Category Archives: Donald Trump

Hot Air: Loads Of It

The Illusion

I hate like hell to admit it, but John Steinbeck was right:

The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.

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Honesty, Honestly

Has it occurred to you that this Obama administration, now well into its eighth year, has been shockingly free of venal scandal? I mean, I can’t think of a single Obama White House functionary who’s been brought up on charges of swiping from the public trough or peddling his or her influence for personal gain.

Usually, presidential administrations in their second terms are wracked by accusations, investigations, and indictments of major and minor officials who’ve fattened their wallets thanks to their positions of power.

Not now, though. Not in this presidency.

Obama seems a decent human being. Perhaps his leadership imperative, communicated to all hirees from the get-go, was Do no wrong. It can’t be just dumb luck can it?

And, believe me, if there were even a hint of malfeasance, the vultures  who control the House and Senate as well as those in talk media and the blogosphere would have been on it like flies on dog droppings.

Phew, That Could Have Been Terrorizing!

Here’s something I just don’t understand. Perhaps you can explain it to me.

Yesterday, a mentally-broken man went on a knife rampage in Taunton, Mass., killing two and injuring four others before an off-duty sheriff’s deputy shot him to death. The man apparently went on the random spree after ramming his car into a truck outside a home in Taunton. He then entered the home and stabbed an 80-year-old woman to death and seriously injured the her daughter. He went out on the street, jumped back in his car, and wound up at a nearby mall. There, he attacked several other people, killing one before the deputy stopped him.

A horrible story, indeed. But, somehow, authorities wished to console us in our confusion and worry over the incident. Taunton police made certain to tell reporters the attacks were not related to “terrorism.”

I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t make me feel any better about the whole affair.

Was the aim of such an announcement to comfort us that no swarthy foreigners were responsible for the death and carnage, but simply a misguided poor soul from this holy land?

And if these attacks are not “terrorism,” what are they? Merely lack of impulse control on the part of a fellow citizen — who, thank god, happens not to be dark or unbearably different. That’s better?

Hillary’s Handiwork?

Have you seen that social media meme aimed at Bernie-ites purportedly showing them how to make home-made glow sticks but in reality is actually a recipe for a mini-bomb?

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No one knows where this ugly little “joke” came from but I guaran-goddamn-tee at least some Bernie true believers are convinced it was the handiwork of operatives from Hillary’s campaign. Hell, there’s gotta be some in this holy land who are certain Hillary herself posted the freakin’ thing!

The Stark Truth

The Loved One and I watched All the King’s Men last night, the 1949 movie based on Robert Penn Warren‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about Willie Stark, a populist demagogue who rises to power from the dirt furrows of farm country. Stark becomes wildly adored, with wits and wags wondering if he’s a messiah or a tyrant. The movie based on the book won the Academy Award for Best Picture just four years after Warren won his Pulitzer.

Willie Stark is nothing like Donald Trump but the whole idolatry thing, the “outsider” challenging the powers-that-be, the snake-oil salesman promising a new way of running things, is at the core of Trump’s appeal.

Smart guys used to fear a new Huey Long (upon whom, it is said, Willie Stark was based) coming along, galvanizing the poor and the disenfranchised by telling them what a lousy deal they’re getting and how the big boys are laughing their way to the bank on the backs of the common clay.

It’s tempting to say ATKM is a harbinger of the 2016 presidential race wherein populist demagogue Donald Trump roars to the Republican nomination despite all the analyses of the experts who pooh-poohed his quest. But it’s not. Trump most certainly is not a man who came from dirt furrows and challenged the powers that be. He was a trust fund baby who inherited tens of millions of dollars from his slippery daddy-o and has always been one of the powers that be.

Sure, many of those going gaga over Trump are poor but many, many more are reasonably comfortable, at least in relation to the rest of the world. A Trump rally is not populated by modern day analogs to the subjects of, say, Dorothea Lange’s Depression-era photos.

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Lange’s “Migrant Mother” (1936)

Trump’s fanboys and -girls, in fact, look awfully well fed and clearly have had a good night’s sleep in warm, comfy beds. King-sized, most likely.

They see themselves as unduly screwed, which is bizarre. And Trump keeps telling them they are, which is only the first of his bald-faced lies, of which he’s trafficked in an alarming many.

Guys like the fictional Willie Stark and the real Huey Long had an extremely limited appeal, touching the hearts only of those self-aware enough to accept that they were dirt-poor hicks — “Just like me!” Stark roared. Today, nobody wants to admit they’re a dirt poor hick. Screwed, yeah. Dirt poor, no. Let’s go to Faulkner again, who hit it square:

[The American poor] see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

And not only the Murrican poor see themselves that way. Even the well-fed and cozy comfy feel they’re only one lucky break away from sharing caviar and Moët et Chandon w/ the likes of Donald Trump or the Kardashians. These days, they desperately believe, those lucky breaks are being denied them which is a far worse injustice than mass starvation in Bangladesh or the kidnapping, raping, and killing of schoolgirls by Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Only a borderline sociopathic liar like Trump could feed and reinforce in people this line of bushwa. Nothing Trump says is based on any set of acts or reality, which sets up his ultimate untrue punchlines. Murricans have been waiting breathlessly for an uber-rich man to come along and lie to them. Rich men, too many in this holy land deeply believe, are special, a higher form of life, nearly messianic.

Their words are scripture, their bank accounts proof of their divinity.

Naw, America never needed to worry about a fascist demagogue coming along and appealing to the poor. The real danger was the incendiary who spoke to the temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

May 11th Birthdays

Laskarina Bouboulina — Known as the heroine of Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire, she commanded the rebel Greek fleet and, later, became an admiral in the Russian navy.

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Chang and Eng Bunker — The most famous Siamese (now, more acceptably, conjoined) twins. Both married (two separate women) and had, between them, 21 children.

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Harriet Quimby — The first women to be awarded a pilot’s license in the United States and the first female to aviate across the English Channel. She also was a Hollywood screenwriter, penning scripts for seven films directed by D.W. Griffith.

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Irving Berlin — Born Israel Isidore Baline, he wrote gazillions of standards now in the great American songbook including “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “God Bless America,” “White Christmas,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” and countless others.

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Martha Graham — Perhaps the most revered American dancer in history, she conjured the “Graham Technique,” a method of modern dance style and teaching that revolutionized the art form.

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Salvadore Dali — Painter and art world personality.

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Richard Feynman — Nobel Prize winning physicist, iconoclast, bongo player, and author of, among others, Six Easy Pieces. One of my favorite humans ever.

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Mort Sahl — Humorist who specialized in political and social issues, he used a newspaper as a prop onstage, opening it up and commenting on stories within. Steve Allen called him “the only real political philosopher we have in modern comedy.”

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Louis Farrakhan — Controversial leader of the Nation of Islam, an American organization dedicated to the uplift of Black Muslim young men. Farrakhan also has spouted anti-semitic and anti-gay lines. Many in the American Black Muslim community believe he was involved in the plot to assassinate Malcolm X.

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Martha Quinn — One of the original five VJs on MTV.

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And, finally, Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, died on this day in 2001.

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Hot Air: Sunday Sundries

History In The Making

I don’t know why this hasn’t occurred to me before but, no matter what, the Dems this summer will nominate either the first woman or first Jew as a major party candidate for president.

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Either Way

The Republicans, meanwhile, are going with the guy who calls women “fat pigs” and who has the support of KKK-types who believe the nation — and the world — are run by a secret cabal of Jews.

Yeah, there’s no diff. between the parties. Nah.

I’m surprised nobody’s making a big splash about this. It speaks well of the party, no? Then again, nobody wants to speak well of the party — either party — these days. Too bad.

Of course, the parties have nobody to blame but themselves.

Private Benjamins

Let’s just all agree right here and now that privatization is a dirty word, okay?

Case in point: The city of Seattle has hired a private firm at $240 and hour to tear down, sweep up, and otherwise trash homeless encampments. Yep. Hat tip to my old Ever-So-Secret Order of the Lampreys pal (and leader thereof) Kenneth Morrison for the tip.

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So, the city many of us view as the nation’s model of progressive goody-goodness would rather spend its dough thusly than on, say, maybe simply providing shelter for the poor souls who can’t afford a home.

Nah. That’d be government overreach, wouldn’t it?

Getting To Know Me

I’ve just come to the conclusion that I’m driven not to be driven. I suppose that’s why I never got a college degree or won the Pulitzer Prize.

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Nah, That’s Okay. I Don’t Need One. Thanks Anyway.

Yeah, sure, that’s it.

Getting Better All The Time

Another landmark in my recovery process. Yesterday afternoon I yelled at another driver for the first time in months. I was thrilled; my voice was strong and my tongue sharp.

The background. It’s been my experience that scads of left-turners in this sprawling megalopolis are loath to pulling out into an intersection on the green light while waiting for oncoming traffic to pass. This leads, often, to just one car making the left turn, which is criminal.

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So, yesterday I was intending to make the left turn onto Covenanter off southbound College Mall Drive to get to the Kroger Theme Park. The black Infiniti in front of me was going to make the left as well and, just as we hit the red light, it turned green. Fine, right? I’d make this light, right behind him.

Only he would not pull into the intersection. I gesticulated dramatically, hoping he’d catch my drift in his rear view mirror but, alas, he wouldn’t bite. But, I figured, I could tail him closely when he did make the turn at least after the light would turn yellow.

The light did turn yellow and he wouldn’t budge! So neither of us made the turn. I bellowed: “Fer chrissakes! Get out there you numbskull! Make the goddamned turn! Jesus Christ in heaven!”

Again, he wouldn’t bite. No glance in the mirror. No satisfying flash of the middle digit in response. No nothing. He must have had the windows rolled up. The jerk.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the satisfaction of reaming him verbally even if he couldn’t hear it.

Slowly but surely, I’m getting back into the swing of things. Wahoo!

Okay, Mother’s Day

Here are Ma and Daddy-o in 1945 with the old man home on a surprise leave. He looks like a kid in a candy store and she’s got that dewy-eyed look straight out of a romance novel.

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BTW: Daddy-o returned to his base to help the Allies win the war by scrubbing garbage cans and making sure his bed was properly made.

Priorities

Hey, we’re not the only country that’s tackling terribly important social problems (from Atlas Obscura):

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Hot Air: Democracy? Wow.

Words Hurt

Call me goofy but I would never eat something on a menu called a Garbage Salad.

I mean, it’s just the idea of the thing. Hey, chef, sweep up all your droppings and throw it all on a plate for me, wouldja?

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Why not offer me a shit sandwich?

It’d be like running an ad for a lite beer, extolling its rich amber color — Just like fresh urine!

So, yeah, okay, I’m goofy. But you’re eating Garbage Salad and I’m not.

Democracy. Now.

Lots o’people are saying the emergence of America’s Shart, Donald Trump, is evidence that our democracy is broken. Hell, even Russian former chess champion Garry Kasparov has chimed in, saying Trump and his gang are leading “an assault on democracy.” Kasparov, BTW, quit the chess racket last decade and became a leader of the anti-Putin movement which means, I suppose, he’s lucky to still be alive.

And, BTW again, Trump loves him some Putin, as does Trump’s stage door Jeannie, Sarah Palin. So maybe, Kasparov has a point.

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All Democratically Elected

Anyway, loyal Pencillistas know I’m not one to blame our ills on nebulous, all-powerful cabals controlling our thoughts and actions through media, drugs, and the eating of white bread. In fact, I pretty much blame none of our ills on those things, mainly because I blame us for what ails us.

If the media’s spoonfeeding us senseless garbage it’s only because we eat it up. And if “Big Pharma” is trying to hook us on every new anti-depressant that comes out of its evil labs, well, we’re the ones running to our doctors every half hour telling them how depressed we are and what can you do about it, Doc?

I won’t blame Trump for killing democracy, either. In fact, Trump’s rise is a testament to the strength of our democracy. We have two long-standing, major political parties supported by hundreds of millions of dollars of lobbyists’ and corporations’ dough and one of them could do nothing to stop the juggernaut that has been the Trump ascendancy this primary season. We’ll see if the Democrats can halt his steamroller in November. We can only hope.

No, the people have spoken, even if their language is a pidgin and their thought processes the equivalent of those of subfamily Arvicolinae. That’s democracy, no? The speaking of the people?

By golly, I think I’ve discovered the fatal flaw in democracy. People.

I Like It Here

Don’t get me wrong — I dig John Hamilton as mayor of this sprawling megalopolis. But I also dig his opponent in last year’s mayoral beauty contest, Darryl Neher. The young(ish) IU Kelley School of Biz senior lecturer and recent B-ton city council guy laid a big hug on me yesterday at Hopscotch Coffee.

He told me he was meeting with a couple of big shot sachems in our town’s LGBT community and, indeed, the three of them put their heads together for what seemed an eternity. Neher’s lending his support, natch, to that gang and is hoping to help them solidify their place in the city’s power structure.

Cool, ain’t it? There are tons of things that drive me batty about Bloomington — don’t get me started on the drivers here — but overall, this is a great place to live. Especially when big local dudes and dames like Neher are so dedicated to the issues and philosophies I endorse.

Sigh, our little island of goodness in the midst of the Indiana malum mare.

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May 6th Birthdays

Maximilien Robespierre — France’s big liberal before and during that’s country’s republican revolution, he was executed after the upheaval by even bigger liberals. Those liberals, of course, were themselves erased when Napoleon took charge of things. Napoleon, FYI, was not a liberal.

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Sigmund Freud — The guy with the cigar.

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Rudolph Valentino — The first cinematic sex symbol. He died young (aged 31) of peritonitis resulting from perforated ulcers. His demise caused scads of women to commit suicide and mourners rioted at his funeral.

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Toots Shor — Legendary restaurateur who was the guy to know among New York City’s entertainers and elite. He nicknamed his wife “Baby” and was a legendary drinker. One story has it that he engaged Jackie Gleason in a drinking competition one night that ended only with Gleason collapsing to the floor and Shor stepping over him to leave the premises.

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Shor (Left) With Gleason

Orson Welles — Film director who was forced to cast Charlton Heston as a Mexican in Touch of Evil.

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Willie Mays — Perhaps the greatest baseball player of all time.

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Rubin “Hurricane” Carter — Framed for a murder by Patterson, New Jersey, cops in 1966, his story inspired a Bob Dylan song and a Denzel Washington movie.

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Carter (Left) Battling Dick Tiger In 1965

Lætitia Sadier — Singer, keyboardist, and guitarist for Stereolab.

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Not to be morbid but Maria Montessori died on this day in 1952 — She was an Italian physician and educator who wrote the groundbreaking pedagogical book, The Montessori Method, in 1912. Simply — if not simplistically — she posited that children had a natural internal learning system that shouldn’t be interfered with. She advocated allowing kids to learn at their own paces, largely through practical play. If you want to know more about Montessori, the woman and/or the philosophy, I’d bet you couldn’t find a better source than my pal Linda Oblack who ran a school here in Bloomington in the hazy past.

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Hot Air: Advice For BS… And More

Personal To The Winner Of The Indiana Primary

Bernie, baby, please, please, please: Start organizing a slate of allies running for US Congress, governorships, statehouses, city halls, county boards, and dogcatchers.

Who are your cohorts? Who will help you make this hugely popular so-called revolution happen? The real revolution only will come when your ideas, your aims, will be put into effect across the nation by legislators and political executives all the way down to the most local levels.

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Who Are You With? Who’s With You?

I want to know who’s going to push through your revolution. I want to know who’s going to make the revolution an official part of the Democratic Party platform. Start acting like the effective leader of a movement. Make my vote for you count.

Shelli!

Congrats to Shelli Yoder who took the Dem nom for Bloomington et al’s 9th District US Congress seat. I like her. I also like the fact that Todd Young, who benefitted from the Tea Party mania that remade Congress in 2010, won’t be in the House come January. I worry, though, he may simply walk down the hall to get sworn in to the Senate.

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Yoder, Left

I can only hope the apparent coronation of America’s Shart, Donald Trump, as the Republican standard bearer in November, will depress GOP turnout and sabotage the hopes and dreams of Young and the rest of his Me Party brethren and sisteren.

Civil War

This day, 46 years ago, student protestors faced off against Ohio National Guardsmen on the campus of Kent State University. By the time the confrontation was over, four people were dead and nine wounded.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young even got a hit song out of the affair:

The killing of students and other protestors appalled Americans, natch. That’s the myth we’ve come to believe. What we forget is the sheer numbers of citizens of this holy land who cheered the shootings and said the scruffy “unpatriotic” kids got just what they deserved. That swath of the Murrican electorate went on to help reelect unindicted co-conspirator and noted psychological piece of work Dick Nixon in one of the greatest landslides in the history of the United States.

Another thing we like to forget is the killing of two students on the campus of Jackson State University in Mississippi just eleven days later. Jackson State, like many campuses around the nation at the time, was beset by upheaval, including vandalism, arson, and attacks on uniformed law enforcement officers and firemen. The dramatic lawbreakers squeezed out the many more serious protestors, civil rights activists, and war resistors for news media attention. As at Kent State, authorities were itching to respond to the lot of them with overwhelming force and on the evening of May 11th, 1970, they did so. Some 40 Jackson city cops and Mississippi state patrolmen opened fire with shotguns and sidearms at a women’s dormitory building, killing two and injuring a dozen. Police claimed they’d been fired upon first by a sniper from a window in the high rise but a subsequent investigation found no evidence that any shots had come from the dormitory.

Mind you, this incident occurred long before the Black Lives Matter movement so the dead and injured were swiftly forgotten. They were black. The Kent State kids, OTOH, were white and so they live on in our collective memory. Such a shame, bleeding hearts may say, that youngsters had been cut down in their idealistic youth. Hardliners say, well…, you know what the hardliners have said for some five decades now.

No pop or rock stars, BTW, managed to get themselves a hit thanks to the Jackson State killings.

Winning For Losing

If Hillary is indeed the Dem frontrunner, as many wits and wags continue to insist on believing, she’s the most inept frontrunner I’ve ever seen.

I guess I grasp her supposed strategy: She and her strategists are certain they’ve got the Dem nom all wrapped up so they’re forgoing expending any time, energy, and — most important — dough on state primaries that’ll do little to pad her delegate numbers. Still, the seemingly constant onslaught of primary and caucus losses makes her look like nothing more than a loser. And believe me, her GOP opponent, Donald Trump (by god in heaven, I still can’t believe reality compels me to type those words) will hammer her with the L word every day and night from now through November.

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Strategist

No matter what makes strategic sense, anybody involved in a competition must maintain at least the appearance of, y’know, competing. How do Hillary’s various state volunteers and paid campaign workers continue to give their all when their candidate is shrugging her shoulders? Will Hill and her peeps be able to ramp up their ardor and work habits when crunch time comes versus America’s Shart?

Hillary’s likely to beat Trump in the general election. Or maybe that’s just me whistling past the graveyard. I dunno. What I do know is this 2016 presidential beauty contest is the most depressing, uninspiring national race I’ve ever seen. It certainly is no good advertisement for democracy.

Close One

My beloved hometown, Chicago, just may be losing its chance to be the site of a proposed George Lucas museum on the lakefront. Plans had called for the razing of the oldest of the McCormick Place exposition facilities, the Lakeside Center, and the construction in its stead of a modernistic-looking home for the paean to the man who imposed Star Wars upon the human culture.

I saw the original Star Wars at a movie theater in the summer of 1977 when it came out. I remember next to nothing about it other than understanding it was a cowboys and Indians picture set in the distant future. I’m not anti-Star Wars; I only suggest it was only a nice little light entertainment that helped me pass the time one night. Some people take a harsher view on what has became an American — and world — cultural touchpoint. Historian Rick Perlstein posits that Star Wars, along with the original Rocky, helped transform us into a nation of pollyannish eight-year-olds. Me? I figure we’d been eight-years-olds for decades before Han Solo and Princess Leia became known to every human being, dog, higher primate, and parrot in existence.

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Lucas, Right

Not that I dismiss Lucas out of hand. His American Graffiti was a revolutionary film, its continuous oldies pop hits soundtrack changing the way directors have made movies to this day. Now, rather than depend on old school mechanisms like story, character development, editing, or visual makeup of the scene (mise en scène), a movie’s music consultant simply plugs in an appropriate chestnut from our hazy, dreamy past to convey mood and advance narrative. AG‘s slice-of-life, featuring and glorifying otherwise utterly unremarkable high school kids, set the stage for scads of knock offs — some even far superior to Lucas’s effort; Barry Levinson’s Diner, for instance. We now gladly accept spending a couple of hours and upward of $15 skins a ticket to see hundred-million-dollar productions about people normally no more interesting than your thirty-something niece, her boyfriend, and their circle of friends. Call it the triumph of the humdrum if you’re a cynic; a long-needed celebration of the common folk if you’re…, well, a pollyanna.

Lucas became this era’s Frank Capra, another director whom I’ll grant was proficient and worthy of attention, but — like Lucas — spoonfed us happy horseshit, blurring the line between what we wished we were and what we are.

Since Lucas has been elevated to the Capra pantheon level, he’s become a zillionaire. He and his wife decided they should fund the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art and staged a little competition between cities for the honor of hosting it. Chicago “won.” Mayor Rahm Emanuel took a break from fighting school teachers and enriching his Wall Street and LaSalle Street pals and granted the Lucases prime real estate on the city’s world-renowned lakefront for their ego monument.

When the original McCormick Place was built on the shores of Lake Michigan back in the late 1950s, public-spirited citizens kicked and hollered, citing architect and city planner Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Plan for Chicago. The Burnham plan, co-authored with Edward Bennett, called for Chi. to become a “Paris on the Prairie” with parks within walking distance of every citizen’s home and — the key here — a lakefront that would forever be free and clear of industry and development. Burnham and Bennett saw the lakefront as a lush green collar on the shimmering lake, open to all, its views unimpeded by smokestacks or ritzy apartment buildings.

But Chicago Tribune publisher Col. Robert McCormick and then-mayor Richard J. Daley wanted the huge exposition hall built on the lakefront at 22nd Street so Daniel Burnham, Edward Bennett, and public-spirited citizens be damned. Today, the Lakeside Center sits next to the water like a steel and glass aircraft carrier in drydock.

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McCormick Place Lakeside Center

(The original McCormick Place exposition hall, BTW, was destroyed in a spectacular late night fire in January, 1967, the second greatest conflagration in the city’s history next to the Great Chicago Fire, and was replaced by a more modern structure in 1971.)

The almost-original McC. Place hall is woefully out of date, so say the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority bureaucrats who run the place. Tear it down they say, most likely cued from offstage by Rahm. The Lucases appeared out of nowhere and last year granted Chi. the privilege of being home to their homage to himself. We’ve got just the site for you, Rahm told them, grinning.

Now, the Friends of the Parks, another gang of public-spirited citizens, one that carries a bit of clout as well, has filed suit in federal court to prevent the construction of the museum. If the Lakeside Center is to be torn down, many suggest, why, there’s our opportunity to reopen that stretch of the lakefront per Burnham and Bennett’s vision.

Lucas’s wife, Mellody Hobson, is a big shot, high-rolling investment banker who serves on the boards of Starbucks, the Sundance Institute, Estee Lauder, and DreamWorks. And, man, is she ticked off. Hell, she complained yesterday, the poor little “black and brown children” of Chicago will suffer now because they won’t get to go downtown to see exhibits on great modern art. To which, obviously, she’s referring to movies like Antz, American Beauty, Shrek, and the forthcoming Ready Player One. All of which have been or are being produced by DreamWorks. Did I mention Hobson sits on the DreamWorks board?

Anyway, she says she and her hubby are taking their ball and going home. “We are now seriously pursuing locations outside Chicago,” she told the Tribune yesterday.

Good. Take your monument to your husband and your favorite movie production company’s movies and go somewhere else. This is the second bullet Chicago has dodged in the last few years. The first being the decision of the International Olympic Committee not to grant the 2016 Games to the city back in 2009.

There are world class cultural institutions and there are international quadrennial events. There are, too, monumental headaches and blights on the city’s front yard. Chicago can do quite well without the latter two.

May 4th Birthdays

Bartolomeo Cristofori — Invented the piano around the turn of the 18th Century. Acc’d’g to one history, Cristofori wanted to name his invention the arpicembalo. Lucky for us he didn’t get his way.

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Audrey Hepburn — The only actress who could have played Holly Golightly.

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Pia Zadora — Child star of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and, later, a much-maligned grown-up actress and slightly-less-criticized singer.

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Zadora, Right

Will Arnett — GOB

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GOB, Left, With Buster

Erin Andrews — ESPN sportscasting figure who was surreptitiously videoed in the nude through a peephole in her Nashville, Tennessee, hotel room. The video went viral and Andrews suffered emotional trauma. This past March she won a $55 million judgement against the hotel chain (hotel employees had provided the videotaper the dates and times she’d be staying). The videotaper, a weasel named Michael Barrett, was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

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Hot Air: Ramblings

Here Not There

I’m trying to get back into the habit of pontificating here rather than on social media. I like the forum Facebook provides but, too often, I get annoyed by the blatherings of everyone else. How about BigMikeBook? Now there’s a social medium I can get behind.

The Clique

Malia Obama wants to go to Harvard.

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Malia Obama

I suppose I know why the kids of presidents and other big-time pols choose to go to the Ivy League schools, especially Harvard and Yale. They want to take advantage of the clubby, exclusive network that fosters the hegemony the 1% exerts over the nation and, for that matter, the world.

But why can’t a few of them elect to go to schools where the daughters and sons of hard-working, modest people go? What’s wrong, for instance, with Oberlin College or the universities of Wisconsin or Southern California?

It’s not as if Malia will walk into a job interview in a few years and the HR drone will write her off because she only has a BA from Washington University of St. Louis.

Birds Of A Feather

Have you noticed all the sports goons who’ve endorsed America’s Shart, Donald Trump? Here’s one list: Bob Knight, Mike Tyson, Dennis Rodman, Rex Ryan, and Mike Ditka. There are others sure, but you’d hardly recognize their names unless you’re a sports goon yourself. And by sports goon, I mean someone who makes the argument that sports — especially big-time college and professional sports — somehow is the path for participants to become better, finer, more successful human beings. Which is a patently indefensible argument, considering the number of pro athletes who’ve become destitute after their careers are over and who’ve beaten their wives and girlfriends and have suffered only slaps on the wrist for it, among other insults to society.

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Ditka, Knight & Tyson

Anyway, the aforementioned Trumpsters all have a few things in common: They are demonstrably unknowledgeable in anything except their own games and they’re prone to anti-social, often violent outbursts. They also have reputations for “telling it like it is” which is code for being insulting a-holes. Just like the guy they’re endorsing.

 

Criminal Stupidity

Those parents who let their 19-month-old kid die of meningitis because they don’t trust “western” medicine and they’re advocates of the idiocy that is naturopathy, have been found guilty in a Canadian court of failure to provide the necessities of life for their son.

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The Stephans: Horseradish Homicide

As their kid was dying of the dread disease over a two and a half week period, David and Collet Stephan treated him with hot pepper, garlic, onion, and horseradish smoothies, among other spice rack “medications.” Unless they suffer from a heretofore unknown psychological syndrome wherein they confused their spawn with a pot of soup, they ought to be imprisoned for a good long time.

Naturopathy advocates, natch, have sworn to high heaven this regressive, magical philosophy of “health” has cured them of any number of maladies. They’re probably right. Naturopathy likely is very effective in treating imagined illnesses.

Fun With Dirt

Did you know Saturday will be World Naked Gardening Day? I bet not. How will you celebrate?

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Watch Those Thorns!

Fun & Notable May 2 Birthdays

Dr. Spock — Benjamin Spock revolutionized kid-raising with his 1946 book, Baby and Child Care. In the ’60s, he became even more well-known for his anti-war stance and his urging of young men to resist the Vietnam War draft.

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Link Wray — Leather-jacketed rockabilly legend born Frederick Lincoln Wray, Jr. A hard-driving, nimble guitarist, he was one of the inspirations for the punk movement of the ’70s.

Link Wray performing in the 1970s. *** USA ONLY *** © David Warner Ellis / Redferns / Retna Ltd.

Leslie Gore — Pop chanteuse of the immediate pre-British Invasion era, she later came out as a lesbian.

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Hot Air

Great Things To Come

Well now, another trip around our old pal Sol is just about complete.

That is, if our life-giving star still is out there. I dunno. I haven’t seen it in — what is it? — weeks? My sunglasses are around here somewhere, probably. I really don’t know since I haven’t had to use them since last goddamned July.

Anyway, I’m still alive, you’re still alive, and the world hasn’t blown itself up yet so I suppose we’re in as decent shape as can be expected.

Have a swell 2016. I know I will. My beloved Cubs will become World Series champions for the first time since 1908, woohoo!

If y’ain’t got optimism, y’ain’t got nothin’.

It’s Inevitable

Around this time of year, newspapers and TV news shows are filled with suggestions about how to live a healthier, happier life. Eat the right things, exercise, play with the dog, listen to music — these are all the secrets to longevity.

Of course, to borrow a line from Rodney Dangerfield, at this point in my life if I do all the right things I’ll end up getting sick and dying.

Happy New Year!

Are You Disgusted Yet?

Of late, academic researchers have attempted to understand and define the differences between liberals and conservatives in scientific terms. Papers and studies have been published purporting to explain the gap between me, for instance, and the likes of those who’d vote for Mike Huckabee or Ben Carson.

There are, apparently, identifiable distinctions between the brains of Ls and Cs. Many of these distinctions harken back to our collective history as tree-swinging simians millions of years ago. This even though many conservatives pooh-pooh the idea that our great-great-great… uncles and aunts really were tree-swinging simians.

In any case, one such peek into the scientific research into this brain gap caught my eye this AM. Alexander Hurst in the New Republic takes a gander at the disgust response as a catalyst behind the rise of one Donald M. Trump who, ironically, disgusts me so much I might even delay breakfast by 43 seconds and that is a remarkable reaction indeed.

Donald Trump

Disgusted

The disgust Hurst refers to, though, is far more visceral than mine regarding the most interesting political creature since Dick Nixon. I’m disgusted more in a theoretical sense. Hurst asserts that Trump’s appeal is based on the brand of disgust that served to protect our species from rotting food, poisonous fungi, and dangerous members of that foul pack of alien Homo Sapiens sapiens who live on the other side of the mountain.

Trump, Hurst points out, gets the willies from a wide range of everyday things. He washes his hands an extraordinary number of times in a day, he detests shaking others’ hands, he refuses to touch elevator buttons, and he even insisted his sex partners be tested for sexually transmitted disease before he’d treat them to the heavenly delight of his manly essence.

Hurst also reminds us how Trump expresses his own disgust at things like Hillary Clinton’s need to go to the bathroom and Megyn Kelly’s menstruation.

Plenty of things in Trumpland disgust him.

White-coated lab geeks at Virginia Tech University did a study in 2014 of MRI readings of people’s brains while they were being shown images and examples of disgusting things. The study revealed that the brains of Ls and Cs reacted so differently that the researchers were able to guess who was on which end of the political spectrum simply by looking at their MRIs.

Trump, Hurst asserts, positions issues such as Mexican immigration as that of a wave of filthy, dangerous contagion. Mexicans entering America illegally, Trump implies, are nothing so much as foul germs that’ll sicken and weaken our holy land. Disgusting, in short.

Hurst writes:

The response to disgust is recoil, which in many ways is the opposite of curiosity. Disgust doesn’t generate a desire to to better understand a complex issue, but rather a wish for a simple explanation and an impulse to shut out what is so disgusting. By presenting America’s problems as the spread of an infectious disease, Trump immediately generates the disgust response.

The disgust response feeds into an “in-group” response: What is disgusting is exterior, and the group must be protected from it, which in turn provides comfort and reinforces a shared sense of identity.

You can buy this explanation or not. It’ll have to do for me just now; there has to be some reason people dig this comb-over orangutan.

Hot Air

One Shot, One Year

For my money, this is the picture of the year, 2015:

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[Image: John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune, November 25, 2015]

That’s a young fellow named Lamon Reccord, a participant in street protests against Chicago police brutality and the killings of black people in general around this holy land. The protests broke out this fall in the aftermath of the release of a video showing a CPD officer shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times on a South Side street some 13 months earlier.

This particular confrontation took place at the corner of State and Randolph streets in the Loop the day after the video footage was released. Reccord already had gained national notoriety when he was video’d staring down another Chicago cop the day before. He’s either a symbol of morally-justified resistance to police racism and the use of deadly force or he’s a troublemaking punk, depending on where you stand on police/black relations in Murrica these days.

Loyal Pencillistas know where I stand.

Insurrection?

Correct me if I’m wrong, lawyers and military experts, but if Sy Hersh is right about this*, Gen. Martin Dempsey has committed a clear violation of military chain of command, putting the himself at risk of court-martial, incarceration, and even death. It seems like treason, pure and simple. It doesn’t matter if the president’s decision is right or wrong. That’s not how the military works. In fact, it borders on a coup.

And, really, haven’t you been expecting one or another Obama opponent to lead some kind of mutiny, even at this late date in his presidency?

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Dempsey (L) & Hersh

Remember when the big panic going around held that Obama was secretly planning to get us involved in a big war or some such emergency so that he could declare martial law and remain in office even after his term(s) expired? Then again, that particular paranoiac delusion might well have gotten lost in the flood of all the other psychotic reactionary hallucinations to Obama’s election. There were so many of them, after all.

In any case, at least one reactionary was sure to commit some act of overthrow, given all the panic surrounding the first black prez.

[ * Just in case you’re too pressed for time to read the piece, Hersh asserts in the January 7, 2016 issue of the London Review of Books that Dempsey engaged in a secret plan to lure the Russians into the Syrian civil war and simultaneous battle against ISIS. Further, he ignored the White House’s strategy of attempting to remove Bashar al Assad from power. Dempsey, acc’d’g to Hersh, thought Obama was all wet in his Syria strategy so he freelanced his own plot.

Hersh, BTW, is a dogged, fearless investigative journalist who exposed the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War and the US Army’s abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. He also occasionally cooks up the occasional crockpot conspiracy theory. The question, then, is where does this latest revelation fall in Hersh’s spectrum? ]

Cashing In

CBGB’s in New York City’s Bowery district was the chic-est place for punks to hang out in the late 1970s and into the early ’80s. The seediest bar imaginable, run by a guy named Hilly Kristal on a side street rife with the homeless, junkies, broken glass, and discarded syringes, the place introduced the world to the likes of the Ramones, the Talking Heads, Television, Blondie, the Dead Boys, Patti Smith, and countless other heroes of punk.

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Even inside the place, CBGB was littering with trash, vomit, dog shit, and strung-out mainliners. The very ugliness of CBGB became its selling point. Punk — and CBGB — symbolized a violent reaction to Middle American sensibilities, corporatism, advertising, music marketing, and the use of personal hygiene products.

CBGB served food, after a fashion, because its liquor license demanded it do so. Nobody went there to eat, believe me. The place has been closed for years now, its frontage now redone a la gentrification moderne.

Nevertheless, an entrepreneur named Harold Moore is opening up a CBGB restaurant in Newark Int’l Airport. Moore says he’ll serve $9 deviled eggs, an $11.50 iceberg lettuce salad, and a $14 hamburger to travelers hoping to recreate the Bowery/punk experience. The only thing is, Moore isn’t going to be serving Hilly’s legendary chili which, acc’d’g to lore, usually contained cigarette ash, spit, and other bodily fluids you can only imagine.

Need I remind readers that this holy land is one weird fking place?

Duh!

FactCheck.org has named Donald Trump its political liar of the year. The truth-digging organization selects an annual top lying bastard and, really, who else could it be in 2015?

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Our National Shart

 

Girl Cooties

Ugh! Hillary’s got lady parts. And stuff comes out of them! Gross.

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Please, Click This Link — It Gets Better!

Okay, can we all admit now that Donald Trump is the worst excuse for a human being this holy land has produced in many, many a year?

Okay then.

 

Hot Air

Hell-ary

I didn’t watch last night’s Democratic candidates debate but I understand Hillary insisted it be conducted in Afrikaans. Yet another craven attempt to sabotage Bernie Sanders, whom the vast majority of America prefers and who holds a triple digit lead over her.

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Clinton: “Ons sal julle vermorsel!”

Like It Is

On a serious note, for all the bluster about which candidate speaks her or his mind and which one will dare to utter one or another truth, it was Martin O’Malley last night who was bold enough to say what the sane among us know:

What our nation needs right now is to realize that, while we face a terrible danger, we also face a different sort of political danger. And that is the danger that democracies find themselves susceptible to when unscrupulous leaders try to turn us upon each other.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley speaks during a roundtable interview in Annapolis, Md., Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, the first day of the 2014 legislative session. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

O’Malley (AP/Patrick Semansky)

We will rise to the challenge of ISIS and we will rise together to the challenges that we face in our economy. But we will only do so if we hold true to the values and the freedoms that unite us, which means we must never surrender them to terrorists, must never surrender our American values to racists, must never surrender to the fascist pleas of billionaires with big mouths.

Unscrupulous, racist, fascist, and a billionaire with a big mouth. Yeah, that’s pretty much a capsule summary of Donald Trump. And, hell — let’s take the gloves all the way off — he’s a terrorist, too.

Another Brown Bomber

Are you freaking kidding me? Yet another brown boy has been busted in Texas for the heinous crime of carrying something that some fever-delerious pack of scared bunnies thought was a bomb.

Yep. Last weekend, a 12-year-old kid named Armaan Singh Sarai was held in juvenile detention for three days in Fort Worth because some white boy miscreant told the schoolteacher he was going to bomb the school.

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Ka-Boom!

The teacher reacted — oh-so-reasonably, natch — by immediately calling the cops, who came to the school, took Sarai in, and locked him up from Friday through Monday. All on the say-so of some adolescent dickhead. Sarai’s parents, BTW, were not told of his whereabouts while he cooled his heels in stir.

It turns out Sarai has a backpack with a solar panel on it so he can charge his electronic device while carrying it. A dopey-assed clown in his class pointed it out to Sarai and told him he was gonna tell the teach it was a bomb. Sarai laughed and the dopey-assed kid laughed. But, mirabile dictu, the dopey-assed kid dropped a dime on Sarai anyway and paranoiac psychosis ensued.

The whole damned incident could have been no-harm, no-foul, except Sarai was incarcerated for the entire weekend and — get this! — he is suspended from school, must wear an ankle monitor, and still faces unspecified criminal charges.

No mention is made of the teacher, the cops, or any sane authority figure simply eyeballing the solar panel backpack and, once establishing it was not an weapon of mass destruction, kicking the class clown in his white-boy ass.

Kicking kids in the ass is forbidden in schools these days.

Putting them behind bars — especially when their melanin level is more elevated than the average Cauc. kid’s — ain’t.

‘Specially in the Lone Star State. Do us all a favor, Tex: Secede.

Wissing Well

A quick update: Doug Wissing’s new book, IN Writing: Uncovering the Unexpected Hoosier State, is flat-out flying off the shelves at the Book Corner. Grab it while you can, kiddies.

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Douglas A. Wissing

Hot Air

No Woman’s Land

Y’know, if I were an American woman, I’d be awfully put out that one of this holy land’s most valued allies on the planet is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

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Poll Palaver

The latest national polls show Bernie Sanders as a shoo-in for mayor of Chicago, while Hillary Clinton will win the NFL’s Coach of the Year award and Donald Trump will cop the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Get out your bettin’ shoes, babies!

Money For Nothin’

I notice that Howard Stern has re-upped with SiriusXM for another five years at a total salary of plus-$500 million.

That’s a half a billion skins (and more), friends. This for a man whose life’s creative highlight was the Fartman superhero character.

FartMan

Howard Stern As Fartman

I’ve never viewed Howard Stern as anything but a loudmouthed lout, an indictment of corporate media’s dumbing down of Murrica. It can’t, I always figured, get any lower than this.

Then Donald Trump decided to run for prez — and gained a loyal following.

I repeat: It can’t get any lower than this.

Can it?

Work Makes You Free

We’re all in agreement that the corporate world is soul-crushing and life-snuffing, no? Okay.

Now, even the corporations themselves are coming around to admitting that their plan is to rob you, their human resource, of every ounce of vitality and animation. If the likes of Exxon Mobil (No. 1 on the Forbes 500 list), General Electric (No. 8), or CVS Health (No. 10) have their way, their ideal employees would be corpses.

You thought I’d say robots, right? Well, acc’d’g to some tech seers, robots just might, at some time in the foreseeable future, develop something akin to free will. That just won’t do in the corporate world.

Anyway, one South Korean firm is making no pretense about about its desire to take its employees’ lives. The firm was featured the other day in a BBC News Online story about it and other companies sending their people to a consulting firm that, among other things, locks participants up in coffins.

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Welcome To Your Cubicle

The stated goal of the consulting firm is to make participants put their problems in perspective, sez Jeong Yun-Mun, who runs the place. Jeong, BTW, is a former funeral home employee. He prob. gets a sweet discount on caskets.

He is, to put it in as respectful a term as he deserves, full of horseshit.

Let me snatch a block of text from the original story:

In a large room in a nondescript modern office block in Seoul, staff from a recruitment company are staging their own funerals. Dressed in white robes, they sit at desks and write final letters to their loved ones. Tearful sniffling becomes weeping, barely stifled by copious use of tissues.

And then, the climax: They rise and stand over the wooden coffins laid out beside them. They pause, get in and lie down. They each hug a picture of themselves, draped in black ribbon.

As they look up, the boxes are banged shut by a man dressed in black with a tall hat. He represents the Angel of Death. Enclosed in darkness, the employees reflect on the meaning of life.

Mark it, kids, the meaning they are intended to glean in the blackout is Your life is the company’s.

We all know about how corps. these days are populated by malleable little loyalists who do biz on their smart phones in their cars or on public transportation on the way to and from work, who pound away at their laptop keyboards at dinner, after dinner, in bed before they fall asleep, and — for all we know — while engaging in the act of “love” with their oh-so-unfortunate spouses.

The 40-hour work week is such a quaint anachronism these days. Your bosses don’t want your hours or weeks; they want your very existence.

The real reason these South Korean cos. are making their employees lie down in coffins is to let them know their lives are over.

Eras Come To An End

Hey, do you realize these are the last two weeks of the careers of a couple of fine local public servants? City Clerk Regina Moore and Department of Utilities Director Pat Murphy will be bidding their office-mates farewell Thursday, December 31st.

Moore chose not to run in this year’s election and Murphy was a casualty of incoming Mayor John Hamilton’s minor housecleaning.

Nicole Bolden, who ran unopposed in the November election, will step into Moore shoes. Hamilton and his 27-member transition committee have yet to tab a replacement for Murphy. The transition committee includes two former Bloomington mayors, Tomi Allison and John Fernandez.

Like me, Regina is a second-generation Italian-American and a victi…, er, former attendee of Catholic schools. A former teacher, she and her husband Don, traveled to a number of Third World lands to instruct kids and prisoners. The Moores came back to the US — specifically this sprawling megalopolis — some 25 years ago. She continued teaching until she was elected City Clerk in 2000. Don, BTW, is the most outspoken political spouse since former US Attorney General John Mitchell’s wife, Martha, back in the early ’70s. Sometimes I even agree with him.

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Regina Moore As A Young Dame

To Regina and Don, Baci e abbracci.

Murphy comes from a union family. His mother and her second husband were big labor organizers and advocates and Pat has never missed an opportunity to stand up for the working person in this holy land. Murphy was a long-time associate of former Bloomington mayor and 8th District Congressman Frank McCloskey. He remains mum about his plans although The Pencil hears Hamilton has offered him a semi-soft landing place on the city payroll. Go dté tú slán, Pat!

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Pat Murphy*

[ * I told Murphy long ago would never again use that stale old photo of him from the City of Bloomington website — apparently the only image of him extant in this world. He promised he would get a new one up. He broke that promise. Some public servant.]

 

 

Hot Air

How To Lie

[For a few days, at least, I may be be covering events and incidents of the past few weeks and months that I didn’t get to pontificate on in a timely fashion because I was busy producing my literary masterpiece. If you think any of these topics are old hat, so be it.]

So, the Shart Trump (my new moniker for him; it’s perfect, no?) said a couple of weeks back that he saw “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in Jersey City, New Jersey cheering and dancing in the streets as the World Trade Center towers collapsed. The sane among us immediately countered that no such thing happened. A demonstration of this description would have been impossible to have taken place without 1) the rest of us remembering it (which we did not); and 2) without scores, hundreds, even thousands of grief-stricken, revenge-seeking Murricans piling into their cars and rushing into NJ to beat the stuffing out of any Muslims they encountered.

Such was our national mood that day as smoke rose from the WTC site.

Even when Trump was challenged on his fabrication, notably by George Stephanopolous on ABC-TV’s This Week dog and pony show, the Shart stuck to his story.

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Open Mouth, Egest Whopper

He has, in fact, learned how to lie in a way most of the rest of us cannot. When we’re caught in a lie, we cast our gaze down and say Aw, shucks. We mumble something and toe at the dirt. We know we’ve been caught.

Trump’ll have none of that. When George Stephanopolous pressed him, Trump simply said “It did happen. I saw it.”

S. (sorry, it’s tiring typing out his whole surname) pressed him further, the Shart held his ground: “It was on television. I saw it.”

That is how one lies. Never give in. Never toe at the dirt when caught.

Do what the Shart does: Double down.

Yeah, I saw it. It was on TV, you dope! Weren’t you watching that day?

This method can be used in a variety of circumstances. Say you throw your pants in the wash and leave your smart phone in the pocket. Your phone, natch, is toast. You retrieve the device, wait for it to dry off inside and out, then march over to the device store and demand an exchange.

The clerk-y geek (geek-y clerk?) says, “Are you sure this didn’t go through the wash?”

“Heavens no!”

He presses. “It didn’t go through the wash?”

You raise your voice. “Absolutely not! I’ve never done such a dumb thing in my life!”

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Why, I never!

Now, before the whole store — the whole mall, for pity’s sake — hears what a rotten, lousy cheapskate the geek-y clerk (clerk-y geek?) is, he figures it’s better just to give you a new phone and be done with you.

You’ve lied successfully.

How about this? Let’s stick with the smart phone as our prop. You’re on business in another city and you lose your smart phone. Dang, mang! There’s another five hundred bucks down the drain. Instead, you stomp up to the concierge desk and announce loudly, “Look here, my good woman! I left my smart phone on the bedside table and while I was in the shower, the maid came in and she must have taken it, ’cause it’s gone now! Whaddya gonna do about it?”

“It was definitely on the bedside table?”

“It was. I saw it there.”

“Did you have it with you anywhere else today?”

“No, no, no. It was there. I saw it.” Remember the raised voice here. Make sure, in addition, the lobby is fairly full of people. Having an audience helps. Trump knows this all too well.

You just might get yourself a new smart phone, courtesy d’hôtel, if you stick to your guns.

Congratulations. You’ve learned to lie à la shart.

 

 

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