Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ryan should stay in jail

English: Former Illinois Governor George Ryan
Ex- Illinois Governor George Ryan 
Ex-Illinois Governor George Ryan could be released from prison after serving only half of his 6 1/2 year sentence.

From my own personal association with George Ryan:  if anyone deserves to be in prison, George Ryan does.

His actions as Illinois Secretary of State resulted in the death of the six innocent children of  Scott and Janis Willis fifteen years ago. The children died in a fiery car crash that involved a truck driver who obtained his drivers license illegally. The investigation was covered up by Ryan's pals. Ryan took no responsibility and offered no apology. Willis called him arrogant. I agree.

After months of legal wrangling Ryan was finally carted off to prison, but not before his legal team tried every trick in the book to keep him out of prison. They sited his poor health and his wife's health. They even got him to remain free during months of appeals. All that time Ryan had one more gubernatorial perk, a 'get out of jail free card,' courtesy of his cost-free lawyer—another Illinois governor—Big Jim Thompson. 

Ryan was convicted after a seven month trial. He lost his pension even though Thompson fought hard for him to keep it. Justice was finally served. The only burden the taxpayers pay now, are George Ryan's food, clothing, and shelter. That is more than he did for many, despite taking an oath to serve the public.

Thompson will get one more chance to free his client, even if it is at the expense of the public.

In the latest turn of events, the U.S. Supreme Court revised the scope of the controversial 'honest services' law, one which has been criticized as being too vague. It has been revered by prosecutors but condemned by defense lawyers.

Earlier this week, Ryan's lawyers argued before U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer that Ryan should be released from federal prison. They claim he may not have been convicted by a jury under the newly revised standards in the 'honest services' law related to mail fraud. Mail fraud was one of the charges against Ryan.

So marks another attempt by Ryan's lawyers, to spring Ryan from jail. The legal team has left no stone unturned in their attempt to keep the 39th Illinois Governor who is one of six to be convicted of corruption since the 1920's, out of prison where he headed in November 2007. Indiana. His own health has been cited, as well as that of his wife, Lura Lynn, as reasons for him to be released from prison. Attorneys have tried to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear it. This time, that could happen. While Justice Pallmeyer promises to rule quickly, she told the Chicago Tribune that the case would likely be appealed. 

Ryan was convicted Ryan April 17, 2006 for multiple violations of federal law, including racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud, obstruction of justice, money laundering, and tax violations. He now resides in a federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.

The charges against him were a mere sampling of Ryan's long tenure in public office. It is too bad the prosecution could not have delved even further, uncovering all Ryan's wrongdoing in the local, and state offices where he has served, including the Legislature, Secretary of State, and Governor. But that wasn't possible. For that reason, it would be unconscionable for Ryan to go free based on this change.
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dancing With the Stars, now tainted

English: Bristol Palin at the 2008 Republican ...
Bristol Palin at the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minnesota. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The results of this week's Dancing With the Stars results made me so angry it took me three days to write about it.

I was about as angry as the dude who shot up his television set, but my anger is more of the seething variety. I'm not the shooter type. Fairness has always been fundamental in my behavioral arsenal. There is no denying fairness was violated when Bristol Palin was chosen to go on to the dance finals over R & B singer Brandy Norwood, an excellent dancer who garnered perfect scores.

I have been watching ballroom dancing for years—dating back to the days when Juliet Prowse hosted the championship dancing on PBS. I had no idea that Dancing With the Stars would be a fixed popularity contest. But it appears that is just what this has become.

I was a little leery when the show invited Tom DeLay last season, but then to invite Bristol Palin this season should have shown the handwriting on the wall. This is a political venue rather than a dance competition. It is tainted. Bristol should have been voted off that first week because she clearly lacks the talent. Yes, she has improved over the course of the show, but her dancing is clearly not of the same caliber as any of the others who were voted off in her stead.

I was sickened at the judges' positive comments about Palin too. They clearly did not hold her to the same standards as other dancers. Were they issued a directive? Just what are the politics in play at the upper echelon of ABC television? Len Goodman is a tough dance critic, but clearly he let Palin slide. Carrie Ann Inaba was also overly kind, as was Bruno Tonioli.

The results show was in such stark contrast to the previous night when Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough performed the most elegant waltz I've ever seen. It was enchanting to watch the two of them dance so beautifully, as they captured tremendous emotional intensity. They moved effortlessly. Watching a beautiful dance can be as engaging as listening to  a symphony or gazing upon the colors of a sunset.

Yet just hours later, it was all tainted, lost in the scandal that so often takes over all that is good and innocent, perpetrated by cheaters.

This example of entertainment television does a disservice to all: absolutely short-changing the viewers of real dance competitiveness; ultimately the show which has lost all credibility; certainly to Brandy Norwood who was far more deserving of a chance to move to the finals; and even to Bristol herself, because she has been made to look like a fool, not to mention a spoiled brat child who has been coddled for a lifetime by her over-bearing mother. Sadly, Bristol might even believe she deserved to win this competition. What an injustice. One day, she will have to stand on her own merit in a real scenario, without her mother's influence over her self-made reality.

What kind of a mother is it that encourages her daughter to compete way over her head? What kind of a mother fails to teach her daughter humility? What kind of a mother throws her own child under the bus to gain popularity for herself?

It is pretty clear that the Sarah Palin factor influenced the initial choosing of Bristol Palin for Dancing With the Stars. Bristol is not a star. She is an unwed mother whose life is controlled by her over-bearing mother. Is there no limit to what Sarah Palin will do? But worse than that, she seems to have the same kind of following as the Rev. Jim Jones and other 'leaders' who prey upon those around them. 

I'm so sick of lying, cheating, and stealing. Yet that is just what happened when voters admittedly gamed the system, giving Bristol her way, most likely at her mothers' urging.

The rapid decline of Dancing With the Stars which began as a fun entertainment venue is is no longer fun. This is serious—symptomatic of where our humanity is going. And that scares the hell out of me.
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Sunday, November 14, 2010

High food prices

I can still remember my first full time job as a checkout clerk at a grocery store. I worked at National Tea Company. I remember what some of those prices were. Sometimes while stocking up on groceries today, I have a flashback of the prices and wonder whatever happened to them? A gallon of whole milk cost $1.29; a jar of baby food was $.19; and a loaf of bread was $.29.

Those were the days. Back then we had to do the math ourselves, counting out change to our customers. We were also taught that when making change, coins were placed into the customer's hand first, with paper money on top. Only then did we distribute the proper number of S & H green stamps. Remember those?

One of my pet peeves today is that such retail etiquette has disappeared. How many times have you had your change roll off the top of crinkled, unkempt dollar bills and onto the floor or under your car at a drive through?

But that little annoyance pales in comparison to how upsetting it is that the cost of food has risen so dramatically.

When my children were little, I really struggled. I carried a calculator and added costs as I went. I didn't want to be embarrassed at the checkout by having too little cash. Whatever happened to cash anyway? On the days that I forgot my calculator, I got by with estimating about $1 per food item, not counting meat. Today, that estimate falls far short. Practically nothing costs under $1.

So why does food cost so much more today? I suspect one of the reasons is all the advertising that is done. Commercials on television every few minutes has to be expensive.

I have an idea — STOP! Advertising is annoying. It doesn't teach us anything. It only tries to coerce us into buying a particular item, much like a con game. Advertising has destroyed our national pasttime, television viewing. But it also infiltrates every aspect of our lives. Cut advertising and lower our food prices. That would make me really happy.