Friday, December 30, 2005

White People Are Mutants

I missed this when it first came out but thanks to the blogoshere, and The HuffPo in particular, I now have been informed.
Scientists said yesterday that they have discovered a tiny genetic mutation that largely explains the first appearance of white skin in humans tens of thousands of years ago, a finding that helps solve one of biology's most enduring mysteries and illuminates one of humanity's greatest sources of strife.

The work suggests that the skin-whitening mutation occurred by chance in a single individual after the first human exodus from Africa, when all people were brown-skinned. That person's offspring apparently thrived as humans moved northward into what is now Europe, helping to give rise to the lightest of the world's races.

[snip]

Although precise dating is impossible, several scientists speculated on the basis of its spread and variation that the mutation arose between 20,000 and 50,000 years ago. That would be consistent with research showing that a wave of ancestral humans migrated northward and eastward out of Africa about 50,000 years ago.

Unlike most mutations, this one quickly overwhelmed its ancestral version, at least in Europe, suggesting it had a real benefit. Many scientists suspect that benefit has to do with vitamin D, made in the body with the help of sunlight and critical to proper bone development.

Sun intensity is great enough in equatorial regions that the vitamin can still be made in dark-skinned people despite the ultraviolet shielding effects of melanin. In the north, where sunlight is less intense and cold weather demands that more clothing be worn, melanin's ultraviolet shielding became a liability, the thinking goes.

Today that solar requirement is largely irrelevant because many foods are supplemented with vitamin D.
This news will certainly infuriate racist anti-intellectuals on the right but fuck ‘em, they wouldn’t know, or even care about, a fact if it bit them in their belief system. In fact, its fun to think about taunting them with the “mutant” notion. Scientifically there is no negative connotation to the term but I’m sure those who feel racial superiority in their whiteness would not take kindly to being called a mutant.

Texas Hates God

Kos wonders

Why is God punishing Texas with grass fires? Remember, with the American Taliban natural disasters are always someone’s fault.

I thought Kos was smarter than that. Isn’t the answer obvious? The Texas legal system is prosecuting –no, persecuting –the righteous Tom Delay. Delay, defender of all that is good in America and only slightly dishonest (not his fault), is being unfairly smeared in the Texas courts and God will not stand for it.

Friday Beer Blogging: You say Tomato, I Say Beer Edition

Oh, I could have had a Tomato Bibere! (Slapping my forehead)

Good news kids: the Japanese are now making a tomato beer. Hear that Brewhaus? I expect you to have one chilled for me on the occasion of my next field trip.

Sorry, I couldn't find a picture of tomato beer anywhere. This is the best I could do.

Anyway, I saw this breaking news on the most excellent beer site Realbeer.com:
Dec 12, 2005 - A Japanese brewery and determined pub owner teamed to produce a tomato-based low-malt beer.

Tomato Bibere combines the sweet flavor of a tomato with the bitter taste of hops. One tomato is used in the production of each 330ml bottle of reddish beer.

Isamu Waki, who runs an izakaya pub in Tokyo, has been asking other brewers to produce a tomato beer for years. Hirofumi Koda, president of Echigo Beer Co., was the first brewery operator to take him up on the idea.

Waki pinned his last hope on Echigo Beer, which has produced beer from rice, pears and even green tea. "I was overwhelmed by Waki's enthusiasm for the project, so I decided to go for it," said Koda, who himself does not care for tomatoes.

The master brewer aimed at making a healthy drink, so all of the ingredients are organic. Since tomatoes are fibrous and have a low-sugar content, filtration and fermentation were especially difficult. The first trial product, which took five months to make, was watery and barely tasted of tomatoes. Koda called it vile.

Koda and Waki tasted various trial versions of the beer by altering the amount of tomatoes and by increasing the sugar content to improve the beer they finally released.
Actually, on second thought, I think I’ll pass. I could use the lycopene, sure, but any tomato based drink is bound to kill my stomach. When you’ve got a spinach based beer drop me a line.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

2005 Year in Review: The Short List

Let’s get this out of the way early. I think there were only three Springfield stories worthy of my “top” list.

In no particular order:
The 183rd Fighter Wing was stolen by Ft. Wayne, Indiana with the help of the Bush administration.

Springfield might already have a smoking ban if the City Council would just stop screwing around and get it done.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum opens with Sen. Dick Durbin telling a dumb joke and George Bush comparing himself to Lincoln (another joke).

That’s it. Nothing else happened that anyone will remember.

Update: Jim Leach finds more to remember. Note that my top 3 are included in his top 4 (the other one was a state story by my strict, unyieding rules).

The Coming Iraqi Civil War

This story by the great reporter Tom Lasseter has been linked to extensively today in the blogoshpere but I think its of critical importance. I’ve long suspected the final outcome in Iraq will not be determined until U.S. troops leave, be that today or in 10 years, and only through civil war. The sides are already preparing:
KIRKUK, Iraq - Kurdish leaders have inserted more than 10,000 of their militia members into Iraqi army divisions in northern Iraq to lay the groundwork to swarm south, seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and possibly half of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, and secure the borders of an independent Kurdistan.

Five days of interviews with Kurdish leaders and troops in the region suggest that U.S. plans to bring unity to Iraq before withdrawing American troops by training and equipping a national army aren't gaining traction. Instead, some troops that are formally under U.S. and Iraqi national command are preparing to protect territory and ethnic and religious interests in the event of Iraq's fragmentation, which many of them think is inevitable.
Right now, a large deployment of U.S. troops is all that is keeping a lid on things. How long are we going to keep our fingers in the dike? It’s costing us the lives of two soldiers a day, even more wounded (some horribly) and gobs o’ billions of dollars. Can we wait it out at that price? Can we wait it out at all or are things going to fly apart no matter how long we stay? I think it unlikely that these ethnic and religious tensions are going to do anything but get worse over time.

All this leads me to believe we need to get out now with the exception of advisors, a rapid response force and air power to prevent wholesale slaughter. There’s nothing new to that idea, it’s essentially what people like Juan Cole and Congressman John Muthra have proposed. I see no indication the insurgency is going to quit anything close to soon so we are going to be paying the price of occupation as long as we are there. In return all we are doing is prolonging the inevitable struggle amongst Iraqis for the equilibrium of power.

Who knows, faced with the awfulness of civil strife all sides might be more willing to cooperate eventually. They certainly have no incentive to do so now.

New Rules

Be sure to get your Christmas lights down by the weekend. Or else.

Man, this is a slow week.

Empty Emails

In the last 24 hours I have received 3 emails with no content or attachments, no subject and no sender. Completely blank. I got one at work and two at my home account. Anyone else getting these?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Bad People With a History

Ha, ha. I get that this was just poorly worded (I hope) but it does sound like the government is failing to round up people who are known to have committed terrorist acts:
In Crawford, Texas, where Bush is spending the holidays, his spokesman, Trent Duffy, defended what he called a "limited program."

"This is not about monitoring phone calls designed to arrange Little League practice or what to bring to a potluck dinner," he told reporters. "These are designed to monitor calls from very bad people to very bad people who have a history of blowing up commuter trains, weddings, and churches."
Hey Trent, if they have a history of blowing things up maybe you should have them arrested instead of just listening to their phone calls.

Hat tip to Atrios.

A Theory of Relativity

I heard a story on WUIS this morning, attributed to the State Journal-Register, about Springfield mayor Tim Davlin’s daughter being in some legal trouble recently. As near as I can tell, the story is not in the online SJ-R* so no link to the story. A week or two ago we also had the story about Alderman Chuck Redpath’s brother getting in trouble with the law.

My question is, is this fair to the politician or the family member? It’s a long held tradition in the American media to trumpet the failings of the relatives of the powerful, but what’s the point? Are the people of fame diminished because of what a relative has done? The answer is mostly no but there are some exceptions.

I think there is a legitimate story when hypocrisy is exposed. For example, if I’m blasting parents for not raising their children properly (you know, “family values” and all that) and then my kid goes out and commits a crime, well a hypocrisy flag needs to be thrown. Obviously, there is also a story when the misdeeds of kin directly involve the person of note.

But beyond the above exceptions, why drag the relatives into it? It’s all so gossipy. And I think that’s what’s really behind these stories being treated as “news”. There is a market for dirty laundry. Those in the public spotlight become familiar and we want to know all the juicy details. It has nothing to do with the “public interest” and everything to do with what the public is interested in.

*Newspapers may contain opinions or language that may be considered inappropriate by some viewers. The newspapers linked to do not reflect the opinions of the11thhour.blogspot.com or Dave. The newspapers linked-to are not affiliated or associated with Dave and the11thhour.blogspot.com.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize(s)

Think there are more and more awards shows? Yup...
Since the nineteen-seventies, English says, there has been an explosion of new cultural prizes and awards. There are now more movie awards given out every year—about nine thousand—than there are new movies, and the number of literary prizes is climbing much faster than the number of books published.

Link here via Ezra.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

What He Said...

Is that America's highest goal -- preventing another terrorist attack? Are there no principles of law and liberty more important than this? Who would have remembered Patrick Henry had he written, "What's wrong with giving up a littleliberty if it protects me from death?"
The Miami Herald's Robert Steinback via Kos.

Top Stories

The SJ-R wants to know what you think were the top stories in 2005. Multiple choice poll here.

Note: the explosive growth of the local blogosphere is not an option but there is a place for write-ins.!

Monday Night Farewell

Oh my god, stop with the Monday Night Football eulogies. Every newscast on every station this morning is wailing over MNF’s move from ABC to ESPN. Look at it this way (I am): Nightline, or what’s left of it, will now start on time on Monday all year long. I wish I had a dollar for every time over that last 25 years I've tuned into ABC at 10:30 (or 10:35) only to realize “The Game” was still on.

OK, MNF has been kind of a cultural touchstone but has anything good come from it? We got Howard Cosell, the Bears only loss in the 1985 season and Bocephus’ “Are You Ready for Some Football”. Well, I guess it has been a good excuse to extend the weekend, sitting around with the guys and drinking beer on Monday nights. On ESPN it still will be.

The Last Bullet in the War on Christmas

With Christmas 2005 in the past let’s hope the phony “War in Christmas” nonsense has seen its day and will not resurface next year. I’ll let Fontana Labs have the last word before I declare peace:
Has anyone else noticed that the O'Reilly Defense of Christmas has changed the phenomenology of the holidays? I used to hear "merry Christmas" as a jovialgreeting; now I hear it as a gauntlet-throwing. Thanks, you jerk.
Boom. The war is now closed.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas

It's Christmas Eve and Santa is about to leave presents under the tree (i.e. I'll be hauling them up from the basement). I'll be doing the Christmas thing here and out of town for the next couple of days so posting will be light to none until things get back to normal on Tuesday. Until then, Happy Holidays!


Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Daddy, Where Do Christmas Trees Come From?


Click Image to enlarge

Little Red Hoax

Uh-huh, I thought so. The “Little Red Book” story was a hoax as I suspected:
NEW BEDFORD -- The UMass Dartmouth student who claimed to have been visited by Homeland Security agents over his request for "The Little Red Book" by Mao Zedong has admitted to making up the entire story.

The 22-year-old student tearfully admitted he made the story up to his history professor, Dr. Brian Glyn Williams, and his parents, after being confronted with the inconsistencies in his account.
But it’s nice to know my LRB is safe. Now on to the Cultural Revolution, comrades!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Singing the Christmas Wars

As Ezra points out (taken from the New York Times):
The following Christmas carols were written by Jews: "O Holy Night" (Adolphe Adam), "Christmas Song" (Mel Torme), "White Christmas" (Irving Berlin), "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" (Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne), "Silver Bells" (Jay Livingston and Ray Evans) and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reinder" (Johnny Marks).
Jews for Christmas. Or something.

I'm not sure what this means for the War on Christmas. Wars, even ones made up by cable TV talking heads, can get so messy.

Supplemental Beer Blogging: CSI Edition

So, Springfield’s stabbing murder this week was over a can beer. Shitty beer at that. From today’s SJ-R*:

A can of beer led to the fight that resulted in the fatal stabbing of a Springfield man, prosecutors said Thursday.

Patricia A. Gibson, 44, who is accused of stabbing her longtime boyfriend at their apartment Tuesday night, was charged Thursday with two counts of first-degree
murder.

[snip]

Robert L. Porter, 54, died at Memorial Medical Center at 12:40 a.m. Wednesday, about an hour after he allegedly was stabbed by Gibson in their apartment at 3203 S. Sixth St.

First assistant state's attorney Steve Weinhoeft, in asking that Gibson's $1 million bond be maintained, said Gibson stabbed Porter in the upper chest with a steak knife during an argument over a can of Natural Light beer.

First of all, I think it’s funny the paper identified the brand of the beer. The story doesn’t say if the argument that led to the stabbing was over who had to drink the crappy beer and who got the better one (say, a PBR). Because you’d have to stab me to get me to drink a Natural Light.

Either way, I hope Ms. Gibson, if found guilty, is put away in the big Department of Corrections beer fridge for a long time. What a senseless act over nothing.

*Newspapers may contain opinions or language that may be considered inappropriate by some viewers. The newspapers linked to do not reflect the opinions of the11thhour.blogspot.com or Dave. The newspapers linked-to are not affiliated or associated with Dave and the11thhour.blogspot.com.

Friday Beer Blogging: Christmas Tree Edition

Predictably, this week’s Friday Beer Blogging has a Christmas theme. I could have taken the high road and presented a fine layout of delicious Christmas/Winter beers. Something like this:

But no, I’m going for the real spirit of Christmas Beers. Of course, I’m talking about Beer Christmas Trees. These pictures were ripped-off from this site. And before that, the site printed on each picture. These are well-used pictures.


And this one is my favorite. I love the beer can star at the top of the "tree" and, man, look at the cool decorating on the walls.

Merry Christmas and a Happy Beer Tree.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Will Work For Food

I’m not generally a Wal-Mart basher. Wal-Mart is far from my favorite store to shop in (particularly the dark, crowded store on Springfield’s west side Parkway Pointe development) but I’m usually not one to come down on the company for every aspect of its business model.

Having said that, I really think Wal-Mart doesn’t do its image any favors when stories like this come out:
OAKLAND, California (AP) -- A California jury on Thursday awarded $172 million to thousands of employees at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. who claimed they were illegally denied lunch breaks.

The world's largest retailer was ordered to pay $57 million in general damages and $115 million in punitive damages to about 116,000 current and former California employees for violating a 2001 state law that requires employers to give 30-minute, unpaid lunch breaks to employees who work at least six hours.

[snip]

The class-action lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court is one of about 40 nationwide alleging workplace violations by Wal-Mart, and the first to go to trial. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer, which earned $10 billion last year, settled a similar lawsuit in Colorado for $50 million.

In the California lunch-break suit, Wal-Mart claimed that workers did not demand penalty wages on a timely basis. Under the law, the company must pay workers a full hour's wages for every missed lunch.
Wal-Mart spends millions of dollars on advertising designed solely to bolster its image and then does things like this that renders the ad money wasted. Can’t you Wal-Mart guys turn off the efficiency machine a little bit when it comes to your employees? Must every last penny be squeezed out of the operation? At some point this becomes self-defeating. The lunch money can’t be worth the bad PR and legal costs.

A Dumb Nixon

Tom Tomorrow has something for your bumper. (Why are bumper stickers so wordy, they really should make better use of pictures. If I want to read while driving I'll bring a book.)

You can buy it at Tom Tomorrow's House of Shopping Fun which really is fun to look at even if you don't buy anything.

Learning From Car Chases

MSNBC’s nightly news program Countdown with Keith Olbermann regularly features real car chase video where the police attempt to stop a crook making a get-away (or if they weren’t a crook before, they are now for fleeing from police in a vehicle). Countdown has been doing this all year and keeping score. So far, it’s Police 50, Bad Guys 0. In other words, the police always get the people trying to elude capture. At least the ones for which MSNBC has video.

While watching these videos, you can’t help but wonder what these people taking flight from the law are thinking. Don’t they KNOW they’re going to get caught? We know it; we see t night after night on Keith’s show.

I bring this up to highlight what I think is a major flaw in law enforcement in our land. I’m no criminologist but it occurs to me we need to make it clear to everyone that if you turn to crime, you will almost certainly get caught. I don’t think criminals are deterred by stiffer penalties because they simply do not believe they are going to get busted in the first place. They assume they are going to get away with whatever crime they are committing. Hey don’t care if the penalty is a small fine or the death, it doesn’t matter, they aren’t (in their mind) going to get caught.

So it makes sense to me that law enforcement should play-up the part where criminals do usually get caught and it will happen to you should you break the law. For instance, much of the video on Olberman’s show is provided by the police. I think this is smart since it gets the point across that there’s little reason to flee, you’re going to get caught anyway.

I know, most would-be fleers probably aren’t getting a steady diet of cable TV news but I think the broader point is education, perhaps aimed at kids in school. The message needs to get out that you aren’t invincible and you likely will be caught when committing a crime. I’m not sure what the actual stats are but as any politician can tell you, manipulating statistics to make your point isn’t all that hard to do. That would go a lot farther in giving potential criminals pause than ever-increasing penalties.

Punny Stuff

There are now more Normal people in this otherwise crazy world.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Fault Lines

I love the usual conservative line that we had better do things “their way” or anyone who opposes any portion of “their way” is to blame for anything bad that happens. I hear this childish (and illogical) line of argument all the time from the right. “Give the President the power to do anything he pleases or the next 9/11 is YOUR FAULT!”

Kevin responds better than I can:

Of course, you might just as well ask yourself why there were no terrorist attacks on American soil in the four years before 9/11. The fact is, superhawks always claim their programs are vital to American security, and they almost always turn out to be wrong. We didn't need to intern Japanese-Americans during World War II, we didn't need Joe McCarthy's theatrics during the Cold War, and we didn't need COINTELPRO during the Vietnam War. And when the Church Committee outlawed the most egregious of our intelligence abuses in the 70s, guess what happened? The Soviet Union disintegrated a decade later. Turns out we didn't need that stuff after all. America is a lot stronger than its supposed defenders give it credit for.

In any case, [Max] Boot has succinctly expressed a talking point you can expect to hear a lot more of when al-Qaeda eventually mounts anothersuccessful attack on American soil, an act so likely as to be almost inevitable. No matter how big or how small that attack turns out to be, the hawks will rush to announce: it's the liberals' fault. It's your fault. It's my fault.

But never their fault. Never the fault of those who have so little faith in America's institutions in the first place. It's never their fault.
Damn straight. Who hates America?

Ho, Ho, Horrible

Merry Christmas from Dick Cheney and the GOP Senate:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Republican-controlled Senate passed legislation to cut federal deficits by $39.7 billion on Wednesday by the narrowest of margins, 51-50, with Vice President Dick Cheney casting the deciding vote.

The measure, the product of a year's labors by the White House and the GOP in Congress, imposes the first restraints in nearly a decade in federal benefit programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and student loans.

But the good news is, tax cuts largely benefiting the wealthy are still in place! And, of course, there will be many more requests for billions and billions of dollars for the Great War in Iraq ™. Priorities, people, priorities.

Vice President Dick Cheney in a television interview after today's budget cut vote in the Senate where Cheney cast the deciding vote. Cheney mostly kept repeating, "Excellent".

Another Abeport?

Note: this is cross-posted over at Illinoize.

I found out only recently that the proposed third Chicago area airport might be called the Abraham Lincoln National Airport. But wait. Illinois already has an Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport. (Out-of-towners: it’s here in Springfield). How many Abe airports do we need?

Look, Chicago area, Abe’s our guy. Springfield’s guy. Abe and State government are all we have. You guys have everything else. And even though I think Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport is a stupid name for our airport (previously known only as Capital Airport), we did think of the Abe link first. I think we need to ask ourselves, if alive today, FWWAF – From Where Would Abe Fly?

Happy Winter Solstice

The sun is at its low ebb today. It's more daylight from here on out. Meanwhile, enjoy the ongoing winter festival. (Oooo...what would Bill O'Reilly say if he heard me wish you a Happy Winter Festival?)


Then there's Festivus for the rest of us.

"Baghdad Boil"

This is lovely. From the Charlotte Observer*, another benefit from the Great War in Iraq:
RALEIGH - In addition to the combat casualties suffered during a tour of duty in Iraq last year, an N.C. National Guard brigade also had to medevac 13 men back to a U.S. hospital after volleyball games left them vulnerable to one of the Iraq war's most exotic hazards -- an outbreak of skin ulcers that can grow for years.

The victims, all men from the same small unit, contracted cutaneous leishmaniasis, characterized by weeping sores that refuse to heal, said Lt. Col Tim Mauldin, the brigade's top medical officer.

"No matter what you do, it just keeps getting bigger and bigger," he said.

Leishmaniasis is spread by the bite of tiny sandflies, which deposit microscopic parasites that cause the sores. It is endemic along the Iranian border where some of the North Carolina troops served. Another version of the disease is fatal, but the main dangers for victims of this strain are permanent scarring (the ulcers often occur on the face) and loss of motion if the sores appear over a joint.

The illness is nicknamed "Baghdad Boil." At the time the guardsmen contracted it last year, the only way to treat it was to fly them back to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for up to three weeks of intravenous treatments with a drug called Pentostam. It is not approved for use in the United States. The Army was able to administer the treatment because it had gotten the drug approved for experimental use.
Boy, all kinds of fucked-upness there. Support the troops, baby!

*Newspapers may contain opinions or language that may be considered inappropriate by some viewers. The newspapers linked to do not reflect the opinions of the11thhour.blogspot.com or Dave. The newspapers linked-to are not affiliated or associated with Dave and the11thhour.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Apostrophe Post

My wife has a number of pet peeves, many of which I regularly indulge in.  However, one I don’t (usually) get in trouble for is misusing apostrophes.  That’s right, it irritates her to no end when she sees a misplaced apostrophe.  With that in mind, I was glad to see she has a soul mate in Arianna Huffington who writes this blog-screed in defense of proper use of the lowly apostrophe.

I just printed a copy of Arianna’s (note proper use of apostrophe) post so Mrs. TEH can know she is not alone.  Why print it instead of sending her a link?  Heh heh, she accidentally blew up her PC today.  More precisely, she corrupted her operating system in an ill-timed power strip mishap.  She’s (another proper use of the apostrophe) in cyber pain.  So, I have to provide her a hard copy of Arianna’s  (I did it right again!) sympathetic grammar view.  You, on the other hand, can simply click on the link.

Cover Story

Many of us have made fun of the term “War on Terror” as it implies combating a tactic rather than those who employ it. It’s generally attributed to the Bush Administration which uses the term to justify just about everything under the sun. But I was surprised to find out how far back the term actually goes.

I was looking at old Time magazine covers online when I ran across this one from almost 30 years ago (October 1977).

Looking around at the old Time covers it strikes me how many I actually remember. Long before blogs or the internet, I read a lot of news magazines and the covers have stuck with me.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Rule of Law

A congressman is now calling for the impeachment of George W. Bush:
U.S. Rep. John Lewis said Monday in a radio interview that President Bush should be impeached if he broke the law in authorizing spying on Americans.

The Democratic senator from Georgia told WAOK-AM he would sign a bill of impeachment if one was drawn up and that the House of Representatives should consider such a move.

It's time to show Mr. I'll Make My Own Laws Whenever I Feel Like It that this society has better ideas. Too bad this doesn’t involve a blowjob so we could get on with the proceedings immediately.

Hat tip to Atrios.

The Un-Contest

From Daily Kos:
A few weeks ago, Illinois had a looming deadline and several unchallenged Congressional Republicans. That deadline has passed, and just one Republican in Illinois lacks a Democratic challenger (Ray LaHood in IL18).
So I have no serious options this November (I live in Lahood’s district)? C’mon can’t someone run against Ray-baby? I consider LaHood a LOR (Least Objectionable Republican) but can’t some Dem give him a run for his money. A good campaign battle at least requires politicians to commit to positions and explain themselves to some degree. And I don’t know what the polls say but LaHood is not so insurmountably popular that he can’t be touched politically.

This is probably bad political strategy but I think the major parties should have a fund that would at least provide seed money to guarantee a candidate in every Congressional district. Maybe it should even be law. Ha, good luck getting incumbents to vote that on to the books.

Brain Cells

I thought it was settled: Cell phones don’t cause brain tumors. Now I see some people are worried these phones can hurt your kid’s brain.

The Little Red Herring

I have a hard time believing this story is true. But if it is, I want to know why the government is wasting time and money on this sort of thing.
NEW BEDFORD -- A senior at UMass Dartmouth was visited by federal agents two months ago, after he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung's tome on Communism called "The Little Red Book."

Two history professors at UMass Dartmouth, Brian Glyn Williams and Robert Pontbriand, said the student told them he requested the book through the UMass Dartmouth library's interlibrary loan program.

The student, who was completing a research paper on Communism for Professor Pontbriand's class on fascism and totalitarianism, filled out a form for the request, leaving his name, address, phone number and Social Security number. He was later visited at his parents' home in New Bedford by two agents of the Department of Homeland Security, the professors said.

The professors said the student was told by the agents that the book is on a "watch list," and that his background, which included significant time abroad, triggered them to investigate the student further.
Just how old is this “watch list” and what are they watching for? Maoism is a threat to the U.S.? Mao doesn’t even have much credibility in China anymore.

I have confession to make. I have a copy of Mao’s Little Red Book. I’ve had it for 30 years now. I got it from Radio Peking when I wrote and requested one as a teenager. I wasn’t a Maoist, I just thought it would be cool to have one of the most famous (infamous?) publications in the world straight from the country of its origin. So, DHS, you probably know how to get in touch with me if you’d like to discuss the matter.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Universal Consciousness

Not to get all cosmic on you but I was fascinated to read the beginning of this post over at Daily Kos by poster DarkSyde last Friday. It describes an experience few people have or, if they do, communicate.
Speeding through the empty Texas prairie, Dec 26th, 1968 at 2 AM. I'm laying above and behind the back seats, my six-year old body easily stretched out on the old style rear console, staring up through the slanted glass of a Ford sedan at a crystal clear nightscape. The Milky Way spilled across the sky like powdered sugar. In a moment of pure Synchronicity the radio played a static filled, crackling Season's Greeting carried a quarter million miles on the gossamer wings of invisible light, conducted by bone to my inner ear via the speaker beneath my head, as I stared into the starry infinitude:

For all the people on Earth ... the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you ...

My wonder aroused, the rest of the family dozing, I asked my father about those brilliant stars. He began to explain to me quietly, patiently, using analogies of distance a child could grasp. And IT hit me.

In an electrifying jolt of acceleration it was as though I was thrown head over heels off into the endless heavens, an infinitesimal mote of consciousness dwarfed by intimidating immensity. I was swallowed whole by space and time, united with uncountable tiny points of light flickering in a boundless black abyss.

It was terrifying, it was exhilarating, it was glorious. I was mainlining cosmic eternity, and like that first warm bourbon buzz for the latent alcoholic or that first rush for a burgeoning junkie, after my transcendental ride ended, all I could think of was: I want some more.
I’m surprised a six year old could experience this but I know exactly the feeling DarkSyde is describing. I had it one night reclined on the roof of a house near Frontier Lake northwest of Springfield back in the summer of 1977. I was 17. The sky was brilliantly lit (Frontier Lake was a bit farther from civilization than it is now). Suddenly, as DarkSyde describes, the infinity and massiveness of the universe hit me.

It really is a moving experience as your mind really isn’t equipped to grasp such notions. We get caught up in our lives and social interactions and politics and getting by day to day, but letting go of it all for a minute and feeling the vastness of things beyond the bounds of Earth really is an experience that makes everything you know seem small.

OK, I return you to more terrestrial things.

The Spy Who Wiretapped Me

I agree with JP.

The appalling behavior of the Bush administration up to, and including, breaking the law is nothing short of disgusting.  I’m hugely ashamed of these people but that’s nothing new.

I’m also mystified as to how this President can break the law in such a blatant manner and not be impeached, while another president is hauled before the Senate for lying about a stupid blowjob!  Only in America.  You get what you vote for, folks.

I’ve withheld calls for the impeachment of George W. Bush in the past but I’m on board now.  Of course it will never happen.  With Republicans in power there’s no chance and even if the Dems take control of both houses of Congress in 2006 they’ll not have the balls to do it.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Powerful Republican Senator Uses Trial Lawyers to File Frivolous Lawsuit Against Upstanding Central Illinois Business

Sorry about that, I was trying out my Fox News headline style guide.

But it is true that Senator Trent Lott (R-Tort Reform) is suing State Farm.

Blog Bashing Food Fight

Apparently, the SJ-R snark attacks on blogs went to yet another new level this week. Marie at Disarranging Mine has details:

In a separate item in Wednesday's paper, there's an almost obscene inference that blogs are not to be trusted. Obscene, because it's as if in one breath the writer is making love to blogs, and in the next breath attempts to strip them naked in front of the whole world. One might be wondering where this obscenity occurred in the newspaper. It was in the food section, of all places.

The article is entitled "I eat, therefore I blog," with the sub-heading, "Want to read a restaurant rant? Particularly fond of bacon? You’ll find that and more online."

The writer got a local blogger, Iggy, to make some comments for the article. Also, the article even quotes a nice portion of an entry from Look Back Springfield about the old Chick-fil-A restaurant.

Strangely, the article ends with this italicized footnote:

*Blogs may contain opinions or language that may be considered inappropriate by some viewers. The blogs listed do not reflect the opinions of sj-r.com or the State Journal-Register. The blogs listed are not affiliated or associated with the State Journal-Register and sj-r.com.

I've never seen such a disclaimer in the newspaper before.

Nor have I. Here's the link to the article, by the way.

That is indeed a very odd disclaimer. Does the paper make similar disclaimers about TV shows, other print publications or movies? Hint: that’s a rhetorical question.

I’m not sure what’s going on here. On the one hand, several SJ-R writers have been kind enough to publicize a number of local blogs and on the other hand some seem to feel a need to diminish them. Or something. Maybe these things are just growth pains as the paper makes a genuine effort to recognize and even integrate a wee bit with the local online community. The SJ-R’s own website has improved greatly recently in what it provides and even live-blogged the recent Springfield City Council smoking ban vote. Like I said, I’m not sure what’s going on.

Update: To be clear, the article itself, written by Amanda Reavy, I think is an interesting one and is kind to blogs. It's the disclaimer some of us find objectionable.

Space: The Final Day Trip

Time to book your reservation for a trip into space? Maybe soon
(SPACE.com) -- A space tourism group developing a suborbital rocket ship is now taking aim at orbital trips with a new spacecraft that doubles as a hypersonic glider.

Canada's London, Ontario-based firm PlanetSpace unveiled designs for its Silver Dart spacecraft, an eight-person vehicle derived from experimental aircraft studies in the 1970s, Thursday with hopes of carrying fare-paying passengers into orbit and resupplying the international space station (ISS).

"The Silver Dart is the DC-3 of the space industry," said Geoff Sheerin, PlanetSpace president and CEO, in a telephone interview. "It has so many things going for it in terms of performance."

Sheerin's Silver Dart program is separate from his Canadian Arrow effort to use a proven V2 rocket design to build a three-person rocket ship for suborbital flights.
Plans for the Silver Dart date back about four years as Sheerin was researching the Canadian Arrow rocket to compete in the $10 million Ansari X Prize competition for suborbital spaceflight.
Uhhhhhhhh…hold on a minute. What V2 rocket design are we talking about here? Admittedly, I’m no rocket scientist (to coin a term) but the only V2 rockets I’ve ever heard of were the pioneer rocket weapons used by the Nazis in World War II.

And that’s not the only mention of old technology that has me a bit worried. The few paragraphs I reprinted also include a reference to 1970s experimental aircraft and a later comparison to the DC-3, a 1930s aircraft. What, they aren’t using breakthrough steam power technology that ended the age of sails?

Friday Beer Blogging: Field Trip Edition

In recent years, going out into the field (bars) and doing research on (drinking) beer has become somewhat of a rarity for this family man. But last Saturday night, fully infused with the holiday spirit, I set out into the beer wilds (the beerlderness?) to conduct up-close analysis of brews in their natural habitat.

Joining me on my expedition was Mrs. TEH along with friend and former wingman, SK. Our destination: Springfield’s best place to explore a wide variety of beers, Brewhaus (617 E Washington).

Mrs. TEH (who was only going to drink Cosmopolitans) and I arrived a bit early and went ahead and ordered for all of us. We began with SK and my traditional favorite lead-off beer: Paulaner drafts. Brewhaus serves these drafts in tall high volume glasses adorned with a slice of lemon. See below.

Thing is, SK hates fruit in his beer and I forgot to tell the waitress to hold the lemon. Well, I thought, I can pull it off the glass before SK gets here and he’ll be none the wiser. However, fate stepped in for me. The waitress, approaching our table, stumbled and caused the lemon on one of the glasses of Paulaner to topple off and into Mrs. TEH’s Cosmopolitan. Brilliant! It was going to be a good night.

After SK’s arrival and the consumption of a couple of Paulaners we wanted to move on to something lighter. By this time we had inherited a new, beer-knowledgeable (and less clumsy) waitress. She recommended we gear-down to Hoegaarden, a light and tasty Belgian beer.

After the Hoegaarden, our beer waitress recomended a brew from New Zealand called Steinlager. Now, this is a good beer.

After the Steinlagers, we each had a Harp (a known quantity) and then it was back to the waitress of beer knowledge to recommend a nightcap. She chose one of Boulder Beer’s fun brews, Hazed and Infused.

Hazed and Infused was a bit of a disappointment but it was time for us wrap up this field trip anyway as the alcohol-adverse Mrs. TEH was now giggling too uncontrollably after a few Cosmos that we just had to leave.

So, the findings from the field:

Paulaner – always great
Hoegaarden – pretty good (I liked it better than did SK)
Steinlager - great stuff from the Kiwis
Harp – a good standard
Hazed and Infused – not so good

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Man with the Golden Fleece

Former Wisconsin Senator, and Illinois native, William Proxmire has died. Way back when Proxmire was still in the Senate and I was a young kid doing radio news, I anxiously awaited his regular “Golden Fleece Awards” handed out for wasteful government spending.

Going Down with the Ship

Huh? FoxNews’ parent company, News Corp, held a holiday party (yes, the heathens called it a holiday, not Christmas, party) and it had a Titanic theme? Titanic as in THE Titanic. That sank. Killing lots of people. Seems odd and not very festive. But as someone who isn’t offended by “Happy Holidays”, what do I know.

Eating in the Long Run

What the hell is this?

SPRINGFIELD — In another sign of Illinois’ continuing budget woes, the state has apparently run out of money to pay injury settlements to its own employees.

Officials began notifying injured workers Wednesday that claims would not be paid until next October because of a shortfall in the fund.

[snip]

“It’s a serious situation for people who have been injured,” said Springfield attorney Gloria Morris. “It’s just an unfortunate occurrence that the state has a habit of balancing the budget on the backs of the people who can least afford it.”

Morris, who handles worker compensation cases for the Springfield-based Kanoski & Associates law firm, said it is not uncommon for the state to run out of money to pay its worker compensation claims.

But, she said waiting 10 months for the state to begin paying puts her clients in an “extreme bind.”

Boy, I learn something new, and usually bad, every day. 10 months to wait for your workers comp? I’m not sure how that compares to the private sector but who cares; the State should be more responsible than that.

In the State’s defense, 72 million dollars since July 1 sounds like an awful lot of money just for injury claims. How are all these people getting hurt? Maybe that’s the issue that needs addressing.

Hat tip to The Inside Dope.

Sunlight at the End of the Tunnel

The sun is setting later now. But wait Dave, you say, the Winter Solstice isn’t until next week, you must be mistaken.

Nope.

For reasons involving astronomical physics and the orbit and tilt of the earth, the sun starts setting later even before the solstice while the sun rises later well beyond the solstice.

Here in Springfield, the sunsets bottom out at 4:34 PM in early December. We are now looking at a 4:35 PM sunset today. Hey, every little bit counts until Congress finally implements my plan for sunsets to never occur before 8:30 PM.

Christmas Correctness

"The War on Christmas" now has propaganda posters for the Master Religion...

Hat tip to Uggabugga.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Lie Before Christmas

Does the Right EVER stop lying?  This is about the 10th item I’ve seen where the lunatics who invented “The War on Christmas” have flat-out made up stories to rally their paranoid “troops”.  I really pity the idiots who buy into their crap.

Blog Bashing

I have to agree with Jim that this SJ-R editorial gets a little snarky towards blogs when it says:
ONE OF THE BIG lessons here is just how dangerous anonymous information can be. There's no doubt that blogs are a lot of fun to read, but if you start putting your faith in the credibility of unsigned World Wide Web entries, you're setting yourself up to feel awfully foolish.

The mainstream media has had its problems with credibility, but at least at this newspaper we strive to provide accurate information and credible sources, and we correct mistakes when we make them. Many Weblogs make no attempt at such standards. It's healthy to keep that in mind.
That last paragraph says the SJ-R tries to be accurate and corrects mistakes while “many” weblogs do not. OK, but many weblogs do and some MSM outlets do not, as well. And I think people are smart enough to discern what is credible and what isn’t. For instance, I have no trouble being highly skeptical of stories in the National Enquirer while being much more trusting of items in the Washington Post. They are both newspapers that use paper and ink and words and pictures but, somehow, I recognize they are different. I think the same can be said of blogs.

As long as the SJ-R is getting all righteous, let me nit-pick something that appears in that opinion piece that I see a lot among those not all that familiar with blogs.
We refer to the blogger as a Blagojevich supporter because it appears about all that ties the blogger to the campaign at this point is his or her use of campaign computers.

BLAGOJEVICH campaign spokesman Doug Scofield said the campaign has not identified who wrote the Weblog entries, and he stressed that "this isn't something that was organized or approved by the campaign and not the type of activity we want anybody associated with the campaign to engage in."
People who write in the comments section of blogs are not “bloggers” just because they post a comment on a blog. Bloggers, well, have a blog - their own blog or are part of a collaborative blog. Those who merely comment on a blog post are not bloggers any more than the author of a letter to the editor in a newspaper is a reporter (or columnist or editor). Just thought I’d make that clear in case anyone wants “to strive to provide accurate information and credible sources, and…correct mistakes.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Illinois Politics as Usual

God bless Rich Miller and others who actively, enthusiastically, even obsessively, blog about Illinois politics.  They make something I can otherwise hardly stand (or understand) palatable.  

Here’s a good summary of why I feel that way.  I know, a lot of you think this is the very reason it’s interesting.  To me it’s the same bad movie over and over again.  At least the blogs s bring it to life somewhat.

Here’s another example:  Raymond Poe is now probably going to drop out of the Lt. Governor’s race.  Well, duh.  Who in the world (besides Poe) thought that was going anywhere anyway?

By the way, I can vouch for Poe’s imminent leave from seeking higher office.  As I wrote in the comment’s at AbeLog:  This past weekend, a Republican operative in my neighborhood was collecting signatures for Poe's run for his current seat [in the Illinois House].  It was on orders, he wasn't freelancing.  The guy told me they needed to hurry and get the signatures so Poe could still appear on the ballot.  It sounded like a done deal to me.

Computing for the Masses

The good news: $100 self-charging laptops

The bad news: you have to order in quantities of 500,000

Blogs in the News

Rich Miller catches Blagojevich campaign workers commenting on his Capitol Fax Blog under false pretenses. And the SJ-R notices. Goodness, the paper even includes a URL.

Super-Duper Top Secret Air Cleaners

The smoking ban issue here in Springfield gets weirder by the day. The SJ-R today reports that there are now TWO compressive smoking ban plans being floated in the Springfield City Council when just last week it looked like the council had effectively killed the whole idea.

Actually, Mayor Tim Davlin’s plan and the plan being put forth by Alderman Frank Edwards look to be pretty similar: they both are fairly comprehensive, both have some delay in implementation for drinking establishments and they both want to provide exemptions for places that install some miraculous technology that can clean the smoke out of indoor air.

It’s this super-neato air filtration system that has me baffled. What are these guys talking about? A similar ordinance passed by the Chicago City Council last week had some silly exception for anyone able to figure out how to effectively scrub the air but Davlin says the technology already exists and is even in place a secret location right here in Springfield:
But Edwards said he's not sure equipment exists that would make the air as clean as it is outside. Anti-smoking groups who helped draft the Chicago ordinance and favor one in Springfield insist it does not.

Davlin said he believes that such systems exist and that one establishment in Springfield currently has one. He declined to name the establishment and could not estimate how much such equipment costs.

The Chicago City Council left technical standards for purification equipment up to the city's public health and environmental agencies.

Ward 10 Ald. Bruce Strom, who introduced a comprehensive smoking ban that the city council failed to vote on last week, said he is encouraged that Edwards and Davlin are talking about ordinances that would eventually make most of indoor Springfield smoke-free.

But Strom was concerned about the air purification exemption.

"This can be a major loophole," Strom said. "The technology does not exist that would remove the carcinogens and the toxins."

The Illinois Licensed Beverage Association, which opposes a comprehensive smoking ban, has said that there are air filtration systems that can make the air cleaner than it is outside.

But those in favor of a smoking ban point to a 2005 study by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers that concluded that "adverse health effects for the occupants of the smoking room cannot be controlled by ventilation."

Strom also noted that opponents of his ordinance complained that it would be tough to enforce. An ordinance that requires the city to measure regularly the level of smoke in establishments with the devices could be even more burdensome, he said.

Well, it seems to me that the cost of such an air purification system would be far greater than any temporary loss of smokers business. So go ahead, include the high-tech exemption. Either the super-duper filtration system will work (not likely) or the establishment will not have smoking at all. Either way, we get smoke free air.

I was also encouraged by this:
The mayor also called for state lawmakers to pass legislation allowing counties to ban smoking in unincorporated areas during the year before the city's ban would go completely into effect.
I think this is ultimately needs to be a statewide ban. Short of that, counties need the ability to pass smoking bans as well. Smoking bans work best when they apply evenly to all establishments regardless of governing district.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Pop Quiz

Go take the Christmas (not Holiday, you heathen Christ-haters) quiz. I missed two of the ten questions and wound up with only 243 out of 372 possible points. I hope that’s not bad enough to have me detained as an enemy combatant in The War on Christmas.

Ban-Do Attitude

WMAY radio is reporting Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin, of all people, is now set to introduce another comprehensive smoking ban ordinance for the city. This thing just isn’t going to die like opponents wanted. That’s good news as far as I’m concerned although I want to see the details.

I'm wondering if this isn't an attempt to one-up Alderman Bruce Strom who has championed the smoking ban on the City Council. Strom is rumored to be thinking about running for mayor himself. Davlin may be getting a leg-up on a future opponent by sponsoring this otherwise popular legislation himself. It would certainly put what happened last week in a new light if that is Davlin’s motivation.

Pryor Offenses

I was interested to see this description from Digby on the FoxNews coveraged of Richard Pryor’s death.
If you would like to have a surreal experience akin to the effects of downing ten shots of cheap tequila, tune in to FoxNews as they eulogize Richard Pryor. Apparently he invented dirty words. (It's going to come as a helluva surprise to Lenny Bruce --- not to mention Redd Foxx.) He rejected the comedy of the good comedian, Bill Cosby, and went down the "wrong path" that led us to where we are today with all this R rated badness. One of the commentators said that when he went on TV in the mid 70's he "wasn't ready for prime time." (Actually, primetime wasn't ready for him.) Another said that "every black comic owes him something." That’s precious. I’m just glad to get he recap and not have to sit through the real thing.

Pryor was a pioneer in comedy, no doubt about it. But, honestly, my comedic genius of choice in the 1970s was George Carlin. Certainly Pryor was a far better actor but Carlin was the master of radical stand-up for me at the time. Both men, I think, opened a lot of doors and it was certainly a good time watching it happen. Are there any comics today revolutionizing their art like these guys did? Dave Chappelle comes to mind but that’s about it.

Vu-pid Ads

Look, in the past I’ve been supportive of Déjà Vu’s fight against the City of Springfield’s attempts at zoning the strip club away. The “gentleman’s club” poses no threat to anyone and has every right to exist. However, the Déjà Vu folks haven’t been doing themselves any favors with their local advertising.

Their radio and TV ads in particular are, at best, tacky and I think probably a bit offensive to many. Often filled with lame double entendres, you can almost hear Bevis and Butthead giggling in the background. The ads usually just sound out of place. I’m not offended but I still cringe at how bad the ads are.

Last night watching TV, I may have seen the worst yet. The commercial was suggesting that the boss ought to think about having the company Christmas party at the Vu! Wow, what a swell idea. Of course, you better not have ANY female employees unless you enjoy lawsuits. I’m not sure what companies the ad was supposed to be appealing to as there aren’t a whole lot of male-only businesses anymore. Maybe a sole proprietor construction company or something. I was laughing at the thought of Horace Mann or St. John’s having its party there.

I really think the Vu could improve its image a bit by going a different direction with their advertising. As it is, I think the club is not building the good will it may need the next time the City tries to force it out.

Everyone's a Comedian

Following up on this post about Wikipedia, the culprit in the false Wiki entry has now stepped forward. He says it was just a joke. Har, har.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Lost City of New Orleans

Yes, just why does President Bush seem more interested in rebuilding Iraq than New Orleans?  

I find it amazing the same people who want to pour massive amounts money and thousands of lives into Iraq just to satisfy some xenophobic bloodlust essentially couldn’t give a rat’s ass about a devastated American city.  How fucking patriotic.  

Barack Got Bite

I’ve been rather unimpressed with Illinois Senator Barack Obama’s rather non-confrontational, middle-of the-roadism since he took his seat in the U.S. Senate. I would like to see him not necessarily be more partisan for partisanship’s sake but to be more vocal about perceived injustices. Today I got my wish:
ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Republicans controlling the federal government practice Social Darwinism, a discredited philosophy that in economics and politics calls for survival of the fittest, according to a Democratic U.S. senator.

Sen. Barak [sic] Obama of Illinois, a fast-rising Democratic star, told Florida party members that only a philosophy among Republicans of sink or swim explains why some Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans still live in cars while Republicans in Washington prepare next week to enact $70 billion in tax breaks.

"It's called the 'Ownership society' in Washington. This isn't the first time this philosophy has appeared. It used to be called Social Darwinism," Obama said late Saturday at the Democrats meeting at Walt Disney World.

"They have a philosophy they have implemented and that is doing exactly what it was designed to do. They basically don't believe in government. They have a different philosophy that says, 'We're going to dismantle government'," Obama said.

Republicans running the federal government believe, "You are on your own to buy your own health care, to buy your own retirement security ... to buy your own roads and levees," Obama said, referring to flood barriers that gave way in New Orleans during Katrina last August.
The Social Darwinism espoused in word and deed by the modern Republican party is truly one of it’s least attractive features, in my opinion. It also comes across as downright un-Christian. This from a group that wants to ram their particular brand of “Christianity” down everyone’s throats. But the Republican Party is nothing if not hypocritical (another unappealing trait).

Mike Wilson Employed!

Former WMAY talk show host (and local blogger) Mike Wilson, who was suddenly dropped from that radio station last month, has found work. I would have said he found work again but that would have assumed The Mike Wilson Show was work. Let’s split the difference and say he has found honest work. Or wait, it's in politics. Never mind, let's just say he's getting a paycheck again.

Anyway his old The Mike Wilson Show blog has details. Congratulations Mike!

Hat tip to Jim at AbeLog who, ummm, didn’t blog about this as he was too busy today, his birthday, shopping for Centrum Silver and reviewing retirement community brochures.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

When Cars Fly

This may be the oddest train vs. car story I’ve ever seen. From Southern Illinois:
According to the Illinois State Police District 13 media line, Willard D. Walker, 70, of Cobden, was driving a pickup truck on the Illinois 3 bypass in Chester, just south of Rock Ridge Road at 9:37 a.m. when, for an unknown reason, the truck became stuck on the Union Pacific Railroad track.

Walker and his wife, Beverly R. Walker, 65, both exited the vehicle.

However, when the approaching train struck the truck, it threw the vehicle into Beverly Walker, causing fatal injuries.
Talk about your bad luck.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Friday Beer Blogging: Freaky Swiss Bird Edition

I have discovered a Swiss beer that has as its mascot(s) a very disturbing bird-thing. Initially intrigued by the name of the beer – Cardinal – I investigated further hoping to find a nice redbird on the label. The cardinal is the Illinois state bird, ya know. It also is the bird of that baseball team in St. Louis that so many people around here inexplicably follow (despite having America’s team right up the road playing in Wrigley Field).

Anyway, what I found was very different from what I expected. Observe:


And if that isn’t bad enough, take a look at this couple’s hallucination:

Cardinal beer can be found online here. Look around at the Swiss having fun. Beware though, you have to choose between French and German while surfing their site.

Oh hell, one more:

Groovy Swiss jamming with the Blues Birds! Wild and crazy guys (and gals).

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Springfield in the News

The top story on CNN.com this evening:

So, who's the dude?

Update: An airliner sliding off the runway at Chicago's Midway airport has knocked us off the front page. Chicago trying to rob Springfield again! They're so jealous of us they'll do anything.

Update II: It turns out this incident had tragic results. It's no longer even a bit funny.

Standup Comic

Boy, ain't this the truth.

John Lennon Gone 25 Years

Just a few quick thoughts, memories really, on the 25th anniversary of John Lennon’s assassination. There are plenty of thoughtful retrospectives out there and I’m not going to try topping them. This is more personal.

First, I was only a mediocre Beatles fan and only mildly interested in John Lennon’s solo work before his death. However, some of my earliest memories of pop music involved the Beatles (I was born in 1960) and, in fact, the first LP record I ever bought was the Beatles Help album when I was 14 (45 rpm singles were more popular and affordable to younger kids back then). So while I wasn’t the biggest fan, the Beatles certainly had an impact. Their influence was simply unavoidable.

I remember Lennon best from the early 70s when he was a voice for peace. He seemed to me at the time to be part prophet and part musician. He had an almost spiritual aura about him. Songs like Imagine and Mind Games appealed to some other level of consciousness in me. And while I appreciated that, I can’t say I was a huge fan. John was good, I knew it and I took him and his work for granted.

Then came December 8, 1980. I was shocked not just by the news but by my reaction to it.

We often hear about tragedy in odd ways. I heard the horrible news that night from Howard Cosell of all people. That evening I was bored, flipping TV channels when I came across Monday Night Football with Cosell saying something about John Lennon. That seemed odd, I thought, so I stopped on that channel to see what Lennon had done that could possibly be of any interest to Cosell and MNF viewers. That’s when Cosell broke the news to me. It was like an electric shock, jolting me to me feet.

I was living in Carbondale at the time, a student at Southern Illinois University. My roommate at the time, SG, was a huge fan and it really sucked telling him when he got home that night (he was a better student than me and actually spent time in the library at night while I took care of the TV channel flipping duties). I told him as soon as he walked through the door and that same shock jolted him practically out of his shoes.

The next day on campus there was a very noticeable silence. Walking between buildings that day, no one was talking. You could feel a heaviness in the air. There were occasional sad glances from strangers. I ran into another buddy, normally a verbose wild man, and all I got was a silent shaking of the head, as if in disbelief, as we passed each other. I had never experienced anything like that day.

The night of the killing and for many days after, radio stations played at lot Lennon tunes. Some of the DJs early on that night were barely able to keep it together on the air. The songs sounded different now; more important, the messages more vital. I suddenly realized how much I had taken his work for granted. And as is often the case with death, you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone.

Hard to believe it’s been 25 years. Although I and those around me were still quite young, a piece of that youth died that day.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Victory in Chicago

While the Springfield City Council is too gutless to take a smoking ban seriously (the latest idiotic proposal is to have the ban in effect only from 3:00 AM to 8:00 PM), Chicago today did pass a comprehensive ban.

After an all-night bargaining session, the City Council today agreed to ban smoking on Jan. 16 in virtually all of indoor Chicago, but give taverns and restaurant bars a 2 1/2-year reprieve — or “stay of execution” as one alderman called it.

“Chicago will be smoke-free,” said Health Committee chairman Ed Smith (28th), who received a standing ovation for championing an ordinance that ended a $4 million crusade by the American Cancer Society.

There are some silly provisions in the new Chicago ordinance too but it is basically a comprehensive ban. So, I guess we can now anticipate the imminent demise of all restaurants and bars in Chi Town. Soon you’ll have to do all your dining at the carts of street vendors. So sad, if only those big city people were as smart as we are here.

Weather’s a Bitch and Then It Snows

When I left the house this morning the temperature on my back patio was 0.9 degrees (digital thermometer). It’s early December not early January. Normally, we get a last gasp of Indian Summer during this week where temperatures will briefly near or even top 60 degrees. Not this year – right into the freezer. Record low temperatures have been recorded this week in the area and in Northern Illinois although I don’t think Springfield has broken any records yet. With natural gas prices up over 50%, the cold isn’t good news.

Now, to go along with the icy temperatures we have measurable snow on the way for tomorrow; 2-4 inches in the latest National Weather Service forecast. Most years we don’t see any of the white stuff until at least Christmas (see, I said the “C” word, Bill). And we’ve already had a couple of light snow/dustings.

Let’s hope this moderates and soon.

Bush Hates God

Paging Bill O’Reilly: Spill on aisle 1600...

This month, as in every December since he took office, President Bush sent out cards with a generic end-of-the-year message, wishing 1.4 million of his close friends and supporters a happy "holiday season."

Many people are thrilled to get a White House Christmas card, no matterwhat the greeting inside. But some conservative Christians are reacting as if Bush stuck coal in their stockings.

"This clearly demonstrates that the Bush administration has suffered a loss of will and that they have capitulated to the worst elements in our culture," said William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Bush "claims to be a born-again, evangelical Christian. But he sure doesn't act like one," said Joseph Farah, editor of the conservative Web site
WorldNetDaily.com. "I threw out my White House card as soon as I got it."

Religious conservatives are miffed because they have been pressuring stores to advertise Christmas sales rather than "holiday specials" and urging schools to let students out for Christmas vacation rather than for "winter break." They celebrated when House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) insisted that the sparkling spectacle on the Capitol lawn should be called the Capitol Christmas Tree, not a holiday spruce.
Then along comes a generic season's greeting from the White House, paid for by the Republican National Committee. The cover art is also secular, if not humanist: It shows the presidential pets -- two dogs and a cat -- frolicking on a snowy White House lawn.

"Certainly President and Mrs. Bush, because of their faith, celebrate Christmas," said Susan Whitson, Laura Bush's press secretary. "Their cards in recent years have included best wishes for a holiday season, rather than Christmas wishes, because they are sent to people of all faiths."

That is the same rationale offered by major retailers for generic holiday catalogues, and it is accepted by groups such as the National Council of Churches. "I think it's more important to put Christ back into our war planning than into our Christmas cards," said the council's general secretary, the Rev. Bob Edgar, a former Democratic congressman.

But the White House's explanation does not satisfy the groups -- which have grown in number in recent years -- that believe there is, in the words of the Heritage Foundation, a "war on Christmas" involving an "ever-stronger push toward a neutered 'holiday' season so that non-Christians won't be even the slightest bit offended."

This ridiculousness is beyond funny. Has it occurred to these crusaders that Christmas is part of a larger group of winter holidays that occur this time of year and across religious lines? In fact, Christmas is when it is because church leaders long, long ago wanted to compete with (or co-opt) winter observances of other religions and cultures.

Additionally, getting upset that retailers are saying “Happy Holidays”, I think, misses their greater offense: they are exploiting the birth of The Savior for commercial gain. At least I think that would be my line of thinking if I were a religious fanatic.

Still, I can see the political advantage to exploiting this imaginary “War on Christmas”. By branding your opposition as being “against Christmas”, you tug at heartstrings. Never mind it’s complete nonsense.

Bans Elsewhere

Rich Roeper discusses Chicago’s impending smoking ban and manages to work in Jennifer Aniston’s breasts.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

And Now For Something Completely Different

I disagree with Ezra’s basic premise that holiday (sorry Mr. O’Reilly) sugar cookies taste bad but I needed a change of subject post to cleanse my pallet of the taste of smoke.
This is what I don't get about sugar cookies. They look spectacular -- colorful, vibrant, piled with icing -- and yet invariably taste awful. They're a culinary cock tease, great to look at, terrible to take home. Why nobody decorates the many delicious cookie variants out there is a true holiday mystery. Unless the answer, simply, is that chocolate chip cookies need no flashy costumes. Unlike their dolled-up, sugar cookie cousins, we like chocolate cookies for their personality.
I actually like Christmas cookies (is that better Bill?). Of course I like most cookies. But his point about other kinds of cookies not needing to be dressed up is a good one.

Ah, that’s better.

Hey Smokers, I Have Your Compromise Right Here


How about this:

You are prohibited from smoking in public places where I might come into contact with your smoke and in return I agree to continue to pay higher insurance premiums and taxes to cover the cancers, heart disease and other ailments your habit brings to society.    Fair?

Smoking Lobby Wins...For Now

Well, there will be no smoking ban at all in Springfield for the time being. The Springfield City Council refused to consider anything but a worthless proposal that would do almost nothing toward banning smoking in public places in the city. Instead, both sides agreed to do nothing. In other words, the smoking proponents flat out won.

I didn’t see all of the debate, just the last part. But the SJ-R did a great job of real time blogging of the meeting at its web site. Reading through the blog, my favorite quote is from Frank McNeil:
"Until tobacco is made illegal, I don't understand how we can ban smoking without some form of compromise."
Frank, are you really that stupid? You aren’t banning smoking altogether, just in public places. It’s already illegal to smoke in some places and any so-called compromise would involve restrictions as well. That statement was complete nonsense.

We’ll have to see where this goes from here. Personally, I’d like to see it go to the state legislature.

Update: Ald. Bruce Strom says he will look into holding a citywide referendum on the issue.

SJ-R Editorial: Online First to Meet a Need

Using the internet to maximum effect, The Springfield State Journal-Register has published an online editorial today before tonight’s critical smoking ban vote by the Springfield City Council. Aside from the paper’s position on the issue (for a comprehensive ban), the real news here is that the paper is publishing this editorial online FIRST. It even comes with a new Chris Britt cartoon. Cake to the SJ-R!

Obviously, time constraints had a lot to do with this decision but the fact that the newspaper embraced the power of the internet to be a timely voice in the community is commendable at a time when many print news organization resist or even openly attempt to diminish the credibility of the internet.

As for the editorial, I’ll make you go read it here. It makes some excellent points while reeming Ald. Frank Edwards a new one in the process.

(Note, the links to the editorial take you to the Breaking News section which is only good for the day at the SJ-R site)

Fake Smoking Ban

This just in: the Springfield City Council passes an ordinance allowing peeing in only in designated parts of pools and call it compromise!

The SJ-R has the recap of last night’s City Council committee meeting wherein aldermen voted to allow a much, much diluted version of the proposed comprehensive smoking ban to go before the full City Council tonight.
The public affairs committee voted 3-2 to exempt bars, bar areas of restaurants, bar areas of bowling alleys, banquet rooms, private clubs, stage productions, non-health-care home businesses and tobacco retail stores from Ward 10 Ald. Bruce Strom's ordinance.

Under the amended ordinance, smoking would be banned only in the eating area of restaurants. In the bar areas, smoking would be allowed within 10 feet of the bar.

Strom's version of the ordinance banned smoking in all indoor workplaces except hotel rooms, private nursing home rooms and non-health-care home businesses.

Ward 9 Ald. Tom Selinger…introduced the amendments.
Oh, how super cool. This crappy piece of legislation does little more than codify the status quo. It’s not a compromise, it’s total capitulation to the Illinois Licensed Beverage Association.

I’m pleased to announce that my alderman. Tom Selinger, probably just lost my vote next time around (I say probably only because there is always the possibility that some right-wing, Bill O’Reilly lovin’ lunatic might surface to oppose him).

I was also interested in this passage from the SJ-R article:
Ward 2 Ald. Frank McNeil, who has leaned against any smoking ban, said he would consider such a compromise but wanted to know that restaurant owners would be OK with it.
Hey, Frank, how about considering what the majority of your constituents want rather than a few business interests. Sheesh. He says it without hesitation; he’s more interested in pleasing the (needlessly) frightened business owners than doing what’s right for the people who elected him.

The full City Council votes on this fraud tonight.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Man in the Bunker Interviews

I missed the first part of last Friday night’s Nightline so I didn’t see the set-up. Uggabugga fills us in:
On Friday, ABC's Nightline was billed as a Big Event. A discussion in Iraq with Iraqis about the state of affairs. I certainly sounded promising, but hope quickly shifted to dismay.

Host Terry Moran started out by saying that they could only have the discussion in the Green Zone, and then showed video of the zone from two years earlier - while saying that the situation had deteriorated since then. Also, the television set-up was in a bunker, reinforced with blast walls. Several invited guests were unable to get into the Green Zone. U.S. civilian and military were invited, but declined to participate.
Well, I think that should put to rest any doubts those traitorous neysayers have about the war. The rest of Ugga’s post has more on the once great news show’s crummy showing Friday.