Thursday, February 23, 2006

Bring on the electricity competition!

As seen in the Olympics these last two weeks, competition brings out the best in everyone. Skaters squabble, ice dancers tumble, and snowboarders wipe out ... all in the name of elbowing out the other guy for glory. Now Illinois residents must choose whether or not to allow their electricity suppliers to compete, all for their benefit and amusement.

Currently, Exelon/ComEd is the most profitable electric utility in the entire US and is actually cutting rates in other parts of the country like Pennsylvania (source). Unfortunately, the company is nowhere near as profitable as, say, Exxon Mobil, and this threatens CEO pensions. I'll let you investigate the two sides, then I'll explain why I support one of them.

Side 1: More competition in Illinois' electric market is good for consumers ... bringing consumers the lowest available market price.

Side 2: Don't be shocked by your electric bill! Support House Bill 1944: Let's stay the course and continue to support affordable rates for customers who literally have no other options.

I personally love competition. Since I happened to mention Exxon Mobil, let me show you the types of choices the free market is able to provide the customer.

Your SUV's gas tank is on empty. Where do you go to fill up? With so many choices in the city, here's what you'll find:

Lowest Regular Gas Prices in the Last 24 Hours
  • Shell station at Clark and Devon: $2.39.
  • Citgo station at Nagle and Northwest Highway: $2.39.
  • Marathon station at 7159 W. Higgins: $2.39.
  • BP station at Lawrence and the Kennedy Expressway: $2.39.
  • Shell station at 7201 W. Higgins: $2.34.
So there you have it! The free market works. If your Ford will make it to the far northwest side, you can save a nickel. Choices like these are what we need in the electricity market.

Need more evidence? OK, why is it that when I want new cell phone service, I can choose between the $30 plan from one company and the comparable $29.99 plan from another? That's consumer choice in action! Also, when I get junk mail that says Company X can save me $300 on my auto insurance and so I call them, it turns out that they would actually save me $5 every six months? So many choices! (Meanwhile, I remember living in Massachusetts back in the mid-90s, where they had government-controlled auto insurance rates, and those were literally half what I was paying in Illinois at the time.)

I think the choice is clear. When companies compete, they win.

Q: When is a conservative old man hipper than Blago?

A: When it comes to being interviewed on the "Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

OK, old story: On the show, Blagojevich was pitted against
Illinois state Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Greenville, a pharmacist who is trying to override Blagojevich's executive order on emergency-contraception. As everyone knows, the "Daily Show" makes a mockery of all who appear, making even dull and boring politics amusing.

But here's a new twist: According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, maybe not everyone knows about the show: The Bla-governor "said he had never watched 'The Daily Show,' and didn't know what it was when he saw it on his schedule."

In other words, when Blago comes across as a fuddy-duddy of a father, he is genuine.
"It was going to be an interview on contraceptives . . . that's all I knew about it," said Blagojevich, who laughed about the episode. ". . . I had no idea I was going to be asked if I was 'the gay governor.'" ...

Stephens said on Wednesday he was aware the segment was a joke when he agreed to do it. "I thought the governor was hip enough that he would have known that, too."

In case you haven't seen the episode, it's called "Pill of Rights."

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

We're getting better at the local leader quiz

SPRINGFIELD (ap) — State and local news is big these days, with major corruption trials and disjointed political races filling front pages of the papers.

Are Illinois residents paying more attention to their leaders? Slightly.

The Daley Show recently asked 1,002 residents of the Land of Lincoln if they could — based on titles and photographs depicting them — identify six Illinois political leaders. On average, Illinois residents could identify 2.5 correctly. In a similar poll last year, residents got an average of 0.5 right.

How well can you do?

Test your knowledge of state and local politics by naming these leaders.

Illinois Governor

Rod Blagojevich

IL Senior Senator

Dick Durbin
Top U.S. Rep.

Dennis Hastert
IL Attorney General

Lisa Madigan

Arne Duncan
State treasurer

Judy Baar Topinka
Who is ...

* The Illinois governor? (70 percent of respondents answered correctly.)
HINT: The pinko's making this a welfare state. (With hint, 94 percent.)

* Chicago Public School chief executive officer? (56 percent)
HINT: This good speaker is someone else's puppet. (91 percent.)

* Illinois' senior U.S. senator? (34 percent)
HINT: A friend of President Bush? I don't think so! (84 percent.)

* U.S. representative, 14th district? (9 percent)
HINT: The third most powerful man in the world. (83 percent.)

* Illinois attorney general? (3 percent)
HINT: Did not get the job because of her "daddy." Really. (79 percent.)

* State treasurer? (3 percent)
HINT: Despite dowdy image wants to be first woman leader. (11 percent.)
OK, ANOTHER HINT: The crazy lady that plays the accordion. (98 percent.)

Daley Show commentator Stan the Streets and Sans Answer Man says two factors seem to affect how familiar Illinois residents are with state leaders: longevity and prominence in corruption investigations. "For some reason, people just love trash," Stan says. "If you've got some dirt on someone, people flock to it like flies to a train wreck."

(Shamelessly stolen from today's Sun-Times.)

Bart the police dog examines the Ryan trial

George Ryan, 71, and Larry Warner, 67, face a total of 22 counts of racketeering, mail and tax fraud, extortion and making false statements to investigators. Prosecutors allege Warner and others gave Ryan cash, gifts and favors for government contracts.

Many wonder if the former governor will testify in his own defense. We turn to the Daley Show's new court reporter, Bart the recently found police dog, for the latest.

Bart, George Ryan's attorneys kept the guessing game going Tuesday, refusing to say if the former governor will take the stand, possibly as early as today. What have you been able to sniff out?

Bart: Woof! Woof!

If Ryan does take the stand, some wonder if he will use the old Bill Clinton bend-the-language-to-suit-your-needs defense, as in, "I did not take bribes from that woman!" In that case, the prosecution must clearly define the word "bribe." Others say he'll employ the strategy of the current president: admitting no mistakes, regretting nothing, standing by his man, and declaring that all's fair in the war on the evil-doing Democrats. Bart, which strategy do you think would work best for Ryan?

Bart: Woof!

Thanks for that. Yesterday, a forensic accountant for the defense testified that by his analysis, he didn't think the Ryans were getting money from illegitimate unexplained sources -- a refutation of the prosecution's theory that Ryan was taking bribes. Now, Bart, I'm sure you've done plenty of work with forensic teams. Any indications this testimony might sway the jury?

Bart: Woof! Woof-woof!

Oh, sorry, is that choke chain on a bit tight? Let me loosen that a bit. What about this allegation that Ryan was a gambling man? Does that explain all the riverboat casinos in Illinois?

Bart: (silence)

What about that big wad of money that Ryan always carried, something prosecuters established earlier in the trial. Bart, I'm sure you've come across many drug dealers with wads of money in your line of work. What do you think? Was George Ryan dealing drugs? Bart? Bart! Now, where the hell did that damn dog go?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Now I get it: These are Olympic training grounds

A couple of days ago, I complained that streets in my neighborhood are virtual ice rinks in the winter because of all the leaves that clog the sewers. But after a weekend of watching the Olympics, I finally understand. The ice is there to train future Olympians.

Silver-medal-winning ice dancer Benjamin Agosto is actually from my neighborhood, Rogers Park. (Note to my condo association: I don't care what you call this place, nobody believes this is Edgewater.) Gold-medal-winning speed skater Shani Davis spent much of his life just up the road in Evanston. Who knows. At some point early in their lives, these local champions must have encountered a frozen street and thought about putting on skates.

You just gotta love Davis, originally from the South Side, for putting on a White Sox cap after winning the 1,000 meters and then blowing off interviews with NBC reporters, who had earlier blasted him for actually standing up for himself. I wasn't super-psyched about the Winter Games until I started reading about Davis. Right now he's the only American I'm rooting for.

Governor's race? What governor's race?

On my one-mile walk to work through Edgewater, how many candidate-for-governor signs have I spotted in the past month? Exactly zero. Instead, residents are concerned with local issues.
Block after block, front lawns display these signs, so you can't say people aren't political. Perhaps they're all Democrats?
I'm just not so sure why these people are so opposed to highrises on Broadway. They've got their three-quarter-million-dollar single-family homes with plenty of street parking and garages. Why not let even more affluent people move to the area? It would only bring in more businesses. As it is, there are plenty of vacant storefronts on Clark, and with more local residents, who knows, maybe some smart capitalist will turn this into the next Clybourn Corridor with suburban-style shopping for all.

News haikus: From the mouths of GOP babes

"The boys have had enough time to beat up on me behind my back. I'm the front-runner. I expect to get all sorts of abuse." --State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka during an after-debate Republican lovefest.
OK, then, abuse in the form of haikus, "rich-Republican-fun" edition:

Judy Baar Topinka:
"Not a millionaire,"
Treasurer wants tax returns
From rich candidates.

Jim Oberweis:
"An oxymoron!"
Milk man delivers attack,
But he's worth millions.

Ron Gidwitz:
"This is SNL."
Businessman frowns on new low.
Net worth? Hundred mil?

Bill Brady:
"Candidate who's pure."
Virginal state senator,
A millionaire too.

Andy Martin:
"Don't say nevermore!"
With nothing to say, he sings.
Net worth? No one cares.

(The Daley Show's News Haikus: All the news that fits ... in 17 syllables.)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Forbidden Chicago presents: The City's Candid Cameras

We've got a bunch, and now Mayor Daley wants more. They are security cameras, and some are hidden, some have created blue-light districts, and others catch red-light violators. U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff was in Chicago recently, and he liked what he saw as far as the city taking away people's privacy. Now, the Daley Show is proud to present a guide to these cameras, all 2,000 of them (and counting).

Type of cameraDiscreet
Police device w/
flashing blue light
Where they're located
Where tourists goWhere minorities live
Where you least
expect them
Primary purposeProtect tourists
and capitalists
Lock up
Generate revenue
Quote heard
"Where's the
Sears Tower?"
"Get yer hands up!""Damn!"
If you see oneSmile!Don't panic, but
leave immediately
Hit the brakes
Why we need moreTo capture
future terrorists
To gentrify every
To line somebody's pocket

Since it was deleted elsewhere ...

So there was this little contest over at another blog that went like this:
... what really caught my attention was the closing tag line: "When you get to know Jim Oberweis, you know he's right for Illinois."
Ok, now this is almost too good to ask for, so let's all have some fun.
Finish this sentence:
"When you get to know Jim Oberweis, you....."
The person posting the best line would win dinner. Well, I didn't care about winning the dinner, so I posted my entry under an assumed name. Twenty minutes later, my "comment" was deleted off the site. While it wasn't the funniest stuff I've ever written in my life, I did put 10 minutes of thought into it, and I HATE having my stuff censored, so I present it here:

"When you get to know Jim Oberweis, you ...

10. ... know never to use that on-line dating service again."
9. ... stop believing in intelligent design."
8. ... pray that Roe v. Wade never gets overturned."
7. ... realize you've always wanted to move to California."
6. ... understand why Blago will be reelected."
5. ... know he's right for Illinois fanatics."
4. ... see that God does exist, and He loves irony."
3. ... wish you had a gun the ability to go back in time and deny the Oberweis family legal entry to this country."
2. ... appreciate the fact that you are lactose intolerant."
1. ... and he must be the last two people on the planet."

The winner, by the way, wrote:
"try to remember what he is running for this time."

(Yeah, this is how I spend a day off. Pathetic. I'm going out now ... for some photo-fun!)

Blagojevich introduces his pizza franchise

SPRINGFIELD (ap) -- The Illinois Bla-governor formally launched his pizza parlor business in the state capital Sunday by promising not to raise prices in a second year and tarring Republicans for wanting to dismantle his secret sauce recipe. He sat down with the Daley Show for a Q&A about this venture.

Where are you getting the funds to open "PIZZA 4 ALL"?
"We inherited a mess [of money]."

Who should order pizza from you?
"The people without lobbyists, the people who have families to nurture, dreams they pursue and meals to cook, homework to do, and car payments to make, those are the people."

Your first attempt at making pizza (back in the 90s) ended in failure. What have you done to improve your recipes?
"I am proud of the progress we've made, of the people whose lives we have made better, and I am committed to do more."

Are you considering moving the business back to Chicago?
"We've made a difference in people's lives. Now is not the time to move back. Now is the time to keep moving forward."

Does that mean you'll raise prices?
"I won't do it. I don't believe in it. I think it's the wrong thing to do."

How do you make such a great pizza?
"We do everything right, and I'm proud of our record of accomplishment."

Aren't there other pizza franchises in town that can deliver an equally good pizza?
"The people who want to divide will never bring us together. The people who put the special interests first can't deliver for the middle class."

In the name of fairness, this blog contacted one of Blagojevich's pizza-making rivals, Chicago Ald. Edwin Eisendrath, to comment. What do you think of the Bla-governor's promises to create the perfect pizza?
"He's failed completely to keep his promise to 'change business as usual.' The governor has adopted business as usual. He's changed the nameplate on the door."


Sunday, February 19, 2006

When in doubt, go high-profile

A couple of recent convenient political publicity stunts:
Cook County Sheriff Michael Sheahan personally nabbed a drug suspect Friday after the hospitalized woman slipped past one of his guards -- who was cited earlier in the day for leaving her unattended. CONVENIENT that the sheriff all of a sudden looks like a badass after he looked so bad recently, with jail escapes and inmate shootings at the county jail.

Secret recordings of Saddam Hussein surface, revealing that, in the mid-1990s, he predicted a terrorist attack on the U.S. Oh sure, he also said that the attack wouldn't come from Iraq, but he did say that Iraq was hiding WMDs from U.N. inspectors and interested in biological weapons. CONVENIENT that these secret recordings are made public when approval ratings for the president's war in Iraq are at an all-time low.
The newspapers love this kind of stuff. Top story: Sheriff nabs suspect who fled hospital. (Problems at the jail? What problems?) The public loves this, too. Just watch approval for the war go up as soon as Americans realize that, wait a minute, we never did find proof of anything, but there is a tape that shows Saddam was a bad, bad man.

That said, here are some predicted local and international headlines for the coming week that conveniently take the heat off the real problem:

Defense team: Ryan actually got cash from Powerball win
"And he wants to share his winnings with the people of this state."

Cardinal George kicks accused priest's ass, excommunicates him
"When I say the church is getting tough on priests that molest, I mean it."

Bla-governor reads bedtime story to state's children
"Kids love my version of 'The GOP That Stole Preschool'"

Daley hires a Latino
"I love Tex-Mex food."

GOP candidates for governor drop out of race
"See? We are a united party," they say in joint statement

Cheney victim hit by car, admits clumsiness
"I totally didn't see it. I must be getting old. My bad!"

Bush shows solidarity with New Orleans, parties at Mardi Gras
"I feel your pain. Now show me your tits!"

Palestinians overthrow Hamas
"We thought we had voted for hummus."

Pakistanis riot over undelivered SI swimsuit issue
"See, we share American values. We want out soft porn!"

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Why are there frozen puddles on the roads?

Back on December 2, before the snow and cold hit, I wondered why the city refuses to clear the streets of leaves. Back then, I wrote:
The leaves are then going to stay in the gutters until removed. And until they are removed, they will clog up the sewers, causing major slush and frozen puddles for the duration of winter, which usually lasts five or six months. As someone who walks to work, I'm getting a little tired of wet shoes and socks because someone forgot to prevent puddles.
Well, it's now February, we just had rain, then a tiny little bit of snow, so the city dumped tons of salt everywhere, and here's a typical crosswalk on my way to work:

Yup, the sewers are blocked by leaves.

Stupid Foreigner 11: What are you talking about?

I lived in Japan for two years, went through five cameras, and barely ever took any decent photos. It's odd to think that in the late 90s there were no digital cameras, so all of my pictures are in a photo album somewhere, the negatives long lost. Here are a few pictures that I scanned in, all of which other people took.

Food in Japan comes in all shapes and sizes. Street vendors sell a variety of things you can't find in the U.S., from something that translates to "octopus balls" to actual grilled octopus-tentacle-on-a-stick and chicken-gizzards-on-a-stick. When you've been there long enough, you eventually learn to stop asking what it is and just drop your 300 yen, order, and enjoy. Unlike other travel destinations, where you are warned against street vendor food, the stuff sold on the streets here is some of the best food available. Can't wait to return this summer for more.

On the set of the remake of Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai." This is one of those long, lazy, memorable days that I wish would happen more often. We cycled from the hustle and bustle of Shizuoka to the ocean beach area of Shimizu and found a famous tree, where legend has it that a beautiful nymph one time came down from heaven and bathed, leaving her gown hanging on the tree. A fisherman stole the robe and the nymph, who couldn't fly without it, had to marry him, but eventually he gave her the robe back. I don't remember the details. But I remember this: The Japanese don't necessarily believe that story or any one religion, but they do hang on to their legends, their traditions, their history. That tree is now protected, propped up so that it doesn't fall over, and stupid foreigners like us go spend lazy afternoons there.

Before going to Japan, I couldn't hum in key, let alone sing. Microphones scared me, and I kept my distance. Years later, I still can't sing, but I no longer fear tormenting others with my horrible renditions of whatever English song is available at the local karaoke bar. This is me, actually wearing a tie, looking like a drunk Japanese salaryman, with some guy from Canada, singing "Crazy Train" at a place that had an all-you-can-eat-and-drink-and-sing special for like $25 for two hours. People say Japan is expensive. I tell them you just have to live there and get a group of fellow stupid foreigners together and party like the locals.

One time I was sitting with a couple of fellow stupid foreigners at a mall McDonald's. Surrounding us at all the other tables were loads of beautiful Japanese women and girls. My buddy said, "That's the difference between this place and England. Here, at every table of four, at least three of the birds are knockouts. There, you're lucky to see three hotties in one day." I suppose Japanese women do spend time trying to look good, trying to be fashionable even when out for a quarter pounder with fried egg. These tall boots, which were popular for about a year and a half, were the cause of quite a few car accidents. Women would drive wearing them, but were unable to step on the brake because of the six- to ten-inch heels. Eventually they learned to take off their foorwear while driving.

So, anyway, I'll be heading to Japan for a week this summer, before heading off to southeast Asia for a month. I promise to come back with more interesting pictures and a story or two.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Questions (and answers) about the cartoon controversy

Where can I see these cartoons?
Try a university's student newspaper, such as this pdf file from the Northern Star.

Why a student newspaper? Why not a professional newspaper?
Professional newspapers are corporate-run, and afraid of losing advertisers. They are becoming less and less relevant, and soon you'll have to get all your news on-line.

So why did the Daily Illini dump two editors for publishing the cartoons?
At the University of Illinois, they are obviously trying to teach the kids the pains of real-world journalism, where the publisher, not the editor, decides what gets published.

What's the worst thing that ever happened when you were a college journalist?
Well, one time I wrote a column making fun of Sycamore, and all the advertisers from that town threatened to stop advertising in the Northern Star if I wasn't fired. We told them to fuck off. At least I think we did.

Wow, you're cool. Anyway, what's so offensive about these cartoons?
Muslims believe their prophet is Da Bomb! These cartoons make him look like the bomb.

Can't we all just agree?
Actually, we can't even agree on how to spell the prophet's name. Some say it's Muhammad. Others, Mohammad. Then there's
Mohammed, Muhammed, and sometimes Mahomet.

Why can't we see pictures of the guy, however you spell his name?
Can you really draw a picture of love? Or hate? Or terror, for that matter?

Is it true that some newspapers from the Arab world publish horrifying anti-American and anti-Semitic cartoons?
Oh, come on, there's no comparison between these and cartoons mocking a religion with a billion-plus followers.

Aren't you afraid of going to hell with that flip attitude of yours?
I'm already there, my friend. Already there.

News haikus: Faster than Newsradio 78

All the news that fits ... in 17 syllables.

In Carrollton, Ill.:
Two year old unhurt
As van runs red light, crashes.
He was the driver.

In Battle Creek, Michigan:
State sex registry
For crimes 'gainst humans, not me,
Says man who raped sheep.

In Wisconsin:
Lawmakers seek ban:
Intelligent design has
No place in science.

In Wisconsin:
Obsessed with door knobs
Man took dozens from work sites.
New fixation: Bars

At Kennedy Airport in New York:
Expensive show dog--
Sick of airline travel cage--
Wins prize in escape.

At the University of Georgia:
Acceptance letters
Sent to hundreds in error.
Next letter says "no."

In Florida:
Why are kids so fat?
Gym teacher took a buck each
From kids to skip class.

In Tehran, Iran:
Angry 'bout cartoons,
Name change for Danish pastry.
Just like "freedom" fries.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Daley: What, me worry?

Seven out of 10 Chicago voters don’t believe Mayor Richard Daley’s assertions that he was unaware of wrongdoing in city contracting and hiring, but more than half of voters still approve of the job he is doing, a new Tribune/WGN-TV poll shows. "I take responsibility [for the wrongdoing], but let's be realistic," he said. "I can't know everything. I wish I did. It's impossible."

College students riot over cartoons

CHAMPAIGN (ap) -- Rioting and public drinking erupted Wednesday as hundreds of students took to the streets in the University of Illinois' third straight day of drunken protests over the Prophet Muhammad cartoons. Three people were hospitalized for alcohol poisoning, including a 20-year-old undeclared freshman.

The State Board of Higher Education condemned the cartoons, first printed in the Daily Illini and now in the Northern Star of Northern Illinois University and other college newspapers. The board also spoke against what it called "systematic incitement to alcoholic consumption" by undergrads, pushed by some unidentified campus drinking establishments.

Young people flooded the streets of Champaign, said Saeed Wazir, a senior public relations major. The huge crowd went on a partying rampage, drinking in public and "lighting up" outside businesses and fighting police who struck back with tear gas and batons. Protesters with late night munchies congregated at a KFC restaurant, three burrito joints, and outside the school's financial aid offices, witnesses said.

At least 45 people were drunk, Wazir and witnesses told the Daley Show.

Riotous partying spread across the state and also broke out Wednesday near the Huskie region of DeKalb, where security officials have said foreign beer linked to Germany is consumed. The crowd, drunk on Ottobrau, became angry when a local pizza restaurant ran out of beer nuggets.

"The student newspapers have abused our intelligence and forced us to think, which leads us to drink," said demonstrator Derek Wright, his eyes bloodshot from an unknown substance. "We are expressing our anger the only way we know, by consuming vast quantities of beer. Usually protesters are peaceful but some miscreants do bad things and other people join them."

Not one student on either campus could explain the significance or offensiveness of the cartoons, which portray the prophet as a terrorist, including one that depicts Muhammad wearing a turban shaped as a bomb, but that didn't stop them from hitting the streets.

"I just want to make sure I have good buzz for whatever happens now," said Acton Gorton, the editor in chief of the Daily Illini who has been suspended for publishing the cartoons. "My reputation as a party monster is in jeopardy."

(Image altered from

Governor revises ambitious budget

SPRINGFIELD (ap) -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich released details of his budget proposal for fiscal year 2007, which starts July 1. Republicans laughed. Blagojevich went back to the old drawing board, worked all night, and is planning to release this modified budget later today (additions are in italics):

• BOTTOM LINE: $45.4 billion in operating expenses, an increase of 4.2 percent, plus $9.95 billion in alibi construction and security detail's mountain bike maintenance costs.

• WHERE IT GOES: 33.2 percent to companies that employ welfare moms; 25.7 percent sex education; 16.1 percent human services (ie, prostitutes); 11.2 percent government services (ie, prostitutes); 7.1 percent economic erotic development; 5 percent public safety displays of affection awareness campaign; 1.6 percent to tell Judy Baar to mind her own business and environmental regulation.

• NEW MONEY: $1.38 billion, including $878 million in natural tax-revenue growth gas company profits.

• EDUCATION: $440 million in new funding, including offering preschool non-violent video games to every 3- and 4-year-old and $10 million in grants to schools to reduce class teachers' dress sizes; plus $90 million in tax credits beer money to college freshmen and sophomores who maintain a "B" average and a fake ID.

• PENSIONS: $437 million to government pension of Canada prescription systems; additional money possible from selling state assets asses for $30 million (goodbye, Jim Oberweis!), selling the long-dormant 10th casino license to highest bidding mob outfit and encouraging teachers and state employees to delay retirement commit suicide.

• HEALTH: $10 million for a program to offer health coverage morning-after pills to low-income veterans who live too far from veterans' medical centers to come in for abortions; $3 million to expand the number shorten the length of nurses' skirts; $15 million for stem cell hair care product research.

• PRISONS: Partially open Thomson Correctional Center with 75 guards and 200 inmates, including at least one guard who will help inmates escape ; open a 200-bed unit for treating methamphetamine users and alleged sex offender-priests at Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center in East St. Louis.

• CIGARETTE TAX: $10 million from a tax on cigars to fight a statewide smoking ban.

• ENVIRONMENT: $16.5 million more for the Department of Natural Resources, including $1 million for a statewide water supply survey and enhancements at parks and natural areas to build a wall separating Illinois and Wisconsin; increased money for reimbursement of underground storage tank Illinois winery owners who clean up contamination after spills.

Sources: Governor's Office of Mismanagement and Budget, FACT

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Cheney takes a tumble

Vice President Dick Cheney failed as a hunter. So, following his unfortunate accident in Texas, Cheney took off for Italy to put the gunshots behind him and win some glory for this country. Despite his heart palpitations, Dick Cheney tried various winter sports to show solidarity with the troops. But, turns out he's not much of an Olympian either.

Snow boarding

Figure skating

Speed skating

City workers wonder: What are my odds of being indicted?

As former Governor George Ryan and Chicago City Clerk James Laski recently learned, nobody is safe when it comes to federal corruption indictments. All city and state employees are now under scrutiny, and many wonder if there is a risk they might be indicted next in City Hall's Hired Truck scandal or the Licenses-for-Bribes probe. FACT researchers came up with this test to calculate the risk for anyone working for the state or city government. They say it can give cronies a rough idea of their survival chances.

Number of years at present job:
0-1 years: 1 point; 2-4 years: 2 points; 5-8 years: 3 points; 9-12 years: 4 points; More than 12 years: 7 points.

Gender: Male 2 points.

Percent-of-income-derived-from-bribes index: Less than 25 (normal weight or less) 1 point. (Calculate by multiplying thickness of wallet in inches times height in inches; then divide weight in pounds by that total; then multiply the total by 703.)

Have you ever called Mayor Daley a cancer? Yes: 2 points.

Chronic greed that limits activities unless thoroughly compensated: 2 points.

Prolific fund-raiser: 2 points.

Mob connection: -2 points.

Pushing for the cigarette smoking ban: 2 points.

Checking off the "minority-owned" box on application: 2 points.

Difficulty bathing/showering/washing off all the corruption in your office: 2 points.

Difficulty managing money, paying bills, keeping track of cash gifts because of an accounting or memory problem: 2 points.

Difficulty walking several blocks under the glare of TV lights: 2 points.

Difficulty pushing or pulling large objects like a tractor trailer because you don't actually know how to operate one: 1 point.

0 to 5 points -- less than a 4 percent risk of being indicted
6 to 9 points -- 95 percent risk
10 to 13 points -- 97 percent risk
14 or more points -- 99 percent risk

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Where's Ozzie?

The world champion Chicago White Sox visited the White House yesterday, and while the president said he didn't mind, many wondered why Ozzie Guillen--the talkative, attention-grabbing manager--didn't make the trip. Some said that Ozzie was there in spirit if not in person. Others, mainly I, said that this is a golden opportunity to play a game not unlike "Where's Waldo?" from our youth. Can you spot Ozzie at the White House celebration?

Top 5 Valentine's Day movies from my DVD collection

5. tied: Before Sunrise/Before Sunset: Yes, true love is possible in one 24-hour period. Twice. Love of travel, that is.

4. Ghost World: How can you not love a movie featuring Scarlett Johansson? Or a movie where a teenage girl falls in love with Steve Buscemi? This movie has both!

3. tied: Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and Triplets of Belleville: On the surface, both seem like kids' movies. But, actually, they're both about a young man's love of his bicycle.

2. Tampopo: A Japanese movie about ramen, truck drivers, and love ... kinky love featuring food. Yum.

1. Harold and Maude: An 18-year-old suicidal nutcase falls in love with a spritely 79-year-old thief/protester/philosopher. She ends up killing herself, but not before they transplant a tree, sing Cat Stevens songs, and make sweet, sweet love.

And people say I'm not romantic.

I'm not a Lollapaloozer

Like many die-hard music fans, I can't imagine anything more fun than standing around in the 100-degree sun and humidity of a Chicago summer watching three days of live music on distant stages along with hundreds of thousands of sweaty and stoned hippies, frat boys, and other alternative music lovers. This is why I'm so happy that Lollapalooza will return to Grant Park this year bigger than ever with 130 artists playing eight stages over three days, Aug. 4-6. Exciting stuff.

With that many artists, surely there will be someone for everyone, making the $100-plus tickets well worth it. Or maybe not. I'm actually trying to think of one band that would get me to buy a ticket and go to this thing, but ... I must be getting old. Then again, I'm used to going to venues where 130 might be the number of audience members, not the number of performances. And I can't even think of eight stages in this city where I'd be willing to pay money to see live music, so maybe Lollapalooza is just a bit overwhelming.

Still, I've been to my fair share of outdoor music festivals, so I think I'm fairly competent in presenting a guide to surviving a major rock event in a downtown park ...

How to be a true believer

1. Wear your Sunday best. This ain't no day in the park. A flowery bonnet will keep the sun's rays off your face. Actually, the Scripture of the Smashing Pumpkins says that it's all right to dress however you want to, unless you are making a claim to alternativeness. In that case, the way that you dress (along with the rest of your life) must be subject to the guidelines and control of Rolling Stone magazine.

2. When Liz Phair says "Hello Chicago," respond with "amen!"

3. Clap and sway in unison. Lift hands heavenward and praise the singer.

4. Each performance can range in time from about 30 minutes to several hours. Well, no, they won't really be that long, though they might seem like it, especially bands like Dashboard Confessional and Death Cab for Cutie.

5. The festival is often surrounded by periods of musical worship led by a song leader, choir or band, although tattoo and piercing booths are just as important.

6. Musical styles vary between arena rock and Adult Contemporary with many artists choosing a blend of the two.

7. Concert goers will only sing along if they've heard the song on a station that claims to play "the new rock alternative" or "what we want."

8. Alternative rockers oppose the use of drum machines and/or slide guitar in their performances because those two instruments are associated with uncool music which is considered sinful or Satanic to them.

9. Other common features in an outdoor music festival include the collection of offering, the serving of symbolic communion, and a period of announcements. Communion is portrayed by eating bread (with some sort of sausage) and drinking wine, beer, or other liquor that helps the drinker believe in Perry Farrell as a true god.

10. Though most of the performers are relatively unknown with typically small audiences, an outdoor music festival allows them to mutter into the microphone and remain motionless on a large stage in front of thousands, with their unclean images broadcast on giant screens for all to witness.

(Pic of rock festival in Quito, Ecuador, 2004, available for $4.53.)

Monday, February 13, 2006

Cheney's Got a Gun

Dick Cheney, right, accepts his "straitshooter award" from Aerosmith

News Item: Vice President Dick Cheney shot a man while hunting in Texas. Now, according to Daley Show sources, his handlers have contracted Aerosmith to help deflect the blame.

Dumb, dumb, dumb, Dick, what have you done
Dumb, dumb, dumb, it's the sound of a gun
Dumb, dumb, dumb, Dick, been drinkin' rum
Dumb, dumb, dumb, it's the sound, it's the sound...
Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah....

Cheney's got a gun
Cheney's got a gun
His poll numbers come undone
From thinking about the Iraqi sun
What did his rich pal do?
What can we say that sounds true?

We'll say the quails they were nested
Dick found them underneath some grass
His friend, he had it comin'
Now that Cheney's got a gun
It don't matter he was orange vested

Cheney's got a gun
Cheney's got a gun
His hunting day had just begun
Now the story is being spun
Tell me now it's untrue
What did his rich pal do

He shot the little bitty quail
(That man donated to our last campaign)
We'll say the tall grass he was under
No signal, it was his blunder
We all know the veep wasn't to blame

Run away, run away from the blame
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Run away, run away from the blame
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Run away, run away, run, run away

Cheney's got a gun
Cheney's got a gun
His hunting day had just begun
Now the story is being spun
What did his rich pal do
It's Cheney's last big fuck you

He followed the quail nice and easy
And shot but missed, what a shame
He said 'cause Harry didn't see me
That man got peppered pretty good
Now his face ain't never gonna be the same

Run away, run away from the blame
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Run away, run away, run, run away
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Run away, run away, run, run away

Cheney's got a gun
Cheney's got a gun
Cheney's got a gun
The truth is on the run

Blagojevich's foes say preschool is for the wealthy only

CHICAGO (ap) -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich unveiled his proposal Sunday to allow all 3- and 4-year-olds in Illinois to enroll in state-funded preschools, sparking criticism from political rivals who said that parents who lack the money shouldn't have access to such a venture.

"We all love kids, and we'd all love this to occur, but only if they could afford it,'' said state Treasurer and Republican gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka.

The Democratic governor proposed his "Preschool for All" program Sunday as part of his 2007 fiscal year budget, recommending that the state spend $135 million to fund it. His foes say that parents should pay for their children's education.

Topinka, several other Republican gubernatorial candidates and Blagojevich's Democratic opponent in the March primary, Edwin Eisendrath, criticized the preschool plan, calling it just one of many programs the governor has unveiled recently for people who don't have the money to pay for them. They unanimously agreed that poor people should not be given access to education, health care, or morning-after pills.

Republican Chicago businessman Ron Gidwitz called the proposal a gimmick.

"We have all neglected the problems facing our schools for three years and now on the cusp of a re-election, this is a last-ditch, desperate effort to pretend we care about children," said Gidwitz, a former chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education. "Let the free market take care of the children. It's taken care of Republicans'' children quite nicely."

State Sen. Bill Brady, a Republican gubernatorial candidate from Bloomington, said school districts should not be given state money for certain programs.

"Schools should remain funded by local property taxes here in Illinois," Brady said. "This will assure that wealthier suburbs will continue to spend more per child with no strings attached so they can decide how to spend it."

"The children and grand children to come shouldn't be saddled with additional education because of this governor's desire for re-election,'' said Joe Wiegand, a spokesman for Republican gubernatorial hopeful Jim Oberweis. Oberweis has suggested in the past that anyone without the resources should play the lottery or visit a riverboat or face deportation.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Fossett set to set a new record: March with penguins

MANSTON, England (ap) -- American hero/billionaire Steve Fossett, who broke the record for the longest nonstop flight in aviation history Saturday, is preparing for yet another adventure, this time marching with penguins in the frozen tundra of Antarctica

Moments after completing the longest nonstop flight in aviation history with an emergency landing, flying 26,389 miles in about 76 hours, Fossett declared that his next record-setting adventure will be a miraculous love story. The chairman of a Chicago-based options market company will participate in the mating ritual of the emperor penguin. This summer, after a nourishing period of deep-sea feeding, Fossett will pop up onto the ice and begin his procession across Antarctica with a group of penguins.

Hundreds of penguins will converge upon the U.S. adventurer from every direction, moving instinctively toward their mating ground. Once there, they will mingle and chatter until they find the perfect mate--a monogamous match that will last a year, through the brutal winter and into the spring. During that time, the mother will birth an egg and then leave for the ocean to feed again. Fossett will stay to protect the egg through the freezing blizzards and pure darkness of winter, which would be deadly to practically any other species, but not to the resilient Fossett, who has never met a challenge he couldn't complete.

Finally, next spring, the egg will hatch and a baby Fossett will be born. The mother will return from the sea to reunite with the family and feed the starving newborn, while Fossett will finally be relieved of his protective duties after months without food. Then, he will plan his next adventure.

Fossett is no stranger to the record books. He's done a number of different things that are considered to be pretty major adventure. He has circumnavigated the earth in a hot-air balloon. He managed to sail around the world, he has apparently managed to swim the English Channel, he's done the Iditarod. He really is a renaissance adventure man. According to Daley Show sources, his lifetime highlights include:

* Feb. 28-March 3, 2005: First solo, nonstop flight around the world in an airplane.

* Feb. 7-April 5, 2004: Breaks the round-the-world sailing record by six days (58 days, nine hours, 32 minutes and 45 seconds).

* June 19-July 4, 2002: First successful solo balloon flight around the world.

* Feb. 17-21, 1995: First solo balloon flight across the Pacific Ocean.

* Aug. 18, 1963: Breaks Stanford University record, drinking eight beer bongs in one hour.

* Jan. 14, 1961, 7:29-7:31 p.m.: Breaks record for going all the way, sexually, from first base to home with a high school sophomore.

* May 12, 1949: First solo, nonstop ride around the block on a Big Wheel.

* Dec. 1, 1945: Sets personal record of passing gas nonstop for 2 minutes, 8 seconds.

* April 22, 1944: Born in Jackson, Tennessee, after mom was in labor for a record-setting 92 hours.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

School targets source of obesity: Powdered sugar

News Item: A 12-year-old Aurora boy who said he brought powdered sugar to school for a science project this week has been charged with a felony for possessing a look-alike drug, Aurora police have confirmed. In a statement, East Aurora School District officials said: "The dangers of illegal drugs and controlled substances are clear. Look-alike drugs and substances can cause that same level of danger because staff and students are not equipped to differentiate between the two."

A Daley Show investigation has found that the 12-year-old powdered sugar pusher was, in fact, planning to experiment in the kitchen, hoping to build the "Mother of All Cakes" for Valentine's Day. School officials, worried about trans fats in children's diets in their district, have banned all substances linked for expanding waistlines.

The boy was reportedly planning to work on a recipe for Tres Leches Hazelnut Cake, which calls for 3/4 cup powdered sugar. Unnamed bathroom sources have indicated that he schemed to make the cake for a cute girl in the class who had turned him down at last year's holiday dance. He hoped she would eat the entire cake and gain several pounds, thereby making her unattractive.

"Saying 'just kidding' after such a threat is just not going to cut it," according to the district's statement.

Tres Leches Hazelnut Cake, according to its creator, "looks hard but is a very easy cake and well worth it." It has even been described as "a HUGE hit!"

School districts around the country are struggling with fat kids. Many schools have had to buy larger desks to accommodate students' fat asses. In such dangerous times, as the country readies itself for a War on the Waistline, Tres Leches Hazelnut Cake and other desserts have come under scrutiny.

"According to one recipe website, there are more than 8,000 recipes that call for powdered sugar," the school district's statement said. "We can't stop the Internet, but we must stop the trafficking of this dangerous substance."

A slice (326g) of Tres Leches Hazelnut cake contains the following shocking, heart-blocking statistics:

Amount Per Serving / %DV
Total Fat 57.3g / 88%
Saturated Fat 32.5g / 162%
Polyunsat. Fat 3.9g
Monounsat. Fat 17.3g
Cholesterol 293mg / 97%
Sodium 667mg / 27%
Total Carbohydrate 115.6g / 38%

Stupid Foreigner, part 10: A lot of garbage

Happy Saturday, everybody. Hope you all had a wonderful time last night, whatever it was you ended up doing. As I recover from a whole lot of nothingness, I present to you something I wrote on November 11, 1998, while living in Japan.

Japan has a reputation for being a clean country. I suppose this is true, for the most part.

If you walk around my town of Shizuoka, for example, you don't see a lot of garbage on the streets, and graffiti is almost non-existent. You don't see garbage cans, either, so it makes you wonder where people put their candy bar wrappers. Well, maybe it makes you wonder, but not me. I now know that people don't have candy bar wrappers to throw away because they don't eat while walking. It's true, eating and drinking while on the go is a big no-no. There are tons of vending machines all over with a huge selection of drinks, but technically you're supposed to stand next to the machine and drink, or else take the drink home with you.

So, anyway, there isn't much litter here. It's so rare that, when people actually see some, they don't know what to do with it. For example ...

I was on the train the other day. There was an empty Coke can on the floor. When the train started, the can rolled across the floor until it hit somebody's shoe. When the train stopped, the can rolled in the other direction, until once again coming to a rest at somebody's feet. This went on for a few stops. When I got off the train, the can was still rolling around, hitting random people. In each case, the person glanced down and then quickly looked away. As if startled. As if they didn't know what to do with an empty can. Or maybe as if they just didn't recognize what it was. Not that you'd recognize it either.

I said that it was a Coke can, but it wasn't any kind of can of Coke I'd ever seen before (before coming to Japan, that is). It was a special "Japan train" kind of can, which is much smaller than your average beverage. Basically it's about six ounces, if that much, and the can sort of looks like a test tube. Very small.

This leads to the question, why do they sell such small cans on the station platform for the same price they sell a full-sized can across the street? The easy answer is that the Coca-Cola company is trying to make more money. This, in fact, might be the reason. Just a few months ago, Coke raised its prices from 110 yen to 120 yen a can, which is about a buck. The company justified this by saying that it just wasn't making a profit at 110 yen. So, of course all the other drink companies raised their prices. But, anyway, that's not the true reason for such small cans, I don't think. It has to do with the fact that the average Japanese can't drink more than six ounces of soda. Remember, they are supposed to drink it next to the vending machine, before the train shows up. Hence, tiny cans.

Anyway, someone (probably a foreigner) wasn't able to finish the drink on the platform, so s/he brought it on the train, drank it, and left the can on the floor, where it rolled around. This was one of the first times I'd seen litter on a train, and obviously nobody else knew what it was, so they left it there. I take that last sentence back. I often see these thick comic books that businessmen read on the train. These are comics that feature, among other adult themes, rape and mutilation of high school girls. Anyway, at least the comics don't roll around on the floor.

I think my original point was that Japan appears to be a cleanly country. At least on the surface. But, for such a small country, it sure generates a lot of garbage. Following are some examples that environmentalists (not me) might consider a gross waste of natural resources.

At every restaurant you go to, you use a fresh set of wooden chopsticks that go straight into the trash when you're done eating. Other Asian countries, like Korea, use metal chopsticks that get washed and reused. Why do Japanese insist on throwing away so many chopsticks? Well, I haven't received an answer, but I've been told many times not to stick my chopsticks straight up in rice.

First off, I have to tell you that Japan is the rainiest country I've ever been to. Second, I have to tell you that Japan is only the fifth country I've ever been to. But that's besides the point. It rains a lot. Mainly, on my days off. So Japanese people carry around umbrellas. They also lose a lot of umbrellas. According to one guidebook, something like 2 million umbrellas are lost on Tokyo's trains every single day. I think there was a misprint somewhere. But they do lose a lot, and they steal a lot of umbrellas. Supposedly, Japanese people are very law-abiding, but they'll steal your umbrella and your bicycle without thinking twice.

Anyway, not only do Japanese people carry and lose a lot of umbrellas, they also shop a lot. But department stores don't like wet floors. So, upon entering a store, you are supposed to slip a plastic covering over your umbrella so that water doesn't drip onto the floor. As you leave, you throw away this plastic condom. That's a lot of plastic!

Another thing about restaurants. When you sit at your table, the wait staff brings you a hot towel for some reason. This towel, which surprisingly isn't disposable, comes wrapped in a plastic covering, which is disposable.

Japanese people love to use English words and names. They just don't pronounce them correctly because of Katakana, one of their three ways of writing. So, the American burger chain is called Mac-oh-doh-nal-doh. Or something like that. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that even if the Japanese word if the same as the English word, you still won't be understood. I once tried finding a bar called JAM. Easy enough. But three Japanese people, who seriously wanted to help me, couldn't understand me, no matter how many different ways I tried to say the word. Finally, I saw the bar, pointed to it, and the three guys said, "Oh, GEM-OO!" Oh well.

So, there's MAC-OH-DOH-NAL-DOH, which generates quite a bit of trash in every country it invades, but in Japan it goes beyond the call of deforestation. Let's say you order a Big Mac Value Meal, which here is called a BIGGO-MACCO SETTO. They throw your burger and fries (FRY POTATO) into one paper bag, then they throw your drink into another bag and then both bags into a plastic bag. Christ almighty! If you try to stop them and tell then that one bag is plenty, that you can carry your drink, they get really confused. Not that they can't understand your pathetic Japanese and hand gestures. It's just that they don't know what to do with the straw. It seems that the only thing that's left unwrapped in Japan is straws. Usually they just toss the straw into the bag with your drink. But now they have a dilemma. Where do they put it?

Friday, February 10, 2006

Future consumers in-training

Ask any psychologist, and she'll tell you that the toys your child persuades you to buy will help shape his or her future. This is precisely why Gov. Blagojevich (D-Ill.) is trying to ban violent video games and television news coverage; too many of our children are growing up thinking it's OK to invade countries, overthrow leaders, and install puppet governments that will do the bidding of our joysticks.

When I was growing up, I had easy access to toys that inspired my imagination and helped make who I am today. Toy cars helped me imagine that I was the only driver on the road, so everybody else better get the fuck out of my way. Toy soldiers helped me get my aggressive side out, and to this day I enjoy watching sweaty men lug around their equipment. Board games of my youth helped me develop a poker face and the ability to accidentally knock over the Scrabble board when I'm losing to someone younger and dumber.

Nowadays, though, what are the toys that children are demanding? And what are these toys teaching our toddlers? Let's take a look ...

The Firefly Mobile, available at Toys 'R' Us comes with optional shells, skins, mesh pouches and hands-free headsets.
What It Teaches: Accessorize! Plus, it's OK to go over your minutes in the name of keeping in touch.
Back When I Was A Kid: We'd hang out at a park down the block. Our moms would yell our names out the window and we'd come running. We could never claim that we couldn't get a signal.

The YOUniverse ATM Machine Bank allows you to withdraw cash like an adult. Instead of taking your lunch money, the neighborhood bully steals your PIN and, possibly, your identity.
What It Teaches: Never go anywhere without access to cash.
Back When I Was A Kid: Money could only be found in Daddy's wallet and Mommy's purse. When I wanted something, I was told to shut up, be good, and wait for Christmas.

The Barbie Cash Register can handle cash, credit, and food stamps. Your daughter will most likely be stuck with a service industry job, so you can provide this valuable training now.
What It Teaches: The sweetest sound is America is a receipt printing.
Back When I Was A Kid: Barbie had hot outfits. She was going to the beach! Or to a wedding. Now, she's stuck at a 7-11. Wait, no, I swear I never played with my sister's Barbies.

The McDonald's Food Cart - Pretend-Play-and-Dress-Up, well, we all know what makes us the happiest and fattest country in the world.
What It Teaches: You gotta get them fries out of the grease as soon as that buzzer goes off. Otherwise they burn. And make sure you salt the hell out of them!
Back When I Was A Kid: Want to pretend you're eating at a famous restaurant? Eat some damn Play Doh!

Ozzie disses Bush

New American/White Sox skipper/Hugo Chavez chum Ozzie Guillen has chosen vacation over a White House visit. Mayor Daley is disappointed that Guillen is vacationing in the Dominican Republic with his wife, Ibis, and their youngest son, Ozney, instead of visiting with President Bush on Monday. As with everything else, Guillen doesn't care what others think.

In a world where very few athletes make any kind of political statements, it's nice to see some of the Sox are political. In fact, the best paragraph in the story is the last one: Sox general manager Ken Williams said he decided to make the Washington trip, but only after thinking long and hard about it because he differs with President Bush on the war in Iraq.

Go Sox!

Things that make me giggle #15: Whale sex

In a lot of ways, humans are quite similar to all the other animals of the world ...

Some vital statistics regarding a pregnant whale at the Shedd Aquarium, from today's Sun-Times:

Puiji -- poo-EE-jee (Inuit for "those who show their noses.'')
Born: 1986
Weight: 1,500 pounds
Length: 10 feet 8 inches

Naluark -- Na-LOO-ark (Inuit for "whitened skin.'')
Born: 1986
Weight: 1,800 pounds
Length: 13 feet

The male will swim next to a prospective mate, and turn over on its side, revealing its 15-inch-long erect penis. If the female is interested she turns on her side. Whale sex is extremely fast. It only takes a few seconds. Then they swim away from each other.

The male's interest from that point is nil. There's no real relationship.

After a pregnancy that lasts 14 to 16 months, and a labor 30 minutes to 20 hours long, the mother whale delivers the calf, which typically weighs about 125 pounds

After birth, the mother's appetite increases dramatically: from her usual 30 to 25 pounds of fish per day to 70 pounds or more.

(Image of whale off the coast of Ecuador, summer 2004: available for $3.86)

Speaking of the Sun-Times ...

What the hell did they do with their homepage? It's one giant, ugly, yellow advertisement.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

New McDonald's sales pitch: Wanna die with that?

OAK BROOK (ap) -- Responding to intense criticism following the announcement that McDonald's French fries are higher in trans fats than originally stated, the company countered with a public relations blitz that includes a new advertising campaign. Starting immediately, "I'm lovin' it" will be replaced with "I'm fattenin' up" and cashiers will now ask each customer "Wanna die with that?" with each meal.

According to a company press release, these changes should put an end to frivolous lawsuits threatening to eat away at company profits.

Fans of the fast food giant seemed surprised that a large order of fries contains 8 grams of trans fats, up from 6 grams previously displayed on its website and printed on nutritional literature. "This is distressing news," said Pam Hamburglar, the head of the American Clogged Heart Association.

"First, everybody's favorite clown settles a lawsuit with Hindus for mislabeling French fries and hash browns as vegetarian," Hamburglar said. "Then, the company announces plans to cut the artery-clogging processed fat from its French fries by nearly half. Then, last year, McDonald's agrees to pay $8.5 million to settle a lawsuit from a nonprofit advocacy group accusing the company of misleading consumers by announcing plans to change its cooking oil but then delaying the switch. When will the company stop making all these concessions to the health-obsessed public?"

What, we worry?
The company immediately vowed not to be intimidated in a statement from the great beyond by former CEO Jim Cantalupo, who died of a heart attack at the age of 60 two years ago. "Oh come on, you know you want 'em," Cantualup told the Daley Show. "They're so deliciously salty and greasy, and cause so many diseases and future problems, you know you can't live with them."

In the meantime, children and their parents flocked to the nation's McDonald's locations for Olympics-related eating competitions. "Eat Like A Sumo Champion" is an test game previewing the Beijing games, despite the fact that the fat-man sport has nothing to do with China. "Yum," one 200-pound eight year old was heard mumbling between mouthfuls of Big Mac. "I'm fattenin' up!"

Booty call
Upon hearing the news of the mistaken trans fat content in fries, the maker of Pirate's Booty snacks could just shake his head. "We reportedly paid out more than $3 million because we slightly miscalculated the calorie and fat content of our little snack," said Robert, of Robert's American Gourmet. "Wonder if McDonald's will get away with it."

Trash tax
The city of Oakland -- which plans to tax the businesses it blames for much of the city's garbage woes and use the money to clean up the streets -- is now considering a comprehensive Trans Fat Tax.

"It's not fair that the residents have to get fat and sick because of a fast-food establishment that's making a profit," said Councilwoman Jane Brunner, who proposed the new ordinance. "A city is judged by how fit it is, and Oakland definitely has a major weight problem. It's time to trim that fat."

The proposal would tax products containing trans fats at $10 per gram. This would bring the cost of an order of large McDonald's fries to $81 on the value menu. Other high trans fat foods include margarine at 3 grams per stick, candy at 3 grams per bar, and doughnuts at 75 grams per dozen, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which in 1995 listed a medium order of fries at 8 grams of trans fats.

The money generated from the tax could go towards the treatment of obesity-related illnesses.

McDonald's, however, is undettered. "Don't listen to those government fuddy-duddys, kids," said the former CEO Cantalupo. "When in doubt, listen to our little jingles: I'm fattenin' up! Would Uncle Ronald McDonald ever lie to you?"

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

No ifs, ands, or cigarette butts in Illinois

Good news for nonsmokers: "Smoking could be banned throughout Illinois in less than a year under a plan that gained initial support from lawmakers Tuesday," according to the Daily Herald.

One of my personal favorite arguments against the ban is when "critics say the ban would drive bars out of business." I wonder if those same critics are out there defending small businesses when Wal-Mart or Home Depot or Border's look to build a new superstore and destroy all the local mom-and-pop shops.

As for the half-assed smoking ban in Chicago, my initial skepticism seems to have been unfounded. I expected most businesses to carry on with business-as-usual, but the ban seems to be working. The bowling alley I frequent with my fellow Garbage People is now smokefree, and the difference is incredible. Although the pizza still tastes bad and the place is as dark and foul as ever, absolutely nobody is smoking. On Tuesday mornings, as I struggle in front of this damn keyboard, I don't have the same lingering headache that I used to have. And here I thought those headaches were PBR-induced. The other benefit from the ban seems to be the improved play of the Garbage People, who are quickly moving up in the standings.

Go team! Pick-it-up!

GOP candidates for governor get down and dirty

SPRINGFIELD (ap) -- The Republican candidates for Illinois governor recently spoke out about paddling teenagers and other forms of sexual deviance when responding to a Daley Show questionnaire.

Jim Oberweis, a Sugar Grove dairy mogul, was the only major candidate of either political party to support spankings and indicated he would support it if everyone could agree on the specific methods. The Republican candidates are so close on every other issue that it's hard to even ridicule them without repeating the same things over and over again. Let's see what a deadline produces:

Unspoken words from a recent debate ...

Jim Oberweis, dairy guy
"Yeah, man, we should bring back corporal punishment.
I volunteer myself to administer the first bitch slapping."

Bill Brady, downstate dude
"If elected, I want a secretary with hooters out to here!"

Ron Gidwitz, tax-fighting man
"Ever see me naked? Yup, I'm this big!
You don't believe me? Dare me to drop my pants.
Come on, dare me!"

Judy Baar Topinka, accordion player
"Then I reached out and grabbed the waiter's butt.
No, don't worry, he didn't know it was I."

Ho hum, I know. Your challenge is to come up with better captions. Perhaps their hand gestures have something to do with secret handshakes?

(Images of candidates found at the Daily Herald, the only paper that seems to be covering the race.)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

CPS tells principals to tweak the rules a tad

News item: There were more than 8,000 student arrests in Chicago last school year. James Bebley, assistant general counsel for Chicago Public Schools, is looking into ways to get principals to find alternatives to calling police. Bebley said, "If it's a fight between two kids ... the fight's over ... they shake hands ... they're best friends ... there's no reason to have a child arrested."

CPS presents a new-and-improved Uniform Discipline Discretion Code

Group 1 Acts of Misconduct
loitering, cheating, persistent tardiness

Disciplinary Action - First Violation
Maximum: Teacher-Student-Parent Conference Lure student into the classroom with a piece of candy.

Disciplinary Action - Repeated/Flagrant Violations
Maximum: In-School Suspension Give child a permanent marker to have something to do while in the hallways.

Group 2 Acts of Misconduct
leaving school without permission
use or possession of tobacco products
failing to abide by school rules and regulations

Disciplinary Action - First Violation
Maximum: Teacher-Student-Parent-Resource Person-Administrator Conference Instill pride into the little troublemaker. Honor as student of the month and reward with a t-shirt in school colors.

Disciplinary Action - Repeated/Flagrant Violations
Maximum: Suspension (one to five days) or Disciplinary Reassignment Lock up child in a tiny, windowless closet and have him/her smoke an entire pack of cigarettes (one to five hours). That'll learn 'em.

Group 3 Acts of Misconduct
Any behavior that is seriously disruptive
Fighting - two people, no injuries
Persisting in serious acts of disobedience or misconduct
Disruptive behavior on the school bus

Disciplinary Action - First Violation
Maximum: Suspension (one to five days) Put on school play (one to five acts) and give troubled child the lead role. He/She just wants attention.

Disciplinary Action - Repeated/Flagrant Violations
Maximum: Suspension (six to 10 days), Disciplinary Reassignment and/or Reassignment Give student the job of school bus driver (six to 10 days) to teach what it's like.

Group 4 Acts of Misconduct
False activation of a fire alarm
Vandalism or criminal damage to property

Disciplinary Action
Maximum: Suspension (one to 10 days) Disciplinary Reassignment, and Police Notification Suspend (one to 10 days) from a firetruck's ladder as firefighters race through the streets to yet another false alarm.

Group 5 Acts of Misconduct
Aggravated assault
Disorderly Conduct

Disciplinary Action
Suspension (six to 10 days) and/or Disciplinary Reassignment and/or Police Notification. Both arrest by the Police and expulsion. If a student is expelled, Alternative School Placement may be recommended for the period of the expulsion. Counseling (one to 10 days). Perhaps this child comes from a troubled home and just needs to talk it out. He's everybody's best friend now ... there's no reason to have the child arrested.

Group 6 - Acts of Misconduct
Use, possession, and/or concealment of a firearm/destructive device or other weapon

Disciplinary Action
Police Notification and/or arrest, suspension for 10 days, and expulsion for a period of not less than one calendar year, or as modified on a case-by-case review by the Chief Executive Officer or designee. Alternative School Placement may be recommended for the period of the expulsion. Successful completion of a Board sponsored student assistance program may serve in lieu of expulsion for first-time offenders of 6-5 Acts of Misconduct which do not involve the sale or delivery of illegal substances. Do a background check. If child has possible connection to a terrorist organization (or the Democratic Party), ship for after-school detention in Cuba. If child is only a member of a local street gang, start an after-school program in the building for the youths to let out all that energy.

A step-by-step guide to McCain's letter to Obama

flame ~ v. to insult someone with a criticism or remark meant to incite anger

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has taken public shots at Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), beautifully showing off his infamous temper and previewing the fun to come if these two ever run against each other. Some may think that McCain showed bad form, and even seemed childish, is his letter to Obama. In fact, his letter followed all the Senate rules for flaming a younger colleague.

The Daley Show presents: The Senate Republican Guide to Flaming a Freshman Senator (Snail-Mail Version)

Rule 1: Make your flame public! Every single American is just waiting for the next literary masterpiece composed by you.
Top headline in today's Chicago Tribune: McCain flames Obama. Sun-Times: McCain mocks Obama.

Rule 2: Start with a sarcastic apology. Put your opponent on the defensive. Tell 'em that you are sorry for the misunderstanding.
Dear Senator Obama:
I would like to apologize to you for assuming that your private assurances to me regarding your desire to cooperate in our efforts to negotiate bipartisan lobbying reform legislation were sincere.

Rule 3: Sarcastically thank your opponent for making up his own mind. It's obvious that everyone should follow your lead. You must be getting old, so thank your opponent for setting you straight.
Thank you for disabusing me of such notions with your letter to me dated February 2, 2006, which explained your decision to withdraw from our bipartisan discussions.

Rule 4: Admit embarrassment and/or confusion. You're the elder statesman. You should not be fucked with.
I'm embarrassed to admit that after all these years in politics I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss routinely used in politics to make self-interested partisan posturing appear more noble.

Rule 5: Hit 'em low with a compliment. It's important to make yourself sound sincere. Just make sure your opponent remembers who's in charge here.
When you approached me ... I concluded your professed concern for the institution and the public interest was genuine and admirable.

Rule 6: Threaten. Burn bridges. One strike and he's out!
Again, sorry for the confusion, but please be assured I won't make the same mistake again.

Rule 7: Gently remind your opponent that there is a pecking order in this here old boys' Senate.
Since you are new to the Senate, you may not be aware of the fact that I have always supported fully the regular committee and legislative process in the Senate, and routinely urge Committee Chairmen to hold hearings on important issues.

Rule 8: Tell 'em how bipartisan you are: Why use intelligent arguments to prove you're bipartisan when all you have to do is tell them?
Furthermore, I have consistently maintained that any lobbying reform proposal be bipartisan.

Rule 9: Roll eyes heavenward and remind your opponent that your position on the issue is clear and public and written in stone and never in doubt. Even though they'll never elect you to a national post, Americans are on your side.
As I explained in a recent letter to Senator Reid, and have publicly said many times, the American people do not see this as just a Republican problem or just a Democratic problem.

Rule 10: Use foreign phrases: French is good, but Latin is the lingua franca of flaming. You should use the words ad hominem at least three times per letter. If that fails, get in a good five-syllable word.
I understand how important the opportunity to lead your party's effort to exploit this issue must seem to a freshman Senator, and I hold no hard feelings over your earlier disingenuousness.

Rule 11: Lie, cheat, steal, slander, leave the toilet seat up, and by all means, make stuff up about your opponent.
Again, I have been around long enough to appreciate that in politics the public interest isn't always a priority for every one of us.

Rule 12: Write off your opponent. You've got the age and experience to squash any hot young superstar.
Good luck to you, Senator.

Rule 13: When in doubt, insult: If you forget the other 11 rules, remember this one. At some point during your wonderful career as a senator, you will undoubtedly end up in a flame war with someone who is better than you. This person will expose your lies, tear apart your arguments, make you look generally like a bozo. At this point, there's only one thing to do: insult the dirtbag!
See above.

(The above rules are a modified version of The 12 Commandments of Flaming.)