Friday, March 31, 2006

Where's Scott Cochrane?

Scott Cochrane, local bar owner extraordinaire, was all over the Daily Illini in the weeks before Unofficial. The funny thing is, he hasn't spoken a word about the event in the aftermath. When arrests went up, Scott was missing. When the hospital reported an increase in alcohol-related cases, Scott was missing. When a U of I alum died in a motorcycle crash wearing a shirt connected to his money-making event, Scott was missing.

I'd sure like to see what Scott has to say about all of this. I bet he's busy planning for next year already. Perhaps he has a nifty slogan tied to safe binge drinking. If he's as savvy as I think he is, maybe he'll have it trademarked.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Katrina's Mess...a political satire

President Bush today announced an initiative designed to jumpstart the nation’s Hurricane Katrina recovery effort by putting the millions of tons of debris to good use. Supporters of the arrangement are excited about Bush’s ideas and promote the plan as a solution to one of the pressing issues facing the nation today.

In an unusual press conference just outside the White House garbage dumpster, President Bush told reporters his idea. “Katrina created over 10 million tons of debris, and that debris can be used to fuel this nation and this nation’s economy,” said Bush.

Sources close to the president explained that the Army Corps of Engineers will haul all 10 million tons of Katrina debris to Mississippi. There, the debris will be dumped into a giant hole “the size of a Texas football stadium” where it will be allowed to rot.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, elaborated on the president’s plan. “The methane gas produced by this decaying pile of junk will provide enough power to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil by 17%. Combined with the efforts to drill new oil wells in Alaska, this could extend our nation’s energy supply for 100 more years.”

Some critics questioned the location of the methane plant. A spokesman for the White House immediately went on the counter-offensive. “This is not about politics or high-powered lobbyists exerting their influence. This location is an obvious choice. Because it’s located in Mississippi, no one will notice the smell of burning methane. This is a win-win situation.”

Experts within the administration are excited about this plan’s potential. Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman praised the idea. “With another hurricane season just around the bend, we look to this as a renewable energy source. We are predicting that future Category 3 and higher hurricanes, especially in the Gulf, will actually cause a drop in oil and gas prices. This is American ingenuity at its best.”

Another aspect of the Katrina recovery plan may move displaced homeowners from one gulf region to another. Though not announced at today’s press conference, Pentagon insiders are whispering about a Rumsfeld plan that may be in the works. Under the plan, dubbed Operation Iraqi Democracy, Americans whose homes were destroyed during the hurricane may be relocated to the Sunni Iraq town of Muqdadiyah. The thought behind the plan is that 400,000 Americans living in Muqdadiyah will bring democracy to an area dominated by insurgents. “These displaced Americans are freedom loving people. Their attitudes will be contagious. Sending them to Iraq is good for them, good for Iraq, and therefore good for this Administration.”

Other aspects of the president’s latest recovery plans leaked to the press include the possibility of tapping former Secretary of Labor Lynn Martin to spearhead a job training effort for those left unemployed in Katrina’s wake. Though no official plans have been announced, some are speculating that Martin would train the newly unemployed workers to start careers in such critical roles as Evangelical ministers, gay marriage protesters, and Walmart greeters.

Immigration Fascination

The House of Representatives needs to rethink its approach to immigration reform. Workers from Mexico are willing to endure countless hardships to enter this country. Many illegal workers travel hundreds of miles, much of it on foot through nearly unbearable terrain, to sneak into America. They risk starvation and dehydration in the desert in hopes of finding a better life. Scores of them have died. If these dangers seem worthwhile, what makes our government think stepping up the border patrol and increasing penalties will stop the flow?

The truth is simple. Our economy depends on these workers. When we eat lettuce, tomatoes, grapes, and strawberries, the fruits of their labor are on our plates. They should not be forced to wait out in the cold while we dine. We should invite them to join us at the table by developing a humane immigration policy. America cannot afford to wait for a violent protest or a labor strike. We need to embrace the people who are willing to embrace us.

Many undocumented workers have been here for years, toiling in jobs some of us would never consider doing. We should allow them to achieve the full rights of citizenship their work has earned. For those who travel between America and Mexico on a seasonal basis, we must construct a plan that regulates the flow of workers and makes the journey safe for all.

These steps will not solve all of our immigration woes. However, they will do more to fix the problems facing our country and its immigrants than the current legislation in Washington.

Illinois Isolationism?

Do you read Suburban Chicago's Daily Herald?

Chuck Goudie’s description of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign paints a gloomy picture for Illinois residents, especially those graduating from high school and hoping to enroll in the state’s flagship university. Goudie cites statistics designed to sketch an image of international students sucking the tax dollars from our collective pocket. (What Goudie fails to mention is the fact that nonresident students pay 300% higher tuition than Illinois residents do.) However, the issue Goudie raises is more important than dollars and cents.

Ours is a global economy. By making the Urbana campus a microcosm of the world instead of a carbon copy our state, the University of Illinois prepares its students to take on the international issues facing our society. This state cannot afford to buy into the isolationism Goudie promotes. Perhaps admitting more foreign-born students will raise the admission standards for prospective Illini. Despite what Goudie argues, this is a desirable outcome. All of our citizens will benefit from a local university that attracts students capable of meeting such high standards, no matter where they were born.

If Illinois’ high school students want to assure themselves entry into an internationally acclaimed university, they should work harder in the classroom. Learning to compete on an international playing field will only groom Illinois’ best and brightest for the world they will encounter after college.