Banking inequity

I have a contract sitting around somewhere for a home equity loan with Gem Savings from around 1990. It was one page, letter sized, in large type- and was all I needed to sign to get an equity loan on my house.

Now that document would run 8 pages of micro-type and include things like an arbitration clause, denying me the right to use the justice system to settle any grievances.

Later I signed one of those really long contracts to refinance my house with a bank. They changed the terms at the last minute, after jerking me around for weeks. Then, promptly sold the loan off to some mortgage servicing company, and then it’s been transferred time and time again- all without proper recording of title and lien transfer at the County Building.

If you or I sold a property and didn’t record the transaction, it wouldn’t be considered valid.

My small business, a sole proprietorship, recently teamed with another small business to do a large deal- $130,000, with a very small margin. When I went to deposit $90K, they wanted to hold my money for a week- despite being told well in advance this deal was coming. The banker even tried to warn me that this could be fraud. I had promised the vendor I’d pay by wire transfer- and was told by the bank it’d be $25 to wire money out. They didn’t tell me there was a $13 fee to have it wired into my account.

I’ve even had them putting holds on rent checks that are certified. Apparently, “Certified checks are easy to forge” which is why the hold according to my bank. WTF good is a certified check then? I do work for a credit union- which pays with certified checks- even those get a hold.

It’s getting harder and harder to run a small business, and banks behaving badly is just one more obstacle for small business to overcome. When I was a youngster in business school, you were advised to have counsel of a lawyer, accountant and a banker. Since the deregulation/consolidation of banking in this country, I’d say you’d be hard pressed to find any banker with actual lending authority anymore.

The last one I encountered was at Eaton National Bank- which once it got absorbed by LCNB ceased to be what it was. I’m experimenting with Wright Patt Credit Union now- which is one of the few credit unions that can do business lending. It’s becoming apparent that small business really is better off with a credit union instead of a bank, but I’m not sure if this applies to start-ups (I’ve been in business for 25 years).

One of the problems is that small business can’t buy the politicians’ ears the way big business can. When was the last time you heard of a tax break for small businesses? A program to help small businesses grow- that wasn’t driven by big business financial tricks (like quick write-offs of capital expenses)?

What could change if small businesses were given tax credits rewarding them for each full-time employee, length of employment, and growth in payroll that were redeemable for low-interest loans and access to working capital? What incentives could we offer to encourage the big banks to take small business seriously?

Small business powers most of our job growth, but, there are no small banks left to work with them. It’s time to solve this problem.

Terrorism is the only protest left

For the last 2 days, the world has been focused on the terrorist attacks in Paris. Much like lots of Donald Trump campaign trail rhetoric, terrorism is focused on triggering media coverage, not actual effectiveness.

In the grand scheme of things, the downing of the Russian airliner out of Sharm El-Sheikh, where 135 people died, was a more effective campaign- about the same number of deaths 135, with a lot less casualties of terrorists. Same goes for 9/11- 20 men lost, 3000+ victims. Yet, Paris will dominate headlines because of where it is, and because Europeans died.

Every day in the United States, hundreds of people die from heroin overdoses, drunk driving, distracted driving, lung cancer caused by smoking, and we’re used to it. But the moment someone yells “allahu akbar” while killing people- we’re up in arms and condemn an entire religion making up about 23% of the world’s population.

What we refuse to understand about terrorism, and fail to acknowledge is that it is the last resort of those who feel powerless. The fight for attention, for a voice, is more easily gained by bullets and bombs than by words and peaceful demonstration. The days of Gandhi and King are over.

Those who are willing to die for a cause will never stop, as long as their deaths prove to be effective at gaining the world’s attention. That their message gets lost in the media noise isn’t an accident, it’s the very reason they continue. At some point, we need to stop pointing fingers and figure out what the real cause of radicalized Islam is, and what causes it.

Now, the mythology of American Supremacy has to be examined. There are plenty of Jim Bobs and Billy Bobs in America who believe that what happened in Paris couldn’t happen here. That the “good guys with guns” would take out the “bad guys with guns.” This philosophy, this pipe dream, is why we also continue to spend more than the rest of the world on maintaining a military that is so grossly mismatched to any kind of conflict that no nation would willingly think of a conventional war with us. Nuclear power, submarines, aircraft carriers aren’t ever going to be used again as in World War II and yet we cling to that fantasy.

So do the Billy-Bobs- who think their concealed carry 40 caliber 9 shot automatic is going to take on 4 guys with a plan, the advantage of surprise and superior firepower. It’s why we equip our cops with AR-15’s now- because you lose that fight every time. To quote a t-shirt that I owned when I was 19- with a picture of an M-16 on it- “Why waltz when you can rock-n-roll” comparing the three shot burst setting to full auto.

Mismatches cause two things- overconfidence and helplessness. This applies to military might, and to income inequity (which are often intertwined, but that interrelationship is often ignored). Throughout history, whenever the gap is too big between parties, be they nation states or even between 2 people- things implode. There is a good reason we talk about the balance of nature. Balance is the key to averting disasters that can be controlled by man.

Terrorism tilts the balance to the underdogs, conventional war, to the mighty. With all of our investment in winning wars, we believe we are preventing them, when in fact, we’re just asking for it.

If we want to stop terrorism, the first thing to do is to stop exporting weapons. Only a fool hands a gun to his enemies or untrusted ally- and expects it not to be turned against him. The military industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us against, has made trillions off these wars that can’t be won, that never end, and guarantee a world where terrorism is the only game left.

The other part we have to do, is to stop thinking we have a birthright of freedom to share across the globe. Our own people are, despite “a standard of living” that we consider superior, drowning in debt, poverty, and a frustration brewing at home that the deck is stacked against us as well. Inequality is something that never lasts. Equilibrium is and always will be, a force to be reckoned with.

To understand jihadists, look at the numbers that we overlook, the death tolls in our attempts at regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq. Iraq- 224,000. U.S. military deaths- 4,491 from 2003 to 2014.  In Afghanistan, 2,372 U.S. deaths, compared to 106,000–170,000 for the Afghans that we were “freeing.”
The fact that we can clearly count our casualties and not those of our opponents should tell you something.

When the odds are this mismatched, there is no choice but terrorism. Call it a cost of war, call it a last resort, but, understand that it won’t go away as long as the deck is stacked on one side’s favor.

What happened in Paris sucks. What happened on 9/11 sucks. But, what we did to Iraq and Afghanistan and Vietnam before that- wasn’t exactly how you help a country out. War is never the answer, it’s the result of failed statesmanship, it’s the result of failed policy, it’s the result of shortsightedness.

It’s time to step back and re-evaluate our extension of military power, our exporting of the weapons of war, and our policies of trying to pick other countries’ leaders.

We wouldn’t tolerate it here if we thought another country dictated who our leaders were, would we?

Legislating morality vs. moral legislation

In a state where recreational pot for adults is fine, we have a high school football team being punished for sexting. Juveniles playing modern-day spin the bottle are facing possible felony charges for making and distributing child pornography. Colorado isn’t exactly a state known for puritanical tyranny like nearby Utah- where Applebee’s can’t be called a “bar and grill”- but some people can have “sister wives.”

In Ohio, a bunch of holier than thou legislators,  are trying to legislate laws to make legal abortion impossible. We just passed a law to “ban monopolies” aimed at a private pot cartel, but not at the casinos that wrote themselves into the constitution without a peep of protest from the Statehouse. Now, all of a sudden, everyone from used car dealers and dentists to hairdressers and morticians may be under new scrutiny caused by passage of Issue 2.

Smoking pot in this state, even for medical reasons is still illegal, and while we’re facing an epidemic of heroin deaths, our solution is still prison instead of health care.

Our “sex offender” laws create an underclass of people, who are no longer free to live where they want, without notices being sent to all the neighbors. Normal employment, basic rights- all out the window- even if your crime was being in love – with someone younger than you, or having had nude photos on a computer of someone who appears to be too young.

Never mind the huge number of African American males being imprisoned for being poor.

I read “The Scarlet Letter” in high school and thought that those days were long over. We’d had the “sexual revolution” in the 1960s- and Roe vs. Wade had settled the abortion issue. Pornography- hard core, had come out of the closet with Larry Flynt and his raunchy “Hustler”- which no longer made any secrets of what a certain part of a women’s anatomy looked like.

The fascination with Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner and celebrity sex tapes is able to captivate the country, yet we still seem to think that our politicians don’t have sex, or if they do, it’s only in the missionary position, with the lights off, with their legal spouse of the opposite sex.

We impeached a sitting president for a blow job, spending months investigating this most personal act, between consenting adults. Yet, when the Wall Street wizards destroyed the global economy- we didn’t put a single one of them on the scaffold, or force them to wear a scarlet letter. Fuck the world economy and you get a pass, fuck an intern and it’s all over.

To bring this into local perspective, the City of Dayton has given up on basic city services- leaf collection, street sweeping, snow plowing, parks and recreation, and even effective policing.

But, we handed $3.5 million to Stuart Lichter of IRG to pillage the Emery/UPS building- and create zero value, without a peep. We’ve bought 3 buildings for half a million each- that have zero public use. We’ve allowed CityWide Development to buy a few more- including this gem of a piece of shit for the same. All without a single cry of immoral uses of the public trust. $2 million went into the hole in the ground on Ludlow- $5 million into the failed Wayne Avenue Kroger- and no trials, no witch hunts, no question of impropriety. We’re handing out $75K checks left and right for office remodels to “help businesses relocate in downtown Dayton” while our property taxes are being hiked indiscriminately and capriciously.

The latest levy- issue 13, was heavily backed by the health care cartel in Dayton, which isn’t subject to the property tax in the first place. And while they scream about low government reimbursement rates for services- any kind of questioning their illegal ad hoc pricing structure goes ignored.

It’s time to stop legislating against sex, race, orientation, and poverty- and start putting laws in place that guarantee equal and fair treatment for all. From corporate welfare disguised as “economic development” to tax breaks for the wealthy and the protected classes (hospital networks) it’s time that no more breaks be given unless they are equally available to all who meet fair and published standards- i.e., no tax breaks for companies that have employees who are eligible for public assistance or that pay their executives more than 20x their median payroll. No incentives for individual companies or industries that may have supported or contributed to political campaigns. Look at the donors to Mayor Whaley’s campaign chest- and see that the Sinclair Supporters bought her election for her.

It’s time to stop criminalizing human behavior- like sex and sexual health, addiction and orientation- and get back to criminalizing criminal behavior like grand theft, racketeering, union busting, labor exploitation and violent behavior that are all much more important than two or twenty teens sexting.

What passes for “news” these days is often just glorified gossip. Actually committing a crime isn’t even necessary anymore- if you’ve been following the pathetic case of a local basketball star who is being punished for being accused of a crime- not for actually committing one.

Which leads me to wonder, how much longer will my ability to publish this blog still be protected?

Read these words carefully-

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller

And start looking at our society with a more observant eye.



Grandstanding congressmen and CEO pay

Chafetz vs Planned Parenthood

Obviously, bombs are a cost no object endeavor- while birth control. needs tight oversight.

Reading an editorial about the Planned Parenthood inquisition, I saw a mention that a member of Congress had questioned the pay of Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards- a whopping $520,000.

I thought to myself of the companies that have federal contracts, GSA schedules- who promise to do work for the people of the United States at the lowest cost possible. Companies like General Dynamics- who are so far over budget on the F35 program– and yet, keep getting funded. The CEO of General Dynamics, Phebe N. Novakovic, who also happens to be a woman- made $19 million last year. No inquisition there.

From the only news source that carried this in depth- Al Jazeera, read the exchange:

“Your compensation in 2009 was $353,000. Is that correct?” House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, began. “Congratulations, it was,” Chaffetz continued when Richards said she didn’t have the exact figures. He went on to note that Richards’ salary had risen to $520,000 since then…

“I would like to register my opposition and objection to the chairman beating up on a woman, on our witness today for making a good salary,” said Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. “In the entire time I’ve been in Congress, I’ve never seen a witness beaten up and questioned about their salary… I find it discriminatory and inappropriate.”…

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., ranking member of the committee, said in a fiery rebuttal that it was particularly hypocritical for Republicans to place Planned Parenthood under a microscope and take Richards to task over her salary when they had never taken an interest in the hefty compensations of executives at big banks, drug companies and defense contractors, who had all engaged in law-breaking.

“Last month, Lockheed Martin was fined millions of dollars for using taxpayer funds to lobby Congress to maintain its hold on a multi-billion dollar Pentagon contract. Lockheed’s CEO received a stunning $33 million last year,” Cummings railed.  “Ms. Richards, do you know if there has been any investigation or any effort  — any — to eliminate Lockheed’s federal funding?”

“It sounds like there hasn’t been,” Richards answered.

“You got it, of course there wasn’t!” Cummings said. “These are huge companies that are actually guilty of breaking the law and their CEOs make millions of dollars — Republicans never criticize the salaries of their CEOs or they never try to strip their federal funding, their government subsidies or their tax breaks.”

Source: House GOP ‘beats up’ on Planned Parenthood president — and her salary

The Wall Street bankers made millions, while being bailed out. The program to save the homes of Americans from foreclosure- actually put more money in the hands of bankers than in the hands of the people being bailed out.

If Congress really cared about reeling in government spending- why not put a simple cap on executive salary for any company that receives significant income from the government. Any medical organization accepting funding for medicare/medicaid, a cap. Any defense contractor- a cap. Any bank that is guaranteed by the federal reserve- and has the ability to create money- a cap. Any company where employees depend on federal programs to make ends meet- a cap.

What the cap should be isn’t something random- set by the boards of directors- but based on a ratio of the total payroll of U.S. employees. You want to make more- don’t do business with the people of the United States- or accept our assistance.

Obviously, if the pay of the CEO of Planned Parenthood is relevant to the cost to our country of a government shutdown- this is important stuff.

Now can we have a serious discussion about private cops?

On June 7th of 2015, I wrote a piece about my discomfort with private police forces- here is just a short excerpt:

The rise of private police forces and hired gun security services is a relatively new thing. The real question is should these private armies really have legal standing? And, why are they necessary in the first place? Some blame the cost of unions and pensions of the real police. Others say crime is rising and we have to protect our fiefdoms. The reality is that society is breaking down and we’re blissfully ignoring the warning signs.

Source: The real cost of private police forces – Esrati

Now, with the murder of Samuel Dubose in Cincinnati by a University of Cincinnati “police officer” engaged in a “chicken crap stop” (the prosecutor’s words, not mine) over a missing front license plate (which Sam had, but just hadn’t mounted) others are having the same discussion. Here is the stabilized, uncensored video:

Some people are asking the same questions: why?

There are questions about training standards. In the rarest of rare, a judge on the federal bench spoke out against the practice:

Although the consent decree expired in 2008, an advisory group meets regularly with the city to monitor continued adherence to what it calls “the collaborative.” Some group members, including Judge Susan Dlott of U. S. District Court, who oversaw the consent decree, say they were alarmed to learn, after Mr. DuBose’s death, that the university had a formal agreement to patrol beyond campus borders.

“We were furious, because we knew that the U.C. police have not had any of the training that the Cincinnati police have,” Judge Dlott said.

Source: Samuel DuBose’s Death in Cincinnati Points to Off-Campus Power of College Police – The New York Times

The fundamental issue is who is watching over these keystone cops? Who is held accountable? Whom can we pressure that we elect, to get rid of bad cops? Sheriff Phil Plummer knew that he wouldn’t get reelected had he not fired the two supervisors in his department who were exchanging racist text messages. He was accountable.

Municipal police chiefs are accountable to a city manager or a mayor, and both of them are accountable to voters. Not so with campus cops.

Today, UC President Santa Ono, announced that he was appointing one of his professors to oversee the campus department:

The University of Cincinnati has created a new executive position to oversee campus safety and police reform – more reaction to last month’s officer-involved fatal shooting.

Respected criminologist Robin Engel has been named vice president for safety and reform effective immediately, UC President Santa Ono announced Tuesday.

Engel has been a professor in UC’s highly regarded School of Criminal Justice. UC has not yet announced what Engel is being paid to serve in the new role, which has been created in the wake of now-former UC Police Officer Ray Tensing shooting and killing Samuel DuBose during a traffic stop on July 19.

Engel’s research has focused in part on racial profiling, and she has worked with the city of Cincinnati on its collaborative agreement and the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV).

Engel said she will not directly oversee day-to-day operations in public safety or in the university’s police department. Instead, she will report directly to Ono and will advise him and UC’s trustees on long-term strategy.

Source: In wake of DuBose shooting, UC appoints VP to head safety, police reform

I have nothing against professor Engel, however, she has zero police training, and voters can’t fire her, or President Ono.

There can be no mistake, the ability to hire and fire the head cop is critical to the confidence the public, and even the police force has in a department. A long time ago, soon after I moved into Dayton, the police department had lost faith in Chief Tyree Broomfield. The politicians couldn’t stomach the idea of firing our first black police chief. In a very strange move, local businessman Tom Danis stepped in and offered to pay Broomfield $100K to resign- which he promptly did. In most communities, paying off a policeman would be frowned on, here it was cheered. Broomfield went to a job running the private force for Central State and didn’t lose any sleep over it.

If you go back and read my article from June 7, I was against the dilution of police command and control amongst many sub-departments.

After watching the video of former UC Officer Ray Tensing, you too should have good reason to question the training and ability of these private police forces.

After the rash of questionable shooting by under-trained or sub-standard police officers in Ohio, the state has stepped in and started requiring more hours of training, and even a high school diploma as qualifications to be a police officer. But on the flip side, they are also insisting that cops should babysit traffic cameras with the threat of withholding state money if cities like Dayton continue to use them.

Using this same rationale, maybe cities should levy “licenses” on private police officers equal to their pay- to make all these private organizations leave the policing to the professionals. Dayton would gain the numbers of cops working for Sinclair, UD, Premier Health Partners, Kettering Health Network and even some MetroParks cops. Net gain, at least 100 more cops on the street- with proper training and a professional chief who reports not to a college president, or CEO, but to a city manager who works for our elected City Commission. It should also be included that no organization can have a private police force if it is exempt from paying property taxes, just because we shouldn’t have to pay for their protection, or our own- when they send out liars like Ray “I was dragged” Tensing.

And one last point, any cop who lies about another cop’s actions, should be found guilty of the same crime the officer who committed the crime is sentenced to. Enough of this “thin blue line” being held to cover up incompetence.



The real cost of private police forces

If only…

I walk into Kroger on Wayne Ave., and there he is, armed, and probably a lot more dangerous than he looks. The private security officer. Kroger pays for him, and that cost is reflected in my grocery bill.

Family Dollar on Wayne, despite multiple robberies, including one where a gun was fired inches away from a manager’s head– pays for a private cop for a few weeks then stops- because if they had to build his pay into their product costs- apparently, people would stop shopping there.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped Miami Valley Hospital from having its own private police force. Note- I used the word “police” not security guard. Sure, we’ll just add it to your bill, which we make up as we feel fit, one price for you, another price for you, and yet another price for someone else.

The University of Dayton has a police department, too. More like a secret service. Get arrested by them as a student, and we’ll deal with you in our secret court and our secret system, even if you were committing a felony. A country of our own apparently.

The rise of private police forces and hired gun security services is a relatively new thing. The real question is should these private armies really have legal standing? And, why are they necessary in the first place?

Some blame the cost of unions and pensions of the real police. Others say crime is rising and we have to protect our fiefdoms.

The reality is that society is breaking down and we’re blissfully ignoring the warning signs.

When the City of Dayton decided that “creating economic opportunity” was more important than essential city services, money started flowing to places like CityWide Development, the Downtown Dayton Partnership, the Dayton Development Coalition, its own internal Department of Economic Development- and then throw in the insane waste of tax dollars buying up real estate that then stopped producing taxes while they sit on it until someone wants to have it for a song…. and dance, promising “Jobs!”

Our police force has basically fallen in half since I moved into the city in 1986. The city hasn’t gotten geographically smaller, and the population didn’t drop by half either, so less police have to deal with the same distances, a few less people, and an economy that keeps making things more difficult to stay on the right side of the law (poverty and crime are closely related).

Take all the money that we’ve spent on the fixing up of the Arcade (the last time- before we sold it to Tom Danis for $36,000), the Arcade Tower ($37 million- later sold off in foreclosure) and the countless little pieces of property that we bought without any public use (no one has explained why the city spent over $100,000 for the plot of land that is now known as Garden Station 20 years or so ago). The latest fiasco at the Cliburn Manor site is only another example of tax dollars diverted from public uses to benefit private parties. At some point, this has to stop.

It’s kind of weird that the biggest tax-exempt organizations in Dayton- are also big employers- and also the owners of the largest private cop shops (Sinclair also has one, but, it’s quasi-government as is Five Rivers Metro Parks which you can add to the list). Suppose both of them paid taxes instead of for their private police forces- and Dayton added another 60 cops to the streets? Cut out Sinclair’s cops and add another 20 or so? Instead of spending $5 million trying to acquire real estate for Kroger to build a new building at Wayne and Wyoming- had another 20 cops on the street.

Now, once you’ve added another 100 or so cops, Dayton doesn’t seem safer, it is safer. Prices at Kroger and Family Dollar and Miami Valley Hospital are lower- because they don’t have to hire a private army to protect them. Tax payers aren’t getting fleeced in phony real estate deals either- that often benefit these big employers as well.

And, guess what, you even created 100 new jobs in Dayton. Ones that protect my business, my home and my peace of mind. We know that the police officers who respond to a crime are well trained, accountable, and ultimately responsible to us- the taxpayer.

And if you need a further reason to justify the ending of these private police forces, remember, Hitler had his own private police force, too.

America, where we only investigate some crimes

blind justiceOMG, call out the FBI, a former teacher, goes to Congress, becomes Speaker of the House, leaves- somehow is now a multi-millionaire- and we don’t question that. But, pull out more than $10K at a time from his own bank account (to allegedly pay hush money) and we’re on it:

Hastert was charged Thursday with withdrawing $952,000 in cash in small amounts to evade the requirement that banks report cash transactions over $10,000. The former U.S. House speaker is also charged with lying to the FBI.The indictment says Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million to an unidentified person to hide “prior misconduct” against that person. The indictment does not describe the misconduct Hastert was trying to conceal.

Source: Latest on Dennis Hastert: Ex-House Speaker Resigns From Firm – ABC News

Apparently, international professional soccer is also a den of criminality that requires the FBI to investigate:

For decades, that was how business was done in international soccer, American officials said Wednesday as they announced a sweeping indictment against 14 soccer officials and marketing executives who they said had corrupted the sport through two decades of shadowy dealing and $150 million in bribes. Authorities described international soccer in terms normally reserved for Mafia families or drug cartels, and brought charges under racketeering laws usually applied to such criminal organizations.

Source: After Indicting 14 Soccer Officials, U.S. Vows to End Graft in FIFA –

And while trillions were stolen from everyday Americans through mortgage manipulations by the wizards of Wall Street- more investigation and justice was done to the NY England Patriots over Tom Brady’s balls:

The evidence listed in Wednesday’s “Deflategate” report is eye-catching:

  • Text messages between a part-time New England Patriots employee and an equipment assistant with talk of cash, free shoes and autographs.
  • The part-time employee, a locker room attendant responsible for 12 footballs before the AFC title game, spending 100 seconds in a bathroom after game officials had approved the balls for play.
  • Measurements taken at halftime after a team that is losing tips off the league about footballs that appear to be too soft.
  • The Patriots’ star quarterback and the equipment assistant suddenly exchanging phone calls in the days just after news of underinflated footballs blew up.

Those are the key points in the 139-page NFL-commissioned report given to the league’s brass.

Source: Report: Tom Brady likely knew of ‘Deflategate’ acts –

And just after I published this- an addition:

Ross W. Ulbricht, the founder of Silk Road, a notorious online marketplace for the sale of heroin, cocaine, LSD and other illegal drugs, was sentenced to life in prison on Friday in Federal District Court in Manhattan.

Mr. Ulbricht, 31, was sentenced by the judge, Katherine B. Forrest, for his role as what prosecutors described as “the kingpin of a worldwide digital drug-trafficking enterprise.”

Mr. Ulbricht had faced a minimum of 20 years in prison on one of the counts for which he was convicted. But in handing down a much longer sentence, Judge Forrest told Mr. Ulbricht that “what you did in connection with Silk Road was terribly destructive to our social fabric.”

Source: Ross Ulbricht, Creator of Silk Road Website, Is Sentenced to Life in Prison –

Life in prison for setting up an exchange- while the Wall Street bandits stole trillions.

Trillions gone. People losing their homes. Credit card rates at near usurious rates, pension funds cleaned out, higher ed becoming out of reach, universal health care that’s just fattening the pockets of the insurance middlemen- and zero, zip, zilch investigation or action.

Start paying attention to Bernie Sanders for president now, if you ever want a chance of setting things right.


Redefine police.

My Facebook feed is full of videos of police acting badly. The news is full of stories of police brutality, aggression, militarization, racial bias. Our prisons are full of people with mental illness, addiction, poverty and the worst pox in America- being black.

The system is broken, expensive, and fundamentally flawed. In Ohio, you don’t even need a high school diploma to be a cop, and it’s good to see that you don’t need one in journalism either- almost all news sources directly quoted Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine saying that Ohio is one of three states that don’t require this- but none found out what the other two are.

Police officer training in Ohio is loosely regulated and mostly insufficient, but Ohio is just a microcosm of the state of police training in the United States. It’s debatable if we have any semblance of an idea of how to go about training police, and I’m going to blame 40 years of progressively more violent portrayals of police in film and television as a starting point for our failure.

We’ve gone from Andy Griffith as Sheriff Taylor to Michael Chiklis as dirty cop Vic Mackey in The Shield. Sgt. Joe Friday barely pulled his gun in Dragnet, but Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens in Justified, shot at least 18 people and still had a job. The TV show SWAT, was the beginning of cops thinking they could be soldiers and criminals got the idea that machine guns were status symbols for gangsters with Scarface. Not that it hadn’t been done before; during prohibition where every bad guy had a Tommy gun in our portrayal of Al Capone and John Dillinger.

In reality, the best cops I know are more social worker than bully, and could probably qualify for a master’s in counseling better than their target shooting skills. The sad thing is, the violence they have to deal with is mostly borne out of  other issues that our society refuses to address: drug abuse and mental illness, chronic poverty, inequity. Just changing the training isn’t enough- we have to change the whole concept of what a “free society” really is supposed to look like.

More surveillance isn’t the answer

Right now, the leading solution to police brutality issues is bodycams- a very expensive and misleading approach. Take a look at your cellphone camera- and think of how many unindexed, untagged, unorganized photos and videos you have. Now, think about storing video of you at work, every day, for at least 30 days- for you- and all of your coworkers- all to be made available on demand?

And personal video is only an after-the-fact solution- no matter what studies say about people behaving better when they know they are being observed. Need proof- watch this video showing what happens when a black man with corn rows openly carries an AR-15

There is a video on Facebook which takes this video and juxtaposes it with this video  of a white guy doing the same things- without the same result- but making it seem like it’s the same people organizing it (it’s not)

Needless to say, being on candid camera isn’t the answer.

More guns aren’t the answer either.

There has been a mad rush for “self protection” in this country, which is sad. In most civilized nations people don’t think they need a gun to be safe. Statistics clearly show this, but, thanks to our founding fathers (who can’t possibly have made a mistake) we’re convinced that having a deadly weapon is almost a god-given right.

In many countries the police don’t even have guns. Go look at your average beat cop today- a gun, a taser, a bulletproof vest, a shotgun or AR-15 in his trunk or mounted next to him inside the cruiser.

The poverty penalty

You have a right to a speedy trial, you have a right against unlawful detention, but, it seems this is more likely for wealthy white people than for poor black people. A recent opinion piece in the New York Times suggested abolishing bail.

This is a national problem. Across the United States, most of the people incarcerated in local jails have not been convicted of a crime but are awaiting trial. And most of those are waiting in jail not because of any specific risk they have been deemed to pose, but because they can’t pay their bail.

In other words, we are locking people up for being poor. This is unjust. We should abolish monetary bail outright.

Some will argue that bail is necessary to prevent flight before trial, but there is no good basis for that assumption. For one thing, people considered to pose an unacceptable risk of flight (or violence) are not granted bail in the first place. (Though the procedures for determining who poses a risk ought to be viewed with skepticism, especially since conceptions of risk are often shaped, tacitly or otherwise, by racist assumptions.)

Source: Too Many People in Jail? Abolish Bail –

Sometimes the really big ideas are the simplest.

But, back to police training. Arguments can be made for higher standards, longer training hours, more continuous education, but so much of what we’ve focused on for our police officers is based on reacting to worst case scenarios: terrorists, “active shooters” and tactical supremacy.

Maybe what we need to focus on is a totally different approach to police work, training, hiring, and perception.

The riots in Baltimore weren’t caused by a menace to society. Freddie Gray was a loser x-con with a knife clipped to his belt- who “fled” police. Walter Scott was pulled over for a tail light violation that was questionable, and shot in the back when he ran. Somewhere, we’ve made a dramatic mistake on who we’ve chosen to “serve and protect.”

I return to the changes in police as portrayed in the media. I don’t recall the national FOP protesting the violent portrayal of police officers. I have heard FOP officials defending cops repeatedly for using a gun before their mouths. I’m still haunted by the shooting of John Crawford in a nearby Walmart- while holding a bb gun and talking on the phone, and the shooting of the 12-year-old Tamir Rice on a playground by an overzealous cop.

There is a video that inspired this post- of four Swedish police officers on a NY City subway, subduing a fight. Listen to their language, and watch how they treat their “perps”- this is a start:

If you’ve seen a really good cop doing his/her job, it looks and sounds more like this- than a gunshot ending all chances to discuss matters.

It’s time to set some national standards for police training, ethics, situational awareness and integrity, before we have more riots caused by police reacting badly. It’s time to reexamine our criminal justice system, which is putting record numbers of people behind bars who are more of a threat to themselves than to others. It’s time to invest in peace in America before we worry about peace in the Middle East.

You can’t take care of the world, while your own backyard is full of injustice.


the next morning- a very good NPR morning edition piece on changing police training:

Listen carefully to the part where they changed the images in the academy, stopped falling in silent at attention- instead greeting one another, and the focus on the constitution.

INSKEEP: Whether a city explodes in protest or not, may depend on decisions made years before an officer ever pulled his gun or a citizen started recording video. Sue Rahr believes something similar. She’s thinking about police training. She is in charge of the police academy in Washington state.

SUE RAHR: You always want to create space and time so that you have the opportunity to engage in some kind of de-escalation strategy with the person first.

INSKEEP: Rahr points to a police shooting in Cleveland, Ohio, last year. An officer approached a man with a gun and killed him. The man turned out to be 12, and the gun turned out to be a toy. An investigation continues. Rahr says the officer might have learned to approach more carefully. That would avoid any sense of danger until he understood the situation. For two years, Rahr says, she has been adjusting the training for every local police recruit in Washington state. They’re supposed to focus less on being warriors and more on being guardians of citizens’ lives.

RAHR: We changed the training environment itself. We removed a lot of the symbols and the tools of the trade that were on the walls with murals of the Constitution. And we spent a great deal of time talking about the Constitution and what it means to a police officer. I tell my recruits in the first week there at the academy, my entire career, my training on the Constitution, consisted of how to work around it so that I could make an arrest and prove a case. It never occurred to me when I was working the street that I was there to support the Constitution. I viewed myself as being there to enforce the law. Some of the other things that we’ve done is move away from some of the military protocols. Instead of requiring recruits to snap to attention and be silent when a staff member passes, we require them to engage in conversation because that’s a skill they need in the field. Effective police officers are able to engage community members in conversation.

INSKEEP: So you’ve started this training – changing training – in Washington state before the incidents of the past year. But now we’ve had the incidents of the past year. And on this program, our correspondent Martin Kaste spoke with a number of officers who spoke of the risk of police becoming passive. They may be videotaped and scrutinized at any time, all their actions could be called into question – things they did in a split second and maybe it would be better for them to drive past that apparent crime scene than to get involved. How do you deal with that risk?RAHR: Well, I think it – you avoid that risk by the culture that is set in the police department where the officer works. And this is a part of policing that we don’t talk about often enough and that is the internal culture of the police department itself. There’s a cultural anthropologist named Simon Sinek. And Simon Sinek said the most important influence on the behavior of an officer on the street is going to be the internal culture of that police department. And so you need to focus on building a strong culture internally, where the leaders in the police department demonstrate respect and they set the tone for what they expect of their officers. Their behavior needs to model the kind of behavior they want to see on the street. So if you have a police department with a very strong, healthy culture and the officers know that if they are doing their best on the street and they’re wading into a difficult situation, they know that their leaders will support them, even if things don’t go well, if the officers are following policies and procedures. If an officer works for an agency where they believe the leaders are going to throw them under the bus if they make a mistake, then you’re absolutely right. The officers are going to drive past and not dive into that because they don’t want to take the chance of being unfairly criticized and punished.

Source: Ways To Avoid Community Violence After Local Police Encounters : NPR


Misplaced angst over symbolic protests

When Facebook gives me more news than the Dayton Daily news, we’re all in trouble. Never mind the fact that I’m paying $9.95 a month for their newspaper-on-crutches, but now they are offering it for $19.95 for a full year of digital access. Nothing says desperate like knocking your price down to next to nothing. Click bait is their “new strategy” posting tidbits on Facebook, hoping to get you to hit their paywall. Exactly the behavior Facebook is trying to minimize. But, that’s all moot.

Photo of a protester at Wright State University standing on the American Flag

An unknown patriot stirring the pot.

In today’s Facebook feeds, friends are arguing about the veteran who protested at WSU by standing on an American flag. As someone who has actually been arrested and had to win 5 court cases protecting your right to symbolic protest, I can guarantee you he was within his rights- and had he just stood their protesting with a sign, no one would be talking about it.

His sign- according to WDTN:

“I stand…-With Eric Shappard (SIC- should be Sheppard) and the preservation of 1st Amendment rights
-For all men and woman in service to this country
-For the accountability of media and other social institutions
-Justice, equity, tolerance, and diversity
-Upon the belief higher learning should provoke students to question social norms, mainstream values, and power structures
-The ‘American” spirit, is a revolutionary spirit- On the American flag because there’s nothing more American than that!

Source: Wright State Flag Protest Draws Crowd – WKEF-TV ABC 22 News :: News – Top Stories

Unbelievably, not a single local “news source” had either the protester’s name, or even were able to verify his status as a WSU student. If my Facebook friends are to be believed, yes, he’s a WSU student.

His first mistake was thinking that WSU students would know who Eric Sheppard is- and what that has to do with the American flag. Sheppard was protesting at Valdosta State University – standing on a flag to make a statement about the treatment of black men in this nation who are being gunned down. A publicity seeking veteran, Michelle Manhart, decided to do something about it- going to campus with her daughter filming- and stealing the flag. Amazingly, the cops did the right thing and arrested her and returned the flag. The video pushes buttons and the right wing nut jobs had a field day praising the veteran for her actions, albeit it turns out she had posed in Playboy on active duty and even posed nude later for PETA with… wait… an American flag.

Symbolic speech is powerful stuff. The Nazis understood it well. So did the Ku Klux Klan. Burning books, burning flags, burnings of effigies, ISIS is justifying its atrocities by using orange jump suits for its victims- to symbolize our detaining “their people” in Guantanamo bay. I actually had to explain to one person on Facebook why symbolic speech can be more effective than a standard protest, which in this country is usually measured by numbers- hence we have things like “the million man march.” Usually, in America, you need a herd to be heard in public. Of course, in private, you just need a lot of money and I guarantee you access to anyone you want in Washington, D.C.

The problem with symbols is they don’t always mean the same thing to everybody. Maybe that’s why early religions had such an issue with idolatry. And you have to remember, when the religions started out, most of this wasn’t written- it was spoken, since universal literacy and the printing press were far off in the future. I still find the symbol of Christianity being a cross to be odd- to celebrate Jesus, memorialize the brutal way that he died. Do we, as Americans use guns as a symbol to memorialize and remember Abraham Lincoln, JFK or Martin Luther King? No.

Another post on Facebook had this image going around- another view of what the American Flag stands for today:

American exceptionalism illustration on an American FlagThe article it linked to, was about how other countries don’t understand America, or how Americans don’t seem to understand what living in a “free society” really means. The reactions to these flag protests, full of vitriol, the grandstanding- over a symbol, taking over the conversation, when most Americans are living on the edge of survival- paycheck to paycheck, with a safety net that’s constantly being withdrawn inch by inch. We prefer the dream of success to the reality we live in. Thinking that we can all become an NBA star, a millionaire if we only work hard, or President of the United States, is so far from reality- if we weren’t all so seduced by this fantasy, any right minded psychologist would call us delusional.

There is a lot to protest about in this country. A few years back the Occupy movement tried to bring a focus to the wrongs of the wizards of Wall Street who have robbed our country blind and brought the “world’s strongest economy” to its knees, yet, the Dow continues to climb beyond any recognizable relevance, the Fed continues to print money like candy- and the richest Americans are getting richer at a record pace, while the rest of us are being asked to “pay more of our share” to keep this house of cards from falling.

To add insult to injury, we take more interest in one aging former Olympian’s transgender celebrity story than we do of the countless millions who aren’t able to feed their children, schools that aren’t preparing our children for colleges that are pricing themselves out of the reach of those who get there (if they aren’t shot by a cop for playing cops and robbers on a playground), so that they can get their panties in a twist over standing on a piece of cloth.

The flag, which we pledge allegiance to so easily, is a symbol. Symbols mean different things to different people. Our country is supposed to be one where different people can have free discussions over issues- my only request is, let’s start having the discussion about ones that matter. I agree and support the actions of the Wright State protester- and you should too, if you truly believe in what our country’s founders said when they declared our independence in 1776.

FDR vs. Obama vs. Frank Underwood

Francis Underwood at FDR memorial

Francis Underwood walks away from FDR quote

I’m binge watching as best as I can- season 3 of House of Cards. Episode 7 made me think.

Almost all political drama is someone’s attempt at introducing an idealized version of politics- from Aaron Sorkin’s “West Wing” with Jeb Bartlett, played by our man from South Park, Martin Sheen nee Estevez, to, well, even the sociopath Francis Underwood in “House of Cards.”
When Francis visited the FDR memorial – the quotes were even more poignant and relevant today.

I’ve never been to the FDR memorial, but visiting it online- you can read the quotes.…/learn/photosmultimedia/quotations.htm

I went and grabbed a few- although only the 2 in bold appeared in the show:

“In these days of difficulty, we Americans everywhere must and shall choose the path of social justice…the path of faith, the path of hope, and the path of love toward our fellow man.”
October 2, 1932

“No country, however rich, can afford the waste of its human resources. Demoralization caused by vast unemployment is our greatest extravagance. Morally, it is the greatest menace to our social order.”
September 30, 1934

“Men and nature must work hand in hand. The throwing out of balance of the resources of nature throws out of balance also the lives of men.”
January 24, 1935

“Among American citizens, there should be no forgotten men and no forgotten races.”
October 26, 1936

“I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.” “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
January 20, 1937

“We must scrupulously guard the civil rights and civil liberties of all our citizens, whatever their background. We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred, is a wedge designed to attack our civilization.”
January 9, 1940

“They [who] seek to establish systems of government based on the regimentation of all human beings by a handful of individual rulers…call this a new order. It is not new and it is not order.”
March 15, 1941

Damn… we need him back.

How did America respond to the success of a man who thought like this- term limits. The 22nd Amendment.
The beginning of the end of people elected by the people instead of by the money.

Obama came into the same kind of mess that FDR was handed. I wonder if there were no term limits, and it didn’t take a billion or so to keep the seat, what could have happened.