Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Deep Throat Outs Self

This is so anticlimactic.

Deep Throat now has a face.

No more mystery. A mystery that has been around for like 32 years. Since I was in 8th grade or something.

And this is it? Just like that?


UPDATE: Just watched a lengthy interview with John Dean on Keith Olbermann's show. Plenty of mystery still remains. In fact, according to Dean, W. Mark Felt couldn't have known everything Woodward & Bernstein (TM) attributed to him as Deep Throat. HA! HA, I say! I feel better now.

It's Expensive To Be Poor

I know this to be true. Ezra Klien with a little help form John Edwards (yes, that John Edwards) explains why.

I know from personal experience, everything costs more when you don't have any money.

The same thing is happening along insured/uninsured lines with healthcare. I look at the statements from my health insurance company and am amazed at the huge discounts they get from healthcare providers. I always think to myself how backwards this seems. I mean, I have health coverage but get a huge cost break. If I were uninsured, I would not only owe the potion the insurer paid but the whole large initial billing, no discount. So, the people who can least afford the full price, the uninsured, are the ones paying the most.

I understand that insurance companies hold great sway in negotiating reduced prices and all that, but the whole system is ass-backward.

Bless Their Little Newharts

BlogFreeSpringfield notices, what I think are annoying, Elite Autobody radio commercials that rather blatantly rip-off old Bob Newhart comedy bits. The ads, like Newhart's routine, involve hearing only one side of a telephone conversation where Newhart, or the Newhart wanna-be in this case, is the straight man.

I was wondering if anyone else had caught what these ads were borrowing from. Probably no one under 40 has. Bob Newhart's other talents not withstanding, I always found his telephone bits lame. That's why I was sort of surprised Elite was running with it. And the sooner they stop the better as far as I'm concerned. I usually flip the station when one comes on.

Cap-sizing Malpractice

It looks like Illinois is getting caps on malpractice awards. At least until they are ruled unconstitutional. I've never thought awards in malpractice lawsuits were more than a tiny drop in the bucket when it comes to what is driving soaring medical casts. And I have even discovered that lawsuits have little to do with higher malpractice insurance premiums (here and here).

The one thing I've always wondered about this though, is just how effective can caps be? Even if you believe runaway jury awards are a problem, I'm thinking caps don't go very far. I mean, caps here in Illinois will not touch the first $500,000 ($1,000,0000 in suits against hospitals) in non-economic damage awards and, of course, there are still the economic damages. Is the money above and beyond this enough to really make a difference to doctors? I doubt it.

Anyway, the new Illinois legislation also includes items that likely will help things some, like more insurance regulation and providing a place on the internet to look up doctors' malpractice history. I'd like to keep these items but dump the caps.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Back In the Real World

Wow, that weekend went fast.

Southern Illinois is as beautiful as ever. The weather was great and we all had a great time.

Our “cabins” in Giant City State Park (which is neither giant nor a city, discuss) were really more like hotel suites, but set in the rocky and wooded area surrounding the Giant City Lodge, they’re the best of both worlds. I loved it.

I don’t want to turn this into a boring personal travel log but here are a few items of minor interest I wanted to share:

Bring Food. South of Carbondale and Murphysboro eateries can be sparse. The Giant City lodge has a good restaurant (including a family style all-you-can-eat fried chicken dinner with all the fixings) but there’s not a whole lot else to choose from unless you know where to go.

We went looking for the Pomona Winery after spending too much time goofing off on the Makanda Boardwalk Sunday afternoon. Well, we had seen something about a Root Beer Saloon in Alto Pass, which is on the way to the winery. When we got to Alto Pass, we discovered the place had only two or three tables (all full) and NO public restroom. By then it was like 1:30 in the afternoon and we needed to feed the children. So we high-tailed it back to our base of operation at Giant City and ate there.

We never made it too the winery. Thing is, there were picnic areas with great views we passed along the way but we had not thought to bring our own food. Lesson learned.

Booby’s. Or, more precisely, Booby’s Submarine Sandwiches (I can’t wait for the Google searches to come rolling in now).

Anyway, anyone who has ever attended SIU-C knows about Booby’s. I had not eaten one of their subs since before I graduated in 1983. 22+ years later they still make great sandwiches. We stopped there on our way through Carbondale after leaving Giant City today. The menu was much the same and I had a Bruce.

I’m not sure why, but Booby’s doesn’t appear to have a web site. SG and I were speculating over our sandwiches that students today were probably ordering delivery via the web. Back in our time at SIU, especially in the dorms, Booby’s was a great after hours (i.e. drunk) munchie option and a good choice for Sunday evening grub when the cafeteria halls were closed. But no. You still need to order by phone. How 20th century.

Going Back. SG and I snuck out after we ate at Booby’s to walk a couple of blocks in Carbondale to look at one of our old addresses on Ash Street. It’s funny how little has really changed in that neighborhood just north of campus where so many students live and party (or at least used to). Even our old apartment building looked much the same. The apartments had new doors but otherwise it was just the way we left it.

All and all a good trip and I look forward to next year.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Memorial Day Blogging Break

I will be enjoying my Memorial Day weekend at Giant City State Park in Southern Illinois. It's a beautiful area and the weather promises to be near perfect. This is the second year in a row I have taken my family there to meet up with my good bud SG and his family. SG was one of my (and best) roommates from my SIU days (DISCLAIMER - OK, ETK and I briefly were roommates in the summer of 1982 and like brothers too familiar, we are, or were, better friends than cohabitants /DISCLAIMER).

We are going to have a great time and I hope you have a fun holiday as well.

Let's all also not forget to put the memory in Memorial Day and think of those heros, of whatever stripe and contribution to our lives, that have gone before us.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Weird Illinois

I was at Barnes & Noble tonight and the store is heavily promoting a book called "Weird Illinois". It's a collection of strange things and places found throughout the state. It's published by Barnes & Noble books (hence the heavy promotion within the store) and here's what they have to say about it.
Fabled places, roadside oddities, bizarre beasts and people? If it's weird and it's in Illinois, it's in Weird Illinois. Troy Taylor, long a chronicler of the strangest hauntings the Prairie State has to offer, has taken a long, eerie look at the goings-on around here and has come up with more strange stuff than any one state should legally be able to have.

With notepad and camera in hand, Troy has traveled the back roads, main roads, and all roads in between in search of the odd and the offbeat. He's tracked down impossible-to-believe tales, only to discover an odd grain of truth that gives the story just enough credibility to make one feel a little . . . uncomfortable. Whether it's a man-eating Piasa Bird, an abandoned insane asylum, mystery airships, or the haunted tomb of a certain famous Abe, Troy has researched and chronicled the story and presents it here for you, fellow admirers of the weird.

Turn the pages and visit the hell of Hell Hollow and learn the legend of the Devil's Bake Oven. Find out about the Macomb Fire Starter, the Mad Gasser of Mattoon, and the Curse of Kaskaskia. Go off the beaten path and look for kangaroos and albino squirrels on the loose. Walk down Ghost Hollow Road, see the World's Largest Catsup Bottle, touch Lincoln's lucky nose, gawk at the miniature houses on the prairie, and gaze in puzzlement at the double-deck outhouse and the Leaning Tower of Niles. Read all about the Devil Baby of Hull House, visit the grave of the Chesterville Witch, and meet, if you dare, the demon butcher of Palos Park.
The Lauterbach Giant in Springfield also has a mention and a picture (I think it was page 145).

I didn't buy it tonight but I did spend some time looking through it and it looks fun. I probably will get it. I'm thinking this is a good gift for the hard to buy for. History and nostalgia buffs would really appreciate it.

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I think this might be part of a series because I also saw a very similar looking book called Weird Florida near the Illinois books.

Anyway, if your in B&N take a peak.

Monolithic Discovery

Strange things on a moon of Saturn:

PASADENA, California (AP) -- Scientists are baffled by an unusual bright spot on Saturn's big moon, Titan.

The Cassini spacecraft captured an image of the 300-mile (480-kilometer) blotch during a flyby of Titan earlier this year.

"At first glance, I thought the feature looked strange, almost out of place," Robert Brown, a member of the Cassini project, said Wednesday.

I think further investigation will reveal the source of this bright spot:

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No Leg Up In Legs Case

The unidentified legs found near Divernon are, well, still unidentified.
Investigators do not believe there is a link between the two severed legs found this week near Divernon and a torso discovered last summer in Missouri, the head of the Greater St. Louis Major Case Squad said Thursday.

"There is nothing to connect these two crimes whatsoever," said Maj. Robert Lowery. "We don't believe the two cases are connected, nor do we believe the legs that were found belonged to our victim."

All-terrain vehicle riders found one of the legs about 8 p.m. Monday in a wooded area near exit 80 off Interstate 55. When investigators returned to the area Tuesday, they found the second severed leg a short distance from the first.
But the SJ-R article doesn't totally disappoint! We get NEW gruesome details:
[Sangamon County Coroner Susan Boone] said it is difficult to tell where the legs were severed, but a thigh bone was exposed on one. The feet were attached to both legs.
Enjoy your breakfast.

60 Year Tour Of Duty

This is wild:
Japanese officials are investigating claims that two men living in jungle in the Philippines are Japanese soldiers left behind after World War II.

The pair, in their 80s, were reportedly found on southern Mindanao island.

The men were expected to travel to meet Japanese officials on Friday, but have yet to make contact.


The two men on Mindanao contacted a Japanese national who was collecting the remains of war dead on Mindanao, according to government sources.

They had equipment which suggested they were former soldiers.

"It is an incredible story if it is true," Japan's consul general in Manila, Akio Egawa, told the AFP news agency.

"They were found, I believe, in the mountains near General Santos on Mindanao Island.

"At this stage we are not saying either way whether or not these two men are in fact former soldiers. We may be in a better position later today," he said.

According to Japanese media reports, the pair had been living with Muslim rebel groups and at least one of them has married a local woman and had a family.

The BBC's Tokyo correspondent says the likelihood is that they are well aware the war is over but have chosen to stay in the Philippines for their own reasons.

I suspect these guys know the war is over given the fact that they were living among others. Beyond a certain amount of geographic isolation there's no reason to think they had no information about the outside world. Still, it's amazing how the living legacy of World War II carries on even today.

Thanks to ETK for the pointer.

Friday Beer Blogging: Chick Import Edition

This week's featured beer, Rhon Radler, is only half a beer. My German isn't all that good but I believe this says this beverage is 50% beer and 50% (*gasp*) lemonade. So they still have mad scientists in Germany, eh. This was obviously made with women in mind. Lightweight women.

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Courtesy of the Hochstift brewers.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Just What IS Wrong with Texans

Ogged over at Unfogged has been wondering about what makes Texans so peculiar:
Why are Texans like foreigners? And not like those good foreigners from Western Europe, but those annoying, inferiority-complexed foreigners from places like Iran, Greece, and Turkey (for example).

What am I talking about? Here's Margaret Spellings, Secretary of Education, and Texan, responding to an interviewer's question.

Q: Should I call you Secretary?

I've been called worse, as we say in Texas.

You know what, Marge? They fucking say that everywhere.

Farsi has borrowed a bunch of words from French, but try telling my mother that the French didn't borrow them from Farsi. Our culture is older! Everything was invented, is sweeter, looks better, etc., back in the homeland. I can understand the response to dislocation that inspires this kind of backward pride in immigrants, but what the hell is wrong with Texans?
Exactly. I'm sorry, but there's nothing extraordinary about being from Texas. It's really rather a dull state overall (unlike exciting downstate Illinois). I've got news for Texans who play the part: you look like idiots in your cowboy hats swaggering about with your macho demeanor. I'll say it again, Texas is no big deal. Texans, quit acting like it is.

What's in a (Paper's) Name?

Picking on local media is always great fun. I’ve found this true everywhere I’ve lived. I certainly do it here on this blog.

TV is perhaps the easiest target. I think this is largely because you get to see the reporters and newscasters often saying and doing foolish things.

But there is another phenomenon that has interested me. People almost always really hate their local newspaper. Oh, they may read it every day, front to back, but almost everyone is pissed off by something, if not everything, the paper does. That then translates into people expressing an overall poor opinion of the paper. Stemming from that is the manipulation of the paper’s name into something derogatory.

For example, Journal becomes Urinal. So you have the State Urinal-Register or Freeport Urinal Standard.

When I was a student at SIU in Carbondale we had The Southern Illinoisan and the Daily Egyptian (the student daily paper) become the Southern Illusion and Daily Erection respectively.

I don’t remember the two Chicago dailies having derogatory nicknames but maybe I’ve just not heard them. (I have heard the Sun Times called the SomeTimes but I’m not sure I get that one).

Anyone else have any other examples?

Qatar Talk

So the emir of Qatar may be cutting loose with come cash for the ALPLM. The SJ-R's Bernard Schoenberg has the details.
ANTOIN "TONY" REZKO, a prominent businessman who has had what appears to be a significant influence on the administration of Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH, says it
was he who arranged the recent visit of the emir of Qatar to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum in Springfield.


"He had never heard of Springfield before," Rezko said of the emir.

"The expectation is within three months he will make a donation" to the museum, he added. "I'm planning to get him to do business in Illinois."
So is the emir going to give the money because he likes the museum or to help grease the wheels of commerce in the state, so to speak?

Why We're In Trouble

CNN.com's top story...

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Not Ch. 20 News

Finally, finally, I watched WCFN's new local newscast. After hyping its impending premier a couple of months ago, I had not actually watched the UPN affiliate's local news until last night.

I'll be honest, 9:00 pm is not good for me. Most of the problem is I'm just not used to looking at local TV news that early. I suspect a lot of people are this way. Beyond that, I'm often still busy doing other things at that time and if I am watching TV at 9:00, it's most likely a prime time entertainment show (Law & Order, anyone?).

OK, the time is bad but what about the newscast? I liked it for the most part. I go in looking for an alternative to Sinclair Broadcasting's WICS news at 10:00 which I usually will not watch both on principle (I'm not receptive to Sinclair's propaganda) and for quality reasons (their news kinda sucks). I do think WCFN has a product that reasonably satisfies what I'm looking for.

Last night's newscast featured a number of local stories but also included state and national news. That's about the same mix as Ch. 20 so I'm going to call that a draw.

The WCFN newscast did not have any obnoxious rightwing commentary like Sinclair's Mark Hyman. That's a huge plus!

The anchor, Michael March, and weather forecaster Judy Fraser are recognizable from Champaign's WCIA news (WCIA and WCFN are both owned by the same organization). That's OK, but it's a little distracting to know they are in Champaign and not Springfield and they don't help things by seeming to force a "good evening SPRINGFIELD" line to lead off their appearances. Doing this, it looks like they are trying too hard to localize their presentations.

I wish WCFN would try to go against WICS head-on at 10:00. They may not beat Ch. 20 right away (or maybe ever) but I think they would get a larger audience than they are getting at 9:00.

WCFN broadcasts on Ch. 49 and is carried on Ch. 19 on Insight Cable here in Springfield.

Newspaper Leglines

This has to be one of the more bizarre headlines I've seen in the SJ-R lately

Legs found near Divernon

The story is pretty gruesome too:

DIVERNON - Authorities Tuesday searched a wooded area off Interstate 55 near Divernon, where a pair of mummified human legs were found by all-terrain vehicle riders Monday night.

No other human remains were discovered, police said. A cadaver dog from the Sangamon County Rescue Squad assisted the search.

The legs are believed to be a woman's because of polish on the toenails, sources said.

A group of ATV riders found the legs about 8 p.m. Monday near exit 80 and ontacted authorities. The Illinois State Police and the Sangamon County Sheriff's Office are conducting a joint investigation.

Sangamon County Coroner Susan Boone said the legs were taken to Memorial Medical Center, where a forensic pathologist examined them Tuesday.

"We're just calling them partial remains now because it's an ongoing investigation," she said. "The state police are doing the investigation, so we'll just kind of throw it back to them and see what comes up.

A Springfield police spokesman said they do not believe the legs belong to anyone from the city.

Now, how do they know that? Springfield legs are distinctive?
It was not known whether investigators were looking into the possibility that the legs are from a woman whose torso was found last summer off Interstate 70
about 50 miles west of St. Louis.
OK, that's enough. Read the rest of the story without me.

Building a Better Health Plan

Ezra Klein discovers a better health plan while reading Businessweek:

Oshkosh Truck Corp. (OSK ), for example, has veered away from the old -- and costly -- health maintenance organization it used for its 4,500 nonunion employees. The plan's low copayments encouraged doctor visits and contributed to the double-digit annual growth in Oshkosh's health-care bill.

So in January, 2004, the company switched to what's known as a consumer-driven plan. Under the new plan, annual physicals and other preventive tests such as mammograms and prostate cancer screenings are fully covered. After that, workers
and their families receive a $1,000 annual health-care account. Any unspent portion can be rolled into the following year. But once that account is tapped out, workers are responsible for the next $1,500 of medical expenses. If expenses go beyond that, the company steps back in and will pick up 90% of expenses.
Ezra explains why this is better then the average health plan:

By fully covering the first $1,000 of costs, you destroy the disincentives for seeking basic care. By fully covering a variety of tests, screenings, and procedures, you insure workers won't skimp on necessary diagnostics. By limiting the worker portion to the space between $1,001 and $2,500, you ensure that a family with a variety of high health costs but nothing catastrophic doesn't find themselves overwhelmed by the charges. And you retain the good part of HSA's, making consumers more aware of their health care decisions.

The general problem with HSA's is that all care, until the deductible is surpassed, comes out of your pocket. That often stops folks from seeking basic care, which is not only bad for them but bad for health care costs generally as untreated, unnoticed conditions balloon. Osh Kosh's system, conversely, pays for all care up to $1,000, and only then does your deductible start. That means folks will get basic care, and then those who have ailments that force them above $1,000 will have to pay for the next $1,500 of treatment out of pocket -- but crucially, you will get treatment, because you actually have a condition that needs to be treated.
I still support a government run single payer plan, but short of that, this seems like a workable and positive tweak to the inefficient patchwork system we currently have.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

A New Springfield Blog

Springfieldian Dan Naumovich has launched BlogFreeSpingfield. A self-declared political moderate, his banner says his blog provides "Commentary on commercial communication in Springfield, IL. What’s being said on air, in print, and online."

D'Arcy's is Back

The new D'Arcy's Pint is open for business again. Driving around early this evening it hit us that today was the day. A quick call for carry-out yielded the same great eats. The new digs on Stanford look great and opening night was crowded. They were so busy, one of our carry-out items (the nachos, dammit!) was accidentally left out of the bag and we didn't discover it until we got home. But the rest of it was so good we couldn't hold a grudge. (Made a call to D'Arcy's and they will spot us an order of nachos next time).

Tony the Tiger - Dead

The voice of Tony the Tiger and the narrator on the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas is gone:
SANTA ANA, Calif. -- Thurl Ravenscroft, whose voice was known worldwide through his work in movies, television and at Disneyland, has died of prostate cancer. He was 91.

Tony the Tiger?

That was Mr. Ravenscroft.

Disneyland? Too many voices to mention, but Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion and the Enchanted Tiki Room were all graced by Mr. Ravenscroft's pliable, unique voice.

Movies? How about "Cinderella," "Dumbo" and "Lady and the Tramp"?


"I'm the only man in the world that has made a career with one word: Grrrrreeeeat!" Mr. Ravenscroft said in a 1996 interview. "When Kellogg's brought up the idea of the tiger, they sent me a caricature of Tony to see if I could create something for them. After messing around for some time I came up with the `Great!' roar, and that's how it's been since then."

In 1966, Dr. Seuss and Chuck Jones teamed up to do "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" for CBS. Mr. Ravenscroft was the voice behind the song "You're a Mean
One." He recalled the Grinch fondly, saying, "That was my chance to prove I could really sing." The success of the Grinch led to other projects with Dr. Seuss, including "Horton Hears a Who" and "The Cat in the Hat."
Man, what pipes he had. I could hurt myself trying to get my voice that deep.

Sadly, yet another part of my childhood is gone.

What is a Terrorist?

I was over at Snopes.com checking on the latest upon legends and false mass emailings when I came across this email item claiming Al-Qaeda terrorists had poisoned one in five cans of Coca-Cola with anthrax and arsenic.
Al Qaeda terrorists infiltrate Coca-Cola Factorys

Dear Reader,

This is a category one ALERT from CNN.

CNN have learned from government sources today that the Coca-Cola factories that supply the United States of America and our friends in the United Kingdom have been infiltrated by Al Qaeda terrorists.

Traces of arsenic and anthrax have been found in one out of every five cans of Coke tested. Reports have been sent out to all major networks and newspapers to put out a "Red Alert Category One", warning all drinkers of Coke to make their way to the nearest hospital for a check-up

If you have drunk or bought Coca-Cola on or after the 25th of March 2005 then do not panic, just inform your nearest medical centre and make your way there as soon as possible.

In the best interests of The USA and our friends in the UK could you forward this mail to all Coke drinkers you know, we will be posting more updates as they come in.

James Martin
This is obviously false and I'm sure few people fell for it but shouldn't the author of this email be treated as a terrorist? I mean, their purpose, other than maybe to suppress the sale of Coke, was to scare people, i.e. terrorize them.

The problem, I suppose, would be where to draw the line; there certainly are free speech issues involved. Still, I get tired of these phony, usually politically motivated, scare-mails flooding inboxes throughout the land.

Another Bad Ft. Wayne Experience

The horror, the horror.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Special Ft. Wayne Beer Blogging

Good gawd, this Indiana hellhole used to be home to a Fallstaff brewery.


Not suprisingly, the site is now a toxic beer dump. See here. Seriously, look at the pictures.

I'm sorry, that place isn't suitable for an important military unit. The 183rd must stay here. I happen to know our pilots hate toxic Fallstaff.

Bill Maher - Traitor!

I always knew he hated America

WASHINGTON (AP) — An Alabama congressman says comedian Bill Maher's comment that the U.S. military has already recruited all the "low-lying fruit" is possibly treasonous and at least grounds to cancel the HBO show.

Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus takes issue with remarks on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher," first aired May 13, in which Maher points out the Army missed its recruiting goal by 42 percent in April.

"More people joined the Michael Jackson fan club," Maher said in giving a comic twist to his commentary. "We've done picked all the low-lying Lynndie England fruit, and now we need warm bodies."

Army Pfc. England was accused of abusing prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

"I think it borders on treason," Bachus said. "In treason, one definition is to undermine the effort or national security of our country."

Another fascist Republican. By all means, let's cancel the show because you didn't like what Maher said. This guy was elected to Congress? Every time you turn around another Republican is calling for someone to be forcibly silenced. For God's sake, unclench your patriotic anal cavities.

Blago's Troubles Continue

This isn't huge deal but could be a bad sign for Governor Blagojevich's reelection chances. From the SJ-R's Breaking News online:
CHICAGO - U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, today did not discourage fellow Democrats from taking on controversy-plagued Gov. Rod Blagojevich in next year's primary election and said he's not endorsing the incumbent at this point."

Anyone can run for any office," Durbin said at an unrelated news conference in Chicago. "I'm not going to say what's good or bad for the party. I want to make sure that the voters in Illinois have good candidates to vote for."

Asked if he'll endorse Blagojevich, who's expected to run for a second term in 2006, Durbin replied: "I'm not making any endorsement today. What I've said in the past is I've worked with him, I'm looking forward to working with him in the future."
I think Durbin is just playing it safe, as any good pol would do.

Ft. Wayne Steals Lincoln

WTF? Not content to take the 183rd away from Springfield, Ft. Wayne claims to have "the world largest museum dedicated to Abraham Lincoln".

Can we attack now?

Ft. Wayne - Dumb

Base closing guys,

When you are done studying the pictorial presentation below, read this from a guy who used to live in Ft. Wayne.

Just to entice you, or in case you want the short version, the item is titled "Fort Wayne the dumbest city in the US "

'Nuff said.

Blatant Propaganda

Hey, base closing guys. Look at this and think again.

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The mighty and efficient 183rd defending the skies of America

Ft.Wayne's hapless flunkies doing whatever it is they do

Death By Statistics

Too many numbers! This story about the increased use of state planes by Governor Blagojevich (or his staff, or something) is barely interesting but dies under the weight of the all the figures:
The governor's budget director flies on state aircraft nearly once every 21/2 days...


In fact, Filan's 210 flights during the first two years of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration was nearly twice as many as the previous budget director took in nearly four years. Typically Filan, who lives in Chicago, flies on one of the six daily shuttle flights the state operates between Chicago and the capital.


The Blagojevich administration's use of state aircraft is up 27 percent from Gov. George Ryan's administration...


Administration officials argue that while flights might be up, Blagojevich has cut general travel costs by 21 percent since he took office.


Overall, use of state aircraft from January 2003, when Blagojevich took office, through April 15, 2005, is down 2 percent from the same stretch of time at the start of Ryan's administration, January 1999 through April 15, 2001, the analysis shows. Other sectors of government - the attorney general and secretary of state, for instance - have reduced their use of aircraft by more than 3,700 flights, or 27 percent.

But employees under Blagojevich have jumped on state planes 15,000 times. That's 3,100 - or 27 percent - more than those under Ryan in his first 27 months in office.


But the agencies using them pay only about 80 percent of the cost, according to an analysis of agency figures. It has cost IDOT $1.24 million to operate flights for gubernatorial agencies since 2003, but the agencies have paid back only $990,000.


Blagojevich has flown 20 percent less than Ryan did in his first 27 months - 263 flights to Ryan's 327. He and his immediate staff have flown about 160 times more than Ryan and his staff, a 5 percent increase.


Filan and his staff have taken state planes 1,230 times, a 428 percent increase over the 233 that Ryan budget director Stephen Schnorf and his staff took during the comparable period under Ryan.


The Department of Public Health has increased its flights by 265 percent over the Ryan administration.

Even the head of the obscure Illinois Industrial Commission flies nearly once every three days - more than twice as much as the entire agency flew during Ryan's first months in office.

WHEW! Got all that.

The bottom line seems to be that the Blagojevich administration is spending too much time in Chicago necessitating all the travel between there and Springfield. Maybe so (the numbers don't lie, only confuse), but was this line really necessary:
...a spokeswoman concedes more top aides are flying because more of them live in Chicago than in previous administrations - precisely the point made by critics who claim Blagojevich, who does not live in Springfield's Executive Mansion, has largely transferred the state capital to Chicago.
I think that's overstating things a bit. If the capital has been "largely transferred" to Chicago, why the need to travel to Springfield so much?


The SJ-R Sunday reveals (or, more likely, tries to start) a feud between Springfield and Ft. Wayne, IN over the 183rd Fighter Wing. The paper seems to want the mayors of the two cities to come to verbal blows over it. They almost succeed. At one point the Mayor Graham Richard of Ft. Wayne suggests Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin needs to buck-up:
"I'd say, 'Tim, my heart goes out to you,'" Richard replied last week. "'We've had companies that have closed, have gone into bankruptcy, been restructured. We've lost jobs that have been moved to other communities. I'm sorry that it had to happen to your community.'"
In other words, don't go messing up my city's good fortune by making a big deal about this. And, oh, be a man and roll with the changes.

I simply won't be sucked into this juvenile posturing. ...Oh yes I will!

I have a solution. Let's have a winner take all fight for the F-16s. Not just the 183rd, but Ft. Wayne's 122nd as well.

The two air units will meet over neutral airspace, say over Wisconsin, and duke it out using the skill of their pilots and whatever armaments their planes can carry. First unit to score five kills wins and gets the other unit's (remaining) planes and budget.

Hoosier pilots are pussies and the 183rd stands to win big. [insert your own trash talk here]

Once we win, we'll have to use some of their funding to cover the big basketballs painted on the sides of the Indiana planes but that will still leave plenty of money put in some real improvements at Abraham Lincoln International Airport (all kidding about the name of Springfield's airport aside, Ft. Wayne's airport is called Fort Wayne International Airport - puh-leeeees).

Anyway, Ft. Wayne, if your guys have the balls for it, how 'bout showing us what you are made of; cuz we sure could use those pretty planes of yours.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Rockford Files

The Rockford Register Star today published a list of Illinois blogs and this one made the cut. I'm impressed since I used to work as a reporter for a radio station in the RRS's sphere of influence. I looked at that paper every day 20 years ago looking for stories I needed to follow up on.

The list is a sidebar to an article on blogging. It’s a pretty good piece. That is, I don’t think it misrepresents blogging. It maybe gives bloggers a little to much credit for influencing people and opinions but overall it’s a fair treatment.

The real problem for the “main stream media”, and everyone else, is no one knows really where this blogging this is going. Is it a fad? Will it evolve into something huge? Who knows.


Sorry, no matter how many times I see this, it still cracks me up.

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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Saved By the Skinner off Our Teeth?

Well I guess I was wrong. I previously said I doubted Sam Skinner, the only member of the Pentagon’s base closing commission from Illinois, would go to bat for the 183rd Fighter Wing. Well guess what, he is, or might be:

WASHINGTON - Sam Skinner, a member of the commission considering the Pentagon's base-closing plan, will visit the Springfield Air National Guard base, Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, said Friday.


"Commissioner Skinner was receptive to my arguments that the 183rd Fighter Wing needs to remain based in Springfield," said LaHood, who had spoken with Skinner by telephone late Thursday.


He said Skinner accepted his invitation to visit the base at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport. Skinner, a Chicago lawyer, was White House chief of staff and transportation secretary under former President George H.W. Bush.

"I am pleased that Commissioner Skinner agreed to travel to Springfield to visit the 183rd and with our local team, which is working to keep the planes here," LaHood said. "We have done much over the past 18 months in support of the 183rd, and now we know our hardest challenge is still ahead."

The news story on this I heard on WMAY on Friday went even further and seemed to imply that Skinner would do everything he could to get the 183rd off the realignment list.

If Skinner really is going to go to bat for Springfield in this matter, I must say I’m both pleased and disappointed. Pleased that his efforts might keep the unit and all its jobs here, but disappointed that a member of the commission would let regional partisanship get in the way of what the work of a supposedly non-partisan commission.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Opening Lines

Ha, I love how Juan Cole introduces the story on the South Korean breakthrough in stem cell research.
Scientists in South Korea, unhampered by the tradition of anti-intellectualism that still bedevils the United States, have made a major breakthrough in stem cell research

Recruit or Perish

A story in today’s SJ-R contends that one of the main reasons the Pentagon is recommending the 183rd Fighter Wing be moved to Ft. Wayne, Indiana is that Ft. Wayne has a good recruiting record:
The lawmakers also stated that the Pentagon’s main rationale for the move - Fort
Wayne’s strong recruiting record - is irrelevant.

“Recruiting for the Air National Guard in the Springfield area has been strong. The 183rd Fighter Wing is presently at 100 percent strength in aircrews and 97.5 percent overall,” the lawmakers wrote.

In addition, they argued that the move “will likely further diminish military capability because the skills amassed by the people flying and maintaining the F-16 through years of experience will be lost. As part-time warriors with full-time civilian jobs, the affected Air National Guard members do not move with the aircraft but remain in place,” they wrote.
You gotta be kidding me. If this is true, they really were looking for any excuse to realign units. I suppose it speaks well of the military if the margins of inadequacy come down to silly stuff like this but give us a break.

Gus Says: Enjoy It While You Can

I think I’ve figured out, 22 years after the fact, what makes college life so cool and so non-replicable. It’s constantly stopping and starting anew. A reset button is pushed at least once a year, more if you want to break it down by semester. Life can just stop, take a break, and then resume again.

For instance, I look at a lot of newspapers online and recently add SIU Carbondale’s student newspaper, The Daily Egyptian, to my daily reading list. Trouble is, I ran out of semester and now I get this message form Gus Bode on the DE site:

Congratulations to those Graduating!
Our next regular issue will be Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Until then, I'll keep on eye on current world events and you can see what I've found here."

Search world for a job with our new career center. Post your resume online. Send your resume to recruiters worldwide!

You can find a place to live in Carbondale by browsing the DawgHouse.

And if you are new in town and need a new friend, check out DawgDates.

Isn’t that great? There’s no news they need to cover. They’re off for a month. See ya!

And that’s what I miss, the short-term commitments. No matter how bad a semester was, it was over in a few months. No matter how much a summer job sucked, it was over in a few weeks. Didn’t like where you were living a particular school year? No problem, the year would end and you would find a new and, hopefully, better place next year. You didn’t own much so moving was a breeze as long as you had access to the trunk of someone’s car.

On top of all that, you get regular, long breaks to regenerate and refocus. Can you imagine having a job, post-graduation, where you get a week in the Spring, a week in the Fall, four weeks at Christmas and the entire Summer off? OK, maybe you would have to work at Wal-Mart for about 10 weeks in the summer (but who cares it's over in 10 weeks!).

Jeez, if only all of life were like that.

Friday Beer Blogging: Adirondacks Edition

Here's an East Coast beer that is unavailable locally. At least according to their web site. The next time I'm in Friar Tuck I'll check into it. Their beers look yummy. They need to export to the Land of Lincoln. Abe would have wanted it that way.

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Courtesy of the Matt Brewing Company.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Up in Smoke

The SJ-R wants the Springfield City Council to at least consider smoking bans rather than just dismissing the idea out of hand like several aldermen did the other day. And Chris Britt has a cartoon addressing the issue.

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War By Popular Opinion

This is interesting. Peoria area blogger RandomActOfKindness takes a libertarian point of view on the draft.
For me, there should be no reason to register for a draft because a draft should never be necessary. If the cause being fought for isn't good enough to inspire people to join the fight, perhaps we are fighting for the wrong reasons and shouldn't be fighting at all.
Right now, with the U.S. military is having a tough time meeting recruiting goals, I guess society is voting on the popularity of the Iraq war. And what about all the chickenhawks? Do they really not feel the war is worth fighting?

Illinois Senate – Nuclear Wasteland

I was watching C-SPAN on my lunch hour a couple of days ago and they were carrying live a press availability being held by a group of Democratic Senators on the subject of the impending “Nuclear Option”. One of the Senators was Illinois’ Barack Obama.

Obama told a story about the Illinois Senate. He related how, when he was a State Senator, the Illinois Senate was strictly controlled by Republican leader James ‘Pate’ Philip, leaving the Democrats out in the cold That is, Illinois Senate rules made it impossible for the minority party to have much, if any, input in the legislative process. Obama went of to add that the situation has reversed itself with Democrats in control and that Republicans might as well stay home.

He offered this up this cautionary tale to warn against the kinds of changes many Republicans want to impose on the U.S. Senate. I’ll admit I don’t follow Illinois legislative procedural matters all that closely (but others do here and here, for example) so I can’t vouch for what Obama was saying. I just thought it interesting that he brought Illinois’ experience in to this looming battle on Capitol Hill.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Riddle Me This

RIP Frank Gorshin.
BURBANK, California (AP) -- Actor Frank Gorshin, the impressionist with 100 faces best known for his Emmy-nominated role as the Riddler on the old"Batman" television series, has died. He was 72.
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Batman was the first television show I remember following on a regular basis. I was only six years old when the campy series began its original run but I really got into it. Gorshin, of course played the Riddler. I'm still emotionally scarred from the time when my friend across the street, Clark Early, and his little brother got Batman and Robin outfits and I had...none. If DCFS had existed then, I would have called the hotline to report my parent's obvious neglect.

Gorshin was also a great impressionist and starred in a now forgotten show called ABC Comedy Hour Presents the Kopycats. It ran in the early 70s and turned me on to sketch comedy in a big way. Some have even called this show the forerunner of Saturday Night Live.

Another icon gone.

UPDATE: Heh. Tom Tomorrow, who is about my age, is feeling the same way.

I'm Not the Only One

Yalta again. Sorry, but I just wanted to link to something else I saw. Here is how Paul Glastris (guesting over at Kevin Drum's place) ends his post on the subject:
Here's my question: in the entire history of the United States, has a president ever publicly uttered a moral equivalency more abhorrent than what Bush did in his Latvia speech?
Well, my answer would be "no". Glastris also links to this bit in the WaPo.

Who Elected These Idiots?

So, most of the Springfield City Council wouldn't ban smoking in Springfield restaurants even if given a chance.

[Illinois] House Bill 672, which would give local governments the power to ban smoking in indoor workplaces, including bars and restaurants, has passed both the House and Senate and awaits Gov. Rod Blagojevich's signature or veto. A spokeswoman for the governor said Tuesday his office is reviewing the bill.

Smoking bans have become all the rage among states and cities in the East and California, but four Springfield aldermen - Ward 1 Ald. Frank Edwards, Ward 2 Ald. Frank McNeil, Ward 3 Ald. Frank Kunz and Ward 4 Ald. Chuck Redpath - said they would likely oppose such a measure here.

Even though all four volunteered that they are nonsmokers, they said they are concerned about the effect a ban could have on businesses and are reluctant to impose their will on the smoking public.

I call bullshit! It is the "smoking public", a distinct minority, that is imposing its smoke on the rest of us.
"A patron who pays his money to come in should be allowed a certain level of entertainment and enjoyment," McNeil said.
A certain level, yes; to the detriment of other's enjoyment, no.
"No, no, no, no," said Kunz. "It's none of my business. If you don't want to go to a restaurant that has smoking, then don't go. I don't think government ought to be sticking their nose into it."
I think the burden here is on the smoker who can take their smoking to a place where it won't bother anyone.
California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island ban smoking in all private workplaces, including bars and restaurants. Five other states ban smoking in restaurants, but not standalone bars. South Dakota bans smoking in restaurants but not their bar areas. Georgia bans smoking in bars and restaurants, except the ones that serve and employ only those above the age of 18.
And you know what, business is doing just fine in those states. Want a local example:

Ned Kelly's, an Australian-themed steakhouse on Springfield's west side, recently went smoke-free and has seen an increase in business, said general manager Alex Reynolds.

"You wouldn't believe how many people come out and just praise us for being smoke-free," Reynolds said. "They come here more. Our regular smokers, they still come. They just wait until they're done eating."

How 'bout that. It works for everyone.

Gawd, what a bunch of morons we have on the Springfield City Council.

UPDATE: ET posts another local example in the comments. He says:

Years ago I worked for a local, and popular, restaurant - which is still doing very well.

The owners of the restaurant decided to ask if they should ban smoking permanently (after participating in a smoke free week - part an annual program sponsored by the American Cancer society)

We distributed, I believe it was, over a thousand surveys to our patrons. We made them available for several weeks. We asked if they wanted the restaurant to become smoke free.

Overwhelmingly, (well over ninety pecent) they responded, yes, become smoke free.

True, we had a lot of well educated, professional types coming in - mixed with tourist. So not every bar, or restaurant will have the same experience.

We lost a few regulars, at first, but the business lost was more than made up for by very happy customers - plus most of those who couldn't smoke came back anyway - they were hungry - and liked our food more than the cigarettes.

Flight Suit

Well, good on her:
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said Tuesday she will take legal action against the federal government because of the Pentagon’s recommendation to eliminate 163 jobs and 15 F-16 jets at Springfield’s Air National Guard base.

Since the Pentagon’s announcement Friday, Madigan said, her office has been in touch with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin and members of Illinois’ congressional delegation.

“We are putting together a comprehensive strategy, and part of that will be the filing of a complaint,” she said at a Statehouse news conference.


In a separate appearance Tuesday, Davlin said he supports the idea of Madigan filing a lawsuit to try to preserve the 183rd.

“I think we take any chance that we can,” Davlin said. “We’re on the list. It gets serious now. Anything at all that can be done in anyway, whether it’s community support, legal support, lobbying the commissioners themselves.”

I think Davlin is correct. In fact, it may be our best chance in keeping the 183rd. We really don't have many cards to play here and kudos to Madigan for at least making the effort. I don't know, we may not stand a chance legally but it's the best "noise-making option" we have. Of course, if enough states try the same thing, our voices are likely to be drowned out again.

Is This True?

A friend sent me this in an email:

Ron Wood on the Rolling Stones' most "Spinal Tap" moment: "We were doing drugs in the dressing room [at a concert in the early '80s]. Suddenly the tour manager stuck his head around the door and said, 'The police are here!' We all panicked and threw our drugs in the toilet. Then Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland walked in."

Figure 8's, Baby!

Running a couple of errands this afternoon (yes, I'm feeling better) I noticed that it is possible to run a pretty tight set of figure 8s (legally) using city streets at one spot here in Springfield. Sure, head east on Madison at Amos, turn right on Lincoln, then another quick right on to Jefferson, go under Madison, turn left onto Amos, quickly take the Madison ramp back onto Madison, rinse and repeat. Tell me there aren't times when a good figure 8 isn't good for the soul.

On that same trip, I was stopped at an intersection with my youngish face and graying temples, Foo Fighters blaring on WQNA on my car radio and our seven-pound toy poodle (newly groomed) standing in my lap hanging out the window. The guy in the next car looking over at me must have been gay.

The Governor's Balls.

Egged on by Rich Miller, Mike Wilson can't help but post about Blagojevich's "Testicular Virility". Heh-heh...Hey Rich, I mean Beavis, he said testicular. Heh-heh, heh-heh.

Politically Correct

I don't always like what Bill Maher has to say but he sure nails it here:
New Rule: The people in America who are most in favor of the Iraq war must now go there and fight it. The Army missed its recruiting goal by 42% last month. More people joined the Michael Jackson Fan Club. "We've done picked all the low-lying Lynndie England fruit." And now we need warm bodies. We need warm bodies like Paula Abdul needs...warm bodies!

Now, last week, a Baptist minister in North Carolina told nine members of his congregation that unless they renounced their 2004 vote for John Kerry, they had to leave his church. Well, if we're that certain these days that George Bush is always that right about everything, then going to Iraq to fulfill the glorious leader's vision would seem the least one could do. And, hey, if it makes it any easier for you, just think of it as a reality show: "Fear Factor: Shitting Your Pants Edition." "Survivor: Sunni Triangle." Or maybe it's a video game, "Grand Theft Allah."

Now, I know you're thinking, but, Bill, I already do my part with the "Support Our Troops" magnet I have on my Chevy Tahoe. How much more can one man give? Well, here's an intriguing economic indicator. It's been over a year since they graduated, but neither of the Bush twins has been able to find work. Why don't they sign up? Do they hate America or just freedom in general?

And that goes for everybody who helped sell this war. You've got to go first. Brooks and Dunn, drop your cocks and grab your socks! Ann Coulter, darling, trust me, you will love the Army. You think you make up shit!

Curt Schilling, b-bye! You ended the curse on Boston. Good. Let's try your luck in Fallouja. Oh, and that Republican Baldwin brother, he's got to go so that Ted Nugent has someone to frag.

But mostly, we have to send Mr. And Mrs. Britney Spears. Because Britney once said, "We should trust our president in every decision that he makes, and we should just support that and be faithful in what happens." Okay, somebody has to die for that. Or at least go.
Maher is a funny guy but I'm serious about this subject. If you support the war and are able to serve, you must do so. Why wouldn't you? You were willing, even enthusiastic, about sending others. Now it's your turn. And if you phyisically can't serve, you need to be encouraging friends and relatives to do so.

Thanks to Bill over at Daily Kos for the pointer.


I like this headline in the today's SJ-R:

Emir pays a friendly visit

Cuz hostile visits are such a bummer. As you read the story, though, it becomes clear maybe there was cause for concern:
The current emir, who was born in the early 1950s, overthrew his father in a bloodless coup in 1995 after the former emir siphoned off petroleum revenues and crippled the country’s economy in the late 1980s and early ’90s, according to the World Factbook Web site.
I hope security checked his pockets before he left the museum.

Blogging Lite

A bit under the weather today.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Newsweek Nonsense

Steve Scott, in his new blog, has joined the conspiracy bandwagon and seriously thinks (or seriously entertains the thought) Newsweek was out to get the administration when it published its infamous "Koran Flushing" piece.

I take him on in the comments. Feel free to join in.

Abe's Acres

We've been the Land of Lincoln for 50 years now.
STREATOR -- The state bird is the cardinal, the state fish is the bluegill, the state tree is the white oak. And, thanks to a former state senator from Streator, Illinois became known as the "Land of Lincoln" 50 years ago today.

The late state Sen. Fred J. Hart led the effort that culminated with then-Gov. William Stratton signing a bill May 17, 1955, adopting those three words as the state's slogan.

The legislation had breezed through the General Assembly, and soon after former U.S. Sen. Everett Dirksen of Pekin urged Congress to pass a law granting Illinois a copyright to the phrase for exclusive use as its insignia.
The next best use the slogan (or variation of it) has to be on Eric Zorn's blog where he occasionally posts kewl internet links under the heading Land Of Linkin'.

Photo Gringo

Marie photoblogs Taco Gringo! I like that term, "photoblogging". She also links to a couple of New York photobloggers.

Sith Sense

The new Star Wars movie gets all political on asses:

"This is how liberty dies -- to thunderous applause."

So observes Queen Amidala of Naboo as the galactic senate grants dictator-to-be Palpatine sweeping new powers in his crusade against the Jedi in the final "Star Wars" movie opening this week.

It's just one of several lines in "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith," that reveal the movie to be more than just a sci-fi blockbuster and gargantuan cultural phenomenon.

"Revenge of the Sith," it turns out, can also be seen as a cautionary tale for our time -- a blistering critique of the war in Iraq, a reminder of how democracies can give up their freedoms too easily, and an admonition about the seduction of good people by absolute power.

Some film critics suggest it could be the biggest anti-Bush blockbuster since "Fahrenheit 9/11."

New York Times movie critic A.O. Scott gives "Sith" a rave, and notes that Lucas "grounds it in a cogent and (for the first time) comprehensible political context.

" 'Revenge of the Sith' is about how a republic dismantles its own democratic principles, about how politics becomes militarized, about how a Manichaean ideology undermines the rational exercise of power. Mr. Lucas is clearly jabbing his light saber in the direction of some real-world political leaders. At one point, Darth Vader, already deep in the thrall of the dark side and echoing the words of George W. Bush, hisses at Obi-Wan, 'If you're not with me, you're my enemy.' Obi-Wan's response is likely to surface as a bumper sticker during the next election campaign: 'Only a Sith thinks in absolutes.' "

I can't wait for the right wing boycotts and the "10 out of 10 terrorists love George Lucus" bumper stickers. But maybe they shouldn't take it so personally. Apparently, the movie is not really directed at Dear Leader.
David Germain writes for the Associated Press: "Lucas never
mentioned the president by name but was eager to speak his mind on U.S. policy
in Iraq, careful again to note that he created the story long before the
Bush-led occupation there.

" 'When I wrote it, Iraq didn't exist,' Lucas said, laughing.

With everything else in this country being politicized, its nice to see Star Wars get sucked in too.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Going, Going...

Things aren't looking any better for the 183rd staying in Springfield:
[U.S. Senator Dick] Durbin acknowledged that the efforts to get the 183rd off the realignment list were a "long shot," adding, "But we think we have strong evidence to make that case."

He said part of the effort could include asking other states with Air National Guard facilities facing closure or realignment to join Illinois in a court challenge.

Last Wednesday, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued a press release stating that she would sue the federal government if any Illinois Guard bases were scheduled for closure.

She contended that federal law requires gubernatorial permission to close a Guard base. But since Springfield's base would not be closed, Madigan backtracked on Friday and has decided to take some time to assess the situation.
Then there's this news:

[Springfield Mayor Tim] Davlin said one of the most expensive impacts from losing the 183rd would be the need to create a fire department for Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport. The Guard currently provides a civilian firefighting crew for the entire airport in lieu of any lease payments.

"The cost to replace that - it's something I don't even want to think about," Davlin


To me losing the 183rd is like losing a city landmark. It's been here since the 1940s. I remember seeing the jets fly out of Capital Airport as a very young child. That was back in the days when you could go outside the airport, up some stairs and watch the planes from an observation deck. I've seen the 183rd go through three kinds of aircraft. And how will the city know it's 10:00 am if we don't hear the roar of the jets overhead? Sigh.


I know, I should just get over Bush's deplorable Yalta statements but Eric Alterman has a good historical treatment of Yalta and FDR here.

Phone-y Law

By now you’ve heard about Chicago’s stupid new cell phone law. It makes it illegal to talk on a hand-held cell phone while driving. The fact that the law differentiates between hand-held phones and hands-free phones is what makes this law so silly. That and the fact that it’s completely unenforceable.

Rich Roeper, in his Chicago Sun-Times column today condemns the law but joins me in admitting cell phones are a distraction when driving:
No matter how much we concentrate on concentrating -- no matter how many times we try to remind ourselves to pay attention to the road -- it is nearly impossible to perform both tasks at optimum levels simultaneously. Either you'll lose focus on your driving, or the person on the other end of the line will notice you're not really paying attention to the conversation.

Multi-tasking is an overused term and a mislabeled concept. We don't really do several things at once; we take small, successive bites out of many different projects in rapid succession.

There's no such thing as 200 percent concentration. If you're driving AND you're on the phone, something's got to give.

In a landmark 2001 study, researchers at the University of Utah found hands-free and hand-held cell phone users were equally impaired, "missing more traffic signals and reacting to signals more slowly than motorists who do not use cell phones." (The same study found that talking to a passenger, listening to music or following along with a book on tape did NOT impair driving.)

"Even when [drivers] are directing their gaze at objects in the driving environment, they fail to 'see' them because attention is directed elsewhere," according to the study. "Phone conversations impair driving performance by withdrawing attention from a visual scene, yielding a form of inattention blindness."

Driving and using the phone IS dangerous but I'm not sure what to do about it. Maybe the insurance companies will put the squeeze on with higher rates for frequent callers. I'm just not sure law enforcement can do much except maybe issue tickets after an accident involving a cell phone (but how would they know a phone was in use).

By the way, this new law is SO important that at least one state agency in Springfield issued an inter-office memo warning of the new law…200 miles away.


"With so much bad news about Blagojevich, its nice to have this reminder that graft and cronyism are bipartisan issues."

That's DownLeft commenting on an item in Bernie Schoenburg's column in the SJ-R yesterday.

Go read what Schoenburg and DL have to say about it but the above quote is why I don't have much interest in all the Blagojevich/CMS scandals. It's the same old shit. I don't want to come off all cynical and I''m really not dismissive of any of it. It's just hard to get worked up when is the same old story over and over again, administration after administration. Some times it hits the papers, some times it doesn't. I'm glad when this stuff does get exposed; it helps curb abuses. However, the coverage doesn't stop it completely and never will.

I know it makes great copy and offers handy partisan touchstones but it's just hard for me to get excited about it.

Found in Translation

This story about a recent rash of German language spam led me to this site that is an online translator. Its pretty cool.

Edgarly Awaiting a Decision

Is Jim Edgar really thing of running for governor again? Why? He decided he wasn't interested in the job years ago. Is this some sort of ego thing? I don't get it.

Meanwhile, Governor Blagojevich continues to pull low poll numbers. 35% approve and 45% disapprove of his handling of the job.

D'Arcy's Denied

Hmmmm....D'Arcy's Pint, one of Springfield's most popular pub/restaurants, as of right now, doesn't exist. I found this out over the weekend -the hard way.

We rarely eat at D'Arcy's anymore because we just don't have the two hours of waiting time required to get a table at peak times. So, we often call in orders and eat it at home.

Saturday, Mrs. Eleventh Hour tried phoning in an order only to find the number had changed. OK, we thought, they have finally made the move to their new digs. She called the new number. No answer. They must be too busy to answer the phone.

We decide to head over to the new location and check it out never allowing our hungry-for-D'Arcy's selves to admit maybe they aren't open. We get to the new building off Stanford Ave, and construction isn't even completed. There's a sign saying it will be open May 24.

Quick, to old location in Town & Country Shopping Center!

Gad, a new business (another Irish pub by the looks of it) is going in their old slot at T&C and its not open either.

Whoa, D'Arcy's doesn't exist. Just weeks after being featured on the Food Channel it just...doesn't...exist.

Crap. Burritos at La Bamba just weren't a good substitute.

You know, when D'Arcy's opened, in 1998 I lived not too far from it. I didn't think it stood much of a chance. I mean, a bar had never existed in the old T&C Shopping Center and it really didn't have much visibility from the street.

Well, little did I know they would have a great food menu. It seems to me the owners took the time to put together a good menu, reasonably priced and hired competent cooks. I bet they spent a little more to do it right but, man, has it ever paid off. The place is always busy (when they're open). Yet, you really don't see many local places trying to emulate it's success. I wonder why.

Sunday, May 15, 2005


I've been a fan of Saturday Night Live almost since it hit the air in 1975. I say almost because WICS-TV here in Springfield refused to carry the show until 1978 (when I went away to SIU and could see it there no matter what Channel 20 did). Their public reason for not showing SNL earlier was the wrestling that they did air was MUCH more popular than a bunch of hippies who thought they were funny. Man I hated them for that. I could occasionally get the show out of Peoria (whose residents obviously didn't appreciate the value of wrestling) but for the most part, I had to just accept that everyone else in the country could get the best in cutting edge sketch comedy- just not me.

Having said that, I also have always hated the show. At the time, every cast ensemble seems like the worst. The writing always seems sub-par for most of each show and suddenly previous cast incarnations seem so much better.

Still I watch. And still it's usually worth it. Gawd, the musical guests alone are worthy snippets of time.

Anyway, the point of this post is to pass on the link to The SNL Archives which has just upgraded and is totally awesome. Anything you want to know about any SNL episode, host, skit, cast member or character is here.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Double Dipping

So, Mike Wilson has a blog. Not fair!

Wilson has a local talk show on WMAY. Not fair!

He gets to spout off on the air for three hours each weekday AND have a blog. Not Fair!

Thanks to Marie, another Springfield blogger, who tipped me off to Wilson's deviousness. Marie's blog, Disarranging Mine, is here. It's definitely worth looking at even if she lacks focus as much as I do. The coolest part of her blog is the photography; check out the archives.

In other Illinois blog news, WLS radio newsguy Steve Scott also has a blog. (Unlike Mike Wilson, Scott is not a double dipper because, as far as I know, he does just straight news on the air.) It looks like Scott is using a format template similar to mine (it’s a Blogger stock template). Scott also happens to be the president of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association (again, no double dipping here). Hat tip to Peoria Pundit for the link.

I actually have a Steve Scott story. In December of 1997, I was in Chicago for week on business. I was done early one afternoon and was back at my downtown hotel when I heard on the radio that comedian Chris Farley had died a few blocks away at his John Hancock building apartment.

I headed over to the Hancock wanting to see what was going on. I eventually found a gaggle of reporters (and other gapers like myself) waiting outside a service entrance. Soon, one of the reporters next to me called in a live report on his cell phone (man those phones were big even as recently as then). I recognized the voice immediately, Steve Scott. I don’t think I talked to him but I remember thinking it was fun hanging around with a bunch of reporters again waiting for the news to pop. The conversation is always interesting. In this case, we were gruesomely waiting for the ambulance to come out carrying Farley’s body. When it did emerge and then leave, we all dispersed. The cameras got their pictures, the reporters their story and I witnessed another small but sad piece of history.

Friday, May 13, 2005

More Base Closing Items

Rather than continuing to add more updates to the base closing post below, I’ll start a new one here to add a few thoughts and questions.

The 183rd is in the process of getting a new, 45,000-square-foot, $10 million building. Seems like a waste if the bulk of the unit is now going to leave. Can oil refineries use this type of building?

How many minutes of the Iraq War will be paid for with the savings from moving the 183rd.

No one in power is going to make much of a stink about the 183rd’s move. Rep. Ray Lahood gets to keep the 182nd in Peoria, Lane Evans doesn’t have that much at stake here in Springfield, and John Shimkus gets an expansion of Scott AFB. No, the 183rd has no champion. Even Mayor Davlin, so far, doesn’t seem to worked up about it. Additionally, there are some really big bases being closed around the country that are going to get all the attention.

What is this going to mean for Capital Airport? Surely, there will be some net loss of operating funds. Right? I have no idea how the airport is sustained financially but I doubt the 183rd was a burden.

Will this at all affect the ability to get military aircraft for Air Rendezvous? If the location becomes a maintenance facility, I suppose not. But what happens if it becomes home to only desk pilots or, worse, is eventually shut down altogether?

Breaking: 183rd to be 'Realigned'

I'm not sure what it means to be realigned. Here's part of the story form the SJ-R's Breaking News page:

The Pentagon has recommended the 183rd Fighter Wing at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield, the Rock Island Army Arsenel and Great Lakes Naval Station be realigned with a net loss of jobs, while proposing to add jobs at the Greater Peoria Regional Airport Guard base and Scott Air Force Base in Belleville.

The Springfield base would lose 30 military and 133 civilian positions for a total loss of 163 positions.

So, the 183rd stays but with fewer personnel? Does that mean fewer planes?

UPDATE: Crap, it looks like the 183rd may, in effect, be moving to Ft. Wayne, IN. Marie has more.

UPDATE II: WTAX has this report on their site:

Springfield's Air National Guard unit is losing its planes and close to 270 jobs under the latest BRAC recommendations.

The report calls to move the planes to Ft. Wayne Indiana.

Mayor Time Davlin says it's not all bad, we could have been closed down. Springfield's Congressmen says it's bittersweet, but just the first step.

UPDATE III: WMAY is reporting one of the reasons given for moving the 183rd is that Springfield is "militarily insignificant". I guess Ft. Wayne is significant because it has "Fort" in it's name?

UPDATE IV: WTAX has more:

The BRAC Comission says the base at Ft. Wayne has a better record of recruitment. It's still unclear what will stay at the 183rd base if the planes leave; the city and the Guard says they don't know yet. There are no changes expected before October.


The guard unit in Springfield may become a repair station. [Mayor Tim Davlin] says it's still too soon to know how the changes will help or hurt the city, and our economy. Davlin hopes to know more in the next few weeks or months.

UPDATE V: Meanwhile at 1:43 pm WICS still has this as their lead item on their web site:

Only Hours Remain Before The List Of Military Base Closures Is Announced


Submitted for your approval...

Take a journey back in time to an parallel universe where George Bush is President during World War II. The year: 1945 The place: Yalta, just inside the Twilight Zone

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Thanks to Uggabugga for this post.

Lucky at Lotto, Unlucky at Law

Ha, ha. A Freeport, Illinois man has been arrested on drug and weapons charges just weeks after winning 37 million dollars in the Illinois lottery.
FREEPORT - A local man who won the $37.5 million Illinois Lottery jackpot last month was arrested Thursday on federal gun trafficking and drug dealing charges, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.

Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives took defendant Eric Wagner, 32, of Freeport into custody. The charges resulted from a federal indictment returned Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Rockford. The indictment accuses Wagner of eight counts of selling a firearm to a felon and eight counts of illegally distributing marijuana, the release states.

Wagner reportedly purchased the winning Lotto ticket in April at Horizon Supermarkets Inc. in Freeport. Officials say there is no connection between Wagner winning the lottery and the federal investigation that led to his arrest.


The Lottery cannot prevent a contestant from claiming his prize if he is convicted of a crime, [Illinois Lottery spokesperson Courtney Hill] said. Even so, there have been cases in which prisons have received some of a contestant's winnings to compensate for the cost of incarcerating that individual, Hill said.
I’d say Wagner will have no problem raising bail but he was released Thursday on a personal recognizance bond. I’d call the guy a loser but…

Friday Beer Blogging: Australian Pun Edition

Australian for love triangle. Those wacky Ausies.

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Courtesy of J. Boag & Son beers of Australia.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Use the i-Force Luke

Look out. The Death Star has just sidled up to the planet iPod.


Writing in the Chicago Tribune, David McGrath says he doesn't like the giant cross in Effingham.

The idea of heading south on Interstate Highway 57 evokes a comfortable monotony for millions of Midwestern motorists: hours of flat farmland rolling by at 65 m.p.h.

But there's a different kind of feeling as you approach the Effingham interchange, about 225 miles south of Chicago, when you first catch sight of the 198-foot white cross that scrapes the sky. You get a chill. It's a reaction to power, or what might also be called intimidation.

Having been raised a Catholic, I don't usually find crosses scary. Their historic use for execution notwithstanding, crosses have connoted hope, compassion and the triumph of good over evil, or over vampires, at the least. You see lots of them poking unobtrusively above the neighborhoods as you drive the Dan Ryan and Kennedy Expressways and the feeling you get is a positive mix of reassurance and community.

But the steel "Cross of the Crossroads" punctuating the junction of I-57 and Interstate Highway 70 in the center of Illinois, does not induce the same warm feelings. Rather than beckoning from the distance, it towers as close to the highway as the Illinois Department of Transportation would permit, hovering over passing motorists, its white sheet-metal panels reflecting the glare of sun in order to command attention, to shout and to bully with its message of Christian morals.

Its intent is starkly different from what used to be called debate in this country, when individuals and groups would profess and explain their views and beliefs. They'd show their earnestness by clinging to those beliefs and attempt to persuade through example.

He goes on to berate absolutists of all stripes (he really isn't picking on just in-your-face Christian tactics).

I've always thought the Effingham Cross is a bit tacky at worst. I, personally, don't see it as an imposing act of prosetylization, though that may be it's purpose.

Besides, the Effingham Cross isn't unique in the state. The Bald Knob Cross has been a Southern Illinois landmark since 1963. So maybe the Effingham Cross isn't the best example for McGrath on which to have hung his argument.

Pamela Watch: Renters Edition

OK, I tried to restrain myself but I just can't take it. I said I was going to try to be nicer to WMAY's Pamela Furr because she, for some reason, generates a lot of search engine traffic that winds up here. But she's gone and dunnit again.

I caught the last five minutes of her show yesterday as she was wrapping up an interview with a state legislator (sorry, I've forgotten who). She asks him about raising taxes to reduce State budget deficits. The lawmaker indicates he is generally opposed to tax increases, blah, blah, blah, but he might support an increase in the state income tax for education if property taxes are lowered.

Well, Pandemonium Pam gets riled and says such a plan would do nothing for her because she rents and pays no property tax. This is where I begin beating my poor car radio. Fortunately, Mr. Lawmaker has the presence not to laugh and points out that the property taxes on her rental unit is passed onto her by her landlord.


I guess this gets to me because I hear this nonsense from time to time.

My favorite example is from about ten years ago when a woman I worked with was bitching that her sister, who was a renter, got to send her kids to school for FREE while she, my coworker, had no kids and PAID PROPERTY TAXES that supported those same schools. She was outraged. When I pointed out the obvious, she could not understand (or refused to understand) that her sister was every bit the tax payer she was.

In the interest of being nicer to Ms. Furr, I will agree with a point she made in this discussion. If property taxes are lowered, renters will not see the benefits right away. As a long time (but now former) renter I've thought about this too. Landlords will likely see a brief windfall when they don't pass on the tax savings. Eventually market forces will align things again but renters will get screwed in the short run -count on it. I'm not sure what legislation could avoid this. Maybe some provision threatening landlords who don't lower rents? I'm not sure how that would work in practice.

A House (District) Divided

DownLeft wonders who in Congress really represents Springfield. It's a good point. The metro area is divided between three districts (the 17th, 18th and 19th).

DownLeft thinks when it comes to saving the 183rd Fighter Wing base here, the Congressmen may have other, more important (to them), dogs in the fight. I'm not sure our Congressional delegation is going to have much influence on the fate of the 183rd since none of them are exactly political powerhouses.

I would offer this counter opinion: having three members Congress with an interest in retaining the 183rd at Capital Airport is better than having just one. Yes, the base is technically located in Ray Lahood's 18th district but the operation affects constituents in all three districts.

By the way, if you are interested in how complex the boundaries of a district can be, check out this precise description (PDF) of the highly gerrymandered 17th District.

God Hates Churches

For those who attribute natural disasters to divine retribution, what's going on here?

PAWNEE - A bolt of lightning from Wednesday night's storms undid in a few hours what it had taken the Catholic community of Pawnee more than 100 years to build.

St. Mary's Catholic Church burned to the ground after the bell tower was struck about 8:45 p.m.

Fire Chief Walter Funsch said firefighters arrived to find the steeple and roof in flames. High winds quickly spread the fire throughout the wood-frame structure.

No one was inside at the time.

Nearby fire hydrants weren't working, Funsch said, so tanker trucks from the Chatham Fire Department had to be called in. Assistance also was provided by the Auburn, Divernon and Taylorville fire departments. About 65 firefighters battled the blaze, Funsch said.
Pawneeans (?) might want to look into that non-working hydrants thing.

By the way, for members of the local media who don't know where Pawnee is, see here.

This Is Just Weird

Dave Chappelle is in a psych ward in South Africa. Huh?

Comedian Dave Chappelle has checked himself into a mental health facility in South Africa and has remained there since late April, according to a source close to the situation. The same source denies rumors of drug abuse. Other sources have also told EW that the future of Chappelle's Show — the hit Comedy Central series that was entering its third season — is more uncertain than the network has suggested.

Comedy Central last week made a hasty announcement that the show's third season, already delayed from its planned February start, had been postponed again.

Chappelle had the best sketch comedy show on television. I read about the sudden cancellation of the third season a few days ago but figured it was a business thing. Sheesh, I hope he’s OK.

Oh, and ummmm…South Africa? What’s that about?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Defense Attorney General

So, the State of Illinois is going to sue if the Pentagon tries to close Springfield's 183rd Fighter Wing base.

CHICAGO - Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan threatened Tuesday to sue the federal government if Air National Guard units in Springfield or Peoria are on a final list of recommended military shutdowns later this year.

Madigan said her office has determined that federal law obligates the Defense Department to get permission from a governor when closing a National Guard base within that executive's state.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich and members of the Illinois congressional delegation, including U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Springfield Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, raised the legal argument earlier this year. Madigan's office was asked to issue an opinion.

"Federal law is clear: no National Guard base closures without the consent of the governor," Madigan said in a news release. "As attorney general, I will seek to uphold this law and protect these bases should it become necessary."

The Pentagon is expected Friday to recommend several bases for closure as part of a national military reorganization.

Illinois officials have worried the Defense Department preferences could include shutting down the 183rd Fighter Wing at Springfield's Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport or the 182nd Airlift Wing at Greater Peoria Regional Airport.

I'm skeptical this suit would be successful. I mean, why would any governor give his permission to close a base in his/her state? This has never come up before? It also seems to me, as much as I don't want the 183rd to go away, it should be up to the Pentagon where units are based.

Blagojevich Not Polling Well

This poll isn't good news for the governor:

Do you approve or disapprove of the job Rod Blagojevich is doing as governor?

36% Approve
54% Disapprove
10% Not Sure

Yalta Revisted

One of the most seriously flawed statements ever uttered by President Bush was delivered in a speech over the weekend in the Baltic country of Latvia. Said the President:

V-E Day marked the end of fascism, but it did not end oppression. The agreement at Yalta followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable.
Excuse me?! Talk about historical revisionism.

Now, most major league bloggers residing in the left side of the blogosphere have already commented effectively (see here and here and here) but I wanted to add a couple of notes.

Let me say first that I'm rather well-studied in the history of World War II. Without going into a lot of detail, let's just say I know my stuff.

Anyway, the premise that the Soviets could have been dislodged from Eastern Europe at the end of the war is ludicrous. The reality is, the Western Allies were not going to make much headway against the Red Army of May 1945.

But the real problem was political. The British public certainly would not have tolerated a continuation of the war and it's doubtful the American public would have been much more accepting.

The same can be said of the troops on the ground. Talk about smashing moral. After defeating Germany, no GI wanted to press on to fight indefinitely against a new enemy.

It's just childish and profoundly ignorant (politically, militarily and economically) to think a continuation of WWII to take on the Soviet Union was even remotely possible in 1945.

I think a lot of this belief comes from the movie Patton. Seriously. There is a scene in the movie, after the general has been built up as a military god for two hours, where George C. Scott’s Patton expresses a confident desire to continue the war and smash the Soviets.

I hear this all the time from people with, at best, a marginal knowledge of WWII. They will say something like “Oh, Patton could have driven the Russians all the way back to Moscow!” Well, all bluster aside by the controversial general, no he couldn’t.

There are a lot of military reasons for this not being possible but people like to believe the myth. I’ll leave the discussion about the real Patton for another time but for now I will warn you to take anything Patton had to say with a grain of salt. He was full of himself and very reckless on a number of levels.

For the President to revive the old “Yalta was a sell-out to the Soviets” meme is beneath even him.