Thursday, June 30, 2005


I warned the folks at DKos, now I'm warning you:
Before you donate money to the Christine Cegelis campaign, be aware of the message that you will be sending to the Democratic "leadership" in D.C.

You will be telling the leaders that the members of the Democratic party can decide for themselves who they will send to Washington.

You will be expressing the strength of grass-roots progressives as opposed to establishment party politicians.

You will let the party know that you fully support a brave candidate like Christine, a candidate who took on a petrified GOP fixture like Henry Hyde, backed only by some die-hard supporters and a willingness to work damn hard.

You will be saying that 44% against Henry Hyde matters, that driving Henry Hyde from the House of Representatives matters, that courage and hard work -- not connections and deep pockets -- matters.

So proceed with caution, because your contribution will send a very powerful message.
Will you send a message?

Christine Cegelis (IL-06) $

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Go here!

Give here!


In the Nation, Max Blumenthal provides us with more reasons that young Republicans are not going to fight in the war that they support:
  • A nagging high school football injury
  • Parents didn't want him to go
  • "I'm going to be better staying here and working to convince people why we're there [in Iraq]"
  • "I'm a fighter, but with words"
  • Planning a "Support Our Troops" day on campus this year
  • Sent care packages to troops in Iraq along with letters and pictures of themselves
  • "I'm not putting my ass on the line because I had the opportunity to go to the number-one business school in the country, and I wasn't going to pass that up."

Previous Young Chicken Hawk post

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


Sen. Barack Obama has an essay on Abraham Lincoln in Time Magazine.

Sunday, June 26, 2005


MIT Media Lab's Cameron Marlowe's PhD project survey of bloggers will likely be definitive even if you don't participate.

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

But it will be more accurate if you do.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

"I think I could do more here."

Generation Y chicken-hawks attending the Young Republican national convention explain why they won't sign up to fight the war they claim to support.
  • Frankly, I want to be a politician. I'd like to survive to see that.
  • As long as there's a steady stream of volunteers, I don't see why I necessarily should volunteer.
  • If there was a need presented, I would go.
  • It's always in the back of my mind - to enlist.
  • We don't have to be there physically to fight it.
  • I'm in college right now, but who knows? The bug may get me after college.
At least craven punks are in the right party.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


Paul Harvey -- racist madman?

Start listening 12 minutes into this
blood-thirsty rant and decide for yourself.

You can thank WGN Radio for spewing such demented hate at:
WGN Radio
435 N. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
WGN Switchboard: 312-222-4700
WGN Fax: 312-222-5165

Harvey said, "I've been choking on something for weeks." It seems to me that this quote from David McCullough, was the source of that "something".
Churchill came over after Pearl Harbor, when Hitler was running wild, almost to Moscow, when we had lost half of our Navy at Pearl Harbor, when we had no air force, when recruits were drilling with wooden rifles, and Britain was virtually on her last legs, and he came over, and he gave a magnificent speech, in which he said, "We haven't journeyed this far because we're made of sugar candy."

And Churchill was an historian. He understood what our predecessors had been through in our behalf.

Abigail Adams wrote the same thing in a letter to her husband. She said, "Future generations who will reap the blessings will scarcely conceive the hardships and suffering we've been through."

It's alas too true. We don't. We need to do a far better job of reading and understanding our own history, and teaching our own history.

As is evident from this excerpt from the Pulitzer-Prize winning historian, Churchill was clearly talking about Americans history of "cowboying up" and "toughing it out", not about wantonly causing the untold deaths of innocent civilians.

Sadly, despite pinching this Churchill quote from McCullough, Paul Harvey doesn't seem to understand what makes America's history uniquely great at all.

UPDATE II: If you are having trouble with the audio links above, go to Paul Harvey's website and click on the "Thursday Noon" link.

UPDATE III: Zorn has transcribed it in all its glory.


Presented under the auspices of Eric Zorn and the Illinois Wrestling Commission:
The Month in Review by So-Called "Austin Mayor"

Most Important Story of the Month

Winner of the Month

Loser of the Month

Most Overreported Story

Most Underreported Story

Story to Watch Next Month


MOST IMPORTANT STORY OF THE MONTH: Charges dropped against Kevin Fox after DNA evidence excluded him as a suspect in the sexual assault and murder of his 3-year old daughter Riley.

From the Tribune:
"This is an absolute exclusion of Kevin Fox," Will County State's Atty. James Glasgow said during an emergency court hearing this afternoon requested by prosecutors in the Joliet courthouse. ***

Today's developments marked a repudiation of a case started under Glasgow's predecessor, Will County State's Atty. Jeff Tomczak. Tomczak had said he would seek the death penalty for Fox before he lost re-election to Glasgow in November.
After so many instances where DNA evidence has exonerated people accused of crimes, we Illinoisans have become somewhat desensitized to such shocking reversals of fortune.

Nevertheless, there are still lessons -- other than the obvious one: that the authorities sometimes prosecute the wrong guy -- that we can learn from the wrongful prosecution of Kevin Fox.

One of the lessons that we should take from the Fox case is that, in our criminal justice system, decisions concerning XXX are not, and cannot, be divorced from politics.

When Kevin Fox was arrested in October, Jeffrey Tomczak, Will County State's Attorney at the time, was fighting for his political life against James Glasgow.

From the Sun-Times:
Tomczak had an inkling of just how tight his race with Glasgow was: Tomczak's father had just been indicted in Chicago's Hired Truck scandal, and the Sun-Times reported those Hired Truck companies gave $20,000 to Jeffrey Tomczak's campaign. There had been no break in Riley Fox's murder in nearly five months when Tomczak announced Kevin Fox's arrest on the eve of the election. ***

In a bitterly fought rematch of the 2000 race, in which Tomczak had wrested the seat from Glasgow, the Democrat won the seat back Nov. 2 when voters chose him 121,000 to 112,000 over Tomczak.
Although Tomczak blasted the very idea that that Fox's arrest was designed more to help his campaign than solve the murder as "baseless", it seems clear that Tomczak rushed Kevin Fox's arrest and declared that he would seek the death penalty just five days before the election in an desperate attempt to keep his job.

So the next time we are asked to consider whether Illinois should keep its death penalty, in addition to the myriad examples of the wrongfully convicted on death row, we need to keep something else in mind: As long as there is a death penalty, it will sought, implemented and executed for political purposes. Whether or not you think it is right and proper for the State to kill its citizens, do you think that such decisions regarding life and death should be political ones?

In addition, the Fox case exposed the shortcomings of the media when it comes to criminal cases. The Fox exoneration was shocking to most of us because, since last October, we had only heard the authorities story of what happened to Riley.

If we think about this, the one-sided nature of the coverage should not come as a surprise. The job of the press is to tell a story and the press often only tells the authorities' story of the crime because it is the only story to be told.

The police and the prosecutors' story is called "the theory of the case". The theory of the case consists of what crime was committed, who committed the crime, where the crime was committed, how the crime was committed, and, often times, why the crime was committed.

The authorities have a who, what, where, when, and how for the crime because they must answer each of these questions at trial. And as any veteran of a junior high newspaper can tell you, who, what, where, when, and how are also the fundamental elements of a news story.

By contrast, an innocent defendant like Kevin Fox rarely has a story beyond "I didn't do it." If his story is really fleshed out it may extend to "I didn't do it. I don't know who did it. I didn't do it."

You can easily see why, even though the authorities version of the story may go on for many column inches, the press's account of defendant's story is usually confined to a single sentence of denial -- the defendant's story is just a single sentence of denial.

I don't suggest that there is anything that can be done to remedy this disparity, I just suggest that we all keep it in mind when we read stories of crimes in the press.

And finally, we should all recognize the limited utility of "confessions." From the Tribune:
A myth still persists among some in law enforcement that no one would confess to a gruesome crime he did not commit. A stronger conviction holds that no person of normal intellect and development would ever do so.

Kevin Fox proved them wrong.

He wasn't a teenager. He wasn't mentally retarded. He had no particular deficiencies that would make him especially vulnerable to suggestion or the kinds of pressure tactics used perfectly legally by police interrogators.

Fox's attorneys suggest he was a normal guy who simply got worn down after a 14-hour interrogation and the trauma of losing his daughter. Contributing to his erosion of confidence about what really happened were promises of an involuntary manslaughter charge and quick release if he admitted his daughter's death was the result of an accident.
And the assumption that "no one would confess to a gruesome crime he did not commit" is not a belief exclusive to "some in law enforcement." To varying degrees, we all subscribe to that myth. We all feel that they got the right guy when we hear that he "confessed."

But after this month we should ALL recognize that "confessions" are not conclusive.

For the reasons above -- and reasons excluded due to restrictions in time and space -- Kevin Fox's vindication via DNA results is the most important story of the month.


WINNER OF THE MONTH: Riley Fox's killer.

I am no expert on killers. But I have spoken with more convicted killers than the average American. And although I have never specifically discussed the issue with them, I suspect that each and everyone of them would have preferred that the authorities had waited for over a year after the killing before searching for them in earnest.

And that was the gift that the authorities in Will County gave Riley Fox's killer.

From the Tribune:
"We are looking at this case almost from a brand-new standpoint," said Lee Michaels, spokesman for Will County State's Atty. James Glasgow, who dropped the charges Friday against Fox. "We put a whole new team of investigators on it."

Meanwhile, Sheriff Paul Kaupas has ordered a review of the initial investigation that led to the charges against Fox, 28, of Wilmington. Fox was released after DNA testing of evidence taken from Riley's rape kit excluded him.

"We are reviewing this thing from top to bottom," said Pat Barry, Kaupas' spokesman. "If there was something that was done wrong, we want to fix it and do it as quickly as we can.

"The sheriff is committed to getting to the absolute truth in this matter as far as what was procedurally done and who committed this crime."

Riley's body was found drowned June 6, 2004, in Forked Creek.
Now -- after a year of degrading physical evidence, a year of fading memories, a year of covering tracks -- the search for Riley's actual killer has now started again from scratch. And that is what makes that piece of human trash June's biggest winner.


LOSERS OF THE MONTH: Illinois Children

From the Tribune:
Gov. Rod Blagojevich on [June 10] signed a roughly $55 billion budget he crafted with Democratic leaders for the fiscal year that begins in July.

The budget is based on a controversial move to spend $2.2 billion that was supposed to go to pensions for teachers and state workers. Instead, that money will help send an additional $300 million to public schools and prevent service cuts to state programs and to the Chicago Transit Authority.
Long-time readers know -- and new readers have probably figured-out -- that I am an unapologetically liberal and I believe that some things should be publicly funded.

I love public radio and public television. I am the product of public schools and I am a true believer in public transportation.

But I also believe in public service and public stewardship. And it is neither public service nor public stewardship to borrow money from Illinois' children in order to avoid politically painful decisions today.

What will the future cost be to Illinois children? No one knows for sure.

Now, I disagree with State Sen. Steven J. Rauschenberger (R-Elgin) on most things, but his numbers are usually pretty close to right. Rauschenberger's numbers say that the long term cost of the $2 billion borrowed from our children will be $25 billion. And Rauschenberger's numbers aren't the most pessimistic -- they range up to "$38.5 billion over the next 40 years."

Are these numbers accurate? I don't know. But I do know two things for certain:

First, I haven't seen any alternate numbers that in anyway convince me that it was a good idea to borrow against our future. If the long-term number is actually less than $25 billion, give me that number!

But no one has.

Second, I know that the budget proponents have said that the budget plan will impose some "modest pension reforms" that will save $70 billion in future costs that would cover the $25-$38 short-fall.

Now I'm a slow-learner, but I have figured out that future debts are certain and future savings are rarely, if ever, realized.

I hope that the future savings from "modest pension reforms" do cover the money that the 2006 budget borrows from our kids, but I sure won't count on it. And that's why I have named my kids -- and your kids -- losers of the month.


MOST OVERREPORTED STORY: Richard Durbin declared that the extreme prisoner abuse that FBI agents have reported is taking place in Guantanamo Bay is the type of thing one would expect from a repressive regime and not the type of thing one would expect from the United States.

Yep, that's the heart of Richard Durbin's controversial statement. Kind of hard to believe that any thinking person could get worked up about it, isn't it?

Then again, you have to remember that President Bush's poll numbers have been plunging since the election -- and without the retired color-coded terror alert to distract us, the wingers desperately needed a faux-controversy to draw America's attention from Bush's failings.

But what was noteworthy to me wasn't the willful misrepresentation of what Durbin said, but the denial that the prisoners in Gitmo are abused any more than is necessary to win the war on terror.

For example, second-hand tough-guy John Kass asked:
Senator, weren't you one of those legitimately complaining that U.S. intelligence dropped the ball and something had to be done so it wouldn't happen again?

It is being done. Much of it isn't polite or civilized and some of it upsets me, like the abuse of the Koran. Suspects have been pushed around, hurt, and enemies have been given propaganda fodder. ***

And if you don't have the stomach for the work, please have the guts not to play partisan politics with what has to be done.

But what is "the work" that Kass is talking about? When he speaks of "what has to be done" is he talking about the extraction of information from the prisoners at Gitmo? If so, I direct Kass to his own paper's coverage of the Kevin Fox case.

After just 14 hours, Kevin Fox -- a citizen of the United States of America and subject to all the rights of the U.S. Constitution -- informed the authorities that he had personally committed one of the most horrible crimes imaginable. And he was no doubt treated much better than many of the prisoners being questioned in Guantanamo.

And so, knowing what we know about the utility of information extracted under coercive circumstances, what is the real intelligence value of any "information" extracted from prisoners abused in Gitmo?

Maybe we should ask Kevin Fox.


MOST UNDERREPORTED STORY: Drug ring in the sheriff's department

If you're like me -- in addition to earning my deepest sympathy -- you have occasionally wondered what big stories are being pushed off the front page when a block buster story utterly dominates a news cycle. Here's a tip:
A murder-for-hire plot was exposed during a Cook County sheriff's investigation that has implicated 12 current and former correctional officers in a jailhouse smuggling ring.
That was the lede of Frank Main's Sun-Times story on a six-month investigation that resulted in the largest crackdown of its kind at the jail, in which seven current and five former jail guards were busted.

A source in the Cook County State's Attorney's office tells me that there was grave concern that this story of sheriff department corruption would dominate the front page of both papers all weekend. And then the Kevin Fox/DNA story broke.

That story of gross error in the Will County State's Attorney's office probably didn't help the mood in Dick Divine's office, but it sure pushed the sheriff's department jailhouse drug smuggling ring to the interior of the papers.

A story of sheriff's police smuggling drugs into Cook County jail doesn't even merit the front page.

But I guess drugs are sold everywhere, just ask Mayor Daley.


Heroin is all over. ... They can be a public employee, a private employee. People are selling heroin right now out on the streets in your neighborhood and any neighborhood in the metropolitan area. -- Mayor Richard Daley, June 9, 2005
A time sheet scam... bribe-paying trucking companies... clout grotesquely misused in hiring... theft city-owned asphalt... an inspector general who ignored thousands of tips about wrongdoing in city government... a veteran city employee heading the Chicago distribution cell of a Colombian heroin-trafficking ring!

I don't have any inside information or anything, but for some reason I feel certain that the story to watch for next month will be yet another in the escalating series of revelations of corruption oozing from Chicago City Hall.

I also admit that I don't know what specifics of the city hall corruption will be -- I'd never have guessed "Columbian heroin-ring" -- but I feel confident that I will not be the only one taken by surprise. No doubt, Mayor Daley will once again be shocked -- SHOCKED -- to find additional corruption taking place under his watch.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Did everyone else know about Reason magazine's brilliantly caustic review of Denny's book?

Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. Those who can't teach, coach. And those who can't coach become speaker of the House of Representatives.

OK, that's a bit unfair to Dennis "Denny" Hastert. In Speaker: Lessons From Forty Years in Coaching and Politics, he tells us that in his 16 years coaching high school wrestling, he produced one state championship team and almost a dozen individual state champions and was once named state coach of the year in Illinois. That's not a bad record. Then again, Lou Albano managed 18 world tag team wrestling champions, two intercontinental champions, and one world wrestling champion in the WWWF (later WWF and WWE). And no one seems to be seeking his political leadership. MORE...

And just why isn't anyone seeking Captain Lou's political leadership?


In Newsweek, Eleanor Clift places the blame for the military's recruiting shortfalls squarely on the shoulders of the White House:
This is President Bush’s legacy.

Mothers don’t want their children to join the military. Who would have thought that not even four years after 9/11 and the biggest surge of patriotism the country had seen in at least a generation, the military would be having trouble getting people to enlist.

By taking the country into a war that we don’t know how to win and can’t afford to lose, Bush has squandered his second term and made Americans less safe and less economically secure.
However, our military preparedness may not be as bad as Clift makes it appear.

After all, if our armed forces were actually having "trouble getting people to enlist," wouldn't Mr. Bush encourage his fit twin daughters -- who have both been at a Paris Hilton-level of unemployment* since their graduation from college twelve months ago -- to visit a recruiter and join our fighting men and women in Iraq.

And if the twins had joined, Scott McClellan would have had a much easier time answering this question:
Q Is the President concerned about the recruitment being down in his home country, he can't get -- you know, some day you may give a war and no one will come? And, also, the second part of the question, is there any member of the Bush clan who is in the military service now, that you know of?

McClellan: I'd have to go check; that's a pretty large clan, as you --

Q Would you do that?

McClellan: -- as you referred to. In terms of -- and certainly there are members of the family that have served and served very admirably in the Armed Forces.

Q I'm not talking about the past, I'm talking about now.

McClellan: And in terms of your question on recruitment and the recruiting efforts, I think the Department of Defense has briefed on that recently and they've talked about their efforts to address some of the concerns that you bring up. I would refer you --

Q I asked if the President was concerned.

McClellan: Yes, it's something he talks to his military leaders about, and they keep him apprised of their efforts.

Q Is the President concerned?

McClellan: I'm sorry?

Q Is the President concerned?

McClellan: Well, it's something he's kept apprised about, but I think you ought to look at the Department of Defense, and the way they have characterized it is the way I would --

Q I heard -- I heard Rumsfeld on the --

McClellan: -- is the way I would characterize it. They briefed on it recently, and they talked about their efforts to do a better job of recruiting people to volunteer for the military forces.
Perhaps British philosopher and cultural critic John Osbourne said it best:
Politicians hide themselves away
They only started the war
Why should they go out to fight
They leave that all to the poor
Oh Lord, yeah!

UPDATE: Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for first lady Laura Bush, informed the Washington Post that, only one year after graduating, "Jenna Bush has started work."

Therefore, we are raising Jenna's employment level to "Nicky Hilton."

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Unless, of course, his old man gets him a slot in the Texas Air National Guard.

From CNN:
President Bush said Tuesday that he will visit Vietnam in 2006 to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

"I'm looking forward to my trip and to the APEC summit that Vietnam will be hosting," Bush said after meeting in the Oval Office with Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai.

Khai's official visit to the United States was the first by a Vietnamese prime minister and coincided with the 10th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the former enemies.

This year also marks the 30th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.

Monday, June 20, 2005

"Not Everyone is Criticizing Sen. Dick Durbin"

TalkLeft says:
Durbin’s comments have had the positive effect of stimulating more discussion about the fact that the Bush Administration’s policies have put our troops at risk and hurt our efforts to win the war on terrorism. Durbin’s constituents, who know him best, seem to recognize that was his intent.
TL then lists the papers that bothered to read what Durbin actually said:
State Journal Register:
The real message of Durbin's statement - that we must investigate and stop inhumane treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo and other military prisons - is one we can't afford to ignore.
Daily Southtown:
Durbin doesn't owe anyone an apology. Our view is that he's calling on the Bush administration to act by the high standards that are the American tradition. That's what we all should be demanding from our president and his administration, and we should not be so naive as to be deceived by the propaganda machine.
Crain’s Chicago Business:
Mistreating people, some possibly innocent, in a harsh prison forever is not an Illinois value. Nor is it an Illinois value to take a person who might possess some intelligence of possible value, stake them out naked on the ground, turn up an air-conditioner until they’re shaking with cold, play ear-splitting music, and watch them defecate and urinate on themselves. That, in fact, was the conduct Mr. Durbin was protesting.
It's a shame that the Chicago Tribune, faced with a principled legislator protesting against chaining prisoners "hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water" -- all in the name of the United States of America -- could only see a "stunt."


If you ever wondered why Illinois needs a law -- like the one proposed by Tom Cross -- that would require that a jury conclude beyond all doubt that the defendant was guilty before applying the death penalty, look no further than the case of Kevin Fox:
Oct. 26, 2004: Kevin Fox is arrested after authorities say he makes a videotaped statement saying he accidentally killed her by hitting her in the head with a door, and in a panic dumped her in the creek after binding, gagging and sexually assaulting her body to make it look like a kidnapping.

Oct. 28, 2004: Will County State's Attorney Jeffrey Tomczak files criminal complaint charging Fox with first-degree murder and predatory criminal sexual assault of a child and announces he will seek death penalty against Fox.

Oct. 30, 2004: Kevin Fox releases his own statement proclaiming innocence and accusing police of coercing him into falsely admitting he killed Riley and then covered up the death.

Nov. 2, 2004: Republican Tomczak loses re-election bid to Democrat James Glasgow.


Feb. 25, 2005: Glasgow's office and Fox's lawyers agree to process for comparing DNA evidence from Riley's body and samples supplied by Kevin Fox.

June 17, 2005: A day after state's attorney and defense lawyers receive lab results excluding Kevin Fox as source of DNA obtained from his daughter's body, Fox is released from jail.
And if you ever wondered how prosecutors could possibly oppose such a bill, look no further than the case of Kevin Fox:
Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow did not say his predecessor, Jeffrey Tomczak, rushed Kevin Fox's arrest just five days before the election in an unsuccessful attempt to keep his job.

And Glasgow never explicitly criticized Tomczak for not comparing Kevin Fox' DNA with evidence samples taken from his daughter's body.

But in his court motion and his press release, Glasgow spelled out his former political rival's timing and omissions.

When Kevin Fox was arrested in October, his attorney, Kathleen Zellner, called the timing "suspicious" because of the imminent election in which Tomczak was fighting for his political life against Glasgow.

Tomczak called the suggestion that Fox's arrest was designed more to help his campaign than solve the murder "baseless."

Tomczak refused to comment at the time on whether he had tested Kevin Fox's DNA against the samples taken from his daughter five months earlier. He did say at the time that he was seeking the death penalty for Kevin Fox -- as Glasgow noted Friday.
How many different times and in how many different ways must the criminal justice system fail before we make some common sense reforms to the Illinois death penalty.


If she can raise a good sum of money, the DCCC and Emanuel will notice, and she'll have a real race in 2006.

The good people over at the Chicagoist explain why it is so important to give money to Christine Cegelis' campaign right now.


Jay Leno sent television personality and Tonight Show correspondent Mo Rocca to Metropolis, Illinois for the 2005 Superman celebration. In this clip Rocca interviews Superman museum curator Jim Hambrick and a series of gentlemen who I pray are from nearby Kentucky.

Friday, June 17, 2005


Is there another columnist in Chicago journalism who expends as much ink trying to mnufacture a tough-guy image as John Kass does? It seems that the theme of every other column is John Kass is so much harder than you.

Is John Kass actually pugnacious?

Sure he looks like a brawler. But just because a guy's face looks like he's been in a fight, that doesn't mean he is an actual fighter.

And, yeah, he loves red meat and he's from the south side, but he's grillin' in the suburbs now. His biography on the Trib website says he was "merchant marine sailor" but it also says he was also a film student.

Très rugged.

In today's column, Kass once again struts his second-hand toughness.

First, he lets us know that he considers prisoner abuse to be the stuff of strong-hearted humor. It might not be politically correct to jest about men being chained and forced to lie in their own filth, but manly men like Kass can see the comedy in it.

Then Kass turns to his oldest and dearest proof of his own toughness -- his dad:
In World War II in Greece, my father was handed over to the Germans on the suspicion he aided downed British airmen. They beat him, day after day, making him dig his own grave. He played dumb to survive and it worked. An uncle was forced into a labor camp. The Nazis didn't use Christina Aguilera music on him, though luckily, he too survived.
Wow. Sounds to me like the elder Kasses were tougher than hell. You'd think having grown up around real tough-guys, John would have learned to identify legitimate toughness and, by contrast, recognize his own printed posturing. You can inherit a name and you can inherit a Greek grocery store, but you can't inherit toughness.

But that doesn't deter John Kass. And in his closing he lets Sen. Durbin -- a man who dared to question the abuse of prisoners by Americans -- know just how damn tough he is:
And if you don't have the stomach for the work, please have the guts not to play partisan politics with what has to be done.
That's right, John Kass, second-hand tough-guy, has the personal courage, the stomach, the guts, to stand aside and let other Americans torture prisoners.

What balls.

"The Chicago Tribune's 'cheap stunt'"

AMERICAblog notes that the Trib finds enflamatory rhetoric okay when it comes to serious issues like producing an editorial page but that it's a "cheap stunt" when it comes to issues like prisoner abuse at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.
Funny. The Chicago Tribune can write an editorial (yesterday) with the subtext that GOP Senators are in favor of lynching, but then when Senator Durbin reads a horrible description of prisoner abuse at Gitmo, and says, rightfully, that such a description sounds like what a totalitarian regime would do to prisoners, suddenly THAT comparison is a "cheap stunt."

Right. Because it's much more likely that 10 sitting US Senators are in favor of lynching innocent black people and hanging them from trees in the town square, than it's likely that our government could ever go too far and systematically violate the human rights of people who are different than us. Uh huh. Torture vs. lynching, and the Trib chooses lynching as the more probable scenario.

Now who's pulling a cheap stunt?
It is worth noting that the Trib's own editorial observed that Durbin "read an account by an unnamed FBI agent of the alleged treatment of a prisoner who was 'chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water.' The prisoner, the agent said, had been subject to extremely hot and cold temperatures."

Does the Trib think that it is a "cheap stunt" for any American to say, as Durbin did, "This is the type of thing you would expect from a repressive regime. This is not the type of thing you would expect from the United States"?

Do they really think so little of the United States?

Update: More


Ultimate Hottest U.S. Senator Not Counting Obama


From Editor& Publisher:
After McClellan outlined the president's plans, leading up to a key June 28th speech, ABC correspondent Terry Moran asked a pointed question, which referred back to an assessment recently made by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Q Scott, is the insurgency in Iraq in its 'last throes'?

McCLELLAN: Terry, you have a desperate group of terrorists in Iraq that are doing everything they can to try to derail the transition to democracy. The Iraqi people have made it clear that they want a free and democratic and peaceful future. And that's why we're doing everything we can, along with other countries, to support the Iraqi people as they move forward….

Q But the insurgency is in its last throes?

McCLELLAN: The Vice President talked about that the other day -- you have a desperate group of terrorists who recognize how high the stakes are in Iraq. A free Iraq will be a significant blow to their ambitions.

Q But they're killing more Americans, they're killing more Iraqis. That's the last throes?

McCLELLAN: Innocent -- I say innocent civilians. And it doesn't take a lot of people to cause mass damage when you're willing to strap a bomb onto yourself, get in a car and go and attack innocent civilians. That's the kind of people that we're dealing with. That's what I say when we're talking about a determined enemy.

Q Right. What is the evidence that the insurgency is in its last throes?

McCLELLAN: I think I just explained to you the desperation of terrorists and their tactics.

Q What's the evidence on the ground that it's being extinguished?

McCLELLAN: Terry, we're making great progress to defeat the terrorist and regime elements. You're seeing Iraqis now playing more of a role in addressing the security threats that they face. They're working side by side with our coalition forces. They're working on their own. There are a lot of special forces in Iraq that are taking the battle to the enemy in Iraq. And so this is a period when they are in a desperate mode.

Q Well, I'm just wondering what the metric is for measuring the defeat of the insurgency.

McCLELLAN: Well, you can go back and look at the Vice President's remarks. I think he talked about it.

Q Yes. Is there any idea how long a 'last throe' lasts for?

McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Steve....
And the press should be further emboldened by the Bush administrations tumbling poll numbers.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


Is the Pentagon threatening Sen. Dick Durbin for accurately evaluating interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo Bay Detention Center?

From Reuters:

"We invite more members to go down to Guantanamo and see what's going on, because what's going on down there is not the way it's being described by certain members of Congress," chief Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita told a briefing.

"And the way they are describing it is unfortunate, and in some places I believe those people will regret having made those kind of comments," Di Rita added.

I suspect that it will take more than that to scare off Durbin, but it still scares me.


GOP state senators have rejected Republican moderates running for 6th District seat.

From the Chicago Tribune:
State Sen. Peter Roskam's campaign to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde in the 6th Congressional District received a boost Wednesday when he was endorsed by his Senate colleagues in the west suburban district--all of them Republican.
More from the SunTimes:

Missing from Roskam's news conference in an Elmhurst park was state Sen. Carole Pankau of Roselle, who is also running in the hotly contested congressional race.

Roskam, 43, a Wheaton lawyer, said he hopes the lack of support from her Senate colleagues prompts Pankau to rethink her candidacy.

"Listen, there's a whole host of reasons why you want senators involved early in your campaign, and a restraining influence on possible opponents is certainly one of them," Roskam said. "I think the message speaks for itself."

Reached later, Pankau, 57, laughed off the move.

"If you want to send a message back to Sen. Roskam: That's not going to work," she told the Sun-Times. "I'm going to run."

Endorsing Roskam, 43, were GOP state senators Dan Cronin of Elmhurst, Wendell Jones of Palatine, Kay Wojcik of Schaumburg, Dave Sullivan of Park Ridge and Steve Rauschenberger of Elgin ***

The remaining Republican in the race, former DuPage County Recorder of Deeds J.P. "Rick" Carney, 58, dismissed most of the endorsements, saying "senators support senators... That's the fraternity."
So Steve Rauschenberger has joined Tom Roeser in endorsing Pete "Just Disgusting" Roskam for the 6th District.

I certainly hope that their endorsement of this carpetbagging, right-wing extremist is as successful as their previous endorsement of Alan Keyes was.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


SurveyUSA says that Barack Obama is America's most popular Senator:
72% -- Approve (06/05)
21% -- Disapprove (06/05)
67% -- Approve (05/05)
22% -- Disapprove (05/05)
+5% -- Approve Change
-1% -- Disapprove Change


Someone should let Blagonad, aka Captain Video, know that the PC version of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is not so PC.

In fact, it features hardcore testicular virility. (includes NSFW screengrabs)

via boing-boing

Monday, June 13, 2005


Chris Rhodes, one of my favorite Republicans, passed the mic on the book meme.

Total number of books I've owned:


Very many.

So many that it was -- once again -- the subject of conflict in my household. There were about 1,000 books in our library, but then I brought six boxes of books in from our garage on Saturday.

My wife informed me that my compulsion to own all the books in the world is "not normal." Of course this is true, but I do not hold "normal" in particularly high esteem.

Nevertheless, by marshaling the facts, e.g. I have six paperback copies of Neuromancer, and once again besting me rhetorically, my bride -- a voracious reader herself -- forced me to face the unpleasant facts that:

  1. there is a limited amount of surface area in our home,
  2. a minimum amount of a home's surface area must remain open for a family to live in the manner in which citizens of a first-world nations have become accustomed, and
  3. the amount of our home's living space remaining unsurrendered to the printed page is rapidly approaching to the point where books are no longer a civilizing factor.
So, although the number may go down in the near future, I would estimate that there are currently between 1,000 and 1,500 books in our home.

Of course, that doesn't include the scores of my books stored at my parents' home...
or the dozens at my brother's apartment...
or the books stacked up at work...
or the one's I've lent out.

Okay... maybe I have a problem.

The last book I bought:

The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith (1958)

I am half-way through The Affluent Society and have nearly exhausted a pen underlining brilliantly worded insights.

One of Galbraith's central ideas is that economists and Americans in general had misinterpreted the centrality of increased production as a function of the value of the items actually produced. Galbraith contended that production was important, not for gadgets, but for jobs.
When men are unemployed, society does not miss the goods they do not produce. *** But the men who are without work do miss the income they no longer earn. *** It is for reasons of economic security that we must produce at capacity.
Failure to learn Galbraith's lesson about the purpose of increased production is the source of many of post-NAFTA America's problems. While the supply of cheap gadgets is at an all-time high, the unavailability of secure jobs that pay more than Wal-mart wages is a constant source of instability and a drag on the economy.

If The Affluent Society wasn't the last book I purchased, it would be a strong contender for the "Five Books" list below.

The last book I read:

Courtroom 302 : A Year Behind the Scenes in an American Criminal Courthouse by Steve Bogira (2005)

From the Tribune:

Bogira's book, "Courtroom 302", is a meticulously researched examination of the workings of the criminal courts building, the biggest and busiest felony courthouse in the nation. It focuses on the people, particularly the defendants, who moved through this one courtroom over a 12-month period. ***

He argues that, for all the labor of court workers and for all their best intentions, the activity of the courthouse is a daily miscarriage of justice. That's because it doesn't -- and can't -- address what Bogira sees as the root of the U.S. crime problem: poverty. ***

Consider this: Of the 30,000 cases that move through the 32 courtrooms in the building in a given year, only 1 in 100 involves a jury trial. And only one in nine involves any sort of trial at all.

Most defendants -- nearly 90 percent -- plead guilty. They don't confess because of a sudden rush of repentance. They do it because of a deal worked out with the judge and prosecutors, intent on doing everything they can to keep their huge caseloads from growing even larger. In exchange for their plea, the defendants get an easier sentence, often on a lesser charge.

It's the courthouse as a sort of bargain basement -- where judges and prosecutors offer discounts to suspects willing to allow them to clear cases off the books.
That's one of several metaphors Bogira employs to describe life at 26th Street, as the court building is often called. Another is that of a huge factory through which defendants move like so much raw material being sorted, handled and spat out.

Still another image, one sometimes used by court personnel, is the building as a kind of garbage disposal system. As one sheriff's deputy says, "We get the dregs of humanity here."

"The guilty plea," Bogira says, "is central to the system working. It allows this factory to keep moving -- which, in turn, allows us to feel we're addressing our crime problems. It's a great enabler."

Bogira's argument is simple: Americans could attack crime by attacking its source -- by working to reduce poverty through jobs, better schools, better housing and better health care. But the U.S. has decided, he contends, that it's cheaper and easier to let crime happen (generally, in low-income neighborhoods) and deal with it in the courts.

Even to those who work in the criminal justice system -- perhaps especially to them -- Borgia's book is a revelation.

Five books that mean a lot to me:

Cash: The Autobiography by Johnny Cash (1998)

Mother tells the story that when I was a baby the first two word phrase I ever said was, "Johnny Cash." She insists that when Cash's signature boom-chica-boom-chica spilled from our radio, as it frequently did, I would excitedly shout "Johnny Cash! Johnny Cash!"

Sure, mom might be full of crap. But it doesn't really matter.

The point is J.R. Cash was a central figure in my childhood. And even if he never sang a note -- and there is certainly an argument to be made about his "singing" -- he would be a great man to me for penning song "The Man in Black."

On one level, it was written as a simple explanation for his monochromatic choice in clothes, but on a deeper level, it is a vow to daily remember those that are forgotten.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he's a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you'd think He's talking straight to you and me.

Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought'a be a Man In Black.
Cash was also proof that it was possible for someone outside of my family to be a devout, even enthusiastic, Christian without being a friggin' a-hole about it.

And Cash was also a total bad-ass. And a consummate family man. At the same time.

I never met him. I never even saw him in concert -- by the time I could afford tickets, illness kept him from touring -- but he was a constant presence in our house and he remains a hero to me to this day. His signed autobiography is one of the two books I would grab in case of fire.

Power Game: How Washington Works by Hedrick Smith (1988)

I read this during Poli-Sci 101.

When I entered the class, I didn't know I was smart enough to understand all the intricate details of Washington politics. As a result, like too many people, I voted based on the images constructed and projected by the parties. When I left the class, I realized that I possessed the intellectual tools necessary to identify the political party that actually acted in accord with my values and to vote as an intelligent citizen.

Not coincidentally, although I entered the class as a registered Republican, I exited the class as a registered Democrat.

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama (1997)

This book and its author spurred me to take an active part in politics.

One day Obama will be the nation's first black president and we will all be better for it.

Obama's signed autobiography is the other book I would try to rescue from a fire.

Neuromancer by William Gibson (1984)

"The sky above then port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."

Gibson's sci-fi classic was my introduction to the cyberpunk genre.

When one considers that "Austin Mayor" is a purely fictional entity who exists only online, one begins to appreciate the impact that Gibson's works have had on my brain and how much the world has come to mirror his imagination.

But nothing explains owning six copies.

E-mail me if you want one.

Origins of Marvel Comics by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko (1974)

"With great power comes great responsibility."

Heroes are liberal. Liberals are heroic. 'Nuff said.

Tag five people and have them fill this out on their blogs:

Of course this operates on the presumption, perhaps unfounded, that the following bloggers bother to read this blog. But I guess I'll risk it, call out the Blogginois big dogs, and tag Eric, Rich,Ralph OneMan and Larry.

update: I didn't pick OneMan, one of my other favorite Republicans, earlier because I didn't notice that Ralph had already participated in this bit of net fluff.

Well, that and the fact that I wanted my list to lean center-left.

Friday, June 10, 2005


"No matter what your politics, 'Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room' will make you mad. " -- Roger Ebert

Starting tonight, the Glen Art Theatre will be showing "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room."

More Ebert:
Strange, that there has not been more anger over the Enron scandals. The cost was incalculable, not only in lives lost during the power crisis, but in treasure: The state of California is suing for $6 billion in refunds for energy overcharges collected during the phony crisis. If the crisis had been created by Al Qaeda, if terrorists had shut down half of California's power plants, consider how we would regard these same events. Yet the crisis, made possible because of deregulation engineered by Enron's lobbyists, is still being blamed on "too much regulation." If there was ever a corporation that needed more regulation, that corporation was Enron.
The Glen Art Theatre, 540 Crescent Boulevard, Glen Ellyn, IL - (630) 415-1976

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

"Vox Clamantis in Deserto"

Derivative Work Alert: This blog post is basically a link to a posting that consists exclusively of an article that is composed primarily of a speech.

From The Washington Spectator:
Senator Obama has become a vox clamantis in deserto -- a voice crying out in the wilderness. He is not yet frequently seen or heard on the Senate floor, but his occasional speeches elsewhere say a lot. A recent one that struck us as a self-illuminating sketch of his promising future was given recently at a Washington National Press Club luncheon. It got little national media attention, so we've decided to present some of it here to spotlight the talents of this unusually promising man
I heard Obama's speech on NPR and agree that it deserves more attention -- so I've posted the Spectator article here.

Monday, June 06, 2005


Reuters informs us that Pope Benedict has condemned same-sex unions as fake and expressions of "anarchic freedom" that threatened the future of the family.

Lets review:
an·ar·chy, n., Absence of any form of political authority.

free·dom, n., Liberty of the person from slavery, detention, or oppression.
Viva Anarchic Freedom!

And no offense, but if I was the "Holy Father" in charge of an organization that demands celibacy from my employees, I would hesitate before charging someone else with threatening the future of the family.

And if my authority stemmed from a Heavenly Father and a Son conceived by a Holy Ghost, I would think twice before calling anyone's family "fake".


The Tribune's "The Beat: West" repeats a story that first appeared last Tuesday in Sneed's S-T column:
As [Peter Roskam], the Republican minority whip from Wheaton, was heading home from Springfield along Interstate Highway 55 recently, another driver pulled up next to him in Will County and held up a check in the window. Roskam pulled over at the next exit, and the driver of the other car -- a lobbyist who mostly supports Democratic causes -- gave him $500.
Although both pieces expressed shock that a strong Democratic supporter would give Roskam a $500 check, it makes perfect sense to me.

Most Democrats would like nothing more than for their candidate, whomever it may be, to face off against the right-wing, NRA-smooching, district hopping, Tom DeLay disciple in November 2006.

"The DeLay Effect"

From the Washington Post:
After enlarging their majority in the past two elections, House Republicans have begun to fear that public attention to members' travel and relations with lobbyists will make ethics a potent issue that could cost the party seats in next year's midterm races.

In what Republican strategists call "the DeLay effect," questions plaguing House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) are starting to hurt his fellow party members, who are facing news coverage of their own trips and use of relatives on their campaign payrolls. Liberal interest groups have begun running advertising in districts where Republicans may be in trouble, trying to tie the incumbents to their leaders' troubles. ***

Rick Davis, a Republican strategist who was presidential campaign manager for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), said the ethics issue is putting the party "into a bit of troublesome water."

"The combination of gridlock and ethics charges indicate that the system's busted, and the system is the majority party," Davis said. ***

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said that although a particular member's conduct matters only in that person's specific race, the Democrats plan to make "an overarching theme" of the influence that special interests have gained over the legislative process.
While the WP article only focuses on the effect on incumbents, DeLay may play a role in the Illinois 6th District race. From the April 22 Sun-Times:
Peter Roskam, who worked for DeLay 20 years ago, voiced support.

"Trotting out some of ... these old accusations that are two and three and four years old is a little bit tiresome," Roskam said. "I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt." ***

Roskam, 43, is a lawyer who lives in Wheaton. He worked as an aide to DeLay in 1985 and part of 1986, but said he has "not had any contact with him essentially for 20 years."

"I think everybody agrees that he's one of the most effective legislators in Washington, D.C.," Roskam said. "Knowing what I know now about what Tom DeLay's been accused of, my attitude would be to support him."
Far be it from me to tell Rahm and the DCCC what to do, but if the 6th District GOP primary goes as expected, I would hope that they will highlight the fact that Roskam started his political career on the knee of Tom DeLay.


In one sentence, the always worthwhile ILPundit exposes the foolishness of attempting to equate Linda Tripp's revelations regarding the Lewinsky Affair with Mark Felt's "Deep Throat" Watergate whistleblowing:
Linda Tripp was not exposing illegal activity. Marc Felt was. That is a huge difference, and any discussion of equivalency between the two would rightly end there.

Thursday, June 02, 2005


Get Your War On!


A new study by Dartmouth College researchers suggests that huge jury awards and financial settlements for injured patients have not caused the explosive increase in doctors' insurance premiums.

In the Boston Globe story, the researchers say that a more likely explanation for the escalation is that malpractice insurance companies have raised doctors' premiums to compensate for falling investment returns:
The Dartmouth economists studied actual payments made to patients between 1991 and 2003, the results of which were published yesterday in the journal Health Affairs. Some previous studies have examined jury awards, which often are reduced after trial to comply with doctors' insurance coverage maximums or because the plaintiff settles for less money to avoid an appeal. Researchers found that payments grew an average of 4 percent annually during the years covered by the study, or 52 percent overall since 1991, but only 1.6 percent a year since 2000. The increases are roughly equivalent to the overall rise in healthcare costs, said Amitabh Chandra, lead author and an assistant professor of economics at the New Hampshire college. ***

''It's not payments that's causing this," Chandra said. ''The simple explanation that comes to mind is the [insurance] underwriting cycle. If they're making less money from the investment side of things, it's going to cause [insurance companies] to raise rates."
But remember med-mal caps will solve everything because the problems of Illinois doctors are caused by the greedy victims of medical malpractice -- not the highly profitable insurance companies.

"A pox on both your houses"

Ralph Nader and Kevin Zeese look at the Downing Street Memo and make the case for the impeachment of George W. Bush.

They are right, of course. Bush should be impeached for some of the things he has done as president.

And Nader should be horsewhipped for some of the things he did that helped make Bush the president.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


From Knight Ridder:
U.S. Army officers in the badland deserts of northwest Iraq, near the Syrian border, say they don't have enough troops to hold the ground they take from insurgents in this transit point for weapons, money and foreign fighters.

From last October to the end of April, there were about 400 soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division patrolling the northwest region, which covers about 10,000 square miles.

"Resources are everything in combat ... there's no way 400 people can cover that much ground," said Maj. John Wilwerding, of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which is responsible for the northwest tract that includes Tal Afar. ***

"There's simply not enough forces here," said a high-ranking U.S. Army officer with knowledge of the 3rd ACR. "There are not enough to do anything right; everybody's got their finger in a dike."

The officer spoke on the condition of anonymity because of concern that he'd be reprimanded for questioning American military policy in Iraq. ***

Last week, when the ramp of an armored vehicle began to open outside the house near Rawah, an insurgent shot a rocket-propelled grenade at it and other insurgents let loose with machine-gun fire.

The 25th Infantry soldiers responded first with .50-caliber machine-gun fire and then two shoulder-launched rockets. Four insurgents - three from Saudi Arabia and one from Morocco - were killed, Maj. Denny said. After the house caught fire, four more insurgents surrendered. They were from Syria, Jordan and Algeria.

"They'd come to Iraq to kill Americans; they were looking for jihad" - or holy war - Denny said.
Asked if he planned on pacifying Rawah - a town of some 50,000 with no police or mayor - Denny shook his head.

"We could go in and clear them all out tomorrow, but if we left and didn't install law there, it would happen again," he said. "You need an Iraqi army battalion to hang out in Rawah."

And that, he said, isn't going to happen anytime soon.
Yesterday, President Bush said he was pleased with the progress being made there and that the new government will halt the deadly insurgency.
"I'm pleased with the progress," Bush told a news conference in the White House Rose Garden. "I am pleased that in less than a year's time there is a democratically elected government in Iraq, there are thousands of Iraqi soldiers trained and better equipped to fight for their own country." ***

"I believe that the Iraqi government's going to be plenty capable of dealing with them (insurgents), and our job is to help train them so that they can," Bush said.

"And when they're ready, we'll come home."
And that isn't going to happen anytime soon.

"And you, sir, are worse than Hitler."

The award for rhetorical overreaching goes to Rep. Jim Sacia (R-Pecatonica).

From the Chicago Sun-Times:
How can anybody with any kind of conscience at all vote yes for a budget that does this? *** Our governor talks about testicular virility, and he's raping each and every one of us, our children and our grandchildren.

"that means not tell the truth"

dis·sem·ble (dĭ-sĕm'bcl) v., To disguise or conceal behind a false appearance.

White House Transcript:
In terms of the detainees, we've had thousands of people detained. We've investigated every single complaint against the detainees. It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of -- and the allegations -- by people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people that had been trained in some instances to disassemble -- that means not tell the truth. And so it was an absurd report. It just is. And, you know -- yes, sir.
Chicago Tribune:
Bush said that "it seemed like to me [Amnesty International] based some of their decisions on the word of--and the allegations--by people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people that had been trained in some instances to dissemble -- that means not tell the truth. And so it was an absurd report."


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