Hot Air: Moneyball(ot)

So, Chris Kennedy is going to run against Bruce Rauner for Illinois governor in 2018.

Fine. I’m all for him. Hell, I’m all for anyone unseating the uber-privileged, entitled billionaire who, since his unexpected election in 2014, has been tearing down the scaffolding of social services that have propped up millions in the state for decades.

Rauner ousted a decent guy, Democrat Pat Quinn, who simply did not have the war chest to compete. Rauner spent an estimated $65 million on his campaign, a figure the Chicago Tribune worked out to $36 a vote. He spent more than $20 million in the campaign’s final month, overcoming Quinn’s slim polling lead.

Rauner’s campaign message was eerily similar to President Gag’s: I’m an outsider and I’m the only guy who can fix the government.

Last year, Rauner poured millions of his own dollars into the campaigns of Illinois statehouse Republicans.

Sadly — tragically — that’s the game we have to play when it comes to “democracy” in this holy land today.

It’ll take another wealthy guy to even have a chance against him. Kennedy is just that. He has another ace up his sleeve in that he’s the son of Bobby Kennedy. The Kennedy name, in any state of the union, has got to be worth half a million votes.

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Bobby & His Boy

So, the best and brightest hope to beat Rauner — L’il Duce-lite — is a rich, pampered scion of a dynastic family. That normally adds up to two strikes against him in my book, only sometimes the batter hits a home run on an 0-2 count. Should Kennedy topple Rauner, it’d be a game-winning blast.

American politics. Anyone who jumps into the game — even the lowly voter — needs to take a long, thorough, scalding shower afterward.

Party Planners

Hey, maybe my people have learned something from the Tea Party movement. Last night hundreds drove from all over the state of Iowa to attend right-wing ideologue Sen. Joni Ernst’s town hall meeting in Maquoketa. Ernst, following GOP strategy, planned the gathering in a rural part of the state with a single issue — veterans affairs — on the docket. Her hope, clearly, was to sidestep sticky issues.

Unhappily for her, the overflow crowd peppered her with angry questions about health care as well as P. Gag’s actions. She took a powder when it became clear the town hall wouldn’t be a love fest. Here’s a vid of the angry mob reacting as Ernst gave them the slip:

The President himself tweeted that protests like this one are “planned out by liberal activists.”

Well, yeah, thanks Einstein.

Say What?

More on P. Gag: His acolytes these days are saying, Mang, don’t pay any attention to what he says; concentrate on what he means.

Which is awfully confusing. I thought L’il Duce was the straight talker, the guy who never minces words. Make up up your minds, Trumpists. If you have any.

We’re Wanted

It’s official: The City of Bloomington wants to pull The Loved One and me to its bosom. Here’s the official letter from Mayor John Hamilton’s office notifying us of his intentions to make us part of Bloomington’s big loving family:

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And here’s the sked for the public meetings at which we can shriek to high heaven about Hamilton’s annexation scheme:

  • Monday, March 20, 6-8p
  • Tuesday, March 21, 6-8p
  • Wednesday, March 22, 11a-1p
  • Thursday, March 23, 11a-1p
  • Friday, March 24, 6-8p
  • Saturday, March 25, 11a-1p

All sessions will be held in City Council Chambers at City Hall, 401 N. Morton St.

See you there.

Hot Air: If You Can’t Say Something Bad…

Man, as if to prove the point I made in yesterday’s post, several observers sitting around the big table at the back office of this communications colossus, Hopscotch Coffee, got visibly and audibly itchy when it sank in that I’d characterized President Gag as “bright and clever.”

He’s not smart was the consensus. This even after I reminded them I’d caveat-ed that L’il Duce is far from an intellectual. No matter, came the retorts. Calling him something even remotely positive, I realized, is forbidden.

And then you should have seen the reaction when I opined that the Leader of the Free World probably has ADHD. This after they leveled the popular charges that P. Gag is illiterate and/or suffering senile dementia. I countered he simply seems to be in too much of a frenzy to sit and read — ergo ADHD. As for the senility charge, he’s been acting the same way since as far back as the ’80s when I first started reading about him in Spy magazine.

My arguments were no-goes.

Ah, well. How ’bout if I make everybody happy? Here goes: It is my considered opinion that our Fearless Leader is illiterate, inhuman, not of this Earth, hates dogs, eats babies, steals from blind beggars, owns slaves, gasses Jews, rapes women…, wait, come to think of it….

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The President Of The United States Of America

The War Comes To Big Talk

Does it even register with most people these days that this holy land is still entangled in a war? Our town’s war correspondent, Doug Wissing, is an expert on the blood and treasure pit that is Afghanistan. The war there, says Wissing, remains America’s biggest foreign entanglement expense.

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Doug’ll be joining me in the studio next week for the March 2nd edition of Big Talk. The next installment of “Big Mike’s B-town” in the Limestone Post will focus on him and the book as well. Say, why don’t you hop on over to the Book Corner and cop a copy of Hopeless But Optimistic: Journeying Through America’s Endless War in Afghanistan now?

Wrong Color

Sunday, Joe Varga has pointed out, was the 75th anniversary of Franklin Roosevelt’s executive order to toss Japanese-Americans into concentration camps.

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In America

Citizens of German ancestry in the United States joined bunds, swore allegiance to their “fatherland,” and staged huge rallies in cities all across the nation in the lead-up to WWII. They were not herded behind barbed-wire fences. I wonder why.

Race — for something that doesn’t technically exist, it sure has played a huge role in human history.

Mightier Than The Sword?

From Emily Nussbaum’s piece in The New Yorker about the sitcom genesis of the President Gag phenomenon:

Growing up a Jewish kid in the nineteen-seventies, in a house full of Holocaust books, giggling at Mel Brooks’s “The Producers,” I had the impression that jokes, like Woody Guthrie’s guitar, were a machine that killed fascists.

How about that last image? Guthrie actually hung this label on his guitar: “This machine kills fascists.”

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Guthrie And His Weapon

We liberals like to fool ourselves that songs or novels or movies — or in Nussbaum’s recollection, jokes — are magic bullets that’ll make everything in the world right. Matt Taibbi nailed it a few years ago when he pointed out that only liberals could walk out of the movie theater after watching a documentary and think they’d somehow made the world a better place.

Which of us hasn’t heard a friend or acquaintance rave about a Michael Moore doc or an op/ed in the New York Times, and conclude, “If only the people who watch Fox News could just see (or read or listen to) this!” Which of us, for that matter, hasn’t said the same damned thing ourselves?

Big Mike tip: It’s going to take a hell of a lot more than songs, novels, movies, and jokes to upend the crazy world of P. Gag. They’re good starting points, though.

Strange Bedfellows

“The first thing that dictators do is shut down the free press. We need to learn from history.” — John McCain

When a guy like John McCain is your best and brightest hope to fight the power, you know you’re living in a land thisclose to being a tinpot dictatorship.

Hot Air: Smart Guy

Often when I tell people my opinion that President Gag is bright and clever but not at all an intellectual, they are aghast.

No, not because I call the Leader of the Free World something less than a cerebral titan. They’re huffy because I credit him with being something more than a moron or an idiot (see entry below).

The looks on their faces seem to say, “How dare you give that bastard credit for anything?!”

Just goes to show how we humans think. Your enemy must never be given even the most innocuous kudos. Hell, in my book, calling a guy bright and clever can (and, in this case, does) border on an insult. Six-year-old children can be bright and clever but you wouldn’t trust them to conduct epidemiological research, would you?

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Bright & Clever

So, yeah, L’il Duce is bright and clever. In fact, this little snippet from P. Gag’s own tome, The Art of the Deal, is a far more illuminating take than any of the bazillions of psychological profiles of himself and his fans being proferred these days.

The key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and greatest and most spectacular.

P. Gag may not give a holy horseshit about the average Jane & Joe but he sure as hell knows how tens of millions of them think.

From Lexicon To Insult

The words moron and idiot, as well as a few other current slurs, BTW, actually were official terms that head-shrinkers used to employ in patients’ psychiatric charts. That’s how quickly and radically our language changes. Here’s what the words meant in professional jargon back in the early mists of psychiatric practice:

Idiot: Henry H. Goddard‘s mental classification system, the industry standard for much of the last century, rated idiots as having the brain power of toddlers, specifically 0 to 3 years old. Their IQ’s generally fell below 30.

Imbecile: (IQ 26-50) The poor soul diagnosed as such was considered to be “intellectually disabled” and often lacking the ability to make civilized moral decisions. An imbecile had the mental capacity of a 3 to 7-year-old. The term was eventually replaced by “mentally retarded,” itself now shunned in polite society.

Moron: (IQ 51-70) Possessing the intellect of a 8-12-year-old on the Binet Scale.

Apparently, acc’d’g to the leading lights of the cranium racket a hundred years ago, if an adult had the smarts of a 13-year-old, he or she would be considered A-OK. That, recent events have demonstrated, might be an indication little has changed in a century.

The words dolt, dullard, and cretin also were bandied about by early 20th Century skull jockeys in their professional reports.

I wonder, could a modern-day Dostoevsky get away with calling his book The Idiot?

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This all makes me wonder which terms we use regularly in today’s world will be seen as shocking and taboo in, say, the year 2050.

A prediction for that not-so-far-off year: the word fuck will be as eyebrow-raising as the term darn is today.

Hot Air: Bigger

 

More dope from insiders re: Mayor John Hamilton’s annexation plan.

To refresh: Da Mare (oops, sorry, that’s the Chicago boy in me popping up again) wants to add some 10,000 acres and approx. 15,000 new citizens to the city in the first major annexation around these parts since the ‘Aughts.

[Full disclosure: Chez Big Mike et L’aime lies within the proposed Section 7, AKA the South-East Bloomington Annexation Area.]

Acc’d’g to an expert on the city side, the legislative process — which I though was s’pos’ta to be long and drawn out — actually can be wrapped up by late spring.

Here’s how it goes:

  1. Actual ordinances for the annexations — each designated section will have its own ordinance — can be intro’d at the next City Council meeting in March, followed by a two-month waiting period mandated by law.
  2. The ordinances can then be voted on during one of the Council meetings in June. If the ordinances pass, citizens have 90 days to get their remonstrance* act together.
  3. Absent any snags, the annexations will legally take hold on New Year’s Day, 2020.

Keep in mind the city isn’t going to come to your house to find out what you think about this whole deal, nor will there will be any local public hearings on it. The city plans to host a series of public information meetings from March 20-25 at City Hall. Book it: those meetings’ll be PR instruments for the takeovers.

[ * Now then, what in the hell is remonstrance? It’s the legal hammer residents can use to smash the annexation plan to smithereens. Under Indiana Code 36-4-3-13, Section E, i & ii, if either 51 percent of the total number of landowners within a section or the owners of 60 percent of the assessed valuation of the land therein oppose the annexation, it won’t happen.]

So, if you’re jittery about this idea, you’d better start rallying your neighbors no later than dinner time today — you may only have until September to gather enough support to thwart your takeover. After that, tough luck.

Some folks who haunt the halls of power around this town are certain The Boss sprang his expansion scheme more or less as a surprise to all concerned so as to blunt any pushback from the public. The thinking goes he didn’t want landowners within the targeted sections to have months and months of time to organize against the plan.

I can see why he’d want to act quickly: Wed. night’s City Council meeting was chock-a-block with citizens raising a din against the plan.

Here’s a good bet. Those who live in sparsely populated Section 6 (the Northeast Bloomington Annexation Area) are, in the words of one knowledgable observer, “smart, aware, and organized.” Scads of them are high-salaried professionals, including lawyers. This observer, whose credentials to speculate are impeccable, predicts Section 6 will not be annexed no matter what happens in the other areas.

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And here’s more interesting dope I dug up:

  1. County government is absolutely powerless to prevent the city from taking over the lands. Funny thing is, state senate bill (SB 381) giving counties veto power over such land snatches died in committee this week.
  2. The Monroe County commissioners have hired a financial analyst to determine how much the proposed annexation might cost the county itself (that is, the cost above and beyond what the city must bear).
  3. Residents in the so-far unincorporated areas who’ve already been connected to the city’s sewer lines most likely signed waivers of protest when they were hooked up, meaning they cannot participate in the remonstrance process.

No. 2 is prima facie evidence backing up a city source’s opinion: “The County would love to get involved legislatively; if they could stop annexation they would, because they think it’s nothing but negative for them.”

So, here’s my early line on what’s to come in 2020:

  1. The mayor and his wonks who cooked up this idea will not get everything they’re asking for.
  2. The same gang will get precisely what they most dearly desire — that is, the three small “island” parcels on the west side already surrounded by the city proper, as well as the big strip attached to SR 37 (the future I-69).

I’ll be keeping my ear to the track as time goes on.

Comedy Channel

I had a blast exchanging mots with actor/playwright/funny lady Emily Goodson for this week’s edition of Big Talk.

My chat with the penner of the upcoming Bloomington Playwrights Project musical-comedy “Calling All Kates” ran Thursday afternoon on WFHB, 93.1FM.

Here’s the link to that feature, and here’s the link to the unedited, original interview with Emily.big-talk-logo-usable-screen-shot-copy

Next week, I discuss tango with dance teacher Thuy (pronounced TWEE) Bogart. That episode of Big Talk will run next Thursday, February 23 on the Daily Local News at 5:00pm.

Talk to you then.

Revin’ Up

Here’s the Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band‘s spanking new video. I’m tellin’ ye, I cain’t git this thang outta mah haid.

Note the dude in the red union suit showing up at the 1:08 mark — that’s Pencil pal Hondo Thompson. He’d been bragging about his upcoming appearance in the vid and dashed off an email to me with a pre-release copy of same on Thursday, just as soon as it came out of post-production. The gang shot the vid last weekend and, yup, it’s all done in one long take, à la the opening of the Orson Welles classic Touch of Evil. Hell, even Janet Jackson’s groundbreaking long-take vid for “When I Think of You,” [director: the legendary Julien Temple; and still, arguably, one of the greatest music videos of all time] utilized tricks like panning the camera past doorways and poles to mask edits. This one, though, is uncut from start to finish.

The Rev’s vid was released to the public Friday at 6:00pm.

Hot Air: Crazy

Is the President of the United States of America nuts? Remains to be seen. We can safely assume this, though: the 62,985,106 people who voted for him last fall sure as goddamned hell are.

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BTW: That “mess” President Gag referred to yesterday, the one he claims to have inherited from the Obama Admin. and which has never, ever been characterized as such before by credible observers? I get the feeling the majority of American people are as baffled by this canard as am I.

Perhaps a more accurate take on L’il Duce‘s first 100 days — he’s one-third of the way through that so-called honeymoon period — can be found in the Pew Research Center’s poll measuring Americans’ approval of him.

And, yeah, P. Gag gets the thumbs-up from less than 40% of the public, the lowest early approval rating for the last six new presidents, and fully 25 points below that of — you guessed it — Barack Obama at the same time in his term.

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A mess indeed.

Blotting Out The Sun

And before we start feeling sorry for the GOP because the party is stuck with L’il Duce, keep in mind the Republicans have been barreling down the Doofus Superhighway for decades now. P. Gag may be the orange harlequin who convinces the citizenry that the party of Saint Ronald, Pat Robertson, and Lee Atwater has the vision of the eastern mole (Scalopus aquaticus). That all that counts in this existence are the next quarterly report and tax reduction.

The environment, civil rights, voting rights, banking regulations, consumer protection, science, decency, humanity, heart — y’know the things that supposedly separate Homo Sapiens sapiens from the rest of the animal kingdom — have never been high priorities for the likes of the Bush clan and all the other Klans that make up the party.

An example: Yesterday, Indiana state Sen. Brant Hershman (R-Buck Creek) got his pet bill okayed by the senate Utilities Committee making it less attractive for taxpaying residents and businesses to install solar panel atop their structures. You know, those funny-looking glassy planes that capture the light of the sun and transform it into electrical power? So that we can burn less stuff like coal and gas to power our microwave ovens? Oh, and so we can depend less on volatile oil producers for our daily fix?

Yeah, that stuff. Solar panels.

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The World’s Largest Solar Farm At Indy Airport

[Image: Alex Dierkman/Indiana Public Media]

God forbid we’d want to incentivize their use. Especially when the big publicly-traded utilities suffer allergic reactions whenever another customer installs them. It’d look bad, you see, on the next quarterly report. Again, that’s all that counts.

So, sure, we can one day be rid of Our New National Joke but we’ll still be saddled with an antediluvian, obsessively self-involved gang of greed monkeys.

Hot Air

It’s Comin’

A surer sign of spring than any silly robins on the wing or lengthening days: small service trucks and the SUV owned by the place’s proprietor have been gracing the parking lot of the Bruster’s ice cream stand at the intersection of State Roads 46 and 446 the last few days.

Clearly, preps. are being made for the seasonal re-opening of same in less than two weeks, March 1st, to be precise.

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Yay.

Get Ready

The following list of terms just may become as familiar to us in the coming months as Watergate, Plumbers, tapes, and Haldeman, Erlichman and Mitchell were in 1973.

  • Rosneft
  • The Crimea
  • Exxon
  • Carter Page
  • Igor Sechin
  • Vladimir Putin
  • The hacking of the Democratic National Committee
  • Sanctions

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The Black Sea

And if there’s any optimism to be found in these dark times, it’s that these terms could conceivably lead to the same fate for he who shall remain unnamed as befell one Richard Milhouse Nixon in August, 1974.

Then again, I might be catching Connect-the-Dots Sickness. We’ll see.

In A Melancholy Way

The above-typed word image, “robin on the wing,” comes, of course, from the uber-mellifluous “It Might as Well Be Spring,” a samba-jazz reimagining of the Rogers and Hammerstein “State Fair” hit.

The Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz version played a touch fast and loose with the original lyrics. Here’s the money stanza as recorded by those two titans of 1950s & ’60s cool:

I’m as busy as a spider spinning daydreams,
I’m as giddy as a baby on a swing,
I haven’t seen a crocus or a rosebud,
Or a robin on the wing,
But I feel so gay in a melancholy way,
That it might as well be spring.

Yeah, that’s me today.

Hot Air: Missing

One upon a time kids played outdoors. Most kids, in fact, if my own recollections are any indication, burst out of the house early in the morning and had to be cajoled or even threatened to come back inside for any reason, even the dark of night.

I’d started leaving the block when I was nine years old. I’d discovered a bunch of cool kids who lived on the adjoining street. At any moment after school or, during summer vacation, all day long, my mother had no idea where I was. If push came to shove, she’d have to hunt me down, which wasn’t all that difficult. We were outside playing, in the sunshine and fresh air, running and making a racket. All she’d have to do was look for a bunch of kids and I’d be sure to be among them.

The kids I hung out with on Natchez and Nashville avenues on the Northwest Side of Chi., drank water surreptitiously from neighbors’ garden hoses and knew where all the most hidden-away niches were when the urge to get rid of said water arose. Drinking and peeing at home were ill-considered choices — moms had a tendency to say outlandish things like, “Why don’t you stay in for a change as long as you’re here.” In my neck of the woods, an otherwise sweet-sounding mom suggestion carried the authority of a Tsarist ukase.

As I approached my teens, I’d hop on my bike — with my baseball mitt hung on the handlebars — and race to either Amundsen or Riis parks where dozens of us would play ball from morning to night. In fall, we’d play football. In winter, we’d make snow forts.

Never once were we concerned about any dangers from kidnappers or murderers. And, quite frankly, neither were our parents.

There was a societal understanding that kid-snatching was as likely an occurrence as a lightning strike.

That was true then — and it’s still true today.

Yet, talk to anyone and you’ll hear about how bad and dangerous it is out there these days. The fact of the matter is, it’s all bullshit. Violent crime has been going down for decades. The rate of child abductions has remained at a steady level for nearly a century. And missing kids generally are snatched by one or another estranged parent.

Nevertheless, parents have turned to helicoptering. Today, kids don’t ride bikes to soccer practice. They don’t saunter over to their friends’ houses and yell out, “Yo, Jimmayy!” as we did. Sure there are devices and mind-numbing electronic games to be played in the dark of the basement but much — maybe most — of this change has come about because Americans believe the world of 2017 is inherently dangerous, that kidnappers lurk around every corner, and that bad men would infiltrate every gang of kids playing softball in order to sell them packets of heroin.

All bullshit.

The genesis tale of this delusion occurred in 1979, the morning of May 25th, to be precise. At 8:00am, six-year-old Etan Patz of the SoHo neighborhood in New York City, was sent off by his parents to catch his school bus a couple of blocks away. They’d never see him again.

When little Etan did not return home that afternoon, his parents called the school and learned he hadn’t shown up. The police were notified and a door-to-door search was conducted. A police helicopter hovered overhead as bloodhounds sniffed every nook and cranny. Radio and television stations broadcast a number the public could call with information about the kid’s whereabouts.

Nobody had any idea what’d happened to Etan for more than three decades until a guy who lived near Philadelphia called them and said he suspected his brother-in-law might have had something to do with the disappearance. The brother-in-law, Pedro Hernandez, a New Jersey factory worker, was brought in, grilled and copped to the kidnapping and murder. He was tried in 2015 but acquitted when a lone juror bought the defense argument that Hernandez was mentally unstable and so his repeated confessions could not be trusted. Hernandez was tried again beginning late last year and Monday the jury finally returned a guilty verdict.

In the weeks after Etan’d gone missing, television stations in New York and then throughout the region gave nightly updates on the case. Eventually, Etan Patz became national news. Etan’s face was the first to appear on a milk carton. For nearly a half century now, kids — and their parents — have been confronted by the smiling, innocent faces of kidnapped kids as they crunch their breakfast cereal in the morning. In 1983, President Reagan declared the date Etan disappeared National Missing Children’s Day. The disappearance of Etan Patz led to our so-far decades-long national obsession with missing children.

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Etan’s photogenic, grinning face touched our hearts. Even though kids had been snatched and killed in the past, Etan’s case hit us and hit us bad. After him, common knowledge had it — has it — that allowing a kid merely to leave the house is to invite kidnapping and murder.

The only truth to emerge from this sad tale is not that kids are especially at risk but that we are awfully prone to believing untruths.

 

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