Hot Air: Words & Drugs


One of my least favorite words in the English language is slut. Honestly, can you think of a more ridiculous word? Let’s take a look at it.

The Oxford Living Dictionaries, an online resource, defines the word thusly:

That’s it. Slut means a woman who, essentially, likes sex. Yet, it’s one of the worst things we can call a woman.

Men who like sex are…, well, men. Swell guys. Good old boys. Leaders. Professors. Senators. Football stars. Frat boys and high school dropouts. Doctors and lawyers. Radio personalities. Comedians. Newspaper editors. Movie producers. Any and all of them can engage in the supreme refreshment every night and twice on Saturdays, and still be considered pillars of society (as long as — thankfully, now — they don’t compel workplace female colleagues or underlings to service them or criminally assault them). Again, guys who like sex are just guys.

Women who like sex are sluts.

Me? I’ve always found women who like sex to be swell girlfriends or live-in lovers or wives. Sorta makes the whole cupid thing worthwhile, no? Is there a man out there who doesn’t want his wife or girlfriend to like sex? I suppose. Hell, I’m sure of it. We’re really a pathologically weird species when it comes to thinking about sex.

That’s why we call women who like it sluts.

And that’s why I detest the word,


I brewed up some mandarin orange non-caffeine tea this AM (I’ll explain why below). As it steeped, I squeezed a healthy dollop of honey into the mug. Nothing like a good hot sip of sweet mandarin orange tea. Well, not much.

Anyway, as I waited for the tea to cool down enough so I could put my lips on it, I read the honey bottle. I satred at the word for a long moment. Honey. It’s funny, I thought, that we should call those for whom we have great affection honey.

It makes perfect sense, though. Honey is sweet and soft and is really, really good. And it’s natural, by and large, unless you buy the economy brand and who on this green Earth knows what’s in that? In any case, whoever was the first to call her or his kid or paramour honey was employing the highest good sense.

It got me to thinking. We’re calling the people we care for a food name. Honey is food, natch. Okay, good sense still carries the day. Food fulfills us, makes us feel good, sends streams of dopamines and/or endrophins coursing through our bodies. Just like the people we like a lot or love.

So why don’t we use other food terms that way? Well, we do. Cupcake. Sweetie pie. Sugar. And more.

They’re all dessert-y words. As if only something chock-full of sucrose or fructose or whatever -ose you may prefer is comparable to eros and agape and philia.

Me? I can eat as many double chocolate muffins as the next person. But my tastes extend far beyond the confectionery. In fact, I want to start calling The Loved One something I constantly crave, something that fills me, that nearly drugs me, that brings me deep happiness. That, after all is why we call our precious ones one or another variety of sweet, no?

My Darling.

I want to start calling her pizza. Thick or thin. Plain cheese or loaded with green peppers, Italian sausage, black olives, anchovies, salad shrimp, mushrooms, or whatever. Piping hot or fresh out of the fridge for that breakfast of champions.

You think she’ll go for it?


Speaking of drugs, scads o’ folks around these parts are either off the grid or partially so. They reject all, most, or a fairly decent portion of modern society’s so-called benefits. One of the biggest bete noir‘s for these people is Big Pharma. Talk to some of these rejectors of the conventional and you might come away convinced that the pharmaceutical companies have never, ever sold a substance that in any way benefits us, relieves our agony, heals our wounds, or prevents sickness.

To these people, the populations of centuries, millenniums, past used whatever they could scrape from tree barks or toad skins and were magically healed or relieved. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: These people are full of shit.

Example: Somehow I contracted a hell of an infection this week. It started out with a seemingly inconsequential sore throat on Sunday. Then it went away, only to return with a vengeance on Tuesday and Wednesday. By Wednesday night, my right ear was tickly, my sinuses were stuffed with concrete, and my right eye was puffed out with conjunctivitis. I hardly slept that night.

We’re Lucky.

Things got worse on Thursday. I could hardly see out of my eye. I was exhausted and headachy. I felt dizzy now and again. So, late afternoon, I dashed over to the clinic. The doctor gave me the once over and concluded I’d been infected by something. I like it when the doctor and I see eye to eye. He prescribed Clarithromycin pills and a different antibiotic eye drop, both to be taken twice a day. I began the regimen Thursday night but then experienced the worst night of all. I consoled myself by thinking my body had shifted into high gear to defeat the invading army of germs that’d started this whole miserable thing, with the help of those drugs. I stayed home yesterday and lie around for much of the day. By mid afternoon, my eye had stopped seeping and weeping, my throat was clearing, the concrete in my nasal passages had broken up, and I could feel nary a tickle in my ear. I jumped in the shower and felt a new man, albeit spent.

So far, so good.

W/o antibiotics, I’d still be suffering. Who knows? Maybe the infection would have done some real damage. You know, the way infections maimed and even killed the populations of centuries, even millenniums, of the past.

Big Pharma’s got a hell of a lot of sins to answer for but the truth is w/o it, we’d be stuck scraping barks and licking toad skins and praying. And suffering and dying.

Hot Air: Blackboard Jungle


Re-posting a social media comment by my friend, Col. John Tilford, retired from both the US Marines and the US Army and who served in Vietnam and Afghanistan. He’s responding to President Gag’s call for teachers to be armed and for those who agree to do it to get bonuses. Take it away, Colonel:

Arm teachers? As the NCOs and officers are the first picked off in combat, so would the teachers be the first in schools, leaving the children without adult direction.

And now, following the highly-publicized remarks from Trump, the teachers will be the first targeted whether they “carry” or not. Because Trump suggested they should, the killers will assume they might.

Big Links

Here’s the link to yesterday Big Talk with attorney, civic volunteer, deacon-in-training, and WFIU Soul Kitchen deejay Brother William Morris.

And, in case you missed it yesterday, here’s the link to my profile of him for my regular column, Big Mike’s B-town, in the Limestone Post.

He Said It

Billy Graham is dead. Looks like the Jews are gonna continue having a stranglehold on this holy land and nobody’ll be there to stop them.

Stepping Up In Class?

Tossing around a format idea these days. I have a Medium account. Medium is a big semi-subscription platform for writers, thought leaders, pontificators, cogitators, and other such undesirables.

Here’s what I might do: I may start doing all my thoughtful posting on Medium and reserve this space for links to those posts as well as updates on what I’m doing in terms of other online writing and my radio work.

I’ve noticed a number of loyal Pencillistas have Medium accounts. Now, quite of few of their accounts may be freebies, meaning they only get three free reads of me per month. To get unlimited access to Medium writers you subscribe to, you have to pay $50 a year for a premium account. And don’t think that dough goes into my pocket, because it doesn’t. It’s paid directly to, and remains in the grubby hands of the Medium tsars.

The benefit to me is a huge new market of potential clickers. My posts on Medium would be sorted and SEO’d via tags and categories, as opposed to the poster’s name. So, something I write on, say, the category of women would receive equal weight as one written on the same topic by Roxanne Gay (to whom I subscribe) or I could write about that goof in the Oval Office and get the same opportunity for eyes that Sheila Seuss Kennedy would when she writes about him. It’s a democratic platform in that sense.

In any case, like a lot of other social media platforms, posts earn crowd approval. Not Likes like Facebook but Claps. Someone could dig the bejesus out of one of my pieces and give me two dozen claps. If a lot of people give a ton-load of Claps, the clapped author gets paid a pro-rated amount.

I hate to sound mercenary, but, hell, I’ve been giving this stuff away for free for going on ten years now. I co-founded The Third City in the fall of 2008 and then started up this communications colossus in spring, 2012. Except for a brief burst when I posted a sporadically recurring payment button herein last fall, I’ve been clacking my fingers to the bone for no pay for all these years. That really sorta bugs me.

I haven’t made up my mind yet. There are a few more people I need to talk to about this, people whose opinions I trust. And — you know what? — I trust your opinion, too. Call me at 773.332.4666, email me at, or comment on this page. Let me know what you think of this crazy idea. Believe me, I’ll listen.


Hot Air: Big, Brother, Boffo, Bombs

Big Talk Thursday

My guest today will be attorney, man about town, and WFIU deejay William Morris, AKA Brother William. He’s one of those fellows who, when you ask him what time it is, will read aloud from cover to cover Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. A radio interviewer’s dream.

I’ve had plenty of loquacious sorts on in recent weeks. All I have to do is set the studio up, sit in a chair, say Hi, this is Big Talk…, and 28 minutes of fun and informative broadcast content ensues. Sometimes I wonder if I’m taking the easy way out; perhaps I should track down some taciturn types.


Anyway, in the coming weeks Big Talk guests will include attorney Amelia Lahn, author Doug Wissing (he’s working on an ambitious history right now, one that is all too timely), and IU Informatics professor James Clawson, who specializes in health and cancer data.

The way I see it, if you don’t like Big Talk, you just don’t like learning about the people around you.

My Town

Big Mike’s B-town returns for its every-four-weeks appearance in Limestone Post today. I wonder: Is there a word for every four weeks? Lemme look it up….

… Well, I’ll be damned, I dug up a number of possibilities. They include:

  • quadrihebdomadal
  • quadweekly
  • quadriweekly
  • fwaply (for four-week-accounting-period)
  • bimonthly (like many bi- words, it can mean twice in the period or every other period)
  • bifortnightly
  • tetrahebdomadally
  • quadriseptimanally
  • duodetrigintally

Who knew? Come to think of it, let’s just stick with every four weeks, no?

Anyway, today’s LP feature is, of course, on Brother William. Every four weeks, I profile that day’s Big Talk guest on Limestone Post.

And, again, if you don’t like the Limestone Post, you just don’t like knowing about your own town, dig?

They Started The Whole World Laughing

Hot tip from my pal Yael Ksander: There’s a neat little public event scheduled for a week from tomorrow, Friday, March 2, at 7:30pm in Indiana University’s Fine Arts Auditorium. It’ll be a live conversation between Serbian activist Srđa Popović and Penn State prof. of Comparative Lit and Int’l Affairs Sophia McLennen. The two will gab about political satire and how it’s gaining…, well, gravitas in this day and age of “fake news.”

Popović, an exemplar of that famed Onion headline, “Clinton Deploys Vowels to Bosnia” (see, Bosnia and Serbia once were part of the same thing, y’know, Yugosl…, aw, forget it), was a big deal in the ousting of Serb strongman Slobodan Milošović. Popović was a leader of Otpor!, a grass-roots protest movement that essentially became a nonviolent revolutionary force. Milošović found it necessary to quit the Yugo presidency in 2000. For her part, McLennen is a renowned cogitator on global affairs who writes think pieces for the likes of Salon, Huffington Post, the Daily Beast, Counterpunch, and makes regular appearances as a talking head on countless TV news programs.

Hey, you live a in a college town so you may as well take advantage of it.

Bombs Away

Steve Volan wrote a hell of an open letter to John Hamilton re: this city’s decision to purchase an armored vehicle for its police force. The whole process, he wrote, “was a failure of transparency.” Go here to read it all.

The takeaway I get from this fiasco: Mayor John Hamilton has proven himself to be Bloomington’s most adept bomb-dropper. He consults with a precious few advisors (some might say that list consists of a single name) and then becomes convinced his decision is so right, so justified, that he simply goes ahead and imposes it upon the city, no matter the optics, no matter the reaction. It’s right, he mutters to himself, what do they know?

We don’t know everything, Mr. Mayor. It’s up to you and your people to bring us up to speed. Make your case. Justify yourself. Be a teacher. Start telling us why we need annexation or an armored vehicle before you drop those bombs on us. We, after all, are the voters.

And any more such bomb dropping just might cause a significant number of us to return the favor and drop the bomb on you come November, 2019.

I’m Not Deeply Sorry At All

As a self-deputized member of the language police, I hereby call for an end to the use of the phrase “deeply sorry.”

This, as you prob. know, is the go-to absolution politicians, actors, rock stars, and everybody else in the public eye who gropes an actress, drops an N-bomb, tears up a nightclub, beats a spouse, or otherwise makes a stinking horse’s ass out of himself uses in hopes of getting back in the public’s good graces. And yeah, I typed himself for the very good reason it’s usually men who make stinking horse’s asses out of themselves, although on occasion women have to resort to this particular odious form of a get-out-of-jail-free card.

I am deeply sorry, we now understand, is lawyerly lingo. Nobody in real life says I am deeply sorry. They say I’m sorry, sure. They say, I’m awfully sorry, maybe. But deeply sorry? Nah. It sounds so contrived, so CMA. Stop it.


Hot Air: Signs, Signals & Gestures

Signs Of Spring

Not only was this week one of my spring harbinger calendrical landmarks — baseball spring training began Tuesday and Wednesday in Arizona and Florida — but the Bruster’s ice cream stand near my house at SR446  is being gussied up in preparation for its seasonal re-opening. The owners of the the joint went all out this off-season, having the place freshly painted and popping for spanking new signage and awnings. Cars are parked outside the place meaning people are inside getting coolers and cash registers, cup stacks and cone dispensers, ready for opening day.

That day this year: March 1st, less than two weeks away. Wahoo!


The More Flags At Half Staff, The Safer Kids Will Be!

I noticed the American flag at city hall was at half-staff yesterday, presumably for those 17 poor kids in Parkland, Florida.

As I passed the flagpole, I felt a rush of anger. I wanted to march inside and demand they put the flag back up to full staff. Displays like lowering the flag and other pointless gestures are doing nothing for the next batch of 17 0r 23 or even just eight or 10 kids in some town we’ve never heard of before but is destined to become indelibly etched into our memories.

I’ve noticed internet comments from 2nd Amendment fetishists crying out that we liberals want to snatch everybody’s guns away from them now. One guy even swore up and down that Hillary Clinton pledged to rescind their precious Amendment while she ran for pres. against the lunkhead that eventually won on a technicality.

We’re waging a debate against people who live in an hallucinatory world. Add that to the gun manufacturers and their squealing lobbyists, the NRA, spewing verbal and printed sludge, and the discussion has irretrievably devolved into troglodytic hollers.

Damn it all.


That fellow who brought a bullhorn into Mayor John Hamilton’s State of the City address the other day did Hizzoner, the members of the city council, and Bloomington police chief Mike Diekhoff a big favor. Suddenly, the focus is on his ridiculous act of shouting the mayor down and putting a premature end to Hamilton’s address rather than the damned armored vehicle our local leaders are buying.

Look, the man was a jackass. Add to his original idiocy the fact that the city now probably is going to start thinking about screening everybody who comes to the hall for meetings and such. Nevertheless, let’s not confuse his foolishness with the real argument.

XX Representation

65 Democratic Women Were Sworn In To The US House In 2015.

Fortune mag ran a little thing a couple of weeks back on the numbers of women in various countries’ lower houses as of 2018. This holy land’s lower house, natch, is the House of Representatives. And wouldn’t you know it, Murrica ranks low in female representation therein.

A scant 19.4 percent of the members of the US House of Representatives are women. That’s a shade fewer than one of five. And that’s a scandal.

Much of the rest of the world is doing a hell of a lot better than this “beacon of democracy” in that particular gender ratio thing. For instance, Bolivia’s lower house is comprised of 53.1 percent women. Mexico, 42.6. Cuba, 48.9. And the champion in terms of female representation is Rwanda — Rwanda, for pity’s sake! — with 61.3.

When did America become so backward?

Hot Air: Politics & The People Who Keep Them Honest

Big Stuff

Did you miss my interview with Indiana University’s outspoken political scientist Jeff Isaac on Big Talk yesterday?

Part of the beauty of the chatfest was learning that Isaac playing stickball on the streets of Queens in New York City when he was a kid. That kid, sez he, would laugh in your face should you have suggested back then that he’d grow up to be a college professor.

That’s the kind of thing I love best about being able to produce and host Big Talk.

Just a reminder: tune in every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM for Big Talk. If you miss it, come back here every Friday AM for the podcast link.

Oh — here’s the link to yesterday’s show.

Media Capture

And then, lo and behold, I ran into Isaac, almost at the very time the show was airing, at IU’s Global Studies building where we both, coincidentally, attended a conference featuring an array of international big shots talking about “media capture.” That, BTW, is the new bete noir word for what used to be referred to as censorship. The distinction being censorship always harkened to mind jackbooted gov’t thugs busting up newspaper offices or taking over TV and radio stations by armed force.

Things don’t work so brutally anymore. It’s not just governments trying to control the message now; it’s a combo of states, corporations, industry lobbyists, uber-wealthy individuals, and a host of off-screen players who stick their fingers into the media pie. And this development might be a tad scarier than the obsolescent image of censorship we carry around in our heads. Sure, a cancerous tumor that you can feel with your fingertips is terrifying, but a whole cluster of little malignant nodes doing their thing over a period of months or years, deep within, is a hell of a lot harder to 1st) find and 2nd) fight.

In any case, Global Studies Dean Lee Feinstein and his super-duper ass’t, Yael Ksander, put on a bang-up show. On the dais were luminaries from the international media and democracy world, including:

  • Mark Nelson, Senior Director for the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA)
  • Maxine Tanya Hamada of the World Movement for Democracy
  • Carl Gershman of the National Endowment for Democracy
  • Natalia Arno of the Free Russia Foundation
  • Aleksander Dardeli of the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX)
  • Marco Larizza of the World Bank

It was the last-named who caught the attention of both myself and the fellow I was sitting next to. Passionate leftist Joe Varga, prof. in IU’s Labor Studies dept., and I gave each other the side-eye as Larizza was intro’d. This, due to both Joe’s and my certainty that the root cause of media tainting — “capture,” if you will — is the effect of big dough on reporters, eyewitnesses, whistle-blowers, inside sources, and the rest of the cast of characters who make up the journalism infrasructure. Top-notch reporting is expensive and the sources for the money to support it, increasingly, are those who are standing on their heads to dismantle free inquiry and, well, democracy itself.

And the funny thing is, “fake news,” for instance, doesn’t really need huge influxes of capital. As Mark Nelson said, “Lies are cheap. They don’t cost anything to produce.” Good, responsible reporting, says he, “is costly.”

I’m not being overly-dramatic when I say the coming decade or so just may see a whirlwind of change — I’m not saying whether it’ll be good or bad at this early date — in the paradigm, the dance between journalism and democracy all around the world.



Hot Air: Tears & Clowns & Other Things

A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money.

— W.C. Fields

A joke. Sure. But also something more. A truth.

Problem is, not enough people take it as a truth. They think rich men are something greater than the rest of us. It’s that kind of thinking that gave us our current president.

Poli Talk

My guest this afternoon on Big Talk will be outspoken Indiana University political science professor Jeff Isaac. We had a rollicking time in the studio. I’m telling you, he and I ought to be a comedy team or, at the very least, a talk radio duo that tops whatever time slot we’re in.

Tune in at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM or come back here tomorrow AM for the podcast link.

He Told The World What He Was Going To Do

Another school massacre. We’re not even shocked by this madness anymore.

I checked in with my sister who lives down in Florida, not far from Parkland. Last night around 8:00pm, I asked if she knows of anybody who has kids who attend that Stoneman Douglas HS where 17 were killed yesterday. She said one of her co-workers has a couple of grandkids who go there. Even at that late hour, nobody knew if the those grandkids were safe or not.

All I could think about was how parents and grandparents and all other loved ones of Stoneman Douglas kids must be going out of their minds with worry. That’s trauma as well, above and beyond the bullet wounds that some kids suffered.

Is it too much to ask that whenever somebody like this alleged shooter, some kid named Cruz, makes clear and dangerous threats over the internet (as he reportedly did) then some authority somewhere would have to visit him, check up on his mental state, AND MAKE FUCKING GODDAMNED SURE HE’S NOT PACKING HEAT!

That’s all. That’s a start.

Hot Air: Susan’s Shoes

A lively debate was had on social media yesterday, centering around Bloomington’s proposed purchase of an armored military vehicle for its police department. Me? I’m four-square against it, mainly because I detest the militarization of the police and because, with tyranny creeping up on us not only in this holy land but around the world, we don’t need big metal reminders that the state is too often prone to be both mighty and horrible.

A BearCat G3.

That said, City Council member Susan Sandberg tried to explain why this town might need what is essentially a police tank. Generally, I agree with Susan on positions both local and national. I wondered why she and I diverge in this particular case.

So I tried to put myself in her shoes. Perhaps this is what happened. She was given arguments, presumably by police chief Mike Diekhoff, that held the tank to be a necessary protection for officers responding to, say, a stand-off near the IU campus. Maybe a mad gunman is holding a number of hostages. Maybe the gunman is armed with automatic weapons. Maybe he’s got dynamite strapped around his waist. The only way officers can safely get near the scene of the hostage-taking is in such a vehicle as the Lenco BearCat, the one Diekhoff wants the city to buy for his force.

Now let’s suppose Susan and her council colleagues think, as I do, that the city shouldn’t obtain the tank and they vote the proposal down. But, lo and behold, that hostage situation actually does arise not much later. And, heaven forbid, a Bloomington police officer gets shot and dies.

I can imagine Susan and the rest of the council never being able to sleep at night for the rest of their lives for the guilt they feel.

It could happen, couldn’t it?

Even though I remain steadfastly opposed to the purchase of the armored vehicle, I can understand why someone in a decision-making position might not be so certain as I am.

Hot Air: That’ll Show ‘Em Who’s Boss!

The Bloomington Police Department wants to buy a Lenco BearCat. That’s a big, expensive armored vehicle whose nickname is an acronym for Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck. Here are some juicy details about it from Police magazine:

Lenco’s BearCat [has] certified hardened steel armor and ballistic glass capable of multi-hits, blast-resistant floors, specially designed gunports, roof hatches,and multiple ingress/egress doors…. It features Patriot3’s Liberator ETS.

The Liberator ETS is a deck and ramp system allowing an assault team to enter a second story window, as pictured in Patriot3’s website:

The Lenco company’s webpage featuring the BearCat displays this photo of the vehicle in action:

Apparently, the BPD is worried our fair city will soon be attacked by North Korea or Russia even an invading force from some other planet.

The proposed purchase has raised hackles among those Bloomingtonians who believe we’ve all been put on this Earth to sing Kumbaya together while holding holds.

As far as I’m concerned, the rollout of the BPD’s new BearCat should only be a start. I want Bloomington to become a nuclear city.

I hereby call on Mayor John Hamilton, Police Chief Mike Diekhoff and the City Council to authorize the purchase of a B61 (MK-61) intermediate yield thermonuclear bomb. A soon-to-be retired iteration of the bomb, the B61-11, was introduced in 1997 and boasts a “strengthened bomb case” allowing it to be targeted at underground command centers, of which there are certainly many in this college town. The 11’s primary explosive material is beryllium-reflected plutonium boosted by deuterium-tritium and yields a force of up to 400 kilotons, depended on the size of its core. I recommend our city purchase the higher-yield variety, just to be sure.

The US military wants to replace the 11 with the shiny new 12 model. This affords us the perfect opportunity to cop an 11 at a bargain-basement price.


The Hiroshima nuclear bomb yielded some 15 kilotons of explosive power, killing more than 130,000 people. The B61-11 dwarfs that weapon.

Should the criminals of Bloomington force our law enforcement authorities to use this bomb, the B61-11 would wipe out the entire city as well as most or all of Monroe County. That would most certainly eliminate all criminal activity here.

As well as everything else.

Hey, you wanna make an omelet, you gotta break some eggs.

Hot Air: Gimme A Break – No, Really!

My AM coffee pal Pat put it to me: Whadja think of Nancy Pelosi’s speech?

Pelosi Perorates.

My response: Duh. What?

Truth is, I’ve pretty much been avoiding the news — national, global, even local — for a week now. Actually, a couple of weeks.

There’s an atom of regret in there, that minuscule voice telling me I’m being irresponsible. By golly, the voice nags, what the hell kinda good citizen are you?

I don’t usually let that voice prattle on too long. I’m a fine citizen, I tell myself. Part of my fine citizenship is my need and practice, on occasion, to take a goddamned break now and then, now and then.

A good citizen is a sane citizen. And the constant barrage of President Gag flotsam and jetsam can drive even the most mentally balanced human being (a superlative level, in fact, that I’m not within a light year and a half of in any case) bonkers.

So, yeah, Nancy Pelosi gave a big old long speech on the floor of the US House yesterday. About DACA or ACA or something. That’s all I know about it now.

An even bigger truth: Everything’s carrying on apace — nationally, globally, even locally — w/o me.

I’ll stick my nose back into things political just as soon as I feel mentally and emotional capable again. Meanwhile, there’s a baseball season for me to get ready for — pitchers and catchers report to the 30 spring training sites Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

Marilyn Monroe Accompanies Hank Majeski to the White Sox Camp in 1951.

To The Barricades!

It’s Big Talk Thursday. Bloomington’s political and civic doyenne Charlotte Zietlow joins me at 5:30pm to talk about the revolutionary 1971 local election here. Tune in to WFHB, 91.3 FM, or come on back here tomorrow for the podcast link.

Next Time, Try Infinitesimal

BTW: Isn’t there a word in your vocab. that you, w/o fail, misspell? I mean, every time you type it in, it comes out wrong, right? One of mine is the above-mentioned minuscule. Guaranteed, every time I clack it into a post, I plink an I rather than a U. Miniscule. And WordPress’s spellchecker always flags it. And, every single solitary time, I bark, No! It’s okay! Goddamned spellcheck! And then I have to look it up and, yep, spellcheck was right. Curses.

Trust me, minisc…, I mean, minuscule ain’t my only lexicographical bugbear.

Now That’s Minuscule!

Hot Air: Hey Buddy, I Got A Hot Tip For You

So, apparently, some kind of thing happened in the stock market Friday and Monday. It always seems to be Fridays and Mondays when all these stock traders, or what in the hell ever they are, start getting all nervous breakdown-y.

Some sort of points were down by a thousand. I have no idea what that means. I know of no sport in which scores range into the thousands.

Indexes and averages were down. Yields, too. These things must mean something the unlettered layperson can grasp, right?

Bears were seen roaming the streets outside the stock exchange. Isn’t that what some people claimed? If so, wouldn’t that be good? I mean, I’d be all on the side of bears in a cage match versus stock traders. Bears are cool. Anyway, I could see what all the folderol is about if this bears story were true but, I’m learning, it’s only a metaphor.

This thousand-point thing, or whatever happened, is very, very traumatic. Awfully bad for the nation, don’t you know. The world, too.

This Happened: I’m Told It Ain’t Good.

Me? I didn’t feel a thing.

Last time there was some kind of stock market tragedy, back in 2007-08, the wealth The Loved One and I possess took some kind of beating. Then, a few years later, our little pile of Monopoly dough, miraculously, had grown as tall as it had been before that financial trauma. Like I said, I didn’t feel a thing.

Anyway, loads of people on TV, the internet, and in coffeehouses and bars are wringing their hands. Fingernails are being chewed. Cases of Pepto-Bismol swallowed. The papers are loaded with pix of guys in garish smocks staring dolefully at computer screens up on the walls of what I assume to be where they trade stocks. Or hide out from bears. Or whatever. So I figure I’d better try to understand this economics business once again, for the 23 jillionth time.

Fortunately, every news website, every paper, every TV station, is running its own little tutorial. The Stock Market Plunge Explained goes the headline. So, I read a few.

Guess what. I still have no goddamned idea what in the hell happened Friday and Monday.

I’ve only ever felt confident in my knowledge of high finance when I realize that the stock market is basically Vegas. And not Vegas-lite, I might add. The wagering, the propositions, the backing and the fleecing on Wall Street all put the Nevada houses to shame. We’re talking trillions of dollars here. Trillions!

Lets look at a trillion:


There’s not even that many light years from one end of the observable universe to the other. I forget who wrote this — it may have been Isaac Asimov — but I remember reading once that when we want to say something’s huge, something has a lot of zeroes after it, we call it “astronomical.” And when we want to say something’s modest or small in number, we call it “economical.” It should be, this guy wrote, the other way around. Something that can be counted in the 13-plus figures should be referred to as economical. The economy’s the only realm of human endeavor whose practitioners count so high.

Anyway, I iterate: Only when I see the obvious correlation between hard-core gambling and the stock market do I feel I’ve got a handle on what all this indexes and averages and yields stuff is all about.

The thing is, we warn people all the time about the potential dangers of Vegas gambling. We even have a sort of a safety net for people who get carried away in Vegas: we call it Gamblers Anonymous. A person who can’t tear him or herself away from the baccarat table can go get therapy. There are even pharmaceuticals that purportedly squelch the urge to throw dice.

Those guys in garish smocks gazing dolorously at computer screens on the walls of the stock exchange? They look exactly like broken down horseplayers at some seedy OTB.

For some bizarre reason, though, every four years we vote for the guy who promises most convincingly he’ll make it easier for these degenerates to indulge in their habit.


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