Opinion: Men Should Dress Themselves!

I am not sure when this became a trend, but I have noticed that men, or at least those that appear to be men, are allowing women to dress them.

It is as if men, in general mind you, no longer know how to do anything, most of all prepare thyself for the day laid ahead.

I am baffled at this display of ‘Ineffectualism’ I’ll name it, that men nowadays believe that a woman knows more about men themselves, then the man could ever.

There are three things that have caused the bulk of this, a lack of fathers and fatherhood, the persistent dampening of journey and adventure, which is the nature of men, and the rise of feminist viewpoints that specifically target the evisceration of men.

I’m sure many “feminists” will take issue with summary, but fear not, because I’m not the only one that sees you are not going through a transformation, so much as a brainwashing.  While some thoughts from your movement are useful, many others are not, and whether you understand it or not, they are designed to ruin relations between the sexes, as much, or even more, than the alleged masculine-centric views you oppose.

Be that as it may, a man is nothing if he is not the master of himself, and that does include how he dresses.

As men, whether we are aware of it or not, how you dress says something about you to those you interact with.  You can yell all day long that it’s a social construct that has little meaning now – but the only people I see getting away with not dressing properly are people who already have their fortune, and now people are forced to respect them, come as they are.

Meanwhile, you’re getting mesmerized by their apparent control of the situations they are in, but you’re focusing on the wrong elements of that control.  Many of you seem to think that dressing casual is the only way in life, and that no one cares.  But people do, even those that say they don’t.

If you can’t respect yourself enough to dress appropriately for your own business, how can you ever expect to for others to respect the business that you do?

This is a topic that men need to take serious, if for nothing else reclaiming their own sense of dignity.  How you can look yourself in the mirror while making your significant other into your “mommy” is beyond me.  And if ever there was a setup to that significant other cheating on you, there it is.

I’m not going to insult you all by saying there is one strict formula to follow.  As men, we cover all walks of life, from welders, to writers (dare I say it), to overall breadwinners.  All men should have at least a blue, a black, and a gray suit.  That’s a basic rule.

But even more than that, every man should have an idea of what patterns, what colors, and what styles of shirts, pants, and everything else, accentuate who they are, and what they have to offer the world.

And that is the paradigm every man should operate from, that we have something to offer the world.  Because if she’s no longer interested in that, and is trying to control everything in the house, to include our appearance, she can pack her things, and leave.  Or you can, that choice lies within you.

Take back your dignity, dress yourself.  Do some research on the topic, learn classic attire, and branch out from there.  Stay away from: GQ, Esquire, and jeans with glitter and patterns on them.  Also, despite what The Rolling Stones will have us all believe, holes in clothes are stupid, seriously.

Enjoy your manhood, and quit letting people without a clue tell you how to be.  It’s not their job, and it’s not your role to grant them audience.  They are indeed your enemy.

Twenty Books for 2019

Now that January is out of the way, we can forget everyone’s New Year’s resolutions, and talk straight up about 20 books you should read in 2019.

Why 20, and in 11 months?  Because I wrote it, that’s why!  And these are not books all published in 2018 or 2019.  They are books I’ve either read recently, or in the past few years.  They are in no particular order, and cover a litany of topics.  Enjoy!

  1. The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

Why read it?  Rubin writes about personality in this title, and centers around behavioral psychology in a way that is not normally discussed: the patterns that people place themselves in, when they are not focused on what they’re doing.

It’s important to understand this, because you learn more about people in their actions and behaviors in five minutes, then you could reviewing what they said over 30 years.  Behavioral psychology is too important of a topic to skip over, especially for men ages 20 – 40.

2. The Only Thing Worth Dying For by Eric Blehm

Eric Blehm writes about people who serve our nation.  And he does so with a poet’s wit, and novelist’s dedication.  This title put him on the map, but is so gut-wrenching, you’ll walk away truly learning something about what it’s like to be in armed services, and the true meaning of sacrifice.

3. Personality Plus by Florence Littauer

Another book that focuses on personality, and applies it to interaction with others, Littauer writes to help make sense of our most personal relationships, and how they succeed and fail through our own misgivings, be it through the actions of others, or how we interpret and react to them.

4. Dopesick by Beth Macy

Macy wrote Factory Man, one of the most detailed accounts of big industry in America, and how it is getting swallowed by large foreign interests.  Now Macy takes on the opioid epidemic in America, which is becoming a popular topic for many to create content about. But instead of starting in the middle, Macy goes back to the beginning of the problem, as it manifested through the prescription pads of uber-capitalist doctors in Florida, invading the already delicate landscapes of Appalachia and the Upper Great Plains, until it visited every corner of the US.

5. Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Dr. Frankl’s classic on mankind, and how to truly derive happiness is still as relevant today as it was in 1959.  Rather than search for happiness, Frankl draws the conclusion that for anyone to be happy, they must pursue that which they find to be meaningful.

6. Equal is Unfair by Don Watkins & Yaron Brook

While it’s all the rage to discuss communist economics to the point of causing nausea in the room, Watkins and Brook provide an argument that cuts through the supposed “analysis” done by left-wing media, as it pertains to income inequality, while also pointing out the reality to income statistics.  Even if you’re pro-income equality, you’ll want to read this, because like it or not, these two libertarians have torn down the foundation and framework that made up your viewpoint.

7. Why Nations Go To War by John Stoessinger

Stoessinger’s classic on foreign policy, international diplomacy, and the pressures of managing people and complex resources is still a valid read today, and likely will be into the next century.

8. Buffettology by Mary Buffett

Buffett’s first book on her Ex-Father-in-Law, Warren Buffett, is considered one of the bible’s in the matters of investment.  Not only does it form a playbook for budding investor’s to work from, it also serves as an insider’s guide to how Warren plays the game.

9. Our Lost Constitution by Senator Mike Lee

Senator Lee is a prolific writer on the topic of the nation’s founding, and in particular on the document that formed it.  In this book, Lee ensures that readers understand six of The Constitution’s provisions, the history behind them, why certain words were used, and then explains example after example of people we’ve had in various offices of government over the years who have gone out of their way to circumvent these provisions, without our permission.

10. Prairie Silence by Melanie Hoffert

Hoffert’s memoir on the topic of her return to rural North Dakota (which is the vast majority of North Dakota), is an interesting take on what it means to be in a rural communities.  Consider the definition of the word isolation prior to reading.

11. The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven & David Borgenicht

A MUST read for any man, Worst-Case is a book of knowledge describing how to survive the world’s worst circumstances.  From fighting an alligator, to identifying a bomb, to surviving when your parachute doesn’t open, this book is a bible of survival knowledge.

12. Men Without Work by Nicholas Eberstadt

Eberstadt has ripped open the gate on information that is not being made public; that working men are becoming extinct.  In a world with lower than low unemployment rates, and a plethora of technical jobs standing wide open for the taking, it’s hard to believe that men are the growing trend in unemployment – and are not re-entering the workforce at any point in time.  Eberstadt explains that between corporate policies, federal regulation, and even tax incentives, we are harming ourselves at great decibel, because we are pretending there isn’t a problem concerning unemployed men.

13. The Keys by DJ Khaled

Sometimes you just need a book that makes no sense to your repertoire.  To keep things fresh, moving, to jolt something out of your mind and into reality – this is that book.

14. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

This is the book that landed her the Netflix series.  I recommend nearly everything Kondo says – except for the limits on books.

15. It Happened in Seattle by Steve Pomper

A quick and dirty history book about Seattle.  It’s less than 100 pages.  Some of the history doesn’t jump off the pages, but it’s a great read nonetheless.

16. The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham

Graham is considered the ‘Oracle of Wall Street’ and this book proves why.  This is the source on value investing.

17. Hagakure by Yamamoto Tsunetomo

Living by a code, positive habits, and morals is the only way for men to operate in this life.  Why not study the ways of the Samurai to assist in building that code?

18. Mind Gym by Gary Mack & David Casstevens

Even if you’re not an athlete, there is nothing wrong with learning aspects of their routines, and placing them in your life.  Mind Gym gives you a foundation of meditation, focused on your own personal accomplishment.

19. The Millionaire Next Door by Dr. William Danko & Dr. Thomas Stanley

If you have not read this yet, you definitely need to in 2019.  The doctors explain in 200-plus pages that millionaires are all around us, and they do not present in the way you think they should.

20. Boomtown USA by Jack Schultz

Schultz wrote this book in the early 2000’s as a trade primer for small cities that were left behind in the tech boom, when young people left in droves, and so did work.

With large cities now over-saturated, and largely out of touch with the reality they have created, revisiting Schultz’ analysis, and perhaps influencing a new generation of entrepreneurs, who thanks to modern internet technology, can relocate anywhere, might be the book you need to take on your next adventure.

Happy Reading!

MLB’s (Ice Cold) Hot Stove 2018: Why It’s Happening, and How To Fix It

This year’s off-season of free agency has been stalled to a block of ice in MLB.  And there is a number of working theories concerning what is happening.

However, a few weeks back several MLB execs took some time to explain what was occurring, very publicly, without their names being attached.

Their insight was likely very accurate, because what they pointed out supported many of the working theories dancing in the general public.

However, reading between the lines tells us there’s even more involved, from MLB’s past, and present, than we’re giving credit for.

First, the execs that were surveyed brought up money……A LOT!

They are looking at the history of the big contracts involving players who are at the end of their 20’s, or early 30’s, and that their performance has not measured up to their contract value.

Secondly, they brought up the fact that franchise price tags are expensive, and the Miami Marlins recent valuation, acquisition, and subsequent cast-off of every talented player they had spoke volumes of what ALL MLB owners now feel, in terms of balance sheets.  The old school multi-millionaires that would hedge money from their productive business holdings into their player payroll are now gone.

And third among the financial belly-aching, they cited that MLB across all it’s affiliates has a ton of debt that needs to be off-set, and it may as well be now that they start.

That’s all well and good, I think being fiscally responsible is everyone’s responsibility.

The problem is that everyone seems to be forgetting that the MLB, in their long-standing financial feuds with the MLBPA negotiated this thing called an MLB Rookie Contract.

It creates a situation where a player is indebted, on paper at least, to an MLB team for seven years.  In these contracts, players have fewer rights, and the first four seasons, they have no rights, such as arbitration, to command higher salaries.  What this means is, MLB teams are empowered to pay players who are on their rosters league minimum salaries, during the time that they are, according the logic of these MLB execs, their “most productive.”

As an example, let’s say a Right Fielder, Johnny Longball, comes out of high school, and is highly touted, and he ends up getting drafted in the early portion of the 2nd Round in the MLB Amateur Draft.  At 20, Longball has reached the Double AA level of the Avarus Sues farm system, and is dominating the game.  This means he’s had two years in the minors, likely playing mostly for performance bonuses, that are directly tied to his promotions, not his actual performance, and then his team decides he needs to come up to the big league for a stint in Mid-May, to give their outfield a break.  Longball comes up, he plays 15 games, hits .224, hits three home runs (very hard on analysis!), and drives in 12 runs, will having an overall outfield efficiency of .994.  Obviously, the most basic analysis is that he’s not hitting for average, and that would be typical of nearly any prospect’s first run in the majors.

Since MLB execs and owners want to look at history, let’s point out something very steadfast, historically at least, about the majors:  While many teams have touted having excellent five-tool prospects, their collective training staffs have managed to convert these claims a whooping four percent of the time, every ten years.

Longball’s rookie contract years gets extended because his 15 games doesn’t qualify as significant playing time in the majors, and thus, he heads back to AA for re-tooling, blasts through to AAA, where he finishes 80 games as a starter, going .297, hitting 22 home runs, knocking in 71 runs, and his outfield efficiency jumps to .996—for the casual reader, a defensive efficiency improvement of .002, comparatively speaking, is the difference between catching a routine fly ball 10 times out of 12, rather than 8 out of 12, and that can make a HUGE difference game to game.

They claim these players don’t pan out all the time.  I would argue, these training, scouting, and development staffs don’t know what they’re talking about, and certainly their historical track record suggests they don’t have a complete grasp on what each individual player needs to succeed at the next level.

Oh sure, they’ve gotten things right before:  A broken clock is right at least twice a day.  Is that the kind of odds you want to put your millions of dollars in payroll on?  But I’m a little from the topic at hand: finances.

Longball finally makes it through spring training, at age 21 (now three years of his rookie contract have been extended….), and he’s on the opening day roster.  He’s not a true starter, he’s platooning (meaning he swaps starts, and subs heavily at specific position, in this case right field), with an ‘aging’ right fielder who is being publicly mentioned as the next person to get cut from the Avarus Sues roster, because his numbers have slumped (a career BA of .284, but his last two seasons average .271).  Longball rises to occasion, and over the course 124 appearances, with 319 At-Bats, he goes .267, hits 19 home runs, drives in 58, and his defensive efficiency is at .997.  His stats make the case that he’s ready to stay on the team’s 25 man roster, the Avarus Sues get to drop the other guy, and his now ‘inflated’ contract, and Longball his the talk of his hometown, Sunny Cornfield, Iowa, where the community has been decimated by every young, able-bodied person leaving for work in places like St. Louis, because farming is inconvenient.  And everyone thinks Longball is living the dream.  The problem is, Longball is now stuck in a contract that ensures he’s stuck on the Avarus Sues roster until he’s 28, and he won’t get any rights to negotiate pay raises for his performance until he’s 25……Longball goes on to dominate every pitcher in his division for the next four years, before having shoulder surgery, because he’s swung so hard, on so many hard pitches, that his body, specifically his joints, are starting to deteriorate at a rate most of us won’t be able to understand.  Meanwhile, he’s only making the league minimum of $507,500, which is certainly a nice sum.  When you take out the taxes ($120,529.75 off the top, plus 39.6 percent of everything ABOVE $415,051.00 ($36,609.80 for this salary) equals $157,139.55), then factor in that these players have to find a place to live in the city they play in, and will likely pay a hefty sum for “transitional housing” since they won’t stay there year round, rookies are getting ripped off by MLB, and the IRS, period.

This rookie rip-off, errr, contract that the MLB instilled was promoted as a fair way for MLB teams to be able to “evaluate” guys like Longball, before they commit to paying them gobs of money, and then they don’t perform, and then the team is locked into paying someone who doesn’t advance their team.  It’s a fair point being made in this context.  However, the back end of a seven year contract, for a 20 year old who’s making the cut, is just as unfair for him, as it is for the team.

Looking at this logically, and from a historical standpoint, do MLB teams REALLY need seven years to ‘evaluate someone’s talent?’  Or was this just an attempt to control the market, from a labor perspective, for as long as possible?

Here’s something about capitalism that a lot of people don’t understand, no matter what side of it you’re own:  capitalism is not about the control of labor.  It is about being able to control FIXED costs.  Labor is never fixed.  In fact, if labor is fixed, it’s because of a monopoly, which is illegal.  Adam Smith, the godfather of free capitalism, spoke of the unethical pursuit of controlling labor, and said that businesses were far better off controlling their capital (i.e. goods), rather than trying to control labor.

Players are the labor.  And players deserve appropriately set contracts.  The reason MLBPA agreed to these seven-year long, subject to change, rookie rip-offs, is because the agreement was that players who performed beyond the constraints of these contracts, were likely impact players, who deserve appropriate compensation for their performance, and that while their originating team may not value them the same as other teams, the competition of other teams knocking, allow for that player to finally be compensated properly, for all the years they have performed.

Now MLB execs want to cry foul, about money.  It’s laughable.  Maybe their spending habits do need to change.  Maybe MLB owners want to see a better bottom line on their team’s balance sheets.  These concerns are valid, and should be addressed.

But trying to corner labor to do it is immoral, unethical, and if our government would do the right thing, see that what is happening is illegal.

Players deserve to be paid for their performance, irregardless.  Rookie contracts should not last seven years, and they certainly should not have caveats on time.  MLB owners and execs are simply trying to use the current system to corner labor, and it’s completely stupid.  One that quoted these execs said they were getting smarter.  No, they’re getting unethical, and it needs to be addressed.

The solution to this is quite simple: rookie contracts reduce to three years in length. Players don’t get arbitration, but the teams don’t get to extend years either.  Teams have to commit to providing appropriate living quarters for players, without including it as compensation, and any promotional material that players participate in is not mandatory, and is covered in separate compensation from any playing contract.

If MLB teams want to cry foul over player contracts, so be it, some of these contracts for older free agents do tend to be exorbitant.  However, they are based on this concept of compensation for the ‘whole player’ and what they’ve done, that they weren’t compensated for in the past.  MLB needs to be honest about the broken contract system, not just pick at the parts that they find troublesome.

While everyone is fixated on the fact that teams aren’t signing free agents like they used to, what this contract and financial griping is doing is leading to another player strike.  My only hope is that everyone see’s what is happening, and start holding MLB teams accountable.  Sure, we can agree that 22 million a year for some players is ridiculous, and that perhaps there should be some stipulations concerning performance.

But the rookie contract system in place is a farce, and prevents players from ever receiving true compensation for their efforts, if this off-season is an indication of what’s to come.


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.

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.

Everything is Stupid: Marijuana enters the Prenatal Care Industry

A friend of mine recently conveyed to me that during a prenatal visit to his wife’s OB/GYN, she described how she was concerned with the quality of birth, as she read studies about births that turned into emergency C-sections.

The doctor’s response?  A prescription of medical marijuana.  Yes, you read that correctly, marijuana, as in the narcotic.

They happen to be in a State where marijuana is legal, so I suppose the prescription just makes it so they pay a set price, and not market value, which who knows what that is.

What I can tell you is they didn’t get it filled, thankfully.  The use of marijuana in this context, which really seems illegal, even if the drug is now legal there, also seems ill-advised.  You want a pregnant woman to ingest marijuana, due to her overall concern of a potential bad birth, so your answer to prescribe marijuana right now, several months before the actual birth occurs.

My friend and his wife asked a similar question, and the response from the doctor was “I read a study that said marijuana helps with creating successful births, showing a 500% success rate.”

Well, if ever there was a person peddling bs…..

Regardless of how idiotic this doctor appears, this got me thinking.  Is marijuana now being used in prenatal care?  Surely this can’t be a large scale issue, right?  I mean, pregnancy…..DRUGS…..they don’t mix well at all.  We know this, right?

As it turns out, we don’t.

There are bunch of articles describing surveys, and testimonials of women using marijuana to cure morning sickness.  And while one of the original intents behind medical grade marijuana was to address nausea of cancer patients, using it in this situation is simply bad, bad, awful.

It’s well documented that narcotic use while pregnant will lead to behavioral problems in a child as they become a toddler, adolescent, teen, and eventually an adult.

But if that’s not enough, the content I discovered also ADVOCATES for women to have the “choice” of using marijuana to cure morning sickness, and squarely blames pro-life policies as the reason that prevents many of them to access cannabis.

Are you reading that?  It’s all pro-lifers fault that women can’t irreparably harm their children in the womb, again!

I seriously can’t believe that as we advance into the technology age that there are enough people in various professions to actually advocate for one the stupidest things I’ve ever heard of.

This isn’t even a slippery slope argument, it’s a no slope argument.  These people have no argument, they’re plain stupid, and not only do they not deserve to have access to the internet, they don’t deserve to be in their positions.

I read one such “expert,” who I’m not going to name, because she doesn’t deserve any additional attention.  Her credentials:  She’s an Ivy-League educated lawyer in charge of an organization centered on women, and mostly their rights to abortion.

But she’s also taken up this cause, and thinks that we need to have a “serious” talk about legal and political systems that are preventing nauseated women from accessing narcotics while pregnant.  I can’t make this stuff up!

What’s next, heroin from postpartum depression?  Don’t pretend like that’s not the next thing you’re going to hear from this same crowd.

I admit, I’m not a doctor.  But you don’t have to be to know marijuana exposure in the womb, as legitimate treatment, is one of the stupidest things spoken from any intellectual crowd.

But I guess that’s the age we live in, where everything is stupid.

Friday Night Opinion: Chattanooga Councilwoman Entitled on Traffic Stop

Last week we had Varnell, Georgia, and earlier this week, FNO examines the actions of a councilwoman in Chattanooga, a mere 28 miles northwest of Varnell.

Her name is Demetrus Coonrod, and this isn’t her first time gaining negative attention she claims to be racist, and has been arrested for among other things, child abuse.

Recently, the Chattanooga Times Free Press posted this video of Coonrod acting belligerent with a female officer from Chattanooga Police Department, for issuing traffic citations to the male driver of the vehicle, apparently owned by the councilwoman.

She calls either the Police Chief or an Assistant Chief of CPD after the traffic stop had concluded.  She requires the officer to standby, and wants a Sergeant present, and it’s clear she wants to protest the citations issued, which were well within the bounds of the law.

I’ll be quick on this one, because there’s enough source material here for you to draw your own conclusion.

But I have to ask you, is this truly the kind of council person you want representing you?  A person who wants special treatment because of their position, including avoiding responsibility for their traffic law infractions.

You may not be aware, but this type of behavior, left unchecked, is exactly how a person starts down a road where they embezzle funds, use their position to award contracts and jobs to family and friends, and all other unethical behavior in office you can think of.

Don’t believe me?  Well, I’ll point you to an acquaintance of mine from years ago, Paul Winfield.

Paul and I met at the Main Streets Conference held in Oklahoma City in 2010.  He’s a great person, or so I thought.  If you read that article in the link, you’ll get a rundown of what he did in office.  The sad thing is, I met him around the beginning of his term as Mayor of Vicksburg, and it can be said he was at the conference trying to find answers to revitalizing a city in Mississippi that all of us should be proud of.  It’s one home of the Blues.

Unfortunately, as you fast forward through his career, you find that Paul found it easier to take shortcuts, and by the end of it all he wound up in federal prison, losing his wife, his life, his name, and mired the city offices of Vicksburg into turmoil.

He also was stripped of his bar certification, which I know was hard to obtain, and not something he could have cheated at.  All that hard work, just to implode in the face of typical challenges.

Unfortunately, it is this type of character flaw that can be hard to find before it shows itself.

However, in the case of Ms. Coonrod, it’s already shown itself.  A serial-armed robber, a child abuser, a self-proclaimed racist, someone who can’t follow the simple rules of early release she was awarded for her testimony against corrupt corrections officers.

She showed us all a long time ago who she was and what she was about.  Apparently the citizens in Chattanooga are forgiving souls, and they gave her a chance.

But this is less than three months into her first term, and it’s only going to get worse from here.  If they let her stay in office, it will support her behavior, and she will become even more brazen.  Because that’s her personality, and that’s all she’ll ever be.

I hope for Chattanooga’s sake, a town I hold dearly, if for nothing else, that they are home to my favorite barbecue restaurant, Sugar’s Ribs, that they are less forgiving this time around, and remove Ms. Coonrod from office.

If you want to get involved, please write an email to Mayor Andy Berke, and let him know why Ms. Coonrod should not be in office.