Monthly archives: August, 2010

Southland College Preparatory Charter High School Opens

Big day in Matteson, and for Dr. Blondean Davis.

The Southland College Preparatory High School is open for business.

From the Southtown Star:

Typical high school students wait four years before they march across stage, shake hands with the principal and accept that piece of paper that can make or break a future. The 125 students who opened Southland College Preparatory Charter High School on Thursday did it on the first day of the ninth grade.

"You are not only going to enter, you are going to graduate from college. That is the promise of Southland. That is our commitment to you," Southland CEO Blondean Davis told the students.

"You’re going to have this tangible thing called a quality education," Davis told the class Thursday. "You’re going to think about how, on the first day of Southland, (you) began this transformation."

Earlier in the day, Southland staffers cheered as the students from the Chicago-area’s only suburban charter high school spilled out of school buses. And as beaming parents snapped pictures of embarrassed students, some teenagers admitted they had reservations.

Southland has no football team, no mascot, no school colors. None of them envisioned freshman year would take place inside of Huth Middle School -the school’s temporary home while a larger building in Richton Park is renovated. And there is, of course, the issue of the mandatory uniforms and a school day that lasts until 5 p.m.

In short, it’s not what they pictured when they imagined their first day of high school.

While some private schools may be nervously watching this experiment, they needn’t worry much. Charter schools, by law, must admit students by lottery, randomly, not by ability, grades, or any other mechanism. Top student may still apply to Marian Catholic, the private college prep. school closest to this charter, or any others.

Best of luck to the students at the new charter!

Yet Another Bush Recession Casualty: Restaurants

As the nation still struggles to emerge from the Bush Recession and avoid a double-dip, we discover yet another industry suffering: restaurants (…and why, by the way, are my conservative friends hoping for a double-dip, exactly? They’re not rich, and they’re likely to end up in tents with the rest of us if we do double-dip. Are they that eager to see Obama and America fail???)

From the Chicago Tribune:

With consumers and businesses keeping a lid on expenses, more and more small and mid-size restaurants are throwing in their dish towels and closing up shop.

Southern California lost nearly a thousand more restaurants than it gained during the 12 months that ended in March, representing a net 2% drop that was twice the national average, according to the New York research firm NPD Group.

Nearly all the closings were among independently owned restaurants: small, family businesses that just couldn’t hold on as customers held back. Earlier in the year restaurants reported modest increases in business, but the jumps in sales were too little too late for many.

"We were going in reverse," said Ken Rausch, who last month made the wrenching decision to close his family’s 65-year-old San Gabriel Valley restaurant, Edward’s Steakhouse. The restaurant had weathered previous recessions, but this downturn drained the family’s resources — and showed few signs of letting up, Rausch said.

Other well-known haunts have also succumbed: Orso on 3rd Street near Robertson Boulevard, a trattoria popular with the entertainment crowd, closed last winter after a nearby movie studio laid off a big chunk of its employees; across the nation, Koo Koo Roo, Bennigan’s, Bakers Square, Tony Roma’s and other chains have shut dozens of locations.

Even in good times, the restaurant business is a difficult one. Many close simply because they fall out of fashion or favor, and most run on slim margins. But this downturn seems especially brutal.

We’ve lost a few in the south Chicagoland area, but many have survived, some developing creative ways to stay afloat. The Big Apple Pancake House in Chicago Heights opened its table tops to advertising.

I know: we eat too much in Chicago already. Still, it’s good to know that many places here have survived.

Still, nationwide, the trend is not good.

I’ll be George W., King of the "have-mores," is eating well, though.

Elvis Remains In The Building: Blagojevich Takes to TV

The mouth that won’t stop gabbing is starting another media blitz as the Summer of Blagojevich continues.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Beginning a weekend media blitz, Rod Blagojevich said this morning he will not take any plea deal from prosecutors, accused them of trying to criminalize political horse-trading and emphasized repeatedly that he had not been convicted of any of the corruption charges against him.

And he said the lone jury holdout against convicting him on major corruption counts confirmed his faith in God.

"I’ve always had a deep and abiding faith in God," he said on the "Today" show. "And when I look at that, it just confirms ‘Praise God.’ And I certainly thank her for her good judgment.

"If we put on a defense, I think we probably would have been acquitted" on every count, he  added.
He continued to insist he had done nothing wrong, saying prosecutors had captured him on tape only discussing "possibilities" with lawyers and political advisers. "Political horse-trading …. this is what they are trying to criminalize," he said.

He accused prosecutors of hypocrisy, saying they frequently make deals with convicted felons. "The very thing they charge me with, they should charge themselves with," he said.

Chiacgo’s ShoreBank Fails but Will Reopen as Urban Partnership Bank

From the Chicago Tribune:

Chicago-based ShoreBank, which for more than three decades made loans to South and West siders who might not have gotten financing elsewhere to buy homes, apartment buildings and start businesses, failed Friday. It had struggled for months to raise sufficient funds to stay afloat.

Its deposits and most of its assets were acquired by a consortium of major U.S. financial institutions and philanthropic groups and will reopen under the name Urban Partnership Bank.

ShoreBank was the 15th Illinois bank to fail this year and the 118th to be seized by federal and state regulators nationally. Its failure is expected to cost the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. $367.7 million. The FDIC, which is funded by the banking industry, said it received only one bid for the bank.

The beat goes on.

Cops Say Man Ordered Dog to Bite Kids

All of this is alleged by police. Remember: innocent until proven guilty in this country.

From the Chicago Tribune:

A 48-year-old Des Plaines man was charged with disorderly conduct after he told his dog to attack neighborhood kids, authorities said.

A neighbor on Wednesday asked Roberto Cardona, of the 1300 block of Fargo Avenue, to stop commanding the German shepherd to assault children , police said. But Cardona, who had been drinking, started to yell, and attempted to provoke the neighbor into fighting, police said.

After police arrived, Cardona began to scream at the officers, reports said. Cardona told police that he was tired of the neighbors and would continue to tell his canine to attack them.


Family Sues Dolton, Cook County Over Hit-and-Run of Teen

View more news videos at:

From NBC Chicago:

The city of Dolton and Cook County are being sued by the family of a teenager killed by a driver fleeing from police.

Attorney Larry Rogers Jr. said the family of Kenyatta Brack Jr. allege Cook County sheriff’s deputies and Dolton police officers acted recklessly in pursuing a suspect through residential areas of Dolton.

In a statement, Rogers claims several witnesses have come forward to refute police claims they were not involved in a chase.

"My son’s friend who was with him, he seen the cop. And the cop was right behind (the Sonata), " Brack’s father, Kenyatta Brack Sr., told the Chicago Tribune last week.  "They was right there, speeding."

Brack was riding his bike Sunday to meet his mother when the driver of an auto fleeing police struck and killed him. Authorities say the officers were following the fleeing car at a safe distance and speed when the boy was hit. Authorities say no suspect is in custody.

More here.

Very, very sad.

Time to call for the State Police to investigate this one.

The Leak Goes On: BP Pipeline Leaking Fuel In Hammond, IN

<p><a href=””>From  CBS 2 Chicago</a>:</p>
<p>It appears BP has another leak to deal with; this one, in our own   backyard. A mixture of diesel fuel and gasoline is apparently leaking   from a BP pipeline into a neighborhood in Hammond, Indiana, making life   for residents there pretty miserable. CBS2’s Mike Parker reports.</p>
<p>A major east-west thoroughfare, 175th Street in Hammond, is closed to   traffic for two or three blocks because an excavation crew is now   working for BP, trying to locate the leak in the pipeline – to find it   and fix it. <br />
<br />
As that work goes on, some folks have reported a   gasoline-like smell outside and inside their homes. It’s been going on   for 10 days now. <br />
<br />
Luis Corral, who lives next to the excavation site, was one of the first to report it. <br />
<br />
&quot;I was worried about a fire, or some kind of explosion more than a fire,&quot; said Corral. <br />
<br />
&quot;We’ve   continued to do air monitoring in the neighborhood, as well as a number   of the residents’ houses to make sure that the residences are safe,   that the neighborhood is safe,&quot; said BP spokesman Tom Keilman. <br />
<br />
When asked if everything is safe right now, Keilman said, &quot;That is in fact true.&quot; <br />
<br />
The federal EPA has ordered BP to shut down the pipeline until the leak is found and fixed. BP says it has done that.</p>
<p>Great. More oil. Leaking freely into the environment.</p>

G.O.P. Denounces Ground Zero Community Center, Silent on Strip Club

Ground Zero is sacred ground.

You better believe it is.

So where is the voice of the G.O.P. shouting a unanimous and bombasitic, “NO!!!!!!” regarding the Ground Zero Strip Club?

The G.O.P. wants us to believe that it is wrong for a religious group to openen a community center close to Ground Zero. The religious group should locate elsewhere, not so close to Sacred Ground.

Did the G.O.P. happen to miss the Cordoba House complex at 45-51 Park Place, a mere two blocks away from the World Trade Center site?

A bit more from

As yet, I haven’t heard anyone wonder why our political class is silent as the sex industry operates on sacred ground. It would be a bizarre complaint: It’s Manhattan, where you can find anything mere blocks from a given location. The closest strip club to Ground Zero happens to be two blocks away, a fact that has nothing to do with our reverence for the place where so many Americans were killed by terrorists. As you’ve probably noticed, it doesn’t even make sense to call it The Ground Zero Strip Club.

But it makes no less sense than naming an Islamic community center “The Ground Zero Mosque”–as much of the media have done–because it’s going to be located a couple blocks away. Even worse, opponents of the project are opportunistically invoking the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, even going so far as to appropriate their imagery. “Join the fight to kill The Ground Zero Mosque,” intones a video advertisement released by a group called National Republican Trust PAC. “A mosque at Ground Zero must not stand. The political class says nothing. The politicians are doing nothing to stop it. But we Americans will be heard. ”

As an American in good standing, I’d like to be heard–and to make sure that James Madison, a colleague of mine in citizenship, is heard too. The fourth president of the U.S. once wrote, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It’s a line that National Republican Trust neglects to remember. Perhaps “the political class” isn’t doing anything to stop the construction of an Islamic community center because the Constitution forbids it. Even worse, the advertisement I’ve mentioned engages in just the sort of religious bigotry that the First Amendment is meant to guard against. “On Sept. 11 they declared war against us,” the narrator says. “And to celebrate that murder of 3,000 Americans they want to build a monstrous 13-story mosque at ground zero.”

“They” declared war against us? Who is this ambiguous “they?”

A radical group of al Qaeda radicals led by Osama bin Laden attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.

Who are “they” who wish to open the community center?

“They” are an Islamic group that has long run a mosque in the area for New York City Muslims. On 9/11, “they” found their community under attack, too. It is slander to assert that they’ve declared war against us, or that their motive in building a community center is celebrating the murder of Americans.

“They” who wish to open this community center are peace-loving Americans. That’s it.

This is a non-issue, and the G.O.P. should be ashamed.

Cutler and Martz Awake; Chicago Bears Still in Hibernation

The Chicago Bears slumber still, and it’s time to wake up.

Jay Cutler did well enough. Mike Martz looks promising. The final score, however, still went the other way, after Cutler was benched.

From the Sun-Times:

Do you have a second? That’s about how long Jay Cutler played Saturday. If you made the unfortunate decision to blink during the Bears’ first offensive series in their 25-10 loss to the San Diego Chargers, you missed two nice Cutler passes that netted 47 yards.

If you had to go to the bathroom, the beginning of the Cutler-Mike Martz era is a rumor to you.

Those two Cutler passes? Things of beauty. And if you were lucky enough to see them, you have no choice but to conclude that Martz, the new offensive coordinator, is indeed the genius the Bears say he is. Johnny Knox was so alone on the first one, a 33-yard reception, he might as well have been in the middle of Wyoming.

If the Bears go on to have a big season, the record will have to be changed to show that, rather than being woefully out of position on the play, Chargers defenders simply were Martzed in the preseason opener.

But if the Cutler-Martz start-up was magical Saturday, it was only because the starting quarterback disappeared into thin air. He took part in eight plays, threw those two passes to Knox, was sacked once, avoided another sack and oversaw a drive that ended in a field goal.

After that, Cutler stood on the sideline with a towel draped over his shoulder and a cup in his hand and chilled. It was a laid-back, California kind of evening for him.

I Want My Next Car To Be A Chevy Volt

Chevy Volt

I want a Chevy Volt. For my next car.

The Economist took the Volt for a spin, and the review sounds promising:

So how does the Volt/Ampera drive? Overall, pretty impressively. As a well-used pre-production car, the one we road-tested still had a few rough edges. The basic architecture of the surprisingly spacious cabin was in place, but the high-quality soft mouldings that will grace the car when it goes on sale had not yet been fitted. There was also a slightly disconcerting whistle from the exhaust when the range extender engine was working hard, though this can be easily fixed. The suspension settings need a bit of fine-tuning, particularly for ragged British blacktop. But otherwise, the car was extraordinarily refined. It is whisper silent in most conditions—it is mostly hard to tell when the range extender engine is running—and unfussed even at high motorway speeds. Acceleration is strong (0-60mph takes about nine seconds) thanks to the instant torque served up by the electric motor, while the car’s handling is neat and precise thanks partly to the low centre of gravity that is created by installing the T-shaped battery pack along what would be the transmission tunnel in a conventional car.

The Ampera has a range of 350 miles before it needs refuelling and a notional thirst of 175mpg on a long journey which translates to carbon dioxide emissions of about 40g/km. Most of the time, however, the car will run without any need for the petrol engine, the batteries needing only three hours’ charging from a domestic socket to deliver 40 miles of electric-only running. GM reckons that the cost of an electrically driven Ampera mile is a fifth of a petrol-driven mile in an ordinary car. Used daily for a 40-mile commute, the Ampera could save its owner more than £2,000 a year given European petrol prices. As for reliability, the battery is guaranteed against any failure for 10 years. Some of the strain is taken off it by software that stops it being depleted to less that 30% of its capacity before the generator starts working, and prevents it ever being charged to more than 80%. Apart from the battery, there’s nothing much to go wrong, and servicing will be at intervals of around 20,000 miles.