Monthly Archives: March 2009

Feeling Mortality

I don’t want any more weeks like the last one. I had an old friend from grade school die young and before his time. My brother-in-law had a heart attack but was lucky it was a minor one. He is at least now contemplating quitting smoking. I am going to write more about that demon weed that has killed many in my family before their time in a future post. My wife has an aunt that suffered a stroke last week. I spent a few days suffering with one of the bugs going around. I coughed so much I had pains in my side and missed a day of work. On top of everything else all the rain has been pouring down the wall of the bathroom I had remolded last year. I need new shingles on my roof and at the cost of about half of what I gross each year I don’t see that happening any time soon. So quite literally when it rains it pours.

So Thursday found me alone at home sick lying on the couch watching TV and wondering if I’d ever be able to speak a sentence again that didn’t contain at least three serious coughs. I watched a movie on HBO that only made me feel sadder yet I recommend that you watch it. It was called,” Taking Chance” staring Kevin Bacon. It is based on the true story of a Marine Colonel escorting Iraqi War veteran Marine PFC Chance Phelps body back to his parents. It is a small film but left me with a big impact. It is a socially conscious movie or maybe it’s not because it doesn’t really take sides in the war just shows the personal impact on those touched by the Marine’s death. It’s the kind of movie I like because it could mean different things to different people.

I can only imagine the feelings of a parent that lost a son or daughter who was serving in the armed forces. I’m sure many want to totally believe their child died for their country. I’m sure there are others like Cindy Sheehan who think their child died in vein. I’m sure some of the parents would wrestle between both of these feelings. Myself I guess I would wonder why those who start the wars and those businessmen who profit most from them are safe far from the battlegrounds. I admire veterans but I wished they weren’t needed.

I’ve met some vets who come home and feel they’ve done their duty and think if another war comes along it’s time for the next generation to do their duty. I’ve met other veterans who think that war is insane and don’t want anyone to ever have to go again. Soldiers who came home from Vietnam like John Kerry and spoke against the war did more to ending that war than the hippies like the Elecpencil that demonstrated against it. Many Vietnam veterans supported the war and blamed those veterans who spoke against it for the U.S. losing the war. I guess veterans are just like everyone else they can all have the same experiences and walk away with different views. I guess I just feel that by now humans ought to have figured out some other way to settle differences around the world without resorting to war. You’d have a hard time convincing me that humans are the most advanced species on the planet.

With a friend dying and two relatives ending up in the hospital this week and me coughing my head off I am feeling a real sense of mortality. I am at that age when I read all the obituaries in the newspaper of people younger than me. With all of our modern science I am still shocked at how many fairly young people I see dying of diseases every day in the newspaper. I am left today sadly remembering friends like: Denny, Ernie, Linus, Pat, Terry, Greg and Michael all gone but never forgotten.

I have no answers to how people deal with death and grieve and therefore look to another culture for these answers. There is an eastern story of a woman who goes to Buddha in her suffering at the loss of her child. She asks Buddha to bring her child back to life. Buddha agrees if she brings back one grain of rice from one household that has not experienced the great suffering of having lost a loved one. The woman thinks the tasks is easy, but after days of knocking on doors, she learns that each family has suffered the loss of a loved one. She returns to Buddha without the grain of rice, but with a better understanding of suffering, and is able to leave comforted, knowing she is not alone. Death is not an end because in our living, in our memory those who were a part of us remain a part of us. Peace and Harmony

Style Council Promised Land

Ghost of Dachau

Big Boss Groove

Don’t fear your mortality, because it is this very mortality that gives meaning and depth and poignancy to all the days that will be granted to you.~ Paul Tsongas

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Treat it Like You Own it (Because You Do)

I watch CSPAN’s TV call in show every weekday between 7-7:30 am. The other day the question of the day was, “What do you think your community should do with its share of stimulus money?”  A caller from Warren, Ohio called in to say, that the police chief of Warren was caught on tape beating a woman. He went on to say that all of the politicians in Warren are crooks so Warren should not get any money.

In my view our valley has plenty of outside media come visit and beat us up in print which helps chase away any company that might want to locate in our area. Now I have to hear our own citizens calling national shows to give us a black eye. I’m not saying police chiefs and politicians who are suspected of doing wrong should not be investigated. What I’m saying is if I had been the host on CSPAN I would have asked the caller from Warren a few questions. First I’d ask, instead of calling a national show what are you doing in Warren to help stop corruption? I ask whether the caller has ever attended a Warren City Council meeting? If he hasn’t I’d ask does he even know what time of the month city hall meetings are held? I’d ask him have you sought out any local organizations that want to end corruption and improve Warren? I’d ask him have you written a letter to the Warren Tribune Chronicle expressing your views on making Warren a better town? Of course all those things take getting off your ass and actually trying to do something. I guess it’s easier to just call into a national TV show anonymously and bitch.

I’ve heard people bitch about their school districts also and when I ask them if they attend school board meetings they answer they don’t know when they are. They also have no idea who their school board members are. Of course a call to the local school would get them all that info but it’s easier to just complain to a friend who can’t help you than to an actual school board member who could.

People the Elecpencil is trying to tell you that you own your schools and towns and you are treating them like an absentee landlord. If you wanted to be an absentee landlord you would wisely hire a manager to represent you by watching over your property. You’d expect your manager to do a good job because you paid him/her a good wage. If your properties were going to Hell under his watch you’d fire his ass I’m betting. Well, the politicians in your area and the folks that work at schools etc. are your managers working to represent you. If you don’t attend city hall, trustee meetings or school board meetings you are telling those you hired to represent you that you approve of the job they are doing on your behalf.

When I was a kid I heard older people say, “You can’t fight city hall.” Now I say as an adult that is B.S. because I am city hall. Next time someone is complaining about city hall ask them as an owner of city hall what they are going to do about it. Complacency and anonymous calls to radio and TV shows just doesn’t cut it.

Hey Mister Can You Tell Me

Complacency

“The only one who can tell you ‘you can’t’ is you. And you don’t have to listen.”~ Unknown

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Traficant’s Career Opportunities

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The Elecpencil tries his best to be optimistic but he does have a pessimistic side. Truth is sometimes when I smell flowers I look around for a casket. I can’t help it because of some of the experiences I’ve had in my life. It’s all just part of the ying and yang of life. Then there are the experiences I’ve had while drinking Yuengling, which I’ll save for another time.

As promised in my last post I want to talk about what Traficant will do for a job after he is released from prison. Last post I was optimistic and had Jim being released and doing good in the world. This post I will be pessimistic about Rep. Traficant’s future saying he might well end being a propagandist for evil like some other infamous former felons have.

Let me give you some examples of what I’m talking about. First off lets talk about felon G.Gordon Liddy. Liddy like Traficant ran for congress but lost. He went on to work for President Nixon until he was caught breaking into Democratic National Committee headquarters. G. Gordon served four and a half years in prison for his part in the burglary. In his biography he mentions he once made plans to kill investigative journalist Jack Anderson because Nixon said Anderson had to be gotten rid of. Liddy later became an American radio talk show host, actor and political strategist. Liddy’s radio show is now syndicated in 160 markets. He has also been a guest panelist for Fox News.

Our next felon is Oliver North who ran an illegal war against Nicaragua from the basement of Regan’s White House. He was also suspected of running an operation smuggling drugs into the United States. North was indicted on sixteen felony counts in 1989, he was initially convicted of three: destruction of documents, aiding and abetting in the obstruction of a congressional inquiry, and accepting an illegal gratuity. He got a three-year suspended prison term, two years probation, $150,000 in fines, and 1,200 hours of community service. Like Traficant North got interested in public office. In 1994, Oliver lost an election when he ran for Senator of Virginia. Today Oliver Lawrence North hosts political commentary show, ”War Stories with Oliver North” on Fox News Channel.

Our third felon is high school drop out and former Los Angeles police detective Mark Furman. Mark is the police detective that supposedly found a bloody glove in O. J. Simpson’s yard. During O.J.’s trial Furman perjured himself when he claimed he had never used the word “nigger.” Officer Furman was offered a plea bargain on the perjury charge and pleaded “no contest” to the charges. He was sentenced to three years probation and fined $200. As a result, he is considered a convicted felon. Furman is now a frequent commentator on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show. Furman also had a talk radio show on Spokane Washington’s KGA until he was fired without explanation in November 2007.

As you can see the above three infamous felons have been able to pick up paychecks working in right-wing talk radio and also from FOX NEWS. So in my last post I tried to say if Jim Traficant wants to repent his past and try to reform corrupt politicians he can be a real voice for the people. The pessimistic side of me is thinking if like the above three he still feels he has done no wrong he can be a voice for corporations on right-wing radio or at FOX NEWS. If you remember Jimbo use to fill in for Pete Gabriel, Dan Ryan and Ron Verb on WKBN talk radio so he has that experience on his resume. My bet is that Warren Ohio native Roger Ailes who is President of Fox News Channel (where he makes over $5 million a year) is already negotiating with Jim Traficant about having his own show at “Felon News” (Fox News).

So who is right optimist Elecpencil or pessimist Elecpencil? Enter your vote in the comments section.

Max and the Marginalized: Kiss the Ring

Week Nights at Six

Contrary to what the politicians and religious leaders would like us to believe, the world won’t be made safer by creating barriers between people. ~ Michael Palin

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Traficant as “Trafican”

Oddly enough this is the same face I make whenever I see any of the above three on my TV.

Trafican

Very soon our area’s former Congressman, Jim Traficant will be released from jail. Traficant was convicted in 2002 of 10 charges including bribery, racketeering and tax evasion. In case you don’t remember see John Stewart here

When he is released the countries media will be descending on the Youngstown Ohio area. What the media will be hoping to see is lots of people cheering for Jim and waving, “Traficant for President “ signs. The media figures Jimbo was our representative so he must represent our values. In this case those values would be foul mouths and a tolerance for crime. Of course the majority of members of our community are good, honest and decent people that don’t  want to be represented by corrupt politicians.

The media that will come are lazy and will find it easier to play to stereotypes and seek out residents that admire Traficant. These are folks who remember Traficant as the sheriff who went to jail because he wouldn’t sign foreclosure deeds on 13 homes of former steelworkers who’s plants had closed. His supporters remember he was given 100 days in jail. They tend to forget on the third day of his sentence, he agreed to sign the deeds and was released from jail. Jim Traficant may have caved in after three days but it was enough for many to think of him as a local hero. The only one who has gained more followers after being put away for three days was Jesus (just a point of reference so no ugly hate e-mails please). Those three days popularity led Sheriff Traficant to his next step (after being acquitted of bribery charges) getting elected to Congress for nine successive terms.

Traficant may have been a Democrat but he voted along with the Republicans 60% of the time. That voting record and the fact that Rush Limbaugh called him, “My favorite democrat” was enough for me to vote against him. Then there is the time I was with my family along a Veteran’s Day Parade route and he yelled at me from a parade car and said, “Hey, you look like Newt Gingrich.” I hate Newt and that just gave me one personal reason not to like Jimbo.

So, when the media comes to interview Traficant what will he say? The optimist in me hopes he will say, “I want to apologize to my community I was guilty and served my time.” I would then like to hear Jim admit that he was a political power addict and it drove him to be corrupt. I then want him to say he wants to start a center to rehabilitate other corrupt politicians. He could be a changed former politician who wants to change today’s politicians for the betterment of all.

He could do a town hall speaking tour and have conferences talking about how our representatives need to represent us not themselves and rich lobbyists. If Representative Traficant would do this he would truly represent a better future for our children, community and country. Then the media could report that the people of the Youngstown area are stronger than the steel we made and that this new “steel” is going to construct the foundation of a better nation.

America loves underdogs who are honest about their mistakes and now want to do good. I urge Rep. Traficant to be an underdog championing good not a rabid dog Hell bent on righting imagined wrongs. Jimbo I urge you to make something good of your future to give back to your community what you and so many other corrupt leaders have taken from us. When the media talks of corrupt communities Youngstown is put under the microscope for all to see. When the media comes for Jimbo’s release he has the opportunity to take the stage and say he is sorry about the past and wants to help make a better future. Then the microscope will turn into a spotlight highlighting not what was but what will be.

Yep, the above sounds naive but doesn’t a big part of optimism consist of squinting your vision focusing on the outcome? My next post will take the pessimist vision of Traficant’s release and talk about his job prospects.

Some Irish music by Ciaran Murphy

Anti-Social

For God and Ulster

They Hung Saddam

Happy Saint Paddy’s Day!

I don’t like people who are in politics for themselves and not for others. You want that, you can go into show business.”
— Elvis Presley, American rock ‘n’ roll icon (1935-1977)

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The Color of Hope is Not Green

Mr. And Mrs. Elecpencil along with the Mac went down to Youngstown’s Chevrolet Center yesterday afternoon. We went to see, the Cirque du Soleil and truly enjoyed it.

As I have talked about in previous blogs I don’t like to go out much as events I attend are usually ruined by a force field I suffer with know as, asshole magnetism. I am generally a very tolerant person but my outings always seem to test my tolerance. At the Cirque du Soleil I was so entertained I was almost able to ignore the mind numbing mantra of one of the three elderly women sitting right behind me. From the start of the 3:30 PM show until the end at 6:15 she repeated to her friends, “This better be over by 5:30 as I’ve got somewhere to go.” My thought was why did she even come as there were other show times on other days. I did note we walked out at 6:15 and she wasn’t complaining the show lasted too long. As I said, it was a great show you should check out.

The other day I was talking with a friend that has a daughter graduating from high school this year just like my daughter the Mac. We were lamenting over what field of study is there that our kids can have any future at? If we look around at our own community we can see that industrial jobs have faded and service sector jobs don’t pay a livable wage. The steel plants have been replaced with steel bars. By that I mean the steel industry is gone and has been replaced by the prison industry. Prisons are the industry that are given by the government to the most down and out areas that really need jobs.

I recently read that over 80% of inmates have not finished high school. That’s one sad note when you think how it would have been cheaper for taxpayers if that 80%  had finished high school. It’s just not that it would have been cheaper but about the wasted lives of those behind bars and affected lives of the victims of their crimes. A good job is a great deterrent to someone ending up in prison. With the exportation of more and more of our jobs is it any wonder we have as of year-end 2007, a record 7.2 million people  behind bars, on probation or on parole. 2.3 million or more than 1 in 100 American adults are incarcerated.

Simple math tells me – education = + incarceration.

Here’s a poem I wrote a few years back about this:

The Color of Hope Is Not Green

In the classrooms

kids are watching

Channel One.

Two minutes of commercials

for every 10 minutes of news.

McDonalds is teaching

a class on nutrition

and serving Big Macs

in the cafeteria.

They’re feeding children’s bodies

and stealing their souls.

And the corporate boardroom says:

Get ‘em while they’re young

get ‘em while they’re young.

It’s all about the green

it’s all about the green.

School buildings crumble,

supplies are non-existent

and funding goes begging.

All we get from politicians

is a cultural war

pushing the Ten Commandments,

book bannings, vouchers

and phony corporate prepared proficiency tests.

All smoke screens

for the free market goal,

the privatization of public education.

The downside of capitalism

is people are expendable,

even children.

And the corporate boardroom says:

Get ‘em while they’re young,

get ‘em while they’re young.

It’s all about the green,

it’s all about the green.

After years of economic neglect,

songs of sirens from D.C. and Columbus

sing of jobs, jobs, jobs.

Then give them to our valley

on a plate,

wash their hands

and seal our fate.

They serve us the profits of crime,

the private prison industry.

Our children’s future

is in a guard uniform

or an orange jumpsuit.

And the corporate boardroom says:

Get ‘em while they’re young,

get ‘em while they’re young.

It’s all about the green,

it’s all about the green.

The government gave us no dialogue,

just a take it or leave it monologue.

Then the local government,

like all of government,

carried on their illicit love affair

with the American corporate state.

And the bandwagon of despair

had many in the community jumping on.

It was touted as a hot business

what with America’s

eye for an eye,

lock ‘em up and throw away the key,

try ‘em and fry ‘em mentality.

They even want to try

ten year olds as adults.

And the corporate boardroom says:

Get ‘em while they’re young,

get ‘em while they’re young.

It’s all about the green,

it’s all about the green.

The Christian right has a vision,

kids will turn out great

if we just put prayer in schools.

When that doesn’t change things,

they’ll put bibles in the jails

for the children who’ve committed

the unforgivable crime,

the crime of poverty.

And the corporate boardroom says:

Get ‘em while they’re young,

get ‘em while they’re young.

It’s all about the green,

it’s all about the green.

Our children’s diplomas

are self-improvement tapes

entitled, “Living with Poverty.”

as they graduate

to low paying, service sector jobs.

I want more for our area,

more for our kids,

who look to us for their future.

We’ll give them a reason to live

when we put people

before profits

and education before corporations

on that day the children will sing,

Schools not prisons,

Schools not prisons.

It’s all about the children,

it’s all about the children.

Gary Jules Devil Keeps Grinning

Mad World

Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living things, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on the Earth. I said then and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free. ~ Eugene Debs



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Hypocrites and Beliefs

Watching CSPAN this weekend I caught part of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). I get a big chuckle out of hearing speakers like Newt Gingrich who has been married three times address conservative so called, “family values” types. The last CPAC speaker was Rush the “Stoner” Limbaugh. For years Rush has said, drug users should be jailed but was hypocritical when he was caught. I just love seeing the do as I say not as I do conservatives.

When Rush spoke at CPAC he said, “Liberals can’t tell you what they believe.” Most liberals I know could easily give you a long list of beliefs. They also could tell you they believe in living those beliefs unlike conservative hypocrites.

El Drugo Limbaugh here are just some of my beliefs. I believe  that supporting our veteran’s means giving them the best medical care we can. I believe that soldier’s parents should not have to buy them body armor the government should.  I believe we shouldn’t  sacrifice our young in wars to benefit the military industrial complex and Wall Street. I believe that presidents who used any excuse not to be drafted and have never seen the carnage of war should not be commander-in-chief during times of war.

I believe that energy company lobbyists shouldn’t write our energy policies; drug company lobbyists shouldn’t write out health care policies and credit card company lobbyists shouldn’t write our bankruptcy policies. I believe our representatives should represent us not global corporations. I believe that all work should have dignity, be creative,  valued and done with pride. I believe that jobs for Americans should not be exported in bad trade policies. I believe that giving all our jobs to China is not a good idea.

I believe that higher education should be a priority. I believe that it is stupid for politicians to propose budgets that cut college loans. I believe we should not violate peoples’ rights that are established in our constitution. I believe that we should not help brutal Third World dictators just because they will be “friendly” to global corporations.  I believe that we should not train these dictators’ death squads at Ft. Benning Georgia. I believe that after we supported these dictators for years it is hard for us to then say we want to bring democracy to Third World peoples and have them believe us. I believe American cannot tell the rest of the world how to live because we have money and guns on our side. I believe that U.S. corporate interests should not drive foreign policy.

I believe in destroying the divisions that the powers that be love to exploit, especially those based on class, gender, race and culture. I believe in a just and pluralistic society where diversity is cherished, freedom is secured, and power is shared.

I believe that a basic American ethical value should be caring for the poor and vulnerable. I believe that federal and state budgets should be moral documents that include: fairness opportunity and security for all. I believe budgets should show we care more about people’s welfare and less about warfare. I believe our elected leaders are responsible to listen to our calls for justice – and to stand up for moral priorities for the common good. I believe in legislation that is pro-worker and pro-family. I believe we are caretakers of the Earth and should work towards a clean planet for our children. I believe we should listen to scientific research not corporate research that denies corporate responsibility.

I believe we should have the best health care in the world for all our citizens. I believe in a whole lot more but I believe I’ll stop here. These are not extremist, ultra-liberal ideas and beliefs unless like Rush your bread is buttered by corporations.

Keb Mo A Brand New America

I’m On Your Side

“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, they shall have their fill” (Mt 5:6). The bible does not condemn prosperity; it just insists that it be shared.

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