Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Happy Holidays!

"Poppa's got a fat nightcrawler of truth for you."

In the latest A.V. Club interview, Steven Colbert gets truthy about his Comedy Central program, his time in Chicago and "high-status idiots":
The A.V. Club: What's your take on the "truthiness" imbroglio that's tearing our country apart?

Stephen Colbert: Truthiness is tearing apart our country, and I don't mean the argument over who came up with the word. I don't know whether it's a new thing, but it's certainly a current thing, in that it doesn't seem to matter what facts are. It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that's not the case anymore.

Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything. It's certainty. People love the president because he's certain of his choices as a leader, even if the facts that back him up don't seem to exist. It's the fact that he's certain that is very appealing to a certain section of the country. I really feel a dichotomy in the American populace. What is important? What you want to be true, or what is true?

AVC: You're saying appearances are more important than objective truth?

SC: Absolutely. The whole idea of authority—authoritarian is fine for some people, like people who say "Listen to me, and just don't question, and do what I say, and everything will be fine"—the sort of thing we really started to respond to so well after 9/11. 'Cause we wanted someone to be daddy, to take decisions away from us. I really have a sense of [America's current leaders] doing bad things in our name to protect us, and that was okay.

We weren't thrilled with Bush because we thought he was a good guy at that point, we were thrilled with him because we thought that he probably had hired people who would fuck up our enemies, regardless of how they had to do it. That was for us a very good thing, and I can't argue with the validity of that feeling.

But that has been extended to the idea that authoritarian is better than authority. Because authoritarian means there's only one authority, and that authority has got to be the President, has got to be the government, and has got to be his allies.

What the right-wing in the United States tries to do is undermine the press. They call the press "liberal," they call the press "biased," not necessarily because it is or because they have problems with the facts of the left—or even because of the bias for the left, because it's hard not to be biased in some way, everyone is always going to enter their editorial opinion—but because a press that has validity is a press that has authority. And as soon as there's any authority to what the press says, you question the authority of the government—it's like the existence of another authority.

So that's another part of truthiness. Truthiness is "What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true." It's not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true. There's not only an emotional quality, but there's a selfish quality.
The rest is here.

Monday, January 30, 2006

U.S. Army: Trudeau's "Doonesbury" Supports the Troops

Troops Honor Doonesbury's Trudeau:
"Doonesbury" creator Garry Trudeau has been presented with the U.S. Department of the Army's Commander's Award for Public Service, Universal Press Syndicate announced Friday.

The award -- the fourth highest honor the Army can give a civilian -- recognizes Trudeau's "outstanding contributions to the morale and support of wounded service members, veterans, their families, and the Walter Reed family of healthcare providers," wrote Major General Kenneth L. Farmer Jr.

"Your compassionate portrayal of Lieutenant B.D.'s recovery and struggle to assimilate into this environment ... has touched our Warrior Family and opened the eyes of the rest of the world to the physical, emotional, and personal challenges our soldiers face."
Damn liberal.

Doesn't Trudeau know that the best way for a cartoonist to support America is to attack the very idea of gay cowboys and falsely accuse Democratic leaders of lying.

And that's "Billion"... with a 'B'

America's loss is Haliburton's gain:
Oilfield services conglomerate Halliburton Co. swung to a profit in its fourth quarter on robust sales and increased rig activity, and called last year the best in its 86-year history.

The income reversed a loss from a year earlier for Houston-based Halliburton, the company once led by Vice President Dick Cheney. Its KBR unit has become known for its support work for troops stationed in the Middle East.

Net income was $1.1 billion, or $2.08 a share, including a gain of $540 million or $1.02 a share, for a future tax allowance. That compared to a net loss of $203 million, or 46 cents a share last year, which included a $384 million loss from discontinued operations. ***

Like many other companies in oil-related business, Halliburton enjoyed the fruits of boom times, said analyst Jeff Tillery of Pickering Energy Partners.

"They were really helped by the oilfield business being so good and taking advantage of energy being in the upcycle," Tillery said.
"Taking advantage of energy being in the upcycle" = "Bush/Cheney '04"
Revenue at KBR, Halliburton's engineering and construction division, fell 3 percent to $3 billion, which the company said resulted from reduced military work in Iraq.

"It was less of a decline that we expected, so Iraq was really in line of how we modeled it," Tillery said.

"Iraq was really in line" with the business model of the former employer of Richard Cheney, vice- president and Iraq invasion mastermind.

What a lucky coincidence!
Revenue for 2005 reached nearly $21 billion, a record that also beat analysts expectations of $20.4 billion.

"This demonstrates our customers' willingness to pay a premium for our technological expertise that results in accelerated production rates," Dave Lesar, Halliburton's CEO, said in a statement. ***
And who, friends and neighbors, is the "customer" so willing to "pay a premium" price for Halliburton's "technological expertise"? It is the Bush administration, of course, and they are paying that "premium" price with your your tax dollars.

And how is that "technological expertise" working out for our Americans?
Congressional Democrats have contended that the Bush administration has long played favorites to Halliburton because of its ties to Cheney.

The latest round of controversy surfaced this week when former Halliburton officials claimed water for a U.S. base was contaminated and that the company failed to notify troops and civilians. Halliburton denied any contamination troubles at Camp Junction City in Ramadi, Iraq.
It's sure nice that the Bush tax policy, the destruction in the Gulf Coast and the Iraq blood-bath are working out for someone -- I just wish it was the United States.

Friday, January 27, 2006


  • January 27 -- Thomas Crapper Day honors the man responsible for perfecting the design of the modern flushing toilet on the anniversary of his death in 1910.
  • By more than 2-to-1, Americans say things have gotten worse in the United States over the past five years. From today's USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll:
    Those surveyed:
    • Said the country has gotten off track. By 62%-35%, they were dissatisfied with the way things are going in the USA. That's the most pessimistic view at the start of a year since Bush took office.
    • Rated the economy as faltering. Six in 10 said the current economy was only fair or poor, and 54% said economic conditions were getting worse. Views differed by party: 68% of Republicans but just 16% of Democrats called the economy excellent or good.
    • Questioned Bush's leadership. By 64%-34%, they said Bush didn't have a clear plan for solving the country's problems. The president received his strongest approval rating, 52%, on fighting terrorism. But on health care — ranked as an issue equal to the economy — congressional Democrats were more trusted, 54%-35%.
    • The poll of 1,006 adults Jan. 20-22 has a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.
So I'm not the only one who noticed that giant flushing sound.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

"The Chair Recognizes the Gentleman from Blogginois..."

Illinois pols are prominently featured in ZDNet story on congressional blogging:
"When I reach out to the blog community, it gives me an opportunity to begin a dialogue with an extremely politically sophisticated and active community that I otherwise might not be able to reach," Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., wrote in an e-mail to CNET News.com. "Another benefit of blogging is that, as opposed to delivering a speech, you get immediate and unlimited feedback, both positive and negative."

Obama and [Sen. John Kerry] are two of about 11 members of Congress who are blogging today, either on their own blogs or as guests on others' sites. Republicans like Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert of Illinois, Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas have joined the fray, along with Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan and Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York. ***

According to Kirk, a mistrust of the Internet and blogging in particular, on the part of some members of Congress, is slowly giving way to the realities that the Internet and blogging provide a unique way to communicate with constituents.

"It doesn't cost us anything to put up anything on the Web, and it doesn't cost my constituents anything to go and see it," Kirk told CNET News.com. "This is rapidly going to become the dominant way we talk to our constituents, (especially) as snail mail dies out." ***

Of course, not all congressional bloggers get the feedback benefit--or risk, depending on whom you ask--of comments. Part of that involves a rule prohibiting comments on federal Web sites. And part involves a decision by some members that blogging is more a method of getting a personalized message out than of engaging in conversation.

And to some, the lack of comments on the official blogs of those like Kirk, Hastert, Obama and others actually calls into question their use of the term "blog."

Without comments, a blog is "just a glorified press release," said Mike Cornfield, an adjunct professor in political management at George Washington University.

Others aren't sure comments are a necessary component.

Jay Rosen, a professor of journalism at New York University and a prominent blogger himself, said there are several popular blogs, including the technology culture blog Boing Boing and the conservative political blog Instapundit, that don't have comments. ***

"When Barack Obama addressed the bloggers at the Democratic National Convention" in 2004, said Rosen, "He said, 'Welcome, welcome. I may start a blog myself.' And he said, 'I may be coming to you for advice.' And I shouted out to him, 'Write it yourself.' He said, 'Oh, well, as soon as I find three free hours a day, I will.' Which meant never. And he's learning it's necessary for him to write it himself. Because that's what's really powerful." ***

In the end, though, politicians like Obama feel that taking part in blogging simply means using the latest mechanism to help people connect to their elected representatives.

"The benefit of blogging for constituents is that it provides them with yet another way to communicate with the people they voted--or didn't vote--into office," Obama said by e-mail. "I think any tool that increases civic participation is good for democracy."
The So-Called "Austin Mayor" Blog: A Tool That Increases Civic Participation!


George W. Bush, January 25, 2006, attempting to justify his administration's illegal domestic spying: "When [Osama bin Laden] says he's going to hurt the American people again, or try to, he means it. I take it seriously, and the people of NSA take it seriously."

George W. Bush, March 13, 2002, attempting to justify his administration's failure to kill or capture Osama bin Laden: "I truly am not that concerned about him."

UPDATE: For some reason, this post has reminded me of George Orwell's definition of "doublethink":
To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed.

"It's not a peacetime force that has been in barracks or garrisons.''

1914 - "Shell shocked"
1943 - "Battle Fatigued"
1956 - "Combat Exhausted"
1970 - "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder"
2006 - "Battle-Hardened"

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Denny Hastert's No-Holds Barred Rise to Power

In her column in the New York Post [bugmenot], Cindy Adams says prosecutors are investigating Denny Hastert's ascent to Speaker:
Jack Abramoff's partner Mike Scanlon admitted to digging up former Congressman Robert Livingston's private life. Set to become speaker, Livingston then got sidelined for Tom DeLay's man Dennis Hastert. Prosecutors now checking if Abramoff and Scanlon took Livingston down at DeLay's behest.
And as former wrestling coach, Denny knows that, although takedowns are generally worth one point, this takedown scores three points because the opponent was brought down in a position of exposure.

Crime and Punishment

jŭk'stə-pōz'- To place side by side, especially for comparison or contrast.
Expressing doubt that incarceration would make the defendant reform or repent, a federal judge nevertheless sentenced an antiwar campaigner on Monday to serve six months in prison for his role in damaging a military recruiting center during a protest in 2003. ***

In 2003, using methods more commonly seen in the Vietnam War era, Mr. Burns, who is now 45, and three other activists - Clare T. Grady, 47, her sister Teresa B. Grady, 40, and Peter J. De Mott, 59 - spilled vials of blood on the walls, windows and American flag of the recruiting center in Lansing, near Ithaca, to protest the impending invasion of Iraq.

The defendants, who are part of the Catholic Worker Movement and call themselves the St. Patrick's Four because the protest took place on St. Patrick's Day three years ago, were first tried in state court, where a judge allowed them to argue at length that the United States violated international law when it attacked Iraq.

When that case ended in a hung jury, a federal prosecutor, Miroslav Lovric, filed charges of trespassing, damaging government property and conspiracy.
A military jury ordered a reprimand but no jail time Monday for an Army interrogator convicted of negligent homicide in the death of an Iraqi general who died after he stuffed him headfirst into a sleeping bag and sat on his chest.

The interrogator, Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jr., also was ordered to forfeit $6,000 in salary and was largely restricted to his barracks and workplace for 60 days. ***

Prosecutors said Mr. Welshofer had put a sleeping bag over the head of the Iraqi, Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush, and used his hand to cover his mouth while questioning him at a detention camp in Iraq in 2003.
"Stuff and nonsense!"

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Prince Pete's Million Dollar "Grassroots" Campaign

Peter Roskam's website says that the D.C. Republican fundraising syndicate's crown prince has raised more than a million dollars for the 6th District campaign.
Roskam FEC Report Highlights

· Total Individual Donors - 2,402
· Individual Donors who contributed less than $200 – 1,493
· Online Contributions - $130,000
· No personal loans/contributions from the candidate

"These fundraising numbers reflect the strong grassroots support that Peter Roskam has generated in his campaign for Congress. Republicans are united and energized behind this campaign and our fundraising reinforces our momentum," said Ryan McLaughlin, Roskam's campaign manager.
Really? Strong grassroots support?

We'd need to have different numbers to fully evaluate that claim -- contributions by zipcode or area code maybe -- but to me a "grassroots campaign" is one that's funded by ordinary citizens. Ordinary citizens who make small donations. Is that really how Prince Pete's campaign is funded? Lets take a look.

While I know plenty of folks -- my wife among them -- who would argue that $200 is no small campaign contribution, that is the number that the Roskam folks have provided us with so we'll use that generous amount to define "small donor." And Roskam's campaign boasts 1,493 donors who contributed less than $200. So what percentage of Roskam's campaign booty comes from these "small donors"?

Well, to give the Prince the benefit of the doubt, i.e. to maximize the contribution of those "small donors" to his campaign, lets say that each and every one of the under $200 donors gave $199 to the campaign. So we take the number of "small donors" (1,493) and multiply it by the generous contribution amount ($199) to come up with the maximum possible amount of money donated to the Roskam campaign by "small donors". That number is $297,107.

And that's no small sum.

But what percentage of the Roskam campaign's cool million does that best-case-senario small donor sum represent? The kids who did well in math class have already shifted the decimal point and arrived at our answer -- $297,107 /$1,000,000 -- twenty nine point seven percent.

29.7% of Roskam's plunder is from "small donors". And that's only if we define "small donor" as someone who gave less than $200 and we assume that those small donors gave $199 each.

So, at most, only 30% of Peter Roskam's campaign money has come from "small donors".

That is pretty consistent with the numbers from Roskam's previous FEC reports. You remember them -- the reports that Hiram Wurf analyzed, revealing that "almost half (49%) of Peter Roskam's itemized donations are $1,000 or above."

And that's a funny definition of "grassroots support."

And I couldn't let this post go by without reminding you that the 6th District's real grassroots campaign is here.

Is it just me or is it warm in here?

It's not just me.

From the AP:
Last year was the warmest in a century, nosing out 1998, a federal analysis concludes.

Researchers calculated that 2005 produced the highest annual average surface temperature worldwide since instrument recordings began in the late 1800s, said James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. ***

2005 reached the warmth of 1998 without help of the "El Nino of the century" that pushed temperatures up in 1998.

Over the past 30 years, Earth has warmed a bit more than 1 degree in total, making it about the warmest it's been in 10,000 years, Hansen said. He blamed a buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
But don't worry -- I'm sure your SUV isn't part of the problem.

White House Receieved Detailed, Advance Warning of Katrina Impact on New Orleans

The Miserable Bush Economy

The "misery index" -- the rate of unemployment plus the rate of inflation -- has been used since the 70s to measure the nation's economic health. The higher the score, i.e. the higher the sum of the unemployment and inflation rates, the greater the economic misery. Under this old-style misery index, the Bush economy still looks fairly strong when compared with recent decades and the nations of the E.U.

But then why are so many actual Americans feeling pinched?

As the Economist reports, Merrill Lynch's more comprehensive look at the state of the economy under G.W. Bush may have the answer:
Merrill Lynch's economists have come up with a broader, international index. In addition to unemployment and inflation, it also adds interest rates and the budget and current-account balances, but then subtracts GDP growth (a good thing). In other words, the index not only reflects how cheery an economy feels today, but, by including budget and external balances, it also captures the ability of a country to sustain its merriment. For example, a large budget deficit probably implies higher taxes in future.

This new index could wipe the smile off the faces of exuberant Americans. The United States has the highest score (see chart), ie, it has the most wretched economy among the big G7 countries, thanks to its huge deficits. In the 1990s, by contrast, before its imbalances exploded, its index was one of the lowest. The United States is the only country to have seen a large increase in its misery index over the past decade. Virtually all the other G7 countries—including Europe—have seen sizeable improvements.
In sum, Merrill Lynch's economists warn that the Bush administration's policy of borrowing from the Chinese to finance tax cuts for the rich is not sustainable.

As if anyone in this White House gives half a damn about anything beyond the oil industry's next quarterly report or the mid-term election.

UPDATE: The new Pew Research Center poll indicates that just a third of Americans (34%) rate economic conditions as "excellent" or "good". Nearly twice as many -- 64% -- call conditions economic conditions "fair" or "poor".

Hey Kids, Comics!

Joe Sacco has created an 8-page piece of comic strip journalism (PDF) for the Guardian.

Junky: "Rising Star Obama Echoes Osama"

If you're like me, you've watched the Tim Russert interview with Sen. Barack Obama on Meet the Press. You've read the transcript. And you've read the analysis of thoughtful journalists. Maybe even commented on the coverage.

But in the back of your mind there is still that nagging question:
"What do fat, balding, drug addicts think of Sen. Obama's interview?"
Fortunately, we have an answer.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Hell is for Children

Harpers has posted excerpt from a radio communication transcript between an Israeli company commander and his unit:
SENTRY: We spotted an Arab female about 100 meters below our emplacement, near the light armored vehicle gate.

HEADQUARTERS: Observation post “Spain,” do you see it?

OBSERVATION POST: Affirmative, it’s a young girl. She’s now running east.


HQ: Are you talking about a girl under ten?

OP: Approximately a ten-year-old girl.


OP: She’s behind the embankment, dying of fear, the hits are right on her, a centimeter from her.

SENTRY: Our troops are storming toward her now. They are around 70 meters from her.

HQ: I understand that the company commander and his squad are out?

SENTRY: Affirmative, with a few more soldiers.

OP: Receive. Looks like one of the positions dropped her.

HQ: What, did you see the hit? Is she down?

OP: She’s down. Right now she isn’t moving.

COMPANY COMMANDER [to HQ]: Me and another soldier are going in. [To the squad] Forward, to confirm the kill!

CC [to HQ]: We fired and killed her. She has . . . wearing pants . . . jeans and a vest, shirt. Also she had a kaffiyeh on her head. I also confirmed the kill. Over.

HQ: Roger.

CC [on general communications band]: Any motion, anyone who moves in the zone, even if it’s a three-year-old, should be killed. Over.

via boingboing

Alito's Confirmation: "A serious threat to the nation"

Geoffrey Stone, Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago, supported the nomination of John Roberts to the United States Supreme Court and, until recently, had supported the nomination of Samuel Alito.

But he has reluctantly come to believe that Alito should not be confirmed, and that "this is a matter of real importance to the nation":
President Bush arrogantly asserts that he has the inherent constitutional authority to wiretap American citizens on American soil without first obtaining a warrant, in direct defiance of federal legislation and the Fourth Amendment. This is on top of his previous assertions of inherent authority to employ torture, wiretap lawyer-client communications, confine American citizens incommunicado, and close deportation and other legal proceedings from public scrutiny.

Given the times in which we live, we need and deserve a Supreme Court willing to examine independently these extraordinary assertions of executive authority. We can fight and win the war on terrorism without inflicting upon ourselves and our posterity another regrettable episode like the Red Scare and the Japanese internment. But that will happen only if the Justices of the Supreme Court are willing to fulfill their essential role in our constitutional system.

Whatever else Judge Alito may or may not have made clear about his views on such issues as abortion, federalism, and religious freedom, he has certainly made clear that he has no interest in restraining the acts of this commander-in-chief. That, in my judgment, poses a serious threat to the nation, and is a more than adequate reason for the Senate – Republicans and Democrats alike – to deny his confirmation to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Prof. Stone's full post, and the subsequent comments, are well worth reading.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Well, Dammit!

MR. RUSSERT: So you will not run for president or vice-president in 2008?

SEN. OBAMA: I will not.

Frisbie Playin' in Naperville

On February 4, Steve and Liam of the pop group Frisbie will play a hyper-intimate house concert in Naperville.
Capacity is @ 40 people, and many tickets are already gone, so contact midwestfolkproductions@earthlink.net to get yours now. Tix are $15, or two for $25.

This promises to be a special show. The first set starts @ seven, but come at six for the yummy buffet! Or load up your plate between sets. Get your pig on to the sweet sounds of Steve and Liam.

Contact midwestfolkproductions@earthlink.net for tickets. See you there!
The Frisbie kids have crafted some of the finest pop-rock tunes of the last decade. And their shimmering harmonies will break your friggin' heart.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Off- Off- OFF-Broadway Play About Sen. Obama

From Nairobi, Kenya's The Nation
A play based on Senator Barrack Obama's autobiography will be staged at the Kenya National Theatre in a month's time.

The Obama Dream is adapted from the Senator's autobiography Dream's from My Father and is directed by George Orido. ***

Senator Obama (Illinois) is an American whose father was a Kenyan from Siaya, Nyanza. He made history by becoming the youngest of the few blacks who have sat in the Senate. His story is therefore inspirational and one about overcoming all odds and making it to the top.

Whether Orido has managed to adopt the work successfully is open to debate and will be judged by those who watch the play at the Kenya National Theatre next month.

Orido's play has a cast of 50 and includes numerous musical scores in Luo and Western styles. Meshack Warambo is training the dancers while Orido is directing. Rehearsals are on at the KNT.

Racial harmony, hard work, determination and freedom are the underlying themes in the Obama play, which also underscores the dignity of one's ancestry and family values. And, watching the rehearsals, one sees a production that retains the beauty of the book although Orido does not dwell so much on the American point of view.

Orido is no stranger to script writing, directing and acting. He wrote and produced Loud Whispers, a one man show he adopted from the late Wahome Mutahi's Whispers column in the Sunday Nation.

The play will also will be shown in Kisumu, Mombasa and other towns.
Roadtrip anyone?

Sunday! Sunday! SUNDAY!

Senator Obama on this week's Meet the Press.

9:30 a.m. on NBC5.

K Street and Kane County

From Joshua Micah Marshall's Talking Points Memo:
Kane County, Illinois, the largest county in Speaker Denny Hastert's 14th congressional district, is another local government that can't get its voice heard in our nation's capital.

Last year, County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay, a close Hastert ally, signed up lobbyist David S. Thompson at $138,000 a year plus expenses to lobby the federal government on Kane County's behalf.

Thompson was a "longtime aide" to Denny Hastert. He worked for the speaker from 1993 until heading over to K Street in 2002.

But where else can 14th Dist. voters turn?

And I'm sure D.W. Griffith is weeping as well...

In your Chicago Tribune:

My thoughts on the author of this strip were best captured by lyricist Carlton Ridenhour.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

What WILL You Do In the War, Grandpa?

From the AP:
After falling well short of its recruiting goals last year, the Army has set even higher monthly targets for this summer, hoping that new financial incentives will attract high school and college graduates despite continuing deaths in Iraq.

From June to September, the Army will try to recruit 8,600 to 10,400 soldiers a month.

To help reach those goals, a new law will allow the Army to give larger financial bonuses for enlistments and re-enlistments, doubling the maximum payment to $40,000 for new active-duty recruits and to $20,000 for reservists. It will also raise the top age for recruits to 42 from 35.
At the rate this is going, when Bush retires from the White House, he will be able to re-enlist in the Texas Air National Guard.

We've all been there...

The Medium Large strip and the rest of the Drink at Work empire are back up and running.

Any news source can tell you about the Korean stem-cell fiasco, but only Medium Large lets you know about the cutting-edge research of Dr. Bunsen Honeydew.

A Million Little Super-Fun-Pak Comix

And some folks didn't think "truthiness" should be the word of the year for 2005.

"It's like rain on your wedding day..."

A friend of mine once proposed that one difference between conservatives and liberals was that conservatives lacked the ability to appreciate irony or sarcasm.

Alas, Tom Roeser's evaluation of Rahm Emanuel -- wrapped in a love letter to Prince Peter -- will do nothing to change that friend's opinion:
Emanuel believes in exerting maximum leverage in behalf of increased health care. Duckworth says in her literature: “I’ve been so fortunate to have received the best health care possible for me to overcome my war injuries.” So far so good-but then she coyly employs a device that sounds like Emanuel rather than herself. “But when I’m out in public, people come up to ask me about my prosthetic legs and how they can assist a relative who has lost a leg to diabetes.”

Question: Can you imagine that you or anyone you know would go up to a legless war veteran, point at her metal stick legs and ask how a diabetic relative can get so equipped with a prosthesis? The response should evoke the old Chicago saying, “give me a break!” It is vintage Emanuel to whom there is no lightness, just the clenched fist raw partisanship that fits tough Chicago wards. There is no modulating pedal for Emanuel as some of his other candidates learned to their discomfiture.
"There is no lightness, just the clenched fist raw partisanship."


In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police, who investigate crime; and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.

From your Chicago Tribune:
A Naperville councilman in the midst of a campaign for the state Senate has been charged with misdemeanor battery, accused of striking a police officer, authorities said Wednesday.

Richard Furstenau, 61, of Naperville was expected to surrender to police Wednesday evening. He said late Wednesday that he intended to post $300 bail and be released from custody.

Furstenau, who has served on the Naperville City Council since 1999 and is running in the Republican primary to replace Peter Roskam in the 48th District, vehemently denied the charge.
dun DUN

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Kelly Hogan on "Chicago Tonight" Tonight

Kelly Hogan will be appearing on WTTW Channel 11's "Chicago Tonight" this very evening.

The show starts at 7 p.m. and Ms. Hogan will be performing (LIVE with Andy Hopkins) and talking about Soundcheck, the series of benefit shows for Gary Schepers.

The show is rebroadcast at midnight, 1:30 a.m and 4:30 a.m. for you night owls and bar flys.

UPDATE: I just watched the TiVo of the show, and Ms Hogan once again belted it out of the park. I wasn't surprised because she has wowed me every time I've seen her perform. Her casually powerful voice never fails to deliver.

You can check her out at this Soundcheck show:

Thursday 1/26
Kelly Hogan
Jim Boquist, Dave Boquist, and Mike Heidorn

Eric Nodon
Sleepydog (aka Mark Sheehy)
Lisa DeRosia & Lush Budgett
Doors 6pm, show 8pm

Attention Hipsters: Silent Auction for Jeff Tweedy Tix

Our brothers and sisters at Bloodshot Records are offering a second chance to get tickets to the SOLD OUT Jeff Tweedy (Uncle Tupelo, Wilco) show at the Abbey:
Silent Auction for Remaining Tweedy/Devil in a Woodpile Tickets!

Jeff Tweedy benefit show SILENT AUCTION 6 pairs of tickets to this (sold out) benefit show: Abbey - Wed 1/25 Jeff Tweedy Devil in A Woodpile Doors at 8pm, show at 9pm

Auction begins today (1/16). Starting bid $100 for 2 (a pair) tickets.

To place a bid: Send an email with your name, email address, phone number and bid amount to: bshq@bloodshotrecords.com With the subject line: AUCTION

On Wednesday 1/18, and again on Friday 1/20, a list the top 6 bid amounts will be posted to the Bloodshot web site www.bloodshotrecords.com.
Bidding closes on at noon central time on Monday 1/23.
The top 6 highest bids will win.
If bids are tied for more than the available amount of tickets, the bidders will be notified by email and a auction between the tied bidders will ensue. Winners will be notified by email by 5pm central time on Monday 1/23.

Winners names will be on an "auction winners list" at the door the night of the show. Winners must show ID.

Payment by check or money order made payable to "Gary Schepers Trust", or cash, must be delivered to Bloodshot on Tuesday 1/24 by 4pm central time.

The lowest winning bid amount will be posted on the Bloodshot site.
Only 2 tickets (one pair) per person/winner.

This is all about raising as much money as possible for Gary Schepers; 100% of auction proceeds raised will go to the Gary Schepers Trust.
UPDATE: As of 2:00pm, the lowest winning bid is $200, i.e. you need to bid above $200 to even stand a chance of winning a pair of tickets to the Jeff Tweedy/Devil in a Woodpile show at the Abbey on next Wednesday, January 25th.

But I know that some of you got that kind of coin.

Or if you just wanna lend a financial hand to a good guy, donations for Gary Schepers, made payable to "Gary Schepers Trust," can be made at any National City Bank branch location, or mailed to:
National City Bank
1520 N. Damen
Chicago, IL 60622

Sen. Durbin's Bill Would End Sale of Cell Phone Call Records

Today, Sen. Durbin introduced legislation to prohibit the sale, fraudulent transfer or use of cellular telephone records. Sen. Durbin's bill would make it illegal to transfer personal information from cell phone companies to online brokers and provides tough criminal penalties -- up to 10 years in prison -- for those found guilty of violating phone users’ privacy.
“The acquisition and sale of an individual’s personal cell phone call list record is a violation of privacy, and can pose a real threat to personal safety,” Durbin said. “The fraudulent acquisition of records needs to be punishable as a true criminal offense, subject to jail time and fines. The sale and transfer of this information needs to be clearly prohibited by law.”
There is more in the press release.

GOP's D.C. Fundraising Syndicate "Rallied Around" Roskam

From The Hill:
Republican state Sen. Peter Roskam is expected to report later this month having raised more than $380,000 in the fourth quarter of 2005, ending the year with approximately $825,000 in the bank. ***

Contending that Hyde’s solidly GOP 6th District is trending Democratic — his Democratic challenger, Christine Cegelis, gave the Republican his most spirited race in years in 2004 — Democrats say the time is ripe, with the president’s sinking poll numbers, for a Democratic pickup.

Republicans scoff at that logic, noting that while Republicans have rallied around Roskam, Democrats are mired in a primary. Despite leading Democrats’ having thrown their support behind Duckworth, Cegelis, who launched her second House bid shortly after losing her first, remains popular among local Democrats.
Note: "Leading Democrats" is Washington insider-speak for "D.C. Democrats." And "local Democrats" is insider-speak for "Democrats living the district."

A Message for America

Read the whole cartoon at Salon.

Are You Ready? -- Are YOU Ready?

Let's Get It On!

"He may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch."

Has anyone else noticed that many of the people squalking the loudest about this instance of an executive's unilaterally authorizing controversial government actions without legislative authorization are the same people who are defending this instance of an executive's unilaterally authorizing controversial government actions without legislative authorization or judicial approval?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

And That's The Bottom Line -- Kos Stone Cold Said So!

Hiram has more, but here are the facts:
Naperville Township Democrats are proud to announce Kos (Markos Moulitsas) from DailyKos.com will be attending our annual holiday party.

Please join us!
January 22, 2006, 2pm - 5pm
Key Wester, Naperville (map here)
RSVP today!

Today, by coincidence, Kos looks at the 6th Dist race via his Fighting Dems profile of DCCC candidate Tammy Duckworth.
Duckworth is probably the most controversial of the Fighting Dems, and it's a shame because she has one of the most compelling stories of this cycle.

In 2004, this district was a lost cause, a lean-Republican district with an incumbent, Henry Hyde, that had served for about 7,000 years. Christine Cegelis took up the hopeless cause with no party backing and no local party infrastructure of note. Yet with little money, Cegelis scored 44% percent of the vote and helped kickstart local progressive activism.

With Hyde retiring after this current term, the DCCC's Rahm Emmanuel took a look at Cegelis' 2004 fundraising and decided to cast about for a "better" candidate. And he found Duckworth.

In a lot of ways, this story isn't fair to Duckworth. She is a woman of incredible courage and accomplishment. *** By all accounts, she is a great person and would make a great congresswoman to represent the district.

But, to put it bluntly, the way Emmanuel got her into the race was simply bullshit.

People from me to Howard Dean have preached the power of people taking charge of their political futures and organizing locally. Yet here in this district, Rahm decided what was best for the locals. And the ham-handed way he did this ensured a great deal of unecessary local bitterness toward both the Democratic Party and to Tammy Duckworth. ***

Both candidates are stellar. Both can win the seat.
"Simply bullshit."

No wonder this kid gets 700K visitors a day -- he has quite a way with words.

Merry Chimpsmas!

Monday, January 16, 2006

I Am Not A Blogger

Simon Dumenco, The Media Guy columnist for Advertising Age, gets it:
Blogging is just writing -- writing using a particularly efficient type of publishing technology.

Even though I tend to first use Microsoft Word on the way to being published, I am not, say, a Worder or Wordder.

Its just software, people! The underlying creative/media function remains exactly the same. ***

In the very near future, there are only going to be two types of media people: those who can reliably work and publish (or broadcast) incredibly fast, and those ... who can't."
via Romenesko

6th Dist. Robo-Calls

Tonight I received a robocall from the DCCC-funded 6th District campaign regarding the Democratic primary. The first question asked whether I was in the military or a miltary veteran. Press "1" for "yes."
And the second question was, "Who would you vote for if the primary was held today?"

The machine then listed the three Democratic candidates for Congress -- and completely mispronounced Christine Cegelis' last name.

Now I grant that "Cegelis" is not a common name, but it took me about two seconds on Google to find out how to say it correctly.

Tip to the DCCC: If you are going to skew the results of your robo-polls by mispronouncing your opponent's name, just have the caller pronounce "Cegelis" as "Saddam" and watch your fixed poll give you exactly the results you are looking for.

Sen. Durbin Discusses Alito on Air America

On Friday, Richard Durbin, your Senior Senator from Illinois and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, appeared on Air America's Majority Report with host Sam Seder to discuss the nomination of Third Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Samuel Alito to the United States Supreme Court.

An archived mp3 of the interview is available here.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Band Roster for Austin's 20th Anniversary South by Southwest Festival Announced

So it is not exactly Chicago-area news, but with 25 performer hailing from the City of Big Shoulders -- everything from Backyard Tire Fire and Bible of the Devil to The Zincs and Zombi -- it might as well be.

Peace Between Catwoman and Wheaton's Favorite Son's Brother?

According to Contactmusic.com the battle between professional sibling, Jim Belushi and queen of spandex, Julie Newmar is over:
Actor Jim Belushi has ended his two-year feud with his next door neighbour Julie Newmar by inviting the former "Batman" star to join him on his US TV sitcom.

The pair fell out when Newmar objected to building work Belushi had started on his Hollywood estate.

Belushi then pressed harassment charges against Newmar, a former TV Catwoman, when she publicly attacked the actor and chopped down trees on his estate.

The couple has since settled the $4 million (GBP2.2 million) lawsuit and Newmar will now appear on an upcoming episode of Belushi's show "According to Jim".
Perhaps I'm a little soft on crime, but it seems to me that merely attacking Jim Belushi and cutting down trees does not merit a sentence as severe as appearing on "According to Jim".

Roskam's Fund-Raising Ties to D.C. Lobbyists

In her column in your Chicago Sun-Times, Lynn Sweet gives us a glimpse into how Peter Roskam is already strongly allied with the scandal-ridden syndicate of Republicans and lobbyists in Washington:
Former Rep. Michael Flanagan (R-Ill.) is a Washington lobbyist. He raises money from other lobbyists for congressional candidates he wants to help. When we talked on Wednesday, he was in the midst of planning fund-raisers for Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.) and state Sen. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton), who is running to fill the seat being vacated by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.). ***

If Flanagan was not nice enough to tell me, there would be no official document filed any place that would indicate he was organizing fund-raisers for Gutknecht -- a 1994 "classmate" -- or Roskam. Federal disclosure reports call only for listing direct donations or in-kind contributions. ***

The Jan. 25 Roskam event in Washington developed after Flanagan got a call from Roskam's campaign manager, Ryan McLaughlin. "He called me and asked me for my help early in the cycle," Flanagan said. ***

Until [Jack Abramoff's guilty plea to mail fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy charges], pending ethics, lobbying and campaign finance reform legislation authored by members of both parties was buried by GOP leaders.
Of course the GOP leader most responsible for burying those anti-corruption reforms was Roskam mentor and Abramoff buddy, Tom DeLay. Mr. DeLay is facing charges of money laundering and conspiracy.

Well, so far...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Young yahoos don't read the paper?

Romenesko ponders Julia Keller's decision to write in your Chicago Tribune about the English 439 course that she is taking at DePaul:
"I won't receive a grade, but otherwise I'll be a full participant," says the Pulitzer-winning reporter. "The other students haven't been told of my secret identity, and because so many studies show that the under-30 demographic never reads newspapers, they'll surely remain in the dark all quarter long, even as the stories appear."

MY GUESS, JULIA: They'll know about you by the end of the day, and they'll watch what they say.
At least Keller's classmates won't have to wonder whether she will unfairly portray them as idiots in the Tribune -- she already has.

UPDATE -- Bookslut's Jessa Crispin is befuddled:
Why is this story about a woman taking a class about Jonathan Swift going to get nine weeks of copy? I love Swift as much as the next person (except for this lady), but is this a story?

Oh, Chicago Tribune.

Running original reviews by Chicago freelancers of interesting books still remains beyond your grasp, but a nine week long story about a dead Irish satirist, well, that makes perfect sense.

Tribune Exclusive: Barack Obama May Not "Well Spoken" After All!

Buried deep in your Chicago Tribune is Nathan Bierma's shocking revelation that Sen. Barack Obama -- widely regarded as "well spoken" and "articulate" -- uses non-standard English:
Some English words and phrases fall into the category of technically wrong but widely accepted, much to the chagrin of purists.

A few entries in that category seem to escape the notice of sticklers and puzzle the experts. Take the phrase "as best (as) I can," for instance, which has come into common use.

I heard it recently during Sen. Barack Obama's appearance on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart." When Stewart asked him who was the worst senator, Obama, a Democrat and the junior senator from Illinois, said, "Most of the folks really are trying to represent their constituencies as best as they know how."

"As best as" is striking, because "best" is the superlative form of "well," and English doesn't use any other superlative in this phrase. We say "as much as" but not "as most as"; "as red as" but not "as reddest as." The phrase "as best as I can" may be a mix-up of "as well as I can" and "the best that I can." ***

Obama could have said either "as well as they know how" or "the best that they know how." In fact, in his next comment, he used a form of "the best that ...": "If I try to work hard and do the best possible job that I can, then I think things will work out pretty well." ***

"I've always considered this an inoffensive though ungrammatical colloquialism," says David Mulroy, author of "The War Against Grammar" (Boynton/Cook, 144 pages, $20).

"I hadn't thought about it before, but, yes, that has to be considered substandard," e-mails Bill Walsh, copy chief of the national desk at The Washington Post, and author of "The Elephants of Style: A Trunkload of Tips on the Big Issues and Gray Areas of Contemporary American English" (McGraw-Hill, 238 pages, $14.95).
My shock and dismay were only compounded when the article revealed that, in addition to Obama, the Bard himself used this sustandard English:
In Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew," Petruchio says, "Happily to wive and thrive, as best I may."
As best as I can tell the Tribune is correct -- but if Obama and Shakespeare agree on grammar, I ain't never gonna believe they're wrong, nohow.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Sun-Times Freeps Itself on Wheaton College Story

In Leslie Baldacci's story* about a former Wheaton College professor who was fired because he converted to Catholicism, your Chicago Sun-Times inserted a sidebar entitled "What They Said" that features six "comments posted on the Freerepublic blog" -- and no comments from any other source.

I am not a professional journalist -- much less a big-city newspaper editor -- but it seems to me that the column inches turned over to the Freepers could have been better used to explain the cryptic opening sentence of the story:
A former Wheaton College professor who was fired because he converted to Catholicism found himself this week at the center of a debate about diversity and theological perspectives in private, faith-based schools.
The article never explains where the debate over the professor's firing took place. Did the debate happen at Wheaton College? Did it take place on the internet? Just on the FreeRepublic site?

The article never explains who participated in the debate. Was it a group of Wheaton College professors? All Wheaton students and faculty? More than one college? Fundamentalists and evangelicals on the internets?

The article never explains the curious timing. Why is this debate -- and the ST article -- occurring nearly a year after the professor's conversion and subsequent firing?

Well, we can answer some of those questions -- but not because of anything contained in the ST article.

It seems that on Saturday, the Wall Street Journal (sub) published a front-page article entitled "A Test of Faith" about the Wheaton firing. Since then, excerpts of the WSJ article and commentary have been posted on various blogs including this message board on the Freepers' site. So apparently, the "debate" in question was triggered by a Journal article and took place exclusively on the internet.

But if the ST article had included a paragraph telling you that, there might not have been room to publish the deep thoughts of "Senator Bedfellow" and "Dumb_Ox".

*Although the story has Leslie Baldacci's byline, I don't blame the reporter for this article's shortcomings.

As likely as not, Baldacci turned in a story that included the history of the controversy and it was cut by an editor, e.g. "We'll drop the reference to the 'Journal' and put in some of that high-spirited 'blogging' that the kids are all talking about."

And if the original story didn't answer the questions raised above, then an editor should have demanded those answers.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Hearts and Minds

From the Guardian:
American troops in Baghdad yesterday blasted their way into the home of an Iraqi journalist working for the Guardian and Channel 4, firing bullets into the bedroom where he was sleeping with his wife and children.

Ali Fadhil, who two months ago won the Foreign Press Association young journalist of the year award, was hooded and taken for questioning. He was released hours later. ***

Dr Fadhil was asleep with his wife, their three-year-old daughter, Sarah, and seven-month-old son, Adam, when the troops forced their way in.

"They fired into the bedroom where we were sleeping, then three soldiers came in. They rolled me on to the floor and tied my hands. When I tried to ask them what they were looking for they just told me to shut up," he said.

The Praise that Pays

"I'm proud to be traveling with the Speaker, Denny Hastert. He's a good, solid American. And he's doing a heck of a job as the Speaker of the House of Representatives."

-- George W. Bush, January 6, 2006

Right Speaker Fade-Out?

From the Washington Post:
In the first sign that even [House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.)] could be in trouble, Rep. John E. Sweeney (R-N.Y.) said Republicans should consider whether to replace the speaker. "The time is right for us to do some soul-searching and have an open dialogue about the direction of the House."
And Lynn Sweet did Denny no favors when she described him as Tom DeLay's "ideological soulmate" in your Chicago Sun-Times.

UPDATE: Related?

"I pledge to not waste money on CDs that are deliberately defective."

Pledge to never purchase a CD containing any form of Digital Rights Management (DRM)

DRM severely restricts our rights as users, creators, and members of the global community. We will not stand by and let fair use grow extinct as a consequence of poorly thought out technology and the laws that support it.

For further information, see

Like Boing-Boing's Cory Doctorow says, "This is a no-brainer: buy crippleware CDs? Get a rootkit? Spyware? An "agreement" that you didn't know you agreed to until you open the package and find a slip of paper telling you you're not allowed to play the disc in your car or laptop?
"It's just common sense: don't buy CDs that treat you like a crook and attack your computers and privacy."

Friday, January 06, 2006


Hold your nose and join me in reading 4 Reasons to Be Glad Bush Is Still President by Ezra Klein and Joshuah Berman
Scandals. Another silver lining in the dark clouds over Washington is that it might be a swiftly breaking storm. It’s taken less than five years for the Republican Idea to reveal itself as a grotesque falsehood. Now we’ve got great seats as a whole host of first-term crimes hatch into second-term scandals. The Plame Game, Jack Abramoff’s web of Republican intrigue, Bill Frist’s financial indiscretions, domestic spying, the cronyism exposed by Brownie’s heck of a job during Katrina — these were ineptitudes and overreaches of Nixonian dimension that, for the sake of the country, need vigorous public exposure.

Had Bush simply escaped, his malfeasances would have vanished into the past. Now they’ll emerge, in all their glorious criminality, and the country will really get to see Dorian Gray’s portrait. If we’re lucky, another three years will be just enough time for the Republicans to sabotage their own chances at their “permanent majority.”

As they might say down in Texas, give a guy enough rope...
And my Reason to Be Glad Bush Is Still President is that the Democratic congressional candidates can now all run against the shockingly unpopular president.

Fine (Half) Line, The Steve Rauschenberger Edition

I'm not a political professional.

But it seems to me that, if I was running for governor of a state that has to advise pregnant women, children and women of childbearing age to avoid eating fish from every lake, river and stream in the state due to mercury contamination, I would not begin a sentence about mercury regulation with: "I like clean air but..."

But, like I said, I'm just an amateur.

Northfield Labs v. Your First Amendment

The AP reports that a California Superior Court judge has barred the San Diego Reader, a free weekly newspaper, from publishing information obtained under the California Public Records Act about a synthetic blood substitute undergoing testing, saying it would compromise some trade secrets of Evanston's Northfield Laboratories Inc.

Northfield Labs sued the Reader and its publisher last month to stop the paper from running a story about Polyheme, a synthetic red blood cell substitute designed for trauma victims.
Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said the newspaper should challenge the order.

"I don't think a federal court judge would be as clueless," Dalglish said. "There is absolutely nothing out there that is more destructive of the First Amendment right of free press than an illegal prior restraint."
Last summer, the S.D. Reader reported that Polyheme was being tested exclusively on trauma patients from minority neighborhoods who were too ill to consent.

via Romanesko

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or the right of the people peaceably to assemble.

The good people at DuPage Against War Now are going to join other Chicagolanders to knock the dust off the First Amendment:
Protest Bush Visit This Friday in Chicago

Here is a quick recap of the Code Pink meeting in Chicago where they discussed the protest of Mr. Bush's visit this Friday, January 6th.

There were almost 40 people there representing numerous groups:

Mr. Bush is visiting the Board of Trade and then speaking to the Economic Club of Chicago at the Hilton at 720 S. Michigan Avenue. The Hilton is right across from Grant Park, where the demonstration will occur.

There was some discussion about doing a demonstration at the Board of Trade, but that is a very crowded area. There may be a few protesters there, but, since no one knows how the "authorities" will act, it is best to stay with the larger group - safety in numbers.

It is recommended we meet up in Grant Park at 11AM. For those of us coming in from the suburbs, we could plan to meet at Union Station at 10:30 on the Chicago River side and then go down to Grant Park as a group.

We're hoping that several thousand people show up, and from the number of groups represented last night, that does seem possible. The more people that show up, the more "tolerant" the authorities will have to be.

For those of you who remember 1968, this is a very significant site. We don't want a repeat of that, but we do want to be heard and we want Mr. Bush to feel unwelcome in Chicago.

Just like any peaceful protest, stay with a large group. If police or other authorities ask you to do something that you know violates your constitutional rights, this is not the place to have that discussion. There will be several legal groups monitoring the situation and police reaction, but let's try not to get to that point.

Come down to Grant Park with your signs, banners, etc., deliver your message, and return home safely. And make sure you tell your friends and neighbors that you had the guts to be counted.

If any of the chairs of your groups want to have the group listed as a participant in the press releases, send an email to Rachel at prontocha@aol.com or to me at mayatoddbob@netscape.net. ***

If you have any questions, email me or call me at (630)541-7205.
If you attend and (due to a terrible misunderstanding) are placed under arrest, remember this all important rule: If Nobody Talks, Everybody Walks.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Recalibrating Your Sensors

The folks who accuse Christine Cegelis' team of attacking the DCCC's 6th Dist. candidate should take a deep breath... read this Tom Roeser post... and remind themselves what nasty attacks really look like.

Swamp Life

Your Chicago Tribune's Washington bureau has lauched its blog, The Swamp, by asking the musical question, "Which Illinois lawmakers received money from 'the most politically radioactive man in Washington'"?
[Jack Abramoff] is the well-connected lobbyist who, among other acts, ripped off Native American tribes he was supposed to be representing, and corrupted public officials. The 46-year old Abramoff, stockier than when he appeared before angry members of Congress at hearings in 2004, was in a federal courtroom today in a very somber proceeding to plead guilty to three felony counts.

If he gets the maximum sentence, he could see as much as 30 years in federal custody though a prosecutor said the sentencing guidelines call for about a third of that. He has also agreed to fork over about $25 million in restitution. ***

Once popular with a number of members of Congress for his ability to throw big dollars their way, Abramoff is the most politically radioactive man in Washington now. Today, the only people at the courthouse who approached him were his criminal-defense lawyers and reporters who mobbed him in the corridor as he left the courtroom hoping he’d go a little further in the mea culpa direction. ***

In recent weeks, trying to distance themselves as much as possible from Abramoff, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has engaged in what passes for ritualistic purging in Washington: returning or giving away contributions received from Abramoff. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, since 1999 Illinois’s own Rep. Dennis Hastert, the House Speaker, or his political action committees received $69,000 in money from Abramoff, his casino-boat line and the indian tribes he represented.

Late today, Hastert’s office said he would donate whatever he received from Abramoff and his associates to charity. Hastert's people were still trying to figure out how much they got. Still, the question could be asked of Hastert: Why did he wait until today to make the announcement when the scandal has been brewing for months?
If its juicy premire is any indication, The Swamp will be a welcome addition to Blogginois.

But my question is: Does Tribune columnist Kathleen Parker approve?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

“Smoking, eating and Venezuelan diesel are prohibited."

From Alternet:
Chicago vs. Hugo Chávez
By Jessica Pupovac, The NewStandard

The Chicago Transit Authority is refusing an opportunity to alleviate commuting costs for hundreds of thousands in the Windy City's low-income neighborhoods. Instead of accepting deeply discounted fuel from the Venezuela-owned Citgo Petroleum Corp., the city is instead raising fares to solve budget shortfalls.

In an October meeting with representatives from the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), the city's Department of Energy and other city officials, Citgo unveiled a plan to provide Chicago with low-cost diesel fuel. The company's stipulation, at the bidding of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, was that the CTA, in turn, pass those savings on to poor residents in the form of free or discounted fare cards.

But two months later, despite claims of a looming budget crisis, the CTA president "has no intent or plan to accept the offer," according to CTA spokesperson Ibis Antongiorgi. She gave no explanation. According to Venezuela's consul general in Chicago, Martin Sanchez, the CTA has yet to inform his office of its decision to decline the discount offer.

In place of the proposed discount, which the CTA apparently does not want Chicagoans to even know about, budget shortfalls will be addressed by fair hikes. Chicagoans who are unaware of the Venezuelan offer will be hit with an increase of 25 cents per ride next month, and discounted route-to-route transfers will be eliminated for passengers paying cash. ***

Citgo has made a similar arrangement with Citizens Energy Corp. in Boston for the sale and distribution of 12 million gallons, saving low-income and elderly residents there a total of $10 million. The company's website says that it expects to expand the program to other boroughs in New York City and that it is exploring the possibility of offering discounted fuel to residents in Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

However, in all of Illinois, only about 12,000 households use heating oil. So instead of fuel for heat, Citgo representatives offered the CTA a 40-50 percent discount on diesel fuel for buses to benefit Chicagoans most in need of relief from soaring oil and gas prices this winter. "We didn't know how else to reach enough people," said Consul Sanchez.

Another difference between the Chicago offer and the programs enacted in the Northeast is that Citgo proposed to work with a government agency rather than nonprofit organizations. The CTA relies on the U.S. federal government -- which is in a constant war of words with Venezuelan President Chavez -- for much of its funding. In fact, just weeks after Citgo made its offer to the CTA, Congress signed the Federal Transportation Appropriations bill, allocating $89 million in infrastructure project funds the CTA had been seeking for years.

Representatives from the U.S. State Department and city officials, including aldermen involved in the negotiations and the Chicago mayor's office, refused to respond to queries about whether international politics played any part in the CTA's rejection of Citgo's offer.
There is more here.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

January: A Month of Great Music for a Great Cause

If you like alt-country, no depression, insurgent country or whatever the cool kids are calling The People's Music these days, you should read this message from our dear friends at Bloodshot Records:
Tweedy, Farrar, Fulks, Devil in a Woodpile, Califone, Bottle Rockets and more to play Chicago shows to benefit Gary Schepers

Behind the public and well-known faces of musicians and bands of Chicago's vibrant and wildly diverse music scene there is a community of creative and dedicated people who make it all possible. Theirs are names you will likely never know and whose faces don't make the glossy magazines, but whose contributions to the music we all love are irreplaceable.

If you have been a regular concert-goer in Chicago during the past twenty plus years, odds are strong that you have benefited from the ubiquitous and experienced ears of Gary Schepers behind the soundboard. He has been the big man with the big voice and the good heart working the sound at Lounge Ax, the Abbey Pub, Empty Bottle, Martyr's, Fitzgerald's, Schuba's and every other venue you can think of. He's been the sound man for Eleventh Dream Day, Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, Material Issue, and John Parish. In short, Gary is one of THE unsung people that help keep our city the vital and accessible music scene that it is.

Recently, Gary was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and is spending the holiday season in a hospital room recovering and getting treatments. Like many people in the music industry, Gary is without health insurance. To help defray his mounting medical bills, there will be a series of benefit concerts featuring just a tiny percentage of the artists he has worked with over the years. The speed and ease with which these fundraisers have come together, and the breadth of talent participating in them, is testimony to the appreciation and high regard held for him within the community of musicians that have performed in this city.

From the Bloodshot perspective, Gary was responsible for the sound at our first showcases at Lounge Ax and Empty Bottle. He handled our neophyte, multi-band nights of chaos with a serene, unflappable manner. He never let on if he was bothered by a bunch of screwballs learning how to put on a show on the fly and on his watch. Over the years he's taught us when to worry, when to yell and when to just enjoy the moment. He has produced and engineered several records for us, both live and in the studio, and has been holding down the bottom end on the tuba with Devil in a Woodpile at the Hideout.

Gary's steady and quiet contribution to the Chicago music community is one of building, in quotidian fashion, a body of work and experience that has shaped the concert going experience for all of us.

Benefit Shows for Gary Schepers:

Fitzgerald's, Friday, January 20:
In the main room:
Robbie Fulks, Jay Farrar, Corky Siegel

In the side bar:
Devil in a Woodpile (all night)

Side building, front room:
Dolly Varden, Bunker Town, Prohibition Orchestra
Show times and ticket price to be announced.

The Hideout, Sunday, January 22:
An afternoon kids show from noon to 4:00pm with:
The Blisters, Wee Hairy Beasties (featuring Jon Langford, Sally Timms, Kelly Hogan, & Devil In A Woodpile), Nora O'Connor

In the evening:
Califone, Edith Frost, Chris Mills (solo)
Show times and ticket price to be announced.

The Abbey Pub, Wednesday, January 25:
Jeff Tweedy, Devil in a Woodpile
Doors at 8pm, show at 9pm $30.00 advance, $30.00 day of show, on-sale date to be announced.

Schubas, Friday, January 27:
Bottle Rockets, Tijuana Hercules, Great Crusades
Doors at 9:00pm, show at 9:30pm. $12.00 advance, $12.00 day of show.
Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased here:

Plus many more bands: Jim Bohquist, Kelly Hogan & The Wooden Leg, Yellowhammers, Bakelite 78, New Duncan Imperials, Mr. Rudy Day, Jane Baxter-Miller, Hoyle Brothers, James Conway, Eric Nodon, Diamond Jim Greene.

Look for even more benefit shows at: Martyr's, The Empty Bottle, The Abbey, and The Hideout. 100% of all proceeds will go directly to Gary Schepers.
I can think of at least two shows where a band's on-stage technical difficulties, e.g. a blown amp, were taking 'em down in flames and Gary stepped up and single-handedly saved the day.

All you gotta do to step up for Gary is to see some damn fine live music.


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