October 29, 2007

Illinois primary at a glance

This year's February Illinois primary is the earliest state primary ever. This is thanks to the lemming-like move of state Dems to emulate other states in the rush to push primaries so far forward they distort the entire process.

This year in Illinois the primary features a grab bag of races, with candidates vying to replace Denny "the neckless wonder" Hastert as well as Jerry Weller and Peoria's Ray LaHood, and locally of course, primary challenges to one veteran politician and one rookie.

The Bloomington Pantograph writes a nice overview that details the races and the players.

October 26, 2007

In an administration where image over substance is the rule, who notices?

It's not surprising that this isn't surprising.

Fema employees posed as reporters at Tuesday's "news briefing" with Deputy Administrator Harvey Johnson because an agency was providing a live video feed to US TV networks, according to the Washington Post.

Six questions were posed by the Fema officials and Mr Johnson even used the typical practice of calling for a "last question".

"I'm very happy with Fema's response," Mr Johnson said in reply to one query from an employee.

After the Washington Post published details of the briefing, which one of its reporters listened to by phone, Mr Johnson apologised for the "error of judgement" and promised to do better in future.

"Our intent was to provide useful information and be responsive to the many questions we have received," he said in a statement.

"We are reviewing our press procedures and will make the changes necessary to ensure that all of our communications are straight forward and transparent."

Are our leaders sane?

As the all-knowing 8-Ball might reply, "Signs point to no."

Writing in Newsweek on Oct. 20, Fareed Zakaria, a solid centrist and former editor of Foreign Affairs, put it best. Citing Bush's invocation of "the specter of World War III if Iran gained even the knowledge needed to make a nuclear weapon," Zakaria concluded that "the American discussion about Iran has lost all connection to reality. . . . Iran has an economy the size of Finland's. . . . It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are . . . allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?"

Planet Cheney.

Anyone else noticing the full-blown divorce from reality in what comes from this administration? It's not like you haven't had time. It's been going on for years now.

Full article detailing the madness of King George here.

October 25, 2007

A few ways to look at a tree and my favorite bars

I suppose it's been too long since I gave my more cultured lurkers a chance to mock and berate me for posting pictures (if it's not about them, they hate it), so I'll put up a few that I took today of a local maple which is really going all out to give the other trees something to shoot for.

And as a bonus, I include shots of a couple of my favorite bars.

I highly recommend clicking on the pictures to view larger versions. The tiny format here really doesn't cut it.

Note: If you use Internet Explorer, it may still shrink the picture to fit in the browser window. Hover your cursor over the picture when it appears in your browser and if it changes into a little magnifying glass, right click and the picture will appear actual size. (I've already reduced them in size so as to not be too huge.)

"Club Whispers, where the grown folks play."

The "I Like You Night Club".

What's really going on with the cry for war with Iran?

I've had many commenters of the right wing variety eager to make the argument (read: parrot the propaganda they're fed) that Iran is really, really scary and dangerous, and gol darn it, we oughta attack them too.

Before any of them, or anyone else, thinks they know the score about U.S./ Iran relations, they should take the time to watch this outstanding Frontline piece (if you haven't seen it already). It provides some crucial perspective on both the history of our dealings with Iran, and what the current political situation is within Iran. Most right wingers (and others) are completely ignorant of both.

You can view the show in it's entirety online here.

If you're at all concerned about living through another calamitous ill-informed rush to war, then you owe it to yourself to give this some attention. I'm sure you'll find it interesting.

October 20, 2007

Stephen Colbert to appear on Meet The Press

The guy that some jerk here argued long and loud that no one watches will be Tim "Pumpkin Head" Russert's guest on this Sunday's Meet the Press.

"The guy no one watches" also has a book out, "I am America (And So Can You)" released earlier this week.

Colbert's book is:

Currently ranked #4 on Amazon's top selling books list and

NUMBER ONE on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Pity no one likes him or watches his show.

October 18, 2007

Rep. Phil Hare plans upcoming events

If you like Phil Hare, this Saturday is a two-fer.

A campaign rally for Rep. Phil Hare is being held this Saturday morning, Oct. 20th.

It's scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. at the Laborers Local 309 hall, 2835 7th Avenue
in Rock Island. The event is free and billed as an opportunity to sign petitions and help Hare kick-off his 2008 re-election campaign.

After that, you can take a scenic fall drive up the river and make the scene at Hare's "Country Jamboree" being held at the Cordova Civic Center, 910 - 3rd Avenue South in, oddly enough, Cordova.

The $10 admission will get you some tasty food, dancing, a live auction, and an open bar.

Get your "Phil" this Saturday.

October 16, 2007

"Faith-based" WIU development?

"If we build it, the state money will come."

Is that the rational behind the launch of a preliminary construction project in support of the Western Illinois Universtity Moline riverfront project?

An article in the Quad City Times a while back explained that construction was beginning. Not on the actual school, mind you, nothing's being done with that, but $1.5 million dollars worth of "design and contstruction" for the ambitiously named, "Rivertech Boulevard" supposedly needed to make the area prepared for building the actual campus.

What the one and a half million federal dollars will get us is a raised roadway above the flood plain to provide what was termed, "an alternative entryway" to use during the brief and rare instances when River Drive is impassable due to floods.

Hmmmm. $1.5 million so people don't have to get their tires wet during a week or so every few years.

But the roadway is part of the grand scheme to develop the Moline riverfront from downtown all the way east to the site of the former Deere Administration building on River Drive, which is to be the center of the proposed WIU campus there. It's recently been reported that they're also trying to shoehorn in yet another hotel as part of the WIU project. (everyone gets a slice.)

But there seems to be something missing, some part of this story that doesn't quite compute. And that is this: They still don't have any funding to build the WIU project and no assurance that it will come.

From what I've seen reported, Durbin, Obama, and Hare have secured the federal funding (or at least taken credit for it) which is being used to construct "Rivertech Boulevard".

But the state money, $14.5 million, which would actually build the very facility which has been touted to the community and supposedly the very reason for the entire project, is nowhere to be seen.

This is on our local state politicians. What happened?

When the state budget battle was finally over, which by all accounts was a collossally messed up and fractious process, I asked the quesetion, which I thought people might want to know, as to whether any funding for WIU had emerged. Responses here assured that the funding for WIU had been secured. (and of course, the comments gave credit to, as usual, Mike Jacobs.) But this (again as usual) appears to be a lie.

There had famously been the intemperate blow up at the Governor who controls such spending, with "Big Mike" threatening to get greasy with Blagojevich and wrestle on a bar room floor, evidently. Then needless to say, his spinners were out trying to praise the Senator for being such a "tough guy". (some colleaques even jokingly gave Jacobs a pair of boxing gloves)

While an elected official who threatens to get into fist fights with the guy who controls state funding might seem really cool and macho to some, all and all, I think most people would prefer a different style and a state university campus in the area. Thanks anyway.

I thought at the time this probably wasn't a good way to get millions for the WIU project, and oddly enough, it appears my instincts were correct. Not to say that the funding would have been forthcoming if Jacobs hadn't resorted to threats of physical violence against the governor, but one might safely assume it would have been much more likely.

From all I can gather, not a dime of state funding for the actual construction of the WIU Moline riverfront campus has been secured.

If such state funding had been achieved, we'd be hearing Jacobs trumpeting his glory from the rooftops, and he'd probably be in need of professional orthopedic care from patting himself on the back so vigorously. Bearing that in mind, isn't it fair to notice that state funding is conspicuously absent for this major project and wonder why?

Jacobs positioned himself in the lead for this project from day one, even though other pols were involved. He'd certainly take credit if the funding were gotten, and rightly so. But when it all collapses, we don't hear a peep. Should anyone be held accountible for this failure at the state level? Local pols? The governor?


And why haven't any local outlets publically questioned the wisdom of what appears to be truly a "faith based" project of massive proportions.

They're beginning to spend huge amounts of federal dollars, tax dollars asked for and gotten based on the assumption that it would all be part of a larger project to bring a college campus to the Moline riverfront.

And they're going to go right ahead and spend this money, do the work, alter the riverfront permanently, and what.... cross their fingers that something works out?

Is this our version of the famous "bridge to nowhere"?

I'd guess that those in charge are simply clicking their heels together three times and repeating, "The state will pay, the state will pay, the state will pay...." in hopes that state funding will come through, despite Sen. Jacobs.

Maybe they know something we don't? Maybe they know the funding will come through? Are they crossing their fingers and resigning themselves to waiting until after the election? Who knows?

They're likely counting on the hope that after they've essentially spent millions of federal dollars building a way to get TO the WIU campus, that it might provide some pressure to actually provide funds to have a school there.

After you drive on the huge new roads with their millions of dollars of work done to safely wisk you to and from the campus without fear of getting your tires wet during the odd flood, it would be kinda nice if there was something there once you arrived.

It's almost like people building an expensive and elaborate landing area for extra-terrestrials they've been assured would come, then standing around waiting for the mothership to arrive.

The whole thing has the wiff of a typical boondoggle, with millions being spent and work provided to dozens of workers who will work long and hard to construct a project, even though the very rational for the project doesn't exist and there's no assurance it ever will.

Could someone please help me understand why there's no cause to think this is kind of, well, unusual?

Please tell me where I've got it wrong, because I sincerely hope I do. Otherwise it doesn't make much sense.

UPDATE: Thought explained already in comments, a commenter or commenter continutes to whine incessently that I haven't praised Big Mike enough for the fact that the WIU funds were at least included in the budget that has passed the senate and is now in the House awaiting their action. The House can OK the budget as is, or make amendments, or do nothing.
I'm not aware if they've taken any action as of the time this is written.

Jacobs has done his part, and now it's up to the Reps.

More soldiers speak out (again)

This time, on the fifth bloody annniversary of the Bush Blunder in Iraq, it's twelve former Army captains:
The Real Iraq We Knew
Today marks five years since the authorization of military force in Iraq, setting Operation Iraqi Freedom in motion. Five years on, the Iraq war is as undermanned and under-resourced as it was from the start. And, five years on, Iraq is in shambles.
What does Iraq look like on the ground? It's certainly far from being a modern, self-sustaining country. Many roads, bridges, schools and hospitals are in deplorable condition. Fewer people have access to drinking water or sewage systems than before the war. And Baghdad is averaging less than eight hours of electricity a day.

Iraq's institutional infrastructure, too, is sorely wanting. Even if the Iraqis wanted to work together and accept the national identity foisted upon them in 1920s, the ministries do not have enough trained administrators or technicians to coordinate themselves. At the local level, most communities are still controlled by the same autocratic sheiks that ruled under Saddam. There is no reliable postal system. No effective banking system. No registration system to monitor the population and its needs.

The inability to govern is exacerbated at all levels by widespread corruption. Transparency International ranks Iraq as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. And, indeed, many of us witnessed the exploitation of U.S. tax dollars by Iraqi officials and military officers. Sabotage and graft have had a particularly deleterious impact on Iraq's oil industry, which still fails to produce the revenue that Pentagon war planners hoped would pay for Iraq's reconstruction. Yet holding people accountable has proved difficult. The first commissioner of a panel charged with preventing and investigating corruption resigned last month, citing pressure from the government and threats on his life.

Against this backdrop, the U.S. military has been trying in vain to hold the country together. Even with "the surge," we simply do not have enough soldiers and marines to meet the professed goals of clearing areas from insurgent control, holding them securely and building sustainable institutions. Though temporary reinforcing operations in places like Fallujah, An Najaf, Tal Afar, and now Baghdad may brief well on PowerPoint presentations, in practice they just push insurgents to another spot on the map and often strengthen the insurgents' cause by harassing locals to a point of swayed allegiances. Millions of Iraqis correctly recognize these actions for what they are and vote with their feet -- moving within Iraq or leaving the country entirely. Still, our colonels and generals keep holding on to flawed concepts.

U.S. forces, responsible for too many objectives and too much "battle space," are vulnerable targets. The sad inevitability of a protracted draw-down is further escalation of attacks -- on U.S. troops, civilian leaders and advisory teams. They would also no doubt get caught in the crossfire of the imminent Iraqi civil war.

Iraqi security forces would not be able to salvage the situation. Even if all the Iraqi military and police were properly trained, equipped and truly committed, their 346,000 personnel would be too few. As it is, Iraqi soldiers quit at will. The police are effectively controlled by militias. And, again, corruption is debilitating. U.S. tax dollars enrich self-serving generals and support the very elements that will battle each other after we're gone.

This is Operation Iraqi Freedom and the reality we experienced.

Who are you going to choose to believe? Proven liars from the White House and their highly paid mouthpieces? Republican congressmen (and Smokin' Joe Lieberman) who go over to get the phoney "tour" in Iraq complete with hundreds of bodyguards who then return to trumpet "success" and how "normal" things are? Or actual soldiers with their "boots on the ground", who were so disgusted with what they saw and experienced and the utter disconnect between reality and the actions of both their chain of command and the civilian leadership that they felt compelled to try to tell US what is really going on?

Or will you simply follow that noted warriror Rush Limbaugh and dismiss them as "phoney soldiers"?

Read the entire piece from the Washington Post here.

Guess we can go home now

This report by Thomas Ricks, noted author of the highly regarded book, "Fiasco" , on how Bush and pals royally messed up Iraq, reported yesterday in the Washington Post that military brass are now maintaining that we've pretty much put al Queda in Iraq out of business.

Good. Now maybe we can start to get the hell out?

But this story will expose the truly mythic levels of unreality and lying that are at the core of Bush's Iraq policy.

You see, Bush repeated the term "al Queda" nearly 50 times during one speech alone not too long ago. He was making a little stab at scaring people with al Queda at the time.

Of course, anyone who watches or reads the news recalls how a parade of Republican mouthpieces were trotted out to argue strenuously that the "surge" was, is, and will continue to work.

But in the face of this report, we can now expect the White House to find itself arguing that the surge really didn't work THAT well, and that we still need to stay there ... well, just because.

And the fact that the military reports al Queda as all but washed up in Iraq so closely on the heels of Bush's latest campaign to say that al Queda in Iraq is the main reason we're even IN Iraq. (though we've all lost count of the number of reasons this gang has expected us to swallow, it changes at their convenience.) really shows just how utterly phoney every word that comes out of Bush's mouth truly is. And I don't mean run of the mill politician phoney... I mean phoney as in out and out bald-faced lies told to the American people in a transparent attempt to scare them into supporting the senseless slaughter he so desperately wants to continue.

This could give all the Republican appologists a way to, as they say, declare victory and get out. But Bush has always gotten everything he wants. This is his personal little crusade, it's his toy and he's a spoiled brat, and no one's going to take it away from him.

Jesus, Wrong for America

A friend sent me a little graphic he found out there on the "internets" that I found particularly interesting, especially in light of at least one right wing reader who is often puzzled that anyone would have a problem with the charlatan fundementalists who pervert Chrisianity to promote far-right and Republican causes or the fact that this administration has cynically used and abused their supposed Christianity to do most decidedly un-Christian and immoral things.

Rather than post it, (it's kind of hard to read) I'll just provide a description. It's good food for thought.

Let's say Jesus is running for office against Bush, though it could be any Republican. What might their campaign ads against him be like? Probably something like this:

(picture of Jesus from shoulders up, as a faintly mocking voice over says...) Jesus of Nazereth says,
"Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you."
(As the words appear under his picture, an ominous voice intones,
favors more government handouts for welfare cheats."

(camera zooms a bit closer on Jesus' face): Jesus of Nazereth says,
"Judge not, that you not be judged."
(ominous voiceover)
Jesus is soft on crime.

(camera zooms yet closer on Jesus' face):
Jesus of Nazereth says, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's."
(ominous voice)
Jesus will raise your taxes.

(zooms in a little more as picture begins to dissolve into scary negative image.)
Jesus of Nazereth says, "Do not resist one who is evil. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other."
Can we trust Jesus to fight the war on terror?

(as the now extreme close up turns into frightening negative, bullet points appear on the screen accompanied by sounds of a hammer striking metal.)
Jesus -
WRONG on social services
WRONG on crime
WRONG on defense
WRONG for America

Vote Republican.

October 11, 2007

Scarborough gets whiplash and we find that the Republicans are still the majoirty in the senate

Josh Micah Marshall has added a new service of his excellent Talking Points Memo and is now offering interesting video clips highlighting the very best of the worst of what passes for politics and the media these days.

Here's one that, while not particularly interesting on the face of it, is just amazing.

Take a gander and then offer your opinion of what just happened to poor Joe. Did he get owned or what? (I have my own theory, but I'll hold my tongue for now.)

And then this news bunny, Kitty Pilgrim (wonder if she's Billy's sister?) makes a rather telling slip of the tongue. I guess she can't be blamed for still thinking the Republicans are in control of the congress. (with their assistance, maddeningly enough.)

But let's pray for Domenici, they sure don't need anything to "make it harder" for the Republican party to hold onto control the Senate. (ahem)

October 8, 2007

You Dems, always complaining without offering a plan.

I'm sick of hearing that utterly false Republican spin.

I've had the decidedly unwelcome displeasure of having a rather pompous anonymous commenter with a somewhat unhinged obsession with trying to either:

A. Get me to agree with his right wing views as if there's simply no other logical position, this through literally endless comments, and utterly ignoring my every response or answer, or

B. Demanding that I personally present, explain and discuss in detail incredibly complex policy issues such as abortion, health care, and the like. (Like I'm paid to do this or something.)

This strange person, and I only use that term after long experience with them, is at it again.

This time he's got it in his head that I should put forth an entire plan for public supported health care plans. (something of course which is a subject so large and complex that even the major media shys away from it, and which takes dozens of experts who've studied and specialized in the area years to devise.) and then lay it out in blog comments.

The sheer ridiculous nature of that demand aside, I addressed his obsession this time by suggesting he look up the health care plan proposals of the various candidates and get his jollys that way. I made the mistake of thinking he actually wanted to learn about health care policy proposals. Wrong.

As I should have known, that's not what he's after. He doesn't want to educate himself on the details of Democratic health care proposals. He's got his opinion on that from right wing blowhards and that's good enough for him. No, he doesn't want details or explanations, he's obsessed with having me explain it all to him, evidently so he can then breathlessly spring his well rehearsed Republican talking points on me, to which he feels there's simply no way to disagree. (while utterly ignoring all my responses or counter arguments in the process.)

The person really should have their own blog (and did, but it failed). Now they expect to dictate the discussion here, but go completely deaf when I do address their questions and answer them in a way that deviates even slightly with their pre-conceived right wing stances.

At any rate, they recently left a comment demanding a debate on healthcare on a post which had NOTHING to do with the subject whatsoever. (the off-topic comment being yet another annoying habit of theirs.)

They of course demanded that I merely lay out the entire universal health care issue, all of it's various proposals, plans etc. in detail, then lay out MY own personal proposal on how to fix the entire health care system in this country (I don't remember declaring for president), and do all this in comments. (lunacy, I know.)

And this is the same person who loudly bitches if I write a reply that's longer than three paragraphs, saying they simply can't comprehend that much.

Against my better judgement (I should just ignore this crap. It never changes.) I responded. I told them I'm neither capable nor interested in dissecting incredibly complex universal health care proposals, a subject even the major press with their resources seems incapable of doing. (Yet this person demands that a unpaid blogger argue the entire issue....and in comments.)

I suggested that they go look at the candidate's plans on their websites.

That, of course, wasn't good enough for them, since it denied them a chance to regurgitate their goofy right wing taking points. (or in this case, "stalking points".)

I recieved this response from them: (typos entirely theirs)
Dope, THAT is exactly the problem - the candidates have no in-depth position papers.

Their only comment on healthcare is to 'have a singlr payer system.'

Tey, like you, love to critcize, but fall alarmingly silent when asked for details.

Quite easy to say, 'the system is a mess' but a whole new game to actually come up with a tangible thought on how to correct the problem.

Government run healthcare does not solve one fundamental issue - it only makes the taxpayer financially responsible.

So...are you just a blowhard - or do you have specific suggestions on how to better the system?

I will be waiting anxiously for your clever response...

All they want to do is spout goofy right-wing talking points. If I provide any response which doesn't detail an entire national health care plan, or if I decline to tackle such an enormous issue as if I'm both an expert and the sole defender of every candidate's plan, it's just a "clever" dodge. This person is about a half a bubble out of plumb.

The reason I mention all this is to point out that they're simply a liar and lazy on top of it. (OK, OK, harsh, but read on.)

The top Democratic candidates (and perhaps all of them) have devoted entire policy speeches to their plans, that much I knew. The details I assumed could be easily found on their web sites.

It took me all of 3 minutes to find what this dim and argumentative blow-hard casually tells us doesn't exist.

So for his benefit, as well as anyone else that cares to educate themselves on the Democratic health care proposals, (which I highly recommend, if for no other reason than to be able to more easily spot the inevitable right wing lies about it down the road.) here's just some of what I found.

John Edwards has several pages on his health care proposals, including this policy statement.

Barack Obama has an extensive page with several links detailing his proposals to address the health care crisis, even providing a health care policy discussion blog. (at which this commenter could presumably indulge his deep need to argue and demand that others see things his way on this topic, and just as likely be eaten for lunch by people who actually know the subject.)

On the Obama website you can also read an overview of the Obama plan or a document providing full details of the plan, a health care plan Q&A, and a video of his speech on health care policy which he delivered in Iowa City.

And for anyone who wants to delve deeper into the weeds of Obama's health care policy proposal, there's even an extensive article by David Cutler, economics professor at Harvard University and Obama's health care adviser discussing the plan in a way that should make policy wonks rub their thighs in delight.

Hilary Clinton has laid out her comprehensive health care proposals in detail in speeches and provides highlights here.

On her healthcare page, in the sidebar to the right she provides extensive links to the full transcript of her speech introducing her health care policy, state reports, how her plan would affect various groups such as seniors and women, and even a video of her health care speech for those (like the commenter) who apparently don't like to read.

You can also download and digest an entire 16 page booklet explaining her entire proposal.

And that's only three Dem candidates. I'd imagine all the rest have their health care proposals online as well.

As an aside, I also found this article which shows how similar the Clinton and Romney health care proposals are. I hope the commenter doesn't bother to read it, or the congitive dissonence might make his ears bleed.

Again, it took me all of three minutes to find all this, yet this goof makes a fool of himself by parroting the utterly false right wing spin on the subject,
"THAT is exactly the problem - the candidates have no in-depth position papers. Their only comment on healthcare is to 'have a singlr payer system.'
Tey, like you, love to critcize, but fall alarmingly silent when asked for details.
Quite easy to say, 'the system is a mess' but a whole new game to actually come up with a tangible thought on how to correct the problem."

Yeah, "ALARMINGLY SILENT", aren't they?

(The major press might be "alarmingly silent" on covering these plans in any way which might actually inform the public as to what they entail, ( they assume we can't deal with such complex subjects, they're not "sexy" enough, and besides, you can't cover it in less than a minute.) but certainly not the actual candidates who have to struggle to get their plans before the public.)

The spin my echo chamber commenter repeats has been trotted out endlessly for years now. But for the right wing Republican party, facts are mere nuisances, and reality is for suckers.

Will this stop this person from demanding that I personally lay out a complete solution to our national health care crisis and defend it? Sadly, I doubt it.
It would be a worthless pursuit anyway, as I've already heard all the right wing spin already seeking to deny children and the needy health care.

But frankly, I don't want to hear it. I've heard it all before, and I simply believe, from all I've read and heard on the subject as well as my personal views, that the anti-health care spin is almost entirely a bunch of crap cranked out by the enormous industries whose golden goose stands to be taken away. I don't have any interest in hearing some poor schmuck repeating talking points for multi-billion dollar insurance and health care corporations.

I consider it sad to hear average people, people who truly would be helped by improving the system, who out of ignorance, fear, and obedience, argue against their own interests, not to mention society's.

And fundementally, it galls me to hear anyone who argues vociferously AGAINST fixing what is clearly an out of control and horribly flawed system. EVERYONE knows it's terrible the way it is, yet these people can't stand the thought of doing anything about it.

They have, as always, a almost childlike simplicity in their thinking, insisting that every problem, no matter how huge and nuanced, be reduced to simple black and white.

And as with most Republican right wingers, they're motivated by fear. In this case, as with many other issues, all they need to hear is that their taxes might go up, and they react like Pavlov's dogs, instantly wetting themselves and parroting whatever goofy arguments against the policy they can find, facts be damned.

And add to that of course, the horrible worse-than-death spectre of the mere possibility, the mere idea that they MIGHT be contributing a dollar or two to help out someone with brown or black skin or a "poor person". Ewwwwwww! This makes them break out in a cold sweat.

Now of course if every dime of the taxes they've paid for the last 10 yearss ends up paying for a fraction of the cost of some new leather seats for the corporate jet of some corrupt defence contractor... hey, that's cool. Not a peep.

The fact of the matter is that they're already being taxed, and taxed more heavily, by the current health care system, by co-payments and a miriad of hidden costs, yet they're unable or unwilling to comprehend it.

And in the fear catagory again, they've been duped into believing all sorts of unfounded horror stories about the effect of these plans, bullshit about not having any control over anything, and of course, completely false and misleading "facts" about other country's largely successful national health care systems.

So I'm crossing my fingers that this might hold this wanker at bay. But I feel confident that they won't bother reading (much less actually comprehending) any of the health care proposals linked to above. To actually consider that Democrats may have a sound, rational, and reasonable plan about anything is just too far outside their comfort zone. (It's only natural to get a little panicky when your party is sliding down the tubes.)

After all, authoritarians have a deep desire to forego critical thinking. They prefer blind faith and follow their leaders without question, as well as attack all opponents their leaders tell them they should oppose, again, without question. To admit that these plans have merit? Perish the thought.

So next time some winger tries to say that the Democrats "have no plan", tell them it ain't so.

October 7, 2007

What? An evengelist caught being greedy and unethical? No!

Man, what will it take before people realize what frauds these panhandlers for God are?

Now even son of Oral "90 ft. Jesus" Roberts has got some 'splainin' to do.

Richard Roberts is accused of illegal involvement in a local political campaign and lavish spending at donors' expense, including numerous home remodeling projects, use of the university jet for his daughter's senior trip to the Bahamas, and a red Mercedes convertible and a Lexus SUV for his wife, Lindsay.

She is accused of dropping tens of thousands of dollars on clothes, awarding nonacademic scholarships to friends of her children and sending scores of text messages on university-issued cell phones to people described in the lawsuit as "underage males."
Gee, I wonder which party he was helping illegally? Could it be the party which probably doesn't see a problem with any of the things they're accused of doing?

For your fall wardrobe

Get yours here.

October 6, 2007

The GOP "Stall of Fame"

From TPM:
Jefferson Parish deputies working an undercover detail in a men's bathroom at Dillard's at Lakeside Shopping Center in March 2000 stopped DiFatta after he indicated a desire to engage in sex with an undercover deputy in an adjoining bathroom stall, according to an interoffice memorandum written by Sgt. Keith Conley, one of the deputies involved in the investigation.
The report said DiFatta slid his foot into the deputy's stall and tapped the deputy's foot. In the report, Conley noted that such activity is common among men to indicate a willingness to participate in sex.

The deputy inside the stall, Detective Wayne Couvillion, responded by tapping his foot, and DiFatta reached under the partition and began to rub the deputy's leg, the report states.

The detective asked DiFatta, "What do you want?" according to the report, and he replied, "I want to play with you."

DiFatta also used a hand signal to indicate that he wanted to engage in sex and used language that indicated the same, according to the report. Conley, who is now the Kenner city attorney, confirmed the report's authenticity Thursday.

DiFatta took the novel approach of quitting his Senate race just before the story hit the papers, citing that he'd been having "chest pains".

October 5, 2007

Just when you thought it couldn't get worse....

To say that George W. Bush spends money like a drunken sailor is to insult every gin-soaked patron of every dockside dive in every dubious port of call. If Bush gets his way, the cost of his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will soon reach a mind-blowing $600 billion. Despite turning a budget surplus into a huge deficit, the man still hasn't met a tax cut he doesn't like. And when the Republicans were in charge of Congress, Bush might as well have signed their pork-stuffed spending bills with a one-word rubber stamp: "Whatever."

So for Bush to get religion on fiscal responsibility at this late date is, well, a joke. And for him to make his stand on a measure that would have provided health insurance to needy children is a punch line that hasn't left many Republicans laughing.

Bush's veto Wednesday of a bipartisan bill reauthorizing the State Children's Health Insurance Program was infuriatingly bad policy. An estimated 9 million children in this country are not covered by health insurance -- a circumstance that should shock the consciences of every American. Democrats and Republicans worked together to craft an expansion of an existing state-run program that would have provided coverage for about 4 million children who currently don't have it.


Any righties who want to discuss health care issues care to defend Bush's stance and blatant lies on this issue?

October 4, 2007

No "do-overs" for Larry "Wide Stance" Craig

Minnesota judge denies Craig's attempt to argue that when he plead guilty, (weeks after the offense) he meant the innocent kind of guilty.

It remains to be seen if Craig will continue in his state of denial and attempt to remain in Congress or resign.

UPDATE: This is delicious, Craig apparently has announced he's not going to resign but will serve out his entire term.

I can't wait to see the restroom in Minneapolis become a shrine to Republican hypocrisy during their convention.

All sane Republicans must be livid.

Grassley now represents Nebraska and QCs escapes uncontrolled reproduction

Just like that, Iowa is rid of Sen. Charles Grassley, courtesy of a rather dim MSNBC graphics person. This appeared during Thursday's "Countdown with Keith Olberman".

No word on his replacement.

And I've been meaning to post something about yet another reference to our area on The Colbert Report since I saw it way back on August 14th. Might as well do it now.

First I should mention that among other real and spoof merchandise Colbert often plugs on his show (ala O'Reilly) is his "Formula 401", which he bills as his genuine "genetic material" along with "some zanthan gum and of course, high fructose corn syrup", for all the adoring females just aching to bear his offspring.

Colbert opened his show by saying,
"Tonight, the Report examines an issue which affects every single one of us, especially those of us who are female, ovulating, and live in the Iowa Quad Cities area."
(Why he specified Iowa, I haven't a clue.)

The news flash was that a tanker truck, "brimming with Formula 401", had "jack-knifed on an overpass on highway 74 right outside of Moline, Illinois." (big laughs)

Colbert continued,
"Let me reiterate a warning. Quad City women please, I recommend you stay indoors and seal your windows tight. It is believed that some of the Formula 401 may have become airborne, and I do not want to be responsible for fathering a 5th city."

For those of you who missed it, Colbert earlier had done an interview with Rep. Phil Hare and in the intro to that piece noted that Hare's district included the "Quad" cities and proceeded to name them while counting them off on his fingers. He then paused and looked at the five fingers, before moving on. Adding those to his frequent mentions of Knox College (which presented him with an honorary doctorate) and Colbert is really putting this area on the map. (as a subject for laughs)

October 3, 2007

H.L. Mencken, prophet

“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people.

On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

—H. L. Mencken, 1920

October 1, 2007

Hearings give glimpse into bloody, unaccountable, massively profitable world of Blackwater, Halliburton war profiteers

From the report on Blackwater delivered to the House Government Oversight Committee:
The security services provided by Blackwater would typically be performed by an Army Sergeant, whose salary, housing, and subsistence pay range from approximately $140 to $190 per day, depending on rank and years of service. On an annual basis, the salary, housing, and subsistence pay of an Army Sergeant ranges from $51,100 to $69,350 per year. The amount the government pays Blackwater for these same services is approximately six to nine times greater.
Any of the bright lights who have tried to justify these killing for profit outfits care to take a shot at defending that?

The Washington Post's Walter Pincus takes a closer look at the terms revealed during a House Oversight Committee investigation, of just one particular Blackwater contract and the complex web of subsidiaries surrounding it and provides a comparison of the costs to that of even General Petraeus.

Such a deal at only six to nine times the price. (out of YOUR pocket)

According to data provided to the House panel, the average per-day pay to personnel Blackwater hired was $600. According to the schedule of rates, supplies and services attached to the contract, Blackwater charged Regency $1,075 a day for senior managers, $945 a day for middle managers and $815 a day for operators.

According to data provided to the House panel, Regency charged ESS an average of $1,100 a day for the same people. How the Blackwater and Regency security charges were passed on by ESS to Halliburton's KBR cannot easily be determined since the catering company was paid on a per-meal basis, with security being a percentage of that charge.

Halliburton's KBR blended its security costs into the blanket costs passed on to the Defense Department.

How much more these costs are compared with the pay of U.S. troops is easier to determine.

An unmarried sergeant given Iraq pay and relief from U.S. taxes makes about $83 to $85 a day, given time in service. A married sergeant with children makes about double that, $170 a day.

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Baghdad overseeing more than 160,000 U.S. troops, makes roughly $180,000 a year, or about $493 a day. That comes out to less than half the fee charged by Blackwater for its senior manager of a 34-man security team.


A report issued to the committee revealed recklessness from taxpayer funded mercenary companies, including the fact that they usually fired first, were often drunk, and killed people indescriminately.
Guards working in Iraq for Blackwater USA have shot innocent Iraqi civilians and have sought to cover up the incidents, sometimes with the help of the State Department, a report to a Congressional committee said today.

The report, based largely on internal Blackwater e-mail messages and State Department documents, depicts the security contractor as being staffed with reckless, shoot-first guards who were not always sober and did not always stop to see who or what was hit by their bullets.

In one incident, the State Department and Blackwater agreed to pay $15,000 to the family of a man killed by “a drunken Blackwater contractor,” the report said. As a State Department official wrote, “We would like to help them resolve this so we can continue with our protective mission.”

The committee is to hold what will likely be a blockbuster hearing on Blackwater tomorrow (Tues) with witnesses to include the reclusive young far-right owner of Blackwater, Eric Prince.

An overview of the report noting some of the Blackwater and State Department attrocities can be read HERE.

It's far overdue for these sorts of operations to be revealed and hopefully discontinued. The fact that this multi-billion dollar industry was set up, put in place, and grown to the point where they almost outnumber our actual military, and all under the radar of 99% of Americans who pay for it, is an outrage.

From the mouths of babes

I like this girl. She's cute, bright, and knows the score.

Move over terrorists, here comes the brain eating amoebas

PHOENIX -- It sounds like science fiction but it's true: A killer amoeba living in lakes enters the body through the nose and attacks the brain where it feeds until you die.

Although encounters with the microscopic bug are rare, it has killed six boys and young men this year. The spike in cases has health officials concerned, and they are predicting more cases.

"This is definitely something we need to track," said Michael Beach, a specialist in recreational waterborne illnesses for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This is a heat-loving amoeba. As water temperatures go up, it does better," Beach said.

According to the CDC, Naegleria fowleri killed 23 in the United States from 1995 to 2004. This year, health officials noticed a spike with three deaths in Florida, two in Texas and one in Arizona.

Naegleria lives almost everywhere in lakes, hot springs, even dirty swimming pools. The amoeba destroys tissue as it makes its way up to the brain, where it continues the damage, "basically feeding on the brain cells," Beach said.

At last, a plausible excuse for the content of some of the comments here.

Add to that fuzzy little critter the pandemics in antibiotic resistant SARS, MRSA, and various coming flu pandemics, and you'd think people wouldn't be such cowering fools when their leaders try to get them to sign away all their rights in the name of "protecting" them from something as unlikely as being killed by terrorists.

As a matter of fact, you're about 50 times as likely to die from slipping on a banana peel as being killed by a terrorist act. (but of course if you're in the military or a mercenary for hire, your chances of dying from being sent to violent areas under the pretense of fighting terror goes way up.)

Spot on

Sometimes it seems that the only way to make sense of the Bush administration is to imagine that it’s a vast experiment concocted by mad political scientists who want to see what happens if a nation systematically ignores everything we’ve learned over the past few centuries about how to make a modern government work.

Thus, the administration has abandoned the principle of a professional, nonpolitical civil service, stuffing agencies from FEMA to the Justice Department with unqualified cronies. Tax farming — giving individuals the right to collect taxes, in return for a share of the take — went out with the French Revolution; now the tax farmers are back.

And so are mercenaries, whom Machiavelli described as “useless and dangerous” more than four centuries ago.

For example, Mr. Singer reminds us that in 2005 “armed contractors from the Zapata firm were detained by U.S. forces, who claimed they saw the private soldiers indiscriminately firing not only at Iraqi civilians, but also U.S. Marines.” The contractors were not charged. In 2006, employees of Aegis, another security firm, posted a “trophy video” on the Internet that showed them shooting civilians, and employees of Triple Canopy, yet another contractor, were fired after alleging that a supervisor engaged in “joy-ride shooting” of Iraqi civilians.

Yet even among the contractors, Blackwater has the worst reputation. On Christmas Eve 2006, a drunken Blackwater employee reportedly shot and killed a guard of the Iraqi vice president. (The employee was flown out of the country, and has not been charged.) In May 2007, Blackwater employees reportedly shot an employee of Iraq’s Interior Ministry, leading to an armed standoff between the firm and Iraqi police.

Iraqis aren’t the only victims of this behavior. Of the nearly 4,000 American service members who have died in Iraq, scores if not hundreds would surely still be alive if it weren’t for the hatred such incidents engender.

Which raises the question, why are Blackwater and other mercenary outfits still playing such a big role in Iraq?

The rest from NYT's Krugman HERE.