, office and light industry to be developed in this area.

My very first reaction? Too much retail--more retail that is the same-same big box stuff will not survive in today's economy. There is a lot of empty space out there right now--one would need something unique and one of a kind to succeed with a new development.

I was curious to see what the readers of the Kansas City Star thought of the idea so I went to the comments section. Thankfully, comments were allowed. Some objected along the lines I just elaborated on above--too much big box retail, short life span, same old same old.

However, many majored on how nothing much could come of the area until crime was controlled. I have to admit, I was surprised. How bad did it get? I never felt that unsafe there following sensible rules. I may have missed the worst of it, because as the mall emptied, I found less and less reason to go to the mall. My going was more related to the mall just not having the things I wanted or needed in it any more, not fear or crime related. I think I stopped going there after dark, but I had never gone much after dark to the mall at all even at its retail height.

I would vote for light industry--perhaps calls centers and service centers also. The location is awesome for moving people in and out and is an easy commute from all parts of the metro. There is no need for this prime commercial property to stand empty. Mix in some midscale and upscale housing, both single and multfamily. Some park land too. Big box retail by itself isn't going to cut it.

And solve the crime problem--perceived and real. Somehow, the crime made a big impression on people--at least those who read the Kansas City Star. As long as many people think the area is not safe, it will not flourish, no matter what is proposed.

And I have no desire to finance a failure with tax breaks. No bad plans should get any help from the government--if it doesn't have a good chance to fly on its own, don't do it. As much as I hate to say it, just leave the land open until the right plan, opportunity and idea comes along.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Dirty Rain

After all the crazy weather moved through on Sunday many people in the Kansas City area woke up Monday morning to cars that looked like mud had been dribbled on them. It was particularly nasty looking if you had a dark colored car. I was so disgusted with the appearance of my car that I ran off to the car wash without taking a "before" photo. It seemed as if many felt the same as I was pretty hard pressed to find a good example of a dark car with "mud rain" on it!

It looked pretty much like this does on this dark tinted back window of a white Ford SUV. In fact the dirt even showed on this white car! Ugly, ugly, ugly--get thee to a car wash!

Where did it come from? Apparently, a dust storm came up in Texas and the rain came down from the clouds through the dust cloud, landing laden with suspended dirt particles upon our vehicles and anything else outside (would have hated to have had laundry outside drying!). Here's a link to the National Weather Service explanation of what happened. It was worse in Springfield, Missouri and in the Ozarks.

I'm glad this got a mention or two in some news sources around town--we did get some "dirty rain" when they were working on the Grandview Triangle. This time, there was no big construction project to blame!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bloggy Inspiration

It was Darla Jaye who started it, by having this guy Tony on her radio program in the evening. I liked the discussions the two of them had and I liked the information that Tony seemed to have about this town. So I went on line and started checking this Tony's Kansas City out.

He inspired me to start my own little opinion arena--a place where I could hold forth as if I was sitting on my deck or my neighbor's front porch.

Then the MAST Merger Mess broke forth, and off we went.

Many of my regular Kansas City area readers have probably already seen and read the Pitch's article on Tony Botello, the ringmaster of TKC. Out of towners and occasional readers might find this article on the person who is probably the hub of Kansas City opinion and news blogging interesting. Our town is small enough that one person can sit at the center of something and spread out waves like a stone tossed in a pond. For Kansas City blogging, Tony is that stone that makes the splash that sends out the waves across the water.

Image of Tony and friend from the Pitch--photo by Chris Mullins

Old Campaign Mailer: Hillary Clinton

It's not spring cleaning, it's archeology...

Click image to enlarge--back button to return.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I am trying to remember if I have ever felt quite this overwhelmed by the world and everything that is going on in it. It just seems that every check of the news is some new amazing revelation. You can see how the Glenn Becks of the world decide to follow conspiracy theories and the talk of Jesus returning and theologies of revelation increases. It's just nuts out there. Maybe it will make more sense if I take a minute to just scribble a couple of paragraphs, see if it helps me make sense of all this stuff.

Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen et al. Wow, just wow. What is going on in these countries is amazing. When you think about it, whatever their motives, whether really wanting to govern themselves in an honest way, or just wanting to establish theocracies, the people of these countries are incredibly bold and brave. They ran a distinct risk in their demonstrating--they could have lost everything, including their lives. I pray that they can make their changes without a blood bath or a looting orgy. Particularly for the oil producing countries--they must keep their oil harvesting infrastructure intact to have a chance of success in the world. They need to retain the places their countries have in the world economy, both for their and the world's sakes. Whether this happens or not is why all this unrest abroad has everyone very nervous. Unfortunately, those nervous people include oil speculators, who have seen fit to cause the price of oil to rise, and with that the price of gasoline (and everything else.)

Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and union bargaining rights. I just don't know. States have to balance their budgets--they can't print money like the Federal government. One place they can save is to have workers pick up more of the costs of their bennies like health insurance and retirement. Unions have lost more and more of their influence over the years. Many things the unions won in the old days have become institutionalized in the government laws--OSHA, labor hour rules, discrimination, etc. Yet in many ways the American worker needs an ally as employers have been empowered by the surplus of labor. Employers rarely function in "enlightened self interest" any more and chop employees ruthlessly when profits are in danger.

Kansas City elections in a mere 21 days, with E tax vote in 35 days. It was truly amazing to look at that old campaign flyer from 2007 and think of all the water that has passed under the bridge since then. I think for the first time I feel the burden of electoral choice, knowing that our choices will influence the course of what happens to our city for the next four years. As turbulent as the world is, it becomes even more imperative to choose wisely. Are the 15-20% of KCMO registered voters up to the task? As to the E tax, I hear the people saying let's cut City Hall's money supply and make them tighten up their act--starve the grifters and hangers-on. Yet I look at my property tax bill and worry that it will go up at least 50%, making it even harder to pay. I don't want cuts in fire and I especially don't want cuts in police--if we have any hope of dealing with the crime issue in our town in a good way.

In addition, there is stuff in my personal life that is fairly overwhelming, both good stuff and problematic stuff. So is it any wonder that sometimes I find it a bit hard to find some space to think? That I take time out to pray and meditate regularly, and have some fun with sports? That my spiritual life and faith community is more important than ever?