Category Archives: US Supreme Court

Hot Air

The Next Appeal

Much of America jumped for joy upon hearing the Obergefell decision last week. Other Americans, though, groused, clenched their fists, and vowed to…, um…, to do something.

Those of us who think we’re familiar with this holy land’s system of writing, enacting, and interpreting laws might react with a derisive snort to the Religious Right’s pledge to act. As we understand it, once the US Supreme Court rules on a disagreement over a law, well, that’s that. There is no higher authority than the Supremes.

Ah, but that’s not so, say the Holy Rollers. There is god.

Anti-Same-Sex Marriage

The Big Daddy-o in the Sky is mightily pissed, they tell us. Almightily pissed. They know because they talk him him regularly. The fact that their conversations always are one-sided means little to the pious of our nation. Somehow they know what his immensity is thinking. He’s thinking about unleashing earthquakes, hurricanes, epidemics, and other annoyances upon our blighted land because we’re now allowing same-sex couples to get married.

Don’t mess with god, the Very Right sez. He’ll hit you so hard your mother’ll fall down.

Teehee, the rest of us say.

Put the brakes on your snorting, sez me. Don’t laugh at the Religious Right. They’ve got a power behind them greater even than god. They’ve got the Koch Boys.

Murrica’s second richest clan engineered the Citizens United decision — declared, natch — by that very same Supreme Court in 2010. CU gives the Kochs the mechanism by which they can control elections hereabouts. And do you know what remedy some Republicans are touting? The election of US Supreme Court justices.

As in, Hey, vote for me, I’ll set you free! Imagine Donald Trump on the Supreme Court. Or Glenn Beck. How about Sarah Palin? You know, of course, one doesn’t have to be a lawyer to be a US Supreme Court justice, don’t you? The Constitution says nothing mandating lawyers as bench warmers.

Palin

Habeas Who? Nolo What?

But if, say, Sen. Ted Cruz has his way, some specially anointed water-carrier for the Kochs just might make it into a black robe. Cruz is telling the world via his recently-released political memoir that we must start having general elections for Supreme Court justices.

Acc’d’g to him, the justices should reflect the will o’the people. Acc’d’g to reality, such elections would more likely reflect the will of the Koch Boys. And if the Kochs figure a candidate for the Supremes — who just happens to be a flamboyant god-ist — will serve their lofty interests, they’ll throw their dough behind him. Dough wins elections.

Let’s be frank: It’d be a sure bet a guy who’s philosophically simpatico to the Kochs would be a crucifix waver. Davey and Chuck know better than anyone the history and efficacy of the American plutocracy using Jesus to further its interests.

Those of us giddy that the US Supreme Court has ratified the freedom of any two adults who want to chain themselves together in wedlock had better watch out. The Religious Right has god behind them. And god has the Kochs behind him.

The Explosion Of Privatization

So, another Space-X rocket ship has exploded upon taking off. It’s a shame. Now the astronauts in the International Space Station will have to wait for their latest copy of Entertainment Weekly magazine.

Space-X is the rocket booster manufacturer and operator that scored a contract with NASA to resupply the ISS in the aftermath of the Space Shuttle era. The idea being private industry can do the job immeasurably better than a gov’t agency. That’s the philosophy behind privatization, right?

Right. Elon Musk put together the Space-X aerospace corp. with one of its stated goals being putting a crew of humans on Mars. Eventually. Till then, though, Space-X’d do the heavy lifting for the ISS.

In the last eight months, though, two Space-X vehicles have blown themselves to smithereens. That is, the last two Space-X ships are now nothing more than metal splinters. Make no mistake: space travel is a risky business. Hell, I can’t even lift myself off my recliner without help half the time. A rocket booster must lift tons and tons of stuff, pushing it up to 25,000 mph to escape the Earth’s gravitational pull. The Falcon 9 vehicle that blew up yesterday is designed to carry up to 27.5 tons of food, water, magazines, and toilet paper. That’s even more than I weigh.

Nobody can do it without taking the chance that the damned thing’d disappear in a burst of flaming fuel. Not a gov’t agency. Not a private corporation.

When NASA was first trying to launch rockets into space in the late 1950s, the ratio between successful liftoffs and blow-ups was a terrifying 1-1. In the ensuing six decades, though, the US gov’t agency in charge of space stuff learned how to send people and things off the Earth with a reasonable expectation of success. Oh sure, there’ve been disasters — Apollo 3, the Challenger, and the Columbia — but whenever NASA experienced such a spectacular failure, it had to shut down operations for long months and even years and explain to the American people why it screwed up. As for the non-governmental Space-X outfit, the American public will forget about Sunday’s explosion by the day after tomorrow. That is, those who even were aware of the explosion in the first place.

At least NASA had to put the lives of astronauts and the negative PR fallout from a mission failure on the front burner. The pols who authorized the billions of dollars for the agency’s operations insisted NASA launch a safe vehicle, and costs be damned.

That was then. Now, with privatization, cost is king. Private corps. put profit on the front burner. If one safety check or another cuts too deeply into the total expense of a mission, well then it just might have to be made more flexible, shall we say, or even nixed altogether. Shaving cost is the god of for-profit business. Maximizing revenue is its heaven.

I have no idea at this moment if Musk’s Space-X cut corners to put together its Falcon-9 vehicle. I assume NASA and the company itself will conduct a thorough investigation. But, guaranteed, that investigation will be done outside the public eye. And its findings will make about as much splash as the news that the City of Bloomington is using a new brand of paint for its parking meters.

Suffice it to say I’m no fan of privatization.

Magical Monocrat

Funnyman Aaron Freeman points out a prediction made by then-Cuban prime minister Fidel Castro in 1973:

The United States will talk to us when you have a black president and the world has a Latin American pope.

Some folks are saying this is evidence of the revolutionary boss’s psychic powers — or at least his ability to read the geopolitical tea leaves. I say, Bah. His “prediction” was really code for “When hell freezes over.” I doubt he would have ever guessed that Satan would be shivering while he — Castro — was still alive.

Castro & Doves

Fidel & His Famous Dove Trick

Now, if he would have said, “… when homosexuals can marry in the US and the Pope rails regularly against the evils of capitalism…,” then we could talk about his extra-sensory perceptions.

Hot Air

The Straight Take

So, this guy comes into the bookstore late yesterday morning. He’s with three teenaged daughters (I’m assuming) and the lot of them are as flamboyantly straight as they could be. He’s wearing a muscle T-shirt with some kind of rebel-motorcycle slogan on it and the little dames are all Daisy Duked and wearing make-up and false eyelashes — on a Saturday morning for chrissakes!

He asks if we sell the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal and I say, “Yeah, sure, they’re right outside the door on the rack.”

He says, “No they aren’t,” and points toward the rack. Sure enough the danged thing is empty. I hadn’t even realized we’d sold out so early in the day.

“Huh,” I go, “I guess everybody wanted them for their front pages.” And this is true. We even sold out of the Herald Times (and we almost never do). Its front page, like the NYT’s and the WSJ’s, was the US Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision from top to bottom. One couple came in and bought a pile of H-Ts because their pastor was on the cover, celebrating the landmark decision.

H-T

The muscle-T guy, though, looks at me as if I’m from the moon. He cocks his head and asks, “Well, what’s the big deal about their front pages?”

Now I cock my head. There are days when you just know what’s on the front page of the newspaper. The day after the 2008 election, f’rinstance, or July 21st, 1969. People kept their papers from those days. I did. I still have them stashed away somewhere in the garage.

Headlines

“Um, er, y’know, the same-sex marriage decision came down yesterday,” I explain. I try not to sound as though I’m didacting to a six-year-old who’s asking why the moon doesn’t fall out of the sky.

See, kid, it’s all about angular momentum and Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion. The way it works…, uh, look, it just doesn’t, okay?

The guy gives me a look like, Hey, pal, I know that.

Natch, now I really start sounding like a didact. “When a momentous event takes place, people like to have a keepsake of it, something that will remind them of the history of the thing years from now.” Sheesh, I may as well be Julius Kelp.

From "The Nutty Professor"

“Actually, We Retain Mementos Of Benchmark Occurrences….”

The guy sniffs. “Yeah, that’s what I mean.” As if to say What kind of pussy would want a keepsake of fag and dyke marriage. He actually smirks at me.

I shrug. My mind for a hot minute is a raging battleground between the Bad Me who wants to say, How should I know? I’m not one of them! and the Good Me who’s dying to shout, Go fuck yourself, pal!

The Bad Me’s learned reaction to want to betray all my same-sex-loving friends and family and the muscle-T guy’s desire to belittle fags and dykes — these are two good reasons why Friday’s decision was so breathtakingly necessary.

Actually, we’ve still got a long way to go.

Hot Air

Chicken Checkin’

One of our town’s most talented copywriters spends her time outside the corporate cubicle raising chickens. Jana Wilson lives with her family on a nice 20-acre spread nearby. She writes about Gallus gallus domesticus husbandry in her blog, The Armchair Homesteader.

Tons o’folks these days are growing the birds, mainly to be able to eat fresh eggs and even for the fresh meat to liven up their cacciatore. (Hey, wait a minute: Do peeps eat alla cacciatore around here?) Anyway, the City of Bloomington, for instance, allows residents to raise chicken flocks, although said flocks can’t number more than five birds and none may be roosters. Apparently, that crowing rooster next door might cause some little friction in the n’hood. That and chicken coops often stink.

The chickens-in-the-city trend got a huge jump start about five years ago when author Susan Orlean wrote about it in the pages of The New Yorker. “[R]ight now,” she wrote, “across the country and beyond, there’s a surging passion for raising the birds.”

Chicken

“A Surging Passion”

When my grandmother, Anna Lazzara, lived in Chi., she was quite put out because the city wouldn’t allow her to keep chickens in the backyard. But back in the 1930’s people could still turn fresh chickens into dinner that night by buying the birds live at the butcher shop. Anna would tell my mother, Sue, to go get a chicken on a given weekday, a chore Ma loathed. She’d have to squeeze the bird between her arm and her chest in order to prevent it from fleeing, the critter pecking and clawing at her all the way home. Then Anna would grab the chicken from my mother, wrap her two fists around its neck and yank. Within minutes, the chicken’d lie still and be ready for plucking, singeing, and washing.

Ma always said those weekly walks from the butcher shop produced in her a phobia of all birds.

Yesterday, Wilson wrote about the problem of newbie chicken-raisers who purchase a passel of chicks and soon discover that one of the purported hens is actually a guy. She writes:

You anticipate these adorable little chicks growing into egg-producing hens and the speed at which they grow is just amazing.  They’re growing more feathers every day, their little combs beginning to develop, their legs lengthening. It’s all very fun and exciting. Fun until the day when little Sue emits the strangest sound. It sounds like a strangled screech. Could it be… oh no, surely not. But yes, its a crow!

Oh dear, little Sue is really little Stan.

Remember, cities that allow residents to keep chickens usually frown on or outright ban the keeping of males. “And for good reason: they are quite noisy and don’t crow just at daybreak,” Wilson writes. “Trust me on this one… they can crow just about any time of the day or night.”

In any case, check out Jana’s blog. You’ll even learn what a Sicilian Buttercup is. (And, no, it’s not me.)

Après Ce, Le Déluge

It turns out those who’ve been wringing their hands over the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision, predicting that all manner of Christianists would start suing to get out of certain laws and responsibilities because their “sincerely-held beliefs” preclude them from doing so, really aren’t just being Chicken Littles. Any number of “sincere believers” have made moves to get out of things like not firing employees because they’re gay and other expressions of deep spirituality.

It would be hard to top this one, though: Pro-life activist attorneys in Florida have filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a nurse who applied for a job with the Tampa Family Health Centers. The attorneys claim the medical center refused to consider her for employment because she is Christian.

How horrible, right? What’s this crazy land coming to?

Christians/Lion

Persecution?

Natch, the case isn’t that simple. The nurse made a point to tell the clinic’s HR director that her Christian beliefs forbid her from prescribing certain contraceptives, which just happens to be one of the primary tasks of the place. I suppose it’d be be rather like a newly graduated cartographer applying for a job at the local globe factory and saying he would not be able to draw maps on the co.’s product because he’s a member of the Flat Earth Society. The wags at Wonkette explain the impasse thusly:

Let’s play a game. It is sort of a choose-your-own-adventure make-believe game. Costumes optional.

You are about to graduate from Thing-Doing School and apply for a job as a professional Thing-Doer, as one does after attending Thing-Doing School. You inform your potential employer that you are interested in the Thing-Doing job but will be unable to perform Thing-Doing duties because of your religious beliefs. Your potential employer tells you, “LOL, that’s hilarious, but we are actually looking for a real Thing-Doer who is willing to perform Thing-Doing duties, because that is the job. Thanks but no thanks.”

For this, nurse Sara Hellwege and her handlers, the Alliance Defending Freedom, will be taking up time and space on the federal district court’s docket to right what they see as a horrible wrong — although the sane among us see it as pretty much a cheap stunt.

Thanks Justice Alito and the rest of the straight, male, white, Catholic majority of SCOTUS. (And don’t write to correct me that Clarence Thomas is not white; he’s whiter than an albino wearing a lab coat in a snowstorm.)

Stoned, Again

Speaking of regressive fundamentalist extremists, Al Jazeera tells the tale of The Islamic State‘s latest contribution to civilization. The erstwhile ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), fresh off its successful campaign to capture and control a significant swath of Iraq and bits of Syria, is now turning its attention to the behavior of women, AKA sluts.

The Izzy State is bringing back that fave from yesteryear, public stoning for women who dig sex. Acc’d’g to AJ’s report, members of the gang that scares even al Qaeda stoned a woman to death in the public square in the town of Tabaqa, in Syria, because she’d committed adultery.

R. Crumb

Flashback

An important corollary to the story is the fact that the man with whom she sullied all of Islam was charged with no crime at all because, well…, because he’s a man, you dope.

 

Hot Air

A Law Supreme

I’m very, very lucky I didn’t have internet access yesterday.

If I had, it’s a sure bet I would have written something that would have gotten me into the hottest of water with the FBI, the Secret Service, the NSA, Academi (nee Blackwater), Control, Sgt. Friday, TJ Hooker, Dirty Harry and any other law enforcement cartoon characters you can imagine. I’m hot. And if you’re not, well then, you and I have wildly divergent views on what this free society should look like.

The US Supreme Court Monday not only ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby refusing to pay for slut pills, it also further chipped away at organized labor in this holy land. Some thoughts:

  • Not only are corporations people, acc’d’g to this Court, but they are religious.
  • Justice Antonin Scalia has positioned himself as a strict constructionist ever since he came on the national scene. He’s not; he is a theocrat.
  • The five justices who voted in favor of Hobby Lobby are, natch, white men. They also were nominated by Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush. Anybody, therefore, who bleats that there’s no diff. between the Democrats and the Republicans is an idiot.

Conservative Justices

Boys Club

  • Clearly, the five Republican-nominated justices cherish the right to believe in a mythical creation figure who has issued a laundry list of dos and don’ts for humanity over the right of women to control their uteri. Kids, that’s just bizarre.
  • Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the dissent for the minority. She is becoming a superstar on the interwebs now, with people posting pull quotes from her angry denunciation of the decision all over social media.
  • The Supreme Court also ruled that gov’t employees who don’t want to be members of unions don’t have to pay dues. That means those workers can benefit from collective bargaining w/o sharing the cost. And the Republicans say they’re four-square against freeloaders!
  • Justice Samuel Alito wrote that public employee unions are “lobbyists.” These Reagan/Bush/Bush dudes, my friends, are awfully confused.

In other Supreme Court news last week, the Nine ruled unanimously that municipalities cannot bar anti-abortion protestors from verbally assaulting or otherwise violating the personal space of abortion clinic clients on public sidewalks. As you know, any number of cities had instituted buffer zones to keep “pro-life” zealots away from women trying to enter the clinics. (Read Sara Benincasa’s remembrance of being so assaulted when she went to an abortion clinic some years ago.) I get the reasoning behind the decision, even if I don’t like it. So I was wondering, can atheists now stand outside churches and temples and shout “Suckers!” at worshipers trying to enter therein?

Overall, the importance of the November mid-term elections cannot be overstated. If the Senate goes GOP, we’re going to move even further toward the Radical Right than we have already..

Choose Your Friends Carefully

In other news of late, the influx of undocumented Central American kids in this holy land has resulted in heart-wrenching pix of and stories about the young ‘uns being warehoused in cold, dirty, concrete-floor holding centers. But the self-idolators and tinfoil cap wearers who run the crunchy, conspiracy-theory laden website Natural News have gleaned an even more insidious bit of fallout from this sad state of affairs.

Mike Adams, who’s the “brain” behind Nat. News, wrote that all these dirty immigrant kids are going to pollute our population with all their yucky germs.

Here’s Adams’ headline:

Unloading disease-carrying immigrants in large US cities a ‘perfect storm’ for pandemic disease outbreak

In the body of the piece, Adams writes that one of the reasons we should fear the kids is that they haven’t been vaccinated. A practice, BTW, that Natural News has opinionated time and again is horribly dangerous to our Aryan American citizenry.

I’ve always felt the zealot natural food and anti-chemical crowd has a bit of a Perfect Race streak in it. As in, sure, the Green Revolution has fed hundreds of millions of starving souls in Africa and Asia but, golly gee, are all those saved lives worth it if we get a trace of synthetic fertilizer in our organic cookies? There are trade-offs in every decision, as any adult would acknowledge, but the hyper-natural gang is convinced that American food must be pure, pure, pure even at the cost of a potential mass starvation in India.

Immigrant Detention

Not Perfect

Adams adds:

If infectious disease isn’t bad enough, this immigration wave also consists of “sex offenders, murder suspects and gang members….”

Old Joey Goebbels would have been proud.

BTW: Adams feels the Obama Admin. is way cool with this wave of undesirables because, “[a]fter all, these are future Democratic voters!”

Lots of natural food, sustainable agriculture, anti-Monsanto-ites seem to dig Mike Adams — who calls himself the “Health Ranger” — because, well, he and his peeps are four-square against GMOs and such.

That’s scant reason to hitch one’s wagon to a bunch of crypto-Nazis. It’d be like the vegetarians of America plastering bumper stickers of A. Hitler on their cars simply because he, too, refused to eat meat.

 

Hot Air

Why Vote?

So, what’s the diff. between the Dems and the Republicans again?

You’ve heard this Q. many times. I’ve even wrassled with it myself a time or two. A quick glance at the last three presidencies — Bill Clinton’s, George W. Bush’s, and Barack Obama’s — might lead a common citizen to think they’d all three come from the same college fraternity, the one that also funneled dozens and dozens of future capos into the Goldman Sachs mob.

There’s a lot of truth in that assessment. But there exists a greater truth, and here’s proof:

Clinton & Obama: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor

Bush II: John Roberts, Samuel Alito

Yep, those are the US Supreme Court nominees of the last thee presidents. Justices selected by Clinton and Obama voted in the minority against yesterday’s Court’s decision (Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action) to uphold Michigan’s voter ban on racial quotas in college admissions. (Breyer, it should be noted, uncharacteristically joined the majority in Schuette.)

The Clinton/Obama gang also voted in the minority against

McCutcheon v. the Federal Election Commission: Removed limits on how much money individuals can contribute to candidates or political action committees in in campaign cycle.

Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission: Corporations and other special interest organizations may contribute as much as they like to coandidates and political action committees in any given campaign cycle. This decision produced, as a byproduct, the concept of “corporate personhood.” It also led to the idea that a corporation’s money is the moral and legal equivalent to an individual’s free speech.

Shelby County v. Holder: The section of the Voting Rights Act allowing the federal government to monitor the voting rules of states that had previously allowed slavery and, later, had instituted Jim Crow laws was dismantled. This decision was immediately followed by several states enacting stringent voting restrictions.

The current majority in the Supreme Court also includes Saint Ronald Reagan’s boys, Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia, as well as Pappy Bush’s nominee, Clarence Thomas.

Buttons

So, what can we glean? This: The conservative-dominated Supreme Court believes that the wealthy should have greater sway in the electoral process and that blacks are on their own, even in the face of long-standing, institutionalized prejudices and legal impediments.

Sorry if I sound didactic here today but the pressure’s on. It’s an election year — an off-year election, to be sure, but all 435 seats in the US House of Representatives are up for grabs. I don’t know what’s so off about that other than voters in this holy land usually don’t give a damn about non-presidential elections.

Conceivably, putative next prez, Hillary Clinton, could be forced to work with both a Senate and and a House dominated by Me Party-ists, Right Wingnuts, regressivists, Birchers, crytpto-racists, and the odd moderate Republican who somehow manages to slip through.

Good luck, Hillary, on getting a Supreme Court nominee through that thicket.

Hot Air

Legends Walked Among Us

Bloomington’s own cinema maven, Peter LoPilato was all dressed up with somewhere to go when he strolled into The Electron Pencil’s back office (some people call it Soma Coffee) yesterday AM.

This intrepid reporter grilled him re: his fancy duds — sports coat, collared short, freshly creased trousers and shiny (-ish) shoes.

“What’s up witchu?” sez I. BTW: I just happened to be uploading a pic of legendary film director and producer Roger Corman in my roll as online manager of LoPilato’s Ryder mag. The big feature this month is a long (repeat: lo-o-o-ong) profile of Corman, who just happens to be in town this weekend. Corman’s visit comes hot on the heels of that of mega-screen icon Meryl Streep who was in town earlier this week to cop an honorary degree from Indiana Unversity. Corman lectured at the IU Cinema yesterday afternoon and several of his films are featured there this weekend. (FYI: You missed The Wild Angels and The Trip yesterday. Today you can catch The Intruder, The Tomb of Ligeia, and a documentary, Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel.

Streep/IU

Streep Fêted

I mention Corman because, mirabile dictu, he’s why LoPilato was togged up.

“I’m going out to lunch with Roger Corman,” he said.

I, of course, could only gasp, “Wow.”

Corman/Price

A Young Corman (l.) On A Set With Vincent Price

I fondled Peter’s lapel for a moment, hoping some of his cool could rub off on me, then pressed my interrogation. “Where are you two going?”

Peter LoPilato merely smiled and said, “I’m not at liberty to say.”

Harrumph.

Anyway, I hope Corman paid for the meal. Every time I ask the boss for a raise, he motions back over his shoulder at a small crowd of waifs, shoeless and forlorn, staring at me with hungry eyes. “I would, I swear it,” he says, invariably, “but I’ve got a family to feed.”

Funny thing is I thought Peter only had two kids. The magic of Hollywood, I imagine. Well, like I say, I hope Corman picked up the check.

Superlative Celloloid

My absolutely fave Corman flick is The Attack of the Giant Leeches (he produced it and, to be honest, his fingerprints are all over it). Somehow, on a microscopic budget, Corman and director Bernard Kowalski manage to recreate a steamy, indolent Louisiana bayou world so faithfully that you find yourself perspiring just watching the thing. They get a workmanlike performance out of horror film vet Bruno VeSota, playing his usual corpulent baddie. I don’t know which movie I prefer VeSota in, this one or Daddy-o with Dick Contino. Either way, he’s a treat.

Giant Leeches

VeSota & Yvette Vickers in “… Giant Leeches”

Oddly, though, despite the loving care Corman & Kowalski take in presenting an oppressive, heat-wilted world, their titled giant leeches look about as leech-like as, well, so many papier mâché Chinese New Year dragons. Then again, it’s got to be a challenge trying to make a leech scary. Slimy and gross? Sure. Scary? Uh-uh.

Giant Leeches

A Leech Carries Off A Victim

As long as we’re playing the association game, noted LA gruesome murder chronicler James Ellroy wrote a novella entitled, Dick Contino’s Blues. You can find it in Ellroy’s 1994 short story collection, Hollywood Nocturnes.

Daddy-o

Dick Contino Makes The Scene in “Daddy-o”

Back to Hollywood-comes-to-IU: Roger Corman and Meryl Streep represent two extremes of what the American filmmaking industry does best. Either one is aces by me, as opposed to Hollywood’s current penchant for recycling superheroes and Nicholas Sparks books.

Huh?

From an article in Aljazeera America:

Aljazeera Screenshot

Click Image To Read Full Article

Notice in the subhead where it warns about isolating kids from “the digital world of multitasking”? As if that’s a horror that must be avoided at all costs.

When I first saw this, I figured it was a satiric story, you know, where there author turns you around by saying We’d hate to have our precious snowflakes not be able to be psychological overwhelmed by multitasking and productivity pressures because, hell, who wants a kid that isn’t developing a stomach ulcer by 13 and isn’t on antidepressants by 15?

The author says kids today are part of the “net generation.” They learn by absorbing tons of information merely by darting like hummingbirds from one web page to the other. Earlier generations dove into books and concentrated for long periods of time. That’s old hat.

Information is the stuff that’s liable to fill your mind so much that there isn’t any room left for knowledge (this is me speaking). “Information is not knowledge,” Einstein has been credited with saying. It’s also believed he said, “Learning is experience. Everything else is just information.”

Yet, members of the net generation are happy as clams that their brain cases are crammed with data. Their parents, apparently, are giddy about this as well.

“Opponents to deep, immersive reading come from all directions. Among American boys, there remains a generations-old sense that books are for sissies; I remember this from my own childhood. For neoliberals and technocrats, reading novels is not ‘what the market wants.’ Concentrated reading doesn’t require ideological opposition to be endangered: The pace of contemporary life, even for children, means that there’s simply no time or energy left for it,” the author writes.

Man, that’s a lousy life.

Wither Our Nation?

So. I’m sitting in a booth at Opie Taylor’s with The Loved One and our friends Hondo & Les. We’re playing a raunchy, sick joke card game that Hondo’d bought on eBay because…, well, because the mere playing of it will condemn any and all participants to hell if such a place turns out to be real. I really think he’s daring the god neither of us believes in to damn him for all eternity. And, I guess, I’ll be following him.

Anyway, the talk turns, as usual, to how eff’d up this holy land is. The problem with guys like Hondo is they read and listen to too much Far Right palaver. It upsets their stomachs as well as their minds. The minute some minor candidate for the Nebraska statehouse says something like women enjoy being slapped around because then their slapping husbands and boyfriends go all out of their way to apologize and be nice to them, Hondo and his ilk send out urgent messages to the rest of us saying the whole country’s going insane.

Which it is. I just accept it, largely. Sure, I point out funny (in a sad way) wingnut things here on The Pencil and sometimes stamp my foot about Rand Paul or Kirk Cameron or Rick Santorum. But for the most part, I can’t really keep up with all the loons who have YouTube accounts or blogs through which they can lobby for the regression of America to those grand old days of the Salem witch trials.

Witch Trial, 1692

Good Old Days

I’m more attuned to the utterances of, say, the Reagan/Bush/Bush Supreme Court, especially when it rules that rich guys should own and operate all polling places. Then I’ll yell that the country’s going insane. Between the two of us, Hondo and me, we’ve got the wingnut-osphere covered, I suppose.

Back to lunch at Opie’s. I think it was Les who asked, “Well whaddya think’s gonna happen here over the next few years.”

Natch, I had a ready answer.

The sanctified, blessed, and exceptional Yewnited States of Murrica is in for some changes. As long as the Supremes have codified the establishment of a plutocratic ruling class, the have-nots among us are going to be more restless than ever. Sure, the US always has been run for the benefit of captains of industry and financial pirates, but throughout our history we’ve always pretended that the common citizen meant something herein. No more.

If you have scads of dough, you count much more than if you don’t. That’s law now. Once you shatter the illusion of equality, there is nothing left of the mythical American Dream. When dreams die, people panic.

Now, most of the pop. of this nation is too dense to grasp that a new overclass has been installed, officially, brazenly, and w/o apology. Too many of them think their grand old flag has been sullied by Mexicans sneaking over the border to become busboys and maids, women who want the gov’t to pay for their slut pills, gays and lesbians who want to eliminate every trace of heterosexuality in our precious snowflake children, and, of course, the Kenyan who has taken over as Dictator and Tyrant-in-Chief Forever.

And, yeah, a health care reform that’s turning us into New Stalinville.

While everybody’s shrieking over these imagine threats, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, and their coatholders turned the keys over to the Koch Bros. and said, “Here. It’s yours.”

No matter why people think the USA has become the homeland of Satan, they’re fast losing any and all loyalty to the nation. The Bundy Ranch confrontation will be repeated with alarming regularity in the coming years. And one of these times, somebody’s trigger finger is going to get itchy. Once the first shot is fired, all bets are off.

Militia at Bundy Ranch

A desperate band of gunfondlers is coalescing these days, certain that the US has been taken over by the aforementioned evil people. They’re not terribly organized just yet; their only real commonality is the passel of hatemongers who bark at them daily over Right Wing talk radio and, to a lesser extent, via Fox News. But, book it, some demagogue is going to pop up. He’ll preach “defense” and separation. And a lot of people are going to fall into line behind him.

What have they got to lose? They don’t have jobs, money, or power.

Perhaps Texas will be the first state to make secession noises. Arizona and Utah may join in the chorus. Then we’re going to see some real breaking news.

Think it’s impossible? Why?

Hot Air

Drive, I Said

Pull out your wallet or your checkbook because the WFHB spring fund drive kicked off this morning. The beg-fest will run for 10 days, until a week from Sunday, and the station hopes to pocket some $40,000.

Kick in a sawbuck or two. Every little bit helps.

Spot Button

As part of the festivities, WFHB will bring independent radio savant David Barsamian to town on Sunday, April 10th. The founder of the Alternative Radio network will speak about Media, Capitalism, and the Environment. The talk begins at 7:00pm at the Bloomington-Monroe County Convention Center. Tix are $5 for the speech alone and $35 for the speech and a meet-and-greet with Barsamian after.

Barsamian

David Barsamian

WFHB News Director Alycin Bektesh worked her newshound paws to the bone to pull this special appearance off. Get tickets here. Barsamian, BTW, is forgoing his speaking fee so all proceeds go to the station.

April 4th, 1968

This day, 46 years ago, a racist drifter whacked Martin Luther King, Jr. Many believe evidence exists that the drifter’s stalking of the civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner was bankrolled by one or more wealthy segregationists.

For public consumption, President Lyndon Johnson shook his head and said it was a terrible thing. So did tons of governors, mayors, and chiefs of police. Their crocodile tears belied their relief that King was erased from the scene because he’d recently begun to talk about the enormous gulf between the haves and the have-nots as well as the evils of unfettered capitalism. That, my friends, was and is a mortal sin.

Abernathy & King

Ralph Abernathy Tends To The Mortally Wounded King — Note King’s Cigarette on Walkway (Photo/Life)

Meanwhile, acc’d’g to legend, when news of King’s slaying reached the FBI office, agents jumped out of their chairs and cheered.

You want a good, un-hysterical account of the assassination, read Hampton Sides’ Hellhound on His Trail.

All I know is April 4th, 1968, was the day I began to see this holy land in a more clear light.

Yer Out!

So, the Mozilla CEO up and quit his new job because of all the hollering over his financial support of California’s anti-LGBT Proposition 8 in 2008.

Brendan Eich gave a thousand bucks to the Proposition 8 forces, who fought tooth and nail to get an amendment into the state constitution banning marriage by anyone except Ma and Pa Kettle. The Prop 8-ers were successful at first, but the amendment was ultimately ruled unconstitutional.

Eich

Mozilla-ites Don’t Like Eich

Mozilla, and its flagship product Firefox, are positioned as toys of the people — young, hip, open-minded people, specifically. Throwing money at anti-same sex marriage bigots isn’t looked upon kindly by that demographic. So they screamed and Eich is out.

Which is fine by me. Well, sorta. I’m glad the dope is out but I’m made a little itchy by a loud public outcry costing someone his or her job. It all sounds a little tyranny-of-the-majority to me. We were just lucky — this time — that the object of righteous rage was a bigot.

The Rich Are Something Else

I’m here to guide you through the thickets of the legal and political systems which can be so confounding in this holy land.

For instance, many of us are wondering why the Supreme Court once again ruled against campaign finance regulations, using as its justification the 1st Amendment guarantee of free speech.

Many of us might say, Hey, wait a sec. What does money have to do with free speech?

The answer: Nothing.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission Wednesday, effectively allowing any and every rich guy to donate thousands, millions, or billions, if he so chooses, to candidates, parties, and PACs.The ruling ends whatever caps were left in place after the Citizens United decision in 2010. When the Big Robe writes an opinion, that means the majority thinks the case is mighty important.

They’re right. McCutcheon defines us as a nation.

See, an uber-wealthy political donor named Shaun McCutcheon wanted to plow ever greater piles of his money into the Republican Party and its candidates. The FEC said, Hold on there, pard, we’re trying to level the playing field here. McCutcheon and his lawyers responded by wringing their hands, weeping, gnashing their teeth — and suing, natch. McCutcheon figured, What’s the good of having all the dough in the world if I can’t buy a statehouse or two or even the White House?

Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Kennedy agreed. They had to base their ruling on something that sounded high-minded and less venal than the real reason.

Follow me so far? Okay, let’s not bullshit each other or ourselves anymore. Let’s tell each other and ourselves the way it is.

For years our elementary school teachers, newspapers and television stations, flamboyantly patriotic candidates for elective office, and other purveyors of myth and nonsense have sung paeans to our democracy. One man, one vote. The voice of the people. The power of the ballot box. Hey buddy, my taxes pay your salary, and so on ad infinitum, bordering on ad nauseam.

You don’t buy that bologna (oh, alright, baloney), do you? I assume you don’t, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading these (almost) daily screeds.

Cheap Lunchmeat

Today’s Civics Lesson, Sliced

Cutting through the cheap lunchmeat that is politico-legal jargon today and, for that matter, has been every day since this great country arose from god’s mighty hand some 238 years ago, is really awfully easy.

Just remember that even though we pride ourselves on having a classless society and every man is a king and the rest of that blather, the dominant train of thought in this holy land holds that the rich are better human beings than the rest of us. That’s the truth.

And by rich, I mean rich. Not the schlub down the street who may have cracked the quarter-million-dollar-a-year salary threshold. He’s not rich. He’s comfortable. When his car breaks down, he can get it fixed without thinking much about it. He can even buy a brand new car if he wants. He won’t agonize over the decision. His car breaking down is not a disaster. For the rest of us, it may very well be.

But should our comfy neighbor lose his job, he and his family will start hurting sometime in the not too distant future. He may have a pile of dough today, but it won’t last him the rest of his life.

There are, though, people who’ll never have to work again until the day they die. Nor will their children or grandchildren. For that matter, every successive generation until these United States break up or are taken over by Mexicans or Russians or extra-terrestrials or whomever you envision in your paranoiac fever dreams will be rich enough to laugh at the very idea of work.

Work that puts bread on the table. For them, bread is always on the table. They are given bread as a birthright.

They are different than the rest of us. They are better.

We really believe that.

Real wealth in America buys and sells power. Real wealth can sway elections, get laws passed, regulations ignored, misdemeanors winked at, felonies fixed.

The rich — the real rich — are something different. They’re…, they’re…, well, they’re closer to god.

There’s your American dream.

The Reagan/Bush/Bush Supreme Court appointees voted in a bloc once again to codify the American belief that the rich not only are superior human beings but they should be allowed to elect presidents and governors and senators and even, if any of them is so inclined, the odd county commissioner or city clerk.

Money, Roberts and the boys have ruled, is everything.

That, kiddies, is America. And it ain’t no dream.

Unseasonably Warm Hot Air

Comet, Heal Thyself

Too bad about Comet ISON, no? Goddamned Obamacare.

Comet ISON

R.I.P.

Zero From The ‘Aughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hussein

Say Ah-h-h

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

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

Casino

“This Is A Sound Investment, Sir.”

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

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

Tea Party

Apple Pie Americanism

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

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

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

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

Could they?

Hot Air Today

Believe Me

When I was a kid back in the mid-1960s, a woman named Madalyn Murray O’Hair was often in the news.

See, she didn’t believe in god and, rather than do the right thing and keep her mouth shut about it, she traipsed all over the country telling people she was an atheist. In fact, she even founded a group called American Atheists, a moniker about as contradictory as, say, Obese Marathoners.

O'Hair

Madalyn Murray O’Hair

How she ever found more than one or two other like-minded spawn of Satan in the year 1963 in this holy land is beyond me.

At the time I was a second grader at St. Giles, a Catholic school, under the tutelage of a pack of the sternest nuns this side of the cast of a John Waters movie. The principal was Sister James Mary. When she’d taken her Holy Orders, she assumed the name of a male saint known as a “perpetual virgin” and that of the Virgin Mother of Christ, a double-whammy of the Catholic church’s bizarre sexual value system. Sister James Mary — or, as we referred to her, JM — was the toughest, scariest, most brutish, deep-voiced, flinty-eyed bully I ever knew until I was introduced to a gang tough named Little Willie in 1973. Little Willie once beat a guy in the side aisle of the Mercury Theater simply for liking the same girl he did. The poor guy was hospitalized for several weeks, having suffered a concussion, a broken jaw, broken ribs, and a broken arm. Yeah, Little Willie was tough, although I’d hedge my bet on him were he to be matched against JM.

Sisters

Sisters

Anyway, Sister James Mary visited our classroom one day in the winter of 1964 wearing her meanest look. We knew she was deadly serious. Even the class clowns, Albert DiPrima and I, refrained from making goofy faces at each other while JM visited that day. She had a message of great import for us. She looked around the room when she spoke and I swear that when her eyes landed on me, the radiant energy emanating from them raised my body temperature a degree and a half.

She told us that a horde of people in this dangerous, dangerous world were trying to rob from us the right to worship our Holy Father. We were to resist them at all costs.

A little background. A couple of years earlier, the US Supreme Court had ruled against school prayer. And then the next year, that same Court had outlawed the reading of the Bible in classrooms. (Never mind that these decisions affected public schools only.) The Court, clearly, was under the thumb of the pagans. At the forefront of this assault on all things godly and good, JM warned, was Madalyn Murray O’Hair. Sister James Mary grimaced when she mentioned O’Hair’s name, as if she was about to retch.

At the time I was still trying to be a good sport about all this Catholicism and god business. It would be another five or so years before I finally quit the Church. As an obedient Soldier of Christ at the time, I immediately counted Madalyn Murray O’Hair among the most vile humans on Earth. She, Castro, Kruschev, Lee Harvey Oswald, and the Boston Strangler constituted my personal Axis of Evil in 1964.

O'Hair/Castro/Kruschev/Oswald/DeSalvo

Rogues Gallery

I was not alone. Madalyn Murray O’Hair was, according to Life magazine that year, “the most hated woman in America.”

That was then.

In the year 2013, it would be an oddity to find a nun who is the principal of a Catholic school. If you do find one, it’s a sure bet she’s wearing a pantsuit as opposed to a habit and a wimple. And she sure as hell hasn’t named herself after a fellow whose claim to fame was his steadfast refusal to have sex.

And, although the world’s most famous atheist is still reviled among backwoods fundamentalists and politico-Christianists, he is not ranked among the likes of Bashar al-Assad, whoever the boss of al Qaeda is today, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and — oh, I don’t know, Miley Cyrus? — among the general populace.

As a matter of fact, Richard Dawkins, the world’s most famous atheist today, is one of the most respected thinkers on this crazy, mixed-up planet.

From "The O'Reilly Factor"

Hey, the place has changed a lot in 50 years.

I bring this all up because I just learned that Dawkins’ memoir is due to hit the streets in a couple of weeks. The book is An Appetite for Wonder. One of the things I like best about Dawkins is his obvious impatience with theists. He’s about as tolerant of believers as he is of the object of their adoration. From his book, The God Delusion:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infantificidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

Dear god, I can’t wait to read his new book.

God Only Knows

Your Daily Hot Air

Sometimes I think World Net Daily was made up just for me.

For my entertainment. For my edification. For my sense of superiority over the gang of lunatics that puts it out.

From WND

Maybe this is what I’m missing out on by not being a sexist slob or a racist. Scads of folks across this holy land seem to feel they are better than others simply because said others either possess vaginas or dark skin. It must feel good to know in your heart that women are weak and stupid and blacks are criminal and lazy — and you’re not one of them.

Superiority must be a trip, right? Otherwise, what’s the point of being a sexist and/or racist?

So yeah, I feel superior — moral- and intellectual-wise — to the jabbering chuckleheads who populate the WND universe.

The WND pantheon includes busts of that great philosopher Chuck Norris, who has fap-fantasized about becoming the president of the Republic of Texas after it secedes (oh, please!), and the redoubtable Jerome Corsi. You may recall Corsi swearing up and down during the 2004 presidential campaign that John Kerry had faked his Vietnam wounds. And, more recently, he has posited that Barack Obama is some kind of a Kenyan fag abortionist or something.

Norris

Chuck Norris And Friends

The WND faithful also are regularly treated to the screechings of Phyllis Schlafly and David Limbaugh (who almost makes big bro Rush sound occasionally sane).

Yeesh.

WND is chock full of ads for gold (the preferred safe investment harbor for survivalists), magical vitamins and elixirs, fountains of youth, and even for the newly-martyred Paula Deen. The fly on this pile of horseshit is none other than former baseball pitcher John Rocker, who pens a regular op-ed column for the site.

John Rocker, for chrissakes!

Anyway, wouldn’t you know it, last week’s US Supreme Court decision to coerce all good, white, straight men into butt sex has the WND crew all aflutter.

Some self-described Christian lawyer named Matt Barber, a regular WND contributor, is convinced he’s going to be imprisoned sooner rather than later as a direct result of the gay marriage ruling. And you know what happens in the joint, don’t you?

Prison

Anyway, Barber recounts a hand-wringing email exchange he had with another self-avowed Christian lawyer, who remains nameless in his Monday column. After speculating that the gay marriage OK will lead to the obligatory state-sanctioned unions of brothers and sisters (ick) and rampant polygamy (just a tad less ick), Barber’s pen pal pronounces:

In my 35 years as a Christian, I never seriously believed we might end up in prison for our faith — except, perhaps, for something like a pro-life demonstration. This is the first time it seriously occurs to me that the trajectory of the nation is such that it is possible in five to 10 years.

Because, as you are well aware, the Christians are such an oppressed minority in this country.

Barber couldn’t agree with his friend more. He writes:

Do I believe Christians will face real persecution, such as loss of livelihood, civil penalties, physical abuse or even jail? Absolutely.

So, there you have it. Gay marriage equals Christian concentration camps.

And, yeah, I’m superior to these howler monkeys, moral- and intellectual-wise.

It does feel good. Thanks, WND.

Borrowers, Lenders & The Mob

Margaret, the Big Cheese at the Book Corner, Bloomington’s only independent bookseller where I peddle ’em Mondays through Wednesdays, will probably clunk me in the head for this one but, I gotta tell you, I’m becoming addicted to the library.

Book Corner

Not The Library

I’m reading a couple of books a week now, mainly because I’ve been borrowing from the Monroe County Public Library. I have zero idea why I haven’t done this before.

Think of it: your town or big city has within it a system wherein you can take books, CDs, or DVDs home for your personal use — for free. All you have to do is flash a library card.

You may say, Sure, Big Mike, we know all about it, but when’s the last time you did it?

I mean, even the fire department charges your survivors for sending an ambulance over when your heart explodes from a lifetime of sliders and Pop Tarts. The library doesn’t charge you a penny. How can it be that there isn’t a line around the block when the place opens in the morning?

Anyway, I’m just finishing up a book called When Corruption Was King, written by Robert Cooley with help from former Chicago Magazine editor Hillel Levin. Cooley was a mobbed up, kinky lawyer who was in bed with legendary Chicago First Ward bosses Pat Marcy and Fred Roti, who did the bidding of the city’s Outfit.

Roti

Alderman Fred Roti

The Outfit, of course, is Chicagoese for the Mafia, La Cosa Nostra, wiseguys, goodfellas, or whatever Hollywood wants to call organized crime. According to Cooley, the Outfit, through Marcy et al, controlled Cook County’s courts, much of the Chicago Police Department, and too many city agencies to list here. Suffice it to say if you wanted a quick building permit, a zoning variance that the neighbors had been fighting tooth and nail, or just to get your teenaged kid off for denting the skull of some hapless Puerto Rican with a baseball bat, your lawyer paid a visit to Pat Marcy and slipped a nickel or a few dimes into his pudgy hand.

A nickel, in Chicago parlance, is $500. A dime, natch, is a grand.

So, the First Ward boys were the extra-legal funnel through which all smart city business flowed. Marcy and crew took care of the average citizen in the know as well as the big boys who ran the city’s gambling, vice, and narcotics operations, among other colorful pastimes. Most Chicago crime experts believed Marcy was a “made guy,” meaning he was an officially approved member of the Outfit. And, no, the Chicago mob didn’t have any elaborate ceremonies and rituals, the likes of which were portrayed in The Godfather and every other crime movie made since. In fact, the Outfit was an equal opportunity employer, welcoming members of every ethnic group imaginable into its ranks, so long as they were good earners and were willing to snap a guy’s thumb when called upon to do so.

From "The Godfather"

Fiction

Cooley revealed the fixing of murder cases and the buying of state legislation through efforts of Marcy and his guys. Big circuit court judges who’d previously nurtured reputations as law-and-order hard-asses were in truth, Cooley and Levin wrote, guys who’d fix any case for a buck.

See, Cooley was a big player in these shenanigans until, he says, he got fed up, had a change of heart, and walked into the US Justice Department’s Chicago office unannounced and told the feds he wanted to play ball with them. Cooley then wore a wire when he did business with the First Ward boys. The evidence he amassed led to dozens of arrests and convictions and the eventual dismantling of the First Ward pigsty.

Cooley’s no Raymond Chandler or even John Grisham but his story is as riveting as anything they could come up with.

And, by the way, the kind of pervasive corruption that Cooley helped bring down in Chicago’s First Ward may be a thing of the past now but it was built upon the passing of cash from one hand to another.

The last I heard, cash still buys things. Enough of it can still buy permits, justice, and legislation. Only now, the system is nationwide, or even global, as opposed to Pat Marcy’s petit-realm. Look at the so-called Monsanto Protection Act for proof.

We need a new Robert Cooley.

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