Dayton, Ohio, where you need an advocate to get help from the advocates

Note- this is a longer than usual post. Many of you won’t care to finish it- TL/DR. But, if you care about the state of veterans in our community, I ask you to please read, and think, and hopefully, reach out to your local elected leaders and say “this is unacceptable.” I don’t want to pull up the statistics on how many veterans are committing suicide every day in our country to guilt you into action, I just want to show that if I can do this, you can make a difference. Thank you.

It’s been 2 days since I had a homeless veteran sleeping on my couch. He’s now in a 1-bedroom apartment, with food, clothes, the beginnings of a kitchen, and a friend is over there as I write this, helping him unpack, organize and work on the life skills for independent living.

I am cosigned on the lease, I’ve probably invested close to 75 hours working on this, and between myself and another friend, am at least $1,100 out of pocket.

For right now- this is a happy ending. The story of how he got here is an indictment of our country’s completely unrealistic approach to mental health care and the failings of our social services safety net. But without an advocate, with access to a phone, fax, copier, the internet, and a whole Rolodex of connections, this story would be different, but, unlike the death of a young basketball player, there would be no service, no social media posts, no articles on the front page- just another veteran, dead with an inch in the paper- if that.

Rewind to the beginning. Sean (not his real name) was a star athlete growing up in Dayton. He went away to a military prep school, and then to one of the military academies. Somewhere in his Junior year, he had a manic episode to top all manic episodes. While it ran in the family, this was severe. Could it have been caused by the stress of the academy, while participating in D-1 sports? Sure- could it have been compounded because of steroid use- much more common then, possibly?  He was discharged with a DD-214, honorably. It says 3 years, 4 months 22 days of active service. In the part that’s not for public consumption- it says “Medically disenrolled.” He wasn’t even in a condition to sign it when he left the military.

Dayton VA ad promoting access- by pointing out myths of eligibility

The VA advertises to let people know that all veterans are eligible for care

For over 20 years, he’s struggled with his illness, never going to the VA for help, not because he didn’t need it, but probably because he didn’t realize he was eligible. Just today, the Dayton VA ran an ad in the paper with the common misconceptions of eligibility- it’s a problem the organization is fighting hard to overcome.

Between the discharge and today, he got married, fathered a son, held a sales job, and had episodic bouts of illness, resulting in loss of job, wife, family. He was particularly close to his father who died young, at 62.

In the end, his athletic connections have been the ones that have served him best. One friend, has packed up his things and moved him more than a few times, when extended hospitalizations have set him back.

Another, re-connected with him about half a dozen years ago- and offered him a job as a pizza delivery driver. He got a place in my ‘hood, and showed up for work like clockwork. He was living on tips and his 100% disability with Social Security. He was functioning, but, would have episodes of bad judgment. In 2012 he abused a girlfriend’s credit card. And sometime in 2015 he went to a buy-here pay-here car lot, and someone took advantage of him, selling him a $9K Honda Civic for $18k at 25% interest.

Next thing you know- the wheels fall off. Social Security says he’s making too much money and cuts his benefits off. He takes a second job delivering pizzas, and stops taking one of his meds because he needs to stay awake. The mania gets worse and worse, and next thing you know his caseworker at Eastway sends the police to his door to check on him after he had talked about harming himself. He ends up in Miami Valley Hospital for a week to adjust his meds. He gets out, he goes for a few beers at Blind Bob’s to celebrate. Bad idea. The next few days are hell for everyone around him. Next thing you know, he’s MIA. Finally we find him in the Warren County Jail. He was on the side of I-75 hitting golf balls when the state troopers found him. He’s not wearing a belt, and when he goes to get some ID out of the car- moons the cops accidentally. Two charges: public intox and public indecency. They’ve already shuffled him out of the jail to Summit Behavioral in Cincinnati- one of the few remaining state mental-health treatment facilities. He’s there for a few months.

I end up with both durable and medical power of attorney and begin my quest to get him into the VA system and get him the help and benefits that he’s earned.

One friend moves his stuff into storage. The apartment looks like a disaster. Obviously, his illness had been progressing for a while- but no one had checked on him. The car gets turned back in. They stick him with a $12K debt on a car worth $8K that they sold for $6K. The medical bill from Miami Valley for a week in the psych ward- over $30K. Hmmm, I could have sent him on a cruise on the French Rivera first class and paid off his car for that- and it would have probably been more therapeutic.

I’m gathering the list of documents needed to get help from the Montgomery County Veterans Services Commission. I’m a little bit lucky in that I know the director, and Ashley Webb who sits on the commission. I’m also lucky I know a few lawyers, because I need to find his divorce decree, get bank records and apply for his DD-214. Turns out, after waiting five weeks, I call St. Louis and they tell me they don’t have it- I have to call the Academy. Luckily there, a sharp sergeant takes pity on me, and makes a superhuman effort and gets me the 214 next day and the medical and scholastic records in days. Yes, the military does run on NCO power, no matter what your Congressman thinks.

He gets discharged from Summit Behavioral to “The Lodge”- a halfway house operated by Eastway. They allow for 28 days of temporary housing (after an extension is granted). He’s there 4 days and back in Miami Valley again. While he’s gone- his clothes, his phone, the radio his kid gave him, all disappear, as do a bunch of his days that he was eligible for a bed.

In the mean time, my office manager, Jen Selhorst, has a background in property management and has worked carefully with St. Vincent DePaul’s SSVF program. She even applied for a job as a case manager there but was sent packing because her degree was in marketing- not social work. She’d volunteered for several veterans’ groups. She jumped all over this.

SSVF is a federal program from the VA- administered by local non-profits. Here, we have the St. Vincent’s program and one run by Volunteers of America. Bonus points- my company does work for the guy who runs the VOA program. We touch base with him as well. He tells me the two programs collaborate and coordinate and work well together. Since we’ve already begun with St. VdP- stick with them.

The clock is ticking on the halfway house. He has to be out by last Tuesday. We need to find him a place- Jen scours Craigslist and finds a 1-bedroom on Wayne Ave. She meets the landlord’s agent, the case worker- they approve the space, sign the lease. This is a huge win- SSVF brings a case worker- who will help with signing him up for food stamps, the PIP program, get him an “Obama Phone” and will co-sign the lease and pay the deposit and up to 6 months’ rent to help him get back on his feet.

From the regs- by law, this is what they do:

Supportive services means any of the following provided to address the needs of a participant:

  • Outreach services as specified under § 62.30
  • Case management services as specified under § 62.31
  • Assisting participants in obtaining VA benefits as specified under § 62.32
  • Assisting participants in obtaining and coordinating other public benefits as specified under § 62.33
  • Other services as specified under § 62.34
    Supportive services grant means a grant awarded under this part.

Except come Tuesday- move-in day, we find out that they say he’s not eligible for SSVF- because he was always in “training status” and never active duty.

Before I’d accepted the POA- I’d done a bunch of searches on if he was eligible for VA care- since he was at the academy. Everything I’d found said yes. However, since I’m not being paid to take care of him, or advocate for him, I’d focused 100% of my efforts on keeping him off the streets. By 11 a.m. Tuesday- he’s homeless with 2 garbage bags of clothes, his meds and no place to go except my couch, which is where he landed.

I’m pissed. I contact my friend State Rep. Jim Butler– who had a similar military record- except his medical discharge came while he was training to be a fighter pilot after he’d graduated from the academy. He looks into SSVF and finds the regs. http://www.va.gov/HOMELESS/ssvf/docs/SSVF_Program_Guide_March_2015_Edition.pdf

I look at the index- see “ELIGIBILITY” page 16- and see the only requirement is a DD-214, but they are all hung up about a line on page 6:

Veteran: A person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released there from under conditions other than dishonorable. Note that the period of service must include service in active duty for purposes other than training.
Yet on page 17:
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS SUPPORTIVE SERVICES FOR VETERAN FAMILIES PROGRAM GUIDE
LAST UPDATED MARCH, 2014
Section V | Page 17 SECTION V | PARTICIPANT ELIGIBILITY SECTION B.
Determining Veteran Household Status Eligibility
As discussed above, eligible participants will be part of a “Veteran family,” meaning that the person to be served is either (a) a Veteran; or (b) a member of a family in which the head of household, or the spouse of the head of household, is a Veteran.
1. Verifying Veteran Status
As per 38 CFR 62.2, “Veteran” is defined as “a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released there from under conditions other than dishonorable.”
Note that bad conduct discharges are not the same as dishonorable, and as such, are eligible.
Furthermore, for Veterans with multiple discharges, the best discharge status may be used for SSVF eligibility.
To prove a participant’s Veteran status, grantees should obtain at least one of the following documents:
  • Veteran’s Department of Defense (DD) Form 214 Certificate of Release Discharge from Active Duty
  • VBA Statement of Service (SOS)
  • VHA Veteran’s Identity card
  • VISTA printout from VHA healthcare provider
  • Hospital Inquiry System (HINQS)
  • VBA award letter of service connected disability payment or non-service connected pension
  • Veterans Choice Card.

You’ll notice- the text is the same- except for the “other than training” which doesn’t show up anywhere else. The DD-214 clearly says he has active duty time. This “training” exception seems random. Mr. Butler is following up with congressional contacts.

However, if he had a VA ID card, he’d be good too- but, currently with the VA taking as long as 6 months to process claims, I’d focused on housing first. Note, at no time did anyone at Montgomery County Veterans Services volunteer to manage his intake to the VA system- all they did was push the inch-thick stack of papers back at me saying “you don’t have a  photo ID” for him- we can’t proceed.

In fact, the lady at the desk had me fill out the paperwork and write down what he was requesting for “Emergency Assistance” – I’d written down pay off utility bills, first month’s rent and deposit, cell phone, and something else- and she said “We don’t do deposits or cell phones.” Later, when I was questioned about the photo ID- I asked could he get a car- since he was a pizza delivery driver- and the answer was no. When I asked if there was a list of things that they could do- the answer was no. But I was told to make a good request, because they can only help twice a year. Really? Only twice a year?

Talking this over with Ashley Webb- he said he’d been researching VSC in other counties, what they require for assistance, what they offer. He’d already caught the fact that the Montgomery County VSC had 6 extra political appointees illegally- and was now working to figure out why they routinely give back over half their veteran budget to the County General Fund every year. When I’d founded VOB-108, now VOB Ohio, you would have thought they would have supported us with open arms- with our Vetrepreneur Academy and other Veteran focused issues- but, no. Their director came to maybe 2 of our events in 7 years- and never contributed either ideas or money to help us help veterans.

I’d even applied for a vacancy on the VSC. The seats are appointed by a panel of judges. I wasn’t even interviewed, and they gave the seat to a guy who is equally as dismayed about the malfeasance displayed by this organization. With two of the five seats now occupied by people with a heartbeat, and possibly with an investigation following this post- we may see some changes.

In order to get our veteran into his current home, thanks have to go out to the Blue Star Mothers of America Dayton Chapter who immediately cut a check for the deposit, came up with kitchen supplies, a crock pot and a microwave- and a care package including more snack food than a whole soccer team can eat in a week. Perhaps we should turn over the Veterans Service Commission funds to them- as well as the SSVF funds. No delays, no hoops to jump through. Veteran in need- what can we do to help?

Before the issue of Sean came up- I went to a meeting in the county building about the efforts of stopping homelessness among vets in Montgomery County. The meeting started with about 100 bureaucrats- and dwindled to about 50 by the end when questions were opened up. I pushed for Single Room Occupancy/Co-housing or micro-housing options for veterans, which are currently illegal in Dayton and most of the region. At the end of WWII – returning vets ended up in many of these types of housing and it worked well. Now, with it illegal to build a house under 900 square feet- and for more than 3 unrelated people to co-habit, we’ve sort of forced these guys into too much house for their means.

Charles Meadows, formerly with the city of Dayton called me a liar in front of the audience when I said I’d had a friend who had 4 such places, renting by the week, in Old North Dayton for years and that they were clean and respectable. It’s this kind of bullying I just love in our city. The fact is, Sean isn’t really capable of managing his affairs without someone checking in on him regularly, and this small apartment comes with costs that without him getting his SS or VA benefits back in a hurry are going to end up making me the fall back safety net.

I’ve heard that the former Daybreak facility on Wayne is being looked at for a veterans’ housing solution which would be a great start, but, honestly, maybe a better start was having advocates that actually advocate for veterans working in the positions mandated by law to do that very job.

 

 

Stabbing 7-year-olds and the wrong answers

It wasn’t but a few months ago when the Dayton School Board meeting was in chaos over the hiring of off-duty police to attend Dayton Public Schools sporting events.

The group “Racial Justice Now” saw it as just another step in the direction of the “school to prison pipeline.” There had been other meetings, in DPS buildings, where they were vehemently against the idea of “school resource officers” – that’s code for cops in schools, as sending the wrong message and being unnecessary.

The playground where a 7-year-old was stabbed during recess at Residence Park Elementary

Dirt patches, trash, and a stabbing.

And then a 7-year-old girl was stabbed yesterday on the playground, during recess, at WOW- or Residence Park elementary.

By a man described as being between 18 and 20 who walked onto the playground and shanked her through her lung.

The community is in shock. There is outrage. Fingers will be pointed all over the place,  lawyers will file lawsuits, “activists” will be up in arms, and lots of armchair quarterbacks will weigh in.

City Commissioner Jeff Mims is already making noise- as well he should, his daughter is the principal at World of Wonder. But even he recognizes that no amount of security, fences, security- will stop this, anymore than metal detectors, or school resource officers, or if you are a nut-job, arming teachers- will solve this.

This is just another example of how screwed up our country has become. It’s just closer to home.

Thankfully, this wasn’t Columbine or Sandy Hook. So far, the little girl is making a heroic comeback. But, let’s get real- this was the action of one person, who right now is still walking the streets, somehow thinking that he’s some kind of superstar- since he hasn’t been caught yet.

I have a phrase for adults who stab little girls in the chest and run- you’re a piece of shit. These are the types of people for whom capital punishment is made. Not that I’m a big fan of capital punishment as we do it in this country- where it takes 20 years and millions of dollars to take care of something that should be as easy as wiping the dog crap off your shoe and being done with it.

This isn’t about safer schools, fences, school resource officers- it’s about us. Us as in what kind of community do we live in? What kind of expectations do we place on life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and freedom. And what are our community standards?

Everyone will say- this is America- we’re free, we’re a democracy, we are the land of opportunity- when if fact, we’re not. We’ve been fooled, as our rights have been diminished through the “patriot act,” our elections have been turned into an auction/reality TV show, and most of us have zero chance of economic mobility- while we all believe we can hit the jackpot, or play in the NBA – despite being 5’3″- just look at Muggsy Bogues! We’ve got more people in prison than any other “free” or “democratic” country- and refuse to acknowledge that being number 1 in this category isn’t something to be proud of.

But when it comes to community standards- this is where we fail. We set our expectations too low, and accept absolute mediocrity as acceptable. We fight change, we don’t like strong leaders, and we’ll stick with stupid because that’s what we’ve always done.

Graffiti on the pole on the playground where a 7-year-old was stabbed during recess at Residence Park Elementary

Fuck and N word, on the pole, in the playground where a 7-year-old was stabbed

I went out to the playground at Residence Park Elementary School today. I’ve been there a lot over the last 4 years- because there is one solitary backboard on the playground- and almost every other time I’ve been out, it’s needed a net and I’ve hung one. Today, I was happy to see, a net- and it wasn’t even one of mine. But, when I looked around, wondering what the scene had been the day before, where she stood, where she fell, and what kind of chaos must have been going on- I was struck by other things; how much the school looks like a prison, that the grass in the yard was splotchy and there were patches of dirt, that there was trash on the playground, that the pole supporting that backboard had obscene racist graffiti on it.

Is that the best we can do?

Is it too much to ask for our schools to be pristine oases of lush soft grass, with impeccably maintained playground equipment, and that there be no trash, no graffiti and set a standard for the community?

It took me back a few years to when I was making the video talking about my green nets. I had an intern through Youth Works- and I took him to Orchardley Park in Oakwood to shoot what a public park should look like. You’d think he was in the land of Oz. He was amazed, the park was clean, there weren’t cracks in the asphalt, the backboards had rims that weren’t rusty, they even had nets. The park had bathrooms that were open, and “they don’t even smell” was what came out of his mouth. Parents were playing with their kids, having a picnic in the grass, the sounds were of people laughing- not rap, not obscenities or the standard trash talk I hear on every single basketball court in Dayton.

That’s where we fail. We accept a sub-standard as the norm. Drive along U.S. 35 W, and count the number of light pole bases without lights between Abby Road and Liscum Drive. Then go look on 35 E.

Drive down W. Third street and see how many businesses are closed, but still have signs up, or are boarded up badly. Then look in other communities like Kettering, or Centerville- and ask “would they allow the buildings to rot and be overgrown with weeds?” The answer is no.

When we let our city look like a dump. When we let graffiti stay up. When we let weeds grow through cracks in our basketball courts- aren’t we sending a message that our people really don’t matter?

Are we sending a message that it’s OK to run the streets and stab little girls on a playground? Why hasn’t anyone stepped up to say “piece of shit’s name is ____________” – is it because we don’t feel safe? Is it because we’ve cut our police to the bone, while allowing private institutions that don’t pay property taxes like UD, Premier Health, Kettering Health, Sinclair- to start their own police forces to protect their assets, but leave the rest of us hanging? Add up the number of the institutional cops and they probably come close to equaling the Dayton Police department- throw in the  DPS  “School Resource Officers” and you’re probably exceeding the number of “real police.” It’s just another example of how we take care of the money- and leave the poor people to suffer on their own.

There was a meeting a few weeks ago against regionalization- and there will be another Monday. The white racists of the establishment, with their token African American pogues, who have been slowly stripping every last bit of value from the citizens of Dayton, who pay the 2nd highest income tax in the second highest tax burdened county in the state- will get up and say with a straight face that streamlining and reducing our government overhead is a bad thing. They will talk about disenfranchising black voters. They will stand there and say that what we have works.

It doesn’t.

Residence Park is proof that the system has screwed a 7-year-old girl over, and we’re going to continue down the path of the wrong discussion. It’s not about a stabbing. It’s about the condition of the community that set the stage for that stabbing.

Until we realize that we have met the enemy, and he is us, we’re screwed.

It’s time to take a serious look at our problems. Our leaders. Our operational performance at the basics of government. The way we conduct our elections. The way we “rehabilitate” our “criminals” and even who the real criminals are. And as always, the old detective/journalists adage holds true- “follow the money” and you will find out where the real injustice is happening, and it’s not as simple as a knife and an unknown piece of shit.

It’s time to deny service to Mississippi

I hate MississippiTim Cook, CEO of Apple, is gay. According to Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, some people are allowed to decline him service.

Mississippi’s governor signed far-reaching legislation allowing individuals and institutions with religious objections to deny services to gay couples…

The measure signed by Gov. Phil Bryant of Mississippi allows churches, religious charities and privately held businesses to decline services to people if doing so would violate their religious beliefs on marriage and gender.

Source: Anti-Gay Laws Bring Backlash in Mississippi and North Carolina

Apparently, Mississippi didn’t learn about civil rights and non-discrimination from Dr. Martin Luther King, so maybe it’s time for Tim Cook to teach them a lesson.

Let’s face it- Citizens United says corporations are people too- and have a right to buy elections, and by the same standard, they should be able to decline to serve an entire state if it wishes to discriminate.

My proposal is that Apple shut down all their Apple stores in Mississippi, tomorrow. Then, shut off access to the entire state to the iTunes store, to iCloud, to Apple Maps and any and all programs on residents’ iPhones.

I would hope that Google joins in- and sets up a geofence and denies service to the entire state. No Google. No Google Maps. No Android updates.

Throw in Facebook. Geofence the entire state. If you are in Mississippi, you’re off Facebook. Just like that.

I would think that if these three companies cut off all services within the state- Mississippi would cease to exist- but, for good measure- Ebay, and PayPal can join in too. All of these companies have believed in and supported diversity. Microsoft can jump in too- although who really uses Bing?

Since we don’t have legislators or leaders who do anything without the almighty dollar directing them- maybe, just maybe, teaching the people of Mississippi a lesson not to elect bigots, racists and haters to office will send a message to all of these holier than thou misanthropes a lesson.

Enough people died in Mississippi to end segregation in the sixties. Supposedly, we moved forward- to where we no longer judge people by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

America has no place for bigots like Phil Bryant.

Which of our corporate chieftains will have the fortitude to step up and stop this hate from spreading?

You’re fired

Uncle Sam saying You're FiredTo the Republican senators who refuse to do their job and vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick B. Garland, you’re fired.

Typically, people who refuse to do the job they are supposed to do- get fired, at least in the private sector. In the public sector- not so much.

Right now, more than ever, we need to take a look at who should be fired for not doing their job- and I’m going to start at the top.

President Obama- you promised hope and change. Yet, the same assholes that destroyed the global economy just before you came into office- haven’t been prosecuted, or even slapped on the wrist. While the income gap continues to grow, you bailed out the banks, insurance companies, and scam artists who had packaged mortgages, lied about them, built a Ponzi scheme, collapsed it- and robbed the American people blind. Need a refresher- go watch “The Wolf of Wall Street” and even better- “The Big Short.” I know Elliot Spitzer liked hookers, but he seemed to be the only guy out there who would have held anyone accountable. Your boy Eric Holder- our former Attorney General- used to be a part of the cartel that came up with MERS and robosigning of documents that were the keys to most American’s largest investment- their home/mortgage/deed- and that mess is still going to drag on for years.

Richard Cordray, who is the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should probably be fired as well. Not, because he hasn’t tried to do his job, but because he’s not been effective. Interest rates are still low for rich people and corporations- and almost usurious for those at the bottom. The fact that credit cards can still charge over 20% and be open accounts, while the prime is near zero, says you failed Rich. Go home to Ohio and run for governor.

Speaking of governor- John Kasich, who was elected by the people to be governor of Ohio- and has spent the last year, prancing around the country pretending to be presidential material and actually costing the taxpayers money to keep him safe and secure- while not doing his job- you’re fired too. How many jobs can the common man have where you can get paid by one, while not doing it?

On the local front, it should be obvious to someone that Wright State University should be hit with a blow torch. Start with the president who has to hire lobbyists and consultants with huge paychecks to go talk to the people he works for (hint- they are in Columbus- not on your board of trustees). Zero controls or checks and balances have brought one scandal after another. And here again, getting fired doesn’t mean you lose your job, unlike in the private sector. Provost Sundaram Narayanan got the axe, but because of tenure, is still employed. Go figure.

We’ve seen one departure from the board of trustees, Nina Joshi resigned, without having to take any flak for the questionable benefits her firm, UES, may have received from the H1B visa scam. Other trustees are pretending that they haven’t done anything wrong either- like the president of the board who voted on his own son’s hiring by the university to a questionable specially created position. Seriously, we need to go to Japan and learn about honoring the company ideals- so these cretins would feel shame and do seppuku on themselves. Maybe WSU athletic director Bob Grant, can join them all- since after firing the men’s basketball team coach for lack of “fan engagement”- I bet the Nutter Center would sell out to watch these people line up- and disembowel themselves- since apparently, winning games and graduating your players isn’t enough. BTW- when the successful women’s coach left right after firing of the men’s coach- it probably had more to do with his not wanting to work for a ruthless athletic director.

And while we’re on the subject of firing in higher Ed- you all know my position about Sinclair’s expansion into Warren, Greene, and Preble counties– without taxation. Fire President Steven Johnson and bring in someone who understands who pays for his subsidies.

Moving on, there are oh so many more opportunities to fire people in Dayton. Nan Whaley, Shelley Dickstein and Aaron Sorrell- that hole where the Dayton Daily News building used to be? You’re fired. How about letting the Community Blood center tear down that beautiful block of buildings just south of the Blood Center? Another empty lot, great. I was just in Cincinnati on Friday night- and why is it that the hottest parts of downtown still have all the old buildings? hmmmm….

The Dayton Board of Education sort of fired Superintendent Lori Ward by not renewing her contract, or that of Treasurer Craig Jones. Both are still drawing a paycheck, but no replacements are in sight- and in the meantime, the company that they hired to staff the district with substitute teachers may be breaking the law by not treating long-term subs more like employees- and playing musical chairs with sub spots. The reality is, DPS was short 30 teachers this year, hello? Isn’t that job number one- have a teacher in the classroom?

To all the local taxing jurisdictions of Montgomery County. As a small business owner, can I tell you the idea of trying to track and pay all of your individual income taxes is a ridiculous burden, and that we now have an area, Austin Landing, where depending on how many floors your building has, actually dictates who pays income tax or not. Seriously- all of you- FIRED. We need to come up with a taxation strategy that is fair, universal, and easy to report- like a statewide income tax- that’s redistributed to the locals. One taxing authority, one tax rate. Less paperwork, fewer penalties and let’s get on with business. Oh, yeah- and if you are a little podunk government like Beavercreek township, or Moraine etc. you don’t get any of the money back- because you shouldn’t exist. We need to implement some kind of limits on what qualifies as a jurisdiction worthy of taxpayer support based on a ratio of people to governors. We don’t need to support 26 police chiefs, or 24 Chief Building Inspectors, or 28 city managers. It’s time to do what the big banks have done, the hospitals have done, the insurance companies have done, the grocery stores have done- and consolidate. All you straphangers living off the stupid jurisdictional boundaries created by the Northwest Ordinance of 1785- you’re fired too.

Who would you fire? I’m sure I’m going to make someones list (don’t worry- I’ve been fired before).

The “Human Rights violations in Cuba”?

I’m sick of hearing sanctimonious comments about the United States lecturing Cuba on basic human rights.

Cuba has 11.7 million residents.

We have 2.2 million incarcerated- mostly, poor, black or in need of proper mental health care.

We have abject poverty, higher infant mortality, the highest per capita murder rate, no national health care – the list goes on.

We’re a third world nation now.

It’s time we stopped “solving the world’s problems” and started solving our own.

Communism isn’t the enemy. Castro isn’t the enemy.

Unbridled capitalism has failed us in every way.

We’ve got the best government money can buy- and frankly, it’s not worth a crap.

Kudos to President Obama for fixing this farce left over from the fear-mongering of the 1960s.

Now, if Congress would actually do their job and vote on a supreme court nominee. Or do we have to buy them too now?

 

The Schooler Murder. Where did he get a gun?

Reverend William Schooler was killed by his mentally ill brother, Daniel Schooler in Dayton Ohio on Feb 18, 2016 with a gunGive or take, this is what I wrote on Facebook on Sunday night. I’m still trying to gather my thoughts about this.

I’ve know Reverend Schooler for at least 25 years.
He was gunned down by his mentally ill brother in his church on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016.
I can’t think of a sadder story.
Schooler was one of the more pragmatic and practical of the Black Ministers- and one who cared more about the people in this community- and especially kids- than most of the others.
I don’t know how many high school sporting events I ended up sitting next to him- and he’d put his arm around my shoulder and say, “Now, listen to me David…” as if I had any other choice.
I didn’t always agree with him, and I don’t think that the school board made the right decision picking him over 8 others- including my ex- who would have been awesome on the board- but, I know that his heart was always in the right place.
I can’t fathom what drove his brother to do this.
The hell he’ll have to live through when he realizes what he’s done…
and how this is going to affect his family- forever.
I don’t believe in heaven- or hell, but I know Bill did. And I know he’s happy to meet his maker- and to be free of the earthly constraints of his spirit.
Our community has lost a big heart- and a good man.
And it’s going to take me a long time to stop feeling a sense of loss, due to this needless shooting.

The first reports in the Dayton Daily news had Bill’s name, but, for some reason, it took them until evening to realize he was a former school board member, a teacher, a principal, a decorated Vietnam Veteran. The institutional knowledge base of the local “if it bleeds, it leads” news departments is deplorably thin. But, this was the kind of story that makes the front page. They love a good tragedy.
How many things had Bill done over the years in this community that didn’t make the front page that made a bigger impact? We’ll be reading about this for a while.

Schooler, and when you said “Schooler” everyone knew who you were talking about, was a master people person. He’d share connections, insights, and counsel with almost anyone who sought his help. I first met him in 1993 when I was running for mayor. He was helping Mark Donelson, who was the husband of Sherie McLin then, who was running for commission along with Reverend William Augman. Dean Lovelace was in that race, and pulled out to move into a special election to fill the seat that Mark Henry vacated mid-term. The incumbents were Tony Capizzi and Dick Zimmer.

The West Side was foreign to me then. Between Donelson and Schooler, I got my first hints of how it worked, didn’t work, the ministers, the projects. I remember riding to events with Donelson where he would detour and take me through parts of town that I didn’t feel that safe in. Mark, who was known as “Hollywood” and Schooler knew everyone. I saw Yuma Place, Arlington Courts, Hilltop, The Bass – with the windows open, and rolling slow. That we had a housing project with the nickname “Gangster Courts” almost seemed sickly romantic- as if there was some kind of glamour to it. I was young, dumb, naive, innocent and blind to how rough some parts of town were. They opened my eyes. All these years later, some of these places are gone, and have parks on them. I go there and hang green basketball nets. I don’t fear my city anymore, some of that comes directly from Schooler.

I never met Bill’s brother Daniel. I did meet Mark Donelson’s brother, Ron Ragland (It’s been a long time, I hope I’ve got his name correct) many times. He was murdered in a domestic dispute years ago, still a young man.

There is a common denominator here, black men dying by gun violence. Or as my friend, artist James Pate calls his series on the subject, “Kin Killing Kin”– there is no mistake about the abbreviation KKK for this story- it’s no longer the Klan killing off our black community, it’s the community killing itself.

All this twisted path to come down to this:

Court records show Daniel Schooler has a troubled and violent past. In 2001, he was charged with felonious assault with a firearm specification and carrying a concealed weapon, according to Montgomery County Common Pleas Court records.

Source: Pastor-slaying suspect described as ill, violent

There were other assaults, there were other instances where Daniel Schooler beat people, did time in prison, and the judge even questioned his mental state then:

“Court documents note Schooler “may be mentally ill and in need of treatment.” He was sentenced to five years of probation.

I’ve made my stands on the 2nd Amendment pretty clear over the years. I believe in the whole amendment, not partial interpretations.

“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

To me, this means, as part of an organization, that meets regularly, and has been fully trained in the proper and safe use of arms, may keep them- in an armory, that is guarded and manned, 24-7 by members of said militia. Being a “strict constructionist,” (thank you Judge Scalia for that esteemed BS)  I also believe that the ownership of arms is limited to the type of firepower that was available at the time of the writing- which means slow to load, single shot, limited accuracy. The right of the people to keep and bear arms- does not include TOW missiles, Claymore mines or nuclear arms- which means, that the right to own a semi-automatic pistol isn’t legitimized anymore by this insane idea that owning weapons makes us some kind of special.

The only thing special about arms ownership in America, is that you are much more likely to die by a gun than in any other civilized, industrialized country in the world. Need proof? Look no further than Bill Schooler, a man of the cloth, a teacher, a decorated veteran.

There will be a trial, unless Dan Schooler either kills himself in jail, or someone else does it for him. We’ll find out thatmentally unstable. He may get sent off to a forensic psych ward, or to prison for the rest of his miserable life. None of this will bring back his brother. We’ll be throwing a lot of good money after bad, trying to make an example out of Daniel, trying to get our ounce of flesh, to do the eye-for-an-eye thing- where everyone will end up blind.

None of that matters.

The only thing that matters is how did he get the gun? Where did he get the gun? Who’s gun was it? And, that’s the person who should be standing trial.

But, sadly, that too is just smoke and mirrors. We’ve done this to ourselves. One gun, one bullet, one fucked up interpretation of twenty seven words, written long ago, by people who we’ve somehow deified, who had no clue of the carnage that would become our county in the name of  “security of a free State” in which there is no true protection from these acts of senseless violence that have taken a good man away from us for no good reason.

Schooler, if you can hear me, I will not forget you.

The cost of stupid

There used to be a time when facts presented without empirical evidence weren’t called facts. Now, we’re inundated with unsubstantiated statements that are shared and talked about – without paying any attention to the source, validity, or even common sense.

It’s a world gone mad.

Or it’s just entropy on steroids.

The arguments against gun control in this country make no sense. People actually believe you are safer if everyone had a gun. Seriously.

People believe that our health care system is the best in the world, yet every other industrialized country with universal health care has better medical outcomes and longer life expectancy.

The costs of a college education have skyrocketed in the last 25 years, while a motivated individual with a computer and an internet connection can self teach almost anything. Pay for college graduates has stagnated or dropped.

We believe our “Democracy” and “Democratic system” to be the model of government- yet, it’s become clearly evident that “pay to play” is the de facto standard- and legislation is bought and sold like a commodity. I remember being taught about the inefficiencies of doing business in countries like Russia when bribes were the norm- as if that never happened here (and I believed that).

America still proudly proclaims itself the “land of the free” when facts say we imprison more of our population than anywhere else. Sure, we don’t run Gulags or Concentration Camps, but, why is it that our prisons are filled with poor minorities. Also, we seem to have a serious problem with killing people without judge or jury in the name of justice. Isn’t that what happens in third world banana republics? Not at Walmart in Beavercreek?

There was a time in history when insanely bright people were respected and consulted. Leaders were chosen for their integrity, intelligence, and track record. Now, it’s more like a popularity contest where your Q-score counts almost as much as your bankroll. Climate change scientists are routinely called heretics by people with zero scientific training.

Speaking of scores, we’ve been going round and round with what testing tool is appropriate to judge student achievement on something we now call the “common core.” There is a different educational strategy coming out daily. Hell, I even have one or two of my own. Yet, when you look at the evidence, one factor determines educational outcomes in the United States more than any other- poverty. Yet, fixing that one would require a shift in wealth distribution- and that just isn’t “the American way.” We continue with the fallacy that poor kids have a chance to make it in the NBA, or become a rapper- when the odds are way better that they get shot, imprisoned or become just another poor family.

When we talk about selecting our next president, we don’t even realize that the system doesn’t provide for a way for a single office holder to really change anything in our system- he needs a whole network of elected helpers to make things happen. So even if we elect Trump or Sanders- neither, will have the votes to make the changes they promise. The system was designed that way. It hasn’t changed, even with all the corrupting influences.

And of course, this post is full of unsubstantiated statements presented as facts- because, well, you know, the academic rigor it would take to find, evaluate and cite would take too long, and I’m intellectually lazy.

But, you know I’m right. Right?

Our future rests in the hands of people who believe that if they saw it on Facebook- it must be true.

The costs of ignorance are high. It affects us in so many different ways. Fundamentally, our democracy relies on an educated and informed electorate, yet we now know that’s been tossed out the window. What else is left?

More and more, George Orwell had it right in both “Animal Farm” and “1984”- and we’ve done nothing to stop it. Both of these books were required reading for me in high school. I wonder if they are still being taught- or only to rich kids?

When we look at the cost of incarceration, of social systems to support our underclass, of the checks and balances like Title IX or Equal Opportunity lending, or quotas and all the systems put in place to shore up a house of cards built on trust in government and our economy and our social structures- there is only one real investment that fixes so much of it- smarter constituents.

Only when we have an enlightened electorate will we see the change that makes sense, that is definable, substantiated, and effective. Fixing our education system has to be our first priority if we ever hope to tackle the rest.

 

 

 

Republicans making sense…

If you listen to the “debates” of those who want to be our president, you hear a lot of banter. You hear a lot of he said/she said. You hear things that are pulled out of their rear ends for shock and awe and front-page headlines. Very rarely, with the exception of Bernie Sanders, do you hear a case being presented for solutions that challenge the way we think or should think about issues.

I had a hard time accepting Arnold Schwarzenegger as a serious candidate for governor of California for all the wrong reasons. Just having a high Q-score should not a candidate make, but read this post he had on Facebook- and see if it makes sense to you. He reframes the discussion of renewable energy, dependence on fossil fuels in a way that even a moron should understand, and for that, he deserves a gold star.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

I don’t give a **** if we agree about climate change.

December 7 · Public I see your questions. Each and every time I post on my Facebook page or tweet about my crusade for a clean energy future, I see them. There are always a few of you, asking why we should care about the temperature rising, or questioning the science of climate change. I want you to know that I hear you. Even those of you who say renewable energy is a conspiracy. Even those who say climate change is a hoax.

Even those of you who use four letter words.
I’ve heard all of your questions, and now I have three questions for you.
Let’s put climate change aside for a minute. In fact, let’s assume you’re right.
First – do you believe it is acceptable that 7 million people die every year from pollution? That’s more than murders, suicides, and car accidents – combined.
Every day, 19,000 people die from pollution from fossil fuels. Do you accept those deaths? Do you accept that children all over the world have to grow up breathing with inhalers?
Now, my second question: do you believe coal and oil will be the fuels of the future?
Besides the fact that fossil fuels destroy our lungs, everyone agrees that eventually they will run out. What’s your plan then?
I, personally, want a plan. I don’t want to be like the last horse and buggy salesman who was holding out as cars took over the roads. I don’t want to be the last investor in Blockbuster as Netflix emerged. That’s exactly what is going to happen to fossil fuels.
A clean energy future is a wise investment, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either wrong, or lying. Either way, I wouldn’t take their investment advice.
Renewable energy is great for the economy, and you don’t have to take my word for it. California has some of the most revolutionary environmental laws in the United States, we get 40% of our power from renewables, and we are 40% more energy efficient than the rest of the country. We were an early-adopter of a clean energy future.
Our economy has not suffered. In fact, our economy in California is growing faster than the U.S. economy. We lead the nation in manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, entertainment, high tech, biotech, and, of course, green tech.
I have a final question, and it will take some imagination.
There are two doors. Behind Door Number One is a completely sealed room, with a regular, gasoline-fueled car. Behind Door Number Two is an identical, completely sealed room, with an electric car. Both engines are running full blast.
I want you to pick a door to open, and enter the room and shut the door behind you. You have to stay in the room you choose for one hour. You cannot turn off the engine. You do not get a gas mask.
I’m guessing you chose the Door Number Two, with the electric car, right? Door number one is a fatal choice – who would ever want to breathe those fumes?
This is the choice the world is making right now.
To use one of the four-letter words all of you commenters love, I don’t give a damn if you believe in climate change. I couldn’t care less if you’re concerned about temperatures rising or melting glaciers. It doesn’t matter to me which of us is right about the science.
I just hope that you’ll join me in opening Door Number Two, to a smarter, cleaner, healthier, more profitable energy future.

Source: I don’t give a **** if we agree about climate change.

I got the lead on this from subscribing to Seth Godin’s blog. I find it a nice daily reminder that there are other intelligent people out there questioning the status quo.

Now, does my “Walk to work tax credit” sound sensible to you?

 

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?