May 31, 2006

Big Brother comes to The District

No, Janis Joplin's backing band isn't reformed and appearing in downtown Rock Island. But that city's taxpayers will be billed close to $80,000 to provide several surveillance cameras in the district in Rock Island.
Camera installation began in early May after the city council approved a $77,784 bid. Wireless ports using the same fiber-optic line wired to the security cameras will be completed later this month. Tim Bain, Rock Island's assistant director of information technology describes the installations as “a technology package to enhance downtown."
The unblinking eyes of the cameras are part of a package that also will provide wireless internet service to the District area as well, I suppose for all of you who have notebook computers with wireless cards who like to do... stuff... on your computer while your sitting on a bench or in a bar... I guess.

At any rate, wi-fi service is consdiered a "must-have" feature for progressive towns, and so in that respect, Rock Island is a bit ahead of the curve, at least in the area. They've already established wi-fi "hotspots" in the downtown library, city hall, and the Martin Luther King Center. Plans are to provide the service to branch libraries as well.

But the very expensive cameras, installation, and system won't even be monitored at all times and will only serve as ways to investigate incidences after the fact, much like the ubiquitous security cameras at convenience stores.
The cameras aren't intended as deterrents and won't be monitored at all times, police chief John Wright said. They mostly will be used for follow-up investigation.

“It won't be the solution to all our problems, but it will help us," Chief Wright said.
Coupled with the expense, kinda makes one wonder why they're needed at all.

President Obama?

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin recently advised fellow Senator Barack Obama that he should consider running for President of the United States.
"He draws a larger crowd than any politician, and that's a testament to the fact that he has a message that resonates with people," Durbin said during a news conference at his Springfield home Sunday afternoon.

"I think he really has the capacity to bring a lot of red and blue states together for a change so that we start seeing common goals in this country. Younger people are in particular inspired by his message, and people like Barack don't come along very often."

Durbin said he told his colleague to give a possible presidential run serious consideration and determine if it's the right time, even though it's early in Obama's political career. Obama, 44, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004.

"As far as I'm concerned, he should seriously consider it, I think he could bring a great deal to the national race for the presidency," Durbin said.
What do you think of an Obama candidacy for president? Should he go for it now, or wait until a later date? How would he do if he ran?

Oscar the Grouch's fantasy come true

Moline is rolling out the new garbage carts to facilitate their transition to automated garbage collection.
The public works department, and some temporary workers, began delivering 17,000 carts that are needed for the new system at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. The delivery will be a project the city estimates will take to the end of June, said public works director Mike Waldron.

It is not as easy as dropping the dark gray carts at the curb or in a front yard. On Thursday, one worker was using green chalk to mark an "X," on the concrete for where the cart is to be placed each and every week.

While automated collection most likely won't begin until July, residents can begin using their 96- or 48-gallon carts immediately. The city has a rear-loading garbage truck and will be able to dump the carts.
The city will no longer pick up bulky waste at the curb without residents calling first.
It is taking more time to deliver the carts than what it took the cities of Rock Island and Davenport because Moline is taking down the serial number of each cart and matching it up to the address. Marking the spot and putting the cart in that spot, facing the right way, also is time consuming.

"It is all about public education. We actually show them where to put it," Mr. Waldron said. "Spending a little bit more time upfront will save time down the road."

The city will not be able to pick up and dump the carts if anything -- including an electrical pole or a parked car -- is within three feet of the cart. Or, if anything, such as a lawn waste bag or additional garbage bags, are leaning against the cart.

In all of those cases, the sanitation worker will have to get out of the truck and leave a note explaining what was wrong. If the rules are followed the following week, the cart will be dumped.
For two weeks following the delivery of the new garbage carts in Moline, residents may set out their old garbage cans and the city will dispose of them.
For questions about the new carts or automated collection, call the Moline public works department at 797-0780.

Bonny's the Man

Bonny Jain is NOT your average 12 year old.

I've mentioned Bonny before, but now he's back this year and unstoppable. Jain wiped out the competition to emerge as the champion in the National Geographic Bee hosted by Alex Trebek.

The winning question? "Name the mountains that extend across much of Wales from the Irish Sea to the Bristol Channel." Jain held up a card on which he'd written "Cambrian" to clinch the championship.

Winning the geographic contest is remarkable in itself, but now he's on to compete in the Scripps/Howard nationial spelling bee. He placed 28th in the country last year, his second appearance in the finals of the bee.

AFter his victory as geography king, I saw him interviewed on MSNBC and CNN, where they tried to stump him with a couple questions. One asked which river divided Portugal into two agricultural regions, and he instantly gave the correct answer, the Tagus. (sheesh, that's easy.)

Jain also made appearances on NBC's "Today Show," MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" and ABC's "The View", and many other media including attention in the Indian press.

The Dispatch reports:
The first two rounds of this year's spelling bee will be today, starting with a 25-word written test, followed by an oral round. Championship rounds will be Thursday and will be televised live from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on ESPN and from 7 to 9 p.m. on ABC affiliate WQAD-NewChannel 8. "Good Morning America"co-host Robin Roberts will lead the broadcast.
If you want to watch some truly nerve-wracking competition, (the stress was so intense one boy passed out last year in mid-spell) tune in and root for the local kid.

Congratulations to Bonny and good luck in the spelling bee!

A report on the Moline boy's win as well as video of the championship round is available at the National Geographic here.

The Waiting Game

Quad City Online has a bit about where the pork plant issue stands and reveals that essentially, everyone's just waiting for Triumph to make the call before making their next move.
East Moline Mayor John Thodos said Tuesday he's waiting to hear from Triumph Foods on whether it still wants to build a pork-processing plant in the city.

Mayor Thodos said he hasn't heard from Triumph Foods chief executive officer Rick Hoffman in four weeks.

But Quad City Development Group officials said they've talked with Triumph to try to work out some issues.

QCDG president Thom Hart said Tuesday he's talked with Mr. Hoffman periodically and they're making progress on resolving financial and environmental issues.

Mr. Hoffman was unavailable for comment Tuesday evening.
Mayor Thodos said East Moline officials were going to tweak another enterprise-zone request, but Triumph told them to back off on the plan.
"Do we believe Triumph's gone away? The answer is no," said Doug Riel, who lives east of the proposed site. "We haven't walked away from that believing that it's over in any way shape or form."

"We're investigating possible legal action against the city of East Moline," said Mr. Riel, who didn't want to give any more specifics.
A Galesburg Regional Economic Development Agency (GREDA) employee sent an e-mail to Triumph officials earlier this year, hoping to renew discussions.

GREDA vice president of business development Linda Utsinger said, "As far as we're concerned, they're going with East Moline."

Mr. Hart said, "What I've been told since November is that East Moline is (Triumph's) preferred site. I've not been told anything that would contradict that."

Mayor Thodos said he believed the city offered all it could offer to Triumph. When asked about state incentives, Mayor Thodos replied, "That's not our area."

The city council could waive building-permit fees with a vote. But Mayor Thodos said he didn't want to go through with it "if it's of no value."

May 30, 2006

Alcoa contract talks, plans to bring in salaried scab labor, continue.

A QC Times report by Tory Brecht says that talks between Alcoa and the United Steelworkers union progressed smoothly over the weekend. But plans to use a public school parking lot so that scab workers would not have to cross picket lines to park their cars have put school officials in a tight spot.

"The good news is, we’re still talking," Alcoa spokesman Kevin Lowery said. "There’s lots of give and take on both sides. There is progress."

Skip McGill, president of United Steelworkers Local 105 that represents Quad-Cities Alcoa employees, said meetings stretching into Monday night were productive.
The contract includes 9,000 employees, including 1,600 hourly workers at Davenport Works, Riverdale, represented by Local 105, Bettendorf. The current contract expires Wednesday.

The four main issues in the new contract are health care benefits, a cap on retiree health care, a two-tier benefits system for new hires and contracting out. In addition, negotiators have local issues for all 15 plants involved in the talks.
In the event of a work stoppage, the company has been training salaried workers to fill the union jobs at the master contract locations. Alcoa also has been making plans to bring in other Alcoa workers to keep the plants operational.

Those plans also could include allowing temporary workers to park at Pleasant Valley High School rather than have them have to cross a picket line in their personal vehicles.

"It’s fair to say there have been inquiries, but there is not a current formal request," Pleasant Valley School District Superintendent Jim Spelhaug said. "We don’t have any interest in sticking our nose where it doesn’t belong, but we have a strong interest in doing anything we can to help the two parties facilitate an agreement."

Spelhaug pointed out that Local 105 has used the high school to hold informational meetings and ratification votes in the past.

"If the union wants to come and use our gym or theater, I don’t perceive that as us taking a side," he said. "And if the company has a request of some form, we’re certainly going to give them equal opportunity."

Spelhaug said the matter is touchy, in the wake of bad publicity St. Ambrose University officials received when they pitched a plan to house temporary workers in the college’s empty dormitories.

"One could argue that in the face of all this with St. Ambrose that maybe we ought to take the position of keeping everybody out," Spelhaug said. "But we have a history of working with the union and the company."

Officials predict that nothing will be settled until the very last minute.
"We’ve got a long way to go, and it probably isn’t going to be resolved until midnight on the 31st," McGill said.

Evans makes unscheduled appearance at Arsenal Memorial Day ceremony

Lane Evans braved the intense heat to address the crowd gathered on the Rock Island Arsenal on Memorial Day, marking his first public appearance in a while.
He debated whether Memorial Day’s sweltering heat would be too much for his medical condition.

But as long-time U.S. Rep. Lane Evans, D-Illinois, walked the short distance from his vehicle to the stage at Rock Island National Cemetery on Arsenal Island, he said he thought to himself, “Damn straight.”

“I’m happy to be here,” he told a large crowd gathered on the cemetery lawn, spurring applause.

It was one of Evans’ first public appearances since he announced his Parkinson’s disease had progressed to the point that he won’t run for office again. And his visit came as a surprise to many who attended the annual ceremony.

Evans was not listed on the program as a speaker, but said he felt it was important to attend and show his support for veterans and active military members — and the rest of the community — he has served since 1983.

“I feel really good,” he said. “I’m fighting my condition.”

Standing at the podium, Evans thanked the veterans for their hard work to defend the country, and the parents “who sent your children off to war.”

“It’s not an easy thing to do,” he said.

Afterward, Evans stood near the edge of the stage, as a long line of well-wishers waited for a turn to thank the congressman for his service. One by one, they shook Evans’ hand. Some even saluted him.

Evans seemed emotional talking about the community’s show of support, calling it “very gratifying.”

“These are my people,” he said.

photo from Q.C. Times

Guess not

Anyone recall this post?

What gives?

What really did happen with the Blue Ribbon?

Businesses usually don't come in, dump a million or so into custom building a restaurant, and then just suddenly walk away after a few months.

There would seem to be a lot more to that story than anyone's letting on.

May 29, 2006

When making sense makes no sense

Since logical fallacies have been employed so routinely and repeatedly in comments here, the "straw man" being a particular favorite of certain commenters, I found this bit on Daily KOS on "false dichotomies" of interest.

A list of logical fallacies with brief descriptions is found here, while for a more extensive and in-depth exploration, go here.
In order to understand what a fallacy is, one must understand what an argument is. Very briefly, an argument consists of one or more premises and one conclusion. A premise is a statement (a sentence that is either true or false) that is offered in support of the claim being made, which is the conclusion (which is also a sentence that is either true or false).
A fallacy is, very generally, an error in reasoning. This differs from a factual error, which is simply being wrong about the facts. To be more specific, a fallacy is an "argument" in which the premises given for the conclusion do not provide the needed degree of support. A deductive fallacy is a deductive argument that is invalid (it is such that it could have all true premises and still have a false conclusion). An inductive fallacy is less formal than a deductive fallacy. They are simply "arguments" which appear to be inductive arguments, but the premises do not provided enough support for the conclusion. In such cases, even if the premises were true, the conclusion would not be more likely to be true.
Look over the list. Which have you seen employed here or elsewhere? I've probably used a few myself.

Culver preferred over Nussle in poll

The Research Iowa Poll conducted May 20th through 22nd shows Democrat Chet Culver as the only Dem polling ahead of Republican Jim Nussle, 49% to Nussle's 41% (margin of error +/- 4%)

Culver was also had the highest favorability among Dems and essentially tied Nussle in that department.

Among likely Democratic voter's choice if the primary were held today, Culver also came out on top with 38%

Among all Iowa voters, Bush's performance approval numbers showed 69% rating it "Fair" or "Poor", and only 29% "Good" or "Excellent" (3%)

Asked whether they'd like to see more Democrats or Republicans elected to congress, Iowans prefered Dems over Republicans 48% to 36%, reflecting national polls asking the same question.

May 28, 2006

Bad boys, bad boys....

Case in point: Moline officer Stephen Kautz was arrested for drunken driving in the early morning hours of June 1, 2004, after a single-vehicle accident. A fellow cop found him hanging upside-down from his seatbelt, asking where he was and what he had hit.

The chief at the time, Steve Etheridge, said, “He was intoxicated, recognized for being intoxicated and was arrested for being intoxicated.”

But Kautz got off. His fellow officer took the stand in court and said he smelled alcohol coming from the SUV, but not from Kautz himself. A judge ruled there was insufficient evidence to make the DUI arrest. Never mind that a hospital blood test showed his blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit for driving.
Read Barb Ickes piece here and find out more about the party boys of the MPD.

Good lord, I wish Ickes had published the name of this cop's lawyer. Sounds like a good guy to have in your corner. What is it with Moline cops and discipline or the lack thereof for their misdeeds?

They've already got a cop for about every 10 residents, shouldn't it be expected that they'd be dealt with like you or I would be in similar circumstances? I only hope that a regular citizen arrested in similar circumstances would get the same sentence and treatment from their employers, but somehow I doubt it.

QC Times provides 1st District Dem candidates Q &A

Those who wish to get a better glimpse at the field of Dems vying for the hotly contested Iowa 1st District congressional slot can read interviews the QC Times held with each here.

"No, YOU'RE more corrupt!" "Am NOT!" "Are TOO!"

Blago/Topinka cage match.

In a feisty debate, Republican Judy Baar Topinka chided Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Friday for having "the most investigated administration" in state history, while Blagojevich said the state treasurer's hypocrisy on ethics made it hard for him to breathe.

Marking the first formal face-to-face appearance of the two major candidates in the Nov. 7 election for governor, Topinka repeatedly jabbed at Blagojevich for elevating "pay to play" politics to "an art form." The first-term Democrat has faced criticism over administration contracts that went to his allies and donors.

Topinka also noted allegations, raised in a federal plea agreement, that a prominent government official cited only as "Public Official A" had orchestrated a scheme to siphon campaign cash and reward donors.

"I still have a name. You're `Public Official A,'" she told Blagojevich.

"He is the new George Ryan," Topinka said, referring to Blagojevich's Republican predecessor, who was recently convicted on federal corruption charges. "Do you think the U.S. attorney spends his time just doing this for kicks? No. Because there is so much there and we've seen it come down."

Blagojevich has consistently denied any wrongdoing in his administration and said he doesn't know the identity of "Public Official A." He also said he instituted ethics reform laws after taking office, in response to Ryan practices that he said Topinka did little to stop.

The governor said Topinka had taken more than $500,000 in campaign cash from banks her office does business with, as well as having previously accepted donations from her state workers. He also said her office had faced the scrutiny of federal investigators over allegations that state workers did political work on taxpayer time.

"The hypocrisy here is so thick, I'm having a hard time to breathe," Blagojevich said. "She can criticize me, but when she criticizes me about things that she, herself, does, it's astounding."

Topinka has said her office has not heard from federal investigators in three years.
Hide the women and children, this could get ugly.

Streaming video and audio download of the debate available from WMAQ here.

Register your views

To be honest, I'm sick of it. The stupid, repetitive, and frankly, idiotic comments from a few clowns who dont' read, don't listen, and don't think. Though they make things lively, I think the blog would be improved without them.

So I'm going back to the policy that only those registered with Blogspot be allowed to leave comments. The group of commenters that actually have something to say and know how to debate and argue ideas are likely already registered or will willingly do so. It's sort of a hoop to jump through, but most will not find it a problem. If it weeds out a few trolls, all the better.

So come on in, the water's fine. Registration is a little ticklish, but not too tough. You're still anonymous as before, but you have to choose a screen name which will appear with your comments.

There's a link to a little "how-to" on the process of registration in the sidebar.

And of course, if anyone finds the process baffling or gets stuck, don't hesitate to contact me via e-mail and I'll be glad to help.

Reading the moronic stuff that a few people continually sent in was really starting to erode my faith in the human race.

I'm already cynical enough as it is, and being reminded daily of how these people think and operate is frankly just depressing. They're constantly peeing on your leg and telling you it's raining, and trying to talk sense to them was about as effective as explaining particle physics to a cow.

So I expect comments to be less in quantity for a while, but greater in quality with any luck.

We'll give it a go and see what happens.

If you really don't like the idea, if it causes you some problems and you can't or won't register, get in touch and tell me about it.

And if you're a rational person who'd like to contribute your thoughts and participate but you're having trouble getting registered, drop me an e-mail and let me know. I'm confident I can help you through it and get you fixed up.

How to register instructions here.

You can lead a horticulture, but... can't make her think. Or so they say.

But speaking of horticulture, who can ID these flowers?.

(as usual, click to enlarge)

They have these strange tail-like things hanging out the back.

Bonus points if you can name this one. (hint: it's just the center of a large flower.)

May 27, 2006

Media Matters

The defining issue of our time is not the Iraq war. It is not the "global war on terror." It is not our inability (or unwillingness) to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable health care. Nor is it immigration, outsourcing, or growing income inequity. It is not education, it is not global warming, and it is not Social Security.

The defining issue of our time is the media.

The dominant political force of our time is not Karl Rove or the Christian Right or Bill Clinton. It is not the ruthlessness or the tactical and strategic superiority of the Republicans, and it is not your favorite theory about what is wrong with the Democrats.

The dominant political force of our time is the media.
Jamison Foser at Media Matters. Read the rest here.

A headache in the making.

Tacky at "Taking a Crack at It" reveals an interesting dilema facing Dem officials.
As in most things in life, this bugaboo is due to timing.

John Woods of Rock Island ran against Virgil Mayberry for a seat on the county board last go-round and lost the race.

But due to the fact that Woods is employed by the US Postal Service, he ran afoul of the Hatch Act which prohibits federal employees from running for office.

This lead to the Postal Service telling him he couldn't hold office as a precinct committteeman either, and so Woods resigned his position as South Rock Island 2 precinct committeeman.

Next in the chain of events, R.I. Chairman John Gianulis duly appointed a replacement for Woods.

I'll let Tacky take it from here:
Johnston said he has not received any notice from the county clerk and therefore, invited Woods to the meeting of committeemen in Galesburg. Where Mayberry and Gianulis were also present.

Gianulis, knowing Woods had resigned appointed a woman to replace him as committeeman. Johnston did not invite her.

Johnston depending on attorney Stuart Lefstien’s interpretation of the Illinois laws says appointed committeemen cannot vote in the selection process to replace Rep. Lane Evans.

Woods apparently has received ballots that are weighted for 71 votes, the number of people who voted in the Democratic primary. He needs to return them unfilled to Liebovitz.

Unless Gianulis’ appointment is approved, the 71 voters in Rock Island 2 will be disenfranchised. Can any of those voters sue for being left out of the equation?
By recognizing Gianulis’ appointment in one precinct, does Johnston open himself to recognizing all the other appointees?

What is the probability of Phil Hare or Sen. John Sullivan losing by 71 votes? If one of them does, will it result in a lawsuit?
Well, guess no one has repealed Murphy's Law.

How interesting that a situation crops up which again raises a contentious issue which had been assumed to be settled, with great relief.

Now a decision as to whether an appointed committeeman will be allowed to vote is again up for grabs.

My take? Somehow, it should be finessed so that Wood's replacement is able to vote Wood's share of votes. The reasoning being that this situation is separate and distinct from the issue of precincts with no committeeman prior to the primary being filled by appointees.

Woods was elected in the last primary, and, in an almost perverse twist of fate, John G. now needs to appoint a successor to an officeholder who can no longer serve.

With any luck, a law or other opinion might be given which gives some guidance as to the correct course on this odd case.

May 26, 2006

Is this what the average Dem supports?

Smokin' Joe at it again... and again... and again...

The Ballad of Kenny O'Lay

Memorize this for next St. Pat's Day. It brings a wee tear to my eye.

May 24, 2006

Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth"

Al Gore and his movie clarifying the reality and scope of the threat of global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth" is getting a lot of buzz lately.

The list of theatres and opening dates shows that if you want to see it, you'll have to make a road trip.

The nearest theatres to the Quad Cities showing the film are Des Moines, Ames, Chicago, and Champaign.

The site says that theatres are still being added, so maybe a local theatre might find a screen for it.

Blogging basics from TBogg

In this often crude and rude arena of blogging, it's important to bear in mind some blog ettiquette. I offer a tidbit from the oh-so-informative post by the "somewhat popular" TBogg.
It is very important that you keep in mind that, when discussing people in the news or the punditocracy, you are mindful that each and every one of these persons are human beings with feelings and hopes and dreams deserving of respect. They have families and parents who love them and are proud of the way that they conduct their lives in the public eye. Except for Ann Coulter. She has no internal emotional life and even her parents think she's a skank. But other people aren't like Ann, and they should be treated in a dignified manner lest you be labeled "uncivil" and then even Josh Treviño won't defend you when you show up on CSpan being pulled off of Ana Marie Cox at the White House Correspondents dinner while wearing a stained wifebeater and puking your guts out. Now I know that I'm dropping a lot of Inside Blogging names here but just nod and pretend like you know who I'm talking about. Remember: you're a blogger. Pretense is your co-pilot.

Gee, ya think?

A piece in the D/A notes that politicians are utilizing blogs and other internet technology in a big way.

It's kind of ironic, given the reaction this blog has received in the past year.

Local pols seem to be either utterly baffled, have reacted in a dramatically inappropriate, clueless, and counter-productive way, or have simply ignored it altogether.

In general, it seems clear that they all reacted with various degrees of fear and loathing, largely due to the now apparent fact that they didn't know the first thing about any of it.

When people don't understand something, they tend to be frightened of it I guess.

My mistake was in assuming that more people around here had at least a clue. Blogs didn't just appear, they've been around for years. And the intensive use of internet technology has been around for a relatively long time as well.

I'm not nearly as net-savvy as many, and if I'd been reading blogs for a few years, I figured at decent amount of people around here would have too, in particular if they were interested in politics, as nearly all political junkies are addicted to getting their news and discussion online. (I mean, what's the alternative? Cable shout-fests, network news, talk radio or subscribing to dozens of newspapers? Not a lot to draw on.)

I guess I've been very surprised and disappointed at the amount of backwardness, ignorance, and the flat-footed response with which the blog has been met by political types.

The piece notes what should be already apparent to anyone who knows how to turn on a computer and has an interest in politics. Namely, that blogging and the use of the internet as a communication tool has been a large, pervasive and growing trend for some time and is only growing and expanding faster at a rapid pace. A politician who doesn't at least establish a basic web presence is quickly going to be considered a dinosaur.

When most candidates for junior class president have nice web sites and a state rep or senator doesn't, I mean.....

I spoke to a candidate at one point who told me that he had volunteers equipped with little handheld video devices, much like a Palmpilot I assume, preloaded with a video message from him. They'd walk neighborhoods, and beyond just leaving a door hanger or something, they'd actually play what amounted to a short video commercial to the voter featuring a personal message from the candidate.

I admit that's a bit much, but it shows where things are going. And this was a couple years ago. (pre-IPod even.)

I'm still astounded that most local politicians don't even have their own web sites, let alone blogs, podcasts, streaming video and all that. Pathetically enough, many don't even utilize e-mail that much, let alone the net.
Strategists in both parties say the drive to use new media is simple: It's cheap, easy and more and more people are connected.

According to a survey after the last presidential election, reliance on the Internet for political news during the 2004 contest grew sixfold when compared with 1996.

At the same time, the Pew Research Center poll showed that 40 percent of Internet users found the Web important in helping them decide for whom to vote.

In the 2003-04 election cycle, Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean used the Internet to raise tens of millions of dollars and stun his primary rivals early in the campaign. He easily surpassed Republican Sen. John McCain, who had relied in part on the Internet for his fundraising in 2000.

In this election year, Republican gubernatorial candidate and pro football Hall of Famer Lynn Swann of Pennsylvania found his contributions increased when he added a personal touch to his Web site. When visitors click on a "donate" button on the site, a video pops up of Swann telling voters why they should elect him.

"Campaigns are won and lost on a lot more than a simple Web site, but a campaign Web site is step one in determining the voters' ability to understand who you are and what you're about," said Leonardo Alcivar, Swann's communications director.

Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat who is considering a presidential run, recently added a professional blogger to his staff. Warner likes to use video podcasts.
Zack Exley, 36, who directed the Kerry campaign's online activities, said e-mail actually sounds old-fashioned to techies, but remains vital.

He says politicians should personalize e-mail messages to keep people reading. For example, he said 2008 candidates could empower supporters, and reward their efforts, by giving them first word in an e-mail of the candidate's pick for a running mate.
Maybe some day local politicians will begrudgingly enter the 1990s.

Gianulis does 180, blesses process and split votes, others weigh in.

When this process began, Rock Island County Democratic Chairman John Gianulis and likeminded partisans were vehemently asserting that committeemen which he and other county chairs appointed after the primary must be allowed to vote in selecting a replacement for Lane Evans on the general election ballot.

There were dire warnings of court battles and many rather hyper-ventilating and bizarre comments here and elsewhere arguing for that plan of action.

They even went as far as to invoke founding fathers and other blather in suggesting that if only duly elected committeemen were give the vote, somehow this would "disenfranchise" those in vacant precincts.

17th District Democratic Central Committee chair Don Johnston has since determined that only those committeemen elected in the primary vote, and that they can split their allotted votes in any way they choose as well, leading to a very open and transparent process.

Things change, apparently.
In a May 18 letter to the 396 precinct committeemen who will elect a Democratic nominee to replace Rep. Evans for the November ballot, Mr. Gianulis reminded committeemen they are free to split their vote, but also re-affirmed his endorsement of Phil Hare, Rep. Evans' district director.

"I want to make sure we Democrats support a transparent and open process," Mr. Gianulis wrote. "Therefore, I encourage each committeeperson to fully support one candidate or split their vote among the quality Democratic candidates that have been nominated as they see fit."
The article by Kurt Allemeier goes on to say that Gianulis, despite his mention of splitting votes, says he expects 90% of committeemen to not split their vote and give all of them to one candidate.

Mike Boland disagrees, saying he thinks there will be a fair amount of vote splitting.

Evans has also been making calls to urge support for Hare.

Sen. Jacobs even managed to get into the story by saying Evan's sounded "...better that he has in a long time." when Jacobs spoke to him.

Schweibert was happy to hear Gianulis' call for transparency and feels Gianulis' statement reflects that he recognizes that, "there are other quality candidates out there."
Mr. Gianulis said he wanted to remind committeemen of the process and make sure their ballots are returned in time to be counted June 6.

"It is the future of our party," Mr. Gianulis said. "It is the crucial thing for the Democratic party in Rock Island County.

"We've gotten stronger, and the Republicans haven't gotten stronger," he said. "We've got to keep working harder."
Another story mentions the crucialy important warning to committeemen to check the math if they split their votes.

If, for instance, a committeeman has 100 votes to cast and he votes 51 for one candidate and 50 for another, it will be an overvote of 101 total and the entire ballot will be thrown out.

Committeemen must be sure that the total of all the votes cast doesn't exceed the total they're entitled to.

If they vote less than their total allotment of votes, it will still be counted however.

Evans resigns ranking member seat on Veteran's Affairs Committee

Ailing U.S. Rep. Lane Evans of Rock Island on Tuesday relinquished his post as ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs due to his inability to return to Washington in the wake of veterans data theft.

Rep. Evans has held the post since January 1997. His spokesman Steve Vetzner said the congressman said he wanted Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to appoint an interim ranking member to lead committee Democrats during investigations into the theft.
In a statement, Rep. Evans said the data theft requires immediate action by the committee. "While I am addressing my health matters, I am unable to return to conduct those specific duties," he said.

Rep. Evans added that he plans to return to work "in the very near future," and in will continue to monitor committee matters from Rock Island. He fell ill on Feb. 14 and has not voted in the House nor held a public schedule since then.

It would be funny if it weren't so pathetic

If you've been paying attention at all, you've no doubt heard the incessant whine from the right that that mean old "liberal media" is the reason we're doing so badly in Iraq. Why, if they'd only report the GOOD news in Iraq, these bozos cry, people would support the war. It's so unfair!

Well, as was clear to anyone with a few brain cells still sparking, there just wasn't much good news out of Iraq, or certainly so little that it didn't quite overshadow the hideous maiming, death, and utter chaos which is so prevelent.

Not only that, but reporters simply couldn't go out to report on "good" news. Why? Because they'd probably file a pretty cruddy story if they were blown to bits, which is what was likely if they ventured outside the fortified "Green Zone".. the massively defended chunk of real estate in the heart of Baghdad where US officials and civilian contractors hide.

Now comes this bit of news.

The U.S. government funded Voice of America news service had a correspondent in Baghdad. She and her driver/bodyguard were ambushed and fired upon, and her bodyguard was later kidnapped and released, then later shot in the head and murdered. The brother of her interpreter was also murdered.

Not surprisingly, she politely asked to leave her post, saying that she couldn't live with the though of people being slaughtered simply because they associated with her and for what she reported.

OK. Fair enough.

But, it seems that Voice of America is having a little trouble finding a replacement. NO ONE wants the position. It's too damn dangerous.
VOA reporter Alisha Ryu said yesterday that she told her bosses in December that "it would really be impossible for me to do any kind of work" in Iraq. "I couldn't live with the idea that someone else could have died who was working with me. . . . For all journalists, it's really become impossible to move around."

Asked why VOA has not sent another reporter to Iraq, Ryu said, "They didn't have any volunteers to replace me."
Since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 69 journalists have been killed while on duty, along with 26 media support workers.
So, our Republican government, the very one that pushed and promoted the line that the "mainstream media" was guilty of not reporting all the "good news" from Iraq, can't get ANYONE to even go to Iraq to report it.

Funny, if it weren't so pathetic.

More to Jefferson corruption case than meets the eye.

I'm going to do something I absolutely loath when others do it, pre-judge someone's guilt or innocence. I don't think I'm going too far out on a limb in saying that Rep. William Jefferson D-LA is a crook. I mean, you don't put blocks of cash in your freezer wrapped in aluminum foil just to see what "a cool $90,000" looks like.

But there's a few angles that this case raises that probably eclipse the fact that this guy is crooked as the Kickapoo river and should be drummed out of office. (To their credit, the Dem leadership is "urging" Jefferson to step down from his position on the Ways and Means committee)

Issue #1

It's been an increasing blizzard of one Republican scandal after another. Literally so many right wingers have been busted, with so many more getting snared, that it's very tough to keep up with.

Now a crooked Dem has been caught and couldn't possibly look more guilty.

Normally, the Republican's would try to use this 179 to 1 ratio to suggest that there's just as many crooked Dems as Republicans in their desperate effort to stem the free fall they're on in the polls.

But in a "man bites dog" moment, even Republican leaders Hastert and Frist reacted to the news that the FBI had raided Jefferson's congressional offices on the hill with disapproval, stating that a line had been crossed regarding the separation of powers.

Is this a ploy? Are they putting partisanship aside in an effort to protect all the crooks on both sides of the aisle?

After all, the reason the House Ethics Committee is utterly useless is due to an unwritten agreement between both parties. Both sides were using the ethics committee as a weapon, and of course, there was fertile ground for bringing charges. But finally, perhaps realizing that they're all dirty, both parties came to an unwritten agreement that neither would use the committee to go after each other.

This in itself is corrupt. And the committee has done next to nothing about any ethically challenged congressmen since.

Issue #2

A congresional office has never been raided or searched in the history of the United States, and both Republicans and Dems aren't too hot on starting the practice now.

This is a very interesting issue in itself.

Does the executive branch (of which the FBI is part) have the right to go into Congress in search of criminal evidence?

An initial reaction might be, "Well hell yes! If those crooks are up to no good, then sure the FBI should be able to go to their offices and get evidence."

That has a certain logic to it, but as in a lot of things, it's not as simple as all that.

What about the larger issue of separation of powers?

What would be the effect of allowing the Executive branch access to congressional offices and priveledged information?

Could not this easily be abused? If a whack job like Bush or someone in his administration wanted to punish or threaten a congressman, could he not threaten them or actually carry through with a trumped up criminal investigation?

Should the Executive branch be able to throw a huge chill over both houses of congress?

The argument is that congressmen will now be under even more pressure to do the White House's bidding, for fear that they'll invade their offices and try to dig up some dirt.

In other words, it's raising the stakes in the constant war between every president and congress. The congress has been nothing but a rubber-stamp for Bush thus far, being utterly ineffective in either investigating abuses or preventing many ill-conceived measures from passing. Yet now the Bush gang is trying to do something utterly unprecidented since the country was founded, namely, poking around in congressional offices looking for criminal evidence.

On the one hand, you don't want crooked pols to be protected or shielded, but ... on the other hand, should the White House be able to go after congressmen to this degree? (Crooked congressmen can still be prosecuted the old fashioned way, after all, (and they are), by gathering evidence outside of capitol hill.)

Which view holds more weight? Which is more important in the long view?

What is going to be the upshot of the Jefferson case in these related areas?

> MORE <

May 22, 2006


There's something a bit amiss with this ad which Google recently featured in the sidebar:
Roast Pork
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May 20, 2006

The line so far

Roger Ailes (not THAT one) lays it out:
Both the New York Times and the Washington Post today have articles about the number of Republican seats in play. Various folks in the newsletter industry are talking about 36 to 42 seats, with the Dems needing only a 15-seat gain to win back the House of Representatives. The best news is that Dick Pombo (R-CA) shows up on the endangered species list in both papers.

But: Stuart Rothenberg, who claims there are 42 Puke seats in play, is currently predicting a Democratic gain of only 8 to 12 seats. That result would weaken Bush more, but keeps the Republicans in control of the House. If the Democrats want to win Congress, they and their supporters have a lot of work to do. November is six months away. And, as recent history informs us, there's very little the Republicans won't do to gain or keep power.

Anybody here seen my old friend Bobby?

Q.C. Times writer Melissa Coulter is one fine writer. She also more than redeems the name "Coulter" with this piece regarding the political legacy of Bobby Kennedy.

This, after all, is what fuels the anger of the left, and I suspect, many on the right. That the guiding principles of so many politicians particularly on the right, are their bizarre ideology which blurs pseudo-religion with corporate greed, disdain for protecting the environment, disdain for the poor, and mocking anyone who even suggests that we should work towards peace and uplifting the less fortunate among us, justifying unjustifiable war, spreading irrational fear in order to gain ever more power, and on and on.

The sheer selfishness that is the bedrock faith of the modern right, and the nearly insane belief that they, and only they, possess the "truth", facts be damned.

And it's so very, very wrong and has infected the psyche of the country like a pernicious virus.

But remember what it used to be like? What it was like when at a time when the country was at a low ebb, when things looked dark and scary, with racial tension threatening to tear the country apart, and nuclear anihilation an every present threat?

When the country was threatened and on the ropes, does anyone remember what it was like to not respond with appeals to fear and trillions in military effort, bombs, supersonic fighter jets, hundreds of thousands of troops, and hundreds of thousands of deaths?

Do you remember what it was like when leaders told us not to succumb to fear, to stand tall, and asked for the best from all of us? Asked Americans, rather than to go to the mall, as Bush did after 9-11, to sacrifice, examine ourselves, and pitch in for the good of all, appealing to our better natures?

When the call for hope, faith, social justice, and being a shining example for the rest of the world was spreading like wildfire and inspiring millions not normally involved in politics to be a part of uplifting humanity, to make things better, not only here at home, but around the globe?

It's nearly too tragic to comprehend how far we've regressed through Republican administrations and the right's massive effort to tell us that it's not only fine, but actually virtuous to be selfish, hateful, pigs who believe that a person's skin color and bank balance determine their worth. That we owe nothing to the less fortunate, and that actually, they owe the well off?

Coulter takes us back and reminds us.

In this day of deeply divided political parties and mud-slinging campaigns, the legacy of Bobby Kennedy seems hopelessly romantic and rose tinted. Responding to Porter McNeil’s guest column last Sunday, blogger “JC” wrote, “There are no clean politicians, only fantasy built poster boys the Republicans and Democrats use to rally round the political base.”

This cynicism is the norm today. And perhaps “JC,” like me, was not even alive in 1968 to experience an RFK rally firsthand. But the speeches and books that RFK left behind, the video of frenzied crowds moved by his calls to action, the testimony of people who saw the man in person, prove that he was no fantasy.

Maureen Moylan Stoops wrote on the blog about the bus trip from Iowa City as a college student to see RFK speak in Davenport. “As he spoke that day, both my roommate and I knew we were seeing someone so special and gave us such a sense of anticipation for the future. The devastation we felt a few weeks later as we watched RFK shot is something we still talk about to this day.” How much “anticipation for the future” do our current college students have as they look at the candidates in the 2006 election?

Blogger Kirill O. Thompson sums up the Kennedy promise this way: “Robert Kennedy felt the pain of his brother’s killing, learned the need of civil rights and the wrong of war and, feeling the suffering of the undertrodden, initiated a new politics. He sought to transform American politics from a money-driven media sideshow, orchestrated from the top, to a people-driven reflection of real people’s needs and aspirations. He sought to transform America’s potent free market system so that it might assist people and families most in need and at risk and alleviate the ills springing from poverty. Admiring his spirit, I have been awaiting his political heir for nearly four decades.”

Has our society changed so much in 38 years that we will never see another Bobby Kennedy? The political comments that appear every day on the blog show a jaded public, distrustful of any politician, eager to attack each other, unwilling to listen to the other side, let alone work with them. Would a message of peace and compassion be laughed at in post-9/11 America, where looking out for No. 1 seems to be the highest priority of many?

Somnieng Hoeurn, a Buddhist monk from Cambodia studying at St. Ambrose, told me that our leaders are responsible for bringing peace and happiness to the people. That in order to do that, they must be educated, not just in business schools and Ph.D. programs in universities, but in how to bring peace to the people. This starts with “compassion and loving kindness in the heart and mind,” which spreads like a virus “to your family, to your society, to the world.” A leader, Hoeurn says, must understand that war and retaliation can never lead to peace and happiness. As one who practices a faith that has endured for centuries without ever endorsing or participating in a war, his words merit our attention.

Yet who will listen? We are a society overly concerned with protecting ourselves from others. We see other human beings as threatening and dangerous. We thirst for revenge for every perceived wrong. We desire to show our might through displays of “shock and awe.”

The forces that took Bobby Kennedy from us have also taken away the optimism of our country. Bobby Kennedy can never be resurrected. Let us hope the American dream of a better tomorrow, achieved by working together in peace, can be revived.

Advance excerpt from Obama's new book, "The Audacity of Hope"

Barack Obama has produced a book titled "The Audacity of Hope: Reclaiming the American Dream". It won't be available until October, but you can read a sneak preview here. (In .PDF format, must have Adobe Reader installed.)

From a release notice:
Too often our political discussions focus on the things that divide us, but there are a lot of things we all have in common as Americans. On issues of faith, race, foreign policy or the economy, if we start with recognizing what we have in common, we can arrive at a politics that isn't as partisan and a little more productive.

Hopefully you'll find the book insightful and thought provoking. For now, here is a brief excerpt from The Audacity of Hope.

Electronic voting still vulnerable

Got this message recently from Common Cause:
Dear Inside Dope,

Last week The New York Times and others reported on new concerns about Diebold touch screen voting machines. According to The Times:
Computer scientists who have studied the vulnerability say the flaw might allow someone with brief access to a voting machine and with knowledge of computer code to tamper with the machine's software, and even, potentially, to spread malicious code to other parts of the voting system.
How many times do elections officials need to be warned about the serious problems with these machines? This is unacceptable. It is clear that all voting systems must produce a voter verifiable paper record. It is vital that audits which compare the paper records to the computer tallies be mandatory. If the machine malfunctions or there is tampering, we need to know.

What is Congress doing? Nothing. Right now HR 550, The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act the bill, which would take care of these problems, is languishing in committee. The bill has 186 cosponsors, more support than most bills voted on in the House.

Please call Rep. Lane Evans today at (202) 225-5905, and urge him to let the House vote on HR 550.

Thank you for all you do for Common Cause.

Chellie Pingree
Common Cause

Does "truck touching" tickle your pickle? Here's the event for you.

It's assumed the trucks have given their permission, or this might be some sort of offense. A great opportunity though, for the budding "sanitation engineer" in your family. (though with automated trucks, those positions just got a lot harder to find.)

From the Q.C. Times:
The Moline Municipal Service Center, 3635 4th Ave., will hold an open house from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. Tours of the facility and active equipment demonstrations will be conducted.

Included in this year’s event is Touch a Truck Day. The city will have a variety of trucks on display, including a new automated garbage truck, fire truck, dump truck, jet and vac truck, street sweeper, police car, and TV van from Water Pollution Control Sewer Maintenance. Children will have the opportunity to sit in the trucks and learn about the controls. The Touch a Truck event is free, but pre-registration is requested. Register by calling (309) 736-5714 or online at The open house is being held in honor of National Public Works week.

Built in 2001, the $8 million Municipal Service Center is a 93,000-square-foot facility designed to bring a higher level of staff communication and coordination of services for the benefit of Moline citizens. The facility houses several divisions of public works, including engineering, streets, sanitation, buildings and grounds, parks maintenance and fleet maintenance, as well as the parks and recreation office.
The place is quite the nice facility and resembles a corporate headquarters. Check it out. If you live in Moline, you paid for it with the highest taxes in the Quad Cities.

St. Ambrose plan to house scab labor draws fire.

From the Q.C. Times:
St. Ambrose University has been “besieged with calls” this week about its agreement to provide housing for Alcoa’s salaried replacement workers in the event of a union strike, the school’s president said.

And he wants people to know the university is listening.

St. Ambrose President Ed Rogalski said Thursday that the Davenport school is trying to reach out again to Alcoa’s Steelworkers union and others, hoping to heal the rift between them about St. Ambrose’s recent decision to partner with Alcoa.

“We’re listening to the concerns that are being expressed and we’re weighing all these matters thoughtfully,” he said.

The agreement gives Alcoa access to about 150 vacant dormitory rooms, with space to house about 300 salaried workers — visiting from other Alcoa plants — who would replace union workers if they strike at the Davenport Works plant in Riverdale, Rogalski said.

Negotiations for a new labor agreement between Alcoa Inc. and the United Steelworkers got under way Thurday in St. Louis. The current labor agreement, which covers 9,000 employees at 15 Alcoa plants, is set to expire May 31.

Alcoa will rent the rooms at a rate “below what they’d be paying for retail,” Rogalski said.

The situation has upset not only some union members but also various St. Ambrose alumni members, who say the idea goes against Catholic social justice teachings that support the fundamental rights of workers to join unions and seek decent wages.

The college, as far as I’m concerned, is choosing sides,” said Jerry Messer, president of the Quad-City Federation of Labor, adding that his phone has been ringing off the hook about the matter. “It’s against everything they believe in. This is nothing but greed.”

Messer said union members most likely will picket St. Ambrose, if Alcoa’s replacement workers are housed there. He said it doesn’t matter to him that the workers would be Alcoa employees from other sites.

“They’re still scabs,” he said. “When you’re replacing a worker on strike, they’re scabs.”

The deal came after Jerry Kavanaugh, a liaison between St. Ambrose and Quad-City union building trades workers, contacted Rory Washburn from the Tri-Cities Building Trades Council and Skip McGill from the Steelworkers, Kavanaugh said.

McGill said he is staunchly against the agreement, but Washburn said building trades workers will continue construction work on St. Ambrose’s campus, regardless.

“We support the Steelworkers, but we’ve got an agreement at that particular site,” Washburn said. “The construction work up there has been 100 percent union, so we’re going to support him through the endeavor. We do support the Steelworkers, too.”
The article also notes that a QC lodging association is upset at not getting some of the business to house the scabs.

May 19, 2006

THESE are the people the Republicans in congress just made huge tax breaks permanent for. It's for our own good.

Tax breaks to the very wealthiest help us average people. Don't you get it?

When we put more money in their hands, they immediately invest it in ... well, something or other, which then creates jobs and gives us peons enough dough to go bowling every now and then.

Sure, it'll cost the country literally trillions of dollars, but hey... these people are what makes our country great. They need it more than you, and don't forget it.

The Wall Street Journal recently broke the latest corporate scandal with the help of professor Eric Lie from the University of Iowa, who posts an excellent "explainer" here.

It seems quite a few CEOs with enormous stock options were miraculously picking up these options when their company stock were at their very lowest prices, and just before they rebounded again, ensuring that they made several millions of extra dollars.

As the post at "The Big Picture" asks, Luck, or something else?
"On a summer day in 2002, shares of Affiliated Computer Services Inc. sank to their lowest level in a year. Oddly, that was good news for Chief Executive Jeffrey Rich.

His annual grant of stock options was dated that day, entitling him to buy stock at that price for years. Had they been dated a week later, when the stock was 27% higher, they'd have been far less rewarding. It was the same through much of Mr. Rich's tenure: In a striking pattern, all six of his stock-option grants from 1995 to 2002 were dated just before a rise in the stock price, often at the bottom of a steep drop.

Just lucky? A Wall Street Journal analysis suggests the odds of this happening by chance are extraordinarily remote -- around one in 300 billion. The odds of winning the multistate Powerball lottery with a $1 ticket are one in 146 million.

Suspecting such patterns aren't due to chance, the Securities and Exchange Commission is examining whether some option grants carry favorable grant dates for a different reason: They were backdated. The SEC is understood to be looking at about a dozen companies' option grants with this in mind.

The Journal's analysis of grant dates and stock movements suggests the problem may be broader. It identified several companies with wildly improbable option-grant patterns. While this doesn't prove chicanery, it shows something very odd: Year after year, some companies' top executives received options on unusually propitious dates.

The analysis bolsters recent academic work suggesting that backdating was widespread, particularly from the start of the tech-stock boom in the 1990s through the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate reform act of 2002. If so, it was another way some executives enriched themselves during the boom at shareholders' expense. And because options grants are long-lived, some executives holding backdated grants from the late 1990s could still profit from them today."
Also note the chart they provide with stock graphs and when the CEOs exercised their options.

Smokin' Joe feels the love

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, one of my very least favorite Dems, is feeling a lot of heat lately, a large part of it generated and sustained by internet and blog activism.

His long standing penchant for practically tongue-kissing Bush, his vehement but delusional support for the Iraq quagmire, as well as other positions he's taken (including voting for federal involvement in the Shiavo case) place him squarely on the Republican side of issues and has invited the ire of many Dems who feel that with friends like Joe, who needs enemies?
"George Bush's favorite Democrat," they call him. "Republican Lite," they sneer. But liberals are no longer just venting on Internet blogs and talk radio programs about their centrist nemesis: Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut.

Now, from across the nation, a determined alliance of antiwar activists is working overtime online and on doorsteps to defeat Mr. Lieberman, whose political moderation helped him earn the Democratic nomination for vice president six years ago. Their goal is not only to punish Mr. Lieberman for staunchly supporting the war in Iraq but also to protest what the activists consider the Democratic Party's willingness to accommodate President Bush.

Without a national race to focus on, thousands of activists from other states — encouraged by a host of liberal bloggers — have contributed money and volunteered to help the campaign of Ned Lamont, a cable television executive with little political experience who is trying to unseat Mr. Lieberman in the state's Democratic primary in August.
The rest of the N.Y. Times piece here.

My opinion, as if anyone asked? Lieberman has just about made himself as welcome in the Democratic party as Zell Miller.

May 18, 2006

17th Monstrosity

John Beydler at "The Passing Parade" joins the many who have taken notice of the Illinois 17th congressional district's bizarre composition. It's been written up elsewhere on the national level as a prime example of gerrymandering taken to it's extreme.

Beydler recounts a humorous exchange he had with Sen. John Sullivan, one of the candidates seeking to represent this district, which succinctly illustrates just how crazy it is:
I said that no one should be a candidate unless they can pass this test: Start in Rock Island and get to Decatur without leaving the district.

He laughed, ruefully. "They'd have to find the right alley in Springfield."

Yup. An alley. That's how wide the 17th is as it snakes through portions of Springfield.
Beydler also goes on to note the difficult job Don Johnston faces in attempting to identify and count the votes of hundreds of precincts, some of which are actually divided by THREE congressional districts!

This weird extreme of re-districting occured as the result of horse-trading between the Republicans and Dems where they "fixed" some districts in order to make them even more assured of re-electing incumbants from both parties.

The rate of re-election of incumbants is so stacked nation-wide that unless they really screw up, once they're elected, politicians are essentially in for as long as they want. The idea of an evolving representation long ago became a myth, due to those in power constantly rigging things to both prevent others from being allowed to challenge and to ensure that they stay in power.

Behold, the hydra-headed monster known as the 17th.

(click to enlarge)

Note: A helpful Dopester provided the text of an article written by Ed Tibbettts of the QC Times shortly after the redistricting.
Read it here.

May 16, 2006

Whalen TV ads pitch Whalen... or pork chops?

Have you seen the new spots being run by Iowa 1st district candidate and Iowa Machine Shed restaurateur Mike Whalen?

I'm not sure if it would inspire me to vote for him, but it sure makes me hungry.

The spot seems to feature equal parts Whalen and tantalizing close ups of the signature dish at his restaurants, thick pork chops, with the hook being that he doesn't favor pork unless it's the kind you can buy at his restaurants. (though he never mentions the restaurants explicitly, it's impossible to miss the connection.)

No wonder there's been grousing that he's mixing advertising for his businesses with his campaign.

Every time I see the ad, I really don't notice Whalen as much as I get a craving for a big pork chop, proving that the guy didn't become a gazillionaire for nothing.

Quinn, Boland to stage press event to publicize "Veterans Cash" lotto game

Lt. Governor Pat Quinn and Rep. Mike Boland will hold a press event at the Shell Station at 4123 Kennedy Dr. in East Moline (next to Pizza Hut) tomorrow.

The press release reports:
This Wednesday, May 17, at 10:15 a.m., Lt. Governor Pat Quinn and Rep. Mike Boland (D-East Moline) will encourage citizens to support Illinois veterans during Military Appreciation Month by purchasing the Veterans Cash lottery ticket.

Net proceeds from the sale of Veterans Cash tickets are funneled into the Illinois Veterans Assistance Trust Fund, which provides health care, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder treatment, disability benefits, and homelessness assistance for Illinois veterans.

The Illinois Veterans’ Health Initiative, legislation spearheaded by Quinn’s office, sponsored by Rep. Boland, and signed into law by Governor Rod Blagojevich in August 2005, created the Illinois Veterans’ Assistance Trust Fund which is administered by the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.
Proceeds from Veterans Cash will also benefit Veterans Care, legislation that extends comprehensive, affordable health care to Illinois’ uninsured veterans.

At $2 per ticket, the top prize for Veterans Cash is $20,000.

The Veterans Cash lottery ticket has been on sale since February 2006. As of May 1, Veterans Cash has raised more than $1 million for the Illinois Veterans’ Assistance Trust Fund.

General Clark working Iowa this time around

Venerable political reporter David Jepsen of the Des Moines Register files a piece on Gen. Wesley Clark's efforts in Iowa and his prospects this time around.
Clark made a mistake in not competing in the 2004 caucuses. He admitted that the day he suspended his campaign, and he's not making the same error in the 2008 cycle.

He's showing up early to help Iowa Democratic candidates and build a base to use to run again. He spends much of his time answering some variation of the question: What should we do to get out of Iraq?

"You'll not get an 'A' out of this," he said in an interview. "You might get an 'F.' If you're lucky, you'll get a 'D+.' The failure will come if you just get mad and pull out - just say 'That's it. You people are fighting; we're leaving.' If you do that, they'll fight even more."

Instead, he said, the United States must now try to hold the country together; not let it become a haven for terrorists, and prevent any other single country in the region from dominating it.

Also, the United States has to work to let people "lead some semblance of normal life," help put a government in place, get U.S. troops off the streets and reduce the U.S. troop presence.

The United States also must expand its diplomatic efforts in the region and make clear it seeks "no permanent presence" of troops in the area. Also, it should work to establish a government, bolster the economy and improve security.

"You'll be left with an Iraq that is a lot more Islamist than before and anti-American. It's not a very pretty outcome, but that's the absolute best you can hope for," he said.

Homeland Security chief Chertoff, guard on border "Horribly over-expensive and difficult"

As uncovered by a reporter at Congressional Quarterly, Homeland Security czar Michael Chertoff had this to say about the idea of posting National Guard troops on the border during an appearance 6 months ago with crack-pot Bill O'Reilly.
"Why don't you put the National Guard on the border to back up the border patrol and stop the bleeding, and then start to increase the Border Patrol, the high-tech and all of that?" O’Reilly asked. . . .

"Well, the National Guard is really, first of all, not trained for that mission," Chertoff told O'Reilly. "I mean, the fact of the matter is the border is a special place. There are special challenges that are faced there."

Chertoff added that that it would take a huge amount of National Guard troops, that they would need new training. But couldn’t the National Guard pull it off, O'Reilly asked?

"I think it would be a horribly over-expensive and very difficult way to manage this problem," Chertoff said. "Unless you would be prepared to leave those people in the National Guard day and night for month after month after month, you would eventually have to come to grips with the challenge in a more comprehensive way."

Whadaya know?

"Tacky" provides account of Galesburg meeting and launches some "inside news"

The blogger "Tacky" at his "Taking a Crack at it" blog gives this good account of the recent candidate nomination meeting held in Galesburg and also offers this purported bit of "inside news" sourced to "people close to Don Johnston".:
Some people close to Don Johnston, 17th District Chairman, are saying that he has convinced Senators Dick Durbin and Barack Obama to endorse Senator John Sullivan. They will be making their announcements “soon.”

Johnston had promised Phil Hare that he would do his best to ensure Hare’s defeat.

These endorsements will be news to Rock Island County Chairman John Gianulis. Both Senators are indebted to Gianulis, so the Johnston people, it seems, are probably trying to scare Hare with this bit of inside news.
This bit of "news" posted yesterday is notable in that it directly contradicts the vehement assertions of at least one commenter here that Johnston and Gianulis are getting along so well these days that they're practically holding hands and skipping.

It should be noted that there is no way of knowing if any of it is true, though Tacky does seem to have a good track record so far.

Time will tell.

Birth announcement

Just receieved this happy news and thought I'd pass it along.:
"A baby is God's opinion that life should go on."
Carl Sandburg
Poet Laureate State of Illinois

Lisa & Dennis Ahern are pleased to announce the birth of a baby girl, born May 16, 2006 at Genesis Hospital, Illini Campus, Silvis Illinois.

Mary Kathleen Ahern was born at 7:53 AM, weighing in at 7 lbs 13 ounces and measuring 21" long; baby and mother are doing fine.
Congratulations to the new parents and welcome to the world, Mary Kathleen.

May 15, 2006

"Guitar Lady" gets piece in D/A

The recent discussion of the "Guitar Lady" on public access TV here apparently caught the eye of someone at the D/A.

Janee (little accent mark over the second e, natch) Jackson finally pulls back the curtain on the subject of my, and I'm sure many other's, curiosity.
On weekends, a small room in Mrs. Earnest's home becomes "Jesus Lighthouse." She, Naoma Perrill of Milan, and Carrie Carstens and Teresa Robinson, both of Davenport, dress in their Sunday best and sing and play instruments and perform Bible skits for the show.

Mrs. Earnest said the program was born while she was having health problems 10 years ago and turned to God. Shortly after, she started "Marianne Gospel Hour."

Mrs. Earnest tapes each program, using a television in the room as a monitor to guide the performances. "What our program provides is salvation, love and peace. It picks them up and cheers them up and makes them happy."

She said her neighbors never have complained about the music.

Mrs. Earnest said she'll continue her program "as long as God wants us to be on the air. Some people think that we're nuts, but that's OK. We're nuts for the Lord."
Kudos to Ms. Jackson for apparently asking the obvious question of whether the neighbors complained. She didn't note if neighborhood dogs howled in unison during the show.

A couple other interesting facts about public access TV:
A 1972 mandate by the Federal Communications Commission that cable companies offer public access to users at no cost, was tossed out by the Supreme Court in 1979. However, cable companies continued to offer public access.
Michael McGuire of Davenport, a member of the Community Access Television Inc. of the Quad Cities board, said public-access channels gained popularity in the mid-1970s and early '80s and really helped expand cable. "Public access really gives the power to the individual."

CATIQC was formed in 1974 by community activists who wanted a public-access channel. The volunteer, non-profit group has video equipment to help churches or individuals get their shows or messages taped and on the air.
So without the efforts of this valiant organization, we might never be able to enjoy "Hallelujah Highway" or The Guitar Lady on "Jesus Lighthouse".

As listed in the article, other "must see TV" on Mediacom's Channel 19 public access include:


9 a.m.: Community News and Views

11 a.m.: Western Bijou Matinee

1 p.m.: Racing Connection TV (RCTV)

3 p.m.: Western Bijou Matinee

10 p.m.: Scary, Schlocky Spooky Movies


9 a.m.: Nations Worship Center

10 a.m.: Church of the Nazarene

11 a.m.: Gethsemane Lutheran Church

noon: Apostolic Temple of Victory


5 p.m.: Hallelujah Highway

7 p.m.: River of Life

9 p.m.: Greater Antioch Church

10 p.m.: QC Hemp Coalition


4 p.m.: Great and Mighty Things

4:30 p.m.: House of Yahweh

5 p.m.: Beauty for Ashes

6 p.m: Animal Orbit


noon: Davenport School Board Meeting

3:30 p.m.: Maranatha Church

4:30 p.m.: Pentecostal Power

7:30 p.m.: Blackhawk Magazine


3:30 p.m.: Jesus Lighthouse

4:30 p.m.: Racing Connection TV

6:30 p.m.: Adventures in Video

7 p.m.: Animal Orbit

7:30 p.m.: Mike Feree Ministries


6:30 a.m.: B Bout It Love Ministries

3 p.m.: Ronnie and Becky

5 p.m.: Risen Christ Lutheran Church

6 p.m.: Jesus Lighthouse

Bush, thinking outside the box, decides on military solution for immigration problem

Chimpy McFlightsuit is going to go on teevee tonight and 'splain that he's going to deploy thousands of National Guard troops to the U.S./Mexican border in an effort to stop illegal immigration.

What a shock. Bush? Looking to the military to address a problem? Bush does seem like nothing so much as a kid playing with "army men". (Kin I put some of 'em over here, Uncle Dick?)

Think this is a great move, long overdue?
Or is it a stupid, short-sighted sop to try to stop his plunging popularity?
Are they going to have a guy standing every 10 ft along the entire border?
Will it have much effect on the number of illegal immigrants?
It will have no effect on those already here, so what does it accomplish as far as the immigration debate?
Does this mean that we'll now have a permanent military presense along the border? Should we build a wall along the U.S. Canadian border as well?
How about a giant space bubble that will protect the entire country? Oh yeah, Bush really really wanted that, before 9-11 came along. It was called the Star Wars missile defense plan and was a multi-billion dollar pipe dream.

So.... what do you think about deploying these National Guardsman, who, it's reported, will be sent there as part of their training.

May 14, 2006

The Inside Dope breaks 100,000th visit mark

Today marks another milestone for this space. 100,000 readers have visited The Inside Dope since counting began 452 days ago on February 16th, 2005. That's an average of 221 visits a day over it's entire history, though the daily average is around 300 at present, and the monthly average is 8724.

The 100,000th visitor was from Padova, Italy at 9:47 a.m. this morning. Grazie infinite!

Where is it?

I took this shot recently of a place known around the world. What street is this and where is it located? (should be easy)

And here's one that's more difficult. I took this in the very wee hours of a foggy morning off a bridge just outside the Quad Cities.

(as always, click on the images for a larger view)

Wooten provides perspective

Don Wooten, long the wise man of local politics, writes an interesting opinion piece about the fractious process embroiling the 17th District.
The unfortunate timing of Evans' retirement has exposed some of the arcana of party politics, and it's not a pretty picture.

Unless they are unusually well-informed, citizens voting in a primary, often encounter names on the ballot they don’t recognize. The least familiar one is likely to be that of the precinct committeeman. The primary is his or her final election, but most voters are barely conscious of the office or its function, and often skip over it.

Frequently, no one is listed on the primary ballot for the office. But precinct committeemen elect the county chairman, so it is important to fill all those positions before that election takes place.

That's why the big push to get those precinct offices filled comes after the primary, rather than before. It is the rare county chairman of either party who isn't careful to get those posts flled by his supporters before his own election comes up.

No one knew that Lane would feel compelled to retire after the primary, so there was no sense of urgency in getting those precinct offices filled in the primary. Even so, it is unlikely that there would have been an argument against letting both appointed and elected committeemen vote, except for the rift which has developed in the local Democratic Party.

When Stu Winstein was State Central Committeman for the 17th Ddistrict, he and county chairmn John Gianulis worked as a team. But the man who replaced Stu, Don Johnston, has formed an alternate power center and the competition between him and Gianulis is real and can be ugly.

Johnston feared that Gianulis would appoint allies to those vacant posts and thus control the selection of Lane's replacement. That's why he obtained a legal opinion that only precinct committeeman actually elected in the primary be allowed to vote.

So, here we are, caught in a tussle between local party officials, and more subject to the outcome of that competition than to the will of the voters.

In truth, there is no way, save for calling another primary election, for this contest to be resolved in the interests of the voters. Even were that possible, the 17th Congressional District is such a grotesque creation -- a giant fishhook tying together Democrats with disparate interests and loyalties -- that it’s hard to imagine how one might manage to run an effective campaign in it.

The district was stitched together after Republicans despaired of ever beating Lane. They created solid Republican districts all around the 17th by slicing off pockets of traditional Democratic votes and lumping them together.

But will those "dependable" Democratic voters remain loyal after this fiasco? It's possible. But it's also possible that Republicans may have been given a gift; that Andrea Zinga may pull off the longest of long shots.

Primaries are always tough. Most party members shy away from naming their choice publicly or ahead of time, lest that person lose and they be out of favor with the winner.

With several people competing to replace Lane on the Democratic ticket, it’s especially hard. No one candidate is known from one end of this district to the other and none of us has had time to evaluate all of them.

I have believed for years that Lane's logical successor would be Mark Schwiebert. I have had no doubt that he would appeal to the majority of voters in the district, however it might be drawn.

But voters are out of the picture now. It’s up to the committeemen. Whom will they choose? And why?

May 13, 2006

Nominating meeting in Galesburg

The nominating meeting scheduled for committeemen and candidates in Galesburg is going on as I write.

If anyone has any news or reports on how it went, please share it with other readers.

Some quotes from a piece in the D/A regarding the meeting:
The meeting will start with an explanation of the legal opinion obtained by party officials that states only elected, not appointed, precinct committeemen are allowed to cast votes or nominate candidates, Don Johnston, 17th Congressional District Central Committee co-chairman, said.

Then, candidates will be nominated, again only by elected precinct committeemen. Nominations must be seconded, and candidates must be present to accept the nomination. After nominations have been made, central committee officials will explain how ballots will be mailed to the committeemen, and when they must be returned for counting.
Any extended fuss about any issues involving the nominating and voting process could derail the process and prevent candidates from speaking as Mr. Johnston has planned. How any protests or challenges will be handled is unclear.

"It depends," Mr. Johnston said. "We will have to play that by ear, but I don't expect any major dissention."

The legal opinion concerning the process, received earlier this week by Mr. Johnston and co-chair Mary Boland, asserted their belief that only elected precinct committeemen be allowed to vote.

"The opinion pretty much explains the position, and we think we have the most qualified election attorney in our area, or the state for that matter, providing the opinion," Mr. Johnston said. "We haven't heard of any legal challenges, so we don't expect any to our opinion.

"We are just plugging away to make this as legal and fair as we can."

Five candidates who have attended forums throughout the district are expected to be nominated for the ballot. They are Mike Boland, state representative from East Moline; Phil Hare, Rep. Evans' district director, from Moline; Rob Mellon, a teacher from Adams County; Mark Schwiebert, Rock Island mayor; and John Sullivan, state senator from Rushville. [Mellon is expected to drop out]
Issues that could be raised by committeemen are allowing appointed committeemen to vote, and whether to select a candidate at a convention rather than by mail-in ballot.

"Those issues are still out there," Mr. Johnston said.

Committeemen will be mailed ballots next week. Each committeeman will cast a number of votes equal to the number of Democratic ballots cast in their precinct in the March primary. They are free to spread their votes among various candidates on the ballot.

The ballots must be returned within 15 days to a sealed post office box. After the deadline, the ballots will be counted by the central committee and several county clerks from throughout the district and a winner will be announced.

After a winner is announced a nomination must be filed with the Illinois State Board of Election.

Dean, Emanuel in rift over where Dem resources should be spent

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and the leader of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have clashed angrily in recent days in a dispute about how the party should spend its money in advance of this fall's midterm elections.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), who is leading the party's effort to regain majority status in the House, stormed out of Dean's office several days ago leaving a trail of expletives, according to Democrats familiar with the session.

The blowup highlights a long-standing tension that has pitted Democratic congressional leaders, who are focused on their best opportunities for electoral gains this fall, against Dean and many state party chairmen, who believe that the party needs to be rebuilt from the ground up -- even in states that have traditionally been Republican strongholds.

Emanuel's fury, Democratic officials said, was over his concern that Dean's DNC is spending its money too freely and too early in the election cycle -- a "burn rate" that some strategists fear will leave the party unable to help candidates compete on equal terms with Republicans this fall.

Emanuel declined to talk about his meeting with Dean but was blunt about his concern that the DNC is not managing its resources wisely.

"This is a historic opportunity, and we can't squander it," Emanuel said.

Although Dean has proved to be a more impressive fundraiser than some skeptical Democrats once thought -- the DNC has taken in $74 million since the start of this election cycle in 2005 -- he has also been a prolific spender. Disclosure forms for the first quarter of this year showed the party with about $10 million in cash on hand. The Republican National Committee, by contrast, has raised just under $142 million this cycle and has about $43 million on hand.

Many Washington Democrats think Dean is unwise to spend on field organizers and other staff in states where House and Senate candidates have little chance of winning. Dean has maintained that the party cannot strengthen itself over the long haul unless it competes everywhere.

At a recent breakfast meeting with reporters, Dean said he has crafted a long-term business plan "and we are going to execute it." He also said, "We need to be a national party again, and I think we have to run on a message that can appeal to people in Alabama as well as it can appeal to people in New York." He declined to be interviewed for this article.

May 12, 2006

Extraction distraction

Just had this wrenched out of my jaw.

It really tickled.

Blogging may be light for the remainder of the day.

Stockwell, Bayne withdraw

The field of Democratic candidates hoping to replace U.S. Rep. Lane Evans on the November ballot continues to shrink.

Hal Bayne, a retired oral surgeon from Taylor Ridge, announced Thursday he is withdrawing. He contacted 17th Congressional District Central Committee co-chairman Don Johnston to tell him.

Macon County Auditor Amy Stockwell announced her withdrawal Wednesday. She endorsed John Sullivan, a state senator from Rushville.

Still in the race are Mike Boland, state representative from East Moline; Phil Hare, Rep. Evans' district director from Rock Island; Rob Mellon, a teacher from Adams County; Mark Schwiebert, mayor of Rock Island; and Mr. Sullivan.

Oddly, Mr. Bayne would've cast his endorsement for Ms. Stockwell if she hadn't withdrew.

"Stockwell was the best candidate," Mr. Bayne said, noting her fiscal policies and opinions on foreign policy. "When I look at the slate now, I am concerned."
Bayne noted that his recent trips to Romania, Bulgaria and Macedonia had prevented him from participating in candidate forums and he simply didn't have time to woo committeemen.

May 11, 2006

Dem hawks urge militaristic policy, go easy on Bush administration

In the Washington Post:
Democratic hawks said yesterday that their party can win a war of ideas with the Republicans over national security, but only if Democrats move beyond simply criticizing President Bush's policies and convince voters they support strategies to defeat Islamic jihadists.
First of all, why are these bozos feeding into, amplifying, and echoing the false Republican talking point that Dems have no plan, no ideas, and can only offer criticism? With friends like these, who needs enemies?
These centrist Democrats argued that voters are more receptive to the Democrats because of Bush's mistakes in Iraq. [No kidding?] But they warned against calls to launch investigations into past administration decisions if Democrats gain control of the House or Senate in the November elections.
WHY?? Who's side are they on? They think that we need to let these crooks and thieves walk away without a peep of protest or attempt to hold them accountable? Who are they afraid of offending? The Bushies?
Instead, they said, Democrats should concentrate on charting alternative policies for fighting terrorism and succeeding in Iraq.
Oh I see. Kind of the "let bygones be bygones" school of thought. No use crying over spilt blood, or squandered and pilfered billions I guess.
"We still have a hurdle to cross with the American people in convincing them we can be both tough and smart when it comes to securing America," said Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.). Voters may have more confidence in Democrats on the economy or education, he said, but, "they're not going to trust us on those things if they don't first us trust us with their lives."
And they're going to trust us with their lives .... if we don't investigate any wrong-doing by Republicans? Help me out here.
Bayh and others spoke at the launch of a collection of essays on national security policy published by the Progressive Policy Institute, the think tank associated with the Democratic Leadership Council. The sponsors challenged Democrats to resist policies advocated by what they called the "non-interventionist left" wing of their party while vigorously challenging what they call the "neo-imperial right" viewpoint of many in the Bush administration.
Advocating the "neither here nor there" wing of the party, I guess. The mushy middle. The very sort of Dem that got creamed at the poles by right wingers who were wrong, but unequivacal in their views, even thought they were quite radical. These folks want more of the mushy, say-anything, flip-floppy Dem that the voters thoroughly rejected.
Yesterday's unveiling underscored again the division within the Democratic Party between elected officials such as Bayh, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who have resisted calls for setting timetables for withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq, and those such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), Sen. Russell Feingold (Wis.) and Rep. John P. Murtha (Pa.), who have embraced such timetables.

Bayh said Republicans have been "better at national security politics than at national security."
Very true.
Former Virginia governor Mark R. Warner (D), noting that he was elected just two months after the attacks, said he and other Democrats are keenly aware of the new threats. "I don't need to be lectured by Karl Rove and the record of this administration about what is needed to keep America safe," Warner said.

Despite these indignant words, Democratic centrists remain sharply at odds with most voices on the party's left, whose opposition to the Iraq war has fueled calls for party leaders to offer more vigorous resistance to the president.

Pelosi has said Democrats will investigate how the United States went to war in Iraq if they gain control of the House, but pollster Jeremy Rosner said yesterday that this represents a backward-looking approach that will make it more difficult for Democrats to define their security agenda.

"Many of us are disturbed by the calls for investigations or even impeachment as the defining vision for our party for what we would do if we get back into office," he said.
Um... I think Mr. Rosner may be playing for the other side. NO ONE, to my knowledge, has been calling for "investigations or even impeachment" to be the "defining vision for our party for what we would do if we get back into office".

That sounds like something from a Republican pundit's mouth, not a Dem. Why is he perpetuating right wing spin? No one says that investigating criminal conduct should be the "defining vision" for the Dem party! Get real.

But calling for taking investigations off the table is simply bizarre. It's irresponsible, abdictating their vital oversight role, as well as failing in their duty to serve as a check and balance on the executive branch. And sheilding the Bushies from investigation will NOT be any magic bullet that helps propel Dems into a majority.

The incompetent in the White House is sitting at around 30% approval and going down faster than Ann Coulter at a Federalist Society weekend retreat, and these DLC guys say hands off? Are they afraid of offending the dwindling pockets of right wing zealots who would follow Bush off a cliff?

Hell, all of the Dem base and two thirds of Republicans would LOVE to see some of these crooks, incompetents, and hare-brained ideologues do a perp walk. Are these DLC types nuts? More gung-ho militarism and let the crooks walk? Who are they working for?

It's as if they're saying that we can't turn this ship around too quickly, or people might get ruffled. We need to "stay the course" on the disasterous track Bush and the Republicans have set us on and then maybe think about turning just a little sometime in the future. The American people can't take that much change.

When things have been this botched, when there's been this amount of damage done to our very system of government and global stability, I'd say that not only can the American people take it, it's irresponsible to NOT call for a substantial change in direction.

The Bushies and the right have dug us into an enormously deep hole and they're digging it deeper as fast as they can. It's time to stop the digging, not sort of slow down.