Category Archives: Abraham Lincoln

Hot Air


Happy Lincoln’s b-day.


The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.

— Lincoln

Fools’ Paradise

You know, I can’t take today’s Republicans seriously on anything until they all stop pandering to the goosebrains of this holy land. Case in point: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker recently refused to tell a British interviewer whether or not he believes evolution is the real deal.

Creation Museum

A Fairy Tale World

Now, maybe Walker does indeed accept the conventional, non-controversial, empirically demonstrable theory of natural selection by mutation in his heart of hearts. It’s impossible to know. What is inarguable, though, is his unwillingness to offend the willfully ignorant of America.

The Party has to ask itself why it is a magnet for the imbecilic.

Addendum: So, let’s say on some far off day the GOP washes its hands of those who believe their ignorance is as valid as the consensus of the world’s scientific community. As I say, I just may start taking them seriously. I still won’t vote for a Republican, no matter what, until the Party supports the Equal Rights Amendment. So there’s that hurdle to cross.

Atheist Extremism?

So, a lunatic who says he’s an atheist offs a family of Muslims (allegedly) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Ergo, he’s an anti-religious bigot whose hatred of the god-loving has driven him to this craven act.

At least that’s how some of the conventional wisdom goes in the aftermath of Tuesday’s slayings.

In fact, The New Republic‘s religion writer Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig yesterday posted a piece indicting what she considers the unseemly “the New Atheism” as embodied by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Bill Maher and other in-your-face unbelievers for Craig Hicks‘ gunplay.



The religionists of this holy land can’t seem to wrap their minds around the fact that atheism is not a religion. Hell, it’s not even capitalized. It is a nothing, whereas religion is a something. It’s not a club with rules, rituals, a leadership structure, and a set of taboos. Religions are just such clubs.

Sam Harris, noted rationalist author, is no more responsible for Craig Hicks’ (alleged) atrocity than I am for Sam (Momo) Giancana‘s criminal acts since we both had Sicilian antecedents and spent a lot of time in Oak Park, Illinois.

OTOH, religions regularly teach that those who are outside the club are to be pitied, converted, and even socially ostracized. Many, if not most, religions go so far as to say that when non-believers die the putative creator of the Universe will condemn them to an eternity of punishment. Taking this to its illogical conclusion, extremist Sicilians and Oak Parkers will not kill you for not being Sicilians and Oak Parkers but extremist Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others just may bump you off for not buying their god fables. After all, god so does not not give a shit about the beliefs and comforts of infidels that he’s happy to consign them to the fires of everlasting hell. Why, then, should we, the faithful, care about nonbelievers’ Earthly bodies?

I still insist that Muslims around the world should actively distance themselves from, for instance, the Charlie Hebdo killings. So should American Christians condemn slavery, KKK atrocities, and the Indian holocaust, since those things were committed in their god’s name. And modern-day Germans bear a responsibility to say they despise their Nazi history.

But even if an atheist claims to have killed people of faith simply because they have a faith, I’m not obliged to explain to you that, as an atheist, I’m not as evil as he is.

Again, atheism isn’t our shared club. Atheism is nothing.

Say-No-To-Snow Hot Air

States Of Wealth

Hey, dig these maps produced by some wonk at the American Enterprise Institute. I’ve broken his one main map into three digestible sub-maps for your convenience.


The Western United States


The Eastern States


Alaska & Hawaii

See what the wonketeer did here? He renamed each of the states for a sovereign nation whose GDP is similar.

My takeaway from this? Let’s stop all the bullshit about how this holy land is broke.

[h/t to Kenneth Morrison, metal artist and revered bwana of the Ever-So-Secret Order of the Lampreys.]

Thank You For Not Repressing Us

Our expectations are so low these days. To wit: all the huzzah-ing over the failure of the Indiana Senate to pass HJR-3 as it stood. Now Hoosiers won’t get to vote in November on denying citizens who love those of their same sex the right to marry.

Same-sex marriage advocates whooped and hollered as if Lincoln had come down from the clouds and issued a new Emancipation Proclamation.


“You Are Free”

Breaking news: He hasn’t.

See, the only reason the vile bill wasn’t passed was because State Senators disagreed over whether it should contain language barring civil unions and domestic partner benefits. So, it wasn’t a sudden upsurge in human decency or a thirst for freedom that caused our august Sens. to nix the bill.

No, they were afraid of teeing off the thousands or hundreds of thousands of hetero couples who [The Pencil voice lowers to a whisper here] live in sin.

God forbid this ugly bill should discomfit anybody who digs man-woman sex!


Straight Guys, Apparently, Get Off On Cyborgs

And, by the way, it ain’t so long ago that the antediluvian, troglodytic wing of the body politic was up in arms about straight people living together without the benefit of marriage. They called it “shacking up” and women who did it were dirty sluts and their men were dishonorable.

Out In Bloomington

Have you seen the Bloom mag online piece about Gay Bloomington yet?

It’s illustrated with a great photo of some of B-town’s most esteemed citizens — who just happen not to be traditional heterosexuals.


Bloom Mag Photo By Shannon Zahnle

I’m struck by one thing: all these people are just, well, people.

That’s one thing homophobes and hateful fundamentalists don’t get.

The Pencil Today:


“Women are all female impersonators to some degree.” — Susan Brownmiller


Do American women really want pink cars?

I suppose there are those who do, but do enough of them crave advertising the fact that they have the XX chromosome that it’s worth it to Honda produce millions of the new pink Fit She♥s?

Haven’t we gone beyond this stuff?

BTW: that’s precisely how Honda’s styling the new model’s name, with a cutesy little heart rather than an apostrophe. Ick. And another thing, what would be the purpose for an apostrophe in that position anyway? The whole thing is a mess, I tell you.

Pink Car? Flowers In Hand? Proof She Has A Vagina

Terrifyingly, the new Fit She♥s have windshields designed to minimize facial wrinkles (I’m not making this up) and the AC system helps prevent bad skin.

Oh, you gals!

Back in the early 70s when women’s lib was becoming sort of acceptable, Phillip Morris Company marketed Virginia Slims cigarettes. They were longer and narrower and had pretty little packaging.

The ads for the smoke were everywhere. You’ve come a long way, baby, the brand’s tagline, became part of the cultural landscape.

But that was then. Sassy women were fresh and exotic — that is until they started making noises about earning the same salaries as men — then they had to be squashed. Just a few years later, Phyllis Schlafly and her gang of upright simians successfully stymied the Equal Rights Amendment. Before the decade was out, women’s lib became a couple of dirty words.

Somehow many females in this holy land got themselves elected to Congress and even were named CEOs of big corporations. Heck, there are more female university students than male in the United States today.

And, mirabile dictu, they’re not just going to college to look for husbands.

So even though the wording of our Constitution was never changed to accommodate one half of our population, women seem to be making big strides, even if the Right Wingers and Christian fundamentalists would like them to make little pitti-pat strides in bare feet.

I feel uncomfortable around anybody who needs to blare to the world what shape their genitals are. Suffice it to say I don’t keep company with any woman who’d be hot for one of these pink cars.

In fact, it was The Loved One who insisted on black when we bought our then-new car a few years ago. She’s cool by me.

Who Am I To Argue With The Loved One?


So, our friends in the Bloomington Common Council last night OK’d the plan to build a 168-room Hyatt hotel on Kirkwood just west of the Courthouse.

Yeesh. I smell a pile of Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Coldwater Creeks popping up around that area quicker than you can say gridlock.

Bloomington Tomorrow?

This ain’t Memaw and Pepaw’s Bloomington anymore.


In the lead-up to last year’s scheduled NATO and G-8 summits in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his State’s Attorney, Anita Alvarez, cooked up a law banning the recording of cops doing their jobs on the city’s public streets.

Protesters and civil liberties advocates screamed to high heaven that the new law would allow the cops to act with impunity during rallies and marches. It would be, they feared, 1968 all over again.

Reporter & Protester, Bloodied By Cops During The ’68 Convention

Rahm and Alvarez, whose position is analagous to that of Chris Gaal here, figured they’d be protecting the identities of cops who might subsequently be targeted at their homes for retribution or merely for the hell of it.

It’s possible. Problem is, whenever public officials or law enforcement officers are allowed to work in secrecy, they tend to do things that they really need to keep secret. Like clunking people on the head with their nightsticks.

A Convincing Argument

So, what’s more important? Keeping cops safe in their homes or keeping citizens safe from the cops?

I know where I stand. Police work is a dangerous business. You take your chances when you take the oath. That doesn’t mean anyone who messes with the home or family of a cop isn’t a stinking rat. But we have laws to protect any citizens — including cops — from criminal attack.

We always have to be vigilant against the chilling effect of authority and tyranny on public speech and demonstrations. That trumps most other considerations.

And guess what? The US Supreme Court agrees! Huzzah!

The Court, still dominated by Reagan/Bush/Bush conservatives — believe it or not, refused to overturn a lower court ruling yesterday that Emanuel and Alavarez’s new law was too broad and unconstitutional.

They Got It Right This Time

Next time there’s a mass demonstration in Chicago — or anywhere else in this free country — protesters will be able to record the doings of the cops, just in case the boys in blue have an urge to dent some skulls.

[A Note: The NATO summit was eventually moved to another location where organizers wouldn’t have to worry about mass protests.]


In other Supreme Court news, the Rolling Stones now are older, on average, than the nine members of the highest court in the land.

Early Humans

And that includes Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who in March will celebrate her 169th birthday. She is the only living human to have attended both inaugurations of Abraham Lincoln.

The team of mathematicians who calculated the astronomical figures have said they did not take into consideration the fact that Keith Richards has lived the equivalent of hundreds of years. Had the Richards factor been added to the algorithm, the math geeks say, the average age of the Stones would have exceeded that of the ancient redwood trees of California.

Just Kids


The Pencil Today:


“Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.” — Peter Ustinov


Two years ago tomorrow, the Reagan/Bush/Bush Supreme Court turned the national electoral process into a plaything for the uber-rich.

George W. Bush Introduces His Nominee For Chief Justice, John Roberts

Yup. The Citizens United decision came down January 21, 2010, with Justices Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Kennedy, and Scalia affirming that the more money you’ve got, the more precious your voice is.

Super PACs, the natural malignant outgrowth of the decision, already have proven to be huge influences in the 2012 presidential race. Republican candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have benefited mightily from TV ads placed by their respective super PACs. Of course, both Romney and Gingrich shrug and look innocent when asked about the inflammatory rhetoric of their wealthy cheerleaders.

And don’t think Barack Obama’s own super PACs won’t flood the airwaves come September and October.


Humor is tragedy plus time. Not enough time has passed, for instance, for 9/11 jokes. Nor for even JFK assassination jokes. Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, on the other hand, has inspired the well-known “Otherwise, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” stand-alone punchline.

Some tragic events generated macabre jokes within minutes of their occurrence. In those pre-internet days of 1986, the Challenger space shuttle disaster was followed almost immediately by a rush of calls from office to office about Christa McAuliffe and colleagues, “vacationing all over the Atlantic.”

The Costa Concordia shipwreck story is hardly a week old. I haven’t heard any jokes about it yet. Still, the thing is rife with its own ghastly humor.

The Costa Concordia Before The Funny Business Started

I mean, honestly, have you read the transcripts of the ship-to-shore radio exchanges between Captain Schettino and onshore authorities as survivors still were being pulled out of the water? It reads like the script from a Marx Brothers movie, for pity’s sake.

When a port official first contacted an officer aboard the Concordia and asked if there was anything wrong, the officer replied only that there was a blackout on board. The port official seemed a tad skeptical considering he’d already been contacted by passengers on the ship who said they’d been ordered to don lifejackets.

Really, now. Wouldn’t Chico Marx, had he been the officer in question, have just as easily lied to the port official, saying the lights were merely out even as the big ship was sinking?

So the port official asked the officer if he should send help. The officer essentially said, Everything’s fine here (with the aside to the audience: As long as you ignore all those people jumping overboard).

Or Chico might have replied, You’d better or my career will be sunk.

But the real black humor came later after coastal guard Commander Di Falco got hold of Captain Schettino. He’d learned that Schettino (Groucho as Captain Spaulding) was safely esconsed in a lifeboat while passengers still were struggling to get off the ship.

Di Falco, naturally, must be played by Sig Ruman.

Sigfried Ruman As Commander Di Falco

Di Falco: Captain Spaulding!

Spaulding: How do you do, Di Falco? Not so hot, by the looks of you. (Real dialogue: “Yes. Good evening, Commander Di Falco.”)

Di Falco: Now you listen to me! Get back on that ship! (“Listen, Schettino. There are people trapped on board…. There is a pilot ladder. You will climb that ladder and go on board. You go on board and then you will tell me how many people there are. Is that clear?”)

Spaulding: I don’t like the tone of your voice, Di Falco. (“… [L]et me tell you one thing….”)

Di Falco: “Speak up!”

Spaulding: Are you out of your mind? That ship is sinking! (“In this moment, the boat is tipping….”)

Di Falco: You idiot! Get up there now and save the women and children! I’ll have your hide for this, you dunderhead! (“… [L]isten, there are people coming down the ladder of the prow. You go up that pilot ladder, get on that ship and tell me how many people are still on board…. Listen, Schettino, you saved yourself from the sea, but I am going to really do something bad to you. I am going to make you pay for this. Get on board, [expletive]!”)

Spaulding: Let’s be reasonable, Di Falco. (“Commander, please….)

Di Falco: “No…. You now get up and go on board. They are telling me that on board there are still….”

Spaudling: Say, Di Falco. There’s no need to raise your voice to me. The rescue is over — I’m safe! (“I am here with the rescue boats. I am here. I am not going anywhere. I am here.”)

Di Falco: “What are you doing, Captain?”

Spaulding: Why, I’m in charge here! Why do you think they call me captain? (“I’m here to coordinate the rescue.”)

Di Falco: You’re now the captain of a rowboat, you hoodlum! (“What are you coordinating there? Go on board! Coordinate the rescue from the ship…! It is an order! Don’t make any more excuses…! My air rescue crew is there!”)

Spaulding: (Looking around.) No wonder I heard helicopters. (“Where are your rescuers?”)

Di Falco: “My air rescue is now on the prow. Go. There are already bodies….”

Spaulding: Bodies? What bodies? (“How many bodies are there?”)

Di Falco: You should be telling me! Great Caesar’s ghost! (“You are the one who has to tell me how many there are! Christ!”)

Spaulding: This is an outrage, Di Falco. You’re asking me to get my new uniform wet. Do you realize how much the dry cleaner charges these days? Besides, it’s cold and dark. (“Do you realize it is dark here and we can’t see anything?”)

Di Falco: Would you like me to bring you a cup of hot cocoa, Captain? (“And so what? You want to go home, Schettino? It is dark and you want to go home? Get on the prow of that boat…. Now!”)

Spaulding: What are you worried about, Di Falco? The other rescuers are here. [He puts his arms around two comely female passengers.] I like it fine right here in this lifeboat. (“Commander, I want to go on board but… there are other rescuers.”)

And so on.

Later news reports have revealed that Schettino steered the ship dangerously close to the rocks that eventually sank it as a way of “saluting” a friend on shore. Oh, and that he had been seen drinking and carousing with a beautiful blonde just before the ship started taking on water.

Man. This Schettino character is a bigger clown than Captain Spaulding, Rufus T. Firefly, Otis B. Driftwood, and Dr. Hackenbush put together.


“Now there’s some sad things known to man….”

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