Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sick Leave

I have been struck down by a sinus infection and pleurisy which is having an adverse impact on my otherwise sunny disposition and steel trap mental acuity.

I'm out.




Sunday, March 15, 2015

AWOL

Busy weekend and the sun is shining.

I'm outta here.

Talk among yourselves.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

My Sunday Feeling


For those of you outside the State of Arkansas, or without Internet access, this is State Representative Justin Harris of West Fork, Arkansas which is up in Northwest Arkansas.  He is a Tea Party Republican and he and his wife own a Christian day-care center up there that is heavily subsidized by Arkansas Department of Human Services to the tune of about 800 grand a year depending on what you read. He is also in the big middle of one the tragic stories I've ever heard.  Tragic in the sense that a small child was sexually assaulted while legally in the custody of he and his wife after they gave she and her sister to another family to care for.  

The practice is called "rehoming."  It is one that I had never heard of before the Arkansas Times broke this incredible story.  Basically, rehoming is when an adoptive or custodial parent gives a child or children to someone else to raise.  As you might imagine, not all adoptions work out.  Rather than trying to work through DHS at these times some folks just basically give the kid to someone else who wants him.  The new parents take the kid in without having to go through all the background checks and home visits that the law requires.   Indeed, there are websites where people can find kids that adoptive parents want to get rid of.  I have read that it is not unheard of for pedophiles to frequent these sites.

Obviously the practice of rehoming is a recipe for trouble of the worst sort.  And trouble of the worst sort, the most sickening and heartbreaking sort, is precisely what happened here.  

You can read the original Arkansas Times piece here: http://www.arktimes.com/arkansas/a-child-left-unprotected/Content?oid=3691164 . I will give Gentle Reader the Reader's Digest condensed version. 

Rep. Harris and his wife, who were already the parents of 3 boys adopted the two girls in question. (They had adopted another girl which they subsequently prevailed upon DHS to take back.) The girls came from a background of abuse which is sadly not unheard of in the juvenile court system.  It is common for parents who adopt difficult cases to receive a subsidy from the State as an incentive to adopt problem kids.  According to what I have read the subsidy is to help defray the additional costs engendered by these children.

The girls in question had been diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder or RAD.  I have reasonably unfettered access to psychiatrists, which I concede I should probably take better advantage of, and they assure me that this is a real disorder.  It is characterized by a failure of the child to bond with the new parents and can manifest itself in acting out behavior and even violence. Representative Harris received a legal monthly subsidy for this reason.  

For whatever reason, things did not go well.  The long and the short of it is that Harris wanted DHS to take the kids back.  It is unclear as to what happened at that juncture.  Harris says they threatened him with a charge of abandonment. DHS will not confirm or deny this allegation because the adoption process throughout is veiled in secrecy.  And properly so.

Enter trouble of the worst sort.  Rebuffed, so he says, by DHS, Harris sought to rehome the girls with a man named Eric Francis and his wife, who had adopted children through a foreign agency.  Mr. Francis (who for God's sake should not be confused for 5 minutes with the local journalist of the same name) had worked briefly for Harris at the day care center owned by him until he was terminated for excessive absenteeism.  Mrs. Francis-or the former Mrs. Francis I should say for reasons that will become clear shortly-was said to be friends with Mrs. Harris.  

However we got to this juncture is murky.  But this much is agreed on.  DHS knew nothing about Harris rehoming the girls with the Francis family.  Harris kept receiving the subsidy checks despite no longer having the girls in his care.  

And Eric Francis raped one of the little girls for which he is now pulling 40 years.

In a news conference at the Capitol and in a subsequent interview with a local television station Harris blamed the alleged threats by DHS for his feeling as if he had no choice but to take the actions he did given the unruly behavior by the girls, behavior which he said escalated to threats of violence among other things.  This story, along with questions of whether Mr. and Mrs. Harris were suitable to adopt these girls in the first place, are raised in another story put out today by the Times.  You can read it here: http://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2015/03/07/foster-family-disputes-key-staments-from-justin-harris

I spent my career chasing down money and getting it back for the government. Government money comes with strings.  The recipient has to dot every i and cross every t. Or as the old SCOTUS case I always cited said "men must cut square corners" when they do business with the government.  And thus we come to the easy part of the case against Mr. Harris. 

In a subsequent news conference, Harris claimed that he can prove that he gave the subsidy checks to Mr. Francis.  Doesn't matter.  The subsidies in question were for the specific use of Mr. Harris for the care of the girls based on his having satisfied exceedingly stringent conditions precedent.  Mr. Francis was no more entitled to those checks than I was.  Harris had no authority to disburse that money in any fashion other than what the law allowed. Further, once he rehomed the girls how on Earth was he still an eligible payee?

In the interview he defended the decision to rehome the girls with Francis-a man that he had terminated from his day care center-because he had a "pristine" police record, one which we may candidly state is now decidedly less pristine.

Doesn't matter.  First of all, it was not Justin Harris's call to make.  That authority is vested in DHS.  Secondly, a clean police record is not the standard for adoption. 

In the past 18 months or so, I have passed 2 police background checks and hold a VIRTUS certification from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Little Rock.  My record with the cops is as pristine as Mr. Francis's was.  This just means that I am a fit candidate for taking pictures for Girls On The Run and for yelling at guys at Catholic High.  It does not mean that sending a kid to live with me is in the best interests of a particular kid.  No matter how great a guy I am or how much I love the kid.  The best interests of the kid is the standard.  Not lack of a criminal record or what is in the best interests of Justin Harris. 

So you may ask why wouldn't an elected official work within a system he took an oath to uphold?  Good question.  Harris is a powerful guy.  Why did he jump through all these hoops when he could just threaten to defund DHS and haul the Director in for a browbeating?  Why didn't he hire a lawyer to challenge the threat to charge him with child abandonment? If indeed one was made.  

There is the likely Tea Party reflexive response that he wasn't gonna let some pointy headed government bureaucrat dictate how he was going to run his family.  So he took matters into his hand as a sovereign citizen or the other foolishness I have seen in my day.  As for me, it has always been my practice to try to work with the folks that give me money.  But then again I don't have much of a sense of entitlement.  

But here's my theory, speaking of the money. It's all about the money. And not the subsidy checks. That's chump change.  I'm guessing that a DHS finding that Harris had abandoned the kids, if upheld, would adversely impact his license to-duh- run a daycare.  Which you and me are pretty much subsidizing. So for this reason he decided to game the system that was jamming him up. 

Which resulted in a child getting raped.  

Rehoming is not illegal in Arkansas.  But it may soon be.  A bill was introduced the other day that would make it so. Governor Hutchinson says he is concerned about this issue.  Former Governor Beebe says he never heard of rehoming until he was leaving office.  I fully believe both men.  I fully believe that what happened was a failure of a system that allowed Harris to adopt these kids in the first place.

I fully believe that Justin Harris is sick unto death about what happened to that girl.  I fully believe that he would have never knowingly placed that child in harm's way. That is the only undeniable truth he has uttered about this whole sordid transaction.  

I also fully believe that his response to this is firestorm reveals him to be a gold plated narcissist. He, and he alone, is completely responsible for what happened to that child. He neglected a child in his custody.  It resulted in her being violated at the tender age of 6.  She is the only victim here. 

Which leads me to the next question. 

What the hell does it take to get a day care license revoked in this state anyway? 





























Sunday, March 01, 2015

My Sunday Feeling

As statistics go it hasn't been a bad winter.  In fact, if one were to sit down and look at the data, one would probably find that the winter 2014-2015 was one of the milder on record.  And I know that I have played a good bit of golf in December and January.  

But to hell with data.  February has been brutal.  

As I type this my Weatherbug app informs me that it is 26 degrees on the other side of the wall.  I am beyond sick of this bitterly cold weather.  I made this observation at a luncheon following a Lenten service over to the neighborhood branch of the Baptists.  Father Erik, who had given the homily, reminded me of the fact that this Winter has been mild up until now.

I'm not one to rebuke the clergy but I have become even more cantankerous in my old age.  I wasn't going to take this layin' down just because this observation was coming from a guy wearing a collar.

"Oh yeah?," I said, trying to be helpful. "I wrecked my car on some black ice Tuesday night. I've had water running for 2 weeks.  I can't play golf and I'm tired of being housebound and eating my own cookin'.  Forgive me but I've just about had it."

Father's expression was quite tranquil seeing as how he was sitting next to a madman.  
"I'm sorry about your car," he said. "Spring will be here soon."

Spring will be here soon.  

I don't know if it is a function of my advancing age but I really long for Spring. I used to like Spring mainly because it heralded the beginning of baseball season. And there is still something reassuring that the Cubs will be yet again toiling away in the friendly confines of Wrigley in the service of utter futility.  

But I need to hear the birds, to see grass grow, feel the sun on my face.  I want to spend hours out on the deck.  I want to sit on the porch, play golf, and to take long walks.  This latter consideration is particularly acute seeing as how I now have a hiker in my life and I am not keen on being told by her to go take one by my lonesome.  

But today it is 26.  The clouds are positively leaden.  

Tomorrow the Little Rock Marathon will take place.  They are predicting a high in the forties with a 60% chance of rain.  

Ugh.  I'm sorry.  But that just doesn't sound like fun.  

But there is no chance of snow.  The temps will get above freezing.  

Father Erik is right.  Spring will be here soon.

Go Cubs!






Saturday, February 21, 2015

Duty Calls

I will be busy most of the weekend listening to high school age tenors and sopranos audition over the Internets for the vocal music program at the Arkansas Governor's School.  So no blogging this weekend.  If history is any guide my hands will be shaking too badly to type anyway.

Talk amongst yourselves.  

Sunday, February 15, 2015

My Sunday Feeling

I got a letter the other day from an unexpected source.  The return address indicated that it was from a gentleman that I know from church.  K is a retired real estate man as I recall.  In my experience, unsolicited correspondence of this sort tends to generally be limited to fundraising.  So imagine my surprise when I read the first paragraph.

"For the past several years, rather than giving up something for Lent, I have instead given special time to thoughts and prayers for special people."

My day is Friday the 20th.

"[I] will pause to thank God for you.  I will ask that he make his presence known to you in all you do and to bless your life and, through you, the lives of others. I'll be praying about your family and all those you love, about all the things that keep you busy, and about your health.  I'll be expressing particular thanks for your talent as a writer and the education you received at Hendrix and for your long membership in the church I love.  Finally, I'll thank him for you friendship and the privilege I have to know you."

To say that I was stunned is to to understate the case considerably.  In the first place, I don't think that I've had a conversation of any substance with this gentleman in 2-3 years.  Secondly, while God knows I could use it, I don't exactly consider myself a fit subject for such intervention.

My initial thought is that K had obviously reached the bottom of the barrel of available candidates for intercessory prayer after all of these years.  After all, as I said, I haven't had many dealings with K in some time.  

But I was mainly struck by what a profound kindness out of the blue the letter represented.  To know that someone thought about me and was thankful of it is profoundly humbling.  And while I am not superstitious in the slightest I confess that it is comforting to know that someone will be praying on my behalf next Friday.  

We live in a brutal world filled seemingly to the brim with fear and hatred.  And that's just the Arkansas legislature.  It is all to easy to forget that people are capable of "random acts of kindness" as the saying goes.  

Ash Wednesday is at hand.  It is the first day of the penitential season of Lent. It is the day that we remember that we were formed from dust. And that unto dust we will return. 

I will also remember that people can be capable of indescribable grace and kindness even to those that are completely undeserving of same.  Such as myself. 

And I will try to pay it forward if I can.  


Sunday, February 08, 2015

My Sunday Feeling

I never cease to be amazed by the persecution complex present among certain majorities.  Some straights claim to be persecuted by gays.  Rich folks by lazy welfare cheats. Whites by African-Americans.  And some Christians by everything.  Scientists, historians, "secularists" and people that say "Happy Holidays" during the Winter Solstice.  

A recent example of this paranoia may be seen in its full flower over to the Commonwealth of Kentucky where a ministry called "Answers in Genesis" has sued over Kentucky tourism officials denying AiG (not to be confused with the financial and insurance conglomerate that damn near took down the world's economy when it defaulted on all the credit-swaps it "insured" during the real estate bust in 2008) 18 million bucks in tax incentives to build a theme park called the Ark Encounter which would feature a 500 foot long replica of the vessel used by Noah to save all of the animal kingdom (except the dinosaurs) during either one or both of the Great Floods as recounted in the Book of Genesis.   AiG is no stranger to this type of real estate development.  The ministry opened the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky which promotes a strict interpretation of the Genesis account of creation.  

According to an AP story in the Lexington Herald Leader, AiG is suing because Kentucky's actions allegedly violate the organization's right to free expression of religion which is guaranteed by the 1st Amendment.  

Which, of course, is complete hooey.  Here's what happened.  

Kentucky was on board with this project until it found out that AiG would require applicants for jobs at the park to sign a statement that they believed in the Genesis account of Creation including the belief-considered non-sensical even by many fundamentalists(even that known rationalist Pat Robertson)-that the Earth is a relatively juvenile 6000 years old. The tourism board considered this to be discrimination based on religion which the state could not support through taxpayer financed tax incentives.  

As I say at times like these, this is an opportunity to teach.  

Religious institutions, to a certain extent. are free to discriminate in their hiring practices.  A Catholic school may limit the pool of applicants considered for a position teaching theology to Catholics.  A Jewish school may likewise hire only Jews to teach Torah.  A Baptist church in the Southern Baptist communion may hire only graduates from a Southern Baptist seminary for its clergy.  And so on.

Where it gets less clear is if a Catholic school would only consider Catholics for positions to discharge strictly non-ministerial duties such as teaching math or coaching football.  Or being a janitor or food services worker. The case law, as I remember it, is that our hypothetical Catholic school could not discriminate in this fashion for every position that it offered to the public.

But we don't need to go there.

What is clear in the present case(at least to the Kentucky tourism folks) is that if the park is primarily an extension of AiG's ministry, it is not eligible for state tax incentives.  Further, if the purpose is primarily a business, such as a football stadium or water park, it is not eligible for assistance from the state if it discriminates in its hiring practices.  AiG cannot have it both ways.

This is not discrimination against religion by Kentucky.  This is not suppression of free expression of religion.  If AiG can gin up the money for this silly park through private donations as it did for the equally silly Creation Museum ( where I read that there are exhibits depicting humans cavorting Flintstone-like with dinosaurs), then God bless. But every application for state funding for private business ( loans and loan guarantees, bids on building projects, government contracts, you name it) I have ever seen in my illustrious career requires the applicant to sign a statement that it will not discriminate in its hiring practices. Which is where I am guessing the trouble started here.

Answers in Genesis, as a ministry, may limit its pool of job applicants to "young Earth" types if it so desires.  It just can't ask the government to help finance such an endeavor.

It can't have it both ways.  And I like the Commonwealth's chances in Federal Court.