Thursday, June 30, 2005

Spinach is good for you, too

Champaign-Urbana's bull-in-a-china-shop board attacked again.

In moves that surprised no one - except perhaps in its brutal bluntness - the C-U Mass Transit District last night annexed a whole bunch of neighborhoods and subdivisions into the Mass Transit District.

Many of those areas didn't necessarily want to be annexed.

Or more correctly, they didn't/don't want to pay the cost of being a part of the district.

Oh, they'll use public transportation. The handicapped folks will quickly discover the convenience of the MTD's handicapped pickup and delivery program. Folks with a broken down car WON'T have to call a neighbor for a ride. Folks who work at the UI WON'T have to worry about finding that parking place. Oh, they'll use it.

Still, it's unfortunate how the MTD went about this.

I guess there are two points to this story.
First, the people in most of the areas just simply didn't want to pay for a municipal service that the rest of us have been paying for for years. It's possible those folks had been walking a few blocks to a city bus stop and using it anyway. I'm sorry, folks; just because you don't WANT a municipal service is no reason to raise a ruckus. I hate paying for storm sewers (at least I hate it for about 345 days a year. When it rains like crazy, I'm glad they work ). I hate paying for street lights for neighborhoods in which I don't live (until I have a night meeting at church, then those lights make getting back to my car a lot more comfortable). Yeah, I don't want to pay for 'em, but in the end, I still use them.

The point is we live in an urban/metropolitan area. We enjoy and expect reasonable urban/metropolitan services like police, fire protection, library services, mass transit, street repair and cleaning, even storm sewers and street lights... We should expect to pay for those services. Even if you don't ride the bus, it's there if you WANT it. If you don't want urban/metropolitan services, don't live in an urban/metropolitan area. It's that simple.

Second, the C-U MTD Board has GOT to stop acting like it's the 500 pound gorilla who can do whatever-in-the-hell it wants whenever-the-hell it wants to do it. A little bit of arrogance goes a long way. The MTD's level of arrogance is way off the HolyShit Meter.

Maybe in instances like this the MTD CAN do whatever whenever. But people are starting to become pretty darn skeptical of the MTD's intentions. There was that silly $6 bajillion city streetcar plan they were so darned determined to shove down our throats because darn it it was good for us and we needed it if we were gonna be a moving and shaking metropolital behemouth.

That idea didn't fly too well (and when it returns - because it will - it STILL won't fly too well). The MTD's insistance on spending on planning and moving ahead despite overwhelming skepticism showed the first chinks in its armor.

Then, they tried to bulldoze their way into Savoy, despite the municipality's insistance it wasn't wanted.

Now this. Sure, annexing those areas - which are clearly part of the metropolitan area - is a good idea. It's most likely the right thing to do.

But do you have to do it which such an insensitive hammer?

Show a little tact, MTD. Show a little sensitivity. Show just a tiny little bit of brains.

If that's possible.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Anyone remember Al Campanis? Jimmy 'The Greek' Snyder?

Mayor Jerry's at it again.

I'm certain he knows better, but our Mayor again put his foot solidly in his mouth during last night's Champaign City Council meeting, while discussing a report detailing the disproportionate number of blacks being stopped by police.

When I first read it on the Champaign-American blog this morning I thought, that can't be true. There must be more to the story than that.

I waited until I saw this afternoon's News-Gazette to see if it would be reported and if there was more to it.

Well, it was reported in the N-G, and while there WAS a little more to it, there wasn't much.

First, the details. A mandated report shows that in Champaign, blacks are much more likely to be subject to police traffic stops than whites. The numbers, depending on who's interpreting them, are that while blacks make up approximately 13 percent of the driving population, they were involved in 33 percent of the traffic stops. If this is news to you, you haven't being paying attention.
From the News-Gazette:
A report released Tuesday shows that black drivers were involved in 33 percent of all traffic stops in Champaign, though they make up only 13 percent of what the state considers to be the city's driving population.

To their credit, Champaign officials did not (overtly) dispute these facts but accepted them and began talking about how to remedy this disparity. From the N-G:
Deputy Police Chief John Murphy told city council members that the police department will examine further the frequency of blacks being stopped for equipment violations and the disparity between races in ticketing for equipment violations. Search practices will also be further monitored, he said.
"We're not satisfied with the result," he said.

During the discussion, however, our fine mayor, good old boy and former cop that he is, commented eloquently (again from Wednesday's News-Gazette):
Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighart, a former city police officer, said he believes that blacks tend to be "more confrontational" during traffic stops than whites.
"The language is much more confrontational," he said. "Somehow we need to get together with the (black) community and the police on how you act when you are stopped"

Yeah, Jerry; them uppity blacks need to learn how to treat those officers with the proper respect. Teach 'em to talk right. Show deference. They need to know their place...

And so it goes.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Burn, baby, burn

I see today's News-Gazette has brought out the D word (drought).

If they'd seen my front lawn, they wouldn't have waited this long.

Nevertheless, in my 50-plus-plus-plus years of living in and near agricultural land, I've yet to hear a farmer do anything but complain about the weather. it's too hot. Or it's too cool. Or it's too dry. Or it's too wet.

One day's I'd like to hear 'It's too just about right...'

Yeah, right.

Anyone in Illinois ever hear of irrigation?

Think I may try that on my lawn, too.

And so it goes.

Monday, June 27, 2005

No ... well, maybe ... or not

The Supremes, in their final day of the year, handed down its much anticipated decision on the constitutionality of displaying the Ten Commandments on government land.

They almost sort of maybe kinda got it right. Or not.

Now understand, I'm a Christian. I try to live by the Ten Commandments (that one about coveting is tough....).

At the same time, I firmly believe in separation of church and state. The way I figure it is that if the government can tell you which religion it endorses, it also can tell you which religions are outlawed. That's what we Europeans came over here a few centuries ago to avoid.

Therefore, today's ruling is encouraging, sort of. It's also discouraging, sort of.

From the Associated Press:
A sharply divided Supreme Court on Monday upheld the constitutionality of displaying the Ten Commandments on government land, but drew the line on displays inside courthouses, saying they violated the doctrine of separation of church and state.
Sending dual signals in ruling on this issue for the first time in a quarter-century, the high court said that displays of the Ten Commandments - like their own courtroom frieze - are not inherently unconstitutional. But each exhibit demands scrutiny to determine whether it goes too far in amounting to a governmental promotion of religion, the court said in a case involving Kentucky courthouse exhibits.

Sounds like they're trying to throw both sides a bone, which makes things even more confusing. So is it legal or isn't it?

The court resoundingly answered 'YES!'

Again from the AP:
The justices voting on the prevailing side in the Kentucky case left themselves legal wiggle room, saying that some displays inside courthouses - like their own courtroom frieze - would be permissible if they're portrayed neutrally in order to honor the nation's legal history.
But framed copies in two Kentucky courthouses went too far in endorsing religion, the court held. Those courthouse displays are unconstitutional, the justices said, because their religious content is overemphasized.

So, displaying the Ten Commandments on government property is OK as long as it's not in a courthouse and as long as it's not a religious display but an educational or historical one. As long as we can determine the intent of the display. And the intent of those who put together the display.

Got that straight?

From the AP:
In effect, the court said it was taking the position that issues of Ten Commandments displays in courthouses should be resolved on a case-by-case basis.

Translated: The court effectively dodged the issue. Displaying the Ten Commandments on government property is illegal, except in those cases when it's legal.

Simple, isn't it?

And so it goes.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Sorry, Karl

I was all ready to write up a Karl Rove smackdown then I ran across this on Damn Liberals site.

It's from Kristen Breitweiser, one of the 9-11 widows. There's no way it can be said better.

Please read it.

With an open mind, if that's possible.

If that isn't enough, read this from an active soldier on the ground in Iraq.
And so it goes.

This bears repeating...

Check THIS link out. Or THIS.
To date, 1,735 Americans have died in Iraq. Another 15,000 to 38,000 have been wounded. And that doesn't count the 25,499 civilian deaths. These aren't numbers. they're people. Every one is some mother's son or daughter. (Yeah, I know, Saddam killed Iraqi civilians, too. But there's a difference, - I guess)
And NO weapons of mass destructions have ever been found.
And NO al Quada connection has ever been found.
And NO terrorist camps.
And NO plans to spread worldwide terrorism have ever been found.
And, given the price at the pump, the oil isn't even flowing.
Anyone read the Downing Street memo yet?
Why, again, are we there?

And so it goes.

Friday, June 24, 2005

We're better than that

Sen. Dick Durbin made a colossal mistake. Incredible mistake. A mistake that could cost him dearly before all this is done.

His statement on the floor of the Senate concerning prisoners of war being held by Americans was about as stupid as anything I've ever heard in my lifetime watching politics. (It's not as stupid as some conservatives are misinterpreting it to be for their political gain, but it was incredibly stupid).

It probably also was wrong. Not treasonous; not particularly dangerous (except for him). Just incredibly stupid stupid stupid. He should know better. Comparing ANYONE to Nazis is really politically stupid. Even if you're comparing them to the W-imbecile nazis.

Unfortunately, I understand the sentiment. And when you realize he's talking about the W-admininstration's policies and not the torturers on the ground...

The way I read that lapse into politically-destructive rhetoric is this:

We should be better than our enemies. We MUST be better than our enemies. We ARE better than our enemies. If we expect to export democracy around the globe, then we MUST prove that democracy is better than what they (whoever 'they' is) have now.

If we stoop to their level, then we prove we're no better than they are. And then what's the advantage of democracy?

We have to be better than that. Just because THEY torture does NOT make it OK for us to torture. It just doesn't. As Americans, we ARE better than that. We ARE better than they are. And we MUST show that to the world. We always have been better and we always SHOULD be. Just a little torture may be OK for them, but it cannot be OK for us.

Just remember: 'If you sleep with pigs, you'll wake up covered in shit.'

And if you make unfair or inaccurate comparisons to pigs. apparently you will, too.

And so it goes.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The drive to survive


Last night on 'Mythbusters' on The Discovery Channel, they compared driving drunk with driving while talking on a cell phone.

Turns out there essentially is no difference.

Driving impaired is driving impaired. And talking on a cell phone impairs driving and affects reaction time just as drastically as does driving under the influence of alcohol.

Guess I'll call ahead for my sixpack of Bud.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

You'll be a man ...

As far as I'm concerned, every male person between the age of 8 and 80 should read Sen. Barack Obama's Sunday Father's Day Sermon - reprinted in the Wednesday Chicago Tribune Op-Ed Page - on What It Means to be a Full-Grown Man

Simple. Profound. Effective. The man's got it together.

And so it goes

Die if you want to

Let me get this straight: I don't care if you smoke yourself to death. I really don't care. I may be sad if you do, but I don't care.


Therefore, I'm not trying to protect yourself from yourself.

I'm trying to protect ME from you. You and your nasty habit and your carcinogenic secondhand smoke. I'm trying to protect the people I Iove (which may or may not include you) from dying from your nasty habit.

If you want to smoke, OK, fine. Go ahead. Smoke all you want to. In your home. In your car. Standing outside buildings. In alleys. In designated smoking sections. Sitting isolated on a park bench somewhere. Segregated from people with more brains and self-control than you seem to possess. Just not around me.

'Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette/ Puff puff puff it 'til you puff yourself to death.' I really don't care.

Is that so hard to understand?

I want to be able to enjoy my life without smelling like an ashtray; like you.

Therefore, I want the Champaign City Council to IMMEDIATELY take up the smoking ban. Don't wait for the students to come back;; that's just a phony delaying tactic and we all know it. The only students who ever show up for council meetings are student journalists anyway.

In case you missed it, last night the Champaign Council managed to reverse Mayor Smokey's little end run and reinstate (sort of) a study session on the proposed smoke-free ordinance. Or at least on some kind of a limited smoke-free ordinance.

Poor Mayor Smokey was beside himself. He had NO idea someone would circulate a petition. He was angry. (Or course, last week, HE was the one circulating the surprise petition... What goes around comes around, Jer).

The new proposal wouldn't ban smoking in ALL restaurants and bars, just some. But it might mean there'll be a couple more restaurants and bars that I might feel welcome in.

It's a start.

It works elsewhere. It can work here. Put out your cigarette, Mayor Smokey, and start serving your city. And ALL its residents. Remember, the majority of us DON'T smoke. But all of us breathe. We'd like to keep it that way.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Not a prayer

When I first heard the news on NPR this morning concerning the Mahomet -Seymour School Board's decision on prayer at its meetings, I thought, 'Finally, some common sense in government.' But after a few hours of reflection, now I'm not so sure.

In case you missed it, the board decided to retain its prayer before the meeting, but move it off the agenda and out of the board room, prior to the meeting.

From the News-Gazette:
"This, in my mind, meets the need that I see personally for us having prayer in this school and standing for that, and at the same time removes the legal risk and financial exposure that each of us has," school board President Mark Gerst said.

Sounds like a reasonable solution. Those board members who wish to pray before the meeting can pray. Those who don't, don't have to.

Again, from today's News-Gazette story:
Gerst proposed the compromise, which he refers to as '15 minutes and 50 feet.' It allows board members and others to meet for prayer before the meeting but in another room.

Upon further review, however, it would seem that if more than 50 percent of the board attends the pre-meeting prayer, it likely would constitute an illegal public meeting and could be in violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.
It's unfortunate, but it's also the law.

I have absolutely nothing against prayer. I pray a lot. I need it. You do too. In fact we all should do more. The Bible advises us to 'pray without ceasing.' God never tires of listening.

I firmly believe government would be a lot better if a lot more government folks prayed a lot more. And then listened for God's guidance. That second part's really important. Listen.

But they don't need to do it in public meetings.

I'd like to remind these folks first, of the First Amendment, which advises that 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...' Public, government-sanctioned prayer before a meeting establishes Christianity as the board's religion. Unless, of course, they alternate religions. (I'd love to see a Rastafarian minister offer a prayer before the Mahomet board. Perhaps he could pass around some sacramental ganja? Could a Santarian minister sacrifice a chicken...? Sorry, just rambling.)

I'd also like to remind the board, and other boards, of another pertinent statement:
From Matthew 6: 5- And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.
6- But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
7- When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words.
8- Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

You want to pray for guidance before a meeting, most definitely do so. I encourage it. I pray that you do. Just do it by yourself. Alone. Between you and God.

He'll listen. He always does.

That public prayer? Is it really for guidance? Or for show?

One final note: Jesus spoke rather eloquently in the book of Mark on the separation of church and state. Turns out Jesus was for it.
Mark 12 14- And they came and said to him, 'Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?
15- Should we pay them, or should we not?' But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, 'Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.'
16- And they brought one. Then he said to them, 'Whose head is this, and whose title?' They answered, 'The emperor's.'
17- Jesus said to them, Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's.' And they were utterly amazed at him.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

And so it goes.

Monday, June 20, 2005

New location, old results

Anyone notice the Cubs were outscored 23-10 in being swept three straight at Yankee Stadium. it was exciting -- briefly -- to have the Cubs tread that hallowed Bronx ground.

Kinda looked like one of those monuments in the outfield just fell over and smashed all hope. The Cubbies actually held a lead in the first game, albeit briefly.

But after that, it was same old same old.

Funny how the Cubs year after year after year can play just good enoughto keep their loyal fans hoping, but never good enough to actually do anything.

And tonight, Mr. 500, Greg Maddux is on the mound, on his slow saunter to the Hall of Fame. Funny how he manages to pitch well just about every other game. He was shelled last time, so....

Ah, hope springs eternal. Cubs insanity is incurable. (If we can only get Wood and Prior back and if Lee keeps hitting and if Ramirez gets hot and if Nomar comes back strong and if Corey figures out what a leadoff hitter is and if Zambrano can hold his temper for 9 innings and if and if and if and if).

Wouldn't it seem to be a little easier to just go ahead and win once in a while rather than coming close every year for about a century?

And so it goes.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

And for what?

Check THIS link out. Or THIS.
To date, 1,717 Americans have died in Iraq. And that doesn't count the 22,353 civilian deaths.
And NO weapons of mass destructions were ever found.
And NO al Quada connection was ever found.
And NO terrorist camps.
And no plans to spread worldwide terrorism were ever found.
And, given the price at the pump, the oil isn't even flowing.
Anyone read the Downing Street memo yet?
Why, again, are we there?

And so it goes.

Friday, June 17, 2005

The sound of no hands clapping

At the risk of being called a Geezer Boomer (see Thursday's News-Gazette letters to the editor) it is now time to permanently turn off the 'new' 92.5 -- the "Chief,' which replaced Oldies 92.5

To steal someone's old quote, there's no there there.

I understand what they're trying to do, to appeal to a slightly younger demographic, the one that lives with their earpods and iPods plugged in at all times. You know, those folks desperately trying to look trendy while attempting to block out a world that either offends them or that they cannot relate to. (Or a world that cannot relate to them).

From Wired News:
In the tradition-strangled world of commercial radio, all eyes are on that rarest of breeds: a bold new idea.
From Seattle and San Diego to Baltimore and Buffalo, more than a dozen big-city radio stations have converted to a format known as Jack-FM over the past two months.
Boasting they're "like an iPod on shuffle," the new stations typically dump their disc jockeys in favor of huge song playlists that mimic a well-stocked portable music player.
The Jack format, which is already spawning imitators, could be a key to FM's survival as an alternative to satellite radio, internet radio and MP3 players.
"There's an understanding (in radio) that you have some new competitors and you need to be more creative," said radio consultant Dave Van Dyke, former general manager of L.A.'s KCBS-FM, which just flipped to the Jack format.

I understand that radio, facing the threat of satellite radio, has moved into a change/upgrade-or-die mode, but is this the answer? Is it the answer for an oldies station which played the oldies of the '50s, '60s and '70s to now start playing the oldies of the '80s?

Again from Wired:
"The appeal is that it reminds you of music you might have forgotten existed," said Scott McKenzie, editor in chief of Billboard Radio Monitor. "We all have our libraries of music sitting in our iPods. You recognize a song and say, 'I love that.'"

Then again, when was the last time a '50s-'60s-'70s music fan heard an '80s song and said 'I love that."? There may be reason we've forgotten some of that music existed.

This may work for some stations, but I think the Cheeef may have moved in a rather counterproductive direction. (Not to mention the station's obnoxious name 'Chief,' which is bound to offend at least half its potential listeners, but that's another rant altogether)

Again from Wired:
Some observers are skeptical of the mix-and-match approach. "It assumes that someone will set their dial to one radio station, leave it there all day and be thrilled with the randomness," said Darrel Goodin, general manager of several Jefferson-Pilot stations in San Diego. "It runs extremely counter to the way the radio has been successful over the years. Maybe someone has found a way to defy gravity, but the odds are against it."

Even my wife has reprogrammed her car's radio buttons. 92.5 is gone, replaced by 99.1, which is better, but not by much.

And so it goes

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Selling short

Of course there is no proof of this, nor will there ever be; but for every political action, there is usually a political reaction.

I'd heard rumors earlier but decided to wait to see if it was true; Marci Dodds' first act as a council member was to sign off on cancelling a study session on the smoke-free ordinance. Some backbone.

Like I say, there's no proof, and of course there is no quid-pro quo, but if (only speculating here, you understand) IF that was the price for the votes that finally got Dodds elected to the District 4 seat, Mayor Smokey sold himself short. I really think he could have gotten something a bit more substantive. It was just a study session proposal, Smokey; it ain't gonna go away. People who count these things say there are probably 5 votes right now for the proposal. But there is NO proof. Just speculation.

The sadder part of this, though, was how easily and quickly Dodds appears to have agreed to the action. Sad.

Mayor Smokey now thinks/hopes the smoking ordinance has disappeared in a puff of smoke. I really doubt it.

Champaign American says the fight isn't over, and on this issue the Old Guy's along for the ride.

Mayor Smokey and bar and restaurant owners don't seem to realize there's a whole population out here, the Old Guy included, who DO NOT go to a lot of bars and restaurants strictly because of the smoke. It's offensive.The last time I spent an evening in the Esquire (many months ago) I went home with a scratchy throat, a three-day cough and had to wash every item of clothing I had on to get rid of the cigarette stench. And I haven't been back. Probably won't be. That hurts business, too.

We're out here and we're customers. Or at least potential customers.

According to today's News-Gazette, many of the council members were surprised by Mayor Smokey's actions on this issue, but they probably should have seen it coming. Everything has its price. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. (Learned that in high school physics). But there is no proof.

{Tom] Bruno, another longtime council member, said what was unusual was who handed out the sheet.
"It was unusual that the request was circulated by a council member who didn't want it to succeed," he said, referring to the mayor.
"I respect the fact that the mayor didn't want us to have a study session on the issue; he's been consistent about that," Bruno said. "But that made it awkward for him to circulate the request sheet."

And so it goes.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Didn't see that one coming

OK, so I was wrong. Not the first time.

I had fully expected (and predicted in this space) that Deb Feinen would be picked by the Champaign City Council to fill the District 4 vacancy.

However, last night, after who-knows-how-much behind the scenes arm-twisting and political dealing, the Council, on its second ballot of the night, picked Marci Dodds. Suspiciously easy. 6-1 vote.

Surprised? Yes. Pleased? I'm not sure yet. We'll have to wait and see what those last two council votes cost. You know they're not free. Somebody promised something to someone in order that someone else could change their vote. Goes on all the time. That's the way Illinois politics works. Check back after the first few council votes. If anything looks suspicious ... it probably is.

Although the Champaign Council's supposed to be nonpartisan, it's no secret who falls in the Red and Blue camps. Except right now I'm unsure of Dodds. Her work with the Champaign Library Foundation, where she was chair, would indicate a favorable shade of blue. However. her connection to the business community (her husband Cody is one of the developers of the Volition building and owns Boltini) would indicate a hint of magenta. Champaign American Blog (Matt Varble) says she's a Democrat. Probably right, but probably not an Urbana-style Dem.

There was no question of Feinen, however. Solid red to the core.

So how did Dodds pull it off? Who does Marci owe? WHAT does Marci owe? What went on in the background? Lets hope the untold story comes out.

Will Marci be a good council member? Who knows. I'm betting yes. I'm also betting, just from preliminary indications, that she's far from the puppet for her husband and downtown developers that some fear. I hope I'm closer to right aboiut that than about who I thought would win.

It'll probably take a few weeks to find out. Watch those first few council votes.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Bad justice

I've yet to run into anyone who was surprised at the Michael Jackson verdict. I've also yet to run into anyone who isn't pretty darned sure that Jacko's probably guilty of any number of acts of pedophilia. Just maybe not the one (s) he was charged with.

But, given the track record of the L.A prosecutors taking on celebrities, it was no wonder the verdict came out the way it did. Remember O.J. 'Slasher' Simpson, the venerable Menendez brothers and lately Robert Blake?

One wonders whether it's the prosecutors office or the people in L.A. themselves. We know they hold their celebrities to different, looser and more forgiving standards in their life and lifestyle; perhaps they also are allowed a different standard under the law as a well.

But being acquitted of the charges, does not mean that Wacko did not do it. It just means that it was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt to a pool of Los Angeles jurors who weren't smart enough or privileged enough to get out of jury duty.

To quote Juror No. 1:
"I feel that Michael Jackson probably has molested boys. I cannot believe that, after some of the testimony that was offered, I can't believe that this man could sleep in the same bedroom for 365 straight days and not do something more than watch television and eat popcorn. That doesn't make sense to me. But that doesn't make him guilty of the charges that were presented in this case, and that's where we had to make our decision."

Given that, can you explain why anyone would ever let their children within 20 miles of Neverland or of Jackson? Certainly there are better, safer amusement parks. In Bagdhad, perhaps?

My greatest amazement in the case, however, is reserved for the scores of Wacko onlookers outside the courtroom holding their pathetic vigil. They absolutely knew Jacko was innocent because .... well because ... well ... because we think he's a great entertainer. Makes perfect sense to me.

And so it goes.

Saturday, June 4, 2005

On hiatus

A combination of work and pleasure will take me out of town for the next 10 days. I'll most likely return some time after June 14 with more blather and banalities.

Try not to let anything important happen when I'm away, OK?

And so it goes.

Friday, June 3, 2005

And you're next, sonny

One of the few advantages to growing old is that you get to adopt a certain curmudgeonlyness. Even if you seriously irritate people with your statements, they take into account that you're getting 'up there...' One disadvantage is that as you age, more and more things that used to bounce lightly off your back begin to really piss you off. Little things. Dumb things. Picky little bitchy things.

In that vein:

Things that irritate me Part I : Central Illinois drivers:
-- Yeah, I know, we're largely based on a rural, agricultural lifestyle, but does that mean we all have to drive like we're piloting a combine down Springfield Avenue?
-- That big flashing yellow arrow in your lane means that THE LANE IS CLOSED AHEAD. Consider merging before you're a foot from the sign. The sign's not gonna magically disappear as you approach. And I'm not always gonna be nice enough to let you in.
-- That red light does not mean 'three cars still can get through.' Two max.
-- The rules of the road don't boil down to 'well I made it.' As in: "Isn't that illegal? "Well, I made it.'
-- You do not have to slow to a complete stop before making a right-hand turn into a driveway or a side street. Really.
-- It is NOT required to pick up a cell phone the minute you step on the gas pedal.
-- It IS legal to turn on your left turn signal BEFORE you enter an intersection.
-- And by the way, turn signals do not waste energy; feel free to use them frequently
-- Laws really DO apply to UPS ansd FedEx trucks. They are NOT allowed to drive the wrong way down one-way streets, block driveways and endanger half the populace of Illinois to deliver that new Salad Shooter. It just seems that way.
-- Profiling by city police may be illegal, but it sure seems to happens pretty much daily. It seems like I'd almost have to drive down Green Street at 70 mph firing an Uzi out the window to get pulled over. After all, I'm a white, middle-aged, middle class man in a white-guy middle-aged middle-class vehicle. Unlikely I'm carrying drugs or guns or stolen property that you can search for. So why bother.
-- Leaving your left-turn arrow on for miles and miles is really really stupid. (That would be me; it's broken, deal with it).
-- Think before demanding to make a left-hand turn at a busy intersection during Champaign-Urbana's rush quarter-hour (10 minutes?). Those folks honking behind you aren't signaling 'have a nice day.'
-- Kids make lousy hood ornaments; slow down to at least 50 in school zones.
-- Slow down to about 20 in Campus Town. College kids think they're immortal.
-- 'Lane Ends, Right Lane Must Yield' does not mean you should try to outrun the car in the left lane.
-- Although they're almost never enforced, there are speed limits in Champaign-Urbana. If you try to stay within 20 mph or so you should be OK
-- Consider putting you car in gear and adjusting your mirror before the light turns green. Please?
-- It is NOT cool to drive down the street with your left arm hanging completely out the window. Yeah, I can drive one-handed too. So can teen-agers. Just watch
-- I have never found in any law book that the biggest, toughest meanest vehicle always has the right-of-way. Yield once in a while, OK?

And that's just the tip of my iceberg. Told you I was getting old and crotchety.

And so it goes.

Thursday, June 2, 2005

Need a lobbyist?

I've said to anyone willing to listen for years that I would really REALLY hate to be a teenager or a young 20-something person today.

There's just too much pressure, too much temptation, too much expectation, too much peer-pressure, too much danger and too much excess for today's young people. There's just a lot of stuff to deal with, a lot of stuff to have to do or avoid that as old folks we couldn't even imagine. In my time there were no logos on clothing (OK, a little Levi logo on my back pocket...) and therefore no peer pressure to have the 'right' designer duds. Clean was the only requirement; and then came the 60s and even THAT disappeared. There were no computers; no iPods, no cell phones, no play dates, most schools had few or no college-prep classes. Drugs pretty much began and ended with cold pills and Bayer aspirin. I'd never heard of marijuana until I went to college. Other drugs? Were there other drugs? Besides Grain Belt, that is? You wanted to go to college, you applied and you were accepted (except for the few elite institutions). You didn't worry that a B on an essay would derail your career.

Life, simply, was much more simple. As kids, we were allowed to be kids.

Not so now.

Still, teenagers persist in existing, and some of them eventually go on to become productive adults. Despite what you see at the mall.

Life for teens, however, got a little more complicated in the waning hours of the holiday weekend. Among the various things passed in Springfield were a number of measures targeting teens and teen behavior.

From the AP:
Drivers under 18 would not be allowed to talk on cell phones, even phones equipped with hands-free devices.

The Democratic governor also succeeded in raising the standards that students must meet to graduate from high school. Seniors would have to take at least two years of science, three years of math, four years of English and two writing-intensive courses to graduate.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich led an effort to protect minors from mature video games by barring stores from selling them the games and creating a $1,000 fine for retailers who knowingly do so.

What's a teen to do?

But all is not lost. If they can't talk on their phone when they drive and can't electronically disembowel thousands in the latest video game, at least they can decorate themselves:
On the other hand, lawmakers did vote to lower the age for getting a tattoo to 18. Right now, anyone under 21 must have a parent's permission.

Now THAT'S comforting.

Just driving down the street before of after school can convince you that the cell phone law makes sense. But who and how is it gonna be enforced? My guess is it won't be; perhaps a teen involved in an accident MAY get a ticket for cellphone use. Which probably will be dismissed.

The graduation standards measure also makes sense. Provided it's not another unfunded mandate. Springfield says it isn't. Do you believe that? Does anyone? There MAY be funds this year, but after that ... don't bet your state-funded pension on it.

The video game law ... will THAT be enforced? CAN that be enforced? The answer to both is not likely. Champaign can't stop teens from drinking. You want to start frisking them as they leave the mall for a bootleg copy of Mortal Kombat? Just another measure that looks good on a resume come re-election time.

And finally, the tattoo law: Instead of making it easier to deface one's body, perhaps a mental evaluation before every tattoo or piercing?

Our lawmakers never cease to amaze me. Like the Steely Dan song goes '...the things you think are precious I can't understand...'

And so it goes.

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

How deep?

So we finally know who Deep Throat is.

Turns out he was former FBI official W. Mark Felt who was feeding information to Woodward and Bernstein (Hoffman and Redford?) at the Washington Post concerning the ongoing Watergate probe.

Felt, it turns out was the No. 2 man at the FBI, behind J. Edgar Hoover and had hoped to becomed the head when Hoover's reign ended. Didn't happen.

Today's morning news shows were all abuzz over the revelation. Two of the saddest comments I heard were on the Today Show. Charles Colson, who served time for his part in the Watergate crimes, said thet Felt has betrayed the trust of the president by helping the Post uncover the Nixon administration's crimes.

He was followed by former Nixon speechwriter Pat 'loose cannon' Buchanan, who came very close to calling Felt a traitor, stating that felt had impugned the integrity of one of the best, most popular presidents of this century. He implied felt should be treated -- and perhaps investigated -- as a criminal. How could anyone do that to Nixon?


Making sure that crimes of a presidential administration come out so criminals can be prosecuted is a crime? Certainly, it was implied, the FBI investigation would have uncovered any little wrongdoings and nasty deeds, Colson and Buchanan whined.

Uh, would that be the same FBI with the brand-new head appointed by Mr. I-am-not-a-crook Nixon? Same one.

Despite the journalistic triumphs of this story and the heroic deeds of Mr. Felt, this story turns out to have a number of sad twists.

Among other press reports, from the Associated Press:

A book written and apparently autographed by the man who has revealed himself as Deep Throat, the long-anonymous source from the Watergate scandal, was being offered Wednesday for sale on eBay.
The seller of the book by W. Mark Felt said she purchased it at FBI headquarters in 1981, according to the Web site posting.

and from the Chicago Tribune:

While Felt's identity is now known, his motivation for being a source is less clear. He was not known to have a political agenda. And, in fact, he was not above some of the same tactics used by the Watergate burglars.
Felt was convicted and fined $5,000 for authorizing FBI agents in the early 1970s to illegally break into the homes of members of the Weather Underground, a radical antiwar group in the Vietnam era that had claimed responsibility for bombings at the Capitol and Pentagon.
But President Ronald Reagan in 1981 gave Felt a "full and unconditional" pardon in the case.

Again, from the AP:

Felt had expressed reservations in the past about revealing his identity, and about whether his actions were appropriate for an FBI man, his grandson said.
According to the article, Felt once told his son, Mark Jr., that he did not believe being Deep Throat "was anything to be proud of. ... You (should) not leak information to anyone."

and finally, the reason for the revelation from the 91-year-old stroke victim probably isn't for the purest of reasons.

His family members ... persuaded him to talk about his role in the Watergate scandal, saying he deserves to receive accolades before his death. His daughter, Joan, argued that he could "make enough money to pay some bills, like the debt I've run up for the children's education."

Make a few bucks. If that isn't the American Way, I don't know what is.

And so it goes.