The Barbershop has re-located
You'll still be able to post comments with the same ease as in this location. The proprietor also will keep this web site alive if you wish to review old posts.
Monday, August 27, 2007
The door at my local Blockbuster video store is labeled "entrance." Right below, for Latinos who might be puzzled, appears the word "entrada." Over at the local Home Depot, the word "electrico" appears on a large overhead banner, in case any Spanish-speaking customer can't read the other word there: "electrical."
This is insane. You mean to tell me that Latinos are too dense to figure out that this door is for going in? Or that Spanish-speakers are unable to make the intellectual leap between entrance and entrada, even though they share the same root?
We've gone from being helpful to Spanish-speaking immigrants to the downright absurd. If you speak only Spanish and you're interested in faucets, you might be able to figure it out just by seeing where the pipes and fixtures are located. If you are half-observant, you might notice the sign that says, "plumbing," and the next time not need a sign that says, "plomeria." The chain stores know all this, but they're putting up the signs anyway because they are bending their knees to the radical immigration lobby. These folks want to dump English as the national language because, to them, anything that smacks of English-only suggests that "assimilation" is a good idea, when they believe that the whole concept of assimilation is a bourgeoisie, white-bread, if not racist, idea that no longer has a place in America. And anyone who disagrees is a "nativist," "hater" or racist.
It's why we have to print ballots in a foreign language, even though you must speak English to become a citizen and, the last I heard, you must be a citizen to vote.
Where, you ask, does it end? I thought the silliness of stenciling entrada on a door was as far as you could go. Until I saw what was going on at the Waukegan schools. English-speaking teachers are getting involuntarily transferred out of their classes and schools because they don't speak Spanish. As reported in an Aug. 17 Tribune story, Valerie Goranson now has lost her job, twice, because she speaks only English and some other teachers, noticing the 25 percent increase in the school district's Latino population, fear they might follow.
Well, the school district responds, language isn't the only reason for reassignments; they're also a part of a systemwide restructuring plan. The district also points to a 1973 Illinois law that requires a bilingual teacher in schools with more than 20 students who speak the same foreign language. That's a law that needs changing. Its supporters say it's needed because studies show students learn better in their native language. Other teachers disagree, the story noted: "We have kids from China, Belize, Serbia and everywhere, and they catch on and end up doing well," said Linette Oliver, a Waukegan teacher. "I don't understand why we can't do that for any child, no matter where they are from."
On Oliver's side are her first-hand experiences and those of her colleagues; the success of millions of immigrant children who -- miraculously, we are to believe -- learned math and other subjects that are taught in English, and common sense. Apparently, no "monolingual" teachers had to be elbowed out of the way for this to happen.
By the way, you might be surprised, as I was, to see the term monolingual increasingly applied to teachers -- and other Americans -- who speak only English. How insulting. It's as if English-speaking teachers were the same as teachers who spoke only, say, Kataang.
English is our national language, and in this setting it is inaccurate and disingenuous to refer to an English-only teacher, or another American, as monolingual. English-speaking is a more precise description than the generic monolingual, but you can expect the politically correct elites to continue to use the deprecatory term precisely because it diminishes the importance of speaking English.
Being able to speak more than one language is admirable. But, in the American classroom, we need to acknowledge the greater importance of learning English. And not treat its speakers as a disposable category.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
BP Pledges No Increase in Lake Michigan
Discharge Limits at Whiting Refinery
Warrenville, IL, August, 23, 2007- BP America today promised to operate its Whiting refinery to meet the lower discharge limits contained in the refinery’s previous wastewater treatment permit.
“We have participated in an open and transparent permitting process with the State of Indiana and obtained a valid permit that meets all regulatory standards and is protective of water quality and human health. Even so, ongoing regional opposition to any increase in discharge permit limits for Lake Michigan creates an unacceptable level of business risk for this $3.8 billion investment,” said BP America Chairman and President Bob Malone.
BP has obtained regulatory approval to increase average daily discharge limits for ammonia from 1,030 to 1,584 pounds per day and for total suspended solids (TSS) from 3646 to 4925 pounds per day to modernize the Whiting refinery and greatly increase the amount of Canadian heavy crude it can process.
During the next 18 months, BP will continue to seek issuance of other permits, continue project design and explore options for operating within the lower discharge limits. BP America notified the State of Indiana of its decision late yesterday afternoon and reiterated its dedication to the proposed refinery expansion.
“We are committed to this project. It is important for the nation, it is important for the Midwest, and it is important to BP and to the thousands of BP employees in the State of Indiana,” Malone said. “We are going to work hard to make this project succeed.”
“We will not make use of the higher discharge limits in our new permit,” said BP America Chairman and President Bob Malone. “We’re not aware of any technology that will get us to those limits but we’ll work to develop a project that allows us to do so. If necessary changes to the project result in a material impact to project viability, we could be forced to cancel it.”
BP has already agreed to participate with the Purdue Calumet Water Institute and the Argonne National Laboratory in a joint effort to identify and evaluate emerging technologies with the potential to improve wastewater treatment across the Great Lakes. Malone announced today that BP will provide a $5 million grant to Purdue University to help underwrite the research effort.
The $3.8 billion project is designed to increase the amount of Canadian heavy crude processed at the more than 400,000 barrel-per-day refinery from 30 to 90 per cent and also creates the capacity to increase production of clean fuels by 1.7 million gallons a day. The project will create 2000 construction jobs and 80 permanent jobs.
Hastert Early Resignation: An Illinois Republican source tells us former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) plans to resign November 6 this year instead of finishing out his term. This would create a vacancy and trigger a special election in the 14th District.
So, it has come to this: A 20-year-old Illinois college student is whining because she won’t be able to vacation in Costa Rica, because she got pregnant, because she couldn’t get birth control anymore, because it cost $20-a-month more at the university clinic, because its federal funding was cut, because President George Bush signed the Deficit Reduction Act.
Boy, doesn’t that beat all. Bush lied to us, got us into an unnecessary war and now he got a 20-year-old pregnant and denied her the entitlement of drinking mai tais on a tropical beach.
Read more at Human Events
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
If anyone has good reason to hate the Cubs, it’s my brother Bill and me. Growing up on the North Side and in the northern suburbs we, the only White Sox fans in sight, had to put up with the crude, rude taunting of Cubbie fans.
Very bad for the psyches of a couple of eight- and ten-year-olds.
Read more at Chicago Daily Observer
In almost 30 years of laboring for the Sun-Times (including a stint on its editorial board) and its sister paper, the Chicago Daily News, I cannot remember it, or any other Chicago paper, calling for such a boycott. I might be wrong, and would appreciate the details.
Credit the Sun-Times for its courage; it’s not often that one for-profit business seeks to publicly instruct another on its moral and legal obligations. Such edicts usually are left to high-and-mighty non-profits. Attempts to drive away business are usually left to competitors, and the last I looked the Sun-Times was not in the oil business. It’s especially courageous in light of the Sun-Times’ precarious financial position; some may call it an act of putting principle over expedience.
At base, though, the paper’s call for a boycott is an act of cowardice.
Just like other critics of federal and state approvals of BP’s plans to spend $3.8 billion to upgrade its northwestern Indiana refinery to turn Canadian oil into gasoline, the Sun-Times provides not a shred of evidence that it will do any environmental harm. The science and the law are on BP’s side; demagoguery and hysterics are on the side of its opponents.
Opponents are forced to revert to the emotional argument that there must be no “backsliding” on pollution, and that the increases of ammonia and suspended solids constitute is bad. And why is it bad? Like children, they say, “Just because.”
The editors at the Sun-Times, if they are rational, have to know that its call for a boycott won’t work. (One reader pointed out to the editors in a letter the reasons why.) They have to know that it’s transparent posturing. There’s only one reason for doing it:
A desperate attempt to be on the side of what they believe is popular opinion. And that’s cowardice. And the soiling of a fine newspaper’s integrity.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Simple. He should replace Bob Schieffer as the host of CBS News' Sunday news program Face the Nation. Or how about him replacing Tim Russert as moderator of NBC's Meet the Press.
Or more to the point, he should boot George Stephanopoulos off ABC's This Week.
This would produce howls of protest from Democrats. How can you make President George W. Bush's biggest insider the host of a major news program? What about bias? They'd go berzerk.
And well they should. No one can fairly make the transition from top White House operative to host of a network news shows. They were right when they vehemently protested ABC's decision to make Stephanopoulos host of This Week. Stephanopoulos, you'll recall, was a senior political adviser to the former President Bill Clinton's first White House run and later became Clinton's communications direct.
What's that you say? They didn't protest? Oh. So I guess that they wouldn't mind if a major network would do Rove the same kind of favor. Or that they wouldn't hoot when he shows up on Fox News.
Sure they would
Elvira Arellano is a deported immigration lawbreaker. Yet, the writers and editors of hundreds of news stories feel compelled to call her an “activist,” a much more generic term that attempts to deflect her year-long spit-in-the-eye of U.S. immigration laws.
Even more egregious are the comparisons of Arellano to Rosa Parks, the heroic African-American woman who helped break the hold of Jim Crow segregation in the South. Parks broke an unjust and immoral law; Arellano broke a law that is neither. America’s immigration laws arise from the right of every sovereign nation to protect its borders.
Arellano was deported after her arrest in Los Angeles after leaving her yearlong refuge in a Chicago church. There was no question about the illegality of her multi violations; she admitted to them herself. She, in effect, dared authorities to arrest her.
Read more at Political Mavens
U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) is correct to call for congressional hearings into government approval given to BP for a $3.8 billion upgrade to its northwest Indiana gasoline refinery.
Just as long as the hearings help to clarify and correct the barrels of misinformation and distortions swamping the debate over the massive project that will bring cheaper and more abundant gasoline to the Midwest. The distortions have been sloshing around now for more than a month after approval of the project by federal and state regulators came under fire. A public summit of the major players in the controversy last week seemed to do little to clear them up.
Take the issue of "backsliding": Can any additional "pollutants," no matter how infinitesimal or harmless, be discharged into to the nation's lakes, rivers and streams, even if they are legal and within federal and state limits, as BP's are?
Some critics, such as Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) would go so far as to inaccurately suggest that any additional discharges are illegal. As he said in a letter to Benjamin Grumbles, the Environmental Protection Agency's assistant administrator for the Office of Water, "A specific provision in the federal Clean Water Act prohibits any downgrade in water quality near a pollution source even if discharge limits are met."
Well, yes, but there's a legal exception, according to the EPA, that he fails to mention, either from ignorance or mendacity: "Anti-backsliding provisions of the [Clean Water Act] contain an exception where material and substantial alterations to the permitted facility justify the application of less stringent effluent limitations...to accommodate important economic or social development." Regulators correctly determined that the economic and social benefits of the refinery expansion meet that requirement.
Other critics don't go as far. They regard the exemption as a "loophole" that BP will use to "foul" Lake Michigan. Such claims usually are made without precise evidence about how the discharges will "foul" the lake, endanger the water supply or lead to horrific events that might justify the critics' hysteria.
For example, in ranting about the relatively small amount of ammonia allowed into the lake, the critics ignore the fact that ammonia is not a bioaccumulative chemical. It breaks down in the water. If it didn't, all the fish in the Great Lakes might have disappeared eons ago from swimming in their own urine.
Also conveniently missing from the debate is the context that could be provided by comparing BP with other industrial and city "dischargers." According to the EPA, BP's 4,925 pounds of suspended solids allowed a day compares with 16,630 at International Steel Group's East Chicago plant and 121,861 at its Burns Harbor facility. Ispat Industries' East Chicago plant is allowed 130,453 pounds, about 27 times BP's limit. Chicago, of course, is on another planet, permitted 243,000 pounds, almost 50 times BP's. Maybe Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who is threatening to sue BP, ought to sue himself. Except, I suppose that Chicago's discharges don't count because they aren't into the lake; they're just gifted to the Illinois river system.
Note also might be taken of the fact that no ammonia limits are imposed on a bunch of papermakers and cities such as Milwaukee and Green Bay. Chicago's allowable ammonia discharge (from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District) is 61,000 pounds, compared with BP's 1,584.
Considering these facts, Stephen Elbert, BP America vice chairman, should have said at last week's summit, "Nuts. You don't want our jobs and economic development? We'll take them elsewhere." Instead, he went well beyond what is required and promised to look at suggested alternatives to cleaning up the plant's discharges. But, he added, any discharge alternative will have to "fall within the economic boundaries of the project," a perfectly legitimate position.
Mary Gade, EPA Midwest regional administrator, probably said the smartest thing all day when she asked everyone to get beyond the headlines and emotions and begin a more practical discussion.
The issue is larger than BP. In a way, it's a test of national importance of whether we can balance legitimate environmental and economic concerns. Of whether we can avoid couching the debate, as did Ann Alexander, a local Natural Resources Defense Council attorney, in such destructive and extreme terms as "sacrificing Lake Michigan in the name of oil addiction." Of whether politics will run roughshod over the public interest. Of whether demagoguery and emotion will trump facts and reason. Of whether radical environmentalism will prevail over science.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Annoyed about all the national publicity that the Iowa Republican straw poll garnered last week in Ames, the New Hampshire Legislature today set its 2012 state presidential primary for next week. – News item.
Just kidding. Sort of.
Insanity isn’t quite the word (but it’s close) to describe the coverage of the straw poll, which the media, political operatives and the candidates themselves (the leading ones, that is) declared to be an important national milestone on the road to the White House and, hence, the fate of the world.
Absurd may be a better word: Here’s how Chris Wallace, host of “Fox News Sunday” described this momentous occasion: “This weekend, all eyes were on the American heartland and the race for president.” I assure you, from the Heartland, that all eyes were definitely not. Mitt Romney, the “winner” of the straw poll, declared: “Today, the people of this great state sent a message to America, and that is that changes begins in Iowa.” Message, not heard, not received.
Read more at Human Events
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
By this, we're supposed to believe that Obama would pay a courtesy call on Musharraf. Or deliver a polite e-mail, saying, "Hey, could you please do something about those terrorists?" Or send the Rev. Jesse Jackson with a message, which no doubt would prompt Musharraf to act, but probably not the way that Obama has in mind.
Seems that the partisan Media Matters for America has objected to my conclusion in a prior post that Obama meant that he would unilaterally invade Pakistan. This, I am instructed, was a wildly inaccurate reading on my part and others of what Obama meant. Thing is, the critics never say what Obama supposedly really meant. I suspect the public believes he meant exactly what Obama's handlers wanted them to think: that he'd go into Pakistan and kick Osma bin Laden's butt.
What's happening is a broader effort by Media Matters and other liberal mouthpieces to try to soften Obama's belligerence with idiotic word games. They simply are echoing Obama's feeble effort at damage control, in which he said that "The misreporting that was done needs to be cleared up. I never called for an invasion of Pakistan." We're now supposed to believe that well, yes, perhaps Obama meant military action (Dropping in special forces? A missile attack? What?), but it can't be called an "invasion." Then what is a deployment of armed forces or an attack by air or sea against a soverign ally to be called? An excursion?
To be charitable, this attempted deception is so transparently mealy-mouthed that it ought to embarrass the folks who use it. Then again, some folks simply are incapable of being embarrassed.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Is America, nay, the world, ready for a U.S. president -- Barack Obama -- who bubbled up from the sordid politics of the Illinois legislature? From a political party whose stranglehold on Illinois government has brought the state to the brink of insolvency?
The rest of America should excuse many of us here if we blanch at the idea that someone, anyone, who just a few years ago occupied a seat in Illinois' laughable legislature might soon be president.
True, the first president to emerge from the Illinois legislature was Abraham Lincoln, but that's little comfort. Today's Illinois legislature is rock bottom, exceeded in incompetence only by the preening, useless Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich. And true, Obama can't be blamed for the current madness in Springfield and the Democratic Party's abject failure to govern. Yet, that's where Obama cut his political teeth.
At last, the national media are catching on, noting that Obama talks a good game about bringing a new day to Washington, but what he's really bringing are old ways from one of the nation's most corrupt political states. The Boston Globe noted that two-thirds of the money Obama raised for his state Senate campaign came from political-action committees, corporate contributions or unions -- all special interests. The Los Angeles Times reported that Obama has raised $1.4 million from members of law firms and consultants led by partners who are lobbyists. The Washington newspaper, The Hill, reported how he used lobbyists to help build his fundraising base.
But Obama has more going against him than being the spawn of political hacks and hypocrites. His recent statements raise troubling questions about his competence, such as his ham-handed declaration about invading a sovereign ally, Pakistan.
Supposedly an "agent of change," Obama's promise that he would unilaterally invade Pakistan sure has a familiar feel; anyone remember the Iraq war? Who would have thought that within Obama lurked a neocon?
The impact of Obama's threats were immediately apparent, in helping to destabilize Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf 's shaky government and raising the specter of Islamic extremists running a nuclear-armed state. Obama has objected that his remarks have been taken out of context, so, fair enough, let's look at the speech in which he issued the warning.
The Bush White House could have written some of it: "It's time to turn the page on the diplomacy of tough talk and no action," he said. And: "As president, I would make the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional, and I would make our conditions clear: Pakistan must make substantial progress in closing down the training camps, evicting foreign fighters and preventing the Taliban from using Pakistan as a staging area for attacks in Afghanistan.
"I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an Al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will."
George W. Bush reborn? A reminder for Bush haters and Obama fawners: Bush also said he had actionable intelligence justifying the invasion of Iraq.
Ironically, Obama's explanation resonated with the AFL-CIO presidential debate audience in Chicago last week, and, I suspect, a good part of the American public. Obama's handlers probably got the politics right. But, as policy, it was dangerous and hardly "nuanced." No surprise there, considering that Obama's foreign policy adviser is none other than Anthony Lake, President Bill Clinton's controversial former national security adviser. This is the same guy who allowed Iran to deliver weapons to the Muslim government in civil-war-torn Bosnia, in effect inviting Muslim extremists into Europe.
A new day in Obama's Washington? Spare us. Obama in the White House would be an old day, incorporating the worst of the Bush administration (according to his critics) and the worst of the Clinton administration. Not to mention the Illinois legislature.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
The YearlyKos presidential forum here in Chicago did such a wonderful job of spotlighting the extreme elements of the Democratic Party that conservatives should hope that they make it a monthly, even weekly, event.
Consider: It really takes something to make Hilary Clinton look good, but the leftwing bloggers who partake of the poisonous rhetoric that flows on the Daily Kos web site pulled it off. Of course, making Clinton look good isn't saying much when you're sharing the debating stage with the other Democratic candidates, there to kowtow to their base.
When Clinton spoke the truth at the forum about lobbying practices in Washington, the crowd roundly booed her. Asked about taking campaign money from lobbyists, she pointed out that lobbyists "represent real Americans. They actually do. They represent nurses, they represent, you know, social workers. They represent--yes they represent corporations that employ a lot of people."
See, right there she stepped in it, not just on the lobbying thing, but acknowledging what the lefties don't want to hear: Corporations, for all their faults, do something good; they give people jobs.
Read more at RealClearPolitics
Monday, August 06, 2007
By Dennis Byrne
Did you know that every time a CTA rider pays his fare, you figuratively match it? Two bucks from him, almost two bucks from us taxpayers.
Pace suburban bus riders get more from taxpayers: We pick up about two-thirds of the tab. Even though Metra serves some high-tone suburbs, we cough up 45 percent of its costs.
These facts have been strangely overlooked in the legislature's fight over increased state subsidies for the CTA, Metra and Pace. The state already gives Chicago-area transit about a half-billion dollars a year but still the halls of the state Capitol reverberate with threats of big service cuts and higher fares unless Illinois taxpayers come up with yet more money for mass transit.
The arguments for a subsidized mass transit system are well-worn but legitimate: It's transportation for people who can't afford to drive and a sensible alternative for those who can, it reduces pollution and energy consumption, it helps direct sensible land use in the suburbs and so forth.
In a nod to its importance, the Illinois General Assembly in the early 1970s started providing annual mass-transit subsidies, through the newly created RTA. But lawmakers thought that the taxpayers shouldn't pay for all the costs, so they created a requirement that the riders in the aggregate must pay for at least half of the total costs. In other words, if the total cost of mass transit in the region was $500 million, riders would have to pay at least $250 million, and the rest could come from other sources, namely government subsidies. If the total cost increased $100 million, to $600 million, riders' fares would have to generate $300 million. Obviously, that would require a fare increase.
But why was their share set at 50 percent? Why not 60 percent or 75 percent? Fifty percent was an arbitrary number that was determined by political compromise; there's nothing magical about it. Indeed, New York City and District of Columbia riders pay a higher share of the cost of their rides.
If CTA riders, for example, were required to pay 60 percent of the total cost, it would generate well more than the $110 million that the CTA wants in increased subsidies this year. Yes, it would require a basic fare increase of roughly 38 cents. But more creative ways are available for increasing fare revenues other than an across-the-board hike. One would be a higher rush-hour fare, when it can be justified by higher demand.
Of course, the RTA and the local transit boards could raise the fares on their own authority because the state-mandated 50 percent rider share is only a minimum. But politically speaking, it would be easier for the legislature to take the heat by forcing a higher rider share. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley would be able to say that the legislature made us do it.
Think about it. We don't pay half a motorist's costs when he drives to work or goes shopping. When gas costs $3 a gallon, he pays $3 a gallon, and a $1.50 check doesn't arrive later. Airline passengers and freight shippers don't get this kind of break either; their customers pay most of the costs. Yes, there's an argument that government provides motorists and truckers "huge" subsidies through highway construction and maintenance. But those subsidies fall far short of half the cost of highways; most of those costs are paid by the motor fuel tax, which is a user tax. No similar user tax exists for transit users; in fact, the biggest transit subsidy here comes from a six-county RTA sales tax, which falls on all of us.
Suggesting a fare increase is memorialized as "touching the third rail." Doing so immediately makes you an enemy of the poor, as if the only people who ride trains and buses are scraping out a living in bum jobs or on welfare. They're not; those who are too poor to afford a fare increase should be helped in other ways than by giving a subsidy to every rider, whether or not he needs it.
Transit riders have generally escaped the huge energy cost increases that have afflicted all forms of transportation. And they have benefited from the political cowardice of politicians and transit boards that have failed to impose regular, reasonable increases. A state mandate requiring that riders pay a bigger share of their costs is the only way to ensure more realistic fares.
Of course, there'll be carping, e.g., "I shouldn't have to pay one penny more for such rotten service," even though the criticism is unfairly broad-brush. But here's a thought for the crabbers: The next time you're furious about your late bus or train, maybe things would be better if you paid more of your share.