Ohio River Life
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Sunday, December 27, 2009
George Bailey must have jumped from the bridge!
ORL welcomes East Liverpool resident Mike Mays, who has been watching old movies during the holidays.
by Mike Mays
For those who do not get the title reference, it is from the 1946 movie “It’s A Wonderful Life” and Building & Loan Chair George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart). How else can you explain the lack of a Savings & Loans nowadays?
For those that have forgotten just what a Savings & Loan is or was, local folks with secure vaults held the savings of other local folks and pay them interest on their money. The money was then made available to other local folks for lending at a premium over the interest paid to the savers.
Yes, I think Mr. Potter (i.e., the banks) has won the day.
What kind of interest do you make on savings now? If you borrow, look at what they charge for the lease of the money. As well, those hidden rules and fees seem to change whether you are “good for it” or not. The banks have become so large they do not know who you are. Just how much juice can you squeeze from that lemon.
But please take a moment to ponder if all of this had not happened, if most of us put a third of our savings into an S&L, where local money stayed local much like George Bailey’s Building and Loan. I can’t say you would be better off personally, but your community would be better off. The individual would benefit as well because there would be more folks working and paying taxes, so your share of the tax burden would be less. It seems to be a simple trend to follow, the more and bigger the companies get, the fewer jobs there are and the higher taxes we are asked to pay in the following years.
Now Mr. Potter has become so large and greedy after putting Bailey Building and Loan out of business that he cannot manage his own affairs and asks us for a hand-out. Because so much is riding on so few, it is a major event that he should fail, and now we must actually do something for him. Gee, I thought we were to bail-out George Bailey not Mr. Potter.
I have never seen a better opportunity to break up the Mr. Potters of the world into smaller, more manageable parts, but the reverse seems to be continuing despite our recognition. Show me where and how many people have benefited by allowing big mergers, and I will show you more that have lost. It happens over a longer period of time, so the losses remain a hidden statistic. there is just not enough competition for a Mr. Potter nowadays. He spent so much acquiring the competition that he can't sit out a small storm; instead, a small storm is now a hurricane for all of us.
Now when you spend your money at the big-box marts, at corporate-owned franchises ,or at the local gambling parks owned and controlled by Mr. Potter types, you help a local employee earn a small wage and that is all. The profits are taken to be spent in other regions of the country and world. Mr. Potter hoards the profits for himself, and while that is legal, what does it do for your choices?
Local money taken to other areas is local money never taxed again, and that tax loss you must now make-up. At the same time, the new franchise or big-box mart has been costing you in other ways in the form of roads/traffic control, police/fire protection, and water and sewer improvements. Now you have little choice as Mr. Potter is all that survives.
We are all guilty of greed, but unlike the movie, you sold your shares to Potter and now you have to deal with him. How do you like him so far? There is much more of Mr. Potter to come if you have not yet made up your mind.
Yes, George Baily must have jumped from the bridge or got his wish and never have been born.
…signed – Clarence, who never got his wings and now wishes to join George.
Where are you George Bailey, we need you!
Merry Christmas Everyone!
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Steelers win 37-36
Roethlisberger threw for 503 yards--not only a career and franchise record, but the most yards by an NFL quarterback since November 2006. A nice day's work against a good defense, but without the win, it would have been meaningless. As it stands, the win means everything to this team. Everything.
I think everybody watching the game wondered if Mike Tomlin had lost his mind calling for an onside kick after going up by two points near the end of the game. In his postgame comments, Tomlin said he had no faith in his defense to stop the Green Bay offense, and if they were to lose the trick kick and shorten the certain Packer touchdown drive, the Steelers would have time for a final score. It turns out that Mike was right, even if a lot of stuff had to happen before his plan could work.
If there is a downside to the big win over Green Bay, it's that the Pittsburgh defense has gotten so bad that not even the head coach thinks it can stop anyone. For yet another game, the defensive backs looked like confused kids trying to cover professionals. Let's face it; had Green Bay receivers not dropped half a dozen balls, the game would have been over in the third quarter. This is the worst Steelers defense I can remember. When your quarterback throws for 500 yards and has to score on the last play of the game to win, you know there are problems on defense.
But none of that matters until next Sunday when the Baltimore Ravens come to town. For now, Steelers fans can put away those paper bags for another week and savor the outcome of the most exciting game of the season.
Lord, we deserve your wrath
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann and other Republican lawmakers conducted a "prayercast" streamed over the Internet to churches around the country. These people want Yahweh to intervene to make sure that the poor in America do not have access to health care.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Where is that manganese?
I'm confused by the reports on high levels of manganese at LaCroft Elementary School. First of all, are we talking about LaCroft Elementary? The local newspaper says it's in the East End, which would make more sense in terms of toxicity, but LaCroft Elementary is in LaCroft, isn't it? And why would anyone have been dumping manganese up on the hill? Has LaCroft Elementary been moved?
Like I said, I'm confused.
The national story broke earlier this week in USA Today. In that story, LaCroft principle Linda Lindsey said the school's 415 students are scheduled to be moved next year to another building eight miles away. Where the heck would that be? I'm trying to think if you can travel eight miles from LaCroft or the East End and still be in the school district. I don't think so. Are the kids being moved to Midland?
Wherever the school is, the city has a serious problem on its hands, and Mayor Swoger is absolutely right to pressure the EPA to find the source of the contamination. If such high levels of manganese exposure cause all the stuff today's Review article states--"hallucinations, forgetfulness, nerve damage, bronchitis, impotency, Parkinson's disease, insominia and even schizophrenia"-- what parents would send their children to that school?
On other fronts, the Pittsburgh Steelers are lashing out against fan and media criticism of their end-of-season collapse. Quoted in today's Post-Gazette, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger responded, "Jerome who?" when confronted with what Jerome Bettis said about the lack of leadership on the team.
I don't know what Ben was thinking, unless he actually wanted to piss the fans off even more. Coming just one day after safety Ryan Clark lambasted the fans and the media for being too critical of the team, Ben's comments don't sit well.
Fans don't know what to expect this Sunday when Green Bay comes to town. You can't really pick the Steelers to beat the Packers. The real question is whether they can even score against one of the league's top defensive units after putting up just two field goals against the league's worst team. This is new territory for everyone, including the fans.
NFL players have to realize that they are entertainers. They are paid a fortune to perform for the fans, and without fans, they are nothing. I suppose it's normal to lash out at criticism, but it's not a good idea to take on the very people who made you rich. Being famous is great when things are going well; it's hell when they're not. Ask Tiger Woods. Ask the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
Paranoid white people
I see where Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi got smashed in the face by some guy wielding a small statue of a cathedral. The assailant is said to have a "history of mental illness." How strange will it be if it turns out that the guy did it to impress Jodie Foster?
In Iraq, angry citizens hit you with a shoe. In Italy, they hit you with a church. In the United States, they watch Fox News and reach for their shotguns.
Speaking of Fox, I decided to watch a Glen Beck re-run early Sunday morning. I've seen countless clips of Beck's rants on YouTube, but I've never actually watched his program. This guy might be a novelty to the New Republican Mob, but not to me. I grew up with earlier versions of Glen Beck because my dad was big into apocalyptic religion and politics.
Beck is a throwback to the paranoid, fear-mongering, xenophobic John Birch Society of the 1960s. My dad gave me hundreds of lectures based upon the pamphlets, newsletters, and books put out by the ultra-right-wing Birchers. The Beatles (and every other rock band on the planet) were communist agents whose mission was to corrupt American youth with commie ideas.
I was told that virtually everyone was a communist agent--teachers, hippies, the government, the United Nations, politicians, lawyers, writers, artists, filmmakers, journalists, gays, Negros, Catholics, Jews. And somehow all this paranoia and hate had something to do with the Bible, especially the book of Revelation. There was a vast demonic conspiracy headed up by Henry Kissinger and his pals. Their job was to prepare the way for the Antichrist.
In the 1960s and '70s, one of the big Bircher prophesies was that there would be a complete economic collapse within the next few years, one that would reduce us all to marauding tribes of killers. I remember my mother stockpiling canned goods for the coming crisis and dad going out and buying a bunch of guns. As well, the Birchers told everyone to run out and buy gold. I couldn't help but wonder what good gold would do you during the apocalypse.
Glen Beck's bizarre, paranoid television fearcasts are not similar to the John Birch madness of the 1960s; they are exactly the same, right down to the gold hoarding. I guess the big difference is that in the old days the psychotics didn't have their own television network. Now they do.
As with the Nazis and the KKK, it's best to let these people deliver their message of hate and doom. Let them scream it loud and clear across the land. In the meantime, BUY GOLD!
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Pity and fear
Since the Pittsburgh Steelers lost their fifth game in a row Thursday night in Cleveland, everyone has been trying to psychoanalyze the team. The Polamalu injury, the Hines Ward comment, the lack of player leadership, the "me" attitude, Ben's sexual assault charge, the uninspired performances, etc. -- these all play their parts in the drama.
Whether you love or hate the Steelers, the story of the '09 collapse is compelling. How does a dominating championship team fall to pieces in midseason and get hammered by the league's most inept teams? The Browns came into Thursday night's game with the NFL's worst defense. Not only that, they had five defensive starters out with injuries. This defense was strung together with guys Eric Mangini pulled off the street. Any other team would have scored 50 points on this crew, but the Pittsburgh offense gave up more quarterback sacks than it scored points: 8-6.
All the Steelers' players said they were astonished and ashamed. Yes, of course. What else could they say? When you are dominated in literally every phase of the game by the weakest opponent imaginable, talk is cheap. This proud team has dragged itself and its fans into a pit of total humiliation just months after winning a sixth Super Bowl. Steelers fans are in shock.
Defining dramatic "tragedy" in the fourth century B.C.E., Aristotle wrote in his Poetics:
"Tragedy is a form of drama exciting the emotions of pity and fear. Its action should be single and complete, presenting a reversal of fortune, involving persons renowned and of superior attainments, and it should be written in poetry embellished with every kind of artistic expression."
I'd say that about covers how Steelers fans feel right now. If we think of each NFL season as a collection of stories--and we all do whether we realize it not--the Steelers collapse is a classic tragedy, but one whose last act remains unwritten.
Let's face it, the playoffs are no longer a part of this year's black-and-gold story. The NFL story will be written by other teams--the Colts, Saints, Bengals, Chargers, Vikings. The '09 Steelers simply do not belong in this group. But these last three games against Green Bay, Baltimore and Miami will complete the final act of the play. It will be a tragedy only if the Steelers end up crawling off as pitiful, listless losers. If, on the other hand, the team can rise to the occasion and beat three quality opponents in the final act, then the season can be seen as a dark comedy, and we can all look forward to next year.
At this point, it's impossible to say which scenario will play out. The "pity and fear" all Steelers fans feel right now originates with the players, and it doesn't feel good. Yes, folks, it really can get worse than losing to the Browns. If the Steelers should go out with a whimper, Mike Tomlin's now infamous "unleash hell" and "we will not go quietly" comments could haunt and mock this franchise for as long as the old "one for the thumb" thing did.
The curtain rises on the final act at 4:15 p.m. December 20 at Heinz Field, where the Steelers will perform the first of three remaining scenes against a highly motivated and solid Green Bay Packers team. We all know that these guys aren't the Browns, the Raiders, or the Chiefs.
ADDENDUM: Mother of Steelers' James Harrison Charged in Ohio Brawl
Friday, December 11, 2009
I guess we misunderstood Mike Tomlin two weeks ago when he promised to "unleash Hell." We didn't know he meant to take us there.
Last Sunday the Pittsburgh Steelers achieved mediocrity by losing to the Oakland Raiders. Last night, the Steelers became the worst team in the NFL not merely by losing to the Cleveland Browns, but by rolling over and dying on national television.
The former worst team in the league, the 2-11 Browns dominated the Steelers in every phase of the game. The worst defense in the league sacked Ben Roethisberger eight times and held the Steelers offense to two field goals. The "great" Steelers defense couldn't stop the worst offense in the league from rushing for 171 yards.
If this were an isolated game, I'd congratulate Browns fans and move on, but we all know otherwise. During the meltdown, the only bottom feeder that didn't beat the Steelers was the St. Louis Rams, but that's only because the Rams weren't on the schedule. The Steelers have fallen from the league's best to the league's worst before our eyes, and such things aren't easy to watch.
I won't speculate on what has happened to the Steelers. It truly is inexplicable. Keeping with Mike Tomlin's underworld theme, the team has been taken over by demons and needs an exorcism. After that, it's time to rebuild. This team has run its course.
Tomlin promised changes in the lineup for the Cleveland game but didn't make any. Given that the Steelers have virtually no chance of beating Green Bay, Baltimore, and Miami, the only credible response to the meltdown is to bench the starters and give other guys a chance.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Bolts Fork, Kentucky
The girl standing on the right is my maternal grandmother. All the kids aren't present. There were a total of 14 kids. Family lore says that a traveling photographer took the photo in exchange for food and a place to spend the night. The home was at Bolts Fork, Kentucky, near Ashland and Huntington, WV. Several of them moved to the East Liverpool area. My grandmother said she came up the river on a steamboat. She didn't attend school (perhaps due to her poor eyesight), but my grandfather was a teacher in Hookstown, Pennsylvania before he worked as a metallurgist at Patterson Foundry. He taught my grandmother how to read and write. They met at a boarding house located at the corner of Harvey Avenue and Myrtle. Click to enlarge.
Monday, December 07, 2009
Another big bow
Sunday, December 06, 2009
Stick a fork in the Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers have managed to lose their fourth straight game and formally achieve pro football mediocrity. This time, they lost to the Oakland Raiders, another one of the worst teams in the NFL that Pittsburgh made look like Super Bowl champs.
The Raiders limped into Heinz Field with the league's worst offense, yet they scored 21 points in the fourth quarter, moving the ball up and down the field at will against a Steelers secondary that has become the joke of the NFL.
At this point, the remainder of the season is moot. For the 2009 Steelers, the playoffs are no longer an issue. Wins against Green Bay, Baltimore and Miami seem out of reach. Beating Cleveland this Thursday night isn't even a realistic goal. I say this in all seriousness.
Let's face it, this team is not the Steelers we have come to know. This team loses close games; this team can't hold a fourth quarter lead; this team couldn't hope to compete with the first tier teams that will make the playoffs this year.
So what is it? What's the big difference?
In a word, defense. More specifically, the secondary. William Gay, Ike Taylor, Ryan Clark, Tyrone Carter: these guys suck without Troy in the lineup. No defense should so depend upon a single player, even if that player is the great Troy Polamalu. When Oakland receivers are wide open all over the field all day long, we're not talking about a blown coverage or two. It's about getting outplayed more times than not by the least-skilled players in the league.
It's interesting that Sunday's game could have been pulled out by rookie cornerback Joe Burnett, who came in after an injury and stood there while a Bruce Gradkowski pass hit him square in the chest and fell to the ground. He didn't even get his hands on the ball. When the next play brought a pass interference penalty inside the five yard line with just a few seconds remaining, I walked out on the porch. I knew it was over. Last year, I wouldn't dream of making that assumption.
Oh well. How about those Penguins?
Saturday, December 05, 2009
Christmas parade tonight
Waiting for someone to start a fire isn't the best way to manage abandoned properties, especially when one considers the danger to firefighters. I'm satisfied that the city planning department is working diligently to demolish abandoned and dilapidated homes, more could be done with increased political resolve.
One key ingredient in an effective downsizing plan requires city council to pass tough legislation on home and building maintenance. Simply put, appropriate legislation would make it difficult (or impossible) for slumlords to continue cashing in on inertia and negligence. Until we find a way to eliminate negligent property owners, slumlords, and their clients, every gain will be offset by still more losses.
So far, city council seems completely uninterested in dismantling the poverty industry here. I don't know why, but the lack of action speaks for itself. We might compare our predicament to any other one-industry town. If someone threatens the status quo, all the stake holders mobilize. The same is true in East Liverpool. All we ever hear is what can't be done. The slumlords and their primary patron, the Columbiana Metropolitan Housing Authority, must have an awfully tight grip on our politicians' throats. What other explanation is there? I say again, what other explanation is there?
It's important to remember that there are a lot of decent homeowners in our city -- that is, people who work hard to maintain their properties and live clean, responsible lives. It is on their behalf that I speak. If we ever are to reclaim our city, it must start with legislation designed to protect the interests of resident homeowners and business people. If, on the other hand, our laws make it easy for absentee stakeholders to profit at our expense, then our lawmakers need to stop ignoring the problem and correct it.
There is no question that the city of East Liverpool must develop a sensible, long-term downsizing plan, but any such plan must be supported by legislation that will stem the tide of deliberate exploitation and destruction by outside forces. One step forward followed by two step backward doesn't get it.
So I challenge our city council to act on behalf of the city's responsible residents. Pass legislation that will allow city officials to move aggressively and decisively against slumlords and property owners that drag our neighborhoods down. That doesn't mean we act without compassion for those who deserve it. What it does mean is that we fight against those who put personal gain or convenience ahead of the common good.
How many Fred T. and Donna McCains are there? Really, how many? And what are their names? I'd like to see a list. Why aren't these people held responsible for their properties before they burn down?
What if every owner of a dilapidated building received a hefty fine (say, $500) every month until their property was brought into compliance with strict maintenance and appearance codes?
What if every scumbag who allows animals to scatter their garbage all over the neighborhood received a hefty fine for their negligence?
What if property owners had to pay a fine for refusing to cut their grass and keep their yards clean?
What if every slumlord and negligent property owner got angry and decided to leave town because the city made it impossible for them to do business here?
What if every abandoned and dilapidate property were torn down at the owners expense?
Answer? Indeed, East Liverpool would be much smaller, but it would be a nice, clean small town filled with decent, proud people.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
I assume the buzz accross the land today will have to do with President Obama's Tuesday night speech in which he outlined his administration's Afghanistan war strategy. Here are some of my initial thoughts:
1. Obama said that Afghanistan was not comparable to Vietnam. I agree. However, it is comparable to the costly and failed effort of the Russians in Afganistan. The very reason that al Qaeda is in Afganistan and Pakistan in the first place is that the region is one of the world's best places to hide and one of the worst to fight a search-and-destroy war. Nonetheless, Obama must have been convinced by his military advisers that this plan will work. His re-election will depend upon it.
2. Much will be said today about Obama's timeline for deployment and withdrawal. I don't think for one minute that the president is serious about this. Instead, I think it is designed to sell the idea to the American public by including an exit strategy. Clearly the effectiveness of the plan will come under serious review in 2011, but decisions to continue or alter the plan will be made as needed.
3. On the one hand, the Afganistan build-up is a continuation the Bush policy of diversion -- that is, as long as the enemy is engaged elsewhere, it will be less able to carry out attacks here. The major difference between the Obama and Bush strategies is that now the U.S. will be engaging the enemy where they are instead of where they are not. Had the Bush administration concentrated on Afghanistan rather than Iraq, we may not be having this discussion.
4. Surely President Obama understands that his Afghan strategy will be unpopular on both the left and the right wings, but I give him credit for stepping over the fringe elements and pursuing a very politically risky plan. Regardless of what Dick Cheney says, Obama's decision to move on Afghanistan is hardly a sign of weakness. The president understands that the war will be judged on its effectiveness. If it fails, he's a one termer for sure. Because he's betting everything on Afghanistan, I'd say the guy has balls.
5. Obama's concern about an unstable Pakistan is legitimate. If Islamic radicals are able to gain control of Pakistan, they will have an arsenal of nuclear weapons at their disposal. Because of the religious ideology involved, I have no doubt that they would use these weapons indiscriminantly. One of the subtle messages contained in Tuesday's speech is that U.S. war policy in Afganistan will not be limited to this side of the border with Pakistan -- hence, the need to make Pakistan a firm ally.
6. The New Republican Mob will oppose Obama no matter what he does in both domestic and foreign policy. They are nothing but hecklers; as such, they have nothing relevant to offer to the discussion. Put another way, I have little doubt that if Obama would have announced a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan last night, the NRM would say that what he should do is send additional troops to the region to beef up the war effort. I would hope that the president will not allow military strategy to be affected by the mob.