December 01, 2008

Good advice

Don't corner this guy.

It recently occurred to me that I have sometimes been profoundly influenced by brief and seemingly random conversations with people. What follows is one example.

In another lifetime, El Cabrero had a happy but impoverished career working in public libraries in my beloved state of West Virginia. I started out as a janitor at the branch in my small town and started working with the public when they figured out I could read and write.

A big change came when I was transferred, not entirely voluntarily, from that small place to the main library in one of the state's biggest cities. The clientele was a little more...interesting, and sometimes kind of unpredictable.

Someone who worked there a long time gave me what turned out to be very good advice: "Never back a crazy person into a corner."

The person meant it literally at the time. If a patron was emotionally disturbed, they could become dangerous if they were backed into an aisle with no way out. But if you think about it, even a small animal will fight back fiercely if driven into a corner with no way out. That's even more true of people.

I have since modified that rule with a corollary: we're all crazy sometimes. I still try to adhere to the practice of not putting another person in a situation in which his or her only way out is to tear a hole through me. Taken together, those are pretty useful things to keep in mind in de-escalating potentially dangerous situations and defusing conflict.

SUBURBS. Lots of people moved there over the last few decades. Now poverty is moving in too.

SPEAKING OF POVERTY, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities issued a new report that warns

the current downturn is likely to cause significant increases both in the number of Americans who are poor and the number living in “deep poverty,” with incomes below half of the poverty line. Because this recession is likely to be deep and the government safety net for very poor families who lack jobs has weakened significantly in recent years, increases in deep poverty in this recession are likely to be severe.

CBPP recommends several steps to soften the blow, including expanding access to food stamps, expanding and extending unemployment benefits and contingency TANF funding, and providing fiscal aid to states so that these won't have to cut vital programs.

ELEMENTS OF A STIMULUS PACKAGE are discussed here. And Paul Krugman argues here that this isn't the time to be a deficit hawk.

WORTH A LOOK. Dollars, debt, dealing with crises, and even Dickens are the subject of the latest edition of the Rev. Jim Lewis' Notes from Under the Fig Tree.


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