Category Archives: Resist

Hot Air: Whistling In The Dark?

Shadowy Figure

I had author, journalist, and war correspondent Doug Wissing on Big Talk way back in March, 2018. At the time he was working on a biography of an Indiana boy who made good, a gentlemanly fellow named Ben Evans of Crawfordsville who went on to, for all intents and purposes, run the CIA through four presidents and seven agency directors.

That book is finished and, in fact, has hit the streets. Gentleman in the Shadows: Benjamin C. Evans and the Central Intelligence Agency was released just a few weeks ago by the Indiana Historical Society Press. Evans was one of those people who make Washington, DC — and, by extension, the whole of the United States government — hum. They are the “deep state” that Trumpists and the head Trumper himself decry these days but without them the machinery of federal government would come crashing to a halt. The vast majority of federal government employees are civil servants, meaning they can’t be fired by incoming presidents or department heads for political reasons. They are serious, dedicated professionals (for the most part — they are human after all) who know how to do their jobs, know how their departments work, and understand how they as individuals as well as their departments connect — or disconnect — with and from everyone around them.

Here, for example, is a quote from the US Military Academy (West Point)’s  In Memoriam page on its Class of 1946 alumnus, Ben Evans:

Ben carried the chief administrative responsibility for the CIAs interaction with the White House, Cabinet, and other departments and agencies. His position called for skill, experience, judgement, diplomacy, firmness, and discretion. These were all characteristics Ben had in abundance.

A Real Doll.

Evans started his CIA career as a secret agent in Havana, Cuba just as Fidel’s revolution had taken control of the country. Wissing found a juicy anecdote wherein Evans’ two-year-old daughter had become attached to her lifelike Fidel Castro doll — yep, there was such a thing, complete with fatigues, beard, and glasses! She carried the doll everywhere she went, including all around the villa the Evans family lived in even as her father worked clandestinely to overthrow Castro.

Wissing describes Evans as “the most powerful man you’ve never heard of.” Evans was intimately involved in nearly every major American geopolitical event during the years he served as the CIA’s executive secretary. And that even includes Watergate. President Nixon, you may recall, wanted the CIA to put the kibosh on the FBI’s investigation into his reelection committee’s more unsavory pastimes. Evans, says Wissing, had to resist Nixon’s pressure while at the same time keeping the White House happy.

You can hear these stories and more this afternoon at 5:30 on Big Talk as Wissing joins me for the third time on the program. Big Talk airs every Thursday at that time on WFHB, 91.3 FM. If you miss it, come back here tomorrow for the podcast link.

Out Of Ordre

As I get older, I find myself typing things more and more in a — shall we say? — dyslectic manner. You know, reversing letters and words and so on.

One reversal I repeat pretty much every time is Untied States for United States. I always go back and correct it but the thought occurs to me that, what with the polarization and mistrust rampant in this holy land these days, it really is more accurate to called these states untied rather than united.

[ MG NOTE: I did a little digging and found out that what I’m talking about is not dyslexia but dysgraphia. Dyslexia has to do with reading and dysgraphia, writing. ]

Behind Closed Curtains

Dig, I’ve decided to dub the 2016 election the Fuck-It Election.

Lemme explain.

For some 15 months millions of people — hell, tens of millions of people — told pollsters they couldn’t figure out who to vote for. A lot of them even said they’d vote for Hillary Clinton, because, ‘y’know, she had all that experience and chops and so on. All those people were either afraid to admit they liked Donald Trump or hadn’t yet wrapped their brains around him as president.

But when they got into the voting booth and they had to make the decision at last, they said, Ah, fuck it, and pulled the lever or filled in the box for the Republican candidate. A lot of it had to do with how much they detested Hillary Clinton, despite her experience and chops and so on.

What did they have to lose? Trump was going to shake things up. He was the ultimate outsider (so they believed). Let’s run a fire hose through the house and clean out all the stink and garbage. Then we can get back to voting for people who have experience and chops and so on.

Maybe I’m kidding myself, but that’s why I’m leaning toward thinking whoever the Dem candidate is this year will win. Trump’s loyal 35-40 percent will always be there but it was the seven-to-12 percent who said Fuck it that got him over the hump.

They may not be so prone to say Fuck it again.

Hot Air: Rolls-over Drivers

We are indeed a bizarre species, a theme I’ve addressed herein countless times.

For instance, researchers at the University of Nevada have found that drivers of expensive cars are less likely to stop to allow pedestrians to cross in front of them than the rest of us. Lead researcher, Courtney Coughenor, ass’t prof. of Community Health Sciences at the UN Las Vegas campus, set up the study. She and her assistants recruited four pedestrians, dressed similarly to insure equal visibility, to traverse a busy crosswalk in the city, one that is also used by students at a nearby elementary school. The test subjects took a step onto the street and made eye contact with oncoming drivers. Posted signs require drivers to stop for pedestrians there. Better than two-thirds of the drivers did not stop to allow the pedestrians to cross, which is bad enough.

Coughenor’s study, published in the Journal of Transport and Health, also found that drivers as a whole stopped less frequently for crossers of color and/or males than they did for whites and/or females. But the surprising (or not) finding was that for every $1000 increase in their cars’ sticker price, drivers were three percent less likely to stop for any pedestrians.

Coughenor et al concluded, “One potential explanation may be that drivers of higher value cars… felt a sense of superiority over other road users. Similarly, individuals of lower socioeconomic status (SES) may empathize more with the pedestrians.”

Using Coughenor’s car-value formula, I wonder if drivers of the Rolls Royce Sweptail — at $13 million, the most expensive car in the world — simply mow down pedestrians willy-nilly. And knowing how this holy land’s justice system works, they’d probably get away with it.

Get Outta My Way!

No Win

I’ve always said I’d hate like hell to be a member of either a school district board or a municipal planning board. They’re thankless jobs guaranteed to get you into hot water with just about everybody in town.

Add one more position to that list right now: serving on the Bloomington Board of Parks Commissioners. Their raucous meeting last night, acc’d’g to the Herald Times, resulted in the board’s decision to forbid at this year’s Farmers Market, “picketing, demonstrating, yelling, excessive or unreasonable noise-making, obstructing or hindering the flow of pedestrians or access to a vendor, and other conduct disrupting market activities.”

Those enraged by the presence of white supremacist Sarah Dye of the Schooner Creek Farm the last few years became even more hot under the collar during and after the meeting. Local social media heated up last night in the wake of the decision, with protesters and allies calling foul. Their argument: Dye and her Euro-caucasian supporters have been protected under the US Constitution’s 1st Amendment since the contretemps started a couple of years ago but no such protection applies to the protesters.

Frankly, I don’t know what the hell I’d do were I entrusted with the impossible task of clearing this mess up. Anti-racist protesters say all the city had to do was throw Dye and her farm out of the Farmers Market the moment it became obvious she belonged to the American Identity Movement (nee, Identity Evropa). Mayor John Hamilton — whose wife Dawn Johnsen is a constitutional scholar and, I’d have to imagine, shared some thoughts with him over the dinner table — refused to do that and now he’s being buffeted from all sides by protests, rancor, and lawsuits.

The most radical of the city’s anti-racism voices are now portraying the city as a cesspool of white racists. Dye et al are suing Hamilton et al for wronging her by allowing protesters to raise cain this past summer. Now it’s the parks board’s turn to feel the heat.

A Nice, Safe Job.

Sometimes I wonder why anybody would want to get into government at all.

Hot Air: Trump Slumps

There’ve been all sorts of “Trump slumps” since our dear leader was inaugurated on January 20, 2017 (a moment, BTW, I thankfully missed as I was under a general anesthetic, getting my cancer drug port removed — sometimes even the absolute worst of times can be somewhat ameliorated by a tiny stroke of good fortune).

In any case, there have been an international travel slump due to the value of the dollar falling under Trump’s leadership; investors’ anxiety due to Trump’s trade tiff with China; manufacturing, agriculture and shipping downturns due to his economic policies; and a whole raft of other sags in this nation’s finances, vitality, and even psychological mood, all thanks to the presence of an unqualified, incurious, supremacist, greed monkey in the White House. Hell, half the people I know are ready to jump off the top of the tallest building in town as they fret over the possibility that President Gag just might win a second term.

For some odd reason, though, I missed the Trump slump in the gun sales world. Yep, ever since the terrorist, Muslim, cocaine-addicted, gay-orgy-in-the-White-House-basement, tolerator of Hillary Clinton’s child sex slave ring underneath a Maryland pizza parlor, Barack Obama went back to Kenya or Uganda or wherever the hell the lunatics among us think he came from, gun sales have gone down. Yes indeed, with a porcine white man (and pathologically proud of it) claiming the mantle of Leader of the Free World, the people of this holy land are less inclined to stock up on shootin’ irons because, gosh dang it, America is great again!

Inasmuch as those of us appalled by the very idea of a Trump presidency are making rumbling sounds about taking to the streets if this madness continues much longer, you’d think the Trumpists’d be more eager than ever to get their paws on guns, hand- and long-varieties inclusive. Because millions of us are itching to stop America’s obvious descent into neo-fascism by any means necessary, it’s only logical to assume MAGA cap sporters would be gearing up for the apocalyptic confrontation likely to come. But they ain’t.

That’d be because the gun fondlers and Trump idolators of this currently-changing democratic republic are no longer in a panic that the big bad brown man is coming to snatch their daughters and wives for whatever craven sexual purposes might strike them. Obama’s out so we don’t have to live in Fear of the Black Penis any longer. A melanin-deprived plutocrat with an even whiter (and surgically enhanced) bride is now large and in charge so, babies, we got us enough guns for the time being.

I’ve long held the worst thing about democracy is the people.

Checking It Twice

I understand Clarence Thomas’s wife is helping L’il Duce compile his enemies list. Remember how scared to death many of us were when Dick Nixon’s enemies list was revealed? This new one’ll make that one look like your Aunt Sue’s Christmas card list. Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, apparently, is helping ID those in federal government positions who don’t worship the very ground P. Gag walks on.

Washington’s Fun Couple.

Natch, a psychologically malformed individual like Trump can be expected to carry around in his head a roster of names of those who’ve wronged him, called him out, looked at him sideways, or otherwise blasphemed him. And, to be sure, it isn’t just Deep Staters who can expect to be punished. I’m guessing reporters, Democrats, historians, photographers, Op/Ed columnists, intellectuals, archivists, librarians, protesters, activists, wayward Republicans, feminists, and other such reprobates will soon — if not already — be added to the growing non-person list.

Personal to Ginni Thomas: Once you finish weeding the dissenters out of federal gov’t and start getting around to marking the rest of us non-compliers with your special scarlet letter, please consider me for inclusion on your expanded list.

I, in fact, am an enemy of Donald J. Trump.

No Coloreds Allowed

From the late, lamented, and utterly fabulous Spy Magazine (issue dated December 1989):

You’re Not The Boss Of Me!

There were, by my count, at least six good, valid, and true reasons why such an unlikely figure as Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016. I’ve recounted them here time and again so I won’t beat that dead horse today.

But it’s been more than three years with L’il Duce in power and, golly gee, he’s upended everything but the White House china cabinet — and that may be on next week’s agenda.

Anyway, what with President Gag acting so unpresidential-ly for so long — and many wits and wags early on wrongly predicted that his voters would tire of him quickly after they saw him in action — he’s still wildly popular with that portion of the American electorate amounting to some 35-40 percent of us. In fact, it could be said he’s more popular than ever with his base.

Why?

Simple. I’ve got it all figured out.

His whole appeal at this point is this: He says, in word and deed, precisely what nearly everyone would dearly love to say to their bosses, their annoying neighbors, their cranky relatives, those who scold and scourge in the news, those who shake their fingers at us on social media, college professors and so-called experts, and everybody else who tells us how we ought to behave. That is, Fuck you. You can’t tell me what to do. I’ll do what I want.

Honest to gosh, it’s as basic and visceral as that. Everybody tells me what to do and finally — finally! — someone’s out there saying exactly what I want to say but can’t or else I’ll be fired, disowned, et cetera.

In other words, a huge swathe of the American public is, emotionally and psychologically, 14 years old.

Forty Percent Of Us Today?

Hot Air: Will You Still Need Me?

Next month I turn 64. As far as I’m concerned that, officially, makes me an old man.

A child of the 1960s and ’70s, I grew up with the Beatles and, in 1967, they released the landmark album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. One of the tracks on the album was the tune “When I’m 64.” It’s a bittersweet, plaintive ballad, the singer (Paul McCartney) asking his youthful love if she’ll still be with him when he becomes a rickety old goat. Believe it or not, McCartney wrote the song when he was 16 years old! It was one of the first full songs he’d ever written.

Impossible!

I recall seeing — in some magazine, I think — an artist’s conception of the four then-young Beatles when they would be 64. They were thicker, gray-haired, balding, and paunchy. They had bags under their eyes and sagging cheeks and jowls. The illustration was, in fact, a surprisingly accurate (it turns out) representation of what the years would do to them. The picture gave me the shivers. The Beatles, I gasped, were going to be old men!

Anyway, from the time I first heard the tune it became cemented in my consciousness that the age of 64 was incontrovertibly and inarguably…, well, old.

Having at last attained said age, I can truthfully say, Yep, that’s old, baby. My body’s falling apart, sometimes at a frightful pace, sometimes in small increments. I’m no longer the randy, hyper, toned, muscled, lithe, eager, agile, quick buck I once was. My body makes alarming noises when I stand up or sit down. At least a half dozen joints are as sore and achy as if I were recovering from being hit by a truck. I struggle with a congenitally malformed heart and am entering the fourth year of cancer remission, the aftereffects of chemoradiation still making themselves painfully evident every day. I need a new hip (at least), a couple of hernia repairs, another surgical procedure I’m loath to disclose, and, too often, I walk into a room and forget why In the hell I’ve done so. As for the randiness I once enjoyed, well, I remember those days fondly, like a lost love.

You might think this all depresses me. To a tiny extent it does. I wish I could go out and play centerfield again. I wish I could drink and chase women all night long and be able to get up the next morning without so much as a complaint. I wish I had the strength to ride my motorcycle again. I wish I could do a million things I did easily and without a care when I was 25 or 35 or even 45. But I can’t.

What I can do is draw upon six-plus decades of experience and wisdom. I can relax. I can concentrate on my writing for long hours at a time, something I was utterly unable to do when I was filled with vim. I can recognize the differences between emotion, knee-jerk reaction, and a rational consideration of whatever options I face. I have countless memories of things good and bad, all of which went into the making of me, like so many bricks in a wall.

Am I afraid of dying? You bet. But I don’t think about it all the time. My denial mechanism is finely tuned (otherwise I wouldn’t be able to survive with my sanity, such as it is, intact). When I do think about those last frightful moments, I quickly shake my head and resolve to live every remaining day — hell, every remaining second — to the fullest.

Truth is, I like growing older. I like growing old.

Our American consumer culture constantly hammers the message into us that aging is a disease, something to be avoided, an ugly condition for which there are any number of balms, lotions, pills, injections, gym memberships, diets, psychotherapies, and countless other panaceas we can invest in and with which — hooray! — we can hope and pray to stay young and beautiful indefinitely.

Aging, in reality, is as much a definitive part of life as being born. Death is in the future of every single person alive. That consumer culture I refer to above? Too many of us have bought into its fictitious premise. I know people in their late 70s who say, “I’m not old!” To which I want to respond, “The hell you aren’t!”

I embrace oldness even as I occasionally daydream about chasing down a flyball or shifting my weight on my old Suzuki GS1100 as I negotiate a curve at 65 mph on a summer’s day in Wisconsin.

I called her Suzie Q.

As R. Buckminster Fuller once sagely advised, Don’t fight forces; use them. The irresistible force of time hurtling me closer to the moment I’ll no longer be here isn’t something I’ll tilt against. Bring it on! And, it is to be dearly hoped, when I get to be, say, 77 or 78 years old, I’ll be smarter, wiser, more content, and 13 or 14 years more complete.

Do They Walk Among Us?

Here’s the link to the podcast of yesterday’s Big Talk featuring UFO experience researcher Susan Lepselter. The Loved One and I hold differing views on the topic of aliens visiting this hunk of mud and rock. We listened to the podcast together yesterday as we nibbled on our dinner. It was TLO who hipped me to Lepselter in the first place.

Consider this a reminder: I welcome and thoroughly enjoy getting suggestions about possible guests on Big Talk. The Loved One has been responsible for turning me on to a good dozen guests over the years. Friends, acquaintances, and social media cronies have suggested another dozen or two. Email me at glabagogo@gmail.com with your ideas. There is a Big Talk email account floating around somewhere but, truth be told, I rarely check it.

Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3FM.

Hot Air: Look To The Skies!

UFOs were the topic in the Big Production Room at the WFHB studios yesterday AM.

Author and researcher Susan Lepselter joined me to record this week’s edition of Big Talk, set to air this afternoon at 5:30pm.

Lepselter

Lepselter wrote the book, The Resonance of Unseen Things: Poetics, Power, Captivity, and UFOs in the American Uncanny (University of Michigan Press, 2016). She’s been talking to individuals and groups who’ve had UFO sighting and abduction experiences for better than 20 years now. She’s not at all into proving or disproving the existence of extraterrestrial visitors to this rock. Her curiosity is piqued specifically by the stories and lore experiencers share. What, she asks, do their memories and stories tell us about…, well, us?

Times of anxiety usually see a spate of UFO abduction and contact stories. When The Bomb was the big scare in the 1950s and ’60s, UFO sightings proliferated. Then, in the ’70s with faith in the US government cratering, women becoming liberated, the relationship between the races being redefined, and other society-shaking phenomena, the abduction-cum-medical probing claims took off. We’re in yet another age of anxiety these days and — wouldn’t you know it? — the alien visitors narrative again is ascendant.

Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM.

Big-Assed Numbers

Some things to consider:

  • It takes light 4.3 years to reach Earth from our nearest neighbors, the three stars of the Alpha Centauri system. The velocity of light, natch, is the cosmic superhighway’s speed limit. Physicists generally agree that for any material object to be propelled at anything close to the speed of light, it would take a nearly-infinite expenditure of energy to get it moving that fast.
  • Our own, modest, Earthly technology has only achieved speeds of 430,000 mph (the Parker Solar Probe was aided by the enormous pull of the Sun’s gravity). That is a mere 0.064 percent of the speed of light. At that rate, a similar mission to Alpha Centauri would take some 58.8 million years to reach its destination.
  • Let’s assume an alien civilization has developed a supercharged hot rod engine capable of moving a space ship much faster. How much faster? A hundred percent? That means it’d take only 29 million years to get from Alpha Centauri to here. A thousand percent? Now we’re talking a mission that’d last some 58,000 years. A hell of a gamble — wouldn’t you think? — for a civilization to mount a trip to a destination that just might not exist in 580 centuries.
  • Most star systems are many, many, many times farther away than Alpha Centauri. My calculator is incapable of providing me with the proper mileage and duration figures needed for those journeys.
  • Whichever star system’s inhabitants hope to visit Earth — out of all the billions and billions of planets in our Solar System that they might think to drop in on — would have come up with a propulsion system that is far and away beyond our very wildest imaginations.
  • Could it happen? Certainly. Is it probable that it could happen and one of the billions of civilizations out there not only has visited us but is continuing to visit us — out of all the possible destinations they could have selected — and has only interfaced with a select number of random humans in remote locales? Now we’re talking about probability figures akin to the number of miles in a light year.
  • Despite the improbability of it all, I’m four-square in favor continuing to listen to people who tell stories of UFO experiences and trying to understand them, as well as committing resources to a rigorous search for extraterrestrial intelligence via monitoring any and all conceivable means of communication from the distant stars.
  • All of this, as Dr. Lepselter concurs, reminds us what a fragile, tiny, preposterously insignificant speck of dust our planet is in the cosmos. We self-important humans need constant, heavy doses of that kind of humility.

Hot Air: For Sale

I listened to an hour’s-worth of sports talk radio this AM as I drove up to Indy. In that time I heard no fewer than three ads for the Bloomberg presidential campaign.

Whoever said money isn’t everything knew nothing about America in the year 2020.

Bloomberg (L) & Trump: Buyers’ Market.

Prescient & Naive

Eric Zorn, columnist for the on-life-support Chicago Tribune, wrote a passionate essay in the wake of Donald Trump’s unlikely election victory in 2016. The first part of it is as perceptive and spot-on an assessment of the man as I’ve ever read. In the second part, Zorn plays Pollyanna, trusting the tens of millions of Americans who voted for Trump to come to their senses once they’d see the man for who he really is. I don’t necessarily fault Zorn for having such a childlike faith in the American people. Hell, you’ve got to believe in something, otherwise why go on living?

Anyway, here’s Zorn’s column assessing the Fall ’16 tragedy:

CAN AMERICA SURVIVE PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP?

November 10, 2016

In an electoral tantrum for the ages, angry U.S. voters have elected an impulsive, thin-skinned, ignorant con man to the presidency.

I have serious doubts that the American experiment will survive his reign.

The Founders were wary of demagogues and created a political system of checks and balances to weaken the chance that one would take power.

That system has survived centuries of domestic and foreign tumult and the occasional election of buffoons and rascals as commander in chief, despite Alexander Hamilton’s reassurance in Federalist No. 68 that all presidents would naturally be “preeminent for ability and virtue.”

But our republic has never been tested as it will be when Donald Trump is sworn into office. He lacks not only ability and virtue, but he also lacks a fundamental respect for the Constitution (aside from the Second Amendment), he lacks an understanding of the fine points of domestic and foreign policy and he lacks the cool temperament necessary to guide the most important nation on Earth through perilous times.

He fans the flames of tribalism and nationalism, inspiring and comforting those with deplorable views.

He purchased the support of a majority of American voters with a set of brazenly false, often contradictory promises.

He praised and made common cause with brutal Russian dictator Vladimir Putin while actively undermining domestic confidence in our electoral system.

His campaign and his personal manner were so repulsive that many top members of his own party couldn’t even bring themselves to mention his name or say if they were voting for him.

His unfiltered expressions of anger and contempt were so dismaying that his campaign reportedly had to yank his access to Twitter in the waning days of the campaign — yet voters decided to hand him the nuclear launch codes.

Sure, as a lefty I’m discouraged almost beyond words at the fact that Republicans will control the legislative and executive branches of government.

This means the end of the extension of health care contained in the Affordable Care Act and pretty much the obliteration of the rest of President Barack Obama’s legacy.

It means efforts to ameliorate global climate change are dead, that the wealthy will enjoy generous tax cuts and for at least four years we won’t see meaningful efforts to curb the easy availability of firearms.

Trump’s victory also means that Republicans will regain control of the U.S. Supreme Court — a reward for their outrageous stalling after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February — meaning that the Citizens United decision will stand and the erosion of abortion rights will continue on the state level.

But that’s politics and policy. The same would have been true had any of the other umpteen Republican hopefuls won the White House on Tuesday, and I would not be melodramatically forecasting comprehensive doom.

Trump is different. He’s an aspiring strongman with a divisive record of bigotry and misogyny. He has put a quiet stamp of approval on white nationalism, and he has mainstreamed hateful anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Jewish and anti-black sentiments that, until the rise of his candidacy, had been pushed far into the social margins.

Much was made of the anger that fueled Trump supporters.

Anger at the loss of good-paying jobs for those without college education.

Anger at the idea that undocumented immigrants were taking jobs from American citizens.

Anger at multiculturalism and the attendant demands of “political correctness.”

Anger that the government system is rigged against them.

Anger that media elites and other establishment types look down on them.

That anger may subside for a time as they celebrate Trump’s victory, but it will surely return when they come to recognize — as many of us already have — that he is a grotesque fraud and a spectacular liar.

I’m not saying this to sway anyone’s vote. The campaign is over. But many of those who championed him and are now exultant will come to despise him as much as those who have opposed him.

He will not bring jobs back that technology has taken. And if he actually starts the trade wars he has promised, prices for everything in the Wal-Mart will rise, the market for exports will dry up and working people will suffer the most.

He will not build a wall. He will not give low-income people better, cheaper health insurance. He will not put a stop to crime “on Day One” as he promised. He will not lower the national debt or get rid of the tax advantages enjoyed by the wealthy. He will not improve the lives of inner-city African-Americans.

Extreme buyer’s remorse will set in.

Oh, he’ll blame his comprehensive failures on others — narcissists and hucksters always do. But sooner rather than later he will stand exposed even to his supporters as someone who never had a clue how to make America greater than it is, and who exploited for his own gain the fury and credulity of people who feel marginalized and disrespected.

His hair-trigger temper, poor self-control and failure to appreciate the nuances of foreign policy will make him a singularly dangerous man on the international stage.

His arrogance and his contempt for those who disagree with him will shatter what’s left of comity in Washington, because he’s not just a phony but a thug, an aspiring autocrat cut from the same cloth as Putin.

The limits that our Founders placed on the despotic impulses of demagogues who ascend to the highest office will be severely strained if not broken altogether.

Nearly all the things that Trump falsely claimed during the campaign were a disaster will, in fact, become disasters under his rule.

Could I be wrong?

Well, I’ve been wrong about Trump at nearly every turn for the last year and a half. I thought he had politically self-destructed at least half a dozen times, most recently with his absolutely bizarre performance in the third and final presidential debate.

And I was wrong about this race until the middle of the evening Tuesday, when I had to stop believing that Americans are too smart not to see through his flim-flam and realize how spectacularly unfit he is for the presidency.

With luck, I’ll be wrong again.

Hot Air: Both Sides against the Middle

By playing it safe, the City of Bloomington now finds itself in hot water — nay, boiling water — with both sides in the Farmers Market/Schooner Creek dustup.

The SC gang filed a lawsuit in federal court Friday claiming the city denied the vendor its constitutional rights over the summer while a mini-hell broke loose at the fresh grub outdoor mall outside City Hall. The city, the Schooner filing asserts, allowed protesters to raise cain gratis while denying SC the same comp so that they might tell the world how fabulous the white race is.

This after Mayor John Hamilton and the city decided to take no action to evict SC when the vendor was shown to be run by folks who belong to a supremacist organization, something called the American Identity Movement (no link because fuck them). AIM is the shiny new name conjured by the more public relations savvy among its membership; the groups’s orig. monicker was Identity Evropa. By any name, the org. has been ID’d by both the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.

Not to be confused.

Odd the AIM should have chosen its new acronym considering those three initials long have been associated with the American Indian Movement. I’d guess the Identity clique would feel the Indian advocates would be anathema inasmuch as Native Americans had the damnable temerity to occupy the future American continent that, after all, had been deeded by the Holy White Father himself to European caucasians.

In any case, it was clear Hamilton and his law dept. decided to take no action against SC for fear the vendor would sue the city to high heaven. Angry protesters howled and demonstrated and branded the mayor — as well as anybody who dared suggest SC had a right to sell its greens even if its owners did spout detestable racist nonsense — racists and Nazis.

No doubt the furor this past summer gave Hamilton and city attorney Philippa Guthrie night sweats. They surely crossed their fingers that SC would not apply to vend at the 2020 Farmers Market but the farm did do so the other day. And now — wouldn’t you know it? — SC has sicced its attorneys on Bloomington et al after all.

After playing it timidly, the mayor and the city have found themselves in a bigger heap of manure than ever before.

The Flavors of Baseball

With baseball’s spring training beginning this past week, I feel it is imperative to note that The Philadelphia Phillies have just acquired an outfielder named Kyle Garlick.

When he broke into the big leagues last year with the Dodgers, he joined an illustrious group of herb- and spice-named players throughout history. There were, acc’d’g to Baseball Reference, no fewer than four players with the surname Pepper (Don, Laurin, Ray, and Bob) as well as Pepper Martin, born Johnny Leonard Roosevelt Martin and known as the Wild Horse of the Osage. I won’t go so far as to count that colorful nickname among the herbal all-star roster although I was tempted by the -sage part of it.

There also have been Jarrod Saltalamacchia (AKA Salty), natch, and Salty Parker. Saltalamacchia, BTW, was noted mainly for possessing the longest last name in Major League Baseball history, at a hefty 14 letters.

There has been Frank Fennelly, even though his name is more an adjective than a noun.

Jason Bay played in the bigs in the early part of this century and Harry Bay in the early part of the last.

Pickles Dillhoefer

Pickles Dillhoefer was a catcher for several teams from 1917 through 1921.

Pitcher Arthur Chivers never made the majors but did earn a paycheck in the minor leagues for a couple of years around 1950.

Pitcher Steve Mintz had a couple of cups of coffee with the Giants and Angels in the 1990s.

The closest I could come to marjoram was catcher Mike Marjama who appeared a few times for the Seattle Mariners in 2017 and ’18.

Lemon, OTOH, has some MLB props. There have been Chet, Jim and Bob Lemon and even Mark Lemongello which is the only flavor palatable in my opinion.

There have been no fewer than five players named Curry (Steve, Tony, Jim, George, and Wes).

Ginger Beaumont, Ginger Shinault, and Ginger Clark all logged big league playing time.

No one named Chicory ever played big league baseball although nine players sported the now-non-PC nickname Chico and one was named Matt Chico. It should be noted Chico Salmon played for nine years in the 1960s and ’70s as did, while we’re at it, Tim Salmon, during the 1990s and ‘aughts. I’m not so sure chicory goes well with fish, though.

Stephen Yarrow was an infielder in the Giants’ minor league system not long ago. Yarrow, the herb, was used to flavor beer in the Middle Ages and today is used to add a bit of zing to certain spirits and bitters.

Julia Sawalha as Saffron in “Absolutely Fabulous”

The only Saffron I can think of is Edina’s priggish daughter in Absolutely Fabulous.

Billy and Vic Sorrell and Chick Sorrells have been professional ballplayers. Sorrel of course, is a salad vegetable.

Valeriano Fano played baseball in Cuba immediately after World War II. Valerian root is touted by herbal medicine enthusiasts as a natural remedy for sleeplessness and restless leg syndrome, although no scientific studies indicate it does anything of the sort.

Pat Caraway was a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox in 1930, ’31, and ’32.

Brandon, Sam, and Pete Woodruff made their separate ways to the majors. The flowering herb, woodruff, is used in Germany to flavor may wine, punch, brandy, jelly, jam, a soft drink called Tarhun, ice cream, herbal tea, and sherbet powder.

Thinking of baseball and herbs makes me hungry. I’ll make myself a hot dog and sprinkle, in true Chicago style, some celery salt on it. Celerino Sanchez, to conclude this pointless exercise, was a third baseman for the New York Yankees in the early 1970s.

Oh, and seven players named Herb by their parents played Major League Baseball, the best of them being pitchers Herb Pennock and Herb Score. Bob Spicer pitched for the Kansas City Athletics in 1955 and ’56.

Hot Air: The Stacked Deck

A Simple Statement

If you can’t — or won’t — see the inherent evil in this…

…then you can’t possibly understand what’s wrong with this world.

I hope to enrage you further by offering these facts about Bezos’ new digs:

  • It’s a 13,600 square foot structure
  • It sits on a nine acre tract
  • It has a tennis court, swimming pool, and a nine-hole golf course
  • The multi-vehicle garage has a gas pump for each car

Bezos already owns a three-story condominium in a Fifth Avenue (New York) high rise — he purchased the building’s penthouse and the condos on the two floors below it to create a kingly residence there. He paid $80 million for the three units in 2019.

The Amazon.com, Inc. founder also owns a $23 million mansion in Washington, DC. That home formerly was a museum.

As of February 13, Bezos was worth $131 billion dollars. That total is higher than the 2019 Gross Domestic Products of Morocco, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Venezuela, Croatia, Lebanon, Iceland, and Zimbabwe, among many others. President Donald Trump’s December 2017 tax code revisions afforded Bezos a healthy income tax cut.

Stone Again

In case you missed it, Big Talk yesterday was a rebroadcast of my chat with Dr. Rob Stone, founder and president of Bloomington’s Physicians for a National Health Program. Catch the original August 2019 podcast with Stone here.

Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3FM.

 

Hot Air: Decisions, Decisions

A couple of radio talkers today were discussing how high school students make their decisions regarding which colleges or universities they’ll go to. One of the talkers, a reasonable fellow who’s a stickler for good sourcing and is almost obsessively cautious about falling for misinformation or manufactured news, said, all other things being equal, the single most important factor in a student’s decision is the weather on the day they visit any particular campus.

For the life of me, I can’t find any corroborating source for this and I missed it when he cited his source, but I buy his assertion on a gut level.

Welcome to the Midwest.

First off, the two were on a sports talk station in Chi. The NBA all-star weekend is taking place in the Windy City with events all over town, including the game and the skills competitions at the United Center and meet-and-greets at Navy Pier, et cetera. The two talkers mentioned that the temps this weekend in my beloved hometown will be dipping into the very low single digits. They concluded, after hashing over the college choice factoid, that NBA stars who may one day become free agents likely will not look kindly upon Chicago as a destination after coming to town for the big shebang. There’s a lot to be said for this because, in the NBA, Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Texas, and Florida are the preferred landing spots for an inordinately high percentage of free agents, the winter weather in those locales being less than horrifying. Places like Chicago and Milwaukee and Detroit are, to many basketball players’ minds, as inviting as the North Pole.

NBA stars, by and large, are just a few years older than college kids. A lot of their decision making processes probably aren’t much more advanced than those of typical 18-22 y.o.’s. And, as indicated above, those kids are swayed by what seem to be extraneous factors.

And, even by-er and larger, so are the rest of us.

I worked for a few years in the restaurant industry. And I’ve got a good half century of experience eating at restaurants. I know this: your mood and a whole bunch of factors other than the quality of the food and the service at any given eatery dictate your feelings about your dinner or lunch at that place. If you and your mate are battling, for instance, you’re not going to remember your meal with any fondness. If a table-full of drunks are causing a ruckus and bumping into you and the wait staff, the taste of the manicotti isn’t going to be uppermost in your mind.

Here’s an example. One evening The Loved One and I went over to Mr. Hibachi over on East 3rd St. for the Chinese buffet. As we neared the entrance, a college-aged kid burst out the door and immediately started horking. It was a jaw-dropping sight. The poor slob must have eaten half a ton of food because he couldn’t stop spewing. Needless to say, we spun on our heels and nearly burned rubber getting out of the parking lot. We did not go back to Mr. Hibachi for about half a year. And that decision had nothing at all to do with the grub and the treatment we’d have gotten there that night.

“Oh, I wanna go there!”

It’s all about the surroundings, savvy?

So, think of the packs of high school kids who’ll be visiting Bloomington over the next few months, wondering if they should enroll here. If the weekend is sunny and mild, this town’ll be awfully attractive. And if the weather is sleety and bone-chilling, well, those students might tend to think about, say, Georgia Tech or Tulane.

Relax, Have a Glass Of Milk Or Something, Okay?

Everybody’s wailing and gnashing their teeth about the seeming chaos surrounding the 2020 Democratic presidential primary process that is only a week and a half on thus far. There remain about 750 candidates and front-runners are losing and dark horses are gaining and, ohmygodinheaven, the entire Democratic Party is destroying itself before our very eyes!

Only it’s not.

History — not many Americans’ strong point — tells us that this year’s Dem competition is no different than any other presidential years, both parties inclusive.

Just for perspective’s sake, let me point out that the winner of the 2016 Republican Iowa caucuses was none other than a fellow named Ted Cruz. And, might I remind you, the clear front runner at the mid-term point a couple of years before that was the the sitting governor of New Jersey, the then-darling of the party, Chris Christie. During the Republican debates in the fall of 2015, the big star was Carly Fiorina, ex-CEO of Hewlett Packard.

Can You Name This Person?

Quick question: What are Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, and Carly Fiorina doing these days? Nah, I didn’t think you knew. I certainly don’t, save for Cruz*.

[ * The answers: Christie last year published a book entitled Let Me Finish. I know nobody who’s read it and I’m quite certain we never sold a single copy of it at the Book Corner. He was, BTW, selected to the Sports Betting Hall of Fame (betcha didn’t know that existed!) for his efforts in legalizing the sports book in the Garden State. Fiorina is now the chair and CEO of Carly Fiorina Enterprises, a nonprofit whose raison d’être, acc’d’g to a spokesperson, is to help her “structure speaking engagements and appearances while providing the public with information about her activities.” In other words, she heads a PR firm whose sole client is herself. As for Cruz (about whose relationship with Donald Trump the website Business Insider had this to say)…

The political feud between President Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas during the 2016 election was one of the dirtiest in recent memory.

Trump and Cruz, who dropped out of the GOP primary in May 2016, attacked each other’s wives, citizenship, and integrity. They even threatened to sue, accusing each other of lying and cheating for various reasons.

After Trump won the party’s nomination, Cruz refused to endorse him at the Republican National Convention.

… he’s still the junior US Senator from Texas and he spends much of his time either defending the president’s worst misdeeds or strategically ignoring them. ]

That Republican Party, which in 2016 looked to be about ready to destroy itself, now holds the White House, the Senate, the US Supreme Court, most of the federal district courts, a majority of statehouses and governors’ mansions, and, through its leader, is completely remaking American government.

So stop fretting about what appears to be a party in shambles. Both parties’ primaries are knock-down, drag-out affairs every quadrennial. Or, to employ another comparison, they are the sausage-making room and you sure as hell don’t want to see what goes into the grinder.

Hot Air: Radio, Writing & Mortality

Catching Up

It’s been a while so here are a few links for you to click on:

  1. Big Talk with Fil Menczer — He’s a researcher and professor of Informatics and Computer Science over at Indiana University’s factory for geeks of that nature. Menczer and his crew study social media and their effects on people, especially the disinformation, manufactured news, and thought manipulations that arise therefrom. A lot of us talk about how Twitter, Facebook, and the like play with our heads as well as our collective understanding of reality but, in truth, we’re letting ourselves off easy for the damage done to us via soc. media. Here’s the podcast link for the program featuring Fil.
  2. Big Talk with Paul Bryan and Cynthia Wakley — the executive director and operations director, respectively, for PALS, Inc. The acronym for People and Animal Learning Services, PALS is a therapeutic equine setup that helps people with physical, psychological, and emotional challenges overcome barriers. Bryan and Wakley are working to rejuvenate the operation after a period of relative disarray and are making connections with social service agencies around the region. One things Brayn especially is focusing on is serving military veterans. Working with horses, sez he, is an invaluable tool in the treatment of PTSD. Here’s the podcast link for that edition of BT.
  3. We were due to speak with Susan Lepselter, assoc. prof. of Anthropology and American Studies at IU. Unfortunately for her, she came down with a nasty bug and had to cancel our recording session today. Fingers crossed she can heal up and come in to the studio for next week’s show. In any case, Susan has delved deeply into that peculiar American phenomenon of UFO sightings and capturings. She has, in fact, written a book entitled The Resonance of Unseen Things: Poetics, Power, Captivity, and UFOs in the American Uncanny (University of Michigan Press, 2016), exploring the culture and psychology of self-professed UFO survivors. “For me, the question ‘what is real?’ is a very animating question,” Lepselter says. Perhaps she’ll clue us in next week. (As for this week’s airing of Big Talk, we’ll go with a rebroadcast at 5:30pm tomorrow.)
  4. My piece on Emerson Houck’s rollicking book, Hoosiers All, a lovingly researched history of Indiana high school sports team nicknames and logos, ran in the Limestone Post. My takeaway was the story of those names and images can serve as an introductory course to the history of the state as a whole. Indiana’s native populations, the pioneers, the different ethnic groups, the professions, and even the critters who run around these parts have been documented on the jerseys and letter jackets of teenagers from Lake Michigan to the Ohio River through the years. Go here for that article.

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An Obituary

It’s been a few days but I still get weepy every few minutes. And, in the morning, when I’m washing dishes or folding up the comforters, I by habit still look over to where Steve the Dog would be sitting or lying, waiting for me — it was dearly hoped — to drop a biscuit on the floor for him. Those waiting posts remain unoccupied, never to be filled again by him.

Here’s my Facebook notification of his death:

Steve the Dog died today, Monday, February 10, 2020, at approximately 4:00pm. Also known as Stinky Steve and Mister Pister, he endured severe health issues the last year of his life. Finally, it became obvious life was too agonizing for him to endure any longer. Despite his abominable breath (even when healthy) and his occasional growls at me when I’d inadvertently bump him while we both lie on the couch, he was my dear friend. We watched out for each other. Even when I’d go to the bathroom, he’d nose the door open to check on me. We adopted him from the Bloomington Animal Shelter in May, 2010. We had ten good, close years together. He was my pal and I’ll miss him terribly. Bye, old buddy.

Steve the Dog (c. 2008-2020)

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