October 31, 2006

Thanks John

Oh boy. It's frenzy time, and like in 2004, John Kerry has managed to give the rabid right something to blow up into a huge tempest. And of course, the media is giving it all breathless attention.... "Could this hurt Democratic chances at the polls??????!!!! they ask in dramatic tones, as if they sincerely hope so.

I'll assume nearly all readers have already heard the remarks that Kerry made. They're being played every 10 seconds, so it would be hard to miss.

Kerry said, "You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

Kerry says he had merely "botched" a joke, and that he simply omitted the words, "just ask Bush", at the end of the sentence. His campaign released his prepared remarks which indeed read, "You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq. Just ask President Bush."

He strongly condemend any suggestion that he was insulting service men and women.

The right says it's a horrible, horrible insult to our troops (from a wounded and decorated war vet himself)

Kerry, unlike 2004, was out fighting back within hours, responding to demands tha the appologize, "The people who owe our troops an apology are George W. Bush and (Vice President) Dick Cheney who misled America into war," Kerry said, "I'm not going to be lectured by a stuffed-suit White House mouthpiece standing behind a podium [Tony Snow] or doughy (talk-show host) Rush Limbaugh. If anyone thinks a veteran would criticize the more than 140,000 heroes serving in Iraq -- and not the president who got us stuck there -- they're crazy."

At first hearing, I took his remarks to the students as alluding to the fact that the army depends on those with little education and primarily those from low income environments. As a matter of fact, it's a little reported fact that the military has been steadily LOWERING their standards for enlistment, accepting people with drug arrests and other blots on their records that they previously hadn't.

They're pretty hard up for bodies and will take what they can get.

But clearly it was, as Kerry said, a messed up joke. And for Bush to actually get on the stump and condemn Kerry for screwing up prepared remarks... well, that's the ultimate pot calling the kettle black. If ANYONE shouldn't criticize someone for mangling remarks, it's Bush.

Either way, Kerry has just handed the Repubs something they can run with which will knock the attention and coverage away from Dem momentum and Republican failures, and instead makes sure that a failed candidate from last time around is dominating the news. Not good. Not good at all.

What do you think about the dust up?

In a related bit of verbal fisticuffs, Dick "Dick" Cheney accused Charlie Rangle of not understanding how the economy works and wanting to raise everyone's taxes, and Charlie, bless his heart, called Dick Cheney a "a son of a bitch",
"He's such a real son of a bitch, he just enjoys a confrontation," Rangel fumed, describing himself as "warm and personable." Rangel said Cheney may need to go to "rehab" for "whatever personality deficit he may have suffered."

"When you have those sorts of problems, you're supposed to seek help," Rangel advised. "He ac- knowledged that he has problems with communication."

Asked whether he was resurrecting over-the-top charges he made last year that he believes Cheney is mentally ill, Rangel cracked, "I don't think he's shot anyone in the face lately, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt."

When asked about the remarks later, Rangel said,
"He is a son of a bitch, but I shouldn't have said it."

"I thought that he should be flattered, there's certainly no animosity in it," said Rangel, saying that he had been making an observation about Cheney. "Some people just have that as part of their personality."
How great is that?

And when Wolf Blitzer or others tries to suggest he should be ashamed, Rangle just gets a Mona Lisa grin on his face and says in his gravelly voice that after all, it was Cheney himself who, "invited Sen. Leahy to have sex with himself on the floor of the Senate." Boy... the next week should be interesting.

Betsy who?

Just happened to see this on Republican candidate for 71st district Rep Steve Haring's A-1 campaign finance disclosure form ($500+ 30 days prior to election) dated 10-19-06

I never knew you could get that kind of insurance. Doesn't say much for Betsy though.

(for the humor impaired, this is a "joke". No offense is meant to anyone by it. )

The Thicket and Hot Soup

Just got an e-mail informing the staff here at Inside Dope Industries that our humble blog has been added to the blogroll at "The Thicket", the blog of the National Conference of State Legislatures

This site is nirvana for those turned on by the inner workings of state legislatures and a policy wonk's dream. It's oriented towards legislators, their staff and other professionals but is a great resource for anyone interested in issues and politics at the state level.

"The Thicket" is described as "A Bipartisan Blog by and for Legislative Junkies" and it's truly a thicket of information. There's an amazing wealth of topics covering everything and anything to do with state legislatures and politics. Check it out.

Another site for political analysis is a venture launched by former Clinton press secretary Joe Lockhart and Bush stategist and PR guru (and former Dem) Mark McKinnon. The joint is called "Hot Soup" and is worth a look. It's a sort of blog on steroids, or as they're referred to, a "social networking" site with plenty of opportunity for interaction and feedback.

Both have been added to the blogroll in the sidebar for future reference.

October 30, 2006

Boland delivers $50,000 for Morrison parks & $100,000 for Fulton Fire Dept.

I checked in at Morrison Online as I do from time to time to see what sort of crime is plaguing the town, and found a piece on Rep. Mike Boland on their front page.

It seems Rep. Boland had just come up with $50,000 for development of a sports complex at the east end of Morrison, which happens to be one of my favorite towns.
Boland's award originates from Individual Legislative Initiative funding, which is grant money legislators receive to help local governments within their districts. This is the second $50,000 grant Boland has given Morrison earmarked for park development. He previously granted the city $50,000 for street and sidewalk repairs.
And The Clinton Herald has an account of Boland securing a $100,000 grant for the Fulton, IL Fire Dept.
It could be said that Christmas came early this year for the Fulton Fire Department.

The department on Thursday was the recipient of a $100,000 legislative grant that will be used by the department as it plans to either renovate its current station or build a new one.

"I am very proud to be here today, providing the funding for this much-needed construction for the Fulton Fire Protection District," said State Rep. Mike Boland, D-East Moline. "I understand that through the years the fire protection district has simply outgrown its current facility and now the need for more space to properly store firefighting equipment is critical. Fire protection is an important and essential service and it is very gratifying to do my part to help ensure that area residents continue to be well protected and served."

But back in Morrison, as expected, there continues to be a crime wave sweeping the town, as evidenced by the reports below, but the police are doubtless right on top of it.

On 10-16-06, at approximately 3:58pm, a representative of Ebenezer Reformed Church, 311 East Park Street, reported that a window on the parsonage garage had been broken some time during the previous weekend.

On 10-16-06, at approximately 5:00pm, Pamela S. Pickens reported that a Halloween decoration had been damaged the previous Saturday. The damage occurred in Picken's front yard at 501 West Winfield Street.

On 10-19-06, a representative of the City of Morrison reported that graffiti was painted on the water tower in Kelly Park on East High Street. It is believed the graffiti was painted some time on or about September 17.

Readers like Democratic chances

An Inside Dope web poll recently asked, "How will Democrats fare in November?"

A full 85% felt that they'd gain a majority in the House of Representatives, with 42% predicting they'd take the house only, and an optimistic 43% feeling that the Dems would replace the Republicans as the majority in both the House and Senate.

15% were of the opinion that the Republicans would hang on to control of both chambers.

The poll gathered 93 votes total.

The Dems need to score a net gain of 15 seats in the House and 6 seats in the Senate to gain majority.

News reports today say that Herr Rove has done all his heavy-duty number crunching and "Bush's Brain" thinks the Republicans will hang on to both houses. Is he just whistling past the graveyard?

Anyone out there adventurous enough to predict some numbers? In addition to which party will emerge in the majority of the House and Senate, how many seats do you predict a party will pick up or lose?

Wright campaign going strong into final stretch

Despite facing Rove-like tactics from heavily funded right-wing front groups, such as JUSTPAC and the "Illinois Civic Justice League" (weren't they a group of comic book super-heroes?) Judge Vicki Wright's campaign for 3rd District Appellate Judge continues to pick up endorsements and sticking to the high road.

JUSTPAC, the lobby wing of the ICJL, has contributed $152,270 alone to Powers campaign. That's a lot of dough. It's clear who "owns" Powers.

The ICJL is a group created by health care, insurance, and corporate interests to protect their interests against those who sue for justice and compensation against them. JUSTPAC is their arm created to install judges who will obstruct average people's ability to win judgements against these powerful groups for malpractice and negligence of various sorts.

A letter enorsing Wright appeared published recently in the QC Times as well.

The Wright campaign has been up with both a television ad stressing Wright's experience and judicial philosphy as well as a radio spot noting her opponent's reliance on groups which resort to negative tactics, including a juvenile website devoted solely to smearing and mocking their opponent.

The Wright campaign site features a long list of endorsements, including those from ALL major teachers associations in Illinois AFT, IFT, and IEA, a well as many glowing testimonials from those high and low who have had experience in her courtroom, and much more information.

October 29, 2006

Come back Mike, all is forgiven

Just when you thought it had hit rock bottom, the Rock Island County sheriff race has, amazingly enough, continued to devolve further into farce.

The latest, revealed a couple days ago, was candidate Mike Huff filing some sort of grievance with the county ethics panel about his opponent Kraig Schwigen's supposed use of county computers to do some sort of research which Huff maintains was for campaign purposes. The complaint was dismissed, with Huff threatening to continue to pursue it and file again.

Somewhere and somehow in all of this came the statement that Schwigen's wife was in fear of Huff due to the fact that he'd whipped out his gun and pointed it at fellow officers sometime in the past, thus leading to an inference that serves as a milestone in just how far out into the ozone this contest has spun, namely, that one candidate's wife supposedly fears that the other candidate might shoot her.

The race is clearly more the public playing out of some bitter private conflicts with little or nothing to do with improving the Sheriff's department nor about who would do the better job. That seems to be an afterthought.

It's truly like two guys showed up for a debate and instead started wrestling in the mud like a couple 8th graders. All the public can do is stand back and watch in disgust and disappointment.

I'd feel much safer if both candidates and especially those who have contributed their whacky and vicious bile in blog comments would seek employment in some other jurisdiction.

I suggested this situation cried out for a "none of the above" catagory in a comment (posted as "Ick") on The Passing Parade, and subsequently, John Beydler wrote a piece on the idea complete with examples from other jurisdictions which actually offer that option.

As a matter of fact, I think the ugly comments filling up his stories about the sheriff's race and the truly dismal choice of candidates voters face this time around has prompted Beydler to look into the Green party in search an alternative option. Can't say I can blame him.

And after that, the D/A echoed the suggestion in an editorial.

Boy, did Mike Grchan ever take some beatings from commenters here during the primary.

But right now, faced with the prospect of one or the other of these candidates wearing the big badge, I think most people would be more than pleased if they could have Grchan back.

Beyond that race, voters are faced with:

- An installed product of nepotism, another mundane business as usual machine candidate that's so set up, connected, massively funded, and locked in that he's nearly untouchable and is protected from ever facing any real competition in either primary or general in the foreseeable future or as long as his family and alies can control things.

- A Dem party who reached out about exactly 1/8 inch to find a less than inspiring candidate, and his opponent a vapid talking head front person who is an empty vessel into which is poured conflicting and incongruous positions which she, ironically due to her media background, has difficulty getting across. She's found herself on the wrong side of political history in the past, this time's no different.

- Massively funded campaigns in the 71st with a lot of the challenger's dough going towards an unprecedented full-out negative smear campaign against Mike Boland to the point where it not only sours people on Boland, but splatters back on Haring, a guy who'd like nothing more than if voters would ignore his positions and the fact that he'd be a rubber stamp for the failed Bush agenda and whose views are not shared by a majority of district voters.

- No contest in the 72nd. Ho Hum. Do we even have a congressman there? Haven't heard much.

Add to that mix a Governor who's shaky at best facing a shaky opponent and voters can't be blamed for firmly holding their noses when they vote, that is IF they vote at all. It's factors like those above that leads to increasing voter apathy at a moment when voter participation is most critical for anything to change.

This is why discussions of third parties pop up more and more as well.

It's hard not to look at the slate facing voters this time around and have a wistful feeling that we surely could do, almost have to do better.

At least one loyal reader has taken me to task for not writing more often about local politics. The reason is all of the above. It's simply boring in it's negativity and ugliness. Who needs it?

So for the most part, I'll let the local swine wallow in the muck and wait for something less than depressingly predictable to happen. Until then it's just an ugly game.

Until the election, there's really not much more to say.

Dispatch/Argus endorses Hare

Mr. Hare's critics charge that electing him is ensuring a continuation of the policies which have kept the area from growing. We, too, had worried that voters who tabbed Hare would get Lane II. But as we've gotten to know candidate Hare better, we've seen a refreshing focus on what's going on here at home and a pragmatic side that brings a welcome balance to the altruism he shares with one of the most liberal congressmen in Washington.


Jaw-dropping, utterly shameless Republican hypocrisy. Wait, is that even news anymore?

More news about God's Own Party.

This from Josh Micah Marshall's TPM is interesting.

A pity that this will likely never be picked up by the mainstream press. No one but you and a few hundred thousand others will likely ever know.

A gay prostitute with about 12 hours of journalistic experience from a ficticious press organization allowed into White House press conferences dozens of times under an alias to ask Bush softball questions.

Mark Foley hitting on teen-aged boys and Republican leadership knowing about it and doing nothing about it at all.

A "gay network" among Republican hill staffers.

All kinds of homoerotic torture scenes enacted in Iraq and Gitmo at the direction of the administration.

The head of the RNC widely accepted to be gay himself.

Karl Rove's adoptive father was openly gay in the later years of his life.

And a Republican party obsessed with scareing the gullible with the threat of a "gay agenda" which would destroy the very country itself and which threatens to (somehow) eliminate straight marriage completely. And a Republican party which has squandered untold millions and vital national attention at the expense of other issues crying out for attention on trying to control what gay people do in their private lives and preventing them from being just as miserable as married straights.

And some people still think that the evangelicals haven't been used like rented mules by this party to achieve and hold power? Useful idiots, I believe Stalin referred to groups like this as.


Guess it wasn't just me

One of the noticable goofs about the new Moline Library that I mentioned in a previous post was that the book return slots were apparently designed for only those driving Hummers, monster trucks, or semi tractors.

Just noticed this sign now posted at the return:
The alignment of the book return is currently under review with the contractors and architects. Thank you for your patience while we address this issue.

That's good. Considering that having the return slots nearly 5 ft up the wall probably wasn't a good idea. This is at or above roof level for most compact cars.

This mistake may have been due to the architect putting the slots at a reasonable height above grade level and no accounting for the fact that the street would be several inches below grade. The difference from architectural grade and the level of the pavement looks like about 9", which would be enough to put the slot out of reach to most vehicles.

I hope their "review" comes to the conclusion that it was an obvious design flaw and therefore should be corrected at the expense of the architect and/or contractor, whichever is found to be responsible.

October 27, 2006

Fair and balanced? Not even close.

It's been brought to my attention that Ed Tibbetts of the Quad City Times recently wrote a piece about a 527 group running ads in the area.

I posted a piece 12 days ago which cited a NY Times article and focused on the first such ads to appear in the area, a scurrilous attack ad on Democrat Bruce Braley accusing him of wanting to completely disarm service men and women, run by a 527 group with the stunningly hypocritical name "Americans for Honesty on Issues", noting that the group's leader had ties to Bush and Tom Delay, as well as Enron felon (well, until he died) Ken Lay. It noted that other such groups are funded and run by the same figures which ran the infamous swift boat lie campaign in '04.

Tibbetts apparently felt, rightly, that the groups behind such ads are of interest, as they do all they can to hide their funding and their political ties, at least some of them. They also are known for running particularly loathsome and distorting ads, ads which the candidate then can throw up their hands and disavow any responsiblility for, since they aren't directly produced by their campaigns. The fact that they're not closely coordinated is the lie that everyone maintains.

But the Times coverage is blatantly skewed and almost bizarre in it's one-sidedness.

The story first appeared under the headline, "Group with ties to Bill Clinton buying ad time for 1st District race."
A group started by a top Clinton administration official and other donors to Democratic causes has jumped into Iowa's 1st Congressional District race with both feet.

The September Fund has made a large purchase of television ad time in the district to run a commercial that is critical of President Bush and urges viewers to "vote for change."
The piece goes on to detail the ad, which shows voters asking questions of a bush, then saying they have about as good a chance of getting answers from that bush as they do from George W. Bush.

The Tibbetts piece first appeared Wednesday October 25th. This is notable because while the September Fund may have decided to "jump into the race" "with both feet", they'd done so two weeks before the QC Times noticed.

The ad had already been running in the area for at least 15 days. On October 12th, after seeing it run several times over the prior few days, I posted the September Fund's ad for readers to view.

Why is this now news to the Times? Perhaps it was on cable, and now is going to be on local outlets? Is that why they find it newsworthy two weeks after it went up? Who knows?

The Times piece was fleshed out and posted again yesterday. It discusses the money spent by both parties in the 1st District race on ads and even interviews figures from both the Braley and Whalen campaigns. But not a peep about Republican backed 527 groups or their ads.

Then clearly as an afterthought, someone tacked on the sentence,
"The only other outside group that has purchased major television time in the district is Americans for Honesty on Issues, which ran an ad criticizing Braley." to the very bottom of the article.

Out of a 511 word article, 26 words are devoted to the Republican 527 group ad that was not only on air first, but was clearly more negative, directly attacking Bruce Braley, and whose leader has clear ties to Bush, Delay, and Ken Lay.

This aferthought appears as the last sentence in the piece, and may only have been added as a response to at least one comment left on the Times site pointing out the glaring omission of ANY mention of Republican 527 groups and ads and calling attention to my previous post on such ads in the area.

That's it.

What I find objectionable is that Tibbetts wrote exclusively about "The September Fund", a 527 group headed by Harold Ickes, and it's supposed "ties to Bill Clinton", apparently based on the fact that Ickes was a member of the Clinton administation for a time. "Ties" personally between Clinton and Ickes are doubtful, as Ickes was a famously independent figure in the administration and often clashed with Clinton. Yet the fact he was in the administration for a time is apparently enough to attempt to give the impression that Clinton is behind the group somehow.

What Tibbetts and the Times utterly ignore is the fact that a Republican 527 was up with a FAR more negative attack ad SPECIFICALLY targeting and distorting Democrat Braley's record, several days BEFORE the September Fund ad was run, an ad which didn't mention any candidate at all, and that the person heading the Republican group had worked for both disgraced and indicted former Republican congressman Tom Delay and the late felon and Enron CEO Ken Lay as well as being a Bush fundraiser.

As the NY Times piece put it:
The leader of Americans for Honesty on Issues is Sue Walden, a close ally of Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader who left Congress amid questions on ethics and fund-raising. Ms. Walden has also raised money for President Bush and served as an adviser to Kenneth L. Lay, the former chief executive of Enron who died in July.

Aren't those facts kind of important if you have any interest in being non-partisan and fair?

This Republican front group, which had run negative ads in the 1st District race beginning weeks ago, are never mentioned throughout the piece until one lone sentence tacked on at the bottom.

While the September Fund's supposed "ties" to Bill Clinton were featured in the headline in the Times, the Republican group's leader's ties to Bush, Delay, and Lay are never mentioned.

The September Fund ad does not target any specific Republican candidate in this race at all, a very important distinction between them and the ads run by the Republican front group, which viciously attacked and distorted Braley's record. Yet Tibbets made it appear that it was clearly anti-Whalen. Huh?

Even I, who make no pretense of being non-partisan, mentioned both Republican and Demorcratic backed 527 groups in my piece, and the NY Times article linked to in my post discusses the major 527 groups from both parties. Yet the QC Times piece, in a supposedly objective newspaper, is stunningly lop-sided.

So what are Times readers left with from this article?

Unless readers spy the short sentence at the very bottom of the piece, they're left thinking that a Democratic 527 organization, with ties to Bill Clinton (horrors!) is surreptitiously running ads against Mike Whalen. (even though the ads neither mention Whalen or Braley AT ALL) And the Democrats are the only ones engaging in this practice.

Even if they do notice or comprehend the last sentence, they're not informed that several Republican groups take advantage of the same 527 rules, that the Swift Boat smear campaign was one of them, and that not only do such groups exist, but in fact, one has been actively running smear ads against Bruce Braley in the 1st District, and that it's leader, Sue Walden, has clear ties to Bush, Delay, and Enron's Ken Lay.

NONE of that is mentioned or explained. Is that balance?

So the Times:

- Comes out with a piece on a Democratic 527 ad at least 15 days after it had begun running in the area.

- Trumpets that the group has "ties to Clinton" based on the fact a leader of the group was once in the Clinton administration over a decade ago.

- Characterizes the ad as being against Whalen, even thought the ad in question DOESN'T MENTION either candidate at all and instead focuses on national issues and the Bush record. This in contrast to the Republican 527 group's ad which viciously distorts Braley's record and is extremely negative in specifically attacking Braley.

- Explains the structure and nature of 527 groups and their influence on campaigns in detail, WITHOUT mentioning a single such Republican group, or even that they exist, until...

- As an afterthought, in a short sentence tacked on at the very bottom of the piece, blandly notes that, A. The Republicans are engaged in exactly the same groups, without a word of explanation that B. The Republican group's ad is extremely negative and attacks the Dem candidate specifically, or C. The people behind that organization have ties to Delay, and Ken Lay. Nor are readers informed of the following bit of readily available info. As mentioned in the NY Times piece,
Among the most active Republican 527 groups is the Economic Freedom Fund, which was formed this year and received a $5 million contribution from Bob J. Perry, a major Bush donor and an underwriter of the Swift boat veterans group in 2004. The fund is running advertisements on behalf of Republican candidates in Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Oregon and West Virginia.
The utter lack of perspective and balance in the article may be due to editors of course, and Tibbetts is normally a fine writer and reporter who I don't believe is biased, so I'm really surprised by this shoddy piece. Should I be?

Thoughts on Bush's semantic games and the true scope of failure in Iraq

President Bush recently gave a typically garbled press conference where he read remarks designed to reassure us that he's not completely mad just yet, that he actually does know what's going on in Iraq despite constant rhetoric to the contrary.

He also strived to convince us that they're willing to change tactics as it's required in Iraq, and said that they'd be establishing "benchmarks" for the Iraqi government to achieve towards becoming an actual functioning government.

Key to this is the fact that we're not to use the term "stay the course" anymore.

I caught Zbigniew Brzezinski, I think on the McNeil/Leherer News Hour, and he provided some insight into what this will likely mean.

He noted, as have others, that setting "benchmarks" is exactly the same as establishing a timeline... an idea routinely scorned and villified by Bush and all the others as being nothing more than "cutting and running".

So Bush is now doing exactly the thing the Republicans have made a lynchpin of their camapain strategy, namely asserting that setting a timeline was a Democratic idea which was out of the question and would be utterly disasterous.
Now he's doing it himself. Can you say hubris?

The reason benchmarks = timelines is this...

The U.S. can lay out dozens of benchmarks or goals for the Iraqi government to meet. But without setting a date by which they have to be achieved and holding to them, it's utterly meaningless. So obviously, there would have to be a "timeline" as part of this.

So, the deadlines come and go, the Iraqi's may have met some of the goals, and will surely not meet others, perhaps some critical ones.

Then look for a Bush policy of "Cut and Blame".

They'll begin to withdraw, but will increasingly blame things on the failures of the very Iraqi government they've installed, as cover for getting the hell out of there without admitting any blame themselves.

Also of very great importance, but nearly completely overlooked is the fact that Bush by this speech, was dialing back expectations in a huge way.

Until now, the goal was freedom and democracy in Iraq. Remember all the stirring semi-coherant podium thumping speeches Bush has given about "Freedom on the March", and how our soldiers are being slaughtered in the name of setting up a glorious democratic presence in the region which would then spread across the middle east?

You couldn't miss it.

Well, you'd never know it, but apparently Democracy in Iraq has been kind of quietly abandoned, now replaced by "stability".

The situation has been allowed to deteriorate so completely, the effort has been so botched, that simply having anything other than utter anarchy is now our goal. Forget Democracy.

As many have said for years now, the chances of Iraq ending up as something other than a Islamic republic much like Iran are now slim and none.

This is important when reading the ongoing death tolls, some of the highest ever recently, and why these people are dying.

And included in the speech for the first time was the mention of oil as a factor in why we need to "stay the course".

It's long baffled and alarmed me the eerie way it seems to have been universally agreed upon among politicians, pundits, and the press that the oil is not to be mentioned or discussed as a motive in why we find ourselves in Iran.

Isn't this a massive state of denial in itself?

It became forbidden to even mention oil, much less the obvious fact that ignoring oil as a prime reason why Bush and Cheney, two solid oil industry guys, invaded a country which posed no threat to us in the first place is simply irresponsible.

To not acknowledg that oil was a large reason, if not THE reason why they seemed so excited and absolutely insistant that we invade a country which had little to do with terrorism and nothing to do with al Queda or 9-11 is simply bizarre.

In his rambling speech, Bush allowed as how, if we withdrew, it would allow these bad Muslim guys to take over Iraq's oil and use the billions to finance their efforts in other countries.

Yep. And they can thank you for that Georgie. You idiot.

This brings me to a point which is also not realized by the general public, but which is acknowledged by foreign policy experts across the political spectrum and which has been mentioned for many months now.

Who has the invasion of Iraq benefitted?

The U.S.? Guess again.

Britain? Nope, though both were absolutely drooling at the prospect of carving up Iraq's oil after they were done being pelted with flowers from a grateful citizenry.

Democracy? Not a chance.

The two entities who have come out of this as big, big winners are....

al Quada and bin Laden

Bush has done everything according to plan. He's proven to millions of radical muslims that the U.S. is every bit as agressive, bloodthirsty, greedy to take their natural resources, and callous and anti-Islam as bin Laden every suggested in his inflamatory speeches.

bin Laden has lured a stupid U.S. administration into a situation where they're being bled white and becoming weaker by the day hemmoraging money and blood in a futile effort, and with Bush too stubborn, stupid, and arrogant to cut our losses and change course.

Bin Laden also couldn't have prayed to Allah for a more magnificently effective recruiting tool. Al Queda was a relatively small and minor split off of Islam, now millions and millions of young Muslims around the globe are drawn to the cause of defending the faith against Western agression. Way to go George. I'm sure old Osama would love to kiss you on the mouth.



Iran has been Iraq's blood enemy for decades. The war between the two, in which the U.S. actually sold arms to BOTH sides, but who officially sided with Sadaam, sending him the very biological weapons which Bush and others cited repeatedly (even as recently as this week) as a reason for taking out Sadaam. These are the very biological agents which Sadaam used on the Kurds.

The U.S.'s agent in charge of selling millions in deadly military equipment was none other than Don Rumsfeld.
Donald Rumsfeld greets Sadaam Hussein in 1983 while brokering an arms sale, including biological weapons, to "evil" himself.

Iraq keept Iran firmly in check at the border between the two, and prevented Iran, which is majority Sunni, from establishing a power center in combination with Sunni Syria.

Sadaam's regime was secular as opposed to Islamic republics around it. This is why Reagan supported him with hundreds of millions of military and other aid when he was at war with Iran, one of the bloodiest wars in history.

This is also why bin Laden and Sadaam were sworn enemies who would have killed each other gladly, NOT allies as the Bushies have consistently tried to convince the American public by outright lies.

Now, thanks to the ignorance and arrogance of the Bush administration, Iran is already in control of southern Iraq and has a large influence in the government in Bagdhad. They're in position to control most of Iraq completely in the future.

And Iran's power and influence in the middle east has grown exponentially since the invasion.

Thanks George, Osama and Iran offer their gratitude.

They couldn't have done it without you.

Why hasn't a Republican come up with this?

While watching the news yesterday, a story on the crisis in Iraq was run back to back with a poll asking people what ought to be done about what some feel is the crisis of illegal immigration.

This suggested an idea to me which would be a perfect idea for a Republican to propose, as it makes sense at first glance, but a little more thought would show that it's probably unconstitutional and raises all sorts of civil rights questions.

First of all, the situation in Iraq.

It seems to me that one reason it's been such a failure and we continue to lose the effort in a big way is due to the White House and Rumsfeld and their little gang of neo-con ideologues (who've long ago flown the coop), in almost total ignorance of the history and reality on the ground there, decided that they could invade Iraq and topple Sadaam and it would almost turn into a Democracy on it's own. It's as if they thought they were playing a game of Stratego.

All they'd have to do is send a bunch of young right wingers in to establish a country in their image, more concerned with how to establish a flat tax system in Iraq than how to stop looting or secure the government, which they indeed actually did.

So now it seems we're stuck with two equally dangerous and unpleasant choices.

Either make a concerted and time certain effort to withdraw U.S. troops from the country, and just stand back and watch the fun as Iraq dissolves into a satellite state of Iran, etc.

Or send in several hundred thousand more troops, the troop level which was called for to begin with, or even the troop level used in the first Gulf war (half a million) and throw everything we have into stablizing the country and establishing a stable government. Since our military is stretched to the breaking point, this might even require a draft.

So, in light of the second option, or the likelihood that we'll be there for decades at least, and the fact that there's millions of illegal immigrants in the country which can't be deported due to their sheer numbers,(you can see this coming) then why not institute a program where, in exchange for military service, illegals can gain citizenship?

It should be noted that apparently many non-citizen immegrants have and do serve in the military, serving a country that doesn't even offer them the benefits of citizenship.

Of course, this raises problems of forced service, a unacceptible requirement for citizenship, and likely dozens of other valid concerns which would make it impossible or not desirable.

But it would serve to aclimate illegals, teach them marketable skills, (though knowing how to efficiently kill other human beings has limited appeal in the job market) and even provide schooling and prepare them for citizenship.

But given that it's so obvious and a quick, band-aid solution which would appeal to those who don't make it a habit to worry about such things as immigrants rights, I'm surprised some Republican hasn't been trying to use it as an issue.

October 25, 2006

In a White House which leads by slogans, a change in course.

Maureen Dowd, or MoDo to the tragically hip, writes in today's NYTimes:
Things have become so dire for the Republicans that now even Bush is distancing himself from Bush.

The president is cutting and running from the president.

In a momentous event at the White House on Monday, Tony Snow made a major announcement about an important new strategy for Iraq. The president will no longer stay the course on the rallying cry "stay the course."

A presidency built on message discipline (Message: "Stay the course") is trying to salvage itself with some last-minute un-messaging (Message: "No more stay the course").

Of course, the administration has never really said what "the course" is, so it was never really apparent what "staying" it meant, anyhow.
In a White House with a Fox News all-spin sensibility, officials don’t think they need to change the strategy as much as they need to change their slogan.
Unwilling to admit mistakes or face the urgent need to go past semantic changes in a protectorate that has fallen into a vicious civil war, in which Americans are merely referees and targets, the White House is falling back on marketing. Just as Andy Card rolled out the war as a marketing event, the Bush team now thinks that all it needs to do is come up with a catchy and chesty new advertising pitch.
The Bushes don’t connect words with action. Action is something that’s secretly plotted with the inner circle behind closed doors. The public should stay out of it. The Bushes just connect words with salesmanship. Poppy Bush never meant it when he said “Read my lips: no new taxes” at the 1988 convention. It was just a Clint Eastwood-sounding line in a Peggy Noonan speech, meant to pump up his flighty image.

Just so, his son never paid any mind to his campaign promise not to nation-build, and he didn’t come through on his bullhorn pledge to catch the perpetrators of 9/11 or his tough-guy vow to bring in Osama dead or alive.

To W., the words he says to Americans don’t matter as much as the words Dick Cheney says to him. He just has to hope that daddy’s friend, James Baker, the smooth fixer who is co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group and who has already suggested moving past the meaningless partisan jargon of “cut and run” and “stay the course,” comes up with a plan to rescue Junior from a fine mess one more time.
More here.. (subscription required)

Bush has been thumping the podium, leaning over and jutting his chin out and saying that the solution is to stay the course up until just yesterday. He's also become fond of bobbing his head over the podium and accusing Dems of wanting a timetable for withdrawal and saying that was clearly nothing but "cut and run".

Well, in an administration which clearly thinks it's more important to churn out ad slogans as a substitute for actual policy, let alone results, Bush has now performed a whopping example of what his own party would call a flip-flop of major proportions. (Or are they hypocrites? Nah..)

Bush stated, "...listen, we've never been 'stay the course'", a blatant lie backed up by some outlets showing edited tapes showing him saying it dozens of times.

Tony Snow said they weren't using the term anymore because it didn't reflect the "dynamic" nature of their strategy in Iraq. Uh. OK.

If that's a bit confusing, let's allow the commander in chief to clear it up for us.
"The characterization of, you know, 'It's 'stay the course' is about a quarter right," he said. "'Stay the course' means keep doing what you're doing. My attitude is: Don't do what you're doing if it's not working -- change. 'Stay the course' also means don't leave before the job is done."
There, that should clear it all up.

CBS's Dick Myers notes that Bush is giving doublespeak a bad name.
The most effective and common type of Democratic advertising has shown bloody pictures, body counts and ominous music over sound bites of the president saying "stay the course' and the candidate saying, no, we need a new course, a new direction.

"Stay the course" became a negative that implied an ostrich-like imperviousness to reality. But the president and his marketing team didn't just dump the slogan; they denied the slogan ever existed.

Because not staying the course with "stay the course" would mean you're a cut and runner. Americans aren't cut and run guys. Cut and run guys aren't resolve guys and the president is a resolve guy.

The audaciousness of this is offensive. Actually, it's insulting.
And after rolling out a full-scale tub-thumping campaign to tar the Dems as "cut and runners" for even entertaining the idea of some sort of phased withrawal on a timetable, the Pentagon now says that they're going to look into establishing a timetable for creating a blueprint for a timeline for planning a withdrawal from Iraq... or something that sounds an awful like what Bush and his lackeys have been assuring us was "cut and run".

So now that "Stay the course" is no longer "operational", as they say, what should replace it?

Cut and stay?

Duck and cover?

Stay and pray?

Bush says he uses "the Google" on "the internets"

Having previously refered to rumors appearing on "the internets", Bush was asked if he ever used Google by CNBC's Maria Bartiromo during an interview. He said he sometimes used GoogleMaps to check out his stage-set "ranch" outside Waco.

Here's the satellite view or the "ranch" he referred to.

October 24, 2006

Top Moline cop says he needs more officers, city flirts with curb-side recycling

Not only myself, but several aquaintences have mentioned how it seems that the city of Moline is crawling with police, much more than other towns in the area. So it was a bit surprising to read that the department is requesting the hiring of six new officers at an initial cost of nearly a half million dollars.
According to council documents, the department needs six new officers for the operations division, a predatory sex crimes investigator, a sergeant to be in charge of professional standards administration, and an evidence and court coordination officer.
The Moline council also heard that the automated garbage program is going well, and showed a willingness to at least investigate curbside recycling.
Public works director Mike Waldron is scheduled to give a report on curbside recycling and automated waste pick-up which he said is going very well.
Aldermen asked staff to review curbside recycling options and according to Mr. Waldron, the cost of curbside recycling would depend on what kind of carts or bins are used and if it is done in-house or contracted out.

According to council documents, staff is recommending that any curbside program be self-supporting and a recycling fee be implemented to cover any costs. To figure out what those costs would be, staff wants permission to ask for proposals from outside companies for curbside pick-up on a weekly, bi-weekly and/or monthly curbside recycling program.

Mr. Waldron said Rock Island has shown some interest in finding out the costs of curbside recycling, too, and the two cities may ask for combined requests for proposals to see if there are any economies of scale.

October 23, 2006

At last, a Fantasy League for wonks and hacks

Perhaps it was inevitable, after all, politics has devolved into a sport in many respects, but now a few college guys in California have made it a reality.

For those people who have zero interest in memorizing football stats and find their coworkers and friends talk about sports to be mind-numbing, there's a new game in town.

From the NY Times:
... policy buffs have an outlet for their competitive urges. Fantasy Congress, a Web site created by four students at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California, made its debut three weeks ago. Through word of mouth and blog entries, it has attracted nearly 600 participants from states including Texas and Florida, from as far away as Denmark and, of course, from the Beltway.

For those who have no idea how many yards Peyton Manning threw for on Sunday but can cite every legislative amendment proposed by Senator Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, the game could be an alternative to the prevailing fantasy sports culture.
Just as in fantasy football or baseball, each player picks a team — in this case, 4 senators and 12 House members of varying seniority levels — and competes with other players in a league typically managed by a friend or a co-worker. Members determine whether to play for money or the thrill of victory. But that is where the similarities end.

On the Fantasy Congress Web site, www.fantasycongress.us, leagues have names like "We the Peeps" and "Foley4Prez," in addition to the usual school and workplace affiliations.

Players accumulate points as the legislators they have chosen go about their business on Capitol Hill. A House member or senator earns five points for introducing a bill or an amendment, and more points for negotiating successfully each step in the legislative process.

Players can change their team members once a week, so if a scandal-plagued lawmaker resigns there is an opportunity to pick someone new. As of now, legislators can be on multiple teams within a league, but the site’s creators plan to introduce an exclusivity rule that would limit a legislator to playing for only one team.

A list updated daily on the Web site shows the cumulative point rankings of each legislator. Representative Don Young, Republican of Alaska and chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is first in the House with 1,905 points. Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, leads the Senate with 1,991 points.
The Web site’s creators say they plan to add other ways to earn points, like floor speeches and news media references, but for now, the bill-based system is the sole measure of legislative productivity, making for a range of team-picking strategies.
One of the founders of the fantasy congress site is Andrew Lee...
Mr. Lee is also a Denver Broncos fan and has dabbled in fantasy baseball. In his dorm room, a poster of Jake Plummer, the Broncos’ quarterback, hangs across from legislators-in-action photographs from Congressional Quarterly.

One day during his freshman year, Mr. Lee was watching CNN while his roommate exulted over the results of a fantasy football team. He thought, Why not devise a similar game that would pit government aficionados against one another?

He hopes that Fantasy Congress, in addition to being fun, will teach people about their representatives and the legislative process.
If the ins and outs of Congressional business are unlikely to have the hold on the imagination that E.R.A.’s and R.B.I. do, turning those maneuverings into a game may win a few converts to the geek side.

"Everyone knows about football, but more people need to know about Congress," Mr. Lee said. "If as many people knew about Congress as knew about football, baseball and basketball, we’d all be more educated."
Hard to argue with that.

Crystal Ball time again

It's been some time... since Labor Day actually, since before the campaigns cranked up in earnest, since I've asked you to offer your learned predictions on state and local races.

Well, now the races are in full swing, the media campaigns have been rolled out, the local hacks are flinging feces in all directions, and we're firmly in the middle of silly season.

Issues? Well, Zinga and Hare are valiantly discussing them. Boland tried to, but Haring went straight to the politics of personal destruction and distortion, and whatever his views are seem lost in the shuffle. But the Republicans from outside the area who are running campaigns are still banking that the "go negative early and often" strategy which has been the bedrock of Republican victories for so long will still come through for them.

The Jacobs/Beals race isn't even worth mentioning. Sen. Mike gets a pass again.

Everyone is waiting for the shoe to drop in investigations around Blagojevich, but short of some bombshell revelations, he seems to have the race sewn up.

So... dust off your balls and offer your prognostications on local and statewide elections and what will be the final score on November 3rd.

Pick your races and tell us who will win and by what percentage.

And remember, we'll go back after election day and take a look at who is the best analyst in all the land.

October 22, 2006

Yes Virginia, the Democrats have a Plan

"The secret to a Democratic victory isn't reframing issues, it's offering new ideas that work. Here's the plan..."

That's the teaser for "Breaking out of the Frame Game", an excerpt from "The Plan: Big Ideas for America", a book by Rahm Emanuel & Bruce Reed.

The piece appears in the latest issue of the Democratic Leadership Council's online magazine "Blueprint", which is brimming with new and forward looking ideas from Democratic leaders, ideas which routinely are ignored by the press and which the right pretend don't exist.

From the excerpt:
The Bush White House was so obsessed with how to profit politically from its agenda that it never even asked whether its policies would actually work. It should come as no surprise that they didn't.

President Bush served as Hack-in-Chief even when he studiously pretended not to be doing so. He came into office promising to be a compassionate conservative, soon left us yearning for a competent conservative, and seems destined to be remembered for presiding over the heyday of the corrupt conservative.

Republicans have learned the hard way that the American people are a lot smarter than either the Hacks or the Wonks imagine. For all the talk in both parties about the urgent need to win one constituency or another, most Americans apply the same political yardstick: They vote for what works. There aren't enough Hacks, even in Washington, to sell policies that don't work -- although that never stopped Bush from trying. (More here)

What's the DLC plan? Below is an outline of their policy goals for the future.

1. A New Social Contract: What You Can Do for Your Country, and What Your Country Can Do for You.
First, we need a new bargain between the people and their government, based on four new mutual obligations: universal citizen service, universal college access, universal retirement savings, and universal children's health care. The terms of this bargain may be new, but the bedrock principle is not: You do your part, and your government, your company, and your country will do theirs.

Universal Citizen Service. Citizenship is a responsibility, not an entitlement program. If your leaders aren't challenging you to do your part, they aren't doing theirs. We need a new patriotism that brings out the patriot in all of us by establishing, for the first time, an ethic of universal citizen service. All Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 should be asked to serve their country by going through three months of basic civil defense training and community service. This is not a draft -- nor is it military. Young people will be trained not as soldiers, but simply as citizens who understand their responsibilities in the event of natural disaster, epidemic, or terrorist attack. Universal citizen service will bring Americans of every background together to make America safer and more united in common national purpose.

Universal College Access. We must make a college degree as universal as a high school diploma. We have an education system built in the last century. In this new era, college will be the greatest engine of opportunity for our society and our economy. Just as Abraham Lincoln gave land grants to endow our great public universities, we should give the states tuition grants to make college free for those willing to work, serve, and excel. A College Tax Credit should replace the five major existing education tax incentives with a simple $3,000-a-year credit -- fully refundable and available for four years of college and two years of graduate school. It would help 6 million full-time students cover more than half the average cost of tuition at a public university.

Universal Retirement Savings. From now on, every job ought to come with a 401(k). An aging society cannot afford to keep saving less and risking more. We need new means to create wealth. Employers should be required to offer 401(k)'s, and workers will be enrolled unless they choose otherwise. If they switch jobs, they should be able to take their account with them. When their paycheck goes up, so should their savings. Instead of a workforce in which only half the workers have retirement savings plans, every American will have one.

Universal Children's Health Care. We need to cut the cost of health care so that every business can afford it, and every child in America at last can get it. We can save hundreds of billions by adopting electronic medical records, rewarding outcomes instead of procedures, providing incentives for personal responsibility, and starting a National Cure Center to cure chronic diseases. As we achieve those savings, we should use them to give small businesses access to the same health plans as members of Congress -- and to make sure all parents in America have the responsibility and the means to afford health insurance for their children.

2. Fiscal Responsibility and Ending Corporate Welfare.

We'll never build a new social contract if we don't repair the broken contract between the American people and their leaders. We can only achieve universal service, college, pensions, and children's health care if we're willing to cut and invest to pay for them. The place to start is by ending corporate welfare and the Hack-ridden government that fuels it.

One prominent Bush appointee allegedly threatened to fire a career government actuary if he told Congress how much the prescription drug bill would explode Medicare spending. Remember the good old days when Republicans went to jail for covering up burglaries and conducting covert wars against Communism? Now they're under investigation for covering up massive social spending. No wonder conservatives are unhappy. It's as if Oliver North were running a secret Head Start program in the White House basement.

3. Tax Reform to Help Those Who Aren't Wealthy Build Wealth.

Americans shouldn't have to start rich to get rich, and ordinary Americans shouldn't have to hire an accountant to get ahead. We propose a tax reform plan that makes sure no middle-class family with an income of under $100,000 will ever have to pay an effective income tax rate of more than 10 percent. Our plan cuts the number of tax brackets in half, closes dozens of loopholes by setting a corporate flat tax, and simplifies the tax code by offering four superincentives: a $3,000 refundable college tax credit, a universal mortgage deduction, a simplified family credit for families with children, and a universal pension that replaces the current hodgepodge of 16 existing IRA-type accounts.

4. A New Strategy to Win the War on Terror.

If Karl Rove could have had his way, Bush's re-election slogan would have been, "Four More Wars!" Rove invented a perpetual motion machine: Republicans fail on national security, which invites Democratic criticism, which lets Republicans attack Democrats for lack of resolve, which buys them more time to fail on national security.

We need a new strategy that uses all the tools of American power to make our country safe. America must lead the world's fight against the spread of evil and totalitarianism, but we must stop trying to win that battle on our own. We should reform and strengthen multilateral institutions for the 21st century, not walk away from them. We need to fortify the military's "thin green line" around the world by adding to the Special Forces and the Marines, and expanding the Army by 100,000 more troops. We should give all our troops a new G.I. Bill to come home to. Finally, we must protect the homeland and our civil liberties by creating a new domestic counterterrorism force like Britain's MI5.

5. A Hybrid Economy that Cuts America's Gasoline Use in Half.

When we were kids, we used to watch Shell gasoline ads of drivers on the Bonneville Salt Flats trying to prove that the company's "extra mileage ingredient" would squeeze out a few more yards per gallon. Today, we can achieve real breakthroughs. We can cut our use of gasoline in half over the next decade by accelerating energy research and by embracing a technology that already exists -- the plug-in hybrid, which in combination with alternative fuels has the potential to deliver 100 miles per gallon.

America should usher in the Hybrid Economy, a new era of energy efficiency and innovation that can save the auto industry and the planet at the same time. Instead of sending tens of billions a year to support corrupt regimes whose neglect and corruption keep terrorism alive, we can end our dependence on a dangerous region that harbors many who wish us great harm.

Great ideas? Good ideas? Lousy ideas? A winning plan?

When confronted with the undeniable reality that the Bush administration has been a miserable failure at nearly everything it's touched, right-wingers routinely respond like trained seals by, yep, you guessed it, pointing the finger of blame somewhere else, ignoring of course thatdoing so does absolutely NOTHING to excuse or explain their incompetence.

One of their constant refrains when their failures are brought up is the rather idiotic defense of pointing out, falsely, that Democrats "don't have a plan" for Iraq or other issues.

They're such good lemmings that it's been impossible to avoid hearing this nonsense almost daily.

Of course, it's not the job of the Democrats to pull the Republican government's ass out of the fire by telling them how to lead, how do their jobs, they ran saying they were the "grown-ups", remember? The CEO administration...the competent guys. What a joke!
And it's particularly ironic that they expect the Dems to tell them how to govern since the Republicans haven't listened to a word the Dems have said for years, which is a prime reason we're in this mess to begin with.

There have been many plans and options on all issues, including Iraq, put forward by Democrats, but of course, they were a bit more complex and reality-based than "Stay the course", so naturally the press didn't pay attention, and the public didn't have the attention span to listen to them anyway.

So here's yet one more "plan" from the Democrats.

What's do you think?

It looks pretty good to me, though I notice that they pull up short of advocating government funded healthcare for all children, saying instead they will "make sure all parents in America have the responsibility and the means to afford health insurance for their children", a worthy goal, how do they propose to achieve it?

Will it appeal to the public? What are the best points? The worst points? What do you like or dislike about it and why?

Let me hear ya

150,000 increasingly quiet visitors and counting.

Where'd they go, the dozens of witty, intelligent, and knowledgable commenters who regularly contributed and added their insight and personalities to this blog? Not that there aren't still many thoughful contributors, but in the first several months, there were quite a few.

Traffic numbers here are still strong and trending slightly upward, (averaging 3-400 readers a day), but the number of comments seems to be lagging.

Part of that is due to choice. I've simply stopped posting comments which contain unsubstantiated charges against one candidate or the other. That cuts down their number by a large degree, and allows me to enjoy their howls of "censorship" and suggetions that I should move to communist China.

But I'm talking about rational reasonable comments, irregardless of whether they happen to agree with my views or not.

There's many alumni who were great additions to the place and who really made it a more interesting and fun blog. But it's like someone dropped a vial of anthrax or something. Many have vanished. (or they simply don't use the same names?)

I'd like to do a readers survey of sorts to gage reader attitude and your thoughts and opinions about the blog. I've written hundreds of thousands of words here, but it's been largely one-way. I'd like to hear back from you.

Please contact the team here at Inside Dope Industries at TheInsideDope @ gmail. com and share your impressions of the blog. Include how long you've been reading, how often you visit, what you like best about it, and what you like least. Include anything you'd like to see more of, or what you'd like to see less of.

Tell me anything you think would improve the blog or make it more enjoyable and interesting for you. I'd especiallly like to hear from readers who no longer contribute, and hear if there's anything I could do that might get them to get over their case of lock-jaw, so to speak.

I have many theories as to why this might be, but I'd like to hear from readers themselves.

It very well may be that there's not much here that they're interested in, at least not enough to comment on, or maybe the overal quality has fallen. In a year and a half, naturally things have changed and evolved, and perhaps the blog has gotten stale or gotten away from things that interest them, or maybe the fact that there's a gang who has the nasty habit of dragging things straight into the gutter whenever local races are mentioned has scared them away. Or it could be due to false rumors and smear attempts that keep people from contributing.

The fact is that I don't know and it's impossible to tell. That's why I'm asking readers to drop me a line and let me know their opinion of the blog and what they think might be improved or what I'm doing right.

As always, all correspondence is kept strictly confidential and your input would be greatly appreciated.

Drop me an e-mail by simply clicking on the link above or the red text in the sidebar to pop up an email already addressed and ready to go.

Not to blow my own horn, but I've put a tremendous amount of work into producing this over the past year and a half in the hopes that people might find it useful or interesting and that it might be a place for interesting debate and discussion. It's my goal to continue to work towards that goal, and your input will greatly help in that effort.

Thanks in advance.

PS. Do not leave your thoughts in comments here. Please send them in e-mail so I can better address your concerns, complaints, compliments, etc.

Night of the Long Knives for Boland

As expected, the race for the 71st District seat between incumbent Mike Boland and Republican Steve Haring has provided the most heat, though not a lot of light.

Haring came out of the chute negative and has stayed there. Boland started out with issues and only belatedly responded to the brutal attacks.

It's obviously a very hard fought race, with Boland getting hit big by negative ad campaigns and attempts to drum up local protests. Boland suffers as well from some in his own party who've long wanted to see him fail who provide faint support at best or may actively work to undermine his campaign at worst.

The race has also been singled out for massive attention in the form of campaign cash and support from both party's state organizations.

Haring came out negative and Boland was slow to respond, seeming to be caught flat-footed. By the time they got something out, the damage had already been done. Sources say that the state Dem party is now renewing their efforts to fend off the Republican onslaught of negativity.

Based on personal observation, it seems that Haring has spend more on mailings and media so far. Boland has sent out several mailers, but they've not been too powerful, and to his credit, have until recently stuck to the issues. Finally, only after relentless demonization by the Republicans, Boland finally sent out a mailing hitting back with a little negative spin himself.

What's the story on this race? What's happening and how will it go?
What do you feel needs to be done for Boland to effectively counter the Rove-like tactics of the Haring campaign?
Will Boland survive against such massive targeting?

And as always, overly emotional and angry comments which sound more like some drunk guy ranting about how evil his ex-wife is will not make the cut. We don't need to hear how you think one candidate or the other is Beelzebub himself, just your thoughts on the above questions.

October 21, 2006

Obama-rama marches on

As if going on a nation-wide book tour, being on Time's cover and appearing with Keith Olberman, Charlie Rose, and every other talk show to the point where you stood a good chance of seeing him on TV just by changing channels wasn't enough, Obama was also the subject of dozens of heavy-weight political columnist's work last week, who all seemed to feel compelled to offer their opinion on whether he should run for president this time around.

This all can't be bad for book sales of "The Audacity of Hope"

And if you haven't had enough of Obama just yet, he's to appear on Meet the Press tomorrow along with columnist David Broder, political guru Charlie Cook, the NY Times' John Harwood, and the prince of darkness himself, Bob Novak, evidently returning from his exile of shame over escaping jail in the Plame scandal.

Follow the Money

There are literally dozens of political consultants, organizations, and publications which regularly publish their outlook and prognostications on the upcoming mid-term elections, and they're all valid and interesting to varying degrees.

But they're only informed guesses, after all.

Studies have shown that markets, where people's money is at stake are very good barometers and predictors of actual results. Because it's money at risk, this serves to take away a degree of emotion and in theory, results in only cold-eyed analysis.

The Iowa Electronic Market, operated by the University of Iowa Tippie Colege of Business operates such a market which allows people to buy shares in a particular political result and it's been very accurate in the past.

Investors study a host of variables, such as turnout and other factors affecting the potential outcome to ensure their money is on what they believe will happen, not what they may fervently hope will happen. It's not partisanship driving this, it's greed, so to speak.

The IEM runs three markets on the mid-term elections.

Price graphs showing market prices since the markets began June 1st are shown below.

CLICK on any of the charts to see a larger version.

The following chart tracks movement in the market on whether Republicans will hold on to both chambers, lose one or the other, or both.

In the chart below,
Red= Republican House and Senate.
Green = Republican House - Democratic Senate.
Black = Democratic house - Republican senate.
Blue = Democratic House and Senate

The chart below is for the House only.
Red = Republicans gain seats in the House
Green = Republicans hold majority
Blue = Republicans lose majority

The last chart is for the Senate only.
Red = Republicans gain seats in the Senate
Green = Republicans hold majority
Blue = Republicans lose majority

For future reference, graphs and data for all three markets can be found here.

It's of interest to look at the graphs and compare them to what events were taking place at the time. It seems that the Republican fortunes had a big spike at the end of September, though I don't recall what would have caused it.

As evidence that financial markets are inherently more stable than the whims of pundits and the public, the charts don't show a sudden deep plunge relating to the Foley scandal, though the fact that it has continued a steady downward trend indicates that even the "smart money" thinks the Republicans are about to take a drubbing at the polls.

October 20, 2006

DL meet up tonight

Just a reminder that Drinking Liberally is hooking up again tonight beginning at 8:00 p.m. at Jack's Place, 425 15th Street in downtown Moline.

October 19, 2006

How much longer should we dig.

The familiar and apt saying goes that when you find yourself in a deep hole, the first thing you do is stop digging

John Beydler at The Passing Parade lays out yet more compelling reasons it's time to reject the Republican (and Joe Lieberman) "stay the course" arguments showing scant relation to the reality in Iraq and to stop digging.
While the slaughter goes on and on, and gets worse, American politicians babble on about how we can't leave because Iraq would descend into civil war. Of course, as every day's headlines make ever more clear, the civil was is already raging. The number of attacks, most of them Iraqi on Iraqi, is growing. The death toll is mounting, the numbers higher day by day. Deaths are running at 100-plus per day now. Most of the people dying are Iraqis; most of the killing is done by Iraqis.

As Sir Richard said, we're merely exacerbating the problem, and paying a high price in blood in the process. Nearly 3,000 American troops have been killed now, 20,000 wounded.

Our leaders took us there because, they said, we had to get rid of those weapons of mass destruction that, of course, turned out to be figments of their imaginations.

Once the military did its job with dispatch and efficiency, our leaders blew the next step with bad decision on top of bad decision. We've delivered on nothing in the way of improving services, the economy or the quality of life. Just the opposite.

No wonder that the vast majority wants us gone. No wonder a solid majority approves of attacks on Americans.

The time to leave is soon. Very soon.

In case you missed it

Our Kazakhstani friend Borat learns about conservative politics in the U.S.

We learn that oddly, in America, women can vote, but horses can't, that all Jews are going to hell, the Democratic party is the party of homosexuals, and that Borat wants to "make romance inside" some Republican board members, "but not with force."

Below is Borat makeing a statement to the press in D.C. in response to advertisements about Kazakhstan to state that reports that women are treated equally and all religions are tolerated there are "disgusting fabrications".

Part I

Part II

October 18, 2006

Bush eliminates bedrock rights, Americans don't notice.

You woke up today in a different country.

Some of our most cherished rights, and the very foundation of the bill of rights, had been eliminated with the stroke of George W. Bush's pen.

Habeas corpus -- it's your most fundamental legal right, your right to go to a court and get an order requiring the government to prove that it is holding you in prison with proper legal authority to do so. Without that right, one necessarily lives in a dictatorship. The Constitution says it may never be suspended except in cases of rebellion or invasion. President Bush today on October 17, 2006 signed a bill repealing that law, meaning that the administration need not comply or show compliance with law any more with regard to who goes to prison or Gitmo.

While it supposedly applies just to terrorism cases, that doesn't prevent it from ending the rule of law in the United States for our newly all-powerful Executive. This is true not just because terrorism is construed so broadly in the prohibition of "material support" for terrorism (which by the way has already been held to include a lawyer's press release on behalf of a terrorist client) but because the administration NEED NOT PROVE IT'S REALLY TERRORISM because they don't need to answer to any court in the land at any time.
Feel safer?
Keith Olberman spells out how wiping out habeus corpus also tosses out the Bill of Rights entirely (except maybe quartering soldiers)

A full page ad run in response by the ACLU notes that this action is...
...one of the most radical rollbacks of civil liberties in American history. The Military Commissions Act of 2006 eliminates the right of Habeus Corpus for detainees who could be held for years without charge, and guts the Geneva Conventions. The law allows detainees to be sentenced to death based on testimony literally beaten out of witnesses. And it grants officials in the Bush Administration a retroactive "Get Out of Jail Free" card for war crimes.

Anyone else remotely concerned about what has just occured in our country?

Anyone alarmed that George Bush now has the ability to name anyone an "enemy combatant" , even U.S. citizens, and have them locked up without charges, without representation, and without having to justify the detention in court... without having to answer to anyone, and then to have them tried by a puppet military "commission" and possibly executed, all without being able to confront witnesses, and even on the basis of heresay or the testimony of witnesses who were tortured into saying what the interogators want them to say?

This isn't your father's United States folks.

You woke up this morning and didn't even know that a huge chunk of what makes our country great had just been destroyed by the gang in the White House and it's Republican enablers. Dems who failed to stand up against it out of fear of being branded "soft on terror" are equally to blame.

Anyone feel that this parallels other governments we've known... like, oh... Stalinist Russia, or China, or maybe some banana republics?

Americans are breathless about juicy tabloid revelations in Paul McCartney's divorce, but a president has just subverted the constitution, and no one knows, and no one cares.

Read more about the issue here.

What liberals says/What conservatives hear

This Modern World

Brady Campaign lists Illinois candidates for common sense gun laws

The Brady Campaign is named for James Brady, Ronald Reagan's press secretary who had a part of his skull blown off during the assassination attempt on Reagan, and who, with his wife Sarah, started an organization to try to bring some sort of sanity to gun laws in the country.

They've issued their national list of candidates it endorses who support common sense gun laws. Their list for of Illinois candidates committed to stemming the tide of gun violence in the state can be read here.

Hare/Zinga forum tonight at Augie's Centennial Hall

Anyone interested can catch what will likely be the last joint appearance of 17th District congressional candidates Phil Hare and Andrea Zinga tonight.
The "forum" will be held at Augustana College's Centennial Hall, northwest corner of 37th Street and 7th Avenue in Rock Island with doors open at 6:00 p.m. and the fun slated to begin a half hour later.

The whole shebang is free and open to the public.

A chance to help

Local blogger Dave Barett posts an appeal to the public to help out a woman in serious need of a medical procedure. It wouldn't take many people pitching in a bit to help this woman get the surgery she needs.

Maria Hernandez is an unemployed, 36 year old mother of four. Her husband works for a temp agency. They have lived in Moline for 11 years. Maria has a progressively enlarging goiter in her throat that is painful and makes it increasingly difficult for her to swallow. She was referred to a surgeon who recommended that she have it surgically removed. They have no health insurance and because she is not a US citizen, Maria is not eligible for a Medical Card.

Trinity Hospital has approved Maria for their financial aid program. There is no problem with getting her into the hospital. However, General Surgery Associates is insisting that she pay the total amount $2,600 up front before they will do the surgery. Even though the Hernandez family has paid their doctor bills so far, the doctor’s office will not accept a payment plan for the surgery.
Does the fact that the woman is an unemployed non-citizen make a difference in your desire to help out? Should it?

Boland aide launchs campaign blog

Mike Huntoon, Rep. Mike Boland's chief of staff, has created a campaign blog that he's named "Serving the 71st District with Mike Boland" subtitled "The on-going story of a public servant working to make a difference in people's lives . . ."

Huntoon's done a good job in creating a sort of "campaign notebook" to keep folks up to date with Rep. Boland and his campaign, complete with pictures, accounts of events, and other news.

It's a fine example of how a basic blog can be used to augment a campaign by reaching more people, attracting more interest, and increasing visibility for a candidate and their campaign. The nature of a blog makes it a great tool for candidates and campaigns to stay in touch with their supporters and the general public and adds another avenue for publicity and communication.

Websites, Blogs, a MySpace page, or some other form of interactive website are already being used by hundreds of serious campaigns. They increasingly utilize streaming video clips and other multimedia to attract and inform voters.

Some candidates are likely too locked into old style thinking and their ignorance of the web, how it works, and it's potential causes them to be unable to appreciate the opportunity it offers for campaigns. Rather than looking for new ways to communicate and reach out to the public, these candidates may feel that the less contact the better, and would rather stick to the occasional mailing and yard signs as the only campaign communication with the public.

Once they see other's doing it successfully and realize that the public both appreciates it and will increasingly begin to expect it, they may gradually come tagging along into the 20th century.

Hats off to Mike Huntoon and the Boland campaign for having the foresight and initiative to make use of this useful and increasingly common campaign tool.

The site's URL is http://mikeboland.blogspot.com and has been added to the blogroll in the sidebar for future reference.

October 16, 2006

Zinga misses campaign finance report deadline

The Andrea Zinga campaign missed Sunday's legal deadline to file their campaign finance report with the Federal Election Commission.

As of this writing (Mon. 7:30 p.m. CST) no report is shown on Zinga's FEC page

**Update** Zinga's report was filed Tuesday the 17th. I can't find what time it was filed as yet, though the report was posted at around 4:30p.m. our time, just minutes ago.

Zinga reports raising $73,160.00 during the period, entirely from individual donors. Not one dime from PACs, Republican Committees, or the candidate herself.
With debts and obligations plus cash already on hand, the campaign reports $126,126.89 cash on hand as of September 30th.

Rebecca O'Halloran of the Galesburg Register-Mail reports:
Only one candidate in the 17th district congressional election filed a mandatory campaign finance report Sunday with the Federal Election Commission.
By mid-morning today Hare's opponent, Republican Andrea Zinga, still had not filed her numbers. According to the FEC, congressional candidates who spend or raise more than $50,000 during an election cycle must file their reports electronically.

Charlie Johnston, Zinga's campaign manager, said he had a problem with the filing software over the weekend and couldn't contact anyone at the FEC for assistance.

"It's not something where we tried to avoid reporting," Johnston said. Johnston said the problem is being taken care of the the numbers will be submitted this afternoon.
Phil Hare has $322,960.24 left in his campaign fund with just weeks left before the Nov. 7 election.

According to his filing, Hare has spent a total of $254,799 - of that, $244,746 was spent between July 1 and Sept. 30.

The Hare campaign has raised $342,084 during the July to September quarter, giving the campaign a total of $577,884 in contributions.

A spokesman for the Democrat said the campaign is pleased with the numbers, considering Hare was officially chosen in June to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Lane Evans.

"Phil has what he believes to be a winning strategy and we're going to stick to the campaign plan that will get us a win," Jon Samuels said. "The progress he's been able to make is pretty remarkable."

The campaign fund, along with additional contributions leading up to the election, will help fund TV and direct mail ads, Samuels said.

Obama Time coverboy

Already on Time's cover as "The Next President", is there a danger Obama might peak too soon?

The direct approach

Well, OK.

This joint is on north Clark St. in Chicago. What a great sign. A "Liquor House", no less.

Reminds me of another bar in Chicago whose name always stood out to me, a place called the "Get Me High" lounge.

They don't beat around the bush in Chicago.

Strange way to get attention

I missed this blurb within a piece in the Dispatch this past Saturday. Thanks to an alert reader for pointing it out.
Mike Collier, who leads Positive Brothers United, a grassroots group devoted to stopping violence in Rock Island, announced Thursday he'll lead the effort to raise support among Rock Island County Democrats for Republican 17th District candidate Andrea Zinga.

"It is really important to back Andrea here in Rock Island," Mr. Collier, a life-long Democrat, said. "We haven't gotten any support for Rock Island from Democrats, even though we keep asking."

Mr. Collier said he met Mr. Hare during a campaign event this past summer and was told he was doing a good job and "keep up the good work."

Mr. Collier said the Democrat "doesn't care about what is going on in Rock Island. He only cares about Phil Hare and his people."

Ms. Zinga said she was invited to participate in marches Mr. Collier's group organized. As a congresswoman she said she would help through assisting with economic development in the area and vocational training opportunities.

Mr. Hare opposes assault weapons and cop-killing bullets, and supports common-sense gun laws, the Community Oriented Policing program and other programs aimed at stopping crime, a campaign spokesman, Jon Samuels, said. He also has the support of the local NAACP chapter.

"It's true that we need a change in Washington, but the only way to move this country in a new direction is for Democrats to win control of the House of Representatives," Mr. Samuels said. "That being said, Phil enjoys strong support of local Democrats, independents and Republicans."
Maybe they think this is an effective political ploy to play the candidates against each other? If so, it will probably work.

But as J.C. Watt's father famously put it, "A black man voting for a Republican is like a chicken voting for Col. Sanders." They must be tripping if they think that Zinga and the Republicans will provide more support and aid to the disadvantaged and to depressed areas of cities.

October 15, 2006

Fair and Balanced

This place is pretty funny. (But don't tell your right wing pals, they'll miss the satire and eat it up.)

Boland feeling heat for giving tuition aid to donor's daughter

Scott Reeder, the Dispatch/Argus' man in Springfield, hits Rep. Mike Boland with a sticky story 23 days out from election day.
The daughter of one of Rep. Mike Boland's larger political donors has received legislative college scholarships worth about $10,000 from the lawmaker and hopes to receive more tuition aid from him in future years.
In this case, Rep. Boland, D-East Moline, gave scholarships to Alleyene Suehl, the daughter of Barb Suehl, a successful real estate agent in the Fulton area. Mrs. Suehl donated $15,891 to Rep. Boland's campaign in 2004 and 2005.
She is the top individual contributor to Rep. Boland's campaign during the last seven years, said University of Illinois professor Kent Redfield, an authority on Illinois campaign contributions. (This excludes contributions from labor unions, businesses, political parties or political action committees.)

In the 2004 campaign, Mrs. Suehl's contributions to Rep. Boland's election bid ranked second among all sources, exceeded only by money from the Illinois Democratic Party, according to the "Almanac of Illinois Politics."

Mrs. Suehl said her income has varied during the past seven or eight years. She earned $130,000 or $140,000 some years, but on average she earned about $100,000, she said.

She added that, because of a slow housing market, she may earn $80,000 this year.

In a 2000 interview with The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus, Rep. Boland said he would not give a scholarship to any student from a household with an annual income greater than $100,000.

Rep. Boland said Tuesday that he has since adjusted that threshold to $120,000.

According to 2000 census data compiled for the "Almanac of Illinois Politics," the median family income in Rep. Boland's 71st House District is $49,059.

Rep. Boland said Alleyene Suehl is the only child of a political contributor for whom he has provided a scholarship. He said he does not consider the family wealthy.

"To have said, 'I'm not going to give you a scholarship because your mother gave my campaign money,' would have just been wrong. Alle is the most outstanding applicant I have had for a scholarship in the 12 years I have been a representative," he said.

Rep. Boland said he was in no way influenced by campaign contributions when he selected Alleyene for the scholarship. He said the young woman takes after her mother in being community minded.
This can't be good for Boland.

The entire legislative scholarship program has come in for criticism in the past year in the wake of a prior media story about who uses it and to what extent and many question whether it shouldn't be eliminated altogether.

While it's hard to question the idea behind it, namely that deserving young people can get much needed and greatly appreciated help with often enormous tuition costs, it's unfortunate that they gave the responsibility for chosing receipients to actual politicians.

Needless to say, the temptation to use this perk as a way to repay donors or as a quid pro quo for future donations or other benefits is probably too much for politicians to resist, as appears to be the case with Rep. Boland.

And when you've said you'd not give a scholarship to anyone with an income over $100,000 and then you give a scholarship to your largest donor and it's revealed that their income is over $100,000, simply saying you "adjusted" the threshold to $120,000 is ... well, it doesn't come across too well. (though the $100,000 limit was set 6 years ago, and tuition costs have skyrocketed since then.)

Ms. Suehl, the young woman who recieved the tuition help, is an only child and had lost her father when he passed away in 2004. Whether it's acceptible for Rep. Boland to choose to award the scholarship to the daughter of a large donor even though their yearly income was approximately $80,000 is a matter for debate.

Read the rest of the story here.