June 30, 2006

Nasty? Sure. And it's about time.

Industrious and long-time web journalist Bob Somerby, of The Daily Howler fame, notes an incident between Virginia Senator George Allen and his Democratic challenger, veteran Jim Webb:
PUT UP YOUR DUKES: The Washington Post is disturbed by all the recent “Blather in Virginia.” Here’s the opening paragraph of today’s editorial. It concerns a recent fight between Jim Webb and George Allen:
WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (6/30/06): Virginia’s U.S. Senate race is all of two weeks old, and already the debate between the Republican incumbent, George Allen, and his Democratic rival, Jim Webb, has descended into a trench of cynicism and puerility. In the past few days we have been treated to a stomach-turning (if coded) squabble over patriotism and to one candidate mocking the other's middle name. These are not the bare-knuckled blasts of a tough electoral fight; this is blather masquerading as political dialogue.

Go ahead and read their review—but our own reaction is quite different. What happened in the incident under review? Something very unusual. A Republican (Allen) behaved quite typically, taunting a Democrat about a pointless “character” matter. And omigod! In response, the Democrat (Webb) punched the Rep right in the nose!
For years, we’ve all watched Republicans play these cards (in this case, about that flag-burning amendment). But we don’t know when we’ve seen a Dem respond in so lusty a fashion. In various ways, this is exactly what Dems need to do, to the George Allens—and to the Ann Coulters. We suggest that you read this full report (from a Virginia daily paper) and ponder’s Jim Webb’s lusty conduct.

Read the details of the dust-up here.

Of note is that slime merchant Chris LaCivita, an orchestrator of the Swift-Boat lying campaign against John Kerry, is now working for Allen. Apparently the Webb campaign isn't going to lay down and roll over, like Dems have done across the board for far too long.

Waiting for Republicans to find some integrity and stay out of the gutter is a losing strategy. It's damn high time someone gave it back as good as the Republicans dish it out.

"E Pluribus Unum" for development groups in the QCs?

Once again, the idea of consolodating, or at least forming a co-operative structure, between the various development organizations in the Quads is being knocked around.
The task force charged with studying the regionalization of economic and community development activities in the Quad-Cities said in a statement received Thursday that their members endorsed the collaborative talks and their discussions had no pre-ordained outcome.

The task force is comprised of representatives of the Quad City Development Group, DavenportOne, the Illinois Quad City Chamber of Commerce and the Bettendorf Chamber of Commerce.

A group of 27 community leaders told the organizations June 12 that they expected the task force to propose a new regional economic development "structure" within 120 days. The letter warned there would be "funding consequences if the status quo is maintained."

However, representatives of area city governments said Thursday there may be other steps that should be taken before the groups plunge ahead and reorganize the development group or consolidate DavenportOne and the Illinois and Bettendorf chambers of commerce.
I have absolutely no clue whether one structure would be better than the next, but at the very least, it seems that there should be one board composed of reps from all the organizations which would at least serve a coordinating function in order to avoid duplication of services, cost savings, and to ensure that one hand knows what the other hand is doing.

What do you think?

Click on pictures to blow 'em up.

June 29, 2006

Coultler Quiz

Who made the statement? A raving totalitarian lunatic...... or Adolph Hitler?

You make the call.

(and check out the size of that adam's apple! To quote Austin Powers, "She's a man, baby!")

Of prime concern

The recent news that a second high-end restaurant was finally going to open in the former Blue Ribbon space got me thinking.

If over-priced restaurants aren't your thing, you could do as I do. Just go to Jerry's Market, tucked away in a residential neighborhood at 1609 17th Street, Moline, and get yourself a real, live, USDA Prime grade roast or your favorite steak cut to order. (for those of you who care, Jerry's sells wet aged beef, as opposed to dry aged, which is arguably better but more costly due to the fact that dry aging results in about 18% weight loss due to loss of moisture (which concentrates the flavor) and requires extra trimming. More here.)

Prime Rib is probably my all-time favorite dish, and Prime roast at Jerry's went for $11/lb last time I was there, but that's cheap compared to this place. (someday, I'll indulge my fantasy and buy a Wagu roast) The roast pictured above was about 9 lbs.

Have Jerry cut the ribs off of the roast and tie them back on. You cook the roast with them on for flavor, and it saves you the trouble of cutting them off a huge roast before carving. I always ask for a nice layer of fluffy fat to be tied on the top of the roast. Don't think that's gross. It bastes the roast and provides flavor, and there is nothing more delicious than the thin layer of seasoned, perfectly browned fat when the roast is finished.

Rub the roast with good olive oil, coarse salt and some fresh ground Tellicherry pepper, tuck a few cloves of garlic into slits if you like, (or inject some marinade with an food syringe. (Try simmering some garlic and rosemary and/or taragon and a touch of good burgundy wine in some beef stock until it's really concentrated, then strain.) stick in a good meat thermometer, put the thing in a rack in a thick 3" deep roasting pan, crank up the oven to about 450, and sear that sucker for about 25 minutes per pound, then cut back the heat to 325, and cook until medium rare. (or more done, if you have no appreciation for flavor.)

Pull the roast out when the thermometer says it's done, let it rest for a half hour or so to resorb the juices, take off the ribs, and then whip out your carving knife and have at it. (of course, you can also make some outstanding gravy out of the drippings, if you'd like)

And you can feast on the left-overs for days. Nothing like fresh sliced prime rib sandwiches. MMMMMMMMMM.

Another method I've tried calls for heating up a cast iron skillet VERY hot and then searing all sides of the roast before putting it in the oven. This works... as far as searing goes, but it fills your kitchen with smoke unless you have an industrial strength exhaust fan, and unless you want to hold the roast while is sizzles and smokes for some time, the sear doesn't go too deep. I've found that I prefer the over seared method.

Just don't open the oven during the searing phase or smoke will instantly start billowing out of the oven, setting off your smoke alarms and kind of putting unecessary stress into what should be a pleasurable task.

The oven searing should produce a nice flavorful browned outer layer on the roast, and allow more of the inside to remain medium rare. Rather than a gradual change from very done on the outside to rare in the middle, it creates about a 3/4 inch layer of medium well on the outside and a perfect, moist medium rare throughout the center if done right. (the injected stock helps add flavor and moistness as well)

I like to have Prime Rib with mashed potatoes (with a dose of heavy cream, a dab of mayo and sour cream) and some fresh cut green beans with white sauce or maybe some asparagus with bearnaise. Stuff that couldn't be simpler, but are really good.

Needless to say, those of you who are very afraid for your health and subsist on sprouts and tofu will want to steer clear of this meal. It's sort of a heart attack on a plate. (If you eat it every night for a few years) But hell, if you can't enjoy it now, you sure won't be able to after you've kicked the bucket. If I were a condemned prisoner, I think I'd have Prime Rib and all the fixin's for my last meal.

Which allows me to end with this question:

What would YOU order for your last meal?

June 28, 2006

Shady Beach

This is a nice secluded little area I'd come across in my ramblings.

Just curious, anyone else know where it's located?

click for larger images

Does this look "uninhabitable" to you Dookette? It even has a cee-ment pond, which of course, I'd promptly turn into a gigantic live well for my catch. Apparently, a pontoon boat seems to be required as well, since everyone has one. So I'd have to pick out a nice party barge.

June 27, 2006

Speaking the truth to power

Senator Russ Feingold's appearance on last Sunday's Meet the Press with Tim Russert was an eye-opener. Feingold's performance was near flawless, with not a misstep during his grilling by Russert. (though admittedly, Russert didn't get beligerant with him, but when he did try to hammer Feingold, Feingold came out smelling like a rose.)

Feingold has called for a censure resolution against Bush for his illegal actions in wiretapping American citizens without court approval, has characterized this illegal action as an impeachable offense.

Feingold's censure resolution had the predictable result of Democrats running like scared rabbits away from it. Even though this was just a call for censure for clearly illegal acts by this president, Dems, showing just how spineless and under the thrall of their conservative consultants they are, refused to stand up and be counted, even though most of the country would have supported them if they had. Why they refuse to stand up to Bush is simply infuriating.

It sometimes seems as if Bush and Cheney must have incriminating video of each and every one of them for them to act so sheepish and spineless.

But before you rush to assume that Feingold's resolution or views are too "out there" for someone like Obama to support, just watch or read the transcript of MTP and see how rational Feingold's case truly is.

Feingold responded to Dick Cheney's criticism, made the often overlooked point that our actions in Iraq have played directly into Bin Laden and al Queda's hands, and provides many facts which most Americans haven't had the chance to hear.

I highly recommend that readers either read the transcript or better yet, watch the interview here.

The more I see and hear from Feingold, the more impressed I become.

Bass St. Chop House to open Thursday

After the abrupt closing of the Blue Ribbon restaurant in downtown Moline under still mysterious circumstances, a new joint is scheduled to open in it's place.
Nearly five months after the closing of Blue Ribbon Steakhouse at Bass Street Landing, another upscale steakhouse will open its doors in the same spot.

Bass Street Chop House, at 1601 River Drive, will formally open Thursday at 4 p.m. for cocktails and 5 p.m. for dinner. The restaurant is managed by Orchestrate Management & Associates, a Des Moines-based hospitality management company which also oversees Centro, a popular urban-style Italian eatery in downtown Davenport.

"Quad-Cities restaurant-goers have been anxiously awaiting the opening of Bass Street Chop House," general manager Guy Lampe said in a press release. "It will be worth the wait. The menu is exceptional in quality and value, and our 35-member full-time restaurant team is superior in experience and service standards."
Local chef Joel Ryser, chef at the Blue Ribbon, will have the same position with the new restaurant.

Well, let's see if this one works.

Drinking Liberally, again


Kudos to YoungDem, the wonderful, charming, and take-charge sort of person who has taken it upon themselves to apply for a chapter of Drinking Liberally here in the Illinois Quads.

He asks that anyone with any questions or comments contact him at QCIL.DrinkingLiberally@yahoo.com

Way to go YoungDem. Let's all get behind this and show some support at least to get it off the ground.

Last year, I wrote the following post. A loyal reader has again expressed interest in the idea, and perhaps someone would be willing to step forward and assume the very modest responsibilities in starting a local chapter.

I would like to attend, but for obvious reason's I can't start the chapter myself.

The following first appeared on November 29th, 2005.


Drinking Liberally is an organization which describes itself thusly:
An informal, inclusive Democratic drinking club. Raise your spirits while you raise your glass, and share ideas while you share a pitcher. Drinking Liberally gives like-minded, left-leaning individuals a place to talk politics. You don't need to be a policy expert and this isn't a book club - just come and learn from peers, trade jokes, vent frustration and hang out in an environment where it's not taboo to talk politics.

Bars are democratic spaces - you talk to strangers, you share booths, you feel the bond of common ground. Bring democratic discourse to your local democratic space - build Democracy one drink at a time.
I'd drink to that. How about you?

Amazingly, there's no local chapter established as yet. If anyone is interested in starting one, the how-to is found here.

Let's discuss it here and get this ball rolling. I think it would be a fun time, and I'm optimistic we can avoid throwing chairs, pulling hair, or decking each other.

I think it would foster a little more brother and sisterhood amongst local Dems, progressives, or others to the left side of the political spectrum. It's hard to really loath someone who buys you a drink, at least for a few hours.

And if someone just bores the life out of you or annoys you to the point where you want to scratch your own eyes out, you could always migrate to another part of the room or cloister yourself in a booth where they can't get to you.

I bet with a little social lubrication, things would go well. A plus would be that it wouldn't be an organized party event, thus it wouldn't be in a florescent lit room with folding chairs, stale carrot and celery trays or donuts and day old coffee from styrofoam cups, which oddly, since this seems to be the preferred forum for Dem meetings, isn't very condusive to discussion or camaraderie.

Any ideas for a good meeting spot? Preferably someplace affordable and comfortable.

Ideas? Volunteers? Let's see if we can get this going.

June 25, 2006

Impending Rock Island County Public Defender vacancy up for grabs

Mr. Meersman, who was defeated in a four-way race for a judge seat in 2000, is the only candidate for the circuit judge position that will become open in December, when Judge James T. Teros' six-year term expires. Judge Teros has announced he will retire then.

That leaves replacing Mr. Meersman as public defender -- a job he's held since 1989 -- up to the 12 circuit judges.

Heightened interest is expected in the position now that the county board has approved hiking the salary for the position from the current $95,400 a year to 90 percent of the state's attorney's salary, which is about $147,000. The state pays two-thirds of the salary and the county pays the rest.

"With the new pay level, a lot more people are going to be attracted to the position," Mr. Meersman said. "Not only the pay increase, it's also the insurance."

Hmmmmm. A 35% pay hike. That should appeal to someone. But who?

Apparently not everyone is in favor of the Triumph plant

This letter to the editors of the Dispatch/Argus is generating some interesting comments:
If Triumph slaughterhouse builds, CAFOs (corporate factory farms) could sprout up in a 100-mile radius and drive out family farms. CAFOs degrade the environment and jeopardize public health. Liquified pig manure can pollute rivers, streams and groundwater to such a degree that wells have been poisoned, millions of fish have been killed in many parts of the U.S. and fishermen and swimmers have developed massive sores and memory loss, as scientifically studied and recorded in "And the Waters Turned to Blood" by Rodney Barker.

Some say the Environmental Protection Agency will protect us. Not so! The Federal Clean Air and Water Acts are violated repeatedly and taxpayers continue to pay the bills for terrible damage to the environment as printed by the Animal Welfare Institute. Today, Illinois has few laws and few employees to govern those laws. Iowa DNR is voting for more control over CAFO pollution. This year alone Iowa had already issued 358 permits as of April. But our politicians continue to believe it won't happen here. Do you?

In Altona, Ill. residents allege that health problems have resulted from animal waste from CAFOs. A woman who lives 50 miles from Triumph in Missouri reports there are cataloged environmental problems as far north as the state border. The East Moline City Council vows to protect us, yet they and other local politicians weren't interested enough to attend a forum on the dangers from this industry. They didn't want to hear that the boosted economy promised did not materialize in other cities and states. Yet they continue to believe it won't happen here. Do you? Whom do you trust, politicians or documented studies? Are these low-paying jobs worth it? We must protect our environment. Write and call your representatives in Springfield and tell them this is unacceptable. We must stop this now!

Lucille Kannenberg,

East Moline

DNC moves closer to shuffling primary schedule

A Democratic National Committee panel considering changes to the presidential election calendar voted Thursday to allow just two other states to join Iowa and New Hampshire in voting early in 2008.

If the full DNC adopts the recommendation, one state would be allowed to hold a caucus between Iowa's caucus and the New Hampshire primary, and a second would hold a primary shortly after the New Hampshire contest.

Supporters said limiting the new states to two instead of the four some had proposed would accomplish the goal of increasing racial and ethnic diversity without front-loading the calendar or diminishing the traditional roles of Iowa and New Hampshire. Both states have been criticized as unrepresentative of the country given their size and nearly all-white populations.

Good thing? Bad thing?

I think it's a needed change which will help decrease the frontloading of the primaries and remove some of the undue influence exerted by two small states. (no offence, Iowa.)

June 23, 2006

We don't need no stinking diplomacy!

The following is a guest post by valued commenter "Huck Finn"'

Where are the American diplomats in Iraq?

"When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

One of my major complaints about the handling of the Iraq War has been the lack of U.S. interagency involvement and support, particularly the State Department. In the days leading up to March 19th, 2003, I wrote in my journal that I envisioned huge contracted cargo ships at the docks in Um Qasr unloading massive supplies for interagency groups and non governmental organizations. I finally realized that it was not part of the plan. Three years later, it's the military doing the nation building.

The military’s mission to fight and win the nation's wars now includes rebuilding nations as a core military mission. With 113k troops deployed at a cost of $10 billion per month, perhaps only two of the four major elements of national power—diplomatic, informational, military and economic—are fully engaged in the war. Most notably absent is diplomatic power and the result is that the military is burdening the load that civilian diplomats should bear.

In the June 15th edition of Government Executive Magazine Katherine Peters wrote an article on the subject. She notes the observations of several players, including retired General Barry McCaffrey and Assistant Secretary of State John Hillen.

She quotes McCaffrey in a report to fellow professors at West Point, “The U.S. Interagency support for our strategy in Iraq is grossly inadequate.”

Hillen is quoted: “There’s a lot of disappointment across the government that [the mission in Iraq is] still a DoD show. The great ‘aha’ of the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is that we cannot kill or capture our way to victory in either Iraq or Afghanistan or the [global war on terrorism] in general.”

(Now that you've read Hillen's quote, reread the quote in italics at the top of this artice)

Colin Powell and James Webb didn’t need to wait on the post-invasion, group-think QDR to warn them of the dangers of relying exclusively on military power to achieve victory. They made their points known before the invasion. Just as they predicted, we "own it," referring to our costly long-term presence in Iraq.

I recommend anyone recommending changes to our role or strategy in Iraq read this well-written article on one area where our government can more effectively use its talent and expertise before drawing conclusions on how we should pursue a satisfactory end state in Iraq.

Moline begins coping with automated garbage pick-up

Presumably, all the thousands of monotonously identical trash bins are now distributed in the city of Moline, and with that, the city enters the ranks of other towns both nationally and locally who've already instituted this reportedly cost saving system. (Though notably, Moline still has NOT joined the even larger ranks of cities and towns which offer some form of curb-side recycling.)

I find the bins incredibly unsightly when lined up for blocks on end. The first thing that strikes you is that they're HUGE. Most people seemed to end up with the larger 96 gallon size container, and they're big enough to hold a good sized hog or a Shetland pony. (which will probably happen, sooner or later.)

In addition to making it glaringly clear that people throw out a LOT of garbage, (according to the manufacturer, the large cans are rated to hold up to 335 lbs of trash safely.) the cans also add to a jarring Stepford Wife monotony, with endless identical gray cans lined up to the horizon. So efficient, and so ugly.

I also question why the containers don't include even a tiny hole in the bottom to allow liquids to drain. I suppose it's because they're assumed to be covered at all times so that water would not be a problem. That's wishful thinking. The lack of drainage also makes cleaning them a bit tougher, as you'll have to invert the entire thing to drain it and allow it to dry.

Another thought is that with the covered cans, and the goal being that the truck driver never leaves the cab, how is it even possible to ensure that people don't throw out "forbidden" items, such as paint, solvents, yard waste, etc.?

And the workers who this system will put out of work are most likely having to work extra hard to deploy and deal with all the initial snafus and problems associated with introducing their replacements.

And the replacements aren't cheap. This place sells identical Rubbermaid units for the low, low price of $219.00. (though of course, it's expected the city paid much, much less per unit, but even at half price, that's $109.00 a pop!)

Progress marches on.

Any thoughts or reviews so far from Moline residents?

PS. If you're the real go-getter entrepreneurial type, you could pick up thousands of gently used plastic and metal garbage cans, some nearly new, which residents are now compelled to throw out, and sell them at a steep discount to businesses or individuals either locally or elsewhere. Start a "Garbage Cans R Us" or something. (of course I expect a small slice for the idea)

I've seen many 44 gal. Rubbermaid containers sitting out to be thrown away. They go new for as much as $40 and a lid runs $17. Now you can have as many as you can carry.

Who wants to be a moralist?

Here's today's question:

What is the difference, if any, in terms of morality, or if you prefer, which is more barbaric? Killing someone by beheading them in cold blood, or dropping flaming jellified petroleum on them from thousands of feet in the air, burning them to death by dropping white phosphorus on them, dropping hundreds of thousand pound bombs on their homes, or shooting them from afar and leaving them to die a lingering painful death? Why?

June 22, 2006

"Turd Blossom" plops into Iowa

The Hawkeye State will get a chance to see Karl Rove up close and personal, that is, if you're a staunch Republican willing to whip out your checkbook and spread some major love.

Herr Rove, a darling of the right for his ability to pervert negatives into positives, and the man most responsible for the ascendancy of bald faced lies and enthusiastic rejection of reality and fact as minor inconveniences in Republican dogma, will grace Iowa with his presence Monday.

"Bush's Brain" is scheduled to appear in Waterloo to endorse candidate for Congress Mike Whalen, then hop over to Des Moines to stump for 3rd District Congressional candidate Jeff Lamberti.

Swing on over and say hey to Turd Blossom if you get the chance.

June 21, 2006

Do not adjust your sets

My apologies to the loving public for the lack of, well, anything here in the past few days. Events conspired to take me out of town, which, depending on your perspective, is either welcome news or not.

As soon as I wrestle a few things to the ground, I'll be able to resume regular programming, though the frenetic pace of summer definitely cuts into the time I'm able to devote to the effort.

In the meantime, if anything's on your mind, here's an open thread to tell us.

June 17, 2006

Announcement today

Those who helped grease the skids to locate the Triumph Pork "processing" plant on prime wetlands are quite giddy. The Illinois Department of Economic and Community Opportunity and Triumph have sealed an agreement. (no details)

The deal is to be announced at noon today in East Moline at the new Metro Link facility according to a well placed source.

A great self-congratulatory spirit will be savored by the politicians and the players involved, as well as all those who enjoy listening to the above give speeches praising each other to high heaven for the benefit of the press who, along with a few staffers and hangers-on, will likely make up the entire audience.

Look out Silvis... here come those high paying jobs!! Expect to see the "trickle-down" economic ripple effect from the plant in your bank account soon. (Just stay out of the river.)

June 16, 2006

Truck fall down and go BOOM.

A reader sent in some shots and an account of the rather spectacular accident on Moline's 6th Avenue right next to the riverside lagoon Thursday evening.

At the time, all 5 diamonds of the nearby Moline Little League complex had games in full swing (no pun intended) being watched by hundreds of children and parents.

Suddenly there was a loud, long wail of rubber against concrete, a small boom as the truck hit the curb, and a big boom and cloud of dust as it fell over onto it's side, coming to rest within feet of the riverside lagoon.
(I could find no reports on the accident or the condition of the driver in either online versions of the local papers. Though the driver was no doubt injured, it didn't appear to be critically. With luck, he'll be out of the hospital soon, if he's not already.)

A near miss. A few more feet and there would have been a geyser from the severed fire hydrant to add more drama to the scene.

The cab of the truck rolled on the driver's side, pinning the driver's legs. Rescue teams worked for about a half hour to extricate him.

The driver awaits extrication after a wild ride.

The accident could have been much worse. No cars or people were struck by or pinned under the truck, no one was injured aside from the driver, the fuel tanks didn't rupture, there was no fire, and no diesel fuel was released into the lagoon, the trailer didn't rupture and none of the load (reported to be dog food) spilled out into the lagoon.
(though I'm sure the fish would have loved it. Maybe next year there'd be 200lb catfish.)
The truck could have been carrying toxic gasses or gasoline or any number of hazardous cargo, in which case it would have been a very serious situation, being that there were several hundred children and adults within a short distance of the accident.

It's not known what caused the accident though some reported a car cutting off the truck causing it to swerve.

Afterwards, an enormous tow truck disingaged and tipped the semi tractor onto it's wheels and pulled it away from the trailer. Another Dorhn semi arrived with another trailer full of pallets and dropped it along side the tipped trailer.

The tow company then opened up the doors of the tipped trailer and began righting tipped over pallets and offloading the cargo using a skidloader with forks and placing it onto other trailer.

One specators wished the truck contained frozen steaks or lobster, something they'd have to pass them out free or they'd spoil, but no such luck.

Mea Culpa

A regular commenter here recently wrote me an e-mail asking why some of their comments weren't appearing here. They wanted to know whether I was dumping them, if it was a snafu with Blogger, or a fault on their end.

This prompted me to take a look at the Blogger page which lists all comments waiting for moderation. I normally try to check there on a regular basis to make sure that none have slipped through the cracks and escaped my notice.

I'd neglected to check for missed comments for some time, and unfortunately, I found several which got past without my noticing them. (some were even supportive!)

They're posted now, and I appologize to those who wrote them and didn't see them appear.

Of course, this is the time to remind readers once more that if you ever have any question about your comments not appearing or why, drop me an e-mail. (That's E-MAIL, NOT in a comment.)

Try to include the comment or enough to identify the comment and approximately the date you sent it so I can go back and see what happened to it. It may be that it slipped through the cracks, or it may be that I simply didn't think it was worth publishing, in which case I'll be glad to explain why.

June 15, 2006

Neckless Wonder makes out like a bandit

For years, Hastert has been pushing the construction of a highway called the Prairie Parkway in Illinois. He secured $207 million in earmarks to support the project. But what he didn't tell constituents was that he owned a huge plot of farmland just a few miles from where the road would run. And now that the project's gone through, the land has been tranferred to a real estate development firm with plans to build a 1,600 home community. The land has already improved in value by millions of dollars.

Nice work if you can get it.

Smooth move

Bush gave a rather rare press conference yesterday and had this exchange with reporter Peter Wallsten of the L.A. Times:

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Peter. Are you going to ask that question with shades on?

Q I can take them off.

THE PRESIDENT: I’m interested in the shade look, seriously.

Q All right, I’ll keep it, then.

THE PRESIDENT: For the viewers, there’s no sun. (Laughter.)

Q I guess it depends on your perspective. (Laughter.)

What a card, right? But it turns out that due to macular degeneration, Wallsten is legally blind and wears the shades to protect his eyes.

The clip and more at Think Progress here.

Reminded me of the time a couple years back when Stevie Wonder was performing at the Kennedy Center (I think) and little C-student George, sitting in the audience, WAVED at him.

And they wonder why Bush doesn't inspire confidence.

Rock River, wetlands, take a big hit for "jobs".

Illinois (and the country) is faced with the dramatic destruction of wetlands, with only a fraction of it left and dwindling fast. These wetlands are a crucial environment for many species, as well as essential for flood prevention and serve several other critical functions as well.

But to many, they're just empty land to make a mint on.

Here's a shot sent in by a reader showing at least partially the site of the Triumph Hog Slaughter operation.

Estimated location marked in red.

And here's a map showing the area shown by the photo.

As you can clearly see, it's right on top of wetlands, adjoins actual lakes, and is within a stone's throw from the Rock River itself.

Don't know about you, but even if you're all gung-ho for this plant, would you ever swim or fish in the Rock again after it's up and killing literally thousands of hogs per day? Is that the price you're willing to pay?

The potential for substantial pollution and degradation over time is large and real. Since you may not use or enjoy the Rock River yourself, are you willing to essentially degrade it, or at least the 20 or so miles below this plant and turn it into a gigantic waste disposal pipe into the Mississippi, in the name of "jobs"? And give up literally millions in tax revenue for the privilege?

This reader also sent in reams and reams of data, charts, statistics, and endless columns and quotes, no doubt legitimate, but unfortunately, not much of it was linked or sourced.

Much of it showed the effects of just such plants on other locales and the surrounding environment, in particular one disasterous plant in Milan, Missouri.

It also cited statistics and data showing how such plants attract huge number of CAFOs, or concentrated animal farming operations, which are notorious polluters, often creating entire large lakes full of disease ridden and barely treated hog waste.

June 14, 2006

Well, so much for that idea

Apparently, Jim Mowen, defeated Republican candidate for the 17th district congressional seat, has decided that he'd rather pontificate un-sullied by give and take. (unless it's a blogger glitch or a goof, though it appears there's no longer any way to leave comments.)

Only a week or so after the launch of his blog, touted as a place to discuss things from a middle-of-the-road perspective, he's now apparently decided not to allow any comments at all to his rather bizarre views, including rationalizing Ann Coulter's insane and heartless attack on 9-11 widows because he sees it as a shrewd marketing ploy (again with the view that morality only counts when you're telling someone else what they should or shouldn't do, but is easily tossed aside in favor of the religion of cold hard cash and the free market.)and trying to equate James Carville with a woman who's views are beyond vile and who is dragging political discourse down to a level somewhere below professional wrestling.

And then there's his suggestion that all any one who has an opinion beyond "I'm so glad he's dead" regarding the killing of Zawquari is somehow a raving left-wing bomb-thrower. (People who "think too much" drive the right crazy. They crave nice, neat, black and white situations... simple solutions to complex problems, which is one reason they never work.)

He also completely goes off the deep end by suggesting global warming is fiction by pointing to historic high temps for the month of July. It's laughable. It makes one wonder how he's attained the high level of success he has. I sometimes think I'm not bright enough to really do well and make a large amount of money, but Mowen makes me think it can't be that tough.

He's chided me for my anonymity in the past, but after he's willingly published his views and the tortured and dubious logic he uses to fold, spindle, and mutilate reality and fact to fit his ideology, I think he might end up wishing he'd remained anonymous himself.

I hope he continues to offer his responses and opinions on posts here, but evidently, if you want to respond to his stuff, you're fresh out of luck.

His blog is now essentially, Mowen speak, you listen.

As easy as his stuff is to knock down, I can certainly understand why.

June 12, 2006

Couldn't have said it better myself

Tom Tomorrow, perhaps the best political cartoonist of our era, shows how the process works.

June 11, 2006

Something's wrong

We live in a culture and a country which rises up in a spasm of outrage because some performer bares part of her breast for a fraction of a second on national television, which then leads to politicians spewing huge volumes of hot air and demanding action, and the federal regulatory body in charge then raises fines for "indecency" in order to protect us from Howard Stern and Janet Jackson's boob.

Yet no one thinks twice about displaying the bloated, distorted ultra-close-up image of the bloody mangled face of the corpse of al-Zarqawi. It's broadcast literally thousands upon thousands of times around the clock, across every possible media outlet, sometimes several times in one short report, alternating between two equally gruesome shots taken from inches away. You can almost smell the death.

Every gruesome detail is shown in close up living (or dead) color. Same with Sadaam's sons whose corpse shots were even more gruesome.

Yet Bush wouldn't even allow the press to take so much as a picture of the flag draped coffins of our servicemen and women arriving home from Iraq. They also flew into an outrage when al Jazeera broadcast pictures of a couple of our captive servicemen as clearly violating the rules of the Geneva convention.

Rise up and take action to protect our precious children from being "harmed" by being subjected to a glimpse of a woman's breast, but blast-cast a picture of the gory mangled image of a corpse in their faces so repetitively that it's seared into their consciences.

Which one contributes more to a "coarsening of our culture" as the right so often decry? (it's the fault of "liberals" of course)

Something is seriously out of whack.

Boobs bad, violent death good, as long as it's a bad guy and one of "them".

Onward Christian soldiers.

Sneaky Pete's make C-Span's Book TV

Just now, watching C-Span's Book TV, a weekend feature on CSPAN-2, I was tuned in to author and travel columnist of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Thomas Swick speaking at Hittel Books in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

He was giving a reading from his book, "A Way to See the World: From Texas to Transylvania With a Maverick Traveler". He expounded about his experiences in Chicago and how he was glad to leave and head towards Iowa.

His next sentence described how there was a 60's era Rolls Royce Silver Cloud parked in front of Sneaky Pete's in LeClaire, Iowa when he stopped in.

Inside he met the guy who owned it, and the owner and a friend were driving it from New Hampshire to the West Coast somewhere. They said from there they planned on loading it on a ship and transporting the Rolls to Bejing China to participate in the Bejing to Paris rally.

He remarked about the ties hanging from the ceiling and how they told him LeClaire was the birthplace of Buffalo Bill and how he had a buffalo burger.

Then someone asked if he was staying at the Super 8 and he said no, and they handed him a card. The person owned the Hog Heaven B&B where he ended up staying before moving on to Iowa City the next day.

Oddly enough, this was the second reference to the area on Book TV in as many days.

Yesterday, they re-ran an interview from 1996 with Wayne Fields who had written a book on Presidential speeches and orations, "Union of Words: A History of Presidential Eloquence"

Host Brian Lamb asked him about his childhood and Fields said that his family had moved all over the country as his father worked a variety of jobs, from Kentucky, to Texas, to Mississippi, and elsewhere. But his family never really settled down until they arrived in Rock Island, IL.

Later, when asked about his schooling he said he'd graduated from Augustana, and then did graduate work at the University of Chicago. Fields is currently professor of English and director of American Culture Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, MO

June 10, 2006

Sad and ugly actions mar end of Evan's long career.

Like hyenas circling a wounded animal, Lane Evans' brothers, the Dispatch/Argus, the Associated Press and of course, several lawyers, are all contributing to a greater or lesser extent to making Lane Evans' increasingly difficult struggle against Parkinson's Disease even more stressful, sad, and demeaning.

Evan's challenged his two brother's attempt to make their guardianship permanent, and that issue was resolved fairly quickly and apparently with a minimum of rancor or conflict. That's the good news.

A judge hearing the case assigned personal guardianship for Evans to Dennis King, Evans' friend since college and chief of staff and financial guardianship to American Bank & Trust.

When the Dispatch/Argus and Associated Press, not wanting to leave any scab un-picked, requested they be able to have access to the proceedings, the judge rightly ruled against them by noting they had no standing in the case.

Now they plan to petition the court for access to the records of the proceedings.

They've already gotten full details of the agreement, statements from the lawyers involved who can legally discuss it, and have reported every minute detail of the figures involved and their roles and backgrounds.

Yet this is not enough. They want the juicy bits. The personal. The embarassing. They want the court records containing confidential and detailed reports on Evan's health issues and the evidence used by the judge to base his decision that Evan's required guardianship.

They want the dirt, in other words.

The argument is made that due to Evans' public stature, that health records normally considered strictly confidential in any other case should be made available to the public. Some argue that Evans should resign if his condition would require appointing guardianship.

The right and apparently the Dispatch/Argus are salivating at the chance to further demean Evans while he battles for his life at the end of a long and honorable career. They're ready to go to battle for the right to kick a sick man while he's down, even though there's only a relatively brief time left in his term.

Personally, I don't know how they justify it.

They even sunk to reporting with an arched eyebrow, "[Evans] was consoled by Mr. Winstein and a woman who would only identify herself as 'a friend.'" Ooooh la la! Scandalous! Evans has a female friend. STOP THE PRESSES!

If Evans has any reason to weep, it's that creepy jackals of the press are bound and determined to strip him of all dignity while he's struggling to avoid sliding into a debilitated state.

I'm sure we can look forward to similar reporting on Evan's funeral on that hopefully distant date, complete with hints of scandal and inuendo about who attends, who crys, and how much the casket cost.

Of course, they might be expected to sue for the right to exume the body to examine it themselves as well.

The way the Dispatch/Argus is covering this story is nothing short of tasteless, graceless, utterly unecessary, and crude.

If only they'd exibit such bulldog tenacity and drive to get to the bottom of things on the many underexamined follies of local Republicans and developers, they might have a leg to stand on.

Stumbling out of the gate, Hare realizes he forgot to remember to resign.

Dispatch/Argus photo by Terry Herbig
Democrat congressional candidate Phil Hare said Friday he will quit his $119,000-a-year job as U.S. Rep. Lane Evans' district director rather than violate House ethics rules.

A congressional staff member who becomes a candidate to replace his or her boss must resign, according to the Campaign Booklet of the U.S. House Commitee on Standards of Official Conduct, also known as the House ethics committee.

On Thursday, a reporter raised the question that Mr. Hare could be violating House rules by campaigning while remaining an employee of Rep. Evans. Mr. Hare called a committee attorney Friday morning, who confirmed that the rules require him to resign, he said.
Mr. Hare said he had looked through the House Ethics Manual and assumed he could keep his job.

The campaign booklet says that congressional staffers can run for office and still work at their jobs, as long as they campaign on their own time. However, congressional staffers who are candidates to succeed their employers must quit their jobs because of a strong potential of a conflict of interest, according to ethics rules. Another concern is that a congressional campaign takes up a lot of time.

The booklet also states if a staffer is thinking about becoming a candidate to replace his or her House member, the staffer may explore the possibility of running for office without resigning. Once a staffer declares his or her candidacy, he or she needs to terminate the job, according to the rules.

Mr. Hare announced his candidacy in April after Rep. Evans decided to retire because of health problems attributed to Parkinson's disease. Rep. Evans endorsed Mr. Hare.
Mr. Hare originally had planned to take four weeks of vacation and to campaign at night and on the weekends.(emphasis mine)

Mr. Hare said it wasn't fair to voters to split his time between being a congressional staffer and a candidate. "I'm not sad about it," he said. "I didn't become Lane's district director for the money."
(Yeah, for only $119K a year, it couldn't be for the money. That's pocket change.)
Congressional staffers are employees of the legislative branch of the federal government. They are not subject to the Hatch Act, which forbids employees of the executive branch from running in partisan elections.
OK, have we got things figured out now? Everything set? Dare we hope for no more surprises from now until the election? Have we gotten the dumb mistakes out of the way now, or can we expect more blunders or revelations to hand the Zingoids more campaign fodder?

Beydler's not impressed.

John Edwards to visit Iowa Quad Cities Sunday

Jerry Messer and the Quad-City Federation of Labor will be holding an event featuring Senator John Edwards Sunday, June 11, 2006 from 4:30 - 6:00 at the United Steel Workers Hall 880 Devils Glen Road, Bettendorf, Iowa

The announcement states:
Senator Edwards will be here to encourage us to keep up the good fight and focus on Democratic victories in November. RSVP to Bev Strayhall at 563.359.0909

Zinga shakes the bushes

I recently received this fundraising e-mail from the Zinga campaign from an alert reader.

Window Of Opportunity

June 09, 2006


I have some truly exciting news! The Democrats have chosen their candidate for this seat – and he is the weakest they have, Phil Hare, district director for retiring congressman Lane Evans.
In fact, the Quad City times is running an online poll. Almost all voters who participate in this poll are from Rock Island County, which typically gives Democrats a 20 to 35% margin. As I write this, that poll shows two points separating Hare and me!

You’ve probably asked yourself. Does my donation really make a difference?
Yes. It makes more of a difference this time than ever. Last month, while making a round of meetings with trade organizations in Washington, I had the opportunity to address the Republican caucus – the weekly strategy meeting of all the Republican Members of Congress. They are excited about our opportunity to pick this seat up. In fact, National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) Chairman Tom Reynolds and Speaker of the House Denny Hastert have already made the maximum contribution to my campaign.
But the key thing the NRCC looks at in assessing how deeply to get involved in an open seat race is what is being raised locally.

You can play a leadership role in my campaign. In fact, if we are to prevail, I must have your help and leadership. We need to raise $300,000 by June 30th. We are a third of the way there. That means we have a huge job ahead of us in these next few weeks. If we succeed, the NRCC will be heavily involved in helping us raise the money in Washington and beyond that we need to roar on to victory. But they want to see that the people of the district want this seat as much as they do.

Phil Hare is wrong on almost every issue. He sides with the trial lawyers against lawsuit reform, driving our doctors across the border, He opposes 2nd Amendment rights, is radically pro-abortion.

He has promised to continue the economic policies that, as the Moline Dispatch editorialized on May 11th, have resulted in “empty factories and empty neighborhoods.” Our district simply can’t afford the stagnation and decline Phil Hare promises. This is the time we can take this seat back and begin a genuine renaissance in our district. But time is of the essence. Won’t you please send your very biggest contribution of $2,100, $1,000, $500, $100 or even $50?

If we get on TV with our message of cutting taxes, cutting spending and regulation, rebuilding our infrastructure and putting this district back to work, WE WILL WIN THIS SEAT BACK FOR THE REPUBLICAN PARTY.

Your donation is key to getting this message out. Because the stakes are so high and the time is so short, I hope you will consider giving just a little more than you normally would. Together, we will win this seat in November. Thank you for your time and my warmest wishes to you and yours.

Click here to Donate Today !!

If you cannot afford a donation today please foward this e-mail to someone who can. Our donation system also allows you to donate a small amount every month and the donation is automatically deducted from your checking account.


Andrea Zinga

Well, at least the Republicans aren't turning up their noses at online fundraising.

Last time the subject was mentioned here, local Dem neanderthals scoffed at the idea as silly and useless and argued vigorously against taking advantage of the web at all, let alone the idea of utilizing online tools as a great fundraising opportunity.

Great thinking guys. Guess you have all the campaign cash you need. And those who could easily and quickly donate online (who may not otherwise contribute at all) should be safely ignored.

By the way, when's the next torchlight parade scheduled? Still planning to hand out whiskey on election day and have a guy ride through town on a horse with a Hare banner?

71st District Congressional Race Discussion

Go for it.

17th District Congressional Race Discussion

Have at it.

36th District State Senate Race Discussion

Knock yourselves out.

June 9, 2006

The real "Bush Country"

Remember how the hyenas on the right made such a big gloating to-do about the map of supposed "Bush Country" in the wake of the 2000 election?

How they skewed the facts by touting a map highlighting "square miles" for Bush (mostly sagebrush and coyotes.), and the number of counties for Bush, neither of which is any reflection of support from actual PEOPLE?

They preened and strutted and acted like this misleading map was proof of some overwhelming victory and therefore, a clear and convincing mandate for Bush. (the fact that Gore won the popular vote was... well, nothing, just reality and fact that you should safely ignore, thus setting the standards and practices they've relied on for 6 long years now.)

Thanks to alert reader Highxlr8r, who pointed me to the Springfield chapter of "Drinking Liberally" (remember when I tried to start a chapter here? Total flop.) which showed the map, which I then searched for (since no attribution was given) and found here...


This shows what "Bush Country" looks like today, reduced to three desolate western states, the only three which still approve of Bush's disasterous reign.

June 7, 2006

It's Braley vs Whalen in Iowa's 1st, Culver vs Nussle for Iowa Gov.

The intensely watched race in Iowa's 1st congressional district will be between restauranteur Mike Whalen and attorney Bruce Braley. Expect major support from both national parties in this district, one of the few open congresional districts, as Dems hope they can flip it and Republicans try to hold on to the seat.
Iowa Machine Shed owner Mike Whalen claimed the Republican nomination for the 1st Congressional District.
“When we found out we won Dubuque we felt pretty good,” Whalen said late tonight. “It was our hope to be competitive.”

Whalen, 52, of Bettendorf, had more than 52 percent of the votes cast with 92 percent of precincts reporting. Bill Dix, 43, a state legislator and farmer, had 33 percent and Brian Kennedy, 42, a lawyer, former state party chairman and former lobbyist from Bettendorf, had about 15 percent of the vote.

Whalen and Dix were neck and neck until about 11 p.m. when Scott County put Whalen over the edge. More than 68 percent of Scott County’s 8,448 voters chose Whalen, compared to about 18 percent for Dix and 14 percent for Kennedy.

Whalen said he would continue to talk about immigration reform and how to create more and better jobs for Americans leading up to the November election.

Waterloo lawyer Bruce Braley eked out a win in the four-way Democratic primary race in eastern Iowa, while Republican Mike Whalen of Bettendorf had an easier time defeating two opponents.

Braley and Rick Dickinson of Sabula traded the lead through the night as returns came in. Braley won by just 860 votes, with 37 percent compared to 34 percent for Dickinson. A third candidate, Bill Gluba, won in his home county of Scott County and finished with 26 percent of the vote and Denny Heath of Clinton finished with 4 percent.

Said Keith Breitbach, an aide to Dickinson: “I’ve got no fingernails left.”

Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver claimed the 2006 Democratic nomination for governor late Tuesday, turning back a late challenge by former state economic development director Mike Blouin and outpacing state Rep. Ed Fallon.

Culver’s narrow victory marks a turn by the state’s party activists away from Gov. Tom Vilsack, the two-term Democrat who is not seeking re-election this year and for whom Blouin worked as chief economic officer.

Culver will face U.S. Rep. Jim Nussle, an eight-term Republican congressman from Manchester in the fall general election.

The match-up pits the self-styled “progressive Democrat” and heir to a party icon against a member of the Republican congressional leadership. National analysts have identified Iowa as one of the best chances in the country for the GOP to pick up a governor’s seat this year.

June 6, 2006

One stop Asian Carp shop

Thanks to alert and helpful reader Walranger5, a committed environmentalist and sportsman up in Michigan, who clued me in to AsianCarp.org, a central clearinghouse site on the problem of invasive Asian carp set up jointly by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the University of Texas-Arlington.

It provides everything you've ever wanted to know about carp, (and then some) including laws and regulations, risk assessments, projects underway and proposed, feasibility studies, identification guides, and anything related to the effort to control or contain these fish.

Of particular value is the information database page which lists many if not all of the studies and papers produced on the subject.

A symposium on the problem is scheduled to be held in Peoria August 22-23 for all you carp heads or people interested in keeping up to speed on this serious and challenging problem.

An Asian Carp Working Group composed of representatives from various stakeholders in the problem has been formed to coordinate a national integrated management and control plan.

Educate yourself and know the facts when proposals are made.

One day's catch (over 150 carp) bowhunting on the Des Moines River, Iowa.
(How they put an arrow in the tiny fish in the lower right is beyond me.)

A fisherman brings in a big haul of carp that almost swamped the boat.

A bighead carp. They're neither pretty nor small.

The symposium site promised a gallery of jumping carp photos, but only one is available (the other links are broken). The shot shows hundreds of silver carp leaping in the air just below a spillway dam on the Illinois river.

Evans replacement contest won by a Hare

Won by a Hare, but by a better than two to one margin. And on 06/06/06, no less.
Early in the Tuesday afternoon counting of ballots in the race to replace Lane Evans as 17th District congressman, longtime Evans aide Phil Hare had almost a 3-to-1 margin over Sen. John Sullivan, a Democratic legislator from the western Illinois town of Rushville. With only a few votes left to count, Democrats were declaring Hare the winner by about 16,000 votes to Sullivan's 7,000 votes.

In addition to Sullivan and Hare, the candidates are: Rock Island Mayor Mark Schwiebert, Quincy educator Rob Mellon and Rep. Mike Boland of East Moline.

By the numbers: Vote totals

Rock Island Mayor Mark Schwiebert: 1,370

Quincy educator Rob Mellon: 98

Ill. Rep. Mike Boland, East Moline: 612

Ill. Sen. John Sullivan, Rushville: 7,530

Phil Hare, Lane Evans aide: 17,011

Total votes: 26,621

Source: Rock Island County Clerk

Phil Hare, aide to Rep. Lane Evans, won today's vote to replace Mr. Evans on the Democratic ballot this fall.
Rock Island and Macoupin counties came through with a large majority for Mr. Hare.

Mr. Hare made a brief acceptance speech shortly before 2 p.m., in which he called himself "humbled and honored" by his election. "If I am half as good as Lane Evans, I will be a great congressman," he said to applause.

And as usual, John Beydler provides an excellent recap and observations to the story here.

June 5, 2006

Breaking the bank for bank owners

The effort to repeal the estate tax is perhaps one of the most blatantly wrong-headed and greedy initiatives out of a lot of greedy and wrong-headed competition.

This issue has infuriated me from day one, not only because it represents the reverse Robin Hood principal so popular among the right, taking from the poor to give to the very, very rich, but because of the blatant lying propaganda campaign rolled out to try to garner support with the public, talking almost exclusively about the iconic farm family who have to sell their precious farm that's been in the family for over a century to pay "death taxes".

Nothing could be further from the truth. Very few, if any, farms have had to have been sold, and very few even qualify for estate taxes.

The repeal of the estate tax is one of the most glaringly greedy and irresponsible measures enacted by the gang who've managed to achieve the moral contortion of identifying themselves as chest thumping corporate Christians, while simultaneously fighting to avoid paying their fair share of taxes and relentlessly doing all they can to cut government assistance to the needy and poor.

The effort to repeal the estate tax is perhaps one of the most blatantly wrong-headed and greedy initiatives out of a lot of very greedy, wrong-headed ideas trotted out by the right.

This issue has infuriated me from day one, not only because it represents the reverse Robin Hood principal so popular with the right, taking from the poor to give to the very, very rich, but because of the blatant lying propaganda campaign rolled out to try to garner support with the public, talking almost exclusively about the iconic farm families, salt of the earth, who have to sell their precious family farm to pay "death taxes".

But that's all baloney. Very few, if any, farms have had to have been sold, and very few even qualify for estate taxes.

The always excellent Princeton economist and author Paul Krugman recently dealt with the right and the estate tax repeal issue.
Shameless in the Senate
The Senate almost voted to repeal the estate tax last fall, but Republican leaders postponed the vote after Hurricane Katrina. It's easy to see why: the public might have made the connection between scenes of Americans abandoned in the Superdome and scenes of well-heeled senators voting huge tax breaks for their even wealthier campaign contributors.

But memories of Katrina have faded, and they're about to try again. The Senate will probably vote this week. So it's important to realize that there's still a clear connection between tax breaks for the rich and failure to help Americans in need.
Any senator who votes to repeal the estate tax, or votes for a "compromise" that goes most of the way toward repeal, is in effect saying that increasing the wealth of people who are already in line to inherit millions or tens of millions is more important than taking care of fellow citizens who need a helping hand.

To understand this point, we need to look at what Congress has been doing lately in the name of deficit reduction.

The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which was signed in February, consists mainly of cuts to spending on Medicare, Medicaid and education. The Medicaid cuts will have the largest human impact: the Congressional Budget Office estimates that they will cause 65,000 people, mainly children, to lose health insurance, and lead many people who retain insurance to skip needed medical care because they can't afford increased co-payments.

Congressional leaders justified these harsh measures by saying that we have to reduce the budget deficit, and there's no way to do that without inflicting pain.
But those same leaders now propose making the deficit worse by repealing the estate tax. Apparently deficits aren't such a big problem after all, as long as we're running up debts to provide bigger inheritances to wealthy heirs rather than to provide medical care to children.

And the cost of tax cuts is far larger than the savings from benefit cuts. Under current law — what I once called the Throw Mama From the Train Act of 2001 — the estate tax is scheduled to be phased out in 2010, but return in 2011. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, making repeal permanent would cost more than $280 billion from 2011 to 2015. That's more than four times the savings from the Deficit Reduction Act over the same period.

Who would benefit from this largess? The estate tax is overwhelmingly a tax on the very, very wealthy; only about one estate in 200 pays any tax at all. The campaign for estate tax repeal has largely been financed by just 18 powerful business dynasties, including the family that owns Wal-Mart.

You may have heard tales of family farms and small businesses broken up to pay taxes, but those stories are pure propaganda without any basis in fact.

The Greatest Show above the Earth

Precision, skill, and ice water in their veins. The Blue Angels thrilled the crowds at the Quad City Airshow again this year. With near perfect weather, visibility was good.

Anyone attend? What did you enjoy the most?

June 3, 2006

Republican majority leader busted for campaign finance violations

The Federal Election Commission has determined that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's 2000 Senate campaign violated federal campaign finance laws.

The federal agency fined Frist 2000, Inc., $11,000, according to a lawyer representing Frist's campaign and a watchdog group. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington had filed a complaint last year against Frist's 2000 campaign committee and received the FEC's findings Thursday.

The FEC found that Frist 2000, Inc., failed to disclose a $1.44 million loan taken out jointly by the campaign and Frist's 1994 campaign committee.

The Tennessee Republican, who was elected to the Senate in 1994, is not seeking another term and is weighing a possible bid for the presidency in 2008.

Federal law requires full disclosure of any loans taken out by campaign committees. Frist's 1994 campaign committee did disclose the loan to the FEC in January 2001, but the 2000 campaign did not, according to the FEC.

Evans in conflict with brothers over guardianship issues.

U.S. Rep. Lane Evans, D-Rock Island, is fighting his brothers' attempts to be named his permanent limited guardians.

Doyle and Steven Evans filed a petition this spring, as Rep. Evans recovered from complications related to Parkinson's disease, seeking to be named the congressman's permanent limited guardians.
At a hearing Tuesday, Rock Island County Judge Alan Blackwood ordered a guardian ad litem, a third-party attorney, to represent Rep. Evans' interests as his brothers seek to gain permanent limited guardianship over his affairs.

Rep. Evans, 54, also has hired his own attorney.

Technically, a guardian ad litem is appointed for a minor or adult who is unable to handle his or her own affairs. East Moline attorney John McGehee, who was appointed Wednesday, sees his role differently in this case.

"My job as guardian ad litem is to look at all the issues and see if a guardian should or shouldn't be appointed," Mr. McGehee said. "I'm kind of the eyes and ears of the court.

"My goal is to do what is in the best interests of Congressman Evans," he said.
The temporary guardianship is due to expire June 16.

The original petitions said Rep. Evans' condition necessitated the appointment.

"The Respondent was recently in the hospital for complications due to Parkinson's disease and, as a result, has limited mobility and intermittent cognitive impairments," according to the documents.

Rep. Evans' health has improved to the point where a guardianship isn't necessary, Arthur Winstein, who is representing the congressman, said Friday.

"I think, for the most part, Lane is well enough to do just about everything," Mr. Winstein, a Rock Island attorney, said.

Mr. McGehee confirmed that Rep. Evans is against his brothers gaining permanent guardianship.

During Tuesday's hearing, Judge Blackwood allowed Doyle and Steven Evans to file an amended petition for guardianship if necessary and made Rep. Evans aware that he could seek an independent medical examination as part of the proceedings. A physician's report was sealed in the court file when the original petition was filed April 17.

Rep. Evans is scheduled to return to Washington, D.C., next week, after spending several months in the Quad-Cities recuperating from his illness.

Illinois statute recommends the ward of a guardianship be in court for hearings, Mr. McGehee said. Steve Vetzner, spokesman for Rep. Evans, declined to comment on the guardianship proceedings or to say whether the congressman will return to the Quad-Cities for Friday's hearing.

No one answered the door at Rep. Evans' Rock Island home Friday. Doyle Evans, who has been acting as his brother's caregiver, lives with the congressman. Bates Larson, a Chicago attorney who filed the guardianship petition for Doyle and Steven Evans, didn't return calls for comment.
Read the D/A piece by Kurt Allemeier here.

Pork rinds over sheepskins

Quad City Images at his self titled blog has been a long time supporter of the WIU riverfront project, even though he's on the other side of the river, and he's also glad to hear that the Triumph plant is coming to town.

But he correctly wonders why millions for Triumph was conjured with the snap of a finger, while WIU languishes in limbo for lack of state funding commitments.
Come on, Illinois can find 16 million dollars within a couple months for a hog plant, but can't find $14 million for the first phase of a COLLEGE CAMPUS?? For crying out loud, for less than the price of the Chicago bean we could have a riverfront WIU campus. Sometimes I just don't understand the Land of Lincoln.
That's because the politicians don't WANT you to understand. It's none of our business, and don't forget it.

A related bit of news reports that the WIU board approved the project to absolutely no one's surprise. Now if they had rejected it, THAT would have been news.

And of course, despite granting WIU $2.4 million for planning and design, the state can't seem to find the money just yet to actually build the thing.

Go check out QCI's post here and take a look around while you're there.

Tick, tick, tick

Three days from now, we should know who is to replace Lane Evans on the ballot. John Beydler files an update providing the details of the process.
The committeepeople are mailing their filled-out ballots to a post office box in Rock Island. On Tuesday, at 11 a.m., a committee of five county clerks -- from Rock Island, Henry, Mercer, Hancock and Macoupin counties -- will open the box and collect the ballots, along with a letter from the postmaster certifying that the box had not been previously opened.

The committee of clerks will take the ballots to the the county board room in the Rock Island County Office Building, open them and count them.

The person who gets the biggest number of the 30,000-plus votes to be cast will replace Lane Evans on the general election ballot.

Thus will end what likely has been the strangest congressional nomination in Illinois history; unless, of course, an unhappy loser seeks to appeal the process.
Hope Tuesday comes and goes without any Hare supporters running amok. God help us all if Hare isn't selected. The psych wards will be overrun.

Jim Mowen jumps into blogsphere, casting himself as a middle of the road kind of guy.

This is somewhat of a hoot.

Just noticed a new blog with the initially baffling title "Left-Right-Wrong" listed on the D/A blog roundup page and gave it a look.

The site has a mission statement of sorts in the header which reads,
There is an Ultra-Right in this Country, and an Ultra-Left, both are equally as dangerous. This site is for those people intelligent enough to 'stay away from the 'kool-aid' of each 'ultra-side'. Let's discuss 'issues' based on facts. If we reasonably and logically discuss issues, we all can come closer to voicing our opinions, voting and living as Americans first - and as a party affiliation second. If you have a specific 'ultra' agenda, please go elsewhere. Thank you for joining in!
OK, that's a perfectly legitmate outlook, of course, but what made my eyebrows shoot skyward was when I noticed who's producing the blog.

None other than right-wing fundementalist and defeated Republican congressional candidate, Jim Mowen. Somehow, calls for meeting in the middle sound pretty strange coming from Mowen. The guy is about as far from the middle of the road as a person can get.

But typically for folks of his stripe, I'm sure he's so convinced of the rightness and purity of his views that he firmly believes that he's smack in the middle of the political spectrum and considers himself open minded and tolerant. (Even while favoring putting the government in people's bedrooms and legislating morality. HIS morality, natch.)

In fact, based on the positions he favored during the campaign, Mowen showed that while he may not be out on the extreme right wing fringe, it's a short trip from where he stands.

Yet Mowen warns partisans on either end of the spectrum away from the blog.

Guess only those out on the right edge of the political spectrum will be considered "intelligent enough to stay away from the "kool-ade" of each "ultra-side".

God works in mysterious ways.

June 2, 2006

It's good to have friends in really high places

Click to enlarge.

Parked on the ramp at the Quad City Airport this afternoon.

Flight group aligned to within a half inch.

The number 1 plane of Flight Leader/Commanding Officer Steve Foley. Foley has over 5300 hours in Navy jet aircraft, including 788 carrier arrested landings.

The business end of the F/A 18 Hornet support plane. These engines can propel the plane at over one and a half times the speed of sound. Generally not a good place to stand. They go for around $18 million a copy.

The Blue Angels will be providing their awe-inspiring show again this year at the Quad City Air Show this Saturday and Sunday.

An F-15 Eagle is also scheduled to appear. The F-15 is a high performance fighter jet which can achieve speeds over Mach 2.5 at sealevel.

Other attractions this year include a P51-D, a P-38 Lightning, an F4U-5 Corsair, The Red Bull aerobatics team, a jet-powered semi truck which races planes, and a lot more.

The bad news is that advance tickets are already sold out online, but a few may be available at stores selling them, which include Hy-Vee and Fareway supermarkets.

The good news is that you can usually find a spot outside the event if you can't get in and still be able to get a good view of the spectacular aerobatics.

A shot from the 2003 show

And I'm putting this sweet little aerobatic unit on my wish list. It's a Zivko Edge 540. Any appreciative donor who wants to spring for it would be a pal for life. Or perhaps a group of you could go in on it?

Note the clear plexiglass under the pilot so he can keep track of the horizon no matter what position he or she is in.

The Zivko Edge 540 can handle around 15 Gs of sustained loading, and climb at a rate of 3,700 ft per minute powered by a 330 hp Lycoming engine with a maximum weight of only 1,500 lbs. That means it takes this plane a minute and 26 seconds to climb a mile. And it has a roll rate of 420 degrees/second. That makes me dizzy just reading it.

It's the same type of plane flown by the Red Bull Aerobatic team.

And here's a shot of Shockwave in action. Commenter John C. mentioned this in his comment.

State finds $16 million in additional pork for Triumph

A $16 million state-incentive package clinched the deal for St. Joseph, Mo.-based Triumph Foods to build a pork processing plant in East Moline.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced Thursday that Illinois' Opportunity Returns program would offer tax incentives to Triumph to build a plant near Barstow Road and 172nd Street North. He praised Triumph for bringing at least 1,000 new jobs to northwest Illinois.
So the state stepped up and met Triumph's blackmail demands and now Triumph has decided to beautify the wetlands west of Barstow with a 116 acre slaughterhouse, thus spreading the tax loss across more people than just the 4 local cities.

Pictured beaming proudly on the site of the slaughterhouse in it's natural state before it's turned into an immense high-volume slaughtering facility were:
3rd Ward Alderman Luis Moreno, 5th Ward Alderman Rick Meredith, 7th Ward Alderman Gary Westbrook, city treasurer Bill Vyncke, Mayor John Thodos, 6th Ward Alderman Gary Kelley, 1st Ward Alderman Helen Heiland, 2nd Ward Alderman Luis Puentes, and Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline.

If you stand to turn a buck off the plant, don't live anywhere within miles of it, and aren't troubled by its potentially large negative impact or the millions in tax giveaways which are essentially corporate welfare, the folks listed above are some of the people to thank.

Last December, East Moline officials said a state-incentive package was one domino
(i.e. payoff)
that needed to fall into place for Triumph to build the plant. Enterprise-zone incentives were also part of the plan, but Silvis voted them down twice in April. Triumph could have received more than $3 million in incentives if its proposed site were included in a zone, [Triumph CEO] Hoffman said.

However, the state-incentive package makes up for the loss in zone incentives.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) worked with Triumph for more than a year on the Opportunity Returns incentives, most of which will be paid in tax credits, tax exemptions and grants, department spokesman Andrew Ross said. The department has several tax assistance programs to entice companies to locate to Illinois and offered a number of them to Triumph.

Triumph will receive about $9 million in corporate income tax credits over 10 years. It will receive a $1 million grant because the company is investing in a major expansion. The company will get $1 million to train its employees. It will also receive $4.5 million in investment tax credits and exemptions. East Moline would get a $750,000 grant to partially pay for water and sewer improvements required for the project.

East Moline has already approved a $20 million incentive package for Triumph to pay for an on-site sewage pre-treatment facility, off-site water and sewer improvements and other expenses. The city would need to create a tax-increment financing district, encompassing the proposed site, to generate the money.

In a TIF district, any new revenue created by development goes into a special municipal fund to be used for public infrastructure or rebates to developers.
(Thank God those poor developers are being looked after!)
Quad-Cities officials credited Nancy Mulcahey, Opportunity Returns northwest region manager for the DCEO, for working on the incentive package. She commended local and state officials for responding to Triumph's needs.
(Well, at least they responded to corporate needs, thank goodness for that. What would these poor, poor giant corporations do without massive tax breaks and subsidies from hardworking taxpayers?)
State Sen. Mike Boland, D-East Moline, who couldn't attend the press conference, said over the phone, "We're job-starved. We need the jobs."
(Jobs. Don't bother me with details... all we need to say is the magic word that clouds men's minds and justifies literally anything, no matter the consequences or cost... jobs.)
State Rep. Patrick Verschoore, D-Milan, said in a written statement that government officials should do everything they can to create more jobs.
(There it is again, the fairy dust of politicians... throw "jobs" at people and they act like Dorothy and her pals in the poppy field. Apparently, there's no sin that "jobs" won't excuse.)
State Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, addressed the concern of illegal immigrant workers applying for Triumph jobs. "We are going to do our best to make sure legal kids, our kids, get jobs in this plant."
(That's encouraging. Hope this "best" isn't just happy talk. And besides, if a few years down the road Triumph decides they need illegals, they'll get them and you can bet your now worthless farm that no one will make a peep.)
Triumph has not yet bought the proposed site from Moline's RiverStone Group Inc., spokesman Robert Imler said.
(Ah... the "Let's make a deal" phase begins.)
East Moline has an option to buy the land, but it doesn't have to go through with the purchase and Triumph could negotiate a price with RiverStone, assistant city administrator Rich Keehner said.
(Whaddaya bet that no matter who technically buys the land, that they'll pay about 30% more than it's worth? After all, either way, it's just taxpayers who are footing the bill. It's funny money.)
Mr. Hoffman said there would be an opportunity to hire more than 1,000 people at the East Moline plant, depending on how much processing the facility could handle. The company's goal is to process 16,000 hogs a day at the plant.
Let the fun begin.

But meanwhile, those deviants who somehow have the mysterious power to resist the all-powerful "jobs ray" and actually ask questions and talk about things they're not supposed to mention aren't really happy.
At least 12 people, including Ms. Farrell and Silvis Alds. Katherine Cutrer and Bob Zesiger, both 4th Ward, protested the pork plant project Thursday afternoon at the corner of Barstow Road and Illinois 5 in East Moline. They vowed to continue the fight against Triumph because they worry the plant would damage the environment. They wore buttons with red X's over pink pigs and held signs.

Some people waved or honked their horns when they drove by the protesters.

East Moline Ald. Luis Puentes, 2nd Ward, was driving by and stopped at the intersection. "Hello!" Ms. Farrell said, frantically waving her arm and walking toward the alderman's red pickup. "Come on, Mr. Puentes. Back up. Let's talk."

Ald. Puentes kept his window up, ignored her and turned onto Illinois 5.

Triumph plans to build a 620,000-square-foot plant at Barstow Road and 172nd Street North which could employ at least 1,000 people. The $135 million project could also create around 350 construction jobs.

One of the most vocal plant opponents, Dawn Marner, who was unable to attend the protest, said over the phone that the governor's announcement was really sad news for her.

"We're going to be moving," said Mrs. Marner, who lives in unincorporated Rock Island County, nine blocks west of the proposed site. But Mrs. Marner said she and her family would continue to fight against the pork plant.

Other protesters felt the same way as Mrs. Marner. Many residents worry that the plant would encourage hog producers to build large-scale hog farms in the area, although Triumph officials said they don't plan to build any.
(Well, that's kinda meaningless, since it wasn't feared that Triumph would be building them, but that the plant would attract others who would dot the land around the plant with noxious "concentrated farming operations" or CFOs.)
Protesters also worry about the destruction of wetlands, flooding, groundwater contamination from plant waste, an increase in truck traffic, and an increase in illegal immigrant workers.

"I feel the county and city leaders have not listened to both sides," Kathy Hall, of Silvis, said. "It has been proven that the hog processing plants do not benefit the areas" they locate to.

Pete Frenell, who was born in Barstow, lives a mile away from the proposed plant.

"I think the politicians stabbed us in the back," Mr. Frenell said. "If it wasn't for us taxpayers, they wouldn't have that money to throw around. If they have a disaster or spill or something, the ground is contaminated forever and there's nothing they can do about it."

Holding a sign that read, "Resist Corporate Pig$," Caryn Unsicker, of Silvis, said, "I just think it's awful. I'm terribly disappointed in our governor."

"It concerns me in many ways," Lois Kuehling, of Moline, said, while she held a sign saying "Stop Factory Farming. Say No to East Moline Slaughterhouse."

"It's going to destroy the wetlands, the wildlife," she said. "The pollution is going to be astronomical."

"The smell travels many, many miles. I'm worried about trucks that go by. I'm concerned which roads they'll go on," Mrs. Kuehling said. "It's just greed, and our city councils are not informed of the whole truth."

Site preparation could begin next spring, with the plant opening in 2009. It would initially employ 350 and grow to 1,000. The average wage would be $11.75 an hour.
Quad City Development Group president Thom Hart said the project could create 2,900 spin-off jobs and the economic impact could be an estimated $437 million during the first year the plant operates.
Well, if you're the type that likes to make large gambles on investments based on returns premised on the word "could", then you'll love this.

I'm glad we get the chance to pay to train their employees. No company should be expected to have to take care of that on their own. I only wish they had come up with a few million in tax dollars to help pay to advertise and promote pork products. Maybe they're already doing that?

And while we're at it, what else can we do for Triumph? Forgive their taxes, forgive normal building fees, waive sales tax on millions in construction materials... done. Build them specialized sewer treatment facilities and massive sewer and water installations customized for their needs... done.

A cool million to train employees? Done. How about utilities? Couldn't we at least agree to pay those for them for a year or so? The city administrator has already agreed to rename Barstow Rd. to Triumph Parkway or some equally silly thing. Why stop there? Why not rename the town of Barstow "Triumph City"?

Have we agreed to build and pay for heavy duty roads for the tens of thousands of semis which will be going in and out around the clock? Check... got that covered. I don't know, but I just have the nagging feeling that there's more we taxpayers could do.

The closest anyone ever gets to even obliquely addressing plant opponent's concerns is to offer vague assurances that we should all just trust them, that they don't "expect" any problems, or that state officials have it all under control and we shouldn't worry our little heads over such things. The plant enablers know best, and to question them is.. well.. just don't do it.

Really, just how concerned do you think any of the figures involved in getting this plant are about any of the serious and real concerns of those who live in the area? That's right. Less than not at all.

It's your money, your environment, your community, and damn it, they'll be the "deciders", and anyone who doesn't see things their way are just plain crazy. Of course, they never get around to saying WHY, but hey, if you REALLY want to see these people go ballistic, just question their judgment on anything. Same thing for demanding that they answer specific questions or provide information about just what they're signing us all up for.

There will obviously be secondary benefits as hog plant payroll trickles into the economy and a relatively small number of businesses either see their business expand or locate here to service the needs created by the new plant.

Someday, if the day ever comes, I guess the corporation may begin paying taxes as well, which will begin to offset all the millions local and state governments are coughing up.

Anyone else have some more specific benefits which justifies the likely negative impact the plant will have on the area?

As Russell Baker said, "Usually, terrible things that are done with the excuse that progress requires them are not really progress at all, but just terrible things."

I'm sure many are greeting this development as fantastic news.

How do you feel about the entire deal? Love it? Hate it? Or are you utterly indifferent?

Now that it's apparent that the plant is coming, we can only stand by and cross our fingers and hope that the predicted negatives never materialize, or even more important, that if they do, that the public will even find out or be informed.