Category Archives: Ronald Reagan

Hot Air

Abortion

Ever since I first became aware of the abortion debate, back in 1970 when I was 14 and the Roe v. Wade lawsuit was filed in US District Court, I’ve had the feeling that a lot of pro-abortion advocates had a guilty conscience.

Blackmun

Justice Harry Blackmun Wrote The Eventual Decision

The name they called their movement — pro-choice — seemed a kind of misdirection, sort of like a red-handed kid saying to his mom, “But I didn’t really shoplift that record, I didn’t hide it or anything, I just carried it out of the store and nobody stopped me so, y’know, it’s their fault. It’s not really stealing. Honest.” Even as a tender teen, I couldn’t figure out why people fighting for abortion rights didn’t say they were pro-abortion.

Now I know the pro-abortion people didn’t all have guilty consciences. Some, maybe, yeah. But the vast majority of them didn’t feel that aborting an unwanted fetus was a mortal sin. Or even a venial sin. [For those of you who weren’t raised in Catholic schools, the Church makes distinctions between gross sins and easily forgivable ones.]

Still, all the arguments made by the “pro-choice” crowd were weighted down with excuse-copping and apologies. By the time Ronald Reagan was canonized into the Presidency, most “pro-choice” politicians were saying things like “I’m not in favor of abortion but I believe a woman should have the right to choose.”

Which sounds like a losing argument if I’ve ever heard one.

Bumper Sticker

Okay, Then Where Do You Stand?

The abortion rights argument often went, If woman are denied abortion, the babies they don’t want may be neglected, beaten, emotionally abused, tormented, starved, thrown in Dumpsters, and so on, a litany of horrors guaranteed to turn women seeking abortions into harpies that would terrify Adolph Hitler.

And some people wonder why the concept of feminism is not universally embraced. Feminists, Ma & Pa Murrica surmised, want abortions, plus they’re prone to throwing their babies into Dumpsters.

At times it seemed the “pro-choice” argument really was, We want every woman to have the right to an abortion and we’ll work like hell to make sure none of them ever gets one.

Like most liberals and Democrats of the last 45 or so years, the “pro-choice” people were mealy-mouthed, obsessively equanimous, tepid, and apologetic. The truth is the American electorate — hell, the electorate in any country on this Earth — despises people like that. We want — and by we, I mean human beings — leaders who are bold, strong, and confident. One of the reasons why the Conservative movement thrived in this holy land even after the supposed death of the Right in 1964 was that people like Saint Ronald “brazened it out.” The Right Wingers who would eventually take over this country stuck to their principles even when it seemed they were a minority of a dozen. Reagan himself refused to soften his rhetoric in the face of all sorts of advisors and friends urging him to do so.

Reagan won the presidency in 1980 because he appeared to tower above all the other mere politicians. He was so adept at brazening it out that even when he and his people were caught beyond a shadow of a doubt selling arms to Iran to finance the Contras in Nicaragua, he not only denied wrongdoing, he claimed the evidence simply wasn’t there.

It would have been like that shoplifting kid saying, “I didn’t steal anything. There was no record. There wasn’t even a record shop.”

And getting away with it.

Today, thanks in large part to pols who emulate Reagan’s appearance of towering strength and “pro-choicers” who shrug and alibi too much, abortion rights are being eroded and chipped away from one end of the country to the other.

That’s why I’m eager to dig into Katha Pollitt‘s new book, Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights. Pollitt has been clanging the bell for feminism — unapologetic feminism — for years. She writes for The Nation as well as pretty much every other magazine and newspaper that claims to have the ear of the Left.

Pollitt

Katha Pollitt

Adam Gopnik reviewed her book in The New Yorker this week. He wrote:

“Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights” has two major originalities. First is its lack of bowing or scraping for its pro-woman position. Abortion, in Pollitt’s view, must be seen not as a moral compromise requested by poor, weak women—we’re sorry, and we promise we’ll make it rare, but please, forgive us, we’ll still need it in extremis— but as a positive doctrine of women’s control over their own bodies, and of their own lives and destinies. Abortion, she insists, is a right integral to women’s own autonomy, not a privilege to be used as infrequently as possible.

Now, there’s an argument I can get behind.

In fact, if someone were to ask me, I’d say a woman’s pro-abortion argument should go like this:

I want to fuck. I want it as much as any man. It is in my nature to want it. I do not necessarily want to be saddled with the lifelong responsibility of caring for a human being because of it. No one else’s personal morality nor particular religious viewpoint should interfere with my ability to fuck and abort if I so desire. I am in charge of my own body!

Okay, clean up the language a little bit, sure. But still, present the case like this and the “pro-choicers” just may have a winner. It certainly couldn’t do worse than the arguments they’ve been offering since Roe v. Wade.

Hot Air

Fixing The Unfixable

As far as I’m concerned, we don’t need any more proof that unfettered capitalism has become our holy land’s Frankenstein monster. It’s now become as perverted as Marx’s Communism was under megalomaniacs like Joseph Stalin or Mao Tse Tung.

We don’t have a single bete noir we can blame for all the ills of free market madness, although Saint Ronald Reagan can play the role in a pinch. No, the greedy, acquisitive, sociopathic reprobates who’ve turned free enterprise into crushing corporatism and fundamentalist profiteering are many. The Wall of Dishonor includes such past and present hooligans as:

Kozloswki Party

Kozlowski Hosts A Birthday Party For His Wife

Boesky

Boesky

Success, it has been said, has a thousand mothers. The pantheon of big-time biz winners today, though, boasts as many motherfuckers.

So, what do we do? Overturn capitalism? Hah! Good luck. And, really, do we want to do that? Robert Reich, who served as Bill Clinton’s Labor Sec’y, the other day threw out a more subtle solution. BTW: it’s odd that a Clinton cabinet member should become such a hero of the Left as Reich; the 42nd Prez was about as guilty as Reagan was for creating the economic clime that gave us the various bubbles, the Wealth Gap, and the Great Recession.

Anyway, Reich tells the story of Market Basket‘s ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas. Market Basket’s board gave Demoulas the boot because he wanted the share the wealth, which is worse than child molestation in the corporate board world. Reich writes:

What was so special about Arthur T., as he’s known? Mainly, his business model. He kept prices lower than his competitors, paid his employees more, and gave them and his managers more authority.

Late last year he offered customers an additional four percent discount, arguing they could use the money more than the shareholders.

In other words, Arthur T. viewed the company as a joint enterprise from which everyone should benefit, not just shareholders. Which is why the board fired him.

Reich goes on to suggest that there are many more businessfolk-with-a-heart, like Arthur T. “[I]nterestingly,” Reich writes, “we’re beginning to see the Arthur T. business model pop up all over the place.”

Hmm. We’ll see. It’s nice to think that a growing number of modern corporate big shots might be slightly less immoral than a band of grave robbers, but is it realistic? Reich’s idea is that good people will triumph. I dunno: what if it’s not the people but the very system itself that’s crooked. We can pat people on the back and tell them how wonderful they are when they pay their employees a few cents more than starvation wages but pats on the back don’t drive boardroom discussions. Aggressive, ambitious people need to be reined in by laws and regulations, otherwise every leader, in business as well as politics, would be that guy who can kick the crap out of everyone else.

Ghandi was a great guy but he would have been chewed up and spit out by his competitors within ten minutes of accepting a job as a company’s CEO. He wouldn’t fit into the competitive corporate world no matter how much of a Mahatma he was.

I’m all for the good guys in business, only I fear they’ll always be the outliers.

Anyway, check out Reich’s piece.

Rice Is Nice

Nice piece on the Rice family farm in Spencer in today’s Herald Times (paywall). The Loved One and I have stocked up at its country retail outlet any number of times.

The very idea of driving down a gravelly road to get to a market in the middle of rolling farmland is part of what makes living in Bloomington such a source of happiness for me.

Rice Quality Farm Meats

Meat Market

The gist of the H-T story is Rice’s move away from producing so much beef. The farm family, acc’d’g to the piece, has done a lot of trade in the past processing beef cattle for private customers but with the recent rise in beef prices, that business may soon tail off. So Rice is diversifying, moving more into turkey and other fowl.

In fact, the existence of Rice’s retail ops was an early step in the farm’s hedge against a plummet in processing revenues.

If you haven’t been out to Rice of late, do yourself — and the Rice family — a favor.

Who’s Fooling Whom?

The very idea that the intelligence services and the military of this holy land were all caught off-guard by the ISIS advance in Iraq is preposterous. Either somebody’s lying big time or we have the stupidest spy agencies in the world.

ISIS

Hiding In Plain Sight

Papa’s Got The Same Old Bag

Gary, Indiana’s own Monroe Anderson points out that, with the exception of the actors, there were no blacks involved in the production of that new James Brown biopic playing in theaters now.

Movie Poster

Black On The Outside

Just thought you’d like to know.

 

Hot Air

The Very Visible Bridge

My fave historian is sitting on top of the world these days.

Rick Perlstein has been chronicling the rise of the Right in two previous well-received books, Before the Storm and Nixonland. Now, his latest entry in the series, The Invisible Bridge, is earning kudos and brickbats left and right (well, kudos from the Left and brickbats from a very few corners on the Right, natch.)

Perlstein

Rick Perlstein Laughs At Himself

The New York Times Book Review featured him on its front page this past Sunday. Today he’ll appear on Terry Gross’s Fresh Air program on local NPR affiliate WFIU. The media blitz doesn’t stop there. Perlstein will be on MSNBC’s Morning Joe tomorrow and Rachel Maddow’s gabfest Friday.

The Invisible Bridge covers the years from Richard Nixon’s resignation to the ascendance of Ronald Reagan at the 1976 Republican National Convention. History indicates that the GOP went with the wrong guy that year. President-by-Chance Gerald Ford was nominated to run against squeaky-clean Georgian Jimmy Carter. After years of Watergate, the American public was sick and tired of Nixon and anything attached to him. Ford, although himself above reproach, was Nixon’s hand-picked VP, selected to replace the disgraced Spiro Agnew. Many experts believe Ford was tabbed because Nixon was confident he’d pardon the future ex-Prez — and the former Michigan congressman did just that.

Carter/Ford

Jimmy Carter (l) & Gerald Ford

Ford ran a lackluster campaign against Carter. The argument can be made that the Dem candidate was going to win that year no matter who he was or who his opponent would be. Still, many in the GOP swooned over Ronald Reagan in the run-up to the convention and are convinced he’d have been able to beat the Democratic candidate.

I’m eager to get my hands on Perlstein’s new book. It arrives today at the Book Corner. For my money, you can’t read a better history of the 1960s and early ’70s than Nixonland. Many of my conservative friends think it’s an even-handed look at a a nine-year period in which this country very nearly tumbled into a second Civil War. If Perlstein’s take is half as good on Saint Ronald, I’ll be happy.

Reagan

Superhero

Funny thing is, there’ve been precious few balanced and sober looks at the rise and ascension into heaven of the greatest leader any country in the history of the world has ever had. Other than fawning hagiographies penned by Reagan insiders and apologists for the Right or demonizing screeds from those on the Left, the only book worth reading thus far on RWR has been Sean Wilentz’s The Age of Reagan.

Here’s hoping Perlstein’s effort doubles that list.

Hard Time

Speaking of disgraced public officials, former Monroe County Auditor Amy Gerstman’s future hangs in the balance these days. Yesterday in an Owen County courtroom, the special prosecutor and Gerstman’s lawyer had their plea agreement rejected by Judge Lori Quillen.

Acc’d’g to the Herald Times (paywall), Quillen told the lawyers the agreement wasn’t hard enough on Gerstman. My guess is special prosecutor Barry Brown okayed a deal wherein Gertsman’s repayment of the dough she skimmed from the County via unauthorized credit card usage as well as, probably, some community service would do the trick. Quillen just might want Gerstman to do some hard time.

I’m all for the hard time idea, especially because Gerstman was supposed to be the watchdog of the county’s cash.

Final Editions

Gannett Co., owner of the Indy Star, USA Today and other newspapers, is spinning off its print business from its radio and TV holdings to create two separate companies.

The media giant sez it’s doing so to “create two focused companies with increased opportunities to grow organically.” Don’t be taken in by PR bullshit. Gannett’s divorcing its foot-in-the-grave newspaper biz from its more vital electronic and digital ops just so the latter can fly without being dragged down by the former’s losses.

Indy Star

Soon To Be History Itself

Gannett at the same time announced a $1.8 billion cop of the shares of Cars.com it doesn’t already own, further doubling down on its new media stake.

USA Today is Gannett’s big dog in the print world, although insiders say the co. is hot to transform the paper into a purely digital news outlet sooner rather than later. USA Today‘s cover price not long ago jumped to $2.00, which is way too much to pay for any rag that isn’t the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. I get the feeling Gannett, in upping the price, wants to wean readers off paper.

You wanna know how valuable newspaper holdings are? Gannett is giving its print properties aways to its shareholders. No sentient being these days is willing to plunk down real money for newspapers.

The end of an era is here but don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world.

 

Hot Air

Indian Affairs

Yet another one of our notable customers at the Book Corner is Indiana University’s Indian cultures and civilizations professor Sumit Ganguly. He and his family are insatiable readers, which makes them mahatmas indeed in our humble view.

Ganguly

Sumit Ganguly

Ganguly took over the mic for WFIU’s Profiles program this past Sunday. He spoke with Canadian/American/Indian author Shauna Singh Baldwin (podcast link), who also runs Milwaukee’s noted Safe House, a spy-themed restaurant that’s been allowing customers who give the high sign to pass through its secret passageway for nearly 50 years now.

Baldwin has written a number of books detailing the south Asia experience and Ganguly grilled her on said tomes. She had some fascinating insights into a developing consumer culture in the subcontinent. Some people even see their children as show-off-able possessions in some quarters of India, she says. Of course, Americans have become quite adept at turning their spawn into trophies.

India, natch, is an amazing place. One of every seven earthlings lives in that country and some of its national traditions and celebratory migrations include hundreds of millions of people at a crack. Throw an ear at Ganguly and Baldwin. Apparently, I’m not the only one who conducts a good interview in this town.

Al Fresco Professors

Speaking of Sumit Ganguly, he and IU Maurer School of Law professor Feisal Istrabadi sat in the cool sun outside chef Daniel Orr’s FARMbloomington restaurant Wednesday last week, enjoying lunch and, no doubt, solving the world’s problems. Now, if only the world would listen.

Istrabadi/UN

 Feisal Istrabadi At The UN

Istrabadi, an IU alum, served as Iraq’s ambassador to the United Nations after that nation reorganized itself in the aftermath of the US invasion.

High Crimes

Feisal isn’t the only big shot Istrabadi in town. His sis, Zaineb, yet another Book Corner loyalist, is a senior lecturer in IU’s Near Eastern Languages & Cultures dept.

Istrabadi

Zaineb Istrabadi (Herald Times Photo)

She points out a tragic irony in all the hubbub over the shoot-down of that Malaysian airlines jet last week. She wrote (coyly) on Facebook this weekend:

Istrabadi Facebook

How quickly the rest of us forget. Back in 1988, long before the inventions of the printing press and TV, gunners aboard a US Navy guided missile cruiser shot down a fully loaded Iran Air jumbo jet. All 290 people on the plane perished.

For its part, Reagan Administration officials shrugged their shoulders and said, How were we s’posed to know it was a passenger jet? Considering the fact that an Airbus A300 is more than three times the size of a fighter jet, was following its normal daily flight path, and had identified itself as a civilian airliner, the US response in retrospect seems perhaps even more criminal than Vladmir Putin’s in recent days.

For his part, The Gipper never formally apologized to Iran for the loss of life and, in fact, both the entire crew and the air-warfare coordinator of the USS Vincennes received medals for meritorious service after their tour of duty in the Strait of Hormuz, from which the ship launched the surface-to-air missiles that downed the plane.

But wait, there’s more. Back in 1983 (guess who was Prez then, as well), our clients in far western Asia, the South Koreans, lost a fully-loaded 747 en route from Anchorage, Alaska, to Seoul. A Russian interceptor shot down Korean Air Flight 007 over the Sea of Japan, in Russian air space, resulting in 269 deaths. Reagan and his boys shook their fists at the Russians until strong evidence came to light that the flight had intentionally veered into Russian air space, most likely at our behest, just to see what them Russkies would do. Well, they shot the goddamned plane out of the sky; whadjya expect?

Knowing that the Russians have itchy trigger fingers and still sending a passenger jet over their turf is about as reckless as geopolitical actions get. In fact, this holy land (if the charges are true) turned hapless foreign civilians into cannon fodder without their knowledge.

So, let’s cut the bullshit about how appalled we are by Putin’s, Russia’s, and the Russian-backed separatists’ recent actions.

Saint Alive

I’ve blogged in other venues (don’t ask me for links, I’m too pressed for time to retrieve them right now) about what a plaster saint and a blowhard former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy is. He’s made a cottage career out of telling the world how it ought to behave. He’s written books for adults, young adults, and children, the central thesis of all of them his assertion that he possesses the secret of all that is right and good.

He’s back pontificating again. He told a reporter from the Tampa Tribune this weekend that he would have nothing to do with openly gay player Michael Sam if he were still in charge of a football team. Dungy said: “I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it. It’s not going to be totally smooth. Things will happen.”

Dungy

Tony Dungy Looks Heavenward

In other words, accepting a player who happens to love other men isn’t worth a football coach’s time or trouble. You know, just like it would have been too much of a hassle for a baseball manager to welcome Jackie Robinson to his team.

This, by the way, from a man who thought the whole Miami Dolphins flap over teammate bullying that led a player to retire prematurely would have been, really, no problem at all. Dungy was quoted as saying that the scandal that engulfed the Dolphins team last fall could have been a good thing. The team could have come together around it, he said. Dungy added he’d have used the situation as a teaching opportunity.

But a gay guy teammate? Nah. Too much trouble.

Clean Construction

My dear friends Sophia and Danny Wasik sold their first green house the other day. No, not greenhouse as in the place where you keep plants. That’s green house as in a domicile that’s energy efficient, uses recycled materials, and has minimal toxic chemical-laden features.

Dig the joint they built and sold up in Crystal Lake, a far northwest exurb of Chicago. It’s proof positive that people needn’t live in Stone Age hovels in order to minimize their carbon footprints. Or feetprint. You know what I mean.

The Wasiks have long dreamed of creating a biz wherein they’d build or flip retrofitted homes that meet or exceed current standards for eco-friendly construction. Now their operation, Terra Green, is making them dough while they advance the cause of good clean homebuilding.

Wasiks

The Wasiks, Surrounded By Green, Naturally

Here’s hoping more of our local Bloomington friends get the itch to get into the same racket in these parts. B-town is the crunchiest of crunchy locales; surely scads of savvy homebuilders here can make plenty o’coin building green homes.

Call or email Sophia and Dan for info on how to get such a biz off the ground.

Hot Air

We’re Rich!

So, the Dow and the S&P 500 yesterday both closed with the highest numbers in their separate histories. The Dow hit 16,695.47 and the S&P topped out at 1896.65.

CNN Money offers this explanation: “Investors poured money into the perceived safety of blue chip companies and seem to believe the economy is improving….”

Well, isn’t that dandy? So goddamned what.

Dow Jones

Here’s my alternative to the smoke-and-mirrors financial and economic reportage offered by our esteemed corporate media outlets such as CNN, MSNBC, Fox, the Wall Street Journal and all the rest of those shit shovelers. Let’s establish a brand new pair of indexes, call them the How? and the Wretched & Poors. They’ll be designed to give us a picture of the economy, not as it affects big shot moneybags investors but you and me.

The How? (as in, how can we afford…?) will be comprised of 30 families who can reasonably be described as Middle Class. They will come from all corners of this holy land and be selected to represent as many family set-ups as possible, including two-parent families, those with no kids, single parent units, gay parents, blacks, whites, reds, yellows and browns, immigrant families, and even single-person households.

Middle Class

A Blue Chip Investment

This new financial and economic index will measure those families in terms of their daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly economic buying power. If, say, one of the wage-earners in the family loses her job, that would profoundly negatively affect its standing within the index. Conversely, whenever that family finishes any measuring period, say a week, with a few bucks left over after paying all its bills, why they’ll be hailed as great successes, the hot stock family.

The Wretched & Poors index would be populated by 500 families and individuals who live below a given poverty line, all of whom are as demographically diverse as those in the How? and measured the same way their Middle Class counterparts are.

The Damm Family

Member, Wretched & Poors 500 (Photo/Mary Ellen Marks)

See, the 30 corporate giants followed by the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the 500 common stock companies of the S&P supposedly give us a picture of our nation’s economic health. Problem is, even if, say, McDonald’s is doing fabulously well, its employees just might not be so flush. Wait, let me amend that: they positively won’t be so flush.

Saint Ronald Reagan told us a rising tide raises all boats back some 35 years ago. That’s a pretty image, but it’s inherently full of horseshit. It depends, first off, on the wealthy of America sprinkling their dollars all around the country so that the rest of us thirsty for them can lap the cash up. I know I’m not at all happy about a miniscule elite controlling America’s dough and bestowing it upon me in whatever drips and drops they wish. Second off, those drips and drops, by the time they get to the poorest of us, have pretty much been collected by other wealthy folk, because that’s who the wealthy do business with.

When George H. W. Bush ran against Reagan for the presidency in 1980, he called Dutch’s money plans “voodoo economics.” That’s a nice start. I’d go with “fuck you economics.” As in, we’ve got all the money and we’ll give the rest of you what we want, if you’re lucky and if we make piles and piles of it more than the obscene amounts we already have, and if you don’t like it, fuck you.

In fact, let’s call the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Standard & Poors 500 the Fuck You indices. My proposed How? and Wretched & Poors indices would be the real economic barometers of America.

Rank

The great city o’Bloomington has been ranked the 15th best burgh in Indiana in which to live by some outfit called Movoto.

Movoto sez a bunch of Indianapolis suburbs as well as Columbus and West Lafayette are better places to live than our town.

The Herald Times ran an editorial on the rankings today. It was a hand-wringing, dear-us screed that asked “How in the world could a ranking of the 10 best cities of Indiana not include Bloomington?”

Kirkwood Avenue

Not The Best?

How indeed? How about a city whose newspaper howls about the tragic unfairness of not recognizing Bloomington as heaven on Earth but neglects even to mention who did the ranking, when it was done, or why.

Yes, your Electron Pencil had to do the digging to find out about Movoto. It’s an online real estate listing service that also runs a blog offering a humorous take on real estate news and trends (wow ⎼ talk about setting a near-impossible goal for yourself!) It’s the blog that did the ranking that so insulted the H-T editorialists. The Movoto blog’s tagline is “The lighter side of real estate.”

The Herald Times brain trust, presumably, was so miffed about the slight that they won’t even mention Movoto’s name.

I’m willing to bet West Lafayette’s paper did, though, and most likely added what a fine and sophisticated bunch of arbiters Movoto employs.

Hot Air

Union, Yes!

Sit down. Grab an extra large bottle of Xanax. Prepare yourself for a shocks of shocks.

A US gov’t agency made a pro-labor decision yesterday.

Alright, I’ll wait for the paramedics to revive you.

Yes, the regional National Labor Relations Board ruled that college athletes have the right to organize for the purpose of collective bargaining. They can, in other words, form a union.

Huzzah.

Memphis 1968

Labor

Ever since Saint Ronald Reagan fired the air traffic controllers back in 1981, unions have been under siege in this holy land. It’s reasonable to buy into the theory that the ascendent Right back then wanted to kill off the unions because they’d been a backbone of Democratic Party support throughout the 20th Century. And it worked because, without unions, the Dems had to turn to big money corporations for their bread and butter. To do that, the Democratic Party had to move to the Right itself. That’s why don’t-rock-the-boat center-Rightists Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have been the Dems’ standard bearers in the last quarter century. The Clinton and Obama administrations were (and are) as friendly to Wall Street, multi-national corporations, and the plutocracy as any fuddy duddy GOP-ers were before Reagan declared America safe from the horrors of organized labor.

In fact, the only really successful recent union has been the Major League Baseball Players Association, itself populated by nascent plutocrats. The MLBPA has taken management to the woodshed time and again, proving once again that only millionaires have any real power here.

Anyway, the outgoing QB of the Northwestern Wildcats football team, a lad named Kain Colter, led a group calling itself the College Athletes Players Association in an effort to negotiate with NU. Colter and Co. claimed to be employees of the university. Northwestern meanwhile said they were  student-athletes, the fairy tale designation that colleges use to make us think of young men in gowns and mortarboards dashing off to make it on time for a brief practice after spending the majority of their day reading Proust and memorizing the periodical table. The local NLRB looked at the daily skeds of NU ballers and concluded, very rightly, that their huffing and puffing on the practice field was a full time job with some academics thrown in when there was time.

Colter/ABC News

Kain Colter, Labor Leader

Keep in mind that Northwestern is not even a typical sports factory. In football and basketball, it’s usually the laughingstock of the Big 10, with its fan and alumni base becoming delirious when NU achieves mediocrity. Players at, say, Ohio State University or the University of Florida are under such pressure to perform that to tell them their point guarding or strong safety-ing will be only a full-time job would be akin to telling them they can go on vacation for six months.

Many observers note that the football and basketball programs at big, powerhouse colleges run their teams much as their pro counterparts do, meaning players must think sports morning, noon, night, and even while they dream. Athletes at these sweat factories must do weight training in the morning, study the playbook in the middle of the day, scrimmage in the afternoon, and have meetings with coaches in the evening. They’re assigned ” counselors” who make sure they get up on time and comb their hair properly, and who have private meetings with professors to ensure that, say, the star running back makes it through that grueling and onerous History of the TV Sitcom course.

Sure, college football and basketball players get scholarships — some of them — but that free education means little if the recipient knows what the Triple Spread Option is but can’t quite put his finger on who Henry David Thoreau was.

Indiana University makes scads of dough selling tickets for the general public to see its “student athletes” throw spheroids around. IU sells out the plus-17,000 seat capacity Assembly Hall for its basketball games. Several people have been known to buy tickets to see the Hoosiers football team play. Nobody gives those ducats away. Partisans pay a premium for them. University presidents say this influx of cash helps keep tuition down although they rarely make mention that tuition figures are growing exponentially these days.

IU Assembly Hall

Revenue

That dough is going somewhere but it ain’t going into the pockets of the kids the fans pay to see play.

Let’s hope the new college game players’ union will change all that.

MST3k

One of my five favorite television shows of all time was Mystery Science Theater 3000, aka MST3k.

You either get it or you don’t. The Loved One, for instance, doesn’t. Whenever I click MST3k on Netflix, she either groans or gives me one of those “you idiot” looks. That’s fine. She digs the hell out of soap operas like Six Feet Under and Mad Men, stuff that I consider to be slightly below fingernails on a blackboard in my ranking of pleasurable activities. So, she watches her stuff and I watch mine.

I like to think, though, that I don’t give her “you idiot” looks. I’m such a saint.

Anyway, I round out my top five of all time with The Larry Sanders Show, Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm, the Cubs on WGN, and Seinfeld. Okay, shoot me, that makes six. Whatever. Notice the common thread? They’re all farces. Especially the Cubs on WGN.

Grace Distraught

Farce

MST3k was a troublemaking, utterly irreverent, radical, impudent, insolent, sacrilegious, mocking snark-fest. I’d watch it every single Friday night on Comedy Central and the channel’s earlier incarnations. The writers and performers on it were so flip and derisive that I was certain they thought about the world just as I did. Sure, they considered those hushed, stodgy filmstrips we saw in elementary school as silly as a grown man wearing clown shoes. And they must have thought that, well, Newt Gingrich was clownish as well. They were my kind of people.

MST3k

Joel Hodgson (L), Michael J. Nelson, And The ‘Bots

The rumor mill’s been churning out news that a new version of MST3k is coming back, only it isn’t. You’ll have to go to Happy Nice Time People to find out about it. Apparently, the new version is some sort of trick you play with a movie you get from Netflix or one of those peer-to-peer video file sharing rackets on the interwebs and then you have to buy some audio to synch up to it that’s put out by some of the old MST3k people. It all sounds too jerry-rigged and Rube Goldberg for me so I’m not going to do it. Which is fine because my guess is the MST3k thing is long past its sell-by date. Sorta like the fourth season of Arrested Development.

Leave well enough alone, right?

In any case, in reading about this new development, the Happy Nice Time People made reference to Michael J. Nelson’s “completely reprehensible political beliefs.” Nelson was the second host of the show after founder and first host Joel Hodgson left to carve out a stand-up career somewhere. (I haven’t heard of him since, so I figure he never did wow the comedy club crowd.) Nelson was just as funny as Hodgson — maybe even funnier. He delivered his lines better and was a natural actor. I liked him immensely.

That’s why I was crushed to read about his “completely repreh…,” oh, you know. the HNTP people linked to what amounts to a manifesto of MJN’s poli-junk-sci. Let me repro it herewith:

During a 2004 interview with the fanatic site MST3K Review, Nelson described himself as Protestant and conservative: “I read the National Review cover to cover. Check in at Townhall.com every day. Check the Washington Times daily. Listen to Dennis Prager and Michael Medved on a regular basis. Read Mark Steyn with regularity. Read the Weekly Standard. So, yes, I do vote Republican.”[11] He later referred to the Minneapolis Star Tribune as “the Star and Sickle, or the Red Star Tribune”

I almost broke down in tears. I consoled myself by repeating, mantra-like, that this snippet was from Wikipedia. Now I’m not anti-Wikipedia by a long shot. I think it’s a great resource, only not an authoritative one. It’s a nice place to start learning about something. Its links and references are a good step in the right direction. But god forbid I’d ever quote something from Wikipedia in these precincts as if whatever point I was making was written in scripture.

From Townhall.com

Say It Ain’t So!

So here’s my hope. Mebbe someone with an antic sense of humor equal to the MST3k gang typed in the graf in question. You know, ha hah hah? Or, even more likely, Michael J. Nelson himself was toying with humanity by telling us a bunch of funny lies about his “conservatism.” That’s even ha hah hah-ier.

Man. I’m still bummed, though. It’s as bad as when I first discovered that most sports stars were Republicans. It makes sense now but when I was a kid, I believed none of my beloved Cubs could ever even think of voting for Dick Nixon. But a lot of them did. A lot of them.

I’ve become much more sanguine about the whole thing. For instance, I still love watching Robert Duvall act. Clint Eastwood, too. And John Wayne. I can pretend their real political slants just don’t exist. And by golly, no one who could play Mac Sledge so well in Tender Mercies or Captain York in Fort Apache could actually be — eek! — a Republican. But Duvall is and Wayne was. So there. I’ve just gotten better at suspending disbelief.

But Michael J. Nelson? From the very, very seditious, insurrectionist Mystery Science Theater 3000?

Now that’s unbelievable.

Hey, Remember Me?

Alright, call me a cynic if you want, but this is what television and movie stars do when they’ve faded from the spotlight:

From HuffPo

 

Queenly Hot Air

Believe It Or Not

So, Saint Ronald Reagan’s infamous “Welfare Queen” has been fingered and her sins catalogued.

You remember her don’t you? During Saint Ron’s first honest-to-gosh presidential run in 1976, he made tons o’hay by railing against a woman who would become known as the Welfare Queen of Chicago. See, flamboyantly white people at the time not only were scared to death of the black penis, they also soiled their pants thinking about the fat, lazy mama raking in gov’t dole checks while she sat around in her house slippers, gorging on potato chips (bought and paid for with our hard-earned tax dollars), while watching soap operas on TV.

Reagan’s target market cared not a whit for poverty, the environment, wars here and there, or whether or not women made 69 cents for every dollar men made. Pish tosh. The paramount concern of the Archie Bunker crowd that Ronnie coveted — hell, their only concern — was whether it would be indolent black women or savage black men who would destroy our holy land first.

Washington Post Clip

Back in the 1950s, a shocking number of pols could feel comfortable saying, in no uncertain terms, that the niggers were coming. By the mid-’70s, that kind of candor was out. Candidates trying reach the then-“Silent Majority,” the one that would shortly morph into the “Moral Majority,” needed code words and misdirection to foist their fear-of-a-black-planet message upon a happily suspecting public.

The future Commander-in-Sleep claimed at a campaign rally in January, 1976, that the forces of good had discovered a woman who’d gamed the feds to a shocking degree. He said:

She has eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards and is collecting veteran’s benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000.

You can easily imagine RR’s facial expressions and the shifting tones of his voice as he ran down the laundry list of her sins, ranging from golly-gee, can-you-believe it? to righteous rage. He was, after all an actor. And, even though all politics is theater, The Saint was the first thespian-turned-pol to enthrall audiences on a national scale.

Within weeks of that speech, the Chicago Tribune had dubbed the woman, now revealed to be one Linda Taylor, the “Welfare Queen.” Saint Ronnie never had to say it but his crowds knew this in their hearts: There was nothing unusual about her. In fact, she was the archetype, not the outlier. All those lazy bums collecting welfare are living the life, man! They all know how to squeeze blood out of the system. The Reaganistas wondered in private conversations with each other, Why are blacks like that? Within 20 years, America’s attitudes had been so shaped by Reagan’s vivid imagery that a Democratic president would lead the charge for “welfare reform.” The Welfare Queen was dead.

Or, more accurately, the Welfare Queens. Plural. The millions and millions of them. Driving Cadillacs and eating lobster with their chitterlings, all paid for with food stamps and public aid checks. Why are blacks like that?

Through the years, liberal commentators have speculated that Good Old Ronnie had conjured his Welfare Queen out of whole cloth. Even so respected an observer as Paul Krugman once wrote that Reagan’s literal bête noire was nothing more than a “bogus story.”

Turns out Linda Taylor was not only real but her slurping at the public trough was even more criminal than Ronald Reagan implied. Man, oh man, you might marvel, Reagan was right.

Reagan

Up With (White) People

He was and he wasn’t. Taylor was a cheat, a parasite, and a truly despicable figure. But there was only one Linda Taylor and Reagan knew it. He also knew his audiences wouldn’t care. They craved to believe everybody collecting welfare was a fraud. Men believe, Julius Caesar once noted, that which they wish to be true.

So Linda Taylor did well by herself, financially if not morally. Yet she inadvertently was responsible, in some small part, for the growing numbers of mal- and under-nourished schoolkids, the burgeoning homeless population, and the millions more medically underserved citizens of this great nation in this day than in hers. (Ronald Reagan, natch, was far more responsible.)

Her unique sins became the sins of the whole.

Funny thing is, at precisely the time Taylor was scamming the feds and the State of Illinois, another Chicagoan was engaged in an even more ugly evil.

Beginning in the mid-1970’s, Detective, and later Violent Crimes Commander, Jon Burge of the Chicago Police Department’s Area 2 headquarters on the South Side, carried out and/or oversaw the systematic torture of hundreds of prisoners to extract phony confessions from them, particularly in high-profile cases. Burge and the boys in the Area 2 HQ basement enjoyed beating, burning, and suffocating suspected lawbreakers, all in the pursuit of quick indictments and ultimate convictions. The reported incidents include the shooting of prisoners’ pets in front of them, snuffing out lit cigarettes on suspects’ skin, tying them to scalding hot radiators, and covering their heads with plastic bags until they passed out. They employed cattle prods, high voltage electroshock devices, and old reliable standbys like telephone books and rubber hoses to inspire their subjects to sing. They enjoyed using something called the “violet wand” which delivered a severe electric shock when pressed against a suspect’s anus or genitals.

Occasionally, the Burge boys used their more “enhanced” methodology on witnesses to crimes as well as suspects. The witnesses, it has been reported, were thus persuaded to testify in a manner that would please the officers.

One suspect, who eventually signed a phony confession that led to the death sentence for shooting a police officer, described a typical torture device used at Area 2 HQ: “It’s black and it’s round and it had a wire sticking out of it and it had a cord on it…. [Burge] took it and he ran it up between my legs, my groin area, just ran it up there very gently… up and down, up and down, you know, right between my legs, up and down like this, real gentle with it, but you can feel it, still feel it.

“Then he jabbed me with the thing and it slammed me… into the grille on the window. Then I fell back down, and I think that’s when I started spitting up the blood and stuff….”

Burge and fellow duly deputized officers of the law differed from Stasi agents or Gestapo officers only in the color of their uniforms.

And, speaking of color, all of the Burge crew’s victims were — you guessed it — black.

After nearly 40 years’ worth of charges and several headline trials, Burge finally was convicted of torture, obstruction of justice, and perjury. He’s now serving a 4½-year sentence at the federal correctional facility near Raleigh, North Carolina.

Chicago Sun-Times Cover

Which is the proverbial drop in the bucket compared to the many, many years dozens of tortured suspects spent in prison, at least 10 death penalty convictions leveled against others (since overturned, thanks to Burge’s convictions), and the nearly $100 million the City of Chicago has had to pay out in punitive damages.

Oddly, few outside the shifting boundaries of Chicago’s black neighborhoods thought to jump to the conclusion that Burge’s team might not be the only Police Department crew using cruel and inhuman methods to frame innocent people. Not even after reports issued by the CPD itself and the United Nations Committee against Torture suggested that Burge et al were not really outliers in the force, but archetypes.

No, nobody among the Silent and Moral majorities wished to believe their friendly men in blue, those who served and protected them, would actually torture prisoners. Why, that kind of stuff only goes on in East Germany and Communist China, for heaven’s sake! Not here in the land of the free and the home of yadda, yadda.

And since they didn’t wish to believe it, as Caesar pointed out, they simply didn’t.

Unseasonably Warm Hot Air

Comet, Heal Thyself

Too bad about Comet ISON, no? Goddamned Obamacare.

Comet ISON

R.I.P.

Zero From The ‘Aughts

Perhaps this is obvious to everybody else, but it just occurred to me this morning as I washed the dishes that the first decade of this 21st Century really and truly sucked.

Dig: The decade/century/millennium began with a double whammy of slam. The great tech bubble blew up, costing countless entitled middle- and upper-middle class white computer geeks their previously privileged spots atop the human pyramid. And a lot of middle class investors lost their little all after betting that tech stocks would carry them through their dotage. Then there was the non-election election of George W. Bush, a putsch pushed along by Supreme Court justices installed by his daddy-o and their patron saint, Ronald Reagan.

The next year, our holy land’s spies and spooks fell asleep at their CCTV security consoles and allowed a couple of dozen lunatic fundamentalist religionists to stage the scariest disaster movie scenes ever seen in New York City and Washington, DC.

What followed, natch, was an overreaction of monumental proportions as this holy land turned into a fighting, spying, hating-on-ragheads military machine. Now, I’d bet more money is spent on making sure American air travelers don’t sneak bottles of mouthwash onto airplanes than is earmarked for useless things like school libraries.

Meanwhile, Americans were urged by their popularly un-elected president to go back to shopping, chop-chop, just to show the world how much we love, love, love freedom. And Americans fell into line, buying anything and everything, including TV screens wide enough to display the entirety of the Grand Canyon. We Americans got so giddy pissing our hard-earned dough away that we began looking upon our happy homes not as safe harbors from the cruel world and anchors of our communities but as ostentatious, in-your-face ATMs-slash-McMansions. We bought and sold houses the way teenaged boys trafficked in baseball cards in the 1980s.

And then that bubble popped, leading to the greatest economic collapse since the Greatest Economic Collapse.

But wait — before that, the president, who, I might remind you, had been elected by a minority of voters, told us Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was perhaps a half hour away from decorating the skies above our greatest cities with pretty and colorful mushroom clouds. To prove his assertion, he sent out his minions and assistants to tell us and the world blah, blah, blah, blah — none of which had a whit to do with Iraq’s capacity to build nuclear weapons, and so we promptly fell into line and gave the Prez the go-ahead to commit our nation to a decade-long pointless war. We did get to see Saddam Hussein’s tonsils, though.

Hussein

Say Ah-h-h

Anyway, back to the housing bubble. Wall Street banksters, quants, and fellow travelers discovered fascinating new ways to fleece investors with mortgage-backed securities and, while they were at it, make scads upon scads of dough for themselves no matter whether their financial instruments were successful or not, preferably unsuccessful because…, well, it’s pretty much impossible to explain why, but the banksters and quants and the rest are sitting pretty right now while the rest of us are still dusting ourselves off.

The banksters and quants and the others were punished by being named to high-level economic advisory positions in the Obama White House and as regulators of the operations they’d transformed into casino games. That’ll show ’em.

Casino

“This Is A Sound Investment, Sir.”

So, today, municipalities that had invested in their crooked schemes are broke, school budgets are being slashed, social service agencies are closing their doors, and the poor are being blamed for all of it. The fiends.

As this was all going on, there arose in this great nation a grass-roots political movement dedicated to the age-old ideals of selfishness, savage competition, refusal to share any wealth whatsoever, anti-intellectualism, and reactionary demagoguery with a sprinkling of racism and misogyny thrown in. They called themselves the Tea Party, which seemed rather euphemistic. I might have suggested they call themselves a Bunch of Big Pricks.

Tea Party

Apple Pie Americanism

Working feverishly behind the scenes, this nation’s spies and spooks, embarrassed by their failure to nab the 9/11 plotters before they struck, expanded their capabilities to eavesdrop on your Thanksgiving email exchanges with your aunt in Kokomo. By the way, you might want to let her know that three cups of sugar in her cranberry orange sauce is a tad much.

And, hey, here are two unforgettable names from the -zeroes: Joe the Plumber and Terry Schiavo.

So, kiddies, that was the ‘Aughts in a nutshell.

You might think I’m being pessimistic but, honest, the future actually looks brighter to me. Things couldn’t possibly get any worse.

Could they?

November Hot Air

Sweet Celebration

It’s Death to America Day in the Islamic Republic of Iran or, as those happy fellows like to call themselves in Farsi, Jomhuri-ye Eslāmi-ye Irān.

DAD (the initials of the holiday, in case you’re still too bleary-eyed to get it) is celebrated every year on the anniversary of the takeover of the American embassy in Teheran and the subsequent holding of hostages for 444 days until Saint Ronald Reagan was inaugurated president in 1981. Old Ronnie owed his presidency to the revolutionaries who seized the embassy. The very act painted then-Prez Jimmy Carter as helpless in the face of world events. And then came the notorious clusterfuck rescue mission, with helicopters and cargo planes plowing into each other in East Iran’s Great Salt Desert. Carter took full responsibility for the fiasco and the electorate of this holy land was more than happy to dump it upon him. He could no more win the 1980 election than sneak into the embassy to rescue the hostages himself.

Carter/Reagan

And The Winner Is….

Anyway, I imagine parades up and down the Main Streets of hundreds of Iranian cities and towns, complete with guys dressed as mullahs on stilts, flag-wavers, streamers-throwers, soldiers in formation, and a military truck or two pulling a cannon.

Now that the USA and Iran are fi’nta sit down at the negotiating table to wrassle over the nuke question, it seems rather quaint that our erstwhile enemy wishes us dead, dead, dead.

Death to America

How should we respond to this less than neighborly display? Should we stage a Death to Iran Day? I know loads of bug-eyed wingnuts here would be thrilled to pieces with that but cooler heads realize it would hardly advance the cause of rapprochement.

Instead, I suggest a Sugar to Iran Day. Sure, why not? American farmers produce more high fructose corn syrup fixin’s than almost anything else. If there’s one thing the USA can make and export better than any other nation on Earth, it’s sweet treats. The brand names Coca-Cola, Snickers, Krispy Kreme, and Oreo are synonyms for America throughout much of the world.

Human beings are hard wired to dig sweet things. Anthropologists tell us this is because we spent hundreds of thousands of years searching for juicy, ripe fruits packed with energy-laden simple sugars. Now we don’t have to forage for fructose and glucose bombs; we need only jam Cinnabons into our faces.

In that sense, Iranians and Americans are alike.

Ergo, we should flood Iran with with all the sweetest, sugary-est, most decadent, insulin-spiking products our brilliant scientists and captains of industry can conjure up. Rather than drop explosive devices on the cities of Iran, we should discharge millions of Little Debbies on them.

Trust me, Iranian children — and, for that matter, adults — would love us for it! And isn’t that what we want? Love, love, love?

The countries that love us best are those that buy our goods most. We all know how addictive sugary treats are. Iran in short order could become a captive market of 77 million sweets junkies. Then they’d be our kind of folk.

Twinkies

True Love

And like us, they’d become obese — better for us, should the upcoming negotiations break down and we find ourselves at war with Iran. In that case, we’d swiftly change the name of the operation from Sugar to Iran to Diabetes to Iran.

I have no idea why the Obama administration hasn’t reached out to me yet to join the State Department. Sigh.

Democracy Inaction

So, WFHB has contacted one of the final three candidates for the job of General Manager and…, and…, and, well, nothing.

Man, it takes the College of Cardinals less time to choose a Pope. Folks, we’re looking for someone to run a community radio station not a Secretary General for the United Nations.

The problem with Firehouse Radio? Too many chefs.

I have it on reasonably good authority that Chad Carrothers, the GM emeritus, is not the choice. All I know is WFHB raised more dough during C-squared’s term than ever before in its history. So whomever of the remaining two is the anointed one had better be a world-beater.

Hot Air, Cold Pizza

Go Read Alice

Congrats to Canadian short story writer Alice Munro on her Nobel Prize in Literature. Her latest is the collection Dear Life.

Book Cover

Munro’s 82 years old now and she has already announced she isn’t going to write anymore. The Nobel is a fitting coda to her brilliant and glorious career. If you want to learn more about her, here’s a good ten-year old biography of her that ran in the Guardian UK.

Crisis In Black And White

Bingo, babies! The fed shutdown is merely the latest play in the long running game of Republican Us vs. Them politics. The “us” being scared white Murricans and the “them” being everyone else.

Joan Walsh of Salon laid it all out in the Chicago Tribune last week (h/t to Monroe Anderson), although you would instinctively know this if you’ve been paying attention.

Walsh

Joan Walsh

The GOP since soon after the end of World War II has been organizing around the visceral fear whites have that blacks will one day amass enough guns, money, and real power (oops, sorry I’m being redundant) to overthrow the whole shebang here. Not only that, our wives and daughters will be taken as spoils.

No lie. You have to have grown up in an edgy, pure white neighborhood as I did to really grasp this: Black men with their large penises are to be quelled at all costs.

That’s my addendum to Walsh’s superb take on America’s political history of the last half century or so.

Even the National Rifle Association became a power to be reckoned with by demonizing blacks. The NRA gang was just a nice little club for deer hunters and such until the late 1960’s when, responding to an exaggerated threat of black nationalism and the emergence of the armed Black Panthers, the organization began conducting a national grass-roots campaign to limit access to guns. Yup. Some 40 years ago, it was far more important to the NRA that guns be kept out of the hands of blacks than in the hands of whites. Now, of course, it’s far more important to keep guns in the hands of paranoid schizophrenics than it is to make firearms purchases a tad more inconvenient for everyone else. (The reasons for that transformation are grist for another post, another time.)

Panthers

Black Panthers in 1969

As this holy land’s demographics change, the Strom Thurmond/Dick Nixon/Ronald Reagan/Roger Ailes strategy of appealing to jittery whites is becoming less and less effective. By 2050, say, whites won’t be able to throw their weight around as they are doing in this weird game of chicken that has closed, basically, the social safety net and all other parts of the gummint that don’t have to do with maintaining our sacred duty to threaten the rest of the planet with incineration.

It can even be argued that men like Ronald Reagan weren’t racists in their hearts. But the fact that they found it easy to capitalize on racial fears in order to attain and keep power made them, and the country as a whole, racist indeed.

(OTOH, Strom Thurmond was a racist, through and through, and I don’t care how many children he sired with black women. Nixon wasn’t specifically a racist; he loathed all humanity equally. Ailes? He’s just a pig.)

So yeah, the Republicans and the Me Party-ists who seem to have a power all out of proportion the the rest of the body politic ain’t gonna be big shots much longer. Problem is, with the Koch Bros.’ (among other sneaky plutocrats) dough behind them, John Boehner et al can do some really serious damage to the nation. Hell, they’ve done it already.

Think of it as a fire in your home. It may have started in the kitchen and, thanks to quick work by the firefighters (who get paid by that hated gummint, BTW), the rest of your house was saved. Still, the kitchen’s a wreck. It’ll be a long time before the place is functioning properly.

Walsh is right; this isn’t an all-sides-are-to-blame thing; the Republicans started it and now the rest of us are feeling the heat.

[Big Mike Note: The head for this entry is stolen from a 1964 book of the same name, written by Charles E. Silberman. He was among the first to identify and explain the reality that the USA is really two separate nations.]

Big Mike Explains It All

[Wordpress went a little funny in the head yesterday so this post that should have been dated Wednesday, October 9, 2013, is now dated today.]

Okay, kids, strap on your crash helmets because things are gonna get really, really weird here now.

As you know Peter Higgs won the Nobel Prize in Physics yesterday Monday because a bunch of geeks toying around with the Large Hadron Collider at the CERN facility on the border of France and Switzerland finally found the sub-atomic particle that bears his name. See, Higgs got cracking with pencil and paper (and eraser — lots of erasers) some 50 years ago and as a result of some calculations he did, he was able to predict the existence of the Higgs Boson, aka the God Particle, although most serious physicists get really cranky when the Higgs is called that.

Telegraph UK Image

Peter Higgs

People called the Higgs the God Particle because some wise guys figgered once it was found, scientists would know the secret of existence. That is, why things exist, and why they don’t just smash into each other and annihilate themselves or, conversely, why everything there is doesn’t just go flying off into its own nowhere so that there would be no mass or forces or even pizza.

Talk about existentialism! This whole shebang couldn’t get more mind-bending if the ghosts of Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, and Kafka suddenly were to appear in the living room playing Twister in their stocking feet.

Twister

That’s Kafka In The Green Suit & Wearing Glasses

Whereas pious folk say the Big Daddy-o in the Sky snapped his fingers one day and next thing anybody knew, light, aluminum, oceans, Adam & Eve, and shingles all came into being, particle physicists tell us reality is just a seemingly endless series of Russian nesting dolls, with ever teensier pieces fitting inside each other. There was a time when the learned among us thought atoms were the smallest things there could be.

Har-de-har-har. Over the last 150 years or so, researchers have found successively smaller motes that make atoms look like honeydew melons. Things got so surreal that when Murray Gell-Mann and George Zweig, unbeknownst to one another, dreamed up the idea of the most fundamental particle yet back in the early 1960s, one of them had to reach into the bizarro world of James Joyce’s poetry for a name. Finnegan’s Wake provided the following line:

Three quarks for Muster Mark!
Sure he has not got much of a bark
And sure any he has it’s all beside the mark.

What in the hell ever that means. So inscrutable were those two sentences that Gell-Mann immediately sensed he’d happened upon the right language from which to pluck a perfect term. Ergo, quark.

But wait! Even quarks had to be shoved around by smaller pieces of something so Higgs entered the picture in 1964, proposing his eponymous boson. It wasn’t until March of this year that the CERN gang proved Higgs’ speck of near nothingness really does exist.

The Standard Model that most physicists today subscribe to holds that magnetism, electricity, light, and a few other of nature’s magic tricks do their thing via force-carrying particles. These little specks, which are far too miniscule to be seen even with the strongest grocery store reading glasses, have mass or, to use a very technical term, oomph, only because they rub up against the Higgs Field.

Dig: The Higgs Field, which is everywhere, sprinkles photons and other force-carrying particles with confetti-like Higgs Bosons so that they, the photons et al, actually carry some weight and therefore can push things around.

And that’s why there are Republicans, pebbles, electric guitars, and — yes — pizza, as opposed to a universe full of, well, nothing.

Pizza

Raison d’Être

We and everything around us are made of of countless billions and trillions of mini billiard balls — which actually also are waves, but don’t worry your pretty and handsome heads about that because if you start, search parties of shrinks would have to disperse in search of your sanity. Just trust, alright? Anyways, those eensy-schmeensy billiard balls only can come together to become a deep dish pie with sausage and green peppers thanks to the Higgs Field and its mass-inducing confetti called Higgs Bosons.

Understand?

That’s okay, neither do I.

Fortunately, Peter Higgs does and that’s why he won the big prize yesterday.

Aren’t you glad you read this rather than gawked at yet another picture of Miley Cyrus sticking her tongue out?

Cyrus

Put That Back In Your Head!

[Another Big Mike Note: I’m neither a mathematician nor an expert on particle physics. Try as I might, there’s a good chance that my word picture herein describing the Higgs Boson and Field is full of crap. If so and you, dear reader, are a physics geek, please correct me.]

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