Monthly Archives: January 2009

Super Bowl Blues

Mr. and Mrs Elecpencil ventured out to see a movie today. We saw, “Slum Dog Millionaire.” It was a love story set in India that we both enjoyed very much. It also touched on poverty, racism, and the economic changes occurring in India. I recommend you check it out. My only complaint is why do theaters have to play the sound so damn LOUD?

Speaking of Mrs. Elecpencil I remember she gave me a test before she would even go out with me. One question I remember was whether I liked cats or dogs better. I replied, “I like dogs better for pets but I’d much rather be a cat than a dog.” I continued, “That’s because cats are more curious than dogs, thus they experience more of the world and also cats unlike dogs serve no master.” Curiosity may kill the cat but maybe that’s why they were given nine lives.

Another question she asked me was, “Do you watch or follow sports?” I told her, “I am not interested in sports as I’d rather be doing something instead of watching sports and that I find all of the sports fanaticism a distraction from the real issues going on in the world.”  I truly believe the powers that be want the American public focused on sports entertainment and not what is happening in our world. With those answers and the Elecpencil’s charm we ended up married with two off springs, owning one dog and two cats that own us.

I do know it’s Super Bowl weekend because the local media has beaten me up with the fact the Steelers are playing. It wasn’t until I read the newspaper today that I learned their opponent was…….shit I forgot and don’t feel like looking for the newspaper.

Watching sports and talking sports with people bores me to death. I tend to get cranky when someone is telling me how many touchdowns Joe Steroid Jr. had last season. I tend to respond, “Have you ever heard of Darfur and what involvement do you think the US government should take there?” I’m sure there are intelligent people who know about sports and Darfur and God love them but I don’t have the time to focus on both. To me football looks like a bunch of choreographed shoving.

I’m not one to easily buy into conspiracies but once I read Dan E Moldea’s book, “Interference” about fixing football games I was convinced NFL Football is as fake as WWF Wrestling. Read the first chapter of Dan’s book here: Interference

What Moldea has endured from the FBI and others from exposing NFL fixed games. Scrutiny

The NFL is itself Fantasy Football

If you’re like me and tired of sports hopla? Here’s a site for us Sports Suck

The Britts get it right on NFL Football

A poem I wrote about Football:

Economic Solutions

The country was near ruin

what with layoffs, plant closings

and globalization and downsizing.

Unemployment was at its highest level

there was more homelessness than ever.

People were threatening to riot.

The government was taking

this threat seriously,

they had visions of the French Revolution

complete with guillotine.

They called for an economic summit.

Everything the economist suggested

had already failed in the past.

Then one stated there are no answers

to the plight of the people,

all we can do is distract them,

make them think about something else

other than their poverty and misery.

Thus it was decreed

federal tax dollars would be sent

to states with the highest unemployment.

Then that state

would use the federal money

to buy the very best

football players available

for the state’s pro team.

So hopefully the poorest states

could have the best teams.

Then the football season

would be extended year round.

When people pick up their

last unemployment check

to keep them from being angry,

they would be given team clothing

and a couple of free tickets to a game.

At one point when people threatened to riot,

National Guard troops were deployed.

They were armed only

with megaphones

and they calmed the crowds

by yelling,

“How about those Steelers?”

The crowd was dispersed

With chants of we’re #1.

All in all

the economic plan

worked like a charm.

Jackson Browne For America

Lives in the Balance

“[O. J. has] an uncanny instinct for sensing when to make the move, when to make the cut. He can kill you with a head fake, he can kill you with the swiftness of his legs and the ability to be in a direction at any single second. He also kills you with his variation of speed… (on some of the ways O. J. Simpson can kill) ~ Howard Cosell

Anybody who watches three games of football in a row should be declared brain dead. ~ Erma Bombeck

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He Kept Us Safe?

You often hear citizens of other countries say they like the average American they just hate our government and it’s foreign policy. That could all change soon as Joesam the dumber (Joe the plumber) is in Iraq reporting. If foreigners think Joesam represent the average Joe American they are soon going to hate us and think we are some stupid SOB’s (does not stand for swell ole boys).

Here’s  a comment on Joesam that is right on the money: Bashing Joe

Joesam and Sara Palin are the ugly afterbirth of the last election that just won’t go away. Can’t we get Brittany Spears to pop out another kid or Janet Jackson to pop out the other breast at the Super Bowl to get the media to forget about Joesam or Klondike Barbie?

He kept us safe?

Republican talking heads (or in the case of Rush Republican drug heads) are claiming Bush has kept us safe since 9/11. Ok he ignored warnings about 9/11 and cost 2996 lives but they don’t want to talk about that. Let’s be honest Bush has kept some of us safe.  He has kept the top richest people in this country safe from paying taxes. He has kept them safe from driving Mercury’s instead of Mercedes. He has kept then safe from wearing Timex watches instead of Rolex watches. He has kept them safe in penthouses instead of housing projects.

Did Bush keep the 4,209 US service men and women who have been killed in Iraq and the 30,000 wounded safe?  Did he keep the 445 US contractors killed in Iraq safe? Did he keep close to 100,000 Iraqi innocent women and children safe? Bush has damaged our friendships with other nations and has created new enemies jeopardizing our safety. Bush is responsible for ignoring warnings about an attack. That attack led to the war so there never would have been a war if it hadn’t been for the attack he ignored.

Bush apologists want to ignore 9/11 and instead say Bush kept us safe on the homefront since 9/11. Ask the 1836 confirmed dead and 705 still missing in Katrina if Bush kept them safe. How about the 5 people killed and 17 others who were injured in the  anthrax attacks in what was the deadliest use of bio-terrorism on US soil ever?  Did Bush supporters forget that in  October 2002, that D.C. and 15 beltway sites were on alert as sniper attacks by a terrorist from the Nation of Islam went on for three weeks, killing 10 people and injuring 3?

No mention of the failure to provide adequate care to our returning wounded soldiers.  No talk of the $53 trillion dollars we’ve spent on this war which is money that could have been used to the betterment of the USA.

We’ve had so much homefront domestic terrorism; courtesy of Bush we don’t have to worry about terrorism from abroad. We have watched the total collapse of our country within by greedy corporations and lobby beholding politicians of both parties. Politicians that supported trade policies that have devastated our country and under Bush cost us 2.6 million jobs. Bankruptcies are at an all an time high and taxpayers have bailed out financial institutes no questions asked.

Huge job losses, union busting, imprisoning 2 million and bankrupting our citizens is necessary to create a “business-friendly” climate here on the homefront. Our Imperialist foreign policy has been us militarily supporting Third World dictators on behalf of corporate interests.  That policy is coming home to roost as we will soon be a Third World country with sweatshop friendly wages.

Osama bin Laden attacked us to devastate our economy but didn’t succeed. On the other hand the Bush policies were able to devastate our country in ways bin Laden could only have wished to do.

Remember bags of salad mix poisoning people? How about peanut butter now poisoning people? The Food and Drug Administration, inspects only about 1 percent of the imported goods that enter the country each year. The Bush administration failed to protect our environment and us because they weakened our safety standards. We are being poisoned while Laura Bush insisted the White House chef use only organic products. So if your homefront was the White House you were safe.

Bush’s environmental record

Onion satire on Bush

Brian Eno one of my favorite musicians on Gaza: Eno on Gaza

Eno’s How many Worlds

Eno Music: Cindy tells Me

Eno’s Baby’s on Fire

Politicians hide themselves away. They only started the war. Why should they go out into a fight?… They leave that all to the poor.Black Sabbath, “War Pigs

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Elecpencil’s Animated Sunday Show

OK kiddos it’s time for the Elecpencil’s Sunday Cartoon Show! The following are on different subjects and brought to you commercial free. Enjoy and remember to check out the Armchair Activist link.

A brief history of the USA


Rudy on family values

Big Box Mart coming soon to Liberty Ohio

USA skilled labor shortage myth

The Gospel of Supply Side Jesus

Freud explains Republicans

Republican Lite

Globalism rising

The Bushies rock band

Wall Street

Global Warming


If Jesus Drove a Motor Home

John the Revelator

“Leave the ashes, take the fire.” ~ Irish tombstone inscription


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Passing the Ball

I want to talk a little more about being a “servist” or activist especially in the area of organizations. I am always amazed at how sometimes  organizations established to do good for people can get a little territorial and fail to see how some other organization may be of great benefit to what they’re trying to accomplish. If you’ll note I have listed the Warren and Youngstown FreeCycle sites as links on my blog. I think they are worthy organizations that keep goods from ending up in landfills that could be of value to someonelse. I have used these sites to pass some things my children no longer needed to other families that could use them.

Another link I have on my blog is the Mahoning Watershed TimeBank. I belong to it because I think the services it’s members offer (at no charge other than a timebank credit for the service provider) could be very valuable especially in these trying economic times. I mentioned the above organizations to show an example of organizations failing to see what they have in common.

I tried to convince the Warren and Youngstown FreeCycle group that they should send their members info on the Mahoning Watershed TimeBank.  My reasoning was that the FreeCycles offer goods for free and the TimeBank offers services for free. “Goods and services” it seems logical to me that they have a lot in common. While the Mahoning Watershed TimeBank was smart enough to see the connection and added the FreeCycles to it’s links the FreeCycle groups managers said it was against their rules.

I have noted in the e-mails I get about current goods offered or requested the FreeCycles are scolding people for offering things or requests that don’t meet their rules.  These FreeCycles seem to have way too many rules for an anarchist type like the Elecpencil.  I was sorry that both FreeCycles were to rigid to see how them and the TimeBank might have made for a good combination. That said I still think the FreeCycles and the TimeBank are worthy organizations you should belong to so check them out.

I wanted to write something to encourage young folks to consider being servists. I realized I had written something similar several years back when I belonged to the late Youngstown Workers Solidarity Club and contributed articles to their publication, “Impact” the Rank and File Labor Newsletter. The Elecpencil being a disciple of the lazy man’s guide to Nirvana dusted off the following instead of writing something new.

Passing the Ball

One day a month I can always count on to enjoy is the monthly meeting of the Impact editorial board. It’s a day when I can get together with like-minded people and not feel lonely in the way I feel about the world. Some meetings have visitors who join us with their input, which is always welcome. Last month’s meeting was especially nice, because a nineteen-year-old girl joined us named Hannah. Hannah and a young man named Domininc who has been coming to our meetings inject the ideas and energy of youth that is needed at our meetings. More importantly than that, their values give me hope for my children’s future.

Hannah and Dominic had joined others at the May 4th memorial at Kent State. Hannah poetically described the demonstration saying, “I was impressed to meet more young like-minded students whom I would describe as “unstoppable balls of passion.”

As we read letters submitted to Impact, it made me realize how much these young people are needed in our movement. We read aloud a tearful letter from a man just executed. That was followed by a letter from a Palestinian woman who says she’s been lucky because the Israeli’s have only killed six members in her family, more tears flow. There always seems to be more tears in the world than laughter. I was thinking about that as I said goodbye to Hannah and Dominic.

I noticed that Hannah had a few gray hairs among her otherwise brown hair. Realizing that I too started getting gray at nineteen, I felt some responsibility towards her. I wanted to whisper in her ear, “Run, Hannah, run; and grab Dominic on your way. Go to insipid Jimmy Buffet concerts, and get drunk, and act ignorant. Go to Daytona Beach for spring break and drink flaming rum shots. Go to Mardi Gras and show your breasts for 10-cent beads. Choose playgrounds, not picket line battlegrounds. Demean yourself in decadence and debauchery, but don’t try to change the world. Hannah, the truth is to have world consciousness in this globalized economy is a life long struggle. To be an instigator of social justice can be damn depressing, because the odds are against you.”

When I got home after that month’s Impact meeting, I felt some guilt for not having warned Hannah. Believing in reincarnation, I wondered if I had come back as an activist as penance, or was it nirvana? Because I let the things out that get to my heart, I’m afraid I bore people who have to deal with me, but if I chose indifference that would be more penance than I could endure. On the other hand, I’ve reached nirvana because I’ve seen living miracles.

So Hannah, Dominic, and all young activists, I leave you to your choice of indifference or your struggle for nirvana. If you choose nirvana, I thank you for being there to pass the “ball of unstoppable passion” to my children.

Activism is a Heartbreak Hotel

Fear is a Man’s Best Friend

"The future will be different if we make the present different."~Peter Maurin 

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“Servists” on MLK Day

Today is Martin Luther King Day! In the past on this day I have attended some events to commemorate his life which were usually in church settings. I swore off attending such events for MLK Day after the last one I attended featured a speaker who I know has made statements against homosexuals, feminist and non – Christians.  I just didn’t feel this speakers prejudices were in keeping with the  spirit of MLK’s teachings.

The Elecpencil did venture out this AM to attend an event celebrating King. I attended this event because it was not going to be a religious service honoring MLK.  It was a think tank of area activists talking about how in King’s honor we might serve Youngstown in 2009. It was a much better event than past MLK ones I have attended and I thank Tyler Clark and all who put it together. I love the fact that folks like, Tyler, Susie Beiersdorfer and Phil Kidd have moved to our area from elsewhere and are dedicated to making it a better place for all.

Like me not everyone in attendance is a Youngstown resident. That doesn’t mean that we care about Youngstown any less than those who live there. For those of us who don’t live in Youngstown it is a struggle getting our communities to understand why they should care about Youngstown.

There is some truth in a joke I tell that drivers from the suburbs have GPS devices that warn them to turn their car around as they approach Gypsy Lane or Midlothian Blvd. I’ve had people in different suburbs say if they have to go somewhere in Youngstown they don’t stop at red lights. As someone who is frequently in Youngstown I take extra care when driving realizing the biggest danger to me is those suburbanites running red lights. To me the Mahoning Valley is my community so it seems obvious to me that all of the areas in it should have “common unity.”

A number of years ago I belonged to the late Youngstown Workers Solidarity Club. The club existed to help other workers in their labor struggles. We found the best way to help was to ask them exactly what they needed instead of ever assuming.  We listened and let them decide what steps they wanted to take and then showed up to help serve them. Many of the club’s members would often feel those we were helping needed to take more direct action or militant actions but we stayed silent and supported what actions they were willing to take. The club’s members knew that unions were useless until they realize that their rank and file members are the union. Our club was made up of rank and filers and supporters who realized that our unions worked within the system and that the system was broken.

In MLK’s honor we need to learn to listen to the poor and help them realize they aren’t someone to be pitied but someone who needs to be self-empowered. This is the “bottom up” type of change that needs to happen to make for a better world not some “trickle down” change from above. Those in the above class don’t care that the system is broken  because it works for them.  Maybe those of us that want to help others shouldn’t be called, “activists” but should instead be called,”‘servists.”

I’d like all labor “servists” to remember that Martin Luther King was in Memphis to support a garbage strike the day he was assassinated.

MLK to Serve

Move on Up

Future  Shock

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
Martin Luther King, Jr.


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Don’t Drink the Poison

Like most parents, the most important thing in the world to me is my children. Like other parents, what I want most to leave to them is a better world to live in. Given that, I tend to view people as either part of the problem or part of the solution toward that better world.

If someone were trying to physically poison our children, wouldn’t we as parents instantly react? Well, aren’t corporations trying to poison our children with hazardous wastes? Don’t corporations and conservatives rationalize that air pollution is the “price of progress” and the “scent of profits?” Aren’t the politicians who keep weakening environmental laws to let more and more toxins into our air and water trying to poison our children?

Doesn’t the military poisons our children’s minds by promoting racism and hatred? They do this by labeling would be enemies gooks, nips, zipper heads, rag heads, Hadjis etc. This helps to dehumanizing people, making them mere objects to be destroyed. Are our citizens for war and opposed to peace? Only when our politicians who are owned by the military-industrial complex manipulate them. Half of our federal budget is now for military spending. America spent $52-billion on nuclear weapons and weapons-related programs, in the 2008 fiscal year. That’s substantially more than the $39.5-billion the US spent on international diplomacy and foreign assistance.

When we have a system of justice that is poisoned by a focus on revenge, not rehabilitation, is it any wonder the US has over 2 million people behind bars? Death penalties and long sentences aren’t deterrents to crime a good job is. Yet, we are poisoned with political candidates pushing a ‘”try em and fry em” mentality.

We need health care that will benefit everyone including the 45 million who have none. Who is poisoning us with propaganda and scare tactics like saying that we will all be waiting for months when we need medical help? The Insurance companies, the HMO’s and drug companies that only care about their profit.

47 million full-time workers are making less than $10/hr. More than 32 million Americans live in poverty.  The top 1% of the richest people in this country has financial wealth equal to the combined 95% of the American people. This while 80% of the people’s standard of living has been going down. Consumer debt is at an all time high, personal bankruptcies are at a record level and personal savings are dropping to record lows.

In this system the well being of the people means nothing compared to the profits of corporations. The people are forced to swallow this poisonous reasoning even more as our pensions are being replaced by 401K’s dependent on Wall Street. The most bought off of our “representatives” wanted to give Americans a double dose of poison by having us invest our Social Security in Wall Street.

If we talk of reforming this crony capitalism we are called, “Socialists” as if there were no other economic solutions other than capitalism or socialism. Meanwhile, financial institutes pick up a socialist check from our politicians who call us “welfare queens” if we expect any safety nets. The banks not even having any restrictions literally laughed all the way back to the bank.

I could of course go on and on with different issues that are poisoning the world our children will inherit. The point is that the “powers that be” are a small group that is leading the rest of us (the majority) to our own demise. We have a system run by humans that has no humanity. What a great day it will be when men refuse to carry out evil. That will be the day when politicians and businessmen gain enough self-respect and integrity that they put people before profits. That will be the day soldiers have enough self-respect and morality so that they can’t be convinced to be killing machines to expand US corporate interests.

Think those great days of a non-violent revolution can’t happen? Well, they do from time to time as recently when workers at a glass company that was closing fought back: Glass workers fought back

Most recently ten Israeli soldiers have refused to fight in Gaza: 10 Israeli soldiers

These Israeli soldiers join other Israeli soldiers in the past who have refused to obey orders to kill innocent non-combatant Palestinians. I’m not talking about a handful of Israeli soldiers, I’m talking about hundreds, many of whom have been labeled traitors and jailed. The “refuseniks” as they are called have learned there can be no freedom for those who would deny freedom to others. I’m not here to take sides in conflicts I’m saying the only way  conflicts will end is to have refuseinks on both sides who refuse to drink the poison of inhumanity.

A Holocaust survivor speaks up

The Elecpencil has been blessed meeting many unsung heroes I’d label as “refuseniks” because they refuse to accept injustice. They are humble people working hard to lessen the pains of the earth that our children will inherit. I hate to mention names of these unsung heroes for fear of leaving someone out. They are a collage of students, academics, rank and file unionists, musicians, poets, and artists. I thank you all for being the antidote to the world’s poisons and for providing hope and joy for my children’s future.

Something in the air but not on the airwaves

“If people have moral courage to stand up to the smallest injustice – their own and other’s – it’s kind of like practice for when the big ones come around.”
— Colleen Kelly

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Barbarians at the Gate

Yesterday, Sunday January 11, 2009 the Warren Tribune featured this Letter to the Editor: Warren Tribune Letter to the Editor

I could really relate as these mobile minstrels contributed to the deterioration of the Warren neighborhood I moved from 15 years ago. This and other issues of the deterioration of my old neighborhood were never addressed no matter how many times myself and others in my S. E. area talked to councilmen, police and the mayor. I am sad to see after all these years things haven’t changed.

Many of the loud troubadours weren’t just driving through our neighborhood but were neighbors. When these kids parents are the type of  guys who drive through your neighborhood with no exhausts on their Jeeps throwing empty beer cans out their windows the odds are they don’t care that their sons are blasting the neighborhood with music.

One day as I was drying my car at the car wash my ear drums were being molested by a kid blaring music as he waxed his SUV. I asked him why he needed to play music that loud. His answer was, “Personal freedom, liberty.” Silly me I had learned growing up that the liberty our forefathers fought for involved being able to own your own land, elect your own representatives,  and to work to your best ability for the betterment of yourself, your family and your country.

Today far too many folks think liberty means being able to smoke in an emergency room, not wear a  seat belt and own a bazooka.

Here is a poem I wrote a dozen years ago about loud car stereos:

Dream Assassin/Barbarian at the Gate

Part One:  Mobile D.J.

Chevy makes the Corvette

a class of cars known as two seaters

but so’s his Chevette,

when the rear is full of woofers and tweeters.

He cruises in his $300 car

its $4000 system makes him a star.

His stereo could have no more power

if he had a 90 foot acoustic tower.

His parents have no thoughts

to why he needs 80,000 watts.

With concert hall amplifiers

he’s king of the town criers.

Traveling, rolling musician,

tunes man for the land.

A vehicular troubadour

in a red two-door.

Armed with gansta rap

wearing a backwards ball cap.

The stereo’s going for bust,

shaking out the car’s rust.

The bass is blaming

this idiot’s jamming.

Bassing it, making sure it rocks

he’s ready to cruise in his mobile boom box.

Off into the night…

the Chevette takes flight.

Part Two:  My Street Is Not Your Hood

There I was sleeping like a log,

only to be interrupted by Snoop Doggy Dog

or maybe it was Tupac Shakur

Hard to tell when you’re waking from a stir.

This I heard booming from a tape,

“arrested me for statutory rape,

didn’t know the bitch was ten

now I’m in the pen.

They call me Mr. Big

“cause I capped a pig.”

Neighbors woken from their doze,

yelled from their windows

at this unwanted prose.

He survived their gauntlet

and escaped a police dragnet.

In his wake, dogs howled, children cried,

he’d done his work, he was satisfied.

Part Three:  Retirement

His money was all spent on rap CDs

he’d not saved any for emergencies.

A broken transmission

has put him out of commission.

His system no longer rocks

now that it’s up on blocks.

The populace sighs in relief

to the end of the dream thief.

Now peacefully in our beds we lay

without being woken by Dr. Dre.

We no longer have to fear

this mobile Paul Revere

and everything now is hunky dory

until a new minstrel claims his territory.

Inner City Blues

What’s Going On

The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.

G.K. Chesterton



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