Monday, February 28, 2005

A Blog Even More Local

I still haven't added my Illinois Blog Roll but when I do, I'll have DownLeft to add. DL is blogging from Springfield too. Welcome DL!


Several blogs have picked up on this from Rolling Stone:
When the Federal Communications Commission fined Clear Channel Communications $27,500 last year for each of eighteen incidents of "indecent material" spouted
by shock jock Howard Stern, it sure seemed like a lot of money. But in
retrospect those fines look like chump change. On February 16th, the Bush
administration won House approval for a bill that would raise the maximum FCC
fine to $500,000 per violation. Under the new measure, Clear Channel -- and
Stern himself -- could each have been fined a total of $9 million.
Hmmm...sounds bad but here's the perspective part:

A review of fines levied by other federal agencies suggests that the government
may be taking swear words a bit too seriously. If the bill passes the Senate,
Bono saying "fucking brilliant" on the air would carry the exact same penalty as
illegally testing pesticides on human subjects. And for the price of Janet
Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" during the Super Bowl, you could cause the
wrongful death of an elderly patient in a nursing home and still have enough
money left to create dangerous mishaps at two nuclear reactors. (Actually, you
might be able to afford four "nuke malfunctions": The biggest fine levied by the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission last year was only $60,000.)
Priorities are priorities.

Who Would Jesus Kill?

This is a little -no, a lot- scary. Scroll down past the the Updates. The guy's writing (and photography!) needs a little work but the ideas get through. This militarization of the church is just sick.

Thanks to David Neiwert.

UPDATE: Holy crap, there's more of the same (via Atrios taking from Roll Call):

Now we know where Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) thinks the weapons of mass destruction are buried: in Syria, which he said he’d like to nuke to

Speaking at a veterans’ celebration at Suncreek United Methodist Church in Allen, Texas, on Feb. 19, Johnson told the crowd that he explained his theory to President Bush and Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) on the porch of the White House one night. [Emphasis mine]

Johnson said he told the president that night, “Syria is the problem. Syria is where those weapons of mass destruction are, in my view. You know, I can fly an F-15, put two nukes on ‘em and I’ll make one pass. We won’t have to worry about Syria anymore.”

A true Christian.

Just Following Orders

Kevin Drum asks all bloggers to pass on the link to this series in the L.A. Times. And since I'm inclined to do anything Kevin tells me to do, consider it done. I haven't read the whole thing yet but it does look quite good. Kevin has a good warm up with this:

It's pretty widely understood that average incomes have stagnated during
the past three decades, but as bad as that is in a country as rich as America,
what's worse, and less widely understood, is how much riskier life has become: income volatility has skyrocketed, the minimum wage is down, the number of people with company pensions is down, average job tenure has dropped from 11 years to 7, and the number of people with health insurance has fallen seven percentage points.
Read on.

Show Biz

Oooo, I like this. Legislation is pending in the Illinois house that..
"Requires the owner of a movie theatre to post, for each movie shown in his or
her theatre, the separate start times for the movie trailers and the actual
On the other hand, I kind of like the trailers (but not the ads) so I'm not sure I'll care that much. Plus can't you just add 10 or 15 minutes in your head?

It's House Bill 1472 if you care to show your support. Pass the popcorn.

Police Off-Beat

Next time you're watching one of the "Law & Order" franchises and the cops get pissed because the bad guy is cut a break on a "technicality" by the judicial system, think of this story. Appearing in today's Springfield Journal-Register is the tale of a guy with multiple previous alcohol violations getting out of a new DUI because...the cop was a multiple no-show in court.

Michael Strader, 24, was in a front-page photograph Dec. 19 that showed
Springfield police officer Heather Pletsch applying a pressure-point hold to him
after he allegedly bit her hand.

Strader originally was charged with DUI,
fleeing and eluding an officer, running a stop sign and aggravated battery to a
police officer. He was convicted only of running the stop sign.

The aggravated battery charge was dropped after Pletsch failed to show
up in court three times - twice after receiving subpoenas.

Through a police department spokesman, Pletsch - a patrol officer who
has been on the force since 2001 - said she didn't come to court on the first
date because the case was continued.

She was subpoenaed to appear for a second court date. She said she
signed for that subpoena, but then forgot to go to court. She also accepted
another subpoena for a third court date, but that time, Pletsch said through the
spokesman, she couldn't remember why she didn't show up.

The spokesman, Sgt. Kevin Keen, said Pletsch's failure to pursue the
case in court will be reviewed by Deputy Chief Mike Geiger.

Unbelievable. And I always go for supervision on speeding tickets because, knowing my luck, the cop would show up in court. Maybe I should reconsider.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Packs Tax

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich wants to raise the cigarette tax by 75 cents a pack.. The idea is to raise more revenue and, as an afterthought, to discourage smoking. Is this a good idea?

First, let me say that I am not a smoker and never have been with the exception of the occasional status-enhancing (I thought) smoke in high school. I consider not having started smoking one of the greatest fortunes in my life so far. I am somewhat militant about restricting smoking in public places but I think that is an issue aside from raising taxes on smokes.

Generally, I favor so-called “sin taxes” as a way to both raise money and discourage over consumption of unhealthy products. And in case you are wondering (although you shouldn’t), yes I do drink and, no, I don’t mind the extra tax on alcohol as it stands now.

The question for me then becomes, how much is too much? There is concern the 75 cents a pack increase would be too much. Today’s Springfield Journal-Register tackles the issue on its front page:

Critics of a plan to hike the state's cigarette tax by 75 cents per pack say the
increase would hurt Illinois.

They charge that smokers will buy cheaper cigarettes via the Internet or, if they live along the borders, from neighboring states.

In addition, opponents believe a hike fuels the black market for tobacco.

"Bootlegging of cigarettes out of this state and into it would be unbelievable," said Harry "Bud" Kelley, executive director of the Illinois Association of Tobacco and Candy Distributors.

But Gov. Rod Blagojevich believes the increase, combined with an increase for other tobacco products as well, would raise $150 million needed for health care and roads in an otherwise cash-strapped year.

Now, by “too much” in the context of this article I think we are talking about it being counter productive. That is, the State not realizing the anticipated additional revenues while also doing economic harm to businesses in the state. Many smokers will be screaming “too much” simply because they will be paying a lot more for their habit. It’s a legitimate gripe, but let’s put that part of the discussion aside for moment and stick with the “will it generate more revenue for the state” issue.

The SJ-R article does a good job examining both sides and seems to conclude that more money likely will be generated for the state. For one thing, the article points out, neighboring states are considering upping the tax as well, reducing the price difference.

The best argument against it working well to raise money is that the new tax will simply encourage smokers to cross state lines, order cigarettes over the internet, and foster a black market. This is where the “what is too much” line has to be realized. If, for example, the plan was to increase the tax by $100 a pack, there is no question all of the above would happen and it would be nearly universal. I can’t imagine anyone paying that much to smoke on anything close to a regular basis. So, the line is somewhere between the current tax and $100, say. The line does exist.

Is the 75 cents increase over that line? No. There will be of the internet buying and crossing of state lines but the reality is most will simply pay the extra. And hopefully some will quit altogether. The last tax hike (40 cents in 2002) did result in a sales slump for a while but that has rebounded recently.

The biggest single reason the 75 cents won’t be “too much” is, well, laziness.

Yes, people seek out cheaper cigarettes from the Internet or other states, [Blagojevich spokesperson Rebecca] Rausch said.

But, she added, "People choose convenience over cost, and you're probably not going to drive 30 or 60 miles away to buy cigarettes when you can just go down the street."

That’s the thing, there will be some loud bellyaching but in the end smokers are going to pay and the State is going to make money. Will it be the $150 mil a year the governor hopes for, who knows? Hell, it could be more or maybe a lot less.

So, at least as a revenue enhancer, I say it’s a good idea. There is, however, more to the issue than just raising money nd I’ll look at that later.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Go Blue!

I love air shows. I've been interested in aircraft most of my life and nothing is more satisfying than being surrounded by a celebration of them for a day.

Here in Springfield, we have an annual air show called Air Rendezvous. It's not a huge deal as air show go. It's nothing like the big one in Oshkosh, Wisconsin which I hope to get to some day. But AR is fine and it's in my backyard (almost literally). My biggest gripe is the increasingly small "static display" of planes parked for up-close viewing.

This year they moved up the scheduled date to take advantage of an opening the famous Blue Angels had in their schedule. Originally scheduled for September, Air Rendezvous will now take place April 30 through May 1. The Angels were to fly in an air show at Charleston Air Force Base but it had to be canceled. Something about a war going on the the Mideast.

The Blue Angels have been here before, but its good to have them back.

By the way, who knew there were this many air shows.

Poe Folk

This ought to shake things up for 2006. Raymond Poe (R-Springfield) is running for Lt. Governor. Illinois Republicans are on the march! [sound of crickets chirping].

But wait! This man is bound to energize the electorate. The Springfield Journal-Register runs down his impressive resume:
Poe, a former Williamsville School Board president who still is involved in his
family farm and a mini storage operation, was elected to the House in 1994 and
has won each two years since.

Poe (Ray-Baby) is my Illinois House Rep here in the 99th district and I can assure you I see him on the news at least every other month saying, ummm, something. Who said the Illinois Republican bench was thin.

Friday Beer Blogging: Founding Father Edition

Only slightly relevant to the recent President's Day holiday, I present a cold Sam Adams.

By the way, I was wondering why beer web sites ask you for your age (and then refuse you entry if you are stupid enough to indicate you are under 21). I found out it's because under age web surfers were being corrupted by these sites.

Checking birth dates as a requirement to entering a site was one suggestion of a 1999 Federal Trade Commission report. That earlier study was prompted by complaints from the Center for Media Education. At that time, the FTC advised the alcohol industry to revamp its approach to advertising with an eye toward reducing underage appeal.

Before 1999, the industry's own guidelines required that more than 50 percent of the audience for ads be over 21. The FTC pointed out that, because only 30 percent of the United States' population is younger than 21, the 50 percent mark disproportionately skews advertising toward younger people.

Last year when the FTC revisited the issue, it found that some marketing strategies had improved. But the Commission did acknowledge that "no technologies... permitted advertisers to limit site entry to those who could be determined to be of legal age."

An Anheuser-Busch spokesperson agrees. The company requires a birth date to enter its site, but notes it can't actually be enforced.

"Our age-check system is designed to remind site visitors of our policy of marketing only to adults," he says.

You know, before I began beer blogging I never thought about looking at beer online. I have several really good liquor stores within a few minutes drive where I can actually drool over expensive imports. It never occurred to me that there was beer porn on the net.

I think the age "verification" thing is stupid. There is no way of preventing an under age person from just entering a legal birth date.

And is it really that big a deal? I don't think beer web sites are going to be the deciding factor for who does and doesn't drink.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Redistrict Early, Redistrict Often

I'm late on this one, but I was motivated to get to it after again seeing Georgia Republicans want to implement a Texas-style redistricting power grab. Well, some national Dems want to fight back by redistricting where it is to their advantage, including Illinois. Kos has the details garnered from Roll Call:
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has spoken with several Democratic
governors in recent weeks about the possibility of revisiting their states'
Congressional lines in response to the ongoing Republican-led redistricting in
Georgia, according to informed party sources.

Faced with the prospect of Republicans redrawing Congressional lines in
a third state since the initial 2001 round of redistricting ended, a faction of
national Democrats is urging an aggressive strategy aimed at striking back at
Republican House Members in states like New Mexico and Illinois.

"We have to stop playing defense and go on the offensive," said Howard
Wolfson, who served as executive director at the Democratic Congressional
Campaign Committee during the 2002 cycle and is now a consultant with the Glover
Park Group.

"The only way to stop them from doing this is to make them pay a price
for it somewhere else," said a longtime House strategist, who spoke on the
condition of anonymity.

Democrats believe their best opportunities lie in Illinois, New Mexico
and Louisiana, where Democrats have seized control of all the levers of state
government in those states since the 2001 reapportionment and redistricting.

Democratic Govs. Rod Blagojevich (Ill.) and Bill Richardson (N.M.) as
well as high-ranking Louisiana elected officials have been contacted by members
of House leadership led by Hoyer since the Georgia legislature began their

Kos goes on to say Illinois could pick up two more Dem seats if redistricting was pursued here.

I'm not sure I like the breaking from the tradition of redistricting once every ten years, but once the practice of redistricting at will has begun by one side, I see nothing wrong with countering with the same tactics. Gerrymander away!

Blagojevich: The Steer Hunter

We learn the sad truth from the Springfield State Journal-Register opinion page today:
WE PLEADED last week for Gov. Rod Blagojevich to consider allowing Flushy,
last year's State Fair Champion steer, to wander a field for the rest of his
natural life. But mid-afternoon on Wednesday, we received the following
communiqué from the governor's office: "Flushy is now in cow heaven. Sorry."

Just so you don't think the Blagojevich people are heartless, that
message was followed by one of those sad-face emoticons. :-( Not that an
emoticon is going to do much for old Flushy now. The one-time champion has been
reduced to chops.

Normally, Flushy, who was almost 2 before he was slaughtered, would
have been dispatched months ago. In fact, the typical steer is slaughtered at 12
months. While some grew quite angry at the governor for not following the rules
of steer slaughter, we think Flushy probably enjoyed the extra year of grazing,
flicking his tail and fertilizing the fields near Sherman.

DESPITE A RATHER simple last meal of hay and water, Flushy had added a
few hundred extra pounds beyond the typical slaughter weight of a steer. Experts
tell us that extra weight isn't all muscle. It looks like Gov. Blagojevich will
be slicing fat from more than just the budget this year.

Or to paraphrase South Park: "Oh my God, they've killed Flushy".

Going Statewide

Well, a couple of Illinois bloggers have given me a plug here and here. I guess I need to get on the ball and put up my Illinois Blog Roll.

And, of course, trouble has already started. It was so much easier in my own echo chamber.

Heh, heh, heh

Sorry, this story just brings out the snickering 12 year-old in me.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court rejected on Tuesday a
constitutional challenge to an Alabama law that makes it a crime to sell sex

The high court refused to hear an appeal by a group
of individuals who regularly use sexual devices
[heh, heh,
] and by two vendors who argued the case raised important issues about
the scope of the constitutional right to sexual privacy.

The law prohibited the distribution of "any device designed or marketed
as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital
." [heh, heh, heh] First-time violators can face a fine
of up to $10,000 and as much as one year in jail.

The law, adopted in 1998, allowed the sale of ordinary vibrators and
body massagers that are not designed or marketed primarily as sexual aids. It exempted sales of sexual devices "for a bona fide medical,
scientific, educational, legislative, judicial or law enforcement
[heh, heh, heh]


The attorneys said the state did not contest the evidence that about 20
percent of all American women use a vibrator and at least 10 percent of
sexually active adults use vibrators in their regular sex life
[heh, heh, heh]

A federal judge ruled against the state and found a constitutional
"right to use sexual devices like ... vibrators, dildos, anal beads and artificial vaginas." [heh, heh, heh]

Emphasis and juvenile tittering (uhhh...he said tittering) mine.

Thanks to Billmon (and check out his associated cartoon)

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Hot Cup a Joe = Dough

As long as I'm stealing form Think Progressive...

Jon brings up one of my favorite "lawsuits are bad" myths, the notorious McDonald's coffee suit:

FACT: As a result of her injuries, 79 year old Stella Liebeck spent eight days in a hospital. In that time she underwent expensive treatments for third-degree burns including debridement (removal of dead tissue) and skin grafting. The burns left her scarred and disabled for more than two years

FACT: Before a suit was ever filed, Liebeck informed McDonald's about her
injuries and asked for compensation for her medical bills, which totaled almost
$11,000. McDonald's countered by offering her $800.
FACT: The original, $2.7 million award was equal to two days of McDonald’s
corporation coffee sales.
FACT: On appeal, a judge lowered
the award to $480,000, a fact not widely publicized in the media.
FACT: During trial, McDonald's admitted that it had known about the risk of
serious burns from its coffee for more than 10 years. From 1982 to 1992,
McDonald's received more than 700 reports of burns from scalding coffee; some of
the injured were children and infants. Many customers received severe burns to
the genital area, perineum, inner thighs and buttocks.
This is the tort reform poster child but those who mock it don't bother with the, well, facts. All some people hear is some woman got millions of dollars because she spilled hot coffee in her own lap.

I've heard it many times, "What an idiot. The bitch spills coffee on herself and sues because its hot. What did she expect? And a judge [or jury] went along with it. Boy, lawsuits are out of control. " Or some such superficial two-dimensional thinking. I mean, coffee is hot, right, so what's the problem? Gosh, there can't possibly be varying degrees of hot - even unreasonably hot - no just hot or not.

I'm sure there are plenty of examples of bad decisions in lawsuits, but I think this one isn't the outrage that so many think it is.

Link Nazi

OK, OK, I'll be more diligent about my links. ETK is policing my links and posting link corrections in the comments. Pointing out my technical errors must give him great satisfaction because he knows I'm right about everything else.

-Excuse Alert-

My main problem is when I go to paste in a link using the window Blogger provides, it is pre-filled with "http://". Sometimes in the pasting process I fail to paste OVER the http:// and the result is http:// Which will get you nowhere. So now, to avoid making ETK look smarter than me, I will check links after posting.

Heads Up Asses

I love polls showing how uninformed people are. Think Progress distills a recent Harris survey:
It seems the Bush administration's campaign of misinformation
and innuendo
in the days before the invasion of Iraq resonated deeply with
the American people. According to
a new poll
conducted by Harris:

- 47 percent believe that Saddam Hussein helped plan and support the
hijackers who attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001 (up six percentage points
from November).

- 44 percent actually believe that several of the hijackers who attacked
the U.S. on September 11 were Iraqis (up significantly from 37% in

- 36 percent believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the
U.S. invaded (down slightly from 38% in November).


There is no evidence AT ALL for the first item. But I guess you can "believe" what you want to believe.

The second item is demonstrably false. We know who was on those planes and NONE OF THEM were Iraqi. Most were Saudis.

The third item is also faith-based since nothing has been found two years after the invasion, but it cannot be fully disproved since one can still hold out hope some large cache will be found buried in the desert.

THE Issue: Blogo Sleeps in Chicago!

I meant to comment on this story in the SJR a few days ago. Peoria Pundit beat me to it though.
The Copley news service is telling us that Gov. Rod Blagojevich's habit of sleeping in
, rather than in the Springfield governor's mansion, will be a big issue in
the upcoming race. Really? That's the big issue? Not broken promises on
education spending? Not cuts to the Department of Natural Resources? Not the
failure to re-open Zeller Mental Health Center, the closure of which was aided
and abetted by State Rep. David Leitch, a Republican?

That was my reaction, too. Where Gov. Rod calls home is the big statewide issue? Sure a lot of people make hay of it here in Springfield. Our widdle feewings are hurt he won't live here like we have to. Of course, many of those critics are Republicans who put there hands over their ears and go "LA,LA, LA, LA, LA" when its pointed out governor-for-life Jim Thompson also chose to forego the mansion to live upstate. But outside of Springfield, does anyone really care? Many in the Chicago area see their city as the center of Illinois anyway; I'm not sure they would object.

Anyway you look at it, though, Illinois Republicans are still in big trouble if they make where the governor calls home the centerpiece of their effort to unseat Blagojevich.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Paid Abe-mission

Is it really going to cost $7.00 per person to get into the Abraham Lincoln Museum? The Chicago Sun Times quotes someone official who thinks so. The presidential library would still be free. I say make them both free.

Thanks to MakesMeRalph who is an Illinois native blogging from Colorado about Illinois...or something.

The Blogging Illini

I plan to set up a separate Illinois Blog Roll when I get time to get in and mess with the template (my HTML skills are minimal). In the meantime, here are a few Illinois based blogs worthy of your attention:


The Peoria Pundit

Eric Zorn's Notebook

These sites have links to even more Illinois blogs, although some look to have been abandoned.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Smokers, Meet Bill 672

Some time back, I posted an item about banning smoking in restaurants and bars. At the time, I was unaware of any serious legislation here in Illinois that might make establishments here smoke-free. Well, now there is something. A bill is set to come up in the Illinois House that would give local governments the right to restrict cigarette smoking. The proposal, House Bill 672, is sponsored by Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D - Maywood).

While this bill does not outright ban smoking in public places, it does give individual communities the ability to do so. This would be an important first step. The Springfield State Journal-Register has more in an editorial in today's edition:

The measure is necessary because when the General Assembly passed the Illinois Clean Indoor Air Act in 1989 it included a provision that only those communities that already had their own such legislation could pass anything more restrictive than the state law. Because of that, all but a handful of communities today cannot pass more restrictive smoking laws.

So, if the Springfield City Council decided that it wanted to pass a smoking ban in restaurants, by state law it would be out of luck. That is not fair or democratic, but we do understand why such a restriction exists. Tobacco proponents want to keep this fight in Springfield where it is much easier to do battle. But as much as tobacco lobbyists would dread having to dash from one Illinois town to another, beating back smoking restrictions, that is how it should be.

If a city council or village board has the wisdom to protect its citizens from the dangers of secondhand cigarette smoke, why in the world should they not be allowed to do so? House Bill 672 is not a "smoking-ban bill" as some have mischaracterized it. Rather it is a bill that would allow those millions of Illinois citizens who are forced to breath secondhand smoke in restaurants, bars and other public places a fighting chance to do something about that menace in their own towns.

I encourage all Illinois residents to contact their Representative and have them vote yes on this.


This is what a conservative group (USANext) is using to battle AARP's opposition to Social Security privatization:

So, if you oppose the president's Social Security scam, you hate the troops and want gay marriage. Typical. What, they couldn't find a flashing heart icon to put over Osama's face. These people are disgusting bottom-feeders. Expect AARP to now lose membership as the wingnut contingent of their membership heeds the call to arms.

Thanks to Atrios .
UPDATE: The parodies are pouring in. Start here with Billmon. He has links to others.
LATER UPDATE: The ad has now been pulled but Uggabugga has even more parodies

Steal Your Face

Time to check you credit reports. ChoicePoint, a consumer information reporting company, now says it gave out personal information on at least 145,000 people to fraudulent requestors.

The company disclosed an additional 110,000 people across the country could have had their personal information compromised, bringing the total number of possible victims to 145,000. The new tally likely makes ChoicePoint's break-in the largest case of identity theft in history.

"ChoicePoint is actively engaged with local and federal law enforcement agencies in the continuing investigation of a fraud committed against us," the company said in a statement, "through which a small number of very well organized criminals posed as legitimate companies to gain access to personal information about consumers."


So far, approximately 750 instances of identity theft relating to the compromised information have been found in California alone.

ChoicePoint says it has acted to prevent the problem again in the future. "We are continually updating our processes and procedures to ensure the integrity of our systems and the information they contain," the company said.

That's nice.

Kevin Drum takes the opportunity to rail against the current system of credit reporting:

The problem with credit reports is that they're strictly under the control of one side of the credit transaction: businesses. If a business requests a report, they get it, no questions asked. If a business reports a problem, it goes on the report, no questions asked. The consumer never knows any of this is happening, and that's the way the credit reporting companies like it.

This needs to stop. If a business requests a report, the consumer should be notified — by email, phone, or in writing — and the report should go out only if the consumer authorizes it. If a nonroutine entry is added to a credit report, the consumer should be notified so that she can object immediately if she thinks a mistake has been made. Consumers should be full partners in the creation of credit reports, and any changes or uses of credit reports should be fully transparent to the consumer involved.

These aren't just pieces of paper anymore. Credit reports are minutely detailed resumes of your entire life, and credit reporting companies shouldn't be allowed to arrogantly treat your life as if it's their sole property. After all, an improper use of your credit report can do you tremendous damage. It should fundamentally be considered joint property, as much yours as the credit reporting company's.

I have to agree with Kev on this one. Several years a go, I took the time to contact all three of the big credit reporting companies to get copies of my credit reports. Fortunately there was nothing erroneous on them as far as I could tell. At that time, they gave me the option of being notified whenever someone requested a copy of my report. I took them up on it. It sounded like a good idea. Well, I've never heard a thing despite have received credit (and I assume that required a credit check). So, lets just make it mandatory for everyone, every time.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Rant of the Day

Regarding the Jeff Gannon affair, Digby lets it all out:
It certainly does seem as if the Bush White House is pretty darned tolerant
for an administration that mined millions of votes in the evangelical community
by being against gay rights. And the Dems and the mainstream press know very
well that this is a problem for the Republicans.

George W. Bush's carefully crafted mystique is built entirely on his
manufactured masculinity. In fact, the Republican Party has based its whole
image upon the idea that they are the party of macho straight men and the
fawning traditional women who love them. They have spent the last 35 years
impugning the manhood of every male Democrat and portraying every Democratic
feminist as a manhating bitch --- and winning the national security issue pretty
much on the basis of what that implied to their bigoted neanderthal base. It
never ends. Back in the day it was "I can't tell if you're a boy or a girl with
all that hair." Just last year they spent hundreds of millions of dollars
convincing a large number of people that a documented war hero (and killer) was
a mincing, vacillating "Frenchman." What do you think that that was all about?

I've always believed that one of the main reasons Clinton frustrated them
so much was that his womanizing protected him from the ongoing gay-baiting
subtext of the Republican appeal. It took one of their most potent arrows out of
the quiver. The best they could do was call Hillary a dyke.

Every time the Republicans are called upon to squeal "don't ask don't tell"
when asked about JimJeff Gannon, it puts another hairline crack in their
coalition. Don't ever think that this does not affect them. It goes to the very
essence of who they portray themselves to be.

You go, Blogfriend. He's not particularly nice to the Democrats in this post either. Fair and Balanced and all that. I'm also very much liking this thing being called "the Manchurian Beefcake scandal".

Friday Beer Blogging: Flashback Edition

Early in my college "career" a bunch of us would, weather permitting, head out to Giant City State Park on Friady afternoons. Of course, beer was a requirement. Cheap beer. Back then the best bargains were cases of returnable bottles. One day, someone noticed a case of a low priced beer called Top Hat. It was worth a laugh and worth a try. It wasn't too bad so it kind of became our cheap beer of choice.

The Schoenling Brewing Company out of Cincinnati brewed the stuff. I have not seen it in stores since those days 25 years ago, so I suspect its not around anymore. I couldn't even find a picture of the bottles. But here I have a pic of a vintage Top Hat tap knob that at least has the logo we all laughed at and then came to appreciate.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Music Sells

I was wanting to know the name of the song featured in the latest iPod TV advert. So, of course I hit the net. I found a great site for identifying the songs you hear on TV shows and in commercials. It's

The iPod song, by the way, is "Jerk It Out" by the Caesers.

Double Standard pt. 2

I haven't said anything about the Jeff Gannon (real name James Guckert) story because the other like-minded blogs have been all over it. It's an astounding story. A guy who is a gay prostitute, tax cheat and fake journalist (in addition to being a right wing hack) gets White House press credentials. Now imagine this was the Clinton White House. Joe Conason does just that:
Imagine the media explosion if a male escort had been discovered operating
as a correspondent in the Clinton White House. Imagine that he was paid by an
outfit owned by Arkansas Democrats and had been trained in journalism by James
Carville. Imagine that this gentleman had been cultivated and called upon by
Mike McCurry or Joe Lockhart--or by President Clinton himself. Imagine that this
"journalist" had smeared a Republican Presidential candidate and had previously
claimed access to classified documents in a national-security scandal.

Then imagine the constant screaming on radio, on television, on Capitol
Hill, in the Washington press corps--and listen to the placid mumbling of the
"liberal" media now.

The Daily Show's treatment of the Gannon story last night was hilarious. The video is available here. The most shocking revelation in that piece is that Steven Colbert's real name is Ted Hitler. Shocking.

Double Standard pt. 1

Laura Bush is firing people!

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Behind the scenes, first lady Laura Bush is making big
changes for the next four years.

In the past two months, Mrs. Bush has hired a new social secretary and
chief of staff -- and fired chef Walter Scheib III, who had been at the White
House for 11 years.

Where's the outrage? When Hillary Clinton fired some folks in the Whit House travel office, the rightwing noise machine when into fits. It even got a scandal name, Travelgate. Ken Starr in his unending quest found no wrong-doing.

Of course, Hillary did nothing wrong and Laura hasn't either. It's perfectly within their prerogative to hire and fire whomever they like. The difference here, of course, is there is no left wing noise machine comparable to Rush-Fox-Sinclair axis.

Here's the word on Laura's motives from the same CNN story:

What's also at work, Washington observers say, is a first lady more
comfortable at the start of her husband's second term and not having to worry
about another election.

"She, I'm sure, is partially responsible for him being re-elected, and
I think that she knows that," Quinn said. "And I think that has given her an
enormous amount of confidence."

See, Laura is just more "comfortable" exuding "confidence". And we all know Hillary was just being a power-hungry bitch. Its true, I heard it on the radio.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Name Game

Here's a fun site that let's you determine the popularity of first names over the last 100 years. Just type in a name and a graph appears showing you where then name ranked over the course of time.

Thanks to Mrs. Eleventh Hour for the tip.

Space, The Final Series

Uh-oh. This is going to be trouble. Look at this headline at
Trekkies fight end of 'Enterprise'
Now, Star Trek fans do not call themselves "Trekkies". No, no! They are "Trekkers". CNN, prepare for a flood of email.

The Trekker nation is already in a bad mood now that the Star Trek series is finally (and mercifully) being retired:
LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Trekkies (sic) are uniting to win a reprieve for
"Star Trek: Enterprise," slated to end its mission on UPN in May.


"Star Trek: Enterprise," which debuted in 2001 as a prequel to the original
1960s "Star Trek" series, stars Scott Bakula as Capt. Jonathan Archer. It begins
reruns in syndication this fall.

For the first time in 18 years, however, no first-run "Star Trek"
series will be airing.

The franchise included "Star Trek" (1966-69, NBC); "Star Trek: The Next
Generation" (1987-94, syndicated); "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" (1992-99,
syndicated); "Star Trek: Voyager" (1995-2001, UPN) and "Star Trek:

I grew up on the original Star Trek series and its reruns in the 1960s and 1970s. I am just barely old enough to remember its original airing. My dad was a science fiction fan, so he tuned in regularly when it was first on NBC's prime time lineup. As a young boy, the show was amazing. I continued to enjoy the reruns of the original series even through my teen years.

When "Next Generation" was announced in the late 1980s, I was skeptical but gave it a chance and was pleasantly surprised. After that I lost interest.

The other ST treatments just seemed more and more childish, more and more strained for new alien characters, and more and more insular. By the later incarnations, it seemed like it was only appealing to hardcore Trekkers. And that's fine but I got off that train a long time ago.

Blog Roll Updated

I finally got around to adding a few more of my favorite blogs to my list to the left. Specifically, I have added:

Ezra Klien - good, level-headed political analysis

Fafblog! - the funniest blog ever (if you enjoy psychedelic, stream-of-consciousness commentary)

Uggabugga - this site provides great flow charts and graphics for political topics

Orcinus - author David Neiwert's blog. He specializes in tracking the right wing's increasing eliminationist rhetoric.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Congratulations Midwest

Study: Binge drinking highest in Midwest

No Shit!

Literally. The New York Times reviews a book on bullshit but refuses to print the "shit" part of the word. This review is funny on so many levels. First, that someone writes a philosophical book on bullshit and the art of bullshitting; second, that the New York Times does a serious review and then, third, can't bring itself to print the whole word.

Here's a delicious sample:
The opening paragraph of the 67-page essay is a model of reason and
composition, repeatedly disrupted by that single obscenity:

"One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so
much [bull]. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend
to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their
ability to recognize [bull] and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon
has not aroused much deliberate concern, nor attracted much sustained

The essay goes on to lament that lack of inquiry, despite the
universality of the phenomenon. "Even the most basic and preliminary questions
about [bull] remain, after all," Mr. Frankfurt writes, "not only unanswered but

The balance of the work tries, with the help of Wittgenstein, Pound,
St. Augustine and the spy novelist Eric Ambler, among others, to ask some of the
preliminary questions - to define the nature of a thing recognized by all but
understood by none.

What is [bull], after all? Mr. Frankfurt points out it is neither fish nor
fowl. Those who produce it certainly aren't honest, but neither are they liars,
given that the liar and the honest man are linked in their common, if not
identical, regard for the truth.

"It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth,"
Mr. Frankfurt writes. "A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and
he is to that extent respectful of it."

The bull artist, on the other hand, cares nothing for truth or falsehood.
The only thing that matters to him is "getting away with what he says," Mr.
Frankfurt writes. An advertiser or a politician or talk show host given to
[bull] "does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose
himself to it," he writes. "He pays no attention to it at all."

And this makes him, Mr. Frankfurt says, potentially more harmful than any
liar, because any culture and he means this culture rife with [bull] is one in
danger of rejecting "the possibility of knowing how things truly are." It
follows that any form of political argument or intellectual analysis or
commercial appeal is only as legitimate, and true, as it is persuasive. There is
no other court of appeal.

Sounds like a lot of bullshit to me.

Thanks to Thus Blogged Anderson. Anderson has even better commentary on this, so go read or be ill informed.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Governor Keyes: Bigot

In some sick parallel universe where Alan Keyes actually succeeds in becoming governor of Illinois, we'll have an extra room at the Governor's Mansion:

(CBS) The 19-year-old daughter of Alan Keyes has a Valentine for the
anti-gay rights conservative pundit and frequent Republican candidate.

Maya Marcel-Keyes will be making her first public appearance as a gay
activist at a Valentine Day's rally in front of the Maryland State House, says
Dan Furmansky, the leader of Equality Maryland, a gay rights group.


Marcel-Keyes told the Post her parents have thrown her out of the
, stopped speaking to her and refuse to pay for college because
she is gay. She said she loves her parents.

(emphasis mine)

A family values guy that really doesn't value his family.

Where's My Jet Pack?: A Personal Journey

I can't prove it but growing up in the 1960s we were promised jet packs. It was going to be the transportation revolution of the millennium. Strap it on, squeeze the handle and up you go. We saw examples in our Weekly Readers and on an episode of Gilligan's Island. It was only a matter of time, a short time.

But days and weeks became months and years. Finally, after no one had said a word about jet packs in a decade, ETK and I, decided to take action in 1981.

Recovering from the grueling lifestyle of college-students-currently-taking-classes, we were in college-students-on-break mode, meaning we had too much time and beer on (and in) or hands. What better time to resolve the seemingly unresolvable! Jet packs it was.

We quickly came to the conclusion that we had been ripped off. Most of our youth had passed us by without a single jet pack between us. In fact, we knew of no jet packs being used anywhere. After even more beer, the answer was clear: we needed someone "on the inside" to provide us with a suitable answer as to why we had no jet packs and, better yet, lobby FOR them.

ETK, much more in touch with the confluents of celebrity and technology than I, came up with our go-to: Brooke Shields. It was so brilliant, I didn't even ask why.

All we needed to do was send her a letter detailing our concern and she could get to the bottom of this. After discussing the letters contents, I tasked ETK with the actual writing and mailing of the letter. This got me out of both the work and expense. Brilliant.

Whether the letter was actually sent or not is irrelevant all these years and beers later. The point is, THERE ARE STILL NO JET PACKS.

What's worse, as an adult, I see all kinds of problems with the whole concept. Thoughts of failure never occurred to me in my younger days. This was definitely an opportunity lost and even Brooke Shields was powerless (apparently) to help.

However, I have a plan. ETK, get a letter out to James Spader.


Have you ever heard an old song on the radio that reminds you of some era in your life but you hate the song. It's a weird feeling.

To me, nothing brings back the ambiance of a time in my past like a familiar tune. I often tune my car radio to "oldies" stations or noontime "flashback" shows. And when they aren't plying The Eagles "Hotel California" or anything by Fleetwood Mac, I occasionally hear a tune I haven't heard in years, if not decades. Sometimes its a song I didn't like at the time but it still brings back a flood of memories.

I had such an experience last week when Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" came on while I was driving to lunch. That song was on every radio station 24/7 back in 1978. I had a lot of fun in that year. I graduated from high school, turned 18, traveled to the west coast in search of America, and started college. And Baker Street was part of the soundtrack. Thing is, I did then as I do now, HATE that song- AGHHHH.

So, I'm driving along with all these cool memories being generated by a song that is compelling me, by reflex, to reach for the tuner. But I stop my hand. Then I want it to go ahead and stop the noise. Then I hesitate again.
You used to think that it was so easy
You used to say that it was so easy

But you're trying
you're trying now.
Another year and then you'll be happy

Just one more year and then you'll be happy
But you're crying you're crying now.

Oh, the horror. The conflict continues, the sax wails. Someone help me. Like memories, hate song. Make it stop.

Finally the song ends. Just like it always did in 1978. And in that moment I relived yet another great memory - "Baker Street" being over. But life is better today because it will be months or years before I hear it again. That was not possible in 1978.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Lincoln Online

Wrapping up my series on Abraham Lincoln in honor of his birthday tomorrow, I have a web site that is dedicated to everything you want to know about the late president. It's called Abraham Lincoln (but that's not its URL so why the .org?). Here's the link:

It's a great Lincoln resource. You can get Lincoln news, his speeches, photos, books and upcoming events.

Tip: Try the "Today in Lincoln's Life" link. It takes you to events in Lincoln's life that occurred on today's date. When I clicked on it (for Feb 11th) I was expecting one or two Lincoln-related things that happened on this date. But no, there are gobs of items (26 to be exact). Events from most years between 1837 and 1865 are displayed.

Friday Beer Blogging: Beer Bubbles Sink!

Technical difficulties at TEH Central means no beer pictures today. BUT...there is breaking beer news to report.
Scottish scientists claim to have video evidence which proves that bubbles
in a glass of beer can move downwards.

Working in association with colleagues in California, the Edinburgh
University researchers used a high-speed digital camera to record the movement.

Until now, some had claimed that the effect was an optical illusion.

The scientists released their evidence to coincide with St Patrick's
Day, claiming that the effect is clearest in Irish stout.

Although generations of beer drinkers had reported seeing bubbles sink
to the bottom of their glass, scientists had struggled to prove that it could
really happen.


Dr Andrew Alexander of Edinburgh University's School of Chemistry said: "We
had known for some time about the question of Guinness bubbles defying the norm.
"Our group carried out preliminary experiments at a local pub a few years
ago, but the results proved inconclusive.

"But now we have produced video proof that the bubbles do actually go
down the inside of the glass."

Although an undisclosed quantity of beer was used in the laboratory
experiments, the researchers insist that it was poured away afterwards to
prevent their judgement becoming clouded.

Beer science marches on.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Aid to the Foreign

Today Kevin Drum touches one of my pet peeve nerves (and I have a bundle of them). The well-informed American public still believes foreign aid consumes a huge chunk of our national budget.

49% of the country thinks foreign aid is one of our two biggest programs. No
wonder they're convinced their tax dollars are being frittered away. This is no
surprise, though, since it fits with this earlier
poll result
showing that Americans think 24% of the federal budget is spent
on foreign aid. (Real number: about 1%.)

I wonder why Americans are
convinced we spend such vast sums on this? Whatever the reason, it probably
explains why Americans are so frequently taken aback that the rest of world
isn't more grateful toward us. They think we're spending a couple hundred
billion dollars a year on these guys and then wondering why they don't show a
little more gratitude.

Kevin's post also has a table showing the poll results.

This perception problem was first brought to my attention 20 years ago by the late, great Illinois Senator Paul Simon. I was talking to him once when we got onto foreign aid. He told me audiences would express concern that too much was being spent on aid to other countries. So he would ask what would be a reasonable percentage. Answers would often come back in the 5% range. He would then tell them that they actually favored a dramatic increase in foreign aid since it amounted to less than 1% of the budget.

I'm not sure where this misconception comes from exactly. I don't think its xenophobia, even though that is something Americans have plenty of. No, I think its the usual combination of someone else benefiting from OUR tax money and said money being given to people who get it for "doing nothing". It's the same dynamic at work that has many Americans believing we spend huge sums on "welfare". In fact, the poll Kevin discusses shows 10% of those surveyed think food stamps alone is one of our two biggest programs. So, I think it's just people adjusting amounts in their heads to reflect their prejudices and resentments about how the money is spent.

Lincoln: The Presidential Library

One of the greatest projects to take place in my city of Springfield, Illinois is the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. This is a great idea and begs the question why was this not done sooner. With so many presidents now having libraries dedicated to their presidencies, it only makes sense to have one dedicated to one who had such a large impact on the nation.

From a local (Springfield) point of view, the presidential library and museum offers a focal point for the city's greatest tourist attractions - the so-called Lincoln Sites (his home, his law office, the train station where he left for Washington, the Old State Capitol building, his tomb, etc.).

The presidential library portion has been open to the public for several months but the more ambitious museum is not going to open until April 16 of this year.

Modern presidents all have libraries an museums ready not long after they leave office. I don't think it too tough to get everything together for these facilities since the presidential library is assumed even as the administration is in power. But Lincoln's has to have been much tougher to get together. Prior to the start of this project, all Lincoln memorabilia belonged to someone, or something, else. I wondered how inclusive the displays would be given this fact. From what I understand, though, donations have been generous.

If you are interested, a live presidential library cam is available here. This shot really doesn't do the building justice.

One other local note: This new presidential library might cause a bit of confusion here. It already has for me. You see, Springfield's public library is called Lincoln Library. Always has been, as long as I've been here. So, locals think of the public library when you mention Lincoln Library. Although the new presidential library is technically called the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, I suspect visitors will be inquiring about the "Lincoln Library". Hell, I've already caught myself doing it.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Hey, Keep Your Pants On

Virginia lawmakers with too much time on their hands:
RICHMOND - Underwear-exposing teens are one step closer to a $50 fine after a
bill from Del. Algie T. Howell, D-Norfolk, received preliminary approval in the
House of Delegates on Monday.

Howell’s bill, HB1981, calls for fines for anyone who intentionally wears or displays their underwear in a “lewd or indecent manner.”

It’s not an attack on baggy pants. It’s not about Janet Jackson. It’s not about Randy Moss,” Howell said. “When a person gets to the point that he or she doesn’t want to sit on the porch because of the way people are dressed, it’s time to do something.”

Many delegates agreed.

Most of us would identify this as the coarsening of society,” said Del. John S. Reid, R-Richmond. “Underwear is called underwear for a reason.”

I can't wait for the court challange that forces the state to define "underwear". And when are these guys going to pass plumber ass-crack legislation?

Lincoln's List

The 16th president is set to become the subject of a Steven Spielberg film:

Spielberg is said to have begun talks with Liam Neeson to play the president as
he steers the North to victory in the Civil War.

The feature will be based on Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns
Goodwin's biography 'The Uniter: The Genius of Abraham Lincoln'. The plan is to
start production next January, according to trade sources.

The film is supposed to focus on Lincoln's Civil War years and, therefore, I don't expect Spielberg or Neeson to show up here in Springfield for the project.

The Springfield Journal Register has more on the local angle:
Illinois State Historian Tom Schwartz said rumors have been circulating
about a Lincoln movie for years.

"From my understanding of the project, everything has been kept
in a close vest until (Spielberg's) ready to shoot," Schwartz said.

No one has contacted the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency on
behalf of the production, Schwartz said, although people often do not identify
themselves or their affiliation when seeking information.


Schwartz also noted that Neeson shares a physical resemblance with Lincoln.
At 6 feet 4 inches, the actor is the same height as Lincoln, who was the tallest
president in history.
A major motion picture about Lincoln is overdue,
Schwartz said.

Previous motion pictures about Lincoln came out during the 1930s and
'40s. After that, films about him moved to the small screen. The last dramatic
portrayal of Lincoln's life was Gore Vidal's "Lincoln," a 1988 television movie
starring Sam Waterston and Mary Tyler Moore, Schwartz said.

If Spielberg follows through with the film, Schwartz foresees public
interest in Lincoln and his historical sites increasing greatly.

Whenever Lincoln is depicted in the mass media, the IHPA receives
increased numbers of calls from people who want to learn more or appraise
memorabilia, he said.
Although Schwartz said documentary and short
filmmakers often approach his office, none have had the popularity or clout in
Hollywood of Spielberg.

"We're always willing to cooperate. It is a public service, and these
films reach a wide audience and let people know about our sites and provide some
historical semblance," he said.

Apparently, Lincoln won't be gay in this movie:
A new book, The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln by sex researcher CA
Tripp, argues Lincoln was primarily homosexual.

But other researchers such as Doris Kearns Goodwin, on whose book
Spielberg's film was to be based, dispute the idea.

Perhaps a musical version staring Sean Hayes can be made later.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Watch for Falling Prices

If you're like me, you lust for a big, flat-panel High Definition TV but find yourself saying, "I'm not paying $2000 for a fucking TV!".

Well, it looks like prices are ready to start falling -a lot. Consumer radio talk show host Clark Howard tips us off:
TVs of all kinds about to drop in price

Clark predicted last year that prices on LCDs and flat screen televisions
would go down significantly, and it turns out he was right. Prices have fallen
by two-thirds on “lead price” electronics because there is so much manufacturing
going on. Clark saw a 32-inch flat screen television for $399 last week. It
would have cost $1,200 to $1,400 in the fall. The 15- or 17-inch televisions
that people put in the kitchen will get down to about $199. So, these TVs will
soon move into every room in the house, including the bathroom. DLPs are also
going down in price. So, the choices are everywhere. Factories are churning out
televisions left and right, and this fall will be the time to buy.

That sounds about right. There is usually one last big Christmas buying season where the market squeezes out the last of the big ticket buyers before prices are brought down to earth. I have no statistics but based on what I saw in the stores leading up to last Christmas, I'd say that was it.

Thanks to Mrs. Eleventh Hour for the tip.

Lincoln: Famous Pig Lawyer

All obscure Green Acres references aside, Abe Lincoln did have a run-in with a pig while do his lawyerly duties in Central Illinois. And its about to be imortalized in a statue. From an article in yesterday's Springfield State Journal Register:
TAYLORVILLE - Residents of Taylorville had been dreaming for a while about
placing a statue of Abraham Lincoln somewhere in town.

Carol Alexander, head of local tourism efforts, said one idea was to
show Lincoln with a horse, but that was too costly. Officials also considered
Abe with a hitching post or Lincoln with a saddle at his feet. But organizers
said that still wasn't what they were looking for.

Then a long-told Taylorville story came up. And they knew they
had it: Abe Lincoln with a pig.
A statue of the future 16th president
accompanied by a swine friend will become a reality May 28, when Decatur artist
John McLarey's life-size statue of Lincoln and a small pig will be dedicated.

"We were looking for a hook for our Lincoln," said Alexander. "And the
story of the pig came up. It's our story, we own it.

"It's the stuff of legend," she said.

As the legend goes, Lincoln, when still a young attorney riding the
Eighth Judicial Circuit, was trying to speak in the courthouse at Taylorville.
But while he was trying to make his case, pigs could be heard squealing under
the floorboards of the building, which was built about 18 inches above the

Lincoln is said to have jocularly asked the judge for a "writ of
quietus" to stop the noise.
Researchers haven't been able to determine a
date or a trial when Lincoln would have made such a statement, but they did
uncover a record indicating the sheriff was ordered to put up a fence on the
courthouse grounds so animals couldn't get under the building. The date was
March 1850.


The Taylorville statue will weigh 700-800 pounds when placed and will be on
a pedestal facing Springfield. A storyboard will tell the story of the "writ of

"Lincoln could mix humor and wit with business and politics. He became
known for that," McLarey said.

And Taylorville is hoping to be known for its pig.

"We are going to market ourselves as a children's tourism destination.
We want to market Lincoln's sense of humor. This little pig at Lincoln's feet
will do that," Alexander said.


And the old courthouse, where Lincoln allegedly made his pig annoyance
statement, has been restored and is on property outside town owned by the local
historical society.

The May 28 dedication, dubbed the "What's the Pig Deal? Festival" will
feature people in period costume, a prettiest pig contest, a pigtail contest for
men and women and the selling of pig trinkets. There is also talk of making the
pig festival an annual event.

Alexander and other organizers hope the statue will be a new
reason for tourists to travel to Taylorville.

Never let it be said that Central Illinois doesn't get every last drop out of Lincoln's legacy.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Peace in Our Time?

Excuse me if I don't get too excited about this:
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- A cease-fire deal is expected to be announced Tuesday
when Israeli and Palestinian leaders meet in Egypt.

Raanan Gissin, adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said a
cease-fire declaration is being reviewed "in minute detail" in the final hours
before the summit gets under way.

Senior officials from both sides said Monday that Sharon and new
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, were ready to announce the

It just can't last. The truth is, the Palestinian Authority has limited abilities to control determined terrorist organizations bent on disrupting peace accords. And Israel, with its zero tolerance policy, will not hold back when the first suicide bomb goes off in a few days or weeks. The violence will once again cycle out of control, blah, blah, blah.
Gissin said Palestinians will declare an end to "violence, terrorism and
incitement" against Israel.

In return, Gissin said, Israel will refrain from military action "to
the extent that the Palestinians will fulfill their pledges and their

"It will be their responsibility to stop terrorists,"
Gissin said. "To the extent that will be fulfilled, we can move forward."

(Emphasis mine.)

The PA can't stop all terrorism. As governments go, it's weak. The most powerful governments in the world are often unable to totally thwart terror activity. So, I think this is doomed to fail.

And I blame Israel. Why? Aren't they the victims? Well, yes but they are not the victims of those legitimately elected to rule the Palestinian State (such as it is) or the vast majority of Palestinians. Israel is going to have to recognize that some terrorism is still going to take place and credit the PA for doing the best it can (assuming it is doing that). Otherwise, to put it simply, the terrorists win. At this point I really think it is up to Israel to break the cycle of violence. How much they need to take and what countermeasures (reprisals) take place should be measured very carefully. Israel should not cave to knee-jerk reactions.

Well, That Clears Things Up

The whole Social Security "reform" issue is moot. It's going nowhere and is going to be a big loser for this president. So I'm not going to be posting much about it unless something really silly happens or is said. Like this, for example, from the lips of George Bush:

Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers.
For example, how benefits are calculate, for example, is on the table; whether
or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a
series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple
that, those different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with
personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be
-- or closer delivered to what has been promised.

Does that make any
sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause
the -- like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of
wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we
calculate -- the benefits will rise based upon inflation, as opposed to wage
increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into
effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits
grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.

Okay, better? I'll keep working on it.
Think this is from the Onion or some parody site? Here's the official White House transcript (scroll down to the Q&A section).

Lincoln: Anti-War Radical?

Abraham Lincoln's birthday is Saturday and since I blog from his hometown of Springfield, Illinois, I thought I might include a Lincoln related post each day this week.

Lincoln's only experience in national government prior to becoming president in 1860 was that of Congressman. He served only one term, elected in 1846, and made little impact while in Washington. However, he was enthusiastic and vocal on issues he considered important.

During Lincoln's congressional term, the United States was at war with Mexico. This was a war Lincoln deeply opposed. Encatra explains:

James Polk, a Democrat, was president while Lincoln was in Congress. Lincoln joined other Whigs in attacking Polk for starting the Mexican War. Congress had declared war against Mexico in May 1846 upon Polk's contention that Mexicans had fired on American soldiers in U.S. territory.

In December 1847 Lincoln challenged the truth of this contention. He introduced a resolution questioning whether the spot on which the firing took place was actually in U.S. territory. In another resolution he claimed that the American troops were on that spot in violation of the orders of their commanding officer, General Zachary Taylor. The next month, Lincoln supported a Whig resolution declaring that the Mexican War had been “unnecessarily and unconstitutionally . . . begun by the

Lincoln's “spot resolutions” made little impression either on Congress or on the president, but they caused an uproar in Illinois, where the war was approved of by most voters. Lincoln was denounced as a traitor, and opposition newspapers gleefully called him Spotty Lincoln. However, despite his opinion of the war, once war was declared, Lincoln voted for all appropriations in support of it.
Sound familiar? I think there are comparisons to be made with the Iraq war today.

Also, here's the text of a speech Lincoln gave in Congress on January 12, 1848 in opposition to the Mexican War.

Since Lincoln later led the nation into its bloodiest war ever, the Civil War, it goes without saying he wasn't really anti-war but anti-needless-unjustified-war. There are a lot of us out here with that same point of view today.

So, good for Abe for recognizing the difference and having the courage to stand up for what he believed.

Deep Throat About to Deep Six?

John Dean, writing in the LA Times, says one of the biggest mysteries of 20th century American politics may soon be resolved:
Bob Woodward, a reporter on the team that covered the Watergate story, has
advised his executive editor at the Washington Post that Throat is ill....The
source who informed me that Woodward leaked the news of Throat's illness to the
executive editor of the Post gave me that information either on "deep
background" or "off the record" (I never could get the distinction of those
rules straightened out). So I apologize to my source if this information was
never meant to be public, but it is a tidbit too hot to keep sitting on.

I was just reading last week speculation that George Bush (the elder) was Deep Throat. That's not a new theory but one that is still alive. Until now. I saw George the First on the Super Bowl last night and he didn't look like he was ready to croak. So, based on Dean's statement and Bush's appearance on the field, I guess we can take him off the list.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

I Hate Colorado Nazis

Book burning is alive and well in Norwood, Colorado:
It wasn't a band of angry students who destroyed about two dozen copies of
"Bless Me, Ultima," a novel selected for a Norwood High School English class -
it was a group of parents. Norwood School Superintendent Bob Conder confiscated
the books and released them to parents to be burned or otherwise purged.

Conder said that he removed the books based on complaints by parents,
complaints that were made "mainly" about the language. The book, which is used
in high school level curricula all over the country, contains profanity; it also
deals with cultural and religious issues.

"Filthy language," said Conder of the profanity. "I'm not going
to repeat the language. Our job is to protect kids from things that aren't good
for kids."


Thanks to Orcinus for his vigilant site specializing in eliminationist rhetoric from the right.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Bonus Beer Blogging

Found this item out on Snopes:
A Slovak man trapped in his car under an avalanche freed himself by
drinking 60 bottles of beer and urinating on the snow to melt it.

Rescue teams found Richard Kral drunk and staggering along a mountain path
four days after his Audi was buried in Slovakia's Tatra mountains. He told them
that after the avalanche, he had opened his car window and tried to dig his way
out with his hands.

But he realised the snow was falling faster than he could dig. and would
soon fill his car.

He had 60 500ml bottles of beer in his car as he was going on holiday, and
after cracking one open to think about the problem he realised he could urinate
on the snow to melt it.

"It was hard and now my kidneys and liver hurt," he said later. "But I'm
glad the beer I took on holiday turned out to be useful."

Snopes seems to doubt the validity of this story but has not yet assigned it 'False' status. So the dream lives on, for now.

Friday Beer Blogging

In honor of the Coors-Molson merger, I present to you the better half:

Thursday, February 03, 2005

The End of the Warrior to End All Warriors

What may be the last WWI veteran from Illinois has died.
ANNA -- Warren V. Hileman said he had "that itching foot" as a young man.
"I had the wanderlust." That wanderlust led him to enlist during World War I
when he was just 17 and found himself sent to Siberia as part of the American
Expeditionary Force.

Hileman, who died Sunday at age 103 at the Illinois Veterans Home in Anna,
was the last remaining World War I veteran residing in any of the state's
veterans homes, and he may have been the only one in the state.

"We're not paying benefits to any other World War I veterans," Januari
Smith, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs, said
Wednesday, "but that doesn't mean there aren't some out there."

I knew a WWI veteran while I lived in Freeport, Illinois in the 1980's. He died about ten years ago and was over 100 then. I didn't know him well (he was my ex in-laws neighbor) but I regret not making the effort to get his impressions of that time.

No, YOU'RE Fired!

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - NBC said Tuesday it would broadcast an additional
version of the hit reality show "The Apprentice" featuring Martha Stewart as

The new edition will be titled "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart,"
the peacock network said. Donald Trump, the host of the original "Apprentice"
and creator Mark Burnett will serve as Executive Producers of both series.

"The Apprentice: Martha Stewart" will retain the general format of the
original series including weekly eliminations, but the format of the show will
be tailored to Stewart's personality and brand identity, according to the

I sent this item to Mrs. Eleventh Hour yesterday, feeling it not to be blog-worthy. But wait! There is a nugget of controversy to be found after all. The question is, would she have gotten this show had she not been convicted? Is she profiting from her crime? Or has this deal been cut in spite of her criminal status? Discuss. Both of you.

State of the Union

Didn't see it. Busy doing my civic duty in other ways (attending a neighborhood association meeting).

However, some good fact-checking done here.

And did he really say this?
“Our men and women in uniform are fighting terrorists in Iraq, so we do not have
to face them here at home.”

My bullshit meter pegged when I read that. There were no terrorists and no terrorism in Iraq prior to our war of choice. But now the country is a breeding ground for terrorists.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

9/11 Changed Everything

Its amazing how easy it is for some to interject 9/11 into any debate. Watch how masterfully the thoughtful and learned Laura Bush connects a straight line from 9/11 to Social Security privatization:
"And certainly Social Security — he's going to talk about that. And I think
that's really important. It's an important issue to face. I think one of the
things we've learned from Sept. 11 and other issues that we face in our country,
is that we need to deal with problems as they occur..."

Phase out Social Security or the terrorists win.

Cyber Carding

This is weird. Did you know you have to be 21 years old to LOOK at beer on the internet? As part of my search for pictures to use in my Friday Beer Blogging (TM), I started running into pages either asking me if I am 21 or to enter my birth date. Here's an example. I went to a wine site and didn't see the same restriction. However, I noticed I could order their wine online and it never asked my age.

So let's recap. You can't LOOK at beer online if you are under 21 but you can BUY wine at any age.

Slurred Speech

The State of the Union speech is given tonight. Here is the drinking game.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The Greatest War of All Time

Digby has an excellent post today on a topic I've been meaning to touch upon but have felt too overwhelmed by the shear magnitude of what needs to be said. Well, Digby's gone a long way toward doing it for me. The topic? The so called "War on Terror".

I know it's not patrioticly correct to say, but damn if a lot of people haven't overreacted and/or used the events of 9/11 to grab power and further an agenda. The idea seems to be that terrorism is such a threat that the norms of civilized society (no torture, civil liberties, the right to dissent) need to be tossed out in self defense. Bull. Digby takes it from here:

The idea that al Qaeda is some unique form of evil that requires we cast out all
norms of civilization is simply mind boggling (Indeed, I get the feeling that it
illustrates nothing more than ego run amuck --- some kind of competitiveness
with the Greatest Generation.)

The biggest threat we face is from nuclear weapons in the wrong hands. But we need to remember that this is not a new problem. Nuclear weapons have been in the hands of America's mortal enemies for more than 50 years and while they may not have been as nihilistic as these terrorists, they were certainly as prone to accident and misjudgment as any group of humans. The stakes were unimaginable. These were not "suitcase bombs" or "dirty bombs", as awful as those may be, they were ICBM's aimed at every American city and if they were launched, the result was likely to be annihilation of the planet. That's the threat we lived with for almost 50 years. We can handle this terrorist threat without completely losing our values, our
wits or our moral authority.


There is another name that fits these terrorists... They're called "criminals."
These international criminals do not represent a "nation" but what might be called a
gang or a syndicate or a "family." They can be brought to heel the same way
criminal gangs can always be brought to heel. One of the ways that you do it is
by enlisting the help of other nations in the manhunts with cooperative police
and international quasi military investigations.

The fact is that this isn't a "war" by any reasonable definition. However, the powers that be have deemed it so, in which case they should not be able to change the rules of warfare to accommodate what isn't a war in the first place. If it's a war, then
it's a war, which means that quaint little treaties like the GC cannot just be
tossed at will. If it isn't a war then we should follow the criminal model and
use the laws and rules that have been established to deal with this.


The Bataan death march, the holocaust, the fire-bombing of Dresden and Tokyo and the dropping the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were fresh memories when the Geneva Conventions were signed. The people who conceived them had intimate and personal knowledge of the kind of inhumane actions against millions of prisoners, civilians and soldiers the horrors of war can bring. Please don't say that attacking civilians is unprecedented. It's just ridiculous....Inhumanity wasn't invented on


The idea that 9/11 is something so unique and the hatred of our enemies so threatening that we must discard all the rules that we created in the wake of the most horrifying conflagration in human history is intellectual bankruptcy of the highest order.


Al Qaeda is a serious threat. But it is not so serious that WWI and WWII pale in comparison or that we face an unprecedented existential threat. It's absurd to put it in those terms and it's a misunderstanding of the problem on such a vast scale that we are actively making the threat worse instead of better.

I have severely edited Digby's post so check it out in its entirety. I have more to say on the topic but it will have to wait for another day.

I Can't Keep Up

Just as I start blogging, technology marches past me:
NPR's Robert Smith reports on the rise of "podcasts" -- amateur music and
talk shows created by the users of Apple's popular iPod personal music devices and other digital music players. Whole "shows" of music and talk can be downloaded from the Internet to individual players automatically, and some of the show hosts have become celebrities among the burgeoning podcast audience.

You know, radio really is being threatened on a couple of fronts now. First form satellite radio and now from podcasts. But I suppose it won't be long before Clear Channel starts offering podcasts.

The Last Monologue

Damn! Missed Letterman last night.

A New Day, A New Mission

What Kos says:
So listening to the latest rash of "mission accomplished" talk in the wake
of the elections, it's striking how the other side has convinced itself that we
have spent $200 billion and over 1,500 US and allied lives so that Iraqis could

These people couldn't give a rat's ass about Saudis not voting (in any
meaningful fashion), they couldn't care about Uzbekistanis suffering under their
own torturing regime, they couldn't care about that great Democratic nation --
Pakistan -- with its military coup-installed dictatorship.

That's exactly right. War boosters never cared about the Iraqi people. Just watch how happy they are when an Islamic Republic is the end result. These same Iraqis that were worth so much American blood and treasure will soon be the "enemy" again, and calls will go up to nuke 'em all.