So apparently the conservative public advocacy group Judicial Watch has uncovered and is preparing to make public an e-mail that confirms what anyone with a functioning frontal lobe already knew – Cheney's influence was a determinative factor in Halliburton being awarded war contracts which were not open to competitive bidding.

My ability (or need) to comment on this issue at this point is completely absent, but suffice it to say that there is no God but one that will strike the Vice President down with a cornucopia of the most lethal, slow-acting, and untreatable hemmoragic fevers, after which he will spend the rest of eternity roasting on a spit in the part of hell otherwise reserved for the serial killers with whom the other serial killers refuse to be associated.

Live Music on Thursdays in Champaign

I am very happy to be able to report that the Cowboy Monkey in Champaign is running a running thursday night live music showcase. One band plays at midnight for free. You can't beat that. Come out on thursdays, or at least go over there at midnight for the show. Local music in Champaign is good and always getting better, a lot of times it just needs an audience.

In upcoming weeks:

  • 6/3The Invisible
    This is Chris Bauer's band if you know him. Even if you don't know him, there is a good chance you know his band. They have been around for ages. In modern times and with several changes in lineup, they are sounding much better than ever before. Their sound is somewhere between roots rock and something a bit more spacey.

  • 6/10The Blackouts
    If you don't know the Blackouts, you probably have not lived in town very long (or not watched One Tree Hill on the WB in the last couple months). With a new album out their brand of honest rock music has trancended anything this town has seen for a long time.

Moral of the story- I am going to be there the next two weeks and if I don't see you there I will be very dissappointed in you.

And the GOP says….Call Talk Radio!

Yes, the choir is about to be preached to!

Anyone who has switched their radio band to AM in the last couple years will have noticed that neocons dominate the airwaves. Being an official liason to conservative talk radio is a thankless and often masochistic task. However, it is not without its rewards. Time and time again you are amused by the circular rhetorical techniques employed by hosts. You become amazed at how the same sentence can get rephrased several hundred times to make a three hour program essentially consist of on statement. You are dumbfounded by a host responding to reasonalble critisism with a louder statement of the original position.

Beyond all else, I am continually amazed by the depth of callers who seem completely oblivious to reality, and yet have such a firm grasp of conservative talking points. Previously I answered this apparent enigma with the conclusion that callers are simply repeating statements they heard on other talk shows.

Imagine my surprise when I found that this is actually an endored campaign technique both the Republican National Commitee and the Bush campaign themselves. Accepting the fact that if you are a Bush supporter you clearly gave up on the concepts of original thought and logic four years ago, the George W Bush website not only gives you tips on how to get on the air, what programs to call, but also exact quotes to say.

[directly from]

  • Winning the War on Terror.
    After September 11, 2001, President Bush acted decisively to rout Al Qaeda from their hiding places, and America is safer as a result. The global war on terror continues to be waged with focus and determination.

  • Defending Against Weapons of Mass Destruction.
    Our military proceeded with skill and bravery to liberate the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, and ensure that weapons of mass destruction never find their way into the hands of terrorists.

  • Supporting Our Military.
    President Bush has increased defense spending in all of his budgets, giving our servicemen and women the resources and the advanced technology they need to face today’s threats.

I am a bit confused. There was no mention of all the jobs George Bush has created.

Republicans Hate Al Gore.

They really do. Talk radio personality Sean Hannity does not seem to be able to bring up Al Gore without using discriptive terms such as "shrill" or "insane." In fact, on his website, Sean Hannity asks the question: Is Al Gore losing his mind? The truth of the matter is, Al Gore very well might be insane. He very well might be losing his mind. Does anyone really care? Does anyone actually listen to Al Gore anyway? Democrats barely cared about him in 2000.

Despite the fact that even democrats believed him to be lacking even the vaguest shred of charisma during the last election, republican pundits in 2004 seem to be labeling him as the great democratic spokesman. Other than the 45 college students who are there to see him speak, the only people who hear what he has to say are viewers of Hannity of Limbaugh.

The truth of the matter is not that Gore speaks for the democratic party, but rather that he is a living breathing conservative talking point. Everytime he gives a speech republicans get to say the following.

  • The Democratic party is desperately trying to regain the power that they previously had despite the fact that it is not what the american people want. -common Limbaugh sentiment
  • Is the tone of Al Gore really befitting an ex-vice president -common Hannity statement
  • Is it appropriate for prominent democrats to align themselves with, an organization that compared Bush to Hitler? -also Hannity
  • And most intriguing of all… Everytime Gore speaks he gives conservatives another excuse to blame everything on Bill Clinton. "We'd stop talking about Clinton if they would just shut up." -Mark Levin on Hannity and Combs.

So to put it bluntly, everytime Al Gore opens his mouth, even if it is to address 27 people on some college quad somewhere, it gives conservatives justification to say things like. "Look at the lengths the democrats are willing to go to in order to win," and "Why didn't Bill Clinton kill Bin Laden when he had the chance?"

The truth of the matter is, this is just another example of how 2004 is becoming one of the most pathetic presidential elections this country has seen since the American people had to choose between Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson. Democrats are being forced to vote on how much we hate George Bush and not any affection for John Kerry. Republicans are flooding the airwaves with rhetoric condemning any statement against Bush as "inappropriate in a time of war," and "John Kerry is playing politics with national security" – yeah, as though they aren't.

We could go on like this forever. If you are interested in becoming exceptionally annoyed with the lies and half-truths are are becoming this campaign on both sides go to's doonesbury daily dose and read the line on the top titled "todays mudline" for all the up to date mudslinging in the presidential race.

A new excuse not to TIVO your commericals…

The Senate race in Illinois is shaping up to be one of the most watched elections this year. An important Republican seat is going up for grabs, and with the Illinois Republicans in complete disarray from scandal the Democratic primary winner, Barack Obama, looks like he is in great shape.

However, his Republican opponent, Wilmette's very own Jack "please seal my divorce records, please" Ryan, is going to put up a fight. After recently polling 16% behind Obama, he has hired media consultant Scott Howell to change the tone of his campaign. I had no idea why that would have been a big deal, until I just read that Howell was the one of the main guys behind the attack ad against Senator Max Cleland, who went on to lose the seat in 2002.

If you remember, the Republicans went on the offensive in 2002, with Bush going to all the big battleground states to lend a helping hand. Back then Iraq was full of people who wanted to embrace America, and you couldn't walk 5 steps without running into a mobile-train WMD lab – and the Republicans were going to bring freedom to the region. As such, even though the country was in a deep recession, the campaigns went to issues of 'national security.'

In what has turned out to be one of the most cynical attack ads ever, Howell and co. put images of Hussein and Osama Bin Laden before an image of Senator Cleland, questioning whether or not he wanted national security (see image on the left).

This ad is, of course, horrid. First, Cleland had lost both legs and an arm while fighting for America in Vietnam – so if he hasn't suffered enough to prove himself to America I don't know who has (presumably he didn't get the chance to leave 6 months early for business school). Second, even if he was to the left of Ralph Nader, to compare him to Bin Laden is beyond offensive on it's face. And third, he had been an author on the Homeland Security bill, and voted for Bush's tax cuts AND the Iraq war, making him not all that liberal of a liberal.

So if Cleland, who has more or less supported Bush's policies, can get compared to Bin Laden in TV ads, I'm really curious as to whom Obama, a pretty liberal African-American from the South Side, will get compared to when the ads start rolling.

In order to start the ball rolling, I've created a small ad below for the Ryan campaign to start using against Obama, in the style of the above Cleland ad. Mr. Howell, if you are reading, you can use it free of charge.

2nd City.

If it always seems like Chicago is fighting for the respect of the title 2nd City, well, it's because it is. Here's a good sign though: the people at The Gothamist have spun out a sister site, The Chicagoist. The Gothamist is one of the better weblogs that covers all of the things to come out of New York – seeing the format adapted to Chicago is a bit surreal. Mostly because Chicago has none of the fashion/celebrity-fucking culture that seems to dominate the NY weblogs. Are they going to give Lisa Madigan's wardrobe a smackdown?

Anyway, go support them. Chicago needs more things like this.


Here's a cheerful summary of homicides by firearm in various countries according to The World Health Organization's "World Report on Violence and Health", assembled in convenient, copy-and-forward-to-your-right-wing-asshole-friends format. Suicides and accidental firearm deaths are not counted in these figures.

Australia – 56
Austria – 17
Belgium – 59
Canada – 159
China – 3
Denmark – 15
Finland – 22
France – 160
Germany – 155
Greece – 74
Iceland – 1 (ONE!!)
Ireland – 7
Italy – 463
Japan – 22
The Netherlands – 75
New Zealand – 4
Norway – 10
Portugal – 61
Spain – 85
Sweden – 11
United Kingdom – 45


Your United States of America, where These Colors Cannot be Accused of Running: 11,802

Here's some more math. We had 25.49 times as many gun homicides as our next highest Western world counterpart (Italy). Our per capita rate of 14.55 per 100,000 people was also highest in the world (Japan's, by comparison, was 0.05 per 100,000, meaning one has a higher chance of being struck by lightning in Japan than murdered with a gun). In America we average 32.33 gun-related deaths per day, which is more than Sweden, Japan, Norway, Denmark, Austria, and other countries listed above have in an entire fucking year.

But this cannot be overstated, people: there is NO CONNECTION between having a gun and killing someone with it and not having a gun and NOT killing someone with it.


What is "soon", Alex?

Don't get me wrong, it's been a hoot watching VH-1 turn from the "adult contemporary MTV" to Viacom's opening salvo in the media trust's battle to continually downwardly-revise the lowest common denominator. But under the new ownership, it has become the Wilco to MTV's Weezer……you have to switch from one to the other after you turn 21, but no matter how much your goatee-stroking friends pretend it has artistic merit, it's every bit as annoying and vacuous.

Let me summarize every fucking show on VH-1 for the past couple of years.

"Hey, remember _______? Dude, I TOTALLY remember that. That was AWESOME. God, the 80s were so wacky. I love talking about old things, it's way easier than thinking of new things."

As Viacom's corporate tentacles have expanded to take in more media outlets, the aforementioned VH-1 shows have simply become a nonsensical pastiche of promotional appearances for other Viacom products. Not only is the concept of sitting around talking about The Facts of Life and Kajagoogoo asinine beyond belief, but further abstracting the process from reality by having Hal Sparks, the staff of Blender Magazine, ESPN's Stuart Scott, Matt Pinifield, and a parade of other Disney/ABC/ESPN/Paramount/Infinity Broadcasting/MTV stars comment on said phenomena simply takes the spectacle from idiotic to surreal.

So the next time you're sitting around staring at "I Love 1984" or "The Top 100 _________ of All Time" (or whatever other stock-footage, low-production-cost thinly-disguised commercial for the Paramount back catalog you happen to be staring at) please remember that evolution didn't stop when we grew fucking thumbs. Accordingly, it may be beneficial to partake of something new that might expand your mind or develop some new ideas rather than sitting around and watching clips of things you hated when they came out but have turned into cultural icons through the vomit-stained lens of nostalgia.

UofI Rush Week Theme 2004: Abu Ghraib Style Prison Torture

As of three weeks ago, has a weekly column in Champaign-Urbana's independent newspaper "The Hub." All three of us here have attended the University of Illinois at some point (Ed for a year, I as an undergrad, and Erik as an undergrad and currently as a grad student), so it's a natural fit. We'll soon put up the columns that we have written so far, but until then hunt down the newspaper.

As part of last week's column about the abuse of POWs in Iraq, titled "We too are unfamiliar with the Geneva Convention", we examined arguments proposed on the right, notably by Hannity and Limbaugh, that what happened at Abu Ghraib is no worse than what goes on at fraternities.

Since none of us have ever been in one, we were caught a little off guard. Glow-sticks? Attack dogs? That didn't sound like rush week, but what did we know? As journalists we took advantage of UofI's strong greek presence and wrote a letter to the Interfraternity Council asking them about the link:

An open letter to the Interfraternity Council.

As they have yet to respond, we can only assume the worst.