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Friday, September 28, 2007

How can we stop racism?

Short answer: By not acting on our prejudices.

Long answer: We can't, because "racism" is comprised of two separate concepts and one of them can't be stopped, while the other one takes more self-control than most people are capable of conjuring. The two sides of racism (in my opinion, and in definition) are "having prejudices based on race" and "acting on those prejudices." The biggest problem with stopping racism is stopping the first half of it from happening, which we cannot do.

We all have prejudices. The word "prejudice" comes from "pre-judging" - which is supposed to deal with judging someone before it's proper, I think. There is no appropriate time to judge someone where you can jump the gun, except of course in a court of law with an actual judge and jury. You judge people when you want to, in whatever fashion, for whatever reasons - and we'll never be able to change the way the human mind works. I have read in several places that a woman has judged a man and knows if she will or won't have sex with him within the first [times range from two minutes to twenty-four hours] of meeting him. If that isn't clear evidence that we "pre-judge" and will never be able to stop it, I don't know what is.

What CAN be stopped is acting on these prejudices. The obvious acts we'd like to stop are violent crimes because of race. Which, I've found, are just normal violent crimes that are either exacerbated because of the prejudice of the enacter or exaggerated by observers transferring their own prejudice onto how they see the violent crime. In each incidence, you really have to ask, "Do we see this as racism because the black guy hit the white guy, or because of how we feel about either the black guy or the white guy?" I have to admit that I overhear a lot more chatter from black men about "the white man trying to keep the black man down" than I hear evidence of any white man actually trying to keep a black man down.

The only theoretical way I can see to "stop" racism is by having people set better examples. Every stereotype out there that causes us to pre-judge is based on elements of truth, hearsay and personal experiences. If some woman gets her purse stolen by a black person, she's likely to think less of them, be more afraid of them, and act accordingly. If a man watches a group of white men tip a waiter of their race poorly, he's likely to see white men in a more-negative light. The real problem is that nobody (especially the media) bothers to bring good examples to our attention. You never read in the paper about all the Asian drivers who drive exceptionally well - but you read one article about a stereotype that seems to prove true, and it just strengthens that prejudice in your mind.

So the only way to stop racism is to have everyone get along and play nicely with each other, so nobody will have a basis to form negative stereotypes or have reasons to act on any of them because they wouldn't have any. Of course, if everyone's getting alone and playing nicely with each other, we've already stopped racism. So I guess it's pretty much a Catch-22. Which if why I like my short answer better: not acting on our prejudices. And you know the best way to do that?

- Stop taking everything so personally.

- Learn to laugh at our differences. (We're all different - and if we can't laugh at our differences, we wind up doing less-positive things because of our differences and that's where the hating starts.)

- Remember that everyone is entitled to their own opinions. (You have the right to dislike and pre-judge and have bias. Everyone else has just as much right to do the same.)

- Obey the law. (That's why we have them - to objectively define what can and cannot be done, regardless of opinions. You can dislike someone based on race as much as you want, but you can't do anything ILLEGAL about it. Just be careful, because even if you have freedom of speech, if the things you say trigger the illegal assault and battery, you're going to be at fault.)

- Be yourself. (You can't be expected to be who you're not. Your opinions, your ideas - they're a part of you and you can't deny them. You can do whatever you want to try and change who you are and what your opinions and ideas are, but never be ashamed of who you are. Be free to be you.)


(Sorry, just being myself!)

(The RedEye columnist who posed the question of "How can we stop racism?")

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wag of the Finger: Riverside, New Jersey

Last week, Riverside - the first municipality in New Jersey to enact legislation penalizing anyone employing or renting to illegal immigrants - decided to rescind the ordinance and join the list of flip-flopping cities that are giving up on this great legislative idea as quickly as they adopted it. So what was the given reason for rescinding the law that WORKED and drove the illegal immigrants out of their town?

It hurt the businesses that catered to illegal immigrants.

Riverside, you are officially On Notice. You have 30 days to reinstate this legislation or face the consequences of becoming dead to me.

The article I read that informed me of the township's legal decision reads more like a heartstrings-tugging pile of blather than a news article. It follows the stories of several small business owners who pretty much SPECIFICALLY set up shop in areas populated by illegal immigrants and catering to the needs of illegal immigrants. Sure enough, when the law worked and the illegals started fleeing the city (having nowhere to work and earn a wage nor a place they could rent and live, which is the point of the law), these businesses in particular saw a decline in customers, and now their boo-hooing has collectively affected the rescinding of the law.

Sorry, but if you own a shop catering to illegals, and you know your town is going to pass a law that scares all the illegals away, and you don't realize your profits will plummet - you aren't smart enough to be allowed to run a business in the first place!

The proper thing to do would be at least one of the following:
- Sell the business while it's still marketable
- Close the business before you hemorrhage too much money
- Move the business or change the business for different clientele

I mean, if you own a restaurant that's only serving Brazilian food because of all the illegal immigrants from Brazil - and then all of those illegals flee the city - wouldn't you CHANGE the menu to something people left in your area would enjoy?

The real problem I have is a combination of businesses complaining to the government over their loss of business (when they should have adapted instead to legal citizen customers) and the fact that the government caved in! Prepare yourself for another horrible analogy!

The government notices that one of its bridges is poorly constructed, in a bad location and has a history of causing accidents because of how dangerous it gets when it rains (so we'll say this bridge is in Seattle). The government does the smart thing and tears down the bridge. Then a bunch of idiot motorists plow through all the "STOP" and "BRIDGE OUT" signs and careen into the river below, because they're used to a bridge being there and are apparently too dumb to read signs, avoid breaking through roadblocks and also seeing NO BRIDGE. They then complain because they fell into a river, and demand not a NEW bridge, but the SAME DEFUNCT BRIDGE be put back. And the government stupidly decides to whip out the 80-year-old blueprints and begin construction of an obsolete, dangerous replica of the old bridge.

I don't know how this can make sense to anyone. It certainly doesn't make any sense to me.

You'll notice that the ONLY aspect of the town's change mentioned in the article is that of CERTAIN failing businesses. They make NO effort whatsoever to investigate the probably-huge improvements to the housing overcrowding, school overcrowding, police force efficiency, crime rate, property value, employment rate, or anything about the LEGITIMATE businesses that catered to citizens and continue to do so! Think Starbucks or K-Mart or McDonalds or even small businesses that didn't pander to illegals are floundering because all the illegals fled the city? I doubt it.

Hell, they even mention one business owner who was smart enough to adapt! He opened his laundromat business when he saw illegal immigrants dragging laundry bags over a mile to do laundry back in 2003 - and then when all the illegals fled, he adapted the business to a wash-and-fold delivery service for young professionals (you know, real citizens). He's obviously still in business, even if the neighborhood around him became a "ghost town".

Riverside, put this legislation back in action, and keep on moving forward to eradicate yourselves and the rest of the U.S. of these illegal immigrant criminals!

And remember:


(A biased article written about a stupid decision made by Riverside, N.J.)

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Letter to RedEye: CTA Suggestions

Recently, the RedEye's Going Public column opened the floor to hear suggestions for the CTA so they could improve service and reliability and all the other things we want the CTA to provide because it doesn't.

I came up with a few ideas. Here's my letter. We'll see if any of it gets printed, since I didn't see that they did today.

Since the RedEye is calling for suggestions for the CTA, I can't resist drafting my own list of suggestions:

1) Bus tires.

I don't know what is wrong with the tires on every single bus I get on, but there seems to be a near-constant, squealing, screeching noise coming from the wheel areas. It almost sounds as if some of the wheels on my bus aren't going 'round and 'round - but are literally being dragged along the ground all the time. If this is the case, I'm sure it's affecting the gas mileage of the bus, and fixing this problem would lead to better gas efficiency, better speed and handling, and IT WOULD STOP THE SQUEALING NOISE!

2) "Approximately one minute."

I'm getting a little sick of the "Attention customers: an ___BOUND train, ___ the Loop, will be arriving in approximately one minute" messages. Okay, some stations just have an "arriving shortly" message, but the whole system is a moot point. By the time these messages are playing and being displayed, the train is IN SIGHT. I like the suggestion I read about replacing it with just a sign that flashes with the direction of the train (inbound/outbound) that would do the same thing, quicker and easier, but I'm taking it one step forward. If we have some ridiculous trigger or sensor that alerts the sign to scroll some text and play that dumb message, why can't we move it back farther, maybe to the previous station, and have a countdown of the minutes we'll be waiting for the next train? This would alleviate rubberneckers who lean INTO THE TRACK AREA to fight over catching the first glimpse of an incoming train - which always happens BEFORE any message plays. Just give us a countdown so people can just relax and wait, rather than endanger themselves because we never have a clue when a train is REALLY coming in this whole system until we actually SEE it.

3) Leaks and puddles.

Dear CTA: You know where the roof is leaking. You know it's causing puddles. Spend $5 and get a freaking TARP for the leak to divert the puddle AWAY from customers. The end.

4) Bus-bunching research.

Here's how you can PROBABLY solve the entire bus-bunching phenomenon for about $100 per bus route (though we all know I'm talking about the #8 Halsted, because if THAT could be fixed, anything could be fixed four times as easily). Buy twenty one-day passes. Give them to twenty college students who have nothing better to do than spend a day fixing the CTA. Tell their professors to give them extra credit if they're civil engineers or something. Have them board the bus route at one end, one per bus, so you've now got twenty researchers on twenty buses in a row, all with a watch, notepad and pen. Have them record the time as they get to each stop, and take notes on anything significant that's delaying the bus, whether it's unruly passengers, traffic accidents, or the bus is just going REALLY SLOWLY. When they get to the end of the route, have them get off and board going the opposite way, and repeat. In one day, you'll have enough data to plot the movement of the buses, make all kinds of graphs and charts, and I'm sure you'll have a thousand times more information about the bus-bunching phenomenon than you ever did before. All for a lousy $100. You're welcome!

5) Enforcing the rules.

At every level, from the CTA to the federal government, it winds up with the fact that we have too many laws and not enough enforcement. I read the entire debate over whether or not there are CTA rules about strollers on buses and trains, but where's the debate over actual-factual rules that simply aren't being enforced? We all love to argue over the cleanliness (or lack thereof) of the buses and trains, but when was the last time you saw anyone being fined or punished for eating/drinking on the CTA? The signs and loudspeakers make it clear that there IS a rule, but nobody enforces it. And the soliciting! My goodness, it's like I can't take one ride on a train without being harassed for change, asked to buy something that was probably stolen, or hit up for money by children and their fundraisers. No soliciting means NO SOLICITING! One of these days, I'm going to snap - grab the solicitor by the scruff of the neck, threaten to drag them off the train and to the nearest police officer or security person, and fine them to the full extent of the law. That is, of course, unless they pay me some hush money. The irony alone of hitting up solicitors for money as a threat is delicious enough to make it worth trying at least once.

6) More buses, more trains.

As long as they're all borderline-functional, why not drag out the rest of the monstrocities hiding in storage or CTA garages? If what they've got on display now is the cream of the crop, how far down could their B-team of vehicles really be? Get more trains and buses out there, especially during rush hour, and this will alleviate a huge portion of the crammed-full trains and all of the problems it brings to commuters. It does no good being in a seat if three stops later, every pathway is stuffed to capacity with people blocking any chance of exit, and you're literally SHOVING people out of the way because they don't understand that this is your stop and they CAN step out of the train momentarily to clear a path and then GET BACK ON! Between 4:45pm and 5:45pm, there should be a non-stop flow of trains rotating around the Loop. Believe me, even if the duration between trains were the two minutes for it to pull out, have the other line's train pull in and pull out, then have the next train pull in - by the time they left the Loop, they would be 3/4 full. And 3/4 full allows for room to wiggle your way out of the train with few problems, unlike sardine-stuffed trains.

These are just a sampling of the numerous suggestions one could make on improving the CTA. Feel free to print any/all of them - the faster they can reach Ron Huberman, the better!

Aaron Samuels, 23, Bridgeport

Like I said, I submitted this yesterday, and nothing in today's paper. Maybe tomorrow. We'll have to wait and see, but I thought I'd at least throw it out there for you readers, just in case.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

PETA vs Vick: The Numbers Don't Lie

I'll agree with PETA on one thing (waits for the *gasp*s to cease): dogfighting and the preparations for dogfighting are cruelty to the animals. Few animals on the planet enjoy being electrocuted (notice how I said "few" - I know some twisted individuals out there). But with that in mind, PETA has gotten so worked up over the fact that Michael Vick participated (or stood by and allowed it) in the deaths of eight dogs.

Eight. Keep that number in mind.

I get it. Vick killed animals. Or rather, let them die. No, I'll go as far as to say he killed them, and I'm sure there are legal terms for criminally-neglegent homocide, except homocide is for killing people - is it "canuside"? "Canucide"? "Dogicide"?

Anyway, the point is that the ones who are pointing fingers and calling him out are the members of PETA. If there were ever a case of pots calling kettles black, these pots in particular would be black holes - so dark that no amount of light could ever escape the darkness that dwells in these pots. Because PETA certainly kills animals. "How many? More than eight?" - I hear you cry.

Try 14,400 since 1998.

It's a number that the Center for Consumer Freedom is trying to get out to the public, going to the point of taking out a full-page ad in the New York Times to illustrate the hypocrisy of this "humane" organization. The text of the ad reads as such:

Who’s killed more animals? Vick (8) or PETA (14,400):

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) loves to point the finger at others, when they should be looking at their own record of killing more than 90% of the animals left in their care. According to government records PETA has killed more than 14,400 animals since 1998.

In fact, PETA has been using the Michael Vick incident to sell shirts, gain subscribers, and otherwise profit from someone who's killed a mere fraction of the animals they've killed in the past year alone.

"PETA has shamelessly used the horrific Michael Vick case to pad their group’s coffers, even though their track record of slaughtering thousands of helpless, adoptable animals is far more damning," said CCF Director of Research David Martosko. "Americans need to be aware of how PETA treats animals in their care and reject the group’s overt hypocrisy."

I mean for crying out loud - two employees of PETA in North Carolina admitted personally killing dozens of dogs and cats in what was literally a "death van" and then tossing the lifeless bodies of the critters into a nearby trash dumpster.

Again, dogfighting and those who torture the dogs to prepare them for the fights are fine examples of cruelty to animals. I'm not saying that isn't the case. My point is that you can't take it seriously when the screams of cruelty are coming from those responsible for puppy-killing deathmoblies. You wouldn't listen to a serial killer speaking out against a man who committed second-degree manslaughter, so why would you listen to an organization responsible for killing over 14,000 animals speaking out against a man who killed 8? The math doesn't add up. The logic doesn't add up.

Yes, Michael Vick killed animals.
But PETA killed thousands more this year alone.

And they're still out there, killing more dogs and cats every day, all the while yelling how killing animals is wrong and cruel.

At least they locked up Vick. When are we finally going to arrest every member of PETA?

And don't even get me started on the other animal-rights terrorist groups...

(Their press release about the PETA versus Vick advertisement)

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Children's Museum and Racism?

That's what Mayor Daley keeps implying (no, wait, he's blatantly shouting it) - that opposition to moving the Children's Museum from its current smaller location at Navy Pier to a larger space in Grant Park constitutes as racism. That opposing the placement of a new and expanded Children's Museum in Grant Park automatically means that you fear a horde of minority children and poor people cluttering up the rich white folks' neighborhood.

Well, Daley - such is not the case, and it makes YOU the racist. Or at least a sellout.

The real brainchild behind this is Jean Pritzker, the billionaire president of the board of the Children's Museum. What it all assuredly comes down to is that the expanded museum allows for more customers coming in at $8 a head, and the location allows for lots of public-transportation-fed customers as well as ample parking for those who are more likely to waste $8 a person to enter a Children's Museum.

You all know that I'm a capitalist and a realist (which I think equates to a cynic), but I'm definitely siding with Alderman Reilly on this one, because my sense of tradition and opposition to hypocrisy outweigh the acceptance of another rich person just wanting to get richer. The main argument being made on his side of the campaign to keep the museum out is certainly NOT one of racism - it's legal precedence. Grant Park has had a 171-year history of being legally protected from these kinds of construction projects. That protection was made in 1836, and has been reaffirmed four times by the Illinois Supreme Court: that Grant Park be formally protected as "Public Ground -- A Common to Remain Forever Open, Clear and Free of any Buildings, or other Obstruction Whatever."

It's as simple as that. End of argument. Case closed. No museum, kthxbye.

Daley, do you think that this museum, funded and led by your billionaire friend, is the best opportunity that Grant Park has seen? There have been dozens of projects proposed for that parcel of land - and all of them have been turned down. If they hadn't been turned down, there would be no Grant Park left other than the name itself, and that doesn't sound like a place that is "forever open, clear and free of any buildings" at all - does it?

Reilly isn't alone in this fight, either. Some aldermen are joining the cause because Reilly is right about the legal precedence, and generous enough to offer suggestions of other places WITHOUT the legal protection that Grant Park has where the new museum could be built. Some are joining purely because Daley is throwing his weight around and vetoing the decision. This ruffles the feathers of some of the other City Council members, since city projects in THEIR wards have almost always been at THEIR discretion (though it's usually an emphatic "yes") and having that decision power vetoed by the Mayor is causing a disturbance among the aldermen. Some are probably just joining in anger of Daley throwing around his racism accusations when there obviously is none.

Here's a sample of what Daley has been saying:

"You mean you don't want children from the city in Grant Park? Why? Are they black? Are they white? Are they Hispanic? Are they poor? You don't want children? We have children in Grant Park all the time. This is a park for the entire city. What do you mean no one wants children down there? Why not? Wouldn't you want children down there?"

If I may, now that most of the factual information has been presented, I'd like to address the mayor's questions in my usual rant-like and mildly-offensive manner:

Leave the race out of it, Daley, and maybe you'll learn something. No, we don't all want children around. In fact, I'd probably be voting to keep kid-friendly buildings out of my neighborhood. Why? Because they're (in general) whiny, obnoxious brats who cause disturbances in peaceful places - never completely satisfied and always ready to verbalize that at any given point in time, appropriate or not. "Are they poor?" Of course they're poor, they're children! They don't have money to contribute to society! In fact, humans are the species with the WORST duration of time between birth and being able to contribute back to the community. It takes us, on average, nineteen years. If a lion cub took nineteen years to make satisfactory contributions back to the pack, it would surely have been eaten in the process. Children may be our future, but they certainly don't make it seem like it'll be a bright future. And they are certainly NOT our greatest resource. Our greatest resource is probably money. Not children.

And before you get all "my child is the bestest ever and the cutest too" on me, I'm sure it is. To YOU. If Heaven is in the eyes of your children, then I can say without a doubt that Hell is in the eyes of OTHER people's children. They're not all smart, they're not all cute, and they're definitely not all "precious" - all reasons why I wouldn't want an influx of them in my neighborhood, Daley!

So let's keep the Children's Museum where it is - over at Navy Pier with the other kid-friendly attractions, so I know exactly where to avoid running into your children. I'm sure you'd agree it's for the best, parents.

(Article saying it's racism)
(Article saying it's not racism)
(Someone who seems to really get the idea)

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Chicago Traffic: 2nd-Worst in the Nation

I am not a driver.

I just had to get that out of the way, so you know that the rest of this post is going to be only pure facts from the article I read, or pure opinion that should be taken with a grain of salt. Last time I was behind the wheel of a car was 2001, and that was just getting some practice hours in before thinking about going for my driver's license, which I obviously never bothered to get. Of course, that's because I moved here to Chicago, under the impression that I would never need a car here - thanks to the public transportation system.

In retrospect, maybe it wasn't all that horrible of a decision. For all the guff my friends give me about not owning a car or being able to drive, and how crappy the CTA runs here in the city - I can at least rub their noses back in the fact that in comparison, I think the vehicular congestion and waste of resources is a much crappier system to be a part of. Plus, I moved here to Chicago from the city of Los Angeles - so I technically upgraded. While Chicago is #2 or #3 worst in a lot of these categories of horrible driving conditions, at least L.A. stays put at #1, though not by a huge margin.

According to the study results that were done on traffic conditions and congestion and delays and whatnot - every year, the average Chicago motorist loses 46 hours of time stuck in traffic during peak hours. Back in 1995, they only lost 33 hours per year, so you can see that the incline keeps going. Every year, more than an entire average WORKWEEK is lost just because of peak-hour traffic, per driver. The amount of fuel that adds up to, per driver, is 32 gallons. The total cost is $906, just due to traffic alone. When you account for the fact that there are millions of drivers out there, it's a total of over 203 million hours lost and costs over $4 billion annually.

The 203 million hours lost puts Chicago smack dab in 3rd place, with New York losing 384 million hours a year and Los Angeles taking the cake with 491 million hours lost. But the real shame brought to Chicago is that it is #2 in the category of Time Indexes. A Time Index is how to calculate how much time you should prepare in advance to make a trip due to delays. Chicago has a Time Index of 1.47, which means that for every 20-minute drive you take, it's going to really take 29.4 minutes. Only Los Angeles has a higher Time Index, and it's only higher by .03 - meaning it'll take a full 30 minutes for that 20-minute trip in the City of Angels.

Of course, I don't put much stock in the Time Index system, after taking a look at it. I mean, it's a great idea in theory, but it's that base-time calculation that befuddles me. Were these trips timed at 20 minutes based simply on drives taken during non-peak hours? Is that 9pm? Midnight? 3am on a Sunday? There's no way to get a "lab test" or any real scientific control done on a commute, so it's very difficult to predict what your base time for any drive would be, meaning that any calculation using a Time Index is going to be rather fruitless.

Here's something that I thought interesting: judging by the numbers, the study shows that the city of Chicago has over 4.4 million drivers on the road. That's the number they used to multiply the 46 hours and $906 lost annually per driver to get those astronomical numbers for the city itself. So what about the third number that they calculated? If every driver is wasting 32 gallons of gasoline per year, then that means that every year over 142 million gallons of gas are being wasted.

The Exxon Valdez oil spill only lost about 11 million gallons of crude oil. Every year, Chicago is wasting more gasoline than almost 13 Exxon Valdez spills.

And people still give me grief about taking city transportation? I'd rather deal with "slow zones" than this mess. Losing $906 a year, on top of whatever it costs to run and maintain a car and keep it filled with gas, let alone parking in the city? No thanks. $906 could buy more than twelve 30-day CTA passes, so I could pay for a year's worth of transportation with the EXTRA WASTED money that a Chicago driver loses in that year.

Every now and then, with all of the muck and mire that the CTA gets dragged through, there are still things that make me appreciate it just enough to keep following and using it. Aside from the colorful cast of characters you meet on buses and trains, there are a few nice things about using public transportation - even if it means relying on the frequently-unreliable. And there's the financial benefit. Something tells me that buses aren't going to fare anywhere near cars when you consider the traffic and time-loss implications (they're in the same traffic, plus making stops along the way) - but the trains make up for it all, even when you take into consideration all of the "slow zones" that commuters seem bogged down with.

Maybe it really is faster than driving. It's certainly cheaper, for now. But then again, I guess you get what you pay for.

(A version of the article printed in the RedEye)
(A pretty graph of some of these numbers)

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Back to School Special: Part 2

It's only about halfway through September, only about two weeks into most school years, and already the news articles are flooding in about school behaviors and suspensions and even one article about some little girl bringing in a grenade for show-and-tell. So I guess it's time to ring the bell, have you students find your seats and shut the hell up - here are your lessons for the day.

Lesson #1: How NOT to wear a shirt.

As you'd expect, there has to be at LEAST one mention of a "kids get suspended for untucked shirts" article. It's written into so many school dress codes, and every year the teachers and principals get riled up about it, and you just KNOW someone's going to get suspended. This time it was 70 kids at Rogers High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Well, okay, they didn't get suspended for not tucking in their shirts - they got suspended for a more asinine and hilarious reason: protesting the dress code about tucking in their shirts. It's a suspendable offense to encourage other students to violate school rules or regulations. FINALLY, a school law I can support, if it means getting protesting kids to shut the hell up and get back to learning.

For those of you who don't understand why a school would even bother to care about shirts being tucked in, this school in particular had a student who wore a shirt that was too long and untucked, and managed to bring a weapon into school. The superintendant immediately called for shirts to be appropriate lengths and tucked in, to avoid this problem in the future.

For you students out there - follow the damned rules. A school is no place to be hellbent on protesting and fighting "the man" because of rules you think are unfair. Tough. Rules will always be unfair, you'll always be given the short end of every stick, and you keep your head down and play by those rules or you wind up getting suspended or expelled. In the real world, you get arrested, sued and possibly attacked for pulling stunts like that. Fighting for what you believe in is totally cool and fine, but do so in other places than school. You're not supposed to fight in school, anyway - or are you going to protest THAT rule too?

Lesson #2: How to wear a shirt.

For this lesson, we look to Canada, where a 9th-grade newbie wore a pink shirt to school and was harassed and threatened by bullies - being called a homosexual and being set upon by a group of 6 to 10 older students. Two seniors who found out about this incident decided to finally do something about it - once and for all.

They got together about 75 pink shirts and brought lots of pink material for making headbands and armbands, passing them out to the other schoolkids in support of this one freshman who had been victimized. Some students brought in pink clothing of their own, or things like a pink basketball - anything to show up and show support. In the end, about half of the school's 830 students had pink.

The bullies, frustrated by this show up support and what they probably considered to be flagrant homosexuality, wound up furiously throwing chairs and trying to throw around what little weight they had left in the populous. The students responsible for the show of support, David and Travis, said, "Kids don’t need this in their lives, worrying about what to wear to school. That should be the last thing on their minds."

Couldn't have said it better, kids. Which is why I still think it's a good idea to consider school uniforms or stricter dress codes. The less kids have to think about what to wear to school, the less attention will be brought to what kids are wearing, and the more attention that leaves for school work and LEARNING.

Lesson #3: Sexy dancing is not for school dances.

Another school year beginning also wouldn't be complete without a look into the war against sexy dancing. While I'm not talking about Footloose-strong bans on dancing or anything of the sort, I'm just talking about kids and their lewd and lascivious dance moves being perpetrated on the dance floor. And parents and teachers are STILL trying to take a stand against it in any way they can think of to fight it.

So why care? What reason could I possibly have against the freedom of speech, twisted in a bastardization that "dance is the speech of the body" or some hippie-ism? Because it's a SCHOOL DANCE. I don't even understand why schools still have dances of this variety, other than the blatant fundraising that schools get away with. Pay for tickets, pay for food and drinks, pay for pictures to be taken - just another way for schools to drain money from students and, of course, their parents. But apparently the days of decent dancing and bringing a date are long gone - they're now the nerd version of raves, complete with inappropriate outfits, inappropriate music, and inappropriate dancing. Dark corners, glowsticks and humping the crap out of each other on a dance floor? I don't know why a school would even THINK of letting this go on.

My real beef here isn't with the school for hosting these events, or parents for not teaching their kids any better - my real quarrel here is with the students themselves. You know, I'm not that old. I understand the sexual nature of some dances. I was once a pubescent teenager who'd thrill at the chance to dry-hump the ass of some pretty girl in my class. But even if given the chance, there's no way in HELL I'd be able to do so in front of my Geography teacher, Mrs. Chin - or my AP Chemistry teacher, Dr. Darakjian. To even contemplate a minimal sexual-nature act in front of any of these school figureheads would cause an erection to disappear faster than a bowl of spiked punch.

And what ever happened to the good ol' days of spiked punch? What, you're comfortable risking getting kicked out for butt-grinding, but wouldn't want to risk anything to slip some rum in the punch?

Kids - freaky-deaky dancing is perfectly normal for teens your age. But there's a time and a place for it. The time and place is when parents aren't awake and where parents and teachers would not go. Basements with your teenage friends, a hallway closet, an authentic warehouse rave - these are appropriate places to get your "freak on" without the watchful eye of chaperones and assistant-principals.

There's the bell. Class will resume at a later time, possibly after you've had time to recover from the cafeteria food.

(Article about Lesson #1)
(Article about Lesson #2)
(Article about Lesson #3)

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Kia Vaughn Withdraws - No Money Shot

Surprise, surprise. I called it. Kia Vaughn (aka "the ho") has officially withdrawn her lawsuits of defamation and slander that she brought up against Don Imus and CBS Radio (among others) on the exact day that Imus negotiated a $20 million deal and got his radio show back. That move alone won her the official title of "ho" in my book, since she did a notoriously dispicable thing just for the money.

As I expected, it was pretty damned obvious she didn't have a leg to stand on in the court case, let alone the notion of having to defend that the things said were lies in the first place.

I mean, first off, she was never targeted by any of the statements. Nobody seems to recall anything other than the two words that sparked the controversy in the first place, but the one that came right before "nappy-headed hos" just happened to be the word "some". Got that? "Some," not "Kia Vaughn" or any targeted member of the team. Had he said "all" instead, she might have grounds to file, since she would invariably be a member of the "all" collective - but it is in no way possible to claim that she is without-a-doubt a member of the "some" collective that Imus was referring to.

Plus, again, it's only defamation and slander if someone actually believes it.

The part of this story's ending (for now) is the statement being made on Kia Vaughn's side of the now-dropped case. Kia Vaughn had no comment. Her lawyer didn't even have a comment. But Kia Vaughn's lawyer's spokesperson had a comment to make? He basically said that Vaughn has chosen to "focus" her attention to her journalism major at Rutgers and her position on the basketball team. "Her strong commitments to both have influenced her decision to withdraw the lawsuit at this time," the statement said.

I think she realized that nobody wants to play on a team with - or hire as a journalist - a ho.

(One story covering the withdrawal)

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Illegal Immigrants and the House of Representatives

I am shocked and appalled of the truth of the situation, and I want to fully applaud and rally support for Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI) and the resolution she had introduced back in Jan. 07 and still sits in Committee since Feb. 07. Here's where it all begins, and my mouth starts hitting the floor:

Our Constitution currently says that representatives in the House of Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the number of persons in each state.

Now on the surface, that doesn't seem like an issue at all. Especially when you consider that it wasn't all that long ago that a black person only counted as three-fifths of a person when counting population with the census. How far we've travelled since then. The issue arises when you consider the fact that we have tens of millions of illegal immigrants cluttering up our country. Here is an interesting tidbit that I picked up from Rep. Miller's letter to the editor she sent to the Washington Post:

"Montana has one representative for a population of about 895,000 citizens. The 34th District of California has one representative but fewer than 420,000 citizens."

California, breeding ground for the infestation of illegal immigrants (what with its sanctuary cities of lawlessness), has so many non-citizens cluttering up the census that they are getting a bloated representation in our government. While the 34th District of California isn't the most populated by illegal immigrants, it's known for being the most Hispanic/Latino populated district. The only figure I found for the population of the district (population, not citizens) was "over 600,000" - and I don't know how old that number is. Which means that their Representative should have less than 70% of the power currently held. Less than 70% of that district's population are CITIZENS of the United States - so why should they be allowed to have an oversized say in what happens in the government?

H.J. Res. 6, sponsored by Candice Miller, would amend that part of the Constitution to apportion the representatives according to the number of citizens of the United States, rather than just the number of persons in each state.

When you think about it, it makes nothing but sense and you might even get as furious as I was over how screwed up the system currently is and that NOBODY seems to notice. Why should illegal immigrants affect the governmental representation that makes laws for CITIZENS of the United States? Why would we let criminals buff up the power of their districts to attempt to give them amnesty for their crimes?

It's ideas like these that make me ponder other things. Like the Electoral College when electing a president - wouldn't this change have to be made in order to properly divy electoral votes when having an election? That if we were counting the number of citizens instead of the population, California wouldn't be AS large of a number and neither would Texas? Maybe then we could get fairer representation for all the states and the citizens living in them. I'd rather have states like Montana and North Dakota and even West Virginia (smallest immigration percentage, according to the 2006 census) getting a little more pull and taking away some pull from California and Texas and other illegal-immigrant-heavy states. Candidates shouldn't have to pander extra hard in states for those oversized electoral votes. They should be able to focus on states with more actual citizens - the ones they'd be in charge of at the end of it all.

I don't care how much you point your finger at the fact that our founding fathers were "illegal immigrants from Europe" when they made the Constitution - that's why they had to eventually set up immigration laws and citizenship, to regulate things and keep the populous in balance.

It's time that we replace more "persons" with "citizens" in our Constitution and other legislation.

Sorry, Lincoln, but I'd rather have a "government of the citizens, by the citizens, for the citizens" that shall not perish from this earth.

Oh, and as always...


(Rep. Candice Miller's letter to the editor)
(More info on H.J. Rep. 6)

(News article from the Chicago branch of the insanity)

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Immigrants vs Western Union

It's a tale as old as time (well, the time when illegal immigrants started flooding the USA) - illegal immigrant crosses border, takes up a job that should have gone to an American citizen, and when his low (but higher-than-you'd-think) paycheck comes in, there's a quick dash to the Western Union to wire ill-gotten monies back home to his relatives who are feeding off the crimes of their border-crossing savior. Now try thinking that thought WITHOUT the words "Western Union" - and you'll find that it's a difficult task.

After all, Western Union is just about the only way we tend to think about wiring money from one place to another. It's embedded in our collective minds the same way that Kleenex is synonymous with "tissues" and Band-Aid is synonymous with "adhesive bandages". It's this dominance over the money-wiring industry (not to mention efficiency and effectiveness) that allows Western Union to pretty much set its own fees and there's little, if any, alternative to get your money to someone else as quickly as they can.

That's where the illegal immigrants come in. Some jackass immigration advocate named Carlos Arango is organizing the Chicago branch of the Western Union boycott that's supposedly happening around the country. Mostly in high-illegal cities, of course. Their problem with the system is that Western Union (and I quote):

"They get all this money, and all they have to do is push a button" to send the money over, he said.

Yea, that's right, asshole. They get your dirty money, push a button, and your criminal funds go off to Mexico and your relatives. And they have every damned right to charge you whatever they want in order to do that.

It's called business - and they're quite good at it.

You know what you SHOULD try to do? Go somewhere else. If you don't want to be charged $10 by the best company just to get your money to your family, go find someone else to do it. The choices are few and far-between, but you ALWAYS have options. You could pay some OTHER illegal $5 to simply walk back to Mexico and deliver the money for you. Odds are that the process would take a lot longer, and would be less reliable that your money would actually get there. You have the choice. It's just really freakin' obvious which is the best choice. And unfortunately, it will cost you that $10.

You know what you SHOULDN'T try to do? Demand things of the business that's been properly handling your financial transactions and threaten to withhold your business from them. First off, you're asking them to donate $1 per every money transfer toward economic development in the U.S. and in countries being sent money. Do you even understand the word "donate", you numbskull? It's a voluntary decision to be charitable, not a contractual obligation spurred on by angry protesters! And why would that money be put into economic development in all of these countries where you need to send your money? On a national level from a government standpoint, I could see that helping other countries economically helps us economically - especially when it means fewer criminals will cross the border to steal work from our citizens because their country is in the crapper. But on a business standpoint for a company that makes billions of dollars BECAUSE your country is in the crapper and that's why you need to wire money there? That would be BAD business. And no amount of protest will lead to a company doing BAD business to appease the foolish masses.

Oh, and as far as the above statement goes, about some kind of anguish that the company charges $10 for the employee to "get the money and push a button" - are you arguing that the effort required to wire the money is so seemingly little that it doesn't warrant the $10 in your mind? Because it took a helluva lot of business savvy and financial planning to SET UP the system in the first place. Plus, the business itself needs to pay to keep its doors open, keep the place running, and keep staff paid to they will come in to work and push the button that wires your money. It's called running a business - and it takes money to do that, you dumbass!

"They are becoming billionaires on the backs of immigrant workers," Arango said during a news conference near a Western Union check-cashing store in Pilsen.

Western Union spokesman Daniel Diaz wouldn't comment directly on the boycott, saying: "We are very proud to provide consumers with fast, reliable and trusted service."

You're damned right, Diaz! You have every right to set your prices, because you're the best in the business with the fastest and most reliable service available. If any of these protesters give you lip about your prices, you should remind them of the easiest solution to their problems:

"You don't want to pay to wire money? Then go the hell back to your own country where you belong and then you won't have to wire money anymore!"


(News article from the Chicago branch of the insanity)

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Cats are on the Menu!

Hah! I come up with a great idea, and thankfully it is being utilized somewhere around the world! As some of you may remember from this earlier post, I suggested that our response to the overpopulation of dogs and cats in this country should be to simply EAT them. After all, animals are made of meat, and if we have too many of an animal, logic would dictate that we eat them to "thin the herds".

It's already happened in China, that the overflowing lake caused an infestation of rats, so their logical response was to catch and eat the rats. Of course, it was more of catching the rats and selling them to restaurants by the kilogram, where they'd then be killed and cooked and served as a delicacy. Nevertheless, a problem of too many animals resulted pleasantly with "eat the animals" as a solution.

So now we come to Australia. Feral cats (descendants of housecats who were left to fend for themselves) have become a huge problem in the outback. The cats are killing off all of the smaller animals in the wild, which apparently is a bad thing for the Australians. Somehow. Anyway, one woman in Alice Springs has decided to take my advice (I don't know if she got the idea from reading my blog, but I assume she did, because I didn't hear about this until after I'd posted my idea, so it must have logically come from my post) and brought forth an entry in a cooking contest which was a wild cat casserole - kind of a stew with marinated feral cat meat.

The Aborigines have been eating them for years, actually - roasting the meat over an open fire - but apparently some of the others have more refined palattes. One of the cooking contest judges reportedly had to spit out the meat in a back room because she found it "impossibly tough".

For any of your gourmets out there, here's a rundown of the recipe:

Wild Cat Casserole

The meat should be diced and fried until it is brown. Then lemon grass is to be added along with salt and pepper and three cups of quandong, which is a sweet desert fruit.

It is recommended that the dish be left to simmer for five hours before being garnished with bush plums and mistletoe berries.

Wow! Sounds like a nice holiday dish! I guess the question that's on all of your minds (or it at least WILL be after I've posed the question now) is, "So what does feral cat taste like, anyway?" Well, the report says: "The meat is said to taste like a cross between rabbit and, perhaps inevitably, chicken." I guess sounds about par for the course, a bit of rabbit for the speed and jumping talents, and chicken because - well, doesn't everything default to chicken on our primitive tastebuds?

Say what you want, PETA - fact is, I CALLED IT! Cats are on the menu, and maybe someday this recipe will travel across the Pacific to our humble nation and our humble palattes.

(Proof that I can't make this stuff up - and that I totally called it!)

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Back-to-School Special

Here in Chicago, it's the first day of school. Which means that in a few weeks, it'll finally be time to take down the "Back to School" sales and really pitch in with the holiday-themed items. I've already seen tons of displays up for Hallowe'en candy, which you can apparently now purchase far enough in advance to wind up eating the entire collection of "fun-sized" candies and still pick up replacements at a discount. But that's a topic for another day: I'm here to relay some messages to the little ones out there who are starting their first days of the new school year.

For the elementary school children:


We can't all be geniuses who learn to read at age 18 months, but the least you can do is keep at it and become literate - so in time, you'll learn how to spell, how to expand your vocabulary and then you'll be in a position above practically 70% of the population when you're in high school. Of course, knowing how to spell doesn't get put to good use (other than spelling bee trophies) until you learn how to write put your ideas into words. The faster you can pick that up, the better your chances will be of having people take your ideas seriously. As for math, don't be an idiot who has to count things with fingers, and needs to wear open-toed shoes in case they need to go above ten. I'm not saying that you have to take calculus or anything, I'm just saying that all of the good jobs involve degrees that require math - and a lot of the crappier jobs still require you to add and subtract quickly, let alone multiply and divide on a bad day. Trust me, math skills will help you save money in almost every situation if you know how to use it.

For the teachers and parents: in order to have your children learn to read, write and do 'rithmatic, you need to stop babying them! Not everybody is a winner, especially not your kids. They need to learn that someone is always better than them and only one person gets to take home the grand prize. If that's your kid, enjoy the moment while it lasts, because there's always someone at your heels, ready to be the next #1. Teams lose, because one did better than the other. Telling them that "everyone who plays is a winner" plants false ideas in their heads - try implanting good sportsmanship. The best way to do that is by demonstrating it, which means NOT being a jackass parent yelling at an umpire or coach about unfair calls and your precious child not getting enough play time. If you wanted your children to always get to play, you should be playing in a park with them as a family, not as a team.

For the high school children:


You know how your parents and grandparents will tell you boring stories about walking five miles to school, in the snow, both ways, and then using old contraptions like slide rules while hand-writing every piece of work because there were no new-fangled computers back then? LISTEN TO THEM! They didn't have your fancy toys, and they learned enough to get them through life, didn't they? Went to school every day because it's the law, AND they'd get a whoopin' if they were caught playing hookey? Studied real hard so they'd get good grades so they wouldn't get another whoopin'? Graduated high school and either went to college or got a job - something something more whoopin'?

It's called a "hard life" and it builds character! That's not just a catchphrase taught to all parents in a mandatory seminar. (Trust me, while all parents should have a mandatory seminar, this whole "character" notion is something bonus that comes from people who actually did it.) Things that are hard to do are usually the things worth doing. Hand-write an essay and you'll find you're more careful about your wording and making mistakes in the language. Try multiplying or adding something on paper instead of with a calculator every now and then - it's a good refresher and firing up those brain synapses keeps them active and healthy and can actually help ward off Alzheimer's.

As for your toys - leave them at home, where toys belong. Yes, every single human being on the planet now seems to have a cellphone - great for emergency contact and scheduling, but not for school time. Same goes for... just about anything electronic that distracts you from shutting up, paying attention and doing your damned schoolwork! I'm not going to promise you that every course and every lesson throughout high school is crucial to living in the real world - but every course DOES offer knowledge that IS necessary to being a well-rounded individual and the potential to not shame your family's name at some point in your life. You know all those studies that say Americans can't locate (insert country) on a map? Maybe if they'd paid more attention in Geography class, they wouldn't be screwing up and making our country the laughingstock in the education department that it currently is!

For the college-bound young adults:


I'm currently more a believer in the idea that college really doesn't do much for you in the real world. And no, college is NOT the real world. It's just a lazy version of high school because parents are no longer part of the equation. They're not pushing you out of bed so you'll get to school/class on time. They're not checking up on your grades with report cards and parent-teacher conferences. They're just an ATM for when beer money supplies are low. This is the point that most college students pass through for some duration of their journey through college. Also the point where I'd yell at them to GET A JOB.

I also hear these tales about how college graduates make $500,000 more in a lifetime, or make double what a non-college graduate makes. What they DON'T mention is the insane amount of loans it generally takes to get through the four years of college for a standard degree. These loans build up, become huge, and even after consolidation - they're huge and you have to pay them with interest. The debt is staggering, and it can seriously ruin your credit rating. What good is an extra 50% salary if all the things you want to buy are off-limits due to bad credit?

You know, not everyone gets into college, either. There's currently an issue in Colorado over the fact that graduation requirements for high schools aren't high enough to match entrance requirements for colleges. So rather than make high school students learn more, or accept the fact that some of 'em aren't good enough or ready for college - they're dropping/lowering the admissions standards to get into college. That's just sick in my book. We're dumbing down so much in American schools, why bother having standards at all? Let's just throw some books at children, expect them to read them, realize they probably won't, then take a nap and wait for the next school year? College is for people who are smart enough and driven enough to warrant getting in. If you're not one of those people, you don't belong in college. Yea, even if you DID get in. Quit wasting everyone's time and just get a job.

Then there's the groups of people who try to convince you that without a degree, you'll never climb that ladder or gain entry to the job positions and types of "work you'll enjoy doing." I say that there are plenty of positions open where the work is something you can enjoy doing. Unfortunately, jobs aren't just about the work, they're about the company/business and co-workers and other employees and bosses that make a job a JOB. If I didn't have bosses yelling at me and deadlines that are unfeasible and co-workers who are a few rocks short of a box, I'd absolutely love the work I'm doing. I enjoy data analysis and reporting. I also enjoy my side-gig of writing articles like these. What it all comes down to is that you can always pick your career - picking everything else isn't up to you, it's all a crap shoot and work was never really meant to be fun.

If work were meant to be fun, they wouldn't have to pay you to get you to do it.

That's all for this segment of my Back-to-School Special. There will undoubtedly be a Part Two.

(The Colorado college stuff)

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