Category Archives: Resist

Hot Air: Our Alien President

HS Graduation Photo?

Birther 2.0

The way I feel right now makes me think of how the Obama haters felt from 2008 through…, well, the day the very last one of them dies. You know, how they doubted Barack was born in this country.

I have serious doubts whether President Gag was born on this planet.


Yesterday was one of those March days that promise the beauty and warmth of spring, of better, brighter, longer days. I motored out to Madison, Indiana to work in that picturesque river town’s library, starting out early AM, with the rising sun warming the cabin of my Prius hot rod so much I even had to crack the window a bit.

I’ve loved Madison ever since the first time The Loved One and I passed through it in the fall of 2016. I’ve returned several times and, oddly, each visit has been on a gloomy, bone-chilling Sunday, which nevertheless frames its own unique brand of prettiness. But, as I say, yesterday was gloriously March-ish. The midday sky was so blue and gorgeous that it almost made my heart hurt. Madison sits on the narrow flood plain between the wide Ohio River and a wall of spectacular rises, perhaps a couple of hundred feet high, to the north. A number of homes have been built atop those rises, offering owners — the lucky dogs — undoubtedly memorable views of the stately river and the hills of Kentucky across it.

Madison, BTW, is the home of my second fave bookseller on this planet, Village Lights Bookstore, owned by former Bloomingtonians Nathan Montoya and Anne Vestuto.

Anyway, I felt compelled to take a few pix, just to capture that deep blue sky, especially against some of the vividly colorful structures in town. Madison, I’ve learned, is the site of this holy land’s largest contiguous National Historic Landmark district. The businesses and homes around downtown M. have been lovingly preserved, most of them, apparently, going up during the heyday of the American river economy back in the 19th Century. Honestly, I’d be thrilled to move there, especially now that the town has built a modest yet comely riverwalk.

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Getting It

Back to Li’l Duce: It just may be that he’s coming around to realizing the Russkies really are dangerous jerks, what with the recent revelation that Putin’s hackers have figured out how to worm their way into US utilities plants, including nuclear power generating stations.

The truth may be that prior to right about now whenever P. Gag heard the word Russian, he went into default defensive mode, thinking the reference could only have meant his “election” was tainted. Y’know, because — as has been proven time and again — Li’l Duce only sees things through a narcissist’s lens. Perhaps he’s been smacked over the head enough times now by the likes of his chief of staff and a few other sane people around him that Putin’s Russians think about one or two things other than him on occasion. Like, How can we eff America up in case our two countries get into a dangerous stare-down?

BTW: Those revelations I referred to in Graf 1? They were announced by none other than the Faux Fascist’s own White House.

BTW II: You know that Pennsylvania congressional district, historically Republican, that just flipped Dem this week? P. Gag won it by 20 freaking points in 2016, acc’d’g to 538’s Nate Silver.

Maybe — just maybe — the Li’l Duce era indeed will be the bump in the road and not the road itself after all. Fingers X’d.

Tit For Tat

Back to those Russian hackers: Don’t go around chewing your fingernails to the bone worrying about how poor little America is being horribly abused by Putin’s spooks, moles, and computer geeks. Guaranteed, we’ve been doing the exact same thing to them — and quite possibly even more elaborately — for years.

Hot Air: Thursday Thoughts

Indiana Wildlife

h/t to The Loved One for digging this up:

The elephants at Wilstem Ranch.

These are three female elephants who’ll be living at the Wilstem Ranch, hard by French Lick and West Baden Springs, through November 4th.

Frankly I had no idea this place existed. I assume veteran Hoosiers know all about it. If not, it’s a thousand-acre spread that some southern Indiana guy developed as a getaway for the ultra-rich starting in 1915. This fellow, Ed Ballard, was a hotelier (he owned a big piece of the West Baden Springs H.) and a horseman. Over the years he built up the ranch as an attraction for the super-gentry and hosted the likes of Franklin Roosevelt, Al Capone, and heavyweight boxing champ Joe Louis, which is about as American a selection of notables as you can get. The ranch went through a succession of owners over the decades and it was eventually bought by a fellow named Jerry Fuhs who, in 1988, sunk a chunk of dough into rehabbing the spread and restoring all the remaining original structures on it.

Now, apparently, the Wilstem operation is home to the aforementioned pachyderms as well as a couple of giraffes, some kangaroos, goats, snakes, an iguana, and a few other scampering critters. There’s plenty going on all around this ranch so I figure TLO and I will be popping down there soonly.

Honestly, this is just another example of how native-Chicagoans — like me — have zero idea of what Indiana has to offer. That is, besides eminently forgettable vice presidents, shuttered steel mills, and a rich history of KKK activity.

Don’t Worry: Pence, Too, Will Be A Trivia Answer Soon Enough.

Weed & Olive Oil


Yep, it’s Big Talk Thursday once again. My guest this afternoon will be scientist and researcher Heather Bradshaw who, believe it or not, ranks lipids as one of her main passions in life. Lipids are fats and they’re found in everything from marijuana to olive oil, a couple of items Heather and her lab-mates in Indiana University’s Psychological & Brain Sciences Dept. study.

She’ll talk about how pot may or may not be the next miracle drug and how olive oil, honest-to-gosh, can be instrumental in warding off osteoporosis.

Tune in to WFHB, 91.3 FM, today at 5:30pm. And, as always, if you miss the show, I ‘ll have the podcast link here tomorrow morning.

Bad Medicine

Speaking of medicine, did you catch this one? The Milwaukee Journal along with the website MedPage Today, an industry resource for medical professionals, last month concluded a year-long study into no-goodnik doctors. The investigators found that bad-guy medicos can, almost easily, elude licensing and regulatory repercussions despite killing patients, ripping them off, misdiagnosing them, and otherwise acting like Li’l Duce with a correspondence-course medical school degree.

These villainous practitioners get around authorities by copping licenses in multiple states so that, when they get nailed in one, they simply switch their bases of ops. to another.

One of the most egregious violators, acc’d’g to the report, is a vile MD named Jay Riseman. He has been charged and/or disciplined for, among other violations:

  • Leaving a catheter in a patient despite it causing a staph infection in her
  • Misdiagnosing her staph infection (she died)
  • Inadvertently severed a patient’s bile duct
  • Fraudulently represented himself as a pediatrician
  • Performed unnecessary surgeries in pediatric patients
  • Repeatedly prescribed laxative enema overdosages for children (at least one died)

Riseman was placed on probation by the Illinois licensing board for doctors but simply moved to another locale in the state to continue practicing. Then he hopped state lines to practice in Missouri. Later, the state of Colorado denied him a medical license. Somehow he obtained a license to practice in Kansas. And — this is icing on a foul cake — in 2017 he was named Distinguished Physician of the Year by the Missouri Hospice and Palliative Care Association.

I rail regularly in these precincts against phonus-balonus alternative, New Age-y, magical mystical “medical” fraudsters and snake oil salesmen. That doesn’t mean all is sweet and light within the conventional, for-profit, western medicine world.

The sick are at the mercy of malicious doctors, no matter what brand of medicine they practice. I consider them all worse than criminal. Just the way I consider crooked, corrupt cops worse than your ordinary, garden-variety reprobate.

Jailhouse Schlock

A-a-a-and, speaking of criminals. A lot of them, well.., aren’t. Bestselling author and attorney John Grisham spouted off in the Los Angeles Times earlier this week about wrongful convictions. Grisham lays out eight reasons why the innocent rot behind bars:

  • Bad cops
  • Bad prosecutors
  • False confessions
  • Faulty eyewitness testimony
  • Jailhouse snitches looking to make a deal
  • Bad defense attorneys
  • Bad judges
  • Junk science


Now there’s a murderer’s row if I’ve ever seen one.

I seem to recall, when I was a kid, hearing the old saw, “It’s better for ten criminals to go free than for one innocent man to be imprisoned.” It was the kind of sentiment that made me, an impressionable young brat, think this holy land was something special. We were fair. We honored truth and justice.

At least we said we did. Even an unrealized myth is better than nothing — it indicates what we aspire to be.

That old line beats our rhetoric today. In fact, contemporary conventional wisdom holds quite the contrary view. Today, you’re more likely to hear someone bark that it’s better to slam ten innocent guys away rather than let a criminal walk free.

In case you haven’t caught on yet, I’m not infatuated with today.


Hot Air: Kids Stuff


Happy Pi Day. And here it is, in much of its glorious detail:


Mathematicians have determined pi to the 22 trillionth digit so far. In fact, the latest calculation took 105 straight days — 24 hours a day on an extremely powerful computer — to figure.


I’m pleased to report a huge percentage of schools and school districts in and around my beloved hometown of Chi. are supporting students who will walk out today in recognition of all the kids who’ve been slaughtered in school shootings of late. One school, as an example, is scheduled to administer PARCC tests this AM, so the principal made a deal with the kids — take the test, then go out and protest, with no repercussions.

The Catholic school system in the city and suburbs — the archdiocese runs hundreds of elementary, middle, junior, and high schools throughout the metropolitan area — is uniformly supporting the student protests. The Sun-Times‘ Neil Steinberg commented on social media yesterday:

Catholic schools citywide are on top of the issue. It’s almost as if they had some kind of overarching… oh, I don’t know… faith guiding them.

I know, too, our Bloomington schools are on the right side of this issue. If they weren’t, that’d be the headline of the year.

We’re Smarter — We Think

A line from Bill Bryson’s At Home:

It was accepted wisdom almost everywhere in the nineteenth century that the poor were poor because they were born to be.

Of course, we don’t buy that kind of crazy talk in these enlightened times. Back then, heritage and bloodlines were everything. Leaders of empires attained their exalted status not because they were popular or they inspired the masses or they were recognized great souls or brilliant policy wonks. They became kings and queens, emperors, kaisers, tsars, sultans, or other dynasts by dint of dumb luck. Conventional logic held that innate circumstances governed one’s position at the opposite end of the spectrum. You were poor, a slave, or otherwise unworthy of the very air you breathed because you were meant to be. The benighted souls coming to those conclusions didn’t know about DNA and genetics so they posited that the Big Daddy-o in the Sky dictated every human’s stature.

Again, we don’t buy into that nonsense. We believe people who’ve made a lot of money are the most-qualified to be our leaders and the poor, well, they got that way because they’re lazy.

It’s great to be enlightened. Isn’t it? Well, isn’t it?

Just Desserts

The state has stopped dumping parolees in Bloomington of late. Or at least curtailed the practice. So says a report in today’s Herald Times.

It’s been a matter of common knowledge around these parts that the Indiana Department of Corrections has, at the very least, made it easy for cons getting sprung from state pens to settle in this town. One of the reasons is a regional parole office is located here, over on Packing House Rd., hard by Vernal Pike and SR 37. Parolees need to live somewhat near the parole office for obvious reasons, not the least of which is a good number of them either have suspended drivers licenses or simply can’t afford wheels.

In any case, the dumping of parolees seems to have been executed almost hand in hand with surrounding counties’ sheriffs dumping their homeless and other “undesirables” hereabouts because we have swell social services, and well.., Fuck ’em, they’re liberals, let ’em have the dregs. Tehee.

Golly gee, I’d hate to think the state, in all its glory and grandeur, would dump its parolees here for that same latter reasoning.

Bloomington police chief Mike Diekhoff, acc’d’g to the H-T, said not long ago that the state has assured him it’ll stop shipping its parolees here. The state, for its part, says, by gosh, no such promise ever has been made because it’s been doing business the same way for years — this despite the numbers of parolees dumped here dropping from 195 in 2013 to 86 last year.

No matter. What does matter is the very strong possibility that Bloomington has been and in some cases still is being punished for being full of nice, compassionate progressives.

Say what you will about Republicans and the Right, the fact of the matter is meanness is always lurking just below the surface.

Hot Air: Daylight

The Hours

I mean, honestly, how can you not love Dotty Sharp to pieces? Here’s her social media reminder to us to set our clocks ahead Saturday night.

A Patti Smith PSA.


Guns, the 2nd Amendment fetishists tell us, are necessary tools for the common citizenry to resist the scourge of tyranny.

Blue-collar philosopher George Bull wonders: What if President Gag’s recent musing about being president for life comes true — would those gun worshippers who’ve been gaga for him then have to switch gears and use their shootin’ irons to overthrow him?

Make up your minds, boys.

Beauty And The Beasts

The Loved One and I took another of our Sunday drives yesterday, trekking up to Cataract Falls, just outside Cloverdale.

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While driving through some of the small towns (some more hamlets than anything else) on US 231, we passed a lot of homes that had American flags, blue-striped flags, Don’t Tread on Me flags, camo vehicles, and other such indicators that they think the dark-skinned hordes are just over the nearest rise, ready to pounce. I’ll bet plenty of these folks have shotguns and other firearms all cleaned up, oiled up, loaded, and ready to fire just as soon as the first invader pokes her or his head around the fat pin oak out back.

I just don’t get it. These people live out on the middle of nowhere. Crime doesn’t affect them because — for chrissakes — nobody lives around them! They don’t have to worry about muggings or break-ins or even car alarms going off in the middle of the night. Gangbangers aren’t shooting wildly at each other in the street outside their living room window.

Occasionally a skunk gets run over and they’ll have to smell it for the next few days until the turkey vultures pick its carcass clean.

These people face no goddamned threats, yet they’re armed to the teeth and they’re in thrall to a son of a bitch who got elected president by telling them their fears — their paranoias — are absolutely justified.

Like I said, I don’t get it.

Only He

Alright, I’m going to come right out and say it — only President Gag could be capable of agreeing to a summit with Kim Jong-un. It’s a completely gonzo move and would be absolutely beyond the ken of any previous president — or any putative president who might have garnered more popular and electoral votes than Li’l Duce in 2016. And, really, this is the kind of thing he was thinking about when he uttered that famous, fatuous line, Only I can fix it.

I still detest the man and resent every single one of the 63 million knuckleheads who voted for him but if this meeting produces anything positive — and it might, it just might — well, at least we’ll have gotten something out of this dark time in our holy land’s history.


Hot Air: Big Job

Loyal Pencillista Yaël Ksander has been named the new communications director for the city of Bloomington.

Wow. She must be the most ambitious human being ever to cast a glance at this global communications colossus. Or perhaps the most masochistic. Say what you will about Mayor John Hamilton — and I have done just that since he took office on Jan.1, 2016 — there exists this inarguable truth about him: He doesn’t know how to communicate with the rabble.

Yaël Ksander

As I’ve stated herein previously, Hamilton is the city’s premier bomb-dropper. Seemingly every month he pops some new concussive shocker on the populace. Half to three-quarters of the time his own city council members don’t know what’s next.

Pencillista Yaël will have accomplished a monumental task if she can get Hizzoner to start preparing the citizenry in advance for the next of his explosive revelations.

Personal to YK: Get the mayor out ahead of his announcements. And if you have any sway with The Boss at all, whisper into his ear that every once in a while he might ask the people of this burgeoning megalopolis what they’re thinking, what they want, or even what they need. People, it is said, like to be asked about themselves.

And if there’s one thing they loathe, it’s being told, This is the way it’s gonna be, so stop bellyaching. Heck, this brand of Hamilton-itis is even spreading among some of the other city officials in these parts, despite their own off-the-record complaints about his mien.

I dig Yaël the most and I fear that after a year of running interference for the mayor, she’ll have taken on the look of a woman who’s just run a marathon on a 90-degree day.

Hot Air: Odds & Oddities

Runnin’ Rivals

Here’s how I break down the Democratic primary race for Representative in US Congress from Indiana’s 9th District:

  • Liz Watson‘s the choice of Bloomington women and the majority of the party’s establishment.
  • Dan Canon‘s the choice of whatever remains of the party’s young, idealistic, neo-progressive wing as well as the LGBTQI community.
  • Rob Chatlos would be the choice of a Hollywood movie producer hoping to get a remake of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington bankrolled in 2018.

A poll published this week by south and central Indiana’s News and Tribune shows Watson with a 13-point lead over Canon. Chatlos didn’t even register in the poll.

Canon’s campaign manager Dustin Collins says the N&T‘s poll is all wrong. His polling indicates it’s Canon with a double-digit lead over Watson.

The smart money is on Republican incumbent Trey Hollingsworth winning big in November’s general election, no matter which of the two Dem frontrunners face him. A really outside-the-box bettor, though, could put a spare, modest bundle on long shot Chatlos to beat Indiana’s answer to Monopoly’s Mr. Moneybags. A mainstream Dem can’t win in this district right now but an upstart, a working class candidate (Chatlos is a long-haul trucker), a person courageous enough to proudly proclaim he came out as gay after experiencing domestic abuse in a previous hetero relationship, and guy who says he’s four-square for throwing all the bums out just may be — only maybe, mind you — what today’s topsy-turvy, unpredictable, rock-the-boat-until-it-capsizes electorate looks for.

Hey, that’s why they call ’em long shots. Problem is, even if Chatlos has a daydreamer’s chance of toppling Hollingsworth, he hasn’t got a prayer of beating either Liz or Dan to get a shot at the incumbent.

So, What Is Bloomington?

It’s a place. What’s your sense of it?

That’s what publisher Ron Eid is hoping to answer when he and his gang put out a 100-page print edition magazine called A Sense of Place; Calling Bloomington Home for 200 Years this spring.

Eid and his trusty cohorts, editor Lynae Sowinski and marketing and advertising director Emily Winters, put out Limestone Post, an online mag (for which I do an every-four-weeks column, “Big Mike’s B-town.”) They’ve been itching to put out a hard copy for the longest time and it appears the itch will be scratched around the beginning of June.

(L-R) Sowinski, Winters, editorial ass’t Dason Anderson, & Eid

Honestly, there are some hot talents who’ve been recruited to pen pieces for the special edition, names you know and who’ve been making waves around town since the Chocolate Moose was called the Penguin.

History, y’know?

Eid & Co. will be throwing a release bash at the I Fell Gallery on June 1st at 5:00pm. I’ll be there and if you have any shred of coolness, you’ll be there too.


Did you miss yesterday’s Big Talk? Don’t sweat it. Here’s the podcast of my chat with author, historian, and war correspondent Doug Wissing.

We talked CIA and the culture of class and caste in Washington.

Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm, immediately following the Daily Local News on WFHB, 91.3 FM. Go here for links to every full-length show as well as all the Big Talk features on the Daily Local News before we went solo in January.

Radio Days

From sports talker extraordinaire Chet Coppock:

End of an era…. Back in the late 80s and early 90s when the Loop was operating on the FM band along with AM1000, home of Coppock on Sports and Kev Head and Steve & Garry, we were the hippest radio operation in Chicago history — bar none.

That’s his eulogy for one of the titans of Chicago — and Midwest — radio over the last half-century. The Loop, with its sister station AM1000, comprised a blockbuster ratings monster in the middle of both radio dials. Between the two, listeners in 38 states and Canada (back before all radio stations could be heard over the internet) caught hard rock, heavy metal, sports, and laugh-out-loud talk 24 hours a day. And now, the Loop has been sold to a Christian broadcasting operation, EMF Broadcasting, a non-profit that runs the K-LOVE and AIR1 radio networks. Company HQ is in Rocklin, California and its charitable arm, Educational Media Foundation, is based in Omaha, Nebraska.

EMF programming is carried mainly on low-power local radio stations but the network is so big — well over 200 stations — that its reach is truly coast to coast. Now it’s got a gigantic, centrally located, max-power airer. Steve Dahl, the Loop’s nonpareil afternoon funnyman, used to call the station’s broadcast tower a “50,000-watt blowtorch.” Acc’d’g to him, anybody who entered the tower blockhouse could actually hear the station in their head as the RF signal penetrated the metal fillings in their teeth. Dahl was part of an all-star lineup that included his partner Garry Meier, newsman/bluesman Buzz Kilman, morning drive superstar Jonathon Brandmeier, multi-voice artist Kevin Mathews, and former Partridge Family star Danny Bonaduce.

Former Indy TV sportscaster Chet Coppock did his signature show, Coppock on Sports, on the Loop in the ’90s. Station funnyman Bruce Wolfe did a takeoff on Coppock, calling himself “Chet Chitchat.” Garry Meier always referred to Coppock’s show as “Coppock on Speed.”

Radio was a riot back then. And, speaking of riots, the Loop’s Steve Dahl made a national name for himself when he emceed the notorious Disco Demolition Night at old Comiskey Park between games of a White Sox-Tigers doubleheader in July, 1979. At a time when the White Sox had trouble drawing flies to their ballpark, owner Bill Veeck and his son Mike, made arrangements with the Loop and Dahl to stage a protest against disco music between games of the doubleheader. Fans who brought disco records to the ballpark could get in for 98 cents (the Loop broadcast on 97.9 FM). The idea was all the records would be blown up in the middle of the field after the first game. Organizers hoped 12,000 or so would show up. By the time the first game had ended, some 50,000 had crammed themselves into the old facility with hundreds — perhaps thousands — more attempting to climb into the place via outside walls. Throughout the later innings of that first game, players dodged vinyl discs flying out of the upper deck. Eventually the crowd spilled onto the field. The records — thousands of them — were blown up, starting a fire in the turf and lifting huge divots of sod into the air. It was chaos, frightening to a lot of players, and umpires and league officials called off the second game, forfeiting it to the Tigers.

Now, the Loop — whatever it’ll be called — will be broadcasting the word of god.

Hot Air: Fast & Furious


Up to the year 1954 — the afternoon of May 6th, to be precise — the idea of a human being running a mile in fewer than four minutes was as fantastic, as fabulous, as the notion that two people could go for a stroll on the surface of the moon.

That afternoon, though, a med student at St. Mary’s Hospital in London, whose hobby was running track, participated in a mile race at Oxford University. When he crossed the finish line, ahead of all the other runners in the race, he’d set the world’s record — our species’ record — for the mile, completing it in six-tenths of a second less than four minutes. His feat was worldwide news. It was as if Giancarlo Stanton had hit his one hundredth home run in a season or Leo Messi scored ten goals in a game.

It was inconceivable.

Bannister, after setting the world’s record.

Any athlete who accomplished such an unheard of feat today would be lionized, pedestal-ized, celebrated, feted, worshipped, and guaranteed riches exceeding eight figures. In fact, Roger Bannister, that British med student, was indeed elevated to a sort of superman status. His name was splashed across newspaper front pages around the world. The 4-minute-mile became a magical standard equivalent to cure-for-cancer or world-peace.

So, how did Bannister fare, post-race? He bathed, briefly, in the glow of international celebrity but, almost immediately, resumed his studies. Several months after running his historic mile, Bannister was assigned to a medical residency. He quit running. Here’s the explanation he offered for his decision in a speech before the English Sportswriters Ass’n:

Now that I am taking up a hospital appointment, I shall have to give up international athletics. I shall not have sufficient time to put up a first-class performance. There would be little satisfaction for me in a second-rate performance and it would be wrong to give one when representing my country.

The practice of medicine, in short, was more important than running fast.

What a quaint time it was, 64 years ago.

Bannister died last week. He was 88.

Language Flows

BTW, notice how I used the terms fantastic and fabulous in the entry above? I’m using them in the old school manner. Today they mean great and terrific and so on. And even those contemporary synonyms have evolved similarly.

As late as the 1950s, fantastic meant something — an event, an idea, anything — was not real, a fantasy. Fabulous into the 20th Century signified a tall tale, a fable. Great until recently simply meant large. Terrific meant terrifying.

Another reminder that language is surprisingly fluid.

The Whole World Was Watching

Open mic for writers tonight at the Players Pub. The Writers Guild at Bloomington sponsors the Spoken Word Series the second Thursday of every month at Joe Estivill’s place.

I’ll be reading a chapter from my novel-in progress, Black Comedy. The theme? 1968. Sort of a follow-up to the big conference and festival, “Wounded Galaxies 1968: Paris, Prague, Chicago,” at Indiana University and other venues around town last month. My piece tonight will deal with some of the scenes of street violence during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in my beloved hometown the year I turned 12.

Protesters face police lines, August 28, 1968.

Festivities begin at 6:00pm and run through 9. There’ll be scribes like me as well as the occasional musician mixed in. It ought to be a hoot and you can drink beer or wine and have a nice little bite to eat, to boot. Admission’s free. I hope to see you all there.

Wissing’s Words

Funny little fact I learned while recording this week’s Big Talk with author, journalist, and war correspondent Doug Wissing. The Indiana Historical Society is one of the most well-endowed such state repositories of the past in the nation. Wissing’s been told that the Lilly family threw scads o’dough at the IHS decades ago. Visiting scholars from around the country marvel, sez he, at the depth and breadth of the operation here.

Indiana Historical Society HQ in Indy.

In any case, Wissing and I discuss the new book he’s writing right now. It’s a biography of — as W. describes him — “the most powerful person you’ve never heard of.” That would be Indiana’s own Benjamin C. Evans, Jr., who spent an eventful decade and a half as the executive secretary of the CIA.

Most federal operations are run by people whose names we never hear of read of. The political appointees get all the attention — George H. W. Bush, for instance, director of the CIA under President Gerald Ford. They get all the press and have their mugs posted in every branch office across the land, but it’s quiet people like Evans who do the real slog stuff, making assignments, monitoring progress, drawing up schedules, and so on.

Ben Evans, spy master.

While Evans ran the show, the CIA was involved in some of the most controversial and important trouble zones on the globe. There was Vietnam, the Cold War, the Middle East, the Prague Spring, the Pueblo Incident, and even Watergate (President Nixon tried to get the CIA to sabotage the FBI’s investigation at one point). Then, too, during Evans’ term, there were widely publicized hearings about the Agency’s misdeeds, including drug and mind-control experiments, foreign coups, and even assassinations of world leaders. For all we know, Evans took to his grave the answer to the half-century-plus-old nagging question: Who really killed JFK?

Tune in this afternoon, and every Thursday, at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM.

Hot Air: Wired & Un-wired


I swear this is true: As of this writing, I still do not know who won any Oscars™ Sunday night. I’m sort of proud of that.

Sacheen Littlefeather, part Apache, delivers a speech decrying Hollywood’s treatment of aboriginal Americans at the behest of Marlon Brando, who’d won the Best Actor Oscar for his portayal of Vito Corleone in The Godfather.

Digging In

I knew it! I knew it! Months ago I wrote that President Gag might very well ignore any subpoenas or other legal writs that might compel him to testify about his dirty business(es) and/or force him from office.

I wrote it’d be just like him — and his entire presidency — to say Fuck you. Whaddya gonna do about it?

And — wouldn’t you know it! — yesterday one of his aiders and abettors, a heretofore anonymous punk named Sam Nunberg, told the world he’d piss all over any subpoena special counselor Robert Mueller might toss his way.

It’s starting, kiddies.

Get ready for the Constitutional battle of the century…, hell, of all history as the noose tightens around the president and his slop bucket dealings with Russian oligarchs who’ve been bankrolling him ever since every other legitimate lender in the civilized world decided to run, fast, in the other direction whenever they’d see him coming.

That is, of course, if Li’l Duce lasts out his term. I reiterate: He won’t be impeached, but as Mueller gets closer to his tax returns and digs up more filth about P. Gag’s handshakes with Russian mobsters and fascist-capitalists, the Leader of the Free World just might take a powder before the US Marshals come calling at the White House, their handcuffs at the ready.

Nix To Dick’s

As you know, Dick’s Sporting Goods made a splash last week by publicly declaring it would stop selling assault weapons at its stores. You had to figure at least a few of its employees would be put out by the news and, lo and behold, a couple of them already have announced they’re quitting.

Both the quitters cite Dick’s new “liberal policies” for their decisions. To listen to them, you’d think Dick’s has been taken over by a cabal including Mao, Fidel, and Huey Newton. Come to think of it, the two probably really do envision that scenario in their fever dreams.

Anyway, Chicago’s Columbia College professor in the musical theater program, Albert Williams, has a great line about the development:

So, there are now fewer dicks at Dick’s.

Blue Man

Jeff Isaac [Image: Steve Peterson]

For those of you who can’t get enough of Jeff Isaac on social media — and, Jeez, the dude lives there! — y’gotta check out his regular blog posts on Public Seminar.

PS is a wailing wall for political scientists and other such hoodlums. Jeff’s latest piece ties in race in America today with his other passion, music. Entitled “Strange Fruit: An Improvisation on Race, Hybrid Identities, and the Blues,” the piece examines…, well, click to it and find out for yourself. The title alone ought to hip you to its content.

BTW: Public Seminar has published a book of essays, all tied in with the Charlottesville fiasco last spring. And, yeah, our very own Jefe Jeff has a piece in it. The book’s titled #Charlottsville: Before and Beyond.

Different From You & Me

I present this with no comment, as none is needed [h/t to Mark Taylor]:

Hot Air: The Kids Are Better Than Alright

Their Turn

Yet another one of my young kin has decided to devote her life to doing good work. My niece Gina Trunzo is chucking it all and moving to Thailand where she’ll teach English.

Gina Trunzo

I’m telling you, this gang of Glab/Parello kids  — the generation twice removed from mine — is making my contemporaries seem positively lacking. They’re committed to broadening their horizons, seeing the world, becoming parts of other cultures, and bringing knowledge to the far corners of the Earth.

I only wish I could have been so selfless and committed at their age!

The Birthday Beat

The Loved One and I have a tradition of taking long Sunday drives. It’s a good opportunity for us to bond and catch up on the week’s doings as well as for me to indulge in a bit of wanderlust.

Yesterday’s trip was special because it was my birthday. TLO suggested we eat breakfast in Mitchell, Indiana, hometown of one of my childhood heroes, the astronaut Gus Grissom. Like a lot of small towns in Indiana — hell, in America — Mitchell, pop. 4350 (2010 Census), has become decidedly quiet the last few decades. It was an important railroad crossroads in the latter half of the 19the Century with both the Monon and the Ohio & Mississippi lines stopping there.

As those lines were being built, the railroads looked to create a town at their crossing in the mid 1860s. So the two RRs in Q hired a University of Cincinnati professor named Ormsby Mitchel to survey the land and plat the as yet unnamed locale. Funny thing is, rather than pay Ormsby actual money for his work, the railroads offered to name the place after him in exchange, a deal he took for whatever reason. Years later, town leaders added an L to the name and that’s where things stand now.

In any case, the railroads spurred industry in Mitchell. It even became a regional center for wagon, truck, and bus manufacturing. The biggest such bus factory shut down in 1995 after a long, slow decline. Now Mitchell’s trying to attract new businesses but you can guess how well that effort’s going. Downtown Mitchell has a bunch of quaint resale and collectible shops but you can fire a cannon down the middle of Main Street — and, yes, it’s named Main Street — and not harm a soul.

There’a a neat little diner downtown called the Railroad Cafe. It does a decent business, especially on weekends. Pickup trucks and big American sedans are parked  diagonally in front of the place, disgorging a lot of old codger farmers from around the area as well as the odd young couple that still live nearby. That’s where TLO and I had breakfast yesterday AM as we planned our special Sunday drive, birthday edition.

We decided to head straight down State Road 37 to check out the spectacular Ohio River bluff overlook at Leavenworth. There’s a neat diner there as well and we’ll return there for Sunday brunch sometime later this spring. The view from the restaurant’s parking lot is awe-inspiring. Yesterday’s perfectly clear skies and brilliant sunshine allowed us to see a good 50 miles into Kentucky, across the swollen, brown Ohio (thanks to last week’s nearly constant rains).

We pushed on farther east on SR 62, an Ohio River Scenic Byway. If you haven’t driven down that way lately, do yourself a favor and get down there. We turned in, on a whim, to the O’Bannon Woods State Park, not far from Corydon, the old state capital. The O’Bannon Woods driving path goes through a lot of hills and hollers with hairpin turns and precipitous drops, ending at the Ohio. The river seemed ready to wash over its banks with the next big rain, its surface current rushing southwestward toward the river’s confluence with the Mississippi. We walked around the shoreline for a few minutes, basking in the sun and hearing the first spring bird songs. We cut short our little amble because our shoes had become caked with inches of mud and we spent less time walking than scraping and pounding our soles on whatever concrete we could find.

BTW: loyal Pencillistas are aware I’ve been taking weekly trips to different small town libraries in Southern Indiana this season, especially the many Carnegie Libraries in these parts. As we passed through Paoli, I happened to notice that town’s library. I don’t know if it’s a Carnegie or not but that’ll be my next stop on the tour and I’ll provide a full report at that time.


I was reading about the Great Irish Famine the other night. We like to refer to it as the Irish Potato Famine. The Irish call it the Great Hunger, or the Irish Holocaust, or Gorta Mór. It happened over a period of a couple of years, beginning in 1845. In August that year, Ireland’s millions of potato plants suddenly began to look sickly. When the potatoes were harvested, half of all of them were rotten and inedible. Things worsened the next year — the entire Irish potato crop went bad. The island nation’s potatoes had been stricken with something called Phytophthora infestans, a fungus. Problem was, potatoes were not just a staple of the Irish diet, they were, essentially, the whole shebang. By the end of the 1700s, 90 percent of the Irish population depended either wholly or mostly on potatoes for their sustenance.

In those two years, a million and a half Irish suffered starvation. A million of them died. Another million fled the country, mostly for America. All told, Ireland lost a quarter of its population in just over a single calendar year. That’s the equivalent of this holy land losing some 80 million people between today and June, 2019.

What got me, though, is the fact that while Ireland’s people consumed a diet almost exclusively of potatoes, the island itself was fecund and spectacularly productive of foodstuffs. They don’t call Ireland the Emerald Island just because its citizens like to paint their front doors green, after all. Its fields were lush and its pastures fed all manner of meat animals. Not only that but being a nation surrounded on all sides by the sea, Ireland’s fishing industry was robust. Bill Bryson, in his wonderful history of the home entitled — what else? — At Home, writes:

The greatest part of the tragedy is that Ireland actually had plenty of food. The country produced great quantities of eggs, cereals, and meats of every type, and brought in large hauls from the sea, but almost all went for export.

Let that sink in for moment. Ireland produced tons of food, enough to feed itself, yet because a single crop failed, fully 25 percent of its population simply went away.

What would we say if, today, some scourge, some blight, caused the entire populations of California, Texas, and Florida, as well as, oh, say, that of the Indianapolis metropolitan area — a quarter of America’s 330 million people — either to die or emigrate because our nation’s corn crop failed? And all the other foods we produce — beef, pork, chickens, tilapia, whitefish, soy beans, lettuce, celery, carrots, wheat, beans, peas, rice…, hell, every damned thing we could be jamming into our faces just to survive — tons of it, hundreds of millions of tons of it, were shipped to Saudi Arabia, Russia, Great Britain, and China?

That’s essentially what happened in Ireland in the years 1845 and ’46.

And why did that happen? Because businessmen made a lot of money shipping Ireland’s food overseas even as a huge fraction of the country’s people either died or ran away screaming. No matter the suffering, no matter the horrors, no matter the decimation of its population, the Irish — as well as their colonial masters, the British — chose to prioritize the profits of its exporter class over the health and welfare of its people.

That’s what happens when capitalism runs amok, when laissez-faire is the order of the day, when profits come before people.

Our current president in his 14 months in office so far, has overseen a dismantling of the regulations and the safeguards that protect us from capitalism run riot.  I won’t go so far as to suggest we’re sure to be in line for a Great American Famine or our own hunger holocaust, but I do know, confidently, the coming decades won’t be pretty.

Hot Air: Believers

Our Daily Double: God & Guns

Isn’t it fascinating how god is being brought into the gun equation these days? More and more we see the 2nd Amendment fetishists claiming our right to carry any and every possible firearm comes directly from the Big Daddy-o in the Sky himself.

They even have a biblical line they’re referring to now. Something about how god rules over us with an iron rod and how we, then, should protect ourselves similarly.

Epiphany: After all these millennia of humankind wondering and seeking and speculating, I at last have discovered the true definition of god. He — of course, he — is the ultimate argument closer.

I mean, we can go on and on and drive ourselves in circles about what the Founding Fathers meant when they wrote out this holy land’s charter, specifically what they really intended when they crafted the absurdly — probably intentionally — nebulous 2nd Amendment. Open-ended arguments are frustrating. We seek, nay, we crave, closure. We prefer the safety of an answer, any answer, to the peril-frought seas of ambiguity. Well, most of us. Me? I’ve long accepted that answers, definitiveness, are rarities. The universe, life itself, is a chaos. That acceptance is true adulthood.

But many — too many — are still psychological kids. They yearn for a holy father to watch over them and give them clear, concise, inarguable guidance. And whenever the argument becomes muddy, whenever answers seem as distant as the farthest shore, they fall back on god, whoever he may be. Who, after all, can argue with the creator of the universe?

These days, he’s the guy who wrote the US Constitution.

Okay Fellas, Get Your Steno Pads Out.


Here’s the link to yesterday’s Big Talk, featuring criminal defense attorney Amelia Lahn. She does a brisk business, in large part, defending young men who’ve been accused of sexual assault on college campuses.

Honestly, my ulterior motive for asking her on the show was to find the A. to the Q.: How in the hell can you stand up for these lunkheads? Of course, the question is almost criminally simplistic. Click the link for her answer and more.

Next week, Doug Wissing joins me in the WFHB studios to discuss his latest book project, a history of the CIA. Dang, mang. That’s a task I’d be tempted to shy away from — talk about murky seas! Wissing, though, has a lot of experience delving into — diving into — confusing, bewildering waters. To wit, his books on our endless Afghanistan adventure, Funding the Enemy and Hopeless but Optimistic.


I crowed on social media yesterday that I’d just unfriended a conspiracy theorist. Most of the subsequent commenters, basically, yelled Right on! One, though, himself a noted CT, immediately demanded to know which conspiracy my erstwhile “friend” had espoused. Other commenters had asked the same thing, but less demandingly.

So, here’s the answer: My CT guy wanted to know why some Parkland, Florida high school shooting survivor — I think this is how it goes — also was at a bazillion other mass school shootings. Ergo, the conspiracy goes, the kid’s a crisis actor and yadda, yadda, yadda. It ain’t worth a nanosecond of my time to even consider the question.

Now get this: Acc’d’g to Princeton history professor Kevin M. Kruse, the “crisis actor” charge actually has deep roots in this holy land’s racist past. Kruse teaches a course on how to discern valid sources from garbage and has found that the likes of the Little Rock 9 — the black students who, in 1957, tried to attend an all-white school in the Arkansas capital and were met with raging, abusive crowds — were instantly accused of being paid actors rather than simply kids who wanted to go to a decent school. And then, all the way back to the post-Civil War years, former slaves who’d testified before Congress about how they continued to be denied their rights as American citizens in the Reconstruction South, also were charged with being paid actors.

[A CMA Note: I mentioned America’s “racist past” above. Don’t for a minute think I think racism is past here.]

Anyway, crisis actors and conspiracy theories are nothing new in America. And, thanks to my old pal Andy Wallingford in Louisville, I just learned of another one. Reddit recently went bonkers over the Great Mattress Firm Conspiracy. Yep, the bed co., this theory holds, has way too many locations in the United States, selling a product that most of us buy only once in ten years or more. The conclusion? Mattress Firm, owned by some South African conglomerate, is laundering money through these many stores (there are more than 9000 of them), ostensibly for the purpose of saving the bacon of the conglomerate’s top management who’ve been playing fast and loose with the outfit’s books for years.

What can the next conspiracy theory possibly be? I can wait to find out.

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