Category Archives: Uncategorized

1000 Words: We Blew It

The last time I felt optimistic about America, this self-imagined “beacon on a hill,” was, to be precise, the evening of Tuesday, November 4, 2008.

That date might ring a bell for you. It was the night Barack Obama was declared the winner in that year’s United States presidential election.

That night I bought into the pronouncements by so many wits and wags that this nation had at last advanced beyond its racist past, that we were hurtling headlong into what some had already dubbed a “post-racial America.”


Now I realize I was as self-deluded as all those state lottery jackpot winners who told themselves their problems are over, that they’ll be on easy street for the rest of their lives.

You know, all those folks who pissed away their prize money and now they have nothing left but empty bank accounts, insuperable debts, alienated friends and family, and even thoughts of suicide. Or at least the wish that, their god willing, they’ll go to sleep tonight and never wake up tomorrow morning.

We — I — pissed away something, too. Something different, even more dear than dough. We pissed away every ounce of goodwill and hope that we imagined Obama’s election would endow us with. We Americans value precious little, being smug participants in a throw-away, consumer culture. We figure even if we smash, lose, mar, stash, or forget about every goddamned thing we ever bought, owned, inherited, or found under the cushions, we can always get another one. Hell, get me over to Walmart or link me to Amazon, it’s no big deal, I’ll just buy a replacement. Whatever it is.

Problem is, there will never be another First Black Man Elected President of the United States of America, as symbolic an event as ever occurred here. There’ll never — ever — be that sublime moment, that opportunity, for us to atone and move past one of our nation’s cardinal sins, the creation of an empire so hugely dependent on the stolen labor of a kidnapped people and the subsequent institutional marginalization of their daughters and sons.

We were thisclose to absolving ourselves of that sin.

Or so we though at the time. So I thought.

We were deluded. I was deluded. As deluded as a certain other ex-Commander-in-Chief about the outcome of the 2020 election.

At least my — our — delusion was positive. Optimistic. Actually, Pollyannish. And, like all Pollyanna’s dreams, it was impossible.

We thought the racists, the haters, the twisted supremacists and the nativists and the proto- and crypto- and Neo-fascists, the militia members, the Hitler idolators, the Confederate flag wavers, the survivalists, the paranoiacs arming themselves against the hordes of Mexicans and Muslims and other brown-skinned people as well as the feminists and homosexuals who are right around the corner for Christ’s sake, the droolers chomping at the bit for the coming civil war, all those people, in short, whom we perceived to be such a laughable, tiny minority back in 2008, would henceforth scuttle back under their rocks and never again show their faces in polite society.

Only our society has turned out to be not quite so polite.

The starter’s pistol shot came the moment Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell declared the entire aim of his party was to make the Barack Obama presidency a failure. But the dash actually had begun years — decades — before that. The bullet had been supplied by Newt Gingrich 15 years before when he laid out his nefarious plan, the infamous GOPAC Memo, roadmapping the GOP’s plan to turn Democrats, Liberals, Progressives, and anyone not four-square in line with his new order into enemies of right and good. Enemies of the state.

And even before Gingrich, there were the Birchers and other obsessives who actually believed figures as apple pie-ish as Dwight Eisenhower were radical dangers to the nation. To mix my metaphors, they were the ones who planted the seeds that sprouted, eventually, into the America we live in today.

Seeds. Bullets. Take your pick. It doesn’t matter one whit.

For years — decades — we thought that hateful, paranoiac gang, all of them, were outliers, so few in numbers and so isolated from each other that they couldn’t get anyone elected dogcatcher. Republican strategists, though, recognized them as a reliable, rock-solid bloc that’d provide the party with a foundation in every election from the local to the national.

We’d underestimated their numbers and then the internet served to connect them all, instantaneously. And certain 24-hour news peddlers went to work on the psyches of tens of millions of people who otherwise would have been repelled by them. Suddenly, Mom and Pop America found themselves sharing fears and grievances with heretofore whackos.

Add clever gerrymandering, the Electoral College, and strategic judicial appointees at every court level, and voila, Republicans now control most state governorships, most statehouses, and, most important, the United States Supreme Court. This despite the fact that a slim majority of Americans support the Democratic Party over the Republican.

While the coalition that came together to put a black man in the White House in 2008 and then reelect him in 2012 was drifting off to sleep, believing with all our hearts our problems were over and we’d be on easy street for the rest of our lives, the Republican Party worked harder and more passionately than ever to take over and manipulate every niche and nook of our country, from dogcatcher to school board member to county commissioner to governor and, at last, to president. Even though the Democratic nominee for president has won the popular vote in seven of the last eight national elections, the Republican have captured the White House on three separate occasions in that time. Those Republicans have named five of the current justices serving on the United States Supreme Court. The court that this past session has remade America. And that promises to further remodel it in coming terms.

The Republicans achieved their gains though brilliant planning, both long-term and short, and hard work.

The Democrats, the Liberals, the Progressives, and even the silent middle that often leans slightly left, snoozed. I snoozed as much as anybody. The alarm is ringing. It’s morning in Trump’s America.


Hot Air: The Convention Begins

From The Pencil’s correspondent, District 9 delegate Cathi Crabtree, at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia at 5:00pm:

I am so excited to be here! The gavel just started the convention and it is so exciting! Still feeling very honored and privileged to be a delegate for Hillary Rodham Clinton!

Proceedings have started and I’m getting so angry with the radical Berners who are disrupting this historical event.

But I’m proud of the Indiana Bernie delegates for behaving with dignity.

Crabtree EP Logo

Hot Air: Advice & Dissent

The Big Time

One of our town’s youngest and brightest journalism stars just may be leaving Bloomington for a post with a major NPR affiliate soon.

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I can’t wait to break the good news here, if indeed good news is in the offing.

Play Nice

Maxxwell Bodenheim points out some excellent advice for Hillary in the pages of The Nation. Writer D.D. Guttenplan offers the presumptive Dem nominee for prez five useful tips if she wishes to sweet talk a sufficient number of Bernie supporters to her camp for the Nov. election. They are:

  1. Back off.
  2. Try to be genuinely gracious.
  3. Listen to Bernie
  4. Change the rules, even though they helped you win.
  5. Take the fight to Trump.

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Read the entire piece (it’s not long at all) for details. One good thing: Hillary already seems to have moved on from fingering Bernie as the opposition and has pointed in recent weeks exclusively at Donald Trump.


Why did the FBI raid the offices of the Vigo County School Corporation yesterday? The feds, w/ help from the Indiana State Police, seized items but they’re not named. In fact, no info is forthcoming from either the FBI, the ISP, or the school board.


The first thing that came to my mind was child porn. Did one or more central office employees download kid stuff on corp. computers?

My pal Pat thinks it’s more likely the feds are interested in contract hijinks — kickbacks and bribes in exchange for school corp. business.

Either way, a certain number of public employees in Terre Haute must be walking around these days in a constant state of panic.

June 9th Birthdays

Elizabeth Garret Anderson — The queen of firsts: she was the first female surgeon in England, co-founded the first hospital staffed by women, the first medical doctor in France, and the first female mayor in England.

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Cole Porter — Indiana-born composer and lyricist. The scion of an extremely wealthy Peru, Indiana, family, he lived in Paris for a time, where he married a Kentucky-born heiress. Their apartment was decorated in platinum wallpaper and zebra-skin upholstery.

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Les Paul — Born Lester Polsfuss, Paul helped develop the solid-body electric guitar. He built his first such instrument in 1940, using a block of pine wood to which he affixed a pickup and strings. Historians credit Paul’s innovation with facilitating the development of rock ‘n roll. Paul recorded with his wife, the singer and guitarist Mary Ford.


Robert McNamara — Former Ford Motor Company president who was named US Sec’y of Defense by John F. Kennedy and continued in that role through most of Lyndon Johnson’s term. McNamara was part of the brilliant, Ivy League-educated group of JFK advisors whom author David Halberstam nicknamed ‘the best and the brightest.” Despite their smarts, these advisors pushed for and succeeded in getting America stuck on the quagmire of Vietnam.

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Patricia Cornwell — Bestselling mystery novelist; she’s sold +100 million books. Her series of novels with lead character Dr. Kay Scarpetta, helped popularize the forensic work of medical examiners. Cornwell had an affair with the wife of an FBI agent in the early 1990s; the affair came to light when the woman’s husband attempted to murder her.

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On this date in the year 68 BCE, Nero died. Born Nerō Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, he succeeded the reasonable, more republican Claudius as emperor of Rome in 54 BCE. The old line about him fiddling while Rome burned was a canard. The violin had not yet been invented at that time. The historian Tacitus writes that Nero was out of town at the time of the fire. In any case, by the time of the fire Nero had become extremely unpopular (justifiably), so rumor mongers were eager to portray him in an unflattering light at any opportunity. Nero decided to kill himself in 68 BCE, but lacked the courage to do so. He begged and ordered any number of advisors, guards, and colleagues to stab him to death. All refused until he finally persuaded his private secretary to kill him.


Hot Air: May I?

Blue-Eyed Soul Brothers (and Sisters)

For some odd reason, this old chestnut jumped into my mind. Well, it is May, isn’t it? Enjoy:

It charted in the spring of 1969. Wikipedia characterizes the band’s music as a cross between “blue-eyed soul and beach music,” although this 45 was unmistakably ska.

This makes me think: What were the greatest blue-eyed soul acts ever?

Here are a few of them:

  • Average White Band
  • Hall and Oates
  • The Righteous Brothers
  • The Rascals
  • Paul Butterfield Blues Band
  • The Doobie Brothers
  • Tower of Power
  • Lisa Stansfield
  • Eric Burden and the Animals
  • David Bowie
  • Dion
  • Tom Jones
  • The Spencer Davis Group
  • Rod Stewart
  • Tony Joe White

Quite a few other solo and group acts have been categorized as B-ES — for instance, Three Dog Night and George Michael — but I arbitrarily rule them out because either I don’t like them or whoever categorized them thusly was flat-out wrong.

Anyway, who’s your fave?

Understanding Studs

Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of Studs Terkel’s birth. I adored Studs. He was one of the most sincere, thoughtful, sensitive, unaffected people I’d ever met in my life. I patterned much of my writing after him, using a tape recorder and then, eventually, a digital recorder, placed unobtrusively to the side as I interviewed people at length and in depth, reaching as far as I could into their pasts and their memories.

Studs spoke at Chicago Mayor Harold Washington’s first inauguration, which was fitting. There was no more liberal or progressive guy around than Studs — unless it was Harold. Then, after a few pretenders tried to fit into Harold’s shoes after he died of a massive heart attack the day after Thanksgiving, 1987, Richie Daley, son of the first Boss Daley, finally won election as mayor in 1989. Daley selected Saul Bellow to speak at his inauguration and political columnist Steve Neal, no progressive, hoorah-ed that Chicagoans wouldn’t have to endure Studs’ “stale polemics.” Neal then insulted Studs by calling him nothing more than a “recordist.”

I never read Steve Neal again after that.

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Harold Could Charm Even Those Who Hated Him

[Photo By Marc PoKempner]

Studs would have shrugged his shoulders at Neal’s broadsides. I believe in his most private moments such sans souci would have held. He really didn’t care what critics said about him. He wrote about human beings, reaching almost into their souls, his famed Uher reel-to-reel recorder spinning away next to him and his subjects.

Oh, and he would have said to me, “Why are you using terms like sans souci? Who are you tryin’ to impress?”

You want an example of how down-to-earth Studs was? He was married to the same woman, Ida Goldberg, for 60 goddamned years until she died. Hell, I’ve had a hard enough time living with myself for 60 years.

Well before US gov’t eavesdropping became a hot topic thanks to Edward Snowden, Studs in 2006 was part of a federal lawsuit to stop AT&T from turning customer phone records over the the National Security Administration just for the asking. Studs and his co-litigants said, Hey, how about a court order?

It’s not surprising, therefore to learn that Studs was a victim of the McCarthy-era blacklist. Terkel was big in Chicago TV, hosting Studs’ Place, set in a stage barroom with notable figures from literature, politics, film, activism, and other fascinating fields dropping in for conversation. The show is considered one of the defining pieces of the Chicago School of Television. No matter. Studs had rubbed shoulders with too many iffy characters whose favorite colors were pink or even red. His television career came to a screeching halt.

My favorite book by Studs was Talking to Myself, A Memoir of My Times. In one chapter he recounts bringing British journalist James Cameron to Lincoln Park to observe the Sunday night clash between Chicago Police — yelling “Kill! Kill! Kill!” as they charged — and a ragamuffin group of anti-war protesters during Democratic Convention week, 1968. Studs and Cameron eventually sought refuge in the Lincoln Hotel at Wells and Clark streets, where they mingled with the likes of playwright Jean Genet, poet Allen Ginsberg, author William S. Burroughs, and screenwriter Terry Southern, also eager not to have their skulls caved in by cops’ billy clubs.

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Blood Flowed At Lincoln Park

Oddly, Studs never waxed with rage at things like that police riot. He viewed such infamy almost with the remove of a zoologist witnessing a cheetah bringing an impala down and tearing into its abdomen. Violence, Studs seemed to convey, is what we visit upon each other. It’s our normality.

One of Studs’ books, The Great Divide, featured a long interview with wealthy socialite Sugar Rautbord. One reporter once called her the “outspoken blonde at the top of the social heap in Chicago.” Sugar ate only at the most exclusive restaurants, wore only the chicest designer fashions, knew only the hottest models and photographers. It’s said she once rode around a city she was visiting in a limousine filled with her luggage after the hotel she was supposed to have stayed at had screwed up her reservation. She later claimed bouncing from hotel to hotel — the city was hosting some major event that day — taught her what a bag lady must feel like.

I happened to interview Studs for a TV book program soon after The Great Divide came out. I opened the interview with an intentionally daring statement:

Me: You delve into the life and mind of Sugar Rautbord, someone I already despise. You reveal her so completely that I now despise more than ever.

Studs: I don’t want you to despise her. I want you to understand her.

You know what? He was right.

Then again, I wonder if he’d be able to maintain this sangfroid (again, who am I trying to impress?) today, had he been alive, interviewing Donald Trump, delving into his life and his mind.

Studs died at the age of 96 in 2008. He’d smoked two fat cigars a day for decades.

He was my hero.

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Straight Talk

Prez Obama got down during his speech to the 2016 graduates at Rutgers University Sunday. This stuff stands w/o comment from me — it needs no explanation or preamble. Go, Barry:

But if you were listening to today’s political debate, you might wonder where this strain of anti-intellectualism came from. So, Class of 2016, let me be as clear as I can be. In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. That’s not keeping it real, or telling it like it is. That’s not challenging political correctness. That’s just not knowing what you’re talking about.

I’m sorta falling in love with this guy again.

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May 17th Birthdays

Erik Satie — French composer who wrote Trois Gymnopédies, a hauntingly beautiful piece for piano, covered by the brass rock band Blood, Sweat and Tears on their eponymous second album. Satie coined the term “furniture music” to describe live musicians playing background music in a home or at a small event, the very early precursor of what would become ambient music. Satie had an unquenchable thirst, to use the euphemism of his times, and was partial to the quasi-toxic absinthe. He died of cirrhosis in 1925.

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Archibald Cox — The first special prosecutor charged with delving into the Watergate affair. When the Nixon scandal had become to big to stonewall anymore, Attorney General Elliot Richardson called Cox to offer him the position of special prosecutor. Cox only hours before awoke from his night’s sleep suddenly and unexpectedly deaf in one ear. His doctors informed him he’d lost his hearing permanently. He took the position anyway and was eventually fired by Nixon for doing his job too well, along with Richardson and the AG’s second-in-command William Ruckleshaus, both of whom refused to axe Cox. That task was left to future Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, who carried it out with relish.

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Dennis HopperEasy Rider‘s Billy. He also appeared in Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson’s Head, starring the Monkees.

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Taj MahalNee Henry Fredericks, a self-taught musician and composer who seasoned his blues playing with Caribbean influences and other international styles. As a child he listened to his family’s short wave radio, hearing music from all corners of the world, and eventually incorporating those disparate sounds into his repertoire.

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Patricia Aakhus — Author (under the pen name Patricia McDowell) of a trilogy of novels dealing with Irish life and history, she was a high-ranking official in both the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies and the International Studies Department at the University of Southern Indiana until her death in 2012.

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Rosalind Picard — MIT computer genius who developed the “affective computing” model. She explains: “Affective Computing is computing that relates to, arises from, or deliberately influences emotion or other affective phenomena.” She’s a convert to Christianity after growing into adulthood as an atheist. Picard is a proponent of many “Intelligent Design” precepts. She endorsed the conservative Christian group The Discovery Institute’s 2001 “A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism.”

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On this day in 2012, Queen of Disco Donna Summer died. And, no, she wasn’t a transgender person, although rumors to that effect flitted around at various times during her long career. Ironically, she found herself in hot water after being accused of issuing an anti-gay statement in the wake of the AIDS crisis during the 1980s. She’d become a born-again Christian by this time and was accused of saying the disease was god’s punishment for homosexuals’ sinful lifestyle. She denied saying it. Funny thing was, her mid- to late-’70s hits had been gay anthems and were heard constantly in the era’s enormous, airplane-hangar-sized gay dance clubs. In any case, she and her producer Giorgio Moroder, changed the course of pop music forever with their synth disco hits.

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Hot Air: Can You Dig It?

Intelligent Or Not?

Despite my daily bellyaching about the dopes who are running for prez and the lunatics who populate this holy land, I really believe we’re living in the very coolest days.

For instance, astronomers from MIT and Belgium’s University of Liège, working together, have determined that three planets orbiting a nearby ultracool dwarf star have similar temperatures and sizes to the Earth and Venus and maybe — just maybe — can support life.

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Artist’s Conception of Nearby Dwarf Star & Its Planets

Now, these space geeks are using the term ultracool to describe the actual thermometer readings on the little star and its planets. Me? I’ll use the term to describe…, well, how freaking ultracool the whole damned thing is.

The astronomers will study these exoplanets closely because they’re only 40 light years away, which translates to just a few blocks more than 235 trillion miles. Hell, in cosmological terms, that’s nothing, like the distance between Starbucks in [pick your town].

Now what if scientists determine there’s life on one of these hunks o’rock? Well, first, we have to establish precisely what life is. Honestly, that’s the huge philosophical quandary researchers are grappling with these days. There’s a dizzying array of criteria that various smart gals and guys insist are the real deal. For instance, the walking brains at New Mexico Tech are convinced these are the seven criteria:

  1. Living things are composed of cells. I have loads of them.
  2. Individual living things are constructed of a ascending set of organizations, from cells, to tissues, to organs, and –finally, to each organism. That latter category would include you and me.
  3. Living things use energy. Even I do, on occasion.
  4. Living things respond to their environment. Me too, except when I’m taking a nap.
  5. Living things grow. You should see my waist size.
  6. Living things reproduce. Nope, not me.
  7. Living things adapt to their environment. Except when I refuse to; remember, I’m a contrarian.

I dunno. NMT’s list of criteria seems too vague. Hell, rocks respond to their environment. Have you ever picked up a smooth pebble on a beach?

NASA’s Phoenix Mars Mission page posits its own seven properties of life:

  1. Order: Molecules in living things are arranged in specific structures.
  2. Reproduction: Living things have the ability to reproduce their own kind.
  3. Growth and Development: Living organisms grow and develop in patterns determined by heredity, the traits passed to offspring by parents.
  4. Energy Utilization: Living things need to capture and use energy, a process known as metabolism.
  5. Response to stimuli.
  6. Evolutionary adaptation.

See? Already we’ve got a debate going on. Here, lemme try to settle it; in my readings, I’ve determined these five criteria define life or, more accurately, the properties of a living thing:

  1. Ability to build DNA, ATP, Ribosomes, & proteins
  2. Active metabolism
  3. Growth
  4. Reproduction
  5. Evolution (mutation & selection)

Then again, we can’t even agree on what is life here on Earth. To wit: Is a virus alive? Is the entire planet and all living things on it really a single living entity, as put forward in the Gaia hypothesis?

In any case, what might we discover on these three planets 40 light years away? A civilization that has developed agriculture, technology, and the game of baseball? Or some slime on a rock face?

You know very well you, I, and everybody else around wants us to find a thriving civilization, just so we can show off to them our cat pix on social media. I’m afraid, though, the first ironclad proof of life on another planet will look something like this:

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Sure, I’d be excited about these guys. A little bit. Well, nah, not really. This’d pretty much be a bummer.

Anticlimax or no, we’re going to find life on another planet sooner rather than later. That, babies, is ultracool.


Well, sure, there’s life here on planet Earth but is it intelligent life?

I wonder.

Take my beloved hometown of Chicago. Acc’d’g to a recent piece in The Nation, the City of Chi. has pissed away more than $600 million on police complaint settlements in the last dozen years.

The city could have used that half a bill.-plus, funding municipal employee pensions, rebuilding infrastructure, or giving teachers a fat raise.

Instead, Chi.’s cops fire away at unarmed dark-skinned young men, beat like red-headed stepchildren others, and arrest grannies and harmless protesters with impunity. Many, many, many of these recipients of Chicago police excesses sue the city and then collect massive payouts to settle.

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Wouldn’t it be a tad more cost effective to train the goddamned police the right way and weed out the bad apples on the force?

For pity’s sake, when beings from another planet looks at the Earth — specifically, Chi. — in their own search for intelligent life, they’ll equate us all with the aforementioned slime on a rock face.


New World monkey George Zimmerman is back in the news. Apparently, the guy who killed Trayvon Martin  more than four years ago, got his pistol back from prosecutors because, y’know, under this holy land’s Wild, Wild, West laws, pumping a guy full of lead is no big deal. So the gun, which had been evidence, now is safely back in the hands of the racist, paranoiac, pointer of guns at girlfriends, estranged wives, and the fathers, road-rager, and otherwise teeterer on the brink of violence and mayhem.

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Georgie-boy seems always to need money, mainly because this benighted nation does not recognize a hero in its midst and refuses to properly recompense him simply for being itchy with his trigger finger. He’s sold a bunch of jingoistic, puerile paintings and now — oh yeah — will auction off the gun.

The bidding, on a site called, starts at $5000. Don’t worry, you haven’t been left in the dust — or gunpowder — as the bidding will begin this AM at 11.

My guess is a successful bid will come in at a level a hell of a lot higher than a paltry 5K. There are enough people in this nation who view Zimmerman as a great man that, if you really think about it, would cause you to toss and turn all night long.

Zimmerman’s description of the firearm includes the following lines:

Prospective bidders, I am honored and humbled to announce the sale of an American Firearm Icon. The firearm for sale is the firearm that was used to defend my life and end the brutal attack from Trayvon Martin on 2/26/2012….

Many have expressed interest in owning and displaying the firearm including The Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. This is a piece of American History….

The firearm is fully functional as the attempts by the Department of Justice on behalf of B. Hussein Obama to render the firearm inoperable were thwarted by my phenomenal Defense Attorney….

On this day, 5/11/2016 exactly one year after the shooting attempt to end my life by BLM sympathizer Matthew Apperson I am proud to announce that a portion of the proceeds will be used to: fight BLM violence against Law Enforcement officers, ensure the demise of Angela Correy’s persecution career and Hillary Clinton’s anti-firearm rhetoric….

Now is your opportunity to own a piece of American History. Good Luck. Your friend, George M. Zimmerman….

Someone soon will proudly possess this symbol of Murrica’s sheer lunacy and Georgie-boy himself will have a pocketful of blood money.

We’re nuts.

May 12th Birthdays

Cosimo II de’ Medici — Scion of the 15th Century Florentine ruling family, Cosimo as a youngster was sent to study under the then-relatively unknown Galileo Galilei. He recognized the scientist’s genius and became Galileo’s financial patron.

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Florence Nightingale — She professionalized nursing and was instrumental in the founding of the world’s first secular nursing school at London’s St. Thomas Hospital. A tireless reformer, she pushed for programs to feed the hungry, strove to eliminate laws against sex workers, and advocated women joining the workforce.


Dante Gabriel Rossetti — 19th Century British poet and painter and the brother of poet Christina Rossetti. His illustrations of his own and others’ poetry stood as inspiration for the development of Aestheticism, an arts movement away from social issues and toward sheer visual beauty.

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Katharine Hepburn — Named the Top Female Legend from American film history by the American Film Institute.

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Dorothy Hodgkin — 1964 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry for her development of protein crystallography. Later, she identified the structure of insulin. Her interest in wealth inequality led her to hang around the fringes of communism. She also fought for world peace, becoming president of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.

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Mary Kay Ash — Frustrated by women’s second-class status in the workplace, she founded Mary Kay Cosmetics partly as a way to help women succeed financially and in business. Her business plans always stressed women helping women.

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Burt Bacharach — He knew the way to San Jose.


Bacharach With Dionne Warwick In Background

Tom Snyder — Late night talk show host described in National Lampoon magazine as the “living room gibbon.”


George Carlin — One of the funniest — and most serious — people ever to grace a stage.

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Bebel Gilberto — Isabel Gilberto de Oliveira, Brazilian singer and composer, daughter of Joao Gilberto and Miúcha. Joao, collaborating with Antonio Carlos Jobim, was at the forefront of the development of bossa nova and Miúcha was herself a beloved Brazilian singer. Bebel has become a star in her own right and has worked with the likes of David Byrne and Stan Getz. Her style ranges from electronic bossa nova to acoustic lounge.

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And finally, ah, I didn’t care much about anybody who died on this date.


Hot Air

One Shot, One Year

For my money, this is the picture of the year, 2015:


[Image: John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune, November 25, 2015]

That’s a young fellow named Lamon Reccord, a participant in street protests against Chicago police brutality and the killings of black people in general around this holy land. The protests broke out this fall in the aftermath of the release of a video showing a CPD officer shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times on a South Side street some 13 months earlier.

This particular confrontation took place at the corner of State and Randolph streets in the Loop the day after the video footage was released. Reccord already had gained national notoriety when he was video’d staring down another Chicago cop the day before. He’s either a symbol of morally-justified resistance to police racism and the use of deadly force or he’s a troublemaking punk, depending on where you stand on police/black relations in Murrica these days.

Loyal Pencillistas know where I stand.


Correct me if I’m wrong, lawyers and military experts, but if Sy Hersh is right about this*, Gen. Martin Dempsey has committed a clear violation of military chain of command, putting the himself at risk of court-martial, incarceration, and even death. It seems like treason, pure and simple. It doesn’t matter if the president’s decision is right or wrong. That’s not how the military works. In fact, it borders on a coup.

And, really, haven’t you been expecting one or another Obama opponent to lead some kind of mutiny, even at this late date in his presidency?

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Dempsey (L) & Hersh

Remember when the big panic going around held that Obama was secretly planning to get us involved in a big war or some such emergency so that he could declare martial law and remain in office even after his term(s) expired? Then again, that particular paranoiac delusion might well have gotten lost in the flood of all the other psychotic reactionary hallucinations to Obama’s election. There were so many of them, after all.

In any case, at least one reactionary was sure to commit some act of overthrow, given all the panic surrounding the first black prez.

[ * Just in case you’re too pressed for time to read the piece, Hersh asserts in the January 7, 2016 issue of the London Review of Books that Dempsey engaged in a secret plan to lure the Russians into the Syrian civil war and simultaneous battle against ISIS. Further, he ignored the White House’s strategy of attempting to remove Bashar al Assad from power. Dempsey, acc’d’g to Hersh, thought Obama was all wet in his Syria strategy so he freelanced his own plot.

Hersh, BTW, is a dogged, fearless investigative journalist who exposed the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War and the US Army’s abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. He also occasionally cooks up the occasional crockpot conspiracy theory. The question, then, is where does this latest revelation fall in Hersh’s spectrum? ]

Cashing In

CBGB’s in New York City’s Bowery district was the chic-est place for punks to hang out in the late 1970s and into the early ’80s. The seediest bar imaginable, run by a guy named Hilly Kristal on a side street rife with the homeless, junkies, broken glass, and discarded syringes, the place introduced the world to the likes of the Ramones, the Talking Heads, Television, Blondie, the Dead Boys, Patti Smith, and countless other heroes of punk.


Even inside the place, CBGB was littering with trash, vomit, dog shit, and strung-out mainliners. The very ugliness of CBGB became its selling point. Punk — and CBGB — symbolized a violent reaction to Middle American sensibilities, corporatism, advertising, music marketing, and the use of personal hygiene products.

CBGB served food, after a fashion, because its liquor license demanded it do so. Nobody went there to eat, believe me. The place has been closed for years now, its frontage now redone a la gentrification moderne.

Nevertheless, an entrepreneur named Harold Moore is opening up a CBGB restaurant in Newark Int’l Airport. Moore says he’ll serve $9 deviled eggs, an $11.50 iceberg lettuce salad, and a $14 hamburger to travelers hoping to recreate the Bowery/punk experience. The only thing is, Moore isn’t going to be serving Hilly’s legendary chili which, acc’d’g to lore, usually contained cigarette ash, spit, and other bodily fluids you can only imagine.

Need I remind readers that this holy land is one weird fking place?

Duh! has named Donald Trump its political liar of the year. The truth-digging organization selects an annual top lying bastard and, really, who else could it be in 2015?

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Our National Shart


Girl Cooties

Ugh! Hillary’s got lady parts. And stuff comes out of them! Gross.

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Please, Click This Link — It Gets Better!

Okay, can we all admit now that Donald Trump is the worst excuse for a human being this holy land has produced in many, many a year?

Okay then.


Hot Air

More Sexy Than Kokomo!

Feeling libidinous?

If not, you’re an odd Bloomingtonian. At least acc’d’g to the latest Movoto poll which lists our town as the third sexiest place in Indiana.

I suppose that’s like being named the third most powerful Democrat in Texas or the third best player on the Philadelphia 76ers.


I mean, LaFayette is considered a sexier place than this megalopolis. And we just barely edged out Kokomo.


Yes, Kokomo.

Movoto, in case you didn’t know (and I’m fairly confident you didn’t) is a real estate relocation website, whatever than means. A lightning-quick and cursory scan of the site (the only possible kind of scan I could bear) shows it to be, by and large, an advertisement for every single metropolitan area in this holy land. So, if your tyrannical boss wants to transfer you to the branch office in Paint Lick, Kentucky, you go to Movoto to see what the amenities and attractions are there. (In case you’re interested, the answer is none.)


Yep, There Is A Paint Lick

So, this poll finds that the hot, sweaty, and panting burg of Evansville is the sexiest place on the IN map. Why Evansville? Well, again acc’d’g to Movoto:

This city was sexy in the seediest and best possible way. It had a ton of adult stores and adult entertainment, lingerie shops, and the nightlife was hard to beat.

In other words, it’s the state’s capital for businesses catering to lonely men furtively slipping into adult bookstores for a quick yank.

Sexy, eh?

B-town, as far as I can determine, is home to only one such establishment, College Adult Books just north of downtown. Sheesh, if only we had ten more places like that, we could be the sexiest place in Indiana.

Cops: You’re All Being So Mean To Us

For a bunch of supposed tough guys who won’t take shit from anybody and who, presumably, will shoot you at the slightest provocation, cops often are sensitive little flowers.

The top man at the St. Louis Police Officers Association gasped and held on to a nearby chair when five members of the St. Louis Rams ran onto the field Sunday with their hands raised, a show of support for protesters of the Michael Brown assassination.


Hands Up

Brown, if you recall, was reputed to be holding up his hands when Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson emptied his gun at him in August.

The assoc. said:

The St. Louis Police Officers Association is profoundly disappointed with the members of the St. Louis Rams football team….

SLPOA business manager, Jeff Roorda, apparently suffered the vapors in reaction to the players’ display. The Assoc.’s statement added:

Roorda was incensed that the Rams and the NFL would tolerate such behavior and called it remarkably hypocritical.

Roorda said:

The SLPOA is calling for the players involved to be disciplined and for the Rams and the NFL to deliver a very public apology.

Funny thing is, the SLPOA doesn’t even represent the cops of Ferguson. It’s the labor organization for officers of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. I could understand if Wilson’s stationhouse confrères were rallying around their buddy but it’s doubtful any SLPOA member even knew who he was before he became notorious for mistaking Brown for Hulk Hogan.

That “blue brotherhood” thing, though, is stronger than most other ties in this world.

As of yet, neither Darren Wilson nor the Ferguson PD, the St. Louis County prosecutor, anyone from the St. Louis police, or any other officers, sheriffs, deputies, or marshals in Murrica have said it’s a damned shame this kid had to be killed. Even if they believe Darren Wilson’s actions to be justified, isn’t it still a bitch that the kid was gunned down and left to die in the street and then his body left on the pavement in full public view for four hours?

And, in case there wasn’t enough fuckery here, Jeff Roorda himself, apparently, had been a less than exemplary police officer in his day. Before becoming the Assoc.’s biz boss, Roorda was fired by the Arnold PD for lying to superiors and falsifying police reports of arrests and incidents. He also has fought tooth and nail against police transparency advancements.

No matter, though. He was highly offended by the actions of those five football players. That’s a real crime in his book.

Hot Air


When I’m angry, I don’t post.

Hot Air


Huzzah for Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who took a bullet to the head for the unforgivable sin of wanting to go to school. Malala today was announced as this year’s Nobel Peace Prize co-winner.


She Is Malala

The local Taliban in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, where Malala lives, sent a hitman out to find her one day when she was headed to school. She’d already gained prominence as an activist for allowing Muslim girls to attend school in the region. She had to be stopped, the Taliban decided. The gunman boarded her school bus, asked for her by name, and proceeded to fire three slugs from his Colt .45 at her.

She survived the attack somehow and then became known worldwide as she recovered. A German internet and satellite news channel called her “the most famous teenager in the world.” She wrote a bestselling book entitled I Am Malala.

The youngest Nobel Prize winner ever, Malala continues to press for educational access for Muslim women. The Taliban, I might remind you, exists at its present strength mainly because President George W. Bush and his neo-con cronies shifted American military might from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Iraq for the war they always lusted for.

It’s a safe bet Georgy-Boy will never win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Who Was That Guy?

Comes October and memories of the Cuban missile crisis. I was too young to remember much of it save for the ghastly, worried look on my mother’s face for the duration of the two-week affair.

I did say at one point, “I hate Castro.” She told me I shouldn’t hate anyone even if their actions are hateful.

I also recall seeing newspaper headlines referring to “Russ.”


I Hated Russ

I thought Russ was a guy. And a bad guy, to boot. I hated him as well, only I didn’t tell my mother about it.

How did headline writers come up with the idea of calling the Soviet Union “Russ”? Yeah, I know, it’s a diminutive of Russia, but still, why Russ? USSR is pretty much the same width as Russ so it can’t be a space thing.

Russ. Weird.


Not too long before the Cuban missile crisis, the Mob blew up a restaurant across the street from my childhood home.

It was the middle of the night and I was sleeping in the same room with my sister Charlotte who was perhaps 19. The boom was deafening and then there was the sound of shattering glass all around the house. The tinkle of glass continue up the block, house by house, in quick succession as the blast wave travelled outward.

Every window in my fam.’s house was blown out. We’d had what would now be considered gorgeous, priceless, leaded stained glass windows in our bungalow. At the time, though, such old fashioned things were considered cheap and undesirable. My parents always talked about saving up enough money so they could get those windows replaced. The Mob took care of that for them.

1621 N. Natchez Ave.

The Bungalow I Grew Up In

Every figurine my mother had was blown off its sconce as well. We could hardly take a step without crunching a shard of glass or ceramic. We all dashed outside to watch the restaurant burn. As the neighbors gathered, all of them in their slippers and robes, one woman shrieked, “I thought it was the atom bomb! Thank god it wasn’t!”

Wow. How big must the atom bomb be, I thought, to be worse than this?

The next morning, an insurance agent from the restaurant sat at our dining room table and wrote out a check for all new windows. My father held the check in his hand and gazed at it lovingly after the insurance man left. “Here’s our new windows,” he said and he and my mother laughed.

The restaurant? It was quickly rebuilt and became a hangout for Outfit guys. None of the neighbors ever really mentioned the incident again. It was Mob business and it was never good policy to stick one’s nose too deeply into it.

Playing Our Parts

One of two Norman Rockwell paintings dealing with baseball was called “Tough Call” (1949). In it, the umpires study a threatening sky, trying to decide whether to call the game or not. Behind them, the managers of the Pirates and the Dodgers put on a show for each other: the Pirates manager, whose team is ahead, is shivering, about to catch his death of pneumonia, hoping to convince one and all the game should be halted; the Dodgers skipper is grinning in the lone ray of sunshine, his cap off. Look at this gorgeous, clearing day, he’s surely saying. Naturally, he wants to game to continue.


Bottom Of The Sixth

Rockwell’s always been fancied as America’s painter. We could do a lot worse. Rockwell’s scene construction and geometric blocking, featuring the classic triangle delineating his directional movement, have been compared to those of the great Renaissance artists. Plus, his subject matter was as soaring and mythical as any painted by Titian, Bellini, or Veronese.

The only difference was, their visions were directed upward, to the heavens, whereas Rockwell’s were anchored firmly on this holy land’s Main Street. In either case, the worlds they portrayed did not exist, and for that matter never existed, except in the artists’ minds.

Anyway, I bring up Norman Rockwell for the two managers he painted. They’re both looking at the exact same day, the same sky, the same clouds. The breeze on their skin is the same temperature. The rain drops plunk equally on each man’s cap bill.

Yet, to prove their opposing points, they act as if they’re on opposite sides of the Earth.

You couldn’t find a better representative of what passes for today’s political discourse. There are no more conversations, no more contemplations, no more compromises. There is only good and evil. I’m right, you’re wrong, and thus it will always be.

A report I heard on the radio this morning (sorry, I can’t find a link to it just yet) got me to thinking about this. It seems the rare earth elements that make up much of our hybrid cars’ batteries are, naturally, in super short supply.

As I recall, a metals expert says that China is the world’s biggest supplier of those elements right now. If the US wants to stabilize their prices as well as put in a strategic backup supply of the metals, it’ll have to mine for them. Yet, the expert says, those who howl the loudest for electric-powered cars are the same people who howl the loudest whenever someone wants to dig a mine. You can’t have it both ways, the expert says.

Rare Earth Metals

[Clockwise from top center]

Praseodymium, Cerium, Lanthanum, Neodymium, Samarium, & Gadolinium

Which makes sense.

We all pretty much agree that mining is a destructive activity. What we don’t agree on is the fact that we need to do it. We need iron. We need coal. We need uranium. We need Europium, Holmium, and Lutetium.

Mining in any form has become a dirty word to a certain subset of the citizenry, as dirty, say, as GMOs, nuclear power, and other current bugbears of the progressive set.

Mining company execs say stripping the topography of flora and topsoil is the greatest thing in the world. Ecologists say it’s the scourge of the planet. Like the two managers looking at the same sky, they see different things.

Chinese Lutetium Mine

A Lutetium Mine In China

Everything’s black and white. Muslims are sweethearts; Muslims are cutthroat terrorists. Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin were angels; Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin were vicious thugs. The unemployed are victims of a stacked deck economy; the unemployed are lazy.

Everybody sees everybody else as the enemy.

We’re going to have to live with some mining while simultaneously curbing the abuses of mining companies. We’re going to have to eat GMO foods while making sure Monsanto doesn’t take over the world.    We (those of us who consider ourselves liberals or progressives) have got to accept that Republicans, fundamentalist Christians, free marketeers, gun lovers, anti-abortionists, anti-contraceptionists, creationists, people who hate paying taxes, those who want to privatize schools and roads and the police all live in this land. And, of course, those folks have to live with us.

This great divide, this abyss between the Right and the Left wherein each side thinks the other is out to destroy the United States of America can only last for so long before we start firing guns at each other. In fact, that may already have begun, here and there, in hot spots around the nation.

That Norman Rockwell, he really knew America.

Hot Air

Sweet Medicine

Whatever you do the next few days, make sure you get yourself down to Lake Monroe and catch the sunset. It’s been brilliant — jaw-droopingly so — since, oh, Sunday evening.


A Priceless Show

Steve the Dog and I have been taking it in all this week. It’s an especially effective tonic if you’ve been feeling the world has gone mad of late. Hell, who hasn’t been wondering if ebola, ISIS, Putin and the Ukraine, and even the very existence of Sen. Ted Cruz are omens of humanity’s coming suicide. (Memo from Big Mike: They’re not; the world is no madder than it’s ever been.)

Anyway, S the D and I usually make one pass over the lake going southbound on SR 446, turn around in Cutright, and then backtrack north, just to catch the sky show from the causeway. Then we turn into Paynetown and park in the lot on the point past the beaches and the Interpretive Center and just gawk from there. (Well, I gawk; Steve sniffs stuff.)

Honest, I almost wish I believed in god so I could thank somebody for the display.


One of the bestselling “authors” in this holy land today is a fellow by the name of Dinesh D’Souza, whose “writing” is comprised mostly of inventing canards against the worst president we’ve ever had. In fact, Barack Hussein Obama is the worst leader any civilization on this planet or any other world in the known Universe has had to endure.

Plus, a young Obama had the gall to grow up with an absentee father, acc’d’g to D’Souza’s documentary 2016: Obama’s America, and that’s why the worst prez in history hates our blessed and exceptional nation.

D’Souza’s book, America: Imagine a World without Her, has been loitering near the top of the New York Times hardcover non-fiction (teehee) best seller list since its release in June. Those on the Far Right have eaten it up like a pack of dung beetles consuming a steaming mound of elephant shit.


Some who prance about (joylessly, of course) in the ultra-conservative echo chamber have even openly wished that D’Souza could run for president in 2016, even though he’s never held public office, has never done an executive’s job, and is a loon. Not only that, he is Constitutionally barred from running for C-in-C because he was born in India. That part of our founding document is not spelled out in the Second Amendment so some Right-wingers may be unfamiliar with it.

Looks like they’ll have to stash those Dinesh for President buttons in their junk drawers now. The man who actually blamed liberals for 9/11 (swear to god) has been sentenced to an eight-month stay in a halfway house, a $30,000 fine, five years probation, and 2080 hours of community service time for violating federal campaign finance laws.

The specific laws, prohibiting wealthy donors from laundering campaign contributions through third parties, also is not part of the Second Amendment so it’s no wonder D’Souza might have been unaware he was committing a felony. He’d recruited two people, an employee and the woman he was cheating on his wife with, to donate $10,000 each to an opponent of New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in the 2008 election. He made the arrangements with the promise to pay both people back, thereby skirting individual campaign donation limits.


D’Souza: Convict

Apparently, D’Souza viewed Gillibrand as the worst future senator the state of New York has ever had to endure. It’s interesting to note both Obama and Gillibrand are Right-leaning Centrists so imagine how felonious and canard-ing he’d be had he ever set his sights on a real Liberal.

I doubt his felony conviction and sentencing will sway the Wingnut Right away from loving him up. He is not, after all, a black man.

High School Hijinks

Have you seen the excerpts from the Twitter account of one of the nice little former Catholic school kids who beat a gay couple in Philly bloody not long ago? Alright, alright — allegedly.

What a pig.

What a gang of pigs. Apparently, the lot of them who’d attended the same high school had gotten together at a local restaurant for a sort of alumni dinner on September 11th. Afterward a dozen of them, well fortified with alcohol, went for a walk at which time the beating occurred. Attorneys for the three people charged so far say the gay couple attacked the group.

Which seems credible; the problem of gay couples attacking large groups of drunken homophobes is becoming epidemic these days.

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Alumni Fun

Anyway, it seems this one accused gay-basher, a young woman who also happens to be the daughter of an area police chief, is obsessed with gays, dykes, and whiskey.

Let us hope and pray she eschews the use of contraceptives; otherwise her Catholic high school education would have been for naught.

The Real Sin

The whole Ray Rice kayo-ing his then-fiancé scandal produces more and more healthy piles of equine feces seemingly every day.

ESPN has suspended reporter/commentator Bill Simmons for his angry outburst condemning the NFL’s hypocritical stonewalling in the Rice case. Simmons now has three weeks to sit in a corner and ponder his no-no. That would be one week more than the suspension Ray Rice originally got from the NFL for clocking the love of his life.

Simmons — clearly a bad, bad man, worse, even, that a spousal abuser — is now, it is hoped, atoning from the bottom of his black heart.


Bill Simmons: Reprobate

Here’s how the Washington Post describes Simmons’ mortal sin:

On Simmons’s podcast, “The B.S. Report,” which was posted on Monday, he launched into a profanity-laced tirade in which he repeatedly called Goodell a “liar.” That podcast appears to have been removed from ESPN’s Web site.

Goodell, of course, is NFL czar Roger Goodell, who for some six months really didn’t give a good goddamn about Rice’s criminal assault and battering upon his one and only and her subsequent involuntary snooze. It was only after security video of the incident was released this month that Goodell came to the realization that Rice’s wrist must be slapped harder.

ESPN and Grantland have removed the offending podcast because, god forbid, some little kid might hear it and conclude that Reichsmarschall Goodell is something less than a saint and a credit to his race. Also, Simmons drops the F-bomb twice which, as we all know, is ten jillion times worse than punching the woman you hope to spend the rest of your life with into unconsciousness.

It took a little digging but I did find audio of the podcast, via Business Insider. Here’s a taste in case you don’t feeling like listening to the whole thing:

I just think not enough is being made out of the fact that they knew about the tape and they knew what was on it. Goodell, if he didn’t know what was on that tape, he’s a liar. I’m just saying it. He is lying. I think that dude is lying. If you put him up on a lie detector test that guy would fail. For all these people to pretend they didn’t know is such fucking bullshit. It really is — it’s such fucking bullshit. And for him to go in that press conference and pretend otherwise, I was so insulted. I really was.

You see? What reasonable soul wouldn’t condone and forgive ten vicious beatings before that?

This whole thing is playing out like Watergate. You know, where the clueless bosses keep digging a deeper hole for themselves as each day passes. My guess is Goodell et al still don’t grasp how evil Rice’s act of knocking his fiancé into dreamland was.

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