Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ward Churchill

It seems that the blogosphere is rife with commentary about the demise of CU professor Ward Churchill. I wasn't really concerned with it until I read a blurb on the Junction Daily Blog that went like this:
According to today's Rocky Mountain News, disgraced CU professor Ward Churchill is entitled to a full year's salary, more than $96,000, as severance pay. Should he decide to retire and begin receiving benefits to which he is entitled under PERA, he can draw $70,000 per year if has has not bought extra years of service under the plan. The university is currently discussing whether he'll be allowed to keep his health insurance benefits.

What the hell is he complaining about?
I decided to comment, and by the time I was done I had a nice post put together. So here it is, for what it's worth, and since I'm not a product of the rarefied air of academia that Mr. Churchill and his entourage populate, perhaps it won't carry the same weight that it would coming from someone with a college degree. It's a free country, though, or so we think:

Churchill reminds me of a line from Monty Python:

"Professor of Applied Narcotics at the University of Please Yourself, California".

This is not about Churchill personally. He's the poster child for those in academia who fear accountability and peer review, and hide behind tenure as an excuse for doing real work, or making the impact that they were perhaps even hired to make.

I agree that Churchill wasn't fired for coming up with his own ideas and speaking them, no matter how curious they were. He made his own bed when he took other people's ideas and touted them as his own, and now he has to sleep in that bed. Pretty comfy bed from the sound of it, too.

Do you think any contributions toward substance abuse research among Native American populations might be forthcoming from that somewhat gilded parachute? Or might he adopt or sponsor a Native American child affected with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?
The Ward Churchill Foundation..what a concept.

Don't hold your breath. It's all going to trial lawyers, and to accomplish what? True academic "freedom" without the requisite responsibility.

Sicko: The Aftermath

My mother and I went to see Sicko this past Saturday. Before and since, I looked into some of the rhetoric, for and against, and thought about a lot of it. I'll keep my comments short, because my reaction was simple and not hardly as entertaining as what you'll find on Moorewatch or other sites.

As I was watching, the same thing kept popping into my head:

Matthew 25:44-46 (New International Version)

44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

Moore certainly delivers a potent message, but perhaps not a complete one. His defense of the facts presented is comprehensive and admirable. It's the facts he leaves out that appear to be a cause of concern for many.

The only thing I knew something about that didn't sit well with me was the little girl who needed a Cochlear Implant. We have many friends who have received these implants after being profoundly deaf since birth, and the perceptible improvements are significant. The following red flags popped up:
  • I'm surprised that the family's insurance company would have even paid for one implant. Jan was evaluated for one a number of years ago, and while her hearing would not have been measurably improved with it, Rocky Mountain specifically excluded them for coverage at the time, along with hearing aids.
  • Implanting both ears is a relatively new concept. It wouldn't surprise me if it was considered experimental at the time, and as a result been denied, probably no matter what country you were in.
The rest of the facts presented seemed, for the most part, plausible, and presented in an engaging and entertaining manner, which is something Moore does quite well; he makes you laugh at things that perhaps you really shouldn't.

By far the most impressive part of the film was Moore's interview with the retired but active British politician Tony Benn. Some of his contribution is excerpted here:

The most interesting review of the movie came from a unique, and perhaps unlikely, source; Kurt Loder of MTV. It was the most fair and balanced (ugh..sorry) assessment I could find of what was presented. Loder even used a word that I was previously unfamiliar with to describe the film; meretricious. I think I will use that one on somebody who deserves it someday, and see if they mistake it for a compliment.

After that, I don't have much more to say, other than my original recommendation stands. It's an enjoyable film and one that will educate, stimulate debate, and get us thinking about things, and from thought hopefully comes action. Like it or not.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sicko comes to GJ

Michael Moore definitely brings out different reactions in people. My take on him is that he is meticulous, controversial, and tries to deliberately piss people off, sometimes at the expense of his message. Many people want to see through the hyperbole, on both his part and his detractors, to try to understand what he's trying to say. I guess those are the ones who make his films among the most popular in the documentary genre.

Moore's latest film, Sicko, has generated its' share of controversy, from the scenes shot in Cuba to the CNN coverage and resulting fallout. From what I've read, on both sides of the issue, the film can't be ignored if one wants a complete understanding of the issues at hand.

It's been close to a month since the film's release, and up until now the only place on the Western Slope that the movie has been playing has been Durango. That will change starting Friday, when Sicko begins its' Grand Junction run.

I'll be seeing the movie, but I have to take it with a grain of salt, simply by virtue of my own experience with the health care system over the last two years. I'm fortunate to be able to have quality health insurance partly paid for by my employer. My share of the premiums are fair in relationship to my compensation, and the co-payments were reasonable as well.

My wife's cancer made itself known to us out of town. Rocky Mountain Health Plans covered everything that my plan said they would cover. They were understanding and compassionate, deferring to the opinion of the physicians in Pittsburgh that Jan could not travel until her damaged spine was surgically stabilized. Once back in Grand Junction, they worked with us on prescription drug costs, which still amounted to $5000 in 2006 but could have been much worse.

My wife's initial 5 week stay in two different hospitals, surgery, ambulance, etc. amounted to over $250,000. While considering the implications of this for someone without health insurance, consider also whether or not you feel that access to quality health care services, without cost as a consideration, is the right thing for our society to do.

Sicko appears designed to inform and motivate people to find out more about the way that health care has been administered in this country. As a public safety professional with a career emphasis on Emergency Medical Services, it has long been my firm belief that EMS services are part of the community public safety system, and as such should be provided by government on the same basis as Police and Fire services are. While we are part of the way there in Mesa County, there is still work to be done.

With that in mind, I hope you'll join me at the theatre this weekend to find out more. Whether you agree or disagree with Mr. Moore's message, you're not better off not knowing.

Best wishes for God's blessing of good health.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Human Services Transition

"One of the definite changes in my thinking was born of the hard reality I confronted when I discovered how much easier it was raising money for the opera and fashionable museums than for at-risk children. So I came to recognize that the task of overcoming poverty will not be achieved without the raw power of government appropriations."
- Arianna Huffington
As a property owner and frequent visitor to Cape Cod, I took understandably more than a passing interest in Mesa County's choice for it's new Director of Human Services. Full disclosure: I was a finalist for a job at DHS a couple of months back. If things would have happened differently, I would likely have been working for Len Stewart when he starts in August.

After reading the Sentinel's report in Saturday's edition, I quickly surfed over to the Cape Cod Times to read their story about Mr. Stewart's departure from their area. As you might expect, the coverage was somewhat different. I chuckle at the imaginary prospect of Gary Harmon working in Massachusetts.

Mr. Stewart has a public profile on LinkedIn, which has quite a bit of good information about him. An impressive education, including Philips Academy, Andover and Duke University.
Equally impressive credentials in public policy development, human services management, advocacy for specific public health crises, and even local news media.

Mr. Stewart seems to be all about establishing effective partnerships between government and that component of the non-profit sector that provides human services. His profile espouses goals I can agree with:
Interested primarily in ways government can better connect with and partner with the community (in a peer to peer, or "healthy communities" sort of way) to improve people's lives, and make sure they have what they need to be healthy, productive (however defined) community members.

Interested in ways to integrate and coordinate health and human services to link people quickly to what they need; and to link service providers to each other to truly coordinate services in a patient/client centered way.

Looking for ways to use innovative approaches to develop better services, for more people, at less overall system cost.

Vitally interested in improving government and nonprofit services through use of technology.

These are impressive goals, particularly the last one, and especially when dealing with a non-profit sector that sometimes appears less than coordinated and duplicates efforts at times, and elected officials that in the past have seemed bent on micro-managing the department, as evidenced by the demise of Mr. Stewart's predecessor, James Garrett.

To Mr. Stewart's credit, he seems to be focused on a collaborative future instead of a contentious past, even if the Cape Cod Times article alluded to a tenuous relationship with the commissioners there:
But Stewart said his job has been challenging because he's had to fight with the majority of county commissioners to get funds for the nonprofits that help poor and sick people. "He's been hanging tough for a long time," Paul O'Connor of the Barnstable County Health and Human Services Advisory Council said. "But it's been tough."
It looks like Mr. Stewart brings some quality experience and steadfastness to the forefront of his new job with Mesa County, and I hope he is up to the task. Cape Cod is a far cry from Grand Junction, and not just in distance. In any case, we both came out here for the job, and I hope that his experience will be as (if not more) positive as mine has.

Welcome to Mesa County, Mr. Stewart. A lot of needy people are counting on you. If you get homesick, I know of a small place that might be a good summer rental.


On a final (and possibly related) note, I was driving down North Avenue yesterday, and after passing Carville's this popped into my head:

You know you're from Grand Junction when the tallest fire truck in the county belongs to a used car lot.

Have a great week.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

What is a Christian?

A couple of articles this past week have compelled me to lead off with the above eternal question, which certainly won't be answered in this or any other forum, unless of course God is a blogger somewhere.

Much hue and cry has been coming from many places over the pronouncement by Pope Benedict XVI that the Roman Catholic Church is and remains the "one true church", and that salvation can only be obtained from said one true church.

Some of the myriad interpretations of this Vatican missive speculate that Rome is trying to assert a very narrow interpretation of exactly what constitutes the definition of a 'church' in theological terms, along with the assertion that they are the only ones that meet that definition.

All I can say about this is through my limited experience as a practicing Catholic, which ended around when I turned 12, and what my own sense of faith tells me about these things.

Theology is defined in at least one source as
"The study of the nature of God. The study of religion, and religious beliefs." As such, Theology is an enterprise of man, and thus subject to man's inherent imperfections, penchant for altering the truth for his own purposes, and desire to build elaborate structures and rituals around a truth, where none are really essential to the preservation of that truth, and are perhaps better suited to control of the message surrounding the truth, and through that exercise control over the believers.

For me, this defines much of the Roman Catholic Church throughout its' history, particularly the period that led up to the
Protestant Reformation. I'm no religious scholar by any means, but it would seem to me that if Benedict XVI is looking to call out other Christian denominations as being somewhat less than the Roman church, he need look no further than the nearest mirror for the root of the existence of these denominations. This should be especially clearer to this Pope, from whose earthly German origins sprang that same Reformation.

Bottom Line: A monstrous bureaucracy, with a storied history of corruption and duplicity on many fronts, is hardly the sole road to salvation in my book. For me, we are all loved by God, who gave his only Son to free us from the suffering of sin and death, and we need to lead our lives in accordance with His teachings and those of Jesus Christ.

I know that by focusing on this I will be leading my life in the way it was intended for me to do.
To be sure, I will mess up. I will make bad decisions and questionable choices. Knowing that I am loved helps move one foot in front of the other each day, so long as I am walking that intended path. Even as I struggle with the present and future uncertainties of this life, that's really all I need to know.

There was a
guest column in the Free Press this week that asked some really interesting, fundamental questions that should be of interest to anyone who purports to identify themselves as a Christian. While much of Mr. Rains' column centered on another corrupt, duplicitous bureaucracy that we are all too familiar with, the bulk of his assertions went to the heart of what those who identify themselves as Christians should hold as core beliefs.

It is our nature as flawed, imperfect human beings to take the pristine word of God and mold it for our own purposes. We rationalize, we justify, we ignore, we
bloviate. We become excessively, hypocritically narrow-minded, or too accepting of things that do not hold true to what should be our first priorities as people of faith.

Remove the labels of "organized" Christianity for a moment, and focus on the Word as we know it. The Bible as we know it today may or may not be representative of the "true word" of God, as written thousands of years ago. Some take it literally; some take considerable liberties with its' meaning. I try to use the lessons that I read in the Bible, and those taught to me by my pastors, as guideposts for living. These include the
Golden Rule and Psalm 23.

As I've said before, the closest representation we will ever see on this earth of the true word of God in action is through those who believe and live by that Word, including the admonition that we
live by faith and not by sight. Mr. Rains' father was very wise when he said, "I can't hear what you're saying, your actions are speaking too loudly".

I think I've said enough for now. To try to say anymore flies in the face of humility. This is probably why I don't write consistently; some of what I could say I don't feel comfortable saying.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Three Months Gone

It's been quite a while since I've posted anything, so I guess I'll start back into things with a few observations, and try to build back into the habit.

If anyone's curious, the Jeopardy audition went pretty well, at least as far as I was concerned. Knew stuff that nobody else did, like what movie biography had Greg Kinnear playing Bob Crane, and the name of the character Jimmy Stewart played in Harvey.

Part of the process was gathering some personal information, and along with what I did and other things I did mention that I had recently lost my wife. Their response was kind of false; "Oh, I'm so sorry...", and I almost wonder if they will just hold off using me because of it. Not really worth worrying about it; anything more is gravy. So many more things to think of, to deal with, to remember...

After three months, Jan still makes her presence known in many aspects of daily life, which is probably as it should be. I spent most of today going through still more boxes of stuff. One thing I found was her senior portrait from high school. I met her about 7 years after this picture was taken.

Returning to work has been difficult. I'm not at my best. I did better when I was immersed in being a caregiver and care coordinator, along with holding down a (more than) full time job.
Now other things are filling in that time, not the least being a long-distance relationship that carries with it all of the joys and challenges that are typical of those, with the additional challenges of dealing with grief, loss, and a sense of inadequacy. I'm not on the rebound, but I think I am on the mend. Leslie helps with that. I hope I am worthy.

Another challenge is the nature of shift work while trying to be a single parent of a teenager. I'm trying to make some adjustments. This can and will be interesting.

KAFM continues to be a source of quiet joy. Excellent people, an excellent platform for creativity, and well-positioned for the future. If you support the station, pat yourself on the back. They're making a difference.

After going through boxes and reading the papers, etc. today, I went to Bananas to hit some softballs, then took a drive around the area as dusk approached. The smoke from all of the local and distant wildfires painted the business district of Fruita in a somber dark red as the last vestiges of sunlight filtered through. It was eerie and troubling. This summer has been fairly oppressive, even by Grand Junction standards. Hopefully some relief is in the offing.


There was some interesting media and blog posting this weekend on the subject of police. Not the typical kind of coverage that you normally expect, but it definitely got my attention and was worth the read, whether or not you agree or disagree:

  • Gene Kinsey's post about the militarization of local police. This has been a pet project of Gene's ever since Northridge Estates got a taste of what not-so-well-heeled neighborhoods see much more often. It's an interesting point that Gene brings to the forefront, especially in the wake of some disturbing actions taken by the Bush administration involving the role of the real military on the home front. Even more disturbing is the mainstream media's failure to bring this to light.
  • Amy Hamilton's Page One story in today's Sentinel about the experiences of a female Meeker police officer one year after an officer-involved shooting. This was very well done and held my interest. It also validated several things for me about the nature of some communities, and how much denial and rationalization some will engage in, even when faced with the truth of how low some people will go. Like so many other things I read about in the papers, the same mantra pops into my head: Don't Drink....Don't Drink....Don't Drink.
  • Sunday's You Said It included a "question" about why there are cops in town wearing long sleeve shirts in 100-degree weather. As interesting a topic that this might be to some, I feel that I have expended enough virtual ink for the moment.
Best wishes for peace and understanding during the Dog Days.