Hot Air: More Friday Fun

One Less Bus Driver

Mayor John Hamilton is experiencing a type of frisson this AM that should be enjoyed in private. Or something.

He’s all agog over that driverless bus experiment happening as we speak on Kirkwood Avenue. The street will be closed off at Indiana Avenue through 4pm today.

Truth is, it’s more than a simple experiment — it’s a sales pitch, what with electric bikes and horseless carriage replicas on display. All this is being done for your benefit, goes the tacit tagline.

Me? I hope the idiotic thing smashes into Kilroy’s on Kirkwood (hurting no one in the process). Driverless buses be damned. Hamilton says they’re our future; I say they’re just another way to put people out of work.

Walk Softly

Everybody’s favorite US Army colonel, John Tilford, was my guest on Big Talk yesterday.

Tilford and his commanding officer, Polly


If you think you know all about army guys, you might want to give a listen. Sure, my take always has been if you want to win a war, your bastards had better be meaner than the enemy’s bastards. But there’s plenty of room in this holy land’s armed forces for a decent human being such as the Col.

Go here for the WFHB feature with him and here for the uncut, original interview I did with him Tuesday.

Big Talk is a regular Thursday feature of WFHB‘s Daily Local News.


Hot Air: Friday Fun

Roll Of The Dice

Were I born in Nigeria, I’d be taught Nigeria is the greatest country in the world and that I should be willing to sacrifice my life in its defense. Same as if I were born in Bangladesh. Or Suriname. Or Liechtenstein or Israel.


But I wasn’t. I was born in and remain a citizen of the United States.

Patriotism = dumb luck.

A Numbers Game

The folks in my echo chamber think — as I do — that all this NFL/national anthem folderol is a whole batch of silly string. But I assure you, based on my spying on sports fans sites, etc., millions of people…, nay, tens of millions of people are fed up to the gills with “overpaid” athletes “disrespecting” the flag.

Overpaid, meaning black guys getting rich, and disrespecting, meaning the same dermal-hued figures being uppity.

For the zillionth time, the questions remain: Just how many tens of millions of people like that are there in this holy land and what percentage of them will vote in 2018 and 2020?


Hugh Hefner’s dead. And, yes, I did read the articles in Playboy. In fact, it didn’t take me long to realize the images of the women presented in the magazine’s pictorials were not of real people but of airbrushed, artfully designed, bizarre fantasies of the 1960s-’80s white American male. Ergo, they weren’t terribly arousing to me.

I prefer human imperfection to eye-popping chimera.

No prevarication here: When I was 10 years old, through the age of 14 or so, I gobbled up Playboy every

Hefner & Ella Fitzgerald

chance I got. Sure. I wanted to see pix of naked ladies. A brother-in-law kept a neat stack of past issues in his home and whenever I visited my sister’s family, I’d strategize ways to get at it. After reviewing said pix of naked ladies, though, I read. Words. Ideas. Arguments. Issues.

There were civil rights. The 1st Amendment. Vietnam. The environment. Norman Mailer. Doris Lessing. Lenny Bruce. Martin Luther King. Bernard Malamud. Malcolm X. Joyce Carol Oates.

To this day I recall the articles rather than the Playmates™.

Hugh Hefner and his magazine opened up a world to me.

Later, I’d realize how he devalued females, and not just in his pictorial depiction of them.

He was, like the rest of us, both angel and devil.

Graham And His Fellow Crackers

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham has finally admitted that which we knew all along — Republican leadership has never, ever been interested in the nuts and bolts of health care legislation. Nor do they have any inkling of what might replace the ACA they say they detest so much.

As the most recent failure of repeal-and-replace was suffering its deserved death, Graham was cornered by a reporter who asked him why, after seven-plus years of shrieking, panic peddling, and aborted legislation, Graham and his GOP-mates haven’t crafted a sale-able, passable new national health care law. The senator answered frankly:

Well, I’ve been doing it for about a month. I thought everybody else knew what the hell they were talking about, but apparently not.

Barack Obama’s signature policy initiative remains the law of the land. And Republicans remain steadfastly opposed to it. Even if they don’t know precisely why.

Or do they?


Now that this holy land is on the brink of becoming a majority-minority nation, wouldn’t it be a hoot to realign our two political parties to reflect that reality?

First, let’s look at the numbers. In 2014, the  US Census showed some 20 million kids born on this acreage, with 50.2 percent of them being one minority or another. And by 2043, the overall American population is expected to cross the magical center line, when more than half the people will be some kind of minority.

So it’s happening, like it or not.

It’s also matter of faith among the general populace right now: The two parties aren’t cutting it anymore.

The Democrats and the Republicans are dying clubs.

So, how about this? The American people divide themselves into the Black Party and the White Party. The Black Party will be comprised of city-dwellers, dark-skinned folks, liberals and progressives, the young, and all those who long for a federal gov’t that strives to take care of its most vulnerable and neglected citizens. The White Party will be mainly Caucasian, natch, and it would skew toward the elderly. Its dominating philosophies will be the free market, a very strong military, god, and guns.

Now, black people would be welcomed in the White Party and white people, the Black Party. But, honestly, how many dark-skinned people are going to go White? Similarly, as our most recent national election bore out, most white people aren’t too terribly interested in rubbing shoulders, party-wise, with blacks, Latino, Muslims, Planned Parenthood-type women, and all the other outliers.

The Black Party and the White Party. Almost everybody can take pride in their color and wave their banner proudly. But, again, membership won’t be strictly skin-color-based. I’d be welcome in the Black Party tent and goofballs like a superannuated Ben Carson or some younger version of himself would be embraced by the White Party.

There’d be no more pretend courting of the other side and other sillinesses that define what we call political discourse today.

The white people of America can then relax. They won’t be so petrified that they’ll be lost forever in the shadows of the dark hordes because they’ll have their own power base, at whose conventions they can slap each other on the back tell tell each other how fantastic it is to be Caucasian. And dark-skinned folks can really wrap their arms around a party — and feel wrapped back — for the first time in half a century.

Crazy? You tell me.

Hot Air: Talk Is Cheap


Public Service Announcement: State Road 46 is a chocolate mess from just past the Brown County line almost all the way into Nashville. The county is doing that patented Indiana cheapskate repaving job — cover the road surface with a fresh oil emulsion, dump sharp gravel over that, and let traffic for the next couple of weeks mash it into the existing asphalt. This method is known as “oil & stone.” Most locales have moved on from it, but not Indiana.

The SR running alongside Chez Big Mike got the same treatment a few years back. It ain’t pleasant.

So, if you have to take SR 46 to N-ville soonly, your hot rod’s finish’ll be dinged and all your filters will be nicely plugged up. Thanks, Brown County!

Tilford (R) with Wife, Polly, and son, Aaron

Intelligence Speak

I wrapped up a swell Big Talk interview yesterday afternoon with Col. John Tilford, 2012 candidate for US Congress and perhaps this area’s most ardent advocate for veterans’ concerns.

The Col. is a Vietnam vet and one of the most lovable army guys you’ll ever meet. And he’s a dedicated Democrat to boot.

We talk about his life and how he wound up being the key US Army intelligence figure for the Afghanistan neighborhood during the lead up to our lengthy war there. Tilford tells how the big boy decision makers in the Pentagon and the White House once in a great while even listened to him.

My edited interview with him will run Thursday during the 5:00pm Daily Local News on WFHB, 91.3 FM, and then the unedited whole shebang will be up on this global communications colossus the next AM. Stayed tuned here for links and reminders, etc.

Talk later.

Dear Leaders

Speaking of politicians, I caught a great line from an aspiring statesperson yesterday. I can’t reveal who uttered it but it fits better than OJ Simpson’s bloody glove (old school ref., for all you youngsters out there.)

Here it is:

Politicians are the perfect combination of a used car salesman and a televangelist. They raise money. They convince you to buy something. And they assume you’re stupid.

As long as you understand the above, future election days won’t be so shocking anymore.


You’ve gotta check this out: Information Is Beautiful has broken down a number of “based on a true story” Hollywood movies in terms of how historically accurate they are. And it’s turned the data into neat graphics, as the site is wont to do.

I’ve already railed herein against Hollywood’s mangling of facts and how it has perverted our national sense of reality. This graphic only bolsters my point:


I mentioned Hardee’s fast food outlet the other day, the context of which was I’ve never eaten there and consequently haven’t the foggiest idea what’s on its menu.

As a result, I got this missive from a loyal Pencillista:

Wanted to let you know that I think Hardee’s has the best tasting hamburgers of all the fast food joints. I don’t go too often because there aren’t as many of them on the road (traveling is usually when we partake) as there are Burger King, Wendy’s and Taco Bell. Their specialty is a really good burger. Now, I don’t know how they do it, but it probably has to do with all those things that aren’t too good for us!


Okay, then. Hardee’s sells hamburgers. Now I know.

The Monster Thickburger: 1400 Calories, 170 Grams Fat

Horse Tale

For all you Indiana University partisans who have become Chicago Cubs fans because of Kyle Schwarber (who might well become the next Jim Thome or Harmon Killebrew), there exists a sulky-pulling nag named after the lumpy left fielder. The horse, owned by Dr. Patrick Graham of Pittsfield, Illinois, ran regularly at Hawthorne Race Course during its recently concluded harness season.

And he won a number of times!

Here’s the dope sheet line for the equine Schwarber in this past Sunday’s 2017 Hawthorne finale:

[h/t to gentleman farmer Luke Rose]






Hot Air: Appreciation


Believe it or not, I’m speechless. Me.

Well, almost. Here’s my speech:

I am flattered and honored. I’m feeling lucky and blessed (whatever that means), by the outpouring of support I’ve received this first week after I monetized The Pencil.

I simply can’t believe all the wonderful donations I’ve gotten. And two or three of the folks who’ve tossed cash my way are not exactly rolling in the stuff either. Throughout the five years I’ve been pounding The Pencil out (as well as the four years before that I spent contributing to The Third City), I’ve occasionally endured stretches when I wonder why I do it and, more importantly, if anyone cares.

I’ve learned you do care. And make no mistake — I love you all back. To pieces!

Make no mistake redux: This site will remain free. Give only if you want — and to all those who’ve done so already, thanks.

What I Really Want

Okay, you want to know what a liberal is? It’s me. And here’s my laundry list, the satisfaction of which will make me inordinately proud and happy to be an American:

  • Guaranteed, single-payer, universal health care
  • Free public education from pre-school through advanced college degrees
  • Affordable, dependable public transportation
  • Affordable, dependable broadband
  • Internet neutrality
  • No cap on income to deduct Social Security taxes
  • A livable minimum wage tied to an independently-set poverty-level figure
  • Paid family and medical leave
  • A resurrection of Glass-Steagal
  • A simple pathway to citizenship
  • A month-long voting season with conveniently located polls for the duration
  • Mandatory voting
  • Abolish the Electoral College
  • Reverse Citizens United
  • Public financing of all local, state, and federal elections
  • Create a College of Lobbyists — legislators must not meet or communicate with lobbyists outside a designated area within the Capitol that has a public gallery viewing; Lobbyists register and schedule informational talks that senators can attend voluntarily. This way, legislators get needed information on topics as well as advocacy groups’ arguments for or against proposed laws. Any contact between lobbyists and legislators outside this arena may be punishable by jail.
  • Mandatory voting
  • Universal military/social service
  • Restriction on the sales of automatic firearms and armor-piercing ammunition

AK-47: You Don’t Need It

  • Restrictions on cross-media holdings as well as a strict limit on the number of media outlets a single entity may own
  • Revival of the Equal Rights Amendment
  • Strict enforcement of all civil rights legislation

Then, once all that has been enacted or otherwise accomplished, we can concentrate on maintaining the strongest military in the world because, at long last, we’d have a nation worth defending.

What Did They Expect?

A lot of National Football League owners are crying because President Gag called for a boycott of the league’s games. The current president, they feel, is a mean old ogre, not because he grabs women’s pussies or wants to vaporize an entire Asian nation or even because white supremacist and neo-Nazi organizations love him to death, but because — horrors! — his tweets just might hurt their bottom line.

Players Demonstrate During The Anthem Yesterday

A lot of those same owners contributed big money to Li’l Duce‘s campaign and to his inauguration.

Personal to those owners: Tough shit; you asked for it.


If you can’t beat ’em, blow ’em up. That’s pretty much our current president’s modus operandi.

To wit: the website for the ACA will be down for maintenance at key times during the health care program’s enrollment period.

What Do Scientists Know?

As this holy land turns further and further away from science, other nations on this mad, mad planet are embracing real, hard knowledge.

How & Why?

Take Sweden. That country actually demands its aspiring drivers know a few things about basic physics. Why? Simple: Physics is the study of matter and motion. A car, which is usually a ton and a half or more of matter, often is in motion at the rate of 40, 50, or 60 miles per hour. When that much matter hits you at that speed, you’re dead.

The idea being, the more you know about mass and velocity, the more you’ll understand how to control your two and a half tons of speeding stuff.


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Hot Air: Sunday School


  • Bill Clinton’s writing a novel with literary industrialist James Patterson. And Showtime has already copped the rights for production on the small screen. The advances for Bill are said to be in the tens of millions. Just imagine how the Clinton-haters are going to howl when this becomes more widely known.

    Library of Congress Collection

  • Pocket-sized paperbacks really took off in this holy land after the US Army issued some 123 million “flat, wide and very pocketable” books to soldiers in all theaters of war (and occupation) from 1943 through 1947. Titles ranged from The Great Gatsby to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Katerhine Anne Porter’s Selected Stories. Of course, paperbacks already were hot stuff in England after Penguin started issuing classic titles in theretofore sniffed-at pocket editions in 1935.
  • And don’t think Barack and Michelle Obama will be immune from charges of cashing in on the O. presidency. Rumor has it that he and she are going to pocket more than $60 million in advance money for their separate recollections of the White House years.
  • It is as likely that Islamic terrorists will kill you, Mr. & Mrs. America, as it is for you to be killed and eaten by sharks.

Hard To Figure

I’ve been to plenty of fast food joints in my day. I’ve enjoyed greasy tacos at Jack in the Box, Big Macs, White Castle sliders by the score, and, once, I even drove through a Pizza Hut (thank god my mother’s dead already, otherwise she’d collapse in a lifeless heap upon reading this admission — oh, and I didn’t at all enjoy the experience, so there’s that).

One place I’ve never visited to is Hardee’s. In fact, I have no idea what the joint even sells. I have a notion it is roast beef sandwiches but, then again, that’s Arby’s, right?

Concert Fiasco

The Ramones and Iggy Pop are pretty much tied for the act I’ve seen live most often. That’s mainly because they appeared together so frequently in Chi. back in the late 1970s.

So, one Saturday night I went to the fabled Aragon Ballroom for an Iggy/Ramones show. There was a third act, perhaps the worst example of music promotion I’ve ever heard of. The Ramones opened and Iggy was the headliner. But sandwiched between them was Leslie West.

Remember Leslie West? He was the rotund, virtuoso guitarist whose earlier band Mountain had scored a minor hit with “Mississippi Queen.” In a lot of ways, West represented everything that punk rockers despised, up to and including his girth.

In any case, West was introduced and came onstage to a deafening chorus of boos. He and his back-up band played a few songs and then someone came out and grabbed the mic to announce it was West’s birthday. A cake was rolled out and the crowd’s abuse level rose to 11. A few bottles hit the stage. I also recall seeing liquids flying toward the proscenium and I shudder to think what they were.

West & mates wisely decide to wrap things up snappily and then beat a retreat.

The anti-glamour glamour (you read that right) of punk fizzled for me at that moment.


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I just read that the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick team did not interview either Daniel Ellsberg or Henry Kissinger for their history of one of America’s four mortal sins now running on PBS.

That pretty much breaks it for me.

The Writer’s Lot?

The author of the book upon which the film noir, Nightmare Alley, was based killed himself in a Times Square hotel room at the age of 53. Next to him, acc’d’g to the indispensable movie site, Noir of the Week, was his business card. It read:

No address

No Phone


No Business

No Money

Eee-yikes! I mean, honestly, that’s the  nightmare every single person who’s ever applied pen to paper or clacked a keyboard in hopes of earning a living has sweated through.


Hot Air: Saturday Swings

Altered AM

Early Saturday morning. It’s a struggle to keep the fog off my windshield. The sun still hasn’t come up over the tree line. The birds are still issuing their morning calls.

And Kilroy’s on Kirkwood is packed. In fact, patrons are spilling out the front door.

It’s 8:25am and dozens — perhaps hundreds — of Indiana University college students are drinking alcohol.

Hmm. I’d always heard that drinking booze that early in the morning is a sign of a deep, urgent problem. But what do I know.


We live in a world of helplessness. All of us.

That’d be okay if only we’d accept the fact that forces greater than we are, we individuals, are swirling around us and there’s really nothing we can do to stop them or even nick them. Biological forces. Psychological forces. Political forces. There are seven billion of us running around in circles, looking out for ourselves, some of us occasionally even trying to help our sisteren and brethren.

That’s seven billion impulse-laden, desire-driven souls trying to make sense out of this chaos that is life. Seven billion who’ve inherited and are trying to tweak risibly imperfect systems and relationships. We do the best we can although I would caution against bragging about what we’ve accomplished so far.

That said, there are times when even our laughable ways of doing things fall apart. Like Tuesday, when an earthquake tore through Mexico and devastated much of its capital, Mexico City. Today, crews still are trying to dig potential survivors out of the rubble of collapsed buildings. By this time, the effort seems to be only a hope for a miracle.

Yet I heard a report this AM on the radio of people gathering around certain buildings, protesting, demanding the government do something about it all, insisting at the tops of their lungs workers find missing loved ones. Their chants and their demands sound so much like those of the many protest groups springing up around the world calling for change, for equity, for something — anything — good.

The earthquake protesters, it is to be feared, will end up being as successful as most of the other protesters.

The sad thing is, we’re now down to protesting earthquakes, for all the good protesting often does.

Still, we have to do it. Even if it doesn’t work 99 percent of the time.

Personal From The President To The 32%

When all is said and done, the appeal of President Gag comes down to a simple message. It’s personal and it’s directed to a certain segment of the citizenry of our holy land. It is often is stated in the clearest of possible terms. It runs thusly:

There are two types of people in this world: You and Them. You, and everyone like you — your friends, your family, the people you love on TV, a very few of your trusted co-workers — are the only good and true representatives of humanity, the top of the heap. Everyone else is lower than you and yours. They are pests. They deserve less than you do, yet they want more. Very often — any chance they can — they will take what’s yours. There’s a battle brewing and one day it just might blow up into full scale war. Be alert. Be prepared.

Every other message Li’l Duce conveys is subordinate to that one, mere window dressing, details. Somehow, the candidate discovered that that is precisely what a certain minority of people in this country wanted to hear. That certain minority is so tight and strong that, when a few other percentage points of people were added — the visceral Hillary haters, those distrustful of anything and everything reeking of Washington, and a few other demographics, it was enough in a perfect storm election year to elevate a know-nothing, anti-intellectual, woman-hating, white supremacist greed monkey to the position of Leader of the Free World.

And here I’m worried about kids drinking early on a Saturday morning.


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Hot Air: Oddities & So Forth


Okay, first, it’s Kid Rock spewing emesis and calling it a political speech and now this:

No, there isn’t any link; you don’t need one. All you need to know is what you see in the picture.

We are doomed.

[h/t to Eric Zorn]

[Update: The above image is from March, 2010, soon after the ACA (AKA Obamacare) was passed. Just a reminder — as if you need it — that Fox News has been shoveling horse feces for years.]

Horror Cave

In the running for the weirdest local story of the year — the kid who was trapped in a cave for three freaking, freaky days.

Sullivan Cave In Lawrence County

[Image: Adam Haydock]

The kid, punnily named Lukas Cavar, is an Indiana University freshman. He went on the trek with the campus caving club Sunday morning. The bizarro-ness of the whole thing was the series of screw ups that resulted in his marooning. His partner in the buddy system never reported him missing and the spelunking tour leaders who supposedly took head counts at the beginning and end of the event missed him. The kid himself seems so thrilled to be freed — and alive — that he’s refraining from screaming bloody murder. Says he of his buddy partner, “I guess she didn’t notice I was missing.” And of the team leaders, “I guess they didn’t notice I was missing.”

No one remembered that he’d been with them? No one called the cops or the fire department? Some 60 hours later, a lightbulb must have gone on over the heads of some of the cavers so they went back to the cave to look for him — as if he was an expensive flashlight someone had dropped during the tour.

Nothing about this story makes sense. I overheard one guy this AM talking about it. “The only thing I can figure,” he opined, “was they hated the kid so much they didn’t care if he was missing.”

My guess is the kid and his family are going to haul Indiana University as well as tour leaders into court and fetch themselves a nice settlement — as well they should.

Abegunde On The Air


I had a great time speaking with Dr. Maria Eliza Hamilton Abegunde for yesterday’s Big Talk. She’s really a chip off the o.b.; her mother was a nurse and her father an artist and she’s combined both those callings in her own adult life. In her own words: “I am an engungun priest in the Yoruba Orisa tradition, Black Studies practitioner, Reiki Master, healer, poet, writer, teacher, and birth & postpartum doula.”

Right now, she’s concentrating on cultural trauma and efforts to heal through poetry and other
writings. She’s got a great story so, if you’ve only got a few minutes, go here for the WFHB feature that ran Thursday afternoon, and, if you’re a person of leisure, go here for the entire original interview with her.

Next week? Search me. I’ve yet to set anybody up. If you have any ideas, pitch ’em over to me and I’ll gladly consider them.

Hat In Hand

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Babbling & Begging

Get Smart Really Was Smart

Now this is scary. I happened to catch an old episode of “Get Smart” the other day. Remember that show? The mid/late ’60s farce about spies and kookie government bureaucracies? Everything was a big joke and all the relationships and scenarios were preposterous.

Only, the goddamned thing was prescient!

What with all the USA/Russia/China/N. & S. Koreas/Iran/etc. hackings and missteps, bumblings and cheap theatricals, “Get Smart” can serve today as an introductory college-level geopolitics course.

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To wit: A man knocks on Maxwell Smart’s door. Smart answers. The man introduces himself as Mr. Fister. Then this:

Man: … I represent the….

Smart: Uh, please, Mr. Fister, we already gave at the office.

Man: Oh, but that’s impossible — I couldn’t find your Control office.

Smart: Well, of course not, Mr. Fister. Control is one of the most highly secret government agencies in the world! [Pause.] Wait a minute — if you couldn’t find Control, how did you know where to find me?

Man: I telephoned KAOS and they gave me this address.

Smart: Oh, of course. [Does a double-take.]

Yep. that’s pretty much it now, isn’t it?

Healing Through Reading


My guest this afternoon on Big Talk will be Dr. Maria Eliza Hamilton Abegunde, also known as Osunbimpe Abegunde, the first-ever recipient of a doctorate from Indiana University’s Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies.

She and colleague Patsy Rahn are co-directing a month-long series of panels and readings called Deep Dialogue: Readings on Race and Ethnicity, sponsored by the Writers Guild at Bloomington. Abegunde is an engungun priest in the Yoruba Orisa tradition, a black studies practitioner, a reiki master, a healer, a poet, a writer, a teacher, and a birth and postpartum doula.

Abegunde is a visiting lecturer at IU’s AAADS dept. as well as Director of the Graduate Mentoring Center. The Deep Dialogue program builds on her efforts to understand cultures and their sufferings through performance and writing.

You’ll look far and wide before you find anyone else who knows about cultural trauma and the potential for its healing as well as Abegunde. Tune in to WFHB 91.3FM at 5:00pm or come back here tomorrow morning for podcast links. And look for my profile of her in an upcoming edition of the Limestone Post.

Telegraphing The Ending

In the wake of President Gag’s threat at the United Nations Tuesday to blow N. Korea to smithereens, his speechwriters are now working on his response to the inevitable articles of impeachment or indictments handed down by the special counsel, whichever come first. Specious sources report the speechwriters are finished with a final draft they are calling the “Major, Super-Classy Doomsday Guarantee.” It reads as follows:

No landslide president in America has an interest in seeing this band of losers arm themselves with indictments and so-called articles of whatever and things, believe me. I have great strength and patience — great, really great, enormous — but if I am forced to defend myself or my underlings — who love me, it’s the truth, they love me like you wouldn’t believe — I will have no choice but to totally destroy the world. If you’re against me, you are on a suicide mission. Okay? Ask anybody.

Flash forward to the year 2020: The seven surviving members of the human race, ensconced safely within the presidential bunker located in the mountains of Virginia, have declared Li’l Duce “President for Life,” which oncologists and nuclear physicists (before they had succumbed to radiation poisoning themselves) have estimated will come to a whimpering conclusion in no more than a week or two.

Flash From Washington: Dateline, Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Until Then, A Guy’s Gotta Make A Living

The Pencil’s been on the scene since 2012. It’s a free site. Pencillistas and the curious can come and go anytime they please at no cost. And so it will remain.

OTOH: I’m a writer. It’s a vocation that makes it difficult for me to maintain my Trumpian lifestyle — yes, Chez Big Mike boasts a half dozen solid gold toilets. And my domestic staff — don’t get me started. Now they want health insurance, the greedy hogs.

So maybe you can help. If you feel so moved, click on this image…

… and toss any amount you’d like my way. You may use your PayPal account or, if you don’t have one, your credit card. All info is completely secure (well, as secure as anything can be in this day and age). I’ll thank you, The Loved One will thank you, my creditors and their attorneys will thank you, even the fellows who polish my crystal chandeliers (good help is so hard to find) will thank you.

And if you choose not to donate, hell, thanks anyway just for coming here.


Hot Air: Rising, Running

All the big shot women in town gathered late yesterday afternoon in Bloomington’s city council chambers. As far as I’m concerned, that means all the big shots in town — period.

Oh, and Mayor John Hamilton was there, too.

The event: the kickoff for our town’s local chapter of Rise to Run, a nationwide effort to get more women in public office.

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The new Democratic mantra seems to be We’re at the tail end of a really weird era in politics. That is, the conservative Republican, Fox News, Moral Majority-sires-the-Tea-Party, here-comes-Kid-Rock era. Are they whistling past the graveyard? I dunno. I only know the Dems have won the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections, and they still don’t control the White House, the US House, or the US Senate. And don’t get me started on the nation’s statehouses or governor’s mansions.

In any case, I’ve heard a few 2018 Dem candidates repeat this mantra already. The idea being, Change is in the air and who’s going to lead it? May as well be the women, said the gang assembled in the stately confines Sunday afternoon.

Give Regina Moore and Rachel Guglielmo, co-bosses of B-town’s newborn R-to-R chapter, credit — they sure know how to call out the troops. Some fifty women — and a man or two — got together to hear an all-star cast talk about getting females on the ballot. It ain’t easy, they all concluded, so we’ll have to help each other get over the hump.

Moore, the former city clerk, solidified her status as my fave retired pol by pointing out there’d be homemade cannoli at the buffet table after the proceedings.

But first, business. Mayor Hamilton gave the welcoming speech. “This is a hard time, politically,” he said, and ain’t it the truth. He then pointed out a fact that we in this holy land don’t like to think about — it hasn’t even been a full hundred years since women herein were granted the right to vote. In fact, I might add, America was among the last major industrialized nations in the world to grant its females suffrage. Now give America credit: we honor our traditions. We continue to bring up the rear re: social reforms; we’re now among the last industrialized nations on Earth to grant guaranteed health care to our citizens.

Moore took the podium to introduce the keynote speaker, Attica Scott, a member of the Kentucky state legislature. Moore called Scott a “kick ass speaker,” and so she was. Scott told this tale: Years ago she and four pals sat around a kitchen table and asked each other which one among them was best suited to run for office; the five settled on her.

Scott ran for a school board seat and lost. The next day, she recalled, her pastor dropped by and told her, “It’s time to get to work!” And so, the very next year, she ran to fill a vacant Louisville city council seat and won. She then won reelection but her third run for the office was not a charm — she was defeated. The lesson, Scott stressed, was it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, “You keep on doing good work.” She did so and this year was rewarded by copping a seat in the Frankfort House. She’s the first woman of color in that august body in 20 years, a distinction she characterized as unacceptable.

“It’s because of women in my life,” she said, “particularly young women who worked on my campaign, that I’m here right now.”

To women thinking of running for office, Scott offered this advice: “Find your mentors right now.” And this: “Have one anothers’ backs.” Finally: “Please bring other women along with you.”

Scott then joined a panel of speakers offering advice and huzzahs to the young, aspiring office-holders in the audience. The panel was led by Monroe County Commissioner Julie Thomas and included:

Man (and Woman), that’s an all-star cast. Proof women can thrive politically. Of course, there’s a caveat. Scott reps the Louisville area and the rest of the panel’s pols rep our island of blue in an ocean of red. Both locales hype their contrary orientation despite being surrounded by…, well, a body politic that Hamilton and other Dems swear (and hope) is becoming a minority.

Is this the dawn of a new political age in America? Search me. All I know is there was a lot of hope in council chambers yesterday and hope is the first step.


Hot Air: What We Know; What We Don’t Know

Clearly, the December 20, 2011 incident in St. Louis that resulted in the death of a man named Anthony Lamar Smith was a frightening one for police officer Jason Stockley. After all, Smith had rammed Stockley’s patrol car with his own vehicle and then led Stockley and his partner on a high-speed chase.

Police officers, as a rule, interpret such behavior as indicative of the rammer/chasee’s ill will. Seems reasonable.

The officers eventually rammed Smith’s car to a stop. When Stockley approached Smith’s vehicle, acc’d’g to Stockley, Smith appeared to be reaching for something that the officer assumed was a gun. Stockley shot Smith five times, killing him.

It’s only natural for Stockley to have been pumped to the sky on adrenaline when he approached Smith’s car. Seeing Smith reaching for something had to have triggered an overwhelming urge in Stockley to do something to protect his own life.

Fair enough.

It turned out Smith hadn’t been reaching for his gun because he didn’t have one. So Stockley did what police officers have been doing since time immemorial — he produced one out of thin air. Most of the cops I’ve ever known carry small personal pistols in addition to their service revolvers, the firing of which they have to make reports on. Most cops see this as good policy to protect themselves from what they consider to be innocent errors or, in more sinister scenarios, when they have to pop a guy for whatever extrajudicial reasonings they might have.

County prosecutors discovered Stockley had planted a gun in Smith’s car. They also found video of Stockley saying to his partner as he got out of his patrol car, “I’m going to kill this motherfucker.” Ergo, prosecutors hurled the book at Stockley, charging him with first degree murder.

Prosecutors hate like hell charging cops with crimes. They consider cops their allies in the eternal struggle against bad guys. Not only that, prosecutors understand that when the cops feel said prosecutors aren’t “on their side,” they’ll do everything they can to sabotage prosecutors’ cases. That’s another long-standing police tradition.

So, when a prosecutor lays a murder rap on a cop, guaranteed s/he knows the case is airtight.

Only this one wasn’t. Stockley walked, Friday. Protesters gathered immediately afterward and, later, some turned violent, breaking windows, throwing paint on the mayor’s house, and otherwise expressing rage.

We seen this time and again in this holy land. The whole sick ritual of white cop killing black guy, prosecutors occasionally charging the cop, the acquittal, the ensuing chaos.

We know this. Just as we know all the facts in the Anthony Lamar Smith killing.

Stockley was reported to have said after the acquittal, “I did nothing wrong.” He believes that. If I’m him, I’m thinking, I thought the guy had a piece so I had to shoot him. When it turned out he didn’t have a gun, I knew I’d be crucified, so I had to plant one. It’s a war zone out here. What else could I do?

All of which, as I say, is perfectly reasonable.

Then again there’s the nagging perception that white cops are quick on the draw when it comes to black guys. Sometimes, even black cops are quick on the draw when it comes to black guys. Peer pressure can make a person forget the color of her/his own skin. And — don’t you know it? — there are few, if any, in-groups more peer-pressurized than the cops.

We’ve seen too many videos of sweet white girls ramming cop cars and then leading them on high speed chases. It seems they’re always apprehended alive. We saw the white lunatic ram a crowd of protesters with his car in Charlottesville the other week. He was apprehended, alive. We’ve seen recordings of white guys tussling with cops, reaching for the cops’ guns, and they were subdued, alive. I could go on and on with such examples.

The truth is black guys inspire a deep, visceral fear in white people. Have you seen that study where white people are shown arguments for certain social safety net policies? The one where the arguments are accompanied either by pictures of white people or black people? Whites are all for the social policies if the argument is accompanied by pictures of whites. They suddenly turn dead set against them if the argument is accompanied by pix of black people.

What we need to know today is how many ram-and-chase incidents end in police shootings, and what the ratio of black dead guys is to white dead guys.

Then we need to figure out why white people are so terrified of black guys.


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