Hot Air

Bloomington’s War Of The Deer

In these days of Battles Royal over the minutest of controversies, when one citizen disagrees with another the cartoonish verbiage and accusations fly. The most important, direst threat to our very existence as a nation comes from that guy down the street who let it slip at the neighborhood barbecue that he voted for Mike Pence for governor in the last election.

And, of course, those of us who voted for Barack Obama twice are agents of the resurrected Joseph Stalin. People don’t engage in mild disagreements over current events anymore; they battle to save civilization.

So it is in Bloomington’s War of the Deer. Talk to a homeowner in any neck of the woods in our fair burgh and you might come away with the impression that an endless horde of the ruminants is on the march, trampling garden beds, eating pansies, and dropping their yard bombs as cruelly as the various belligerents of Afghanistan have laid land mines.

The city leapt into action and called for an outside contractor — an army of mercenaries as it were — to come into our war-torn town and save us from the invaders. This action triggered howls of outrage from nature-loving activists who portrayed the contractor as little more than a hooded band of gun-happy guerrillas a la the old Blackwater gang.

Blackwater Employees

Mercenaries (Photo: Gervasio Sanchez/Associated Press)

Last night’s session of the Bloomington Science Cafe promised to offer as much bombast and dramatic leaps from the ropes onto an opponent’s neck as any WWE match. The Parks and Recreation Department‘s boss of natural resources, Steve Cotter, and biologist Angela Shelton were scheduled to speak about the deer swarm around Griffy Lake. Shelton, while working at Indiana University’s Department of Biology, conducted studies of the Griffy deer that led to the City Council action to hire the Bambi hit men. Cotter, natch, is all in on the culling.

Just before the proceedings got underway at Finch’s Brasserie, outspoken opponent of the culling plan, Marc Haggerty, approached Sci. Cafe organizer Alex Straiker. “I just want to be assured that we’ll be given an opportunity to refute the speakers,” Haggerty said. I elbowed my way into the conversation.

“Marc,” I said, “How do you know you’ll disagree with them? They haven’t even started speaking yet.”

“Oh, I know I’ll disagree with them,” he said. “I’ve heard their spiel before.”

Haggerty

Marc Haggerty

Straiker assured Haggerty audience members would be able to ask the speakers questions after their presentations were finished. “Okay,” Haggerty said, although he sounded unconvinced. Haggerty’s anti-culling allies have made their presence known at Council meetings; they were thanked politely for their comments but otherwise ignored. I guessed Haggerty’s feeling a tad frustrated these days.

Cotter led off the session, saying the city’s overall plans for the Griffy Lake area are based in large part on University of Delaware professor Doug Tallamy’s book, Bringing Nature Home. [Shameless plug: You can cop the tome at the Book Corner.] Cotter also pointed out the Griffy Lake Nature Preserve Master Plan (2008) can be found online.

Cotter acknowledged that public opinion is split on the culling plan. “I’d say it’s about 50/50,” he said. He then referred to efforts to control various fauna in Yellowstone National Park, where wolves and other predators were reintroduced and helped control other damaging species. He joked that it’d be his preferred solution to introduce wolves and mountain lions into the Griffy Lake area to control the deer, but that might not be a terribly popular solution.

The city, said Cotter, is contemplating initiating an adopt-an-acre program wherein participating citizens could help monitor and eradicate invasive species on their plots.

A audience member asked Cotter if there’s been a deer count yet and he admitted there hasn’t been. Experts, he explained, feel it’s more effective to note the damage deer have done to foliage and animals rather than do an costly and lengthy census. This prompted another audience member to point out deer are eating invasive species of plants so why not use the population to handle that problem. Cotter said the damage deer cause outweighs that potential benefit. “I don’t think that if you let the deer go they would handle that problem by themselves but they are having a suppressive effect,” he said.

Just at that moment, a late-arriving audience member squeezed herself in the back of the room. “Wow,” she stage whispered, “this many people give a fuck about Griffy?”

Griffy

Griffy Lake Nature Preserve Trail Map

Cotter said the White Buffalo Inc. (the culling contractor)’s miss rate when shooting is around 2 percent. The company will use bullets that fragment when entering the target deer’s braincase, thereby causing a quicker, more humane death. The Nature Preserve, he added, will be closed to the public for a day or so each time a culling operation is scheduled

Shelton then took the stage. She projected some photos showing denuded areas of the forest where deer hang out. The deer, she said had stripped the trees of their leaves as far as their necks could reach and had munched the ground cover down to the soil in those places. She and her team had set up 15 fenced exclosures to prevent deer from entering those areas to compare their foliage to areas where deer were allowed to roam freely after several years. She exhibited pics of both types of area; the contrast was striking. The exclosures were lush with greenery while the free roam stretches were not.

Her team did pellet counts, Shelton said. I leaned in to ask another Sci. Cafe organizer, Jim Wager-Miller, if that meant they were counting deer shits. “It does,” he said, authoritatively. Shelton said the deer population around Griffy is eight or nine times greater than those of other similar areas in the region. Much of this has to do with Griffy’s proximity to residential areas, where the deer can also feast on garbage and gardens.

Shelton posted some alarming figures and charts, including the revelations that:

  • Native trees are not regenerating outside the exclosures
  • Spring wildflowers are suffering as deer gorge themselves after winter
  • Some wildflowers may go extinct in the Preserve after 20 years if the deer are left to their own devices
  • Small mammals like mice seem to be thriving inside the exclosures
  • Soil is significantly less compacted in the exclosures

“The deer are having effects on many other species,” she said. “The deer are kind of acting like an invasive species.”

Invasive species, she explained, have the following effects on their environment:

  • They displace native species
  • They reduce native wildlife habitat
  • They reduce forest health and productivity

The deer around Griffy Lake, she insisted, are doing just those things.

White Buffalo will cull up to 100 deer this coming winter, Shelton said. She and her team will continue to monitor the forest’s recovery after that first seasonal kill. An audience member asked if the 100 goal might “extirpate” the deer population in Griffy. Shelton said that’s doubtful but even if it did, deer from surrounding areas would fill Griffy back in “within six months.”

Deer

Casus Belli

Haggerty then spoke. He complained that the opposition to the cull plan has not had an opportunity to speak against it. He also charged that Shelton’s pix of denuded areas of the forest really were from University-owned property near the Preserve, not city-run land.

“Some of us,” he said, “have gone out there hundreds and hundreds of times and we have found a different reality.”

Shelton responded: “I have spent five years out there and I’m completely convinced.”

Haggerty still is not.

Hot Air

Sports U.

The highest paid Indiana University employee, acc’d’g to the an op-ed in today’s Herald Times (paywall), is basketball coach Tom Crean, who rakes in a cool $604,858 per year. Sitting just below him and IU Pres. Michael McRobbie ($566,860) in the pay firmament is football head coach Kevin Wilson, who pockets $531,644 per annum.

And just to make sure the jock pop. of our local institution of higher education gets its just deserts, athletic director Fred Glass boasts a &458,007 salary. Poor guy doesn’t even make a half mill a year; how does he make ends meet?

Crean

Tom Crean Accepting His Weekly Bushel Of Money

Let’s not kid ourselves anymore: Indiana University, like many, many other U.’s around the nation, is really a sports entertainment concern that just happens to dabble in things like education and scientific inquiry on the side.

Funny thing is, just yesterday I had a sit-down with a pal o’mine who happens to be a research scientist at IU. Let’s call him Dr. Brain. Every year Dr. Brain must search for funding for his lab (as well as his relatively paltry salary) from granting agencies around the country. He must fill out reams of applications, justifying not only his scientific work but also his very existence as a learned member of society. Then he must lay awake nights wondering if this foundation or that federal government department will fork over a few thousand bucks. To keep his lab running and to ensure he makes enough to support his modest home and his 16-year-old car, Dr. Brain must cobble together any number of gifts from donors every single year.

Dr. Brain was overjoyed yesterday because his funding for the coming year seems in the bag. Note I typed seems. He hasn’t gotten final confirmation for his package of grants just yet. Everything, though, seems in order, he says.

Hmm. If there’s a problem, I wonder if Dr. Brain might be able to request grants from the likes of Tom Crean and Kevin Wilson.

Books On The Brae

Col. John Tilford, former Dem primary candidate for US Congress and tireless advocate for veterans’ concerns, dashed off to Scotland with his lovely missus, Polly, not long ago. Natch, he found one of the few bookstores in a sparsely populated stretch of the northern highlands. He was eager to tell me about it when he visited the Book Corner last week.

The Scot store, he sez, was a two-story affair, the main floor ringed by a balcony-like structure. Nearly every square inch of the place is crammed with tomes and smack dab in the middle of the main floor is an old fashioned wood-burning stove. That, acc’d’g to the Col., is the facility’s heating plant.

I don’t suppose that store will be making the switch to selling e-books and Kindles very soon.

In any case, Tilford sent me a pic of the store:

Bookstore/Tilford

I imagine Tilford’s been wringing his hands of late over the VA hospital scandals and the unwillingness of certain obsessive ledger book-watching legislators to pay for veterans’ care. Far too many of us are perfectly happy to let somebody else’s kid get his brains blown out for the cause of “freedom” (something I’d argue this holy land hasn’t actually fought for since July 27, 1953). Nor are terribly many of us willing to pay for the psychological and physical care of people we’ve shipped off to all corners of the world to wage war for our interests.

Keep up the good fight for the veterans, Colonel!

 

Hot Air

Lady Business

I squawked about vajazzling in Open Salon a few years ago. You know all about vajazzling, don’t you? If not, it’s where you get tiny gems implanted around your lady parts because…, well because you have an obscene amount of money and rather than help the needy or something stupid like that, you choose to bejewel your nethers.

I wrote:

Maybe vajazzling is the last gasp manifestation of the Age of Reagan — you know, the fabulous three decades that gave us Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, real-life Gordon Geckos, McMansions, the Hummer H2, gazillion-inch flat screen TVs, Enron, Bernie Madoff, and Lloyd Blankfein. I thought the Great Recession had cooled off this holy land’s fascination with greed and hyper-materialism.

At the time, I figured it was the height of idiocy that women should want karat-ed cooters but — silly me — I neglected to take into account the human race’s capacity for insanity. Turns out one of the biggest growth industries in the doctorin’ world these days is elective female genital plastic surgery, AKA “designer vaginas.”

O'Keeffe

A Georgia O’Keeffe Painting

[Attn. all female readers: be prepared to have the hair on your head stand straight up.] Females as young as 14 are ponying up thousands of dollars for cosmetic surgeons to give their hoo-has the “clamshell” look. This includes the surgical removal of their labia because said flaps are “ugly” or “too long” or “irregular.”

In other words, upper middle class Western kids, of their own volition, are undergoing what many females in Third World countries are suffering unwillingly. Okay, to be fair, fundamentalist Muslims in certain African countries are mandating that females get their clitorises lopped. Kids in this holy land aren’t doing that, natch, but still, they’re getting their gender bits sliced off so’s they’ll look “prettier” and, people, that’s nuts.

Why young teens — and their parents who, presumably, foot the bill — would go all in for a below-the-belt scalpel job to improve the decor of their genitalia is today’s conundrum. How do they know their labia are unattractive vis-à-vis other teen girls’? And to whom would these anatomical structures be repulsive?

Frankly, I can’t imagine a young man beholding his first female genitalia and thinking (or saying out loud), You know, I was all hot and bothered to go through with this but after espying that overly-large set of labia minora, I believe I’ll sit this one out.

Then again, loads of young men are weirdly misogynistic these days so I don’t know what they think about things of that nature anymore.

And what about the bizarre competitions that teen girls have with each other? You know, as in my tan’s better than yours, my teeth are straighter than yours, or even my breasts are rounder or bigger or pointier than yours. The proof for each of these claims is out front, as it were. How do young ladies compare the relative symmetries of their labia? Do they inspect each others’ undercarriages?

This is all too puzzling for me. I think I’ll go back to contemplating something less taxing to my brain, like how can the Palestinians and the Israelis learn to get along.

[For more reading on "designer vaginas" check out this piece in The Daily Beast or this one in the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald.]

Deer Prudence

The question of whether to shoot deer hanging around Griffy Lake or not has been argued with some passion of late. The Bloomington City Council recently okayed a contract with a wildlife management outfit to cull the Bambi pop. around the newly-refilled lake because neighbors are sick and tired of the ruminants snacking on their garden pansies, violas, and buttercups.

Deer

Fitting, then, that our town’s Science Cafe gang will present a couple of speakers who’ll tackle the Q. of what deer dig to eat tomorrow night at Finch’s Brasserie.

Angela Shelton, a research scientist in Indiana University’s Department of Biology, and Steve Cotter, Natural Resources Manager for the city’s Parks & Recreation Department, will double-team a talk about Invasive Species in Bloomington and Deer Herbivory around Griffy Lake.

The gabfest begins at 6:30pm and usually runs about an hour, unless the audience presses for more. In any case, the food and booze both are good at Finch’s so see you there.

Schwarber Soars

As your source for all news concerning Indiana University’s own Kyle Schwarber, I’m happy to report that the baseball player known as the Hulk among his former Hoosier teammates is rising fast in the Chicago Cubs farm system.

The big bat he became noted for during his years here is just as potent against professional pitching. In fact, Schwarber’s numbers against minor league hurlers are even better than those he posted in collegiate ball. That could be because he’s benefitting from top-flight coaching or it could be because, well, he’s the real deal.

Kyle Schwarber

Schwarber

Schwarber, in case you’ve forgotten, was selected number four in June’s Major League Baseball amateur draft. Very few experts had him pegged that high but, according to Cubs’ VP of player development Jason McLeod, he’d had his eye on Schwarber beginning in his freshman year and was certain from the start that the catcher was going to be a special hitter.

Schwarber has risen swiftly through the Cubs system, starting out in Boise in June, earning a promotion to Kane County after a week, and in July already has been promoted again, this time to Daytona. Schwarber’s still catching even though many scouts feel his big league future is in left field or at first base. The Hulk’s presence in the Cubs organization has contributed to the system’s ranking as the best in baseball recently by ESPN expert Keith Law.

Even if Schwarber continues to punish minor league pitchers, don’t expect him to make an appearance at Wrigley Field until late 2015 or, more likely, 2016. The current Cubs brain trust led by Theo Epstein believes strongly in getting kids plenty of minor league at bats before exposing them to big league hurlers.

Me? I can’t wait to see the Hoosier Hulk swinging for Sheffield Avenue on Chicago’s North Side. Stay tuned here for further updates.

More On Paris

According to her obituary in the Nashville Tennessean, a memorial will be held for RE Paris sometime in September.

Paris was born and raised in Nashville, as anyone who’d ever heard her twang could attest. It’s not known at this time if the memorial will be held here or there. Stayed tuned here for further updates.

Hot Air

The News We Need

The honchos at the WFHB News Department have been begging for ideas on how to improve the operation. News Director Alycin Bektesh and her trusty Robin, Joe Crawford, have been conducting a News Summit the last few weeks. The idea is to remake the whole shebang so it better serves the community.

WFHB Spot

Imagine that. Serving the community, that is. Most news sources are but spindly little arms of one giant corporate octopus or another. Ergo, much news coverage these days reflects the fears, prejudices, and agendas of corporate stakeholders, as filtered down through each medium’s reporters and anchors.

Take a look at this lineup of some of the world’s largest media conglomerates:

Gannett Company: It owns the Indy Star as well as USA Today, a passel of other urban dailies, and 20 local television stations.

◆ CBS Corporation: Owns one of the three legacy TV networks, Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), as well as the CW network, Showtime, CBS Radio, and Simon & Schuster, one of the largest publishing houses in the world.

◆ News Corporation: Rupert Murdoch’s Frankenstein monster, it owns Fox Network, 20th Century Fox, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, and a piece of Hulu.

◆ Viacom, Inc.: Although it doesn’t own any major news outlets per se, it does count among its empire MTV, VH1, BET, Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon, Spike, and Comedy Central. Each of those properties affects and contributes to the current events dialogue in its own way.

◆ Time Warner, Inc.: Owns TBS, TNT, HBO, CNN, Warner Brothers, DC Comics, and NBA TV.

◆ The Walt Disney Company: Holdings include the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar, the Entertainment Sports and Programming Network (ESPN), Marvel Comics, and one half of the A&E Networks.

◆ Comcast Corporation: The biggest dog in the media kennel, Comcast owns countless local cable TV and internet distribution services, the National Broadcasting System (NBC), NBCUniversal, E! Entertainment Television, the Golf Channel, NBCSN, Telemundo, Universal Pictures, and has in recent months acquired Time Warner Cable.

All these corporate behemoths demand that the news operations under their vast umbrellas create profit every single quarter. Back in the glory days of CBS, for instance, delivering the news to the American people was seen as a public service that the networks performed willingly (if not always happily). News departments were loss leaders rather than profit centers. They gave the companies that owned TV and radio stations a sense of importance, gravity, positioned them as good public citizens.

Not no more, babies.

Community radio stations like WFHB, Indiana’s first, aim to offer balance in today’s news-as-product information environment.

I’ve done a couple of stints as a news writer and reporter for WFHB. I worked under Chad Carrothers, the wild man who started the operation (trust me, he was the deadline junkie of all deadline junkies) as well as under Bektesh. It’s hard to do a daily news program only with volunteers. No reporter can work several days in succession on a story and relationships with sources are hard — if not impossible — to cultivate. Over the last year or so, Bektesh became convinced the News shop had to be torn down and reconstructed. So, she set up the four-week news summit, inviting vols and other interested parties to pitch ideas for the rebuild.

Now the News Summit is coming to an end. Its last session will be Friday, August 1st.

Well, as long as she’s asking….

Big Mike’s Suggestions for a New and Improved WFHB News Dept.

1) Eliminate the Daily Local News, now airing at 5:30pm, weekdays.

2) Schedule hourly news updates to be delivered by News Dept. vols or the on-air DJ at the time.

3) Include a news aggregator feature recapping the top stories as covered by the Herald-Times, the IDS, the Indy Star, local TV and radio stations, independent websites, and national electronic and print media outlets.

4) Include weather, IU sports, and entertainment and events calendar and other service features in the news breaks.

5) Create a list of stories of local importance that a succession of reporters will work on for a week. This leads to continuity in information-gathering and ensures the topics will be thoroughly and comprehensively covered. Updates on some or all of those stories can be included in the hourly news breaks and, at the end of the week, one or more long-form features based on them can be aired.

6) Open up the WFHB studios to anybody who wants to comment on events or trends, from local to global. Aggressively seek out contributors for these audio op-eds. Each can be repeated numerous times throughout the day, with the best or most compelling aired throughout the succeeding weekend.

7) Solicit music, art, theater, and other types of reviews from listeners and IU students. These can be aired repeatedly throughout the day at various times (for instance, when the DJ needs a bathroom break.)

There.

Hot Air

Yes And…

“Life is much richer when you say ‘yes’ than if you say ‘no.'”

So said Richard Branson to the Chicago Sun-Times some years ago, as reported by Neil Steinberg in his column today.

Branson

Richard Branson

Apparently Branson’s bank account (accounts?) would bear this out. He’s one the the richest guys around, natch, making his dough through such ventures as Virgin Records and Virgin Atlantic Airways. It isn’t just money, though, that makes for a rich life. As long as you have enough to eat, a roof over your head, health care, an education, friends, and family, your life can be as rich as Donald Trump’s (or richer because I can’t imagine Trump’s world being at all fulfilling — either to me, theoretically, or him, in reality.)

Anyway, Branson appears to be one of those guys whose def. of success does not include the annihilation of you, me, or anyone else. He’s a win-win type of primate. Capitalism of late seems a hyena-versus-lion proposition, as in I’m eating and if you’re starving, what do I care?

Today’s world, as defined by Trump, the Kochs, the oil companies, and the Wall Street banksters, is a win-lose prop.

So huzzah for Branson and his riches, pecuniary and otherwise.

Saying Yes has been a philosophy I’ve tried to adhere to (often with success, even) ever since I studied comedy improvisation under the late Del Close and Charna Halpern at the improvOlympic (since renamed, thanks to trademark lawyers, iO Chicago). I started going up on stage to create skits and scenes without a script back in the winter of 1986. I even was part of an improv troupe that put on a weekly stage soap opera called “Children’s Hospital,” along with such notables as comedy guru Mick J. Napier and musician Jim Tomasello. At the then-improvOlympic, I worked with and watched such future Hollywood stars as Mike Meyers, Chris Farley, Lili Taylor, Joel Murray and a raft of others.

Close/Halpern

Del Close & Charna Halpern

The single defining commandment of iO was “Yes and….” In fact, boss Charna Halpern‘s business card read “Yes and….”

It’s a simple idea. Whatever suggestion or proposition someone makes on stage, you go along with it. You build on it. You say to the person who proposed it, “Yes, and…,” and then you build an even taller skyscraper of imagination. If your stage mate says, for instance, Here we are an a spaceship to Mars…, you don’t say, Aw, that’s crazy. You say, Yes, and when we get there, we’re going to hunt for extraterrestrial badgers with our ray guns. Won’t that be fun?

On our first day in class Charna (who taught the intro course) told us the Yes and…. thing not only would make us good improv performers but would actually help us in our daily lives. It sounds almost cultish or at least self-help-ish to say this, but she was right.

I’ve striven to say Yes rather than No as much as humanly possible in the ensuing three decades. Think of all the arguments you’ve ever had; as a rule, they arise when someone, maybe you, says No.

Some examples:

  • Wife: You know, sometimes I feel you don’t pay attention to my issues.
  • Husband: No. You don’t pay attention to my issues.

  • Person A: Life is bleak. I wonder why I should go on.
  • Person B: No, it isn’t. You just need to snap out of it.

  • Person X: The Israelis must be able to defend themselves.
  • Person Y: No. They’re murderers!

  • Person 1: The Palestinians must be able to defend themselves.
  • Person 2: No. They’re murderers.

On the other hand, one can go too far, albeit rarely, in saying Yes to everything. To wit:

  • Rush Limbaugh: Sandra Fluke is a slut.
  • Sane person: No she isn’t. You’re an asshole.

The No-sayer (in most cases) puts a halt to the progress of any conversation or plan. The word itself is combative. It’s fearful. It stops time. I try to say Yes whenever I can (and, as I say, I occasionally succeed.) Yes is freedom; No is not.

Try saying Yes all day today. You might be surprised.

Career Counselor

Who is this son of a bitch, Abdul Hakim-Shabbaz?

That was the first thing that jumped into my mind when I read his horribly mean-spirited piece in Tuesday’s Indy Star recounting his clever, fun prank of asking panhandlers for money.

Hakim-Shabbaz

Abdul Hakim-Shabbaz, Social Reformer

He wrote:

There is nothing more annoying than trying to enjoy a meal, cigar or just some quiet time and have people come up to ask for money. And since the City-County Council Democrats continue to block any meaningful proposal to get these guys off the streets, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I decided to turn the tables on the panhandlers and start asking them for money.

So he hectored panhandlers for money. What a wit, no?

No — as if it’s necessary for me to answer that for you.

In order to put these poor, homeless bastards in their place, he actually asked them for a handout. Pardon me, while I catch my breath; I may laugh myself into a heart attack.

And that would be because I, unlike Hakim-Shabbaz, actually have a heart.

He thinks a lot of the panhandlers he must endure as he digs the good life in downtown Indianapolis are really frauds and leeches. There’s the woman who “claims” she’s disabled but is able to push around all her Earthly belongings in a shopping cart (now there’s a great con job, eh?) Then there’s the kid who’s selling candy for charity but the sharp-as-a-tack Hakim-Shabbaz notes the charity is a different one every day.

Hoohoo, haha! — he began asking them for money. Oh man, he’s killing me!

So who is this social observer on a par with Wilde, Dickens, Sinclair, or even Marie Antoinette? Turns out he’s a talk radio host/attorney/standup comedian/college law instructor. Here’s his own bio on his website.

I suppose Hakim-Shabbaz might advise Indy’s crew of panhandlers to do as he did; that is, get jobs as talk radio hosts/attorneys/standup comedians/college law instructors. Then they wouldn’t ruin his day by asking for money.

You know, it may be easy to become a talk radio host/attorney/standup comedian/college law instructor just like him. All you have to do is work hard at being an asshole.

Paris

Here’s the latest on the passing of RE Paris.

Paris

According to her son, Eric, she began having trouble breathing at home Wednesday morning. She managed to call for an ambulance but by the time it arrived, it was pretty much too late. No details yet on why she had trouble breathing, although she’d been physically ill for a while, thanks in large part to being too broke to afford health insurance premiums.

Hot Air

Peace

RE Paris is gone and that’s that.

I won’t mourn because life was such a lousy ordeal for her. If, as I suspect, there is nothing after death but, well, nothing, she at least is not suffering anymore. I met her nearly five years ago and was struck by her quick mind, her hair-trigger sensitivity for injustice and unfairness, her knowledge of books and music, and the sense of pain that seemed to seep out of her every pore.

Paris

RE, Young And Smiling

She worked as hard as the richest person I know but she never was able to to amass a spare few dollars. She was in a business that doesn’t afford many of its employees and practitioners trivial things like health care. Maybe, just maybe, if we lived in a land that thought health care is something everybody deserves, she might still be with us today.

She might even have looked forward to tomorrow.

I don’t know.

I only know there is no tomorrow for RE now. How lucky I am — and you are — to still have one.

 

Hot Air

Schools For Tools

An indictment:

Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.

These words, written by William Deresiewicz in The New Republic magazine for his piece on the Ivy League brain factories, can be applied to most university programs, including our own Indiana University.

Deresiewicz opens his article by recounting the time he participated in a Yale admissions committee session. That’s where, in his case, five people sat in a room, pored over high school students’ applications and gave thumbs up or down. Yale, the alma mater of the likes of Sinclair Lewis and Paul Krugman, George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton, and no fewer than 17 members of the United States Supreme Court, is, of course, among the toughest of universities to get into unless your daddy-o prints money. But there are only so many Americans who comprise the 1% so that Yale admissions committee had to reach down deep into the poorer-then-Croesus pool for the coming school year.

Yale House Flag

Nevertheless, the lucky few who gained admission to Yale that year were the cream of the cream. Students, for instance, who listed six extracurricular high school activities on their applications, were deemed, essentially, too lazy for the place.

I don’t know about you, but I loathed the type of kid who’d list a half a dozen or more extracurricular activities under his yearbook pic (I went to an all-boys HS, so don’t holler at me for using the male pronoun).

I’ve railed on and on about how our colleges and universities these days seem to be nothing more than glorified vocational schools. Kids strive for college degrees not so they can learn to think and to reason, to learn the rigorous methods of inquiry, to become well-rounded, to be exposed to the dizzying variety of peoples who live on this Earth, and then, so prepared, be an asset not only to the species and the planet, but to get a good job as well. No. Too many kids spend four years setting themselves up as the best little employees they can be. Universities are fast becoming training grounds for adults who are docile, unthinking, and eager consumers.

Yuck.

The Ivy League schools, apparently, are the best at doing this ugly job but it’s a job shared by institutions across this holy land. Read Deresiewicz’s piece and, if you’re like me, weep.

[h/t to John Wasik.]

Just Don’t Get Sick

Up to 15 million people already have benefitted from the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Nice. That means millions more kids now get better access to preventative and urgent health care than did before Barack Obama came into office. Hundreds of thousands of families now don’t have to worry about financial ruin should a daughter’s liver go kaput or a parent’s brain suddenly sprout a tumor.

Once again, I’m not thrilled with the ACA. I want single-payer, universal health coverage. But Obamacare is the best we could do, considering the extent to which Republicans get itchy when the question of helping people who aren’t richer than certain small nations arises.

The GOP has stood on its head trying to overturn the ACA. The very idea that we as a nation should extend a helping hand to our broke neighbors strikes Republicans as un-American. They characterize those who want to help people who can’t afford $500 or $750 a month health insurance premiums as socialists, commies, or, worse, secret Kenyans.

I’ve known scads of rugged individualist Republicans whose response when asked about poor people has been Fuck ‘em. That’s not shorthand; I’m quoting.

Poverty

It’s Your Own Damned Fault!

That is shorthand for what the three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said yesterday in a ruling on federal subsidies for ACA participants. Check out the ruling and you’ll see that it’s chock-full of high-minded legalese and the splitting of hairs over seemingly inconsequential language in the original Act. The judges sound very knowledgable and Solomonic. But in truth, they’re saying Fuck you to those 15 millions who now have affordable health insurance, the emphasis on the word now. Tomorrow, if the panel’s decision is upheld by the Supreme Court, is another story.

We are engaged in a battle for the soul of this nation. As in, some of us want the nation to have a soul and some of us prefer us to be soulless. Funny, though, how those who seem most soulless are the same ones who talk about god all the time.

To Sleep, Perchance…

And, speaking of courts flipping the bird at one class or another of citizens, Marion Superior Court Judge David Dryer ruled Monday that Monroe County’s newly-approved late-night noise ordinance isn’t worth the paper it’s written on and work can continue on I-69 through the night, every night.

That means a lot of people who live around SR 37 and points southwest in this county will be super cranky at their jobs for the next few months due to the banging, beeping, and clanking that’ll keep them awake all night long. A good night’s sleep is a fine thing but it is nothing at all compared to the desire of the state to lay concrete.

Interstate Road Construction

Happiness Is Wet Concrete

The I-69 brouhaha was aboil when I moved to these parts in late 2009. Plenty of people were protesting and hollering at INDOT officials and then-Gov. Mitch Daniels that the proposed super-road would cause  environmental nightmares.They were certain, several told me, that they could derail plans for the highway. I told anybody who’d listen (most didn’t) that laying concrete is the most irresistible urge the state — any state — has. If the federal government’s primary responsibility is military defense and the overriding duty of municipal gov’t is to pick up garbage, then the state’s biggest task is to build roads. Road building is the lifeblood of a state’s economy, as well as the financial health of whichever political party is in charge. Ergo, no amount of hooting and shrieking would deter Daniels et al from paving from here to eternity.

Natch, work on I-69 continued apace, environmental nightmares be damned. On the other hand, the folks who live around the I-69 construction zones won’t have to worry about nightmares anymore. You have be able to get to sleep to have them, after all.

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