Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Tuesday Post - Illinois Issues Year End edition

Well, as I usually try to make my big post of the week on Tuesdays, this week I found a bit of a challenge while scouring the news for more stuff to read. Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune has challenged us Illinois-based bloggers to find the Illinois stories we've been blogging. I'd like to highlight two that I've covered from downstate.

First, there was the decision earlier this year to eliminate the 183rd Fighter Wing from the Illinois Air National Guard and reduce the ANG presence at Capital Airport in Springfield to non-flying units only. I argued that the 183rd helped to provide necessary air coverage for national defense, while Mayor Tim Davlin argued on an economic basis and US Representative Ray LaHood provided a plethora of defenses. Sadly, the Base Realignment Committee is sending Springfield's fighter squadron packing to Indiana. The effect of the loss will be subtle, but the lack of hearing pairs of fighter aircraft taking off every morning over the city will make the city seem empty.

Second, there have been some notable academic fistfights in Illinois colleges. While my fellow blogger John Ruberry has been masterfully handling the story of fired DePaul professor Thomas Klocek and other DePaul issues of free speech, I've been watching my alma mater of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and its troubles in the History department and in troubles with race-preferential fellowship awards.

Earlier this year, Professor Jonathan Bean was accused of racist tendencies because of an optional reading assignment about the "Zebra killings" in the San Francisco area in the 1970s. Mind you, this was for a class on radical movements in the US in the 1960s and 1970s, so the article about black radicals forming a group to kill whites would be appropriate. Instead of refuting the article, Professor Bean's fellow faculty members and graduate students denounced him as a racist and attempted to shut him out of the dialogue at the school. Fortunately, Professor Bean had help from the Administration in the form of verbal on-record support and he returned to SIUC. There are still other internal issues to reckon with, so this case is not yet completely open and shut.

Shortly after that, attorneys from the US Department of Justice sent a series of legal correspondence to SIUC to announce that they would investigate race- and sex-based preferential treatment in handing out money through a series of contested fellowships. While no suit has been started as of yet, I hope that the DOJ and SIUC attorneys are working out something to resolve the issue amicably. Southern Illinois University has seen its share of troubles between slinging around charges of racism at professors for offering up an article for the class to defend or deny and preferential treatment from three publicly-funded fellowships. These two issues

Although these stories may not have been as important to Chicagoans as George Ryan's trial, Peotone's airport woes, Hired Trucks, or Rod Blagojevich's Very Important Hair/ troubles with questionable contract practices, the loss of an Air National Guard unit and troubles at a state university will affect Illinoisans in one way or another. With our luck, it'll be our checkbooks that get hit hardest. So here's to a Happy 2006; may we find our state in better condition for all next year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

NPR sued for fraud?

Okay, this is just stupid. Because a Detroit area public radio station changes its format, listeners are suing under the claim that they were defrauded. I think it's funny that liberals are suing a liberal bastion of news and information. I also think it's very unfair that listeners are expecting to be able to make management decisions. Seriously, folks, if you don't like a radio station, turn the dial and don't contribute to it during pledge drives. I don't listen to much public radio unless they're playing classical music. All Things Considered is actually kind of boring compared to being able to read newspapers and wire services all over the world. That and the "you are there" sound effects of some of the pieces are hokey if not outright pathetic. If I'm listening to the radio in the car it's because I want traffic or weather information, or else I'm listening to an internet radio feed. I will admit, however, that I have gotten quite a few stories that have piqued my interest thanks to Don Wade & Roma, the WLS morning hosts. I guess the sleepy monotone of NPR's news programs just rubs me the wrong way. In my younger days I enjoyed NPR mostly due to Car Talk. Even then I balanced out their news with other sources.

All in all, NPR doesn't have to worry too much. If all else fails the WDET management can just find the bureaucratic layering needed to shield itself thanks to the federal government. It's very sad to see the lawsuit culture attacking a network that has championed so many lawsuits and the victims who brought those suits to court.

I suppose they'd have just burned the station down if the managers had added a radio version of "Firing Line" or somesuch.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Post-Christmas Tuesday Post

Hi, all! I hope your Christmas was a pleasant one.

I have found out that I need to go Mass far more often than I do. The Christmas Eve Mass at St. Mary's in Buffalo Grove was very different than what I'm used to. There were quite a few changes from the Masses I used to know and love. For one, it seemed so upbeat. It wasn't as solemn as I remember. I understand the commemoration of Jesus' birth as a cause of celebration. It just seemed like we were supposed to be more solemn in our rememberances back even two years ago. After all, He came to this world to suffer and die for our sins, and that was the central reason for our Mass. I suppose that since this was the childrens' Mass it wouldn't do to focus upon that. And I also really need to check in to what Mass is what. I felt, well, kind of uncomfortable there. I guess if I'd had children participating in the Christmas pageant it would be different. Next time, I suppose I should try to find the not-so-sociable single people's Mass or something. Seriously, though, Saint Mary's parish is beautiful, and I hope to be at Mass on a far more regular basis. The folks there are quite friendly.

Easter, on the other hand, now THAT'S a time to celebrate.

Well, let's check in on the news, shall we? A little thing on WLS this morning reminded me that yesterday was the 1-year anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami. The amount of direct donations and support we gave to the affected countries, especially Indonesia, shows that we're good people no matter how much some Europeans talking heads may act. At least we know how to distribute money properly between relief and overhead, unlike the UN's tsunami relief efforts. If they keep that up, every UN employee can have a Mercedes-Benz sedan for his own personal use, just like Secretary-General Kofi Annan's son.

Nationally, the press is still running around trying to find out more dirt on the warrantless eavesdropping incidents that are causing folks to stop and think about what's happening with our intelligence gathering agencies. Slate's Mickey Kaus thinks this could be a gold mine for President Bush's approval instead of a land mine. After all, this shows that the President's administration really is trying to sniff out those who would do harm to us, according to Mr. Kaus. Kaus, mind you, isn't exactly a supporter of President Bush. The item is titled "So that's what he's been doing" if you want to locate it quickly. Mr. Kaus also seems to think that massive monitoring through the Echelon system is okay (according to his post on 12/24/05), which makes me wonder if he meant what he said sarcastically. Even after spending time in the Air Force where secrecy was paramount and monitoring was regular, monitoring via Echelon still gives me the heebie-jeebies.

There was also this little incident where a student at the University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth was claiming he was "being monitored by Homeland Security agents" for trying to check out a copy of the Quotations of Mao Zedong (the "Little Red Book" of the Cultural Revolution and 1960s leftist veneration). Well, wouldn't you know? It was all a hoax. The student (who is very lucky that his local paper is keeping his name off the front page) finally confessed to the lie after he shifted his story more times than a NASCAR transmission. If anyone pinned their hopes on this case as being the one to prove once and for all that the Patriot Act was oppressing the poor, pitiable and stupid college student, well, they were wrong.

Here in Illinois, some good news for the Pro-Life crowd: Abortions are at a 30-year low. Is this due to abstinence programs, better contraceptives, or more women listening to their consciences and asking God for guidance? Pro-abortion advocates say that it's due to better access to conraceptives, and anti-abortion spokespeople are citing teen abstinence programs. My own personal hope is that more women are asking God for guidance and deciding to let their babies live and get the chance to become useful members of society. I'm probably way off the mark, but I'll keep the hope there. Everyone is looking for one solid answer and I think that you'll see a lot of scientific answers and fewer answers based on religious faith. It's the right thing, but for the wrong reasons. Over 41 thousand babies were aborted last year according to the article. It's over 41 thousand too many as far as I'm concerned. Yes, I know, there I go again with my Utopian dreams, but this is one thing I think that could resolved far more easily.

Onto the college circuit where it seems that Southern Illinois University at Carbondale is having its Christmas break. So, I thought you all might be interested in taking a look at these memos sent to me that outlined the current arguments in the investigations of race-based fellowships at the school. I don't see any mention of them on the website listed on the November 4 memo (located on the page 1 of the memo marked "DOJ August." So with this, I urge my readers to follow the credo of "reader beware." I HAVE NOT YET BEEN ABLE TO VERIFY THE VERACITY OF THESE MEMOS, SO BE VERY CAREFUL IN READING TOO MUCH INTO THEM.

Here is the initial memo marked July 19 2005. This is the DOJ's initial announcement of complaints.

Following that, we have a second memo informing SIUC counsel that the Department of Justice found merit to the claims and would pursue a suit unless the university modified its stance on race-preferential fellowships. NOTE: This memo was received by me backwards from page 3 to page 1. Scroll to the bottom and work your way up the screen to read it.

Finally, there is SIUC's counsel giving a response to the above two memos. The message boils down to "Prove it, but please don't sue us if you don't mind." Sounds like a good tactic to me.

I'm going to double check these with the DOJ for their accuracy. I don't think we'll have another Texas Air National Guard memo fiasco like the 2004 election season, but it never hurts to look twice. Anyway, read these primary source documents and make your own decisions.

In the world of the NFL, Indy lost. Again. This had better not be indicative of a trend. I would like to be able to start my posts on football next season with "The World Champion Indianapolis Colts..." On the other hand, this was the expected loss of the season, as Seattle has a dynamite team. Adding head coach Tony Dungy's loss of a son last week, and you can see how the Colts wouldn't be up to par this time. Next week, though, look out.

So, folks, that's about it. I hope you all have a wonderful week and a Happy New Year if I don't write again this week. Later!

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

I hope all of you were able to spend it with your loved ones in one way or another. To all the US servicemen around the world who are making it safe for me to sleep at night, I want to say thank you for picking up where I left off in 1996. I couldn't have a better group of men and women defending my way of life anywhere else in the world. I hope you'll be reunited with your families and friends soon. Thank you, and Merry Christmas.

Take care and see you all on Tuesday.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Tuesday Post - this time, on Tuesday!

Hello once again, everyone. Wonder of wonders, my regular weekly post of things of interest to me is actually on time. Hopefully the late postings of the last two weeks will be anomalies and not indicative of a trend.

Let's take a look at news items that looked rather interesting, shall we?

German authorities released from life imprisonment one of the terrorists from the 1985 TWA hijacking that left a US Serviceman dead. Nice to see the German foreign minister saying "It's not our problem" as to where this guy goes. It also looks like he was released to secure the freedom of a German hostage in Iraq. Wouldn't it have been easier to extradite this guy to the US back in the 1980s? I guess not. The German government wouldn't have had a bargaining chip, would they? Danke fur nicht, Deutschland.

If we catch this guy in Iraq, what does it say about terrorist recidivism rates? Would this make for a far stronger case for summary execution of terrorists as illegal combatants in accordance with the Geneva Conventions?

Nationally speaking, we also have this case with the Bush Administration defending the use of no-warrant domestic surveillance of suspected terrorist contacts in the US. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 should have been amended to allow for such searches, but Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor looks like he has found a roundabout set of precedent that allows for such things. Byron York's latest National Review Online article shows precedent from Bill Clinton and makes former Deputy AG (and 9-11 Commission member) Jamie Gorelick look like a stuanch defender of the practice. "But Clinton did it too!" is a weak argument as far as I'm concerned and ought to actually raise flags about the legality of such practices.

Jeff Soyer's post at Alphecca brings up the 4th Amendment question of the NSA actions quite nicely. What assurances do we have that these surveillances made in a time war don't get used as precedent for warrantless domestic surveillance in a time of peace? The pragmatic answer to the domestic surveillance issue is "do it regardless of the legal issues and use the information to locate and kill those who would harm our nation." The Bush Administration's answer is "better to do this and ask forgiveness than get blamed for inaction if something happens, and hope we found enough legal precedent in the meantime." Mine is "Update old espionage laws to reflect new technology and tactics, but make sure Constitutional rights are reasonably uninfringed." Debating reasonableness is of course the next step. All in all, I don't know if Professor Kerr's legal reasoning on the NSA eavesdropping actions is completely sound (and I'm pretty sure he'd agree with me on that) but when dealing with a murky subject like espionage, any allowances made for the sake of expedient action have to be followed up with some serious protections.

May I mention that Rod Blagojevich doesn't like veterans' preference laws or any part of Illinois that doesn't rhyme with "Shook Bounty?" Okay, that's not totally accurate, but an article in the State Journal-Register shows that Ol' Blaggie is unwilling to fire an Illinois Department of Employment Services manager who got his job by moving around a veterans' preference law. The worst part is that the guy who has the job of taking care of employment services in Freeport only wants to do it from the comfort of his Chicago-area environs. Drop the guy and re-open the job.

After those national- and state-related issues, why do I seem to have "Breaking the Law" by Judas Priest playing in my head? Eh, it's appropriate enough. Even when the government has good intentions, something always sems to get stepped on. This is one of those cases where Ronald Reagan's saying of "Government doesn't solve problems; Government IS the problem" holds true.

Normally, I'd add something about SIU's legal troubles with race- and sex-based bias in fellowship distribution but today I'd rather highlight Glenn Poshard asking for help in funding the SIU Medical School's new lab facility in Springfield. It's being used by all kinds of state agencies at the moment as the SIU President can't get the cash to run the cancer center envisioned for the building. A centrally-located cancer treatment facility is a great addition to the Springfield area, as it will help serve the folks who can't make the two-hour drive to St. Louis or the three-to five hour drives to Champaign (if there's a center there) or Chicago. Mind you, getting something similar in Carbondale would also be a huge benefit to southern Illinois, too. For now, though, let's worry about funding the center in Springfield. Private donations, anyone?

The Colts lost their first game of the season to San Diego. Ouch. Here's hoping that the loss this week gets the team re-focused and ready to win all the way through to the Super Bowl.

City of Heroes has a lovely addition this week to its usual game. How do superheroes celebrate Christmas? They save it from peril, naturally! The heroes of Paragon City must take a trip to the heart of the Rogue Isles and recover presents stolen from local charity drives! Those who succeed get the amusing reward of a Santa hat. Silly? Sure. Fun? You betcha! Nefarious villains also get the cance to ruin Christmas by stealing presents meant for the poor and needy. Hokey and melodramatic? What, you were expecting character-driven studies of depressing people talking in their apartments about France? Not gonna happen! Also, Christmas presents left around the city by a mysterious figure called "The Gamester" can determine if you're naughty or nice, apparently. If you're nice, you get a surprise that will help you out in your time of need. If you're naughty, you get attacked by killer snowmen! How can you not appreciate a game like this?

Well, that's it for now, dear readers. Have a Merry Christmas if I don't see you before the next Tuesday post.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Another late Tuesday Post

Sorry for the delay, everyone, work has been a bear lately. So, I'm going to make this as quick as I can.

International news: The parliamentary elections in Iraq are going well. There's been election violence there, but I think the ordinary Iraqis have had it with car bombings. Once they have a government of their own, I think there's going to be even less tolerance for suicide bombers. Hopefully the locals there will help Iraqi and US troops root out those who would attempt to sway the election through violence. All I can do from here is lend moral support and give my best wishes to those who are creating a new country democratically.

National news: Stanley "Tookie" Williams was executed after exhausting all of his appeals. The guy murdered four people and founded the Crips, and there was enough evidence to both convict Williams and warrant the death penalty. His death should be a reminder to criminals. All that temporal power and all that apologizing after the fact or blaming society for your actions doesn't save you from paying for your crimes. It's sad that Hollywood's B-list came out to support this guy's plea for clemency. Of course, so did International ANSWER, a World Workers' Party and Communist-founded agitation group. I think the protest wasn't so much to protest the death penalty or even Williams' death sentence, but more to use this incident as a backdrop to hurl more invective at the Bush administration. I'm pretty neutral on the death penalty, in that I want to make VERY sure the person being executed is guilty of murder. According to some of the prison guards at San Quentin, Williams' claims of redemption rang hollow when compared to the threats he and his gang members made against the lives of the guards and their families. I got this from the Fox News reporter Sean Hannity interviewed on his radio show last night, so take it with a grain of salt if you so wish. Either way, Stanley Williams is receiving his final judgment.

State news: The fellowship mess at SIU is very interesting. I received copies of DOJ and SIUC correspondence about this and I'm checking 'em out once I get the chance. SIUC is going to use the recent University of Michigan admissions case as precedent, but that deals with preferential race-based admissions, not preferential race-based governement-funded financial aid. Hopefully the rules get changed to provide true equity.

Local news: Last week, the Chicago area got slowed down by snow, and this week the street departments are ready for it. Okay, that's me being optimistic. I think the snowplows will have to deal with snarled traffic just as much as commuters. The freak accident at Midway Airport makes me wonder if that third airport might not be so bad of an idea. And will changing the layouts of buildings and utility lines make it easier for pilots to land there? According to a report relayed on WLS this morning, the buildup of light poles and utility lines makes 700 feet of the main runway unusable due to the pilots needing to dodge the lines. If this is the case, the City of Chicago needs to do what's right and change those light and utlity line configurations.

Sports news: Indianapolis is 13-0. Three more games and hopefully Indy will meet Miami's perfect season record. I hope they can keep this tempo through the playoffs as well. Colts fans have been through a lot of bad years since 1984, and now it's time to get a little something back from the team for our support.

Computer gaming news: City of Heroes is doing its Christmas event, and I logged in to find all of my heroes had been given a flight pack to use through the holidays. It's VERY fun. And some polayers have sworn they've seen a jolly guy in red riding through the air in a sleigh. Could it be Santa, or could it be a devious trap by Paragon City's most heinous villains? You'll have to play to find out, or at least I will.

I also wish to note that Civilization 4, the latest Sid Meier game of empire-building, is VERY addictive. Building your cities and making them grow the way you want is just as much fun as minimalizing and conquering your misguided neighbors. It's very graphics-intensive, though, and on my old computer it's very slow and likely to crash. I guess it's time to upgrade the processor, motherboard and video card after all. Currently my Germans have held the Romans and Greeks to a combined total of four cities in Europe. The Romans have three and the Greeks have one. Mind you, I've kept them like this since about 1800BC. My current turn as of last night was 1933AD where I'm having to deal with the Chinese, Japanese, and Egyptians trying to muscle in on my claim to the entire New World. One way or another, their cities in North and South America will join the Germans. The Romans have three cities and those cities are losing the culture war to things like German cinema, musicals and rock music. The Greeks have Athens in a similar manner as well as a few weak cities in western Africa. Egypt and Persia have a mild border war going on, and India is trying to goad the Persians into a "Let's you and him fight" with the Mongols.

In a way, it's very similar to the real world.

Well, that's all for now. Hopefully the regular Tuesday Post will stay a Tuesday Post and not shift to Wednesday. Take care, everyone!

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

AP: Air Marshal Shoots Suspect at Miami Airport

Ladies and gentlemen:

Do not, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES run off of a plane yelling that you've got a bomb in your bag. According to the same story in the Chicago Tribune, the suspect was rumored to have bi-polar disorder and was not taking his medication.

If this isn't a reminder to take one's medications, I don't know of a better reminder.

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The Tuesday Post - Wednesday Edition!

Okay, so I was asleep at the keyboard this week. I'm a bit busy.

Well, let's start out with some news that happened today: State Senator Steve Rauschenberger is pulling out of the 2006 Republican gubernatiorial contest, and aligning himself with Ron Gidwitz. Gidwitz is apparently for abortion rights, and Rauschenberger is known as a pro-life type of guy. I don't get this move by Rauschenberger. He doesn't have the money to campaign, that's true enough, but playing second fiddle to an abortion supporter seems politically risky. He might be trying to distance himself from Judy Baar Topinka, and that might not be the wisest idea. She might only be the State Treasurer, but she basically IS the heavyweight champ of the state-level GOP insiders. For whatever reason, I thought "what a crazy pair" when I heard of Rauschenberger running for Lieutenant Governor. Now, I have the theme song from "The Patty Duke Show" stuck in my head. I blame Nick at Nite.

Does the Illinois Republican Party have someone like Glenn Poshard to run for governor? If so, will he please stand up and be recognized? We need a decent downstate candidate, and badly.

Last week, a group of terrorists in Iraq captured some members of the "Christian Peacemaker Teams" anti-war/ anti-US victory organization. These are the same people who throw themselves in front of Israeli troops as they're about to return fire on Palestinian terrorists. As a denunciation of how much they hate our President and the UK's current Prime Minister, the hostages have said they do not wish to be rescued by military action.

I have no problems with sending in a military unit to recover their bodies should they find themselves executed. My bet is that they'll suffer from Stockholm Syndrome and convert to Islam to save their necks. How soon before they start preaching jihad against the Christian infidel? Of course, if we do what's right we'll have a rescue team sent in no time flat to pull these peacemakers out of harm's way. After all, sometimes you have to intervene to keep people from doing stupid things to themselves. If it chafes these guys so much to rescue them, better that they can complain about on tv after the fact than have another video sent out of another horrific beheading. If they're executed, the blood is on the terrorists' hands, on the hands of the activists themselves, and on those who support their mission. I'll be happy to see them returned without firing a shot, yes, even though I love irony in many of its guises. I don't think that a non-violent solution will be found unless it is backed by the threat of violence, though. American pacifists may never understand this.

Today is December 7. Do these "peacemakers" know what today represents? Would they have thrown themselves in front of US military forces and allow the brand of fascism used by the Japanese at the time to take root in Asia? Would they have asked us not to retaliate? Probably. And people would have shoved them aside as they deserve. We went through a messy, confusing, often-censored war until victory was achieved after that morning in 1941. Now we have a messy, confusing, uncensored war on our hands that people are trying to exit without victory being truly won. We removed the Ba'athists in the actual war itself. Mission accomplished there. Now in the bloody mission to rebuild Iraq and make it self-sufficient, people want to run. It is wrong to leave now when we're not done giving the Iraqis a hand up. A stable government that respects all its citizens, an army that will not cause its citizens to worry about being attacked for their differing tribal alliances or religions, and a nation with the ability to do business with the world without fear of having its peaceful interests quashed by internal troubles: this is what I hope for Iraq. This is what our troops are trying to create.

I was going to talk at length about the CPT's spokesperson not being able to answer WLS radio pundits Don Wade & Roma on the question of whether or not Iraqis prospered and were treated like human beings under Saddam Hussein, but I won't. I'll just say that if you can't tell the difference between people living in fear of a dictator and those same people living in actual peace that maybe you need to take a second look at your own moral compass. Hate the President all you want, but don't take the side of dictators just because they're opposed by Republicans.

I see that Saddam Hussein is on trial and acting every bit the pompous bastard he was when he ruled Iraq. The fact no one has punched his lights out during these outbursts is a testament to the patience of Iraqi judges. They're calmer than I would be over this.

The Indianapolis Colts are 12-0. Beautiful! Four more games to go, gang, and maybe we'll see something that hasn't been done in over 30 years.

So, that's it for now. Take care, everyone!

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Saturday, December 03, 2005

Ban on video games shot down

Let's hear it for putting responsiblity back into the hands of parents. While Governor Blagojevich might have made a very few conservatives happy with this, it was easy to see it was a blatant ploy to look like he was protecting "the children of Illinois." State retailers are happy that this system of fines didn't go through.

Federal Judge Matthew Kennelly was right on in this decision. It does encroach upon First Amendment protections, though it does so very lightly. We cannot ban things simply because they're tasteless. Nor can we fine retailers for selling legal products to legal buyers. The mission of parents to watch what their kids do has been set back on the proper course.

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