Category Archives: Republican Party

Hot Air

Madness Men

Boss Sandberg yesterday asked me if I plan to watch that debate featuring Republican candidates for president — in an election that is still some 15 months off.

I responded forcibly; “Fk no!”

The genteel clout-meistress recoiled as if from a big furry bumblebee. I don’t blame her. For her part — after she regained her equilibrium — City Council maven Susan Sandberg sez she will watch the gabfest, mostly for the laughs.

Padded Room

The Green Room For Tonight’s Debate

Me? I don’t see any hee-haws coming out of tonight’s projectile word vomit fracas. Not when the participants, as a rule, look unkindly upon undocumented immigrants, women who abort their fetuses or who use birth control, folks who are poor, anybody will an al- preceding their surname, unarmed dark-skinned men who get shot up by cops, school teachers, environmentalists, climatologists, liberals, and other grave threats to our holy land.

I don’t care to spend the lion’s share of my evening watching my proxies being insulted, degraded, and vilified.

Mainly I don’t want to be made mad. I’m using the term in a dual sense here. The ludicrous hoo-ha emanating from the face holes of the likes of Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee will not only spike my choler level, it will drive me to some brink of mental delirium. I can just see myself pounding across the kitchen tile, the libels and defamations of white men who possess near-negligible levels of intellectual acuity and even less empathy for their species brethren and sisteren echoing in my memory.

Poor old Sally the Dog just might hoist herself up and plop her front paws on my fragile nethers — a habit The Loved One and I have found impossible to break in her so far — and she’ll be rewarded with a thunderous outburst of foul verbiage and barking that’ll cause her to afford me a wide berth for the next few days.

Sally’s a good mutt otherwise and I’d feel awful for treating her in a manner more appropriate for Scott Walker.

So, no, I ain’t watching. Sure, you go ahead and watch. Like S. Sandberg, I’m sure you’re blithely anticipating it being as innocuously comical as one of those old-time Dean Martin roasts. I’m willing, though, to put good money down on this proposition: the debate tonight will boil your very blood — as well as your lymphatic fluids, the perspiration on your forehead, and whatever other fluids and sauces you have circulating through and around your bod.

Again, it’s a year and a quarter until the 2016 general election. If you’re made jowl-flappingly mad this early in the game, think how many holes will form in the lining of your stomach by a year from Nov.

For your own health and and your house pets’ safety and comfort, take my advice: do anything other than switch your flat screen on to Fox News this eve. Not that you should ever do that, but tonight especially. Your stomach will thank me.

Still At It

Charlotte Zietlow and I are covering the first year of her term as Bloomington City Council president in our memoir project these days. That is, her memoir with me as her pro scribe. This is by explanation why my posts here have become so infrequent of late. Just in case you’ve forgotten.

Get Together

Here, chill out on these gentle tones from the Youngbloods, summer of 1969 vintage:

Hot Air

An Unmistakable Statement

Think what you will about Barack Obama’s presidency. You’re entirely welcome to piss and moan that he’s a failed president, that his policies are leading us toward socialism, and/or that we’ll be paying through the nose for his programs for generations to come. Wags, “journalists,” and even entire “news” organizations have grown up shrieking such things. That’s okay; this is Murrica and we have the right to say what in the hell ever we want, so long as we don’t shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater. We can even lie from sunrise through sunset, so long as we don’t fudge our résumés or cheat on our taxes.

So the Right can keep on peddling its slop. But those who didn’t show up at Selma Alabama, yesterday for the 50th anniversary remembrance of Bloody Sunday, are being more honest with that one single act than with all the facts, figures, interpretations, and innuendos they’ve mouthed and keyboard-spewed for the so-far six-plus years of the Obama reign.

Washington Post

Obama Embraces John Lewis At The Edmund Pettus Bridge

[Saul Loeb photo/Getty Images]

They’re saying:

  • Civil rights don’t matter;
  • Black human beings don’t matter;
  • Voting doesn’t matter;
  • The rule of law doesn’t matter.

They’re saying a lot for being so uncharacteristically silent.

Kyle Watch

Is Kyle Schwarber single? Does he go out with anybody?

Aw, what am I saying? He’s not my type.

The burly and supremely talented former Indiana University catcher came to the plate Thursday in sunny Arizona. It was his first at bat as a professional baseball player in Spring Training. He promptly hit a grand slam home run. On top of that, it was his birthday. The kid is only 22.

Sigh.

Schwarber

Schwarber

If he keeps this remarkable hitting up — he’s been tearing up the minor leagues since he was drafted out of IU by the Chicago Cubs last June — he’ll be smashing baseballs onto Waveland Avenue outside Wrigley Field by the end of the 2016 season.

Maybe he is my type after all.

Rules & Regs

Now, this may be a silly thing to make an issue of but, well, I gotta. I was in the restroom at my local Subway yesterday afternoon. After I finished my primary business therein, I stood at the sink and washed my hands. And there, right next to the sink was the sign, “Wash Your Hands.”

I doubt if there’s a restaurant or other food service establishment in this holy land that doesn’t have that sign or a similar one in its rest rooms, most of them reading, in fine print, something on the order of By order of your local health dept.

Sign

I’m willing to bet a bushel-full of cash that all those health depts. also mandate that the sign must be within a certain few inches of the sink. Which is the worst place for it to be.

If you’re standing at the sink, you’re washing your hands, right?

The sign should be right above the urinal. Or next to the flush lever in the stall. That’s when whatever king or queen of slobs who needs to be prodded into washing their mitts should be, y’know, prodded.

There. I feel better now.

Political Science

I’ll sigh again here in today’s post, but for a different reason.

A story in this AM’s Herald Times (paywall) tells us that there’ll be a Bigfoot investigation campout at Monroe-Morgan State Forest the first weekend in May. Yep, a gang of people who fancy themselves scientific researchers will be on the lookout for the famous wraith that has purportedly appeared, fleetingly, before the eyes of yahoos all around the backwaters of this holy land for decades.

Apparently, credulous souls have glimpsed the reputed giant in the woods just north of this thriving, throbbing megalopolis. And despite the fact that Bloomington is home to rational thinkers, reputable scientists, and dogged investigative types, only a select few have gazed upon the decidedly non-glabrous, towering, hermetic figure. A guy named LeRoy Nail of Martinsville, the leader of the local chapter of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, says his group has investigated three confirmed sasquatch sightings in Morgan County. The national BFRO lists 76 sightings of the beast in Indiana over the years.

Sigh. Again.

From BFRO

Bigfoot Footprint In Morgan County

To think there are scads of us who passionately believe that if only we can calmly and patiently lay out well-reasoned arguments, all the people of this great nation will happily accept certain scientific truths. Such a liberal way of thinking.

Which, itself, is highly un-scientific. Researchers have shown, time and again, that well-reasoned arguments — far from being convincing or persuasive — actually steel the resolve of non-believers.

For instance, I know a guy who believes the following:

  • Communist infiltrators have run vast swaths of the United States government since at least the end of World War II
  • Bobby Kennedy smothered Marilyn Monroe to death with a pillow because she’d heard JFK blab some state secrets while in flagrante delicto with her
  • The JFK assassination was a Mafia hit
  • A spaceship from another planet crashed into the Earth and the bodies of its occupants were operated on in a secret facility in Nevada
  • The moon landings were hoaxes
  • Homosexuals are engaged in a systematic plot to take over the public school teaching profession
  • Hillary Clinton ordered the murder of Vince Foster
  • The US government employs high-altitude airplanes to spray mind-control drugs over heavily populated areas

"Chemtrails"

“Chemtrails”

  • Barack Obama was trained from childhood to be a Muslim plant whose job was to take over America and destroy it

This fellow is otherwise a respectable, seemingly reasonable chap. He runs his own successful business. You wouldn’t consider him a wild-eyed lunatic at first glance.

Yet he firmly rejects any suggestion that global warming or climate change threatens us.

And, yes, he believes there are sasquatches or Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) running around all corners of this globe. “There’s all kinds of scientific evidence for it,” he says.

He is impossible to talk to.

To liberals, he’s simply misguided, in need only of enlightenment. To the Right, he’s the key to the White House in 2016.

My Pal Foot Foot

A “classic” by The Shaggs, who inexplicably were resurrected from a well-deserved obscurity back in the 1990s by musicians and critics who should have known better.

Hot Air

Proclamation

Happy Lincoln’s b-day.

Lincoln

The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.

— Lincoln

Fools’ Paradise

You know, I can’t take today’s Republicans seriously on anything until they all stop pandering to the goosebrains of this holy land. Case in point: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker recently refused to tell a British interviewer whether or not he believes evolution is the real deal.

Creation Museum

A Fairy Tale World

Now, maybe Walker does indeed accept the conventional, non-controversial, empirically demonstrable theory of natural selection by mutation in his heart of hearts. It’s impossible to know. What is inarguable, though, is his unwillingness to offend the willfully ignorant of America.

The Party has to ask itself why it is a magnet for the imbecilic.

Addendum: So, let’s say on some far off day the GOP washes its hands of those who believe their ignorance is as valid as the consensus of the world’s scientific community. As I say, I just may start taking them seriously. I still won’t vote for a Republican, no matter what, until the Party supports the Equal Rights Amendment. So there’s that hurdle to cross.

Atheist Extremism?

So, a lunatic who says he’s an atheist offs a family of Muslims (allegedly) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Ergo, he’s an anti-religious bigot whose hatred of the god-loving has driven him to this craven act.

At least that’s how some of the conventional wisdom goes in the aftermath of Tuesday’s slayings.

In fact, The New Republic‘s religion writer Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig yesterday posted a piece indicting what she considers the unseemly “the New Atheism” as embodied by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Bill Maher and other in-your-face unbelievers for Craig Hicks‘ gunplay.

Hicks

Hicks

The religionists of this holy land can’t seem to wrap their minds around the fact that atheism is not a religion. Hell, it’s not even capitalized. It is a nothing, whereas religion is a something. It’s not a club with rules, rituals, a leadership structure, and a set of taboos. Religions are just such clubs.

Sam Harris, noted rationalist author, is no more responsible for Craig Hicks’ (alleged) atrocity than I am for Sam (Momo) Giancana‘s criminal acts since we both had Sicilian antecedents and spent a lot of time in Oak Park, Illinois.

OTOH, religions regularly teach that those who are outside the club are to be pitied, converted, and even socially ostracized. Many, if not most, religions go so far as to say that when non-believers die the putative creator of the Universe will condemn them to an eternity of punishment. Taking this to its illogical conclusion, extremist Sicilians and Oak Parkers will not kill you for not being Sicilians and Oak Parkers but extremist Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others just may bump you off for not buying their god fables. After all, god so does not not give a shit about the beliefs and comforts of infidels that he’s happy to consign them to the fires of everlasting hell. Why, then, should we, the faithful, care about nonbelievers’ Earthly bodies?

I still insist that Muslims around the world should actively distance themselves from, for instance, the Charlie Hebdo killings. So should American Christians condemn slavery, KKK atrocities, and the Indian holocaust, since those things were committed in their god’s name. And modern-day Germans bear a responsibility to say they despise their Nazi history.

But even if an atheist claims to have killed people of faith simply because they have a faith, I’m not obliged to explain to you that, as an atheist, I’m not as evil as he is.

Again, atheism isn’t our shared club. Atheism is nothing.

Hot Air

Anonymous

My best wishes to a sweet soul who is suffering mightily these days. Here’s hoping our mental health delivery system for the indigent helps this person in some way.

Real Medicine Vs. Phony-Baloney

We have a funny health care delivery system in this holy land. Countless numbers of people in dire need of help — be it physical or mental, acute or ongoing — are left to wallow in their pain and misery, frustrated and deteriorating. Too many pols and citizens alike wave them off, saying they’re lazy or opportunistic.

Meanwhile, some of the most capable among us — capable, as in possessing the ability to pay for health insurance or even visit medical specialists on their own dime — spend millions…, wait, billions of dollars on snake oil cures, quackery, fraudulent nutritional and medicinal regimes, and get-well/stay-well books written by scam-artists.

It’s as though the healthiest and most well-fed of our citizenry seem to be in a chronic pout about their great and good fortune. Perhaps they’re jealous of the occasional attention we as a society pay to the down-and-out. People are funny, indeed.

Food fanatics have been careening from one mystical, magical diet to another like pinball machine rollers since the days of John Henry Kellogg. The inventor of Corn Flakes was pathologically enamored of enemas and highly offended that the sane among the rest of his countrymen weren’t. Kellogg ran an spa for folks to eat meals according to his mixed-up philosophies and have their bowels scrubbed and scoured daily.

Kellogg was a joke but to this day scads of people don’t get it.

A great number of the world’s health- and food-fetishists for decades have been swallowing pills, powders, and liquids as well as having mini-fire hoses inserted up their anuses, all in an attempt to “detoxify.”

Folks who crave to see things in black and white believe certain foods are as poisonous as arsenic and other comestibles as curative as the waters of the Fountain of Youth. They also believe the things we put inside ourselves are leaving a patina of muck and mire on our innards that is as dangerous as a bullet to the head.

Now don’t get me wrong, if you gorge on Oscar Mayer bologna sandwiches morning, noon, and night your guts probably will be prone to functioning as well as a 12-year-old computer. But the gang who buys into detoxifying and pristine diets probably never did spend much dough on dirt-cheap lunch meats, Cool Whip, Bugles, Twinkies, and Spaghetti-Os in the first place.

Anyway, The Guardian this week ran a piece destroying the myth of “detoxification.”

It quotes Exeter University prof Edzard Ernst:

Let’s be clear, there are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t. [Drug abuse detox is “respectable,” acc’d’g to Ernst.] The other is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated.

The article’s author, Dara Mohammadi, says any build-up of toxins in the human body’s organs, the likes of which described in terrifying detail by detox advocates, would result in a medical emergency. The body itself, she says, has a perfectly good trash and waste disposal system.

As for colonics, Mohammadi writes of the belief that a “plaque” of toxins accumulates in the bowels and must be washed out regularly, otherwise dire things can happen. Mohammadi asserts:

[N]o doctor has ever seen one of these mythical plaques, and many warn against having the procedure done, saying that it can perforate your bowel.

Mohammadi’s take away? This:

[T]he idea that you can flush your system of impurities and leave your organs squeaky clean and raring to go – is a scam. It’s a pseudo-medical concept designed to sell you things.

You know, the evil kind of practice that demonic corporations like Monsanto engage in.

Simple As Black And White

With yesterday’s runoff defeat of Senator Mary Landrieux in Louisiana, the Republicans’ advantage in the upper chamber will stand at 54-46 in January. The GOP will lead in the House 246-188.

No matter what Democratic pollyannas cry, the Republicans will hold those majorities for the foreseeable future. Some Dems might even be hoping that the recent spate of high-profile police killings of unarmed citizens and subsequent protests will stir the body politic out of its comfy sofa and even walk the half block to the polling place.

Maybe. But what’s far more likely is that Republican-leaning voters already have been stirred by the same thing and will continue to be so. And they will continue to vote for Republicans who talk tough, express racial hatreds in code, and promise to keep those unruly blacks in their goddamned place without actually saying so.

There are far more people frightened of a general black uprising than there are those who are outraged that police officers see young black men as monsters and Hulk Hogans and feel compelled to kill them.

Beginning with the Watts riots in August 1965 and down through the “long hot summer” two years later and even more civil disorders into the 1970s, Murrican voters have consistently cast their lot with white Republicans. The Republicans, Murricans believe, will protect the nation from the dark menace. Republican politicians even coined a catchphrase for this: law and order. That was Richard Nixon’s calling card in the chaotic summer of 1968 and it won him an unlikely presidency.

Republican presidents as well as innumerable lesser office holders since then have successfully run on the same platform even when their other positions were pooh-poohed by huge numbers of Americans.

The way the numbers worked nearly fifty years ago and still do to a large extent today, the more streets protests, the more enraged accusations against the police, the more civil disturbances, the more the real majority will vote for strongmen.

It’s a simple numbers game. And if you’re black, you still lose.

Hot Air

Blue Skies Ahead

Just wondering: Can it be any more perfect in Bloomington this morning?

Fair

The sky is a rich, deep blue and cloudless. The high should be near 70. The next two days should be clear and mild as well.

This is what we wait all winter for.

From Ho-hum To Wow!

Do I need to point out the difference between, say, the Herald Times of Bloomington and this communications colossus?

I mean, one very well-respected member of our community has told me that he’d much rather read about a pressing local issue here in The Pencil than in B-town’s daily newspaper. The Pencil’s take, he sez, is always more interesting and provocative.

Far be it from me to brag. In fact, I’ll point out that The Pencil hardly scrapes the surface of Bloomington and South Central Indiana’s news because, hell, I’m only one guy and I have a day job, too. I hammer on local issues only when they strike me. Plus, I have an irresistible need to pontificate on national and world happenings as well as pop culture, art and science, all of which eat up space here.

The day the Bloomington City Council counts among its members someone as entertaining as Michelle Bachmann, I’ll begin fixating on that person. Although Steve Volan is trying in his own inimitable way. And Susan Sandberg does wield a fiery ukulele.

Anyway, back to the Herald Times. The paper’s lead feature this gorgeous Sunday is a profile of the wife of IU basketball coach Tom Crean (paywall). I’m not going to reveal any details of the piece, mainly because I haven’t read anything more of it than the first paragraph. Why? Because I don’t care.

H-T

Do You Care?

All I know is, the new Big Talk interview series continues Friday with an eight-minute feature on WFHB’s Daily Local News at 5:30pm and the release of this month’s Ryder magazine, which will carry the full-version of my hour-long chat with Bloomington’s political doyenne, Charlotte Zietlow.

I have my doubts that Coach Crean’s wife can tell me about living under tyrannical rule in Czechoslovakia or upending a decades-long political order here in Bloomington in 1971. Charlotte can.

Big Talk is a joint production of The Electron Pencil, WFHB, and The Ryder. We tie together this town’s cutting edge media outlets. And unless an IU coach’s wife discovers a remedy for global warming, you won’t have to worry about us profiling her herein.

On The Other Hand

The H-T today does carry an excellent piece (again, paywall) on the Democratic Women’s Caucus here in Monroe County. The article points out that back only a decade ago, in the 2003 election, our town could boast only two female candidates for public office: Regina Moore and Uke-baby Sandberg.

Moore

City Clerk Regina Moore (right)

The article quotes one political scientist who claims that voters seem to prefer women candidates for office but the problem is females are not as eager to run as men are. Women, this expert suggests, need to be dragged into the political arena. Read the piece.

UkeTones

Susan Sandberg (right) And The UkeTones

BTW: You know who’s a big deal in the Dem Women’s Caucus? That’s right, Charlotte Zietlow. Just sayin’.

It’s On Us

Speaking of politics, we can wail, moan, and gnash our teeth all we want over the Republican strategy to reduce voter turnout around the nation, but really we have nobody to blame but ourselves.

The Indy Star today offers a piece explaining that embarrassingly low turnouts in many counties and precincts for the May 6th primary were due to, well, folks being too gosh darned busy.

Vintage Voting Machine

Which is bullshit of the highest order. The article quotes no-show potential voters as saying things like traffic was too bad and they had to, presumably, do housework. The least thing a citizen can do in a democracy is to vote. And if you can’t find a half hour to vote every two years, then you don’t deserve democracy.

You can wring your hands all you’d like at Republican effort to suppress voter turnout but the GOP has far too many aiders and abettors in their efforts. To mangle a quote: We have met the enemy and they are us.

Hot Air

Primavera

I’ll say this: If you don’t like what the sky, the winds, and the greenery are doing to us these days, you’re beyond help.

LMonroe20140405

Lake Monroe At Sunset, Saturday

Ready, Aim….

You didn’t catch this in today’s Herald Times because the City Council didn’t get around to voting until well after the paper’s midnight deadline, but our dear elected leaders voted to allow that controversial deer shoot around Griffy Lake.

Deer

… Fire!

Only Dorothy Granger and Steve Volan voted against it. Council chambers were packed yesterday with folks railing against the cull.

I’m in favor of whacking the deer if their meat can be harvested to feed the homeless. Same with Canada geese.

Greed Is Good

Ben Stein, whose greatest contribution to society thus far has been the movie line “Anyone? Anyone?”, opened his caviar hole again the other day and told us how lucky we are that our species can boast among its membership the subspecies, billionaire.

“They fund symphonies and ballets and schools for inner city kids. They are a bulwark against tyranny because they can afford lawyers to fight overweening government,” Stein said, as reported by Raw Story.

Y’know, because the poor keep all their money to themselves, the selfish slobs.

Food Stamp

The Poor Keep Their Assets To Themselves

Not content with elevating the likes of the Koch Bros. to sainthood, Stein also pontificates upon the poor.

“My humble observation is that most long-term poverty is caused by self-sabotage by individuals. Drug use. Drunkenness. Having children without a family structure. Gambling. Poor work habits. Disastrously unfortunate appearance. Above all, and counted in the preceding list, psychological problems (very much including basic laziness) cause people to be unemployed, have poor or no work habits, and enter and stay in poverty,” he said.

No word yet on whether Stein solved the eternal chicken-or-egg conundrum.

More evidence that a certain percentage of people in this holy land see the accumulation of wealth and those who obsessively participate in it as, de facto, good.

Mr. Pennybags

Whee, Me!

Again, for the benefit of those on my side of the fence who wonder aloud how folks can keep voting for candidates whose raison d’etre is to further grease the already-frictionless path for the pathologically rich, lots of our national brethren and sisteren truly believe wealth — gobs of it, obscene piles of it, more than anybody could ever need in one lifetime or ten — makes the holder thereof morally, ethically, philosophically, and evolutionarily superior to the rest of us.

And it isn’t just the wealthy who buy into this — if so, coatholders for the plutocracy such as Paul Ryan or Scott Walker would never win an election. The 1% (in truth, more like 0.01%) has all the dough, sure, but they by definition constitute only that eensy sliver of the electorate. No, the mids and the poors revere wealth just as much as Sheldon Adelson or Joe Ricketts do. They think that if they’d just played their cards right and the breaks all had fallen their way, they, too, would have amassed a fortune big enough to buy elections, legislators, and, well…, heaven here on Earth.

Let’s go a step further: most of the mids and poors still dream that they’ll reach the rarefied heights of billionaire-dom one day, no matter how entrenched they are in their caste today.

That’s the American Dream: One day I’ll be richer, and better, than you.

Frenemies

OTOH, how to explain the continued love affair half the electorate has with the Republicans, 100 percent of whose Senate members voted, essentially, against the equal pay bill?

I assume women vote Republican. And, if so, why? The GOP as far back as the 1970s demonstrated its loathing for dames by killing the Equal Rights Amendment. They haven’t done anything since to indicate that their view of females as brood sows and fap objects has changed a whit.

Being a double-X chromosomer and voting for Republicans is like being an Oglala Lakota and pulling for the 7th Cavalry. You’re all mixed up.

Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse: “Go, Custer!”

Hot Air

The Political Asylum

Our Fox News friends and other purported inhabitants of this Earth who, in truth, live in other worlds, are mad at Barack O. because he wants companies to pay certain salaried employees for their overtime hours.

Philosopher and women of letters Elisabeth Hasselbeck (who, in her spare time, co-hosts the Fox & Friends morning gabfest) sez mandating overtime will undercut America’s work ethic. According to this titan of cerebral stuff and other defenders of the plutocracy, now peeps who hope to get ahead by “going the extra mile” will become lazy, unambitious and, well, probably Democratic, mainly because they’re going to get paid for the time they work.

Hasselbeck

Hasselbeck: Only Lazy Bums Want Paychecks

That, my babies, is today’s Republican Party in a nutshell. Robert Taft, Dwight Eisenhower, and even Tricky Dick Nixon are spinning in their graves as we speak. That’s how mad the mad, mad, mad, mad party has become.

And yet, our Dems still lose any number of elections to them.

Park It

B-town city council guy Steve Volan will be on WFIU’s Noon Edition today at, duh, noon. He’ll be perorating about the parking situ. here in our burgeoning burgh.

Marc Antony

Steve Volan

And I’m certain the genteel hosts of NE will treat him with the respect and deference a statesman of his high station truly deserves.

[Personal to Steve: As if you couldn’t have guessed by now, I’ll never stop being a smart-ass.]

Confidence Game

So the Feds have dropped the hammer on former Bloomington Public Works big shot Justin Wykoff and a couple of henchmen from Bedford for allegedly bilking the city out of 800-large.

Wykoff City ID

Busted

Acc’d’g to US Attorney Joe Hogsett, the Bedford boys submitted phony invoices for construction work and Wycoff approved them, a task he handled with great aplomb and for 33 percent of the take.

It wasn’t until a puzzled fellow Public Works employee dropped a dime on him that the first dark clouds marred Wycoff’s day. Wycoff was a project manager, which means he had a certain amount of say-so in how the city’s dough got spent. Still, you mean to tell me there was no one with the fiduciary responsibility to occasionally peek over Wycoff’s shoulder?

We’re a trusting lot here in B-town.

Twitter Twaddle

As you may or may not know, I don’t really use Twitter. Oh sure, I’ve got an account (don’t ask me how to get there) but I have it set up so it automatically puts out notifications that there’s a new post on The Pencil. Otherwise, I have no idea how many followers I have or even if some terrorist group has hijacked it and is even now devising plans to make another jet vanish.

See, Twitter serves no purpose for me at all. Not even to pimp for this blog, considering I’ve done absolutely nothing to grow my followers list. I just set my account up, well, because it seemed the right thing to do, rather like that time in the early ’90s when I grew a ponytail even though my hairline had already receded dramatically.

Anyway, I’m a strong proponent of using any tech advancement only if it serves a need I already had when said machine or service came onto the market. And I had zero need for Twitter before Twitter came out.

It never occurred to me that I needed to let a widening circle of semi-acquaintances know that the slice of sourdough bread I ate this morning gave me gas.

So, here’s a listing of ridiculous Tweets that illustrate precisely how useless the damned thing is. BTW: h/t to my old pal Jacqueline Gevercer for this. Jacqui was the chief bartender at the Matchbox (“Chicago’s most intimate bar”) back when I met the future Mrs. Loved One there. She was one of toughest dames you could imagine (Jacqui was; although T-Lo could give her a run for her dough).

From Just Something - Creative

Click Image To Read

Sample Tweet:

queue at @sainsburys salad bar for 15 mins to find they had no egg OR giant cous cous. To say this has ruined Monday would be an understatement [all sic]

Read away, with the understanding, I’d suspect, that a few of these Tweeters were aware of their own over-dramatizations. Some of them, though, seem truly distraught by their imagined ordeals.

Rainy Night In Georgia

Here’s the prettiest sad song you’ll hear today — or this year, for that matter.

Tony Joe White wrote it and it became a hit for Brook Benton in 1970. TJW has recording a couple of versions. This one is my fave. It makes feeling the blues a pleasure.

Hot Air, As Usual

The Joy Of Killing!*

Here’s a follow-up to Saturday’s entry about whether or not it is good policy to want to die for your beliefs.

My assertion was it seems senseless to want to do so. I quoted Bertrand Russell who famously said he’d never do it because what if he was wrong in his beliefs?

A couple of guys eloquently told me and Bertie in the comments section that we were full of shit.

The commenters didn’t cause me to change my mind, despite their well thought out positions. In fact, I’ll add another line of reasoning to my original assertion.

I don’t want to die for my beliefs because, well, my worst and most rabid enemies want me and my beliefs to die. (Not that I have many enemies or, for that matter, any at all; this, keep in mind, is all theoretical.)

Anyway, the more pressing question should be, Would you kill for your beliefs?

Well, Pencillistas, whaddya say?

[* Quote in headline from Mark Twain’s Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World.]

Letting Others Do The Work For Me

Now then, here are a few links to interesting things (because I really have nothing else to say today that I haven’t said before or that others haven’t already said.)

◗ h/t to Chicago theater maven Albert Williams who points out Charley Pierce’s Esquire mag blog post about the notorious “ratfuckers” of the Nixon gang back in the 1970s. Pierce asserts they were merely the opening act for later Republican operatives and hijinks-makers.

◗ You know that study everybody’s talking about, the one that looks into the hearts and minds of the fundamentalists, evangelicals, and Tea Party-ists that now make up more than half of the Republican Party? The interwebs have been flush with opininionation (yup, I just made up the word) on its findings.

Well, here’s the study in toto.

◗ We’re a bunch of scared rabbits now; for no good reason. Historian and all-around good guy Rick Perlstein explains how and why in The Nation.

That should hold you over until I feel brilliant again, which probably will be tomorrow morning.

Your Daily Hot Air

Women’s Lib

How about this for good news?

The new NASA astronaut training class is 50 percent female.

Yup. Four of the eight members of next two-year training program are women. And get this: the NASA guy in charge of spin, Jay Bolden, tells us, “The selection is about qualifications. It has nothing to do with their genders.”

Imagine that.

2013 NASA Astronauts

Newest Astronauts (l to r):

Christina Hammock, Nicole Aunapu Mann, Anne McClain, Dr. Jessica Meir

We’re becoming more and more genital-blind. We’ll have a woman president sooner rather than later. The fact that a woman, Marissa Mayer, runs a big outfit like Yahoo, isn’t breathtaking news anymore. And, with Mayer calling the shots, Yahoo now has liberalized its maternity leave policy.

Prior to these enlightened days, male company bosses preferred their female employees to squat in the field behind the factory, drop their babies, and get right back on the assembly line just as soon as they washed their hands.

So things are changing. We forget that when we fixate on the crypto-sociopaths who populate the loon wing of the Republican party.

Anyway, this is an appropriate day for NASA’s announcement. It was thirty years ago today that Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. She rode aboard STS-7, the Space Shuttle Challenger.

Sally Ride

BTW: Sally Ride was a lesbian. Sadly, she felt compelled to participate in a beard marriage in the 1980s, presumably to protect her career.

Frustration

Grrr.

So, I’m listening to NPR’s Morning Edition as I pound this post out on my keyboard. And I’m thinking I’m pretty smart, tying in the four new female astronauts with the Sally Ride anniversary. Just as I’m correcting some misspellings, whaddya think happens?

Those commie NPR rats (I know this about them because the aforementioned crypto-sociopathic Republican loons have told me so) run a piece about Sally Ride’s ride, leading it off with a mention of the new female space cadets. As if that isn’t bad enough, while I’m patting myself on the back for the song vid I’m going insert at the end of the entry, NPR plays that very song as a bumper after its story!

The jerks.

Well, I don’t care. I’m nothing if not a stubborn old bear. I’m still gonna insert a vid of the fab song “Mustang Sally.” Only this version is by blues bossman Buddy Guy. I’m way cooler than you are, NPR.

Nepotism

This seems as good a time as any to shill for my very talented and cool cousin who runs the eponymous Paul Parello’s Blues Power radio, video, and live performance operation.

And, hey, here’s cuz (on the left) in a bit part as a tough guy in the movie, “The Dark Knight.” That’s Eric Roberts on the right.

From "The Dark Knight"

What, you thought I was the only one with talent to emerge from the Parello gene strain?

Abortion: It’s A Laff Riot!

Um, uh, yeah, I s’pose…, if you’re a member of — you guessed it — that gang of crypto-sociopathic Republican loons I twice mention above.

Alex Seitz-Wald in yesterday’s Salon tells us that the Repugnicans are thinking of flooding the interwebs with baby-killing humor just so’s they can attract that snark-loving younger crowd (who haven’t voted for the GOP since, er, um, ever.)

Audience Laughing

Stop It, Your Killin’ Me!

Seitz-Wald quotes a member of the Hitler Youth…, er, sorry, Students for Life, Kristan Hawkins telling a panel at last weekend’s gathering of the Ku Klux Klan…, oops, sorry again, Faith and Freedom Coalition, “You can engage with sarcasm. It’s hard in the abortion issue, but you have to.”

Surprised? Need I remind you that many Republicans still hold to the terrifying belief that Sarah Palin would have made an acceptable Vice President of the United States of America?

Or that this man could lead our holy land?

Trump

The Pencil Today:

HotAirLogoFinal Sunday II

THE QUOTE

“Never follow the crowd.” — Bernard Baruch

Baruch

DIG THE NIGHT SKY IN 2013

This, from the Science Lama:

13 Must See Stargazing Events for 2013

[EP ED: Events and explanations reproduced verbatim unless otherwise noted.]

1) January 21 — Very Close Moon/Jupiter Conjunction

A waxing gibbous moon (78% illuminated) will pass within less than a degree to the south of Jupiter high in the evening sky. Your closed fist held out at arms length covers 10 degrees. These two won’t get that close again until 2026.

2) February 2-23 — Best Evening View of Mercury

The planet Mercury will be far enough away from the glare of the Sun to be visible in the Western sky after sunset. It will be at its brightest on the 16th and dim quickly afterwards. On the 8th it will skim by the much dimmer planet Mars by about 0.4 degrees.

3) March 10-24 — Comet PANSTARRS at its best

First discovered in 2011, this comet should be coming back around for about 2 weeks. It will be visible low in the northwest sky after sunset. Here are some sources predicting what the comets may look like in the sky.

Image through Faulkes Telescope South

Comet PANSTARRS, Observed August 9, 2012

4) April 25 — Partial Lunar Eclipse

[Not visible here in the Midwest, so forget it.]

5) May 9 — Annular Eclipse of the Sun (“Ring of Fire” Eclipse)

[See above.]

6) May 24-30 — Dance of the Planets

Mercury, Venus and Jupiter will seemingly dance between each other in the twilight sky just after sunset as they will change their positions from one evening to the next. Venus will be the brightest of all, six times brighter than Jupiter.

7) June 23 — Biggest Full Moon of 2013

It will be the biggest full moon because the moon will be the closest to the Earth at this time making it a ‘supermoon’ and the tides will be affected as well creating exceptionally high and low tides for the next few days.

"Supermoon," March 19, 2011

The Supermoon Will Eat The Earth!

8) August 12 — Perseid Meteor Shower

One of the best and most reliable meteor showers of the year producing upwards of 90 meteors per hour provided the sky is dark. This year the moon won’t be in the way as much as it will set during the evening leaving the rest of the night dark. Here is a useful dark-sky finder tool. – http://bit.ly/UdcDUY

9) October 18 — Penumbral Eclipse of the Moon

[See comments for items 4 & 5.]

10) November 3 — Hybrid Eclipse of the Sun

[See above.]

11) Mid-November through December — Comet ISON

The second comet this year, ISON, could potentially be visible in broad daylight as it reaches its closest point to the Sun. It will reach that point on November 28 and it is close enough to the Sun to be categorized as a ‘Sungrazer’. Afterwards it will travel towards Earth (passing by within 40 million miles) a month later.

12) All of December — Dazzling Venus

The brightest planet of them all will shine a few hours after sundown in the Southwestern sky and for about 1.5 hours approaching New Years Eve. Around December 5th, a crescent moon will pass above the planet and the next night Venus will be at its brightest and won’t be again until 2021.

Moon & Venus

The Crescent Moon & Venus

13) December 13-14 — Geminid Meteor Shower

This is another great (if not the best) annual meteor shower. This year put on a show at about 120 meteors per hour and in 2013 it won’t be much different so expect another fantastic show. However, the moon – as it is a few days before full phase – will be in the way for most of the night obscuring some of the fainter meteors. You might have to stay up in the early morning hours (4am) to catch the all the meteors it has to offer.

SCIENCE VS. FEAR

I’m gonna make enemies here again.

No, no, I don’t mean the right-wing-nuts whom I skewer on a regular basis. As far as I know, none of them visit this communications colossus anyway. (BTW: That doesn’t mean there are no Republicans among our loyal readership — there’s a world of diff between good, solid GOP-ers and the too numerous loons who have been trying to hijack the party in the last half century.)

Scene from "Hogan's Heroes"

“We Must Take Over The Party.”

I suppose I mean — Gulp! Dare I say it? — the left-wing-nuts.

Yes, I admit it, there are those among my brethren and sisteren who are just as paranoiac, just as reactionary, and just as full of crap as those on the dark side of the political spectrum.

Matt Taibbi has a great account of the lunacies on both sides of the aisle in his 2008 book, “The Great Derangement.” In it, he compares and contrasts the right-wing whack-jobs of the evangelical/charismatic Rev. John Hagee’s ovine congregation and the left-wing subculture of 9/11 “Truthers” who live on the interwebs and in their own delusional world.

One group staunchly believes, in the face of virtually all expert, scientific evidence, that someone — probably Dick Cheney in overalls and a disguise — somehow planted bombs within the various buildings that collapsed following the 9/11 attacks.

The other group — again, at odds with the scientific community — is certain that climate change is a worldwide hoax.

Taibbi concludes that there’s next to nothing to distinguish between the two, save for their haircuts, god-loyalties, and eating habits.

Now, I’ve harped on this before and here I am, at it again. But a certain phenomenon seems to be growing bigger by the day. The anti-GMO movement, especially here in Bloomington, one of the capitals of Foodfetishstan, is gaining currency and popularity.

To hear some folks talk about it, one might think even looking at a food product containing a genetically modified organism is more dangerous than having a ton of Tarot cards fall on your head.

At first glance, their argument is seductive. Monsanto Company is the acknowledged worldwide leader in GMO research and development. Nobody’s ever mistaken Monsanto for for a corporate teddy bear. The company has attempted to corner patents on common livestock breeding techniques. It has persecuted farmers for seed-saving. It exploits the legal justice system to bully critics and competitors.

Pig

Monsanto Wants You To Know: It Invented The Pig

It is the bête noire of the agribusiness universe.

Ergo, if Monsanto does it, it is by definition vile.

Which sounds to me like the commonest logical fallacy employed by the right.

I’ve argued in these precincts in the past that the preponderance of expert, scientific opinion holds that there is little evidence that GMOs are dangerous. This is not to say we might discover some unintended consequences of the proliferation of the little mutants in years to come.

Hell, who in 1910 would have foreseen that the automobile would actually change the planet’s weather?

If we outlaw everything that just might be problematic at some time in the fuzzy future, the only legal option left would be for us to sit cross-legged in a field and hope nutrients enter our bodies through the pores in our skin.

Every invention poses risk. In the 1930s and ’40s, the technogeeks of the day saw television as the greatest tool for mass education ever conceived. Who knew TV would have given us the Kardashians? But even before TV became a fixture in every living room, people like George Orwell imagined it as a hammer in the fists of tyrants.

And, I suppose, some modern-day novelist might pen a bestseller entitled “Twenty Eighty Four” in which GMO monsters seize the White House.

That doesn’t mean it’ll actually happen.

That said, all we can go on is the consensus opinion of scientists. I mean, that’s the criterion we’re using to try to convince the ostriches of the right that Homo Sapiens sapiens has caused climate change, isn’t it?

That’s why a recent speech by one of Europe’s top anti-GMO activists, Mark Lynas, is big news.

As far back as the mid-1990s, Lynas was leading the charge against test-tube agriculture and Frankenfoods. Many European nations are in the vanguard of the GMO=disaster school of thought, some banning their use in food outright, thanks in large part to Lynas’ efforts.

Lynas spoke at the Oxford Farming Conference three days ago and made a starling admission.

“As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely,” he said.

He had been, he says, dead wrong about GMOs.

He explained to the conference how this metamorphosis took place. “…[T]he answer is very simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist.”

Lynas admitted to having sabotaged clinical trials of experimental GMO crops. He confessed, “… I had done no academic research on the topic, and had a pretty limited understanding. I don’t think I ever read a peer-reviewed paper on biotechnology or plant science….”

Now, Lynas says, the growth of the Earth’s population makes it imperative we utilize biotechnology to produce more food. He believes the current rage for “natural” agriculture and micro-farms, if unchecked, could lead to starvation for millions.

In other words, he had been a member of  a crowd that some two decades ago began to convince itself that GMOs are evil. And now he is quitting.

There’s a madness, Scottish journalist and author Charles Mackay once opined, in crowds.

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