March 31, 2005

Watch it in highway work zones

Seen in the Trib:
Two camera-equipped vans will begin patrolling highway work zones in July, snapping images of drivers violating the posted speed limit of 45 m.p.h., state transportation officials announced Wednesday.

The vans will patrol expressway and tollway construction and maintenance zones.

Signs will warn drivers of the photo radar system, which will take a picture of the offending driver, his or her vehicle and record the vehicle's speed, officials of the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority said. Drivers captured on camera will be sent a ticket in the mail.

Work zone speeding fines increased last year to a $375 penalty on the first offense, almost double the previous $200 fine. A second ticket can result in a fine of up to $1,000 and a 90-day driver's license suspension.

Motorists who strike a highway worker can be fined up to $10,000 and sentenced to as much as 14 years in prison, officials said.

The mobile photo radar system represents yet another use of technology by the authorities to crack down on traffic scofflaws.

Chicago has been installing stationary cameras at busy intersections to catch and ticket red-light runners. During approximately the first year of the program, cameras at 10 locations had generated 67,400 citations, city officials said last fall.
Slowing down in work zones is certainly the thing to do. But aside from that, with the huge and growing sums of money being collected from traffic tickets, just how far will officials go in coming up with more and more ways to balance their budgets this way? It's a quick fix and doesn't have a natural consituency to fight back.
Once again, the path of least resistance is proving irresistible to legislators and city officials. They've come to regard traffic tickets as a cash cow, and are constantly inventing new and more invasive tactics and methods to snare ever larger number of motorists.

They certainly don't want everyone to stop speeding, as that would dry up the cash cow. Are high tech surveilance methods going too far? And where will it end?

Handy-dandy Delay scandal guide

With a toad like Tom Delay, it's sometimes pretty tough to keep up with all the under-handed, slimey, and corrupt things he has his hands in. The DNC provides a handy guide which lists most of them for you in an easy to digest fashion.
Tom Delay, the face of the Republican party.

Field of candidates up for Moline City Council

On April 5, Moline voters will decide who will sit on the city council for the 2nd Ward, 4th Ward, 6th Ward and At-Large.

Incumbents Dick Potter, 4nd Ward, and Mike Crotty, 6th Ward, are up for re-election.

Mr. Potter is competing against write-in candidate James Beals, and Mr. Crotty is up against Crystal Stillwell.

Incumbents Pat O'Brien, 2nd Ward, and Don Welvaert, At-Large, are vying for the mayor's position, leaving those seats to be filled.

Running for the 2nd Ward seat are Michael Carton and Andria McDermott.

Running for the At-Large position are Kent Breecher and Kathleen Snodgrass.
See link below to article with more info on candidates views and short bios.

> MORE <

Who's going negative in Moline?

A piece in yesterday's Dispatch/Argus delved into the mud-slinging in the Moline Mayoral race. (see post below)

Unsurprisingly, both sides say the other is the guilty party. And a new twist is added:
According to a fax received late Wednesday at the newsroom of The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus, a complaint about the Committee for Better City Government fliers was filed with the state Board of Elections Wednesday by Richard Brunk of Moline.

According to the fax, the complaint centered on whether the Welvaert campaign failed to report the fliers as in-kind contributions. Further details and reaction to the filing were not immediately available.
More details, in's and out's here.

Other posts on this story here and here.

March 30, 2005

Durbin in Moline today to endorse O'Brien for mayor

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin appeared in Moline today to hold a press conference to endorse Pat O'Brien for mayor.
Federal, state and local Democratic party politicos were on hand Wednesday to offer their endorsement of candidate Pat O'Brien in the non-partisan Moline mayoral election.

Rain, wind and light hail pushed the press conference from outside the proposed Western Illinois University campus along River Drive to inside the Moline Township office.

U.S. Rep Lane Evans, D-Rock Island; retired state Sen. Denny Jacobs and state Sen. Mike Jacobs, both of East Moline; state Rep. Mike Boland of East Moline; and Rock Island County State's Attorney Jeff Terronez were on hand at Wednesday's endorsement.

Dispatch/Argus photo by John Greenwood

But what about the children?

NRA branch office opens in southern Illinois...
via Capitol Fax

Federal agents and prosecutors announced Tuesday the largest seizure of machine guns in the history of Southern Illinois, and 11 people face weapons charges linked to the seized guns.

Agents seized more than 50 machine guns, silencers, 128 destructive devices, 115 improvised explosive devices, gun powder, a spring-loaded booby trap, more than 100 firearms, 19 crates of ammunition and thousands of rounds of ammunition seized from a Madison County home.

They also found a Nazi flag, neo-Nazi literature and scrawled on a wall of a home three words: "Hitler was right!"

16 year old sentenced in Reynold's case

The juvenile who's identity was revealed after investigators named him in adult court proceedings which led to a court challenge from local media outlets, was sentenced today to be held in a juvenile facility until the age of 21, though he could be released sooner.

Nathan Gaudet plead guilty to charges of helping Sarah Kolb and Cory Gregory cut up and dispose of Adrianne Reynold's body, but maintains he was not present when she was murdered.

State funding cuts affect after-school program

Not wise.
Each day after school about 65 kids go to the Martin Luther King Center in Rock Island. They finish homework, play games and eat a hot meal before going home at 6 p.m.

Now, the program could lose state money because of funding cuts to after-school programs and to child-abuse prevention programs.

About 100 kids ages 6 to 17 are enrolled in the MLK Center's after-school program, funded with a $152,000 Teen REACH grant. The grant is more than a quarter of the center's $560,000 budget, said Jerry Jones, MLK Center executive director. The grant also pays for 25 students in an after-school program at Audubon Elementary in Rock Island, organized by Rock Island's Park and Recreation Department.

The MLK Center also gets $48,000 from the state Department of Human Services' Healthy Families Illinois for parent education and voluntary home visits, part of an effort to prevent child abuse.

Now, the state wants to cut money from both programs in this year's state budget

Mr. Jones said he's concerned about the cuts.

"Forty-five percent of families around us make less than $20,000 a year," he said. "All of these efforts are preventative, and it's difficult to measure the benefits until you take it away."

Proposed cuts would take 11 percent of Healthy Families' $11 million state budget and 13 percent of the $19.75 million budget for Teen REACH.

"The state budget is huge, so $1 million from Healthy Families and the $2.7 million from Teen Reach aren’t going to fill any holes," Ms. Parsons said on Tuesday. "But, the cuts are going to have huge impacts on Illinois and huge impacts on Rock Island County."

Rock Island Police Chief Terry Dove said juvenile crime increases from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in both Rock Island and Moline, according to police data from school days in 2001 and 2002. "The bottom line is, we have a lot of kids in our community that need an opportunity to do something that's positive," he said

In addition to the more than 200 kids in Rock Island and Moline, other groups receiving money include Boys & Girls Club of the Mississippi Valley in Moline, which serves 150 kids; the Regional Office of Education in Monmouth, which serves 40 kids; and the health department in Keithsburg, which serves 25 kids.

Rock Island County State's Attorney Jeff Terronez called the after-school program "one of the most important aspects of the program.

"It's not enough to punish offenders. If we reach kids early enough, if we provide after-school programs and abuse prevention, if we do that well enough, we prevent crime."

The Rock Island County State's Attorney's Office has a staff member dedicated to handling the county's child abuse and neglect cases, Mr. Terronez added. Those cases make up half of the juvenile judge's docket.

"The general public needs to understand that this is a significant issue in Rock Island County," he said. "If we can save one kid from victimizing someone else down the road, or stop a child from being a victim of child abuse, the investment is worth it."
A report in the same paper reports again the story that I covered here some time ago of the East Moline Fire Department receiving a $104,400 Homeland Security grant which they are using to purchase equipment to exhause excess diesel fumes from fire stations. That amount alone would almost completely restore these programs to their previous funding levels. Which is more important?

One way to get healthcare

The Times account of this incident is hard to decipher, but apparently, an auto accident occurred at 10:35 a.m. on September 13th at 3rd and Scott streets in Davenport. Michael B. Thornton of Rock Island, happened to be nearby but was not involved in the wreck. Thornton somehow presented himself to emergency workers responding to the accident (no details in the story) and was taken to Genesis hospital in Davenport and received $1200 worth of treatment, though for what, the piece doesn't say. $1200 is a lot of money, but then again, based on experience, that's about what they'd charge for examining the guy and putting a band-aid on his finger.

Apparently, Thornton represented to the hospital that he was involved in the accident. Well, that's one way to get medical care. Maybe at the sound of shattering glass, he thought, "Alright! I can finally find out why I have no feeling in my legs!"

Somehow (no clue given) the hospital or someone figured out that the guy wasn't involved with the accident.

District Judge Patrick Madden found the man guilty of Second Degree Theft, a Class D felony, despite Thornton's contention that the matter was more properly a civil matter. Thornton now faces up to 5 years in prison.

The guy was so hard up for care that when he sees an accident, he immediately thinks of scamming his way into the emergency room. Now for his initiative, he's facing prison.

Brilliant! So let's see. The guy got some medical care. Genesis won't pick up the tab and write it off. The state likely spent in excess of the cost of his care to prosecute the guy, and now he's headed for prison which will cost the taxpayers X thousand a year just to keep him there, and if he has continued health problems, they'll pick up the tab for his medical care in prison as well.

But at least Genesis didn't have to pay. I guess we're all better off. Thank our lucky stars our health care system doesn't need reform. Just ask a Republican.

March 29, 2005

Focus turns to finances in Moline mayoral race

(my apologies for these posts being a bit late. Earlier today Blogger made it literally impossible to post stories, and I had other pressing matters to attend to this evening)

Moline mayoral candidate Pat O'Brien's latest campaign finance report shows that he's raised $52,156. His opponent Don Welvaert reports having raised $20,267, less than 40% of O'Brien's total.

These reports are never current, and only reflect the amounts at the time the report was filed. But these numbers are now being seized on by the Welvaert campaign to attack O'Brien.

It appears that the Welvaert campaign, far outdone on fund-raising, has decided to try to turn that fact into a liability for O'Brien.

O'Brien's donations from PACs and organizations outside the area are being pointed to as somehow being a negative for his campaign. As a matter of fact, it's "scary" to Welvaert.
"There is always the fear with outside interests about what they want in return. In this case, the outside interests are outside of Moline. That is the scary part," Mr. Welvaert said.
Welvaert's "citizens" group has decided to spend some campaign funds on a mailing today which hits a new low for the campaign. "Are Pat O'Brien and outside, special interest groups trying to buy Moline's Mayoral Election?" the mailing asks, "YOU BET THEY ARE!" it answers.

On the reverse is copy designed to look as though it was taken from a newspaper article, complete with dateline, and headline reading "O'Brien being bought by outside, special interests".
Dimmer citizens (of which there are thousands) would think this was a reproduction of an actual article.

Welvaert's campaign by contrast seems as if it felt it didn't need any money from anyone other than from the "Committee for Better City Government", a group which the Dispatch/Argus describes as "a nonpartisan group of people who live or work in Moline and support various local candidates."

This of course is so much PR happy talk, as it is primarily composed of prominent Republican businessmen.

But Welvaert now seems to be suggesting that he didn't put much priority on fund-raising outside of his wealthy "citizens" group and had a decidedly unagressive approach to fund-raising.
Mr. Welvaert said most of his campaign funds are not solicited. "They are coming voluntarily from people who are calling me up, asking how the campaign finances are going, then offering to send money," he said.
At least 2/3 of the Dispatch article dwells on O'Brien and the sources of his contributions. This shows that the folks behind Welvaert were successful in spinning the paper into reporting this from the viewpoint that there was actually some wrong-doing involved, which of course, there is not.

Article here.

Case in Point

Lest anyone still is wondering how it is that Democrats appear to be getting rolled at every turn and wonders why it appears there is no opposition to the radical right in this country, I submit the following story.
TALLAHASSEE - A bill permitting the use of deadly force during a home or car invasion or when an individual considers himself threatened passed the Florida Senate unanimously Wednesday.

The measure (SB 436) eliminates criminal penalties for an individual who uses deadly force as self-protection in his home or vehicle and some other circumstances.

The open-ended language on the bill sponsored by Sen. Durell Peaden Jr., R-Crestview, concerned some lawmakers.

"Under the wording of this bill, somebody could go onto any of the streets and if they think somebody is walking toward them in a threatening fashion, they can pull out a gun and begin blasting away," said Sen. Steven Geller, D-Hallandale Beach, who sought unsuccessfully to amend the bill on Tuesday.

"We're heading towards a "Wild West' mentality," Geller said. "I am concerned that you could literally have two guys standing on the street, both of them ready, the guns at their side, and then say, "Well, the other guy threatened me so I pulled a gun and shot him in self defense.' "

Peaden scoffed at that.

"You have to be within the confines of the dwelling as described in this bill," Peaden said. "You just can't shoot anybody on the street and drag 'em in."

Besides mentioning home and vehicle intrusions, the bill says, "A person ... who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm ... or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony."

Geller voted for the bill anyway. Otherwise, "We'd be seen as Democrats soft on crime," he said. (emphasis mine)

A similar proposal (HB 249) was approved 8-2 Wednesday by the House Justice Council.

Blago appointee donated $83,000 to campaign

Gov. Rod Blagojevich has appointed a Bloomington attorney who donated more than $83,000 to his campaign to the University of Illinois' Board of Trustees.

David V. Dorris, 57, his wife and law firm have also contributed nearly $202,000 to other candidates and political causes in Illinois since 1995, according to the State Board of Elections.

(And here's the punch line...)
Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch said political contributions were not a factor in Dorris' appointment.

"We examine each candidate for an appointment on their merits, on their work experience and any other experience that may be relevant to the position that we are considering them for," Rausch said on Friday.

When did extremism become "normal"?

Paul Krugman warns of the religious extremists' growing influence in America and the danger of moderates accomodating them and not taking a stand.
Everyone knows about the attempt to circumvent the courts through "Terri's law." But there has been little national exposure for a Miami Herald report that Jeb Bush sent state law enforcement agents to seize Terri Schiavo from the hospice - a plan called off when local police said they would enforce the judge's order that she remain there.

And the future seems all too likely to bring more intimidation in the name of God and more political intervention that undermines the rule of law.

The religious right is already having a big impact on education: 31 percent of teachers surveyed by the National Science Teachers Association feel pressured to present creationism-related material in the classroom

link to NYTimes, free registration required

Slate for Moline School Board includes 19 year old

There are 8 candidates for the Moline School board, and one of them is barely out of the school system himself. 19 year old Bryn Lawrence is a first year student at Augustana majoring in, appropriately enough, poly-sci. He's also an intern at the World Affairs Council of the Quad Cities.

Data on the other candidates as well as their thoughts on what they consider the most important issues facing the board can be found here.

(Dispatch/Argus article, registration required)

March 28, 2005

Calling Dr. Frist

Bill Frist, R-TN and medical doctor, who never hesitates to remind people of that fact, recently stated his professional diagnosis of Terri Shaiavo based on viewing a minute or two of a several years old video tape to argue that a feeding tube should be allowed to remain, (despite the fact that her cerebral cortex is essentially turned to jelly)

In response, a group called American Family Voices is issuing a call.
Senate Majority Leader, and doctor, Bill Frist (R-TN) has the uncanny ability to diagnose patients by simply looking at a picture or a video. Some folks are concerned that he committed a bio-ethical violation, but we say, think of the opportunity!

Take a digital picture or video of your medical problem – tennis elbow, acne, runny nose, hemorrhoids, or whatever ails you – and send it to the doctor in charge of the US Senate and your health care.

Tell Dr. Frist you want him to diagnose it and get Congress to pass a law prescribing treatment.

Send us pictures or videos of your ailments and we'd be happy to pass along to the doctor himself. Please email us at, or mail them to us at Diagnose Me Dr. Frist! 888 16th Street, NW Suite 303, Washington, DC 20006.

Please visit our web page at to sign our petition and diagnose Dr. Frist for yourself as grossly incompetent and downright unethical! Don't you have friends with ailments of their own: coughing, stuffy head or fever? Perhaps they live in a red state which just about guarantees no wait time for you in Dr. Frist's office. Let them know that the good doctor can diagnose, maybe even cure them too.
I'm not sure it will be effective, but it points out the whackiness of the good Doctor Frist and the entire abomination of the congressional response to this story.

Punch-Counterpunch in Moline Mayoral race

The Moline mayoral race has already turned into a spirited battle. Many pieces of slickly produced mail have hit residents mailboxes, with O'Brien outproducing Welvaert by a considerable margin so far. But today's mail contained something new.

I don't know if you could call it "rapid response" work, it's more like "fairly quick," but the Welvaert campaign got a mailing out in time to arrive along with O'Brien latest ad piece which challenges the statements in a previous O'Brien mailing.

The piece, paid for by the "Committee for Better City Government", (which most likely is a group supported by current and former Deere execs and other very wealthy residents of Moline) features a large bold headline within a box, "Pat O'Brien will tell you anything to get elected." on both sides. (Sound familiar? Ask Al Gore.)
On the other side of the 8.5 x 5.5" card is listed two claims from a recent O'Brien mailing which they contend are false.

O'Brien's previous piece stated that O'Brien had, "short-circuited a plan to create a new utility tax on gas and electric service" and Don Welvaert "did nothing to stop a new utility tax on gas and electric service." O'Brien's mailing today says Welvaert was "silent" on the measure.

The Welvaert mailing then claims, "There has never been any interest in a utility tax by Don Welvaert or any other City Council member. In fact, no ordinance has ever been proposed to create a utility tax."

It continues to quote an O'Brien mailing as saying O'Brien, "worked to block a storm water utility tax to keep our hard-earned money from going down the drain.", and replies with, "In July 2000 and before Don Welvaert joined the City Council, Alderman O'Brien chaired the Utilities Committee that recommended the Storm Water Utility to the Council and then voted in favor of it's payment structure."

"DO WE WANT A MAYOR WE CAN'T TRUST?" it then asks at the bottom.

In at least the second instance, it appears that this shadow group is using some weasel words. The fact that O'Brien was chair of a committee that recommended the "Storm Water Utility" and the fact that the committee then voted in favor of it's "payment structure" doesn't mean that O'Brien favored either. It sounds like both measures were only incremental steps, not approval of the actual storm water utility tax.

And exactly how can one vote in favor of a "Storm Water Utility"? A utility tax, maybe, but it doesn't say that. Also, being on a committee that approves a "payment structure" doesn't mean that it approved the tax.

Does this disprove O'Brien's claim that he, "worked to block a storm water utility tax"?

At any rate, I'm not familiar with the minutiae of past Moline city council goings on enough to make any judgements on the claims, but perhaps someone that is familiar, or someone from either campaign could enlighten us as to whether this is fair play or underhanded distortions. (or as some might feel, both)

70 mph Iowa highway limit gaining speed

Some practical minded Iowa legislators have been pushing a measure to raise interstate highway speed limits in the state to 70 mph, with the trade off being that fines for speeding will increase. The vote will take place this week.

I'd prefer speed limits be raised to a more practical 75 miles an hour, but 70 is better than nothing. I only hope that this doesn't lead to an increase in cops pulling people over for going 4 or 5 mph over the limit.

The sweetener in the deal is that fines for speeding 10 or more mph over the limit would be raised to $82 from the current $43. This seems to be in line with other states, and still lower than some states who charge nearly $100 or more.

A similar measure failed to make it out of senate committee, however it was a bill that raised the limit for all highways, rather than just interstates, and it also didn't include the provision for higher fines.

Illinois budget slashes funds for programs for at-risk students

Despite rising concerns over the level and brutality of teen crime, Gov. Blagojevitch's proposed budget contains drastic cuts in programs designed to help families in need and at-risk kids that experts say are key to preventing crime down the road.
-- About $762,000 from Healthy Families Illinois' current $9.7 million budget, which tries to prevent child abuse through home visits and other services for nearly 4,000 families.

-- About $1.8 million from Parents Too Soon's $10 million budget, which helps teen parents.

-- All of Crisis Nurseries' $473,000, which serves about 2,600 families and lets parents drop off their children when the family is involved in a crisis. The state has promised to restore this funding.

-- $2.6 million from Teen REACH's $20.4 million budget, which provides after-school programs for about 31,000 students a year.

Teen REACH will deal with the loss partly by reducing the number of children served, covering only those ages 11-17 next year rather than extending programs to children as young as 6 as it has in the past, said Grace Hou, assistant secretary of the state Department of Human Services. Other cuts will come from staff training and evaluation, she said.

Experts say even temporary cuts in after-school programs can have a long-term negative impact.

"You have to look at it like you either pay me now, or pay me later. By investing in these programs, it's cost-effective and you realize enormous savings in the criminal justice system down the road," said Daniel J. Cardinali, president at Community In Schools, an Alexandria, Va.-based non-profit organization focused on keeping kids in school.

The majority of crimes involving youth occur between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., according to a U.S. Justice Department study; other government surveys have found quality after-school programs help reduce juvenile crime.

Blagojevich also talked about early intervention as the best way to fight crime during his state budget address when he discussed new programs aimed at reducing the number of ex-convicts who return to prison.

"He's making a big contradiction," said Beth Bricker, 27, an after-school program coordinator at the Albany Park Community Center in Chicago, where Troi and her friends were painting. ``The best way to fight crime is to get kids off the streets, and the after-school programs provide them with a safe environment."

Protecting our God-given right to carry armor piecing 50 cal. weapons.

A measure to inject a small bit of sanity to gun law in Illinois is meeting with the usual gun-nutery.
Reps. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, and Elizabeth Coulson, R-Glenview, have introduced the .50-caliber rifle ban. If the measure passes, Illinois would become the second state in the nation, after California, with such a law.

First used by the military during the Gulf War, the .50-caliber can puncture steel armor and is used to attack personnel carriers and fuel tanks. The weapon can be used to shoot with accuracy for up to 2,000 yards -- more than a mile -- and ammunition for this weapon can penetrate steel up to an inch thick.
Of course, this prompts all sorts of logical contortions by bullet heads looking to scrape up some reason to oppose this common sense measure. The article contains many such lame attempts. But here's a couple gems.

The "after all, it's not as destructive as a 160 mm cannon." defense:
Brad Stair, a technical adviser for Armalite Inc. in Geneseo not only manufactures the .50-caliber rifle but also owns one. He said he uses the weapon for target shooting. (Target shooting?? Good God, you need a cannon like this for target shooting??!! What do you shoot at? The next town down the road's water tower?)
The bill would not lessen the terrorist threat, he said, because several other rifles out there can outperform the .50-caliber, such as .585-nyati rifle used to hunt elephants.
Evidently, by this lunatic line of thinking, you can only place controls on the most powerful gun on earth. "Sure, my gun is pretty close to a bazooka, but there's one other gun out there that's a tiny bit more powerful. Go ban that one." And of course they'd howl that if the .585-nyati gun were outlawed, we'd be overrun by elephants.

But my favorite is this one. Stair's "But what about the children??!!" defense.

Stair, who said he grew up around guns and has taught his children the importance of gun safety, worries for the freedom of future generations.

Under the Second Amendment, Stair said, civilians should be allowed to have any weapon used by the military. "They are infringing on our children's rights to have any gun they want."

"Any weapon used by the military"????!!!!! That's just flat-out insane! We should have the right to own laser-guided missiles? M-1 tanks? Rocket propelled grenades? Artillary with depleted uranium tank piercing shells? And Stair wouldn't stop there. Why not be free to have a "bunker-buster" bomb in your garage?

This guy actually says with a straight face that a rifle that can penetrate 1" plate steel from a mile away must be defended on behalf of the children?? That should be enough to lock someone up in a psyche ward. They want their legacy to their grandchildren to be the right to own a gun that will shoot completely through a cop car?

When exactly did this sort of delusional extremism become acceptable?

March 27, 2005

FBI Aided Saudis in fleeing U.S. in days after 9-11 attack

Bush apologists howled bloody murder after the story of Saudi families being given extraordinary protection and priveledges and allowed to flee the country in chartered jets was given wider exposure in Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 911". These families, including relatives of Osama bin Laden, were shuttled to various airports and allowed to fly out of the country at a time when all planes were grounded in the days after 9-11.

The right yowled and whined that Moore was lying, and many articles were written saying his account was wrong.

Now the truth has come out thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request by none other than Judicial Watch, the organization formed by nut-job Larry Klayman which filed hundreds of frivolous harrassing lawsuits against the Clinton administration and anyone connected with it.
Judicial Watch obtained documents through the FOIA request and gave them to the New York Times which reported the story.

Contrary to what administration officials and their flacks have said, the documents show that FBI agents were sent across the country to provide escorts for prominent Saudis so that they could escape the country, often without so much as interviewing them. This despite the fact that 15 of the 19 hi-jackers were Saudi Arabians.

Hiring prospects improve

Judging from the slant given the Dispatch/Argus article on recent job fairs at St. Ambrose and Black Hawk College, one would think we've entered a new dawn in the Quad Cities in which jobs are plentiful for all.

However, a closer look reveals that it's not exactly all sunshine. In fact, the entire rosy scenario seems to be based on the fact that organizers didn't have to beg employers to show up as was the case in the past.

The scene was a far cry from a few years ago, when Black Hawk career counselor Sandy Sullivan recalls begging local employers to attend the annual job fair. Now, slowly but surely, business is starting to hire again. They found hundreds of prospects looking for work.
Needless to say, a huge amount of people looking for work doesn't exactly translate into a great employment climate for the area.

But Manpower, a company which is reaping the benefits of the rising trend towards hiring temp workers sees things improving. Companies are increasingly using temp services to hire everything from unskilled laborers to positions requireing doctoral degrees, with those hired receiving lower wages, no job security, and next to no benefits.
Last week's turnout reflected a trend in the most recent Manpower Inc. survey that nearly half of the Quad-Cities employers surveyed expect to hire at a brisk pace this spring. The long-awaited hiring trend is not just a Midwest phenomenon, but is expected nationwide, Manpower said.

Jobs in manufacturing, transportation, public utilities, services and public administration are the most likely prospects, Manpower said.
The piece gives a representitive sample of jobs employers were seeking to fill.

They included unions looking for people with strong backs, health care positions, CNC (computer numeric control) operators for Caterpillar, girl scout camp counselors, and salesmen for financial schemes.

Not exactly the cream of the crop, but at least some jobs are available. Contrast this with the number of jobs lost and you end up with a net loss of jobs.

Just as Bush spent months pushing the point that at long last, he'd actually created some jobs, but neglecting to note that he was still vastly short of creating as many as were being lost. Bush still stands to go down in history as the first president since Hoover to preside over a net loss of jobs.

March 26, 2005

"Get your War On"

The "Get Your War On" comic strip has been one of the most consistently hilarous and thought provoking I've ever seen. It got it's start in the run up to the invasion of Iraq, and has been going strong ever since. The author only publishes it sporadically, but they're all gems.

Just thought I'd pass it along. The Shiavo case has been the topic recently and, well... just go check it out here. You can thank me later.
(note to more delicate readers, "Get Your War On" contains adult language.)

"Like a chicken voting for Col. Sanders"

The GOP, in another show of just how little regard they have for reality, has been embarked on a massive effort to convince blacks that the party that represents their interests best is the Republican party, not the Democrats. This is lunacy, of course, but there's been a steady stream of heavily subsidized blacks being marched out to tout this line.

Of course, in the imortal words of the father of former Senator J.C. Watts' (Still the one and only black republican senator in history, who resigned in disgust after being taken as the help at too many GOP events), "A black person voting for a Republican is like a chicken voting for Col. Sanders."

No matter. Reality is a no longer a basis for Republican policy, strategy, science or anything else, for that matter.

Wayne Perryman is flogging his new book, "Unfounded Loyalty" attacking the Democrats and laying out the peculiar fiction that the Republicans are the party of Lincoln, while the Democrats are the "party of lynchings." He currently earns cash as an erstwhile radio host and according to his website, as a "fact-finding investigator in discrimination cases for the plaintiff." Why a plaintiff in a discrimination suit would hire a guy that thinks racial discrimination no longer exists, I don't know.

Perryman has appeared on C-Span and talks in an exageratedly dramatic style of a preacher, and his entire case is built on a small part of the Democratic party of about 60 years or more ago who were blatantly racist. No matter that most of the racist Dems later became prominent Republicans, or that the civil rights measures passed by Dems has lost them the south ever since. But that doesn't stop him from intoning that the Republicans are the black person's natural home, and the Democrats are only out to destroy them.

Then there's the absolutly whacko black preacher making the rounds by the name of Jesse Lee Peterson taking rubes for their money flogging his book "Scam"

His appearance on C-Span's Washington Journal stood out for it's outrageousness, and on a channel where the very weirdest regularly make their opinions known, that's really saying something. You just have to see him to believe him. The insanity just drips off of this guy, and seeing him leaves you wondering just what it was he got hit in the head with.

His audience is a bizarre mix of confused whites looking for justification for their resentment of blacks, racists, and white supremacists who just love the way Jesse Lee hates blacks as much as they do. Unfortunately, the show is no longer available for viewing on the C-Span site. A little flavor of Peterson can be gotten from this Media Matters for America account.

His appearance reminded me of the sketch on the Dave Chappell show where Chappell plays a blind black man who has grown up to become a virulent racist. Since he always wore a KKK hood, no one was ever the wiser. Then at one fatefull KKK rally, after whipping the audience into a racist lather, he takes his off his KKK hood and continues his racist rant while the audience sits slack-jawed and stunned. Hilarious! But Jesse Lee isn't funny, he's scary-nuts.

Peterson's hatred of Democrats rolls off his tongue, blaming them completely for every woe black people have ever suffered. Blacks only salvation is to practice his brand of religion and joining the Republican right, according to this guy.
But most disturbing is his clear loathing for black people, and black men in particular. It's apparent in almost every venomous line that comes out of his mouth.

The list of blacks out touting the right-wing line is so long it could be considered a major career path for any black in the media business. The money's there. Just ask Armstrong Williams who was paid almost $300,000 by Bush's Deptartment of Education just to flog "No Child Left Behind" in his columns, radio show, and TV appearances on pundit shows.
Terry Holt, former Bush/Cheney spokesman and RNC official, appears regularly as the right wing host on Crossfire to energetically parrot the RNC line and defend even the most eggregious Republican sins.

It's a massive and lavishly funded effort, as is most every propaganda campaign from the right. Their warped view of history should not be allowed to stand unchallenged, and the Dems will suffer if it is not responded to. After all, it shouldn't be terribly hard to refute the distorted views being put out by these pundits.

Meet The Press to explore faith & politics

This Sunday's Meet the Press will explore the increasing nexus between faith and politics in the U.S.

Guests will be:

Islamic scholar Reza Aslan, author of "No god but God"

Georgetown Law's Rev. Richard Drinan, author of "Can God and Caesar Coexist?"

The Southern Baptist Convention's Dr. Richard Land, author of "Real Homeland Security: The America God Will Bless"

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), the first Jewish American to be nominated for Vice President

Newsweek's Jon Meacham, the author of the magazine's current cover story, "How Jesus Became Christ"

and Rev. Jim Wallis, author of "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It" (a book The Dope intends to read soon)

Apparently, Smokin' Joe is so close to god that he's become a representative of the Jewish faith among other ordained theologians and ministers.

And The Dope is always interested in seeing the Rev. Jim Wallis, though with this crowded panel, he won't likely get the time he deserves.
Wallis is a very articulate scholar who is exploring the crucial area of how the isurgency of so-called Christians from the right has managed to hi-jack the agenda of our country. He is also working with Dems to formulate a strategy and find ways to recover from the losses they've suffered by being flat-footed on the issue of faith.

Any rational person knows that Democrats are no less faithful to religious beliefs than Republicans, and are actually MORE faithful to Christian tenets when it comes to government policies. But the right has managed to turn that fact on it's head and convince millions that the Democrats are a God-less party who share none of their values whatsoever.

They've also managed to equate Democratic positions on matters of choice, individual freedom, and justice for all as being somehow anti-Christian.

This of course, is dead wrong, but deadly to the Dems politically.

Since this issue is so important to electoral politics and policy in this country, Wallis is an important figure in shaping Democratic policy and strategy on this issue, efforts which can begin the struggle back from the losses dealt to Democrats by the scurilous and long running propaganda effort from the right and fundamentalists. With faith being used as a bludgeon to beat Democrats senseless, the Rev. Jim Wallis, his books, and his views certainly deserve attention.

March 25, 2005

Boland seeking support
for state senate run

The Inside Dope can report that Rep. Mike Boland is telling allies that he will not seek re-election as state representative and intends to challenge Sen. Mike Jacobs for the 36th District senate seat.

It is not known when Boland will make a formal announcement of his plans.

This would pave the way for what will likely prove a very bruising and divisive race in light of long-standing personal and political animosity between the Jacobs' and Boland. The ugliness potential for this contest is off the charts.

It would also ignites jockeying among those eying a run for the 71st representative district seat left vacant in the wake of Boland's move.

Mentioned as potential Democratic contenders for this position are Porter McNeil, long time staffer and consultant for national, state-wide, and local Democratic candidates, and Dennis Ahern, who ran a strong campaign against Boland last cycle. Speculation has also included Savanna realtor Tony McCombie, and Lane Evans aide Jerry Lack.

It would set the stage for intense political activity and ensures an upcoming campaign season filled with enough chills and spills to satisfy even the most hardened political junkie. Stay tuned.

Thoughts? Comments are wide open again.

David vs.Goliath in R.I. mayoral race

Mark Schwiebert, Mayor of Rock Island for the past 16 years, has said that his next term will be his last. But challenger David Kimbell is hoping to short-circuit those plans in the general election April 5th.

Kimbell owns a "mobile sporting goods" business, whatever that is, and cites as his education a certificate in law enforcement from Black Hawk College.

He's previously run and lost for county board in 2002 and lost a write-in campaign for 6th Ward alderman in 2003. Now he feels he'd like to be mayor.

Both candidates sketched out their views on various issues such as the impending move of Casino Rock Island to the southwest area of the city in an article by Kurt Allemier in the Dispatch/Argus.
If the Casino Rock Island gets approval to move to a south Rock Island site, Mr. Schwiebert says the armory, located near where the casino boat is currently docked, should be used for residential and retail space and a green space should be created. Any project should compliment The Arts and Entertainment District.

Mr. Kimbell says he appreciates the increased revenue a new casino site might bring, but he has environmental concerns about the project. He would use the armory as a multi-sport complex, offering basketball, martial arts and other programs.
Did I mention Kimbell sells sporting goods? I don't think Schwiebert will lose any sleep over this race.

More Republican values

The painkiller Oxycontin, otherwise known as hillbilly heroin, is apparently the drug of choice among prominent family-values Republicans such as Rush Limbaugh and this guy.
Via Roger Ailes (no, not THAT Roger Ailes)

Republican media adviser R. Gregory Stevens, who was found dead in the Beverly Hills, Calif., home of actress Carrie Fisher on Feb. 26, died of an overdose of cocaine and the painkiller OxyContin, according to the Los Angeles County coroner's office.

A spokeswoman at the coroner's office read to The Washington Times portions of the report, which was completed Friday. "Cocaine and OxyContin," the spokeswoman said when asked by phone what was the cause of death. When asked specifically whether there was a drug overdose, she said "yes."

Mr. Stevens, 42, was an associate with the powerhouse Washington lobbying firm Barbour (as in former RNC chair Haley) Griffith & Rogers and had traveled to Los Angeles to attend the Academy Awards.

Second Republican challenger to Evans emerges

Brian Gilliland, a certified National Football League player agent and a homebuilder, said he believes the area is in need of innovative ideas to counter a dwindling population and job base. “We have to come up with ways to be more creative,” he said.

He is the second Republican to say he will run for the GOP nomination next year. Jim Mowen, a commercial real estate agent and developer from Rock Island, also said he intends to run. Andrea Zinga, who ran unsuccessfully last year, said this week that she will announce her intentions in the fall.

Gilliland, who said his nickname is “Gilligan,” is seeking to hook voters by comparing the status of the 17th District to the castaways in the 1960s television program, “Gilligan’s Island.” “We have been left on an island to fend for ourselves in the district,” he said.

Obviously, the position of campaign advisor for "Gilligan" is still open.

Reynold's murder case moves forward

Both Sarah Kolb, 16 and Cory Gregory, 17 will appear in court Monday for pretrail hearings. They are each charged with two counts of first degree murder and one count of concealing a homicide.

Nathan Gaudet, 16 is to be sentenced in juvenile court next week for his role in the dismemberment of Reynolds’ body after pleading guilty to a charge of concealing a homicide last month.

On Wednesday, Rock Island County State’s Attorney Jeff Terronez is scheduled to appear before two judges, one for Kolb and one for Gregory, to seek material witness status for an undisclosed number of people who are likely to testify in the cases.

The purpose of declaring some people material witnesses is to give the prosecutor assurance that they will appear in court when called. Terronez has declined to identify the witnesses he intends to classify as material.

He has listed about 130 people as potential witnesses in the state’s case against Kolb and Gregory. As of Thursday, he had turned over 617 pages of reports and related material in the case to the co-defendants’ attorneys.

> MORE <

Debate still ongoing on Iowa's $700 million business subsidy measure

Free market competition? Bah! Welcome to the new welfare state.

Centrist Democrats and Republicans are trying to bring opposing sides together to craft a program which offers hundreds of millions in outright grants and tax subsidies to business interests in the state. It is projected to provide $700 million in grants and tax breaks to businesses over the next 10 years.

The program is called "The Iowa Values Fund", which suggests that Iowans value ever expanding corporate welfare. It would be interesting to see how many in the state favor that.

The measure is opposed by those further to the right and left end of the political spectrum who feel it is far too generous to businesses, is patently unfair to those businesses who don't receive state grants, and that jobs which are created from the measure will primarily be minimum or low wage positions.

March 24, 2005

Evans challenger plays morals card

Jim Mowen, a recently announced Republican challenger for Lane Evans' 17th district seat, is apparently more than willing to play the God card, judging by a recent article in the Dispatch/Argus.

"I see a void in economic development, in jobs. I look at the voting record and see a lack of moral leadership and moral values," he said.
Ding, ding, ding... extra points for wedging in "moral" twice in one sentence AND equating Democratic views with immorality.
"I think it's fair to say that after 22 years of losing the election at this level, that the Republican base is fragmented. I think it's going to take a serious effort to run a campaign and coordinate a silent majority that is probably feeling beat up, to accomplish what needs to be accomplished," he said.
And points for using the code word "silent majority" to appeal to the fundamentalists.
"I think that being a business person, a husband and a father, someone who lives day in and day out a pretty normal life, that I understand what 'Joe Quad-Cities' feels and I understand what representation means. I don't mind going to Washington and ruffling some feathers."
Hmmmm. Now he gets down to business. He borrows one of Bush's more queer habits of constantly assuring us he "understands" broad concepts. He's a husband. Guess if you get hitched, that pretty much makes you fit for office. He's a father. Well, he reproduced. That counts for something, though I hear it can actually be fun. And he lives "day in and day out a pretty normal life." Well hell, that cinches it. And the feather ruffling is just icing on the cake.

And notice how he stealthily implies by contrast that Evans, who is unmarried and of course, doesn't have children, is somehow not "normal". Yep, that tactic sounds like it was torn right from Ralph Reed or Karl Rove's playbook. A good Godly tactic to be sure.
He also has taken seven missionary trips since June 2000.
Well damn. He's even tried to convert the heathens. It will be tough for Evans to run against Mowen and God. I mean, you can't beat God's name ID, though his "right track/wrong track" numbers aren't so hot.

The Three Amigos drawn together by Jacobs' WIU "Task Force"

In a heart-warming show of unity, at least to the point of appearing in the same general area with no objects thrown and being in general agreement on an issue, all three Illinois state legislators from the area attended the press conference announcing the formation of a "task-force" to accelerate the planning, financing, and development of the Western Illinois University riverfront campus in Moline.

State Senator Mike Jacobs is spear-heading the "task force" and said he will be appointing members within the next two weeks and the panel should begin making recommendations within 30 days. Jacobs' stated goal is to have students attending the campus by the fall of 2006.

A primary focus of the group will be to find ways around the glacial pace and uncertainty of funding from the state by "... find[ing] money for the campus from traditional and non-traditional sources..."
(what are "non-traditional" sources of money? Counterfeiting? Bake sales? Extortion?)
State Reps. Mike Boland and Pat Verschoore back Sen. Jacobs in his effort.

"I think this is a great jump start ahead," Rep. Boland said.

Between $10 million and $15 million is needed to start constructing the new buildings. The campus will be completed in three phases, beginning with refurbishing the Tech Center.

Rep. Verschoore said he is confident Gov. Blagojevich will maintain a $2.4 million appropriation for the campus.

However, Rep. Verschoore added, "I'd like to get more money than that. We don't want to let the state of Illinois off the hook. We want them to be part of it."
This could prove a very good tack to take for the success of the WIU project. It's certainly shrewd of Jacobs to get out in front on this, and he deserves some credit from taking the risk.
"Blue Ribbon" panels are a dime a dozen, and are the oldest trick in the book for appearing to be doing something when you have no earthly idea what to do.

But Jacobs is to be commended for both setting and publicizing goals. In addition to setting a deadline for the panel to issue recommendations, he also laid out a specific goal for what he expects and when he expects it. It's refreshing to see a politician stake himself to some concrete goals.

And though I'm fairly sure we won't see the Mikes holding hands at a future press conference, at least the attempt to pull in the same direction appears to be being made. We'll have to stay tuned. But if all involved are more dedicated to success than to getting credit, this could be a watershed moment in local politics.

Ground broken for new Moline libary

Ground was broken Wednesday on the $10.1 million dollar library in Moline.

The 68,000-square-foot library will be located just south of the city's current Southeast Branch on 41st Street. It will be three times the size of the branch and will include meeting rooms, a coffee shop and room for future expansion.

A $2.5 million capital campaign will fund equipment and furnishings, architectural and other professional fees, and other contingencies. Several sizable donations, including $250,000 from the Moline Foundation, the largest received, were announced at the groundbreaking.

(click on "more" for QC times article.)

> MORE <

Neanderthal fundies erupt over IMAX volcano film

From the "It's not too late to pick out your burkas" file:

IMAX theaters in several Southern cities have decided not to show a film on volcanoes out of concern that its references to evolution might offend those with fundamental religious beliefs.
The rest of the world must be laughing their asses off that such a great country is starting to follow the fundamentalists back to the stone age.

R.I. candidates speak at forum

Casino Rock Island moving from downtown and what to do with the riverfront Armory building were among the issues tackled Wednesday by Rock Island's mayoral and aldermanic candidates.

The candidates took part in a forum at the Rock Island Public Library, hosted by the Community Caring Conference. Up for grabs in the April 5 election are four-year terms as mayor and 1st Ward, 3rd Ward, 5th Ward and 7th Ward alderman.

Buckle up! Home-schooled drivers set to hit the road

Parents who opt to home-school their kids are often fundementalists who are seeking to shelter their children from such things as scientific facts and what they feel is the general moral bankrupcy of public schools.

There's nothing inherantly wrong with this, though studies show that home-schooled kids do poorer by many measures. But home-schooled kids eventually compete with the rest, and their education plays it's role in their success or failure. If an employer, say, found them lacking, he could simply refuse to hire them.

But now home-schoolers have an Iowa rep in their corner and he's pushing to allow parents to home-school their kids to drive. (Well, waddaya want? To make them send their kids into the dens of iniquity that are driver's ed courses??!!)

There are provisions to the measure, including requiring parents to teach the same curriculum as certified instructors and following a mix of classroom lessons and driving. Home-taught drivers would also be required to pass a standard driving test.

Governor Vilsack vetoed a nearly identical bill last year. But the bills chief sponsor, Rep. Kraig Paulsen (no, that's not a typo) R-Hiawatha actually thinks this will somehow "improve the safety of our roads."

I doubt it will make them much more unsafe, but the question still remains, what's the justification for allowing parents to teach their kids to drive rather than certified instructors who can be held liable if they fall short of high standards?

From the strong economy files:

Ultimate Electronics Inc. said Wednesday it will close half its stores -- 30 outlets including some if not all in Iowa -- and fire 965 workers by June 30 in a corporate reorganization under federal bankruptcy protection.

The fate of the Davenport store, one of three in Iowa, was not known Wednesday afternoon, according to a store employee, who referred calls to the company's corporate headquarters in Thornton, Colo.

The store at 3800 E. 53rd St. opened in December 1999 with 70 to 80 employees.

Corcoran Wilson gives up effort to contest election

Connie Corcoran Wilson, former East Moline 1st Ward aldermanic candidate, conceded the Feb. 22 primary race Wednesday morning to incumbent Ald. Helen Heiland, but she still believes she didn't lose by 10 votes.

Ms. Wilson and her attorney, Rick Keys of Nelson, Keys & Keys, Rock Island, withdrew her petition for a full recount before Circuit Judge Jeffrey O'Connor because a recount would not change the election results.

"Ten votes sounds wrong to me," Ms. Wilson said, adding that she graciously concedes the election. "I hope Helen does a great job."

"I'm glad it went the way it did," Ms. Heiland said. "It has been a bitter election. I can't say it was a gracious election."

March 23, 2005

We need more laws!!

In light of the knee-jerk reaction to such tragedies as the recent school shooting in Minnesota by politicians and others, I think it's way past due to enact some legislation that will finally stamp out that most damaging influence on our youth. The one that apparently drove this misguided young man to commit horrendous and indiscriminate murder. Of course the fact that he had a tragic home life with a father who committed suicide and a mother who suffered head injuries from a drunk driving accident and is confined to a nursing home we can safely put aside. Nothing can be done about that. And we should ignore as well the deplorable poverty and social conditions on many Indian reservations.

But I'm talking about the important stuff. I'm talking about the lessons we can learn from this horrible incident and what needs to be done to put a stop to all such shooting sprees in the future. Politicians know that the boobs out there always fall for the quick fix, the knee-jerk ill-considered attempt to tease out something from the incident to lay the blame on. No tragedy, no horrendous death or killing is too profound to extinguish the rampant urge of some politicians to cash in on them for their own aggrandizement. In that light I have a demand.
Yes, it's time to outlaw once and for all, zombie movies, dark clothing, and eyeliner.

Oh yeah, and video games. Even though this kid wasn't into them, they're bad, bad, bad.

Bush clears up Social Security questions

"I repeat, personal accounts do not permanently fix the solution."

—Washington, D.C., March 16, 2005

(Click here to hear our glorious leader say the above. Comment is at 24:11 in clip)

IL Chamber picks brains of 20-somethings for ideas on area's image

As part of their effort to create a hipper, happenin' image for the Quad Cities and attract young, upwardly mobile professionals, the YPN or Yuppie Promotional Network, err...Young Professionals Network program of the Illinois Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce held it's first "Conversation Cafe" Tuesday night.

Attendees discussed issues through three panels. At each panel, facilitators asked why they choose to call the Quad-Cities home, how the area can overcome its boring image and how it can best market its quality of life for young professionals.

Rotating through three 15-20-minute sessions, participants dined on sandwiches while engaging in creative thinking and exploring solutions to keep college graduates in the Quad-Cities.

Molly Foley, YPN director, said the cafe is "the beginning of a marketing campaign specified towards young talent. What I expect is to just open a (continuing) dialog amongst young talent."
But how much hipper can we get? I mean, there's already a growing population of our brand of yuppie flourishing in their Lexus SUVs, super busy lifestyles and fitness clubs. We've already got a Starbucks and a few Thai restaurants. Lot's of people already wear little narrow glasses. And Lord knows the area is incredibly tolerant towards anyone creative and -gasp- liberal.

Take Moline for instance. You can tell how much foresight they've had by directing their development money towards less conservative projects that would attract and cater to younger people. The town is full of great music and art venues and quirky specialty shops. Oh wait. I must have been thinking of somewhere else. In Moline, they don't like that sort of thing. It might attract hippies and, God forbid, liberals. (but aren't all liberals hippies? I know they're all communists who hate America. Sean Hanity told me so.)

Shamsie's name is mud to neighbors of development

East Moline residents voiced their concerns at a Tuesday night Plan Commission meeting about drainage from Mike Shamsie's proposed Ashton Place housing development, near 19th Street and 23rd Avenue.

Mr. Shamsie has proposed building 45 to 50 single-family homes, selling at $150,000 to $175,000 each, on 12 acres. The site is south of East Moline's 23rd Avenue and west of 19th Street, in unincorporated Rock Island County.

"When I hear the name (Shamsie), I think of mudslides and I don't want any mudslides," Roger VanDeHeede of East Moline said.

Mr. VanDeHeede said he was referring to the heavy rains in spring 2004 that washed mud from Mr. Shamsie's One Moline Place housing development to the bottom of the 7th Street hill.

Local benefits of Bush economy only part of larger plan

About 80 Alcoa jobs cut earlier this month in the Quad Cities are part of the company's plans announced Tuesday to trim 2,000 jobs nationally.

Army cuts $4.6 million in Arsenal funds

Illinois and Iowa lawmakers have begun scrambling to restore $4.6 million in funding for the Rock Island Arsenal that has been withheld by the Army, ironically, because of increased local workload.

Officials at the Arsenal's headquarters, the Army Materiel Command, confirmed they plan to give Rock Island just $7.9 million of a $12.5 million congressional appropriation intended to help lower costs and earn more contracts. They also confirmed that the money may go to other Army arsenals.

Aides to Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Rep. Lane Evans, D-Rock Island, contend the additional $4.6 million was targeted specifically for the Arsenal's Joint Manufacturing Technology Center under the Army's Industrial Mobilization Capacity account.

Yet more riverfront condos stalled

A project seeking to place more riverfront condos in Moline is stalled due to a property owner wanting more than the city is willing to pay.
Yes, I said the city. Not the developer. Evidently, in today's climate, developers expect the city to buy them the property so they can build highly profitable projects.

In other business, City Administrator Lew Steinbrecher said negotiations with developer Riverview Pointe, LLC to build 126 upscale, riverfront condominiums have become stalled because of an impasse over the acquisition cost of the Henry Engineering property on River Drive.
“The city cannot afford, nor will it agree, to pay an excessive amount for property that has been improperly maintained over the years,” he said.

In an updated story today, it was revealed that the developers expected the city taxpayers to front them $7.5 MILLION dollars. The city has already bought the Export Packaging property and were expected to pay a million and a half to buy the Henry Engineering property, demolish the buildings, and clean up the site for the benefit of the condo developers.

Republican challenger emerges against Evans

Saying that incumbent U.S. Rep. Lane Evans, D-Ill., is out of step with the values of his congressional district, a 43-year-old commercial real estate developer from Rock Island said he will try to unseat the 12-term incumbent next year.

Jim Mowen, a founder of Davenport-based Premier Partners, said Tuesday that he will run in 2006 for the Republican nomination in the 17th Congressional District. A formal announcement is planned soon, he said.

(free Quad City Times link)

Severe problems with ISP

My ISP is dead. I hacked a way to get online, but the service is not working as it should and there's big problems. I've been on hold now for about 40 minutes with customer support and I'll hopefully get this solved.
In the meantime, adding posts will be very difficult. (You can still post comments though.)
Please stand by. With any luck, this will get fixed soon.

March 22, 2005

Topinka says she may make Rod reel.

State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka said Monday she is considering a run for governor after commissioning a poll that showed her 3 percentage points behind in a matchup with Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

More on this story at Capitol Fax Blog.

Quad City Development Group returns from D.C.

The Quad City Development Group recently returned from a lobbying junket to D.C. and optimism is hard to detect. They focused on protecting the R.I. Arsenal from being affected by the upcoming rounds of base "realignments". The General in charge of the Army Materiel Command, which is the arsenal's superior command, pretty much stiffed the group when they met and would provide no hint at what he felt the arenal's chances may be. A recent article in the New York Times which featured a military analyst who listed the Rock Island facility as being ripe for "realignment" also put a damper on optimism. Ed Tibbetts has the story at the Q.C. Times.

Ten casinos betting the farm on locating in Iowa

9 companies or investors have applied for gambling licenses in Iowa. They include plans for 10 land based or riverboat casinos in:

--Washington County
--Fort Dodge
--Worth County
--Waterloo (2)
--Black Hawk county
--Franklin County
--Emmetsburg (2)

The Free Market in action

The Iowa Department of Economic Development's financial assistance packages announced Friday total cash and tax benefits to corporations of over 7 million dollars. Several of these grants were given to facilities competing with other branches within the same corporation.

Low-roller gets big casino payoff

In Vegas, the casinos refer to high-rollers as "whales", but this "minnow" hit it big.

A Nebraska man got more than a penny for his thoughts when he won $1.9 million Monday while playing a video slot machine. The man, who casino officials didn't name, won the jackpot on The Twilight Zone penny slot machine at Harrah's Council Bluffs casino. He spent about $100 before hitting the jackpot.

"I was shocked," the man said. "I thought I had won $98. I still can't believe it's almost $2 million."

East Moline Fire Department gets Homeland Security grant

The East Moline Fire Department received a $104,400 grant from the 2004 Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. They plan to spend it on a system to remove excess diesel exhaust from fire stations and standby generators to provide power to the stations in event of a power outage.

Hmmmm. I guess at least East Moliners will be safe if terrorists attempt to attack firefighters by pumping diesel exhaust into their fire stations.

$80,000 fire truck totaled in Davenport accident

Police are investigating a three-vehicle accident near the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds Sunday night that left one woman critically injured and "totaled" a city-owned fire truck.

Police said Rebecca S. Klemme, 20, Davenport, was listed in critical condition at Genesis after she reportedly was hit by a Davenport fire engine en route to a fire call near Interstate 280.
This is a switch. A few years ago it seemed as if a Davenport cop was totaling a squad car almost every week.

Let them eat cake

The $1800.00 send off wing-ding given Steve Etheridge is raising some eyebrows in Moline.

The bill for a going-away reception for former public-safety director Steve Etheridge is causing the city council to look at its policy Tuesday regarding such events.

The bill, pulled off the list of bills to be paid at last week's council meeting by Ald. Dorothy Armstrong, 7th Ward, was for $1,828.50.

The party was held Jan. 26 at Centre Station, Moline. The city was charged $7 a person for appetizers for 200 people, $1.90 a soft drink for 100 people, and $238.50 for gratuity.

Ms. Armstrong said she felt the bill was excessive, and she didn't believe that the city paid for going-away parties for everyone. "We had a cake for Dale Iman (the former city administrator) when he left," she said.

Well... maybe they were just really happy to see him go?

Public representitives routinely spend sums far in excess of this for dinners and fundraisers, but it's from their own campaign funds, not coming out of a city's cash-strapped coffers. For instance, Denny Jacobs dropped $9,401.05 at the same place for an August 25th fundraiser last year.

Topinka hands out millions to tech businesses

Further subsidizing certain companies in the state, Illinois treasurer Judy Baar Topinka was in the Quad Cities as part of her "'Technology Express', a three-day, 10-city tour throughout Illinois to explain how the Technology Development Fund can help create jobs and investment opportunities."

Three Illinois companies will receive a total of $7.5 million from the state's $50 million Technology Development Fund. The investments could bring new technology jobs and stabilize the state's economy, she told a group Monday in Moline.

Beecken Petty O'Keefe and Co., an equity firm specializing in companies working in health care, and M.K. Capital, a Skokie, Ill., group investing in technology markets will receive $3 million each from the fund. IllinoisVENTURES, which helps fund numerous startup companies, will receive $1.5 million.
No mention was made of how many millions would be made available to the all-important blogger component of the state's future tech growth.

Welvaert, O'Brien face off at Chamber event

Moline Alds. Don Welvaert, At-Large, and Pat O'Brien, 2nd Ward, faced off at a town hall meeting Monday at the Moline High School auditorium, an event sponsored by the Illinois Quad City Chamber of Commerce.

When asked what would he do as mayor to encourage development of the WIU campus in Moline, Mr. O'Brien referred to a recent trip to Washington, D.C., by more than 80 community leaders. The purpose of the trip was to lobby for Quad-Citie priorities, one of which was WIU.

Mr. O'Brien, who did not go on the trip, said he didn't think he needed to go because he already works closely, and communicates often, with area state and federal legislative leaders.

"I would do anything possible to get them here," said Mr. Welvaert. He did go on the trip to Washington D.C. "These trips are important and we need to keep up the dialogue with Springfield, with Washington, and with local community leaders."

Heiland's motion to dismiss recount denied

A Rock Island County judge Monday denied a request made by attorneys for Helen Heiland, East Moline's incumbent 1st Ward alderman, to dismiss challenger Connie Corcoran Wilson's petition seeking a full recount of the Feb. 22 primary results.

Peter Church and John Callas, of McCarthy, Callas, Fuhr & Ellison, Rock Island, argued that vote totals listed in Ms. Wilson's petition are not valid because they aren't the official results of the election.

Verdick steps down as East Moline city administrator

After 31 years of service to East Moline, 14 in the public service department, and 17 as East Moline's first and only city administrator, Steve Verdick announces he will retire in late June.

Your Township Government at work

News errupted at a recent South Moline Township board meeting. It seems that there was a meeting announced for the purpose of discussing the township's budget, but Republican supervisor candidate Robert Schultz spoke out against holding the meeting, citing the fact that the announcement had been run illegally. Apparently the announcement ran in the paper Feb. 24th, which was short of the required 30 day notice period. (the story doesn't report how short). And as if that wasn't bad enough, he pointed out that the notice stated that the meeting was being called by Don "Whitey" Verstraete, who is no longer with us.

Mr. Shultz said that the meeting should not be held as scheduled due to those egregious illegalities, and also that he didn't want the budget decided until after the election.

Verstraete's widow, Rose Verstraete, who was appointed supervisor following her husband's death, agreed and postponed discussion of the budget. Fingers are pointing at the Dispatch/Argus for the errors.

See. Township government IS important. -cough-

The Dispatch/Argus says that it was the paper's fault that this meeting notice was printed under the deceased former supervisor's name.

March 21, 2005

The Illinois Channel

The Illinois Channel, the C-span-esque public interest channel is running this week, among other interesting things, an interview with Capitol Fax blogger and reporter Rich Miller.

I've contacted them to find out what would be the most effective way to bring the channel to the Rock Island county area and will report any results. It would be a very interesting service and The Dope hopes it comes to the area sooner rather than later.

To see examples of their programming and for more info, visit their website.

One man's terrorist....

It was announced today that UN Secretary General Kofe Annan is calling for passage of a package of reforms at the UN. Increasingly pressured by the right in the U.S. and plagued with scandals in the Oil for Food program designed to provide relief to Iraqi citizens who were dying by the thousands under sanctions from the U.S. and others.
One of the measures called for was to develop a definition of terrorism, which would be a first for the U.N.

This is an interesting question. As the saying goes, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. A simple definition would be the use of terror on a citizenry as a weapon to achieve goals, or the killing of random innocent people to achieve a goal.

What definition of terrorism could you come up with that wouldn't include methods and tactics that the U.S. has used repeatedly?

Iowa lege set to battle over state aid to businesses

"The Iowa Values Fund", the measure which provides state aid to businesses who say they'll create jobs is set to be argued soon. This debate pits two different visions of how such aid should be applied against each other.

Republicans feel that loan guarantees and tax credits should be given to businesses who say that they'll create jobs. Dems feel that this amounts to straight business welfare, noting that in almost all cases, the jobs would have been created with or without large handouts from the state and feel that such aid should be limited to those companies which will add jobs that increase the state's average hourly wage.

This is an issue that deserves a close look, especially in light of the often stunning hypocrisy from business leaders on the right who rail against welfare for individuals and feel such programs should be cut to the bone or totally eliminated, and begrudge even the very low taxe rate (compared to other developed countries) they now enjoy, yet line up enthusiastically to accept millions of public tax dollars in what amounts to corporate welfare.

These same people are the first to extol with almost religious fervor their belief in the supremacy of a strict market economy, yet are indignant if they don't receive subsidies from the public. Apparently it's sink or swim when it comes to others, but they're more than willing to embrace an uneven playing field if it serves their purposes.

This problem has been around and won't go away anytime soon. The fact remains that large businesses and corporations have long ago realized that they have the ability to in essense blackmail local and state goverments into giving them large subsidies from public funds.
The most well-known of these situations is when a major league team owner demands a new stadium be built or he'll move the team to another town. This puts several cities in the unenviable position of bidding to see who can give away the most to this business owner, who is only too happy to reap the benefits.

Anyone see any possible solution for this dilema? Businesses have a perfect right to locate where they feel they can maximize their profits, but is there any way to prevent the wide-spread practice where businesses have come to expect government handouts everytime they have need of capital and using government and quasi-governmental agencies as bankers to give them unbelievably favorable terms which they'd never find in the open market?

Packaging Technologies receives $200,000 from government for expansion

Davenport's Packaging Techologies will receive a $200,000 grant from the Community Economic Block Grant program and says it will add 20 new jobs in engineering and production positions meaning the state is paying them $10,000 per job.

The money will be used to train new workers, upgrade the computer system and acquire additional equipment. The jobs will pay from $14 to $22 an hour.

Packaging Technologies was founded in 1952 in Davenport. KartridgePak bought the company in 1962, after which BWI bought KartridgPak in 1988. The company was sold in 1999 to IWKA, of Germany.

The expansion project involved the state of Iowa, the city of Davenport, Eastern Iowa College District, DavenportOne and the Quad City Development Group.

R.I. County board initiates pay raises

Rock Island county board members OKed raising salaries from $4000 to $5000 last year, with half of members to receive the raise beginning in December and the other half in 2006.

This was done in tandem with clarifying and restricting per diem payments to members, which were subject to abuse.

Per diems aren't eliminated with the salary increase, but what work is eligible for a per diem is now better defined, county board chairman Jim Bohnsack said.

That per diem system was pretty hard to grasp, with payments for anything from attendance at bid lettings, legislative breakfasts, picnics, retreats, meetings with the board chairman, and for conducting monthly inspections of county buildings and monthly payroll audits.

John Brandmeyer, D-Rock Island, collected $4,800 in fiscal year 2003-2004, the most of any county board member. Four board members didn't submit any per diem requests. Mr. Ellis, D-Rock Island, Don Jacobs, D-East Moline, and Wanda Sweat, D-Moline, each submitted one per diem request.

If board members submit per diem requests for all 764 meetings in fiscal year 2004-2005 -- a worst-case scenario -- the county would pay $45,840.

Man arrested after threatening e-mail

Here's the story referred to at Capitol Fax, that details the case of a man who sent threatening e-mails to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
Darryl W. Hanson, 50, allegedly sent an e-mail to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on March 2, which threatened in part to "call in help from militia, media, skin heads and anybody else who is willing to kill bent officials. It is time for war."

After Hanson's arrest, a search warrant was issued for his residence in the 100 block of Wallace Street, Walnut. The search uncovered 11 guns, including two shotguns, eight handguns and two pellet guns with ammunition for each, as well as more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition for an automatic assault weapon.

March 20, 2005

Despite perceptions, youth vote a powerful resource

Ed Tibbetts of the Quad City Times writes on something The Dope has long maintained, that those fixated on attracting more right leaning voters are foolish to focus exclusively on this tactic at the expense of ignoring or dismissing other demographics such as the huge untapped youth vote.
In the wake of the 2004 election, where the efforts of mostly Democratic organizations to bring out the youth vote were highly visible, pundits and the press were quick to dismiss the efforts as a failure. Tibbetts exposes the falacy of this notion.
New figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office show how wrong that view is.

Young people did vote last fall. In Iowa, half the new votes came from people under 34, a third from people between 18 and 24.

This isn’t just a history lesson. It has real implications for future elections.

In Iowa, the 18-to-34 age population represents the biggest untapped trove of voters of any other age group —330,000 people just waiting to be touched.

The importance of attracting the votes of millions of young people should be at least as important as trying to out-Republican Republicans in hopes of picking up a few wobbly voters in the middle. Such tactic only take the soul out of the party and demoralize the base, not to mention giving pleasure to those on the right as they see their dominance expand and what little resistance there is further decrease.

After all, to paraphrase the title of a Jim Hightower book, There's nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead animals.

Two years later

It was the second anniversary of Little Lord Bush's excellent adventure in Iraq yesterday.
Here are a few sterile stats to put things in perspective. Each number represents a family in grief and shock who's lives are changed forever.

Number of people killed by the coordinated attacks of 9-11: 2,976
Number of U.S. servicemen and women killed since invasion of Iraq: 1,520
Mumber of U.S. servicemen and women wounded an unable to return to duty: 5,871
Number of U.S. servicemen and women killed since Bush issued challenge to "Bring them on.": 1,313
Number of U.S. servicemen and women killed since Bush announced "Mission Accomplished": 1,381
Number of U.S. servicemen and women killed since capture of Sadaam Hussein: 1,149
Number of U.S. servicemen and women killed from Illinois: 68
Number of U.S. servicemen and women killed from Iowa: 21
Total number of coalition servicemen and women killed in Iraq: 1,696
Partial number of contractors killed in Iraq: 212
Number of Iraqi men, women, and children killed: countless thousands
Number of U.S. servicemen and women who suffer or will suffer from serious psychological disorders due to their service: untold thousands
Number of U.S. servicemen and women killed in Afghanistan: 158

Total cost of accomplishing these stats: $157 billion, 276 million dollars, and growing.
Cost of the war to Illinois alone: $8 billion, 380 million dollars and growing

And now, all of those he-men on the right between the ages of 35 and 40 who have been both rah-rahing the war and denigrating those who are opposed as some sort of girly-men can now finally put their butts where their mouths are.
Yesterday, defense officials worried about recruiting announced that they will raise the age limit, from 34 to 40, for enlistment in the Army Guard and Reserve. The Pentagon is spending billions to repair and replace battle-worn equipment and buy extra armor, radios, weapons and other gear.
This might also serve to increase the number of soldiers and sailors belonging to the married with children demographic.
That's one thing that is very disturbing about this "war". Not only is it profound to see the names and faces of the dead on a daily basis, but it's even more so when so many of them are way over what traditionally has been miltary age. Many in their 30's or on through their 40's. Just hometown guys, insurance salesman, with a wife and kids, who never in their worst nightmares imagined they'd be sent to their deaths in some God-forsaken hell-hole, and all for what?

Shiavo case highlights Republican disingenousness

Ed Kilgore of New Donkey, substitute blogging for Joshua Micah Marshall at Talking Points Memo, writes a good piece highlighting how cynically the right is using the Shiavo tragedy for their own purposes. Which wouldn't be bad if that was all they were doing. But the fact remains that they are very selective about the "culture of life" they bray about.
But this time, I suspect the transparent cynicism of the we're-absolutists-on-life-if-it's-in-the-news posture of the GOP may backfire. It is very hard to pose as a pro-family, pro-states-rights, anti-Washington political party when you call Congress into an "emergency session" to interfere with the laws of Florida and the prerogatives of one poor husband trying to respect his wife's wishes. If, as we are told, George W. Bush is about to lend his authority and signature to this disgraceful exhibit of overweening government power, the persistant media idea that he's just a genial well-meaning man who happens to preside over a party of loony extremists and corrupt hacks needs to die a natural death.

March 19, 2005

Personal note...

The person who sent the e-mail in question has recanted and apologized. The Dope appreciates this and is glad they have realized that they were in error and the injustice they may have caused had they followed through with their threat against an innocent person. (Not to mention the fact that they'd look like a total fool if they had.) I'd also like to clarify that this was not a threat to do physical harm of any kind.

In fairness I should mention that they denied making any threat. But the fact remains that they did, though not against The Dope, but against the person they mistakenly believed puts up this site.

It was unfortunate and hopefully will not happen again.

But it reveals just how crazy it makes some people to not have someone to pin this site on. They truly lose their ability to think rationally and do and say incredibly rash and thoughtless things, to say the least. This has been a real relevation to The Dope, and it's not that pretty at all.

March 18, 2005

Hynes stem cell proposal to be put to referendum

Two days of legislative debate ended Thursday with a victory for proponents of stem cell research.
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed legislation to place a referendum on the November 2006 ballot asking voters to support stem cell research in Illinois.
Approval would permit the state to sell $1 billion worth of bonds to create the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute, which would award stem cell research grants to Illinois universities and institutions over a 10-year period.
"We need to provide researchers the tools and capabilities to conduct their research within an ethical and moral framework in order to provide cures for many diseases and conditions," said state Comptroller Dan Hynes, who drafted the legislation, Senate Bill 2100

> MORE <

So far...

After being in existance for a bit over a month, I'm pleased to anounce that, despite the grumbing from anonymites, The Inside Dope is doing quite well. Traffic to the site has steadily increased and is now pushing an average of 200 individual visitors daily. Thanks to all.

Judging from the snarky comments from some, apparently they've made an assumption that this blog was run by someone who worked at the statehouse or something. They seem to expect me to know everything before it happens, as if I'm the nerve center of Illinois government.

I don't make any money here, I'm not a reporter, I don't have a staff, and I can't see every story from every source on every subject. I've never held this blog out as anything other than what it states in the header and in the F.A.Q., so why they make this assumption, I'm not sure. I'm sorry I don't meet their expectations, but thankfully, there are hundreds more that apparently find the site to be of interest.

As always, I encourage e-mail on how you feel the site could be improved or what you'd like to see here, as well as what you enjoy.

Click here
to send your suggestions and ideas

Blago makes long overdue appointments to gaming board

Someone must have finally lit a fire under Blagojevich.
Casino Rock Island officials got a St. Patrick's Day gift when Gov. Rod Blagojevich nominated a new Illinois Gaming Board, rejuvenating a panel that didn't have enough members to do business.

The board's inability to act has left millions of dollars in construction on hold. The Casino Rock Island, as well as casinos in East St. Louis, and Metropolis, has been waiting to begin expansion projects. A controversial plan to build a casino in Rosemont is on hold, and casino-license renewals also have been delayed.

The board didn't have enough members to take a legal vote for seven months because resignations left the board with just two members. The board needs at least three members to take a vote.

Jumer's officials welcomed the news.

Wave goodbye

From the outsourcing of America files:
Kone Oyj, the world's biggest maker of escalators, said it will cut 450 jobs and close a plant in Germany as it shifts production to China to reduce costs and target expanding markets in Asia.

It also said it will cut 30 jobs in the United States as it moves elevator door manufacture and some engineering works to India and to the Czech Republic.

Blogger causing problems yet again

As in most things, it appears I got in on Blogger just before it went south.
It's been running incredibly slow and has made posting items and comments a trying chore. I appologize to everyone for this, but it is beyond my control.
I'm sincerely hoping that this is a temporary problem, but it appears that it seems to happen fairly often.
Please bear with it as it may take some time to post comments.
The only alternative is to go with a pay service which charges by the month. Perhaps if donations are steady enough, I can go that route and avoid these slow-downs.
But in the meantime, keep checking back. Things will improve with any luck. Until then I'll continue to try to post items, though there may not be as many of them.
This is very frustrating, to say the least, but unfortunately, short of moving the entire thing to another service, nothing can be done.
Hang in there.

Note: Now Blogger seems to be working fine. But for how long....?

From the idiotic proposals file

Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, is seeking to introduce a measure which would place limits on the weight of textbooks.

Senate Bill 1465's sponsor, Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, had the Senate Education Committee hear his bill Thursday. The committee placed the bill on the calendar for a second reading April 6. The amendment to the school code would put a weight limit on textbooks used in Illinois' elementary and secondary schools.

Sen. Trotter is concerned over the weight students carry and what heavy books and backpacks are doing to them physically.

School officials say that this would require text publishers to publish special editions just for Illinois, at an enormous cost.

Boy, I hate it when the "get government out of our lives" people appear to be right, but this would seem to be one of them. Nice to see sober legislators are dilligently addressing the searing problems of the day.

Lawmakers sworn to uphold constitution, vote for law they believe is unconstitutional

The Illinois house has passed a bill banning the sales of violent or sexually explicit video games to teens.

Even some lawmakers who believe it is unconstitutional ended up voting for the measure, which passed the House 91-19.

"There is a game out there that makes you the assassin for JFK. There is a game out there that makes you the rapist. There is a game out there that makes you the person who decapitates somebody," Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, said.

He said he is so appalled by the situation that he voted for the measure, even though as a lawyer he believes it is unconstitutional. He said the bill's definitions of "violent" and "sexually explicit" are so vague that retailers will have difficulty discerning what can be sold legally to teens.

So much for their oath to uphold the constitution. Guess they had their fingers crossed when they took the oath?

More worthless efforts to solve problems by placing the blame where it least belongs and attempting to accomplish the un-accomplishable. Well, if it makes them feel better, maybe it's worth the hundreds of thousands it will cost? This will have about as much effect as keeping kids out of "R" rated movies currently does. Thousands of kids will get around the lightly enforced measure and see the movie at the theatre, and if not, they'll just watch them at home. In much the same way, kids will find some way to view these games, whether it's by getting an older teen to buy them for them, or going to someone's house that has one, or some other means.

This measure accomplishes next to nothing but giving some unimaginative legislators some copy for their next campaign. When you can scan the TV channels at any given time and 2/3rds of them are showing some sort of violent programming, especially on the conservative's favorite, FOX, pointing the finger at video games is missing the mark.