February 28, 2006

National Popular Vote, an idea who's time has come?

A coalition of organizations and former politicians are mounting a serious effort to enact a national popular vote, and they are focusing exclusively on Illinois as an obvious place to start their efforts.

Their advisory committee includes a bipartisan group of former politicians including former independent presidential candidate and former Republican congressman John Anderson of Illinois, former senator Birch Bayh (D-Indiana), former congressman John Buchanan (R-Alabama), fomer congresman Tom Campbell (R-California), former senator Dave Durenberger (R-Minnisota), and fomer senator and astronaut, Jake Garn (R-Utah).

Their website provides an FAQ and a wealth of information about this exciting proposal to shed the antiquated and largely useless electoral college system and instead elect our presidents by popular vote.

In addition, they've written a very interesting book, "Every Vote Equal: A State-based Plan for Electing the President by Popular Vote" which you can read on-line or download for free.

A national popular vote is an intriguing idea and there are interesting arguments both pro and con. One argument against it is that it would cause candidates to focus exclusively on the large population states and ignore the smaller or primarily rural states. However, the electoral system now skews the system even worse by forcing candidates to utterly ignore states which aren't swing states or in contention.

This is one of the reasons they're focusing the effort to implement this system on Illinois first.

As the issue is described on their site:
"Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote"

Under the current system of allocating electoral votes in presidential elections (used by 48 states and the District of Columbia), all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate receiving the most popular votes within each state. But this system was not established by the Constitution, the Founding Fathers, or federal law. Instead, the allocation of electoral votes is exclusively a matter of state law. In fact, Maine and Nebraska currently award some of their electoral votes by congressional district as an example of this flexibility.

The current system forces presidential candidates to focus their campaigns on a handful of closely divided “battleground” states, thereby making the voters in two-thirds of the states irrelevant. The presidentially non-competitive states include six of the nation’s 10 largest states (California, Texas, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, and North Carolina), 12 of the 13 least populous states, and most of the medium-sized states.

Voter turnout is adversely affected in presidentially non-competitive states because voters realize that their votes do not matter. The number of non-competitive states has been increasing in recent decades.

Because the statewide winner-take-all system divides the national pool of 122,000,000 popular votes into 51 smaller pools, it regularly manufactures artificial crises even when the nationwide popular vote is not particularly close. In the past 60 years, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected a presidential candidate who did not receive the most popular votes nationwide.

Nationwide popular election of the President is the only approach that makes all states competitive in presidential elections and that makes every vote count equally.

For over 50 years, the public has supported nationwide popular election of the President by majorities of 70% or greater.

A federal constitutional amendment (requiring two-thirds of Congress and 38 states) is not required to change the state laws that currently specify use of the winner-take-all rule. Nationwide popular election of the President can be implemented if the states join together to pass identical state laws awarding all of their electoral votes to the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The proposed state legislation would only come into effect only when it has been enacted, in identical form, by enough states to elect a President—that is, by states possessing a majority (270) of the 538 electoral votes.

The U.S. Constitution establishes a legal vehicle for the proposed coordinated state action, namely the "interstate compact." Examples of existing interstate compacts include the Colorado River Compact (which divides water among seven western states) and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (a two-state compact). Interstate compacts are enacted by states in the same way they enact ordinary legislation. It is settled constitutional law an interstate compact is legally enforceable contractual obligation among the states belonging to the compact and all of their officials.
As Sen. Bayh states,
"The President and Vice President should be chosen by the same method every other elective office in this country is filled—by citizen voters of the United States in a system which counts each vote equally. ...I unequivocally support this new strategy to provide for the direct election of the President and Vice President.

This new approach is consistent with the Constitution...It’s refreshing to know states have the ability under the Constitution to step up and create the sensible solution Americans have long been supporting."
Check out their site and find out more about this exciting proposal and then give us your opinion.

Grchan to hold fundraiser tonight

Sheriff Mike Grchan has sent out an invitation to a fundraiser with the heading "R.I. County Democratic Office Holders Support Their Sheriff"

Listed at the top of the list is State Centeral Committeeman Don Johnston, State Senator Mike Jacobs, and State Rep. Pat Verschoore

Under these names are listed Recorder Pat Veronda, Circuit Clerk Lisa Bierman, States Attorney Jeff Terronez, Coroner Sharon Anderson, Clerk Dick Leibovitz, Treasurer LuAnn Kerr, Auditor Diana Robinson, Superintendant of Schools Joe Vermiere, and County Board Chairman James Bohnsack.

Below these is a list of all county board members.

It invites all to "join our office holders" for a pork sandwich dinner from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28th at the Moline American Legion 1623 15th Street in Moline.

Cost is $6.00 per person, $25 sponsor, and $100 dinner host.

There has been at least one commenter here loudly maintaining that some of these people listed on the invite, namely Jacobs and Terronez, were supposedly angry because they don't support Grchan and did not agree to be listed as supporters.

As this commenter put it, (typed in all caps.. ugh!) "It (the invitation) claims that among other elected official, that R.I. County States Attorney Jeff Terronez and State Sen. Mike Jacobs suppports Sheriff Grchan in his attempt to get realected [sic] as Sheriff. This is not true. How do I know this? I have been in contact with someone who has contacted both men and they are extremely upset that Grchan used there [sic] names."

An anonymous source citing a twice removed subject... being in contact with someone who was in contact with ... just doesn't cut it as far as reliability.

Short of hearing this from Jacobs or Terronez, it's impossible to say if the allegations are true or not.

Olympic slideshow

Just came across this amazing collection off photos on Poynter Online, a collection of the best photographs from the Winter Games selected by photo editor Kenny Irby, along with comments from photo editors of major publications and news services.

Watch it here. Some truly amazing shots.

Erich Schlegal/Dallas Morning News

February 27, 2006

Chicago Tribune endorses Mowen for 17th district congressman

The Chicago Trib is backing Republican Jim Mowen in the 17th District U.S. congressional Republican primary over Andrea Zinga and "Little Buddy".
17th District: The choice in the Republican primary is Jim Mowen, a commercial real estate developer from Rock Island whose first priority is bringing jobs to the district. Also running are Republican Andrea Zinga, a former Quad Cities television anchor from Coal Valley, and Aledo businessman Brian Gilliland.
The Tribune also endorses Mike Jacobs over Paul Rumler.

Their endorsements statewide can be found at the link above and here.

Hat tip to John Beydler for the catch.

Time to rub your balls

A telepathic commenter recently offered their predictions on the upcoming Illinois primary races and also read my mind. I've been planning on asking readers for their prognostication on how the field will fare for a while and here it is.

I know that there are readers who've had long experience in the trenches of local poltics or who have simply been close observers who can help us by offering their considered predictions. Even if you're just a casual observer, have some fun and take a shot at how you think things will end up.

For this purpose, please take the time when leaving your predictions to check the "other" button and enter a screen name of your choice. This way we can then look back and see who did well and who did not so well. But if everyone's the typical, lazy, "anonymous", it makes it impossible to know who did what.

I hope to ask for predictions once more at a point closer to the election, and then do a round up to see who gets to wear the crown as the best handicapper.

To kick things off, here are the predictions of our alert commenter.
You can just list your numbers, or give short explanations if you feel it's needed.

NOTE: EXCELLENT response to this so far. Thanks to all who've posted up their predictions. This should be fun to see who comes closest to getting it right.

Of course, if one of the "anonymous" predicters wins, it won't mean much. -sigh-

Their first set of predictions:
Huff 51
Grchan 49

Blagojevich 58
Eisendrath 42

Jacobs 57
Rumler 43

Topinka 35
Oberweiss 30
Gidwitz 20
Brady 15

Their second set of predictions:

Blagojevich 59
Eisendrath 41

Topinka 35
Oberweiss 29
Gidwitz 25
Brady 11

Grchan 52.5
Huff 47.5

Jacobs 60.1
Rumler 39.9

Zinga 40
Mowen 35
Gilligan's Island 25

Have you voted yet?

Why not?

Under newly enacted legislation, registered voters in Illinois can vote early beginning today. You don't need a reason or excuse anymore to vote early, all you need do is show up with a picture ID.

But where do I go to find out where to go and how it works you may ask. You'd think the Rock Island County Clerk's web site would surely have the answer, but you'd think wrong.

A check of their newly redesigned Rock Island County Clerk's web site reveals that despite a number of links and other information, including a FAQ on elections, there's not a word about this important new change in voting regulations, nor a clue as to the location voters can go if they wish to take advantage of it.

From other sources I've learned that early voting began today and runs through March 16th.

Anyone know where to go to vote early? I assume you can do it at the clerk's office, but that's a guess and I'm not aware if there are other voting stations.

Apparently, the County Clerk expects us to guess.


Thanks to a very helpful commenter, some information on early voting and grace period voting has been unearthed at the clerk's site.

Here is the page which explains many aspects of absentee voting, including early and grace period voting.

An election calendar is also available.

I was still unable to figure out where a voter would go if he or she wanted to vote early. Perhaps someone could provide that information as well?

Only minutes after asking this question, the webmaster of the county clerk's page had updated the page, added a link for early voting, included the location, and written to let us know.
Hat's off for the nearly instantaneous response.

Those taking advantage of early voting can do so at the County Clerk's office, on the first floor, 1504 Third Avenue in Rock Island.

Writing as a contact sport

Have you ever tried writing? Not like addressing an envelope or jotting something on a post-it note or scrawling "Be back later" on the dry-erase board on your fridge.

I mean, like actually HAVING thoughts on something, then trying to record them by either making little squiggles on a piece of blank paper with a pen or pencil or tapping your fingers around on a keyboard in a way which results in your thoughts being reproduced in a such a way, that by using most of the 26 letters available and a few weird marks of punctuation, it's more or less readable by others? And tougher still, written in a way that actually gets across what you wanted to get across to a wide variety of people?

It's not as easy as it might seem. And on certain days, it seems damn near impossible.

After taking the head-first dive into putting up a blog, I suddenly realized that I'd obligated myself to doing this task on a regular (and non-stop) basis. And the more I do it, the more I appreciate those who do it well.

Among local bloggers, (taking nothing away from the others,) I feel that John Beydler and Dave Barrett are both excellent writers who are able to organize and present their subjects and thoughts in a very easy to read. clear, interesting and effective way. I admire both for their talent and skill and aspire to it myself. I read them both with mixed feelings, enjoying their writing on one hand, while feeling like a hack by comparison.

But one blogger, albiet a national one, truly stands out to me for sheer writing talent. Writers who have to produce a lot on a regular basis are very rarely able to be consistently excellent. They're subject to slumps like everyone who has to perform on a regular schedule. Tiger Woods isn't always consistent, nor was Michael Jordan or any other virtuosos you might name.

But James Wolcott at his worst is at least good, and has frequent runs of briliance. He seems to be in one at the moment.

No one can filet people as deftly as Wolcott, who could be considered the heir to Dorothy Parker in that department. Woe is the person who falls under his disapproval. But nothing is quite as delicious to read.

Consider this gem from a recent post on the passing of Don Knotts where he describes the show after Knotts' departure. (emphasis mine)...
Knotts was not only a comic great on The Andy Griffith Show, but there was a poignance and tender shoulder-sag to his overcompensating underachieving Barney Fife the likes of which hasn't been seen in a sitcom character since. Once he left the show it was stuck with the beyond-boring Howard Sprague (though it was cruel how Sam Peckinpah used that actor in The Getaway), Emmitt's Fix-It shop, and Andy's new deputy, Warren, who was so painfully unfunny he was almost dental.
Reading his post in which he eviscerates the "almost feline" Bill Kristol is like like being treated to your favorite dessert, especially if you're familiar with the figures he mentions, all of them fine, revered, neo-cons who were the principle cheerleaders for the disasterous Bush foreign policy. (If you can call it that.)
Ah, they're turning on their own. Sweet. Up to a few months ago, Rumsfeld was still a neocon hero--sharp, blunt, visionary. Indeed, the godmother of neoconservatism, Midge Decter (wife of Norman Podhoretz, mother of John), wrote a book-length mash note lauding the former wrestler to the heavens. And now comes the accusation from Kristol that a too-cautious, thrift-conscious Rummy has shortchanged the mission. Thus the CYA revisionism has begun, as the neocons agitate for yet more manpower and firepower to finish the job in Iraq that only they still see as as finishable (in a week in which William F. Buckley diagnosed the Iraq war as a dead duck). Kristol's antiterrorist policy in Iraq was simple and blunt: "Kill them. Defeat them." Of course if it were that simple, it wouldn't be as hard as it's proven to be. We barely have a decent photograph of Zarqawi, much less a bead on his whereabouts. Easy for Kristol to draw a stern line in the avocado dip. But it would be political suicide for Bush to follow such counsel and lift the troop levels in Iraq to crank the war up an aggressive notch: Iraq 3.0: This Time We're Not Dicking Around. Mind you, I'm all for Bush's political suicide, but what's in it for him? Not much and he knows it. He's lost too much political trust and capital, Americans are tired of the war (more tired than the political class and punditocracy), and the military is stretched max. It's too late for a Victor Davis Hanson cavalry charge into the black heart of the Sunny insurgency led by Kristol and his neocon comrades embedded in cable-news green rooms 3000 miles in the rear, cheering, "Kill them! Defeat them!" at the TV monitor in voices loud enough to be heard but not loud enough to disturb Richard Perle napping in his portable coffin.
If this is your cup of tea, I recommend Wolcott's book, "Attack Poodles and Other Media Mutants : The Looting of the News in a Time of Terror"

Huff gets AFSCME council 31 endorsement

R.I. County sheriff candidate Mike Huff has been endorsed by AFSCME council 31 due to his union activism according to a letter from it's executive director sent to The Inside Dope by the Huff campaign today. The letter alleges that Grchan has "...violated the rights of AFSCME members and others who work for the sheriff's department."

Proviso Probe holding fund drive

Carl Nyberg is a prolific, capable, and ambitious blogger/activist who's been at it for some time. He covers the Proviso area, which is generally western Cook and Eastern DuPage counties.

One thing for which he's notable is getting sued by two powerful attorney/polticians in his area with the result of sending them packing and having them ordered to pay his $100,000 legal fees to boot. How sweet must that be?

He's been a friend to this blog and requested that I spread the word on his goals.

Nyberg explains the fund drive and his aims here.

Please consider helping out his effort.

February 26, 2006

Huff tops Grchan in blog poll

A recent poll asking Inside Dope readers who they preferred in the upcoming Rock Island County Sheriff primary has just closed after running a week, and the results are in.

Huff over Grchan, 29 to 21 votes.

Fully half of the total votes had to be discarded due to naughty people voting more than once (I TOLD you they'd be removed... you didn't believe me?)

These including one industrious individual who voted 11 times for Huff, and another voting enthusiast who not only voted 11 times for Huff, but voted twice for Grchan for good measure. Hedging his bets, I suppose.

There were a total of 100 votes cast, 50 of which were invalid duplicate votes.

The raw totals were Grchan, 43 votes, Huff, 57

After eliminating all duplicates, the 50 remaining vaild votes came to:

Huff - 29 votes or 58%

Grchan - 21 votes or 42%

As a commenter noted, judging by the last two poll results, it seems that Inside Dope readers have a preference for challengers. Whether that reflects the real world remains to be seen.

February 25, 2006

Jacobs wants no part of debating Rumler

Kurt Allemeier reports that it can be rough going when you're a candidate and are eager to debate your opponent, particularly if the opponent is Mike Jacobs.

Jacobs is upfront as usual in saying that he sees no advantage to his debating challenger Paul Rumler.
A lack of resources and political will likely will prevent a debate between Democratic state senate candidates Mike Jacobs and Paul Rumler.

Mr. Jacobs, who has been on the job just over a year after being appointed senator for the 36th District last February, doesn't see any advantage to debating little-known Mr. Rumler. He also cites a busy legislative schedule that would make his participation difficult.

Mr. Rumler says he doesn't have the financial or manpower resources to try to organize a debate. He would like to see a third-party step in to organize a debate.

Mr. Rumler has contacted the League of Women Voters about a debate. The closest local chapter is in Kewanee, which falls outside the district. He says the group will try to see who might possibly want to host a debate in the district.

"I think at this point, I would be helping him," Mr. Jacobs said. "He hasn't been in the area that long.

"I feel there is no responsibility for me to increase his visibility when I am widely known and my views are known," he said.

Mr. Jacobs sits in the state senate seat formerly held by his father, Denny Jacobs. The younger Jacobs was appointed to the seat after his father's retirement last year. Mr. Rumler served as an aide to a Massachusetts state representative and also to a pair of congressmen before returning to the Quad-Cities to run for the state senate position.

Mr. Rumler is focused on using his resources, which he concedes are limited, knocking on doors and meeting with community groups.

"I am still interested in doing that," Mr. Rumler said of a debate. "I am trying to use my resources in the most responsible way."

He still hopes someone will step forward soon with the offer of a debate.

"I think it would be to the benefit of everyone out there, to all the voters we can reach," Mr. Rumler said of a debate. "Unfortunately, it comes down to money as far as getting out your message.

"A public debate, getting everyone into one room, would get everyone's questions answered."

The closest opportunity voters might get of seeing the candidates debate is a series of brief candidate commentaries on WQAD-TV as part of the local ABC station's America Votes 2006.

Mr. Jacobs and Mr. Rumler both are participating in the program, which allows the candidates to discuss an issue in a taped, non-debate setting.
Some might suggest that the purpose of a debate is to air your views on issues of importance to the area and provide voters with an insight into what you hope to accomplish and allow them to contrast them with those of your opponents.

Rumler is all for a debate, and would even sponsor one himself if he had the resources, so he's not an issue.

There's two ways of viewing this that I can see.

One is the cynical, calculating view that, much like the accused in court of law, it's never a good idea to get on the stand if you can avoid it. What little good you might do your case could be easily wiped out by the massive damage you might do if you slip up.

As the saying goes, it's better to keep your mouth shut and appear to be a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

But what about the quaint notion that politicians almost owe the electorate to debate? Shouldn't they believe that debates are an important part of the democratic process and be more than willing to put themselves and their ideas forward in public, debating the issues in a fair forum? The primary beneficiarys from this are clearly the voters. To refuse to debate from purely selfish reasons wouldn't seem too admirable.

Apparently, unless Jacobs can see some obvious advantage he could gain from a debate, such as, oh, being able to demonstrate that he's all he's told us he is and then some, is clearly the better choice and demonstrating his intellect and grasp of the issues that are crucial to our area and it's future, Sen. Mike would rather take a pass.

He might be expected to want to put his plans and views up against his opponent's, confident that he's the best man for the position. Unfortunately, it appears Jacobs' simply not interested.

By admitting that he had nothing to gain from a debate, in one respect it's as if he's conceding that there's no way he could prevail, as though he doesn't stand a chance to come out ahead, and thus do his candidacy some good.

He did agree to tape the canned reading of talking points for airing on WQAD, however. So it would seem that unless the game is essentially rigged and he can be assured he'd win, or at the very least, not lose, he just won't play.

What happened to that fighting Hawkeye competitive spirit, the confidence in one's abilities and oneself? What about never shirked good honest competition?

Through the Looking Glass

They've jumped the shark.

We've been pushed through Alice's looking glass. Nothing is real, up is down, black is white. Our government is arguing that torture is ok, that science should be ignored, that we should be very, very, VERY afraid, except if it involves a multi-billion dollar business proposition with the Bush family's long time associates, the sheiks and sultans of the Arabian Gulf.

They howled, "What about the children??!!" when on their jihad against Bill Clinton, suggesting that it would lead to the destruction of the entire nation's mortal soul. Bill Clinton, they argued, was the moral equivalent of a child molester, and he was corrupting your children and destroying the morals of an entire nation.

Yet now, with God boy in the White House and millions of rubes running around professing that the reason they support him is that he's "a good God-fearing man", what was once instinctively condemned as obviously immoral, wrong, unhealthy, un-American, and anti-democratic is not only being done with arrogance and impunity, but being defended and argued for.

Fine young American kids, and a lot of Americans in their thirties and forties, not to mention hundreds of thousands of innocents, have been torn and ripped and damaged beyond repair or simply made to leave this life far before their time, their families damaged and shell-shocked and heart-sick and confused, all in service of lies, greed, corruption, the lust for power, and in order to swing some deals with the richest people on earth who happen to sit on nearly all the money and power in the world.

It's nothing personal, you understand, just business.

This is as clear as the smirk on Bush's face, yet mostly due to the fear constantly urged upon us by Bush in comic book terms, people are persuaded to agree that these evil, destructive, and dangerous things are OK... things changed on 9-11 they tell us, so this is all acceptable. We're going to spy on every aspect of your life without your knowledge, and we're not even going tell anyone, not even a judge. But it's OK. The president has that power because we're at war. A war that will last as long as anyone alive today survives and far beyond that, because it's a war against a tactic, a war which by definition can never be won.

It's gross manipulation and in your face disregard for the principles which the world has always believed made America truly something special. They couldn't care less. Just shut up, support them, and, above all, be very afraid.

What sort of leader encourages their people to always be afraid? Just consider that for a moment. Don't be brave. Don't sacrifice anything. Just be aware that there are blood-thirsty inhuman evil-doing monsters all around that hate everything about you, hate your so-called freedom itself, which I suppose means that the best way to prevent them from killing us all is to give up our freedoms, which the Bush crowd is only too happy to take for themselves, since you're so afraid that you don't have the will to resist.

It's all a sick charade, with no rational way to justify it all. It simply makes no sense, and the entire country has been suffering from a severe case of cognitive dissonance ever since Bush was installed by an act that would be only the beginning of previously unthinkable perversions of the ideals and principles this nation has always held dear.

And now, the Mid-East. After Bush and the Republicans his first dozen or so made up reasons for invading a sovereign country who posed absolutely no threat to our nation whatsoever were all exposed as lies, they told us we had sacrificed our blood, honor, and treasure far into the future in order to stabilize the region. That region is now teetering on the brink of utter chaos and the entire region threatens to go up in flames.

And how does our major media cover it?

They argue that all out civil war is actually a good thing. A sign that Bush's strategy is succeeding.

Can there be ANY doubt, if there ever was, that Fox News is not only slanted and biased and unfair and unbalanced, but is an out and out propaganda arm of the Bush administration?

The average right winger, at their core, are despite their macho bluster, the most scared, the most frightened people of all. They live in terror. Terror provided by the Bush administration.

They're the ones terrified of the stereotypes they've been fed, and the most ignorant of reality anywhere beyond their front yard, and they're not even too sure of that. These people have been digesting this sort of willful lying for decades on AM radio and elsewhere. They are used to agreeing with what they're told by drug addled blowhards, and other emotionally and intellectually twisted individuals who are being paid millions to lie to them. They really WANT to believe this. But the right have been so spectacularly successful at brainwashing these sheeple that they just keep getting more and more audacious.

These right wing sheeple, shaking in their boots and firmly convinced that Bush will keep them safe to continue their frightened existence, find themselves now trying to accept the idea that an all-out civil war in a country occupied by our troops isn't a disaster. It isn't an obvious sign that things are getting much worse. And it certainly doesn't suggest that the invasion and it's aftermath were, and is, all a collossally expensive, tragic mistake.

No, their faith need not be shaken. These right wing sheeple are encouraged to fear and hate the growing number of sane, unafraid people who see what Bush is doing, because they make the sheeple feel stupid. They now have their opinion and argument, spoon fed to them courtesy of right wing think tanks financed by right wing billionaires and a huge network of media. But don't you pay attention to the voice in your head, your sanity, that tells you that the things we tell you make no sense, the right wing media machine assures them. Any doubt you may feel is all the fault of the terrorist loving left wing extremists.

What every cell in their brain tells them is untrue and makes no sense, they now struggle to accept. And they do. And the more they do, the easier it gets. Until someone who had always had a traditional sense of right and wrong has now lost sight of their moral compass altogether. They've gone too far down the Bush road now, it's impossible to turn back without comeing to grips with the horrid realization that they've been wrong all along.

So as more and more paid right wing hacks are deployed to spout this absolutely insane proposition, that failure is success, death is a good thing, a country descending into civil war and anihilation is actually proof of Bush's brilliance, the right winger can relax.

Anyone who points out the obvious is just a left wing extremist and really wants the terroists to win. You know, those immoral liberals.

But they don't realize that they're being lulled into accepting that lies aren't lies, needless death on a massive scale is justified, greed is the American way, cronyism isn't any worse now than it ever was, selfishness is a Christian virtue, and corruption isn't corrupt as long as those Godly Republicans are doing it.

Up is down, black is white, Bush is a great leader, and war is peace.

This country needs help.

February 24, 2006

Jacobs gets Trib endorsement

While searching for something else, I just came across the Chicago Tribune's rundown of contested primary races for state senate.

For the 36th District, they write:
36th District (northwest Illinois): Incumbent Democrat Mike Jacobs of East Moline took over daddy Denny Jacobs' seat and has performed ably, even with occasional flashes of independence. Where he runs into trouble is when he opens his mouth--last year he likened his efforts on behalf of the gaming industry to Rosa Parks' contributions to the civil rights movement.

Paul Rumler, of Rock Island, is bright and conscientious and, like Jacobs, reliably pro-labor, but he is short on experience and specific ideas. Jacobs is endorsed.
It's hard to quarrel with their assessment of either candidate. The Trib in general is regarded as having a pro-Republican outlook, I'll have to see if the Sun-Times has their endorsements up yet.

Rumler - Jacobs debate a reality?

I've just heard a report that something about a Jacobs - Rumler debate was aired on WQAD's 10:00 newscast. The person who saw this was maddeningly vague, but seemed to recall something about the Dispatch/Argus being involved. I can find nothing on either the WQAD or Dispatch websites, so can't verify if it's true or not.

I've also heard that the Illinois Quad City Chamber of Commerce may be interested in setting up a "forum" with the hopefuls.

I certainly hope that there is some validity to either or both of these reports.

I'll post any information one way or another as soon as I receive it. If anyone else saw this report, please let me know.

Stay tuned

Been away from the blog, but hope to resume in a day or so.

in the meantime, here's an open thread for you to post whatever you wish. Play nice.

February 22, 2006

Sarah Kolb guilty on all counts

From John Beydler's live blogging of the verdict:
The verdicts were read — guilty on all counts — just after 1:35 p.m. More in a moment.

The end was quick. The Kolb and Reynolds families were ushered into the courtroom first; then the media; the remaining seats filled up with the assorted others who’ve been following the trial for the last two and a half weeks.

Judge James Teros, solumn on the bench, said “I’ve been informed the jury has reached a verdict. I understand that for many of you this will be an emotional moment. Please be calm and collected.”

Then, “Please bring in the jury.”

The 12 jurors, seven men and five women, filed into the courtroom and into the jury box. Many had their heads down, as usual, watching where they stepped as they picked their way though the seats to the places where they’d sit.

Judge Teros: “Ladies and Gentleman of the jury. I understand you’ve reached a verdict.”

“We have, your honor,” replied the foreman, a short dark-haired man who’s among he younger members of the panel.

“Would you please give them to the court so that they can be published.”

The foreman handed the sheaf of verdict forms to one of the bailiffs, who turned and took one step and handed them to Judge Teros.

He proceeded without ceremony. “We the jury find the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree, Count I.” No pause. “We the jury find the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree, Count II. We the jury find the defendant guilty of concealment of a homicidal death.”

Sarah’s back was to me. I couldn’t see her reaction, and her body betrayed none in the 10 seconds before I slipped out the door and ran down the hallway and stairs, to make the call to Quad-Cities Online.
And thus a sick, morally and psychologically twisted young woman was judged guilty of the sadistic crimes for which she was tried.

Since this blog began, the two words most used in search engines to reach the site, even ahead of "inside" and "dope", are "kolb" (2467 times) and "sarah" (2343 times) despite the fact that I've only had a couple posts on the subject a few months ago.

What is troubling is how much excitement and interest this has attracted from other teens obsessed with death, violence, sex, and murder. I guess that's to be expected, but it's almost as if Kolb has been elevated to some sort of sick cult hero.

Invader carp threaten Great Lakes

The threatening ecological disaster represented by Asian Carp is explained and considered in this excellent account from the Environmental News Network. It deals with the precarious measures being taken to try to prevent the spread of these voracious carp into Lake Michigan, and thus the Great Lakes and the peril that poses.

Thanks to an alert reader for the link.

Is expecting locals to get highly touted Triumph plant jobs "racist"?

Within the last month or so, to counter discussion of the real issue of such slaughterhouse operations ending up with large numbers of their employees being illegal immigrants or imported immigrants from other points in the country, a group has sprung up with the dubious charge of racism.

The following e-mail was sent out to publicize a "Stop the Hate" rally/workshop.

It would be warranted and make sense if anyone was specifically saying that the only foreign workers they were concerned about were Mexicans. But to my knowledge, no one has taken that stance. If they have, please bring it to our attention.

Subject: "Stop the Hate" rally/workshop Mon, Feb. 20

"Stop the Hate" rally/workshop Monday, Feb. 20, 2006 at the Moline
Community Center, 1515 5th Ave, Moline at 4PM.

The event is being organized by Quad City residents, most of whom are
native born American citizens of Mexican descent. They are concerned that
in the public discussion about the proposed Triumph Foods pork processing
plant some people were saying they were opposed to the plant because
Mexicans would be drawn to the area to work at the plant and this would
have a negative effect on the community.

An action plan will be discussed for countering such public commentary.

We are also encouraging peopel to write letters to the editor to speak out
on this issue: opinions@qctimes.com, letters@qconline.com,

Letter below written by Connie Barrett - for more info on Rally or to help
with this issue, contact Connie at: 309-797-0906 or
Letter to the Dispatch Editor

It's past time to speak up about the anti-immigrant rhetoric surrounding
the prospect of a hog plant in East Moline. Our silence implies
agreement. There are some very good arguments not to have a hog plant in
the area. But the offensive remarks made about the Mexican immigrants is
unacceptable. Can you imagine the reaction if people said they didn't
want a factory in the area because it would attract Blacks or Jews?
Excuse me?

Mexican immigrants have always been a vital part of our community. One
hundred years ago they came with other immigrants to build our railroads,
work in our factories and farms, and serve in the military. Today we see
their descendants working as teachers, lawyers, medical professionals,
social workers, bankers and business people; our fine Rock Island States
Attorney, Jeff Terronez, is an example.

The argument that they bring crime and drain social services is untrue.
As an interpreter and family advocate, I occasionally accompany people to
court and I can assure you that the majority of people having to face a
judge are white of European descent. This is also true of social
services. Mexican immigrants have a strong work ethic, and the last thing
they want is a hand out. The majority of Mexican immigrants work hard,
pay their taxes, and raise their families with strong family values.

The argument that the hog plant would hire undocumented workers is untrue
and a ploy to incite fear and anti-immigrant sentiment. All companies in
the United States are subject to lawful hiring practices, and they are
prosecuted and fined if they do not comply.

The argument that the salaries are too low to attract "American" workers
is also bogus. What about all the white Americans that work at the
Walmarts, K-marts, Targets, McDonalds, etc.? I doubt that meat processing
plants discriminate against white Americans. Where are the Unions? The
salaries may be low, but don't blame the immigrants. We seem to forget
that our country has a long history of Union activism and standing up for
workers rights.

Please don't misunderstand, I am personally not in favor of having a hog
plant in our area and I certainly don't think we should be subsidizing it.
There are serious environmental and esthetic concerns for not putting a
hog plant in that specific location. But we can't let ourselves be lead
by xenophobic arguments. If no one responds to the anti-immigrant racists
and fear-mongers, then we start to think that is acceptable. The
Quad-Cities that I know and grew up in, is a welcoming, diverse, and
caring community, and as a community, we have an obligation to stand up
and answer this type of hateful rhetoric because our implicit agreement
gives it acceptance and allows it to grow until it is too late..

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out -
because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out -
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me - and there was no one left
to speak for me.

Connie Barrett

1831 - 13th Street

Moline, IL 61265
Ms. Barrett seems well meaning, if a bit prone to hyperbole. Her indignation might even be appropriate if there were some organized effort to specifically single out only Mexican residents.

But while someone may have mentioned the word Mexicans when discussing the matter of illegal employees at the Triumph plant, I'm not sure that there's some massive anti-Mexican wave going on anywhere. I've never heard anyone specifically single out Mexicans. In that respect the response is a bit misguided.

I'm sure there indeed are instances of racism around, both subtle and not so subtle, which needs exposure and correction. And in order to combat it, people need to be vigilant and try to stop it before it starts. If it serves to put actual racists on notice that it will be opposed and not tolerated, then that's all good.

Racism may certainly may be a factor in why a few oppose the plant, and some may indeed be against foreign born workers of any type due to their racist beliefs. Of course that should be exposed and dealt with. If someone is suggesting that only one ethic group is more prone to crime and trouble, then that should be condemned as well.

But short of any evidence of any actual racism, some go far beyond that and demean the motives of anyone who raise the issue of the hiring of illegals at Triumph by assuming they are doing so out of racist motives. To do so is simply unfair, untrue, and is in itself as bad as the racism they're supposedly out to combat.

It distorts the issue, stiffles free debate of a real issue, and does as much damage to those who are smeared with the blanket charge of racism as actual racism does to it's victims.

Charging anyone who so much as mentions illegal aliens with racism is unfair and should be refuted strongly and firmly.

It's also been alleged that one of the leaders of this well coordinated effort to cry racism, Stella Scheneckloth, has connections with the head of the Riverstone Group. Bob Imler is the top executive of that corporation which is one of the largest landowners in the area, and happens to own the land on which the Triumph plant is to be built.

There is suspicion that those who stand to profit the most from this deal are very much involved in trying to fan the flames here, and in essence, create a race issue where none actually exists.


Obviously to mount a campaign to vilify and smear the most effective opponents to the plant as "racist" and to inflame what they are aware is a large latino population in the area and to soften up the public to the issue of illegal immigrant labor.

They can thus distort the issue, warping opponents concern about imported or illegal labor to somehow suggesting that these opponents are against anyone of Mexican or latino descent even working there, which of course, is a truly digusting lie.

They know that people have real, valid concerns about the plant attracting large numbers of illegal imigrants, no matter what their ethnicity, and in an effort to short circuit that valid concern, they're now hiring people to loudly allege racism every time someone so much as mentions the issue.

The whole thing is repugnant and any executive or leader who is encouraging this or financing it should be exposed, and Ms. Schneckloth should spend her valuable time finding instances where there is actual racism and discrimination to fight, and less time being a willing tool of those who hope to be able to hire illegal and imported labor at the plant.

It is not "racist" to be concerned about, support, and to voice that support for ensuring that a large proposed industrial plant, one who's biggest selling point to the community is the jobs it will provide, give those jobs to residents of the area and not farm them out to imported or illegal aliens, no matter what their particular ethnic group.

The concerns of those who wish to ensure that jobs go to local residents are not based on racism, but rather the decades of prior experience with a nearly identical plant. To smear them as racist is both facile and disingenuous.

Do those who are so quick to cry racism feel that any concern over the hiring of illegal or imported labor is racist? If not, what evidence do they have of this alleged racism?

Racism is a very serious thing to charge someone with. It by definition accuses someone of feeling a certain way in their hearts and minds which society rightly condemns, and accuses them of hatred or ill will against a massive class of people. Unless you're certain, to hurl this charge around is a very reckless and dangerous thing to do, and I believe these people have done so far too easily. Their motives should be in question.

The Manchurian Candidate

TBogg strikes.

Isabel Bloom's owners do a head fake

Good news. Some Isabel Bloom production will remain in the Quad Cities.

Citing the uproar over their decision in response to a dip in the "gifting" industry to uproot and ship all production to sweat-shop labor in China, owners Tom Carter, Hunt Harris, and Jeff Gilfillan, who seems to be the designated spokesman for the group, have made a decision to keep at least part of the production facilities here.

Two articles address the decision in the Dispatch, though only one of them list the other two owners besides Gilfilan. One includes glowing assessments of these "three fine businessmen", a strange way to describe the guys who were villains to the area only 24 hours ago. I guess it's an effort to help along the obvious PR offensive this is designed to be.

Their plans to move operations to China are still ongoing. It appears that they realized that the cost to keep a small presense in the QCs was worth an attempt to erase all the bad PR they attracted by their initial decision, and the Dispatch seems happy to help out.

But, showing more PR accumen than the Bush administration and Republican party and candidates that Hunt Harris has steadfastly supported financially and otherwise, they at least fess up to having misread things and having made a mistake.
Area Isabel Bloom fans met news of the company's about-face on sending production of the Quad-Cities icon to China as a pleasant and surprising turn of events.

In a statement released Tuesday, Isabel Bloom LLC announced it would keep its Quad-Cities production line, and expand production of some products overseas as part of the company's efforts expand in the market.

"Thank you for caring -- for showing us the depth of your local pride and passion for Isabel Bloom sculptures. ... We listened and learned," said an apology, addressed to customers on the Isabel Bloom Web site. "The community's response underscores our recommitment to offering distinctive, locally made artwork."

Isabel Bloom LLC, owned by Tom Carter, Jeff Gilfillan and Hunt Harris, cited "enormous marketplace pressures in the gifting industry," in the decision to move production to China early this summer. Outraged community members flooded local media outlets with e-mails, phone calls and letters voicing their disapproval and feelings of betrayal.

Donald A. Lewis, Moline, vowed never to step inside an Isabel Bloom store again when the company announced their overseas expansion plans. He was overjoyed, Tuesday with the news that the company would stay in the Quad Cities.

"I'm ecstatic! It's a wonderful thing that these three fine businessmen, after hearing the community, reconsidered," said Mr. Lewis. "It's wonderful! That's the way it should be.'

In response to the announcement that Isabel Bloom, has "listened and learned," local blogs were buzzing with responses. A few people are skeptical that the Quad-Cities has just been victim of a public relations stunt, but most are just happy the company is staying put.

"I'm pleasantly surprised," said Lee Strobehn, Rock Island. "That's rare. It’s really rare (that company executives would listen to the community) it tells a lot about them."

The company will continue to explore overseas options, but they are apologetic for the "turmoil" employees, customers and the community as a whole endured over the last two weeks.

"We apologize for failing to fully recognize the priorities of our local customers and we accept full responsibility for this error in judgment," said Mr. Gilfillan in a released statement.

Local governments approve taxpayer subsidies for Triumph Corporation

Every city in the Illinois Quad Cities has been convinced to allow an "Enterprise Zone" to be vastly expanded to include the proposed Triumph Foods pork plant.
East Moline, Moline, Silvis, Milan and Rock Island County are members of the enterprise zone. Each municipality needs to approve including the site in order for developers to receive benefits like sales-tax exemptions on buildings materials or waived building permit fees.
A previous piece in the Dispatch noted,
East Moline is proposing that the Illinois Quad Cities Enterprise Zone be expanded by 253 acres, which encompasses the 116-acre plant site. Approval would bring the $135 million to $165 million plant one step closer to construction.

In enterprise zones, developers are eligible for sales-tax exemptions on building materials and waived building permit fees. The sales taxes the Quad-Cities would lose are unknown because the amount of building materials Triumph's contractors would buy locally is unknown.

East Moline's finance director, Jim Hughes, has said the city would lose $400,000 in building permit fees if the expansion is approved.

Opponents of the plant -- who are worried about odors, noise, water contamination, an influx of immigrants and declining property values if it's built -- have been asking the enterprise zone's members not to approve the expansion.

East Moline Mayor John Thodos said Monday he doesn't see any reason why aldermen would not approve the expansion, especially since recent print and television media reports from Triumph's St. Joseph, Mo., pork plant indicated odor wasn't an issue there.
To Thodos apparently, the ONLY issue is whether it would smell. Rather sad.

Todays article continues...
East Moline aldermen approved an ordinance 6-0 to include the site in the zone. Ald. Luis Moreno, 3rd Ward, arrived at the council meeting after the vote was taken. But later, he and the other six aldermen voted unanimously to approve a resolution amending an intergovernmental agreement among the municipalities to include the site in the zone.

The Rock Island County board approved the expansion of the enterprise zone for the project with an 18-5 vote. Among the board members voting against the measure were board members Pat Moreno and Fred Schultz, Democrats whose districts are in Silvis.

The other no votes came from Bill Armstrong, D-Moline, Connie Mohr-Wright, D-Moline, and James Sallows, R-Port Byron.

Mr. Armstrong is the only board member who offered an explanation for his vote, saying he was concerned about the Triumph project for environmental reasons and didn't think they had been addressed.

The non-partisan Moline City Council voted 5-3 on two measures to expand the enterprise zone to include the pork plant and the additional acres and an amendment to an intergovernmental agreement that established the enterprise zone. Alds. Michael Carton, 2nd Ward; Dick Potter, 4th Ward; and Dorothy Armstrong, 7th Ward voted against the ordinance and resolution.

Aldermen did not discuss the expansion before the vote, but Ald. Potter said after the meeting he opposed it purely on economic issues. "I think a large entity like this that is offering substandard wages does not deserve taxpayer subsidies," he said.

"I am not against the project itself," Ald. Carton said after the meeting. "I am definitely not against economic development or creating jobs or building a state-of-the-art facility. I am against giving them incentives to do this. ... If they can't do this without incentives, then I don't know if they should be doing it in the first place," he said.

Three opponents of the project were given the opportunity to address the council before the vote.

One of them, Dawn Marner, East Moline, told aldermen it was time for them to stand up for what was right. She said that the company could very well afford to pay the sales tax on building materials, which will be waived in Illinois if the enterprise zone expansion goes through.

Arthur Norris, who lives near Barstow, spoke to the council about his environmental concerns. He also told aldermen that the location is wrong because it is in a wetland.

The other municipalities have approved the matter, and Silvis is the last municipality that will vote on the zone. Aldermen are scheduled to discuss the matter in its Committee of the Whole meeting March 21. A final vote would be on April 4.

Silvis 1st Ward Alds. Bob Cervantes and Kitty Lopez will moderate a town hall meeting about the pork plant at 1 p.m. March 19 at Porkies Restaurant, 130 1st Ave., Silvis. The meeting is for 1st Ward residents, but the public is invited to attend.
A meeting on the hog plant at Porkies. How charming.

But seriously, isn't there a degree of schizophrenia to the argument that the Triumph plant will bring vast economic development, will be a great sucess, etc. and then at the same time arguing that almost every government entity in the entire Illinois Quad Cities need to agree to give away literally millions of dollars of tax breaks and other give-aways to the corporation in order for them to locate here?

Something doesn't quite compute in all this. I think Ald. Carton's views are certainly address the concerns. Care to give your explanation?

February 20, 2006

Blago touts jobs bill, shifts responsibility for WIU funding into Republican's laps.

Reader submitted photo

Governor Blagojevich stopped in Moline earlier today and reiterated his priority to pass his jobs bill to build roads and schools, and remembered to add that the WIU campus project was "a huge priority right now".

Since he's pretty much cast the fate of the funding to the wind, in other words making it dependent on Republican support to get it into a budget bill, he shrewdly took the opportunity to shift responsibility away from himself and local legislators and onto the opposition party, "If you know a republican legislator, ask him or her to stop playing partisan poltics," Gov. Blagojevich said. "Let's put the campus ahead of politics and partisanship, and let's create jobs for people."

A massive lobbying squad from the area is set to invade Springfield Wednesday in order to execute a scorched earth lobby effort in support of funding for the WIU project. It could be a make or break effort.

On the Thomson prison mini-opening, WQAD reports that the common sense people of that town aren't going to fall for the hype anymore.

Around Thomson, people say they want prisoners, not promises, after waiting four years for a new but never used prison to open.

So hope was tempered with skepticism last week when Governor Rod Blagojevich (bluh-GOY'-uh-vitch) unveiled plans for a scaled-down opening of the 18-hundred-bed facility. It was finished in 2001 but never opened because of state budget woes.

The governor's plan would hire 75 guards and bring in 200 inmates by fall.

Townspeople say their hopes have been raised and dashed before. They say businesses that opened to serve the expected rush of prison visitors are hurting most.

State Representative Mike Boland says he understands the frustration after striking out with several prison-opening ideas of his own.

But the East Moline Democrat says the latest plan will click, thanks to support from House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Moline Centre Partners wants you

I recently recieved a mailing from Moline Centre Partners, as they describe themselves, a "not-for-profit public-private partnership working to bring about continued revitalization in downtown Moline."

They're encouraging anyone and everyone to join in their efforts to retain and restore the downtown area by retaining and restoring the architectural integrity of downtown buildings (NOW they think of it.) and enhancing the economic, social, and political value of a vibrant downtown.

Among the ways listed to help are:
Register your skills in the volunteer pool
Work at a fundraising event
Help with office work
Donate computer skills
Assist with graphic design
Recruit members and volunteers
Participate in a business workshop
Help gather and analyze data
Offer your expertise
Support businesses by shopping locally
Serve as an ambassador
Provide ideas
Become a supporter

The form on the reverse lists dozens of things to check if you would enjoy doing them, with everything from being on a parking committee to tending flower boxes or hanging posters. There's something for everyone to do as much or as little as they feel like doing.

Their contact info is:
Moline Centre Partners
1506 River Drive
Moline, IL 61265
Phone: 309.762.7804
Fax: 309.762.9123
email: lysahegland@msn.com

It sounds like someone has finally figured out that perhaps it might be wise to involve the residents of the city rather than the usual group of connected insiders. And the mere fact that they state that preserving the architechtural aspects of the remaining buildings downtown is a priority is a huge break with the decades long effort, again led by the same group of property owners and speculators, to demolish everything built before 1960 and make parking lots out of them or erect buildings which amount to eyesores which clash violently with their surroundings.

Go see what you could do. This could be a very good idea. Find out more at www.molinecentre.org

Pitching in to help out the town is important, especially in light of the fact that the gang of developers and their enablers in the Republican government of Moline have foolishly given away the farm over decades leaving the city utterly broke. Despite raising taxes and fees, the citizens of Moline will have to finance and help preserve their downtown on their own, as the Republicans have left the city so broke that they don't have the funds to do anything.

It's come to my attention that this year, due to the utter mismanagement of city funds resulting in a huge deficit, the Moline Parks Department is charging Little Leaguers a $3 fee just to play on the city diamonds. (It now costs a cool $83 for a child to play little league.)

Thanks Stan Leach, and thanks Roger Clausen. You guys did a heck of a job.

Vicki Wright gains Fraternal Order of Police endorsement

From a Vicki Wright campaign press release:
JUDGE VICKI WRIGHT, candidate for the Third District Appellate Court, has received the prestigious endorsement of the State Lodge of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, Springfield, Illinois for the Primary election scheduled for March 21, 2006.

The Fraternal Order of Police represents the interests of 35,000 men and women in uniform state wide. The endorsement came as a result of the combined recommendation from the Legislative Committee of the Fraternal Order of Police comprised of representatives from the Illinois State Police, Illinois FOP Labor Council, Illinois Department of Corrections, County and Municipal Police and Chicago Police. The recommendation from the legislative committee was approved by the Executive Board and the Board of Trustees comprised of law enforcement members from around the State of Illinois.

Judge Wright has been an attorney for 24 years and has always served the community in a public capacity. She has never been the member of a private law firm.

Wright conducted criminal appeals for the Third Appellate District in Ottawa for the first two years of her career and then moved to Whiteside County where she developed a specialty in the prosecution of sex offenders. In 1991, Wright was appointed as the first female Associate Judge in the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit which includes, Rock Island, Henry, Mercer and Whiteside County.

Wright stated, "Our citizens respect those who wear uniforms and are willing to risk their lives to protect and serve our community. After September 11, 2001, we all came to appreciate that the members of law enforcement fight the possibility of catastrophic events right here in our communities and are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for our safety."

She added, "This is a major endorsement that I am very proud to receive but did not expect, because this is a very hotly contested race. I am gratified to know those in uniform appreciate my service to our community as judge for the last 15 years."

Judge Wright, has been a trial court judge for the last 15 years in the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit, which includes Rock Island, Whiteside, Henry and Mercer counties.

February 19, 2006

Blago kicks off campaign, begins tour of state

Governor Rod Blagojevich officially launched his re-election camapaign today in Springfield and will follow-up with a tour of the state, including a stop in Moline tomorrow (Monday).
Gov. Rod Blagojevich formally launched his re-election campaign Sunday by renewing his vow not to raise taxes and warning that Republicans would reverse his efforts to make Illinois a better place for families.

The Democrat said Illinois has come a long way since the "dark and troubling time" when he was elected after 26 years of Republicans controlling the governor's office.
The budget is balanced, schools have more money, health care is available to more people and government is more efficient, he told a cheering crowd. Blagojevich said he needs a second term to continue that work and keep Republicans from undoing it.

"You've seen it all before - the empty promises, the fake answers. We've already lived through that nightmare," he said. "The people who created the mess can't move us forward."

He boasted of fulfilling his campaign promise not to raise income or sales taxes, but Blagojevich's speech said nothing about renewing that promise for a second term. That came afterward, under questioning from reporters.

"I'm not going to raise taxes on the hardworking people of Illinois. I won't do it. I don't believe in it," he said.

His 15-minute speech was also silent on what Republicans argue is his biggest weakness: ethics.

Blagojevich took office promising to clean up government after the administration of Gov. George Ryan, now on trial for federal corruption charges. Blagojevich helped pass a major overhaul of state ethics laws, but he also has awarded contracts to campaign donors, given state jobs to political insiders and allowed lobbyists to help shape his administration's policies and personnel.

To underscore the point, Republican front-runner Judy Baar Topinka chose Sunday to release her proposal for stronger ethics laws. Her running mate, Joe Birkett, accused Blagojevich of flying around the state "on an airplane fueled by pay-to-play cash" and said the governor has "given us grand jury subpoenas, investigations and indictments."

Asked about awarding state contracts to donors, Blagojevich said he would "continue to make sure we follow all the rules and ... that we have an open and fair bidding process."

Opinion polls show very low approval of Blagojevich's performance. Even among Democrats, only 52 percent want to see him re-elected, according to one recent survey.

> MORE <

February 18, 2006

John Edwards to appear at Scott County Dem event

The Scott County Democrats are holding their Red White & Blue Banquet next Saturday, February 25, 2006 at the Starlite Ballroom on the grounds of the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds, 2815 W. Locust St., Davenport, Iowa

Edwards will be featured speaker along with local candidates, elected officials and Democratic friends.

$50 Choice Seating
$30 General Seating
5:30 pm Reception
6:30 pm Dinner Buffet & Program

Abused, abandoned animals get new home in Moline

Rock Island county's new animal shelter is having an open house today. Having their open house on a day when it's probably warmer in Barrow, Alaska is in keeping with the rocky start the project has had.

As noted in the Dispatch article, the barely completed shelter had to step in and help out Henry County by taking in 23 adult Great Pyrenees and 3 puppies, part of 42 of the dogs found in a Henry county home, with furniture and the new veternary tech arriving on the job a day later.

The shelter was initially thought to require $5 million dollars, but was slashed back to $1.6 million, making one wonder just how out of whack the initial proposal was if it could get done for far less than half the amount. The original planned facility must have been very nice.

But it's great news and heartening to see that a decent facility is up and running, after decades of sub-standard and often grim quarters.

Thumbs up to the county and all those who helped turn this into a reality.

Visitors will see a clean home for the homeless and abused pets at today's open house for the Rock Island County animal shelter.

"People will be surprised at how nice it is," animal control director Rich Glessner said Friday. "It is not what the community is used to or accustomed to. It is very clean and progressive."

Not to mention pretty full. Henry County seized 42 adult Great Pyrenees dogs from a home in Geneseo earlier this week, with 23 of the adult dogs and four puppies brought to the Rock Island County shelter. Volunteer groomers spent Tuesday bathing and shaving the dogs.

The shelter had 300 animals pass through in the three weeks since it opened the week of Jan. 20, Mr. Glessner said. The community response, especially following the abuse case, has been tremendous.

"It is good exposure for us and instills in the community why we are here and why we were created," he said.

Rock Island County board chairman Jim Bohnsack has been a champion of the shelter since he became chairman in 2002. He is glad Rock Island County was able to help when it was needed by Henry County.

"It is such perfect timing when you can help another county," he said. "They really hit the ground running."

The shelter will offer low-cost spay and neutering and a low-cost veterinary clinic.

The shelter has been a work in progress since its short-staffed opening last month. The last week has been a challenge. The Great Pyrenees arrived Tuesday, followed by the shelter's new furniture on Wednesday -- the first day on the job for the veterinary technician.

"It gets better day by day," Mr. Glessner said. "The vet tech got a good dose of what animal control is all about."

The finishing touches on the 12,000 square foot shelter were still being made in the last few days before the shelter opened. A ground-breaking was held in March.

The shelter's opening at times seemed like it would never happen. When first discussed, the project was estimated at $5 million. It was scaled back to its $1.6 million price tag in 2003. Rock Island County, and the cities of Rock Island, East Moline and Moline contributed to the project. Moline contributed $500,000 from the Helen and Thomas Larson Trust designated for sheltering animals in Rock Island County.

A non-profit organization, Q-C Paws, has been created to fund-raise for day-to-day costs and other expenses.

Mr. Bohnsack sees the shelter already having an impact, providing refuge for the Great Pyrenees.

"It is all we hoped it to be and more," he said. "We have more people to thank than the county board, we have city councils and volunteers."


Rock Island County Animal Shelter

Where: 4001 78th Ave., Moline.

Phone number: (309) 558-3483.

Open House 1-4 p.m. today. Shuttle service is running from Horace Mann Elementary School, 3601 69th Ave., Moline.

Hours: Noon to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday; noon to 6 p.m. Wednesdays; and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

On the web: www.rockislandcounty.org or www.qcpaws.org
The shelter will no doubt be operated as always on a bare bones (no pun intended) budget. It would be nice if readers keep the shelter in mind as a worthy cause for their contributions.

Gov candidate Edwin Eisendrath stops in Moline

"Illinois needs to turn its old industrial sites into new economic engines," Mr. Eisendrath said at the Moline Community Center. "A system of marketable tax credits will raise the needed funds and net a return to the state."

He proposes tax credits pay for 100 percent of brownfield clean-up, no matter the size of the project, and that the tax credits be tradable as a way of raising funds for clean-up.

The Department of Revenue would calculate the net return on the project and cap the tax credits at that level, Mr. Eisendrath proposes.

Mr. Eisendrath points to a similar program in Missouri that has provided about five times more brownfield cleaning assistance than Illinois.

"Illinois is lagging behind all the states around us in economic growth," he said.

A former Chicago alderman, Mr. Eisendrath has served as regional director of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department, and currently serves as a college administrator.

Mr. Eisendrath faces a fund-raising juggernaut in Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and hammers him on that issue, saying the state needs to ends its "pay for play" culture. Mr. Blagojevich will stop in Moline Monday as part of a two-day campaign swing.

Mr. Eisendrath calls the governor's suggested partial opening of the Thomson prison as "cynical" and says the governor hasn't delivered on repeated promises to fund the planned Moline riverfront campus for Western Illinois University.

"Fund-raising hasn't been the focus of my career, it has been to get things done," Mr. Eisendrath said. "People around the state tell me they are disappointed in what he has done."

He says that if elected he wouldn't take any campaign donations until campaign finance reform is passed. Part of that reform would be to no longer take donations from state contractors, while limiting political action committees, and ban union and corporate gifts.

"I'm not afraid of winning. I'm not afraid of losing," Mr. Eisendrath said. "I'm afraid for the future of this state, and that is what makes me dangerous."

Dispatch photo by Terry Herbig

Weekly blog visit poll results

I had a little poll up asking how many times a week visitors took a look at the blog.

70 percent of the respondents said they visited at least 7 times a week.

Throwing out the joke votes (which said they never visit the site and were voting telepathically), the poll showed 37 percent visited 14 or more times a week, and 33 percent saying they read the site at least 7 times a week.

The other three choices were kind of stupid on my part as the numbers overlapped.
2 or 3 times a week, 3 to 5 times a week, and 5 to 7 times a week each got 10 percent of the vote.

February 17, 2006

The Great Debate(s)

If a series of Rumler-Jacobs debates could be pulled off, they'd surely supplant the Lincoln/Douglas debates in Illinois and U.S. history. Textbooks would need to be re-written, and the formerly legendary debates would fade into obscurity.

In the comments to a thread discussing the potential for such debates between primary candidates, I raised the idea of doing a live, online debate. That discussion suggested another question regarding the debates which I'd like to put to readers.

What group or organization do you feel would be the best suited to sponsor and run a debate or debates?

And secondly, who would be the best moderator or moderators?

GOP forgets to mention they endorse Mowen in 17th, Brunsvold's new gig

The State Journal-Register's Bernie Schoenburg reports on the Republican side of the race against Lane Evans, and some career news on Joel Brunsvold.

The event he refers to is the 102nd annual Lincoln Day Luncheon of the Sangamon County Republican Party.
All three candidates seeking the GOP nomination for the 17th Congressional District U.S. House seat attended the Sangamon County event this week. The 17th cuts through a small part of Springfield, and even the candidates know that whoever wins in the March 21 primary will have to sell the notion that incumbent U.S. Rep. LANE EVANS, D-Rock Island, can be defeated.

Libri was apologetic after the event when asked about that race, calling it a "glaring error" that he forgot to mention that the party’s executive committee in recent days had decided on an endorsement, picking JIM MOWEN of Rock Island over ANDREA ZINGA of Coal Valley and BRIAN GILLILAND of Aledo.

"I guess they thought he had the best chance of winning," Libri said of Mowen, adding that the vote was not unanimous.

"I’m an Andrea Zinga fan, I’ve got to tell you," Libri said. "But I go with who my party goes with."

Gilliland got no votes, he said.

Mowen has also been endorsed by a group that could be helpful to him if the conservative base of the GOP gets to the polls in the primary - the Illinois Federation for Right to Life.

Mowen said he is "strongly pro-life" but would allow abortions to save the life of the mother.

"I would like to see a world with no abortions," Mowen said. He called the issue of allowing abortion in cases of rape or incest "incredibly difficult … especially for a man to lay down the law on," but he said the focus needs to remain on the "innocent human life …that is every bit as important as the trauma that the woman is going through."

Zinga said she is also pro-life, but would allow abortion to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest reported within 72 hours.

"Being a woman, perhaps I believe that there are times, if a woman is the innocent victim, then her life is also important," Zinga said.

"Jim’s more of a hard-line, right-wing pro-lifer," said Gilliland, who also said he prefers adoption and is pro-life but would allow abortions in some circumstances involving saving the life of the mother, rape or incest.

Brunsvold to lobby

Former Department of Natural Resources Director JOEL BRUNSVOLD, who was a longtime state representative from the Quad Cities when he took that job three years ago, has registered as a lobbyist for the Illinois State Conference of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Brunsvold, 63, retired from his $113,200 job as director at the end of the year, saying in part, "I’ve got two little granddaughters, and I need to spend more time with them."

He joins several other former lawmakers who are registered lobbyists, a practice that remains legal despite some calls for a waiting period between jobs.

Reporters get the show at Triumph Missouri plant

The media were there in St. Joseph, MO to cover the long anticipated visit by East Moline officials and QC business figures in order to assess what the proposed plant in East Moline would be like. They'd braved icy roads and made the long drive to the location.

But East Moline officials and business figures felt they had to fly down, and the weather had kept them grounded. So the media figures found only hogs to cover, and of course, were spoon-fed corporate information.

Jenny Lee and the Dispatch/Argus file a report and provide several photos of the operation.

One interesting passage:
On the plant's "kill" floor, drains carry the blood from the carcasses to a pre-treatment sewage facility, where chemicals are added to make the waste safe enough to enter the city sewage system, Mr. Hoffman said.
Wow. How bad does a substance have to be before you need to clean it up before it's fit for a sewer system??

The piece notes that, according to company sources, the St. Joseph plant currently employs 850, and notes,
They're now able to slaughter over 5,000 hogs a day, Mr. Hoffman said. Eventually, Triumph wants to slaughter 16,000 hogs a day with two shifts. Mr. Hoffman said he expects the number of employees to reach 1,000 in a few weeks.
These figures and predictions are nearly identical to those the company made for the East Moline plant.

The issue of foreign workers was obliquely touched on as well.
In the process area, workers of different ethnic backgrounds lined up body parts for the cutting machines. Mr. Hoffman said about 75 to 80 percent of employees are from the St. Joseph area. Triumph recruited some management from Iowa and other states.

My inner Beavis and Butthead also took note of the job title of the worker interviewed in the article (as well as in the QC Times piece), a former Quad City resident who now holds the position of "general foreman for boning operations", a title which would no doubt impress and amuse adolescent boys (and men who would never admit it) everywhere.

Allemeier outlines Sheriff's race

The Democratic primary for Rock Island County sheriff is a two-man race and both candidates are familiar to voters.

Mike Grchan, the four-term incumbent, faces Mike Huff, a sergeant in the sheriff's department, in the March 21 primary. No Republicans are slated for the primary.

In a five-man race in the 2002 primary, Mr. Grchan was the top vote-getter with 5,732 votes. Mr. Huff finished third, with 3,546 votes, behind former sheriff's department captain Gene Jungwirth, who drew 3,582.

A smaller primary field will help the second time around, Mr. Huff said.

"There were so many candidates last time it was tough to know each candidate," he said. "It was tough to focus in on one and get to know that person."

The smaller field has made the race more low-key. Neither candidate made a major announcement regarding their candidacy.

"I just haven't got around to it," Mr. Grchan said.

Mr. Huff is a 26-year veteran of the sheriff's department. He is certified by the Illinois Attorney General's office as an elderly services officer. He has a bachelor's degree in law enforcement administration from Western Illinois University.

He is a long-time union representative for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 61 that represents the sheriff's deputies.

Mr. Grchan has been with the sheriff's department for 36 years. Among the accomplishments he touts as sheriff are starting a D.A.R.E. Program, getting liaison officers in county schools, and working with local police chiefs and the federal government to create a gang task force and bring a U.S. Attorney's office to the county.

This campaign hasn't focused on a major issue, unlike the 1998 primary when a new jail dominated the race.

"I didn't know what his issues are going to be," Mr. Grchan said of his opponent, "so I was just waiting to hear."

Mr. Huff says it is time for a change in leadership at the sheriff's department.

"I believe it is time for a fresh approach to the law enforcement challenges that lie ahead," he said. "My experience, education and training have prepared me for the job."

Mr. Grchan, who has been meeting with key supporters, was hoping for a short campaign season but has started distributing yard signs to match Mr. Huff's visibility. The race could turn into a sprint with a little more than a month remaining.

McCain to stump for Nussle

Arizona Sen. John McCain has scheduled a visit to Iowa to campaign for Jim Nussle, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor.

McCain will be the featured speaker at a Cedar Rapids luncheon on April 13 to raise money for Nussle.

"I am pleased to have the opportunity to visit Iowa and campaign for Rep. Jim Nussle," McCain said in a statement released today by Nussle's campaign.

What's wrong with this picture?

Quad City Images asks some important questions about the recent Illinois budget and where the money goes in the 36th district.
Why is it that Illinois can scrape together $140 million dollars for a prison they don't even use, but not $13.8 million for the first phase of the WIU riverfront campus.

Heck, why not spend $50 million and build the whole campus. If the single community of Davenport managed to spend 35 million bucks on an art museum, I would think the fifth biggest state in the US could find $14 million laying around.

Unfortunately non-Illinois resident alumni like myself don't have much sway with IL politicians. I urge everyone who lives in the Illinois Quad Cities to contact your state representatives, US congressmen, and the Governor and ask why this pocket change can't get tossed Moline's way.

Obviously school construction contractors don't get to donate to IL governors.

Why did it take someone in Iowa to ask these obvious questions?

February 16, 2006

Is the Armstrong ranch the Bada-bing?

Arriana Huffington gives us a little background on the scene of the crime.

Cheney Shoots Three Presidents in Oval Office Mishap

A post by Steve Martin (yes, THAT Steve Martin) at the Huffington Post.
Vice President Dick Cheney, while hunting wild geese in the Rose Garden, accidentally shot President Bush twice, once in the heart and once in the head. "I didn't really shoot the President twice," said Cheney. "The second time I shot him, I was president. It wasn't until my third shot, where I accidentally shot my own foot, that I had shot the president twice.

I was officially injured and unable to govern, when Dennis Hastert came in, and stepped on the butt handle of the rifle causing it to swing up like a rake and shoot his hair off. I guess I'm officially responsible for that too, meaning I shot the acting president for a total of three occupants of the oval office. I'm not proud, but it is a record."

February 15, 2006

Deputy Governor: WIU project funding chances slim to none
Jacobs: "I'm not at all dissapointed."

Absent a miracle, the Illinois Quad Cities can forget about any funding for the WIU riverfront campus anytime soon.

At least that's the grim assessment by Deputy Governor Bradley Tusk in a comprehensive piece by Scott Reeder and Stephanie Sievers, Small Newspaper Group's team in Springfield.

The piece details the process involved and why the project Sen. Jacobs has hung his (size 12?) hat on has a very tough road ahead if it's to appear in the Governor's '07 budget.

Jacobs had assured us in recent news reports that the governor's office had told him "not to sweat it", as the funding for the project was a "done deal". Could be the Senator got punked.

The Governor is expected to put in an appearance at the Moline Airport sometime before noon on Monday. This will be a prime chance for the press, legislators, and other leaders involved to press him on the fate of the WIU project funds as well as other issues. Sen. Jacobs might want to ask whether the Gov was jiving him about the "done deal" thing or if it's time to start sweating yet.

It looks like legislators now have a real chance to show their stuff, though against long odds.

They're going to have to grind it out in budget negotiations with Republicans, people who'd rather french kiss Michael Moore than give the governor anything to boast about during his re-election campaign. Luckily, Jacobs has assured us this is one of his strong suits. (working across the aisle, that is, not... oh nevermind.)

And they'll have to tackle the difficult chore of actually finding a source of revenue to pay for it in a severely cash-strapped state, an equally daunting task.

But as with anything to do with the legislature, until the gavel bangs to adjourn the session on April 7th, nothing is set in stone. Judging from all the noises made on this project thus far, I think it might be wise to not put too much stock in anything said by politicians on the matter until early April.

SPRINGFIELD -– Creating a Western Illinois University Moline riverfront campus may be a priority for Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, but the likelihood of getting another $13.8 million in funding this year faces mounting odds.

Deputy Governor Bradley Tusk said both chambers of the Illinois Legislature would first have to pass a capital budget by a three-fifths majority, something that requires bipartisan support and which hasn’t happened in the last three years.

Even if that were to happen, Tusk said the state also would have to come up with a way of generating more revenue for new buildings on college campuses across the state.

Tusk said the Blagojevich administration has not proposed a specific funding source for campus constructions because they didn’t want Republicans to "just shoot it down."

So Tusk said the governor is deferring to lawmakers to develop a source of funds for the campus improvements. Short of those two things happening, Tusk said the $13.8 million in funding that Jacobs – and many other community leaders -- had hoped for will not be a reality.

Sen. Mike Jacobs said today he would continue to push hard during the remaining two months of the legislative session to acquire funding for a WIU riverfront campus.

He added he is no way deterred by Tusk’s comments.

"We already have $2.4 million in the budget for planning the campus. A few months ago, no one was even talking about more funding for the Western budget, now they are. If it’s not in this year’s budget it will be in next year’s. I’m not at all disappointed."

But last week, after the Illinois Board of Higher Education recommended that the governor spend another $13.8 million on the WIU project, Jacobs told the Dispatch/Argus the "governor’s office told me not to sweat this -- it’s a done deal."

Rep. Mike Boland, D-East Moline, said he expects Blagojevich to dangle “carrots” like the Moline campus and other state projects in front of lawmakers to try to sway them to support his construction plan.

But Republicans may be reluctant to come out in support of a construction budget that could give Blagojevich political traction heading into the election

Last month, Blagojevich announced $2.4 million in Opportunity Returns money to do the planning work needed to renovate the former Deere & Co. Technical Center into the proposed campus’ first building.

WIU spokesman John Maguire said the university is in the process of working with the state to find an architectural firm to draft construction plans that could be put out for construction bids.

Becky Carroll, spokeswoman for Blagojevich’s Office of Management and Budget, said in most capital projects, the planning work must be finished before money is allocated to the actual construction phase.

In the meantime, Blagojevich is expected to make a stop at the airport in Moline Monday during a state fly-around.

Rep. Mike Boland, D-East Moline, and Rep. Patrick Verschoore, D-Milan, said they anticipate Blagojevich will officially announce his bid for re-election. Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch said the visit does not involve official state business.
It may not be time to give up all hope as yet, miracles do happen. But repeated messages from the Governor's office have been pretty plain that the WIU project isn't exactly on their front burner.

But Jacobs gets credit for refusing to get the message. Just like the Cubs, hope springs eternal, there's always next year, no matter who's in office.

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How to Get Good and Drunk in Iowa City

Wish this page existed years ago. I had to go about it without any instruction whatsoever.

(note: hold your pointer over the pictures for some captions)

Cook County Jail Correctional Officers aid in prisoner escape in effort to help Sheriff candidate

God bless Chicago politics.
Chicago Police tipped a Cook County Jail captain on Saturday that inmate Michael McIntosh was planning an escape, but McIntosh and five others still managed to break out of their maximum-security tier just hours later, officials said.

The jail captain who took the call from Chicago Police appears to have acted properly in relaying the tip to the Special Operations Response Team that guards the tier where McIntosh and the others were held, said Bill Cunningham, a spokesman for Sheriff Michael Sheahan.

Investigators are trying to figure out what actions, if any, were taken after the captain relayed the tip to the SORT unit, Cunningham said.

On Tuesday, six correctional officers were suspended with pay because they are subjects of the sheriff's internal investigation of Saturday's jail break, Cunningham said.

Sources said one of those guards, a 36-year-old ex-Marine, has admitted he helped the inmates escape to give a political boost to a former jail supervisor, Richard Remus, who is running for Sheahan's post in the March 21 Democratic primary.

Two more have been charged in the jailbreak. The Sun-Times has details of the escape here.

WIU project doesn't make Governor Blagojevich's budget address

The eyes and ears of the many players involved in the effort to bring state funding for the WIU riverfront campus project in Moline were riveted on Governor Rod Blagojevich's budget address today.

The State Board of Higher Education had recently included the project in it's list of recommendations it sent to the Governor for consideration. (You may remember this as only the latest time Sen. Jacobs jumped for headlines by callling this "enormous news" and giving the impression it was a done deal.)

Since then, those hoping the project is funded have been waiting on pins and needles to see if the Governor would actually mention the project in his budget address, thus indicating that it was indeed a priority to him.

They were disappointed. The WIU project was nowhere in the Governor's address. Though this by no means indicates the project is dead, it nevertheless isn't an encouraging sign.

But the lobbying will continue and we can all continue to hope that the initial funding might be included in the capital budget, IF the lege is able to pass one, which is far from a given.

If the Republicans don't go along and decide they'd rather not give the Gov a lot of goodies he can then use in his re-election campaign, then it's war.

If that scenario comes to pass, it will mean that the project will have little chance of making it into the budget without Republican support, and while that's not impossible, again, they may be less than anxious to do anything which will give the Governor or Dem politicians the opportunity to crow about in the run up to the general elections.

The budget includes funds to partially open the Thomson prison with 75 guards and 200 prisoners and opening a 200-bed unit for treating methamphetamine users at Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center in East St. Louis.

Summary pieces on the Governor's proposed budget in the Trib and Sun-Times.

Blago's state website has streaming video and audio as well as a power point presentation on his budget plans. It's interesting stuff, though of course it's from the Gov's perspective.

Here, from the Governor's press release, is the list of priorities for the budget:
  • Investing $100 million in stem cell research over five years;
  • Creating the Prairie State DNA Institute;
  • A plan to eliminate the nursing shortage;
  • A new program to reduce K-3 class sizes;
  • Veterans Care: a health care program to cover uninsured veterans;
  • New police officers;
  • New tax credits to promote development in Illinois cities bordering major rivers and to expand the film industry in Illinois;
  • Reducing the time it takes to process applications for state licenses from 4 to 19 weeks to one to four weeks;
  • Increased funding for higher education;
  • $400 million in new funding for K-12 education;
  • Creating a one stop service center for senior citizens;
  • Combining state agency administrative functions to improve efficiency and save money;
  • Strengthening payments into the pension systems by dedicating the proceeds from the sale of the 10th casino license to pensions;
  • Creating new prison facilities to deal specifically with the problem of addiction to methampathemine; and
  • Providing a $1,000 tax credit to students (freshmen and sophomores) with a B average attending college in Illinois.