Monthly Archives: August 2010

$106,537,771 Stolen from Youngstown

On Thursday, August 26th I was finally able to get to the Dorothy Day House at 620 Belmont Ave. Youngstown, OH. I went for their monthly Roundtable discussion. This month it was on war and weapons of mass destruction. Roundtable discussions on social justice topics are held on the fourth Thursday evening of the month at 7:00 PM. The Dorothy Day House serves dinner to the needy in our community.  They do this Monday-Thursday from 5:00 to 6:30 PM, and offer free showers on Tuesday evenings from 3:00 to 4:45 PM. Before I arrived Thursday I was told just that day they had served dinner to 120 people. I like to cook but I can’t even imagine how you could go about making dinner for that many people.

I love the work of Dorothy Day and poet Peter Maurin who established the Catholic Worker Movement. The fact that we have good people in our community carrying on their work at this Youngstown Dorothy Day House is a blessing and a wonderful tribute to Dorothy and Peter! The Dorothy Day House one more great reason to live in our valley.

I’ve mentioned how poor the Elecpencil is. Truth is most of my postings are short of commas and other punctuation because I can’t afford to buy more of them. I don’t usually like to talk about money but today I am making an exception. In the last decade I’ve gotten into a bit of a financial pinch. I had a credit card with no limit and I charged whatever I thought I needed. I also borrowed money and about 40% of it was from other countries. I had a contractor rip me off for $549.7 million in spare parts shipped in 2004. All together several companies claimed I owed them for lost and  unaccounted  goods that cost me  $9 billion. I paid one company $20 billion that my auditors claimed included a  questionable $3.2 billion. I sadly note that I am  doing even more business with these crooked corporations that stole from me.

I now owe what amounts to $8,333 a second, $500,000 a minute or $750,000,000 a day.  All in all I owe $1,072,074,367,425 and climbing every second. Before, all is said and done I will owe $3 trillion or more.

If you feel sorry for me you should also feel sorry for yourself. That is because as we the people of the USA are the government those figures are what we owe  collectively for the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars since they started in 2001. Per taxpayer we have each paid $7,439 so far. Ohio’s share was  $37,6033,055,432 and Youngstown spent $106,537,771. Of course all those figure are going up per second as you can see here.

What could have Youngstown done with that  $106,537,771 instead of spending it on war? Youngstown could have added on 409 police or sheriff’s patrol officers for one year. Or 508 firefighters for one year. How about 4,600 students receiving Pell Grants of $5550. We could have paid 381 elementary school teachers for one year. 3,168 military veterans could have received VA medical care for one year. There could have been 3,708 Head Start slots for children for one year.

Cost of deploying one U.S. soldier for one year in Iraq – $390,000. The only money I want to justify is whatever it takes to help our soldiers.  A recent study indicated that the long-term health care costs for wounded Iraq War veterans could range from $350 billion to $700 billion. We’ve had 31,897 US soldiers wounded (total excludes psychological injuries.) Within 3 to 4 months of returning home 30% of US troops develop serious mental health problems. We’ve also lost 4,416 US troops; 9% killed by non-hostile causes.

On these two wars we’ve spent $1.7 trillion overseas, with little return to the American economy and we’ve weakened the dollar. As I said, 40% of the money for the war was borrowed from other countries to financing this war with debt. We now are at the mercy of foreign nations holding that debt.

Still, bin Laden roams free, and more nations are starting to look at us as occupiers. Having over 737 US military bases in 130 countries around the world (that costs the USA a fortune) adds to that impression.  Add in all the criticism of the NYC Islamic Center  and al Qaeda has a recruiting tool to show that Moslems can become US citizens but they and their religion will be treated by many as second class Americans.

The faiths we have today all include some large elements that will ignore the morals of their faith to justify war. I believe only a dollars and cents fact-based instead of faith-based approach can lead to the end of wars. It’s sad that money talks but it’s time to use that fact to talk about peace as we just can’t monetarily afford any more wars.

My favorite Peter Maurin Poem: Better or Better Off

Mike Masse: The Mistake

Michael Franti and Spearhead: Time To Go Home

Get up and dance like I am with Spearhead: We Don’t Stop

These kids understood what is not immediately obvious; that they were going to pay the bills for tax cuts that had been passed today or in the last 4 years, and for the war in Iraq, because essentially we are borrowing money to do those things. ~ Tom Allen


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Filo Dough and Corporate America’s Dough

I had lunch a couple of days ago with two revolutionary co-conspirators for a better world.  We ate at Cafe’ Maria at 16 South Main St. Hubbard, Ohio. It sits on the side of Squirrelly’s Skin Art tattoo shop. The restaurant has four tables each seating four. They also were doing a brisk take-out business. We decided to try some of the Greek food items on the menu. We had Fila (stuffed grape leaves), Spanakopita (spinach, cheese, spices & herbs in a filo dough) and Tiroptia (cheese, spices & herbs in filo dough). The Fila were like mini pigs in the blanket. Sometimes grape leaves can be bitter but these were not. The filo dough on the Spanakopita and Tiroptia was very flakey and the filling was very tasty.  The menu also features salads, gyros, sandwiches, wraps and several dinners. The restaurant has been opened for a year and with food this good they deserve your support to stay open for many years to come.

With all this hot weather I want you to remember to check in on the elderly in our community and see that they are alright. My wife and I stopped to see one of her elderly relatives the other day. Generally this relative is a very bright and compassionate person. The other day it was very hot when we stopped to check on her. She was babbling about Muslims all being terrorists, about communists controlling our country and how minorities and illegals are taking over our country. We thought the heat had gotten to her or she was getting senile. We then noticed she was watching Glenn Beck on TV. We asked her when she had started watching Beck. She said a few days ago she was clicking through the channels and saw him crying like a baby. She decided to see what was wrong and now she has been watching him daily. We convinced her that he was insane and she would go insane watching such drivel. The Elecpencil says, “Loved ones don’t let loved ones kill brain cells watching Glen Beck.”

I had most of the summer off of work and that let me observe a few things, I  don’t experience when I’m working. The one thing that shocked me was the state of local talk radio. WKBN’s Dan Rivers spends every day on his talk show bashing illegal Hispanic immigrants and Muslims. That is when he isn’t bashing unions, democrats, liberals and public sector workers. Dan and most of his callers come off as some real racists and bigots. Dan has spoken at Teabagger gatherings where he bashes illegal immigrants. He is promoting a bus trip to D.C. where the “baggers” will be having a rally.  Dan has claimed the Teabagger events have no ties to either political party. A caller asked Dan, “Where can I find tickets for your bus trip?” Dan’s response, “Your local Republican headquarters.” Dan claims one of the biggest goals of the baggers is to stamp out corruption in D.C. A note to Dan, you can’t protest against political corruption and have a corrupt politician like Traficant be a speaker at your rallies

I got an e-mail from a teabagger. He told me it was rude of me to address them as teabaggers. I sent him an e-mail saying I would instead call them “insane domestic terrorists,” “American Taliban,” “corporate tools” or “corporate lemmings.” I told him to pick which one he preferred but I haven’t heard back from him so I will continue calling them teabaggers.

Let me state why my views differ from the baggers and conservatives. It comes down to an issue of control. The government can control our country or the corporations can control the country. Both situations can have difficulties but I prefer  the government in control because we can vote out a politician who isn’t doing a good job every few years.  If the corporations were running our country we’d have no way to get rid of corporate boards and CEO’s. We’d also have no safety standards or environmental regulations. As it is, the corporations already have too much influence over our politicians. We need campaign finance reform to beat back the corporations from buying our government let alone turning it over to them.  I also don’t believe in term limits like many baggers do. Why should we have term limits just because most people are too dumb to follow politics and too apathetic to vote. Get informed and get involved or you deserve the government you get.

I was recently at a panel discussion that included a teabagger who speaks at area events. He is a retired supervisor from Delphi.  As you may know many  retired Delphi white-collar workers got cheated out of some of  their pensions and health care. During the question and answer period I had my hand up to ask  the teabagger whether he was one of many who were cheated. He had to leave early and the question session was cut short and I didn’t get to ask him. I would assume he is one of those cheated.  I wanted to ask if his anger over this made him get involved in the Tea Party.  I personally know workers from our local steel mills and elsewhere who were screwed out of pensions and health care since the late 1970’s.  I wanted to know if this Tea Party speaker spoke out decades ago about these things happening to  American workers or did he only think America was going in the wrong direction when it happened to him,  just recently.

The Tea Party speaker came off as not very bright and as a racist. Then again  I have never met a supervisor who wasn’t a little slow in the thought process. A young teabagger in his twenties came to film the discussion. He was wearing a t-shirt that said, “9/11 was an inside job.” I couldn’t imagine what kind of people these two kooks could inspire to attend Tea Party rallies. A national Tea Party event led by Glenn Beck is coming up in D.C. Attending a rally in D.C. sponsored by FOX NEWS and paid for by Corporate America’s dough is part of the problem not the solution.

For those that wonder why the middle-class is disappearing  the answer is apathy. We don’t see the hole the neighbor is in until we are in the same hole. Soon, it will be too late as we will all be so far down we will have to jump up to  reach the bottom.

I agree with Sam Seder on the NYC Mosque.

Alix Olson: America’s on Sale

Nate Marshall: Super Tuesday

“What is conservatism? It is not adherence to the old and tried, but against the new and untried?” ~ Abraham Lincoln


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Family Values Hypocrisy

Mrs. Elecpencil and I have been going to the Ellsworth Berry Farm outside of Canfield. We picked both good-sized blueberries and raspberries. I give the farm two blue thumbs up.

While picking the other day I heard an interesting conversation coming from a nearby berry row. It involves a young boy and what seemed to be a lady who was babysitting him for the day. The boy said, “I’ve watched “Family Guy.” You could tell by the way he said it that he knew it was an adult show he shouldn’t be watching. He then asked the woman with him, “Do you live near any black people?” She replied, “No, but I work with some.” He continued, “Would you want to live by any?” She said, “Just help me pick and then I’ll take you to McDonalds.”

I thought the woman missed a good opportunity to teach the boy that people should be judged on an individual basis not by skin color. Then again not being the boy’s mother she might not have felt it was her place. I hope the woman tells the parents about the boy’s questions and they can teach the boy how racism is wrong. That is unless the boy heard racist comments  from his parents at home.

Let me give you a case in point where a kid ended up as a racist because his mother is a known racist and a homophobe. You might have heard about Dr. Laura Schlessinger who gives relationship advice on the radio. She has a Ph.D in physiology not psychology which makes her advice not professional. The fact she was estranged from her sister and mother for decades does not stop her from giving advice on relationships to others and stressing family values.  Let’s say you call her to ask her a question about how to deal with your mother. What you need to know is that her mother was dead two months before anyone found her. That should tell you that you’d get better advice by dialing a wrong number.

Laura got a radio show by sleeping with a married radio shock jock for two years. She posed for nude photos for him that he has posted on the web. She next had an affair with a married professor who had three children. She moved in with him for nine years until she got pregnant and married him. The “good” doctor calls other women who do this “shack up honeys.” If you think all this makes her unqualified to host a radio show you’re dead wrong. It also qualified her to write columns, be a best-selling author and get a TV show. Only in America can hypocrisy make you a wealthy star.

Dr. Schlessinger has made homophobic statements on the radio. She said that gays who wanted to raise children were pedophiles. She claimed a huge portion of gay males were predatory on young boys. In March 2000 she made a public apology on her radio show about her gay comments. The apology was withdrawn two weeks later when it was not wholeheartedly accepted. So how sincere was she? She has trashed military wives as being whiners. She claims her family has good values because they follow the Ten Commandments. Her latest debacle just the other day showed her racist side. Listen to the taped call to her show parts one and two for her racist statements here.

Dr. Laura signs off her radio program saying, “I’m my kids mom.” She is indeed and truer words were never spoken.  She has spoken about Deryk her “warrior” son who is in the Army in Afghanistan. The “warrior” got in trouble in 2007 for somethings he posted on his MySpace page. The postings included: racial epithets against Arabs, talk of illegal drug use, and cartoons depicting murder, torture, rape and child molestations. It included this statement “Yes . . . F—ING Yes!!! I LOVE MY JOB, it takes everything reckless and deviant and heathenistic and just overall bad about me and hyper focuses these traits into my job of running around this horrid place doing nasty things to people that deserve it . . . and some that don’t.”…”

Maybe, you are thinking you could excuse this as the strain of being in a war zone. Well, he had the same deviant attitude before joining the army. Here  he is at the 2004 GOP convention throwing a female protester to the floor and kicking her.  “Warrior” you say Dr. Laura? No, he’s a punk ass and a disgrace to all our fine young men in the military service. He definitely is “his mother’s son.” Ten Commandments and family values indeed.

There is a lot of family values hypocrisy going around. Newt Gingrich’s second ex-wife, Marianne has been doing interviews about what a hypocrite Newt is. Newt was having an affair on her while he was attacking Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky.  Marianne had asked him how could he be such a hypocrite. He replied, “It doesn’t matter what I do, people need to hear what I have to say. There’s no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn’t matter what I live.” If you remember Newt got to be Speaker of the House after he forced Jim Wright to resign after ethical fund-raising charges.  Newt resigned from congress and as Speaker of the House in 1998.  During Newt’s term as speaker, the Ethics Committee found him guilty of laundering donations through charities with the highest fine ever imposed on a Speaker of the House, $300,000.

Though Newt was disgraced this has not stopped him from verbally attacking President Obama. As the 2012 election approaches, he has raised as much money as all of his potential rivals combined. He also sits atop the polls for the Republican presidential nomination. Only in America could such a sleaze bag be considered presidential material.

Locally, we have people who support putting the “con” in congress by supporting felon Jim Traficant for congress. Could that happen? Once again, only in America. It seems that no matter whether a skeleton comes out of  the closet or a huge elephant is in the room no one will notice it if the lighting is right.

I remember a woman who was telling me what a bad influence rap music had been on her son. She said, “All they sing about is money, gold and drugs.” I knew this woman was a Rush Limbaugh listener. I was thinking Rush was a drug user, signed a contract in 2008 for $400 million for the next eight years and promotes buying gold. The only difference I could see is the rappers go to jail for drug use and aren’t family values hypocrites.

My point is that we need to set good examples for our children. We need to talk to our children. We need to teach them that racism, homophobia, violence, greed, hunger for power and corruption are not acceptable “family values.” They are not the kinds of ideas that will enable our children to get ahead in America. Or are they? I say not but it seems I am proven wrong about this on a daily basis as the scum seems to rise to the top…..only in America.

I just went to a friend’s birthday house party. Singer/songwriter Jann Klose was there entertaining us with some great original music. He has one of the best voices you’re going to hear and comes to our valley a few times a year. I highly recommend you check him out. I will post the next time he is coming to town.

Jann Klose: BlackBox

Walk Through the River

also: Doing Time

To nourish children and raise them against odds is in any time, any place, more valuable than to fix bolts in cars or design nuclear weapons.- Marilyn Frenc


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From Shopping Sprees to Garage Sales

I am getting tired of being a winner. I got a phone call saying, “You’ve won free siding for your house and garage.”  All I had to do was pay for the installation which cost almost as much as I paid for my house. I told them to just drop off the siding and I’d install it. The sound on the other end of the phone was “click.”

Just last week I got a call saying, “You’ve won a free security system.” The catch of course was that I had to pay installation and a monthly fee that I couldn’t afford. I responded, “I already have a security system that has been foolproof.” The caller replied, “Do you mind if I ask what kind of system it is?” I answered back, ” It’s a home-made one that is quite simple. I simply tape my pay stubs near every entrance. It is then quite obvious to any would-be intruder that there can’t be anything in my house worth stealing. It works so well that several times I have actually had visitors with bad intent leave a few sympathetic bucks near my doorways.”

The caller laughed as if I was joking. He asked, “Surely, you have something worth stealing.” I shot back, “Does anyone want a turntable, a cassette player, a reel to reel tape deck, and two blown speakers all from 1978?  How about a Betamax  movie tape deck, a 19 inch TV whose picture has shrunk down to 12 inches, a telephone with a rotary dial or a ten year-old computer? ” I continued, “On top of that poor Mrs. Elepencil  has to lift the washers lid up and down to slow down the water exiting on the  spin cycle. That is because our plumbing is so old and clogged it can’t handle the volume of water exiting the washer. Every appliance in our house is broken and requires duct tape, baling wire and secret tricks to operate.”

I added, “I don’t have a Rolex Watch I have a Timex that needs a battery which cost more than the watch is worth. We need some new windows, doors and gutters. You can’t turn the 12 year-old microwave oven on if the computer is on in the other room without blowing a fuse. We need all of the electrical and plumbing updated. We have a partial basement which of course leaks. Most of the pipes that need replaced are in the crawl space.  I’ve called four plumbers and when they see they’ll have to get in the crawl space they say, “I’ll be back tomorrow.” They never come back and avoid my calls.”

Let me also add that “All summer long  black top contractors cruise our neighborhood. It’s embarrassing because my driveway is the worst so they always stop to give me an estimate. I came home last week to find an estimate shoved in my screen door. It was for nearly six thousand dollars and said it could be done in a day. Had I been home and had the contractor handed it to me I would have laughed in his face and told him his $6,000 for one day of work would cost me six months of work.”

The caller asked, “Don’t you have any valuable tools and equipment in your garage?”  I answered, “I have some rusty tools I bought in 1974, I have a battery charger I bought in 1977 that needs a new cord and a 1994 riding mower that needs a new deck.”  He replied, “It was fun talking to you.” I said, “Thanks for letting me vent.”

I keep wondering how I win all these things when I don’t enter any contests. Truth is, I don’t even know how to play the lottery. I’m an Irish-American but I don’t believe in gambling or the luck of the Irish. On the other hand, I guess I am lucky because I never felt I needed “things” to be happy. As I’ve said, I don’t own or want to own a cell phone. I don’t want the latest “i-anything.” I do love the access to information computers give people. I treasure the computer I am using because my son built it a decade ago and has done some updates to it. I’m sure it’s slow by today’s standards but I will use it until it spontaneously combusts.

I am resigned to the fact everything in my house needs fixed and I can live with them the way they are. That is because these problems require three things I don’t have: skill, time and money. I do wish I could find a plumber to get in that crawl space so Mrs. E didn’t have to stand flood guard duty at the washer.

I watch some of those house buying shows on the Home and Garden Channel. I shake my head at some of the comments house shoppers make. The buyers always want a huge house with more rooms than they’ll ever use. I have no use for extra rooms that need dusted. I’d also feel guilty about all the wasted heat for rooms I’d never use. The buyers will enter a bathroom and say, ” We can’t buy this house it only has one sink.” As a  guy who tries to fix some of his own plumbing problems I’d say, “The less sinks the better.” Sharing two sinks in the same bathroom is way more togetherness than the Elecpencil wants. What’s next, two toilets in the bathroom? Isn’t the divorce rate already high enough?

The other worst thing you can have in your house is too much storage. The formula is the more storage the more crap you find to store. I’ve found that the older you get the less you really need. When you’re younger you spend time on shopping sprees. When you get older you spend time having garage sales to get rid of all that stuff you bought and never used. Forget about stupid sayings like, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” As I’ve aged I’ve found that buying material things actually decreases our comforts and keeps us from knowing real peace. I got to go as I told Mrs. E it was my turn to stand flood duty and the washers on spin.

If your going to be a shopper shop ethically.

Buy it, Use it, Break it, Junk it, it’s Toxic

We Want Your Soul


There is one advantage to having nothing, it never needs repair. ~ Frank A. Clark

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