Category Archives: Indiana University

1000 Words: Home

This past March marked fifteen years since The Loved One and I packed our bags and left Chicago in the rearview mirror. I’d spent 51 years of my life living within the city’s limits, the only exceptions being when I resided in a couple of suburbs for fewer than six months, total.

I grew up on the Northwest Side, just across North Avenue from suburban Oak Park but even so, the gulf between Oak Park and Chicago kids was deep. We all dressed differently, spoke differently, and even ate differently. The Oak Parkers loved Wonder Bread; we Chicagoans ate Gonnella or, in my particular case, my mother’s homemade bread (which embarrassed me mightily as the OP kids looked at my lunch sandwiches with ill-disguised puzzlement and revulsion).

High Above The City.

Anyway, as soon as I was old enough, I moved deep into the city, first Lincoln Park, then Boys Town, Wrigleyville, Wicker Park, East Pilsen, and, at the end, Albany Park. I considered myself a Chicagoan through and through. I lived on pizza and Italian beef. I rode the el every day of my life. When I went on first dates, I took them to the top of the John Hancock Center, 95 stories above Michigan Avenue, for pre-dinner drinks at the Signature Room. And, natch, I lived and died with the Cubs. Mostly died.

I never dreamed I’d leave the place. Then The Loved One felt she might be more comfortable working in a smaller setting. She’d been toiling for a Michigan Avenue ad and marketing firm for a few years and had eventually become worn down by the insufferable pressure.

So, she scored a gig with a Louisville firm. It was smaller. There was less pressure. Her clients and colleagues less inclined to lean on her to happily slash the throats of…, well, anyone to get ahead. Me? I’d been freelance writing for 25 years by that time; I could continue to do so anywhere, armed with my cell phone and laptop. Louisville was as amenable as a workplace for me as Chicago (or so I thought). Love triumphed over urban loyalty.

It turned out, sadly, that almost immediately after we moved to the self-styled Gateway to the South, the world economy went bust. Not only that but I’d failed to take seriously enough the sea change in journalism and publishing that’d been brewing for a good 20 years already. Print newspapers and magazines were dying. The internet made it possible for everyone and his cat to write on bulletin boards, chat rooms, blogs, and social media. Fewer and fewer people were willing to pay a living wage to someone just to write words on paper when nine tenths of the nation’s population was doing it on their computer screens for free.

No matter. I loved the move. Even though I was about to leap from middle age to old man-ness I felt as though I were a kid again. Everything was fresh and new. I went from stultifying flatness to hilly beauty. Heck, mountains were mere hours away by car. And the people around me, to be sure, were different.

Barely a hundred miles out of Chicago, the day we drove our car and a loaded U-Haul down Interstate 65 toward Kentucky, we stopped at a tiny gas station/convenience store to fill up and score some road food. (I highly recommend Pringles for long drives — the rigid canister and the chips’ uniform hyperbolic paraboloid shape both lend themselves to noshing while attempting to keep a ton and a half of metal, rubber, and plastic in its lane at 79 mph.) Anyway, as we paid for our fuel and grub, the counter clerk asked us a question. It was, to be sure, uttered in a foreign language. “Huh?” I said.

She repeated.

“I’m sorry, what?”

She reiterated.

“Uh….” I turned to The Loved One and she shrugged. The woman, now alert to the fact that we were the foreigners, asked again, slowly and distinctly, “Y’all wanna sack with thay-at?”

Aha! I recognized a word or two. But why in heaven’s name would this woman ask us if we wanted a sack? Where we came from, a sack was some oversized, indestructible receptacle, usually burlap or at least heavy canvas, used for disposing of toxic or other disgusting substances or dead bodies. “A sack?” I said.

“Yay-ah,” she replied, pulling out a plastic bag.

“Oh, a bag,” I said. “Nah. No thanks.”

I’m sure she told her co-workers and her family, after we left, that strangers from some exotic land, Portugal or Chicago, had passed through.

We spent a couple of years in Louisville and then The Loved One grabbed at the opportunity to work for the Cook Group. I recall precisely when she told me the news.

The Loved One: “We’re moving to Bloomington.”

Me: (Silence.)

I had no idea where Bloomington was or even that it existed in the first place. I didn’t know it was the home of Indiana University. In fact, the only thing I knew about IU was its former basketball coach was one of the best in the history of the sport and a horse’s ass to boot. The town was 35 miles off the Interstate and as we drove west along SR 46 toward it, again in our car and a fully-packed U-Haul, we passed tumble-down shacks and spooky-looking mobile homes and stopped counting road kills because we’d run out of fingers and toes, I thought, “Where in the hell are we?”

“Honey, Where Are You Taking Me?”

It turns out this place is now home. It’s an anomaly, actually, a tiny island of blue in a red state that can be referred to as either the Mississippi or the Alabama of the North, depending on how antediluvian and regressive its legislature feels on any given day. Bloomington itself is so Democratic that Republicans more often than not don’t run for local office because, well, why bother when you’d be doing extremely well to garner vote totals in the double figures?

Not that Bloomington being monolithically Democratic makes the place any kind of liberal nirvana. State law in Indiana restricts county and city councils from doing much more, in terms of progressive politics, than issuing the occasional Black Lives Matter proclamation. I worked as a reporter for WFHB News for a few years, early on, and was struck by how Bloomington’s city council repeatedly issued stern letters calling for some outside state or country to cease and desist poisoning the planet or running roughshod over its citizenry. I imagined the governor, say, of Arkansas or the prime minister of Thailand tossing the letter in the wastebasket with nary a glance. But at least our hearts were in the right place.

Within my first six months here, I found my place at a table in Soma, the coffeehouse in the basement of an old mansion on Grant Street. There I met and formed tight friendships with professors, scientific researchers, engineers from the US Navy’s Crane facility, artists, lawyers, local politicians, guitarists, poets, entrepreneurs, restaurant servers, painters, and other oddballs. It came to me within months of my arrival that I’d found a real home for the first time in my life. I am, after all, nothing if not an oddball.


Hot Air

The Right’s Mr. Right

Sheila Kennedy is one of those precious few Republicans who make a pile of sense. It follows, then, that she wastes few opportunities to lambaste her GOP sisteren and brethren for their most egregious examples of stupidity. And there have been plenty of those in the last few decades. Plenty.

Tuesday, she took on the Right’s recent surreptitious fling with Vlad Putin, the bare-chested strongman of Russia. They dig him the most, preferring him to that scrawny Kenyan, the current phony Prez of the US. Natch, they won’t admit their infatuation with a Russkie but, believe me, he’s Mr. Right for the Right.



A little bit of self-back patting here. I radar-ed the Right’s googly eyes for Vlad months ago — months, I tell you! See here and here.

As for Kennedy, she’s a professor in the School for Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI as well as director there of the Center for Civic Literacy. She puts out a daily blog in which she tells humanity what’s what. In fact, Kennedy’s like a bizarro-world image of me: she’s a woman — I’m not, (ICYDK); she’s a college prof; I’m a college dropout; she’s a Republican — I’m Democrat(-ish). Our similarities, though, outweigh those contrasts: We’re both keyboard clackers, we both have a compulsion to tell the world what we think, and, because we agree on so much, we’re both fabulous intellectuals. (Obvious, no?)

Anyway, start reading her blog daily (after reading mine.)

[h/t to Susan Sandberg.]

No Wed In NOLA

Well, the same-sex freight train was slowed down a tad yesterday, what with a court ruling that Louisiana’s ban on it is cool.

Funny, isn’t it? When wits and wags try to speculate which state will be the last to okay SSM, they usually guess Mississippi. So, natch, the first state in the last 20 that has had its ban blessed by a court is right next door.

An even funnier thing: Notice how the anti-SSM gang is huzzah-ing the ruling as a triumph for “state’s rights”? The state’s rights argument is used by people who pretty much don’t dig any part of the US Constitution except the good ol’ 2nd Amendment. Most of those same folks believe a state’s right to deny rights to individuals and couples is paramount.


George Wallace At The Schoolhouse Door

Sometimes I even wonder if A. Lincoln did the right thing by forcing the South to stay in the Union.

When The Lie Becomes The Truth

How about this from the Columbia Journalism Review? The media watchdog yesterday reported that an Indiana University study called “Truthy” has been savaged by Fox News-heads of late. Truthy is a long-term look into how info spreads on social media, specifically Twitter. One of Truthy’s areas of concern is the viral spread of false information.

From "Pinocchio"

Disney’s “Pinocchio”

Truthy’s been at it for three years now. The project’s report page is chock-full of revelations about how facts and lies are disseminated throughout society. Ironically, Truthy itself is now the object of a disinformation campaign, the likes of which can serve as a textbook example of precisely what Truthy’s looking into.

Not terribly long ago, one small publication carried an article that Truthy was responsible for helping the federal government create a database of its domestic enemies under the guise of tracking hate speech. In other words, Truthy was acting in concert with authorities to carry out a fascist plot. Well, this kind of thing is red meat to the wingnut Right so — wouldn’t you know it? — people Tweeted it like mad and then everyone from the Libertarian Reason magazine to the evil jumped on the story.

The thinking seemed to go Obama’s a fascist? Of course! The Truthy story has to be true!

Tens of thousands of Tweets became tens of thousands more and then even more conservative-leaning media outlets picked up on the story until, finally, Fox News harrumphed over it on several of its programs.

The only problem was the story was entirely untrue.

The whole incident perfectly illustrates one of Truthy’s findings: That after a certain tipping point, misinformation is repeated so often on Twitter and the like that news outlets begin treating it as fact.

The researchers leading the Truthy project couldn’t have fabricated a more appropriate example to illustrate one of its points.

[h/t to Rea (last name withheld.)]

Hot Air

Learning Luxury

Bloomington’s not the only college town whose character is being radically transformed thanks to an influx of privileged snowflakes whose parents spend big dough setting them up in plush apts. Our own downtown, in the immediate environs of the erstwhile quaint Courthouse Square, has become a set of parallel mini-valleys of soulless condo blocks. The atmosphere around the Square, it follows, has changed profoundly. High end sports bars, chichi restaurants, and urban outfitters now do trade in storefronts that once housed, well, shops.

To understand what downtown Bloomington has become, consider this: You can’t buy a pen or a notebook, a package of batteries, or a small bottle of Advil anywhere within a radius of three quarters of a mile around the Fish on the Dome.

You’ll find, though, a choice of two stores from which to purchase that bush hat you’ve been dying to wear on your next expedition to deepest, darkest Africa.

NPR’s Morning Edition today ran a story on a similar transformation in the campus neighborhood surrounding Georgia Tech University in Atlanta. It, too, has seen an explosion of high-density, well-appointed apartment blocks erected for the children of wealth for whom dorm living or renting out a cramped house would be akin to having their fingernails pulled out by enemy prison guards. Announcer David Green said, “Over the past decade, investors have been cashing in on this growing market.”

Just like Bloomington.


Smallwood On North College Avenue (Jeremy Hogan/Herald Times photo)

One construction contractor told an NPR reporter he’s building “luxury apartment living catered towards [sic] college students” — a 25-story highrise featuring amenities like a rooftop deck with fireplace, a fountain, a glass handrail and a view of the Atlanta skyline, as well as stainless steel appliances, quartz countertops, and laundry facilities within each unit, and a private bath in each bedroom.

Luxury indeed. Nothing can goose a GPA like truncating that interminable walk from bed to bowl at two in the morning.

Anyway, throw an ear at the report and take solace at least in the fact that we are not alone.

My Aim Is True

Speaking of the changing nature of our cherished downtown, City Council member Susan Sandberg was pounding the pavement drumming up voters for the county Democratic Party Saturday at the 4th Street Festival for the Arts & Crafts when two college boys approached her. One of them said, “Can I ask you a question?”

At this point, S-Squared was almost giddy. Huzzah, she thought, perhaps the youth of this holy land isn’t such a lost cause after all. Here are two lads hoping to learn about our sacred political processes.

Pledge of Allegiance

Um, No

Only she hadn’t noticed one of the two was videoing the encounter on his smart phone. Nor had she immediately sensed that the two were boozed up. The first college boy proceeded to inquire whether Sus. Sand. might contemplate performing certain acts of a carnal nature.

The normally eloquent S-berg was left speechless. The boys giggled and pranced merrily away.

I advised the tall blonde legislator that young men like those two possessed testicles just so she could take aim at said gonads with the toe of her combat boot. Miss S. replied she is loath to take such physical steps.

I can only wonder what’s wrong with the Democrats nowadays when we can’t even depend on our party officials to kick deserving louts in the balls?

Or Is Sandberg’s Aim Truer?

Rob Crilly writes today in Al Jazeera America that for the US to respond militarily or otherwise violently to ISIS’s latest video beheading is precisely what those ghouls want. Crilly writes that ISIS:

… [S]eeks to provoke more powerful enemies into rash actions as their publics demand that justice be done for the wanton act of violence against an innocent, and that the perpetrators be prevented from repeating the act. Thus the wave of pressure on Obama to come up with an Islamic State strategy on the fly, the complexities and challenges of combating the group in Syria and Iraq not withstanding.

So that masked man with the decap. blade is trying to play us, acc’d’g to Crilly. He goes on to say that when ISIS demands the US stop fighting them in Iraq and Syria or else there’ll be more beheadings, the al Qaeda splinter group is lying. Crilly writes:

… [I]s that [what ISIS] really wants? Does it want the US and its allies to back off, or is the group’s real goal to provoke sufficient outrage to provoke Western powers to launch another war in a Muslim land, helping to sustain its warped vision of jihad?

My own initial reaction to the beheadings is that we should dash back over to Iraq and kick the living crap out of ISIS, the way we should have finished off the Taliban in Afghanistan more than a decade ago. Only ISIS couldn’t ask for a better PR and recruitment tool than another US incursion into their backyard.

Screencap from ISIS video

An ISIS Captor And His Prisoner

Then again, maybe Susan Sandberg is right. Maybe a swift kick to the balls really doesn’t solve the problem.

All Schwarber, All The Time

Indiana University alum Kyle Schwarber, fast tracking his way to the major leagues in the Chicago Cubs organization, led his Daytona Cubs teammates to a 9-1 victory in their playoff opener last night.

Schwarber clubbed an opposite field grand slam home run during Daytona’s decisive five-run fourth inning. Daytona holds a one to nothing lead in its series against the Dunedin Blue Jays.


Schwarber Earlier This Year With The Kane County Cougars

So far as a pay for play athlete, the kid whose Hoosier teammates called The Hulk has done nothing but impress.

Hot Air

GMO Dialogue

Just got some great new links from former Indiana University research biologist and faculty member Martha Crouch.

Crouch at Franklin

Marti Crouch Lectures At Franklin College, Fall 2013

If you’ve been following this communications colossus the last couple of weeks, you know that I happened to meet Crouch at the Book Corner and immediately leaned on her to convince me that GMOs are icky. My stance on genetic engineering can be found in various posts in these precincts (see links below).

I hate to be wedded to any particular train of thought, by and large, because there’s always something new I can learn and it just might contradict that which I’ve previously believed. Bertrand Russell’s old line — I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong — fits quite nicely, thank you.



Anyway, Marti, as she’s known to friends and acquaintances, has graciously agreed to set me straight. She wondered why I might be interested in the GMO thang these days and so she wrote in an email she sent me yesterday:

I realize I don’t really know why you are interested in genetically engineered crops.  Health reasons?  Environmental concerns? Philosophical musings about the relationships between humans and other organisms?  And I also don’t know why you are looking for arguments against GMOs.  Are you unhappy for some reason with your current position “in favor” (I assume)?

Fair enough. Here’s my response to her, in toto:


Thanks for asking. You might check some of my previous writings on the GMO controversy in the Electron Pencil. In fact, here’s a link to that category.
My overriding motive is to get at some kind of reasonable, informed understanding of genetic engineering. I want to do so because I love science and knowledge, pure and simple. My secondary motive is to try to get people to stop thinking as a group. It’s always been one of my goals as a writer to upend groupthink, to hold the line against hysteria, and to point out that opinions are meaningless unless they’re built upon strong intellectual foundations.
You’ll note, if you delve deeper into my blog, that I poke fun at Bloomington’s food culture a lot. I came here from Chicago in 2009 (after a two-year sidetrack to Louisville) and was amused by how seriously B-towners take their food. It seems everyone’s got some diet or regimen that will ensure fabulous health and happiness for the rest of their lives. It also seems everyone here is certain corporate America is trying to poison us to death simply for the fun of it.
Now I don’t doubt that corporate America doesn’t give a good goddamn about my health or yours, as long as its shareholders are happy at the end of the year, but I also don’t think that scientists employed by the big agribusiness firms are sitting around a conference table and planning to wipe out a percentage of the population.
As I’ve written, for example, Monsanto is a bad guy — we can all agree on that — but that doesn’t mean the company is doing everything in its power to destroy the planet.
I speak in hyperbole here because 1) that’s part of my style and voice and 2) because I feel as though the food fetishists (as I describe them) do so themselves. By shopping at Kroger, I’m not going to die any earlier than I would were I to shop at Bloomingfoods. The argument often is couched in those life and death terms.
I might also point out that I spent five years teaching the public and my fellow employees about natural and organic foods as a member of the Whole Foods Market education department. I learned and taught that individuals’ health and that of the planet can be enhanced by striving for a natural way of eating. I also learned that a huge number of folks within the natural foods community hold apocalyptic views that have little to do with reality.
For all the wonders of natural and organic ways of eating and food production that WFM’s customer base subscribes to, I’ve never seen a more ailment-wracked bunch of people in my life. People who shop at other natural grocers, both national chain and local, in my experience, also have been equally Camille-like. Are they canaries in a coal mine or are they simply obsessed with themselves? Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between.
In any case, I want the goods on GMOs, which are today’s bête noire among the natural foods crowd. I’ve been told you’re the real thing when it comes to that topic so that’s why I want to tap your knowledge. I’ll either buy your arguments or I won’t but if I don’t I’ll be able to say I heard all you have to say. Whichever way I go, my opinion will be based on a strong intellectual foundation.
Big Mike
Marti recommends I read the book, The GMO Deception, a compendium of articles and essays edited by Sheldon Krimsky and Jeremy Gruber and issued in June by Skyhorse Publishing. She says some of her trusted colleagues have essays in the book. That’ll take some time so I’ll report back on that later this summer. She also sent along a copy of one of her seminal works on biotech, a chapter she’d contributed to the 2001 book, Redesigning Life?, edited by Brian Tokar. Her piece is titled “From Golden Rice to Terminator Technology: Agricultural Biotechnology Will Not Feed the World or Save the Environment.”
Book Cover

Can’t get a much clearer position than that. I’m eager to delve into the chapter. Again, it’ll take time but I’ll give you my impressions as soon as I can.

Looks like the dialogue is in full swing. Stay tuned.

Dialogue (Part I & II)

Fitting, no?


Hot Air

Just The Facts, Ma’am

Loyal Pencillistas know I’m a defender of Genetically Modified Organisms, AKA GMOs. That puts me in a distinct minority in this food fetishist town. People here know me as a liberal-bordering-on-radical and so are aghast when they discover I don’t see GMOs as the tools of the devil.

They say: But what about Monsanto? To which I reply: Sure, Monsanto’s about as evil as, say, Halliburton or Academi (the former Blackwater.) Monsanto makes tons of dough on its patented GMO seeds and uses the most bullying tactics possible to make certain every farmer, every gardener, hell, every kid who plays in the dirt buys its product. Plus, Monsanto actively squashes competition, infringes on free speech, impedes investigations, harasses critics, and literally writes laws that legislators on its payroll can then obediently introduce and pass.

Monsanto is, in short, a bad guy.


A Monsanto Corn Sprout [photo by Peter Newcomb/Reuters]

The ways Monsanto is forcing GMOs upon the world may be despicable but that that doesn’t mean their new species per se necessarily spell the end of civilization. That’s my position.

That said, it was my good fortune to meet Dr. Martha Crouch, better known as Marti, at the Book Corner Monday. “Hey,” I nearly shouted as I read the name on her credit card, “you’re you!”

“Indeed I am,” she replied, smartly.


Marti Crouch, Surrounded By Green, Naturally

I explained how I’ve heard about her through countless folks who’ve taken me to task for defending GMOs. I then asked her to educate me. “I’d be more than happy,” I said, “to change my mind if you’d take the trouble to persuade me — and I buy your argument.”

Marti Crouch is the “real thing” — so sez Pencillista Nancy Hiller. She’s earned herself a national rep. Here, for instance, is a description from a short piece about her appearing in Mother Jones magazine back in 2000:

Martha Crouch, a biology professor at Indiana University in Bloomington and once a pioneering biotechnologist, studied her entire life to reach the pinnacle of her profession. She earned a Ph.D. in developmental biology at Yale before landing at Indiana University, where she teaches and once ran a lab dedicated to cutting edge plant research. In 1990, her lab made the cover of The Plant Cell, the leading journal in the field of plant molecular biology. Instead of launching Crouch into professional nirvana, however, the article marked the end of her research career.

Crouch had tenure and was well-known in her field. But she had awakened one day to the realization that her research was being co-opted by corporations which hoped to apply the science for profit. Further, the manner in which those firms used her discoveries was destroying the natural processes that attracted Crouch to the study of biology in the first place.

In the piece, Crouch is quoted as saying, “You are basically treating the agricultural environment as if it was a factory where you are making televisions or VCRs.”

She’s no longer teaching science because she stopped doing research (IU looked askance at her public denigration of the commercial exploitation of her research.) If anyone can sway me, she’ll be the one.

Marti Crouch has sent me the first of what promises to be a long series of info-packed articles and tracts. It’s an excellent introduction to GMOs from the Union of Concerned Scientists. Consider it GMOs 101. Here it is.


Click Image For Full Article

Even if you think you know all you need to know about GMOs, you should read these pieces. Hey, you may learn something! I know I’m hoping to.

Let the conversation begin.

White Fright

h/t to both Chuck Rogers and Jerry Boyle for this one:

From ValleyWag/Gawker

Click Image For Full Story

Need I even tell you how much this disgusts me?

Wahoo, Drew & Cool Kat

Congrats to Drew Daudelin, the new news reader/producer over at WFIU.


Daudelin (r) With Teller of Penn & Teller

I met Drew at WFHB where he volunteered five days a week to edit each Daily Local News script. The kid was good, I’m telling’ ya. He brought the writing level up dramatically while he was there.

Now, apparently, he’s making real dough. Good for him.

You may also have caught Kat Carlton reading the news during local breaks on Morning Edition the last few months as well. She, too, prepped at WFHB, in fact writing up news stories right next to me on several occasions. Just watching the way she carried herself, I could tell she was going places.



That Alycin Bektesh, WFHB’s redoubtable News Director, she’s got a nose for talent, no? A thought: Maybe WFIU should become a major contributor to WFHB, considering the latter is now the talent pool for the former.

Criminally Cynical

Remember the teenaged girl in Texas who survived the massacre of her family a few weeks ago? The one who gave a heartfelt speech at her family’s memorial? The latest poster child for gun sanity?

Stay Funeral

Cassidy Stay (center) At Her Family’s Funeral

Her name was (and is) Cassidy Stay. The shooter, if you don’t recall, was searching for his ex-wife and held her sister’s family hostage until they told him where she was. They refused to and as a result were executed, Nazi-style, with bullets to the backs of their heads. Cassidy survived the carnage.

At the memorial Cassidy (who played dead during the gunman’s rampage) said:

I really like Harry Potter. In “The Prisoner of Azkaban,” Dumbledore says, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times.” I know that my mom, dad, Bryan, Emily, Becca and Zach are in a much better place and that I’ll be able to see them again one day. Thank you all for coming and for showing support for me and my family. Stay strong.

Gun control advocates, naturally, lauded Cassidy to the skies and asked, for the zillionth time, why we have to endure yet another firearms atrocity.

Just as naturally, gun nuts on the far end of that particular spectrum didn’t look as kindly upon the teen girl and those who hero-ized her. In fact, a certain number of people believe Cassidy never was shot at all and that her family was killed in that old reliable trick of the jack-booted gov’t, the false flag job. Not only that, the gun control crowd, acc’d’g to this train of “thought,” works hand in hand with purported “victims” of gun crimes merely to make money. Want detail? Check this vid out. It just may be the most cynical thing you’ve ever seen or heard:

A reminder, kids: There aren’t two sides to every question.

Hot Air

Sports U.

The highest paid Indiana University employee, acc’d’g to the an op-ed in today’s Herald Times (paywall), is basketball coach Tom Crean, who rakes in a cool $604,858 per year. Sitting just below him and IU Pres. Michael McRobbie ($566,860) in the pay firmament is football head coach Kevin Wilson, who pockets $531,644 per annum.

And just to make sure the jock pop. of our local institution of higher education gets its just deserts, athletic director Fred Glass boasts a &458,007 salary. Poor guy doesn’t even make a half mill a year; how does he make ends meet?


Tom Crean Accepting His Weekly Bushel Of Money

Let’s not kid ourselves anymore: Indiana University, like many, many other U.’s around the nation, is really a sports entertainment concern that just happens to dabble in things like education and scientific inquiry on the side.

Funny thing is, just yesterday I had a sit-down with a pal o’mine who happens to be a research scientist at IU. Let’s call him Dr. Brain. Every year Dr. Brain must search for funding for his lab (as well as his relatively paltry salary) from granting agencies around the country. He must fill out reams of applications, justifying not only his scientific work but also his very existence as a learned member of society. Then he must lay awake nights wondering if this foundation or that federal government department will fork over a few thousand bucks. To keep his lab running and to ensure he makes enough to support his modest home and his 16-year-old car, Dr. Brain must cobble together any number of gifts from donors every single year.

Dr. Brain was overjoyed yesterday because his funding for the coming year seems in the bag. Note I typed seems. He hasn’t gotten final confirmation for his package of grants just yet. Everything, though, seems in order, he says.

Hmm. If there’s a problem, I wonder if Dr. Brain might be able to request grants from the likes of Tom Crean and Kevin Wilson.

Books On The Brae

Col. John Tilford, former Dem primary candidate for US Congress and tireless advocate for veterans’ concerns, dashed off to Scotland with his lovely missus, Polly, not long ago. Natch, he found one of the few bookstores in a sparsely populated stretch of the northern highlands. He was eager to tell me about it when he visited the Book Corner last week.

The Scot store, he sez, was a two-story affair, the main floor ringed by a balcony-like structure. Nearly every square inch of the place is crammed with tomes and smack dab in the middle of the main floor is an old fashioned wood-burning stove. That, acc’d’g to the Col., is the facility’s heating plant.

I don’t suppose that store will be making the switch to selling e-books and Kindles very soon.

In any case, Tilford sent me a pic of the store:


I imagine Tilford’s been wringing his hands of late over the VA hospital scandals and the unwillingness of certain obsessive ledger book-watching legislators to pay for veterans’ care. Far too many of us are perfectly happy to let somebody else’s kid get his brains blown out for the cause of “freedom” (something I’d argue this holy land hasn’t actually fought for since July 27, 1953). Nor are terribly many of us willing to pay for the psychological and physical care of people we’ve shipped off to all corners of the world to wage war for our interests.

Keep up the good fight for the veterans, Colonel!


Hot Air

Scientists: Come Out Of The Closet!

Hey, kids, I realize we live in the most informed, brilliant, and sensitive burgh this side of Berkeley, California, but still some of us might come up against a simian thinker who, say, doesn’t believe all this socialist, bike-riding propaganda about climate change.


What Do All Those Scientists Know?

You know, it’s all a plot to destroy America and so on.

So you might have a need to destroy his ignorance and put him in his proper place (A zoo cage? A mental institution?) should you run into him bleating his views in a bar or at your coffeehouse headquarters.

Many of us emerge from such a tête-à-tête ruing our inability to deliver just the right bon mot that would send him scurrying out of the place, humiliated to the point of wondering whether he should just end it all. (Imagine, too, using pretentious Gallicisms to finish him off — pure bliss, no?)

Anyway, Bill Moyers this morning offers us a good guide to winning these “arguments” via Penn State U. climatologist Michael Mann. He runs PSU’s Earth System Science Center. He thinks climatologists and other scientists ought to get out into the arena more and fight the good fight for knowledge and investigation.

Which I agree with. These days, we have what I’d call science’s designated hitters: Bill Nye and Neil de Grasse Tyson. Their Q-ratings nearly approach those of fictional brains such as Frank-n-Furter, Dr. Strangelove, and Professor X.

Movie Scientists


Don’t get me wrong, I dig NdGT and Nye the most. Still, to the gen. pub., they’re pretty much the alpha and omega of smart guys. OTOH, we get all sorts of un-scientists spewing their mouth refuse about things scientific. People like Sen. James Inhofe, Rep. Michelle Bachmann, and Rush Limbaugh — and there are dozens more where they come from. Corporate news purveyors find these chuckleheads by the score whenever there’s a climate debate or an evolution debate or even a flat-Earth debate.

Guys like Michael Mann toil in anonymity in their labs and classrooms, discovering things, learning things, and being, well, all scientific while the populace of this holy land learns about the physical world from Steve Doocy and Elizabeth Hasselbeck.

So, go, go. go, M. Mann et al. As for you, loyal Pencillista, read his piece on climate change and go into your next argument on that topic armed with the best info.

The Old Pro

My complete interview with Charlotte Zietlow is now up on The Ryder website. It’s a long one but it’s a good one. Take some time and read it — and feel better about politicians for a brief moment, armed with the knowledge that that vocation’s roster has included decent souls like CZ.


Charlotte Zietlow

If you’re pressed for time, catch my eight-minute mini-interview with the Dem doyenne that ran on WFHB’s Daily Local News a couple of weeks ago.

End of commercial.

All The News That’s Old

Now we learn that 40 percent of the Indiana University student pop. is from out of state. This thanks to the Daily Beast‘s ranking of the decade’s “hottest” schools (via the Herald Times).

IU, acc’d’g to the D. Beast‘s rankers, is the third most thermal institution of higher education in Murrica, after USC and Vanderbilt.

Good journalist that I am, I googled “hottest schools decade IU daily beast,” just to verify the story and, perhaps, to provide a link to the Beast’s piece (which the H-T hadn’t).

Lo and behold, I found that the DB‘s list of hot colleges was done in 2009. It ran December 13 that year, which makes sense, considering it was an “of the decade list.” Such things aren’t done in the middle of a ten-annum.


Didja Hear The News?!

So thanks, Herald Times, for the five-year-old news. If I’d paid the $8.95 the paper wants every month for an online subscription, I’d be steaming about now. Luckily, I’ve figured out a way to get it free, which is what it’s worth.

Hot Air

Robed Racketeers

Thomas Frank throws the book at colleges and universities in this holy land in this Sunday’s Salon.


Acc’d’ng to the fearless journalist and essayist, college tuition has gone up 1200 percent in 30 years. Twelve hundred percent!

Let’s say you, like me, weighed a svelte 175 libra pondos aways back in 1984. Shoot, man, back in those glory days you, like me, could have eaten an entire pizza and then gone out for an all-night bike ride, something I did more than once when I was a callow 28 y.o. But, of course, time catches up with all of us and before we know it we’re all a tad thicker in face and waist, among other locales.

But if you had a weight gain of 1200 percent, today you’d be tipping the scale, if not the entire house, at a mind-boggling 2100 lbs. Sheesh! Yeah I’ve packed on the suet, but jimineez, I don’t weigh a ton with a hondo click to spare!

Nothing goes up 1200 percent in 30 years. Not gasoline. In 1984, a gallon of motion lotion set you back $1.30. Today, we’re crying like kindergartners because that gallon costs about $3.75. Me Party-ists, militia maniacs, and tinfoil hat wearers are oiling up their shootin’ irons in prep. for the coming revolt, caused in large part by today’s gas pump “insanity.”

And that gallon of 87 octane has only gone up 289 percent since the Orwell year.

I could go on and on with examples of how nothingnothing!has gone up 1200 percent in 30 years, not even pot. Yet, if you want your snowflake to get a good educ., you’d better hope you’d started stashing away your quarters three decades ago. Every single freaking one of them.

Thomas Frank indicts college administrators, politicians, and a compliant, obeisant, credulous media for this hyper-inflation going on for the better part of a lifetime. We’ve believed every bullshit excuse university presidents have tossed out. By Frank’s count, the bosses of higher education have blamed the following for their larceny:

  • Utility bills
  • Libraries
  • Their own professors
  • Gov’t regulation (natch, all crooks fall back on that cop-out)
  • Students who demand luxury accommodations
  • High technology
  • Cultural diversity
  • Students abusing substances
  • Americans with Disabilities Act access ramps
  • Declining student population
  • Competition with other universities

What the presidents haven’t mentioned, Frank says, is the growth of the administrator class, in both number and in average salary. And those administrators kept on telling us that a college degree was worth more than a million dollars over a graduate’s lifetime. That is, an alum of the institution that was fleecing you could expect to earn a cool million more than some high school grad slob, so if you don’t mind, we’re gonna continue to fleece you.

Of course, the average student graduating from college in 2013 was stuck with a $35,000 debt in student loans and credit card bills. Try paying that off on $8.25 an hour, which is prob. what you’ll be making for the foreseeable future. You’re stuck, grads, although you’ll always have the warm memory of those carpeted, air-conditioned luxury dorm rooms — which you allegedly asked for.

Lucky we’ve got Noam Chomsky around to try to make some sense of the situ.:

My feeling is that student fees are instituted, basically as a technique of indoctrination and control. I don’t think there’s an economic basis for them. And it’s interesting that, you look at the timing — like when I went to college, I went to an Ivy League university, The University of Pennsylvania. Tuition was only $100 and you could easily get a scholarship.

Students today are over $1 trillion in debt. That’s more than credit card debt. A trillion dollars of debt? That’s a burden on people coming out of college. It’s got them trapped. It (tuition) is a technique of control, and it surely isn’t an economic necessity in the richest country in the world. All sorts of things started happening — the university architecture changed. Universities that were built, worldwide, in the post-’70s and on, are usually designed so that they don’t have meeting places, designed just to keep students separated and under control. Look at the ratio of administrators to faculty: it’s gone way up the last couple of decades … not for educational purposes, but for more techniques of control.

… [I]t’s a general form of indoctrination and control, which goes down to kindergarten. I mean, that’s what No Child Left Behind is about. It’s training for the Marine Corps. It’s a way to make sure that children aren’t free, independent or inquisitive, exploring.

Our own Indiana University is building huge monuments to itself seemingly on every corner of the campus. Local developers are building ugly fortresses where students can live, drink, toke, and fumble their way through sexual encounters without worry about anybody even shaking a finger at them. They are the scions of wealth. They even study now and again. They’d better, because they’re gonna owe a lot after graduation.

Most important, they are under control. Let’s go back to Noam Chomsky:

Students who acquire large debts putting themselves through school are unlikely to think about changing society. When you trap people in a system of debt they can’t afford the time to think. Tuition Fee increases are a disciplinary technique, and by the time students graduate, they are not only loaded with debt, but have also internalized the disciplinarian culture. This makes them efficient components of the consumer economy.

Yeah, the kids are under control but so are we. Who’s going to be the first of us to tell Michael McRobbie and his cohorts that they’re lying and we know it?

[Side note: If you want to read even more about this, try Suzanne Mettler’s new book, Degrees of Inequality: How the Politics of Higher Education Sabotaged the American Dream. It’s reviewed in yesterday’s New York Times.]

Hot Air

Big Man On Campus

So, Indiana University big boss Michael McRobbie copped himself a cool million bucks-plus in pay last year. Not only that, he got a luxury car and nearly $50k to cover his housing expenses. Oh, and the U. cut him a check to cover the taxes on some of his pay.

Nice deal.

The Herald Times revealed McRobbie’s sweet 2012-2013 deal (paywall) this AM.


Millionaire McRobbie

McRobbie, acc’d’g to the H-T, ranked sixth among public university presidents in the nation in terms of pay. It’s a one-off deal, though. When McRobbie inked his deal with IU in 2007, he was promised a sugary bonus if he stayed here for five years. He pocketed more the $300,000 last year in exchange for his undying loyalty.

Still, $6-700,000 in slave wages for a year ought to soothe some of the sting of a second potentially harsh winter in a row here in So Cen In.

Is IU getting its money’s worth?

The graduation rate for baccalaureate students entering the U. in 2007 (the last cohort group measured, using a six-year window) was 58.2 percent. That includes students at all seven IU campuses. The grad. rate for Bloomington campus scholars was a more gaudy 77 percent.

Problem is, the U. says students hoping to grow their brains here in the 2014-15 school year should expect to shell out $24,418 if they’re Indiana residents and $47,270 if they’re not. If the U. has any business sense (and, believe me, it does, it does) it’ll hope that scads more kids from New Jersey, Long Island, and Pennsylvania sign up for classes this coming fall semester.

Rich Kid

Image From The Rich Kids Of Instagram

The re-positioning of IU as a destination school for the spawn of East Coast swells has profoundly changed our town. Walnut Street and College Avenue are becoming soulless mini-canyons of condominium developments. And the City Council has angered the populace by installing parking meters downtown in large part to try to control where the students living in those new buildings park their SUVs.

And B-towners who dreamed that the Square would be quaint collection of locally-owned shops and boutiques have been awakened from their reveries by the sprouting of wine and sports bars and the closing of a number of long-time merchants downtown.

The Indiana University board of trustees may be thrilled to pieces with the performance of Michael McR. since he come aboard seven years ago but townies may not be so full of glee.

Copeland Cops Out

That small town police chief who was overheard calling Prez Barack H. O. a nigger has been forced out of office.

Miserable old cur Robert Copeland, Wolfeboro, New Hampshire’s police commissioner, was under pressure from all sides to take a powder after he described the Leader of the Free World using the slur at a local diner a couple of weeks ago.

For his part, Copeland feels he’s well within the bounds of decency and logic to use such terminology. He has written, “I believe I did use the ‘N’ word in reference to the current occupant of the Whitehouse [sic].”  “For this, I do not apologize — he meets and exceeds my criteria for such.”

Copeland & Woman

Copeland Takes The Heat (Image/Concord Monitor)

Far Right Wingers as well as crypto- and unapologetic racists are howling about the First Amendment, natch. Emetic-in-human-form Rush Limbaugh, for instance, likens Copeland to basketball analyst Charles Barkley who, in February and again earlier this month, made some insulting remarks about the collective girth of San Antonio women. Barkley, Limbaugh points out, similarly refuses to apologize.

As if that makes Copeland’s verbal retch acceptable.

The difference? Barkley is a former pro athlete and an idiot. Copeland is civic leader, a law officer with the power to detain, arrest, and interrogate.


The banksters who run Crédit Suisse have been caught red-handed setting up schemes for American plutocrats to hide their money in order to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

Atty. Gen. Eric Holder announced a $2.5 billion fine against the bank yesterday. For it’s part, Crédit Suisse’s capo di tutti capi, Brady Dougan, mewled, “We deeply regret the past misconduct that led to this settlement.”

Presumably, Dougan gathered ’round with the rest of his fellow scam artists to celebrate the fact that none of them — repeat, none — will be indicted on criminal charges. And, again, no one will go to jail for bilking the American public and enriching the oligarchy of this holy land.

Credit Suisse

We’ll Stash Your Dough

Crédit Suisse, like the Wall Street firms that caused the global financial meltdown of 2007-08, swims in money. The paying of a fine, no matter how eye-popping it appears to the rest of us, is scant penalty for its acts of immorality and outright felony.

Contrast this to the fallout from that ferry sinking in South Korea or the mine disaster in Turkey.

Not only are the rich getting richer in this holy land, they’re becoming more and more immune from the law.

Hot Air

George W. Bush, Non-Person

When folks began blaming Prez Barack H. O. for everything up to and including rainy days, I and people like me wrung our hands and moaned about the unfairness of it all. I recall one guy howling in 2010 because gas prices had gone up since Barry was inaugurated in 2009. I told him I wasn’t aware that Ob. had been sworn in as our new dictator with the power to decree gas prices and he looked at me as if I were a silly, naive child.

It’s been more than five years now since The Man from Kenya has taken over our holy land. In that time, the BHO-haters of the USA have advanced the twin notions that Obama is both a crushing tyrant and a wimpy, spineless pantywaist. The inherent contradiction therein seems not to bother Michelle’s husband’s loathers.

By now, of course, all the folderol over Obama has become a joke. When O. gets blamed for the collapse of western civilization…

Internet Meme

… the sane among us now simply titter.

I tittered when I got wind of an exchange between a caller and Rush Limbaugh on his radio psychosis-fest yesterday. The caller said she was the mother of a firefighter who died in the 9/11 attacks. Yesterday, of course, the National September 11 Memorial Museum was dedicated. The woman was highly offended that former Pres. Geo. W. Bush wasn’t in attendance for the ceremony. Natch, BHO, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo, former NYC mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudolph Giuliani, and a huge gang of other big shots made the scene and implied how, without each and every one of them, other 9/11s would have occurred every half hour since that infamous day in 2001.

But the man who was in charge of the nation when the hijacked planes struck was nowhere to be found. He’d been invited, according to ceremony organizers, but declined to attend due to a “scheduling conflict,’ which we all know is code for something, anything, else.


George W. Bush (With Andrew Card), September 11, 2001

I won’t speculate why GWB didn’t show, mainly because I don’t care. The less I see of him, the better I like it. But those who view Barack Obama as the harbinger of the Apocalypse know why he didn’t come. The Kenyan ordered it.

Read this snippet of transcript from that woman caller to Limbaugh:

CALLER: Where the hell was President Bush? Why wasn’t his name even mentioned?

RUSH: You know, I didn’t have the sound up when I watched that, not much of it.  I had it on TV.

CALLER:  Well, his name wasn’t mentioned. He wasn’t there, that’s for sure.  But his name wasn’t even mentioned.

RUSH:  This is the 911 Museum, right?


RUSH:  The dedication to the museum?  Well, I saw Governor Cuomo there.

CALLER:  He should have been the first person to speak, or at least his name mentioned.  I’m very upset.  I lost a son there.

RUSH:  I have to say, she’s got a point here.  I have to say, you’ve got a point, Marie.  Here’s who I saw.  I saw Mayor Doomberg, I saw Mayor de Blasio, I saw Governor Cuomo, but you’re right.  I didn’t hear anything.  Did they mention him?

CALLER:  You saw everybody but President Bush. Even his name wasn’t mentioned.

They bat this around for a while until, mirabile dictu, Limbaugh informs the woman that Bush’s office released a statement saying he chose not to be there. Of course, he could have told her that the moment she mentioned Bush’s absence, but that would cut off the possibility that she could complain that Obama et al are trying to turn the former prez into a non-person, as any good Stalinist might.

Limbaugh then goes on to say what a sweetheart Bush has been since he left the Oval Office. He’s stayed out of the public eye by choice and refuses to criticize Obama for turning our holy land into a massive gay sex and abortion orgy. He also speculates that BHO himself prob. won’t be so circumspect when his term is up. But wait, Limbaugh even has his doubts that Barry will indeed leave office:

RUSH: …When I heard that Barack Obama plans to live in Washington after his term of office expires — if it does (ahem) — that told me a lot.  No president stays in town.  They all decamp. They all leave. They go back somewhere.  But Obama is gonna stay there, and there’s one reason why.

Hehe! Ol’ Rush is a’scared that Barack Hussein Obama will appoint himself Emir-in-Chief and Caliph of Kenya, Palestine, and America-for-Life well before the 2016 election.


Running Scared

I’m sort of disappointed that Limbaugh’s worst fears won’t be realized. Because if Obama does take over the nation as dictator, I’m sure the first thing he’ll do is throw folks like Limbaugh and his callers into a mental institution, where they belong.

Santa Maria

That ship found in the ocean near Haiti, the one a certain Indiana University researcher thinks might be Columbus’s Santa Maria, is most assuredly stuck in a pile of muck.

And I’m not talking about the slimy gunk one can find on the bottom of a large body of water. Old Cristofaro Colombo of Genoa is hardly a hero to a lot of folks these days.

Columbus opened the New World to continuous European trade and migration, sure. That’s why pretty much every big city in this holy land throws him a parade each October. Then again, some cities are ixnay-ing the whole Columbus celebration.

Back in 1992 the city of Berkeley, California, replaced its Columbus Day festivities with those marking what they called Indigenous People’s Day. The idea being Columbus and his Euro-trailers brought with them disease, a propensity to commit genocide, forced conversions to Christianism, and other horrors. The peoples who lived in the New World, a huge and extremely varied population, suffered mightily under these ills. So Berkeley decided to champion the victims rather than the victor.

The Minneapolis city council not four weeks ago also voted to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day, the same day Columbus Day is celebrated, meaning, I suppose, that town is interested in pushing the Genoan into the attic with all the rest of American history’s relics.

As for the rest of the nation’s pop., Columbus seems to be becoming less and less an American idol with each passing year. It’s not that Murricans are suddenly becoming cognizant of his less than savory proclivities (Columbus took hundreds of natives as slaves, stole gold and, after being named Viceroy of the Indies, ruled with a sadistic fist) but that we really don’t care much about anything that happened before The Big Bang Theory (the TV show, not the beginning of the known Universe).

In any case, whatever IU’s Charles Beeker finds when he and his team dive into the warm waters of the Caribbean and inspect the reputed Santa Maria remains, the results will cause a mini-firestorm of controversy. Say he brings up a sextant and it’s put on display. You think there won’t be scads of protests surrounding the exhibit?


Charles Beeker

Beeker, an underwater archeologist who’s head of IU’s Office of Underwater Science and Academic Diving Program, is working to put together a gang of scuba divers. He’s in a rush to get to the wreckage because, apparently, scavengers are beginning to loot the site. What’s thought be a cannon already has gone missing. Beeker plans to work with the Haitian gov’t to set up a protected area around the site to prevent further manhandling of the stuff.

From a research and academic standpoint, Beeker’s quest will no doubt be invaluable. It may, though, be a public relations nightmare.

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