Saturday, March 31, 2007

"US ready to strike Iran on Good Friday"

I wish I thought that the Israeli press celebrated April Fools Day.

From the Jerusalem Post:
The United States will be ready to launch a missile attack on Iran's nuclear facilities as soon as early this month, perhaps "from 4 a.m. until 4 p.m. on April 6," according to reports in the Russian media on Saturday.

According to Russian intelligence sources, the reports said, the US has devised a plan to attack several targets in Iran, and an assault could be carried out by launching missiles from fighter jets and warships stationed in the Persian Gulf.

Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted a security official as saying, "Russian intelligence has information that the US Armed Forces stationed in the Persian Gulf have nearly completed preparations for a missile strike against Iranian territory."

The Russian Defense Ministry rejected the claims of an imminent attack as "myths." There was no immediate response from Washington.

"And on the third day Bush's approval rating rose again. It ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father."

"They don't play my songs on the radio, it's like I never was."

"Nashville Radio" by Jon Langford

Friday, March 30, 2007

A Jury of Peers

"You know how dumb the average person is? Well, by definition, half of 'em are even dumber than that."
-- J.R. "Bob" Dobbs

Your Chicago Sun-Times is covering jury selection in the Brown's Chicken massacre case:
Most who were questioned remembered the high-profile case. But the male juror picked Thursday said he knew nothing about it, though he had lived in Cook County his entire life.

"I actually thought it was Brown's Chicken had bad chicken. I had no idea," the juror said.

[Judge Vincent Gaughan] ordered the jurors' names be kept secret, citing security concerns.
You bet, to keep 'em secure from ridicule.

In all fairness, the ST tells us that this clueless juror "appeared to be in his 20s", so he may not even have been 10 years old when the murders took place. But somebody should buy this guy a newspaper.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Friendly Reminder:

So, How Much (Research) is Too Little?

In your Chicago Tribune, ombudsman public editor Timothy J. McNulty reviews the Trib's coverage of Sen. Barack Obama in a column entitled "So, how much is too much?"
From March through November 2005, four lengthy front-page articles detailed Obama's first year as U.S. senator, an unusual paean to a man who had not accomplished anything but winning an election.
"A man who had not accomplished anything but winning an election"

That would be damning -- if it were true.

Since the Tribune clearly does not provide Mr. McNulty with access to the Google, I did some research for him.

It took about eight seconds.

The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (S. 2590) requires the full disclosure of all entities or organizations receiving federal funds beginning in fiscal year 2007 on a website maintained by the Office of Management and Budget. This bill was introduced by Senators Tom Coburn and Barack Obama on April 6, 2006 and passed unanimously in the Senate on September 7, 2006 and was passed in the House on September 13, 2006. The bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush on September 26, 2006.

Maybe Mr. McNulty doesn't think that this unprecedented pork-busting law is significant, but I think the freshman Senator's accomplishment merits mention.

Putting the Dem in Demographics?

Illinois naturalized 512,000 new citizens in 2005 -- up from 378,000 in 1995.

The state's GOP leadership will have a little tougher time sleeping tonight.

From your Chicago Tribune:
The proportion of legal immigrants in the country who have become U.S. citizens has reached its highest mark in 25 years, according to a study released Wednesday by the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington.

The population of naturalized U.S. citizens reached 12.8 million in 2005, the latest year available ***

The research also showed the number of Mexican immigrants naturalized in 2005 hit 1.6 million. ***

The numbers show 20 percent of eligible U.S. permanent residents from Mexico became naturalized citizens in 1995. In 2005, that rose to 35 percent.
Dear Illinois Republicans,

Please, nominate Jim Oberweis -- for something -- anything.

I don't care for what or for which office. Heck, nominate him for all of them.
Please, just let the nativist ice-cream headache be the standard bearer for the GOP in Illinois.


Hope in one hand...

From your Chicago Tribune:
Bush, noting that Gen. David Petraeus has received only half of the additional forces he is seeking in Iraq, insists that the new security initiative supported by nearly 30,000 promised new troops has generated signs of hope.
From the very same page of your Chicago Tribune:
Shiite militants and police enraged by deadly truck bombings went on a shooting rampage against Sunnis in a northwestern Iraqi city Wednesday, killing up to 70 men execution-style and prompting fears that sectarian violence was spreading outside the capital.

The killings occurred in the mixed Shiite-Sunni city of Tal Afar, which had been an insurgent stronghold until an offensive by U.S. and Iraqi troops in September 2005, when militants fled into the countryside without a fight. Last March, President Bush cited the operation as an example that gave him "confidence in our strategy."
U.S. military spokesman Rear Adm. Mark Fox warned that "there will be rough days ahead" due to the extremists' "desperate changes in tactics.":
The new tactics included using chlorine, a highly toxic chemical, in at least eight bombings since Jan. 28. On Wednesday, suicide bombers detonated explosives on trucks carrying the chemical outside the Fallujah government center, about 40 miles west of Baghdad.
Thank heavens the 22nd Amendment prevents the Tribune from embarrassing itself with another endorsement of our hopeless president.

Officer Pot, meet Officer Kettle...

"[A]ll law enforcement is depicted with a presumption of guilt."
-- Fraternal Order of Police statement via your Chicago Sun-Times

After you've wiped away your tears, take a gander at Eric Zorn's column in your Chicago Tribune, in which he dissects the police/perp presumption of guilt double standard -- and the media's role therein.

"Never hit a man when he's down..."

"It's usually easier to just kick him."

From the fringes:
Embattled AG now accused in teen sex scandal 'cover-up'
Attorney General Gonzales among officials who allegedly ignored abuse of minor boys

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, both already under siege for other matters, are now being accused of failing to prosecute officers of the Texas Youth Commission after a Texas Ranger investigation documented that guards and administrators were sexually abusing the institution's teenage boy inmates. ***

In the Texas Youth Commission scandal, Texas Ranger official Burzynski received a July 28, 2005, letter from Bill Baumann, assistant U.S. attorney in Sutton's office, declining prosecution on the argument that under 18 U.S.C. Section 242, the government would have to demonstrate that the boys subjected to sexual abuse sustained "bodily injury." Baumann wrote that, "As you know, our interviews of the victims revealed that none sustained 'bodily injury.'"

Baumann's letter continued, adding a definition of the phrase "bodily injury," as follows: "Federal courts have interpreted this phrase to include physical pain. None of the victims have claimed to have felt physical pain during the course of the sexual assaults which they described." ***

On March 2, 2007, Governor Rick Perry appointed Jay Kimbrough, his former staff chief and homeland security director, to serve as "special master" to lead an investigation into the Texas Youth Commission sex abuse scandal. Shortly thereafter, the commission stopped a hiring practice that had allowed convicted felons to work as administrators in the system. The practice had involved a requirement that prior criminal records be destroyed for employees hired by the commission.

On March 17, 2007, the entire Texas Youth Commission governing board resigned.
Throw this Justice Department scandal on the pile, I guess....

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Obama, Schakowsky and Soldiers of Fortune

From the Nation's article on "the Bush Administration's growing dependence on private security forces such as Blackwater USA and efforts in Congress to rein them in. "
Senator Barack Obama introduced comprehensive new legislation in February. It requires clear rules of engagement for armed contractors, expands MEJA and provides for the DoD to "arrest and detain" contractors suspected of crimes and then turn them over to civilian authorities for prosecution. It also requires the Justice Department to submit a comprehensive report on current investigations of contractor abuses, the number of complaints received about contractors and criminal cases opened.

In a statement to The Nation, Obama said contractors are "operating with unclear lines of authority, out-of-control costs and virtually no oversight by Congress. This black hole of accountability increases the danger to our troops and American civilians serving as contractors." He said his legislation would "re-establish control over these companies," while "bringing contractors under the rule of law."

Democratic Representative Jan Schakowsky, a member of the House intelligence committee, has been a leading critic of the war contracting system. Her Iraq and Afghanistan Contractor Sunshine Act, introduced in February, which bolsters Obama's, boils down to what Schakowsky sees as a long overdue fact-finding mission through the secretive contracting bureaucracy. Among other provisions, it requires the government to determine and make public the number of contractors and subcontractors (at any tier) that are employed in Iraq and Afghanistan; any host country's, international or US laws that have been broken by contractors; disciplinary actions taken against contractors; and the total number of dead and wounded contractors.

Schakowsky says she has tried repeatedly over the past several years to get this information and has been stonewalled or ignored. "We're talking about billions and billions of dollars--some have estimated forty cents of every dollar [spent on the occupation] goes to these contractors, and we couldn't get any information on casualties, on deaths," says Schakowsky. "It has been virtually impossible to shine the light on this aspect of the war and so when we discuss the war, its scope, its costs, its risks, they have not been part of this whatsoever. This whole shadow force that's been operating in Iraq, we know almost nothing about. I think it keeps at arm's length from the American people what this war is all about."

President Bush's Saudi Allies

From NPR:
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, speaking at an Arab summit conference in Riyadh, criticized the United States for what he called the "illegitimate foreign occupation" of Iraq and warned of the dangers of a sectarian civil war there.

"In our beloved Iraq," the king said, "we see the bloodshed among brothers in the light of an illegal foreign occupation. Whereas the very ugly sectarianism is threatening a country which used to live in prosperity."
With friends like these, who needs enemas.

Marines Corps Banning Super-Sized Tattoos

From your Chicago Tribune:
The Marines are banning any new, extra-large tattoos below the elbow or the knee, saying such body art is harmful to the Corps' spit-and-polish image. ***

Marines already tattooed are exempt from the ban but cannot add to their designs; anyone caught with fresh ink in the wrong places could be barred from re-enlistment or face disciplinary action. Getting a prohibited tattoo could constitute a violation of a lawful order, punishable by up to two years in prison and a dishonorable discharge, Marine spokesman 1st Lt. Brian Donnolly said.

Unit commanders must photograph and document sleeve tattoos to ensure Marines do not add to their ink.
I guess today's Corps has nothing better to do.

Sneek Peek: Cover of New Harry Potter Novel

DuPage Taxpayers Buy New "Philosophical Statement" for County Board

From your Chicago Tribune:
A strategic plan intended to guide DuPage County through years of slower growth, tighter finances and a diversifying economy and population was released Tuesday.

The plan, officially a draft until it is approved by the County Board, was launched a year ago and contains few specifics, but board Chairman Robert Schillerstrom called it "a good philosophical statement" that focuses the county on its evolving role as a regional government.
A "good philosophical statement" with few specifics -- just what the people of DuPage County were clamoring for.
The plan lists four strategic goals: improving communication with the public on the operations and financing of county government; creating more partnerships between organizations and other governments; responding to changes in the county's economy and demographics; and providing region-wide leadership on issues including transportation, business development and education.
While goals are necessary for a plan, a list of goals alone is not a plan. And let's consider these goals:

The first one, "improving communication etc.," is merely a euphemism for better salesmanship of the decisions and spending coming out of the County Board. This is nothing more than an intention to a better job of marketing the County Board's mismanagement of taxpayers money.

The second goal has almost no meaning. What kind of partnerships? On what basis? To address what issues? Between what organizations and goverments? This one doesn't just fail to be a plan it fails to be an actual goal.

Let's jump to the fourth goal "providing region-wide leadership on issues including transportation, business development and education." Sure... a County Board a projected $50 million shortfall in their half-billion dollar budget is just the kind of leadership the region is looking for.

Back to the third goal. The third goal is simply breathtaking: "responding to changes in the county's economy and demographics." Think about this goal for a moment. Is there any lower standard for county government than to "respond" to changes in the county? I cannot imagine one. And the DuPage County Board had to pay someone to come up with this minimum standard. They couldn't set a goal of "governance" in house?

The DuPage Board's "philosophical statement" isn't a plan, it's a list of goals. And a more substantive list of county goals could have been formulated in the first 15 minutes of a freshman civics class.
Last month the County Board created a Strategic Planning Committee, with the task of finding ways to put the strategic plan into action, Schillerstrom said.

The committee is chaired by board member Debra Olson of Wheaton.

"This is an opportunity to aggressively review our policies and procedures, and to look at where we want to be and how we want to get there," Olson said.
As I said, this is not a plan it's a list of goals -- very vague goals. And the members of the County Board can't even pretend its a plan -- if it were an actual plan, the time for "aggressively reviewing" the County's policies and procedures would have been before the plan was developed -- not after it has been rolled out. But, as noted above, this "philosophical statement" isn't actually a plan.

But what's the price tag on the County Board's new list of vague goals?
Much of the research and writing of plan documents was done by the Regional Development Institute at Northern Illinois University under a $77,200 contract with the county. The NIU staff and county officials developed the goals and lists of related issues through a series of public meetings and interviews with elected officials during the past year.
Yes friends, it took $77K and a year of public meeting and interviews with elected officials to figure out that the County Board needs to "respond to changes in the county's economy and demographics." Is Todd Stroger paying these clowns to improve his image? I thank God that the NIU staff didn't show up with a bag of magic beans.
"We need better accountability, better performance measures and objective criteria for the things we do, so we can measure our effectiveness and make decisions on how we spend our money," Olson said.
Which leads me to ask the following, "What in the blue hell has the DuPage County Board been doing?"
She noted that the strategic plan recommends the county establish performance standards and measurements.
Strategic plan and philosophical statements be damned -- it's quite clear that the DuPage County Board has failed to meet minimal "performance standards and measurements."

Update: Mr. Wurf is similarly underwhelmed by the Board's purchase.

Just Another Day in Gonzo's Justice Department

gon·zo (gŏn'zō) adj. Slang. -- 1. Using an exaggerated, highly subjective style. 2. Bizarre; unconventional.

Poorly written Justice Department documents cost the federal government more than $100 million in the biggest tax prosecution ever.

Walter Anderson, the telecommunications entrepreneur who admitted hiding hundreds of millions of dollars from the IRS and District of Columbia tax collectors, was sentenced Tuesday to 9 years in prison and ordered to repay about $23 million to the city.

But U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said he couldn't order Anderson to repay the federal government $100 million to $175 million because the Justice Department's binding plea agreement with Anderson listed the wrong statute.

Friedman said he could have worked around that problem by ordering Anderson to repay the money as part of his probation. But prosecutors omitted discussion of probation -- a common element of plea deals -- from Anderson's paperwork.

"I've come to the conclusion, very reluctantly, that I have no authority to order restitution," Friedman said.

-- Chicago Tribune
FBI agents repeatedly provided inaccurate information to win secret court approval of surveillance warrants in terrorism and espionage cases, prompting officials to tighten controls on the way the bureau uses that powerful anti-terrorism tool, according to Justice Department and FBI officials.

The errors were pervasive enough that the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, wrote the Justice Department in December 2005 to complain. She raised the possibility of requiring counterterrorism agents to swear in her courtroom that the information they were providing was accurate, a procedure that could have slowed such investigations drastically.

A internal FBI review in early 2006 of some of the more than 2,000 surveillance warrants the bureau obtains each year confirmed that dozens of inaccuracies had been provided to the court. The errors ranged from innocuous lapses, such as the wrong description of family relationships, to more serious problems, such as citing information from informants who were no longer active, officials said.

-- Washington Post
"Uh... I Gotta Go":
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales rushed out of a Chicago news conference after just 2½ minutes Tuesday, avoiding questions about how his office gave U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald an undistinguished rating.

Gonzales, who is increasingly facing calls for his resignation, visited Chicago to promote a new ad campaign and had planned to spend 15 minutes with reporters. He left after taking just three questions about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, a move that has drawn a firestorm of criticism.

-- Chicago Sun-Times
"Yer damn right ya gotta go."
Two senior Justice Department aides who orchestrated the firings of eight U.S. attorneys could hold the key to embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' credibility with Congress as a growing number of lawmakers call for his ouster. ***

"We were misled, apparently, by some ... Department of Justice officials, and we have a right as a Congress to find out exactly what happened," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said last weekend on CBS' "Face the Nation."

"We need to have the most important players before the Senate Judiciary Committee, under oath, with a transcript, telling the whole truth," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., also on the Senate panel, said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Justice Department e-mails sent to Congress show Sampson and Goodling were both closely involved for at least a year by attending meetings, sitting in on conference calls and corresponding with White House officials in drawing up the plans to fire the prosecutors with as little political fallout as possible. The documents show Sampson first addressed the issue in e-mails with the White House shortly after the 2004 presidential election. ***

Gonzales has largely blamed Sampson, who resigned March 12, for the botched way the firings were handled and incompletely described to Congress by top Justice officials under oath in two hearings. The attorney general says he had little direct involvement in the dismissals and relied on Sampson to help select the targeted prosecutors and plan for their departures.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he fears Sampson has become the administration's "fall guy."

"And yet we find so many e-mails that contradict what the attorney general has said, contradict what the deputy attorney general has said, contradict what the White House has said," Leahy said. ***

"The fact that the White House and Justice Department had been discussing this subject since the election was well-known to a number of other senior officials at the department, including others who were involved in preparing the department's testimony to Congress," Sampson's attorney, Brad Berenson, said in a March 16 statement.

-- Chicago Tribune
It's well past time for Gonzo to be Gone-zo.

Stone Cold, Naisy

The choice in the 50th Ward's run-off could not be more stark.

"I gotta get me up and run..."

From your Chicago Sun-Times:
Challenger Naisy Dolar calls Ald. Bernie Stone an "old guard" politician who has been in office "far too long" and is asleep at the switch.

"This is not about age," the 34-year-old Dolar said. "This is about someone who's too comfortable in his job for too long."
"Anymore, anymore, cannot take it anymore..."
The 79-year-old Stone doesn't make those distinctions. He said Dolar has no experience and no clue what it takes to be alderman. He calls her "a young pisher." That's Yiddish for "little squirt."
Well, I'm not usually one to quibble with others over matters of language -- cough, cough -- but the origin of the word "pisher" is not so simple.

In his article,
Some American Idioms from the Yiddish, published in Vol. 18, No. 1 of American Speech, the American Dialect Society's quarterly journal, Julius G. Rothenberg writes that defining "pisher" so euphemistically and narrowly "only faintly suggests the denotation and connotations."

"Pisher" is derived from the Yiddish word "pishn" -- which means to "piss". Like the similar German word "pissen". With proper context, the denotation and connotations of Mr. Stone's comment become clear: Mr. Stone is called Ms. Dolar a "young pisser."

"Walking down the street, Shooting people that I meet..."

Back to the Sun-Times:
Stone is the oldest member of the City Council. Dolar, if elected, would be the youngest.
Unstated in the coverage of the 50th ward race by the S-T and the Tribune is the common knowledge that Stone will not long serve as the oldest member of the City Council. Should he win, he is expected to step down and have his charming daughter, Ilana, take his spot. This race isn't just about age and experience -- it is also about Chicago's increasingly dynastic politics.

But a vote against Stone wouldn't just be a vote to stop monarchy in the 50th ward, it has the added benefit of being a vote for Ms. Dolar.
Dolar is a former director of the city's Advisory Council on Asian Affairs who has also worked for Loyola University Chicago and the city's YouthNet program. "I have eight years' experience in city government . . . and have committed my whole career to public service, which prepares me for this challenge," she said.
"I ran right outta juice..."
Dolar argues that Stone has accomplished little in 34 years in office. She said crime is increasing, business strips are deteriorating and Stone helps only his friends and developers who make campaign contributions.

"He's been in office far too long and has literally been sleeping on the job for the last 10 years or so," she said.

A photocopy of a Sun-Times photograph of Stone apparently dozing in the City Council chamber in 2003 hangs on a wall of Dolar's campaign headquarters on Touhy Avenue.
Stone counters that he was not sleeping when the photo was taken but had merely closed his eyes. You can take a look at Stone's relaxed -- very relaxed -- posture and judge for yourself.

"If I can't go to heaven..."

Your Chicago Tribune reports that Naisy Dolar has received multiple endorsements -- including her former rival Greg Brewer who finished third in the Feb. 27 election.
"It's time for a new vision of openness, honesty and accountability. It's time for an aldermen who understands the true meaning of community. It's time for an aldermen who will demonstrate real leadership by working to build consensus among diverse groups. It's time for an aldermen who will finally treat residents with the dignity and respect we deserve," Brewer wrote.

Dolar also announced that she had received union endorsements from the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. SEIU had not endorsed any candidate in the Feb. 27 election, but the group attacked Stone in a series of mailers.

"I'm very pleased to get the support of both unions," said Dolar. "I look forward to working with them on behalf of the working people of Chicago and their families."
"Here come the law gonna break down the door, Gonna carry me away once more..."

By contrast, Stone was endorsed by the last place finisher, Salman Aftab:
The Chicago Sun-Times found that Aftab has a history of five arrests -- but no convictions.

Four are misdemeanor charges arising from alleged arguments -- two in restaurants, one over a cab fare and the other over a parking space -- between 1996 and 2002. The most serious was a murder charge in the 1992 stabbing of Paul Warda during a fight between cabdrivers at a Near North Side restaurant.

A judge found Aftab not guilty after people who said they had been witnesses gave testimony "contradictory to what they told the police," said Lynda Peters, who was the prosecutor in the case.

Aftab chalks all of the arrests up to his role as a community activist who often winds up in volatile situations as he tries to help resolve disputes.
If anyone can explain to me how knife fights with cabbies are part of community activist dispute resolution, please drop me a line.

"There's a rumour going round, gotta clear outta town..."

Of course, the best way to determine which candidate should be alderman for the 50th Ward would be to review the debates between them -- So let's review:

On Wednesday, March 21, the West Rogers Park Community Organization hosted it's 50th Ward Candidates Forum. Ms. Dolar participated. Mr. Stone did not.

Fortunately, Ms. Dolar provided a photograph of Mr. Stone to remind 50th Ward residence of what the man who purports to represent them looks like.

Ms. Dolar and Mr. Stone were scheduled to appear together on WTTW's Chicago Tonight on April 2nd. But Mr. Stone has backed out. Even after efforts by Channel 11 to work around Mr. Stone's schedule, he backed out.

So there haven't been -- and won't be -- any debates. But even so, it is clear who the winner is in the 50th Ward: Naisy Dolar.

To vote for anyone else would be... stone cold crazy, you know.

Update Rich Miller at the Capital Fax blog: "Naisy Dolar’s own poll has her leading Ald. Stone 47-40." Rich also has juicy exerpts from the poll's executive summary.

Stone Cold Crazy by Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Reasonable People

Go visit Illinois Reason:
Illinois Reason is a progressive blog dedicated to ensuring the Illinois political discussion is reality-based, open and truthful. As such, Illinois Reason’s primary mission is to discuss progressive values and ideas which benefit the common good and to engage and correct conservative misinformation promoted by conservative news and commentary sources which is not accurate, reliable, or credible and which forwards a conservative agenda at the expense of the public good.

Our goal is to ensure that the public conversation remains productive, honest, and fair. Illinois Reason seeks to encourage informed and well-reasoned citizenship, believing that we the people are indeed the ultimate check and balance to hold our government accountable.

Here's the RSS Feed.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream...

If you're like me, you're pondering how to spend that marvelous income tax rebate check that you've just received.* Usually, I hesitate to give advice on how other people should live their lives, much less how they should spend their money, but I am willing to make an exception in this case.

Please consider loaning a small sum of money -- as little as $25 -- to the budding capitalists at Kiva:
Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world. By choosing a business on, you can "sponsor a business" and help the world's working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates from the business you've sponsored. As loans are repaid, you get your loan money back.

Kiva partners with existing microfinance institutions. In doing so, we gain access to outstanding entrepreneurs from impoverished communities world-wide. Our partners are experts in choosing qualified borrowers. That said, they are usually short on funds. Through, our partners upload their borrower profiles directly to the site so you can lend to them.
I was just repaid on a small loan I made last year. (Okay, I admit it: I have a soft spot for Carpenters from the Holy Land.) And despite the unbelievable troubles in Gaza over the last year, Mr. Shanab was able to repay his full loan on time. That's right, despite bombings, killings, lockdowns and near civil war, Shanab's Carpentry still made good on the loan. I'm not sure how much more one could say about the success of Kiva's borrower vetting.

If you want to start but don't know where, may I suggest this lady:

Her name is Beatrice and she sells Ice Cream.

Ice Cream!

Black or white, anglo or hispanic,
young or old, liberal or wrong -- No matter our differences, can't we all agree that the World would be a better place if there were more Ice Cream?

The answer is "Yes -- More ice cream, please."

More on Kiva from PBS Frontline, NPR News and a lotta others.
And, of course, the kids at Prairie State Blue,
née Soapblox Chicago, blogged about this in November, but I didn't wanna post anything till my loan/experiment was repaid.

*Actually, if you're like me you are only now assembling your income tax information.

Note 1: This blog posting is NOT intended to constitute financial advice.
Note 2: ALWAYS consult your financial adviser making any investment.
Note 3: ESPECIALLY if the investment is brought to your attention by some goof on the internet.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Sunday, March 18, 2007


"Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them, and you have their shoes." -- Jack Handey, 1991.

One of America's finest minds, Mark Evanier, has been thinking:
Years ago, my Aunt Dot used to say to me, "You have something in common with every person in the world. Before you criticize them, you should stop and figure out what it is you have in common with that person."

I've been very critical of Alberto Gonzales. In terms of upholding the Rule of Law, he has the most important job in our country and I've long felt that all he does is to warp it, trample it and misinterpret it to try and support the view that anything the current (and only the current) occupant of the Oval Office and his crew does is legal, constitutional and proper. George W. Bush could stick up a liquor store and Gonzales would argue it was within the president's power to do so.

But I tried to do what my Aunt suggested. I sat down and tried to figure out what I have in common with this man. I'll admit it took a while but I think I've got it. I think I know what I have in common with this man. Within two weeks, neither one of us will be the Attorney General of the United States.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

"My mind was aching..."

On his Pop Machine blog, Mark Caro of your Chicago Tribune is discussing the best and worst cover songs.

The best cover song is eternally debatable.

But this is, without question, the worst:

Friday, March 16, 2007

TV Eye Internet Ear: The Stooges at SXSW on NPR via your Computer

Did you know that "NPR Music is collaborating with five NPR Member stations to create a comprehensive, multi-platform presence around South by Southwest, the influential annual music conference and festival in Austin, TX, taking place March 14–17?"

I didn't.

The live webcast for this afternoon follows:

All times listed are Eastern Central Time and are subject to change. Most shows will be archived after the event.

Friday, March 16
2 3 p.m. The Stooges
2:15 3:15 p.m. Lou Rhodes
4 5 p.m. Okkervil River
6 7 p.m. Under Byen
8 9 p.m. Beirut

A full schedule of SXSW events to be presented and streamed on is available at

You can also hear NPR's full, archived SXSW performances from these artists (with more to come):

To Read: "Everything I needed to Learn About Comics I Learned from Arnold Drake"

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Boy Howdy!

Why, why, why couldn't we have elected this fake cowboy as president?

Oh yeah, he's five.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

God Bless You, Mrs. Rogers.

In the wake of Gen. Peter Pace's gay-bashing, Eric Zorn, of your Chicago Tribune, is hosting a debate -- it's approaching exceeded 600 comments -- on the morality of homosexuality at his Change of Subject blog.

After reading scores of the anti-gay postings -- with their rampant misspelling, poor grammar, run-on sentences and woeful logic -- I've learned one thing:

Home Schooling Simply Doesn't Work.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Our Surveillance Society and You

more at

Previously: Pa·nop·ti·con and Chicago -- City of Big [Brother Looking Over Your] Shoulders, Parts One and Two.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Pa·nop·ti·con n. A prison so contructed that the inspector can see each of the prisoners at all times, without being seen.

"Morals reformed - health preserved - industry invigorated - instruction diffused - public burthens lightened - Economy seated, as it were, upon a rock *** all by a simple idea in Architecture!" -- Jeremy Bentham, English philosopher and designer of the panopticon.

From your Chicago Sun-Times:
Chicago businesses open between the hours of 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. would be required to install indoor and outdoor surveillance cameras to fight crime, under a watered-down ordinance tailor-made to soften opposition.

Instead of requiring cameras at every licensed business open more than 12 hours a day, Ald. Ray Suarez (31st) has narrowed his focus to businesses open during the eight-hour window when most crimes are committed.

Mayor Daley embraced the alderman's more radical approach 14 months ago. But the mayor's support was not enough to get the ordinance out of a City Council committee. The License Committee is scheduled to consider the softer version on Monday.
Previously: Chicago -- City of Big [Brother Looking Over Your] Shoulders, Parts One and Two.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

"Shocked by the Foul, Evil Deed I had Done..."

UPDATE: Apparently, The Man has taken this video down.
Why's he always keepin' me down?

The Alias Kid
aka Kid Alias -- also known as AKakaKA -- sent me the following video.

It seemed brilliant when I first saw it as a child 27 years ago.

It remains brilliant today.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Actually Tom, I was referring to the second definition.

swine (swīn) n., pl. swine.
  1. Any of various omnivorous, even-toed ungulates of the family Suidae, including pigs, hogs, and boars, having a stout body with thick skin, a short neck, and a movable snout.
  2. A person regarded as brutish or contemptible.

SCAM: So-Called "Answer Man"

The Alias Kid, aka Kid Alias, submits the following:
If Ann Coulter believes John Edwards is a "faggot," does she therefore believe that Edwards doesn't find her sexually attractive -- or that he does?"
John Edwards lack of apparent visual impairment indicates that, regardless of his sexuality, he would not find Manly Ann Coulter sexually attractive.


Update: And she's not too bright either.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Attorneys You Can Trust...

From your Chicago Public Radio:
One of Chicago's top law firms fired or demoted 45 partners this week. Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw says business is good. Its 2006 revenues were up 11 percent over the previous year.

But Chairman Ty Fahner says the restructuring is needed to improve profits and allow the firm to stay competitive. "The very best regarded and best run law firms have a relatively high profit per partner because that pays for all the expenses of growth, retaining good people, of recruiting others," Fahner says. "And so, this is simply another step to being one of the elite law firms of the world."
In other words, "Sure, we're rich. But by screwing some of the people we work with, we could be even richer!"

Friday, March 02, 2007

Riddle Me This: What Egghead Named this Joker?

"Criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot" -- Bruce Wayne, millionaire playboy, November 1939.

From your Chicago Tribune:
More than half of the threatening mailings attributed to "The Bishop" mail-bomb suspect over the last two years had postmarks from the Chicago area, investigators said Wednesday.

As a result, authorities are concentrating part of their search for him here, and they were seeking a man who was in the Rolling Meadows post office the day two explosive devices were mailed from there to investment firms. ***

Inspectors have circulated a sketch of a "person of interest" who was seen in the lobby of the Rolling Meadows post office by a witness between 11:30 a.m. and noon on Jan. 26. That is the day the pair of devices were mailed to investment firms in Kansas City and Denver. ***

A $100,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest of the person who mailed the devices. Anyone with information is asked to call 312-983-7901. ***

Colen said investigators at least want to speak to the man seen in the Rolling Meadows post office, because he potentially could have information related to the case.

Authorities said the man was in his late 30s to early 40s, and is about 6 feet tall and 180 pounds. He has thinning, sandy-brown hair and was seen wearing an olive military-type jacket.

Investigators have said the suspect, who calls himself "The Bishop," has mailed threatening letters to investment firms around the country since 2005. He typically makes demands about fluctuations in stock prices, authorities have said.
"The Bishop"?!?

I'm no expert on the criminal mind -- really, I'm not -- but it seems to me that law enforcement and the press could discourage crime with one simple step: Don't let the criminals name themselves.

By letting this doofus call himself "The Bishop," they've turned him into some kind of super-villain. And while it might be more satisfying for the authorities to be in pursuit of "The Bishop" -- A&E Investigative Reports could come calling -- it only feeds his sick ego and encourages the nut-job.

So as a public service, I am offering this list of ten discouraging or humiliating appellations for future mail-bombers:
  1. The Yella-Bellied Bomber,
  2. Pant-Load,
  3. El Cobarde,
  4. Ol' Chickenshit,
  5. Mamma's Boy,
  6. Urinal Cake,
  7. Mr. Frady Cat,
  8. The Dirty Diaper Bomber,
  9. Dr. Undescended Testicle,
  10. Jay Mariotti
"I know nothing whatsoever about this sort of thing, Commissioner. But as a layman, it makes sense to me."


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