July 31, 2004

DNCblog 5: What I Did on My Summer Vacation 

The convention is over -- a bit early for the Illinois Public Radio contingent because fire marshals blocked further access into the Fleet Center well before John Kerry's acceptance speech Thursday night, leaving us the thousands of other media -- and some delegates! -- outside the venue. But what Illinois Democratic delegates have to say about Kerry and their support for him was documented well throughout the duration of their stay. We'll see how that support pans out in the fall, both statewide and in the national scheme of things. In a few weeks, IPR will do the same thing in New York, capturing the Illinois angle at the Republican National Convention. We've arranged reporter Jonathan Ahl to write a paragraph or two of his observations at this site. We'll be back here in a little over three weeks, and I'll be back on AM 580 Tuesday.

July 29, 2004

DNCblog 4: Day the Last 

The convention in general reaches its peak tonight with John Kerry's acceptance speech, but for the Illinois delegation, the Obama speech marked the beginning of a little denouement.  As the state senator thanks the group, talk of the internal squabbling in the party comes back up.  But Jack Ryan's official withdrawal from the race today takes away one more question in the contest. Coincidentally, the heat and humidity are coming back up too -- Boston had been experiencing cool weather before now, which may have kept spirits higher than they dcould have been.  The Fleet Center is a cramped place crawling with people -- so cramped that the fire marshal kept people from entering the building for a half hour last night, long enough to make me wonder if I would make it back inside for the roll call vote.   But on the other hand, conventiongoers have been about the only people in downtown Boston this week. People took the threat of massive crowding seriously, and many locals stayed away from work.  The Boston Globe published a picture snapped by a visitor of a group of Boston motorcycle cops, posed in formation, standing at attention. The caption says that the photographer wanted a picture of a cop or two, but since they had nothing to do at the time, they decided to assemble and pose.

The Obama Lama speech is on NPR.org 

I've been away from my Internet keyboard, visiting the City Museum of St. Louis, about which I'll blog with great enthusiasim some other time. But I woke up this morning with a burning hunch (no, not a hangover) that lots o' people were out there searching for the audio archive of Barack Obama's keynote speech at the DNC. OK, OK, I looked at the Blogger stats and saw how many people were searching for it. So here it is on the NPR site. Pretty much any time there's a major public audio event like this, you can find it on the NPR site. Alas, everything is in RealAudio, not MP3 format, so you can't download and save the files. Unless you have the software tools, which are actually pretty easy to find...

July 28, 2004

DNCblog 3: "Obama-rama" 

Democrats -- and not just those in the Illinois delegation - seem to be smitten with Barack Obama, judging from the response from the convention floor.  The national attention  to his campaign for Senate is a story that's still germinating, which means that the carte blanche that Obama is gets week will undoubtedly grow into a more balanced portrayal in time.  For now, at least until the GOP names a candidate,  here are your two blogosphere starting points: www.obamablog.com and www.obamatruthsquad.com.  Get writing. I'll let you in on a little secret -- last night's prime time speeches were the first time this week that Sean and I visited the FleetCenter.  That's because we've aimed our coverage at the Illinois delegation, and their activities on the DNC floor are generally limited to listening and cheering, and it's hard to write about listening and cheering for four days.  Their real organization center is a couple of miles west at the Hilton Back Bay, where every morning they congregate for a dose of pep-rally style speeches and hear their agenda for the day.  Yesterday they were also advised to consult a list of "talking points" left on the seats of the meeting room, just in case reporters want to interview them.  If you detect a pattern among delegates' public reactions, it may be either a deeply-rooted psychic communion of political thought -- or the talking-points sheet. Security makes the perimeter of the FleetCenter resemble the outside of the Danville Correctional Center, if Danville contained a gigantic stadium and a train line running alongside.  But Sean notes that the barricades, multilayer fencing and military presence don't seem like much of a change from his last convention four years ago in Philadelphia.  And the wait to get in was quite manageable, though the inside of the stadium is cramped to the point where fire marshals are forcing reporters to stay of the floor without "rotating passes" -- you're only allowed on the flor for 30-45 minutes at a time. We're in our third of five days of intensive coverage -- two to go.  We shall sleep someday!

July 27, 2004

DNCblog 2: Hospitality 

It's apparent that someone asked Bostonians to seek out and smile at DNC convention delegates, media and other visitors, who seem to outnumber downtown residents and workers.  A cabdriver this afternoon marveled at the lack of rush-hour traffic along Storrow Drive, one of the city's busiest arteries, as he regaled Sean Crawford and I with facts about Boston and its sister across the Charles River, Cambridge.  Urbana residents take note: the home of Harvard and MIT is also often teasingly called "the People's Republic." Our destination this afternoon was a party for US Senate candidate Barack Obama, an event we discovered was offlimits to anyone wihtout a sticker provided by sponsor Pepsi.  Right after that party, though, was one honoring the late Chicago Sun-Times columnist Steve Neal, at which Governor Blagojevich announced that a major reading room at the new Lincolon library in Springfield would be named for Neal.  Obama stuck around dutifully, shaking as many hands as he could -- and there are a lot of them thrust in his direction as the prime candidate of the moment as judged by pundits, DNC leaders and media decisionmakers.  This "rock star" business can be tough. Illinois delegation parties were a shade more colorful the night before.  The Institute of Contemporary Art hosted a fete, where delegates from Shawneetown to Dixon drank and talked amid edgy artwork.  Besides the major party bigwigs, the center of attention probably was the man dressed as a type of Mardi Gras clown -- large papier-mache beak on his nose -- dancing with abandon through the delegation with a large baton.  Later on, party faithful migrated to the 180-year old Union Oyster House, where Democratic strategist James Carville (whom some Republicans might denigrate as a Mardi Gras clown) was among those who dropped in. Tuesday's agenda: the daily morning delegate meeting/pep rally, followed by a number of Illinois speakers at the Fleet Center podium: former Senator and 2004 Presidential candidate Carol Moseley-Braun, Senator Dick Durbin, and Obama with the keynote.  We'll be listening.

July 25, 2004

DNCblog 1: AM580 comes to Boston 

Sean Crawford of IPR's Statehouse bureau and I have made it to Boston and are currently working out all the requisite technical bugs before we go full-bore into reporting on the Democratic National Convention.  Boston appears ready, though from our vantage point at our lodging in the suburb of Brookline not far from Fenway Park, the buzz on the streets was more about last night's Red Sox win and accompanying on-field brawl (they were playing the Yankees, so a brawl isn't entrely surprising).  And even before the first gavel falls, we've noticed that the early star of the show, besides the obvious Kerry-Edwards ticket, is Illinois US Senate candidate Barack Obama.  A check of the TV schedule finds him on a number of Sunday pundit shows, and Obama delivers the DNC's keynote address Tuesday night.  He'll be the guest of honor at a Monday night reception as well.  We'll follow the reception Obama gets in general from delegates. Today we visit the Fleet Center for the first time to pick up credentials, and next stop will be the Illinois delegation's hotel.  It'll be a busy and interesting week! -Tom Rogers

July 23, 2004

WILLblog at the DNC 

We're turning over the WILLblog keys to AM 580 News director Tom Rogers next week, reporting direct from Boston at the Democratic National Convention. Tom is representing Illinois Public Radio, and of course WILL-AM, producing daily news features and writing irreverent notes on this space. Oh, I meant relevant notes... BTW, WILL's Election 2004 web page is up and running. It'll grow fast, and may someday include an Illinois Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. Nominations, anyone?

July 22, 2004

9-11 Commission final report/archive 

WILLblog wouldn't be doing its obsessive best unless we passed along links to the latest and final report of the 9-11 Commission. So here are the goods on the NPR site, including RealAudio archives, links to PDF files of the full report and the summary, and related resources and stories from NPR. After a 20-month investigation, the commission found plenty of fault but no one to blame other than the terrorists themselves. The faults are to be found in a "failure of imagination" in our federal government, and "dysfunctional" oversight by Congress. Any further commentary on that would be just too easy.

July 21, 2004

"You can't stop the spread of nuclear weapons by building more..." 

As a child of the 1960s I grew up under the image of a mushroom cloud, casting a shadow over every aspect of our Cold War lives.  Now the Soviet Union is gone, and we have al Qaeda to worry about.  The mushroom cloud has morphed from a promise of world war and mutually assured destruction, to a potential weapon of terrorism.  The nuclear nightmare continues with a new villain. Dozens of countries possess quantities of weapons-grade uranium, and Russia has a basket-case of a nuclear weapons program and staggering quantities of the most dangerous stuff on the planet.  Add to the mix Pakistan, our ally in the war on terrorism, and its export of nuclear weapons technology to an unknown number of WMD aspirants. Aside from invading Iraq, what has the U.S. done about this threat?  "The U.S. has...decided it wants to research and develop and even prototype a new generation of nuclear weapons," says Jim Walsh, Executive Director of the Managing The Atom Project at the Kennedy School Of Government, Harvard University, "including bunker-busters and small battlefield nuclear weapons." There might even be a good argument for an upgraded nuclear arsenel.  What's harder to explain is why we are fighting a war on terror without making every effort to eliminate access to nuclear weapons technology and materials. I invite you to listen to David Inge's interview with Jim Walsh, which aired this morning at 10 on Focus 580.  Here's the RealAudio archive, and here's the MP3 download. Better pay attention...as somebody said, we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

The 9-11 Commission speaks 

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9-11 Commission) will release its final report at 10:30 a.m. (Central) on Thursday, July 22, in Washington, D.C.  NPR News will offer live, anchored coverage of this event.  Opening remarks by the Chairs will be followed by a press conference with all ten Commissioners.  The report will be available online on the Commission's Web site when the presentation begins (http://www.9-11commission.gov) Scott Simon will host NPR's coverage of this event... Hear this event on WILL-AM 580 tomorrow at 10:30 am, and download the report.  I'm offering a free double soy latte for the most pithy summary posted on WILLblog...just to encourage us citizens for paying serious attention.

July 20, 2004

Skinny on the DNC on NPR 

I love leaking memos.  This one, from NPR, details the plans for NPR's special news coverage of the Democratic National Convention from Monday, July 26 thru Thursday, July 29.

In general, NPR will produce special live coverage of the convention beginning each night at 7 o'clock (Central) and running until 10...later if the situation warrants. AM 580 will air this special coverage each night. This will take the place of As It Happens, BBC and NewsHour (at least).

WILL News Director Tom Rogers will be reporting from Boston, and he'll be posting items daily here on WILLblog.

As for that NPR memo, it mostly deals with satellite channels and broadcast details, but here's the part with stuff you might want to know:

"The Democratic party has provided us with this rough schedule of speakers:

MONDAY Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones (D-Ohio) Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) Rep. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) Former Vice President Al Gore Former President Jimmy Carter Former President Bill Clinton

TUESDAY Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) Christine Vilsack (First Lady of Iowa) Gov. Janet Napolitano (D-Arizona) Teresa Heinz Kerry Illinois State Senator Barak Obama (keynote speaker)

WEDNESDAY Mayor Martin O'Malley (D-Baltimore) Gov. Bill Richardson (D-New Mexico) Senator John Edwards Elizabeth Edwards

THURSDAY Alex and Vanessa Kerry Chris and Andre Heinz Former Senator Max Cleland Senator John Kerry  

NPR's special coverage will carry all of the major speeches listed above. We will carry many other speeches that are not listed. When we are not carrying a speech, we will chat with NPR reporters, our analysts and a wide variety of guests who will join the program from the hall and from around the nation. Expect the most important speeches in the 10 PM Eastern hour."

WILLblog will try to get the scoop on the RNC as events move along.

July 16, 2004

Update on TV antenna installation 

A note from our Chief Engineer:

Between 12:45P and 1:45P today, WILL-TV was off air to allow us to connect to a temporary antenna.  This will permit the removal of our old (in service since 1966) channel 12 antenna and its replacement with a brand new antenna that will simultaneously transmit our analog signal on channel 12 and the new digital signal on channel 9.  We will be on the temporary antenna through the weekend and part of next week.

Power reductions for FM will occur on Saturday, but not Sunday.  They will restart on Monday morning and continue as long as the tower crew is working at the top of the tower.

Ed West

July 15, 2004

WILL-TV going digital soon, but... 

...we'll be experiencing some bumpy air for a short bit, so the captain has turned on the Fasten Seatbelts lights. Disruptions of the WILL-TV signal are possible, and we'll reduce the transmitted power at times while the engineers install the new digital stuff on the tower. Also, the WILL-FM signal will be affected since the FM transmitter is on the same tower. You can get details on our web site, which we'll try to keep up to date.

July 14, 2004

"Lighten up, Ralph," 

Ralph Nadarsays Howard Dean. Ralph Nadar responds by pointing out he's appeared on Saturday Night Live five times. The remainder of the debate even dealt with politics. Howard DeanAs promised, here's the link to the archive of the Nader/Dean debate on Justice Talking, airing live last night. If you heard it, we'd love to have your comments.

July 13, 2004

JUSTICE TALKING: Nader vs. Dean: Parties, Politics, and the State of Elections 

Ralph Nader won't be invited to the Presidential debates this year - but this evening at 6 (Central time) on AM 580 you can hear Nader and Howard Dean in a debate about third parties and political pragmatism. Is Ralph Nader tilting at windmills, or does he have a legitimate beef with the two-party system? Nader versus Dean in a Justice Talking special, this evening on WILL-AM 580. Listen online here, and I'll post an link to the archive tomorrow.

July 09, 2004

Signs of Intelligence in the Senate 

gavelToday the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence held a news conference to release to the public the Committee's Report on Pre-War Intelligence on Iraq. NPR provided live coverage, and you can hear the RealAudio archive on the NPR site. The report is critical of the CIA, to say the least. Basically, we got just about everything wrong: U.S. claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and connections with al Qaeda, were simply not true. "We went to war in Iraq based on false claims," said committee Vice Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). Later on All Things Considered, Rockefeller made clear that had he known the truth when he voted in favor of the invasion, he would have voted against. Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) said he's not sure how he would have voted. Does this play in the Presidential campaign? Maybe, but the second half of the committee's report, the part focused on the Administration's role in the flawed intelligence, isn't due to be released until after the election. Sorry for the too-cute gavel gif, but that's the least of our worries.

July 08, 2004

Cheney's 'remarks' on Iraq and Al Qaeda 

Our computers have conditioned us to using the zoom control to change the scale on items large or small. Perhaps we sometimes loose track of what the zoom factor is, so that large things appear to us as small. This might explain the miniscule press coverage given to the continued statements by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney that infer a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda. As we know, after months of hearings, examination of the records, and testimony by the principal actors up to and including the President and the Vice President, the bipartisan 9-11 Commission concluded that no significant connection existed between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and no credible evidence of any connection between Saddam Hussein and the events of 9-11. So when the Vice President said again on Monday of this week that Saddam Hussein "had long-established ties with Al Qaeda," it's more than a head-scratcher. Mr. Cheney goes on to say he "probably" knew more about the alledge link than the commission. In response the 9-11 Commission issued what may be the shortest statement on record (PDF file) from any government panel: "After examining available transcripts of the Vice President’s public remarks, the 9-11 Commission believes it has access to the same information the Vice President has seen regarding contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq prior to the 9-11 attacks." Where's that zoom control?

July 02, 2004

Cassini Views of Saturn's Rings 

Saturn image from Cassini probeA few years back, the Cassini probe shot out of Earth's gravity well with a small load of plutonium as a power source on its mission to explore Saturn. Thankfully it didn't explode during the launch. Now Cassini is providing spectacular views of Saturn, its rings and moons. NPR provides a few incredible images, along with haunting sounds from entering Saturn's magnetic field.

July 01, 2004

Congratulations! You've been unadmitted to college 

The University of Illinois at Chicago has retracted acceptance letters it sent to several hundred students, according to a report on NPR's All Things Considered today. Three years of state budget cuts adds up to about $100 million less for the Chicago campus. With a record number of student applicants (13,600 this year), the university says it just doesn't have the capacity. I don't have a graph handy, but picture a line showing 2.5 million more college students nationwide by 2007. Bisect that with a line showing higher education budgets everywhere in sharp decline. Now repeat after me: more with less, more with less, more with less...

Help Wanted: Millionaire to run for U.S. Senate 

Thought I'd see if the Illinois Republican Party might want me to run for the U.S. Senate, since they need a candidate speedy quick. I don't have any experience in politics, but that doesn't seem relevant these days. So what does it take to become a big-time candidate? You might think the qualifications would include things like vision and a thorough grounding in the issues facing Illinois, the nation and the world. Maybe deep personal commitment to serving the interests of the people, that kind of thing. "I think you've got to be a millionaire to run in this thing," says Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighart, as reported by Tom Kacich in the Champaign-Urbana News Gazette. Champaign County Clerk Mark Sheldon sets the bar higher: "I just want a multigazillionaire who can finance his own campaign." I don't know how many zeros that is, but too bad for me because my fortune doesn't even reach 6 figures. However, the country has been manufacturing a record number of new millionaries over the past decade (along with lots of new poor people). And it's a good thing, because we really need more megamultirich people in elected office representing our interests.

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