February 15th, 2009

Are Homosexuals Superhuman?


It's a serious question honest homosexuals should be asking themselves as the debate over Don't Ask, Don't Tell continues in the House. But I don't think there are many truly honest people in the world, homosexuals included.

The problem with the whole debate over whether or not homosexuals should be allowed to openly serve in the U.S. military is that no one is willing to admit what we all know: men want sex. A lot of it. And with multiple partners.


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Is the U.S. repeating Soviet mistakes in Afghanistan?

Is the U.S. repeating Soviet mistakes in Afghanistan?

Twenty years to the day after the last Soviet soldier left Afghanistan , Dastagir Arizad ticked off grievances against President Hamid Karzai and the United States that are disturbingly reminiscent of Moscow's humiliating defeat.

"Day by day, we see the Karzai government failing. The Americans are also failing," said Arizad, 40, as he huddled against the cold in the stall where he sells ropes and plastic hoses. "People are not feeling safe. Their lives are not secure. Their daughters are not safe. Their land is not secure. The Karzai government is corrupt."

"The problems we are having are made by the Americans. The Americans should review their policies," he said Saturday. "They should not support the people who are in power."
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Rep. Nick Thompson v. Rush Limbaugh

Rep. Nick Thompson v. Rush Limbaugh

When Henrietta Hughes, homeless after losing her home to foreclosure in 2003, pleaded for help Barack Obama during his town hall meeting in Fort Myers, she not only received a sympathetic kiss from the president but a helping hand from state Rep. Nick Thompson, R-Fort Myers, and his wife Chene. Mrs. Thompson, a former prosecutor, on the spot offered Hughes, 61, and her son use of a second home they have been unable to sell or rent. Call it a random act of kindness.

But before long, Rush Limbaugh was on the air casting Hughes as an "embarrassing" poster child for Americans expecting free hand-outs from the president ("I mean, as an American, this is embarrassing, and it's sad, but there's a reason why -- there's a reason why this woman takes her one chance to talk to the president of the United States and ask and beg for a car and a kitchen," said Limbaugh). And Rep. Thompson started receiving calls from people across the country from bashing him as a disgrace to Republican principles of self-responsibility. Thompson makes no apologies, noting after losing her home to foreclosure in 2003 that Hughes has been paying credit card debt, car insurance, even tithing to her ministry, while living off Social Security and food stamps.

"There is nothing more American or Christian or freedom-loving than someone of their own volition using the resources they have to help someone, and not going through some government program or using tax dollars,’’ Thompson told Buzz. "Whether Republican or Democrat, the more people do small things like just helping your neighbor the better off we’d be."
biggie aretha
  • bispo

On C-SPAN, Historians Rate W the 7th Worst President Ever

This morning we learn that C-SPAN has surveyed historians to again come up with a President's Day ranking of commanders-in-chief.
Fittingly, for this Abe-a-licious year, the 16th president comes in at #1, with Honest Abe Lincoln retaining his top slot.
He's followed by George Washington, FDR, Teddy Roosevelt, and Harry S Truman in the top five slots. JFK, Thomas Jefferson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Woodrow Wilson, and Ronald Reagan finish out the Top Ten.
The worst president, as judged by the panel of historians, is James Buchanan.
Second worst -- Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson.
Third worst - Franklin Pierce. Fourth worst - William Henry Harrison. Fifth worst - Warren G. Harding. Sixth worst - Millard Fillmore.
And there he is, George W. Bush, ranked as 7th worst. (8th worst is John Tyler.)
Reagan, Clinton and George H.W. Bush have all advanced in rankings since the last time C-SPAN did this survey, in 2000. Bill Clinton back then was ranked 21st; he's now 15th. Reagan went from 11 to 10. Bush Sr. went from 20 to 18.
Jimmy Carter, interestingly went down -- from 22 to 25.
"Bill Clinton and Ulysses S. Grant aren't often mentioned in the same sentence - until now," said historian Richard Norton Smith. "Participants in the latest C-SPAN survey of presidential historians have boosted each man significantly higher than in the original survey conducted in 2000. All of which goes to show two things: the fluidity with which presidential reputations are judged, and the difficulty of assessing any president who has only just recently left office."
This all gives me an excuse to show this video of the late great Peter Jennings asking Bill Clinton about the rankings -- in particular about Clinton ranking 41st on "moral authority," behind Richard Nixon. Compelling video.
Happy President's Day.
We miss you, Peter.

- jpt


  • bispo

Darwin Debated: Religion vs. Evolution

Almost 150 years after Charles Darwin published his groundbreaking work On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, Americans are still fighting over evolution. If anything, the controversy has recently grown in both size and intensity. In the last five years alone, for example, debates over how evolution should be taught in public schools have been heard in school boards, town councils and legislatures in more than half the states. Throughout much of the 20th century, opponents of evolution (many of them theologically conservative Protestants) either tried to eliminate the teaching of Darwin's theory from public school science curricula or urged science instructors also to teach a version of the creation story found in the biblical book of Genesis. The famous 1925 Scopes "monkey" trial, for instance, involved a Tennessee law prohibiting the teaching of evolution in the state's schools. (See The Social and Legal Dimensions of the Evolution Debate in the U.S.)
But beginning in the 1960s, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a number of decisions that imposed severe restrictions on those state governments that opposed the teaching of evolution. As a result of these rulings, school boards, legislatures and government bodies are now barred from prohibiting the teaching of evolution. Teaching creation science, either along with evolutionary theory or in place of it, is also banned.
Partly in response to these court decisions, opposition to teaching evolution has itself evolved, with opponents changing their goals and tactics. In the last decade, some local and state school boards in Kansas, Pennsylvania and elsewhere have considered teaching what they contend are scientific alternatives to evolution -- notably the concept of intelligent design, which posits that life is too complex to have developed without the intervention of an outside, possibly divine force. Other education officials have tried to require schools to teach critiques of evolution or to mandate that students listen to or read evolution disclaimers, such as one proposed a number of years ago in Cobb County, Ga. It read, in part, that evolution is "a theory, not a fact [and] ... should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered." The Cobb County disclaimer and a number of other efforts have been withdrawn following successful court challenges by proponents of teaching evolution.
Recent public opinion polls indicate that challenges to Darwinian evolution have substantial support among the American people. According to an August 2006 survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 63 percent of Americans believe that humans and other animals have either always existed in their present form or have evolved over time under the guidance of a supreme being. Only 26 percent say that life evolved solely through processes such as natural selection. A similar Pew Research Center poll, released in August 2005, found that 64 percent of Americans support teaching creationism alongside evolution in the classroom.

This view is not shared by the nation's scientists, most of whom contend that evolution is a well-established scientific theory that convincingly explains the origins and development of life on earth. Moreover, they say, a scientific theory is not a hunch or a guess but is instead an established explanation for a natural phenomenon, like gravity, that has repeatedly been tested through observation and experimentation. Indeed, most scientists argue that, for all practical purposes, evolution through natural selection is a fact. (See Darwin and His Theory of Evolution.) These scientists and others dismiss creation science as religion, not science, and describe intelligent design as little more than creationism dressed up in scientific jargon.
So if evolution is as established as the theory of gravity, why are people still arguing about it a century and a half after it was first proposed? (See Evolution: A Timeline.) The answer lies, in part, in the possible theological implications of evolutionary thinking. For many, the Darwinian view of life -- a panorama of brutal struggle and constant change - goes beyond contradicting the biblical creation story and conflicts with the Judeo-Christian concept of an active and loving God who cares for his creation. (See Religious Groups' Views on Evolution.) In addition, some evolution opponents argue that Darwin's ideas have proven socially and politically dangerous. In particular, they say, the notion that more resilient animals survive and thrive ("survival of the fittest") has been used by social thinkers, dictators and others to justify heinous crimes, from forced sterilization to mass genocide.
But while theologians, historians and others argue over evolution's broader social impact, the larger and more intense debate still centers on what children in public schools learn about life's origins and development. Indeed, the teaching of evolution has become a part of the nation's culture wars, manifest most recently in the 2008 presidential campaign, particularly in the attention paid to Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's statements in favor of public schools teaching creation science or intelligent design along with evolution. And while evolution may not attain the same importance as such culture war issues as abortion or same-sex marriage, the topic is likely to have a place in national debates on values for many years to come.

  • bispo

Part 1 of Boston Globe 7 Part Series: A childhood of privilege, promise, and pain

The youngest Kennedy had charm aplenty, and gargantuan shoes to fill

On a spring day nearly two years ago, Senator Edward Kennedy sat on the porch of his sprawling Hyannis Port home with a friend of five decades, Edmund Reggie, who is also his father-in-law. The two men gazed out at the ocean that has been such an anchor in Kennedy's life and talked about the future.

On a spring day nearly two years ago, Senator Edward Kennedy sat on the porch of his sprawling Hyannis Port home with a friend of five decades, Edmund Reggie, who is also his father-in-law. The two men gazed out at the ocean that has been such an anchor in Kennedy's life and talked about the future.

It was a telling line, typical of the competitive Kennedys. But Reggie persisted. Waving an arm toward Nantucket Sound, he said: "You have all this. You and Vicki love to travel. Why are you beating your brains out? You've got all the money you need. Your kids are all raised."

But Kennedy wasn't buying it. "No," he said. "I don't think so. I'll stay in the Senate."

For the past 46 years, the US Senate has been as much a home to Edward Moore Kennedy as his beloved Hyannis Port. Still, that Kennedy could go down in history with the likes of Daniel Webster — the giant of the Senate in the first half of the 19th century — would have been inconceivable at many points in his career, as he weathered crises both personal and professional, tragic and scandalous.

There were the gargantuan shoes to fill, and for so long Kennedy seemed unable to fill them. His father's outsize expectations passed from son to son, until, through the shattering deaths of the three older boys, they came to rest upon Teddy's shoulders.

The youngest of nine, the fourth of four boys, he has spent his life trying to both escape and embrace the burdens placed upon him by ambitious parents, the long shadows cast by his brothers and a public hungry for a return to Camelot.

At his worst, he was considered a shallow playboy relying on the Kennedy name,a green understudy for his spectral brothers. His legendary personal problems were so public that they were reduced to shorthand: Chappaquiddick, Georgetown, Palm Beach. Each episode revealed a reckless and arrogant streak that would have sunk many careers. Politically, opponents painted him as no more than a poster boy for outdated leftist causes, the last of the liberal lions in a conservative age.

But over time, Kennedy's energy and endurance emerged. The youngest son who had faced so much pain became, in his later years, a symbol of patriarchal strength in the Kennedy family and to others who suffered losses around the country. Senate colleagues who had long admired his work ethic began to see in the bipartisan coalitions he built to advance his health and education agenda the skill of a true master of legislative politics.

No senator in history, many now say, was able to be both his party's most forceful spokesman for its causes and the leader who cajoled colleagues of both parties into agreement.
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by <lj_user="yellowbang">

UAE denies visa to Israeli tennis player

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (CNN) -- The United Arab Emirates has refused to grant a visa to a female Israeli tennis player, preventing her from competing in the Sony Ericsson World Tennis Association Tour in Dubai, the WTA said in a statement Sunday. 

The UAE has refused to grant a visa allowing Shahar Peer to compete in Dubai.

Shahar Peer would have been the first Israeli athlete to participate in a professional sporting event in the UAE, CNN Sports Correspondent Pedro Pinto said.

The UAE has no diplomatic ties with Israel.

The governing body of women's tennis said it was "deeply disappointed" that Peer was being denied entry to the country hosting the tournament, but it did not cancel the competition.

The move runs counter to WTA policy, which says no player should be barred from competing in a tournament for which she has qualified.

Dubai could lose its membership in the WTA tour next year over the ban on Shahar, according to WTA rules. That would mean professional players could compete only in exhibition matches in Dubai, the results of which would not count in pro rankings.

Government officials in Dubai have not responded to CNN's request to comment over their refusal to allow Peer to compete in the event.

"We are deeply disappointed by the decision of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) denying Shahar Peer a visa that would permit her to enter the country to play in the Dubai Tennis Championships," said Larry Scott, chairman and chief executive of the tour.

"Ms. Peer has earned the right to play in the tournament and it is regrettable that the UAE is denying her this right.

"Following various consultations, the Tour has decided to allow the tournament to continue to be played this week, pending further review by the Tour's Board of Directors."

The Dubai Tennis Championships began Sunday. The tournament patron is Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Makhtoum. Two million dollars in prize money is on the line.

Al-Makhtoum told CNN in 2004 that Dubai would accept Israeli students to a school dedicated to students from the Middle East who are talented at sports.

In 2003, Dubai hosted World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings, which Israeli government officials attended. The Israeli flag -- among other member states' flags -- is still part of a globe monument in Dubai.

Peer, 21, is ranked 48th in the world among female tennis players. She was allowed to compete at the Doha tournament in Qatar last year, where she received a warm welcome, according to Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz.

Qatar, another Gulf Arab state -- froze diplomatic ties with Israel following Israel's military offensive in Gaza last month.

Peer downplayed the political undertones of her participation in last year's Doha tournament, telling Haaretz that she didn't come to Qatar "to help the politics of course." But she added that if her playing in the tournament "can help for peace or anything, I'd be really happy."

Scott said the tour will "review appropriate remedies for Ms. Peer" as well as "appropriate future actions with regard to the future of the Dubai tournament."

Peer was advised Saturday by tournament and WTA officials of the denial of her visa while she was participating in a tournament in Pattaya, Thailand, according to a WTA statement.

"Ms. Peer and her family are obviously extremely upset and disappointed by the decision of the UAE and its impact on her personally and professionally," Scott said.

"The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour believes very strongly, and has a clear rule and policy, that no host country should deny a player the right to compete at a tournament for which she has qualified by ranking."

The Dubai Tennis Championships, which began in 1993, runs from February 15 to February 28, 2009.

Zen Tree

U.S. Military Will Offer Path to Citizenship for Temporary Immigrants

February 15, 2009

Stretched thin in Afghanistan and Iraq, the American military will begin recruiting skilled immigrants who are living in this country with temporary visas, offering them the chance to become United States citizens in as little as six months.

Immigrants who are permanent residents, with documents commonly known as green cards, have long been eligible to enlist. But the new effort, for the first time since the Vietnam War, will open the armed forces to temporary immigrants if they have lived in the United States for a minimum of two years, according to military officials familiar with the plan.

Recruiters expect that the temporary immigrants will have more education, foreign language skills and professional expertise than many Americans who enlist, helping the military to fill shortages in medical care, language interpretation and field intelligence analysis.

“The American Army finds itself in a lot of different countries where cultural awareness is critical,” said Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, the top recruitment officer for the Army, which is leading the pilot program. “There will be some very talented folks in this group.”

The program will begin small — limited to 1,000 enlistees nationwide in its first year, most for the Army and some for other branches. If the pilot program succeeds as Pentagon officials anticipate, it will expand for all branches of the military. For the Army, it could eventually provide as many as 14,000 volunteers a year, or about one in six recruits.

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by <lj_user="yellowbang">

Israel allows Valentine carnations out of Gaza


Israel has made a pre-Valentine's Day gesture by allowing 25,000 carnations to cross the border in the first exports permitted from blockaded Gaza in a year. But the shipment through the Kerem Shalom crossing was condemned as a "propaganda" move by Gaza growers used to exporting 37 to 40 million carnations a year and are unlikely to reach Europe in time to be sold in shops tomorrow.

Major Peter Lerner, of the military's civil co-ordination office, said Israel had agreed to relax the blockade for the carnations at the request of the Dutch government, which has long promoted production of carnations grown in the southern Gaza Strip.

But Abdul Karim Ashour of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees in Gaza said that about 70 per cent of Gaza's carnation crop had already been lost because of the inability to export and because the blockade had prevented growers from importing seeds and pesticides early enough.

Growers had also been badly hampered by not being able to tend their crops during Israel's 22-day military offensive last month, he added. "What happened today is only propaganda. The season has finished. It is very sad." The blockade had not been lifted for vegetables nor Gaza's traditionally high-quality strawberries.

The Dutch pressure for the blockade to be lifted is understood to have been to remind buyers of Gaza's carnations so they would not be lost to future markets if and when the blockade is lifted. Ishai Sharon, of the Israeli farm products exporters Agrexco in Aalsmeer, Holland, said he expected the consignment to arrive by air tomorrow and most of it would probably be sold to eastern Europe where flowers are given for International Women's Day on 8 March.



Microlending in America

Nobel Prize Winner Says Small Loans Make a Big Difference

As many of the nation's banks struggle or go belly-up, one financial entity is doing just fine, according to its founder, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

Washington, D.C. - infoZine - Scripps Howard Foundation Wire - "We are OK," he said, adding that some critics seem disappointed by the lack of fiscal chaos. (let me guess, those critics are rep. that hates the poor)

Muhammad Yunus, who won the prize in 2006, made rounds in Washington Wednesday to discuss his new book - "Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism" - as a tool to raise awareness about microfinance enterprises worldwide.

Grameen (which means "of the village" in Bengali) banks began as an experiment in a Bangladesh village in 1976. It has since spread around the world, making its debut in New York last year. While many different microfinance programs exist, Yunus' model arguably remains the most famous prototype, defying typical American banking conventions by lending to the poorest of the poor. That means, no collateral, no problem.

A November press release stated that Grameen America dispersed more than $1 million in loans in the preceding 10 months.
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Grameen Bank founder Yunus scouts US expansion

Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh, a Nobel Peace Prize winner for pioneering a micro-lending model for the world's poorest to engage in business, said Thursday his formula can also help recession-racked American families escape poverty.

"This is the right time to come here," Yunus declared as he sought $2 million in seed money to establish North Carolina as another U.S. foothold for his micro-finance institution outside New York.
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State Employees’ Credit Union exploring partnership with Grameen America to bring micro-credit to North Carolina

State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU) is exploring, with other local financial industry leaders and regulators, the possibility of bringing the Grameen micro-credit lending system to North Carolina. With 15% of North Carolinians living at or below the poverty line and the unemployment rate now above 8.9%, the Grameen model could help provide a boost to the State’s weakening economy. Grameen America is the U.S. affiliate of Grameen Bank, a microfinance institution started in Bangladesh by Dr. Muhammad Yunus, a 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner for his efforts. Grameen Bank provides small unsecured business loans to low-income individuals who do not qualify for traditional credit and has achieved a remarkable 99.5% loan repayment rate. Micro-credit lending has proved to be a self-help path out of poverty for over 7.5 million Grameen Bank borrowers around the world. Grameen America started U.S. operations last year in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, New York and is looking to expand to other states.
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How ironic that bigger wealthier banks are having a hard time and refusing to lend money TO ANYONE, yet the "bank for the poor" is doing a better job...
' jules
  • schmiss


Republicans: Nationalizing Banks Should Be On The Table

In a gloomy segment about the financial sector on ABC'S This Week, two self-avowed fiscal conservatives said that the U.S. Government should at least consider nationalizing the country's banking system as a means of moving beyond the current lending crisis.

"This idea of nationalizing banks is not comfortable," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). "But I think we've got so many toxic assets spread throughout the banking and financial community, throughout the world, that we're going to have to do something that no one ever envisioned a year ago, no one likes. To me, banking and housing are the root cause of this problem. I'm very much afraid any program to salvage the banks is going to require the government... I would not take off the idea of nationalizing the banks."

The remark prompted a bewildered smile of sorts from fellow panelist Maxine Waters (D-CA) who said, to no one in particular, "We have come a long way."

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At first I was like

but then I was like

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when I realized I agreed more with Lindsey freakin Graham than Barack Obama.
Jake G -  Moving beauty

Dems Fed Up With McCain: "Angry Old Defeated Candidate"

Democrats are growing increasingly frustrated with the brash political attacks Sen. John McCain has launched against Barack Obama in the weeks since the new president took office. No one expected the Arizona Republican to be a legislative ally for this administration. But it was widely assumed that Obama's overtures to McCain in the weeks after the election would dull some of the hard feelings between the two. Now, they are realizing, it has not.

"He is bitter and really angry," Bob Shrum said of McCain in an interview on Friday. "He is angry at the press, which he thinks is unfair. He is angry at Obama and angry at the voters. He has gone from being an angry old candidate to being an angry old defeated candidate."

Indeed, during the debate over the economic stimulus package it was McCain, as often as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who spearheaded the opposition. The Arizona Republican denounced the proposal as pure pork on the Senate floor and introduced an alternative measure comprised nearly entirely of tax cuts.

On Sunday, McCain wouldn't let the fight die, even with the legislation through Congress. Appearing on CNN, he described the $787 billion measure as "generational theft" and said that the bill's authors should "start over now and sit down together."

Meanwhile, appearing on ABC's This Week, Sen. Lindsey Graham -- McCain's chief ally in the Senate -- said of the process by which the stimulus was forged: "If this is going to be bipartisanship, the country is screwed."

That two Republicans Senators who consider themselves prudent compromisers would forcefully condemn the president's top legislative priority is noteworthy in and of itself. That it comes after President Obama made overt gestures of reconciliation to both McCain and Graham raises questions as to just how long it will take for this era of post-partisanship to arrive.

Not to mention that, as other observers pointed out, McCain isn't being entirely consistent.

"During the Senate debate, 36 of the Senate Republicans voted for an alternative that would have cut taxes over the next decade by $2.5 trillion, [and] reduced the top marginal race to 25 percent," said the Atlantic's Ron Brownstein on "Meet the Press." "For John McCain -- who voted for that alternative of a $2.5 trillion tax cut over the next decade -- to talk about generational theft, I mean, pot meet kettle."



Peanut plant owner becomes recluse after outbreak

Peanut plant owner becomes recluse after outbreak

A little over a month ago, Stewart Parnell was telling friends and clients just how good things were in his peanut business. He was spending time with his grandchild, looking forward to some more hunting and getting his boat out on the water.

Today, the man forever associated with the deadly salmonella outbreak is more the recluse, staying close to the house he bought here more than 14 years ago, when it was still surrounded by pastures. Parnell is telling those same friends and clients not to call, not to visit, not to do anything that might link them to the firestorm he's facing.
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Jake G -  Moving beauty

They Sure Showed That Obama

New York Times

Published: February 14, 2009

AM I crazy, or wasn’t the Obama presidency pronounced dead just days ago? Obama had “all but lost control of the agenda in Washington,” declared Newsweek on Feb. 4 as it wondered whether he might even get a stimulus package through Congress. “Obama Losing Stimulus Message War” was the headline at Politico a day later. At the mostly liberal MSNBC, the morning host, Joe Scarborough, started preparing the final rites. Obama couldn’t possibly eke out a victory because the stimulus package was “a steaming pile of garbage.”


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Illinois GOP leader calls on Sen. Burris to resign

By RUPA SHENOY, Associated Press Writer

CHICAGO – Just as Illinois was moving past the agony and embarrassment of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's ousting, the fellow Democrat whom Blagojevich appointed to the U.S. Senate was hearing calls for his own resignation Sunday amid allegations he lied to legislators.

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"No, Illinois political corruption, we're not done with you! You're not out of the spotlight yet! The state GOP needs you to mount an eventual election campaign! Haha!"

I find it interesting that everyone just wanted Sarah Palin to go away, yet we still can't seem to get enough of Rod Blagojevich and everything that has to do with him. Clearly, we're all being uber-partisan and are favoring the media-whore democrat over the republican.