Category Archives: Ann Romney

Hot Air

A Stand Up Guy — Finally

At long last.

Prez Barack H.O. the other day finally — finally! — called out the idiotic climate change deniers in Congress and the Right Wing media. He was especially hard on the elected deniers who’ve tried to erect roadblocks before every gov’t attempt to stem the flow of crap into our air and water.

Of cerebral titans like Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), who, while not overtly denying the science,  still play along with their partisan confreres who do, Obama said: “There are some who duck the question by saying, ‘Hey, I’m not a scientist.’ Let me translate that for you: what that means is, ‘I accept that man-made climate change is real, but if I admit it, I’ll be run out of town by a radical fringe that thinks climate science is a liberal plot.”

The Kenyan-born secret Muslim mole who has stolen the White House from its rightful heirs for all intents and purposes told a crowd of University of California-Irvine graduates Friday that climate change deniers are full of horseshit.


“I Must Say They’re Full Of Horseshit.”

What took you so long, Barry?

Oh right, you haven’t wanted to alienate these folks because you have to work with them. As if they’ll work with you whether you alienate them or not.

Anyway, Obama stood up for something for a change. Personal to the C-in-C: Keep it up.

A Cheesy Regulation

The interwebs this week have been buzzing with news that the federal Food and Drug Administration might want to ban the aging of cheese on wooden board, a practice that’s been going on since the first splotch of milk started going sour.


Cheese Aging On Wood Boards

Huzzah! The FDA has issued a clarification that says, in essense, Hey, don’t sweat it. The feds, it turns out, won’t be crushing artisanal cheesemakers with the heels of their jackboots by banning wood board aging after all.

I’m sure this apparent reversal has more to do with Open Carry cheesemakers advancing on Washington, DC than anything else.

Open Carry

… The Right Of The People To Age Monterey Jack…


Back to presidents, the next one has taken some heat of late for her statement that she and her hubby Bill were “dead broke” when they left the White House in January, 2001.

Bill Clinton, of course, came from poverty but Hillary grew up in the very comfortable and privileged Chicago suburb of Park Ridge. As such, she has no idea what the term “dead broke” means.


We’ve Got To Pay That Electric Bill

When Bill said “I feel your pain” back when he was running for prez the first time, you could believe him. Hillary, though, had better not say any such thing because she has no idea. This is not to say she can’t be an effective and powerful voice for the poor when — if? Naw, when — she takes the Oath of Office in Jan. 2017. Only that she’s never had to scrimp or save or eke for anything at any time in her life.

In this sense, her statement was as offensive as Ann Romney’s in 2012 when she bragged that she was a working woman because she’d raised kids at home. I wrote at the time that it’s doubtful she’d ever had to worry about scrubbing the toilet, mopping up a spilled gallon of milk, or cleaning up a splash of puke. If she did it would be because the help was off and the emergency household chore thing was sort of a lark.

Personal to Hill: Ixnay on telling the world about your financial struggles; you’ve got enough credibility problems already.

The States Of Hate

Thanks to Helen Harrell and Carol Fischer for pointing this out from the Southern Poverty Law Center:


Go ahead and check the site for a more detailed look at this plotting but a quick glance shows how hate seems to be centered in a certain area of this holy land. The southeastern quarter of this nation is rife with people who so despise The Other that they’ve joined groups to do something about it.

Just a thought: Indiana seems a tad over-represented in relation to its size, doesn’t it?


The Pencil Today:


“It was the labor movement that helped secure so much of what we take for granted today. The 40-hour work week, the minimum wage, family leave, health insurance, Social Security, Medicare, retirement plans. The cornerstones of the middle class security all bear the union label.” — Barack Obama



Congrats to Pencillista Nancy R. Hiller for earning state kudos on her fab tome, “A Home of Her Own.”

The Hiller opus was named a finalist in the Best Books of Indiana: Nonfiction 2012 beauty contest this week.

Hey, I ain’t the only guy who can write around here.


A quick reminder: Bloomington’s Science Cafe fires up again Wednesday, September 12th.

IU experimental nuclear physicist Michael Snow will deliver the first presentation on Antimatter.

Physicist Michael Snow

Brain scientist Alex Straiker, who’s organizing this latest incarnation with lab-mate Jim Wager-Miller, says the shebang will begin at 6:30pm at Rachael’s Cafe.

This fall’s science topics will also include “The First Americans,” “Climate Change and Bloomington,” and “Brain-Machine Interfaces: Eye Tracking.”


Hustler was among the worst porn I’ve ever seen in my life.

I say was because I haven’t seen the mag in years. Maybe even decades.

So I have no idea what unflattering poses its intentionally half-witted looking models are being put into these days. Suffice it to say I recall them reclining akimbo to such an extent that were I so trained, I could proffer them instant cervical exams from afar.

That is, were I moved open the mag’s pages.

I just never found the thing arousing. I consider my tastes in unclad women fairly, um, progressive. I mean I don’t need my pix of naked ladies to feature impossibly long-legged and wasp-waisted, vacant-staring, “hotties” with plastic half-cantaloupes on their chests.

That’s me. Apparently the vast majority of American male-dom (male-dumb?) digs that look. Hustler had it in spades.


The mag’s circulation stands at around half a million these days, down from a high of 3 million per month in its pre-Interwebs hayday.

Larry Flynt, the visionary behind Hustler, long has been a scourge to the Right, specifically its self-appointed plaster saints like the late Jerry Falwell and the regrettably still-respiring Gov. Rick Perry. That alone earns my grudging respect for him even though I hold my nose while stating it.

And now Flynt has flopped a million bucks on the table, calling for anyone in this holy land to produce Mitt Romney’s tax records.

You know, those things Ann Romney, hands on hips, jaw set, has refused to allow us to see. She says she and her special guy have nothing to hide, therefore they’re hiding the returns.

We’ve Given ‘You People’ Enough!

If someone does come through with the docs that’ll tie Romney in with an arch-criminal, global, underground, crushing tyrannical corporate syndicate looking to addict the world population to dangerous chemicals, financial “instruments,” and magic underwear, then a million bucks’-worth of the dough Flynt made portraying woman as DNA receptacles will have done some good.

Of course, it’ll be just as good if the elusive tax returns simply reveal the Romneys to be richer than the spooky god they worship.


Here, thanks to I Fucking Love Science (or, for the more skittish among us, Science Is Awesome) is a comparison of the mirror sizes of the Hubble Space Telescope and the proposed James Webb Space Telescope.

Is there an “edge” to the Universe? Maybe, the JWST will allow us to see it.

From NASA: James Webb vs. Hubble — How Do They Compare?

From The Moscow Times we learn that Russkies are dying to sound like bossman Vladimir Putin.

Apparently, Putin is the most accomplished of Russian leaders when it comes to prevaricating in the language of his land.

Silver Tongues

In that, he’s like our very own Bill Clinton.

The Pencil Today:


“You can fool too many of the people too much of the time.” — James Thurber


Looks like that big fist of rain up around the Chi-town area is getting ready to come down upon us.

We’re still not ready to complain about another washed-out weekend, though.

NOAA Satellite View, 9:15am, EST


In the category of People Will Believe Any Bullshit Anyone Tosses At Them, this book cover has to rank among the top ten:

And just to show how bizarre Homo Sapiens sapiens is, a London-based gossip columnist in 1956 described Milwaukee’s greatest piano player thusly:

“… [A] deadly, winking, sniggering, snuggling, chromium-plated, scent-impregnated, luminous, quivering, giggling, fruit-flavored, mincing, ice-covered heap of mother love.”


Upon reading this, Wladziu Valentino Liberace sued the gossip columnist and his newspaper, The Mirror, for libel. And won!

Liberace on the witness stand swore he wasn’t a homosexual (even though the columnist had not explicitly accused him of being gay) and said — I remind you, under oath — that he’d never had a homosexual experience.

And you wonder why some people believe Barack Obama was born in some terrorist madrasah in Kenya run by Karl Marx’s heirs, abortionists, and pedophiles.


And then there’s this from I Fucking Love Science. Many people were sorely disappointed the other night when the moon did not, as advertised, turn blue.

See, there was supposed to be a blue moon a week ago today. The Twitter-verse went full-tilt apopolectic when our celestial nightlight did not shine in the wavelength range of 475 nanometers.

Colors On The Electromagnetic Spectrum

Anyway, tons and tons of deep thinkers flooded the hell that is Tweet-ville with irate complaints that the moon was, well, still white.

To wit:

And you wonder why some people believe it was Barack Obama who crashed the economy.


Still wondering if the Romneys understand what it’s like for the rest of us? That is, those of us who didn’t grow up uber-wealthy?

Read this:

This is not to say a rich guy can’t have empathy. Franklin Roosevelt never missed a meal in his life but he had a feeling for those who had.



Originally recorded by Aretha Franklin, this version was done some 30 years later by Neko Case, perhaps the only woman who could do justice to it other than the Queen of Soul.

Here’s how I waste my time. How about you? Share your fave sites with us via the comments section. Just type in the name of the site, not the url; we’ll find them. If we like them, we’ll include them — if not, we’ll ignore them.

I Love ChartsLife as seen through charts.

From I Love Charts

XKCD — “A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.”

SkepchickWomen scientists look at the world and the universe.

IndexedAll the answers in graph form, on index cards.

Science Is Awesome (formerly I Fucking Love Science)A Facebook community of science geeks.

Present/&/CorrectFun, compelling, gorgeous and/or scary graphic designs and visual creations throughout the years and from all over the world.

Flip Flop Fly BallBaseball as seen through infographics, haikus, song lyrics, and other odd communications devices.

Mental FlossFacts.

Click For Full Article

SodaplayCreate your own models or play with other people’s models.

Eat Sleep DrawAn endless stream of artwork submitted by an endless stream of people.

Big ThinkTapping the brains of notable intellectuals for their opinions, predictions, and diagnoses.

The Daily PuppySo shoot me.

The Pencil Today:


“I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed, Mr. President, but I do say not more than ten to twenty million dead depending on the breaks.” — General Buck Turgidson in “Dr. Strangelove: Or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb


This is both stunning and terrifying.

Isao Hashimoto of Japan has created a CGI video depicting every nuclear explosion on Earth since the first one in the New Mexico desert in July, 1945. The first few years plod along but then, by 1962, when Hashimoto’s vid becomes a perverse symphony, it’s as though we’re trying to blow the planet to smithereens.


In the days and weeks leading up to the Republicans’ self-love orgy going on this week in Tampa, people asked me how excited I was to have this glorious opportunity to spout off even more than I usually do about them.

Whatever “It” Is

The answer: Not much. And a correction: the opportunity is not glorious.

Funny, huh?

As in ironic.

As I wrote yesterday, all politics is theater. And the convention on Florida’s west coast is the GOP’s big showbiz opening.

What am I going to write? That they’re liars and alarmists? I may as well recycle any of dozens of posts I’ve already written about that.

What have we learned thus far that we didn’t know already? That Ann Romney still has a schoolgirl crush on her big boy?

He Lights Up My Life

Wake me up when it’s over.

Oh, and I’ll have another fine opportunity to take a well-earned beauty nap when the Dems convene in Charlotte next week.


There never was any chance Chris Christie of New Jersey would be tabbed by Willard Romney to be his running mate. The fact of the matter is Christie’s too fat.

Chris Christie

Last fall when the idea of a Christie run for the White House was floating around, some op-ed writers danced around the topic of his belt size. Pseudo-liberal blowhard Michael Kinsley even suggested that a Christie presidency would set the wrong example for the nation, as if tens of millions of folks would suddenly start scarfing down entire Tombstone pizzas in a sitting (hey, wait a minute — that is happening already.)

His girth precluding him from coming within a couple of blocks of the White House is both an insult and a rather reasonable proposition.

It’s insulting because most people have a prejudice against fat people. The thin harbor within themselves the notion that fat people are greedy pigs who are swallowing too much of the Earth’s resources, primarily Wavy Lays and Sara Lee frozen cakes.

People are fat, the svelte among us believe (whether they admit it or not), because they are lazy cows.

Choose whichever round animal analog you wish, the comparison is never praise.

Not A Bull, Not A Bear, Not A Lion

Republicans might love Christie’s stances but they’d hate to look at him for four or eight years. The fat, we’ve decided, are unsightly. And can you imagine how Dems would jump all over President Christie for his width? He’d be the poster boy for the rapacious rich in progressive cartooning and editorializing.

As wise policy, keeping Christie out of the Oval Office merely insures that we won’t have to suffer the grief of burying him a year and a half into his presidency due to his heart exploding like a water balloon. I mean, even Bill Clinton was thought to be too corpulent when he was first elected. He had to lay off Big Macs and pretend to exercise a bit before the nation felt comfortable that we weren’t an infarct away from a Gore Administration. Still, Clinton twice had to have his cardiac plumbing Roto-Rootered to keep him alive.

Even though we’ve become the fattest nation on Earth, we just don’t like fat people.


Really, you’ve got to love the Right Wing. They give us so much to laugh at.

For instance, there’s a new book out about the raid to find and kill Osama bin Laden. It’s written by a guy named Richard Miniter and it’s called “Leading from Behind.”

Miniter argues that Barack Obama spent years screwing up the hunt for Obama. Which is odd, considering the fact that the president ordered the raid to get the al Qaeda leader. And it worked.

That is, Obama accomplished something in his first term that George W. Bush failed to do for seven and a half years. Yet Obama screwed up. Miniter so far is silent on Bush telling us the mightiest military in the history of the planet was doing everything it could to round bin Laden up even as the number one terrorist traipsed at will from Afghanistan to Pakistan.

Actually, No

See, that’s the way it is with today’s Republicans and their various Tory pals. Nothing a Democrat does can be praised, even tepidly. Especially Barack Obama. In fact, the Republicans told us early on in his term that their sole raison d’etre until 2012 would be to bring down the president.

Nice patriotic gang, eh?

By the way, those who dared criticize Bush’s handling of Afghanistan and his Family Honor War in Iraq were immediately branded traitors by the same bunch that’s ravaging Obama today.

I’d laugh out loud but too many people buy into the Republican line.

Here’s how I waste my time. How about you? Share your fave sites with us via the comments section. Just type in the name of the site, not the url; we’ll find them. If we like them, we’ll include them — if not, we’ll ignore them.

I Love ChartsLife as seen through charts.

XKCD — “A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.”

SkepchickWomen scientists look at the world and the universe.

IndexedAll the answers in graph form, on index cards.


I Fucking Love ScienceA Facebook community of science geeks.

I Fucking Love Science

Present/&/CorrectFun, compelling, gorgeous and/or scary graphic designs and visual creations throughout the years and from all over the world.

Flip Flop Fly BallBaseball as seen through infographics, haikus, song lyrics, and other odd communications devices.

Mental FlossFacts.

SodaplayCreate your own models or play with other people’s models.

Eat Sleep DrawAn endless stream of artwork submitted by an endless stream of people.

Big ThinkTapping the brains of notable intellectuals for their opinions, predictions, and diagnoses.

The Daily PuppySo shoot me.

Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, games, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Kinsey Institute, Morrison Hall — Volunteer docent training; 3-4:30pm

Monroe County Public LibraryIt’s Your Money series: Free, confidential session with a financial expert; 4:30pm

Bear’s PlaceMusic: Jamey Aebersold All-Star Quintet; 5:30pm

Muddy Boots Cafe, Nashville — Music: 220 Breakers; 6-8:30pm

City Hall, Showers PlazaWomen’s Bike Ride; 6pm

The Player’s PubMusic: Below Zero Blues Band; 6:30pm

◗ IU CinemaFilm: “Little Otik”; 6:30pm

Brown County Playhouse, Nashville — Music: Jeff Nelson & Sylvia McNair host a presentation of performances by Jacobs School of Music students; 7:30pm

The Comedy AtticBest of the Bloomington Comedy Fest; 8pm

Bloomington Playwrights ProjectDrama: “Working”; 8pm

◗ IU Memorial Union, Whittenberger Auditorium — UB Films: “Magic Mike”; 8pm

Serendipity Martini BarTeam trivia; 8:30pm

Max’s PlaceMusic: Americana showcase; 9pm

The BishopMusic: Outdoor Velour; 9pm

◗ IU CinemaFilm: “Conspirators of Pleasure”; 9:30pm

◗ IU Memorial Union, Whittenberger Auditorium — UB Films: “Magic Mike”; 11pm


◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • “40 Years of Artists from Pygmalion’s”; through September 1st

◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • “A Tribute to William Zimmerman,” wildlife artist; through September 9th

  • Willi Baumeister, “Baumeister in Print”; through September 9th

  • Annibale and Agostino Carracci, “The Bolognese School”; through September 16th

  • “Contemporary Explorations: Paintings by Contemporary Native American Artists”; through October 14th

  • David Hockney, “New Acquisitions”; through October 21st

  • Utagawa Kuniyoshi, “Paragons of Filial Piety”; through fall semester 2012

  • Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan, “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers”; through December 31st

  • “French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century”; through December 31st

◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibits:

  • “Media Life,” drawings and animation by Miek von Dongen; through September 15th

  • “Axe of Vengeance: Ghanaian Film Posters and Film Viewing Culture”; through September 15th

◗ IU Kinsey Institute Gallery“Ephemeral Ink: Selections of Tattoo Art from the Kinsey Institute Collection”; through September 21st

◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibit, “Translating the Canon: Building Special Collections in the 21st Century”; through September 1st

◗ IU Mathers Museum of World Cultures — Reopens Tuesday, August 21st

Monroe County History CenterPhoto exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

The Pencil Today:


“Politics is the entertainment branch of industry.” — Frank Zappa


Gotta say it: I miss Rick Santorum.

The political debate has pretty much petered out now that the wackiest altar boy in the nation has quit the presidential race.

We Miss You, Man

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are involved in a staring contest over who loves women more. Romney said recently, “93 percent of the job losses during the Obama years have been women who lost those jobs.” Obama, in turn, has dispatched his wife, not to correct Romney’s awkward sentence construction, but to say her man is the greatest thing to happen to women since the invention of chocolate.

Michelle Obama actually said this about the her husband’s deeds for women: “We have an amazing story to tell. This president has brought us out of the dark and into the light.”


Suffragette Introducing Featured Speaker Barack Obama

And in some weird, Twilight Zone-ish turn of events, Ann Romney, a woman who has struggled valiantly to assemble a staff of nannies and maids, has become an icon for all the hard-toiling homemakers of this holy land.

Oy, oy.

I don’t suppose this debate-for-the-ages will rank with the Lincoln-Douglas wrestling matches of 1858.

Sigh. Oh, for the madness of Rick Santorum.


And, yes, I’m a political geek.

See, I’m pumped about the release in two weeks of the fourth volume in Robert Caro‘s brilliant series of books on the life of Lyndon Baines Johnson. It deals with the 1960 presidential election, Johnson’s ascendency to the presidency following the Kennedy assassination, and his electoral coronation in 1964.

Johnson Drives His Beloved Amphi-car

LBJ was one fascinating man. He stole elections, bullied opponents, battled for civil rights legislation, loathed John F. Kennedy and then served under him as vice president, allowed the nation to slip into a senseless war in Vietnam and found himself mourning that course of events. He issued orders to members of his staff while perched upon the porcelain princess with the door wide open.

Caro won the Pulitzer Prize for “The Power Broker,” his look into the life of New York City strongman Robert Moses. (BTW, Oliver Stone is working on an HBO biopic based on Caro’s book.) He copped another Pulitzer for the third volume in the Years of Lyndon Johnson series, “Master of the Senate.” For my dough, Caro has to win a third Pulitzer for “The Passage of Power” if it’s even half as good as the previous three tomes on the man.

Robert Caro

Pick up any of the aforementioned Caro books; you’ll understand a lot more about how America works if you do.


Dig this observation by social ecologist Peter Drucker:

“Like the forces of war, depression shows man as a senseless cog in a senselessly whirling machine which is beyond human understanding and has ceased to serve any purpose but its own.”

Peter Drucker

The quote, written in 1939, has been interpreted as a description of the madness that was the Great Depression. It sounds to me more like an indictment of unfettered capitalism itself.


“Don’t give me that do-goody, good bullshit.”

The Pencil Today:


“Come, come, my conservative friend, wipe the dew off your spectacles, and see that the world is moving.” — Elizabeth Cady Stanton


Look, I don’t care if Ann and Mitt Romney had ten kids, Hilary Rosen was right.

All the corporate media pundits are saying the Rosen flap is a win for the Romney campaign. Maybe. I don’t know.

Perhaps a significant number of middle class and poor mothers around this holy land will say, Golly gee, I raise a family and I know it’s a tough business.

It is — for them. For Ann Romney it was not.

Do you think she spent countless hours on her knees scrubbing the toilet?

Did she struggle trying to put together a healthy dinner for a family of seven on a budget more amenable to a family of two or three?

Did she ever have to take a bus to her kids’ school for a parent-teacher conference?

Did she keep her fingers crossed that her 14-year-old car wouldn’t crap out suddenly?

Did she wear tattered underwear because her family’s health insurance premiums precluded her from buying new ones?

Whenever her kids bawled or sassed or puked or spilled orange juice all over the kitchen floor, was she the only responsible adult around?

Or were there any paid helpers around to suffer the abuse or pick up the pieces?

Did she ever have to sew up holey socks?


Did she ever check the mail every single day for weeks at a time in the hope her federal income tax return check had finally come?

Were gangs a problem at the exclusive schools she sent her kids to?

Did she lie awake at night wondering how she could prevent one or more of her kids from dropping out of high school?

Did she ever worry about her credit card bill?

How often did she shrug her shoulders at the suggestion of sex because she was too exhausted from chasing kids around all day?

Really, did she ever have any of the worries, did she ever suffer any of the ordeals, that the vast majority of American moms have had to endure?

I know the answer and you do too.

So let’s cut the bullshit: Ann Romney has never had to work a day in her life.


Yesterday was the 29th anniversary of one of the weirdest municipal elections in memory.

On April 12th, 1983, Harold Washington, US Congressman from Illinois’ 1st District, was elected mayor of Chicago.

He was the first black man to attain that office in what had long been called the most racially segregated city in America.


My hometown had been run from 1955 though the end of 1976 by Richard J. Daley, the last of the big city machine mayors. As a little kid I actually thought Mayor Daley was a single word that meant any city’s boss. I recall watching the news one day and seeing that New York had elected a new chief executive. I concluded, therefore, that John V. Lindsay was that city’s mayordaley.

Chicago’s Big Cheese For 21 Years

Then Daley dropped dead in his doctor’s office a few days before Christmas in the Bicentennial Year. The City’ Council’s President Pro Tem announced he’d be the acting mayor until a special election could be held, per the city’s charter.

Well, the City Council wasn’t going to let that happen because its President Pro Tem, Wilson Frost, was a black man. Hell, the city just might slide into Lake Michigan if a black man became mayor, if only an acting one. So the Council did what it does best — it made a closed door, illegal deal to select a harmless alderman named Michael Bilandic mayor.

Bilandic, naturally, won the special election and seemed a lock to retain the office in the next regular election until a 20-inch snowstorm paralyzed the city days before the 1979 primary. Chicagoans blamed Bilandic for the massive expressway and el train snarls that resulted and threw him out in favor of a feisty former Daley department head named Jane Byrne.

Bilandic And His Snow

Even though she possessed the wrong genitals in certain Chicagoans’ views, many liked Byrne because she was tough as nails. For instance, on election day 1979, she phoned Alderman Fred Roti, the Mob’s man in City Hall and a notorious ballot box stuffer. Look Fred, she said to him, I’ve got a good chance to win this thing. All I ask is that you and your boys give me a fair count. If you do, I’ll be fair with you. If you don’t, I’ll cut your balls off.

It was Fred Roti, by the way, who proudly told this story again and again.

Janey Was Tougher Than Roti

Anyway, by the time Byrne came up for reelection in 1983, Harold Washington had thrown his hat into the ring. Most observers figured he was being silly. The voters of Chicago would never in a million years elect a black man mayor, they reasoned.

Then a strange thing happened. Daley’s kid, Richie, the State’s Attorney, started thinking the mayor’s office was a family heirloom that was rightfully his. He, too, entered the Democratic primary race.

Voters living in the vast Northwest and Southwest sides of the city (read: white people) began suffering from the vapors. By good god in heaven, they shrieked, that dumb Daley kid’s gonna split the white vote!

Old Man Daley’s Kid

But Richie Daley wouldn’t drop out even when polls showed him neck and neck with Byrne.

Lo and behold, on the day of the primary Daley and Byrne canceled each other out and Harold Washington won the Democratic nomination.

You never saw such hand-wringing in “The City that Works.”

The Republicans, meanwhile, hustled to put up their own candidate for mayor. Previously, the words “Republican candidate for mayor of Chicago” were merely a more verbose way of saying “loser.” But the heretofore moribund GOP, sensing their first real shot at the office in half a century, selected a member of the Illinois House named Bernie Epton to go up against Washington.

Bernie Epton

The idea that a Republican — and a Jew — could become mayor would have been laughable only two months before the general election. But the city’s white electorate was far more terrified of a black man than a Jew. Come election day, Washington won by the narrowest of margins.

Harold was a fascinating fellow. Personally charismatic, he was a master at pulling a reporter or a fellow pol close while shaking his hand and whispering some pearl of wisdom in his ear. It was as though Washington trusted him and him alone with what he had to say. I’d been pulled close by Washington a couple of times; the gesture made me feel like the biggest shot in the room — next to him.

Washington also had served time in the federal joint before becoming mayor. The IRS claimed he hadn’t filed income tax returns for 19 years, although it admitted he’d paid his taxes in full. Many wondered why such an astute lawyer (he was the only black man to graduate from the Northwestern University School of Law 1952 class) could be so dumb as to not file his returns.

Some Washington biographers claim to have evidence that Washington’s daddy-o was the South Side’s premier policy wheel operator (“policy” was the black ghetto’s illegal lottery game). According to these biographers, Washington himself earned a bit of spare cash from his father’s racket and decided it was better to risk being charged with failure to file rather than declaring income from a criminal gambling operation.

Typical Chicago Policy Wheel

After a brief marriage during World War II — he served in the Philippines with the US Army Air Corps — Washington remained unmarried until he died. Republican operatives during the 1983 election floated the rumor that Washington was gay. When that didn’t prove effective enough, they began whispering that he’d actually gone to jail on a child molesting rap.

Washington’s supporters countered that he was a great ladies’ man. One backer later claimed that if you put all the women Harold had slept with in one corner of City Hall, the structure would sink five inches into the ground.

Harold changed City Hall after his election. While he was mayor, the Hall became a festive place, filled with blacks and Puerto Ricans and more women than would ever be seen there under previous bosses.

Under him, City Hall became a mirror of the city itself.

Harold Waves To Well-Wishers After The Votes Were Counted

Washington was reelected in spring 1987. Then, a few days after Thanksgiving that year, while in a meeting with his press secretary, Alton Miller, Washington, sitting behind his desk, dropped a pencil. He bent over to pick it up but, to Miller’s puzzlement, remained bent over. Miller got up to see what was wrong but Washington was already dead. His heart, enlarged due to his widening girth and high blood pressure, had simply given out.

Even in death, Washington inspired delirious creativity in his supporters as well as his enemies. Certain Republicans claimed the Cook County Coroner had found cocaine in his body during his autopsy. His backers countered that he’d been poisoned to death by unnamed white people.

Here’s my favorite Harold Washington story. I heard this from someone in his administration who was there when it happened.

Washington was in a meeting with three people. It was getting late in the afternoon and the four hadn’t eaten lunch yet so Harold suggested they send out for sandwiches. One by one, each of his three underlings specified which sandwich he wanted with one of them jotting the information down. Finally, they got around to Harold. He said, “That sounds good. I’ll try that.”

The note-taker asked for clarification: “You mean that last sandwich?”

“No,” Harold Washington responded. “All three of them.”

He died fat and happy.


Hey, get yourself over to the Windfall Dance Studio this evening at six o’clock. Bloomington’s own master-ess keyboard clacker, my pal Joy Shayne Laughter, is reading a terrific short story there. (You know, the word mistress just didn’t work for me there.)

Joy’s story is called “The Last.” It’s based on the recollections of her great-grandfather who, as a young man, left Indiana for the wild’s of Kansas to take a job as one of the last of the wolf-poisoners. Honest, that was a position in great demand back a century and more ago. Cattle ranchers wanted to protect their livestock from predatory wolves so they hired guys to set out wolf bait laced with deadly poison.

Joy’s reading is part of the ongoing series “Early Drafts” featuring works in progress read aloud by local writers. The incomparable Tony Brewer is scheduled to spout some poetry tonight as well. There’ll be music, an act from a play, and other arty-fun things.

Windfall is located at 14th and Dunn.


If you’ve read this far, thanks. Please bear with me. I’ve got to post right now even though I haven’t selected and placed my pix yet. If I don’t get up off this seat, Soma Coffee’s gonna charge me rent.

I’ll have images up later today.

Okay, you’ve got pix.

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