July 31, 2006

Are you a Gloomy Gus or a Perky Pete?

Click here to find out.

I'm melting!

It's been a bit, shall we say, warmish, around these parts for the better part of a week with no relief foreseen for at least a few more days.

And hard as it may be to believe, we're not getting the worst of it. Temps have been over 100 for a record number of days in California, stressing power grids to the breaking point. And the heat wave blankets nearly the entire country, setting high temp records in many states.

Is this a symptom of global warming?

The infernal heat, unsurprisingly, has affected some people's mood in an unflattering way. It seems that the folks I've had the pleasure to interact with lately are all even more surly and diasgreeable than usual, and that probably applies to myself as well.

The infernal and unrelenting heat is bad news, not only for it's danger to the elderly and others, but for the fact that it affects several local events, such as the Mississippi Valley Fair.

A news report on Sunday had a reporter at the state mandated "cooling center" in Rock Island. It was locked up tight. Guess they don't work weekends, so if you're in danger of death due to heat, please try to do it during regular business hours.

Perhaps it's the thought that counts?

There were also several counties, including some around Rock Island County, which had no cooling center at all.

As there's the usual wealth of issues and world events floating around, most notably the tragic and horrific bombings and attacks between Lebanon and Israel which is throwing gasoline onto the fire of mid-east instability and adding to the already massive hostility towards the U.S./Israeli axis.

Feel free to weigh in on that if you wish, or any number of other current events.

And I can't think of a better reason to demand there be an immediate cease fire in the Lebanon conflict that the thought that their national treasures might be destroyed. As of now, I officially love Beirut too.

Where is it?

Where can you find this place?
(click to enlarge)


Illustrious reader Huck Finn correctly IDed the photo as the City Museum in St. Louis, MO.

This place is an underpublicized gem. A wonderful and amazing place worth a trip from just about anywhere, especially for kids.

View more pictures of this incredible place, here

July 27, 2006

Polls reflect public disgust with Bush, Republican Congress

MyDD notes the following:
NPR has a new survey on the House out today that was conducted by Democrat Stan Greenberg and Republican Glenn Bolger. This poll is particularly interesting because of the district level detail it offers on the generic ballot question. The poll only focused on the fifty most competitive districts this year, forty of which are held by Republicans, and ten of which are held by Democrats. Here are some of the findings:

  • In the fifty most competitive House districts this year, Democrats lead the generic ballot 48-41. While this is a smaller lead for Democrats than many national polls reveal, it is important to remember that this is primarily a survey of Republican-held.

  • When candidates are named across the fifty districts, Democrats lead 49-43.

  • Within the ten Democratic held districts, Democrats hold a whopping 60-29 advantage. This may only be a sample size of around 200, but these numbers show the tremendous strength of Democratic incumbents around the nation. We hold a 31-point generic ballot advantage in our ten most endangered seats? Amazing.

  • Within the "top tier" Republican held seats (not sure how many districts this included), Democrats hold a sizable 52-42 advantage in the generic ballot. These are the sort of numbers that make a takeover very likely.

  • Within the "bottom tier" of the competitive Republican held seats, Democrats still hold a generic advantage of 47-44. This is particularly amazing. This shows Democratic competitiveness across a wide swatch of districts.

  • Bush is at 45% "strong disapprove" in these districts, and only 24% "strong approve." Remember--these are in districts that Republicans hold.

  • Voters also indicate a high level of enthusiasm to vote, and Demcorats hold a significant edge in that category. However, I'll believe that when I see it, considering low turnout during the primary season so far.
  • Take a look at the poll results here. Good news for Democrats across the board.

    It sucks to be Republican these days.

    Lu Ann Kerr fundraiser

    Candidate for Rock Island County Treasurer Lu Ann Kerr is holding a fundraiser tomorrow evening (Fri.) from 5 to 7:00 p.m. at the Milan American Legion, 515 West 1st Avenue.

    Guest: $10
    Sponsor: $50
    Patron: $100

    July 26, 2006

    Lykam feeling the heat

    As noted on the "Iowa's First" blog, a go-to source for information on Iowa's hot 1st district senate race, the Iowa 85th house district race is also attracting some bigfoot national attention, as documented in this Ed Tibbetts piece in the QC Times.

    Republicans smell blood in their attempt to defeat Democratic two term incumbent Jim Lykam of Davenport. Bill Frist, (who Frank Rich recently referred to correctly as perhaps the most craven politician in D.C.) has made appearances to raise funds for Lykam's opponent, political newbie Roby Smith, also of Davenport, and Smith has recieved campaign dough from Mitt Romney's PAC as well.

    Looks like this is shaping up as another hard fought Iowa battle.

    July 25, 2006

    Onward Christian lawyers

    The Bush administration is quietly remaking the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, filling the permanent ranks with lawyers who have strong conservative credentials but little experience in civil rights, according to job application materials obtained by the Globe.

    The documents show that only 42 percent of the lawyers hired since 2003, after the administration changed the rules to give political appointees more influence in the hiring process, have civil rights experience. In the two years before the change, 77 percent of those who were hired had civil rights backgrounds.

    In an acknowledgment of the department's special need to be politically neutral, hiring for career jobs in the Civil Rights Division under all recent administrations, Democratic and Republican, had been handled by civil servants -- not political appointees.

    But in the fall of 2002, then-attorney general John Ashcroft changed the procedures. The Civil Rights Division disbanded the hiring committees made up of veteran career lawyers.
    At the same time, the kinds of cases the Civil Rights Division is bringing have undergone a shift. The division is bringing fewer voting rights and employment cases involving systematic discrimination against African-Americans, and more alleging reverse discrimination against whites and religious discrimination against Christians.
    Because God knows that if any group is really struggling to get by, suffering horrible discrimination, and being held down, it's white Christians.

    Sadly, this is only one of literally thousands of such under the radar actions which have been occurring for the past 6 years in a blatant attempt to subvert rules and propriety in order to worm more fundy, conservative people into every facet of government, the same government they routinely demonize and characterize as useless and unnecessary.

    July 23, 2006

    Day of honor and patriotism in Galesburg

    The funeral of slain serviceman Jerry Tharp of Aledo, cut down by an IED in Iraq, was held in Geneseo Saturday afternoon, attended by The Patriot Guard Riders.
    [Photos Here]

    The Patriot Guard Riders is a group of primarily veteran motorcycle riders formed to provide an honor detail for fallen veterans or active duty servicemen and women, as a way to counter the loathsome protests of the Westboro Baptist Church, and has grown exponentially in a short time. They now organize honor details for any vet who has passed away.

    Mainly through word of mouth and their website, "missions" are organized and the turnout is nothing short of amazing.

    Though I went primarily to see the freakazoids who protest at fallen soldier's funerals, (and who consider Galesburg a "particularly evil place") I instead was caught up in the sheer mass of bikers who came to honor this young man.

    There were conservatively 3 to 400 bikers at the funeral. They formed up in a large parking lot and then moved out onto a cross street where they waited for the procession carrying the body to pass, then pulled out to form a massive line of motorcycles, which even at two or three abreast stretched for a half mile at least. The procession of bikes took over five minutes to pass.

    At the church, they deployed to form long lines along the street in front of the church holding around a hundred American flags. They then stood solemnly for at least an hour or more, before standing down and mounting up again.

    A cop told me that the goons from Westboro Baptist Church had indeed arrived and protested, at over 300 ft from the church, and at least a half hour before the funeral started, as required by law, and had assembled down the street over a slight hill, so they were both beyond eyesight and earshot.

    A small group of civilians reportedly stood and faced them in silence, but beyond that, no one gave them any attention, which is, after all, the only reason they do what they do.

    In that respect, it was rather disappointing to see every Quad City TV outlet as well as at least one paper there in force and giving them camera time and publicity that they certainly don't merit.

    I think that if everyone ignored them, they might just go away. But of course, the press is congenitally incapable of doing that.

    While waiting for the funeral to end and the coffin to be loaded into the hearse, the press showed a rather ugly side as well, as they huddled in the shade across the street.

    A select group of Patriot Guards, perhaps 8 or 9, who had come from all over, and who had stood solemnly in the heat holding flags lining the streets around the church, came forward and formed a line facing the hearse to honor the dead soldier as he was loaded into the hearse.

    This immediately brought howls of protest from at least one photographer who started carping immediately to his fellow press members that they were going to "ruin our shot!"

    He started walking out into the street shouting to a Navy man in dress whites who was apparently coordinating the press coverage, and amazingly, they actually asked the honor attendants to stand back at an awkward distance just so these guys could get a shot without having to move. God forbid they'd have to move somewhere else.

    Why should they move to get a better shot? Why not just interfere with the funeral of a Iraq casualty, right?? Struck me as pretty disgusting, not to mention callous.

    The town of Galesburg also had a shiny new, no doubt incredibly expensive. "Central Command Unit" parked nearby, a huge enclosed truck with "Homeland Security" painted on the side and brisling with high tech gear and a extendable mast with a surveilance camera on top. Of course it was useless, but hey, they got their toy from "Homeland" security. And in the event that something major ever does happen, maybe someone will actually know how to use it. Maybe.

    Just prior to the end of the funeral, the bulk of the riders formed up and roared off again for Keithsburg, where Tharp was to be buried.

    A special honor detail from the group remained and escorted the funeral procession after the church service.

    This group is very impressive, and very inspiring. To see such a display of honor for their fellow soldier is truly touching. The sheer logistics and organization required to pull these missions off is amazing, yet they do it with military precision, unsurprisingly.

    The Galesburg Fire Department backed in two ladder trucks at an intersection near the church and huge an enormous flag over the street.

    When the procession left the church, two Army trainer planes flew overhead at precisely the right moment as the hearse passed under the flag.

    I've posted several pictures of the day in the blog's Photobucket album. If anyone is curious, they can be viewed here.

    RIP PO1 Jerry Tharp.

    That's right folks... it's time to play.....


    Today's barn is probably just too easy.

    I can safely assume that the majority of readers have seen it a dozen times and perhaps many more.

    Though no clue is needed, I'll give you that it's located in Illinois.


    Reader PrairieStateDem identified the barn correctly. Hats off!
    It's located at mile marker 47 on I-80 east atop a small hill on the right.

    Here's some more shots which might make it more familiar. They were taken with one hand at highway speeds, (a couple backwards over my shoulder on the return leg) so they're not perfect, but might jog your memory.

    Did someone say dictator?

    Add this to the growing mound of evidence that the Bush/Cheney White House truly think they are simnply dictators, above the law, above congress, above the supreme court, and even above their own Justice Dept.

    What's it gonna take for people to sit up on their hind legs and notice what's going on?
    President Bush effectively blocked a Justice Department investigation of the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program, refusing to give security clearances to attorneys who were attempting to conduct the probe, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday.

    Bush's decision represents an unusually direct and unprecedented White House intervention into an investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility, the internal affairs office at Justice, according to administration officials and legal experts. It forced OPR to abandon its investigation of the role played by Justice Department officials in authorizing and monitoring the controversial NSA eavesdropping effort.

    "Since its creation some 31 years ago, OPR has conducted many highly sensitive investigations involving Executive Branch programs and has obtained access to information classified at the highest levels," chief lawyer H. Marshall Jarrett wrote in a memorandum released Tuesday. "In all those years, OPR has never been prevented from initiating or pursuing an investigation."

    In testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales said that in matters involving access to classified programs, "the president of the United States makes the decision."

    Thanks to an alert reader for steering me to this.

    July 21, 2006

    "Honor and Dignity" YouTube-a-rama

    Remember that campaign speil where they said Bush would return "honor and dignity" to the White House? I do to.

    I set out to bring you a couple clips showing what an undignified clod Bush was, but those instances seem nearly endless. Here are but a few, though there's plenty.

    Pop up some popcorn, gather the family around and enjoy.

    Dave Letterman kindly compiled 10 of Bush's more dignified moments for us.

    But that wasn't up to date.

    More recently, Bush molested German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G8 conference. Looks like it hurt.

    And here we have a stark example of Bush's deep thinking, table maners, and coarse language. Contrast Bush's thought process to Blair's. Blair had to be thinking, "How do I get through to this idiot?"

    And this one... my God. It pretty much says it all about Bush. (Keep your eye on the background)

    Bush, a deep thinker.

    And of course, as a man of God, Bush never lies.

    and of course, he has impecable manners.

    and for your tragi-comic enjoyment, here's some more prime Bush moments. (though the laugh track is goofy.)

    I give you, the leader of the free world, two term U.S. president George W. Bush.

    Groucho is rolling in his grave

    John Marx, who pens tepid pieces for the Dispatch/Argus featuring what I guess is humor apparently aimed at those who find the comic strip "Nancy" hilarious, today did his thing on his experience getting stuck in a traffic jam waiting for Dick "Dick" Cheney's motorcade to pass.

    Needless to say, he went to Cheney's hunting incident for material no fewer than 10 times by my count.

    The only thing worse than that overkill was that he didn't even know the facts about the incident he mined so heavily for comedy gold.
    What's neat about my world is that if I'm covering a big shot -- and Vice President Dick Cheney, aka The Great White Hunter for his ability to shoot a hunting partner in the bee-hind, is a big shot -- I never get stuck in a big-shot roadblock.
    No, what's neat about your world, John, is that you don't have to know what you're talking about. (and neither apparently, do your editors)

    Granted, Marx couldn't be confused with a reporter, and he aims to please the "average guy" demographic, but shouldn't he at least know simple facts that the average guy (or young kid) knows, such as that Cheney shot an attorney in the face, not the "bee-hind"?

    The D/A's Wundrum wanna-be has a ways to go.

    Thodos appoints Keehner East Moline City Administrator

    A little more than a year after former city administrator Steve Verdick resigned, the city has named his replacement.

    Rich Keehner, who was assistant city administrator, was appointed to the position late Monday.

    Last year, Mayor John Thodos hadn't wanted to fill the vacant administration post to save the city money. But now East Moline needs someone to focus on duties such as union grievances and contract negotiations, the mayor said.

    Representatives of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1234 are unhappy with Mr. Keehner since he's been the prime negotiator with them on a new contract to replace on that expired April 30. AFSCME Council 31 staff representative Dino Leone said that Mr. Keehner's promotion is a "worst-case scenario" for city employees.
    This is the guy that seemed absolutely zealous in his quest to give Triumph more and more and yet more breaks, perks, and freebies. He's obviously not a fave of the union either.

    Durbin brings home $1.2 million in bacon to the IL Quads

    If you weren't careful, you may have overlooked the tiny 3.5" column tucked away next to the fold on page A12 of today's Dispatch/Argus, but it reveals that Sen. Dick Durbin has gotten $1.2 million appropriated for the Quad Cities.

    I'm not sure what "River Tech Boulevard" is exactly, but a cool million has been appropriated for it. The piece says it will allow flood-proof access to the proposed WIU riverfront campus, if it's ever built.

    I trust this doesn't involve raising River Dr. in any way or messing with the parkway.

    Durbin also announced $200,000 for a bike trail in Carbon Cliff.

    Savanna is to get $200,000 for the Great River Trail as well.

    > MORE <

    Davenport gets taste of security absurdity

    QC Times photo by Jeff Cook

    The picture above is captioned in the QC Times,
    Davenport police officers tell protesters marching along River Drive they had orders to collect the wooden sticks on their American flags as a security measure. The marchers demonstrated and raised banners while Vice President Dick Cheney attended a fundraiser in Davenport.

    Cheney came to town, and in what is a by now very common occurrence, protesters were subjected to harassment and ludicrous policies and restrictions.

    I could link to dozens of stories which make this one seem mild by comparison. Protesters, some elderly, herded into the Orwellian named "Free Speech Zones", basically pens hundreds of yards from where Bush or Cheney are appearing or traveling, protesters hauled off or arrested for simply wearing anti-Bush tee-shirts, and on and on.

    Davenport got a taste of it when Dick "The Snarl" Cheney came to Davenport for a fundraiser at the home of Chuck Ruhl in McClellan Heights for candidate Mike Whalen.

    Davenport, as well as U.S. taxpayers likely paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for the security surrounding this visit alone, yet it was purely partisan, soley to raise money for a Republican candidate. Cheney made no public appearance and didn't give a press conference. As a matter of fact, the press was barred from the event.

    Yet we're supposed to pay for this?

    As usual, John Beydler puts it all in perspective. Read his post here.

    It's truly an outrage and wrong that the Republican party is now behaving as if we live in a one party state, never mind that essentially we do. But the arrogance is familiar, as is passing the expense on to taxpayers with little regard as to it's propriety.

    It's a good thing that the press is on to this story and I hope they follow up and report on the expenses involved and how much of the tab is being charged to taxpayers in order to hold a Republican fundraiser.

    If Al Gore had pulled this stunt as VP, it would be banner headlines and the hew and cry would be deafening.

    And what about the fact that these burly cops were confiscating spindly sticks from these women's flags!?? That's what we're paying for?

    And the photographer who got this picture was detained for a time! Yeah, it's national security I guess. But it seems more like Russia or China.

    This is security run amok.

    Instead of protecting Cheney from little old ladies with small flags, they should worry about him choking on the BS he likely spewed to his very well-heeled admirers in McClellan Heights.

    July 20, 2006

    Church of the Poison Mind brings twisted message to Galesburg

    The Rev. Fred Phelp's Westboro Baptist Church, a group of psychopaths if ever there was one, has announced their plans to protest at the Galesburg funeral of Petty Officer 1st Class Jerry Allen Tharp, a Naval Reservist from rural Aledo who was killed by an IED in Iraq.
    Anti-gay protesters from a Topeka, Kan., church will picket a U.S. Navy Seabee's funeral in Galesburg Saturday -- the third time the group will descend on the city.

    Westboro Baptist Church members will be outside the funeral of Petty Officer 1st Class Jerry Allen Tharp, a Naval Reservist from rural Aledo, protest organizer and church member Shirley Phelps-Roper said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

    The group believes soldiers are being killed in Iraq because God is punishing the United States, especially its military, for tolerating homosexuality, she said.

    Even though Gov. Rod Blagojevich in May signed the "Let Them Rest in Peace Act" barring protests within 200 feet of a funeral site, the law hasn't deterred the group from heading to Galesburg's Bethel Baptist Church for the third time.

    Ms. Phelps-Roper said she believes "Galesburg is a particularly evil place" because residents do not serve God.
    Well, there ya go. But are the Quad Cities going to stand idly by while Galesburg beats us in the evilness deparment? I think it demands some studies and PR efforts to turn this around.

    All joking aside, I can't think of a more loathsome group than these people, and there's plenty out there to choose from.

    A group called the Patriot Guard assembled from all points on motorcycles to escort the body of OFC Tharp from Chicago to Aledo. Though they were delayed over two hours and didn't arrive in Aledo until after midnight, there were hundreds of participants and crowds along the route to pay their respects.

    The group's website has a page for the Tharp "mission" , and it reveals a group of dedicated and respectful vets with motorcycles who ensure that vets get the honor they deserve.

    If you read through the comments, you can find some pretty inspiring and touching sentiments, such as this one posted after the escort duty was completed.
    07/19/2006 1:08 PM Alert
    This is why I do what I do with the Patriot Guard Riders (PGR)...

    Last evening/night (Tues, 7/18), I was on a PGR mission, escorting the hearse with a fallen SeaBee and his widow from O’Hare to Aledo (Iowa Border, near Quad Cities).

    Flight in with the body was 2 hours late, then the hearse driver got misplaced from the airport to the Park Ridge VFW, so we didn't get on the road until about 10. Police escorted us down 294/88/355/55/80 at up to 95mph – about 12 bikes started from VFW, some others met us along the way to Princeton. Stop at Princeton to gas, meet with more family and more PGR. Had probably 60 bikes (maybe more) on to Aledo.

    Starting about 15 miles out from Princeton - other officers and fire personnel were parked, lights on, in the median or on overpasses, at attention, saluting. One overpass had to have had 50 people and police with candles and flags lighted by the LEO's spots.

    The truck stop in Princeton that was the gas/meeting point looked like a little city of its own, street and parking lot lined with folks with candles, flags and well wishing signs.

    Once off the interstate – at every bump-in-the-road town -- police, fire, residents, lining the sides of the road - again flags, candles, signs and salutes.

    The entire town of Aledo was in Central Park with flags and candles – at midnight. Local VFW had a color guard there. Every vehicle that had any kind of flashing light lined the road into town and surrounded the park. The SeaBee's business partner had one of those cement pumping rigs there with the boom extended and a huge flag suspended from it. A bagpiper was playing as we pulled in (order was police escort, PGR, hearse, family cars, Navy cars). The local choir sang the National Anthem, Amazing Grace and his favorite hymn. Buglers played dual trumpet taps.

    Not a dry eye in town... certainly not mine.

    Family expressed their appreciation, individuals from both VFW’s thanked us for what we do, strangers from the town came by to shake hands or hug and say thanks – and my answer is – “It is Our HONOR to be here”.

    It was an expensive night for me - riding at warp speed shredded my large flag, broke the shaft on my small flag, took my CB antenna off and cracked the cover on my airhorns... Due to the delay, I ended up in a B&B room for 5 hours at $60... Then this morning on the way home, passing an odd shaped oversized load that created some weird turbulence, I lost my PGR hat...


    PGR - “Riding with Respect”

    McHenry County, IL
    The group is planning to provide honor guard duty at Tharps funeral services in Galesburg as well. I don't think Freddy's gang will want to mess with them.

    One member noted that he'd talked to members of Tharp and they were worried about the possibility of trouble from the nut job "Christian" group. He gave his word that the family wouldn't even know they were there, and I trust that these guys don't give their word lightly, especially to the families of fallen brother's in arms. With any luck, the creeps from the Church of the Poison Mind will be not allowed to protest while the family is within earshot and they won't have to witness this disgusting display.

    The Westboro Baptist Church out of Kansas' website has the charming URL godhatesfags.com. (their mirror site is godhatesamerica.com)

    The site is a real treat if you want to see what passes for Christianity in these folk's warped mind. They seem to subscribe to a notion similar to one that fellow blogger Jim Mowen has also espoused. As the Westboro Baptist website puts it, "God loves everyone -- the greatest lie ever told!"

    This notion which is currently gaining popularity among the "Christian" right could be expressed loosly that Jesus was a bad mofo who was capable of hate and advocating ill will or death towards those considered "sinners" by ... well... by the person who believes this crap. In other words, you can still be a good Christian and "Jesus follower" and hate particular groups of people, feel superior to them, and wish them ill, essentially throwing the basic tenets of Christianity out the window.

    How convenient that they've found a way to adjust their religion to accomodate some of the lower instincts among us, but not others. And of course, greed is increasingly being found to be a Christian virtue by the right as well, as is veiled racism and religious bigotry.

    Religion is flexible, you see. It's a big tent, and these folks pick and choose what's immoral and what's not, who's evil and who's blessed, primarily along the lines that the immoral things that they practice and believe (and can't hide) are ok, and those that they SAY others do,(a lot of them do it themselves), primarily having to do with their obsession with the sex lives of others, aren't.

    The only difference between the more muted country club type of Christian rightist and Fred Phelps is that Freddy is more honest and up front about it.

    I might take a trip out to Galesburg tomorrow just to see these freaks with my own eyes.

    Drinking Liberally get-together Friday

    The Illinois Quad City chapter of Drinking Liberally is gathering tomorrow night (Fri.) at Jack's Place 425 5th Ave. in downtown Moline at 7:30 p.m.

    The group is open to anyone supporting liberal goals, so please participate and make the group more diverse. Otherwise, it might become nothing but an insular group of campaign activists. (who get together and drink on their own anyway)

    The idea is to encourage and allow those who may not otherwise be active in politics or party activities, but who feel that conservatives have lead the country in the wrong direction, to meet in an informal, casual setting to talk and meet other like-minded folks. You might end up getting more involved as you learn more and find out how you can contribute, but there won't be any pressure to do so.

    If you didn't go to the first get-together, make it a point to show up tonight. I'll see you there?

    Bush uses first veto to restrict stem cell research

    A stubborn "don't bother me with the facts" Bush bucks his own party to gratify the anti-science "know-nothings" on the right.

    He even signed a bill forbidding "fetus farms", which even its sponsors acknowledged, doesn't exist. So the right has now passed a bill to outlaw something which only existed in their own fevered imaginations and the propaganda campaign against stem cell research.

    The world is exploding, and these idiots are spending their time on measures defending a clump of cells and blocking scientific progress which may result in the alleviation of the suffering of millions.

    President Bush, defying a bipartisan majority in Congress and a strong current in public opinion, exercised the first veto of his presidency Wednesday by blocking an expansion of federal support for embryonic stem cell research that he considered immoral.

    Within hours of Bush's announcement, a House effort to override the veto fell 51 votes short of the required two-thirds majority, effectively killing the bill for the year. The vote for the override was 235 to 193, with 51 Republicans siding against the president.

    Bush said the veto was not a setback for science but rather a victory of conscience, as taxpayers should not pay for research that destroys human embryos — even in the service of obtaining stem cells to develop potential cures for disease.

    "This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others," Bush told a crowd of supporters, including children born of the type of fertility clinic embryos that would have been used for research under the bill. "It crosses a moral boundary that our society needs to respect, so I vetoed it."

    The bill Bush rejected would have eased restrictions that he imposed in 2001 on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Supporters of the loosened rules decried the veto, saying it had dashed the hopes of American scientists and patients and their families.

    "Vetoing this bill is one of the greatest mistakes of his presidency," Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) said.
    The most remarkable thing about Bush's decision may not be that he vetoed this particular bill, as he had repeatedly threatened to do. More significant may be that it took so long in his presidency before he vetoed anything.

    Every president after James A. Garfield has issued at least one veto, and Garfield served less than a year, in 1881. Thomas Jefferson was the only two-term president to issue no vetoes.

    Many Republicans say Bush's extraordinarily long veto-free period is a tribute to how far the GOP-controlled Congress has gone to accommodate him — authorizing the war in Iraq, giving him almost every tax cut he proposed, meeting his overall budget targets.

    The president's uncompromising defense of his 2001 stem cell policy, despite changes in the scientific and political landscape over the last five years, is in keeping with a leadership style that his admirers call principled and his detractors call bullheaded.
    Even as he vetoed the bill, Bush signed legislation passed unanimously by the House and Senate to address the fears of some critics that scientists were aiming to create "fetal farms" in which human fetuses would be grown for their organs and tissues.

    Proponents acknowledged that the law was preemptive, because the procedure was not known to have been practiced on human fetuses.

    The stem cell controversy has centered on research that is progressing around the world but is narrowly funded by the U.S. government. It entails destroying human embryos to obtain stem cells, which are thought to be able to develop into any type of cell in the body. Many scientists believe this research may lead to medical insights and cures for diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson's.

    In vetoing the legislation, Bush said that "if this bill would have become law, American taxpayers would for the first time in our history be compelled to fund the deliberate destruction of human embryos, and I'm not going to allow it."
    But the American taxpayers arent' asked whether they want their tax dollars to fund the deliberate destruction of literally hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and yes, children.

    Apparently Bush's "conscience" is more conerned with inanimate cells than the lives of non-white human beings which happen to live on top of oil.

    A discussion of this issue happened in a previous thread before Bush's veto.

    I wrote...

    [I] recall something I heard an authority say on the news yesterday regarding the current stem cell action (or inaction) in the Republican congress.

    The Republican (read fundy) "War on Science" (hey, it's a distortion, but why not borrow one of their tactics?) is truly draggng our country back to the dark ages.

    While Bush panders to the know-nothing fundy base and refuses to allow any meaningful stem cell research, other countrys in the world are eating out lunch on the issue.

    Biotechnology is going to be the "next big thing" as far as investment and profit goes, and the relatively few fundys which have influence way beyond their numbers are sticking their heads in the sand by believing that a microscopic clump of cells has the moral equivelence of say, a patient suffering from Parkinson's or any number of other debilitating disease.

    So while Bush and the fundys try to enforce their rather odd beliefs on us, other countries are going full steam ahead, as they should.

    This ensures that our strained economy will be deprived of the lucrative and expanding biotech research and development, and that the U.S. will never be able to take the lead in this area as it should.

    Another great moment in stupidity and regressive thought from the Republican right.

    highxlr8r said...
    Dope, maybe you could post a thread on the stem-cell debate itself and relocate this comment, but I wanted to say it before I forgot I was thinking it.

    In debate today, Sen. Santorum and others made the argument that because a significant portion of American did not want to spend federal tax dollars to destroy life, that it was unacceptable for him to vote for the bill. The thought that comes to my mind is that there are a lot of think that I do not want my tax dollars to pay for, and that I would think many others would agree. For example, I would prefer my tax dollars not be spent on the war, and I think polls and public opinion show that a significant portion of the population agree. I find it highly doubtful, however, that Sen. Santorum would respect that and vote to not fund the war.

    I can accept many Senators' moral perspective on the issue, although I do not agree. However, I would hope that politicians would keep to that argument without resorting to the nonsense that because many people are opposed to a particular practice tax dollars should not be spent on it.

    Insanity in the Mideast

    I've hesitated to put up anything about the recent crisis in the mideast simply because it's so insane, and the information about same has been so incredibly twisted and one-sided that it makes discussion in any rational way difficult.

    Can the U.S. any longer serve as an honest broker between the parties when Bush has studiously ignored being involved in the situation since gaining office, thus resulting in things getting to this point? And with the official U.S. line is so blindly pro-Israel, the administration withdrawing it's embassy from Syria last year, and other factors, has Bush essentially given up our ability to negotiate as an honest middleman?

    Can or should the U.S. do something to stop the fighting?

    Bush is already getting harsh criticism from the right for even urging restraint by Israel.

    Just moments ago, the fat, chain-smoking self-appointed "Morality Czar" and admitted problem gambler, Bill Bennett, (whose continued appearance on major news shows is inexplicable) was visibly angry at calls for a cease-fire, saying, "Give war a chance." It's these people and this way of thinking on the right which is responsible for the world dissolving into war and death. They not only don't do anything to prevent or limit it, but actively encourage it.

    It's been shown that many in power on the right are Christian believers that are anxious for the end of the world so they can go to heaven. Their foreign and environmental policies reflect this in that they seem almost anxious for the destruction of the earth and "end of the world".

    When religiously inspired delusion is the basis of your thinking, when you truly believe that there's no use planning for the future because the world is coming to an end, you end up with the insane policies we've seen coming from this administration, particularly in the mideast.

    They're in love with war, they think it's the answer to every problem. And they're too stupid to realize that for every person killed in war, it takes generations to overcome the damage and feelings of revenge. Hell, it never ends. Some conflicts which started thousands of years ago are still ongoing, such as in the Balkans and elsewhere.

    Yet these people feel perfectly comfortable advocating death and destruction in the belief that this will somehow eliminate the groups they see as a threat.

    It may or it may not, but it certainly won't do a damn thing about the root problem, other than inflame and exacerbate it.

    The right and the Republicans for the most part are drunk on military power.

    I don't know what can be said about the situation, the botched evacuation of U.S. citizens, the White House doing absolutely nothing as U.S. citizens in Lebanon are being shelled and killed, and on and on.

    And while this attrocity is going on, we see representatives and partisans for both sides, though mainly Israel, talking in school-boy tough guy talk, using the most inflamatory language imaginable to portray the enemy as sub-human monsters, brutally killing innocent women and babies, while COMPLETELY ignoring the fact that they themselves have done exactly the same thing.

    It's truly like two kids hauled before the principal after a fight pointing fingers and saying, "He did it!", "No, He hit me first!", and on and on.

    And in the meantime, the incompetent Condi Rice does less than nothing, and is only now, under pressure, planning to go to the area. Bush hasn't a clue and is typically shying away from a situation which might incur disapproval or his own political popularity, what little he has left.

    July 19, 2006

    Missouri Triumph plant draws suits and concern

    Here's a bit from St. Joseph, MO based KQTV which deals with the issue of hogs being delivered to slaughter suffering from extreme stress. (though the idea that you can't yell at a hog is kinda odd, considering that they've just been loaded and packed tightly together in a bouncing, swaying semi and driven for great distances. I guess workers may end up being required to take hog sensitivity training?
    Another safety issue for Triumph Foods concerns the livestock.

    The high heat can be deadly on hogs -- literally stressing them to death.

    Triumph loses revenue every time a hog doesn`t make it to slaughter, but that`s not the only concern.

    The handling of the hogs could be a food quality issue, and perhaps a legal matter.

    Truckloads of hogs ready for slaughter approach Triumph Foods in the dead of the night. It`s the coolest time of day, easing some of the stress put on the hogs.

    "The stress of course would be heat and then yelling. Anything that stresses us, stresses [the hogs]--terrifies them," Gary Silverglat, a 30-year veteran of the pork processing industry, says.

    University and veterinarian research shows stress in hogs causes lactic acid to build up, resulting in mediocre meat.

    "There are hormones in your body that cause the stress condition. In cattle, it`s called `firery carcuses` because when they kill the animal and take the hyde off, the fat would be bloody red, because the blood comes to the surface,similar to when the human body gets excited, your blood goes into stress mode to fight. The same thing happens in hogs, so you want a hog calm when you go to slaughter because the meat will be better," Silverglat says.

    But it`s not just the heat or the quality of the meat that worries one animal rights group. KQ2 showed People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, footage of hogs being off loaded at Triumph Foods. Some of the hogs were dead. Others were yelled at and whipped to move off of the truck.

    "What we see on this video is cruelty to animals," Bruce Friedrich, vice president of PETA`s international grassroots organization, says.

    PETA believes the video may be in violation of state and federal laws.

    "The beating the animals until they squeal appears to violate the American Veterinary Medicine protocol for moving pigs to slaughter. The, by definition, it would not be standard agricultural practice, at least by Missouri state law, and it would be illegal," Friedrich says.
    You can inject me with drugs, raise me in confinement pens, feed me the waste of other animals, haul me packed in trucks, use stun guns on me, beat me with bars, hang me upside down from chains while you slit my throat and then dunk me in boiling water, tear out my guts and cut me up, but please don't yell at me."

    "Ohhhhh. I don't feel so good. To think I made it this far just to die before they kill me. Give me some quiet before I die of my injuries. No yelling."

    The tortoise and the hare

    The Hare is winning the race this time around, at least when it comes to raking in dough.
    Illinois Democratic congressional candidate Phil Hare has surged ahead of Republican opponent Andrea Zinga in the scramble to collect campaign dollars for their 17th District election showdown.

    Despite having only three weeks of fundraising compared with Zinga’s three months, Hare, of Rock Island, had raised $226,799 by Saturday, the July 15 deadline to report second-quarter campaign donations to the Federal Election Commission. Zinga, of Coal Valley, however, came close to her goal of $200,000, collecting a reported $192,690 since April. That number may be amended, though, with an additional $11,000 in Internet donations that were not officially reported, said her campaign manager, Charlie Johnston.
    Internet donations?? I thought no politician gave a damn about those, and they're stupid and not even worth bothering with, right trolls? (ahem)

    Open Secrets has a summary of finance info on the 17th District race.

    Be sure to click on the various links listed in the sidebar to the left under the headings of Summary and Geographic data and Interest Groups.

    No data under these headings for Hare as yet, but some interesting data for Zinga.

    The most recent filing for the Hare campaign can be viewed or downloaded on the FEC site here.
    The link listing individual and PAC donors and amounts can be found here.

    Zinga's most recent filing can be viewed or downloaded here.

    Her individual and PAC donors (none) and amounts are listed here. (notice that Moline Alderman Mike Crotty didn't report any occupation. Under Schedule C loans to the committee, it shows Zinga loaning herself $75,000 total.)

    Let the Eagle Soarrrrrrrrrr

    Here's a shot taken yesterday of an eagle soaring over the hills of Rock Island's Longview Park.

    I don't know about you, but to me, that can only mean one thing. It's time once again to kick back and dig the tragi-comic lounge stylings of Johnny A.

    E.T.'s bike in Longview Park?

    I don't know why or how I stumble across stuff like this, but I'm kinda glad I do.
    The latest oddity was pointed out to me by some kids at Rock Island's very nice Whitewater Junction water park.

    While escaping the blazing sun by seeking some shade up on one of the surrounding hills, some kids said there was a bike in the tree just behind me. That's enough to make me look, (hell, anything is. I'm curious to a fault) and I tried to see what they were talking about.

    I didn't see anything as I scanned up the nearby trees. I had to ask where it was and follow their pointed fingers. I tracked up the trunk of the tree, up, and up, and up, and then up some more. Finally, there is was. A ten speed road bike firmly planted in the tree about 40 feet up!!!

    Click on images to see them better.

    Of course, the first thing that escaped my lips was, "How'd it get there?"

    I got various responses, but the first, and most plausible, considering my companions, was that E.T. crashed there. (the basket must have blown away in a storm).

    I truly have no explanation for how a bike could get lodged in a tree far beyond a height any mere human could throw it.

    My best guess was that someone probably ditched the bike in the crotch of the tree, maybe putting it up about 6 ft off the ground at the time, and the spot was so secluded that no one noticed it as the tree continued to grow, finally resulting in the bike being up where only birds could enjoy it.

    I still have no explanation for how it was so firmly attached that it could stay fixed in the tree through strong winds and storms. It's not hanging on anything, and appears to be lodged between two branches of the tree with the front fork dug into one of them.

    And maybe the most baffling thing to me, how did anyone even notice that it was up there? Apparently, all these kids knew about it somehow, but I'd have never noticed it in a thousand years.

    After all, you usually don't see bicycles 40 feet up in a tree, but now I have. And so have you.

    P.S. I've seen two other weird things in the past few months, but alas, I didn't have my camera handy.

    One was a HUGE dark blue replica of one of those folding camp chairs that are so popular. It was sitting in the front yard of a house on the north side of the 3600 block of 12th Ave. in Moline. With no exageration, the top of the back of the chair was higher than the gutters of the house, and the seat was probably 6-7 feet off the ground! I'd guess 15 people could fit on it comfortably.

    I can only speculate that it may have been a promotional thing from the chair manufacturer that this person got hold of somehow. (Or maybe it was Paul Bunyan's camping chair?)

    I was so impressed that later that night, I made a special trip with my camera to try to get a shot of it to share, but, as luck would have it, they'd already taken it down for some reason. I keep checking every time I'm in the area, but alas, it hasn't appeared again. (I'm pretty sure I wasn't hallucinating, the person I was with saw it too. Anyone else happen to notice it?)

    The other was a canary yellow Camero, maybe around an '89, which some industrious wrench jockey had put on a jacked-up 4x4 truck frame. It was up so high and had such huge tires that you'd literally have to use a step-ladder to get in or out.

    It was parked for sale in an East Moline parking lot, but that too, had disappeared by the time I returned to get a shot a few days later.

    July 18, 2006

    Davenport wins round one in traffic cam challenge

    I'm very sorrry to hear this came out this way.

    Any legal authorities or others care to predict the future of this case?

    Does Seymour's argument have merit?

    Iowa's constitution doesn't bar cities from enforcing municipal laws against things like speeding, a Scott County magistrate judge ruled Monday in a Bettendorf man's challenge of the constitutionality of Davenport's automated traffic cameras.

    Thomas Seymour was joined by the American Civil Liberties Union in his challenge of Davenport's authority to create municipal traffic ordinances against speeding, and whether the traffic cameras meet due process requirements or abdicate police power.


    In August 2005, Davenport aldermen approved an ordinance authorizing the use of the speed cameras. Tickets issued from speed cameras are civil fines and are sent to the vehicle's owner, not necessarily the person driving.

    Randall Wilson of the ACLU of Iowa Foundation argued the main issue was whether Davenport could create the ordinance in the first place. "We say the uniform speeding ticket is the means to enforce speeding. The judge disagreed and we'll study his ruling," he said. "We're inclined to appeal."

    In court filings, Mr. Seymour's attorney, Michael McCarthy, argued because the tickets are civil violations and not a simple misdemeanor like a traditional traffic tickets, the ordinance establishing use of the cameras deprives a vehicle owner of federal and state constitutional rights of due process.

    "The City of Davenport does not possess the authority to diminish the protections that would be available to the defendant had he been prosecuted under a state statute covering the same subject," Mr. McCarthy's court brief states.

    Judge Williamson wrote there is case law that shows cities enforcing municipal infractions, such as speeding, is not prohibited by the Iowa constitution. He denied Mr. Seymour's motion to dismiss the charges and ordered him to pay his $125 ticket.


    Mr. Seymour argued his due process was diminished because it is up to the defendant to prove he or she was not the driver of a ticketed vehicle. The judge ruled Mr. Seymour "misses the point" and that the city still must prove a violation occurred and the vehicle was registered to the person who got the ticket.

    Judge Williamson's ruling continued on to address Mr. Seymour's argument that the traffic enforcement cameras relinquish authority from the police regarding the fines. The traffic cameras aren't city property, but leased from Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., of Scottsdale, Ariz., and are paid for using proceeds from fines.

    The judge ruled that because an officer reviews, signs and files each ticket, the ordinance doesn't conflict with case law preventing police authority from being delegated to private companies.

    Chris Jackson, a city attorney handling the case, said when creating the ordinance Davenport's legal department anticipated challenges like this. The ruling "really only applies to Mr. Seymour," Mr. Jackson said. "If this thing goes to the U.S. Supreme Court, this becomes precedent."

    July 17, 2006

    It's getting hot in here

    Everything that's pink and lighter on this map represents high temps in the upper 90's and over 100 degrees. A good chunk of the middle portion of the country are recording temps over 100 degrees.

    And what's more, it's not just a regional hot spot, the entire country is experiencing temperatures 10 to 25 degrees above historical norms.

    But as we know from Republicans, this is all no big deal, and the weather that gets more extreme every year has nothing to do with global warming.

    God help us

    I found one of my favorite TV moments on YouTube.

    Steven Colbert interviews Representative Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA), who sponsered a bill to display the 10 Commandments in Congress.

    It's truly a beautiful thing.

    Click the play button in the middle of the clip to view. (you might have to click it twice)

    And here's a John Stewart clip dealing with our senior senators. Egads.

    By the way, YouTube now opens up the blog to my posting videos, which may prove interesting.

    And of course, if any readers have any video clips of interest, let me know. I'll let you know how to upload them so they can appear here.

    And I think we all should take a moment to relive Fearless Leader's stirring State of the Union speech of last year.

    July 15, 2006

    Which of these things are not like the others

    Illinois Congressional Districts as they stood in 1951

    In 1961...

    ... and in 2002 all hell breaks loose.
    The districts bust out of county boundaries and start leaking and snaking all over.

    Which leads to....

    Thanks to commenter "Nicodemus" for sending along the historical maps.

    Got any ripe tomatoes?

    Bettendorf lawyer Brian Kennedy in as Frist's Iowa PAC.
    Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., has hired a Bettendorf lawyer to chair his political action committee’s Iowa efforts.

    Brian Kennedy, who lost a bid for the Republican nomination in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District last month, will head the Volunteer PAC’s Iowa arm. The PAC announced the appointment on Thursday.

    Kennedy also said Thursday that Frist will be in Davenport on July 29, when he plans to run the Quad-City Times Bix 7 then campaign for Iowa Statehouse candidate Roby Smith and 1st District congressional candidate Mike Whalen.
    I'm taking bets on whether Frist will run the entire course. Any takers?

    How much further than the top of Brady will Frist run? Or will he pull a Rosie Ruiz and run the first mile or so, then hop in a car and get out to run across the finish line? Or will he complete the entire race, even if it's in the 90's with stiffling humidity?

    July 14, 2006

    River City Reader's McGreevy to commercialize Moline garbage trucks

    Long time publisher of The River Cities Reader and promoter of the arts in the area, Todd McGreevy has apparently branched out into the advertising game. His media and marketing company "Admospheres" has landed a contract with the city of Moline to turn their new fleet of robotic arm garbage trucks into rolling billboards.

    The QC Times is positively excited about the idea of ads on garbage trucks. An opinion piece in that paper reads as if McGreevy had written it himself:
    Moline aldermen this week moved ahead with a novel idea to wrap their new automated garbage trucks with the colorful, eye-catching advertising we’ve seen around here on MetroLink and CitiBus vehicles.

    Moline fleet manager J.D. Schulte estimates the new garbage truck deal will net $12,000 to $15,000 annually from its contract with Admospheres. Admospheres president Todd McGreevy expects to sign his first client to the garbage truck ads by summer’s end.

    We’re impressed Moline took the plunge on their five new automated garbage trucks. We’ll be interested to see if it can generate enough money, as Schulte hopes, to cover tires, oil changes and other maintenance on the trucks. In a community loaded with new automated garbage trucks (Davenport, Rock Island and Bettendorf) we hope others are watching, too.


    I wish I could take credit for the above shot, but it was captured by the lovely and talented Dopette, official gardener of The Inside Dope.

    Her hard work and skill provides a lot of great subject matter (only exceeded by the Dopette herself) and it seems that every day something else is blooming.

    Her garden attracts a lot of butterflies (such as the pictured Western Tiger Swallowtail) as well as a few hummingbirds. (the walking stick hasn't made a repeat appearance this year, alas.)

    Continuing the cavalcade of lilies, here's some shots of a couple more varieties. (and typically, I'm not sure what they are.)

    Will Reynolds fundraiser

    Readers in the Springfield area, come on down.
    Pizza Buffet fundraiser for Sangamon County Board Candidate Will Reynolds

    Bernie & Betty's Pizza
    1101 Spring St, (On the corner of Spring and Allen)
    Thursday, August 3rd. 5pm-7pm.
    $20 per person. $200 per sponsor.

    I hope you'll be able to attend! You can pay at the door or send money in advance to:

    Will Reynolds
    P.O. Box 13341
    Springfield, IL 62791

    Make checks payable to Citizens for Will Reynolds

    July 13, 2006

    For candidate Beals, running mouth = jacked jaw

    That seems to be the equation applying to the incident at a Moline bar which resulted in Republican candidate for 36th District state senator Jim Beals' broken jaw.

    As usual, John Beydler has done the real work and gotten access to records pertaining to the lawsuit Beals filed against both the guy who punched him AND the bar where it occured. The details indicate that it was Beals crowing about beating some guy at darts that inspired said guy to rearange Beals' face.

    I find it surprising that someone running for office would be trying to get money out of a bar owner for simply allowing someone who had been drinking to be in a bar.

    I know it's shocking, but sometimes there's drunk people in bars. And sometimes they're cocky jerks.

    Silence of the Clams

    The catch of the day

    My fishin' buddy has a knack for catching clams. (More likely mussels. There are 49 species of mussel in the Mississippi, but only four species of clam.)

    While this doesn't seem like much, it makes him as happy as... well... a clam. (Not sure how the clams feels about it. They were pretty tight lipped.)

    Any time we're able to pull at least some sort of critter out of the water, no matter how big or small, it's all good.

    How he manages to catch these clams is a mystery. My best guess is that the clams are doing their clam thing on the bottom with their shells partially open, and he manages to drag his hook across them and the clam, annoyed, clamps down on the hook and it gets snagged.

    In my years of fishing around here, I've caught eels (twice), sturgeon, bowfin, gar, snapping turtles, and every sort of odd creature you could imagine, but never a clam.

    The first lunker clam my pal caught was in Sylvan slough a few years ago. He was ecstatic and wanted to keep it as a pet. I debated, not sure whether the clam would chew the furniture or be easily house broken. I finally decided to compromise and at least take it home so he could show it off. Then, I figured, I'd return the clam to whence he came.

    This wasn't a great idea.

    I emptied the cooler and filled it with some yummy slough water for the clam, not easy with a steep rock bank, and we fished for perhaps another half hour before eventually leaving for home.

    I was a bit worried about the health of the clam, as the day was hot, and on the way home, I thought better of the idea and decided to stop off behind the Moline water works where I knew there was a clam bed. I thought we could put him in the water there and observe it, see if it opened up or showed any signs of life. Maybe it would at least revive the clam enough to take it back to it's home.

    We watched it for a long time. Nothing. Two of us crouched on the river's edge staring at a motionless clam for about a half hour. Concern mounted.

    I tried to say hopeful things to my buddy to ease his (our) concerns, but I harbored doubts. Surely after this amount of time, it would have opened up at least a little.

    I felt very bad about it, and not knowing exactly what to do, I gently convinced the clam hunter that we should leave the clam there. I told him that the clam was probably alright, though I wasn't too sure.

    I once caught a catfish, wrapped it in some newspapers and put it in my trunk where it stayed in probably 100 degree plus temperatures for several hours. This was back when I actually cleaned, prepared, and ate some of my catch, which I no longer do. (strictly catch and release) When I finally got home to my then apartment, I hauled it in and prepared to clean it. And the thing was STILL alive and kicking. (well, flopping)

    Clams aren't like that I found.

    So I took my buddy home. We told the story of the amazing clam he'd caught in breathless tones, and relived the excitement. But the clam was weighing on my mind.

    After going home and taking care of some things, I got online and did some research. I knew that clams were protected, and I found out that if you take a clam, you should return them to the spot you found it. Different species of clams establish beds over several years, and introducing other species can upset the balance of things.

    I read more about how dredging, agricultural runoff, barge traffic, and other factors are posing severe threats to mussels. They are truly the canary in the coal mine for river health.

    But despite all these threats, they've hung on, though in dramatically smaller numbers and only attaining a fraction of the size they used to. But now, the invasive Zebra Mussel threatens to wipe them out entirely.

    The mussel we caught yesterday had many of them attached to it's shell, which I removed before returning it to the water. The Zebra mussel is an enormous threat to midwest rivers and apparently has escaped the notice of our environmentalist state senator, perhaps because it's such a difficult problem and there's no money to be made in trying to eradicate it.

    So after reading up on the issue, I couldn't take it anymore. I had to go check on the clam and at least return it to the spot where we'd caught it.

    It was now after midnight. But I got up, drove down behind the waterworks, hoping maybe the clam had revived and moved off, but not too confident that was the case. With a flashlight, I eventually found it in the water where we'd left it. I put it in the cooler in some fresh river water, and loaded the thing gently in the car.

    I drove back to the Sylvan slough, which those familiar with that area know is a pretty remote spot in an industrial no-man's zone. At night, it's very spooky, to put it mildly.

    But I got out and walked onto the ancient iron bridge over the rushing water of the slough which is the only access to the island. While on the bridge, I noticed the glow of a fire by the side of the river up the channel near my destination. I hoped that whoever was there wasn't some gang of crack addicts who would look upon someone like me stumbling up on them as a gift from God.

    I continued onto the darkened island which over the years has been the home of vagrants, drunks, gangs, and on which more than one body has been found.

    It's been improved in the last few years, with widened paths, fishing platforms, and other very nice improvements. But it's still damn spooky in the middle of the night.
    The bottom line is that there's no one there to help, if you were attacked or severely injured, you'd have a loooong way to go to even get off the island, no one would even hear you if you screamed or yelled, and if you couldn't move, no one might find you for days.

    With all this in the back of my mind, I walked up the path flanked by tall weeds and a steep bluff leading down to rushing water on one side, and dark tangled woods laced with paths on the other, and I'll tell you, I was, shall we say, ON EDGE. A snap of a twig would have given me a heart attack. It was just plain scary. And I had about two hundred yards to go to get to the place we'd gotten the clam. And who knew who was up there? But I was on a mission, damn it.

    I kept going, carrying the cooler and trying to convince myself that I could deal with whatever I might come upon.

    I got to the area with only a couple jumpy moments, and didn't see anyone around the fire. This was good and bad. At least if they were there, I could keep an eye on them. I didn't know if they were in the dark around there watching me or what. Had they left with the fire still going? Where were they? (I never did see anyone)

    I went out on the fishing platform where we'd caught the clam, opened the cooler, fished out the clam, which had likely gone to the big clam bed in the sky by this time, and tossed it back into the slough. Then I hoped that I didn't see anyone standing there when I turned back around.

    I didn't.

    I squared my shoulders and just --- kept ---- walking. I couldn't help but steal a few glances back over my shoulder as I made my way back to the bridge, but thankfully, I couldn't see anything in the gloom.

    I resisted the impulse to run the last distance to the car, calmly unlocked the door, and got in. But boy, I never felt such relief as when I finally locked the door behind me.

    But at least I knew that the clam was where it was supposed to be. Aside from it having apparently joined the choir eternal, things were put right.

    We didn't make the same mistake with the clam yesterday, and quickly returned it to the water. Good thing, as it looks like it may have been a Higgin's Eye, which is a federally endangered species and threatened with extinction. (more here)

    The moral of the story? Don't take clams out of the water for long on a hot day. They'll die.

    And don't go out on Sylvan Island in the middle of the night by yourself.

    You might run into some crazy person carrying a clam in a cooler.

    July 12, 2006

    Blogs as fundraising sources

    Just happened to notice this in the sidebar at the very popular Eschaton blog.

    It's a list of candidates and the donations received by each through this one blog alone through the end of June.

    Eschaton Approved Candidates
    Fundraising totals as of 6/27:

    Lois Murphy $15422
    Joe Sestak $3622
    Ned Lamont $29579
    Patrick Murphy $9903
    Louise Slaughter $6172
    Nick Lampson $1488
    Chris Carney $697
    Jon Tester $456

    I'm not aware of how long Atrios has been calling for donations to these candidates. For instance, he may have added some to the list only recently.

    A couple grumpy commenters here have made it a point to sneer at and dismiss online fundraising in general, and the use of blogs to generate support specifically.

    Though admittedly, Eschaton is one of the most popular progressive blogs, is national in scope, and has a readership which dwarfs most blogs, (it probably gets more visits per day than this blog gets in almost a year) $67,339.00 raised from readers of a single blog over a few months isn't anything to sneeze at.

    I'm not sure how representitive this is or what it suggests, but it's one example which shows that attracting financial support online isn't a myth.

    Even adjusting downward in scale, it would suggest that campaigns attracting and enlisting the support of bloggers and their readers could be worthwhile.

    July 11, 2006

    Gee, I wonder if there's much interest in the Reynold's case?

    traffic data from the past two days

    Ill be damned. The blog must have suddenly gotten the attention it deserves. (cough)

    The fact is that the huge spike is due solely to people from around the world searching on "sarah kolb" or "adrianne reynolds". This happened once before after the Kolb trial verdict.

    And here's a very partial list of the location of visitors who got here searching on "sarah kolb" or "adrianne reynolds" during about a 6 minute period this morning. I finally got tired and gave up writing them down.

    A large number seemed to be from either college computer systems, lots of law firms, or media/communication companies, to no surprise.

    Jersey City, NJ
    St. Joseph, MI
    Wolfeboro, NH
    Ft. Lauderdale, FL
    Knight Capital, Staten Island, NY
    Baker, Botts, Houston (James Baker's firm)
    St. Anselm's College Manchester, NH
    Allstate Insurance, Northbrook, IL
    Army Corp of Engineers, League City, TX
    Salt Lake City ,UT
    Las Vegas, NV
    Baltimore, MD
    U of Texas, Austin, TX
    Nat'l Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD
    Alaska Dept. of Transportation and Public Facilities, Juneau, AK
    Rockland, WI
    Rock Hill, SC
    Pepperdine, Malibu, CA
    Iowa City
    Alpharetta, GA
    Motorola, Shaumburg, IL
    Bank of America, Concord, CA
    Muleshoe, TX
    Skadden, Arps (enormous corporate law firm), NY, NY
    Columbus, OH
    Jones, Day law firm, Cleveland, OH
    Bank of Marin, San Francisco, CA
    Fidelity Investments, Boston
    Export/Import Bank, Washington, DC
    Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
    UCLA, Las Angeles, CA
    Perot Government Services, Herndon, VA
    Army, Ft. Campbell, Clarksville, TN
    University of Kansas, Lawrence
    Connecticut State University, Hartford
    Standord University, Stanford, CA
    Hutchison School, Memphis, TN
    Toronto, Ontario
    Tucson Newspaper Group (looking for a photo of Kolb)
    Hill Air Force Base, UT
    Google Corporation, Mountain View, CA
    Science Applications International Corporation , San Diego, CA
    Foote, Cone & Belding Communications, NY, NY (looking for Reynolds picture)
    Caterpillar, Peoria, IL
    City of New York, Brooklyn, NY
    Tribune Company, Chicago
    West Palm Beach, FL

    Sen. Ted Stevens, net know-nothing

    Ted Stevens, (R-Alaska), in addition to being a sputtering loon most of the time and the king of pork spending, is the guy who has enormous power over the future of the internet and whether service providers (the corporations such as AT&T and Verizon who own the on-ramps to the information superhighway) are allowed to charge us to view popular sites which utilize a lot of bandwidth. (The "net neutrality" issue).

    If you've always thought the internet was a big truck (and who didn't?), you're wrong.

    Turns out it's a series of tangled up tubes.

    Listen, learn, and be inspired by Stevesn's firm grasp of internet technology. (and bust a move if ya want.)

    (thanks to Crooks & Liars)

    Support Judge Wright on the 19th

    Judge Vicki Wright of Whiteside County will be the honored guest at a
    fundraising reception to boost her 3rd Appellate District candidacy on
    Wednesday, July 19, from 5:00-7:00 p.m. at the home of Stewart Winstein (3535-
    24th Street in Rock Island). $50 is the fundraising reception ticket price.
    Questions? Call 309-786-8337.
    It is a fact that the right is, and has been, making an enormous and largely effective effort to fill court vacancies at all levels with judges who support their "values", "values" which often are unrecognizable to people with the quaint idea of the rights of individuals, privacy, the right to sue for redress of grievances, even if it's against a large corporation, and other basic premises of justice.

    They know that when the right wing congress enacts laws, the public's last recourse is to seek justice in the courts. When they have right wing judges in place there, they're ensured that their often anti-democratic and constitutionally questionable laws will be upheld. While they rail and whine about supposed "judicial activism", the fact remains that the right has mounted a huge and concerted campaign to ensure that they are the ones in place to practice just such activism.

    This effort has largely gone under the radar to most of the public, which makes it all the more crucial that candidates like Judge Vicki Wright get your support.

    The right is flush with money and anything you can see fit to donate would be welcomed by the Wright campaign. Please consider a donation in this crucial contest.

    Gregory gets 45 years for murder of Adrianne Reynolds

    The accomplice of Sarah Kolb in the murder and dismemberment of Adrianne Reynolds received 45 years in prison today.
    In a packed Rock Island County courtroom, Cory Gregory looked Adrianne Reynolds’ parents in the eye and said he was sorry for the 16-year-old’s murder. About 30 minutes later, he was given the maximum sentence of 45 years for his role in it.

    Trash talk

    A robo-truck feeding itself some delicious garbage

    Continuing with my strange interest in automated garbage collection.....

    The "Trash-zilla" trucks are on the streets of Moline. It's been two weeks since the city completed distribution of the new industrial strength cans. What's the verdict so far?

    I was surprised when I first saw how the robo-trucks lift the container.

    Since the cans have an indented slot running up the side which is supposed to face the truck, with a solid metal bar mounted across it near the top, I assumed that the trucks would have some sort of hook which would slide up the channel in the can, engage the bar, and lift it into the truck.

    Not so.

    The method doesn't even use the bar at all. Rather, a couple arms swing around the can, encircling it with spring tensioned reinforced rubber straps, much like some playground swings are made out of, and simply pinches the can as it lifts it up and over.

    I wouldn't stand in front of this thing unless you want a potentially lethal bear hug.

    I asked the driver if that wouldn't cause some problems in the case of a rainy day and too heavy cans. Wouldn't it be likely that some cans would simply slip out of the grasp of the arm?

    He said that they'd been warned that there indeed could be problems, especially on mornings when the cans could be covered in frost. He also pointed out the potential situation where the arm would be able to lift the can, but having it slip out and fall into the truck itself when it comes to a stop over the hopper.

    This of course would be big fun for the driver, who, I imagine, would have to somehow scale the truck, climb down into the slippery dump hole, and then somehow extricate the heavy can and himself. All without any assistance. (cost savings, ya know.)

    The primary reason given for automation and how it would save money was the large cost of workers compensation claims paid to "sanitation engineers". If the drivers have to be scaling the trucks and fishing cans out of the hopper on frosty or snowy mornings, I can imagine that they'll still be having quite a few claims.

    I've heard one report of a can which broke apart the first time it was picked up by the new truck.

    Many people now have to place their cans further away from their homes as well and others have had to change from leaving them in their alleys to placing them on the street in front. I'm sure that there's other special circumstances and problems as well.

    A source from the city told me that they plan to have a sort of utility truck on duty which will go around the entire city taking care of locations which the automated trucks simply can't service and using an add-on lift device which fits the old style trucks (and which uses the metal bar to hoist the can) or emptying them by hand.

    One positive bit of info I discovered was that while some garbage workers were reassigned and knocked down to janitors with a very steep cut in pay, none were fired outright. At least they're still employed.

    And evidently, I'm off the hook for my usual holiday gift of booze and/or monetary cheer for the hard working guys who used to brave the elements to remove life's excesses.

    Any reports from the field? Complaints? Cheers? Jeers?

    "An Inconvenient Truth" should be required viewing

    I recently caught Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" at the theatre in Moline, and it was the first time I'd ever gone to a theatre and paid $8.50 for a seminar.

    Not that it was boring or uninteresting, quite the contrary.

    The film intersperses a powerpoint presentation and lecture Al Gore has been giving for many years in efforts to get through to people about the threat global warming poses to the planet with a personal narrative.

    The movie switches back and forth between the presentation itself and Gore doing a voice over during shots of his travels giving the lecture, and film clips and images traceing his childhood spent between a hotel in D.C. and their Tennessee farm where they raised Black Angus cattle and tobacco, the death of his sister, a smoker, from lung cancer and how his father then quit growing tobacco, the near death of his young son after being struck by a car, to his first becoming aware of and educated about the problem of global warming by a professor in college and his efforts through his political career to try to gain attention and action on the problem. It even recounts in a montage the reprehensible actions which lead to Bush's annointment by the Surpreme Court in 2000 and it's effects on Gore at the time.

    One phrase from the movie jumped out at me.

    After recounting the devastation of the loss in 2000, the scene shows Gore in some hotel room hunched over his laptop in a pensive mood. The hushed and dramatic voice-over is Gore speaking of how he had to deal with the loss and figure out what to do next.

    After a dramatic pause, he says he decided to, "go back to doing the slide show".

    Something about that just struck me.

    I think whenever people find themselves in untenable, unworkable, or a just plain bad situation, pretty much flat on their asses, they should simply say, "Well, I think it's time to start giving the slide show again.", or simply, "Time for the slide show." I hope it catches on.

    At any rate, the movie was very good, well constructed and did not drag or bog down but moved along at a nice pace. And above all, it really presents a comprehensive, scientifically sound, yet easy to understand, overview of historical climate data, most importantly on the historic levels of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere gathered through analysis of arctic ice core samples which allow the analysis of air pockets in ice which represent the atmosphere going back hundreds of thosands of years, and the direct correlation between the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and historic temperature levels gleaned from the same sources.

    These graphs are alarming to say the least, with both showing dramatic spikes in recent decades which eclipse any in the recorded data, which goes back through several ice ages.

    The domino effects of global warming, which triggers melting of the ice caps, which changes ocean temperatures, which alter ocean currents which are the primary determinants of regional weather, which causes the increase in severe storms and hurricanes which we're already experienceing, which causes devastating shifts in weather patterns, increasing rain and flooding in some parts of the world, while causing massive droughts and the drying out of the soil and "dessertification" in other areas.

    And of course, if even a part of the arctic or Greenland ice shelfs melt, the resulting rise in sea levels would produce tens of millions of refugees and untold devastation.

    The evidence is stark and hard to dismiss and has withstood the obsessive efforts of those on the right to find any substantial error or contradictory data.

    While Gore has a natural drone, his narration and presentation isn't dry and boring, and importantly, he doesn't come across as overly preachy or strident.

    He even avoids opportunities to really lambast Bush for his administration's shameful neglect and the right's attempts to deny that the problem is established scientific fact, though he does allude to it briefly on a few occasions, and holds up those who attempt to dismiss the overwhelming scientific evidence to well deserved, but gentle, ridicule.

    One interesting section had Gore showing results of a survey of hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies to do with global warming and whether human activity was to blame. While I don't recall the precise numbers, it's safe to say that there were over 300 studies surveyed. Out of that number, exactly zero disagreed that global warming was a real phenomena and that man's activities were directly linked to it.

    Against that fact, he showed a chart showing the number of times pieces had been produced in the media on the subject. Again, the numbers were in the hundreds.

    Of all of these, over 50% contained the suggestion (promoted by polluters and others who want to muddy the issue) that there was no real concensus on the issue or the cause. In other words, over half of the stories in the press concerning global warming included the propaganda that opinion is evenly divided on the issue, even though that notion is utterly false. A stark reminder of how powerful corporate influence is over whether the public hears the truth or not.

    Evidence was presented showing how the U.S. is embarassingly behind other industrialized nations on many fronts, including of course, the Kyoto treaty. In fuel economy standards alone, we're at the bottom of the heap, even far below China.

    A bill was recently proposed which would have called for American fuel economy standards to gradually increase to the level that China's are today. (which are not even near the highest).

    Our auto corporations and others argued the laughable notion that this requirement would put such a huge burden on them that they simply could not compete. And it only called for them to raise standards to what China is doing today, and gave them 11 years in which to achieve it.

    Gore then showed a chart showing that Toyota, Honda, and others who have already risen to the challenge of increased efficiency have all prospered in recent years, while American automakers Ford and GM have suffered huge losses. He also made a strong case that meeting this challenge will produce economic growth and create new industries and jobs to replace any made obsolete by this necessary change.

    Nearly all of the facts, figures, and data presented in the film is sourced, though as always, the sources should be scrutinized. Some charts were presented in such a way as to exagerate differences, such as having the baseline be something other than zero. But I feel this was justified in this case by the fact that even small changes in the data result in enormous climactic change. If they had been shown with a baseline of zero, they would have appeared less significant, but the seriousness of the increases may have been lost.

    Though there's been predictable grousing on the right, it's been largely limited to ad hominem attacks on Gore, without any serious challenge to the scientific information presented in the film. And it's safe to assume that it was gone over frame by frame in an attempt to find ANYTHING which could be assailed or disproven.

    I truly think that everyone, not just liberals or Democrats, but those who consider themselves conservative or Republican, owes it to themselves and their children and grandchildren to at least go see the movie.

    As Gore points out more than once, this isn't a right/left, conservative/liberal issue, it's a MORAL issue, and it's imperitive that the county's will be brought to bear on the politicians who continue to dither and avoid serious action due to corporate influence and lack of popular pressure.

    This problem is real, has already gone far beyond the point where we as a country should have taken the lead in addressing it, and action needs to be taken to avoid truly devastating consequences on a global scale.

    Go see it if you haven't, and if you have, tell us what did you thought of it?

    "An Inconvenient Truth" is currently showing at the Great Escape theatre in Moline. Click for schedule.

    Visit the movie's website here.

    An (over dramatized) trailer can be viewed here.

    (For the irony files: The theatre's page contained a web ad for Metrobank with the slogan, "Standing the test of time..." Metrobank was bought out and became THE National Bank at the close of business last Friday.)