Category Archives: Capitalism

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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:


“We’ve bought into the idea that education is about training and ‘success,’ defined monetarily, rather than learning to think critically and to challenge. We should not forget that the true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers. A culture that does not grasp the vital interplay between morality and power, which mistakes management techniques for wisdom, which fails to understand that the measure of a civilization is its compassion, not its speed or ability to consume, condemns itself to death.” — Chris Hedges


A hearty hat tip to Bloomington novelist Julia Karr, who posted the above quote on her Facebook page.

According to Hedges’ criteria, laid out so clearly and forcefully, this holy land has condemned itself to death. I’ll go one step further: it’s already dead.

We’re dead. We just don’t know it yet.

Here Lie Us

We thought we were smart and superior when Soviet communism deservedly died. But as Fran Lebowitz so aptly put it, “In the Soviet Union, capitalism triumphed over communism. In this country, capitalism triumphed over democracy.”

The making of scads of dough became this nation’s — and most of the world’s — one and only pursuit.

Home ownership? Hell, that wasn’t about putting down roots, becoming part of a community, creating a stable base for your kids, or any of that old fashioned silliness anymore. It was about serial buying and selling so everyone could make a quick buck.

Saving and investing? Not about prudent management of assets nor about slow and steady growth for the future. Hah! How quaint!

College education? Honestly, how many people in these Great United States, Inc. want their kids to go to a university to become a rational, analytical thinker? How many dream that a college degree just might make their young-un a better human being?

I Am Gonna Be So Rich


I once was involved in a discussion with recent college grad and his dad. I won’t reveal who they were because I’m hoping daddy-o regrets his tone and philosophy. Suffice it to say the three of us knew each other extremely well.

The kid was trying to figure out what to do with himself now that he had a bachelor’s degree in business. Pops was giving him the fish eye because it didn’t seem as though the kid was banging down any doors trying to get a job.

The truth was, the kid really had no idea what to do.

So, silly me, I figured the kid ought to pursue employment in some field that might, you know, bring him a little happiness in his life. I said, “The first thing you have to do is ask yourself, ‘What do I love?'”

What Should I Do With My Life?

Oh, daddy-o nearly popped a neck vein.

“What the hell are you feeding him that kind of shit for?” he demanded.

See, by the time this exchange took place, the concepts of happiness and fulfillment not only were quaint — they were downright dangerous.

Anyway, Hedges is saying what I’ve ranted about in these precincts time and again.

A college education should be a good thing in and of itself, not just because it’ll bear you well as you climb the corporate Jacobian ladder. It broadens your horizons. It opens your mind. It exposes you to the world and the world to you. It helps you learn to think rather than react, to listen rather than spew, to realize that what you’re sure of today might not be what you believe tomorrow.

Blah, blah.

How quaint. How dangerous.


Does it strike you as odd that guys who challenge capitalism’s alpha male set-up seem to get nailed on sex-related criminal charges more often than the average bear?

John Edwards. Julian Assange. Elliot Spitzer. Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Those are just four very, very high profile cases in the last couple of years.

Now, the truth is all four could be as guilty as sin. DSK, for one, has a rough and tumble sexual rep. And Spitzer really did meet with prostitutes in that Washington hotel room.

DSK May Be Warped — But…, But….

Still, I feel sort of itchy about the whole thing.

Is it that guys who see the inherent flaws in the world’s dominant economic system are unusually prone to sexual peccadilloes and transgressions? Even more so than guys whose lives are dedicated to climbing over piles of average citizens to reach an obscene pinnacle of power and wealth?

Or could there be a chance that when guys like Spitzer sniff around places they’re not supposed to go and start telling the public precisely how they’re being sodomized by the plutocracy, the sharp knives of the system get pointed at them?

Maybe I’m just imagining things. Or maybe not.


Make plans for today. Click on the GO! logo for the best events listings in Bloomington.


War was the very first group I ever saw in concert. They led off for Parliament at Chicago’s old International Amphitheater back in 1973. I’m fairly sure of the year.

My pal Whitey and I took a couple of multi-bus, hour-and-a-half rides to and from the Amphitheater that night. We didn’t get home until around 3:00am.

Funny my partner should have been nicknamed Whitey — we were among the very few white guys in the place. Oh, and the reek of pot — we couldn’t believe our noses!

Naturally, we had to stop off at Maxwell Street Polish for a couple of dogs smothered in grilled onions after we left.

Munchies, you know.

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