Ohio River Life
Saturday, March 31, 2007
Friday, March 30, 2007
Let them live normal lives
"Those who wish to pet and baby wild animals 'love' them. But those who respect their natures and wish to let them live normal lives, love them more.” (Edwin Way Teale, Circle of the Seasons, 1953)
Before I start my story, I realize that I may be a minority voice speaking out in the wilderness of Columbiana County. That being said, I ask those of you who read The Review to try and recall a story that was written on Sunday, March 18, 2007. The story was on the front page of Riverstyle, written by Leigh Ann Kaiser and titled, "Bringing Up Smokey." It featured the Blazing Bucks Deer Farm and Petting Zoo in Negley, Ohio.
The story focused on a baby bear named Smokey who was taken from its mother and is being raised for a few months by humans "so that the bear will grow up thinking he is part human and will be more tame by being bottle fed by people."
Larry Salmons, co-owner of Blazing Bucks, was quoted in the article as saying, "Smokey's mother wasn't too bothered by having her cub taken from her. She objected at first but the next day, she didn't even know she had him." Apparently Mr. Salmons is also a bear psychic. The story gives the impression that this is a great place where the animals are loved and cared for.
A few days ago some of us took a trip to Blazing Bucks Deer Farm and Petting Zoo. My first reaction when I saw the place was despair. It is simply a bunch of shacks on a steep hillside. We went to the "office" which is a glorified shack, and that is where we could pay our $6.00 to tour the grounds. It was also the current home of Smokey, the baby bear.
Smokey was in a small playpen with a Jack Russell Terrier puppy. For another $6.00 we could have our picture taken with Smokey. We declined the offer, but the woman insisted we hold the baby bear. When we declined that offer, she picked up the bear and thrust it into my friend's arms.
While my companions were dealing with the bear situation, I was looking around the room at all the deer racks and deer heads on the walls. There was also a baby pygmy goat there, and we were told it was there because the mother had died. When I inquired about the cause of death, I was told, "She broke her neck or somethin’."
We started our walking tour and stopped to look at the rabbits. The flooring in the cages was some kind of metal grating and thick with droppings. Of course the rabbits did not have any space to roam. The bear cages were just as bad when it came to space. There was absolutely no room for the bears to wander about or get any kind of exercise. There was also no water or food there. There was a huge tree branch lying on the ground. I guess this was some pitiful attempt at having a natural habitat for the bears.
The conditions were the same for the tigers and wolves. The shelters had no straw, and they were simply mud pits. There are signs everywhere warning that if you trespass on this land you will be taken care of in a rather unpleasant fashion. We also saw a deer with wire wrapped around his antlers with the end of the wire hanging down between its legs. It is cruel beyond belief for the tigers, wolves and bears that live there to not be given the space to roam around and get some kind of exercise.
The Review article stated that the cages where the animals are kept meet ASDA guidelines. If that is true then those guidelines need to be changed. There is misery in the air at Blazing Bucks. It reeks with the desperation of free spirits forced into a life of confinement. If you can, take a trip to Negley and see Blazing Bucks for yourself. If you feel that the conditions for the animals there are less than humane, please call the Humane Society and the Division of Wildlife and ask them to check on the conditions at Blazing Bucks Animal Farm and Petting Zoo. Please, one phone call can do a lot of good.
These are just wild animals put in small cages to entertain people. Are we willing to entertain ourselves by exploiting the misery of these animals? If so, then step right up folks and have your picture taken with a REAL, LIVE BABY BEAR! Don't forget your six dollars.
Humane Society: 330-332-2600
Division of Wildlife: 330-644-3802 (ext. 3212)
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Taking care of your own
Today has been a very sad day. I learned of the passing of young Matt Johnston this afternoon. For three years, he fought a courageous battle against childhood carcinoma and, later, leukemia. Tuesday night, he finally could fight no more and succumbed to his dreaded disease.
The one thing I want to point out, beyond the fact that this was a wonderful boy who enjoyed life and loved his family and friends, is that the village of Wellsville came together for Matt and his family when they needed help. So many times we hear about Wellsville village government and how horrible things have become there, and this all may be true—I don’t know, I don’t live there anymore—but one thing I do know is that when Matt first got sick, the town came together, raised money for him, and spent time doing anything they could to help the family.
Say what you want about Wellsville and the people who live there, but one thing it has that most other towns and cities do not is a strong sense of generosity and caring for its own. I’ve never seen townspeople who, living in a village so many claim is dying, come out so strongly to support one another. There were many fundraisers for Matt, and the people of Wellsville gave what they could to help. True, I don’t live there anymore, but it’s still my hometown, and I exult in pride when I think back on the turnout at the fundraisers I was able to attend. Matt’s parents have always been so appreciative of what people have done for them.
I know I speak for many in Wellsville when I say that this is truly a very sad day. Matt’s funeral is Friday morning at the Convenant Presbyterian Church on 18th Street in Wellsville, and I know that townspeople will be there again, as they have been from the start of this cruel, monstrous disease Matt had to fight. I just wanted to write something in Matt’s honor, and thank the town for their compassion for my friend and his family.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
How we got here
I have written many times about the specific social and economic issues our region faces, so I’ll avoid going over that same territory again. Although there are general problems we all share, each municipality has its own unique circumstances and issues. Because I live in East Liverpool, my concerns start there.
Before we can understand East Liverpool (or any other similar Ohio Valley town), we have to grasp the forces that created it. In the days when towns were forming along the frontier, entrepreneurs developed industries in the towns themselves. Here it was the pottery industry. At one time, the city was filled with small potteries. In the pre-automobile world, it made sense to concentrate business, industry, and housing along existing natural transportation arteries. In our case, that artery was the Ohio River and its tributaries. Any understanding of our region must start there.
The towns grew up around the primary industries, which were located in the middle. This model made perfect sense to European immigrants, who brought their Old World values and methods with them. As such, the towns were centers of activity, and the natural resources of the outlying areas were exploited to supply the urban population. Farmers cleared wilderness land to create the “countryside,” but their markets remained in the city. Roads to the countryside were built for the purpose of bringing produce and other natural resources to town.
It is important to realize that as Ohio Valley towns grew in the 19th century, they were not at all “clean” by today’s standards. In East Liverpool, the air pollution produced by the burning of fossil fuels in its many potteries and households would be intolerable by today’s standards. In fact, dirty, unhealthy air combined with advances in transportation eventually prompted many to seek relief in the surrounding hills. The first suburbs were created not for convenience, but as refuge from the increasingly dirty and unhealthy industrial towns.
As the steel industry developed in the Ohio Valley, industrial pollution advanced to unparalleled levels. With the development of public and private transportation, practical access to the suburbs became easier, and as populations and wages grew, more and more city residents moved to outlying areas. Because the “city center” idea was so firmly entrenched, there was a period when suburban residents still did virtually all their business in the city. But in the 1950s and ‘60s, that began to change.
Our love affair with personal transportation—namely, the automobile—brought with it a complete rearrangement of the American landscape. By the mid 20th century, virtually every family owned at least one car, which meant that more prosperous workers could easily live outside the city and drive to work. As farms gave way to suburban housing developments, downtown businesses also relocated in these more auto-friendly zones. Cheap “country” land made it easy to construct large parking lots for businesses, and before long, the suburbs had become the symbol of the modern American “convenience” fetish.
By the ‘60s and ‘70s, living in the suburbs had become symbolic of financial success, and a new kind of American class consciousness was born. As more and more people and businesses abandoned the towns for the suburbs, city property values plummeted, leaving the towns vulnerable to exploitation by suburbanites, who now could afford to “get into real estate” by purchasing town properties and renting them to the poor. No longer vital commercial centers, the old downtowns have struggled to stave off decay. Homeowners continue to fight for their neighborhoods against hoards of rootless renters with no stake in the community.
This is where towns like East Liverpool find themselves today. Because of the great wealth left over from the Industrial Age, large cities like Pittsburgh were able to make the transition to the modern world by consciously reinventing themselves, but smaller towns like Liverpool and Steubenville had no such wealth to work with, and they continue to search for a foothold in the post-industrial 21st century.
To say, as many do, that the old towns are “dead” is neither true nor useful. Such talk inevitably comes from those who need to validate themselves through prejudice. In Wellsville, this suburban arrogance is comical. Drive a quarter mile up Tenth Street hill and you’ll find a cluster of ranch homes tightly jumbled together in something known as Russell Heights. To be “important” or “successful” in Wellsville, you must live there. I guess status is relative in any environment.
If our small towns are to prosper, revitalization must come from a new generation of people ready to leave the dull homogeneity of the suburbs behind, people who understand that the history of civilization—even here on the frontier—remains tied to strong, vital urban centers. But do such people even exist in our area? If so, are there enough of them to turn the tide?
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Focusing on the future (again)
by M. Stewart
While many in our area still complain about the passing of the Industrial Age, others are hard at work creating the future. [See this Post-Gazette article.] Regular readers have heard me say this before, yet our area remains haunted by the mass depression of underachievers. Too many have decided that the creativity and hard work required to retool for the new century is beyond them. They think society owes them a living, that all they have to do is fill out an application and wait. Those days are over.
How many times have you heard people around here say there are no jobs? First of all, it’s a lie. The vast majority in our area is employed. What the complainers really mean is that there are not as many manufacturing and industrial jobs for unskilled workers as there once was. This is absolutely true, but short of moving to Asia, there isn’t much we can do about it. The economic wheel has turned and will continue to turn. You either roll with it or get crushed by it. It’s your choice.
In the so-called “knowledge economy,” life-long education is the norm. These days, you can’t get a degree, find a job and work at it until retirement. To keep that job you have to prove yourself every day, and the way you do that is to keep learning. The world has never been more dynamic. Things change quickly—too quickly, but that’s just the way it is. Rapid change is a feature of modern life. It can’t be stopped.
In the 21st century, everyone—not just the elite—must be educated. As a result, our public high schools must rethink their mission and drastically raise academic standards. Students must be pushed hard to achieve more than they believe possible. Despite all the “No Child Left Behind” rhetoric, failure must remain an option. Fear of failure is the greatest of all motivators in a society that values high achievement. In one that doesn’t, the bar is lowered to the point where conformity and mediocrity are confused with success. This is the spell we must break.
One problem is that most of our small towns were built upon economic and social models that no longer exist. As a result, it is very difficult to convince our best and brightest to return home after college. Instead, we read stories in the newspapers about the achievements of area natives who have long since moved away. Our survival depends upon reversing this trend.
What will that take? One thing is certain: Genuine revival requires idealism and stamina across the generations. We must work toward achieving common goals rather than demand immediate personal gratification. We must commit to something beyond ourselves. Over the next few days, we will explore these issues in more detail.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Pizza parlor confession
Andrew Irwin does not take the stand to defend himself against a charge of murder, but while the jury deliberates his fate, his brother produces a witness who says he knows who really killed Emily Foreman. The defense attorney runs off and records the statement of said witness at a Lisbon pizza parlor, and literally as the guilty verdict is announced in the makeshift courtroom, he waves the cassette tape in the faces of jurors, shouting “Here’s your murderer right here.”
Tom Giambroni’s Morning Journal coverage of the Irwin murder trial has been magnificent. If you haven’t done so already, read the latest installment here.
If legitimate evidence means anything, this case was a slam dunk. Prosecutor Robert Herron went to trial with a case lawyers only dream of, including a confession heard by credible witnesses. We are now asked to believe that someone else committed the murder and that Irwin was so high on heroin he only thought he stabbed a woman to death. In the meantime, Irwin is sentenced to life in prison (well, 15 years if he keeps his hands to himself).
Obviously, legal authorities should look carefully at this so-called confession, but because anything can happen in this crazy county, the newspapers will have to keep an extremely close eye on how the information is processed. Given the circumstances, I’m sure they will.
If Andrew Irwin didn’t kill Emily Foreman, someone did a masterful job of framing him. When you consider that we’re dealing with a bunch of heroin addicts here, it’s a bit hard to imagine any of them pulling off such a ruse. Besides, I’m always extremely suspicious of a defendant who does not testify at his own trial. If I’m unjustly accused of murder (or any crime), there’s no way any lawyer is going to keep me from testifying on my own behalf—unless, of course, I’m guilty.
If Irwin didn’t kill this woman, he should have stood up and told us so. On the contrary, he told investigating officers that he did kill her, and virtually all of the physical evidence at the scene points to him as the murderer. Yet now we have someone who claims otherwise at the last possible minute—someone who could have come forward at any time during or prior to the trial.
I don’t think anyone believes this nutty story, but anything is possible. Even so, “possible” is not synonymous with “probable.”
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Friday, March 23, 2007
Pity and fear
It’s a simple truth that most people don’t get too upset when someone involved in the illicit drug trade meets a violent death. If you choose to hang around with violent, drug-addicted criminals, chances are you’re going to pay the price sooner or later. So unless the victim is a member of your immediate family or a close personal friend, it’s hard to be sympathetic.
At Thursday’s hearing, accused murderer Andrew Irwin reportedly became agitated after discovering that someone allegedly spit on his mother’s car. According to The Review, additional security was requested for the afternoon session because of threats made in association with the alleged spitting incident. As it happens, the mother spent much of the day testifying against her son, who allegedly shot heroin in her presence on the day of the murder.
As Irwin’s attorney seemed bent on conducting his defense by referring to television shows, Judge Pike threatened to put him in jail. One of the two stories published in The Review indicates that “[d]uring the morning, notes were seen being passed from a family member to the defendant’s table. One note ... was asking for cigarettes.”
According to the Morning Journal, Irwin’s mother testified that “her son feared for his life because someone with the street name ‘Bam’ had been looking for him and that he had already been severely beaten by Bam and an associate. She became afraid for her safety after Bam called the house looking for Irwin.”
The events surrounding this murder are not tragic in the classical sense—that is, a person of high status has not been brought down due to any “tragic flaw” or quirk of fate. Nor is it a tragedy in the more common sense, where an innocent person meets a terrible end through no fault of his or her own.
Literary types might call this story “naturalism,” in that it reveals the true lives of common people who end up reaping what they sow. Some might go so far as to call these people “victims” of some general societal failure, but when you think about a guy who shoots up heroin in front of his mom, sympathy of any type is hard to summon.
As the trial unfolds, we are left with comedy, which requires that the audience maintain a safe distance. Reading about it in the papers provides such distance. Keeping these people’s miserable lives away from our own is also another kind of distance. When it gets too close, it’s no longer funny.
I can’t help but think about an incident in the Giant Eagle parking lot a couple weeks ago. As we prepared to drive away, a young male tapped on the window and offered to give us a dollar to drive him a few blocks up Avondale. The man appeared friendly enough, but he also seemed nervous, anxious and twitchy. Of course I declined the offer, and that was the end of it. As it happened, there were three of us in the car—two men and a woman, but what if it had been just the woman? Would he have bothered asking?
Given the way things are going in East Liverpool, should we not have assumed that this guy most likely was jonzing for a fix, too wigged out to walk a few blocks? Did he intend to rob us? Kill us? Was this man Kareem James or another one of those “Jersey boys”? Should we have assumed that he was merely a young man in need of a ride? Of course not. Only a fool would have let him in the car, no matter what his true intentions. These days, you can’t risk being nice to strangers. You have to profile and stereotype in potentially dangerous situations. Anyone who claims they don’t is a liar or just plain stupid.
In the end, it’s up to us to avoid making ourselves vulnerable. It’s not about fear; it’s about being smart, aware and prepared. Deciding to hole up in your house or move to the geriatric suburbs is giving in to fear. Small town folk have to begin thinking like big city people. Read the newspaper reports carefully. Have no illusions about the type of people you see walking the streets and passing in cars. Many of them present much more danger to you than any Islamic terrorist. But it is essential not to fear them; instead, let them fear you.
Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. (Frank Herbert, Dune)
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Our crazy world
East Liverpool resident Andrew Irwin’s murder trial is underway in Lisbon. Based upon evidence presented so far, the defense attorney has his work cut out for him. Unless this case turns out to be an X-file, complete with testimony and slide show by Fox Mulder, Mr. Irwin should start praying real hard right now.
Of course every man should have the opportunity to defend himself. Given the apparent lifestyle of the victim, anything could have happened. I suppose county residents should take some comfort in the fact that the Wellsville PD had nothing to do with the investigation.
According to the defense, the so-called “Jersey boys” were responsible for the murder. As luck would have it, one of those boys, “the elusive Kareem James,” was taken into custody Wednesday in Wellsville.
According to The Review, Kareem was “thought to have been apprehended in Florida and then again Tuesday in Youngstown, [but he] was actually arrested about 5:08 p.m. Wednesday in Wellsville.
When police showed up at a 14th Street residence, the woman who reportedly answered the door said Mr. James was upstairs. Police said “drugs were in plain view, so they reached Judge Mark Frost and obtained a search warrant. The DTF reportedly confiscated crack, heroin, marijuana and a large amount of cash.”
Coupled with last week’s maniac street theater in East Liverpool, the Irwin trial and Jersey boy arrest provide a very clear picture of what we are up against here in our little corner of the world.
Oh, but if we widen the scope to include Washington D.C., it gets even better. The White House offered Tuesday to make political strategist Karl Rove and former counsel Harriet Miers available for interviews with congressional committees investigating the firing of eight federal prosecutors, but the administration will not permit them to testify under oath.
In other words, President Bush has agreed to let these people testify, but they don’t have to tell the truth. If this isn’t a perfect symbol of the Bush administration, I don’t know what is. More and more I understand why so many Americans choose not to vote. On the other hand, eight years of Bush might be the best reason in the world for sane Americans to become more politically active.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Walks the wounds
(walks the wounds to lick his woods i love)
by Skip Martin
in spider those bait nights trout
the shallow unconvincing flies
(cow can you lilac that?)
& all your otter bad rabbits
but at pheasant, as of fillet,
i muskox you & no bones about it
doen’t you mink we’ve terned into a tail of snake & snake & never give?
& fir what?
all those cheep cheep fox of yours!
(fowl can you let them violet you?)
goat’s-beard/ o that blooming
grizzly really worth it?
they’re all just out on the moose to crab grass
do you feel no egrets this time?
do you reely fish to flush me from my own grouse & leaf me out hare to owl at the loon?
do ew plan to continue on this jay
pike a lake in the bass?
ah hail they porcu but i pine for you still
you sea, dove, bee don’t need to bumble about
in this thick frog any logger i would still like
to press my tulips to your tulips
to dance peach to peach
to circle your head with a garland of turtle...
wren you are willing to be true
let me snow ---
we can get back to feather& fly to get thru this sting
From the Newell Bridge
Monday, March 19, 2007
Friday's bloody pictures
I want to say a word on the main page about The Review’s Friday coverage of the Christopher Wallace incident. Some ORL readers and others I’ve talked to over the weekend say the publication of graphic photographs was mere sensationalism and that the paper overstepped the bounds of good taste.
A weekend editorial defended the photos in response to several reader complaints. “The news is not always sunshine, flowers and puppies,” said the writer. “Sometimes the news is disturbing. That never means it shouldn’t be reported.”
Let me begin by saying that our local newspapers normally are extremely timid about visual content. The standard assumption is that if anything could possibly offend anyone, don’t print it. As a result, The Review has developed a reputation as a publication for Sunday school teachers and little old ladies. Perhaps this is changing.
There is a difference between voyeuristic sensationalism and raw news graphics. In my view, a newspaper should do everything possible to present the reality of life to its readers. I think, for example, that we should see much more of the horrors of war than we get from even our most sophisticated metropolitan dailies. By censoring content to avoid offending people, the truth is not told. Instead, what we get is an antiseptic, kid’s version of events that gives readers a false sense of reality—otherwise known as lies.
A good managing editor knows where the line is, and yes, there is a point at which graphic display of horror becomes unnecessary and distasteful, but showing how police were able to apprehend a maniac on the streets of East Liverpool does not cross that line. For a small town, this sort of thing is a big deal, and to sanitize the event would be something other than accurate reporting. Besides, when you've got good people like Wayne Maris and Fred Miller on staff, you let them do their jobs.
If they wish to be taken seriously, journalists (and that includes photojournalists) should not be overly concerned about offending people. While offense should not be the goal, journalists understand that presenting information accurately often ruffles feathers. Anyone who cannot deal with the reality of life shouldn’t be reading newspapers in the first place. They should stick to Reader’s Digest and the church bulletin. In my view, a daily newspaper should be rated “R,” not “PG.” What little kids, the elderly, and the family of any given perpetrator think about news coverage is not entirely irrelevant, but such concerns should not stand in the way of accurate, frank reporting.
Like many of you, I complain about The Review regularly, but my complaints usually have to do with the publication’s lack of journalistic values and avoidance of anything that smacks of innovation. At a healthy newspaper, the managing editor is in control of the newsroom—not the publisher, advertisers, overly sensitive readers or powerful political interests. Certainly The Review has a long way to go to prove that journalism has become its primary concern, but at least some of us hope that Friday’s bold coverage is a step in that direction.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Reading today's papers
by M. Stewart
Congratulations to the East Liverpool Police Department for an outstanding effort in removing an apparent maniac from our streets Thursday. Lesser men would have lost their cool and risked turning the affair into a violent tragedy.
Until yesterday, armed robbery suspect Christopher Wallace, 21, resided at 671 St. Clair—a rental unit that seems to house some of our city’s least desirable citizens. I don’t know who owns this dump, but it’s beginning to look like one of those public nuisance properties begging for plywood windows and doors.
Kudos also go out to The Review’s Fred Miller, whose photo and eyewitness account of the incident represent some of his best work. Local journalism will be diminished when Fred takes his leave in April.
Looking at other news . . .
It will be interesting to see if health officials are able to get to the bottom of what went on at Beloit Elementary School Thursday. According to the Morning Journal, 37 students were sent to the hospital after they developed a rash at school. All West Branch schools were closed today as a “proactive and precautionary” measure.
In Wellsville yesterday, KSU East Liverpool/Salem Dean Jeff Nolte announced a plan to take the university’s post-secondary program to the high schools rather than require qualifying students to attend classes at the university campuses.
Because this is the first I’ve heard of the plan, I’m aware of no details beyond what's in today’s Review story, but I will say that working more closely with area high schools is a positive step for the university. Such a move represents a significant expansion of learning options for our public school students, and that’s what the contemporary educational landscape is all about.
The current post-secondary program, which requires high school students to attend classes alongside adult students, has been a tremendous success. I see no reason why modifying the model to accommodate the fiscal needs of the public school districts should be any less successful. These are very exciting times in education.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Saving the sinners
I noticed an article in The Review this week announcing the Wellsville Ministerial Association’s formal opposition to “games of skill” parlors. Wellsville has two such establishments, and others have been popping up around the county.
I am in no position to comment on whether it takes any skill to play the games these businesses offer. Not a gambler myself, I couldn’t care less. All I know is that Columbiana County sits across the river from a gambling state—one that soon will expand its offerings to table games. On this side of the river, however, we prefer to watch our towns crumble in the name of Jesus.
There is no particular reason why the Ministerial Association should not oppose gambling. Churches and preachers usually do, except when it benefits them. But in the end, it doesn’t matter. People who like to gamble do it no matter what. And what would the preachers do without sin? In a very real way, they make their living from it.
According to the newspaper, “Pastor Bill Rudder said what is needed is prayer. He said people need to gather in front of both businesses and pray that people will not visit them and play the games.”
I’m sure Pastor Rudder and his associates are passionate about their beliefs, but standing in front of a business attempting to dissuade customers from entering is picketing, not praying. Why don’t they gather to pray outside Wellsville taverns? I wonder if these same people will join the Christian war protest in Lisbon Saturday morning.
How and where private citizens spend (or waste) their money and time should be their own business. It’s a problem only when their activities cause problems for others. If a business can be shown to be a public nuisance, then the public and/or government should indeed get involved. Otherwise, everyone should butt out—including the churches.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
What am I missing?
I’ve been hearing a lot about that A&L Salvage site on state Route 45. Today’s Review carries a story on a petition county residents can sign to demand action against the outfit. That same story says that “the OEPA last week declared the landfill a public nuisance and ordered owners to abate the stench. A decision on whether to renew the dump’s license for 2007 remains pending, along with a decision on how to respond to numerous violation notices the dump’s been receiving regarding its illegal acceptance of solid waste, its failure to control the smell and its mishandling of asbestos material.”
If I’m reading this right, A&L has been cited “numerous” times for illegal activities at the site, yet the OEPA can’t figure out what to do about it. What’s wrong with shutting the operation down pending a full investigation? If, in fact, the OEPA exists to protect our environment, and A&L repeatedly has been caught breaking the law in that regard, what is there to decide?
Unlike most people in our area, I support the efforts of the EPA as long as I’m confident the agency is doing its job. When it comes to environmental poisons, I would think it would act immediately to stop the perpetrator. Why do we need to sign a petition to get action if the OEPA already is aware of the problem?
I must be missing something. There has to be more to it.
On other fronts, I read last week where Wellsville Mayor Joe Surace voted to break a village council tie regarding an increase in his own salary. I must have missed something there too.
While I understand that the Ohio Revised Code allows a village mayor to cast a tie-breaking vote, even a pretense to ethics should inspire a sitting mayor running for reelection to abstain from voting to increase his own salary—especially a mayor who not long ago apologized to his constituents for a serious ethics violation.
Let’s face it, a village mayor doesn’t make much money to begin with, and since Wellsville seems to have plenty of extra money to throw around, it might be a good time to raise the mayor’s salary. I’m not quibbling with the raise, not at all, but I must question the wisdom of Surace’s disregard for public perception in an election year.
Joe must feel pretty good about his chances for reelection, and perhaps with good reason. Is he running unopposed?
Monday, March 12, 2007
Hickory, dickory, dock
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Bush with a brain?
I just finished listening to an interview with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. The interview, conducted by Focus on the Family guru James Dobson, seems to be part of a campaign to position Gingrich as a 2008 presidential candidate.
Having witnessed this man’s political career, I think of Gingrich as the kind of person who will say and do anything to gain and hold power, and that includes telling gullible Christians that he loves Jesus more than ever. If Gingrich ends up being a serious contender for president in 2008, he will have done so within a morally and ideologically bankrupt Republican Party—a party completely destroyed by Dick Cheney and his sidekick, George W. Bush.
I urge you to listen to the Dobson interview. It provides a perfect example not only of Gingrich’s bombastic arrogance, but also of the social conservative’s willingness to sidestep any remnant of moral and ethical credibility to achieve a political agenda that includes American military action against all the world’s “evil doers”—Moslems, Iranians, Syrians, Russians, North Koreans. According to Gingrich and Dobson, Americans have remained asleep after 9/11 as the minions of Satan have been working overtime to develop plans to kill us all.
Civil rights, freedom and privacy would be things of the past in a Gingrich-led America, where the entire mission of the federal government would be converted to creating an illusion of safety through constant war. Gingrich’s tough talk appeals especially to those who are easily motivated by fear. That’s precisely why he’s seeking out his old Reagan-era allies—the Christian right, many of whom believe anything they’re told.
Dobson—a 1980s-style moral-majority, Christian-values broadcaster—seems determined to resurrect Gingrich and his Cold War ideology regardless of the bizarre hypocrisy required to do it. By the end of the interview, Gingrich’s well-known personal indiscretions, marital infidelities, and ethics violations become merit badges. It seems if you have the right politics, sin can be a good thing as long as you admit it years later. Gingrich’s discussion of his sexual exploits—especially how he compares them to those of Bill Clinton—is hilarious and well worth the wait.
To keep control of the White House after eight years of Cheney-Bush won’t be easy for the Republicans, but if Gingrich can mobilize the Christian right the same way Ronald Reagan did in the ‘80s, he may end up being a serious contender for the Republican nomination. Getting elected president is another story, of course, but let’s not forget that we live in a country where you can become president without a majority of votes.
The way I see it, a country deserves the government it gets. As such, the United States truly deserves the embarrassment of Cheney-Bush, but it could be worse. As difficult as it is, try to imagine George Bush with a brain, and think of the havoc such a creature could cause throughout the world. Well, that’s about what you have with Newt Gingrich—an intelligent, articulate guy with nostalgia for the Cold-War.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
"V" is for vagina
In Cross River, N.Y. three female high school juniors were suspended by their principal for reading an excerpt from a play that included the word “vagina” at a school-sponsored open mike night. The students defied school officials, who had asked them to remove the word from their performance of an excerpt from Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. The initial suspension (for insubordination) was revoked pending further review.
The problem here is an interesting one. Should an accepted anatomical term for a body part be censored? Clearly there are appropriate and inappropriate times to use certain types of language. Most of us find ourselves in a variety of discourse communities each day, and we adjust our language appropriately. For example, the language we might use in the presence of trusted friends is not the same as that we would use at work, at church, at school, or in “mixed company.”
People who refuse to make language adjustments as they move in and out of these discourse communities quickly make fools of themselves. The inability to adjust one’s language appropriately among different groups can be seen as a type of social disorder, but that’s not what we’re dealing with in this particular case.
Schools traditionally are places where “bad” or overtly sexual language is not acceptable—at least not in formal situations. What students say amongst themselves on their own time is one thing. What passes for appropriate discourse in the classroom is another. What goes on at an “open mike” night is yet another. So even within a given discourse community, there are a variety of sub-communities within which language norms can change.
In this case, one has to decide if “vagina” is a word that qualifies as “bad,” overtly sexual, or inappropriate. I suppose it depends upon the context. Although one might say Ensler’s Vagina Monologues is meant to be performed to adult audiences, the entire play was staged in 2004 at Amherst Regional High School in Massachusetts, so these suburban New York girls aren’t exactly breaking new ground by reading an excerpt.
The principal expressed concern that students as young as 14 were in attendance at the open-mike event, making use of the word “vagina” unacceptable. The assumption was that some high school freshmen (or their parents) might be offended by hearing the word used in this relatively informal theatrical performance.
While I understand the principal’s general concern, I’ve got to assume that if a 14-year-old student is unfamiliar with the word “vagina,” something has gone terribly wrong with the educational system. If a 14-year-old girl is offended by hearing the word, she needs therapy. Besides, I can virtually guarantee you that the words students use for their own sex organs are not antiseptic clinical terms like “vagina” and “penis.”
Parents and educators must put aside any delusions about the sexual awareness of high school students. Those who imagine that the word “vagina” stands outside a 14-year-old’s sphere of knowledge are mere fools. Those who think high school students should not be aware of the names of their own body parts are dangerous, not only to the education process but to society at large. Sexuality is a normal human function. Any society that attempts to make human sexuality taboo is asking for perversion. Look no further than the Catholic Church.
I think this New York case represents a classic mountain-out-of-a-molehill situation, but I wonder what our own local school officials might do under similar circumstances. Do we have any high school students—male or female—who even have heard of The Vagina Monologues? What would local parents think or do if a high school drama teacher wanted to stage such a play?
Personally, I like vaginas, and I see no reason for women to avoid referring to them when the spirit moves them. For those of you who want to know more about vaginas, a good place to start is All About My Vagina.
Friday, March 09, 2007
I had been to the bank and had just left Sherwin-Williams paint store on Fifth Street. I was headed back toward my car when I passed by the used furniture store. I used to go there when it had a dime store element. I would wander around inside, taking in the very odd and limited inventory. It seemed to me that what sat on the shelves were the relics of a bygone era, and maybe the owners were just hanging around waiting until the last piece of cheesecloth or the last fly stick-up was gone before they finally closed their doors for good. I noticed that the dime story half was gone; only the furniture was left, and it occupied the whole space.
There’s a machine called the “Relax-a-Lator” in that old store. I often wondered who came up with this idea and how.
It’s about five feet tall, made mostly of metal but veneered with a dark, walnut-pattered paint job. It has stood there for how long, symbolizing days gone by? I always thought I should try it, just to do honor to the dime store days, but would invariably put it off in favor of saving time. “Heck, I wonder if it even works,” I thought. I peered in the window and saw it standing, as always, just inside and to the left of the door.
“Tired? Get Relief” is the advertising slogan written on the front. An image on the coin box shows a beautiful lady in high heels and skirt enjoying its benefits as another woman and a man look on. With all of the concern for appearances and propriety, this monument to sensuality should not have become popular until right about now, with all the emphasis on massage therapists, physical well-being and our laissez-faire attitude to how we appear to others.
As sluggish as I felt, my mind kept repeating the words that had beckoned to me every time I’d been in there. My fascination for the old machine was being further fueled by the unconscious desire to “get relief,” as I would have normally been doing right then. I closed my eyes. A glimmer of the vibrating beds that used to furnish motel rooms and the luxurious hum of their mechanical lullaby flashed across my thinking. Today I had nothing, absolutely nothing better to do and every reason to enjoy a little relax-a-lation.
I made a U-turn into the store and faced the machine, with its familiar greeting printed in yellow:
A foot Massager.
Foot Massage! If there is any one part of my body that I can say aches above all, it would have to be the balls of my feet. They begin a tremendous throbbing after an hour at work. Never in winter, only summer, when it’s hot and my feet swell up.
“Hey, does this machine still work?” I asked the clerk.
“Yes, it does,” replied the woman, sitting behind an old desk with a new computer.
Try it! 10¢. Dime only. (When was the last time you saw a “cents” sign? They don’t even put them on computer keyboards. The symbol has been excised from our culture, although somehow the penny survives.)
I reached in my pocket for a dime, and found two. As I stepped on the foot bed, I noticed just above the collecting box the words:
“Bend knees slightly for additional benefits.”
The machine has handles on the top and sides. I suppose a lady in high heels could suffer loss of balance from the hypnotic effects of this sensually gifted automaton. She could tumble right off, unless she was bending her knees for that moment of “additional benefits.” Imagine the scandal! “I’ll save the knee bends for my second dime,” I thought, a little self-consciously.
I held the rails and dropped my coin through the slot, my feet planted squarely on the rubber mat. The foot bed began to shake. The machine rattled a little, but for an antique it really wasn’t too noisy. My feet began to feel as if they were no longer attached to me; they tickled instead of aching. The motion hummed upward into my ankles and calves, and began to shake away pain that I never realized I had. I shut my eyes, feeling the buzz flow upward like mercury in a tube, to a place filled with cool breezes and shady trees. I bent my knees for the extra benefits.
The machine cut out.
It couldn’t have suddenly broken, could it? That’s all, for a dime? How many seconds did I get? How can it be effective if that’s all you get?
I eagerly forked over my remaining dime, even as I thought how rude that it cut me off when I was at my most vulnerable. As soon as the coin clinked, I shut my eyes, bent my knees and hurried back to dreamland. It was better than a shower, a cool foot-soak and a snooze. “I never want this feeling to end,” I think, even though I’m indulging my sensual self in public and probably looking like an idiot, dirty as a hobo, with my eyes shut and my open-jawed head hanging between my shoulder blades.
The dastardly machine stopped again! My eyes opened. So that was the gaff: sucker ‘em in, shut ‘em off and sucker all the dimes they have out of them. Pretty sophisticated for the medieval part of last century. The dirty crooks!
“Can you change a dollar in dimes?” I asked the cashier beside me.
An overweening truth transcends the pettiness and sneaky perseverance of this dime-robbing relic with its kitschy little rattle, fake wood trimming and 50’s advertising slogan: For a machine that can leave you feeling instantly as helpless and dreamy as a cool breeze, a good foot-soak and a snooze on the couch, there can never be enough dimes.
One can never get enough of a good vibration.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Law and order
Those of you who think the government can do no wrong should stop reading now. Those who believe the government acts to support its own agenda--often at the people’s expense--will want to take note of this article published by C-Net News.
Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, has introduced legislation that would require all Internet service providers to track their customers’ online activities to aid police in future investigations. The legislation is said to be part of a Republican “law and order agenda.”
The bill also says that employees of any Internet provider who fail to store that information face fines and prison terms of up to one year. The U.S. Justice Department could order companies to store those records forever.
Perhaps I suffer from nostalgic delusions, but I seem to remember a day when the Republican Party championed privacy rights and other constitutional protections. In recent years, however—especially under the Bush administration—there has been a gradual erosion of civil liberties justified under the guise of national security. Those of you who continue to pretend this isn’t true must subscribe to the “ignorance is bliss” philosophy. The government is counting on you.
If this bill becomes law, the federal government will have access to everything we do online. Supporters will say, as they always do, "If you’re doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about.” This may or may not be true, but the issue involves general principles, and we have become a nation accustomed to sacrificing principle for convenience. The government has been so successful at scaring the public that most citizens seem eager to give up their rights.
In 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act, setting federal standards for state-issued driver’s licenses. The new law requires that states conform to uniform security features in driver’s licenses by May of 2008. Because this is a classic unfunded mandate, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has given states the option of delaying compliance until Dec. 31 2009. There is little doubt that this move establishes a national identification card.
Day by day, step by step, piece by piece, we are moving towards an Orwellian, Big-Brother world of total surveillance. If something isn’t done to reassert our basic principles of freedom and privacy, in 20 years we very well could be living in a dystopic police state.
[Thanks to ORL reader Sparky Miller for bringing the C-Net article to my attention.]
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Monday, March 05, 2007
The cradle of civilization
I don’t even know what to say about this. It seems there are times when saying nothing is best. Instead, I’ll just list some quotes from the excellent story by Associated Press writer Lauren Frayer and let you draw your own conclusions.
“[B]lack smoke drifted over central Baghdad from burning shops, cars and book stalls in the mixed Sunni-Shiite area around Mutanabi street along the Tigris River.”
"Papers from the book market were floating through the air like leaflets dropped from a plane.”
“A worker at a nearby shoe store, Youssef Haider, 24, said the blast flipped burning cars with charred bodies trapped inside.”
“In other violence, gunmen opened fire on Shiite pilgrims in several places around Baghdad, killing at least seven people, police said. The Shiites were apparently heading to shrines and holy sites in southern Iraq for the annual commemoration of a 40-day mourning period for the death of a revered 7th-century warrior, Hussein."
There, that’s enough for a Monday.
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Waiting to board
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Commenters may choose the "other" option under the comment posting window and enter their name or screen name. This is an extremely simple thing to do.
Friday, March 02, 2007
The dress became more famous than the woman who wore it. Fake pieces of cloth with stains on them were sold to the public. Some of these fake pieces came with letters of authenticity with the name Laura Keen forged on them. Some people simply exhibited fake dresses and claimed they were the dress worn by Laura Keen that fateful night. She was even asked to exhibit the dress by wearing it, bloodstains and all. Laura Keen refused every offer to make money on the infamous dress. The dress was packed away and left to her daughter Emma, who then left it to her daughter Clara. It is believed that Clara distributed panels of the dress to her close friends sometime around the year 1890.
Like the Lindberg ladder
and Marilyn’s sheets,
Laura’s dress was sold on the streets.
The truth, she said
is that I am damned
to have touched the blood of Abraham.
Why torture me
when the sordid truth
lies in the grave with Mr. John Booth.
They come to see me
but really don’t care
I am only that woman, the one who was there.
I could have been famous
in my own right,
but it all came down to one Friday night.
It was Laura Keen
who was playing the bill,
but the ghost of act three is playing it still.
Now minute by minute
I watch it take place,
the laughter, the gun shot, the look on his face.
The minutes tick by
and the hour grows late
but I am lost in this moment and that is my fate.
I am Laura Keen,
just a bit of folklore,
the woman remembered for the dress that she wore.
Cum and get it
It’s beginning to look like Buckeye Online School for Success and the National Network of Digital Schools may not build a new office complex on the old Buckman Chevrolet lot in East Liverpool after all.
According to The Review, BOSS purchased the lot in January for parking, but soil samples revealed that construction must include a basement, adding an estimated $300,000 to the project. The story went on to say that the BOSS board is “still discussing possible building sites,” but no decision is expected before fall. Although plenty can happen between now and then, these noises do not sound good for the project.
In related developments, Midland Superintendent and NNDS President Nick Trombetta has met with E.L. Superintendent Ken Halbert and city Law Director Charles Payne regarding the contract between the Midland and Liverpool districts. The contract stipulates that Midland high school students are to attend East Liverpool High School through 2020.
According to The Review, Trombetta said the agreement was signed before the development of charter schools and that Pennsylvania state law supersedes any contract with the E.L. district. If I’m reading this right, Trombetta is suggesting that because conditions have changed on his end, the terms of the contract are moot. In other words, contracts are meaningless if one party changes his mind about the terms.
This is not to say that Trombetta’s position has no merit, only that it has little grounding in contract law. Typically if one party wants out of a contract (for any reason), a settlement must be reached with the other party, and that usually involves cash. In hindsight, it wasn’t a good idea for Midland to enter into such a long-term agreement with East Liverpool, but what’s done is done, so if Trombetta wants out of it now, he needs to put something on the table. After all, it is he who is on the defensive.
East Liverpool Board of Education member Gary Bonnell says Midland owes the district $2.5 million, but according to The Review, Halbert does not anticipate any legal action to enforce the terms of the contract.
A cordial relationship between neighboring school superintendents is nice, but being nice is not what this is about. Public education is big business that happens to be funded by public tax dollars. As a taxpayer and resident of East Liverpool, I must conclude that if somebody owes my school district $2.5 million and there is a legally binding contract to prove it, we should do whatever is necessary to get that money.
At this point, I’m willing to assume what Halbert meant was that he doesn’t think legal action will be necessary to settle the contract dispute. If that’s the case, fine. But if this thing ends up disappearing and nothing is done about it, someone will have to explain it to taxpayers next time the district comes a-begging.
On a more humorous note, The Review ran a story this week that included the following sentence:
“She read many derogatory comments on a local residents internet blog calling such people ‘cum’ and ‘worthless.’”
There are three errors in this single sentence. Can you spot them? By the way, the blog referred to is not this one. Also, every won makes mistakes, including I.