December 30, 2006

The Dem field so far

Joe Biden, John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, and Tom Vilsack are the Dems who have announced officially for president, and unfortunately, Mark Warner has dropped out, and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin opted not to run.

Do any of the four already announced candidates have a snowball's chance in this?
Does anyone feel that Edwards has what it takes to catch fire and emerge on top?
Has Biden lost his position as the Dem "expert" on Iraq, and is he viable at all?

December 29, 2006

A little post-Christmas cheer

From the "Not something you see every day" files, The Inside Dope presents -

Your favorite politician bustin' some moves in an Elf outfit.





(Turn up those speakers)

December 27, 2006

Time for the INSIDE DOPE

Yes, Dopes and Dopettes, it's time to sharpen your pencils and your wits and help decide who wins in the Best and Worst of 2006 competition here at TID.

And the Categories are:

- Best Political play of the year

- Worst political play of the year

- Most outrageous and transparent "spin" of the year

- Least deserved, most unfair/ridiculous bum rap/negative smear

- Fairest rap/negative press

- Most improved politician

- Most effective politician

- Least effective politician

- Political operative/staffer/worker of the year

- Most important regional or local issue

- Most trumped up regional or local issue

- The "Most in love with their own hype" award

- Most invisible elected official

- Biggest political story of the year

- And finally, the coveted
Inside Dope Political Player of 2006 for the person, event, or thing which has had the most influence on the local political scene for better or worse.

Feel free to think up further categories I've left out. Send me an email.

And remember, winners or nominees can be actual people or groups or a phenomena or thing, much like Time Magazine's Man of the Year.

Votes will only be tabulated if you vote on at least 13 of the categories. Please give some thought to them all.

A more "technicaller" technical note

Well, here's the deal.

Blogger is the service which hosts TID. They are undergoing a supposed upgrade to a newer, different system and have been encouraging bloggers to voluntarily switch over to this beta version for some time now. However there were reports of difficuluties, etc. so I didn't make the plunge.

I then discovered WordPress thanks to Rich Miller's suggestion and was sold on it. After finding I could import TID to WordPress and not lose TID entirely, I went ahead and started the import process.

This took the last couple days. It would go from 0 to 100% and then start over. I just let it run in the background and would check from time to time. It would report that TID was 28% imported on the main import page, and no matter how long I let it run, it would never change.

I started it over from scratch a couple times, but had the same results. Finally, this morning, after letting it run all night, it popped up a screen saying, "You are not allowed to import." Ahhh. How nice.

Apparently what happened is this.

In what is impecably bad timing for me, Blogger decided to make their new version THE version and started involuntarily switching blogs over to this new system.

The problem there is that WordPress can only import the "old" version, which I had.

So, in a stroke of perfect bad timing, my blog apparently got 28% imported to WordPress and then Blogger switched it to the new Blogger, which completely messed up and stopped the import process.

Well, that's a big bummer, to say the least. I was looking forward to being on WordPress and utilizing it's features.

And of course, I now find that the import process has stripped the entire blog of all paragraph formatting so every post is just one huge chunk of text. Simply editing them and putting in paragraphs doesn't fix it either.

So now I guess I'll have to switch over to new Blogger, hope that clears up the formatting mess, and see what happens.

In the meantime, feel free to leave comments, but I doubt I'll be posting much until I get things straightened out.

Thanks for your patience.

**Update** I was able to solve the paragraph problem and some other minor issues, so at least this should be somewhat readable now.

Pardon our dust

I'm experimenting with moving TID to WordPress. I'm in the process of trying to migrate the entire blog from Blogger to WordPress and I'm not sure if it's working (It appears to be, then restarts on it's own, and never reports more than 28% as being transfered.)

Apparently this process also strips the current blog of formatting, so you'll notice that this process strips out paragraph markers, so all text runs together, etc. Please bear with me until I either get moved to WordPress (which apparently may be a very long process) or have to give up and come back here and try to put things back together the way they were.

Untill then, use this space to comment on whatever you wish, whether it be the legacy of Gerald Ford, or James Brown, or your thoughts on issues of the day.

December 26, 2006

It's official: Bush war has killed more Americans than 9-11 attack

The US military announced the deaths of seven more soldiers yesterday, bringing the American military death toll since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003 to at least 2,978 — five more than the number killed in the September 11 attacks.

The milestone came with a military announcement that three soldiers had been killed on Monday.

Another three died yesterday in roadside bombings near Baghdad, and one was killed in a vehicle rollover.

At least 2,377 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military’s figures.

December 24, 2006

Christmas Open Thread

Does it have to do with Christmas? Then here's the place.

How did you celebrate the day? Any last minute shopping stories? What did you want? What did you get? What did you give? Anything cute happen? Anything funny?
What was your Christmas like? Tell us, we're all friends.

If you want to share it, here's the place.

December 22, 2006

Peace and Goodwill? Not

Well, it's been two days since I tried adopting the policy of the Springfield Journal-Register and called for people to only send in comments if they had something good to say about someone or something in keeping with the spirit of the season.

The result? No one has one word of good or positive things to say about anything at all. Pretty pathetic, to say the least.

But there were around 50 vile and moronic comments from my stalkers, who apparently can't put aside their stupid little jihad for even 24 hours.

So screw it.

As long as there's no one but idiots and a-holes out there who are willing to comment, I'm going to concentrate on enjoying the holidays with friends and family.

I might check in every so often, but it's not worth the effort when only juvenile blowhards respond and decent and intelligent readers sit in silence. With blogs, it's use it or lose it folks.

So here's wishing you all the joy of the season, and a very Merry Christmas and the best New Year ever.

December 21, 2006

3 miles from the Rock River? Not quite.

A commenter to a recent post dealing with the Triumph hog processing plant proposed for near Barstow dismissed any concerns about polluting the Rock River and destroying wetlands by sniffing that the plant was "3 miles away" from the river.

This is simply false. I responded that it was less than a mile, and of course, another troll responded to say that I better go out there and measure it to the foot and if it wasn't less than a mile, I myself would be a liar. (How can people be so mush-headed?)

As even a glance at a map shows, the Triumph plant won't be three miles away from the river. It would sit practically on top of wetlands, directly across the road from lakes that drain directly into the Rock, which itself is less than 3/4 of a mile away.

Judge for yourself from this aerial view of the area. Click image to enlarge.
The map scale in the lower left represents 3666ft or about 0.7 of a mile.

Go ahead and look at the map yourself by clicking here.

You can choose between normal road map, an aerial view, or a hybrid of the two. The green marker denotes the southwest corner of the site of the Triumph plant.

Update... our own nutcase "Headusher" emerged from his cave to accuse me of "smearing" and distorting" comments to make my points because the commenter had actually said the plant was 3 miles from the river, not 5. This is the sort of idiotic stuff they make up on a daily basis in some childish effort to manufacture faults with the blog.

So my appologies. The commenter said the plant was going to be THREE MILES from the river, not 5 as I originally reported, when the fact remains that it's less than a mile from the river and only across the road from lakes that drain directly into the river. So the lying commenter was off by only two miles, not 4. Apparently to Headusher, this is a really big distinction. I deeply regret the error.

This inspired Headusher to go on for paragraphs whining that I print "false claim after false claim". Of course, I didn't and haven't and neither he nor anyone else has ever been able to point one out, which tells the real story.

The fact challenged commenter had said that the dump was 5 miles from the river, which is where I got that number. This too, is a ridiculous attempt to turn a blind eye to the plant, as a small town dump 5 miles from a river can't remotely be compared to a vast hog slaughtering plant processing 10,000 hogs a day located practially on top of wetlands and within a stone's throw of the Rock River.

If a handful of cranks want to attack me, fine, but I really, really wish they could do it without having to make stuff up. Judging from their lack of character, I'm proud to have pissed them off so badly. They apparently have nothing to contribute here but trying to knock someone who's doing something they can't control.

Their latest "talking point" is that I take myself too seriously, which is hilarious in light of the fact that anyone that spends half their day writing in crank comments is taking this blog WAY too seriously in my opinion. My problem, if anything, is giving these nit-wits any of my attention at all.

But roaches always are more active in the dark, so I like to shine a little light on them from time to time. It tends to drive them off into the murk.

On that front, I intend to find a way to block their IP addresses so I don't even have to see their drivel to begin with, as suggested by Rich Miller. That should help a lot and hopefully get things back on track.

To those who have no interest in this stupid stuff, I apologize. But I admit that it's beyond frustrating to learn that these so-called "leaders" are such a bunch of dim-witted, childish, lying control freaks. I guess you might say that everyone knows that, and maybe they do, but I guess I was naive.

Obama vs. Clinton, who gets the nomination?

I've avoided speculation about what is going to happen a year or more out, and have avoided framing the Dem race as being Obama vs. Clinton, mostly because I don't even like to think of such a contest, being that each has so much to offer and are such strong candidates. Secondly, I really find the gossipy, let's create a fight, type mentality displayed by the media where they salivate over a bruising match between the two and try to create a story line where Hilary Clinton is seething over and/or scared of Obama to be silly and serves to trivialize the process.

But I haven't thrown any meat to the armchair political strategists for a while, so here we go.

If Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton are both front runners a year from now, who do you think will get the Democratic nomination?

This of course depends on many factors, such as fund raising ability, (both extremely strong) and how they'd play in the key primary states.

Or as a wildcard, do you seriously think that if these two run, any other candidates stand a chance of picking one of them off?

So roll it around in your head a little while and then give us your pick as to who you feel would prevail in a primary contest between Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton and don't forget to include your reasoning.

Nuckin' Futs Indeed

The creative folks at Jib Jab take a look at the year that was.

A little help?

As a point of personal privilege, I'd like to ask if any readers out there have any experience working with Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum and DVD Architect Studio video editing and DVD authoring software.

I've been able to master the essentials, but would like some help in learning the more advanced aspects of digital video production with these tools.

If you've had some experience working with this software, drop me a line, would you?

We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming.

When they conceived of the internet, I'm not sure they had this in mind

The World Wide Web. The greatest revolution in communications in centuries and a technology which has profoundly changed the world and the way it communicates.

Of course, most of it's resources are devoted to spam email and porn sites, but every now and then, someone comes up with an application for this wondrous invention that fulfills it's true promise.

This isn't it.

But maybe this next effort comes a little closer. At least it made me laugh my ass off. But be warned, it's very dirty, naughty, offensive, and might cause horrible irreversible trauma to more sensitive reader's delicate sensibilities. Or at least their sense of good taste.

In this uncensored SNL skit, a couple ultra-smooth, tragically hip dudes (one is Justin Timberlake) come up with the perfect romantic gift for the holidays. A perfect send-up of what passes for sexy on MTV.

December 20, 2006

Sounds good to me

Springfield's State Journal-Register newspaper allows comments on their site, as most paper's have begun doing. And like the local papers and this blog as well, it tends to inspire a disturbing number of numbnuts and flakes to try their hand at writing their unique brand of semi-legible, pointless gibberish. I suspect these are the sort of bitterly frustrated people who feel compelled to scrawl obscenities on bathroom walls. And they seem to be particularly virulent as Christmas approaches, which isn't condusive to holly jolly and all that.

So, as noted by Rich Miller at Capitol Fax, the Journal-Register has devised what I feel is a great idea...
So, in celebration of the holiday spirit, here’s the plan: For one day — Wednesday — will host the first-ever “Peace and Goodwill Reader Comments Day.”

From 7 a.m. Wednesday through 7 a.m. Thursday, the only comments that will make it onto the site will be ones that follow that old saying from mom: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

That means no being critical, cynical, sarcastic, whiney or otherwise Scrooge-ish. We’ll still allow some debate on the issues, but you’re going to need to be really, really nice to each other. As always, the decisions of our screeners will be final.

Depending on how this goes, we may host more of these “Peace and Goodwill” comment days throughout the year. I’d be happy to hear your feedback — as long as you’re nice about it.
It's such a good idea in fact, that I'm adopting it here as well. We'll see what happens.

So far, not so good. Within 30 seconds of posting this, I'd received two comments (along with the usual Jacobs is God, Boland is trash stuff) from my little stalker in East Moline...
"You are a wack-job!", and...."This is the second stupidist thing I have ever read. You are a wack-job!" and ...."You are A WACK-JOB. STAY OUT OF YOUR MOM'S PANTY DRAWERS! gROSSssssssssssssssssssseeeeeeee

Ho Ho HO! indeed. What a shame (and embarassment)


Within a half hour this morning, a troll left 24 hate comments on about 20 different posts. Take a look here.

Not only couldn't they post anything constructive or positive, but they spent a solid half hour doing nothing but frantically leaving idiotic attacks.

Merry Christmas.

The wingnut mind

From Media Matters:
In a December 18 column headlined "Barack Hussein Obama: Once a Muslim, Always A Muslim" and posted on her website, right-wing pundit Debbie Schlussel argued that because Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) middle name is Hussein, his late, estranged father was of Muslim descent, and he has shown interest in his father's Kenyan heritage, Obama's "loyalties" must be called into question as he emerges as a possible Democratic presidential candidate. In the column, Schlussel asked: "So, even if he identifies strongly as a Christian ... is a man who Muslims think is a Muslim, who feels some sort of psychological need to prove himself to his absent Muslim father, and who is now moving in the direction of his father's heritage, a man we want as President when we are fighting the war of our lives against Islam? Where will his loyalties be?" She ended her column by asking if Obama becoming vice president instead would be acceptable. Answering her own question, she wrote: "NO WAY, JOSE ... Or, is that, HUSSEIN?"

The above is from a column by Debbie Schlussel, a conservative who makes frequent appearances on mainstream media outlets such as MSNBC and FOX.

This is the sort of idiocy and bigotry which has become more and more acceptible during this conservative era, and it's truly disgusting. (not to mention amazingly stupid and illogical.)

So now Barack Obama can't be trusted. After all, he'd sell out America to the Muslims in a split-second because of some imagined loyalty to their cause.


The only thing more pathetic than that is the fact that there's thousands of mutton-heads out there who will buy into it.

December 18, 2006

Programming note.... Vilsack to be on Daily Show tonight

A very helpful reader has informed the blog that Iowa Governor and presidential hopeful Tom Vilsack will appear on The Daily Show with John Stewart tonight. It airs on The Comedy Channel (Mediacom channel 50) at 10:00 p.m.

Catch it.

Stewart's gag has been to have the Aflac duck go across the bottom of the screen every time Vilsak is mentioned and squawk "VIL-SACK!".

There will also be an opportunity to meet Gov. Vilsack in Davenport Wednesday, December 20th at the home of Roy Farnum, 712 W. 8th Street. The event begins at 5:45 P.M.. Any questions or to RSVP, call the Vilsack office at (515) 283-2008.

Where in the wide, wide, world of sports is this?

Iowa shows up here with other states. (But not Illinois)


QCI, the reigning champion of "What is it?", has nailed this one as well.

It appears on the image of the Lincoln Memorial on the $5 bill.

About 26 states appear in two rows along the top of the memorial, though not Illinois, which apparently appears on the rear of the memorial.

Now you can win bar bets by saying you can find Iowa on a $5 bill. Or maybe not.

What's victory in Iraq?

Bush says he won't change course until we "win" in Iraq. He says he won't settle for anything less than "victory", and recently said that he would ignore any plan which he felt would result in our leaving Iraq before "the job is done."

So I ask, just what IS our job in Iraq?

What would constitute "victory", and how exactly will we know when we've "won", this unwinnable mess?

I've posed this question to some of our conservative readers and they act like they suddenly are hard of hearing, ignoring it completely.

Anyone have any answers?

Or, as I suspect, is "victory" or "winning" a fantasy enjoyed by only Bush and his dog,(who's probably just going along for some kibbels) and no one, not even Bush, knows what our supposed "job" is there. I only know that the rationale for the trillions of dollars squandered and hundreds of thousands of dead bodies has changed about two dozen times so far and will likely change dozens of times again as Bush tries to adjust them lower in an attempt to define whatever horrible and undesirable result in Iraq as "success".

After all, with these guys, what you get is words, not thought or competence. It's more an ad agency/PR effort than leadership. They play us all for idiots and think that as long as they say something, we'll swallow it and that makes it so. As long as a lot of people were scared little bunnies, it worked. The gulf between reality and what comes out of Bush and his cronie's mouths has always been miles apart, but now they're not even in the same time zone, and the number of people quaking in their boots is dwindling down to the few dead-enders who still cling to the illusion of Bush as a competent or even qualified leader.

At this point, Bush doesn't need grown ups from his Dad's administration to bail him out, he needs an intervention to snap him into reality.

So... just how will we know when we've achived "victory" and can go home? Or is even the concept of "winning" delusional due to the fact that the entire idea of invading Iraq was fatally flawed and reckless to begin with?

December 14, 2006

Federal raid nets nearly 1,300 illegal immigrants at meat packing plants

A raid at 6 Swift meat packing plants in six states has netted over 1,300 illegal immigrants, many said to have been using stolen identities to gain employment.

The plants include one in Marshalltown, IA

Federal immigration agents raided Swift & Co. meatpacking plants in Iowa and five other states today in an investigation of an extensive identify theft scheme.

Federal officials said the agents arrested an undisclosed number of workers at the facilities.

Swift’s plant in Marshalltown employs about 2,200 workers.

Six buses had been brought in to take the detainees away, said Marcelina Ceniceros of Muscatine. She was standing at the gate of the Marshalltown plant while documents were checked inside the plant.

Three buses had been loaded and left the plant, she said.

The Department of Homeland Security issued a statement saying that "large numbers of illegal aliens" may have used the Social Security numbers of U.S. citizens and legal residents to get jobs at the Swift plants.

The statement said Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators have identified "hundreds of potential victims" of the scheme. The number of arrests at the Swift operations will be released Wednesday, officials said.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will release more information Wednesday, but a telephone number is available for family members trying to get information about loved ones today: 1-866-341-3858. Spanish-speaking government employees are available to help.

Carmen Montealegre of the Hispanic ministry at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Marshalltown pointed out that today is Our Lady of Guadalupe Day, a major festival for Mexican people.

A special mass with singing and dancing was scheduled to be held at the church at 6 p.m., Montealegre said.

She said she didn’t know if the celebration would be held because of the action at the plant.

“It’s really sad,” Montealegre said of the detained workers. “Nobody can help them now.”

Clearly, when Feds want to hit a huge trove of illegal immigrants, they look no further than the meat packing industry. This isn't new, as the industry has long relied on illegals for their workforces. Why people believe this won't be the case at the new Triumph plant in the Quad Cities is hard to understand.

Many more stories on the raids and the issues it raises here.

December 13, 2006

Pray for Johnson


Johnson has undergone surgery for bleeding in the brain. However it wasn't a classic stroke, but rather due to a congenital defect which causes abnormal growth of a of blood vessels. The surgery was said to be successful, in large part because he got prompt diagnosis and attention, and he is expected to make a full recovery. From MSNBC:
Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson was in critical condition recovering from emergency brain surgery Thursday, creating political drama over whether his illness could cost Democrats newly won control of the Senate.

The South Dakota senator, 59, suffered from bleeding in the brain caused by a congenital malformation, the U.S. Capitol physician said. He described the surgery as successful.

The condition, usually present at birth, causes tangled blood vessels that can burst.

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he had visited Johnson in the hospital Thursday morning and that he was confident of a full recovery.

Asked about whether Democratic control of the Senate might be jeopardized, Reid said, "There isn't a thing that's changed."

Reid refused to comment on Johnson's medical condition, declining to even answer a question on whether the senator was conscious. "To me he looked very good," Reid said.

"The senator is recovering without complication," said Adm. John Eisold, the Capitol physician. "It is premature to determine whether further surgery will be required or to assess any long-term prognosis."

Eisold said doctors drained the blood that had accumulated in Johnson's brain and stopped continued bleeding.
News is still sketchy and unclear as to what Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson suffered from earlier today, but to say a lot rides on his condition would be an understatement.
Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota was hospitalized Wednesday, weeks before his party was to take control of the Senate by a one-vote margin. But by evening, his condition was unclear, with conflicting reports over whether he had suffered a stroke.

The one thing that appeared to be true was that Johnson had some undiagnosed illness that has left him with difficulty speaking and moving. The Washington Post reported that Johnson was undergoing surgery.

Johnson, who turns 60 on Dec. 28, was admitted to George Washington University Hospital, said Julianne Fisher, Johnson's communications director. The illness was initially thought to be a stroke.

Johnson became disoriented during a conference call with reporters at midday Wednesday, stuttering in response to a question. He appeared to recover, asking if there were any additional questions before ending the call.

Fisher said he walked back to his Capitol office after the call with reporters but appeared to not be feeling well. The Capitol physician was called, and Johnson was taken by ambulance to George Washington University Hospital for evaluation.

A statement released by Johnson's office then said, in part, "At this stage, he is undergoing a comprehensive evaluation by the stroke team. Further details will be forthcoming when more is known."

Filling a vacated Senate seat
Democrats won a 51-49 majority in the November election. South Dakota’s Republican governor, Mike Rounds, would appoint a replacement to serve until the 2008 election should Johnson die or resign.

The appointment would last until the next general election — in this case, 2008. Johnson's term expires that year.

The 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says state legislatures can give their governors the power to appoint someone else to take over, but only in the case of "vacancies."

What's a vacancy? Clearly death or resignation, but history suggests not much else. Serious illness doesn't count.

Under the rules of the Senate, tie votes are settled by the vote of the vice president — currently Republican Dick Cheney — effectively giving control of the Senate to the Republicans.

Hare names staff, O'Brien gets top spot

Hat's off to Pat.
(Updated 9:54 a.m.) Former Moline alderman and mayoral candidate Pat O’Brien has been picked to be the top congressional staffer to U.S. Rep.-elect Phil Hare, in the 17th District, Hare’s office said Wednesday.

O’Brien, who served on the Moline City Council for two terms and ran unsuccessfully for mayor last year, has been appointed the new district director. He was the field director for Hare's congressional campaign and is a member of Laborers Union Local 309. O’Brien, a graduate of Western Illinois University, has lived in Moline for more than 27 years.

Hare also picked a member of incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s press office to lead his communications effort.

Tim Schlittner will run media operations for Hare out of Washington, D.C.

Schlittner, a graduate of Syracuse University, is familiar with the Quad-Cities. He worked for Bruce Braley’s 1st District campaign in Iowa during the 2006 campaign.

Also tapped today for senior staff positions:

* Andrew Rowe, as economic development director. Rowe, a Rock Island native with a master’s degree from the University of Iowa, is currently director of community rehab for Trinity Regional Health System. He will work in the district.

* Janna Berquist, as legislative director. She has served as a legislative assistant to U.S. Rep. Lane Evans, D-Ill., since last year. She is a graduate of the University of Oregon.

Hare has already picked Evans’ chief of staff, Dennis King, to serve in the same capacity for him. Eda Robinson, who has been Evans’ office manager for 20 years, will join Hare’s staff in the same capacity.

Berquist, King and Robinson will work out of Washington, D.C.

If it could be worse, I don't want to think about it

A TID poll asked "Is it possible that George W. Bush could have conceivably done any worse as president or done any more damage to this country and the world than he already has and continues to do?"

Fifty-three percent of respondents thought that, out of the entire universe of possible actions and consequences, Bush couldn't have been more destructive, incompetent, wrong-headed, and disasterous, while a surprising 47% felt that Bush actually has the capacity and lack of character to actually do even more damage than he's already accomplished.

The scary part is that they may be true. Let's hope the gown-ups are able to at least prevent him from doing anything else before he's unceremoniously bounced out of the White House.

In light of the fact that only about 2 out of 10 Americans still think Bush is getting it right in Iraq (I wish I knew who they were. I'd sell them some oceanfront property in Nebraska) the new poll asks your considered opinion on a hypothetical election matchup.

Hare appears on Colbert

If this is the "appearance" that staffers and others have been talking about, it was hardly worth mentioning.

Tonight's "Colbert Report" had a segment which showed Colbert during his visit to a meeting of the incoming freshman congress members. It showed Hare for about 1/2 second craning his neck to get a better view at one point. Then later in the segment, it showed short cuts of Colbert working the room, shaking hands with various congress members and asking their names and district, after which a map would flash on screen with the district highlighted for a fraction of a second.

Colbert met about a dozen congressmen and women and had a comment afterwards during this part of the segment, then toward the end, the put together even quicker cuts of him meeting someone, saying their district number and telling them that they're now "better known", since meeting him.

One of these was Hare again. Nearly all the 20 or so congressmen Colbert met were standing, but they showed Hare sitting and Colbert said, "The 17th" and the map flashed for 1/10th of a second, and it was on to a few more quick cuts and the piece was over.

So.... Phil got about 2 seconds of air time, didn't say a word, and Colbert never mentioned his name, but did mention the district number.

Is this the big hyped "appearance" that's been touted? If so, it was rather sad, but had a brief sort of interest, kind of like catching that a caller to a cable talk show is from Davenport or something.

Or is Hare still weighing an actual offer to appear on "Better Know a District"?

December 11, 2006

Newspapers will follow web's lead in future

Newspapers of the future will resemble blogs more than newspapers, and become summaries of what's found online, a research group predicts. From Investor's Business Daily:
In five to 10 years, analysts predict, most U.S. newspapers will have moved to the Web with e-editions.

Though national dailies like the New York Times and USA Today are expected to keep their main print editions, lots of other papers will have more readers online than at newsstands.

Most will still publish smaller, specialized print editions that are digests of what they post online.

One trend that's a given: Readers will have less time to read as their lives get busier and will prefer stories of 300 words or less. That's half as long as the average story today — and a fourth the size of this one.

Many won't read newspapers at all. News readership's been falling since the 1960s, when 80% of adults got a daily newspaper. The figure is 50% now and is expected to keep slipping over the next decade as readers migrate online.

Web First, Print Second

With the Web upstaging print as a source of news, some say newspapers will become extensions of the news content readers find online.

Jupiter Research analyst Barry Parr says a likely consequence of this is that newspaper pages will be designed to resemble Web pages.

"What a newspaper might come to look like is a printed digest of what's online," Parr said.

I certainly hope that newsprint doesn't go out of style. While I get much of my news and information online, I still prefer to read off of a real, live sheet of paper. Reading off of a monitor will never be the same.

What are your thoughts on the predicted extinction of print newspapers?

Republican senator unable to continue ignoring reality, grows a conscience

Republican Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon has apparently got to the end of his rope over the folly of Iraq, conveniently after the mid-term elections and tragically, only after many years and thousands of lives lost in the effort.

All the unending twisted lies and propaganda issued by the White House and backed up lockstep by the Republican party in a constantly shifting attempt to rationalize the invasion of Iraq seemed to suddenly give way to a moment of clarity for Smith as he gave an impassioned floor speech Thursday.
"I for one am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal. I cannot support that anymore."

Democrats have been saying this to deaf ears for many YEARS now. No one would listen, and many simply sneered and mocked them as appeasers or accused them of actually wanting the terrorists to win and other similar insane notions.

And people went right along with it like scared sheep. And in their fear and massive ignorance of the truth, they actually thought it was patriotic to attack anyone who dared question Bush's policy. (though it wasn't entirely their fault. They were fed a constant stream of lies and misinformation through the massive right wing media effort, but they should have been able to know when they were being duped. It didn't take a rocket scientist to see it was pure B.S.)

As I've noted with regret several times in the past, NOTHING will get any attention or action in the last several years unless a Republican says or does it, as the press and D.C. treat Democrats like an abused spouse to bat around and ignore. Perhaps that MAY change now, but it remains to be seen if Dems will actually be treated as an actual part of our government.

With their battered wife psychology, let's hope the Dems are able to stand up and be assertive and haven't been cowed into a state of timidity due to getting clubbed over the head every time they spoke, no matter how important or sensible what they said may have been, as has been the case for years. It will take the press and the people to actively reject the bullshit from the right, and some signs show that that is already happening. Could it be that the American era of Goebbels-like propaganda, where Republicans believed that saying the right hot-button words and phrases over and over was more important than actually providing responsible leadership is coming to an end?

So after supporting the misguided slaughter of thousands of our men and women and the squandering and theft of many billions of our tax dollars in Iraq for many years, and now that his party is safely in the minority, Gordon Smith finally grows a conscience.

Good for him. Better late than never. But it's a true shame and outrage that he either had felt this way for some time and was afraid to speak up until now or couldn't realize this much sooner.

The most refreshing and sobering aspect of Smith's statement, is his acknowledgement that the Iraq invasion may very well be criminal. It's certainly immoral, and I firmly believe it's illegal on many levels, as is the torture policy and other extra-constitutional measures and violations of the Geneva accords instituted from the very top of our government.

The scope and extent of these things will take years if not decades to emerge, if they ever do, unless of course, Cheney has a deathbed attack of conscience and confesses. But I think he knows he's heading for hell and Satan wouldn't like it if he did. Getting the truth or evidence from what is universally acknowledged to be the most secretive administration in history (who made one of their first orders of business to both deny access to Daddy Bush's papers but to ensure that none of Junior's papers will be able to be accessed or studied perhaps forever.) will be a daunting task. It's only hoped that some who know the truth will step forward at some point.

Gordon is not a lame duck, and faces election in 2008 so his statement is not without risk. Is his sudden attack of morality and honesty the beginning of a trend among Republicans trying to do a quick 180 from their steadfast support of the reckless and utterly incompetent policies of the Bush administration?

What happened?

A few days ago, the Republican reign of error in the Capitol officially came to an end. Denny Hastert gave a speech recounting the supposed achievements under his watch, and it had a definite pathetic air to it.

But look back into the not distant future and ask, what the hell happened since 9-11?

Look at how people such as myself and others, who warned since day one that invading Iraq was insane and an invitation to disaster were branded as un-American, hating America, traitors, or worse. It wasn't that long ago. Krugman has a column in the NY Times that cites some who had it right from the beginning, including Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama, who said,
“I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.”
Look at the hysteria, fanned and encouraged by Bush and his ilk, where dozens of politicians and pundits constantly pointed out how Muslims were somehow robotic killers whose only motivation was that they "hated freedom" and that the only way we could defend ourselves was by giving ours away.

Recall that 6 short years ago, our country actually was operating with a SURPLUS, taking in more money than it spent, promising the prospect of continued economic soundness and fiscal solvency.

We almost accept the through the looking glass bizarreness of political life today, the attempts to subvert and ignore the supreme law of the land, the constitution, the hare-brained and multi-billion dollar attempts at making our "homeland" secure, the billions of dollars wasted and outright stolen by corporations, many who didn't exist before we invaded Iraq, through no bid, cost plus contracts.

The entire way of doing business in congress was perverted by Bush, Hastert, Delay, Frist, and the rest. They decided that they didn't have to so much as even talk to the minority party, and so they didn't, operating as if they didn't exist, thereby uterlly ignoring the wishs of at least half the population represented by Dems.

In the Republican congress, it was decided that they would spend their time dithering over divisive issues which weren't on anyone's list of top priorities except extreme fundementalist theocons, wingnuts, and Karl Rove, such as flag burning, renaming french fries, stem cells, Terri Shiavo, and anything to do with gays. They spent what little time they did work on naming post offices and left the crafting of legislation to the lobbyists.

This list is long and shocking as the Republicans embarked on a plan for a one party government and behaved with the abuse of power and arrogance as though they were untouchable.

Will Americans be able to learn a lesson from their descent into mass hypnosis and fear induced stupidity? Could it happen again?

Now the public has tossed them out on their collective ears, with reputable reports stating that if it weren't due to election irregularities and problems with electronic voting machines, the Dems would have picked up far more seats than they did.

And if you were a lemming-like rah-rah supporter of the Iraq disaster, and routinely called those who opposed it traitors, or accused them of somehow not "supporting the troops", or even if you were too damn cowardly and afraid to speak up yourself, even if you had a gut feeling it was a huge blunder, the next time you see someone who had it right from the start on Iraq and spoke out about it, appologize for not listening and acknowledge that they were right. (of course, right wingers are as incapable of admitting error as their leader Bush, so don't hold your breath.)

What other atrocities of the Republican era can you recount?

And looking forward, what changes do you expect to happen in a Democratic congress? What things would you most want to see happen? What damage from the past 6 years needs to be repealed and repaired first and how?


Much like some ocean fish have little parasitic Remora fish that attach themselves to them, I have a particularly energetic and deluded stalker who writes dozens of comments a week just to let me know how terrible both myself and this blog is in every conceivable respect. Of course, they don't have the cajones to even contact me by anonymous email where I could at least respond, but that's expected from that sort.

And of course, all this rather disturbing bitching and complaining always leads to one obivious question; why don't they start their own blog? Put up or shut up?

But this crank also brought to mind the open invitation that has stood since the blog began. I haven't mentioned it for a while and so it's probably time to remind readers again.

As has been stated multiple times here, anyone who wants to to submit a post of their own and have it published here is not only free to do so, but encouraged to.

Anyone is more than welcome to say their piece, express their opinion, examine an issue that has captured their interest, anything they want, and send it in by e-mail for consideration. I'll even work with you to edit it into a more readable form if necessary, and you can be credited by your name, your screen name, or have it posted anonymously. I don't need to know who you are and frankly don't care. As long as you have something which would be of interest to readers, you're more than welcome to send it in.

Anyone who won't comment or participate simply because they don't agree with my views or opinions 100% or because I've deviated from the party line is proving my suspicion that the area is too petty and gossipy to ever support an open forum on local political issues and deserves it's unfortunate backwater reputation.

And anyone who refuses to participate because they're too syncophantic to local politicians is pretty small-minded as well. What a shame. How about partipating and telling us how and why you support the guy or why you disagree instead? A little back and forth where you have to justify your views really helps to either solidify them or reveal them to be shaky to begin with. Either way, it's a good exercise and seems a little more sensible to me.

This is the Democratic party after all. There'll always be a lot of room for differences of opinion. Why not hash it out? As long as people don't get petty and stomp off in a huff, everything will be fine. Apparently, most people aren't capable of that yet and sadly I'm beginning to think it's impossible in this area with this cast of characters who feel that if they don't have complete control over something, they must try to destroy it and people who feel that loyalty to a candidate trumps tolerating any debate or argument about policies, ideology, or process.

So if by chance you feel terribly disappointed with the blog and feel that things aren't being covered that should be, or wish to put out a point of view that you feel is missing here, or .... if you just have something to get off your mind that you'd like to share with a wider audience, put something together and send it to theinsidedope at gmail dot com (just click the email link in the sidebar) and we'll take it from there.

Others have done so in the past and done a great job at it and lived to tell the tale. Don't be afraid. I won't bite.

And who knows? You may like the postitive attention and you might discover a hidden talent. So try your hand and send something along. Putting down your thoughts is the hard part. I'll take care of the rest. If you have any questions, email me and I'll be happy to help.

Not to put too fine a point on it, if you don't like the blog or think it isn't on top of things or doesn't address things you feel needs attention, don't sit and bitch, CONTRIBUTE.

And while we're at it, I supposed I need to reiterate that it's important that you send in any suggestions, story ideas, constructive criticism, or topics you feel would be of interest to the email link in the sidebar. Feedback is always welcome because unfortunately, I'm not clairvoyant, can't tell what you think unless you send email, and welcome a different perspective. If you're sitting there doing nothing but complaining or downing the blog, that isn't too helpful. Blogs are collaborations between the blogger and their readers and contributors. You have a stake in what the blog is.

So it's up to you. Participate and make it what you want, or sit there and do nothing. But if you choose the latter course, you lose a lot of your right to complain if you don't see what you want here.

December 10, 2006

D/A fleshes out the retroactive pay raise story

A piece by Scot Reeder in today's D/A fleshes out the recent pay raise approved by the Illinois Senate and which applies to the House as well.

Just after the election, the lawmakers voted themselves a 15% retroactive pay raise, so they can get the raise going back to July but didn't have to be honest about it during the campaign.

Sen. Mike Jacobs is the only local legislator who voted in favor of the pay hike.

Reeder provides a more comprehensive look at legislators entire pay and benefit packages:
* $57,619 base salary, which with the pay raise will rise to $66,607.

* $23,388 stipend to the leaders of the four legislative caucuses.

* $16,810 to $19,731 annual bonus for those holding lesser leadership posts.

* $8,771 for those who are chairman or minority spokesperson on a committee.

* $125 per day payment for every legislator for each day of session. The payment covers meals and lodging, but any leftover funds lawmakers can keep. In 2004, the House met for 68 days, the Senate for 67.

* Reimbursement for driving on official business at a rate of 44 cents per mile.

* State health insurance (The value depends on the type of coverage the lawmaker chooses and the number of dependents placed on the policy.)

* $69,409 allocation to each House member for running a district office.

* $83,063 allocation to each Senator for running a district office.

* A pension that is 85 percent of the top salary earned by a lawmaker, which is paid upon retiring after 20 years. (Retired members are also guaranteed a 3 percent cost of living adjustment each year.)

Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, supported the recent pay hike.

Shortly after the vote he said, "In a world where pitchers make $50 million, my (cost of living adjustment) seems like a pretty small issue. But in the end, I thought my wife, son and I deserved it."
A commenter recently provided an even more real world view of all that legislators have given to them at no expense to themselves:
For starters, Legislators get their base salary. That's the figure reported in the news and is the basis of all the stories about salary increases.

In addition to their base salary, they also get additional pay if they are Chairman of a Committee. I also believe there is an additional salary increase for being in a leadership position.

Additionally, there is per diem for every day that the legislature is in session and the member is in attendance. This is a significant allowance, and most members spend less than their per diem allotment and pocket some profit.

Part of the reason the member is able to pocket some per diem money, is the fact that on a normal session day there's usually some kind of banquet or dinner being put on by a special interest group that offers free food.

Failing that, it's quite common for lobbyists to take legislators to dinner. It depends on the particular legislator's personality, but if a General Assembly member is even mildly outgoing it's likely they will rarely have to buy an evening meal in Springfield.

Additionally, a member of the General Assembly is entitled to a Springfield Secretary. This secretary is a full time state employee who can do legislative work as assigned by the member.

Additionally, official state printing is done for General Assembly members below cost. The member purchases the paper and/or card stock and that is their only expense a member absorbs associated with printing official state materials.

If you get any official state mailing from a General Assembly member, it's also done for the member at less than normal cost. The member pays standard bulk rate postage, but the sorting and other manual labor is done by legislative staff, which is a significant savings compared to using a normal bulk mail firm.

Other legislative staff is assigned to General Assembly members as needed to do radio and news releases for their districts, other's are assigned for special projects and meetings. It depends on the individual, but this can involve another significant taxpayer subsidy for the elected official. I believe the House and Senate Democrats also make available professional photography staff for portraits and pictures with visitors etc.

On top of that the legislators are entitled to an office allotment which pays for their local district office. Senators get a bit more than Representatives because their districts are double the size, but in either case this is a significant sum. The office staff that's there to answer calls and do other work as assigned by their member, and all office expenses associated with the local district office come from this allotment. It's currently in excess of $60,000 per legislator that funds the district office.

The district office allotment can also be used to pay for legislative travel reimbursement, travel to Springfield is covered by per diem, but legislative travel within a district can receive mileage, etc from the district office allotment. I heard that former Rep. Brunsvold even leased a vehicle from his office allotment for official use, but can't personally confirm this detail.

This is pretty close to the full extent of the taxpayer subsidy that a sitting Senator or Representative is entitled to receive, I’m sure there are a few minor details I’ve overlooked, but I believe I’ve covered all the biggies.

Of course none of this even touches the issue of a General Assembly member’s campaign fundraising and use of their war chest for personal benefit, that’s another topic for another time. This topic deserves it’s own discussion because there are few restrictions in Illinois on the use of campaign funds for personal benefit. Some officials, like Brunsvold, were able to keep significant parts of their campaign coffers for use in retirement, but recent ethics legislation has limited that practice to an extent.

December 8, 2006

TID readers want Obama to run

The recent Inside Dope Poll asked the compound question, "Will Sen. Barack Obama run for president in 2008, and should he?"

As to whether Obama actually WILL run in 2008, 63% of voters feel that he will, 38% think he won't.

As to whether Obama SHOULD run in '08, 66% felt he should run in 2008, 35% feel that he shouldn't for one reason or another.

SHOULD run edged out WILL run 66 to 63

A total of 32 votes were cast and the results are:

  • Obama will run and should run in 2008 - 15 votes or 47%

  • Obama will run, but shouldn't in 2008 - 5 votes or 16%

  • Obama will not, but should run in 2008 - 6 votes or 19%

  • Obama won't, and shouldn't, run in 2008 - 6 votes or 19%

And for the person who always writes in to tell me that these polls aren't a 100% accurate scientific poll that reflects public opinion accurately, save your breath. Anyone with a few sparking brain cells can figure that out themselves.

December 7, 2006

Required viewing

A Stephen Colbert segment from way back in May.

Watch it and then decide whether to laugh or cry.

Click the big arrow once or twice to play

Hare to be on Colbert's "Better Know a District"? Here's a taste of what he can expect

Some recent commenters have reported with a great deal of pride that newly elected 17th District congressman Phil Hare is to appear on the Comedy Channel program "The Colbert Report". Host Stephen Colbert does a "424 part series" called "Better Know a District" on which Hare is reported to appear.

Colbert explained the feature in the intro to one piece thusly.
Congressional representitives are shy, elusive creatures with brief 2-year terms that keep them in constant competition in today's vote starved environment. To better understand these fruit flies of the political world, we must study them in their natural habitat; the district.
During the segment, Colbert takes facts about the district and it's towns and lampoons the area and then makes congress members look like idiots, buffoons, bigots, drug users, and/or fools. It's very rare, if ever, that a politician emerges looking better than when they went in.

I absolutely love the Colbert Report and his alter-ego as a bombastic hyper-egotistical right wing blow-hard. Colbert channels Bill O'Reilly and the general crazy logic and attitude of the worst right wing TV gasbags and shows how hilarious it really is.

The "Better Know a District" feature is always hilarious, but if I were a politician, especially Phil Hare, I'd stay a million miles away.

But nevertheless, these commenters seem to think this is quite the coup for Hare and that it will somehow help the area. Just how is anyone's guess.

And of course, it could all be a bunch of hogwash. We'll see.

But in case there's anything to it, here's a couple "Better Know a District" segments to give the unfamiliar a sample of how it works.

To start off, here's a clip I've featured before. Note how smart this representitive comes across.

And of course, Colbert gets Wexler to say that doing cocaine and using prostitutes is a fun thing to do.

Also of interest, Colbert actually gave the commencement address at Galesburg's Knox College and got an honorary doctorate. He mentions it on his show here.

If I had know before now, I would have definitely attended. You can watch the actual address here. (It's in three parts)

December 5, 2006

It's Christmas Charlie Brown

Christmas time is drawing near, and here at The Inside Dope, we're trying to get in the spirit of things.

Here's a few topics as to where you fall on Christmas related stuff.

First of all, are you the type who tries every way possible to find out what presents you're getting BEFORE Christmas? When you were a kid, did you shake the packages and try to peak or look for hidden presents before the big day?

OR.... are you the type who enjoys the suspense of not knowing and the surprise of opening presents on Christmas morning and would actually be mad if someone spilled the beans and let you know what you were getting?

I'm firmly in the latter camp, one Christmas in my younger years even going so far as to not open all my presents at once. I opened maybe 3 or 4 presents on Christmas morning, and then left the rest. For about a week, I'd get up each morning and open one more. It was pretty cool to have a surprise to look forward to every morning, and it made Christmas last until New Years.

These days I get up and open my mail to see what "presents" readers have left.
Not quite the same as Christmas morning, but sort of. I never know what I'll get, and sometimes it's something I really like.

Which are you? A snooper, or someone who loves a surprise?

And where do you stand on blinking Christmas lights? For or against? (I hate 'em)


Next, when you receive a gift that maybe isn't your cup of tea, maybe the wrong color, doesn't quite fit, or whatever, are you the type that fakes like you love it and then just tosses it in a closet (or "re-gifts" it to someone else or waits for your next yard sale), or do you tactfully tell the giver that it's not quite right and make an attempt to exchange it for something you'll actually use and enjoy?

Of course, this depends on who's doing the giving, but let's assume for this argument that the person is someone close to you. ( I mean, you probably wouldn't tell your boss his gift sucked ass.)

I much prefer that people tell me if a gift isn't right. The whole idea is to give them pleasure or make them happy after all, so it's useless for them to hold on to something that doesn't. If they don't speak up, I've not only not made them happy, but the money is utterly wasted, as is the time and effort put into getting it.

Luckily, it hasn't happened often, but I've had people tell me much much later that something didn't fit or it turned out to be something they never really used and it annoys the hell out of me. Why didn't they say so at the time? I would have gladly exchanged it or gotten them something else. I wouldn't take it as any insult. I want them to be happy, so why should I be disappointed if it's not exactly what they wanted? And I'd much rather spend the money on something they'd enjoy than have it be essentially wasted.

That said, I myself have oooooed and ahhhed and expressed great gratitude for gifts that I wasn't 100% thrilled about and ended up rarely wearing or using. So I know it's tough to essentially reject a gift. But keep in mind we're talking about loved ones here.

So again, do you act like you love everything you're given and are you reluctant to let the giver know you don't like something or you'd rather have something else? Or do you gently tell people if something isn't right for you?

It's a dicey situation and I'm curious as to how readers handle it.

Are you going to be in a festive and happy holiday mood this year? Or has the hectic running around, the financial strain, potential family situations, and the general stress and pressures of the season made it very difficult for you this year? Will you be happy when it's over?

And finally, and perhaps most important. Do you believe Santa Claus is real?

As long as there's a child somewhere who believes he is, I do too.

Wide support for open primaries

Many angry and fairly vicious comments have been left in the Boland Discussion thread beating on Boland for supporting open primaries, as if it's a death blow to the Democratic party.

An editorial in the Bloomington Pantograph perhaps says it best:
Are you tired of having to publicly declare a party to participate in a primary election? If so, you are not alone.

At the same time many voters were complaining about their choice of candidates in the general election - "lesser of two evils" was an often-used phrase - advisory votes in 21 Illinois townships showed overwhelming support for an open primary in Illinois.

Perhaps there is a connection.

There were 84,697 votes in favor of open primaries and 18,393 against - a more than 4-to-1 margin.

The concept is simple and it is used in some form in almost half the states. A voter is given a ballot for each established party. The voter chooses in secret the party primary in which they will vote. That ballot is counted. The other ballots are not.

State Rep. Mike Boland, D-East Moline, introduced a bill in January that would make that change. However, House Bill 5280 was left languishing in the Rules Committee.

The measure should be resurrected and approved.

More is at stake than just a public declaration of party affiliation.

State law also prohibits people from voting in a party primary if they signed nomination petitions for candidates from another party or independents running for offices being voted on in that primary.

This isn't the first time the issue has come up, and, if voter dissatisfaction continues, it is unlikely to be the last.

There was a similar push for open primaries in 1978, coordinated by the Coalition for Political Honesty, but it fell flat.

Although the public supports the concept, political parties don't.

Party leaders raise fears of conspiracy and sabotage.

They claim hordes of voters from party "A" will take ballots for party "B" and vote for the weakest candidate, thereby assuring victory for the candidate from party "A" in the general election.

Neither party in Illinois has shown that much organizational skill or party loyalty in recent years.

Their bigger, unstated fear is probably a loss of power and influence if more people, instead of just the party faithful, participate in primary elections.

In fact, Boland doesn't think there is much chance of his legislation being approved. He thinks it will take a constitutional convention. That's a pity.

We should be doing more to encourage participation in the political process, not discourage it.
What are your thoughts on this proposal? Would open primaries be better for voters? Is there any reason to not go to such a system other than a handful of political types fearing a loss of control over the process?

Tell us your thoughts.

Presidential jockying continues

A piece in the Washington Post provides a snapshot of what's going on in the manuevering for position among presidential hopefuls.

The media seems giddy over trying to create a Clinton/Obama grudge match where none likely exists. Evan Bayh announced an exploratory committee during an appearance on Face the Nation Sunday. Vilsack came in fourth in a Des Moines Register poll of likely caucus voters finishing behind even John Kerry. Something tells me that a showing like that in his home state isn't a real good sign.

And of course a large part of the focus is on any activity by Hilary Clinton that indicates her intentions, as if it was ever a mystery. She's lining up staffers in Iowa and New Hampshire and looking to secure committments and donors in those states.

And Obama has as political advisor David Axelrod, a sharp Chicago media and strategic operative known to many political types in this area.

Let the games begin.

Global wealth gap widens

The richest two per cent of adults in the world own more than half of global household wealth, according to a study released on Tuesday.
In 2000 the richest one per cent of adults owned 40 per cent of global wealth, a report by the Helsinki-based World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University (UNU-WIDER) said.
Its comprehensive study of personal wealth has revealed that the richest 10 per cent of adults accounted for 85 per cent of the total global assets. In contrast, the bottom half of the world adult population owned barely one per cent of global wealth.

From Reuters:<blockquote>Two percent of adults have more than half of the world's wealth, including property and financial assets, according to a study by the U.N. development research institute published on Tuesday.

While global income is distributed unequally, the spread of wealth is even more skewed, the study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research of the U.N. University said.

"Wealth is heavily concentrated in North America, Europe and high income Asia-Pacific countries. People in these countries collectively hold almost 90 percent of total world wealth," the survey showed.

The Helsinki-based institute said its study was the first global research on the topic, for which there is only limited data.

"We've estimated that the richest 2 percent of adults own more than half of global wealth, while the bottom half own 1 percent," said institute director Anthony Shorrocks.

He likened the situation to that where, in a group of 10 people, one person has $99, while the remaining nine share $1.
Interestingly, out of all the press reports on this study, I could only find one US newspaper or media outlet who reported on it, the Houston Chronicle.

December 4, 2006

Pols pay raise higher than reported, double-standard on COLA for min wage workers

An interesting couple of items from a piece in the D/A:
You may have read stories a couple of weeks ago about lawmakers raising their salaries by 10 percent. Stories last week talked about 15.6 percent raises. Don't be confused. The target figure now is 15.6 percent.

When the Senate approved raises two weeks ago, they adopted a Compensation Review Board report that said lawmaker salaries should go up by about 10 percent. But when it came time to approve money for their salaries, senators added enough cash to cover two other cost-of-living increases not covered by the Compensation Review Board.

If the House and Gov. Rod Blagojevich go along, the total increase will be 15.6 percent, not 10 percent.

Moreover, they are retroactive, meaning lawmakers will get a lump-sum check for several years' worth of back pay, in addition to seeing their current salaries increase.

Nice work if you can get it.
Among local legislators, Sen. Jacobs was the only one who originally voted to approve this giant retroactive payday. Commenters to a previous post on the issue where prone to whining that the poor legislators needed much more money or they'd practically be on food stamps. One even suggested that if they didn't get this bonanza, it would be a "pay cut", in typical political double-speak. (read lies).

An unhealthy salary-envy was also revealed due to the fact that U.S. Representitives get more money than state senators.

And the following note on the minimum wage bill shows a rather ironic twist to those who vote an automatic cost of living increase for themselves, retroactively no less, and how they feel about the same for minimum wage earners.
The original bill hiking the minimum wage in Illinois contained a clause saying the minimum wage would increase every year in the future based on the rate of inflation. The common term for this is an annual cost-of-living increase.

Business groups absolutely hated this provision.

"No other wage earner is guaranteed a raise," Rob Karr of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association said at a Senate hearing. "Pay raises should be earned. They should be based on merit."

Just something to keep in mind when you ponder that Illinois lawmakers years ago voted themselves automatic cost-of-living increases based on the rate of inflation.

"Pay raises should be earned. They should be based on merit."
What a novel idea to apply to our elected representives. Think they'd agree?

A commenter provided an unsourced quote reportedly from Jacobs on how he decided his vote on the minimum wage bill. Jacobs supposedly said, "You're damned if you do, you're damned if you don't....I felt a lot of pressure from the unions, so I just closed my eyes and voted for it"

Can anyone provide a source for this supposed quote?

I haven't looked into how the local legislative team voted on the final approval of their retroactive pay raise or the minumum wage bill. Can anyone save me the trouble and let us know how they voted?

Blowhard attack on Paltrow proves her point

The right wingers are showing that they haven't learned a thing from the mid-term elections. They're continuing their campaign of manufactured outrage over issues which couldn't possibly be less important to the country.

They recently launched a phony attempt to label the top animated movie "Happy Feet" about some penquins facing starvation due to overfishing as some sort of rank propaganda which was warping children's minds, and tried to associate it with Al Gore somehow.

Now the latest stupidity is raging against actress Gweneth Paltrow for the mortal sin of simply expressing her personal opinion that she likes the society of Britain over the U.S. She said she found them smarter and less commercialized.

So apparently in an effort to prove her point in a big way, blow-hards are rushing to the cameras to call her every vile name in the book, huffing and raging about how stupid she is for daring to observe the obvious. Terry Jeffrey's, the fat toad conservative hack even went so far as to dig into her bio and tried to attack her because it stated that she "attended" college in California, suggesting that meant she didn't graduate and then going on to say that big stupid football players have more education than she does.

They also bring up the stupid point that she's had her sucess from American movie goers, so how dare she say anything negative about American society. Of course that's an idiotic logical falacy, as not only did she not say she hates people who go to movies, but the fact that you've made a living in America does not in any way mean you're absolutely prohibited from expressing your views on American society in general.

This sort of thing is pernicious and dangerous, as it clearly shows a desire to intimidate anyone in the public eye from speaking their minds about this country or it's policies or leadership. We saw the disgraceful treatment of the Dixie Chicks, and now this. It's embarassing.

I mean, she's absolutely right, at least about the right wingers in this country. Their vile, stupid, unserious, and absolute jerks compared to most of British society. And British society isn't warped by the massive commercialization of their media, so they actually are able to keep political debate pretty much on things that actually matter, rather than idiotic "culture wars" clap-trap.

Only in America would an actresses utterly benign comments about her personal obvservations about different cultures be turned into some ongoing media frenzy with louts lining up to bash her.

Thanks wingers, for making Paltrow's point more obvious than ever.

Conservative commenter and frequent adversary Paladin wrote to gloat that I had gotten "frothed up over a lie" on this story. It seems that People magazine, a source I don't check, is reporting that Paltrow is denying making the remarks and saying she "loves being an American".

The problem with Paladin's rush to fault me is that it wasn't a lie. The media was most definitely having a field day with this story, and right wing pundits were indeed vying to "out outrage" each other with their oh-so-rightous condemnation and outrage over anyone daring to suggest that any other society on earth is a bit more pleasant and thoughtful than Americans.

It wasn't me that was "frothing" about a lie, it was right wing pundits.

December 3, 2006

What do you want for Chistmas? (and no, I'm not getting you a pony.)

What's on your list this year?

I've already bought myself my Christmas presents, a new computer and some video editing and DVD authoring software. The only things that could possibly top that would be some socks, an ugly tie, or maybe some cologne.

Name the top 3 or 4 things you'd like to get as gifts this year or the stuff your kids will just DIE if they don't get. Of course, I'm assuming you've been a good boy or girl and won't get a bunch of coal in your stockings.

By the way, word is that this may be the last tax-free Christmas season online, as efforts are underway to ensure that all online purchases are taxed in the future. (bummer).

And thanks to the thoughtful folks who've done some shopping using the Amazon search box in the sidebar. All the books offered there would make fine gifts for the political type on your list as well.

December 2, 2006

Q-CAT website aids groups efforts to educate public on Triumph hog plant

Q-CAT, or Quad Cities Citizens against Triumph, has put up an extensive website with everything you'd ever want to know about the effects of hog plants such as the proposed Triumph plant near Barstow, and a ton of articles and links to articles and information.

Their mission statement reads:
Welcome to the Q-CAT (Quadcities Citizens Against Triumph) website! We’re glad you’re here!

To give you a little background…we are a recently formed group of citizens just like you from throughout the Quad Cities, both the Illinois and Iowa sides of the Mississippi, who are against the building of a hog plant in this area by Triumph Foods. “Why,” you might ask, are we against something that appears to be good for the community?

“Appears” is the operative word here. Things are not as they appear…and that’s where we come in. In fact, that’s the reason we started Q-CAT in the first place – to educate the public about this vitally important issue and enlist its help in stopping Triumph from building here.

We’ve done our homework and can say with all manner of confidence that there are about a dozen good reasons why Triumph should not build here…starting with the fact that the proposed site is in a 100-year floodplain and on top of a wetland that’s a feeding and nesting ground to Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons and many other species of birds, not to mention the imposition of a 237% increase in water and sewer rates for the residents of East Moline. “Why is that?” you ask.

Well, you’ll find the answer to that question…and a whole lot more on this website. Again, welcome. You’ve come to the right place. Like we’ve said before, we believe the people call the shots, not corporations.

Whether you're for or against the plant, you should give it a look and try to read some of what's available (there's so damn much that it would be hard to try to wade through it all). You'll certainly come away with some information and facts which you might otherwise never be aware of.

Needless to say, this is a group with a definite position, but it's worth looking through what they provide on the site and making your own judgement on this important issue.

A link to the page is added to the blogroll for future reference.

December 1, 2006

Stalker mail

Here's a screen shot of my mail program showing the number of attacks and threatening comments I receieved within the span of a half hour this morning, directly after calling for a day where comments were to only say positive things or nothing at all. (Click on image to enlarge)

This person, who writes several times daily, wrote 24 hate comments (including threats of physical violence) within the span of 30 minutes. (not all of them show here as the program groups comments on individual posts together and they left more than one comment on a few posts)

If it seems I'm overreacting, bear in mind that these all came from the same computer with an IP address from SBC DSL and that this happens on a daily basis. Just wanted to give you a glimpse into what's out there, as I'm sure most readers have no idea what level of cretins I've had to deal with for over a year now.

We're not talking about a stable person here, and yes, it's pretty creepy on it's own, let alone the truly twisted stuff they write.

But without their threats and harassment, I probably would have hung up the blog long ago. For that I owe them. The more they continue their constant threats and bullying attempts the more it hardens my resolve to continue to produce what I hope is an interesting blog, especially since judging by the evidence, it has the added bonus of driving these weirdos right out of their minds.

I'm not sure whether to be flattered or freaked out that someone is clearly obsessed with myself and the blog. It's pretty creepy, as after all, it's just a blog. But they must be scared of something, otherwise I can't imagine why they'd spend more time attacking me than I spend running the whole blog.

But worst of all, they're BORING. I mean, they have about 4 or 5 standard lines of attack, and they repeat them over and over and over and over. After several hundred of the same thing, it's just unbearably tedious. It's bad enough to be stalked and have a creepy person obsessed with you, but it's worse when it's boring as hell. Yeeesh!

South side news

Seen in the Trib:
Police have identified a headless body found wrapped in plastic in an alley on the city's southeast side as a 21-year-old Chicago man, authorities said Thursday.

Police used fingerprint analysis to identify the victim as Charles Davis, but still were trying to determine a cause of death, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office. Davis' head had not been recovered.
Well, I'm no expert, but I'd guess it's tough to live, at least live a really full life, when you have no head.