Friday, August 25, 2006
Is 66,000,000 a lucky number?
Gordy over at IlliniPundit is busy declaring things improved over in Iraq. Apparently a poll came out showing that Iraqis think there shouldn't be a Civil War. And ... well ... that's really all there is.

Meanwhile, the National Priorities Project came out with some interesting statistics recently. Apparently the Iraq War has now cost the American taxpayers $318,500,000,000. Locally, Champaign County's contribution to the war totals $66,000,000. The population of Champaign County is 184,905. Busting out the ole calculator shows that each person in Champaign County has contributed $356 of tax dollars to the war effort. The average for a househould is $828.

Of course this is just an average. Nationally the situation looks worse.
That is $2,844 for every American household or $1,075 for every American. The money (already spent or allocated) is being spent at a rate $10 million per hour and $244 million per day.
And what could this great nation have bought with that $318 billion? Using this handy chart, it seems the State of Illinois could have:
  • Hired 285,812 additional public school teachers for one year.
  • Insured 9,875,579 children for one year.
  • Provided 799,506 students four-year scholarships at public universities.
  • Built 148,497 additional housing units.
But hey ... at least the Iraqis feel like they'd rather not have a Civil War. That was worth it. Right?

In other news, Dr. David Gill is still running for Tim Johnson's seat. Dr. Gill has made clear that he does not support the war, and actually has a plan to get us out of there. Mr. Johnson has, well, not really spoken about the issue for some time (that I could find). He did vote yes on declaring Iraq part of War on Terror with no exit date. (Jun 2006).

The choice is clear.

Sunday, August 13, 2006
Gay Marriage: It is SO over
Well, it looks like the cursed New York Times has turned The Great Eye on Illinois for 500 words or so. Turns out the Anti-Gay-Marriage crowd was trying to get a referendum against same-sex marriage onto the November ballot. They failed:
“It’s not near over,” said Peter LaBarbera, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute and Protect Marriage Illinois, a group that supports the referendum.

Referendum supporters are appealing a decision this month by a federal judge who dismissed the lawsuit.
Well, maybe it's not over. Great. Personally, I do appreciate the Illinois Family Institute's generous use of Abe Lincoln images and, of course, the prodigious use of Ole' Glory. Is there a theme there? Ole Abe and Ole Glory? Maybe ... old? Conservative?

But, I digress.

In an interesting twist, neither of the major Gubernatorial candidates are in favor of the amendment, though it is fairly clear that a person voting for the amendment would probably also vote for Topinka.
“Don’t tinker with the Constitution if you don’t have to,” Ms. Topinka said.
Right. Topinka's not very smart, is she? On a related note, the NYT has Topinka down in the polling, 40 to 47 percent.

She does actually look like Heat Miser though, doesn't she? Hmm.

Monday, July 31, 2006
On Vacation ...
Until further notice. Though I HAVE found a little cafe with wireless so if the weather goes bad I may post again. In the meantime, I'll be swimming.


Friday, July 21, 2006
In vitro insanity
This image of President Bush and a large group of parents holding their cute children caught my eye this week. If you aren't aware of the context, click here to learn more. Briefly, this is a shot of the President explaining the first veto of his presidency, which shot down expanded stem-cell research. The parents are folks who have used in vitro fertilization (IVF) successfully. They are holding their new babies so the White House staff can make the point that all of the embryos used in stem-cell research could someday be cute children who listen to the President give a speech.

I am not sure what I think of stem-cell research. It seems to bring big advantages to the research community, and has the potential to speed the cures to all sort of diseases, like Parkinson's or Alzheimers. On the other hand, there is something very weird about using a fertilized egg for research. It is creepy.

Now the hypocrisy of the Bush Administration is well documented. There is little need for me to point out the obvious parallels with the War in Iraq when Mr. Bush declares his love of "life" and his distaste for "murder". One need only look at Israel's actions in Lebanon over the last week to see how much action the President is willing to take to stop the killing of innocents. But what of these parents? The ones who seem more than willing to use their children as pawns in a political game.

Didn't these parents create the controversial embryos (zygotes) in the first place? The embryos that Mr. Bush is seeking to protect are created during the process of IVF. Typically, to increase the chance of a successful pregnancy, IVF clinics will place multiple zygotes in a mother's uterus. The average success rate for each IVF placement is approximately 20-30%, which means many women have five embryos placed at a time. As a result of this low success rate, it is estimated that 6 million zygotes (potential babies) have already been killed during the attempts to fertilize these women.

That's six million embryos already killed so these nice people can stand behind Mr. Bush with their new babies. Where's the outrage about that?

Is IVF wrong? I don't know. I am not sure how I would feel about this issue if we were not able to conceive naturally. I'd like to think that I would hesitate before allowing a tech in a lab to make little 20 little Pinkys, and place them in a freezer. I know I would hesitate to discard the 19 little Pinkys that didn't "make it" in our attempts to become pregnant.

But that's not the point. The point here is that these folks who are proudly standing behind the man who is standing in the way of using these unused and unwanted embryos for research are the folks who started this process in the first place. If they are so concerned about the fate of the little babies they made in a jar, who are frozen solid in some lab somewhere, perhaps they should hurry up and start some more IVF cycles? Perhaps they should have six, nine, ten children this way. After all, that is the only way the babies in the freezer are going to see the light of day.

They are either going to bring these embryos to term in their bodies, or they are going to discard them. To even pretend that they are on some sort of moral high ground here is preposterous and, frankly, repulsive.

But that's the world we live in.

Sunday, July 16, 2006
What exactly does Tim Johnson do?
The current United States House of Representatives seems to be one of the laziest on record. By the end of the 2005-2006 term, the House is scheduled to have met 241 times. No House has served fewer days since the 1955-56 session. Even the infamous 1947-48 "Do-Nothing Congress" met for 254 days.

This is particularly strange considering the country is supposed to be in a state of war. I reckon there are plenty of soldiers serving in Iraq who would love to only work 140 days a year, as the House managed to pull off in 2005.

Our particular representative, the wiry Timothy Johnson, seems to fit right into to this culture of lethargy. Good ole Tim has only given one speech on the floor of the House since 2003. In fact, Johnson has only proposed 32 bills during his three terms as representative for the 15th district. While an average of around five bills per year may seem like a lot, Tim is in a tie for last place among all-time bill losers. He has never had a sponsored bill enacted.

To be fair, Johnson has co-sponsored some 483 bills during his three terms. Of course co-sponsoring a bill is about as hard as saying "uh-huh" when asked. This seems to be easy for Johnson, who has voted "ney" only five times this year (though I should mention that three of those votes were to protect the environment and one was against the USA Patriot Act). Tim is also Vice-Chair of the Committee on Science's Subcommittee on Research. I assume it is an honor to be Vice-Chairman of a subcommittee of a committee.

What is striking about Johnson is his seeming vulnerability on a host of issues. He votes against giving bonuses to soldiers, accepted $25K from Tom Delay's ARMPAC, and is strongly opposed to stem-cell research. Moreover, he seems genuinely disengaged from the process of governing. His personal life seems a bit checkered, to put it mildly.

But most important is his inability to bring the rewards of majority rule to the 15th District. Are republicans content with having Johnson as their rep just because he is a republican? Shouldn't we see some benefit to having a republican representative in Congress during the heyday of republicanism? In short, what has Tim Johnson done for us lately?

Like the U.S. House, the answer seems clear: not much.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006
AllKids Fired Up!
These folks have a seriously problem with AllKids. Some of them have apparently downloaded my family budget and decided that I do not need AllKids. Something about me being "part of the problem". Yay!

Perhaps it is useful to look at what the savings from using AllKids, the new State health insurance for children, can buy a family.

Let's pretend that an employer offers his employees two plans: PersonalCare and Health Alliance. Since the employee is far from rich, he goes with PersonalCare which is the cheaper plan. As an individual his monthly payment might be around $20.00. Which, is quite reasonable for basic health insurance.

If he adds a little Pinky to the equation his monthly payment becomes $320. Which is obviously an additional $300 a month, or $3600 a year. If he adds his wife and a Pinky to the plan the monthly payment works out to around $500 a month, or $6000 a year. While this seems like a lot, from what I can tell it is below average for the workers in this part of the state.

So what to do? Seems like two options. One, the employee could ship his Pinky off to daycare everyday while he and the wife work full-time to try to make ends meet. The healthcare premiums would quickly become their second largest monthly expense (daycare would now come in at #3). The would have less time with their daughter, and less time as a family. Maybe Pinky's first words would be spoken to the daycare provider. Maybe her first steps would take place in daycare. Who knows?

But this family would definitely not be a "part of the problem".

Or, the family could utilitize a government program that is designed for lower-middle class folks, having the wife stay home with their daughter, and trying to live cheap. Less eating out, less vacation time, but focus on the family values we hear so much about.

AllKids makes it easier for this very average family to live on one income. It makes it possible for a mother to stay home with her daughter instead of going to work. It makes families stronger, not weaker. This, of course, is "the problem".

Who am I to thank?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Definitely a sign the end is near ...
I am always nervous when an envelope from the State of Illinois lands in my box. These letters are always one of two things: a bill or some sort of bad news.

Well last week's letter from the Governor was no exception. It was indeed a bill, for 40 (count 'em!) FORTY whole dollars. And for what service to I now owe the State? Comprehensive health insurance for my new daughter.

Suddenly I don't mind getting bills from the State anymore.

Of course the jury is still out on AllKids, Governor Blagojevich's new plan to insure, uh, all the kids in Illinois. It is possible that, as the naysayers predict, long lines will spring up in Pediatrics at Carle, or we'll have to drive to Mexico to get cancer surgery, or the sky will fall, or marshmallows will become $5.00 a bag, or ... Well, you know the routine.

There is some question about how the Governor is going to pay for this plan. I am sure my monthly $40 is not going to cover it. Here's a quote from a Tribune article which discussed the issue of funding:
The first-year budget for All Kids is estimated at $45 million; that should be covered by savings expected from Illinois' new disease management and primary-care case management programs, said Murphy, the Medicaid director. In addition, the state expects to receive $37 million in federal funding for low-income enrollees.
Well, we'll see. We know that the issue of doctors accepting AllKids is not relevant in our case since Pinky already has a physician. It is my understanding that new babies may not be accepted, just because the hospitals are wary of late State payments.

And so it goes. Nothing is perfect. This could be a stunt by the Governor to garner votes in the next election. It might be a program that we can't afford. Some kids might not be covered after all. Again, nothing is perfect.

But this is better than nothing. This is a step in the right direction. It is inexcusable that a child in this State (or this country for that matter) can go without health care due to costs. We don't seem to have any serious problem pouring billions into Iraq for nominal results. Why scream bloody murder over an attempt to provide health care for children?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Pinky Winky and the FMLA
It has been far too long between posts. I have several excuses, of course, mainly the birth of our first child. She has brought more joy, laughter, and googlie baby talk to our home than I ever thought possible. God is indeed a keeper of promises.

That said, several interesting political thoughts have crossed my mind since Pinky (not her real name) was born. I'd like to blog for a while about the way government can help or hinder the family, starting with ...

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993

The years 1992-1994 may give us the best glimpse of what is possible in this country when Democrats rule the roost. Clinton was elected in '92 and came to power with a Congress full of Democrats. He made several important legislative moves in those first few months including the signing of the Brady Bill, an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, strengthening of environmental regulations, the NVRA (Motor Voter Act), and the failed (but nonetheless righteous) attempt to bring universal health care to America. While all of these laws made America a better place, none has had a bigger impact on my life than the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

FMLA clearly states:
employers must grant an eligible employee up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons:
  • for the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee;
  • for placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care;
  • to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
  • to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.
While Republicans often trumpet their concern for "family values" it was indeed the Democrats who made it possible for me to be at home with my wife for two weeks before the birth, and for four weeks after our baby was born. It was, by far, one of the best times of my life and I have no doubt that having to trudge off to work every morning to keep my job would have made it much less wonderful, if not downright depressing.

FMLA is an example of how federal legislation can change our lives for the better. Something to keep in mind this November.

Friday, January 13, 2006
A watered down MLK on the rocks, please ...
Monday is the annual Martin Luther King Holiday, where folks from all over the country will get the day off from school (I hope), or perhaps from work. Like most holidays, we'll probably forget to take the time to think about King and his legacy, but just in case you're interested the story of this holiday is pretty good.

It turns out the ratification of this holiday marks the official moment when King was forever stolen from the left. The holiday was proposed in 1983, and the House quickly passed the measure by overwhelming majorit (390-60, I think). Senate debate was minimal, but centered around Jesse Helms' contentions that King was a communist and a radical.

What is interesting is that the Democrats didn't agree. In fact, the Dems went out of their way to call Helms a liar, and declare his evidence suspect. Sen. Edward Kennedy denounced the Helms speech as "Red smear tactics" that should be "shunned by the American people." The news media agreed and called Helms all sorts of names. With the threat of appearing racist, the Republicans lined up to vote for MLK Day, and the rest is history.

The problem was two-fold. First, Helms wasn't lying. King was know to associate with many communists, placed communists in charge of SCLC chapters, and was a strong supporter of labor unions. He was quite radical in his beliefs and his work. Remember, he was assassinated supporting a Sanitation Workers strike in Memphis - a far cry from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

The other part of the problem is that the Democrats refused to acknowledge this history. Instead of heralding King as a visionary leftist, the Democrats rolled over again and again to declare that King was not a radical at all.

Thus, in a brilliant strategic maneuver on the part of the Republicans, endorsing a King holiday has effectively sanitized and defanged King's legacy. They can now c
laim King to be one of their own - in fact in '83 Pat Buchanan was heard talking about how King would disapprove of the second March on Washington (led by Jesse Jackson Jr.). Buchanan would know?

Sure, because King wanted a country based on the "content of character" not the "color of skin". By clinging to this quote, Republicans are able to declare affirmative action as anti-King. Welfare as anti-King. Criticism of the prison system's inherent racism as anti-King. The list goes on and on.

No conservative would dare criticize the holiday now, because they want to show that they "get it" about black people in America. Yet conservatives will bend over backwards to create voucher systems that allow wealthy children to abandon their (often black) poorer brethren in public schools. They'll spend hours talking about the woes of affirmative action. They demand an end to welfare and other social programs that benefit millions of African-Americans. They are quick to point out that racism is "over" in this country. Is it?

On Monday I'll be thinking about King and what he really stood for. Not just a country where folks aren't judged by the color of their skin, but a country that attempts to make up for past wrongs.

Monday, December 12, 2005
Health Care Follies ...
So let's pretend we have Citizen X, and his wife Citizen Y. This couple is pregnant, but all is not well in pregnant world. Though Citizen x+y (the baby) is fine, Citizen Y is miserable. Swollen ankles, pain in the arms, nausea, etc. - all with four months to go!

Citizen X works for the local school district, who offers him standard health insurance that he declines on a yearly basis. The district's plan costs him twice as much as a private plan, and he rarely uses the doctor.

Citizen Y works for a local hospital, and is a member of their health plan, the "good one" in this area.

Due to Citizen Y's daily miserableness, Citizens X and Y would like Citizen Y to stay home for the rest of the pregnancy, instead of suffering through several more months of work, and a growing carpal tunnel problem. Citizen Y is pretty well educated about pregnancy and childbirth issues, and she is fairly certain that staying home would be better for the growing baby and for her overall health. Unfotunately, quitting her job would mean losing her health insurance after three months, one month before the baby is born.
In the United States of America, circa 2005, it would cost Citizen X approximately $600 a month to cover his wife and, eventually (hopefully!) his new baby. Though this couple is hardly extravagant with their consumption, with Citizen Y no longer working, this would not be an option.

For Citizen Y to "cobra" her insurance an extra couple of months would cost $800 per month. Again, with Citizen Y not working, this is not an option.

Question: How can this couple afford to allow Citizen Y to stop working and focus on her pregnancy and her health?

Answer: They can't. Which makes them eager for the day this finally gets rolling.

Moral of the story: Democrats are big, fat, disgusting liar politicians from Hell who, occasionally, do something of value for the working person. Republicans are big, fat, disgusting liar politicians from Hell who don't. There, I said it.

Saturday, December 10, 2005
The Joys of Illinois
What a beautiful day for skiing at Allerton.

Not a deer to be seen though. I reckon they've all figured out Allerton is in the middle of hunting season. Hopefully they'll be back after the new year.

Either way, another gorgeous Illinois day.

Thursday, December 08, 2005
Put your money where your mouth is ...
I had no idea anyone would care much about the Noodles & Co. post below, but it seems to have touched a small nerve of a few of us, for better or for worse.

While there are many reasons to have a serious problem with the corporatization of our campustown, I originally began my dislike with the sober realization that corporate box restaurants are boring. No big political agenda point there. Just boring. A yawn, if you will.

It also struck me as odd that a local weekly, which prides itself on being a "connection to the community" would so blindly endorse this new wave of businesses owned and managed by people in far away places like Boulder, Colorado and Seattle, Washington. I guess that shouldn't surprise me much, since weeklies need to make money and all, but it is still disappointing. Especially considering the wonderful, progressive, and culturally engaged weeklies people in, say, Boulder and Seattle get to read.

But now I find, mainly from e-mails, that I am not alone. It turns out there are a lot of people out there who scratch their heads every time one of these boxes opens up. They probably ask themselves the same questions I ask myself. Mainly, "who said that was ok?" And, "what is that going to do to ________ business that I love so much?" (for the record, my concern with Noodles & Co. is the unfair competition they will create for Ar Ri Rang, and my concern with Chipotle is La Bamba. Starbucks will, I'm sure, have it's target on Paradiso, Kopi, and Espresso).

So what to do? Today during 2nd hour I taught the kids about the Stamp Act Riots. A seminal event in the lead up to the revolution, these riots crystalized dissent in the colonies over (essentially) the unfair business practices of the monarchy. As I showed the kids the paintings of the riots, the sacking of the Governor's house, and the propaganda that was created, it occurred to me that the word boycott is relevant even today.

We must do something to stop the flow of our money out of this town. Every burrito bought at Chipotle is $7.00 that travels back to Boulder. Every book bought at Borders is $20.00 sent back to Michigan.

So here's what I will do. I am taking this pledge:
1. When I buy a book, I will buy it from Pages for All Ages. No exceptions, anytime.

2. When I eat out, I will make every effort to only eat at locally owned restaurants (can't commit 100% since my wife has a say in this as well).

3. When I buy music, I will buy my music only from locally owned businesses, like Parasol, Record Swap, or ... uh, right the rest have been put out of business by Sam Goody. Sorry.

4. Coffee? I only get coffee at Strawberry Fields anyway, but I'll try to refrain from drinking Borders.

5. Groceries. Hard one. Holy crapoli. I guess I could start going to IGA, but that is all the way across town. Hmm. Oh - I will start using the private co-op again, and start getting my meat from local farms (it's better anyway).

6. Hardware supplies. Another tough one, but I've been better at this. For yard stuff I promise to go to FSA if at all possible. For tools I promise to go to True Value out by County Market on Philo. For wood and stuff I'll probably still have to go to Menards (damn!).

7. Cowboy boots and hats? Pards, baby. Pards!

8. Pet supplies? Animal Outfitters in Savoy. They're cheaper anyway.
Ok, I have to stop. You get the point.

For the record, I don't really care what anyone else does about corporatization. It's none of my business. Personally, I have prayerfully considered my options here and it does feel sinful to me to continue to patronize these businesses. Cities like Chicago, Seattle, or Boston (even Boise!) may be able to sustain independent businesses next door to big boxes. For our town, I am not convinced.

So this is what I shall do. It aint much, but it's my share. I'll shut up now.

Saturday, December 03, 2005
Noodles & Company. Yawn.
The wife and I went to the new, shiny, and super clean "Noodles and Company" last night to see if we have a good new restaurant in town.

Well, that's why she went. I went along to see if I was wrong about the Hub (careful clicking - bad techno awaits!) article I dissed a few months ago. You remember, the one with this stellar quote:
...With a name sounding much like a cable-access children's show, one can just tell "Nooodles and Company" must be good.[...]
Right. So ... the verdict? Boring, tasteless cuisine designed (apparently) to be completely unoffensive. My wife's penne pasta tasted like it has taken directly from the strainer and laid on the plate - no flavor at all. My Pad Thai (w/tofu) was the modern day equivalent of vanilla pudding. Zero flavor, no spice. It was a little greasy, I suppose.

Having already eaten at a Chipotle in Chicago, and having determined it to be to the burrito what the Ford Pinto was to the automobile, I think we can safely assume that a wave of tan, or vanilla, has descended upon campustown. As the well scrubbed college students file back and forth from class they no longer have to be bothered with figuring out what is "ok" to eat in our town. They can rest assured that a subway club, a plate of Noodles & Company, or a Chipotles burrito is only $7.00 away. Not the tastiest of choices, but safe. Definitely safe.

Luckily, for the rest of us, Murphy's is still serving up the mushroom swiss burgers, Ari Ri Rang still has the best dolsot bi-bim-bop south of Chicago, and Zorba's still has jazz on Thursday evenings.

One would think these would be the kind of traditions a weekly like the Hub would want to promote. One would also think our town's weekly would at least be willing to foster a discussion on the future of our campustown, and our downtown. A discussion that would include voices against the increasing corporatization of our community, not just the voices of the investors who write the paper's checks.

I guess not. I have long claimed on this site that the "creative class" theory on economic development is, in fact, and attempt to suck the life out of a community. It is, in short, a convenient, modern excuse for a select number of investors and bankers to make a crapload of money while feeling good about themselves as "hipsters".

Well, if the "creative" targets have no taste in food, or in coffee, then they are on the right track.

Monday, November 21, 2005
Get the feeling ...
I got that feeling this weekend. You know the one where you actually feel homesick for your church folk on Monday morning? It was a great weekend, filled with lots of laughter, hiking, etc. with our youth group. The kids even led worship Sunday morning and did a great job. Blessed.

One of the them (a seeker, really) mentioned to me that it was great to be around Christians without feeling judged. What a world we live in where non-believers think of Christians as judgemental above all else. How did we get to this place, especially when the gospels are so clear about planks in the eye and stones that will never be thrown. It's amazing.

So I guess it is good to be a part of something that is attempting to preach the Good News in what I consider its essential form: Jesus loves you.

No qualifiers, no exceptions for homosexuals or scientists. Just plain simple truth: Jesus loves you. Radical stuff, I guess.

Thursday, November 10, 2005
I am rather busy this days with the job, church and family stuff. Here are some upcoming events I hope to make it to:

The WRFU Barnraising:
Everyone who wishes to participate in this three-day-long set of workshops and work to get WRFU on the air should register immediately! The barnraising will be November 11th-13th, at the new IMC building in downtown Urbana, IL. The barnraising is being undertaken in conjunction with the Prometheus Radio Project, see Anyone who wants to get involved in the barnraising, be it to attend conferences or help build the station, is encouraged to REGISTER ASAP. It only takes a few minutes and helps us plan better, knowing how many people need food and housing, etc. Plus, free housing if you register before Nov. 6th. No one will be turned away for lack of funds, so don’t hesitate at the registration fee.

More information is available below (click “read the rest of this entry”) or at:

And don't forget about the movies:
There will be a showing of the movie "Wal-Mart: the High Cost of Low Price" on Sunday, November 13th at 7pm in the Geneva room of the McKinley Foundation on campus. According to the film's website, this 95-minute film directed by Robert Greenwald "takes you behind the glitz and into the real lives of workers and their families, business owners and their communities, in an extraordinary journey that will challenge the way you think, feel... and shop." A discussion will follow the film.

McKinley Foundation is on the corner of 5th and John on the U of I campus.
Have a great weekend!

Saturday, October 22, 2005
A new perspective on Iraq
IlliniPundit hosted quite a back and forth this week on the War in Iraq. He asked a simple question, but couldn't get a simple answer. Turns out there are also some ex-Intel folk who post over there. Not surprisingly, they seem to have a favorable view about what is happening in the middle east.

So I was surprised to see this speech from Lawrence Wilkerson this week. Colonel Wilkerson is the former Chief of Staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell. A man with decades of experience in the armed forces, and in the upper echelons of power, Wilkerson was harshly critical of the way the Bush Administration is running our country. Money quotes follow:
I would say that we have courted disaster, in Iraq, in North Korea, in Iran, generally with regard to domestic crises like Katrina, Rita and I could go on back, we haven't done very well on anything like that in a long time. And if something comes along that is truly serious, truly serious, something like a nuclear weapon going off in a major American city, or something like a major pandemic, you are going to see the ineptitude of this government in a way that will take you back to the Declaration of Independence. Read it some time again.

... the case that I saw for 4 plus years was a case that I have never seen in my studies of aberration, bastardizations, [UI], changes to the national security [UI] process. What I saw was a cabal between the Vice President of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the Secretary of Defense and [UI] on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made.

And then when the bureaucracy was presented with those decisions and carried them out, it was presented in such a disjointed incredible way that the bureaucracy often didn't know what it was doing as it moved to carry them out.
Which is just totally unacceptable, in my opinion. As a teacher I have seen several former students suit up and take off to fight in this war. I have kids with parents stationed in Iraq. I honestly don't want to hear this.

But there is money to be made. Wilkerson continues:
God bless Eisenhower in 1961 in his farewell address the military industrial complex and don't you think they aren't ... today in a concentration of power that is just unparalleled. It all happened because of the end of the Cold War.

... tell you how many contractors who did billion dollars or so business with the Defense Department that we have in 1988 and how many do we have now. And they're always working together. If one of them is the lead on the satellite program, I hope there's some Lockheed and Grumman and others here today [UI] if one of them's a lead on satellites, the others are subs. And they've learned their lesson there in every state.

They've got every Congressman, every Senator, they got it covered. Now, it's not to say that they aren't smart businessmen. They are, and women. They are. But it's something we should be looking at, something we should be looking at. So you've got this collegiality there between the Secretary of Defense and the Vice President. And then you've got a President who is not versed in international relations. And not too much interested in them either.
There is money to be made. Lots of it. Blood for oil, blood for weapons, blood for profits. Even the folks on the inside are waking up.

Why can't Chomsky be wrong once in a while? Why does it always have to turn out this way.

Here's the video.

Saturday, October 15, 2005
Bush will kill IL Republicans
The Tribune reports this morning that President Bush's polling numbers in Illinois are down to 33 percent. More surprisingly ...
Support for Bush has dropped 14 points in the last year among Republicans, and GOP officials fear that could complicate their efforts in next year's races for Congress and governor. For the first time in his presidency, half the voters in Chicago's Republican-rich collar counties disapprove of Bush's job performance, a departure from last fall when he carried all five suburban counties. ...

... In addition to Bush's low standing among voters in the collar counties of DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will, 54 percent of voters Downstate now say they disapprove of his performance. Downstate voters generally are more conservative and have in the past been more supportive of Bush. But his disapproval rating among those voters has climbed 12 percentage points since May.
Majority disapproval of Bush in the suburbs and downstate is not good footing for Republicans aiming to take back state positions. It actually makes Jakobsson's forum on Social Security look like a wise political move. Keep the emphasis on misguided Republican policies, keep them making up irrational justifications for policies no one wants. It continues to expose the ignorance that lies behind so many Republican ideas.

All we have heard for years now is justification after justification for policies that don't make sense. Cut taxes for the rich? Why? Well, we don't understand - really it is helping poor people. Right. Attack Iraq? Why? They have WMD, they could have made WMD, we need a democracy in the Middle East. Right. etc. etc. etc...

It seems the country is finally waking up from these delusions. Unfortunately we have three more years of this foolishness in Washington. Luckily, we have statewide elections in about a year.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Now it's Guatemala's turn ...
A dear friend of mine is spending a year working for the people of Guatemala for the Presbyterian Church, USA. She has been in country for a little over a month as was gearing up for the move out to the country to work with a village. Unfortunately, a large hurricane hit Guatemala last week and has literally destroyed many of the villages where she was going to work. She writes:
With whole villages covered in mud from landslides without warning, the death toll is into the thousands. People´s homes have been filled with mud and water, destroying all of their belongings. Entire villages can´t be found under several feet of mud. The economic means of this country have been washed away with the fields of crops and business.

... the current problem now, besides the fact that people are digging their homes out of the earth, is that most of the highways leading to the affected communities are impassible making the passage of food and pure water near impossible. The crops of the rural communities have been destroyed and the water sources are gone. The people are starving. And drinking contaminated water.

... We visted a few communities yesterday and what we saw was horrible. These people haven´t eaten for several days and their houses are piles of mud. The families that are worst off are staying in community buildings but those who were deemed ¨bad enough¨ are still in their houses, receiving no help.

Our mission is clear: get food and water to these people. However, there are a few problems. Food is running out. Not running out here in Santo Domingo...running out everywhere in the country. We need help. We need money now for supplies and food (when we find some) and later because most Guatemalans don´t have insurance and aren´t going to get back anything that they lost. Most Guatemalans live day to day and without work for the last week, they can´t feed their families. I am putting some information at the bottom of this email about where to send funds through the Presbyterian Church. The money will come here, we will buy food and then give it to the communities so that they can divide up the rations as they see fit. We trust the churches in the communities to know more than we do about who needs what. These are churches that we have been in partnership with for years. So, if you are able, the people of this country need help. However, I do believe that the power of prayer supercedes all, so, please keep Guatemala in your prayers and pray that this country sees a quick recovery to what has been called the worse natural disaster Guatemala has ever seen.
If you are able to help in any way, please do. To send monetary donations it is extremely important that you send an email to Lindsey at and Marcia Towers at to let them know how much you've sent, so that they can spend funds that they already have in PRESGOV even before your money is available. You can send a check in the name of PRESGOV to:

Lindsey De Pew
1050 S. Verdugo
Tucson, AZ 85745

Wire transfers are also available. Contact Lindsey or Marcia for more information.

Please pray for the people of Guatemala.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005
I didn’t mean it
I had a friend back in the bad-old-days who was apprehended selling LSD. He was the younger brother of a good friend of mine. A good looking white, suburban kid of privilege, he was not your typical drug dealer. I remember he brought a hell of a three-point shot to our pick up games on Sunday afternoon, and held down a couple of jobs during the week outside of school. I liked him a lot.

Unfortunately, he had made a connection with a dealer (probably through a Dead Show) and sold a couple of “hits” to a 16 year old at the high school. The 16 year old’s parents found the drugs and called the police. The police threatened this kid with serious punishment if he didn’t cooperate. So he called my friend and asked if he could buy three “sheets” (about 300 “hits”) of acid. My friend, seeing the profit in this exchange, did the deal. When he came to deliver the drugs the police arrested him.

He did seven years in prison.

He didn’t mean it.

His story was not unique. Almost everyone I grew up with was involved in drug use, many with LSD. Be shocked if you want, but I hear heroin is the big thing in the suburbs these days. Public school kids do it. Private school kids do more of it, since they have more money. It is just a matter of time and fate before another kid like my friend goes off to prison for selling drugs. A life ruined for a bad choice, because of bad policy

The Monday, October 3, 2005 New York Times includes a long, excellent article on young people who serve life sentences in this country. It turns out we are quite alone in our eagerness to put our young people behind bars for life. In fact …
Life without parole, the most severe form of life sentence, is theoretically available for juvenile criminals in about a dozen countries. But a report to be issued on Oct. 12 by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International found juveniles serving such sentences in only three others. Israel has seven, South Africa has four and Tanzania has one.

By contrast, the report counted some 2,200 people in the United States serving life without parole for crimes they committed before turning 18. More than 350 of them were 15 or younger, according to the report.
As a teacher, and a recipient of a Masters of Educational Psychology I think I can speak with some authority about the decision-making skills of young people. They rarely have any. They often make decisions based on impulse and regret their decisions shortly after. They often don’t really mean to do what they do.

Politicians are always looking for an angle, something to set themselves apart from the pack, as it were. It has long been considered political suicide in this country to be “soft on crime”. While this phrase is essentially meaningless, thousands of politicians have picked up the mantle of “tough on crime” and campaigned on the promise to reform the “lenient” penalties that some criminals receive.

These politicians often win (fear is a strong motivator) and over the last 20 years this country has seen an increase in mandatory sentencing, the kind of thing my drug-dealing friend faced.

But did these politicians really mean it? Do they really want every criminal sentenced the same way? Studies have proven that “tough on crime” doesn’t work. So why do we continue to ruin young people’s lives for mistakes they have made?

Do we really mean it? Do we really want to throw people away because they have made mistakes? How far down in the pit would each of us be if we had every mistake, every sin judged before a court of law? How eager are we to be forgiven, and how eager are we to forgive?

Saturday, October 01, 2005
Someone stole my laptop ...
It happened at school while I was right outside the room. The last bell had rung, I was doing hall duty, came back in the room and it was gone. Whoosh! Just like that.

Beyond the typical laptop withdrawal, I am of course concerned about the personal info on the laptop. Pictures, music, some financial stuff, etc. If anyone has any advice on how to best contain the damage from losing a laptop, I'd love to hear it.

I made the mistake on Monday (when the theft occurred) of going to the Urbana Police Department. After waiting almost an hour to see an officer, the man I did see informed me that he was leaving on vacation the next day and the case would be transferred to another officer. He assumed the other officer would be coming by the school on Tuesday to interview some kids, get more detailed information, etc.

Tuesday came and went - I called the department in the afternoon and was informed by the receptionist that the chances of recovery were slim (thanks! maybe we shouldn't even bother investigating?). I talked to her supervisor who told me he would send someone over and get back to me.

Wednesday came and went. I heard there was an officer in to see the principal, but no one contacted me and students were not interviewed by the police.

Thursday came and went. Friday came and went. Nothing. No investigation at all.

Now it is Saturday and I am using a borrowed computer. If this is the kind of response the UPD gives to a white, middle class, public employee who has a $1000 computer stolen from his classroom, can you just imagine the kind of treatment the folks on the way to county lock-up are receiving? Can you imagine how I might be treated if I lived in a bad neighborhood and I had a break-in?

I used to enjoy the fact that I can spin around town 10-15 miles over the speed limit and a UPD officer wouldn't even look twice. I used to like the fact that I could go weeks without even seeing a police car in my neighborhood. It made me feel safer, actually, to not have the cops around.

Now I realize that it might be nice to actually have a police department that serves the citizens. You know, the kind that would spend a couple of hours investigating a theft at a public school, or maybe occasionally roll through a neighborhood and give a wave - that kind of thing.

Where’s Barney Fife when you need him anyway?