Category Archives: Chad Carrothers

Hot Air


It’s WFHB board election time with three plucky souls throwing their hats in the ring. And, BTW, Board president Joe Estivill is snatching his hat back. Joe, proprietor of The Players Pub, is retiring after a tumultuous term as the big man of the nine-member conclave.

Among other fires he and his Board battled, the resignation of dynamic General Manager Chad Carrothers and the subsequent botched hiring of Kevin Culbertson rank among the hottest. Under Estivill’s captaincy, the Board eventually rectified the Culbertson mess and the station settled back into a somewhat peaceful existence.


Joe’s Board also authorized the hiring of a politically-wired money-raiser: Dorothy Granger became the station’s Development Director in the summer of 2014. Granger also is District II representative on Bloomington’s City Council.  With on-air fundraiser revenues falling short of projections since the departure of Carrothers, the station has been in need of cash. Granger’s hat-in-hand work has been a lifesaver.

Station members will vote on the Board members at WFHB’s annual meeting in June. Here’s the slate thus far:

  • Attorney Pam Davidson is running for reelection. She serves on the finance committee, volunteers at Middle Way House and Lotus, and is a member of the WFIU & WTIU Community Advisory Boards.
  • Louis Malone was appointed to fill out an unfinished term on the Board early last year. He’s running for a full term now. Louis is shelter care coordinator for the Youth Services Bureau of  Monroe County. He’s a member of the personnel and nominating committees.
  • Tom Henderson is a first-time aspirant for the Board. He says he offers public radio, media technology, information technology experience.

The above three have been vetted by the Board’s nominating committee. As always, the Board has put out the call for petition candidates — that is, any who collects 10 signatures of station members can get on the June ballot. None have to this point.

Harry As Dick

Y’gotta watch Harry Shearer do his dramatization of the Nixon Tapes. That’s all; just watch.

Broken Taillights

So, a Charleston, South Carolina cop was charged with murder for shooting a guy in the back the other day. It’s not known just yet how many slugs Walter Scott caught from behind but Officer Michael Slager did fire eight shots at the 50-year-old as he ran away.

The killing might have been a blip on the radar screen of today’s police war on America’s dark-skinned citizens save for the fact that someone caught the incident on video. Hearing about a summary execution on the street is one thing; seeing it is entirely another.

Cop apologists can moan all they want about how we — the woefully uninformed citizenry — can never understand what pressures and fears officers endure on the streets. How would you react? they typically say in that challenging tone of voice. My answer in this case would be I wouldn’t shoot a goddamned guy in the back.

It’s true, we civilians don’t know all the nuances and details about the relationship between cops and people of color but we do know this: one police department after another has been busted for racial profiling, cops all over this holy land exchange racist emails, many big city police forces have KKK sects within their departments, story after story tell us about cops shooting unarmed black men but not shooting armed white men, and US citizens are 100 times more likely to be shot by the police than UK citizens, after allowances are made for the population difference.

Walter Scott was stopped for a broken taillight. Those in the know are fully aware that the broken taillight is the hassling cops best friend. As attorney Mark Geragos told one cop defender on CNN last night, “…[M]y father was a prosecutor for many years [and] used to say, ‘There’s more guys in state prison for broken tail lights than any other offense. Broken tail light means go hassle somebody of color.'”

What the cops are doing is a natural outgrowth of human behavior. Cops are confronted with the ugliest side of humanity every day. They begin feeling helpless under the constant onslaught of immorality, illegality, and — pure and simple — viscerally disgusting behavior.

Like any other human, a cop wants to lash out. He wants to find someone to punish for the flood of vice he witnesses every moment of his working day. He wants to make someone pay. In the United States, we have a convenient population of poor, alienated, scarily different-colored people. Being poor, they’re more likely to be involved in crime — petty and otherwise — so the poorly prepared cop zeroes in.

Go look for a broken tail light and fuck that gorilla up.

And don’t underestimate the usage of the term gorilla or any other similar apish pejorative. Cops are not anthropologists. They’re not scientists of any sort. Too many only know that those black bastards are animals.

Until our American city governments start training cops properly and weeding out the reactionaries and racists, until even the “mildly” prejudiced cops are separated from the overall force, more black men will be killed. And make no mistake, it’s not just bad white cops  who see black men as the enemy — far too many black cops see ghetto blacks as some kind of substandard citizen.

These shootings have to stop.

[h/t to Richard Lloyd.]

Hot-cha-cha Air

Ten Hut!

Ready for a chain reaction of idiocy?

Morton Grove is a comfortable suburb just northwest of Chicago, populated by devout Christians and Jews. And, I might add, pious followers of the American religion.

Morton Grove Sign

As in many such modest burghs, the municipal officials, members of boards, and heads of civic organizations in Morton Grove see themselves as something a bit more than the paper shufflers and ten cent soapbox orators the less enlightened of us might view them as.

When they look at themselves in the mirror each morning, they see proud, courageous, righteous bulwarks whose sacred duty is to protect America from ruination.

Where would we be without them?

To wit: a couple of months ago, renegade Morton Grove Park District official Dan Ashta decided to spit in the face of all that is right and good by opting to sit during the Pledge of Allegiance, the reciting of which kicks off that august body’s monthly meetings. Which only makes sense: after all, how can one plan for next spring’s Little League schedule without expressing solemn and sincere obeisance to this holy land?

Ashta is a constitutional lawyer and says his refusal to stand during the Pledge is an exercise of his free rights as delineated in that document. Whoa now, says the commander of the local American Legion post. Joseph Lambert immediately announced his group was withdrawing some $2600 of annual support it gives to the District to fund things like fireworks displays and holiday celebrations.

In other words, nobody’s going to have any fun in Morton Grove until that commie rat Ashta gets up off his duff.

Photo/Baltimore Sun

No Fun For You!

Makes sense, no? Why else would able-bodied young men march themselves into the meat grinder of war unless it was for the higher cause of ensuring that people hold their hands over their hearts while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance?

It seems another bad man read of this teapot tempest and decided to throw his own anarchist’s bomb into the crowd. Hemant Mehta (clearly a foreign mole, right?), a teacher, blogger, and — gasp! — atheist from suburban Naperville, figured he’d subvert the will of America’s fightin’ men by raising the $2600 himself and donating it to the Morton Grove Park District.


Hemant Mehta

So, we’re back to square one, eh? Nay.

Mehta presented his check to the District at which point its executive director Tracey Anderson sent the dough back and said, essentially, keep yer filthy coin. Anderson emailed Mehta and at first told him the District was in no mood to get itself involved in any kind of First Amendment debate. Strange, isn’t it? Mehta’s cash doesn’t strike me as being particularly argumentative. Later in the email, Anderson seemed to reveal the real reason the District can do without the $2600.

As reporter Jonathan Bullington wrote in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune: “The email also says Park District officials do not want to appear ‘sympathetic to,’ or show a perceived position for or against, ‘any particular political or religious cause.'”

I have no way of knowing at this moment how much money the Park District accepts regularly from various churches, congregations, and synagogues. If Anderson’s rationale is to be believed, the figure would be precisely zero.

So, Morton Grovers are back to having no fun.

All because some troublemaker read the United States Constitution. The dirty commie.


The WFHB Board of Directors’ botched search for a general manager has cost the station at least one invaluable resource for the time being.

The Pencil won’t reveal this person’s name, but one long-time active volunteer says s/he will take a break from station activities for an indefinite period of time.

This person confided s/he doesn’t trust the board’s vision after the six-month fiasco that finally ended last week with the hiring of Cleveland Dietz.

The Pencil has spoken with this person and another key member of the WFHB community in the last couple of days. Both said they have nothing negative to say about Dietz and his performance as acting GM since the departure of Chad Carrothers in June, but the Board’s tabbing of him seemed “a copout” and “panicky.”

In fact, the latter of those sources told the Pencil s/he is thinking of asking for the entire board to resign.

No Hot Air At All

Chad’s Turn

An open letter from a prince of a guy:


Chad Carrothers

Dear WFHB family,

Watching the events of the last few weeks unfold has been tremendously difficult for all of us.  Decisions were made that many of us didn’t understand.  Frustration boiled over as communication failed on all sides.  Mistakes have been made and the blame game got intensely fierce.  I felt it so deeply and personally that there were times I got physically ill.  I didn’t sleep for days at a time.  I felt torn in different directions by people I thought were my friends spewing nonsense or trying to make me their poster boy or martyr.  This was never about me.

I walked a SUPER fine line as the Friends of WFHB site grew.  I posted no opinions, resolving instead that my role was to provide context and answer questions objectively.  I held my breath to see if this new forum could survive the firestorm that gave birth to it and the ensuing growing pains.  I abhorred the ignorance of a select few who espoused intolerance, yet as someone who has dedicated his entire professional career to this organization, which professes to exist to cultivate open dialogue, I knew that price had to be paid if we are to honor our mission.  Meanwhile I was sickened by the notion that genuine expressions of concern and dissent could be marginalized or shamed or dismissed by the false legal specter of “libel” puffing up its chest to suppress constitutionally protected speech.

Community radio was created to call that bluff.

And now, finally, a decision I can get behind.  The selection of Cleveland Dietz as GM is the natural conclusion to a process that began when I recruited him to take over for me this summer.  Cleveland was my “right hand man” and I insisted that he be offered the position of Interim GM.  At the time he doubted whether he was up to it and maybe others did too, but it is obvious to staff and board that he has worked his ass off to remove all doubt.  I will personally do whatever I can to support Cleveland and that’s exactly what you need to do too.

While I’m bossing you around, there’s another matter to tend to:  the future of our board of directors.  I’ve heard it suggested that the board hold a “reboot” election in which all nine board seats are put up for grabs in a special election in which current board members could run alongside new prospects generated by the fresh interest in station affairs.  A fascinating idea, but all six remaining board members would have to agree to this so I doubt it will happen.  At the very least we have three seats open RIGHT NOW that you can apply to fill by emailing  Could we PLEASE get a freakin’ board treasurer?!!  Since the three-year board terms are staggered, several more may come open at the annual meeting in June.  Either way, I believe board prez Joe Estivill is genuinely interested in representative government.  For years he and I have both been begging for more participation from participating members.  Maybe this whole mess is what finally gets people to realize:

I am WFHB and so are YOU.  Everyone has a seat at this table.

With much love and respect,

Chad Carrothers
WFHB Volunteer, Former GM, Former News Director

Hot Air-waves

Smoke? Fire?

People are talking. Some people.

They’re saying the WFHB Board of Directors is playing with fire.

They’re worried about the future of the community radio station if the Board’s choice for general manager actually takes the job.

And the offer has been out in the world since last week. What, people are asking, is going on?

At least three key members of the station’s volunteer membership are concerned that the Board’s pick may be a stalking horse for a media operator that could potentially alter the direction of Firehouse Broadcasting.

Of course, these same people may be shrieking that the sky is falling.

No one knows yet.

In fact, no one knows if the Board’s choice will take the job. He hasn’t yet. And it is a he. And he is not Chad Carrothers.

One of the active vols with whom I spoke yesterday tells me the station’s last fund drive fell short of levels that had become the norm under former and would-be-future GM Carrothers. “Why wouldn’t you re-hire the guy that could bring in money?” this vol wondered.

Carrothers made enemies with his brusque — some would say insensitive, bordering on insulting — style. CC may not have had the mien of a maître d’ but he sure plotted out a path for the station and he raked in the cash for it.

maitre d

May I Lead You To Your Radio Station?

Many insiders believe the Board wanted somebody with Carrothers’ track record and abilities sans the rough edges. The third finalist for the GM position was a veteran fundraiser for non-profits. But, according to my sources, she wasn’t a radio person.

The Board’s choice was indeed a radio person. A TV person, too. He’d operated media outlets out west.

My sources tell me an alarming number of those stations went belly up, or darned near close to it, after he took over. Even more alarming, according to these sources, on several occasions a Christian broadcasting operator swooped in with ready cash and saved the day for the stations.

Broadcasting Tower

The Looming Tower?

Before he was named the nominee, this finalist was asked about his history in public meet-the-candidates forums. The vols I spoke with all agreed: He oiled his way out of actually answering pointed questions.

I don’t know yet how the Board vote shook out. “Who,” one of my sources asked, “would want this guy in there?”

I echoed the query: Who?

My source shrugged. Then this source mentioned the name of State Representative (and IU Telecommunications Dept. lecturer) Matt Pierce .

Me: How do you know?

My source shrugged again.

So, is all this a lot of made-up scariness? Hard to say. All I know is, people are talking.

Radio, Radio

November Hot Air

Sweet Celebration

It’s Death to America Day in the Islamic Republic of Iran or, as those happy fellows like to call themselves in Farsi, Jomhuri-ye Eslāmi-ye Irān.

DAD (the initials of the holiday, in case you’re still too bleary-eyed to get it) is celebrated every year on the anniversary of the takeover of the American embassy in Teheran and the subsequent holding of hostages for 444 days until Saint Ronald Reagan was inaugurated president in 1981. Old Ronnie owed his presidency to the revolutionaries who seized the embassy. The very act painted then-Prez Jimmy Carter as helpless in the face of world events. And then came the notorious clusterfuck rescue mission, with helicopters and cargo planes plowing into each other in East Iran’s Great Salt Desert. Carter took full responsibility for the fiasco and the electorate of this holy land was more than happy to dump it upon him. He could no more win the 1980 election than sneak into the embassy to rescue the hostages himself.


And The Winner Is….

Anyway, I imagine parades up and down the Main Streets of hundreds of Iranian cities and towns, complete with guys dressed as mullahs on stilts, flag-wavers, streamers-throwers, soldiers in formation, and a military truck or two pulling a cannon.

Now that the USA and Iran are fi’nta sit down at the negotiating table to wrassle over the nuke question, it seems rather quaint that our erstwhile enemy wishes us dead, dead, dead.

Death to America

How should we respond to this less than neighborly display? Should we stage a Death to Iran Day? I know loads of bug-eyed wingnuts here would be thrilled to pieces with that but cooler heads realize it would hardly advance the cause of rapprochement.

Instead, I suggest a Sugar to Iran Day. Sure, why not? American farmers produce more high fructose corn syrup fixin’s than almost anything else. If there’s one thing the USA can make and export better than any other nation on Earth, it’s sweet treats. The brand names Coca-Cola, Snickers, Krispy Kreme, and Oreo are synonyms for America throughout much of the world.

Human beings are hard wired to dig sweet things. Anthropologists tell us this is because we spent hundreds of thousands of years searching for juicy, ripe fruits packed with energy-laden simple sugars. Now we don’t have to forage for fructose and glucose bombs; we need only jam Cinnabons into our faces.

In that sense, Iranians and Americans are alike.

Ergo, we should flood Iran with with all the sweetest, sugary-est, most decadent, insulin-spiking products our brilliant scientists and captains of industry can conjure up. Rather than drop explosive devices on the cities of Iran, we should discharge millions of Little Debbies on them.

Trust me, Iranian children — and, for that matter, adults — would love us for it! And isn’t that what we want? Love, love, love?

The countries that love us best are those that buy our goods most. We all know how addictive sugary treats are. Iran in short order could become a captive market of 77 million sweets junkies. Then they’d be our kind of folk.


True Love

And like us, they’d become obese — better for us, should the upcoming negotiations break down and we find ourselves at war with Iran. In that case, we’d swiftly change the name of the operation from Sugar to Iran to Diabetes to Iran.

I have no idea why the Obama administration hasn’t reached out to me yet to join the State Department. Sigh.

Democracy Inaction

So, WFHB has contacted one of the final three candidates for the job of General Manager and…, and…, and, well, nothing.

Man, it takes the College of Cardinals less time to choose a Pope. Folks, we’re looking for someone to run a community radio station not a Secretary General for the United Nations.

The problem with Firehouse Radio? Too many chefs.

I have it on reasonably good authority that Chad Carrothers, the GM emeritus, is not the choice. All I know is WFHB raised more dough during C-squared’s term than ever before in its history. So whomever of the remaining two is the anointed one had better be a world-beater.

Your Daily Hot Air

Meet The New Boss

At long, long, long, long, lo-o-o-o-o-ong last (have I made my point yet?), the august WFHB Board of Directors and Protectors of Free Speech, Community Access, and the Democratic Process will select a new czar of the airwaves today.

The station has been running without an official boss since the surprising departure several decades ago (well, okay, last June) of fundraiser extraordinaire and and radio savant Chad Carrothers. WFHB’s Board typically moves at a glacial pace but this time it appeared as though the ice flow had come to a complete halt.

The Board has had the three final candidates for the open General Manager position hop through hoops and, on several occasions, engage in games of dodgeball with the unwashed masses (read: the rank and file volunteer membership of the station). The lucky (unlucky?) three fielded Q.’s in public forums wherein they were asked about their hopes, dreams, plans, and systolic and diastolic numbers.

Now, the folderol is complete. The vote takes place today. Oh, wait — one last bit of folderol remains: before the Board votes, there will be yet another opportunity for jes’ plain folks to voice their preferences, displeasure, or delirium regarding the unlucky (lucky?) three. As if the Boarders don’t have enough info already. And as if everybody with an opinion hasn’t already shouted it from atop the fish on the dome.

Courthouse Dome

When Chad Carrothers dropped a second bomb on us and announced he and his clan were coming back from their sojourn in the Pacific Northwest, I immediately concluded he’d been summoned, sub rosa, by one or more Boardfolk to return to this metrop. and rescue the station from a mediocre cast of applicants. That was a few weeks ago. I would have bet my good money that the GM chair was being fitted once again for CC.

Now? Not so fast. I’m hearing too much grumbling among the membership about the commander emeritus possibly coming back. And some of the grumblers believe a few Board members have joined the chorus.

Which leads me to hedge my bets. If you, like me, are afraid to take a total bath on the GM pick action, lay a little dough off on this proposition: News Director Alycin Bektesh just may be compelled to share her key to the WFHB Dames’ Executive Washroom with the new boss after today’s vote.

A Different America

Bill Clinton did what he does best (no, not that) yesterday in Virginia when he stumped for his old pal Terry McAuliffe, who’s running against a Tea Party darling for governor of the Commonwealth. Clinton, it may be recalled, is a campaigner without peer and who, if Al Gore hadn’t gotten all huffy and puffy about his former boss’s sexual peccadilloes, might have helped the Veep beat George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election, but let’s not cry over that spilt milk again.

Clinton & Socks

[Insert Way-Too-Easy Joke Here]

Clinton Sunday afternoon told a McAuliffe rally that Dems have suffered in non-presidential election years of late because “a whole different America” shows up to vote. Meaning, of course, that tons of folk came out to vote for Barack Obama but those same folk punted when governorships and congressional seats and school board positions were up for grabs. Ergo, the Tea Party gains of the last few years.

McAuliffe’s opponent, a fellow named Ken Cuccinelli, pretty much verified Clinton’s assessment. He told his own supporters, “If we want to import D.C. politics and tactics to Richmond, Terry McAuliffe will do it for us. Of course, we’ll also get good Detroit financial policy, too. And we’ll get Hollywood values, too. And Bloomberg New York City gun control.”

Allow me to decode Cuccinelli here: If you don’t vote for me, the Democrats (Washington), the darkies (Detroit), the fags (Hollywood), and the Jews (Bloomberg New York) will take over.

Democrats, darkies, fags, and Jews voted for Barack Obama twice. They tended to stay home in 2010.

Man, if only Al Gore wasn’t such a prude.

Your Daily Hot Air

Some Credit For BHO, Please

Don’t get me wrong, I know as well as you do that there are lunatics on the Left.

I know, I know, all I do is rail against the Right Wingnuts here. That’s because they scare the bejesus out of me more than Left Wingnuts do. They, the Rightists, are better organized and have gotten themselves elected to public offices all over this holy land. Their wingnuttiness is far more dangerous than the rantings of kids who tie bandannas around their faces and run around city streets playing cowboys and Indians with the cops whenever a political party holds a convention or the G-8 has a big meeting.

Louie Gohmert is a member of the United States Congress. Need I offer more evidence of the Right’s immediate menace?


Louie Gohmert Makes Our Laws

Anyway, here’s a personal message to my lefty fringe-ists: How about a little love for Barack Obama after his Justice Minister, Eric Holder, announced new guidelines for federal prosecutions yesterday? Holder said the fact that our prison pop. has grown 800 percent (I repeat, eight hundred goddamned percent!) since the mid-1980s is whacked out. The United States is the most incarceration-happy nation on Earth. And most of the people doing real time here have dark skin.

Not only that, many of our state and local prisons have been taken over by for-profit companies. No chance anything can go wrong under that kind of a set-up, right?

Holder said this to the American Bar Association yesterday in San Francisco: “Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law enforcement reason.”


Not So Fast, Sez Holder

Wow. It’s about damned time.

My guys on the Far Far Left usually call Barack Obama a fascist. The Far Far Right usually sez BHO is either Hitler or Stalin, depending on which side of the bed they got out of that morning. They’re both saying the same thing, only in different languages.

Well, now the Right lunocracy will have ample fodder to accuse the Obama admin. of setting all its psycho-criminal black brethren free to wreak a reign of terror on our white streets. That’ll be their deranged reaction.

The Left lunocracy will have no reaction because the Holder/Obama statement does’t fit in with their carefully concocted depiction of the Prez as the second coming of Big Brother.


Near Death, Far From Reality

If I believed in a being who one day decided to create an entire Universe in six days and then had to take a nap on the seventh, presumably because his lightning-shooting finger was all worn out, I’d thank him. [And that being would be a him, right? Anything that mighty would have to have a penis, I guess.]

I’d thank the Big Daddy-o in the Sky because researchers have found that mice — you read right, mice! — experience brain events similar those in humans which have caused the fairy tale believers among us to imagine we can visit heaven when we’re on the brink of death.

You know the New York Times Book Review weekly bestseller lists have been sullied of late by fever dreams of people who had near death experiences and swear up and down that they went to the Good Place and even met the CEO of All Existence. Oddly, the NYTBR puts books like Heaven Is for Real and Proof of Heaven on its nonfiction lists, which strikes me as a tad presumptuous.

The ramblings of a pre-schooler and a neurosurgeon who phonied up his tale seem more fiction-y than not, no?

So, let’s take a stroll down reality lane. Scientists, led by the University of Michigan’s Jimo Borjigin, studied lab mice who were experiencing cardiac arrest. They found that the brains of the mice kicked into a sort of super-mouse state as they were dying. This enhanced cerebral activity may be analogous to that of near-death experiencers who claim that their imaginings were brilliantly realistic, so much so that what they thought they saw as they lay near mort seemed more real than reality.

Lab Mouse

I Saw God!

“We found continued and heightened activity. Measurable conscious activity is much, much higher after the heart stops,” says Brojigan. She adds, “That really is consistent with what patients report…. The near-death experience is perhaps really the byproduct of the brain’s attempt to save itself.”

WFHB’s New Boss Search

All the resumes are in at WFHB, Firehouse Radio. The deadline for those who wished to apply for the vacant GM position was Friday, last week. Now the WFHB board’s selection committee will hand pick a half dozen or so applicants for initial phone interviews, to be followed by personal interviews with three of them, and then — tada! — we’ll have a new Big Cheese at the station.

Here’s hoping the process doesn’t take as long as it did when Chad Carrothers eventually (and I do mean eventually) was tapped to replace Will Murphy a couple of years ago. That whole shebang took a good six months.

That’s crazy. What made it even more crazy was the fact that Carrothers was so head and shoulders superior to every other candidate that to dub anyone else GM would have been cause for scandal.

Wanna know a secret? One or two august members of the WFHB board think they’re running an operation as complicated and far-reaching as the United Nations.


The Pencil Today:


“You mustn’t always believe what I say. Questions tempt you to tell lies, particularly when there is no answer.” — Pablo Picasso


It’ll be a year tomorrow that a posse of Navy SEALs cornered that varmint Osama bin Laden and plugged him in his bedroom.

President Barack Obama had large enough cagliones to order the secret assault on ObL’s hideout in Pakistan and the raid paid off big time — sort of. Had a Republican president been in charge there would have been daily parades in his honor in every big city since the al Qaeda boss’s take-down.

The President Watches The Operation Unfold

But because Obama is a Muslim mole whose goal is to transform our holy land into a commie/Nazi gulag/stalag, he hasn’t exactly been showered with laurel leaves since his big night.

Funny thing is, almost within minutes of the announcement that ObL had been executed, the conspiracy theorists leaped out of the woodwork. Chief among them, sad to say, was Cindy Sheehan, the California mom whose son was killed in the Iraq War and who channeled her grief into highly publicized anti-war activism.

Literally within hours after the news of bin Laden’s death broke, Sheehan famously wrote on her website, “I am sorry, but if you believe the newest death of OBL (sic), you’re stupid.” She went on to detail some very iffy evidence that the whole operation was a hoax.

Poor Sheehan lost whatever credibility she had left after that.

Cindy Sheehan

Fringe-y organizations both left and right jumped on the ObL Death Hoax bandwagon for the next several weeks, then fell silent. A brief scan of the internet shows that no one has said much about such hoax claims since about June last year.

Which is odd because conspiracies and hoaxes usually seem to have the staying power of a bad cold in January.

Here’s a list of the ten top conspiracy theories in the US, as compiled by

  • 10) 9/11 was an inside job (2001)
  • 9) Princess Diana was murdered (1997)
  • 8) Subliminal advertising (1973)
  • 7) The Apollo moon landings were faked (1978)
  • 6) Paul McCartney died (1966)
  • 5) All the people and organizations who killed JFK (mid-1960s)
  • 4) The Roswell UFO crash (1947)
  • 3) “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” (1905)
  • 2) The epidemic of satanic cults (1980s)
  • 1) Big Pharma (1990s-2000s)

Leave It To The Onion

As you can see, a good conspiracy/hoax theory can last a century or more. But today’s technology and the mass media bombardment of us with deception and myth has turned us into ever-more credulous suckers.

Journalist/polemicist Matt Taibbi has a nice explanation of the phenomenon in his book, “The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion.” On pages 183 to 189 (paperback edition) he lays out the ways advertisers, pols, and charlatans have inundated us with phony claims, distortions, spin, subterfuge, and outright lies. Here, I cherry-pick the key points from his thesis:

“How many lies are too many? How much bullshit is the human organism designed to tolerate before it starts to malfunction? Is there a breaking point?

“Mainstream American society has never been designed to confront difficult or dangerous truths. In fact, our mass media has corrupted the idea of objective truth so badly in the past five or six decades that it is now hard to tell when anyone is being serious about anything — the news, the movies, commercials, anything….

“Somehow ordinary people were supposed to keep track of all this, make their own sense of it. Decades after Watergate, Vietnam, and the Kennedy assassination, Americans were forced to rummage for objective reality in a sea of the most confusing and diabolical web of bullshit ever created by human minds — a false media tableau created mainly a s a medium to sell products, a medium in which even the content of the ‘news’ was affected by commercial considerations….”

“This was too much for the people to handle….”

“America by the early years of this century was a confusing kaleidoscope of transparent, invidious bullshit, a place where politicians hired consultants to teach them to ‘straight talk,’ where debates were decided by inadvertent coughs and smiles and elections were resolved via competing smear campaigns, and where network news programs — subsidized by advertisements for bogus alchemist potions like Enzyte that supposedly made your dick grow by magic — could feature as a lead story newly released photos of the Tom Cruise love child, at a time when young American men and women were dying every day in the deserts of the Middle East.

“The message of all of this was that Americans were now supposed to make their own sense of the world. There was no dependable authority left to turn to, no life raft in an increasingly perilous informational sea. This coincided with an age when Americans now needed to understand more of the world than ever before…. Now… Joe American has to turn on the Internet and tell himself a story that makes sense to him.”

Cindy Sheehan reached the breaking point when Barack Obama held his historic midnight news conference a year ago. Of course, she was pushed toward that snap by the death of her child. But the rest of us are under strain as well, if not so heart-wrenching.

We’re living in an age when fiction and reality are interchangeable. That’s why George W. Bush could lie us into a war and Barack Obama could sell himself as a man who would change government.

So I’m surprised the Osama bin Laden Death Hoax stories didn’t last. It doesn’t mean we’re becoming more rational and sophisticated — probably only that the vast majority liked the the story of the Navy SEAL Team 6 operation a year ago too much.


WFHB‘s Alycin Bektesh, Ryan Dawes, and Chad Carrothers lugged home a lot of hardware after Friday night’s Society of Professional Journalists annual awards dinner in Indianapolis. The Firehouse broadcasters won 19 awards for excellence, going up against news departments from around the state.

The WFHB Gang Friday Night In Indy

Bloomington’s community radio station consistently puts out the best local news and special programming in the region. No commercial station nearby can hold a candle to the news department that current GM Carrothers started about a decade ago.

Carrothers took a chance, donating his time and considerable energies for no pay at first, just to get the operation off the ground. Now WFHB News puts all those for-profit radio news departments to shame.


The 1965 hit by The Castaways.

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

Monday, April 30, 2012

IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibits, “Blended Harmonies: Music and Religion in Nepal”; through July 1st — “Esse Quam Videri (To Be, Rather than To Be Seen): Muslim Self Portraits; through June 17th — “From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web: The Origins of Everything”; through July 1st, 9am-4:30pm

From “Esse Quam Videri”

IU Grunwald (SOFA) GalleryMFA & BFA Thesis 3 exhibitions; through May 5th

IU Kinsey Institute Gallery — Exhibit, “Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze”; through June 29th, 1:30-5pm

IU Asian Culture CenterHenna 101; 4pm

Bell Trace Health & Living CenterSession 2 of a 4-part class, “Life in a British Period Drama”; 6:30pm

IU CinemaStudent film, “Mudcity”; 7pm

IU Department of Folklore & Ethnomusicology, Performance & Lecture Hall — Students perform Ghanaian music, drumming, and dance, directed by Bernard Woma, guest artists: Evelyn Yaa Bekyore and Joyce Bekyore; 7pm

Bernard Woma

The Player’s PubSongwriters Showcase; 8pm

The Bluebird — Dave Walters Karaoke; 8pm

The BishopDJs, The Vallures; Film, “Brick and Mortar and Love”; both at 8pm

Bear’s PlaceArchie Powell & the Exports, Sandman Viper Command, Deadghost, Keeping Cars; 9pm

The Pencil Today:


“The world is not divided between East and West. You are American, I am Iranian, we don’t know each other, but we talk and we understand each other perfectly. The difference between you and your government is much bigger than the difference between you and me. And the difference between me and my government is much bigger than the difference between me and you.

“And our governments are very much the same.” — Marjane Satrapi


WFHB moves glacially when it comes to hiring people. Sheez, it took the board six months to figure out Chad Carrothers was the person for the job of General Manager, even as he was whipping the station into shape operationally and financially as the Acting Boss.

So, the two-month wait to give the News Director position to Alycin Bektesh doesn’t seem so, well, endless.

Bektesh & Pal

Yep, the former Assistant News Director/Acting News Director now gets to print up permanent business cards and I can’t think of a more deserving soul in the industry.

I wrote the news with Bektesh when she first joined the station as a volunteer a year ago. I thought I was the hottest pepper in the salad until she sat next to me. Alycin was aggressive, confident, knowledgeable, and damned good.

Perhaps most amazing of all was her ability to endure my incessant chatter and ribbing. Not only that, she gave it all back and then some.

Look out Chicago and New York. This chick’ll be nosing around Bloomington only for a precious short time.


Correct me if I’m wrong but is this not the year 2012?

The IDS reports this morning that an Indiana University junior named Brianna McClellan was tabbed Miss IU Saturday night.

The campus pageant is one of the stepping stones to the Miss Indiana and Miss America contests.

Miss America?

Miss America: A Crowning Intellectual And Public Service Achievement

I mean, there are a lot of dumbass things going on in this holy land — the Republican primary reality show for one — but I had no idea we still had beauty pageants.

Oh, the participants in these things caution us not to call them beauty pageants anymore. Heavens no.

If not, then why can’t I compete in them?

I’ll tell you why: The sight of me in an evening gown would sour the audience on life permanently.

Anyway, last year’s Miss Indiana University, Jaclyn Fenwick, turned over her tiara, sash, bouquet of flowers, riding crop, and velvet handcuffs to Brianna, at which point the new Miss IU held her hand to her cheek in shock, which, if I’m not mistaken, is a gesture mandated by law in such cases.

McClellan, Shocked (photo by Kirsten Clark/IDS)

Fenwick told the IDS that the Miss America thing is important because it provides scholarships to young women.

McClellan said, “I just want it to be known that it’s not a pageant. It’s not a thing about beauty…. It’s the inner beauty and scholarship.”

McClellan added that it’s really volunteerism and community service that count most in the competition.

I suppose it’s only a coincidence that McClellan and Fenwick and the runners up all possess extraordinary conventional physical attributes.

I’ll believe McClellan’s and Fenwick’s unsolicited protestations the day a 250-pound woman who wears horn-rimmed glasses and who volunteers at the Hoosier Hills Food Bank or Boxcar Books wins the title.


This feature has been absent in recent weeks mainly because FB-ers have been unimaginative.

They sure made up for lost time last night and this morning.

So let’s see what the social media’s brightest minds are up to — and remember, this is a no spamily, no brattle zone.

Rich Lloyd, professor of complicated stuff at Vanderbilt University, read an op/ed piece in the New York Times that’s relevant to the above discussion on beauty pageants.

The author of the piece, historian Stephanie Coontz, points out that women today earn nearly 60 percent of all bachelor’s degrees, leading some observers to wonder if they’ll have a hard time finding husbands.

After all, men don’t make passes at women who wear glasses, right?

Wrong, Coontz says. That’s old hat. Read the piece and find out why.

◗ Radical lawyer Jerry Boyle, whose hands are going to be filled when the G-8 and NATO big boys visit Chicago this spring, found the fabulous quote that appears at the top of this page. It’s from graphic novel author Marjane Satrapi.

I can’t stress enough how cool Satrapi is. Her breakthrough work was the double-volume “Persepolis” saga, detailing her upbringing in Iran in the 1970s and ’80s. She personally witnessed two sets of iron hands — those of both the shah and the ayatollahs’ theocracy — squeeze the life out of that nation.

Satrapi suspects that the Iranians and Americans have a lot more in common than we’d care to admit.

Rainbo Club big shot Ken Ellis reminds us that today is Peter Tork‘s birthday.

If you have to ask who Peter Tork is, you’ll never understand.

◗ And Bloomington’s own Betty Greenwell features a pic of the best Valentine’s Day treat yet on her FB home page.


Okay, the spelling’s wrong and the lyrics have nothing to do with her, but this song is for Alycin Bektesh. And you, reader.



The Pencil Today:


“Christmas is over and Business is Business.” — Franklin P. Adams


Got an update yesterday from Ryan Dawes on the state of the WFHB news department.

Things are running fairly smoothly in the wake of former News Director January Jones’ resignation earlier this month. Assistant New Director Alycin Bektesh has been bumped up to acting ND and Dawes is now acting Assistant ND. He’s still keeping his day job at Rock Paper Scissors music promotion.

Dawes hopes grant prospector Joy Laughter can dig up some foundation dough to pay for an intern who can take over transcribing city and county meetings from CATS Week videos.

The hunt for a new ND goes on. I’ll say GM Chad Carrothers and the WFHB Board will be hard pressed to find a better candidate than Bektesh.


I’m not revealing an Earth-shattering secret when I say credit card companies are run by evil geniuses.

It’s a sure bet they’re working at this very moment on a protocol that will monetize the air that we inhale during the 45 seconds or so it takes us to complete a charge transaction.

The only people in this crazy, mixed-up world who can approach them in creative deviousness are the shadowy figures who call themselves Anonymous.

Dr. No Would Have Made A Fine Credit Card Company Exec

Anonymous recently hacked into the Austin, Texas-based Stratfor company’s internet servers. Stratfor is part of the global security-intelligence-complex that threatens to turn our little planet into a cheap dystopian science fiction novel.

Stratfor’s Home Page At 7:45am EST

Rumors abound that Anonymous gained access to the credit card accounts of Stratfor’s customers and then made unauthorized contributions to do-good charities via those cards. The things Anonymous does may technically be crimes but I say, Keep on breakin’ the law, babies!

Anyway, NPR’s Linda Wertheimer reports this morning that those credit card companies damn well won’t take criminal charity-giving lying down. She interviews an expert who says the credit card companies not only will hit the charities up for the dough that was given them but — get this — they likely will levy stiff fines against said do-gooders!

And just in case you’ve forgotten, credit card companies are the loudest of critics of any proposed regulations on the banking industry.



Okay, give me props. I behaved myself during the just-concluded Christmas season. I endured the barrage of communiques urging me to celebrate the birth of the son of the mythical creator of the Universe (as well as to engage in a venal orgy of consumer greed — because, you know, that’s what “He” would want).

Honoring The Father And The Son

I didn’t scream or kick or withdraw into a cocoon.

But now it’s my turn.

NASA’s Kepler telescope, which is scanning our little corner of the Milky Way galaxy as we speak, has confirmed the existence of 33 planets orbiting neighboring stars and is studying more than 2300 other probable planets. Part of Kepler’s mission as it circles the Earth is to find those extra-solar planets that reside in what’s called the Goldilocks Zone, the area around a star in which a planet might conceivably support life.

Cool, huh?

Even cooler: Kepler has now identified a couple of planets in the Goldilocks Zone.

Remember, Kepler is really a primitive planet finder compared to what we Home Sapiens sapiens will have in a few decades. Expect a flood of Earthlike planets to be discovered in our lifetimes.

That means a lot more chances for intelligent life to have evolved all around the Milky Way.

Heck, one day we might even evolve into intelligent life.


Speaking of alien lifeforms, Nikola Tesla was as odd a bird as ever bobbed into a research lab.

He developed the alternating current electrical system and an early form of radio in addition to dozens of other innovations. He was a brain on two legs.

Nikola Tesla

Sadly, though, that brain was a tad faulty. He was obsessive-compulsive, would only stay in hotel rooms with numbers divisible by three, had a phobia of germs, avoided pearl earrings, and surrounded himself with pigeons (some have speculated he was even sexually aroused by them). Oh, and he was celibate.

He was, in short, nuts.

Tesla’s not as well known as Thomas Edison mainly because Edison was somewhat sane, if predatory. Edison is reputed to have screwed Tesla out of money and credit for his electrical advances.

My old pal, the green economy maven John Wasik, is working on a book about the man, entitled “Unlimited Power: The Secrets of Nikola Tesla.” He spoke about Tesla recently at a Midwest gathering of Serbian-Americans (Tesla was an ethnic Serb born in what is now Croatia.)

Here’s John: