Tax increases to help needy students

UIC College of Medicine

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The students of Illinois are on the move, pestering their state legislators to fully fund Illinois’ Monetary Award Program (MAP), a student aid fund based on need set to run out January 1st. MAP funding was cut by $200 million earlier this year due to budget concerns, leaving 270,000 current students with half or no assistance for the upcoming Spring semester. The MAP grant is comparable in size to the Stafford Loan (at $2,500 a semester), but unlike the Stafford, the student doesn’t have to repay the MAP grant.  The timing for this budget cut couldn’t be worse.  Lending is tight, and the unemployment rate in Illinois is at 10%.

Andrew Davis, the executive director of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, says many of these students are the first in their family to go to college, and they’ve been making good use of MAP grants every year.

“To abandon them now is to really take that previous investment and flush it down the toilet.”

“Generally speaking, the recipients of the MAP grant in Illinois are in the bottom 40 percent, by income, of the state’s population.”

via Public News Service

Governor Quinn held a rally at the University of Illinois in Chicago (UIC) campus yesterday, and addressed Northern Illinois University (NIU)  students  on the 25th.  Quinn will be traveling all over the state in the following weeks, speaking at various universities, including Loyola University on October 9th.  I myself was a recipient of the MAP grant last year, and was relieved to not have to borrow additional funds from Sallie Mae and  their devilishly high interest rates.

Funding for the MAP grant will be addressed in the upcoming General Assembly veto session, which takes place October 14th- 16th and October 28th- 30th.  There are a variety of ideas floating around to fund MAP, from increasing the income tax, closing  corporate tax-loop holes, a tax amnesty program (a legitimate plan from the Republicans), and raising the cigarette tax. Illinois just implemented a tax hike  of two dollars on cigarettes earlier this year to help lower the state budget deficit . Illinois has also seen a 25% tax increase on alcohol, soft drinks, candy lacking flour, and selected personal hygiene products to repair bridges, roads and schools.  I honestly don’t think raising taxes again on cigarettes will be helpful. You’ll either get more people to quit or more out-of-state buying, either way, reducing the money generated from this tax increase.

Students and supporters of the MAP grant will be staging a rally on October 15th outside of the Capital Building in Springfield. To find out how you can help, go here.

Obama to the American people: smoke marijuana now!

Hugo Chavez apparently doesn’t understand the first amendment or the idea of “free speech”.  Tarek El Aissaimi, Venezuela’s Interior Minister, blasted the American government on state TV for influencing the American people through Family Guy. According to Venezuela, the US government controls the writers of Family Guy and is trying to get us all to smoke pot. In Venezuela’s warped version of the U.S., the government is trying to legalize marijuana and it’s the people who refuse.

Venezuelan state TV today broadcast an excerpt from “Family Guy” as an example of how the U.S. promotes drug use. “We can observe how [the U.S. government] promotes and incites the population to consume that drug there,” said Tarek El Aissaimi, Venezuela’s Interior Minister. “There’s no subliminal message. It’s an animated cartoon where you can observe perfectly how they promote consumption and moreover they foster the legalization of marijuana.”

via Stewie Griffin promotes drug use for the US government, says Venezuela | GlobalPost.

This profound misunderstanding of censorship and government control of media is revealing, even more so when you consider the following item:

Venezuelan authorities plan to impose fines on cable television companies that refuse to stop airing the animated television series “Family Guy.”

The government of President Hugo Chavez is preparing to impose new regulations on cable television. Among other rules, cable providers could be forced to carry Chavez’s frequent speeches.

via Associated Press

Seth MacFarlane, you know you’ve hit the big time when you start getting banned in other countries.

And here is the offensive Family Guy clip, from their 420 episode.

[metacafevid id=”2879976/a_bag_of_weed”]

a new website to help you insult people

The Lion's mane jellyfish, Cyanea capillata, i...

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Chicago’s Thrillist brought this new website to my attention today.  You send an anonymous e-mail, complete with a cute-turned-gross animation to someone who pissed you off in an effort to “balance out the Karmic inequities that make the other 364 days of the year f***ing suck”. says:

It’s a way to feel like you’ve done something to stand up for yourself instead of collapsing like the spineless jellyfish that you usually act like.

(woah, way to insult your potential user!)

The website lets you make your own 200 character message, or if you lack creativity, offers 6 messages you can choose from.  My favorite is: ” Your breath smells like I just walked into an old ladies vagina, who wipes from the front.” Very vulgar, I know. It made me chuckle. The 4 animations that go along with the message are a bit choppy and uncouth- and all involve the little birdie that is Bitchegg’s mascot. You can choose between the birdie being eaten by a whale, farting, vomiting, or pooping. It’s childish, and more hilarious in a real laugh-out-loud way than it is insulting. I wouldn’t send bitchegg to my enemies, but I think my friends would deserve it.

I guess I am old-school, but I don’t get the anonymous “cyber-bullying” and passive aggressive nature of site like this. Sending a nasty e-mail won’t make me feel better- standing up for myself in “real life” would. I want to look into the person’s eyes, and feel my palms sweat as my heart pumps adrenalin. It’s a more satisfying experience….I am no spineless jellyfish.

A conspiracy theory for the discriminating conspiracy theorist

Picture taken of the atomic bombing of Nagasak...

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I am not trying to cause a panic- but there’s a conspiracy theory making the rounds on the internet about Chicago and tomorrow. The website responsible is here, and it’s most certainly a hoax. What reason does Obama have to bomb his city?  Oh, right, a poster on AboveTopSecret claims there is evidence in Chicago that proves Obama is not a natural-born citizen so he needs to destroy the whole city to erase this evidence. I love this conspiracy theory because it’s a chimera of others; part 9-11 truthers, part birthers, with a dash of 2012.

As for the website, digging reveals it was created on the 13th of September, and uses a proxy server out of Arizona. There is a hidden ticket counter on the website. There is no other information out there to reveal the creator or his/her intent. My guess is to scare, or the teenage internet rulers are doing another social experiment.  Maybe people just can’t wait until 2012 (if you haven’t heard yet, that’s when the world is going to end).

I have also seen versions of this rumor that say the bomber will be Osama bin Laden, because it’s the end of Ramadan, Rosh Hashana  and there is a new moon. Either way, the government and terrorists are both huge fans of numerology and are so disorganized that vital information like this can be leaked to the public. I’ve also seen this rumor on the infamous 4-chan boards and a few have made youtube videos about the conspiracy.

I know there’s going to be a huge let down tomorrow when it doesn’t happen, so I’m going to start my own conspiracy theory: On January 15th, of 2010, there will be an annular solar eclipse. This date is important because Edward Teller, the “father of the hydrogen bomb” was born on this date, as was Martin Luther King, Jr.  Naturally, this means Obama is going to drop a bomb on Mount Zion, Georgia on January 15th, 2010.  Why Mount Zion? 1 x 15 x 2010 equals Mount Zion’s zip code! Zion is also a Hebrew word, and we all know that Obama is a secret Muslim so he must hate the Jews.  The South has also been a thorn in Obama’s side, so if he could just obliterate that part of the US he could easily pass his liberal agenda.

….and on the off-chance that this actually does happen tomorrow, I’ve been preparing by playing Fallout 3 again.

Because "An Inconvenient Truth" wasn't enough-

Tomorrow night marks the one-night-only international screening of “The Age of Stupid”, a science fiction “docudrama” directed by  Franny Armstrong and starring Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite.

The film takes place in 2055, after the rise in Earth’s temperature  has wrought havoc on humanity and the planet. Postlethwaite plays a historian who lives alone taking care of archeological artifacts.  He spends his free time looking back at “archival” footage from 2008 of people living in climate hotspots.  As for the title, according to the film we’re the “Age of Stupid” because we did nothing to  stop climate change when we had the chance.  The film has a wry take on our current climate hang-ups: one clip features  British landowners protesting a wind farm because it ruins their scenic view.   The film aired in the UK on March 20th of this year, and walks that thin line between “preachy” and “prophetic” all the while trumping “An Inconvenient Truth”.

[vimeovid id=”6261071″]

The film will have a Hollywood-style premiere  broadcast live from New York City, with Gillian Anderson, Moby, and Heather Graham set to appear.  MTV’s Gideon Yago will interview Nobel Peace Prize recipient Kofi Annan, environmental scientist James Hansen, and director Franny Armstrong.  Thom Yorke of Radiohead  has thrown in his endorsement, and will perform live after the movie.  “The Age of Stupid” is hoping to break the Guiness World Record for  largest simultaneous film screening.

If you haven’t already, go here to purchase tickets for the Chicago area screening, and here is The Age of Stupid official website.

Are you ready for a transgender revolution?

An ultramodern men's washroom, showing a row o...

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Neo-cons beware! The homosexuals are coming for you where you pee! First there was Isis, the America’s Next Top Model contestant, then last month Lady Gaga flashed what appeared to be a penis on stage, and now this, a toilet revolution.

Genderqueer Chicago is asking the Chicago masses to use the wrong restroom tomorrow, in a show of solidarity for the transgender community.

Everyday, gender-alternative people are questioned, berated, mocked, glared at, and barred from public restrooms because someone’s perception of their gender doesn’t match up with the “shirt” and “suit” pictures on gendered bathrooms. Bathrooms should be safe for everyone, no matter their gender identity and presentation.

via Genderqueer Chicago: What’s this about Toilet Revolution?.

While I am opposed to any sort of discrimination (my pet peeve being discrimination based on gender),  I am hesitant over this mini-protest. The website stresses safety in numbers (“go with a buddy”), but I can’t help thinking of the unintended consequences of scaring old women while they pee.  Or maybe this is the idea, to make people feel as uncomfortable as the transgendered when they try to use a public bathroom?  The bemusement that would accompany walking into a men’s restroom and having a conversation with a man holding his dick is tempting, but I wouldn’t know which I was challenging more: traditonal gender roles or a person’s belief in bathroom privacy?

I say a push for unisex restrooms is the ideal – remember Ally McBeal?

Parking meter parks to please populace

The trouble-maker in me enjoyed  the reports of people disabling the parking meters, from stuffing them with pennies, super-gluing coins in the slots, spraypainting the display cases, removing the decals and even bashing them with cinder blocks.  One had to at least appreciate the creativity of the saboteurs. So while listening to Chicago Public Radio this morning, I was struck by this piece:

Tomorrow, there may be a few less parking spaces available for your vehicle. The participants in Parking Day are occupying metered street spots and turning them into mini-parks…more green space.

via Eight Forty-Eight – PARKing Day Takes Back Parking Spaces .

At a time when the citizens of Chicago are feeling disenfranchised by the new Parking Meter deal (Daley sold Chicago’s 36,000+ meters to Morgan Stanley, raising the price to park by as much as 400% ), it’s nice to see people exerting their right to the space in a positive way.  PARKing Day states it’s mission as being :

strictly a non-commercial project, intended to promote creativity, civic engagement, critical thinking, unscripted social interactions, generosity and play

via the official PARK(ing) DAY website

People’s feelings about parking in Chicago are overwhelmingly negative, so it’s promising to see the citizenry taking public space back for the public.  The temporary parks will, at the very least, make for some good conversation.  It’s not as if people are parking in those spaces anyway.

Check out the mini-park tomorrow at 3522 N Southport.