Category Archives: Billionaires

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Hard Earned

The Loved One and I went to the Cook Group‘s 50th anniversary bash last night at the Indiana University Assembly Hall.

Assembly Hall

IU Assembly Hall

It was the usual corporate self-congratulatory pep rally, complete with an endless conga line of people climbing the stage to get handshakes from big shots for being with the outfit for anywhere from five to 35 years. We sat through videos telling us how much of a family Cook people are and how the world just might spin out of its orbit should the assembled 6000 suddenly stop making probes for various body holes and micro-tools for surgically righting what nature has wronged.

But let me drop my carefully crafted smart-assed-ness to say that of all the corporate shindigs I’ve ever attended (usually as a reporter and only a few times as an inmate) this one’s boasting rings somewhat true. The company does make indispensable equipment for yanking rocks out of people’s ureters or probing their arterial systems to find and squish tumors.

Central Venous Catheter

“Don’t Worry, I Won’t Feel A Thing”

And, for some odd reason, the people who punch the clock there really are sort of familial.

Bill Cook became a billionaire several times over, running the firm himself from its inception in 1963 until he died two years ago. Now, my observation has been that anybody who has built him or herself up to billionaire status usually has the morals of a hyena and the human sensitivity of a Mob hit man. And this is true in nearly every case. Save for Bill Cook.

He threw scads of dough at the city of Bloomington and, for that matter, much of Southern Indiana, for historic preservation. He funded countless arts and education ventures, not to gain some kind of tax advantage but, well, because he was a good Joe.

So, I can still say billionaires make me want to retch, and be 99.99 percent truthful. But that .01 percent, as represented by Bill Cook, remains. I’ve often wondered what separated Cook from such archvillains as the Koch Bros.


Sibling Scoundrels

Funny thing is, he explained it himself last night during one of those fawning vids. Cook explained that one of his rock-solid principles was that the Cook companies would always be privately held. Which sounds awfully quaint in this day and age, considering entrepreneurs almost exclusively like to start businesses only so they can sell them off to bigger entities or peddle stock to the public.

In other words, the only thing American businessmen are interested in making is money.

Cook, on the other hand, said nix to all that.

He said [I’m paraphrasing here]: We’ll never go public because you can’t be totally responsible to your customers while simultaneously trying to please stockholders.

Wow. Now there’s a capitalism I can dig. We make a widget and you buy it. You’re happy and we’re happy. Simple.

Bill Cook

Cook And His Widgets

No degenerate gambling on stock prices, hostile takeovers, and selling off company assets just to make shareholders moan with pleasure.

If the Right Wing hewed to that line I wouldn’t spend half my life pointing out that it’s far too populated by lunatics.

If I Were A Rich Man

The Pencil Today:


“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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.”


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.

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