Category Archives: Robert Caro

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Politics is the entertainment branch of industry.” — Frank Zappa

SAVE US, RICK

Gotta say it: I miss Rick Santorum.

The political debate has pretty much petered out now that the wackiest altar boy in the nation has quit the presidential race.

We Miss You, Man

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are involved in a staring contest over who loves women more. Romney said recently, “93 percent of the job losses during the Obama years have been women who lost those jobs.” Obama, in turn, has dispatched his wife, not to correct Romney’s awkward sentence construction, but to say her man is the greatest thing to happen to women since the invention of chocolate.

Michelle Obama actually said this about the her husband’s deeds for women: “We have an amazing story to tell. This president has brought us out of the dark and into the light.”

Oy.

Suffragette Introducing Featured Speaker Barack Obama

And in some weird, Twilight Zone-ish turn of events, Ann Romney, a woman who has struggled valiantly to assemble a staff of nannies and maids, has become an icon for all the hard-toiling homemakers of this holy land.

Oy, oy.

I don’t suppose this debate-for-the-ages will rank with the Lincoln-Douglas wrestling matches of 1858.

Sigh. Oh, for the madness of Rick Santorum.

MAN ON THE THRONE

And, yes, I’m a political geek.

See, I’m pumped about the release in two weeks of the fourth volume in Robert Caro‘s brilliant series of books on the life of Lyndon Baines Johnson. It deals with the 1960 presidential election, Johnson’s ascendency to the presidency following the Kennedy assassination, and his electoral coronation in 1964.

Johnson Drives His Beloved Amphi-car

LBJ was one fascinating man. He stole elections, bullied opponents, battled for civil rights legislation, loathed John F. Kennedy and then served under him as vice president, allowed the nation to slip into a senseless war in Vietnam and found himself mourning that course of events. He issued orders to members of his staff while perched upon the porcelain princess with the door wide open.

Caro won the Pulitzer Prize for “The Power Broker,” his look into the life of New York City strongman Robert Moses. (BTW, Oliver Stone is working on an HBO biopic based on Caro’s book.) He copped another Pulitzer for the third volume in the Years of Lyndon Johnson series, “Master of the Senate.” For my dough, Caro has to win a third Pulitzer for “The Passage of Power” if it’s even half as good as the previous three tomes on the man.

Robert Caro

Pick up any of the aforementioned Caro books; you’ll understand a lot more about how America works if you do.

BEYOND HUMAN UNDERSTANDING

Dig this observation by social ecologist Peter Drucker:

“Like the forces of war, depression shows man as a senseless cog in a senselessly whirling machine which is beyond human understanding and has ceased to serve any purpose but its own.”

Peter Drucker

The quote, written in 1939, has been interpreted as a description of the madness that was the Great Depression. It sounds to me more like an indictment of unfettered capitalism itself.

MONEY

“Don’t give me that do-goody, good bullshit.”

The Pencil Today:

TODAY’S QUOTE

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” — Queen Gertrude in William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet

Hamlet And His Mom (They’ve Got Nothing On Rick Santorum)

RICK SANTORUM’S PROBLEM

So, now we can go back to forgetting that Iowa exists.

Republicans in the cornstalk state staged their beauty contest last night and, in the end, couldn’t decide who had the prettier face, Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum.

Rick Santorum?

Let me ask that again — Rick Santorum?

Rick Santorum Wore This Suit While Decrying Gay Marriage

Sheesh! Talk about good news-bad news. I mean, the vast majority of overall-ed voters rejected the notion of a Michele Bachmann presidency, which will go a long way toward ensuring that I get a sound sleep tonight. That’s the good news.

But Rick Santorum?

Here, in his own words, is the guy whom 30,007 Iowans think ought to be able to name the next Supreme Court justice: “I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts.”

Man, Rick Santorum would wake Hamlet’s shrink from his nap.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, when it comes to guys who pontificate the way Santorum does, the “problem” they have is trying to ignore the endless pictures of homosexual acts that crowd into their imaginations every time they turn the lights out.

Rick Santorum’s Problem(s)

IGNORANTIA LEGIS*

Eek. Monroe County Auditor Amy Gerstman has done the right thing by saying she won’t run for another term.

Gerstman

But with the latest revelations about her county credit card use for personal expenses, she might do herself a favor and make an appointment with one of the fine attorneys over at Bunger & Robertson to see if she ought to start packing her toothbrush for a little stay away from home.

Gerstman has purchased gifts, groceries, dinners, and other personal items using at least three of the four credit cards registered under her office’s name. The Herald Times reported this morning that she also paid her kids’ private school tuitions with one of the cards.

The auditor (for the moment) has apologized and says she’s paid back all the money. That’s nice. But if a guy robs a bank and, while being chased by the cops, runs back into the bank claiming he wants to return the loot, the heat still slaps the bracelets on him.

By the way, that fourth credit card? Gerstman claims her office has forgotten the password to access online information about it. She also says the bank lady who normally helps her with the account has been on vacation. Both County Commissioner Marty Hawk and the H-T requested info on that card more than two months ago.

Some vacation.

Oh, and another thing. Bloomington Alternative ran a little piece when she announced her run for the office in 2008. Scroll down to the third paragraph where she’s quoted as saying, “There needs to be a change, restoring confidence is essential.”

Some confidence.

* The legal profession’s shorthand for the Latin, Ignorantia legis neminem excusat (ignorance of the law is no excuse.)

KILL YOUR TV

Make sure you read at least ten books this year.

Here are ten of my faves:

  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
  • Goodbye, Columbus: And Five Short Stories by Philip Roth
  • The Canon: A Whirlgig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science by Natalie Angier

Angier

  • The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America by Bill Bryson
  • Coming of Age in the Milky Way by Timothy Ferris (the science writer, not the entrepreneurial self-help goof)
  • Ball Four by Jim Bouton & Leonard Schecter
  • The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert Caro (a so-far three-volume bio of the 36rd President with the fourth book due out this spring)
  • Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis & Christos H. Papadimitriou
  • A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present by Howard Zinn
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

A simple truth: books make you smart; TV makes you stupid.

FRICTION

The band Television was fronted by the very talented Tom Verlaine along with high school chum Richard Hell. Born Thomas Miller, Verlaine adopted his stage surname from the French poet Paul Verlaine. He said he did it as an homage to Bob Dylan who also renamed himself after a tragic versifier.

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