Category Archives: Jimmy Carter

November Hot Air

Sweet Celebration

It’s Death to America Day in the Islamic Republic of Iran or, as those happy fellows like to call themselves in Farsi, Jomhuri-ye Eslāmi-ye Irān.

DAD (the initials of the holiday, in case you’re still too bleary-eyed to get it) is celebrated every year on the anniversary of the takeover of the American embassy in Teheran and the subsequent holding of hostages for 444 days until Saint Ronald Reagan was inaugurated president in 1981. Old Ronnie owed his presidency to the revolutionaries who seized the embassy. The very act painted then-Prez Jimmy Carter as helpless in the face of world events. And then came the notorious clusterfuck rescue mission, with helicopters and cargo planes plowing into each other in East Iran’s Great Salt Desert. Carter took full responsibility for the fiasco and the electorate of this holy land was more than happy to dump it upon him. He could no more win the 1980 election than sneak into the embassy to rescue the hostages himself.

Carter/Reagan

And The Winner Is….

Anyway, I imagine parades up and down the Main Streets of hundreds of Iranian cities and towns, complete with guys dressed as mullahs on stilts, flag-wavers, streamers-throwers, soldiers in formation, and a military truck or two pulling a cannon.

Now that the USA and Iran are fi’nta sit down at the negotiating table to wrassle over the nuke question, it seems rather quaint that our erstwhile enemy wishes us dead, dead, dead.

Death to America

How should we respond to this less than neighborly display? Should we stage a Death to Iran Day? I know loads of bug-eyed wingnuts here would be thrilled to pieces with that but cooler heads realize it would hardly advance the cause of rapprochement.

Instead, I suggest a Sugar to Iran Day. Sure, why not? American farmers produce more high fructose corn syrup fixin’s than almost anything else. If there’s one thing the USA can make and export better than any other nation on Earth, it’s sweet treats. The brand names Coca-Cola, Snickers, Krispy Kreme, and Oreo are synonyms for America throughout much of the world.

Human beings are hard wired to dig sweet things. Anthropologists tell us this is because we spent hundreds of thousands of years searching for juicy, ripe fruits packed with energy-laden simple sugars. Now we don’t have to forage for fructose and glucose bombs; we need only jam Cinnabons into our faces.

In that sense, Iranians and Americans are alike.

Ergo, we should flood Iran with with all the sweetest, sugary-est, most decadent, insulin-spiking products our brilliant scientists and captains of industry can conjure up. Rather than drop explosive devices on the cities of Iran, we should discharge millions of Little Debbies on them.

Trust me, Iranian children — and, for that matter, adults — would love us for it! And isn’t that what we want? Love, love, love?

The countries that love us best are those that buy our goods most. We all know how addictive sugary treats are. Iran in short order could become a captive market of 77 million sweets junkies. Then they’d be our kind of folk.

Twinkies

True Love

And like us, they’d become obese — better for us, should the upcoming negotiations break down and we find ourselves at war with Iran. In that case, we’d swiftly change the name of the operation from Sugar to Iran to Diabetes to Iran.

I have no idea why the Obama administration hasn’t reached out to me yet to join the State Department. Sigh.

Democracy Inaction

So, WFHB has contacted one of the final three candidates for the job of General Manager and…, and…, and, well, nothing.

Man, it takes the College of Cardinals less time to choose a Pope. Folks, we’re looking for someone to run a community radio station not a Secretary General for the United Nations.

The problem with Firehouse Radio? Too many chefs.

I have it on reasonably good authority that Chad Carrothers, the GM emeritus, is not the choice. All I know is WFHB raised more dough during C-squared’s term than ever before in its history. So whomever of the remaining two is the anointed one had better be a world-beater.

The Pencil Today:

“Who’s gonna take me seriously with this on my head?” — Leanza Cornett

WHO’S THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL?

I never watch the televised presidential debates for the same reason I’ve never cared about the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Or even any human beauty pageant, for that matter.

You know, these TV debates became important only because of what happened in the fall of 1960. Sen. John F. Kennedy, the Dem nominee for president that year came into the scheduled series of debates — the first time the events would be televised nationally — as the punk kid trying to elbow his way past the sitting vice president and foreign policy maven Dick Nixon.

The wags figured the debates would be a slaughter, with the wily Nixon taking the brash rich boy out for a spanking.

Things didn’t turn out that way.

JFK won the election because, during that first debate, held at the WBBM-TV studios in Chicago, he appeared cool, calm, sun-tanned and healthy. Whereas Nixon was gaunt and pale, having recently suffered through some health issues.

Not only that, Nixon fidgeted and sweated. Kennedy was charming and composed.

Beauty And The Beast

Boom — knockout for the challenger. So Kennedy won the beauty pageant and the White House.

Seems a rather silly criterion upon which to base a vote for the leader of the western world, no?

Anyway, don’t cry for Nixon, America, because he capitalized on his dorky, dweeby, homeliness and his loss to the uber-wealthy, elite Kennedy, to vault into the presidency eight years later. Nixon basically told the voting public, Hey, I’m a schlub — just like you.

\

The electorate bought it and, coupled with the fact that the Democratic Party was in the midst of a five year long suicide attempt, we elected ourselves a paranoid, self-loathing, suspicious, unindicted co-conspirator to be our leader. As a reward, we got Watergate, an unprecedented bombing campaign in Southeast Asia, Pat Buchanan, Karl Rove, and the original Rat Fuckers.

Oh, and a couple of pandas from China for the Washington National Zoo.

But I digress.

In the 1980 presidential candidate debates, Ronald Reagan out-prettied Jimmy Carter, which wasn’t very hard to do. Carter was somber and serious, talking about nuclear weapons and energy and the Middle East. Reagan was the chipper cheerleader.

The nation was ready for a pep rally.

When Carter brought up some controversial decisions Reagan had made as California governor, Reagan good-naturedly scolded him, saying, “There you go again.”

Grumpy & Happy

The debate would be remembered for those words as well as a line Reagan uttered during his closing comment: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

Reagan routed Carter in the election.

In 2004, John Kerry whaled on President George W. Bush in their first debate. I actually watched that show, although I can’t for the life of me remember why. Anyway, I was astounded to discover that I actually felt sorry for Bush. He looked lost, physically diminished even, as the erudite Kerry tore down his arguments one by one.

All the experts agreed: Kerry had won the debate big time.

Dopey & Doc

What do you think happened? A large percentage of jes’ plain folks in this holy land felt Kerry was too smart, an egghead. Poor old Georgy Boy was just a guy trying to do his job running the country and some Harvard-educated snob comes along and tries to tell him what to do. Bush’s polling numbers actually improved after what I’d figured was a knockout blow.

Now, my side of the political spectrum is always honking about “issues.” The debates must be about hard facts and real problems and definitive plans, they say.

Yet many folks on the Dem/Left/Progressive team last night commented that Barack Obama wasn’t “aggressive” enough, whatever that means. Should he have slugged Mitt Romney at some point in the night?

I suppose that would send ratings through the roof. Maybe that’s the future of presidential debates. The candidates can go after each other on a remote island. Whomever captures the other wins. That would be something Americans could understand.

But last night’s debate was a wonk-fest. Obama and Romney argued like seniors on the high school debate team. Which, I figure, is what debate is all about.

But now the Obama side wants glitz and glitter and a he-man show of strength. They want that ultimate zinger, the kind that Ronald Reagan could deliver so well and so easily.

Times and sides change.

For the last few days, wits and pundits have been predicting that Romney would narrow Obama’s lead with his performance in the first debate. How they knew this in advance I can not say (other than to point out that news creatures need to invent new angles when conventional wisdom starts getting ripe.)

Sure enough, the post-game commentary and the pronouncements this morning have Romney coming out ahead last night. He looked like he belonged up there, the consensus goes. As opposed, I guess, to Romney showing up in shorts and a T-shirt. Romney, the experts say, looked presidential.

Maybe Obama should have slugged him.

I bet Obama will slug Romney in the next debate. Metaphorically, of course. Then Obama will see his numbers grow again. The final debate will be a tepid affair, with both guys deking and jabbing, but neither willing to risk going for the big blow so close to the election.

My hundred bucks on Obama still looks safe.

THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARSENALS

One thing none of the three debates will address is the issue of guns.

That matter’s been settled and put to bed. We have agreed as a nation to allow our citizens to arm themselves to the teeth against…, um, against what I don’t know.

Well not all of us have agreed. Not I, for one. And not Nikki Giovanni, the writer and commentator. Here she is on Democracy Now!, spitting into the wind (click on the image for access to the vid; sorry, I couldn’t embed it):

SUPERSIZE ME

You’ve been reading about that news anchor in Wisconsin who lambasted an emailer for calling her fat, haven’t you? Or you’ve at least seen the vid on YouTube, right?

The woman is being praised from all quarters for standing up to what can only be described as bullying in the guise of a faux concern for the health of nation’s youth.

I’m all for her. Only I would have saved her a lot of breath. Had I been tasked with writing the news script for her response, I would have handed her a sheet with the original email on it, which she’d read, then the instruction for her to look straight into the lens and say, “And you, sir, are an asshole.”

Simplicity is best, don’t you think?

The only events listings you need in Bloomington.

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Brought to you by The Electron Pencil: Bloomington Arts, Culture, Politics, and Hot Air. Daily.

ART ◗ Ivy Tech Waldron Center, outside WFHB StudiosPublic participation in creating a ten-foot sculpture called “The Angel,” Rain or shine; 9am-5pm

LECTURE ◗ IU SPEANBC News’ Phil Lebeau talks about the auto & aviation industries; 9:30am

STUDIO TOUR ◗ Brown County, various locationsThe Backroads of Brown County Studio Tour, free, self-guided tour of 16 local artists’ & craftspersons’ studios; 10am-5pm, through October

MUSIC ◗ IU Ford-Crawford HallMike Stern Trio; 2:30pm

MUSIC ◗ Bear’s PlaceGyrogenics Quartet reunion; 5:30pm

MUSIC ◗ The Player’s Pub — Jason Fickel & Ginger Curry; 6:30pm

WORKSHOP ◗ BloominglabsIntro to Programming, 10-week course beginning tonight; 6:30pm

FILM ◗ IU Cinema — “Casablanca”; 7pm

MUSIC ◗ Muddy Boots Cafe, NashvilleKara Barnard, Chuck Willis; 7-9pm

LECTURE ◗ Monroe County Public LibraryNaturalist Jill Vance talks about the wild turkey; 7pm

POLITICS ◗ Brown County Office Building, Gould & Locust Lane, NashvilleMeet the candidates for county offices; 7-9pm

STAGE ◗ Bloomington Playwrights ProjectComedy, “Rx”; 7:30pm

STAGE ◗ Brown County Playhouse, NashvilleDrama, “Last Train to Nibroc”; 7:30pm

LECTURE ◗ IU AuditoriumChaz Bono talks about gender identity, free; 8-9pm

MUSIC ◗ Max’s Place Eric Lambert; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Ford-Crawford Hall — Doctoral recital, Ruti Abramovitch on piano; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ Max’s PlaceNew Old Cavalry; 9pm

MUSIC ◗ The BishopR. Stevie Moore; 9:30pm

ONGOING:

ART ◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • “New Acquisitions,” David Hockney; through October 21st
  • Paintings by Contemporary Native American Artists; through October 14th
  • “Paragons of Filial Piety,” by Utagawa Kuniyoshi; through December 31st
  • “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers,” by Julia Margaret, Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan; through December 31st
  • French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century;” through December 31st
  • Celebration of Cuban Art & Film: Pop-art by Joe Tilson; through December 31st
  • Workers of the World, Unite!” through December 31st

ART ◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • Ab-Fab — Extreme Quilting,” by Sandy Hill; October 5th through October 27th
  • Street View — Bloomington Scenes,” by Tom Rhea; October 5th through October 27th
  • From the Heartwoods,” by James Alexander Thom; October 5th through October 27th
  • The Spaces in Between,” by Ellen Starr Lyon; October 5th through October 27th

ART ◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibit:

  • “Samenwerken,” Interdisciplinary collaborative multi-media works; through October 11th

ART ◗ IU Kinsey Institute GalleryExhibits opening September 28th:

  • A Place Aside: Artists and Their Partners;” through December 20th
  • Gender Expressions;” through December 20th

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibit:

  • “CUBAmistad” photos

ART ◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibits:

  • “¡Cuba Si! Posters from the Revolution: 1960s and 1970s”
  • “From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web: The Origins of Everything”
  • “Thoughts, Things, and Theories… What Is Culture?”
  • “Picturing Archaeology”
  • “Personal Accents: Accessories from Around the World”
  • “Blended Harmonies: Music and Religion in Nepal”
  • “The Day in Its Color: A Hoosier Photographer’s Journey through Mid-century America”
  • “TOYing with Ideas”
  • “Living Heritage: Performing Arts of Southeast Asia”
  • “On a Wing and a Prayer”

BOOKS ◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibit:

  • Outsiders and Others:Arkham House, Weird Fiction, and the Legacy of HP Lovecraft;” through November 1st
  • A World of Puzzles,” selections form the Slocum Puzzle Collection

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ Soup’s OnExhibit:

  • Celebration of Cuban Art & Culture: “CUBAmistad photos; through October

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ Monroe County History CenterExhibit:

  • Bloomington: Then and Now,” presented by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

ARTIFACTS ◗ Monroe County History CenterExhibit:

  • “Doctors and Dentists: A Look into the Monroe County Medical professions

The Electron Pencil. Go there. Read. Like. Share.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“I was born with a need to be the center of attention and, of course, you’re the center of the world when you’re acting.” — Julie Christie

IT WAS SEVEN YEARS AGO TODAY

Former House Speaker Tip O’Neill once famously said, “All politics is local.”

I, less famously, counter: “All politics is theater.”

Most of the Republican Party’s formula for success since the late 1960s has been its ability to present its standard-bearers as tough guys, strong men, and decisive generals. The GOP has acted more as a talent agent than a producer of statesmen for the last 45 years.

Richard Nixon won the 1968 presidential election because he told the nation he would stand firm against the madness in the streets. He’d beat down the savage blacks who were threatening to explode out of their ghettos. And he’d swiftly kick the crap out of the North Vietnamese and bring the boys home.

Save Us, Dick

We believed him. Just as many of us have believed pro wrestling is on the up and up and Judge Judy is our nation’s top jurist.

Ronald Reagan won the 1980 presidential election because he told us we were terrific and the 1984 campaign by telling us it was Morning in America. Ham that he was, he knew the Soviet Union was on its way out so he talked tough and thereby snatched all the credit for that empire’s inevitable collapse.

Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves, Ronnie

Theater.

George W. Bush’s role as resolute CEO of the Great United States, Inc. propelled him to victory over a couple of namby pamby Dem opponents in 2000 and 2004. The nation was terrified of presidents who liked blow jobs, college educated eggheads who’d ponder us into paralysis, and crazy Arabs who’d blow up our cities. Bush was the antidote to all those existential threats.

Be The Boss, George

But then came Hurricane Katrina and the theater went dark.

The worst natural disaster in America’s history presented Bush with a dramatic challenge he was unable to play. It was as if Kristen Stewart were cast in the role of Margaret Thatcher.

Streep As Thatcher; Stewart As, Um, Stewart

Katrina’s president was a role that was written for Bill Clinton. He’d have set up a second White House in New Orleans. He’d have hugged the storm’s victims until his arms ached. Had Clinton been in office when Katrina hit, people would have been marveling to this day about how fabulous the federal government’s response was to the tragedy.

And in the most practical sense, Clinton wouldn’t have done a thing different than Bush did.

Bush knew how to play the business executive and the military commander. He had a feel for the role of the manly hero who saves the day.

His greatest line before his downfall was, “They hate us for our freedoms.”

Which was, of course, as phony a line as, say, “Go ahead, make my day,” or “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”

“Well, do ya, punk?”

But we in this holy land have always been a cooperative audience. We’ll forgive any political actor for chewing the scenery as long as it makes us feel good. It’s only when pols don’t make us feel all tingly and warm or bold and adventurous that we turn on them.

Witness Jimmy Carter’s malaise speech. Bye bye, Jimmy.

Bush’s Carter moment came when he uttered those unforgettable words, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”

People were still sitting on rooftops waiting to be rescued when Bush said that. The Superdome was filled with refugees at the time of the quote. New Orleans cops were shooting up citizens.

Yet Bush found it important to bestow frat boy bonhomie upon his emergency response point man at that moment in time.

Bush Takes It All In From Above

And like that, Bush was finished. No matter that no government could ever have responded adequately to Katrina. Nothing like it had ever happened before in America.

But when nature sucker punches us in the belly, we have to blame someone. And it’s not just Americans who react that way. Be it an earthquake in Afghanistan or a flood in India, people will shriek “Where’s our government?” even as the government is digging itself out of the rubble.

At times like that, the first and best thing government can do is assure us everything will turn out alright. The boys in charge must tell us that they’ll move heaven and Earth to set our lives right again.

Bush didn’t know that. He was the wrong actor for the part.

Theater.

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

I Love ChartsLife as seen through charts.

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

SkepchickWomen scientists look at the world and the universe.

IndexedAll the answers in graph form, on index cards.

I Fucking Love ScienceA Facebook community of science geeks.

Present/&/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.

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

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

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

The Daily PuppySo shoot me.

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Muddy Boots Cafe, Nashville — Music: Barbara McGuire; 6-8:30pm

Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural CenterBuddhism in Everyday Life Series: Ani Choekye presents “What Are Realizations?”; 6:30pm

Unity ChurchBloomington Peace Choir weekly meeting, new members welcome; 7pm

The Player’s PubMusic: Stardusters; 7:30pm

Max’s PlaceOpen mic; 7:30pm

Harmony SchoolContra dancing; 8-10:30pm

The BluebirdMusic: Rod Tufcurls & the Benchpress; 9pm

◗ IU Kirkwood ObservatoryOpen house, public viewing through the main telescope; 9:30pm

The BishopMusic: Kentucky Nightmare, Panic Strikes a Chord, Dead Beach; 9:30pm

ONGOING

◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • “40 Years of Artists from Pygmalion’s”; through September 1st

◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • “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:

  • “Media Life,” drawings and animation by Miek von Dongen; through September 15th

  • “Axe of Vengeance: Ghanaian Film Posters and Film Viewing Culture”; 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

“Can we all get along?” — Rodney King

BELTIN’ BIRDS

The alarm hadn’t even rung this morning. It was about a quarter past five. Yet I was awake.

The din outside my window was, considering the hour and my state of unconsciousness just moments before, deafening.

I should have been mad, no?

I wasn’t.

A countless variety of birds was whistling, clattering, gargling, hooting, chirping, yipping, and otherwise letting the world — and this no-longer-sleeping beauty — know they were alive.

It was the most beautiful cacophonic symphony imaginable. Like the birds, I was glad to be alive.

TINKERING

The Electron Pencil’s GO! Events Listings now have their own page.

You wanna know what to do today? Click the GO! TODAY button above.

GO! — the best listings in Bloomington.

TOO TOUGH FOR OUR OWN GOOD

During the dark days when the Republicans seemed to be the only party in this holy land with guts, with a vision (albeit repulsive to me), and with exciting candidates (at least to fellow Republicans), I longed for my Dems to, well, wake up.

I mean, honestly, Michael Dukakis?

Y’Wanna Vote For Me? Okay.

The late 80s was the nadir of the party. The GOP was constantly prowling and attacking and my Dems were always cowering in a corner. The tone was set when, during the 1980 presidential debates, Ronald Reagan listened patiently to incumbent Jimmy Carter (I mean, honestly, Jimmy Carter?) read off his list of particulars, accusing Reagan of being, you know, a Republican, and then, when it was his turn to speak, gave a sad little shake of his head and said, like a headmaster, a camp counselor, a disappointed father, “There you go again.”

Now You Listen To Me

Reagan needn’t have said another word. Carter was deflated. Defeated. Finished. He knew it. Reagan knew it. And America knew it.

The Republicans, particularly Reagan, had a way of withering the Dems with a single phrase.

I was embarrassed to be a Democrat back then. It was almost as bad as being a Cubs fan.

I longed for the day my party would rear up and fight back.

The Republicans through the years had had their Joe McCarthy, their Donald Segretti and G. Gordon Liddy. By the 80s, they had their Lee Atwater. All tough, no-nonsense guys who’d stick a shiv into the belly of any Dem at any time.

Tough, Albeit Deranged

Why, I wondered, couldn’t we have a guy or two like that?

Would we always be so touchy-feely, so accepting, so forgiving, so ready and willing to bear our necks and let the predators of the world go for our jugular?

It got so that the Republicans turned our passivity into their own campaign asset — they would argue, Do you want these softies “protecting” you against the commies and the brown-skinned people of the world?

And, really, who would want Walter Mondale, to be the wingman in an alley fight?

Don’t Worry; I’m Right Behind You

But the Dems were learning. In 1989, Lee Atwater floated the rumor that Speaker of the House Tom Foley lived in a “liberal closet” (wink, wink). Barney Frank, the advance guard of the nascent fighting Dems, came out swinging.

Frank announced to the press that if the Republican innuendos about Foley’s sexuality didn’t cease forthwith, he’d release the very next morning a list of five prominent Republican congressbeings who were secretly gay and do the same thing the next day and the day after that until all the GOP closets were empty.

The Republicans jumped like scalded rabbits. Atwater instructed the White House operator to track down Foley immediately so he could tell the Speaker the attacks were history.

Hello, Tom? C’mon Man, You Can Take A Joke, Can’t You?

And then, a miracle. Bill Clinton came out of the nowhere that is Arkansas. He was tough. He was ready and willing to throw some thumbs. Not only that, he had a snarling dog on a long chain next to him, one James Carville, a guy who could make even Liddy take a deep breath.

Clinton’s campaign headquarters became know as a War Room. The gloves were off. The fight was on. The Dems won the White House, woo-hoo!

The Republicans, of course, eventually came back with a series of rabid curs: Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Dick Armey, and Karl Rove. They snatched away first the House of Representatives then the White House.

Rabid

Then came Barack Obama with his own carnivore, Rahm Emanuel.

By the 2008 presidential election, it seemed the Democrats had reached parity with the Republicans in terms of toughness.

Still, the Republicans had their lunatic fringe fighters, the so-called Minutemen along the Mexican border, the abortion clinic bombers, the murderers of doctors who provided abortions, Michigan militias, and other terrifying creatures.

Now these really were people who could make the sane among us cower in a corner.

Somehow we always knew the guy flying the plane into a government building or the loner purchasing tons of fertilizer-based explosives would be a right-winger.

White Makes Right

And even if the Republican establishment tut-tutted these folks, I always got the feeling that puffy, paunchy chicken hawks like Rove secretly wished they too could bring a sidearm to a political debate.

We Dems could proudly say, Yeah, we’re tough now, but we aren’t psychotic.

That is, we could say it until now.

And the newest psychos come from right here in good old Monroe County.

You may have heard about the brutal attack on a gathering of white supremacists (perhaps the first time those words have ever been written together) in a Chicago suburb over the weekend.

See, a gang of five Bloomington-area men barged into a family restaurant in Tinley Park Saturday and beat the bejesus out of a bunch of old men gathered there to eat club sandwiches and tell each other how fabulous they are for being descendents of Eastern Europeans.

Attack Scene

The five were under the mistaken impression that the old men were part of a white supremacist organization.

It’s not known what feelings the old birds have in their heart of hearts for brown-skinned people, or even if they consider brown-skinned people people at all, but they swear up and down they’re not part of a Klan-like gang.

But let’s assume for a moment that they are, just for the sake of argument. Let’s assume they despise people who aren’t blessed by god with pasty skin. Let’s assume they met at the Ashford House Restaurant to discuss among friends how the darker people of this land are ruining it.

Even if that were the case, the five men who exploded into the restaurant carrying billy clubs, knives, hammers, and other instruments of mayhem are jerks.

Thought Police

They went into the place with murder in their hearts (trust me, when you carry a hammer into a brawl, you’re looking to kill someone), aiming to punish human beings for their thoughts.

Thought crime.

I thought it was a fictional conceit.

But the Sutherlin boys and their two pals from Bloomington, Indiana, have made it real.

Now, we of the left side of the spectrum have our own fringe fighters. We’d better do more to distance ourselves from our psychos than the Republicans did.

 

The Pencil Today:

TODAY’S QUOTE

“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all — the apathy of human beings.” — Helen Keller

THE ABORTION WAR RAGES ON

I voted in my first presidential election 35 years ago. I pulled the lever for Jimmy Carter over Gerald R. Ford. That November, 1976, I felt heady and powerful, having helped sweep the stink of Dick Nixon out of Washington.

I looked forward to a future that would include peace, a home and plenty of food for all my fellow citizens, affordable higher education for all, unfettered access to birth control and abortions, legalized marijuana, and, of course, jet packs.

What A Cool Future!

So here we are in 2012, fighting a war that makes Vietnam look like a historical hiccup, hunger and homelessness rampant, yearly college tuitions reaching $50,000, still no legalized pot, and anti-abortionists in charge of one of the two major political parties of this holy land. Oh, and no jet packs.

Anti-abortionists gathered outside the Monroe County Courthouse yesterday afternoon to proclaim to the world how much they love, love, love every human being on this planet — as long as those human beings are not comprised of any more than several hundred cells.

“We Love You.”

The annual Rally for Life has been going on for more than a decade around Courthouse Square. Yesterday, the anti-abortionists were met with counter-protesters who shouted, waved signs, and painted slogans on their bellies.

The fun came to an early halt when the so-called Lifers decided it was too windy and misty to testify about their adoration for embryos any longer.

My fave sign at the rally? One guy held a placard proclaiming, “My sperm is not a person.”

THE COUCH POTATO PARTY?

So, Mitt Romney and his super PACs used TV advertising to knock the hell out of Newt Gingrich in November and December. Then Gingrich used TV ads to knock the hell out of Romney this past week.

Now nobody knows who the Republican candidate for president is going to be. Nor can anybody figure out why the primary race so far has been such a roller coaster ride.

Has it occurred to anybody that Republicans just might be more dedicated TV watchers than anybody else in these Great United States, Inc.? Couldn’t it be that — despite their protestations to the contrary — if they see it on TV, it’s gotta be real?

Of course, the only things Republicans don’t trust on TV are science shows and the news (except for you-know-which channel).

PRAY FOR GUIDANCE

Joe Paterno, we learned yesterday during the sickening post-mortems following the child-sodomy-tolerating football coach’s death, used to lead his teams in prayer before every single game.

Answered Prayer

So prayer, we must conclude, is a worthy activity when one hopes to score more touchdowns than Ohio State but ain’t worth the effort when trying to decide if one should call the cops after being confronted with eyewitness evidence that a pal was busy anally raping a ten-year-old boy in the shower room.

And prayer certainly didn’t help JoePa decide to bar Jerry Sandusky from using Penn State facilities for further May-December trysts (oops — I meant February-December).

FIRE WITH FIRE

If you live in one of a dozen or so primary election states, the prayer set is going to shove gory images of fetal body parts in your face in a couple of weeks. That is, should you decide to waste several hours of your precious life by watching Super Bowl XLVI.

The Puppy Bowl: A Better Usage Of Your Time

Yep, extremist Randall Terry, who is running for president (he’s expected to come in first in the Martian primary) has bought ad time in 13 primary-state TV markets during the big game broadcast on February 5th.

Terry, you may recall, founded Operation Rescue, the terrorist organization whose Kansas branch greased the way for the 2009 assassination of Dr. George Tiller.

The Terry “campaign” is running the explicit ads in response to pro-choice blogger Sophia Brugato, whose 10fortebow Twitter page donated $10 to abortion rights groups every time Denver Broncos quarterback (and prayer fanatic) Tim Tebow scored a touchdown this past season.

So, What Is It With Football And Prayer?

The “candidate” says if Brugato can raise dough for “killing babies” then he and his fellow mobsters must “fight fire with fire.”

BTW: Does it come as any surprise that a fellow like Terry might be averse to homosexuality, so much so that he has essentially disowned his son for the sin of being gay?

You know, family values, and all that.

REMARKABLE DEEDS

Parents these days are afraid to let their teenaged kids walk to the convenience store, right? Soccer moms (remember that term?) today must drive their precious spawn a block and half to the Circle K for their weekly supplies of Red Bull, condoms, and rolling papers.

That’s why this 16-year-old Laura Dekker chick’s just-completed excellent adventure is so jarring.

With the blessings of her parents, little Laura took a solo, around-the-world trip in her sailboat. She’s the youngest person ever to do such a thing, which may or may not help her advance in the business world when she becomes an adult — a landmark, I remind you, that is still some five years in the future.

Laura Dekker Got To Break Curfew 517 Nights In A Row

I’ve beaten this horse time and time again but it refuses to die. These narcissistic “accomplishments” are of zero value to anyone on this good, green (for the time being) Earth.

Celebrating these deeds and honoring their perpetrators as if they’d discovered a cure for autism is flat-out nuts.

I have a suggestion for the next pre-teen who wants to climb Mt. Everest or newlywed couple who wants to spend their honeymoon bonking high above the ground in a trans-Pacific hot air balloon ride: How about volunteering to work in a food bank or helping bring bedpans to elderly patients in your local hospital for a few weekends instead?

Now that’s heroic.

DIALOGUE

Mortgage banker Kathe Elliott-Doremus (one of the good ones — yes, such creatures do exist) FBed a fascinating nugget from the vault, Chicago’s “Dialogue, Part 1 and 2.”

Amazing, isn’t it, how nearly great that band was for a tantalizingly brief moment in time?

In fact, it was a Chicago Transit Authority (its original name until the real CTA threatened to sue) song that first introduced this aspiring teen radical to the term, “The whole world is watching.” The band’s eponymous debut album featured the twin-track “Prologue, August 29, 1968” and “Someday, August 29, 1968” which begins with raw audio from the Battle of Michigan Avenue. I stared at that convulsive event, rapt, on television when I was 12 and dreamed I could be there at Michigan and Balbo, in front of the Conrad Hilton Hotel, slugging it out with Mayor Daley’s cops.

Wishing I Was There

I was too young to make that scene. I would have had my skull dented, sure, and who knows where I would have headed after that. I could have become just another drug casualty or I might have been the next Tom Hayden.

Anyway, CTA seemed a harbinger of everything good and cool about pop music in the very early 70s. Lots of horns, a healthy dose of jazz, a political echo seemingly in each of its songs. But then — and I have no idea why — they turned to saccharine. It’s said Chicago is the second-most successful American pop band in terms of record sales after the Beach Boys. Most of those sales were of the treacly crap from their endless succession of unnamed, Roman-numeral-designated albums issued after that first release.

And then lead singer Peter Cetera struck out on a solo career, the output of which made Chicago’s pablum sound like the Dead Kennedys.

Chicago Transit Authority, Before They Turned Rancid

“Dialogue Part 1 and Two,” strangely enough, comes from Chicago V, showing that the band’s members still entertained a hint of the notion that music could be exciting.

Appropriately, Cetera’s is the voice of the Dialogue’s apathetic college student. He and co-lead singer Bobby Lamm talk about the state of the nation. “Don’t you ever worry,” asks Bobby Lamm, the socially-aware student, “when you see what’s goin’ down?”

“Well, I try to mind my business; that is no business at all,” Cetera responds.

Later, eerily presaging our times, Lamm asks, “Don’t you see starvation in the city where you live, all the needless hunger, all the needless pain?”

“I haven’t been there lately, the country is so fine. My neighbors don’t seem hungry ’cause they haven’t got the time,” blathers Cetera.

Finally, Cetera advises Lamm, “Well, if you had my outlook, your feelings would be numb. You’d always think that everything was fine. Everything was fine.”

And isn’t that the perfect crystallization of what passes for thought in the this holy land in the year 2012?

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