Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays from the Florescent Jungle

Every year, in lieu of a holiday party, the Florescent Jungle holds its annual holiday pot luck luncheon. It’s a day when the women in the office show off their culinary skills and the men show off the culinary skills of their wives, mothers or the local grocery store. This year’s feast included exotic treats such as mushroom pate, a lovely pineapple/Cool Whip/angel food cake concoction, ricotta pie and bags of Doritos and barbecue potato chips.

But the biggest treat was Bertha’s special spiked eggnog. On her weekly Costco trip, Bertha found frozen eggnog, which she combined with Island Stan’s beverage of choice, rum. The result was kind of like a root beer Popsicle if you removed the stick and mashed it up with too much liquor. You can imagine the trepidation of our HR Manager (who does God’s work) over the prospect of dealing with drunken employees acting more belligerent than usual on a Wednesday afternoon.

I found the spiked eggnog to be completely disgusting, however, several of my co-workers imbibed with great pleasure, including Steve and Island Stan. It took Island Stan several hours to realize that rum was available for consumption during office hours. I suspect he was still working off his rum buzz from the evening before and didn’t realize that something magical was happening right under his nose. Once the Old Joe clued him in, however, he went back for cup after cup.

The spiked eggnog was gone by the end of the day on Wednesday. However, there was so much food leftover that many members of the FJ team enjoyed lunch again yesterday, at their own risk, as someone had the bright idea to put many of the perishable items out around 7 am and leave them there for the remainder of the day.

The FJ is on Christmas vacation and will pick up again in 2008 with more tales of Trudy, Bertha, Island Stan and the gang. Happy Holidays and thanks for reading!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Kirk working with locals, including dems, to solve 10th CD problems while Dan and Jay offend and insult

Mark Kirk is working with local officials, including State Rep Elaine Nekritz (D) to help alleviate flooding problems in Lake County. From the Daily Herald:

A crowd of local, county, state and federal officials united this morning to renew support for a proposed forest preserve expansion in Buffalo Grove that could lead to flood-control efforts on the Des Plaines River.

The estimated $30 million project would add 250 acres of prairie and wetlands to the Buffalo Creek Forest Preserve, which actually is in Lake County on the north side of Lake-Cook Road at Arlington Heights Road. But U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, state Rep. Elaine Nekritz and other proponents are passionate about the proposal because a reservoir included in the plan would allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build a new levee on the Des Plaines River.

A similar levee nearing completion in Des Plaines helped fight flooding from the river in that city this past summer, officials said. The proponents gathered today in Kirk's Northbrook office hope the levee they seek would protect homes and businesses in Mount Prospect and Prospect Heights.

"We know that these projects work," said Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat. "We know they can be successful."

Meanwhile, Jay Footlik offends the distict and Dan Seals insults us.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Seals loses teacher's union endorsement

Dan Seal's very bad day got even worse as the Illinois Federation of Teachers endorses Jay Footlik in the 10th CD democratic primary.

According to the Trib:
The state's largest teachers' union switched horses today in the 10th Congressional District Democratic primary.

Last year, the Illinois Federation of Teachers backed Dan Seals, who came close but lost to Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk of Highland Park. This time, however, the
union is behind Seals’ primary opponent, Jay Footlik, in the Feb. 5
Democratic primary.

Dan got snippy when asked if he knew why the union switched endorsements:
Seals, who said IFT executive board members seemed “happy with all my positions” when he recently met with the group, said he had no idea why the IFT decided to endorse Footlik. “It’d be better to ask them,” he said.

He sure doesn't seem to be able to handle any pressure does he?

Hey Dan Seals - I'm not a millionaire and I live in the 10th.

Seals loses in first head to head match with Footlik.

I don't know if its arrogance, classism or further evidence of his lack of understanding about the 10th CD, but Dan Seal's comment at yesterday's Trib editorial board meeting was out of line. When asked why he still did not live in the district he wants to represent he replied:

"If I was a millionaire I could certainly just pick up and buy a new home, [but] I'm not a millionaire, and if you want more millionaires in Congress, I'm not your man," Seals said.

In 2005 the median value for homes in lake county was $271,700. (anybody know the stat for just the 10th? - I expect it is well under a million) (thanks anon!)

Note to Dan - snark and flippancy don't play well at the trib or with voters of the tenth and I think you will find once again that you are not our man for congress.

Read the full story of the Jay and Dan meeting at the trib here. Looks to me like Footlik has a shot at the Trib endorsement.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Love and Home Ownership in the Florescent Jungle

Bertha recently moved out on her own, after spending many years living at home. She bought a furnished house, next-door to her parents’ house. Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with buying a furnished house. Buying a house is expensive, especially when you’ve only been saving do so for the better part of the last 15 years.

Now that Bertha has checked off home ownership on her list of things to do before she turns 40, she’s got a new goal in mind: finding a husband.

The other day, Bertha and I were chatting over a cup of coffee when, out of nowhere, she asked, “Where should I go to meet men?” A fair question, one perhaps better suited for a close girl friend and not a co-worker, especially one who writes a blog making fun of her co-workers, but I wanted to help nonetheless.

I suggested all of the obvious places – the gym, bars, church, various classes and volunteer opportunities, the dog park, public transportation, the Internet. She shot down every one of my suggestions. She doesn’t go to bars or to a gym. She doesn’t want to try Internet dating. She drives to work. No need for the dog park when she can just walk the dog around the block. And all of the guys at her church are either married or, she says, of questionable sexuality or moral standing.

So readers, let’s help Bertha find a man. Where would you suggest a successful, thirtysomething woman, who is involved in her church, loves dogs, domestic crafts and dramas on CBS look for a man?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Hey Dan Seals – Voters worry about more than Iraq

From today’s USA Today:

In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday, the Iraq war still tops the list of issues cited as most important. It's raised twice as often as the next-ranking issue, the economy. In April, however, the war was cited three times more than any other issue.

When domestic and economic concerns are combined, they are mentioned more often than the war, terrorism and foreign policy by 9 percentage points. That's the reverse of findings last spring, when the war-related issues were cited more often.

"When you see the news coverage, the war is improving; the surge is working," says Dorothy DeMasi, 65, of Hellertown, Pa., a Democrat who was among those polled. These days, she's more concerned about Americans being squeezed by the mortgage crisis. "Health care is another biggie," she says.

Read the full story here.

I think Mark Kirk has balanced his approach between domestic issues and the war in Iraq/foreign relations. Not so much the other candidates whose only issue seems to be the war. Do you think shifting voter concerns will cause any change in their campaign strategies?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Why I'll never vote a straight party ticket again.

From today’s Daily Herald:
“A lack of timely and clear decision making in Springfield is hurting Lake County's attempts to keep and attract businesses, according to a recent status report.”

From the SouthtownStar:
“The legislative stalemate about education funding that has dragged on since summer has left officials in Illinois' 816 school districts wondering how long it will be before they get the additional money they were expecting, about $400 more per student.”

Metra, Pace and CTA still not funded.
Millions in federal dollars are not being leveraged.
Hundreds of thousands wasted in special sessions that accomplished nothing.
And Indiana is betting on an Illinois meltdown.

The governor goes to hockey games, legislative leaders bicker in the press, and the only bills getting passed are to proclaim that the first Tuesday in December be known as Cancer Survivor Beauty and Support Day for men, women and children who have survived cancer. A worthy cause, I’m sure – but how about a capital bill?

Wasn’t it supposed to be better with the Dems in control?

Friday, November 30, 2007

The FJ smells like roses

Let me first apologize for the Florescent Jungle’s two week sabbatical. Last week I was busy doing my part to help the American economy on Black Friday. However, I did not begin my Black Friday adventure until noon, when most of the 4 a.m. crowds had already dispersed.

Two weeks ago, the FJ experienced technical difficulties when her internet and phone service went kaput, thus cutting off all communication with the outside world. A few days later IT Geek gave his one day notice and left for greener pastures. I hold him personally responsible for sabotaging our office external communications prior to his departure.

I returned to the Florescent Jungle on Tuesday after an extended Thanksgiving break. Tuesday was a quiet, fragrant day in the FJ. Yes, you read that right. I said fragrant. Trudy’s treasure trove of office gadgets includes an air freshener.

Trudy has a particularly acute sense of smell. I would dare to say she has a sensory perception rivaling that of most animals. On days when the office air quality does not meet her levels of purity, she takes matters into her own hand and perches an air freshener on her desk. The scent of Meadows and Rain permeates the entire office. It is particularly pungent when your desk is only two cubes away from Trudy’s. Concentration and regular breathing become difficult.

Because no one in the office has Trudy’s nasal prowess, we haven’t been able to pinpoint the odor that Trudy finds so offensive. Our best guess is that she’s trying to combat Island Stan and his unique mix of white rum and pheromones.

Our HR Manager (who does God’s work) is about one more air freshener incident away from putting out a memo that addresses appropriate office scents.

Catch me up, please.

As you may have noticed I've been away for a couple of weeks taking care of my mom, havn't read a newspaper or seen the news in days. So what's the scoop, the skinny, the word on the street - in short what have I missed?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Dan Seals has finally updated his website - and its got some problems.

Dan Seals has beaten the predictions and posted his positions on selected issues on his website. A couple of problems are apparent after a quick read:

He lies and claims Kirk does not support SCHIP – when in fact Kirk voted for the successfully passed senate version of the bill and voted to override Bush’s veto.

He misinforms by claiming the surge was a failure – but see here, here and here.

He still doesn’t live in the district but has provided an interactive feature for the rest of us to see if we do.

He supports a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq.

He has no comments on ethics reform, economic growth, the war on terror, illegal immigration or support for veterans

AFSCME and SEIU are the only organizations to endorse him.

His resume says he is a business consultant and adjunct professor at Northwestern University – nothing about his job as Director of Business Development for The Point.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

God Speed, Mr. Speaker

I disagreed with Speaker Hastert on many issues, but never doubted his commitment to public service. For all the power and perceived perks, elected officials walk a hard road. The Speaker traveled it with dignity and humor.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The 3 O’clock Showdown in the Florescent Jungle

Every day at 3 p.m., Bruce and Gary participate in what is known as the 3 O’clock Showdown. This is ultimate test of strength and endurance for two grown men who appear to have entirely too much time on their hands. Bruce and Gary are the same gentlemen who once made a bet to see who could buy the worst possible $10 or less lunch for the other to consume. The “winning” combination? Tuna burrito from Taco Fresca. Criteria for winning? Amount of time spent in the restroom after lunch.

Past 3 O’clock Showdown events have included:

· Seeing who can spin around in ones chair the longest without throwing up
· Lifting themselves out of their chair using only their arms and seeing who can support themselves the longest
· Playing a game of miniature darts. This provided hours of office enjoyment until Bert confiscated the darts, but not the dart board itself
· Creating the most disgusting combinations of Jelly Belly jelly beans imaginable for the other person to eat, again without throwing up (buttered popcorn, cotton candy and jalapeño reigns as the most repulsive combination ever created)
· Playing online games, such as Yeti Golf and Penguin Baseball, in search of the highest score

Bruce and Gary are now running out of ideas and they need your help. What 3 O’clock Showdown feats of strength would you recommend?

Bean reports encouraging drop in Iraq violence

Read the full story in today's News-Sun, but there is more and more encouraging news from Iraq:

After returning last weekend from her second trip to Iraq, U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean, D-Barrington, said she noticed a palpable change there from her first trip to the embattled country two years ago. "In addition to just hearing from the leadership that there was a decrease in violence, you could feel it and see it," she said during a conference call Wednesday.

Bean said security seemed more relaxed than during her first visit, a condition she found "personally disconcerting" at first, and she said she also noticed that hospital facilities were less strained with casualties than they had been two years ago. "It was encouraging overall," she said. "The anxiety level was not what it had been."

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Lake County Statehouse Primaries

Today's Tribune has an interesting round-up of Lake county statehouse primary races. Incumbant State Senator Terry Link has a democratic primary challenge from North Chicago Mayor Jerry Johnson, as does incumbant Rep. Eddie Washington who faces two democratic challengers in Angelo Kyle and Tony Elam.

There are four candidates vying to replace retiring State Senator William Peterson. Rod Drobinski and Dan Duffy will face off in the republican primary while Bill Gentes and Richard Hammes battle it out for the democratic nomination.

The Trib cites changing demographics for the increased number of democratic candidates. Demographics may have a lot to do with the Lake County Board Races. But the mess in Springfield probably has more to do with the challenges to sitting legislators, than does changing demographics. Call me crazy, but Terry Link's portrayal of the Tin Man, hand out for "greasing," at Carmel Street Scenes just doesn't sit well when the legislature can't pass ethics reform, a capital bill or a budget, but can find time to keep their pay raise.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Dan Seals finds the 8th CD!

We know Dan lives in the 9th and has campaign meet-ups in Chicago. Now he's found the 8th Congressional District:

EIGHTH DISTRICT DEMS: U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and 10th District congressional candidate Dan Seals of Wilmette will be the featured speakers at "A Celebration of Democracy" dinner sponsored by the 8th District Democrats and Independents at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 11 at Hawthorn Woods Country Club, Hawthorn Woods.

Wonder when he'll find the 10th?

Florescent Friday Fashion Don’ts

Even on my schleppy fashion days, like today, I can still pull it together. Not everyone in the Florescent Jungle is as up to date with the latest styles as yours truly. They could learn from me and avoid these common fashion flubs:

The Denim Storm. Stonewashed denim went out with the 1980s. So did wearing jeans with a jean jacket. In the Florescent Jungle, we are shocked and awed by the Denim Storm – stonewashed jean jacket, stonewashed jeans, a light blue t-shirt and denim Keds. Debbie Gibson called. She wants her outfit back.

Good Ole Muffin Top. Mid-drift tops are tacky. A shirt that exposes part of your stomach when you do so much as answer the phone isn’t flattering – it’s gross, regardless of your size. No one wants to see that – especially not when they’re sitting across from you eating lunch.

Poop Wash. Just as you should Just Say No to stonewashed jeans, you should also say no to the “poop wash” look. Poop wash jeans combine perfectly nice dark blue denim with a hint of brown to create the most awful shade of puce imaginable. If your friends tell you that your jeans remind them of fecal matter, you know you need a new look.

Did I Miss the Flood? It’s a fact of life that pants do sometimes shrink the wash. And it’s okay for socks to show a little when you’re sitting down. But if you’re standing up and your socks are completely exposed, you’ve got a case of high waters on your hands. Save those pants for the next time you’ve got six feet of flood water in your basement, not for the office.

Don’t Mock Me. I don’t understand the purpose of the mock turtleneck. Either you want a turtleneck or you don’t. Make a decision. If you’re going to wear a turtleneck, either commit all the way or don’t commit at all. (This also applies to Dickies)

The Michael Jackson Billie Jean Syndrome. Back in the early 1980s, Michael Jackson made it acceptable to wear white ankle socks with black shoes. Today, that look, like the King of Pop’s career, is dead. Always wear dark color socks with dark shoes and vice versa. Unless you’re wearing boots and then you can wear Halloween socks in March like I’ve been known do.

Underneath it All. Men, please, I beg you, wear an undershirt. Always. Even with t-shirts.

No Cargo. Cargo pants are great when you’re in the military, not when you’re in the office. And yet someone decided that cargo dress pants were a good idea. They’re not. If you need extra storage space, perhaps you should consider investing in a briefcase or man bag and leave the cargo pants to our soldiers.

Dressing for the Season. Yesterday I saw a woman wearing Capri pants. The calendar read November 1 and the thermometer read 53 degrees. No one wants hypothermia. So please, put the Capris, shorts and flip flops away and don’t look at them again until next spring. Your extremities will thank you.

Tapering Off. If you have a friend who still wears tapered pants, consider hosting an intervention like we did in the Florescent Jungle. The conversation went like this:

Bruce (the office metrosexual): “Thank you for wearing those tapered jeans. You just made my day.”

Steve: “What’s wrong with them? I found them at the bottom of the drawer.”

Bruce: “Did you have to point your toes to get them on?”

Steve: “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Gary, what does the tag say on these things?

Gary: “Hmmm….baggy fit…tapered leg.”

Bruce: “They make you look like a lollipop, dude.”

Steve retired the tapered jeans and bought some new, straight leg jeans that very same day. Tough love for sure, but I think Steve would tell you that it’s made him a new, more stylish man.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

My favorite Kansan asks "If we ignore them will they just go away?" A special report from the writer of the Florescent Jungle

As someone who spent her formative years in Topeka, Kan., I’m familiar with Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. Phelps and his followers single out other religious and ethnic groups, but are best known for their belief that homosexuals are to blame for all of the world’s ills, including the AIDS epidemic and the War in Iraq. Their hate knows no age and has no boundaries.

The church – a term I use loosely because they are in no way affiliated with any Baptist Church institution – gained national notoriety when they protested at the funeral of Wyoming hate crime victim Matthew Shepard. Since then, they have taken to picketing funerals of fallen soldiers across the country, waving signs that carry messages like “Thank God for dead soldiers.”

Lawsuits and court cases are nothing new to the Westboro community, but losing them is. Yesterday a jury in Baltimore awarded the family of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder nearly $11 million after finding Phelps and his two daughters, Shirley Phelps-Roper and Rebekah Phelps-Davis, liable for invasion of privacy and intent to inflict emotional distress. The win is a moral victory for the Snyder family and other families who have incurred the wrath of Phelps and his followers. Whether the ruling sticks remains to be seen. Phelps plans to appeal and many constitutional law experts believe his appeal has merit.

People have their stereotypes of Kansas and Phelps and his followers do nothing more than tarnish the image of the thousands of great people who live there. My best friend, a native Topekan, sums it up this way:

“It’s funny because the new girl in our office was asking me about them (the Westboro Baptist Church). It made me realize that I just don’t notice them anymore. It’s horrible to say, but they just sort of blend in. I guess we’re all just used to them here in Topeka. It’s when I see them in other communities that it really bothers me. I hate that it’s the one thing Topeka is known for.”

I hate that this group thrives on the attention that they are now getting. What we all see as a defeat, Phelps sees as a victory for his cause. People in Topeka, who have tried time and again to stop Phelps and his followers, have thrown up their hands in defeat and have taken to ignoring them. Will more lawsuits and counterprotests against the Westboro community finally silence their hate? Or if we, as an American people, ignore them, will they just go away?
What do you think?
Yours Truly

The Problem with Dan Seals and The Point

Team America has a series of posts on Dan Seal’s new company The Point – a for-profit, activist web community that creates campaigns to target businesses and problems people think need fixed. There are thousands of targets, ranging from big corporations to Lake County Doctors. I did a little digging at their site and found some troubling aspects to the venture, including questions about how they make a profit, how targets are selected, and a general willingness to obscure and bend the truth as well as outright lie. A few examples:

In his Point bio, Dan is described as a former congressional candidate – But he has been campaigning as a congressional candidate in the dem primary for the last year and he filed petitions Monday. Nothing former about that.

From the Point’s vision statement: We believe The Point best serves the public as a non-partisan facilitator of participatory democracy – Political campaigns are partisan by nature, and having a Director of Business Development actively running in a democratic primary for elective office is hardly bi-partisan.

Of course this could all be a much bigger problem for the Point if, as suggested by the Seal’s campaign, Dan does not work for The Point at all, writing in an e-mail, “Here's the deal. Dan is a business consultant and adjunct professor at Northwestern University.”

And then there is the campaign against Starbucks:

Began on September 10th to Stop Starbucks from Using Hormone-Injected Milk., the Point declared the campaign a success with only 43 of the 50,000 required members joining, including Seals. But you see, Starbucks had already addressed this problem, issuing a press release back in early June on their goal of using no dairy produced with rBGH in U.S. stores. Food and Water Watch, a non-profit watchdog and advocacy group received a letter from Starbucks in August citing the company’s commitment to be rBGH free by the end of 2007. Well before the Point went on-line. I suppose picking a problem that has already been solved is one way to claim success. But a for-profit venture taking the credit for a not-for-profit effort is, well, slimy.

There is a problem when a company that sets itself up to be a web-based knight in shining armor for fairness, honesty and accountability goes about its business this way. And there is an even bigger problem when a candidate for public office has a leadership position in the company and is not willing to state clearly “this is where I work.”

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

We can all help

I think I stand with most in the center when I say I struggle with the war in Iraq. As an American I bear responsibility for the suffering of the Iraqi people. I struggle with how we got in and even more importantly how we get out – responsibly, and carefully. I do not protest because I do not believe that bringing our troops home immediately will help. But I do think of myself as a woman of action. So I pray and I support the USO, and the VFW, and AMVETS. I voice my appreciation to members of the military and their families whenever I have the chance. Mostly, I pray, for our sailors, soldiers and marines. For their families and their leaders. And I pray for the people of Iraq. I know that prayer is powerful, but I have often wished I could do more.

Enter the TD Foundation, started by former Army Reservist Tom Deierlein during his service in Iraq. Money donated to the TD Foundation is being used to purchase items in bulk for Iraqi children: clothes, shoes, vitamins, toys, soccer balls, school supplies, blankets and other provisions. The items are being shipped to designated U.S. Army soldiers who distribute them in the poorest areas of Baghdad. The charity also is helping to coordinate medical care for injured Iraqi children whenever possible. This is a grassroots organization. All participants in this fund are volunteers, 100% of donated funds will go to those children and families in need. An e-mail from Capt. Bill Billeter about a shipment of clothes the TD Foundation sent to Baghdad shows the tremendous power these efforts can have:
There is a local Iraqi District Council member who has dedicated much of her time to locating and assisting the refugee families who have fled to our area from all over Iraq. This area is a little safer than most, so we have several hundred of these families here — Sunni, Shi’a, whatever. They often arrive here with little besides their clothing, a few small suitcases, and a carload of children. The council member invited many of these families to a local government office that was secured by Iraqi police for the purpose of giving out food and water. And she invited us too. So, we loaded up one of our trailers with many of the clothes, shoes, stuffed animals and school supplies that you and your friends have sent us. There were hundreds of Iraqis there with their families. We pulled up and opened the trailer, and you would have thought we were giving out gold bars. Hundreds of them gathered around us to get whatever we had to offer. And they were grateful. I saw little kids holding stuffed animals bigger than they were. I saw families helping their children try on the new clothing and shoes. … It was a great event and a great day, and all the boxes of gifts that you guys sent us made a big difference.

As you know, many of the Iraqis are fed lies about us by the insurgents and radical imams and those who want us to fail here. They are told that we are oppressors and infidels. And, unfortunately, many Iraqis believe the lies because they don’t get to interact with us and find out the truth. On that day, with the hundreds of refugee families, they got to see us for who we really are.
Thank you,
As soon as I read about Tom Deierlein’s story in this MSNBC special report, I went to the site and made a donation. And now I challenge all of you, whatever your politics to do so as well. Make a difference, make a donation, spread the word. And above all keep on praying.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Muslim hero with a pen

I wrote a little bit about Shoaib Choudhury last week. The Canadian Free Press ran a more in depth story:

...It was four o’clock Saturday morning and Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury couldn’t sleep. It wasn’t the patter of the incessant rain hitting the window panes of his hotel room in Washington, D.C., it was more his wanting the new day to start sooner. Waiting until 6:30 a.m., he called Canada Free Press (CFP) from his ever present cellular. “Forgive me if I woke anybody,” he said.

This is his second trip to the U.S., as arranged by the people who saved his life, Dr. Richard L. Benkin and Rep. Mark Kirk. Choudhury was arrested and tortured for exposing the rise of Islamists in Bangladesh, spending 17 long months in prison before being set free to an uncertain future in April of 2005.

On his current American tour, the editor of The Weekly Blitz has been meeting with lawmakers, advocacy and rights groups and students in Chicago, Washington and Philadelphia. On October 30, at noon, Choudhury will once again address the prestigious Hudson Institute in New York
about what we can do to combat Islamist extremism and to support anti-Islamist Muslims.
While in Chicago, the award-winning journalist visited the Illinois Holocaust Museum and met Holocaust survivor and celebrated author Sam Harris.

I spoke at length to Benkin on the telephone two nights ago, telling him how impressed I am with Choudhury’s infectious enthusiasm. “His charm is captivating and you would love him,” Benkin said. Reaching out from the darkness of Dhaka, Choudhury first contacted Benkin via the world wide net. Benkin not only immediately responded by email, but also subsequently wrote an article called Hello Bangladesh for The Weekly Blitz.

Endearingly Choudhury now describes their friendship, “Two men, one Muslim one Jewish, once strangers, now brothers!” Courageous and charming, Choudhury is well received wherever he goes. Unassuming and self-deprecating, “I’m not an important person in this fight, but only a small cog in the wheel,” he told CFP.

But Shoaib Choudhury is in reality a Muslim hero, at a time when a terrorism wary world most needs one. A little guy with spunk, Choudhury had tucked the latest copies of The Weekly Blitz into his suitcase on the way to a 2003 conference in Tel Aviv. Instead government agents arrested him, as he was about to board his plane. The arrest was carried out with Islamist forces because of his open advocacy of relations with Israel and interfaith dialogue based on his religions equality, and his many articles exposing the rise of radical Islam in Bangladesh through some 64.000-and growing Bangladeshi madrasses.

Bangladesh does not recognize Israel and refuses him the same option. Tortured and refused medication for the glaucoma from which he suffers; forbidden to attend his own mother’s funeral, Choudhury was held in prison for 17 months. Indeed, he was only released after unrelenting pressure by Benkin and Kirk. Bangladeshi officials, who admit they are maintained only to appease Islamists, have never dropped the trumped up charges against him.

The free world knows all about Choudhury as the fearless editor of The Weekly Blitz. Few know that he was once (1993-1995) Chief Correspondent, for the Itar-Tass News Agency (Russia), or that he was founder and Managing Director (1995-1999) of A-21 TV, Bangladesh’s first private television channel.

Choudhury has made it a life mission to pursue the truth in the most dangerous of places. Praise from around the world met the publication of his new book Injustice & Jihad. “Mr. Choudhury is a man in the mold of such heroes of freedom as Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa,” said the New York Sun.

In its editorial the Washington Times said, “The United States must encourage people like Mr. Choudhury to speak out. But when they do, it must also do all it can to protect them. Freeing Mr. Choudhury will tell others like him that when you stand against Islamists, the United States will stand with you.”

The Jerusalem Post said, “Despite the dire circumstances in which he finds himself, Choudhury remains strong, upbeat and determined.” The Jewish Week said, “In a world where radical Islam is on the march, threatening moderate Muslims and non-Muslims alike, outspoken and fearless individuals like Mr. Choudhury deserve our full support. It is they, after all, who are on the front lines.”

These are all accolades that Choudhury takes in stride. The Bangladeshi journalist, who can now add the Monaco 2007 Award for Courage in Journalism to his roster, remains solidly on message. “The Weekly Blitz is saying we have to say no to jihad, not to Holocaust denial, and we openly advocate relations between Dhaka and Jerusalem,” he tells American policy makers.
When he started out just a few years ago, the words `Israel’ and `Jew’ were taboo. In Muslim dominated Bangladesh. Thanks to the unflagging courage of an editor whose office was bombed twice, now they are not.

The words, “If there will be no more voices against jihad, in tomorrow’s world there will be thousands of Osama bin Ladens” will resonate long after he returns home. “They are active; we are silent. Our silence is giving them strength.” “How can you save my life?” asks this Muslim hero with a pen. “Let Bangladesh recognize Israel.”

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday's Florescent Jungle

We’ve all lost a sock or two to our clothes dryer. But how many of us have actually resorted to line drying our socks to avoid the occasional odd pair? This is what my office mate Trudy does. Rather than risk the wrath of that mysterious sock monster in the dryer, Trudy line dries all of her socks. Sure, it’s environmentally responsible, but practical? Not so much, especially when it results in lost productivity to others like it once did at the office.

It was a rainy Friday morning, one of those days that even an umbrella does little to help. Everyone walked into the office a little damp that day. But I don’t think any of us actually thought to use a hair dryer to speed up the drying process. For one thing, none of us keep a hair dryer at our desk (or a barometer, a thermometer, a space heater, an electric cup warmer….). Except for Trudy.

Trudy walked into the office about a half hour after I arrived at work, and about two hours after the Old Joe. A few minutes later, I recognized a familiar sound. As a matter of fact, it was the same sound that I heard in my bathroom earlier that morning. It was the sound of a hair dryer.

Now as someone who uses a hair dryer just about every day, I know a thing or two about their power. There have been several mornings where my roommate and I blow a fuse after using our hair dryers simultaneously. So I knew it was only a matter of time before Trudy’s hair dryer elicited the same response.

The dryer went off for a moment and then started again. At exactly the moment that the dryer fired up for a second time, my computer screen went blank. So did the screens of the eight other people who share our bank of cubicles and, therefore, our power source. Trudy’s hair dryer blacked us out. I hadn’t really starting working yet so the black out came as nothing more than a hilarious way to start my day, but for Old Joe, who lost about two hours worth of work, it served as both an irritant and a reminder to always save your work.

A memo was sent to all staff the day of Trudy’s Hair Dryer Incident, as it will forever be called, reminding us that hair dryers are not to be used at our workstations. (A ridiculous memo to be sure, almost as ridiculous as the one reminding us to wear shoes at the office. Our HR Manager does God’s work). So now, when Trudy comes to work with damp socks, she dries her socks in the only part of the office sanctioned for those types of small appliances, the ladies’ room.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dan Seals can't fool them in Kentucky.

The 10th CD dem primary is the subject of a post by the Kentucky Democrat, who writes:

Since I plan to move to Chicago sometime late next year, I figure I should start looking at some of the campaigns up, I am not renaming the blog anytime soon.

This is despicable. How do you expect to get elected to Congress after saying Israel should negotiate with Hamas? That's not a person I want in Congress. Doesn't anyone remember the rule: You don't negotiate with terrorists. It's an unwritten rule but it's still a rule.

At a Daily Kos meeting last Thursday, Seals told audience members that Israel should negotiate with Hamas (reminding you that Hamas is a recognized terrorist organization that even Fatah wants nothing to do with because of all the damage they're doing to Palestinians).

I'm surprised that someone like Jeffrey Schoenberg would support Dan Seals after such comments were made.

There's more -

Seals lost a campaign in 2006 and he had a campaign message against the likes of Bush and Hastert. Clearly, it did not play well in Illinois' 10th congressional district or he would have been elected and not lost by 7% of the vote.

KYDEM raises an interesting point. Is it valid? and Kentucky - Welcome to the wacky world of Illinois politics!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Armchair Campaign Advisor

Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome. – Booker T. Washington

Poor name recognition, lack of cash, anti-incumbancy fever - what is the biggest obstacle each candidate in the 10th CD has to overcome? And how do they do it?

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Center is not Weak

The Chicago Tribune ran a story today about the tactics of left wing bloggers trying to squash bi-partisan efforts, especially in regards to Dan Lipinski. Read the full story here, but here are a few excerpts:

Independent ratings show Lipinski, a second-term Democrat representing the Southwest Side and southwest suburbs, actually voted with the Republican president less than 20 percent of the time this year (down from about half the time in 2006). But he has backed President Bush in at least one key vote on the Iraq war -- and he has suggested war opponents are better-served by working across party lines than by sending withdrawal timelines for repeated presidential vetoes.

That, in the new Democratic Congress, is enough to draw Lipinski an Internet-fueled primary challenge from the left.

It's an ageless debate with new technology. Primary fights often turn on the ideological divisions between small sets of voters. Former Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa), director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, estimates that only 1/24th of American voters decide each party's primary -- the most active of the activists, liberal on the left and conservative on the right.

"The center of American politics, in Congress, is exceptionally weak," Leach said.

As constant readers may know I started this blog because I was frustrated with the limited voice of the center – in the media in general and the blogosphere in particular. I think that most Americans hear the chatter at both ends of the spectrum and come down closer to the middle. The center may have a small voice – but I wouldn’t call it weak.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

10th District Wrap-up

It’s been a busy couple of days for 10th District politics:

Mark Kirk held a town hall meeting in Winnetka. The community house was also hosting their annual rummage sale and I pickup up some cool 1940’s table linens. Approximately 70 people attended the meeting, including the same group of Anti-War protesters that attend all of Kirk's town-halls. I welcome their participation in the process, but I think that an immediate withdrawal from Iraq is dangerous and prefer Kirk's position. He outlined that position as he answered every one of the protesters questions. (The meeting lasted almost 3 hours - so much for the 10th dems claims that Kirk wont talk to them. Truth is they just don't like his answers.) Kirk supports the bi-partisan Iraqi Study Group position on ending the Iraq war - moving American forces from a combat to a support role. While I admire the conviction of the protesters I think many in this particular anti-war group are more interested in scoring political points than finding an end to the war that might actually result in a more stable, democratic Iraq.

Dan Seals had a meet-up at the Goose Island Brewery in Chicago. Looks like 11 people attended. Team America has pictures and a link to the Daily Kos diary if you’re interested.

Bangladeshi journalist Shoaib Choudhury , of Interfaith Strength, is in the Chicago area this weekend. A muslim who advocates interfaith dialogue based on religious equality, he was arrested in 2003 as he was boarding a plane bound for Israel. He was arrested by Islamist forces because of his advocacy of relations with Israel and his articles exposing the rise of radical Islam in Bangladesh. He was tortured and held for seventeen months and only released after strong pressure by 10th District’s Dr. Richard Benkin and Congressman Kirk. Mr. Choudhury appeared at the Winnetka town hall to thank 10th CD citizens and Kirk for their efforts on his behalf.

Green candidate Dave Kablefleisch was also in Winnetka on Saturday at the rummage sale. I didn’t see him in the town hall meeting though.

Carol Marin has an interesting op-ed today on the 10th District Democratic Primary. My question is when are Footlik and Seals going to realize that running on the “I’m not Kirk” platform is not enough and start laying out their own positions? An update to either of their web-sites would be welcome, since I’m betting the Seals camp won’t agree to a debate with Footlik.


The News-Sun has a story on the 10th District Gifted Kids program and other outlets ran stories on SCHIP and security issues at O’Hare (see the links at right.)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Welcome to the florescent jungle.

After much groveling, the Unincorporated Middle agreed to let me to contribute something relatively non-political to her fine blog. With that, I bring you Friday’s Florescent Jungle, a weekly discussion of all things corporate from someone who recently realized that she now spends more time in a cubicle than outside of one.

Anyone who works in a cubicle environment can relate to the NBC show “The Office” in some regard. Every office has its characters and its quirks. But I actually feel like I live it, day in and day out, and I feel like I interact with many of the characterizations portrayed on the show on a daily basis. There’s the boss, let’s call him Bert, who goes out of his way to make everyone like him. The “Assistant to the Regional Manager,” Bertha, who upholds the tenets spelled out in the Employee Manual as if it were Gospel. The crazy cat woman, or women, who talk about their cats as if they were children. And even a hard-working prankster who, before leaving for greener pastures, conspired and flirted with a young assistant, yours truly, much to the chagrin of their office mates.

But if I were to create my own version of “The Office,” I’d have to add a few new character types:

Island Stan, the little man with a penchant for hard living, big women, Bob Marley and rum and an unhealthy preoccupation with death.

Trudy, a twenty-something woman who wears a parka 365 days a year, dries her socks with a hair dryer, puts an air freshener on her desk and gets into inane, 45 minute conversations about things like area codes and electric rates.

The IT Geek, who thinks that the NFL should reinstate Michael Vick because of the joy and excitement he brings to football.

And the Old Joe, who has sacrificed most of his life to the company and feels comfortable doing and saying just about anything he wants while still being the most productive member of the company.

After spending more than five years with these characters, I’ve decided to share my stories with the blogosphere. And if I happen to veer off topic into a discussion of the most recent episode of “The Hills,” or a rant about my latest public transportation mishap, so be it.

Welcome to the florescent jungle.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

We can't fix it with a pill.

I admit I come down left of center when it comes to reproductive rights – Mr. UM would call me a screaming liberal on the topic. But the decision by a Maine middle school to provide contraceptive pills to girls in the 6th, 7th and 8th grades, is craziness. The school district cites a rash of teen pregnancies (17 in the past four years) as the reason for its decision. It is appalling that four young girls a year in one Maine school district are pregnant. It is appalling that more are probably sexually active. Quite frankly, that even one american 11-year old girl, is having sex is appalling. That our answer is for middle schools to provide the Pill without parental notification is both appalling and absurd. It is wrong for so many reasons – questions of responsibility, parental control and the purpose of schools are all legitimate.

But in my mind the biggest reason it is wrong comes down to this. We, as a society, are supposed to protect and care for our children and providing contraception to 11-year old girls does neither. It is dangerous for 11 year old girls to have sex – it is dangerous for them physically, emotionally and, yes, spiritually. It our responsibility to prevent it from happening, especially if her parents are unwilling or unable. I don't believe providing contraception, or education or vaccinations encourages sex - but neither does it stop it.

The question is how do we stop it? How do we teach young people to respect themselves and each other? How do we teach them to wait? How do we let them know it is good to be young? That innocence is something to be valued? That they are precious?

Providing quality schools and safe streets is a start, but why are there halter tops, low rise jeans and daisy dukes available in girl’s size 6? Why is it okay to hear the words “bitch” and “ho” on television, in music and on the street? Why is there a sexual assault every 2.5 minutes in America? Why do 54% of all rapes of women happen to girls under age 18 with 22% of those to girls under age 12? Why is it that, in 2007, as a society, we still don’t treat women and children with decency and respect?

We are broken and I don’t think the Pill is going to fix it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My Own Modest Proposal

I could never hold elected office. I have a past that is filled with dumb mistakes, questionable decisions and some plain bad choices (I had a thing for bad boys before meeting Mr. UM). I could probably come clean and apologize to keep the voters on my side. But I have a bigger problem, as Mr. UM will confirm. I like to talk and I like to make people laugh. I also hang out with people who make me laugh by shooting off their mouths, usually in crowds. I’m sure it’s a big, smart, competitive family thing – outrageous is a definate way to score in our constant game of verbal one-upmanship.

But outrageous is fatal in today’s political game, along with plain speaking and unguarded moments. Every word can be parsed, dissected, blogged, harshly judged and criticized. No context required. No understanding of irony or satire or humor necessary. Isn’t “A Modest Proposal” required reading anymore? It is still brilliant and relevant – read it here.

The latest twist in the game is to tar and feather Jane for the speech of Dick. Blame the Republican next door for the wacky comments of Ann Coulter, hold the Democrat in the car pool responsible for the ranting on Daily Kos. There are arguments in favor of this tactic – “birds of a feather...,” “tell me who your friends are...” and the most impressive “they did it first.” But at best this approach is lazy and diversionary; at worst it is mean and hatefully misleading.

So going forward, I promise not to blame Dan Seals for the crazy posts of left-wing bloggers, not to hold Mark Kirk responsible for the wacky tirades of Rush Limbaugh and not to fault Mr. UM for the drunken statements of his buddies. All I ask in return is the right to enjoy an outrageous comment, laugh at the occasional bad joke and write about what interests me without anyone demanding that Hillary Clinton condemn me because I advocate selling young poor children to rich landlords for food.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Armchair Campaign Advisor Challenge

Here's the approximate 3rd quarter cash-on-hand figures for Illinois 10th District Congressional campaigns according to Crains:

Jay Footlik: $400,000
Dan Seals: $500,000
Mark Kirk: $1,500,000

How would you advise each candidate to spend their money?

Team America's New Blog

I loved reading Team America's comments. I didn't always agree with him but he sure does knows how to write an opinion! He has been kicked off the Ellen of the Tenth site where I used to lurk with delight mostly due to TA's comments. As a result of his banishment he has started his own blog Stop by and wish him well.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Clinton in the Middle

John Ibbitson writing in Tuesday's Globe and Mail about Hillary Clinton’s likely win of the Democratic nomination for president has this to say:

How did she do it? There may be three factors. First, the organization. The Clintons built a formidable political machine to advance Bill Clinton's presidential prospects, and Ms. Clinton inherited that machine.

Second, the husband. Bill Clinton was a highly popular president, and that popularity was enhanced by the travails of his successor. Voters appear to approve of his presence, and look forward to having him back in the White House as first gentleman.

Third, the end of ideology. National polls report that voters are fed up with the ideological divide that has formed between the Democratic and Republican parties. They want a president who can get things done, who can navigate legislation through Congress, who will balance the budget, who will get the United States out of Iraq without giving away the store to the terrorists, who can fix the health-care mess and improve the schools and mend the broken infrastructure.

While too early to call her the winner, it is starting to look like the nomination is Hillary’s to lose. Factors one and two are significant, but factor three is the one that’s gonna bring it home. Senator Clinton seems to get that we need to ratchet down the political rhetoric. I am not saying she has never slammed a republican! So you don’t need to post any and every example you find here. I do think she is the only candidate in either party who has started to reach out to those Americans who want a government that works across party lines. She is smart, experienced and has learned that compromise can be good for the country. Don’t know if it will be enough for her to win the presidency – but if the election was today – she’d get my vote.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

With Love to Captain Lovell

American hero, Captain James Lovell was all smiles and joy this past Friday, when Congressman Mark Kirk announced that the new Great Lakes Navy/VA Hospital will be named after Lovell. The Apollo astronaut spoke at the naming ceremony and later danced with recruits at an outdoor concert by Gary Sinise's Lt. Dan Band.
My dad is a vet. Marine. He visited this summer from out east and brought along some navy pals. They toured great lakes and loved it. After noticing that the recruits get to wear baseball caps instead of "dixie cups" (my dad's phrasing - he may hang out with sailors but he is still a marine), they were most impressed with the new VA/Navy hospital that will serve both veterans and active personnel. They all use the VA back home for health care. They depend on it, as do the Vets here who will be even better served because of the new Lovell Health Center.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Ye are the light of the world. A city set upon a hill cannot be hid.

Stayed up late to watch the cubs, tired of politics, need to spend the weekend doing yard work - Lord I miss the City. Any City. I have favorites: Chicago, Vienna, Paris, Miami, and ones I want to see - St. Petersburg, Rio, Athens. You?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Question: Is Bi-partisanship Always Good?

Larry raises an interesting question in a comment on an earlier post. Perhaps because I tend to vote across party lines I assume that bi-partisanship is good. I suspect that many of the commenters here have a much stronger political party affiliation than I do, and as is often the case, there probably are situations when partisan trumps bi-partisan. When and why is it good to be partisan?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Jay Footlik Lies while Iraq Campaign Ignores Reality

UPDATE: Jay Footlik has removed the Ad in question from his website - good for him! Wonder if the IIC will still be protesting at Kirk's office tonight?

Jay Footlik, candidate in the 10th CD democratic primary has a nasty ad on his website stating that Mark Kirk voted against SCHIP to support big tobacco. And it just isn't so. Truth is Kirk voted against an early version of the bill that would have taken away medicaid services to seniors and voted for the subsequent compromise bill that ensures kids - read here, here and here.

And the Illinois Iraq Campaign is calling for a "protest" against Kirk's position on the SCHIP veto overide. Kirk has called on his colleagues to override the veto. What exactly is IIC protesting?

Kirk Statement on SCHIP Veto

Kirk: Congress Should Override President’s Children’s Health Care Veto

WASHINGTON – Following this morning’s presidential veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), Congressman Kirk issued the following statement:
“Last week, I joined with 264 House members and 67 Senators to support the state children’s health program. Our legislation is a modest extension of the program that will cover 3.4 million additional kids, funded by an increase in tobacco fees. In sum, the bill is a good one – more health insurance for kids and less smoking.
“Congress should end this partisan fight and override the veto.”

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Halvorson to run for Congress.

I like Debbie Halvorson and would vote for her if I could:

from the Daily Journal on-line:

Web Exclusive: Halvorson confirms bid for Congress
10/02/2007, 1:40 pm

State Sen. Debbie Halvorson of Crete confirmed today that she will seek the Democratic nomination for Congress for the 11th Congressional District -- the seat being vacated next year by 14-year veteran Rep. Jerry Weller, R-Morris. Halvorson was in session with the Illinois Senate and said she would make a formal announcement as early as today. She is the first woman ever to be majority leader in the Senate and has three years left on her current term.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Americans For ChiIdren's Health Thank Kirk for SCHIP Vote

Looks like some people do get it. From what I can tell the group is a coalition of Health care and consumer groups who got together to make sure SCHIP passed.

Fans Rally for NLC Champion Chicago Cubs at Noon

I'm going to try and make the cubs rally at Daley Plaza today - and will recap later. For now favorite cubs stories please. Mine is opening day date with my now husband - it was cold, he was hot and the cubs won - doesn't get better than that.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

10th Dems bring partisan politics to new low

The small, but vocal, left wing 10th Dem organzation has long adopted the questionable tactics of the far right - lies, innuendo and gotcha - to make political points. Their latest attempt at disinformation is to paint Mark Kirk as against kids even though he was one of several republicans who broke with the party to vote for the revised SCHIP bill. The legislation expands health care to children without taking medicare funding away from seniors as in previous versions of the Bill. Instead of acknowledging Kirk's vote and his stand for children, this group of militant lefties are picketing his office! It might be more effective to work on the democrats who voted against the bill.

But then this really has nothing to do with kids health care and everything to do with painting an untrue picture of Kirk in the hopes of helping their chosen candidate in the upcoming democratic primary (Kirk is running unopposed in his primary.) Dan Seals has been pretty much a no-show lately, while Jay Footlik has been hard at work raising money, meeting voters and updating his website. I haven't heard of Dan holding any district events or seen anything new on his website since he announced his candidacy. Maybe the 10th Dems think misinformation about Kirk's votes will help Dan, but their increasingly outlandish behavior on Seal's behalf only makes me wonder - Where's Dan and what is he hiding?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Moderates in Congress Pledge to Work for Bi-Partisan Solution

From The Hill

House lawmakers release bipartisan agreement on Iraq, seek end to rhetoric
By Bob Cusack
September 26, 2007

A group of 28 House lawmakers unveiled a bipartisan agreement on Iraq Tuesday and called on their leaders to “end the political rhetoric and focus on substantive approaches to improving stability” in the Middle Eastern country.At press time, Reps. Mike Castle (R-Del.) and John Tanner (D-Tenn.) released the multi-pronged “Bipartisan Compact on Iraq Debate.” The compact was signed by 14 Democrats and 14

In a release, Castle said, “Following months of gridlock, this is the most bipartisan agreement reached on the issue of Iraq in the House of Representatives. … I am hopeful this group can carve out the middle ground that is vital to achieving stability in the region and bringing our soldiers home from Iraq.

The eight principles that the 28 members agreed to are: bipartisan dialogue on Iraq; opposition to efforts to eliminate troop funding; a defined and measurable mission; a shift in responsibility to the Iraq government; adequate rest time for U.S. troops between deployments; safe and responsible redeployment based on recommendations from military leaders; transitioning of
the U.S. mission to counterterrorism; support of Iraqi forces; and robust iplomacy in the Middle East.

Members who signed the compact are Reps. Tanner, ene Taylor (D-Miss.), Bud Cramer (D-Ala.), Marion Berry (D-Ark.), Allen Boyd (D-Fla.), Brian Baird (D-Wash.), Nick Lampson (D-Texas), Dennis Moore (D-Kan.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah), Mike Ross (D-Ark.), Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.), Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (D-S.D.), Dan Boren (D-Okla.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Castle,
Thomas Petri (R-Wis.), Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.), Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), Phil English (R-Pa.), Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio), Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), Timothy Johnson (R-Ill.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), and Charles Dent (R-Pa).

If your Rep is on the list give them a call and tell them to keep up the good work.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Brave Young Men Get Well Deserved Recognition:

From the Chicago Tribune
Congressional recognition U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (left) talks about teenagers Tyler Brown (from left), Zach Demertzis and Tom Foust, who were honored this week for saving the life of a woman whose car was stuck on railroad tracks in Glenview on Sept. 8 as two Amtrak trains approached. The trains demolished the car. Kirk gave the Glenbrook South High School students flags and copies of a commendation letter to be included in the Congressional Record. (Tribune photo by José More / September 23, 2007)

Speaking for Themselves Ahmadinejad, and Coulter Say Volumes

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. - United States Consititution, Bill of Rights

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

For what its worth I don't think for a minute that Iranian President Ahmadinejad was speaking to the great American middle when he spoke at Columbia yesterday. He was certainly speaking to his own people, (an interesting take on the Iranian view of Ahmadinejad appears in the NY Times.) He was probably speaking to the larger Middle East and he might even have been speaking to some factions of the American left who would rather offer excuses for Ahmadinejad's extremism than agree with the American right in seeing him as a threat.

But I hope even the extreme left and the extreme right heard what I heard here in the middle - from we need more research on the Holocaust to we have no homosexuals in Iran - the guy is wacky and deluded - and yes scary, in the way meth addicts with guns are scary. I am ok with Columbia for letting the guy hoist himself on his own petard. We upheld one of the basic principles of a civilized world and the world now gets to judge Ahmadinejad by his own uncensored speech.

I feel the same way about the Daily Kos, Ann Coulter and the rest of the gang at the extreme edges. They should be allowed and even encouraged to tell us what they think because it lets the rest of us know just how extreme and unreasonable they are. General Betrayus? - an obscene comment about an acting general - but has the right to say it. Ms. Coulter gets to make tasteless jokes about John Edward's masculinity and some of the partisan blogs here on the north shore get to spin and spew hate and vilify anyone who doesn't dig their dogma. But that's ok. They get to say what they think and we get to judge them based on their own words.

The braying of the lunatic fringe can get your blood boiling, can frustrate, outrage and sometimes even entertain. Despite the shouting at the extremes it is the quiet, reasonable voices of the middle that must be heard.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The center is finally coming together...

From Today's The Hill

It can be lonely as a centrist in the highly partisan House of Representatives. But as the Iraq debate has become increasingly polarized, House leaders have turned their undivided attention to their party’s black sheep — who could hold the balance of power over congressional action on the war.

On Monday night, a week after Gen. David Petraeus’s report, Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Deputy Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) held a listening session with a group of centrist GOP lawmakers who have expressed concern over the continued political deterioration in Iraq. Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), who attended the meeting, described “quite a bit of movement in the middle.” He added: “Every vote we take on the war is extremely polarizing.”

In an attempt to quell some of the continued partisan rancor, Castle and Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.) have been collecting signatures of like-minded lawmakers on a bipartisan agreement based on the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations. Castle declined to give specifics, saying that the deal’s language and the group’s membership have not been finalized.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has said he will meet with the bipartisan centrist bloc, although a meeting has not yet been scheduled.

“People want to win, but they are very frustrated and tired,” Capito said when asked what she had heard from her constituents. “The Petraeus report gave some people in the middle ground [insight] … and that’s a good thing.”

As the fringe becomes more polarizing

Two quotes from dems on the war in Iraq as quoted in this sunday's Tribune:

Rep. Christopher Carney, (D-PA) - "Certainly, the far left of my party is unhappy with my votes because I vote very similarly to Mr. Kirk, but I'm taking the votes I think need to be made for the nation's security."

10th Dem Primary Candidate Dan Seals - "Mark Kirk has been an architect, supporter and cheerleader over the last six years of the worst foreign policy debacle in a generation. The fact is we deserve elected officials with the courage and judgment to make America safer, not continue to support a disaster."

and one from Kirk:

Rep Mark Kirk, (R-IL) - "It's a great reality check for me because this allows me to sort of be very in touch with the 2 million Americans who are in uniform. Sometimes you can sense a real disconnect between Americans who wear the uniform and everybody else."

Carney and Kirk currently serve in both the armed forces reserves and in congress, and I would argue that both have the kind of courage and judgement needed to make hard decisions and not simply toss allegations without solutions. Kirk attended the meeting mentioned above and has been a leader of efforts to reach a bipartisan agreement. Seals has only indicated a willingness to engage in partisan electioneering on the backs of our armed forces.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Moderates may hold solution to Iraq war

I'll admit I enjoy a good political debate and even the occaisional down and dirty political fight. But the entrenched partisanship and increasingly ugly rhetoric surrounding the issue of the war in Iraq is going way out of bounds.

The latest troubling turn is the complete vilification in the blogosphere of Illinois Reps Dan Lipinski (D) and Mark Kirk (R) for their recent Chicago Tonight appearance where they discussed the need for a bipartisan effort to develop a solution for the Iraq War.

I for one think we should never have gotten into the mess, and I think everyone agrees that there were big problems with the way the war has been handled. But we are there. We helped make the mess so we have to help clean it up. We have a commitment to the people of Iraq as well as to the men and women in our military to figure out the best way to proceed.

The republican congress couldn't fix it and despite a supposed mandate the democratic congress can't seem to make the situation any better. Middle america is getting tired of the rantings of both the right and the left. Tired of the finger pointing, the expectations of failure from the left and the rose-colored progress reports of the right, mostly we are exhausted by the need to put a political spin on every aspect of this war.

We should expect moderates in congress from both sides of the aisle to get together and figure this mess out. I don't know if the Iraq study group plan Lipinski and Kirk are supporting is the way to go - but I do know that getting moderates talking about real solutions is the only chance we have to get out of this mess. Lipinski and Kirk may get blasted from the fringes - but here in the middle I say good start, keep it up and god-speed.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Marine calls for an end to partisan politics in war discussions

This OpEd in today's USA today makes a lot of sense. As the daughter of a marine and the aunt of a marine who served two tours in Iraq I appreciate the writer's service and his position:

Troops political pawn in Iraq war
By Marco Martinez

You can tell a lot about a nation by whom it trusts.

I am a former gang member-turned-Marine, not a statistician. But when I read that a Pew Research Center survey recently found that 76% of Republicans "have confidence" in the U.S. military to give an accurate picture of the war vs. only 36% of Democrats, the long-range consequences of a divided country became clear: We've become a nation that sees its soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines as political pawns, not patriots. Like thousands of combat veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I am now home, working and attending college. Yet it is the pre-presidential election climate I see stateside that concerns me most for my brothers and sisters in arms.

Gen. David Petraeus, who has faced Herculean challenges of mortal consequence, will issue his report on progress in Iraq next week. Regardless of what he reports, it's worth reminding the American people — and all politicians in Washington — that the troops must not become the rope in a political tug of war on Capitol Hill.

When I hear members of Congress, such as House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., say that progress with the surge might create a "real big problem for us" in moving toward withdrawal, I think back to the hellish fighting my fellow Marines and I endured — and I feel ashamed that any American would make such a seemingly reckless political calculation. Knowing that a politician might view success in Iraq as an electoral problem is political zealotry in the extreme. Does Clyburn's remark, though his alone, reflect a growing anxiety among Democrats that success in Iraq might complicate plans for ending the war?

Political dissent is healthy, especially when the issue is as critical as the Iraq war. But so is human decency. When an anti-war protester at the college I attend found out I was an Iraq veteran, she called me "a disgusting human being." I felt sorry for her, so blinded by politics that she had abandoned basic civility. Thankfully, she doesn't represent most Americans who oppose the war. But I worry about those still on the battlefield, and the individuals they will face when they return to a nation embroiled in election politics.

Many combat veterans, like me, have the luxury of watching the political debates from the safety of America. Not true for the 190,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Undermining the efforts of those whom one claims to support is the height of hubris.
Is it too much to ask that politicians view U.S. progress in Iraq as positive and not negative? I pray not.

Marco Martinez, a recipient of the Navy Cross, is author of the forthcoming book Hard Corps: From Gangster to Marine Hero.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Making Book - Early Political Predictions

It's way to early to be doing this but I thought this might stir some comments while I'm betting on college football and roulette this weekend in Vegas.

What do you think are the sure things, long shots and best bet to beat the odds in the '08 election? Here are mine:

Sure thing: Obama wins Illinois but Hillary is the nominee.
Long shot: Republicans gain control in Springfield.
Best bet to beat the odds: Footlik wins the 10th CD democratic primary.

Have fun - I'll be putting it all on black 22!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

AAEI ads are false according to is a non-partisan group that reports on false advertising by politicians. They recently called out AAEI for telling falsehoods - most notably the comment echoed by Jan Schakowsky in the anit-war, anti-Kirk political rally sponsored by AAEI and Chicago Union SEIU last week. The full text of FactChecks analysis can be found here. Excerpts include:

A liberal coalition calling itself Americans Against Escalation in Iraq is running a TV ad that says the U.S. will be in Iraq for a decade to come and that the military draft will be reinstated. But the ad supports those conclusions by twisting the words of two senior generals. The ad falsely claims that Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said that the U.S. will "have to stay there for 10 more" years. Petraeus didn't exactly say that. He said insurgencies tend to last that long and hinted that some U.S. forces may have to stay there for a long time.

The ad says flatly that the draft will have to be reinstated should the U.S. remain in Iraq for a decade. But it supports its conclusion with a selective quote from Bush's war czar, who said no such thing. Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute actually called reimposing the draft "a major policy shift" that isn't currently needed. And the Pentagon said afterward that "no one in the Pentagon is considering a return to a military draft."

Americans AgainstEscalation in Iraq is a coalition composed of several liberal groups, including, the Service Employees International Union and the CenterforAmerican Progress, which is headed by former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta. The coalition announced Aug. 17 that it would run four ads as part of a broader effort to "turn up the heat on members of Congress who have opposed setting a timeline to bring a safe and responsible end to the war in Iraq."

The ad also shows a doctored headline. It cites The Hill, a Washington, D.C., newspaper, as saying in an Aug. 10 headline, "Petraeus hints at decade-long Iraq presence." But the actual headline says, "Rep. Schakowsky: Petraeus hints at decade-long Iraq presence." The problem here is that the words in the headline don't represent the conclusions of the newspaper; they are the words of congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat who is a co-founder of the House Out of Iraq Caucus, an ally of the coalition running the ads.

My bet is that this is the same shady national outfit, not some home-grown grass-roots effort, that is responsible for last week's political rally masguarading as a discussion on the war in Iraq.
The election is still more than a year away and I am tired of the lies already!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Cautious Comfort or Challenging Campaign?

A young friend has a dillema and I thought the political junkies on this site might have some thoughts. Here's the question:

I was recently approached with an opportunity to work full-time on a Congressional primary campaign for the next six months. The candidate is running against an incumbent Congressman. He appears to be quite well known in the district, and it could be a winnable campaign for him. I have done a little research on this gentleman and while he seems to have an interest in transportation, I’m not sure where he stands on other issues and I don’t know if he’s someone I could even support.

I don’t know a thing about running a campaign. I've never worked on a campaign, let alone volunteered on a campaign before. My political experience is limited to voting in the general election - I’ve never even voted in a primary election. And because I was called about this while I was at work, I wasn't able to ask the important questions - how much money, can I still have a life, what would the work be like, what happens if he loses, what happens if he wins, what will I do on a daily basis, why would he want to hire someone with zero campaign experience, etc. My knee-jerk reaction would be to stay in my happy little guaranteed 40 hour a week bubble, but I wonder if this might be a good risk to take at this point in my life. I'm in my mid-twenties and not challenged or well paid at my current job. Any thoughts/advice/suggestions anyone might have are appreciated.

So what do you think? Should she stay with cautious comfort or risk a challenging campaign?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Iraq Summer, Chicago Dems Deceive 10th CD Voters

SEIU members and one of the buses outside the hotel.

I got a robo-call yesterday that sounded like it came from Mark Kirk, inviting me to a town-hall meeting in Northbrook, that he would be at - only the call wasn't from Kirk, and the meeting certainly was not a town hall. I found out when I got there that it was a war protest rally hosted by a group Iraq Summer and Rep. Jan Schakowsky who represents the north side of Chicago. I called Kirk's office today and was told that the Congressman's office did not send out the robo-calls and he had never accepted any invitation to appear at the rally.

The whole rally seemed to be a staged political event - and that's fair enough. But call it what it is. This wasn't any kind of town hall meeting for the 10th CD. The hotel was packed with people from outside the district. I counted at least 3 buses and tons of City of Chicago car stickers. When asked, the guys from SEIU didn't even know what the rally was for. People were trying to get petitions signed for Tenth District democratic primary candidates Jay Footlik and Dan Seals but weren't having much luck since most of the people they were asking to sign happily said they were from Jan's district.

I tried to get in the room but was denied because the organizers had booked a room that was too small. Maybe they packed it with the folks they bused in so folks from the district could not attend. And there certainly wasn't any town hall dialogue about the war - a man in the crowd that could not get into the room tried to ask Jan a question and was shouted down by the activists. I was able to get a program and found out that in addition to the anti-war activists and Rep. Schakowsky there was a singer/songwriter and the president of Citizens Action slated to speak.

I'm all for discussing the war and the best way to end it - without leaving an even worse mess. But this was no discussion it was a political ploy by Chicago Democrats trying to expand their reach. Mark Kirk had a real Town Hall meeting in Palatine last week where he listened to the views of actual 10th district voters - see here. I have nothing against Chicagoans since I used to be one, and I am a life-long democrat, but the deceptive political tactics tried by some Chicago dems last night just don't sit well. I hope Seals and Footlik don't plan on using these type of events to get their message out - they can't win by only speaking to people who can't even vote for them.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Water, Water, Everywhere

Storms finally over, BP backs down, and Blago takes a hit on flood protection veto

Its been some week for water. First the good news - BP has announced that it will back down on its plans to dump new contaminants in Lake Michigan:

It is a good step in the right direction, but we need to keep an eye out - the pledge is not legally binding and the broken permit process needs to be fixed.

On the bad news side - relentless rain and storms have caused floods, power outages and downed trees. The power outages only excaberated the flooding problem especially along the north shore where no power often meant no pumps. For communities along the DesPlaines river flooding was a real concern but it looked like Gurnee learned a good lesson from the 2004 flooding and got ahead of the game. Here's a quick round-up:

The sun is out today and the outlook is dry for the next couple of days so that could help - but lordy my grass needs to be cut!

And finally, Governor Blagojevich headed out for fly-arounds and photo-ops of flood damage the day after vetoing several flood control projects. His promises for help rang hollow:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Congressman Mark Kirk Hosts Lively Town Hall Meeting

I headed out west for a town-hall style meeting held by Congressman Mark Kirk in Palatine last night to see american democracy in action. Nearly 150 people attended, including local republican and democratic party regulars, some anti-war protesters, ordinary citizens and bona fide heroes.

Kirk started the meeting by recognizing some of those heroes - including the sons of a deceased WWII veteran who stormed the beach at Normandy and a Libertyville surgeon who joined the Army Reserve in support of his son who is serving in the Marines. Kirk then provided a “Washington update” on a wide range of issues from the war in Iraq, to protecting Lake Michigan to improving transportation. He did a good job outlining his positions, but he wowed me in the Q&A session.

I am a fan of Mark Kirk – think he is smart, hardworking and genuinely concerned about the people he represents. Too often though we only get to see him in superficial TV sound-bites. Last night we got to see his depth, his intelligence and his character. He answered every question in a lively and generally civil discussion of issues.

The war in Iraq was a big concern with the anti-war folks asking some hard questions. Kirk was able to communicate the complex and difficult issues surrounding the war, and provided his unique perspective as an active member of the Naval Reserve and a veteran of the first gulf war. He clearly understands the sacrifice we ask of those who serve and the hard reality of war. His plan for moving forward centers on developing a working political solution while winding down the military action in a way that protects our troops and supporters in Iraq while making sure we do not have to fight a third Iraqi war.

The war discussion provided two of the most moving moments of the evening. Three mothers of wounded Iraq war veterans presented Kirk with a folded American flag to serve as a reminder of the wounded and fallen. They asked that he use the flag as a touchstone and a guide, particularly on the war issue. From the look on Congressman Kirk’s face during the presentation, it is clear that concern for those he called “his brothers and sisters in service to our country” is deep and abiding as is the compassion he has for their families.

At the end of the evening a gentleman rose to thank the congressman for his support of the persecuted Christian minorities in Iraq. He said that he did not believe that we should have entered the war at first, but now is thankful we did because we lifted decades of oppression. He believes we need to finish what we have begun to ensure that the kind of oppression he and his family lived with will not return.

There were other questions asked and answered and differing opinions offered. There was a bit of partisanship from audience members on both side of the aisle. Some folks held up signs and Kirk even introduced the green party candidate when he stood to ask some questions. Our elected congressman had a conversation with the people he represents, the ones who voted for him and those who clearly did not. He listened to what everyone had to say and spoke honestly and from the heart about the most important issues of the day - and that's worth driving in the rain for.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Waukegan Officials Say No to $24 Million Federal Dollars to Clean Up Harbor.

The EPA had pledged to provide $24 million of the $36 million dollars needed to clean up the pcps in Waukegan Harbor. Lake County was going to provide $5 million, the state another $4 million, leaving Waukegan’s share of the bill at $3 million dollars. Under the agreed upon plan, Waukegan would provide 8 percent of the total costs to restore some of the last undeveloped Lake Michigan front property in Illinois. Waukegan would gain the greatest from the plan, tapping new investments, creating new jobs and revitalizing the town and the region.

But Waukegan doesn’t want to sign the standard EPA agreement. They have added contingencies to the EPA agreement to get rid of the existing businesses currently on the Lake. The EPA doesn’t do local zoning – their job is restoration. It is Waukegan City officials who are not doing their job turning down $33 million dollars that could greatly improve the lives of the people who live in Waukegan. Call or e-mail them to tell them that they should be doing their job and working to make Waukegan better for everyone who lives here.

MayorRichard H. Hyde(847) 599-2510

Sam Cunningham (847) 249-8075
John Balen(847)
Greg Moisio(847)
Tony Figueroa(847)
Edith Newsome(847)
Larry TenPas(847)
Pat Needham(847)
Richard Larsen(847)
Rafael Rivera(847)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Hungry in the Northern Burbs

At heart, I’m a city girl. Raised in a small upstate NY town, I moved to Brooklyn at 17 and then Chicago in the late 80s. My husband loves the city too, but he works in the north suburbs with an unbearable reverse commute. Five years ago we moved to the suburbs. I like a lot of things about living here – old trees, privacy, big, affordable master bedroom suites. But I miss the city’s restaurants – the local diners, little Italian restaurants and neighborhood gems. There are thousands of restaurants in the north suburbs but too many of them are parts of big chains. I prefer dishes served up by local cooks and chefs. I’ve found a few - Country Kitchen in Highland Park for breakfast, the Firkin in Libertyville for eclectic dinners and Louie’s in Waukegan for old school character. I’m sure there are more. Please tell me what I am missing! What are your favorite local restaurants and what makes them so special?

Question: Can Moderates Hold Suburban House Seats?

The main stream media doesn’t like the political middle very much. Unless there is a scandal, the middle is boring. Too much detail and complexity and grunt work and compromise and not enough flash. The action is at the far right and the far left, with their true believers and Kos and O’Reilly, Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich. It’s where gotcha reigns and dialogue is more about proving “them” wrong than creating workable solutions to common problems. Spit and spew in support of uncompromising positions makes good TV, lights up the blogosphere, and drives political coverage and political discourse further and further to the fringe.

But here in Chicago’s northern suburbs the middle seems to be holding firm at least at the congressional level. Representatives Mark Kirk (R-IL10) and Melissa Bean (D-IL8) are both hard-working moderate representatives, more like each other than the extremes of either party. Kirk has taken hits from the far right for his pro-choice position, and strengthening of environmental regulations, Bean has angered the far left with her fiscal conservatism and support of free trade agreements. I like and have voted for both in my suburban wanderings and am glad to see them working together on important regional issues like protecting Lake Michigan and improving transportation.

Bean faces a primary challenger and Kirk will most likely face an opponent in the general election. It is apparent that each of these challengers will come from the far left. How much of a challenge do you think the fringe will mount and what do the moderates need to do to win?