Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sign of Modernity killed

Former Pakistani PM Benazir Bhutto was killed this morning, being shot in the chest before a suicide bombing. Already, international leaders are sounding renewed support against "the terrorists," calling for maintenance of democracy, and "holding those responsible for justice."

US presidential candidates have put out their press releases, relaying their firm stance against terrorist bombings and support for democracy...I like democracy too.

And right-wing nutjob blowhards are already placing bets on the culpability of various Islamist groups/leftist conspirators.

No doubt, this will shake things up before January elections. So-called moderate candidates were already leery about running.

"Experts" name the most likely culprit to be Islamic militants, which wouldn't be surprising given Bhutto's rhetoric supporting the War on Terror and modernity before elections. With riots starting around the country and renewed calls by opposition to boycott the elections, who else would benefit as much?

President Bush restated his support for the Pakistani democratic process, blaming extremists. But could insensitivity of US policy be partly to blame?

Installment of a western-friendly puppet like Musharraf was a way to jab at already angry militant factions. And what about U.S. Pentagon arming of tribal groups against Al Qaeda? Maybe arming an angry group so that they'll serve US interests, even though they have no reason to want to do so besides economics, wasn't the best idea?

All in all, violent forms of Islam and western encroachment makes such travesties less shocking.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

English Escape

For the past week, I've been visiting Friend's in the UK, at the London Chinatown, a Leamington Spa wedding, and with a Slovakian and German in Nottingham. Aside from the slight jet lag and realization that I am back in the real world, things went splendidly.

Among some things that I appreciate in UK was their attitude toward transportation and vacation.

After being accustomed to a shaky, ill-maintained CTA, the silent, smooth London Tube was a treat. On the other hand, quibbles about a three dollar fare to ride the CTA strike me funny when a one-way ticket on the tube from zone 1 to 4, (similar to a ride from O'Hare to Clark/Lake downtown) costs 4 pounds, that's ~$8.25 here in the US.

Our friends there gawked when we told them the U.S. average yearly vacation, if your lucky, is two weeks. New Doctors in the UK get about six weeks; the average is four.

And Scotch is much cheaper...

Among the interesting sights:

In the lounge area of London's Paddington Rail Station, tourists are greeted with YO Sushi, a live-action, sushi-preparing spectacle.

I was rather skeptical about the quality, as I've not yet experienced raw, dead fish rolling around me on a conveyor belt. But it was surprisingly fresh and pleasantly spiced.

Magical Brewery Tour - Not wanting to waste valuable money on stuffy museums where I can be quiet and look at things the British stole from their conquests, I decided instead to see a rare cask brewery (Cask=not adding CO2) and drink complimentary beer whilst eating chips (freedom fries for those of us in the US).

My lovely girlfriend and I

English Fireworks - wanted to try this setting on my camera, worked out nice.

I need sleep...

Monday, December 3, 2007


Ok, I admit it. The Surge in Iraq has worked, to some extent. Violence is down and news reports say markets are opening up, Iraqis are trying to rebuild their towns and refugees are starting to consider moving back.

I was always against any prolonged engagement in which the U.S. tried to "democratize" Iraqis. Not only because of the impractical costs in lives and money, but frankly, the whole assertion that the rest of the world needs to be like the U.S. is distancing us from...the rest of the world. You know who else tried to pacify other nations to help their own security? The Romans, and their empire was about twice as long as ours.

Anyhow, stuck with the current situation, the best outcome (and one that I assume is the aim of our government, but I'm not sure) would be that the Islamic and ethnic sects within Iraq reconcile and form a working government. After reading about Sunnis wanting to ask U.S. soldiers to help reconstruction rather than their own Shiite-dominated government, I'm thinking that keeping our troops over there is still not the answer.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki acknowledges the lack of governance, blaming it on Saddam's years of autocratic rule. John Soundbite McCain said there are no Thomas Jeffersons left in Iraq, whereas Bush said all the Nelson Mandelas are dead.

To some extent, they're right. But maybe the Islamic world needs a Martin Luther more than an Uncle Sam with a M-16? The enlightenment, the reformation, and rationality took a long time for the West to develop, and the fruits of these ideological developments haven't entirely blossomed yet. With executive branches not allowing due process, torturing, extraordinary renditioning, and committing treasonous acts, such as outing CIA agents, maybe the West is not the best example?

In Iraq's long-term Interests, the Iraqi government has to reconcile and function. And the Bush Admin. seems to be doing little to promote that. Bush has said, "it's their country." Yes, but it's our troops. Why not offer a stick to go with that carrot of seemingly less violence? Why not set a timetable for withdrawal that says, "Hey, we appologize for invading your country under false pretenses. We can only help out so long. You have to figure out something for the long-term."

Instead, Bush is making photos ops and horribly mispronouncing the names of the leaders of Israel and the West Bank. That deal may not hold much promise either.

And another time-frame continually reverberates in the news. 2008, 2008, 2008. Olmert and Abbas are set to figure out a two-state solution at the end of 2008, Maliki says things will get better in Iraq after he declares a "War on Corruption" 2008, Pakistan is set to have elections in 2008, and after 2008, we'll have another president.

The disruption in Iraq will last much longer than 2008. But in the meantime, can we get a way to stop throwing lives of loved ones over to a conflict that one military cannot solve? It takes a village.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Newspaper located in Chicago losing subscribers, due to poorly written articles allege some readers, said sources at America loves news, a nonproft.

Some idiots drove around the U of C last week and ended up shooting a Doctoral recipient who had planned on returning to help his native Senegal.

Prosecutors charged the second suspect in the homicide case. Today's lead in the Tribune read:
The second teenager charged in a string of violent robberies around the University of Chicago campus last week admitted in a videotaped confession to police to taking part in the crime spree, prosecutors alleged in court records made public Thursday. the story and to the horribly-written lead... Is this even English? The lead of the story is supposed to draw the reader in, to make the reader want to read the rest of the story, not contradict everything that used to be beautiful about the English language.

How about this instead?
A second teenager confessed his involvement in a series of violent robberies on the University of Chicago campus last week, said prosecutors in publicly-released court records.

There. You get the gist of the story in a streamlined format with all the legally required info left in. Get to the mundane details later.

Another big thing in the Chicagoland news is a former Bolingbrooke police sergeant who is a suspect in the disappearance of his wife. Media coverage has included a personal view by People magazine and a heart-to-heart with Matt Lauer.

Monday, November 19, 2007

President Chuck Norris

I have to say, Mike Huckabee's new ad is brilliant. That the red-state everyman Chuck Norris names Huckabee to be the best at protecting conservative values, the border, and 2nd amendment rights is savvy, given Huckabee's propensity to portray himself as the man's man, working class, ordinary guy. Plus, even liberals can appreciate the "Chuck Norris Tackled Rabid Wolves for Excercise" jokes.

Of course, I don't agree with much of Huckabee's platform. The talk of Islamofacism, Straight Marriage Amendment, and "consumer-based" health care is oversimplified. Increasing military budgets and army deployments, US v Them mentality, is not going to change hearts and minds in disagreements with the Islamic world. Regaining diplomatic credo abroad means closing Guantanamo Bay and stopping torture. Creationism is not a solid theory for our existence. And government oughta stay out of the bedroom where those involved can legally consent.

The next ad should feature Chuck Norris fighting hand-to-hand with the evolutionary monkey, both flinging poo at each other.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pentagon Meddling in Native Politics OR Here we go Again.

U.S. pentagon officials are considering beefing up funding and recruitment for "tribal" paramilitary forces in Pakistan to fight against Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters, reports the New York Times.
If adopted, the proposal would join elements of a shift in strategy that would also be likely to expand the presence of American military trainers in Pakistan, directly finance a separate tribal paramilitary force that until now has proved largely ineffective and pay militias that agree to fight Al Qaeda and foreign extremists, officials said. The United States now has only about 50 troops in Pakistan, a Pentagon spokesman said, a force that could grow by dozens under the new approach.

The new proposal is modeled in part on a similar effort by American forces in Anbar Province in Iraq that has been hailed as a great success in fighting foreign insurgents there. But it raises the question of whether such partnerships can be forged without a significant American military presence on the ground in Pakistan. And it is unclear whether enough support can be found among the tribes.

Isn't this how Al Qaeda came to prominence in the first place?

Some nuts at the Pentagon thought they could fund Afghan groups to fight the USSR in 1979, and didn't consider the lasting effects of meddling in a culture that they didn't understand. And a pro-west puppet leader fell from control as a more angry elements came to power.

Deja vu?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Charitable Cops Care about Chicago

Chicago police officers clashed with former pro-basketball players on the court this morning, getting slain in the process. Well, sort of...

The nine officers and group of pros were playing at Fosco Park for "Give Something Back," a food drive to feed needy families this Thanksgiving. About 100 people showed up, each bringing three non-perishable foodstuffs for admission. Proceeds were donated to Antioch Missionary Baptist Church.

"This is our fifth time hosting this benefit," said Chicago police officer Eddie Chapman, who organized the event. "It's about helping out the community."

Former NBA players, and Chicago natives, Rickey Green Mitchel J.J. Anderson, Mickey Johnson, and Tim Hardaway were some of those featured on the pro-team. Also on the team was Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan, who played pro-basketball in Australia.

The show was entertaining, with many of the pros having a blast slamming the backboards, and confusing the cops with behind-the-back passes and fake-outs. Around half-time, the scored was around 50-23, pros. But toward the end, I think the cops got a break. The pros let them have a few free passes to down some lay-ups.

It ended not being too brutal for the cops, but a table full of food was the real goal. Everyone seemed to be having a good time.

Here's some shots:

The Chicago Police Department All-Stars

The Former Professionals chanting "1, 2, 3, Charity!"

Officer Eddie Chapman puts up a free-throw.

The results...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Pakistan, the War on Terror, and the ever crumbling existentialist nightmare

French philosopher, journalist, and writer, Albert Camus somewhat distinguished himself from existentialists of his time, particularly Sartre, by leaning towards a sense of meaning of global events. Humanity had a choice to act.

His interpretation of the myth of Sisyphus, that Sisyphus's eternal pushing of the stone up the mountain despite being set back by gravity and the will of God, explained that the worth of Sisyphus efforts are that he tried at all.

To try is to be relevant

Having assisted the French resistance in World War II and agonized over the schism between France and Algeria in the 1950s, this perspective perhaps kept Camus going.

But here and now, the utter absurdity of the U.S. War on Terror in light of events in Pakistan, bears little meaning that I can find.

Musharraf has clamped down on all opposition to retain control of the country, Islamists and democratic activists being dispersed.

Opposition leader, former PM Benazir Bhutto's ability to rally democratic reforms has been truncated as she is watched after enduring house arrest.

Pakistani Chief Justice Chaudry has had his power revoked in the fear that the judiciary was considering action against the continued "presidency" of Musharraf.

And almost all U.S. media outlets, including "president" Bush, have reasserted that Musharraf is our big buddy in combating terrorism. But still, White House spokesmodel Dana Perino has chided the anti-democratic movements in Musharraf.

She's said things along the lines of, "The Bush Administration would never advocate clamping down on dissent in the name of combating terror, spreading democracy."

Hmmm. Ari Fleischer, had warned in the aftermath of 9-11 that people had to "watch what they say," when,,,dissenting. The CIA has used more-than-questionable "interrogation tactics" against "enemy combatants." The Administration waged war with a nation that had nothing to do with the attacks. And peaceful war protesters have been detained, ad nauseum... All in the name of freedom, security, and democracy.

...But let's get back to Pakistan...

Musharraf, our "greatest ally in the War on Terror," is only feeding fuel to the terrorism fire by cracking down on people who don't want him in power. Democracy usually means popular support and not cracking down on opposition.

Popular support of Bhutto and Chaudry only show the public desire to challenge Musharraf. But the movement is being given more evidence that popular dissent is being trumped by a despot desperately holding on to power.

Does anyone still think that terrorism can be dissipated through bombs and clampdowns? Seems antithetical, don't you think? Absurd?

Even the Chicago Tribune seems to agree with the fact that Musharraf may not be the best spokesperson for democracy and modernity.

What is the meaning of all this ado? Is action, that stands opposite reason or circumstance, worthwhile?

Camus must be perplexed...

Monday, November 5, 2007

I "heart" Irony

I really think post cards are usually the most useless piece of mail besides "Free AOL" disks or Geiko car insurance offers.

Some jerk wants you to know that they had a lovely time on a beach as you froze your ass off working at a soul-sucking job in Neenah, Wis.

Then you get cards that basically make fun of themselves, and the whole idea of there being this far-off relaxing utopia. Particularly if they are postcards from Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, or Detroit.

Awhile back, this card from a good friend made my day:

I had sent him one from Indiana saying that my girlfriend and I had driven through the state and eaten things.

Get me affordable housing!

It's been awhile...

Here's a little piece I wrote for on Humboldt protests regarding lack of affordable housing.

"Yuppie, yuppie, why you lie? Why you try and gentrify?!" was one of the more interesting chants I left out. As well as "Boricua si! Yuppie No!"

Given the fact that foreclosures in the area for residents of color is on the quick rise, as noted by a corresponding Tribune article, I can understand the anger.

Matthew Rodriguez told me that the community wanted to simply be a part of any new development than be pushed to the wayside.

In redevelopment of a neighborhood, shouldn't the existing civic and social networks be maintained?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

"Peace," lost in translation...

Mostly everyone claimed to want peace at the anti-war march yesterday in downtown Chicago. The only difference was varying perspectives about the conflict. Just take a look, putting aside the "facts."

"It's getting better over there," said Ron Verback, one of the 50 or so counter-demonstrators at the event. "We've got to make this country safe. We've got to help those people over there."

Verback, who served as reconnaissance in the Army in Iraq two years ago, says his unit saw a decrease in bombings and more open markets as signs of progress. "Just take Fallujah," he said. "We've taken control and secured that part of the country."

Amidst the waving American flags and some trucker hats bearing U.S. military insignia, a woman raised a poster saying, "I'm proud of my son, Peace through victory!"

Across a cordon of police, clad in flack-jackets and armed with Glocks, the anti-war crowd chanted, "Suppport our troops; Bring them home," and hoisting signs saying things from "Fuck this empire, No blood for oil." to the relatively innocuous: "God bless our troops, God damn President Bush."

"We should support our troops by helping them succeed," countered Verback.

Many other issues were presented as well, such as immigration, presidential politics, health care, education, and the environment. Many of the activists proselytized as they eagerly recommended books they've read that "explain everything."

Among the more questionable elements...

Pro-occupation counter-protesters cried "Coward!" and "Traitor!" when anti-war Iraq veterans passed by the wall of police.

I was going to talk more with the counter-protesters, but a police officer stopped me and told me to go around. "Why can't I pass through?" I asked. His response was simple, authoritarian. "Because that's what I was told to say."

I decided not to press my luck; the Chicago police have come over considerable fire for using "excessive force."

Among the anti-war crowd, some hippie-type folk seem to have been there more to have a good time. With ratty hair, hemp jewelry, and tie-dye clothes, they brought instruments as they performed street theater, wrestling a pretend President Bush. Laughing and singing, "Ole, ole, ole, ole!"

On the flip-side, I really enjoyed the Raging Grannies, a group of elderly ladies singing "Get out of this mess; no more, no war!"

Several other ladies from southern Wisconsin said that three buses came from Madison, Wis. I told them that I went to UW-Madison and they go very excited, telling me with pride about their hometowns of Dodgeville and Mount Horeb. They assured me that Chicago was very nice too.

Several congress members and local government folks were there as well, including Michigan rep. John Conyers and Chicago-area Illinois rep. Luis Gutierrez.

Gutierrez quoted Gen. Omar Bradley's rebuke: "This is the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy"

"America is a great country," said Gutierriez. "But it is not doing great things."

It seemed everyone wanted America to do great things, but couldn't agree on how to get there. Ron Paul supporters were intertwined with those of Dennis Kucinich, and socialists were decrying government altogether.

Counter-protesters and Iraq veterans against the war called each other short-sighted as they both claimed to want peace. But apparently no understanding was bridged.

Instead, a series of campaign slogans mixed with the common stories of veterans and their concerned families.

Friday, October 26, 2007

While on your way to becoming a hell raiser...

Before becoming a zombie, naughty nurse, or pimp in prep for Halloween, consider joining a group of sane people (at least on one subject) in rallying against the Iraq War.

Chicago will host a large demonstration this Saturday beginning at Union Park at 1:30 p.m. and finishing off at Federal plaza at 4:00 p.m.

Oct. 27th Mobilization Chicago has not only organized local alders to advocate an end to the Iraq War, but has pulled in veterans, anti-war groups, and politicos from Michigan and Wisconsin.

They are slated to speak in support of the radical idea of providing health-care and education funds instead of paying for a bomb-for-peace campaign that has dragged on for the past four years.

Gasp! The audacity...

See Oct. 27th's web site for more details. Here's a map of the procession.

Axis of Stupidity

As former Iranian president Khatami was urging Iranians to say, "Death to Terrorists!" in the post-9/11 scene, President Bush was aiming, with the force of neoconservatives and their Democrat apologists, to recreate the Islamic world in America's Image.

This layout of events is pointed out by PBS Frontline's special, which can be viewed here. For the short and sweet version, see Crooks and Liars.

All of this as Bush currently warns against World War III, and nutjobs are beating the war drums.

Back in 2001...

U.S. operations in Afghanistan were aided by Iran, but U.S. 'intelligence' thought hardliners in Iran were hiding Al Queda operatives.

So instead of discussing, negotiating in confidence, the assertion that Iran was working with Al Queda, Bush brazenly insulted all Iranians with his "Axis of Evil." With cowboy gusto and the applause of supporters, Bush hurt any progress made.

Granted, there are Iranian hardliners who consider any action against the U.S. justified, but lumping them in with the fragile reformist element only made the hardliners more justified amongst the Iranian population.

The gun-slinging cowboy has much in common with the Islamic tribalist that shoots in the air.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Radiohead, In Rainbows

So I caved in to the hype and purchased Radiohead's new album set to my own price. Kind of like Priceline, except less William Shatner, more "Indie."

I paid 2.50 pounds as I liked Radiohead's new concept, saying FU to the record companies and directly linking fans and artists. See for yourself.

I really thought the pinnacle of Radiohead's career was OK Computer. That was when radio successfully blended both avant-garde expressionism and catchy pop, even if they competely denied most of the speculation on double entendres made by the artsy, Indie crowd.

Pablo Honey was almost like an album by a normal alt-rock band, a catchy though intelligent album. Then Radiohead delved into the more experimental on the Bends, with computer-generated distortion lining the angst of my favorite song on the album, "Iron Lung." Still, frat boys could listen to it...

In Rainbows is more like the last three albums in the sense that the melodies are more contemplative background music that makes the listener feel a sense of depth while in a morose funk. Which really isn't a bad thing, most thinkers nowadays are often in a morose funk.

Though I agree with some critics that this album is a harkening to more classical sound of OK Computer, significantly more accessible than Kid A.

The first song, "15 Step," is buttressed by Thom York's typical high-pitched vocals, with a catchy, almost Afro-beat drum, and arpeggio-laden guitar. Blended together, it provides, at least for me, a rather comforting feeling in the midst of the chaos of modern life. Which seems to have been the current of many of Radiohead's earlier works.

"Bodysnatchers" includes some of the rockability of the Bends, yes Radiohead has rockability. Foreboding fear of the future mixed with what-the-fuck attitude with lively, heavily distorted guitar riffs.

Overall, I could see people easily paying full price for In Rainbows, and still say that they've spent money wisely on a good album. Especially if listeners were more fans of the earlier Radiohead of the 90s.

At least you have to respect the experiment.

Humboldt makes me proud

Here's an article on the Humboldt march this evening against violence and for stricter gun laws, by yours truly.

Citizens in action to make positive change...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dr. Strange Bush

Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb...

Bush's press conference today about Russia, Iran and his love with Putin wowed me when I read this in the New York Times:

“If Iran had a nuclear weapon, it’d be a dangerous threat to world peace,” Mr. Bush said. “So I told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.”

After reading, I immediately had to find an image more fitting than the usual, Nero-emulating smirk. Courtesy of Fergie's Tech Blog, one can see Bush riding the Bomb, cowboy hat in hand.

Bush still alleges that a diplomatic solution is preferred, but should I hold my breath?

Talk of World War III comes one day after Bush's best buddy, Vladdy Putin, met with Iran's Ahmadinejad to denounce any military strikes.

True to prior behavior, Bush is clinging to a false sense of hope, or at least he wants America to do so: "(Bush) said he believed that Russia still wanted to stop Iran from developing such weapons."

In the midst of all this tomfoolery, saying World War III could happen, denying Putin's obvious courtship of Iran, empty overtures to diplomacy, I ask myself: Does it really matter what this guy says anymore? Even if he turns hints of war into outright threats, does he have the power to make it happen?

Dan Froomkin at the WaPo (reg. req.) seems to think not, noting that Bush's approval rating hovered around 24 percent in the latest Zogby poll.

With President Bush having to insist that, "I am relevant," it would seem that the reporter had already answered his own question. The relevance of any leader seems to be minute when said leader has to remind how he actually is an important guy to whom people oughtta listen.

But Bush did have a point...

He referenced his veto of a bipartisan supported expansion of children's health care as an example of his relevance. Bush holds an uncanny ability to be able to screw things up, through negligence or obliviousness, despite the opposition of experts and large swaths of people.

Just look at the (overall) idiots running for the GOP nomination, save Ron Paul. They clamor over who's tougher on Iran, who wants to expand Guantanamo More, who most likes the television series "24," who hates killing babies the most, and who gets the most one-on-one time with God.

Whose to say a World War III couldn't happen? Irrelevance, incompetence?


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

El Barrio Humboldt Park No Se Vende

A community rising against gentrification and leaders disavowing violence show some of the positive motions happening here in Humboldt park, notes community newsletter La Voz del Paseo Boricua.

Some hints of a bustling civil society, public spheres in action:

October 19-20th, religious leaders will organize with Ald. Billy Ocasio to march on Humboldt park and hold an overnight candlelight vigil against gun violence in the neighborhood. The demonstration is dubbed EX 20:13, in reference to the bible verse where God gave the commandment, Do Not Kill.

"The greatest threat to our lives isn't terrorism or radicalism in the Middle East or some far away land; it's the church's failure to take a firm stance against violence here..." says Rev. Wilfredo de Jesus in La Voz.

Hundreds of demonstrators are predicted to be on tap, urging greater gun-control laws and faith conviction to change cultures of violence. It's refreshing to see moral outrage made into good public policy, even though Chuck Heston (Moses) would disapprove.

November 3, Humboldt Park Empowerment Partnership’s Housing Team will host the first affordable housing summit with various community groups. Residents have complained that rising rents and property taxes along with pressure from developers are prompting longtime residents to clear the way for gentrification.

It's similar to the debate in Madison, where residents are complaining about city-funded condo development in Allied Drive. Sure, owner-occupied housing allows residents to put a larger stake in their communities than a often transient rental market. But moving poorer populations doesn't make sense in the long-run if you want to transform a neighborhood for the better.

Getting Back to Humboldt... If the city wants to ameliorate the quality of life in an area, try replacing the ubiquitous Dunkin' Doughnuts, liquor stores and Cash Stores with colleges and financial planning centers.

Mayor Daley's addiction to TIF-funded condos leaves longtime residents in the same rut, only relocated somewhere else.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Riding the Irony Train

I've just started freelancing for New City, where I'll be writing reviews and other copy for their art section.

Above is a review of a photography exhibit, ostensibly about nature, that is adorning the rusty, industrial halls of a Chicago el train station. Columbia College students did the photography.

The writing was more a reflection of artistic writing that I did for a liberal studies class in undergrad than anything I've done at the J-school. Meh...

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Second City Secrecy - Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

One of the world's oldest modern police forces may be worse than the criminals...

Chicago police are accused of beating the confessions out of suspects and use of excessive force. Not to mention special operations officer, Jerome Finnigan, who allegedly planned a murder hit on a fellow officer.

But who are these officers? Wouldn't the public benefit from knowing who is corrupt, of whom to be afraid when police "respond" to misdemeanor theft?

City hall makes no bones about keeping the names of such officers secret, crossing out several names on an Office of Professional Standards complaint list to Ald. Toni Preckwinkle.

The city seems to think that the July order by U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow to release the list doesn't preclude keeping some of the names secret.

However, the decision was intent on making the list publicly available.

This secrecy amidst Mayor Richard Daley's announced "reforms" to make the OPS more "transparent."

The public has a right to know how their tax dollars are being spent, especially if it might be used to pay the salary of thugs.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pork, the farm bill, and Idaho's favorite son.

Political commentary at its finest ties loose ends together to make a mockery of the entire system.

As noted by Taegan Goddard's Political Wire, the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine takes an otherwise seemingly boring issue and bluntly, comically says what's wrong with it.

The committee's attack on the Farm Bill - which renewed government subsidies to farmers even while demand, and prices, for agricultural products rise - also pokes fun of the entire Congressional atmosphere. Why should the a bunch of corrupt nimrods be allowed to line their own pocketbooks and pass problematic public policy?

For the YouTube kids:

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Engagement with a "known enemy."

The bustle surrounding Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad obliterated the opportunity to engage in a tentative partnership in the Middle East and potential for a degree of stability in the region.

Protesters of Ahmadinejad's audience at Columbia University and attempted visit to Ground Zero laid out a litany of reasons why the Iranian head of state had no reason to be here. Among them...
- Ahmadinejad is the head of a "terrorist state," igniting instability with his regime's support of Shia militant group, Hezbollah.
- Such collaboration with terrorists makes Ahmadinejad an ill-suited figure to pay respects to the victims of 9/11.
- Ahmadinejad's presence here is a national security risk.
- The U.S. should not allow a forum for Ahmadinejad's hate speech.

The third reason makes sense. Ahmadinejad, himself, not being the security risk. But the fact that Americans, by and large, hate him leaves Ahmadinejad open to assassination attemps, angry mobs and injury, which would be for Iran a de facto act of war.

Regular readers of this blog (wherever they are) know I'm the opposite of an Ahmadinejad sympathizer. But as Columbia University Lee Bollinger said in his bungled introduction, nations have to engage their adversaries.

President Bush actually surprised me in his statement that Ahmadinejad should be allowed to speak to show that America is an open society that embraces free speech. Wow, if only he felt that way all the time...

But Bush should have met with Ahmadinejad to discuss ways forward in the current conflict and Iraq.

Though it is true that Iran's regime largely supports Hezbollah, its Shia leadership's unfriendliness with Sunni Al Queda could be a large asset. Consider Iran's previous jailing and deportation en mass of Al Qaeda operatives. Remember that in regards to 9/11, Iran openly condemned the Al Queda hijackers.

The lost opportunity was noted by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

New York’s hot blast of nastiness, jingoism and xenophobia toward its guest, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, only served to pump him up for his domestic audience. Iranians felt that their president had tied everyone in knots, including the “Zionist Jews,” as Iranian state television said.

While Bush condemned Ahmadinejad's thuggery through journalists, why not have had a one-on-one debate about Iranian government's penchant for locking up dissidents, homosexuals, and Iranian-Americans?

Congress is looking for reconciliation in Iraq between Shia, Sunni, Kurdish groups to coincide with a troop pullout. Wouldn't bargaining with the leader of a large, influential, neighboring, predominantly Shia nation be an asset? Access to nuclear energy could be a bargaining chip.

Dowd was perhaps overly optimistic in comparing Reagan's courting of Gorbachev to bring down the "Evil Empire" to the potential of Bush's engagement of Ahmadinejad to dissolve the "Axis of Evil." Gorbachev is decidedly more reasonable than Ahmadinejad and even becoming an influential, respected thinker on the world stage.

But more could and should have come out of Ahmadinejad's visit than an enriched anti-U.S. sentiment in Iran and a heavy show of disapproval here of Iran's regime. Bitch-slapping feels good, but diplomacy helps solve problems.

Back in Iraq, Sunni militants are threatening and carrying out a renewed wave of suicide bombings and other terrorism in a perverse celebration of the holy month of Ramadan...

Shia Iraqi President and Bush met today, saying the "The task before us is gigantic."

No kidding...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wisconsin's next president?

Strategic Vision's new poll puts pugnacious pug-nose Rudy Giuliani and old hand Hillary Clinton as the top running 2008 presidential candidates among Wisconsin voters.

Giuliani picks up 28 percent of 800 polled, staying relatively close to the 25.3 percent favorability noted in August by UW-Madison political scientist Charles Franklin on his blog . Close behind, notes Strategic Vision, is actor, politician, lawyer, lobbyist Fred Thompson at 24 percent, with Madman McCain and Repulsive Romney becoming ever more irrelevant.

What pleased me was that Rep. Ron Paul, who actually is a conservative, is hovering near Squawk-box Mike Huckabee, beating the approval Paul received in many national polls. Paul's small-government, anti-imperialist, fiscal conservatism likely appeals to the Wisconsin's progressive past. Bob La Follette was a Republican. Is Libertarianism the new Progressivism?

H-Bomb Hillary, meanwhile, is double the preference to her nearest rival, New-Blood Barak, at 44 and 22 percent, respectively. The choice makes sense; on qualities most important for the next pres, Wisconsin Democrats chose experience over charisma.

John Edwards, despite his good looks and overtures to farmers, is polling 11 percent. Apparently an endorsement by Wisconsin Democratic Chair Joe Wineke didn't pay dividends.

Among other findings:

70 percent of Wisconsinites think President Bush is a tool, with 74 percent saying he's doing a bad job on Iraq.

65 percent of those polled want to get the hell out of Iraq in six months...Can't blame them.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Three responses, no answer.

Bush layed out three responses to Patraeus's report on what the future of the U.S. is in Iraq, but was short on answers about our mission there, says a New York Times news analysis. Granted, his responses aren't necessarily mutually exclusive.

Of Bush's responses
- Due to successes in the surge, U.S. can very gradually return to pre-surge levels.
- Iraqi leaders can be sure that the U.S. is in there as long as the job, whatever is is, requires. However, (slap on the wrist) Iraqi government needs to do more.
- Insurgents and conspirators (Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, Iranian mullahs, whoever else?) against the U.S. occupation can expect U.S. forces to maintain a long-term presence to fight against them.
In the speech, Bush said this to the Iraqis, of particular relevance to the Sunni ally killed today:
"As you do, have confidence that America does not abandon our friends, and we will not abandon you."

To the U.S. Bush said:
"Americans want our country to be safe and our troops to begin coming home from Iraq. Yet, those of us who believe success in Iraq is essential to our security and those who believe we should bring our troops home have been at odds."

"Now, because of the measure of success we are seeing in Iraq, we can begin seeing troops come home. The way forward I have described tonight makes it possible, for the first time in years, for people who have been on opposite sides of this difficult debate to come together."

On the message to Americans, were the desire for success in Iraq and the desire to keep a minimum sacrifice in American lives mutually exclusive?

I see value in a stable Iraq, but the U.S. troops ought not, and cannot, be the main drivers of that effort, giving up thousands of lives and billions of dollars.

For all Bush talks about changing the way forces respond to meet the objectives, ostensibly to nurture stability in Iraq and enable Iraqi forces to maintain security, little has been said about the strategy for Iraq to achieve a needed political solution.

Maybe bring in some outside help. Say NATO, the UN??

Another question is, does U.S. presence aid in that political solution when a majority of Iraqis, including militant nut jobs, want us to leave?

The News analysis pointed out a possible answer to political progress and the potential to withdraw, or lack thereof.
Mr. Bush’s underlying message was that Iraq would operate on its own clock — and that Americans should not expect to have leverage over its decisions.

“Guess what, this is Iraq,” one senior administration official told reporters on Thursday afternoon as they pressed him on whether Mr. Bush had abandoned hope of bringing about change in the time frames he had discussed in January.

Guess what, our armed forces, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, cousins are over there. Why the hell are we leaving their fate in the hands of Iraqis, who have little common perspective on what political progress looks like? Should we even expect progress from the war-weary Iraqis? Should the troops have to?

Reader Reconsiders Routine

Alt-weekly, the Chicago Reader will reformat, notes Phil Rosenthal at the Chicago Tribune.

Prefacing a buyout by Florida-based Creative Loafing, the Reader will change to a tabloid format from its now quarter fold. The paper is also looking to cut delivery staff that distributes its 135,000 copies weekly and print at the presses of Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Printing at the Journal Sentinel press is noted to allow more colors for publication, but Chicago's alt-weekly will have to come out on Wednesdays rather than Thursdays. This is probably because the Milwaukee press has to print out a different popular alt-weekly for Thursday, Madison, Wis.'s Isthmus.

The Reader's format changes are good and should pay dividends in the long run considering that the paper can adequately be delivered. The tabloid format makes paper's easier to read, being opened like a magazine rather than a newspaper. The Reader likely gets most of their readers during daily commutes.

The Tribune Co.'s Redeye (a crappy -6-day- paper put out to appeal to the "twenty-something crowd" that basically condenses longer stories from the Tribune and has a more liberal editorial bent) is in tabloid, and is widely read on the way to work. I gather because its easy to read in tight quarters, and it's free and better than picking your nose.

So, kudos to the Reader.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Clearing The Ashes

The Chicago Transit Authority accepted a short-term $24 million bail-out from Gov. Blagojevich.

This pending approval by the Regional Transport Authority on Friday.

CTA's repeated full-page ads in the Tribune lay out the drastic cuts in public transport that would have taken place Sept. 16th; however, the "doomsday" cuts may take place in November if the transit authority doesn't figure out something long-term.

The proposed changes:
- 600 CTA employees will be laid off.
- Fares will increase 50 cents to one dollar per ride.
- 39 bus routes will be cut.
- Go directly to Jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

Falling short $110 million dollars last year, the CTA is in dire need of funds. The legislature was not able to get enough votes to pass a $0.0025 sales tax increase to make the CTA solvent in the long-term.

Blagojevich didn't support such a tax because of it's cost to working class folks. You know, the million or so people who would have to pony up an extra 50 cents per ride to get to work every day.

Instead, the Gov. wants to close tax loopholes used by large corporations in order to ensure the CTA's long-term viability. We'll see if he can do that by November 4. hmmm...

Israeli Defense Policy: A more nuanced approach?

Rogue rockets from the Gaza strip injured dozens of Israeli soldiers yesterday morning, reports the BBC. But retaliation is considered unlikely.

"Despite the pressure on (Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert) to order a broad offensive against militants in Gaza, his leeway for military action is restricted by accelerated diplomatic efforts to resume negotiations with the Palestinians," notes the Chicago Tribune.

Likud officials, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, have urged a strong ground attack in retaliation. It is exactly what Defense wants to do after those responsible for the rockets, Islamic Jihad, are dancing in the streets and claiming "a victory for God."

But Israel wouldn't win the "public relations" war. Let's consider another conflict.

Olmert has undoubtedly learned things from last year's incursion in Lebanon, after which he openly stated a desire to reconsider the way Israel responds to terrorism.

In Lebanon last year, Hezbollah members kidnapped Israeli soldiers and shot off rockets toward border towns, kicking off a month-long battle that killed hundreds and displaced thousands. Israel received international condemnation, save for the U.S., for bombings that affected Lebanese civilians.

Israel, of course, won the military battle, but Hezbollah gained a twisted victory among Lebanese by making themselves martyrs and promising rebuilding resources to the broader population. Lebanese government officials have felt Hezbollah's heat for most of this year, while Olmert has struggled with weak approval ratings.

What does that have to do with today's Israeli response?

While Islamic Jihad claims a victory and distributes candy in the streets in Gaza, Olmert likely considers military retaliation as a further strengthening of the militant group's hand. Rallies and candy can taste as sweet as victory, but a military strike by Israel would only be bitter.

Israeli defense officials have to consider the repercussions of a military strike on efforts toward peace.

Also, Islamic Jihad can claim a small victory by embracing a nihilist "let's pick a fight" ideology. But can the militant group provide anything else to the broader Gaza population other than hatred and revenge? Say, basic services and economic future?

Likely not.

The incompetence inherent in militant groups would be exacerbated by the cutting off of resources by Israel. This is to be considered next week, reports the Tribune.

Less rockets, more sweating, seems to be the strategy.

What is interesting is that Washington could be learning about the value of persuasion over force. Potentially.
The State Department denounced the Palestinian rocket attack but urged Israel to show restraint. "We would only counsel -- in this case Israel which has suffered injuries and losses as a result of attacks -- to take into consideration the effects of what they might do in self-defense on the overall political process," said spokesman Sean McCormack in the Tribune.

Use of force could be dampening any success of political processes? Washington war hawks, are you listening?

Friday, August 31, 2007


Countdown's Keith Olbermann illustrates the events that led to the end of the career of Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho. Courtesy of Crooks and Liars and MSNBC.

See it now.


Gays want monogamous relationships. Congressmen want anonymous sex in the bathroom.

Gay marriage bans were deemed unconstitutional under equal protection and due process clauses, says an Iowa judge in Polk County. Nutjobs in the county vow an appeal and Republicans in the legislature are going nuts about family values. You know, like Sen Larry Craig, R-Idaho, who likes to have sex with strangers in bathrooms. And Colorado Evangelical Minister Ted Haggard, who trades sex with male prostitutes for meth.

Seriously. Extremist "Christian" right folks are losing the moral "high-ground." The more they call homosexuality a version of perversity, the more eerie men with mustaches come out of the woodwork.

What's going to be the right's reasoning this time for banning monogamous unions?

Dan Savage talks best about the state of crooked congress members having sex in bathrooms, then blaming it on black men...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Artistic Chicago

A family dressed in Medieval garb followed Queen of Salsa Anyes Daskal into the amphitheater at Chicago's Senior Citizen's Park. After I listened to the African highlife and Cuban-infused sounds of the Occidental Brothers Dance Band International, a French women's voice serenaded my ears as she passed me. "C'est ca!."

These sights and sound were part of the Bucktown Arts Fest on the near northwest side of Chicago. The annual festival was celebrated with gusto as 189 individual tables featured sculptors, painters, photographers and potters. Since it's original conception in 1984, Bucktown Fine Arts has used it to launch and sustain the careers of artists on the local scene.

The medieval-clad family was Bucktown's only remaining theater group, Trapdoor Theater, performing their play, "The Statue that Doesn't Lie." Trapdoor Theater has been bringing the microcosm of the stage to the community of Bucktown for 14 years, the same number of years it's been playing at the fest, noted artistic director Beata Pilch. "When we had money troubles, Bucktown Fine Arts has helped bail us out," Pilch noted.
Among other things, the group sends actors to theaters in Europe, to bring home lessons to cultivate local talent as they put on the classics, independent theater and the avant-garde.

Of a tour of the various tangible art: (Click on the picture for better viewing.)

Gabe Lanza paints the evil robots in "Another One Gone Wrong."

Amy Huisinga paints acrylic and accentuates beauty in the Chicago landscape in her rendition of "Lake Street Bridge."

And some pottery by Glenn Woods...

The festival also featured nonprofits; seen here is Sweety, one of the greyhounds taken in by Greyhounds's Only, Inc., an animal rescue agency.

Sweety was carrying a jacket asking for donations. She's a bit shy at first, though became rather curious at that strange box with the clicking noises.

The festival's Sunday evening ended with the groovy, artistic prog rock of The Diminisher. Shown here, they play "Dreaming in Asheville," mixing the sounds of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" and the vocals of Andrew Bird in a haunted, sinister Gothic splendor.

They ended with the title track on their latest album, "Imaginary Volcano." The lead singer sang out, "You can't ignore the meanings of your dreams."

Friday, August 17, 2007

Impeach advisory in Madison, no way!

The Dane County Board became the second county board in the U.S. to endorse the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, reports The Capital Times.

I'm skeptical on the amount of value these symbolic resolutions have, although they do give official credence to the illegality of our government and have made Tammy Baldwin -surprise surprise!- take an affirmative stand on the issue.

But what I find twice as hard to swallow are the arguments purported by those who oppose it altogether.

"In my opinion, you are being used to create free advertising for the anti-war left," said Bill Richardson, of Say No to Cut and Run.

Though Richardson's argument is true that the Board wasn't created to opine on Foreign Policy, he seems to think that impeachment is a partisan issue favored by fringe elements on the left.

A Gallup Poll June 6-8 found that 36% of Americans think that starting impeachment proceedings against Bush is "justifiable." Hardly a small minority.

And since when has wanting a government actions free of torture and wiretaps on citizens been a liberal/conservative issue?

Also, a community comment by "Jason" said this:

what a waste of time and money...'symbolic' vote? Jesus H...Democrats sure love spending other peoples money for NO reason at all..

Since when did voting on a resolution, which by the way doesn't spend a cent, become a waste of taxpayer money? Do you like to throw around the idea that Democrats wastefully spend money, even when it has nothing to do with the story in question?

It reminds me of when President Bush blamed high health care costs on government waste during the 2004 election. With Republicans controlling congress and the executive, who's making the waste?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Showing the Softer Side of Syria

Syrian Blogger Ammar Abdulhamid was exiled for saying on his blog that President Bashar Assad is a thug, as noted by my post in early June.

But Imad Moustapha is showing a more diplomatic view of the country, notes the Associated Press.

That would make sense. Moustapha must represent Syria as the ambassador to the U.S. as Cheney and his evil team of robots is linking Syria with Iran in a showdown in Iraq.

Moustapha's blog is mostly about his interests, his family, and living life. His vacations look like those of any well-to-do U.S. family, but only in the coastal region of Syria.

His post on changing the diapers of his newborn baby and introducing her to the sounds of Mozart make Moustapha appear much more gentle than tough-talking swashbucklers in Washington.

He speaks effortlessly on the brilliance of Syria's businesswomen as ambassadors to the world and speaks fondly of his university professor wife, Rafif, who holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science.

"I have a very, very difficult post and you need an outlet, a way of escape," Moustapha told the AP of the blog. He said he tries to steer clear of politics on the forum.

The human depth certainly challenges assumptions of the Arab world, even if there is a possibility that it is written by a "ghost blogger." U.S. foreign policy ought to take a look at who it considers an enemy, and instead seek for the underlying layers of humanity.

Even Cheney-bot has his wife and kid.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Turd Blossom resigns

Karl Rove finally gave into reality and resigned. Citing the desire to spend more time with family, the White House unsurprisingly didn't mention the pressure Rove faced over a subpoena regarding U.S. Attorney firings, allegations over the CIA leak, wiretap influence etc. etc.

Kelly O'Donnell on MSNBC called it a "big deal," calling it a "sign of the changing of the end of the Administration."

Mainly because Chief of Staff Josh Bolton said anyone in the Administration who stays after Labor Day, has gotta stay until Jan. 2009.

Rove joins an increasing number of staff to leave, including Harriet Miers, Don Rumsfeld, Deputy National Security Adviser J.D. Crouch...

Many claim to want more time with family. But with public dismay on incompetence, and the legal heat from subpoenas, it would make more sense to resign and receive a hero's goodbye from the president than to face the heat of being held accountable.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Calamitous Tunnel Accounting

Smoke and the smell of burnt metal filled the Chicago blue line subway at the Division stop Friday afternoon. Not only that, but the operator stopped 15 minutes before moving toward the Chicago stop and inching further toward the loop.

I felt sorry for the train that was behind us, having to wait in the metal coffin, doors closed, until the cars moved on.

All this as the state legislature is deciding against any increased funding to the Chicago Transit Authority in next year's budget. Talk, meanwhile, of increased $2.50-$3.00 fares in the near future has some residents rejecting the CTA altogether, choosing to pay $3.50 per gallon in gas and $15 per hour for parking downtown.

Doesn't seem to make much sense to me, either way.

New York City Transit continues to charge $2.00 per ride, though living in New York requires a %24.29 increase in income to maintain the same standard of living as in Chicago, according to

CTA President Ron Huberman is pleased that the legislature didn't approve the $100 million needed to balance the Transit Authority budget, preferring to hold off for a more long-term solution, reports the Chicago Tribune. This puts him in a rather precarious position as the legislature doesn't appear to be interested in long-term CTA funding, much less creating a needed state budget without $200 million in pork spending.

All this as Gov. Rod Blagojevich threatens to veto any increase on sales tax to pay for CTA renovations, and Mayor Daley earlier this year didn't support a toll for automobiles driving to the Chicago loop.

Also in the Tribune today was London mayor Ken Livingstone, who plans a daily $50 tax for bringing SUVs downtown London. That's up from a congestion zone tax of $16 for cars between 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.

Livingstone refers to the SUV's as "Chelsea Tractors" and their drivers as "complete idiots."

Of course, traveling in their version of the subway can range from $12-24, depending on the trip.

Suddenly, paying up to $2.50 in Chicago doesn't seem that bad... But we can do better if New York can. Paying more to ride through toxic fumes doesn't seem appealing, either.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Journalism continues to open or cheapen, depending on your view.

Google News added a feature that allows sources in the news to comment about the aggregated stories in which they are found, reports the Chicago Tribune.

What this means is that the official news story can take a different shape, receiving a steaming enema of accountability.

After this story appeared in the India Times regarding kids' preference for food in McDonald's packaging rather than the same food in brand X, McDonald's spokesman Walt Ricker, who was quoted in the article gave this pestilent platitude:
"McDonald's brand has earned the trust of customers for more than fifty years. The strength of any brand depends upon its performance, every single day, and if customers decide for themselves that a brand can't be trusted then they take their business elsewhere."

Although the article went after McDonald's alleged contribution to growing obesity among U.S. kids, Ricker could respond. Whether you thought he was spewing bull or giving a good defense may determine how democratic you find this.

In my view, it's good. You can hear another side of the story or at least be amused by bland, patronizing rhetoric.

Media purists (anti-blog), however, may frown. Speaking of, a Tech Dirt posting a while back gave an interesting perspective that news agencies like Agence France Press should embrace greater traffic than whine about copywrite infringement. (Do you hear the giant volcano threatening to eat up that Brontosaurus?)

Little mammals beneath the rocks are deciding to blend with the new media, to constructively take on challenges to the original format. Many newspapers are allowing open comments at the end of stories, including blogs and forums that give easy access to the reader. News stories and organizations are including references to Facebook, Friendster and MySpace.

Such is the growing trend, notes Ragan Communications' August PR Round-up Report.

"Just because newspapers are shrinking, doesn't mean journalism will shrink," says newsman Jeff Jarvis in the Report.

Maybe just climb up a different tree?

Do You Like Having Nice Conversations?

Two New Zealanders strut into New York City in hopes of starting their Indie-folk career. Blending into their new home proves somewhat quirky as they deal with infatuation with American women and internal strife.

Such is the set-up of Flight of the Conchords, a fun look into Gen Y sensibility, or lack thereof.

My sis sent me this absolutely wonderful video. Seen here are Brit McKenzie and Jemaine Clement (glasses), attempting to hit on some filles a la cafe...

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Kids run around, dancing and playing tag in the street as a flood of water from the fire hydrant breaks the scorching 90 degrees.

That was one of the first sights I saw as I started to move into my apartment. A block west of my 100 year old flat is a tennis court and bike trails spanning the acres of Chicago's Humboldt Park.

Thus far I've enjoyed the neighborhood. And on the job front I had a good interview with Ragan Communications for a Web-savvy reporter position. Folks there seem nice, and I could write on how employees use technology and social networking to communicate.

Not that I'm counting my chickens...

On top of that I saw the White Sox lose to the Cleveland Indians. My first trip to U.S. Cellular stadium was fun-filled, and the views were great:

Here's the Sox's only score of the evening by rookie Jerry Owens

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

A last promenade around Madison, for awhile...

After being in Madison, Wis. since the Clinton presidency, I've finally decided to head out and make the move to a far away, exotic city of...Chicago.

I'll miss this town, but won't be too far away from the familiarities of the Midwest. I'll be just west of Wicker Park and east of Humboldt Park. Yeah, in 2 days I'll be a FIB.

Looking Back when I started my undergrad here in 2000:

- Tuition per semester was $1,700, as opposed to nearly $3,000 today
- People whined that Clinton was too conservative. Well, that hasn't changed in Madison.
- The U.S. was not embroiled in a war.
- Al Gore was boring.
- Cafe Assisi was the popular coffee institution located above what is now the Reebok store. I miss that cafe.
- Students learned our grades via a computer-generated voice over the phone. She got pissed when C's were earned.
- I could still smoke a cigarette in dive bars.
- The world trade center was still standing.
- The U.S. had a budget surplus.
- Swing dancing was the hip thing to do, and people listened to ska.

Much has changed. In a way, Madison seems more yuppyish, and I've definitely become more libertarian. (I toyed with socialism while a freshman; it was a phase, along with philosophy classes...).

Today, in the midst of packing my things, I biked around to check out a few of my favorite things. Among them:

Memorial Union (duh)

Henry Vilas Zoo creatures

I have a fascination with the tortoise...

The Orpheum, and its decent bar

Isthmus and - Having fun both reading and writing for it. Become friends on facebook!

Picnic Point


Sunsets at James Madison Park and Lake Mendota

Not pictured: Cafe Momo, Escape Java Joint and the Capital Times.

All my best, Madison.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Bush Eats Babies in the Name of Freedom

This is the headline I expect to see any day now. After seeing this story about Bush wanting to ease restrictions on wiretaps, I don't think he cares anymore.

A friend sent me this a while ago.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Feel like an a%%hole...

Another beleaguered White House spokesman has to come up and accuse congress of wasting time as the Bush Administration continues to get buried in its own scandals.

Not only are former legal council Harriet Miers and chief of staff John Bolton being cited for contempt of congress due to the refusal to testify on the firing of federal attorneys. But Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is being contradicted by the FBI director Robert Mueller.

The Washington Post reports that contrary to Gonzo's testimony that no division on the NSA wiretaps existed in the Administration, Mueller said they discussed the matter and he himself had reservations on warrantless wiretaps.

Gonzo's underling Susan Goodman wasn't even there to join her boss in collective amnesia.

And this on top of the testimony by former deputy AG Jim Comey that both he and then AG John Ashcroft were against continuing the wiretaps because of lack of legal grounds.

Psychoanalysis and nuance of the blatant disregard for law by Gonzo and friends is superfluous. Something rotten is in the soup.

So I'll just reference a song by Beck off of Mellow Gold that perfectly describes the situation. Warning, don't listen to this in a place where it's not appropriate.

The kids from the early 1990's may enjoy a listen. Just disregard the visuals...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Reality sinks in

At first I was skeptical about the actual need to post the 911 calls of Ronald Brandon on and at the Wisconsin State Journal.

Brandon had pointed a pellet gun provocatively at a police officer, only to be fatally shot in a motion of self-defense.

Does the public really need to hear this? To be frightened? To make something so private a part of the public sphere?

But the tapes drove home the udder tragedy that occurred at Camden Road. The seeming gentleness of Ron in his call to report himself. He sounded almost peaceful, like a good neighbor.

The pleas of his ex-wife, Susan Brandon, can help the reader/listener understand the lack of communication, and Susan's despair because of it.

Personally, I gained a sense of respect for what went on. Empathy and knowledge should trump comfort.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

JESUS CAMP, mind control, and the uncanny power of self-loathing

Palestinian camps are putting hand grenades in their kids' hands, so America has to train their kids to be part of the "God's Army." So says Pastor Becky Fischer at her Bible Summer camp, "Kid's on Fire"

"I wanna see young people who are as committed to the cause of Jesus Christ, as the young people are to the cause of Islam," Fischer says in the documentary "Jesus Camp." She explained that Christian kids should be just as ready as young Muslims to "lay down their lives" for their own creed, rationalizing that "we've got the better message."

Last night was the first time that I saw award-winning documentary. At times it wasn't easy to watch, as kids were being manipulated to hate anything un-Christian, but it really is a must see, a provocative look into a dysfunctional world.

I found the formula for manipulation to be somewhat familiar, as I was often fed the message that I was dirty, needed salvation from my own impurities as a K-12 student at Catholic Schools.

Step 1: Fischer welcomed the kids with a smiley face and caring persona to the camp,

Effect: Makes the kids feel at-ease, in a compassionate environment.

Step 2: Fischer alienated the kids, calling them evil. Example: She said that Harry Potter would have been "stoned to death" for being a warlock. She then implied that they brought unclean souls to the camp (swearing, doing bad just like the other kids), and washed their hands with...Nestle bottled water.

Effect: The children may be bored, ashamed, miserable but Fischer instills in them the idea that they are that way because they are "sinners." And eureka, she has a way to help them! And makes the salvation fun!

Step 3: The path is laid as kids are taught to hold their faith above all else, convulse with the spirit of the lord, and are told that half of the world is pure evil.

Effect: Kids can be alienated from the "sinners," everyone else. They conceptualize their duty to "save" everyone.

Step 4: Fischer and friends reaffirm that the kids are important, will be the future leaders, and need to go out and convert others, oppose homosexuality, abortion rights, support President Bush, the war in Iraq, the conversion of Muslims at all costs.

Results: Kids are wearing camouflage face paint while swinging sticks, praising the "Christian flag" and spreading the word to evil doers.

One kid even said that he got saved at age 5, because he was looking for more in life. (Though he probably didn't think his life was so worthless until people like Fischer told him so) And I can't forget the 10-year-old girl who said she only dances for the Lord, "not for the flesh."

See for yourself:

Fischer justified her actions, saying that kids cannot make choices -good or bad- (not much faith in kids...).

Repeatedly through the film, the "teachers" are praising the way that Christianity can influence kids, that their greatest asset is malleability. Not their creativity, innocence, or intelligence.

Fischer describes the enemy/Muslims as radicals who dogmatize their kids in a violent view of the world, and that it's her job to set them straight. And what are you doing to the kids, Fischer? Honoring their freedom of choice and presenting them with multiple viewpoints?

What's more is that even the evangelical heads are not without "sin"...

In many spots in the film, Fischer is seen primping herself, flaunting openly about how lovely she is. She also places a cardboard cutout of Bush for the kids to praise.

...The 7th deadly sin forbids excessive pride, and that first commandment forbidding the praise of idols before God...

And let's not forget our buddy Ted Haggard, who mad a cameo in the film bashing "the gay lifestyle." He was an adviser for Bush, by the way.

After the film and earlier this year, Haggard was caught with his own "sexual improprieties" and moral quandaries. Such as being caught with a male prostitute and using methamphetamines.

"...let he who is without sin cast the first stone..." -Jesus

But the sin is not homosexuality, or even meth use, but hypocrisy.

Good thing for Haggard, he became a heterosexual once again, and was saved from his gay tendencies. Maybe he feels this was all the result of a meth bender?

After observing all this hypocrisy, it occurs to me that the leaders of this radical, violent, politicized brand of Christianity are unable to deal with their own vices.

Like the children they exploit, perhaps they were once told that they were evil, made to feel dirty, and forced to embrace an ideology that seemed unnatural. The failure to work through sexual insecurities, addiction, violent tendencies (due to the disapproval in the social sphere of Church) had forced these currents to manifest themselves as problems later in life?

But self-loathing is nothing compared to how the extreme Christian right loathes their enemies, be they homosexuals, secularists, Muslims, or liberals.

There seems to be never-ending cycle of self-manipulation, that feeds itself with tax-free donations.

God might not have planned it better...