August 1, 2010

MOUNT VERNON, IND. -- Lisa Roach is alive with memories of Rozella Stewart. Until she entered Roach’s 26-year-old son’s life, no one quite knew what to do with him. Travis was the first autistic student in the local school system. He could talk and read like the other kids, but he couldn’t sit still and presented all sorts of challenges.

After Travis was finally diagnosed with autism at age 8, Stewart, who in the early 1990s headed the Institute for Study of Developmental Disabilities (ISDD) at Indiana University, delivered the Roach family one of its first glimpses of hope when she brought a team of experts to town to educate the educators about autism. Her tongue-in-cheek predictions of when the family’s life would settle down elicits a belly laugh today from Roach, who laughs long, hard and often when discussing life with Travis.

July 10, 2010

Here's a news item that caught my eye last week: National Public Radio is changing its name to NPR.

Of course, with economic calamity devastating communities from Maine to California, environmental catastrophe in the Gulf and grinding occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, public radio's decision to re-brand itself is strictly small potatoes.

Still, I can't help thinking that NPR's re-branding efforts are one more indication that the public is being squeezed out of public radio.

July 10, 2010

An international criminal conspiracy occurs, with responsibility flowing up to and including the President of the United States. Victims are brutalized in secret, lives are lost, the rule of law flouted.

But no one is prosecuted since the only law enforcement official capable of bringing the criminals to justice is completely beholden to the very government leaders who would face charges.

The latest John Grisham thriller? A re-run of the show 24? Hardly.

The crime is torture, clearly prohibited by national and international law. The corrupt system is the existing structure of U.S. law enforcement. When executive branch misconduct occurs, an inherent conflict of interest is presented by investing prosecutorial discretion in a U.S. Attorney General appointed by, and serving at the pleasure of, the president.

July 4, 2010

MOUNT VERNON, IND. -- Every conversation I've had with parents of Americans with autism has been riddled with salient moments, when essential truths are revealed about this extraordinarily complex developmental disorder. "Ah ha!" moments, so to speak. Such was the case with my July 2 conversation with Lisa Roach, who lives just outside the Ohio River town of Mount Vernon, Ind.

I had driven to the Posey County capital with Bloomington Alternative intern Megan Erbacher, who had grown up just down the road and has been friends with Roach's daughter Chelsea since childhood. Stan and Lisa Roach's oldest, 26-year-old Travis, has Asperger's Disorder, which is commonly known as "high-functioning autism." While his symptoms had been evident for years, Travis wasn't diagnosed until he was 8. At that time, Lisa learned her son was the first autistic child in the Mount Vernon school system.

June 26, 2010

For all of our concern with safety and security -- in our homes, at the airport, and on the border -- our way of life is threatened as never before.

According to national security experts, the threat comes from Islamic extremists, and, to a lesser extent, popular democratic movements in Latin America. For the Tea Party movement, Big Government threatens traditional American values and individual liberties. White supremacist and anti-immigration groups perceive undocumented workers from south of the border as threats to American national identity and culture. Meanwhile, U.S. business interests point to labor and environmental regulations that threaten our competitive advantage in the global marketplace.

And that's just the short list -- the one that plays out on a regular basis in the American news media.

June 26, 2010

The Dilbertization of discourse

What's the nature of professionalism? What does it mean to "act professionally?"

My dictionary defines "professional" as one engaged in a specified activity as one's main paid occupation rather than as a pastime. In other words, the primary definition of "professionalism" is pecuniary. It's a link with money. Specifically, how to get it and how to keep on getting it.

Professional is often contrasted with "amateur." Particularly where the latter term is use pejoratively as in, "He's just an amateur."

June 26, 2010

The debate on the City of Bloomington's decision to boycott businesses in Arizona due to its new immigration law is democracy in action. However, the arguments from people who say they will go out of their way and support Arizona in defiance of Bloomington's decision, like children rebelling against their parents, have missed the opportunity to logically discuss and pinpoint the real culprit -- businesses that employ undocumented workers.

In the immigration discussions, I have barely heard a word about the responsibilities of businesses and employers when they hire workers.

Until the federal government makes some movement on new immigration policy, we have to deal with what is in front of us. As long as undocumented workers can accept jobs with employers who face little scrutiny or oversight by the federal government in their hiring policies, they will continue to seek and find work.

June 26, 2010

When a used car salesman pressures you to sign on the dotted line before you have a chance to test drive the car, you, the buyer, should beware.

Same goes for Indiana citizens when politicians like Gov. Mitch Daniels push to cement Indiana's new property tax caps into the state constitution before we know the true impact of the legislation that took full effect only this year.

So far, the engine has been coughing, and a funny-colored smoke is belching from the exhaust. It seems every day we are hearing more bad news from Indiana communities: Teacher lay-offs in Anderson, extra-curricular school programs cancelled in Bloomington, bus routes and libraries at risk in Indianapolis.

June 26, 2010

In early June, the Bloomington City Council voted to boycott Arizona because of its new immigration law that targeted anyone who looked "illegal." Until I saw the Bloomington chamber's June 10 gutless response to rescind the city council's call for the boycott of Arizona because of the e-mails from outsiders who said they would boycott Bloomington businesses, I thought: "How heroic and progressive Bloomington was to go against the red-necked tide of the majority who support Arizona's actions."

Despite the Bloomington chamber's spineless, self-centered, self-serving actions, my family will make a point to visit Bloomington because it boycotts Arizona. Because of this brave decision, we plan to encourage our friends and family to visit, too, and encourage others to do the same.

June 12, 2010

I sit on something called the Monroe County Economic Development Commission -- a (mostly) advisory commission to the county government's fiscal body, the county council, on matters of local economic development. In fact, I'm currently the commission's president -- a title that carries no additional powers or responsibilities but, like so much born of the state legislature, exists for existence's sake.

Every year around this time the economic development commission reviews the status of all of the county's tax abatements. A tax abatement is simply a grant by the local government to rebate all or a portion of a property owner's property taxes, in the hope of fostering some degree of economic development that wouldn't exist otherwise.

And every year we try and take some measure of whether or not that spirit of development is holding.

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