Category Archives: Lyndon B. Johnson

Hot Air

Endless (Season Of) Love

Are you sick of Xmas yet? I am.

And guess what: it’s a full three weeks away. Yeesh.

Anyway, I’m reading The Eve of Destruction, a history of the year 1965 written by former Indiana University professor James T. Patterson. It’s a recount of the year historians now generally believe to be the watershed moment when this holy land began transforming itself from a somewhat benign, caring, liberal society to an aggressive, acquisitive, soulless one.

One line in the book’s intro caught my eye:

… President Lyndon B. Johnson turned on the lights of the National Christmas Tree on the evening of December 18, 1964….

Did you catch that? December 18th. A mere week before Christmas. If one is to assume the official starting date of the Christmas season is when the huge tree in front of the White House is turned on, then that season lasted a sane-sounding seven days 50 years ago.

LBJ 1964

LBJ Celebrates Christmas With Kids In 1964

Now, Christmas starts well before Thanksgiving, wrapped up with the late fall feast in something now referred to as The Holidays. And it ain’t the lighting of the National Christmas Tree that is our ritual cue to start shopping and baking. We used to wish for a White Christmas. Now we wrestle for an overnight place in line on Black Friday more than a month before the day itself.

So yeah, I’m sick of Xmas already.

This year’s National Tree Lighting ceremony? Tomorrow night.

Interstate Art

Carisa Whittall used to run the Jerseyana Gallery in Nashville and was a proud sponsor of community radio WFHB. Business was lousy in our next-door burgh, though, so Carisa moved lock, stock, and barrel to New Jersey where she now lives.

Jerseyana

Whittall (L) At The May Re-Opening Of Jerseyana Gallery

Her operation still is called Jerseyana Gallery and, with her biz partner, she peddles  art, including local works, online. How about if we let her tell her own story:

Initially, I focused on showing Indiana artists, contemporary or non-traditional Nashville artists in an art salon environment who didn’t have space in local galleries. We sold art, and the furnishings, decor and books. But we didn’t sell much. Nashville is a tough market now unless you’re selling beer, food or inexpensive souvenirs — then it’s a great market!

We sell directly to designers, and stagers in the interior design/home remodeling business in the New Jersey and New York City area. We’ve opened our virtual store and our ebay store to sell directly to collectors and people who love beautiful, quality art, antiques and artisan goods.

We still source in Indiana — my business partner lives in Bloomington. We go back to B-town to visit family, and it’s a good excuse to get out to Brown County couple times a year too!

Internet sales are going well and we are looking forward to exhibiting art in a couple of locations in New Jersey and, hopefully, New York City in the new year.

Patricia Rhoden is our featured artist. Designers love her work and I am looking forward to a great show for her in Millburn, New Jersey.

I continue to sell a lot of Indiana artists — listed, up and coming and flat-out dead. My favorite is Joni T. Johnson. I just love her work. She is underrated and undervalued but people are buying it here; they were not in Nashville.

Too bad, huh? In any case, cop some of her goods online, just to show her we Hoosiers can appreciate a spot or two of art now and again.

Another Hero

I’ve long been a fan of a brilliant, strong, tough, determined, athletic young woman named Émilie du Châtelet. She’s been dead for 265 years now but were she alive today, she’d still be the role model girls and young women around the world would look up to. Compared to her Oprah’s a slacker, Sheryl Sandberg‘s unambitious, and Hillary Clinton’s just a backroom pol.

du Chatelet

A Real Woman

Born Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, she was one of the greatest figures of the Age of Enlightenment. A mathematician, physicist, translator, champion fencer, dancer, and harpsichordist, she was fluent in French, Latin, Greek, Italian, and German and was the first woman to have a scientific paper published by the French Académie Des Sciences.

Want more? Sure:

  • She researched the science of fire and proposed the existence of infrared radiation
  • She wrote one of the first basic, accessible physics, general science, and philosophy books
  • Through experiments and developing mathematical formulas, she helped develop the idea of kinetic energy
  • She publicly argued with philosopher John Locke in favor of the principle of universal truths as opposed to the Lockian subjective perceptions
  • She created what can be described as the first financial derivative, purchasing the future earnings of independent tax collectors
  • She argued vociferously for women’s education, especially calling for access to France’s colleges
  • She was a biblical scholar and she wrote on happiness, free will, optics, and rational linguistics
  • The crowning achievement of her life was her translation of Isaac Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica into French

Nearly two centuries after she’d developed the classical mechanics formula, E ∝ mv2, indicating the proportionality between energy, mass, and velocity, Albert Einstein acknowledged her finding as a basis for his iconic E = mc2, the foundation of his special theory of relativity.

Three plays and one opera have been written about her life.

And just to show she wasn’t all work and no play, Émilie was  a well-known gambler and card-player.

She lived with and collaborated with Voltaire for much of her adult life.

She was, in short, one of the first feminists. With the likes of Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, why is feminism such a dirty word?.

Hot Air

Crime Of The Century

So, al Qaeda and its brethren are taking over Iraq right before our very eyes.

Nice, huh?

ISIS Commandos

Iraq’s Nightmare (Photo: Reuters)

Looks like those +125,000 dead Iraqis as well as 4400 dead US soldiers gave their lives for nothing.

Nothing, friends. Not a thing.

Did I mention we’d spent up to $4 trillion USD on that decade-long slaughter?

All because Georgy-Boy Bush and his coatholders and co-conspirators scared the bejesus out of us with talk of mushroom clouds and poison gas attacks — that weren’t going to come because bad old Saddam Hussein was nowhere near possessing such weapons (the nukes) or having the ability to deliver them (the gas) to New York City, Ellettsville, Wrigleyville and points west.

We fought that pointless, bullshit war because the Bush administration — which hadn’t been elected by a majority of American voters, in case you’ve forgotten — believed it was its god-given duty to remake the Middle East so that multinational engineering firms and oil companies could more easily and happily extract dollars therefrom. The fact that Georgy-Boy’s Poppy had not delivered said hegemony to the global plutocracy also was a motivating factor; the Bush family’s Big Dick legacy was preserved, thanks to the rivers of blood Shock and Awe produced.

Bush

Believe Us, America

Sadly, our holy land must reconcile itself to the reality that we have committed yet another crime against humanity.

Not that terribly many of us care.

Hide Your Hate, America

And speaking of America’s crimes against humanity, we did our best to rectify a big one 50 years ago this summer. On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the comprehensive Civil Rights Act into law.

July 2, 1964

LBJ Gives Martin Luther King The Signing Pen (Photo: AP)

Throughout the first half of the year, though, the US Senate wrestled over the bill and, quite frankly, its passage was far from assured. Republican senators from southern states filibustered from late March through early June to prevent a vote. Senator Robert Byrd (D-West Virgina) alone filibustered for more than fourteen hours on June 10th. Before that, Senator Richard Russell (R-Georgia), told his colleagues, “We will resist to the bitter end any measure or any movement which would have a tendency to bring about social equality and intermingling and amalgamation of the races in our states.”

A small group of senators from both parties crafted a compromise bill that eventually passed, leading to the Johnson signing.

The bill, it should be noted, forbids discrimination by federal and state agencies against people on account of their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It also banned discrimination against those groups by businesses that provide “public accommodation” — hotels, for instance, and restaurants. The bill called for an end to unequal application of laws and eligibility requirements in voter registration as well as in school admissions.

Imagine that respected senators could stand in loud and forceful opposition to those ideals and not be pilloried. Things are different today, of course. People have learned how to hide such bigotry behind code words and misdirection.

At least we don’t tolerate blatant assholery anymore.

Much Less Frigid Air

The War We Lost

So, yesterday was the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s declaration of War on Poverty.

It was one of the great moments in American history.

Loyal readers know how I feel about LBJ. He was an uncouth, bullying, macho, conniving political huckster. He also felt, deep within his heart and soul, a kinship with black human beings and poor human beings. And he acted on those empathies — for a precious moment.

LBJ

LBJ

Had he and the Congress allowed the resultant Great Society programs to actually eliminate malnutrition, lack of education, joblessness, and all the other ills of need that bedeviled this holy land, the richest on Earth, he would have gone down as one of the greatest three or four presidents ever.

Sadly, he got, to borrow a term he often used, his pecker caught in Vietnam.

This nation decided it was far more important to prosecute an unwinnable, pointless, poorly-executed war in the Southeast Asian jungles than to help our less fortunate brothers and sisters here climb out of despair.

Now, here we are, 50 years later. The gap between rich and poor grows daily. Commentators chirp that the economy is is churning once again after the Great Recession, yet it seems the only beneficiaries are moneyed investors and Wall Street casino players. Municipalities and social and cultural institutions are starving for cash. Unemployment remains remarkably high. And far too many of the available jobs are in the service industries, paying minimum wage.

In the War on Poverty, poverty won.

Mother Jones mag yesterday ran a piece on where we are, poverty-wise, now in the United States. A trio of authors suggest we’ve both won and lost the War. If we take the authors at their word, that the result was a mixed bag, then, really, we’ve lost. LBJ himself said, in announcing the War, “… [W]e shall not rest until that war is won. The richest nation on Earth can afford to win it.”

Check out the six charts illustrating the depths of American poverty in the 21st Century. Some things have changed for the better. Some things. That’s all.

The political debate today is no nearer to revisiting the ideas of the Great Society than it is to the consideration of dumping all our currency, stocks, and bonds in a huge pile, dousing it with gasoline, and lighting a match.

Poor people, you’re on your own.

To me, that’s a losing coda.

[h/t to Susan Sandberg for pointing out the MJ mag piece.]

The Big Interview

Hey, dig my interview with graphic novelist Nate Powell this afternoon on the WFHB Daily Local News.

Powell

Powell

It’s the first in a new series of conversations between me and people I find compelling and interesting. Each tête à tête will run as an 8-minute feature on WFHB and then as a full-out conversation in The Ryder magazine.

Powell is the illustrator of the graphic novel, March: Book One, about the life of Georgia Congressman John Lewis, who was a key figure in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Lewis got his skull broken by an Alabama state trooper on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965. That was the day voting rights activists attempted to cross the Edmund Pettis Bridge at Selma but were met and routed by local and state cops.

Powell has written and drawn a number of award-winning and big-selling comics and graphic novels including Swallow Me Whole, Any Empire, and The Silence of Our Friends. He lives in Bloomington now with his wife and two-year-old daughter.

Tune in at 5:30pm or catch the podcast (after it’s put up, natch) on the station’s website. The longer Powell interview will run in next month’s Ryder.

A Contrarian’s Rationalization

Loyal readers know I refuse to get a smartphone. Some folks look at me as if I’m from the moon when I whip out my trusty flip phone. I don’t care.

Yeah, a lot of it has to do with my fetish for contrarianism but, really, there’s thought behind my refusal to jump on the e-toy bandwagon.

Smartphone Users

Personal technology writer David Pogue laid out a good case for my narrowly-focused Luddism in last month’s Scientific American:

We all know that the cycle of electronics consumerism is broken. Because it’s an endless money drain for consumers to keep their gadgets current. Because the never ending desire to show off new features leads to bloat and complexity of design. And because all our outdated, abandoned gadgets have to go somewhere. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, we Americans threw away 310 million electronic gadgets in 2010 alone. That’s about 1.8 million tons of toxic, nonbiodegradable waste in our landfills.

See? I’m not a total lunatic.

Hot Camelot Air

Dallas

Fifty years ago today, the nuns at St. Giles school told us we were to go home when class started after lunch. I had no idea why.

I did know Sister Caelin seemed sad.

When I got home, I found my mother obsessively vacuuming the same spot on the living room carpet. Looking closer, I realized she was crying. It was the first time I ever saw her cry.

I wondered if I was in trouble.

The TV was on. Ma never had the TV on during the day. Simpler times, you know. TV watching was for night time, after work and dinner, school and homework, and all the day’s chores had been completed. Ma noticed me standing there, staring at her.

“Mike,” she said, dolorously, “President Kennedy is dead.”

Then I cried.

Dealey Plaza

Dealey Plaza Today

I knew who President Kennedy was. He was the boss of America, a man bigger even than Chicago’s Mayor Daley, a fact I was just starting to wrap my mind around.

I knew Mayor Daley could tell my Dad what to do. It was very difficult for me to grasp that someone could tell Mayor Daley what to do.

That night, I was sorely disappointed to learn that regular Friday night TV programming would be suspended in favor of wall to wall assassination coverage. I found it very unfair.

As the weekend went by, I came to understand the gravity of the killing of a president. I also came to understand how fragile all our hierarchies, relationships, and systems were. I saw Lee Harvey Oswald get whacked by Jack Ruby. I tried to get used to saying President Johnson.

Johnson

The President?

I began to get that everything in this weird world — save the world itself — was temporal.

In these more hyper-sensitive, more protective days, a lot of parents might advocate shielding seven-year-olds from jarring news like the murder of a president. Kids have plenty of time to grow up, they might say. Kids aren’t prepared for that kind of reality.

To which I’d reply, no one is prepared for that kind of reality. And, I’d add, the weekend of John F. Kennedy’s assassination was the first and most effective introduction to the real world this little kid could possibly receive.

I have a lot of issues with the things my parents did and didn’t do in raising me. But the fact that they never shied from telling me the unvarnished truth about world affairs or family secrets wasn’t one of them.

For that, I thank them.

And On And On And On And….

The WFHB soap opera continues. As recently as Sunday, for instance, acting general manager Cleveland Dietz was pondering what he might do with the rest of his life.

Now, he knows where he’ll be spending his days at least through the end of the year. This week Board of Directors president Joe Estivill as well as regular Board member Richard Fish have approached Dietz, asking him to remain on the job through December 31st.

Estevill/Fish

Estivill & Fish

The Board will vote on the extension at Monday’s meeting.

Meanwhile, insiders are certain the board will start the entire GM search process over again, meaning the community radio station won’t have a permanent boss until April.

Which is ludicrous.

This latest development, following the withdrawal of controversial choice Kevin Culbertson earlier this week, would mean WFHB will have gone almost an entire year without a general manager.

A state the size of California can pick its governor in less time. And, in case the Board doesn’t know it, California is bigger with a far vaster budget, and hundreds — perhaps thousands — of departments, bureaus, and offices. Plus, the job pays a hell of a lot more than WFHB will pay its future leader.

This whole “national search” business is a pretense the station can no longer afford. WFHB is a community radio station; its leadership should come, naturally, from a local pool of people numbering a minimum of 200,000, if the latest census figures are to be believed. If the Board can’t find a GM in that crowd — which, by the way, includes the students and faculty of a major university — they’re not looking hard enough.

In fact, the three finalists for the job from which Culbertson was plucked include a former GM of this very station and a proven fundraiser for non-profit organizations. Even if the anti-Chad Carrothers sentiment is deep enough to preclude him from ever getting the job again (a situation that, too, is ludicrous), why can’t the Board fall back on Dena Hawes?

The argument against her that she has no media experience is a red herring. Hawes can raise dough. That should be of paramount concern. Jim Manion can continue to run the Music Department and Alycin Bektesh can keep News humming. They’re both good at what they do. WFHB needs a top dog now. People with money burning holes in their pockets just might begin to wonder if this rudderless ship is worth investing in.

The Board Monday ought to commit itself to finding a general manager within a month. That’s it; 31 days. It can be done. Big organizations, corporations, and even governmental agencies do it all the time.

The Board would do so if it was smart. My guess is when Tuesday midnight rolls around we’ll still be looking at an April target date.

Word Trivia

Do you know what a snowclone is? Neither did I until just the other night, when I came across it somewhere, somehow.

It’s something you and I probably have used a dozen times recently. In fact, if you’re a fan of narrowcasting comedy-dramas, you likely have watched Orange Is the New Black. The title of that Netflix production is itself a snowclone.

From "Orange Is the New Black"

OITNB

Here’s the definition, according to Know Your Meme®:

Snowclones are a type of phrasal templates in which certain words may be replaced with another to produce new variations with altered meanings, similar to the “fill-in-the-blank” game of Mad Libs. Although freeform parody of quotes from popular films, music and TV shows is a fairly common theme in Internet humor, snowclones usually adhere to a particular format or arrangement order which may be reduced down to a grammatical formula with one or more custom variables. They can be understood as the verbal or text-based form of photoshopped exploitables.

In common English, that means you can take a familiar meme or trope and substitute words that make it into a whole new cliche. One of the earliest examples was If Eskimos have a million words for snow, then [some other folks] must have a million words for [something common to them].

BTW: the Eskimo trope is false; they don’t have a million or however many words for snow. Nevertheless, that cliched statement spread like wildfire a few years ago.

Anyway, Orange Is the New Black morphed out of the original fashion world pronouncement, grey is the new black, after many generations of variations.

Your Daily Hot Air

Hiroshima Day

The nuclear bombings of two cities in Japan were the logical coda of the single most brutal enterprise the species Homo Sapiens sapiens has ever undertaken — and if we’re very, very, very lucky, will ever undertake.

Hiroshima

World War II claimed anywhere from 60-100 million lives. It doesn’t matter how they died; only that the people of this mad planet wanted them dead.

BTW: Shoot over to Neil Steinberg’s blog post today about the excruciatingly unlucky few who survived both bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. True story.

Nixon Resignation Day

Here’s Mike Royko writing Richard M. Nixon’s political eulogy in the Chicago Sun-Times the day after the president quit:

My personal reason for not wanting Mr. Nixon prosecuted is that he really didn’t betray the nation’s trust all that badly.

The country knew what it was getting when it made him president. He was elected by the darker side of the American conscience. His job was to put the brakes on the changes of the 1960s — the growing belief in individual liberties, the push forward by minority groups. He campaigned by appealing to prejudice and suspicion. What he and his followers meant by law and order was “shut up.”

So whose trust he did he betray? Not that of those who thought he was the answer. He was, indeed, their answer.

Nixon

Nixon

The Past Is Prologue

Ukulele savant Susan Sandberg points out this timeless observation by Lyndon Baines Johnson:

If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him someone to look down on and he’ll empty his pockets for you.

LBJ

Johnson

Winning Isn’t Everything

Speaking of the 1960s, I just finished reading a biography of Vince Lombardi entitled When Pride Still Mattered by David Maraniss.

Lombardi was often portrayed as a brutal, tyrannical leader who’d have steamrolled his grandmother to win a football game. Many people felt he was a man without conscience or sensitivity toward his fellow man. As such, some figured he’d be a great political leader for the turbulent ’60s. In fact, soon after Nixon secured the Republican nomination for president 45 years ago this week, the candidate floated the idea of approaching Lombardi to be his running mate. Nixon’s aides took him seriously and looked into Lombardi’s background. What they found surprised them: The iconic Green Bay Packers coached turned out to be a lifelong Democrat who was particularly close to Bobby Kennedy and the slain senator’s family.

Lombardi

Lombardi

Anyway, the coach’s views on civil rights surely would have sunk a Nixon/Lombardi ticket. Here’s an anecdote. Early on in his term as boss of the Pack, Lombardi and his team traveled into the South for an exhibition game. They went to a large restaurant for a meal. Lombardi was told the black players on the team — only a couple of guys, really, in those days — would not be allowed to enter the place through the front door. They’d have to come in through the back door and eat in a special room for blacks just off the kitchen.

Jim Crow

Lombardi was incensed. He realized, though, he couldn’t smash Jim Crow all by himself that day so he did the next best thing. He directed his entire team to enter through the back door and eat their meal in the back room reserved for blacks.

Pretty cool, eh?

Add to that the fact that Lombardi had at least one player on his team whom he knew was gay. The coach said to his assistants, If I hear one insult or snide remark coming out of your mouths you’ll be fired before your ass hits the floor.

Vince Lombardi was no Spiro Agnew.

Your Daily Hot Air

Flying Saucers And Pink Dresses

Yesterday, of course, was the 66th anniversary of the fabled crash of the UFO into the desert in southeast New Mexico.

Roswell Headline

It seems that UFO conspiracy theories have petered out in recent years because we have better, juicier fever dreams to keep folks with hyper-active imaginations awake at night. Keep in mind that Dick Cheney personally directed the 9/11 attacks and Barack Obama was bred by foreign Muslims to take over this holy land. These two fairy tales are a tad more urgent and compelling than a government cover-up of the crash of the family flying saucer driven by some drunken ET teenagers out for a joyride. (h/t to Maxwell Bodenheim of Forest Park, Illinois, for this explanation.)

Roswell

Joyrider

Anyway, the 50th anniversary of the second oldest conspiracy theory I can think of is fast approaching and this one just may overshadow, at least for a time, the sins of Cheney and Obama. That is, the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22nd, 1963. (The oldest consp/theo is probably the plot by FDR and the Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff to stage Pearl Harbor so’s the USA could jump that much more quickly into WWII. I’m telling you, these conspirator types are brilliant.)

The JFK theory tied together pretty much all the bogeymen that scared the poo out of the widest range of the American citizenry in the mid-60s. The Russkies, Castro, the Mob, right wing generals, the CIA, LBJ, Nixon, the federal reserve, representatives of huge defense contractors, and even anti-Castro exiles met in some secret location to get their stories straight on the impending whacking of the Prez. Not only was this gang brilliant, their ability to coordinate such a massive planning confab — flights had to be booked, hotel rooms reserved, boxed lunches brought in; all in secret — was awe-inspiring. Just getting Castro and his exiled opponents in the same conference room must have been nothing short of a miracle.

LBJ/JFK

LBJ And The Man He Whacked

The city of Dallas is planning a big shindig for the 50th to be held smack-dab in Dealey Plaza, where the hit took place. It’s not known if organizers will stage a reenactment but I’d bet against it. OSHA regulations put in place since the assassination probably would preclude having an actress in a pink Chanel suit climb on the trunk of the limousine.

Imagine, though, the field day the conspiracy theorists are going to have, come this fall. Already, Bill O’Reilly’s two assassination-porn books, Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy, are New York Times bestsellers. Sales of the latter likely will go through the roof starting in September.

Here are a few fun facts about Jackie Kennedy’s famous dress. It’s in a vault in Maryland, embargoed until the year 2103. Jackie’s mom sent the suit and the purse her daughter carried that fateful day to the National Archives shortly after the assassination. The suit has never been cleaned. Oh, and Coco Chanel, despite never having commented on the fact that one of her creations had suddenly become a gruesome icon, did say some years later that, because of her penchant for wearing miniskirts, Jackie “wears her daughter’s clothes.”

Jackie Kennedy

Jackie And The Pink Suit

Coco sure knew what the important things in life were, no?

A website dealing with all things Jackie actually has an entire page devoted to the pink suit.

And, natch, the chic ghoul can buy a replica pink suit on eBay; it’s a steal at $189.99.

That pink pillbox hat Jackie wore? It’s missing.

One of the archivists in charge of the suit said a couple of years ago, “It looks like it’s brand new, except for the blood.” Which is like saying December 7th, 1941 was a perfect day in Oahu, except for that mess down by the docks.

I was seven years old when Lee Harvey Oswald did his thing. I was vaguely aware of the existence of President Kennedy. I only knew the nuns at St. Giles had red-rimmed eyes when they told us we were to go home that gray Friday afternoon. My second-grade classmates and I momentarily believed the word assassination signified something really good, considering we’d never heard it before and it allowed us to bolt school early.

When I got home, my mother was compulsively vacuuming in front of the TV. She was crying. I’d never seen her cry before. I figured she personally knew JFK. Otherwise, why would she be so busted up that he’d died?

That, I can safely say, was a loss of innocence. Believe me, we’re going to be sick to death of hearing that phrase by November.

Abraham, Martin & John

To this day, this song brings tears to my eyes. It was released soon after Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated in 1968.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Being president is like being a jackass in a hailstorm. There’s nothing to do but to stand there and take it.” — Lyndon B. Johnson

Johnson & Kennedy

AT LAST!

This is it, kiddies. Who’s your hero: Ayn Rand or Saul Alinsky?

Time to put up or shut up. If you haven’t voted yet, get going.

In Monroe County, you may vote at The Curry Building, 214, W. Seventh St. Or you can go old school and vote at your precinct polling place.

BIG MIKE MAKES THE CALL

Alright, let’s get down to cases.

Here’s what’s going to happen today. I’ve already told you Barack Obama’s going to win. Now I’ll give you the margin.

We’ll Do It Again In January

The winning margin for the Democratic candidate for President of the United States in the popular vote will approach five percentage points.

That’s right. My guy will be reelected by a rounded-off plurality of 52-47 percent. That odd one percent will go to the usual lineup of perennial candidates and write-ins for Mickey Mouse.

A number of states have broken their own records for number of early voters. Big voter turnout is good news for Obama.

Here’s the dramatic prediction, though: Obama will win the electoral college contest in a landslide with some 300 votes.

I feel confident in these projections, as confident as I felt when I predicted the Chicago Cubs would go to the World Series in 2004.

NICE MEME

… THE BEAUTIFUL

There’s plenty to be outraged and disgusted about in this holy land. Still, hidden somewhere deep beneath the the jingoism, the greed, the entitlement, the delusion, the willful ignorance, and the maddening piety, lies a republic of the people.

Had he been alive when this whole crazy American idea got off the ground, Ray Charles would have been a slave, considered to be somewhat less than fully human. By the time he died in 2004 he’d become the designated psalmist for the nation.

It’s worth thinking about the truest quote I’ve ever read about this nation. It was written by another person who’d been written out of America’s charter, a woman, Molly Ivins. By the time she died in 2007, she’d become the plain-speaking conscience of the nation.

“It is possible,” she wrote, “to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America.”

That’s why I vote.

The only events listings you need in Bloomington.


Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

VOTE ◗ The Curry Building, 214 W. Seventh St. or your local polling place; 6am-6pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Auer Hall — Doctoral Recital: Namanja Ostojic on guitar; 5pm

POETRY ◗ The Venue Fine Art & GiftsReading, “The Art of Poetry,” By Jenny Kander; 5:30pm

MUSIC ◗ The BishopElection Viewing Party; 7pm

FILM ◗ IU Cinema — “Nenette and Boni“; 7pm

MUSIC ◗ Muddy Boots Cafe, NashvilleThe Indiana Boys All-Star Jam; 7-9pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Musical Arts Center, Recital HallGuitar Studio Recital: Students of Petar Jankovic; 7pm

STAGE ◗ IU Halls TheatreDrama, “Spring Awakening“; 7:30pm

MUSIC ◗ The Player’s PubBlues Jam; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Auer HallWind Ensemble, Stephen W. Pratt, conductor; 8pm

GAMES ◗ The Root Cellar at Farm BloomingtonTeam trivia; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Ford-Crawford HallHot Tuesdays Series: Jazz Combo; 8:30pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Musical Arts Center, Recital HallDoctoral Recital: Yuan-Yuan Wang on violin; 8:30pm

ONGOING:

ART ◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • “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
  • Threads of Love: Baby Carriers from China’s Minority Nationalities“; through December 23rd
  • Workers of the World, Unite!” through December 31st
  • Embracing Nature,” by Barry Gealt; through December 23rd
  • Pioneers & Exiles: German Expressionism,” through December 23rd

ART ◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits through December 1st:

  • “Essentially Human,” By William Fillmore
  • “Two Sides to Every Story,” By Barry Barnes
  • “Horizons in Pencil and Wax,” By Carol Myers

ART ◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibits through November 16th:

  • Buzz Spector: Off the Shelf
  • Small Is Big

ART ◗ IU Kinsey Institute GalleryExhibits through December 20th:

  • A Place Aside: Artists and Their Partners
  • Gender Expressions

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 LibraryExhibits:

  • The War of 1812 in the Collections of the Lilly Library“; through December 15th
  • A World of Puzzles,” selections from the Slocum Puzzle Collection

ARTIFACTS ◗ Monroe County History CenterExhibits:

  • Doctors & Dentists: A Look into the Monroe County Medical Professions
  • What Is Your Quilting Story?
  • Garden Glamour: Floral Fashion Frenzy
  • Bloomington Then & Now
  • World War II Uniforms
  • Limestone Industry in Monroe County

The Ryder & The Electron Pencil. All Bloomington. All the time.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“I’m a real rebel with a cause.” — Nina Simone

REBELS

Independence Day.

We consider ourselves free in this holy land, and I suppose we are when compared to the rest of the world.

But there is no freedom without bondage. The old baseball manager Earl Weaver once said you can’t be a true rebel unless you’ve lived under the yoke of one kind of imposed order or another.

We profess to have loathed the tyranny of the British Empire when in reality the yoke we bore back in the 18th Century was that of King George III’s mental illness. It can be argued we really had no profound disagreement with the British and regarding the concept of freedom.

We wrote “… that all men are created equal.”

Yes, men. They’re all that counted when our Articles of Confederation, our Declaration of Independence, and our Constitution were written. White Men. White men who owned land.

White Men

The British themselves were slowly but surely coming around to the idea that male landowners ought to be able to govern themselves. We were just in a little bit more of a hurry about it all.

That was an amazing concept for the times. If we think it’s rather quaint — what about women and blacks and homosexuals and everybody else who isn’t Anglo, pale-skinned, and carrying X and Y chromosomes in their cells? — we have to remember that we’ve come a long way.

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

We’re still struggling. But, again, there is no freedom without bondage.

I’M FREE

… and freedom tastes of reality.

DREAMING

People talk about The American Dream as if there is such a thing; that is, one shared aspiration among our 300-plus million citizens and the countless others around the world who want to get in on our good thing.

I’ve met enough disparate people to know there are almost as many American Dreams as there are Americans.

Still, the mythmakers may be right. There is one overriding American Dream that supersedes all those other, idiosyncratic dreams.

For all the people who laugh at Donald Trump — his hair, his bombast, his “Hey Ma, look at me!” persona — virtually every one of them wants to be him.

American

That’s the true American Dream. To be rich. To be so rich you can tell the world to fk off.

To be so  rich you’ll never have to work another day in your life.

To be so rich that when the cable goes out you can bully the customer service rep on the phone and get someone out to fix it even on Christmas Day.

To be so rich you don’t even have to vote.

To be so rich beautiful young women or men (whichever you prefer) will be willing to see you naked despite the ravages of time on your body.

I saw a black guy once on the Fourth of July all decked out in red, white, and blue, his car festooned with American flag decals and the insignias of the unit he served in Vietnam with.

I was tempted to ask him why he was so demonstrably in love with this country. After all, he was old enough to remember when it was illegal in many states for him to have sex with a white woman. Illegal!

He was old enough to have seen Lyndon Johnson sign the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts in 1964 and ’65, laws that essentially recognized him as a human being — something this holy land had not done without reservation since its inception.

How in the world could a man who’d experienced so much insult, both institutionally and from his individual countrymen, be loyal to the state that made all that insult possible?

What is it that he sees in the United States of America? What would make him put his life on the line to prop up a corrupt little nation in Southeast Asia — one he’d probably rarely heard of before he was shipped out there — just because American politicians told him he ought to?

Why was he willing to dress up in that land’s colors?

We were at a gas station in Louisville, Kentucky at the time. He jumped in his car and drove away before I could talk myself into querying him. Too  bad.

And even if I had asked him all those questions, would he have answered truthfully? Would he toss around catchwords like freedom, independence, and liberty?

Maybe, just maybe, he loves America because he dreams that here he can become a rich man.

My dream? Only that we dream of something more.

YOU DREAMER, YOU

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

◗ Downtown Bloomington and around Courthouse Square — 4th of July Parade; 10am

◗ Courthouse Lawn — Independence Day concert, Bloomington Community Band; 11:30am

The BishopAmerica, Fk Yeah: A Night of America, For America; 4pm — patriotic films, “Red Dawn”; 8pm — “Rocky IV”; 10pm — “Team America: World Police”; midnight

Ongoing:

◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibit, “I’m Too Young For This  @#!%” by John D. Shearer; through July 30th

◗ IU Art MuseumExhibit, “Urban Landscape: A Selection of Papercuts by Qiao Xiaoguang; through August 12th — Exhibit, wildlife artist William Zimmerman; through September 9th — Exhibit, David Hockney, new acquisitions; through October 21st

◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryKinsey Institute Juried Art Show; through July 21st, 11am

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

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Marriage is a gamble, let’s be honest.” — Yoko Ono

GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS

Shelli Yoder allowed herself and her gang a scant 24-hours’ worth of reveling after her Democratic primary victory Tuesday.

Yoder At Her Front Door Tuesday Night

She gathered the troops together early last evening to begin serious planning for her run for Congress in the November election. Yoder, her communication director Alexa Lopez, and volunteers from around the state met at the Uptown Cafe on Kirkwood to plot strategy for Indiana’s 9th District race against Republican Todd Young.

VOTING ON RIGHTS

I don’t care what the result in North Carolina was Tuesday — putting human rights up for a vote is not only wrong, it’s a dead-on indication that the rights in question flat out aren’t going to be rights once the polls close.

How do you think the federal Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts would have fared in a popularity contest back in 1964?

Unless enlightened leaders legislate those rights into existence, the most likely choice of the electorate would be to flip the finger to whichever group wants them.

For all his sins, President Lyndon B. Johnson twisted arms, bartered with, and cajoled senators to pass the laws that would guarantee legal equality for black Americans. He might have been a vote-stealing, crude and crass, venal pol, but he knew the nation needed federal legislation to bring its black brothers and sisters fully into the family. And he did so at the cost of his presidency.

Martin Luther King Congratulates Lyndon Baines Johnson

Barack Obama’s long-awaited imprimatur of gay marriage yesterday won’t cost him the presidency, but his view on the matter alienates him from at least half the voting public.

For my money, I don’t want democratic principles determined by an electorate that is more conversant in the private life of Kim Kardashian than Thomas Paine’s “The Rights of Man.”

WHITE BOYS

My roster of Facebook friends tilts heavily to the left. That makes sense because I tilt heavily toward the left, even when I haven’t been drinking.

Lots of lefties these days are certain the nation as well as humanity itself is on a crash course toward disaster. If I took all the Facebook posts of my friends seriously, I’d be a juddering wreck. Our food is poisoned, the FBI is snooping through my sock drawer even as I type these words, war will be declared on Iran in a half hour…, Help!

I’d have to imagine the Facebook posts of Right-leaning folks are just as alarming, only for different reasons. The political and philosophical zeitgeist of the 21st Century holds that if you aren’t wringing your hands and being a drama queen, then you aren’t paying attention.

Rage is demanded by people who use Facebook to alert the world to the perils they see around every corner. I’m sorry to inform them all I don’t have that much rage in me.

But last night a post by the decidedly non-political Tyler Ferguson turned me into a snarling beast.

Ferguson reported that the college lads who live directly across the street from her have purchased and installed a new stereo system in their apartment. She heard them congratulating each other on finally having a sound device that can make their music audible halfway across the continental United States.

Tyler reports she can now hear the lyrics to the songs they play with crystal, if disturbing and annoying, clarity.

She writes: “I don’t recognize the current song, but the lyrics are ‘nigger’ and ‘fuck’ pretty much over and over. Nice.”

Now we have to assume the “artists” singing such an Euterpean delight are black. It’s perfectly acceptable in the recorded music industry world for young black men to liberally sprinkle their lyrics with the N-bomb.

Me, I immediately assumed the lunkheads blasting the music are white. Suburban white boys are the single biggest demographic that buys what I’ll indelicately christen “nigger/fuck music (NFM).”

I’m no shrink, but I’ll hazard the guess that the Zachs and Joshuas of the world embrace such cacophony as a way to demonstrate how macho and quasi-threatening they are. Testosterone has a weird way of making young men desperately want to display those traits.

So I added my comment to Tyler’s Facebook post thread. Several others already had offered to help Tyler commit mayhem upon the persons and property of the lads in question. I wrote: “And if you tell us they’re white, I’ll be happy to go with you and kick their balls up into their abdomens.”

See, my take on the white boys loving NFM is that they’ve reduced young black men to loathsome stereotypes. When I see a Mom-and-Dad-bought-and-paid-for SUV careening around the corner at Kirkwood and Walnut blaring NFM, I think the boys therein would have been perfectly comfortable some 65 years ago, sniggering at Steppin’ Fetchit while flipping a nickel to the bootblack who just shined their shoes.

Tyler responded: “They are pasty white.”

I came back with a flurry of obscene pejoratives directed at the lads. I concluded, “Grrrrrrrrr!”

So that’s the sum total of my emotional output due to Facebook for the rest of the month. Even if someone reveals that George W. Bush personally planted the explosives that toppled the Twin Towers.

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

Thursday, May  10, 2012

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

IU Kinsey Institute GalleryExhibit, “Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze”; through June 29th

◗ Ivy Tech Waldron Arts Center Exhibits at various galleries: Angela Hendrix-Petry, Benjamin Pines, Nate Johnson, and Yang Chen; all through May 29th

Trinity Episcopal ChurchArt exhibit, “Creation,” collaborative mosaic tile project; through May 31st

Monroe County Public LibraryArt exhibit, “Muse Whisperings,” water color paintings by residents of Sterling House; through May 31st

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

Monroe County Public LibraryUsed book and media sale; 9am-4pm

Monroe County Courthouse Lawn — Strawberry Shortcake Festival; 10:30am-2:30pm

Nom!

Bloomington City HallPlatinum Bike Summit; 4pm

Bear’s PlaceMedia Noche Trio + 1 CD release party; 5:30pm

Farm Bloomington, Root Cellar — Ryder Film Series, “444 Last Day on Earth”; 6:30pm

Buskirk-Chumley TheaterCardinal Stage Company presents “Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”; 7pm

IU CinemaFilm, “The Kid with a Bike”; 7pm

Brown County Playhouse“Under the Umbrella: Life Is a Circus” performed by balancing artist Steven Ragatz; 7-8:15pm

Fairview Elementary SchoolScott Russell Sanders speaks about becoming an author; 7-8pm

Scott Russell Sanders

Max’s PlaceKeith Korns; 7:30pm

The Comedy AtticDan Telfer; 8pm

The Player’s PubCarpenter and Clerk, 220 Breakers; 8pm

The BishopGood Luck, Spoonboy, Kind of Like Spitting; 9pm

Bear’s Place Karaoke; 9pm

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“I got my head bashed in at a demonstration against the Vietnam War. Police were losing control because they were up against a world they really didn’t understand.” — Terry Gilliam

AND THEN THERE WERE TWO

Gotta tell ya, folks, I hate to see Little Rickey Santorum go, for the loss of his entertainment value alone.

Now the presidential race is down to two politico-economic fraternal twins, each of whom is about as exciting as a can of beige paint.

Definitely Not Beige

If it wasn’t for guys like Santorum, I’d have to actually take the Republicans seriously and you know how disconcerting that prospect would be for me.

Digging the Santorum campaign was like having a daredevil hobby — bungee jumping off tall bridges, say, or rowing across an ocean. Exciting, sure, but if things go wrong, you’re screwed.

In this case, the worst-case scenario would have been a Santorum presidency

So, bye-bye Rickey. We knew you all too well.

A SIMPLE QUESTION

Does it surprise anyone that the first media creature George Zimmerman has spoken with is Fox News’ Sean Hannity?

Sympathetic Ear

DANIEL ELLSBERG, PATRIOT

I missed this. Saturday, April 7th was Daniel Ellsberg‘s birthday.

You want a hero? You got him.

Ellsberg

Here’s the story of Ellsberg’s heroism as told by Howard Zinn in his compelling graphic narrative book, “A People’s History of American Empire.”

Zinn and Ellsberg became friends in 1969 during the anti-war movement. Ellsberg earlier had worked for  the RAND Corporation, which was assigned by the US Department of Defense in 1967 to write up a history of the Vietnam War. Ellsberg actually did much of the grunt work researching this nation’s involvement there.

He learned that President Harry Truman authorized the funding of France’s colonial war against Vietnam independence fighters as far back as  the 1940s. President Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s threw US support behind Vietnam strongmen who opposed free elections in that country.

Throw in a pile of other falsehoods, exaggerations, forgeries, and intentional inaccuracies on the parts of generals and politicians executing the slaughter in Southeast Asia, and Ellsberg understood that our stated aims there were a colossal sham.

Thanks to the study, Ellsberg saw that President Lyndon Johnson’s assertion that the North Vietnamese had started a war just for kicks in the summer of 1964 was an out and out lie.

Johnson, see, had said some North Vietnamese in a little motorboat had attacked a couple of American cruisers just sitting in the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin and minding their own business. Johnson parlayed this whopper into getting Congress to sign him a blank check and the next thing you knew, a half million American soldiers were fighting for who knows what in Southeast Asia.

Johnson, Finally Grasping What Vietnam Had Become

Ellsberg and some other RAND researchers privately agreed that they had to say something to the American public about our country’s shenanigans in Vietnam.

They figured Middle American folks would trust them, sub-contractors to the Pentagon with 7000 pages of damning documents in their hands, rather than wild-eyed hippies carrying peace placards.

So they sent a letter to major newspapers around the country calling for an end to the war. The New York Times and the Washington Post both published the letter, but nobody really gave a damn about it.

Meanwhile, the United States military went on happily killing and bombing in Vietnam. Then there was a Green Beret murder scandal and the My Lai Massacre. Ellsberg already was wracked with guilt for his country over what he knew and these atrocities only pushed him over the edge.

Destroying The Town In Order To Save It

He contacted another former RAND colleague and together they photocopied the 7000 pages with the goal of releasing the classified documents. The two agreed it was worth going to jail for exposing government secrets if it might shorten the war somehow.

Their hope was the release of the papers would turn even the most die-hard patriots against the war. They contacted the offices of a few congressmen and found no one willing to touch their hot docs.

Finally, they went to the New York Times with their bundle of papers. After a few months, the Times went ahead and published what would become known as the Pentagon Papers. Ellsberg was charged with theft and violations of the Espionage Act. He faced 115 years in prison. He turned himself in to the FBI in Boston on June 28, 1971, after having run off many more copies of the Papers and distributing them to other newspapers.

Setting The Type For The New York Times Pentagon Papers Edition

While Ellsberg was on trial, it was learned that the Nixon White House had ordered mugs to burglarize his psychiatrist’s office in hopes of finding incriminating notes against him there, and other mugs to harass him at public appearances. The federal judge declared a mistrial in Ellberg’s case due to these government interferences.

He was lucky.

He was also, as I mentioned earlier. a hero.

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH

The Buffalo Springfield played this song on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, February 26th, 1967.

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