Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Party Like It’s 1.99

My bellwether gas station (the Shell at Washington and Veterans) dropped its price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline to $1.99 today.

While I enjoy low gas prices as much as the next guy, I was liking the fact that high prices were forcing more conservation, renewed interest in fuel economy in cars and talk of alternative fuels.

Insurgency By Any Other Name...

I haven’t been able to find anything online about this, but I saw the most bizarre government press briefing moment last night on Keith Olbermann’s MSNBC show Countdown. It involved Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and another Pentagon spokesman, General Peter Pace. (The transcript isn’t up yet but will appear soon here, I assume). The press briefing was held yesterday.

Anyway, at one point Rumsfeld announces he no longer wants to refer to the people killing our troops in Iraq as “insurgents”. He doesn’t like the word. It gives them legitimacy or something. So, on the spot, Rumsfeld decrees the word banned.

Well, this was news to General Pace, who on several occasions stumbled looking for a word or phrase to replace “insurgent”. He got quite flustered (and was probably cursing Rummy in his head). On at least on occasion Pace simply gave up and used the "I" word anyway then turned and apologized to Rumsfeld. It looked a lot like a comedy routine right off of Saturday Night Live.

Like I said yesterday, the Bush administration when faced with adversity simply changes the wording. Weird.


Jacksonville, Illinois sure looks like a scary place if you only read the headlines in today’s online version of the Jacksonville Journal-Courier:
Young brothers in trouble again
Two brothers — already in trouble with the law for violating their probation, imposed for trying to rob an elderly, disabled man more than a year ago — were arrested again last week after allegedly stealing a billfold from a hard-of-hearing man.

Man accused of raping mother deemed fit for trial
A 48-year-old man accused of sexually assaulting his 81-year-old mother in 2003 and stabbing another elderly woman multiple times when she came to her rescue was deemed fit Tuesday to stand trial.

Arson suspected in Westminster fire
Authorities suspect arson in a fire that damaged a carriage house adjacent to 235 Westminster St. early Tuesday morning.

Man who confessed to murder wants guilty plea overturned
Steven London, sentenced to 30 years in prison for fatally stabbing his mother in September 2002, wants to withdraw his guilty plea.
Thank goodness for mid-America heartland values!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Unpopularity Contest

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and President George W. Bush may be among the most unpopular leaders anywhere with approval ratings in the 30s, but look at this. The (Republican) governor of Ohio, Bob Taft, has an approval rating of just over 6 percent. Now that’s unpopular.

Running for the Cover of Words

The Bush administration is currently gently paving the way for troop withdrawals from Iraq in 2006. Not that much has changed in Iraq but it has become politically necessary (elections) and, given the huge strain on the armed forces, militarily necessary. But how to do it and save face. Well, by manipulating language, something the Bushies are good at. Arthor Silber at Once Upon a Time explains:
[T]wo things drive…Bush propagandists into an apoplectic rage: first, the perception that Bush is caving in to…critics and following their advice; and second, that we're "withdrawing" from Iraq. If we're withdrawing, that means, of course, that we're doing just what Bush said we never could do: we're giving in to the terrorists. We're letting the terrorists win. We're being weak. So they need to call it something else: a redeployment, a shift in troop strength dictated by other requirements -- anything but a withdrawal.

If it helps to bring this catastrophe any closer to an end more quickly, I'll very happily give Bush and his Merrie Band of Warmongers both points. Bush isn't doing anything like what his critics have suggested. It's entirely different! It's not at all the same. Why on earth would he listen to America-hating Saddamites anyway??!!! He wouldn't, not ever. Whatever he does, he thought of it all by himself, just like Condi told him. He's doing what's best for America, and for the troops. Hooray for the

And we aren't going to withdraw from Iraq. That's traitorous, fifth-column, filthy talk. Oh, yeah, U.S. troops will be leaving, maybe even as many as 50,000 next year. But they won't be withdrawing! We would never, ever withdraw from Iraq! We're going to snorkenpuffle from Iraq!

Fine. Call it whatever the hell you want. Just get our troops out of there as quickly as it can reasonably and safely be done.

Hat tip to Atrios for the pointer.

Update: The SJ-R is offering this headline this afternoon in it’s online Breaking News section:
Rumsfeld: Early exit from Iraq would invite more terrorism. Isn’t that exactly backward; it was our early ENTRY into Iraq that has invited more terrorism.

City Water Light & Poop

Illinois really is on the alternative energy cutting edge. We have one of the world’s largest wind farm being built in McLean County and now we dung power in the northern part of the state. Think that’s a shitty idea, think again:
CEDARVILLE - Some Illinois dairy farms are producing a whole lot more than milk these days, and Scheidairy Farms in Buckeye Township is a prime example.

The 650-head farm, which sells some 45,000 pounds of milk each day, also is producing electricity - from cow manure.

The family farmers, Doug and Patricia Scheider, installed a methane digester last
year and started generating electricity in July. The energy it generates powers
their entire 1,100-acre farm operation with about 140 kilowatts per hour.

"It's producing enough electricity to power 117 homes," said Jim Ritterbusch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resource Conservation Service division.


"If you can imagine it, the manure corkscrews through the digesters. We're picking up where the cow left off," said Melissa Dvorak, marketing manager for GHD Inc.

"We take all the waste - manure, parlor water and washdown water - and convert it," Dvorak said. The digester, in fact, can convert anything organic to methane, she said.
Anything organic? Seems to me there is some real potential in that.

E. T. - The Singer-Songwriter

Far out! This guy proves beyond a doubt that Bob Dylan was abducted by aliens. Seriously (or at least the author seems to be serious…or not) :
Just like "you don't need a weatherman to tell which the wind blows," you don't
need a UFO to tell you the world's in an evil mess. But my argument remains that there are a great many allusions in Dylan's lyrics to experiences he has in common with UFO contactees.
Hat tip to Ogged at Unfogged.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Smoke Clears Slowly

It’s interesting to how the smoking ban debate is shaping up in Chicago much as it is here in Springfield. Initially, there was a near total ban proposed but as time goes on, any ban is looking more and more likely to be a compromise measure. Eric Zorn reports from the Windy (but not yet smoke-free) City:

Ideally, we'd never have to breathe another person's cigarette smoke and workers would never have to choose between taking a good job or being able to work in a smoke-free environment.

But realistically, Chicago's proposed ban on indoor smoking in nearly all indoor spaces open to the public looks like it may die this week unless proponents agree to go along with compromises to exempt free-standing bars and lounges in some restaurants.

Steve Derks, spokesman for the American Cancer Society and Smoke-Free Chicago, declared last month that "there's no compromise when it comes to worker health," but of course there is. There always is.


I see it as completely inevitable that [a strict smoking ban] will one day be law. But I see a halfway measure now as hastening that day, and still more delay as the sides remain intransigent as delaying the inevitable.

…ban proponents ought not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

I guess that’s the way I see it too. Going into this I did not expect there to be a total ban on smoking in public places in Springfield. I figured I’d be happy with just getting the smoke out of restaurants. When it looked like a wider ban was possible, I of course got behind that. However, since it now looks like a compromise allowing smoking in bars and bowling alleys is going to be the legislation settled on, I’ll be satisfied with that for now.

But Zorn is right: the day will come when even the bars and bowling alleys will be sans smoke. It’s the irreversible direction society is going, all talk radio huffing and puffing (heh-heh) not withstanding.

Perhaps Illinois will get its act together and follow the lead of other states by imposing the ban statewide. However it happens, I’m content biding my time until that day comes.

Leadership vs. Followship

This is sickening on a couple levels.

WASHINGTON — Tom Daschle, the former Democratic senator from South Dakota,
remembers the exchange vividly.

The time was September 2002. The place was the White House, at a meeting in which President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney pressed congressional leaders for a quick vote on a resolution authorizing military action against Iraq.

But Daschle, who as Senate majority leader controlled the chamber's schedule, recalled recently that he asked Bush to delay the vote until after the impending midterm election.

"I asked directly if we could delay this so we could depoliticize it. I said: 'Mr. President, I know this is urgent, but why the rush? Why do we have to do this now?' He looked at Cheney and he looked at me, and there was a half-smile on his face. And he said: 'We just have to do this now.' "

Daschle's account, which White House officials said they could not confirm or deny, highlights a crucial factor that has drawn little attention amid rising controversy over the congressional vote that authorized the war in Iraq. The recent partisan dispute has focused almost entirely on the intelligence information legislators had as they cast their votes. But the debate may have been shaped as much by when Congress voted as by what it knew.

Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush, did not call for a vote authorizing the Persian Gulf War until after the 1990 midterm election. But the vote paving the way for the second war with Iraq came in mid-October of 2002 — at the height of an election campaign in which Republicans were systematically portraying Democrats as weak on national security.

This is why it’s always tempting for me to blame a good portion of the Iraq debacle on Democrats. They simply did not put national interest above politics. These are, for the most part, smart people. They, the Dems in Congress, knew Bush was full of shit but were afraid to stand up to the little dictator amid the post-9/11 national xenophobic paranoia fest.

I’d like to say things have changed but they really haven’t. Most Washington Dems that have tuned against the war have done so publicly only because the war is now no longer very popular. That’s not to say they ever personally supported the war but they were to afraid to say anything until the mood of the nation changed. That’s not leadership.

17 Is 13 But Will Be 10, Got That?

Oh, the confusion:
DECATUR - Now that viewers are accustomed to Decatur TV station WAND being an affiliate of NBC, another change is ahead.

Insight cable service subscribers in Decatur and Springfield will find WAND on channel 10 of the cable lineup beginning Thursday.
WAND has been on cable Ch. 13 here in Springfield for at least 30 years and through as many cable company changes. Remember when TVs weren’t “cable ready” and there were no cable boxes? Cable was pretty much limited to the 12 VHF channels (2-13) on your manual TV tuner.

Back when our family first got this limited channel service in 1975 we got the three networks, WILL (PBS), WGN, KPLR (St. Louis) and not much more (WRSP Ch. 55 didn't exist then). One channel was scrambled for HBO about that time and I think we got the weather info on a channel. I’m not sure what, if anything, was on the other few channels. This was before even CNN or C-SPAN.

Football Harmonic Convergence

I’m not huge into football. You might say I’m, at best, a fair-weather fan of my alma mater teams (high school and college) and my favorite pro team. When they're doing well, I pay attention. When they are not, it’s a big “who cares” for me. A strange thing is happening this year. All of “my” teams are kicking some serious ass.

The Sacred Heart Griffin Cyclones just took the state championship, something that has always eluded them.

The Southern Illinois University at Carbondale Salukis won their first post-season playoff game against Eastern Illinois over the weekend.

And the Chicago Bears look like they may be SuperBowl bound for the first time sine 1986.

While the Cyclones have had a winning tradition for the last 30 years, the Salukis and Bears have not been as prolific. With all three doing better then usual, what gives?

Legacy of Loserdom

This is something I’ve thought for some time. Even with vocal, ideologically driven present day supports, President George W. Bush is not going to be remembered favorably by historians. Juan Cole, historian, says this about that:
As for your legacy two decades from now, George, let me clue you in on something--as a historian. In 20 years no Iraqis will have you on their minds one way or another. Do you think anyone in Egypt or Israel is still grateful to Jimmy Carter for helping bring to an end the cycle of Egyptian-Israeli wars?…Human beings don't have good memories for these things, which is why we have to have professional historians, a handful of people who are obsessed with the subject. And I guarantee you, George, that historians are going to be unkind to you. You went into a major war over a non-existent nuclear weapons program. Presidents' reputations don't survive things like that. Historians are creatures of documents and precision. A wild exaggeration with serious consequences is against everything they stand for as a profession. So forget about history and destiny and the divine will. You are at the helm of the Exxon Valdez and it is headed for the shoals. You can't afford to daydream about future decades.
Partisan politics can color real-time perceptions but over time a more unified picture emerges of historical figures like presidents. So while Bush has his often blind-to-the-facts supporters now, the political utility of such support will gradually wear off over time and all that will be left will be the terrible legacy of this presidency punctuated by one of the worst foreign policy disasters in American history – Iraq. I expect to see this view gain real momentum heading into the 2008 presidential election even as Bush still occupies the White House. Believe me, the Republican candidate in that race is going to run on, among other things of course, being Not-Bush.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

More Cyclones

It's what, the last few days of November and we're under a tornado watch?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

I'm Back

OK, just got in. What did I miss?

I heard these guys did something...

And that maybe Sacred Heart Griffin is now...

As a 1978 Griffin grad and one of those around for their first attempt in 1975 -


Photo and graphic gratuitously ripped-off from
this excellent Cyclones web site

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Turkey Day

I'll be gone for a few days doing the Thanksgiving thing. Lots of food and family but little to no blogging. Blog you when I get back. Until then:

Enjoy your feast...

Or whatever you're into...

Or whatever place you're in...

Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

My ears...err...eyes!

Jim gets very, very offensive by wishing us all...dare I say it...HAPPY HOLIDAYS. The horror, the horror!

Well, Lookie Here

Now things have gone too far. I’m actually quoted (a teeny-tiny bit!) and linked-to in the online Columbia Journalism Review Daily.

The Hedgeapple of My Eye

Marie says she thinks hedgeapples aren't found in Springfield these days as much as they used to be.

Hmmm...not to start a raging debate but my experience has been just the opposite. The neighborhood I grew up in on Springfield's south side was, I think, devoid of hedgeapples. However, the subdivision where I live now has several of the trees.

So unaccustomed to hedgeapples was I in my youth, it wasn't until my last year of college I even heard the term. In fact, that day of revelation has become legendary between my old college chum SG and me. We had a third roomate that year, Dan, who for some reason one day, mentions hedgeapples. SG and I looked at each other, then back at Dan, and professed our cluelessness as to what the hell he was talking about. Well, Dan loudly squeals, "YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT HEDGEAPPLES ARE?". He was literally squealing! His reaction was so funny, SG and I can't ever meet up without injecting that line in conversation at some point (that point is usually after a few beers but whatever). But since that day, I've also always been able to identify and maturely discuss the lowly hedgeapple.

Dumpster Database

The Bellville News Democrat yesterday had a story about documents containing personal information being found in the trash behind an Illinois Department of Human Services building. Stuff that would make identity theft very easy.

Rich Miller has some discussion on this today as well.

I have worked for two employers that regularly handled sensitive personal information including Social Security numbers, one public sector (the very poorly managed Illinois Department of Employment Security) and a private sector company that will remain unnamed here. In both instances, there were times when this information was routinely thrown in the trash and then put in unlocked trash bins at night. Also in both instances, there was eventually an effort made to prevent this by requiring special disposal methods. My guess is these methods are about 98% effective. That is, some of this information is still getting thrown away by workers either out of laziness (“its just one name and Social Security number”) or out of carelessness.

Consider this too: this information can be abused before it even hits the shredder. I remember a story from about 10 years ago where Illinois Department of Employment Security personnel (it may have been only one guy, I can’t remember now) were arrested for selling personal information obtained at work. And that’s just the one(s) that got caught. Believe me, there’s more going on even if not quite as serious.

A lot of the problem could be dealt with if we, as a society, would stop using Social Security numbers as national identification numbers. There are some trends that way now but we’ve still got a long way to go.

Update: Speak of the devils. Checking the Belleville News Democrat’s archives I found this story from last spring:
SPRINGFIELD -- A day after the Illinois Department of Employment Security launched a statewide review to better enforce a document shredding policy,
personal records of clients were found in a trash bin outside state headquarters.

The records found Wednesday are similar to those found last week in a trash bin outside the department's office in Belleville.

The Springfield records were in an open container near the front door of the Illinois Department of Employment Security's state headquarters at 850 E. Madison St.

In just a few seconds, a News-Democrat reporter fished the appeals of two women seeking unemployment insurance benefits from the open trash bin as state workers returning from lunch walked nearby. The documents contained the women's names, addresses and Social Security numbers as well as details of their appeals, information that can be used by criminals to steal their identities to obtain phony credit cards and open fraudulent checking accounts.


A limited tour Wednesday of the area around the Capitol in Springfield turned up personal records in trash bins outside the state Department of Human Rights, 222 S.
College St., and behind the state comptroller's office, 325 W. Adams St.
The crackdown at IDES I was talking about above occurred maybe 10 years ago and they are still finding this stuff? Like I said, it's never going to be fool-proof. Time to lose the Social Security number based economy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005



Ted Koppel's last Nightline is starting. It's a sad day.

Update: Koppel finished his last Nightline broadcast with a warning: give the new guys a chance or expect ABC to pull the plug. I think this is right. Koppel, while he is the last of the old school (read: good, dedicated) broadcast journalists on television, leaves a program that still (usually) embodies broadcast journalism's potential. The post-local news real estate on ABC is valuable and assuming the “new guys”, whoever they are, run with it they will need an audience. Personally, I think nightline has always been bigger than Koppel. While very talented, Koppel was second to the shows concept and that means, in the right hands, it can go on.

When it was first announced Koppel would be leaving Nightline last spring, I had these coments:
Nightline is the best daily news show on television now. It has been for some time and compared to the unending crap on CNN/Fox/MSNBC, it's positively fantastic. No word on the fate of Nightline. I suspect it will disappear too unless ABC is unable to come up with anything to compete with Leno/Letterman (oh please, not Jimmy Kimmel, please, please, please).

I witnessed Nightline's birth as an outgrowth of the coverage of the Iranian hostage crisis and Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, both in late 1979. At first, it wasn't called Nightline, that didn't come until March of 1980. See, back in the 70's, with no cable news networks, the broadcast networks would provide extra coverage of big news events after the late local news, at 10:30 (not 10:35!) Central Time. They were generally called "Special Reports". With the Iranian and Afghanistan situations bringing nightly special reports for months on end, ABC decided to make it a regular news show.

Nightline has always been pretty straight-forward and unpretentious. Which means it really has no place in modern broadcasting.
I stand by that post but really, really hope that Nightline lives on.

Kindly Acting Random

Anyone who thinks my mind is great, even just in a manner of speaking, is both delusional and link worthy. Onto the blogroll as a Random Act of Kindness.

D-Day Museum Update

I hadn’t checked for a while on the status of the D-Day Museum in New Orleans so I went to their site tonight and found the museum will be reopening on December 3rd. (For those new to this blog, I had been to the museum just a few weeks before Katrina and have been following its fate.)

There was also this undated message that reads, in part:
Dear Friends:

The leadership and staff of The National D-Day Museum mourn the devastating losses suffered by our families, friends, and neighbors in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. We pledge ourselves to extend every effort to join with all who will heal and rebuild our community and our region. The very essence of our educational mission always has been to convey hope and human resolve. Today those values remain vital.

We know that education, culture, and tourism have crucial importance to the rebuilding of New Orleans. Therefore, we intend to reopen our Museum to the public as soon as it is safe and feasible to do so. We are relieved to report that the losses to our facility and collections were limited, but the restoration will require much work.

As we rebuild, we also reaffirm our commitment to continue and complete the expansion of our campus and its programs as planned. This effort, begun last year, will enlarge and enhance our Museum in keeping with its designation by the United States Congress as America’s National World War II Museum.
So it sounds like there was more damage than I originally guessed. Of course, I can’t tell from the message how much was storm damage and how much was looting. I still say that place isn’t exactly going to be a high priority for looters unless it’s a bunch of history geeks like me (and we’re too shy to loot anyway, or at least we would spend too much time looking at stuff and wind getting busted).

It's also good to see the expansion project is still on (see vision below).

Given the museums location near the downtown business district I figured it would be up and running again soon. Besides New Orleans needs every tourist attraction it can get to facilitate the rebirth of that city.

Fading National Memory

Josh Marshall (actually one of his readers) brings up an interesting point: there is little-to-no notice in the media of the 42nd anniversary of John F, Kennedy’s assassination today. I guess it’s a sign that time is moving on. Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, November 22nd was almost a national day of mourning every year. Even into the ‘80s and ‘90s there was some recognition of the day. Now, nothing. I was only 3 years old the day JFK was killed so I don’t remember it, but the echoes of that event lasted a long time through most of my early life.

"Celebrity Cachet"

The Obama world tour continues to sell out arenas. The SJ-R covers it here today.
The Sunday Chicago Tribune had this:

OMAHA -- Warren Buffett sits on the edge of a soft brown sofa, closely watching as Barack Obama navigates the well-appointed living room. He moves his square glasses closer to his face, unfolds his arms and springs to his feet when the time comes to welcome his guest to Nebraska.

"There he is," Buffett says with a wide grin, pulling Obama toward him with a hearty handshake. "You're the hottest ticket in town today."

The sage of money and finance, America's second-richest man, seldom becomes invested in politicians. But he has made an exception for the junior senator from Illinois, which is precisely why Obama has arrived here on a frosty fall morning, without an overcoat or an entourage.

No television cameras record the moment. No oversize crowds gather. Rather, a mere 16 people--most of whom Obama was meeting for the first time--finish a breakfast of eggs and fresh fruit in the home of Warren Buffett's daughter, Susie Buffett.

"I've got a conviction about him that I don't get very often," Warren Buffett explained later in an interview. "He has as much potential as anyone I've seen to have an important impact over his lifetime on the course that America takes.

"If he can do an ounce better with me," Buffett added, "fine."

Had the billionaire investor delivered such a glowing appraisal of a stock, his words surely would have sent shares soaring on Wall Street. But unlike the world of finance, where he never succumbs to speculation, Buffett is placing faith in Obama well before the senator establishes a record of performance.

Following his lead, the men and women sitting near a grand piano have come to hear Obama's prescription for the Democratic Party. And while he had come to accept their contributions, he also had hopes of cultivating some long-term investors in his
political future.

By year's end, Obama will have collected about $1.2 million as he builds a coast-to-coast army of backers. At a seafood lunch in Beverly Hills, Calif., a dinner in Austin, Texas, or through events in more than a dozen other cities, Obama is creating a network unlike any other freshman senator since Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Celebrity cachet.
Oh, brother.

Eric Zorn, meanwhile, thinks Obama will run for president in 2008.

If you are interested in Obama-wear or Obama gear go here (where I stole the Obama Oeight bumper sticker image).

Rock on.

Junk Funk

I guess I better keep my car in the garage.

It just got junkier last night. My daughter took the side mirror off while backing out of the garage. I put it back on with duct tape. I might be a redneck.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Drinking Liberally

The Springfield chapter of Drinking Liberally now has a voice here in the Springfield Blogpatch. Will Reynolds is the blogmaster and host of the local Drinking Liberally events. The subject of one of his first posts is, you guessed it, Mike Wilson.

Welcome Will, and everybody, come on, drink liberally!

Mike Wilson Signs Off

The sudden departure of WMAY’s Mike Wilson from the Springfield airwaves caused a stir in the Springfield Blogosphere greater than anything I’ve ever seen here. I was thinking about this over the weekend and I think this is for several reasons:

Mike Wilson is also a local blogger

Other WMAY personalities have blogs

Radio talk shows (like Mike’s) share a common audience with blogs

Local bloggers know Mike personally

OK, no great insights there but I think that’s what it comes down to. It was a “local” story in Springfield Blogville.

By the way, Mike posted on his blog over the weekend thanking his supporters but shedding no light on what happened to him at WMAY:

What great friends I have. Thanks for posting your messages of support and dissent, but now it is time to move forward, as I plan to do. It is a fact that I won't return to Midwest Family Broadcasting. It is also a fact that I am limited in the statements I'm able to make. Accept the fact that there won't be a show, and allow my former colleagues to move on with their programs, as I plan to move forward with my career.

If anyone has any thoughts they would like to share, email me.

I will update this post with my new employment status when I make a decision.

“It is also a fact that I am limited in the statements I'm able to make”, says to me this was more than a layoff for budgetary reasons. But whatever; Mike’s right, it’s time to move on.

Heeeere's Georgie!

You may have already seen the pictures and video of President Bush trying to exit a press conference in China through the wrong (and locked) door.

Funny stuff. But I was struck by how Bush looks all the world like Johnny Carson doing a skit on the Tonight Show. I mean physically, he looks like Carson. See all the pictures here and tell me I’m wrong.

Update: This pictorial dominates the front page of today's New York Times but they miss the big story about Bush looking like Johnny. Amateurs.

Texas Justice

I have long opposed the death penalty for a number of reasons, one of which is that it is final and irreversible. Out of Texas, we get this story:
HOUSTON -- A decade after Ruben Cantu was executed for capital murder, the only witness to the crime is recanting and his co-defendant says Cantu, then 17, wasn't even with him that night.


That witness, Juan Moreno, told the Houston Chronicle for its Sunday editions that Cantu wasn't the killer. Moreno said he only identified him at the 1985 trial because he felt pressured and was afraid of authorities.

The doubts now being raised come too late for Cantu. He had long professed his innocence but was executed in Texas on Aug. 24, 1993, at the age of 26.

"You've got a 17-year-old who went to his grave for something he did not do. Texas
murdered an innocent person," Cantu's co-defendant, David Garza, said.

Garza, who was 15 at the time of the murder, recently signed a sworn affidavit saying he allowed his friend to be accused even though Cantu wasn't with him the night of the killing.
Maybe Moreno should be charged with murder. Maybe he could get the death penalty! Except he would only be an accessory to the murder since it was the State of Texas that killed Cantu. Perhaps we should execute the State of Texas.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Draft Avoidance Sex

This is my favorite conspiracy theory to come along in some time. Thing is, I’m not sure it’s so far-fetched:
On October 26, 1965, the military lifted its ban on drafting childless married men.

On July 28, 1966, Dick Cheney's eldest child, Elizabeth Cheney was born. That's nine months and two days after the military lifted its ban. This earned him his fifth deferment from the draft.

I'm not saying that Elizabeth Cheney should feel bad about being conceived in draft avoidance….I do wonder, though, what draft avoidance sex is like.
Hat tip to Neil the Ethical Werewolf posting at Ezra’s place

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Vatican Hates God

Well now, it seems there's a little disagreement brewing among competing Christian factions:

VATICAN CITY - The Vatican's chief astronomer said Friday that "intelligent design" isn't science and doesn't belong in science classrooms, the latest high-ranking Roman Catholic official to enter the evolution debate in the United States

The Rev. George Coyne, the Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, said placing intelligent design theory alongside that of evolution in school programs was "wrong" and was akin to mixing apples with oranges.

"Intelligent design isn't science even though it pretends to be," the ANSA news agency quoted Coyne as saying on the sidelines of a conference in Florence. "If you want to teach it in schools, intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science."

Pretty cool that the Vatican has an official astronomer, huh. But he's right ID is not science and any more than it's math and should be kept out of science classes.

Cindy Writes a Letter

Cindy Sheehan has penned an open letter to Barbara Bush. It begins:
Dear Barbara,

On April 04, 2004, your oldest child killed my oldest child, Casey Austin Sheehan.

It only gets better (or worse, depending on your point of view).

We Liked Mike

WMAY has fired Mike Wilson, the radio station's afternoon drive talker. The reason given by the station's management is that it was for budgetary reasons.

Mike says goodbye on his blog here but gives no more details. Lot’s of comments though.

Rich Miller has a post with lot’s of comments here.

Mike’s former brother-in-sound, Jim Leach, has a post on his blog but also gives no details.

I understand the SJ-R also has the story on p. 13 of today’s paper but I have not yet seen that.

Like many of the commenters posting in the above mentioned blogs, I’m suspicious about the “budgetary reasons” explanation for Mike’s sudden departure. Cuts for “budgetary reasons” rarely happen in the middle of the week and on the 16th of the month. Certain kinds of employers do like to give no notice out of fear that the soon-to-be-fired will do (or say, in this case) something spiteful or rash so I’m not factoring that into my conspiracy theory.

I do wonder if Mike said something Wednesday (his last day) that got him canned. I happened to be listening to him just before 5:00 that day (I think) when he was talking to a caller about marijuana. They were talking about a large pot bust and Mike missed getting into the ABC network news at the top of the hour while he calculated, in ounces, just how much pot this guy had been caught with. I suppose some might have heard this exchange and thought it an endorsement of pot use or something. I don’t know if that had anything even remotely to do with his dismissal but I’m having a hard time believing it was all about money. It’s radio, how much could he have been making?

Mike has a great wit and was quick on his feet with the callers. I recently appeared on his show and had a great time. One of the important skills a broadcast interviewer needs is making his guests feel comfortable in an environment that otherwise makes many people very nervous. Mike had that skill.

Good luck, Mike, although I doubt you’ll need luck.

Update: Wow, they didn't waste any time getting Mike off the WMAY web site. There's no mention of his departure but it does show Chris Murphy having the 3-6pm time slot now. I'm not going to bash Chris for being put in Mike's place or anyone for being a better candidate for dismissal (cough*Pam*cough), I'll leave that to others (see the comments in the linked-to blogs above).

Update 2: Jim Leach who is, technically, WMAY management says all he can say about the matter in a later post on his blog:
Here's the deal: personnel rules, confidentiality agreements and simple propriety limit what the station can say about the situation. Belabor the point all you like, but that's not going to change. And that means, by definition, you only know one side of the story -- and some of what's been put out there is flatly wrong.

And please keep in mind: the fact that you can work a radio doesn't mean you know the first thing about working at, or running, a radio station.
Playing devil's advocate (and I've heard Jim really is the devil) I had this to say in the comments to his original post on the subject:

Look, Jim isn't in a position where he can discuss the details of this without getting his own butt in trouble so we are, indeed, left to our own devices in our speculation.

It looks to me like Mike was let go for having done something wrong in management's eyes. And who knows, maybe he did screw up in some way beyond anything he may have said on the air.

Even if Mike lets us know his side, there is still management’s side and we’re never going to hear that, for legal reasons, if it involves some perceived misconduct.

Friday Beer Blogging: Butt Edition

This beer is just asking to be made fun of: Hey dude, your beer tastes like ass!

Welcome to Entire Butt beer. Drink enough and it'll be responsible for your entire GUT as well.

Actually there is a reasonable explanation behind this beer's name:
The name...comes from a traditional term used to describe a porter blended from several ales - this version uses no less than 14 different malts!
There you go, Entire Butt = The Full Monty.

It's obviously a very dark beer, but what's it like?
It [has] a thinnish, short-lived head, and is malty on the nose with a faint treacley, chocolatey hint. On the palate it is rich and smoky, smooth yet cloying, with an exceptionally complex malt character (as you might expect) composed chiefly of lots of caramel, treacley bitternes and powdery chocolate flavours, with little or no sweetness. However, there are also some light, citrusy lemon notes, probably deriving from the hops (Styrians, Goldings and Fuggles?) that can be felt on the back of the throat. Aftertaste is malty and quite bitter, with a little dark chocolate. While trying not to overuse the word 'malty', this is a very fine porter - complex, enjoyable and surprisingly drinkable.
Entire Butt is brewed in the U.K. by Salopian Brewing Co.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Stupid Musings: 9/11 Edition

What if the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on New York taken place on another day? Right now, 9/11 (or, for some, 9-1-1 like the emergency number) is shorthand for that attack. I suppose if it had happened on most other days, that day would be used in a way similar to how we use 9/11. 3/13 or 8/2 or some such would work just as well. But what if Osama’s henchmen (I love that word) struck on a day that was already designated, like the Fourth of July or Christmas? Would be referring to the attack as the events of 7/4 or 12/25? Probably not. I suspect we would be using names like “The Fourth of July Attack” or “The Christmas Attack”. Those aren’t the 9/11 kind of shorthand but I bet the terminology used would be more than the date.

Like I said, stupid musings.

Lincoln Presidential Library & Theme Park

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum has (or will) received a couple of awards. One of them seems to validate what some of the museum’s critics have been saying.

Recall critics have chided the museum for being a Disney-like Lincoln theme park. Well, they seem to share that opinion with some admirers:

The Lincoln museum is one of 13 recipients of 2005 Thea Awards for achievement in the creation of compelling places and experiences.

"(TEA) is the equivalent in our industry of the Motion Picture Academy," which awards the Oscars, [Bob Rogers, head of BRC Imagination Arts, the firm that designed the high-tech museum] said. "It's a competition of the best of the best in the entire world."

This year's awards recognized accomplishments in seven countries for sites ranging from amusement parks to zoos.


Other recipients of this year's Thea Awards include Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., "The Curse of DarKastle - The Ride" at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va., "Fear Factor Live" at Universal Studios in Hollywood, "Images of Singapore" at Sentosa Island in Singapore and "The Lifeline Table" exhibit at the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Room in London.

The awards will be presented at a black-tie gala on March 18 at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim.

Oh well, at least Ft Wayne’s museum isn’t getting the awards.


I'll sue. Or not.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Big Sigh

Someone from my 8th grade graduating class was laid to rest today.  To the best of my knowledge (and I could be very wrong), she is the first from the Blessed Sacrament School class of 1974 to die.  For a number of years I’ve consoled my dread of aging with the knowledge that at least none of the core group with which I spent kindergarten through 8th grade had died.  That meant we were still pretty young, right?  Well, that illusion has now been shattered.

One thing I always think about after the death of someone I know, be it a relative or a friend or an old classmate, is how they were just here.  Right after the funeral I think about how that person was alive just a few days before.  Now they’re lifeless in the ground.  Often they had no idea they were on the way out.  It seems so strange; here and conscious –even vital – then gone.


This is pretty cool. Why isn't this done more by bloggers? Or would that then be podcasting? It's all so confusing.


I happened to catch Senator Ted Stevens (R-Bridge to Nowhere) on C-SPAN2 over the lunch hour demanding an apology from our own Senator Dick Durbin. Apparently, Durbin had the audacity to speak out about Stevens’ refusal to put the oil executives who recently appeared before a Senate committee under oath. The oil execs appear to have then lied before the committee.

Anyway, Stevens’ is up there this afternoon demanding his apology from the “Sentator from Illinoyz”. That’s right; over and over again Stevens pronounced the “s” at the end of Illinois. What a complete dumb-fuck. If you aren’t smart enough to pronounce all of the 50 states correctly you shouldn’t be a U.S. Senator.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Wayward Woodward

I used to have a lot of respect for Bob Woodward largely due to his part in the breaking open the Watergate story in the early 1970s. Woodward and his Watergate reporting partner Carl Bernstein became household names –no easy feat for a couple of investigative reporters. He was a hero of my youth to some extent. But in recent years Woodward has become somewhat of a whore, openly shilling for the Bush administration. I had lost most of my respect for him already but this news (in the Washington Post no less) shows he really has become the lowest form of media hack and maybe even a criminal.

Bloomington Too

The Bloomington Pantagraph is reporting the cities of Bloomington and Normal are now considering smoking bans. Some interesting items from that article:

About 70 percent of Bloomington-Normal residents surveyed last week said they
want their respective city councils to prohibit smoking in restaurants.


…[Normal Mayor Chris] Koos pointed out that Normal can't address restaurants and bars separately because Normal liquor license holders are restaurant operations. He said a compromise may be allowing smoking after a specific hour when the establishments' kitchens close.


Tim Applegate, general manager of Ned Kelly's Steak House in Bloomington, said business is up since Ned Kelly's went 100 percent smoke-free in February.

He said waiting time is down on weekends and he is serving more customers because smokers leave immediately after their meal. Some nonsmokers have returned to the restaurant after staying away for several years when smoking was allowed, Applegate said.

I have not been to a smoke-free community since smoking bans began taking effect but I have talked with a number of people who have. A friend just got back from California (where there is a statewide smoking ban) and he says the bar/nightclub he was in was packed. And his clothes and hair didn’t stink when he left. I hear similar things from others: business is fine without smoking. The grave concerns here are nothing more than provincial stupidity. Sorry, Springfield is not so culturally different from the rest of the country that it can not successfully accommodate smoke-free environments.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Early Christmas Watch

I saw the first outdoor Christmas lights in my subdivision this morning on the way to work. In fact, they are the first lights I've seen anywhere in my limited daily travels. It's too early people.

Let's See Who's Smoke-Free

While the Springfield City Council dithers about what to do about a smoking ban in the city (a vote on it was delayed tonight pending a compromise agreement), I noticed the SJ-R is now making a strange attempt at letting us know what area restaurants are already smoke-free.

I don’t know how long they’ve been doing this but if you look at the Restaurant Inspections part of the Sunday A La Carte column you will see smoke-free indicators next to the inspected restaurants that don’t allow smoking.

Now, I love the restaurant inspections bit every Sunday. I like to see who got nailed the worst by the health departments (city and county) each week (this Sunday it was Gallagher’s with two “Critical” violations and seven “Non-critical”. But what does the smoke–free thing have to do with health department inspections? Smoking is legal in restaurants (for now) so it’s not like the Health Department is busting restaurants for smoking violations. Perhaps the paper wants to provide information on what restaurants are smoke-free but can't figure out how to do it otherwise. Maybe they should just have a running list pending legislation requiring smoke-free environments.

When Leaves Leave

My son is too young to call 911. Good thing, or he’d been on the phone this morning.

We spent several evenings together last week raking up fallen leaves into big piles perfect for jumping in and running through. Nature’s bounty.

This weekend we gathered all those leaves and stored them nicely in bags and put the bags away in a space in out in the front yard, next to the driveway and near the curb. There they would stay, my son assumed, for future use, much as he puts his blocks away in a container and sets them on a shelf.

This morning, the little guy happened to be looking out the front window when men in a truck pulled up and began TAKING HIS LEAVES. Protests and warning to his mother went unheeded; the men got away with the leaves.

Ban Up In Smoke?

I can’t believe how some members of the Springfield City Council are starting to cave on the proposed smoking ban in the city. Perhaps it was an overreach to go for a total ban. At a minimum, I’d still like to see all restaurants to become smoke free. The trick there, I suppose, is defining what is and isn’t a restaurant.

I have to agree with Ward 9 Alderman Tom Selinger who is quoted in the SJ-R today blaming state lawmakers for the current mess before the city council. This should have been a statewide ban like the one mentioned in the same article:

Just last week, voters in Washington approved the most comprehensive smoking an in the nation. The measure bans smoking in bars, taverns, restaurants, bowling alleys and other venues. One provision, requiring a 25-foot smoke-free buffer around doorways, makes the ban the nation's strictest.
As it is under state law, the city has the right to ban smoking in most establishments but the county does not. That’s just stupid.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Hacking The Vote

I’ve not been one to panic over the prospect of touch-screen ballots. Cautious, but not overly concerned. Until now. Here’s why.

Friday, November 11, 2005

WWI Vets Almost All Gone

The last World War One vet that I knew died about ten years ago at something like age 102. Sadly, by the time I knew him, he was already too far gone mentally to be a source of any stories. I did know he served one the ground in France but that’s about it.

With that in mind today, I was interested to see this story about how there are almost no U.S. WWI vets left alive.
Today, the Veterans Affairs Department lists just eight veterans as receiving disability benefits or pension compensation from service in World War I. It says a few dozen other veterans of the war probably are alive, too, but the government does not keep a comprehensive list.

The Census Bureau stopped asking for data about those veterans years ago. Using a report of 65,000 alive in 1990 as a baseline, the VA estimates that no more than 50 remain, perhaps as few as 30.
It’s sad that these vets of the war that was supposed to end all wars, despite living well past 100 years of age, didn’t live long enough to see the real end of wars.

Blog Names of Unintended Consequences

Veterans Day was known as Armistice Day before 1954. Armistice Day was originally established to commemorate the end of World War One. The “war to end all wars” concluded, officially, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918.

People have heard of “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” and want to learn more. So they go to the internet and do a search. Guess where a lot of them are winding up. I’m probably not what they expected.

Friday Beer Blogging: Veterans Day Edition

Found at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., late Spring 1989: a can of Colt 45 and a note.

The note reads:

Hey Bro!,

Here's the beer I owe you - 24yrs late. You were right - I did make it back to the world. Great seeing you again. Sorry not to be with you but I’ll be along soon.



And thank you, Sarge.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Sam I Am (a Blogger)

I must say, I’m impressed that yet another friend of mine has started a blog. Local musician and composer Sam Crain has hit the blogosphere with Views and Reviews. Sam, a Springfield resident, is blogging under the moniker Roger Ulmer Roundly (Sam gives his real identity away on his blog so don’t worry, I’m not outing a fellow anon blogger). Knowing Sam, I’m sure there's a funny story or inside joke behind the name Roger Ulmer Roundly but I’m not privy to it at the moment.

I worked with, partied with and often commiserated with Sam for many years in the 1990s. Sam is a well-known local jazz guitarist and all-round good guy. I had often thought of blogging about him and his musical achievements, which are many, but never got around to it. So, apparently to rub my face in it, Sam started his own blog. Or something.

By the way, Sam has released a shit-pot full of CDs. He also plays with his band in various incarnations throughout the Springfield area.

Anyway, Sam is now also a blogger. Go see.

How Long Is Too Long?

This would take some endurance…

LONDON, England (AP) -- A Boeing Co. jet arrived in London from Hong Kong on Thursday after 22 hours and 43 minutes in the air, breaking the record for the
longest nonstop flight by a commercial jet.

The 777-200LR Worldliner -- one of Boeing's newest planes -- touched down shortly after 1 p.m. (1300 GMT) at London's Heathrow Airport after a journey of more than 18,662 kilometers (11,664 miles).

A representative of Guinness World Records, which monitored the flight, presented Boeing's Lars Andersen with a certificate confirming it was for the longest nonstop commercial flight.


Andersen said the Hong Kong-to-London flight showed the future of air travel.

God, I hope not. I’ll wait for the space planes to start rolling off the factory floors, thanks.


While Illinois Senator Barack Obama is being covered in the press as a political rock star, we haven’t heard a whole lot about his legislatin’.

This week, Obama introduced a bill that would outlaw voter intimidation designed to keep targeted groups away from the voting booth.
It might surprise some of you to know, but even in this awesome age of technological advancement and easy access to information, there are folks who will stop at nothing to try to deceive people and keep them away from the polls. These deceptive practices all too often target and exploit vulnerable populations, like minorities, the disabled, or the poor.


I hope voters who go to the polls today are not victims of such malicious campaigns, but I know hoping is not enough. That is why I am introducing the Deceptive Election Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2005 to provide voters with real protection from deceptive practices that aim to keep them away from the polls on Election Day.

The bill I am introducing today provides the clear statutory language and authority needed to get allegations of deceptive practices investigated. It establishes harsh penalties for those found to have perpetrated them. And the bill seeks to address the real harm of these crimes --voters who were discouraged from voting by misinformation -- by establishing a process for reaching out to these misinformed and intimidated voters with accurate and full information so they can cast their votes in time. Perhaps just as important, this bill creates strong penalties for deceptive election acts, so people who commit these crimes suffer more than just a slap on the hand.
Here’s the Congressional Record page containing his remarks in full (.pdf).

Hat tip to Daily Kos.

American People: Bush Lied

57% say Bush deliberately mislead the nation to war. On what planet do the other 43% live?

Still Learning

I didn't know New Jersey's governor-elect, Jon Corzine, is origianlly from Taylorville.

Dems to Convene in N.O. in 2008?

Harry Shearer has his fifth post on his return to New Orleans up on the HuffPo Blog. He relays a report he heard on a local New Orleans radio station that suggests that at least some Democrats are thinking of holding their convention in the Big Easy in two years:
WWL radio is reporting that a Democratic Congressman from Maryland, Elijah Cummings, is proposing holding the 2008 Dem convention in New Orleans, as the same kind of gesture as the GOP going to NYC last year.
Intriguing and, I think, a fine gesture. The money is going to be spent somewhere, why not a place that could really use it. Maybe both parties could see fit to do their part in bringing this gem of a city back to life?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Rewind In Time

Russ continues his good work at Springfield Rewind. I love the then/now photos that go back and forth as you move your pointer over them. There are new posts up this week.


Digby's doing it:
...may I just say how pleased I am that California voted down every single initiative yesterday, thereby shoving Schwarzenegger's useless 70 million dollar special election down his throat. Even the parental notification for minors seeking abortion went down.

Schwarzenegger is toast. After watching Bush and him in action maybe people are finally beginning to move beyond the "dumbshit guy I'd like to hang out with" and "movie stars are, like, awesome" methods of choosing our leaders.
One can certainly dream the dream.

Update: The online LA Times headline this morning says it all:

Old Airwaves

Wow. If you are interested in radio and television history in Central Illinois, you should check out Doug Quick’s web site. Quick is the weatherman at Champaign’s WICD/Ch. 15. He has a long history of working in both radio and TV in the area and his site has such goodies as old radio air checks from local pop stations (many from WDBR) going back as far as 1972 and the local TV schedules from days gone by. Check out this WICS/Ch. 20 retrospective. There is a ton of information (and links to even more stuff) on this site. Go there now, have fun. I think this site deserves a link on Look Back Springfield as well.

Personally, I like how Quick has incorporated pictures of the automation machines many radio stations used during the 1970's and 1980's. I was in radio for much of the 1980s and I remember those things well (WDBR had one, for example). Essentially, they were large machines, taking up entire walls, which used multiple reel-to-reel tapes to play music and (usually) had pre-recorded announcements and commercials during breaks.

I encountered my first such machine in 1983 when I started a new job at a radio station near Rockford. While being given my initial tour of the station, I was taken into a room that pretty much only had one of these mechanical monsters in it. In big black letters, the machine had the name "FRED" on it. When I inquired why the machine was called FRED, I was told it stood for Fucking Ridiculous Electronic Device. FRED and I had an often tumultuous relationship for the next five years and Quick’s site brings the memories flooding back.

Don't Get Used To It

The warm weather we have had most of this fall so far is lulling even me into a false sense of ‘winter will never come’. Yesterday was almost perfect; it was still near 70 degrees late into the evening.

But remember, it was the day before Thanksgiving last year that we in Springfield got the worst snowfall of the season. Nearly half a foot of heavy wet snow practically destroyed my backyard, taking down tree limbs, wrecking bushes and even collapsing a trampoline. Personally, it was the most destructive storm I’ve ever had to deal with. I say personally because the big 1978 ice storm, for example, was much more destructive to the city but had little impact on the place where I actually lived (my parent’s house).

Anyway, be prepared for things to change quickly and for the worse.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Flatten the Stratton?

Marie at Disarranging Mine has an interesting post up about the State of Illinois' Stratton Building here in Springfield. I had no idea until today that the office building was actually built from plans for a hospital. But now that I know this, I can see it.

I have a soft spot for the otherwise ugly Stratton because my father worked there in the mid and late 1960s when I was still quite young. It was the first "office" of either parent I remember being in as a child. Being a one car family at the time, my mother would pack all of use in the car to go pick up dad from work when he didn't otherwise have a ride or chose not to take the bus.

I have another odd memory from way back. This might have been more like the early 1970s after my dad was working elsewhere but I remember being in the car along with a younger neighbor kid whose family was origanally from Chicago before moving to Springfield in the late 1960s. As we drove up Spring street toward the Stratton Building, this kid says, "We stayed at that hotel when we first moved here." So see, it could have been a hospital or a hote or an office, whatever.

And speaking of Marie, she has a new post up over at Look Back Springfield. Does the name Conn's ring any bells Springfieldians?

Leadership of Failure

My man Cenk says it right:
George Bush is the Arizona Cardinals. His team is terrible and he refuses to change any of his players. He doesn’t have the personality suited for making necessary changes. Quickly adjusting to changing circumstances is not his forte, stubbornness is. Even if he had the inclination to make a change, he doesn’t have the ability. He simply doesn’t know what the hell he is doing.

We’ve been playing most of his speeches and press conferences on our radio show for the last three years. After having listened to him talk about the issues for all that time, there is no polite way to put this – the man is an imbecile.

He is a simpleton who does not grasp complicated circumstances. As sectarian strife between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds is ripping Iraq apart, he has never once mentioned the competing claims of those groups and explained how they affect our mission in Iraq. There is a good reason for that – he can’t.

I’m confident that if a reporter surprised him tomorrow and asked him what the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite is, he would have no idea.

Even if you’re a conservative or a Republican, do you really believe that the President has any idea what the difference between those warring factions are? That he might be able to tell you a little bit about their history and why they’re fighting and what may be able to bring them together? That the President can muster up a cogent, intelligent response? I don’t think you even believe that.

Look, this emperor hasn’t had any clothes on for a long time. Only our collective brainwashing and purposeful avoidance of the obvious has shielded us from reality. He keeps talking about evildoers and people who hate us for our freedom. He has the mental capacity of a third grader.


For the love of God, call a spade a spade. How much cognitive dissonance does it take for the press to carry on this charade? The man isn’t bright, and you’re not doing yourself any favors by ignoring the obvious.
Politics aside, this is exactly what has bugged me the most about George Bush, or rather, those who blindly believe in him. He is a very uneducated man who is grossly unqualified to be president. Pretending otherwise does the country a great disservice.

Normally, I would never presume to claim intellectual superiority over any president from any party, but I have no problem proclaiming to anyone who will listen, yes, I'm much, much smarter than George W. Bush. And, frankly, his presidency is dumbing down America. He talks to us like he (and we) are ten, throwing out mindless (and meaningless) platitudes.

Why the press goes along with this, I can only guess. My theory is that through inertia and laziness the press applies a credibility template on any president that forbids the recognition that, indeed, the emperor has no clothes. "If the president says it, it must be presidential by definition", I'm guessing is the collective thinking.

Whatever the reason, this country really should have higher standards for leadership.

Made For TV Obama

I caught Illinois Senator Barack Obama on The Daily Show last night. I tell you what, the guy is a natural. I usually feel a little uncomfortable watching politicians of any stripe on Comedy Central’s nightly take-down of the news. Most pols are fish out of water trying to survive questions from, or even (gag) match wits with, Jon Stewart. No so Obama. Grinning widely for the whole interview, he was perfectly at ease and certainly gave the impression he was truly enjoying himself. Stewart never made him look foolish and Obama was every bit as funny, coming up with one-liners of his own that had even Stewart laughing.

Making his appearance even more credible, Obama had to do the interview remotely. Why wasn’t he in the studio as guests usually are? At a political fundraiser? To good to make time for such silliness? Nope. He had to change his schedule at the last minute to be in Washington for an important defense spending vote. But he didn’t cancel his appearance; he found a way to accommodate both his business and pleasure. Not to be too cynical about it but that's PR gold.

Obama is going to be able to go far just on his charisma. Much as Ronald Reagan disarmed folks who were otherwise opposed to his politics, Obama’s presence provides him with a huge political advantage. You just can’t help like the guy even if you don’t like his politics.

Monday, November 07, 2005

I-PASS: I'll Pass

Eric Zorn has a great post on grocery store self-checkouts and other related gripes. A Jewel store self-checkout is his starting point. We’re lucky (?) enough here in Springfield to have a couple of Jewels available for our food shopping pleasure as well. I frequent one of them because it’s close to where I live and sometimes I’m too lazy to go where there are better prices and a better produce section. I even use the self-checkout sometimes.

Be that as it may, there is one thing that really bugs me about my Jewel: I-PASS. I-PASS allows users of the Illinois Tollway System to pass through toll stations without having to stop and pay. Instead, an I-PASS device in your car is electronically read and you are charged accordingly without the inconvenience of having to stop and throw coins in a basket. It’s a fine program. And you can maintain your I-PASS account at Jewel stores. The Jewels here even advertise this service with storewide audio and visual displays. One problem: THERE ISN'T AN ILLINOIS TOLLWAY WITHIN 200 MILES OF SPRINGFIELD!

It really makes me think Jewel doesn’t have any idea what going on down here. Is their corporate structure so unyielding that they can’t exempt Springfield stores from looking foolish by hawking something no one here can use?

Shearer Madness

I’ve been following with interest Harry Shearer’s dispatches from his return trip (homecoming?) to New Orleans. He has posted three parts, so far, of his story over at the Huffington Post blog:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Shearer is a resident of New Orleans and of course is best know for his work on Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons.

He has been reporting on the Katrina tragedy pretty regularly at the HuffPo. His latest posts from the ground are just the kind of tour I’ve been looking for.

Having spent a week there just a few weeks before Katrina, much of the city and the people I met were fresh in my mind as the disaster unfolded. Shearer mentions a lot of familiar places and does a good job reporting on what it’s like there now as one of the greatest American cities struggles to rise again.

Update: Parts 3.5 and 4 are out

Part 3.5
Part 4

Two Headlines Passing in the Night

Here are's headlines early this afternoon. Notice anything strange about the first two?

Swiss Cheese Legislation

This is just stupid. Under state law, the county can’t impose a smoking ban even if so inclined. It’s time for a statewide smoking ban and be done with it.

Assistant state's attorney Jim Grohne, who advises the county board on legal matters, said last week state statutes do not give Sangamon County the authority
to impose a smoking ban similar to the proposal before Springfield council members.

According to the state law, the only governing bodies that can impose such a ban are home rule governments or municipalities. Municipalities include cities, villages or incorporated towns. Sangamon County is not a home rule government.


Jerome Village Board President Harry Stirmell [says:]

"At this point, I don't see the issue coming up. ... One would think that if the city (Springfield) were to do something and we don't, it could increase the people going to (our restaurants.)"

One of the Jerome restaurants Stirmell was referring to was The Barrel Head, 1577 W. Wabash Ave.

Kevin Davlin, owner of the combination bar/restaurant, thinks a Springfield smoking ban would result in more business at his Jerome establishment, but he isn't pushing for the proposal. He also owns Chantilly Lace at 2660 S. Fifth St., a bar inside Springfield's city limits.

"It's a double-edged sword. I think business will increase (at The Barrel Head), but a ban would hurt at Chantilly Lace. I feel sorry for Springfield restaurants if the ban does pass as Ald. Bruce Strom proposes," Davlin said.

As for the Barrel Head getting more business, if the Springfield smoking ban goes into effect, I certainly won’t be going there for two reasons: 1) there will be even MORE smoke as the city’s tiny minority of smokers who can’t wait an hour to smoke will gather there and 2) why go to a smoky restaurant at all when there are gobs of non-smoking places thanks to the ban.

I have a feeling as non-smoking environments become the norm around here (thanks to the ban), the smoking establishments will become more and more unpopular as the non-smoking majority realizes it has better options.

Judy Makes it a Race

Illinois State Treasurer Judy Barr Topinka has decided she wants to run for governor. She'll have to win the Republican primary before taking on incumbent Democrat Rod Blagojevich but I'm thinking that shouldn't be too hard given the opposition. For one thing, Topinka's not crazy or a rabid wingnut. That's the way Illinoisans like there Republicans. Jim at AbeLog has more and better informed analysis.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Beetle Mania

I've noticed far fewer of those nasty house-infiltrating Asian Lady Beetles this Fall. The Bloomington Pantagraph tells us why.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Battle of the Forecasts: It's All Tied Up

Game two between the National Weather Service and The Weather Channel is now over. The winner: the National Weather Service. They called it, we got rain tonight. Lots of rain. Earlier today, TWC did change their forecast and called for a 90% chance of rain tonight while the NWS upped their prediction from last night from 70% to 80%. But the late forecast amendment by TWC was too little too late. I make my plans 24 hours in advance (not really but if I made plans much I probably would do so at least that far in advance) so coming around at the last minute is not helpful forecasting.

So the series is now tied 1-1.

The Ugliest American

I know they’re just stupid foreigners but the contrast is stark and nearly universal outside our borders.  Think George Bush is unpopular here (he is); go overseas and see what his popularity is like there.  To a man (or woman) everyone I have talked to who has been out of the country in the last few years reports the same thing:  Bush is really, really hated.  And world opinion, while not something that should guide this country’s every move, does have an impact and is important.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Battle of the Forecasts: Game Two

As you may recall, two months ago I pitted the National Weather Service against The Weather Channel in a weather forecasting cage match. In the first round, The Weather Channel was victorious, coming closer to what actually happened weather-wise. Time for a rematch.

24 hours out, the two weather outlets have greatly differing forecasts for tomorrow (Saturday) night. In this corner, the National Weather Service:
Showers and thunderstorms likely before midnight, then a chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 46. South wind 14 to 18 mph becoming west. Winds could gust as high as 23 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%.
Opposing them in the red trunks, and defending champion, The Weather Channel (
Cloudy skies early, followed by partial clearing. Low 46F. Winds WSW at 10 to 20 mph.
OK, both sources agree exactly on the temperature: a low of 46. But the difference in forecasts for precipitation couldn’t be more stark: The National Weather Service virtually guarantees it while The Weather Channel says, “No way, Jose”. For purposes of this competition, I will stipulate that Saturday night begins at 7:00 pm.

Game on!

Friday Beer Blogging: Doin' Time Edition

With “Scooter” Libby’s indictments in the news since last Friday, I got to wondering, what does a guy have to do for a beer when he finds himself liked up for a crime. Well, it turns out you just slip out, buy some brew and head back to your three hots and a cot.

First we have this story:
ROGERSVILLE, Tennessee - With their cell doors accidentally left unlocked, four county jail inmates escaped only to return the same night -- with beer.

The Hawkins County Jail inmates, who bought four cases of beer before returning to the jail, were charged Monday with escape and introduction of intoxicants into a penal institution, the Kingsport Times-News newspaper reported Tuesday.

"I guess they thought if they came back they wouldn't be charged with escape, but they were wrong," Sheriff Warren Rimer said.

Ridgy Dean Coleman, Jimmy Joe Stapleton, David Wayne Blizzard and David Allen Hopkins escaped Thursday night when their cell block doors were unlocked and a faulty control panel failed to alert jailers, Rimer said.

Two of the inmates walked out through a fire exit, left the door propped open with a small Bible and made a hole in the exercise yard fence. They walked to a nearby market and bought the beer.

The inmates did not raise alarm at the store because they were wearing street clothes borrowed from other prisoners. The crowded jail doesn't have enough orange jumpsuits for all of its inmates.

The sheriff pointed out that all 36 inmates on the cell block might have tried to escaped while the doors were unlocked.

"At least they came back," he said.
And then there’s this:
A Vermont man apparently left a prison work camp, bought beer and cigarettes and then returned to jail.

Authorities says that Mark Delude of South Barre crawled under the fence that surrounds the St. Johnsbury work camp, walked a mile and a half to the nearest convenience store, bought a 24-pack of beer and a carton of cigarettes and then returned.

Vermont State Police Lt. George Hacking, a 21-year veteran, said it was the first case of its kind he'd ever investigated. "I don't remember trying to catch people trying to break back in," Hacking said. "But nothing surprises me."
It’s all very squirely...

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Weapons of Not So Massive Destruction

This brief post from Atrios got me motivated to post about something that I’ve wanted to say for some time. First, from Atrios:
Of course we must constantly remind ourselves that "WMD" was always intrinsically somewhat of a bullshit argument. It should never have been whether Iraq had some nonconventional weapons, most of which aren't capable of "mass destruction," but whether Iraq was, through any means, a genuine threat to us. Absent an active nuclear program that really just was not the case, no matter how many nasty drums of chemicals Saddam had (or, apparently, didn't have) lying around.

I’ve been saying something like this since before the war began. The whole notion of “weapons of mass destruction”, short of an active and productive nuclear weapons program, was ridiculous. Chemical weapons are not weapons of mass destruction in the literal sense. They’re old technology that aren’t very effective on the battlefield. Chemical weapons have been around, more or less in the same form, for a hundred years. They pre-date tanks. They take nothing to manufacture; you can make them at home. Additionally, there are huge problems with effectively delivering chemical weapons and there was no practical way for Saddam to use such weapons outside his own borders much less be a threat to the U.S.

Inevitably when I say chemical weapons aren’t WMD, I get the “tell that to the Kurds” retort. But here’s the thing: almost any weapon can be a WMD if used against an unarmed, unsuspecting population within your zone of control. A machinegun could have been just as massively destructive. Look at the mass destruction caused by machete-wielding mass murderers in the Rwandan civil war.

Anyway, I’ll say right here it did surprise me that NO chemical weapons were found. I figured the Iraqi regime probably still had a limited stockpile of chemical artillery shells. That’s why it made me nervous when war opponents initially seemed to stake the debate on the war solely on U.S. forces no finding ANY so-called WMD, including chemical weapons. That was dangerous because it seemed to cede the point that the discovery of a cache of chemical shells would be proper justification for the war.

The total absence of so-called WMD, even chemical weapons, does underscore how wrong this administration was in using that as a justification for a war of choice. But even if Saddam had 100 bunkers packed with drums of chemical agents, he still posed no threat to the U.S. or anyone else outside his borders and that would not have been a reason to rush into a foolish war.

Sorry, Charlie

Why is this important? Why does anyone care what Charles has to say? Why does he get head of state treatment including dinner with the president? He’s a celebrity and British tourist attraction; so what?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Down, Down

Bush at 35. But hey, Richard Nixon was lower right before he resigned.

More Hijacking

With headlines like this, people might get the idea this White House is a tad dishonest or at least hiding something.

Boy, Does He Have Issues -NOT!

Jim Leach and Mike Wilson both point-up the "no issues, please" candidacy of Chuck Redpath for the 99th Illinois House district seat. The Democratic Springfield alderman, while kicking off his candidacy yesterday, essentially said he had not yet formulated positions on the issues.


Meanwhile, just call me Doctor, I'll go to medical school later.


No chick-flick to review this week but I did find this in my email box. It's a doctored movie trailer that changes one of the better known horror films into, well, something akin to a chick-flick.

Just Juan More Thing...

Juan Cole today:
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said Tuesday before the United Nations: "I categorically refuse the use of Iraqi soil to launch a military strike against Syria or any other Arab country . . . "But at the end of the day my ability to confront the US military is limited and I cannot impose on them my will."

So let's get this straight. The president of Iraq elected six months after the US "turned over sovereignty" on June 28, 2004 is saying before the United Nations that George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld decide whether his country can be used as a base to attack other countries, and he is unable to influence such decisions-- even though he categorically rejects any such action.

For all those "Bush's Iraq" boosters who laud the "democratic" elections of January 30 and the recent constitutional referendum, this clear admission that Iraq remains under American military occupation, and that its government is helpless before American decisions about the fate of Iraq, is a rather strong refutation. After all, no country is a "democracy" where the military calls the shots, overruling the civilian president-- how much less so if it is a foreign military!
Iraq will not be a sovereign nation until U.S. forces leave, period.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Boz Resurection

Marie at Disarranging Mine channels the deep recesses of my mind. I had that song on my mind all day yesterday, reamplified every time I heard Alito's name on the news or read it on a blog. I was too embarrassed to say anything.


From the AP:
WASHINGTON -- Democrats forced the Republican-controlled Senate into an unusual closed session Tuesday, questioning intelligence that President Bush used in the run-up to the war in Iraq and accusing Republicans of ignoring the issue.

"They have repeatedly chosen to protect the Republican administration rather than get to the bottom of what happened and why," Democratic leader Harry Reid said.

Taken by surprise, Republicans derided the move as a political stunt.

"The United States Senate has been hijacked by the Democratic leadership," said Majority Leader Bill Frist. "They have no convictions, they have no principles, they have no ideas," the Republican leader said.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Reid demanded the Senate go into closed session. The public was ordered out of the chamber, the lights were dimmed, and the doors were closed. No vote is required in such circumstances.
What kind of idiotic blathering is that from Bill Frist? Blah, blah, blah, HIJACKED! Blah, blah, blah, NO PRINCIPLES! It's called opposition, dumbshit. I know it's been largely absent for the last five years but it's a very real and necessary thing considering the children running things on your side of the aisle.

UPDATE: I see Jim at AbeLog beat me to it. Ditto what he says

Lahood Gives His Money Away

Rep. Ray LaHood (R-I Can Dream Can't I) is divesting himself of the campaign contibutions he recieved before ending his short-lived dream of becoming Illinois' next governor. He gave back contributions to those who wanted it and donated the rest to other political campaigns and think tanks, including the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute in Carbondale.

The Decatur Factor

This is a rather strange editorial in the Decatur Herald & Review. The editor takes time to rebut a column written by Bill O’Reilly that appeared in the H&R. The editor is upset that O’Reilly played fast and loose with the facts. We all know that’s what Big Bill does best, so why the sudden concern? Because O’Reilly hits close to home by criticizing (and misrepresenting as usual) issues involving newspapers.

It’s nice to see the H&R willing to stand up for its own industry but otherwise give the guy a free forum for lies and distortions on everyone else.

Aside from that, I was kind of taken aback by this silly statement:

First, the dire news about newspapers and revenues. There is no doubt that some
newspapers – particularly those in major markets – are seeing a decline in advertising revenues. Some of the reason for that is cyclical, some of it has to
do with economic concerns brought on by the Iraq War and the disastrous hurricane season
and some of it has to do with increased competition from other media. [Emphasis Mine]
Iraq and Katrina? I know those events have wrought a whole host of ills but declining newspaper revenues? It seems to me if there was good coverage of those events in newspapers, as there has been, that might tend to even increase circulation resulting in more advertising.

Anyway, if the H&R wants to refute “facts” that appear in it’s opinion pieces it should do so on al issues and then, I dunno, dump the most consistently truth-challenged writers