War on Drugs: FAIL

Good question for tonight’s candidates forum: What’s your position on the US “war on drugs?”

I believe in decriminalization of recreational drugs, taxation of pot, and pouring the money into treatment and education. Yep- it’s radical for a candidate to say that- but, I’m with Albert Einstein on this one. Don’t know why I’m talking about Einstein- watch this video that reader John Ise posted:

I don’t know how we can say we are the land of the free and the home of the brave- when we’ve got more people incarcerated than any other free country- and we’re not brave enough to face the fact that the “war on drugs” isn’t working any better than the “War on terror” as we’re currently proceeding.

This is the kind of frankness you get from a candidate who isn’t beholden to corporate interests- or worried about endorsements based on my personality. I believe in rational decisions made in the best interests of every American. We can do better than filling our prisons with poor people who don’t have the skills to do much more than peddle dope- because we don’t care enough to educate them properly, provide health care adequately, or create an economy with low skill jobs that pay a living wage.

Absentee ballots arriving- as well as….

I got my absentee ballot today. Lots to fill out on the outside of the envelope- lots of places where the Board of Elections can start asking questions. Didn’t check this box- fill this in right- we’ll toss it.

I’ll be extra careful- in fact, I’ll make a video of the process for people to watch – step by step.

Application for Absentee Ballot in 13 July 2010 OH-3 special

The request- with the party affiliation box click to download full size PDF

But- some voters, including my parents & my girlfriend, might be getting their request for absentee ballots back in the mail. Apparently, they didn’t check that they were democrats (despite voting as democrats in the May primary) and despite having filled out their e-mail and phone number, they were mailed additional request forms with instructions– and had to place postage on again.

UPDATE: The BOE has received appx: 4500 requests so far- and appx. 500 have had to be followed up with a letter- mostly because the voter didn’t check in the RED box- for voter affiliation is (ALL THE REST OF THE REQUIRED INFO IS IN YELLOW – color joke)

That’s appx a 10% FAIL rate.

If you’ve mailed your absentee back in and want to check if your ballot was received, they do have a crude lookup tool: http://www.mcohio.org/boe/absentee_download/absentee_tracking.cfm

The BOE could have just sent a ballot with a form 10z and saved a step…. but that would be too obvious.

I know someone is out there snickering, thinking it’s a genetic default in the Esrati family about dotting i’s and crossing t’s on BOE forms- but, that’s the reality- it’s all designed to be more complex a legalistic than it needs to be. A good user experience designer would solve these problems.

Warning- if you request a ballot by mail- if you try to vote in person on election day at the centralized voting places in Highland, Clinton or Montgomery County- you will be asked to vote provisionally, so send your ballots back in.

I’ve also included a scan of the instructions that come with your ballot- for you to review: Instructions to Absentee July 13 2010 PDF (of course, the BOE putting all this up online in an ADA format is too much to ask)

Bad news is that the return ballots are supposed to mail for 61 cents.

DDN picks the sacrificial lamb

The wise ones at the Dayton Daily News, the ones who endorse Mike Turner every time (even though they don’t agree with him), have chosen a 25-year-old college dropout who has “been involved in political causes for a long time” to go head-to-head with Turner for Congress.

Yes- the same people who endorsed Rhine McLin, want to send a lamb to a lions’ fight:

Joe Roberts also lists education as his top priority, seeking an “overhaul” of “the system.” He points to U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown as a role model, and expresses general support of the Democratic “platform.”

He is a political consultant, saying he has worked for such low-profile candidates as Stephanie Studebaker and Dr. Mark MacNealy (who each briefly put their names up to run against Rep. Turner). Dr. MacNealy is the fellow whose withdrawal resulted in this special election.

Mr. Roberts has been involved in political causes (immigration reform, Barack Obama, Israel) for a long time, or at least long for his age, 25.

And of course, they couldn’t resist trying to pigeon-hole me:

Mr. Esrati wants to be known not simply for running for election repeatedly, but for his blog, which he says fosters public discussion of issues and offers his views on them.

He mentions Rep. Dennis Kucinich, of the Cleveland area, as a political role model. As a presidential candidate, Rep. Kucinich took positions to the left of then-Sen. Obama and everybody else.

Mr. Esrati’s thinking continues to be hard to track. At the editorial board meeting, he said he favored the Obama stimulus, but would oppose a second one on constitutional grounds. (He invoked the 10th Amendment and the commerce clause.) Given that the Constitution hasn’t changed, there’s a disconnect in his logic.

Known for a confrontational temperament, he is unsuited to public office, better suited to gadfly status.

The best choice is Mr. Roberts, though, like Mr. Fogle, he would be a better choice for a lower-level job.

via Editorial: Joe Roberts best Dem bet in 3rd District primary | A Matter of Opinion.

And, of course, they are welcome to their opinion.

But, they aren’t allowed to do it in secret anymore. I’ve had it with the high-handed treatment- so I recorded it for you to listen to. Why not? They had their recorders (2 of them) going.

You can listen and form your own opinion.

And- as a final note: If you believe in something, and keep trying to accomplish it, why would you be mocked for trying and failing? Thomas Edison, Michael Jordan and many other successful people will tell you- true winners don’t give up.

Quicktake on the DDN editorial board meeting

Guy Fogle looks like a politician. Joe Roberts sounds like a politician. And then, there’s me.

That’s my take from the screening by the Dayton Daily News editorial board of the three candidates for the special democratic primary for OH-3 which takes place on Tuesday, July 13, 2010.

The questions were softies- as if the editors felt sorry for us running to run against their favorite son, Mike Turner.. Martin Gottlieb had to explain what a “Blue dog” Democrat was to Guy. I had to explain what instant-runoff voting was to Martin. Roberts was waffling on what campaigns he’d worked on- and what he’d done.

When asked what elected official we’d compare ourselves to- Fogle said “Capps” and couldn’t even give her first name: I’m assuming Lois Capps of CA.

Roberts chose Sherrod Brown. And, of course, I picked the abrasive one- Dennis Kucinich – because he stands up for what he believes.

One change- Jim Barrett from WHIO radio was there and taped the whole thing. It would be great if he put the whole thing up as a podcast- so you can hear for yourself.

Ellen Belcher had a problem at first with Ice Bandit’s endorsement letter- but as I explained, you allow anonymous comments on your site galore- so why not the ol’ bandito’s.

I think she’s actually going to run it.

Of course, she still doesn’t understand why I’m running, nor measures my increased number of votes per dollar spent with each election as credible.

I’ll reserve my judgment on the other candidates for after the League of Women Voters forum this Wednesday night at Montgomery County Democratic HQ, 7:30 pm. I’ll run tape and have it on youtube for you as well.

Concrete vs. liquid

“Liquidity” was the invention the wizards of Wall Street came up with to create a lot of fake wealth and transactional opportunities for them to siphon off “investors’s” money for themselves.

The great run-up in GDP thanks to all this liquid capital came to a crashing halt in the fall of 2009 when the banks collapsed (yes, that’s what happened) and the taxpayers had to step in to bail them and a few other big industries out. In 2011, China is expected to overtake the U.S. as the largest producer of goods. All the while, Congress is still arguing over derivatives markets and disclosure rules.

Let me make things clear: Before this move to liquidity, programmed trading, hedge funds and other fancy financial instruments- we used to deal with things like profitability, price/earnings ratios, leverage and market share. Now, we don’t. A company’s actual value has no connection to its market position, products or projections. Wild swings in stock prices have swung our economy around by the neck- almost to the point of death. It’s time to stop.

Back in the old days, when people in my business still used acetate, keylines, press-type and the like to create ads, there was a book on typography that I loved. One example was how you would set the tagline in a specific typeface to match the message. “Our advice is rock solid” was the line- and it called for a strong, sans serif typeface- not some swishy swashy face.

We heard about “Get a piece of the rock” when we thought about insurance. There was a recurring theme of strength in financial products ads- because the idea of “investment” was tied to something concrete. They didn’t say “Our advice is like water” or “Get a piece of the spill” because we had to believe in these financial instruments that weren’t backed by the old “gold standard” or anything else as concrete as just saying “trust me.”

The move to liquidity made it easy to ignore the skimming of the cream- which is what made Wall Street go nuts. Every transaction paid a commission, and the people who did the deals, just became junkies for more deals- until the deals were being done for no other reason than to get the quick fix of a little cut on a lot of money being moved. It got so crazy that 70% of stocks are now held for 12 seconds or less. In the meantime- the companies that are supposed to be benefiting from these crazy transactions stopped worrying about making widgets- but making sure their stock stayed strong. That might account for the chicanery that showed AIG as a grade A investment, weeks before its mighty fall.

The reality is: it’s a lot harder to steal a little bit from concrete- but easy to siphon off some liquid and pretend it’s still all there. After they couldn’t play with the liquid anymore- the concrete started to crumble- plants closed, jobs lost, economy in shambles.

That’s why the only way to fix this mess is to put some concrete rules in place that put balance sheets, profit and loss statements and investors back in control and take this wild ride created by Wall Street off line. No more trades bigger than .01% of any company for less than a year, no more programmed trading based on fluctuations, no more big CEO pay outs before the shareholders. There must be a ratio set for pay- so that it’s based purely on performance- not on what “the market will bear.”

Put real numbers back in play- and we’ll see real jobs. You don’t employ Americans, you don’t make over a million dollars- simple. It’s time to tighten up what we allow to be collected as rewards- for instance, can anyone tell me why running DP&L, with no competition, a captive market, and a commodity product rates a salary of over a mill, while running Sony- a global company in a highly competitive marketplace doesn’t?

If you wonder why your pension fund was robbed blind- the answer is that it’s easier to steal liquid than concrete. That’s why people will siphon gasoline, but have a hard time stealing your home’s foundation (however, the bankers found a way to do it- just create credit default swaps and punt your loan). Put the fundamentals back into the market and this mess will begin to straighten itself out quickly.

Firing Generals and special primary elections

The upcoming primary is going to be totally different than most elections in that voters in Clinton, Highland and Montgomery Counties will end up voting in central locations- the fraction of Warren County that is in OH-3, will go to their regular voting locations. So the three counties are sending letters to all voters to notify them of their new polling places and offering them an option to vote by mail.

Now- I’ve had a call from a few Republicans wondering why they are getting notified. The reason? You are free at any primary to switch parties- all you’ll have to do is sign a “loyalty pledge”- form 10z, and until the next primary- you will be a Democrat. Or- if you decide you’ve had it with our 2 party system- you can start asking for an “issues only ballot” at the next primary and become an “independent.” Warning- if you ever plan on running for office as an independent- you’ll need a ton more signatures to get on the ballot- read this post to find out more.

That being said, Greg offers a tip to buy the best bicycle you can afford (because of course, we’ll all be riding bicycles eventually when gas prices finally go up to where they are in other parts of the world).

Out main discussion is about the firing of General Stanley McChrystal by the President for comments in Rolling Stone Magazine. It’s good to see that there are still some publications stirring the pot and generating news that exposes the failings of our system. The reality is, if we aren’t out of both Iraq and Afghanistan by the time we next vote for president, there should be a firing of our President by the voters. Campaign promises should be kept.

Before you watch- I don’t endorse Mr. Hunter’s choice of words about Senator McCain- and Ms. Palin. This edition should carry an R rating thanks to Hunter’s remarks. But- that’s unblemished citizen journalism for you.

Back to life- need your help

The last 2.75 days have been hell. My iPhone 3G “upgrade” turned it into a brick. And as digitally dependent as I am- it was a crisis.

I spent over 6 hours on the phone with Apple- to no avail. The upgrade was supposedly unreversable- and it even trashed the backup.

Luckily- I back things up in multiple places- and, did a whole bunch of searching- to find a solution- which I posted here: http://www.websitetology.com/?p=711

Helping people across the globe get their phones back from the brickyard.

But- now- I need your help. 2 ways:

I have to take a 150-word endorsement essay to the DDN on Monday. Be it one of Ice Bandit’s poems, one of Jstults astute references to Wikipedia and other arcane sources, Larkin’s Pulitzer worthy prose- or one of PizzaBill’s tongue in cheek responses- I don’t care.

Give it a shot in comments- and we’ll vote and see who gets to give the DDN the reason why I’m the best to go up against Turner in the fall.

The second part is- I need to see some more money in the donation kitty. Please consider $5 a week- or even one time. If you’ve read this site, and get some entertainment value at the least- it’s gotta be worth a few greenbacks.

And just remember- it all gets a lot more interesting if:

1) I’m debating Turner or

2) I’m writing from the floor of the House of Representatives.

It’s up to you. Thanks.

Riordan’s listening tour comes to South Park

We had the city manager and the Mayor come to South Park tonight as part of their budget presentation/listening tour. On my way in Dean Lovelace called to me from a car- and asked where the meeting was- I pointed him to our parking lot and helped him walk in.

Tim Riordan is a finance guy- and numbers are his bailiwick. The slides showed the increases in costs- much pegged to “inflation” and the drops in revenue- mostly pegged to the exodus of jobs from the city.

And when he showed Dayton compared to Ohio’s other cities- we were at the bottom of the heap with the biggest gaps between “inflation” and revenue. Columbus and Cincinnati are both still OK- Akron and Cleveland only started having problems in ’08, but Dayton has been in a slide since 1996 with a bigger and bigger gap between expenses and income.

Riordan says he believes that he has to keep investing for tomorrow- which means continued paving, equipment replacement schedules etc. He shows a chart on how many positions the city has abolished, and talks about all the investments that have been made recently- almost all from government with the exception of the Kroc Center.

While  he asks to cut services, investments or raise taxes to balance the budget- it’s almost a forgone conclusion that his only option is to raise taxes or fees. He has slides about what raising property taxes or income taxes would mean – and how big the increases would have to be to solve the budget shortfalls.

Then has asks for ideas – sharing the e-mail [email protected] and opens questions to the floor.

While he tries to respond to every question- sometimes, answers aren’t really answers. The best thing to do is to listen, ask more questions- and thank people for their input. Often times, the answers sounded more like excuses- or thanks, but we already tried that.

The problem is- we’re still trying to play by rules that were set when the game was different: property values didn’t decrease rapidly, we had a middle class, corporate welfare wasn’t required for every single company move or threat to move. At no point were big picture ideas accepted as solutions- even though he agreed fully with the following two issues that were raised:

  • Investment by the Federal and State Governments that heavily subsidize developments like Austin Road – where companies can relocate, with subsidies from County government, to an area where income tax isn’t collected hurt our established core cities. A solution of a single income tax rate for the entire region- to be divided up per-capita was an idea he supported, but was answered with it won’t happen until hell freezes over.
  • With the only growth in the region being Meds, Eds and Feds- all of which escape paying property taxes- when the suggestion was made that if they can pay people over a million a year- they should be able to pay for property taxes, he liked, but didn’t think it possible. When a suggestion was made to pass a special higher income tax rate on any income earned over a million a year by an entity that pays no property tax- he admitted that it was an interesting idea- and that they hadn’t looked into it either.

The ideas like easing zoning requirements to encourage adaptive reuse by small entrepreneurial businesses was handled with denial- even trying to foist the problem onto the County. There were more than a few people in the audience who suggested he really hadn’t a clue on what the experience with “Inspector Gotcha” is like.

When asked about liquidating real estate owned by the city- he seems to believe they’ve already done that- and most of it is empty lots. He claimed only 72 or so buildings. When asked if the city could provide an inventory with descriptions- the answer was to go do a search of the Treasurer’s records: http://www.mctreas.org/searchparcel_action.cfm?streetnbr=&streetname=&own1=City%20of%20Dayton&parid=&taxyr=2009

Too bad the response on the site says “Query Results are limited to 100 Rows ..Please narrow your search criteria.”

The Mayor spoke briefly about giving neighbors permission to clean up others’ messes and his plan to start identifying the 20 strong neighborhoods out of the 65 and to start to focus on those. How this is going to solve the budget crisis is questionable – unless we’re talking about cutting services to marginal communities.

One suggestion that did get a positive response was the idea of cross training workers to identify problems- like trash collectors and street sweepers calling in probable abandoned cars, or maybe meter readers reporting back on dangerous housing violations. Of course, there may be people who think that this may put some city employees at risk- and others who may just resist doing more, but, the ultimate cross training- that Oakwood has with “public safety officers” being cops, firemen and medics isn’t even on the table in Dayton.

Suggestions like Segways to replace cars for meter readers- much like the Greene- were laughed off, “what would you do in winter” from the Mayor- and “get rid of parking meters” from a n00b in the audience- but this is what happens when we try to do everything by committee, instead of hiring the professional and then demanding performance.

Do I think Riordan could solve the budget crisis- if he really had the kind of power a City Manager is supposed to have? Probably. But, getting all the elected chiefs to realize that they aren’t the smart ones is a problem that is bigger than the financial problems we’re facing.

Riordan’s best move would be to identify and groom his replacement, so that he can do the dirty work- then leave when the fan hits the brown stuff- and then let the replacement come in and take us where we need to be.

Based on a true story…

“Changeling” was a movie that was nominated for three Oscars, including Angelina Jolie for “best performance by an actress in a leading role.”

Here is a synopsis from IMDB:

Los Angeles, 1928. A single mother returns from work to find her nine-year-old son gone. She calls the LAPD to initiate a search. Five months later, a boy is found in Illinois who fits the description; he says he’s her son. To fanfare and photos, the LAPD reunite mother and son, but she insists he’s not her boy. The cops dismiss her as either a liar or hysterical. When she joins a minister in his public criticism of the police, they in turn use government power to silence and intimidate her. Meanwhile, a cop goes to a dilapidated ranch to find a Canadian lad who’s without legal status; the youth tells a grisly tale. There’s redress for murder; is there redress for abuse of power?

via Changeling (2008) – Plot Summary.

In Dayton we have a true story- but it’s full of bad actors, and it has been going on for a long time.

I think my first indication that the city wasn’t run by rational management came when local businessman Tom Danis paid Tyree Broomfield, Chief of the Dayton Police Department $100,000 to resign- and no, it wasn’t even in small bills delivered in a trash bag- it was front page news. If anyone wonders why we’re now paying people who failed the police exam- or who may have even thought of taking the test, well, the story started long ago.

Has our government used its power to silence critics and intimidate them? Absolutely. Has there been abuse of power? The articles about 43% of elected officials having family on the public payroll, or no-bid contracts to the Congressman’s wife, should make it abundantly clear.

In the movie, a preacher uses his radio broadcast to challenge the corrupt nature of City Hall. Now we have the Internet and sites like this. I’m still shocked that my story last Friday about the Magistrate who was fired for daring to challenge his boss, and then having his petitions as an “independent candidate” disqualified by the partisan Board of Elections has only 3 comments as of this writing. This is a test case for the State- if not the Nation on how we limit ballot access to all but the party faithful.

The movie upset me. Not because of what happened in 1928- in what was known as the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders, but because we’ve all been witness to the greatest crimes of the century- on Wall Street, in Washington, and even right here in Dayton- as we’ve watched the rich buy the feckless politicians and manipulate them to pass laws and regulations that aren’t in the voters’ best interests- and we haven’t marched en masse on the Capital.

This morning I read a lengthy article in the New York Times on the failures of regulators and the corporations to realize that blowout preventers have a critical weak link- and fail at an astonishing 40% rate. I listened to “This American Life” where they discussed how the State of New York is once again faced with a “budget crisis” caused by fly-by-night accounting- and also how Barbados didn’t suffer the same face as Jamaica when realizing they’d overdrafted their nation.

The true stories are all around us- and yet, we only react if the stories been sensationalized, sanitized and romanticized with a Hollywood script and soundtrack before it registers.

This video has a bombshell dropped in it- one that I’ve been holding back for too long. So to those of you who faithfully watch, listen carefully- because, even though it’s only mentioned in passing- there is a true story ready for the big screen right here in Dayton.

And, btw- if I do get to face off against Mike Turner for Congress this fall, there will be more to this story, guaranteed.

Taxpayers stiffed for move across the street

While claiming to be poor, unable to afford to staff services for the general public, the City of Dayton is giving a $100,000 housewarming gift to a law firm to move across the street:

The Dayton office of Taft, Stettinius and Hollister LLP is the new tenant planned for the Kettering Tower….

The Cincinnati-based law firm is currently in the former Fifth Third Centre, at 110 N. Main St. …

Miller-Valentine Commercial Construction started renovation work on the law firm’s space today. According to documents from the city of Dayton, the renovations and furniture and fixture purchases for Taft’s new space will total $1.5 million.

The city approved $100,000 from its development fund to help pay for Taft’s renovations.

By staying in the central business district, Dayton is retaining 49 full-time positions. Part of the agreement to receive funds from the city includes job creation. Taft will add a minimum of three full-time jobs per year for the next three years. The average salary for positions at Taft is $106,000.

via Taft law firm to relocate Dayton office – Dayton Business Journal.

Tax dollars that don’t go for direct public services should be returned to the taxpayer. Our hard-earned income isn’t there for politicians to hand out to their friends- like Miller Valentine Commercial Construction (one of the prime movers at Austin Road as well).

Of course the argument is- if Dayton doesn’t play the palm-greasing game, someone else will and the lawyers will take their jobs and leave.

The only jobs that should be leaving are all the bureaucrats involved in this kind of theft from the taxpayer. Do we have to subsidize every lawyer who wants to move downtown now? How about just giving them your money to redecorate?

As your Congressman, I’ll fight like hell to make it a nationwide law- that no government dollars get used for “job creation” or “relocation”- because invariably, these tilt the playing field in someone’s favor (and it’s usually in favor of the big campaign donors to politicians).

Why there hasn’t been a revolt over this kind of corporate welfare, I’m not sure, but I’m mad as hell- and I’m not going to sit here and watch us cut services while helping continue this farcical use of your tax dollars.