Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"Pimpin' Ain't Easy."

"I'm not a pimp!" -- Cosmo Kramer, Seinfeld, April 4, 1996.

From Charles Madigan, Trib senior writer and blogger-scold, in your March 1, 2006, Chicago Tribune:
People who pick up questionable things and present them as real are info-pimps.

I just invented that word. I like the sound of it.

It conjures images of parasites, laptops in place, typing up a storm and then putting it out on the street, where the gullible, thinking it's the real deal, just gobble it up. ***

The Tribune is an info-pimp free zone, from its snappy bloggers to boring old me.

So, you best believe it's mainstream media and thank your lucky stars that it's here because without it, you can't imagine the kinds of folks you would be hanging out with.
From your October 17, 2004, Chicago Tribune:
[F]or his resoluteness on the defining challenge of our age -- a resoluteness John Kerry has not been able to demonstrate -- the Chicago Tribune urges the re-election of George W. Bush as president of the United States. ***

Kerry displays great faith in diplomacy as the way to solve virtually all problems. Diplomatic solutions should always be the goal. Yet that principle would be more compelling if the world had a better record of confronting true crises, whether proffered by the nuclear-crazed ayatollahs of Iran, the dark eccentrics of North Korea, the genocidal murderers of villagers in Sudan -- or the Butcher of Baghdad.

In each of these cases, Bush has pursued multilateral strategies. In Iraq, when the UN refused to enforce its 17th stern resolution--the more we learn about the UN's corrupt Oil-for-Food program, the more it's clear the fix was in -- Bush acted. He thus reminded many of the world's governments why they dislike conservative and stubborn U.S. presidents (see Reagan, Ronald).

Bush has scored a great success in Afghanistan -- not only by ousting the Taliban regime and nurturing a new democracy, but also by ignoring the chronic doubters who said a war there would be a quagmire. He and his administration provoked Libya to surrender its weapons program, turned Pakistan into an ally against terrorists (something Bill Clinton's diplomats couldn't do) and helped shut down A.Q. Khan, the world's most menacing rogue nuclear proliferator.

Many of these cross-currents in Bush's and Kerry's worldviews collide in Iraq.

Bush arguably invaded with too few allies and not enough troops. He will go to his tomb defending his reliance on intelligence from agencies around the globe that turned out to be wrong. And he has refused to admit any errors.

Kerry, though, has lost his way. The now-professed anti-war candidate says he still would vote to authorize the war he didn't vote to finance. He used the presidential debates to telegraph a policy of withdrawal. His Iraq plan essentially is Bush's plan. All of which perplexes many. ***

John Kerry has been a discerning critic of where Bush has erred. But Kerry's message -- a more restrained assault on global threats, earnest comfort with the international community's noble inaction -- suggests what many voters sense: After 20 years in the Senate, the moral certitude Kerry once displayed has evaporated. There is no landmark Kennedy-Kerry Education Act, no Kerry-Frist Health Bill. Today's Kerry is more about plans and process than solutions. He is better suited to analysis than to action. He has not delivered a compelling blueprint for change.

For three years, Bush has kept Americans, and their government, focused -- effectively -- on this nation's security. The experience, dating from Sept. 11, 2001, has readied him for the next four years, a period that could prove as pivotal in this nation's history as were the four years of World War II.

That demonstrated ability, and that crucible of experience, argue for the re-election of President George W. Bush. He has the steadfastness, and the strength, to execute the one mission no American generation has ever failed.
info-pimps (ĭn'fō pĭmp) n., People who pick up questionable things and present them as real.

That is a handy word, Mr. Madigan.

A very handy word.

Today's Squick: Printable Cold Sores!

"I am in no way responsible for your actions, I am merely presenting a theoretical solution to a real-world problem."

Hell is for Children

Matthew 25:31-46
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
And from your Chicago Tribune, some local news about the "least of these":
The DuPage County Board on Tuesday refused to permit the opening of a transitional residence for up to 30 foreign refugee children in an upscale residential area near Naperville.

The board voted 12-4 to deny an application from Heartland Human Care Services Inc., of Chicago, to open the facility in a three-story residence at 23W735 Hobson Rd.

The facility would have housed about 30 children, mainly from India and China, who arrive in the U.S. illegally and without parents. Ranging in age from infancy to 17, they would stay for 60 to 90 days while they were being placed elsewhere.

"We are very disappointed at this outcome," said Susan Trudeau, director of Heartland's child welfare program, which operates a similar facility for 54 children in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood.
No doubt, Illinois' always vocal anti-choice leadership will speak out against the DuPage County Board's callus treatment of these refugee children.

Well, except for one thing -- the refugee children in question are actually born and breathing. And the lives of non-virtual children never seem to merit their outrage.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Friday Only: Free Detroit Cobras Show from Bloodshot Records

"If Iggy Pop, Berry Gordy, and Jackie DeShannon fornicated in the back seat of a ’63 Thunderbird, the drunken, swaggering Detroit Cobras would slither from the orgiastic rendezvous." -- Magnet Magazine

From your friends at Bloodshot Records:
****FREE SHOW*****

That’s right, NO COVER!!!!


Get a taste of the Cobras' upcoming CD “Tied And True” (out 4/24)

Soul lives below the belt, and whether you’re looking to be grinding it slow or shaking it up good, the Cobras bring it tough and tender, savage and sweet. Tied and true.

Friday, March 2nd @ Logan Square Auditorium
2539 N. Kedzie
18 and up
Doors at 9, Show at 10pm

Free music giveaways and more!!!
And remember: Free Music means more money left over to spend on beer CDs!

Todd Snider: You Got Away With It (A Tale of Two Fraternity Brothers)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Your DuPage GOP: History on the March!

From your Chicago Tribune:
DuPage County Republican Party Chairman Kirk Dillard is looking to pass on the reins of the state's most powerful GOP stronghold -- and state Senate colleague Dan Cronin is lining up support to succeed him.

Dillard, a Hinsdale state senator, said he was being pulled in too many directions with his recent appointment as the Senate's Republican whip, his two young daughters and his work for a law firm. As county GOP chairman, Dillard said, he attended 182 meetings last year for an unpaid job that took up to 50 hours a week -- all to preserve the party's near-perfect electoral record in the increasingly diverse western suburbs. ***

"While DuPage County is still solidly Republican, the job is much tougher today than it's been in DuPage County's history. Just ask Peter Roskam," Dillard said. ***

While stopping short of endorsing Cronin, Dillard said he "is a winner and he presents the right image and is articulate." Cronin (R-Elmhurst), 47, an attorney who has served in the state legislature since 1991, said he was "thrilled" at the possibility to lead a party "in need of fortification." No other potential candidates have stepped forward.
DuPage County is shifting blue and the GOP leader is stepping down because the job is taking its toll... So what important DuPage issues are the Republican leaders addressing via letters to the editor this week? Mr. Dillard's letter to the Sun-Times:
I enjoyed your "Celebrating Black History Month" piece on Muddy Waters (Feb. 13). Unfortunately, you failed to mention that McKinley Morganfield (a k a Muddy Waters) lived in suburban Westmont after he lived on Chicago's South Side. more.
Hmmm... Making sure that Westmont gets its due in a story about Muddy Waters is a pressing issue, but surly Mr. Cronin will address something more topical than a legend who died in 1983... Right? Mr. Cronin's letter to the Chicago Tribune:
This is in response to Eric Zorn's column "Obama-Lincoln comparisons favor new guy" (Metro, Feb. 13). Now I've heard it all. ***

Obama is a charming young man who has been catapulted into the stratosphere because of a vast media network that wants to make him into something he may not be. Frankly the more appropriate comparison of Obama and a past president would be: Barack Obama is today's Jimmy Carter
One day, perhaps, Republican leaders will address the many issues facing DuPage County voters in this century.

Friday, February 23, 2007

It's Probably Damned Good Pizza.

The National Business Review (NZ) explains:
A complaint made against a Hell Pizza billboard featuring US President George Bush has been partially upheld by the Advertising Standards Complaints Board (ASCB).

The advertisement featured Mr Bush and the words "Hell. Too good for some evil bastards".
The ASCB is part of the New Zealand system of advertising self-regulation.

Fake Bloggers: Threat or Menace?

From the Boston Globe:

With big corporations now hiring public relations firms to pay fake bloggers to plant favorable opinions of the businesses online, many political bloggers are concerned that candidates, too, will hire people to pretend to be grass-roots citizens expressing views.

"This is going to happen more and more, and blogs are going to have to be vigilant," [Erick Erickson of] said in an interview. "I expect there will be commenters jumping in and trying to build negative campaigns to cause scandal for the other side. That's my fear." ***

"Campaigns and organizations promote their candidates and efforts, obviously," Markos Moulitsas, the founder of, a prominent liberal blog, said in an e-mailed response. "If they do it openly, it's well accepted. If they use sock puppets (create aliases to hide their identities), then it's a big deal."

Sure, we're heading into a presidential campaign that is expected to cost a billion dollars ($1,000,000,000!) and these goofs are afraid of the "big deal" of "fake bloggers."

Here is a free tip to candidates tempted to pay "fake bloggers": Don't do it.

Not because it's wrong or a "big deal," don't do it because it is a huge waste of money.

By the way, I'm not a fake blogger -- I'm a fake person.

Mentally Guitarded

Have I told you lately that I love the Old Town School of Folk Music?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Bush Legacy

Toddler: Primo Dummass

From your Chicago Sun-Times:
On the eve of his biggest day as Cook County Board president, Todd Stroger took to name-calling of elected officials he says have whined too much about having to cut their budgets.

State's Attorney Richard Devine and Sheriff Tom Dart are "prima donnas" who have complained about cuts on "just about every talk show," Stroger said Wednesday.
I tried to think of an analogy, i.e. "Todd Stroger calling someone a 'prima donna' is like..."

I just couldn't think of one that would do justice to this instance of childish name-calling.

But the next time that a person who has been nothing but a grotesque failure in a job that he inherited due to lies told to the voters criticizes an individual who is doing a supremely difficult job, I'll have the perfect analogy ready: "That is like Todd Stroger calling someone a prima donna."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Free Stuff!

If you're like me, you like free stuff. Free stuff like:

Free Pancakes!
Join IHOP to celebrate National Pancake Day (also known as Mardi Gras, or Shrove Tuesday) on Tuesday, February 20, 2007. From 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., we’ll give you one free short stack (three) of our famous buttermilk pancakes. All we ask is that you consider making a donation to support local children’s hospitals through Children’s Miracle Network, or other local charities.

Free Music!

Greg Kot of your Chicago Tribune told me about this one:
One of the best albums of the new year can't be bought.

Tim Fite's "Over the Counter Culture" is both a critique and a celebration of hip-hop. It's packed with crackling beats, wicked humor and "did he just say that?" audacity. But it won't be available in any store. Instead, it will be distributed as a free download through the artist's Web site (, starting Tuesday. ***

"I had the magical experience of being turned on to hip-hop before it was totally mainstream," says Fite of the late-'80s heyday of Boogie Down Productions, Public Enemy and De La Soul. "Everybody has their first musical love, and rap music -- and especially the politics of it -- were what turned me on and what got me excited, that there could be a form of music that was socially conscious and untainted seemingly by big business. But along the way it stopped being a voice and became a product. Now it takes the worst stereotypes that society has to offer and amps them up to ridiculous caricatures of what a population can be and then uses those characteristics to market a product that is a mockery of itself."

Monday, February 19, 2007

Less is More -- Tribune "Management" Given Stock Bonus

From your Chicago Tribune:
At a regular board meeting Tuesday, [Tribune Co.] directors awarded 10 top executives restricted stock worth $12.4 million, according to government filings.

The biggest grant went to Chairman and Chief Executive Dennis FitzSimons, who received 135,000 restricted shares worth $4.1 million at Tuesday's close of $30.40 apiece. ***

FitzSimons' grant of 135,000 shares, for instance, was more than twice the 60,000 shares he received last year, despite a 4 percent drop in the company's operating cash flow and flat stock performance during 2006.
Wow. Low performance merits extra stock at Trib Inc.? Maybe an executive compensation expert could explain that logic. The Tribune newspaper asked Richard Harris, a principal at Hewitt Associates in Lincolnshire for an explanation:
Options are worthless if the stock price stays below the strike price. Restricted stock has value whether the stock is rising or falling and consequently dilutes the other shareholders to some degree no matter what.

In 2005, for instance, FitzSimons received 200,000 options with a strike price of $40.59 a share. But the stock has fallen since then, meaning those options haven't been worth exercising.

Meanwhile, FitzSimons received 60,000 restricted stock units last year. This week, he became vested in 20,000 of them, with a value of $608,000.

For this reason, Harris said, options encourage performance, while restricted stock makes a better retention tool. For a company in flux like Tribune, he added, that can be worth a lot if the board is intent on keeping management.

"They're not doing it to reward performance," he said. "They're doing it to retain executives."
And Trib Inc. certainly can't afford to lose the management genius who lead the company to flat stock value and a 4 percent drop operating cash flow.

"If y'all really like to rock the funky beats, somebody in the house say, 'Hell yeah!'"

As part of their 20th Anniversary tour, Public Enemy will be playing the House of Blues on March 8.

If you don't understand the significance and influence of Chuck D, Flav et al., you need to take a listen to this BBC Radio 1* documentary on PE appropriately entitled: Fight the Power (mp3 download).

*The Brits had to do the PE documentary because the Prophets of Rage are not without honor, but in their own country, and among their own kin, and in their own house.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Profiles in Courage at the Sun-Times

Copy editors are often the quiet heroes of journalism. Among their duties at our nation's newspapers is the critical task of providing short and informative headlines for pieces written by other journalists.

A good headline entices a reader and accurately conveys the content of the piece. But sometimes a column catches a copy editor in a moral dilemma: will he serve the interests of his employer by enticing the reader to waste his time reading an illogical, disingenuous piece or will he bravely serve the reader with a headline that accurately conveys the weakness of the column?

So God bless the copy editors at your Chicago Sun-Times.

By titling Steve Huntley's column "'Toothless' Congress resolution might end up having real bite" the copy editor took a stand for the reader. By letting us know up front that the column's author would never take a strong stand and instead wander about aimlessly, the copy editor let a discriminating reader know that he could move along without missing anything of substance.

But rather than wisely heed our heroic copy editor's warning, I foolishly staggered into the tangled thicket of Steve Huntley's column.
The Democrats pushing the resolution [against the troop surge in Iraq] express the hope that a big vote for it -- and up to a dozen Republicans back it -- means Bush at last will realize that he must change his policy. But it appears that only facts on the ground in Iraq will ultimately sway Bush.
Due to an utter absence of evidence, Huntley offers no instances where the Bush administration has ever, in any way, been influenced by "facts on the ground in Iraq."
Foes of the resolution see its meaning as undermining the morale of our troops in Iraq and giving comfort and encouragement to our enemies. It's true that al-Qaida has made clear that the Islamist killers believe Americans have no stomach for a drawn-out guerrilla war.
In addition to "Islamist killers," the Bush administration clearly believed that Americans have no stomach for a drawn-out guerrilla war. That is why the invasion's architects -- and its media cheerleaders -- told the American people the Iraq war would be short and simple.

But apparently America should continue to feed troops into the Iraq meat-grinder so that men like George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Steve Huntley can hide from the ugly reality of a protracted guerrilla war in Iraq -- an Iraq war that the Sun-Times editorial page helped sell.

Of course, this is a Steve Huntley column, so inevitably we must face his weekly illogical attack on Sen. Barack Obama:
Sen. Barack Obama proposes a bill to start a "redeployment" of U.S. forces May 1 and have "all combat brigades" out by March 31 of next year but has no funding component to enforce its goals. The Constitution does not empower the Senate to direct troop movements.
I'm sure that, despite teaching the subject at the University of Chicago, Sen. Obama appreciates Mr. Huntley's efforts to instruct him on constitutional law.
Obama and other Democratic leaders oppose a funding cutoff because they think it comes across as not supporting the troops.
"It comes across as not supporting the troops" is Mr. Huntley's coy way of saying, "Will be portrayed as not supporting the troops."

Mr. Huntley then immediately proceeds to put forth just such a portrayal.
Obama got into a bit of trouble the other day when he talked about the lives of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq as being "wasted." The Democratic presidential candidate quickly backed away from that word, but one could be forgiven for suspecting that it expressed his true sentiment. After all, he famously referred to Iraq as "a dumb war." What's noble about dying for a dumb war?
Note Mr. Huntley's use of the false dichotomy: "Noble deaths" versus "Wasted deaths." Of course, those capable of complex thinking recognize that a solider can lead a brave and noble life but still have his or her courage and nobility wasted by foolish and craven leaders.

And with regard to Sen. Obama's characterization of the Iraq invasion as a "dumb" war, let's recall the invasion apologists' rationale for the invasion, i.e. because of Iraq's close ties to al Qaida, Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and Iraq's imminent threat to the U.S.

Wrong. wrong and wrong.

Wrong and dumb.

Mr. Huntley continues:
And if young lives are being flushed away in a hopeless cause, a conflict already lost, wouldn't the right thing to do be to exercise leadership and take the tough measure of defunding the war?
And on the issue of whether "young lives are being flushed away in a hopeless cause," wouldn't the right thing for a newspaper columnist to do be to stop the cutesy rhetorical questions, man up and take the tough measure of declaring a position one way or the other?

Mr. Huntley then takes cover behind the writing of others:
The Web site, which first reported this development, described Murtha's plan to reduce the number of units deemed combat ready and available for Iraq as "a slow-bleed strategy." Is that a phrase the Democrats want to carry to the American people, or the soldiers?
Certainly they wouldn't. Which is why Mr. Huntley dragged out that web site quote. [UPDATED below]

But what the hey, Mr. Huntley's cheap rhetorical tricks might be fun -- so lets give 'em a try: In the comments on this blog, Greg described Mr. Huntley's paper as "a waste of trees." Is that a phrase the Sun-Times wants to carry to its advertisers, or its subscribers?

Hey that was fun! But it left me feeling a little dirty and ashamed. Back to Mr. Huntley:

The Democrats say they want, as the House proposal puts it, "to support and protect" the troops. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the smart and affable majority leader in the House, declared Wednesday that "there is not a member of this body, not one, on either side of the aisle, who does not pray for our nation's success in Iraq."

The American people haven't heard much of that.

Mr. Huntley, the editorial page editor of a major metropolitan newspaper, seems to be at a loss as to why the American people have not been exposed to this message. Personally, I have a couple of ideas...
The desire to support the troops doesn't seem to go so far as having the anti-surge resolutions include language along the lines of saying, for example, "whatever our reservations about the president's policies, we fervently hope and pray that the troops are successful in their mission."
So on the one hand, Mr. Huntley is annoyed by the empty rhetoric of the House resolution against the Iraq surge, but on the other hand he is annoyed that it doesn't have enough empty rhetoric. It's almost like opponents of the Iraq occupation can't do anything in the eyes of Mr. Huntley. But if that were true, surely Mr. Huntley would say so rather than hide behind quotes from web sites and rhetorical questions.
One unintended outcome from their effort may be to leave the Democrats appearing to the American public as having a political stake in failure by the troops in Iraq. They can counter that Bush's strategy doomed the troops to failure from the start. Still, given the passions unleashed by the war, and the emotions and recriminations that would accompany defeat, who can tell what judgments the public ultimately will make?
Yes, we can't know their ultimate judgment but we do know who will help craft the public's judgment -- brave journalists like Steve Huntley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

UPDATE: At the time of the original post I was unaware that Mr. Huntley's use of the Republican catch phrase "slow bleed" was a cornerstone of the GOP's national strategy (mp3 download) for opposition to bringing troops home from Iraq.

Mr. Huntley's zealous use of the Republican leadership's term of choice shows exactly where he's getting his talking points and by extension exactly which side of the Iraq occupation debate he is supporting.

My apologies.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Canvassing -- and Film Making -- the Chicago Way

Bridget has temporarily shifted her lens from Bollywood to cinema verite documentary.

I smell an Oscar!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Pickett's Charge: Boobs at Sun-Times Wanted Public Breast-Feeding Story

Debra Pickett is leaving the Sun-Times.

Michael Miner of your Chicago Reader tells us why:
“I laughed,” says Pickett, recalling her response when features editor Christine Ledbetter called with the assignment to breast-feed her infant son in public places and write about it.
The breast-feeding story has been reassigned to Mark Brown.

I'm Sold!

I wasn't sure what I thought of the U.S. disarmament pact with North Korea until I read this AP story in your Chicago Sun-Times:
Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton called the pact "fundamentally flawed." ***

"I will be the saddest man in Washington" if President Bush goes along with the agreement, Bolton said.
An end to the North Korean nuclear weapons program and an unhappy John Bolton?

This pact would undoubtedly be the Bush Administration's finest accomplishment.

Update -- Shorter Fred Kaplan:
After years of trash-talking the pact that the Clinton administration negotiated, the Bush administration broke down and made the same deal.

Other People's Kids

"In my view, a right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children is among the 'unalienable Rights' with which the Declaration of Independence proclaims 'all Men . . . are endowed by their Creator.'" -- Justice Antonin Scalia, Troxer v. Granville (dissenting)

But as this story in your Chicago Tribune indicates, there are limits to parents rights and sometimes the state simply must step in:
A daughter of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was arrested Monday night in Wheaton and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and child endangerment, Wheaton Deputy Police Chief Thomas Meloni said.

Ann S. Banaszewski, 45, of Wheaton was stopped about 7:25 p.m. in a 1996 Ford Econoline van near Gamon Road and Longfellow Drive after a citizen reported a possible drunken driver was at the McDonald's restaurant near there, Meloni said.

Three of Banaszewski's "small children" were in the van with her at the time, leading to the child endangerment charge, Meloni said. He would not disclose their ages. Meloni would also not disclose details of her alleged intoxication, but said she submitted to a field sobriety test, though he could not disclose its outcome.

"Probable cause was established to arrest and charge the driver with DUI," Meloni said. Banaszewski was taken to the Wheaton Police Station, where she was released on her own recognizance, Meloni said.

A police officer dropped her children at a family friend's home, a "common practice" when someone is arrested with children, he said.
Let us all hope that Justice Scalia's child is treated with the justice tempered with mercy that he would deny the children of others.

Emanuel: It's Time to Make Work Pay

Rahm Emanuel (IL-5) and Democratic Leadership Council president Bruce Reed make a strong case for the Democrats proposed minimum wage increase in your Chicago Tribune:
The case for raising the minimum wage for the first time in a decade is simple and straightforward. The current minimum wage has lost 20 percent of its purchasing power since the last increase in 1997 -- and in real terms, is at its lowest point in more than half a century. Meanwhile, the number of Americans living in poverty -- which declined by 7 million under the Clinton administration -- has risen by more than 5 million under Bush. ***

Now, in their desire to duck the minimum wage, many conservatives have found a new excuse that is even more galling than the last. Conservative theorists like economist Gary Becker and Judge Richard Posner are urging Congress not to raise the minimum wage but to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit instead. ***

Over the last six years, the Bush administration and Congress had ample opportunity to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit. Even as they were handing out $3 trillion in tax cuts, Republicans couldn't find any money to expand the tax credit and reward millions who actually needed help. Instead, they cut every possible tax on wealth and shifted the burden to those who work for a living.

The Republican war on work didn't end there. According to IRS Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson, at least 75 percent of the 1.6 million requests for tax refunds that were tagged as fraudulent and frozen over the last five years were from tax credit applicants, the vast majority of whom had done nothing wrong.

Now, the same Republicans who have attacked the tax credit all these years are using it to attack the minimum wage. Apparently, Republican theorists only find the tax credit valuable when it offers them a convenient way to oppose raising the minimum wage. ***

Raising the minimum wage and expanding the tax credit should not be an either/or policy. History has shown that adopting both is a proven way to support working families. During the Clinton administration, an increase in the minimum wage coupled with the expanded Earned Income Tax Credit led to improved wages for moderate-income workers.

If conservatives want to prove they have the working poor's best interests at heart, they should vote to raise the minimum wage now -- and then join us in supporting tax reform that rewards work as well. We have proposed a Simplified Family Credit that would combine the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Credit, and the Dependent Credit into one credit for working families with children, while providing more benefits to more families than all of them combined. This plan would eliminate 200 pages of the tax code -- and instead of a 54-page booklet, applicants would get a one-page form.

Americans working their hearts out to join the middle class don't deserve a lecture on how to raise wages and protect jobs from the same crowd that has brought the country lower wages and fewer jobs. It is time for Republicans to join our efforts to pass the minimum wage and reward work -- and stop looking for hypocritical excuses not to get the job done.
Although I have had my differences with Rep. Emanuel, I'm pleased to see that he has found a constructive way to distract himself from the
Obama/Clinton tug-of-war.

Todd Will Provide

Homer: Ok, we need forty-thousand dollars. How much do we have in the checkbook?
Marge: Seventy dollars.
Homer: Have we deposited any forty-thousand dollar checks that haven't cleared yet?
Marge: No.

Eric Herman reports on Cook County's Simpsonsesque accounting in your Chicago Sun-Times:
Cook County Board President Todd Stroger on Tuesday "identified" $25 million in additional funds for the offices of the Cook County state's attorney and public defender, and other programs.

If delivered, the funds will alleviate two issues of concern to lawyers in the criminal courts: Shorter work weeks for public defenders and alleged pay disparity suffered by prosecutors. ***

The funds will restore $8 million to the public defender's budget, eliminating the need for shortened work weeks, Stroger spokesman Steve Mayberry said.

They also will restore $1.8 million to the state's attorney's office, he said. That money will be used to establish pay parity between prosecutors and public defenders. ***

The funds also will save the state's attorney's "drug school" program from the budget ax. ***

Other programs to be saved by the $25 million include drug therapy for AIDS treatment at several clinics and the Access to Care health program.

The money will come from the transfer of $13.2 million from the Forest Preserves, $4.25 million from the sale of the old Domestic Violence Courthouse, the elimination of jobs exempt from the federal Shakman decree and other sources, Mayberry said.
You know the Toddler's administration is running a tight ship when it finds $25,000,000 in the couch cushions.

This line from the lead editorial in your Chicago Tribune says it well: "What's increasingly obvious is that Stroger lacks the maturity and skill to lead the reform agenda his inaugural speechwriters promised."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Steyn of the Apocalypse

"As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly." -- Proverbs 26:11

In this week's Controversy section of your Chicago Sun-Times, Mark Steyn returns to his vomit disinformation about the economy and global climate change.

After earning his S-T cheque with several column inches dedicated to proving he is clever, Steyn purports to address the facts of global climate change:
In the course of the 20th century, the planet's temperature supposedly increased by 0.7 degrees Celsius, which (for those of you who want it to sound scarier) is a smidgeonette over 1 degree Fahrenheit. Is that kinda sorta staying the same or is it a dramatic warming trend?
Setting aside his dodgy use of "supposedly," Steyn's facts are (relatively) correct. Temperatures have risen by 0.74 degrees Celsius over the past century. But that number must be kept in perspective:

The temperature difference between today and the ice age is only 5 degrees Celsius.

It seems that when it comes to the global climate, small changes can have big effects.

And Steyn, like all climatological flat-earthers, insists on applying an exclusively long-term view to the history of climate change while applying a short-term view to the future.

Connoisseurs of global warming denials will notice that, when those opposed to climate change science discuss global warming, they always and invariably insist on viewing the planet's climate in terms of change over the entirety of the last century -- e.g. "It's only a smidgeonette warmer since 1900." They rely on this rigidly enforced perspective because it allows them to ignore some -- dare I say it? -- inconvenient truths.

Truths including this simple fact:

It's no wonder why deniers like Steyn simply refuse to look at the globe's recent climate history.

But let us now turn to Steyn's view to the future:
And is nought-point-seven of an uptick worth wrecking the global economy over? *** [F]aced with a degree rise in temperature, we could destroy the planet's economy, technology, communications and prosperity. And ruin the lives of millions of people.
Now note Steyn's deception -- he is reaches backward to the climate change over the last century for his climate change figure but he reaches forward to economic projections for his cost of addressing climate change.

But at the risk of offending Steyn fans with intellectual honesty, let's take a look at actual scientists projections regarding climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a group of climate scientists organized by the U.N. to evaluate the risk of climate change brought on by humans, based mainly on peer reviewed and published scientific/technical literature. Although the IPCC is led by government scientists, it also involves several hundred academic scientists and researchers. The IPCC synthesizes the available information about climate change and global warming and has published four major reports reviewing the latest climate science.

The IPCC climate scientists' most recent report (.pdf file) concludes that, without a reduction in green house gasses, by 2100 the sea level will rise between 7 inches and two feet due to a temperature rise of between 1.1 and 6.4 degrees Celsius (2° to 12° F).

Recall that a mere five degrees separates our current temperature from the Ice Age and you will recognize that the IPCC scientists predicted temperature rise for the next century is more than a mere "smidgeonette."

So what should we do? Steyn offers the following false dichotomy:
[W]e could destroy the planet's economy, technology, communications and prosperity. And ruin the lives of millions of people.

Or we could do what man does best: adapt.
Oddly enough, although I disagree with what Steyn means, I agree with what he says.

Steyn says that men should adapt and I agree. But unlike Steyn, I believe that those who should adapt are not the Bangladeshis who are threatened with rising coast lines or the Chinese threatened with increasing desertification. I believe that those who should adapt are the multinational corporations and first world governments who are best positioned to adapt.

For decades, those who prospered under free market capitalism have championed the market's superiority to other economic systems. They have trumpeted its ability to adapt to any circumstances and to overcome obstacles. And unlike Steyn, I believe in the robustness of our economy. I believe in the ability of entrepreneurs to meet the challenge of reducing mankind's carbon-dioxide emissions. I don't think that our way of life is so fragile that we must protect businesses and economy from the realities of the 21st Century.

Unlike Steyn, I have faith in the market economy's ability to adapt to global green house gas reduction without "
destroy[ing] the planet's economy, technology, communications and prosperity."

But we must not be too hard on Mark Steyn.

The world -- never mind the future -- must be a very scary place for a man who doesn't believe in either science or capitalism.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Happy Birthday

NPR's Present at the Creation tells the story of the Lincoln Memorial
Looking up from the feet of the statue, whose gaze extends over the Reflecting Pool and on toward the Washington Monument, it's hard to imagine that the Memorial was constructed at all. It almost seems as though it must have existed, fully formed, since the creation of the union itself.
NPR Bonus: The Lincoln Penny

Saturday, February 10, 2007

And, in 2000, I Voted for that Mother F....

From Jeffrey Goldberg's New Yorker profile of Holy Joe Lieberman:
In another conversation, [Lieberman] told me that he was reading “America Alone,” a book by the conservative commentator Mark Steyn, which argues that Europe is succumbing, demographically and culturally, to an onslaught by Islam, leaving America friendless in its confrontation with Islamic extremism.

The thing I quote most from it is the power of demographics, in Europe particularly,” Lieberman said. “That’s what struck me the most. But the other part is a kind of confirmation of what I know and what I’ve read elsewhere, which is that Islamist extremism has an ideology, and it’s expansionist, it’s an aggressive ideology. And the title I took to mean that we Americans will have ultimate responsibility for stopping this expansionism.”

And what does Mark Steyn say the power of demographics in Europe?

Here is Steyn -- the pride of the Sun-Times -- on the ethnic cleansing, i.e. genocide, of Bosnian Muslims:

Why did Bosnia collapse into the worst slaughter in Europe since World War Two? In the thirty years before the meltdown, Bosnian Serbs had declined from 43 percent to 31 percent of the population, while Bosnian Muslims had increased from 26 percent to 44 percent. In a democratic age, you can’t buck demography — except through civil war. The Serbs figured that out — as other Continentals will in the years ahead: if you can’t outbreed the enemy, cull ’em. The problem that Europe faces is that Bosnia’s demographic profile is now the model for the entire continent.
In 2000, who could have guessed that the Democratic nominee for vice-president would, just seven years later, be quoted commending a book that rationalized European genocide?

Damn, I miss 20th Century America.

The Pride of the Sun-Times

Steve Huntley, editor of your Sun-Times editorial page, once again battles the forces of logic and judgment:
It's axiomatic in politics that the presidential primaries force candidates to kowtow to the extremes of their parties. So far in this very early campaign season, anti-war fury on the left is causing more trouble for the leading Democratic moderate than social conservatives are for Republican front-runners.
A poll conducted in the first week of February indicates that only 26% of Americans -- of both parties -- approve of Bush's war. The "anti-war fury" the Bush's war no longer has anything to do with "left v. right" -- if it ever did (scroll down to question 19)
Among the Democratic Party presidential hopefuls, Sen. Hillary Clinton has been the focus of anti-war rage, even being heckled at a recent party meeting. Yet by any fair standard, her position on the war is reasonable. In essence, she says that if she had known then what we know today she would have voted differently.
So Hillary's position -- "if she had known then what we know today" -- is "reasonable" under "any fair standard."

Therefore, other reasonable positions under the Steve Huntley "fair standard" include:
  • If I had known then what I know today, I would not have finished that bottle of tequila.
  • If I had known then what I know today, I would not have bet the mortgage money on red.
  • If I had know then what I know today, I would never have let my son join the Army Reserve.
I guess it is reasonable to regret one's regrettable decisions, but that is a damn low standard for a presidential candidate.
Clinton's problem is that she doesn't have a challenger from the right. Former Sen. John Edwards jumped into the race and shoved the debate to the left by making forceful rejection of the war an issue. He challenged Democrats in the Senate, i.e. Clinton, to do more than pass symbolic resolutions against the war. Then came Sen. Barack Obama, who wasn't in Washington when the original vote was taken but was an early opponent against using force in Iraq.

After years of maintaining a centrist posture on Iraq, Clinton has moved, in response to Obama and Edwards, toward the strident anti-war position of the party's left.
Huntley claims that Clinton's position on the war is "centrist" -- but he's already told us there are no challengers to her right.

Note to Huntley: When one has persons to one's left but none to one's right, by definition, one is not in the center.

Huntley then applies his limited skills to mocking Obama's presidential campaign.
It would be interesting to see a campaign based on "hope." What does it mean? Is that a way of saying, Trust me to do the right thing? I guess you could call that, well, a faith-based campaign.
A faith-based campaign?

How clever.

Yes, Huntley, let's talk about faith-based campaigns -- but let's start with the faith-based campaign that our fighting men and women are conducting in Iraq. Let's talk about the faith-based troop surge that was opposed by everyone from the Pentagon's generals to the Iraq Study Group to Iraq's political leaders. The one where the Bush administration, which has been dead wrong at every turn, says "Trust us to do the right thing."

But, no doubt, such an honest and open discussion about our nation's blood and treasure would be mere "anti-war rage" -- by Huntley's fair standard.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Courting Controversy at the Sun-Times

Do I believe in God? Do I believe in me? Let me tell U, some people wanna die so they can be free. I said life is just a game, we're all just the same. Don't U wanna play? -- P. Rogers Nelson

If you're like me you are still a little pissed-off from Sunday.

But not from the Bears' loss or Prince's half-time show -- from reading the "Controversy" section of your Chicago Sun-Times.

If you unfamiliar with the Controversy section, don't worry you haven't missed much. Controversy purports to be the home of heated opinion writing but it functions primarily as the used content section of the Sunday Sun-Times.

Apparently strong opinions are in short supply in Chicago, because, other than Carol Marin, nearly everything in the Controversy section is reprinted from an online source -- TruthDig, Salon, Babble, HuffingtonPost, Slate -- or originates from outside the area -- Bob Novak in D.C. and Mark Steyn in Canada.

But enough of its origins, let's address the content.

"The truth about poverty," Steven Malanga tells us, is "bad choices, not a bad economy, are to blame."

Hmmm... To evaluate that, it would be helpful to know "The truth about Steven Malanga."

The Sun-Times tells us that the piece is "adapted from an essay in the winter edition of City Journal." A Google search later and we find know that Mr. Malanga is Contributing Editor of City Journal. And that the City Journal is the house organ of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, who's mission is to "develop and disseminate new ideas that foster greater economic choice and individual responsibility."

"To develop and disseminate new ideas?"

Sorry, Mr. Malanga. "The poor are to blame for poverty" is hardly a "new idea."

But at least we now know who's paying Mr. Malanga's bills.

Back to his piece in the S-T:
Poverty in America results increasingly from the choices that people make, not our economic system's supposed shortcomings.
Okay smarty, why are Americans poor?
It's not that the adults who head families in poverty don't earn enough; they don't work enough.
Wait a minute, who doesn't work enough?
Among single-women-headed households just 14 percent work full-time in New York and 11 percent in Chicago.
But how is a single mother supposed to work full time and care for a child?
True, it may be hard to work full-time as a single mother unless you can afford child care.
Wait a minute, what the hell do you mean "may be hard?"

It is hard to work full-time as a single mother. Period. Full stop.

And where do you get off qualifying your statement with "unless you can afford child care." We are talking about women who live in poverty -- of course they can't afford child care. They're poor.

Your statement is the equivalent of saying, "It's hard being poor unless you can afford it."
[I]n both New York and Chicago, ever more women -- especially poor women -- are choosing to have kids without a husband. *** [M]ore than half of women having children out of wedlock in New York and 60 percent in Chicago are already in poverty or wind up there within a year of giving birth.
"Or wind up there within in a year."

They weren't all in poverty before they had the kids? So how many were actually impoverished when they got pregnant? How many women became poor due to the cost of having a child? Is there a legitimate reason that you don't separate those numbers?

Or are you simply suggesting that single women should have abortions unless they can be absolutely certain that they won't wind up poor?
Those births to poor, unmarried women partly explain why both cities have a higher than average overall poverty rate; since their illegitimacy rate is above the nation's, a greater percentage of children are born directly into poverty in both New York and Chicago than nationwide.
Well, I guess that raises a question doesn't it, "What better choices should those children born directly into poverty have made?"
[M]ost people can stay out of poverty in America by doing just a few simple things -- most important, graduating from high school and not having kids without a spouse on hand.
No. Hold on a minute.

Your thesis is that the poor are responsible for their poverty -- that their bad choices caused them to be poor -- But THIRTEEN MILLION American children are living in poverty.

Other than choosing the wrong parents, how exactly are those 13 million poor Americans responsible for their poverty?

Perhaps I'm too demanding, but an explanation doesn't account for 13 MILLION counter-examples seems a bit lacking.

But who can argue with Malanga's prescription to finish high school and not have any out-of-wedlock children? Not me.

But lets re-examine the promise he offers to those who stay in school and avoid the pit-fall of pregnancy: "Most can stay out of poverty in America."

Yes, The American Dream: Possible Poverty Avoidance.

Even Mr. Malanga, a champion of free-market capitalism, can not extract a rosier promise than Possible Poverty Avoidance from our current economic system.

How did anyone ever think that our economic system had shortcomings?


Mark Steyn is still collecting check from the Sun-Times?

Apparently his trumpeting of the far-right's "young Obama was brainwashed in a madrassa" lies in the pages of the Sun-Times was insufficient to embarrass either Steyn or his S-T editor. Thus, he returns to the Sun-Times to yet make another unsubstantiated claim -- that the science on global climate change is "not solid."

As proof, Steyn tells us that scientists' global climate models have changed since the 1970's.

Of course, scientific climate models have changed due improved technology and new data -- 19 of the 20 hottest years on record have occurred since 1980. That does not change the fact that there is no peer reviewed science questioning the fact of global climate change.

Steyn's call for eternal consistency doesn't challenge the validity of the scientists' conclusions so much as it challenges the validity of science.

Steyn's transparently flimsy argument calls into question the Canadian educational system. Not because Steyn doesn't understand the science -- I'm sure he does and is simply being dishonest -- but because his argument presumes that his readers don't even grasp the basics of the scientific method.

One hopes that Steyn's readers, in Canada and in Chicago, are too smart for such hucksterism.


But despite the presence of Malanga and Steyn, the Controversy reached it's loathsome nadir on its very first page -- in an excerpt from Dinesh D'Souza's instant classic: "The Enemy at Home, The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11."

For those unfamiliar with D'Souza, he made his bones with the conservative establishment by authoring bellicose tomes attacking liberal policies and programs. But in this post-9/11 world, shouting about the evils of
political correctness and affirmative action no longer excite the blood of right-wingers. No, in a world with Ann Coulter, you gots to get bug-house nuts to draw any attention from the right.

How nuts?

The excerpt in the S-T gives us a peek:
[T]he main source of Muslim rage is not American foreign policy but American popular culture as it is projected around the world. *** These concerns prompt a startling thought: are radical Muslims right? *** If the garbage heap of American excess leaves many Americans feeling dirty and defiled at home, what gives America a right to dump it on the rest of the world?
Oh, where to begin?

D'Souza asserts that "
the main source of Muslim rage is not American foreign policy but American popular culture as it is projected around the world."

His evidence? A survey from the Pew Research Center that indicates that a majority of people of Asia, Africa and the Middle East want "to protect their values from foreign assault." If, however, "their values" includes the nearly-universal value of self-determination, it is hard to see how anyone could disentangle resentment of US pop culture from resentment of US foreign policy.

D'Souza doesn't even attempt to do so.

D'Souza also tosses out some anecdotes. In addition, to a pair of quotes from Benazir Bhutto and Bernard Lewis -- quotes that fail to support his assertion of the primacy of pop culture in Muslim resentment towards the U.S. -- D'Souza also quotes "an Iranian from Neishapour."

Let's take a deep breath and ponder this...

Carl Sagan said, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." While Dr. Sagan's maxim referred to the scientific claims, it is certainly applicable in this case

Initially, let us consider D'Souza claim: Muslims hate America not due to the dark side of American foreign policy -- i.e., the toppling of governments, American troops on Muslim soil, tens of thousands of dead -- but, rather, due to the dark side of American pop culture -- i.e., "movies, television and music."

Although D'Souza names Jerry Springer and Howard Stern as paragons of loathsome Us popular culture, I do not recall ever -- EVER -- seeing effigies of Springer or Stern burned in the streets of a Muslim capitol. By contrast, I've seen Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice represented in such displays. Perhaps the Muslim world has mistaken the Bush administration for shock jocks or Viacom executives, but I doubt it.

I propose that D'Souza's claim -- that Muslims hate us due to American Idol not American foreign policy -- is extraordinary.

And what does D'Souza provide as extraordinary evidence?

A quote from an "Iranian from Neishapour."

Well, that must be one hell of a quote!

Here it is:
People say "we want freedom." You know what these foreign-inspired people want? They want the freedom to gamble and drink and bring vice to our Muslim land. This is the kind of freedom they want.
Will you pardon me, dear reader, if I once again indulge my pedantic nature with a little exegesis?

Many thanks.

D'Souza's Iranian tells us, "People say 'we want freedom.'" So, my friend, we must ask some questions -- Which people say this?" Who is the "we" calling for freedom?

Our answer is revealed in the next sentence: "foreign-inspired people."

So we have "foreign-inspired people" who want "freedom" What kind of freedom? "[T]he freedom to gamble and drink and bring vice to our Muslim land."

Where is American popular culture -- much less the "cultural left" -- in this?

At most, the anonymous Iranian is claiming that US culture may have inspired some Iranians to seek the right to chose their own personal morality for themselves. And even then, he does not claim that such post-enlightenment thinking is the basis for any hatred for the US.

To my mind, this does not even approach the extraordinary proof that D'Souza's extraordinary claim demands.

But, for the sake of argument, let us consider the possibility that D'Souza's baseless claim is, somehow, correct. Let's assume that the choices offered to Muslims via US pop culture -- post-enlightenment choices regarding personal morality -- are the reason that al-Qaeda attacked American on 9/11.

What, then, is D'Souza's response to this?

Nothing less than unconditional surrender. The surrender of Americans' personal freedoms to Islam's most traditional, i.e. conservative, elements:
[W]hat should America do about this? First, we should show Muslims and traditional people around the world the face of America that they don't see. The Bush administration should do more to highlight the presence and values of conservative and religious America. *** By proclaiming our allegiance to the traditional values of Judeo-Christian society, we can reduce the currents of anti-Americanism among the Muslims, and thus undercut the appeal of radical Islam to traditional Muslims around the world.
That's right.

Dinesh D'Souza would have us adopt the traditional social values of Iran's mullahs and the Taliban so that there will be no need for violent, radical jihadists feel threatened by our American freedom.

Of course there are those reading this who will wonder if I have merely cherry picked D'Souza's work to make him look crazed. I don't think so.

In fact, I would suggest that the Sun-Times excerpt D'Souza appear far more reasonable than his book.

D'Souza on al-Qaeda founder, Osama bin Laden
: "[A] quiet, well-mannered, thoughtful, eloquent and deeply religious person."

D'Souza on Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran: "[H]ighly regarded for his modest demeanor, frugal lifestyle and soft-spoken manner."

D'Souza on Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's claim that Holocaust denial is off-limits in the West: "undoubtedly accurate."

D'Souza on the conflict between Iran and Israel: The US "should openly ally [with] governments that reflect Mulsim interests, not *** Israeli interests."

The Sun-Time's section labeled "Controversy" may have reprinted the least controversial portion of D'Souza's loathsome book.

Oh, the irony.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Video Anti-Depressant

The Bears lost.

I'm bummed.

Let's do something about that:

Well, now I feel... better.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Molly Ivins: We Must Not Rest Until There Is Peace.

"We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war.'' -- Molly Ivins, January 11, 2007.


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