Category Archives: Goldman Sachs

Your Daily Hot Air

Bennett Left His Soul In Indiana

Let’s not get all turned around by the revelation of what a pig Tony Bennett was here in Indiana.

AP Photo

Busted

Forget him. We have to focus on the real evil here and that’s the whole concept of schools for profit. It’s as eff-u’d as health care for profit, and we know how well that‘s working out for us in this holy land.

So, we know Bennett took a powder on his new job as barn boss of the Florida state school systems yesterday in light of breaking news that he’d jiggered a school’s efficiency rating here while he was the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction. Turns out the woman who runs that school was a big time donor to Bennett and the Republican Party.

It doesn’t take a Superintendent of Public Instruction to calculate two plus two equal four.

Fine, Bennett’s paying the price now, having to give up his comfy job as penance. But we’re all stuck with charter schools. Who pays the penance for that?

My guess? Taxpayers and kids.

Some 71 charter schools are operating in Indiana, according to the state’s Department of Education. That includes the Christel House Academy, owned by GOP idolator Christel DeHaan. She made her fortune by starting a time share business with her husband, buying out his half of the business in 1989 after their divorce, and then selling the company for a cool $825 million in 1996. She opened her Indianapolis charter school in time for the 2002-03 school year.

DeHaan

DeHaan: An A+ Contributor

Christel House Indianapolis was graded C in 2012 by INDOE, even though Bennett had been running around telling anybody who’d listen that the school was an A institution. This just wouldn’t do, considering DeHaan had contributed $130,000 to Bennett’s political campaigns in 2008 and 2012.

Voila, the Christel House C became an A.

Money, natch, is magic.

And money is what drives many charter schools.

Not all charter schools are for-profit enterprises. Quite a few have popped up as alternative educational institutions where children can learn that the world is 6000 years old and that god doesn’t like Muslims.

No question our public schools need work. Many school systems are management top-heavy, have crushing bureaucracies, and reward too many teachers simply for being alive. Let’s work on those problems.

Let’s not turn the education of our kids over to profiteers and religious fanatics.

Absolutely Fabulous

At long last, some son of a bitch is going to jail for his part in the shell game that was collateralized debt obligations.

Or, as I like to characterize those intentionally byzantine financial instruments, legal larceny.

CDOs, credit default swaps, and other sleight-of-hand schemes developed by “creative” financiers set us up for the the Great Recession of 2007-08. And, no doubt, these same Wall Street shamans are working overtime to create another economic bubble. They’ll make their piles of cash upon which they’ll fall when the global economy tanks again while the rest of us hit nothing but concrete. Splat.

IBTimes UK Photo

Fabulous Fabrice

Anyway, it’s nice to see former Goldman Sachs trader Fabrice Tourre get slapped with a guilty verdict in his federal fraud trial yesterday. “Fabulous Fab,” as he liked to call himself, sold a phony bill of goods to his investor clients, telling them a credit derivative plan he’d conjured up was a good risk, even though he knew it wasn’t. Financial organs like Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg are trying to position this case as an outlier, that Fab Fab was a rogue.

They even assume the Who Me? stance that his sales spiel was rife with dense industry jargon that even they couldn’t penetrate. His patter was so dizzying, they imply, that investors were left only to understand two words out of his mouth: Trust me.

Problem is, Fab Fab wasn’t an outlier. He was normal. Goldman Sachs and other agents of Satan were stuffed to the gills with shysters like him. And WSJ and Bloomberg slobbered all over those slobs when they were making huge fees and bonuses back in the 1980s, ’90s, and ‘Aughts. The collective motto of reprobates like Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon was Trust Us.

I recommend Michael Lewis’s book Liar’s Poker as a primer if you’re interested in starting to learn about the fraud economy that sprang out of Saint Ronald Reagan’s deregulation heaven. And, by the way, don’t get me wrong, Saint Ronnie and the Republicans aren’t the only villains in the Wall Street Wild West mess we’ve found ourselves in. Dems from Jimmy Carter to Bill Clinton to Barack Obama sold their souls to the devil, trading in deregulation and a wink-wink attitude toward the banksters’ excesses for a share of the campaign cash support that the GOP had monopolized for decades.

Book Cover

Lewis penned his tome in hopes young folk would begin to shy away from business schools, reversing the trend of the late 20th Century wherein those university biz factories were churning out millions of grads eager only to make a killing. Funny thing is, his book had the opposite effect.

Lewis wrote in Portfolio magazine in 2008:

I had no great agenda, apart from telling what I took to be a remarkable tale, but if you got a few drinks in me and then asked what effect I thought my book would have on the world, I might have said something like, “I hope that college students trying to figure out what to do with their lives will read it and decide that itʼs silly to phony it up and abandon their passions to become financiers.” I hoped that some bright kid at, say, Ohio State University who really wanted to be an oceanographer would read my book, spurn the offer from Morgan Stanley, and set out to sea.

Somehow that message failed to come across. Six months after Liarʼs Poker was
published, I was knee-deep in letters from students at Ohio State who wanted to know if
I had any other secrets to share about Wall Street. Theyʼd read my book as a how-to
manual.

So yeah, I’m glad Fabulous Fabrice took the rap yesterday. I hope he looks fabulous in prison orange. But I won’t be totally happy until more and more greedy biz school grads, Ayn Rand-ists, and investment bank con men are wearing the same color.

Your Daily Hot Air

She’s Not There

Whyzit that the smartest females corporate media gives us are fictional? I had no idea who Piper Chapman was before I read her fabulous meme quote last night. At first I thought she was a real person and I started writing, “Here’s a female actor who isn’t a dumb blonde. This Piper dame seems to have the goods between the ears. How she ever made it in Hollywood or wherever they shoot Netflix things is beyond me.”

A couple of seconds-worth of research revealed PC is a character in the Netflix comedy-drama Orange Is the New Black, which I’ve never seen and I don’t plan to. No, not because I object to it in particular but because, y’know, it’s TV.

Schilling

Taylor Schilling: At Least She Plays Smart

Anyways, natch, no ambitious young actor would ever say anything like PC said in public because although we are free, free, free to gun down anyone whose looks we don’t like in this holy land, when it comes to expressing liberal-bordering-on-radical views, well, now hold on there pardner.

It’s okay to be Barbra Streisand and throw fundraisers for Hillary Clinton, who’s about as liberal as I am a thug rapper. That’s cool. But once you start messin’ w/ the Big Daddy-o in the Sky, you’re messin’ w/ your career, babies.

Oh, and you aspiring female opinionators can dream of filling the Rachel Maddow slot — TV needs a lesbian/intellectual/tough-talking/hard-core liberal, you bet. She’s a perfect target for Right Wing troglodytes to aim their hot little pistols at while she’s going on and on about commie things like facts and poor people. And, by the way, any double meaning you’d care to attach to my reference to hot little pistols there is perfectly expected. The “real men” of this holy land know what R. Maddow needs.

Maddow

… Aim….

So, I’m bummed that the following manifesto is merely script dialogue. Still, it’s worth a look:

I believe in science, I believe in evolution. I believe in Nate Silver and Neil deGrasse Tyson and Christopher Hitchens, although I do admit he could be kind of an asshole.

[A Pencil Aside: Hey, is this chick me or something? Carry on.]

I cannot get behind some supreme being who weighs in on the Tony awards while a million people get whacked with machetes.

[Pencil Aside 2: Oh yeah, she’s me. With long streaked hair, blue eyes and ladyparts. Carry on.]

I don’t believe a billion Indians are going to hell, I don’t think we get cancer to learn life lessons, and I don’t believe that people die young because god needs another angel. I think it’s just bullshit and, on some level, I think we all know that. I mean, don’t you? … Look I understand that religion makes it easier to deal with all the random shitty things that happen to us. And I wish I could get on that ride. I’m sure I’d be happier. But I can’t. Feelings aren’t enough. I need it to be real.

Trust me, there was some heavy sighing going on as I clacked this in. I’m still not going to watch Orange Is the New Black and I wish, wish, wish an actual person had said this. Like Piper Chapman sez, I need it to be real.

[h/t to Deanna Truelock]

Hot Rods To Hell

How full of shit are we? This full of shit:

Grimly tally the number of people who have been killed by terrorism in the United States since the State Department began keeping records in the 1960s, and you’ll get a total of less than 5000 — roughly the same number, it has been pointed out, as those who have been struck by lightning. But each year, with some fluctuation, the number of people killed in car crashes in the United States tops 40,000. More people are killed on the roads each month than were killed in the September 11 attacks. In the wake of those attacks, polls found that many citizens thought it was acceptable to curtail civil liberties to help counter the threat of terrorism, to help preserve our “way of life.” Those same citizens, meanwhile, in polls and in personal behavior, have routinely resisted traffic measures designed to reduce the annual death toll (e.g., lowering speed limits, introducing more red-light cameras, stiffer blood alcohol limits, stricter cell phone laws.)

Murrica, ya gotta love it!

Head-on Collision

Terror

The above passage is from the book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do by Tom Vanderbilt, a neat little study of the psychology behind our cars and roads and everything else related to them.

They hate us, remember, for our freedoms.

The Boss

Who rules the world? You, the voter? The Prez? Carlos Slim Helu? Bruce Springsteen? Tony Bennett (see below)? Whoever it is that packs the most heat?

Forget ’em all. If you want to figure out who calls the shots on the third planet from the Sun, check out this fab Open Database website: opencorporates.com. OC monitors more than 55 million corporate entities around the globe, measuring their reach, gauging their influence, and illustrating the dense web the biggest of them has spun around us all. We seven billion are, after all, a bunch of buzzing flies trapped in the arachnoid mesh created by the likes of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and other archvillainous entities. (How about that for literary imagery?)

Dig: SMERSH and KAOS had nothing on, say, the Citigroup gang. And don’t even get me started on Monsanto.

From opencorporates.com

Citigroup’s Untangled Web

Now you know. Go there.

If I Ruled The World

Your Daily Hot Air

A No Vote For Warren

Now, don’t get me wrong here. I love Elizabeth Warren. Love her.

Lo-o-o-o-o-o-ove her. I wanna marry her. Don’t worry; so does The Loved One. Wants to marry her, that is. We’d have a three-way marriage. We have a spare bedroom at Chez Pencil and Lizzie (as we’d affectionately address her) could sleep and change her clothes there in privacy.

Warren/AP Photo

Swoon (AP)

T-Lo and I would take turns making her breakfast. Then we’d sit there, just listening, our chins in our hands, as she, Lizzie, would expound on this or that problem or proposed law. Sigh.

So now I can say this without fear that someone would dare to think I don’t support everything she stands for:

Elizabeth Warren will never, ever, ever become the President of the United States of America.

There.

Not only that, Elizabeth Warren would make a horrifyingly bad president.

She’d be a one-termer. And, you think the Me Party wing of the GOP is dedicated to stifling the occupant of the White House now? Oh, babies, just wait until some dame who doesn’t genuflect before the banksters gets in there.

Again, I dig Lizzie the most. But she’s too smart, too eager to talk facts and figures rather than fairy tales and bedtime stories, and is too much of a hard-ass for the banksters and the Right to bear.

Anti-Warren Meme

They’re Starting Already

Look what they’ve done to Hillary Clinton over the past couple of decades. And she, Hillary, is pretty much one of them.

Hillary, IIRC, is a commie, lesbo, man-hating, murderer. What slanders could they come up with for my Lizzie, who is so much not one of them that I’m surprised they all came from the same planet, which they probably didn’t.

Honestly, I’ve been sitting here for the last ten minutes trying to think of worse accusations the wingnut Right could make against my Lizzie. So far, I’ve drawn a blank. Then again, I’m not as creative as the likes of Rush Limbaugh.

Here’s the thing: Elizabeth Warren (sigh) is the polar opposite of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The current Prez and the former Sec’y of State would say or do pretty much anything to maintain their respective toeholds in the game. Dig: Clinton voted for Georgey-boy Bush’s Iraq resolution. And Obama loaded up his administration with so many Goldman Sachs unindicted conspirators that the investment bank now holds its company picnic in the Rose Garden.

Much as I loathe those developments, that’s how people stay in the game if they want to become/remain POTUS.

Thus far, my sweet baby Lizzie appears to be incapable of such machinations.

If, by some weird turn of events, she became the boss of this holy land, she’d spend her entire four years fighting just to keep her head above water. That is, the muddy, sludgy, slimy liquid that passes for water in which Tories, crypto-racists, gun lust-ers, and rabid Christianists prefer to swim.

Polluted Water

For all Elizabeth Warren’s fine and good intentions, she wouldn’t get a thing done. Nothing.

I like her better as a senator.

Fetal Positions

You’re missing something if you haven’t read Neil Steinberg’s new blog Every Goddamn Day.

everygoddamnday

In today’s post, he recounts bumping into Joe Scheidler, the national director of the Pro-Life Action League, on Madison Street in downtown Chicago late Monday afternoon. Scheidler was participating in the PLAL’s annual summer demo, during which they carry placards featuring huge enlargements of aborted fetuses.

I recall running into the PLAL-ers any number of times when I lived in Chi. One July day I was stopped at a red light on Wacker Drive next to the then-Sears Tower and an anti-abortion demonstrator standing on the center island put his fetal hamburger picket sign right in front of my windshield.

“Get that mtherfking thing out of my face,” I hollered as I reached out the window and tried to rip it out of his hand. He dangled it just out of my grasp as if he were toying with a cat.

“You’re a sick prick,” I yelled. I had been looking forward to eating lunch and the sign had pretty much taken my appetite away. Believe me, you don’t want to be the poor soul who messes with my lunch.

Chicago-Style Hot Dog

Never Mess With My Lunch

The guy responded, “God bless you.”

“I didn’t sneeze, idiot,” I cleverly riposted.

Then I thought, damn it, I’m all bent out of shape and he’s still standing their with that religious zombie smirk on his face. The light changed and I peeled away. I never did eat lunch that day.

Anyway, here’s the exchange Steinberg had with Joe Scheidler (all sic):

“You have to admit, that being against abortion is a religious scruple,” I [Steinberg] said.

“I wouldn’t say, ‘scruple.'” he replied. “It’s in the Bible, part of the Ten Commandments: ‘Thou shall not kill.'”

“….a person,” I added.

“A baby is a person,” he said.

“A fetus isn’t a person,” I parried. “I wouldn’t want to take one to the movies.”

“The mom could go to the movies,” Joe countered.

Steinberg concludes his piece with a well-deserved indictment against the so-called pro-choice movement. If you’re “pro-choice” you’re not gonna like it. And you shouldn’t. And I hope it moves you to action.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.” — Robert A. Heinlein

A NOTE TO MY READERS

If I seem a little cynical today (okay, a lot cynical) don’t blame me. I’m only the messenger.

MEET YOUR BOSS

Make no mistake now. There is no longer any argument.

This holy land is not led by a president or a Senate or House. Nor is it run by Democrats or Republicans. Not even the combined forces of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines rival the most powerful entity in the United States today.

Kids Stuff

These Great United States, Inc. are ruled by the investment banking firm and criminal enterprise known as Goldman Sachs.

And that would make the emperor of this nominal democratic republic an unindicted hoodlum by the name of Lloyd Blankfein.

Dear Leader

The capo Blankfein and his underlings yesterday got a huge return on their investments in political bribery and economic blackmail when the Obama Justice Department announced it won’t be pursuing charges against them.

See, Goldman Sachs had been engaged in the selling of subprime mortgage securities for years, earnings ungodly amounts of money. Only Blankfein’s syndicate then went out and bet against the performance of those securities.

In other words, Goldman Sachs sold its clients — including retirement funds, states and municipalities, hospitals, and the like — a pile of shit and then went out and set up a sham insurance safety net protecting itself against the shit smears that would inevitably follow.

The original “Mob” used to have this scam down to an art. A couple of crooked-nosed Charlies would visit a restaurant owner and advise him he needed “insurance” should, god forbid, anything calamitous happen.

Aw, D’at’s Too Bad. Y’See What Can Happen?

The only flaw in the Mob’s plan was its inability to hold off the dogs of justice indefinitely. By and by, some squeaky clean prosecutor would slap the bracelets on the big boys and their underbosses.

But Lloyd Blankfein won’t be a guest of the state any time soon. In fact. the state is now his guest.

This is, after all, his country. Lock, stock, and barrel.

PROBLEM SOLVED

You know how Barack Obama is a socialist? And the Clintons before him?

Real red-underwear-wearing types, right?

At least that’s what the Right would have us believe.

So why is it that the number of people receiving cash assistance from government social welfare programs has fallen a full two-thirds since Bill Clinton’s 1996 welfare reform? And the number of American families who get government subsidies for trivial things like food and heat has fallen by a half?

The answer, if you believe the Right, is they’ve all gone from the lazy poor to the self-sufficient middle class. Because, after all, it was their own fault they were poor.

The great thing about living in these United States is the fact that we don’t need complicated solutions to baffling problems. The answers, my fellow citizens, are simple.

Oops. I mean simplistic.

ANOTHER SIGN OF THE COMING APOCALYPSE

Everybody and anybody who had a hand in making this monstrosity a reality should have the living shit kicked out of them:

This is the brand spankin’ new high school football stadium in Allen, Texas.

You read right: High-freaking-school.

The new home of the Allen Eagles cost $60M. It seats 18,000. It has a 75×45-foot video screen scoreboard.

The story about this crime against humanity in Time magazine’s online newsfeed quotes some little bastard defensive back as saying, “We just have to [be] blessed and humble and not take it for granted.”

Go Eagles!

Yeah. Like the god that doesn’t exist gave it to you in lieu of doing anything about the flooding in India.

Texas, by the way, last year cut $5B from the state public schools budget..

Anyway, the best part of the story is the little teaser in red about halfway down: “MORE: Catastrophic Brian Injuries at All-Time High in High School Football.”

Nothin’ like seeing your boy’s cerebrum concussed into so much gray goo down on the field in a shiny new stadium, is there?

LIFE LESSONS FROM FOOTBALL

Yep. Football’s back.

Remember when Ma & Pa America were all aflutter over teenaged athletes using steroids and human growth hormones to build muscle mass?

The Horror

Heaven forbid our precious scions should risk the devastating side effects of performance enhancing drugs. Like acne.

No. It’s much better for them to suffer permanent disability due to head injuries suffered on the gridiron.

Oh, and thanks to our changing climate (which, I’d bet, plenty o’Texans think is the liberal bunk anyway) more and more high school football players are suffering serious injury and death from practicing in full pads through the August heat.

SCIENCE TAKES ANOTHER HIT

We don’t have cable anymore at Chez Big Mike but if we did, Animal Planet would be on all the time. The Loved One digs critters and I’m partial to two or three species myself.

The bad news is, Animal Planet is slipping and sliding away from real animals this coming season and becoming more about, well, bullshit.

Two of the cable networks big shows will be “Finding Bigfoot” and “Mermaid — The Body Found.”

According to the Washington Post’s TV columnist Lisa de Moraes, critics pounded Animal Planet reps when the network held its pre-season news conference. One asked if AP “had run out of real animals.”

When it comes to TV, though, no one can argue with the numbers. AP’s audiences love shows about creatures that don’t exist.

THE POWER OF MYTH

Great. As if I’m not discouraged enough by the direction in which this nation is headed, this poll comes out:

The site I Fucking Love Science opines: “Well, this is a little bit scary. Come on America, sort it out. You just landed on Mars!”

To borrow a term from the god-fetishists, Amen!

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.

From I Love 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.

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.

Tiny, From The Daily Puppy

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

The Venue Fine Art & GiftsOpening reception: “Articulture” by Marco Zehrung; 6-8pm

Lake Monroe, Paynetown SRANational S’mores Day celebration, recipe competition and other activities; 6-10pm

Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural CenterWorkshop: Depression and Buddhism, presented by Ani Choekye; 6:30pm

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

Muddy Boots Cafe, Nashville — Mizfitz; 7-9pm

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

Bloomington SpeedwaySprint cars, UMP super stocks, UMP modifieds; 7pm

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

Cafe DjangoSad Sam Blues Jam; 8-10pm

The Comedy AtticTim Wilson; 8 & 10:30pm

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

Bear’s PlaceChris Wilson & Planet Earth, Charlie & the Groove Factory; 9pm

The Bluebird The Revivalists, Three Story Hill; 9pm

Max’s PlacePhoenix Down; 9pm

Muddy Boots Cafe, Nashville — Amanda Webb; 9:30pm

Max’s PlaceHead Bread; 10:30pm

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

“It may be said with a degree of assurance that not everything that meets the eye is as it appears.” — Rod Serling

KEEP YOUR SHIRT ON

Bear with me kiddies. I’m in a big hurry this morning; there’s only time to put up the event listings right now. I’ll get around to my daily blather ASAP.

 

Late

DO YOUR DUTY

I’m wearing my “I Voted Today!” sticker on my shirt as I type this.

Had to go pay a parking ticket at City Hall and happened to pass the Curry Building on 7th Street. I figured, hell, may as well pop in and vote. As long as I have to pay some hard-earned cash to the government, it makes sense that I participate in the electoral process as well.

You know, the way Goldman Sachs, AT&T, Citigroup, and Lockheed-Martin do. Only their dough goes a lot further. They own much of the Senate and the House.

Me? I probably only own one of Shelli Yoder‘s old dishwashing sponges.

What Twenty Bucks’ll Get You In The Lobbies Of Congress Nowadays

Anyway, go vote.

“WHAT DID RUDY GIULIANI EAT FOR BREAKFAST THIS MORNING?”*

I hate to burst the Republicans’ bubble (no, let me amend that: I love to burst the Republicans’ bubble) but Mitt Romney and his pal Rudy Giuliani calling Barack Obama’s mentioning of the successful raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout a year ago “playing politics” is a bit disingenuous, no?

Come now, boys, Rudy baby was all washed up in politics the day before 9/11 happened. New Yorkers couldn’t wait to be rid of him.

“Put Your Mask On! (And Vote For Me.)”

Then the planes hit the Twin Towers and Giuliani was caught on videotape emphatically telling someone off-screen to put their mask on and next thing you know he’s a presidential candidate.

That, my friends, is politics.

(*Answer to the smart-assed joke circulating during the 2008 presidential campaign: “The World Trade Center — he didn’t have anything else.”)

WELL, J SCHOOL IS FOR LEARNING

Not to make light of the untimely passing of an IU student Friday, but the IDS headline for the story about Julian Eisner’s death is a tad, shall we say, clumsy.

It reads more like a hostage threat in an al Qaeda daily paper than anything else.

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

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Monroe County Public LibraryExhibit, “Muse Whisperings,” water color paintings done by residents of Sterling House; through May 31st, 9am-9pm

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

From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web

Twin Lakes Recreation CenterSenior Expo, health fair, free screenings; 10am

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

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

Monroe County History CenterPresentation, “Pajama Genealogy,” genealogist Randi Richardson speaks about doing genealogy at home; 2pm

IU CinemaStudent short films; 6:30pm

Ivy Tech, Daniels Way, Lamkin Hall — 1st annual Food Flix international cooking video awards; 6:30pm

Monroe County Public LibraryCenter for Sustainable Living discussion, “How to Bicycle to Work and Still Look Great: Tips & Tricks”; 7-8pm

Bike To Work In Style!

Bear’s PlaceAmericana jam; 7pm

Max’s PlaceOpen mic; 8pm

Harmony SchoolContra Dancing, hosted by Bloomington Old Time Music and Dance Group, beginners welcome; 8-10:30pm

IU Kirkwood ObservatoryPublic night sky viewing, rain or shine; 9pm

Andromeda Galaxy

The BishopSpirit of ’68 Presents: Retribution Gospel Choir; 9pm

IU CinemaIndiana Filmmakers Network presents Made in Bloomington film and video; 9;30pm

Uncle Elizabeth’sBoP; 10pm & midnight

Jake’s NightclubBattle of the bands; 10pm

Vandaveer

Vintage Phoenix Comic BooksListening party, “The Best Show on WFMU”; 9pm-midnight

IU CinemaIndiana Filmmakers Network Short Films: Made in Bloomington; 9:30pm

Rachael’s CafeWringer, Arms Aloft; 10pm

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.

The Pencil Today:

THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST?

Bingo from C. Wright Mills: “People with advantages are loath to believe they just happen to be people with advantages.”

C. Wright Mills Photographed By His Wife, Yaroslava

TREE STOLEN. WAIT — WHAT? TREE STOLEN?

The Herald Times reports this morning that vandals stole a tree from Bryan Park.

The tree,  a blue spruce, was donated by a neighbor some 22 years ago. The neighbor was able to look at the tree each morning through his apartment window. He’d nursed the tree through some tough times and considered it his “baby.”

A Typical Blue Spruce

And yesterday he discovered that some punks — apparently — had sawed the whole damned thing down and hauled it away!

If that isn’t bad enough, city tree boss Lee Huss says it’s not terribly unusual. Huss says some twelve trees a year are stolen.

Man. Have I not awakened from my beauty sleep yet and this is just one of those stupid dreams?

COFFEE CHATTER

Did you catch the puff piece on Soma Coffee in the weekend IDS?

If not, here it is.

THE JANUARY SAGA CONTINUES

Chad Carrothers, the big boss at Firehouse Radio, says January Jones resigned as WFHB News Director to, in her words, “spend more time with my family.”

Sheesh. I can’t even make a smart-assed comment about that other than to say any good news hound — and January was a fine news hound — knows that’s what you say when what you really want to say will burn bridges.

Her resignation was, in Chad’s words, “unsolicited and unexpected.”

The news operation at our town’s community radio station undoubtedly will suffer without her even though Assistant News Director Alycin Bektesh is among the sharpest pencils in the drawer and would be a fab choice as January’s permanent replacement.

I’ll redouble my efforts to get January’s take on the split.

THE WATER CYCLE

Go see another comic by Randall Munroe, the brain behind the strip “XKCD.”

WE DO FACEBOOK SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO

◗ The radical attorney Jerry Boyle, who’s been running around downtown Chicago for a couple of months now trying to keep the town’s Occupy people out of hot water, posts a Venn diagram of the US Government-Goldman Sachs unholy union.

I’ll have to repro the diagram here. Dig it, and then tell me our elected officials will do their utmost to rein in those cash cowboys.

Man! It’d be like Jack and Bobby Kennedy putting Sam Giancana in charge of the Justice Department.

◗ Delia Chandler of Brighton, UK, reminds us Sunday was the anniversary of the assassination of charismatic Black Panther leader Fred Hampton — in his bedroom — by Chicago cops, the FBI, and members of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office in 1969.

Don’t be confused by the line in the Democracy Now! teaser calling it the 40th anniversary of the rub out. Amy Goodman‘s piece ran in 2009.

◗ Bloomington video auteur Chris Rall discovers some good clean spiritual fun for the kids.

Bleeding Heartland Roller Girl Shanda Rude takes her life in her hands by blaspheming Oprah. Or at least pointing out — approvingly — that Bill Maher has soiled the name of the most powerful woman on Earth.

Check the vid — if you dare. Maher skewers Oprah’s consumer goods orgy during her farewell week prior to being assumed into heaven.

Me? I didn’t worry about watching it — I’m slated for hell already.

◗ Finally, uber-Cub fan Al Yellon, proprietor of the Bleed Cubbie Blue fansite gushes over the long-awaited election of Ron Santo to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

If you’re wondering about my own feelings on Ronnie’s canonization, you need only read my Salon.com piece on his death, almost exactly a year ago.

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