December 30, 2005

Sad days in Chicago

First the news that Marshall Field's is being sold to Macy's, and now, while people are trying to come to grips with the fact that that name so synonymous with Chicago will be no longer, it's announced that after 107 years in business at State Street and Adams, Chicago's venerable Berghoff Restaurant will close at the end of February.

I loved the place. This is truly a loss. Devotees of the restaurant are in shock.

Among the things the Berghoff was noted for were it's stand-up bar and their "men's grill" a men only bar which remained that way until 1969, and the fact that they hold liquor license #1 in the city of Chicago, being the first place to receive one after prohibition.

In the aftermath of the Chicago Democratic Convention, the trial of the Chicago 7 was held at the Federal Court building near Berghoff's. Both the prosecution and the defendants would eat lunch there, making for quite the media attraction until the management gave them each a spot away from prying cameras.

Another unique aspect of the place was that many of the male waiters have worked there for many decades. (The service is refined and elegant, at least in my experience.) The maitre'd has worked there for over 50 years!

The Trib has an account here and a nice tribute piece from a resident of Maquoketa, of all places, here.

Many reader's comments at the Trib are touching, as many tell of it being a family tradition going back decades and spanning generations to go to Chicago during the holiday season, see the windows and shop at Marshall Field's, and have dinner at the Berghoff. Now they'll both be gone, at least in name.

There are accounts of going to the Berghoff with their grandfathers, elderly women tell of remembering their fathers taking them there as young girls, people who have gotten engaged there, or held their wedding dinners there. People now moved away to far-flung spots around the world who always go straight to the Berghoff whenever they make it back to Chicago. So much history. So sad to see it go.

Any one else with memories of this Chicago landmark?

Any truth to Benson's charge against Johnston? Maybe.

In this post from a few days ago, I cited Bernie Schoenburg's column in the State Journal-Register which reported that challenger for 17th District Democractic State Central Committeeman Tom Benson had suggested that "most of the money raised by [current Committeeman Don] Johnston's 17th District organization is spent on JV Consulting, Johnston’s own direct-mail and advertising business."

The Moline Democratic Central Committee was burning the midnight oil and filed an ammended Semi-annual report at 2:35 AM this morning (a mere 4 hours ago as I write this) which can be viewed here.

The ammended report differs from the original only in that it no longer reports $225 going to Connie Mohr-Wright and $100 to JoAnne Lambrecht-Peck, which were perhaps improperly reported as expenditures for some reason.

Peeking at their 6 reported expenditures in the ammended report totalling $2,760.75, we find 4 of them went to JV (Johnston Veronda) Consulting for a total of $1,723.75 or 62.4% of their expenditures. (the remaining two went to the post office, $37 for stamps and $1000 for "mailing", whatever that is.)

I guess that qualifies as "most" of their money going to PV Consulting, at least in the case of the Moline Central Committee.

It's official

I'm a certified C-Span junkie.

How do I know?

I just noticed that there's a faint ghost image of the C-Span logo burned into my television tube in the lower right hand corner.

Egads! I'm officially a geek.

Ballot order

Speaking of geeks.... if ballot order tickles your pickle, you can go here to download a list of all filed candidates. Once the link opens, look to the second from the bottom in the list of links and click on "printable list of all active candidates" and it will open the document in .pdf form. A direct link to the file wouldn't work.

If you're wonky enough to want to check this out, you probably already know this, but the ballot order is determined first by the order filed, and in the event they filed at the same time (which 90% do, first thing in the morning on the first day to file) then it's determined by a lottery.

Rorschach test

What is it?

December 29, 2005

Tinsman to run for another term

Maggie Tinsman, Bettendorf, who has served in the Iowa Senate for 17 years, announced her intention to run for yet another term.
Tinsman, a moderate Republican, is expecting a primary challenge this year, though there has been no announcement yet.

Four years ago, activist Niky Bowles ran against her, and in 1998 businessman Phil Allen ran a spirited challenge that roused social conservatives. Tinsman won both primaries and she said Tuesday that she is up to a 2006 primary race, too.

"I’m used to primary challenges. I’ve had them most of my life," she said.

Scott County Republican Party Chairman Susan Frazer said a person expressed an interest to her last summer in mounting a challenge, and since then she has heard indirectly that he would run. That person could not be reached for comment Tuesday by the Quad-City Times.

Taking questions from reporters, Tinsman said she continues to oppose the death penalty, and would oppose a proposal to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage. She noted the state already puts convicted murders in prison for life and that state law defines marriage as a union between men and women, which she said she supports. Some Republicans have said they intend to bring up those issues in the coming legislative session, which could make them fodder for a primary campaign.

Before going to the state legislature, Tinsman served on the Scott County Board of Supervisors for 11 years, and also was its chairman. She made an unsuccessful bid for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate in 1996.
Who is the as-yet-unnamed challenger? Anyone have an idea?

Not bad work if you can get out of it

Joel Brunsvold, who has overseen the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, or DNR, during a time of budget cuts and layoffs, will retire Saturday.
The Milan resident will leave state government with a taxpayer-paid pension worth an estimated $96,200 per year based on his 23-year tenure as a lawmaker and agency director.

"He’s looking forward to spending more time with his family," said DNR spokesman Chris McCloud.

Prior to joining the Blagojevich administration, Brunsvold, a Democrat, represented the Quad-City area in the Illinois House for two decades.

The governor has appointed Brunsvold aide Sam Flood as interim director until a replacement is found. Flood, who makes $96,000 a year, is not in the running to become the next director.
Not a bad parting gift for nearly a quarter century of politicking. Hope he's able to make ends meet.

I'm sure all the retired factory workers he represented who have had their pensions pulled out from under them wish him well.

December 28, 2005

A matter of insignificance

From the Bernie Schoenburg column in the State Journal-Register: (emphasis mine)
Meanwhile, in the 17th Congressional District, incumbent DON JOHNSTON of Moline, who defeated Rock Island County Democratic Chairman JOHN GIANULIS for the seat back in 1998, said he thinks his opponent, TOM BENSON, was "put up to it."

"I’m sure John's still bitter about losing back in '98," Johnston said.

Benson, who lives in Rock Island and works for the state in Springfield, said he's been a friend of Gianulis since childhood, but the decision to run was his own. He also said that most of the money raised by Johnston's 17th District organization is spent on JV Consulting, Johnston’s own direct-mail and advertising business.

"I wouldn’t vote for Don Johnston," said Gianulis, who is director of personnel for the governor’s office. He said he didn’t put up Benson to run, but he will vote for him, and expects he will provide the party "much better than what we've been getting from Don Johnston."

"Who cares who is state central committeeman?" added Gianulis. "The race itself is very insignificant."

He said his main concern is to re-elect Blagojevich.

Johnston said he was a friend of Benson's parents and is disappointed by the challenge. JV gets some of the money his political fund spends, but not most of it, and he said he charges smaller Democratic organizations only postage.

He also said his company has made more than 500,000 automated phone calls for county organizations, most at no charge.

"In my view, John Gianulis is insignificant," Johnston said.

December 27, 2005

Top Stories of 2005

The Quad City Times is running an online poll asking readers what they think was the top story of 2005 from among a list of 15.

Want to make a choice? Go here.

In a similar (well, identical) vein, what do you think was the most important or biggest story covered here on The Inside Dope since it's launch in mid February?

Some possibilities are:

-- Boland running, not running, running, not running, maybe running, not running, maybe running, maybe not, not running for trasurer/state senator, and the ripple effects on those eyeing his seat.

-- House speaker Mike Madigan coming to town to sit all Dem candidates down and issue an edict telling them who was going to do what, and essentially commanding that they all stay put, make nice, and make sure they win.

-- Senator Mike Jacobs. His frenetic effort to inject himself into every possible story or public event. The hundreds of bizzare comments here and on other blogs from either the senator himself or someone amazingly like him (and IF it wasn't, not a peep from Sen. Jacobs to disavow any of it.) His several unfortunate comments in the press, from his "Rosa Parks" moment to callously suggesting that property owners in the Barstow area should have expected a huge and noxious business to locate near them. And his proposal to fight Asian Carp by giving nearly a million dollars to a business in his district.

-- Essentially unknown Paul Rumler emerging to challenge Jacobs.

-- The Triumph hog slaughtering mega-plant proposal. The secrecy and lies by East Moline Mayor John Thodos and often conflicting public statements by both Thodos and Jacobs regarding the project.

Their keeping the entire plan secret for almost a year, the blatant attempt to box out opposition by rushing through approval after finally springing it on the public.

How the entire process highlighted in a stark way how politicians and business interests make decisions to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to benefit these same business interests behind the backs of the very people who's money they're taking.

And how blatantly these same politicians were active and willing participants in the effort to side-step caution, research, and public scrutiny, and rush the process, showing clearly that they put the interests of large companies and big money ahead of the people they represent. And though they supported the plant from the beginning, they've been unable to show any evidence at all that they'd done any research or investigation into the many serious issues involved.

-- any other issue, event, or story you feel was the "Story of the Year".

What's your pick for "Story of the Year"?

December 26, 2005

By narrow measures, QC economy shows "great progress"

While the headline is certainly debateable, the Dispatch/Argus chose to go with the postitive spin on the local economy in 2005. Commendable, I suppose, but they have to strain to do it.

They quote a high ranking bank exec and a huge real estate magnate as saying things are looking good. I'm sure they are... for them.

Here are the list of "positives" cited in the Dispatch. Notable is that they almost all seem to regard as positives the fact that things weren't absolutely horrible. Kind of a strained definition of positive.
The growth he's seen this past year encompasses new construction in commercial and residential real estate and an expectation of business growing jobs, he said. Employment in large and small business also is starting to stabilize, he said.
More real estate built and the "expectation" of jobs. Wow. And employment is "starting to stabilize". Positives, but only in the sense that things aren't going down the tubes.
He's also noticed a more positive spirit among Quad-Cities leaders. That's new and gives him hope. The Quad-Cities economy is "significantly better than one year ago and unbelievably better than two years ago," he said.

The year was positive on many fronts.

Moline-based Deere & Co. ended its 2005 fiscal year with record earnings of $1.447 billion on a 10 percent revenue gain. Deere also solidified its investment in wind energy.
Reports were that Deere lost a huge amount of revenue and profits, but it wasn't as bad as expected. Again, an odd positive.
There were no major factory closings in the Quad-Cities.
Again, considering "at least it wasn't disasterous" to be a positive.
Many smaller businesses including Rock Island's Hill and Valley, the former Nancy's Pies, changed ownership but retained their work forces. Deere sold its health-care company and building to Minneapolis-based UnitedHealthcare, which promised to retain the work force and Quad-Cities operation. The deal will close next spring.
Well, at least not many jobs were lost.
The unemployment rate in the Davenport-Moline-Rock Island metropolitan area steadily declined from a monthly high of 6.8 percent last January to 4.6 percent in November, the latest data available.
That's a solid positive. At least it shows real movement in the right direction. Of course, unemployment stats have been shown to be pretty unreliable in that it only counts those out of work who are actively seeking work. The fact remains that there are many out there who have given up and are no longer in the system looking for work, or who have simply moved out of the area.
It was another banner year for the local housing market, said Pryce Boeye, retiring president of Mel Foster Co. Real Estate Division. Baby boomers nearing retirement age are driving a hot condominium market, while the inventory of pre-owned homes is starting to ease off. Shortages in certain housing inventory drove prices upward for awhile, creating a sellers market, but that situation is starting to ease, he said.
Good news for realtors and large developers. Retirees that escaped the downturn are spending their money.
New home construction in the Illinois Quad-Cities is on the verge of an explosion once the new West Rock River Bridge opens next year, he said.
Again, if you're a big player, whoo hoo!
Quad-Cities retailers were pleased with sales in 2005, said Rick Baker of the Illinois Quad City Chamber of Commerce. The chamber ended its fiscal year Aug. 31 with the highest membership in chamber history with 1,050 members.
Wow. Now there's some spin! A blanket statement that "retailers were pleased" means not much. And the only positive he can dredge up, and don't forget, the guy is a professional business cheerleader, is that membership in the Chamber of Commerce is up. Does that mean anything as far as the economy of the area goes? I'm not sure it does, but oh well.
The chamber also forged a partnership with Renew, Redeem and Dari, known as the Illinois Quad City Growth Alliance, to channel the communities' economic development efforts in one direction, Mr. Baker said. The Young Professionals Network (YPN) was successful in 2005 and continues to grow, Mr. Baker said.
Again, good for the chamber, next to meaningless for the economy in real terms.
The chamber also launched its unified strategic development plan, Blueprint 2010, and started to impliment elements that it could afford, Mr. Baker said.
Whatever that means.
Triumph Foods of St. Joseph, Mo. announced plans to build a pork processing plant in East Moline. Local job trainers say the 1,000 jobs the pork processor promised will create 300 accounting, computer, and skilled salaried office jobs and boost wages for the area's other meatpackers.
Think what you will about this.
The Quad Cities Chapter of SCORE of retired business people and other small business developers counseled a growing number of entrepreneurs and business wannabes laid off last year from the East Moline Case plant and Eagle Foods. Although a number of start-up businesses will not survive five years, many others will.
Again, positive? I suppose. A ton of people are out of work and casting about for some sort of business idea which will likely fail. I guess that's good.

They then speak to the vice president of the Quad City Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO and things get down to reality.
The public needs to study the local economy in a global context to determine what has happened to the great-paying jobs in the Quad-Cities and other communities, said Dino Leone, Illinois vice president of the Quad City Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

What impact have free trade agreements, federal income tax breaks for the rich and corporate giveaways had on dividing communities, destroying small businesses and reducing local industry, he asked. He called for opening the Thomson prison and the need for a living wage, which would benefit the local economy.

Here are some other sobering thoughts about 2005:

-- Interest rates ticked upward, slowing fourth-quarter QC housing sales.

-- The Rock Island Arsenal will lose 1,182 jobs in a base-closing, military cost-cutting process. The impact could have been worse if the entire Arsenal had been shut down. Job-training services have started for affected employees.

-- Alcoa cut 80 salaried employees last March to bring operating costs at the Riverdale plant in line with competition.

-- Bankrupties increased in mid-October just before a change in federal bankruptcy laws.

-- Gasoline prices at Quad-Cities pumps briefly topped $3 a gallon this year. -

-- There were price hikes and shortages of bottled water, chlorine and certain building supplies after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

-- Quad-Citians are experiencing skyrocketing heating bills this winter.

Mr. Leone believes more people are speaking out and fighting for resolutions to the inequities in their wages and benefits. They will demand solutions to these problems and force leadership to make real changes, he said.

"The tide is starting to turn as people feel the cause and effects in their pockets and at the dinner table."

December 24, 2005

...candy canes and colored lights aglow...

Know where any awesome Christmas decorations are? Any homes in your neighborhood or that you've noticed that are particularly spectacular?

There's a few houses in Moline near 12th Ave. and 12th Street that are impressive, as is a spruce that looks to be at least 80 ft tall along East Moline's Kennedy Drive around 38th Avenue and the homeowner has somehow managed to cover the entire tree, top to bottom, in cool blue lights. I have no idea how they did it, unless they had access to a very tall bucket truck.

I'm sure there's others around. If these people are going to the huge expense and trouble to really do it up, people should at least know about it so they can go see them.

Let us know about them here.

December 23, 2005

New "East Pointe" bus hub opens in East Moline

Dispatch/Argus photo by Gary Krambeck

A $1.8 million, 4,500-square-foot bus station with high-tech amenities and a training/conference room for businesses and organizations opened in East Moline Wednesday.
Officials hope the state-of-the-art station will be a catalyst for surrounding economic growth, said Jennifer Garrity-Moody, MetroLink public relations and marketing director.

Passengers can start boarding buses at East Pointe at 6 a.m. today, MetroLink general manager Jeff Nelson said, adding that MetroLink expects 1,000 passengers a day to ride through East Moline.

U.S. Rep. Lane Evans, D-Rock Island, who did not attend Wednesday's ceremony, helped get a federal grant to pay for most of the cost.

"Let's hope East Pointe gives the same kind of spark for East Moline as Centre Station did for Moline," state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, said.

"This is a beautiful facility," Mayor John Thodos said. "You almost think you're at the airport."

In the station's indoor waiting area, people can look at a computerized screen on a wall to see what time buses depart. MetroLink uses a technology system called Innovations in Transportation to track buses via satellite.

MetroLink built the facility on the former John Deere Malleable Works and Fairbanks & Morris property in East Moline's Great River Industrial Park. Anchor Lumber and East Moline Glass Co. are building near the bus station.

Signs aren't cheap

It took Davenport aldermen just 16 minutes at a special meeting Thursday to pass most of the things that they could not get approved at a regular meeting the night before.

And they added an item that will spend $659,280 for the construction of two decorative gateways into the city.

The contract for the decorative gateways at West 2nd and Gaines streets and at 55th Street and Welcome Way, drew the most concern Thursday. The low bid by Treiber Construction of Davenport was $212,970 over the city estimate of the cost of the projects “and $104,000 over our funding resources for this project,” Greg Albansoder, a city project manager, said in a memo.

City Administrator Craig Malin said 53 percent of the cost of the gateways will come from grants. The amount over existing resources will be taken from a fee that was to be paid to the consultant the city originally planned to hire for another project.

“We believe it is a reasonable cost for the work to be done,” Malin said of the contract.

Yikes, another Davenport Alderman suspected of DUI

Retired Davenport detective and recently elected Alderman Ron Van Fossen is facing suspicion that he was driving while drunk when he drove around railroad crossing gates and was hit by a slow-moving train. He pledges full cooperation.
Alderman Bob McGivern was found not long ago with a cup of whiskey in his car while he was parked at a restaurant drive-up window. (How that happened, I've no idea) He's pleaded not guilty and is awaiting a court hearing. He's lost his license but can drive on a permit allowing him to drive to and from work.

HO HO HO... come and sit on my lap...

What do YOU (yes, I'm talking to you) want for Christmas this year?

What's on your list. What are you hoping for? Have you been good all year?

How much, if any, of your shopping did you do on-line this year?

All I want is world peace, all the stuff back that I can't find or lost (that hat, the spare key, all those socks, my youth, etc), a new computer, a giant prime beef tenderloin roast, and a couple miracles.

And ... do you believe in Santa Claus?

December 21, 2005

A novel idea, Code of Fair Campaign Practices

Via a post from David at Illinoize, I notice that the Illinois legislature actually took the time to draw up a Code of Fair Campaign Practices, in the hopes that candidates would sign on and not act like politicians tend to act, one might suppose.

The post reveals that a record number of candidates have pledged to honor the code this year, which is a good sign.

I must admit that while I read the Code, I had a great laugh thinking of a certain local legislator and how he (or his supporter) have conducted themselves just on blogs alone.

Here's the Code.

1. I will conduct my campaign openly and publicly, and limit attacks on my opponent to legitimate challenges to his record.

2. I will not use or permit the use of character defamation, whispering campaigns, libel, slander, or scurrilous attacks on any candidate or his personal or family life.

3. I will not use or permit any appeal to negative prejudice based on race, sex, sexual orientation, religion or national origin.

4. I will not use campaign material of any sort that misrepresents, distorts, or otherwise falsifies the facts, nor will I use malicious or unfounded accusations that aim at creating or exploiting doubts, without justification, as to the personal integrity or patriotism of my opposition.

5. I will not undertake or condone any dishonest or unethical practice that tends to corrupt or undermine our American system of free elections or that hampers or prevents the full and free expression of the will of the voters.

6. I will defend and uphold the right of every qualified American voter to full and equal participation in the electoral process.

7. I will immediately and publicly repudiate methods and tactics that may come from others that I have pledged not to use or condone. I shall take firm action against any subordinate who violates any provision of this Code or the laws governing elections.

So... would it come as any shock to learn that out of Jacobs, Verschoore, Boland, and Rumler, the ONLY Democratic candidate or incumbent who has not seen fit to agree to abide by the Code of Fair Campaign Practices is... our Senator Jacobs?

It's a good thing, seeing how, as we all have, the comments left here (and on other blogs) by either himself or his surrogate have done such a bang up job of violating most of the code. They seem to have a particular fondness for violating #2 and #4. Frankly, #3 and #6 are the only rules they've left unmolested so far.

(I use the word surrogates above as there has never been a single word from Sen. Jacobs disavowing or condemning any of the hundreds of often vicious and crude slurs, attacks, and smears left in his behalf here, nor to my knowledge on other blogs where such comments have appeared.)

Triumph plant still not sure thing until city, county, state show them the money.

Despite the vote to approve the Triumph Hog processing plant by the East Moline city council last night, the deal is still not a sure thing.

Amazingly, though sadly not surprisingly, Triumph wants every single government entity involved to dig deep and fork over the big bucks - essentially extracting bribes for them to locate here - either by allowing Triumph to pay no taxes for years, million dollar infrastructure improvements which benefit only Triumph, and "incentive payments", otherwise known as bribes or payoffs, from the state of Illinois.
If certain steps don't fall into place, Triumph Foods LLC still could pull out of its deal with East Moline and build a pork plant somewhere else.

  • The redevelopment agreement between the city and Triumph requires aldermen to approve and create a tax-increment finance district, encompassing the proposed plant site on Barstow Road, on or before Jan. 1, 2007.

    If aldermen don't authorize the creation of a TIF district, the project will not happen, Mayor John Thodos said Tuesday.

    In a TIF district, taxing bodies continue to collect existing tax revenue, but any new revenue created by the development goes into a fund to be used for public infrastructure or rebates to developers.

  • The project also would depend on the proposed site's inclusion in an enterprise zone. Moline, East Moline, Silvis, Milan and Rock Island County -- members of the zone -- each will need to approve including the site in order for developers to receive benefits. Once a site is included in the zone, developers are eligible for sales-tax exemptions on building materials or waived building-permit fees.

  • As mentioned in the redevelopment agreement, Rock Island County would need to commit to paying for widening Barstow Road. While county officials were privy to the agreement, the county board hasn't voted on the road project. [Said to cost at least $750,000. Final cost will most likely be much higher.]

  • The deal also hinges on the state of Illinois offering Triumph an incentive package, though the company's expectations are not outlined in the redevelopment agreement. If the state doesn't offer a package, or one acceptable to Triumph, the project could fall through, Mayor Thodos said.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is talking with Triumph, department spokesman Andrew Ross said Tuesday. Generally speaking, the state could offer financial incentives to any company for job training, infrastructure improvements and corporate income tax breaks, he said.
Another article in the Dispatch/Argus is titled "Aldermen: Research changed our minds details E.Moline aldermen's rationales for approving the plant. Not mentioned was how they have no idea, really, how much this is going to cost them, the school district, the county, or state. Apparently, that wasn't too big of a concern and wasn't part of their supposed "research".

One notable quote from Ald. Luis Moreno in the piece shows that he's no rube. He demands proof before making such serious decisions: (emphasis mine)
Last month, Ald. Luis Moreno, 3rd Ward, said he was against meat-processing plants in general, based on his experience as a former IBP employee recruiter and East Moline police officer. He said Tuesday he was worried Triumph would recruit workers from out of the area. But Triumph officials erased that worry, he said, by saying they expected to hire people from the Quad-Cities area.
If that's not rock solid, I don't know what is.

Hiring imported illegal and legal immigrants from the southwest and other regions to fill most of the plant's oh-so-wonderful jobs, which after all, are pointed to by all proponents as their primary reason for approving the deal, is most certainly a serious concern. And Ald. Moreno was correct and should be commended for wanting some rock solid assurances that this would not be the case. After all, Moreno should know how these companies operate, seeing as he was actually in a position which recruited workers for IBP.

And what assurance did he get? The company told him they "expected" to hire local people, and that was good enough for Moreno. (Like Triumph CEO Hoffman saying he "doesn't foresee" Triumph using anaerobic lagoons to store and treat waste -- another common source of packing-plant odor.)

It's good to know we have such no-nonsense representatives looking out for our welfare who will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of things and ensure we get a good deal in exchange for the multiple millions of dollars we're giving to this corporation.


Approve the plant. That's a valid opinion if you think the benefits outweigh the negatives. But there's precious little evidence that those responsible for making this momentous decision were even interested in doing some serious homework on the issues involved, and did so only superficially much too late in the game and only after opposition became known and they wanted to at least give the appearance of not blindly rubber stamping the project.

A couple alderman didn't even bother trying to pretend they'd done any research whatsoever, and are apparently untroubled by approving the project in near total ignorance, not knowing much of anything about the project other than it's a business and it hires people.

It's a wonder these politicians don't get motion sickness from rolling over so quickly.

The Baby Party

Digby via Atrios:
Kevin Drum has a whole bunch of good posts up today discussing the right wing reaction to the spying scandal. A more reprehensible group of moral and intellecutual cowards I have never seen.

There are the typical lies and obfuscations to which we've all become accustomed, of course, such as selectively citing passages of Supreme Court opinions that actually came to opposite conclusions and purposefully misconstruing Clinton and Carter's executive orders to imply that they had done the same thing. That's just par for the course.

But there are two things about this that do chap my hide and they are related. The first is that for 40 years --- and certainly for the last 25 since Reagan became president --- we have had to listen to endless blathering about how the Republicans want to "get the government out of your lives." "If someone says 'we're the government and we're here to help you' you should run." Rugged individualist Republicans, taking care of their own, not looking to the state to solve their problems like the betwetting girly men and manly girls on the left.

9/11 changed everything. Suddenly the he-men of WalMart and the NRA leaped into Big Brother's arms and shrieked "save me, save me! Do what ever you have to do, they're trying to kill us all!" They now look to Daddy Government not to discipline the children, but to check under the bed for them every night, reassure them that the boogeyman won't hurt them and then read them a nice bedtime story about spreading freedom and democracy. It turns out that underneath all this swaggering bravado, the Republicans aren't the Daddy party --- they're the baby party.

Of course, the right has traded on fear for so long that we can hardly remember a time when they didn't. If it isn't the commies, it's the hippies or the ATF or the terrorists. And as Kevin points out they make these ridiculous decisions over and over again because they are essentially afraid of their own shadows:

This idea that we are living in a unique time that calls for special measures is what they always say. (And this current fantasy about the unique threat that proved our oceans couldn't protect us is particularly rich considering they fearmongered a communist threat of total annihilation for decades.) Often cooler heads are able to quell the worst excesses (like the fervent belief that we needed to launch a tactical nuclear war against the commies) and satisfy the right wing's other ongoing paranoid fantasy --- the left as a fifth column --- with silly, wasteful surveillance of animal rights groups or Quakers or former Beatles (along with pernicious surveillance of their partisan opponents.)

They are rhinestone cowboys who are scared to death and don't know how to contain their fear. So they lash out at their domestic political enemies, who they can bluster about and pretend to be tough, while hiding behind the military uniforms of their Big Brother and Preznit Daddy (which is a real stretch when it comes to Junior.)

The fact that they continue to win elections as being the tough guys perhaps says more about our puerile culture than anything else. They lash out like frightened children and too many people see that as courage or resolve.

Violent Islamic fundamentalism is a serious problem, not an existential threat. And it's a difficult problem that requires adults who can keep their heads about them when the terrorists put on their scary show, not big-for-their-age eight year olds staging a temper tantrum.

> MORE <

Obama family Holiday card

3 ideas for the Quad Cities

A reader sent in the following, proposing 3 unique and original ideas for the area.
Hello, to whom it may concern. I grew up in Moline, IL and visit often. I have recently had 3 ideas for Moline/Quad Cities. I wish to share them with as many people that I can contact through email and maybe someone will utilize one of them.

A) World's Largest Fountain!
The Quad Cities has 3 successful Casinos and one GIANT RIVER... giving an ENDLESS supply of water!!! One thing Vegas doesn't have... WATER!!! Wouldn't it be great if all the quad cities and casinos could pitch in to built the world's largest fountain in the middle of the Mississippi to be seen by the bridges and shores!
I have been to Vegas only a few times but the most impressive attraction I saw was the Bellagio Fountains which were incredible... Seen in the movie Oceans 11
It could be one giant fountain or one big one and two smaller ones.

Maybe lit up with a light show. Maybe it could run a little all the time and then have shows on weekends!

It would help attract tourists and gain community pride!

Maybe the Quad Cities could become the Community of Fountains?

B) "Eat Street"
I lived in Minneapolis where they have a street near downtown they call
"Eat Street". I guess this is because it has some restaurants on it. It is actually a little rough neighborhood and does not have that many restaurants.

Moline's 16th St. has a ton of restaurants. I think it would be great to rename it "Eat Street" and have a race festival from downtown to South Park and all the restaurants could have outdoor booths and music! This could replace the labor day "Criterion Races" that I miss from that Belgium neighborhood.

It would not have to be on Labor Day. It could be on any summer weekend.
Best to compete with as few other community events as possible.
Maybe even BEFORE SUMMER BEGINS... to get everyone ready...

Or the week before the Bix as a local preview?

Moline Museum of ART! Moline has the WONDERFUL DEERE MUSEUM, AND
MARK Facilities that have really transformed the waterfront. AND DAVENPORT now has the AWESOME FICKE ART MUSEUM... BUT, WOULDN'T IT BE GREAT TO HAVE AN ART MUSEUM IN MOLINE?
This would not compete with the DAVENPORT ART MUSEUM BUT COMPLIMENT.

1) PAUL NORTON or his estate could certainly possibly make several prominent artworks available?

2) MICHAEL BLASER, the Marine Artist is also a native of Moline. He could certainly make some of his works available perhaps?

3) John Deere/ Hauberg Collections!

Years ago, the Deere Headquarters was open to the Public for tours and I have personally seen several highly impressive works on display in the Deere/Hauberg
Collection. Certainly the Haugergs and John Deere Corp. could possibly loan some of these works on a rotating basis for a Moline Art Museum?

4) Augustanna College / Centennial Hall?

Augustanna College has its own gallery museum. They have many impressive works including works from Whistler, or they have displayed such works.
This gallery although substantial, is somewhat modest and unopen to the public
being in the basement of Centennial Hall?
Certainly perhaps they could LOAN some of their collection on a rotating basis to be displayed in a more prominent and accessible Moline Public Art Museum?

5) Who knows how many past and present residents have valuable and original art to donate or loan for display?

6) Blackhawk College?

I don't know what art they have if any... but I bet they have some acquisitions somewhere that they could loan to a Moline Museum?
What do you think? Do any or all have merit? Which one do you think is the best idea? Would they be able to be accomplished?

Tom Benson vs. Don Johnston for 17th District State Central Committeeman

Tom Benson of Rock Island, filed his candidacy petitions yesterday to challenge Don Johnston for 17th District Central Committeeman.

December 20, 2005

Andrea Zinga throws hat into the ring

On the last day possible to file candidacy petitions, Andrea Zinga has jumped into the 17th congressional district race. She faces fundamentalist real estate developer Jim Mowen of Moline and Aledo sports agent, jack-of-all-trades Brian "Gilligan" Gilliland in the Republican primary to challenge Rep. Lane Evans.

All over but the squealing, E. Moline council OKs Triumph development deal

From the QC Times:
The East Moline City Council unanimously approved a development agreement Monday night with Triumph Foods LLC of St. Joseph, Mo., for a controversial pork processing plant to be built in the Quad-City community.

The deal will give Triumph about $20 million in incentives to attract the $135 million facility with some 1,000 jobs paying wages estimated at $11.75 per hour on average.
Gene Hollerud of Moline questioned Rick Hoffman, chief executive officer of Triumph Foods, on the actual wages paid by the company and how it recruits workers.

Hoffman said 90 percent of the employees at the new Triumph plant are from the St. Joseph area. He said the starting wage is $8.25 per hour, but many incentives make the actual average wage much higher. That plant had 2,000 people apply for jobs; 300 were offered and 150 are now on the payroll, he said.
Many interesting quotes within the piece. Some rather pathetic, such as a labor leader comparing Triumph's hog processing plant locating here to Deere & Co. or Alcoa, and a 21 yr old father saying he wants the plant here in case, "... my college degree doesn’t pan out, I want to provide a living and raise my family here, and make my parents and my grandparents proud."

Pretty sad, really.

And somehow, it seems the debate was twisted until the only objection was thought to be the potential smell of the plant. There's numerous serious and important issues beyond that which would make a community question whether the plant is what they want in their area, but they got lost in the shuffle.

All the defenders seem to say is, "I don't think it will smell too bad", as if that's the only problem with this proposal. They completely ignored the enormous $20 million dollar "incentives" the city and county will hand the company, or the potential loss of funding the TIF district will pose for school and fire boards.

No real details about the impact on the flood plain. No information or data about whether the plant will attract CAFOs or concentrated factory hog farms. The only thing I heard was "I doubt it will attract them." Well then.

The way this entire thing was handled and approved was truly "faith-based", much too much for my tastes. And I love pork.

December 19, 2005

How E.M. Alderman stand on Triumph plant

A piece in the Dispatch/Argus reports that a straw poll of East Moline aldermen conducted late Sunday "indicates a majority are in favor of Triumph Foods LLC's proposal to build a pork-processing plant on the city's northeast side."

It's not a solid majority however, with 4 in favor, two on the fence, one of whom wants to wait and see what the Triumph plant in St. Joseph, MO is like once completed in January, and one alderman who could not be reached.

A pivotal meeting is scheduled for tonight.
Aldermen are scheduled to vote tonight on a redevelopment agreement with the company that would include $8 million in bond financing for a sewage pre-treatment plant and $7 million for water- and sewer-line extensions.

The redevelopment agreement requires aldermen to create a tax-increment finance district encompassing the proposed plant site before or on May 1, 2006. Money from the TIF district would be used to repay the bonds.

In a TIF district, any increase in taxes due to the increased property value created by development can be used for public infrastructure or rebates to developers.

"Right now with all the information that I've gotten (through) listening to the public hearings, I am going to vote for it," said Ald. Helen Heiland, 1st Ward. "I think it's a good thing for the city and the residents, and I think it will be a good thing of the whole Quad-Cities in a few years."

Ald. Luis Puentes, 2nd Ward, said "it's a good deal for the area," especially for the 1,000 jobs Triumph said it would potentially offer at at an average wage of $11.75 per hour. "I hope that young people will have an opportunity to get some of the jobs there."

While he sympathizes with opponents' concerns about possible odor problems and said he doesn't "want to live in a place that smells," Ald. Puentes said with hundreds of jobs lost through the closing of the CNH Global Case plant in East Moline, the area needs the economic development and jobs. "We need something to come here and start spurring growth."

Ald. Rick Meredith, 5th Ward, said the opponents who are arguing the plant may emit foul odors are "absolutely" confusing it with a hog confinement operation.

"This is not a confinement," he said. "The most (the hogs) are going to be confined is two to three hours."

If the processing plant is approved and spurs development, and if East Moline is successful in developing at the demolished CNH Case plant, "we should never have to raise (property) taxes," Ald. Meredith said.

"We understand people's concerns," said Ald. Gary Kelley, 6th Ward, "but in reality we have to do what's in the best interest of East Moline."

Alds. Carol Doose, 4th Ward, and Gary Westbrook, 7th Ward, said they were still considering the issue.

Ald. Doose said she thinks she'll gain a full picture of the proposed plant once aldermen take a tour of a Triumph plant being built in St. Joseph.

She also said she wanted to remind people that aldermen don't have the final say on the issue. The Rock Island County Board also has to approve the plans, she said, as will other taxing bodies such as schools that will be impacted by a TIF district.

Ald. Louis Moreno, 3rd Ward, couldn't be reached for comment Sunday.

The East Moline City Council is scheduled to vote tonight on a redevelopment agreement with Triumph Foods that would allow the company to build a pork processing plant on the city's northeast side.
They are meeting at United Township High School cafeteria, 1275 Avenue of the Cities, East Moline at 6:30 p.m. if you want to attend.

TIF districts are a problem for school districts, as explained in this article:
Created by cities and villages, TIF districts are formed to help revitalize blighted areas. In a TIF, any increase in taxes due to the increased property value created by development -- the increment -- can be used by cities or villages for public infrastructure or rebates to developers.

Other taxing bodies, though, like schools and fire protection districts, continue to receive taxes based on the property's value before the TIF was enacted.

December 18, 2005

Opposition to hog slaughter operation mounts

Hog "sticker"
One of the great jobs we're supposed to be excited about.

John Beydler writes a typically well researched and informative post on recent events regarding effort by citizens and others to pry further information about the impact of the proposed Triumph hog slaughter operation from officials involved. (The post has drawn the sort of vacuous attacks in comments from the usual suspect we've all grown to know and love.)

The enormous facility would be build just east of Silvis on Barstow Road and local officials have pledged to spend millions for infrastructure improvement and other benefits for the company.

The QC Times has a good account of recent developments as well.

WARNING: The following is not for the faint of heart. Mass slaughter operations are never pleasant, and I eat an enormous amount of various meats myself and am more than happy to enjoy the products. But the following are very graphic accounts of just what goes on in some slaughterhouses.

A few quotes from interviews with slaughterhouse workers:
"The preferred method of handling a cripple is to beat him to death with a lead pipe before he gets into the chute. It's called 'piping'. All the drivers use pipes to kill hogs that can't go through the chutes. Or if a hog refuses to go into the chutes and is stopping production, you beat him to death."
"Hogs are stubborn. Beating them in the head seems to work about the best. Piece of rebar about an inch across, you force a hog down the alley, have another guy standing there with a piece of rebar in his hand. It's just like playing baseball. Just like somebody pitching something at you."
"If you get a hog in the chute that refuses to move, you take a meat hook and clip it into his anus. You try to do this by clipping the hipbone. Then you drag him backwards. Your dragging these hogs alive, and a lot of times the meat hook rips out of the bunghole. I've seen hams--thighs--completely ripped open. I've also seen intestines come out. If the hog collapses near the front of the chute, you shove a meat hook into his cheek and drag him forward."
"After a while you become desensitized. And as far as animals go, they're a lower life-form. They're maybe one step above a maggot. When you got a live, conscious hog, you not only kill it, you want to make it hurt. You go in hard, blow the windpipe, make it drown in its own blood. Take out an eyeball, split its nose. A live hog would be running around the pit with me. It would be looking up at me and I would just take my knife and--eerk--take its eye out while it was just sitting there. And this hog would just scream.
"These hogs get up to the scalding tank, hit the water, and just start screaming and kicking. I'm not sure whether the hogs burn to death before drowning. The water is 140 degrees, not that hot. I don't believe the hogs go into shock, because it takes them a couple of minutes to stop thrashing. I think they die slowly from drowning."
"I've seen them put twenty to twenty-five holes in a hog's head trying to knock her and she was still on her feet. Her head looked like Swiss cheese. Tough gal. Sometimes they'll use a twenty-two and shoot the hog through its eye. Or you might have to hit both eyes on the same hog."

Our Fearless Leader speaks

"Whether or not it needed to happen, I'm still convinced it needed to happen."
-- George W. Bush, on the war in Iraq

English version: I don't give a rat's ass whether it was a mistake or not, I made the decision and I won't let facts change my mind.

Bush tramples on constitution, law, authorizes illegal spying on US citizens

Atrios is all over Bush's gross violation of the law and constitution. Many who know say that Bush clearly violated the law as well as putting himself above the constitution of the United States by repeatedly authorizing the National Security Administration to tap phones and communications of US citizens with no court oversight whatsoever.

What is even more outrageous is that there was already a process in place in which these sorts of things were sent through a secret court, FISA, or the Foreign Intelligence Security Act, which to date has never refused a single search request. And no one knows when they do or much about them anyway. Yet even this fig leaf of oversight was apparently too much for Bush and his gang of thugs and spies.

Read the various posts and links at Atrios' Eshaton and get up to speed on this outrage. The exchange between Bob Barr and wing-nut Dana Rohrabacher pretty much shows how crazy those who defend this truly are.

Rohrabacher and those like him are absolutely insane to argue that we need to toss the Constitution out the window as long as we're "at war" with terrorism, which after all, is nothing but a tactic which by definition can not be defeated. Terrorism is simply a tactic used by people who don't happen to have a multi-trillion dollar military at their disposal.

For Rohrabacher to state that we only need to throw our rights away until we've "won" the war, then we can put it all back requires a childlike ignorance.

How will we know when we've "won"? Is Osama going to sign some documents on the deck of a battleship? And if we can restore our constitutional rights after this make-believe and non-existant "victory", then, well... the stupidity exibited by that remark defies explanation, but here goes:

Implicit in that is a belief that we can actually kill all the terrorists who wish us harm, and once that's accomplished, no more danger and we can have our constitution back. A ridiculous and disasterous belief that there is a finite number of "terrorists" out there, which we can defeat by throwing billions of dollars to defense contractors and by the use of billions of dollars of high tech weaponry designed for a traditional battlefront war, and sacrificing thousands of young lives.

The once we entirely eliminate terrorism from the planet (As if you can completely eliminate and end sniping, spying, ambush or any other tactic)THEN at that bright shining moment, we can hand the American people their treasured constitutional rights back. See, it all makes sense.

So.... once we "win", we can go back to being a constitutional democracy, but until then, the government can spy on whomever it wants with impunity and no oversight? If we just allow Bush to determine at will who can be declared an "enemy of the state" secretly authorize spying on his constituents with no oversight, and spy on Quaker peace groups, among other political opponents, for God's sake, and after this "victory" to a war which by definition can never be "won", we can be sure that Bush and Rohrabacher and all the rest will give us back our constitutional rights. (the very ones, by the way, that they've sworn to uphold and defend.)

Oh, ok.

Are they going to make a grand declaration that this supposed terrorist threat no longer exists, and therefore their justification for all this illegal and unconstitutional power mongering no longer applies and we can have our constitution back?

Well, if they say so, it's good enough for me. They'd never lie, they're God's Own Party.

If that's the case, I say we declare victory tomorrow, take back the rights the disgustingly named "Patriot Act" took away from us, investigate, prosecute, and impeach Bush and crew, and get back to reality. Screw it.

The best thing to happen would be to get rid of this gang of crooks, appologize to the world, move on, and try to pretend this dark blotch on our government never happened.

I've been good Santa... please, please, please!

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald met with the grand jury investigating the leak of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson for several hours Friday. Short of a last minute intervention by Rove's attorney, Fitzgerald is expected to ask a grand jury-possibly as soon as next week-- to indict Rove for making false statements to the FBI and Justice Department investigators in October 2003, lawyers close to the case say.

Moreover, Fitzgerald is said to believe that there is a possibility Rove either hid or destroyed evidence related to his role in the leak, lawyers close to the case said.

Edwin Eisendrath to formally announce for Governor later today

Democrat Edwin Eisendrath, 47, is a former Chicago 43rd Ward alderman, he was defeated in a 1990 primary challenge to a North Shore political icon, the late U.S. Rep. Sidney Yates.

Under the Clinton White House, Eisendrath was named Midwest regional director of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, and he became chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority when the federal government took over it in 1995.

Those who know him say he's charismatic, personable, and will make a formidable candidate.

A leaked announcement announcment (?!) is cited on Capitol Fax revealing that Eisendrath is planning to make his candidacy for Governor official at 11:00 a.m. at Kendall College in Chicago where he's currently vice president for academic affairs.

December 17, 2005

Senator Silvertongue strikes again

In the Dispatch/Argus:
Rhetoric is the lifeblood of Illinois politics, but it's not often you hear a state senator promise to kick someone in the keister.

But that's what Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, did Thursday when he told a reporter from KWQC-TV6 that not only does he believe the Thomson prison might soon open, but that he's committed to making sure it happens.

"If that prison doesn't open in 2007, I'm going to make it my business to put my size 12 up somebody's tail end," he said in the televised report.

Jacobs stood by his colorful comments Friday, saying it figuratively illustrates he's going to keep fighting to open the $143 million, maximum-security prison that was completed in 2001, but never opened.

"I am what I am and I say what I think. Would I be better off to sanitize my quotes? Maybe, but that's not what I'm here for," he said.

Paul Rumler, Jacobs' primary opponent, wouldn't comment on the statement, saying only that he supports any effort to open Thomson.

Jacobs contends that could be coming soon. Gov. Rod Blagojevich's office has released a statement listing the project as a priority. As the state's economy improves, finding $50 million a year to operate the prison gets more likely, Jacobs said.

"We believe in the year 2007, we will have the money to open the facility," Jacobs said.

Rep. Mike Boland, D-East Moline, said Blagojevich may be getting more pressure to open the prison, but he hasn't heard of anything definite yet.

That's because it's still too soon to make a decision, said Becky Carroll, spokeswoman for Blagojevich's Office of Management and Budget. "We are hoping to open it. We are in favor of that."

However, she said, "No decision has been made as yet. It's just too early in the budget process."

But Carroll said things are getting better and the state now is at a place where it can begin to look at the prospect of opening the Thomson facility.
It's apparent now what our senator's literary and television viewing tastes are. He evidently looks to Dr. Seuss's Horton the Elephant and Popeye for his philosophical guidance, though he kind of muddled the two together with, "I am what I am and I say what I think."
(a senator's faithful, even if the plant stinks)?

And the "size 12" up someone's posterior line is a direct rip-off from the very popular program "American Chopper" where father/business owner and tough guy Paul Teutel Sr. frequently issues the same no-nonsense threat to his sons, and yes, it's a "size 12".

Unless Senator Jacobs' happens to wear that size, it proves for whatever it's worth, that he's getting his supposedly off-the-cuff, "I am what I am" campaign talking points from an cable program about building custom motorcycles.

Voters want to know, when will Senator Jacobs "come clean" about his shoe size?

NEW FLASH: An anonymous, and therefore unreliable, commenter has assured us that indeed, Senator Jacobs wears a size 12 shoe. For that we commend him. Perhaps Paul Teutel Sr. stole the phrase from Senator Jacobs?

Jacobs says that "he is what he is". Opinion is decidedly split on whether that's a good thing. The Senator "says what he thinks". OK. What do his various statements reveal about the level and quality of his thinking?

December 16, 2005

One to watch

This should be an interesting race, and Duckworth will no doubt get enormous, including national, press attention.

And no matter what the outcome, there's a silver lining to it all.

Philanderer and amiable dunce Henry ("The flag is falling!) Hyde will no longer be in office.
With a campaign totally packaged by some of the nation's leading Democratic strategists in Washington and Illinois, wounded Iraq war vet Tammy Duckworth will announce a Democratic congressional primary bid Sunday.
Duckworth was released from active Army duty Wednesday, a necessary step for her being eligible to file nominating petitions with the state by the Monday deadline for the seat being vacated by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.).

Active military personnel cannot run for office.

The Duckworth campaign is entirely orchestrated by a team of political professionals with ties to Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), the chief of the Democrats' House political organization.

Duckworth will talk about her run for the first time today, in a series of interviews timed to coincide with her campaign rollout.

Duckworth, making her first political bid, was recruited to run by Emanuel and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who met her while visiting wounded soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

Duckworth, an Army major, lost her legs and badly hurt an arm after the Blackhawk helicopter she was piloting was hit by a missile in November 2004.

Emanuel started looking for a candidate because he was convinced that Cegelis could not beat the likely GOP nominee, state Sen. Pete Roskam (R-Wheaton).

Nationally, Emanuel has been trying to recruit candidates with military and national security backgrounds in order to dramatically demonstrate that the Democratic Party is not anti-military.
Of course, Rich Miller was all over this back in November.

Here's a pretty graphic account of the ordeal Duckworth went through when the helicopter she was piloting was hit by a rocket.

I've asked this before, (I think it got a whopping one comment), but is recruiting Iraq/Afghanistan vets to be Dem candidates a very practical and shrewd goal, or do you disagree?

While the strategy seems sound and hard to argue with, there is still an aspect to it that's awfully calculating and cynical.

Not to take a thing away from Ms. Duckworth, but an African Asian-American candidate has a certain symbolism and political value, and an African Asian-American female, even more. But now they've found an African Asian-American female who also happens to be a severely wounded Iraq vet.

No word yet if she's lesbian and her husband comes from a large latino family.

NOTE: I made a horrible blunder in thinking Duckworth was African-American. As pointed out by a commenter, she is indeed of Asian descent and grew up in Hawaii. I'm still searching in vain for the site where I'd gotten the idea that she was African-American. The Dope regrets the error and any confusion it may have caused.

December 15, 2005

Life during Bushtime, Pt. I

Davenport - People representing faith and social action organizations gathered together Wednesday to protest federal budget cuts that will affect low-income families.

The group prayed together at the building that houses the Social Security office in downtown Davenport. They presented petitions with 438 signatures protesting the cuts to representatives from U.S. Sens. Tom Harkin and Charles Grassley of Iowa and U.S. Rep. Jim Nussle’s offices. The group also plans to present copies to U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Barack Obama and U.S. Rep. Lane Evans, of Illinois.

"We’re concerned about the budget cuts and that’s why we’re having the prayer vigil. We wanted to bring awareness to the community about how horrible these budget cuts are," said organizer Ollie Finn of Bettendorf.

The majority in Congress [Note to the Times: They're called REPUBLICANS] are proposing $60 billion in tax cuts which includes extending the capital gains and dividend tax cuts through 2010 according to information from Harkin’s office. He opposes the cuts. Senate Republicans are also looking at taking $35 billion out of entitlement programs which help working Americans, he said.

The [Republican dominated] U.S. House of Representatives has called for $50 billion in cuts to food assistance, support for children in foster care, Medicaid and enforcement of child support payments
The Rev. Roger Butts, pastor of the Unitarian Church of Davenport, asked people to determine whether the Fiscal Year 2006 budget serves the common good. "I’ve come simply to pray with you and to stand with you for those whose voices are easy to ignore," he said.

"We are working to at least restore the additional $15 billion in cuts. We feel this will have a strong effect on the poor," said Rick Schloemer of Rapids City, Ill.

The Wednesday vigil coincided with members of the U.S. Senate showing their support for a motion from Harkin. He asked members of the joint House-Senate conference committee to reject the House’s proposal for food assistance cuts.

The budget cuts "will particularly affect the poor we serve," agreed Sr. Michelle Schiffgens of Humility of Mary. “We have many single moms with kids living in those apartments and they are greatly concerned about what could happen to them."
The Washington Post covers national efforts by religious groups and organizations to protest the draconian Republican cuts, highlighting the faux-Christian leaders whose only goal is consolodating wealth and political power:
When hundreds of religious activists try to get arrested today to protest cutting programs for the poor, prominent conservatives such as James Dobson, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell will not be among them.

That is a great relief to Republican leaders, who have dismissed the burgeoning protests as the work of liberals. But it raises the question: Why in recent years have conservative Christians asserted their influence on efforts to relieve Third World debt, AIDS in Africa, strife in Sudan and international sex trafficking -- but remained on the sidelines while liberal Christians protest domestic spending cuts?

Conservative Christian groups such as Focus on the Family say it is a matter of priorities, and their priorities are abortion, same-sex marriage and seating judges who will back their position against those practices.
Jim Wallis, editor of the liberal Christian journal Sojourners and an organizer of today's protest, was not buying it. Such conservative religious leaders "have agreed to support cutting food stamps for poor people if Republicans support them on judicial nominees," he said. "They are trading the lives of poor people for their agenda. They're being, and this is the worst insult, unbiblical."
And in another miserably stark illustration of Republican values, another piece details Sen. Bill Frist's priorties:
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said Congress may postpone until next year a measure to prevent 15 million households from paying $30 billion under the alternative minimum tax, indicating that extending tax cuts on capital gains and dividends was a higher priority.

"I feel strongly that capital gains and dividends should be in the bill when it comes back to the Senate floor," Frist told reporters. Of the minimum tax, he said that "in all likelihood, we'll not be able to finalize that until we get back" in 2006.

Life during Bushtime, Pt. II

While thousands of mothers, children, and families will soon be feeling the crunch and being denied a decent diet and shelter, many of them will also be shivering or forced to give up basic necessities to keep their homes above 40 degrees.
A $1 billion package of additional low-income heating assistance awaiting congressional action this week would leave Iowa and several other northern states out in the cold.
Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and other frigid states struggling to keep up with high heating costs would get little or nothing from the funding package, according to a new congressional analysis. Instead, warm-weather states such as Florida, Texas and Arizona would get the windfall.

The culprit is a complicated federal funding formula used to hand out grants for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, which helps thousands of poor households in Iowa and across the country cover utility bills.

According to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, Iowa would see no LIHEAP funding increase if an extra $1 billion is approved, while Florida would receive an additional $36 million in energy assistance and Texas would get an extra $59 million.
But... at least area businessmen are giving land and more money to improve the Nahant marsh.
Davenport’s Nahant Marsh area is being expanded and improved, thanks to gifts to the city from Mel Foster Jr. and Mel Foster Co. Inc.

The company is donating 27.92 acres of wetlands to the City of Davenport. In addition, Foster, the company’s chairman, is donating $100,000 to the city for financing construction of an observation deck to provide public access to the nature preserve.

The city will formally receive the donations during a presentation at 2 p.m. Monday along the causeway to Credit Island Park. In case of inclement weather, the presentation will take place in the Credit Island Park lodge. The City Council voted in September to accept the land.

The property, located northeast of the current Nahant Marsh and adjacent to Credit Island Park, has been owned for about 35 years by Mel Foster Co.

Mowen, "Gilligan" file for office

Jim Mowen, a Rock Island real estate broker and developer, and Brian Gilliland, an Aledo businessman, both filed papers with the Illinois State Board of Elections. The state began accepting nomination papers Monday and will do so through Dec. 19. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Lane Evans, D-Ill., filed nomination papers earlier this week.

In announcing his filing, Mowen said Wednesday the district faces a “serious state of stagnation,” something he said neighboring districts aren’t experiencing. “We need a representative that understands economic development and job creation,” he said in a statement.

Gilliland, too, is focusing his campaign on the economy. “Our economic condition is something people are concerned with, whether they’re Republican or Democrat,” he said.

Andrea Zinga, the GOP nominee last year, said Wednesday she would file papers by the deadline but wasn’t more specific than that.

Also Wednesday, Mowen said Victory Enterprises, Inc., of Davenport, would no longer be his campaign consultant. It still is working on his Web site, though.
Sounds like Zinga is having a little trouble pulling the trigger.

Braley gets union endorsement in 1st District race

Braley, a Waterloo lawyer, is one of three Democratic candidates for the office.

The Laborer’s union, which represents 4,000 people in Iowa, said Braley understands working people, represents them in his law practice and would do the best job of it in Congress.

Work for the State of Illinois and have an injury? So sorry, you're out of luck.

In another sign of Illinois’ continuing budget woes, the state has apparently run out of money to pay injury settlements to its own employees.

Officials began notifying injured workers Wednesday that claims would not be paid until next October because of a shortfall in the fund.
Well, we need that money to give away to companies to process carp at a profit. To hell with these humans.

Novakula fingers Junior in Plame treason case

Syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak, who has repeatedly declined to discuss his role in disclosing the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, said in a speech this week that he is certain President Bush knows who his mystery administration source is.

Novak said Tuesday that the public and press should be asking the president about the official rather than pressing journalists who received the information.

Novak also suggested that the administration official who gave him the information is the same person who mentioned Plame and her CIA role to Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward in the summer of 2003.

"I'm confident the president knows who the source is," Novak told a luncheon audience at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday, according to an account published yesterday in the Raleigh News & Observer. "I'd be amazed if he doesn't."

"So I say, don't bug me. Don't bug Bob Woodward. Bug the president as to whether he should reveal who the source is," Novak said.
While this may seem like a little blip on the media radar screen, it has the potential of being the beginning of Bush being impeached. (now before you leap out of your chair, I said, "potential")

If it leaks or can be proven that Novak's assertion is true, Bush has known the identity of the person who essentially committed a treasonous felony all along, then this has major implications.

First of all, as is almost a given these days, it would prove that Bush is a lying duplicitous liar and all his statements about wanting to get to the bottom of this, how he'd immediately fire whoever was involved (later changed to anyone charged with a crime) were typical BS.

Secondly, in a legal context, it would be evidence that he himself was impeding and withholding information vital from a federal investigation, most certainly a chargable offense.

Any more learned opinions on where this could go?

For those not up to speed on this, there's many good links to background and main players in the rather convoluted case at the link above.

Moline downtown group wants "special service area"

Moline Centre Partners -- a group of downtown business owners, tenants, city and community leaders -- is looking into establishing a special service area from 12th to 19th streets and River Drive to 7th Avenue.

In a SSA, property owners are taxed above their normal property tax rate, and the extra money is used to make improvements within the SSA.

In this case, Moline Centre Partners wants to use the money to support the organization's operating costs, such as the salary of the executive director, as well as make improvements to the downtown, also known as Moline Centre.

Shive Hattery recently completed an $18 million downtown streetscape plan. While that is one option for using SSA funds, Gerald Butts, a MCP at-large board member, said if anything moves forward it would be with the intent of giving the downtown a compatible look with John Deere Commons and River Drive.
I'd be curious just how much money Shive Hattery has received from city financed projects over the past 10 years or so. The number has got to be staggering.

This idea sounds good on the surface. Any opinions?

New Moline Library seeking funds

The new southeast branch of the Moline Public Library is still a shell of a building, but some are already turning their focus on raising money to get the building filled.

The new library is under construction adjacent to the current southeast branch at 3130 41st St. It will cost $12.5 million to build. The city gave $10 million in bonds toward the project, which will be paid off with sales tax. The library has to raise $2.5 million from within the community.

So far, $1.3 million has been donated.

Alcoa union votes to authorize strike

Members of United Steelworkers Local 105 voted overwhelmingly in favor Wednesday of authorizing a strike at the Alcoa Davenport Works plant.

The exact vote totals were not available late Wednesday, but union president Skip McGill confirmed the strike authorization passed.
One of the primary grievances is the increasing reliance on contractors.
Maintenance and production jobs like milling, sawing and inspection have been contracted out to other local companies or companies across the country, he said. The contractors set up trailers inside the plant or on the grounds outside.

"It looks like contractor village," Mr. McGill said of the trailers. "They are setting up shop inside the plant."

Mr. McGill said the company has said it doesn't want to continually hire and fire workers for short-term jobs, but Mr. McGill said that wouldn't happen. He believes the company doesn't want to hire more union workers

"It's about weakening (the union) and less bargaining power," he said.
The union will ask for pay for the union members who could have done the work that was contracted out, and for the company to hire more people so work won't be contracted out in the future.

Mr. Riches said the company has not laid off any workers since 2002, and has hired about 400 people in the last 18 months.
Final negotiations are expected to end in January and if agreement is not reached by then, a strike would result. A strike would no doubt be very tough on union families. Hope it's resolved in short order.

December 14, 2005

Required reading

By way of (maybe) initiating a discussion/debate on the invasion and occupation of Iraq and where we go from here, I offer a recent piece by Lieutenant General William E. Odom, U.S. Army (Ret.), a Senior Fellow with Hudson Institute and a professor at Yale University, who served during the Reagan administration.
If I were a journalist, I would list all the arguments that you hear against pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, the horrible things that people say would happen, and then ask: Aren’t they happening already? Would a pullout really make things worse? Maybe it would make things better.
The US invasion of Iraq only serves the interest of:

1) Osama bin Laden (it made Iraq safe for al Qaeda, positioned US military personnel in places where al Qaeda operatives can kill them occasionally, helps radicalize youth throughout the Arab and Muslim world, alienates America's most important and strongest allies – the Europeans – and squanders US military resources that otherwise might be finishing off al Qaeda in Pakistan.);

2) The Iranians (who were invaded by Saddam and who suffered massive casualties in an eight year war with Iraq.);

3) And the extremists in both Palestinian and Israeli political circles (who don't really want a peace settlement without the utter destruction of the other side, and probably believe that bogging the United States down in a war in Iraq that will surely become a war between the United States and most of the rest of Arab world gives them the time and cover to wipe out the other side.)

The wisest course for journalists might be to begin sustained investigations of why leading Democrats have failed so miserably to challenge the US occupation of Iraq. The first step, of course, is to establish as conventional wisdom the fact that the war was never in the US interest and has not become so. It is such an obvious case to make that I find it difficult to believe many pundits and political leaders have not already made it repeatedly.
Odom is no commie/lib/pinko/bleeding heart peace-nik.
As Director of the National Security Agency from 1985 to 1988, he was responsible for the nation's signals intelligence and communications security. From 1981 to 1985, he served as Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, the Army's senior intelligence officer.

From 1977 to 1981, General Odom was Military Assistant to the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs, Zbigniew Brzezinski. As a member of the National Security Council staff, he worked upon strategic planning, Soviet affairs, nuclear weapons policy, telecommunications policy, and Persian Gulf security issues. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1954, and received a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1970.

Read the entire piece here, then leave your comments.

17th district central committee Christmas party

Here's a spot for anyone who attended Don Johnston's 17th District State Central Committee's Christmas party Wednesday to post their impressions, observations, fashion reviews, or all that other bad personal stuff that makes this blog so un-serious.

A commenter in a thread below offered that he spoke with Rep. Mike Boland who expressed regret at not having run for treasurer and confirmed that it was Speaker Madigan who "helped persuade" him to stay put.

For instance, did Sen. Jacobs get around to asking Rumler where he works? That seems to be a major preoccupation. And did Rumler then ask the same of Jacobs?

And remember kids, as always, have fun, but keep it clean.

The Inside Dope: Hon. Vicki Wright Discussion

The Inside Dope: Hon. Vicki Wright Discussion: "I'm sure this isn't going to be read for a while, since there hasn't been much comment recently in this thread, but I have to object to a characterization in the above post by "swoosh".

To imply that Sen. Jacobs and Judge Peterson were somehow callous to the fallout from Katrina is inappropriate, and is a cheap shot. The reality for anyone who is involved in politics, or any field involving significant travelling, is that events sometimes must go on, despite outside, often terrible, circumstances. There are only so many days on a calendar, and given the size of the 3rd Appellate District, I imagine it is not easy to coordinate.

Further, I doubt that the public was deprived of coverage of Katrina, I know I followed it closely, and it would be detrimental to the public if they were eprived the opportunity to get the information on the endorsements.

Again, just a call for civility."

> MORE <

Who do you think should be "Democrat of the Year"?

"Ellen of the Tenth" is running a "Democrat of the Year" poll and is soliciting votes and nominations. She's to announce the winners this Friday.

She explains the contest in this post, and lists the nominees to date in posts above it, here, and here.

Go visit Ellen and put in your nominations or choices.

And on the subject of polls, the "Quad Cities Newsbabe of the Year" poll was less than a rousing success, as are most things which depend on participation by readers.
At any rate, thanks to a few game and helpful participants, there actually was a clear winner.

Julie Sisk of WQAD took the coveted honor with a whopping 3 votes, which put her clearly in the lead. Ms. Sisk can hold her head just a little higher now. Enjoy your reign!

Wracking up two votes a piece were WQAD's Barbara Dawson, and WHBF's Meredith Wood, and drawing a respectable single vote were WQAD's Kelly Hessedal, Chris Minor, and Vanessa Van Hyfte, WHBF's Nicol Lally, KWQC's Paula Sands and Abby Ross, and KLJB's Libby Allison. Also getting a vote was KWQC weather reporter Teresa Bryant.

Thanks to those who participated.

Who needs hog factories? QC Air already pretty polluted

The countryside northeast of Blue Grass, Iowa, is nearly empty, dotted only by a few farm houses. It looks unassuming, but the Environmental Protection Agency ranks this area, just east of 90th Avenue and 145th Street, fourth in the nation in terms of potential health risks from industrial air pollution.
Risk scores in census tracts within the metro Quad-Cities vary greatly from neighborhood to neighborhood, city to city, but all are among the highest 5 percent in the country.
The census tract that includes the Rock Island Arsenal has a score 35.9 times the national median, the worst in Rock Island County.

Scott County ranked eighth worst of the country's 3,141 counties. Neighboring Muscatine County ranked third worst.

Across the river, Rock Island County ranked 96th worst, and Henry and Mercer counties were 532 and 428, respectively. Whiteside County's score was the 10th worst in the nation.
The article goes on with some happy talk from a Bi-State Regional Commission planning spokesbot highlighting a couple inconsequential measures some companies have taken to reduce the pollution they spew, and notes the correlation between unhealthy air, particularly leaf burning, and the incidence of asthma and other respiratory disease.

The process of Democracy

Judge Vicki Wright, candidate for 3rd District Appellate Court, was one of many candidates (or their surrogates) who thronged to Springfield in the wee hours of Monday morning in order to file their campaign petitions at 8:00 sharp.

She submitted an interesting and thoughtful account of her experience, which is posted on her discussion page.
I stood there from 4:00 a.m. engaging in both silence and spirited debates. We stood with candidates from the top of the ballot to the bottom, all in the same line and all on a level turf for the moment.
Many thanks to Judge Wright for her contribution.

December 13, 2005

An English delicacy

Mindful of recent calls to elevate the tone of the blog, I give you this treat sure to please the English man or woman on your Christmas list.

And it's microwavable!!!!
What is it?

Evans attention to Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome getting big blog play

Found at SoapBlox Chicago:
He's busy. He's important. He's a Democrat. It might be a little difficult to schedule an interview with him; but, I think it's time to let the Colbert Report know what we want. Education. Balls. And Congressman Lane Evans.
Note that this is also cross-posted at the Daily Kos, the largest and most read progressive blog in the country.

Announcements draw some press

The Galesburg Register-Mail has a couple articles dealing with candidate announcments in the wake of their filing for office Monday.
Judge Vicki Wright on Monday announced her candidacy for the Appellate Court of the Third Appellate District during a stop in Peoria on a multi-city tour. Also filing to fill the Kent Slater vacancy were two other Democrats and a Republican.

Judge Wright, a Tampico Democrat, brings nearly 15 years on the bench as a judge in the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit. In 1991, she was appointed as the first female Associate Judge in the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit.

Others filing Monday were Democrats Tom O'Neal of Peoria, and Lance R. Peterson of Morris. Republican Michael T. Powers, a Naperville Republican, also filed his nominating petitions Monday, the first day of filing for the March 21, 2006 primary.

The Third District Appellate Court, based in Ottawa, covers 16 counties, including Knox, Warren, Henderson, Henry, Fulton, McDonough and Mercer.
An alert reader sent me another piece in the Register-Mail, though despite a thorough search of their website, it was not found online as yet. It's now posted here.
Congressman Lane Evans, D-Rock Island, announced his candidacy for re-election in the 17th Congressional District Monday.
Evans spokesman Steve Vetzner said Evans will be in the district to make a formal announcement when there is a break in business in Washington, D.C.
"It will be in January," Vetzner said. "Certainly we'll be in town for that. It will be after the first of the year."
"I'm running so I can continue to fight for the interests of the average citizens of this area - the people who built this country and defend it and make it what it is today," Evans said in a prepared release. "I am running on my experience and my record of getting things done. I am running to secure our children's future and achieve a brighter tomorrow for working families."
Evans is serving his 12th term in the House of Representatives and is the senior Democrat in the Illinois delegation. He is the ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Limbaugh loses fight to hide medical records

On Ailes:
Another victory for law and order and another loss for criminals and terrorists. CNN reports:

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (AP) -- Prosecutors can subpoena Rush Limbaugh's doctors as part an investigation into whether the conservative radio commentator illegally bought painkillers, a judge ruled Monday.
Actually, press accounts about the ruling are of the "both sides claim victory" variety. I'd like to see the actual ruling to determine who won what.

However, Big Pharma is clearly a big loser, since he didn't get the subpoenas quashed, which is what he asked for, and undoubtedly Roy Black is building his third or fourth home with the proceeds of the junkie's legal fees.

As for CNN, I'd recommend a Sunday night special, cohosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Daryn Kagan. Call it "Rush, Portrait Of A Washed-Up Junkie."

December 12, 2005

20/20 hindsight?

I recently came across a couple interesting blasts from the past in the vault at Rich Miller's Capitol Fax regarding the then newly minted Sen. Mike Jacobs.

Here's Miller's profile of young Mike. I hadn't realized that Rich went to college with Jacobs. The comments from readers are interesting in hindsight. And here's a gem:
"Denny and I are different people -- our styles are different," Sen. Jacobs said. "He is more shoot-from-the-hip. I'm a planner and a plotter. I'm a behind-the-scenes guy."
And here's another which contains Miller's fateful call for someone to start a political blog in the Quad Cities.

This blog launched the next day, showing how much thought (very little) went into it's debut.

Everyone can keep their shirts on, Boland files for 71st

No real surprises. It's official. Mike Boland has filed his petitions for 71st District state rep. No treasurer race for Mike. All those who thought he may jump and thus open up a race for his seat can now resume normal activities.

Steve Haring has filed to run in the 71st district Republican primary.

As expected, Pat Verschoore filed for 72nd district rep, and Paul Rumler and Mike Jacobs filed for 36th district state senate.

The Illinois State Board of Elections has a current listing of all candidates filing for the '06 primaries here. You can search the list by candidate or office.

418 candidates participated in the early morning scrum in Springfield, submitting petitions to get on the primary ballot on the first day possible.

The position of a candidate's name on the ballot is determined by lottery, with those filing first ensuring a chance to be listed first. Others sometimes actually compete to be the last person filing, as it's believed that, other than being listed first, being listed last gets more voter interest.

It's a zoo scene in Springfield as hundreds of candidates and supporters all camp out to be able to file at 8:00 sharp. What a nutty sport.

December 11, 2005

Calling a liar a liar

Hat's off to Barb Ickes and the QC Times.
If not for the lies, we could honestly celebrate. Most of us can understand the need for a little secrecy. But nobody appreciates an all-out lie fest.

East Moline is getting a pork-processing plant and some of the first new Quad-City jobs to come along in a very long time. Any big hog operation is going to carry some baggage, but this one has extra.

For months now, Mayor John Thodos has denied that he knew anything about a Triumph Foods pork plant, even though he’s been “aggressively” working to get it here. In fact, Illinois Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, practically gave Thodos all the credit for single-handedly wooing Triumph to the Quad-Cities and sewing up the development deal.

Lots of people will wonder how that can be. After all, just a month ago Thodos was still denying any knowledge of a development on the land where Triumph plans to build.

He hasn’t always been so dodgy.

When somebody leaked the pork plant story to me back in June, I called the mayor for confirmation. He said he could neither confirm nor deny the information.

"I don’t want these people to get skittish," he said. "I don’t want to jeopardize anything."

Knowing what we know now, the mayor’s initial response seems entirely reasonable. The deal was at least six months from being done.

But Thodos got cocky. When well over 100 people jammed City Hall two months ago because they wanted to know the city’s plans for several hundred acres of land it was looking to annex, Thodos shut them down.

The residents were told they had no right to talk about any potential development. The annexation hearing wasn’t the time or the place, they were told. And the mayor repeated the deceit: He knew nothing about any pork plant.

Then he stepped outside another boundary, publicly criticizing a resident of tiny Barstow who was chosen to represent dozens of others who were worried that a pork plant could cause them serious problems.

"It’s his job to whip up fear," Thodos said of Doug Riel. "Doug is trying to muddy it up as much as he can."

Rich. Very rich.

Consider this: Thodos is the mayor of a city that is on the verge of a huge development involving millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money. Yet he publicly denied any knowledge of the project. Then he criticized a resident for “trying to muddy up” the situation?

If it was Riel’s job "to whip up fear," what do you suppose Thodos believed his job to be — covering up what he knows about the spending of his constituents’ money?

There should be no doubt the mayor tried to cover up this deal for as long as he could. He even called an editor at this newspaper and asked that a story about the new pork plant be killed. Naturally, the editor made no such promise.

Thodos no longer can deny Triumph Foods’ plans. But his efforts to keep them quiet are sure to inject a potentially terrific development with public skepticism and confusion.

No one expects a politician to lie about good news.