Hot Air

The Glass, Half Full

Loyal Pencillistas know I waste few opportunities to criticize the lunkheads, lunatics, and anencephalics who all too often make up this holy land’s legislatures, police depts., and boardrooms. A casual reader of these screeds might even get the impression I think we live n the worst of possible places.

We don’t.

A glance at any day’s world news report makes me wish to clasp doughheads like Louie Gohmert or Rush Limbaugh to my bosom and call them brothers.

We do not behead people in this country.

Beheading

Photo: Nicole Tung via Al Jazeera America

We do not cut the clitorises off little girls and young women in this country.

We do not stone women for having sex.

We do not force girls and young women into marriages.

We do not engage in the mass killings of people because we disapprove of the subtle differences in the ways they worship their gods.

We do not have a state religion.

All that said, I’m not going all Panglossian on you. We’re a mess, honestly, but it is natural for any human organization to be messy. Messiness is hard-wired in us.

I’ll take our mess, thank you.

[On second thought, I don't think there are any circumstances under which I'd embrace Gohmert and Limbaugh.]

Gohmert/Limbaugh

No, Not My Brothers

Dude, It’s Dry Out There!

Some fourteen pounds of marijuana were removed from the Bloomington market Sunday, acc’d’g to today’s Herald Times (paywall).

Panic

That means a lot of panicky phone calls are being made around town this week.

Drop Dead

Wait, wait, wait — can this be true?

The Los Angeles Times reports that anywhere from 12 to 24 percent of the Central American kids who’ve been booted out of this country because they were “illegal” and whose lives or deaths good patriotic Americans should not give a shit about have, well, died.

That is, within the last few weeks a significant number of youngsters returned home to hell holes like Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador after they tried to escape to America for safety have been shot dead.

Immigration

Photo: Mark Boster/LA Times

Nice work, o protectors of our borders. It’s times like these when I wish I believed in an afterlife so I could fantasize the not-my-problem crowd burning in hell.

Hot Air

GMO Dialogue

Just got some great new links from former Indiana University research biologist and faculty member Martha Crouch.

Crouch at Franklin

Marti Crouch Lectures At Franklin College, Fall 2013

If you’ve been following this communications colossus the last couple of weeks, you know that I happened to meet Crouch at the Book Corner and immediately leaned on her to convince me that GMOs are icky. My stance on genetic engineering can be found in various posts in these precincts (see links below).

I hate to be wedded to any particular train of thought, by and large, because there’s always something new I can learn and it just might contradict that which I’ve previously believed. Bertrand Russell’s old line — I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong — fits quite nicely, thank you.

Russell

Russell

Anyway, Marti, as she’s known to friends and acquaintances, has graciously agreed to set me straight. She wondered why I might be interested in the GMO thang these days and so she wrote in an email she sent me yesterday:

I realize I don’t really know why you are interested in genetically engineered crops.  Health reasons?  Environmental concerns? Philosophical musings about the relationships between humans and other organisms?  And I also don’t know why you are looking for arguments against GMOs.  Are you unhappy for some reason with your current position “in favor” (I assume)?

Fair enough. Here’s my response to her, in toto:

M:

Thanks for asking. You might check some of my previous writings on the GMO controversy in the Electron Pencil. In fact, here’s a link to that category.
My overriding motive is to get at some kind of reasonable, informed understanding of genetic engineering. I want to do so because I love science and knowledge, pure and simple. My secondary motive is to try to get people to stop thinking as a group. It’s always been one of my goals as a writer to upend groupthink, to hold the line against hysteria, and to point out that opinions are meaningless unless they’re built upon strong intellectual foundations.
You’ll note, if you delve deeper into my blog, that I poke fun at Bloomington’s food culture a lot. I came here from Chicago in 2009 (after a two-year sidetrack to Louisville) and was amused by how seriously B-towners take their food. It seems everyone’s got some diet or regimen that will ensure fabulous health and happiness for the rest of their lives. It also seems everyone here is certain corporate America is trying to poison us to death simply for the fun of it.
Now I don’t doubt that corporate America doesn’t give a good goddamn about my health or yours, as long as its shareholders are happy at the end of the year, but I also don’t think that scientists employed by the big agribusiness firms are sitting around a conference table and planning to wipe out a percentage of the population.
As I’ve written, for example, Monsanto is a bad guy — we can all agree on that — but that doesn’t mean the company is doing everything in its power to destroy the planet.
I speak in hyperbole here because 1) that’s part of my style and voice and 2) because I feel as though the food fetishists (as I describe them) do so themselves. By shopping at Kroger, I’m not going to die any earlier than I would were I to shop at Bloomingfoods. The argument often is couched in those life and death terms.
I might also point out that I spent five years teaching the public and my fellow employees about natural and organic foods as a member of the Whole Foods Market education department. I learned and taught that individuals’ health and that of the planet can be enhanced by striving for a natural way of eating. I also learned that a huge number of folks within the natural foods community hold apocalyptic views that have little to do with reality.
For all the wonders of natural and organic ways of eating and food production that WFM’s customer base subscribes to, I’ve never seen a more ailment-wracked bunch of people in my life. People who shop at other natural grocers, both national chain and local, in my experience, also have been equally Camille-like. Are they canaries in a coal mine or are they simply obsessed with themselves? Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between.
In any case, I want the goods on GMOs, which are today’s bête noire among the natural foods crowd. I’ve been told you’re the real thing when it comes to that topic so that’s why I want to tap your knowledge. I’ll either buy your arguments or I won’t but if I don’t I’ll be able to say I heard all you have to say. Whichever way I go, my opinion will be based on a strong intellectual foundation.
Thanks,
Big Mike
Marti recommends I read the book, The GMO Deception, a compendium of articles and essays edited by Sheldon Krimsky and Jeremy Gruber and issued in June by Skyhorse Publishing. She says some of her trusted colleagues have essays in the book. That’ll take some time so I’ll report back on that later this summer. She also sent along a copy of one of her seminal works on biotech, a chapter she’d contributed to the 2001 book, Redesigning Life?, edited by Brian Tokar. Her piece is titled “From Golden Rice to Terminator Technology: Agricultural Biotechnology Will Not Feed the World or Save the Environment.”
Book Cover

Can’t get a much clearer position than that. I’m eager to delve into the chapter. Again, it’ll take time but I’ll give you my impressions as soon as I can.

Looks like the dialogue is in full swing. Stay tuned.

Dialogue (Part I & II)

Fitting, no?

 

Hot Air

Bigger Is Better

They’ll never learn.

Last night, the authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, played tough guy. First, Governor Jay Nix imposed a curfew from midnight to 5:00am on the town. Then the various armed forces who are charged with keeping the “peace” whipped out their batons, long guns, prods, and their phalluses for all I know  — It would follow, don’t you think? — and the next thing anybody knew the beleaguered town had itself another riot.

Ferguson

Ferguson, Saturday Night (photo: Charlie Riedel/AP)

Nice work, peacekeepers!

If the idea is, indeed, to keep the peace (a presumption I doubt) all the Ferguson armies had to do was look back to August, 1968 in Chicago. The Democratic National Convention was about to start on Monday, the 26th. That Sunday, protestors from around the country had gathered in Lincoln Park to holler about the Vietnam War, civil rights, police brutality, FBI spying — you know, all the things that this holy land had gotten as wrong as it could back then.

Lincoln Park was, and is, a good three miles from the then-Conrad Hilton and Blackstone hotels where most of the delegates were staying. The park also was and is some eight miles from the International Amphitheater where the convention would kick off the next day. So there really was no chance the protesters could easily make their way to either location in order to create havoc. And, really, they needn’t have even bothered; Mayor Richard J. Daley’s Chicago Police were quite capable of creating havoc on their own, thank you.

See, protest organizers had bragged that more than 100,000 people would flood the city to call for the the end of the war and racism and all the other ills eating away at this holy land. By that Sunday night, only an estimated 5000 people from in and out of town were on hand for the express purpose of protest. To oppose them, the Chicago Police had canceled all vacations, leaves, and days off for its officers, giving the department an effective strength for that week of 11,900. They were joined by 7500 Illinois National Guardsmen, another 7500 US Army soldiers, and a thousand Secret Service agents. That’s a total of 27,900 armed men. They outnumbered protesters by more than 5-1.

Maier, 1968

Photo: Vivian Maier/Catharine Couturier Gallery

Now then, Lincoln Park. Organizers had applied for permits to allow protesters to sleep in Lincoln Park during convention week. Mayor Daley nixed this and when protesters sued to overturn his ruling, they were stymied by Federal District Court Judge William Lynch, Daley’s former law partner.

Nevertheless, a throng had gathered in Lincoln Park that Sunday afternoon to hear music and speeches and pretend they were stronger than their disappointing numbers. They weren’t. The Chicago Police ordered the park cleared after the 11:00pm curfew and when protesters refused to budge, the cops swept in, using tear gas, nightsticks, and their fists. It was a rout. Cops beat long-haired kids, reporters and, occasionally, innocent passersby throughout the night in the neighborhoods surrounding the park. Local emergency rooms were flooded. The stink of tear gas wafted over the city’s fashionable Old Town district and Near North Side long past dawn.

It was the first episode in a nightly recurring series that lasted until the Convention was finished on Thursday. The violence culminated in the Battle of Michigan Avenue, outside the Conrad Hilton Hotel on Wednesday night. Network television cameras caught Chicago Police officers beating people senseless with their nightsticks, unprovoked and without discrimination. Many convention delegates were swept up in the violence merely because they happened to be trying to get into their hotel.

Chicago, August 1968

Battle Ground

The whole fiasco would be termed a “police riot” by the Walker Report, the official inquiry into events that week. It’s been said Democratic candidate for president, Hubert Humphrey, lost the election Wednesday night as America watched the mayhem on TV. Voters associated the Democrats with chaos and revolution. Republican Richard Nixon began to promise them calm.

Anyway, Mayor Daley’s police could have avoided much — perhaps even all — the pandemonium had a commander or even the mayor himself said, Let ‘em sleep in Lincoln Park. As Mike Royko later wrote, the section of the park where the protesters proposed to camp out was not visible from the streets and could easily have been encircled by the police in order to contain the crowd. Protesters could have sung folk songs, made speeches, and smoked joints all night long — some could even have slept — as the cops kept them confined without them even being aware of it.

That didn’t happen and so the course of history was changed.

Now, let’s get back to Ferguson. Apparently, the protest center the last week has been the convenience store that burned the first night of rioting. Tensions eased mid-week, after the governor had sent in the capable and sympathetic commander of the state Highway Patrol to handle the nightly disturbances. All seemed to be going well — or at least better — until Gov. Nix felt the urge to prove his dick was bigger than any of the protesters’ and slapped his curfew on them Saturday afternoon.

Again, there could have been a better way. All the authorities had to do was allow people rally around the convenience store all night long. They could have been contained, subtly. It’s doubtful anybody’d get the bright idea to start marching here and there at 3:00 o’clock in the morning, especially after the previous day’s full slate of marches and foot stompings.

I suppose Gov. Nix wouldn’t have been able to display the sheer massiveness of his male organ had he chosen that avenue of action. And I suppose I’ve forgotten that for many of our leaders, that’s the most important thing.

Hot Air

Anti-American

I don’t know, maybe I ought to stop reading the news. Maybe I should bury my head in the sand. Pretend it all doesn’t exist. Ignore it all.

Too much is making me too mad. To wit: conservative columnist George Will referred the other day to the plot hatched by Richard M. Nixon in the fall of  1968 to sabotage the  peace negotiations among this holy land and the two Vietnams, North and South.

The story of how Nixon, going through intermediaries Henry Kissinger and Anna (the Dragon Lady) Chennault succeeded in influencing the South Vietnamese not to okay a pending peace deal until after that year’s presidential election. Nixon won that fall, in part, because he’d promised a secret peace deal of his own This ugly tale long has been accepted as gospel by many  historians.

Nixon/Kissinger

War Criminals

Nixon apologists for just as long have said those who told that story were nuts. Now they can’t deny it anymore, not when one of the Near Right’s own, George Will, mentions it casually as if he were talking about Nixon’s ski nose or Kissinger’s way with blonde women. Recently released records, notes, and FBI files confirm the story. Some 20,000 US military personnel as well as several hundred thousand Vietnamese, both military and civilian, were killed following nixon’s now-verified machinations.

Oh, and the people of the US continued to be torn apart by the war (as well as poverty, racism, and a host of other ills that ran hand in hand with Vietnam.)

In other words, Nixon felt it worth perhaps a quarter of a million lives to get elected president. And he didn’t really care that the American people were taking sides — sometimes murderously — against each other. In fact, he capitalized on that schism. Nixon beat Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey that fall by only a touch more than half a million votes.

And the funny thing is, that’s not what’s driving my anger over this story. What is making me livid is that four years later, American voters reelected Nixon with the fourth-highest margin in US history.

So we returned to office in a landslide a man who at various times engaged in a criminal conspiracy, violated campaign finance laws, illegally attempted to use the FBI to harass political opponents, acted in contempt of Congress, and — we now know for certain — committed an act of treason.

Then as now, we hardly deserve to flatter ourselves by calling this nation a democracy.

Alibi

Just to make my position clear, I hold that it’s irrelevant whether or not Michael Brown strong-armed that convenience store guy moments before he was killed.

Ferguson

Screenshot From NBC News

Two reasons:

1) The officer who whacked had not been informed a young man resembling Brown was a suspect

2) Stealing a box of cigars is not a capital offense

Are we clear?

Busing

Let’s hope the new Bloomington Transit center at Walnut and 3rd streets improves bus service, helps the transit authority save money and gasoline, helps clear our air, relieves traffic snarls, heals the sick, comforts the poor, and is the final step toward achieving world peace because, otherwise, that son of a buck is one ugly edifice.

BTC

Photo: Jeremy Hogan/Herald Times

The place opens Monday (paywall) at 6:00pm.

Hot Air

Peace, Love & Soul

Well, whaddya know?

The Gov. of MO has sent in the Highway Patrol to Ferguson and next thing you know, everybody’s all lovey-dovey.

Highway Patrol

10-4!

Can this be a turning point in the militarization of our police departments?

Will cop bosses now realize that the people of this holy land don’t particular care to see armored vehicles on the streets of their cities?

Or is all the kumbaya just dumb luck?

Kitchen Confidential

Such brutality!

From Herald Times

Every woman should know to use a light skillet on her partner’s head. Banging a guy on the coconut with a cooking pot is just criminal.

Dough Woe

Speaking of ludicrous situations, Gov. Mike Pence will continue to cut state funding of public universities as a hedge against another economic recession/depression.

The Guv’s sitting on a spare $2 billion and he’s prancing around telling anyone who’ll listen what a great budgeteer he is. And, believe it or not, tons o’folks are listening. After the various bubbles burst and investment bankers had squeezed every cent out of their fancy financial instruments leading up to the collapse of the global economy in 2007-08, Indiana started trimming the fat out of its budget so’s the state would have money in the bank for the next economic disaster. Fat, you must understand, includes trivial things like education, social services, health care — all those things, in other words, that don’t have to do with the pouring of concrete and the further enrichment of the already rich.

Money

None For You

Social services, natch, are for the takers. Education is for commies. $2 billion socked away in the bank is for those who worship good, sound economic principals above all things. You know, the decent people of our great republic.

Pence’s plan is to slash allocations for Hoosier universities if state tax revenues fail to reach a certain threshold in any given year. He’s doing this because, god forbid, he never, ever, ever wants to tap that $2B in the bank.

Following the governor’s lead, I’m proud to announce The Loved One and I have a surplus $200 in our checking account. And we’re not going to touch it even if a wind storm blows the roof off our modest chez. It’s better to be exposed to the elements as we sleep than to spend money that’s just sitting there.

Wow!

Today’s the anniversary of the reception of the “Wow! Signal,” a narrowband radio burst detected by Ohio State University’s “Big Ear” radio telescope in 1977. Acc’d’g to those astro-geeks who know such things, the Wow! Signal can be interpreted as a message sent out to the Universe by an intelligent species on some planet located (from our POV) in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius.

I won’t bore you with all the tech details, mainly because I hardly understand them myself, but the signal’s radio signature purportedly mirrors that of the “hydrogen line.” That’s the electromagnetic spectral line frequency emanated by hydrogen atoms when they undergo energy changes. Don’t ask.

Wow! Signal

Anyway, SETI searchers long have supposed that if a gang of green beings from another planet wanted to announce their presence, they’d do so by broadcasting that particular alphanumeric code. Hydrogen is the simplest and most plentiful element in existence and the hypothesis holds that every intelligent civilization would get the reference.

Well, we got it 37 years ago and scientists ever since have been trying in vain to get it again. Their failure to do so has convinced doubters that the signal was some kind of weird fluke. Nuh-uh, say those in the Wow camp: The code is so precise that it’s virtually impossible to occur by chance.

The argument could become moot much sooner than most of us realize. At least one prominent SETI researcher has predicted humans will detect and verify an extraterrestrial signal within 20 years. Seth Shostack says more powerful computers will be able to wade through the noise and pinpoint faint radio frequency signals sent by ETs before two decades passes.

Title Card

All I can say is, Cool!

Nanu

Hot Air

More On GMOs

So, I know an evolutionary biologist who is working tirelessly on her PhD. This morning at The Pencil back office (AKA Soma Coffee) I leaned close to her and cooed the words, “What’s your take on GMOs? And can you say it in one sentence?”

Her response: “People are afraid of the wrong thing.”

[Just to clarify, she doesn't mean the gen. pub. should be afraid of a nuclear exchange rather than GMOs, for instance, or the bogeyman. She means people's knee-jerk GMO repulsion is based on a basic misunderstanding of the process.]

From "The Creature from the Black Lagoon"

Scarier Than GMOs?

Which is what I’ve been saying all along!

Bullets Vs. Kid Gloves

Just wondering: Why do cops kill unarmed black kids for everything up to and including jay-walking but when an armed, white gun nut goes on a deranged quest to ambush police and fire fighters (employing live fire and bombs) in order to overturn our purported tyrannical gov’t, the greatest care is taken to insure his safety before he’s apprehended?

Leguin

Douglas Lee Leguin: Still Alive Despite Firing At Cops And Detonating Bombs

Kid Stuff

Personal to police depts. all over this holy land: Stop playing GI Joe; you’re adults now (links here, here, and here).

Ferguson, MO

Law Enforcement?

Negotiable Justice

Justin Wykoff’s att’y sez his client’s case will go to a jury.

Wykoff, of course, was the well-liked, well-respected Bloomington Department of Public Works project manager who got cracked for allegedly scamming a quarter of a mill USD* in a kickback scheme with a Bedford contractor (*of a total of $800,00 bilked). Folks in and out of local gov’t were shocked when news of Wykoff’s bust emerged. Nevertheless, the feds seem to have a strong case against him.

Wykoff

Likable

Usually, guys accused of fraud and embezzlement in federal district courts don’t go to trial because they strike plea agreements with prosecutors. Wykoff’s lawyer, John Boren of Martinsville, acc’d’g to today’s Herald Times, is ready to go all the way to fight the charges. Boren told the H-T he’ll call for a jury trial.

Kinky public employees rarely want to go before a jury because if there’s one thing a panel of peers doesn’t cotton to, it’s stealing their tax dollars. Still, Wykoff and Boren want to take their chances before a dozen registered voters.

My guess is they’re betting Wykoff’s likability will be a big asset in their case. In fact, Borden just may be negotiating a plea agreement even as we speak with Wykoff singing about his co-conspirators in exchange for a slap on the wrist. By threatening to go to a jury, Boren may effectively be saying, Hey, you willing to risk your whole case? Gimme the best you’ve got and I’ll sign my guy up for voice lessons.

Kyle Killing Minors Moundsmen

Kyle Schwarber, late of the Indiana University Hoosiers baseball nine, still is battering minor league pitchers as he enters his third month of professional baseballing.

Schwarber pounded college hurlers on his way to becoming the Chicago Cubs’ top choice in June amateur draft (No. 4 overall). He’s kept up the onslaught even against superior competition in the for-pay game.

Schwarber

Schwarber, The Night He Was Drafted By The Cubs

The kid known as The Hulk has settled in as a left fielder for the Daytona Cubs, a High A minors outfit. Schwarber played catcher for the Hoosiers but isn’t considered an adequate potential major league backstop. By playing the outfield, his path to the bigs just may be shorter. Again, expect to see him swinging the bat in Wrigley Field either in September 2015 or right out of the gate after spring training 2016.

And, again, stay tuned here for all the Kyle Schwarber news you can ask for.

Hot Air

Bang

“I don’t want to sugarcoat it,” attorney Benjamin Crump said yesterday, “[Michael Brown] was executed in broad daylight.”

The only issue I’ll take with Crump is that an execution, by definition, takes place as a penalty for a capital crime, at least in this holy land. Michael Brown not only had committed no capital crime, he’d done nothing wrong at all save for walking in the street and not immediately scooting onto the the sidewalk before his killer opened fire.

In general, we don’t take the lives of jaywalkers in this great democracy.

Noose

We give cops guns and badges but we can’t give them brains no matter how much funding we allocate for our police departments. The cop who whacked Michael Brown didn’t use his fully human brain when he pumped the kid full of lead Saturday afternoon; no, he used the ancient, paleo-evolutionary part of it, the part “involved in aggression, dominance, territoriality, and ritual displays” [thanks, Wikipedia,] the part called by some the reptilian brain.

The cop who killed Michael Brown employed no more reasoning power and compassion than a crocodile.

The only question left is how many more cops are there like him?

Hoteliers

A couple of nice young women came into the Book Corner yesterday. They were from Nashville, Tennessee. One of them told me she was a devotee of the Brothers Grimm. She found a colorful, richly illustrated, cloth-bound compendium of their best known tales. She was overjoyed.

The two told me they were in town to train the staff at the new Hyatt hotel on Kirkwood Avenue.

I wished them well. Their hotel, on the other hand? Ick.

Hyatt Place Bloomington

[Side note: As I write this I'm eavesdropping on a tale being told by a property owner near the hotel construction site. This property owner says heavy trucks crushed decorative lighting fixtures and much of a perennial garden she had installed outside her building. When she and her people complained to the contractor, the fellow essentially shrugged and said, Whaddya gonna do?]

Bang, II

The American Bar Association last week released a report finding that killings have actually increased in states that have Stand Your Ground laws.

Imagine that!

Al Jazeera America reports on that report, the product of a 2013 National Task Force on Stand Your Ground Laws set up by the ABA. The report recommends states ditch their SYG laws forthwith.

Figures. Liberal lawyers and socialist task forces — of course they’re going to be against laws that virtually declare states in which they’ve been enacted the Wild West.

From "The Wild Bunch"

Standing Their Ground

And that is the Wild West of a Sam Peckinpah movie. In other words, a load of bullshit.

Iconography

Writer Miriam Krule points out in Slate magazine that with the death yesterday of Lauren Bacall, “all 16 of the 20th-century stars immortalized in Madonna’s Vogue are now dead.”

In case you’ve forgotten, here the others:

  • Greta Garbo
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Marlene Dietrich
  • Joe DiMaggio
  • Marlon Brando
  • James Dean
  • Grace Kelly
  • Jean Harlow
  • Gene Kelly
  • Fred Astaire
  • Ginger Rogers
  • Rita Hayworth
  • Katharine Hepburn
  • Lana Turner
  • Bette Davis

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 197 other followers

%d bloggers like this: