What shall we fear next?

I wake up to 2013 and find out that two hours after the “fiscal cliff” deadline, the Senate has worked out a deal. The House, still has to approve it, but Congress knows that their jobs would get infinitely more difficult if our government went into default.

And in case you weren’t looking, on Friday, it was announced that they extended the F-35 program and had no problems spending an additional $3.68 billion on a plane (actually 31 additional ones) that has no purpose except to keep the macho fighter pilot legacy alive for another 30 years. Our Congressman, Mike Turner, also was proud to announce that he had managed to save jobs in Lima working on a tank that the Army said it didn’t need.

Through the years since we battled the greatest evil ever (Hitler and the axis of evil) we’ve lived in a perpetual fear cycle. First it was our former allies, the Russians with their bombs, then just communists in general, and until Osama Bin Laden ascended the throne of scorn, we had struggled to be distracted with all kinds of other fears as our sense of safety has slowly eroded away. There was energy security, with the gas lines in the early seventies, AIDS stepped up to turn up a moralistic engine against gay marriage, and NAFTA first had us worried about jobs to Mexico, which wasn’t but a few drops over the dam compared to what China and India would do to our working-class jobs.

Wars are won in inches, not by miles, and slowly, fear has become the ultimate tool to create change in our country. We get upset and argue after horrible events like the Newtown Children’s Massacre, but the daily death toll, inch by inch, keeps piling on victims. We’ve put more people in prison for petty crimes linked to our “War on Drugs” while we’ve carried out a systematic war on the middle class that has devastated our country’s economy as banks behaving badly were bailed out, while home owners were thrown out of their homes.

Government grew a whole new Goliath to protect us from terrorists with the Department of Homeland Security, while we barely lifted a finger to provide a department of hometown and homeowners security. Wall Street Bankers are still buying little weekend getaway cottages, for $32 million, because their Manhattan apartment and Long Island mansion just aren’t enough.

We’ve seen the results of “Citizens United” as the battles for votes were driven by dollars, big data and gerrymandering to further separate the “representatives” from the “represented.” As power has slowly been siphoned off from the masses, we sit here this New Year’s day joyful that the rich will now pay a paltry 4.9% more in income tax and that milk won’t go to $7 a gallon.

It’s all smoke and mirrors, driven by the giant fear machine, devised to keep us all from the realization that in the end, the forces of unbridled population growth, the dependence on fossil fuels that are destroying our environment and unregulated market forces will never result in a sustainable equilibrium of peace, health and welfare for all. Those same seven deadly sins that we were warned of long ago will win, because fear also stops us from speaking out, acting up and changing our global priorities for the good of the entire human race.

To quote Marvin Gaye, “war is not the answer.”  It never has been. We can’t wage war on drugs, poverty, or each other and hope for fear to leave us. If we had spent the trillions we wasted on Iraq and Afghanistan on sustainable energy, food and educational and health care equality globally, we’d be an entirely different world. One where mothers wouldn’t fear losing their children to disease, famine or war as they lay their children down to sleep. A world where the only insatiable hunger is for knowledge instead of sustenance.

A friend who reads voraciously said to me yesterday that she no longer reads newspapers because she doesn’t want to be depressed. Fear wins again.

Before it’s too late, I ask all of you to consider this as your resolution for 2013, the one greatest fear for most people is the fear of change. It’s the one fear that is almost universal to mankind. Fear of change is the only fear we need to go away to start making real choices about our future. The key is to stop thinking about change in terms of me, but to change our perspective to the scope of we. Once we think big picture first, maybe we can put fear in the rear view mirror.

Best wishes in 2013.

Does lock them up and throw away the key work?

As far as neighborhood meetings go, Historic South Park usually brings 35-45 people out monthly to participate in the ultimate form of “local government.” Last night, we had well over 65 come to Hope Lutheran Church to hear our neighborhood police officers (paid for by Miami Valley Hospital) and members of the County Prosecutor’s office talk about our latest local crime spree.

Ronald Lamont Sizemore  mugshot

Mugshot of Ronald Lamont Sizemore, thief and junkie

The center of the discussion was to try to understand the revolving door that has produced a rap sheet for the recently incarcerated thief and junkie, Ronald Lamont Sizemore. His jail history has to be continued over 3 pages online. Sizemore lived right in the center of a circle of recent break-ins, to include the theft from my garage that you read about 2 weeks ago. None of my stuff has been recovered and the only charges that are sticking on this career criminal are for having appliances that he stole from a former rental. Even his landlord showed up- but didn’t stick around much after the conversation started moving toward declaring houses nuisances when they house criminals.

Since he’s been locked up, we’ve also managed to lock up some juveniles, including one who was featured in this post What to do with punk kids skipping school and was one of the three kids who were with the stolen bike I stole back. That story is almost worthy of a post itself, when they were first booked for getting caught in the process of trying to hot wire a van down my street, the mother gave the wrong name for one of her sons to avoid getting a second curfew violation, only to have the officer realize she had lied, when the same kid was caught bailing out of a car he’d stolen and sustained injuries that had her giving her correct name to hospital staff. The mom was busted for lying.

The neighborhood voted to allocate up to $750 to purchase some video surveillance cameras (as written about in this post), to move around from “hot spot” to “hot spot” to try to help police have more evidence and to allow people to monitor our streets from the safety of their homes. There was one “nay” vote, because obviously someone who hadn’t been broken into, still believed in living in a free society unmolested and unmonitored by big brother. It was refreshing to know that there are still sane minds who refuse to live in a state of perpetual fear.

The discussion about whether we should post signs warning of the cameras.

Two schools of thought emerge, one, wondering if the criminals will read, or care, or if they need to be warned legally (they don’t). And, what kind of message does it send outsiders to know they are walking into a neighborhood so filled with crime that it’s become the London, England, of the Midwest. But, when one bright neighbor asked how this is different  from having the old “neighborhood watch” signs- updated to say we’re using video, the discussion resolved itself.

The reality is, cameras don’t stop or even solve crimes in many cases, only police can do that, but hopefully by being able to distribute the time spent actively watching these cameras, we may be able to alert police more often to catch criminals in the act.

The blame game

The interesting change was the three attorneys from County Prosecutor Matt Heck’s office. Apparently, we’re going to have four prosecutors assigned to our neighborhood. In a “return” to historic practices, prosecutors will now try to come to our meetings and get a pulse of the neighborhood and try to work with neighbors to send a message to judges that light sentences aren’t options anymore for the criminally inclined.

Yet, despite very rarely having choices in elections on whom to vote for, since most judgeships go on the ballot unchallenged, we were left with a parting comment that ultimately we can vote for change since both the prosecutor and the judges are elected. To me, this was almost comical.

The real issue is that incarceration neither works or really provides a deterrent for common criminals anymore. I also believe that our laws are enforced differently between Montgomery County and Greene County and against blacks and whites. The stupidity of the “war on drugs” has also caused our government to spend gross amounts of money trying to stop people from eliminating themselves from the gene pool by natural selection- i.e., become a bad enough junkie and you will eventually OD and die and solve the problems you cause. I’m tired of government trying to save stupid people from themselves.

The lack of meaningful supervision, or “post release control” of convicts returning to society is one of the biggest problems facing this revolving-door system. There is zero accountability by the state for how people like Sizemore are supposed to fit back in. Typically, even a short incarceration causes the inmate to default on payments for utilities and other obligations, destroying his credit, and then Ohio’s auto insurance laws almost automatically force them to purchase high-risk insurance because of a clause that requires you to pay the higher premiums when you’ve had a lapse in insurance coverage. As if these idiots weren’t already at a disadvantage because of their records, we make sure to put obstacles that even law-abiding citizens would have trouble surmounting.

Solutions worth investigating

A nearby house has been trouble for the last three years (note, I didn’t have any break-ins for my first 23 years here- coincidence, I think not). The police used to be there on average of three times a week. Unlike most of these cases, these were homeowners- not renters. A settlement in a lawsuit was used to let a meth addict buy a foreclosed home and move out of “a bad neighborhood” into a good one. Trouble follows idiots.

The drain on our city resources caused by these people who can’t seem to get with the program is huge. Instead of wasting our tax dollars on reaction, we need to use these frequent calls to trigger a series of events. After the third police call to an address or about an individual in a one-year period, it’s time to dispatch a social worker along with a “scared straight” type advocate. Determine what are the problems, document them, and try to set up a solution. Also, issue a warning that with each additional visit by police fines will start to be assessed (much like false alarm fees for security systems). If the people can’t afford to pay the fines they will be attached to the real estate. Landlords will be notified and will be assisted in moving out society’s problem children so that their investments aren’t destroyed. For the worst cases, the highest frequency offenders, they may be moved into public housing, separated and given “sponsors” to help them stop their anti-social behaviors.

The other way to work off fines, will be to do community service- not regulated by the courts, but by their local community. They will be required to work in neighborhood parks, attend neighborhood meetings and learn how to fit in, before they are forced to move out. Socialization between the strata of society is a solution that’s rarely attempted.

Of course, if none of this is working- bringing back public stocks, stoning, lashings and even scarlet letters may be better options. When Singapore decided to cane a punk named Michael Fay who was arrested for vandalizing, there was a huge outcry- but I guarantee little Mikey never wanted to get caught tagging again.

Speaking out, publishing our dirt

As usual, I’m going to be criticized for airing dirty laundry about our patch of heaven here in South Park. Just like pulling the covers off the dual attempts at regionalization behind closed doors, somehow not talking about these things in public so we can all work together on solving the problems is our preferred modus operandi in the place we call Dayton.

South Park was just one of a few neighborhoods in Dayton where property values as a whole went up in the recent re-appraisal. Yet, no credit is given to homeowners who have been forced to spend thousands more on security systems and monitoring to protect their investments from people our government is seemingly incapable of protecting us from.

One of our two patron saint investors, who has dumped millions of her own money into the neighborhood over the last five years, has been putting up camera systems and paying for high speed internet on her investment homes so she can monitor what was going on next door (you can see the three cameras on the house next door to Sizemore’s former abode). Where are the tax credits?

In an unwarranted segue

We all pay the costs of incarcerating low-lifes. I can tell you from experience that the kid I’ve been a “big brother” to over the last 24 years has had more spent on incarceration by the state than it would have cost to provide mental health services, drug and alcohol counseling and a college degree. In his last 3-year stint, courtesy of the no-nonsense judges of Greene County, he actually received drug and alcohol counseling and completed the first year of an associate’s degree with a 3.95 GPA at Noble Correctional Institution. He is now, sitting in Montgomery County Jail again- from a domestic violence charge, which has stopped him from attending Sinclair and completing his associate’s this quarter (the last before Sinclair switches to semesters and probably plays with his graduation requirements once again). Because of a “he said”/ “she said” charge, his prior record and a system that has no middle ground options, we, the taxpayers are going to get hosed once again. He’s looking at a year, but the last 30 days have already once again put him behind an eight ball of bills, missed work, lost opportunity. Never mind the fact that these two “lovebirds” have a baby on the way that will also be a drain on the system.

Our system of “criminal justice” isn’t working. Between well-meaning politicians creating more and more rules, penitentiaries filling up, drug-related crime continuing just like prohibition did little to stem the flow of alcohol, we’re fighting a losing battle.

Epilogue

Security cameras aren’t an answer. Neither are electing new pogues to do our biding. We need a complete, top-to-bottom rearrangement of how we all learn to just get along. While our national politicians are apt to throw out the words “class warfare” when talking about the widening gap between haves and have nots, or different political policy, the reality is that the war is already over. We’ve lost. We’ve managed to be the most incarcerated nation on the planet, while still lying to ourselves and calling this the “home of the brave, land of the free.”

When law-abiding citizens have to meet en masse to discuss how to get the system to solve the Ronald Lamont Sizemore problems in the community, we’ve now using up even more of our valuable social capital (and real capital for cameras) to remedy what our society is producing in record numbers: drains of resources.

It will only be fixed when we spend more on education than incarceration, more on health care than on health insurance, more on public infrastructure than public safety and less energy and money on political campaigns and more on political discourse and diplomacy.

It’s time to unlock our minds and open them to new and different ways to solve our problems. Locking them up and throwing away the key hasn’t been working for too long.

 

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.

Violated 3x. The “war on drugs” fails us again

Siebenthaler and Carter Ave. Sometime last night. A little silver Honda Civic with a HOPE sticker in the back window, became the third crime to affect my household in the last 2 years. First the house was broken into in broad daylight, then the office in the middle of the night– and now, the girlfriend’s car, while it was sitting on the street outside her parents’ home, as we had borrowed their pickup to work on the move.

photo of dashboard of Honda Civic after theft

The aftermath of a break in

The stereo won’t bring more than $50. There wasn’t much else in the car to take. The most valuable item was probably the power inverter on the seat- that took 12v and made it into 110 ac. Thieves aren’t very smart. The entire dash is gone, plus the stereo- and the broken window. Probably around $1,200 damage- a $250 deductible and good business for the car dealer, the stereo maker and the window replacement guy. But, now, because some junkie needed a $50 fix- the home values in that neighborhood drop again, insurance in the neighborhood go up, and Dayton reinforces its reputation as a crime-riddled community.

In today’s DDN there is an article about our overcrowded prisons, the costs, and the number of non-violent offenders. No DOH.

You almost have to wonder how stupid can we be? Other than the difficulty of getting high in prison- and the risk of being sexually assaulted- room and board and health care, may be a better option than a homeless shelter or living on the streets.

We’ve got to have meaningful, living-wage jobs in this country for all, or we’ll end up looking more like “Escape from New York” than hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet. If people want to get high- and waste their lives, their brains, their bodies- I’m with the libertarians- let them, and let’s tax them. We can put in provisions that if you buy and use drugs like heroin, meth, crack etc.- you will instantly limit your lifetime health insurance benefits- and we won’t fix your broken bodies.

But, if you just smoke weed- you’ll be paying taxes to help pay for health care for all- just like the taxes on booze and smokes. Because face it- it would have been cheaper to give this crack head thief a hit- than to fix the damage he caused in pursuit of his high.

Yep, I’m running for Congress and I think the “War on Drugs” is a desperate war on the desperate. I’d rather focus on full employment, education, first-class public infrastructure (including trains and public transit) than a hallucination that we can stop people from getting high on legal or illegal substances.

We may as well try to stop people from having sex. Or is that next?

Is it time for a “combat zone?”

I’m throwing this out for discussion, it’s an idea, nothing more.

We’ve been filling prisons with people at a ridiculous rate. When they get out, they are treated like lepers. We spend a good deal of money on police chasing their tails on people who are hell bent on being stupid.

The “war on drugs” was lost before it started.

Witness the recent “gang related” murders in Dayton and the Chief’s response:

McDaniel was gunned down outside the Western Manor apartments May 4 in what detectives said appeared to be a gang-related robbery.

Biehl said the attacks at what are supposed to be peaceful gatherings are a concern, but “it needs to be repeated that the people involved or at these events have been living a high-risk lifestyle and have put themselves in position to become victims of violent crime.”

Biehl has grappled with his feelings of anger and frustration in the wake of the recent shootings, but said those who feel hopeless need to find courage instead of resorting to violence.

via Police chief blames gangs for shooting at funeral.

What we have is a small group of people, who seem to believe that this is the Wild West.

So, maybe we should give it to them.

Take an area, 6, 10 20, square blocks—cordon it off, and make it an arrest-free zone. You can sell drugs, take drugs, prostitute, shoot each other, do whatever you want, you just have to declare taxes and not expect any support from the courts, medical facilities, fire department—anything. Once you enter the “combat zone” you live or die by the sword or your own stupidity. Enter at your own risk, sign a waiver to enter. If we have to put a welcome station outside and offer “guests” the opportunity to watch an educational video about life on the streets in the CZ.

Call it an experiment in social Darwinism, call it crazy, but, we’re not getting any better at prevention as far as I can tell.

To make things even more interesting, if we catch you with an unregistered concealed gun, drugs, prostitution etc. outside the combat zone, you have a choice— face prosecution, or go to the combat zone, go directly to the combat zone, do not pass go, do not collect $200. And you have to stay there, until you’ve gotten rid of your gun, your drugs or done your hooking. Any drugs confiscated in busts outside the CZ—get distributed free in the CZ.

You won’t be able to leave the CZ without passing a checkpoint for sobriety, weapon- and drug-free.

For a while, a bunch of people will die. Then, the smart drug dealers, hookers and other undesirables will realize that crime scares away their customers. It will have to be safer, or the business won’t flourish.

Yes, no one will want this in their back yard, but, if I have to listen to people I know say they live in the middle of a shooting gallery every night in our fair city, let’s at least come up with a better solution.

I’m as frustrated with the local gang-style killings as anyone else—this is a vent—to start a discussion on what to do.

I’m not sure this is it, but, I’d be willing to hear if you have any better ideas.