Category Archives: Your Daily Hot Air

The Pencil Today:

Nazis On The March In America!

If there’s one thing we can all agree on when it comes to the Tea Party-ists, it’s that they consider themselves the most persecuted group in the whole history of humanity.

Listen to TP rhetoric and you’ll come away convinced that the Jews of Europe in the first half of the 20th Century suffered a bad case of poison ivy in comparison. The Native Americans had it easy. The Cambodian Killing Fields were merely sites of playground squabbles.

The Tea Party lives and breathes on the conceit that jackbooted thugs from the teachers unions and cold blooded assassins culled from the ranks of social workers plot night and day to do them in.


OSHA Inspectors

Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and a dogpile of Fox News commentators express bafflement and outrage over the rotten shake fundamentalists and radical conservatives get these days. Even in a battle for civil rights, gay marriage for example, the Far Right positions itself as the wronged party. How many more headlines do you need to read that scream bloody murder about Christians’ rights being trampled? Their rights, that is, to deny people their rights.

“Self pity has become central in the consciousness of the resurgent Right,” writes Thomas Frank. He holds up the example of Sarah Palin (click ’em both).

Even those who followed her career don’t really know where Palin stood on many issues. We only know that she was being constantly maligned…. Indeed, if political figures stand for ideas, victimization was what Sarah Palin was all about. It was her brand, her myth. But to become such a symbol, Palin had to do the opposite of most public figures: where others learn to take hostility in stride, she and her fans developed the thinnest of skins. They found offense in the most harmless commentator remarks and diabolical calculation in the inflection of the anchorman’s voice. They took insults out of context to make them even more insulting. They paid close attention to voices that are ordinarily ignored, relishing every blogger’s sneer, every celebrity’s slight, every crazy Internet rumor.


Poor Woman

One of the adoring biographies of the former would-be veep was called The Persecution of Sarah Palin; it is a catalog of just about every nasty thing anyone has ever said about the woman. Its author, Matthew Continetti, actually seems to specialize in such profiles in victimhood: He has also written a cover story for the Weekly Standard about the persecution of the Koch Brothers… who, it is Continetti’s solemn duty to report, receive mean e-mails every day. They are in fact, “the latest victims of the left’s lean, mean, cyber-villification machine.” Pity these billionaires, reader.

Koch & Koch

Poor Men

Pity the Billionaire, Picador, 2012, pp. 127 & 128

These are the folks, I may remind you, who equated Barack Obama and Barney Frank with Nazis, who packed local schoolboards so they could push across their creation myth in public classrooms, and who have their very own 24-hour news channel that just happens to be the single most watched cable TV news outlet in this holy land. Some oppressed minority, huh?

Well, guess what. They’re back at it again. And once again, a spokesperson for an Obama Administration department quickly stripped off her Schutzstaffel uniform, donned a civilian disguise, and begged for forgiveness.

SS Uniform

What The Well-Dressed Bureaucrat Wears

This Obama gang is the damnedest bunch of tyrants I’ve ever heard of.

Anyway, since Obama took office thousands of political organizations have filed for tax-exempt status. See, under IRS guidelines, a group can claim tax exemption if its reason for being is primarily “social welfare.” That is, they must be dedicated to doing good for society at large. As long as they’re helping ease the burdens on their fellow humans, they can even do a little political advocacy.

So, say a Catholic group wants to run a home for unwed teen mothers. As long as that’s their primary business, they can then participate in rallies to overturn Roe v. Wade, say, or call for the end of sex education classes in public schools. All the while, they can keep their tax-exempt status.

Okay? Cut to this tempest in a teapot between the IRS and certain Tea Party outfits. The tax collection branch of the feds in the last several years has set aside some 300 applications for tax-exempt status. Out of those, 75 were from organizations that had tea party or patriot in their names. The applications were then double-checked and further inquiries were made into the applicants’ primary goals.

Sounds reasonable to me. Tea Party-ists are not particularly known for comforting the afflicted. In fact, Tea Party goddess Ayn Rand fashioned a literary career out of bleating that those who are afflicted deserve what they got. And any group that has the word patriot in its name is a pretty fair bet not to be all that interested in running a food bank.

So, IRS office drones, reasonably enough, cherry-picked those applicant organizations for special review.

Naturally, Tea Party-ists and their fellow anencephalics are screaming to high heaven that the IRS is running a vendetta against them at the behest of their boss, Barack Obama.

The Tea Party flag, you may recall, reads “Don’t Tread On Me.” Because, as we all know, white middle class folks have been tormented since the day this nation came into being.

Rather than tell them to drop dead, Lois Lerner, who’s in charge of tax exempt organizations for the IRS (and what a scintillating job that must be) held a conference call for reporters and sounded like a schoolgirl who’d been caught smoking in the bathroom.

Staffers in her office, Lerner whimpered, “did pick the cases by names and that’s absolutely inappropriate and not the way we should do things.”


An Apologetic Obergruppenführer Lerner

Later, she added, “It was an error in judgment…. When this came to my attention, we took some action to try and undo some of these things.”

By the way, the complaining organizations, by and large, have been approved for tax exempt status. A lawyer for the organizations said, “The IRS admission and apology should have come much sooner.”

So this is what passes for tyranny in the fever dreams of the Right — a bunch of paper-shufflers who don’t grovel for forgiveness quick enough. And Hitler’s henchmen only slaughtered people, the amateurs.

The Pencil Today:

The Blackboard Gulag

I wish I knew more about the circumstances that led up to that long-haired kid in Texas lecturing his teacher about, well, teaching.

You’ve probably seen the viral vid:

Context, of course, is everything and the kid could easily have been either a courageous fighter for students’ rights or a disruptive pain in the ass who was getting thrown out of class anyway and decided to perform a dramatic misdirection.

My first impulse is to embrace the kid because, frankly, I went to school too, so I know all about miserably ineffective and even counterproductive teachers. The first class in which I learned anything of value was Art in my sophomore year of high school. So, I’d spent a full decade squirming in my seat, learning nothing, before the school experience began paying off.

Bored Student

The Learning Experience

Which was why I found myself oddly conflicted when Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and various other Tea Party-ists began waging war on unionized government employees, specifically teachers. Natch, I found Walker et al’s union-busting nauseating and frightening. On the other hand, the blowback against him verged on hysteria. Teachers, we were told, were angels put on Earth to raise us up from the slime of ignorance. The hagiography, the paeans, the hosannas for those in the education rackets became a roar.

Where, I wondered, were all these selfless saviors, these avatars or the mind, when I was a student?

The vast majority of my teachers were more like what we assume the teacher in the video to be. Well-behaved little cogs in the machine whose primary goal was to make sure we students turned out to be well-behaved little cogs in the machine.

Teachers, in fact, are so well-behaved that their very malleability has hurt them more than they can possibly imagine. We’ve all heard teachers complain about having to pay out of their own pockets for  supplies and even books for their classrooms. This on top of  the fact that they are paid, in comparison to, say, pro football quarterbacks and Fox News bleaters, virtually nothing. I’d love to see an across-the-board, national strike of teachers wherein their goal would be to be paid in a fashion somewhat commensurate with their self-advertised value to society. And if that strike lasts a full year? So be it.

CTU Strike

We Want More Pennies!

But teachers and their unions continue to settle for crumbs. Any other professional group that has to spend so many years and so many dollars to be certified to do a specialized job would have squeezed the system for every penny. That’s the advantage and the goal of collective bargaining. Teachers, meanwhile, occasionally go on strike for three days, win themselves a few more cents and a bunch of seniority protections, apologize profusely, and go back to work almost before the kids even realize they’ve had an unscheduled break.

They’re victims of their own group culture that champions good behavior above all. They are, in other words, too compliant for their own good.

Want proof? Witness how hard they come down on kids who aren’t compliant. Like, apparently, that long-haired kid in Texas.

Take The Test

I’m reading “Are You My Mother?” by Alison Bechdel right now. Only a few pages from finishing the graphic novel. It’s simultaneously riveting and off-putting. Bechdel tries to come to terms with her relationship with her mother — which is deeply compelling — but she spends most of her adult life (as well as her childhood, for that matter) analyzing, over-analyzing, and re-analyzing her actions and feelings — which is not.

Still, it’s a worthwhile read. Count me a big fan of Bechdel, even if she does navel-gaze too much.


Alison Bechdel

Anyway, I ran into Bloomington’s dulcet-est voice, Annie Corrigan, in Soma this morning and asked her if she’s read the book. She hasn’t but she’s well aware of Bechdel, naturally.

Corrigan hipped me to the Bechdel Test. Believe me, it’ll open your eyes to the pervasiveness of sex-typing in Hollywood movies.

Here’s how it works: think of any big movie or TV show you’ve ever seen. Think of the scenes between two women (the scenes have to last 60 seconds or longer and, consequently, are important to the plot.) What do the women talk about?

In shockingly disproportionate numbers, they talk about men. As in Do I like him? Should I Like him? Does he like me? Should he like me? and other such profound explorations into the human condition.


What Women Do

So women, Hollywood would have us believe, are babbling idiots. They don’t concern themselves with pressing issues like war, art, career, and the Meaning of Life. Only Will he ever love me?

Of course, you didn’t need the Bechdel Test to know that, did you?

The Pencil Today:

Move Along, Folks; Nothin’ To See Here

Now comes word that maybe — just maybe — authorities didn’t really give a damn that there might have been captives being held in the home of one of the craziest bastards Cleveland has ever gifted the nation.

Yup, USA Today’s report on the mad, mad, mad, mad story reveals that one neighbor had seen a naked woman on a leash crawling around the backyard and another heard pounding on the windows from the inside. Both neighbors say they called the cops but, alas, Cleveland’s finest couldn’t be bothered with such peskiness. Presumably, they had more pressing concerns like the issuing of parking tickets.

Cleveland House

House Of Horrors

Yet another neighbor’d seen all three captives on leashes, crawling around in the backyard. Wait, there’s more — the deranged school bus driver who owned the joint had been seen bringing big bags of McDonald’s into the house, which puzzled neighbors because they’d thought he was the only occupant therein.

Not even the brazen consuming of junk fast food could stir the constabulary to action.

It turns out the three young woman might have been rescued after all in short order (even if newly-christened hero Charles Ramsey hadn’t helped them escape) because the owner of the house owed back taxes. Now that’s a real crime.

The Story Of America

And Charles Ramsey is a genius. Why? Simply because he was able to condense several hundred years of New World history, specifically in the matter of race relations, in these 21 words:

I knew somethin’ was wrong when a pretty little white girl ran into the arms of a black man. Dead giveaway.


The Eminent Historian, Charles Ramsey

Wits and wags have even been cracking wise that Ramsey ought to run for political office. Uh uh. The man already has been recorded committing the unforgivable sin of blatant honesty.

Fat Facts

Lost in yesterday’s news was the revelation that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie secretly underwent Lap-Band surgery a couple of months ago in an effort to shrink his famous round silhouette.

Christie swears he did it so that he could improve his odds of remaining among the living for at least the next half hour, considering the fact that he’s got a wife and kids who sort of dig him and he they.

But the political pundits are screaming to high heaven that he got his gut belt tightened because he wants to run for president in 2016. One poli-sci guy, interviewed on NPR yesterday, said the electorate, essentially, doesn’t want a fat man as a leader. No, not because his heart may explode two days into his first term but because, well, we just don’t care that much for fat guys.


Not Presidential Material

Nice, huh?

And how about the Abercrombie & Fitch outfit that costumes a certain percentage of the IU student body here in our own beloved Bloomington? Apparently, A&F does not offer duds for anybody who’s ever eaten a second slice of pizza without feeling compelled to hork it back up.

Marketing and merchandising maven Robin Lewis tells Business Insider that Mike Jeffries, the exceedingly scary big boss man at A&F thinks tubbies are gross. Tubbies, of course, being all those icky people who enjoy eating.

“He doesn’t want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people. He doesn’t want his core customers to see people who aren’t as hot as them wearing his clothing,” Lewis says.

Jeffries spewed his own verbal poison in a Salon article about him and his cult-like corporation seven years ago. And, oh, he’s a piece of work. The Salon article’s author, Benoit Deizet-Lewis describes him thusly: “He wants desperately to look like his target customer (the casually flawless college kid), and in that pursuit he has aggressively transformed himself from a classically handsome man into a cartoonish physical specimen: dyed hair, perfectly white teeth, golden tan, bulging biceps, wrinkle-free face, and big, Angelina Jolie lips.”



Eek. Anyway, Jeffries sez the sex appeal of compulsively skinny coeds is key to his marketing plan: “It’s almost everything. That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that…. In every school there are cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids…. A lot of people don’t belong (in our clothes), and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”

A&F Ad

If You’re Not As Cool And Good-Looking As These Two, Kill Yourself

Oh, by the way, A&F settled a class-action lawsuit for big bucks back in 2004 for denying employment to minority applicants and, for those minorities who’d managed to be taken on, making them work in the back room of the store where cool, good-looking customers wouldn’t be forced to suffer the indignity of looking at them.

Just in case you were wondering, Jeffries has taken a brand that was just about to go into the dumper and transformed it into a fabulously successful retailer in the three decades he’s been at the helm. He is, in no uncertain terms, a business savant.

Even if he is a certifiable jerk. Huzzah for the Free Market!

[h/t to Liza Pavelich]

The Pencil Today:

Teen Pregnancy & Market Forces

Much has been made over the Fortune magazine writer who claimed on Fox News (where else?) that unwed teenagers who give up their babies for adoption face some kind of stigma and that other teenies who gulp contraceptive pills are somehow celebrated.

Nina Easton says this holy land has been sullied by a rash of teen abortions in recent years and, by golly, something has to be done about it. Why, though, Easton wonders, are birth control-using teens (read: sluts) encouraged when those who follow god’s writ by carrying the result of a romp in the basement while Demi Lovato’s screeches cover their moans and groans to full term are made to feel icky about it?

The lipless, uber-white commentator feels that in a fair, just, and sacred world we should yell huzzah when a teen gets preggers and announces her intention to ship the kid off to another family. Throwing a party for any teen girl who uses birth control, in Easton’s Eden, is just wrong.


Nina Easton

Weird, I know, but, hey, pretty much every argument the anti-woman, pro-invisible-law-giver-in-the-sky gang makes about reproductive rights comes straight out of Nurse Ratchet’s nuthouse.

And there’s nothing like an employee of a periodical whose raison d’etre is to champion gaudy materialism and greedy soullessness giving us family advice.

Here’s Wonkette’s take on Easton’s verbal upchuck: “She is advocating that we let teenagers have babies and then celebrate when they give the babies to richer, nicer people who can afford Pottery Barn furniture and vote Republican.”

Aviva Shen of Think Progress noticed that Easton’s hand-wringing over abortion fails to take into account a key point: “Meanwhile, teen pregnancies are at their lowest rate in 40 years, thanks to expanded birth control and abortion access.”

Ah, but Shen forgets that there’s only so much pricey furniture one can fit into one’s home before one feels the need to complete the showcase by acquiring an even more expensive trophy purchase; that is, one’s very own Baby Einstein.

So, poor, dumb, slutty teens, get humping! The Free Market has created a demand for your product.


Get Yours Today!

Your Room Is Ready, Sir

BTW: If the above rant doesn’t earn me the lightning bolt followed by a one-way ticket to Beelzebub’s entrance foyer, then Hell just doesn’t exist. I ain’t worried.



On the other hand, there’s gotta be a Hell for all those who, in the last 68 years, have looted humanity’s treasuries and scientific capabilities to create a stockpile of tens of thousands of nuclear weapons.

Here’s a chillingly graphic illustration of the number of actual big booms humankind has produced since the early morning hours of July 16, 1945, at the Trinity test site in New Mexico. Have a nice day!

The Pencil Today:

Should I Believe What I See?

I’m as ambivalent about home schooling as I am about traditional schooling.

The schools I went to, by and large, stifled creativity, served as public relations firms for a mythic America, and were more concerned with turning me into a malleable consumer than they were with helping me learn how to think. From what I understand, public schools these days have become even more proficient in churning out obeisant wage slaves.

No thanks.

1962 Graduating Class

Interchangeable Parts

But at least schools hire trained professionals who are dedicated to the art of teaching, even if many of them insist on calling it pedagogy. Home schools are run by, well, people.

People, after all, have proven themselves to be capable of championing and/or embracing Miley Cyrus, the Kardashians, homeopathy, quick weight loss plans, angels, and Fox News. Do we want people teaching our kids?

Didn’t think so.

Nevertheless, it’s been my experience that home schooled kids seem to be far more capable of dealing with adults than traditional school kids. The typical 14-year-old handles being introduced to anyone over the age of 25 with about as much glee as I have when forced to clean up a hairball in the middle of the night.

Mopey Kid


Time and again, I’m nearly awestruck by the ease and charm with which home schooled kids converse with older folk. I just met a couple of home schooled kids yesterday at a swell outdoor party near Lake Monroe. They were 14 and 16, a girl and a boy, respectively, and they were more riveting conversationalists than two-thirds of the adults present.

Their mom explained: “They weren’t brought up in an environment of us versus them the way kids are in school.”

They looked me in the eye, they contributed witty comments, they seemed curious about what I had to say — in short, they were human beings and not just cardboard cutout mopey adolescents. And, when all is said and done, the job traditional schools seem to be best at is pumping out cardboard cutout personalities.

Whenever I run into a seemingly fully developed kid like the two I met yesterday, I immediately think, home school.

How many logical fallacies go into making that assumption? Tons, I suppose. Surely my evidence is anecdotal and, yes, I’m cherry-picking my examples. Throw in the complex question fallacy and the false dilemma fallacy, and you’ve only started chipping away at my premise.

The question I need to ask myself every time I think I’ve seen another proof that home schooling results in dynamic, lively, connected teenagers is: Have I just been assuming that every single mopey teen I run into goes to traditional school?

Answering that question won’t prove or disprove the efficacy of home schooling in developing kids who aren’t alienated pains in the ass. That’s a tough nut to crack.

I’ll have to satisfy myself with the answer that there is no answer just yet.

We Only Believe What We See

I tell the story above to illustrate how easy it is — even for such a titanic intellect as this keyboard clacker — to come to a conclusion based on incomplete or faulty data. And the sad thing is, apparently, pretty much all sides of the political debate today view this holy land through such a fogged lens.

A study by researchers at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey finds that better than one-third of the voters in these United States believe Barack Obama still is fudging his birth certificate, one out of four of us are certain that US government officials at least knew about the 9/11 attacks before they happened, and one of five of us are convinced Obama stole the 2012 election.

Obama Photoshopped

Guess Who!

All in all, nearly two-thirds of Americans believe in one or another political conspiracy, and I’m not talking about the cozy daisy chain that big business, Congress, and the corporate media have been stuck in since time immemorial. No, I mean conspiracies wherein elected archcriminals and Dr. Strangelove types plot to control the world through false flag and black bag jobs, mass hypnosis, and/or the surreptitious planting of substances or microchips within us.

The truth is we’re bored with reality and really want the world to be a series of episodes of The Twilight Zone.

The Pencil Today:

Power Politics

So many of my pals on the Left were aghast that some nearly toothless gun control measures lost in the Senate last month. How can this be? they shrieked. Ninety percent of Americans backed it!

To which I reply, So what?

I don’t care if 99.9 percent of the citizens of this holy land are screaming from the rooftops for even the most tepid law to keep artillery out of the hands of mental patients and tots. This isn’t their holy land; it’s the holy land of those who’ve successfully organized — and are backed up by an industry iron triangle. And nobody’s done a better job of organizing in the last few decades than the National Rifle Association.

As I type this, some 70,000 people are attempting to conceal their tumescence at the NRA annual convention in Houston. The gun porn racket throws itself a fap party every single year, and it’s always the biggest show in town.

CNN Photo

Image from CNN

Think: 70,000 would pack Lucas Oil Stadium to the rafters. In essense, the NRA has its own annual Super Bowl.

So I don’t care how many of us want, wish, and pray for stricter gun control laws. Until we can put together an outfit of the magnitude of the NRA, one that spends dough by the bushelsful, that thinks in lockstep with its manufacturing sponsors, and that supports enough lobbyists to populate a medium-sized city, all we’re going to be doing is wanting, wishing, and praying.

And The Enemy Is….

Whenever the subject is the NRA my thoughts turn, naturally, to my friends on the Right. The wing-nut faction of that gang feels it needs its guns not only to cuddle with at night but to protect itself from the jackbooted thugs of the Centers for Disease Control and other brutal armies. There is an enemy that the Right has night sweats about, and it’s not always brown- or black-skinned. It’s the federal government, which is code for the second coming, in the Right’s fever dreams, of Nazi Germany.


US Government Employees At Their Annual Picnic

The feds as bad guys has been an article of faith among those to the right of Bob Hope since the Days of the New Deal. There’ve been countless villains who’ve wanted to foist a crushing big government on us in those 80-plus years, according to that train of thought. The current bete noir is the “regulatory state,” which the Tea Party and other deep thinkers equate with the Gestapo.

And all this time I thought government regulations did things like keep factory managers from dumping vats of cyanide into streams. Shows what I know.

The Ayn Rand wing knows better. Here’s how journalist Thomas Frank explains it all:

The age of the giant corporation is here to stay of course, and as long as it is, big government must be on hand to curb its abuses. When the system is corrupted, as it clearly was in the case of the bailouts — and the subprime lending spree, and the West Virginia mine disaster, and the BP oil spill — the obvious answer is to clean up government so it can perform its police function properly

But that’s not how the revivified Right understands things. Instead…, they find, conveniently, that we can only cure its ills by doing away with the big government side of the equation — with the regulating and taxing and pension-giving side.

And thus our choices are spread before us. On the one hand, the small-business utopia; on the other “socialism.” One system is “capitalism,” the “American Way of Life”; it is in harmony with the rhythms of nature itself; but the other is something alien, something impure, something dishonest.

— From Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right, Picador (MacMillan), 2012

Cool! At least 70,000 people fondling barrels at this very moment down in Houston think I’m alien and impure. Thanks for the compliment!

The Pencil Today:

The Salute

1968. I was 12 years old that momentous year. Had I been like most 12-year-olds, I would have paid little or no attention to anything going on in the world outside my block and my sixth and seventh grade classrooms.

But, see, even at that weird age when the pursuit of pictures of naked women was paramount to any and every other endeavor in my life, I still had time and neurons to devote to things like the murders of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, the snuffed-out lives of a quarter million people in Vietnam, the tanks rolling through the streets of Prague and Chicago, and even one particular moment during a medal ceremony at that summer’s Olympics in Mexico City.

Prague Spring

The Prague Spring, August, 1968

Photos of that moment rank among the most definitive of the 2oth Century. Two black American sprinters raise black-gloved fists during the playing of the national anthem, their way of calling attention to this holy land’s system of apartheid. I stared at those pix in the newspaper for long minutes on end that September. The two runners were vilified and pilloried as if they’d pissed on the flag.


(l to r) Peter Norman, John Carlos & Tommie Smith

Which, in a sense, they had — and, from the vantage point of this 12-year-old just forming his first opinions about the world at large, they were completely justified in doing so.

I thought John Carlos and Tommie Smith were among the coolest guys on the planet. And you know what? I still do.

Netflix Instant is running a documentary entitled Salute right now. It’s the story of how that dramatic moment came to be, the plans for a black boycott of the Olympic games, the rioting in the streets of Mexico City that resulted in the deaths of hundreds, the records set by the sprinters involved, and even the part played by the white guy, Peter Norman of Australia, who stood on the medal platform with Carlos and Smith.


Peter Norman, Before His 2006 Death

Norman, it turns out, fully supported Carlos and Smith in their demonstration. They’d told him what they’d planned to do and he backed them to the hilt. His parents had been Salvation Army officers and had raised him to be more than color-blind.

He, too, suffered in the fallout from the incident, even if he hadn’t raised his fist. But merely because he’d lent moral support to Carlos and Smith, Norman became a pariah in his own land which, BTW, was experiencing its own apartheid battles. Norman was roundly criticized in the Australian press and was even effectively blackballed from the 1972 Olympic games.

If you’ve got Netflix, dial up Salute. It’ll be well worth your time. You’ll even find out why Carlos and Smith raised, respectively, their right and left fists, an asymmetry that has bugged me for some 45 years now.

Spare The Rod

Speaking of 1968, yesterday was Dr. Benjamin Spock‘s birthday. Spock wrote the seminal book Baby and Child Care in 1946. It was the bible for American mothers until he became an anti-nuclear weapons activist in 1962 and, later, an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War. In 1968, he was prosecuted by the US Department of Justice for conspiracy to counsel young men to evade the draft. He was found guilty and sentenced to two years in federal prison, although the conviction was overturned in 1969.


Spock, Under Arrest

Spock, the baby doctor, advised parents not to kick the crap out of their kids which, immediately after World War II, was considered to be a revolutionary concept. So, when young people began to take to the streets in the 1960s to protest the war, racism, Jim Crow, and a host of other American ills, Spock’s critics said his call for “permissiveness” in child rearing was the cause of all our problems. He became the Worst Man in the World for the Right, the Michael Moore of his era, as it were.

Book Cover


Spock died in 1998 at the age of 94.

Just a reminder that today’s demonization of the opposition — by both the Right and the Left — is nothing new.

Step Right Up….

I check out the goings-on at World Net Daily now and again, mainly for laughs but also to keep up to date on how deranged the wingnut Right is becoming.

WND bills itself as “A Free Press for a Free People.” Which is accurate only if you equate freedom with sheer lunacy. The site still questions Barack Obama’s citizenship, sees Christianity under constant attack from all sides, and runs the ravings of Rush Limbaugh’s brother, David, who is no less full of shit than his big sib.

From WND

It reveres the likes of Alan Keyes, Pat Buchanan, Ted Nugent, and even the notorious bigot and former Major League Baseball pitcher John Rocker.

Today’s stories include several updates in a regular department called “The Gaying of America,” “news” that Illinois Senator Dick Durbin addressed a “commie” rally and that Duke University has hiked student fees to cover sex change surgeries for them, and one humdinger headlined, “Obama’s Czar Snagged in Castro Love Fest.”

In other words, the authors of the psychiatrists’ manual of mental illnesses, the DSM-5, could have researched their tome merely by observing World Net Daily’s staff and audience and still would have produced a thorough and comprehensive study of the diseased mind.

Anyway, it struck me long ago that WND is chock full of ads for the most preposterous snake oils, patent medicines, magical foods, and investments guaranteed to safeguard your money through the coming apocalypse. Why, I’ve wondered, are all these people so gullible?

The easy answer would be anyone who pays attention to the spewings of John Rocker or Ted Nugent for three and a half seconds would fall for anything. Historian Rick Perlstein, though, has dug up some more profound rationales.


John Rocker

Check out Perelstein’s Thursday piece in The Nation about scammy multi-level marketing firms (pardon my redundancy) and their ever-presence on Right-wing websites. So I wasn’t imagining this after all. Perlstein argues that religious conservatives flock to these scams.

Perelstein writes: “America truly does harbor two separate and nearly incommensurate tribes, ‘Red’ and ‘Blue,’ if you will; how many of us blue folks know that getting roped into coughing up hard-earned money you’ll never see again to Republican-affiliated ‘multilevel marketing’ (MLM) companies — in hustles formerly known as ‘pyramid schemes’ — is as common in Evangelical and Mormon culture as going to yoga class in our own?”

Perelstein’s Nation piece is an extension on an article he did for The Baffler last year entitled, “The Long Con.” In it, he cites one typical day’s ads and news bits on the Right-wing website They included:

  • “Reverse Crippling Arthritis in 2 Days”
  • “Clear Clogged Arteries Safely & Easily — without drugs, withour surgery, and without a radical diet”
  • “High Blood Pressure Cured in 3 Minutes”

“The strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers points up evidence… of tactics designed to corral fleecable multitudes all in one place — and the formation of a cast of mind that makes it hard for either them or us to discern where the ideological con end[s] and the money con [begins],” Perelstein writes.


So, the alarmist, conspiracy-theorist, secret cabal exposing, paranoiac tone adopted by WND, among other ultra-conservative platforms, is really nothing more than a clever business model, one designed to excite a captive audience of scaredy-cats enough to separate them from their dough.

Ah, the free market — ya gotta love it.

The Pencil Today:

May Day!

Enjoy the real labor day today. And remember, little niceties like the 40-hour work week, weekends, lunch hours, workplace safety regulations, collective bargaining, child labor laws, workers compensation, and other things we take for granted came about not because employers suddenly felt generous but because millions of organized workers demanded them.

Woolworth Strikers, 1937

I’ve been a proud member of the municipal laborers union in Chicago, the National Writers Union, and the Newspaper Guild in my adult life. My sympathies and loyalties will always be for union members. And it galls me to live in a state that operates under phony-assed “right-to-work” laws and doesn’t allow government employees to unionize.

Here’s hoping those two insults to human toil are overturned within my lifetime.

Tweedledum And Tweedledee

Many observers would have you believe this holy land was born of hard work, faith in god, fiscal prudence, iron, steel, plastic, the blood and sweat of human chattel until 1865, and that of obeisant wage slaves thereafter. They may be partly right.

They’d be 100 percent correct, on the other hand, if they’d simply said America is made of myth.

And perhaps the most mythic being in America’s history was Ronald Reagan. To hear some people tell it, he single-handedly brought down an evil empire of some 350 million people. And then he went out back to chop some wood.

Leave it to the Onion to set the record straight. I was thumbing through that gang’s most recent offering, The Onion Book of Known Knowledge, and came upon the entry for the president whose wife bestowed upon us the unassailable wisdom of “Just Say No.”



Herewith, from the Onion Book, is everything you need to known about Ronald Reagan and the United States of America:

Ronald Reagan (b. Feb. 6, 1911 d. June 5, 2004), 4oth president of the United States who over two terms in office tripled the national debt, funded the group that would become al-Qaeda while trying to expel the Russian military from Afghanistan, and vastly expanded the federal government, making him the least Reaganesque president in history. Though the Illinois native set himself up to be the quintessential Reaganite president by promising in his 1981 inaugural speech to reduce the size of government and rein in spending, he actually built up an enormous peacetime military and drove the federal deficit to unprecedented levels, a decidedly un-Reaganesque move. Reagan went on to violate almost every tenet of traditional, small-government Reaganism by approving 61,000 new federal jobs, reneging on his pledge to cut taxes, and then increasing payroll and gasoline taxes. Even when Reagan was at his most Reaganesque — authorizing covert military operations against the Communist Sandanista government — he only managed it by illegally trading arms to Iran to fund the Nicaraguan rebel Contras, who in turn trafficked narcotics to the United States, effectively negating his Reaganesque antidrug  policies. Most historians agree that by balancing the federal budget and shrinking the federal government by 373,000 workers, Bill Clinton was the most Reaganesque president of all time.

It’s a wonder Reagan was never accused of being a socialist plant born outside this country.


The Real Reagan

The Down Low

Now comes word that newly-out NBA player Jason Collins had a long-time fiance who is making the talk show rounds to say she was “floored” by the news.



Carolyn Moos, herself a former professional basketball player, says she and Collins were kissin’ in a tree for eight years, up until the moment Collins called off their planned marriage suddenly in 2009. TMZ reports that Moos learned the man she dreamed of being her “husband, soul mate, and best friend” was gay just this past weekend.


How is all this possible? Presumably, Collins was having trysts with other members of the XX-chromosome set while pledging his troth to Moos. Sure, sure, the typical NBA player spends half his regular season on the road, thereby offering him ample opportunities for extracurricular activities. But, still, what an actor he must have been!

Moos (upon his return from a road trip): How was your trip, honey?

Collins: Fine, fine.

M: What’d you do?

C: Nothin’ much. The usual.

Imagine the delusional world two people must inhabit wherein that simple exchange can work. I know The Loved One looks sidelong at me through a narrowed eye should I happen to mention the name of any female twice within the space of a week. And I’ve felt tempted to grill her under a harsh light whenever she gushes about how much she enjoys working with certain male colleagues.

Even in a loving, secure relationship the participants therein must, to borrow a phrase from Ronald Reagan, trust but verify.

So, not only did Collins have to make up tall tales about the depth of his fidelity but he, presumably, had to pretend he dug seeing Carolyn Moos sans uniform. And she had to believe it all.

He’ll have to answer to his conscience for lying about his dalliances. The rest of us bear a collective responsibility for making him lie about the equipment his preferred sex partners possess.

The Pencil Today:

Crazy, Man!

Honestly, who doesn’t like Willie Nelson? Anybody?

I’m figuring the Willie Nelson-phobes are outnumbered a thousand to one. Good ol’ Willie is one of those people — of which there are a precious few — who can be described as definitively American. In the good way, that is; not in the Donald Trump or Kim Kardashian way.

Anyway, the old bird turns 80 today.

Here’s WN at his finest:

Yep, he wrote it. Here he is talking about meeting Patsy Cline (on Letterman):

Bullshit Detector

As you know, I love the I Fucking Love Science site.

Here’s is a recent post from the IFLS folks that will help you distinguish magic from reality:


Celebrity “Science” Kills

A little baby died in Florida last week. Tragic though it is, this kind of news usually is not, well, newsworthy.

But this is big news. The kid died of whooping cough, AKA pertussis, which has long been though to be a dead disease. The reason whooping cough had essentially disappeared in Florida as well as every other state of the union is the DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus) vaccine.

Listen to a child with whooping cough.

Note I typed had. Whooping cough has been making a comeback. The Orange County (where the death occurred) health department reports growing numbers of cases of whooping cough and measles. Measles also had been thought to be wiped out due to the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccination program.

So, what’s going on? Simply this: many parents are refusing to let their kids be vaccinated because of a debunked study that purported to link vaccines to autism and a celebrity-driven campaign to stop the compulsory vaccinations.

In other words, people who have taken on the responsibility of creating and raising new human beings are putting those new human beings — as well as hundreds or thousands of other new human beings — at risk of death because they’ve bought into the preachings of those eminent scientific researchers Jenny McCarthy and her ex-husband Jim Carrey.


Eminent Authorities

And to think taxonomists have dubbed our species Homo Sapiens sapiens (wise, wise man).

Back in 1998 a British researcher named Andrew Wakefield published a paper claiming that the MMR vaccine caused autism. Naturally, many parents panicked, especially considering that cases of autism have been on the rise in recent decades. Then in 2007, former Playboy magazine playmate and B-list actress McCarthy wrote a book called “Louder Than Words: A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism.” In it, she repeated Wakefield’s claim that certain vaccines trigger autism. McCarthy had written a foreword for a Wakefield book on the topic.

McCarthy went on Oprah and Larry King to spout her (and Wakefield’s) bullshit. She even was interviewed on a PBS Frontline episode about the “controversy” between the scientific community and anti-vaccine activists.

From PBS

Next thing you know, according to at least one public opinion poll, a quarter of American parents “trusted” McCarthy’s (and other celebrities’) ravings about vaccines. What followed was a growing number of parents who refused to allowed their kids to be injected with the DPT or MMR vaccines.

I put controversy in quotes because there is absolutely no such thing in regard to the practice of universal vaccinations. See, Andrew Wakefield’s seminal study has been thoroughly discredited. It turns out he and his co-authors (he was the lead researcher) had committed fraud.

Investigations by the London’s Sunday Times and Britain’s General Medical Council (the national physicians registry) determined that Wakefield had jiggered test conditions and results, that his results had never been replicated by other researchers, and that the findings were compromised by Wakefield’s plan to start a worldwide business that would capitalize on a “vaccine scare,” a business that he privately predicted would net him some $43 million per year.

The British medical journal Lancet retracted and apologized for running Wakefield’s original paper and his medical license was withdrawn. Journals which had published several other papers by him also retracted them, due to his now-tarnished rep as a researcher.

So, fine, justice has been done, right? Ixnay. News of retractions and license withdrawals aren’t as sexy as Jenny McCarthy.

And more and more people are refusing to have their kids vaccinated. And now kids are dying.


I’m thinking perhaps our species should be renamed Homo Stultus stultus.

The Pencil Today:

Truth Is Duller Than Fiction

One of those near and dear to me in my adopted hometown of Bloomington feels I’m betraying the journalists’ code of curiosity when I dismiss 9/11 Truthers and other conspiracy theorists.

The other day I wrote about the discovery of a piece of the landing gear wedged in between a couple of high-rises several blocks away from New York City’s Ground Zero. It’s believed to have come from one of the two planes that slammed into the World Trade Center towers. I typed: “Gear up, Truthers!”

9/11 Truther

This pal of mine happens to be a crackerjack news reporter and takes the journalists’ creed and vocation seriously. The old City News Bureau motto — If your mother says she loves you, check it out — could be her personal mantra.

All that said, she’s all wet.

At least in this case.

She points out an article from a website called Truth Theory that lists “5 Conspiracy Theories Which Turned Out To Be True.” They are, in order:

  • The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment (you know about this so I don’t have to explain it)
  • Operation Northwoods (a proposed series of terrorist attacks on US soil that could be blamed on Castro’s Cuba, thereby galvanizing public support behind an invasion of that island nation)


Fidel Castro

  • The Nayirah Testimony (some little brat daughter of a Kuwaiti oil sheik testified that Saddam Hussein’s army was brutal as part of the propaganda lead-up to Gulf War I)
  • Operation Paperclip (the US imported German rocket scientists to work on our space program after the Nazis had been defeated in World War II)
  • MK-Ultra (the CIA experimented with hallucinogens, hypnosis, subliminal messaging, and other methods to  determine their efficacy in “mind control” as well as in cracking captured Soviet spies.

The idea being, if your federal government could do these things, why couldn’t it blow up several structures vitally important to global finance, killing thousands, and creating a byzantine cover story just so that it could…, um, y’know, do something or another.


The Plot In Action

If “conspiracy” means anything the government does that is criminal or abusive, then yes, there are “conspiracies.” The funny thing is one of these “true conspiracies” never even happened; the author of the piece admits Operation Northwoods was nixed out of hand. That’s a strange way to prove the existence of “conspiracies.”

The word “conspiracy,” of course, implies a secret, nefarious plot carried out to fool the rest of us — save the wise and perceptive souls who’ve sussed the whole thing out. Operation Paperclip was so secret that Werner von Braun, the top Nazi rocket scientist, held a press conference upon surrendering to American soldiers, pledging loyalty to the US. A little more than a year later, a national magazine ran an article revealing that some of the hundreds of German emigre scientists were having a tough time getting used to American cooking.

If you’re beginning to think US authorities and the ex-Nazis themselves were awful at keeping their secret, conspiracy theorists have a ready response: Conspirators love to parade their “secrets” in the open; it’s the best way to keep them, well, secret.

That, as much as anything, illustrates the fascinating thought processes of conspiracy theorists.

My guess is the CTs (I’m tired of typing conspiracy theorist) will be falling all over themselves to create wilder stories than ever about this hunk of landing gear discovered a dozen years after the fact.

ABC News

The Landing Gear & Its Resting Place (Inset)

I suppose it’s exciting to think of the White House and the Kremlin and a hundred other seats of sovereign power being packed to the point of bursting with archcriminals and mad scientists who sit around tables conjuring evil plans to take over the planet. A geo-political world that’s the setting for the mother of all grand spy/mystery/apocalypse novels would be, no doubt, entertaining. The real world in which national leaders countenance mass rape as a military strategy and multi-national corporations work tirelessly behind the scenes to purchase political sway is simultaneously repulsive and yawn-inducing.

Dig Matt Taibbi’s take on the Truthers (from The Great Derangement, Speigel & Grau, 2009):

In 9/11 Truth lore, the people who staff the White House, the security agencies, the Pentagon and groups like PNAC and the Council on Foreign Relations are imagined to be a monolithic, united class of dastardly, swash-buckling risk-takers with permanent hard-ons for Bourne Supremacy-style “false flag” and “black bag” operations, instead of the mundanely greedy, risk-averse, backstabbing, lawn-tending, half-clever suburban golfers they are in real life.

Wait, there’s more:

The people who really run America don’t send the likes of George Bush and Dick Cheney to the White House to cook up boat-rocking, maniacal, world-domination plans and commit massive criminal conspiracies on live national television; they send them there to repeal PUHCA and dole out funds for the F-22 and pass energy bills with $14 billion tax breaks and slash fuel-efficiency standards and do all the other shit that never makes the newspapers but keeps Wall Street and the country’s corporate boardrooms happy.

In other words, Hannah Arendt was right: the truest and most insidious evil is the most banal.

And that’s no fun.

Journalism Heroes

This is the second post in a row in which I’ve quoted Matt Taibbi. Long-time readers of this column know I go gaga over Taibbi.

A contributing editor for Rolling Stone, Taibbi has penned the most incisive, righteously angry stories about the financial meltdown of 2007-08 to be found in any news outlet. He redefined the term vampire squid to describe the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs in its historic role in America’s bubble economy.

Vampire Squid

Goldman Sachs Boss Lloyd Blankfein Relaxes In His Pool

He just may be my fave journalist working today.

So, I figure I’ll give you my full rundown of excellent journalists at work today. You’ll note not a single one comes from the corporate media establishment. That’s because the people working for those profit-driven infotainment, news-as-soap-opera, bootlicking, obfuscating PR firms for the power elite are neither journalists nor excellent. As an example, Washingtonian magazine, the journal of the DC fecal-matter-encrusted ruling class, has named ABC’s George Stephanopoulos as one of the top 50 journalists in the nation. Stephanopoulos, you may recall, had his lips surgically removed from Bill Clinton’s posterior and went on to become one of the brightest lights in the phony-assed, professional wrestling inspired, faux two-sides-to-every-issue Sunday morning talk show world.

It’s like naming Psy one of the greatest musicians of the 21st Century.


He’s Not

Here, then, are the good reporters:


Klein, Ehrenreich & Taibbi

None of these people, as far as I know, attended last night’s White House Correspondents Dinner, an annual affair wherein corporate news media toadies are invited to laugh at the sitting president’s tepid jokes and breathe a rarified air reserved for only the best of America’s courtiers.

As Chris Hedges says, if you’re a journalist making $5 million a year, you should start to worry. Problem is, the “journalists” who make that kind of dough think their worries are over.

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