A project for Congressman Turner: give the VA the tools they need

The half a hammer award to congress for failing to give the VA the tools to do the job

Our congress is willing to give our military weapons they don’t want, but won’t give our VA the tools they need to treat our vets. For this- here’s the half a $600 hammer award.

I’m writing this from room 124A, on 3-S of the Dayton VA.

I came here Monday night with a severe case of kidney stones. As a veteran with a service connected health issue, I’m guaranteed health care. I’ve only used the VA for the last 7 or so years- despite having coverage via my partner, Teresa who works for Elsevier. She even reminded me that she could take me to MVH- which is five blocks away instead of to the VA which is five miles away. When you are in serious pain- the idea of closer counts.

I told her I preferred the VA- because all my medical records are there (electronic)- that the people at the VA care about me and that I trust them. 24 hours later- I know I made the right decision. Partially, because instead of being sent home after the stones were removed (less than 14 hours after arrival) I’m still here- taking it easy, with a catheter still in place. At the Valley- they would have been sending me home- because the insurance company said to.

The doctors that worked on me were all fantastic, from the experienced calm hands of Dr. Potts in ER, to the follow up twin geek residents who stepped in after to assess, to the Johns Hopkins trained urologist who ultimately put in a stent, removed the stones and made sure that I wouldn’t be waiting the next two weeks for a very big stone to pass.

But, despite all this stellar work- and support from nurses, anesthesiologists, social workers and even the legal guy who helped fill out the directives before surgery, there is one small issue that needs to be addressed, now, not later.

The urologist is part of a husband and wife team- he wrote the textbook on non-invasive surgery for urological (I don’t remember the rest of it… and my phone was dead, so no picture to show) – and she was the one who answered all the questions and discussed my options. They came here two years ago to help straighten out the department, which apparently was in trouble. I didn’t know this, but there is an international shortage of urologists. They are getting ready to leave Dayton- for points elsewhere. She talked about wanting to be working on troops suffering from extreme pelvic trauma in the first 4 hours after getting hit by an IED- but that the Army won’t take her at 51, she also talked about the fact that military medical system doesn’t integrate as well with the VA as they could- or should, but that’s not the real sticking point.

The fact is, while they can put my stent in- when it’s due to come out in a few (a) weeks– they don’t have the technology to take it out. In fact, they haven’t had it for the entire two years they’ve been here. It seems the VA only bought one machine– and didn’t buy the service contract that guarantees a replacement when this one needs fixed. Apparently, they also don’t have the money to fix it, so instead, they are going to send me to a private physician to remove it- and have the VA pay. She’s worked in for-profit hospitals and said that she always had the tools she needed because she made them a lot of money. Apparently, to our congressman, it’s more important to write laws that guarantee business for the insurance companies that would have sent me home this afternoon- or to the defense contractors that sell us weapons systems that the services don’t need or want like the C-27J or the M1 Abrams tank. Yep, defense contractors and insurance companies get preference over taking care of your veterans because defense contractors and health insurance companies donate lots of money to our congressman’s campaign- and the VA docs don’t.

If Congressman Turner really wanted to do something to help the VA- instead of creating a media circus over some missing records or a senile dentist gone bad- he’d be asking the docs what tools they need to do their jobs and making sure they had them.

We’ve all heard of $600 hammers- well, in this case, they’ve given my urological heroes half a hammer- the one to pound the nail in, but not the one to pull it out. With election time coming up- and 2 weeks before my stent needs to come out- let’s see if our congressman can work for the people who used to work for the base that he swears his candidacy on.

Photo of David Esrati in VA hospital bed recovering from kidney stone removal surgery

Have iPhone, internet access will publish.

And to all my champions at the VA- if there are other stories like this- where you aren’t given the tools to do your job for our veterans properly, now’s the time to speak up. Please go to a public computer- like at a library, or use a friends home computer or a mobile device at a non-government hot spot- and leave a comment on this post. You don’t have to use your real name or email address, just be honest. Tell us about what Congress isn’t getting for our vets- and let’s let our congress earn their jobs back by getting it to you – before November 6.

Thank you for all you do. Despite not having the proper tools– you have the heart that’s missing in the cold world of corporate medicine- and that’s why I choose you first. Because when most of you say “Thank you for your service” I can say the same thing back.

And, special thanks to Director Costie, who even made a bed side visit and is currently investigating this situation as well. My bet is that he gets the stent remover back in service before our congressmen does.

UPDATE

29 aug 10:12 am The head of surgery stopped by with an update- the post is getting read. They have three of the scopes they need- 2 are out for repair. The docs don’t like working without a spare. They also have plenty of a different kind of scope- a cytoscope, which will work to take my stent out. No need to go to private practice. The surgeons want a more expensive type of equipment- that isn’t in the budget- and there are some disagreements on brand- but this is internal politics. All of the equipment was bought within the last 2 years and most of it was put in service last August. They are being careful stewards of our tax dollars. I had this update done once with the right names- but lost my internet connection- via my phone, so it got lost. They still are hoping to add wi-fi to the rooms, but that isn’t crucial to the provision of health care.

Grand theft taxdollars

Aaron Sorkin writes television shows that force me to have an emotional response. I remember scenes and monologues from his shows, from others, I’m lucky to remember a good line or two. He speaks about things that are seemingly obvious, but in a way that makes them seem like an epiphany of the surreal. The only problem is that they are plain hard cold facts.

An old one from the West Wing, delivered by Dayton’s own, Martin Sheen:

And a recent one, from Newsroom, delivered by Jeff Daniels:

And from the latest Newsroom, where he poses the idea of a political debate where the politicians should actually be held accountable for their answers:

All of these political discussions go deeper than what most are willing to admit in this country- that we have real problems, and no real answers. We refuse to challenge, to poke, to prod, to ask the questions why?

So, I think to myself, what would Aaron Sorkin do with material from Dayton Ohio? Stories that on the surface would seem ludicrous to any intelligent person, but seem to pass for standard operating procedure in Dayton. I wonder why I even care to continue to write about them. And, I wonder why you continue to read. This community seems entirely OK with allowing its tax dollars to be given away to anyone any politician chooses, with little chance of questioning, never mind liability.

I guess I should go back to my very first campaign pieces, that I still have quite a few of. 20 years later, the questions I tried to address are still questions today. Why do we stand for such a racially divided and economically divided city? How do we accept tax dollar giveaways of epic proportion, while being told we’re broke? Oh, if I were only Aaron Sorkin and could tell the stories with the veracity of a Martin Sheen or a Jeff Bridges.

Photo of the SW corner of the Arcade complex with the windows fallen out

The arcade is losing windows- long after millions of tax dollars were poured into it.

Where else does a private businessman hand a check over to the Chief of Police for $100,000 to get him to resign? Where else does the same businessman get to buy a landmark that the city poured millions into – only to board it up and let it rot?

Now, we’re sitting by laughing at a naive man from outside our community who had a dream and bought it- and is now having to deal with windows popping out and falling on the sidewalks, while we are still telling him that his bad investment is still worth a fortune in taxes?

This was the first time I saw public money invested into a project, being handed over to a private company, without a fair and open bidding process. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the last. And, despite huge investments in tax dollars, the price the city settled on was a paltry $36,000. Somehow, to anyone observing this transaction, it would seem that this would become the taxable value- but, somehow that’s not the way things work.

Now, we’re looking at the building and thinking- how much will it cost us to tear it down?

When it comes to livability, cities are often evaluated by their schools, their libraries and their parks. In Oakwood, they do an amazing job- being the only community to do all three. In Dayton, we can’t claim our schools or our libraries- and we’ve been backpedaling away from our parks as fast as possible.

The former Bomberger center- now the Ahiska Turkish American Community Center

The former Bomberger center- now the Ahiska Turkish American Community Center

I drove down I-75 S today, and looked at the ball fields on the old McCook field site. At least they still look like ball fields unlike the one at the end of my street visible from u35. The only thing missing- not a soul was playing. I have an old friend from college who used to work for the city in parks and rec- and I remember going to see her there and at the Burkhardt Center- and they used to always be packed. Now, Burkhardt center, much like many others is growing weeds and graffiti. The former “Bomberger Center” which belonged to the taxpayers- and had an outdoor pool- was handed over to some immigrants. Not that I’m against immigrants, but, this was ours for us. We paid for it. I don’t recall ever seeing a “for sale” sign posted- or a request for proposals so it could be offered for the highest and best use.

Just last week, the City Commission voted to spend $450,000 to buy a private piece of real estate. Did they have a public use? Was there a question? We can’t keep our pools open, or our rec centers, but can by a building that a business needs to unload so they can buy another one.

For years, we’ve paid through the nose to support Sinclair Community College. A grand asset to our community. It’s the only institution of higher ed owned by the public in the State of Ohio with zero debt. For years it’s tuition was so low that it made sense to move into Montgomery County and become a resident just for the savings. As the costs of other schools have skyrocketed, Sinclair is still a great deal- however, a few years ago, they decided to start a branch campus in Warren County. Why did we invest so heavily in Sinclair as citizens of Montgomery County- only to see our investment in a competitive advantage shared with a county that hasn’t paid a dime in tax toward it? And, yes, Sinclair’s tuition has gone up for those who paid for it.

IRG scrapping the fuel farm at DAY

Our tax dollars helped build this fuel farm, now we’re paying a vulture to scrap it and steal our money

Out at the airport we had a sure thing- a lease with UPS until 2019 for the old Emery Air Freight hub. They had to keep it secured, operable and in tip top shape. They also had to pay the city around $2 million a year in lease payments above the cost of keeping the building intact. For some odd reason, our former airport director went out and actively sought a deal to give away the building and the continuing income of millions of dollars- to IRG of California. A local business that had been working on a plan to use the building was shut out, and the city took about $7 million from UPS to let them out of their lease early and turned around and handed half of it to IRG. What did IRG have to guarantee or invest? Not a dime. Sounds like a crazy deal? Nope- it’s just Dayton as usual. They started by selling off 4 huge diesel backup generators that we gave them- clearing a few million more. Then, they started scrapping the $20 million  conveyor system in the building and last Thursday, a backhoe started to tear up a multimillion dollar stainless steel fuel storage facility. In scrap value alone we’re talking a few more million.

The former airport director left for New Orleans after writing the contract to do the deal, and his lover, the former financial controller for the Airport left to follow him a few days after the deal was completed with IRG.

Millions in tax dollars given away. Not much left to put nets up on the baskets at parks throughout the city. What’s left of our tax base is now being shuffled around in the name of “economic development.” We’ve seen at least 3 major businesses move from one tax supported deal to another tax supported deal down at Austin Landing- where they have a dual tax structure, something that may not exist anywhere else in America. Yes, here in Montgomery County, we have the people who work at Kohl’s paying 2.25% in income tax on their minimum-wage jobs- while the big donors to the political elite who work at Teradata and Thompson Hine a stones throw from Kohls- are income tax exempt. Why even try to hide the graft and corruption anymore? We’ve been doing it out in the open for so long we don’t even know to scream STOP when we see it happening right in front of our eyes.

If you break into our county prosecutor’s home and steal a few things you will get five years in prison. If you break into my office- and cause $8K in damage as well as kill three days of productivity- you get a slap on the wrist.

To those who know about what really goes on in Dayton Ohio, it would make great story lines for Aaron Sorkin, but when told by me, it’s just me being a complainer.

I call it grand theft tax dollars because that’s what it is. The question is, when will you start to realize it?

2000 and counting

There has been a war of some sort going on in Afghanistan since the dark ages. Before George W. Bush decided that Afghanistan was the cause of 9/11 (despite the terrorists all being Saudis) the Russians had spent their time in hell trying to win over the “hearts and minds” of a people who have no use for our Western ways or political beliefs.

After spending trillions of our tax dollars to “rebuild” a country that was never built in the first place, we find our country falling apart at the seams. Cities going into bankruptcy, tens of millions of under-employed or unemployed Americans, and a middle class that is suffering the most in 70 years. Bin Laden is dead, and we still have more people die every year in domestic gun violence and because of drunk driving than died on 9/11, but haven’t waged a multi-trillion-dollar war on gun nuts gone bad or booze hounds behind the wheel.

Watch this touching video of a man on a mission in Texas, trying to paint a portrait of every Texan who has died in our wars of choice.

Let’s put our country back to work, and put painter Ken “the dauber” Pridgeon and his Portrait of a Warrior Memorial Art Gallery out of the hero painting business.

2000 dead American soldiers is too many. There is no reason to continue occupying Afghanistan. Bring our troops home now.

How to cut the cost of Medicare and save tax dollars

Medicare is a major financial driver for healthcare in Ohio; the government insurance program for the elderly and disabled younger people paid for 41 percent of all medical services at Ohio hospitals last year, according to the Ohio Hospital Association.

via Hospitals’ Medicare funding cut over readmissions | www.daytondailynews.com.

There is no arguing that America pays more for health care than any other nation, and gets less. In the same breath, you can also hear that independent physicians are going as far as leaving medicine, despite shortages of physicians, because they claim that they can’t make money accepting the reimbursements from both Medicare and private insurers.

Republicans talk about spending cuts all the time. Paul Ryan is under attack for wanting to transform Medicare by turning it over to private insurers (which is exactly what we’ve done in Ohio and specifically with a major business that’s been propping up Dayton- CareSource).

CareSource has been in hyper-growth mode as a manager of Medicare/Medicaid dollars, getting more government money for every citizen that enrolls in their managed care program. They then sit between the government and the health care providers and try to ration and manage tax dollars to provide the “highest quality care” for their clients.

But here’s the rub. All of these private companies that count on government tax dollars for large parts of their income, 41% for hospitals, and 100% for companies like CareSource aren’t subject to any effective cost controls. How do we know this? The CEO of Premier Health Partners, makes $4 million a year, and most of his top staff makes a seven-figure salary. The CEO of CareSource makes $3 million a year. Her salary is set by, get this, a board made up of her customers- the hospitals.

Congressmen often make fun of the proverbial $650 toilet seat or the $700 hammer, but, with Medicare/Medicaid paying 41% of hospitals’ revenue, and 100% of CareSource, why don’t we have wage controls on these government contractors? The same can be said of defense contractors, although the main difference is that no defense contractor is pretending to be a non-profit.

In NY there is currently legislation being discussed to cap non-profit executive pay at $199,999 and it’s already in place in NJ. I remember outrage over 20 years ago when the CEO of the Red Cross was toppled for a salary over $1.5M but can’t find the reference right now. Adjusted for today’s dollars it would dwarf the salary being paid to our local chiefs.

Government contractors over a certain size are even told how much they have to pay each worker in a specific position. A secretary is proscribed to be paid $21.08 an hour in one package I looked at. How come we don’t have maximums required as well? Part of the reason politicians refuse to address this, is that without being able to make over a million a year for running a “non-profit” health-care  operation, many of these emperors without clothes wouldn’t be able to make huge contributions to their campaign funds. According to open secrets, health-care professionals were the 5th largest donors to political campaigns in the 2008 election.

Of course if we eliminated private money from political campaigns we might get the politicians we need instead of the best money can buy.

Access to affordable health care in this country is a farce. Any major illness almost always comes with bankruptcy as a side-effect. Small businesses struggle with insurance costs that climb between 20% and 40% annually, without offering better coverage. It’s a small step, but ending the exorbitant salaries of semi-public employees (those who make 40% of their income from our tax dollars is a good starting point.

Chutzpah alert: as a small business owner, who is also a community activist, I’m publishing this piece at the same time as I’ve requested a meeting with Premier Health Partners President and CEO James Pancoast to discuss the benefits of a real bike-share program in Dayton and the environmental, economic and health benefits to the community. A first class system could be bought and paid for with 75% of his annual income, leaving him a cool million to still keep food on his table and gas in his tank.

I’m betting that he won’t be willing to meet with me, blaming my criticism of the system that makes him a very rich man, with our tax dollars. This is the America we have. Unfortunately, because our leaders apparently don’t read history, they are ignoring what inevitably happens with all republics that allow the gap between the haves and the have nots to get too wide.

 

Who are school test scores for?

We picked up our kids’ OAA test scores at our school the day they came out. The news wasn’t so good. Our kids who had routinely scored in the top percentiles in previous years were now just scoring slightly above state averages, but still above those of their peers at their current school.

This made us consider moving our kids to a different school. In fact, as I understand the school scores, if the school is under performing, you have the option to ask for reassignment or even a voucher to apply to private schools.

In the wake of an attendance “scandal”- some districts have un-enrolled and re-enrolled students who were not showing up, the State Board of Education seemingly has zero interest in attending to parents needs to assess their school choice this year- while they work out who scammed the system in a few school districts:

In an unprecedented move, the State Board of Education on Monday voted unanimously to postpone the release of 2011-2012 Ohio school report cards until questions are answered about the accuracy of attendance data reported by local school districts.

The annual report card release had been slated for Aug. 29 but Acting Superintendent Michael Sawyers recommended it be delayed because of the state auditor’s ongoing investigation into alleged irregularities in reporting student attendance in some districts, including Columbus and Toledo.

The delay also means the new Performance Index rankings for each district, charter school and STEM school will not be released on Sept. 1.

Ohio Department of Education spokesman John Charlton said the state board will revisit the issue when it meets on Sept. 10-11, but it’s unclear when the data may be released

via Ohio delays release of school district report cards | www.daytondailynews.com.

Considering Dayton Public Schools opened last week and many schools are open this week, I question what good these numbers do for parents mid-September? Apparently, districts also receive funding based on test scores which is also throwing a monkey wrench into some district hiring:

Springfield City Schools Superintendent David Estrop said the delay nearly caused the district to have difficulty hiring 50 new employees because that federal funding is tied to the results of the district’s annual report card….

An agreement between ODE and the Springfield district allows it to fill those 50 positions. It will use the “20 percent set aside” – federal funds dedicated to interventions for struggling students – to pay the salaries of 41 tutors and nine academic coaches for the beginning of the school year. ibid

By the time the state releases this year’s scores, they will be absolutely useless to taxpayers to use as a metric for making enrollment decisions (never mind that better performing schools locally, like Stivers, DECA etc. already have waiting lists.

To penalize the whole state, due to a few districts monkeying with attendance figures is wrong. Penalize those districts with fines or firing local superintendents or even criminal prosecutions, but holding back data for school evaluation from the citizens who pay for this testing is wrong.

Full disclosures: my firm, The Next Wave, does some work for Dayton Public Schools. One of the things we produce is a school comparator- listing all the Dayton Public Schools, with their addresses, bell times, uniform requirements, extra-curricular activities, enrollment zones and- scores and attendance rates. This year’s literature is on hold thanks to the state.

Why you should be up in arms over early voting restrictions

Jon Husted is a tool. He lied about his residency when he was in the State House, and now, as Secretary of State he’s acting bizarrely. Being the chief elections officer in the state means making sure we get maximum voter turnout and the most accurate results possible.

So why would he order absentee ballot requests sent to every single registered voter, at a cost of millions, while making every attempt possible to stop people from early voting on weekends? It’s not about saving money- there is something deeper at root here.

Even though I have zero respect for our insane, partisan Board of Elections system, that places the important business of running our elections solely in the hands of the two major parties, and the jobs are all patronage rewards for the party faithful, the actions of Lieberman and Ritchie are a rare instance of bold leadership in a system that does everything to beat automatic conformity into us:

The two Democrats on the Montgomery County Board of Elections were suspended by Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted on Friday after they refused to back down in a standoff over extending in-person early voting hours for the upcoming election.

Dennis Lieberman and Tom Ritchie Sr. must appear at a hearing at 9 a.m. Monday in Columbus to decide whether they will be removed from office.“You leave me no choice but to begin the process necessary to remove you as members of the Montgomery County Board of Elections,” Husted’s letter to the pair said….

But Ritchie called it “a sad day,” saying weekend voting is important because residents should have more choice about how and when to vote. BOE officials said 10,829 Montgomery County residents voted on weekends during the 2008 presidential election, more than one-third of the 28,332 total in-office voters.

via Husted suspends Democrats on election board | www.daytondailynews.com.

That last part, that more than a third of the early in-person voting was on weekends, should make you wonder why our SOS is so against it as to suspend people who want to keep it. In-person voting means they use the same electronic voting machines used on election day, which are supposedly more secure. It also means we don’t have to trust the U.S. mail- and, most of all- it, unlike absentee balloting, requires a photo ID to be presented- all things that our SOS thinks are so important.

For those of you who can’t understand why Saturday voting is a good thing, our Board of Elections is in the basement of the County building, which has a very full parking garage on weekdays and costs at least $1 for a short visit. Weekends, it’s much easier to get in, and street parking is free.

I’ve written before about my problems with our single day of voting on a Tuesday. We all know that inclement weather on election day hurts turnout, we know that elections are generally decided by a majority of a minority in this country which already has one of the lowest voter turnouts of a “free country” with “democratic elections.”

This whole issue makes me wonder what the Secretary of State’s real goal is, or if we can truly trust the system we have. I’m ready to ask a third-world nation to send election monitors to Ohio to oversee our next election, because, frankly, this latest flap makes no sense.

There is a protest scheduled outside the Secretary of State’s office tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. in support of our local heroes. If you can take time away from work, this is important.

If we deny even a single person the right to vote, we’re failing the ideals that built our country,

The Democrats who chose Strahorn to run for Luckie’s seat

Sunday afternoon I was one of the Democratic Party Central committee tasked with picking a replacement for Clayton Luckie for the Ohio 39th House seat, in light of his current ethics investigation and voluntary withdrawal from the race.

The district is reportedly one of the most Democratic leaning in the State, meaning whomever we picked, they were almost guaranteed a win. The opponent they will face is Jeff Wellbaum (two l’s), a first time candidate for the Republicans. Fortunately or unfortunately, there are two Jeff’s with almost the same name- the other is Welbaum (one 1) is a Republican running for the second district court of appeals.

Even with confusion, Jeff Wellbaum, an Iraq war vet, won’t stand a chance. His Facebook page has all of 29 likes.

So, the decision on Sunday was really about who would be the next State representative, being decided in the main meeting room of Montgomery County Democratic HQ. Procedure was stumbled through, but Victor Harris had one central committee member nominate him, and I may have been the second. I believe in choice- always have.

Vic, a retired U.S. Army Lt. Col., had made waves with the party 4 years ago, running against their chosen one, Roland Winburn in the 39th and taking about 40% in the primary. Harris had flyers on all the chairs introducing himself with a brief bio and a list of what he’d work for.

If you need to hand members of the Montgomery County Democratic Party a bio, you can already forget it- they go with who they know. Harris told us the reason we should vote for him is so that Fred Strahorn could concentrate on winning the 5th Senate seat back that he lost 2 years ago. He also mentioned he was a cousin of Clayton Luckie (who has a reputation for having a family so big that just their votes are enough to get him elected).

Harris had already made a fool of himself to me by listing “Will fight to bring back the Wright Brother’s boy-hood (sic) and bike shop from the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan to where it belongs in the Wright-Dunbar neighborhood in Dayton.”

Wow, Vic, really? That’s more important than school funding reform and updating the laws put in place by the Northwest Ordinance of 1785?

After their 5 minute speeches, questions were allowed from the floor, I threw out three relative softies, while a few others made one minute speeches in support of Strahorn, including one from former rep and senator Tom Roberts who had picked Strahorn as his successor.

I believed we should hear what the candidates reasons were for running, what they were doing now and how much time they will be able to commit to the race and finally- a harder question on what they would do to address the real issues (stated above). Strahorn shined in his response. Harris didn’t.

There are about 69 precincts in the 39th, the party called me twice, mailed me once and dropped a flyer at my door. They made a solid effort to get the precinct chairs to the meeting. A quorum was 39, they had 41.

When it came time for the vote:

Fred Strahorn was selected as the Ohio House candidate for the 39th District after a vote of 41-1 at the Montgomery County Democratic headquarters on Sunday.

via Democrats choose Strahorn to run for Luckie’s seat | www.daytondailynews.com.

And no, I wasn’t the one person voting for Victor.

Not that these were ideal conditions, with the short time-frame to pick a replacement for the ballot, but all in all, the process was the most democratic thing I’ve seen in a while from the MCDP. The doors were open, the cameras were rolling, the only question is who are the people who are voting. There is no list on the Dem party site- and the tool they have (which is new) has my house in Precinct 1-D and my precinct Captain as Joan Wagner (wife of A.J. Wagner) but I’m the captain of 1-E (not). Maybe I wasn’t qualified to vote after all? Despite having a certificate of election.

From looking around the room, the decision of who to hand this seat over to was made by quite a few elected politicians, people with patronage jobs and retired folks. Not exactly a cross section of our community. I’m not suggesting that there is a better way, but, realistically, it’s a pretty tight knit group. I doubt that the party would have felt a need to rig the room, but, I’m not sure how anyone would check.

I’m sure that Fred Strahorn was the most qualified candidate they could field, and as someone who also knows Jeff Wellbaum, Fred is the right man for the job. Fred learned some humility after his defeat by Bill Beagle two years ago- it was Fred’s first real contested race. This time, he won’t take things for granted even though he has once again been given a hall pass to the halls of our state government.

Power and politics: fear and fiction

Of late, I’ve had a few conversations with politicians about what they’ve accomplished and what they can and can’t do. The reality is, for all the campaign promises, most of them feel totally hamstrung.

Even when their party is in charge, in every office, the complaint was a lack of vision and leadership from the people who’ve clawed their way to the supposed top (statehouse).

When talking to another office holder – besides serving in a position that amounts to a committee, you have to be able to get the second, third or even fifth vote to swing things around. Then there are also limits on what you can and can’t do, some of them going back to 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance.

Then there is also the problem that things have gotten so complex- that even those who’ve been in the system a long time, are totally baffled by things that have been enacted- like the dual tax system at Austin Landing– one for the little people who work at Kohl’s, Kroger and Five Guys- and ones who work at Teradata, Thompson Hine, Sogeti and Clark Schaffer and Hackett. At what point do you become a candidate for the income tax free status? Is it where you work, if you wear a tie, how much you make or how much you’ve donated to political campaigns?

This afternoon at 4 p.m. the Democratic Party is going to pick someone to stand in for Clayton Luckie in the OH-39th House district. The original candidate list included Fred Strahorn and Rhine McLin. Now, we hear McLin is out and Victor Harris is in, maybe. If it were between Strahorn and McLin I’d ask the question why should we send you back to the Statehouse? You served for years there- and school funding still is still operating unconstitutionally and we still are using rules from 1785 to run the State.

The reality is, it may not matter much whom we send, because what our politicians can actually do- doesn’t seem like much.

At least compared to Rwanda, according to a book I’m reading, we’re failing on leadership and action by a country mile. When I think of Rwanda, I think of a movie “Hotel Rwanda” and genocide. Apparently, since the election of a new president, Paul Kagame the country has skyrocketed out of poverty statistically, established relationships with Costco and Starbucks and now is wiring the country with fiber optic internet to be competitive. When was the last time we saw a politician do a turnaround like that in this country? Sidenote: I’ve been told for the last 4 years that fiber optic internet is “coming next year” to my house and office- uh-huh.

Maybe the fact that most Americans eligible to vote, don’t. They’ve lost faith in the system. All of our vaunted checks and balances seem to mean little anymore as they have been replaced by checks to campaigns. In a country that used to mock other nations for the cost of bribery to do business- we’ve become the biggest sellout to the highest bidder ever.

The new reality is that most of us aren’t voting for what we believe in, but out of fear of what the other guy might do.

Despite most vice presidents having minimal power once in office (Dick Cheney being a noted exception) the first thing I started seeing when Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan as his VP candidate yesterday were fear based messaging of what Ryan would do to our country.

If you read the newspapers and listen to the political pundits of the National Press- we seem stuck in an endless discussion of hot-button issues (like gun control, abortion, gay marriage and now national health insurance) or about how much money is being raised to run commercials that bend the truth and play on fears. If this is the pinnacle of human civilization we’re in trouble.

What do we need to do to really fix our country? An informed and educated electorate that’s living above the poverty level would and should be the first goal. When you are worried about keeping a roof over your head or food in your belly, you can’t be prepared to make good long-term decisions about anything. Removing fears from our population should be a primary focus of government, not the creation of new ones in order to wield power.

It’s time we start re-thinking our system, so we can vote for things and people that we trust and believe in, because what we’ve got now is lacking the vision and power to create the change that they secretly envy.

Limits on killing myself, but none on killing others: Aurora shooting thoughts 2

Despite supposed limits on gun buying by psych patients, James Holmes was able to buy more than a few guns and more than 6,000 rounds of ammo in a few months preceding his movie massacre. Not that he could buy a full auto weapon, but, as someone who has fired a lot of different machine guns, 6,000 rounds is a lot for a day of shooting. For instance, a Heckler & Koch MP5 has a cyclic rate of fire approaching 700 rounds per minute (although you have to take time switching magazines and worry about the barrel burning out if you were to fire that many rounds) so 6,000 rounds would give you almost 10 minutes of full auto spray and pray capability- if you could belt feed and cool the barrel- or, it’d be a really long day at the range.

I’m not suggesting that limits on ammo purchases are the answer, but, for comparison’s sake, my girlfriend has allergies that are best treated with the over-the-counter Zyrtec-D medicine. Thanks to the fact that people use them to make meth, the government has passed a law requiring her to use a photo ID, only buy 2 weeks’ worth at a time and pay a premium:

The Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 has been incorporated into the Patriot Act signed by President Bush on March 9, 2006. The act bans over-the-counter sales of cold medicines that contain the ingredient pseudoephedrine, which is commonly used to make methamphetamine. The sale of cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine is limited to behind the counter. The amount of pseudoephedrine that an individual can purchase each month is limited and individuals are required to present photo identification to purchase products containing pseudoephedrine. In addition, stores are required to keep personal information about purchasers for at least two years.

via Information by Drug Class > Legal Requirements for the Sale and Purchase of Drug Products Containing Pseudoephedrine, Ephedrine, and Phenylpropanolamine.

So, we can buy guns and ammo to shoot a bunch of people easily, but, it’s a pain in the rear to get allergy medicine. And while the process for making meth is dangerous (and therefore profitable) and people on it do supremely stupid things, we don’t see near as many people getting dead by meth as we do by guns in this country.

Just last week, in Akron, a 66-year-old man shot his wife of 45 years in a hospital to put her out of her misery. It’s illegal to end your own life, but it’s legal to buy the means to kill a bunch of other people (simplified). The very first love of my life, Katie Jones, was diagnosed with MS at 28 and had to sneak around the laws to have an assisted suicide at 32 after being rendered totally bed-ridden and dependent on others.Dr. Death went to prison for helping people self-select their ending.

If it’s truly a free country, why do we worry so much about limiting drugs but not guns? Would drug dealers need guns if they were named Merck, Eli Lilly or Bayer?

I have fewer problems with you shooting up with heroin than with an AR-15. In fact, I consider it Darwin at work.

 

 

The 2nd Amendment and foreign policy

“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.” 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In the wake of the movie theater shooting in Colorado I’ve been thinking a lot about gun control. I’m going to put up some short posts to stimulate conversation and help focus my ideas.

It has been interpreted that one of the main reasons the founding fathers believed that we should be able to own guns was so that we could overthrow our government if it was necessary. I’m not going to get into the details of what constitutes “a well regulated Militia” in this argument. I am going to focus on the fact that when this was written, there were no machine guns, airplanes, nuclear bombs, helicopters, tanks, drones, heat-seeking missiles or poison gas. All of which are “arms” in today’s world. There also wasn’t an internet,Twitter or cell phones to communicate- nor satellite imagery of the battlefield in real time.

When Muammar Gaddafi turned his army on the people of Libya, we and other nations decided to jump in to help. It was the “right thing to do” to prevent genocide and to even out the battle between the populist uprising and an evil dictator.

So, considering the uprising in Syria has been going on since March 15 of 2011, and that Assad has been using tanks, helicopters and jets against people who are throwing bottles and rocks, why hasn’t the U.S. stepped in?

Is Assad a better dictator? Is Syrian citizens’ blood less valuable than Libyan citizens’ blood? Or is it that Libya has better natural resources?

If we were to rise up against our government, with our little arsenals of Spaz 12’s, AR-15s and .50-caliber sniper rifles (all popular with the pro-gun factions) are they really going to do much against an F-22, an Apache Attack Helicopter or an Abrams Tank? What country is going to step in and tell our military not to shoot our uprising? And how long will Canada’s Air Force exist when they do? You can watch the movie “Red Dawn” all you want, but if our ability to protect ourselves from our government is dependent on us owning arms, we’re outgunned. It’s not even bringing a gun to a knife fight- it’s like sending in a newborn to take on Mike Tyson.

When are we going to step in to help Syria? And when is the fallacy that owning guns will protect us from an unjust government going to stop being part of the argument?