Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Fishing trip

I received an interesting political polling call last night.

After determining that I was a registered voter who intended to vote in the March elections, I was asked whether I thought the current campaign was going along smoothly or was 'badly in disarray.'

When I asked which campaign she was referring to, the pollster couldn't answer me. 'Let me get my manager,' she said.

She returned a short time later and said she couldn't answer my question, but would repeat her question if I liked. She did. It didn't change any. I politely terminated the poll.

Question: Just who was fishing to prove that who's campaign is in disarray?

And so it goes.

Friday, November 25, 2005

empty coffers

If this is the season for giving, here's a good target. empty tomb, a local charity which helps the most needy in our community, is running on empty. Or worse, running a deficit at the worse possible time.

From the News-Gazette:
CHAMPAIGN - This is the time of year donations to the Empty Tomb usually increase, and the organization needs the money more than ever.
Six employees are waiting for paychecks they should have received last week.
The Empty Tomb Inc. - a nonprofit organization that provides food, clothing, furniture and financial assistance for needy families - has a budget shortfall every year, usually in August through December, said Marcia Gruschow, the organization's coordinator.
But it is worse this year. Some employees have been paid late every pay period since July, and for a while the organization was two paychecks behind in paying them.
empty tomb is local folks helping local folks. When people in our community need help, empty tomb doesn't ask questions, it simply helps. In Christ's name. But now, in order for empty tomb to help those who need it the most, we need to help them.
The organization received gifts from individuals ranging from $6 to $7,000, and some churches are taking a special offering for Empty Tomb. The donations have helped reduce the deficit to about $2,000 now, but Gruschow said the bills and salaries due at the end of the month will be another $15,000.
The organization has 17 employees. Those paid on an hourly basis and those who are the sole breadwinners for their households are paid first. Eight other employees agreed to wait for their paychecks, and they are paid as the money becomes available.
A lot of local people, church people and community folks volunteer at empty tomb, but in order for it to function, there needs to be some paid staff. Right now, that paid staff isn't being paid. And because of that, people who need help may not get that help they desperately need.
During the holiday season, the organization works with area churches to provide Thanksgiving food baskets for needy families, and it holds a Christmas toy give-away in December.
"We need support so these things can continue," Gruschow said. "We're all committed that the services continue, and that's why we agreed we'd hold off getting paid if necessary."
The organization operates entirely on donations from individuals and churches. Some people give once a year, some quarterly and some monthly.
This holiday season, instead of blowing every penny you have on something plastic from North Prospect, take a couple bucks, or more than a couple, put it in an envelope and send it to empty tomb. This is neighbor helping neighbor.
To donate
Those who want to make a donation to the Empty Tomb can do so by mailing it to Empty Tomb Inc., P.O. Box 2404, Champaign, IL 61825-2404. Donations can also be made through the organization's Web site at
For information, check out the Web site or call or e-mail coordinator Marcia Gruschow at 356-2262 or
Please. Make this a season of giving.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Stuff I just thought of

A little of this and a bite of that (with cranberry sauce):

-- I know I'm a little bit behind on this but, word has it that Deb Feinen may be considering a run for the Champaign City Council. I've never been much of a Feinen fan (raise your hand if this surprises you), but if she runs against Marcie Dodd, she'll probably get my vote. So far, Dodd's been a waste of good oxygen.

-- Nice to see in the News-Gazette that the Champaign School Board has found a way out of its money problems. I'm not sure I like the idea of issuing working cash bonds to cover the district's shortfall, but as a longtime supporter of all the education we can handle, I like the idea of cutting anything (but administration) a lot less. Of course, if we could somehow cut the Texas-to-Champaign pipeline that's flowing pretty darned freely, things might not be in such bad shape. I just wonder if Culver looked, he could find qualified administrators a little closer to home... save a bundle on moving expenses.

-- Sports Illustrated's college basketball issue lists UI as the No. 19 team, well behind two-loss Michigan State. It also doesn't pick Dee Brown as an All-American. Can you say credibility gap? If you saw Tuesday night's game against Texas Southern ... I don't care who the opponent was, that was a whuppin'.

-- Saw and enjoyed the new Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire yesterday (aren't afternoon matinees great?). People who are strict Potter book constructionists may be a little disappointed, but, hey, how are you gonna do 734 pages in 2 1/2 hours? There was at least one complete subplot from the book that was missing and the World Cup - and its assorted themes - was given pretty short shrift. Not a house elf to be found anywhere. Still, the effects were spectacular, the movie was eminently entertaining, and you gotta love Rita Skeeter and Mad-Eye Moody.

-- I didn't know the Vatican had an astronomer. Don't know why the Vatican needs an astronomer. But you gotta like the guy. First thing I've heard come out of that little patch of backward thinking in years that I agreed with. According to the Associated Press :
VATICAN CITY - The Vatican's chief astronomer said Friday that "intelligent design" isn't science and doesn't belong in science classrooms, the latest high-ranking Roman Catholic official to enter the evolution debate in the United States.

The Rev. George Coyne, the Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, said placing intelligent design theory alongside that of evolution in school programs was "wrong" and was akin to mixing apples with oranges.

"Intelligent design isn't science even though it pretends to be," the ANSA news agency quoted Coyne as saying on the sidelines of a conference in Florence. "If you want to teach it in schools, intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science."
Got that folks. It's not science.

-- Is there any logic to the fact that this weekend, purportedly the busiest travel weekend of the year, gas prices in C-U are at a year-long low? I've seen at least 2 stations today with the price at $1.89.9. Makes no sense. But is it supposed to?

And so it goes.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Thanks, spammers

I've been forced to turn on word verification for all comments, despite the fact that I hate word verification. It means you'll hve to type in a code (included in the comment form) with every comment. Sorry.

But unfortunately, I've been getting more spam comments than I have been getting real comments. About 5 to 1 by my count.

If any of you REALLY want to buy land in Florida or buy custom emoticons or explore the Bible, speak up. Otherwise, word verification stays.

And so it goes.

Monday, November 21, 2005


Yeah, George and the GOPpers have got the US economy humming along nicely, I see.

Don't know if we can afford too much more good news.

GM to Cut 30,000 Jobs, Close 9 Plants - Yahoo! News

DETROIT - General Motors Corp. will eliminate 30,000 jobs and close nine North American assembly, stamping and powertrain plants by 2008 as part of an effort to get production in line with demand and position the world's biggest automaker to start making money again after absorbing nearly $4 billion in losses so far this year.

The announcement Monday by Rick Wagoner, GM's chairman and CEO, represents 5,000 more job cuts than the 25,000 that the automaker had previously indicated it planned to cut.

The 30,000 job cuts represents about 9 percent of GM's global work force of about 325,000 people

And so it goes.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Getting sick?

I'm as liberal as the next guy (OK, I'm more liberal than most of the next guys) but when I see things like Blago's All Kids insurance plan, which was rushed through the legislature in something like three days and signed into law Tuesday, my stomach gets a little queasy.

Understand, I certainly agree that all kids should have health coverage. I don't even disagree that if necessary, the state should fund it.

But to rush through a bill like this, despite the good intentions, is a little bit iffy.

Blago says he knows where the money's gonna come from. He says (according to a News-Gazette story) that
The state would cover the difference between what parents pay to participate in All Kids and the actual cost of care. That is projected to cost the state about $45 million in the first year, according to the governor. He plans to pay for it by shifting the state's Medicaid patients to a managed-care system, a move Blagojevich estimated would save $56 million in the first year.
Really? How? How does covering more people save you money? Am I missing something here? I've been in managed care programs for a number of years. What you end up getting in the long run is less care for more money, more regulations, more red tape, more infernal referrals to medical black holes and in the end an endless stream of continually rising co-pays and increasingly increasing deductibles. And this will save us what, $56 million?

It makes me just as queasy to agree with state GOP leaders, but...
Many Republicans also questioned whether the governor's cost estimates were accurate, whether the state would be able to afford the program in the long run, whether there would be enough doctors and dentists willing to participate, and how it would impact the coverage that employers are currently offering.
This kind of thing even leads me to agree with my buddy Rick Winkel, whom I almost never agree with.
Most details of who would be eligible and exactly how the program would work were left out of the All Kids legislation, which was introduced and passed within three days during last month's veto session. The bill left those decisions to the discretion of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, formerly the Department of Public Aid.
That made area Republicans like state Sen. Rick Winkel, R-Urbana, uncomfortable.
"This body is essentially being asked to delegate its legislative authority to an administrative agency," Winkel said before voting no on the bill. "I have a big concern about that."
I'm sorry. I agree all kids should have medical coverage. All kids MUST have medical coverage. And I think the only way to accomplish that is to have the state do it. I'm willing to go along with that.

I really, really, really hope this is the measure that will accomplish the goals that must be accomplished. I hope it works. I just can't see how it can. I hope I'm wrong.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Not playing the game

It would seem that Sen. Barack Obama is not out to become the most popular guy in Washington DC.

The Illinois Democrat is advocation revolution. Insurrection. Stealing candy from ... politicians.

Turning the Capitol upside down and inside out.

He's actually advocating cutting pork. Doesn't he realize that pork is the fuel that D.C. runs on?

Yet in today's Chicago Tribune, Obama advocates cutting pork to pay for real, needed projects. You know, like paying to rebuild from the Katrina disaster:

Chicago Tribune
| Cutting `pork' to rebuild coast: "It's time for a return to responsibility in the budget process.

I know there are Democrats who don't want to give up spending, Republicans who don't want to give up any tax breaks for the wealthy and members of both parties who don't want to give up pet projects back home, but now is a time for shared sacrifice. Americans want members of both parties to put all options on the table to start solving this problem.

I believe that we can quickly find $100 billion for Gulf Coast reconstruction with a balanced approach that finds half the money in spending cuts and half the money in the delay and repeal of tax breaks, primarily for millionaires."
And Obama doesn't just talk in platitudes and rhetoric. He has ideas:
To cut $50 billion in spending, we could put a two-year moratorium on all pet projects and other local spending. We could defer projects such as the $10 billion mission to Mars or eliminate unnecessary business subsidies.

We could drop funding that gives private companies extra incentives to participate in the new Medicare drug program--as the Senate already has agreed to do, though the White House has refused thus far.

We could save Medicaid money by increasing the rebates that brand-name drug manufacturers owe the program.
Wait. There's more!
Others intent on cutting spending have pointed to Alaska's "Bridge to Nowhere" as a wasteful project. I agree and believe that it represents the first type of project we should cut. But it's wrong to single out one state's pork project. If we're serious about shared responsibility, let's eliminate all pork projects in all states. To find $50 billion in tax breaks, we could postpone a planned tax break for millionaires, and we could temporarily roll back one of the tax cuts for those who make an income of more than $2 million per year.
Something this open, transparent and refreshing doesn't often come from our political leaders.

But it sure sounds good when it does.

You go, Barack.

And so it goes.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Litmus test

Was there ever any real doubt?

You knew where Samuel Alito stood on abortion without ever having to ask, didn't you? But the White House, GOP insiders and conservative wingnuts have sworn all along there is no litmus test for Supreme Court nominees.

That kind of thing, they say, is the province of those commie Libs.

Documents Reveal Alito's Abortion View - Yahoo! News

WASHINGTON - Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito wrote in 1985 that he was proud of his Reagan-era work helping the government argue that "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion," documents showed Monday.

Alito, who was applying in 1985 to become deputy assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration, boasted in a document that he helped "to advance legal positions in which I personally believe very strongly."

"I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government argued that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion," he said.

The document was included in more than 100 pages of material about Alito released by theRonald Reagan Presidential Library and the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library on Monday.

If that doesn't scare you yet, consider this from the same article:

In the document, Alito also declared himself a "lifelong registered" Republican and a Federalist Society member, and said he had donated money to the National Republican Congressional Committee, the National Conservative Political Action Committee and several GOP candidates.


"I am and always have been a conservative and an adherent to the same philosophical views that I believe are central to this administration," Alito said.

Alito wrote that he believed "very strongly in limited government, federalism, free enterprise, the supremacy of the elected branches of government, the need for a strong defense and effective law enforcement and the legitimacy of a government role in protecting traditional values."

In the document, Alito said he drew inspiration from the "writings of William F. Buckley, Jr., The National Review and Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign."

I feel much better now. It's now obvious that Alito will be a fair, impartial juror, judging every case on its merits, not on its politics.


And so it goes.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Buh-Bye, Cheef

Finally. The NCAA just told the UI -- and the UI Board of Trustees -- it's time to get off its butts and get back into the real world. In a decision handed down Friday, the NCAA in effect said The Cheef is 'hostile and abusive,' despite what a handful of blindly loyal and sadly misguided alumni seem to believe.

The Cheef must go. - NCAA - NCAA rejects Illinois' appeal of mascot ban
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois lost its appeal of the ban on the university mascot Friday and will remain on a list of schools prohibited from hosting NCAA postseason events after February.

The NCAA will allow Illinois to keep its "Illini" and "Fighting Illini" nicknames. The university contended those nicknames derived from the name of the state.The governing body, however, said Chief Illiniwek remains a "hostile and abusive" image of American Indians. The mascot is a student dressed in buckskins and headdress who dances at halftimes of home football, basketball and volleyball games. The tradition began in 1926."

The NCAA staff review committee found no new information relative to the mascot known as Chief Illiniwek or the logo mark used by some athletics teams that depicts a Native American in feathered headdress, to remove the university from the list," said Bernard Franklin, the NCAA's senior vice president for governance and membership.
The decision actually was a compromise. And it's one I think I can support. UI gets to keep the name Illini and even 'Fighting Illini.' But as long as the Cheef remains, the UI can no longer host NCAA post-season events.

Although the UI can continue the charade with a completely hopeless appeal to the NCAA executive committee, all that really remains is one question:

Will the UI decide to handcuff all sports and all athletes at the UI -- save football and basketball -- by keeping the Cheef and eliminating any chance of any postseason competition on campus?

Or will the UI finally wake up and make the decision that's been needed for a couple decades?

The ball is in your courts, BOT

Watcha gonna do?

And so it goes.

Falling, falling

Poor W-imbecile. Nobody likes him.

Poll: Most Americans Say Bush Not Honest - Yahoo! News

WASHINGTON - Two crucial pillars of President Bush's public support -- perceptions of his honesty and faith in his ability to fight terrorism -- have slipped to their lowest point in the AP-Ipsos poll.

While the CIA leak investigation, the mishandling of Hurricane Katrina and high energy costs have all taken their toll, the polling found the Iraq war at the core of Americans' displeasure with the president.

All of those concerns are cutting into traditional Bush strengths. Almost six in 10 now say Bush is not honest, and a similar number say his administration does not have high ethical standards.

It's a shame it took the American people this long to figure out what a den of thieves we have in the White House.

Read the rest of the story. It doesn't get any better. (Or it just keeps getting better and better. Depends on your perspective.)

And so it goes

The Wrath of Pat

I see where God's personal assassin on Earth, Pat Robertson, is at it again.

Pat's called down the wrath of God (and of Pat) on the town of Dover, PA, because they voted out eight school board members who were insistant on forcing 'Intelligent Design' to be taught as part of the school's science curriculum. It's not science, folks. It's just not.

According to CBS News (among others)
(CBS/AP) Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson warned residents of a rural Pennsylvania town Thursday that disaster may strike there because they "voted God out of your city" by ousting school board members who favored teaching intelligent design.

All eight Dover, Pa., school board members up for re-election were defeated Tuesday after trying to introduce "intelligent design" -- the belief that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power -- as an alternative to the theory of evolution.

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city," Robertson said on the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club."
Nice to know that Pat has such a personal relationship with the Almighty that he's privvy to the Lord's various smiting of towns and people who offend Him. It's amazing just who He choses to be His spokesman on Earth. You'd think God could find someone with just a little bit more credibility than Pat Robertson, who's becoming a laughingstock both of the secular and the Christian camps

If you remember, Pat's called for assassination and nuclear action in recent months to carry out God's plan here on Earth.
Robertson made headlines this summer when he called on his daily show for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

In October 2003, he suggested that the State Department be blown up with a nuclear device. He has also said that feminism encourages women to "kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."
Guess Pat's latest action pretty well puts to rest the fantasy that 'Intelligent Design' is something other than forcing the teaching Christianity back into our schools.

I mean, after all, if God's gonna smite us for NOT teaching it, what else can it be?

Thanks, Pat, for clearing that up. (And if you get any other advance information about impending Almighty smitings, please be sure to keep us informed, Pat, won't you?)

It's this type of garbage that makes me slightly embarrassed to be a Christian.

And so it goes.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

What's that smell?

Something smells pretty rotten in local politics.

It appears that the altruistic motives of state Sen. Rick Winkel in retiring at the end of his term are something less than altruistic.

In his political career, I can think of only one or two issues where I've agreed with Winkel. But at the same time, I considered him a fairly straightforward and moderately honest politician. As honest as anyone in Illinois and the Illinois GOP could be. Someone who attempted most of the time to rise above the sleeze.

Guess I was wrong.

It appears that, at the recommendation of Rep. Tim Johnson, Winkel is being pushed for the open post of U.S. Attorney for central Illinois. At least that's what Wednesday's News-Gazette says.

On the surface, that doesn't sound like such a sleazy thing. Until you consider:

In immediately taking the post, Winkel will have to resign his state Senate seat early. A seat that's being hotly contested by both parties. Winkel's early resignation opens the seat up for a pre-election appointment.

Quoting the New-Gazette's onpaper edition:
If Winkel were to become the U.S. Attorney, it is unclear who would complete his term in the Senate, which has more than a year to run. But [Judy] Myers, who announced last week that she hoped to get back into the Senate, would appear to have the inside track. The vacancy would be filled by the two Republican county chairmen, Steve Hartman in Champaign County and state Rep. Bill Black in Vermilion County.
Well, isn't that conveeeeeeenient?

Wee Willie Winkel gets a political plum post for which he's only marginally qualified, Myers becomes an incumbent, giving her shaky campaign a boost and the rest of us lose -- on both counts.

A little sleazy, slimy and underhanded.

Add to that one other little fact included near the bottom of the NG story: Winkel admits that as a civil, not a criminal attorney, he's not really qualified to become a U.S. Attorney.
Winkel acknowledged that he had no experience as a prosecutor. "My background is primarily civil litigation, mostly in the state courts but with some experience in the federal system."
So what, exactly is civil attorney Winkel's qualifications to fill a criminal attorney position? Oh, plenty:
"But I have served on the Judiciary committee in the Legiuslature. And in my (application) letter I wrote that I believe I have an extensive background."
Well, that certainly eases my troubled mind. After all, it's been proven that a civil attorney can easily fill a criminal prosecutor's post. Remember John Piland?

Oops, bad example.

All in all this little scenario is just a little too convenient, a little too planned, a little too orchestrated to be coincidence.

It's just plain sleazy.

But what do we expect from the state GOP? Remember GOP poster child George Ryan? Whatever happened to HIM?

And so it goes.

ADDENDUM: I discovered shortly after posting this that practically every blogger in North America already had weighed in on this issue. Sorry for the redundant redundancy. What can I say, I got the paper late.


Wednesday, November 9, 2005

It's only money

And they said it with a straight face, I'll bet. From the AP:
WASHINGTON - The chiefs of five major oil companies defended the industry's huge profits Wednesday at a Senate hearing where lawmakers said they should explain prices and assure people they're not being gouged.
But if that's the case, how do they explain this?
ExxonMobil, the worlds' largest privately owned oil company, earned nearly $10 billion in the third quarter. Raymond [Lee Raymond, chairman of Exxon Mobil Corp.] was joined at the witness table by the chief executives of Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BPAmerica and Shell Oil USA.
Together the companies earned more than $25 billion in profits in the July-September quarter as the price of crude oil hit $70 a barrel and gasoline surged to record levels after the disruptions of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Well, if you have lots of lawyers and lots of statistics and lots of doubletalk, (and lots and lots of chutzpah) you can explain away almost anything. Truth is the first victim....
Raymond said the profits are in line with other industries when profits are compared to the industry's enormous revenues.
Of course we know they were telling the truth, right? After all, they were testifying before Congress? Well, not exactly. They really didn't want to be there, and they didn't want to promise to tell the truth. They refused, with the approval of the GOP, to testify under oath. They refused to swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but ...
Democrats had wanted the executives to testify under oath, but Republicans rejected the idea.

"If I were a witness I would demand to be put under oath," said Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii.
So, if they refuse to testify under oath, in effect if they refuse to affirm that what they're telling Congress is actually the truth, why bother showing up at all? Simple, they're trying to diffuse a bomb. A windfall profits tax bomb.
A number of Democrats, joined by a few Republicans, have called for a windfall profits tax on oil companies.
The executives hoped to dampen any further momentum for calls for taxing windfall oil company profits, something still viewed as a longshot but also no longer out of the question. Such a tax could inhibit investment in refineries or oil exploration and production, the industry argues.
Given the threat, why would the oil executives WANT to testify under oath. Why would they WANT Congress and the American public to know the truth? The truth that they've used natural disasters to gouge the American public at unprecedented levels. Well, they don't want us to know the truth. That's the strategy. Lie, but look sincere. Hope no one notices the elephant in the corner.
The oil industry's record third-quarter profits -- at a time when motorists were reeling from unprecedentedly high gasoline costs and warned of huge heating bills this winter -- have caught the attention of both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. Some analysts predict the 29 largest oil companies will earn $96 billion this year.
$96 billion? $96 billion? That makes for some hefty executive bonuses, I'd surmise. Provided, of course, that by blowing smoke at Congress (and at us) they get to keep it.

And so it goes

Monday, November 7, 2005

Headed for a fall

It was so beautiful today driving around town and seeing the $1.99.9 price on gasoline. Only wish I hadn't filled up at $2.06.9 a couple days ago.

Despite our good fortune, I have to ask why? Why have our prices fallen nearly a dollar a gallon in less than a month? I thought we were having a shortage. That's the story big oil (and the White House) sold us.

I read a lot of news (online and onpaper) and have yet to see where any hurricane-damaged refineries (if there actually were any) that had been taken off line have gone back ON line. I haven't read of any offshore oil platforms going back on line.

What I have heard is Congress, specifically Congressional Democrats, beginning to put the heat on the oil companies. And beginning to look with a skeptical eye at record profits in the last quarter. Obscene record profits.

Coincidence? I doubt it.

Aside: Please don't give me any of that bullstuffing about supply-and-demand change and the free market at work. Given the market we've had the last year, in relation to gas, oil, diesel and heating oil there is no free market. When one company sneezes, all the others reach for tissue. If you don't understand that you're living with your head so far up your gas pump you are unable to acknowledge reality.

Someone or some entity is starting to look at the record profits made by the price gouging oil companies. And if they're busy defending their obscene gas profits, they just aren't gonna be able to start the winter heating oil gouging in time to make -- even more obscene record profits.

Nevertheless, when it comes to gas price ... let it fall, let it fall, let it fall.

And so it goes.

Sunday, November 6, 2005

Sunday musings

Just wondering. Why is it that most blogs and bloggers seem to take the weekend off?

Is most blogging done on company time? At company expense?

What do the companies think of that? Do they know it's going on?

Isn't there time on weekends to blog and read other blogs?

And so it goes.

Friday, November 4, 2005

It's the Whigs' fault

You know, I suspected this.

Sen. Tom DeLay, R-Indicted, recent former majority leader, knows who to blame for the deficit, the economy's problems, unchecked congressional spending and even perhaps 9/11. Oh, yeah, and the bird flu and hurricanes. It's the Democrats.

But you all knew that, didn't you?

This article in the San Jose Mercury News (via Knight Ridder) explains it all.
Republicans may control Congress and the White House, but a leading House Republican says they can't be blamed for runaway federal spending on their watch.

Blame it on the war, said Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas. Or the Democrats.

"The 9-11 recovery, the war on terror, our homeland security buildup and related priorities have required Congress to spend more than we otherwise would have," the former majority leader of the House of Representatives told an audience Thursday at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

"These things needed doing, and they needed doing quickly. Yes, they were expensive, but they were necessary and time-sensitive, and, given the circumstances, we were right to err on the side of security over thrift."

He also blamed Democrats, complaining that they haven't offered any suggestions on how to cut spending. He said they created a congressional budget process that makes it difficult to cut spending.

"We've been operating off a Congress designed by Democrats," he said.
Just exactly how long can the GOP go on blaming someone else for its failures? It's beginning to sound like the little kid who blames space aliens for breaking the lamp. It's not MY fault. It's those nasty space aliens, uh, Democrats. It's always someone else.

Problem is, the Republicans took control of Congress in 1995, 10 years ago. They've controlled the White House for 5 years.

How long, Tom, how long?

Even conservatives (at least some) are beginning to wonder. From the same article:
J. William Lauderback, the executive vice president of the American Conservative Union, challenged DeLay's version of congressional spending history. He told DeLay that he ignored the fact that only one-third of the rise in federal spending under Republicans stemmed from security.
Will the GOP ever begin to take responsibility for their failures?

My guess is no.

And so it goes.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Unsafe at any speed

Some people want to blame the buses

Others want to blame the pedestrians.

Still others say speed is to blame.

And finally, some say too many turns are the problem.

They're all right. And they're all wrong.

The fact is, in an area like the UI campus and Campustown, with 40,000 students and another 10,000 to 15,000 support-type folks (not to mention merchants and assorted employees, along with a few of us brave townies) in a very confined and compact area, there is going to be pedestrian-vehicle interaction. These interactions occasionally will result in death. Sorry, it's a fact.

We can legislate and tinker endlessly; we can wring our hands, seek innovative solutions, try new tactics, try OLD tactics, try anything, and we still will have pedestrian-vehicle interactions.

It's been going on since there were students and vehicles. I daresay more than one student was trampled by a horse and buggy a century ago.

Which is why after a day of contemplation and pondering, I came to the conclusion that the Champaign City Council did something right. Feel free to read that sentence again, if you don't believe it's in this blog.

The council did not give in to quick fix solutions and lower the speed limit from 25 to 20 in Campustown. Instead, the council voted 9-0 (9-0!) against such a move. They saw what every rational person already knew. A pedestrian hit by a bus going 20 mps will be just as dead as one hit at 25 mph.

The only thing the cut in speed limit will do is increase the number of un-ticked traffic lawbreakers. Almost no one's gonna really cut their speed 5 mph in Campustown. Would you? Get real. And for the few who do ... they're gonna be paying more attention to the angry drivers behind them standing on their horns than to the pedestrians.

The second part of the equation is that the speed limit in Campustown and throughout C-U is largely unenforced as it is. Is it logical to think that the same police who ignore most traffic offenses are suddenly gonna become ultra vigilant in Campustown? Even if they do, catching one in 20 or one in 40 means 19 or 39 drivers are still speeding.

Won't happen.

So, what's the solution?

Answer: There is none.

You put that many pedestrians and vehicles in that confined a space and accidents will occur. Simple. If you reduce the number of buses, you increase the number of cars tenfold or twentyfold. If you reduce the number of cars, you increase the number of hard-to-maneuver slow-to-stop buses getting students and others from place to place quickly.

The only real 'solution' would be to ban vehicles from campus and Campustown. Won't work. Businesses will close, students will have no way to get from one end of campus to another in a timely fashion and the university will be irreparably damaged.

The only thing anyone can do is education: convince pedestrians that they might stay alive longer if they follow the laws. Convince drivers that pedestrians make lousy hood ornaments and are largely oblivious, inattentive and must be looked out for constantly. You know, like small children.

And then: Pray.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Damn right

I tried for an hour to write something both witty and at the same time outraged at Senate Majority Leader Republican Bill Frist's little hissy-fit over the Democrats' move to call for a closed session to investigate the administration's lies heading us into the Iraq debacle.
But I couldn't come up with anything nearly as good as Damn Liberals' take. Here's an excerpt:
For all the liberals and progressive Democrats out there, as well as any American interested in why all the intelligence used to rail road this county into war turned out to be crapola, allow me to say just one thing to Mr. Frist:

Shut your fucking pie hole.

Just shut it. Your party used Rule 21 in the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Your party, under your leadership, routinely keeps five minute votes open for 45, 60, 90 minutes against Senate and House rules to twist arms until they get the vote they want. Your party's president has continually recommended judicial nominees without so much as even consulting with Democrats in a complete break from past practice, historical norms, and general respect. Your party's leadership is in the running to challenge Nixon's for the most indictments in this country's history!
I urge everyone to go to Damn Liberals and read the whole post.

I couldn't state it better myself. I know; I tried. (Well, I might have softened the profanity a bit.)

And so it goes.

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Big surprise

I was shocked, shocked, I tell you.

In a move that surprised exactly no one, ex-state legislator Judy Myers of Danville announced her candidacy for the 52nd Senate District. Who would have imagined?

It's been area politics' worst-kept secret for a couple of weeks, so the formal announcement, made in separate dog-and-pony shows in Danville and Champaign, caught no one by surprise.

Nor did any of the other 'news' accompanying the announcement. News like statements from former state Rep. Tom Berns and political hack and Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden will not be running for the position. Seems like the area Republicans want a unified candidacy in order to keep the seat in GOP hands. (Or they fear their already confused, disunified party structure can't afford anything like an actual open race.)

Why they think a legitimate primary race would hurt I can't imagine. A spirited race gets lots of names out into the public consciousness. Name recognition counts for more than a few votes in a race like this.

Or are they so afraid of Democratic challenger Champaign County Auditor Michael Frerichs of Gifford that they can't afford anything but lockstep unity? (Insert smiley emoticon here.)

Meanwhile, certain factions within the area GOP ranks are insisting that Myers will be a slam-dunk winner over Frerichs. I don't know how they figure this.

When Myers took over for state Sen Harry 'Babe' Woodard, she represented Vermilion, Douglas, Clark, Coles, Edgar and Iroquois counties. When her district was redistricted to include parts of Champaign County, she was defeated in the 2002 primary by Rick Winkel.

Her new district would include the eastern half of Champaign County and all but the top portion of Vermilion County. The territory covers the communities of Allerton, Alvin, Belgium, Bismarck, Broadlands, Catlin, Champaign, Danville, Fairmont, Fithian, Georgetown, Gifford, Henning, Homer, Indianola, Longview, Muncie, Oakwood, Ogden, Philo, Potomac, Rantoul, Ridge Farm, Royal, St. Joseph, Savoy, Sidney, Thomasboro, Tilton, Urbana and Westville.

There are a lot places in that list that Myers has not shown particular strength in. Figure in Champaign and Urbana, which may be reluctant to be represented in the state Senate by someone from outside of Champaign County, and what you have is a race.

Hardly a slam-dunk, despite what some delusional Repubs would have you believe.

It's a long journey from the announcement to the state house. And it's a tough fight ahead for a 66-year-old former legislator. Particularly one who was an awarded a late-term patronage appointment by outgoing Gov. George Ryan. You know, the former governor now being tried for about a bajillion counts of corruption.

Sure, she can win it. But she can lose it, too.

And so it goes.