Want to be a witness at the R. Kelly trial?

This could be your chance to make the big leagues.  After six years of lurid publicity, the defense has suddenly unearthed a surprise witness.  After six years of delays, the defense claims a witness called them today, for the first time.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times:

Testimony from a woman who says she had a sexual encounter with R. Kelly and an underage girl could be undermined by another witness in the singer’s child pornography trial who claims to know damaging information about the woman.

The judge abruptly halted proceedings Wednesday about an hour before the woman, who is from Georgia, was set to testify that she had an encounter with both the R&B superstar and the female who is depicted in a sex videotape at the heart of case. The Georgia woman also was expected to tell the jury that the woman was a minor at the time of the video recording.

The show will go on.  I’m just a bit surprised at this development.  How likely is it that a new witness no one apparently knew about would call the very day this woman was set to testify?  That’s downright uncanny, as if this witness, a man, had some kind of sixth “R. Kelly” sense.

The defense appeared to be as shocked as well:

“We never knew about the witness until 9 a.m. [Wednesday],” defense attorney Sam Adam Sr. said. “The witness called us.”

Want to be a witness at the R. Kelly trial?  Apparently there are still openings.

This one ain’t over until R. Kelly sings.

Will Bush free George Ryan?

Former Illinois Governor George Ryan received bleak news today as the United States Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal. According to the Sun-Times:

Ryan was convicted in April 2006 of steering contracts to lobbyists and other friends, tax fraud, misuse of tax dollars and state workers and squelching an investigation of links between bribery and fundraising.

He was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison.

Earlier today, former Illinois Governor Jim Thompson announced that he would ask President George W. Bush to commute Ryan’s sentence, thereby releasing Ryan, who has been in prison since last fall.

Ryan is 74-years-old. He would be eligible for a 15 percent reduction in his sentence for good behavior.

I don’t know what the president is going to do. Bush has nothing to gain from this, and he has nothing left to lose. He already commuted the sentence of I. Lewis ”Scooter” Libby, Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff. Would he do a solid for another convicted member of the GOP?

I suspect he might.

Bush may decide to wait until the 11th hour and commute Ryan’s sentence on January 19, 2009. There are justice issues to contend with, but Bush doesn’t seem to have much of a passion for justice, nor does he demonstrate any deep understanding of or respect for Constitutional law.

Of course, Ryan could be out by Saturday and working as a consultant for Halliburton by Monday.

College students going green

A group of students at Ohio’s Oberlin College are demonstrating leadership in efforts to reduce carbon emissions. With so many efforts to educate the public about global warming being dismissed as political stunts by liberals, it’s nice to see common sense thinking from our young people.

The New York Times highlights one effort at a new sustainability house — SEED, for Student Experiment in Ecological Design — at Oberlin. The students time their showers, earning bragging rights when they’re the first to turn the water off:

Lucas Brown, a junior at Oberlin College here, was still wet from the shower the other morning as he entered his score on the neon green message board next to the bathroom sink: Three minutes, according to the plastic hourglass timer inside the shower. Two minutes faster than the morning before. One minute faster than two of his housemates.

Mr. Brown, a 21-year-old economics major, recalled the marathon runner who lived in the house last semester, saying: “He came out of the shower one morning and yelled out: ‘Two minutes 18 seconds. Beat that, Lucas!’ ”

The concept is billed as a sustainability house — SEED, for Student Experiment in Ecological Design — “a microcosm of a growing sustainability movement on campuses nationwide, from small liberal arts colleges like Oberlin and Middlebury, in Vermont, to Lansing Community College in Michigan, to Morehouse in Atlanta, to public universities like the University of New Hampshire,” according to the NYTimes.

“It’s not about telling people, ‘You have to do this, you have to do that,’ ” Mr. Brown said. “It’s about fitting sustainability into our own lives.” And hoping, he added, “that a friend will come over, recognize that it’s fun, start doing it, and then a friend of theirs will start doing it.”

And, sorry, Jon Stewart, the students do not watch television. In fact, it sounds like they decided to put into practice what many teach. For example, they’ve decided to unplug one of the house refrigerators, further reducing their carbon footprint.

The unplugging of the refrigerator was not so easy. The house is divided in two, and each half has a kitchen. With everyone eating meals at a nearby student-run co-op, a decision was made to save energy by disconnecting the refrigerator and appliances in one kitchen. But which one?

“The fridge was kind of controversial,” Ms. Bob-Waksberg said. “We kind of had a little feud going on for a while. We talked it out.”

These students are simply demonstrating leadership in an area that is still new to many adults.

My high school students are not so easily convinced that global warming is real. Much of this is due to the influence of their parents, who see it as a completely political issue.

But to what end, I wonder? Why would the overwhelming majority of scientists, who, incidentally, are not paid by oil companies, speak with such a unified voice that we need to take steps to save our planet now?

Any discussions I’ve had with people who are not convinced about the reality of global warming inevitably turn to arguments economic — not scientific. Serious acknowledgment of the reality of global warming, after all, would mean reconsideration of our national policies on energy, and, specifically, on oil. We could not have this discussion without seriously reconsidering our national policies on oil.

Why should we take global warming seriously at all?

Why, indeed? Unless the risk of non-action resulted in disaster for the human race, and the universe going on without us?

Senator Kennedy rushed to hospital

The Pittsburgh Channel sent a newsflash indicating that Senator Edward Kennedy was rushed to Cape Cod Hospital after falling ill at the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport. Kennedy, 76, spent two hours in the emergency room before being transported via MedFlight helicopter to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

CNN reported Kennedy had symptoms consistent with a stroke.

Kennedy maintains a vigorous schedule. According to he web site, yesterday he was keynote speaker at a ribbon cutting ceremony at New Bedford Whaling National Park:

BOSTON, MA- Senator Edward M. Kennedy today joined Congressman Barney Frank, Dennis Reidenbach, the Director of the National Park Service for the Northeast Region, Lisa Sughrue of the Waterfront Historic Area League (WHALE), State Senator Mark C. Montigny and State Representative Antonio F. D. Cabral at a ribbon cutting ceremony for the newly named Corson Maritime Learning Center in New Bedford. The event celebrated the successful preservation of the Corson Building after a fire destroyed it in 1997, as well as the reopening of the structure that now holds new exhibits, theaters, and educational and archival space as part of the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park.

Senator Kennedy said, “Today, we celebrate New Bedford’s history and reaffirm our commitment to build on the great legacy of those who came before us such as, Herman Melville and Frederick Douglass to build a strong future for this unique city, a city that Melville called the ‘dearest place to live in, in all New England.’”

Senator Kennedy and Congressman Frank have secured $6.4 million in appropriations through the United States Department of Interior for the renovation of this historic building. For more information on the Corson Building and the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, please visit www.nps.gov/nebe/.

His remarks for the event as prepared for delivery follow:

A little less than two years ago, we broke ground for this extraordinary facility, and today we can see that it was easily worth all the effort that so many put into this impressive project.

When this National Park was created over a decade ago, thanks to the vision and hard work of Tony Souza and WHALE, we knew it would be a success. But we had no idea how much it would actually add to the fabric of our city and to all the wonderful things going on in downtown New Bedford.

We could barely imagine how well the Park would work with the Whaling Museum, the new ferry service to the Vineyard, the AHA! arts programs, the College of Visual and Performing Arts at the renovated Star Store, and the revitalized shops and restaurants to bring people downtown and add to our city’s vitality.

In little more than a decade, because of all your outstanding work, the Whaling National Historic Park has set a shining example for cities across the country – an example of the power of historic preservation and the importance of cultural awareness and education bringing the community together and promoting economic development.

What you have all built here will ensure that generations to come will learn about New Bedford’s remarkable history and enduring spirit. Needless to say, we also owe thanks to the National Park Service and its staff who have worked so hard and well with our community to make this new vision a reality.

I especially commend the Piva and Florek family members who have worked with all of us to turn the tragedy of the fire that ravaged the historic Corson building in 1997 into an opportunity to build an enduring new home for the National Park, and create this impressive learning center we’re opening here today. It would not have been possible without you.

Today, we celebrate New Bedford’s history and reaffirm our commitment to build on the great legacy of those who came before us such as, Herman Melville and Frederick Douglass to build a strong future for this unique city, a city that Melville called the “dearest place to live in, in all New England.”

We’re also blessed to have had such a strong group of committed civic leaders supporting us led by our great Mayor Scott Lang. We’re proud of New Bedford and its amazing history, and we’re sure that our Whaling City’s greatest days still lie ahead.

So, I thank all of you for the impressive job you’ve done. Congratulations on this major accomplishment, and I look forward very much to our work together in the years to come.

Gay marriage around the corner

Gays and lesbians will soon have the irrefutable right to marry. It’s inevitable. Even John Roberts’ Supremes won’t be able to stop it as a matter of law.

Today California’s Supreme Court ruled that state laws prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriages violate state constitutional rights of gay people. The 4-3 opinion came from three Republican and one Democratic appointee.

According to Lisa Keen at the Windy City Times:

The legal issue before the court was whether state laws banning the legal recognition of same-sex marriages in California violate the state constitution’s guarantees of equal protection, freedom of expression, right to privacy or the fundamental right to marry. The laws banned both the licensing of same-sex marriage in California and the recognition of same-sex marriages licensed elsewhere.

The 172 page opinion comes in a case that consolidated six appeals. The court acknowledged the magnitude of the present moment:

We are in the midst of a major social change. Societies seldom make such changes smoothly. For some the process is frustratingly slow. For others it is jarringly fast. In a democracy, the people should be given a fair chance to set the pace of change without judicial interference. That is the way democracies work. Ideas are proposed, debated, tested. Often new ideas are initially resisted, only to be ultimately embraced. But when ideas are imposed, opposition hardens and progress may be hampered.

We should allow the significant achievements embodied in the domestic partnership statutes to continue to take root. If there is to be a new understanding of the meaning of marriage in California, it should develop among the people of our state and find its expression at the ballot box.

Same-sex marriage is as inevitable as the next network broadcast of The Wizard of Oz.

We’re not in Kansas any more.

House votes to cut off funding for war in Iraq

According to Ilya Sheyman at TrueMajority.org, the U.S. House of Representatives has just voted 149 to 141 to cut off funding for the war in Iraq. According to Sheyman, “This was followed by votes to put significant restrictions on President Bush’s war policy, including a timeline for withdrawal, and creating a new GI Bill to help returning veterans.”

Sources listed are:

I have no more right now, and will update as more information becomes available.

Obama’s “Sweetie” Nightmare

Barack Obama called reporter Peggy Agar “Sweetie,” and now he’s apologizing for it. That bodes well for America. We have yet to hear the first apology from George “Great job, Brownie” Bush.

This is all absurd, yet another sanctimonious diversion from real-world issues.

Saying “Sweetie” is so “Chicago” of Senator Obama.

I moved here from Pittsburgh in 1990. I remember begin surprised when I would go to restaurants and the waitress would call me “Hon,” “Honey,” or “Sweetie.” Turns out it’s all over Chicago, too easily slips off our tongues.

I can see that it might sound odd to the ears of others outside the Chicagoland area, but, here, well, Sweetie, it’s all the rage.

Dwight Welch knows how to spend your money, C.C. Hills

With one grand jury investigation currently investigating the use of Country Club Hills firefighters to demolish a pool house at the home of Mayor Dwight Welch, the Sun-Times reports Mayor Welch continues to turn his nose up at the taxpayers of Country Club Hills with a $27,000 weekend training seminar for “some aldermen, department heads and city employees.” The seminar was held at the The Abbey Resort, billed as “Only Full Service Resort And Spa On The Shores Of Lake Geneva [sic],” according to their Internet ads.

$27,000.

Welch defended the expense.

“That was the deal, $27,000. We [rented] a room for [each] person. If they were married, they could bring their husband or wife. That’s like it is on any convention. . . . It’s not like we were going to some exotic place,” Welch said.

The seminar was conducted by Dr. Paul Craig, according to the Sun-Times. Craig is “a senior fellow in the University of Illinois’ Institute of Government and Public Affairs in Champaign.”

Country Club Hills spent $1,447.50 to bring Craig along, “$1,000 for the seminar, $187.50 in travel expenses, $60 for meals and $200 for lodging.”

That leaves $25,552.50 for the remaining members who attended.

I know Dr. Craig. He’s worth every penny they spent on him and more. If anyone can help a politician find his soul, it’s Dr. Craig. He’s extremely well-read, perceptive, and, most of all, ethical.

But the student needs to be open to the lesson.

Look, this just all smells bad.

When the news about the demolition of the pool house first came to light, one Country Club Hills resident, Robert Darnell, expressed his support for Mayor Welch, “Mayor Welch has done such a good job, I can not say anything bad about him,” Darnell, 73, said.

That’s admirable. Not everyone was so impressed:

One 67-year-old woman, a 20-year resident, said Welch “gets all kinds of perks,” and joked that firefighters “can paint my deck and back porch. I can’t tell you my name. If I did, they’d be out tomorrow, tearing down my garage,” she said.

What are residents saying now? Is a weekend at a luxury hotel and resort acceptable to the taxpayers of Country Club Hills?

Too often, public officials start to believe they’re royalty, pampering themselves, spending taxpayer dollars as if it was their own.

$27,000 for a weekend away?  Did they really need to go to Wisconsin, to a luxury resort?

Nero wouldn’t bat an eye.

Have we been too tough on Todd Stroger?

People tell me I should be more understanding of what Cook County Board President Todd Stroger is going through.

The media has been relentless. The Chicago Sun-Times today ribs Stroger’s choices for a new county hospital board: Hospital board slights suburbs.

They tell me we have to understand “the way things are.” When Stroger was running for office, I heard one Democratic Committeeman say just that to a college student who was critical of Stroger’s candidacy. This young lady wanted to know why she should support Todd Stroger, that it seemed that Stroger was on the ballot simply because he was John Stroger’s son.

“Young lady, you need to understand the way things are,” this committeeman replied. He then went on to describe what a great man John Stroger was (he’s right), and why Todd has earned this (he’s wrong).

I’m told President Stroger is young, still new on the job, and we should be patient. He’ll learn. He’ll catch up. His father was a tremendous man (they’re right), and Todd will prove himself before long (still waiting).

I don’t buy that at all.

Todd Stroger chose to run for Cook County Board President, and he has not handled things well.

Let’s look at this latest blunder. Regarding Stroger’s choices for the new county hospital board:

Six of Stroger’s choices live in Chicago, while the others are from Evanston, Flossmoor and Naperville, in DuPage County. None is from the heavily populated northwest or southwest suburbs — areas Stroger has been hammered by for perceived slights, and where there has been talk of breaking away from Cook County.

DuPage County? Did we really have to go all the way to DuPage County to find someone qualified to sit on a board in Cook County? Why did Stroger choose Jorge Ramirez of Naperville?

It makes one wonder, was Ramirez owed any favors?