Hot Air

Indian Affairs

Yet another one of our notable customers at the Book Corner is Indiana University’s Indian cultures and civilizations professor Sumit Ganguly. He and his family are insatiable readers, which makes them mahatmas indeed in our humble view.

Ganguly

Sumit Ganguly

Ganguly took over the mic for WFIU’s Profiles program this past Sunday. He spoke with Canadian/American/Indian author Shauna Singh Baldwin (podcast link), who also runs Milwaukee’s noted Safe House, a spy-themed restaurant that’s been allowing customers who give the high sign to pass through its secret passageway for nearly 50 years now.

Baldwin has written a number of books detailing the south Asia experience and Ganguly grilled her on said tomes. She had some fascinating insights into a developing consumer culture in the subcontinent. Some people even see their children as show-off-able possessions in some quarters of India, she says. Of course, Americans have become quite adept at turning their spawn into trophies.

India, natch, is an amazing place. One of every seven earthlings lives in that country and some of its national traditions and celebratory migrations include hundreds of millions of people at a crack. Throw an ear at Ganguly and Baldwin. Apparently, I’m not the only one who conducts a good interview in this town.

Al Fresco Professors

Speaking of Sumit Ganguly, he and IU Maurer School of Law professor Feisal Istrabadi sat in the cool sun outside chef Daniel Orr’s FARMbloomington restaurant Wednesday last week, enjoying lunch and, no doubt, solving the world’s problems. Now, if only the world would listen.

Istrabadi/UN

 Feisal Istrabadi At The UN

Istrabadi, an IU alum, served as Iraq’s ambassador to the United Nations after that nation reorganized itself in the aftermath of the US invasion.

High Crimes

Feisal isn’t the only big shot Istrabadi in town. His sis, Zaineb, yet another Book Corner loyalist, is a senior lecturer in IU’s Near Eastern Languages & Cultures dept.

Istrabadi

Zaineb Istrabadi (Herald Times Photo)

She points out a tragic irony in all the hubbub over the shoot-down of that Malaysian airlines jet last week. She wrote (coyly) on Facebook this weekend:

Istrabadi Facebook

How quickly the rest of us forget. Back in 1988, long before the inventions of the printing press and TV, gunners aboard a US Navy guided missile cruiser shot down a fully loaded Iran Air jumbo jet. All 290 people on the plane perished.

For its part, Reagan Administration officials shrugged their shoulders and said, How were we s’posed to know it was a passenger jet? Considering the fact that an Airbus A300 is more than three times the size of a fighter jet, was following its normal daily flight path, and had identified itself as a civilian airliner, the US response in retrospect seems perhaps even more criminal than Vladmir Putin’s in recent days.

For his part, The Gipper never formally apologized to Iran for the loss of life and, in fact, both the entire crew and the air-warfare coordinator of the USS Vincennes received medals for meritorious service after their tour of duty in the Strait of Hormuz, from which the ship launched the surface-to-air missiles that downed the plane.

But wait, there’s more. Back in 1983 (guess who was Prez then, as well), our clients in far western Asia, the South Koreans, lost a fully-loaded 747 en route from Anchorage, Alaska, to Seoul. A Russian interceptor shot down Korean Air Flight 007 over the Sea of Japan, in Russian air space, resulting in 269 deaths. Reagan and his boys shook their fists at the Russians until strong evidence came to light that the flight had intentionally veered into Russian air space, most likely at our behest, just to see what them Russkies would do. Well, they shot the goddamned plane out of the sky; whadjya expect?

Knowing that the Russians have itchy trigger fingers and still sending a passenger jet over their turf is about as reckless as geopolitical actions get. In fact, this holy land (if the charges are true) turned hapless foreign civilians into cannon fodder without their knowledge.

So, let’s cut the bullshit about how appalled we are by Putin’s, Russia’s, and the Russian-backed separatists’ recent actions.

Saint Alive

I’ve blogged in other venues (don’t ask me for links, I’m too pressed for time to retrieve them right now) about what a plaster saint and a blowhard former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy is. He’s made a cottage career out of telling the world how it ought to behave. He’s written books for adults, young adults, and children, the central thesis of all of them his assertion that he possesses the secret of all that is right and good.

He’s back pontificating again. He told a reporter from the Tampa Tribune this weekend that he would have nothing to do with openly gay player Michael Sam if he were still in charge of a football team. Dungy said: “I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it. It’s not going to be totally smooth. Things will happen.”

Dungy

Tony Dungy Looks Heavenward

In other words, accepting a player who happens to love other men isn’t worth a football coach’s time or trouble. You know, just like it would have been too much of a hassle for a baseball manager to welcome Jackie Robinson to his team.

This, by the way, from a man who thought the whole Miami Dolphins flap over teammate bullying that led a player to retire prematurely would have been, really, no problem at all. Dungy was quoted as saying that the scandal that engulfed the Dolphins team last fall could have been a good thing. The team could have come together around it, he said. Dungy added he’d have used the situation as a teaching opportunity.

But a gay guy teammate? Nah. Too much trouble.

Clean Construction

My dear friends Sophia and Danny Wasik sold their first green house the other day. No, not greenhouse as in the place where you keep plants. That’s green house as in a domicile that’s energy efficient, uses recycled materials, and has minimal toxic chemical-laden features.

Dig the joint they built and sold up in Crystal Lake, a far northwest exurb of Chicago. It’s proof positive that people needn’t live in Stone Age hovels in order to minimize their carbon footprints. Or feetprint. You know what I mean.

The Wasiks have long dreamed of creating a biz wherein they’d build or flip retrofitted homes that meet or exceed current standards for eco-friendly construction. Now their operation, Terra Green, is making them dough while they advance the cause of good clean homebuilding.

Wasiks

The Wasiks, Surrounded By Green, Naturally

Here’s hoping more of our local Bloomington friends get the itch to get into the same racket in these parts. B-town is the crunchiest of crunchy locales; surely scads of savvy homebuilders here can make plenty o’coin building green homes.

Call or email Sophia and Dan for info on how to get such a biz off the ground.

Hot Air

Courage

I became a fan of the late James Garner a ways back when I was an idealistic teen hoping to participate in the remaking of this corrupt, sick, unfair world. Immediately after Martin Luther King was whacked, I delved into his life and adopted him as my hero. I learned that several white actors had participated with him in the March on Washington in August, 1963. Among them were Burt Lancaster, Charlton Heston, Marlon Brando, James Franciscus, and James Garner.

It took plenty of coglioni for a white guy to associate himself with the Civil Rights movement back then. Heston was warned off rubbing shoulders with King by his agents and his friends who ran movie studios. They told him it would be career suicide and, in fact, Heston’s career arc dipped significantly in the mid- and late-’60s.

Carroll/Garner

Actress Diahann Carroll & James Garner At The March On Washington

For his part, Garner also experienced a rough patch after throwing his lot in with King et al. Prior to the March, Garner’d portrayed a charming, borderline-swindler card player named Bret Maverick on the long-running eponymous TV series. The year of the March he appeared in the Hollywood blockbuster The Great Escape. The future looked limitless for him. Then, after pix of him attending the March appeared in newspapers all over the country, it seemed he was only able to snag roles in mediocre, lower-budget films for a few years.

It wasn’t until he scored the role of private detective Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files in the more easy-going ’70s that he hit the top of the biz again.

The world, BTW, is still corrupt, sick, and unfair. Garner, though, did what he could about it

In The Cards

Speaking of local blogs (well, I did mention one yesterday, and writing this one almost every day seems a seamless task to me, so, yeah, we’ve been speaking of local blogs), if you’re into the woo occult you might be interested in Maryll Jones’s Interpretations.

Her URL, BTW, is maryll.com. I asked her how she managed to score such an address — you’d think several jillion bloggers named Maryll would have snapped it up way before she did. She told me she purchased it in 1998 which, I believe, was back in the days when the interwebs were powered by steam. She’s been sitting on maryll.com for lo these many years yet Interpretations is only a couple of months old.

Maryll studies tarot and talks about the cards and her life in Interpretations. She even occasionally does impromptu readings for interested parties at Soma Coffee. Loyal Pencillistas know that I look askance at things like tarot. Nevertheless, I like to flog for my blog-writing colleagues.

Criswell

“We Are All Interested In The Future….”

There. Now, ain’t I a broad-minded fellow?

The Red Dawn

So, the City of Somerset, Kentucky, has opened its own municipally-run retail gas station. Folks in that neck of the woods can fill up on regular unleaded (the only octane the place offers) for as little as $3.36 a gal. There are no Cool Ranch Doritos, lubricated reservoir tip condoms, nor sullen teenagers behind the counter. The place sells gas, period.

The city buys the gas wholesale and then sells it based on the current average regional retail price. Mayor Eddie Girdler of Somerset sez the city has no interest in making a profit on this venture, meaning he’s likely a child-molesting, commie, Nazi abortionist and prob. was born in Kenya around the time Barack Obama was.

Hammer/Sickle/Star

You Can Trust Your Car To The Man Who Wears The Star

Acc’d’g to the Washington Post, local private gas station operators are aghast at the development. Their prices, natch, are higher than the city’s place because they have to stock their shelves with junk food, booze, and cheap prophylactics. Oh, and they have to hire sullen teenagers to put up product and sell it. One fellow who runs a nearby convenience store/gas station says, basically, only an idiot would not recognize the city’s venture as “socialist.”

It may interest you to know Eddie Girdler is a Republican.

Keeping Reachin’ For The Stars

I understand Casey Kasem’s body has gone missing. The TV DJ died earlier this month even as his wife and other potential heirs fought tooth and nail over whom he loved mostest.

Kasems

Casey Kasem & Wife Jean in the 1980s

My Soma Coffee co-loiterer Michael Spica wonders if there’ll be an American Top 40 list of possible hiding places for Casey’s corpse.

Hot Air

Chicken Checkin’

One of our town’s most talented copywriters spends her time outside the corporate cubicle raising chickens. Jana Wilson lives with her family on a nice 20-acre spread nearby. She writes about Gallus gallus domesticus husbandry in her blog, The Armchair Homesteader.

Tons o’folks these days are growing the birds, mainly to be able to eat fresh eggs and even for the fresh meat to liven up their cacciatore. (Hey, wait a minute: Do peeps eat alla cacciatore around here?) Anyway, the City of Bloomington, for instance, allows residents to raise chicken flocks, although said flocks can’t number more than five birds and none may be roosters. Apparently, that crowing rooster next door might cause some little friction in the n’hood. That and chicken coops often stink.

The chickens-in-the-city trend got a huge jump start about five years ago when author Susan Orlean wrote about it in the pages of The New Yorker. “[R]ight now,” she wrote, “across the country and beyond, there’s a surging passion for raising the birds.”

Chicken

“A Surging Passion”

When my grandmother, Anna Lazzara, lived in Chi., she was quite put out because the city wouldn’t allow her to keep chickens in the backyard. But back in the 1930′s people could still turn fresh chickens into dinner that night by buying the birds live at the butcher shop. Anna would tell my mother, Sue, to go get a chicken on a given weekday, a chore Ma loathed. She’d have to squeeze the bird between her arm and her chest in order to prevent it from fleeing, the critter pecking and clawing at her all the way home. Then Anna would grab the chicken from my mother, wrap her two fists around its neck and yank. Within minutes, the chicken’d lie still and be ready for plucking, singeing, and washing.

Ma always said those weekly walks from the butcher shop produced in her a phobia of all birds.

Yesterday, Wilson wrote about the problem of newbie chicken-raisers who purchase a passel of chicks and soon discover that one of the purported hens is actually a guy. She writes:

You anticipate these adorable little chicks growing into egg-producing hens and the speed at which they grow is just amazing.  They’re growing more feathers every day, their little combs beginning to develop, their legs lengthening. It’s all very fun and exciting. Fun until the day when little Sue emits the strangest sound. It sounds like a strangled screech. Could it be… oh no, surely not. But yes, its a crow!

Oh dear, little Sue is really little Stan.

Remember, cities that allow residents to keep chickens usually frown on or outright ban the keeping of males. “And for good reason: they are quite noisy and don’t crow just at daybreak,” Wilson writes. “Trust me on this one… they can crow just about any time of the day or night.”

In any case, check out Jana’s blog. You’ll even learn what a Sicilian Buttercup is. (And, no, it’s not me.)

Après Ce, Le Déluge

It turns out those who’ve been wringing their hands over the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision, predicting that all manner of Christianists would start suing to get out of certain laws and responsibilities because their “sincerely-held beliefs” preclude them from doing so, really aren’t just being Chicken Littles. Any number of “sincere believers” have made moves to get out of things like not firing employees because they’re gay and other expressions of deep spirituality.

It would be hard to top this one, though: Pro-life activist attorneys in Florida have filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a nurse who applied for a job with the Tampa Family Health Centers. The attorneys claim the medical center refused to consider her for employment because she is Christian.

How horrible, right? What’s this crazy land coming to?

Christians/Lion

Persecution?

Natch, the case isn’t that simple. The nurse made a point to tell the clinic’s HR director that her Christian beliefs forbid her from prescribing certain contraceptives, which just happens to be one of the primary tasks of the place. I suppose it’d be be rather like a newly graduated cartographer applying for a job at the local globe factory and saying he would not be able to draw maps on the co.’s product because he’s a member of the Flat Earth Society. The wags at Wonkette explain the impasse thusly:

Let’s play a game. It is sort of a choose-your-own-adventure make-believe game. Costumes optional.

You are about to graduate from Thing-Doing School and apply for a job as a professional Thing-Doer, as one does after attending Thing-Doing School. You inform your potential employer that you are interested in the Thing-Doing job but will be unable to perform Thing-Doing duties because of your religious beliefs. Your potential employer tells you, “LOL, that’s hilarious, but we are actually looking for a real Thing-Doer who is willing to perform Thing-Doing duties, because that is the job. Thanks but no thanks.”

For this, nurse Sara Hellwege and her handlers, the Alliance Defending Freedom, will be taking up time and space on the federal district court’s docket to right what they see as a horrible wrong — although the sane among us see it as pretty much a cheap stunt.

Thanks Justice Alito and the rest of the straight, male, white, Catholic majority of SCOTUS. (And don’t write to correct me that Clarence Thomas is not white; he’s whiter than an albino wearing a lab coat in a snowstorm.)

Stoned, Again

Speaking of regressive fundamentalist extremists, Al Jazeera tells the tale of The Islamic State‘s latest contribution to civilization. The erstwhile ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), fresh off its successful campaign to capture and control a significant swath of Iraq and bits of Syria, is now turning its attention to the behavior of women, AKA sluts.

The Izzy State is bringing back that fave from yesteryear, public stoning for women who dig sex. Acc’d’g to AJ’s report, members of the gang that scares even al Qaeda stoned a woman to death in the public square in the town of Tabaqa, in Syria, because she’d committed adultery.

R. Crumb

Flashback

An important corollary to the story is the fact that the man with whom she sullied all of Islam was charged with no crime at all because, well…, because he’s a man, you dope.

 

Hot Air

School Games

If bureaucracies make you break out in hives, you’d better pull out that old bottle of calamine lotion for this one.

The Monroe County Community School Corporation has eliminated the position of “talent and diversity specialist,” a job it created less than a year ago.

The reason the MCCSC created the position was to get itself out of hot water for not promoting one Diane Hanks to be principal of Tri-North Middle School because, some hinted, she is dark-skinned. The system had to chill Hanks as well as a coterie of community activists who hollered that the MCCSC’s principal ranks were disproportionately white. So they gave Hanks a shiny new title and a bump in pay.

Hanks

Diane Hanks

As the MCCSC’s talent and diversity specialist, Hanks traveled far and wide to convince teachers of color Bloomington would be a dynamite place to work.

The question of how a person who was passed over allegedly due to her skin color could persuade people with that skin color that the MCCSC was the place for them has never been fully explained. The MCCSC will not release figures showing how many non-white teachers have flocked to our fair town since Hanks started recruiting last October.

Now Hanks has been given the job of principal of Bloomington Graduation School for the school year starting in two weeks and — voila! — the MCCSC suddenly realized it doesn’t need a talent and diversity specialist anymore. School superintendent Judy DeMuth sez the task of convincing “diverse” teachers to come here will fall back to Bev Smith, director of school and community services. Smith handled the chore before the Hanks flap.

As it was way back when I was a recalcitrant student, school is a very confusing place.

Sports Sickness

I love sports. I hate sports.

No, I’m not losing my mind. This holy land, though? Oh yeah, it’s been losing it’s mind over sports for some few decades now. Our obsessive infatuation with sports dovetails nicely with two disparate historical events.

◆ The birth of free agency and the subsequent elevation of pro athletes to the plutocracy. We can complain all day long and deep into the night about how unfair it is that certain guys have all the dough and the rest of us can’t seem to find a way to pay the cable/internet bill but the truth is the vast majority of us secretly dream we’ll be rich big shots one day. And if we can, say, shoot baskets and get paid $10 million a year, well hell, we’ve died and gone to heaven. Guys who earn millions a year are deemed worthy of our attention and love even if they have the morals and ethics of hyenas.

Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez (r) Exits A Limousine

◆ The rise of ESPN, its imitators, and the 24-hour, wall-to-wall coverage of every conceivable atom of minutia about players, fans, managers, agents, sportscasters, peanut sellers, players’ girlfriends, team owners, strength and conditioning coaches, sports psychologists, announcers, fanatics in bars, and even the occasional innocent bystander who happens to be walking near the stadium on the day of the big game. The only things America loves more than millionaires are people who are on TV. Witness the number of people waving at the camera behind the street reporter who’s telling us how many people were killed instantly in the rollover crash on the Interstate. Being on TV makes us nearer to god. And since pro sports guys are on TV 24 hours a day, they must be divine.

Manning

What Are Your Thoughts On The Middle East, Peyton?

We’re so taken with sports guys that millions of us spend hundreds of dollars on jerseys that bear their names.  Your next door neighbor who wears Andrew Luck’s jersey honestly believes you’ll think slightly more of him because of it. And if Andrew Luck should somehow enter his life, he would overturn heaven and hell for his newfound friend.

Some folks swoon so much over present and former sports guys that they get screwed. Badly. On several levels, including the most vulgar.

To wit: The story of former so-so baseball player Mel Hall.

I call him a so-so baller because he never amounted to too much in the Major Leagues. OTOH, as a major leaguer, he was one of the 750 finest baseball players to emerge a pool of tens of millions — perhaps even hundreds of millions — who played the game around the world. And, as such, he made himself a comfy pile of dough — acc’d’g to baseball-reference.com, Hall earned more than $6 million in his nine years in the bigs.

Hall, even after he retired from baseball, was esteemed, idolized, trusted, treated like royalty, honored, and adopted by countless families and individuals. Donald Trump even set him up in an apartment on the very floor of Trump Tower that The Donald himself called home.

All this despite the fact that Hall was usually broke, a fraud, a mooch, homeless at various times, a serial impregnator, a predator, a statutory rapist, and a child molester. None of these facts was too hard to unearth at the time Hall burned through numerous families and ruined the childhoods of a passel of talented female athletes who’d been entrusted to his care.

He’d been a Yankee, he was rich (for a while, at least), and he’d been on TV — the American trifecta. Why wouldn’t any right-thinking father and mother allow him to sleep with their 14-year-old daughter in the master bedroom in exchange for his promise to take care of them financially for the rest of their lives? One did.

Hall

Trust

An unconscionable number of parents were swayed enough by Hall’s purported outer trappings to allow him to essentially take their daughters from them so he could teach them how to be big, rich sports stars just like him. Their underaged daughters, I might stress. These parents put said spawn in a peril most other parents would sever their arms to ward off.

Hall is now serving a prison sentence of 45 years for his sins. His story is told in a lengthy article entitled “The Many Crimes of Mel Hall” by Greg Hanlon in sbnation.com.

The parents who put their daughters in his care have not been jailed, although that’s where they belong.

I follow my beloved Chicago Cubs religiously and fret over their antics as if they were my own children. I celebrated loudly and deliriously when Chi.’s Bulls and Blackhawks won their championships. I was curious as to where LeBron James would play this coming season and turned up the car radio when it was announced he’d signed a contract with a new team. I’m pulling for the Oakland Athletics to win the World Series this fall. I even sort of know who Johnny Manziel is. In that, I love sports.

But when it comes to Mel Hall and the veneration too many people held him in, despite his monstrous ways, my love for the games quickly turns to hate.

Self-Improvement

A couple of emailers seem to be confused as to who or what I am.

One advises me I can fit easily into my bikini again. The other offers me penis enlargement pills. Frankly, I don’t know which product to send away for first!

Bathing Beauty

Me At The Age of 30

Danger!

Bob Schieffer of CBS News made news himself the other day by telling an interviewer the planet is more dangerous now than it was when the USSR and this holy land hand tens of thousands of thermonuclear-tipped missiles pointed at each other. This follows on the heels of Sen. John McCain’s pronouncement earlier this month that he has “never seen the world in more turmoil than it is in today.”

Both fellows are full of horseshit.

McCain/Schieffer

McCain & Schieffer: Chickens Little

Schieffer’s mis-take on the world situ. has been trumpeted in all the conservative news mags and sites. McCain is a Republican, meaning that although he’s not riding the farthest Right wave on the spectrum his worldview is decidedly starboard. The Right loves these observations because they can now say, Look how Barack Obama has screwed up the entire globe!

Admittedly, McCain wasn’t allowed access to the daily papers while he stayed at the Hanoi Hilton and other N. Viet. hideaways back in the late 1960s and early ’70s but in the ensuing years since his release, he’s had ample opportunity to learn how freaking dangerous this weird world was back then. Israel and Egypt were stewing between two major wars, each of which threatened to become nuclear, the nascent nation of Bangladesh’s civil war cost some three million poor souls their lives, the Nixon Administration was seriously considering a plan to bomb the dikes of North Vietnam which would have meant several millions would have perished in the ensuing floods and from starvation, Soviet tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia to crush a popular uprising there, here in the US, hundreds of cities erupted in rioting for at least four straight summers, leading many to fear the outbreak of a general insurrection or even a second Civil War, the USSR and China faced off in a border war that (pardon me for sounding repetitive here) threatened to go nuclear at any moment, the Khmer Rouge fought the government of Cambodia in a bloody civil war, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and George Wallace were cut down by assassins’ bullets, Greece was taken over by a military junta, a riot during a soccer match led to a war between Honduras and El Salvador, North Korea seized the spy ship, USS Pueblo, and kept its crew prisoners for nearly a year, bombings occurred at university campuses and department stores around the world, French students and laborers went on strike and millions took to the streets throughout May, 1968, effectively shutting down the entire country, huge oil spills occurred seemingly monthly, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland burned, the 1968 Democratic National Convention was marred by rioting, and…, and…, oh, just STFU, John McCain.

Prague Spring

Prague, 1968, Specifically; Anywhere In The World, Generally

And, as for Bob Schieffer, in the year 1968, the United States possessed more than 30,000 nuclear weapons and the Soviet Union boasted nearly 10,000 of them. Even though today some observers say the concept of Mutually-Assured Destruction prevented the leaders of the two countries from embarking on a course that would lead to a nuclear exchange, many of the tactical nuclear weapons on both sides were under the control of field commanders who could have elected to launch at any given time, leading to an escalation in hostilities that could have wiped out a billion or more human beings, not to mention bunny rabbits, puppies, and pigeons. Cockroaches, I understand, might have survived such a holocaust but that probably would have been scant consolation for the grateful dead.

So, you too, Bob Schieffer, STFU.

Hot Air

Them’s The Rules

Pay close attention, Pencillistas. I will not tolerate ad hominem attacks, name-calling, gratuitous slurs, the ramping up of emotionalism, and other violations of my personal code of civility in the comments section of this communications colossus.

Yesterday some pejoratives were thrown around. Stop it. Period.

Peace Cop

The Seekers

In one of P.G. Wodehouse’s stories, Bertie Wooster’s young cousins, Claude and Eustace, hope to join a ridiculously frivolous college fraternity called The Seekers. In order to gain entrance to the group the two must bring in souvenirs from a day trip to London. They begin by trying to steal a truck but the truck driver puts up a good fight and so they look elsewhere for their tickets to the club. As the day goes on, they shoplift a huge fish from a market, they round up a gang of stray cats, and they cop a top hat off the head of a prominent psychiatrist whose car their taxi is stuck next to in a traffic jam.

Wodehouse

Wodehouse

Claude and Eustace then park their swag in Bertie’s apartment while he is out. Lo and behold, Bertie that afternoon will be entertaining that very psychiatrist for lunch. It turns out the psychiatrist also has twin neurotic distastes for fish and cats. Naturally, he concludes that Bertie is insane.

It’s all a lot of goofiness, which was the hallmark of Wodehouse’s work. None of Wodehouse’s fictional conceits, though, was as goofy as the true story of another group, also known as The Seekers, in 1954.

The Seekers were an apocalyptic cult that was certain the Earth was going to end on the winter solstice that year. They’d been so informed, they claimed, by messages from extraterrestrials who communicated telepathically with a woman named Dorothy Martin. Dorothy would then record said communications through a process called “automatic writing,” which can best be described as speaking in tongues with the aid of pen and paper.

Scads of folks believed Dorothy’s dire warnings about the endtimes. Many sold all their possessions, quit their jobs, and prepared for the big finale. Eventually, Martin informed The Seekers that a flying saucer would rescue those who believed in her warnings, whisking them away from the globe as it broke apart.

The Seekers

The Smart Ones

Alert Pencillistas will note that the end never came on December 21, 1954. When The Seekers were asked about the failure of Martin’s prediction, they “reasoned” that their own belief in the apocalypse, as well as their trumpeting of its coming to the rest of the benighted world, had warded it off. Their courage and sensitivity, they believed, had saved the world.

Chris Mooney recounts this story in a piece in Mother Jones on the fact that many of us don’t believe, well, facts. Entitled, “The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science,” Mooney’s piece tries to explain why climate change deniers, 9/11 truthers, Birthers, and all the rest seem so plentiful in our holy land these days.

Honest to gosh, there are real reasons for people being unreasonable. Even when confronted with the incontrovertible fact that their belief was nonsense, The Seekers continued to believe in it. How can that be? Scientists call this particular puzzle “motivated reasoning.” It’s in all of us, this urge to cherry-pick facts to support something we desperately want to believe even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Take me, for instance. When Paula Jones back in 1994 accused Bill Clinton of sending for her to come up to his hotel room and then he proceeded to pull out Little Bill several years before, I was certain it was a lie of monumental proportions. Clinton was my guy; I’d voted for him. I wanted to believe he’d never in a million years do such a thing. I wanted to believe the Republicans had made up the story out of whole cloth because, well, they’re bad guys. That became my motivated reasoning.

I was wrong. Clinton, it turned out, was a cock monkey. Paula Jones surely was one of many who’d had Wee Willie waggled in front of her.

Jones

I like to pride myself on my capabilities of reason and analytic thought. But I’m merely human. Mooney posits that motivated reasoning is all too human. Read the piece and perhaps you’ll gain an understanding of folks who can’t seem to see the story for the facts.

Wither The Dems

Book maven and political observer RE Paris reacted to my post about Evan Bayh possibly running for governor — and more — yesterday. Bayh, in her view, is as bitter a spoonful of cough syrup as Bill Clinton was. She writes:

It’s pitiful when the party you have voted with all your life gives you no reason to vote for them [anymore] — and your vote is always… They’re better than the other creeps.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Not Your Granny’s Party

 

Hot Air

They Love The Fight

Here’s a blurt: If you’re taking sides in the latest episode of the Israeli/Palestinian Hatfield/McCoy Feud, you’re part of the problem.

Gaza Violence 2014

Whose Explosions Do You Prefer?

Political Chairs

So, here comes news that Evan Bayh maybe, possibly, we’ll see, wants to be governor again. He’s sitting on a cool $10 million in his campaign war chest, which is the finest and best qualification for elective office in this holy land.

No one knows for sure if Bayh’s hot for the state’s top hot seat, but he ain’t sayin’ no way, mang. Bayh’s playing it coy by saying he’s too busy sending his sons off to college right now and he can’t be bothered with thinking about high offices. I believe him; surely, the lads needs their bags packed, their hair combed, their blue jeans pressed, and care packages prepared as they move on toward this next big step in their lives. Who else is going to handle those chores other than Indiana’s former senator and governor?

Generally, when pols play coy, that means they’ve made their minds up already and are merely waiting for the most opportune moment to announce their shiny new campaigns. And Bayh’s tilt for guv will be as shiny as any money can buy. Experts say his big wad makes him a formidable foe for the current occupant of the Hoosier guv’s mansion, Mike Pence. All Pence has going for him is a record of delivering to Indiana voters precisely what he promised them when he ran in 2012.

I call it a toss-up at this extremely early stage of the game.

Evan Bayh

Who? Me? Aw, I dunno.

Pence’s name, BTW, is still being bandied about by touts who are trying to dope out the 2016 presidential race. Smart guys here and there tossed his name around during the 2008 and 2012 contests, although no Pence for Prez activity ever crashed the nation’s internet servers.

Add to that the fact that Pence’s predecessor as governor, Mitch Daniels, also was seen as Republican presidential candidate timber. So what is it about Indiana governors that make them potential Oval Office occupants? Just off the top of my head, Indiana’s not a state infested with crime syndicate figures whose reach extends into the sitting Governor’s pockets, so Daniels, Pence, et al appear free of scandal in that sense. I’d always felt one of the main reasons Mario Cuomo never really ran hard for president was because his necessary dealings with New York’s mobsters would be thrown in his face at every campaign stop.

Indiana, too, is among the most anonymous of states. The Hoosier governor can go about his business without the corporate news media prying into his every orifice on a daily basis. So even if Pence, for instance, sabotages the state’s own Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz, national wags and wonks will simply shrug and say, So what? It’s Indiana.

All an Indiana governor has to do is look presentable, stay out of whorehouses and opium dens, and play coy about his presidential ambitions and next thing everyone knows he’ll be plumped as the next big thing. Hoosiers, BTW, are southern enough to appeal to a general electorate that prefers its presidents to sound more like Jimmy Stewart than Enrico Fermi, but not so much so that one can conclude they’ve just climbed down off a watermelon cart. Bill Clinton’s twang almost made him sound too southern for America’s liking, only his hillbilly patter was ameliorated by his Georgetown, Oxford, and Yale background. Pence and Daniels sound just right.

And, maybe, so does Bayh. Surely Bayh knows a return to the governor’s mansion will ignite talk of the White House for him. Here’s a safe bet: Should Bayh wrest the job away from Pence in 2016, and should Hillary Clinton let the White House slip through her fingers that same year, he’ll be a front runner for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.

If I Were A Rich Man

John Oliver, for my money, is now outdoing his former boss, Jon Stewart, in the area of trenchant political commentary spiced with humor and smart-assed-ness. Oliver’s fairly new show, Last Week Tonight, is the go-to source for current events on the teevee today.

The other day, he explained why Americans vote against their own interests and in favor of those of the uber-rich time and again. My lefty friends constantly ask on the interwebs why we support policies that’ll benefit, say, the Koch Bros. while screwing ourselves. The answer’s simple. I’ve said it time and again and John Oliver said it too. Listen:

Ball Of Confusion

I know, I know, my pious friends and loyal readers are going to want to kick me in my ample posterior for this. And what follows will merely be a preaching to the choir among my fellow non-believers, but I thought I’d share this chart prepared by graphic designer Andy Marlowe diagramming the many contradictions found in the Bible.

Bible Contradictions

Each arc represents a refutation, repudiation, or outright denial of some statement found earlier in the text that is the basis for the worldview of more than a billion people on this Earth.

“The truth,” reads the Gospel of John, Chapter 8, “shall make you free.” OTOH, that statement’s surely negated elsewhere in the Bible.

[h/t to Maryll Jones.]

Hot Air

Rape, Redux

My man-crush newspaper columnist Neil Steinberg addresses that stickiest of topics today: rape. I jumped into the same morass the day before yesterday on the Pencil.

Both columns in q. deal with rape on campus. Kids, you couldn’t get into a stickier mess than that of campus rape. Tons of frat boys and their running partners seem to believe all women want them in the worst way possible, and they only say no initially in some kind of perverse charade of chastity. No, to too many young males, means yes — after some strong persuasion that may or may not include physical intimidation.

Frat Boys

Surely They’ll Be Caring, Sensitive Lovers

Some college females, it’s been argued, seem to be defining rape as something they feel uncomfortable about only in retrospect. For my part, I asked some pointed questions in these precincts. For instance, why would a college-aged woman sleep in the same bed as her accused rapist and even make him breakfast the morning after the alleged act occurred?

Recently, many colleges have re-written their policies concerning rape accusations. One or two are even recommending negotiations in flagrant delicti along the lines of “May I now touch this?” which, I imagine, might throw a splash of cold water on the proceedings.

Sadly, way, way, way too many of our male college students haven’t the foggiest idea how to read the non-verbal signals a young woman is issuing. Those boys, of course, can’t see the forest for their wood.

Anyway, Steinberg says the efforts by colleges and universities to control the problem misses the point. He refers to a big front page article in today’s New York Times about how Hobart and William Smith Colleges mishandled one student’s accusation that members of the Hobart football team gang-raped her. [Males attend Hobart and females go to W. Smith, even though the two are considered part of one institution.]

NYT Front Page Story

The accusing student was harassed after the football players were exonerated in an apparent whitewash. Other students were enraged that she’d accuse the football guys of such a heinous crime even as they were on their way to an undefeated season. Winning, you know, excuses many crimes and misdemeanors.

Steinberg says rape victims are fools for turning to colleges for satisfaction. He writes:

[C]olleges have a hard enough time fielding competent professors. They are not in the crime-detection business, and while their bobbling such an investigation is not acceptable, it’s not surprising either.

He concludes:

The message from this story, a message that I believe is not driven home enough, and should be, is that if someone rapes you — a football player, a priest, a friend, anybody — you should always call the cops. Immediately. The cops might mishandle it, God knows they do that. But they’re the ones with experience in investigating crime, the ones in the best position to have a chance to get it right. Calling the police, I believe, is an important step in a crime being taken seriously.

Both Steinberg and I admit that we’re men, so what do we know? Again, I call for comment from loyal female Pencillistas.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 188 other followers

%d bloggers like this: