Hot Air: It’s March!

Civic Engagement

The news: Hope Hicks resigns.

Me: Shrug. Scratch. Yawn.


My guest this afternoon on Big Talk: Criminal and family law attorney Amelia Lahn. She, along with Katharine Liell are this town’s two top campus sexual assault case mavens. Amelia does a lot of defending, both in criminal courts and before college student conduct boards.

Amelia Lahn [Image: M. Elizabeth Hershey.]

Funny world — isn’t it? — when a progressive feminist who’s completely in synch with the metoo movement makes much of her daily bread standing up for college boys accused of rape and other sexual improprieties. She has even defended at least one faculty member whose alleged sins — criminal and moral — would cause most people to run screaming in the opposite direction.

It takes a thick skin and a profound love for the judicial system to willingly become a defender of those dudes who are, right now, probably America’s second biggest villains. (First? Prob. gun dealers who peddle AR-15s.)

Anyway, tune in at 5:30pm today on WFHB, 91.3 FM. And, as always, I’ll provide the podcast link here Friday morning.

Time Passes

Funny thing: Two years ago right now, I was just entering the horrifying phase of my cancer treatment. I’d been getting my daily radiation zaps for more than three weeks already and was just about to go in for another chemotherapy blast. By this time, I was unable to eat or even talk much and all the gross things that were coming off and out of me were starting to do so in alarming profusion. For the next month and a half or so, I’d be unable to do little more than sit on the sofa and stare. I couldn’t even summon the energy to read a new book or watch something novel on my computer screen. So I re-read the same stuff again and again and watched a couple of things repeatedly.

Those things I watched brought me whatever joy I could muster through those dark days. They were that Bruno Mars mashup video, “Uptown Funk,” and the 1958 schlock horror film, Teenagers Battle the Thing.

Here’s the irony. I cannot watch those things now because of a psychological side effect that chemoradiation patients experience called “parking lot nausea.” That’s when the nausea that comes about from being poisoned with, in my case, a platinum compound becomes so deep and pernicious that the sufferer begins to associate it with everything — sights, sounds, even emotions — she or he is experiencing at the time. The name of it came about as cancer treatment practitioners found people getting violently ill as they pulled up in the parking lot for their next chemo infusion. Some people would even hork right there next to the car. Others would stumble and fall on their faces, they were so sick.

I know I couldn’t bear the smell of the foyer of the infusion center. It was the emotional equivalent of walking into a burning building. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have even noticed any particular odor there, but the metal, the lubricating fluid in the door arm, the mud mats, hell, even the damned wallpaper all combined to make me gag as I’d stumble in.

Lots of other things did that to me, too, at the time. In fact, my brother Joey stayed with us for a couple of weeks toward the end of my treatment. Because he actually brought a new human smell into the house, I could’t stand going near the guest bedroom. Poor Joey’s very aroma made me sick!

At the very end of treatment and for a few weeks thereafter, I couldn’t even read or watch anything anymore. And the Bruno Mars video and that Thing movie became memories — that would forever be associated with feeling so nauseous I thought I’d hork out all my abdominal organs.

Even thinking about the video and the movie right now is making me more than a little queasy. I had to google both things to get their exact names and when I saw stills from them, I felt a fleeting urge to retch.

Damn. That was a fun video. And the movie was a riot. Ah, well. I’ve found other things to bring me joy. Including the fact that, well, I’m alive.


Sitting at a table in the Jasper Public Library, working on the next Big Talk episode and then pounding out this post. A couple of librarians, a youngish one and a senior, are sitting at the table next to me, picking through a cartful of books, doing something or other with them.

The Youngish One: My friend’s got a new baby. She found a onesie for him. It’s got “Product of Fifty Shades of Grey” on it.

The Senior: Hmm.

The Youngish One: Y’know, it’s an erotic story. And one thing leads to another….

The Senior: Aw, that’s cute.


Yeah, America is becoming a vast mental institution.

Back in the 1970s, fundamentalist Christianists began to organize politically. They incorporated innovative methods of marketing and outreach to mobilize sympathizers in every corner of this holy land. They wisely employed a strategy to place like minded people in nearly every level of local government including school boards, county commissions,and even neighborhood associations. The strategy was brilliant as those grass-roots level office-holders rose to command ever bigger governmental entities. Our own state, for chrissakes, had Mike Pence as governor. And now he’s the vice president of the United States!

The problem is, this late 20th/early 21st Century brand of religious “thinking” is demented. Proof? Try this argument out for size.

See, some of us who are sane simply have the misfortune of being locked up with the real crazies.

Hot Air: Sense & Sex

Makes Sense

From Michael DiGioia, advertising creative director and one-time colleague of mine on the arts magazine Third Coast:

So, should we give school librarians silencers?

Killer Comedy

Aw, hell, how about another? From comedian Dana Gould:

The pro-AR-15 argument comes down to “preventing state tyranny.”

In other words, “I need an AR-15 because one day I might have to mow down a bunch of US soldiers. Don’t get me wrong, I support the troops. I just want to be ready to murder as many as possible if necessary.”


The story circulating around Bloomington social media circles right now: A person recently was out hiking in the Griffy Lake Nature Preserve and met up with another hiker — who was carrying an AR-15 and was decked out in battle equipment.

Jesus Holy Christ.

The person, the story goes, asked the fellow if it was a paintball gun or the real thing. The guy carrying it brusquely replied it was the real deal and added what he was doing is perfectly legal.

Admittedly, the story by now may well have taken on aspects of the old telephone game. At this point, who knows precisely how accurate any of the details are but, really, it’s reasonable to assume that a citizen did indeed encounter a guy packing some serious heat.

Because this is freaking Indiana and we are in the midst of a pathological orgy of gun worship these days.

Image: Lisa Marie Pane/AP

I’ve long held that societies occasionally suffer nervous breakdowns or otherwise lose their collective minds. Hell, pretty much the entire world lost its mind from the years 1914 through 1945. Think of a nation — even a world population — as a single entity, a hive of interconnected thinkers, a network of neurons. For years, for instance, the vast majority of humans on this planet thought it perfectly acceptable for one group to own the members of another group and force them to do its labor. Today, no one in the world would admit to entertaining such a thought. I’m not saying slavery isn’t still practiced, only that it’s impolite to brag about it. So, yeah, the lot of us often think, act, and react as one.

In this holy land right now, there’s a group of folks who are banding together via their common and growing mental illness. They think efficient, affordable weapons of death are swell things to have around.

Let’s drop all the bullshit about Freedom and the Founding Fathers and the citizens’ duty to resist tyranny. These people fondle guns because they get off on it. This is a group of folks in America right now who are suffering a nervous breakdown or are otherwise losing their minds.

And I’m not interested at all any more in any argument to the contrary.

I’ll Take Chocolate

Something I learned today via the crossword puzzle. The clue: First single by a rapper to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Answer: Ice Ice Baby.

Sheesh. Imagine aspiring to be a rapper and knowing that Vanilla Ice is one of your art’s founding fathers. I’d quit.

It’d be like me learning the best selling book of all time was Fifty Shades of Grey.

Wait minute! E.L. James has sold more than 125 million copies of her septic trilogy. There’s no hope for me.

Lit Bit

BTW, just scanning some book titles while formulating the above entry, I came across this one: Does God Love Michael’s Two Daddies? Hmm. One reviewer’s take: the author “gets around to answering the question posed in her title: God kinda loves them, but God would love them a whole lot more if they stopped sodomizing each other.”

The author’s name: Sheila K. Butt.

What an odd planet this is!

Hormone-Driven Humanity

The news comes fast and furious these days. Do you even remember who Rob Porter was?

He was a political aide to President Gag, becoming White House Staff Secretary the day Li’l Duce was inaugurated. He held that position until three weeks ago, when he was compelled to resign because a couple of his ex-wives claimed he slugged them around.

One of those exes claims he began to get abusive with her immediately after their wedding, during their honeymoon as a matter of fact.

Sex Mad.

This particular ex-, named Jennifer Willoughby, claims Porter got rough with her because, well, her sex drive didn’t precisely match his. She says:

He started calling me names, calling me a “fucking bitch,” how I behaved was “fucking ridiculous” and most of that was instigated around my not having sex with him often enough on our honeymoon.

I find that telling. I’ve speculated before about what I consider the overblown sex drives of too many extremely high-achieving men. I mean, just pick up a biography of a man who’s risen to the top of his profession, the very top, and it’s an awfully good bet that guy’ll be a walking hard-on. Bill Clinton. Our current president. Tiger Woods. Hugh Hefner. Frank Sinatra. Harvey Weinstein. Napoleon. Picasso. Peter the Great. George Gordon (Lord Byron), JFK. Genghis Kahn. Jack Nicholson. Hell, some guys even have five-figure “conquests” attached to their reps, to wit:

  • Warren Beatty — 12,775
  • Wilt Chamberlain — 20,000
  • Fidel Castro — 35,000

That’s right; those are the numbers, purportedly, of women each knucklehead slept with in his life. Even if the numbers are inflated (most likely), cut them in half and those are still bizarre amounts of empty sex.

Of course, there are those high-achievers who are faithful and monogamous. Heck, Richard Nixon probably rarely had the urge to dance horizontally with Pat. And J. Edgar Hoover managed, most likely, to stifle every single sexual impulse he’d ever had, leading him to become, well, J. Edgar Hoover. But I’m leaning toward thinking they’re the outliers.

It’s the guys who are chronic sundials who, generally, become generals, heads of state, moguls, and centers for championship basketball teams.

And then you hear about all these frat boys and high school lunkheads who try to justify forcing one young woman or another into sex by saying, I couldn’t stop myself.

Might they not be telling a certain truth? Maybe there are guys on this planet whose sex desire is so overwhelming, so irresistible, so damned pathological that they can’t stop themselves from humping other human beings. And, I’m positing, it appears they are the kinds of numbskulls who shoot to the top in far too many areas of human endeavor.

Perhaps the early psychologists and psychiatrists were right — sex is the reason men strive to get ahead.

I consider myself a reasonable character. If a woman didn’t want to have sex with me, I did not view that as an emergency. First off, I’d know long before push would come to shove that a woman wasn’t looking at me with dewy eyes, so there’d never really be any kind of dramatic moment when she have to throw up the stop sign. I get the feeling that too many of my gender brethren (Is that redundant? If so, you get what I’m getting at.) are so over-stimulated vis-à-vis their dates or their co-workers or their grad students or their assistants or the hopeful stars of their planned blockbuster movies that they can’t even pick up on clear and obvious nonverbal cues.

Heck, if a woman didn’t want to rumba with me, I was perfectly satisfied to go home and read myself to sleep. Tomorrow, I always knew, would be another day.

There was no crazy, inexorable drive within me either to get laid or to defeat all competitors in the writing racket so that I might emerge one day on the Nobel award ceremony stage. I never cared enough about either goal.

Could it be that human history has been written by a bunch of sex-mad males? We know for a fact that history has been manufactured by, at the very least, some kind of generic mad-males.

I’m willing to lay good odds we’re a psychotic species because our men are drunk with testosterone. How else would you describe a guy who berates his newlywed wife, calling her names, tossing fists and elbows around, just because she wants to wait a few minutes or even a few hours before their next mindless physical coupling.

I’ll bet even more money that, one day, when we get this testosterone thing under control we’ll get ourselves under control.


Hot Air: A Tale Of Two Women

My Niece

I can hardly believe I’m related to this fabulous young woman. Clarkie Marie Finkelstein. Here she is, making sum tom (papaya salad).

Clarkie Marie.

She’s in the Peace Corps right now, serving in Thailand, teaching English. I wish the world were filled with young people — hell, old people too! — like her.

Here’s her blog, where she journals her stint in Southeast Asia. Lady, you do our family proud!

Nothing Doing

I noticed another example of a specific term that means both nothing and everything this past week.

The term is TV personality.

At first glance, it means next to nothing. What does a TV personality do? Sing? Dance? Opinionate? Make jokes? Play Hamlet? Flex muscles? Recite poetry? Nothing of the sort. Of any sort. Profile writers and reporters use the term when someone has become a TV star on a show where nothing is asked of the person, nothing demanded, only that s/he look good on the screen. The definitive example of a TV personality is anyone named Kardashian.

I thought of this when, last week, Kylie Jenner made the news. Jenner, natch, is somehow connected with those Kardashians. Thankfully, I knew nothing of Kylie Jenner before last week’s splash of headlines about her. Oh sure, I’d heard her name, as any sentient being on this planet hears about any of these people who do nothing but somehow become mega-celebrities for being…, um, for being. Her name has been floating around in our collective consciousness for a few years now.

So I googled her. I clicked on her Wikipedia page:

See? That very first sentence tells us she has accomplished absolutely nothing in her 20-plus years on this Earth. Fully five descriptors are used:

  • Reality television personality
  • Model
  • Entrepreneur
  • Socialite
  • Social media personality

Whenever you see those descriptors use in conjunction with each other, to the exclusion of any others, be confident in the knowledge that the person being described has not broadened our appreciation of the fine or popular arts, brokered a Middle East peace, or made contributions to political or social progress or the studies of education, medicine, cosmology, philosophy, botany, microbiology, economics, human behavior, archeology, literature, or any of the countless sciences some of us humans consider important.

And therein lies the reason the term TV personality tells you everything about the person. She or he has made scads of money fleecing the rest of us, taking from us, while giving us nothing in return. Most previous societies put people like that in jail or at least ran them out of town. In this society, we lionize them.

So what did this particular lion do? Kylie Jenner, apparently, doesn’t like the redesigned Snapchat which, for the uninitiated among you is…, um, something you have no need to know about. Snapchat has been somehow redesigned. That’ll do. And, apparently, its users don’t like the new version. Among them Kylie Jenner. She took to Twitter to voice her displeasure. She typed:

sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad. [all sic]

Kylie Jenner’s Twitter account is one of the most followed in existence. So influential is she that Snapchat’s market value in the hours immediately following her tweet dropped more than a billion dollars! Her very opinion is so valued that she can move the goddamned stock market all by herself. Aja Romano writes in Vox:

Jenner’s ambivalence regarding the app appeared to have an immediate effect on Snapchat investors. By Thursday at the close of trading, Snapchat’s stock had dropped 6 percent — an estimated loss of between $1.3 billion and $1.6 billion in market value.

As a result, Jenner made headlines for her seeming ability to singlehandedly deal a huge financial blow to a tech industry giant, all with a causal tweet.

Here are some of those headlines:

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As if you needed to be told, a TV personality is the single most powerful and revered vocation a human being in the year 2018 can aspire to. Kylie Jenner is globally known and astoundingly influential. Me? I’ll take Clarkie Marie Finkelstein.


The fascinating and valuable (and free!) website, science, is closing up shop at the end of this month.

It’s always been chock-full of in-depth articles about new developments, what researchers are working on, science as politics, and little tidbits about this crazy existence. It’s a shame. And it’s entirely apropos, in this day and age of idiocy, for the thing the come to an end.

Ah, well. There’s still Please, oh please, don’t take that away from us too!


Hot Air: Words & Drugs


One of my least favorite words in the English language is slut. Honestly, can you think of a more ridiculous word? Let’s take a look at it.

The Oxford Living Dictionaries, an online resource, defines the word thusly:

That’s it. Slut means a woman who, essentially, likes sex. Yet, it’s one of the worst things we can call a woman.

Men who like sex are…, well, men. Swell guys. Good old boys. Leaders. Professors. Senators. Football stars. Frat boys and high school dropouts. Doctors and lawyers. Radio personalities. Comedians. Newspaper editors. Movie producers. Any and all of them can engage in the supreme refreshment every night and twice on Saturdays, and still be considered pillars of society (as long as — thankfully, now — they don’t compel workplace female colleagues or underlings to service them or criminally assault them). Again, guys who like sex are just guys.

Women who like sex are sluts.

Me? I’ve always found women who like sex to be swell girlfriends or live-in lovers or wives. Sorta makes the whole cupid thing worthwhile, no? Is there a man out there who doesn’t want his wife or girlfriend to like sex? I suppose. Hell, I’m sure of it. We’re really a pathologically weird species when it comes to thinking about sex.

That’s why we call women who like it sluts.

And that’s why I detest the word,


I brewed up some mandarin orange non-caffeine tea this AM (I’ll explain why below). As it steeped, I squeezed a healthy dollop of honey into the mug. Nothing like a good hot sip of sweet mandarin orange tea. Well, not much.

Anyway, as I waited for the tea to cool down enough so I could put my lips on it, I read the honey bottle. I satred at the word for a long moment. Honey. It’s funny, I thought, that we should call those for whom we have great affection honey.

It makes perfect sense, though. Honey is sweet and soft and is really, really good. And it’s natural, by and large, unless you buy the economy brand and who on this green Earth knows what’s in that? In any case, whoever was the first to call her or his kid or paramour honey was employing the highest good sense.

It got me to thinking. We’re calling the people we care for a food name. Honey is food, natch. Okay, good sense still carries the day. Food fulfills us, makes us feel good, sends streams of dopamines and/or endrophins coursing through our bodies. Just like the people we like a lot or love.

So why don’t we use other food terms that way? Well, we do. Cupcake. Sweetie pie. Sugar. And more.

They’re all dessert-y words. As if only something chock-full of sucrose or fructose or whatever -ose you may prefer is comparable to eros and agape and philia.

Me? I can eat as many double chocolate muffins as the next person. But my tastes extend far beyond the confectionery. In fact, I want to start calling The Loved One something I constantly crave, something that fills me, that nearly drugs me, that brings me deep happiness. That, after all is why we call our precious ones one or another variety of sweet, no?

My Darling.

I want to start calling her pizza. Thick or thin. Plain cheese or loaded with green peppers, Italian sausage, black olives, anchovies, salad shrimp, mushrooms, or whatever. Piping hot or fresh out of the fridge for that breakfast of champions.

You think she’ll go for it?


Speaking of drugs, scads o’ folks around these parts are either off the grid or partially so. They reject all, most, or a fairly decent portion of modern society’s so-called benefits. One of the biggest bete noir‘s for these people is Big Pharma. Talk to some of these rejectors of the conventional and you might come away convinced that the pharmaceutical companies have never, ever sold a substance that in any way benefits us, relieves our agony, heals our wounds, or prevents sickness.

To these people, the populations of centuries, millenniums, past used whatever they could scrape from tree barks or toad skins and were magically healed or relieved. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: These people are full of shit.

Example: Somehow I contracted a hell of an infection this week. It started out with a seemingly inconsequential sore throat on Sunday. Then it went away, only to return with a vengeance on Tuesday and Wednesday. By Wednesday night, my right ear was tickly, my sinuses were stuffed with concrete, and my right eye was puffed out with conjunctivitis. I hardly slept that night.

We’re Lucky.

Things got worse on Thursday. I could hardly see out of my eye. I was exhausted and headachy. I felt dizzy now and again. So, late afternoon, I dashed over to the clinic. The doctor gave me the once over and concluded I’d been infected by something. I like it when the doctor and I see eye to eye. He prescribed Clarithromycin pills and a different antibiotic eye drop, both to be taken twice a day. I began the regimen Thursday night but then experienced the worst night of all. I consoled myself by thinking my body had shifted into high gear to defeat the invading army of germs that’d started this whole miserable thing, with the help of those drugs. I stayed home yesterday and lie around for much of the day. By mid afternoon, my eye had stopped seeping and weeping, my throat was clearing, the concrete in my nasal passages had broken up, and I could feel nary a tickle in my ear. I jumped in the shower and felt a new man, albeit spent.

So far, so good.

W/o antibiotics, I’d still be suffering. Who knows? Maybe the infection would have done some real damage. You know, the way infections maimed and even killed the populations of centuries, even millenniums, of the past.

Big Pharma’s got a hell of a lot of sins to answer for but the truth is w/o it, we’d be stuck scraping barks and licking toad skins and praying. And suffering and dying.

Hot Air: Blackboard Jungle


Re-posting a social media comment by my friend, Col. John Tilford, retired from both the US Marines and the US Army and who served in Vietnam and Afghanistan. He’s responding to President Gag’s call for teachers to be armed and for those who agree to do it to get bonuses. Take it away, Colonel:

Arm teachers? As the NCOs and officers are the first picked off in combat, so would the teachers be the first in schools, leaving the children without adult direction.

And now, following the highly-publicized remarks from Trump, the teachers will be the first targeted whether they “carry” or not. Because Trump suggested they should, the killers will assume they might.

Big Links

Here’s the link to yesterday Big Talk with attorney, civic volunteer, deacon-in-training, and WFIU Soul Kitchen deejay Brother William Morris.

And, in case you missed it yesterday, here’s the link to my profile of him for my regular column, Big Mike’s B-town, in the Limestone Post.

He Said It

Billy Graham is dead. Looks like the Jews are gonna continue having a stranglehold on this holy land and nobody’ll be there to stop them.

Stepping Up In Class?

Tossing around a format idea these days. I have a Medium account. Medium is a big semi-subscription platform for writers, thought leaders, pontificators, cogitators, and other such undesirables.

Here’s what I might do: I may start doing all my thoughtful posting on Medium and reserve this space for links to those posts as well as updates on what I’m doing in terms of other online writing and my radio work.

I’ve noticed a number of loyal Pencillistas have Medium accounts. Now, quite of few of their accounts may be freebies, meaning they only get three free reads of me per month. To get unlimited access to Medium writers you subscribe to, you have to pay $50 a year for a premium account. And don’t think that dough goes into my pocket, because it doesn’t. It’s paid directly to, and remains in the grubby hands of the Medium tsars.

The benefit to me is a huge new market of potential clickers. My posts on Medium would be sorted and SEO’d via tags and categories, as opposed to the poster’s name. So, something I write on, say, the category of women would receive equal weight as one written on the same topic by Roxanne Gay (to whom I subscribe) or I could write about that goof in the Oval Office and get the same opportunity for eyes that Sheila Seuss Kennedy would when she writes about him. It’s a democratic platform in that sense.

In any case, like a lot of other social media platforms, posts earn crowd approval. Not Likes like Facebook but Claps. Someone could dig the bejesus out of one of my pieces and give me two dozen claps. If a lot of people give a ton-load of Claps, the clapped author gets paid a pro-rated amount.

I hate to sound mercenary, but, hell, I’ve been giving this stuff away for free for going on ten years now. I co-founded The Third City in the fall of 2008 and then started up this communications colossus in spring, 2012. Except for a brief burst when I posted a sporadically recurring payment button herein last fall, I’ve been clacking my fingers to the bone for no pay for all these years. That really sorta bugs me.

I haven’t made up my mind yet. There are a few more people I need to talk to about this, people whose opinions I trust. And — you know what? — I trust your opinion, too. Call me at 773.332.4666, email me at, or comment on this page. Let me know what you think of this crazy idea. Believe me, I’ll listen.


Hot Air: Big, Brother, Boffo, Bombs

Big Talk Thursday

My guest today will be attorney, man about town, and WFIU deejay William Morris, AKA Brother William. He’s one of those fellows who, when you ask him what time it is, will read aloud from cover to cover Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. A radio interviewer’s dream.

I’ve had plenty of loquacious sorts on in recent weeks. All I have to do is set the studio up, sit in a chair, say Hi, this is Big Talk…, and 28 minutes of fun and informative broadcast content ensues. Sometimes I wonder if I’m taking the easy way out; perhaps I should track down some taciturn types.


Anyway, in the coming weeks Big Talk guests will include attorney Amelia Lahn, author Doug Wissing (he’s working on an ambitious history right now, one that is all too timely), and IU Informatics professor James Clawson, who specializes in health and cancer data.

The way I see it, if you don’t like Big Talk, you just don’t like learning about the people around you.

My Town

Big Mike’s B-town returns for its every-four-weeks appearance in Limestone Post today. I wonder: Is there a word for every four weeks? Lemme look it up….

… Well, I’ll be damned, I dug up a number of possibilities. They include:

  • quadrihebdomadal
  • quadweekly
  • quadriweekly
  • fwaply (for four-week-accounting-period)
  • bimonthly (like many bi- words, it can mean twice in the period or every other period)
  • bifortnightly
  • tetrahebdomadally
  • quadriseptimanally
  • duodetrigintally

Who knew? Come to think of it, let’s just stick with every four weeks, no?

Anyway, today’s LP feature is, of course, on Brother William. Every four weeks, I profile that day’s Big Talk guest on Limestone Post.

And, again, if you don’t like the Limestone Post, you just don’t like knowing about your own town, dig?

They Started The Whole World Laughing

Hot tip from my pal Yael Ksander: There’s a neat little public event scheduled for a week from tomorrow, Friday, March 2, at 7:30pm in Indiana University’s Fine Arts Auditorium. It’ll be a live conversation between Serbian activist Srđa Popović and Penn State prof. of Comparative Lit and Int’l Affairs Sophia McLennen. The two will gab about political satire and how it’s gaining…, well, gravitas in this day and age of “fake news.”

Popović, an exemplar of that famed Onion headline, “Clinton Deploys Vowels to Bosnia” (see, Bosnia and Serbia once were part of the same thing, y’know, Yugosl…, aw, forget it), was a big deal in the ousting of Serb strongman Slobodan Milošović. Popović was a leader of Otpor!, a grass-roots protest movement that essentially became a nonviolent revolutionary force. Milošović found it necessary to quit the Yugo presidency in 2000. For her part, McLennen is a renowned cogitator on global affairs who writes think pieces for the likes of Salon, Huffington Post, the Daily Beast, Counterpunch, and makes regular appearances as a talking head on countless TV news programs.

Hey, you live a in a college town so you may as well take advantage of it.

Bombs Away

Steve Volan wrote a hell of an open letter to John Hamilton re: this city’s decision to purchase an armored vehicle for its police force. The whole process, he wrote, “was a failure of transparency.” Go here to read it all.

The takeaway I get from this fiasco: Mayor John Hamilton has proven himself to be Bloomington’s most adept bomb-dropper. He consults with a precious few advisors (some might say that list consists of a single name) and then becomes convinced his decision is so right, so justified, that he simply goes ahead and imposes it upon the city, no matter the optics, no matter the reaction. It’s right, he mutters to himself, what do they know?

We don’t know everything, Mr. Mayor. It’s up to you and your people to bring us up to speed. Make your case. Justify yourself. Be a teacher. Start telling us why we need annexation or an armored vehicle before you drop those bombs on us. We, after all, are the voters.

And any more such bomb dropping just might cause a significant number of us to return the favor and drop the bomb on you come November, 2019.

I’m Not Deeply Sorry At All

As a self-deputized member of the language police, I hereby call for an end to the use of the phrase “deeply sorry.”

This, as you prob. know, is the go-to absolution politicians, actors, rock stars, and everybody else in the public eye who gropes an actress, drops an N-bomb, tears up a nightclub, beats a spouse, or otherwise makes a stinking horse’s ass out of himself uses in hopes of getting back in the public’s good graces. And yeah, I typed himself for the very good reason it’s usually men who make stinking horse’s asses out of themselves, although on occasion women have to resort to this particular odious form of a get-out-of-jail-free card.

I am deeply sorry, we now understand, is lawyerly lingo. Nobody in real life says I am deeply sorry. They say I’m sorry, sure. They say, I’m awfully sorry, maybe. But deeply sorry? Nah. It sounds so contrived, so CMA. Stop it.


Hot Air: Signs, Signals & Gestures

Signs Of Spring

Not only was this week one of my spring harbinger calendrical landmarks — baseball spring training began Tuesday and Wednesday in Arizona and Florida — but the Bruster’s ice cream stand near my house at SR446  is being gussied up in preparation for its seasonal re-opening. The owners of the the joint went all out this off-season, having the place freshly painted and popping for spanking new signage and awnings. Cars are parked outside the place meaning people are inside getting coolers and cash registers, cup stacks and cone dispensers, ready for opening day.

That day this year: March 1st, less than two weeks away. Wahoo!


The More Flags At Half Staff, The Safer Kids Will Be!

I noticed the American flag at city hall was at half-staff yesterday, presumably for those 17 poor kids in Parkland, Florida.

As I passed the flagpole, I felt a rush of anger. I wanted to march inside and demand they put the flag back up to full staff. Displays like lowering the flag and other pointless gestures are doing nothing for the next batch of 17 0r 23 or even just eight or 10 kids in some town we’ve never heard of before but is destined to become indelibly etched into our memories.

I’ve noticed internet comments from 2nd Amendment fetishists crying out that we liberals want to snatch everybody’s guns away from them now. One guy even swore up and down that Hillary Clinton pledged to rescind their precious Amendment while she ran for pres. against the lunkhead that eventually won on a technicality.

We’re waging a debate against people who live in an hallucinatory world. Add that to the gun manufacturers and their squealing lobbyists, the NRA, spewing verbal and printed sludge, and the discussion has irretrievably devolved into troglodytic hollers.

Damn it all.


That fellow who brought a bullhorn into Mayor John Hamilton’s State of the City address the other day did Hizzoner, the members of the city council, and Bloomington police chief Mike Diekhoff a big favor. Suddenly, the focus is on his ridiculous act of shouting the mayor down and putting a premature end to Hamilton’s address rather than the damned armored vehicle our local leaders are buying.

Look, the man was a jackass. Add to his original idiocy the fact that the city now probably is going to start thinking about screening everybody who comes to the hall for meetings and such. Nevertheless, let’s not confuse his foolishness with the real argument.

XX Representation

65 Democratic Women Were Sworn In To The US House In 2015.

Fortune mag ran a little thing a couple of weeks back on the numbers of women in various countries’ lower houses as of 2018. This holy land’s lower house, natch, is the House of Representatives. And wouldn’t you know it, Murrica ranks low in female representation therein.

A scant 19.4 percent of the members of the US House of Representatives are women. That’s a shade fewer than one of five. And that’s a scandal.

Much of the rest of the world is doing a hell of a lot better than this “beacon of democracy” in that particular gender ratio thing. For instance, Bolivia’s lower house is comprised of 53.1 percent women. Mexico, 42.6. Cuba, 48.9. And the champion in terms of female representation is Rwanda — Rwanda, for pity’s sake! — with 61.3.

When did America become so backward?

Hot Air: Politics & The People Who Keep Them Honest

Big Stuff

Did you miss my interview with Indiana University’s outspoken political scientist Jeff Isaac on Big Talk yesterday?

Part of the beauty of the chatfest was learning that Isaac playing stickball on the streets of Queens in New York City when he was a kid. That kid, sez he, would laugh in your face should you have suggested back then that he’d grow up to be a college professor.

That’s the kind of thing I love best about being able to produce and host Big Talk.

Just a reminder: tune in every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM for Big Talk. If you miss it, come back here every Friday AM for the podcast link.

Oh — here’s the link to yesterday’s show.

Media Capture

And then, lo and behold, I ran into Isaac, almost at the very time the show was airing, at IU’s Global Studies building where we both, coincidentally, attended a conference featuring an array of international big shots talking about “media capture.” That, BTW, is the new bete noir word for what used to be referred to as censorship. The distinction being censorship always harkened to mind jackbooted gov’t thugs busting up newspaper offices or taking over TV and radio stations by armed force.

Things don’t work so brutally anymore. It’s not just governments trying to control the message now; it’s a combo of states, corporations, industry lobbyists, uber-wealthy individuals, and a host of off-screen players who stick their fingers into the media pie. And this development might be a tad scarier than the obsolescent image of censorship we carry around in our heads. Sure, a cancerous tumor that you can feel with your fingertips is terrifying, but a whole cluster of little malignant nodes doing their thing over a period of months or years, deep within, is a hell of a lot harder to 1st) find and 2nd) fight.

In any case, Global Studies Dean Lee Feinstein and his super-duper ass’t, Yael Ksander, put on a bang-up show. On the dais were luminaries from the international media and democracy world, including:

  • Mark Nelson, Senior Director for the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA)
  • Maxine Tanya Hamada of the World Movement for Democracy
  • Carl Gershman of the National Endowment for Democracy
  • Natalia Arno of the Free Russia Foundation
  • Aleksander Dardeli of the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX)
  • Marco Larizza of the World Bank

It was the last-named who caught the attention of both myself and the fellow I was sitting next to. Passionate leftist Joe Varga, prof. in IU’s Labor Studies dept., and I gave each other the side-eye as Larizza was intro’d. This, due to both Joe’s and my certainty that the root cause of media tainting — “capture,” if you will — is the effect of big dough on reporters, eyewitnesses, whistle-blowers, inside sources, and the rest of the cast of characters who make up the journalism infrasructure. Top-notch reporting is expensive and the sources for the money to support it, increasingly, are those who are standing on their heads to dismantle free inquiry and, well, democracy itself.

And the funny thing is, “fake news,” for instance, doesn’t really need huge influxes of capital. As Mark Nelson said, “Lies are cheap. They don’t cost anything to produce.” Good, responsible reporting, says he, “is costly.”

I’m not being overly-dramatic when I say the coming decade or so just may see a whirlwind of change — I’m not saying whether it’ll be good or bad at this early date — in the paradigm, the dance between journalism and democracy all around the world.



Hot Air: Tears & Clowns & Other Things

A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money.

— W.C. Fields

A joke. Sure. But also something more. A truth.

Problem is, not enough people take it as a truth. They think rich men are something greater than the rest of us. It’s that kind of thinking that gave us our current president.

Poli Talk

My guest this afternoon on Big Talk will be outspoken Indiana University political science professor Jeff Isaac. We had a rollicking time in the studio. I’m telling you, he and I ought to be a comedy team or, at the very least, a talk radio duo that tops whatever time slot we’re in.

Tune in at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM or come back here tomorrow AM for the podcast link.

He Told The World What He Was Going To Do

Another school massacre. We’re not even shocked by this madness anymore.

I checked in with my sister who lives down in Florida, not far from Parkland. Last night around 8:00pm, I asked if she knows of anybody who has kids who attend that Stoneman Douglas HS where 17 were killed yesterday. She said one of her co-workers has a couple of grandkids who go there. Even at that late hour, nobody knew if the those grandkids were safe or not.

All I could think about was how parents and grandparents and all other loved ones of Stoneman Douglas kids must be going out of their minds with worry. That’s trauma as well, above and beyond the bullet wounds that some kids suffered.

Is it too much to ask that whenever somebody like this alleged shooter, some kid named Cruz, makes clear and dangerous threats over the internet (as he reportedly did) then some authority somewhere would have to visit him, check up on his mental state, AND MAKE FUCKING GODDAMNED SURE HE’S NOT PACKING HEAT!

That’s all. That’s a start.

Hot Air: Susan’s Shoes

A lively debate was had on social media yesterday, centering around Bloomington’s proposed purchase of an armored military vehicle for its police department. Me? I’m four-square against it, mainly because I detest the militarization of the police and because, with tyranny creeping up on us not only in this holy land but around the world, we don’t need big metal reminders that the state is too often prone to be both mighty and horrible.

A BearCat G3.

That said, City Council member Susan Sandberg tried to explain why this town might need what is essentially a police tank. Generally, I agree with Susan on positions both local and national. I wondered why she and I diverge in this particular case.

So I tried to put myself in her shoes. Perhaps this is what happened. She was given arguments, presumably by police chief Mike Diekhoff, that held the tank to be a necessary protection for officers responding to, say, a stand-off near the IU campus. Maybe a mad gunman is holding a number of hostages. Maybe the gunman is armed with automatic weapons. Maybe he’s got dynamite strapped around his waist. The only way officers can safely get near the scene of the hostage-taking is in such a vehicle as the Lenco BearCat, the one Diekhoff wants the city to buy for his force.

Now let’s suppose Susan and her council colleagues think, as I do, that the city shouldn’t obtain the tank and they vote the proposal down. But, lo and behold, that hostage situation actually does arise not much later. And, heaven forbid, a Bloomington police officer gets shot and dies.

I can imagine Susan and the rest of the council never being able to sleep at night for the rest of their lives for the guilt they feel.

It could happen, couldn’t it?

Even though I remain steadfastly opposed to the purchase of the armored vehicle, I can understand why someone in a decision-making position might not be so certain as I am.

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