Category Archives: Democracy

1000 Words: Utterly Imperfect But Vital

We’ll be voting Tuesday, November 8th. Well, we’re supposed to be voting Tuesday, November 8th. In an off-year election, as a matter of habit, fewer than half the eligible voters in this holy land bother to fill out a ballot.

Although in the wake of the US Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade this past June, there may well be a flood of energized voters this time around. We’ll see. Back in 2016 I learned not to predict anything when it comes to elections in this democratic republic.

Off-year elections — that is, those national elections between presidential beauty pageants — are as important…, nay, are even more important than most quadrennial contests for the White House. Every single seat in the United States House of Representatives is up for grabs as well as one-third of of the Senate. In other words, off-year elections determine the whole goddamned immediate future of the nation.

By the way, my usage of the line up for grabs is ill-advised, bordering on delusional.  The vast majority of congressbeings are re-elected no matter how venal, craven self-serving or outright deranged they are. That’s because the vast majority of congressional challengers run on the issues. They’re not savvy enough to know the key to winning elections is money. Do you have a campaign war chest overflowing enough to drown the opposition? That’s generally the only issue that counts. Throughout the history of the United States, we’ve gradually inched closer to this dystopia of checkbook legislation, with the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision finally and fully institutionalizing the buying and selling of national political offices.

Anyway, polling places are already open for those early birds like me. I always vote. Many people say they don’t vote because…

  1. Elections don’t matter
  2. My little vote doesn’t mean anything in the long run
  3. Some shadowy groups or individuals or members of one religion or another control everything
  4. All politicians are corrupt

… so why bother? I’m not going to argue their points, mainly because they’re all so laughably stupid. And I’m not being pollyannish here. If any and all the above arguments for not voting carried any merit, then why do corporations and plutocrats pay out billions of dollars in campaign contributions? Yeah, corporations and plutocrats are overly influential but they need senators and representatives to do their bidding like vampires need human blood. And they know how to spend their dough wisely. The smart move is to buy elections

And, we the voters are dumb enough to believe the ads and social media misinformation bought and paid for by them.

But that’s a topic that’s been hashed, re-hashed, minced, diced, and pureed more times than any of us can tolerate, so I won’t expound on it here.

Our system of government and elections is woefully imperfect. That makes it the most human of enterprises. We’re woefully imperfect. Especially me, but at least I admit it.

Over the next few years Congress (the Senate and the House, inclusive) will tackle things like the environment, energy, military spending, national infrastructure, and perhaps even abortion and voting rights. The three members of Congress who represent me — senators Todd Young and Mike Bruan and Representative Trey Hollingsworth — all are Republicans. Of the three, only Young seems to have his head screwed on straight. I say this even though I’d probably disagree with him if issued a press release tomorrow morning claiming the Earth revolves around the Sun. Braun is a 2020 election denier and Hollingsworth believes not only that corporations are people but, per his voting record, he clearly thinks the only people worth a damn are corporations.

I’d vote for my next door neighbor Tom to replace any of the three — and Tom is so cantankerous he refuses to attend any of our road association meetings. Then again, if you’ve ever been part of a homeowners association, you’ll immediately recognize Tom’s decision as rooted in logic of the highest order.

In any case, I have to vote this year, if only to announce to the world that the likes of Young and Hollingsworth are utterly unacceptable to me. Braun too, of course, but his term has two years to go.

Now, there are 100 United States senators and 435 members of the House of Representatives. The number of senators was established by the US Constitution at two for each state. The number of House members each state claims is determined by the most recent United States Census figures, so it changes from decade to decade.

The House, therefore, seems a fairly representative (you’ll pardon the pun) body. This so long as one party or another hasn’t gerrymandered the bejesus out of its state’s congressional map. Right now, it’s been the Republicans who’ve played Etch-a-Sketch with congressional district borders the last 20 or thirty years. Before that, the Democrats wielded the Wite-Out™. (Two things: 1) yes, that’s the proper spelling of the Bic company product and 2) who in the hell uses Wite-Out™ anymore?)

The framers of the Constitution, who made a whole lot of mistakes both inadvertently and immorally, really made a hell of a bungle in the case of the makeup of the Senate. They forgot to protect women, the aboriginal peoples of this continent, and kidnapped Africans forced into slavery under the umbrella of that sweet-sounding but ultimately misleading “created equal” line. And then they decided that every single state must have two senators. This goes for both California (population 39.35 million) and Wyoming (581,348). California, you see, has better than 67 times more people than live in Wyoming. Yet, in the United States Senate, Wyoming’s two votes equal California’s. Crazy, I tell you.

Take a look at this population density map of the United States:

The vast majority of American citizens live in those tiny red smudges. All that green land is relatively unpopulated. The 13 least populated states (Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, North and South Dakota, Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire, Hawai’i, West Virginia, and Idaho) altogether have a population of 14.5 million people, which itself is just shy of one-third the number of people who live in California. Yet those states claim 26 United states senators to California’s two.

Did I mention that was crazy?

It is. And imperfect.

Hot Air

It’s What’s For Dinner!

‣ Three days in and I believe, in my head, what has transpired, but in my gut? Hell no, I still don’t believe it.

‣ Lots of people on the Left are busy blaming each other for the victory of L’il Duce Tuesday. The pouty rhetoric is getting thick and uncivil. And here, we thought the Republicans were going to be the ones cannibalizing each other in these post-election days.

Newsweek shipped copies of its commemorative Election 2016 issue. We got a number of copies at the Book Corner Wednesday. Its front cover is a wall-to-wall snapshot of the grinning candidate the editors, obviously, were certain was going to win. That candidate is identified as “Madam President.”


Last night I googled “newsweek madame president ebay” and the first hit was an eBay item for a single copy of the edition. It sold on Nov. 9th at 5:33pm for $799.

‣ I dunno about you but I’m getting the same vibe on the street I got in the days immediately after the 9/11 attacks. And at least three separate people have said to me, “It’s like there’s been a death.”

‣ The wholly unexpected victory of L’il Duce really screws up his plans doesn’t it? The man wanted to start a cable TV operation that’d speak directly to the chronically aggrieved and the terrified white male demo. Now those gangs are in power — what do they have to be aggrieved about? I’m sure they’ll find something; they always do. But the President of the United States can’t really run around starting media empires while in office. Then again, this is Donald Trump.

‣ I get the feeling we’re in for a good twenty-year stretch of one-term presidents. L’il Duce‘s triumph came about largely because the dull-witted among us wanted change. L’il Duce ain’t gonna change the entire gov’t so those folks’ll be chomping at the bit again come 2020. And scads of liberals and progressives want new blood, too. We’re in for a roller coaster ride, babies.

‣ Nobody asked me but I’ll offer my advice to the Democratic Party anyway. Two pieces of advice, as a matter of fact.

  1. Lose the Clintons. I hate to say this. I voted for Hill. I thought she did a fine job as Sec’y of State and I was confident she’d be a terrific prez. I certainly am not blaming her for the loss, as some on my side of the fence are doing these days. But the truth of the matter is she’s toxic. So is Bill, but she possesses a value-added odium-trigger. It’s called a vagina. There’s a solid swath of the citizenry that can’t bear the idea of a woman being president but it’s a distinct minority. Problem is when you throw the deep, visceral, almost pathological hatred of her on top of that, suddenly the rabidly anti-Hillary demographic approaches 50 percent of the voting populace.
  2. Lose the sticks. My mother used to call all places well outside the city “the sticks.” The rural voters of the great, vast emptinesses stretching from the Mississippi-Missouri River system westward to the continental divide of the Rockies are never, ever going to vote Democratic. Nor are Indiana farmers, Georgia truck drivers, or Kentucky meth lab operators. They despise the cosmopolitan, diverse big cities that are the stronghold of the Democratic Party — or at least should be. The cities historically were, but then after the victory of St. Ronald in 1980 the Dems became scared little bunnies and started standing on their heads to court the voters in the sticks. Remember Michael Dukakis all gussied up in tank commander drag? How about John Kerry pretending to be a rough and tough outdoorsman? Forget it, Dems! Go back to your roots and speak directly to the working woman, the inner city man, the Latino, the black. The letter carriers and garbage haulers. Secretaries and nurses and schoolteachers and window-washers. Speak for the entire LGBTQ community. Call on the Arab immigrants. Give voice to the concerns of the Central American émigrés. All these demographics have grown considerably enough to provide you with victories in the future. Millions of people in the cities feel the Democrats have abandoned them — and they’re right. Now, roll up your sleeves and get them back, and welcome all the new bunches that the white supremacist wing of the Republican Party can’t and won’t tolerate.


Dukakis & Kerry: Play Acting For The Sticks Crowd


It’s comin’ to the USA, Leonard Cohen sang in 1992. Well, it’s here — and it’s got an awfully ugly face.

Hot Air

The Best Time Of The Year

4509 HWR 20140420

We’re Getting There

The image above is the view from the back door of Chez Big Mike (also known as Casa della Persona Amata and the world headquarters of this communications colossus, The Electron Pencil. Natch, our server farm and all our satellite transmission technology are located in the modest-appearing shed. Don’t be fooled:

Server Hardware

A Peek Inside The Shed

Anyway, it’s a good bet we won’t suffer through any more frosts or snowfalls for the next seven or so months. I’m hoping at least.

Spring is that season of hope and rebirth — unless, of course, you’re a Cubs fan.



The people of India today begin their third week of voting in that’s nation’s 2014 general elections. This year, Indians will be able to vote for a total of five weeks, the longest such period in the country’s history. Indian election authorities and politicians, apparently, believe the more time they give voters, the more they — the voters — will vote.

Imagine that. Here, of course, state after state is shortening voting periods.  Probably because American election authorities and politicians believe the more time they give voters, the more they — the voters — will vote.

Back to India. It’s expected that some 810,000,000 people will vote. Let me type that again: More than eight hundred million people. Okay, sure, India has a pop. of more than 1.21 billion. Still, that’s 66.9 percent of the entire population.

In this holy land’s last presidential beauty contest, only 57.5 percent of eligible voters bothered to cast a ballot. That translates to a paltry 40 percent of the population.


Acc’d’ng to our advertisements, America is the greatest democracy on the face of the Earth. And whenever we stick our noses into other countries’ business, we claim to be doing so in order to bring them democracy.

We are, in other words, full of shit.

The Pencil Today:


“We should stop going around babbling about how we’re the greatest democracy on Earth, when we’re not even a democracy. We are a sort of militarized republic.” — Gore Vidal


Here’s the distribution of native language groups in what is now called North America, before the Europeans started coming over in the late 15th Century.

Click For Larger Image

In other words, this is a map of nations. Each of these nations not only had common languages but cultural ties among the various groups within.

They are no different, in those senses, than the United States or Mexico. The only things they lacked were steel and the wheel.

Steel And The Wheel

Accordingly, they disappeared.


I bet it’s killing Charlene Spierer to refrain from divulging the name of the person she’s certain did in her daughter.

Charlene Spierer

She probably wants to shout the person’s name from the rooftops but, for obvious reasons, she can’t. There are little matters like getting a probable cause warrant, arresting the suspect, and arraigning him or her (oh hell, who am I kidding, him) that must be done first.

The Marion County Coroner’s office has extracted a tooth from a skull found a month ago in the White River in Indianapolis. As it stands right now, examiners don’t even know if the skull comes from a woman or a man.

Marion County’s Deputy Coroner tells The Journal News that the tooth will be compared to Lauren’s dental records in an act of kindness for the Spierers. Examiners generally don’t do that for specific parties who have reported missing people. But the high-profile nature of the disappearance and the Spierers’ savvy use of the media forced the Coroner’s hand.

Charlene has written an open letter to the person who snatched her daughter in the Spierers’ blog. She writes: “We were shocked when several people hired attorneys within days of Lauren’s disappearance. Five young men, five attorneys.”

That’s been my point all along: The last thing I’d think of doing if one of my pals disappeared would be to hire an attorney.

Lauren’s mom then addresses the person who did the deed: “Who are you? Did you go on any searches? Maybe you were no longer in Bloomington as thousands helped look for Lauren. Did you use Lauren’s disappearance to your advantage? Have we met? Time will tell.”


Our next door neighbors’ daughter, R, a senior at Bloomington High School North, copped an Honor award at the Monroe County Fair for her entry in the Bake It with Pineapple contest.

R’s entry was a pineapple coconut tart topped with meringue. Gotta tell you, it paled in comparison to another recipe she experimented with over the weekend: a zucchini-pineapple bread. Too bad — for my money if she’d have submitted the bread, she’d have won the blue ribbon.

All this is yet another way of saying I love living in Bloomington.


Tyler Ferguson of the Bleeding Heartland Rollergirls is all agog this AM. She’s going up to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indy tonight to see — oh, god, I don’t want to say it — Barry Manilow.

She’s been warned: Should she come in to Soma Coffee tomorrow singing any Manilow hit and thereby implanting it as an earworm in my fragile psyche, there will be hell to pay.


In the category of sugary pop, you can’t beat this from BJ Thomas.

It’s recorded directly from the 45, complete with scratch and dust noise. How can you not love it?

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

I Love ChartsLife as seen through charts.

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

SkepchickWomen scientists look at the world and the universe.

IndexedAll the answers in graph form, on index cards.

I Fucking Love ScienceA Facebook community of science geeks.

From I Fucking Love Science

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

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

Mental FlossFacts.

Caps Off PleaseComics & fun.

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

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

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

Click For The Quiz

The Daily PuppySo shoot me.

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

◗ IU Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center — Summer 2012 Sustainability Internship Symposium; 11:30am

Monroe County FairgroundsDay 7, 2012 Monroe County Fair, Hearts of Fire; 6:30pm — Music Makers Extension Chorus Group; 7PM; Demolition Derby; 7:30pm; Soul Patrol; 7:30pm; ; Noon to 11pm

◗ BEAD District Bloomington, Gallery WalkReceptions & exhibits:

WonderLabThe Science of Art: Screenprinting, with David Orr: 5pm

◗ IU Fine Arts Theater — Ryder Film Series: “Kumaré: The True Story of a False Prophet; 7pm

Bloomington Playwrights ProjectOriginal musical, “Dreams & Nightmares”; 7pm

Buskirk-Chumley Theater — “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast”; 7:30pm

The Comedy AtticCostaki Economopolous; 8 & 10:30pm

Cafe DjangoDavid Miller’s Art Deco Quartet; 7:30pm

◗ IU Woodburn Hall Theater — Ryder Film Series: “Polisse”; 8pm

The BluebirdJJ Grey, Mofro; 8pm

Max’s PlaceKathy Gutjar; 8pm

◗ IU Fine Arts Theater — Ryder Film Series: “Oslo: August 31”; 8:30pm

Max’s PlaceTarpaper Turley; 10pm

The BishopDJ Junebug; midnight


◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • “40 Years of Artists from Pygmalion’s”; opens Friday, August 3rd, through September 1st

◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • Qiao Xiaoguang, “Urban Landscape: A Selection of Papercuts” ; through August 12th
  • “A Tribute to William Zimmerman,” wildlife artist; through September 9th
  • Willi Baumeister, “Baumeister in Print”; through September 9th
  • Annibale and Agostino Carracci, “The Bolognese School”; through September 16th
  • “Contemporary Explorations: Paintings by Contemporary Native American Artists”; through October 14th
  • David Hockney, “New Acquisitions”; through October 21st
  • Utagawa Kuniyoshi, “Paragons of Filial Piety”; through fall semester 2012
  • Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan, “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers”; through December 31st
  • “French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century”; through December 31st

◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibits: Bloomington Photography Club Annual Exhibition; through August 3rd

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

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

◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesClosed for semester break, reopens Tuesday, August 21st

Monroe County History Center Exhibits:

  • “What Is Your Quilting Story?”; through July 31st
  • Photo exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

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