Category Archives: 1 Percent

Hot Air

Choice?

What’s more depressing — the possibility that the 2016 presidential campaign will be between two near-doppelgänger dynasts, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, or the fact that a farceur like Donald Trump’s entry into the race is taken seriously enough that the New York Times covers it?

Clinton/Bush

Pick ‘Em

Me? I’d almost welcome Scott Walker’s nomination by the Party of God because at least he’s an ideologue. He’d offer us a clear choice between him and anybody else in terms of who we want to be as a nation. Then again, I say “almost” because, honestly, I don’t want him to get the nom. I mean, what if he wins the election?

Race War Vs. Class War

With the meme of Gen. Colin Powell decrying the racism within his Republican Party making the rounds again on social media, my pal, the Lake County Republican, poses the following Q: Why does Powell remain a Republican? Why doesn’t he just quit and join the Dems? Now, while the LCR fully agrees that the racists and chronic racism within the GOP are abhorrent, he believes there’s a greater underlying philosophical reason why the Republicans are the better party. After all, the LCR himself hasn’t quit the GOP.

Here’s the LCR’s explanation:

I think it is because the actions of a few [Democrats] are despicable [and] the ethos of the Democratic Party is even worse. They appeal to the base human instincts of envy and resentment of those better off….

This, among other things, the LCR posits, makes the Dems “even more corrosive to the nation” than the racism within the GOP.

That’s quite a charge. My take: I’ll bet Colin Powell himself can’t fully explain why he remains a Republican. It may be inertia. Powell grew up at a time when the most virulent racists and segregationists were Democrats. Harry Byrd, George Wallace, Orval Faubus, and Lester Maddox all were Dems. That, of course, was before Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy folded the Neanderthal wing of the Democratic Party into the GOP.

Now then. The LCR’s charge that the 99% appeal (which precious few Dem candidates are embracing in any case) is worse for this holy land than the racism that has torn it apart since the early 1800s. Sheer lunacy, my friend. Peeps aren’t screaming bloody murder because others are successful or “better off.” They’re hollering because the game is rigged. The way the system works now, those who have dough get more at the expense of those who haven’t got it. The plutocracy more and more controls policy and legislation via lobbyists and campaign moneys. Too many Richie Rich’s didn’t earn their dough; they inherited it. And far too many millionaires and billionaires didn’t get that way through hard work and the production of goods and services that somehow benefit, y’know, people. They’ve been degenerate gamblers who gamed the system to rake in their dirty dollars.

Mr. Moneybags

A Crooked Game

And both the Democrats and Republicans are responsible for this economic world of shit.

Better Late Than Never

My delayed reaction to Bloomingfoods‘ divorce from long-time GM George Huntington and the subsequent axing of a nearly two doz. mid-level managers at the co-op’s three locations:

Both are good moves, albeit anywhere from two to 10 years too late.

Huntington

Bloom Mag Photo Of George Huntington By Amber Lynn Brown

My rec. for B-foods’ next good move? Shut down the East Side and the Elm Heights stores before tomorrow morning. Concentrate on the Near West site and make it a viable local alternative to the new Lucky’s Market and the to-come Whole Foods Market.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” — Malcolm X

THE ANNUAL ELECTRON PENCIL PENNILESS LIST

What a coincidence!

Only two days after Forbes Magazine released its yearly list of the world’s billionaires, we at The Electron Pencil proudly present our inaugural annual roster of broke Americans.

Forbes Got Nuthin’ On Us

(We are working with our crack legal team to determine if we have a case against Forbes. It is our assertion that Forbes intentionally scheduled its release to upstage our eagerly awaited list of the Penniless. Stayed tuned for more developments.)

Several of the Forbes select few have expressed displeasure at having information about their personal finances splashed all over magazines, newspapers, radio, and TV. Our lucky few are circumspect as well. In fact, each of them has pleaded with us not to reveal their identities or net worth.

Forbes Porn

But we are nothing if not tireless, intrepid journalists. Our commitment to unearth the truth no matter the consequences must trump their desire for privacy. As a compromise, we will not use the full names of our honorees.

Now then, here is The Annual Electron Pencil Penniless List:

  • Ronald H.: A talented jazz saxophonist, Mr. H. recently moved out of his cozy pied-à-terre on the west side of Bloomington. He is now “traveling.” In other words, he is homeless. Mr. H. was ousted from his position as Vice President of Facilities Maintenance for a local elementary school last spring. He was a casualty of school budget cuts. He carries the entirety of his possessions in his backpack which has a missing zipper. Sharp-eyed passersby can catch glimpses of Mr. H.’s holdings when his backpack flap flips open. He is considered among the most open and transparent of our 2012 honorees.
  • Miranda P.: She and her two children — Zach, 5, and Lily, 3 — also are “traveling.” Mrs. P. is currently in the process of dissolving her partnership with Joshua P., who last December attempted a hostile takeover of her finances. Mr. P. at the time was putting together a straight cash transaction for sub-legal pharmaceuticals. When Mrs. P. rejected his entreaties for her cash, he threatened and eventually carried out a night-time assault upon her face. Mrs. P.’s jaw was wired shut and the discoloration around her eyes lasted well into the new year. Middle Way House now serves as temporary headquarters for Mrs. P.’s break-away firm.
  • Jeremy M.: Mr. M.’s home was ranked number one in Car and Driver’s 1992 Best Selling Cars list. His curbfront domicile is known popularly among neighbors as as “that damned red Taurus.” He inherited it from his grandfather who passed away in 2006 while Mr. P. was finishing up his master’s degree in fine arts. Mr. P. is looking to diversify by applying for work at Rally’s Hamburgers, Kroger on 2nd Street, and the Subway at Walnut and 6th streets. Some observers say Mr. P.’s total wealth has been adversely affected by his ill-advised leveraging of student loans to acquire his degree. Mr. P. has responded that his degree has been valued in certain quarters at $1.7 million over his lifetime, as opposed to his total debt load of $53,000. Mr. P. was recently seen purchasing a rare pair of red Chuck Taylors at the Salvation Army Thrift Store on North Rogers Street.
  • Kevin W.: A pioneer in the field of bipolar disorder patientry, Mr. W. visits the four corners of Bloomington on his daily perambulations. He is known far and wide as an often accessible member of the local penniless community. He has made enemies, though, during the days before he receives his monthly dosage of lithium. Mr. W. impresses with his ability to identify the day of the week of any random date a questioner might suggest. Some analysts believe this indicates he also possesses a form of Asperger’s Syndrome which would help solidify his inclusion in future Penniless lists.
  • Jana C.: A long-time leader in the local physical pleasure industry, Ms. C. recently became affiliated with Narcotics Anonymous and has indicated she may be looking to move on to other fields. Her ambitions may be tempered by the pressing needs of members of the housing, utilities, and grocery industries for immediate remuneration for services and goods. When her liquidity sank to an all-time low in February, Ms. C. confided to close friends that she may never be entirely free to leave the sex industry.

We salute our Penniless achievers.

TIME IS NOT MONEY

Speaking of the penniless, our go-to researcher R.E. Paris points out that Lester Chambers of the 1960’s power soul group, the Chambers Brothers, has fallen on the hardest of times.

Chambers posted an Occupy Wall Street-type letter on You Tube describing his unfortunate state this week. The post went viral.

Chambers says the recording contract he and his band mates signed in the mid-60’s screwed him out of royalties. He writes, “Only 1% of artists can sue. I am the 99%.”

The Electron Pencil ran a video of the Chambers Brothers’ hit, “Time Has Come Today,” earlier this year.

POT IS MONEY

So, the spectacularly crazed Pat Robertson has come out in favor of the legalization of marijuana.

Wild, huh?

Maybe no so wild when you think about it. Perhaps the human race’s pipeline to the creator of the universe has concluded that too many of his hard-pressed contributors are turning to pot harvesting for him to continue being a prohibitionist.

Pat Knows: You Can’t Contribute If You’re In The Joint

Frankly, this development bums me out, man. I’ve been for the legalization of pot for decades. Sadly, now that Pat Robertson is as well, I’ll have to change my position.

Damn.

Come to think of it, doesn’t he look sorta high in the photo on the link?

CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF SARAH

Roger Ebert digs the new HBO movie about Sarah Palin. Actually, “Game Change” is supposed to be about the failed 2008 run of John McCain for president but, honestly, McCain wasn’t the story at all.

I’m tempted to watch the movie but the casting of Julianne Moore as the winking dolt is problematic for me: I like Moore and I’d hate to have her associated with the New White Oprah from now on.

No, Julianne, No!

Too bad the producers couldn’t get Palin to play herself. Ebert describes her as “the greatest actress in American political history.”

ASK THE ANGELS

Patti Smith, babies.

Across the country, through the fields,

You know I see it written ‘cross the sky.

People rising from the highway

And war, war is the battle cry

And it’s wild, wild, wild, wild.

The Pencil Today:

TODAY’S QUOTE

“How did it get late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness, how the time has flewn. How did it get late so soon?” — Dr. Seuss

MORNING BECOMES NIGHT

Yep, I’m late with my post today. Sue me.

OH, THOSE WACKY PAGANS!

Happy Winter Solstice!

The Shortest Day At Stonehenge

LET’S GO HALVSIES

Conventional wisdom has it that Congress isn’t working. It’s broke.

Pundits, wags, and the guy behind you in the grocery checkout line all agree — our men and women in the United States House of Representatives and the Senate can’t compromise, can’t work together, and flat out can’t effectively legislate anymore.

Only a fool would say otherwise.

Call me a fool.

Maybe — just maybe — Congress for the first time in generations is actually representing the people.

The Representative Of Our Dreams

I know this sounds crazy coming from a guy who firmly believes far too many of our politicians are in thrall to huge corporate interests and the bushels-full of cash wealthy campaign donors throw at them.

That’s still all true. But, strangely, I believe a bothersome percentage of the citizenry also buys into the thought processes and philosophies of plutocrats, robber barons, hyper-capitalists and other frightening creatures.

I’m not happy about it. I wish all people would understand that the interests of transnational corporations and Midas-rich individuals are at best not their interests and at worst — and far too often — exactly opposite our needs.

Gold-Leaf Toilet Paper

But that would take education, calm discussion, and rational discourse — none of which is terribly thrilling to a huge swath of residents of this holy land.

So, they believe unfettered capitalism equals freedom and that the market is protected by some mystical, god-like invisible hand. And that the rich are just like us. It’s this nation’s semi-official religion.

And, as I do whenever I pontificate about religion, I call bullshit.

Nevertheless, the vicars of Adam Smith and Ayn Rand and Alan Greenspan are still among us, muttering incantations and sprinkling holy water on us in the form of grudgingly dispensed tax holidays and insufficient incentives.

We’re a species that needs to believe even (or, especially?) when the belief is based on nothing.

A Lot Of Us Actually Do Want A Solid Gold Toilet

So, if half of us believe in economic ghosts and I think they’re as wrong as flat-earthers, that half is still out there and they vote. And their guys are in office.

Those guys used to be called, simply, Republicans. What depresses me is that a pile of Democrats are buying into that religion now, too.

Sure, there’s talk of the 1 percent and the 99 percent. Street protesters and my leftie friends say, How can anybody defend the 1 percent?

Easy, I say. The religion of these Great United States, Inc. holds that any of us can become part of the 1 percent, if only we work hard enough, are crafty enough, and ignore messy government regulations enough.

If only.

Now, back to Congress.Why does it seem to be stuck?

Can it be that at this moment in history half of us buy into the prevailing economic religion and half of us don’t?

That half of us want our fellow citizens to be self-sufficient and hard-working because that’s the magic formula for prosperity?

And that the other half think the deck is stacked against the little guy so we need to help people when they’re unemployed, when they’re sick, and even when they go to jail?

A Lazy Bum Or A Brother In Need?

That half of us are scared to death that we’re fouling our air, water, and land to such an extent that disaster is right around the corner? And the other half is just as scared that environmental protections will shatter the economy?

I can go on but you get the point. This is a weird era — call it the Era of the Two Halves. And Congress’s seeming inability to work is merely a reflection of the duality in our national consciousness.

A simple historical example. When Harold Washington was elected the first black mayor of Chicago, the city population was almost precisely divided into black and white.

Just about half of Chicagoans suffered the vapors when Washington was sworn in. The other half danced in the streets.

Dancing In The Streets

The city’s aldermen split similarly. Washington allies like Tim Evans and Bobby Rush bickered daily with the anti Washington bloc, led by Ed Vrdolyak and Ed Burke. I don’t think I need to identify any of these esteemed statesmen by color, do I?

Anyway, over the next four years, until Washington gorged himself into a fatal heart attack, the two sides of the City Council couldn’t get a thing done. The stalemate became a punchline. National politic wags snorted in derision.

My old pal, the comedian Aaron Freeman even created an entire act based on the city’s troubles. He called it Council Wars. He’d go on stage around the city and the country, telling the tale of Darth Vrdolyak battling Harold Skywalker.

Council Wars

The real funny thing was, it was the epitome of democracy. No matter that one side was at very least crypto-racist. That was a given.

Even if I completely disagree with the other guy’s side, if I’m a true democrat (small d) I have to accept his or her position. Believe me, I didn’t like it then as much as I don’t like it mow.

But it doesn’t really matter what I like or dislike in a democracy, does it?

In any case, as I said, Washington stuffed sandwiches into his mouth until his heart grew to the size of old Comiskey Park. On November 25, 1987, he dropped a pencil next to his desk during a meeting, bent over to pick it up, and his heart’s electrical system exploded. He was dead before the other people in the room started to wonder why he wasn’t sitting back up.

Only two years later, Richie Daley was elected mayor on the strength of a coalition of voters that was black and white. People forgot what Council Wars was all about. And now the city even has a Jewish mayor.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Stalemates never last. This one won’t either.

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