DPS adds 3 new board members, still allowing insanity to rule

I couldn’t take the stupidity anymore of going to the meetings. Now with Mohamed Al-Hamdani in charge, the dismantling of the district for takeover by either the Mayor or a private corporation is on an accelerated path. While Superintendent Libbie Lolli continues to rule with fear and loathing, the revolving door is spinning so fast, that HR can’t keep up. It’s probably why that department and the “consultants” she hired, have been abandoning ship. Lolli’s contract runs through June of 2021 at which she retires for her 2nd time and banks even more money. If the three new board members had a clue, they’d try to fire her for gross incompetence, just based on the disruption.

To know how bad it is, you have to have access to Facebook- where former board member Mario Gallin stays on top of Board Docs and the meetings. She gets most of it right- and understands things better than the 7 clowns on the board who allow this shitshow to continue. Since Facebook is a walled garden requiring membership, I’m going to flat out repost her last few posts:

April 16 at 2:38 PM

One of the proposals that may be presented to the board for vote next week is a Reduction in Force.

First and foremost is eliminating the Males of Color program. I’m surprised it has lasted this long – it was obvious almost from the beginning that it was not supported by the Administration – any of the Administrations – beyond lip service. Now that the last strong Board proponent, Dr. Walker, has left, it seemed a foregone conclusion,

The Director has had 7? 8? supervisors since coming on. At one point he disappeared and then miraculously returned. The coordinators who have been working in schools had their status changed last year. Their job assignments have changed frequently. Originally starting with high school students, then moved to middle school, some dabbling I think in elementary schools, after school hours, during school hours, large group, small group, tutoring, and so on.

The language specifically is “the Superintendent has recommended the abolishment of the positions of Males of Color Facilitator (DSS) based on the best interest of the District…”

I am really interested in hearing how the District will be improved by letting this program go. I can’t believe that all the identified barriers to student success have been eliminated.

Bill Harris is the current board liaison to Males of Color. It will be fascinating to see what he has to say about this.

City Commissioner Jeff Mims was also influential in getting this program started. I wonder if he has been advised of this decision.

Hair splitting – the abolishment sentence refers to positions (plural) but the next clause says the employee impacted (singular) has been notified. Further down the school based facilitators are listed for layoff, but the Director is not. Not having seen the HR recommendations, I wonder if he is listed there as being let go.

The layoff list also includes “Vacant” in the Director of School Improvement Grant position. According to the Org chart that was a position held concurrently with Ohio Improvement Process. That administrator is still there but identifies her office solely as Ohio Improvement Process. The Data Clerk responsible for the School Improvement Grant is also being laid off. I can’t remember, has the SIG grant ended?

The Director of Early Childhood, the Associate Directors of STEM and Gifted are also being laid off. These layoffs are effective the end of June. Is it the Administration’s assumption that we will not be opening school in August? Are these people being laid off for one month? The STEM position is new, but the others have been year-round positions. Is it the District’s determination that there is no need for planning during that time? The Gifted program for sure could use some boosting, the Early Childhood Program has achieved 5 Star ratings for all our preschools (not by accident), and the STEM program is barely off the ground. Seems short sighted.

At the April Special Meeting, a policy change was approved to allow for virtual meetings. There was much discussion on how the public was going to be allowed to participate. The consensus was that since speakers need to be included in the minutes, Facebook comments or other online comments were not allowed because there is no guarantee that those commenters can be properly identified.

There was talk about setting up some sort of email process for citizens to comment. As of this writing on Thursday, there is no identifiable way currently on the DPS website.

Yesterday at 3:17 PM

The previous agenda, posted and pulled earlier this week had a Reduction in Force recommendation. That has been removed in the reposting on Friday. Now it is Superintendent’s Recommendations (A).

“I recommend approval of the abolishment of the following positions, and the employment of all staff holding these positions, due to restructuring and/or realignment of departmental duties:”

Director of Communications – Vacant since the last director was forced out a year ago.

Chief of Special Projects – now Chief, Turnaround according to the Org Chart. I know they have gone with a new program, foregoing the third year of a three-year contract with University of Virginia. They are also going to new schools. Again, hundreds of thousands of our tax dollars, incredible investment of time by teachers and administrators (also paid by us) and bam, can’t even finish it. Really? A comment was made in a review session that there was not as much contact as they wanted, but how did you not know this when you vetted them? Or honestly, did you?

Coordinator, Males of Color – contract non renewed in his own special recommendation. I wrote about this on April 16. Superintendent’s Recommendations (C)

Males of Color Facilitator (6) – originally proposed for layoff, now they are just terminated.

Associate Director of STEM – Administrator on this agenda for a move to Director – Inclusion and Diversity. This was the position held for a minute by Therman Sampson, before he was asked to return to Roosevelt Elementary after the principal there quit in her fourth month.

Since Thurgood Marshall has been designated a STEM school and STEM is all the rage, I find it puzzling that they would eliminate this position. Let’s see if there is some discussion, any discussion of the thought process behind this.

Director of School Improvement Grant – See April 16.

Data Strategist – also with the School Improvement Grant. According to a DDN article in January 24, 2017, the grant was for four years. Maybe they will talk about why the two positions associated with the grant are eliminated.

Associate Director of Gifted – I have no information on this except to point out that it is one of the weaker departments. I think DPS is required by law to offer gifted programming. If they couldn’t do it with a Director, how are they going to do it without one.

Director of Early Childhood – So let’s talk about this one. The current Director (at least until Tuesday) is a 27 year veteran of DPS. Under her leadership, all preschool classrooms have been rated 5 Star through Step Up to Quality for several years. There are big banners on the outside of all elementary buildings proclaiming that fact. She is the only administrator I know who responds to parents immediately, whether she sees a question on social media, someone comes to a board meeting or whenever I have called her at a parent’s request. She also returns calls promptly – not a DPS thing.

I understand that the position itself is being downgraded in the Org chart and the salary is also being reduced. Like the insult rendered to Teresa Troyer, apparently she has been told she is invited to reapply. I am insulted on her behalf. She would be an asset to any program. I hope she lands quickly with an organization who appreciates her. Teresa did, and that district is the better for it.

It would not surprise me to find out that she came up crosswise with a senior administrator. This would not be the first time DPS has used “reorganization” as a premise to remove someone they don’t care for. And to that end, who wants to place a bet on the next person coming from Hamilton County?

8 hrs

Clarification to my April 18 post.

The Associate Director – Gifted Services retired January 31 this year. Her name did appear in the Reduction in Force document. Whoever put together that document didn’t realize she had been gone for 2 months. The Gifted program has received a “Met” designation in Value Added since the 2015-2016 school year. The Performance Index and the Gifted Inputs categories remain “Not Met” which gives an overall designation of “Not Met.” My remark on its weakness was based on comments by parents and gifted teachers over the past few years. Clearly something was happening, but it didn’t translate into the other two categories.

5 hrs

This has gone beyond ridiculous. The following people are quitting:

Director – Health Services – longest lasting of the new hires at 2 years. Tied with the
Academic Coordinator – College Career Readiness & Scholarships, who is also quitting.

Thurgood Principal
Kemp Principal

2 Academic Coordinators – OEC. both quitting an $80,000 a year job after 12 months. OEC is a revolving door and yet nobody seems to question that.

Academic Coordinator – ESL after 1 year – remember all the drama? Groundhog Day all over again, who wants to bet?

2 from HR, the Payroll Specialist after 12 months.

And I completely missed the new HR Director whose quit in March after 3 months.

2 Wogaman teachers
2 Belle Haven teachers
2 Louise Troy teachers
9 teachers from various other schools.
If you include the 6 resignations in March, that make 21 teachers who are quitting, and there is still time.

This after fairly significant increases in salary.

These are not retirements; these people are leaving leaving.

And remember the Director of Transportation who resigned this year after a few months on the job,(his predecessor lasted 1 year), the previous HR Director – Recruiting, Onboarding & Systems, who left after 6 months, the Compliance Coordinator last year who lasted 4 weeks.

I don’t know when the Board evaluation of the Superintendent is scheduled to take place, but this should be at the top of the discussion. (emphasis added by esrati.com)

It’s unfortunate that Ohio has no mechanism for recalling school board members. It’s also unfortunate that Ohio believes any citizen off the street should be considered qualified to serve on a board of directors for an educational institution with a $400M plus budget.

The seven incompetent fools who allow Libby Lolli to run the district into the ground are: Mohamed Al-Hamdani, Jocelyn Spencer Rhynard, Rev. William Harris, Karen Wick Gagnet, Will Smith, Dion Sampson, Dr. Gabriela Pickett.

Remember those names when the feds finally get around to shutting this vile corrupt organization down.
If you need to see both the reminder of why I stopped trying to follow DPS and how the 3 year bogus contract was awarded to the University of Virginia with an incompetent presentation to the former board- see this post: Why there is no hope for Dayton Public Schools

Pivot: cut cities, not services.

The Coronavirus Crisis is going to cause havoc with municipal budgets that run off income tax. With huge swaths of newly unemployed not kicking in to the local government coffers, most cities are tightening their belts and reassessing where they allocate funds.

Some early projections show cities may lose 10% to 20% of 2020 projected income tax revenue.

“We’re looking at our budget issues that are coming down pretty heavy right now,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, whose city has asked department heads to look at making 18% cuts across the board.

The income tax revenue losses brought on by job cuts at businesses during the coronavirus pandemic is expected to hit Ohio cities especially hard because those taxes constitute up to 80% of general operating funds, according to the Ohio Municipal League.

Whaley and Kettering’s Don Patterson are part of a group of Ohio mayors who say cuts in local public safety forces will be needed if cities do not receive COVID-19 rescue funds from Congress in the near future.

“While our individual situations are unique, they’re common,”

Patterson said of Ohio cities. “One of us may have 70 police officers. The other one may have 500. The problem is we’re all faced with the same problem.”

Source: Cities sharpening budget knives – Dayton Daily News

While business owners are adapting and finding new ways to survive the new social distanced world, cities are still believing that they have some god given right to exist, while the rest of us suffer the coronavirus consequences.

It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s time for a pivot, one that’s long overdue. It’s time to thin the herd of local municipal overhead. Do we really need 54 jurisdictions? 17 police chiefs plus a sheriff, 7 municipal courts and their crappy websites, 24 city managers, 10 building inspection departments, and the list goes on (all numbers pulled out of my ass but, you get the picture). Do the lines on the map still make sense? Why are Fairborn, Beavercreek and Bellbrook in Greene County and Springboro in Warren, when Montgomery is mostly urban and all are connected to Dayton? Why do urban townships exist? Do we really believe Miami Township isn’t a city? And, let’s not even discuss the insular school districts with their constant grabs for levy money- while some districts are smaller than the high school I went to and one smaller than a single elementary school (Jefferson Township, I’m talking about you).

Suppose, we waved a magic wand post covid 19 and all the police forces were unifed under a single elected Sheriff? One department, one dispatch, one type of squad car, one kind of training, one SWAT team, one hostage negotiation team, one jail, one pay scale, and a lot less chiefs and a lot more Indians? We’d have a force of approximately 1500 officers. One chief. Instead, City Managers, who won’t show up at your door when you have a problem, are protecting themselves and their existence by threatening to cut safety forces.

This is unacceptable. This is why we started “Reaconstructing Dayton” 3 years ago to evaluate the costs of the multiple banana republics in Montgomery County, to make it clear why we’re one of the highest taxed communities in the state while getting very little bang for our buck.

We’ve got so many political offices to fill, that some don’t even have candidates running for them. Others, run unopposed. And the saddest fact is, most of these organizations are run by politicians who are far from our best or brightest (following national trends). Why, in the middle of a pandemic, would the city of Huber Heights squander $2.8M of the taxpayers money on a defunct shopping center, while they are facing huge revenue drops at their last boondoggle- The Rose, which won’t open it’s doors for up to 2 years.

Even the patchwork maze for collecting the varying income taxes for all these entities is expensive and frustrating to the businesses in the region. My office manager couldn’t even find the link to the City of Dayton income tax collection site on the city site, and curses the city for a portal that makes paying the tax almost as painful as the tax itself.

Thanks to recent funding of Reconstructing Dayton by the insurance companies for Dayton Metro Libraries former security contractor, we’ll be back at working on gathering up to date data on the real cost of our political overhead in the region. Due to the Coronavirus, it’s also become harder to get Public Records Requests filled in a timely manner. Just realize, if we didn’t have so many jurisdictions, how much easier it would be to keep an eye on where and how your tax dollars are being mismanaged by folks who really, shouldn’t be trusted.

We’re also working on a system to ensure all voters have a way to research and fully understand every office, candidate, elected official, jurisdiction, process for getting elected, process for getting recalled and best of all, adding an advocate to fight for you when you believe that the Sunshine laws, or other laws regarding public office holders are broken. We believe every county needs a Chief Ethics Officer a lot more than either an elected county engineer or coroner.

If this project sounds like something you, or your organization would like to support, please consider donating to Reconstructing Dayton. We can’t afford to keep the status quo and the coming increases in taxes to pay for decreased services when what we really need is a smarter framework for governing.

The Coronavirus question that must be answered before Ohio reopens

If you watched the HBO series, sometimes it was hard to remember who was a vampire and who wasn’t. I never watched the kiddy version- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but, at least you knew that if you saw them in daylight, they weren’t a bloodsucking threat.

Yesterday, Ohio Governor, under pressure from the flip-flopping-fool in the White House, has announced May 1st as the day to “reopen America again”- which is good enough reason to NOT reopen anything. Anyone who says “reopen again” is foreshadowing what’s going to happen over and over, if we jump the gun. Columbus Restaurant Impresario Cameron Mitchell said that he can reopen one time, not twice.

If you want to “reopen America” the word “Again” should never be included, but Trump is in love with his “Make America Great Again” fictional brand and can’t let go.

Without enough PPE, without rapid and accurate testing for all, and without a proven and tested care regimen, opening too soon, is a huge risk. Need proof? Look to what the Navy has discovered when they did what we haven’t- test everyone in a control group:

The Navy’s testing of the entire 4,800-member crew of the aircraft carrier – which is about 94% complete – was an extraordinary move in a headline-grabbing case that has already led to the firing of the carrier’s captain and the resignation of the Navy’s top civilian official.

Roughly 60 percent of the over 600 sailors who tested positive so far have not shown symptoms of COVID-19, the potentially lethal respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, the Navy says. The service did not speculate about how many might later develop symptoms or remain asymptomatic.

“With regard to COVID-19, we’re learning that stealth in the form of asymptomatic transmission is this adversary’s secret power,” said Rear Admiral Bruce Gillingham, surgeon general of the Navy….

“It has revealed a new dynamic of this virus: that it can be carried by normal, healthy people who have no idea whatsoever that they are carrying it,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper told NBC’s “Today” morning show.

Source: Coronavirus clue? Most cases aboard U.S. aircraft carrier are symptom-free – Reuters

The unanswered question can be answered in 2 weeks, the “incubation period” we’ve been working with as fact so far. What happens to the 600 who tested positive who’ve been quarantined. In 2 weeks, will they still test positive? Can they spread it? Even after 2 weeks? Are there people who are no longer safe to walk among us who never come down with it- but continue to spread it? Vampires- who can walk in daylight in the world of True Blood.

Since we’re not even testing everyone who is suspected to have it, or had it (like my employee who went home on Friday Mar 13 and was down for the count for almost a month), we don’t know who could be spreading it.

If you send kids back to school, and they all become carriers, and don’t show symptoms, we will effectively kill off every senior taking care of their grandbabies in short order.

The biggest risk we take is killing off our medical professionals, who are already in short supply to manage another surge. Without instant testing for all, we can’t risk a second wave until we have separate hospitals for managing covid cases only, staffed by those who have already had it, or have tested positive and not developed symptoms. We’re not there yet.

This is why who you elect is important. The ability to analyze real data and make informed decisions is crucial and in this case, life and death. We’ve already seen that Trump can’t be trusted to screw in a light bulb, but for Dewine and Acton to consider this early open date is reckless.

The economy can never come before life itself.  As to how we pay for this all, well, that’s a topic for another post. But, maybe, you might want to consider that we start by consolidating governments and reducing administrative overhead, before we cut safety forces. I’m also going to suggest that the idiots in Huber Heights, who already bought into the public entertainment industry with the Rose center, should be removed from office for wasting 2.8 million by buying a shopping mall with tax dollars in the middle of a pandemic. Place a bet they didn’t have a “Pandemic” rider on their Rose center income stream, which will more than likely lose two entire seasons of revenue- or at least be half of what it was thanks to social distancing requirements.

In the meantime, be smart, stay in as much as possible, and wait until everyone can get an N95 mask, testing is cheap, quick and available, and that we have proof that people can’t be superspreaders forever.

$39,446 says you can take photos in a library or in public

This is non-pandemic news. As civil rights laws are being trampled in the name of saving the human race, some of you may ignore this. Some may think it’s not important when people are dying from something we can’t see. And, like it or not- civil rights are something most of us don’t think about until we stop having them. So, ignore at your own peril.

It was a year and a day after my father’s death that I decided to take a Saturday off to reflect back on his life, and what he stood for. I was going to take a walk downtown and take photos- a hobby that started when I was around 6 and Dad gave me a Kodak Brownie. At 12, his step-father, gave me a Topcon 35mm camera, I was in heaven. Two years later, I bought an Olympus OM-1 and started to build a darkroom. Photography is one of my guilty pleasures.

That was August 19, 2017, and I made the mistake of using my constitutionally protected rights to take photos in the new downtown Dayton Public Library. A $68M boondoggle that is more about meeting spaces and internet access for the poor than it is about books.

I was challenged, harassed, called a pedophile, removed and banned from the library by library guards hired from G4S Security, a global private security services provider. The library director, Timothy Kambitsch, refused to listen to my side and refused my simple initial request to make a public apology and retrain his guards.

What happened next was entirely the fault of Mr. Kambitsch, his board and the legal advice of prosecutors working for County Prosecutor Mat Heck- as they embarked on a 2 year plus attempt to not handover the security video of the event. Video that once they had reviewed, had proven I’d done nothing wrong. They’d admitted that much in a settlement discussion where they refused to do anything to resolve their mistake.

By the time the final push came to get the library to produce all the video, as initially requested by my lawyer, Dan Durocher, he had to stop representing me because of his job change. When you work for one of the big firms in Dayton, you can no longer represent the little guys- because every government office or their favored friends create “conflicts.” Didn’t matter- I pushed, representing myself in court, and caught Kambitsch and the county prosecutors lying in court. Result, I won, the library finally turned over all the video, albeit half-assed, and paid $1000 fine (the max allowable) for their delay. Judge Gerald Parker erred in not granting my attorney’s fees, forcing the burden of enforcement of the Sunshine Laws underground where the sun don’t shine.

thumbnail of FILED Complaint 6754120-1–1513

The complaint filed Esrati v Dayton Metro Library- click image to download PDF

I’d also filed a civil rights action under section 1983 on my own in Federal Court. See attached filing.

(Civil action for deprivation of rights) of Title 42 of the United States (42 U.S.C. § 1983).

Section 1983 provides an individual the right to sue state government employees and others acting “under color of state law” for civil rights violations

Usually, attorneys take these cases on contingency, or based on their ability to collect a settlement, and taking a percentage. While my attorney said he would if he could, there weren’t any other takers.

What happens next is insurance companies step in. The library has an insurance policy and they hired Freund Freeze and Arnold to do their defense. G4S has an insurance company- and they hired a firm out of Columbus. I found it almost funny, that the library’s choice in lawyers was to go with the same firm that had settled with me long ago in another civil rights lawsuit about my right to wear a mask in a city commission meeting. Apparently, they lend reading material in the library, but they don’t read much. In that case, the settlement was $100,000 (most of it going to 4 different lawyers who represented me).

In the first settlement discussion I had with the library’s insurance company lawyer, the county prosecutor’s representative, my lawyer and the library director I asked for four things:

  • Pay my legal fees.
  • Make a public apology.
  • Retrain the remaining guards.
  • Firing the guards involved.
  • Make a donation to start the Dolly Parton Imagination Library for Dayton Public School children.

I thought that being a library, giving them a chance to encourage and enhance reading by children wouldn’t be an obstacle, and would give them a way to save face.

Again in another strange twist. this firm, Surdyk Dowd Turner, sent Ned Turner, marital partner of former acting Dayton City Manager, Maureen Pero, who was a key witness in the aforementioned mask case.

thumbnail of Ltr Durocher 10-25-17 Meeting REDACTED_Redacted

Settlement meeting response by Dayton Metro Library- admitting I was within my rights- click on image to read PDF

I was wrong on all counts. They refused all. Their board cut me off when I tried to tell them the error of their ways. The courts, under two judges, (Erik Blaine and then Gerald Parker) delayed the outcome long enough that the following things had transpired:

The library changed guard companies, and the County, along with Children’s Medical Center (with some “support” from Dayton Metro Library) launched the Dolly Parton Imagination Library on their own.

And, because of their many missteps, video that proves I did nothing wrong, legal precedent protecting photographers in public, and the high cost of litigating federal lawsuits, we reached a settlement. The insurance companies, that had already spent thousands of dollars paying lawyers just to get to the initial scheduling deadline, decided it was worth $35K plus my existing legal fees for this to go away, considering a jury could decide to punish the library for considerably more after 2 more years of litigation expense.

However, instead of funding the now up-and-running imagination library, the money went to support my 501(c)(4) charity- “Reconstructing Dayton” which exists to bring a semblance of rational thought to the way Montgomery County is organized politically. Our goal is to cut out redundancy, overhead, layers of unnecessary bureaucracy, tax burdens, and un-regulated tax based organizations like Metroparks, Social Services and the Dayton Metro Library.

With this funding, hopefully we can eliminate many of the banana republic micro governments in the county, institute county wide simplified lower taxes, make sure that there aren’t any unregulated tax based entities and most of all, make sure there is a publicly elected official to serve as a chief ethics officer to fight city hall or the Dayton Metro Library, when they refuse to follow the Sunshine laws- or the first amendment.

thumbnail of release-in-full notarized

Esrati V Dayton Metro Library, release in civil rights case. Click image to read PDF

When library directors, or even the Animal Warden, do something stupid, there should be a way to remove them from their job. This case, should serve as a case study for why we need smarter people in charge in the county. Or at least someone who runs a library that knows how to read the constitution, and maybe review history so he wouldn’t be doomed to repeat it.

If his guards had picked anyone other than one of the few people to have filed a civil rights lawsuit in Dayton and won, he might have been able to sweep it under the carpet. But, unfortunately, stupidity is rewarded in Dayton Ohio. Reconstructing Dayton, thanks Mr. Kambitsch for starting the beginning of the campaign for his future demise.

Epilogue:

Because all things in Dayton have only 1.2 degrees of separation, it should be pointed out (for the FBI, who needs a seeing eye dog to find dog poop) Mr. Kambitsch was on the School Closing Task force that violated the Open Meetings Act. His board-president, is the wife of another member of that “Task force” and this is just another example of the “Monarchy of Montgomery County” thinking they can steal from the public because of our lack of a fourth estate. If the FBI looks into demolition contracts and construction contracts used in the $170M library renewal program, they will find the same “pay to play” people who are connected to the “Culture of Corruption” that they talk about, but refuse to shut down.

And to the former guards, who’ve been having fun on a certain FB page calling me all kinds of names. Just remember, $35K says you are idiots.

The post coronavirus conundrum

I recently read the book “Shantaram” based on hearing someone talk about this concept, because, fundamentally- I disagreed, I believe that form follows function, and simplification is almost always superior to the complex, but, here’s the quote:

Anything that enhances, promotes, or accelerates this movement toward the Ultimate Complexity is good,’ he said, pronouncing the words so slowly, and with such considered precision, that I was sure he’d spoken the phrases many times. ‘Anything that inhibits, impedes, or prevents this movement toward the Ultimate Complexity is evil. The wonderful thing about this definition of good and evil is that it is both objective and universally acceptable.’

Source: Shantaram – Theory of Ultimate Complexity — Steemit

So, anything that makes things more complicated: Good. Anything that simplifies: Bad. Wrong according to me.

When it comes to a global pandemic, the first mistake is thinking that man is somehow mightier than nature. “It’s only a tiny microbe for fucks sake. We’ve got this.”

We don’t deny the brute force of a tsunami, an earthquake or a volcanic eruption, because we can see it, define it, and understand the extent of the damage. It’s something we can quantify, we can even have plans for it- we can buy “protection” from it- “insurance” or plan in advance for it- by living in a hardened bunker with end of the world supplies.

But a pandemic by an invisible scrounge is hard for most to understand. They want to treat it as a medical problem (it’s not), they want to look at it on a number of cases basis (which is ignoring the extent of it). They want to quantify and control it, which is as insane as thinking that lightning comes from Zeus on top of Mount Olympus or that it’s a penalty for crossing god (although the lighting strike on the Solid Rock Churches’ Jesus statute almost changed me into a believer, however that they are holding services during the pandemic and haven’t been struck again, reassures me that lighting still is science- not divine intervention).

Shantaram was over 900 pages, and an amazing book. There are lots of divine quotes and ideas that makes it worth the read, even if his idea of good and evil is backwards. But, this is the quote I found that I’ve held close during this pandemic: “The truth is a bully we pretend to like.” And the truth is we’re not understanding the picture of the post-pandemic world, because we keep viewing it through our pre-pandemic lens.

Even if a cure is found, and eventually, there will be one, or at least a more effective treatment regime, personal behaviors will have changed. Things that were once believed important will not be as important, trust will be different, love will be different and economies will be different. The last thing we want to use as a gauge to evaluate this new world is by comparing it to the old one. Things will never be the same. Just like there are no more dinosaurs, the post pandemic world will bring new challenges. It’s up to us to shape them.

While Gregory David Roberts, the author of Shantaram, may have thought long and hard about his choices of words to convey ideas, there is no doubt, the next pearls of wisdom didn’t come from deep thought, but from being hit violently in the head too many times: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” was the most erudite thing Mike Tyson ever was capable of saying- and it’s the one we should be working from now.

We’ve been punched in the mouth. And, while our leaders have scrambled to “save the global economy” it’s the last thing we should be worried about. The only way we keep score is simple- how do we minimize deaths, and infections.

All the rest is immaterial. Any worries about “winners and losers” will result in bad decisions being made. When you get punched in the mouth, all that matters is survival- and in this case, it’s of the human race, not, the world’s economies.

In fact, this pandemic may have just been the wake up call the planet needed. If the coronavirus isn’t going to cleanse the earth of humans, the humans were well on their way to extinction via global warming. All of our unbridled capitalism was driving us toward an environmental meltdown of epic proportions. With everyone sheltering in place, the need for fossil fuels has dropped exponentially, the pollution has slowed, and we’ve all realized that things we took for granted were really gifts that were received before we deserved them.

There can be no return to the past. What we should be thinking about is how to reorganize for a safer future. It’s become quickly apparent that even the easiest thing in the world- voting, is something that’s been messed up by the pandemic. We need to change the way we do it.

We’ve also figured out that a lot of people can work remotely, watch movies at home, give concerts from their living rooms. The question is, how do we make the post-virus economy work with these new realities. First and foremost- we need to guarantee everyone has access to high speed internet, at reasonable costs, and I’m not going to argue about whether 5G is the cause of this- we can stick to regular old fiber. People who wanted to request ballots were told to go to a site- to download a form to print and mail! Well if you don’t have internet, and you don’t have a printer (remember- paper is dead?) how do you vote? How do you have your kids do school work? You get the picture. It’s time for a second Works Projects Administration program to bring access to all.

We’ve known that copyright became almost meaningless the moment the first MP3 hit, but we’ve been fooling ourselves ever since. All these performers need a formula for getting paid- just the same way that actors, and television producers and reality show hosts get paid too. Youtube has programs to pay creators, but, Facebook hasn’t done the same. It’s time that either we pay for content as we consume it- be it from folk singers like my friend Alex Bevan who’s been doing 3:30 shows after the Wine with DeWine and Amy Acton show, or from Darci, with her free Yoga classes at night, or even citizen journalism like this blog. Instead of making Mark Zuckerberg richer, we need a formula that sends money back for views, shares and like, paid out of the well of the consumer economy.

It should also be obvious that our for-profit health care system wasn’t ready to handle a pandemic and required an immediate bailout. If our for-profit hospitals were going to bill us all for the care they were forced to deliver at their idea of “competitive pricing,” the country would have been bankrupt before the first 1000 deaths, and the paperwork they created would equal the national debt. The system is broken, it needs reinvented- to line up with what every industrialized nation has done- universal health care. And, we need to stop drawing lines on the map on this. The idea of different costs for drugs in one country or another should be as insane as the cost of water- it’s a universal basic need. It’s time for a World Health Organization that actually delivers global health care for all. From the slums of Mumbai, where much of the book Shantaram takes place, to slums of LA. Pandemics don’t know lines on a map- and universal health care should be a global goal- take care of people, because, as I said at the start, people are what’s important.

The doctors and nurses who are risking their lives daily, aren’t the ones who will get the bailouts- that will once again go to the corporate crooks who think they are worth $4M a year- while tearing down hospitals in Dayton, just before our two biggest needs for them- tornadoes and pandemics. Mary Boosalis can go to hell, but not soon enough, for her  shortsightedness that put us all at a disadvantage.

We’ve seen universities emptied and students asked to distance learn. We’ve heard cries for student debt forgiveness, yet the people who are turning into the real heroes in this pandemic are the grocery store clerks, the paramedics, the farmers, the truck drivers, the fruit pickers and the warehouse workers- all who are being asked to take the greatest risk, for the least pay. When it comes to education and compensation, how can we continue to say that hedge fund billionaires have a right to isolate themselves, while these people have to work? It’s time for a universal basic income along with a guarantee of a quality, affordable education for all. It’s got to be cheaper than the money we put into prisons and remedial education and incentives to get people to enlist in exchange for an education, never mind welfare, social security and medicaid and medicare.

Simplify. If everyone qualifies, we don’t need legions of bureaucrats to regulate and enforce the polices and procedures that only lawyers can love. From childcare to eldercare, health care to welfare, we can simplify systems to make it work for more for less. If we only realize we have to put people first.

There are so many other things we should re-examine and re-evaluate. Public transit to concert halls and sports arenas- how will they be safe in a post-pandemic but pre-vaccine world?

Instead of looking at the challenges of getting things back to “normal” we need to look to what the new world will look like. For me, the answer is obvious, it’s time to simplify and put human life before all. None of your measurements of your economy will matter, if we keep allowing people to die because we couldn’t tell how to keep score.

I wish I could end this with some prophetic quote from Shantaram. I’m sure there is one. But, the one that works best is one we’ve known forever- it’s called the “Golden rule”- “Treat others the way you’d want others to treat you” is really the only way to make it through this global pandemic. What happens after that- is hopefully, we don’t forget it and go back to the way we were before the tiny microbe turned the world upside down.

 

Newer Posts
Older Posts