Category Archives: Martin Luther King

Hot Air

Living Dangerously

The Pencil took a few days off — well, okay, I took a few days off — so I missed the chance to note the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death.

What must it have been like to know that hundreds — perhaps even thousands — of people are gunning for you, that at any moment the crack of a rifle shot might be the last sound you’d ever hear?

Then again, MLK prob. never heard the crack of James Earl Ray’s rifle. The bullet traveled from Ray’s flophouse bathroom window to the Lorraine Motel balcony faster than the speed of sound. One moment King was vibrant, alive, wondering what that local minister’s wife might serve for dinner that evening and the next, he was bleeding to death from a hole on the side of his face and neck the size of a fist. King in a fraction of a second was transmuted from a Nobel Peace Prize winner, the world’s foremost advocate of nonviolent resistance, a loud critic of the Vietnam War, a fighter for justice, wealth redistribution, and organized labor to the toothless, innocuous, marketable symbol of faux-kumbaya we insist on seeing him as today.

King Arrest

Unarmed And Dangerous

Whoever wanted King dead — and a good goddamned many did — got precisely what they wanted.

Faces Made For Radio

You should know by now that Bloomington’s community radio station, WFHB, has been a nursery for many voice and journalistic talents who’ve gone on to make honest dough at public radio stations. Our own WFIU features, for instance, Drew Daudelin doing local news breaks during each weekday’s Morning Edition program. Daudelin used to edit my copy when I wrote for the Daily Local News at ‘FHB.

And don’t forget Alycin Bektesh — News Editor Emeritus (Emerita?) — who’s doing freelance work for public radio stations out west now that she’s ditched us for the climes of Colorado and beyond.

Another great colleague from ‘FHB, Ryan Dawes, is doing scads of work for community radio in Minnesota. He oriented me the first day I reported for a shift at ‘FHB back in late 2009. He quit his gig as WFHB’s Assistant News Director, got himself hitched, and moved to Minn. a couple of years ago. Too bad for us. But we can still hear him thanks to the magic of radio — and the interwebs.

Here are some SoundCloud links to his recent projects:

  • A feature on moonshiners during Prohibition, featuring vintage recordings of Minnesoat still operators
  • A report on Ojibwe hip hop artists; they live in a remote part of Minnesota and must endure racism as well as try to find sound recording facilities — but they still get their music out
  • Skijoring — a winter sport wherein people on skis are pulled by a horse, dogs, or a snow vehicle
  • Canoes made from birch bark
  • “My nerdiest project, about devout fans of Sherlock Holmes
  • Upcoming — “I’m going to produce projects on the Minnesota Conservation Corps (an extension of the New Deal’s CCC), Prairie For Lady Choir, and one about the organist for the Minnesota Twins.”

Radio, my good friends, is decidedly not dead.

 

Entrepreneur Alert

Okay, who’s with me? Let’s start a business, proclaim publicly we won’t serve same-sex couples who want to get married, and then rake in the tens of thousands of dollars bigots’ll surely donate to our crowd-funding site. Seems simple enough. Look how many businesses this has worked for in recent days.

Anyway, let’s say our business would be selling something weirdly obscure, for instance, Leopard Pop Phone Handsets — they do exist: check out Real Simple‘s “13 Unique Bridesmaid Gift Ideas, item no. 13.” We stock, say, a half-dozen of them so the start-up costs won’t be too much. We print up a few business cards, crank up an eBay account, start a Facebook page, sell one or two to a friend or a cousin, just to show we’re a going concern, and then — ba-da-boom! — we announce our deeply-held religious objection to sodomy and forbidden lifestyles and all the other holy horseshit all these pizza restaurants and cake bakers have been shoveling. We wait a couple of days and then cry that our business has fallen off the table and we’re being forced to shut down because of all the pressure from “the gays.”

Handset

Our Product

Next thing you know, we’re dumping bushels-full of cash over our heads in celebration!

Alright, alright, you’re shaking your head because — I know — ill-gotten gains and all that. So fine, we donate half our profits to the Human Rights Campaign or the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission and keep the rest. We still make out like bandits.

Emphasis on the word bandits.

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.

Hot Air

Drive, I Said

Pull out your wallet or your checkbook because the WFHB spring fund drive kicked off this morning. The beg-fest will run for 10 days, until a week from Sunday, and the station hopes to pocket some $40,000.

Kick in a sawbuck or two. Every little bit helps.

Spot Button

As part of the festivities, WFHB will bring independent radio savant David Barsamian to town on Sunday, April 10th. The founder of the Alternative Radio network will speak about Media, Capitalism, and the Environment. The talk begins at 7:00pm at the Bloomington-Monroe County Convention Center. Tix are $5 for the speech alone and $35 for the speech and a meet-and-greet with Barsamian after.

Barsamian

David Barsamian

WFHB News Director Alycin Bektesh worked her newshound paws to the bone to pull this special appearance off. Get tickets here. Barsamian, BTW, is forgoing his speaking fee so all proceeds go to the station.

April 4th, 1968

This day, 46 years ago, a racist drifter whacked Martin Luther King, Jr. Many believe evidence exists that the drifter’s stalking of the civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner was bankrolled by one or more wealthy segregationists.

For public consumption, President Lyndon Johnson shook his head and said it was a terrible thing. So did tons of governors, mayors, and chiefs of police. Their crocodile tears belied their relief that King was erased from the scene because he’d recently begun to talk about the enormous gulf between the haves and the have-nots as well as the evils of unfettered capitalism. That, my friends, was and is a mortal sin.

Abernathy & King

Ralph Abernathy Tends To The Mortally Wounded King — Note King’s Cigarette on Walkway (Photo/Life)

Meanwhile, acc’d’g to legend, when news of King’s slaying reached the FBI office, agents jumped out of their chairs and cheered.

You want a good, un-hysterical account of the assassination, read Hampton Sides’ Hellhound on His Trail.

All I know is April 4th, 1968, was the day I began to see this holy land in a more clear light.

Yer Out!

So, the Mozilla CEO up and quit his new job because of all the hollering over his financial support of California’s anti-LGBT Proposition 8 in 2008.

Brendan Eich gave a thousand bucks to the Proposition 8 forces, who fought tooth and nail to get an amendment into the state constitution banning marriage by anyone except Ma and Pa Kettle. The Prop 8-ers were successful at first, but the amendment was ultimately ruled unconstitutional.

Eich

Mozilla-ites Don’t Like Eich

Mozilla, and its flagship product Firefox, are positioned as toys of the people — young, hip, open-minded people, specifically. Throwing money at anti-same sex marriage bigots isn’t looked upon kindly by that demographic. So they screamed and Eich is out.

Which is fine by me. Well, sorta. I’m glad the dope is out but I’m made a little itchy by a loud public outcry costing someone his or her job. It all sounds a little tyranny-of-the-majority to me. We were just lucky — this time — that the object of righteous rage was a bigot.

The Rich Are Something Else

I’m here to guide you through the thickets of the legal and political systems which can be so confounding in this holy land.

For instance, many of us are wondering why the Supreme Court once again ruled against campaign finance regulations, using as its justification the 1st Amendment guarantee of free speech.

Many of us might say, Hey, wait a sec. What does money have to do with free speech?

The answer: Nothing.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission Wednesday, effectively allowing any and every rich guy to donate thousands, millions, or billions, if he so chooses, to candidates, parties, and PACs.The ruling ends whatever caps were left in place after the Citizens United decision in 2010. When the Big Robe writes an opinion, that means the majority thinks the case is mighty important.

They’re right. McCutcheon defines us as a nation.

See, an uber-wealthy political donor named Shaun McCutcheon wanted to plow ever greater piles of his money into the Republican Party and its candidates. The FEC said, Hold on there, pard, we’re trying to level the playing field here. McCutcheon and his lawyers responded by wringing their hands, weeping, gnashing their teeth — and suing, natch. McCutcheon figured, What’s the good of having all the dough in the world if I can’t buy a statehouse or two or even the White House?

Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Kennedy agreed. They had to base their ruling on something that sounded high-minded and less venal than the real reason.

Follow me so far? Okay, let’s not bullshit each other or ourselves anymore. Let’s tell each other and ourselves the way it is.

For years our elementary school teachers, newspapers and television stations, flamboyantly patriotic candidates for elective office, and other purveyors of myth and nonsense have sung paeans to our democracy. One man, one vote. The voice of the people. The power of the ballot box. Hey buddy, my taxes pay your salary, and so on ad infinitum, bordering on ad nauseam.

You don’t buy that bologna (oh, alright, baloney), do you? I assume you don’t, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading these (almost) daily screeds.

Cheap Lunchmeat

Today’s Civics Lesson, Sliced

Cutting through the cheap lunchmeat that is politico-legal jargon today and, for that matter, has been every day since this great country arose from god’s mighty hand some 238 years ago, is really awfully easy.

Just remember that even though we pride ourselves on having a classless society and every man is a king and the rest of that blather, the dominant train of thought in this holy land holds that the rich are better human beings than the rest of us. That’s the truth.

And by rich, I mean rich. Not the schlub down the street who may have cracked the quarter-million-dollar-a-year salary threshold. He’s not rich. He’s comfortable. When his car breaks down, he can get it fixed without thinking much about it. He can even buy a brand new car if he wants. He won’t agonize over the decision. His car breaking down is not a disaster. For the rest of us, it may very well be.

But should our comfy neighbor lose his job, he and his family will start hurting sometime in the not too distant future. He may have a pile of dough today, but it won’t last him the rest of his life.

There are, though, people who’ll never have to work again until the day they die. Nor will their children or grandchildren. For that matter, every successive generation until these United States break up or are taken over by Mexicans or Russians or extra-terrestrials or whomever you envision in your paranoiac fever dreams will be rich enough to laugh at the very idea of work.

Work that puts bread on the table. For them, bread is always on the table. They are given bread as a birthright.

They are different than the rest of us. They are better.

We really believe that.

Real wealth in America buys and sells power. Real wealth can sway elections, get laws passed, regulations ignored, misdemeanors winked at, felonies fixed.

The rich — the real rich — are something different. They’re…, they’re…, well, they’re closer to god.

There’s your American dream.

The Reagan/Bush/Bush Supreme Court appointees voted in a bloc once again to codify the American belief that the rich not only are superior human beings but they should be allowed to elect presidents and governors and senators and even, if any of them is so inclined, the odd county commissioner or city clerk.

Money, Roberts and the boys have ruled, is everything.

That, kiddies, is America. And it ain’t no dream.

Hot Air On The Bus

Get Back

Bloomington’s very own far flung correspondent and English teacher deluxe, Elizabeth Sweeney, reminded our small part of the world yesterday that December 1st is the anniversary of Rosa Parks sitting in the front of a Montgomery, Alabama bus and refusing to give up her seat for a white person.

Parks

Parks Being Booked

Imagine that! It was a revolutionary act. People could have been killed for doing such things back in 1955.

We all know the story of Parks, the ensuing bus boycott, and the emergence of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph Abernathy as civil rights leaders. But did you know that another great trailblazer did pretty much the same thing more than a decade before Parks’ seminal stand?

Jackie Robinson — yep, the baseball player who integrated the Major Leagues in 1947 — was arrested and charged in 1944 while he was a lieutenant in the US Army with the 761st “Black Panthers” Tank Battalion at Camp Hood, Texas. He got on a bus on a July day that year and took a seat near the front. The driver told him he was to go to the back of the bus. Robinson — a hardhead if there ever was one — told the driver to mind his own business. The two argued until the bus came to Robinson’s stop, at which point a bus company official had arrived, just in time to call Robinson a “nigger.”

Robinson

Jack Roosevelt Robinson

The argument continued at full blast, drawing a crowd of onlookers. MPs arrived and asked Robinson to come in for questioning. Before they were able to leave, another MP dashed up and asked, loudly, if the first MPs had collared “the nigger lieutenant.”

At this point, Robinson, just as loudly, announced the he’d “break in two” the next guy who called him a nigger.

When the MPs and Robinson finally did arrive at headquarters to sort out the affair, investigators dropped more racial pejoratives. Their overall tone indicated to Robinson that he wasn’t about to get a fair shake so he simply walked out.

Well, the investigators found that kind of uppity-ness unbearable so they recommended Robinson be brought before a court martial. Robinson’s battalion commander refused to press charges so the Army immediately transferred him to another unit. His new commander happily wrote up the court martial, charging Robinson with, among other things, insubordination and being drunk. Funny thing was Robinson did not drink, but silly things like the truth have rarely concerned racists.

Robinson was confined to quarters until his trial which took place the next month before an all-white panel of judges. In the meantime, Robinson wrote a letter complaining of his treatment to the War Department and notified the NAACP and black newspapers about his predicament.

Fortunately for him, the Army at the time was slowly but surely becoming more cognizant of civil rights for its black members. In fact, the Army had outlawed segregation on its buses long before the original incident, making the driver’s accusation against Robinson a red herring. Still, there was enough vestigial racism in the military that the trumped up charges could be prosecuted. In any case, the judges acquitted him.

Court Martial Verdict

All’s well that ends well, sure, but being subjected to the court martial certainly was the very definition of harassment and persecution. The Army would be desegregated fully by presidential order in 1948. But, to be sure, the state of race relations around the nation would be a source of legal upheaval, murder, and rioting for decades to come.

Yes, things are better now. But a pessimist might point out that although the public usage of terms like nigger is frowned upon now, racists have devised clever codes to say, essentially, the same thing. Otherwise, why would anyone call the first dark-skinned President of the United States, as proud a practicing capitalist as can be found in 50 states, a socialist? And why would some wags to this day doubt that he is a “real American”?

We’ve come a long way. Yet we have a long way to go.

Your Dai…, Oops, Occasional Hot Air

A Lo-o-o-o-o-ong Week

Man, that was a weird week, no?

Eleven days? Along about Apolloday I started thinking, Hey wuz goin’ on here, mang?

And then by Circeday, I figured, Okay, we’re gonna start running out of Greek gods and other mythical figures to name the days after. So, anyway, Happy Thaliaday!

Now then. My last post was on the 19th. Today’s the 30th. Tomorrow’s the 31st and Sunday’s the 32nd, and…, oh, you know the rest. My point is I badly underestimated the amount of time I needed away from being the smartest-assed snark-pup on the block.

And you know what? I still need time away from it all.

Swear to the Big Daddy-o in the Sky, I’m rather enjoying not having to point out every single inanity and insanity uttered by the likes of Louie Gohmert and Ted Nugent and all the Second Amendment fetishists of this holy land.

(Hehe, some dope in Arkansas who wants all teachers to pack artillery in the classroom wound up shooting one of the teachers he was training how to use said artillery. As long as the other side’s got guys like that, whaddya need me for?)

Kids & Guns

Sleep Tight Tonight, Kiddies

By and by it had hit me that my rapier-like wit and unassailable logic are terrible burdens to bear. They are gifts, I tell you. See, whenever somebody says something like, oh, say, Martin Luther King was no liberal, I must spring into action. Dig: I’m like a superhero.

But, I dunno, have they made a Batman movie about him being tired of being Batman yet? Gotta be, I’d figure, considering they’ve made about 211 Batman movies in the last couple of decades. Hollywood, y’know?

So, I’d be like the Batman in that movie; facing a crisis of purpose. Should he continue to chase whatever hot starlet is appearing as Catwoman or should he pull in his wings a bit and chill?

I’m for chillin’. And that’s what I’m gonna keep on keepin’ on for a while.

Truth is, I’m going to be mulling some changes here. Like I said eleven days ago, I was getting sick of hearing my own voice. The Pencil will still be here. I just don’t know precisely what form it’ll take just yet. Stay tuned.

Oh, BTW: Black Comedy will continue when I return. People already are wondering how Anna and Tami will wiggle their way out of that Northwest Side bar filled with drunken white men. You’ll know when I know.

See ya. Probably soon.

Walking Down Your Street

The hottest girl band ever. They have a pillow fight in the opening sequence. Shudder. Plus, Little Richard makes an appearance! Have I died and gone to heaven?

Your Daily Hot Air

You Say You Want A…

Okay, if you want to overthrow…, um, what- or whomever, I’m with you. Count me in for the revolution as long as certain global archcriminals get scalped.

Case in point: Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia. I wish I had his address. I’d throw eggs at his front window, at the very least.

From arabianbusiness.com

Evil Prince

The Prince has sued Forbes Magazine in a British court for libel. The editors of that biweekly paean to wealth and two of its reporters, according to the Prince’s filing, wronged him when they stated that his net worth is $20 billion, rather than the more accurate (or so he claims) $29 billion. The bastards!

Honestly, what can you expect from a guy whose bazillions are laundered through a corporate entity known as Kingdom Holding Company? Really? Kingdom? He owns a hefty chunk of the right-wing media colossus News Corp. as well as slices of Apple and Citigroup. As the (alleged) 26th richest human on Earth, he’s not just part of the 1 percent, he’s of the .000000004 percent. Four freaking millionths of one goddamn percent!

Revolution, my friends, now.

Brilliant

This just hit me.

I want to sell T-shirts, buttons, and bumper stickers with this motto on it. Maybe even have it inscribed on my head stone. It is the single truest, most direct, punchiest thing any of us can ever say.

Here it is:

Bumper Sticker

This’ll Make Me Bazillions!

Of course, you can have your choice of jerk photos. Ayn Rand. Chris Brown. Lloyd Blankfein. Kim Kardashian. Anyone in power at Monsanto. You get the idea.

Simple. Straightforward. Don’t be a jerk.

Tarnished Genius

I’m no big fan of Bobby Kennedy. He and his bros had their political careers bought and paid for by Big Daddy Joe, whose fondest dream was to become the Boss of America through them. The Kennedy boys were entitlement personified. They treated women like dirt. They were so sexually acquisitive that they verged on being predators. They were in thrall to mobsters and wannabes. They were liberal when liberalism could get them votes, then they turned around and were conservative for the same reason.

But they were smart. And they did care about blacks and the poor. So I won’t throw the babies out with the bathwater.

After the whacking of JFK (by L.H. Oswald, alone, natch — I’m no conspiracy theorist), Bobby essentially had a nervous breakdown. He came out on the other side a different man. A better man, I might add. A man who had the courage to speak to what could have been an angry, potentially violent crowd one night here in Indiana.

Indy Star Photo

Bobby Kennedy Breaks The News

It was April 4, 1968. RFK was flying into Indy for a quick campaign stop. As the plane was about to touch down, the captain informed Kennedy and his staff that Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated. Bobby’s handlers told him it would be suicide for a white man to tell a crowd of black people that one of their leaders, one of their heroes, had been killed. Let’s not land, they begged him. Let’s go somewhere safe.

And Bobby said no. The plane landed and he gave this speech on the tarmac, completely extemporaneous and without notes, one of the finest in the history of this very, very imperfect nation:

Ladies and gentlemen.

I’m only going to talk to you for just a minute or so this evening, because I have some, some very sad news for all of you. Could you lower those signs, please? I have some very sad news for all of you, and, I think, sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world; and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.

Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause for the effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it’s perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black — considering the evidence, evidently, is that there were white people who were responsible — you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.

We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization — black people amongst blacks and white people amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand, and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion, and love.

For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust, of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.

But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond, or go beyond these rather difficult times.

My favorite poem, my favorite poet was Aeschylus. And he once wrote:

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget

falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair,

against our will,

comes wisdom

through the awful grace of god.

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King — yeah, it’s true — but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love, a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.

We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We’ve had difficult times in the past, and we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; it is not the end of disorder.

But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.

And let’s dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.

Thank you very much.

Kennedy died of a gunshot wound to the head 45 years ago Thursday.

Revolution

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“[Martin Luther] King’s response to our crisis can be put in one word: revolution. A revolution in our priorities, a reevaluation of our values, a reinvigoration of our public life and a fundamental transformation of our way of thinking and living….” — Cornel West

GORE VIDAL, 1925-2012

An unapologetic liberal. Of course, I don’t know why anyone should feel a need to apologize for being liberal.

I had my political awakening in 1968, when I was 12 years old. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were killed, segregationist George Wallace ran for president, Vietnam was raging. Riots, protests, the Democratic convention in Chicago — all of it thrilled and horrified me.

Then, on a steamy Wednesday night in August as Chicago cops rioted, busting heads and bloodying protesters, reporters, delegates, and innocent passersby on Michigan Avenue in front of the Conrad Hilton Hotel, Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley faced off on ABC TV. The moderator was Howard K. Smith.

Vidal was aggressively anti-war; Buckley aggressively pro-war. The two battled verbally until things seemed about to devolve into physical combat.

Vidal: “As far as I’m concerned, the only sort of pro-crypto Nazi I can think of is yourself.”

Buckley: “Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in the god damned face and you’ll stay plastered.”

I watched this live. I took sides right then and there.

Vidal would not back down, even when threatened by a Tory, royalist, blue-blood, former captain of the Yale debate team. He merely smiled when Buckley called him a queer.

I only wish liberals were as tough today.

CRISIS

If you read nothing else on the environment or the issue of climate change this summer, make sure you catch Bill McKibben‘s latest, terrifying piece in Rolling Stone.

Bill McKibben

Folks, we’ve got problems. The crisis is not tomorrow; it’s today.

And if you happen to encounter someone who denies global warming, don’t even bother arguing with them. Just tell ’em to kiss your ass.

MILLIONS OF CARS

Dig Tuesday’s XKCD: What If? post, imaged and linked below in Big Mike’s Playtime section.

This week’s physics theoretical asks, “What if there was a robot apocalypse? How long would humanity last?”

The answers (spoiler alert!) are — 1) not much would happen (unless we consider the computers that control the world’s nuclear arsenals to be robots, then too much) and 2) indefinitely (unless, again, the above contingency holds, then, oh, 13 seconds).

But the fascinating thing I found was the author’s calculation that at any given moment in the United States, there are 10 million cars on the road.

I might add that fully 75 percent of that number are snarled up at the Bypass construction zone at this very moment.

CAMPAIGN GAMES

Shelli Yoder yesterday challenged Todd Young to a series of debates in each of the 13 Indiana counties that make up the 9th Congressional District.

Young’s camp pooh-poohed the whole idea. The Republican incumbent’s campaign boss, Trevor Foughty, told the Louisville Courier-Journal that the debate challenge is a publicity stunt.

Shelli Yoder & Todd Young

Funny thing is, Young himself upset long-time 9th District rep Baron Hill in 2010 in part by, well, challenging the Dem to a series of debates.

I’M A LION — GRRRROWWLLLL!

Will Murphy, former general manager of Bloomington’s WFHB and current honcho at Ft. Wayne’s WBOI, learned about Snoop Dogg’s transformation into Snoop Lion yesterday.

Or Maybe I’m A Soldier — Ten Hut!

Murphy observed, “Not sure what to make of this.”

I set the radio man straight. “Nothing, Will. Absolutely nothing.”

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.”

XKCD: What If?

SkepchickWomen scientists look at the world and the universe.

IndexedAll the answers in graph form, on index cards.

I Fucking Love ScienceA Facebook community of science geeks.

Present and CorrectFun, compelling, gorgeous and/or scary graphic designs and visual creations throughout the years and from all over the world.

Flip Flop Fly BallBaseball as seen through infographics, haikus, song lyrics, and other odd communications devices.

Flip Flop Fly Ball

Mental FlossFacts.

Caps Off PleaseComics & fun.

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

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

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

The Daily PuppySo shoot me.

The Daily Puppy: Skeeter The Samoyed

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

Monroe County FairgroundsDay 5, 2012 Monroe County Fair, Senior citizens day, Joe Edwards & Jan Masters Show; 1, 3:30 & 6pm — Royal Flush karaoke; 6pm — Clayton Anderson; 7:30pm — Three Bar J Rodeo; 7:30pm; Noon to 11pm

Cafe DjangoTom Miller’s Last Show; 7:30pm

Max’s PlaceOpen mic; 7:30pm

Bear’s PlaceAmericana Jam: Chris Wolf, Danika Holmes, Suzette Weakly; 8pm

The Player’s PubSarah’s Swing Set; 8pm

The Comedy AtticBloomington Comedy Festival, audience vote decides the funniest person in Bloomington; 8pm

Boys & Girls Club of BloomingtonContra dancing; 8pm

The BluebirdDot Dot Dot; 9pm

◗ IU Kirkwood ObservatoryPublic viewing through main telescope, weather permitting; 10pm

Ongoing:

◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • “40 Years of Artists from Pygmalion’s”; opens Friday, August 3rd, through September 1st

◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • Qiao Xiaoguang, “Urban Landscape: A Selection of Papercuts” ; through August 12th
  • “A Tribute to William Zimmerman,” wildlife artist; through September 9th
  • Willi Baumeister, “Baumeister in Print”; through September 9th
  • Annibale and Agostino Carracci, “The Bolognese School”; through September 16th
  • “Contemporary Explorations: Paintings by Contemporary Native American Artists”; through October 14th
  • David Hockney, “New Acquisitions”; through October 21st
  • Utagawa Kuniyoshi, “Paragons of Filial Piety”; through fall semester 2012
  • Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan, “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers”; through December 31st
  • “French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century”; through December 31st

◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibits: Bloomington Photography Club Annual Exhibition; through August 3rd

◗ IU Kinsey Institute Gallery“Ephemeral Ink: Selections of Tattoo Art from the Kinsey Institute Collection”; through September 21st

◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibit, “Translating the Canon: Building Special Collections in the 21st Century”; through September 1st

◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesClosed for semester break, reopens Tuesday, August 21st

Monroe County History Center Exhibits:

  • “What Is Your Quilting Story?”; through July 31st
  • Photo exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“There is a distinct difference between having an open mind and having a hole in your head from which your brain leaks out.” — James Randi

CELESTIAL BEAUTY

Just a reminder, the transit of Venus will be visible in these parts in the hours just prior to sunset Tuesday evening.

The phenomenon has only been seen by human eyes seven times.

Wear #14 welder’s glasses or get a pair of those neat eclipse glasses that look a bit like movie theater 3-D glasses. The transit also is visible through one of those pinhole projection boxes the geeky kids in seventh grade always knew how to make when there was a partial solar eclipse.

Eclipse Cheaters

Which leads me to my fave beat-the-dead-horse question: Why believe in magic and monsters when real life itself is so spectacular?

WE HAVE A MOVIE

Man, you blew it if you were unable to catch the Italian movie “We Have a Pope.”

I just caught the Ryder Film Series offering last night at the SoFA small theater and it was a delight.

A cardinal named Melville is elected Pope and just as he’s about to greet the crowd in St. Peter’s he suffers what can only be described as a nervous breakdown, brought on primarily by his long simmering lack of self-confidence.

The Moment Before The Breakdown

The assembled Cardinals, who by canonical law cannot leave the Vatican until the new Pope greets the crowd, panic and eventually bring in a shrink in an effort to get the new boss to the balcony window.

By and by, the new Pope escapes the Vatican and a certain madness ensues.

The beauty of a lot of non-Hollywood movies is they don’t have Hollywood endings. That’s all I’ll say about that.

The movie will run on cable’s Independent Film Channel and if Peter LoPilato can ever get it back here in Bloomington, don’t blow your chance to see it again.

GO! — NOW!

UNINTENDED PR CONSEQUENCES

WHaP reminds me of all the foofaraw over Martin Scorsese‘s “The Last Temptation of Christ,” based on the eponymous book by Nikos Kazantzakis.

Released in 1988, TLToC dealt with the fever dreams of Christ as he hung on the cross, baking in the sun, driven mad by pain. He imagines an alternative existence wherein he settles into a simple life, marrying Mary Magdalene and not carrying the burden of all humankind’s sins.

The Man Wants Out; The Deity Has A Responsibility

It’s one of the most pious, spiritual, and reverent movies ever made.

I mean, the whole idea of Christ’s death, as I understand it, was that he was tempted to avoid his fate, but his faith and obedience to his “father in heaven” overcame his human need. And therein, I always thought, lay the foundation for Christianity.

But when TLToC played at the Biograph Theater in Chicago, Catholics and other defenders of the one and only big daddy-o in the sky picketed and shouted and otherwise drew more attention to the film than it ever would have garnered otherwise.

Go figure.

CANDID

BuzzFeed the other day ran a list of the most powerful photos ever taken.

Which got me to thinking which pix I’d pick. Ergo, here they are (in no particular order):

The French guy crying as the Nazis march through Paris

Vietnam: The naked girl running, the self-immolating monk, the Saigon police chief executing the guy in the street

The JFK assassination: LBJ takes the oath, Ruby shoots Oswald, JFK Jr. salutes

Earthrise from Apollo 8

The Chinese student and the tanks

Martin Luther King lay dying

World War II: Marines reenact the flag raising at Iwo Jima, the sailor kisses the nurse on V-J Day

The National Geographic Afghani girl

Che

Protest: John Carlos and Tommie Smith give the Black Power salute, Kent State, the flowers in the gun barrels

(All photos copyrighted.)

There. How about you? Tell us what’s on your list via the comments.

The Pencil Today:

THE (VIDEO) QUOTE

Courtesy of the White Rabbit.

RICK ‘N ROLL

A couple of things about my favorite Martian, Rick Santorum, before I get into the meat of today’s post.

  1. Yesterday, speaking before a crowd in Arizona, Rickey-girl slammed the Obama health care bill, natch. But he acknowledged that part of Obama’s reasoning was that every citizen should have the right to health care. Haharights. “When the government gives you rights, they can take those rights away,” he spewed. I’ve never thought about it that way before. I guess Martin Luther King, Jr. and all his cronies, were they still alive, would regret the enactments of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts. Because, after all, who cares about rights when they can be taken away?
  2. Pennsylvania’s man-in-the-closet is taking heat for casting aspersions on Obama’s “theology.” He has declared he will not step back from the statements because they came from his heart. You know, that’s why Republican Cro-Magnons are attractive to a lot of voters. They won’t back down. It’d be refreshing to hear a Democrat once in a while saying, Screw it, I said it and I believe it, no matter how many people think I should apologize.

BALLOT BOXERS

Speaking of Democrats, the Monroe County party faithful gathered together last night in the Fountain Square ballroom to pat themselves on the back and tell each other how badly they’re going to spank the GOP this coming November.

Even Mayor Mark Kruzan emerged from his cocoon to press the flesh.

Kruzan Has Been Seen In Public Before

Dem hopefuls running in the May primary for city, county, and statewide offices were introduced by the somnolent county party chair Rick Dietz during last evening’s finger-food love fest.

BTW: perhaps Dietz does a fine job maintaining the records of the party, or maybe he finds the best deals on yard signs and bumper stickers. But when it comes to rallying the troops, Steven Wright would be a more emphatic orator.

Anyway, the star of the show was the mustachioed John Gregg, who’s running for governor. He grabbed the mic out of Dietz’s hand when he was introduced and wowed the crowd. The man has charisma in addition to that big furry thing on his upper lip.

A Hirsute Governor?

The five brave souls running for US Congress from Indiana’s 9th District met the flock as a unit for the first time. In fact, some of them met the flock for the first time, period.

At least three of the contenders threw their hats into the ring within the last few weeks. They’re all earnest and most of them paid lip-service to the memory of liberal Dem representative Frank McCloskey as well as the sainted Lee Hamilton. But from this vantage point, it seems likely the only one with a ghost of a chance to unseat Congressboy Todd Young is Shelli Yoder.

McCloskey: Local Hero

I came down hard on Yoder Monday. She’s best known as Miss Indiana 1992 and earned a second runner-up spot in that year’s Miss America drool-fest. Apparently, she’d earned her second-lieutenancy by smoking up the pageant stage in her swimsuit.

Being a licensed and certified smart-ass, I felt compelled to make fun of her beauty-queen past. But smart pols like Regina Moore and Linda Robbins dig her the most, so I can’t discount their evaluations.

On the other hand, I spoke to a couple of female pols last night who want to see more from Yoder — and they weren’t talking skin, either.

Here are the Dems running for the nomination:

I haven’t got time right now to reveal my impressions of the gang (there’s the little matter of catching my bus to get to the Book Corner) but I’ll run them all through my wringer within the next few days. It should be fun.

SEX, SEX, SEX!

Back to the-man-whom-Google-made-famous, Neil Steinberg of the Chicago Sun-Times decided to check out his website. Steinberg reveals the results of his research in today’s column.

Steinberg

His conclusions? What I’ve been saying all along, these theocratic right wingers think about sex, sex, sex, and more sex.

To be frank, I do, too. As do you, I’ll bet. But, speaking for myself, I don’t flagellate myself for those thoughts.

And yeah, I tried the whole whipping-for-fun trick once. Didn’t do much for me. Still, I don’t run around screaming that my S&M pals ought to be banished to a desert island.

Maybe, Rickey-girl should try it. Could it be that’s what he really wants?

THE REAL RICK?

 

The Pencil Today:

TODAY’S QUOTE

“Let us go forth with fear and courage and rage to save the world.” — Grace Paley

COURAGE

One of the most overused terms in sports is courage. A guy hits a single in the bottom of the ninth to win a baseball game for his team and the announcers gasp and coo that’s he’s exhibited an uncommon amount of courage.

Or the plucky college basketball team beats the number one team in the nation which, as we all know, happened a little more than a month ago right here in Bloomington. Sure enough, the announcers and the next day’s sports columnists all agreed: that plucky team was very courageous.

I call bullshit.

Courage?

There was only one truly courageous professional athlete I’ve ever seen. He was born Cassius Marcellus Clay in Louisville, Kentucky, 70 years ago today.

We know him as Muhammad Ali.

I’ve never given a damn about professional boxing. It’s a cruel sport. It’s nothing more than sanctioned assault and battery performed for the pleasure of the slobs who pay to watch.

Men batter each others’ brains into mush so promoters and TV execs can make millions.

You can have it.

But I was always a fan of Muhammad Ali. He was the first jock to understand that what he was doing, first and foremost, was entertaining.

“Float like a butterfly,” he said, “sting like a bee.”

Poetry.

“I am the greatest,” he proclaimed. “I said that even before I knew I was.”

Comedy.

“I wish people would love everybody else the way they love me,” he said.

Brilliant.

Muhammad Ali was strong. Muhammad Ali spent months training for a fight. Muhammad Ali endured blows that would disable or kill you and me. Muhammad Ali beat up dozens of men in the ring.

But nothing he did was courageous until he started looking at the question of black and white in America.

“Boxing,” he said, “is a lot of white men watching two black men beat each other up.”

No social commentator has ever uttered or typed a line with such clarity and perspicacity on the topic of race in America.

When he first became boxing’s champion, he had reached the pinnacle of all that a black man could achieve in this holy land. He knew it wasn’t enough.

“I know I got it made while the masses of black people are catchin’ hell,” he said, “but as long as they ain’t free, I ain’t free.”

Still going by the name Clay, he and Martin Luther King, Jr. were the most famous black men in the world. He was wealthy. What man would jeopardize that?

He did. Racism in America so disgusted him that he joined the Nation of Islam in 1964. He changed his name to Ali.

Ali With Malcolm X

All those white men watching him beat up another black men weren’t going to like that one bit. Muhammad Ali instantly became the man they loved to hate.

What professional athlete today would put at risk even one commercial shoot to breathe a word about freedom or race or poverty?

Muhammad Ali had work to do — work much more important than mashing the brains of another black man for the amusement of white men.

America’s Vietnam War was disposing of thousands of human beings a week. It was fought, disproportionately, by America’s blacks.

In 1966, when Ali was classified 1-A by the Selective Service System, he opted for courage.

He was ordered to report to the Army’s induction center in Houston in April, 1967. When the induction officer called his name, Ali refused to respond.

He could have run to Canada, as many young men were doing back then. He could have joined the National Guard, as many pro athletes were doing at the time as well. Joining the National Guard was a way of avoiding service in the regular Army and, consequently, being sent to Southeast Asia.

He’d chosen neither of those ways out.

Three times the induction officer called his name. Three times he stood tall and silent. Finally the officer warned him that refusing to respond was a felony punishable by five years in prison.

Ali remained mum.

He would say later, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong. They never called me nigger.”

Which, by the way, was now the preferred appellation for him among so many of those white men who formerly enjoyed watching him beat up another black man.

Ali was immediately arrested and charged. He was found guilty by a jury two months later. He’d been stripped of his championship title by boxing’s regulating authorities the day he was arrested.

Ali Photographed By Gordon Parks During His Exile From Boxing

He gave up his career and his freedom and put his fortune at risk, all for something he believed in.

Something he believed in.

Which sports celebrity today believes in anything?

Which American today would risk a nickel on something he or she believes in?

It all turned out well for Muhammad Ali, of course. His conviction was overturned by the US Supreme Court. He was allowed to compete for the heavywieght title again and he won it back.

In his doddering years, he has become this nation’s kindly, lovable grandpa. When he dies, politicians and wags will fall all over each other trying to be the first to say what a great man he was.

But on April 28, 1967, Muhammad Ali had no idea that would happen.

He only knew his public opposition to the Vietnam War was worth risking everything he had.

That was courage.

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