Saturday, May 31, 2014

Portsmouth City Government In One Floor of County Facility?

"Portsmouth Municipal Court has recently expressed an interest in moving from the Portsmouth City Building to the fourth floor of the Scioto County Courthouse. The move and renovation costs are estimated at $1.8 million. At the Tuesday Portsmouth City Council Meeting City Manager Derek Allen expressed concerns over the possible move.

“'I have not talked to him (Allen), the proposal came to us from from the municipal judges,” said Mike Crabtree, chairman of the Scioto County Commissioners. 'They (Portsmouth Municipal Court Judges) have suggested they would be willing to pay a certain amount of rent and possibly put some money towards beefing up the security in the courthouse.'

"Crabtree said the commissioners and the judges have not talked about specific amounts they would be willing to pay."

(Wayne Allen. "Court’s Move Would Cost an Estimated $1.8 Million."  
Portsmouth Daily Times. May 31, 2014)

Wow, close to $2 million for moving Portsmouth Municipal Court. To the county courthouse? The plan calls for not only the courts to move, but also for the probation department, security personnel, clerk of courts and city solicitor to move.

I guess my questions are not only related to the considerable cost of the move but also related to the county courthouse being renovated by city taxpayers.

1. How much space is actually needed for the city municipal court operations? Could a new facility be built to house Portsmouth Municipal Court for the same cost or for less than the cost projected to renovate the fourth floor of the aging Scioto County Courthouse? If only one floor is required, that does not represent that much space.

2. Once renovations are made to the fourth floor of the Scioto County Courthouse, the county receives the benefit of the improvements to the building while city taxpayers foot the bill for improvements to the structure. 

As a city resident, I don't mean to sound selfish, but the county courthouse is old, and who's to say how many other needed renovations might or might not be needed for the county to continue operations. 

Is the entire structure of this courthouse also in a state of disrepair? I've seen some pretty nasty conditions there also. The city can't use an expensive, renovated fourth floor if the county closes the entry doors of an unsuitable, unsafe building. We can't afford to flush two more million dollars down the drain.

Crabtree said he and the other commissioners need to hear something more concrete from the judges or the court.

And, Skip Riffe, Scioto County commissioner, said, “Municipal Court has been interested in that space for years. It’s to me like the municipal court judges and the city manager need to get on the same page. If they are not on the same page it’s going to be difficult moving forward.”

Well, what is this "page" to which Crabtree and Riffe refer?

City Manager Derek Allen expressed concerns over the possible move. Why shouldn't he? He is new on the job and has been given the impossible task of cutting expenses and saving the city from economic disaster. He's been searching for any "pages" to keep Portsmouth afloat.

Is there even a "page" about the city building? Reportedly, Crabtree has never even talked to Allen about the move. He claims the Portsmouth Municipal Court Judges "have suggested they would be willing to pay a certain amount of rent and possibly put some money towards beefing up the security in the courthouse.”

Who is in charge and responsible reads like Abbott and Costello's routine "Who's On First?" It's meant to confuse the average citizen to the point of preferring a root canal to tracking down the truth.

No doubt, the city building is in need of repair. I have seen the pitiful, filthy condition myself, and it also makes one wonder why lack of upkeep seems to continue. Perhaps, the city wants the public to be sickened enough to pay for new quarters. A court experience at the Portsmouth City Building leaves one both depressed and amazed at the indifference of the city to a pleasant, congenial contact.

I'm no expert: maybe the city structure is already "too far gone" and destined to become a heap of rubble. But, for years and years, Portsmouth government has done limited repairs and searched for new quarters and wasted money on proposed structures and speculated on some sky-high value the city building property alone has on the market. Remember the rumor of a casino on the site?

It looks to me as if the "page" first needs to be found before all the public servants play their politics with the citizen's money. Each person involved in a projected move knows what he wants, yet the wrangling and apparent partisan behavior produce nothing but further speculation.

It is very difficult to live in a town so bent on appeasing a chosen few. Past deals in this town have soured the public to future improvement because they lack trust. And who could blame them? Maybe it's time to ask the most important question of all: "Do we need all that space for both city and county operations?"

We live in a county of somewhere near 79,000 inhabitants. Portsmouth itself has faced a continuous decline in population ever since the 1950s. In 1950, more than thirty-six thousand people lived in the city. Now, I believe that number is around 20,000. What does "adequate" and "modern" and "well-maintained" entail? If a new structure is needed, what would it be and what would it cost?

I believe the "page" to which Riffe referred is "Page One" and it requires all who are "on it" to be committed to serving the public of Portsmouth, Ohio.

Just a note: The South Shore, Kentucky City Building was destroyed by fire in 2010. According to Mayor Cheryl Moore, they could have a new city building up and running by the end of this year. The cost is estimated at less than half a million dollars. Moore says it’s being made possible with the insurance payment from the old building and assistance from the federal Department of Agriculture.

New South Shore Facility

Friday, May 30, 2014

New Episode: "What's Up With the Marting's Property?"

Welcome to the latest episode in the continuing series of the Portsmouth City Council sitcom "What's Up With The Marting's Property?" The latest installment features a spicy development that reveals Council giving first reading to an ordinance calling for City Manager Derek Allen to advertise for the "possible" sale of the Babcock Building at 720-722 Sixth Street.

Now, remember some City Fathers believe this parcel of the property is "perhaps" rich ground for a parking lot should the major old department store structure ever sell.

Councilman Jim Kalb eloquently objected to the sale, saying, “I just think that shame on us for not taking care of our property.”

But, City Councilman Rich Saddler, speaking for the Parks, Recreation, Service, Buildings & Cultural Committee, offered a different view. “In certain instances where there is proposed development happening or going to happen or something like that, yes, I can see keeping that (Babcock) property,” he said. Saddler is of the opinion that the city owns too much property and needs to be free from the liability of owning the real estate.

Then, Saddler offered this startling view to the future:

“This particular piece of property, there is no development going on. I know it has been talked about, keeping that for parking for the Marting’s building. It has been how many years? Ten years? 12 years? Nothing is going to happen with that building. And if this Babcock building goes through, the next on my committee’s list is, guess what, the Marting’s building, to get rid of it as well.”

Third Ward Councilman Kevin E. Johnson seemed to be unsure of the department store parcel sale as he expressed his views.

Johnson said, “I would agree with you and us having property if we had a better track record. But I’d have to think about the Marting’s building. I’d have to think about the Adelphia building. And we could go on and on. I just don’t think that we, as a city, are in a position to keep these buildings maintained. And, if we’re not, then I’d rather let go of them and perhaps someone do something with the buildings.”

(Frank Lewis. City Considers Selling the Marting’s Building. 
Portsmouth Daily Times. May 29, 2014)

The possibility, the speculation, the guessing, the shame, the much-required thinking and acting... it's all almost too much to bear! After all, the residents of Portsmouth have invested significant resources in this grand old property that has graced and disgraced our main street as a monument to past retail glory and a modern debacle of urban decay. 

Review of the Latest 

Let's put this in perspective for those who still seem to be in a quandary about "What's Up?"

1. It looks as if the old, decaying Babcock Building is headed for "possible" sale. Asking price undetermined.

2. The Babcock property could be a parking lot if someone bought the crumbling Marting's Department Store structure, both properties the city has owned since 2002 for a reported price of $1,999,990.

3. No actual development of properties is going on now. (Or, for that matter, ever has.) And, most councilmen feel nothing will ever happen. Maintenance is costly, but some councilmen feel muddle-headed speculation is worth the expensive upkeep and the stagnant ownership and wish to watch the buildings continue to disintegrate.

4. A doubtfully optimistic Parks, Recreation, Service, Buildings & Cultural Committee of City Council is also considering a projected "possible" sale of the Marting's Department Store building, which may or may not be suitable for occupation. Asking price undetermined.

5. All councilmen seem to agree that Portsmouth City Council has a "poor track record" with property it owns. This is the singular point of agreement that holds promise of wretched continuation.

6. One councilman thinks it's a shame he and his fellows can't take care of the city's costly albatross he helped obtain.

7. Another councilman believes merely "thinking" about the city-owned real estate may result in a miraculous solution to the problems although "doing something" or "not doing something" with the buildings seems to be an insoluble dilemma.

8. Meanwhile, the majority of the public believes it has exhausted all "thinking" and all patience. These citizens remember the May 2006 referendum and the belief that they had blocked renovation to the properties while refusing to support a scheme that was designed to unload a 100-plus-year-old white elephant.

9. Stay tuned. There seems to be no end in sight for the continuing saga of scandal, politics, and intrigue. For now, that's all, folks. Continue to think and to question until further notice.

For a thorough history, click here and you will be more "up to speed":

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Is Indian Head Rock Ready To Roll Again?

The boulder that may or may not be the fabled “Indian Head Rock” is back in the news for the first time in four years. And not a day too soon.

The controversial stone was first removed from the Ohio River in 2007 when Steve Shaffer of Ironton, Ohio, and several divers from Portsmouth used some flotation devices to raise the eight-ton sandstone rock they found in the Ohio River near the U.S. Grant Bridge.

With hearts full of promontory love and heads full of historical notoriety, the men said they saved the slab and moved it to the Ohio shore because they had feared "it," whatever it was -- historical landmark or quarry of the river bottom -- was in danger of being damaged or lost forever to the unrelenting waters.

Navigation dams have been responsible for the submersion of the rock. In older days before dams,  back to 1920, portions of Indian Head Rock lay partly exposed during times of low water.

Was the find a true treasure? What if is was a relic known Indian Rock? A few marks on the rock indicate dates of the 1850's. Maybe early explorers like Boone or Crockett or even Tecumseh had etched early carvings. Or were the marks merely tourist graffiti left by lesser-known individuals?

Some even believed the Charlie Brown-like face was an American Indian petroglyph, so a delegation from Kentucky -- with Dr. Fred E. Coy Jr., a prehistoric carvings expert, in tow -- visited the Portsmouth municipal garage and waited anxiously while the doctor conducted his examination. His expert opinion: “I can’t tell.” 

But then, a huge feud over plucking the rock from the river erupted between Ohio and Kentucky. As noted archaeologists began scanning scads of data and respected anthropologists hurriedly humanized gobs of records, the stature of the "maybe" discovery grew and grew. Whether in the river or out, the rock somehow became considered a tool of state education. But of which state?

As always, politicians entered the fray for any possible fortuitous find. Kentucky state officials got involved; they said the rock belonged to them. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway wrote a letter demanding its return.

"This was a registered antiquity in Kentucky and it was taken, and that's theft of an antiquity under the statute," Conway says.

Not to be outdone by rock-headed politicians from the Bluegrass, Ohio officeholders answered. In May, 2008, Ohio Representative Todd Book, along with sixty-six cosponsors, introduced and adopted House Resolution No. 137 in the 127th Ohio General Assembly Regular Session. It was resolved...
"That we, the members of the House of Representatives of the 127th General Assembly of the State of Ohio, declare that the Portsmouth Indian Head Rock is and has always been inextricably linked to the history of the City of Portsmouth, Ohio, and that it represents an important facet of Ohio's historical connection to the Ohio upon the Commonwealth of Kentucky to abandon any claims of ownership to the Portsmouth Indian Head Rock and to work with Ohio officials to jointly care for, preserve, and educate the public about the history of the Portsmouth Indian Head Rock.
(Todd Book, "Ohio House Resolution 137")
Soon, Buckeyes and Bluegrassers were ready to draw blood for the possession of a rock hardly anyone alive had ever seen since the boulder had lain for decades below the surface of the water. A member of the Kentucky House of Representatives even suggested that a raiding party be sent to Portsmouth to move the rock back to Kentucky.  
So, in 2008, Kentucky brought criminal charges against Shaffer and civil charges against him and others involved in the heist. Anyway, during three years of costly legal battles, the mysterious rock rested on the floor of the Portsmouth City Garage. Finally, in August 2009, the charges were dropped because officials, in all their official wisdom, decided the boulder was not the actual Indian Head Rock.

Now, all of this hubbub is fascinating to me. First of all, I imagine about every rock in the river is an antique, and second, I have plucked a few stones from the riverbank in my younger days that I considered to be "old bits of geography" but I was never charged with looting a potentially historical artifact. I guess notoriety and size do matter.

Finally, in November 2010, Kentucky moved the rock to the Greenup County Garage for prescribed “temporary storage.” There the rock remains. The courts ruled the rock will not be returned to its original location in the river because the original site "had been compromised."

But what about the latest earthy news? Well, now Greenup County Judge/Executive Robert (Bobbie) Carpenter and South Shore Mayor Cheryl Moore are hoping Indian Head Rock will be a part of the new South Shore City Building.

“We’ve got it (the rock) over at the county garage. We put it there the day we brought it over from Portsmouth and it’s been there ever since. It’s waiting on a home,” Carpenter said. “My dream is that, when South Shore gets their new city building maybe, possibly there would be some where we could put it close to it and fix it where people could enjoy it.”

But, of course, Mayor Moore said they are looking for funding to help bring the rock to South Shore from the town of Greenup. She said there is no estimate on what the cost would be to move the rock from its current location to South Shore -- a distance of about 16 miles. And like any trusted politician, Moore stated, “I don’t feel like the citizens of South Shore should have to fund it.”

Moore said it would be great to have the rock in South Shore if the funding can be secured. “If they could find some funding, I’d be glad to store it,” Moore said. “Maybe someday we can put a visitors center towards the bridges and have it there, I know there was talk of that, at one time... My personal opinion is, I’d like to see it here, I think it would bring a lot of people to the area, to look at it.”

(Wayne Allen. "Ky. Rock’s Future Home Remains Uncertain.  
Portsmouth Daily Times. May 23, 2014)

So, let's review. 

(1) There is a rock, which may or may not be a local landmark named Indian Head Rock, that has been taken from the Ohio River. In doing so, the excavators "compromised" the site. (Don't ask me how -- I don't know.)
(2) Since it was removed, it has caused a state feud between Ohio and Kentucky and cost the taxpayers many dollars in research, court, and lawmaking fees.
(3) Kentucky, claiming the rock is a "registered antiquity" belonging to the state, has kept it stored away from public eyes in a garage in Greenup for four years.
(4) South Shore Kentucky would like to display the unverified "historical" boulder near the new city building they are going to build.
(5) To do so, South Shore needs some undetermined amount of funding, not to come from their own townspeople, to transport the rock the distance of a few miles from the Greenup garage to South Shore. 
(6) The "maybe" Indian Head Rock, if transported to South Shore, is expected to bring in many interested visitors to the village. 
That is all, good people. This is a full report. As much as I would love to tell you how such a piece of nondescript sandstone can continue to cause logistical nightmares, the story is beyond my own comprehension. How will the story end? Your guess is as good as mine.
You see, the beauty of Indian Head Rock and all the speculation that goes with it is akin to believing in a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. If, to you, the "maybe" overrides the "certainty," then you must keep looking for that gilded streak in the stone. And, possibly, this speculated artifact may emerge someday from its resting place in a Kentucky county garage, and you can see the glint in the sandstone for yourself.

Otherwise, you realists and strict preservationists probably wish the men would have just left the old rock in the river.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Heroin In Ohio: Known and Unknown Risks For Teens

A total of 680 Ohio residents died from heroin-related overdoses in 2012 -- up 60 percent from 2011 and the most deaths from heroin ever recorded in one year, according to data released April 18, 2014, by the Ohio Department of Health.

What is Ohio's response to the increasing number of heroin deaths and rates of substance abuse among its residents? At least one expert believes it is "piece-meal at best and totally uninformed by what has already been established as evidence-based prevention and treatment practices."

(Zili Sloboda. "Ohio's Response to Drug Abuse Problem Is Not Adequate."  
Mansfield News Journal. May 24, 2014)

Zili Sloboda is a Senior Research Associate at the University of Akron’s Institute for Health and Social Policy. Prior to coming to the University in 1999, she was the Director of the Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

According to Sloboda, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has invested in research on the problem of drug abuse, and this research has resulted not only in a better understanding about the origins and pathways of drug use and drug use disorders but also how to effectively prevent drug use and treat drug abuse.

Sloboda says, "NIDA has disseminated the findings from this research with the goal of fostering the implementation of evidence-based practices in local communities. This work has been summarized also by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in a guide and a training program for policy makers around the world. I have shared this information with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office as well as the staff responsible for alcohol and drug abuse services.

Furthermore, these plans were made without input from nationally recognized university-based Ohio drug use researchers at The Ohio State University, Wright State University, Kent State University and Case Western Reserve University.

Sloboda concludes: "It is for this reason that the announcement of the governor’s plan to address drug use in Ohio with non-evidence-based programming was disappointing."

Boy and Girl Next Door

The "shock and awe" of the heroin invasion is undeniable. The drug abuse is impacting mostly white suburban families. The new profile of a heroin user is the average girl or boy next door.

Why? Jacqueline Palmer of Palm Partners Recovery Center
gives some insight into what leads to teens' experimentation with opiates like heroin:

* Peer pressure 
* Low self-esteem 
* Depression 
* Pain
* Trauma 
* Abuse 
* Emotional and Mental Disorders  

Palmer states, "The younger U.S population is seriously at risk for drug abuse due to the physical, emotional and psychological changes pre-teens and teens go through. Mix that with peer-pressure and readily available illegal drugs and we have an epidemic on our hands."

(Jacqueline Palmer. "In The News: Heroin Epidemic in Ohio."   June 8, 2012)

Palmer's list is fairly predictable, isn't it? It is about as broad and deep as teen angst complications related to maturation, social acceptance, sexual exploration, and cerebral development. No doubt the young adults of the 21st century face pressures and tensions unknown to their predecessors. And, the future only promises to get worse as America struggles with education, money, and employment problems.

To me, the key to reducing the cause of teen opiate abuse is responsibility. We have become a nation drugged by our own prescriptions -- the belief that pain is to be avoided at all costs -- and by our own "soft" approach to managing home and loved ones. We don't want to disappoint or impede our own children, so we believe teens are tough and ready to face all key decisions in life. We give them more rights and also allow them greater freedoms than ever before, but should we?

Though today's teenager looks like a mature, beautiful adult, the inner image of stability is grossly overestimated. With a Ferrari body and a Hyundai frontal lobe, a teen is a machine wired and poised to make terrible misjudgments. Simply put, these teens are permitted to skip the scenic route of young innocence and encouraged to run headlong into the fast lane of potentially crippling temptations.

Maia Szalavitz, winner of the American Psychological Associations Division 50 Award for Contributions to the Addictions and the Media Award from the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, says...

"If you’re the parent of a tween, be warned: your cautious 10-year-old is bound to turn into a wild child in a few short years, with seemingly no regard whatsoever for safety. Indeed, teenagers  have the double the risk of dying compared to their preteen selves.

"Adults have long reckoned with ways to protect adolescents from their own misjudgments. Only recently, however, have researchers really begun to understand how the teen brain is wired and that some of what appear to be teens’ senseless choices may result from biological tendencies that also prime their brains to learn and be flexible.

"Take teens’ perception of risk. It’s certainly different from that of adults, but not in the ways you’d expect. Research shows, for instance, that teens tend to wildly overestimate certain risks — of things like unprotected sex and drug use — not to lowball them as one would predict. So, it may be that teens’ notorious risk-taking behavior stems not from some immunity to known risks, but rather, as a new study now suggests, from their greater tolerance to uncertainty and ambiguity — that is, unknown risks."

(Maia Szalavitz. "Why the Teen Brain Is Drawn to Risk." Time. October 2, 2012)

Please, read this very carefully: According to a prominent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Agnieszka Tymula), "Relative to adults, adolescents engage more in unknown risks than they do in known risks."

This research implies that "if the risks are known, adolescents engage [in risk-taking] less than adults do, but if they are unknown, this is reversed."

The difference in engaging in risky behaviors? Unlike teens, adults tend to focus on the end result and the consequences. Studies confirm that teens think about risks differently: playing Russian roulette, for example, by using their prefrontal cortex. They use quantitative reasoning and take about twice as long as adults do before responding, while adults immediately have a negative reaction to such risks, stemming intuitively from the insula, and almost automatically say no.

Maybe this different brain "wiring" helps teens leave the nest as it increases their desire to be more exploratory.

Valerie Reyna, professor of human development and psychology at Cornell University, has studied how teaching “gist”-based reasoning can help teens avoid dangerous sexual choices, finding that teens who are taught to focus on potential, catastrophic negative outcomes, rather than the odds, make fewer risky sexual decisions and have fewer partners.

Tymula suggests that allowing teens opportunities to safely experiment — for example, a simulator that shows sober teens what drunk driving is like — could also help, by making an unknown risk seem more real and known. Allowing teens the opportunity to take risks in a safe context could also help them develop expertise that underlies gist-based thinking.

While adults tend to prefer the certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty, as family therapist Virginia Satir once put it, the same may not be true for teens.

To me, risk-taking teens will always be a constant in our culture. The responsibility factor is that parents, guardians, and young people must work together to structure controlled, exciting opportunities to allow teens to experience uncertainty in small stages in order to build decision-making skills.

No longer is it wise to "assume" the environment is relatively safe for those with immature perceptions -- and, that, unfortunately, is an environment affecting all teens, no matter how studious or well-intentioned. It is imperative that all caretakers of teens work together to restore innocence and to monitor progress in how they intend to react to unknown risks.

I hate opiate drug abuse. At the same time, I realize our greatest natural resource, the young people of America, are falling victim to this unthinkable heroin scourge in record numbers. Are they smarter than that? You better believe it -- in their minds and in the minds of many adults they are. But are they mature enough to weather the epidemic of drug abuse with all of its risks? Hell no.

Why? Nature made the brains of children and adolescents excitable. Their brain chemistry is tuned to be responsive to everything in their environment. After all, that's what makes kids learn so easily.

"Addiction has been shown to be essentially a form of 'learning,'" neurologist Francis Jensen, Chair of the Department of Neurology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania says. "After all, if the brain is wired to form new connections in response to the environment, and potent psychoactive drugs suddenly enter that environment, those substances are tapping into a much more robust habit-forming ability that adolescents have, compared to adults."

    (Richard Knox. "The Teen Brain: It's Just Not Grown Up Yet." NPR. March 1, 2010)

How about organizing some great, group hiking, camping, canoeing, go-carting, fishing, hunting, and caving experiences? The list for possible chaperoned adventures goes on and on. So many things can offer youngsters relatively safe but exciting learning experiences that require problem solving. Teaching teenagers the difference between "unknown" and "known" risks requires diligent, sustained efforts, but I can't believe the payoff would be enormous.

Tough love -- do we all have the responsibility to teach it? I believe so. Perhaps the mutual affection that would result from caring for families and for mutual friends on these little risky adventures would well serve a teen alone and faced with an important, potentially deadly decision. After all, whether to take heroin is ultimately a risk that the teen is bound to confront in these drug-riddled times.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Kids Need the Ground Beneath Their Feet

Have you ever looked at life like this? Kids need the ground -- the grass, the sand, the sidewalk, the fields, and all other direct contact with Mother Earth. They grow and learn so much with repeated contact of "feet meeting the ground" activities that nothing can suffice for just their getting outside and getting their phalanges moving. In doing so, they become a living part of the intricacy of nature.

I went to a park the other day with my son, daughter-in-law, wife, and two of our grandkids, and while there, this thought hit me right between the eyes. Everywhere I looked I saw kids in activities that presented them with varying levels of freedom and liberty in a beautiful area full of room for exploration and curious interplay.

In the park, I say so many kids happily playing and receiving all the benefits of the exercise, the environment, the climate, and the social interaction. The park was simply a glorious place full of everything good that makes children appreciate the outdoors.

Sand boxes, swings, jungle gyms, elaborate play sets, bike paths, walking paths, tennis courts, baseball diamonds, soccer fields, trees -- the park was a paradise beckoning children away from computers, online games, and a sedentary life style. And, it provided them real entertainment, not fantasy and second-hand experiences. Kids need this so badly. They gain empowerment as they utilize simple problem-solving skills in their play.

About three out of four children ages 5 to 10 get less than one hour of physical activity, according to a new survey.The survey of more than 1,600 U.S. parents was conducted by the YMCA of the USA, also known as Y-USA.It showed that that 74% of children between the ages of 5 and 10 do not get enough exercise on a daily basis, based on the 60 minutes of daily physical activity recommended in the government’s Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. 

Only 15% of the parents in the survey indicated that overall physical health is the top concern for their children, even though rates of childhood obesity have been climbing. CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey reported approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese.

Becoming "Grounded"

Obviously, contact with the ground is essential for a growing child not only in a physical sense but also in a mental sense. As I watched the children play in the park, I could almost see the gears in their heads turning as they decided what to do and how to do it. I thought of my own childhood and how important the outdoors had been to me. When I was a youngster, I didn't have an elaborate playground like this park, but I had a backyard, nearby woods, and nearby bodies of water -- streams, lakes, the river -- that I gradually gained as access points for my and my parents planned outdoor adventures.

Each new day presents children with the ground outside their windows, and the ground, whatever its composition, puts them in direct contact with their natural surroundings. The wealth of exercise and knowledge nature provides allows young people to become "grounded" themselves. 

Given enough time and opportunity to contact the outdoors, kids develop a deep appreciation for their surroundings. And, given proper instruction and graduated safe, limits of exploration, young people find unbounded satisfaction in the simplicity of putting themselves in a wondrous, natural environment. They develop a lifelong appreciation of the ground simply by plodding upon its surface.

I sincerely believe structured outdoor group activities are good but not sufficient for the maturation of a human being. Play involves more that scheduled ballgames and practices. Too few kids these days "hang" outdoors and enjoy the natural setting as their constant companion. We, adults, must provide safe access to natural settings and provide a wide array of opportunities for our children and grandchildren to benefit from the outdoors. Independent play is missing, and I find this disheartening. 

We have rich resources in Scioto County that allow for so many wonderful "ground" experiences. Why not push the development of our natural resources and develop new means of human contact with nature as the greatest "gold" in our hills? We could be so much more proud of our natural environment and much more willing to share our land with others. 

This change cannot be accomplished through short-sighted visions of instantaneous mass transformation; however, it can be done if enough families just begin getting their kids feet out of the house and on the ground. These feet will lead to miracles. It seems too simple to work? Sometimes the most simple actions reap the most benefits -- even for old codgers like me.

"Take a course in good water and air: and in the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own. Go quietly, alone: no harm will befall you." 

 --John Muir

Friday, May 23, 2014

Let's Make a Deal: Tracy Bias and the Truth About Attorney Hillman

“I don’t feel that it was fair what happened yesterday (Wednesday) in court,” Tracy Bias told the Daily Times in an exclusive interview at his home, “because the government did not honor their plea agreement.”

Bias said he had been offered a plea agreement in which he would testify in the case against Dublin, Ohio, attorney Steve Hillman, who represented several pain clinics. Bias said he was to receive a 10-year sentence as a result of that testimony, which he said he cooperated in.

“That (plea agreement) went out the door,” Bias said. “Why? I don’t know, because I did not lie to the prosecution. I thought I fulfilled my end of this agreement. My attorney’s also even feel that I fulfilled my agreement. But then it didn’t happen.”

Bias said he does not know all the details as to why the plea agreement was dropped.

“They (the court) feel basically that I did not fulfill my obligation because of something that was taken out of the plea agreement,” Bias said. “They feel that I shared this with Steve Hillman before this was taken out of the plea agreement which is wrong. I did not share that. They feel that Steve Hillman directed me how to answer. That is wrong. Steve Hillman has never directed me how to answer anything in court.”

Hillman is himself awaiting sentencing, and according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, he has pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns. Hillman told the Times Thursday he pleaded guilty to filing a late tax return in 2011, a misdemeanor.

Bias sighed, “It’s all just went bad from there.”

(Frank Lewis. "Bias Says 14-year Prison Sentence Is Unfair." 
Portsmouth Daily Times. May 23, 2014)

Tracy Bias, 49, of West Portsmouth, Ohio, was indicted by a federal grand jury on April 19, 2012 and pleaded guilty on June 7, 2013 to one count of conspiracy to distribute and dispense a controlled substance.

Bias was sentenced to spend 168 months (14 years) in prison, serve another ten years under court supervision, and ordered to forfeit $6,348,000, an amount representing the proceeds of the pain clinics he operated for two years.

Between January 2009 and June 2011, Tracy Bias owned and operated Southern Ohio Complete Pain Management and Portsmouth Medical Solutions in Portsmouth, Ohio and Trinity Medical Care in Columbus, Ohio. Six doctors involved with the clinics have either been sentenced or are awaiting sentencing.
“Bias was a huge part of a greater pill tsunami into the Southern Ohio area,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy D. Oakley told the court prior to sentencing imposed Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Michael R. Barrett. The “clinics were just a portion of the pill operations being run by felons and failed doctors in Southern Ohio.”

Of course, anyone reading these reports should understand the truth as told by Tracy Bias is questionable. After all, he is a felon who has already filed an appeal of his sentence. However, the words of the convicted felon do ring with understandings known to many who helped in the efforts to close Scioto County pill mills. Justice and equality make no sense.

Whatever the plea agreement made by Bias, the public must question the primary role of Steve Hillman, the Dublin attorney who represented many local "pain clinics." As a legal representative of these notorious enterprises and a staunch defender of the glut of dispensing opiates in an illegal manner, Hillman seems to be the "brains" of an extensive, corrupt operation to poison Southern Ohio.

Consider Hillman's role in defending the operations of Dr. Margy Temponeras whose pill mill operation was one of the biggest illegal distributors of opiates in the United States. Who can not believe that Attorney Hillman was one of the bandleaders orchestrating this health epidemic when he not only told lies about Temponeras and her Wheelersburg business but also told lies about his efforts to establish a "legal" operation under the name Physicians Pharmacy in Piketon? He continues to deny his major role in the greedy pill mill business.

In truth, Steven Hillman is a weasel lawyer, a master of perjury and deception who deserves stiff punishment for his own role in the scheme of making millions and dealing certain death to many innocent victims. That's right -- death. He remains indifferent and rich in his vaulted position.

So far, Hillman has only entered one plea in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati. According to a spokeswoman in the Cincinnati office of U.S. Attorney Carter Stewart, Steve Hillman entered a guilty plea to failure to file income tax. Hillman reportedly failed to file federal income tax returns for the 2009, 2010 and 2011 income tax years.

According to court documents, Hillman has been the sole proprietor of his law firm since 2008. As an attorney, Hillman earned income from insurance settlement contingent fees, retainer fees, sublease rental payments and wages. Despite earning gross income in excess of the threshold amount which triggers the requirement to file a federal income tax return, Hillman willfully failed to file tax returns which resulted in a total tax loss to the IRS of approximately $114,942.19.

The crime is punishable by up to one year in prison, a fine of up to $25,000 and a one-year term of supervised release. Judge Michael R. Barrett will schedule a date for sentencing. The IRS doesn't want its $115,000 back from a wealthy lawyer? This is sad American justice.

This is the man who threatened to sue me -- a citizen activist who led more than 10 pill mill protests all over the county and who established the Fix the Scioto County Problem of Drug Abuse Facebook group -- with a formal letter accusing me of being a liar who spread false accusations about his clients at the Scioto pain clinics. Hillman is a full-fledged criminal.

Spurred on by Hillman's defense, Darrell Leadingham, Temponeras's security guard and henchman, once made it a point to confront me on public property in Wheelersburg ranting and raving about the "legality" of her pill mill, and he also posted Hillman's private correspondence to me on his KD Dragway Internet site while claiming I had political motivation for my activism. I wonder how Leadingham got his copy of my letter? Can you spell "H-I-L-L-M-A-N"?

In all his self-righteous glory and greed, Leadingham continued to discredit my service as a teacher on local forums, accusing me of being everything from a madman to a child molester. Once, he even tried to lure me to confront him at his property in South Webster. And he also spread derogatory comments, some very racist, in print about my family, specifically about my grandchildren.

With his legal and monetary connections, I felt the man was openly threatening our lives. I took my displeasure and my proof to the Scioto County Sheriff's office where I was treated like a foolish little child for my bother of accusation. In fact, that office denied that Leadingham had once been a special deputy of their office. I was told this by sheriff's deputies who lied.

The threats? The sheriff's department told me that they received information about threats like this "all the time." And they were "not going to even talk with Leadingham." They advised me to "go home and forget it." They said he could "print and say anything he wished." That's "just the way it was." That day, I learned much about the blue shield and the politics that pervade Scioto County.

Why am I still pissed over my treatment by the Scioto County Sheriff's Department? Read this June 6, 2011 report from WSAZ TV by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy:

"In a press release, the DEA calls Dr. Margy Temponeras one of the largest dispensers of controlled substances in the United States.

Several people testified during Wednesday's hearing including Assistant Attorney General Tracy Greuel who told the board that Temponeras had a former employee of the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office running her dispensary."There is a problem if any unlicensed healthcare professional can have complete access to drugs. It's not permitted by law," said Agent Kevin Kinnear.

The Sheriff’s Office has since clarified that the man in question was only a Volunteer Special Deputy from 1978-1997 under a former Sheriff.

I have never received an apology from the Sheriff. I don't really care any more. They will never silence my voice nor my writing. The games they play? I will leave the pill mill connections to you, but many of you already know the truth.

 Attorney Hillman

I Met Bias Once

I met Tracy Bias once at the county courthouse when Attorney Hillman unsuccessfully challenged Portsmouth ordinances on establishing new "pain clinics" within the city limits. I didn't know him from Adam, but I sensed his role and asked him if he was a clinic owner. He quietly admitted to me that he was. I explained why I believed his ownership was wrong and asked him to stop his practice. Of course, he was there to testify in defense of Hillman and his clinics, so he simply spurned my efforts of persuasion.

The conversation with Bias was no big deal that day, but now it seems like a fated meeting during which I had a major revelation: Bias was being manipulated with great skill for purposes other than just his own concerns. That day in court it was evident to a courtroom full of spectators that favors were being exchanged, stories were being told, and the mastermind behind the show was Steven Hillman, who, of course, was making millions thanks to illegal pill mill operations.

Make no mistake, I believe Tracy Bias is guilty of owning horrible criminal enterprises and guilty of  knowing full-well  the devastation he was causing. Believe me also, I take no joy whatsoever in knowing a man faces a long term of imprisonment. But, Bias had his day in court. Now, he must pay.

Yet, at the same time, I also believe Steven Hillman was at least equally responsible for Bias's culpability in the health epidemic my county still endures, and I also believe, Hillman is more responsible than Bias for the total devastation because he legally administered the matters of not only Bias but also Temponeras and other pill mill owners.

Should Steven Hillman's crime be punishable by a slap on the wrist: "up to one year in prison, a fine of up to $25,000 and a one-year term of supervised release"? This is truly laughable. It's time for all to come clean -- let people tell the full truth instead of spouting half-truths and stories of cover ups.

The system itself is corrupt. It favors the rich and cares little about true justice. Bias, himself,  brought up his co-defendant, Bart Journey, who was the co-owner with him in the pain clinics.

“It’s all me that done all of this, but in reality, it was (Bart) Journey who done all of this,” Bias said. “He gets five years, I get 14. That’s the scales of justice.”

Tracy Bias and Bart Journey put themselves into their own predicaments. They both face the stiff sentences for their admitted crimes, sentences imposed by law. In this post, I am not taking pity upon Bias or Journey, but instead, I am revealing information the public needs to know about power, position, and money. And, I am trying to reveal information about exactly how they all work together to cause inequality and injustice.

This is not a system that levels the playing field for all plaintiffs or for all defendants. It sickens me to see the strong tentacles of a monstrous creation reach into local, state, and federal matters to control the continuation of slimy subordinates in its grip. Plea bargains, lies, threats, slanted judges, crooked lawyers -- all the content of dramatic, fictional Hollywood films -- corrode the reality of our legal and justice systems.

In this, the land of overdose deaths and horrendous substance abuse, it becomes more difficult to determine the truth each passing day. Perhaps, in this area, the truth means less than politics and greenbacks. Greed drives crime, and crime is essential for the employment of those in the justice system. Who pulls what strings to make it all run slowly and inefficiently? I guess we must keep on reading about those involved to find some much-needed answers.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Work Out Your Fallible "IT"

"It just didn't work out." If you are like me, you hear this conclusion all of the time. No matter what the antecedent of "it" in the statement, the outcome is seemingly fated to termination. Yet, in truth, when you hear this simple explanation, the blame for the consequences must be ascribed to human culpability.

Denying accountability makes "didn't work out" acceptance comparable to full-fledged lying. Usually, "it" didn't "work out" because one or more of the parties involved did not expend reasonable time and effort required to complete the essential labor needed to fortify "its" existence.

Oh, I am guilty of using this quick brush-off. Surely you have used this denial, too. But today, I would ask you if you ever considered "it didn't work out" because of your own weaknesses? It’s so tempting, when something goes wrong, to decide that someone, anyone, anything, but you, is responsible for the failure. Granted, this indictment is human nature; however, it often displays an ugly side of selfish repudiation. We may be dealt a bad hand, yet we are responsible for manner in which we play the fated cards.

You do understand you have inborn desires to love companions and to vanquish opponents, right? As things go wrong and a loved one causes you pain, you quickly switch to the "overpowering mode" to defend yourself from further attack. In disbelief, you start to question how someone you care so much for could be so unkind as to hurt your feelings and to betray your trust. Stop and consider that errors and even dumb mistakes are part of any solid relationship: no love is a primrose path without thorns.

In addition, love is also very proud. Often confrontations escalate after simple, unintentional offenses and "it" seems to scamper to the slippery precipice of Final Decisions where plunging or working back toward solid ground become the only options. Many times, opponents find the work to fix the problems with "it" too difficult, and they view the relationship as irreconcilable. So, the loved ones simply to decide to end "it" and believe they had no choice.

When you put the focus on the solution instead of the ego, you force yourself to work together with others to solve problems, and, this, in turn, rebuilds positive bonds. If you want to be honest about your own obligations, when you took a vow like this with a mate, you negated a whole lot of alternatives:

"I _____, take you ______, to be my wedded wife/husband. To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish 'till death do us part. And hereto I pledge you my faithfulness."

Yet, I would be a hypocrite to deny the fact that I took the same vows and three years later, I got a divorce. You see, I used to say, "It just didn't work out." I gave that dumb explanation to many others who inquired why my marriage had failed; then, as time passed to give me more perspective, I had to admit there were bad things I did in the marriage that helped cause its demise. I realized only by accepting my fault could I move ahead with greater insight.

Now, I find myself understanding that damn near anything can be worked out. The compromise may require huge changes and great acceptance on behalf of the parties involved; however, this intense, mutual labor can actually strengthen a union. The changed product may resemble a dependable used car more than a shiny, new vehicle straight off the showroom floor, and, guess what? With proper care and maintenance that old ride might last until the aforementioned "'till death do us part."

One thing is for sure: if you use the "it just didn't work out" justification time and time again, people soon discover you are deceptive and very unreliable. The willingness to accept responsibility for your life can be an important prerequisite toward making constructive change. Everyone understands that you shouldn’t berate yourself or others for shortcomings. That being said, people aren’t “assholes” or “shits” even when they do shitty things. They most often are simply pitifully weak, unloved human beings.

The most sensitive lovers make mistakes. They learn that mistakes don't necessarily have to end relationships. You must be willing to learn from your mistakes as well as to learn from the mistakes of others. Blame is like anger in that it dulls the sense of empathy. It allows you to act in a hurtful way to another human being.

Blame isn't the act itself, but it often clears the road. It either erodes or outright removes (often both) the inhibitions that serve as buffers against what you know is bad behavior. It develops a thought pattern that allows your emotions to override your self-control in order to achieve an often selfish end -- including sustaining dysfunctional patterns.

I Know I Am Often Wrong

God knows I make far too many mistakes. And He knows I use blame far too much. Often, I try to make amends for these mistakes. And, sometimes, I know that my share of the blame has greatly aggrieved others to the point of no return. So, there are times that "I," not "it" doesn't "work out."

After these self-initiated snafus, I must accept my fallibility in a twisted and rocky route toward self-improvement and not chalk them up to the "mysterious dealings of the fates." I must try to make things better, but I also must rest content that (1) I am imperfect; (2) I am blameworthy; and (3) I should work diligently to be a better person; but (4) I will live in an imperfect world until I draw my last breath.

I will try to embrace this sphere of imperfection and all the fallible beings in it. Working together as conscientious human beings, all of us with impediments and faults, may change some of the instances in which "it just didn't work out."

"Blame is just a lazy person's way of making sense of chaos." 

--Douglas Coupland, Canadian novelist

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Support the 1191st on May 30 -- Come to Coles Boulevard

Part of the duty of American citizenship is showing proper respect for the defenders of American freedom, those brave individuals in our armed forces. Despite the obvious differences in our political stances and foreign policy views, we must agree that those who enter war zones deserve our utmost support and our special prayers. The time has come for all good citizens of Scioto County to show their love for the troops and their concern for a safe return.

The 1191st Engineer Company, located in Portsmouth, is being deployed to Afghanistan. They will be leaving the armory on Coles Boulevard at 8 A.M. on Friday, May 30. The public -- individuals, churches, civic groups, schools, all others -- are being asked to congregate on Coles that morning as a strong show of support for our local company who is headed in harm's way.

Commander Shawn Gee of James Dickey Post 23 of the American Legion says, “I would love to see people lining Coles Boulevard. We are going to do the crossed flags on our ladder trucks.”

The day before, May 29 at 10 a.m., there will be a “Call To Duty” ceremony at Shawnee State University. Governor John Kasich, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner and other political leaders are expected to attend.

The Legion is also assisting the Family Readiness Group. “We have set up a fund at Post 23 called the 1191st Fund, and what we’re going to try to do is gather some funds up to help send care packages to the folks when they get deployed, plus our bigger concern is really the family members back home,” Gee said. “The last time they deployed there were a lot of instances where the younger mothers needed diapers and things like that.”

Local newspaperman Frank Lewis says, "The families begin 12 months of extreme stress. When troops deploy their families often find they are overwhelmed by more than emotion. There are bills to pay, children to care for, emergencies, responsibilities and pressures that may suddenly overtake a spouse used to sharing his or her burdens with a partner. Caring friends and neighbors can offer invaluable support to these families lessening troop stress simultaneously. Offering repair skills, babysitting ability, grocery delivery, budgeting talent, tutoring, and more can totally shift the atmosphere for a military family.

"To provide financial support, checks can be made out to the “1191st Fund,” and sent to James Dickey Post 23, 705 Court St., Portsmouth, Ohio, 45662, Attention Ken Crawford."

(Frank Lewis. "1191st Engineer Company Will Deploy to Afghanistan." 
Portsmouth Daily Times. May 21, 2014)

Please support the Family Readiness Group fund with a generous financial donation. 

Getting To Know the 1191st 

The 1191st Engineer Company was organized and Federally recognized June 3, 1921, in the Ohio National Guard at Portsmouth, Ohio, as Battery C, 135th Field Artillery, an element of the 37th Division. The company was redesignated July 1, 1921 as Battery B, 134th Field Artillery.
The campaign participation credits of the 1191st include the following:

World War II -- New Guinea
War on Terrorism -- Iraq: Transition of Iraq and Governance of Iraq

Also, in 2008, the 1191st was deployed to Louisiana to aid in the recovery effort from Hurricane Gustav, and in 2011, members responded with ready units to Vermont in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene.

Decorations for the 1191st include the Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army) and the streamer embroidered IRAQ 200.

These selfless troops of the 1191st represent the best of America. They serve the nation with pride and distinction, and the volunteers comprise the greatest troops in the world. So many individuals have records of multiple deployments in war zones. Never before have our forces been asked to do more for the good of their country. Never. This is the 14th year of the war in Afghanistan, and so far 2,322 Americans have sacrificed their lives there, and nearly 19,698 others have been injured.

Take a look at network newscasts and press stories. Do you, like me, notice a lack of coverage about the War in Afghanistan? This indifference is unacceptable, yet it seems to be a part of a growing trend in the public eye that the war is over. Make no mistake, the fighting continues and casualties still mount. Our men and women face extreme danger. The least the media and the public must do is keep us informed about the warriors we send abroad. Some still make the ultimate sacrifice.

May 30 is an important day in the lives of those being deployed -- not only because it begins their journey to a dangerous, grueling service in a war zone but also because it offers them an opportunity to feel the love and support of their caring hometown community in a heartfelt sendoff. This backing helps create a positive mindset essential to their safe and their successful mission.

Wake up, carpool to the Boulevard, and show your support of the 1191st on May 30. They and you will never forget it.

 Capt. Gene Hancock (center) receives the 1191st Engineer Company guideon from Lt. Col. Bernardino C. Capriato, commander of the 216th Engineer Battalion, during the company’s May 2, 2010, change-of-command ceremony.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Spooner Oldham and Patience For Good Things

Spooner Oldham on the Roots of American Music Trail...

"I'm Spooner Oldham, and I play keyboards, mostly piano and organ, and, in a lot of cases Wurlitzer electric pianos. 

"I think the first instrument, I learned a few chords, was probably a mandolin. And then, I was picking cotton one day -- Center Star -- and back then you could pick cotton for like $3.00 a hundred pound, and on weekends I'd make a few (dollars) spending money. So, my buddy over here in the next row, (points behind) he's picking a sack dragging back there, says 'I got a guitar I want to sell.'

I said, 'What you got, Bill?'

"'It's a Stella.'

"'How much you want for it?'


"I said, 'I'll take it.'

"Then, I sorta... I wouldn't say accidentally, but faithfully found the piano. And somehow I was able to transfer the little information course, mandolin and guitar, pretty quick once I found C note. 

"I got sort of mesmerized early about the spirit of a band and the music in a room, so convergence for me to a recording studio was almost natural in a sense that I'm used to bands. I've heard them all my life. It's sort of like, somebody asked Ron Howard once what he thought about child acting, and he said, 'Well, I though everybody was.' That's sort of the way I grew up -- thinking everybody had a band in their house, you know.

"(Muscle Shoals music 'coming out of the soul') I think it's an ongoing music tradition that hopefully won't die here anytime soon. The aspiration to do good things is seated in everyone's heart and mind, and how you do you put it all together and make it happen is that you just got to be patient."

who’s who of records at FAME Studios. He recorded on numerous hit R&B songs including “When a Man Loves a Woman” recorded by Percy Sledge, “Mustang Sally” recorded by Wilson Pickett and “I Never Loved a Man” recorded by Aretha Franklin. He toured with Aretha Franklin and played with Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Linda Ronstandt, Jewell and Janis Joplin - See more at: year-old Dewey Lyndon "Spooner" Oldham is much more than just a man with a penchant for playing keyboards and mixing studio recordings. By the way, he acquired his nickname literally by accident. As a boy he reached for a pan on the stove, and a spoon temporarily injured his right eye. What a coincidence because this homespun moniker seems to fit perfectly his lifelong nurturing nature.
Oldham has a subtle, simplistic grace like no other. He says his mom in her rocking chair sang gospel songs and nursery rhymes to him in his childhood, and when he heard "Rock-a-bye baby in a tree top, down would come baby cradle and all," he thinks he felt sorry for the little nameless child.

When Paul Shaffer introduced Spooner as an inductee into the Rock Hall of Fame, he said this of Spooner's legendary opening to Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman": "Spooner coaxed a mellow sound out of the organ and proceeded to have church right there in the studio." Soul, gospel, rhyme and rhythm never fail Spooner's productions.

Shaffer said, "It's the musician's mantra: 'It's not what you play, it's what you don't play.' Easy words to say. Not so easy to put into practice, and no amount of practice will help you play what Oldham's playing preached because Spooner's got soul, and from listening to Spooner, I learned that when it comes to soul, sometimes the silence is more powerful than the sound."

The Alabama-born musician was part of the prolific crew that made records at Rick Hall’s FAME (“Florence Alabama Music Enterprises”) Studio and Muscle Shoal Sound Studios, in the northwest corner of the state.

Oldham played keyboard on hits that catapulted the Muscle Shoals music scene into the limelight. In addition to the Sledge smash, Spooner played on such classics as "You Better Move On" by Arthur Alexander, "Steal Away" by Jimmy Hughes, “I Never Loved a Man” by Aretha Franklin, “Mustang Sally” by Wilson Pickett, and “The Dark End of the Street” by James Carr.

Oldham and his songwriting partner Dan Penn have written great songs like Bobby Purify’s “I’m Your Puppet,” James Carr’s “The Dark End of the Street,” the Box Tops’ “Cry Like a Baby,” and Janis Joplin’s “A Woman Left Lonely.” The duo estimate that they’ve written between 400 and 500 songs together.

songwriting partnership with singer/guitarist Dan Penn - See more at:
Just a few of the acts Spooner has toured with include Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.

The fame of Spooner Oldham is, indeed, legendary. But, this soft-spoken, unassuming man is not one to live on his laurels. He continues to make great music and generously to help young and aspiring musicians. You see, when Spooner says, "The aspiration to do good things is seated in everyone's heart and mind, and how you do you put it all together and make it happen is that you just got to be patient," he is not spouting words for publicity; instead, he is affirming his honest, simple beliefs.

Maybe the planets were aligned right when Spooner Oldham took his first breaths and joined his musical family on June 14, 1943, in Center Star, Alabama. It seems he grew up in a special environment. Some even say the water in the region is blessed. The legend of The Singing River is well known to many people in northwest Alabama, a beautiful story and description of the early Muscle Shoals of the Tennessee River.

The legend associated with the Yuchie tribe, who in their language called the Tennessee Nunnuhsae or The Singing River. According to the Yuchi, these flowing waters sounded to them like a woman singing.

The Alabama-born musician was part of the prolific crew that made records at Rick Hall’s FAME (“Florence Alabama Music Enterprises”) Studio and Muscle Shoal Sound Studios, in the northwest corner of the state. - See more at:
Alabama historian William L. McDonald notes "the cascading waters . . . to the Indian was the spirit of a princess calling for her lover. Sometimes her song was loud and boisterous. On other occasions she sang softly. Now and then could be heard a most inaudible humming from her throat and lips. Yet, the princess is always here, hidden under the mysterious waters of an ancient river as she reveals her secrets through a thousand summers."

Water, it seems, has always been important to the legacy of Muscle Shoals. Helen Keller even lived there, after all, and anyone who has seen the film The Miracle Worker knows her first word was "water." 

Maybe it's a combination of the water, natural talent, family, friends, and country life that lent to Spooner's decision to spend $12.00 of his hard-earned money to buy that Stella. Whatever the case, we music lovers all benefited from his purchase. For decades, our lives have been blessed with the sweet sounds generated by Oldham. It is the simple, slightly ragged and genuine harmony of the man and his native land that lends to the longevity of the measures.

Spooner Oldham, the musician and the songwriter, remains a humble man who patiently infuses his music with his own soul, a spirit you can grasp if you open your ears and listen to the man from the soil of the Singing River. I urge you to feed your own heart and soul with the man and his music. I know the world is a much better place when we become attuned to Dewey Lyndon "Spooner" Oldham. Play the cuts and you too can "have a band in your house."

Out of Left Field
Percy Sledge, written by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham

When least expected
Fate stumbles in
Bringing light to the darkness
Oh, what a friend

I needed someone to call my own
Suddenly, out left field
Out left field, out left field
Love came along, ooh

I was walking down a road that went no where
Building dreams that were all left by the way side
And then outta the blue
Honey, I found you, ohh, yeah

Sugar and peaches in a paradise land
Good love and sweetness, have taken their stand
She made a mountain of love
From a little grain of sand

Suddenly, out of left field
Came a lover and a friend
She was a lover and a friend
Came out of nowhere

She made me a man
Every thing is alright
How sweet it is

When least expected
Fate stumbles in
Bringing light to the darkness
Ohh, what a friend

I needed someone to call my own
Suddenly, out left field
Out left field, out left field
Love came along, ooh

I was walking down a road that went no where
Building dreams that were all left by the way side
And then outta the blue
Honey, I found you, ohh, yeah

Sugar and peaches in a paradise land
Good love and sweetness, have taken their stand
She made a mountain of love
From a little grain of sand

Suddenly, out of left field
Came a lover and a friend
She was a lover and a friend
Came out of nowhere

She made me a man
Every thing is alright
How sweet it is

Click for more on Spooner Oldham:

The Roots of American Music Trail Interview:

Moments From the Theater CD:

Sweet Inspiration CD:

The Fame Studios Story CD:

Spooner At Rock Hall of Fame Induction:

Saturday, May 17, 2014

America Lost: Confused Champion of World Peace

The Merry Minuet

By The Kingston Trio

They're rioting in Africa
They're starving in Spain
There's hurricanes in Florida
And Texas needs rain.

The whole world is festering
with unhappy souls.
The French hate the Germans
The Germans hate the Poles.

Italians hate Yugoslavs,
South Africans hate the Dutch.
And I don't like
anybody very much!

But! We can be thankful
and tranquil and proud
that man's been endowed
with a mushroom-shaped cloud.

And we know for certain
That some lovely day
Someone will set the spark off
and we will all be blown away!

They're rioting in Africa
There's strife in Iran.
What nature doesn't do to us
Will be done by our fellow man.

This old folk song dates back to the early '60s. It seems to hold perspective for the world of 2014. We still live in a world of turmoil and intense hostility. The hottest news story now is the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls by the Boko Haram in Senegal. The act has drawn outrage from human rights activists all over the world, especially from those in the United States and from government officials of this country.

I despise Boko Haram, yet I question our nation's ability to rectify a situation in Africa and insure no further insanity takes place.

We envision America as the leader of the free planet, often the metaphorical "good guy in the white hat" ready to fight injustice and human rights violations everywhere on the world stage. I understand the concept, and I appreciate the intended moral obligation; however the world is full of terrible deeds, prejudice, oppression, and war. I don't understand how we Americans can right even a handful of the major wrongs in foreign lands.

Yet, the United States continues to play the role of mediator and protector of the world. Although the country is in a huge crisis in many areas of the economic sector and in a difficult battle with terrorism, it still tries to maintain its role as one of the superpowers capable of making peace in most every other nation. Perhaps the United States should work more to solve problems on its own soil before stepping out to attempt to take care of issues elsewhere.

This does not necessarily mean America should practice isolationism. Instead, the country should consider not only the real gains from getting involved in the affairs of foreign countries but also the possibility of negotiating lasting outcomes before committing any resources -- monetary, military, or diplomatic -- to the aid of those struggling from within.

Here are Woodrow Wilson's words about America's role as a peacemaker from his 1914 State of the Union Address:

"We are, indeed, a true friend to all the nations of the world, because we threaten none, covet the possessions of none, desire the overthrow of none. Our friendship can be accepted and is accepted without reservation, because it is offered in a spirit and for a purpose which no one need ever question or suspect. Therein lies our greatness.

"We are the champions of peace and of concord. And we should be very jealous of this distinction which we have sought to earn. just now we should be particularly jealous of it because it is our dearest present hope that this character and reputation may presently, in God's providence, bring us an opportunity such as has seldom been vouchsafed any nation, the opportunity to counsel and obtain peace in the world and reconciliation and a healing settlement of many a matter that has cooled and interrupted the friendship of nations."

Woodrow Wilson -- December 8, 1914

Do those words ring true today? I believe American history since the end of 1914 shows both examples of noble, needed commitments as well as many examples of misguided, dismal failures. Lately, America's posturing and direct actions are leading to even more questionable foreign policy decisions concerning peacemaking and maintaining a balance of power.

Please, read these brief summaries of headline stories that appeared in American newspapers recently to better understand this crazy world and its savagery.

Akar, Senegal

Boko Haram is one of Africa’s most brutal insurgent groups. Its bloody rampages even earn negative ratings from some wings of Al Qaeda and from radical militants in Nigeria's own Delta region.

In 2014 alone, some 1,500 people, mostly civilians, have been slain. Villages in the northeast have been decimated or burned. Nigerian forces, poorly equipped and manned, have done little to help.

It is an overwhelmingly local and parochial movement, that has some ties to parts of Al Qaeda. Of course, the group’s brazen kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in April catapulted it into global notoriety. Amnesty International this month documented that police knew in advance of the plan to kidnap the girls from Chibok, where they had gathered for exams, but took no action.

In a video message apparently made by the leader of the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls nearly three weeks ago, called them slaves and threatened to “sell them in the market, by Allah.”

“Western education should end,” Mr. Shekau said in the 57-minute video, speaking in Hausa and Arabic. “Girls, you should go and get married.” The Islamist leader also warned that he would “give their hands in marriage because they are our slaves. We would marry them out at the age of 9. We would marry them out at the age of 12.”

One possibly overlooked catalyst for Boko Haram’s evolution occurred in 2000 when Ahmed Yerima, the governor of Zamfara state in Nigeria's north-west, extended the jurisdiction of Muslim sharia law to criminal cases, prescribing punishments such as stoning for adultery, amputation for theft and flogging for drinking alcohol.


Nigerian forces believe they are zeroing in on Boko Haram, but the Islamic terror group behind a wave of murders and abductions has long tentacles that reach into the Central African nation's neighbors.

In Cameroon, which shares much of Nigeria's northeastern border, officials say militants from the group led by Abubakar Shekau have sneaked in with a tide of refugees, causing a rise in kidnappings, fighting and criminal acts just across the border from Nigeria’s Borno state.

“The boundaries between Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger are simply lines on a piece of paper that were drawn there by the French and English when they were in the region,” said John Campbell, senior fellow for African Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and former ambassador to Nigeria, told “It’s very hard to know the extent of support for Boko Haram in Nigeria itself let alone neighboring countries.”


In a new report on conditions in Ukraine, the United Nations declared that the human rights situation is continuing to deteriorate in Ukraine, fast. According to the UN, killings, abductions, beatings, and the jailing of politicians, activists, and journalists have continued unabated. “Primarily as a result of the actions of organized armed groups, the continuation of the rhetoric of hatred and propaganda fuels the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine, with a potential of spiraling out of control,” the United Nations said.

Deadly street fighting, helicopters shot down and civilians being used as human shields. That was the picture that emerged early May, 2014, in southern Ukraine as violence escalated amid reports that dozens of people were killed in a fire and still more were shot dead or wounded in street fighting, raising the question of whether the country can stave off a possible civil war.


A pregnant Sudanese woman who married a Christian man was sentenced to death Thursday after she refused to recant her Christian faith, her lawyer said.

North Korea's leadership is committing systematic and appalling human rights abuses against its own citizens on a scale unparalleled in the modern world, crimes against humanity with strong resemblances to those committed by the Nazis, the United Nations inquiry has concluded.

The commission gathered evidence for almost a year, including often harrowing testimony at public hearings worldwide, said there was compelling evidence of torture, execution and arbitrary imprisonment, deliberate starvation and an almost complete lack of free thought and belief.
Soma, Turkey

The image of an aide to Turkey's Prime Minister kicking a man protesting the mine disaster that has claimed nearly 300 lives has prompted outrage -- and has become a symbol of the anger felt against the government.

The incident occurred as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the western city of Soma a day after the devastating mine fire. The man, detained by special forces, can be seen lying on the ground as the suited adviser to Erdogan, identified as Yusuf Yerkel by Turkish media and CNN Turk, aims a kick at him.

Mukallah, Yemen

A suicide car bomber killed 10 Yemeni soldiers and one civilian and wounded many others on Sunday after targeting a military police building in the southern coastal city of Mukallah, state news agency Saba said.

The blast appeared to be a revenge attack by al Qaeda over the Yemeni army's campaign to crush Islamist insurgents in two large southern provinces.


Human Rights Watch has said that Venezuela has violated the rights of opposition protesters through beatings, illegal detentions and failure to follow due process.

In a report released on Monday, titled "Punished for Protesting," the rights group said that troops used excessive force against peaceful protesters, and that state prosecutors and judges tolerated or participated in the abuses.

The report was based on 45 cases of "serious human rights violations" researched in March. The group interviewed more than 90 people, including victims and their families, and more than a dozen lawyers who provided legal counsel.

"In most of the cases we documented, security forces employed unlawful force, including shooting and severely beating unarmed individuals," the report said. "Nearly all of the victims were also arrested and, while in detention, subjected to physical and psychological abuse."

The New York-based group alleged 10 torture cases, with incidents of electric shocks, burns and threats of rape or execution.


March 15, 2014 report: Catastrophic condition of repression exist in Iran: In recent months, at the same time as claims of moderation by Rouhani, the number of executions has reached a new record in the past twenty five years.

According to reports by the United Nations’ independent Rapporteurs, since the beginning of 2014, at least 176 people have been executed. At least four of them were prisoners who were under-age when they were arrested.

Nonetheless, Javad Larijani, a senior official of mullahs’ Judiciary Branch, has stated: “The world must praise Iran for increasing the number of executions.”

Savage punishments such as the gouging out of an eye and cutting off the hands and feet has continued, and the execution of the political prisoners and prisoners belonging to ethnic and religious minorities has escalated in an unprecedented manner.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are reporting a surge in the rights violations of gay people in Uganda following the enactment of a severe anti-gay law.

The rights groups said in a statement Thursday that LGBTI people face "a notable increase in arbitrary arrests, police abuse and extortion, loss of employment, evictions and homelessness."
The groups say scores have fled the country.


With so many human rights violations all over the world, America stands shocked and quite frankly in disagreement about what exactly to do. In my view, Woodrow Wilson's view of the United States "in God's providence" being the "champions of peace and of concord" seem antiquated and false. Albeit many gruesome and despicable acts are committed each day in foreign lands, why continue to burden our government with the responsibility of reforming the uncontrollable internal affairs of places without significant resistance to their own injustices.

I realize this view makes me somewhat of a heartless bastard, but with the wide scope of governments, religions, and accepted philosophies on earth, American attempts to control peace in every corner of civilization are doomed to be fruitless and prone to cause even more vindictive attacks by ruthless criminals.

Recent history shows, ending insurgencies is hard, as are needle-in-a-haystack manhunts in lawless areas where distrust of the government and foreigners runs high.

Hatred, revenge, the lack of simple toleration -- all contribute to a world in turmoil, a word foreign to American ideals. Hey, Mr. Wilson, the U.S. ain't your idealistic "healing" physician. Nice idea, Woody, but much of the world hates us for simply living in a nation that stretches "from sea to shining sea." We have plenty of problems here that need our immediate attention. I say "let's go to work on the home front." If that makes me an isolationist, just call me "Homey" and I can accept the compliment.