Category Archives: Union-busting

Hot Air


Okay, you wanna know what’s wrong with today’s Democratic Party? I’ll tell you. David Plouffe was Barack Obama’s campaign manager in 2012. Today, Plouffe is the attorney for Uber, the freelance taxi service.

Plouffe, on behalf of his bosses, is fighting a Seattle city council ordinance calling for Uber to turn its list of drivers over to union organizers. This is a routine step, generally required by federal labor law, a precious government protection for workers thinking of organizing.

Now, the reason the Seattle city council had to get into the act is Uber claims its drivers are “independent contractors” which is corporate-speak for Get your own goddamn health insurance.

Uber, with Plouffe leading the charge, is sure to appeal the council’s action in federal court.

In other words, he’s fighting against unions.


Union Busters

Unions, I might remind you, used to be the very spine of Democratic support in this holy land.

That is, before the party learned its bread was buttered far more generously by Wall Street banksters and pirate captains of industry.

Water Works

Monroe County Council member Geoff McKim tells us the US Army Corps of Engineers is in the process of adopting its first revised master plan for Lake Monroe in nearly 50 years. To that end, the Corps is hosting an open house where the plan, developed by the Woolpert, Inc. engineering firm of Dayton, Ohio, will be on display.

Woolpert must deliver a version of the plan by the middle of next month. That submission, acc’d’g to McKim, must be accompanied by public comment.

Considering that’s our pool of drinking, bathing, and cooking water, you’d figure many of us would have something to say about how the reservoir is used over the next half century.

McKim points out that a preliminary version of the plan he’s eyeballed specifically states the city of Indianapolis reserves the right to draw water from the lake. Indy’s not sucking up all our water just yet but may feel compelled to do so in the future. A future, I might add, that potentially includes water shortages due to climate change.

Anyway, outgoing water czar Pat Murphy always has stressed that anything done on, in, or near the lake affects water quality. I don’t know about you, but I like the taste of my Bloomington water — especially when mixed with a smooth bourbon. The upcoming master plan will undoubtedly affect that taste.


The Highest And Best Use

The open house is from 3-7pm today at the Corps’ Middle Wabash Area Office, 1620 Monroe Dam Court.


How Does Your Brain Work?

How cool is this? Independent UK publisher Nobrow Press offers a super-cool graphic novel about the workings of the human brain called Neurocomic.

If you’ve followed these ramblings and screeds for any length of time, you know I’m a huge advocate of using the graphic novel as a teaching tool — yes, even in our public schools. Especially in our public schools.

The state’s schools of late have become enthralled with distributing expensive electronic devices to students, devices that the kids and their parents would have to reimburse the school for should said students lose or wreck them. But — silly me! — everyone knows school kids never lose or wreck things, so don’t worry about a thing.

These cyber toys, teachers tell me, really are of value only to the big corporations that manufacture and peddle them. No one I know believes the latest MacBook Air will make your kid learn her lessons any faster or more efficiently.

Books, on the other hand….

Here are some panels from the Neurocomic. They look fun and informative — and what better way is there to learn?

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Images: ©Nobrow Press, 2014

Anyway, Neurocomix appears to be as needed a title in my personal core library as the graphic novels Logicomix, Maus I & II, the Complete Persepolis, Feynman, and a few others..

Uptown Funk Mashup

Have you seen this yet? If not, you’re in for a treat. Enjoy!

The Pencil Today:


“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov


Studs Terkel, in his book “Talking To Myself: A Memoir of My Times” writes that the best reporter is the one who asks the impertinent question.

Studs Terkel

As you know, if you’ve been paying any attention at all, reporters today ask mostly gotcha questions, the kind they know the answer to already but are designed simply to embarrass the subject, or softball questions that even the editor of a high school newspaper should be embarrassed to ask.

Let’s go a step further. Linda Ellerbee once wrote that if she hadn’t made someone feel uncomfortable in her reporting for the day, she felt as though she hadn’t done her job.

Linda Ellerbee

Then, of course, early 20th Century newspaperman Finley Peter Dunne said the job of the the journalist is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

Mike Elk yesterday asked an impertinent question (actually, two), made a bunch of people feel uncomfortable, and afflicted a big shot.

Bingo! The man is a three-time winner.

Elk got up yesterday at a business/political masturbatory press event in Washington where the big boss of Honeywell International, David Cote, expected to be lavished with praise for…, um, well, for being the big boss of Honeywell.

See, Honeywell sachems were also scheduled to guide Barack Obama around by the elbow at the company’s headquarters in the appropriately named Golden Valley, Minnesota, so both the prez and the company could tell the world how wonderful they both are.

Only Mike Elk elected not to play the game. He took the audience microphone and referred to a Fortune Magazine handjob article about Honeywell and Cote, wherein the boss crowed what terrific corporate citizens he and his outfit are. Then Elk flung two impertinent questions at Cote: one about Honeywell’s union busting practices (the company’s Metropolis, Illinois, plant first locked out, then axed 1400 union workers) and the other about a possible radiation leak there. The idea being, those aren’t the acts of nice neighbors.

Well, the assembled reporters, PR flaks, pols, and execs gasped, we never!

Elk got the mic yanked out of his hand and he was given the thumb. When he protested that he was a reporter and showed his credentials, one woman’s off-screen voice can be heard saying, “That’s not a member of the press from the Hill; this is a member of the press.” Presumably, she’s pointing at some well-behaved media stenographer who’ll only ask Cote what wondrous things he and Honeywell have done lately.

Tell Me, Mr. Cote, What’s It Like To Be You?

In fact, after Elk was given the bum’s rush, another person got up and said, “One of the things I’m concerned about is, the, um, y’know, the unemployment rate for African American young people is — I don’t know whether this is true, it says 38 percent? — and, um, my son was an all-best high school….” Here, the vid ends, cutting her off in mid-interrogation, which is too bad because it seemed to be the preamble for an all-time great softball question.

The speaker clearly was telling the assembled multitude how fabulous her kid is and then probably was going to ask what Honeywell proposed to do about putting such fine young lads to work in plush corner offices ASAP. Then Cote could tell her how terrific Honeywell is at hiring African-Americans and all other people who were born with brown skin. Then everybody could have glowed and grinned, the men could arrange a circle jerk and the woman could have a group hug.

We’re fabulous!

I thank the god I don’t believe in that I never was able to fit into a corporation environment like Honeywell’s.

BTW: I love how the woman wonders if it’s true that unemployment among African-American young people could possibly be 38 percent. It introduces just the right amount of faux-skepticism about a real problem that could just as easily have been described as “the historically persistent high levels of joblessness among young blacks.”

Man, the corporate world demands an unconscionable amount of toadiness — not only from its paid minions but from the public at large.

Be thankful Mike Elk is not a toady.

On the other hand, Elk never got answers to his questions and most of the mainstream news yesterday was about the Obama tour of the Honeywell plant. So score one for the corporatocracy versus the impertinent journalist.


Leo D. Cook ought to be granted the title of Mr. Bloomington here and now.

Wouldn’t he be perfect as the local radio or TV host who interviews all the fascinating characters who live in and pass through this bustling metrop?

The Definitive Leo D. Cook Photoshopped Photo

He could tell stories, draw the people out, and otherwise create a weekly hour’s worth of whacked-out chat. Can you imagine a show with the guests Steve Volan, Jeremy Gotwals, and, say, Lynda Barry, who’s in town for this coming week’s IU Writers Conference?

People In Our Listening Area Are Advised To Take Cover

That conversation might be declared a hazardous incident site by FEMA. Or it could be great radio.

Anyway, Leo’s long-range plan to attain celebrity takes another step forward this coming week with the commencement of “Bloomington’s Got Talent,” a weekly talent (duh) show at The Bluebird. The thing will run every Tuesday night through the summer. Leo will emcee.

Registration begins at 9:30pm with the first acts going onstage at 10.


Lots to do this weekend. Luckily, you’ve got the Pencil’s GO! events listings. Click the logo. Follow instructions.


It’s June. The blazing days are coming. But it’s perfect out right now.

The Pencil Today:


“Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.” — Thomas Merton


I played hooky from these precincts yesterday. It felt deliciously bad to be irresponsible.

On the other hand, it wasn’t as though I lolled on a beach. The Loved One had invited a pal over to watch movies last night and had asked me to clean the house. So I had a perfect excuse for not posting.

Cleaning the house reminds me: when I become King of the United States (a position last held by Garfield Goose), I will issue an edict that everybody must scrub their own toilets.


This isn’t as fatuous as you might think. I know of no sane human being who enjoys scrubbing the toilet but it’s a task that must be done. It’s one of the most humbling chores we have to do. Maybe the only thing more humbling is emptying bedpans at a hospital or nursing home. I did that when I was in and out of college in the late ’70s. It took me months to learn how to eat dinner without mentally flashing on what I’d done at work that day.

Anyway, emptying bedpans and scrubbing toilets remind us that, honestly, we as a species ain’t anything special, kids.

Now, we have to assume people like Donald Trump and Oprah do not scrub their own toilets. They have, after all, far more important things to do.

“I Certainly Will Not Scrub My Own Toilet!”

But the truth is there’s very little in life more important than scrubbing the toilet. On a practical level, we have to do it or else our bathrooms will essentially become oversized Petri dishes for the cultivation of dangerous microbes. And psychologically, it makes us feel invigorated to do our business in a relatively clean cube.

Perhaps most important of all, though, the simple but awkward task of sprinkling cleanser, brushing, and rinsing reminds us we’re no better than any other human being on this planet.

A lesson, I’m sure, that might benefit someone like Donald Trump.


Lousy news the other day about the Susan G Komen gang and Planned Parenthood, no?

(An update: the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization has reversed its earlier decision to cut off Planned Parenthood funding.)

I have a confession to make. I became sick of the color pink long ago. In fact, this whole breast cancer thing is getting to me.

Pink Baseball Bats At The Louisville Slugger Factory

Now don’t get me wrong — I realize breast cancer is a horrible problem and I hope nobody gets it and all the rest. I know a number of women who’ve suffered from it. For them I hope a cure is found by five this afternoon.

Early Detection

But years ago it occurred to me that the “battle” against the disease was becoming more of a cottage industry than something people wanted to see won and finished.

The cure walks and the swathing of everything up to and including the Sears/Willis Tower in pink seem more like in-group partying than anything else. Perhaps I’m wrong, wrong, wrong but I suspect that if breast cancer were suddenly and magically wiped off the face of the earth tomorrow morning, a lot of people whose livelihoods depend on “battling” it would be, well, bummed.

Anyway, if the Komen mob’s decision to cut off funding PP is any indication, preventing and curing breast cancer is less important than making sure women stop their nasty habit of having sex.

For a brief moment I was hesitant to write this screed. Surely, I thought, somebody’s gonna rake me over the coals for not genuflecting in the direction of those who walk or race for the cure. But then last night I caught a Facebook post from sexologist Susie Bright and I decided, hell, I’m gonna go with it.

Susie Bright wrote: “Am I the only one who’s thought Komen is full of shit since day one? They’ve always been nauseating, a pink GOP branding machine.” Bright then links to a fascinating bring-down of the Komen myth that ran on a website called Butter Believer.

Susie Bright Reading From Her Book, “Big Sex, Little Death”

The article’s author looked over Komen’s annual report and discovered that the organization spends fully 60 percent of its money on public health education, fund-raising costs, and administrative costs. And while that public education line might seem noble, it’s really mostly the tab for their pink-washing and self-congratulatory events.

Those things are, for all intents and purposes, advertising.

The author also charges that only a penny of every dollar spent on Komen’s licensed pink products actually goes to research to find a cure for breast cancer.

And, by the way, don’t try to start any kind of charitable organization using the word “cure” in its title. The Komen-ites likely will sue your ass off. “Did you know,” the author writes, “that Susan G. Komen for the Cure spends nearly a million dollars annually suing small charities over the use of the word ‘cure’…?”

The Real Cure

There is a silver lining to this story. Donations to Planned Parenthood have gone through the roof since the Komen cut-off was announced.


What’s the worst crime you can commit in these United States? Arson? Kidnapping a child for nefarious purposes? Robbing a bank?

Nope. The answer is messing with the Super Bowl.

WRTV Channel 6 in Indy breathlessly reported Thursday that union members unhappy over the Indiana State Legislature’s passing of its union-busting bill are threatening to disrupt the Super Bowl Sunday.

Sunday Service

The Super Bowl, of course, is this holy land’s holiest event. I’ve long endorsed the idea that Super Bowl Sunday should be declared a national holiday. Football is a game that is run by men, involves violence, employs strippers disguised as cheerleaders, and rakes in literally billions of dollars a year for teams, television, bookies, athletes, anthem singers, halftime entertainers, orthopedic surgeons, criminal defense attorneys, and many more.

What’s more American than that?

Game day coverage of the Super Bowl this year begins at eight o’clock in the morning — kickoff is scheduled for ten and a half hours later.

Guaranteed, more people know the name of the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots than can identify the current Secretary of State of the United States.

As for the aggrieved unionistas, they’ve been overruled by their higher-ups. Indiana AFL-CIO chief Nancy Guyott promised union members will not blaspheme Sunday’s sacred rite at the Lucas Oil cathedral.

House Of God

She probably figures union membership has suffered enough in recent years and Super Bowl security forces likely will shoot to kill anyone who messes with the event.

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