Category Archives: Abbie Hoffman

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Abbie Hoffman: An Oldie But Goodie

I thought I’d run an old chestnut from my days as a keyboard clacker for The Third City this AM. I’m doing this because I feel lazy as hell and I’ve got about 2300 other things to do. I hope you enjoy this blast from the past.

[Originally published in The Third City, February 2nd, 2010.]

Big Mike: Fight The Power(less)

I knew I was a liberal after watching Bull Connor’s thugs knock the crap out of civil rights protesters in Selma, Alabama in 1963. I was seven years old at the time. I knew I was a rebel after reading Mad magazine a few years later when I was ten. I knew where my sympathies lay after Martin Luther King was bumped off and and West Siders tried to light their shitty ghetto on fire in response. I knew whose side I was on when Chicago cops were fracturing skulls in front of the Conrad Hilton Hotel.

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The 1968 Democratic Convention In Chicago

So I’ve known from the earliest age that I’d never, ever want to be part of the bully crowd, the gang with badges and guns and respectability, pillars of the community, the backbone, the bedrock, the silent majority of this holy land. From all I could see, those people could turn into mean bastards in the snap of a finger when, in their fever dreams, they saw niggers, broads, queers, and pinkos plotting to sap and impurify all their precious bodily fluids.

From the age of nine on, I knew that those in power had to be defied, ridiculed and distrusted. For my money, it was better to piss all over their shoes than to shine them. When I was fourteen years old, I found a voice and a face for my nascent philosophy. His name was Abbot Howard Hoffman of Worcester, Massachusetts. The world knew him as Abbie.

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Abbie

He was the fun guy, the sex symbol some said, of the Chicago Eight. The Big Boys in in Washington and Chicago (appropriately enough, led by a couple of Dicks — Nixon and Daley) needed to string some people up for wrecking the Democrats’ bash in ’68 and for saying what pretty much everyone else with a cerebrum knew: that the Vietnam War was nuts. So US Attorneys threw darts at a list of radicals and came up with eight names to persecute and prosecute. Abbie was the star of that cast.

The war, segregation, corporate oligarchies and the rest might have pissed him off, but Abbie rarely lost his mischievous grin. Once, standing before a mass march of some 50,000 anti-war protesters outside the Pentagon, he directed them to marshal all their “psychic energy” to levitate the building. It didn’t work but he gave it a good try. Later, he and some cohorts stood in the visitors’ gallery above the New York Stock Exchange and tossed handfuls of cash on the trading floor, causing a mini riot as people scrambled to grab the fluttering dough.

During the Democratic convention protests, he and Jerry Rubin nominated a pig — whom they’d named Pigasus — for president. The pig lost. I think.

J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI file on Abbie ran to 13,262 pages.

Abbie mixed a joie with his rage. He was my hero. I even gave myself the nickname Abbey (yeah, I inadvertently misspelled it — sue me, I was 14.) I tried to grow my hair out like his — tough to do while trying to remain within the confines of a suburban, Catholic, college prep school appearance code. Had I been able to find an American flag shirt, I’d have worn it; of course, this was before wearing an American flag shirt became a statement for the entirely opposite reason.

When Abbie was found dead of a phenobarbitol overdose (he battled bipolar disorder) I mourned. The rabbi at his funeral said Abbie’s life’s work was to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

That’s why some recent news has made my ears turn red. A quartet of little masturbation artists was busted down in New Orleans for impersonating telephone repairmen and sneaking into Sen. Mary Landrieu‘s office. They wanted to tap into her phone system illegally. They say their little prank was justified for moral and ethical reasons. Landrieu’s sin? She supports health care reform.

The four are part of a burgeoning movement of right wing college students who employ capers, hijinks, dirty tricks, entrapment, and guerrilla journalism to fight the forces who are destroying this holy nation. You know, those who push for universal health care, speak out against racism and sexism, and community organizers — terrorists of the worst sort.

You may recall one of the four as the guy who dressed up as a pimp and entered an ACORN office, phony street hooker in tow, looking for a small business grant. The ACORN representative, unwittingly (and suspiciously stupidly), went along with the scam. The right wing world, naturally, saw the isolated incident as a broad indictment of.., um…, I guess community organizations. You know, groups that try to help the little guy, the bastards.

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James O’Keefe And Accomplice

Anyway, the financier behind this homunculus’s campaigns, a wealthy right winger, has compared his work to that of Abbie Hoffman.

Those are fighting words. Look at the mugshots of the four and you’ll see the faces of privilege. They’re well-fed, smug, and awfully pale. They’ve gone to to best schools. They have bright futures in the corporate world — even if they now carry felony raps. They have as much to do with Abbie Hoffman as they do with Moe, Larry and Shemp (who, I recall, also impersonated telephone repairmen in one of their shorts.)

They’re fighting for the bullies of this world, which in my book makes them uber-bullies. They afflict the afflicted and comfort the comfortable. I hope they enjoy their stay in state prison.

I’m still an Abbie guy, even if hyenas like the New Orleans four try to hijack his legacy.

At the ripe old age of 52, last year, as Barack Obama was being sworn in as 44th President of the United States, I realized I still walked the path with my old idol.

My feelings were mixed as I watched the inauguration. I was giddy that a brown human being had reached the White House. But I was also scared to death that some member of this nation’s racial majority, some lover of status quo, some idolator of guns and badges, certain that pillars of the community and its leaders should have pale skin, would aim a rifle at Obama. If anybody bumps this guy off, I swore to myself, I’m gonna go out with a baseball bat and make some fuckers pay.

It’s what Abbot Hoffman would have thought. Radical? Sure. Unreasonable? Hell no. Thanks Abbie.

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The Pencil Today:

TODAY’S QUOTE

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” — H.L. Mencken

NEWT’S LATEST BOGEYMAN

Our boy Newty has created a brand new bete noir.

You may recall that almost 20 years ago Newt Gingrich, as the virtual capo of the Republican Party, wrote the infamous “GOPac Memo.”

Mob Chieftan

The memo advised Republican candidates for Congress that specific words and phrases would galvanize public opinion for the GOP and against the Dems. In fact, the memo’s title was “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control.”

Gingrich was convinced that the repetition of these words would create indelible images within the minds of voters, much like a TV sitcom hypnotist’s use of trigger words.

Here are some of the words Gingrich recommended Republicans use to associate with themselves and their party:

  • Common sense
  • Confident
  • Courage
  • Duty
  • Family
  • Liberty
  • Moral
  • Pro-flag
  • Proud
  • Strength
  • Tough
  • Truth

As for the Democrats, Gingrich urged his confreres use these terms:

  • Anti-flag
  • Bizarre
  • Cheat
  • Collapse
  • Decay
  • Disgrace
  • Impose
  • Lie
  • Pathetic
  • Radical
  • Shame
  • Sick
  • Taxes
  • They/them
  • Traitors
  • Waste

Democrats, According To The GOPac Memo

You had to figure the word taxes would be in there. The first word a Republican infant utters upon emerging from the womb is taxes.

Garry Trudeau in his “Doonesbury” strip called the GOPac memo “The Magna Carta of attack politics.”

Anyway, the single most damning, uncomplimentary, insulting word on the list would turn out to be liberal.

To be branded a liberal was tantamount to being barred from winning another election for the rest of your life.

One of the reasons the Democrats so infuriate me is that, instead of embracing the liberal label, they ran from it as if it was analogous to child molester.

Otherwise Known As The List Of Prominent Liberals In Indiana

Thanks in huge part to the GOPac memo, the GOP staged its mini-revolution in the election of 1994. The party gained control of both the House and the Senate and Gingrich became the Speaker of the House.

Say what you will about the craven, cynical nature of the memo, it worked. And Newty is nothing if not an astute politician.

Today, you can be forgiven for thinking liberals don’t even exist in this holy land.

So, now that the Georgia Doughboy is running for president, he finds himself in need of another monster under the bed. He has found it. And he’s got a name for it.

Gingrich’s sworn enemy in these Republican primaries is Mitt Romney. Ergo, Romney must become Newty’s new Godzilla or John Wayne Gacy.

Romney

This week, Newty found the damning terminology for Romney. Since the liberal dragon has been slain, Gingrich has had to move the enemy bar lower.

Here’s the crushing epithet Gingrich now uses against Romney: He’s a Massachusetts moderate.

The horror — a moderate.

Yep. That’s what he called Romney this week, his voice dripping with Newt-ish contempt. “I am the only viable conservative candidate,” Newty added.

Yikes. If these Great United States, Inc. move any further to the right, Ronald Reagan’s gonna be lumped together with Abbie Hoffman.

LEFT BRAIN-LESS

Some of my pals on the far left seem to be going just as batty as Newty — only, of course, in the opposite direction. A lot of radical bloggers and Facebook-posters are so disgusted with the wishy-washy politics of Barack Obama that they’re actively calling for his defeat this November.

They say, What’s the difference between Obama and the Republicans?

Well, I have the answer, in three words: Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The nation’s second female US Supreme Court Associate Justice will turn 79 in March. She’s already been walloped in recent years by colon cancer and pancreatic cancer. She’s as frail as a newborn robin. Plus, she has indicated she’d like to retire at the age of 82, which would mean whoever is president in 2015 will select her successor.

I shudder to think of who Newty Gingrich or Rick Santorum might tap to become the sixth conservative member of that august ennead.

Ann Coulter?

She’s No Moderate

TRUTH IS FICTION

Boxcar Books hosted a book release party for Bloomington’s Julia Karr last night, before the region was iced in.

Karr’s new book, “Truth,” is the sequel to her young adult dystopian novel, “XVI” (or “Sixteen” for the Latin-deprived among us.)

She read a few pages from the fresh tome and took questions from the audience. Karr then revealed she has to split up her writing session each day, sitting at her keyboard for a few hours each morning before going to her day job and then doing the same thing after work.

As expected at these affairs, there were plenty of questions about how an unpublished author can break into the business. Karr kindly advised the wannabe scribes on how to write the perfect query letter and how frustrating and heartbreaking the whole process of trying to get a first book published is.

Karr handled the questions better than I would have. Forget about getting your book published, I’d have advised. Try something easier, like climbing Denali in the middle of winter.

 

The Pencil Today:

TODAY’S QUOTE

From the movie, “The Apartment,” by Billy Wilder:

C.C. Baxter: “Did you hear what I said, Miss Kubelik? I absolutely adore you.”

Fran Kubelik: (smiling) “Shut up and deal!”

TRAPPING THE WORLD IN MY WEB

So, I got some news yesterday morning. Good news. Problem is, I don’t know if I should brag or play it cool.

Aw, you know me. I’ll brag.

According to my WordPress.com Site Stats, The Electron Pencil has been viewed by people in the following countries: the US (natch), Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, the UK, the Netherlands, France, Russia, Turkey, South Africa, Thailand, the Philippines, Iraq, India, the UAE, and Australia.

The Mighty Electron Pencil Tower, In My Backyard

This being the Internet, I assume at least some of those hits are accidents, people misinterpreting a category listing for porn, or scammers trying to empty my checking account. Still, that’s 17 countries spread across all six habitable continents.

Cool, huh?

ONE LESS WHOOPING CRANE

Some son of a bitch shot another endangered whooping crane dead recently. The incident was reported Friday to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. One of only 500 or so of the rare birds left in the US, the crane was found in the Muscatatuck River basin near Crothersville in Jackson County.

The current population of whooping cranes has increased from an alarming low of 21 in 1941. Of the birds now living in the US, some 70 percent are wild; the rest live in zoos and private sanctuaries.

Some whooping cranes can grow as tall as five feet. They graze in marshes and fields, pecking for small animals, fish, berries, and grain.

Adults are brilliant white with black wingtips and red and black masks. A whooping crane liftoff is a spectacular site.

A Whooping Crane In Flight

Did I mention the guy or guys who killed the crane are sons of bitches?

AIN’T THAT AMERICA?

Here is the defining snapshot of our holy land thus far in the infant year, 2012:

Billionaire big-city boss Michael Bloomberg smooches talent-free superstar Lady Gaga at the Times Square ball-dropping ceremony. Moments like these make me think it’s midnight in America, babies.

ROMNEY’S MATE

Look, Mitt Romney’s going to be the Republican nominee for president. He’s that party’s only near-centrist and he’s the savviest politician among the lot of them still in the running.

He’s The One

Remember how he dropped out of the 2008 race even though he was running virtually neck and neck with the eventual nominee, John McCain? Romney’s political instincts told him that the 44th Presidency was going to be defined by nothing so much as the nearly moribund economy.

I mean, Barack Obama’s in hot water only because the fallout from the Great Recession still is raining radioactivity upon us. People blame him for service cutbacks and unemployment even though he inherited from his four predecessors the conditions that caused those ills.

Four years ago, Romney figured, Why should I be the one to take that heat?

Smart choice.

So, when the GOP convenes in Tampa in August, that crafty pol will be the one telling the nation how fabulous things will be with him in the White House.

And Romney will hold up the arm of his running mate. But who will that be?

Mark it, dude, it’s going to be the right winger from our worst nightmares. The GOP’s most energetic base still considers Romney to be Abbie Hoffman with an expensive haircut. He’ll have to throw them the veep of their choice as a bone.

I get this creepy feeling we’re going to be longing for the good old days of Sarah Palin next November.

HELLO 2012

New Year’s Eve was a quiet affair at Chez Pencil. The Loved One and I stayed in and made some homemade pizza vanish.

We watched a couple of movies that, by happy coincidence, contained New Year’s Eve scenes: Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment” and Charles Chaplin’s “The Gold Rush.”

The Little Fellow Awaits His New Year’s Eve Guests

The years, oddly, seem to be getting shorter. I wonder if calendar makers are cutting back during these tough economic times.

WE DO FACEBOOK SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO

A no-spamily, no brattle zone.

Retro-junkie and film/vid producer Mike Flores posted a link to this old Bob Hope wisecrack last week.

Funny thing is, Hope could have told the joke exactly the same way except substituting “Republican” for “Democrat” and the other half of the country would have roared and said, “How true!”

We all think we’re brilliantly perceptive and the other side is either stupid or mesmerized.

IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR

This is a gem, a clip from a 1965 documentary on Frank Sinatra. Say what you will about him, he was an artist. This clip, in fact, features three artists: Sinatra, of course; the conductor Gordon Jenkins; and the announcer, Walter Cronkite.

Sinatra in the studio was demanding, mostly of himself. His phrasing and articulation were stunning. His ear was almost inhuman in its sensitivity.

Sportswriters talk about superstars who raise the game of their teammates. That’s what Sinatra did for the other musicians in the studio with him.

Well, we didn’t blow ourselves up in 2011. We’re still here and plugging away, albeit clumsily and often stupidly. In that sense, it was a reasonably good year. Let’s see if we can get another thing or two right in 2012.

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