Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ohio Is Losing Its Marbles--Part II: Issue 2 & the Economy

NOTE: This entry has been posted one week early, because I will be unable to make a post on October 9th.

In Ohio...
As I pointed out in Part I, except for the occasional experimental runs of the now mostly closed JABO, Inc. in Reno, Ohio, Marble King (West Virginia, not too far from Reno, Ohio) is the only fully operational toy marble company left in the United States.  A year ago, Marble King President Beri Fox told Steven Colbert that she wants the government to level the playing field.  Colbert asked the "Marble Queen of Marble King," the following question: "If you could wave a magic wand and tell the government to do something for small business, what would it be?  Extend the tax cut to the richest 2% of Americans?"

Her answer was, "Absolutely not."  Instead, she wants the Federal Government to level the playing field (no pun intended, I suspect), to endorse small businesses to export (such as how China subsidizes its toy marble factories).  To this, Colbert replied, "Madam if I can use a metaphor from the world of marbles, it sounds like our government is not playing for keeps." They're talking about tarriffs. According to Marbles Galore:
When American inventor Martin F. Christensen created the world's first glass sphere-making machine in the early 1900s, he faced stiff competition from overseas. Germany had long dominated the world's toy marble market with their handmade glass, crockery and agate marbles.

Martin's toughest challenge was not found in making a better product. American children adored the new fantastically round and smooth "glassies" he had so ingeniously created. Rather, like so many American manufacturers before and after him, his challenge was labor cost.
The economic woes of the nation have often been mirrored in Ohio.  For example, Goodyear (of Akron, Ohio) will be marking its 25th Anniversary of a win against a hostile corporate take-over by British billionaire Sir James Goldsmith.  This fight went national, all the way to Washington, D.C. and a congressional subcommittee hearing.  According to Jim Mackinnon:
Goldsmith got an earful from the congressional committee, too.
U.S. Rep. John Seiberling of Akron, grandson of a Goodyear co-founder, noted that Goldsmith in preceding weeks at one point said he didn’t know anything about the tire business, but subsequently said he knew more about tires than the people running Goodyear.
“My question is: Who the hell are you?” Seiberling said. The room exploded with applause, including Goldsmith.  (, 10/2/2011)
 This is a fine example of workers and their employers in unity, fighting together to survive.  Such unity rarely exists any more in either the private sector or the public sphere.  Unions, for better or for worse, are a symptom of the discord between employee and employer.  More recently, however, organization has begun to spring up (not among the exploited employed, but) among the increasing and increasingly angry unemployeed--both in Ohio and across the nation.

In the Nation...
Protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge: 700 Arrested
Meanwhile, we watch  as filmmaker Michael Moore and actress Susan Sarandon lend media attention to the protesters in New York, and (according to Reuters' Ray Sanchez), "similar protests [were] sprouting in other cities, including Boston, Chicago and San Francisco."  It has been an angry few years, as it has become more than obvious that Wall Street is significantly more important than Main Street--but not in the way that Sara Palin bullshits, full of illogical thinking, as illustrated by the below South Park clip.

South Park: "They took our jobs!"
What is frightening, to me, is the way that freedom of speech is being controlled.  the aggressive behavior of law enforcement officials is disturbing.  For example, in the past two weeks, an organization known as Occupy Wall Street, has been camping out as close to Wall Street as possible (at Liberty Park).  People from all over the nation have come to participate, but it is yet little more than 1000 folks in total.  On Friday (9/30/2011), they attempted clarity of their complaints (something members of the Tea Party have yet to achieve) in their Declaration of the Occupation of New York City.

According to Ed Pilkington of  The Guardian, "Activists, as well as commentators following the protest against inequality and corporate excess, claim the response of the city's police force to the peaceful event was vastly out of proportion."   However, as Mark Engler writes, "OccupyWallStreet has accomplished a great deal in the past week and a half, with virtually no resources" ("Five Ways Occupy Wall Street Has Succeeded").

Still, it is worth taking into consideration, too, the fact that  JPMorgan Chase & Co. have practically bought the NYPD.  Do you think Gov. Kasich wishes a bank would buy some of Ohio's public workers?

Back to Ohio...
I wonder--given the national attention this tiny protest in Manhattan is receiving, and you know that the protests against union busting in Wisconsin made national news--why is is that so few people are aware that the "We Are Ohio Campaign"  had a rally on the Ohio Statehouse Lawn back in April (4/9/2011)? Over 10,000 people attended.  The good people of Ohio are getting ready to vote over Issue 2, a veto referendum that was supported by thousands of petition signature (915,456 verified Ohio citizen signatures) against Ohio Senate Bill 5.  The ballot will read as follows:
Issue 2

A majority yes vote is necessary for Amended Substitute Senate Bill No. 5 to be approved.
Amended Substitute Senate Bill No. 5 is a new law relative to government union contracts and other government employment contracts and policies.
A “YES” vote means you approve the law.
A “NO” vote means you reject the law.
Shall the law be approved?
___Yes (To approve the law)
___No (To reject the law)

 Essentially, according to Ballotpedia, the provisions of OH SB-5 are as follows:
  • Bargaining: Expands the topics that management can refuse to negotiate with public employees. Those topics include: employee qualifications, word assignments and staffing levels. According to reports, public employees can still bargain for wages and hours.
  • Strikes: Strikes would be banned, along with a deduction of "an amount equal to twice the employee's daily rate of pay" for each day an employee is considered to be on strike.
  • Performance pay and sick/vacation leave: Currently, the minimum amount for a teacher to be paid is $17,300. This would be undone by the law, replacing this by implementing a pay by performance provision. Sick leave would be reduced from three weeks a year to two. Vacation leave would be capped to five weeks a year.
  • Union fees: Public employees would not have to pay union fees if they do not want to be become a union member. This was a condition of employment before Senate Bill 5.
  • Governing bodies and contract disputes: The governing body of a city, school, or township would have the final say on any contract disputes that initially become unresolved.
  • Charter schools: Employees of charter schools would not be allowed to collectively bargain. The only exception, according to reports, would be conversion charter schools.  

The organization, Building a Better Ohio, wants Ohioans to vote "YES" on Issue 2.  The argument is
"When budgets get tight, struggling schools shouldn't have to lay off great teachers simply because they haven't served long enough. Voting YES on Issue 2 will fix that by putting job performance, not just seniority, first."  This is not a logical argument; it is INSANE!  The threat is that great teachers will be laid off, our children will suffer, if we do not keep SB-5 enacted.

The organization, We Are Ohio, has been arguing that the inability to negotiate will cause lower quality education, nursing, firefighting, and police protection.  This is a difficult argument to make because it is complex, and it is difficult to convey clearly because its complexity is rooted in well conceived logic. The only way that I can think of to make the argument simple to understand is with a question: What quality _____ (teacher, nurse, firefighter, police person, other public worker) will stay at a low-paying job that is filled with the stresses of being over-worked because of under-staffing?

A Sign Passing around on Facbook

Ohio government is trying to play for keeps 
with corporations at the exploitation of its public employees and the rest of its citizens.

Anyone see any marbles rolling around?

Ohio Is Losing Its Marbles--Part I

Mood Marbles
I currently reside in Ohio (however,  Wisconsin is my home of origin; furthermore, the Rocky Mountains, the Smokey Mountains, and Vermont are my ideal vacation spots).  Ohio is a much more interesting place than one might imagine.  For example, there are the following places that might be fun to visit: the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the Great Serpent Mound, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, the annual Labor Day Weekend Flea Market (which has been going on for over 70 years).  Ohio is home to the rubber industry (particularly the tire industry), the steel industry, the cereal industry, the lamps industry, Thomas Edison, eight U. S. Presidents, John Brown, Alcoholics Anonymous, the first all-deaf football team (the Goodyear Silents),  four dead students, a burning river, Ohio is currently home to the University of Akron College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering and the Kent State University Liquid Crystal Institute.  Did you know that Labor Day was founded in Ohio, by Ohio's first Black attorney, John Patterson Green?  Did you know that Shawshank Redemption was made here in Ohio?   Did you know that the birth of the modern American toy industry happened in Ohio?

The making of marbles did not originate in Ohio.  Marbles have been around for thousands of years, but only in the last 100 years have they been mass produced by machinery.  One might find all sorts of marbles made in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America during the 1880s.  Indeed, playing with marbles is a long-held, varied tradition of global standards.  "Marbles is an ancient game that can be played 100 different ways. Some say that marble games were spread by soldiers of the Roman Empire. Washington and Jefferson played marbles. So did Lincoln. Games such as billiards, bowling, golf and pinball are all derived from marbles, enthusiasts say, though such claims are probably impossible to verify."  (Dan Ackman, "Now No One Plays for Keeps")  In Roman times, bags of nuts and marbles were traditional Christmas presents, according to The National Marble Museum at the Museum of American Glass in West Virginia.  According to another source, "The oldest marbles found thus far by archaeologists date from 3000 BC. They are a group of rounded semi-precious stones that were buried with an Egyptian child at Nagada."

M.F. Christensen & Son marble
However, Ohio is the origin of the modern American toy marble industry.    Men like Sam Dyke, M. F. Christensen, James Harvey Leighton, helped found this industry in the late 1800s, early 1900s.  The first factory was built in Akron, Ohio.  The National Marble Tournament, held every year in Wildwood, New Jersey, was begun in 1923 by the Scripps Howard newspaper corporation, headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio. You can visit the American Toy Marble Museum, which is located on the grounds of the old M. F. Christensen & Son Company factory at Lock 3 (Akron, Ohio).  There were toy marble factories located all over Ohio, particularly in the Akron, Ohio area.  There were also several factories located in West Virginia.  Sadly, no fully functioning factories remain in Ohio, and only Marble King exists in West Virginia.  Actually, the vast majority of mass produced toy marbles now come from the company Vacor de Mexico.

What is left in Ohio are a few places of interest.  Two of them are The American Toy Marble Museum and the no longer officially operating JABO, Inc. in Reno, Ohio.  Each is an elusive place.  The American Toy Marble Museum, located at Lock 3 in Akron, Ohio, is run by Michael Cohill and Brian Graham.  Cohill, who has established himself as a local mibologist, is difficult to contact and operates the museum irregularly.  I used to know Cohill, but have not been in touch with him, sadly, for several years.  Graham, who is Director of the museum, can be found running his own Canal Fulton Glassworks gallery, also a rather cool place to visit.  The folks at JABO, Inc. no longer mass-produce marbles; rather they have ventured into making experimental runs that have produced (since 2008) some increasingly beautiful marbles. 

JABO, Inc. "Hillybilly Magic Sistersville Run"
marble, made on September 19, 2011



Sunday, September 25, 2011

We Need a New Party--a Sea Party!

The Tea Party was formed in response to voter disappointment with the Republican Party, and George Bush. The name, I gather, is a spin-off of the Boston Tea Party, the New England Colonialists' rebellion against the British Tea Tax: dumping a lot of tea into the sea.

Wonderful as that was, in the 21st Century, the concept of dumping tea into the sea is rather environmentally irresponsible--imagine the poor creatures of the sea choking upon the bombardment of a cloudy mass of dried leaves rich in caffeine and other toxins!

As someone who is disappointed in the Democratic Party, and especially annoyed by the President's false promises of hope and change, I propose that somebody (not me; I'm not a politician) start a Sea Party.

My Tentative Vision of a Sea Party

  •  No corporate sponsors!  In fact, the less money used, the better!
  • All campaigning must be done by grassroots methods (such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and the news networks)!
  • No participation in debates, unless they are seriously conducted!
  • Candidates would keep a running blog of logically and clearly written statements of their positions on various issues.

  • No pandering to major corporations.
  • Quality public education for everyone, up through a four year college education.  We need to revise our education system, drastically, to address all sorts of issues with regard to lowering literacy rates and raising education requirements for the current job market as well as for (and more importantly) the character of our current civilization.  
  • Universal healthcare that turns profit for no one but that allows for the building up of grant funds for medicinal, pharmaceutical, and similar research.
  • Universal accessibility: funded by the government and large corporations.  No one should have to fight to have an interpreter (be it in signed or spoken languages), and wheel chairs should be able to go anywhere.
  • Green, green, green!  Again, profit should not determine quality of life.  We need to drastically revise our transportation, industrialization, and other forms basic-lifestyle to become progressively environmentally supportive (not friendly, but nurturing).
  • No religion: the president's job is to be a leader of the nation, not a priest.  It should not matter what his/her personal belief system is since he will do all he can to uphold the support of all belief institutions, within the parameters of federal law.
  • Revised marriage codes: this should be done on a national level, allowing for same-sex as well as other forms of marriage.  The law should be based upon legal property and (scientifically supported) health issues, not upon moral codes.
  •  And lots of other sane, rational, caring, good things!  So, I'll conclude my impossible wish list with this: a free, solar-powered computer for every household.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Baked Oatmeal

2 eggs
1 Tbsp. margarine, butter, or oil
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup non-fat plain yogurt
3 cups uncooked rolled oats
2 tsp. baking powder
3 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1/3 cup peanut butter (optional)
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)

Beat the eggs until they are bubbly.
Add margarine (or butter or oil) and both sugars.
Mix well.
Gradually mix in the yogurt.
Add the oats, baking powder, and cinnamon.
Mix well.
Stir in the raisins, walnuts, and/or peanut butter (optional).
Pour into greased 9 x 13 pan.
Bake: 350 F for 30 minutes.
Serve warm.