Charlottesville: When Apathy and Confusion Collide

It’s moments like these that seem to be our toughest.  We can’t see straight, or want to see straight, or care.  We don’t find ourselves attached to carnage on television.  And it’s with that apathy that the media finds a way into our minds, perhaps even our hearts.  And their version of the events becomes facts, ultimately undisputed.

In this case, it appears that Governor Terry McAuliffe is using a media pulpit to try and shout down far right conservative organizations, who he has a personal ax to grind with.

The media has climbed onto to the narrative from the governor, and are accepting it without asking questions.  And it turns out that the media itself had no reporters on the ground, instead relying on some questionable sources for the information they using to prop up their coverage.

But as we reach the 48 hour period after the incident that claimed the life of one and the eventual injuries of 19, as well as two law enforcement officers killed while responding by air, it turns out that McAuliffe’s version is not accurate.  Not even close.

More first hand accounts are coming forward of BLM, Antifa, and KKK members causing property destruction and violence, which was left unchecked by local police, for what reasons we don’t know yet.

However, there was a large group of Constitutionalists who were attempting to facilitate free speech, rather than allow violence.  And it has been verified that they were attempting to intervene with whoever the violent instigators were, no matter what their views were, to try and keep the protest peaceful, and about each group’s message, rather than violence.  Their efforts failed.  And they became the target of McAuliffe, because the only thing he can do is turn this political, because that’s all McAuliffe ever does.

It’s time we as Americans got serious about a problem we have in our country, that we are contributing to:  apathy.  Because we refuse to be truly engaged in events like these, we give people like McAuliffe a platform to lie, and accept his ideas as legitimate because of title, rather than actual work.  There are hundreds of politicians like him, and we legitimize their lack of true work by accepting them verbatim.  We have to stop this.

We have to get engaged on these issues, and we have to use our pursuit of information to demand that news organizations actually do the job of reporting fact, rather than revisions of history as it occurs.

One stance we should all have, is that Antifa has no business being anywhere in our country.  Antifa is an armed wing of the Anarchists in the US.  Antifa is their “dark ops” group, renamed.  And their entire effort is cause violent outbursts to further their efforts, of unraveling our Constitution and our form of government.  All of us should unite in not accepting them or their stance.

The KKK is another group we should roundly rebuke.  We should not have a problem uniting and not accept their ideas at all, and scare them out of existence.  I don’t see how either of these stances can’t be universal, but yet if you listen to the media right now, they’re tell you that you have to accept one or other.  Aren’t you getting tired of these massive organizations telling you to accept one pill or the other?

The BLM is yet another group we should not accept.  As much as they’ve had people come forward who speak and articulate points, the results have been nothing but violent events, businesses being torched, innocent people being hurt, and key witnesses in criminal and civil cases being assassinated.  BLM, for all it’s legitimized grievances, has nothing but violence attached to their activities.  It’s a very short history, but it’s been substantiated enough that none of us should accept the existence of this group either.  Their efforts are no better than the previous two I’ve talked about.

If we truly want to expunge hate, then we have to expunge all of it, you can’t pick sides, and you can’t choose which one has interesting points.  These three groups caused the problems in Charlottesville, no one else.  As I write this, the driver of the vehicle, James Fields, has been identified as member of an unidentified democrat party, and a possible member of the KKK.  It stands to reason that regardless of his affiliations, violence can’t be accepted, and the groups that are inevitably involved violence need to be removed from our way of life.

But more so, we all need to get engaged, and we need to unify in not letting these groups cause these problems.  We all have to rebuke their existence together.  That’s how America comes together, right now.

Cubs Sunday: 1st Place in the Division

So a lot has changed yet again on the Northside.

The Cubs are a game above in the division, and have hit a few win streaks that are causing them to separate from the rest of the pack.

Their last ten has them losing more than winning, but don’t mind that.  Manager Joe has a theory that we need to be playing more night games, and get away from the typical day time shuffle that has been a signature of Cubs baseball since before most of us were born.

Wilson Contreras was on a serious tear.  And then he seriously strained his hamstring.  The Cubs had been riding his stellar plate defense, and his incredible bat for awhile.

Rizzo is batting .262, and band-wagoners are swaying back to whatever rocks they came from.

People are saying this is as good as they’ll get, and they’re going to start descending again.

Have no fear.  I have none.  These guys are real terror, and while they look a bit toppled, they’ve only just begun.  They have less than 50 games left, and they’ve picked a great time to band together.

Some things that have stuck out to me:

Addison Russell isn’t getting better offensively.  He’s not merely in a slump, he’s competing in every at bat, for his skill level, but he seems to be tailing off, making less quality contact with each day.  It’s not improving in any situation.  It’s not improving when facing any count.  It’s not improving when dealing with a certain pitch.  It’s simply not improving.  It may be time to deal him while he still has value.

Ben Zobrist is in hang-over city.  That’s it, nothing else to say about it.

Jason Heyward is settling into what the rest of his career is going to be:  Defensive dynamo, who can hit .250 plus.  I’ll take it!

We need more Albert Almora Jr.  We need more Jon Jay.  With experience these two are going to be clutch contact hitters, with spark plug influence on the line-up.  Put ’em in coach!

John Lackey is going to retire.  There’s no way he’s going to keep pitching at this rate.  It’s sad to think about.

Jose Quintana has become more effective pitch to pitch with the Cubs defense behind him.  It’s amazing what the confidence of routine catches will do for a young hurler.

Hector Rondon is done.  That’s even more gut wrenching than Lackey.  Rondon is a young pitcher who had so much promise, ripped from him through two major injuries, and now he battles minor setbacks in the wake of recovery, along with limitations his body now places on his natural form.  He’ll finish his career as a Cub this year, and that will be it for him.

Eddie Butler has presented himself as an interesting puzzle piece.  We’ll need a bit more tape to sort it all out, but optimism says he’ll find a spot at the tail end of the rotation.

There’s far more in Wrigleyville than my synopsis, but let’s watch the rest play out.  I know I will be!  Eamus Catuli!

Order Walk with Warriors

Hey, another quick note about Walk with Warriors, order yours today, and very soon I’ll be making appearances to discuss my contribution to this veteran project, at which point I can sign your copy.

This is the first installation of an on-going project intended to support veterans, giving them a voice to their stories of service.  Even if you’re not a fan of me, I urge you to support this project, and help veterans express their stories, while giving the rest of the world a chance to understand them better.

Order Walk with Warriors right here.

Friday Night Opinion: Seattle Mayor Ed Murray Must Resign

I know most people are living in or near Seattle.  Mathematics and statistical distribution says it’s not possible.

But I must comment on one of the worst scandal-not scandal’s I’ve seen in some time.

Ed Murray is the embattled Mayor of Seattle.  The reason he is embattled is because it has come to light that his adult past may not be as “clean” as we’d all expect of a mayor.

First, some men that are younger than Mr. Murray came forward alleging that when they were teens, he paid to have sex with them by offering them drugs as well as cash.  Allegations like these never look good in public, but I would agree that these allegations alone are not a reason to resign.

But, those allegations started gaining traction in the form of court hearings.  Murray, continuing to run for re-election, boldly said that these allegations were part of a “right-wing conspiracy” aimed to take him down.

And that’s the point that I had to raise an eyebrow about his involvement in these alleged past discretions.

If you know anything about Seattle politics, they haven’t had a conservative, or “right-wing” anything in the city since James Braman, who last served as mayor in 1969.  Since then it’s been an onslaught of progressively aggressive left-wing ideologues, with Murray being the most recent iteration of that group.

Murray, along with support of the majority of current Seattle City Council, has ushered in the left’s economic scourge of raising minimum wage to $15.00 an hour.  They’ve made a mess (yet again) of both the drug and homeless problems in the city, they’ve gone after property owners in Seattle, who in their opinion, are charging too much for rent for certain apartments – going so far as naming a law after a landlord which is prompting a legitimate lawsuit, and the final piece of Murray’s tenure, instilling an income tax against what his council has defined as the “wealthy” of Seattle.  In case you’re not catching the theme, these are all examples of major pillars of the far left argument concerning their version of economics, which is suppose to place the common person first, ahead of those that are high earners and innovators.

And for those that are further perplexed, here’s the straight dope:  These kinds of moves within any government, can’t be accomplished by the first group in support of them that has achieved a majority of office.  It takes years, upon years, upon years to get the right kind of momentum going.  Usually, somewhere between 40 and 50, and we’re at 48 years of progressive liberalism in Seattle.

There certainly are conservatives in Seattle and Washington State, but to think that they could organize such an effort to take down an openly gay mayor is comic relief at it’s finest.

The fact that Murray uses that reasoning for these allegations only helps solidify them.  Though it will take a court to sort the mess out.

But, if that wasn’t enough, more problems with Murray’s past came to light, to include a very damning report from his life in Oregon, where he had adopted a child.  In the report, the investigator who was looking into accusations of child abuse, made clear statements that the adopted child Murray had should have been removed from the home by the State of Oregon, and there was a strong likelihood of both physical and sexual abuse occurring in the home.

It’s this revelation of fact that causes me to put my foot down and state loudly that Ed Murray must resign.  He’s argued that he won’t leave office, because it would cause more problems, with a power vacuum occurring within the council.

The main problem with this, whether the media mentions it or not, is that Murray is failing to respect the desires of the citizens of Seattle.  Despite politics, despite ideals, no citizen in any citizen wants a child abuser as a mayor, nor should they have to accept that.  Murray effectively makes the argument that citizens don’t care enough about their own city to work to remove him, which is essentially the only option, since it is clear the council is not going to take action to remove him.  These issues with Murray started to break publicly around February of this year.  It’s August now, and the council has verbally said they’d like him to leave, but they’ve done nothing to remove him, which they have some power in.  But more to the point, if they truly stood for children’s rights, which they’ve invoked about four dozen times over the last five months, you’d think the first thing to do is begin removal proceedings.  There’s no legal grounds for Murray to sue, he serves at the pleasure of citizens, and there’s nothing in law that stops council members from energizing the cause.

And considering that Kshama Sawant, who is the biggest liability on the council, if you read the link news story, you would think this is a no-brainer for them to get started, since she stuck her nose in the business of the City of Seatac, which also had a push for a $15.00 an hour minimum wage.

But of course, while the council has strict rules on their members getting involved in other municipalities politics, they didn’t enforce it with Sawant then, which then allowed the politcally-motivated Seatac judge to dismiss the criminal charges on the worst legal grounds ever uttered in a court of law. 

And since it’s clear they’ll let a council member act criminally, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they’ll let a mayor, whether or not the statute of limitations has been reached.  But this is why the citizens of Seattle need to take this effort on.  Because until they do signal their supreme interest in having ethical leadership, this kind of terrible circumstance is going to continue to visit this fair city multiple times.

On a side note, this might be the reason that voting down party lines is a bad idea.  It gives people the chance to fast-track themselves, despite their inability to maintain a proper life.  Of course, that idea can be used subjectively, but I think this example states it very well.  While there is no question that no one helped Murray do any of the despicable things he’s been accused of, or been found to have done, it is clear that due to a liberal-friendly media, a liberal-friendly citizenry, and delegates, advisers, business leaders, really a whole apparatus of political “clergy” who were friendly to a politician like Murray that has allowed him to serve as long as he has without anyone digging into his background.

It ought to be concerning to citizens that it took until May 2017 for the child abuse investigation to be made known, seeing as Murray has served in as a State Representative in Washington State for several terms before becoming mayor.  Those findings were made in the 80’s.  How was the press not capable of finding this out?

All the more reason for citizens to take over their own cause, which is the city, and forced Murray to resign, or face recall.

Character Development: How Should you Write Someone

Writers have a lot of avenues to collect advice on how to write characters.  I’m not the kind of person that tells people how to write.  I come from the Charles Bukowski school of writing:

Just write.

That being said, I was talking with a few people who have some of my business affairs at heart, and as I was discussing a particular character for a book I have in development (not list on here by the way, so you’ll have to wait), they said “Matthew, you really need to discuss your insight into writing people, because you don’t have the same information to provide, you don’t from a purely academic background in writing, and you have experience with real world characters.”

I thought to myself the same thing I always think:  No one cares what I think about writing, they only care about what I write, because that’s all anyone has ever cared about.

But they pushed me about this, so I thought I would give a little bit of advice about writing characters that I find useful.  This isn’t necessarily universal truth, so don’t think you can apply it to all characters.  In fact, that’s the first thing to remember:  if you think it’s something you can apply to all characters, you’re wrong.

No one in this world exhibits the same kind of characteristics as another, to a complete T.  Even identical twins have differences if you pay attention.

And in a novel, it’s no different.  In fact, it can be even worse for the writer.  Because your reader has that book to read, over and over again.  Or more likely, re-read that one paragraph, over and over again.  If they start to notice cracks in your character, it’s likely because you applied some “universal truth” to all of them, and it’s made one of your characters seem unrealistic, or at least illogical.  So don’t apply the same thing to all your characters.

Motivation can be tricky.  You may think that your character is motivated to only one thing, or at least, common writing logic says your character should be motivated to one end.  Is that true in real life?

I highly doubt it.  I know some real life “characters” that seem to think that they can get high all the time and still effectively work.  Sure, one is going to win out over the other, but that doesn’t mean that either motivation for them is any less real.

If you try to force your character to choose between motivations, it seems unnatural.  Now, if your character gets to a point where they have to choose one over the other, that’s a ‘moment of truth’ situation.  In order to get there, your character would have had to analyze pros and cons of the two motivations, and internally come to a conclusion.  Then you can reveal that result in that moment.

But by and large, characters should have multiple motivations.  You yourself are likely motivated by six or seven hobbies, and two are pursued heavier than the others, but that makes them no less valuable to you when each opportunity to pursue them affords itself.

And a third thing, never, ever, never, should you end a story with any character eating a slice of cake.  That is ridiculously decadent and not the sort of thing you should be aiming for!  Cake?  Seriously?  Why don’t you have Marie Antoinette make an appearance while you’re at it.

When it comes to writing, I tend to talk with two truths and a lie.  I dare you to figure this one out.

Update: Hope in Varnell, Georgia

In a very strong showing,  in the small town of Northern Georgia we discussed a few weeks ago, Varnell, citizens showed they were done fooling around with the city council nonsense, and told their sitting council that it’s time for them to resign.

To recap, Varnell Police responded back in June to an incident at Sheldon Fowler’s residence, who was then a city council member.  It turns out that Fowler is sexually aggressive with his daugthers, and also makes fun of one for having learning disabilities.  I don’t want to review the whole situation, but for your own benefit, here’s where you can read about Dad of the Year.

He refused to resign in lieu of the arrest, but then eventually did.  The city council, in response to “one of their own” getting held accountable, decided that disbanding the police department was the correct action.  The citizens had one word for it: wrong.

Not only was this not a popular move by city council, they also violated sunshine law requirements, because they misadvertised the special meeting where they took action.  For one, the City of Varnell prior to this had a rare distinction for being a open, transparent city government, achieving the highest award given with the State of Georgia for the effort to be transparent.

This whole episode places that entire reputation in jeopardy, which was likely built by many council members and mayors prior to those currently serving.  What a bad move by the current council.

At a special meeting called on July 25, 2017, the council could not achieve quorum, because as it turns out, one of the currently sitting council members who voted to disband the police department, doesn’t even live in the city limits, which is required.

Funny how following the rules seems to be so hard for this crop of city council members.

The person resigned prior to the meeting, because it’s been documented that they’ve lived outside of city limits since last year, and they cite being threatened, but it’s more likely they don’t want to face an ethics investigation that would have been carried out.

As far as the special meeting, the only council member in support of the police department was gone on a family emergency, so because there is no quorum, they had to postpone the meeting.

The two remaining council members left in shame, and rightfully so.  They’ve tried to grind a political axe that no city council members are supposed to have, but sometimes are given for very stupid reasons.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it is that this has played out this way.  My theory is that the two council members in favor of disbanding will eventually resign.  There’s no way they’ll be voted back in, and there’s no reason for them to stay in office now, since it is clear the citizens are going to take action to keep them from conducting any business.  The citizens don’t trust these people.  Nor should they.  They want a police department they can trust, and they want to feel safe.

And they should have that piece of mind.

Military Nude Picture Scandal: Where are we today?

It’s been several months since we first heard of the disgusting military nude picture situation.  I know a lot of people call it a scandal, but that word is overused in my opinion.

The last known status on this investigation was that a joint task force of FBI and NCIS agents have a small office a Quantico, where they sit eight to ten hours a day, scouring through photos on several sites, trying to capture the roots of photos, identify victims, and locate where the people distributing them are.

At the same time that update went out, several self-identified victims came forward, some who had nude photos shared, others who did not, stating they were upset by the photos being sent, rightfully so.

As a veteran, I find the whole thing appalling.  It has ruined unit and branch cohesion in a way that only the service would ever be capable of doing to itself – implosion.

That’s not to say that the leadership of our armed services caused this problem, because they didn’t.  That’s not to say they contributed to this problem, because they didn’t.

The problem has been the acts of about four dozen members of various branches of service, who have since disseminated all of these photos and videos to tens of thousands of others, who in turn have re-posted them to tens of thousands, and so on.

I have always said that our military, and the things service members do while not in combat, are a direct reflection of ourselves.

While these photos were being hung around the internet, many of these female victims were serving bravely overseas, some were preparing for overseas assignments, some where in the States, getting equipment and personnel ready for war-fighting.  And yet, they were being victimized, over and over and over again.

If you are a veteran, or actively serving, be it on active duty, reserves, or national guard, and you support the dissemination of this material, you should do yourself and everyone else who does or has served a favor, and ask your unit command for discharge right now.  We don’t have room for people like you in the service.

When I served, masculinity abounded in the service, as it should, and certainly there was varying degrees of womanizing.  The most terrible thing I can gather from this is that it’s that casual pervalence of looking at women as a conquest is what was used by these few bad apples to support the actions they took.

I can tell you that nothing could be further from the truth.  It’s understandable that people would link these two things together, because it appears quite easy.  But in reality, in order to turn your interest in the opposite sex into victimization speaks to a entirely different reality that the perpetrators are working from.  It’s called narcissism.

True, we all experience levels of narcissistic behavior within ourselves, but the level this group of criminals are at is sociopathic.   Their actions show that not only do they think they are superior, but that their idea of women is that they are merely here for their convenient delight.  That the only purpose they serve is when they themselves have an itch to scratch.  And that’s why guys like them post this content.  They have a momentary need, they solve for it, and then they don’t think about it ever again.

The idea that you can take whatever you want from a woman, is not an idea that ever come up in the passive womanizing I was aware of in my time of service, nor was it something I ever explored.  Did I find certain women “hot?”  Absolutely!  And I don’t feel bad for having my own opinion of what is attractive and what isn’t, and I never will feel bad for that.  But what I do know, is regardless of how I may have felt about a particular woman in my dating past, is that I never decided to embarrass her for being who she is with me, and no one else.  I always took that as my experience with her, and no one else will learn of it from me.

You can call it what you like, but I think the difference between civility and barbarianism is when you experience something raw and potentially filled with emotion, you shouldn’t be looking to exploit that experience, or any person involved.

Heck, even barbarians have a level of civility when it comes to this, so maybe that comparison is insulting.

But more to the issue at hand, is the male role as protector.  Too often, we as men avoid that role.  I say too often, and don’t misunderstand the use.  When I say that, I don’t mean by and large, men all over are devoid of responsibility.  I’m saying that sometimes in the most crucial moments of decision making, collectively, we as men miss the mark of what we should be doing.  If we considered our role as protectors in every decision we made, I think our society would be a lot safer in general, and we wouldn’t have as much fodder for news and blogs to cover, because risk taking behavior would be cut by third overall, and literally all deviant behavior would be cut in half or more.  As I’m getting older, I know this is becoming a larger part of my process, and I can only hope it would be installed by many other men.

Before the investigation opened, I was sent a link on a certain social media site (which I won’t reveal), to view photos that were undoubtedly part of this investigation.  I didn’t think twice, and didn’t click the link.  I knew something was wrong, because it’s a social media site I’m on, but I have no activity, so I figured it was spam anyway, and that the title was some attempt at click bait.

When I heard of the problem being exposed, and the speech given by General Robert Neller, I instantly thought of that link.  I looked at it, and even clicked on it, and it confirmed my suspicions.  The people sending it were looking for anyone with a military background.  For whatever reason, they thought we were all interested.  I guess we might all be interested, but we all have a very different take on this.

What I saw really brought this issue through my front door and right in my face, where I had to sit and think about my past as a man, and how I’ve related to women over the years.  I can’t say I’ve been perfect in my relationships.  I can’t say that in my relationships that I would do it all the same again.  I know I have misstepped, I know I have done things wrong.  But I can be sure that I’ve never done anything remotely like this to any woman, and wouldn’t dream of it.  But I do wonder what it takes for someone to reach their level of depravity.

Prior to writing this, I looked to see if that link was still active, and it sadly is.  But it has been receiving far less traffic than before, and I’ve noticed most of the users who posted the material are now deactivated, probably either by their own doing, or maybe a sign that these accounts are slowly being dealt with, and so are the things they’ve done.

There’s been no updates that I can find on this investigation since May of this year, and that’s most likely because law enforcement agencies have taken the correct stance in not discussing active investigations.

In one sense, it can’t be done fast enough.  But on the other hand, having investigations experience myself, I would hope it goes as slow as investigators need to make as many defense-proof cases as possible.  Because I don’t want a single one of these perverts getting to claim honorable discharge and reap benefits of service they betrayed.

Review: Our Divided City – PBS Kansas City

Kansas City is known as a bastion of history.  From western folklore, to blues music, to barbecue, Kansas City, on both sides of the river, has a tremendous cultural past, and is not truly valued as either should be.

Kansas City on the Missouri side has a big problem when it comes to housing, and always has.  For one, the city has a historic black neighborhood, that is considered to be physically marked by Troost Avenue.  Every neighborhood east of that main arterial is labeled as predominantly black, by municipal agencies, and in Our Divided City, an investigative journalism piece by PBS, is labeled as a segregated community.  The inference they make is that white people in Kansas City are keeping black people in this one part of the city, which accounts for the neighborhoods: Wendell Phillips, Boston Heights/Mt. Hope, Santa Fe, Oak Park, Palestine, Ivanhoe, Seven Oaks, South Round Top, Washington-Wheatley, Manheim Park, 23rd Street PAC,  Key Coalition, and Vineyard.

Anyone can look on at the dated images provided at Google Maps, and see that there is a major problem with boarded up houses, sitting in between occupied homes, or taking up half the block, where one person is by themselves, among what can only be described as a major fire trap waiting for a match.  But these houses attract occupants. Squatters on occasion, but criminals mostly.  Kansas City has a problem with youthful violence, some of it linked to gangs, a lot of the violence is linked to disputes among young men who are neighbors.  The story is just another iteration of one we hear over and over again, and no matter what resources are thrown at the problem, nothing changes.

In this case, KCMO Police have come up with the NoVA program, which stands for Kansas City No Violence Alliance.  The PBS video only provides a cursory glance at the program, but apparently the program works as an intervention strategy to break the cycle of violence that young men in the community seemed to be destined for as soon as they walk outside their homes.  They show how police are hands off with citizens identified as being at risk for violent crime, they print up graphic-heavy invitations for each person identified, and then the police hand deliver them.  The meetings take place every quarter, and involves a lot of speeches from civic leaders, religious clergy, social workers, and community members affected by violence.

They also speak with one participant in the program who says he’s left the violence behind, but they never discuss what he’s doing instead, nor what the program has provided to help him out of the cycle.  Since it is a new approach to addressing violent crime, no doubt there is success.  The true measure of such a program is whether it will have sustained success.

They then cut back to the Oak Park neighborhood, where this video began, to show the handful of neighbors in communication with one another, discussing a drug dealer who lives nearby, who is dealing directly out of the house, with cars passing through the neighborhood at all hours of day and night.  What makes this worse is that the citizens, who talk quite openly about their experience trying to remove people from the neighborhood involved in crime.  Their revelations?  Drug dealers threaten violence towards them.  Which should probably come as a big shock to everyone, since we’ve listened ad-nausea to the last nine or ten years of national media coverage on the topic of non-violent drug offenders, which include drug dealers, who are in prison for what is termed “lengthy” sentences.  Why so much concern?  Because these drug dealers are non-violent.  And yet, right here, on PBS film, we have citizens complaining that drug dealers in their neighborhood threaten violence against these tax-paying citizens for simply not wanting crime in their neighborhood.  But that’s not all.  On man in the film, Mr. Hill  describes how he has to carry a long gun, with a bed sheet over it to case a silhouette, to send the message to this drug dealer not to cause him harm.  Sounds like a very a non-violent situation, doesn’t it?

In another earlier segment linked to this part of the film, a very nice elderly couple talks about how they were singled out multiple times on their own street, in front of their house by who they termed as drug dealers, who stated “We’re going to kill you and all your family,” if the couple didn’t stop organizing their neighbors and putting pressure on drug dealers to stop committing crime.  Getting back to Mr. Hill, he contributes burglary, theft, extensive vandalism, and auto theft to the drug dealer on his street.  This couple makes similar inferences about the groups of drug dealers they are contending with.

I do wonder when we as a society are going to refute this mantra about drug dealers and how “non-violent” they are.  They tend to get caught dealing drugs, because that is the bulk of their activity, and drug crimes are the easiest cases to prosecute in the United States.  Theft and burglary is not very easy at all.  Sure, people get caught for these things, but for one burglar caught, there’s somewhere between 10 and 15 unsolved burglaries, on national average.  Adding another consideration here, how many times have you read about burglaries that have gone wrong?  In some, the criminals shoot home owners, in some home owners shoot criminals.  Does any of this sound non-violent to you?  Crime is a problem, because most assuredly crime only breeds more crime, especially when left unchecked.

The film moves to the Washington-Wheatley community where police have entered a vacant home, and arrested a felon on the run with a warrant.  The neighborhood reaction?  Celebration.  But in that same breath, the citizens bring up the fact of how many vacant houses are in their neighborhood.

And that brings us to our next portion of the film.  Vacant homes, trash, taxes, and a city hall pinned into it’s own system.

It turns out that with a cache of vacant houses, not only does it promote crime, but it promotes…..illegal dumping.  There’s way too much trash being dumped in these neighborhoods, that is clear.  The city has a public works function that conducts clean up of large piles of trash found in neighborhoods, usually within these vacant and empty lots.  The response time is awful, not even worth quoting.  But to make matters worse, the public works department cleaned up a lot that was reported and then promptly left their city logo branded trash bags on the sidewalk in front of the house.  It’s laughable to say the least, and while it amounts to two trash bags and a tire, it shows the ineffectiveness of leadership and expectations held within the public works department.  The concerned citizen calls in Mr. Hill, who we spoke of earlier, and he begins picking up the mess, and finding things that the public works staff didn’t find on the property, on the driveway.  Which really adds to the idea that the public works staff is not motivated to do a great service.

Mr. Hill then speaks on camera that he’s received several fines from the public works inspectors who are charged with enforcing building code on residential and commercial property, but that the home in question is owned by the city, and it has no gutters, eaves that are rotten and falling down, not mention busted windows, and an overall derelict appearance.  This is something that his property is not allowed at all, and he finds it unfair.

Which, on the surface is certainly accurate.  Especially with the current condition of vacant, city-owned homes, inspectors should be writing less infractions, and working with home owners in maintaining the property, especially if they live in the home, like Mr. Hill does.

However, the idea that the city should fix up these homes is silly, which is the suggestion made by Hill and the citizens he’s helping out with this trash pick-up.  When the city owns a property, they act as a surrogate, not a land owner, nor should they ever be in the business of being a land owner in that typical fashion.

There may be some some usefulness to them taking a few of these houses and fixing them up, and offer an incentive to police officers to live in them.  This type of program has been done before in specifically targeted low-income housing in other parts of the country, but this would be the first attempt at targeting what is considered a full-value neighborhood.  But considering the wide-spread problems of house blight, it is an idea that might actually rally the area.  And considering the pro-police view among the current home owners, this would be a welcome sight.

One point that PBS makes is that the year prior to filming, the city inspectors issued $660,000 worth of fines.  And it is likely that the city sees this fine system as a way to keep their public works budget in the black, in order to carry out what work they state they do, like trimming of weeds five times a year at each city owned house.

After a discussion about the lack of maintenance on city, there is more information about what Kansas City owns and doesn’t, and the numbers cause you to understand exactly what is causing the problem:  At the date of this film, city hall is in physical ownership of over 13,000 houses, within the area bounded by the mentioned neighborhoods.  It’s astounding that any form of government would have that much control over land within their jurisdiction, let alone a concentrated area.

The next segment of the film shows David Larrabee, an independently wealthy entrepreneur, who’s trying desperately to build a real estate market out of the blight, because as a person coming from the financial sector, he see’s that the only effective way of fixing this problem is creating a reasonable market, as in quality homes built and sold for well under what they would else.  In a sense, Larrabee is doing exactly what governments should be doing whenever they have this problem of abandoned homes, turn the government land grab into a private sector affair.  Unfortunately, Larrabee is facing issues with banks, who don’t see how he can be improving homes that originally trade on the city’s land bank trust.  Their issue is that the legal documents behind a home, like title, have questionable routes to how the city receives them, and who truly has a claim.  To give you further perspective, consider that if someone does have title rights to a home that Larrabee rebuilds, they could exercise title rights to the home in court, seeking removal of the person who purchased the home from Larrabee, which leaves the bank on the hook for the loan they authorized.  Which again, shows where government should be focusing their efforts.

In order to clear a path, government should be putting resources towards clearing the titles of the properties, rather than selling them as soon as they are in receivership, which is what this portion of the film is suggesting.

Mayor James appears again, and he discusses tax incentives given to developers, which the city school district has cried foul about.  And in a very quick and raw break down, the film makers suggest that the biggest tax incentives are found in the downtown core of Kansas City, and only a small amount are found in the northern end of the east side part of the city.

In this segment, the mayor receives a lot of quoted criticism, directly and indirectly, from various people who feel negatively impacted by his use of incentives.

The problem is that the idea is very skewed.  First, Kansas City’s downtown is heavily commercial in nature.  Commercial property holds much higher values than single family homes, by and large.  The idea that heavier incentives are in downtown is not nearly as big of a deal as the critics make it out to be, and it’s really their biggest red herring they launch into this discussion.

Second, when you look at the incentives given to the area in the far north of the east side, they are both developer-driven, and a big chunk of it is in commercial property…..so we’re not really re-inventing the wheel here.  Development groups in this day and age focus heavily on commercial ventures.  Any person with an 8th grade reading comprehension can spend a day reading a week’s worth of the Wall Street Journal and see that one of the biggest, stables, portion of the market is commercial real estate stock investment.  Whether we as a country want to admit it or not, commercial real estate is where the bulk of our investment and profit power resides.  If we want that to change, then we need to change our behaviors as individuals.  But I can tell you this, a place without commerce, is a place that will die, commune lifestyles do not succeed.  Look it up.

The next segment focuses on the police coming to a neighborhood on their own time to fully clean up a row of houses being used by criminals repeatedly.  It’s the feel good moment the tone of this unrelenting film needed.  But it comes with yet again, serious flaws in thinking.  The police are helping, neighbors are using chain saws to take out over grown trees, they have dumpsters to load everything into.  Even the fire department is out taking care of trash and debris.

The film catches up with John Wood, the housing director of Kansas City.  He’s the person in charge of the effort to deal with vacant homes, and manage their impact on the communities.

When he’s asked if he’s embarrassed by what he witnesses in the neighborhood he’s volunteering in that day, he shrugs that off, and says it causes him to want to work harder to find solutions.  And his solution?  More government power to exercise over disregarded homes, and he suggests that having power before the homes become forfeited due to back taxes.  I don’t know how he’s not embarrassed by that statement.  No one should be working to increase government power, and this statement alone should be alarming to residents.  The government doesn’t need more power.  If anything, the government needs to learn how to better use the power it’s already been given.

At your place of business, if an employee misses several crucial deadlines on a project, and they ask for more control of the project in order to meet demands, is that control given?  No, it isn’t.  This happens zero percent of the time.  In this case, the effort is no different.  It may be true that his agency is working at capacity, and has been flooded with forfeited homes, and doesn’t have the staff to compete in a sprint.  It’s more than likely that with a marathon pace, his agency can and will address each home.  But our expectations as consumers needs to temper.  Twitter may give us the ability to communicate with the world in seconds.  Convenience stores may allow us to purchase five items in the span of two minutes.  This doesn’t mean that the effort to cull a property, sell it at a tax auction, and keeping up with everything in between is going to happen in a week or a month.

If we truly care about our neighbors and our street, which if you’ve read any of my earlier work you know I’m a proponent of, then we have to dig our own two hands in, and government needs to facilitate, not manage, the problem.

Next they reflect on what has happened in the year during the filming process, and they speak with Major Joe McHale of KCMO Police, who had introduced us to the NoVA program earlier.  He was delighting in the fact that through August, they were on pace for a record low homicide count.  Most police departments look at the summer months as their worst in terms of violence and property crime.  Since it August was ending, and the trend was down, it would appear that Kansas City had every reason to look forward to a positive outlook in terms of crime.

And then September hit, and they had 22 homicides, not mention a slew of domestic and other violent crime that simply put the celebration on hold.  Major McHale suggests that it will be several years until they see impact.

The end message is mostly in unison, the Mayor, Major McHale, various citizens that were interviewed in the film saying that in the end, it comes down to the community coming together and stopping the violence, that government on it’s own can’t address it, the community as a whole needs to.

And it’s fitting that message finally shows up, because it should have been the entire message throughout the entire time.  There’s no reason why the community as a whole should not take a strong stance against violence.  There’s no reason why they shouldn’t have a strong sense of community.

Throughout this film, we continue to see how the neighborhoods are not appealing, aren’t places that promote individual growth, and are breeding grounds for crime.  And yet these same people who are so vocally against it all, continue to blame government for their problems.

One segment that paints a different picture is one showing where the Nutter-Ivanhoe Neighborhood Center gets some brief coverage about what they provide to community members; gardening classes, after school tutoring, a number of other functions.

But considering what all these neighborhoods are experiencing, why is there not an aggressive plan to buy back all the vacant homes in the neighborhoods?  Why have none of these civic-minded people thought to do that?  It’s quite amazing that this doesn’t come up once in the film.

A second consideration:  if it’s difficult for the city to clean up these properties, why are they not attempting to contract out the work?  Or better yet, offer money to the community associations for the work?  Cleaning up of the properties, as in trash removal and landscaping, as the film suggests, could be done at very competitive prices at the ground level through the associations.  At first sight, I can see a scenario where the government pays $250 per property clean up, plus dumping expenses at the proper facilities.  It’s a win-win for these associations, who already employ people.  For one, they can employ more full time staff for this work, most likely offering the jobs to unemployed youth in the community, and can see their property values increase.  Why hasn’t anyone come up with that idea?

The KC Land Bank sells these properties at auction for what they feel is competitive pricing, meaning they cover the tax bill, and if there is a bidding war, perhaps a little extra, which is roundly absorbed by their housing function.

Well, why don’t they look their sale averages, and offer these properties to the community organizations for half the price?  It gets government out of the land owner business, and it gives the communities greater control over what happens within their neighborhoods.  And before you swear this idea off, a quick glance at Kansas City Land Bank shows that most of these houses are selling for less than 500 dollars.  I can’t imagine that these community organizations couldn’t come up with money to get a hold of all these properties, even one by one if necessary.  With these organizations being the major holders of property, they could be the one’s with the power to decide who to sell them to for development purposes.  And with each of these people in these organizations having relationships with local banks on personal level, it makes it difficult for the banks not to want to finance projects to fix the houses for resale, or to approve a third party who fix the houses, sells them, and asks for appraisal and inspection, to get a proper review that is reflective of the revitalization effort.

One major complaint throughout the film is that there are liquor stores abound, but no place for typical commerce, like groceries, coffee shops, and such.  If the neighborhood organizations become the major land owner in the area, they could potentially have enough property in one concentration to reveal a potential location for re-zoning and the introduction of layered commercial ventures, with a focus on neighborhood members owning the businesses.  Again, why anyone in these communities wouldn’t try to take this on, I find it puzzling.

There are very easy fixes to this situation, and the people profiled in the film could work towards all of them, if their interests were in empowering the community.  I sure hope they are, because East Kansas City looks like they use it, and this could start a whole new way for neighborhood and community centers to repair their forgotten streets.

In the end, what I got out of this film was that the city needs to work harder to clear off and validate a clean title to transfer these properties, they need to focus on handing these properties off to these neighborhood organizations, and these organizations need to empower themselves by cleaning up the trash, and not waiting for the government.

Friday Night Opinion: Minneapolis Mayoral Candidate Doesn’t Want Armed Police

Raymond Dehn is a liberal mayoral candidate for the City of Minneapolis.  Honestly, I could stop writing at this point, and the title and this sentence would explain itself.

But I will continue, because it’s really worth discussing, not to mention the response from the current mayor, and everyone’s favorite white woman to hate this month, Betsy Hodges.

Dehn, coming off the “high” of winning the vote at the Democratic Farmer Labor convention, a Minnesota affair that unquestionably relies on communist values, decided to open up to the media at random about his plan concerning the Minneapolis Police Department.

As you may recall, a shooting death just occurred in the southwest part of the city, where Justine Damond was killed by Officer Mohamed Noor while trying to report a sexual assault.  The reasons for his decision are not clear because he’s refusing to make a statement, and appears to be awaiting the conclusion of the investigation, which will undoubtedly bring charges against him.

But Dehn has decided to prove himself, and his ultra-liberal values, to be exactly what they reveal themselves to be over and over again, knee-jerk.

He’s decided that disarming MPD is the appropriate “reform” in light of this single incident.  Take note, that MPD has not had any use of force incidents under federal review since 2006, and while they have experienced accusations of racism, both internally and externally, maintain a healthy track record of appropriate force, as compared to other large urban communities.  This one incident is an outliar to all the good work done by MPD officers.

But when you’re a liberal, trying to overtake a liberal, you have to say more outrageous things they have said in order to get that coveted news microphone in front of your face, so Dehn stated that MPD officers shouldn’t have their firearms, and that their only access should be within their cars.  He then made a bunch of reinforcement statements stating that this was really important.

So, I don’t assume anyone’s political ties, and I don’t go out of my way to badger either side, but I am taking my tone with this, because this is the quintessential ‘out of touch’ liberal that conservatives talk about, by and large.  If you’re a liberal reading this, and you’ve ever asked conservatives you know what their problem with your side of the sandbox is, this is it.  People like this on the left exist, and they shouldn’t be allowed to represent the left, let alone speak out loud in public.

Dehn makes his one point, albeit a small one, when you compare it to the amount of things that the left and right disagree about, but when conservatives discuss why the left is wrong, he is the classic example.  If you are a liberal, you should not be supporting this guy.  You should not condone what he’s saying.  You should tell all your friends in Minneapolis not to vote for him.  I say this, not because I want to tell you what to do, I say this because if we’re ever going to reach a place in this country where logic and reason rule the day, and not feelings, we’re going to have to exclude people like Dehn, who reacts with his feelings, and has no experience in law enforcement, other than apparently serving as a State Representative where he’s not even completed his first term on the Public Safety Committee.

He lacks key experience, and he lacks context, and he’s trying to make up for it by saying outlandish things that incite certain people to feel like he’s a savior.  Well, he’s not.  He’s trying to get people killed, mainly officers.  And if he’s not, then he hasn’t thought his stance and it’s consequences through.

This month alone, three officers, and two K-9 dogs have been killed by gunfire.  One officer, Lieutenant Aaron Allen of the Southport Police Department in Indiana, died less then 48 hours after Dehn’s statement was made, by a person who’s car had rolled over during a collision, when that person exited the vehicle and shot him.  Lt. Allen came to save people trapped in a car, and doesn’t get to return to his family because of it.  The outcome unfortunately would not be any different, but imagine being told at your job there’s a solid chance you’re going to get shot at for simply being associated with said job, and you’re not allowed to have adequate tools to defend yourself.

This is why Dehn’s big idea (or rather, mouth) is useless, and it is exactly why liberal more than any other group need to reject him.  He’s not safe as a leader, and I would imagine he’s gotten away thus far as a junior representative, and sitting one various boards because he hasn’t taken any hard positions prior to this.

But his big mouth, er…idea, brought on an interesting response from the Mayor.

And I quote, “And if we’re going to talk about changes in gun policy, we shouldn’t start with police officers, who are going to be operating in a world with people who have guns.”

She places a lot of inflection on the word ‘start,’ and it probably doesn’t surprise too many that a far-left liberal would make a state indicative of their belief that disarming citizens is the answer.  But she says start, as in, “disarming police could eventually be an option, but that whole second amendment of the Constitution is getting in the way of this progress, so we’ll have to really work on removing the second amendment.

Look, they both are saying things typical of the current climate, both politically and socially, so this one outburst doesn’t really get the coverage it deserves.  Quite frankly, there was a time when someone like Dehn would be automatically disqualified from running or continuing to serve in office for making such a statement, and that standard shouldn’t be any different today.  The need for armed law enforcement in the US is stronger now than every before.  Ambushes, planned shootings, hi-jacking of buildings, schools, and the list of violent acts continue to rage on in this country.  And let’s not forget that a mere three years ago we had half a dozen incidents of attempted or carried-out beheadings in the US.  Only with a view of one’s backyard exclusively could anyone say that disarming police in the US is an option.  And the fact that Mayor Hodges has tipped her hand, with the intent on disarming Minneapolis citizens is not just mere fodder, but a real window in to the city that Dern, she, and other like-minded liberals have in mind.

Disarming police so they can die faster in the streets isn’t going to bring Justine Damond back.  The thought is such a disgusting tribute to the loss of her, that it is insulting to the family.  That her name would ultimately be associated with all the MPD officers killed in the line of duty is abominable.  But quite frankly, that’s the sort of thing that a knee-jerk politician like Dehn would love.  His name minimally attached, and a victim of poor judgment linked, so that our voting public in that future era would have a hard time weighing truth.

People like Dehn and Hodges are opportunists, and their type of behavior is not solely on the left, it just happens that this example presented itself now.

They are part of the problem.  All of us need to be part of the solution.  Don’t vote Dehn, don’t re-elect Hodges.  Get them out.

What Global Aid is Really Telling the US

I’ve been thinking a lot about global aid efforts we in the US put on, both through out taxes, and through our own checkbooks.

In the course of reading about the issue, I also watched the documentary, Poverty, Inc. which was released in 2015.

The recent data, results, and of course responses by people in South America, the Caribbean, and Africa has been astounding to say the least:  they don’t want our help anymore.

The documentary has shed light on the personal experience of those “helped,” or rather, hindered, by aid work and it’s fruits, which further hamper locals from establishing commerce, which in turn helps them sustain their own lifestyle, homes, and families.

It’s quite a bizarre situation.  Since the late 60’s, when television news began corresponding from world locations other than where US military efforts were commencing, when the people in Biafra succeeded from Nigeria, US citizens pounded down the doors of the Nixon administration, demanding we send aid to children and parents, visibly dying of starvation on camera.

Ever since then, the global aid effort has turned into industry, says the documentary, and numerous other experts in the field of economics, who are showing that global aid’s only interest is itself…..sound familiar?

But the personal stories in the film are what expresses it in unfiltered, uninterrupted truth.

There are people in Haiti, who place their children in orphanages, not out of necessity, but because they can’t support children – with the inability to seek work, which is destroyed by all the subsidized food currently in the country.  In 2010, President Bill Clinton brought in tons of rice, and to this date, there are still bags of subsidized rice in country, which decimated the rice farming industry in Haiti, which was fragile to begin with, but sustainable on it’s own.

There’s examples from Rwanda, where people were re-building their own farming community, but in the aftermath of genocidal war, a well-meaning church in the US began sending bulk eggs to the community, circumventing the efforts of one young man, who had long since invested in coups, chickens, and feed to start his own egg business.  Instead, he had to sell everything, and once that happened, they church decided to lay their eggs elsewhere in Africa, which then meant the community would have to buy eggs, from another community down the road.

The examples given provide an overwhelming theme:  Aid organizations, intentionally or not, are eliminating poor people’s ability to start their own business, from relying upon themselves, from becoming self-sufficient.  Does that sound familiar?

The film, along with all the recent data suggests that our best effort, if we are to continue providing aid, is do so in short bursts, when disaster strikes, but that once the people, not their less than representative governments, say it’s time to go, we need to take all our toys, people, and resources, and get out of dodge.

Many reviews of Poverty, Inc. suggest that it’s tone is lighter, and not as critical.  I admit, towards the end, the people being interviewed do try to soften the blow.  But their tone is consistent.  They believe US citizens, along with their aid organizations, are misinformed, misguided, and rooted in colonialism.  They even identify the owner of Toms Shoes as being one of the most colonial-oriented people of the 21st century.  To be blunt, all of these people affected by Global Aid efforts couldn’t be more blunt themselves: Please stop helping us.

Sadly, much of this effort is paid for by taxes raised in the US.  That money is sent directly by our government, or re-directed to non-profits, that in turn spend that money on their efforts.  The film exposes organizations spending much of their money on top of the line vehicles for the country they operate in, paying absorbent salaries to staff, and hiring……house staff!  And here’s the kicker in that situation, they don’t pay at US rates for labor, they pay at the local rate….typically a fraction of a dollar per hour.  Talk about aid!

The help they do need comes from a strong need for the laws in their country to change, so that people can go into business for themselves easily.  And these people believe we could help that effort, espeically these aid groups.  But no one does.  There are countless examples of these people being asked over and over to help in that effort, and what do they do?  Avoid answering, waffle, cower, anything besides help, which is the whole reason they are there to begin with.

Not surprising, the biggest defenders of what is now a multi-billion dollar industry, liberal academics, and celebrities, who try to explain away the data, and most of all the voices of those affected, as scuttle.

For me, that’s the nail in the coffin.  If the US wants to return to it’s powerhouse status, without all the bloat, it’s time we turned off the faucet overseas.  Because the help we give is not wanted, and the help that is needed, we still refuse to offer.