I solved the problem, or at the least found a viable work around. I'm posting my findings just in case someone else finds themself in the same predicament and has to spend their weekend messing with the wireless card.
First off I tried adding irqpoll to the default kernel line in /boot/grub/menu.lst/. It now reads:
/boot/vmlinuz-2.6.17-11-generic root=/dev/sda3 ro irqpoll quiet
This kept the wireless card working after the login screen (hooray), but had the negative effect of causing the login screen to hang for about 2 to 3 minutes before the user and password boxes appeared. It even took a while before I could access a terminal screen by pressing ctr +alt and f1. After playing with xorg.conf for a while believed that it was the via chipset that was causing the problems.
Googling the web, I found a bug report that stated adding the option irqdisable to xorg addressed the problem of xorg hanging for a few minutes. The section for the onboard via graphics now reads:
Identifier "VIA Technologies, Inc. S3 Unichrome Pro VGA Adapter"
Option "DisableIRQ" "true"
After that change the system boots quickly into xorg and there's no problems with the card. All I need do now is setup wpa encryption, but I think I will save that for another day.