Hot Air

Howard Dean, John Hamilton & Baron Hill Day

Wednesday, Earth Day, 2015. A glorious day. Brilliant sunshine. High cottony, Georgia O’Keeffe clouds. Blustery. An early spring nip in the air.

Speaking of bluster, the lawn outside Monroe County Courthouse is filled with politicians. Here, too, are their supporters, a reporter here and there, a television camera, some curious onlookers, perhaps a hundred, a hundred-twenty-five people all told. The event? Democratic Party big shot Howard Dean has come to town to stump for mayoral candidate John Hamilton.

This Hamilton camp, it appears, is dead set on winning the May Democratic primary — which in Bloomington is the coronation. As I walk up the concrete steps, past the cannon and the statue of the Civil War soldier, I think of Hamilton’s rival for the Dem nod, Darryl Neher.

What are his thoughts when a party pol of national repute comes to town to endorse the opposition? Does he feel discouraged? Does he whisper to his wife how unfair life is at pillow talk time? Or does he pretend none of it means anything?

Oh, it means something. Loads of local big names here: former Congressdude Baron Hill, former mayor Tomi Allison and her husband, County Commissioner Julie Thomas, head of Democracy for Monroe County Rob Deppert, firefighters union local chief Bob Loviscek, former Ivy Tech-Bloomington chancellor and former deputy mayor John Whikehart. And, of course, former acting White House Counsel Dawn Johnsen and her special man, John Hamilton.

Lots of formers here, all muscling up to flog for a wannabe. With big guns like this, Hamilton looks serious about taking this thing. Early voting has begun; election day is in a mere 13 days.

Johnsen takes the podium first. “It’s a little personal,” she says, “but John and I started dating 25 years ago.” She recounts how she and he met in Washington at some political get-together or another. Hamilton, apparently, was very interested — in the get-together, maybe, but definitely in her. He got her phone number. One day not long after, he left a message on her answering machine (such things existed at the time). Johnsen says she listened to it again and again, committing it to memory.

“I don’t know what the future holds for this Indiana boy and a New York girl but I’d sure like to find out,” she says he said.

An aw moment. And why not? The pear and redbud blossoms are out. It’s April. Doesn’t hurt a bit to dream about love. And to dream about winning an election.

Johnsen introduces Tomi Allison, a three-time mayoral winner herself. Lots of folks around town are engaging in conversations about politics these days, she says. She’s right; this is the first contested mayoral election in 12 years. A good horserace always gets people talking. Allison, though, wants more.

“I don’t think conversations are enough,” she says. “John has done things.” This gets a good cheer from the crowd. Before she wraps up, she issues a warning: “Don’t be fooled by pixie dust!” The crowd is delighted.

Pixie dust? Hmm. A cryptic reference to Darryl Neher’s relatively recent party switch?

Johnsen intro’s firefighters union guy Loviscek. A big, burly man with a mustache, natch, Loviscek talks like the union guys of old at political rallies. Hamilton’s his guy, he says, because he’s been there, done that, serving as a department head under the last Democratic Indiana governor, Frank O’Bannon. “He made tough choices to make state government better for Indiana,” Loviscek says.

Hamilton sits between his bride and Howard Dean, looking proud as a high school valedictorian.

Next up, Rob Deppert. His org. is the local branch of Dean’s national Democracy for America outfit. “We’ve got to get big money out of government,” Deppert says. He refers to the local branch’s deliberations on whom to endorse in the mayoral primary. When it came time for DMC to vote, there wasn’t much doubt where its backing would go. “To tell the truth,” Deppert says, “it wasn’t that close.”

And now it’s time for the star of the show. Well, one of the stars. Deppert welcomes Howard Dean to the podium. Dean is wearing a black, pin-striped suit, with a tan V-necked sweater underneath, and a red tie. His hair blows around in the stiff breeze. He squints against the bright sun. Dean, a family practice doctor, got involved in politics back in 1980. He opposed a condominium project on Lake Champlain, near where he lived. Instead, he suggested a picturesque bike trail be built on the site. (It must have been a hell of a big condo development.) When the condo plan was nixed, Dean found himself a political following.

Dean volunteered for the Jimmy Carter reelection campaign and a couple of years later won election to the Vermont House. Four years after that, he ran in and won the Lieutenant Governor’s race. Meanwhile, he was able to continue working as a doctor. In the summer of 1991, Vermont’s governor dropped dead of a heart attack and Dean had to give up his practice to run the state.

Dean gained national attention when he called for same-sex civil unions in the state in 2000. The decision made him a darling of progressives and liberal Dems around the country but also led to the loss of Democratic control of the statehouse.

Nevertheless, Dean ran for president against 11 other Dems during the 2004 primaries. His campaign balloon burst when he…, aw, I’m not even going to mention it. Nor will I link to it. Dean wasn’t about to win the Dem nomination but his downfall was over the silliest thing imaginable.

Dean went on to become chair of the Democratic National Committee where, hewing to his “50-state strategy” the party gained control of the US Senate and the House. In 2008, using Dean’s template, Barack Obama gained the White House. Dean now runs Democracy for America.

Snagging Dean’s endorsement is so far the biggest coup of the Hamilton campaign.

Dean, squinting out at the chilly crowd, makes the requisite joke about the weather and then launches into his spiel. Dean’s nothing if not direct. “You have the power!” he barks, pointing out at the crowd.

“This country is going to be changed by what’s going on in Bloomington,” he says.

He speaks in clipped sentences:

“We aren’t Mike Pence.”

“Mayors make a difference.”

“I would like someone from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party to be the mayor of Bloomington, Indiana.” At this, the crowd laughs and cheers. Yeah, the Hamilton camp is going to continue hammering Neher on his party switch.

Dean refers to Gov. Mike Pence’s “RFRA fiasco.” Pence, Dean posits, allowed the bill to go through the statehouse because he was pressured by the anti-gay, religious-fundamentalistsff   in the Republican Party.

“The Republicans,” Dean says, “are afraid of the extremists in the own party!”

Cheers. Dean waits. Then: “Do not be afraid…. Elect a guy who is not afraid!”

With that Hamilton bounds up to the podium and Dean holds up the candidate’s arm like a boxing champ.

Hamilton, in sports jacket and no tie, runs his hand through his wind-blown hair ala Bobby Kennedy.”I am proud to have the support of organized labor,” he says, gesturing toward the firefighters union guy.

He, too, speaks in short, sharp sentences: “We don’t leave people behind,” he says. But he’s also a talker: Making mention of his “lifelong” progressive bona fides, he tells the crowd that progressives are just waiting to come out of their cocoons all over America. “We have brothers and sisters in cities all across the county,” he says. “Some of them don’t even know they’re progressives yet!” The crowd roars; they love this stuff. Hell, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement. Maybe there are indeed tens of millions of progressives around this holy land just waiting for someone to carry the banner for them.

And maybe not. That’s why there are horseraces and elections.

Hamilton closes with the usual call for volunteers and help (read: money.) He implores people to vote. In fact, Hamilton points out, the whole lot of the people on stage will walk over to the early voting center on Sixth Street to vote. And for those who can’t make the hike, there’s a van waiting to transport people to the polling place.

In practical terms, that might be the second-most important thing I’ve learned here today. Hamilton seems to know how to get voters, physically, to the polls.

So, the formal stage of the love-fest breaks up. The pols fall into a hugging, hand-shaking, back-slapping orgy. My own back is pounded more times than I can remember as I snake my way through the pols and their supporters.

One guy I know stops me. “Do you think Baron Hill is going to run for governor?” I shrug. We’re swept in different directions by the crowd. A few moments later, the guy and I are face to face again. “I just asked Baron Hill if he’ll run against Mike Pence,” he says, excitedly. “He said, ‘I think I might’!”

Well, I’ll have to see about this myself. I make a beeline for Hill. I wait patiently as supporter after supporter pumps his hand. Finally, he turns to me. I introduce myself. “Are you going to run for governor,” I ask.

Hill doesn’t miss a beat. “I’ll tell you,” he says, “I’ve never been more on the fence in my life. A lot of people have been asking me to run for governor. A lot of people have been asking me to run for senator. Well, I’m gonna do something. I’ve got the urge.”

“So,” I press, “you’re definitely going to run either for governor or senator — is that what you’re saying?”

“Yes.”

Now we know. Sorta.

Hot Air

A Perfect Corporate World — Without People

Here’s a little something I heard on American Public Media’s Marketplace program yesterday evening that burned my generously-proportioned derriere.

Halliburton, the Dick Cheney-affiliated oil services and war profiteering outfit, has lost scads of dough of late. I don’t know precisely why — nor do I care. Perhaps Satan has been too busy elsewhere (Ukraine? Northeast Nigeria? Chicago’s secret Black Site?) and has been lax in manipulating earthly events to his fave multi-national corp.’s advantage.

Satan

Too Busy For Halliburton?

Anyway, Helliburt…, er, Halliburton lost a half a billion bucks in its most recent fiscal quarter. Yeesh! Half a bill, babies! Think of the things actual human beings could do with scratch like that. Of course, you’d think investors would be scared off by this news. After all, isn’t it the job of investors to, y’know, make money?

Mirabile dictu, as Kai Ryssdal reported, shares of H. were up yesterday. Up! They went from 46.80 at the opening bell to 48.87 a little over an hour later. What in the hell ever that means. I only know enough to understand that share prices going up causes tumescence in all those ADHD trader characters.

Ryssdal sez a significant reason H-burton’s shares have gone up is that the co. laid off some 9,000 human beings this past quarter.

Methinks we’re entering a bizarro world here. Taking a cue from Right Wingers whose hatred of one Barack Hussein Obama trumps all other considerations, big-money guys seem to be flocking around a single knee-jerk issue to the exclusion of any previously predominant heeds. The Greed Set used to be singularly focused on making dough. Now, their loathing of labor has forced money-making to take a back seat. It’s more important to slice jobs than to see their bread grow. And, if you hate labor, aren’t you really hating humanity?

No Humans

As if we needed any more proof that Free Marketeers and unfettered capitalists despise people.

Alyce’s Animals

Alyce Miller teaches creative writing at Indiana University. She’s also a Flannery O’Connor Award-winning fiction writer.

Her novel and short stories are about people, natch, but I get the feeling she’s as sweet on critters as she is on her species-mates. She’s an outspoken critic of Bloomington’s deer kill plan. She’s big on veganism as well.

To that end, she highly recommends the documentary Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret.

Cowspiracy

“Veganism is still a bad word,” Miller says, “even here in ‘progressive’ Bloomington, but if more people ate a broad-based vegan diet, or at least reduced their meat and dairy consumption, we’d do the planet a huge favor.”

Fair enough. I agree, in large part, because the beef industry in this holy land has done everything it could to convince us that an exclusive diet of steaks and roasts is the greatest thing since sliced bread (and, BTW, hold that bread and munch instead on a hamburger patty). Not only that but it takes some 21 pounds of grain to produce a single pound of cattle protein. In other words, that Big Mac you’re eating came about largely through clear-cutting enough land to grow the corn to feed the cow to allow McDonald’s to pay its employees a substandard living wage.

Our beef (and other meats) addiction means the livestock industry has pretty much taken over the planet. Acc’d’g to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, livestock grazing takes up 26 percent of the globe’s surface. A third of the world’s agricultural land is given over to producing livestock feed. In Brazil, where Amazon rainforest destruction has reached crisis proportions, some 70 percent of the cleared jungle is now grazing land with the vast majority of the rest devoted to growing feed for the animals.

Amazon Deforestation

Amazon Deforestation

[Photo: Alberto César/Greenpeace]

I’m not now nor do I plan ever to become a vegetarian. I love my homemade Italian meatballs too much. And a day without cheese is wasted as far as I’m concerned. Still, I’ve drastically cut my meat intake since becoming an adult. My mother served meat almost every single day of the year, save Fridays (we were Catholics) and those odd days when we had chicken or pork. At the time, eating scads of red meat was seen as the key to health — a conceit propagated by the red meat racket.

We know better now. We’re omnivores so the idea that eating meat is somehow “not right” doesn’t wash but to paraphrase a line from Groucho Marx, I like my bottom round roast but I take it out of my mouth once in a while.

Cowspiracy will be shown tonight, 6:30pm, at the Monroe County Public Library. To be sure, the auditorium will be filled with vegetarians and vegans. That choir doesn’t need to be preached to. But we meat-eaters can gain a lot from viewing the doc.

Homan In A Truck

Allison Homan had a dream. Any day now she’ll wake up and find that’s it’s come true.

She’s building a home in a truck. It’s a fairly new hot thing these days. It’s called box-trucking. The 29-year-old singer/barista/social mutineer who grew up in New Albany, Indiana, just across the Ohio River from Louisville, revels in her non-compliance with expectations.

Homan

Allison Homan

And few things on this mad planet are more non-compliant that wanting to live in an old work truck for a laminated top company. But that’s what Homan wants and with drips and drabs of help, she’s building her palace in just such a vehicle. With her own hands. And lots of borrowed power tools.

Homan, who lives in Bloomington now, publishes a blog on which she has documented the arduous process of turning a truck into a home. Here’s a taste from a video she made last fall:

These dames, man, they can do anything!

Hot Air

Foods Facts

In case you missed it, here’s the WFHB podcast featuring an interview with Keith Taylor, a co-op governance researcher who works at Indiana University’s Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis. Taylor started a change.org petition calling on the Board of Directors of Bloomingfoods to come up with a clear and public plan to address some of the issues that are making B-foods employees, shoppers, and co-op members nervous these days.

Bloomingfoods

Bloomingfoods

Taylor was grilled by News Director Joe Crawford last week about goings on at the local co-op grocer. Among other things, B-foods faces a potential union vote by its employees and must find a way to compete with two new natural and organic grocers coming to town within the next couple of years. Both Lucky’s Market and Whole Foods Market have announced plans to hit Bloomington. Lucky’s on South Walnut Street is due to open by the end of May.

Friday, the B-foods Board announced its decision to ask for help from the National Co+Op Grocers (NCG) in resolving its financial picture. At the same time the Board revealed that its president, Tim Clougher, has stepped down.

The NCG move will entail volunteer managers from other member grocery stores coming in and observing B-foods’ operations, doing an audit of its books, and making recommendations for repairs.

If Bloomingfoods pulls through the next couple of years in decent shape, it’ll be a testament to the loyalty of its customer base and the buy-local philosophy. B-foods not only faces competition from Lucky’s and WFM but mega-grocer Kroger has gone all in on natural and organic, especially at its newly remodeled Kroger Theme Park store on the east side.

The NCG request indicates that the B-foods brain trust is serious about the co-op’s future.

Shouting Out For Hamilton

Congrats to Rob Deppert for landing the plum task of intro’ing Howard Dean when the lobbyist/Dem Party sachem comes to town to flog for mayoral candidate John Hamilton.

Dean will spiel for Hamilton at the Monroe County Courthouse Wednesday at 1:00pm. The former Vermont governor and chair of the Democratic National Committee is credited with implementing the party’s “50-state strategy” that loaded both the US Senate and House of Representatives in its favor in the 2006 elections. In 2008, Barack Obama used the same strategy win election as president. Under the strategy, the Dems fought hard in what had previously been regarded as hopeless states and districts. Voters who’d considered themselves outnumbered in those places were targeted and energized, leading to numerous Democratic upsets.

Dean

Howard Dean

Most Murricans only know of Dean through a video of him hollering to rouse the troops at post-election rally the evening of the Iowa Caucuses in 2004. Known as the “Dean Scream,” video of the outburst was aired endlessly that month and was the final nail in the coffin of Dean’s presidential aspirations. Fox News pretty much ran all-scream, all the time for a good four weeks.

Me? I thought he got a raw deal from the get-go. So he hollered. So his voice was hoarse and cracked. It was a pep rally, for pity’s sake.

Truth is, Dean is a top-notch political strategist and certainly would have been my guy for president over both incumbent George W. Bush (duh!) and even eventual Dem nominee John Kerry.

Happy Days Here Again?

Speaking of politics, the folks who run my back office — AKA Soma Coffee — just got in a new shipment of mugs. Said mugs, natch, aren’t really new; Soma’s famed for its retro inventory. Take the mug I got today — on it was a repro of the New York Times front page the day after Barack Obama was elected prez in 2008.

NYT

Of course, I got to reading the impossibly tiny print. I was reminded that the election had produced a Democratic majority in the Senate of 59-41 as well as a 257-178 plurality in the House that happy November day.

All I can wonder is how in the goddamned hell the Dems pissed that advantage away.

OTOH: It looks like presumptive Dem nominee for prez in 2016, Hillary Clinton, is harkening back to those cheery times with her recent moves to the Left. Mebbe the party has learned a thing or two over the last couple of elections.

Hot Air

Democracy Inaction

And so, the big mayoral candidates debate finally came to pass yesterday. Sponsored by the Herald-Times with streaming by CATS, the three Dems running for this thriving, throbbing megalopolis’s top office were to duke it out with fewer than three weeks to go before the coronation…, er, primary.

I dashed through my daily writing, chores, shower and shave so as to be on time for the 5:30pm promisefest at the Monroe County Public Library. First, though, I’d have to stop off at Staples to pick up a package of reporter’s notebooks because, no doubt, I’d fill them all up with the bons mots of Darryl Neher, John Hamilton, and John Linnemeier. Ah, democracy. So let’s get right to my notes on this momentous occasion.

Better leave ten minutes early, what with all the traffic sure to be headed toward the MCPL.

Get to Staples at 5pm, pay cash for pkg of three ntbks, in and out. Phew!

While backing out of parking space, almost run over woman carrying huge bunch of balloons from Party Store.

Traffic westbound on 3rd St. bearable. Smooth sailing until hitting Greek row past Jordan. Small sporty Mercedes stops in middle of road — w/o even pretending to pull even a inch toward the the curb — to let out impossibly fashionable young woman from passenger side. YW hefts backpack onto shoulder and walks casually around Merc. toward sidewalk. Car ahead of me and behind Merc. honks. YW flashes dismissive wave that would do Paris Hilton proud. Only when she gets to sidewalk does she break into a coltish trot, graceful, as if she’d been trained at what used to be known as “charm school.” As I pass her, I let loose a string of creative and borderline criminally abusive epithets, concluding with “… goddamned little sorority shit!” YW throws head back and laughs — charmingly.

Near MCPL, I notice empty street parking spaces here and there. Hmm. Where are multitudes? Shouldn’t there at least be a parade? MCPL parking lot full so I pay for 2½ hours of street parking — $2.50 plus .30 credit card fee. Robbers.

Enter libr. Guy at info desk has no idea what I’m talking about when I ask where debate is. He  dials numbers but nobody on other end of line knows about it either. Me: “Well, look, just tell me where the auditorium is.” He points the way. I lope down stairs — if you can describe what an overweight, damaged-heart man w/ a bad right hip is doing as “loping.”

I get to Kirkwood entrance desk, starting to wonder what’s going on. Stop at desk to ask woman, “There is a mayoral debate here today, isn’t there?” Woman doesn’t know what I’m talking about. She does say several other ppl have asked about it already. I wonder what she told them. She’s joined by another woman and both of them work phones trying to get answer for me. Both tell person on other end I am only most recent of many who’ve asked about debate. Again I wonder what they told the others.

First woman nods and hangs up phone. “Okay,” she says, “here’s what’s going on. The debate is being carried live on CATS. [My shoulders slump] But it’s not happening here. It’s at the Herald Times.” I grimace. It’s 5:29pm. She notices and brightens up — “You can watch it on CATS!” I shake my head and thank her anyway.

Back to car to race to the H-T. Traffic down 3rd St. to Collage Ave. again is bearable. I whip into H-T parking lot in no time [actually 9 mins.] Lot is suspiciously un-packed — only four cars. I hobble toward front door. About ten yds. from door, young woman exits and smiles at me as we pass ea. other. I pull on door; it is locked. Meanwhile young woman is stopped by another, older woman, who has just parked in lot. I overhear their convo.: Older woman also had gone to MCPL for debate and was directed here.

Young woman says she doesn’t know what the older woman is talking about but offers to walk woman to front door to help her find out. I say, “It’s locked.” The younger woman pulls out her phone — “I’ll call my editor.” Older woman says, “Oh no! I don’t want to hold you up; you’re going home!” Young woman says, “No, no. I just want to help.” Older woman and I smile @ ea. other.

Ed. does not answer so the younger woman suggests we walk around building to side door. On way, younger woman says her name is Sophie. Side door is locked as well. Sophie dials ed. again. This time he answers. Tells her debate is indeed here & is being streamed live on CATS to “viewing party” open to public in council chambers at City Hall. Debate has started and studio doors are locked. No public. Sophie walks us back toward front door. I still hold out hope I can sneak in. Just as we get there, Sophie’s ed. opens door. Aha! Here’s my chance. Ed., though, stands in doorway. He tells us exactly what Sophie said he told her. That’s that.

MG 20150416

No Debate

As Sophie, the older woman, and I walk back to cars, Sophie says, brightly, “well, you can watch it on CATS!” I pout and say, “I wanted to cover it live.” Sophie perks up — “Who do you work for?” I tell her about The Pencil. She says, “Oh wow!”

I wonder if H-T had mentioned change of venue in paper today. Wouldn’t have mattered; I would have had to read H-T to find out. I prefer The Pencil.

Before opening her car door, Sophie says, “I’m sorry.” I say, “That’s okay. It’s a better story this way. I’ll just snark the hell out of it tomorrow morning.” Sophie laughs.

The three of us get into cars & drive off. I listen to Honky Tonk Woman on CD. Traffic is bearable. I park in front of Atlas bar, walk in, order Stella Artois & start writing these notes. In mid-writing, I spill beer on new reporter’s ntbk. Pencil tip tears thru soaked pages. I sop up spill and find dry pps.

Such is life during primary election season for Bloomington’s foremost blogger.

BTW: Here’s the debate in toto on CATS, complete with a bedsheet as the stage backdrop.

Whose Country?

A Bloomberg poll reveals that two of every three Republicans are more loyal to the apartheid state of Israel than they are to this holy land. A holy land, I might remind you, that they normally call the greatest in god’s creation — especially when they tumesce (a word I just made up) over the hundred of millions of guns and the religious freedom to refuse service to fags here.

These same GOP poll respondents say they’re far more sympatico to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu than they are to Murrica’s colored president — their own country’s president, I might add, as long as he isn’t some overly brown, Kenyan-born, commie, Nazi, socialist who moonlights as an abortionist.

Bloomberg Poll

Republicans — those folks who never stop whining and moaning about patriotism and loyalty and all the rest of their blatherings have become a party, I might suggest, that in the year of their lord 2015 is full of shit.

Word Rhythm

Ready for some iambs?

Lexington, Kentucky’s Katerina Stykova-Klemer and Eric Sutherland and Indy’s Wendy Lee Spacek will read their meters tomorrow night, April 18th, 8pm, at the I. Fell Gallery, 415 W. 4th St (the southeast corner of 4th and Rogers). The readings are part of the Ledge Mule Press Poetry Project.

Poets

[L-R] Stoykova-Klemer, Sutherland, Spacek

 

Hot Air

Criminals

Justice has been served. Truth will out. The law triumphant. Huzzah, and all the rest of the holy horseshit prosecutors, moralists, and plaster saints will toss our way now that those eight Atlanta teachers have been sentenced to prison for the unforgivable crime of participating in a test cheating scandal.

Oh, and guess what — they’re all black.

Who’da thunk?

Three of them were given 20-year sentences (seven in the joint, 13 on probation plus $25,000 fines). The other four got lesser prison terms and fines. The judge in the case, one Jerry Baxter, was livid as he sentenced the criminal bastards. “Everybody starts crying about these educators,” he ranted. “There were thousands of children harmed in this thing. This was no victimless crime.”

Baxter

Judge: Everybody’s Crying

[Image: Kent D. Johnston/Reuters]

Baxter did not elaborate precisely on how thousands of school kids from slum and ghetto schools that were in danger of being closed had their average test scores not reached a certain level would be harmed. Presumably they’d grow up thinking its fine and dandy to cheat when neighborhoods are in danger of losing their schools and teachers are liable to lose their livelihoods.

Which is unforgivably wrong.

Tests, BTW, of which there are altogether far too many in the first place, sucking up time and energy that could be devoted to something like, well, education.

Oh, yeah, that’s right — they are educators.

Or were. They’re convicts now.

Something the following esteemed citizens are not:

  • George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their Halliburton co-conspirators who lied to the world and pressured this holy land into a senseless war costing more than half a million lives
  • Jamie Dimon, Angelo Mozilo, Jimmy Cayne, John Thain, Lloyd Blankfein, Hank Greenberg, Dick Fuld and their consiglieres affiliated with the credit ratings agencies, the state and federal regulatory agencies that winked at their three-card monte financial instruments, and the politicians who helped them all set up the biggest economic bubble in the Earth’s history and the economic disaster that followed its bursting in 2007-08
  • The dons and capos in charge of the world’s biggest polluters including ChevronTexaco, Exxon, BP, Saudi Aramco, Gazprom, Statoil, Royal Dutch Shell, British Coal Corp., Peabody Energy, BHP Billiton, and the rest of the 90 state- and investor-owned corporations that are responsible for two-thirds of the global warming-causing emissions on this gagging planet
  • Every cop who has shot a brawling black man but did not do the same to any such white men

And…, oh, I could go on and on. But you get the point. Wealth has its privileges. Skin color has its perks. But those cheating teachers, man, they belong in prison for chrissakes!

The Board Reacts?

Bloomingfoods petition man Keith Taylor says he’s learned the Board of Directors of the local grocery co-op is having a special meeting today. Could it be in response to petitioners who are demanding the the Board come up with a plan of action to deal with all the crises B-foods faces these days?

B-foods

We’ll see.

They Are What They Are

Those four Blackwater triggermen who were sentenced Monday to prison for whacking 17 innocent Iraqis at a roundabout in Baghdad? Let’s stop calling them “security contractors.”

Let’s call them what they are — mercenaries.

Sure, the term carries emotional and judgmental weight. It should.

News anchors and reporters have been referring to them as security contractors, which makes them sound like trained technicians who are performing some necessary task for the good of us all. In reality, they’re killers for pay.

Now you might argue that all soldiers are killers for pay — there’s a grain of truth in that. But, traditionally, soldiers in this holy land and likely all the self-described holy lands of this mad planet have been dragged into the uniformed life pretty much against their will. Even during the “good war,” World War II, guys who got their notices from their local draft boards opened those missives with with dread. Popular depictions of guys who were gung-ho about going into the army rarely were complimentary. Such characters were seen as, well, loons.

And that’s precisely what guys who worked for Blackwater are. (The defense contractor is now called Academi — Blackwater has such a negative connotation; Academi sounds sort of excitingly futuristic. Let’s not participate in the company’s PR campaign, alright?) Anyway, Blackwater employees were (and are) guys who want to go to war. They want to carry big guns and shoot other humans. They dig the blood, the gore, the spilled intestines, the rush of fear, the flood of adrenaline.

Nisour Square

Blackwater, Red Rivers

[Image: AFP]

They got all that and more at the Baghdad intersection in 2007.

Mercenaries.

Get It First But Get It Right!

From The Pencil Department of Corrections: A clarification. In my Monday post referring to Jeffrey Wolin’s Pigeon Hill: Then & Now retrospective, I noted that you can see Wolin’s pix at Pictura Gallery, which you can. But the specific exhibit on Pigeon Hill is at the Monroe County History Center.

[h/t to Mike Burns]

Gone

Percy Sledge — November 25, 1940-April 14, 2015.

Hot Air

Petition Pushes B-foods Board

Anybody want to lay odds that Bloomingfoods will be nothing more than a fondly-recalled part of this town’s history within five years? That’s no sucker’s play. “Natural” and organic mega-grocers Lucky’s Market and Whole Foods Market are coming to town and B-foods already is feeling the pinch.

In addition to grappling with the potential unionization of its workforce and the need to shutter its underperforming Kirkwood Avenue store, the Bloomingfoods co-op is running for its life at this time.

Blame it on the vagaries of the trendy “natural” foods market or the phase of the moon if you wish. Some, though, are blaming the co-op’s Board of Directors. In fact, a change.org petition page has been set up, demanding that the Board, well, do something. Acc’d’g to the petition, the Board has been sitting on its hands through what is described as the current  “crisis.”

One Pencil source says that because B-foods had been the only “natural” and organic grocer in town for decades, its Board has come to suffer from “extreme hubris.”

[The Pencil will not disclose the identities of many of its sources for Bloomingfoods stories because they are employees and may not wish to put their jobs at risk.]

This person explains: “Our Board has never had to do anything. They don’t have the will [or] knowledge to act.”

The petition asks the Board to “Reach out to our national association, [National Co+op Grocers (NCG)], and request an emergency peer review/audit.” The NCG, apparently, can send in volunteer General Managers from other member grocers to pore over B-foods’ books, interview management and employees, and assess things like merchandising, buying, and pricing. The vol GMs then would file a report with recommendations for a course of action.

Should the Board take the petition-signers’ advice and apply for a NCG review, they’d better hurry. Even Kroger has upped its commitment to “natural” and organic foods of late. In fact, the east side Kroger Theme Park’s organics section is as big as any of Bloomingfoods’ entire locations. Kroger has gone all-in on “naturals” and organics. Its overall sales in that category for 2014 reached to between $3-4 billion. Kroger’s organic house brand, Simple Truth®, accounted for a billion dollars in sales last year.

Mainstream customers here who have shied away from crunchy grocers like Bloomingfoods are embracing the trend at their preferred neighborhood Kroger. And while many Bloomingfoods customers are driven to remain loyal for moral and ethical reasons, many others who simply want “clean” foods likely will get their grub at Kroger rather than make the trip to B-foods.

A quick lesson in label designations: I put “natural” in quotation marks because there is no legal or regulatory definition of the term. Many consumers define “natural” foods as those without chemical additives, ignoring the scientific fact that things like water (H2O) or table salt (NaCl) are themselves chemicals. Organics, on the other hand, are strictly controlled by the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program. The growing, processing, packaging, handling, and merchandising of certified organic foods all must meet the NOP’s rigid standards.

National_Organic_Program

The USDA’s Official Organic Program Logo

BTW: much of the NOP body of regulations was written, essentially, by Whole Foods Market. The Organic Foods Production Act was passed into law by Congress in 1990, calling for regulations covering organic farming practices and the publication of lists of allowed and forbidden ingredients. The NOP took effect in 2000. During that ten-year period, Whole Foods was essentially the only game in town — or, more accurately, the nation — when it came to organic retailing.

Anyway, business and food store co-op expert, Keith Taylor of Indiana University’s Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, set up the change.org petition. You can hear him explain the situ. tomorrow afternoon on WFHB. As soon as I get more info on the time and show, I’ll pass it on.

Time Flies

Make sure to catch this slate.com piece on photographer Jeff Wolin’s fascinating study of Bloomington’s citizens. Wolin snapped pix of Pigeon Hill  folk back in the late 1980s and early ’90s. Then he did it again with many from the same cast of characters some 20 years later. Pigeon Hill is a small stretch of shotgun houses northwest of downtown Bloomington, on the other side of Rogers Street. Suffice it to say professors and doctors do not live there.

Tempus fugit, babies, and that maxim has been brought home dramatically through Wolin’s lens. Here’s a taste:

Images/Jeffrey A.  Wolin

A young fellow named Timmie in the neighborhood, 1991, and Timothy in 2012 at Wabash Valley prison — Images by Jeffrey A. Wolin

See more of Wolin’s pix at Pictura Galley, on the Square, through May 30th.

Who Runs This Town?

Perhaps one of the lawyers or pols who read these almost-daily screeches can clear something up. Yesterday I spoke with someone purportedly in the know. This person said that as far back as the Frank McCloskey administration here in this thriving, throbbing megalopolis, there was an understanding that real estate developers have held an absolute upper hand in any negotiations with the city.

That is, if a developer and construction company partnership came along and proposed to erect a mixed-use hotel, grocery store, and opium den at the corner of, say, Indiana and Kirkwood avenues, well, then within a year or two there would stand at that intersection just such a structure — let’s call it The Blooming-den Suites. And no matter how many citizens would object to a grocery store standing there, or how many city council members would rant and rave about the loss of a row of forsythia bushes at that location, the real estate partnership would get its way.

Developers and construction cos., this person observed, were — and are — as powerful as gods. Their will, in other words, be done.

In fact, this person swore, Frank McCloskey gathered the city’s planning commissioners one day in his office and said:

I won’t tell you what to do but I will say this — when a big development plan comes in, no matter how much it violates our dearly-held “character” or flouts our zoning guidelines, if we nix it, then that developer will sue our pants off. And we don’t have enough money to pay for those legal fees even if we win.

Hmm. This is one of those stories that sounds really good. The world is rife with avaricious money and concrete men who are dead-set on ruining our quaint small town. And the valiant, embattled mayor, realizing the deck is stacked, sadly explains the facts-of-life to his people.

These facts of life, my source attested, are in play today even more than they were back in Frank McCloskey’s day.

So, is there anyone out there with the guts to admit this or the credibility to deny it?

 

Hot Air

These Boots….

In my entire life I’ve only ever really lusted after two material items. Well, three, technically. Funny thing is, they were both sort of related.

One was a transistor radio. I dreamed, both sleeping and awake, about owning one for a good six months when I was eight years old. I was certain my notoriously penny-pinching mom would never get me one for Christmas but that didn’t stop me from haranguing her from September on in 1964. And on Christmas Eve when I finally opened the little package that I had no idea would indeed be a Sears Silvertone transistor radio, I let out a shriek equal to any emitted by teenaged girls at a Beatles concert.

Which brings me to item No. 2: I wanted a pair of Beatle boots. Good god in heaven, they were the coolest shoes ever designed. Pointy toes. Cuban heels. No laces, only that very neat insert of elastic at the side. The Beatles were cool, sure, but their feet were transcendently cool because they were encased in those works of art.

Beatle Boots

Beatle boots.

Just saying the words brings back the old covetous feeling. I wanted…, no, I needed them.

Naturally, the nuns at St. Giles Catholic school made an announcement early on during Beatlemania that Beatle boots — as well as Beatle haircuts — would be forbidden. Oh, how I wanted those boots more than ever after that.

The very sound of Beatle boots — a smart click-click that echoed through the halls — was intoxicating. My stupid soft-soled and -heeled shoes sounded like, well, nothing.

Some of the cooler guys at St. Giles got around the Beatle boots ban by wearing what we called “Dago shoes.” By the way, the cooler guys at St. Giles invariably were the Italians from the Galewood neighborhood of Chicago. The Irish kids from Oak Park wore plaid shirts and corduroy trousers.

Trousers. Hehe. The losers.

The cool kids wore skin-tight, knifelike-creased slacks. I would have cut off a finger or two to dress like the cool kids, many of whom were the scions of mid-level Outfit guys. Their daddy-os might have been vicious mobsters but their style sense was impeccable.

I had my priorities as I approached adolescence.

Anyway, Dago shoes. They, too, had pointy toes and Cuban heels but they were lace-ups. And the laces were the skinny, round, shiny kind, not the flat, black cloth, sensible variety that the Irish Oak Parkers wore. Again, the losers.

I remember one of the coolest kids being yanked out of line by one of the tough-guy nuns because he was wearing Dago shoes. “But S’ter,” he protested, “these aren’t Beatle boots!”

This legal hair-splitting clearly forced the nuns to re-strategize. That afternoon when Sister James Mary, the principal, made her end-of-day announcements over the PA, she said, her voice dripping with annoyance, “And from now on, there will be no more wearing of ‘Dago shoes.'” Then she added, speaking slowly and distinctly, “No pointed toes and no Cuban heels.”

We all tittered and giggled over the fact that she’d said Dago.

Sister Caelin barked, “Quiet!”

Dago shoes with Cuban heels. It was like a social studies and geography lesson rolled into one.

Back to Beatle boots — just look at this still from the Beatles’ film A Hard Day’s Night:

From "A Hard Day's Night"

How kicky, in the parlance of the times. Wearing their signature footwear, the boys appear to be running on air, levitating, like the demi-gods they were. How I wished I could levitate like a demi-god.

Today, of course, I wear the clunkiest, roundest-toe, softest-soled shoes in all of creation. Adulthood, man. It beats a kid’s dreams down.

Money (That’s What Pols Need)

Joe Crawford’s News Dept. at WFHB reported yesterday that John Hamilton scooted out to Washington, DC for a fundraiser at some snazzy restaurant in our nation’s capital.

Hmm.

Hamilton’s been crowing that he won’t take a dime of “corporate money” ever since he declared himself a candidate for Bloomington mayor in this year’s election.

Hamilton

Hamilton

[BTW: Early voting has begun. Go do it now!]

Yet, his DC fundraiser featured at least two big bucks lobbyists. Okay, sure, as Hamilton himself says, the lobbyists’ dough is not the same as corporate green. He points out that the lobbyists work for good, wholesome, “progressive” operations not, I imagine, big, mean old companies that profit off the raping of the planet.

Still, it’s checkbook democracy. Hamilton’s not a villain here; it’s the entire Citizens United political racket that’s corrupt.

Anyway, give a listen to the WFHB report.

Money (That’s What I Want)

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