Category Archives: Chicago

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree.” — James Madison

EXTREMITIES

So, Richard Lugar was “too moderate.”

Say that to yourself: too moderate.

That was the Me Party charge against the ancient US Senator from Indiana.

And that’s what lost him the 2012 Republican primary.

Too moderate.

Out

It’s a contradiction, an oxymoron. It’s like saying a guy is of extremely medium height. Or the weather has been unbearably mild.

Too moderate.

In others words, Richard Lugar was thrown out of office because he wanted to work with the opposition party in the Senate.

And again, Dems, don’t get all huffy and righteous over this. Most of the criticism of Barack Obama from his own “loyalists” has been that’s he’s too willing to strike deals with the GOP. Hell, I’ve raked him over the coals for it.

But it occurs to me that moderation and compromise are the qualities that make just about every human relationship — from marriage to democracy — work.

GOP Winner Richard Mourdock Promises Not To Work Well With Others

But see, we don’t want relationships any more, I suppose. And most especially, the Me Party-ists don’t want relationships. They want their way. And if they don’t get it, why then there’ll be hell to pay.

Another thing occurs to me now — the Me Party-ists are the definitive Americans of the 21st Century. They are the New Ugly Americans.

A BEAUTIFUL MIND

I voted for Shelli Yoder in the Dem primary for strategic reasons. She’s the only one among the five candidates for the nomination for US Congress from Indiana’s 9th District who can beat Republican Todd Young in the November election.

I would have been equally happy with Jonathan George or Bob Winningham, strictly from a philosophical angle. John Tilford, too, only he never had a chance in this race and he knew it (I got that inside info from an impeccable source.) As for John Griffin Miller, well, I hope he had fun running — because his candidacy was a lark.

But Shelli can win over a lot of central and southern Indianans outside the former Soviet Socialist Republic of Bloomington (BSSR) because she’s exceedingly charming and pretty. Don’t yell at me for typing that — I’m just the messenger here. Most people vote for gut reasons, not because they’ve spent hours poring over position papers and contemplating the issues of the day.

All’s Fair

I’ll say it again, there’s a lot more to Shelli Yoder than her shayna punim (relax, it’s not a dirty term; look it up in your Yiddish dictionary). Being a former Miss Indiana and the second runner-up in the 1993 Miss America pageant will make a lot of people much more comfortable voting for a Democratic woman, though.

In this case, the Dems have to use every edge they’ve got.

THE COLOR OF MONEY

A Mark Rothko was sold for more than $86M in a Christie’s auction yesterday.

Rothko’s “Orange, Red, Yellow”

Mark Rothko has been dead since 1970, so all that dough isn’t going to benefit him terribly much.

Capitalism’s a really weird system, no?

STALAG 2012

The world’s biggest bags of wind are due to arrive in Chicago in a week and a half.

See, the leaders of the NATO member nations are gathering in my hometown to discuss how they can further carve up the planet.

The 2012 NATO Summit will run for two days, May 20th and 21st. Not only will the presidents, prime ministers, and otherwise-titled bosses of the NATO states be in attendance, but so will their Secretaries of State, Foreign Ministers, Defense Ministers, and miscellaneous social delinquents.

Naturally, this presents a golden opportunity for the more snappish among the citizenry to cause mayhem.

At the low end of the threat level, some bandanna’d anarchists might embarrass Rahm’s Town, say, by tossing a stink bomb into McCormick Place. On the other hand, there’s the very real danger that some bad guys might try to harm the people who have the generally-accepted right to harm the rest of us when it benefits them and their countries.

So, the security apparatuses of the various nations have agreed to turn my ex-fair city into a prison camp for those couple of days. Everybody’s getting into the act. The Chicago cops are preparing for Armageddon, the FBI is spying on everybody who sneezes the wrong way, the US Secret Service will be on the lookout for people carrying fingernail clippers, and even downtown businesses are prepping their employees for the festivities.

According to news reports, Loop firms are advising their people to dress down on the days of the Summit. The wearing of suits and wingtips, apparently, might induce some wild-eyed radicals to attack. The idea, I guess, is that they’ll think the guy in pinstripes walking down Wabash Avenue with a cup of coffee in one hand and the Sun-Times in the other just might be British Prime Minister David Cameron. And you know wild-eyed radicals — next thing you know the poor schlub has a pie in the face (or worse).

“That Guy In The Suit, It’s The German Defense Minister! Get ‘Im!”

Here’s my solution to the problem: next time these chuckleheads want to get together, send them to some way out of the way place where they won’t mess up the lives of innocent, ordinary citizens.

You know, the G-8 bosses were scheduled to meet this spring in Chicago as well — that is, until radical activists’ plans to descend on the city became known. Then the State Department moved the confab to Camp David, Maryland, where security is easier and the population is virtually nil.

But they did that for the comfort and ease of the big boys (and girls) involved, not for the little guys and gals on the streets of Chicago.

Ah, the privileges of power.

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

Wednesday, May  9, 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

IU Kinsey Institute GalleryExhibit, “Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze”; through June 29th

◗ Ivy Tech Waldron Arts Center Exhibits at various galleries: Angela Hendrix-Petry, Benjamin Pines, Nate Johnson, and Yang Chen; all through May 29th

Trinity Episcopal ChurchArt exhibit, “Creation,” collaborative mosaic tile project; through May 31st

Monroe County Public LibraryArt exhibit, “Muse Whisperings,” water color paintings by residents of Sterling House; through May 31st

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

Bloomington High School NorthSpring concert, Southern Indiana Wind Ensemble; 7pm

◗ Butler University, Clowes HallGarrison Keillor; 7:30pm

Cafe DjangoMedia Noche Trio + 1; 7:30-9:30pm

The Media Noche Trio

Max’s PlaceOpen mic; sign up begins at 5:30pm, music begins at 7:30pm

Harmony SchoolContra dancing; 8-10:30pm

◗ IU Kirkwood ObservatoryStar-gazing Open House, rain or shine; 9pm

Bear’s PlaceBrian Johnson & the Acquitted, Michael McFarland, Brian Fortner; 9pm

The BluebirdThe Personal; 9pm

The BishopThe Strange Boys, William Tyler & the Constants; 9:30pm

The Strange Boys

Jake’s NightclubBattle of the bands; 10pm

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember, my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.” — Criswell

ROLLING INTO THE 2012 SEASON

Wait, what? You weren’t there Saturday night? Come on, people — what’s the matter with you?

Tools Of The Trade

The Bleeding Heartland Rollergirls opened their 2012 regular season at the Twin Lakes Recreation Center. The place was packed, I tell you.

Bloomington’s two traveling derby teams, the B-league Code Blue Assassins and the A-league Flatliners faced off against their counterparts from the Ohio Roller Girls. The CBAs staged a thrilling rally in the final three minutes to overtake Gang Green in the opening bout. The Flatliners, though, fell behind early in the first half and, despite mounting a comeback of their own, couldn’t catch Ohio by the final buzzer, losing 115-90.

The BHRG actually has a mascot now and the kids in the crowd loved it. The mascot doesn’t have a name yet so you might just want to get on over to the team’s Facebook page and make a suggestion. And, hey, the Roller Girls’ ads are becoming slick enough to stand up against the best Apple or Ford has to offer. Okay, I exaggerate, but only a bit. Check out this one for Saturday’s bout:

Wily veteran Truly F Obvious was roaming the roller colosseum Saturday night, natch. She’s retired this year after breaking her arm a couple of times last season. She proudly showed me her scar. She’s got a few bucks’ worth of hardware implanted in her now, holding her radius and ulna together for the rest of her life. Truly made me grasp her forearm, then she twisted it so I could feel the iron. I almost passed out.

Battle Scar

Bleeding Heartland, now in its sixth season, is getting better every year. They were ranked 16th in the North Central region of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association in 2010 and jumped to 13th last year. Could this be the year they crack the top 10?

Their next home bout is Saturday, March 31st, against the Grand Raggidy Roller Girls of Grand Rapids, Michigan. If I don’t see you there, I’ll assume you’re dead. What kind of flowers should I send?

PRESIDENT MITCH DANIELS REVEALED TO BE A KOCHOMATON

There’s still a free specialty drink from Soma Coffee on the line for the lucky aspiring wag who submits the best prediction of how nuts the Republicans will become by the 2016 presidential race (if you click the link, scroll down to “C’mon, Let’s Play”).

I’m figuring the GOP will be trying to decide between Chuck Norris, Marco Rubio, and Ivanka Trump for the nomination. The Dems — book it — will be running Chelsea Clinton.

See? You can let yourself get crazy — just like the GOP!

If you think the party that once claimed Abe Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt as standard-bearers is psycho now, just wait. What are they gonna wanna outlaw next, breasts?

GOP 2016 Slogan: “No Mamms!”

One entrant, Susan Sandberg, worries that the Republicans will run Mitch Daniels in four years. He’ll win, she says, and turn this holy land into a “sexless, artless, colorless, intellectually-starved country.”

Eek.

Bloomington’s own singing sensation Krista Detor submitted her nightmare scenario that builds on Sandberg’s dystopia. Detor writes, “… in 2018, a resistance fighter will be propelled back in time to alert us to the hard truth that Mr. Daniels is actually a cannibalistic automaton, controlled on alternating days by the Koch Bros.” Detor writes a happy ending, though. The resistance fighter will slay Daniels in a light-sabre battle. The Dreamworks people will want to make a movie based on the story and will beg Krista to score it. But our own plucky musical muse will turn them down so she can work for the 2020 presidential campaign of Lucy Lawless.

BTW: Krista Detor coined what might become the most fabulous word in the English language (after the F-bomb, of course.) She calls the android Daniels a Kochomaton.

I hope her vision comes true just so we can use that word regularly.

To enter the contest email me, post it on my Facebook wall, or click on Leave A Comment at the top left of this page.

SCIENCE AS ART

Here’s what you ought to do Wednesday from 6:30-8:00pm: mad scientists Alex Straiker and Jessica Lucas will host an opening reception for their artwork at Finch’s Brasserie.

Straiker will feature photomicroscopy of stained brain cells. He studies the effects of cannabinoids on the brain at the IU Psychological and Brain Sciences Department. Lucas has taken magnificent photos of teensy botanical structures as part of her work in the IU Biology Department.

Plant Root Hairs

Science is fun — and gorgeous. Drop by and ogle the art. If you’re not there, we’ll talk about you.

CHICAGO (THAT TODDLIN’ TOWN)

Man, when I was just starting out in this writing racket, I’d be pounding the Chicago pavement, knocking on doors at the Tribune, the Sun-Times, Chicago mag, the Reader and all the rest, trying to convince any soft-hearted or desperate editor to take a chance on me.

That was back in the mid-80s, before the internet, before the 24-hour news cycle. Dig: I even used a typewriter at the time. Smith-Corona, baby.

Jeez, I’m Old

At the end of any typical day, after getting thrown out of half the editors’ offices in town, I might need some liquid comfort.

If I wanted to cry in my beer with Jeff the Bartender (who was a fine writer and academician in his own right), I’d do Billy Goat’s Tavern under Michigan Avenue.

Every time the door would open, I’d check to see if the Prince of the Papers, Mike Royko, was coming in. Maybe, just maybe, if he could hear what a whippet-quick wit I was, if I could toss off some devastating bon mot, Royko might pull me aside and say, “Y’know what, kid? You got the stuff.”

Never happened.

Royko

If I just wanted hear music and hang around lesser media lights and TV anchors, I’d hit Andy’s Jazz Club on Hubbard Street. If I was lucky, Barrett Deems, Louis Armstrong’s old drummer, might be hitting the skins. It’d be too loud for me to display my verbal chops and, besides, I knew enough to know TV people’d never be interested in me. So I just drank my gin and tonics and floated on the sounds.

This version of “Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town)” by the Oscar Peterson Trio reminds me of those days downtown. The city was everything I’d dreamed it would be back then. Any door in the world could open up for me if only I kept knocking.

Chicago and I celebrated birthdays yesterday — the Windy City turned 175 and I hit 56. Now I know the best door that ever opened was the one that let me in me here, little old Bloomington, Indiana. Go figure.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“I can’t understand looking forward to seeing a commercial.” — Paula Poundstone

A NATION OF AD PIMPS

A word of explanation about the quote above. Poundstone on this morning’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” was talking about how a grocery checkout clerk was shocked that she had neither watched the Super Bowl nor cared a bit about the telecast. “Not even the commercials?” the clerk gasped.

Poundstone later concluded, “No wonder we’re going downhill.”

Guess what — she’s freakin’ right!

LAND OF THE FREE(-ISH)

Like many Americans, I complain a lot about many things.

Admittedly, there’s much to complain about and I needn’t run down that list here for the three thousandth time. If you’ve been reading these screeds, you know where I stand on everything from “Two and a Half Men” to the corporatization of this holy land.

The Golden Arches-Spangled Banner

We’re a complaining bunch, we Americans. Louis CK does a terrific bit about how impatient and demanding we are. He talks about a guy saying he hates — hates — Verizon because a couple of his calls had been dropped. He refers to a woman saying she was once forced to sit in an airplane on a runway for 40 minutes before it took off, and described it as the worst day of her life.

Louis points out, correctly, that both cell phone technology and human flight are virtual miracles that we should be amazed to partake of. He challenges the person who hates Verizon to create his own cell phone network and see how close he can come to perfection in its operation. Then he riffs on the woman, saying the airplane, of course, did take off and she was sitting in a chair in the sky like the Greek gods did, moving from New York to Los Angeles in a matter of hours, a trip that at one time took years.

High Above Omaha

We do forget what a special time we live in, especially in this very, very privileged nation.

Even in the wake of the Great Recession, we have plenty to eat, we have cars, we have warm homes, we have cable, and, yes, we have cell phones.

The latest estimate by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization holds that in 2010, 925 million people were hungry in the world. That’s a shade below one of every seven human beings alive.

Even in these hard times, we’re doing pretty well here.

So, I figured I’d say something positive today.

I woke up in the middle of the night Wednesday. I couldn’t get back to sleep and yet I was too tired to read, so I clicked on Netflix to watch a movie. I selected something called “Death of a President,” a pseudo-documentary that was made in 2006.

The movie deals with a trip of then-President George W. Bush to Chicago to deliver a speech to a gathering of big shot business leaders. As he walks out of the Sheraton Hotel after the speech, he is shot twice in the chest by an unknown gunman. He is rushed to the hospital where he dies after several hours of surgery.

The FBI and the Chicago police beat the bushes to to find the shooter and after a couple of weeks settle on a Syrian-born, nationalized American citizen.

This fellow, Jamal Abu Zikri, once traveled back to the Middle East to study Islam at an ill-defined camp which turned out to be an al Qaeda training center. He was threatened with death if he attempted to leave the camp but eventually found a way to escape and returned to his home and wife in Chicago.

In the hysteria following the assassination, authorities cobble together some iffy evidence and, depending mainly on Zikri’s supposed connection to al Qaeda, get him convicted of the crime. In the meantime, new President Dick Cheney pushes through a third Patriot Act that allows the government even greater latitude in spying on and detaining suspected terrorists. Cheney also pushes the CIA hard to find connections between the Syrian government and the assassination.

I’m not telegraphing the ending by saying doubt is cast on everybody’s motives.

The movie is more about emotionalism, fear, rage, prejudice, xenophobia, vengeance, jingoism, radical hyperbole, and, essentially, every destructive trait that exists today in these Great United States, Inc. than the actual act of killing the president.

These destructive traits threaten to grow exponentially until they suffocate us.

“Death of a President” is not flattering to us. The US Chamber of Congress did not push it for an Oscar.

Still it ran in theaters here. And it’s a standard offering on such an innocuous service as Netflix.

That says a lot about America — maybe as much as “Two and a Half Men” and the corporatization of this holy land do.

I refer back to Louis CK who cracks that people in certain other nations wake up some mornings and say “Uh oh, today’s the day we get our heads cut off.”

Can you imagine movies depicting the killings of Hu Jintao, Manmohan Singh, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Dilma Rousseff, Yousaf Gillani, Vladimir Putin, Sheikh Hasina, and Yoshihiko Noda?

“Nyet.”

They are the bosses of the ten most populated nations on Earth, minus the United States. The people they boss constitute fully 53 percent of the people on this planet.

These 3.7 billion people, I suspect, would not be permitted to view a movie of such an uncomplimentary nature, much less one that allows the possibility that any of those nine dear leaders could be offed.

And keep in mind I haven’t included several billion other souls who live under a rogue’s gallery of minor despots, tyrants, and sadists.

I don’t like where we’re headed in these United States. I also know we still have a hell of a lot of freedom and latitude.

It’s worth remembering that now and then.

THE ART OF THE MICROSCOPE

Brain scientist Alex Straiker’s microscopy-based artwork will be on display in March at Finch’s Brasserie here in Bloomington. He’ll share the stage (or, more accurately, the easel) with award-winning botanical microscopist Jessica Lucas.

Straiker studies the effects of cannabinoids on the brain at Indiana University’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. Lucas is a researcher and outreach educator in the Shaw Lab at IU’s Biology Department.

Jessica Lucas’s Image Of A Fast-Growing Seedling

Alex and his lab-mates treat mice to mega-doses of THC and then check their brain structures to determine, among other things, why they crave White Castle sliders for hours afterward.

Straiker’s striking images have appeared on this site several times already in our short history. Watch this space to find out the date of the opening reception for his show.

JAZZ TIMES

Tune in to WFIU Monday afternoon for David Brent Johnson‘s “Just You and Me” daily jazz show.

DBJ And His Special Gal

DBJ tells me he plans to feature the jazz Grammy award winners Monday. The Grammy awards will be presented Sunday night in New York.

“Just You and Me” begins at 3:30 and runs for an hour and a half. It’s a good bet DBJ will be spinning loads of Roseanna Vitro and Kurt Elling.

The Pencil Today:

TODAY’S QUOTE

“How did it get late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness, how the time has flewn. How did it get late so soon?” — Dr. Seuss

MORNING BECOMES NIGHT

Yep, I’m late with my post today. Sue me.

OH, THOSE WACKY PAGANS!

Happy Winter Solstice!

The Shortest Day At Stonehenge

LET’S GO HALVSIES

Conventional wisdom has it that Congress isn’t working. It’s broke.

Pundits, wags, and the guy behind you in the grocery checkout line all agree — our men and women in the United States House of Representatives and the Senate can’t compromise, can’t work together, and flat out can’t effectively legislate anymore.

Only a fool would say otherwise.

Call me a fool.

Maybe — just maybe — Congress for the first time in generations is actually representing the people.

The Representative Of Our Dreams

I know this sounds crazy coming from a guy who firmly believes far too many of our politicians are in thrall to huge corporate interests and the bushels-full of cash wealthy campaign donors throw at them.

That’s still all true. But, strangely, I believe a bothersome percentage of the citizenry also buys into the thought processes and philosophies of plutocrats, robber barons, hyper-capitalists and other frightening creatures.

I’m not happy about it. I wish all people would understand that the interests of transnational corporations and Midas-rich individuals are at best not their interests and at worst — and far too often — exactly opposite our needs.

Gold-Leaf Toilet Paper

But that would take education, calm discussion, and rational discourse — none of which is terribly thrilling to a huge swath of residents of this holy land.

So, they believe unfettered capitalism equals freedom and that the market is protected by some mystical, god-like invisible hand. And that the rich are just like us. It’s this nation’s semi-official religion.

And, as I do whenever I pontificate about religion, I call bullshit.

Nevertheless, the vicars of Adam Smith and Ayn Rand and Alan Greenspan are still among us, muttering incantations and sprinkling holy water on us in the form of grudgingly dispensed tax holidays and insufficient incentives.

We’re a species that needs to believe even (or, especially?) when the belief is based on nothing.

A Lot Of Us Actually Do Want A Solid Gold Toilet

So, if half of us believe in economic ghosts and I think they’re as wrong as flat-earthers, that half is still out there and they vote. And their guys are in office.

Those guys used to be called, simply, Republicans. What depresses me is that a pile of Democrats are buying into that religion now, too.

Sure, there’s talk of the 1 percent and the 99 percent. Street protesters and my leftie friends say, How can anybody defend the 1 percent?

Easy, I say. The religion of these Great United States, Inc. holds that any of us can become part of the 1 percent, if only we work hard enough, are crafty enough, and ignore messy government regulations enough.

If only.

Now, back to Congress.Why does it seem to be stuck?

Can it be that at this moment in history half of us buy into the prevailing economic religion and half of us don’t?

That half of us want our fellow citizens to be self-sufficient and hard-working because that’s the magic formula for prosperity?

And that the other half think the deck is stacked against the little guy so we need to help people when they’re unemployed, when they’re sick, and even when they go to jail?

A Lazy Bum Or A Brother In Need?

That half of us are scared to death that we’re fouling our air, water, and land to such an extent that disaster is right around the corner? And the other half is just as scared that environmental protections will shatter the economy?

I can go on but you get the point. This is a weird era — call it the Era of the Two Halves. And Congress’s seeming inability to work is merely a reflection of the duality in our national consciousness.

A simple historical example. When Harold Washington was elected the first black mayor of Chicago, the city population was almost precisely divided into black and white.

Just about half of Chicagoans suffered the vapors when Washington was sworn in. The other half danced in the streets.

Dancing In The Streets

The city’s aldermen split similarly. Washington allies like Tim Evans and Bobby Rush bickered daily with the anti Washington bloc, led by Ed Vrdolyak and Ed Burke. I don’t think I need to identify any of these esteemed statesmen by color, do I?

Anyway, over the next four years, until Washington gorged himself into a fatal heart attack, the two sides of the City Council couldn’t get a thing done. The stalemate became a punchline. National politic wags snorted in derision.

My old pal, the comedian Aaron Freeman even created an entire act based on the city’s troubles. He called it Council Wars. He’d go on stage around the city and the country, telling the tale of Darth Vrdolyak battling Harold Skywalker.

Council Wars

The real funny thing was, it was the epitome of democracy. No matter that one side was at very least crypto-racist. That was a given.

Even if I completely disagree with the other guy’s side, if I’m a true democrat (small d) I have to accept his or her position. Believe me, I didn’t like it then as much as I don’t like it mow.

But it doesn’t really matter what I like or dislike in a democracy, does it?

In any case, as I said, Washington stuffed sandwiches into his mouth until his heart grew to the size of old Comiskey Park. On November 25, 1987, he dropped a pencil next to his desk during a meeting, bent over to pick it up, and his heart’s electrical system exploded. He was dead before the other people in the room started to wonder why he wasn’t sitting back up.

Only two years later, Richie Daley was elected mayor on the strength of a coalition of voters that was black and white. People forgot what Council Wars was all about. And now the city even has a Jewish mayor.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Stalemates never last. This one won’t either.

The Pencil Today:

WHICH TURKEY DO YOU WANT IN THE WHITE HOUSE?

My left-tilting friends and acquaintances seem to be divided into two camps these days.

Some of them are hanging on to the Democratic Party by their fingernails, holding out hope against hope that the electorate can keep enough Dem legislators in the halls of power so that, for instance, women aren’t forced to wear some Christian version of the burqa.

Others have given up completely on the jackass gang.

Bloomington Common Council member Susan Sandberg, for one, is firmly entrenched in the former group. Well, natch, she feeds at the public trough, living high on the hog, shouting “Let’em eat cake!” as her carriage careens around the corner at Kirkwood and Walnut. It’s shocking how the princely sum of $14,000 a year can corrupt a person.

She’s the Dems’ darling in this micro-lopolis.

Then there’s my old pal Jerry Boyle, the radical attorney from Chicago. He’s so down on the Democrats in general and their standard-bearer, one Barack Obama, aka POTUS, that he’s washed his hands of the lot of them. He’s gone so far as to call Obama a “traitor” to the left, which would make sense only if Obama had been a leftist at one time or another. I’ve yet to come across evidence he’s ever been.

Those as ancient as I am remember the term “Rockefeller Republican” from the sixties. There can be no better modifier of the man in the White House today.

Now, Susan Sandberg will be standing on her head during the next 49 weeks, trying to convince voters to put Dems in office. Jerry Boyle already has publicly advocated letting Obama et al flop next November. In fact, Jerry has hinted that maybe the smarter vote is Republican. His reasoning? Let the GOP be in charge when the whole house of cards tumbles so they can take the rap for it.

Which seems to me akin to cutting your nose to spite your face as well as the faces of some 308 million other poor souls.

I’m not thrilled with the Obama presidency. He’s proven himself much too comfortable cozying up to the unindicted corporate and banking felons who whipped the economy into its current grave state.

Obama: “Some Of My Best Friends Are Robber Barons!”

He’s less a leader than a consensus-seeker, which might be an asset if the other side had any inclination to consent. They don’t. It’s better, on Planet GOP, to demonize Mexicans who sneak into the country, to throw around terms like “socialist” without knowing what it means, to blame all our problems on NPR, and to wring hands obsessively over the very idea of two men tongue kissing.

That said, I’ll vote for Obama no matter whom the Republicans nominate. For one thing, I have to keep up my lifelong record of never having voted Republican. Go ahead, tell me I’m close-minded — you bet I’m close-minded. I long ago slammed shut my cranial door on the party that could fight tooth and nail against something so innocuous as the Equal Rights Amendment.

It’s one thing to have an open mind but you can’t have it so open that your brains fall out.

So, I’m thankful today that we have a (half) black president who is nominally a Democrat. He ain’t everything I’d want but, then again, neither is life.

Today: Tuesday, November 8, 2011

WHERE’S THEIR UNION?

I’ve been a union supporter all my life.

Heck, I became a union guy just a few months after graduating high school. See, I knew I was too much of a rebel/hood/knucklehead to succeed in college at the tender age of eighteen so I wisely deferred my higher education for a couple of years.

I went out to work instead. Took a job with the City of Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation. My clout was 36th Ward Democratic Committeeman Louie Garippo.

In Chicago back in the 70s, if you wanted work for the City, you first had to go see your clout (also known as your Chinaman) and promise you’d do everything in the world to help him get out the vote in exchange for his sponsorship. I vowed to stand on my head, if need be, to get Mayor Daley (the First) reelected — oh, and whoever else might be running on the Dem slate in future elections.

During our interview, Louie Garippo got a dreamy look in his eye and said, “We’re gonna take back the White House next year.”

I nodded. The presidential election of 1976 would be the first in which I could vote. I couldn’t wait. I had no idea who I wanted but I knew for an iron-clad fact it wasn’t Gerald R. Ford. Yeesh.

Garripo went on. “If all goes well, we’ll have another one of the Kennedy boys in there.” Louie looked me in the eye. “You know,” he said, “your mother loved Jack Kennedy.”

Ma Loved Him

I nodded again. “Okay,” Louie said, “here’s what you do. You go see Elmer Fillipini tomorrow at 9:00am. Ya got that? Do not be late. He’ll tell you what to do.” Fillipini was the supervisor of the 36th Ward Streets & San office.

Louie wasn’t finished with me, though. “And do me a favor,” he said. “Get a haircut, fer chrissakes. You look like one’a them goddamn hippies. You’ll make your mother happy.”

I got up to leave and we shook hands. As I was walking out the door, he tossed another caveat my way.

“Remember,” he said, “don’t embarrass me.”

I nodded a third time.

At 9:05 the next morning I was filling out my first union card. The Laborers Union. Very, very cozy with The Boss, Daley. Not that we would suffer for the coziness; not even out of my teens, I would be making more money than my old man. When I told him what I was going to earn an hour, daddy-o actually got a hurt look in his eye. I always felt bad about that.

Anyway, The mayoral primary of 1975 was coming up fast. Renegade alderman Bill Singer was running against The Boss. Singer and his pals like the Rev. Jesse Jackson had already beaten Mayor Daley in a battle three years before. Singer, Jackson, et al successfully ousted Daley and the his Machine cronies from the 1972 Democratic National Convention. The one that nominated George McGovern to run that November. You remember McGovern, don’t you? Lost the election in one of the greatest landslides in history. Couldn’t even carry his own state.

So, Singer had decided to take on Daley in the primary. He was young. He was a rebel. He had longish hair. He hung out with brothers. As far as I was concerned, he was perfect. I started wearing a Singer lapel button — to work.

Not smart. Elmer Filippini called me in to his office for a private meeting. He wasn’t happy.

“Dontchu care about yer job?” he snapped.

I shrugged. My only regret was that I was embarrassing Louie Garippo.

I lasted three months in that job — not because Elmer or Louie forced me out but because I was an irresponsible lunkhead.

Believe it or not, I grew up. I eventually got into the writing and journalism rackets. Joined more unions. The National Writers Union and the Newspaper Guild.

Reporters On Strike, 1964

To this day I’m always on the side of the unions. I don’t like bullies. Management always seems to be the bully.

The highest-profile labor dispute going on right now in this holy land is the National Basketball Association lockout. In an industry raking in a couple of billion dollars a year, labor and management can’t figure out how to slice up the pie.

Billionaire jerks fighting with millionaire jerks over a few bucks.

Still, I’m steadfast behind the National Basketball Players Association. Management, remember, is always the bully. Even if the players are jerks.

Gotta tell you, though, there are a lot of folks suffering over this. Some of our friends in Indy are trying to figure out how to buy Christmas presents this year. Heck, some of them might be trying to figure out how to pay the rent.

Hot dog vendors. Jersey hawkers. Ushers. Ticket sellers. Beer pushers. Loads of people who consider themselves extremely fortunate when they bring home a hundred dollars after a Pacers game.

No Games, No Hungry Fans, No Pay

The NBA last year paid out $800 million to its wage slaves on the gym floor. That constituted 57 percent of all basketball related revenues for the season, meaning the owners claim to have pocketed some $600 million. The NBPA claims the owners are fudging their books. I’d bet they are. You don’t get rich enough to own a major league sports franchise by possessing the morals of a Boy Scout.

There’s a lot of cash up for grabs in this fight. But there isn’t enough for a hot dog vendor to splurge on Christmas this year.

RUNNING IN PLACE

Speaking of elections, the honorable Regina Moore bounced into The Book Corner last week to stock up on reading material. The city’s parking ticket boss immediately got into a conversation with a young woman who still sported Hallowe’en-themed nail polish.

The two batted around the topic of nail painting for a few minutes then I asked Moore how she was feeling about today’s election. “I feel good about it,” Moore said. “I think we’re gonna be okay.”


Bloomington City Clerk Regina Moore

I told her I was happy she seemed so confident. Then it hit me. “Hey, wait a minute,” I said. “Is anyone running against you?”

“No,” Regina Moore said.

Nor is anyone running against incumbent Mayor Mark Kruzan.

Democracy, Bloomington style. Ya gotta love it.

Still, get out there and vote. It’s the least you can do.

KAYOED

Smokin’ Joe Frazier took a ten-count last night. The former heavyweight boxing champ died after a bout with cancer.

I’ve got to admit I never cared for Frazier. Not for anything he did or the kind of man he was. It was just that he was the guy who knocked one of the heroes of my youth to the canvas back in 1971. Frazier was the first man to hang an L on Muhammad Ali, besting him in 15 rounds at Madison Square Garden that year.

Frazier Labels Ali In One Of Their Three Fights

I loved Ali. I couldn’t have cared less about boxing but I embraced Ali because he had the cagliones to refuse to be inducted into the Army after being drafted in 1967. He risked everything for his beliefs. “I ain’t got no quarrel with the Vietcong,” Ali famously said. “No Vietcong ever called me nigger.”

Plus, Ali was a poet and a showman. Had he been a run-of-the-mill pug, I wouldn’t have given him a second thought. But, because he raged against The Man, I elevated him to my sports pantheon, which also included Curt Flood, Jim Bouton, Dick Allen, and John Carlos and Tommie Smith.

John Carlos and Tommie Smith, Arms Upraised

Ali came back from his exile from the sport and won back the title. Then Frazier outpointed him. I moaned, Who the hell is Joe Frazier, anyway?

Now, no Vietcong ever called Muhammad Ali nigger, but Ali called Joe Frazier a “gorilla” prior to one of the bouts, the three of which have become almost mythic battles. Frazier was deeply hurt by the epithet. Ali also called him an “Uncle Tom” and “ugly.” Frazier’s manager told him to pay Ali no mind, that “The Greatest” was only hyping their match.

Frazier said, Maybe, but how would you like your kid to come home from school and tell you the kids had been calling him “gorilla” and “Uncle Tom”?

I hope to learn that Ali apologized to Frazier before last night. He’d be a hero again for me.

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