Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Annual Salaries of Indiana State Employees

Ever wonder what your favorite state employee is paid? It's actually a matter of public record. Thanks to the Indianapolis Star, any state public employee's salary can be determined. Interesting thing DOES pay!

Click on this link to find Indiana State Employees Annual Salaries.

Wordless Wednesday: Miami Beach Crime Scene Van

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Civility at Christmas?

Good tidings! Blessed peace and all those good things. This is the time of year for us to turn to the better 'Angels' of our nature. To believe in the triumph of Good over Evil. To aspire to live lives of gratitude.  There is a sense that we are looking for something better than the mundane and ordinary, and believing in something bigger than ourselves. We celebrate the concept of giving and sharing. And, of course, there's the story of the ultimate gift to humanity.
Today, as I was walking near the entrance of one of our "mega-stores," a car drove slowly past with a young man yelling out of the vehicle's window. His comments were directed to a bell-ringer and another middle-aged man standing next to him. His less than eloquent parlance consisted of a particular two-word vulgarity that should never be used (especially in polite company, although I know it is spoken often in certain places). A couple of older ladies were walking out of the store at the time, and three or so senior citizens happened to be waiting nearby for the city bus. I was momentarily stunned, and I briefly looked at the man in the car as they drove on, shaking my head at the crude, callous and obnoxious behavior.
As I proceeded to make my way into the store, I thought about recent news stories involving trampled customers on "Black Friday" by inpatient shoppers racing to be the first to get the various "incredible sales." Nothing like literally running over granny and stepping on someone's neck just to get a Blue-Ray for $50.
And then I think about recent headlines in my local newspaper about a mother & father arrested for the 'alleged' neglect and abuse of their 9 month old baby. The child is still hospitalized from the multiple skull fractures sustained from blunt force trauma. It's reported that the child's road to recovery will be long & difficult.
I want to believe these things are not typical but isolated examples of the fringes of our culture. But I am persuaded to believe that sickening behavior is more commonplace than ever.
Christmas-time has a certain magical quality that suggests, at least for a brief, fleeting season, we can be better. We should think and act on the needs of others. We should try to put others first. As well, can't we just try to be civil to each other, for at least this one time of year? Perhaps underlying this incredible naiveté on my part points to a more simple and innocent age known as childhood, and all of the altruistic charm it once held.
As I am tempted to believe in the "Spirit of the Season," the over-commercialization of Christmas quickly pulls me back to reality. It's more about Madison Avenue slickness appealing to our greedy, materialistic, and self-indulgent lifestyles. It's not about "giving" but "getting." We've become a culture that worships at the alter of materialism. Priorities are misplaced, and life is cheapened.
Is it really no wonder that we have a generation that lacks an appreciation of a day's honest work,  the value of a dollar, or basic respect for others? Billions are spent on bank bailouts, wars ($2 billion a week in Afghanistan alone), earmarks for pet pork projects, and foreign aid for countries who may be more foe than friend. Meanwhile, our most vulnerable citizen's basic needs can't be met. Taxpayers are told it's their "patriotic duty" to blindly acquiesce to such waste, and overlook the "least of these" in the name of scarcity of resources. Hmm....come again?
Civility at Christmas? Maybe in a long by-gone era. Meanwhile, grab all that you can at the local mega-mart, for tomorrow the credit lenders may need another bail-out. And anyhow, the young man yelling out of his car window needs a new set of bass speakers to drown out his voice.
Note: This blog post was originally written last year (Dec. 4th, 2010) on my Wordpress blog. Thought it deserved re-posting. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fictional Friday: Carl

"The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped."
                                                                                 ~Hubert H. Humphrey

The relentless August sun bore down on the single-story ranch home.  Corn fields surrounded the rural Indiana home, and stretched as far as the eye could see.  Within this Hoosier farm-house, a middle-aged man name Carl, who has an intellectual disability, lives with his ailing 79 year-old father. Carl is in his mid-50's, and has had a rather meager  and hard existence.  As a poor farm family, they lived far below what is considered frugal.  Carl has never been to either a dentist or a doctor.  Carl is not able to read or write, he has difficulty with simple math, and requires frequent reminders to bathe and do laundry. Carl's mother passed away two decades ago of a heart-attack.  Carl's father has been in and out of nursing homes during the last year or so, is on dialysis, and uses a wheelchair.  Carl helps takes care of his father, but is barely able to care for himself.  Carl's parents never sought any assistance for him, and had always been his primary caregivers.  And now that Carl's mother has passed, and his father's health in serious decline, Carl's life is rapidly changing.  Carl has a difficult time understanding where his is life is heading, and where his future lies.

Carl has never received any government assistance or help.  He has no income.  Carl has done hard, physical labor most of his life, and nowadays most area farmers have little for him to do.  He lives a barely subsistent  life.  This summer, I received a call from one of Carl's siblings, asking about what kind of help might be available for him.   It seems that once the inevitable happens with their father, the farm will be liquidated to pay for medical expenses, and Carl will have no place to go.

I helped Carl complete applications for Vocational Rehabilitation, the Medicaid Waiver program, Medicaid & Food Stamps.  The State of Indiana has yet to find Carl eligible for the Waiver program, which would provide crucial assistance with things like helping him find an affordable place to live, accessing community resources, shopping, budgeting his money, maintaining his health care, and in-home supports like helping him maintain his personal hygiene and keeping his home clean and livable.  Since Carl is verbal and ambulatory, and can do some minimal self-care tasks, he may not qualify under the state guidelines for the Waiver program .

At best, Carl would be placed on a 10 to 12 year waiting list with some 20,000 other Hoosiers with intellectual disabilities.  If he is fortunate, he might start receiving services around the year 2023.  Carl remains hopeful that he may someday have some help meeting his needs and becoming self-sufficient. In the meantime, what happens to Carl?

There are numerous "Carls" in the State of Indiana.  Many of them are among our most vulnerable citizens, and often can't speak for themselves.  And a good number of them have fallen through the cracks of our society. In a world where we gladly give pop-culture icons our undeserved time and attention, it's easy to overlook and ignore the "least of these."  Sadly, Carl and those like him can't compete with the likes of the Kardashians, Snookies, and Charlie Sheens of the world.   Perhaps someday, our society and leaders in government will be more interested devoting their time and attention in making sure people like Carl get a chance at having a decent life and becoming self-sufficient, and not fall the cracks of a very flawed system.

Note: Carl is a fictional character, based on a composite of real individuals I regularly encounter. Characters who appear in my "Fictional Friday" posts are based on real stories with particular details, names, and certain specific circumstances changed so as to protect privacy.  

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Where are the Gentlemen?

I caught part of a segment on MSNBC's Morning Joe a few days ago in which the topic of discussion was "What makes a gentleman?" The guests were GQ's Chris Mitchell and Jake Wood, the winner of GQ magazine's "Better Men, Better World" search. It seems to be a worthwhile endeavor. Aspiring to make the world a better place is noble & honorable, and the men who strive to do such deserve recognition.  Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly rare to find men of character who stand above the rest and make a real difference in the world in which we live.  

What kinds of traits make up a gentleman? Who do you think of? For me, the word gentleman conjures up images from my grandfather's generation. I think of men of Hollywood fame, like Gregory Peck, Gary Cooper, and Humphrey Bogart. 

Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezenzki thinks Robert Duvall is the quintessential gentleman. I agree. He is definitely old school. He has charm and the timeless qualities that define a gentleman. He seems like the type who would pull out a chair for lady, open doors for them, and would, if necessary, kick someone's butt (as Mika so eloquently put it).

I found Bryan William's depiction humorous. Corny, but funny. But it does seem chivalry is a thing of a by-gone era. My wife, when asked who she thinks of, said Sean Connery. Of course, who oozes coolness and gentlemanly qualities better than 007 himself? Who can compete with the tux-wearing, martini-sipping, villain-fighting Sean Connery, the one who made all the 007 women fall under his spell?

In today's culture, rudeness, misogyny  and vulgarity are commonplace. The question has to be asked: "Where are the gentlemen in today's world?"  In contemporary America, coarseness and disrespect have displaced manners and politeness. Behavior that used to be considered fringe and reserved for tawdry daytime television can be seen in almost any public setting. It is as if boorish behavior is a contest, but no one really wins.

I am not trying to open a Pandora's box of feminist wrath, but I think in spite of what some women say, they really do want a knight in shining armor. Women like men who are confident, self-assured, and assertive. Weak, milquetoast men need not apply. Cowardice and timidity are not traits of gentlemen, and I would guess most women are put off by these traits. I think a gentlemen is one who is manly, fearless, and courageous. And all the while demonstrating respect and a special tenderness to their woman and family. Maybe for women to admit the qualities they really like in men suggests a level of vulnerability, but I think that's OK. At the end of the day, well-disciplined masculinity wins over weak, passionless souls, and indifferent, obnoxious brutes. 

I have seen men whose behavior suggests they've never been taught the right way to treat a lady. I believe many confuse gentlemen-like behavior and politeness for weakness. Perhaps part of the problem is an increasingly fatherless society. And maybe some of it is a culture that tolerates behavior that devalues and dehumanizes others. Regardless the reasons, men can and should do better. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

J Edgar

"There's something addictive about a secret." ~J. Edgar Hoover

Ok, another confession. I happen to love history. I am fascinated by certain eras and figures in history. J. Edgar Hoover was one of these intriguing personalities that has captured my interest. J. Edgar Hoover's name often conjures up images of the long by-gone gangster era, including infamous characters such as John Dillinger (and who can forget the famous death mask?),  Ma Barker, Machine Gun Kelly, "Pretty Boy" Floyd, and "Baby Face" Nelson.  J. Edgar Hoover's reign as Director at the FBI covered multiple decades of the 20th century, a couple of which were during some of the most tumultuous times in American history.  I've read a number of biographies on J. Edgar Hoover, very few of which were flattering. Most biographers accuse Hoover of extreme infringements on civil liberties during his years as Director. Many characterize it as the quintessential abuse of power. Others defend Mr. Hoover as a patriot who did what was necessary to combat threats and enemies to the American way of life. Regardless of the views of him, those who have studied him pretty much all agree that his power was unprecedented.

J. Edgar Hoover collected secrets.  He collected all types of secrets, on all types of people.  He had personal dossiers on presidents, members of Congress, writers, Hollywood actors, journalists, government employees, musicians, civil rights leaders, political activists, and many, many others.  Electronic and physical surveillance were used to gain sensitive information.  Telephone lines were tapped, and FBI agents were used to watch unsuspecting individuals, often catching them in very compromising positions.

The story of J. Edgar Hoover is one of the most fascinating to me. Some say he yielded more power than the President of the United States.  Most of the presidents he served under feared him. The majority of them had skeletons in their closets, and weren't exactly sure what all Hoover knew about them. Hoover was an extraordinarily disciplined man, one who knew how to keep a secret.  Most could only speculate what dirt he may have had on them.  Sometimes Hoover would give a sly, subtle hint when he needed to gain cooperation.  Hoover would leverage that knowledge to his advantage, time and time again.  Whether it was to keep his job from one presidential administration to another (or to stay on as Director, well past the mandatory retirement age for government employees), to ensuring large budgets to the Department of Justice continued without question.  Hoover's enemies gained special attention. Critical journalists often found themselves the target of FBI investigations, sometimes being forced into silence. Sometimes members of Hoover's inner circle would fall out of favor (a few remained loyal for the duration, especially noteworthy was his forever faithful second-in-command, Clyde Tolson).  Many former G-Men describe Hoover as capricious and vindictive, oftentimes demoting agents without true just cause.  Hoover is said to have harshly retaliated against those who dared to cross him.

Hoover was vehemently anti-Communist, and was renown for targeting political groups that were considered subversive. The middle part of the twentieth century proved to be fertile to a number of politically and culturally volatile events, entities and figures, like the House Committe on Un-American Activitiesthe Alger Hiss/Whittaker Chambers case (another great political story of which I am fascinated), the execution of Julius & Ethel RosenbergSenator Joe McCarthy, and Hollywood blacklisting.  J. Edgar Hoover wrote & spoke frequently on the Red Menace. Anti-Communism provided Hoover with a forum to sustain and grow his power. And that, he did very well.

Clint Eastwood's new movie, J Edgar, is set to be released next weekend. Leonardo DiCaprio plays J. Edgar Hoover. From the previews I've seen, DiCaprio's physical depiction of Hoover is uncanny. I've read a few articles on the upcoming movie that indicates it will be an excellent film. However, like Hoover himself, the film is not without controversy. Clint Eastwood has come under fire from both sides of the spectrum, mainly over the issue of how the films depicts Hoover's sexuality. Among the more tantalizing rumors about Hoover involves speculation of his sexual orientation, and in particular, the nature of his personal relationship with Clyde Tolson.

Clyde Tolson (left) and J. Edgar Hoover

Here is the official movie trailer for Eastwood's new movie, J Edgar.

I will be watching the movie this upcoming Friday evening...hopefully with a review to follow shortly thereafter. I am very curious as to how it will portray him. Hoover really was an enigma, and much more complex than most people would think. It is easy to demonize him, but a fair and objective analysis should involve more than a cursory condemnation. I am looking forward to seeing this movie. Being a history geek, I hope that it does a good job of providing an accurate historical context and captures the societal and cultural differences that existed in Hoover's era.

Feel free to leave your thoughts, especially if you see the movie!

Click on the links below to either rent the movie or purchase it. These links below are Affiliate Links!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Arc of Indiana's 2011 Conference & Appreciation Luncheon

We are living in times of great economic uncertainty. People are facing unprecedented challenges not seen in several decades. In Indiana, over 20,000 individuals with intellectual & developmental disabilities are on a wait list for critical services. That wait list is well over a decade long. A person with ID/DD who applies for services today will most likely not eligible until the year 2022 or beyond. Most of those currently receiving services through the Medicaid Waiver Program have seen their budgets cut significantly, often resulting in a loss of important services. Provider agencies face an incredibly difficult balancing act, struggling to maintain quality services and financial solvency.

On Tuesday of this week I had the privilege of attending The Arc of Indiana's 2011 Conference & Appreciation Luncheon. Simply put, the staff at The Arc of Indiana are some of finest folks I have have come to know. They are smart, creative, progressive, and forward-thinking. At this year's conference they unveiled the transformational plan, "Blueprint for Change," the next step in the Pathways to Empowerment Campaign. The "Blueprint for Change" is the result of several months of hard work. The Arc of Indiana did a marvelous job of bringing together leaders in the field of intellectual/developmental disabilities (across Indiana and the country). This resulted in the formulation of five key principals that serve to transform an outdated and ineffective service model. The Arc also conducted forums across Indiana with people with disabilities & their families to gather their input on these key principals.

The "Blueprint for Change" is based on the notion that it is possible to build a better world for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, in spite of the tough times we're living in. We can do better. I encourage you to check out The Arc of Indiana's Blueprint for Change Report to learn more. Change is not necessarily an easy thing. But anything worth doing usually isn't.

Having worked in this field for almost 25 years, I have seen a lot of things come and go. In today's world it's so easy to be overwhelmed, frustrated, and even angry at the inequality and unmet needs of some of our most vulnerable citizens, many of whom are often not able to speak for themselves. I left the conference Tuesday motivated, encouraged, and empowered. Yes, we can, and will do better.

About Me

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I work for a Community-Based, Not-for-Profit agency. I have worked in the disability field for over twenty-five years. I am the father of two boys, and have been married to my teenage sweet-heart for 23 years. I live and work in the same town where I was born & raised.
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