June 30, 2004

NPR : U.S. Military Lessons in Iraq 

Nice story by NPR's Eric Westervelt sort of summarizing some of the uncertain lessons from the U.S. led Iraq war. I use the modifiers 'sort of' and 'uncertain' advisedly. When the true picture isn't clear we shouldn't insist on defining it. What we have is a bundle of questions. Too many of us are listening to the spin from partisan TV analysts who try to deflect the hard questions. Eric's report does a good job of raising some of these questions about the wisdom of our conduct in Iraq. We should all insist that he gets answers.

June 28, 2004

West Nile bites again 

Let's take a break from the usual WILLblog fare of war crimes and political sex scandals (see what's become of this innocent little effort?) to bring you some good news. West Nile virus hasn't affected humans in the midwest this year...yet. It has been found in birds, animals, and mosquitos, however, in all the midwestern states. The Centers for Disease Control has an extensive West Nile Virus resource page with maps and other helpful info, if you want to stay informed. Our good friend Sandy Mason from the University of Illinois Extension says most mosquito bites come from mosquitos breeding in your own yard, or close enough you can take measures to stop reproduction. The simplest thing is empty those bird baths (or keep them fresh), and check your gutters to see if they have standing water. Then if you have time, please come and check mine!

June 23, 2004

Giving the name Jack a bad rep 

Illinois Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jack Ryan has some spillaining to do, which he tried during an interview on Chicago Public Radio yesterday. He says that "whatever issues" he and his former wife dealt with in the past, they don't involve breaking laws, or marriage vows, or the Ten Commandments. They're just, um, exceedingly uncomfortable for a candidate campaigning on a "family values" theme. But according to Ryan, the facts actually "prove his character." OK, let's say he visited sex clubs with his (then) wife, and asked her to get into the ambience, so to speak. Boy I lead a boring life. Anyway, we're running smack into a couple of interesting issues: 1. Ryan is being accused of hiding this information in his divorce records, which were released Monday night by a California judge. More specifically, he's accused of hiding behind his son, claiming he wanted to protect him from the information, rather than admitting he's trying to protect his political career. Well duh. Most people probably have embarrassing episodes they'd rather not reveal if they ever run for the U.S. Senate, for example. Is this "hiding behavior" somehow irrational? 2. Sex sex sex. It makes the birds sing, puts the leap in the frog, and makes the banana grow in the peel. It's also unmentionable in today's American political climate. Better to admit you once did drugs (even inhaled) than say your personal love map has lead you to exotic climes. To be a successful political candidate, your sex life must be both monogamous and pedestrian. At least until you're elected. So maybe in the post Lewinskygate era, we want our politicians to look and smell squeeky-clean. Maybe the GOP is going to pressure Jack Ryan into withdrawing from the Senate race. But I hear a little voice, faint and trembling, timid and fearful that it will be shouted down once again. It's saying "don't we have other issues we should worry about."

June 22, 2004

'Consensus' on Chief Illiniwek 

And so it is resolved: The University Board of Trustees has called for a consensus on the Chief. We tried a lengthy and expensive dialogue. What were we thinking? Talking about it only hardened the activists on both sides. So the Board passed a resolution calling for consensus, and that should be, well, it. Right? Some might ask how, in the absence of actual leadership on an issue loaded with cultural iconography and racial politics, such a "win-win" solution can be found. A legitimate question, given the resolution doesn't lay out any plan to get there. But this ignores the real and decisive action taken by the Board of Trustees, which after all, just passed this resolution. We can't be fighting about mascots or honored symbols if we're all standing around scratching our heads in utter confusion. Good move!

June 15, 2004

How does that Ghraib you? 

NPR aired a report today that Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the former U.S. commander at the Abu Ghraib prison, now says the decision to abuse Iraqi prisoners came from higher up in the chain of command. Think we'll ever find out how high?

June 03, 2004

Yellow Apples for the Illinois Budget 

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich says he gets along just fine with House Speaker Michael Madigan. To prove this during their last budget meeting he served the Speaker his favorite yellow delicious apples sliced the way he likes them. The Governor then explained that Madigan seems like he wants a tax increase to solve the state's huge budget gap. During an election year, or any other time, them's fighting words, spoken by the Governor in an interview with WUIS's Bill Wheelhouse. The Democrats control the Governor's mansion, the Illinois House, and the Senate, but couldn't pass a state budget prior to June 1st. Now a three-fifths majority rule kicks in, which means passing a budget gets really hard. But what's even harder for all the state institutions and employees is not knowing if and when they'll have a budget, or even a job for the coming year. Let them eat apples.

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