Thursday, March 31, 2005

Ted End 2

Uh-oh. Could ABC be looking to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to replace Nightline? Atrios is spreading a gossip and it makes me wonder:
The inevitable rumors (though, not necessarily true ones) swirl that ABC will try to steal the Daily Show from Comedy Central.
I hope that doesn't happen. The result will be the ruination of TV's finest fake news show. TDS will become a watered-down shadow of its present self.

Echoing Atrios: DON'T DO IT JON!

Ted End

Ted Koppel is leaving ABC News.

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Ted Koppel is leaving ABC and the "Nightline" show
he has hosted since it started in 1980 -- making him the third high-profile news
anchor to leave a broadcast network in the last year.

The network announced Thursday that Koppel, a 42-year veteran of ABC News,
would leave when his current contract expires Dec. 4.

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.

Taxing the Truth

If you think you are a big fan of a national sales tax to replace the income tax, Kevin says you need to know a few things.

A Terrorist By Any Other Name...

Following up on my post from yesterday, it's come to my attention the Department of Homeland Security may also be having a hard time seeing dangerous rightwing extremists as terrorists:

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not list right-wing domestic
terrorists and terrorist groups on a document that appears to be an internal
list of threats to the nation's security.

According to the list - part of a draft planning document obtained by
CQ Homeland Security - between now and 2011 DHS expects to contend primarily
with adversaries such as al Qaeda and other foreign entities affiliated with the
Islamic Jihad movement, as well as domestic radical Islamist groups.

It also lists left-wing domestic groups, such as the Animal Liberation
Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), as terrorist threats, but it
does not mention anti-government groups, white supremacists and other radical
right-wing movements, which have staged numerous terrorist attacks that have
killed scores of Americans. Recent attacks on cars, businesses and property in
Virginia, Oregon and California have been attributed to ELF.

DHS did not respond to repeated requests for comment or confirmation of
the document's authenticity.

The conspirators behind the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah
Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people and wounded more than
500, were inspired by radical right-wing movements. Eric Rudolph, the man
charged with carrying out the 1996 Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta, which killed
one woman and injured more than 100, was a member of the radical anti-abortion
group Army of God. Initially, Rudolph was the object of a massive North Carolina
manhunt in connection with a Birmingham, Ala., abortion-clinic bombing that
killed a police officer and seriously maimed a nurse.

Another Army of God member, James Kopp, was convicted in the 1998
shooting of a doctor who performed abortions.

Individuals affiliated with such groups have also been involved in many
smaller terrorist acts, including mailing hundreds of bogus anthrax letters to
abortion clinics, and in plots to obtain and use conventional, chemical and
nuclear weapons against civilians. In 2003, for instance, a Texas man
prosecutors say was a white supremacist and anti-government radical pleaded
guilty to charges of possessing a weapon of mass destruction. Authorities had
discovered enough sodium cyanide bombs to kill hundreds of people; machine guns
and several hundred thousand rounds of ammunition; 60 pipe bombs; and
remote-control explosive devices disguised as briefcases in a storage space he
rented. The man, William J. Krar, was sentenced to 11 years in federal

Thanks to Think Progress for the pointer.


Why is all the weird or disturbing news coming out of Florida these days? Isn't that why God created California?
The St. Petersburg Times reports Wal-Mart, "which is getting millions of dollars
in state incentives to create jobs in Florida, has more employees and family members enrolled in Medicaid than any company in the state." The paper reports the state has paid Wal-Mart more than $51 million in incentives since 1981. By way of gratitude, the superstore is letting Florida taxpayers foot the bill for the 12,300 workers and dependents it pays so poorly that they qualify for Medicaid, the state's health care program for the poor.
It must be the curse of the 2000 election. Well, we've all been cursed by that but whatever.


This hilarious post over at A Week of Kindness is worth reading. A college student looking to buy a paper (rather than writer her own) gets a lessen she hadn't intended. The student in question apparently goes to school here in Illinois (although she lies about where). The shame! I especially like the reproduced IM conversations. Go read it.

I just realized how ironic the name A Week of Kindness is in light of what the blogger does here. I suppose it could be an act of kindness showing this wayward student the folly of her ways. Maybe.

Tanks for the Memories

There have been some unexpected casualties in the Iraq war -Abrams tanks.
WASHINGTON - The U.S. military's Abrams tank, designed during the Cold War
to withstand the fiercest blows from the best Soviet tanks, is getting knocked
out at surprising rates by the low-tech bombs and rocket-propelled grenades of
Iraqi insurgents.

In the all-out battles of the 1991 Gulf War, only 18 Abrams tanks were lost
and no soldiers in them killed. But since the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, with
tanks in daily combat against the unexpectedly fierce insurgency, the Army says
80 of the 69-ton behemoths have been damaged so badly they had to be shipped
back to the United States.

At least five soldiers have been killed inside the tanks when they hit
roadside bombs, according to figures from the Army's Armor Center at Fort Knox,
Ky. At least 10 more have died while riding partially exposed from open

The casualties are the lowest in any Army vehicles, despite how often the
Abrams is targeted - about 70% of the more than 1,100 tanks used in Iraq have
been struck by enemy fire, mostly with minor damage.
There's a lot going on over there we're not hearing much about.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

I Did Not Know That...

Kevin Drum has a bit of environmental trivia that, well, isn't that trivial.
Did you know that in the three days following 9/11 the average temperature range across the United States (the difference between the daytime high and the nighttime low) rose one degree Centigrade? That's the biggest, fastest climate change ever observed.

The reason, it turns out, is that American airspace was shut down, and no airplanes means no contrails. Since contrails absorb sunlight, getting rid of them allows more sunlight to reach the ground and causes a rise in surface temperature. When planes started flying again temperatures went back down.

As this BBC report says, this is a dramatic example of an effect called Global Dimming, something that scientists have recently concluded is far larger than they previously thought: since 1950, increased amounts of soot and ash have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching the surface of the earth by an astonishing 10-30% in various parts of the world.

The interesting part is that the effects of this phenomenon are diminished -canceled out, if you will- by the effects of global warming.

Just as an aside, I found the lack of contrails on 9/11 and the days after a moment to remember. I have always been a sky watcher, day and night, and I have always sort of resented contrails. They are visual pollution. Given our geographic location here in Central Illinois, seeing contrails overhead is entirely unavoidable. I understand they are a part of our modern world and all that and I have flown many times in planes leaving the same contrails. Still, all my life I wondered what it would be like not to see them. Unfortunately, it took horrible circumstances to get my wish.

More Illinois Nazi's

Capitol Fax Blog points us to this story out of the Metro East area where authorities have moved in on a nest of Nazis (aka domestic terrorists).
FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS - Federal agents and prosecutors announced Tuesday the
largest seizure of machine guns in the history of Southern Illinois, and 11
people face weapons charges linked to the seized guns.

Agents seized more than 50 machine guns, silencers, 128 destructive
devices, 115 improvised explosive devices, gun powder, a spring-loaded booby
trap, more than 100 firearms, 19 crates of ammunition and thousands of rounds of
ammunition seized from a Madison County home.

They also found a Nazi flag, neo-Nazi literature and scrawled on a wall
of a home three words: "Hitler was right!"

U.S. Attorney Ronald Tenpas called the racist literature "a cause for

I'd say the ammo dump might be an even bigger concern. If these guys were Muslim and had anti-American slogans on the wall, wouldn't they certainly have been labeled terrorists? I've never understood why rightwing terrorists are never labeled as such.

David Neiwert, who watches this sort of thing, had this to say in a post yesterday:
Here's a reality check for the Department of Homeland Security: After the
Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995, through Jan. 1, 2000, there were over
40 serious cases of domestic terrorism -- some of it realized, some of it
thwarted -- committed by right-wing extremists.

These were not petty or mere property crimes. They included the bombing of
the Atlanta Olympics and abortion clinics by Eric Rudolph; a plan to attack a gathering of military families in the Midwest; and a plot to blow up a
California propane facility
. In every instance, the planned or perpetrated
act involved serious violence in which potentially many people could be killed
or injured.

Since that time, the rate has declined dramatically, but the cases keep
occurring with some regularity, and the lethal nature of the threat has if
anything become worse. Since 2000, we're talking about an actual anthrax attack;
plans to set off cyanide and sarin bombs; more planned bombings of abortion
clinics; and threats against federal judges. All emanating from either lone
wolves or organized extremists from the far right.

These are not torchings of SUVs and vacant condos or trashing of research
laboratories, which are bad enough, and certainly a problem worth confronting on
a level deserving the actual threat they pose. But the level of violence, and
the lethality of the threat posed, is of another order altogether when it comes
to right-wing extremists.

While eating my lunch a while ago, I saw a story (on CNN) on Eric Rudolph. Among other things, the story recounted his alleged crimes but he was never once referred to as a terrorist.

Old Hand Slowhand

Eric Clapton is 60 today. Oh, hell. The great 60's rockers are all 15-20 years older than me and it's a little scary to know I'm only a generation behind 60 year-olds.

Museum Central

Forget the new Lincoln museum. Springfield will soon be hosting the State Police Museum.

Classic police cruisers, vintage uniforms and old-time communications
equipment are all part of a new Illinois State Police history museum that opens
to the public this week.

After eight years of planning and about a year of construction and
preparation, the museum at 3936 Peoria Road will be dedicated during a ceremony
at 10 a.m. Friday, the same day as the 83rd anniversary of the agency's


Much of the volunteer-run museum's collection comes from state police
employees who have donated career memorabilia.

A lot of those items - including old uniforms, patches, firearms,
photographs and communications equipment - will be on display in the main part
of the museum, in a newly constructed building at the rear of the Peoria Road
property that the foundation obtained a year ago.

The other side of the building has garage space for the foundation's
Illinois State Police vehicle collection, which includes 1951 and 1966 squad
cars. There also is a 1996 Ford Crown Victoria that has the 75th anniversary
markings on it.

The foundation recently obtained a 1990 Chevrolet Caprice squad car.
Donations are being sought to refurbish it.

In addition to putting in the new building, the foundation renovated
two small houses that came with the property.

One of the houses will be used as a small gift shop that will sell
state police shirts, coffee mugs and afghans.


But, hey, this has possibilities. May I suggest some displays:

State Police Dirty Tricks - the history of cops hiding behind hills and billboards and on overpasses trying to catch speeders. It could be interactive, like a haunted house, where the cop jumps out at you when you least expect it.

The Hall of Shame - State cops gone bad. Like the one up near Freeport a few years ago that was caught drunk and asleep in his squad car. Or Blagojevich's huge 'security' detail. You know, thinks their not all that proud of. For balance.

Hard Core Speeders - Profiles of the lead foots (lead feet?) who have amassed the most tickets through the years. I'd be interested to see where I place.

Troopers and Hollywood - the ISP in films. Illinois' finest have appeared in a number of well-know movies including The Blues Brothers (the new one and the good one) and Silver Streak.

I Fought the Law and the Law Won - famous people and their "experiences" with the State Police. I have no examples here but surely there have been some celebrities who have gotten busted by the Man here in the Land of Lincoln.

Just a few ideas. Have any more?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Shit Sandwich

Why is the new Burger King breakfast sandwich commanding so much attention in the media? Who are the BK marketing guys? They're geniuses. I've heard this story on every newscast (even NPR) for the last 24 hours. even had it as the subject of it's online poll yesterday. Damn people, it's a sandwich! Don't you know there's a Michael Jackson trial going on?

A Question of Interest

From Think Progress:
In 1991, 18 Senators who still serve today voted for a bill by Sen. Al D’Amato (R-NY) to limit the interest rate credit card companies can charge to 14 percent (the measure was consequently stripped out of the final bill). Those same 18 Senators voted a few weeks ago against a bill by Sen. Mark Dayton (D-MN) to limit the interest rate credit card companies can charge to 30 percent.

Why? Follow the money.

Yuk, Yuk, Yuk

Oh, boy. Caught the last 10 minutes of Blue Collar TV on Comedy Central last night waiting for The Daily Show to start. If you haven't seen it, BCTV features comedians specializing in "redneck" humor. Jeff Foxworthy and Bill Engvall are on the show along with some other guy I've never seen before. What I saw was really bad. I guess the corny gags on Hee Haw back in the day weren't just schtick but a way of comedy. The worst part was after one of these guys would tell the lamest of all jokes the audience would roar, often getting on their feet. Gawd, it was awful.

Full Disclosure: I once attended a Bill Engvall concert. I got free tickets from a black guy who couldn't wait to get rid of them. He seemed grateful I took them.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Sign of the Times

Fellow Springfield blogger DownLeft finds insight at the city's Goodwill store. It's true, I've never seen as much uncertainty among State employees as I do now.

DownLeft has been posting more frequently lately so I will be adding the link to my Illinois blogroll. I had hesitated at first because I wasn't sure if his blog was going to be kept up. It looks like it is.

Just Wondering

I see Jimmy Carter has an opinion piece in the Washington Post this morning. It's on nonproliferation (I know, B-O-R-I-N-G). But it got me wondering. How many oped pieces, or even letters to the editor, will George W. Bush pen after he leaves office?

Sunday, March 27, 2005

An Easter Rebuttal To My Toddler

Courtesy of Angry Bear.

Y'all Jus' Whistlin' Dixie?

What the hell is this all about?
SPRINGFIELD - It is said that Cairo, Ill., is closer to Memphis than Chicago - literally, and perhaps figuratively, too.

Now, Gov. Rod Blagojevich may be taking that sentiment to heart.

Blagojevich, who chairs the Midwestern Governors Association, said in February that he is considering also joining the Southern Governors' Association "because southern Illinois is in many ways a southern state."

Blago gone wacko?

Ironic that as the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum prepare to open next month (well, the Library part is already open), the Governor of Illinois wants the state to join the South. What's that spinning noise I hear from the direction of Oak Ridge Cemetery?

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Reentering the Blogosphere?

It's been a tough week for blogging for me. I was seriously without the main ingedient -time. It's tough being a full time worker, dad, husband, homeowner, AND blogger. I Hope to do better this week.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Friday Beer Blogging: Endless Winter Edition

In honor of the continuing cold weather, worthy of the northern reaches of our continent, I present Upper Canada Beer.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Endless Winter

I just checked my calendar and it is, as I suspected, the end of March. Why has winter not ended? There is simply no sign of spring here in Central Illinois.

I have noticed this: a mild winter seems to bring a cool March. And this was a pretty mild winter here. We had one big snow right before Thanksgiving (which then melted the next day or so) and only a few one-inch snowfalls after that. There also were not a lot of really bitterly cold days. And while it's not bitterly cold now, it's not at all Spring-like either.

Blessed are the Bar Rags

I never tire of these stories. From Boston's Green Dragon Tavern we have a sacred rag:
Yesterday, waitress Arleene McDaid tossed a cloth she'd used to clean one
of the tables at the Marshall Street saloon, and when it landed on the linen
basket, the rag looked eerily like the Shroud of Turin. No kidding. ''I was
sitting there eating a salad, and I said, 'Holy [expletive],' " said bartender
Ryan Lugones. ''Everyone who sees the thing says it looks like Jesus. It's
scary. . . . We're not going to move it." (The Shroud of Turin is the cloth that
some believe covered the body of Christ after his crucifixion and bears his
image.) McDaid, who moved here from Ireland three years ago, admitted yesterday
that she's a wee bit spooked. ''I'm not as religious as I tell me mum, but I'll
definitely be at church on Sunday," she said.

Remember the Virgin Mary Grilled cheese sandwich? Well the woman who made and sold that sandwich is now selling the pan she made it in. On ebay, of course. And look at her picture on the ebay link. Isn't that George Costanza's mother?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Video Killed the Radio Song

Did you ever see a music video that just "made" the song for you. That is, you may not have given it much thought or even disliked it when you first heard it on the radio, but once you saw the video it all came together and you wound up liking the song. I have many times.

Well, I just had the reverse experience for the first time.

I first heard the Persuit of Happiness song I'm an Adult Now back in 1992. I was in Chicago driving up the Dan Ryan one night returning from a south suburban OTB shop where I'd had a few drinks and lost a few dollars. The song came on the radio and I thought it both hilarious and a good rocker. Perfect for flying down a nearly deserted expressway.

Anyway, I've always liked the song -until a few days ago. That's when I finally saw the video. (Ok, it took me a while, I'm an Adult Now was released in 1988.) What I saw made me feel silly for liking the song. I had always imagined the band to have been older, maybe in their early 30's (like I was in 1992). They probably had real jobs and maybe had kids and some divorces among them. They had to be ordinary guys who picked up guitars to lament their approaching-middle-age plight.

Well, no, these guys were pretty young. And they didn't look like they were having to deal with much of the adult situations they were singing about. They looked like a rock band. They had long hair! It just ruined it for me.

Taking The Fight Out of the Illini

Well, well, well. So the real Illini, the Native American variety as opposed to the Univeristy of Illinois variety, weren't such tough guys after all.

Eric Zorn continues his assault on Chief Illiniwek by blowing the lid off the mighty warriors myth. It seems the Illini often had their asses handed to them in battle even by inferior forces. Prancing prairie pansies, I say! Not worthy of representing the state, I say!

Oh, and The Chief's headdress? No Illini would have been caught dead in something like that. A complete misrepresentation. So much for honoring the legacy of the Illini.

Go read Zorn's post for all the details.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Delay of Game

Apparently, God injured Terri Schiavo to help Tom Delay:
"One thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo, to help elevate the
visibility of what is going on in America," Mr. DeLay told a conference
organized by the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group. A
recording of the event was provided by the advocacy organization Americans
United for Separation of Church and State.

"This is exactly the issue that is going on in America, of attacks against
the conservative movement, against me and against many others,"
Mr. DeLay said. [emphasis mine]

It's been said a million times but, WHAT A JERK!

Thanks to Paul Waldman at The Gadflyer

Wuhdee Say?

Late last week my Congressman Ray Lahood (R-Peoria) said he was against Congress getting involved in the Terri Schiavo mess. A day or two later he voted FOR a measure that did just that. OK, so he changed his mind. But why?

Well, I can't find anything in writing but here's I did hear him comment on the matter yesterday on WMAY. Paraphrasing based on my often flawed memory, he said he voted for measure before Congress because the courts had failed to resolved the dispute between [Terri Schiavo's] family members.

Huh? I think the court's did resolve the issue. They may not have come to the conclusion many would have liked but it was resolved. I'm not sure where Lahood was coming from with that comment.

Bado For Blago?

It looks like Judy Baar Topinka is going to run for Illinois governor:
GOP state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka is preparing to run for governor --
raising money, polling and reaching out to key state and national Republicans.

If all goes as planned, Topinka, elected three times as state treasurer and a former chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, is expected to announce a bid to topple Gov. Blagojevich when the legislative session ends, sometime in late spring or early summer.

Topinka's own polling shows her at a good staring point:

A poll of 800 likely Illinois voters was conducted March 6-8 by Republican
pollster Linda DiVall with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.


The poll showed that Blagojevich's approval rating was at 48 percent and
his disapproval number at 45 percent.


Asked if it was time for a new person to be governor, 47 percent said

In a hypothetical November 2006 horse race, Blagojevich and Topinka
start in a tie. Asked to choose between the two, 42 percent were for Topinka and
45 percent for Blagojevich, with 11 percent undecided.

Topinka probably is the Republican's best hope right now for retaking the governor's mansion. I'd take her own polling results with a grain of salt but it's not hard to imagine Blagojevich actually having some substantial negatives. It's been a tough couple of years to have to have run the State.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Busy, Busy, Busy

Lighter then normal blogging due to being busy.

Speaking of which, if you are also busy and don't have time for reading lengthy blog posts, I recommend Busy, Busy, Busy. Short and to the point.

SJR: Obama Seeks Middle Ground

Today's Springfield State Journal-Register examines Barack Obama's first months in the Senate.
WASHINGTON - In one of his first Senate votes, Illinois' freshman Democrat
Barack Obama helped Republicans give President Bush the first major victory of
his second term: a legal overhaul designed to discourage multimillion dollar
class-action lawsuits by shifting more of them to federal court.

recently, Obama held himself out as open to working with Republicans before
ultimately siding with fellow Democrats and one Republican to defeat Bush's
proposal to give power plants more time to reduce their air-polluting emissions.


In addition to the class-action bill, Obama also split
with fellow Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who is the Democrat's chief
vote-counter, when he voted to confirm Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state.

Obama has sided with his Democratic leadership to oppose recent budget
and bankruptcy bills on the Senate floor, and he voted, along with Durbin,
against Alberto Gonzales, Bush's attorney general pick.

If his vote for
the Republican-endorsed class-action bill made him less predictable in some
people's view - Obama himself thinks that's a good thing.

"I hope that
continues," Obama said. "What I'm trying to do is call them as I see them and
not be pigeonholed in terms of right or left or center. I'm just trying to
evaluate each piece of legislation based on what I think is best for the
constituents back home."
There is some speculation Obama is triangulating for a possible higher office (the presidency). I sure hope not and I have a feeling that isn't what's going on. I really do think the guy is doing things his way, even if I don't always agree with that way.

If Obama was cynically casting votes based solely on what would "look" best in some future run for president, he would run into trouble with his own party soon enough. Such tactics could wind up depriving him of coveted committee participation within the Senate. Additionally, it might even hurt in winning a future presidential primary, the biggest prerequisite to an actual presidential run.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

How Low Can We Go

The Schiavo media circus rolls on and I’ve really been too disgusted with it to comment on it here. I’m sure you have come to your own conclusions but here are a few related items you may not have heard or thought about (via Digby):

…[In 1999] George W. Bush signed a law in Texas that expressly gave hospitals the right to remove life support if the patient could not pay and there was no hope of revival, regardless of the patient's family's wishes. It is called the Texas Futile Care Law. Under this law, a baby was removed from life support against his mother's wishes in Texas just this week. A 68 year old man was given a temporary reprieve by the Texas courts just yesterday.

…the tort reform that is being contemplated by the Republican congress would preclude malpractice claims like that which has paid for Terry Schiavo's care thus far.

…the bankruptcy bill will make it even more difficult for families who suffer a catastrophic illness like Terry Schiavo's because they will not be able to declare chapter 7 bankruptcy and get a fresh start when the gargantuan medical bills become overwhelming.

And this from Atrios:

…we have a sitting member of Congress using his bully pulpit and media access to target and attack the character someone who is mostly a private citizen and who has not been accused of or convicted of any crime. I'm sure this isn't entirely without precedent, but the level of volume and personal vitriol which Tom DeLay has directed at Michael Schiavo should give us all pause, as should the fact that the media is treating it as a perfectly ordinary thing. It's one thing to have Harpy Grace flaying you on CNN, it's another thing when Congressman DeLay feels it's a part of his job description.

Tens of thousands of people in the U.S. have feeding tubes removed every year. It’s never an easy decision, I’m sure. I hope I never have to do it. But the fact remains, this is not unusual and any sense.

The only reason the Schiavo case is getting ANY attention is because there is a difference of opinion on what to do among family members. Had Schiavo’s family been unanimous in removing the feeding tube, it would have happened and that would have been that. Would creeps like DeLay have protested that it was murder. Of course not. It happens all the time in his home state of Texas. In fact, it’s the law (see above).

Those trying to make political hay out of this should have their political feeding tubes removed at the first opportunity.

News Bite

And speaking of back to the future, I see shark attacks are back to being headline news. I guess 9/11 DIDN'T change everything forever.

Icon Death Watch: DeLorean

John DeLorean has died. He's probably best known for his Delorean car that starred tin the 1980's Back to the Future movies.

Friday, March 18, 2005


Geez, there's actually a memory championship.
There are five events in the U.S. Memory Championships. First, contestants are
given 15 minutes to memorize 99 names and faces, and 20 minutes to recall them.
Next, the contestants have to memorize an unpublished 50-line poem (this year
titled, "The Tapestry of Me") in 15 minutes, followed by a series of random
digits, a list of random words, and finally a shuffled deck of playing cards.
The best memorizers in the world—who almost all hail from Europe—can memorize a pack of cards in less than a minute. A few have begun to approach the 30-second
mark, considered the "four-minute mile of memory."
I have such a hard time with names. I can't imagine memorizing 99 people in one sitting.

And the best memorizers are from Europe? Is this because memorization techniques are encouraged there or do they just spend less time with video games and reality shows?

Friday Beer Blogging: St. Pat's Edition

The Irish beer gods at Guinness provide us with this week's tempting visual.

Three or four years ago I was at the grocery store on St. Patrick's Day and decided to pick up soma six of Irish brew (I think it was Harp). I got to the checkout and the very young checker asks for an ID. Well, I had gotten a ticket for speeding (imagine that) and didn't have my driver's license pending my day in court. I did have my copy of the ticket with my bith date on it though. That, I was told, was NOT acceptable. I objected. Hell, I was nearly double the legal drinking age. So the manager was called over. He, perhaps 24 years old, deemed me to great a risk and would not sell me the beer.

You gotta be kiddin' me, I thought. I had been buying beer (legally) for 20 years. Even the 18 year old bagger was standing there laughing saying, "You don't think this guy is over 21?!" Yeah, hah, hah.

Anyway I left the store sans beer.

Now this whole incident was the direct result of the many, many stings the local constables had run over the past decade in Sangamon County. No beer seller was taking any chances, no matter how silly the situation. I had no proof of age and that was that.

Of course, the kids are still getting beer. My garage fridge has been relived of its alcoholic contents twice in the last 3 years.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Small Town Values

From the town of Oregon, in rural Northwest Illinois, we get this shocking story:

OREGON -- Students throughout Oregon High School heard rumors that bombs
were being made, but no one came forward with the information before it was too
late, police say.

Three Oregon High School students are in custody today as officials piece
together how two homemade bombs exploded midmorning Wednesday outside the
school, sending 600 students across the street while police and bomb squads
descended on the campus.

No one was hurt and nothing appeared damaged, but investigators found a
large pipe bomb in a second-floor storage room and a backpack full of pipes in a

Another report says the unexploded bomb on the second floor was huge:

Investigators say a fourth bomb found on the second floor of the building
was about the size of a mortar shell. It was about 14 inches long and four
inches in diameter.

Oregon's police chief, Tom Miller, says that device would have blown the
roof off the school if it had detonated.

That's some serious ordinance. Neither story has much to say about why these kids did this. In fact, the only explanation given came from another student:

"A lot of us think they did it just to get attention," Oregon freshman Tia
Kressin said Wednesday afternoon.
That's probably about right, sadly.

Designing Hydrants

Look out "Trading Spaces", The City of Springfield has come up with a totally fabulous design show idea. And the State Journal-Register is on top of it:

City workers played Picasso Wednesday, repainting fire hydrants in the area of
Ninth Street between Capitol Avenue and Monroe Street to allow city officials
and the public to preview five new possible color schemes.

Once the city picks one of the designs, every hydrant downtown will be repainted with the same color scheme, except for the top bolt. The top bolts will have different colors to reflect the water-pressure level for each hydrant.
Wow, how groovy! I can't wait for the reveal which is set to occurred in conjunction with another big event in the city - next month's opening of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. Abe was a hydrant man of great repute. It's a little known fact that the Civil War started over Lincoln's pledge in the 1860 presidential campaign to paint Washington DC's gray hydrants blue.
Anyway, back to our story:
A City Water, Light and Power graphic artist designed the hydrants, and
five were chosen to test paint, said Thomas Skelly, CWLP's water division

Mayor Tim Davlin and CWLP general manager Todd Renfrow will make the
final call on which design is chosen, Skelly said.

Renfrow got the idea from traveling to other cities and seeing what
they have done to spruce things up downtown.
Really? The thing he noticed about other cities was the hydrants? Who says our city leaders lack vision. I bet no one else has ever come away from a fact-finding trip so focused on hydrants. We do think big here.
The new hydrant colors tie into new teardrop-shaped streetlights and stoplights
installed by the city.
Well, the old designs did clash. I know of several firefights who simply walked away from fires after having their fashion senses assaulted by this frightful color scheme.

Three cheers for Springfield, soon to be a truly fabulous city.

Shearer Madness

Harry Shearer is now in the bloggers chair for the next two days over at Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo blog. In his first post he takes on the media and Dan Rather's part (literally his part) in it. This is my first experience with celebrity blogging. It'll be interesting to see how it goes. Shearer is a funny guy, I wonder if he won't be falling back quite a bit on his wit.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Chief Among Our Concerns

I've been wanting to weigh in on the Chief Illiniwek controversy for some time but never got to it because, well, in the scheme of things it's kind of trivial (unlike most of my studied posts). I'm kind of put off by the zeal on both sides for the rightness of their cause. However, I find the pro-Chief forces far more disturbing.

I know people who couldn't care less about anything to do with the University of Illinois getting all up in arms about attempts to do away with the Chief. And they care very disproportionately to the size of the problem. It's really irrational.

U of I fans and alumni have more of stake in it but the best defense they have, as near as I can tell, is the Chief is tradition. They are used to him, like him and want to keep him, dammit. Sorry, but the "Chief is upholding the honor and traditions of the Native American people" line is just crap. These same people don't care a bit about real living Native Americans and their plight.

No, a lot of supporters, those with no real vested interest in the U of I, are in this fight because they see this as being on the front line in the war against their bitter enemy, "Political Correctness". (By the way, in a related matter, calling them Native Americans is not "politically" correct, it's just plain correct. These people did not come from India, they are natives of the Americas. )

Eric Zorn today confronts the issue the in way I can go along with:

To me, [the Chief] trivializes and demeans indigenous peoples in a way we would never dare trivialize, say, African Americans, Jews or other groups that have historically felt the hard heel of discrimination. The white people may mean well when they name a team the Redskins or dress up in ersatz ceremonial Indian garb and dance around the basketball floor, but meaning well is not enough.

Chief Illiniwek, the hotly disputed symbol of the University of Illinois, is in the news again now that the Illinois Native American Bar Association has sued the University of Illinois Board of Trustees in Cook County Circuit Court seeking a court order barring "the use of Chief Illiniwek as a sports mascot" because it violates the Illinois Civil Rights Act.
Hold it right there! There's an Illinois Native American Bar Association? Really?

Anyway, Eric continues later with:

My opposition to Illiniwek is based on the presumption that the view of the activist opponents reflects the views of the majority American Indians, who ought to have the only vote in this matter.

If Chief Illiniwek is OK with that majority, my objection is little more than paternalism and the activists are just touchy rabble rousers. Let the chief stay.

But if Chief Illiniwek offends that majority, support for that symbol is little more than racism and its backers are churls. The chief must go.
It sounds like a reasonable compromise. At least reasonable enough to make the issue go away finally.

Eric goes on to cite a couple of nationwide polls that show Native Americans don't seem to care that much about the issue and don't generally feel offended by teams with Native Americans as mascots. So, Eric says we should only consider the feelings of Illinois Native Americans when deciding the fate of the Chief (he even is conducting an online poll on the idea).

For my part, if I was King of the World I would banish the Chief because I think it's demeaning to another group of human beings even if a majority of that group doesn't think so. I know that may sound arrogant but its just my gut feeling on this. Of course, much to my disappointment, I'm not King of the World, and that means I have to get along with people I don't agree with. So maybe Eric's compromise is the way to go.

Let's just be done with this and move on. Healthcare anybody?

Mrs. Cronkite

Walter Cronkite had a wife. She died this week. Funny, I don't think I ever once thought of Walter Cronkite as having a family. Her obit reveals an interesting life that came and went without much of the notoriety that surrounded her husband.
Walter Cronkite met his future wife, born Mary Elizabeth Maxwell, while
they were both working at radio station KCMO in Kansas City, Missouri. They
married in 1940, and shortly afterward she became women's editor of the Kansas
City Journal-Post.

While her husband was overseas reporting for United Press during much
of World War II, she worked for Hallmark, publishing a company newspaper that
also was distributed to members of the armed forces, Sukman said.

At the end of the war, she joined her husband in Brussels, Belgium, and
later accompanied him to Moscow, where he worked for two years as chief
correspondent for UP. The couple eventually moved to New York. He joined CBS in

I often wish obituaries in the newspaper were longer and more detailed. Seriously. Everyone's life is interesting if presented correctly. We should be able to call the newspaper when a close relative dies and an obituary beat reporter should come out an cover it like a real story.

I know, that's probably not profitable for the paper since not everyone is as fascinated with other people's stories. My dream job would be working on biographies all day. Back before it was so Hollywood celebrity driven, doing research for A&E's Biography series would have been just about right.


Hah. This survey says 20% of blog readers have their own blog. You read me, I read you.

All Blogged Up

Blogger continues to be giving me problems (posts are not posting, then double posting, blogger says it can't find my blog when I do post, AGGGHHHHHHH!). I have not idea if this post will show up but I'm may have to limit posts until things clear up.

UPDATE: Things seem to be working better now.

Back to the 70s

Illinois State Fair officials have announced 1970s southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd have joined the Grandstand lineup. It's really starting to look like a Classic Rock playlist. So far, here are the rock acts booked for this August's fair:

Lynyrd Skynyrd
Blue Oyster Cult
REO Speedwagon
Head East
George Thorogood

Let's see, I saw Blue Oyster Cult (twice!) and Head East separately at Springfield's old rock concert venue, the State Armory, back in the 70s. And I know Foghat played here in 1977 (missed that one). Lynyrd Skynyrd was too big at the time to have shown up here (and then in the late 70s lost several band members in a plane crash). I'm guessing REO made it here sometime during the 70s but I don't remember. They were out of Champaign, Illinois so I'm betting they were here on at some point early in their career.

My only question is, isn't this overkill for just one genre. I would think most people interested in these groups would be older (over 35, like me) who have families (like me) and would be unlikely to attend more than one show (unlike me who has no interest in attending any). It might be wiser to diversify your demographic targets a bit.

But that said, imagine if this lineup had all shown up here together back in, say, 1977. WOW! I would have peed my pants.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Oh, Blogger

Sorry for the double posts (which I have cleaned up, for now) but Blogger has been acting really weird this week.


It's March 15th

Beware the IDES of March.


Iraq: The Movie

This is an interesting LA Times article (provided by Billmon). It seems our troops in Iraq are of the video generation and rather fancy themselves cinematographers.
Troops often carry personal cameras and video equipment in battle. On
occasion, official military camera crews, known as "Combat Camera" units, follow
the troops on raids and patrol. Although the military uses that footage for
training and public affairs, it also finds its way to personal computers and
commercial websites.

The result: an abundance of photographs and video footage depicting
mutilation, death and destruction that soldiers collect and trade like baseball

"I have a lot of pictures of dead Iraqis - everybody does," said Spc. Jack
Benson, 22, also stationed near Baqubah. He has collected five videos by other
soldiers and is working on his own.
30-year-old Sgt. Benjamin Bronkema from Lafayette, Ind., said he was
surprised no one had tried to sell the movies yet.

"If I had a copy of it, and MTV called, I'd sell it," he said. The videos
are no different than what's on screen at the cinema, showing glorified
violence, he added.

"It's no more graphic than 'Saving Private Ryan,' " he said. "To us, it's
no different than watching a movie."

Really, no different from a movie. I guess you had to be there.

Read the whole article. It's provides some fascinating insight.

Oh, Poppy Crop

From a letter to Eric Alterman and published on his blog (scroll toward the bottom):
The Afghan poppy crop is leading to a global heroin problem. What would it
cost to buy the ENTIRE Afghan poppy crop before it is sold to heroin
smugglers? If one is to believe a 2004 US gov't report, only $50

"The $10 billion U.S. annual retail heroin market thus generates about
$1 billion in imports, of which roughly $50 million goes to poppy

Why not send U.S. agents into the ripening fields to out-bid the
terrorists? Moralistic congressmen who feel it's better to spend $473
million on "eradication" rather than simply buying the crop and destroying it
for a fraction of the cost.

I like the idea but wouldn't the U.S. government getting in on the buying just start a bidding war? I'm not sure one entity can corner the market. Of course, Uncle Sam has some pretty deep pockets as demonstrated by the cost of alleged eradication. It's worth thinking about.

Yeah, That's What I Thought

Apparently, fewer medical malpractice payouts don't necessarily mean lower insurance rates. At least not here in Illinois.
Medical malpractice payouts have fallen 10% at the state's largest
physician insurer, but executives don't appear ready to cut doctors' insurance
premiums yet.

ISMIE Mutual Insurance Co. paid out $150.4 million to cover medical
malpractice claims in 2004, down 10% from 2003. Premiums charged to doctors
exceeded that payout by $270.1 million, the insurer's March 1 annual filing with
the Illinois Department of Insurance shows. The surplus set aside to cover
unexpected losses also grew 5.3% to $212.5 million.

And another good use for the extra cash:
CEO Alexander Lerner's 2004 compensation rose to $947,793, up 6.7% from 2003.
But surely the doctors, forever the victims of malpractice suits, got a break too, right?
Premiums, meanwhile, are up: ISMIE raised doctors' rates 7.4% in 2004 and
35.2% in 2003.
Well, I agree with the president, we must combat the greed of people injured in the medical system to stem this crisis. After all, payouts to these disfigured (or dead) losers is really cutting into profits.

Thanks to Rich Miller for the pointer.

Missed Opportunities

I always find it fun to “discover” old songs or even groups that I missed when they first came out. Sometimes it pisses me off I did miss them and I often can’t figure out HOW I missed them.

I like to listen to a lot of retro programming like VH-1 classic and various Music Choice channels off my digital cable box where some of this “missed” material surfaces on occasion.

Here are a few things I’m enjoying retroactively:

Sonic Youth – I’m almost embarrassed that I never got into them during their long career of making excellent music. I was vaguely aware of them but never gave them much of a chance. I think they just got lost in the proliferation of great stuff coming out in that Punk/New Wave era in the late 70s and early 80s.

Warsaw – This band became Joy Division but I don’t like Joy Division (never have) so I never investigated the band’s roots. Warsaw, on the other hand, rocks in the best tradition of the late 70s punk bands. By the way, the bands third in carnation, New Order, was/is also good by me. Talk about musical evolution.

Detachable Penis – This King Missile song escaped my attention until recently when I saw the video on VH-1’s Alternative show. It may be the funniest song ever.

Are You Experienced – Yes, the Hendrix song but done by Devo (off their Shout album). I really don’t know how I missed this one back in the day. It’s odd how good this. I particularly like Devo’s changing the lyrics “Not necessarily stoned, but beautiful” to “Not necessarily beautiful, but mutated”.

The Maryland Keyes

I see Maryland Senator Paul Sarbanes is not running for reelection. Doesn’t this present Alan Keyes the perfect opportunity to run (again) in his home state and leave Illinois alone?

Monday, March 14, 2005

Entertainment Tonight: The Blogosphere

Josh Marshall casually announces he's getting married this week. He'll be taking a week-long break from blogging to take care of that little detail. He'll have guest bloggers sitting in including comedic actor Harry Shearer (The Simpsons, SNL, Spinal Tap).

This raises a couple of interesting questions:

What other "celebrities" blog or guest blog?

What effect does marriage have on blogging? Blogs are relatively new so most of us have always blogged either single or married. This will be a case study in how marriage impacts blogging.

Pitch A Bitch

In my never ending quest for good uses for the 'net, I present Planet Feedback. You can use this site to send complaints or compliments to almost any national company providing some kind of good or service.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Party Line

There is an enlightening article in today's New York Times detailing the Bush administration's distribution of fake TV news stories that are then run by real media outlets.
It is the kind of TV news coverage every president covets.

"Thank you, Bush. Thank you, U.S.A.," a jubilant Iraqi-American told a camera crew in Kansas City for a segment about reaction to the fall of Baghdad. A second report told of "another success" in the Bush administration's "drive to strengthen aviation security"; the reporter called it "one of the most remarkable campaigns in aviation history." A third segment, broadcast in January, described the administration's determination to open markets for American farmers.

To a viewer, each report looked like any other 90-second segment on the local news. In fact, the federal government produced all three. The report from Kansas City was made by the State Department. The "reporter" covering airport safety was actually a public relations professional working under a false name for the Transportation Security Administration. The farming segment was done by the Agriculture Department's office of communications.

Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government's role in their production.

(By the way, as the article mentions, this was also going on during the Clinton administration. So my objection to this is bipartisan.)

The worst part isn't so much the administrations' sending out these "reports" (although that's bad enough). No, the worst part is the TV media's use of these things. How lazy and unethical do you have to be? Reading the article, I was amazed at how many stations actually ran these things.

I ran into a similar situation while I was the news director of a radio station in northern Illinois. The State of Illinois then, as now, provided ready made news reports for radio stations. These were produced and made available by the Illinois Information Service.

IIS provided several "news" stories a day that could be accessed and recorded by phone (this was the 1980s). Now you can get them online. As I recall, they really were pretty straight forward without a lot of political bias. I'm not sure if they are still that way today.

Anyway, I used to get the feeds from time to time when things were slow to see if I could grab some bit of audio from them (almost always a lawmaker or other state government official commenting on this or that) and try to build a story around it. I don't think I ever used a report in its entirety, but I don't remember for sure. Had I done so, it would have been with full attribution as to where it was coming from. Thinking back on it though, I'm not sure even that would have been the right thing to do.

DVD Rental Recommendation

The Price of Milk

Filmed in New Zealand, this WAY offbeat love story is hilarious. The cinematography is stunning. My toddler son even watched much of it (but he loves cows and that helped).

Mrs. Eleventh Hour and I often disagree about films but we both liked this one and for the same reasons.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

BLAM! Oops, Sorry Son, I Didn't Know That Was You

God, I'm glad I'm not this paranoid.

Of course, when my home is invaded by a (Democratic) governor and his (Democratic) States Attorney henchmen, I'll be sorry.

UPDATE: Illinois State Representative Larry Bomke (R-Springfield) wants to arm judges. I can only assume this is in case the judge is threatened by a prosecutor from a (Democratic) States Attorney's office.

Friday, March 11, 2005

The Yawning of a New Era

Ezra is bitching that all the Social Security stuff on the blogs is B-O-R-I-N-G. I agree to a point but the issue kind of important. And its hard to readily find good details in the main stream media. I was just telling someone the other day that I have learned more about SS in the last six months than I have about any other issue in any other similar period of my life.

That's all I'm going to say about SS because, as I've said before, the issue is dead. It's going nowhere. Never was.

10-4 Good Blogger

It s always kind of a weird feeling to have an idea or observation pop into your head and then suddenly realize others have already had the same idea or made the same observation. I had just such a moment last night when I read this post on Eric Zorn's blog.

You see, I was in the shower a few days ago when, out of nowhere, I thought, "Blogs are the new CBs". I believe that thought grew out of a general feeling of familiarity I've had since starting my own blog just over two months ago.

If you are old enough to remember the mid-1970s, you will also remember the CB (Citizen's Band) radio craze. The popularity of CBs hit just about the time I acquired my own, something I had wanted to do for a year or two before that. Since I was just 14 and had limited resources, I went in on it with a friend (sometimes TEH reader JB) and financed it through the Bank of Dad (who we actually made monthly payments to).

There is just something about doing this blog that reminds me of that time. It's a new and cool way to communicate and everyone seems to be getting their own blog. It feels like a "craze". Also, many bloggers (and those writing comments) don't reveal their own identity, often choosing anonymous "handles" as they were called in CB jargon (my 1970s CB handle? -The April Fool). That's about as far as the comparison goes, I guess, but it was enough for me to make the connection in my own mind.

I thought about blogging about my new-found cultural comparison but passed thinking it sounded pretty silly. And there were other things to blog about. However, judging from Zorn's post, I wasn't alone in my thinking.

BUT...Zorn disagrees that blogs are the new CBs:
The prediction that the blog phenomenon will quickly all but flicker out
like the CB phenomenon before it is already false.

CB radios grabbed the attention of the American public in 1974 during a
truckers' strike. Sets sold literally by the millions, and the fad reached its
grim heights in January, 1976 when the song "Convoy" was absolutely unavoidable on the radio.

But the downward slide was precipitous, and by 1980, just six years
after their heyday began, CBs were once again virtually the sole province of
commercial truckers.

(This online history has more detail.)

The blog-splosion began with the introduction of such free, easy-to-use
blogging programs as "Blogger" in 1999. And now, nearly six years after it
began, the number of blogs worldwide is estimated at 7.7 million and still growing rapidly.


Will the growth taper off and stop? Eventually, sure. But not until that 60
percent of the market is exposed and tapped.

Those who write blogs will burn out, but others will take their place.
Those who read blogs will replace old sites in their favorites lists with new
OK, blogs aren't CBs in most respects but the whole thing does have a similar feel. All we need now is C.W. McCall to come up with a bloggers' theme song.

UPDATE: Eric Zorn in a follow-up post today admits to a CB/Blog relationship. Says Eric:
Blogs, in their way, address part of the same desire that sparked the CB radio
boomlet -- a desire we also saw in the rise and fall of computer bulletin
Told ya.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Kevin Drum uses the phrase "10-4, good buddy" in a post today. Tell me again how blogs are unlike CBs.

Friday Beer Blogging: Obscure Norwegian Brew Edition

Hey, Fred, this beer tastes like ASS! What is it?

No, Homer, not ass -Aass! It's a fine Norwegian brew from the land of sky blue fjords. Brought to us by the fine folks at Aass Brewery.

Lest you think I'm being glib with my Aass/ass pun, be assured the Aass people take advantage of the way the name of their beer sounds in English right in their slogan:

"Aass Brewery - Aass Good Aass It Gets"

I love Norwegian marketing.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Malpractice Makes Perfect

Are limits on malpractice judgements really needed? There's plenty of data indicating the answer is, "no". The latest evidence comes from Texas which has already established award caps.
The team chose Texas because it is one of the few states with a publicly
available, comprehensive database of legal claims filed against physicians,
hospitals and other health care providers. Texas also is the second most
populous state and the third largest in health care spending.

Malpractice insurance premiums in Texas rose an average of 135 percent
from 1999 to 2002, prompting the state legislature to cap non-economic damages
in 2003.

Analyzing claims data from 1988 to 2002, the team found little change
in the number of claims filed or the total amount paid in damages, when adjusted
for population growth and inflation. The total number of claims per physician
actually declined from 1995 to 2002, and 80 percent of cases were resolved
without payment by the physicians or hospital.

When adjusted for Texas's economic growth, "total payouts fell by $6
million annually," the analysis found. The $515 million in malpractice payouts
in 2002 represented 0.6 percent of health care spending in Texas that

I suspect the story is similar elsewhere.

Thanks to Paul Walman at The Gadflyer.

Identity Crisis

Apparently, I'm now part of "Bloginois", a subset of the Blogosphere, aka Blogistan, aka Blogtopia.

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation

Item on today:
While most parents no longer use drugs -- 11 percent reported marijuana use in
the last year -- they still carry attitudes fostered during their teen years,
researchers found. This is particularly true about parents who were teenagers in
the late '70s and early '80s, when teen drug use was at a high point.

"While the vast majority of parents have left old habits behind, they're carrying old attitudes and beliefs forward," said Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of the Partnership. "If old habits die hard, the data suggests lax attitudes about drugs die even harder."
I think I would substitute the work realistic for lax in that last paragraph. Also, I suspect that by “drug use” they are mostly talking about pot. I was a in my late teens and early 20s during the above time period when teen drug use was at a high point. The vast majority of casual drug users at that time rarely did anything more then pot and alcohol. I think most of these parents have an understanding of these drugs and can deal with issues surrounding them on a realistic rather than emotional level.

This is not to say parents shouldn't be communicating with kids about drugs, especially harder ones, but beating them over the head with false propaganda is no good. That's what today's parents learned yesterday.

Noise is in the Ear of the Beholder

Ok, this one is extremely local, involving the Springfield neighborhood in which I grew up. But since fully half of TEH’s 5 readers are familiar with this neighborhood, I will blog on it.

The neighborhood, on the city’s central south side, is in the news more than it ever has been thanks to a controversial “new” concert venue. I put new in quotes because it’s really an old Sears warehouse. As a kid we loved having the warehouse nearby as it was a ready and endless source of refrigerator boxes to drag home and play in. (While most kids had to build forts from scratch, we had a modular forts right down the street!). Not to mention it had the coldest water fountain for miles and was conveniently located right across the street from a playground we all frequented.

Anyway, after Sears abandoned the building a couple of years ago, a local group of radio stations bought it and turned it into a sort of, mini-convention center type thing. Recalling its roots, they named it The Warehouse.

The Warehouse has been open for several months now and some residents near it aren’t very happy. They complain about traffic and, in the case of some concerts, the noise. The Springfield Journal-Registert has a story on this just today:

Noise and traffic continued to be a nuisance Wednesday night for some nearby residents during a sold-out rock concert at The Warehouse, 2548 S. First St.

With 1,500 tickets sold, the concert, which began at 7 p.m. and featured the bands Papa Roach, Skindred and the F-Ups, was the venue's largest to date.

Lori Schisler, a member of the executive board of the Near South Neighborhood
Association who lives in the 2100 block of South Fourth Street, said she
returned home at 7:15 p.m. to find six calls on her answering machine from
neighbors complaining about the noise.

"There was the boom of bass, and animals were barking," she said. "We have to listen to it, and we're tired of it."

Kimberly Clark lives on Bonnie Court, which backs up to north side of The Warehouse's parking lot. She's among those upset about the noise.

"It's ridiculous," she said. "I have to get up at 4 a.m. It's disruptive."

Clark added that she saw vehicles racing down the street and parking in front of people's homes. She said she watched two teenagers smoking marijuana in a vehicle parked in front of hers.


After the concert, Springfield police reported receiving 13 complaints of loud noise. And a man who passed out in a nearby yard was arrested on an outstanding warrant.


Schisler hasn't been impressed.

"I wish they would take a decibel reading inside the building..."
she said. "We just want to keep the noise under control. We're not trying to get
people out of business. We just want to bring peace and quiet back to our

But here’s the thing: trains run right through the neighborhood day and night. That’s Amtrak and freight. Horns blaring and rail cars rumbling by. Some of the houses in the neighborhood, like The Warehouse itself, are just a few feet from the tracks. I’m curious as to why these lovers of quiet chose to live near roaring trains.

I have yet to be in The Warehouse but I already think it’s a great addition to the city. Here we have a local company (yes the radio stations are actually locally owned) taking up the slack and bringing quality entertainment to the city while the Prairie Capitol Convention Center downtown holds small gatherings of little interest to the general public (especially youth) or sits idle.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Money Not So Funny

RandomActOfKindness points us to a Peoria Journal-Star has a story today about a guy being detained at a fast food joint after his $10 bill flunked the new 'marker' test now being routinely administered by retailers.
PEORIA - When Scott Stanard ordered his usual sausage, egg and cheese
biscuit combo Monday morning, he got two policemen on the side.

Stanard said the staff at McDonald's, 3600 N. University St., called
police after he handed over a $10 bill that they said was a fake.

"I kept wondering why they weren't giving me any change," said Stanard,
who sat in the drive-thru lane in his work van for several minutes before
deciding to pull up and park.
"I knew I didn't do anything wrong - I got it
from Family Video," he said, more upset from the embarrassment, and the fact
that he didn't get his food.

Two officers arrived, talked to him and went in the restaurant to get
the alleged funny money.
"(The police) said it was old - a 1950s series $10
bill - and the markers they use don't work on old money," Stanard said.

Eric Pingolt, a U.S. Secret Service agent based in Springfield,

Businesses often use a special marker on the bill to test whether the
cash they receive is legitimate. If the mark turns brown or black, it usually
indicates counterfeit money, otherwise it's the real thing.

But the markers are not 100 percent effective, Pingolt said, noting the
correct reaction may not occur with old money, or even some new money.

Pingolt recalled a Baltimore man being cuffed and arrested recently for
passing counterfeit $2 bills that later turned out to be genuine.

Who would bother counterfeiting a $2 bill? Gosh, it takes me back to my high school days (mid 70's) when change machines (for a brief time) would accept photocopied bills.

This story was of interest to me because it was just this weekend I noticed cashiers using the marker test. Maybe its because I hardly ever use cash. Anyway, two nights ago a cashier at a sporting goods store performed the test to my money again, so I asked what it was all about. She explained what she had done. But before this week I had no idea this was going on. After reading the Peoria story, I guess I'll stick to only using new bills....and leave my counterfeit $2's at home.

What I Won't Be Having For Lunch

The "Luther Burger," a bacon cheeseburger served on a Krispy Kreme doughnut bun, is a real food named after R&B singer Luther Vandross.

Details here.

Juan Hates Democracy

Remember the episode of M*A*S*H where everyone was celebrating and preparing to go home after hearing a rumor that an armistice was about to be signed ending the war? Everyone, that is, except "Trapper" John who had been around longer and had seen similar rumors amount to nothing. Everyone thought he was such a downer. Sure enough, the jubilation turns out to be premature and the war goes on.

Well, "Trapper" Juan Cole is showing similar skepticism about all this "democracy is on the march in the Middle East" cheerleading. Cole, who knows his way around the region, thinks it's a bit soon to be celebrating:
The simplistic master narrative constructed by the partisans of President
George W. Bush held that the January 30 elections [in Iraq] were a huge success,
and signalled a turn to democracy in the Middle East. Then the [Lebanese]
anti-Syrian demonstrations were interpreted as a yearning for democracy inspired
by the Iraqi elections.

This interpretation is a gross misunderstanding of the situation in the
Middle East. Bush is not pushing with any real force for democratization of
Saudi Arabia (an absolute monarchy) or Pakistan (where the elected parliament
demands in vain that General Pervez Musharraf take off his uniform if he wants
to be president), or Tunisia (where Zayn Ben Ali has just won his 4th unopposed
term as president), etc. Democratization is being pushed only for regimes that
Bush dislikes, such as Syria or Iran. The gestures that Mubarak of Egypt made
(officially recognized parties may put up candidates to run against him, but not
popular political forces like the Muslim Brotherhood) are empty.


The Lebanese have been having often lively parliamentary election campaigns
for decades. The idea that the urbane and sophisticated Beirutis had anything to
learn from the Jan. 30 process in Iraq is absurd on the face of it. Elections
were already scheduled in Lebanon for later this spring.

Moreover, the anti-Syrian protests were not a signal that the Lebanese
wanted to be like American-occupied Iraq. They were a signal that the Druze,
Maronites and a section of the Sunnis had agreed to try to push Syria out. It
was the US who had invited Syria into Lebanon in 1976. And it was a sign that
Lebanon is still deeply divided, since the Shiite plurality largely supports
Syria. Given the pro-Syrian sentiment in some Sunni cities like Tripoli, it may
well be that a majority of Lebanese want Syria to remain in some capacity. If
that were true, what would it do to Mr. Bush's master narrative of the march of

I keep thinking how sad it is that Americans know so little about the outside world that simplistic views like the one being put forth by the Bush administration are accepted without question.

And speaking of Lebanon, Ezra Klein is seeing a revolution lead by hot chicks.

Doing One's Time

Kevin Drum yesterday brought up something I’ve put off writing about but I think is important. It was back in 2000 I first discovered some states prohibit felons, who have served their sentences, from voting. I think this is wrong. Kevin spells it out better than I can:

If you asked me to name the most fundamental rights of U.S. citizen — the
absolute minimum core that we could have and still call ourselves America — I'd
name three: freedom of speech, the right to a fair trial, and the right to vote.
The government should not be in the business of limiting any of these things
except in the most extreme cases.

Felons who have paid their debt have paid their debt. Once they've served their time, their right to free speech and their right to a fair trial are restored, and I can't think of any reason why their right to vote shouldn't be too. If you're a citizen, you should get to vote, period.
I agree with that 100%. Fortunately it’s not an issue here in Illinois.

In the comments section of Kevin’s post, several people bring up the fact that the constitution does not guarantee anyone the “right” to vote. Rather it’s left up to the states. I understand that and I don’t think Kevin was invoking the Constitution but rather expressing a general belief in what America stands for -a belief I share.

I’m not sure where this notion of denying felons the vote came from. Perhaps it was just another cheap “get tough on crime” proposition that politicians pull out when they need some media face time. I don’t know.

One thing that confuses me is what this is supposed to accomplish. It certainly can’t be deterrence. I mean, if prison didn’t discourage the perp, what makes anyone think losing the right to vote would dissuade anyone from committing a crime? (Actually, even prison sentences have a limited effect on deterrence, I think, because no criminal thinks he/she is going to get caught, but that’s a topic for another day).

Those who like this idea of denying felons the vote cite laws that deny felons the right to own guns. To that I would say I think a felon who didn’t use a gun in a crime should be no more restricted from gun ownership than anyone else. Likewise, voting rights. I guess if someone’s felony involved, say voter fraud or setting fire to voting booths, a sentence might be imposed barring the individual from voting. But beyond that, it’s just arbitrary punishment. Things like this should be left up to the judge.

Keep in mind, too, what happened in Florida in 2000. Thousands of potential voters were incorrectly identified as felons and denied the vote. Given how close the election was there that year, this “error” quite possibly could have decided the outcome of the 2000 presidential election

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Petroleum Trivia Time!

You've probably noticed gasoline is up over $2.00/gallon again and analysts say it may well continue going up through the spring. The all time record high price in the U.S. was $2.06 a gallon set last May. That sucks, but its nowhere near the all-time high price adjusted for inflation. The question I have for you is, when was the all-time high prices of gas adjusted for inflation.

Answer in the comments.

More on the Flip Side

Dual Discs. I'm a little behind (as per usual) but I just heard about them today.
NEW YORK and LOS ANGELES - NOVEMBER 3, 2004 - Major and independent record labels today announced the first- ever retail availability of the much
anticipated DualDisc - a two-sided disc made up of a CD player side and a DVD
player side. A broad range of titles have begun to hit retail shelves in the
first wave of products that will continue throughout the holiday season and into
next year with releases from EMI Music, Silverline Records, Sony BMG Music
Entertainment, Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group.

DualDisc is a new music product that combines audio and video content on a
single disc. In addition to a full album on the CD player side, the DVD player
side provides the full album in enhanced sound (such as Surround Sound and/or
DVD-Audio or LPCM stereo), and also includes a wide range of special features
and exclusive content such as music videos, interviews, photo galleries, web
links, concert footage and lyrics.
Sounds like a winner especially considering it doesn't look like they're going to cost all that much more than a regular CD. Amazingly, the industry isn't requiring us to buy all new equipment for playing DDs.
We recommend using the DVD side if you have a DVD player in order to enjoy the
entire album in enhanced audio and the additional DVD features. The DVD side
plays wherever a DVD plays - including many gaming consoles and computers. In a
PC, the DVD side acts like a DVD-ROM on DualDiscs that include computer extras
and Web links. The CD side plays on all but a limited number of CD and DVD
Of course, this may prompt many of us to go out and purchase our favorite recordings in yet another format (already having the vinyl, 8-track, cassette and CD versions). Although I guess its really not a new format per se. Still, I just know I'm going to wind up with the DD version of London Calling and American Beauty.

Rockin' Rod and the Politicos

No substance here, I just got a funny mental image when I read this:
CHICAGO - Gov. Rod Blagojevich promised Monday to "rock the system" of Illinois
campaign finance by pushing reform legislation that would impact lawmakers and
other elected officials who have jabbed him for receiving political
contributions from contractors who do business with his administration.
Rod and the Politicos are hitting the road, ready to rock the house at an arena near you! Billed as the "Rock the System" tour, the band is touring to promote its latest CD "Money Under the Dome".

Taxing the Mind

Count me among those who hadn't really thought about it, but Atrios (channeling Matt Yglesias) points out that proponents of the flat income tax often use the simplicity of the flat tax as a rational for scraping progressive tax rates. Sounds right, we have a complicated and progressive tax code. So, get rid of the tax brackets and taxes become simple, right? Not necessarily says Atrios:
The complicated part of doing your taxes has nothing to do with the tax rates.
There could be 5000 brackets and a formula which required advanced calculus to
compute and it wouldn't matter. The whole thing can always be mapped into a tax

No, the complicated part is calculating your taxable income, says Matt:
This is complicated, primarily, because we tax different kinds of income
(dividends, interest, capital gains, wages, etc.) differently, and because the
rules for things like business expenses and so forth are complicated.

In other words, a flat tax is only flat after you go through the often laborious process of figuring out what is taxable.

I have always opposed a flat tax because it would eliminate progressivity, but I now see that its one supposed saving grace, its alleged simplicity, really doesn't address the simplicity issue at all. To really simplify, you could leave the progressive rates and get rid of deductions but that's never going to happen. Even if it was possible, I wouldn't call it a flat tax but a deduction-free tax.

Monday, March 07, 2005


A Republican discovers separation of church and state at a convenient moment:
A national group of Christian lawyers is appealing to church leaders to join them in lobbying against the bankruptcy reform bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Ia.

The lawyers say the legislation runs contrary to the forgiveness of debt and charity required by the Bible....

In response, Grassley said Congress could not be bound by biblical mandates because "the Constitution does not provide for a theocracy."

"I can't listen to Christian lawyers because I would be imposing the Bible on a diverse population," Grassley said.

--Des Moines Register, 3/4/05
Huh, whuddaya know.

By the way, this new bankruptcy legislation is to be voted on tomorrow in the Senate and it sucks ass. I'm pretty sure both my senators will oppose it. Durbin for sure. And Obama better.

Thanks to Digby for the pointer on the Grassley quote.

One More Way the Iraq War Has Made Us Weaker

I've been thinking this same thing for some time but Ezra says it best:
Assume that before the invasion, there were three main ways for America to
deal with a foreign policy crisis. The first was diplomacy, encompassing
incentives and sanctions. The third was military options, everything from
surgical strikes to full-out invasion. The second, which was the middle way, was
the threat of military options. So long as others feared our might, we could
posture, make aggressive noises, begin public build-ups, even deploy out to
borders, in the hopes that fear of our strength would force capitulation. It was
a stronger and more dangerous path than simple diplomacy, but it didn't commit
us to a war and occupation. This, by the way, was working well in Iraq, but it
turned out that Bush wasn't really interested in having inspectors enter the
country and it was all a ruse leading to invasion.

Post-Iraq, option number two no longer exists. Not only have we proven
ourselves barely capable of invading an extremely weak country, we've also tied
up our troops, exhausted our forces, and busted our deficit doing it. In this
climate, anything that looks like a feint will be judged a feint, the costs of
another invasion are simply too high for most nations to believe we'd try again.
Losing that option, then, makes war more, not less, likely. If North Korea or
Iran make a move that's beyond the pale, we no longer have the ability to
threaten war. That means, if diplomacy and sanctions fail, that our only option
is actually going to war.


Celebrating Polish Horsemen

Rich Miller reminds us it's Pulaski Day in Illinois. Does any institution in the state still have the day off for this?

UPDATE: Eric Zorn says get rid of it.

Spank Envy

Over the weekend, I read this with some amusement. It's a story about a Schaumburg, Illinois woman whose 1st grade son was suspended from a private "Christian" school when she refused to spank her son (she later withdrew him from the school). Not that I think the school was right but it is a private school and, as such, able to set many of its own (stupid) rules.

As I was reading the story, I thought of my own schooling in a Catholic grade school (K-8). I was thinking that this would have gotten no attention at all in the 60's and 70's when I was a student. But then I realized I had never actually witnessed a teacher (or principal) administer a spanking, per se, while in that school. Hmmmm...I saw lots of verbal humiliation, kids locked in closets, face slapping, and even a friend have the contents of a full trash can dumped on his head (he had dared toss a wad of paper into the basket from his desk). But never a spanking on the butt. Nor do I recall ever seeing the legendary rapping of knuckles with a ruler by a nun. I guess my school was more progressive than I thought at the time.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Crazy...Like a Fox

ETK comments in response to my post yesterday on smoking bans. It's worthy of a full post of its own:
I have an idea, and it may sound a little crazy, but here goes.

Make the sale, the manufacture for sale, and distribution for sale, of cigarettes illegal.

But allow the selling of tobacco, and rolling papers, for personal use only.

Just imagine it for a moment, if you will..,

This would not be an attempt to stop anyone from smoking, but just to change the smoking culture.

It is a drug, and those who want to waste their time rolling their own cigarettes should be allowed to.

But the merchant's of death massive drug delivery pipeline would most likely slow a bit, and probably a lot.

Oh yes, rolling machines would be illegal too, as well as the sale of any device specifically intended to make the rolling of cigarettes easier.

And yes, smoking culture would remain, and in fact take on a new level of sophistication, as seen in the marijuana culture. Small groups of youngsters would pass around hand rolled cigarettes, and smoking would be "cooler" than ever before.

But, I suspect most people over time would just give it up, and that eventually few would smoke.

Hmmmm...I'm not sure what to think about that but its interesting.


Returned from Chicago this evening. What a great city. Illinoisians, we are lucky as hell to have it. And I'm talking to you Downstaters who get all down on Chicago for what faults the city does have while ignoring how much it brings to our (your) table.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Bomke on Board?

After reading about, (and then posting about) the Illinois Senate now taking up the smoking ban issue, I wondered where my State Senator, Larry Bomke (R-Springfield) stood on the issue. Well, a few hours later I got my answer, sort of. I heard Bomke on WMAY radio talking about legislation he has introduced that would ban flavored cigarettes in Illinois. In his comments to the radio station, he said he would like to see a TOTAL ban on ALL cigarettes but he was realistic and knew that wasn’t going to happen. Although he didn’t address the community smoking ban legislation directly, I think I can assume he would be in favor of it given his statements on a total ban.

Now, I really don’t like being around smoke and fully support smoking bans in public places. But a TOTAL ban? No, I don’t think so. That’s going a little too far. I still think smoking is an individual decision as long as it’s not hurting anyone else. I feel that way pretty much about all drugs (including alcohol and tobacco).

Which brings me to a related issue. I’ve been seeing a few comments out in the blogosphere equating bans on public smoking to the ridiculous suggestion by Alaska Senator Ted Stevens that the government needs to regulate the content of cable TV and satellite radio. The general idea being that government should keep its nose out of both. However, these are two separate issues. Smoking in public has a direct effect on anyone in the same room as the smoker. What I watch on TV is nobody’s business and affects no one else. Please stop trying to link these two.