Saturday, March 29, 2008


CBS News Photo of Indian Rock

       Christians have the Rock of the Ages; Plymouth has Plymouth Rock; the Deadheads have Acid Rock; and Portsmouth has Indian Head Rock, or at least it does until such time as the courts force the city of Portsmouth to give it back to its rightful owner, the commonwealth of Kentucky. We already knew how intellectually challenged Mayor Jim Kalb is. Perhaps allowances should be made for him. Perhaps at some time Kalb may have been in a serious motorcycle accident without his helmet. To be fair, having rocks in your head does not necessarily mean you are stoned all the time. We areembarrassed at having this also-ran in the race of life as mayor. So we are not surprised to learn he probably had something to do with the theft of Indian Head Rock. There is the Grinch who stole Christmas. What we have is the mayor who stole Indian Head Rock. We look forward to his day in court.
         Why was Kalb involved in the theft? The short answer is that Jim Kalb has no more sense than an Indian Head Nickel. Whether the theft was done by divers in darkness or broad daylight, if booze and drugs were not involved in the hare-brained escapade, I am going to be surprised. Would teetotalingOhioans have pulled such a stupid trick? Would sober Buckeyes have been dumb enough to steal a rock to restore the honor of Ohio? What honor is involved anyway? A lot of past generations of no-doubt beery and eternally adolescent white males paddled or swam over to Kentucky when the river was shallower than it is now and scratched initials and numbers on the rock, making it sacred to their hero-worshipping pot-smoking descendants. Here is what one hero-worshipping ancestor wrote in aletter to the Portsmouth Daily Times about Indian Head Rock. “Each name, date and set of initials represents someone who was part of a workplace, a family and a history here.” How genealogically touching. “Those scratches on the rock are the shadows and echoes of the families who built Portsmouth, and made it flourish.” I have read a lot of history, including histories of Portsmouth. This blather about the rock and its alleged connection with those who made Portsmouth flourish is not history. What we are talking about is not hieroglyphics but graffiti, not history but hokum.
       “The accumulated jumble of letters and numbers on the rock are a DNA map of the city of Portsmouth,” the letter writer continued, not knowing when to leave well enough alone. I disagree. The jumble of letters and numbers on the rock say more about Portsmouth’s IQ, than it does about Porsmouth’s DNA, and the numbers are not encouraging. If the IQs of everybody in LakeWoebegone are above average, in Portsmouth they seem well below average. Clayton Johnson is reputed to be the smartest lawyer in Portsmouth, which is probably true, but we should keep in mind the proverb, “In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Just as Johnson has done withthe Marting building, the letter writer to the editor is trying to tie Indian Head Rock to Portsmouth’s prosperous past. Preserve Marting’s! Preserve Indian Head Rock! Preserve the prosperous past! The scams are essentially alike and equally dishonorable. How can men without honor claim to be restoring it? How can the morally bankrupt speak in the name of a spiritual legacy?
       Kalb has already carved his name in local politics and his name is mud. He has destroyed all hope that the level of local politics might be lifted above the scummy level we are all too familiar with. As the lapdog of the developer Neal Hatcher, he has helped hatch the Hotel/Convention Center scheme, and as the patsy for lawyer Clayton Johnson, he helped the Marting Foundation steal $2 million dollars of public funds, which is what the Foundation was paid by the city government for a much bigger, much more worthless rock, the 125-year-old Marting Building, which Johnson succeeded in unloading on the city as a historic landmark. Historic? Yes, think of all the hats and shoes, all the girdles and men’s garters, all the outerwear and underwear, that were sold in the Marting building during Portsmouth’s golden age of prosperity. How can we let this shrine to shopping be torn down? The sale of the Marting building to the city was ruled illegal by the courts, because the sale had been negotiated in the dark, in violation of Ohio’s Sunshine laws, just as Indian Head Rock had been stolen by undercover thieves and will probably be ordered by the courts to be restored to its rightful owner, the Bluegrass state.
       Former Mayor Bauer and council women Sydnor and Caudill were recalled from office as a direct result of their role in the city’s fraudulent purchase of the Marting building for $2 million dollars. The Marting sale was invalidated by the courts. But Kalb turned right around and allowed Johnson to snooker him into giving the Marting Foundation back the $2 million while the city got stuck with the worthless Marting building again. (Actually, the figure was $1.4 not $2 million because the Marting Foundation had already lost $600,000 in unwise stock market speculations.) Just as Kalb, Todd Book, and others proceeded with plans to move the stolen Indian Head Rock to the Welcome Center in Portsmouth, in spite of the protests of irate citizens in Kentucky and Scioto County, Kalb and the corrupt members of City Council are proceeding with plans to turn the 125-year-old Marting building into the home for city office buildings, and let the voters be damned!

Judging a Book by the Company He Keeps

       It is bad enough that the mayor of Portsmouth has embarrassed the city not only locally but now nationally, on the CBS nightly news, but Kalb has been joined by Democratic Assistant Minority leader of the Ohio House of Representatives, Todd Book, who, in defending the theft of the rock, has shot Portsmouth in the other foot. Book has proceeded as if any kind of publicity about the theft is good for Portsmouth and apparently good for his political career. As long as his name is spelled right, he doesn’t seem to object. “There’s been so much talk about it,” Book said, referring to the rock, “and so much exposure both locally and nationally, that we want to actually get it out of the garage and let people see it.” The rock was stored in the city garage, making the city an accessory after the fact. Book was all for moving the rock to the Welcome Center, thereby calling the historic heist to the attention of tourists and Portsmouth residents. Book went so far as to suggest the rock could be used to educate the children of Scioto County about the history of the area. What local history is he talking about? The Marting Scam? Stone stealing? Rock robbery? Book extolled an essay contest for fourth graders on the rock. Fourth graders! Mr. Book, have you gone out of your political mind? To rephrase the famous remark of a distraught boy to Shoeless Joe Jackson for his role in throwing the World Series, “Say it ain’t so, Todd.” Say you were really not going to use fourth graders as a cover for the theft of Indian Head Rock.

Putting the Legal Stuff Aside

       “Let’s put the legal stuff aside,” Book said. “We have something that has attained some national recognition and people are interested now.” Put the legal stuff aside? That, Mr. Book, is just what makes Portsmouth the politically corrupt place that it is. That is why a notorious figure like Mike Mearan gets appointed to City Council and why Mearan chairs a building committee that ignores the votes of Portsmouth’s citizens who have, through recalls and a referendum, overwhelmingly rejected plans for the 125-year-old Marting building to be converted to city offices at a cost of many millions of taxpayer dollars. The only lesson Indian Head Rock holds for local children should be the one The Shadow used to preach on the radio: “Crime does not pay!” Instead of being exposed to the Indian Head Rock, and the thievery it represents, children should be protected from it and what it says about Porksmouth’s corrupt unAmerican culture, where competition is eliminated and a form of socialism for the rich prevails, where abatements and pork and city and country acquisition of distressed property, makes multimillionaires of unscrupulous lawyers and developers.
       Book claims Portsmouth has “attained” national recognition in the media. What Portsmouth has attained is national notoriety, not national recognition. Portsmouth is being exploited by the media as a hick lawless city. On Friday, March 28, the rock caper provided comic relief on the CBS nightlynewscast, which had some very serious stories to report, including the recession and renewed fighting in Iraq. Something amusing was needed to balance the grim news. The rest of the country may be amused by the gang that stole the rock, led by a furniture upholsterer, but many of us who live in Portsmouth are appalled, not amused, by these shenanigans. A Kentucky legislator introduced legislation that condemned the theft of the rock and stated “it shows disrespect for this country’s Native American heritage.” A character in a Union Civil War uniform stood guard over the rock during the rally at the Portsmouth city garage, just in case visitors needed to be reminded of the political and racial roots of the rally.
       An anonymous post on the Daily Bellwether blog dealing with the rock wrote, “Someone should lynch that nigger from Kentucky who started this dispute with Indian Head rock. If it was just some boulder in the river they wouldn’t care. He’s nothing but a stupid shine and should be wasted.” This is the level of discourse the stupid controversy can sink to. Voters should remember the role of Kalb, Book, & Co. in keeping the controversy in the news. Organizing rallies, doing a full court press in the local media, inflaming regional and racial conflicts, this is what stealing the rock has spawned. And it has also spawned a video, “We will Rock U” (Indian Rock Edition), possibly the product ofthe cool adolescent going on sixty who works for WNXT and shills for the SOGP.

                                                      Same Old Same Old Strickland

       The same-old-same-old goes on in Portsmouth and our governor, Ted Strickland, preoccupied with Hillary Clinton’s increasingly low-road campaign for the White House, does not seem to give a damn about Scioto County. In his own campaign for governor, he spoke without apparent embarrassment in front the Democratic Party headquarters, which had been provided to Scioto County Democrats by none other than Neal Hatcher. Strickland swore Mayor Kalb into office when he should have been swearing at him. The sad truth is that it appears that Strickland does not dare tamper with the government by SOGP that prevails in Scioto County, the county that he is a product of and that is now informally named after him. At Bill Clinton’s campaign appearance in Portsmouth, it may have been Todd Book who proposed that we change the unofficial name of Scioto County from Riffe Country to Strickland Country. Leading up to the Ohio primary, Strickland stood behind Hillary all the way, but at what moral cost? The way Clinton won in Ohio and by the margin she did was partly the result of sleazy tactics that Strickland may some day have to answer for. What might the blue collar Ohio voters have thought if they could have seen Clinton’s tax returns and seen what fat cats had contributed big bucks to Bill Clinton’s presidential library? At Clinton campaign appearances in Ohio, Strickland looked not so much like the deer in the headlights as the deer tied to the fender of the Clinton campaign. When he has fulfilled his political obligations to the Clintons, there will still be time for Strickland, an ordained minister, to put God and honor above party and personal loyalty. At a crucial point in Strickland’s career, he owed his political survival to the Clintons, but he will presumably have paid off his political debts to them once the Democratic presidential primary is over and Clinton is not the choice of the Democratic Party. Then he might become his own man, and do great things for Ohio, but even then I think Portsmouth will be the last place he will try to bring about any changes in. He may have political debts and personal obligations in Portsmouth that he can never pay off.

Profile in Political Cowardice

       Strickland’s public statements on the Indian Head Rock controversy should be enshrined as the classically mealy-mouthed political fence straddling that they are. “I am interested to see how this plays out,” he is quoted in the Community Common. “I have found this to be interesting, certainly to see the intensity of the feelings that seem to be surrounding this.” Oh, really? He summed up his profile in political cowardice with the statement, “I think it’s important not take this too seriously.” He had the effrontery to criticize the Iowa caucuses as being undemocratic, on behalf of Hillary Clinton (who must have been appalled by his lack of political judgment), and yet he can turn a blind eye to the most undemocratic and lawless actions right in his former bailiwick, right in the heart of Strickland Country. He is waiting to see how "this plays out"! And we are waiting to see how the remainder of his political career plays out after the dust settles from the Democratic primaries. I think we will find it interesting. Strickland may have great influence elsewhere in Ohio but he appears to have little in Portsmouth, his old stamping grounds, or little that he is willing to exert. I doubt that he is the rock that the Ohio Democratic Party can rebuild on.