Archive for September, 2012

$250,000 part of the “elite”: Think again, It’s really about the ZIP code.

September 16, 2012

In fairness, both candidates have made comments regarding no cuts for households earning less than either $200,000 or $250,000 (depending on candidate) in the recent tax plan.  I’ve seen a host of comments regarding that particular line in the sand.  And then I started to wonder. I randomly picked 2 professions: A RN (with a BSN) and an accountant to make up the 2 income household.  According to the March 27, 2012 data release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean accountant salary in the U.S. runs $70,130 per year.  The median annual base salary for a registered nurse in the United States is at $65,918.  This household would have a base salary for of $136,048.  Both are professional jobs that require at least a 4 year college degree.  Here are some city by city comparisons:

I used Des Moines, IA as the point of comparison: it’s fairly economically stable, Midwestern city.

To maintain the same standard of living that $136,048 would create in Des Moines, the mythical couple would need to make:

$180,527: Phoenix, AZ

$214,251:  Los Angeles, CA

$217,407:  Oakland, CA (live), SF (work)

$130,345: Birmingham, AL

$175,124:  Anchorage, AK

$161,690: Denver, CO

$237,850: Washington, DC

$142,879: Jacksonville, FL

$131,401: Columbus, GA

$175,770:  Chicago, IL

$129,273: Indianapolis, IN

$132,985: Kansas City, KS

$139,669: New Orleans, LA

$162,577: Minneapolis/St. Paul

$177,962: Baltimore, MD

$213,582: Boston, MA

$187,325: Hartford, CT

$132,839: Omaha, NE

$146,206: Albuquerque, NM

$273,400: New York, NY (all boroughs)

$134,666: Tulsa, OK

$145,961: Pittsburgh, PA

$140,326: Roanoke, VA

$254,583: Honolulu, HI

There is a real danger of a line in the sand approach to tax based on income without matrices to the cost of living factor by zip code.  Randomly picking 2 “average” jobs for a family and plugging them into the salary.com conversion shows a wide array of what the income needed to maintain the same standard of living based on region for the same job.  We can’t find relief for the vanishing middle class buy an arbitrary line.  Part of the alleged tax reform has to include an actualization of real income by region.

The Silence Requested by Andover Newton and What It Says About Theological Education and Failing Academic Institutions.

September 13, 2012

I am not going to pretend to be unbiased regarding this situation.  I have stated my disgust in more private forms of social media for about a year.  Much of the facts are shrouded in the silence that comes with a cover-up, a disgrace and most of all an attempt to preserve a reputation of what was national and is now mostly regional mid-tier academic institution.

 What I know is that last fall; Dr. Mark S. Burrows was dismissed from Andover-Newton Theological School.  In a letter dated on 10/21/2011 from school president, Rev. Nick Carter, it was stated that Dr. Burrows was dismissed for “due to unprofessional, unethical and immoral behavior involving failure to maintain professional boundaries with students.”  As an alumna, I did not receive the letter sent to the Andover Newton Community and “close friends”; I received several copies via e-mail from alumni/alumnae.

 At the close of the letter, Rev. Carter asks that “you appreciate the sensitivity of this and limit what you say to others.”

 Here is the response I should have sent last year:

Go to hell.  Rev. Carter is asking for silence to save the reputation of the professor involved and the institution that employed him for many years.  Rev. Carter, instead of using this as an opportunity to say that the reasons for Dr. Burrows’ termination were wholly unacceptable in a public manner (asking community for silence is something that has been vilified by criticizers of Penn State, the Roman Catholic Church and other organizations that have dealt with “immoral behavior” issues.)  At the time, or shortly before, Dr. Burrows was Rev. Dr. Burrows.  He is no longer an ordained minister according to his personal web site.  He has accepted another teaching position in Germany to begin in 2013 (his wife is German).  Does this institution know of the reasons behind Dr. Burrows’ dismissal? Or has the wider community of Andover-Newton (this author included) conspired in duplicitous behavior to save an institution?

 ANTS is just as much as an institution as Penn State Football.  Is there a difference between “immoral behavior” between adults and children: perhaps.  The underlying tenant is the same: a person in power (real or perceived) demanded something causing harm to another.  The difference is in the legal aspect: ANTS did not break a law, some at PSU did.

 Rev. Carter and ANTS did not use this as an opportunity to have open and real discussions on the abuse of power, the damage to the reputation this can cause.  Instead, they swept the matter under the rug.  Any institution that has faced a situation (a family, an organization, a football program or a university) often gives the first response of “I had no idea”.  This is not an act solely out of ignorance: but lack of awareness, lack of a safe environment for discussions without fear of retribution and the inherent power dynamic that tends to present itself in all structures.

 Instead of saying “what can we learn, how can we educate ourselves as supposed moral/ethical/religious leaders”, the president of the nation’s oldest theological school, Rev. Nick Carter, requested silence.

 The time for silence surrounding the abuse of power is long gone.  If an organization wants to be a leader, wants to mold leaders, wants to demonstrate how to answer the hard questions, then speaking up is the action: not a plea for silence.

 I know I will offend people with this: I don’t care.  Read that again: I don’t care.  I am embarrassed by my actions of a year ago: I should have spoken up then.  I am embarrassed to hold a degree from this institution that publically touts itself as liberal and forward thinking, but in one of its darkest hours returned to the traditional response of get the offender out the door and ask for silence to preserve the institution.

64-62 Days Until of Presidential Election: Cookie Monster, Jury Trials and Shopping Malls

September 5, 2012

Day 64: I love my blue furried monster.  I mean, really, how can you not love Cookie Monster? COOOOKIE! (But he doesn’t like celery!).  In a weird twist of fate, Big Bird and I share the same birthday (he’s a bit older, not by much).  I was part of the “original” Sesame Street Generation.  Growing up in the middle of Ohio and then northern Illinois, there wasn’t a lot of diversity: apartments? Corner stores? Different ethnicities? And Spanish?  To this day, I say I speak Sesame Street Spanish (pretty close).  Sesame Street taught me a lot of things: how to count, that really you should eat your vegetables before cookies (sorry my furry friend) and that monsters and birds CAN be friends. I haven’t watched Sesame Street since Mr. Hooper died (I tuned it in because they did a special episode over Thanksgiving my junior year in college: I cried.  My brother mocked me – he’s good at that but he’s an Underdog kid). Apparently Snuffy can be seen by adults but one of the little slivers of that makes this country great is Sesame Street: if anything, it gives those of us who grow up in the middle of the country a glimpse of what another part of the world looks like.

Day 63: I was driving home the other day and there was a new story about another individual being punished by tribunal. As I waited to turn into my parking lot, I realized one thing I’m grateful for: a jury of my peers to determine my guilt.  I’ve never been called to jury duty but it’s the concept.  Yes, it’s really not a “jury of peers” but a jury representative of our community. I’ve lived where there is not a jury system.   We take this right for granted: that if we are accused, we can confront our accuser, we can be tried in an open system.  Yeah, that’s a slice of this place I’d fight for.

62: Ok, I don’t like shopping malls except for in the middle of summer or winter when I’m feeling a bit closed in and decide I have to see exactly how untrendy I am (very) or decide I completely and totally need a (very useless) gadget.  In all semi-seriousness, malls have served some decent purposes: they housed the world’s first indoor rollercoaster (Old Chicago, Bolingbrook Illinois), provided introduction to many people of (American) Japanese, Indian, Thai and Mexican foods, provided countless first jobs, part time work, converted great parks into vast consumerist spots (hmmm, ok that is a bad idea).  Really, the best part of the mall is the store that constantly keeps giving me new iPhones as things keep happening to mine.

Days until the Presidential Election: Day 65. College Football.

September 3, 2012

Ok so autopublish didn’t work: apparently you have to keep the lap top ON to do that.  Whoops.  The phrase “American as apple pie” has always confused me: I mean, apples aren’t American and filled fruit pastries are as universal as creation stories (hmmm….interesting thought).  But football, American football, is as U-S-A as it gets.

This past weekend provided the kick off the college football season: usually pretty boring, smaller Division I schools offering themselves up to larger schools to pay for the athletic budgets.  The weekend provides some surprises: Ohio University upsetting Penn State and Alabama rolling all over Michigan (sorry, that was too easy to pass up).

Maybe you have to grow up in a football crazed part of the country to truly understand why a defeat at the hands of Vanderbilt, Northwestern, and Kansas ranks up there as a calamity.  It’s fun, it’s a break from routine, home games bring huge amounts of revenue into the local communities.

Yes there are very real conversations that need to happen in the arena of college graduation rates, the exploitation of the student athlete in a handful of sports and how sports is perceived in the wider community.  College football, as an institution, is far, far from perfect.  However, in a few areas of the country, for a few hours each week, we can put life on pause and have some fun.  And if you’re really adventuresome, try those Oreos with beer.

Days until the Presidential Election: 71 – 66

September 1, 2012

It was a busy day at the day job and then the watermelon incident : 2 watermelons + one cat = one huge sticky mess.  So, convention number one is over: convention number two about to start (lies, lies and damn lies) and a twitter account about an empty chair.  Let the countdown continue. . . . . .

71: The Smithsonian(s): All of them.  Most are free.  Yes, most of them are on the Mall in DC which is its own mess but really? Everything from The Fonz’s jacket, to a returning Gemini capsule and the Hope Diamond scattered around DC.  Look, I love the British Museum, the Louvre, MOMA but the single collection of an eclectic bunch of museums dedicated from everything from Air and Space, to different indigenous populations to flat out quirky American pop culture all in one place.  I hate going to DC for all of the reasons that make sense but a long weekend trip to the Smithsonian is completely worth it.

70: Dunkin Donuts.  New England bias; but really, somebody has to make the donuts.  There can be a raging debate (and don’t get me started on the ones in metro Boston not being open 24×7 OR making their own donuts) about what is the “best” donut (honestly, there is something insanely decadent about a  hot Krispe Kreme donut).  But millions of New Englanders greet the day with a regular coffee: which of course means with cream and sugar.

69: The Little League World Series: It’s our sport, but teams from all over come to compete.  Did you catch the team from Uganda this year? First time an African nation won a game (sorry Oregon).  Did you see the introduction of the players without subtitles? Did you see kids getting to be kids?  It’s a slice of summer.  And it’s a reminder that really, it’s a game.  Some of those kids might get college scholarships, a lucky few might make a living out of sports but for one summer, they were on the top of the kid world.  And I feel so bad for the loosing team.  They really are just kids.

68: The Roll Call of States:  Each convention does it.  Somebody stands up and casts the delegate votes for each state, territory, commonwealth for the party nominee. It’s not just the act of voting (more later on that) but how: Alabama: The state with the 3 last national college football champions.  Each state with the opportunity to proclaim something grand, funny, sometime snarky about a neighboring state casting the assigned delegates won in primary battles.

67: The Parade of Mini-Vans: aka, dropping kids off at college. Yes, every nation has something equivalent.  However, I live in the Boston area where we have what is known as Allston Christmas.  People moving in/out of apartments en masse: couches have been known to be stolen thinking they were for pickers.  It’s a riot/terrifying/annoying/hysterical event.  Parents lost, not wanting to leave their child, college students all to happy to have the mini-van turn around.  And yesterday, as far as the eye could see on I-90 east…moving vans, mini vans, jam packed cars.  Thankfully, I was going west.

66: Tailgating: It’s been elevated to a new level by my crazy Kansas cousins.  (Beer and Oreos: breakfast of champions).  Grilling out before the game be it in West Lafayette, Austin, Boise or Athens there is something about the fall ritual of donning your team colors, cheering them on and watching the sport.  And Muck Fichigan: I’m for O-HI-O.