150 years for Madoff, and the SEC gets off easy

While there are people dancing in the streets about Madoff getting 150 years (they are now homeless, because of this cretin who stole their life savings) we haven’t yet seen one regulator nailed to the same cross.

Why not?

Herein lies the fundamental problem with our current financial system: it’s all one big con game.

Without putting some sort of restrictions on speculation, which is what 99.99% of the stock market is now, and huge amounts of volume being traded daily, there is zero connection to actual business goals and objectives.

Business is no longer about making money and paying dividends to the owners, it’s about manipulating stock prices so that paper wealth can be created, and huge sums skimmed off the top by the people running the casino, oops, I mean markets.

Madoff may be in prison, but somehow, we’re still allowing “legitimate crooks” to get paid millions per year, while running companies into the ground just like Madoff did. And, our politicians are barking up the wrong tree.

Take our esteemed crooked Congressman, Mike Turner.

His latest move-

U.S. Rep. Michael Turner, R-Centerville, has introduced a constitutional amendment that would bar the federal government from owning stock in companies, his office announced this week.

Coined “Preserving Capitalism in America” the constitutional amendment would preserve the government’s right to provide loans or to acquire equity interests in any public authority or public use corporation, as well as investments by any government pension fund.

via Turner seeks to bar government intervention – Dayton Business Journal:.

I’ll translate for those of you who are missing the point: instead of banning the use of your hard-earned tax dollars to prop up these crooks running corporations into the ground at a record pace, Turner wants to continue to give them money in the form of bailouts and “economic development” funds- corporate welfare, without taking an equity position.

Turner is all for giving your tax dollars away.

The insane part, he supposedly has 102 co-sponsors to this piece of crap legislation.

It’s time to install strict controls on stock ownership, forcing anyone with over 1% ownership, or over $100,000 in one company to hold the stock for at least a year. It’s also time to create strict limits on executive pay, clearly stating the maximum pay allowed based on average payroll, number of US-based employees, and net worth of the company. If you want to pay yourself more as CEO, take the company private. Shareholders would be paid dividends on anything above and beyond the ratio, unless they vote to reinvest in the company. Any CEO who cuts his workforce, or has a loss, gets paid zero. There has to be risk to be a CEO.

There is only one place for our current crop of legislators who aren’t calling for the arrest and prosecution of both the regulators and the thieves who have paid themselves so well while failing so fantastically. In a cell, right next to Bernie.

Then we can get started on constitutional amendments.

The Clueless form of Dayton City Management.

When was the last time you heard the City Manager asking the City Commission a question at a Commission meeting? A real question?

When was the last time you heard an active discussion about different ways to approach a problem, out in public?

That’s the beginning of the reason Dayton is failing to instill confidence in business. The other, is that we can’t clearly put a city manager in charge without meddling by a part-time Mayor who makes it a full time job to stick her nose in where it doesn’t belong.

Rashad Young has had an opportunity to prove himself, and prove himself he has:  We’re mediocre, and that doesn’t cut it.  While balancing a budget may seem an accomplishment (and it’s required by law), there are many other areas where he gets a big fat FAIL.

Take this article in the Dayton Business Journal- where business after business says the exact same thing: The city isn’t business friendly:

Regional officials acknowledge a pervasive view exists in the business community that it is hard to work with the city. They add there also is an underlying lack of confidence in city leadership, both elected and hired, to overcome the challenges that lay before it, no matter how much effort is given….

Despite the criticism, Dayton City Manager Rashad Young said he is working hard to make a difference, but the city is facing some challenging issues. Young said the business owners and executives he interacts with are, by and large, satisfied.

“I don’t think, between the business community and the city, there is bad blood,” Young said.

He said given the social and economic issues of the city, it is hard for people outside the city manager’s office to understand the challenge of progress.

“I cannot pick up and change the social and economic factors of the people in my city,” Young said. “I don’t think people care that the challenges have been here for a generation. People don’t care why it is broken, they care that it gets fixed.”…

However, Dayton Commissioner Matt Joseph credits Young with working hard to improve Dayton’s customer service.

One thing the city can do better, Joseph said, is communicate success stories and elicit positive testimonials from satisfied customers.

He said short-term negativity is hard to counteract, and the commission has taken a long-term approach.

“There is only one way: That is to spend the next 10 years giving good customer service, because once people have this perception in their mind, it stays there,” Joseph said.

As with any organization, there is room for improvement, Joseph and Young said.

via Businesses critical of city efforts – Dayton Business Journal:.

Some people look at challenges and say they can’t be overcome, others look and see opportunity.  If Rashad Young can’t change the social and economic factors of the city, then he shouldn’t be in a leadership position– it’s quite frankly his job to do those things.  And regarding Joseph’s comment, good customer service shouldn’t take 10 years to achieve– that’s absurd.  We need it yesterday.

I’ve been working on a plan to restructure the delivery of service to neighborhoods, actively engaging each neighborhood to reach goals and objectives that will help allocate our limited resources. I’ll be releasing it closer to the election, but, if you’ve been reading and participating, you’ll recognize a lot of it from previous posts.

It’s time to reinvent the way we run our city. It’s time to reconsider what we get for $125K a year city manager and ask “Are we simply getting what we pay for?”  Would we be better off paying $200K+ and getting a person of the caliber of Col Colleen Ryan of the Dayton Development Coalition? She’s well respected by both the business community and the base people, and has managed an operation (WPAFB) which compares to Dayton in complexity.

Until voters start asking real questions on what kind of city they expect, we’ll never get the city we deserve.  Our first step is to get a city manager who doesn’t blame his lack of progress on what we’ve got left of our city.  If you can’t make it better, we need to find someone who can.  Saying you can’t change things means you’ve lost hope, and that’s not what our city needs.  We need someone who can clearly communicate a vision of the future- and pay them well to do it.  If given a choice between Mr. Young and someone like Ms. Ryan, I believe we’d see a cataclysmic positive change in where Dayton is headed- hopefully with the clueless mayor standing to the sidelines and letting the real talent take the helm.  Instead we have a mortician putting the finishing touches on our city’s funeral, wearing an appropriate hat for the occasion.


inspiration, from a dead writer, and why not?

This is my 994th post.

By weeks end, I’ll hit 1000. It won’t really matter, 1000 is only a number (and when compared to national budget figures, it’s truly insignificant).

Writing can be very hard for some people. To them, I say there is only one true way to improve- write more. Your voice will come.

I just stumbled upon a quote from one of my favorite authors, and thought I’d share:

Kurt Vonnegut: Eight rules for writing fiction:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

— Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut, Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1999), 9-10.

via Kurt Vonnegut — troubling.info.

I write esrati.com first for me- it gives me a way to “make love to the world” as Kurt so beautifully puts it. Hopefully, we no longer have to worry about the cockroaches eating the last pages- since this is all digital. Of course, if we do have a thermo-nuclear war, the cockroaches may be all that’s left. They will be very hungry cockroaches, because all our writing will have gone *poof* into the ether, forever gone- as the EMP will wipe the harddrives from here to Kalamazoo, or wherever Kurt now is, may he RIP.

And, always, root for the underdog.

Thank you Kurt, and you, my reader. Hopefully, your time has not been wasted.

Dayton Daily News finally catches on to the corporate welfare BS.

Today, the Dayton Daily News editorial board finally agreed with a position I’ve staked out as one of the primary threats to our society: Corporate welfare.

It’s a stunning turnabout for a company that has never met a tax break they didn’t wholeheartedly endorse. The ones for Reynolds & Reynolds, Relizon, Workflow One etc- were all great by their reporting. Bill Pardue and his QBase reality distortion field- where governments should not only fund his startup, but then hire his firm- hailed as innovative. And, then the NCR debacle, where our Ohio politicians hadn’t talked enough about how we should drop our drawers to the almighty Bill Nuti and his extortion machine.

If you look at todays paper, their hypocrisy is evident, where they rail against the tax break, but fail to hang Congressman Turner for his willingness to sell out to NCR as long as they are a Dayton business.

They take the tax break system apart gently, as a ruse to give money to big companies for promises written on paper as useless as yesterdays news-

One way of looking at the NCR deal is that the employees who have to move will actually be the ones financing the cost of wooing the company. That’s because almost $80 million of the $100 milllion-plus incentive package that Georgia put up represents state income taxes that will be deducted from employees’ checks over five years, but that NCR will get to keep.

Like most states today, Georgia isn’t just sitting on $80 million that it’s aching to give away. Yet, it didn’t have to put up much cold cash to get NCR. Rather, it’s temporarily foregoing income tax money it would have been due.

One can argue that any time a state gives a tax break, all state residents end up footing the bill in one way or another. But when a tax break is so precisely tied to what a company’s employees owe the state, it easy to see how they might think they’re the ones really putting up the cash…

The national trend of tying tax breaks to what workers owe the state is a tidy way for states to make sure that companies receiving incentives really are producing the jobs they’ve promised to create. It’s hard to cheat if a business tax credit is linked directly to the state taxes a company is withholding from its employees.

via Editorial: Employees to pay taxes to NCR | A Matter of Opinion.

So the real question is, if this is such a good idea, why not allow every business that is on the brink of tossing in the towel, just keep their State income taxes too? What? Only if you are a corporation, who pays your CEO $2000 an hour?

That’s the way our politicians have rolled… our country straight into the shitter.

It’s time for a complete and total end to all tax breaks, except those granted by the Federal Government to support initiatives to make our country more competitive or healthier. Tax credits for clean renewable energy, for job training, for preventive health care, walk-to-work programs, true research and development, child care, I’m sure I’m missing a few…

It’s time to level the playing field for all and end this insanity.

Thank you Dayton Daily News editorial board for finally seeing the light.

And, does this mean I can ask to keep my employees State income taxes too? Or don’t I pay enough politicians off to play that game?

The Nan Whaley way- and, oh yes, complete streets

Today there was a meeting at the Dayton Convention Center to talk about “Complete Streets”- the new urbanist approach to multi-modal transportation infrastructure. Good stuff- with about 80 in attendence.

The “keynote” was given by City Planning chief, John Gower who has incredible institutional knowledge of Dayton and its planning history. Some of it pretty sordid. In fact, when looking at his slides talking about the history of zoning, starting in 1926 when it was first ruled constitutional, through the post-war period to the seventies, it seemed that we were trying to demolish our cities in the same way we had demolished many of the cities in Europe during the war. Dayton went from vibrant to pockmarked through the process known as “urban renewal.”

The focus, starting with the 1939 Worlds Fair (which was partially sponsored by General Motors) was on moving people in cars. Futurama showed 10 lane+ superhighways- and it seemed that the way to freedom, prosperity and happiness all came with a car in every driveway.

Times have changed- now, according to the last Census, 1 in five occupied homes don’t have a car in Dayton. Does this mean they aren’t a part of the dream? Or, does it mean they have stopped being a slave to the oil companies. Many are older, and consider it a burden to ask for transportation, others, can’t afford the cost of ownership, but, a sizeable proportion of Dayton’s population is carless.

So, how do we encourage the idea of walkability, bike-ability and greater acceptance of both public transit and intermodal commuting? To believe the presenters- it’s a matter of creating “complete streets” with bike ways- a mostly capital intensive engineering solution.

Much of the conversation focused on Dayton’s outstanding bikeway system, and what could be done to encourage biking. The one thing that was limited to a part of one slide – was my inniative for the BCycle bike share system. In attendance were Dr. Mike Ervin, Greg Brumitt from Five Rivers Outdoors, and the heads of RTA and the MVRPC and a bunch of bike enthusiasts who would have been very interested to hear about this program- which is targeted to “normalize the bicycle” as a form of ubiquitous transportation.

I had requested to be given a few minutes to share this proposal and was turned down. It became obvious when we saw that this has now become Commissioner Nan Whaley’s project. Of course, she had the Mayor in to say what ammounted to nothing at the end, as well as her opening and closing remarks.

Of course, the difference between Nan and me can be summed up this easily: only one of us actually rode a bike to the session, and it wasn’t the Commissioner who was chairing the event.

That’s how Nan doesn’t roll.

Congressman Turner admits he’s for sale

One of my father’s favorite jokes goes like this:

A guy walks up to a starlet in a bar and says “Will you sleep with me for a million dollars?”

She says “but of course, darling”

Then he asks if she’ll sleep with him for a dollar. She replies- “What kind of woman do you think I am?”

And he says “we’ve already determined that, now we’re just haggling over the price.”

And so we have Congressman Mike Turner who was a star when getting earmarks for one of his prime supporters, through their PAC, NCR- and had just got them another $2.9K- but, now, he has taken it back and suggested they buy a Congressman in Georgia instead:

Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner happily requested $2.9 million in federal money for NCR. Then came the bombshell earlier this month: NCR was pulling out of Dayton and moving its world headquarters to Atlanta, Ga.

Turner, like other lawmakers from the state, got mad, sending out the obligatory press release expressing surprise and disappointment about the decision.

Then he got even.

Turner, R-Centerville, last week took the unusual step of rescinding the very earmark he’d requested in the House Defense Authorization bill, pulling the earmark out of the bill just as it was about to pass the House of Representatives.

The earmark, which would have allowed the House to spend $2.9 million, would have helped NCR evaluate new low-cost sensors and near field communication technologies that could be used across the Air Force supply chain management system. It was recommended by the Dayton Development Coalition and passed out of the House Armed Services Committee last week. When Turner, a member of that committee, realized it had passed, he took action.

“I’m not going to support NCR pulling jobs out of Dayton, Ohio and championing them getting more federal funds,” he said.

He said over the past five years, he and retired U.S. Rep. David Hobson, R-Springfield, worked together to get $5 million in earmarks for the redevelopment and cleanup of old NCR properties. No more.

He said the $2.9 million was aimed at encouraging an NCR-Wright-Patterson relationship.

“Obviously, if they want federal funds, they’re going to have to go to a congressman in Georgia now,” he said.

via Mike Turner giveth to NCR, Mike Turner taketh away.

If this doesn’t prove how corrupt our system is, I’m not sure what does. Either NCR was the right company to help our military track its inventory, or it was just another sweetheart deal to keep Bill Nuti fat and happy on his $2K an hour salary. It’s time our tax dollars were managed a little more professionally. We’ve already seen how Turners wife and her aptley named “Turner Effect” overcharged the Dayton Development Coalition for the laughable “Get Midwest” campaign on her no-bid contract, and how she has done work for the Home Depot PAC and the Army Corps of Engineers with her GSA schedule. Is being a Congressman just an excuse to be paid off for favors? If you are Mike Turner- it sure seems like it.

The Dayton anti-negativity movement has started

Screen shot of Dayton Business Spotlight site

Screen shot of Dayton Business Spotlight site

Outside the halls of local media outlets, there are people who actually like Dayton. Phil Herzing was living in NY looking for a place to move to build his business in Ohio, and after comparing all the major cities he decided on Dayton. Once here, he was amazed to hear the lack of pride displayed by the locals.

Phil decided to do something to battle the negativity- by teaming up with Exit Row Productions he started filming short segments on Dayton businesses and why they love Dayton. He’s put these videos up at www.daytonbusinessspotlight.com and has been producing about 2-3 videos per week. Now before you go all pessimistic Daytonian on him- no, he’s not charging to do these, he does them for free.

Go take a look, then write Phil at [email protected]

Now, if only the local media would get a hint. Yes, there are people who like Dayton- actually living  in Dayton.

It’s hard to compete with the Government

There has been a question about what kind of deal Art Chin and Jerry Gillotti had on their spaces in the Transportation Center.

Now, it appears that a new tenant is getting a “sub-prime” lease from the city- reputed to be around $2 a square foot (extremely low).

Reported in the Dayton Business Journal:

An Asian restaurant,  Sa Bai, is opening in the space that formerly housed Chin’s restaurant in the Dayton Transportation Center complex on Jefferson Street. The restaurant and lounge will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, and late on weekends.

The casual dining restaurant will be owned and operated by Chanaka DeLanerolle, a restaurateur with several restaurants in the Cincinnati area, including Mt. Adams Fish House, Teak Thai Cuisine and Sushi Bar, The Celestial Steakhouse, Incline Lounge and Longworth’s.

DeLanerolle signed a five-year lease for the space. He plans to invest $250,000 on renovations.

Sa Bai, which will employ about 30 people, is scheduled to open at the end of August.

Sa Bai will feature a casual to upscale feel, with a sushi bar and lounge. The menu will be similar to one of DeLanerolle’s Blue Ash restaurants, Apsara. It will feature a mix of soups and salads, curries, rice and noodle dishes and stir-fry.

The 5,700-square-foot restaurant also will have outdoor seating.

via New restaurant planned for downtown Dayton – Dayton Business Journal:.

The Dayton Daily News has the entire press release and the lease:

For the remaining seven months of the first year, through June 30, 2010, the restaurant will pay $2 per square foot, or $6,750 over that period. Over the remaining four years of the original term, rent will continue at $2 per square foot, or $11,572 a year.

via http://www.daytondailynews.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/dayton/taste/entries/2009/06/24/new_asian_restaurant_coming_to.html

If I was the owner of Thai 9, I’d be a little ticked-off about having to compete with someone paying an annual rent less than my monthly mortgage (estimate). Or, if I’m Coco’s, which is trying to sell their successful location so they can rehab another business in Dayton.

This is another example of corporate welfare by government, forcing taxpaying businesses to compete on an uneven playing field.


RTA won’t take advertiser’s money, while raising prices and cutting service

It’s time for heads to roll at RTA. While the board is being told that they have to cut routes and raise fairs, they aren’t being told that RTA chief Mark Donaghy fired his advertising sales person 3 years ago- and has failed to be able to figure out how to sell ads effectively since.

Advertising on the outside of buses is a way for private money to help subsidize the cost of running buses. It’s done in every major city across the country. In NYC it is one of the premium forms of outdoor advertising. In Dayton- I currently can’t buy an ad on a side of a bus because RTA is stuck in a contract with a company that failed to do the job that one woman handled for years.

Here is what Donaghy is suggesting from today’s Dayton Daily News:

Bus service cuts and fare increases were approved this morning, June 23, by Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority committees and will be sent to the full board for final action.

The finance/personnel and planning committees unanimously approved the changes recommended by Executive Director Mark Donaghy to resolve a projected $3.1 million 2009 deficit caused mostly by sharp declines in local sales tax revenues.

The full RTA board of trustees will vote July 7 on the proposal to raise adult bus fares 25 cents to $1.75, eliminate route 32 and reduce the frequency of service or the number of trips on several other routes. The changes would take effect in August.

The committees went along with Donaghy’s decision to not eliminate routes 65 and 66, which are two popular senior citizen bus routes, and late-night service that is used mostly by second- and third-shift workers.

The proposed fare increase would boost annual revenues by $1.25 million and the service cuts would save $3.2 million annually, Donaghy said.

via RTA committees vote to cut routes, hike fees.

No one is suggesting that running a bus company is easy, but, passing up on revenue that should be gravy, is an embarrassment.

It’s time for an investigation into why RTA can’t seem to get its ad sales program running, ASAP.

In one week, my life changes

I’ve been busy. Very busy. Hence, a few fewer posts, and a lot of really late nights at the office.

Plus a lot of work preparing for the life change. Next week, Dayton gains 2 residents, Steve and Nina, my parents. There will be two Esratis in the phone book for the very first time (that is if you still use a phone book). I left home at 18, first to move to Atlanta, and then to go into the Army. Other than 2 months at home before I moved to Dayton to attend WSU, we’ve been apart.

I’ve talked to my parents almost every day, or e-mailed. My father is online from dawn till dusk, writing, staying connected to his friends all over the globe. Mom finally picked up the bug a few years ago- and I’m not sure she doesn’t e-mail him to call him to dinner, even though they are right next to each other.

I’m an only child. My father was an only child. My mother’s sister died about 10 years ago and lived in Europe, so this is the extent of my family. We’ll all be living in South Park, with them across the street in one of the two cottages I rehabbed over 10 years ago- with this day in mind. I’m lucky, to have my home, my office and my parents all on one block. It’ll make it easier to be there for me in their last act, as they were there for me in my opening act.

What’s even more important to me, is how many of my friends have been looking forward to having my parents around. I’ve got great friends. I’ve got great parents. I live in a great community, where it is possible to pull this off. All the times people have asked me why I didn’t leave Dayton- to go work in advertising in NYC, Minneapolis, Portland, Boston, Chicago or LA- it’s because I knew this day would come, and I’ve looked forward to it ever since I left home so many years ago.

My parents taught me to be curious, ask questions, think and contribute something meaningful to the world. I’m not quite sure how or why- but, it’s been the gift of a lifetime.

There has been one other amazing gift in my life from my father- the book “Dear Son”– which was written to me sometime around 1969. It was a guide on what to do with my citizenship when I turned 18, if we were still living in Canada- which didn’t turn out to be the case. I’ve posted the bppl on this site for you to download and read for free- it’s an amazing retrospective of America from the eyes of an immigrant, political philosopher. I highly recommend it.

I can’t thank a few people enough for the help I’ve received getting the cottage ready: David M. for saving by butt in a pinch, Eric, Teresa, Melissa, Bob and Steve Thade of Thade Construction (if you need any work done, call them, 937-256-5290), Howard Rambo (Rambo’s plumbing- 937-220-9100), the paint pros at Miller Brothers on Wilmington Pike, Booher Carpert, and esp. to Larkin who suggested Odaban to get rid of the smell of dog pee from my old tenant.

I can’t think of anything that could make me happier than them pulling up with the moving van.

I’m a very lucky man.