Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Taxpayers Pay the Bill for H.R. 5453

Last year the U.S. began offering tax credits for the development of alternative fuels such as corn-based ethanol and biodiesel made from vegetable oils. Rep. John Shimkus (IL-19), a member of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee since voters mistakenly elected him to Congress in 1996, hopes to ride that wave and give the bill to the taxpayers.

He introduced H.R. 5453 last week. It amends the 1986 Internal Revenue Code extending the existing alternative fuel mixture excise tax credits for certain liquid fuel derived from coal. The current expiration date is September 30, 2009. The new expiration date would be December 31, 2020.

The technology process transforms coal into diesel, jet, and other liquid petroleum fuels. His constituents in the coal-producing states support this legislation because they want more funding to pay for developing the coal liquefaction plants. He has received over $80,000 and then some from energy and natural resources PACs to do their bidding. It is interesting to note that the production would be economical as long as oil prices remain above $45 per barrel, and there are no taxpayer cost estimates for the alternative fuel mixture excise credit.

The 50 cents per gallon tax credit is part of the Highway Reauthorization and Excise Tax Simplification Act. According to the oil and gas constituents, diesel fuel from coal should help lower fuel prices, America’s dependency on foreign oil, and harmful emissions. He also thinks that his legislation would specifically benefit parts of Central Illinois. Many tons of coal are located in IL-19 (e.g., Christian and Montgomery Counties).

According to the Illinois Coal Association, the U.S. holds approximately one-quarter of the world's coal reserves. It has more coal than any other fossil fuel, and Illinois has the largest reported volume of bituminous (i.e., soft) coal. Currently, there are no U.S. coal-to-liquid production facilities in existence due to not being cost-effective and having environmental concerns. The Fischer-Tropsch process dates from the 1920s. Nazi Germany was the first country to use it. Currently, it is widespread around the world – especially in South Africa.

In the U. S., Waste Management and Processors, Inc., will begin construction on a coal-to-liquid facility in Pennsylvania later this year to redeploy this archaic technology. The company would produce an estimated 5,000 barrels of diesel fuel each day. Rep. Shimkus would like to see a facility that producing 80,000 barrels daily or 15 million tons annually. Consider three things:

  1. The cost: five years and $7 billion
  2. The market: the aviation industry and the U.S. Defense Department
  3. The result: It will free some oil for only a fraction of total U.S. oil consumption because it exceeds 20 million barrels a day.
Jim Ross, manager of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency's Division of Air Pollution Control, notes that this technology will fail in existing U.S. processing plants (e.g., the coal-fired power plants in Illinois). Therefore, they cannot perform the gasification and liquefication processes necessary to produce this kind of fuel.

In addition to the cost, there are the environmental concerns. Typically, the conversion process strips away many impurities. The companies store the mercury in landfills which sometimes leads to underground water contamination. Also, some of the mercury and carbon dioxide remain. Illinois already has high levels of mercury emissions that end up in the food chain through contaminated fish producing adverse health effects for humans – especially women and children.

Coal gasification is a better alternative although coal will not solve America's energy problem in a clean way no matter who uses what process. Here are more facts to remember:
  • There is no such thing as zero-emission coal or clean coal.
  • Some part is always waste that going to a landfill.
  • There is no away.
  • There is no such thing as cheap gas.
  • Taxpayers need more innovation not another bill for services rendered.
Jared Diamond's most recent book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, reminds the U. S. of the outdated notions of past abundance.
[. . .] The idea that Easter Island had lots of trees, for example, persisted until they were all cut down. Greenland once had enough grass to support cattle, so Viking settlers stubbornly stuck with pasturage even when the Little Ice Age drastically cooled the climate.

Our own folly is cheap fuel. The United States once had large oil reserves, and they made us rich and powerful. Ergo, cheap fuel--oil, coal, nuclear, or whatever--is seen as being key to our continued prosperity and future security. This gusher mentality deforms our society and economy. It leads the United States to sabotage international efforts to combat global warming, tolerate a huge trade deficit that has destroyed millions of manufacturing jobs, and keep military bases in the Middle East, where they serve as rallying points for terrorists. And it's why the U.S. auto industry continues to promote size and performance over safety and efficiency.

Help the oil industry, argues the cheap-fuel lobby, and the price will go down. So Congress grants enormous subsidies to wealthy oil companies, which turn our wild places into industrial zones, foul our air and water, and poison our communities. Others say that the oil industry (or the OPEC cartel) is price-gouging. Stop profiteering and cheap energy will return is their mantra. [. . .]

But our energy problem has less to do with price than with waste and inefficiency. Large amounts of petroleum are lost in drilling, transportation, and refining. Of every gallon that reaches the gas pump, only a few spoonfuls are needed to move the passenger's body -- the rest is used to move the weight and bulk of the car itself. Better engineering could reduce this waste by half; smaller and lighter vehicles could lower fuel needs to a quarter of our present, profligate levels. If cars got 100 miles per gallon -- as they could -- who would care about paying $5 a gallon at the pump?

Similarly, of every pound of coal torn from the mountaintops of Appalachia, more than eleven ounces' worth of electricity is lost at the power plant. Further losses occur in the transmission and distribution systems, and in the wasted heat from incandescent bulbs. Less than two ounces provide the actual lumens of light. If we got three times as many lumens per ton of coal mined -- as we could -- electricity bills would plummet even if coal prices soared.

But our governing folly paralyzes us, and we continue to focus on price instead of waste and inefficiency. Last year, Congress threw billions of dollars in new subsidies at the oil industry, but gas still rose to $3 a gallon. Airlines went bankrupt. Homeowners chose between paying for heat and buying food. And the Bush administration and congressional leadership very nearly succeeded in opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, even though its reserves would represent only a drop in our oil bucket.
There is a better way (an alternative to the Land of Oz): Choose success over failure.
  • Expand renewable sources.
  • Promote energy efficiency.
  • Break the stranglehold of carbon fuels.
IL-19 constituents need to remember that anything that will benefit the Republican money spigot gets top priority on the John Shimkus agenda while other issues closer to home remain ignored. It is in their best interests to return the bill (amount to be named later) to their very lackluster legislator.

November 07, 2006 -- IL-19 voters need to vote him out of office and Dan Stover (D-Centralia) in.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Open Books Open Minds

A quote to consider: If you open your mind, Satan will walk right in. I have to keep my mind closed and straight.

A more than appropriate response from an anonymous friend of the internet: Maybe Satan's already in your head and opening it up with books will let it out.

Fredrick the Great, an Enlightenment Era philosophe, stated very simply that books make up no small part of human happiness.

According to Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900) from The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891, preface: There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written.

Abraham Lincoln was a self-taught man -- thanks to books: The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who'll get me a book I ain't read.

This 20th Century Republican president takes those thoughts one step farther:

Don't join the book burners. Don't think you're going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don't be afraid to go in your library and read every book . . . Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890 - 1969)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

IL Family Institute Facts

Kankakee Voice provides the scoop on the Illinois Family Institute (IFI). The organization sounds so wholesome and innocent yet it belies the disturbing reality.

The organization like the Umbrella group it stems from, Focus on the Family. A man named James Dobson heads the activities. He is a person that enjoys his powerful connections to Republican politicians. Rather than embracing the Christian values many would expect, it is more of a hate group. Peter LaBarbera of IFI is promoting the Constitution Party's 2006 Illinois convention.

It's too bad the average Christians attending these mega churches are too close-minded to use the brain (they believe) God gave them to look into the allegations of manipulation from Dobson and other good Christians like him and the Republican Party as pawns to gain political power and get a few rich via big corporate greed.

There is a lot of evil under all of that piety. Common sense is quite rare indeed.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Trivia for Democracy

Downstate Democrats for Change is hosting TRIVIA FOR DEMOCRACY! There will also be 50/50 tickets, attendance & cash prizes, and a Silent Auction.

Come and meet the candidate! Proceeds of the event will support the campaign for Danny L. Stover, Democratic Candidate for U.S. Congress, IL District 19.

IBEW Hall, Local 309
2000A Mall Street, Collinsville
(Next to former Petite 4 Cinema and visible from Hwy. 157)

Saturday, June 10, 2006.
Registration: 6:15p.m.
Trivia Game: 7:00 p.m.

$100 per table of 8 in advance
$12.50 / person in advance or $15 at the door
2 soft drinks with each admission (And there will be snacks at the tables.)
Spread the word and join the fun!!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Animal Protection is a Low Priority for the Congressional Delegation

Humans are stewards of Earth and natural resources. Therefore, humans and their societies are responsible for protecting animals from cruelty and suffering. Humans in 21st Century societies have become so proficient at inflicting cruelty and justify it since the Consititution fails to enumerate rights to animals. The Framers would never have considered it necessary. They lived in an agrarian society. Therefore, they either protected animals at all costs or they died early in life. To care for animals, understand them, learn from them, humans retain their humanity.

As the centuries have past, the U.S. has become more advanced & less enlightened as many members of the Illinois congressional delegation fail to realize. The list below includes the
legislation, current status, and the limited number of Illinois co-sponsors as of the dates they signed on or withdrew:

The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act
(H.R. 503 and S. 1915)

The U.S. House of Representatives gave unanimous approval for an amendment to the spending bill for the Department of the Interior to restore federal protections for wild horses and burros and to bar the commercial sale and slaughter of these animals for foreign food exports. This unanimous approval should provide passage of future legislation to permanently ban horse slaughter.

Status of H.R. 503 as of 5/18/2006: Introductory remarks on measure (CR 5/19/2006 H2839)

The bill needs more legislators to realize that what a cruel and inhumane practice horse slaughtering is. Co-sponsors:

Rep Evans, Lane [IL-17] - 4/28/2005
Rep Gutierrez, Luis V. [IL-4] - 7/26/2005
Rep Kirk, Mark Steven [IL-10] - 4/5/2005
Rep Rush, Bobby L. [IL-01] - 3/2/2005
Rep Schakowsky, Janice D. [IL-09] - 2/17/2005

Status of S. 1915 as of 10/25/2005: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Senators Richard Durbin and Barack Obama are not co-sponsors at this time.

Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act
(H.R. 3858 and S. 2548)

The PETS Act requires state and local emergency management agencies to consider the needs of individuals with pets and service animals in the event of a major disaster. This legislation should become law before the next hurricane season begins in June.

Status as of 5/23/2006: It passed in a landslide 349-24 vote. Few legislators realize that pets are important family members. Co-sponsors:

Rep Evans, Lane [IL-17] - 10/19/2005
Rep Schakowsky, Janice D. [IL-09] - 10/3/2005

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK, introduced S. 2548 on 4/5/2006. His committee has read it twice and referred it to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Senators Richard Durbin and Barack Obama are not co-sponsors at this time.

The Illinois General Assembly also has a plan – with more co-sponsors.

Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act
(H.R. 817 and S. 382)

The legislation strengthens the federal penalties for illegal dogfighting, cockfighting, and hog-dog fighting. It also ban cockfighting in the two states that legally allow it. Louisiana is one of those states.

Status as of 3/16/2005: Referred to the Subcommittee on Livestock and Horticulture. The barbaric and cruel practice is also dangerous to humans since the birds could have the H5N1 virus. More than half of the Illinois legislators decided this was an important fact. Co-sponsors:

Rep Biggert, Judy [IL-13] - 6/17/2005
Rep Costello, Jerry F. [IL-12] - 12/14/2005
Rep Emanuel, Rahm [IL-05] - 6/23/2005
Rep Evans, Lane [IL-17] - 5/3/2005
Rep Gutierrez, Luis V. [IL-04] - 5/26/2005
Rep Hyde, Henry J. [IL-06] - 5/3/2005
Rep Kirk, Mark Steven [IL-10] - 3/10/2005
Rep Rush, Bobby L. [IL-01] - 6/23/2005
Rep Schakowsky, Janice D. [IL-09] - 4/14/2005
Rep Shimkus, John [IL-19] - 5/24/2005

Status of S.382 as of 4/29/2005: Passed Senate without amendment by Unanimous Consent (CR 4/28/2005 S4605-4606). Co-sponsors:

Sen Durbin, Richard [IL] - 2/17/2005
Sen Obama, Barack [IL] - 4/27/2006

Captive Primate Safety Act
(H.R.1329 and S. 1509)

This legislation seeks to end the interstate and foreign commerce in captive primates for the pet trade. Approximately 15,000 primates are in private hands. There have been high-profile attacks recently. Disease is always a threat.

Status as of 3/23/2005: Executive Comment Requested from Interior. Almost no one in Illinois understands how important this legislation is. Co-sponsor:

Rep Schakowsky, Janice D. [IL-9] - 5/23/2005

Status of S. 1509 as of 5/23/2006: Committee on Environment and Public Works. Ordered to be reported without amendment favorably. Senators Richard Durbin and Barack Obama are not co-sponsors at this time.

Antifreeze Bittering Act
(H.R. 2567 and S.1110)

This legislation would require the addition of denatonium benzoate (DB). DB is a bittering agent that will render sweet-tasting engine coolant and antifreeze unpalatable. It is a simple thing to prevent pets, wildlife, and children from poisoning themselves. The Doris Day Animal League is leading the effort charge to pass this bill.

Status as of 5/23/2006: Subcommittee Hearings Held.

The Consumer Specialty Products Association, representing the antifreeze industry, and Honeywell, the leading manufacturer of antifreeze, are working to pass the Antifreeze Bittering Act. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Pet Food Institute have endorsed this legislation. The U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a resolution in 2004 urging Congress to *help cities protect children and animals. In addition, several federal laws already classify antifreeze as a hazardous substance. The veterinary school at Washington State University estimates that as many as 10,000 dogs and cats ingest antifreeze each year. All these facts and only 4 out of 19 Illinois legislators are co-sponsors:

Rep Evans, Lane [IL-17] - 7/12/2005
Rep Jackson, Jesse L., Jr. [IL-02] - 9/28/2005
Rep LaHood, Ray [IL-18] - 7/21/2005
Rep Schakowsky, Janice D. [IL-09] - 6/28/2005(withdrawn - 7/12/2005)

Status of S.1110 (Engine Coolant and Antifreeze Bittering Agent Act) as of 03/14/2006: Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders (Calendar No. 373). Senators Richard Durbin and Barack Obama are not co-sponsors at this time.

Sportsmanship in Hunting Act
(H.R. 1688 and S. 304)
Computer-Assisted Remote Hunting Act
(H.R. 1558)

The legislation will stop the interstate transport of exotic animals for use in canned hunts. Remote hunting via the Internet is a new and disturbing form of animal cruelty. A rifle and camera are mounted to a platform, which a person can control via computer from any location in the world, killing animals with a click of the mouse.

Status of H.R. 1688 as of 7/1/2005: Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. Co-sponsors:

Rep Evans, Lane [IL-17] - 4/19/2005
Rep Schakowsky, Janice D. [IL-09] - 11/7/2005

Status of S. 304 as of 2/7/2005: Referred to Senate committee. Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. Senators Richard Durbin and Barack Obama are not co-sponsors at this time.

Status of H.R. 1588 as of 5/10/2005: Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. Co-sponsors:

Rep Evans, Lane [IL-17] - 9/14/2005
Rep Kirk, Mark Steven [IL-10] - 9/14/2005
Rep Schakowsky, Janice D. [IL-09] - 7/28/2005

No one has introduced a version of this legislation in the Senate.

There is almost no interest in any of these bills. Hopefully, interest will improve after Vice Pres. Dick Cheney is no longer in office.

Downed Animal Protection Act
(H.R. 3931 and S. 1779)

The legislation establishes a permanent ban on the slaughter of downed livestock (i.e., animals too sick or injured to stand are walk on their own). Slaughterhouses typically kick the animals, drag them with chains, prod them with electric shocks, and push them with a bulldozer to move them to slaughter. They also leave them for days without food, water, or veterinary care as they await slaughter. Poultry represent 95% of animals slaughtered in the U.S., and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act fails to cover them. Congress needs to close this loophole to assure that poultry are insensible to pain first.

Status of H.R. 3931 as of 10/6/2005: Referred to House subcommittee on Livestock and Horticulture.

Less than half of the Illinois legislators are concerned with ensuring the humane treatment of farm animals and protect people. Downed animals are also at a higher risk of carrying harmful diseases, such as mad cow, E. coli, and salmonella. All six cases of mad cow disease identified in North America have reportedly involved downed animals. Co-sponsors:

Rep Biggert, Judy [IL-13] - 9/28/2005
Rep Davis, Danny K. [IL-07] - 12/16/2005
Rep Gutierrez, Luis V. [IL-04] - 9/28/2005
Rep Kirk, Mark Steven [IL-10] - 9/28/2005
Rep Rush, Bobby L. [IL-01] - 9/28/2005
Rep Schakowsky, Janice D. [IL-09] - 9/28/2005

Status of S. 1779 as of 9/28/2005: Referred to Senate committee. Read twice and referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. Co-sponsor:

Sen Durbin, Richard [IL] - 12/14/2005
It is time for everyone to make phone calls and send e-mails. Just do not waste time with John Shimkus (IL-19). He does nothing until he receives orders from the Party leadership. Support Dan Stover (D-Centralia) in November.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Misunderstanding N-O

What part of NO does the House of Representatives not understand? Majority Leader John Boehner has scheduled another vote on Thursday to open only 2,000 acres of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling. Once again, President Bush must be salivating at the very thought. It is the underpinning of his energy blueprint because he sees the potential 16 billion barrels of crude from the 1.5-million-acre coastal plain as the only way to increase U.S. oil supplies and reduce U.S. reliance on petroleum imports.

With any luck (and a lot of work), it will fail -- again. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), chairman of the Commerce Committee, has already threatened to include ANWR drilling in a package of energy legislation that Republicans are drafting for possible consideration this summer.

Oil companies believe that advanced drilling technology would allow them to explore for crude without harming the land. Environmental groups understand the reality. U.S. Geological Survey studies have found that oil in the refuge isn't concentrated in a single, large reservoir. It is spread across the coastal plain in more than 30 small deposits, which would require vast networks of roads and pipelines that would fragment the habitat, disturbing and displacing wildlife. That is degredation to a lot more than 2,000 acres, and there is not enough oil to justify it. The extremely sensitive ecosystem provides a habitat for polar bears, caribou and other wildlife.

In addition, the cultures of the Gwich’in Athabascan Indians and Inupiat Eskimos that rely on this wildlife for their subsistence will also suffer irrevocably. Eskimo residents and leaders of the North Slope Borough are criticizing the impacts of oil development to their lands and their seas. Gwich’in Indian residents of Arctic Village, on the southern boundary of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, fear their community’s caribou hunting will be severely impacted by oil development in the Refuge.

It is time to remember that humans are on this Earth in a stewardship capacity.

A steward is someone who has been given the responsibility to care for the property of another. As an example, God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden to “work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15). Christ tells us in the Parable of the Wise Servant and the Parable of the Talents (Matt. 24 and 25) that we must be good stewards of the things he has placed in our care.
Oil on Ice: Every member of Congress needs to hear the voices of people who cared to speak out in defense of it. They need to understand the meaning of the word NO!

Update: Rep. George Miller (CA-07), Chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee provides this statement regarding the latest legislative activity:
Many people have referred to the fact that the President stood here in January and told us we were addicted to oil. Well, the supporters of this legislation and the President of the United States are acting just like addicts. What they're doing is looking for one more quick fix. One more fix and they'll get religion tomorrow. One more fix and they'll get well, one more fix and they'll go into treatment. What they're telling us is they've postponed conservation, they've postponed new technologies, and they've postponed new sources of energy
[. . .]
Now, in the eleventh hour, with American consumers suffering from $3.50 gas prices, they're buying a lotto ticket. They're buying a lotto ticket and it's called ANWR, and they're hoping to be able to redeem it. When it doesn't work, America will be deeper in debt, more dependent on foreign sources of oil than they are today because if they can get ANWR, they can once again postpone the commitments to conservation and technology.
The definition of STUPID: The U.S. House of Representatives.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Christian Values Legislating Human Emotion

The Illinois Family Institute (IFI) turned in petitions earlier this month to place an advisory referendum on Illinois' November ballot declaring marriage between one man and one woman and banning civil unions and all forms of domestic partnership. The IFI claims to represent Christian Illinois, and yet their spokesman has called gay and lesbian families an infection.

Christian values were so simple 2,000 years ago.

  • worship of God: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
  • fidelity in marriage: Whom God has joined together let no man put asunder.
  • renunciation of worldly goods: Gather not your riches up upon this earth, for there your heart will be also.
  • renunciation of violence: If a man strike you on one cheek, turn the other cheek.
  • forgiveness of sins: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
  • unconditional love: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Now a few misguided people want to regulate human emotion and legislate who people will fall in love with whom. They hope to replace unconditional love with legalized discrimination in the form of an unfair referendum. Groups have submitted over 60,000 signed petitions with 345,199 signatures total. How many of those signatures are legitimate? Inquiring minds want to know -- and will (hopefully) get their answer.

Fair Illinois, a group of concerned citizens has been organizing the volunteer effort to verify all 345,199 signatures and object to those that are invalid. Group members believe a large percentage of the signatures collected do not comply with Illinois elections law and can keep this referendum off the November ballot.

They need a massive number of volunteers between now and mid-June to analyze every line of each petition. They are setting up new volunteer hours at the DuPage County Elections Office (421 N. County Farm Road, Wheaton). The first shifts will be this Friday (the 26th) from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 12:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. People can volunteer by calling (773) 724-0071 or emailing fairillinois@yahoo.com.

Forgive us our trespasses -- a very appropriate Christian value right about now.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Sign of Having too Much Money

It is always obvious when someone has too much money -- and too much political influence.

There are many Democrats living in So. IL. Certain ambulance-chasing trial lawyers have overshadowed them and given them a bad name. Even sealed court documents could not keep the truth from the public, and the media can acutally be a good thing.

The courts can only do so much. The voters have the ultimate power of removing bad incumbent Democrats and unethical Republicans working for themselves instead of the public trust.

UPDATE: A recent visiter to this site accurately pointed out that Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, who also represents part of Springfield, ranked 12th among Illinois Housemembers, but 300th in the full House. It is also fact that the Lakin political machine has declared hands off (no Party-sponsored challenge) of John Shimkus -- at least in public. Lakin has become a millionaire from his liberal legal arguments and is a member of the Democratic National Committee. John Shimkus is a free market conservative (i.e., social Darwinist) and card-carrying member of the Republican Party. With the lastest revelations about Lakin, one can only speculate about their personal relationship behind closed doors. Maybe they should keep one of these handy. Protesting will not make reality go away.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

What is in a Budget

The good news (for the millionaires and billionaires not working families): The President signed into law a tax cut proposal.

The bad news: For the third time this year, The House Republican leadership does not have enough votes to pass the FY 2007 budget.

Republicans in House of Representatives twist arms and make deals attemping to pass a budget to benefit lobbyist cronies, oil-soaked multi-national corporations and millionaire donors. They can afford to do this because working families living paycheck to paycheck are paying for it with vital programs (i.e., children's education, veterans' and seniors' health care, and personal and community security). The Republican budget erodes the hopes and promises of future generations because it increases the federal debt and drowns the country's economy in red ink. Here are the numbers to remember:

  • 3 - This is the Republican Leadership's third attempt to pass a budget that is fiscally reckless and void of American values.
  • 5 - Buried in this budget is the fifth increase in the debt limit, adding $653 billion to the debt, a burden for future generations.
  • 8 - It took President Bush eight years to accrue more debt than the previous 41 presidents combined (e.g., 200 years).
  • 12 - The Republican budget includes $12 billion in cuts to critical programs (i.e., $6 billion over five years to homeland security and $6 billion over five years to veterans health care).
  • 46 - The GOP tax bill offers a $46 tax cut for those who earn $40,000-50,000 a year. Based on current gasoline prices, that amount is barely enough to buy a tank of gas.
  • 41,977 - The GOP tax bill generously grants a $41,977 tax cut for those who earn over $1 million. That is enough to buy two cars and one tank of gas.
The numbers prove that it is time to vote the Republicans out of office. The proposed Democratic budget truly values families and communities. It includes the following:
  1. Balances the budget by 2012
  2. Increases funding for homeland security
  3. Implements all of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations
  4. Provides for the country's first responders
  5. Invests in port security and mass transit security
  6. Supports in full veterans' health care
  7. Honors those who have bravely and selflessly served their country
The GOP and John Shimkus (IL-19) value social Darwinism. The quality of life in Illinois has deteriorated as a direct result. There is a Democratic alternative in November: Dan Stover. He is on the ballot.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Dancing Caricature Remains Foolish

The Springfield State Journal-Register posted an Op-Ed defending Chief Illiniwek. The Chief is the mascot for the University of Illinois (UIUC) and the center of a long-standing debate.

On the surface UIUC and Amy provide good arguments for the Chief. There is even a university organization promoting good works. Unfortunately, the arguments do not work for anyone knowing anything about true Illinois Confederacy's culture, appearance, languages, etc. It would have been better had UIUC’s goal been about authentic tradition than a hodgepodge in a dancing symbol. And few people in Illinois want enlightenment on the subject . . .

Many Algonquin-speaking tribes have inhabited this region before the European invasion began. The Illinois Indians, also known as Illini or the Illiniwek, were a group of independent tribes sharing a common language and a common origin. The Illinois language belonged to the central Algonquin group, along with the Miami, whom the Illinois Indians closely resembled. The word Illinois is the French version of the Algonquin term for men. In 1673, the Illinois Confederacy included about twelve tribes: Kaskaskia, Maroa, Cahokia, Peoria, Tamaroa, Tapouaro, Coiracoentanon, Espeminka, Moingwena, Chinkoa, Chepoussa, and the Michigamea. By 1700, all but the Cahokia, Kaskaskia, Michigamea, Peoria, and Tamaroa had disappeared from the territory, through either original misidentification (some of the groups designated as tribes may have been only subdivisions of a tribe) or absorption into other tribes. As their populations diminished, these tribes, too, merged: the Tamaroa and Michigamea joined the Kaskaskia, and the Cahokia merged with the Peoria. After a Kaskaskian Indian killed the Ottawa chief, Pontiac, in 1769, provoking enmity of the Lake tribes, the Illinois took refuge for a period with the French at the village of Kaskaskia. It was at this time that the Sauk, Fox, Kickapoo, and Potowatomi began to move into the territory vacated by the Illiniwek.

For 50 yrs., the Kickapoo (i.e., Kiwigapawa, meaning he stands about, he who moves about, stand now here, now there) remained in the area (which includes the UIUC campus) until 1819. Contemporaneous tribes of Indians and military authorities, French, English and American recognized th
eir ownership. On July 13, 1819, they signed a treaty in Edwardsville ceding their lands to the US. The language of this treaty recites that, said Kickapoo tribe claims a large portion by descent from their ancestors, and the balance by conquest from the Illinois nation and undisputed possession for more than half a century.

Here are a few facts:

  • The Kickapoo (i.e., Kiwigapawa, meaning he stands about, he who moves about, stand now here, now there) settled the area that UIUC occupies. It would be more appropriate to obtain feedback and permission in recreating their culture.
  • Borrowing from other cultures and polling Indian Country as a whole is misleading. It would be more appropriate to use anything from the Central Original People (Algonquian) of the Upper Country.
  • The UIUC Historical Fact Sheet never mentions anything about the history of the area prior to its charter. If history is that valuable to the institution, something about the region's original inhabitants would be part of that fact sheet.
  • Finding information about Japan House and John Philips Sousa is easier than finding any Native information on the UIUC cultural website.
  • The Lakota and Kickapoo were enemies. It is ironic that the outfit currently used during the performances was provided by Chief Frank Fools Crow, an elder in the Ogala Sioux tribe of South Dakota, and was sewn by his wife. It’s more of an insult really and looks nothing like the traditional clothing for the region.
  • Instead of naming the chief Illiniwek, Kanakuk, a Kickapoo prophet, would have been more appropriate. The name could also honor one of the actual tribal chiefs -- maybe the one that signed the treaty ceding the land the university occupies.
  • If many of the portrayers have actually visited Indian reservations in order to enhance their knowledge and their performance, they would be familiar with the Brown County, Kansas, reservation (and their water shortage) and the Texas & Mexico residents.
  • If the portrayer knew anything about the culture, he/she should be making as many speaking appearances in TRADITIONAL costume as possible.
  • Not speak in costume or even utter the words excuse me is ridiculous. It would be better for the portrayer to learn a few Algonquian phrases and REALLY promote greater understanding of the Illinois Confederacy.
  • It would be appropriate for a person of the Upper Country or of French descent to portray a Kickapoo. The people would not have been black nor even had black slaves. They had strong alliances with the French. They would have sold any captives as slaves to the black inhabitants of the West Indies.
So far there is no indication that anyone associated with UIUC really wants to show respect to the former inhabitants of the land it now sits on. Supporters seem to prefer redirecting everyone’s attention to some imaginary political objective. They fell for a really good con thinking no one would ever notice. The university needs to stop using a composite of a Plains Indian as a marketing gimmick and REALLY support the descendents of the Algonquin:
  1. Work with the REAL descendents of the IL tribes and not their historical enemies to dance, dress, and speak authentically.
  2. Create an Illinois Conferacy cultural center and sponsor visits for the descendents (Urbana has Japan House. UIUC can do this.) and activities/events during November (i.e., Native American Month).
  3. Promote historical accuracy instead of selling sports.
  4. Conduct fundraisers to benefit the tribes in Kansas, Texas, and Mexico.
  5. ACT like they value the region’s history in the marketing materials.
  6. Have the law students research federal law, file the necessary paperwork, and force Yale to repatriate Geromino’s skull.
  7. Provide FULL all-expenses-paid scholarships to the members of the Algonquin tribes living on reservations.
Obviously, goal of the UIUC administration has nothing to do with authentic tradition (or REAL support for the tribal reservation descendents). It created a marketing gimmick out of a hodgepodge of Plains Indian culture. As a whole, Black Hawk’s defense of his beloved Saukenuck against Manifest Destiny does better drawing attention to the long-forgotten Native American tribes than a tired, tasteless marketing gimmick like a foolish dancing caricature selling university sports and embarrassing a state. UIUC loses credibility doing nothing about their foolish dancing caricature and remains a sucker for a good con.

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