Category Archives: George Wallace

Your Daily Hot Air

Two Rebels

Ironic, isn’t it, that on the 50th anniversary of Alabama Governor George Wallace’s infamous stand in the schoolhouse door it’s entirely possible that Nelson Mandela may take leave of this very, very weird proposition we call life?

Wallace/Mandela

Mandela’s in bad shape, laying in a South African hospital bed with a serious lung infection, surrounded by his family. His former wife Winnie even stopped by yesterday. You know, if you’re 94 years old, already sickly, in intensive care fighting a recurring lung infection for the third time in six months — and you’re ex-wife shows up to pay her respects — you’ve got to figure the curtain’s about to fall.

One more bad sign: South Africa’s current president, Jacob Zuma, says folks in that country ought to pray for the former prez. Politicians don’t pray for each other for because they have head colds.

Oh, just a reminder, it was the official position of this holy land during the administration of one Saint Ronald Reagan that Mandela and his African National Congress were terrorists. And, oh, guess what, Mandela himself wasn’t officially un-declared a terrorist here until July, 2008.

Mandela/Robben Island

Mandela’s Robben Island Home During The Reagan Years

July goddamned 2008!

Anyway, George Wallace dramatically blocked the entrance of a couple of black kids to the University of Alabama on this date in 1963.

Here’s the official text of Wallace’s speech at that door, delivered moments before federalized Alabama National Guard soldiers escorted Vivian Malone and James Hood into the school so they might become students there. It’s a long, convoluted argument for the sovereignty of his state and you might not have the time or inclination to read it all. So, as a public service, I’ll provide a condensed version of it here:

We don’t want no niggers in our white schools.

A mere five years later, George C. Wallace ran for president of the United States, carrying five states with nearly 10 million votes, or 13.5 percent of the national total. As if Wallace’s own philosophies about his fellow human beings weren’t hair-raising enough, his running mate, former US Army General Curtis LeMay, suggested late in the campaign that this beacon of democracy just might have to use nuclear weapons to settle its little tiff with the Vietnamese.

Wallace

The Youth Candidate?

You want more? Fine. Wallace and LeMay were the preferred ticket of the majority of young white men in the entire nation that year.

And you’re surprised Me Party-ists and other patriots are so freaked out over the presidency of Barack Obama?

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Turn on to politics or politics will turn on you.” — Ralph Nader

JENNA WANTS MITT TO LICK BARACK

Retired porn star Jenna Jameson has endorsed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Don’t you love it?

“When you’re rich,” Jenna reasons, “you want a Republican in office.”

Family Values

To balance things out, the incomparable Ron Jeremy is behind the President. Poor Barack.

WHOSE SIDE ARE THEY ON?

If this doesn’t scare the bejesus out of you I don’t know what will.

In a piece on the radical right in America, al Jazeera claims that Republicans quashed a 2009 Department of Homeland Security report suggesting hate groups began to proliferate in the United States after the election of Barack Obama.

Not that the groups weren’t proliferating before that, mind you. Only that their rate of proliferation was bumped up dramatically by the presence of a brown man in the White House.

I’d say the GOP has some ‘splainin’ to do.

HATE IS ENOUGH

We still don’t understand the meaning of hatred in this country. ABC News ran this online headline yesterday:

Still No Motive?

Does the swastika have different meanings for different people even at this late date?

THE NEW MACHINE

Many years ago, even the most polarizing figures in this holy land were permitted to have nuanced and even seemingly self-contradictory viewpoints. They didn’t run in fear from the Thought Crime authorities within their political parties or the punditocracy.

For instance, one of the heroes of the hard-hat, blue-collar, bungalow-belt Silent Majority was Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago. He ran a highly disciplined political machine. He tolerated little in the way of dissent. He was a tough guy.

The Boss

He’d called for his police to shoot to kill arsonists and shoot to maim looters during race riots. He turned his police force loose on demonstrators during the 1968 Democratic Convention. By the early 1970s he ranked just below George Wallace, Spiro Agnew, and Jack Webb in the law and order pantheon.

Yet he was a staunch opponent of the Vietnam War and, even more surprisingly, guns. According to Rick Perlstein in “Nixonland,” Daley was in Washington, DC testifying before a congressional committee in the summer of 1972. “Take the guns away from every private citizen,” he said.

Can you imagine any darling of the right even suggesting private citizens should be limited to possessing several dozen assault rifles these days?

A NEW UNDERGROUND RAILROAD?

Author and journalist Achy Obejas (say it, AH-chee oh-BAY-hahss) spent a few years at Indiana University before she dropped out and went to work covering politics, GLBTQ issues, night life, and a host of other beats.

Obejas

Achy points out the latest lunatic pronouncement from a member of the holier-than-thou gang. It seems Bryan Fischer, one of the paid squealers for the American Family Association, has called for good, god-fearing citizens to save children being raised by same-sex couples.

Well, perhaps the word save isn’t quite right here. How about kidnap?

Achy’s got a horse in this race. Her wife, Megan, gave birth to a son last year. Achy swears she’s never been happier.

IN YEARS AHEAD, HE WOULD NOT BE TED

Here a sample of some graphic ad work a then-unknown artist named Theodore Geisel did back in the 1930s and 40s:

Recognize the style? Geisel later became Dr, Seuss.

See more at “25 Advertisements by Dr. Seuss Before He Was Dr. Seuss” on BuzzFeed.

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.”

“What If?” From XKCD

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.

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.

The Daily PuppySo shoot me.

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

Bear’s PlaceJazz Fables: Mr. Taylor and His Dirty Dixie Band; 5:30pm

Muddy Boots Cafe, Nashville — Americana Showcase; 6-8:30pm

Monroe County Public LibraryMonthly meeting, Bloomington Transportation Options for People; 6:30pm

◗ IU CinemaFilm: “To Rome with Love”; 7pm

Cafe DjangoJeff Isaac Trio; 8-10pm

The Comedy AtticTim Wilson; 8pm

Serendipity Martini BarTeam trivia; 8:30pm

Max’s PlaceWake the Dead; 9pm

The BluebirdApollo Quad; 9pm

The BishopHome Blitz, Bloody Mess, The Tsunamis; 9:30pm

Ongoing:

◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • “40 Years of Artists from Pygmalion’s”; 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:

  • Coming — Media Life; August 24th through September 15th
  • Coming — Axe of Vengeance: Ghanaian Film Posters and Film Viewing Culture; August 24th through September 15th

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

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Affluence creates poverty.” — Marshall McLuhan

GAME ON

I have a feeling Rep. Todd Young (R-Indiana) is getting a little concerned about Shelli Yoder.

She Works Hard For The Money

The Dem challenger, you may recall, came out of nowhere a couple of weeks before the primary filing deadline and proceeded to trounce four opponents, two of whom were actually serious candidates.

Yoder’s been criss-crossing the 9th District, shaking hands, marching in parades, and listening to folks talk about the state of the nation in diners and church basements. She’s been raising dough, too.

The former Miss America second runner-up is looking more and more like the real deal.

Ergo, the Todd Young campaign is hitting up contributors for what might turn out to be a contest. He’s raised $1.2M so for this election season, according to the Herald Times.

TYLER EARWORMS ME

The inimitable Tyler Ferguson (Kaka Caliente of the Bleeding Heartland Rollergirls) blew into Soma Coffee this AM, singing “Mandy.”

You remember “Mandy” don’t you? The Barry Manilow hit of 1974 wherein, according to legend, he sings lovingly — some say a little too lovingly — of his lapdog. He wasn’t, of course; the song was written by someone else years before Manilow turned it into his first chart-topper.

Please Forgive Me

Anyway, Tyler/Kaka was pumped because the selfsame Manilow, she gushed, will be playing in these parts soonly. “You can get tickets for ten dollars!” she said. “I’d pay that for him. Nothing more, though.”

Where? I demanded, so I could leave the region while he was in it.

“I dunno,” Tyler said. “Somewhere.”

Which, come to think of it, is the definitive Tyler/Kaka answer.

So, here’s the deal. Manilow will play in Indy on August 3rd and in Louisville, July 27th. Bloomington will be, in other words, surrounded by Barry Manilow.

And now I have “Mandy” looping in my brain.

WE’RE BROKE (EXCEPT FOR THAT TWO BILLION BUCKS WE FOUND)

I’ve never pretended to understand high finance. It’s as baffling to me as Higgs Boson is to a kindergartner.

All I know is Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and his legislative co-conspirators within the last couple of years have moaned and groaned about how the economy has ruined state finances and, therefore, school funding must be slashed to the bone.

Sorry, Kids

Now, all of a sudden, there’s a $2.15B surplus in the Indiana state treasury? And now, all of a sudden, the state’ll be to be mailing out $100 checks to each and every taxpayer in the state? During an election year?

Are you confused about this, too? I have a sneaking suspicion, though, it all makes perfect sense.

ROMNEY’S SMART

Say what you will about Mitt Romney, he played a brilliant hand when he spoke to the NAACP the other day.

In fact, he took a page out of the playbook of the Republicans and Cro-Magnon Democrats of the ’60s by putting himself in a position to be booed by attendees of the venerable civil rights organization’s annual conference the other day.

Ladies And Gentlemen Of The Negro Race….

The likes of Dick Nixon and George Wallace occasionally would speak before hostile crowds and withstand their jeering just to remind their core constituencies which side they were on. Wallace was particularly adept at the tactic; he loved ranting and raving before college crowds, knowing full well he’d get verbal tomatoes (and sometimes the actual vegetable/fruit) thrown at him. His anti-intellectual base would read of the rude response in the papers or see it on TV news and be reminded how much they hated pointy-headed liberals.

You College Kids Hate Me, Donchya?

Romney told the NAACP shindig that President Obama’s health care reforms were garbage. Natch, the NAACP-ers gave him the raspberry.

Some wags say Romney failed miserably in his effort to court black voters. Now there’s a misreading of the situation for you. Honestly, do you think Mitt expects to get any meaningful portion of the black vote?

Neither do I. But now the Me Party-ists and the shootin’ iron-totin’ back country Republicans know for sure that them blacks (saying the word with scorn and rage) are agin’ Romney almost as much as real Americans hate Obama.

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

Stable Studios, Spencer — Bluegrass festival 2012, tonight: Open jam — tomorrow: The Travelin’ McCoury’s, The White Lightning Boys, Rumpke Mountain Boys, Flatland Harmony Experiment, New Old Cavalry, the Stuttering Ducks, The Seratones; 1pm-midnight

The White Lightning Boys

◗ IU Dowling International CenterEnglish Conversation Club, for non-native speakers of American English; 1pm

The Venue Fine Arts & GiftsOpening reception, ‘Our Fine Feathered Friends” exhibit by William Zimmerman, John Gould, James Tracy, Joanne Shank, and Julia Ferguson; 6pm

◗ IU Auer HallSummer Music Series: String academy final student recital; 6-8pm

◗ IU Art MuseumJazz in July series, Mahluli-McCutchen Quartet; 6:30pm

◗ IU Fine Arts TheaterRyder Film Series, “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”; 7pm

“Jiro Dream of Sushi”

Muddy Boots Cafe, Nashville — Whipstitch Sallies; 7-9pm — Bonz; 9:30-11:30pm

◗ Monroe Lake, Paynetown SRADedication for new Activity Center, ice cream social; 7-8:30pm

◗ IU Wells-Metz TheatreMusical, “You Can’t Take It With You”; 7:30pm

Brown County Playhouse, Nashville — Musical, “Footloose”; 7:30pm

The Comedy AtticChelsea Peretti; 8 & 10:30pm

Cafe DjangoEarplane, Latin-Brazilian jazz; 8pm

Max’s PlaceSad Sam Blues Jam; 8pm — Ziona Riley; 10pm

◗ IU Musical Arts CenterSummer Arts Festival: Symphonic series, conductor Carlos Kalmar, works by Rossini, Dvorak, and Brahms; 8pm

◗ IU Fine Arts TheaterRyder Film Series, “Elles”; 8pm

The Player’s PubCrossover; 8pm

◗ IU Fine Arts TheaterRyder Film Series, “Gerhard Richter Painting”; 8:30pm

Bear’s PlaceThe Brown Bottle Flu, Hotel, War, Coralus; 9pm

The BishopFilm, “Own Worst Eenemy”; 9pm

The BluebirdDot Dot Dot; 9pm

Uncle Elizabeth’sVicci Laine & the West End Girls; 10pm & midnight

Ongoing:

◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • John D. Shearer, “I’m Too Young For This  @#!%”; through July 30th
  • Claire Swallow, ‘Memoir”; through July 28th
  • Dale Gardner, “Time Machine”; through July 28th
  • Sarah Wain, “That Takes the Cake”; through July 28th
  • Jessica Lucas & Alex Straiker, “Life Under the Lens — The Art of Microscopy”; through July 28th

◗ 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:

  • Kinsey Institute Juried Art Show; through July 21st
  • Bloomington Photography Club Annual Exhibition; July 27th 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 Cultures — Closed for semester break

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

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“The flood of money that gushes into politics today is a pollution of democracy.” — Theodore H. White

SUMMERTIME AND THE BREATHIN’ IS WHEEZY

Hooray for summer! Today’s the first Ozone Action Day of 2012 for the Bloomington area.

Ixnay Today

Do everybody’s lungs a favor: take the bus, ride your bike, or walk. And lay off the power mower for a few days.

FRIDAY FUN

Click.

HOT SPELL IN EGYPT

I called it a year and a half ago when Hosni Mubarek was overthrown in Egypt.

Everybody was jumping for joy over the Arab Spring. I cautioned, Be careful what you wish for.

Egypt may tumble into civil war in the wake of some controversial supreme court rulings this week. It must be said, Egyptians have a choice in who crushes their dreams of freedom: the Muslim Brotherhood or the military.

An Egyptian Military Council Leader

I’m no jingoist but the situation in Egypt does remind me that the American revolution turned out not so bad after all. And many, many of the tyrannies that the Founding Daddy-os neglected to toss out have been addressed in the ensuing two and a half centuries.

THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL

Yesterday, Christopher Buckley in Salon argued that “Moby Dick” is the greatest American novel ever written.

He’s wrong.

Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is far superior. And if you prefer a less iconic choice, how about Thomas Berger’s “Little Big Man”?

In fact, I’ll take LBM over TAoHF. Berger’s epic recounting of late 19th Century American history through bullshitter-supreme Jack Crabb’s eyes is America. Crabb was “Zelig” before Woody Allen even thought of the man who was everywhere.

BAD

Ranker.com lists “The All-Time Worst People in History” today.

Adolf Hitler, natch, tops the list, garnering a few more votes than his on-again, off-again ally Joe Stalin. Three of Hitler’s henchmen (Himmler, Goebbels, and Mengele as well as his idiot son Mussolini also make the list).

il Duce

George W. Bush ranks No. 20 which is ludicrous. His inclusion on the list shows that liberals verey, very often can be as knuckleheaded as conservatives. Well, not very, very often. Actually, not even often at all. Occasionally.

Anyway, here’s my own list of The Worst Americans in History, in no particular order:

How I Wish That Was An Exploding Cigar

Working On It: Charles (L) & David Koch

  • George Wallace –“Segregation now. Segregation tomorrow. Segregation forever!”
  • Orval Faubus — Arkansas governor who called out the National Guard to stop black students from attending a predominantly white school in 1957.
  • Curtis LeMay — Even though he was instrumental in the US victory over Japan in World War II, LeMay was nuts. I suppose if you’re fighting a “good” war, you want generals who are more whacked-out than the enemy’s. LeMay was brilliant, daring, innovative — and whacked-the-fk-out. Ran with Wallace as a third party candidate in the ’68 presidential election.

Oh, and Paris Hilton. I know she’s yesterday’s news but, still, she represents everything bad about the celebrity culture, nonproductive wealth, women-as-objects, arrogance, and a host of other American ills.

We Mustn’t Forget Paris Hilton

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“In the Soviet Union, capitalism triumphed over communism. In this country, capitalism triumphed over democracy.” — Fran Lebowitz (h/t to RE Paris)

GOOD RIDDANCE, ANDREW BREITBART

“I’ve never killed a man but I’ve read several obituaries with glee.” — Mark Twain

Andrew Breitbart is dead. The Earth is now a better place.

Like Twain, I don’t care much for gloating when a bad guy dies but in this case, Whoopee!

Gone, Baby, Gone

Breitbart was a character assassin, an amoral ideologue, an agent provocateur, and, well, a dick of the highest order.

Here’s the difference between a warthog like Breitbart and a human being of decency. When Shirley Sherrod heard about his death, she said, “The news of Mr. Breitbart’s death came as a surprise to me when I was informed of it this morning. My prayers go out to Mr. Breitbart’s family as they cope during this very difficult time.”

Sherrod: A Gracious Victim

This from a woman whose career serving in government was derailed by a phony-assed, maliciously edited video produced by none other than Mr. Breitbart.

And speaking of phony-assed, maliciously edited videos, it was Breitbart’s airing of the ACORN footage that led to that social service organization’s eventual bankruptcy and demise. Nice work, Andy-baby, pissing on all those folks who need food, housing, and legal services for your own professional advancement.

Naturally, the Republican candidates for president are mourning his passing as though a great public servant is gone from the scene. Rick Santorum calls his death a “huge loss, in my opinion, to our country.” Mitt Romney remembers him as a “loving husband and father.”

“Aw, He Was Such A Nice Guy.”

Reminds me of when any notorious Outfit boss kicked the bucket back in Chicago. No matter that he’d been responsible for corrupting labor unions, forcing the Mob’s way into legitimate businesses, and murdering loan sharks, recalcitrant shopkeepers and potential witnesses, his neighbors would say he was such a nice guy and a real fine family man.

Hey, people, even A. Hitler was kind to his dog Blondi. That doesn’t excuse him for his evil acts.

Anyway, Breitbart — though not Hitler or a capo, but profoundly destructive in his own way — joins such luminaries as J. Edgar Hoover, George Wallace, Orval Faubus, Curtis LeMay, and Lee Atwater in the pantheon of dead evil Americans.

It’s irrelevant that he was “a loving husband and father.”

“Welcome To Hell, Andy!”

PAYING THE PIPER

Now that Mayor Mark Kruzan doesn’t have to worry about reelection for a while, he can level with Bloomington voters about the state of the city’s finances.

They ain’t good.

Kasey Husk of the Herald Times reports this morning that Kruzan says there are “dark clouds on the horizon” for us.

Potential Cover Shot For Bloomington’s Annual Financial Report

The reason Kruzan waited until now to drop the bomb on us, apparently, is the potential that voters could have blamed him for the economic mess we’re in. That would have been stupid, of course, but then again no one ever accused the electorate, either here or nationally, of being remarkably brilliant.

Smart Enough To Know We’re Not All That Smart

Hell, an entire major political party is fired up by proud anti-intellectualism. (I won’t even link to that party — you can guess which one I mean.)

So no, the city’s empty pockets aren’t Kruzan’s fault.

But we know where the blame primarily lies — all those clever, conniving, duplicitous investment banking house unindicted felons who played our economy for hundred of billions of dollars in fees and bonuses and left it dry.

Check out Michael Lewis’s book, “Liar’s Poker” for an early snapshot of the unregulated, greenback-worshipping, hyenas that populated Goldman Sachs and the rest of the Wall Street money-squeezers back in the mid- and late-80s.

Not a one of those reprobates has ever served a minute in jail. Yet guys like Mark Kruzan have to worry that voters may turn on them because of the sins of Wall Street.

We can only hope there is a hell so that Lloyd Blankfein, Jamie Dimon, and the rest of their aiders and abettors can join Andrew Breitbart in it.

IT’S ALL RELATIVE

With Russia’s presidential election three days away and Vladimir Putin looking like a shoo-in, we’re being inundated by news stories and commentary about what a despot the former KGB spook is. Deep thinkers are howling about how un-democratic the supposedly-now-democratic heart of the former Soviet Union is.
No doubt Putin’s goons have had “meetings” with dissenting journalists, his spies have added a dash of “strychnine” to the soup of neighboring pols or fed polonium pellets to expat whistle blowers, and his PR flacks are hard at work manipulating the minds of Russian couch potatoes.

That’s all true. Plus, Putin is such a charismatic tough guy that when he met the notoriously untraveled George W. Bush, this holy land’s president-at-the-time tumbled into a deep man-crush over him.

Putin Porn

Yesterday, though, I caught another side of the story. Former IU writing professor Erlene Stetson and her husband visit us at the Book Corner nearly every day when they’re in town. Her husband was born in Germany and they keep homes in both countries.

The husband — whose name I never catch because we start talking about world events and history immediately, leaving little time for idle chit-chat and social niceties, so let’s call him Mr. Stetson — started ruminating about Putin and Russia.

“It is amazing,” Mr. Stetson said, “how things have changed in Russia.”

He was talking about the Russia of today vis-a-vis that of such sweethearts as Joseph Stalin and his successors.

Mr. Stetson pointed out that even if the Russian press and TV outlets are manipulated and intimidated now and again, they’re still a hundred-fold freer than the old state media apparatus was under the Communist General Secretaries.

He also says the recent mass protests against Putin and Russian voter fraud would never, ever have been tolerated in the Soviet days.

Russia, 2012

Eastern Europeans of a certain generation view the new Russia in a state of near-awe these days, according to Mr. Stetson. Not that they envy Muscovites and the like, just that the relative relaxation of traditional Russian authoritarianism is so jarring in comparison to the bad old days.

Of course, it’s easy to look good when the object of comparison is a tyranny that, under Stalin, murdered tens of millions of people to maintain discipline, advance ideology, and just for the fun of it.

This reminds me of revisionist historians who decry the so-called Fathers of Our Country for owning slaves and treating women as decorative appendages.

White men like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson did indeed “own” human beings, including their lovely brides.

“Property”

Viewed through today’s lens, Washington and Jefferson appear to be monsters.

In their own day, though, the framers of the US Constitution were the most progressive thinkers on the face of the Earth. They eschewed divine authority and legislated nobility out of existence. Yes, the only US citizens that counted were white male land-owners.

But that was a hell of a leap forward from previous social set-ups. We’ve been taking leaps in fits and starts ever since.

As the late, astute Molly Ivins once wrote, “It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America.”

MERCEDES BENZ

“The Lord” and Money — perhaps this should be our national anthem.

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