Category Archives: Matt Taibbi

Hotwire Air

Human, All Too Human

The gummint and its utilization of computers has been in the news of late.

Marketplace Website

Dig: the Obamacare websites went live three weeks ago and, apparently, there’s been nothing but trouble surrounding them. Yet not too long before that, leakers revealed that the National Security Agency is compiling meta-databases of all our phone calls. All of us being ±314 million Murricans in addition to the countless furriners whose phone chats we find it necessary to eavesdrop on. According to the more suspicious of our sisteren and brethren, the NSA computers are humming along quite nicely, processing the tens of billions of phone calls made each day.

Each computer set-up is handling more information than could have been found in all the books the human species has ever produced. And if that’s an exaggeration, well, it’s not terribly far off the mark.

Phone Tap

Having worked with computer geeks and hackers time and again, I know that designing a system to handle even the most banal of processes (say, a blog or a simple website with a shopping cart) entails the input of countless chefs and the implementation of ten times that many compromise fixes as well as add-ons just to humor the people paying for the project. And when the blog or site rolls out, its virtual structure resembles nothing so much as a house of cards built on a wobbly table outdoors on a blustery day.

Conventional wisdom holds that the more people involved in a software roll-out the more unwieldy it becomes. So let’s be frank: if it’s a gummint database or service website, it has had more hands on it than Justin Beiber tossed into the middle of an arena full of tweeners. Book it: both the Obamacare network and the NSA databases have the paw prints of multitudes of office supervisors, project managers, HR specialists, lawyers, priests, shamans, witch doctors, administrative assistants, and Tarot card readers all over them.

Meeting

“That’s 1,423 In Favor Of Barbie Pink, 1416 for Deep Cerise.”

That the Obamacare websites are cracking under the strain seems only natural. But somehow, according to those who see federal spooks under too many beds, the NSA operation is fine-tuned and efficient enough to know precisely how many pizzas I’ve ordered in since The Loved One went out of town Friday (Shhh! What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.)

I’m guessing this is an either/or issue. Either the feds and their staff geeks are savvy enough to keep excruciatingly exact tabulations of the number of booty calls all the assistant managers of all the Best Buy stores in this holy land made in the year 2012, or they can’t even set up an insurance exchange that can satisfactorily serve the residents of New Hampshire.

Naturally, the conspiracy theorists will have us believe that the “glitches” of the federal insurance marketplace website are mere covers to make us think Master Espionage Agent Barack Obama is incapable of listening to each and every one of us snoring at night. Oh, but he can, they’ll insist.

(You know, I had a girlfriend once whose snoring Barack Obama could have heard in Chicago or Hawai’i or Kenya or wherever he was at the time, even without the aid of fancy double-naught spy apparatus.)

Anyway, I buy the government-is-run-by-schlubs theory as opposed to the arch-villains that the conspiracy theorists see in their fever dreams. Take this quote from Matt Taibbi to the bank:

“[People in key positions of governmental power] are imagined to be a monolithic, united class of dastardly, swashbuckling risk-takers with permanent hard-ons for Bourne Supremacy-style ‘false flag’ and ‘black bag’ operations, instead of the mundanely greedy, risk-averse, backstabbing, lawn-tending, half-clever suburban golfers they are in real life.”

Duffers

Spy Agency Division Heads Golf Outing

So, I’m glad the feds are tripping all over themselves trying to fix or explain away the ramshackle Obamacare online system. It only proves that no one has the technical or organizational capability to use their computers to eavesdrop on each and every one of us.

Yet.

Believe me: If they could, they probably would.

The Pencil Today:

HotAirLogoFinal Sunday II

THE QUOTE

“Never follow the crowd.” — Bernard Baruch

Baruch

DIG THE NIGHT SKY IN 2013

This, from the Science Lama:

13 Must See Stargazing Events for 2013

[EP ED: Events and explanations reproduced verbatim unless otherwise noted.]

1) January 21 — Very Close Moon/Jupiter Conjunction

A waxing gibbous moon (78% illuminated) will pass within less than a degree to the south of Jupiter high in the evening sky. Your closed fist held out at arms length covers 10 degrees. These two won’t get that close again until 2026.

2) February 2-23 — Best Evening View of Mercury

The planet Mercury will be far enough away from the glare of the Sun to be visible in the Western sky after sunset. It will be at its brightest on the 16th and dim quickly afterwards. On the 8th it will skim by the much dimmer planet Mars by about 0.4 degrees.

3) March 10-24 — Comet PANSTARRS at its best

First discovered in 2011, this comet should be coming back around for about 2 weeks. It will be visible low in the northwest sky after sunset. Here are some sources predicting what the comets may look like in the sky.

Image through Faulkes Telescope South

Comet PANSTARRS, Observed August 9, 2012

4) April 25 — Partial Lunar Eclipse

[Not visible here in the Midwest, so forget it.]

5) May 9 — Annular Eclipse of the Sun (“Ring of Fire” Eclipse)

[See above.]

6) May 24-30 — Dance of the Planets

Mercury, Venus and Jupiter will seemingly dance between each other in the twilight sky just after sunset as they will change their positions from one evening to the next. Venus will be the brightest of all, six times brighter than Jupiter.

7) June 23 — Biggest Full Moon of 2013

It will be the biggest full moon because the moon will be the closest to the Earth at this time making it a ‘supermoon’ and the tides will be affected as well creating exceptionally high and low tides for the next few days.

"Supermoon," March 19, 2011

The Supermoon Will Eat The Earth!

8) August 12 — Perseid Meteor Shower

One of the best and most reliable meteor showers of the year producing upwards of 90 meteors per hour provided the sky is dark. This year the moon won’t be in the way as much as it will set during the evening leaving the rest of the night dark. Here is a useful dark-sky finder tool. – http://bit.ly/UdcDUY

9) October 18 — Penumbral Eclipse of the Moon

[See comments for items 4 & 5.]

10) November 3 — Hybrid Eclipse of the Sun

[See above.]

11) Mid-November through December — Comet ISON

The second comet this year, ISON, could potentially be visible in broad daylight as it reaches its closest point to the Sun. It will reach that point on November 28 and it is close enough to the Sun to be categorized as a ‘Sungrazer’. Afterwards it will travel towards Earth (passing by within 40 million miles) a month later.

12) All of December — Dazzling Venus

The brightest planet of them all will shine a few hours after sundown in the Southwestern sky and for about 1.5 hours approaching New Years Eve. Around December 5th, a crescent moon will pass above the planet and the next night Venus will be at its brightest and won’t be again until 2021.

Moon & Venus

The Crescent Moon & Venus

13) December 13-14 — Geminid Meteor Shower

This is another great (if not the best) annual meteor shower. This year put on a show at about 120 meteors per hour and in 2013 it won’t be much different so expect another fantastic show. However, the moon – as it is a few days before full phase – will be in the way for most of the night obscuring some of the fainter meteors. You might have to stay up in the early morning hours (4am) to catch the all the meteors it has to offer.

SCIENCE VS. FEAR

I’m gonna make enemies here again.

No, no, I don’t mean the right-wing-nuts whom I skewer on a regular basis. As far as I know, none of them visit this communications colossus anyway. (BTW: That doesn’t mean there are no Republicans among our loyal readership — there’s a world of diff between good, solid GOP-ers and the too numerous loons who have been trying to hijack the party in the last half century.)

Scene from "Hogan's Heroes"

“We Must Take Over The Party.”

I suppose I mean — Gulp! Dare I say it? — the left-wing-nuts.

Yes, I admit it, there are those among my brethren and sisteren who are just as paranoiac, just as reactionary, and just as full of crap as those on the dark side of the political spectrum.

Matt Taibbi has a great account of the lunacies on both sides of the aisle in his 2008 book, “The Great Derangement.” In it, he compares and contrasts the right-wing whack-jobs of the evangelical/charismatic Rev. John Hagee’s ovine congregation and the left-wing subculture of 9/11 “Truthers” who live on the interwebs and in their own delusional world.

One group staunchly believes, in the face of virtually all expert, scientific evidence, that someone — probably Dick Cheney in overalls and a disguise — somehow planted bombs within the various buildings that collapsed following the 9/11 attacks.

The other group — again, at odds with the scientific community — is certain that climate change is a worldwide hoax.

Taibbi concludes that there’s next to nothing to distinguish between the two, save for their haircuts, god-loyalties, and eating habits.

Now, I’ve harped on this before and here I am, at it again. But a certain phenomenon seems to be growing bigger by the day. The anti-GMO movement, especially here in Bloomington, one of the capitals of Foodfetishstan, is gaining currency and popularity.

To hear some folks talk about it, one might think even looking at a food product containing a genetically modified organism is more dangerous than having a ton of Tarot cards fall on your head.

At first glance, their argument is seductive. Monsanto Company is the acknowledged worldwide leader in GMO research and development. Nobody’s ever mistaken Monsanto for for a corporate teddy bear. The company has attempted to corner patents on common livestock breeding techniques. It has persecuted farmers for seed-saving. It exploits the legal justice system to bully critics and competitors.

Pig

Monsanto Wants You To Know: It Invented The Pig

It is the bête noire of the agribusiness universe.

Ergo, if Monsanto does it, it is by definition vile.

Which sounds to me like the commonest logical fallacy employed by the right.

I’ve argued in these precincts in the past that the preponderance of expert, scientific opinion holds that there is little evidence that GMOs are dangerous. This is not to say we might discover some unintended consequences of the proliferation of the little mutants in years to come.

Hell, who in 1910 would have foreseen that the automobile would actually change the planet’s weather?

If we outlaw everything that just might be problematic at some time in the fuzzy future, the only legal option left would be for us to sit cross-legged in a field and hope nutrients enter our bodies through the pores in our skin.

Every invention poses risk. In the 1930s and ’40s, the technogeeks of the day saw television as the greatest tool for mass education ever conceived. Who knew TV would have given us the Kardashians? But even before TV became a fixture in every living room, people like George Orwell imagined it as a hammer in the fists of tyrants.

And, I suppose, some modern-day novelist might pen a bestseller entitled “Twenty Eighty Four” in which GMO monsters seize the White House.

That doesn’t mean it’ll actually happen.

That said, all we can go on is the consensus opinion of scientists. I mean, that’s the criterion we’re using to try to convince the ostriches of the right that Homo Sapiens sapiens has caused climate change, isn’t it?

That’s why a recent speech by one of Europe’s top anti-GMO activists, Mark Lynas, is big news.

As far back as the mid-1990s, Lynas was leading the charge against test-tube agriculture and Frankenfoods. Many European nations are in the vanguard of the GMO=disaster school of thought, some banning their use in food outright, thanks in large part to Lynas’ efforts.

Lynas spoke at the Oxford Farming Conference three days ago and made a starling admission.

“As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely,” he said.

He had been, he says, dead wrong about GMOs.

He explained to the conference how this metamorphosis took place. “…[T]he answer is very simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist.”

Lynas admitted to having sabotaged clinical trials of experimental GMO crops. He confessed, “… I had done no academic research on the topic, and had a pretty limited understanding. I don’t think I ever read a peer-reviewed paper on biotechnology or plant science….”

Now, Lynas says, the growth of the Earth’s population makes it imperative we utilize biotechnology to produce more food. He believes the current rage for “natural” agriculture and micro-farms, if unchecked, could lead to starvation for millions.

In other words, he had been a member of  a crowd that some two decades ago began to convince itself that GMOs are evil. And now he is quitting.

There’s a madness, Scottish journalist and author Charles Mackay once opined, in crowds.

The Pencil Today:

HotAirLogoFinal Monday

THE QUOTE

“People are always looking for the single magic bullet that will totally change everything. There is no single magic bullet.” — Temple Grandin

Grandin

FIRE WITH FIRE

From Rich Abdill in Wonkette:

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Sure, and Apache helicopters don’t kill people but we cannot have those either.”

He also points out the fallacy of the argument that good people with guns can defend themselves against crazies with guns:

“It sounds like a great argument, until you realize that the good people with guns are awful at defending society from bad people with guns. Mother Jones put together a big, terrible list of all the mass-murders of the last 30 years, and not a single one ends with, ‘And then a person with a concealed weapon killed the shooter before the shooter could inflict anymore damage.’ None. Zero.”

Concealed Weapon

I Got Somethin’ For Ya Right Here, Psycho!

Charlie Pierce in Esquire magazine’s politics blog quotes a Tweet from X-tian loon, the Rev. Bryan Fischer: “Shooters attack an elementary school in CT — another ‘gun-free zone.’ Makes children sitting ducks.”

Pierce answers in the only possible rational way: “Go fuck yourself, pal. Sometimes I dearly wish I believed more strongly in a hell.”

Fischer

Rev. Bryan Fischer, Security & Education Expert

Naturally, the babbling idiot of the US Congress, Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), has plenty to say. He referred to the Sandy Hook principal on — what else? — Fox News Sunday: “I wish to god she had an M-4 in her office locked up so when she heard gunfire she pulls it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands but she takes him out, takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids.”

To borrow a quote from a very articulate man, Go fuck yourself, pal.

A-a-a-nd, former Reagan Secretary of Education, GHW Bush Drug Czar, self-appointed plaster saint, and degenerate gambler Bill Bennett wants an armed person patrolling the halls of every school.

Bennett

Bennett: “Do You Have Any Idea How Good I Am?”

Cool idea, huh? So, next time a psycho barges into a school, he pops the armed guy and then goes ahead and wipes out a few dozen kids and teachers.

You know what to do with yourself, Bill.

I’m gonna stop now. I’m getting depressed.

GOD THE EDUCATOR

Oh, by the way, the god who’s so enraged because we don’t allow public school kids to sing hosannas to him in the classroom that he sent an armed psychotic in to wipe a few dozen of them out? He’s hot for another reason these days, again having to do with public schools.

NPR reports that some Texas kid and her old man are suing a local San Antonio school district for forcing her to wear a radio frequency ID badge. See, these badges help school administrators keep track of students to make sure they’re not wandering off campus to do what teenagers like to do other than study mitosis.

The kid, who’s 15, told her daddy-0 that she was going to refuse to wear the ID tag when it was given her at the start of the school year because the Bible has something to say about it. “Daddy, I’m not going to do this,” she said. “Dad, That’s exactly what it talks about about in the Book of Revelation that you were teaching us about taking the mark of the beast. This is the exact same thing.”

Mark of the Beast

Not Only In Our Schools

The mark of the beast, in case you didn’t know (and I wish I didn’t), is mentioned in Revelation 13:15-18. It has to do with some evil being who comes down and pretends to be the Christ but is really the Anti-Christ and will somehow mark all people for some fercockter reason and then all hell will break loose. Or something. Look, I tried to figure it all out but it’s in the Bible, see, and if you want to get your head screwed completely around, try reading half a page of that thing.

Anyway, loads of folks believe in this stuff and are constantly on the lookout for the beast-mark. And this Texas kid, apparently, has put her finger on it and now she and daddy-o are making a federal case about it.

The local San Antonio school district told her she has to wear the ID badge and she responded by saying Whoa, Nilly, you’re violating my freedom of religion.

Now the whole affair is being played out this morning before the Federal district court in S.A.

Funny thing is, the school district has told the kid she can wear a badge without the radio frequency chip in it but she told them where they could stick that idea. She says she’ll only wear her old school ID from last year, which the Bible apparently approves of, although I was unable to find a reference therein for it.

The kicker is the kid and her old man are members of John Hagee‘s Cornerstone Church, headquartered in San Ant.

Hagee

Hagee

Hagee, you may recall, got presidential candidate John McCain in hot water back in 2008, after JM accepted the preacher’s endorsement. Hagee, it was learned, had written that the Catholic church is “a godless theology of hate”  and a “great whore.” He’d also stated that the goal of Islam was to “kill Christians and Jews.” He has stated that it was the Jews who were responsible for the Holocaust — and believe me, his “reasoning” behind this makes the Bible read like a kindergarten primer. He has stated that Hitler himself was an apostate Jew and that the Jews run the Federal Reserve System.

A-a-and the good Rev. Hagee is four-square in favor of a US preemptive strike on Iran using nuclear weapons. A real sweetheart, no?

Nuclear Explosion

Now Who’s The Boss, Iran?

All that said, Hagee calls himself a “Christian Zionist” and works tirelessly with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to support radical pro-Israel legislation.

Weird, huh?

You wanna know how weird? Pick up Matt Taibbi’s book, “The Great Derangement.” He goes undercover in Hagee’s church to find out who peoples his flock. Trust me, you’ll be torn between laughing out loud and wanting to slash your wrists.

In any case, this fellow, god, seems fixated on the goings on in our schools. Funny, no? You’d think he’d fix it so students would learn more and teachers wouldn’t burn out so quickly and legislators wouldn’t be so eager to cut education funding. Seems as though god’s priorities in education are about as screwed up as ours.

SCHOOL DAYS

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Loving Chicago is like loving a woman with a broken nose.” — Nelson Algren

BLOOMINGTON WARMING

Get over to Rachael’s Cafe tonight a 6:30 for another session of Bloomington’s Science Cafe.

Host Alex Straiker will introduce environmental physicist Ben Brabson. The topic: “Climate Change and Bloomington.”

Why?

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE

My guy in Monroe County government says the newly refurbished digs in the old courthouse are fabulous.

He says the place actually smells new.

The Monroe County Courthouse, in case you missed it, has been closed since spring 2011 for a massive renovation. Workers replaced utility pipes, restrooms, carpeting, and much else. They painted the walls and installed a high-efficiency heating and cooling system. Sometime in the middle of the project, it was found that the 100-year-old main floor was in danger of collapsing. So the cost of a whole new floor had to be added on the the original $4 million pricetag. The Courthouse reopened yesterday.

I asked my guy if he jumped on the new floor to test it. Laughing, he says he just might organize his co-workers to gather in a spot and all jump simultaneously.

READY…, JUMP!

Which reminds me of that old trivia chestnut, What if all the people in China jumped at once?

Would we feel the bounce here on the other side of the Earth? Would the planet’s orbit be affected?

Boi-oi-oi-oi-oing!

My old colleague at the Chicago Reader, Cecil Adams, known far and wide for his spectacular knowledge of useless information, was asked this very question as far back as 1984.

China’s population at the time stood at a tad more than a billion (it’s up to 1.34B now). So Adams, who penned the Reader’s Straight Dope trivia column, imagined all the women, men, and snotty kids in China climbing up on chairs and leaping off at precisely the same moment. Then Cecil did some back of the envelope ciphering.

He concluded that the impact of those two billion feet on the surface of the world at once (give or take the few tens of millions of feet that had been amputated during wars and torture sessions) would produce an impact equivalent to that of the explosion of 500 tons of TNT.

Sheesh, I would have thought such an impact would result in more of a bump. Anyway, 500 tons of boom is not nearly enough to jar the planet off its year-long path.

So there.

Anyway, you ought to check out Cecil’s The Straight Dope column. You can learn, for instance, what Reichs 1 and 2 were (you know, the ones preceding Hitler’s Third Reich.)

OBAMA IS A POOR EXCUSE FOR A KING

This pic is making the rounds on the interwebs these days:

You know, because when we elected Obama King of the United States with absolute powers over everything, including the very prices of all consumer goods and services, we expected him to forbid this sort of thing from happening.

NOT FAT, NOT WHITE, DOESN’T SMOKE CIGARS

And speaking of the man who will hold on to the White House on November 6th, one of the Right’s biggest canards against him is that he’s a “typical Chicago politician.”

As in a fat, cigar-chomping, back-room-deal-making, vote-stealing, bribe-taking, in-bed-with-the-Mob, white man.

Historian Rick Perlstein points out in an essay in Chicago mag that the GOP strategy has been to link Obama with all those famous venal Windy City pols of the past. Notoriously corrupt Alderman Hinky Dink Kenna once famously observed, “Chicago ain’t ready for reform.”

In truth, Obama has nothing at all in common with the likes of Jake Arvey, Richard J. Daley, Fast Eddie Vrdolyak, Bathhouse John  Coughlin, and Big Bill Thompson.

Perlstein writes: “Indeed, the president’s biggest problem, come the election on November 6, isn’t that he’s too Chicago. It’s that he’s not Chicago enough.”

He wrote the piece before the first debate last week, which only proves Perlstein’s point. I mean, honestly, would a tough-guy Chicago pol have let Mitt Romney get away with all that murder?

Rick Perlstein

When all is said and done, Obama represents the most impotent of the stereotypical liberal politician’s characteristics. He believes if he’s a mensch, everybody’s going to embrace him. Perlstein writes: “Obama seems to think that if he shows himself to be a trustworthy steward of the public purse, Republicans will respect him and the voting public will be grateful.”

Liberals long have believed that if you could just reach Ma & Pa America with the unassailable logic of your argument, they’ll happily become liberals too. Or, as Matt Taibbi once opined, only liberals would think that by watching a documentary you can change the world.

Here I am, opening myself up to the charge of being cynical again, but I can’t help it — what I’m about to say is demonstrably true. People, by and large, are stupid. Not only that, they’re happy to be stupid. They want to be stupid.

In the words of a long-ago National Lampoon writer, Don’t you think? Or don’t you?

The only events listings you need in Bloomington.

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Brought to you by The Electron Pencil: Bloomington Arts, Culture, Politics, and Hot Air. Daily.

STUDIO TOUR ◗ Brown County, various locationsThe Backroads of Brown County Studio Tour, free, self-guided tour of 16 local artists’ & craftspersons’ studios; 10am-5pm, through October

CLASS ◗ Ivy Tech-Bloomington, Lamkin HallSolving the Credit Mystery: Credit Counseling Expert Panel, Fincaila experts from Fifth Third Bank, IU Credit Union, & Regions Bank; Noon-1pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Auer HallDoctoral Recital: Stephen Price on organ; 5pm

FILM ◗ IU Swain Hall East — “Un Cuento Chino,” (Argentina, 2011); 6pm

LECTURE ◗ Rachael’s CafeScience Cafe Bloomington, “Climate Change & Bloomington,” Presented by environmental physicist Ben Brabson; 6:30pm

CLASS ◗ Monroe County Public LibraryLights, Camera, Write: An Introduction to the Art of Screenwriting; 6:30pm

MUSIC ◗ Muddy Boots Cafe, NashvilleDon Ford; 7-9pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Ford-Crawford HallStudent Recital: Janelle Davis on viola de gamba; 7pm

CLASS ◗ IU Lilly LibraryWe”re Off to See the Wizard!: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; part of the IU LIfelong Learning Series; 7pm

PERFORMANCE ◗ Unity of Bloomington ChurchAuditions & rehearsal, Bloomington Peace Choir; 7pm

STAGE ◗ Brown County Playhouse, Nashville — “Last Train to Nibroc“; 7:30pm

MUSIC ◗ Max’s PlaceOpen mic; 7:30pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Auer HallChamber Orchestra, Uriel Segal, conductor; 8pm

ASTRONOMY ◗ IU Kirkwood ObservatoryOpen house, Public viewing through the main telescope; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ Bear’s PlaceAnimal Parts, Shell, Moor Hound; 8pm

DANCING ◗ Harmony SchoolContra dancing; 8-10:30pm

GAMES ◗ The Root Cellar at Farm BloomingtonTeam trivia; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ The BluebirdWolfgang Gartner; 9pm

MUSIC ◗ The BishopLost in the Trees, Midtown Dickens; 9:30pm

ONGOING:

ART ◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • “New Acquisitions,” David Hockney; through October 21st
  • Paintings by Contemporary Native American Artists; through October 14th
  • “Paragons of Filial Piety,” by Utagawa Kuniyoshi; through December 31st
  • “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers,” by Julia Margaret, Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan; through December 31st
  • French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century;” through December 31st
  • Celebration of Cuban Art & Film: Pop-art by Joe Tilson; through December 31st
  • Workers of the World, Unite!” through December 31st
  • Embracing Nature,” by Barry Gealt; through December 23rd
  • Pioneers & Exiles: German Expressionism,” through December 23rd

ART ◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • Ab-Fab — Extreme Quilting,” by Sandy Hill; October 5th through October 27th
  • Street View — Bloomington Scenes,” by Tom Rhea; October 5th through October 27th
  • From the Heartwoods,” by James Alexander Thom; October 5th through October 27th
  • The Spaces in Between,” by Ellen Starr Lyon; October 5th through October 27th

ART ◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibit:

  • “Samenwerken,” Interdisciplinary collaborative multi-media works; through October 11th

ART ◗ IU Kinsey Institute GalleryExhibits opening September 28th:

  • A Place Aside: Artists and Their Partners;” through December 20th
  • Gender Expressions;” through December 20th

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibit:

  • “CUBAmistad” photos

ART ◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibits:

  • “¡Cuba Si! Posters from the Revolution: 1960s and 1970s”
  • “From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web: The Origins of Everything”
  • “Thoughts, Things, and Theories… What Is Culture?”
  • “Picturing Archaeology”
  • “Personal Accents: Accessories from Around the World”
  • “Blended Harmonies: Music and Religion in Nepal”
  • “The Day in Its Color: A Hoosier Photographer’s Journey through Mid-century America”
  • “TOYing with Ideas”
  • “Living Heritage: Performing Arts of Southeast Asia”
  • “On a Wing and a Prayer”

BOOKS ◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibit:

  • Outsiders and Others:Arkham House, Weird Fiction, and the Legacy of HP Lovecraft;” through November 1st
  • A World of Puzzles,” selections form the Slocum Puzzle Collection

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ Soup’s OnExhibit:

  • Celebration of Cuban Art & Culture: “CUBAmistad photos; through October

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ Monroe County History CenterExhibit:

  • Bloomington: Then and Now,” presented by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

ARTIFACTS ◗ Monroe County History CenterExhibit:

  • “Doctors and Dentists: A Look into the Monroe County Medical professions

The Electron Pencil. Go there. Read. Like. Share.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“You mustn’t always believe what I say. Questions tempt you to tell lies, particularly when there is no answer.” — Pablo Picasso

TELL ME SWEET LITTLE LIES

It’ll be a year tomorrow that a posse of Navy SEALs cornered that varmint Osama bin Laden and plugged him in his bedroom.

President Barack Obama had large enough cagliones to order the secret assault on ObL’s hideout in Pakistan and the raid paid off big time — sort of. Had a Republican president been in charge there would have been daily parades in his honor in every big city since the al Qaeda boss’s take-down.

The President Watches The Operation Unfold

But because Obama is a Muslim mole whose goal is to transform our holy land into a commie/Nazi gulag/stalag, he hasn’t exactly been showered with laurel leaves since his big night.

Funny thing is, almost within minutes of the announcement that ObL had been executed, the conspiracy theorists leaped out of the woodwork. Chief among them, sad to say, was Cindy Sheehan, the California mom whose son was killed in the Iraq War and who channeled her grief into highly publicized anti-war activism.

Literally within hours after the news of bin Laden’s death broke, Sheehan famously wrote on her website, “I am sorry, but if you believe the newest death of OBL (sic), you’re stupid.” She went on to detail some very iffy evidence that the whole operation was a hoax.

Poor Sheehan lost whatever credibility she had left after that.

Cindy Sheehan

Fringe-y organizations both left and right jumped on the ObL Death Hoax bandwagon for the next several weeks, then fell silent. A brief scan of the internet shows that no one has said much about such hoax claims since about June last year.

Which is odd because conspiracies and hoaxes usually seem to have the staying power of a bad cold in January.

Here’s a list of the ten top conspiracy theories in the US, as compiled by LiveScience.com:

  • 10) 9/11 was an inside job (2001)
  • 9) Princess Diana was murdered (1997)
  • 8) Subliminal advertising (1973)
  • 7) The Apollo moon landings were faked (1978)
  • 6) Paul McCartney died (1966)
  • 5) All the people and organizations who killed JFK (mid-1960s)
  • 4) The Roswell UFO crash (1947)
  • 3) “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” (1905)
  • 2) The epidemic of satanic cults (1980s)
  • 1) Big Pharma (1990s-2000s)

Leave It To The Onion

As you can see, a good conspiracy/hoax theory can last a century or more. But today’s technology and the mass media bombardment of us with deception and myth has turned us into ever-more credulous suckers.

Journalist/polemicist Matt Taibbi has a nice explanation of the phenomenon in his book, “The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion.” On pages 183 to 189 (paperback edition) he lays out the ways advertisers, pols, and charlatans have inundated us with phony claims, distortions, spin, subterfuge, and outright lies. Here, I cherry-pick the key points from his thesis:

“How many lies are too many? How much bullshit is the human organism designed to tolerate before it starts to malfunction? Is there a breaking point?

“Mainstream American society has never been designed to confront difficult or dangerous truths. In fact, our mass media has corrupted the idea of objective truth so badly in the past five or six decades that it is now hard to tell when anyone is being serious about anything — the news, the movies, commercials, anything….

“Somehow ordinary people were supposed to keep track of all this, make their own sense of it. Decades after Watergate, Vietnam, and the Kennedy assassination, Americans were forced to rummage for objective reality in a sea of the most confusing and diabolical web of bullshit ever created by human minds — a false media tableau created mainly a s a medium to sell products, a medium in which even the content of the ‘news’ was affected by commercial considerations….”

“This was too much for the people to handle….”

“America by the early years of this century was a confusing kaleidoscope of transparent, invidious bullshit, a place where politicians hired consultants to teach them to ‘straight talk,’ where debates were decided by inadvertent coughs and smiles and elections were resolved via competing smear campaigns, and where network news programs — subsidized by advertisements for bogus alchemist potions like Enzyte that supposedly made your dick grow by magic — could feature as a lead story newly released photos of the Tom Cruise love child, at a time when young American men and women were dying every day in the deserts of the Middle East.

“The message of all of this was that Americans were now supposed to make their own sense of the world. There was no dependable authority left to turn to, no life raft in an increasingly perilous informational sea. This coincided with an age when Americans now needed to understand more of the world than ever before…. Now… Joe American has to turn on the Internet and tell himself a story that makes sense to him.”

Cindy Sheehan reached the breaking point when Barack Obama held his historic midnight news conference a year ago. Of course, she was pushed toward that snap by the death of her child. But the rest of us are under strain as well, if not so heart-wrenching.

We’re living in an age when fiction and reality are interchangeable. That’s why George W. Bush could lie us into a war and Barack Obama could sell himself as a man who would change government.

So I’m surprised the Osama bin Laden Death Hoax stories didn’t last. It doesn’t mean we’re becoming more rational and sophisticated — probably only that the vast majority liked the the story of the Navy SEAL Team 6 operation a year ago too much.

REAL NEWS

WFHB‘s Alycin Bektesh, Ryan Dawes, and Chad Carrothers lugged home a lot of hardware after Friday night’s Society of Professional Journalists annual awards dinner in Indianapolis. The Firehouse broadcasters won 19 awards for excellence, going up against news departments from around the state.

The WFHB Gang Friday Night In Indy

Bloomington’s community radio station consistently puts out the best local news and special programming in the region. No commercial station nearby can hold a candle to the news department that current GM Carrothers started about a decade ago.

Carrothers took a chance, donating his time and considerable energies for no pay at first, just to get the operation off the ground. Now WFHB News puts all those for-profit radio news departments to shame.

LIAR, LIAR

The 1965 hit by The Castaways.

Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.

Monday, April 30, 2012

IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibits, “Blended Harmonies: Music and Religion in Nepal”; through July 1st — “Esse Quam Videri (To Be, Rather than To Be Seen): Muslim Self Portraits; through June 17th — “From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web: The Origins of Everything”; through July 1st, 9am-4:30pm

From “Esse Quam Videri”

IU Grunwald (SOFA) GalleryMFA & BFA Thesis 3 exhibitions; through May 5th

IU Kinsey Institute Gallery — Exhibit, “Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze”; through June 29th, 1:30-5pm

IU Asian Culture CenterHenna 101; 4pm

Bell Trace Health & Living CenterSession 2 of a 4-part class, “Life in a British Period Drama”; 6:30pm

IU CinemaStudent film, “Mudcity”; 7pm

IU Department of Folklore & Ethnomusicology, Performance & Lecture Hall — Students perform Ghanaian music, drumming, and dance, directed by Bernard Woma, guest artists: Evelyn Yaa Bekyore and Joyce Bekyore; 7pm

Bernard Woma

The Player’s PubSongwriters Showcase; 8pm

The Bluebird — Dave Walters Karaoke; 8pm

The BishopDJs, The Vallures; Film, “Brick and Mortar and Love”; both at 8pm

Bear’s PlaceArchie Powell & the Exports, Sandman Viper Command, Deadghost, Keeping Cars; 9pm

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

Duh.

BIG NEWS

Yes, it’s true. I’ve been missing from these parts for a couple of days.

This is a business, after all, and I’ve been in intense negotiations with a fairly well-known media outfit to invest in this local treasure.

Representatives of that company met with me Thursday night at a fine Bloomington restaurant, the name of which which they’ve requested I not disclose. Suffice it to say that if a native Italian speaker passed the place by, she might reflexively respond, Siete benvenuto (you’re welcome).

The company reps didn’t want their presence in town to become known because they fear other local bloggers and website operators might pester them to invest in their less fabulous internet endeavors.

Let’s be honest. Nobody in town can touch The Electron Pencil for perspicacity, brilliance, journalistic integrity, and overall sex appeal on the part of its operator.

Sexy

No, these deep-pocket investors want to sink their dough into the best South Central Indiana has to offer, and who can blame them for choosing The Pencil?

They are, IMHO, wise and prudent investors.

This influx of money will mean huge changes around here.

First, content. The Your Daily Hot Air feature will remain, of course. It is the core of The Pencil, the reason virtually tens of thousands of folks from all four corners of the globe begin their day with a click on this icon:

Many have claimed they find it impossible now to get through the day without Big Mike’s philosophical and practical guidance.

We’ll be adding daily installments from the previously unpublished manuscripts of Kurt Vonnegut. The Vonnegut estate yesterday graciously and happily inked the deal with The Pencil. We’re looking forward to starting that feature by mid-month.\

The Late Kurt Vonnegut

Additionally, we have lured Will Shortz, puzzle editor of the New York Times and puzzle-master for NPR’s Weekend Edition away from those august positions. His crosswords and word games will appear in The Electron Pencil exclusively beginning tomorrow.

Will Shortz

Because Bloomington is such a sports oriented town, The Electron pencil will partner with ESPN to present The Hoosier Sports Center, online and on TV. Keith Olbermann, recently ousted at Current TV, will return to his sports roots to host the program.

Keith Olbermann

Politics, naturally, is a constant topic in these parts. Accordingly, we will bring aboard a spectacular triad of investigative reporters. The team of Amy Goodman, Matt Taibbi, and Barbara Ehrenreich will leave no stone unturned in the coverage of local malfeasances.

The EP News Team: Goodman, Taibbi, & Ehrenreich

In keeping with our higher station in this wireless world, The Electron Pencil will now accept ads. Small 3″x3″ spots interspersed throughout our daily posts will cost $5,000 for a minimum of six appearances in in a given seven day stretch. A single day’s top banner ad will cost $16,000. For the economy-minded advertiser, we offer discreet mentions of your business within our posts for a mere $100 per placement. Those wishing to be mentioned in Kurt Vonnegut’s manuscript installments will be charged an additional $50 premium. Contact Big Mike at glabagogo@gmail.com for more information.

So, please excuse my absence these last few days. I’ve been striving to make The Electron Pencil even more of an Indiana treasure than it is.

See you tomorrow, Monday, April 2nd.

WHY DO FOOLS FALL IN LOVE?

Why, indeed.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“At least Bank of America got its name right. The ultimate Too Big To Fail bank really is America, a hypergluttonous ward of the state whose limitless fraud and criminal conspiracies we’ll all be paying for until the end of time.” — Matt Taibbi

NAH, IT CAN’T BE — CAN IT?

Gawker had this first, then Roger Ebert re-posted it. It’s a purported commercial for the Rick Santorum campaign.

Ebert says he can’t believe it’s real. And, quite frankly, neither can I.

I mean, Little Rickey is the altar boy who loved all the attention the priest lavished on him, leading him to become the world’s most prominent closeted figure. His resultant damaged psyche then led him to turn the Republican primary battle into a cheap Outer Limits episode, natch.

But this? For real?

Well, just watch. Someone out there has to know if this is legit or not. Lemme know, would you?

PSANTORUM IS PSYCHO

Here’s the definition of Paranoid Personality Disorder, as presented in the DSM-IV-TR, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4th edition, text revision, that is the bible (you’ll pardon the pun) of the psychiatry profession:

A. A pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others such that their motives are interpreted as malevolent, beginning in early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:

  1. suspects, without sufficient basis, that others are exploiting, harming, or deceiving him or her
  2. is preoccupied with unjustified doubts about the loyalty or untrustworthiness of friends or associates
  3. is reluctant to confide in others because of unwarranted fear that the information will be used maliciously against him or her
  4. reads hidden demeaning or threatening meanings into benign remarks or events
  5. persistently bears grudges, i.e, is unforgiving of insults, injuries, or slights
  6. perceives attacks on his or her character or reputation that are not apparent to others and is quick to react angrily or counterattack
  7. has recurrent suspicions, without justification, regarding fidelity of spouse or sexual partner

B. Does not occur exclusively during the course of Schizophrenia, a Mood Disorder With Psychotic Features, or another Psychiatric Disorder and is not due to the direct physiological effects of a general medical condition.

There you have it. Little Rickey is damned on at least five criteria: numbers 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6. This man who should be eating soft foods prior to being given his nightly mega-dose of Thorazine may well be your next Republican candidate for Vice President of the world’s only remaining superpower.

THE ONLY TRUE RELIGION

Believe me, I love the Book Corner but I’d jump at the chance to work in this palace in a heartbeat.

The painstakingly preserved 13th Century cathedral in Maastricht, Holland, is the new home of the Dutch Selexyz Dominicanen bookstore.

Dig this shelving under the soaring vaulted ceiling:

Meanwhile back in this holy land bookstores are closing faster than James Patterson and Nicholas Sparks can type out those disposable consumables they call novels.

RUBY, DON’T TAKE YOUR LOVE TO TOWN

Happy birthday, Leonard Nimoy.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Let us remind our poor men folk in deed and song:

There are two types of men in this womanly world:

Those who know they are weak,

Those who think they are strong.” — Philip Strax

SO FAR AWAY

Didja catch the sky show this weekend?

The thumbnail moon has been doing a celestial dance with the planets Venus and Jupiter. Man, it’s a fantastic tableau.

Tonight’s Arrangement

All three orbs are doh-si-doh-ing in the far western sky at sunset and for about an hour and a half thereafter.

Imagine: you can glance up at the clear sky at, say, 7:30pm any evening this week and literally see an object — Jupiter — that’s a hair less than 600 million miles away. Think of it this way, that’s 240,000 times the distance from New York to Los Angeles.

Some Walk

Or, to put it another way, it’s more than 5200 times the number of miles the average American walks in a lifetime.

Don’t miss the show, folks.

“I BEG YOUR PARDON”

Just got finished reading Kurt Vonnegut‘s “God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian.” Fun book. Took me an hour. Give it a shot.

It’s a compilation of audio pieces Vonnegut did for Public Radio’s WNYC in New York. The idea being Vonnegut, working with the suicide doctor Jack Kevorkian, repeatedly gets just enough lethal injection medication to bring him to a series of near-death experiences.

Life & Death

He travels down the bright blue tunnel and meets St. Peter at the gates of heaven and is able to interview various dead folk. He speaks with such luminaries as Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Shakespeare, and Clarence Darrow as well as people you wouldn’t expect to have merited entrance to paradise; Vonnegut interviews Adolf Hitler and James Earl Ray, too.

There is no hell in Vonnegut’s conceit, so everybody who dies gets to go to heaven. Hitler, for his part, tells him the world should erect a stone monument to his memory, perhaps at the site of the United Nations in New York. The monument should be inscribed, “Entschuldigen Sie” — I beg your pardon.

Anyway, the quote at the top of this post comes from one of the people Vonnegut meets in heaven. Dr. Philip Strax was the guy who convinced American women and their doctors that mammograms were essential in detecting early, treatable, forms of breast cancer. He and a couple of associates, Sam Shapiro and Dr. Louis Venet, published their ground-breaking study in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1966.

No telling how many women’s lives have been saved by the Strax et al paper. Strax’s own wife died of breast cancer at the age of 39 and he devoted the rest of his life to fighting the disease.

One Way To Look At Things

Check out any magazine and you’ll naturally come to the conclusion that Americans have breasts on their minds from morning until night. Men, in case you didn’t know, even dream about them. At least Phil Strax turned a preoccupation with mammaries into a service to humankind.

C’MON, LET’S PLAY!

Friday, I put the challenge out there: Let’s play a game wherein we try to guess how outlandish the Republican Party will become by the 2016 presidential race.

After all, things have become so psychotic around POG world headquarters that smart-asses like me can hardly even make jokes about them anymore. The Republican candidates are the joke.

Comedy Competition

It can only get worse. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone thinks that the Republican attack strategy which has worked so well for more than 30 years has become so pervasive that this year’s nominees have turned on each other. The Republicans, Taibbi implies, have become cannibals.

So, I put out the call for Pencillistas get all creative and try to imagine how psychotic the GOP (oh, right, I forgot — the POG) will become in four years.

The game, which I dubbed the Electron Cool Test, is easily played. Just come up with some nightmarish slogan, a weird candidate, or a bizarre scenario that the Republicans will foist upon us the next time we stage a presidential beauty contest after 2012.

I started things off by suggesting Chuck Norris, Marco Rubio, and Ivanka Trump will be the frontrunners when primary season 2016 commences. They will face none other than Chelsea Clinton in my fever dream.

Commander-in-Chief

Pencillista Nona Schultz foresees the Republicans gobbling themselves to near-death this year, making them bit players in the political arena for years to come. “This is my delusion and I’m sticking to it,” she writes.

Bloomington City Council member Susan Sandberg pulled a comfy chair up to the keyboard and clacked out a dystopian novella. Running mates Mitch Daniels and Chris Christy will character-assassinate poor young Chelsea (who’ll indeed be 35 by 2016) and squeak past her in the election.

A Heartbeat Away

Daniels will preside over an economic depression forcing many Americans into bread lines. America under the former Indiana governor will be a “sexless, artless, colorless, intellectually starved country,” Sandberg writes.

Sheez, Susan, way to bum us all out.

It’s on you now, Pencillistas. What do the Republicans have in store for us in four years? Simply type your entry in the Leave A Comment section.

And remember, the winner will get a free specialty drink from Soma Coffee on a Saturday morning of my choosing.

FORGET THE ELEPHANT

The elephant has been the mascot of the Republican Party for some 140 years.

That’s a shame because elephants are among my fave critters on Earth. Republicans, not so much.

So I suggest a switch. Follow me, now.

The Party needs an animal mascot that’s native to the United States — the elephant, of course, is not.

The animal must be the largest of its kind. Republicans, like Texans, like things big.

It can’t be a vegetarian, like the pachyderm. No, it must eat meat (or at least living, moving, noise-making creatures.)

It must have a certain burly quality, perhaps an upper body that’s heavily muscled. Republicans like their idols to be he-men.

Finally, the animal must have a mean disposition and weapons to back it up. After all, what’s a Republican without weapons?

Therefore, I hereby propose that the animal known by the zoological term Conepatus leoconotus be named the new animal mascot for the Party of God.

Conepati live in such definitively American spots as Texas, Arizona, and Colorado. If that doesn’t scream out GOP, I don’t know what does.

They have strong front legs and shoulders, like Chuck Norris. They have long, thick claws which, in the animal world, are the equivalent of firearms. The NRA should love these guys.

Speaking Of Symbolism

Finally, Conepati, when annoyed or frightened, spray a foul-smelling substance from a gland located near their anus. What could be more Republican than that?

Conepatus leuconotus is more commonly known as the hog-nosed skunk.

Perfect.

Grand Old Party

These critters are the whitest among the many varieties of skunks. Republican, right? Oh, and they have a dark underside.

Hey, Newt Gingrich might already be a hog-nosed skunk.

There. I’ve solved the mascot problem for the GOP. Now I’ll get cracking on the Dems — although it’ll be hard to top the jackass as a symbol for that gang.

The Pencil Today:

TODAY’S QUOTE

“Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so.” — Gore Vidal

NO PLASTER SAINT

Think of Martin Luther King, Jr. today. Think of what a brilliant man he was. Think also of what an imperfect man he was.

King, 1956

His work hastened the enactment of both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The contender for the most evil American of the 20th Century, J. Edgar Hoover, kept a thick dossier on King’s sex life. Yep, King did those tawdry things outlined in the file. To people like Hoover, that file defined King.

To tens of millions of Americans who can now vote freely and don’t have to worry about not getting a job or being turned away from a hotel or restaurant because they’re the wrong color or sex, King was incapable of such “sin.”

Both views insult the man because they deny the fullness of his humanity, the good in him and his failings, his high principles and his base urges.

Me? I respect King all the more for knowing he battled with and often succumbed to temptation. He was just a guy — but what a human being!

Imperfect Men; A More Perfect Nation

FLIP-FLOP PHONIES

Here’s all you need to know about the state of national politics in this holy land. Jon Huntsman today will endorse Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination for president.

Best Friends Forever

Huntsman is dropping out of the Republican primaries six days before the South Carolina vote and almost a week after he came in third in the New Hampshire beauty contest, a finish he told his supporters was a springboard to South Carolina. He made the decision this weekend.

Up until yesterday, his website listed chapter and verse as to why Romney is unelectable in November. Or, I should say, was unelectable. Romney is (oops again — was) a flip-flopper, a shark, a pretty boy, a man with no real philosophy.

Man, you’d have thought a Romney presidency would almost have been as devastating to America as the presidency of Barack Obama — who, by the way, was Hunstman’s former boss. The only thing Hunstman didn’t accuse Romney of was being a secret Muslim, but there’s only room in the political conversation for one of those, apparently.

Sunday, the keepers of the Huntsman website made all references to Romney’s evils vanish.

Hunstman’s Suddenly Mitt-Free Website

Politics would be a funny game if it didn’t make me so glum.

VOTE FOR ME — I’LL SET YOU FREE!

How weird is it that Rick Perry has suddenly positioned himself as the defender of the people, calling Mitt Romney a “vulture capitalist”?

Very weird.

Perry’s panicked. The man who has sold his governorship to any corporate entity that waves a check in his face, clearly figures the only bullet he has left in his cylinder is to accuse Romney of being a greedy capitalist pig.

Which Romney is — but so is Rick Perry.

It goes to show that the most powerful influence on politics is the virtually pathological ego that spurs a person to want to become a national leader.

Perry: “I’m The One.”

Perry gave up his precious economic philosophy in the snap of a finger when he felt himself in danger of losing out on the ultimate job promotion.

I’ll vote in the presidential election, sure, but I can’t shake the feeling that anyone who wants to be president of a nation of +300M people with some 5600 active nuclear weapons at his command is, well, a bit off. Why would any sane human being want that kind of responsibility?

Oh Yeah, I Can Handle This Thing — Don’t Worry

Just trying to meet the needs and desires of our massive population is daunting enough. Knowing that the ace you have up your sleeve in dealing with the world’s nations is an arsenal that could ignite at any moment a global holocaust makes the job desirable only to a crazy man or woman.

LOCAL POLS: LESS PHONY, JUST AS NUTTY

I spoke with Tim Mayer, the Bloomington City Council’s new president, last week. He’s refreshed from a nice holiday vacation and looking forward to picking up the gavel.

I apologized to him for not playing “Hail to the Chief” when he walked into the Book Corner and he graciously forgave me. “How does it feel to be the Commander in Chief of such an august body?” I asked.

He spun on his heel, pointed to the middle of his back and replied, “The target’s hanging right here.”

Mayer Was Comforted By Judge Mary Ellen Diekhoff After He Was Sworn In

Mayer became serious and said he’s looking forward to the task. In fact, he claimed the best part of being a council member is hearing the citizenry during the public comment sessions at the meetings. At which point I told him he needs psychiatric treatment.

Mayer is still sane enough to say I was probably right. Then he recounted the tale of a particular well-known citizen gadfly who attended every meeting and had a blustery opinion on every proposal. This man was a shrewd provocateur who knew just how far he could go when raising his idiosyncratic Cain — he knew, for instance, that he could get away with uttering the word shit during his comment period but not the F-bomb.

Anyway, Mayer remembered that the man was familiar enough with the personalities on the Council to be able to get under any of their skins. He knew how to rattle one female former Council president by saying repeatedly, “Listen here, girlie….”

The former president’s hair would stand on end at such moments.

BTW: as for last year’s Council president (and I’m not necessarily saying she’s the one referred to above), doctors in the decompression ward report that Susan Sandberg will be released from her straitjacket soon and should recover nicely, save for the occasional nightmare.

Susan Sandberg, Before She Was Institutionalized

Good luck, Tim.

WON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN

Oh yes we will. We always do.

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