Category Archives: Salon.com

Hot Air

Robed Racketeers

Thomas Frank throws the book at colleges and universities in this holy land in this Sunday’s Salon.

Frank

Acc’d’ng to the fearless journalist and essayist, college tuition has gone up 1200 percent in 30 years. Twelve hundred percent!

Let’s say you, like me, weighed a svelte 175 libra pondos aways back in 1984. Shoot, man, back in those glory days you, like me, could have eaten an entire pizza and then gone out for an all-night bike ride, something I did more than once when I was a callow 28 y.o. But, of course, time catches up with all of us and before we know it we’re all a tad thicker in face and waist, among other locales.

But if you had a weight gain of 1200 percent, today you’d be tipping the scale, if not the entire house, at a mind-boggling 2100 lbs. Sheesh! Yeah I’ve packed on the suet, but jimineez, I don’t weigh a ton with a hondo click to spare!

Nothing goes up 1200 percent in 30 years. Not gasoline. In 1984, a gallon of motion lotion set you back $1.30. Today, we’re crying like kindergartners because that gallon costs about $3.75. Me Party-ists, militia maniacs, and tinfoil hat wearers are oiling up their shootin’ irons in prep. for the coming revolt, caused in large part by today’s gas pump “insanity.”

And that gallon of 87 octane has only gone up 289 percent since the Orwell year.

I could go on and on with examples of how nothingnothing!has gone up 1200 percent in 30 years, not even pot. Yet, if you want your snowflake to get a good educ., you’d better hope you’d started stashing away your quarters three decades ago. Every single freaking one of them.

Thomas Frank indicts college administrators, politicians, and a compliant, obeisant, credulous media for this hyper-inflation going on for the better part of a lifetime. We’ve believed every bullshit excuse university presidents have tossed out. By Frank’s count, the bosses of higher education have blamed the following for their larceny:

  • Utility bills
  • Libraries
  • Their own professors
  • Gov’t regulation (natch, all crooks fall back on that cop-out)
  • Students who demand luxury accommodations
  • High technology
  • Cultural diversity
  • Students abusing substances
  • Americans with Disabilities Act access ramps
  • Declining student population
  • Competition with other universities

What the presidents haven’t mentioned, Frank says, is the growth of the administrator class, in both number and in average salary. And those administrators kept on telling us that a college degree was worth more than a million dollars over a graduate’s lifetime. That is, an alum of the institution that was fleecing you could expect to earn a cool million more than some high school grad slob, so if you don’t mind, we’re gonna continue to fleece you.

Of course, the average student graduating from college in 2013 was stuck with a $35,000 debt in student loans and credit card bills. Try paying that off on $8.25 an hour, which is prob. what you’ll be making for the foreseeable future. You’re stuck, grads, although you’ll always have the warm memory of those carpeted, air-conditioned luxury dorm rooms — which you allegedly asked for.

Lucky we’ve got Noam Chomsky around to try to make some sense of the situ.:

My feeling is that student fees are instituted, basically as a technique of indoctrination and control. I don’t think there’s an economic basis for them. And it’s interesting that, you look at the timing — like when I went to college, I went to an Ivy League university, The University of Pennsylvania. Tuition was only $100 and you could easily get a scholarship.

Students today are over $1 trillion in debt. That’s more than credit card debt. A trillion dollars of debt? That’s a burden on people coming out of college. It’s got them trapped. It (tuition) is a technique of control, and it surely isn’t an economic necessity in the richest country in the world. All sorts of things started happening — the university architecture changed. Universities that were built, worldwide, in the post-’70s and on, are usually designed so that they don’t have meeting places, designed just to keep students separated and under control. Look at the ratio of administrators to faculty: it’s gone way up the last couple of decades … not for educational purposes, but for more techniques of control.

… [I]t’s a general form of indoctrination and control, which goes down to kindergarten. I mean, that’s what No Child Left Behind is about. It’s training for the Marine Corps. It’s a way to make sure that children aren’t free, independent or inquisitive, exploring.

Our own Indiana University is building huge monuments to itself seemingly on every corner of the campus. Local developers are building ugly fortresses where students can live, drink, toke, and fumble their way through sexual encounters without worry about anybody even shaking a finger at them. They are the scions of wealth. They even study now and again. They’d better, because they’re gonna owe a lot after graduation.

Most important, they are under control. Let’s go back to Noam Chomsky:

Students who acquire large debts putting themselves through school are unlikely to think about changing society. When you trap people in a system of debt they can’t afford the time to think. Tuition Fee increases are a disciplinary technique, and by the time students graduate, they are not only loaded with debt, but have also internalized the disciplinarian culture. This makes them efficient components of the consumer economy.

Yeah, the kids are under control but so are we. Who’s going to be the first of us to tell Michael McRobbie and his cohorts that they’re lying and we know it?

[Side note: If you want to read even more about this, try Suzanne Mettler’s new book, Degrees of Inequality: How the Politics of Higher Education Sabotaged the American Dream. It’s reviewed in yesterday’s New York Times.]

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.]

Your Daily Hot Air

Women’s Lib

How about this for good news?

The new NASA astronaut training class is 50 percent female.

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

Imagine that.

2013 NASA Astronauts

Newest Astronauts (l to r):

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

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

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

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

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

Sally Ride

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

Frustration

Grrr.

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

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

The jerks.

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

Nepotism

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

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

From "The Dark Knight"

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

Abortion: It’s A Laff Riot!

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

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

Audience Laughing

Stop It, Your Killin’ Me!

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

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

Or that this man could lead our holy land?

Trump

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“The flood of money that gushes into politics today is a pollution of democracy.” — Theodore H. White

SUMMERTIME AND THE BREATHIN’ IS WHEEZY

Hooray for summer! Today’s the first Ozone Action Day of 2012 for the Bloomington area.

Ixnay Today

Do everybody’s lungs a favor: take the bus, ride your bike, or walk. And lay off the power mower for a few days.

FRIDAY FUN

Click.

HOT SPELL IN EGYPT

I called it a year and a half ago when Hosni Mubarek was overthrown in Egypt.

Everybody was jumping for joy over the Arab Spring. I cautioned, Be careful what you wish for.

Egypt may tumble into civil war in the wake of some controversial supreme court rulings this week. It must be said, Egyptians have a choice in who crushes their dreams of freedom: the Muslim Brotherhood or the military.

An Egyptian Military Council Leader

I’m no jingoist but the situation in Egypt does remind me that the American revolution turned out not so bad after all. And many, many of the tyrannies that the Founding Daddy-os neglected to toss out have been addressed in the ensuing two and a half centuries.

THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL

Yesterday, Christopher Buckley in Salon argued that “Moby Dick” is the greatest American novel ever written.

He’s wrong.

Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is far superior. And if you prefer a less iconic choice, how about Thomas Berger’s “Little Big Man”?

In fact, I’ll take LBM over TAoHF. Berger’s epic recounting of late 19th Century American history through bullshitter-supreme Jack Crabb’s eyes is America. Crabb was “Zelig” before Woody Allen even thought of the man who was everywhere.

BAD

Ranker.com lists “The All-Time Worst People in History” today.

Adolf Hitler, natch, tops the list, garnering a few more votes than his on-again, off-again ally Joe Stalin. Three of Hitler’s henchmen (Himmler, Goebbels, and Mengele as well as his idiot son Mussolini also make the list).

il Duce

George W. Bush ranks No. 20 which is ludicrous. His inclusion on the list shows that liberals verey, very often can be as knuckleheaded as conservatives. Well, not very, very often. Actually, not even often at all. Occasionally.

Anyway, here’s my own list of The Worst Americans in History, in no particular order:

How I Wish That Was An Exploding Cigar

Working On It: Charles (L) & David Koch

  • George Wallace –“Segregation now. Segregation tomorrow. Segregation forever!”
  • Orval Faubus — Arkansas governor who called out the National Guard to stop black students from attending a predominantly white school in 1957.
  • Curtis LeMay — Even though he was instrumental in the US victory over Japan in World War II, LeMay was nuts. I suppose if you’re fighting a “good” war, you want generals who are more whacked-out than the enemy’s. LeMay was brilliant, daring, innovative — and whacked-the-fk-out. Ran with Wallace as a third party candidate in the ’68 presidential election.

Oh, and Paris Hilton. I know she’s yesterday’s news but, still, she represents everything bad about the celebrity culture, nonproductive wealth, women-as-objects, arrogance, and a host of other American ills.

We Mustn’t Forget Paris Hilton

The Pencil Today:

THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST?

Bingo from C. Wright Mills: “People with advantages are loath to believe they just happen to be people with advantages.”

C. Wright Mills Photographed By His Wife, Yaroslava

TREE STOLEN. WAIT — WHAT? TREE STOLEN?

The Herald Times reports this morning that vandals stole a tree from Bryan Park.

The tree,  a blue spruce, was donated by a neighbor some 22 years ago. The neighbor was able to look at the tree each morning through his apartment window. He’d nursed the tree through some tough times and considered it his “baby.”

A Typical Blue Spruce

And yesterday he discovered that some punks — apparently — had sawed the whole damned thing down and hauled it away!

If that isn’t bad enough, city tree boss Lee Huss says it’s not terribly unusual. Huss says some twelve trees a year are stolen.

Man. Have I not awakened from my beauty sleep yet and this is just one of those stupid dreams?

COFFEE CHATTER

Did you catch the puff piece on Soma Coffee in the weekend IDS?

If not, here it is.

THE JANUARY SAGA CONTINUES

Chad Carrothers, the big boss at Firehouse Radio, says January Jones resigned as WFHB News Director to, in her words, “spend more time with my family.”

Sheesh. I can’t even make a smart-assed comment about that other than to say any good news hound — and January was a fine news hound — knows that’s what you say when what you really want to say will burn bridges.

Her resignation was, in Chad’s words, “unsolicited and unexpected.”

The news operation at our town’s community radio station undoubtedly will suffer without her even though Assistant News Director Alycin Bektesh is among the sharpest pencils in the drawer and would be a fab choice as January’s permanent replacement.

I’ll redouble my efforts to get January’s take on the split.

THE WATER CYCLE

Go see another comic by Randall Munroe, the brain behind the strip “XKCD.”

WE DO FACEBOOK SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO

◗ The radical attorney Jerry Boyle, who’s been running around downtown Chicago for a couple of months now trying to keep the town’s Occupy people out of hot water, posts a Venn diagram of the US Government-Goldman Sachs unholy union.

I’ll have to repro the diagram here. Dig it, and then tell me our elected officials will do their utmost to rein in those cash cowboys.

Man! It’d be like Jack and Bobby Kennedy putting Sam Giancana in charge of the Justice Department.

◗ Delia Chandler of Brighton, UK, reminds us Sunday was the anniversary of the assassination of charismatic Black Panther leader Fred Hampton — in his bedroom — by Chicago cops, the FBI, and members of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office in 1969.

Don’t be confused by the line in the Democracy Now! teaser calling it the 40th anniversary of the rub out. Amy Goodman‘s piece ran in 2009.

◗ Bloomington video auteur Chris Rall discovers some good clean spiritual fun for the kids.

Bleeding Heartland Roller Girl Shanda Rude takes her life in her hands by blaspheming Oprah. Or at least pointing out — approvingly — that Bill Maher has soiled the name of the most powerful woman on Earth.

Check the vid — if you dare. Maher skewers Oprah’s consumer goods orgy during her farewell week prior to being assumed into heaven.

Me? I didn’t worry about watching it — I’m slated for hell already.

◗ Finally, uber-Cub fan Al Yellon, proprietor of the Bleed Cubbie Blue fansite gushes over the long-awaited election of Ron Santo to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

If you’re wondering about my own feelings on Ronnie’s canonization, you need only read my Salon.com piece on his death, almost exactly a year ago.

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