Thursday, June 29, 2006

Bad food

I went to a famed Nashville establishment and heard some pretty good music and had a good time. I also though had some of the worst food I have ever eaten. As a former Baptist minister I am skilled at eating foods that cause me to upchuck my guts out and smile as I am eating it, but this was bad. My stomach has been unsteady ever since. I go home, get on the internet and see that the M&M/Mars factory in Chicago has been closed down due to rat feces and a fruit fly infection. I am sitting and thinking about the Snickers bar I had a week ago and struggle to deal with my gastronomic gyrations.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


I wasn't sure if I wanted to say this or not, but I am a probation officer with the Department of Children's Services. The kids I work with are teenagers. Most of which have done something stupid and are unlikely to do it again. The next group is kids who did something stupid, continue to do stupid things, but if they had the right environment maybe would not get into trouble. Of course finally there are kids that seem determined to fight the world. I have gotten used to working with these kids, and I really enjoy being around them. As a children's PO you spend a lot of time just waiting for the proper place to put the individual kids if they come into state's custody. The average kids will spend at least 6 hours in your cube waiting to find out where they will go. While waiting with them, you get good at cracking jokes, 7 degrees to Kevin Bacon, and making sure they don't burn down the joint. They know that they did something to get them there; you know they did something to get them there. It makes sense to all; sort of. I had the opportunity to babysit younger kids that did not come in through the court system. They didn't do anything. They didn't know why they were there. I didn't know why they were there. I hated it. Frankly, someone dying an untimely death in a car accident makes more sense. I understand that. I can explain that. I am so glad I got the "bad" kids.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Secondhand smoke

I just want everyone to know that if you are around individuals smoking pot, you may come up positive on a drug screen, and it is not a good excuse that you were not the one actually with the joint in your hand.


Monday, June 26, 2006

We mourn the passing of dear brother Moose

December 24, 1990-June 26, 2006
The star of Frazier as "Eddie" and My Dog Skip as "Old Skip"

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Families First Waste

The state of Tennessee website says of Families First:

Families First is Tennessee's welfare reform plan which replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. The temporary cash assistance program emphasizes work, training, and personal responsibility. As part of the Families First program, each participant must agree to follow a Personal Responsibility Plan (PRP).

Unless a participant is exempt from the work requirement, he/she must also agree to develop, follow, and complete a work plan. The work plan is based on the individuals needs and skills.

See http://

Let me tell you the idea of Families First is great. Single parents have the opportunity to receive free job skills training while receiving a small stipend and child care certificates from the government. The program tries to address the root causes of poverty along with the handout.
Each parent on Families First is to be in a 40 hour activity; either work, job skills training, education, or a combination of those activities which is verified every 6 months. For example, a participant could enroll in college for 12 hours and work a part-time job for 16 hours (school hours count double). If the participant is not enrolled in college or working, most likely the client will be referred to ECS, the states job preparedness program, to meet the work requirement. The interesting thing is that a large portion of the participants following certification will quit their job or drop out of school. ECS is tracked by contract agencies of the state so it is harder to go unnoticed as not participating.

Families on Families First are also limited as to the length of time that they can be on Families First; a family can be on Families First continuously for 18 months with a lifetime total counter of 60 months. When a family reaches the 18 month point, the family is supposed to not be eligible for 3 months in order to ease the family into the real world like a bird. If they fly, Families First has done its job; if they sink, Families First will be available to them for another 18 months or until the 60 month lifetime counter is full. There are various reasons to stop the counter like the birth of a child (1 year), when a family is being assessed for Family Service Counseling (1 month), or the parent is assessed to be below the 9th grade level (until the individual reaches the 9th grade level).

Families First assistance groups have eligibility and grant payment time limits. A time limit is a range of months in which an assistance group will work to achieve self-sufficiency.

An assistance group has an 18-month time limit for a period of eligibility and a 60-month lifetime limit. There are exceptions to this time limit for certain assistance groups. These exceptions can include exemptions interruptions, and extensions.

The 18 and 60-month time limits are maximum time limits. An assistance group may acheiveve self-sufficiency or become ineligible for other reasons earlier than the maximum time limits.

See http:// (pdf pg 244, manual pg 199)

The interesting thing is that these counters are basically meaningless. When a family recertifies(reapplies), the eligibility counselor performs a counter review to determine if the client is still within the 18 month and 60 month limits. If a worker is not able to show through documented records that a parent is in a 40 hour work activity for a particular month, that month does not count for the counter.

Remember what I said before about quitting activities right after the certification appointment; the participants are supposed to report within ten days any significant changes in work activities, but they almost never do. Also, the state tracks the attendance of those in ECS right? The eligibility counselor may learn that a client is not attending, but generally will do little about it due to the high workload and revolving door of case workers. The worker is supposed to schedule a meeting to renegotiate the Personal Responsibility Plan, but many will wait to the 6 month re-certification to deal with it. The result is that people have been on Families First for over 10 years (120 months)! This is due to the negligence of the workers and participants who have figured out how to work the system.

When I hear about the cuts and stories of abuse in Tenncare, I get so angry that no one hears about Families First abuses.

Future Quake

You should listen to, 98.9 WRFN Pasquo, Tennessee, this Tuesday evening at 8-10 PM central. Dr. Future is returning from the 9/11 + the Neo-Con Agenda conference in Los Angeles. He attended the entire conference and as credentialed member of the press, he will probably have the most complete coverage of the conference. Even if you're not in to that kind of thing, it is pretty interesting.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Eminent domain protections-Yipee?!

If you haven't heard yet the Prez produced an executive order concerning eminent domain; basically the federal government is not going to take your house to build a shopping mall. I think that the executive order should include something about firing patriot missiles at the city halls and county commissions that actually steal people's homes so they can build another starbucks.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Crime story

I love cops shows, forensic shows, lawyers shows, and just plain anything that involves a detective. I watch reality based programs like The New Detectives, Forensic Files, American Justice, and even occasionally Cops. I also enjoy fictional shows like Law & Order, C.S.I. (any version), and anything else like it. The novels that I read are mainly those by authors like John Grisham or Greg Iles.
One day, I encountered a woman who had been the victim of a very serious crime. I got excited asked her all kinds of questions and sought details of the crime, and all of the sudden I realized that I might be smiling. I quickly regrouped and became a human again, and sought to serve this lady like she deserved to be served. In my current situation in life, I encounter all kinds of people and many of them have experienced crime (in one role or the other) in their lives. I wonder has all of this crime entertainment desensitized us to the all too real realities of crime in America? I definitely was not compassionate to that woman; I was a voyeur.

I can't wait to see which Law & Orders got tivo-ed today!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Hollywood vs the terrorists

I just read an article on MSNBC about how Hollywood has made a public service announcement against suicide bombing to air on Iraqi television. How ridiculous! One of the main reasons why Islamic fundamentalists hate the United States is because of the products of Hollywood that infiltrate their homelands. The Hollywood picture of American life is so distorted and unreal, but that is the view that much of the world has of America. If Hollywood would really like to help prevent terrorism, start making more films that are not inundated with the worship of carnality and materialism. The PSA, I believe, will be seen for what it is, silly American propaganda, and may actually discredit American efforts in the region.

I have more DVD's than Blockbuster, so I'm not just a grumpy old man.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Social services

When I first was inspired to go in to Christian ministry, I saw the needs of families, the homeless, the hungry, and the just plain beaten down. As I went through my theological training, I became distracted from my original drive to serve others. The classes focus on the Bible of course, but they also focused on administration of the church. Both are needed, but there was little that was "preaching" to the students. There was an occasional professor here or there but nothing that reminded my initial calling to make the world better for those around me. I became frustrated over time in church work, where most of the churches were moving away from social ministries and focusing solely on evangelism. The Southern Baptist seminaries' social service programs have been shrinking over the past 15 years or so and social ministries have become equated with "liberals" in evangelical circles. I believe that churches are abdicating their role in social ministry and seeing the government as the primary support system for families. I know that churches can support families better than the government can, because they provide the moral frame work and social (in the friends sense) support to meet goals. The government has to rely on formulas and artificial standards in who will receive aid. The church and individuals may benefit from the use of such formulas but they can also use common sense to provide more personalized assistance. The church needs to step up to the plate.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Well, I wanted to be in the world. I have a pretty sheltered existence in church work. Oh, I have seen everything you see anywhere else, but you put it off as an aberration and mainly occurring in the lives of people who don’t profess similar beliefs as yourself. I felt like I was working with the best of the best and not really having a chance to influence my world for the better. Now, I deal with people with people of all kinds.
I have always considered myself to be a little more open than the average minister type, but the opinions and interpretations of life that one can create in church isolation can be pretty hard to reconcile with modern American life. For example, Southern Baptist Churches say consuming alcoholic beverages is wrong and that if you drink you are leading others into temptation. Using that logic, you should not be allowed to eat Ice Cream, because I am fat. I have never had problem with people drinking responsibly (I never did drink anything while working in churches; just to make that clear). The Bible says that it is wrong to be drunk. I have always felt that we become like the Pharisees if we create laws around what the Bible actually says.
But… where I work, it seems like everyone drinks, and drinks to get drunk. Smashed. Sloshed. Wasted. I don’t want to say that drinking is wrong, but I do not want to be associated with irresponsibility. I want to enjoy Amaretto in my Coffee, but I do not want to be seen as participating in drunkenness. Should I even care what people think, as long as I hold to my beliefs?

My intentions

Those that know me know that I like speaking my mind and perhaps that is why I am a former Southern Baptist minister. I have not lost my faith in God or really anything like that. I am frustrated over simplifications of complex issues and insistence that one's viewpoint is the only correct viewpoint. I am a Christian and conservative Christian at that, but I belief that there are more auxiliary beliefs that are open to discussion than we like to admit to ourselves. My postings hopefully will not be limited to Christian, spiritual, or important topics for that matter, but I want to share my imperfect and even just plain ignorant musings so I may be able to understand and enjoy the world to the fullest.