Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What About the Victim?

HARBESON: The focus should be on reparations

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Let’s pretend you and I are 15 years old and we want to go visit a friend together in another state. We could probably think of lots of possibilities on how to make that happen.

However, it probably wouldn’t occur to most of us to order a pizza, and then attack the delivery guy with a butcher knife so we could use his car to get there.

But that’s exactly what two local teenagers did back in 1997. Fortunately the plan didn’t work out for them — somehow the victim managed to survive and they went to prison for their crime.

This case is back in the news because their sentences were cut in half due to legal details focusing on whether the attack and robbery should have been charged as one crime or two. After credit was given for good behavior and earning GED’s and college degrees, the women had served enough time to be freed from prison.

It’s possible this situation could still be appealed, but why spend time and money to appeal the release of these women if the only question is whether or not they should be locked up longer? All that will happen is that we’ll waste time and money paying lawyers and judges to battle each other.

Instead, it’s time for us to focus on what’s most important after a crime of aggression is committed, which is what can be done for the victim. These women did not attack these government officials. They did not attack you. They did not attack me. They attacked the pizza delivery guy.

It’s time to respect the victim. It’s time for these women to be held accountable for the harm done to this man by answering to him, through meaningful restitution, not us, through more prison time, which we would have to pay for anyway.

These women are now college graduates and have proven they are completely capable of working toward making amends for their past behavior. They should be able to assist their victim in making his way now that his own ability to do so has been decreased due to their actions. Certainly there is nothing they can do to ever restore his life to what it was before the attack. His life will never be the same because of the physical and psychological trauma he’s suffered. They can never truly pay him back for what they did to him.

That doesn’t mean nothing can be done though. They can at least help repair some of the damage. But if they are sent back to prison, no one will benefit and it will be even harder for them to assimilate back into society.

Their attorneys say they are very remorseful and one of the women even inquired about her victim. Being sorry is an important first step. The second step is to prove it by actually taking action to do something positive about it.

Our system does not appear to be set up to let this happen. If we are only going to discuss their years served so far, then our system is just getting in the way.

Who knows what the actual details would be for this individual restitution agreement? The details don’t matter, and are frankly none of our business. The victim could even decide not to pursue it at all, but the choice should be his.

What does matter is that we start looking at better ways to have aggressors account for their actions when we can see it’s possible. This can only happen if we start taking a critical look at our current system, one that unfortunately focuses primarily on punishment rather than restitution.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson likes to pretend she’s 15 years old but the weekly AARP mailings are making it harder.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Whether It's Joe Biden or Dick Cheney, I Don't Care

HARBESON: In this case, time doesn’t pay

By DEBBIE HARBESON Local Columnist

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Jeffersonville’s Mayor Tom Galligan and City Council President Nathan Samuel sure get excited when vice presidents come to visit. At least that’s the impression I got after reading a recent letter to the editor they wrote.

What I don’t understand is why they think others should feel the same.

Not everyone nearly tinkles their pants in excitement just because a “high-profile” federal politician comes to town. Particularly when the purpose of their visit is to raise funds at private election campaign fundraisers.

We’ve known since Vice President Cheney came to town to campaign for Mike Sodrel that such visits cost the city money, and when the campaigns do not reimburse the city for the extra costs, it has the effect of forcing taxpayers to donate to candidates whether they support them or not.

And what do the taxpayers get for these campaign donations? Not a photo opportunity. Not a dinner. Not even a few bread crumbs. Some of them do get jam though, but only the traffic kind.

However, for Joe Biden’s recent visit, Hill’s’ campaign staff apparently offered to pay any extra costs the city incurred as a result of the vice president’s attendance at this private fundraising event. They understood these costs were directly caused by their event and were willing to pay for the services.

I love it when people are willing to take responsibility and pay for what they use.

But Galligan and Samuel apparently don’t understand the concept at all because they refused to take payment for those costs. This would be fine if the two of them paid for it out of their personal funds, but that’s not what they’re doing. They want the taxpayers to pay for it.

Think about it. Bills could have been paid by the people who directly benefited from the service, people perfectly willing to pay for the services they used. Yet these politicians turned down the money.

Surely they can understand the basic idea of paying for what one uses, right? So why would they not let someone do that?

According to the letter they wrote attempting to explain their actions, they think these visits are special just because they are “high-ranking members of the federal government.” They think local residents should feel proud and consider it a grand honor to pay extra when these politicians come to town. They say people should welcome the leaders of our great nation.

But these guys only come here because it serves their specific political purposes.

Both visits had a very narrow intent. It had little to do with the people who actually live here, and everything to do with maintaining their power and control at the federal level. Instead of feeling flattered, locals should feel used.

Fortunately, no matter what these two city politicians say, none of us have to get on our knees and blindly worship political leaders anymore. We threw that idea away centuries ago.

Galligan and Samuel also said that if the city did not provide protection, it would be sending a signal to leaders in Washington that they are unwelcome. Who said not to provide the service? Just accept the payment. Why is this so hard for these politicians to comprehend?

If they are truly concerned about sending the wrong signals they would do well to think of their own constituents. After all, what sort of signal do their actions send to a local small businessperson who sat in the event’s traffic, losing money because he’s unable to bill for the time? The very least these “generous” politicians can do is not make this taxpayer pay even more, by not accepting the voluntary payment for services rendered.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson never tinkles her pants in excitement when federal politicians come to town. She’s been known to do that when they leave though.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Version of Project Management

Anyone remember me talking about the time I met the Motorhome Diaries Guys? It happened about a year ago and I included them in a column I wrote after their visit here.

Well now, two of these fellows, Pete Eyre and Adam Mueller, are taking to the road in an RV again, with a Project called Liberty On Tour.

Since I discovered a whole new part of the liberty movement that I hadn't really connected with before until The Motorhome Diaries rolled around the country, I was glad to hear a similar project was being done and I wanted to show my support somehow.

But I wasn't sure how I wanted to do that.

Also during the last year, I've been thoroughly enjoying another project, School Sucks, which I have mentioned at least once on this blog.

The School Sucks Project is loaded with interesting, thoughtful information about schools, learning and education. One thing I really like about it is that besides the podcasts themselves, host Brett Veinotte takes the time and trouble to list resources directly related to that particular show's topic and content (books, articles, other podcasts etc).

I like that because he's not only telling the truth about our education system, he's also helping people with their own journey into self-education and critical thinking.

As a result of listening to this project and watching it grow, I've been looking for an interesting way to help support this project too.

So, when I saw that Liberty On Tour was offering various types of sponsorships to fund their project, I thought this would be a good way to support both projects in one fell swoop.

One fell swoop is good for me. Too many swoops and I get dizzy.

So all I have to say now is go, my sons, and promote liberty throughout the land. :)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Skid Marks on Taxation Road

COLUMN NOTES: I wonder if Steve Earle would mind if I used his music from this awesome song and re-wrote the lyrics for one I'd title Taxation Road.

HARBESON: Watch out for taxation road’s potholes

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — When Clark County politicians were considering whether or not to implement the wheel tax yet again, I noticed some erratic driving on taxation road.

Some officials headed to the no-tax ramp from the start. Later, when others noticed the skid marks made by angry voters, they merged over too, so the wheel tax failed to pass.

In other words, they saw the light — the one emitting from all the headlights on the voter’s cars that were headed right for their jobs, so they got the heck out of the way.

Politicians know that if they put too many tax dents into citizens, they start sputtering and leaking anger and so they decided, this time, that one more tax dent might just be “too much.”

However, even when politicians say they are taking action for the taxpayer, there’s always at least one who feels the need to lecture them. This time it was Barbara Hollis, telling taxpayers that the wheel tax is really not a tax, but rather a “user-fee.”

It’s a common tactic, to change the terminology to make a government action sound more palatable. I hope most of you see this for what it is — a desperate attempt to take you for a ride down propaganda road.

Common sense tells us this is not a user-fee. It’s not at all based on actual road usage. If it were, the little old lady who only drives her car to church on Sundays would certainly not pay the same as the little old lady who likes to put on her scarf and cruise county roads in her convertible.

If we’re going to discuss usage, then let’s calculate the actual miles of county roads we all use per week and analyze the results. And while we’re at it, let’s consider how many of those 500 miles of roads many wheels have never traveled on and never will.

If there was a way to pay for use, and also be sure the money’s actually spent on maintenance, I bet most would be happy to do so. Especially if means we could get far, far away from political manipulation.

Of course, the problem of building and maintaining roads is not just the fault of local governments. The federal government forces us to build roads in order to bring money back into our community and little consideration is given to maintenance issues.

Certainly it will take work to figure out smarter ways to maintain roads that have already been built on this faulty model. It’s hard to go backward. But we can change our actions going forward for new roads.

Clark County has the perfect opportunity to learn how to build and operate roads based on usage with Star Hill Road. I would love to see this road become privately owned and operated. If there truly is a demand for this road, then let some group take it on and reap any profits from doing so.

If it’s impossible to make the road completely private, it’s certainly possible to operate according to actual usage by implementing a toll. If it does become a toll road, businesses who would benefit would still have lots of options. For example, they could give a discount equal to the toll price to any customer who spends a certain amount at participating businesses.

Who knows, this road could become so successful that other roads going up the hill hardly ever get used. Then those could be shut down, thereby reducing maintenance costs for the county.

No matter what happens with Star Hill Road, it’s time to pave a new path of alternatives because it’s obvious that taxation road is full of irreparable political potholes.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson gets angry when she sees politicians driving on taxation road but she usually feels better after kicking some asphalt.
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Indiana State Board of Accounts Unfair to Clark County Government

HARBESON: Is this something you audit know?

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Clark County audit reports from the Indiana State Board of Accounts for 2008 are now available. However, you should definitely not read them because they are completely unfair to Clark County Government officials.

First of all, the state board claims county government has a lack of internal controls, something they say helps assure that money is being budgeted, appropriated and spent according to law. Phooey.

Internal controls are completely unnecessary. A system that only exists due to coercion always operates effectively and ethically.

I’m with Clark County Commissioners President Ed Meyer, who says they’ve been relying on the offices to regulate themselves. Government entities need no oversight — that’s only necessary for those risking their own funds in the competitive private sector, not government officials handling other people’s money.

Ed says he doesn’t think the commissioners should get involved in the operations of county departments. Right on Ed! None of us expect commissioners, who are the executive body for the county, to actually oversee the county. Ed knows we only want him to focus on the important issues, like passing cell phone messages through the local gossip mill.

However, since the commissioners were implicated in these reports, they have made a brilliant decision to, as Ed says, “get out of this predicament.” It’s an ingenious idea: Spend more money and hire someone else to do the job.

After all, like Jack Coffman, president of the current county council says, “it’s just so hard.” He’s right. They can’t be expected to actually know what’s in the Indiana Code as it pertains to their jobs.

For goodness sakes, no one discusses such minor details during election campaigns. They only tell us the important stuff, like how they love living here and just want to give back to the community as “public servants.”

And what’s with the state admonishing county departments for not having a process to communicate well? Why would those who budget and appropriate funds need to know what’s going on with those who handle the funds? When I heard this stupid idea, I spit a mouthful of lunch on my unreconciled bank statements.

But now, as a result of these reports, the county auditor will prepare monthly reports so the council and commissioners know what’s going on. Ridiculous.

I’m sure the auditor has much better things to do than actually keeping tabs on the fiscal matters of Clark County. Who cares if unappropriated money is spent, especially when it’s for vital government services, like sheriff’s public relations?

I can’t believe the reports were so critical of not using detailed expenditure accounts either. A budget classification of “other services and charges” could not possibly increase the county’s risk for misappropriation.

This next item was really silly: The state board said proper procedures were not in place to determine that correct amounts were paid on invoices. Gee whiz, a little over payment to vendors here and there is no problem. It stimulates the economy.

According to the reports, money spent from the drug and alcohol fund was not properly spent while Steve Fleece was in charge of Clark’s Superior Court No. 3, but I just don’t see it. For example, it’s easy to understand why he recommended spending money on new carpet using this fund. Many drunken people have puked on carpets, so an association clearly exists.

Also, his recommendation to donate government money from this fund to a local church for items unrelated to the purpose of the fund makes sense too. This cozy intertwining of religion and government has worked out well throughout human history.

I’m sure you’ve heard enough by now to be convinced that you should not read these reports — the ones that are at www.in.gov/sboa. Besides, county officials assure us that if there were problems in 2008, they have now been resolved. So you should believe them and not read these reports — the ones available at www.in.gov/sboa .

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson stopped cleaning lunch off her bank statements after she realized it’s a great way to hide misappropriated funds from her husband.