November 30, 2006

Drinking Liberally tonight

Get on down to the local DL group meet up at Jack's Place 425 15th Street in downtown Moline around 8:00 p.m. knock back a few and catch up with what's going on.

News of the day

Iowa Governor Vilsack formally announces for the presidency today.

Bill Frist throws in the towel, and not a moment too soon.

Little Newt Gingrich is back like a herpes virus with a unique strategy for becoming the leader of the free world. He hopes to hover around and not announce until very late in the game and hope a slot opens up that he can jump into.

He recently gave a talk at the annual Nackey S. Loeb First Amendment award dinner where he... I'm not making this up... advocated "reexamining" the first amendment and banning free speech on the internet and elsewhere when it supposedly aids terrorists, then going on to sharply criticize the McCain-Feingold campaign finance act, which sought to limit the amount of money people can give to political campaigns, because doing so restricted free speech (in the form of big cash). Go figure.

And another golden oldie, Al Gore is back in the news putting my feelings into words perfectly, and in doing so, getting all the chatting class in a lather fretting and freaking out about whether he may run again.

In an interview in GQ, speaking of Bush, Gore said,
To this day, I don’t understand it. And, I think it’s fair to say that he personally does in fact bear a measure of blame for not doing his job at a time when we really needed him to do his job. And now the Woodward book has this episode that has been confirmed by the record that George Tenet, who was much abused by this administration, went over to the White House for the purpose of calling an emergency meeting and warning as clearly as possible about the extremely dangerous situation with Osama bin Laden, and was brushed off!

And I don’t know why—honestly—I mean, I understand how horrible this Congressman Foley situation with the instant messaging is, okay? I understand that. But, why didn’t these kinds of things produce a similar outrage? And you know, I’m even reluctant to talk about it in these terms because it’s so easy for people to hear this or read this as sort of cheap political game-playing. I understand how it could sound that way.

But dammit, whatever happened to the concept of accountability for catastrophic failure? This administration has been by far the most incompetent, inept, and with more moral cowardice, and obsequiousness to their wealthy contributors, and obliviousness to the public interest of any administration in modern history, and probably in the entire history of the country!
Thanks Al. Took the words right out of my mouth.

John Kerry appeared on Larry King (as did Dog the Bounty Hunter in the second half of the show. How's that for a ticket? Maybe Dog would give Kerry some street cred.) and tried to stay relevant. It's truly a shame what the right has done to the guy, both with the swift boating and the recent distortion of his ommission of one word from a lame joke, but the damage is done, and if he were more well liked, he likely could have weathered the storm a bit better. As it is, the guy is all but toast as far as a presidential run is concerned.

Bush continues to babble like someone in dire need of an intervention and got dissed by the puppet president of Iraq who said thanks but no thanks to meeting with Bush in Jordan.

And soon to be senator Jim Webb gave an appropriate amount of respect to Bush as well, refusing to participate in the recieving line to shake the Chimporer's hand and opting not to have his picture taken with Bush.
"I'm not particularly interested in having a picture of me and George W. Bush on my wall," Webb said in an interview yesterday in which he confirmed the exchange between him and Bush. "No offense to the institution of the presidency, and I'm certainly looking forward to working with him and his administration. [But] leaders do some symbolic things to try to convey who they are and what the message is."

Then Webb, one of the few, and maybe the only congressmen with a son or daughter in serving in Iraq, had what could be described as a rather terse exchange with Junior a bit later.
"How's your boy?" Bush asked, referring to Webb's son, a Marine serving in Iraq.

"I'd like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President," Webb responded, echoing a campaign theme.

"That's not what I asked you," Bush said. "How's your boy?"

"That's between me and my boy, Mr. President," Webb said coldly, ending the conversation on the State Floor of the East Wing of the White House.
It was later reported that Webb told someone afterwards that it was all he could do to keep from popping Bush in the mouth, though how credible that report is is anyone's guess.

And Colin Powell salvages what credibility he has left after being a dupe of Bush/Cheney and announced that as far as he was concerned, Iraq is indeed in a civil war, thus again freaking out those still clinging to the Bush denial of reality. And former Prez Jimmy Carter thinks it's not quite civil just yet.

And the little goof in charge in Iran issued a 5 page letter to you and I, the American public, in which he made some very valid points while engaging in a bit of deft PR.

November 29, 2006

Faced with do-nothing Republican government, states take the lead

The Progressive States Network recently sent out a piece noting an article in Forbes magazine noting the concern of big business who have controlled D.C. for years over progressive actions at the state level.
Forbes: "The real action will be at the state level"

Forbes knows it:

Raise the minimum wage. Attack global warming. Negotiate lower prescription drug prices. Extend health coverage to the uninsured. Protect consumers from identity theft. A to-do list for Democrats taking over Congress? Nope, a sample of what states are up to.

If you're the type who prefers that government do as little as possible, you might be heartened by the prospect of a divided Washington that will likely gridlock on significant issues. But watch your back.

The real action will be at the state level, already a hotbed of interventionism that is likely to grow more so now that Washington is split and Democrats have firmer control in state capitals.

Janet Novack, the author of the piece, goes on to note a handful of key areas where business is already being alerted to state leadership:

  • Global Warming - California and Northeastern states have taken the lead. Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts is expected to do more and there is talk of big action in the Rocky Mountain West, an area likely to be hit hard by climate change.
  • Privacy and Identity Theft - The financial services industry is hoping the federal government will preempt state privacy laws, for fear that big states will force banks and others to protect privacy nationwide. Oh, the horror!
  • Prescription Drugs - States have been major leaders. Novack describes California's recent bill "should have pharmaceutical executives reaching for Valium."
  • Health Insurance - States have already been leading and they aren't going to wait for Washington to continue sitting on its laurels.
  • Minimum Wage - In the last year, numerous legislatures raised the minimum wage and six more states followed suit through ballot measures. The momentum is predicted to continue to expand to more states in the near future.

All of this is great news for progressives. But something else here is key: Both BusinessWeek and Forbes are recognizing states as the key policy battlegrounds for the next two years.

Will progressives realize what the corporate readership of these two mags already have?

Hopefully, they will -- and they'll get on board with PSN's "Building a Progressive Majority in the States" Agenda.

Progressive States Network
101 Avenue of the Americas
4th Floor
New York, NY 10013

November 27, 2006

Should Obama run?

The DesMoines Register reports:
Democrat Barack Obama has sought the advice of top campaign workers in Iowa and has established a seedling support network in this state as he prepares to decide whether to seek the 2008 presidential nomination.
The new Inside Dope poll asks a two part question, will Sen. Obama run, and should he run for president in 2008. Go look over the choices and cast your vote.

If you really want Barack to run, check out this draft Obama site.


The respondents to the previous Inside Dope poll on John Kerry and his presidential ambitions left no doubt that they felt Kerry should go do something else and not continue a doomed presidential campaign effort.

The poll asked, "What do you think of John Kerry"

Answers and results as follows:
Total votes: 32

-John who? : 2 votes 6%
-In a primary, I'd consider voting for him over other Democrats : 3 9%
-Someone get the hook! Kerry is damaged goods and is delusional for running. : 18 56%
-He's still a viable presidential candidate. : 6 19%
-I think he's horrible, always have, always will. Wish he'd just go away for good. 3 9%

Breaking it down in general, 23 or 72% voted in the negative, 9 or about 3% in the positive.

November 26, 2006

And now, some deep thoughts.

A philosophy professor stood before her class and had some items in front of her.

When the class began, silently she picked up a large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks. She then asked the students if the jar was full? They agreed that it was.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. She shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. She then asked the students again if the jar was full. They again agreed it was.

The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

Now, said the professor, I want you to recognize that this is your life. The rocks are the important things - your family, your partner, your health, your children - things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else. The small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first, there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical check-ups. Take your partner out dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal. Take care of the rocks first - the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

But then a student took the jar which the other students and the professor agreed was full, and proceeded to pour in a glass of beer. Of course the beer filled the remaining spaces within the jar making the jar truly full.

The moral of the tale: No matter how full your life is, there is always room for beer.

November 25, 2006

Betrayal of our troops

C-Span recently aired a panel at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs with author Trish Woods. Ms. Woods has compiled veterans accounts of what it's really like in Iraq in the book "What Was Asked of Us: An Oral History of the Iraq War by the Soldiers Who Fought It".

The discussion was stark and fascinating and showed just what our service men and women are going through, the toll taken on them and how ill-served they are upon returning home. But perhaps what is most clear is the utterly fruitless mission they've been assigned to do and how immoral, if not criminal, it is to have sent them on so misguided and unjustified a mission.

Bobby Muller, founder of Veterans for America and no shrinking violet, is forceful and eloquent in putting the issue into perspective. A former Marine who was paralysed in Vietnam, Muller's words should be played on every channel 5 times a day for a week. His response to a question from the audience says it all.

The entire show is enlightening, if you have the time. But at the very least, watch Muller's response by clicking here and moving the slider to 48:45, about 3/4 of the way through the program. (requires Real Player)

If you're not moved after having heard it, and not more than a little outraged at what this government has done to these people, you're not alive or in deep denial.

November 24, 2006

The movie "Bobby"

I've had two loyal readers write in their impressions of the new movie "Bobby" on the life and times of Robert F. Kennedy which opened on Thanksgiving.

Both were complimentary.

Nicodemus writes:
Today I saw the movie "Bobby". I recommend it ! it is much better than the 2 stars it got in the reviews. You would enjoy it. RFK was a man who brought people (from all walks of life) together. Maybe you could open up a thread for discussion of this film and the life and times of RFK and inevitable comparisons of Iraq to Vietnam. "Bobby" had an all-star cast and good acting. The downside: it did have some slow parts. I think the film "Thirteen Days" moved at a faster pace than did Bobby. They did a nice job weaving in real film footage. All in all, 3 stars.

Another commenter offered...
Hey dope,

Go see Bobby. It wasn't quite what I was expecting, but it was very good none-the-less. I think it will probbalye by up for numerous academy awards and maybe even best picture. Not living through the Vietnam war, I guess I never relized how eerie it is that Iraq seems so much like it. They also draw refrence to some other current events. I didn't think a film written and directed by Emilio Esteves would be good, but it was suprisingly well done.

Sounds like a good movie. Anyone else seen it? What did you think?

Tis the season

Indulging my Andy Rooney-ish penchant for grumpy observations, I'd like to take a moment to say, without reservation, that people who put up their Christmas decorations at the beginning of NOVEMBER ought to be horse-whipped. (and yes, I saw a few up at that time. Jack-o-lanterns were still out all over.)

It's gotten so bad that Thanksgiving has become akin to the National Anthem before a particularly rowdy sporting event. Something that people barely sit still long enough to go through the motions before rushing on to the main event.

Now that Thanksgiving has past, I'm sure there'll be a small explosion of Christmas decorations popping up.

Hey, I love Christmas lights. I get a smile all over when I see a particularly pretty display or someone who obviously loves Christmas, judging from the lengths and expense they go to on their decorations. It's all lovely, fun, and a good thing.

But why the rush?

And perhaps someone can answer what may seem like a dumb question, but one which has always perplexed me.

WHY.... do people risk life, limb, and sanity to swarm lemming-like the big box stores today? I'm serious. Why would anyone do it?

Because the retailers have so successfully brainwashed them that they truly feel that they must wait until the day after Thanksgiving to rush out and contribute to the madness? And that they can't go shopping after that? I'm perplexed.

Is it because of the sales? OK, I'm always up for saving a few dimes. But do the sales end two days after Thanksgiving, never to come again?

What compels people to participate in what seems like some bizarre mass marketing induced frenzy?

The only ordeal I'll be going through this year for all of my Christmas shopping is stepping out bringing the nice packages in when they're delivered to my porch.
I have the pick of thousands if not millions of on-line merchants, nearly all of which offer the same or better discounts online, as well as free shipping. (usually if over a certain amount).

Today shoppers will fight snarled traffic, angry shoppers, stores torn up with merchandise scattered everywhere, frayed and frazzled clerks, long waits at the checkout, and endless indignities and frustrations. And almost every store they visit offers all their stuff online, and unlike brick and mortar stores, they always have whatever color or size you need available. And most of the time, the online stores actually offer more merchandise and a greater variety, including many items available online only.

If you go to the mall without a specific item in mind for that special someone, or even if you do know what they want, you're in for a lot of wandering around. (I think they call it shopping.) Now some may enjoy this, and it's been my experience that many of the fairer sex actually have elevated it to an art-form.

But there remain us clods who simply think shopping is a means to an end. Namely, that the idea is to go where you need to go and get what you need to get, preferably in the shortest amount of time possible, and then you leave.

If this is your style, online shopping couldn't be better. Say someone wants an unusual item. Maybe a pirate ship, let's say.

You could go to the mall and drive all over the area for days trying to find one.

Online, all you need to do is type "pirate ship" in any number of shopping comparison sites, and in a split second, you'll get hundreds of listings, all sizes, shapes, costs, materials, and quality, and once you settle on one, find the best price.

This would be a good place to remind readers that if they're going to buy anything through Amazon, if they click through the link in the sidebar and then make their purchases, your long-suffering blog host gets a tiny cut. Please consider it.

And a neat benefit to searching this way is that you often come across cool stuff that you otherwise never would have.

I once found a great present for any young guy or girl who is into dinosaurs.

The idea was to let a little dinosaur hunter actually "discover" a real T.Rex tooth.

Before you sent in the order, you'd have to figure out where you wanted to hide the tooth. You could bury it in the woods or ravine or backyard, anywhere. But then you'd have to send in the directions to find it to the people sending the tooth. For instance your directions might say 15 paces from the walnut tree and then two feet across the creek and two steps to your left. They could be as simple or complex as you wished. Then, you'd send in these instructions along with the little dino hunter's name and address.

Then the outfit would send them a personalized official looking letter from the "Dinosaur Recovery Bureau" in the mail, complete with official sounding language and signed by a paleontologist. It all looked very impressive. The letter explained to the child that by the use of very high-tech dinosaur detection equipment, the bureau had detected a T.Rex tooth in the area around the child's house. The letter then asks the child if they might have their help in recovering this valuable fossil.

It goes on to explain that if they find it, they'd get a Certificate of Appreciation and as a reward for their valuable assistance, they could keep the tooth!

So I buried the tooth about a month and a half before Christmas, and by the time the date rolled around, you couldn't even tell the ground had been disturbed. (and yes, I was worried that the ground might be frozen... luckily, it wasn't.)

Let me tell you, it was pretty interesting to let a little guy follow a "treasure map" and decide where to dig. Then you get to dig down and maybe hit something and say to great effect, "What's that?!!!", and they get down and dig out the big life-sized realistic looking tooth from the ground. Very cool.

Of course, it didn't all go smoothly. The little twig I'd stuck in the ground to mark the site had long ago fallen over or gotten knocked over by an animal, so I had no clue exactly where I'd buried it. (sigh) I ended up digging a hole big enough to install an good sized in-ground pool, suffering flop sweats as the time ticked by without finding the tooth. My anxiety increased especially with the audience of adults who were all awaiting this great discovery and with every passing second the excitement drained away and the thought that yours truly was quite the genius to bury the thing and then not be able to find it increased, and me getting progressively frantic but laboring mightily to hide it from the little dinosaur hunter, who by the way, was obviously having his doubts too. But hey, adversity builds character, right? Well, maybe not.

(and yes, the shovel finally struck something solid, exclamations were made, and the tiny paleontologist was able to gradually reveal the "fossil" to "Ooooo's" and "Ahhhhh's" all around.

And you can find toys and gifts from specialty stores that aren't in the area. If you'd like to get something educational for the kids on your list, there's a wealth of very cool stuff available online that you'd never find around here.

Given the advantages of shopping online, it's even more hard to fathom why people still act as though it's their solemn duty to subject themselves to the post-Thanksgiving stampede.

Can anyone explain it?

November 23, 2006

Exhibit A in the Bush fear campaign.

Get a load of this from local bunker dweller "QC Media ghost" (I was going to post it last night, but didn't want to spoil people's appetites.)

I also had to stop and think for a while to determine if it was simply satire and a joke, or actually serious. Hard as it is to believe, I think it's serious.

And remember, as you tuck your little cherubs into bed tonight, don't forget to teach them to be as evil as Muslims.

If you can get through the entire thing without throwing up in your mouth, you're a stronger person than I.

More myth busting

Another prominent figure debunks the "Dems won by going conservative - The Dems didn't win, the Republicans lost" myths. Even though it's false, many conservative Dems are quick to swallow it. (as our own commenter DemGorilla has, lock, stock, and barrel.)

From Frank Rich in the New York Times (sub required):
Elections may come and go, but Washington remains incorrigible. Not even voters delivering a clear message can topple the town’s conventional wisdom once it has been set in the stone of punditry.

Right now the capital is entranced by a fictional story line about the Democrats. As this narrative goes, the party’s sweep of Congress was more or less an accident. The victory had little to do with the Democrats’ actual beliefs and was instead solely the result of President Bush’s unpopularity and a cunning backroom stunt by the campaign Machiavellis, Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emanuel, to enlist a smattering of “conservative” candidates to run in red states. In this retelling of the 2006 election, the signature race took place in Montana, where the victor was a gun-toting farmer with a flattop haircut: i.e., a Democrat in Republican drag. And now the party is deeply divided as its old liberals and new conservatives converge on Capitol Hill to slug it out.

The only problem with this version of events is that it’s not true. The overwhelming majority of the Democratic winners, including Jon Tester of Montana, are to the left of most Republicans, whether on economic policy or abortion. For all of the hyperventilation devoted to the Steny Hoyer-John Murtha bout for the House leadership, the final count was lopsided next to the one-vote margin in the G.O.P. Senate intramural that yielded that paragon of “unity,” Trent Lott. But the most telling barometer is the election’s defining issue: there is far more unanimity among Democrats about Iraq than there is among Republicans. Disengaging America from that war is what the country voted for overwhelmingly on Nov. 7, and that’s what the Democrats almost uniformly promised to speed up, whatever their vague, often inchoate notions about how to do it.

Even before they officially take over, the Democrats are trying to deliver on this pledge. Carl Levin and Joe Biden, among the party’s leaders in thinking through a new Iraq policy, are gravitating toward a long-gestating centrist exit strategy: a phased withdrawal starting in four to six months; a loosely federal Iraqi government that would ratify the de facto separation of the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds and fairly allocate the oil spoils; and diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy to engage Iraq’s neighbors, including Iran and Syria, in securing some kind of peace.

None of these ideas are radical, novel or much removed from what James Baker’s Iraq Study Group is expected to come up with. All are debatable and all could fail. At this late date, only triage is an option, not “victory.” There’s no panacea to end the civil war that four years of American bumbling have wrought. But the one truly serious story to come out of the election — far more significant than the Washington chatter about “divided Democrats” — is that the president has no intention of changing his policy on Iraq or anything else one iota.

Walmart: The High Cost of Low Prices

Silvis is falling over itself to bring a sprawling Wal-mart to town. It's location is guaranteed to drive out what few small businesses still exist in the east and northern areas outside the Quad Cities, areas that, miraculously, have still managed to hang on to a few small independent businesses.

This piece, "The WalMart you Don't Know" helps put WalMart and it's business practices, and more importantly, it's impact both locally and globally, in perspective.
Wal-Mart is not just the world's largest retailer. It's the world's largest company--bigger than ExxonMobil, General Motors, and General Electric. The scale can be hard to absorb. Wal-Mart sold $244.5 billion worth of goods last year. It sells in three months what number-two retailer Home Depot sells in a year. And in its own category of general merchandise and groceries, Wal-Mart no longer has any real rivals. It does more business than Target, Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney, Safeway, and Kroger combined.

"Clearly," says Edward Fox, head of Southern Methodist University's J.C. Penney Center for Retailing Excellence, "Wal-Mart is more powerful than any retailer has ever been." It is, in fact, so big and so furtively powerful as to have become an entirely different order of corporate being.

Wal-Mart wields its power for just one purpose: to bring the lowest possible prices to its customers. At Wal-Mart, that goal is never reached. The retailer has a clear policy for suppliers: On basic products that don't change, the price Wal-Mart will pay, and will charge shoppers, must drop year after year. But what almost no one outside the world of Wal-Mart and its 21,000 suppliers knows is the high cost of those low prices. Wal-Mart has the power to squeeze profit-killing concessions from vendors. To survive in the face of its pricing demands, makers of everything from bras to bicycles to blue jeans have had to lay off employees and close U.S. plants in favor of outsourcing products from overseas.

Of course, U.S. companies have been moving jobs offshore for decades, long before Wal-Mart was a retailing power. But there is no question that the chain is helping accelerate the loss of American jobs to low-wage countries such as China. Wal-Mart, which in the late 1980s and early 1990s trumpeted its claim to "Buy American," has doubled its imports from China in the past five years alone, buying some $12 billion in merchandise in 2002. That's nearly 10% of all Chinese exports to the United States.

Here's just a few of the facts many may not be aware of found at "Wake up WalMart":

Your tax dollars pay for Wal-Mart's greed

  • The estimated total amount of federal assistance for which Wal-Mart employees were eligible in 2004 was $2.5 billion. [The Hidden Price We All Pay For Wal-Mart, A Report By The Democratic Staff Of The Committee On Education And The Workforce, 2/16/04]

  • One 200-employee Wal-Mart store may cost federal taxpayers $420,750 per year. This cost comes from the following, on average:
    $36,000 a year for free and reduced lunches for just 50 qualifying Wal-Mart families.
    $42,000 a year for low-income housing assistance.
    $125,000 a year for federal tax credits and deductions for low-income families.
    $100,000 a year for the additional expenses for programs for students.
    $108,000 a year for the additional federal health care costs of moving into state children's health insurance programs (S-CHIP)
    $9,750 a year for the additional costs for low income energy assistance.
    [The Hidden Price We All Pay For Wal-Mart, A Report By The Democratic Staff Of The Committee On Education And The Workforce, 2/16/04]

    Health care subsidies compared to executive compensation

  • Excluding his salary of $1.2 million, in 2004 Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott made around $22 million in bonuses, stock awards, and stock options in 2004.
    This $22 million could reimburse taxpayers in 3 states where Wal-Mart topped the list of users of state-sponsored health care programs, covering more than 15,000 Wal-Mart employees and dependents. [Wal-Mart Proxy Statement and News Articles GA, CT, AL].

    Your tax dollars subsidize Wal-Mart's growth

  • The first ever national report on Wal-Mart subsidies documented at least $1 billion in subsidies from state and local governments.

  • A Wal-Mart official stated that “it is common” for the company to request subsidies “in about one-third of all [retail] projects.” This would suggest that over a thousand Wal-Mart stores have been subsidized. [“Shopping For Subsidies: How Wal-Mart Uses Taxpayer Money to Finance Its Never-Ending Growth,” Good Job First, May 2004]

    Community Impact

    Wal-Mart’s growth negatively impact worker’s wages

  • The most comprehensive study of Wal-Mart’s impact showed that the stores reduced earnings per person by 5 percent. This 2005 study by an economist from the National Bureau of Economic Research used Wal-Mart’s own store data and government data for all counties where Wal-Mart has operated for 30 years, It found that the average Wal-Mart store reduces earnings per person by 5 percent in the county in which it operates. [David Neumark, The Effects of Wal-Mart on Local Labor Markets 2005]

    The Cost of Wal-Mart’s entry into a community can be significant

  • According to a 2003 estimate, the influx of big-box stores into San Diego would result in an annual decline in wages and benefits which could cost the area up to $221 million [San Diego Taxpayers Association (SDCTA), 2003]

    Lower wages mean less money for communities

  • When an employer pays low wages to its employees, the employees have less money to spend on goods and services in the community, which in turn reduces the income and spending of others in the community. In other words a reduction in wages has a multiplier impact in the surrounding area.

  • For instance, in 1999, Southern California municipalities estimated that for every dollar decrease in wages in the southern California economy, $2.08 in spending was lost-- the $1 decrease plus another $1.08 in indirect multiplier impacts. [“The Impact of Big Box Grocers in Southern California” Dr. Marlon Boarnet and Dr. Randall Crane, 1999.]

    Wal-Mart hurts other businesses when it comes to town.

  • In Maine, existing businesses lost over 10 percent of their market in 80 percent of the towns where Wal-Mart opened stores. [Georgeanne Artz And James McConnon, The Impact of Wal-Mart on Host Towns and Surrounding Communities in Maine, 2001]
    Food stores in Mississippi lost 17 percent of their sales by the fifth year after a Wal-Mart Supercenter had come into their county, and retail stores lost 9 percent of their sales [Kenneth Stone and Georgeanne Artz, The Economic Impact of a Wal-Mart Supercenter on Existing Businesses in Mississippi, 2002]

  • Over the course of [a few years after Wal-Mart entered a community], retailers' sales of apparel dropped 28% on average, hardware sales fell by 20%, and sales of specialty stores fell by 17%. [Kenneth Stone at Iowa State University, “Impact of the Wal-Mart Phenomenon on Rural Communities,” 1997]

  • In towns without Wal-Marts that are close to towns with Wal-Marts, sales in general merchandise declined immediately after Wal-Mart stores opened. After ten years, sales declined by a cumulative 34%. [Kenneth Stone at Iowa State University, “Impact of the Wal-Mart Phenomenon on Rural Communities,” 1997]

November 21, 2006

Poll up

Just a note that there's a poll up in the sidebar on your opinion of John Kerry, prompted by his recent statement that he's still going to consider a run for the presidency.

Go Vote.

November 20, 2006

Cagey Rangel raises spectre of draft

Charlie Rangel, D-NY has long advocated a return to a military draft, citing the fact that it's largely minorities and kids from economically strapped households and regions of the country who do the fighting and dying for the elite.

He's renewed his intention to call for a return to a draft.

I think it's not only a good idea, but good politics, forcing as it does, the armchair chickenhawk warriors to put up or shut up. The blood of their kids and relatives is just as good as some kid from the south side of Chicago.

It seems obvious that if the flesh and blood of the very elite who cheerlead this utterly pointless and ill-considered war were forced to put their asses in harm's way, they'd not be so quick to either start wars of choice nor to support them.

Dems have already responded that they'll not support this effort, so it's a moot point, as Rangel no doubt realized, but as a way of making a point, I think it's worthwhile.

What do you think?

What is it?

OK, this time, no mercy.
I think I made this tough enough, but I could be proven wrong quickly. (I hope not)

It's not something one of a kind or obscure. Click on the picture if you'd like a better view.


OK... here's the solution. First the picture it was cropped from....

And where it is on the object...


Here's a bonus "What is it?" to keep you busy. What does this drawing represent? Use your imagination.

The drawing above?

Why, it's an overhead view of a guy in a sombrero frying an egg, of course!

November 18, 2006

Two of three local lawmakers vote against giving themselves near 10% pay hike. Can you guess which?

As reported via the AP in the Dispatch/Argus:
With the election behind them, Illinois senators voted Thursday to accept raises that would mean a 9.6 percent increase next year in the paychecks of lawmakers and other top state officials.

Their salaries have not increased since July 2001, and some lawmakers defended the additional pay as long overdue.
The raise applies to lawmakers, the governor, agency directors and other high-ranking officials, although some -- including Gov. Rod Blagojevich -- say they will reject the extra money.

Lawmakers get a base salary of $57,619, which would jump to $63,143 with the raises that are being allowed to take effect. Most lawmakers get extra pay for chairing committees or serving in leadership positions. All are entitled to $125 in expenses for every day of session, plus a mileage reimbursement.

The governor's salary would climb from $150,691 to $165,138.

No one's paychecks will actually increase unless lawmakers set aside the money -- estimated at $4 million -- to cover the increases. That could happen later this month or early next year.

Officials also are entitled to two other cost-of-living increases that took effect on paper but never were accompanied by the necessary government funds. Those increases, if funded, would bring total raises to 15.6 percent.
Legislation to block the raise needed 30 votes. It failed 25-21, with six senators voting "present." Of the 21 senators voting to accept the raises, 19 were Democrats and two were Republicans.

The Illinois House voted in April to reject the raise, but the Senate delayed action until after the fall election.

Under Illinois law, the Compensation Review Board reports every two years on whether officials' salaries should be adjusted. Its recommendations take effect automatically unless both legislative chambers vote to reject them.

In addition, officials get annual cost-of-living increases unless, as has been the practice recently, lawmakers withhold the money.

Jones has defended the additional money, saying lawmakers need cost-of-living increases like everyone else. When asked about Illinois residents who don't get regular increases, he said, "You ought to quit who you're working for."

Sen. Rickey Hendon, D-Chicago, chided lawmakers who claimed they would reject the extra money.

"You know you're not going to do that because you want to stay happily married and you want to avoid problems at home," Hendon said.

But other lawmakers said they couldn't support the increase when many mid-level state workers aren't getting raises.

"We have professional people in this government working right now who have not had a cost-of-living raise in four years," said Sen. Dale Risinger, R-Peoria. "We need to give those people that are working hard, doing a good job for the state of Illinois, their cost-of-living first."

How nice. We have a Senate president who's attitude demonstrates his complete disconnect with reality by snapping that those folks who don't get automatic pay raises and can't simply vote to do so should just quit our jobs and go work somewhere else. How nice.

Reminds one of Sen. Jacobs when his reaction to the protests of residents whose property values would tank when a hog plant was built nearby was to esssentially say that they should have expected a gargantuan industrial slaughter plant next door when they decided to live there decades ago.

Add to that the goof who made the sexist crack about how no one could dare turn down the pay raise because they wanted to save their marriage, as if women are simply money-grubbing shrews who would never understand someone turning down a raise on principle.

But have you guessed who voted for this raise and who didn't among our local political representitives?

Only one made it his first order of business post-election to say "show me the money".

I'll give you a hint. He's the same one who several comments have praised for his expensive suits. That kind of gives it away right there.

Yes, our rookie Sen. Mike Jacobs was one of 21 senators voting against rejecting the report recommending the pay hike.

On the House side, Rep. Pat Verschoore actually jumped on the bill to reject the pay hike as a co-sponsor, and Rep. Mike Boland voted yea to block it as well.

If funded, the new pay raise would give lawmakers roughly $5260 a month, though they're only in session part of the year, with the $125 per day walking around money when they are in session and a milage allowance which goes to pay for gas, a car, and insurance one would assume.

Though I don't have it in front of me, I feel it's safe to assume that they enjoy insurance that most people could only dream of as well as more than generous pension plans (in addition to the big $ they can make as lobbyists after their stint as lawmakers)

Add to that some piles of campaign cash at their disposal and "perks" from interested parties, and you're living pretty large.

Two cheers for Reps. Boland and Vershoore for sticking to principles.

The bill in question is HJR121

The Senate roll-call vote is listed here, and the House vote is here.

ARRRGGHHHHHH.... Ohio St. over Big Blue

Those of you who watched know, those who didn't, even if you don't particularly care for football, missed one of the most closely fought and dramatic games I've seen for a long, long time. All I can say is WOW! But it's particularly painful that one team had to lose, and the fact that it was Michigan is particularly painful, as I dearly wanted them to win.

This was an amazing game from start to finish, with both teams trading scoring back and forth, turnovers, close calls, and more ups and downs than you can count, only to end with number one Ohio State over number two Michigan 42-39.

Any Big Blue fans out there in mourning? Any Buckeye's going nuts?

What won it for the Buckeyes? Did they deserve the win?

Who needs online campaigns? Vilsack for one

As reported on CNN, former Iowa governor and presidential hopeful Tom Vilsack is waging a cyber-campaign big time.

Not only does Vilsack have a campaign website, he's also got pages on all the major "social networking" sites, Facebook, a networking site popular with college students, MySpace, and even a site on video sharing site YouTube where he posts video clips. He also has a video blog on, a networking pages on Democratic Party Builder, LinkedIn, and diary pages on the liberal blogs Daily KOS, and MyDD.

Vilsack has also written and contributed on liberal blogs such as Daily KOS since as long ago as October. (as has Barack Obama and others.)

Other candidates including John Edwards have similar online efforts.

By the way, this former unpaid Kerry consultant isn't exactly thrilled with Vilsack.

What Atrios says

The anonymous blogger Atrios runs "Eschaton", easily one of the top left leaning blogs in the nation, routinely getting hundreds of thousands of readers a day.

He recently wrote a post about local bloggers which, unsurprisingly, I found very insightful and important.

Read it here.

November 17, 2006

It's DL Friday y'all

The local Drinking Liberally gang will be getting together tonight at Jack's Place, 425 15th Street in beautiful downtown Moline once again tonight. Plan on getting there around 8:00 p.m. for the first post election get-together and share some celebratory spirits!

Polling shows Dem agenda enjoys wide approval

From data gathered by the respected Pew Research group, it's clear that the public backs the Democratic agenda and doesn't want a move to the right.

Not only that, but contrary to what DemGorilla has been advocating, and reinforcing my observations, the scientific poll showed that the public wants Democrats to "Stand up" to Bush by a large margin.
Democratic leaders should....
Work with President Bush:

Total: 55 Rep: 76 Dem: 42 Ind: 54

Stand up to President Bush:

Total: 36 Rep: 16 Dem: 51 Ind: 37

Combining Democrats and Independents shows that the two groups combined are nearly evenly split between "working with" and "standing up to" Bush, 48 to 44%. This hardly amounts to a mandate for moving to the right for Democrats.

And considering that "working with" Bush does not necessarily mean embracing his policies or going along with them, but simply working with the administration to achieve goals, which may be clearly Democratic goals, and it would appear that even most independents don't want the Democrats to lay down and roll over.

Considering Independent voters, the Pew Poll shows that they clearly want Democrats to take the lead in policy matters, even by a larger margin than in 1994 when the Republicans took over congress.

There's a lot of interesting data comparing the attitude of voters now versus after the "Republican Revolution" of '94, and it shows that the Dems are enjoying as much if not more support now than the Republicans did back then.

November 16, 2006

Hoyer in as House Majority Leader over Murtha

Chicago Tribune photo by Pete Souza

The Trib puts it:
There's excitement on Capitol Hill. It's just been announced that Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) won the House Majority Leader's post and it wasn't even close. He had 149 votes while Rep. Jack Murtha (D-Pa.) had less than 90.

This is a big loss for Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.,) the House Speaker designate, who had publicly supported Murtha in recent days. It means her power has been questioned and resisted in her first major test. So she will begin her speakership in a weaker position than she would have otherwise. That will be the story line today across the media.

Man, is it ever the "storyline".
I don't think this is nearly as momentous a defeat for Pelosi as the media pack mentality is making it out to be.

The other backstory is that this is somehow an indication on how Dems will position themselves on Iraq, being that Murtha's well-known view that troops should be withdrawn gradually to positions "over the horizon" differs from Hoyer's, who is regarded as having a more "stay the course" view.

I certainly hope that Hoyer's win doesn't entrap the Dems in continueing the do-nothing Iraq policy the voter's rejected and which is continuing to produce a steady stream of body bags at Dover Air Force Base.

Interesting in this as well is that Murtha flat out stated that he had the votes to win to Chris Matthews last night, saying so in no uncertain terms.

These elections are done by secret ballot, and somehow a ton of votes evaporated overnight for Murtha.

Populism, not conservatism, won the day

Paul Krugman in the New York Times (sub required):
Ever since movement conservatives took over, the Republican Party has pushed for policies that benefit a small minority of wealthy Americans at the expense of the great majority of voters. To hide this reality, conservatives have relied on wagging the dog and wedge issues, but they’ve also relied on a brilliant marketing campaign that portrays Democrats as elitists and Republicans as representatives of the average American.

This sleight of hand depends on shifting the focus from policy to personal style: John Kerry speaks French and windsurfs, so pay no attention to his plan to roll back tax cuts for the wealthy and use the proceeds to make health care affordable.

This year, however, the American people wised up.

True to form, some reporters still seem to be falling for the conservative spin. “If it walks, talks like a conservative, can it be a Dem?” asked the headline on a story featuring a photo of Senator-elect Jon Tester of Montana. In other words, if a Democrat doesn’t fit the right-wing caricature of a liberal, he must be a conservative.

But as Robin Toner and Kate Zernike of The New York Times pointed out yesterday, what actually characterizes the new wave of Democrats is a “strong streak of economic populism.”

Look at Mr. Tester’s actual policy positions: yes to an increase in the minimum wage; no to Social Security privatization; we need to “stand up to big drug companies” and have Medicare negotiate for lower prices; we should “stand up to big insurance companies and support a health care plan that makes health care affordable for all Montanans.”

So what, aside from his flattop haircut, makes Mr. Tester a conservative? O.K., he supports gun rights. But on economic issues he’s clearly left of center, not just compared with the current Senate, but compared with current Democratic senators. The same can be said of many other victorious Democrats, including Bob Casey in Pennsylvania, Sheldon Whitehouse in Rhode Island, and Sherrod Brown in Ohio. All of these candidates ran on unabashedly populist platforms, and won.

What about Joe Lieberman? Like shipwreck survivors clinging to flotsam, some have seized on his reelection as proof of Americans’ continuing conservatism. But Mr. Lieberman won only through denial and deception, for example, by rewriting the history of his once-fervent support for the Iraq war and Donald Rumsfeld. He got two-thirds of the Republican vote, but managed to confuse enough Democrats about his positions to get over the top.

Last week’s populist wave, among other things, vindicates the populist direction that Al Gore took in the closing months of the 2000 campaign. But will this wave be reflected in the actual direction of the Democratic Party?

Not necessarily. Quite a few sitting Democrats have shown themselves nearly as willing as Republicans to bow to corporate interests. Consider the vote on last year’s draconian bankruptcy bill. Mr. Lieberman voted for cloture, cutting off debate and ensuring the bill’s passage; then he voted against the bill, a meaningless gesture that let him have it both ways. Thirteen other Democratic senators also voted for cloture, including Joe Biden, who has just announced his candidacy for president.

The first big test of the new Democratic populism will come over reform of the 2003 prescription drug law. Democrats have pledged to repeal the clause in that law preventing Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices. But the fine print of how they do that is crucial: Medicare reform could be a mere symbolic gesture, or it could be a real reform that eliminates the huge implicit subsidies the program currently gives drug and insurance companies.

Are the newly invigorated Democrats ready to offer a real change in this country’s direction? We’ll know in a few months.

Thanks Mr. Krugman for echoing my point in the "Lessons of the Midterm" post below.

And to DemGorilla and others who tout Jon Tester's victory in Montana as some proof of the need for Dems to become more conservative, I'd warn that a flat-top does NOT make a person conservative. His positions are definitely NOT conservative.

DemGorilla has also apealled for "responsible governing" inferring that blogs were icky and nasty and too partisan.

Here's the total raised by the so-called "overly partisan" left-wing blogs for the supposedly "conservative" Jon Tester: $343,017.27

Tester and other candidates received massive support, publicity, cash, organization and boots on the ground from overtly liberal (and "irresponsible" in DemG's terms Im' sure) blogs, and Tester himself has acknowledged their critical role on his campaign website.
I cannot thank you enough for everything you have done. Words cannot express how deeply grateful and deeply honored Sharla and I are for the hard work and support that grassroots and netroots Democrats gave to this campaign. You opened up your schedules, opened up your wallets, and opened up your hearts to make Montana and our country a better place.
Now DemGorilla wants to be sure that Dems don't pay any attention to the non-conservative side of the party, advocating avoiding being too hard on Republicans or calling them to account for their years of ineptitude and corruption. It's time to put it all behind us and set an example.

This despite the fact that in Jon Tester's case and many, many others, these blogs that he decries, that have vociferously held Bush and Republicans accountible, have played a key role in revealing their dirty dealings and hypocrisy, and have made the difference and put Democrats over the top and into office.

I don't think ignoring the many millions of people who are NOT conservative and who most certainly do NOT want the Dems to run the government in the same unresponsive, radically right wing way is good policy for the Democrats in the years ahead.

It may seem like a radical shift to the left just to get back to the center, but the mistake should not be made of being timid about doing exactly what the majority of Americans want done. And that's not to continue the past 6 years with only a few changes around the edges.

Changing course in D.C. CAN be effective and "responsible" and civil without getting to the left of the center. And that doesn't preclude being tough on Bush and the Republicans and continuing to speak out loudly and strongly against right wing policies and hypocrisy.

Dem candidates across the board won with populist, anti-Bush policy messages and positions. This was NOT a clear sign that the party needs to follow the utterly failed policy of the past where it continued to try to move right and co-opt and imitate the conservative agenda, not realizing that the idea that most of the country agreed with this agenda was a product of massive spin, not reality.

The message of the election surely isn't to continue to chase conservatives to the right, but to stand up for the majority of people with a common sense populist message and a pledge to clean up and put an end to the the corrupt policies of the Bush administration and Republican leadership. And to do this in an effective way to get results. Obviously, this requires a return to the way government is suppposed to work, as opposed to the way Republicans have run things. And it requires working across the aisle and bringing Republicans into the "reality based" community.

Nothing wrong with that.

But to hand-wring and panic that the Dems might somehow turn out to be out of their minds and do nothing but push far-left agendas that are shared only by a fraction of the party itself is, frankly, nuts and way too much worry about nothing. But it does show the person's affinity for a truly conservative Republican agenda, as by trying to spin the mid-terms as a mandate for conservatism, they're joining the Republican's themselves in trying to box Democrats out pre-emptively from following any sort of center-left policy goals.

I think this attempt to hand-cuff Dems and lock them into right wing positions amounts to simply helping to spread the very spin Republicans are attempting to put out.

November 15, 2006

Not exactly foreward looking

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot. A bit of hyperbole, but apt nonetheless. The Quad City Music Guild located in Moline's Prospect Park is a true gem located on a prometory of land surrounded by old oaks and with a spectacular view over the Rock River Valley on the south and Prospect Park on the west.

It's done perfectly well with it's small parking lot, depending on effecient bus service for patrons who park at nearby lots and ride shuttles to the facility.

For some reason which I personally can't fathom, someone decided that they should spend money they don't have to pave over a large part of the beautiful grounds so more traffic could jam down into the dead-end residential street where the theatre is located. Simply stupid in my estimation.

The residents rightly opposed the measure, but were overruled.

Now the city of Moline and it's taxpayers are chipping in to help with the cost of the defilement of the grounds to the tune of nearly $27,000.

It really seems as if this is our own little "bridge to nowhere". A project with no apparent pressing need, strongly objected to by those who live in the gorgeous and otherwise secluded neighborhood, very costly, and which wouldn't have been possible without the collusion of the Moline Park Board and City Council.

Too bad none of them live near the Music Guild, or I'd bet my eye-teeth that this project would never have even gotten off the ground.

Arguing the lesson of the midterms

Myself and DemGorilla have had a spirited back and forth on the issue of what the midterm election results suggest as far as where the Democrats should go from here.

There are two schools of thought in this, one trying to point to certain narrow results as proof that moving the party to the right is imperative and the only way to win.

My thinking is that this isn't indicated at all, and it's only a further attempt by those who'd be more comfortable with the Dems morphing into a sort of "Republican Light" by trying to spin the results to support their goal.

Instead, I've read just as much "evidence" where many races were won by candidates who did not cow-tow to right wing positions, and as a matter of fact, even candidates shoved forward as poster boys of "conservative" Dems such as Jon Tester in Montana won while holding decidedly "unconservative" views, such as being pro-choice, anti-Bush tax cut, anti-Patriot Act, for renewable energy, and on and on.

Go read our back and forth in the threads below if you have the time. It might set the stage, so to speak.

Since nothing I could say would seem to sink in with DemGorilla and he simply kept restating his views like a robot, I realized that I just must not be getting my point across, which isn't too big a surprise as it's often a big challenge for me.

So I made this crude graphic to make my point which appears below.

DemGorilla continually advocates a decidedly conservative Democratic line as the only hope of the party. I think this is hogwash and actually will lead to the Dems falling into the same morass that they wallowed in all these many years, being labeled as not standing for anything, wishy-washy, inept, "say anything", weenies.

A large part of the Rovian sucess with a bonehead candidate like Bush is portraying him as "plain speaking", "bold", "decisive" (the decider), etc. People didn't so much bother with what he was saying or if they agreed, they just liked someone who knew where he stood and said so strongly. They wanted someone who stood by their ideology and beliefs, even if they may not always agree. You knew where Bush stood on just about anything.

The Dems, in trying to be all things to all people, and the bone-headed DLC and other long-failed D.C. consultants had Dem candidates all over the map, appearing plainly as mushy, neither here-nor-there nothings. You never knew where they'd stand, and maybe it would change in a few hours.

But a large part of this misconception was due to the massive and skillful manipulation of public opinion over the years by the right wing.

They'd demonized liberalism to the point where Dems were scared to death to even utter the word, let alone admit to being one. Even worse, they even had Democrats themselves operating on the basis of this false distorted image of Democrats. Democrats would actually repeat the right wing talking points in their arguments, thus giving them the validity they in no way deserved.

The right wing noise machine also suceeded, unfortunately, in convincing a lot of party wonks and hacks that the country was much more conservative that it actually was.

These consultants, pollsters, and strategists listened to the drivel poured out on cable TV by pundits who got their talking points from cocktail parties or the Drudge Report or Limbaugh, who in turn got their stories directly from the RNC, thus creating a circular loop of disinformation. They poured over the results of a few hundred people, many lying to poll takers, and based huge decisions on them. And they got completely off track, and the result was the near destruction of the Dem party.

Now those of this view want to go right down that same path and into oblivion again.

They seem convinced by polls, elections, and the very right wing spin that has affected so many of the public, that the country is definitely very conservative, and therefore, the Dems better abandon their cherished principles and out-Republican the Republicans. To fail to do so is certain death, they say.

Their god is the perceived "center", though they never bother defining it to any degree. Whatever this "center" is is in the eye of the beholder of course, but they throw the term around like it's an objective fact. It's nearly meaningless in reality. It exists, but claiming to know where it is is dubious at best.

And importantly, they ignore the fact that politicians and campaigns can CHANGE this real and perceived center, despite the overwhelming evidence that the right and Republicans most definitely changed the perceived center by an enormous degree, so much so that these Dems themselves are working off of THAT center, rather than the actual one.

Dem Gorilla lauds Rahm Emanuel for supposedly fielding a slate of very conservative candidates, and demands that this is the way the party must continue or face certain doom. This is crap. He didn't field candidates that were particularly conservative, so much as he chose not to back candidates which were decidedly on the left end of the spectrum.

It doesn't take a genius to realize that running a Dennis Kucinich in Montana isn't a bright idea. Yet Emanuel is lionized for his brilliant "conservative" strategy. What bull.

The massive decade long propaganda campaign by the right and it's effect in distorting and warping the political landscape must be taken into account in all this as well.

It gets down to how voters self-identify themselves. There remain millions of "Reagan Democrats" for lack of a better term, or in other words middle class or working class people out there who, through the efforts of Limbaugh et. al. have ended up self-identifying themselves as Republicans for many years, despite the fact that the Republicans most decidedly do NOT represent their interests at all, dispite the tid-bits of red meat thrown their way, and actually hurt them in many cases, and despite the fact that if the truth be known, they actually AGREED with Democratic policies, thought they often didn't realize it. All they knew was that they definitely DID NOT like the false and scary image of the Dems that they'd been fed daily by the right.

And after 9-11, the right wing succeeded in convincing people that straying from the Republican line was a traitorous act.

The right was overtaken by zealots in many respects and drove their agenda way, way, WAY to the right. Yet the media gave these radicals the appearance of legitimacy and presented them as not radical at all, lest they be bludgeoned for "liberal bias".

So people started to think this stuff was legitimate and asssumed these radical views enjoyed majority support. This was never the case. The media and PR campaigns were massive and funded with hundreds of millions of dollars to keep up the charade. People in the middle were sheepishly drawn along with it all, especially in the wake of 9-11 where fear made it impossible for many of them to dare even think of saying they were a Dem or question what they knew was wrong for fear of being instantly labeled a commie traitor terorist lover.

But it's worn off now, and when confronted by the sheer magnitude of Republican hypocrisy, incompetence, corruption, and just plain stupidity, they're unable to avoid realizing that maybe Republicans aren't so cool after all.

Now back to DemGorilla and those who think like him. These people are still operating by the stats and figures of the past decades. They have accepted as an article of faith that the vast majority out there in the "heartland" are all conservative as hell. I'd say it's 50/50 at best, and those numbers could very well be swayed by some committed and effective Dems.

Why do they accept that the population are mostly right wingers? Well, because a lot of people listen to Limbaugh, they tell pollsters that they're conservative, a lot of people who don't know squat about politics or the world around them still think they're Republicans because people like Limbaugh actually paid attention to them and catered to their base instincts and gullibility and TOLD them they were Republicans, and TOLD them that Democrats weren't just the opposition, they were downright immoral, corrupt, horrible people. And the rubes ate it up.

While they may self-identify as Republicans and even adopt conservative views on some issues, the fact is that it's largely due to peer pressure, generated by media pressure from the right. And they can be swayed to the Dem side just as easily as they were conned into thinking they were Republicans in the first place.

Only once they're back with the Dems, they'll stay, because it won't be all a crock of crap and hot air, but rather actual actions and accomplishments which will actually benefit them or with which they agree. In other words, it will sound and appear honest to them, because it will be. And it will appeal to their better natures, not their suceptibility to hate and demonize others.

If given the chance, if presented with Dem candidates who clearly and UNAPPOLOGETICALLY explained and laid out Democratic positions and why they're best for them and why these positions agree with their religious beliefs and morality far more than Republican positions, these people would nearly instantly switch to telling pollsters that they're Democrats.

Even with the massive media campaign to warp and distort what Democrats are and what they advocate and stand for, polls still showed a majority of Americans agreed by far with Dem policy positions, as long as the policies weren't labeled as Democratic or liberal!

So...DemGorilla and those of his ilk continue to chase the mirage created by the right, constantly striving to move to the right and capture some of that Republican Mojo somehow, and they'll never, ever find it.

What they will do if Dems actually follow that path, is lose the party entirely to a mish-mash of jumbled up positions all over the place until no one knows what the hell the Dems stand for at all, and the line between Dem and Republicans will be blurred beyond recognition, as if it's not blurry enough already.

The public will once again perceieve the Dems as mushy-minded, weak, not willing to stand up for their beliefs, and not really sure just what the hell their beliefs are anyway, and will run to the "strong" Republicans, no matter how bad Republican policies are for the average person and the country.

In the crude chart above, I hope people can see what I believe has happened. You can move the lines a little in any direction, but the argument still holds. (I firmly believe that this chart is generally accurate, but of course, many may feel the lines are entirely in the wrong places.)

The Republicans, in being effectively hi-jacked by theocons and neocons, corporate greed and influence, Israeli conservatives, imperialists, and the rest, is in a position far further to the extreme right than the media, the public, or the DemGorillas of the world even realize or recognize. They think it's all hunky-dory. They're not aware of the goofy end-times theological nuts who have huge influence over policy. They're not aware of a lot of things that would curl people's hair if they knew just how nutty some very influential people in this movement truly are. (and that's another reason hearings need to be held, so the public will learn this).

That's mistake number one. Failing to realize and come to grips with just how far to the right the Republican party has swung.

Secondly, due to this misconception, the DLC types (for lack of a better term) make a large mistake in where they perceive the center to be.

In pouring over all their skewed polls and going by abberant election results, running scared, they all mistakenly place the so-called "center" much further to the right than it actually is.

Thirdly, they have a truly oversized fear of liberals themselves, thinking that if it weren't for them, (the conserva-crats), the way-out wavy gravy communists would all of a sudden appear on the floor of the House with bongs in hand demanding that all military uniforms be made from hemp. It's kind of unpleasant to hear supposed Democrats who sound exactly like they've listened to too much Limbaugh and O'Reilly and have bought the stupid cartoonish image of the Democratic party as chock full of pie-in-the-sky radical liberals. That perception simply has no relation to reality, even though it's been sold and bought as reality by far too many people, including many Democrats.

I suspect that this branch of Dems is rather country clubbish and wants a brand of Democrat which would continue the broken system of corporate influence and a system awash in money for influence. If left to their way, the Democrats would rapidly descend into the type of plutocracy demanding special breaks that the Republicans presided over.

They're petrified of scaring off the conservative money sources they envy and the dollars they crave from them because these same donors cater to this warped view, and irrational fear of the mythical wild 60's liberal element of the Democratic party. Above all, these big donors are greedy and live in fear of giving up any of the special deals and breaks and exceptions that make them even more wealthy.

So these Dems are desperate to prove just how conservative they are, to woo the conservative campaign dollars to their side. They're thinking in terms of the old game with nothing new, nothing creative, and offering nothing new to the people of this country.

The DemGorilla's of the country in many respects are Dems in name only, and seem to desire nothing more than to capture the millions now donated to the Republicans. Get to the money, they seem to think, and the Dems will rule. Of course, never mind that we'd have to bastardize and pervert our priciples in the process, we can immitate the Republicans on that front too and smooth that over with massive PR and BS. (worked great for them, huh?)

DemGorilla writes like he thinks that the greatest danger to the Dems, and the reason they've lost for so long, is that they're too far to the left. Again, very wrong, and feeding in once again to the Limbaugh's of the world.

Look at the Dems. Really look at them. Don't look at the favorite whipping boys and girls of the right. Ignore the cartoonish BS they spew, because it's just that, BS.

But look at the Levins, the Bidens, the Murthas, the Durbins, and on and on and on. They're not crazy irrational lefties! I mean, let's stick to reality. Even Hilary Clinton, who somehow has become the equivelent of Stalin, Castro, Mao, and Hitler all rolled into one, is in reality pretty firmly to the right of center.

The party as a whole is not by any stretch of the imagination liberal or far left despite the yammering of the right wing noise machine. The party and their candidates truly reflect the views and desires of a large majority of this country, as was shown by this past election and many polls before that.

The key is to think beyond and outside the hype!

Again to the chart.

The Dems, though portrayed relentlessly (without explanation I might add) as whacko leftys, are truly much closer to the actual "center" politically than the Republicans.

The Republicans are WAY off to the right, led there by radical fundementalists, economic nuts, neo-con idiots, corporate interests, and, of course, Rove, Cheney, and Bush.

The Dems may look far left by comparison, but it's an optical illusion, and one which the right is quite happy to perpetuate. And it truly pisses me off when some Dems willingly aid them in this effort by swallowing their images of the Dems themselves and advocating at every turn a move to the right.

But as shown on the chart, the Dems are damn near dead center already. They don't need to move much at all. They're fine!

The Americans are going to be very pleased with the change in D.C., and the only impediment is going to be the continuing attack against them by the 500,000 right wing media outlets and a press which will gleefully jump on any stumbles or signs of failure.

But the Dems will show the people the power of hope, and the power of actually putting the needs of the middle class in front of the greed of corporations and individuals. And above all, a return to REALITY.

The Dems don't need to shift their views to accomodate the people in the center. They're already there!

Any movement too far to the right is moving away from the center and dooming the Dems to being seen as more interested in power than principle. And perhaps more importantly, it leaves over half the country with no representation of their views at all, as has been the case for a dozen years or more.

This imbalance will always tend to be corrected, and if the Dems are stuck to the right of center, it won't be good for them either. A third party may indeed step into the vacuum.

Instead of catering to far-right wing views held by a true minority in this country, Dems should instead stand up for their positions and bring the people around to their views. Most people are there already, and many more would come around if they were presented with something other than the rampant propaganda blitzkrieg they're subjected to from the right. I see this changing, in more liberal views presented, as well as more commercial sucess for shows with a more centrist viewpoint.

You can literally watch all the right wing pundits and talk show gasbags changing horses in mid-stream. It's amazing to hear them now claim that they were never right wing hacks to begin with.

So why should the Dems give up this ideological ground by reinforcing right wing positions on issues, issues which wouldn't even be issues if it were not for a relatively miniscule group of zealots? Does anyone think that the country would be all in a lather over gay marriage if it weren't for a few multi-million dollar fundementalist organizations blowing it up into a sham crisis? Would there even be a murmur of protest about using clumps of cells that are already being discarded in furthering research into cures for horrible debilitating diseases if it weren't for a tiny minority of fundementalists having influence far out of proportion to their numbers? Heck no.

Even people who don't like abortion probably are more likely to accept that it's an individual choice and wouldn't want a return to back alley abortions. So why pander to the zealots who want to outlaw it altogether? It makes no sense, either out of principle or from a purely political viewpoint.

The time to stand firm is now. No one needs to keep pandering to the right. It's time to show the American people that they were Dems all along.

So there. Rant over.

Don't know if my point was made any clearer or sharper, but I gave it a shot.

Feel free to share your views on the issue.

November 14, 2006

What is it?

Taken recently. What is it?

Anonymous (yawn) got this dead on. It's a maple leaf taken in the rain. I have got to make them harder in the future.

Here's the picture from which it was cropped. Click it to view larger.

A Liberal's Pledge to Disheartened Conservatives

A Liberal's Pledge to Disheartened Conservatives

November 14th, 2006

To My Conservative Brothers and Sisters,

I know you are dismayed and disheartened at the results of last week's election. You're worried that the country is heading toward a very bad place you don't want it to go. Your 12-year Republican Revolution has ended with so much yet to do, so many promises left unfulfilled. You are in a funk, and I understand.

Well, cheer up, my friends! Do not despair. I have good news for you. I, and the millions of others who are now in charge with our Democratic Congress, have a pledge we would like to make to you, a list of promises that we offer you because we value you as our fellow Americans. You deserve to know what we plan to do with our newfound power -- and, to be specific, what we will do to you and for you.

Thus, here is our Liberal's Pledge to Disheartened Conservatives:

Dear Conservatives and Republicans,

I, and my fellow signatories, hereby make these promises to you:

1. We will always respect you for your conservative beliefs. We will never, ever, call you "unpatriotic" simply because you disagree with us. In fact, we encourage you to dissent and disagree with us.

2. We will let you marry whomever you want, even when some of us consider your behavior to be "different" or "immoral." Who you marry is none of our business. Love and be in love -- it's a wonderful gift.

3. We will not spend your grandchildren's money on our personal whims or to enrich our friends. It's your checkbook, too, and we will balance it for you.

4. When we soon bring our sons and daughters home from Iraq, we will bring your sons and daughters home, too. They deserve to live. We promise never to send your kids off to war based on either a mistake or a lie.

5. When we make America the last Western democracy to have universal health coverage, and all Americans are able to get help when they fall ill, we promise that you, too, will be able to see a doctor, regardless of your ability to pay. And when stem cell research delivers treatments and cures for diseases that affect you and your loved ones, we'll make sure those advances are available to you and your family, too.

6. Even though you have opposed environmental regulation, when we clean up our air and water, we, the Democratic majority, will let you, too, breathe the cleaner air and drink the purer water.

7. Should a mass murderer ever kill 3,000 people on our soil, we will devote every single resource to tracking him down and bringing him to justice. Immediately. We will protect you.

8. We will never stick our nose in your bedroom or your womb. What you do there as consenting adults is your business. We will continue to count your age from the moment you were born, not the moment you were conceived.

9. We will not take away your hunting guns. If you need an automatic weapon or a handgun to kill a bird or a deer, then you really aren't much of a hunter and you should, perhaps, pick up another sport. We will make our streets and schools as free as we can from these weapons and we will protect your children just as we would protect ours.

10. When we raise the minimum wage, we will pay you -- and your employees -- that new wage, too. When women are finally paid what men make, we will pay conservative women that wage, too.

11. We will respect your religious beliefs, even when you don't put those beliefs into practice. In fact, we will actively seek to promote your most radical religious beliefs ("Blessed are the poor," "Blessed are the peacemakers," "Love your enemies," "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God," and "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."). We will let people in other countries know that God doesn't just bless America, he blesses everyone. We will discourage religious intolerance and fanaticism -- starting with the fanaticism here at home, thus setting a good example for the rest of the world.

12. We will not tolerate politicians who are corrupt and who are bought and paid for by the rich. We will go after any elected leader who puts him or herself ahead of the people. And we promise you we will go after the corrupt politicians on our side FIRST. If we fail to do this, we need you to call us on it. Simply because we are in power does not give us the right to turn our heads the other way when our party goes astray. Please perform this important duty as the loyal opposition.

I promise all of the above to you because this is your country, too. You are every bit as American as we are. We are all in this together. We sink or swim as one. Thank you for your years of service to this country and for giving us the opportunity to see if we can make things a bit better for our 300 million fellow Americans -- and for the rest of the world.


Michael Moore

(Click here to sign the pledge)

P.S. Please feel free to pass this on.

C-Span piece on Freshman class photo features Hare

Just looked up to take a peek at C-Span and their filming of the taking of the House Freshman Photo only to see a close up of Phil Hare standing very prominently at the corner of the balcony above the Capitol steps and with the camera zooming in on him and lingering for quite some time. The cameraperson must have found him interesting, evidently.

At least it shows that he knows how to get the prime position for photos.

Post-post election thread

Well, what have we so far?

Two sons of the south looking to emerge as minority leaders, Mel Martinez of Florida in the house and Trent "Helmet Hair" Lott in the Senate.

The contest for Dem whip is curious, with Maryland's Steny Hoyer having the edge over patriot Jack Murtha. The D/A reports that both Braley in Iowa and Hare in Illinois are backing Hoyer. There's also some contention over whether Hoyer or California's Jane Harmon should chair the House Intelligence Committee.

Rudy Giulianni has formed an "exploratory" committee for a presidential run, as has McCain.

And another Republican had beat them to it last week by announcing his intention to run for president, and that would be wing-nut Rep. Duncan Hunter. We'll keep a close eye on this front-runner. (cough)

Chimpy McFlightsuit is winging his way to Asia and there's hopes he won't start any conflicts before he gets home. On the agenda is liberalizing trade relationships with Vietnam, therefore providing yet another southeast Asian source for literally everything sold in America, as well as adding another nation to bid in the race to the bottom as far as wages, conditions, and environmental protections go, and thus luring whatever jobs are left here overseas.

While in Vietnam, a grateful nation will be reminded of how George W. kept the coast of Alabama safe from Viet Cong invasion.

What else is going on?

This post election period is proving sillier than the campaign season, with journalists struggling to fill the 24 hour news cycle with weird speculation over the 2008 elections and how the Dem victory can benefit the Republicans. (and of course, the coming menace of radical liberal rule and where you can hide.)

Feel free to add your thoughts. I'm fresh out.

November 13, 2006

Those pesky citizens and their rights stymy East Moline sewer bond plan

It seems that a group of citizens opposed to the Triumph Pork plant have helped get far in excess of the number of signatures required to put a multi-million dollar sewer bond issue to a vote.

Of course, East Moline mayor John Thodos doesn't like that. The pesky opponents have made it harder for him and others to slip the massive project and the huge taxpayer costs asssociated with it past the public largely unnoticed. Now those same folks are educating the residents again and actually giving them a chance to have a say in all of it.

Apparently this is bad news for Thodos, who maintains that stopping the bonds now will cost the city more money.

Officials are upset with this petition drive. Why? Well, because not enough of the petition circulators live in East Moline, even though there is absolutely no requirement that they do.
The circultors want a public vote on whether East Moline should borrow $39.5 million to pay for water and sewer system improvements. The city wants to sell bonds, and increase water and sewer rates to repay them.
However, city officials are asking why people who don't live in East Moline are so concerned about how the city will pay for the utility improvements, which are mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Petition circulators argue that where they live doesn't matter -- and that they gathered more than 3,200 signatures from registered East Moline voters, way more than the 2,107 needed to put the issue to a public vote, said circulator Doug Riel, who lives in unincorporated Rock Island County.

Mr. Riel was adamant that he and others organized the effort because they want East Moline officials to be held accountable for not billing water and sewer rate increases on outside municipalities that aldermen approved in 1998 and 2003.

Mr. Riel said he helped a few East Moline residents collect enough signatures because they helped him in his fight against Triumph Foods' proposed pork processing plant.

"Everybody wants to say, 'This is a Doug Riel thing.' It's not a Doug Riel thing," he said.

Mayor John Thodos is convinced that accountability isn't the real reason. He said most of the people who circulated petitions are known pork-plant opponents.

"I am against the pork plant," Carole Stoner, of East Moline, said. "I won't deny it. But this particular thing cannot be connected to the hog plant. (City officials) need to be responsible."

Another circulator, Bob Zesiger of Silvis, offered a different reason. Mr. Zesiger, who is also a Silvis alderman, said he believes the borrowed money will go to Triumph.

"We're all out there because this all started with Triumph," Mr. Zesiger said. He said local business leaders don't dig into the background or look into the problems of the hog industry.

East Moline aldermen had approved selling bonds at roughly 4 percent interest, but will have to scrap those plans due to the referendum question on the February primary ballot.

Instead, the city will have to borrow money next month at a higher interest rate to pay for sewer repairs that need to be done now. That in turn means higher water and sewer rates than expected, the mayor said.

If voters approve the $39.5 million bond sale, then the city could begin borrowing money at a lower interest rate, which could mean lowering water and sewer rates, Mayor Thodos said.
By the looks of comments left on the story in the D/A, people aren't buying what Thodos is selling.

November 12, 2006

Good thing I didn't put any money on them

Well, it's official. My top two favorite presidential hopefuls are out of the game.

First Mark Warner, and now Russ Feingold. (heavy sigh)

Now what? Gore? Clinton? Bayh? Vilsack, for heavens sake?

"Drunk with power"

Already the message is loud and clear... be afraid, be very afraid.

Why? Well the Democrats, "drunk with power", will actually perform their constitutional duty to provide oversight of the executive branch and conduct some investigations. (I've actually heard the term "drunk with power" used about a dozen times by right wing hacks on TV)

They're apparently hoping most folks won't recall that a week ago and for the past 5 years or so before that, the Republicans have controlled every branch of government the majority of statehouses and the supreme court and federal judiciary.

Now days after the Dems gained control of capitol hill, the media and pundits are freaking out and railing against something they've entirely made up in their own fevered imaginations. Namely, that the Democrats are going to storm the government and turn it into some radical liberal state. The way they're reacting, (and it's so-called reporters as well), you'd think that the Dems had announced that their first 100 days agenda consisted of legalizing heroin, tripling everyone's taxes, and forcing everyone to eat granola for breakfast.

Within a half hour today, a full 5 days after the election, I heard supposed reporters on MSNBC asking with a straight face whether Democrats will "learn their lesson" and not spend time on investigations (!!!) and if by Senate majority leader Harry Reid saying that there might RARELY be subpoenas issued, he was signaling an "all-out war" by the Democrats against the Republicans. It's nuts!

This is but a small example of the absolutely crazy drumbeat going on on cable news ever since the results of the election sank in. These people have been so thoroughly brainwashed that they essentially demand from any Dem panelist or guest that they promise that the party that the people just voted in do NOTHING to make Bush or his cronies uncomfortable. For heaven's sake, don't be MEAN, they seem to demand, as if the Republicans hadn't taken mean and made it an art form.

It's as if they're pleading that the Democrats don't hold any investigations into the rampant abuse of power and corruption that has been systematically ignored and winked at by the Republican congress.

Why is this?

Is anyone else as completely outraged at the spectacle of members of a party who has taken non-cooperation and division to unheard of levels, spent years abusing power attacking Clinton and everyone associated with him, has Karl Rove on a tax-payer funded salary with an office in the White House in charge of doing nothing but attacking Dems and making sure they have no power at all, now turning around and having the nerve to be wagging their collective fingers in Dems faces and warning them that they better be nice and share power and be "bi-partisan" and all the rest?

Isn't it beyond sickening to hear these people, who for six years wouldn't consult with Democrats, wouldn't allow them to hold hearings, wouldn't do a THING to cooperate or reach across the aisle, had a "K Street Project" where Delay and others made it known that if lobbyists wanted any access at all, they had to fire any Dems on their staffs and hire ideologically pure people that the Republicans approved of, told Patrick Leahy to go F himself on the floor of the senate, threatened to use a "nuclear option" in the senate if they didn't get their judicial nominations approved, a tactic never used before where by a trick of the rules they'd effectively have Cheney rule that they didn't have to follow the rules, now demanding that Dems behave themselves?

It's like the bully who now finds the scrawny kids he's picked on for years has been working out and is strong enough to kick his ass, standing there and demanding that his former victim be nice.

There is literally no end to the abuses that the Republicans have practiced on the hill, illegally holding open votes for hours longer than allow and bribing members on the floor to shift votes, and on and on and on. There has probably never been a more partisan government than that under Bush, with the Republicans treating Dems with contempt and scorn and ignored at every opportunity.

And now they're warning that the Dems not only better not do as they've done, but better damn well immediately start treating the minority with respect and involving them in decision making unlike what they've done for six years. And on top of that, these pundits declare that if they don't, they'll be "tossed out of office" real soon.

And the woman on MSNBC asks if the Dems will "learn their lesson", as if Democrats have been the bullies, and be more cooperative with Republicans??!!!! How nuts is that?

It's mind-blowing. Yet no one appears to see the blinding hypocrisy.

What exactly is so scary about Democrats holding hearings and trying to put things straight after 6 years of absolutely NO investigations or oversight and 6 years of corruption with the public for the most part being kept in the dark? Why are the media darlings wringing their hands at the mere prospect that someone might be held accountable?

And why are Dems running away from this, doing all they can to assure people that they won't be mean to those nice folks in the White House? The Bush administration is the most secretive White House in history by many accounts, yet, they demand, the Dems better not dare to even think about trying to find out what's gone on?

Bush, Cheney, and the rest have allowed rampant abuse and corruption, yet it's better if we don't go into that. Let's just move forward.

Yes. Let's move forward.

But let's make sure that the people who are responsible for this are exposed and held accountible, and let's make sure that the public realizes the extent of it so that it can be prevented in the future!

I don't recall this clammor for civility and moderation when the Republicans, for years on end, held so many hearings, and issued so many subpoenas to so many people, including many who went broke hiring lawyers, investigating the Clinton's Christmas card list and going through Hilary's underwear drawer? Where were these people then?

Granted, that era was sheer lunacy and it brought the government almost to a halt. Nearly a hundred million dollars was spent by a party who had nothing to offer but attacking Clinton and trying to bring him down.

Clearly, the newly majority Dems aren't going to be as obsessive and reckless, and truly "drunk with power" as the Republicans were then and have been in the past 6 years.

The Republican congress has done NO oversight, and has refused to investigate corruption or hold anyone accountable for 6 long years.

So please, can anyone tell me why the first order of business after the election is for nearly everyone on cable news to suggest that the Dems are going to be "drunk with power" and actually perform their constitutional duty to be a watchdog over the executive branch?

The second right wing talking point emerging is trying to suggest that IF the Dems don't damn well pay attention to them and not look too closely at what the Republicans have been up to the past 6 years, then by God, they'll be tossed out of office real quick.

The third, of course, is that Nancy Pelosi is some sort of tie-dyed radical from San Francisco and will have the entire country eating granola and singing Kumbaya.

This is typical outrageously exaggerated and twisted propaganda from the Republicans, so it's not exactly a shock. But the fact that the Dems have no one out there countering it is a bad sign.