Thursday, March 29, 2007

Chief Illiniwek Remembered: A Proposal

Illini fans, I have an idea! Now that Chief Illiniwek and his regalia have been retired, it occurs to me that there may be a solution to the resulting void.

Wouldn't it make sense to invite winners of Native American Fancy Dancing competitions to perform at half time at University of Illinois games? One reason so many are sad at the loss of The Chief is our Native American heritage in Illinois, gone but up-to-now not forgotten.

Wouldn't genuine Indian fancy dancers accomplish the same result as Chief Illiniwek? I suppose, given the controversy, the current Trustees might be happiest without any tribute whatsoever to the Fighting Illini, and after all the brouhaha I can't say I blame them. Nevertheless, while I have definitely realized that changing the name of Illinois teams to the "Fighting Fur Trappers" will never do, I think we should honor those original Illini in some way.

Previous posts on Chief Illiniwek: 1, 2.

Note: If you have any serious interest in the original Illini, click here for a review of what is known about Illinois' first people. If you just want to see short videos of fancy dancing, just click here.

Update: We have received a very interesting comment; do read it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Thank You, AT&T

No sooner had I lamented that the DSL , without which there is no blog, pretty nearly gave up the ghost this past week, when suddently web pages were loading faster; quite fast, actually. After several days of no Internet accesss, intermittant access, and really, really slow access (about 5 times the speed of dial-up), I was shocked. I ran a speed test and found that I have a whopping 1931 Kbps connection. That's faster than ever before, and just plain old fast. Youtube, I'll be back! While that 291 Kpbs upload is pretty sad, I'll overlook that for the moment. Thanks, AT&T!

Update: No Internet tonight most of the time. I'll try replacing the DSL filter. Only problem is that they are very, very hard to find. You would think they would be pretty freely available in a metropolitan area of, say, 7 or 9 million. No, they are not. It's about a 2 minute fix, but it can't be done if you have no replacement.

I got a fax from AT & T. They said they were "conditioning my line," whatever that means. At the moment my Internet connection is back to 330 Kbps. Is there no hope?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Answers Found: The e-coli spinach outbreak

The good news is that they have found the source of that horrible spinach based e-coli outbreak. The bad news is the birds-eye view into the organic foods business which uses agribusiness techniques.

"About 1,000 pounds of spinach from the suspect field was considered to be in poor condition when it was delivered to the processing plant in San Juan Bautista . . . The spinach was 'water logged,' probably because a heat wave had made the plants retain more moisture. That made it more susceptible to bruising and led plant operators to mix it with several tons of better-quality spinach from other farms - which experts say could have increased the spread of E. coli contamination."

Read the entire article by clicking here; there is a lot more information, and the source is close to the growing region. The farmer's market will arrive fairly soon, but a trip over there will show that there is absolutely no farm inspection program in-place to ensure this isn't produce from Water Market or other commercial growers. Many cities require such inpection. It's pretty clear that at least one of the vendors pushes the rules: there is a lot of food there that they say is grown in"Southern Illinois" which emerges months before it possibly could downstate.

Rat Poison for Pets from Menu Foods

Update: Scroll down for additional recalled pet food

If you put rat poison, even inadvertantly, in your products designed for household pet consumption, it might be a good idea to get a really professional PR firm to help when you get found out. For a nearly textbook example of what not to do, just click here.

Don't you think pet owners should be protected from having Chinese wheat products entering our country undetected? I hear China is starting to corner the garlic market, but I sure haven't seen any signs to that effect on any garlic at our local markets.

Poison anyone?

Note: Menu Foods, the firm which made the poisoned products, has a website with a telephone number and links to web pages with the affected products can be found by clicking here. Kind of gives you a whole new perspective on table scraps, doesn't it?

Update 3/31/07: The Food and Drug Administration's webpage with more recall information from additional brands can be found by clicking here.

Sports Losses: Perspective is Everything

I am proud to be a Bears fan, and you should be proud to be a Bears fan, too. Following coach Lovie Smith's loss at the Super Bowl, fans welcomed him and the team home and starting speaking out for Lovie's contract renewal. Even we got swept up in the fever.

Contrast this to the the latest news on Bob Wollmer, Pakistan's cricket coach, whose team lost out to Ireland at the world's cup. The Chicago Tribune reports today that following defeat of their national team, fans in Pakistan not only burnt effigies of their national coach, but also chanted "Death to Wollmar" following his loss in Jamaica. Wollmer's highly suspicious death following the match has been followed by the coroner's report. That, of course, ruled death by murder. Creepy.

Censored: In the Belly of AT&T

I have discovered the most efficient blog censorship in the world, and I have been gagged. My Internet connection completely disappeared days ago, and AT&T, my Internet Service Provider has been keeping me busy. The past few days I have slithered on the floor like a snake unplugging and replugging cable connections, spent 45 minutes on hold ("all agents are busy") for premium tech support, had great globs of mud tracked across the driveway, had my DSL connection officially dropped to 25% of its former speed, been deprived of meals, and more.

I have spoken to "Dairy" (Methinks the young lady in Chennai meant "Terri," and if she didn't have my customer records, I would have told her my name was Priya), a man in St. Louis, a lady in Chicago who told me the problem was a filter problem and closed my "trouble ticket," and someone in Little Rock, Arkansas who liked to share, with frequent yeps, uh-huhs, oh yeahs, and the unusual information that it was "time for a chocolate break," but apparently only for him, not me. After all of this, about all I can roust up is Google Talk, and that's about it.

For this brief interval (after using an old fix, turning off the computer, turning off the modems, turning them all back on, etc.) I am able to access the Internet and this blog, but if the trend continues you, dear reader, will be lucky to read another post beyond this one.

As for me, I have pretty well exhausted the free time I have, spending my time at what seems like 24/7 on the phone (or on hold) with tech support. While AT&T has promised to send another service person (formerly known as "lineman") to look yet-again at the outside problem, things seem pretty serious. As I have been informed, this connection is 19,000 feet from the central office (what? that's less than 5 miles, folks, not even 10 km.) and due to that there appears to be very little hope.

Update: As of Monday morning, I still have a connection and its stable. Unfortunately, knocked down down to 330 Kbps download and 270Kbps upload, anything that resembles the world wide web in all its glory remains merely a memory. To add to this indignity, all weekend long I listened to TV ads touting AT&T Internet as "fastest in Illinois." Well, maybe before, but I feel like the poor stepchild here, folks, and I'm not happy.

Salute to Illinois Lt. Governor Pat Quinn

When Illinois' Governor Blago was elected, the only bright spot of hope was the election of Pat Quinn as his Lieutenant Governor. Quinn, a long-time consumer advocate, is kind of wacky guy, taken to tilting at windmills at the slightest provocation. Nevertheless, over the years, he has a good track record for speaking out for the citizens of Illinois, and we are pleased to see that he has found a new cause--defeating Governor Blagojevich's newly proposed "Gross Receipts Tax."

Blagojevich’s "Gross Receipts Tax" is a bad idea, very bad indeed. It will raise the tax burden in Illinois tremendously, and serve to drive out even more businesses out of Illinois, in a state where its largest county is losing population.

Every thinking person knows this tax is a lousy idea, and just one more attempt by Governor Rod to make Illinois citizens creatures of the state rather than its masters. We were pleased to see that Quinn is speaking out against this proposed massive tax increase. We wish him well, and thank him. Let's hope that tax is soundly defeated for the future of Illinois!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Fie on Wilmette School District 39 Trustees

Yes, fie on the Wilmette District 39 Trustees for persisting to collect bus transportation money for the 2007-2008 months in advance, well before fall, and all in a chunk. Why do they need it before summer even begins? In fact, all that talk about affordable housing is a waste of time; this bus fee collection is a hardship on more financially challenged residents.
Oh yes, see the picture, above? It's a screen shot of the Transportation page from District 39. If you look real hard, you will see a hyperlink: "Go to On-line [sic] Fee Payment Page." If you try that, you will find absolutely no link to where you can pay for the bus. Clever, no?
Do remember that Wilmette bus fees are due by June 8 for next year. And please don't wait till the last day and expect them to be open through the announced office hours. I know one parent who dropped the months-in-advance fee in the door slot the day it was due when the doors were locked up tighter-than-a-drum before the close of business and was charged a late fee penalty. And please, don't think that it might be a nice idea for your children to walk to school unless you walk with them. Depending on your school and where you live, they simply may be unable to cross the streets safely. Somehow, student crossing guards, once known as "patrol boys" seem to have become a NIMBY issue with local educators.
Of course, there isn't any helpful transportation information on the Wilmette Public Schools District 39 web page. Should someone over there in the schools discover this glaring error, correct it, and make a liar out of me I would be delighted. Of course, we are advised by the District 39 mailer that will be available after they send the transportation letter, but it the meantime, is there any reason why they can't also include that information on their web page?

Happy Spring!

It's Spring! Actually, that was yesterday. No, I wasn't sleeping, but my DSL was. This year, the first day of Spring was also Johann Sebastian Bach's birthday, a fact not unnoticed by our local FM station, making a rainy commute downright pleasant. If you click here, you can choose the chorus and duet from Bach's Cantata140, or the Allegro from the fourth Brandenburg Concerto, which make good listening on what looks like another rainy day.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Society of St. Barbara Takes on my Challenge

JD Powers, who writes the extremely interesting Society of St. Barbara Blog (now from Wilmette) has taken on my challenge (in the comments of my previous post) to explain why the Trustees have done a good job managing teardowns. He has put up a great post with plenty of pictures, and I recommend that readers click here to see it.
The teardown issue may end up being a "chacon a son gout" issue. JD makes several good points, but I have a few comments, too:
1. Georgian houses should remain firmly Georgian. They should never combine disparate design elements such as long farmhouse-style front porches with wooden banisters.
2. Kenilworth has a number of teardowns that are very consistent with the neighborhood look, and they do it all through social pressure, not laws. Nevertheless, I can think of at least one example with disparate design elements that ends up, on closer examination, just looking weird.
3. The house with the stone fortress front and prairie-style windows, and old-style wooden farmhouse behind looks bizarre. No unity of design. I certainly hope those aren't those new-style stone bricks with drilled holes slipped over rebar--if you're going to do masonry, get a mason. I will say this, though, the stainless steel chimney liner (for a high efficiency furnace) appears to be nicely camouflaged. Good job there
4. Tearing down small houses means less affordable housing. I can't see the point of putting up mid-rises with tiny apartments to make up for them. I am mindful that the experience of the City of Chicago. They tore down tons of tiny "substandard" houses and replaced them with "beautiful" new high rises, only to have to implode them less than a generation later due to the social problems they created.
Well, that's it. JB did a great job with the challenge. He is quite satisfied with the job done by the Wilmette Trustees when it comes to replacement housing, even though he has to hit his head on what I guess is the ceiling of his new Wilmette home.
If you read JB's post, we absolutely concur on one point: the Trustees should not get involved in "appearance review." Kudos to them all for avoiding that! We have plenty of funky, individualistic homes in Wilmette, and a few more won't hurt.
Photo: Astute readers will recognize the lovely old house, above, as Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House. It's not in Wilmette, but in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. Is that cheating? Most Wright houses have leaky roofs; they are famous for that. Early in his career, Mr. Wright worked for the "Daniel Burnham firm" that JD refers to in his post. Like our Trustees, Frank Lloyd Wright had an interest in affordable housing--click here to see copies of his orisinal Usonian House drawings.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Misguided Wilmette Trustees

The misguided Wilmette Trustees need to be recalled if the Backyard Conservative has it right. Or maybe even abolished. Word is that the Wilmette Trustees have adopted the Kyoto Protocols. Why? The United States signed that long ago, they just never pushed it to treaty status. Of course, treaties are pretty serous stuff--you might have to go to war over one, and the people who worry about greenhouse gases avoid the military like a plague. As a matter of fact, they are generally against any war at all, making treaties even riskier. Is this just a move to take our minds off the fact that we could have killed ourselves on those unplowed sidewalks a few weeks ago?

Generally Treaties are the stuff of nations, not local governments who don't seem to be able to deliver basic services. Maybe if the Trustees paid more attention to what is going on locally, the quality of life in Wilmette might greatly improve. A recent home invasion, burglaries, and wholesale disregard of the traffic laws are now common occurrences in Wilmette. Add to that the trustees genuine support for large teardowns (which are as contrary to greenhouse gas emissions ideals as could be), their lies about Mallinckrodt (all those promised tree replantings are lies--it's all cement out front) , and their general lack of local focus on local issues make this group a very bad lot, indeed.

Update: At this lenten season, we are reminded of the lament in Jonah "Is there not an honest man in Ninevah?" Thank God we have one in Wilmette, village President Christopher Canning, who voted against the above. The trustees leading the charge to join the Nations of the World (rather than focusing on local matters which sorely need attention) were Jim Griffith, Lali Watt, and Joanne Aggens. Joanne Aggens is up for relection. Don't vote for her. We need trustees who care about the quality of life in Wilmette.

The picture above at the right represents Kyoto's previous claim to fame, professional careers for ladies.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Wild Camels Threaten Australia's Future

Australia under siege by wild camels, what? Yes, according to the Sydney Morning Herald science blog. It reports New South Wales is under camel threat due to the thriving feral camel population. The beasts of burden were imported from the mid East and Asia in the Country's early days.

By clicking here you can go straight to the source and read all about it.

Wilmette Architecture - Now See This

J B Powers runs a wonderful local blog, full of pictures of (mostly) Chicago area architecture, called the Society of Saint Barbara. It has traditionally been limited to architcture of Roman Catholic structures, however, and due to its limited focus I never put it on the blog roll.

That may change, however. Mr. Powers has moved to Wilmette, although Evanston clearly remains his spiritual home as he still lists it as such on his profile. Along with the move, the blog is now also covering non-ecclesicastical architecture, and you must go have a look at his article on Plaza del Lago. I am hoping that this new trend of a wider area of interest continues. In the meantime, however, just click here to see a number of very interesting posts.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Hope you have enjoyed some corned beef and cabbage already! This is a particularly good St. Patrick's Day; the festivities are very welcome in this very cold weather.

I was planning to go see the dyeing of the river green and staying for the Chicago St. Patrick's Day parade, but with temperatures in the low 20's, I think I will leave that for heartier folk, or at least those who live closer.
It's' a beautiful sunny day, however, and it well may warm up, so a trip down town might be pleasant. I found a Chicago St. Patrick's guide online, and all the info on the official events is here. If you choose to stay home, the Parade will be broadcast on Chicago's Channel 9 at noon. Since that's the WGN Super Station, its likely you might be able to see it anywhere in the USA.

St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. He was a pious and holy man who brought Christianity to the pagans, and I would think that fasting and prayer might be a more fitting way to celebrate his day. The Irish should know best on this matter, however, so heft a beer and put on a green hat!

The Irish high cross, pictured above, is over 1,000 years old, and is located at Clonmacnois Monastery in Ireland. It is an amazing site, well worth a visit, and a place of ancient pilgrimage. Ireland is rich in archaeological treasures, and County Offaly, where Clonmacnois is located, has an excellent archeology website done by the Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society, which you can visit by clicking here.

Wilmette has many residents of Irish descent, and is also the American home of the Irish Dairy Board. You can find a number of their Kerrygold branded products over at Treasure Island on Ridge, just North of Lake. If you aren't in trouble with your MD following the diet excesses of the Super Bowl (yes, we are) , do bring home some of their delicious Kerrygold Irish butter for the family to enjoy this weekend, or one of the tasty cheeses. Locally, Hackney's is, of course, the place to celebrate St. Patrick's Day but there definately will be a wait.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Oprah Winfrey's School: Human Rights Scandal?

Scroll down for current (March and April, 2009) updated information
Oprah Winfrey's boarding school for 10-12 year old girls in South Africa is the subject of a breaking story--and a possible scandal. When Oprah showed us her school on TV we learned about how carefully Oprah had chosen the children, the expensive art she installed for their viewing, the costly architecture, the sharp-looking uniforms. Come to think about it, do you remember any content on academics beyond "talented teachers" or "state of the art?" I definitely don't remember anything about caring for the "whole girl" or any spiritual program.

The news is troubling, beginning with rumblings a week ago about a girl who dropped-out due to illness (the school refused to discuss this, but still let it slip that "illness" was the reason) and another girl not allowed to return home for a family funeral because it wasn't "immediate family."

Parents now are beginning to complain that the now can visit their daughters only once per month (down from from twice per month) and that four people are the limit to family visitors a girl can receive at one time. Particularly troubling is that girls are subject to sanctions if the family brings a gift of treats, as this type of small gift is likely within the economic ability of parents.

The school has not only taken the girls away from their family, it limits the girls' telephone calls home to weekends. In a society that has scooped up poor girls who are most likely from families that live from day-to-day rather than a calendar planned months in advance, the fact that parental visits require informing the school two weeks in advance is particularly troubling.

Oprah isn't financing this operation all by herself; she actively seeks donations from others including an online collection effort. While financially her contributions are generous, they also result in substantial tax benefit to Oprah.

I urge readers to follow this story, to discuss it with their friends, and to speak out for the girls. It troubles me that Oprah may have unwitting created the poshest detention facility in the world for children replete with complete and utter lack of cultural sensitivity. Oprah is not a product of private school, nor was her family, compounding her lack of understanding.

In the US today, there is a fair amount of talk about how American Indian schools removed Native Americans from their cultures, and the suffering involved. It is time for Oprah to re-examine her concept, and time for change,
Update: It's October, and Oprah's school is predictably back in the news. Seven month's ago, I was concerned about conditions at the Oprah Winfrey Academy, and this time the news is much worse. Another girl has been removed by her parents, the local police are claiming that access to the school is limited, and child protective services have been called in. Some students are receiving counselling. The Headmaster of the school (the same person who discouraged parental visits in the first place) has been placed on paid leave, following serious allegations of unspecified misconduct made against a "house parent." Investigators from the US have been called in, and Oprah is making statements about her concern for the girls. Troubling, but the school isn't talking so there aren't any details.
Further Update: Oprah's been working hard on this scandal, going so far as to fly the students' parents from around South Africa to attend a two hour meeting at the school. The allegations involve serious criminal conduct. Even worse, there are allegations that the CEO of the school failed to act upon the first reports of wrongdoing. You can read the information that has leaked out in South Africa newspapers by clicking here to read News24, and clicking here to read the article in the Sowetan. Both articles have additional information to the right of the story, and you might want to read those as well.
Halloween Update: Oprah has yet again returned to South Africa where she appologized to school parents. South Africa's News24 is now reporting that "the girls had often complained of being grabbed by the neck, beaten and thrown against a wall, and being sworn at. " Gauteng police have confirmed that their Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offenses Unit (FCS) has been called in. You can read more about what the FCS Unit investigates by clicking here, which will take you directly to their website. CNN has a 4 minute video report here.
South Africa's Cape Argus has an exceedingly negative report about the Oprah Winfrey Academy, claiming that "[T]hroughout the many controversies, Oprah has all but ignored the negative incidents at the school, while it is notoriously difficult to get anyone at the school to comment on anything," and includes the information that Academy parent Bongiwe Aviwe has removed her daughter, as the school not only failed to respond to her concerns about abuse, but that the abuse intensified after her complaint.
November 2, 2007 Update: A former employee of the Oprah Winfrey school was arrested yesterday by the South Africka's Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit. Charges include alleged assault, indecent assault, crimen injuria and soliciting under age girls to perform indecent acts. You can read the News24, South Africa, story by clicking here. NPR has interviewed the Sowetan's reporter, Gertrude Makhafola, who has been covering the story, and you can hear that interview, online, by clicking here.
Did Oprah Winfrey personally kick-out a girl from the school for complaining about abuse? The father of an Oprah Winfrey Academy student tells how Oprah's school didn't bother informing the family of Oprah's decision, and simply never showed up to pick his daughter up after a weekend visit at home following the girl's complaint. Click here to read the story directly in the South African Star for yourself!
November 5, 2007 - Update: Oprah Winfrey has had a one-half hour cry for herlself, and is reported as saying:
"Knowing what I know now the screening process was inadequate even though I was not directly responsible for recruiting dorm parents." "No, I don't think as a school we have failed the girls. I feel there are systems within the school that failed the girls. I don't feel that it has harmed my personal reputation because I have done nothing wrong."
It is likely that these girls, if they had not been cut off from their families, would have been spared this situation. We believe that Ms. Winfrey must take responsibility for this ill-advised action.
March 30, 2009 - Update: Another scandal has occurred at the Opraph Winfrey School, but this time it's not the administration that is charged with wrongdoing, it's seven of its girls. South Africa's Times has the story, as does South Africa's News 24. The South African website, IOL, has additional details.
April 7, 2009 - Update: It is reported that before being banished, accused girls at Oprah's school, were imprisoned in their rooms with guards posted and that when they were expelled, even the shoes given to them by Oprah's school were taken away.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Chicago Celebrates: St. Patrick's Day

Pictured above are a number of Chicagoans in their native costumes waiting for the St. Patrick's Day Parade. Of course, they aren't waiting yet, they won't start assembling until next Saturday, March 17, 2007. In the meantime all of Chicago is beginning to celebrate. The South Side parade is today, and by next weekend, it's likely that a majority of Chicagoans (whether or not they are Irish) will have attended a corned-beef and cabbage dinner.

Over the next few days, keep a sharp eye out for Leprechauns! Do watch the video, below, for a full understanding of the problem.

Friday, March 09, 2007

US Congressmen Meet with Iraq Members of Parliament via Video Uplink

I should not be amazed, but yet I am amazed to read that members of the US Congress have met with members of the Parliament of Iraq--face to face via video uplink. Somehow, that really excites me, even though the technology has existed for quite some time. Come to think of it, diplomacy was invented in the day of ships, and its probably time for government-to-government communications to reflect the current century.

The two groups chatted for over two hours. There isn't any report about technical conditions, glitches, translations, and everything else that could plague such a meeting, but it's promising news. I remain hopeful that we can give Iraq the stable country and government that its people deserve and then bring our troops home. With Congressional oversight of Iraq promised by many new members of Congress in the recent election, this is certainly a step in the right direction.

More on the story is here.

Obama's Woes: More trouble in Massachusetts

Two days ago, I wrote about how Illinois Senator-in-absentia Barack Obama's blind trust might have 20/20 vision. Today, the Chicago Tribune reveals even more damaging facts, and notes that "the Illinois senator's explanations and the supporting document leave lingering issues about the selection of the stocks and the timing of their purchase."

Just days ago, news surfaced that Obama paid long-outstanding parking tickets to Cambridge, Massachusetts which dated back to his law school days. Most people could probably excuse a couple of those, but 17? Now it is reported that Obama also is paying both unpaid parking tickets and unpaid taxes to the City of S0merville, Massachusetts. It is troubling that this failture to obey the law ocurred while Obama was in law school in his mid-20's, leading to some real questions about his regard for the law itself. (And no, we won't ask whether Obama revealed those tickets on his character and fitness application to become an Illinois lawyer.)

When we also read that Obama thought of going direct to Warren Buffet for advice on how to invest his $100,000 , we are faced with a presidential candidate who shows lack of judgment, self-importance, and who has a pattern of long disregard for the laws for the country he seeks to lead. Illegal drug use in his youth, a string of parking tickets that only a scofflaw could admire in his young adulthood, and questionable stock deals in maturity don't add up to a man who Americans should send to the White House.

Serious students of Richard Nixon will see a similarity here that should raise a red flag that alerts the American people to "proceed with caution."

At this point, its not worth counting points for Barack and Hillary: she's way ahead.

Update: Today's Sun-Times has a column about Obama's lack of judgment. Click here to read it. Also, Lynn Sweet seems to have recovered from her early days ga-ga over Barack and has some harsh comments on Obama's fundraising. Click here to read it.

Up North, the Canada Free Press is asking some tough questions about Obama's life. Click here to read.

Also, questions emerge about Obama, his wife, and a pickle plant. You can click here for that. I am still scratching my head on how Mrs. Obama makes $65,000 year plus half-again-as-much in stock options from sitting on the board of directors (which is is way less than a part time, parti-time job) of a company that closed its pickle operations in Colorado and an Obama spokeswoman could say "Obama and his wife did not benefit financially from the closing of the plant." Well maybe not much, but that money sure came from somewhere . . . Of course, the compensation received by Mrs. Obama well exceeds the average American annual income. Most people would call that benefitting, don't you think?

Further Update: The AP is reporting that March 11, 2007, that at an interview at a coffee shop on the second day of a weekend visit to Iowa, Obama brushed aside media reports on issues from stock trades to parking tickets. "I was surprised that my parking tickets from 20 years ago got so much attention," Obama said. "But this is part of the vetting process when you're running for the most powerful position on earth, and it's to be expected that things get magnified."Obama said he was confident he would withstand scrutiny. "Fortunately, I feel very comfortable about how I've conducted my life, and I think I will survive the vetting process with flying colors," he said.

Glad he's so comfortable with that. Are you? I'm not.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Did Barack Obama's "Blind" Trust have 20/20 Vision?

Trouble for Illinois' Senator-in-absentia, Barack Obama. Seems that his UBS blind trust might have been peeping out with one eye. Odder yet, one stock purchase for a company that would fight avian flu took place shortly before Obama grew very concerned about the perils. . . Click here for the Tribune story.

Remember Whitewater?

Best to subtract 1/2 point for both Barack and Hillary: bad news, unpleasant memories.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Don't Block the Blog - One Year Update

Remember the Cartoon Crisis? It's been over a year since this inflamed the Mideast. In its wake, Islamic hard liners convinced the Supreme Court of Pakistan to ban twelve websites which featured the cartoons. In a clumsy maneuver, Internet service providers in Pakistan managed to block every blog hosted by Blogger, a free platform which hosts this blog as well as millions others, worldwide. A year later the blogs remain blocked according to Dr. Awab Alvi and Omer Alvie, founders of the Don't Block the Blog Campaign in a press release issued yesterday. Two weeks ago, the local Google (which owns Blogger) representative in Pakistan met with the Don't Blog the Blog Group and made an appointment with the appropriate government minister to discuss the situation. Unfortunately, the meeting was cancelled by the government official and not rescheduled.

Blogger has been having its own problems. In switching to a new, improved blog platform, blogs have briefly disappeared, passwords haven't worked, and other glitches have appeared to give bloggers everywhere brief bouts of fear that all that hard work put into their blogs has been permanently lost. Unfortunately, Pakistani bloggers using blogspot have had a very hard time figuring the new Blogger. Why? Since they are unable to read their blogs by normal means, Pakistani bloggers have had to use any number of technologically advanced methods to try to continue posting. In the wake of the problems posed by the new and improved Blogger, many Pakistani bloggers are simply giving up.

Many of these bloggers represent a voice of moderation, and I am sad to report that the government of Pakistan, friend to America, has managed to deliver some measure of victory to the Islamic hard liners who aggravate many Pakistanis as well as the West.

In support of the blogs, Dr. Alvi and Mr. Alvie have created a "blog aggregator," which gathers together posts from Blogs all over the country, using their own tech knowhow as well as paying for the associated costs. If you are tired of two versions of the Mideast News, one Democrat, one Republican, why not go read some of the posts for yourself? And why Pakistan, rather than, say, Iraq or Afghanistan? The answer is simple. Due to the English presence in the region for so many years, the majority of the blogs are in English and there are quite a number of them. There is still a fair amount of free speech allowed in the country, too. So take a moment to do your own research at the aggregator by clicking here. If you see a post that interests you, just click on the title to go directly to the writer's blog. There's a lot there to see, and a visit is worth your time.

Warning: You are going to see a fair amount of anti-American posts there. I don't care for those much, but come to think of it, the verbiage is pretty much what we are hearing from the Democrats today. Kind of makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Muslim Silent Majority? Saying No to Terrorism

**Scroll down for information on Baby Amilla Taylor**
For over five years people of good will in the United States have waited patiently to hear some condemnation of terrorism from the Muslim World. The silence has been deafening. In the meantime, Islam has taken a terrible drubbing in the eyes of the average American, and with very good cause. Don't we all believe that silence is equal to assent?

Finally, some concerned Muslims have started a campaign to "Say no to terrorism," with a song and video by a number of prominent Pakistani recording artists. Dr. Awab Alvi is a dentist in Pakistan, and a free speech advocate who has been working tirelessly against blog censorship since the days of the cartoon crisis. On his blog we read:

"Capturing the imagination of people across the board, Yeh Hum Naheen has given a voice to the silent majority, those in the Muslim world who have for too long been mis-represented. These are the people who although not appearing on our television screens are saddened and shocked at the high-jacking of Islam by terrorists, and want to stand up and shout 'This is Not Us'."

The song is due to be released March 10, but it will take a great deal more than a catchy tune to heal the breech between East and West. Is there really a Muslim silent majority who don't agree with terrorist tactics, or is it just a few dreamers? We are listening.

Update: Hope may be slim, if this comment on another blog is any indication: "terrorist is not us Muslims.. it is USA.." Nevermind.

More Important Update: Blogger Prague Twin has pointed me to this web page with a great number of links to condemnation of terrorism in the wake of 9/11. I should have been more specific, meaning we haven't heard much for a long, long, time. Look at the comments--by the time you are reading this he may just have posted another link!

Most Important Update: Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki spoke out on March 11, 2007 at a regional conference stating “Confrontation of terrorism, dear brothers, requires ceasing any form of financial and media support and religious cover, as well as logistical support and provision of arms and men that would turn out to be explosive tools killing our children, women and elders and bombing our mosques and churches.” With this important news, this article will not be updated further.

Celebrating St. David's Day

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With news that the Empire State Building in New York City will be lit up at dusk tonight in the colors of Wales, we are reminded that today is St. David's Day. It's also a very special day for all of Chicago, no matter where one's ancestors lived before they moved to America.

Lovie Smith, the Chicago Bears Coach who took the football team to the Superbowl this year, has signed a contract to continue with the Bears until 2011! This is great news. Chicagoland loves Lovie. He's perfect for our town, perfect for the Bears. Despite the snow the rain, and the ice which has plagued Chicago for the past day, St. David's Day, 2007, is a very good day, indeed.