Category Archives: Occupy Wall Street

Hot Air

An Elbow To The Face

What should a rational observer think about Cecily McMillan?

She’s the Occupy Wall Street protester who was convicted yesterday of second degree assault on a police officer during a scuffle at Zuccotti Park in NYC in March 2012. McMillan — there is no doubt — clocked the cop square in the face with her elbow as she was being run in during the disturbance. Numerous people, apparently all allies of hers, shot video of the clocking. In fact, her defense team presented one of those videos during her trial.

A trial, by the way, that lasted four weeks. Seems like an inordinate amount of time to spend on a simple slugging case but this whole incident is far from simple. McMillan has become a face of what could be a revolutionary movement. Cops, prosecutors, and public officials don’t brush such folks off lightly. Not in this holy land, nor in Russia, China, India, or Thailand.

As such, the entire arsenal of New York City’s justice system, seemingly, was aimed at her. Cops are clocked all the time in bar fights and domestic disturbances. Generally, cops take care of such transgressions in their own inimitable way. Remember the old comic strip Beetle Bailey? The Sarge used to pummel Beetle now and again, resulting in this:

Beetle Bailey

Mort Walker/King Features Syndicate

That’s what cops usually do to guys whose knuckles come uncomfortably close to their pretty faces. It’s never wise to tap, brush, shove, or otherwise cause physical impact upon the body of a man wearing a uniform. Especially if he outranks you. And on the streets, the cops always outrank you. Their guns and badges trump any Constitutional subtleties.

For her part, McMillan says the cop she clocked had grabbed her breast, causing her pain and injury. She struck him, she says, in a defensive reaction. The numerous videos don’t show the cop in question actually doing that, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he did. I’ve known too many cops in my time to be burdened by any fairy tale that they all are upstanding, wholesome sweethearts.

During the trial, McMillan’s lawyers showed the jury this photo:

McMillan

Note the trauma and bruising on her right breast. The prosecutor in McMillan’s trial told the jury that McMillan had injured herself after her arrest just so she could make a specious allegation against the officer.

That’s possible. Then again, that line of reasoning sounds suspiciously close to a rapist’s defense that his victim had created her story out of thin air.

And I’ve known too many prosecutors to be burdened by the fairy tale that they all are devoted to the sacred truth.

Cops and prosecutors work together all the time. They need each other in order to make cases stick. They are allies in our system of justice. It’s not unreasonable to assume they would, on occasion, attempt to coordinate stories that would protect each other from certain accusations.

That said, revolutionary and lesser protest movements attract extremists ranging from drama queens to the odd homicidal maniac. I’m on the side of the OWS gang, sure, but that doesn’t mean I’d be happy sitting down to dinner or having a beer with each and every one of them.

Even the sainted civil rights and anti-war protest movements of the 1960s and early ’70s were peopled by some number of folks who would scare the bejesus out of a mental institution warden.

It’s as likely that Cecily McMillan made up her story as it is that the cop had squished her breast. And even if he did squish her breast, does that excuse her slugging him, under the law?

OWS supporters are screaming to high heaven that this is a great miscarriage of justice. Proof, some say, that this nation is now a police state. They fail to realize that this charge and this verdict would just as likely have happened 20 years ago, 40 years ago or even a hundred years ago, given the same set of circs.

McMillan is being held without bail until her sentencing on May 19th. That’s harsh. But that’s what you get when you scare cops and prosecutors — and the men who control the nation’s wealth.

So, what can a rational observer conclude about her case? Nothing really, not just yet.

And that’s a stance very few people take.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.” — Omar Bradley

BOOM!

WFIU reports that the US Army is staging a two-week nuclear explosion response simulation through mid-August right here in South Central Indiana.

Some 10,000 soldiers and civilian responders are play-acting what they’ll do in the event that some mad brown people drop a nuke on, say, Bloomington or even Indy.

The big burlesque is happening at the Muscatatuck Urban training Center, about 75 miles east-southeast of Bloomington.

Muscatatuck Urban Training Center (Click to enlarge)

MUTC covers a thousand acres and has more than a hundred training buildings including structures up to seven stories tall as well as good old split-level suburban type homes.

Now, I mention mad brown people because that’s who we’re really afraid is going to hurl the big one at us, no?

Didn’t George W. Bush whisper the words mushroom cloud and Saddam Hussein into our ears back in 2002 and 2003 to convince us to go along with him and his cronies on their war party? How much has changed regarding how we look at Arabs and Muslims since then?

When Michele Bachmann can get media mileage and a sharp increase in campaign donations out of linking one of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s aides with al Qaeda even now, we haven’t moved an inch off that witless, brainless dime in ten years.

Anyway, MUTC is located, appropriately enough, on the former site of the Indiana Farm Colony for Feeble Minded Youth. Adding to the irony of it all, the IFCFMY is where several thousand forced sterilizations took place after Indiana became the first state in the union to allow that eugenic practice.

I wonder if the people who ran IFCFMY instructed the kids to duck and cover back in the ’50s.

And how feeble-minded do we have to be to figure we’ll survive a nuclear blast if only we have enough ambulances and EMTs?

WHAT’S THE ANTIDOTE FOR ANTONIN?

I’ve been taking my time reading Rick Perlstein’s fab book, “Nixonland,” this summer.

Perlstein posits that Dick Nixon was the first television era president to give voice to the bleatings and ramblings of the gleefully uneducated in this holy land.

Rick Perlstein

Nixon’s was truly a grass roots campaign in 1968. He portrayed college-educated people as snobbish, superior, sex- and drug-crazed lunatics who were going to ram blacks, Jews, peace, welfare, and even a little bit of the Communist Manifesto down good people’s throats. Nixon was savvy enough to realize most Americans had a hard enough time getting out of high school.

He rode a wave of self-pity and manufactured paranoia into the White House.

The divisions Nixon capitalized on in the United States at the time make today’s Tea Party/Occupy Wall Street tête-à-tête look like a pillow fight.

Perlstein suggests that this nation avoided an actual second civil war by a hair’s width. Bombings, murders, assassinations, mob actions, and the army on American streets were as common from 1965 through 1973 as texting while driving is today.

Watts, August 1965

Anyway, during Nixon’s early years in the White House, PBS was coming into its own as a news operation to be reckoned with, especially since it didn’t have to answer to advertisers. PBS started nosing into some of the more unsavory aspects of the Nixon administration. The President directed the general counsel for the Office of Telecommunications Policy to draw up a plan to defang PBS.

That general counsel wrote memos spelling out precisely how Nixon could bring PBS to heel. He wrote: “The best possibility for White House influence is through Presidential appointees to the Board of Directors.”

Once Nixon had stacked the board with his boys, they could then work on local PBS stations to play ball with the White House through the granting of moneys that were originally meant to go to the national network. The reason? The national network was top heavy with people from “the liberal Establishment of the Northeast.”

In other words, college-educated men. Bad guys who must be battled.

The author of that strategy was a fellow named Antonin Scalia, now the longest serving member of the US Supreme Court.

Antonin Scalia: Warrior Against Liberals

Yeah, there was a revolution in the ’60s. Only the guys in power staged it — and won it.

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

I Love ChartsLife as seen through charts.

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

SkepchickWomen scientists look at the world and the universe.

IndexedAll the answers in graph form, on index cards.

I Fucking Love ScienceA Facebook community of science geeks.

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

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

Mental FlossFacts.

Caps Off PleaseComics & fun.

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

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

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

The Daily PuppySo shoot me.

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

Bloomington High School NorthYard sale to benefit the Color Guard; 7am-noon

City Hall, Showers Plaza — Farmers Market; 8am-1pm

Monroe County FairgroundsDay 8, 2012 Monroe County Fair, Veterans Program; 2pm — Dead Giveaway; 5pm — Demolition Derby; 7pm; Noon to 11pm

◗ IU Art MuseumTour: Exploring German Expressionism with docent Yelena Polyanskaya; 2pm

◗ IU Art MuseumTalk: Focus on Hockney with curator Nan Brewer; 2:15pm

◗ IU CinemaFilm: “David Hockney: The Bigger Picture”; 3pm

◗ IU Fine Arts TheaterRyder Film Series: “Kumaré: The True Story of a False Prophet; 7pm

Bloomington Playwrights ProjectOriginal musical, “Dreams & Nightmares”; 7pm

Muddy Boots Cafe, Nashville — Jeb Brester; 7-9pm

Buskirk-Chumley Theater — “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast”; 7:30pm

Brown County Playhouse, Nashville — Cari Ray, The Not Too Bad Bluegrass Band;  7:30pm

◗ IU Woodburn Hall TheaterRyder Film Series: “Polisse”; 8pm

Cafe DjangoDave Gulyas & Dave Bruker; 8pm

The Comedy AtticCostaki Economopolous; 8 & 10:30pm

◗ IU Fine Arts TheaterRyder Film Series: “Oslo: August 31”; 8:30pm

The BishopJason Wilber, e.a. strother; 8:30pm

The BluebirdPam Thrash Retro; 9pm

Max’s PlaceLexi Minich and the Strangers; 9pm

Muddy Boots Cafe, Nashville — Bonz; 9:30pm

Max’s PlaceOtto Mobile; 10:30pm

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:

  • Coming — Media Life; August 24th through September 15th
  • Coming — Axe of Vengeance: Ghanaian Film Posters and Film Viewing Culture; August 24th through September 15th

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

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

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

Monroe County History 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

“You can’t just sit around and make protest albums all your life; eventually it comes to the point where you have to do something.” — Paul Kantner

THE RIGHT’S GLOVES ARE OFF

So, Mitch Daniels went all the way Sunday morning. He appeared on Fox News (where else?) and called for the elimination of public sector unions.

That’s Rich, Mitch

Next week, Donald Trump and Mitt Romney will appear on Fox to call for the elimination of the 50 states. They will be replaced, under the Hair Hell/Mitt Plan, by fiefdoms run by the leading corporations on the Fortune 500 list.

On June 24th, Ron Paul will present his proposal to declare the national deity whichever plutocrat happens to occupy the Richest Man in America spot each particular week.

Sometime in July, Saint Ronald Reagan is expected to arise from the dead, speak briefly on the Fox News Sunday program, and then ascend into heaven.

AROUND TOWN MONDAY

Click.

THE DOLLAR IS DOWN

Prosperity gospel” bunk artist Creflo Dollar harangued his congregation yesterday about his arrest on charges of physically abusing his 15-year-old daughter.

He denied everything, natch. “I want the church family to know that all is well in the Dollar household,” he thundered.

Charged With Battery, Family Violence, & Child Cruelty

Here’s a personal message to Dollar: Your own daughter caused you to be cuffed, printed, and given a room in the Lockup Hotel. Your own daughter. All is not well in your household.

By the way, the holy loon’s wife is named Taffi Dollar. Did a comedy writer come up with this stuff?

Daffy & Taffi

His congregation numbers some 20,000 trusting souls. He is reported to have owned a couple of Rolls Royces. He flies around in a private Gulfstream jet. He lives in a million dollar home in Georgia as well as a $2.5M pad in Manhattan. He tells his sheep that Jesus and his old man want them to be rich, rich, rich, just like him. Then he asks them to send him dough. Loads of it. How much? No one can say precisely. MinistryWatch.com has rated him F in financial transparency.

The New York Post reports that his church rakes in $65M a year.

Oh, and his ministry doesn’t pay any taxes.

Wouldn’t you love to do to him what his daughter says he did to her?

FUNNY

Mad magazine is still at it. (h/t to Brady Haston from Tennessee.)

TEA PARTY-ISTS ARE LOONS BUT THEY’RE SMART

Bill Maher’s right. (Go to the 2:42 mark in the vid.)

He smacked the Occupy Wall Street and street protest crowds Friday.

OWS and the rest of the dance-on-the-pavement bunch who think The Man is afraid of them because they wear bandannas over their faces have to start thinking about real change in a real world.

NATO Protesters In Chicago

Playing cowboys and Indians on the streets may be fun but it gets nothing done.

Let’s start holding Town Hall meetings.

Let’s start registering voters.

Let’s run voter shuttles on election day.

Let’s start packing school boards, county commissions, city councils, and other small legislative bodies

Then let’s focus on the House and the Senate.

Let’s withdraw our money from gargantuan banks.

Let’s start credit unions.

Let’s pack municipal, state, and federal legislative sessions.

Let’s apply real pressure.

Whee! I’m Changing The World!

Here’s Maher: “It seems to be working for the Tea Party. I mean, think of it, three years ago the Tea Party was just a few hundred diabetics angry at blacks and gays for making them feel old. But now they have 62 seats in Congress.”

Believe me, NATO ministers and investment bank CEOs and corporate rapists don’t care who you are under that bandana nor do they care what your placard reads.

Or Your Chest

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” — Malcolm X

THE ANNUAL ELECTRON PENCIL PENNILESS LIST

What a coincidence!

Only two days after Forbes Magazine released its yearly list of the world’s billionaires, we at The Electron Pencil proudly present our inaugural annual roster of broke Americans.

Forbes Got Nuthin’ On Us

(We are working with our crack legal team to determine if we have a case against Forbes. It is our assertion that Forbes intentionally scheduled its release to upstage our eagerly awaited list of the Penniless. Stayed tuned for more developments.)

Several of the Forbes select few have expressed displeasure at having information about their personal finances splashed all over magazines, newspapers, radio, and TV. Our lucky few are circumspect as well. In fact, each of them has pleaded with us not to reveal their identities or net worth.

Forbes Porn

But we are nothing if not tireless, intrepid journalists. Our commitment to unearth the truth no matter the consequences must trump their desire for privacy. As a compromise, we will not use the full names of our honorees.

Now then, here is The Annual Electron Pencil Penniless List:

  • Ronald H.: A talented jazz saxophonist, Mr. H. recently moved out of his cozy pied-à-terre on the west side of Bloomington. He is now “traveling.” In other words, he is homeless. Mr. H. was ousted from his position as Vice President of Facilities Maintenance for a local elementary school last spring. He was a casualty of school budget cuts. He carries the entirety of his possessions in his backpack which has a missing zipper. Sharp-eyed passersby can catch glimpses of Mr. H.’s holdings when his backpack flap flips open. He is considered among the most open and transparent of our 2012 honorees.
  • Miranda P.: She and her two children — Zach, 5, and Lily, 3 — also are “traveling.” Mrs. P. is currently in the process of dissolving her partnership with Joshua P., who last December attempted a hostile takeover of her finances. Mr. P. at the time was putting together a straight cash transaction for sub-legal pharmaceuticals. When Mrs. P. rejected his entreaties for her cash, he threatened and eventually carried out a night-time assault upon her face. Mrs. P.’s jaw was wired shut and the discoloration around her eyes lasted well into the new year. Middle Way House now serves as temporary headquarters for Mrs. P.’s break-away firm.
  • Jeremy M.: Mr. M.’s home was ranked number one in Car and Driver’s 1992 Best Selling Cars list. His curbfront domicile is known popularly among neighbors as as “that damned red Taurus.” He inherited it from his grandfather who passed away in 2006 while Mr. P. was finishing up his master’s degree in fine arts. Mr. P. is looking to diversify by applying for work at Rally’s Hamburgers, Kroger on 2nd Street, and the Subway at Walnut and 6th streets. Some observers say Mr. P.’s total wealth has been adversely affected by his ill-advised leveraging of student loans to acquire his degree. Mr. P. has responded that his degree has been valued in certain quarters at $1.7 million over his lifetime, as opposed to his total debt load of $53,000. Mr. P. was recently seen purchasing a rare pair of red Chuck Taylors at the Salvation Army Thrift Store on North Rogers Street.
  • Kevin W.: A pioneer in the field of bipolar disorder patientry, Mr. W. visits the four corners of Bloomington on his daily perambulations. He is known far and wide as an often accessible member of the local penniless community. He has made enemies, though, during the days before he receives his monthly dosage of lithium. Mr. W. impresses with his ability to identify the day of the week of any random date a questioner might suggest. Some analysts believe this indicates he also possesses a form of Asperger’s Syndrome which would help solidify his inclusion in future Penniless lists.
  • Jana C.: A long-time leader in the local physical pleasure industry, Ms. C. recently became affiliated with Narcotics Anonymous and has indicated she may be looking to move on to other fields. Her ambitions may be tempered by the pressing needs of members of the housing, utilities, and grocery industries for immediate remuneration for services and goods. When her liquidity sank to an all-time low in February, Ms. C. confided to close friends that she may never be entirely free to leave the sex industry.

We salute our Penniless achievers.

TIME IS NOT MONEY

Speaking of the penniless, our go-to researcher R.E. Paris points out that Lester Chambers of the 1960’s power soul group, the Chambers Brothers, has fallen on the hardest of times.

Chambers posted an Occupy Wall Street-type letter on You Tube describing his unfortunate state this week. The post went viral.

Chambers says the recording contract he and his band mates signed in the mid-60’s screwed him out of royalties. He writes, “Only 1% of artists can sue. I am the 99%.”

The Electron Pencil ran a video of the Chambers Brothers’ hit, “Time Has Come Today,” earlier this year.

POT IS MONEY

So, the spectacularly crazed Pat Robertson has come out in favor of the legalization of marijuana.

Wild, huh?

Maybe no so wild when you think about it. Perhaps the human race’s pipeline to the creator of the universe has concluded that too many of his hard-pressed contributors are turning to pot harvesting for him to continue being a prohibitionist.

Pat Knows: You Can’t Contribute If You’re In The Joint

Frankly, this development bums me out, man. I’ve been for the legalization of pot for decades. Sadly, now that Pat Robertson is as well, I’ll have to change my position.

Damn.

Come to think of it, doesn’t he look sorta high in the photo on the link?

CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF SARAH

Roger Ebert digs the new HBO movie about Sarah Palin. Actually, “Game Change” is supposed to be about the failed 2008 run of John McCain for president but, honestly, McCain wasn’t the story at all.

I’m tempted to watch the movie but the casting of Julianne Moore as the winking dolt is problematic for me: I like Moore and I’d hate to have her associated with the New White Oprah from now on.

No, Julianne, No!

Too bad the producers couldn’t get Palin to play herself. Ebert describes her as “the greatest actress in American political history.”

ASK THE ANGELS

Patti Smith, babies.

Across the country, through the fields,

You know I see it written ‘cross the sky.

People rising from the highway

And war, war is the battle cry

And it’s wild, wild, wild, wild.

The Pencil Today:

TODAY’S QUOTE

“All personal belongings, tents and possessions must be removed from People’s Park on or before noon on Thursday, January 5, 2012.” — Mayor Mark Kruzan’s order, posted at 6:30pm, Wednesday, January 4, 2012

SHOWDOWN

Well, that’s that. Maybe.

Mayor Mark Kruzan has given the bum’s rush to the Occupy protesters at People’s Park.

They had until noon today to clear out. Cops posted eviction notices on lamp posts last night at about 6:3o. That triggered  a rush to City Hall where the City Council was gathering for its regularly scheduled meeting. Occupiers packed the chambers to express their displeasure. A few of them vowed to resist the ouster.

Occupiers At Last Night’s City Council Meeting (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/Herald Times)

City Council member Steve Volan told the Herald Times he wished the mayor had provided more notice not only to him and his colleagues but to the Occupiers.

My guess was there’d be at least a bit of trouble.

So, I packed up my digital camera and my pocket voice recorder and went to People’s Park a little bit after 11:00 this morning. Here’s what I saw and heard:

The big M*A*S*H-style tent is already gone, as are several of the other, smaller tents. People are busy gathering gear up and trundling stuff to nearby cars. Several sweep up half a winter’s worth of salt and pebbles from the decorative masonry walk.

A guy stands up on a bench and starts howling about the death of somebody or something. Immediately, six or more voices rise to drown him out. An older looking dude barks, “Hey ____! Fuck you!”

One young woman wielding a broom tries to calm everyone down. “Keep your dignity,” she says, almost mantra-like as she swept.

I ask another young woman why people are on the guy. “I don’t want to make any judgments about people,” she says, but she pauses, making sure I know she’s judging the fellow. Another guy who overhears my question comes up and angrily explains: “That’s _____. He’s sexually assaulted two people in this city.”

The young woman nods in confirmation. The guy on the bench will continue to circulate through the crowd for at least the next hour and a half, challenging the Occupiers to take up the cause of the dead man. And each time, voices will be raised to drown him out.

A couple of people begin the human megaphone trick wherein they loudly proclaim an announcement which will be echoed by the crowd.

“Mike check…,” the two say.

“Mike check…,” the crowd repeats.

“It’s 40 minutes until noon…,”

“It’s 40 minutes until noon…,”

“There’s still stuff…,”

“There’s still stuff…,”

“To be picked up.”

“To be picked up.”

Already the number of reporters and photographers on hand approaches that of the Occupiers. Ryan Dawes from the WFHB News Department whacks me on the shoulder. We agree to double-team for interviews.

He corrals a thirtyish woman who appears authoritative. She is Nicole Johnson, wife of Josh Johnson, one of the three Occupiers who was arrested on New Year’s Eve.

Nicole Johnson

“We asked for an extension from the mayor,” she says. “We did that last night. We had less than 18 hours to pick everything up. Our lawyer was there (at the Council meeting) because we knew stuff was going down but we just didn’t know what. So, the (Occupiers at Council meeting) consesused to ask for an extension. We didn’t know what we needed to be doing but we knew we needed more than 18 hours.

“It was a little unfair. We’ve been here for almost three months. To be gone in less than 18 hours is a little harsh.”

The eviction notices state that any tents or personal belongings left in the park after the noon deadline will be seized.

“We have a large constituency of homeless that live in the park,” Nicole says. “These tents here are tents that people have been living in. They have no place else to go.”

Nicole estimates some 20 homeless people have been sharing quarters with the Occupiers. She says some of the homeless have substance abuse issues which preclude them from being admitted to more traditional overnight shelters.

“We don’t even have detox in Bloomington,” she says. “And that is one of the things we’ve been doing here, a part of what we were doing anyway, and that is social services. There’ve been many times where we’ve had to bring individuals to the hospital because of alcohol poisoning, of the homeless. They would return to the park four hours later in full DTs. We would have to put them in the bed and watch them.”

I ask why the Occupiers did that for the homeless. As Nicole begins to answers she breaks down crying.

“Because they’re human! And you know, that’s one of the beautiful things that’s happened in this park.”

Nicole composes herself and then explains the decision-making process that these Occupiers had adopted. Everyone’s voice is heard, she says, all options and opinions are weighed. When people strongly disagrees with the consensus, they are welcome not to have to participate in that particular course of action.

“There is no forum like that,” she says. “There is no forum with that equality in our current government structure. That’s what we’ve been doing in the park.”

Ryan asks her how many Occupiers will remain in the park after the eviction deadline.

“We are staying in the park until eleven o’clock tonight (the usual park closing time).”

She then talks about how today’s activity — the tent breakdown, the cleaning up, the leaving — happened almost spontaneously. Then she points out a couple of tents in the far corner of the park, against the Bicycle Garage building. “I don’t know why people are setting tents up there,” she says. “I don’t know why people are meditating on top of the big bunk bed frames we built.”

Indeed, three young women are sitting cross-legged in the sunshine, their eyes closed, amid the activity. “So I don’t know what anybody’s planning to do at eleven when you’re supposed to be out of the park.”

She says her husband is at work at this hour. He’s to be arraigned tomorrow in Monroe County Court. She says the Herald Times has reported that the county prosecutor will charge him with two counts of felony resisting arrest with bodily harm to a police officer. She tells us to check out the You Tube footage of Josh Johnson’s arrest.

[The loudest voice in the video seems to be that of Nicole.]

Now she tells us that she and her three children stayed overnight at People’s Park when the weather was warmer but soon temperatures had become too harsh for them.

“This has been an amazing transformational period in my life,” she says. “This is really just the beginning.”

It doesn’t look like much of a beginning, though. People are still tearing down homemade structures and cleaning up after themselves. By now the number of reporters and photographers at least equals the number of Occupiers.

The human megaphone sounds again.

“Mike check…,”

“Mike check…,”

“We got two minutes…,”

“We got two minutes…,”

But that revelation instantly becomes a spontaneous song. Occupiers sing “We got two minutes” again and again.

Noon comes and no police officers or city workers are to be seen.

At five minutes past noon, a man winds his way through the crowd, sarcastically crowing, “What happens if there’s no violence?” He repeats the question, loudly in the direction of any journalists who, in truth, are in all directions here.

“What if there isn’t a fight?” he continues. “What happens? Then there’s no story! Then what are you gonna do?”

Moments later an Indiana University garbage truck pulls up to the corner at Dunn Street and Kirkwood. There’s a hush and then the human megaphone kicks on.

“Mike check…,”

“Mike check…,”

“It looks like…,” the leader says, her voice trailing off as she points at the truck. Now the truck pulls away. It had only been stopping for the stop sign.

“It looks like…, just a truck,” she announces.

A passing pedestrian walks up to the three young woman meditating on the bunk bed structure. He asks, “There’s still no leader here?”

“No,” one of the women says, “there will never be a leader here.”

At 12:20pm, I leave.

The Pencil Today:

DOES THAT INCLUDE ME?

My idol, Mike Royko: “It has been my policy to view the Internet not as an ‘information highway,’ but as an electronic asylum filled with babbling loonies.”

Royko

NOW WE’RE GETTING SOMEWHERE

At long last, I can throw my enthusiastic support behind the Occupy Movement.

I’ve been fairly tepid in my backing of the three-month-old grass-roots protest. Staging a Boy Scout Jamboree in People’s Park won’t do the job when the corporate and legislative forces of the mightiest nation in the history of the Earth are aligned against you.

Occupy Bloomington

Yesterday, things changed.

Women’s defense courses teach a few tricks when a person faces a much stronger foe. A man may menace a woman, towering over her, possessing twice her brawn, but if she carefully aims a knee or a toe at those little ovoid organs dangling between his thighs, the contest will suddenly — seemingly magically —  be evened.

Occupiers aimed a swift kick at the balls Monday. Protesters tried to shut down ports in Oakland, Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston, and Portland with varying degrees of success. Others tried to interfere with operations at Walmart distribution centers in Salt Lake City and Denver.

“The Man” isn’t writhing on the ground just yet. He may never. But yesterday was a nice start.

Occupy Protesters Block The Port Of Oakland

THE CRUSADING JOURNALIST

So, having spent Sunday night writing up my Top Ten Local Political Stories in 2011 article for the Ryder magazine, I felt awfully smug and snarky.

I chided both parties, wondered when there’d be a funeral for the local Republican party, gave a justifiable raspberry to the entire Indiana General Assembly, guessed that a certain elected official had nightmares about wearing a county correctional center jumpsuit, and repeated unflattering speculation about how an unsuccessful mayoral candidate raised his hefty war chest this past spring.

Heading Out To Pasture

In fact, I fairly bullied that candidate, a harmless fellow named John Hamilton. His wife, it so happens, is a fairly well-known former Washington appointee, Dawn Johnsen.

Johnsen, you may recall, served under Bill Clinton in the Office of Legal Counsel. When Barack Obama took office, he nominated her to be the head of that office. The Republicans dug into her past and discovered that she’d once or twice uttered a sentence about abortion that didn’t conclude with her demanding that women who’d had one ought to be horsewhipped.

Naturally, GOP Senators tripped all over themselves trying to paint her as something akin to a blood-soaked abortionist herself. They held up her appointment in 2009, then adjourned. Obama renominated her in 2010 and, yup, the Republicans held it up again. Finally, after months of sitting around and waiting, Johnsen stuck her tongue out at the whole of Washington, withdrew her name from consideration, and came back home to Bloomington.

She seems happy enough teaching constitutional law here at Indiana University.

Johnsen At Her Nomination Hearing

Hamilton, on the other hand, has led a less headline-worthy life. Were it not for his fortuitous taste in brides, I implied, he might not be given a second thought as a mayoral candidate.

I echoed the oft-repeated whisper that his campaign contribution pot of gold might have been the result of Maurer School of Law faculty members feeling compelled to write generous checks to him as a way of currying favor with their esteemed colleague, his wife.

I even referred to him as Mr. Dawn Johnsen.

It was 21st Century journalism at its finest. I proved myself to be witty, bold, sassy, and ready at the drop of a hat to point and gawk at people in power and those who want to be. And hidden somewhere among all that brilliant verbiage might even have been an atom of truth.

Okay, maybe an electron.

Hell, Bloomington’s a small town, really, and everybody knows everybody else’s gossip. Especially politicians and IU faculty members.

Hamilton might even be the next Congressman from the great state o’Indiana’s 9th District. That’s part of the gossip, too — that his mayoral tilt was really a test run for a bigger prize.

Hamilton’s Real Goal?

One of the hazards of being a professional smart-ass is the fear that one day one of my subjects might walk up and jab me one in the nose. Worry not, though. I figure that John Hamilton is too much of a refined gentleman to flatten my snout. Plus, it’d look bad for a guy trying to run for Congress having to explain why he assaulted and battered a beloved blogger.

Everybody’s happy, right?

I thought so until yesterday afternoon. I was blissfully peddling tomes at the Book Corner at about 2:30 when who walks in but Dawn Johnson herself.

My body froze but my mind raced. Oh sweet Jesus! She’s here to tear my head off. Oh holy god, here she comes!

But Johnsen strode past me. I exhaled. What am I worried about? She’s a big time lawyer. She’s too smart to bloody up some knuckleheaded snark-meister.

Probably Some Journalist

She headed for the back of the store where Margaret, the boss, holds forth.

Oh no. No, no. She’s gonna demand that I be fired. I love this job. I get to hang out among books and readers and meet everybody in town. I even get paid a couple of pennies a week to do it. Oh, what an idiot I am! Why do I have to be such a smart-ass?

I watched as Johnsen conferred earnestly with Margaret. They took an awfully long time, talking about my future. Jeez, I thought, let’s get it over with.

I figured, All you gotta do is tell Margaret that nobody in town’ll ever shop in her store again as long as she keeps that no-good, insulting, smart-aleck, so-called journalist in her employ.

But then I shook my head clear. What the hell am I thinking? The piece hasn’t run yet for pity’s sake! I haven’t turned it in. I haven’t even finished it!

Hahahaha! What a dope I am. I felt like dancing among the stacks.

Johnsen came up to the checkout counter and placed a kid’s book down. “Everything alright?” I asked, my voice cracking the tiniest bit.

Oh sure, she said. She added that she’d ordered another children’s book from Margaret. That’s what had taken so long.

I snorted. Johnsen looked at me, puzzled.

I couldn’t stop myself. “I gotta tell ya…,” I began. I told her the whole story of my little panic attack moments before. Well, not exactly the whole story; I left out the Mr. Dawn Johnsen part.

“And, I swear to god, I thought you were gonna clunk me on the head,” I concluded.

Johnsen laughed. “Oh,” she said, “I’d never do that!”

I handed her the kid’s book in a bag. “Thanks a lot,” I said. “You’re a great sport.”

“I can’t wait to read your piece,” she said. And then she was gone.

I smiled as she went out the door. I watched her walk down Walnut Street, the smile still plastered on my face. For at that moment it occurred to me: Dawn Johnsen and her husband, John Hamilton, are going to read my story.

Sure, she’d never clunk me on the head. But is John Hamilton really all that harmless?

Yeesh. The things you have to worry about when you’re a crusading, smart-assed blogger and so-called journalist.

Does He Pack A Punch?

The Pencil Today:

HUH? WHAT? LEMME GET SOME COFFEE FIRST, WOULDJA?

Oy! Another week, albeit a short one.

Okay, let’s get it started with some trivia fun. Here’s the question:

Where in the world is the Isle of Langerhans?

You want to google it, I know, but hold off for a little while. Let Pencil fans from around the globe have a crack at it off the tops of their heads.

Then google it.

The first correct answer wins an all-expenses-paid trip to the Bypass Construction Zone.

The Grand Prize!

Hat tip to my old pal Andy Wallingford, Triviameister Emeritus of Wick’s Pizza-Goosecreek in Louisville, Kentucky, for the question.

A MIGHTY COMMUNICATIONS COLOSSUS

Our first-ever Pencil Poll appeared Saturday. Our crack team of statisticians worked ceaselessly throughout the rest of the weekend in a valiant effort to keep up with the avalanche of responses. I’ve just been handed the latest results and they indicate a grand total of nearly two dozen people ventured their opinions on what should become of the various Occupy encampments around this holy land.

Man, no wonder the economy nearly came to a standstill over the last 72 hours!

Anyway, the majority of respondents want the camps to be left alone. Nearly a quarter of the fine folks who are loyal to this site think the Occupy people ought to do something more constructive. One person doesn’t care — in fact, that respondent doesn’t care so much that he went out of his way to answer an online poll to tell the world he doesn’t care. That’s certainty.

Oh, BTW: We got respondents from both coasts. And I’m not referring to the coasts of Lake Monroe. I mean the coast of the greatest nation in the history of humankind, this experiment in democracy, the United States of America.

Next goal — readers on all seven continents. In fact, we’re planning a marketing caravan to Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica next year.

Watch us grow!

America’s Outpost In Antarctica

YOU DON’T OWN ME

Oh, baby! This is too good to be true. Have you seen the pissing match between Alaska Rep. Don Young, a Republican, and the eminent historian Douglas Brinkley yet?

Brinkley actually lives out every thinking person’s fantasy when he goes toe to toe with the proto-human Young. The Republican Party has been trafficking in anti-intellectualism since the late 1970s when the Christian right organized to put a saint in the White House.

He’s In Heaven Now, With All Dogs And Randy “Macho Man” Savage

So, Congressman Young was attending a hearing of the House Committee on Natural Resources, no doubt in his ongoing quest to allow multi-national corporations to sully every square inch of pristine wilderness in this holy land. Brinkley was testifying against oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Young, natch, would prefer to see oil derricks are far as the eye can see there.

Suddenly, Young blows up at Brinkley. In fact, he’s so choleric that he calls him the wrong name and then…, well, watch.

Er, uh, don’t watch. I don’t know why, but C-SPAN won’t allow me to embed the video of the dramatic exchange. Maybe Rep. Young’s thugs got to the C-SPAN people (tee-hee).

Here’s my transcription of the Battle of the Century.

Young: “If you ever want to see an exercise in futility, it’s this hearing…. I call it garbage, Mr. Rice, that comes from the mouth….”

Brinkley: ‘It’s Dr. Brinkley. Rice is a university….”

Young: “Well….”

Brinkley: “You know, you went to Yuba College. You couldn’t graduate….”

Young: “I’ll call you anything I want to call you when you set (sic) in that chair!”

Brinkley: “Pardon?”

Young: “You just be quiet!”

Brinkley: “Why? You don’t own me! I pay your salary.”

Young: “I don’t own you but I’ll tell you right now….”

Here, the chairman tries to throw a bucket of cold water on the two baying dogs. Too late, they’ve got their teeth in each other’s necks.

Brinkley: “I work for the private sector; you work for the taxpayers!”

The chair continues to try to chill the angry Brinkley, who repeats his complaint that Young misidentified him and called his testimony garbage. The chair says the committee “see(s) a lot of people here and we make foo pahs.”

Well, that finally shut everybody up — for the moment. What on this green Earth is a foo pah?

Later, Young tears into Brinkley again, accusing him of living in an “ivory tower” and being part of the wealthy elite that sees Alaska only as their vacation playground. Young added — unnecessarily, I might add — that he is “pissed off,” presumably by smart guys, trees, wildlife, and perhaps democracy itself.

Anyway, go to C-Span to see this meeting of the minds. The exchange begins at 31:15 and lasts a little over a minute. My favorite part is the reaction of the blonde congressional aid whose eyes grow to the size of saucers when Brinkley tells Young, “you don’t own me.”

The Pencil Today:

WE WANT TO KNOW: MOVE OCCUPY OUT OR LEAVE ‘EM ALONE?

Welcome to our first Pencil Poll.

Several of the Occupy encampments around the nation have been struck down by authorities this week. Some mayors and police departments say the camps are becoming dangerous and unhealthy. Even Bloomington’s Occupy site at People’s Park has been the site of some recent troubles: A homeless man was found dead in an Occupy tent on November 6 and an Occupy participant was knocked unconscious and suffered a fractured skull during a confrontation with a passerby late Thursday night.

Mayor Mark Kruzan told a WFIU interviewer this week he’d received a few messages from constituents asking him to shut the protest down. Kruzan cited one person who complained he couldn’t use People’s Park anymore.

Tell us what you think. This poll is open to people around the world. Feel free to tell us where you live in the comment section. You may check as many answers as you’d like.

Today: Monday, November 14, 2011

If the boys in charge were smart, they’d let winter quash the Occupy encampments across this holy land.

But the boys in charge are smart about as often as a Republican candidate for president talks about issues that mean something to you and me.

So, this weekend riot-geared cops waded into Occupy camping jamborees here and there. And it’s ironic, considering that within the last few days there was a street melee that warranted the use of force in response.

I mean, honestly, wouldn’t you have felt good about the world in general had local and campus police cracked some skulls with their nightsticks when those Penn State reprobates rioted Wednesday?

An essayist on Michael Moore’s website opines that arrogant white men don’t like to be held accountable for their actions. The author of the piece, one Mike Elk, holds that Penn State is is the capital of whiteness in Pennsylvania. (Hat tip to my old pal R.E. for putting this up on her Facebook page.)

But the cops played nice with the entitled white boys who were so enraged that their child-molester-protecting, GOP-supporting football coach was fired.

The fact that poverty is spreading here in America, right wingers are clamping down on sex and women, corporations are taking over world governments, the gap between rich and poor grows more alarming every hour, and other terrifying developments meant nothing to these little frat farts. Only their football coach being persecuted for sitting on his hands while his great and good pal sodomized ten-year-olds in the shower room drove them into the streets.

An op-ed contributor in the LA Times rails against the cult of college sports, a sentiment close to my heart. I realize I risk being lynched in these precincts but the whole hypocritical, corrupt, fairly racist major college sports structure makes me ill. (Hat tip to Roger Ebert on Facebook for citing the LA Times piece.)

My next door neighbor Tom asked me if I wanted to watch the Hoosiers basketball game with him the other day. I like Tom. He’s a good man and a good neighbor and I enjoy spending time with him but watching college sports ranks just below submitting to my yearly prostate exam on the list of things I want to do.

One of the Irish Tough Guys who hang out at Soma, Tough Guy Pat, holds season tix to just about every sport on the Hoosier athletic department sked. His mood often is dictated by the result of yesterday’s football game or last night’s volleyball match.

College sports means a lot to guys like Tom and Tough Guy Pat. I get that. I also get that were it not for Hoosier sports husbands would have to start talking to their wives around here, and that, of course, is unnatural.

And, speaking of unnatural, it strikes me that too many folks burdened with what they or society consider “unnatural” sexual urges seem to gravitate toward institutions that frown on the whole notion of doing fun things in the nude.

Authoritarian clubs like the Catholic church and the Republican Party sometimes seem overrun with closeted gays and boy-lovers.

Now, I need to clarify my usage of the term “unnatural.” We all agree that men who have sex with boys are operating with frighteningly faulty wiring. Gays, on the other hand, are not. But many, many, many poor souls consider their own homosexual feelings sinful or sick. They would consider themselves “unnatural.”

Here’s why I made mention of Joe Paterno’s Republican party affiliation. The GOP in the last 35 years or so has become fixated on sex. Birth control, abortion, gay marriage — if you don’t hew to the party line on these topics you ain’t gettin’ elected, simple as that.

(Which reminds me of the George Carlin bit about how these sex-obsessed people aren’t the kind you’d want to have sex with anyway. Thanks to Benny Jay for reminding me of this routine.)

Anyway, the Church and the GOP hold that every kind of sex except the stultifyingly boring kind between married heterosexual Iowa farm couples is icky to the point of criminality or sin.

Once you paint bonking as intrinsically evil, you lose the capability to see truly evil sex for what it is.

Maybe Joe Pa didn’t even realize that poking a pre-teen lad is an ugly crime. Maybe he just thought Jerry Sandusky had simply succumbed to temptation, you know, like offensive guards who engage in premarital sex or tight ends who masturbate too much.

Maybe he’d been listening for too long to the fetishists who’ve taken over his party.

Today: Thursday, November 10, 2011

STUDENT POWER!

Ah, these are the good old days — redux — of campus activism, student organizing, direct action, participatory democracy, and, woohoo!, all those fun antics of the 1960s.

What’s old is new again, no?

Fighting For Peace And Justice In The 1960s

Take last night. Hundreds of students — maybe thousands — took to the streets at a major campus. Tempers flared. A TV van was overturned. Bonfires were lit. The chant went up, “Fk the trustees!”

Oh man, I’m young again! When I was 13 years old, I couldn’t wait to get to college where I could shake my fist in righteous indignation at the stuffy old board of trustees, rail against the Vietnam War, and carry placards against racism.

Today, the kids are alright once again. Wall Street, the sickening gap between the rich and the poor, and the right wing have driven students into the streets just like the ’60s. Occupy encampments are popping up all over the….

Wait a minute. Whoa.

Last night’s festivities had nothing to do with poverty and greed and austerity budgets. No.

At Penn State, the trouble was over the firing of one Joseph Vincent “Joe” Paterno, born 1926 in Brooklyn, New York, resident for the last 60-plus years near the central Pennsylvania town of State College.

Fighting For…, Um…, Something In The 2010s

Joe Paterno may be the most celebrated Pennsylvanian since, oh, Ben Franklin. Or at least Kevin Bacon.

Old Joe Pa was fired last night. That’s why the mobs descended upon the sleepy campus and rioted.

Old, venerated, wildly successful, legendary Joe Pa. Kicked to the side like just another half-eaten hamburger. The winningest college football coach in the history of the Solar System. Maybe even the Milky Way Galaxy, for all we know.

What ensued was, yes, righteous indignation, direct action, participatory democracy.

And all because a great man was unceremoniously dumped.

Um, that great man essentially sat on his hands when he found out his trusted aide, his long-time friend, the architect of the Nittany Lions’ storied defenses, was caught having sex with a 10-year-old boy in the shower room of the football facility nearly ten years ago. Allegedly.

Still Pals Despite The Shower Scene

A Grand Jury has charged  Joe Pa’s great and good pal Jerry Sandusky with diddling around with at least eight other such small fry. It also has charged Penn State’s athletic director and campus police boss with perjury. Apparently, they valued the football program’s reputation a thousand-fold above the psyches, the mouths, and the anuses of those little boys.

As for Joe Pa, he found out about the shower room incident almost immediately after it was discovered. Some graduate assistant, according to the top notch sports writer Joe Posnanski, had decided to go to the football facility late one night in 2002 to study game films. He heard noises coming from the shower room and went to investigate. There he saw the perverse primal scene.

The graduate assistant reported what he saw to Paterno. The coach told his own superiors.

And that was that.

Joe Paterno, a great man, a legend, leader of young men, and the winningest college football coach in the Solar System, promptly forgot about the whole thing.

Alright, maybe he didn’t exactly forget about it. I have no way of knowing what rattles around in the head of a great man or the winningest college football coach in the history of humankind.

We only know that Joe Pa did nothing to delve into the accusation. He instituted no investigation. He didn’t fire or reprimand his great and good pal. He could even have thought the whole story was a malicious lie and raised a stink that his trusted companion was being persecuted. But he didn’t.

The record shows that Joe Pa sat on his hands.

Joe Pa, whose surname means “fatherly” in Italian, issued a press release earlier this week. In it he said, “… I did what I was supposed to do with the one charge…. Let’s be fair and let the legal process unfold.”

In other words, he covered his ass.

Whaddya Want Me To Do?

And now he’s fired.

And the student activists of Penn Sate University have rioted in response.

I hope Penn State never wins another game in any sport they play as long as Joe Pa is alive. Oh, and as long as any of the child-abuse condoning jerks who took to the streets last night live, either.

%d bloggers like this: