February 28, 2007

Quote of the day

From Countdown via The Tonight Show. Jay Leno played a clip of Georgia governor Sonny Purdue introducing our fearless leader to a meeting of the Republican Governor's Association with quite the left-handed compliment.

Said Purdue as George and Laura stood by his side:
"You know, Vince Lombardi once said that success is not about strength, it's not about knowledge, but it's about will. That's the leadership president George W. Bush has provided."

Yes, indeedy.

McCain makes it official

Though the show won't air for a few hours, at an earlier taping today of the David Letterman Show, Sen. John McCain officially confirmed the obvious, namely that he will run for president.

Boland introduces post election ballot audit proposal

From Chicago's ABC Channel 7 WLS news:
Illinois' election reputation has been stained by decades of dishonesty. But now, ABC7 News has learned that an unusual move has begun to fend off fraud at polling places.

It was just last November that we saw a post-midnight march on to the Cook County building by defeated county board presidential candidate Tony Peraica, whose cries of chicanery at the polls were not unusual by Illinois election standards.
"Sad to say that Illinois doesn't have the greatest reputation for our elections," said Rep. Michael Boland, D-East Moline

That's why Moline state representative Mike Boland has introduced an amendment to the election code. The proposed law would require an election night audit in each precinct in Illinois instead of a central location as is now the case.

Under Boland's law, right after the polls close 10 percent of all paper ballots would be tallied and compared to 10 percent of all votes stored in electronic voting machines.

If there is a discrepancy, if there is something akilter(sic) between the paper ballots and the machine count then we will be able to find out if there is scaldugleriy(sic) going on or a kink in system or somebody hacked in," Boland said.

A 10 per cent election night audit would double what is required under current state law; be much faster and done publicly, in the presence of election judges from both parties.

"By requiring 10 percent you get a statistical confidence level that can guarantee that the election has integrity," said David Larson of the Illinois Ballot Integrity Project.

Chicago election officials say their 5-percent sample recount a week after the polls close provides all the integrity necessary.

They say says election judges are already overwhelmed once the polls close, and that training them to do an instant audit would be a "recipe for disaster, conflict, chaos and fraud,"...the very things the law is intended to prevent.

If you took advantage of early voting this month, your vote will not be audited. Boland says that means your vote could be compromised and no one would know it. So he wants early voters to have a paper ballot option and their vote audited on election night.

Good idea?

The Daily Show Oscar coverage "live" from Davenport

Last night's The Daily Show with John Stewart featured a "live" remote interview with their "Senior Hollywood corresponent" Jason Jones.

According to the on-screen graphic, he was supposedly standing in front of a home in Davenport, IA as he discussed the recent David Geffen/Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton dust up. Jones described Davenport as a hard scrabble blue collar town, which I suppose is how someone with no clue might describe it. It's nice to be noticed.

February 27, 2007

The Party that demands "civility" and "bipartisanship" already going ugly

Republicans have the jump on Democrats once again in an area that they've made a dependable foundation for their entire reason for being; the negative, bumper sticker style smear.

Here's GOP.com's new guide for right wing yakkers who wish to have the right words to instantly conjure up the most negative image possible for the entire field of Democratic candidates, including one who's already dropped out.

Of course, they're all sound bites they've spent millions to establish (in the case of Clinton) and will spend millions more to inject into the minds of the easily lead in months to come.

Clinton becomes, "A Calculating, Divisive, Lifelong Liberal With Political Baggage"
Obama, "An Inexperienced, Insulated, Arrogant, Unabashed Liberal"
Christopher Dodd is, "A New England Liberal, Past His Prime, On An Unrealistic Vanity Run For The White House"
It sounds like they had to really work at Edward's smear - "A Hypocritical, Inexperienced Liberal With A New Negative Attitude"

And they're still hammering Vilsack as, " A Tax-Hiking, Mismanaging, "Blip" Candidate With No Foreign Policy Experience"

Maybe we could come up with some similar snappy descriptions for the Republican field?

How's this? Giuliani, "Three time married tyrant who lived with a gay couple after splitting with his wife, only appeared walking the streets on 9-11 because, against warnings, he'd insisted on locating the command center near his office and the WTC, it was destroyed and he had nowhere to go. Was for abortion rights before he was against them."

Or, "Since Giuliani and Gingrich have had three wives, and McCain two, the Mormon in the race is about the only guy who's only had one."

Give it a shot and see what you can come up with for Rudy, McCain, Romney, Gingrich, Sam Brownback, Tom Tancredo, Duncan Hunter, or Tommy Thompson.

What a tangled web we weave...

Bush's excellent adventure in Iraq continues to spread discord and conflict like a cancer.

Sy Hersh in the New Yorker reveals the clandestine efforts of the Bush administration to aid, along with the Saudis, Sunni militant groups opposed to the Iranian government.

Of course al Queda, the very group which attacked us and continues to regroup in Pakistan and elsewhere, is a Sunni militant group. But at this point, does it really come as a shock that Bush is now backing al Queda's side?
To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

The Hersh article also details that at Bush's orders, the military has undertaken extensive planning for strikes on Iran, and has been asked to be ready to attack within 24 hours on orders from Bush.

If you awoke one morning and turned on the TV to see Bush announcing that he's just attacked Iran, what would your reaction be?

And on a related note, this administration, the gang that couldn't shoot straight, showed it's calliber today when it's female spokeswoman stood in front of the White House to try to mount an effort to, as always, attack the messenger and smear Hersh, a veteran reporter who has broken and reported many important stories in the past decades and who enjoys a well-deserved reputation for being one of the top investigative reporters in the country.

But of course, the Bushies decide the thing to do is to simply say that Hersh, a pulitzer prize winning journalist who broke both the My Lai and Abu Ghraib stories among others, is a liar.

So here stands this attractive young spokesbot, and when it's her cue, she says, "Seymour Hersh has a wanton disregard for the truth."

OK. Short and sweet. Sure to be picked up and played by everyone who reports the story, even though she provided zero evidence to back up the smear and the assertion is patently false. With this gang, it would only be notable if they said something that wasn't.

But there was a problem that really galled me. The woman pronounced wanton as "juan-tawn", two distinct syllables, as in won-ton soup! "Seymour Hersh has a juan tawn disregard for the truth.", she said, evidently having previously only seen the word appear as the number 37 on a Chinese menu.

Good Lord! Not only did it reveal that someone had written the remark for her, but it showed that you don't have to be particularly literate or bright to be a White House spokesperson. (or president, for that matter.)

An incredibly trivial matter compared to Bush starting a war with Iran, but .....egads!

February 26, 2007

And for what?

Newsweek has a slide show of a few Iraqi vets and thumbnail descriptions of their stories.

All the folks who cheered this war, especially those who continue to do so, likely have never thought of the true cost.

In addition to plunging the country into insane and precarious deficits for generations to come, no one who blustered and lied about the phony reasons why we need to be in Iraq ever mentions the long-term billions of dollars it will cost to provide care to thousands upon thousands of severely wounded veterans.

Many are so young that taxpayers will be providing millions for their care for the next 50 or 60 years. 50 to 60 years at thousands of dollars a year. The cost is incomprehensible and ongoing. Yet those who routinely clammor for more war and more deaths are the very ones who simultaneously support literally billions in tax cuts for the very wealthiest people in our country, the very people which are profiting handsomely from Bush's "war".

How does this even begin to make sense? The answer is easy. It doesn't and never has.

On a related note, an easily overlooked bit in the Dispatch notes that the VA has awarded a $10.1 million dollar contract to expand and enhance the vast veterans cemetary on Arsenal Island. The contract was given not to any local companies, but one from the Chicago area.

5 years into this disasterous "war", someone evidently realized that they better make room for many more bodies, and soon. And add the millions of tax dollars it will take to buy land for and bury all the bodies we're creating and all the returning vets when their times comes to the staggering cost this administration has burdened the country with. They'll be long gone, worth billions, while future generations will be forced to do without to pay for it all.

February 25, 2007

Forget the funding cuts, congressional resolutions, etc. Joe Liberman may control fate of U.S. in Iraq

There's been much buzz among the political chattering classes over a comment that now Independent Sen. Joe Liberman made recently.

Ever since Republican voters in Connecticut ensured his victory (and gave tons of campaign cash) and returned him to a congress where the Democratic majority is held by only 1 solitary vote, focus has been on Lieberman and the speculation that he'd continue his practice of throwing the Democratic party under the bus and possibly switch parties.

His recent statement that has everyone in a frenzy is this from a phone interview by The Politico.com:
"I have no desire to change parties," Lieberman said in a telephone interview. "If that ever happens, it is because I feel the majority of Democrats have gone in a direction that I don't feel comfortable with."

Asked whether that hasn't already happened with Iraq, Lieberman said: "We will see how that plays out in the coming months," specifically how the party approaches the issue of continued funding for the war.

He suggested, however, that the forthcoming showdown over new funding could be a deciding factor that would lure him to the Republican Party.

"I hope we don't get to that point," Lieberman said. "That's about all I will say on it today. That would hurt."
There's no reason to trust Lieberman's word when he says he has no desire to switch parties anymore than the word he gave top Dems and the voters of Connecticut in the past.

The 298,000,000 people of the United States don't have a say. The congress, for all their maneuvering and posturing and scramble to find ways to block Bush's bull-headed desire to mount a surge in Iraq, none of it matters.

It's all down to one man, and that guy is Joe Lieberman.

His veiled threat already has tongues wagging all over D.C. that it's meant as a means to warn Democrats that any effort to cut funding for the surge will cause Lieberman to switch parties, effectively handing control of congress over to the Republicans and creating the nightmare scenario where any tie votes are decided by Dick "Dick" Cheney.

Way to go Joe. I tried to warn about this, but everyone said he was a nice guy, a welcome moderate voice. B.S. The guy is nothing but trouble and is now poised to single-handedly scuttle the desires of millions of voters who sent a clear and unambiguous message in the mid-term elections that they want to find a way out of the quagmire in Iraq, NOT escalate things.

Will he switch parties? I doubt it. But he doesn't have to. Just the coy threat is enough to get Dems to back off on proposing honest means to change course in Iraq.

Is this speculation largely a lot of overly dramatic hype in the media and among pundits? Quite possibly, but there's no denying that Joe Lieberman is the Dems worst nightmare. And Dems who supported him and voted for him are rightfully feeling betrayed.

There's even talk of impeachment if Joe tries to switch. That, I'd love to see.

Beyond the black and white

Warning, the following is not a happy post. If you're in a happy mood, this will probably kill it. Save it for later.

News reporting is relaying facts, or at least it should be. And when the facts are about human beings, the sterile facts don't always reflect the true depth of the story behind the story.

A small piece about some recent finding of the Henry County Coroner's jury is a good example. A bureaucratic procedure that goes on largely unnoticed, a coroner's jury is a body that makes legal determinations about the cause of death in cases where it's not obvious.

In this instance, there were three deaths investigated, each occuring in Henry county during the month of January, and reported accordingly.

They were all sad, to begin with, as deaths are. But there's two way to read such stories. You can kind of read through them quickly and have a detached view, as if they're distant events and not related to you, not near you, and therefore you don't spend much time thinking about them and quickly put it out of your mind and move on. The fishbowl effect.

Or you can realize that these accounts are most definitely as real as it can get. They actually did happen, and they happened to real people, and people who were, in the final analysis, not too terribly different than you or I. You can imagine the effect on family members or others directly affected by it, and maybe realize the fact that only a few misfortunes separate us from the possibility of a similar fate.

The first was an account of a 14 year old boy, a young teen-ager, who died from smoke inhalation in a fire at his home in rural Cambridge. Tragic indeed, but the details tear at the heart.

The report found that Seth DeShane and his aunt were the only ones at home when the fire broke out. Fortunately, his aunt escaped out a back door of the house.

But Seth didn't realize this. Thinking his aunt was still inside, he re-entered the searing heat and smoke to try to find her and save her. He died in the attempt.

The cool scientific evidence showed that there was over twice the lethal amount of cabon monoxide in Seth's blood. He must have struggled very hard.

They found that fire had begun in the living room where the Christmas tree was located.

One can't imagine the impact this must have on the survivors, and it will change the meaning of the holidays for the rest of their lives.

Then there was the case of a Kewaunee man who died on a cold day in January. He was struck by a train at the North Grove St. crossing.

The man was Raymond L. Jamison, and he was 81 years old, a long life by any standard.

Such a sad and violent way to go after such a long life.

But again, it's the details cooly reported that makes the heart sink.

Police reported that the gates were down and the lights flashing at the crossing at the time of the accident, but it was the day of an ice storm, and visibility was bad and walking was "very difficult" under the conditions.

A witness who saw the incident said he couldn't tell if Mr. Jamison was trying to beat the train or simply didn't see it.

The engineer of the train said he saw the man, blew the horn and braked. He said Mr. Jamison looked up and appeared to be trying to hurry out of the way prior to the collision. He didn't make it.

Then this sentence: "No one claimed the body, so the coroner's office and Rux Funeral Home provided the funeral."

An 81 year old man with no one. Trying to get somewhere in the middle of an ice storm in January. Sees a train bearing down on him but is too feeble and the ice too slippery to get out of the way, and a life of 81 years is ended that way. And no one he knows is there to mourn or see him laid to rest.

So cruel.

The last account was of someone simply snapping under the stress and unpredictability of fortune.

Whether it be relationships, job and/or money issues, bullying, abusive or dysfunctional families, or just the pressure society puts on conforming to some ideal or other reasons, such cases happen by the hundreds daily all across the country, and are probably on the increase. Only the most spectacular get noticed.

On the same day Ray Jamison's long life was tragically ended on a rail crossing in a small town, a Moline man ran amok and took his own life.

He chased his ex-wife in her car and repeatedly rammed into her. He then stole another car and drove it to "a house" in Henry County. There he forced his way into the house, went down to the basement and set several fires. Finally, he then went into the garage rigged up some electrical cord, and fatally hung himself.

Many would dismiss this as the actions of "some nut", and it's certain that the man was mentally unhinged. But humans tend to wig out when placed in situations with which they simply can't cope. This is happening more and more, and when people get to the point where they simply don't care about anything anymore, they can and do cause a lot of damage, up to and often including taking the lives of other innocent victims.

Just one of the many traumatic and costly effects from the Iraq war will be the fact that many soldiers will return traumatized for life and mentally unstable and find it hard if not impossible to integrate back into society. With no apparent way out, many will likely choose to end their lives in similar ways. And many already have.

There's so many thousands of bits of information flung at us from every direction every day, from Brittany Spears to the buffoon judge in the Anna Nichole Smith hearing to who said what to whom in the Obama/Clinton folly.

And buried down in the midst of it is the routine recounting of a bureaucratic proceeding that might just reflect the reality of humanity and society better than all the rest.

Take care of yourselves.

Another (small) piece of the WIU riverfront project falls into place

The longest journey begins with a single step they say, and in that light, the WIU riverfront campus idea is at least not moving backwards.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education recommended last Friday that the state spend $14.2 million dollars on the project as part of the 2007-08 capitol budget for WIU. In addition to that recommendation for WIU, they also recommended spending over twice that amount, $29.1 million, on a performance arts center in Macomb.

This does not assure the funding, but the governor and staff look to the recommendations as a guide to the board's priorities. In other words, it's exactly what it appears to be, simply recommendations from one group.

Though Gov.Blagojevich has promised funding for the project at a campaign stop in the Quad Cities last fall, a spokesman for the governor contacted by the Dispatch/Argus couldn't say whether the money will be in the governor's budget, which is to be released March 7th.

A timeline of the WIU situation:

- 1960 WIU starts classes in various locations in the Quad Cities

- 1994 WIU buys and renovates the old IBM building in Moline for $4 million

- 20 acre riverfront campus proposed, projected cost is $71 million dollars, including $15 million to remodel the former Deere Tech Center on River Drive. The project is planned to include 190,000 square feet of building space.

- WIU receives $200,000 from the state to complete preliminary design studies for the renovation of the Tech Center building alone.

- WIU receives $250,000 from a Housing and Urban Development bill passed by the U.S. Congress for the project.

- In September, Gov. Blagojevich announces a pledge of $14 million to refurbish the Tech Center and gives the school another $2.4 million dollars for more planning.

If the project is ever completed, backers say it will provide 200 jobs and have a $48 million economic impact to the area.

Pat Vershoore proposes local option sales tax for school construction funding

On the heels of a proposal by a couple Illinois legislators to ammend the state constitution to eliminate property taxes as the source of school funding, one of those unworkable right wing ideas which is more of a statement than action, Rep. Pat Verschoore, a decidedly low profile politician, (not that there's anything wrong with that) has made the front page of a local paper with his proposal to allow individual counties in Illinois to put to a vote whether to adopt a sales tax hike which would be then restricted to being used for construction of new school buildings and repairs to existing structures. The hike would be limited to a maximum of 1.0%, which means that counties could choose a smaller amount if they wished, and the revenue limited to spending on construction and other major capital improvements only and would not be spent on salaries, transportation, or general maintenance.

(The article in the D/A kindly helped those who might struggle to grasp 1.0% without a calculator by, "put(ing) that in perspective" and telling us that it would add $200 to the cost of a $20,000 car, or $0.30 to a $30 blouse. Can you provide other fun examples? Has marketing research told the D/A that most of their readers function at a first grade math level and might need a little graphical help in putting the concept of 1% "in perspective"?)

Iowa adopted such a plan in 1998 and as a result, every county in the state has adopted the sales tax increase which is expected to bring in $325 million dollars for schools next year.

The issue would be put up for referendum and voters in each county could decide whether to adopt the plan or not. (the piece said that counties "could" bring up the issue for a referenda vote, so apparently it would be up to each county whether they even put it to a vote, and referendum would not be required, though that's not clear.)

Pros include:

- It might stand a better chance of passing than property tax increases due to the fact that the money will not go to teachers salaries. Amazingly and rather shamefully, some voters seem to have a real problem with the notion of increasing salaries for those who educate our children.

- The fact that this could serve as a means of providing desperately needed school funding when voters seem genetically opposed to helping schools by passing property tax referenda.

- The plan has provided the Davenport school district with about $12 million a year without harming the area retail base.

- Evem a 1/2% increase in sales tax in Rock Island County would generate $6.4 million in money for new schools according to Verschoore.

- The Illinois legislature and state has done poorly providing funding for schools. The Illinois legislature has failed to pass a school construction funding bill for 5 years. And even when the state has approved funds, they haven't come through with the money. The D/A article cites the example that the Silvis school district is still waiting for the $12 million the state promised for construction of a new school. The sales tax measure would presumably get the money to the districts quicker and more reliably.

Cons are:

- It will likely be a tough sell to taxpayers who rarely get a chance to actually decide on taxes and who often have the kneejerk reaction to vote anything down that contains the word "tax".

- It might not work as well in Illinois as it has in Iowa. Adding to the tough sell argument is the fact that Illinois already has a higher sales tax rate than Iowa to begin with. And Iowa has a broader sales tax base due to the fact that it taxes many services as well as goods, whereas Illinois does not.

- Some argue that it is a regressive tax that hits those with lower income harder.

- A concern voiced by Rep. Boland is the fact that if some counties adopt the tax and others don't, it may create even greater disparities in school funding, therefore such measures should be adopted state-wide rather than county by county.

The Verschoore proposal would not affect the amount school districts already receive in general state aid and would only affect local sales taxes.

The issue will doubtless be much debated, but it's a good thing that Rep. Verschoore has put it out there for consideration. When schools are so strapped for much needed funding, anything that may help should definitely be considered.

February 24, 2007

Politicians and the "internets" Pt.II

From a piece on the use of blogs, bloggers, social networking sites, and the internet in political campaigns from Dispatch/Argus:
The 2008 presidential campaign is revving up earlier than ever, and candidates are using new online tools or techniques already used by advocacy groups and non-profits. They include popular social networking sites to organize, a growing reliance on high-profile bloggers and use of widely shared video -- such as the Webcasts of Democrats Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama announcing their campaigns.

"Web campaigning is becoming highly sophisticated, a central part of any candidate's plan to win," said Rick White, a former Republican congressman from the Seattle area and a consultant on tech issues.
"Each campaign is looking for the best ways to use Web 2.0 applications," said Julie Barko Germany, deputy director of the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet at George Washington University.

As evidence of the growing importance, Germany notes that the Webmaster consigned to the bottom rungs of a campaign a few years ago is now an "online communities strategist" who can be just as influential as any other adviser to the candidate.

Two examples: Matthew Gross, whose online work helped elevate Howard Dean as a candidate four years ago, was an important hire for Edwards, who has made online outreach a major part of his campaign; and Becki Donatelli, who led Republican John McCain's breakthrough effort in Internet fundraising in 2000, is working for him again.

While the Internet is a powerful engine, it's also unpredictable. Its real-time, free-wheeling and unfiltered nature, coupled with the ubiquity of mobile phone cameras, can magnify the most trivial event and wound a candidate.

"Think of it -- we're at the point where every single moment of one's life can be recorded," said Bradley Horowitz, a Yahoo vice president, at a recent forum on the Internet.

At a recent appearance in New Hampshire, Clinton was reminiscing about an old Girl Scout song but promised not to sing it. "You go to YouTube and you'll know why," she said, as several hundred people laughed knowingly.

Two weeks before, Clinton's hilariously off-key rendition of the national anthem had been picked up at an Iowa rally, and it was a YouTube hit. Some of her campaign staff worried that it could be damaging, but they decided not to respond.

Every candidate wants to avoid the "macaca" moment that brought down Sen. George Allen of Virginia. He was caught on video using that apparent racial slur while deriding a staffer for his opponent, James Webb, who went on to defeat Allen.
"They're all going to mess up some time, and the big question is, how do they handle it?" said Jonah Seiger, an online veteran who has worked on several campaigns.

"One slip, and it's out so fast and goes so far," said Bruce Hildebrand, who worked on many GOP campaigns pre-Internet. "You're more exposed, but you can react faster, too, so it cuts both ways."
Palfrey, Seiger and other analysts agree that the bigger question is whether the fear of YouTube moments and other surprises will drive candidates and their consultants to make campaigns more controlled and scripted.

"There's a danger in the unscripted moment, but it's a real mistake to be too controlling," Seiger said. Because of the Internet, voters are hungry for spontaneity, he said, and they also want genuine interaction with the candidates.

"You have to walk a fine line with control," Germany said. "The Internet is not about airbrushing and perfection. It's about spontaneity. Candidates need to loosen up some."

The candidates are trying. Edwards grouses about his consultants in one clip on his Web site. Obama's site includes the "60 Minutes" interview in which his wife, Michelle, urges people to "monitor" the candidate to make sure he doesn't sneak a cigarette.

In another online initiative, candidates are enlisting well-known bloggers who already have a strong following among activists. A recent survey conducted for the Pew Internet and American Life Project estimated that during the 2006 campaign, there were 14 million Internet activists -- defined as someone who generates or shares content.

These are the committed activists, the base of both parties, that every campaign covets.
"I'm not sure you need to hire an established blogger," Seiger said. "What you need is a good net-roots liaison to the blogger community, to build relationships."
Those volunteer computer nerds everyone took for granted are ending up in the candidates inner circle. It was inevitable, but I'm sure it still comes as a surprise to some old hands.

When I read pieces like this, and they're everywhere, I like to go back and gloat as I read through the several mocking and scornful comments from sceptics on my previous posts where I asserted that the internet is a necessity to any modern campaign. Something tells me those comments will soon hold the same curiosity value as columns from past eras snorting at the idea that the automobile would ever take the place of horses or promising that television was just a passing fad.

Former state Senator Denny Jacobs reportedly suffers chest pain, enters hospital

TID has received a report that former state senator Denny Jacobs is reportedly again suffering from chest pains which doctors are at a loss to explain. He reportedly was considering traveling to the Mayo Clinic and may have already done so.

I'm sure I share the wishes of many in extending to both Denny and his family hopes for a quick diagnosis, successfully treatment and a speedy and comfortable recovery.

February 23, 2007

New dollar coins profits Korean owned Cedar Rapids company

The one-dollar presidential coins that make their debut on Presidents Day gleam with nationalistic pride. But to some advocates of U.S. manufacturers, the new coins are downright un-American.

That's because the metal is being supplied partly by PMX Industries of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a subsidiary of Poongsan Corp. of Seoul, South Korea. The U.S. Mint will pay millions of dollars to PMX and Olin Corp. of East Alton, Ill., to provide the metal strip used to make four different presidential coins annually for the next 10 years. And if past payments are an indication, it won't be chump change; the Mint has paid $756 million to PMX and $715 million to Olin for metal used in coins since 1999, the first year for which the Mint was able to produce such data.
"This is just one more example of how the U.S. government attaches a very low priority to ensuring that the interests of domestic U.S. companies are adequately safeguarded in global competition," said Alan Tonelson, a fellow at the U.S. Business & Industry Council. "Especially when it comes to South Korea, which is a proven subsidizer and which has not been devoted to free trade principles. It seems that U.S. government agencies ought to be obligated to look very carefully at those bids to make sure that the prices that are being quoted are in fact the result of free-market forces."

A South Korean government-owned bank arranged two $70 million loans to PMX in 2001 and 2003, according to Korean press reports. Tonelson said that such loans are basically subsidies, and ones that wouldn't be easily accessible to foreign-based subsidiaries of U.S. companies.

"Olin is not only competing against a South Korean company, it's competing against the South Korean government," he said.

An official from Olin declined to comment on the company's competition with PMX.
Outsourcing American currency. Well, we've already outsourced a war, why not just outsource everything including our government? Couldn't hurt.

No wonder George looks pissed.

Gingrich, Cuomo to debate at Cooper Union

This oughta be interesting.

On February 28th, Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo will square off with perpetual yakker Newt Gingrich, who entertains dreams of a "draft Gingrich" movement taking off as the presidential election nears.
I have been playing a small part in organizing a special event that will take place at Cooper Union in its Great Hall on [Wed.] February 28, 2007. Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich will walk on to this historic stage (the iron podium Lincoln used is still in the Hall) to have a dialogue about the biggest issues and challenges facing the nation as we approach the 2008 national elections. Harold Holzer, the great Lincoln scholar, is the event chairman. Its purpose is to lift public discourse from sound bites and insults, and to engage the public's interest in how to solve America¹s problems. Governor Cuomo and Speaker Gingrich are two of the best and most thoughtful public speakers in America. It should be a fascinating and historic evening. As part of their dialogue. Cuomo and Gingrich will challenge the presidential candidates of both parties to come to Cooper Union on subsequent evenings to present their ideas. I hope these aspirants are not timid, and take up the challenge.
Read the piece at the link above for an interesting history of Cooper Union, a truly unique and sucessful institution.

Vilsack drops out of presidential race

Citing the inability to raise sufficient campaign cash and less than expected support in the state he once governed, Tom Vilsack today dropped the bombshell that he is dropping out of his bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination. Vilsack broke the new only hours ago with the announcement in DesMoines.

The official press release quotes Vilsack:
"I am a very luck guy, blessed in love, family, friends, job, and by this campaign.

"I have the boldest plan to get us out of Iraq and a long-term policy for energy security to keep us out of future oil wars. Our campaign has built the strongest organization here in Iowa, with almost 3,000 supporters among Democratic caucus goers. We are organizationally positioned to win the caucuses in January 2008. We have everything to win the nomination and general election.

"Everything except money."

Media-expensive states that have moved, or are considering moving their primaries or caucuses to early February 2008 include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Utah.

"Retail political events in coffee shops, living rooms and small towns are sometimes dismissed by insiders as relics of the past, but they are wrong. It's critically important to our party and our country that our candidates spend the time and energy visiting the small towns and communities that make America great. And let us focus on the dreams that unite us rather than be distracted by the differences of opinion that sometimes separate us."

From the Washington Post:
Confirming an earlier Fix report, former Gov. Tom Vilsack has formally withdrawn from the presidential race -- citing an inability to stay financially competitive as the sole reason for his decision.

"We have everything to win the nomination and the general election," said Vilsack in a statement released by his campaign. "Everything except money."

Vilsack added that the frontloading of the primary process -- with states like California and Florida planning move their primary dates up to early February -- put even more emphasis on the need for campaign cash.

Vilsack was the first candidate to officially declare his presidential candidacy, an announcement that came directly on the heels of the November midterm elections. His stated reason for getting in so early was the need to immediately put in place an infrastructure to show he could raise the money to be competitive with the frontrunners for the nomination. By the end of 2006, Vilsack had raised $1.2 million for his presidential campaign but had just $396,000 in the bank. In a race where the leading candidates are expected to raise more than $50 million this year alone, it was apparent that Vilsack would struggle to compete. Rumors were flying hot and heavy in the days leading up to Vilsack's announcement that he was having trouble meeting payroll for his expanding campaign staff.

Vilsack is not expected to endorse any of the remaining candidates in the near future. Obviously an endorsement from a two-term governor of the state that holds the first-in-the-nation caucuses will be coveted by all of the major candidates.

In that vein, the first press release we received on Vilsack came from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (N.Y.) campaign. Clinton said she had been "proud to work with Tom Vilsack for years on the challenges facing our country" and added that she had "deep admiration" for Vilsack and his wife Christie.

In a conference calls with reporters Friday afternoon, VIlsack said endorsements were far from his mind. "We are going to take some time and reflect but today is not the day to talk about that," he said.

The account in the NY Times cites trouble getting traction in Iowa as a factor as well:
Former Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa withdrew from the Democratic presidential race today, saying the crowded field had made it impossible for him to raise enough money to wage a competitive national campaign.

“I came up against something for the first time in my life that hard work and effort couldn’t overcome,” Mr. Vilsack said, speaking at a news conference in Des Moines. “I just couldn’t work harder, couldn’t give it enough.”
But Mr. Vilsack, 56, conceded he was unable to compete in a contest where the ability to raise money trumps all. In recent weeks, officials said, his campaign has been unable to meet payroll, with some aides taking pay cuts and others being turned away for jobs.

“The reality is that this process has become to a great extent about money — a lot of money,” Mr. Vilsack said, lamenting the fact that today’s presidential campaigns are “simply about a money primary.”

Yet Mr. Vilsack also faced another burden: persuading voters in his own state to take his candidacy seriously. Voters in Iowa are scheduled to kick off the presidential nominating season next January, and the steady parade of rivals in his own backyard complicated his efforts.

When asked whether he intended to endorse one of his rivals, he said: “Today is not a day to think of endorsements or other candidates.”

While Mr. Vilsack reported raising $1.1 million from Nov. 9 to Jan. 31, according to campaign finance reports, he had spent all but $396,000. After Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York entered the race in late January, his advisers said, he struggled to persuade contributors to help finance his campaign.

Still, Mr. Vilsack’s decision to drop out startled many of his Iowa admirers. Only two days ago, he appeared with other Democratic candidates at a forum in Nevada, and he was scheduled to attend a campaign rally tonight in Iowa.

Early today, he made a series of calls to party officials and supporters, saying his campaign was spending more money than it was taking in. In the news conference today in Des Moines, he criticized the intense focus that is placed upon raising money, saying that ideas and innovations get overshadowed.

“It is money and only money that is the reason we are leaving today,” said Mr. Vilsack.

Moline proposes spending tens of thousands of dollars because of hotel guest complaint.

This is the most ridiculous waste of money ever.
The bellow of train horns could be silenced downtown as part of the city's plans for downtown housing.

The city wants to establish a quiet zone from 12th to 41st streets, one where trains that travel the tracks between River Drive and 4th Avenue wouldn't be allowed to blow their horns at intersections.

City officials said they don't know how many trains pass through the 29-block area each day, and train officials wouldn't say.

However, the trains are required by federal law to sound their horns 15 to 20 seconds before crossing an intersection, unless the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) allows the city to change that.

In the heart of downtown Moline, there are five railroad crossings between 23rd and 12th streets, creating almost constant sound when a train passes through.

Moline staff asked aldermen this week to spend $8,900 to pay the Ament engineering firm of Cedar Rapids to review the city's existing rail crossing safety measures.

Ament also would contact the ICC to determine what additional safety measures would be required for a quiet zone, and work with the railroads - Iowa Interstate and Burlington Northern & Santa Fe - to determine how much it would cost to install those safety measures, city engineer Scott Hinton, said.

The ICC would make the final decision on the quiet zone, and the city would bear all costs associated with making the crossings safer, Mr. Hinton said.

Mayor Don Welvaert said he realized there was a problem when the manager of a downtown hotel told him a guest who was supposed to stay six weeks, checked out after one week because of the early-morning train horns.

"That was my wake-up call," Mayor Welvaert said. "The train whistle coming through town is in complete opposition with what we are trying to do downtown. Either we deal with it, or we rethink what we want to do with residential housing."

OK, fine, they're concerned about train horns. But to take the complaint of one finicky and apparently jumpy hotel guest and then propose what may in the end cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars simply to eliminate train horns strikes me as almost ridiculous.

Just how long would the supposed lost business due to occasional train horns take to equal the thousands spent to try to eliminate it?

And why should Moline taxpayers spring to let downtown residents sleep in quiet when there are hundreds and hundreds of homes and residences nearly on top of the tracks near other crossings throughout the city?

Are downtown residents more precious than the others? Perhaps they have more delicate ears than those living along Railroad Ave.? Or is it simply that they have bigger bank accounts?

The fact remains that those who live near rail crossings often get to the point where they don't even hear the horns anymore once they are used to them.

This seems like a gold-plated waste of money to try to aid developers of downtown real estate based on a laughably flimsy example of one hotel patron who allegedely cut short a hotel stay due to the train noise.

How does this make sound fiscal sense?

And why isn't the city making ALL the crossings in town whistle-free? Why just those downtown, which due to the numerous crossings will cost that much more?

And finally, just who exactly would this benefit the most?

Two Rock Island aldermanic races on Tuesday ballot

In a race that likely escaped nearly everyone's notice, candidates for two Rock Island wards will be decided in an election Tuesday with the top two candidates moving on to the April 17th general election.

Rock Island 4th and 6th Ward voters can vote from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday at their designated polling place.

In the 4th Ward, the contest for an open seat is between Steve Tollanaer, Bob Lelonek, and Donna Jungwirth.

In the 6th Ward, there is essentially no contest as one of the three original candidates, David Kimbell has officially dropped out of the race, though at such a late date that his name will still appear on the ballot. The remaining two candidates for 6th Ward, Joy Viren Murphy and Tom Benson, will move on to the general election. (unless the guy who's withdrawn beats one of them, then what happens?)

February 22, 2007

Triumph mega-slaughterhouse? Wetlands? The real picture

Below is a map showing the proposed layout of the Triumph industrial hog slaughter operation. It sprawls on several acres of land less than a mile from the Rock River and actually sits on top of portions of wetland as well as drainage tiles, groundwater flow, and sewer pipes which directly drain it's parking lot and other areas into tributaries and on into the river.

This report, "Development Plan; Wetland Deliniation, Proposed Triumph Foods Facility" was prepared by the Terracon firm of Naperville, IL and shows the location of the proposed plant, wetland boundaries, and existing sewer and drainage pipe.

Click to enlarge.

New Policy

In light of the number of folks who apparently have nothing to say about the issues raised here, yet still feel the urge to leave comments, I've resorted to a new policy here.

I'm reinstituting a policy which was in effect in the past, but which I'd hoped I wouldn't have to resort to again. Sadly, it's necessary.

Given that most comments are from people who have nothing better to do than attack, slander, and attempt to intimidate me, I'm simply done with it. I've dealt with it literally every day for nearly two years and I'm tired of their tedious and boring drivel.

So from now on, in order to leave comments, you must be a registered member.

I truly hope that those who have something to contribute here besides contant and incessant harassment, threats, and attacks will take the time to register.

After some consideration and in light of some feedback from a loyal reader, I've abandoned the "registered user only" policy and restored the anyone can comment policy as before.

The difference is that from now on, I will not comment or respond to comments.

Apparently I'm a bit too strong for some folk's sensibilities. And in light of the fact that I never wanted to be the only person arguing against right wing positions in the first place, and only did so because no one else seemed to step up to the plate, I gladly use this opportunity to step out of the picture.

From now on, if there's some comment that's blatantly false or which unfairly smears a Democrat or anyone else, it'll have to just sit there unchallenged unless one of you wants to take it on.

All those who have gotten into the habit of writing in and addressing your arguments to me specifically, don't. From now on, address it to all readers.

If no one responds.... well, guess that's too bad.

From now on it's your show. Make the best of it.

And good luck.

Comments will still be moderated and those whose comments amount to nothing more than, "You suck" or psychotic remarks about the bizarre, incredibly extensive, and almost comic lengths you've gone to to try to find ways to intimidate me will, as always, never see the light of day.

If this doesn't work out, then the option to simply not allow comments at all will be considered.

The bottom line is that a handful of people, including elected public officials, have been reported to have hired private investigators, tried to gather and analyse fingerprints, spent countless hours trying to analyse computer records, snooped around and investigated people suspected of being associated with me, arranged for a person in another state to send a large contribution to the blog in hopes of finding information, and who knows what else.

I suspect this may be criminal, especially since it appears likely that they've used government resources to do this.

And why their obsession?

Other than being a bunch of dim-wits who want to stomp out any sort of criticism or honest opposition, and who choose to do so by acting like some juvenille B-movie mafia, I have no idea.

I've been told by a couple commenters that the paragraph above is too rough. They suggest that I really can't complain about any abuse I may get when I use such language, as if that means whatever anyone does to me, it's justified.

I find it rather disturbing that the idea of elected officials hiring investigators to go through all sorts of records to try to dig up dirt on someone and their family, including interrogating those who they suspect to be associated with them and gathering fingerprints, for God's sake, doesn't seem to register. Trying to publish what dirt they can dream up anywhere online they can find which will let them, manufacture lies and threats all designed to try to intimidate an individual into either giving the blog up completely, handing control of the blog over to them, or writing what they dictate, they can overlook that.

But what really bugs them is when I'm not polite to the people who have done all these things and more for nearly two years.

They're more concerned about my calling these people "nit-wits".

Makes me wonder why I try, seriously.

Rough language, bad. Blackmail, intimidation, threats, and non-stop harassment for nearly two years by elected officials? No big deal, after all, I call unspecified anonymous attackers names. WTF??!!

Forgive me if that makes me a bit naseous. Guess no one grasps the principle that anyone should be free to say what they want, as long as it's not simply a smear against an individual personally. And the idea that people in positions of power shouldn't abuse that power by using it in efforts to intimidate, threaten, and attempt to blackmail people into not being able to freely publish facts and opinions regarding those same public officials? Am I the only one who thinks that principle is very important?

Must be just a quaint old-fashioned idea, eh? Well, if you choose thugs over independence, then you get thugs. If you side with those to try to stomp out any dissent or opposition, then you get ruled by thugs. And if you aid them in their efforts at personal destruction, you become a thug yourself.

I'd rather not have anything to do with thugs. Even if it means not being polite to them.

February 19, 2007

Two years, 2,182 posts, 189,000 visits and counting

I neglected to point out that as of February 14th, The Inside Dope has been alive and kicking for two years, an eternity by blog standards.

Thanks to all who have left constructive comments, contributed information and tips, shared your knowledge of topics and issues and your rational opinion. Thanks as well to those who have shown your support by donating to the cause or patronizing the ads. It's all been greatly appreciated.

I'm always open to constructive feedback, good, bad, or otherwise. So as always, you're encouraged to offer any suggestions, ideas, or constructive criticism to improve the blog. Simply click on the e-mail link in the sidebar or send a note to theinsidedope@gmail.com. Suggestions via comments can not be posted or responded to and so will likely be overlooked.
I look forward to hearing from you via e-mail.

Probably the biggest thing I've taken away from this experience is that in two long years here I've found out regrettably that much of local politics on this side of the river and some people involved in it are even uglier, more petty, unethical, dishonest, and dumber than how ugly, dumb, unethical, dishonest, and petty I'd expected going in. And that's saying something.

I knew politics wasn't bean-bag, and I have no problem with that. But wow. Talk about really disgusting. Not all, mind you, but some.

I started out giving them the benefit of the doubt, but they blew that almost immediately with their obsessive bluster, threats, attacks and bizarre attempts to destroy, take over, and/or control this blog by repeatedly issuing threats and trying to scare me off. (not to mention the crazy lengths they've gone to attempt to dig up dirt on who they seem to assume I am and try to blackmail me with it, which has gotten to truly insane and very creepy levels.)

Clearly, when it comes to an outlet such as this, if they can't control it, they fear it. Needless to say, 99% of their daily rants are too weird, disjointed, false, disgusting, or simply out there to print - you've been spared the bulk of it, but they're all there by the hundreds if not thousands.

The few ankle-biters and misguided self-styled tough-guys who don't know any other way to get what they want other than issuing threats and behaving like childish bullies have been both amusing and a distraction, as has been dealing with some folks pre-conceived notions of what "blogging" is and isn't and their lack of understanding which has lead to their unrealistic expectations for this blog.

It's also been an unbelievable amount of work. There's much more time and work involved in writing and maintaining a blog than most readers could imagine. (Maybe that's why one person continues to scream (dozens and dozens of times) demanding that I give my blog to someone else (them? Who knows?) when any sane person would simply start their own. A few times they've demanded that I give my blog to someone who has already attempted and failed at running a local blog. Hey, I didn't say it made any sense.)

But beyond all that, it's truly been a lot of fun, interesting, enjoyable and rewarding. And it's certainly been an education. (look for my book in the future. ha!)

And more than anything, I'm grateful for having so many really excellent commenters and supporters over the two years of the blog and "meeting" and talking with a lot of great people. I'm sure that will continue.

Thanks again, and remember, YOU collectively with the other readers can make this blog into what you'd like it to be by participating and sharing your knowledge, information, and insight while following a few common sense rules (which should be self-evident. It's not rocket science.)

A sincere thanks to all who've made TID such a success, and I hope I'll have your participation to improve and evolve and make TID a place that you continue to find interesting, informative, and enjoyable.

And remember, if you don't keep stirring the pot, the scum will rise to the top. ;-)

Some TID stats:

- Average number of daily visitors: 300 plus

- Highest one day visit count: 4,412 on July 11, 2006

- Number of posts written: 2,182

- Number of reader comments sent: Far over 10,000

- Visits as of this moment: 188,881 (oddly symmetrical, eh?)

Meanwhile, while we're squandering everything in Iraq....

Senior leaders of Al Qaeda operating from Pakistan have re-established significant control over their once-battered worldwide terror network and over the past year have set up a band of training camps in the tribal regions near the Afghan border, according to American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.

American officials said there was mounting evidence that Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, had been steadily building an operations hub in the mountainous Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan. Until recently, the Bush administration had described Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Zawahri as detached from their followers and cut off from operational control of Al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda has never had anything but a very small presence in Iraq, yet the administration and it's lemmings constantly tell us that the only thing protecting us from al Qaeda attack is the fact that we're continuing to squander lives and resources in Iraq.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan where nowhere near the level of troops or attention was focused in order to then divert everything to a country with oil, bin Laden and al Qaeda is not only alive and well, but re-grouping and growing in strength and capability.

In response to this report on the resurgence of bin Laden, Al Qaeda and the Taliban, the former head of the CIA's bin Laden unit, Micael Scheuer said on "Countdown",
Scheuer: We've always oversestimated the damage we did to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. But the Taliban escaped intact and they have been rebuilding and re-equiping over the past five years.

Olberman: How did that happen? Did this administration declare they had done all they could do? They were saying they had them on the run and now they're back?

Scheuer: This is a strange administration. But we don't take the transnational threat seriously. We're pretty good at nation states, but on Al Qaeda, we still have a government, as a whole, both parties, that doesn't take this threat very seriously.

The idea that we're going to try to do with 40,000 troops in Afghanistan what the Soviets couldn't do with 150,000 troops, is a bit of madness.

Olberman: Given what the Republicans during the debate in the House last week that the insurgents would "follow us home" if we left Iraq, which battleground is actually more central to the war against terrorist?

Scheuer: The central place in terms of an attack inside the United States is Afghanistan and Pakistan. When the next attack occurs in the United States, it will be planned and orchestrated out of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al Qaeda values Iraq primarily for the entree it gives them into Jordan, into Syria, into the Arab peninsula, and into Turkey. We've really signed Jordan's death warrant through the war in Iraq. But actually, the people who will plan the next attack on the United States are those who are in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Olberman: Does this emergence of evidence that bin Laden and Zirarari are gaining strength, does it diminish the justification of the Administration looking over at Iran? Should we be shifting away from those countries and saying Al Qaeda, where they ARE, not where we want them to be, is where we need to look?

Scheuer: This administation seems to be afraid of anything that moves. Iraq was a containable country. The Iranians are not a threat to the United States. They may be a threat to Israel, but they're not a threat to the United States.

The threat to the United States inside the United States comes from Al Qaeda. They are in Afghanistan and Pakistan. If you want to address the threat to America, that's where it is.

So while they're demanding that more blood be spilled and billions squandered in destroying Iraq and destabilizing the entire middle east, while the real threat to our country goes largely unaddressed.

It's not the religious sects fighting each other in Iraq that will attack the U.S., it's the Al Qaeda in Pakistan. And Bush and the Republican war hawks seems to pay little or no attention to that fact.

"If we debate the surge, we lose"

Jonathon Chait writes:
"As I noted in this space last week, conservative foreign policy consists increasingly of abstract notions divorced from reality. In preparing for last week's House debate over the Iraq troop surge, the Republican leadership instructed its members in a memo: The debate should not be about the surge or its details. This debate should not even be about the Iraq war to date, mistakes that have been made or whether we can, or cannot, win militarily. If we let Democrats force us into a debate on the surge or the current situation in Iraq, we lose."

Very true. Because the fact is that we are in a no-win situation in Iraq, and trying to play politics with the troops is simply a distraction from the very important issue of how we begin to extricate ourselves from a situation which was a disasterous course of action from the beginning.

At the risk of being cliche, "When you find yourself in a hold, the first rule is, stop digging" applies here just as much as ever.

Yet Republicans, even some commenting here, continue to trot out the old horse, "If Democrats want to end the war, then they must end all funding for it and bring all the troops home immediately."

Or the even more fanciful, "If we don't keep sacrificing all our money and lives over there, why, the Mooslums will surely invade us!" (as if they wouldn't and couldn't have already.) This particularly ridiculous argument is also disgusting, in that it demands that already over-stretched troops continue to be fed into a no-win death trap in Iraq. A very strange way to "support the troops" indeed.

And is Rudy Giuliani the big, tough, macho guy Republicans can invest their Rambo dreams in? Jonathon Chait suggests that Giuliani doesn't live up to his hype as some sort of foreign policy expert.

Chait explains here.

February 18, 2007

Scalia's daughter popped for DUI, endangering children in Wheaton

Hmmm. I wonder how many motions her lawyer will file that her dad would love to strike down?
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s daughter was arrested on drunken driving charges Monday night in Wheaton, police said.

Ann S. Banaszewski, a Wheaton resident, was arrested Monday around 7:30 p.m. at the intersection of Gamon Road and Longfellow Drive after someone reported seeing a possible drunken driver near the McDonald’s at 2030 S. Naperville Road, according to a police press release.

Banaszewski’s three children were also in the car, a 1996 Ford Ecoline van. At her request, the children were dropped off by police at a family friend’s home, Wheaton Deputy Police Chief Tom Meloni said.

In addition to the drunken driving charge, Banaszewski was charged with endangering the life of a child. She was processed on both charges at the Wheaton Police Department and was released on a recognizance bond.

Meloni would not reveal the children’s age, but said all three were under 17 years.

The Smoking Gun has her mug shot and the police press release.

Sabbath gasbags

For you early birds, here's the line up for the Sunday talk shows.

Meet the Press
Bush Press flack Tony Snow, Sen. Chuck Hagel, Sen. Jack Reed, NBC reporter Richard Engel

This Week
Meet the Romneys. Mitt and wife Anne will be guests with George Stephanopoulos and then actor Michael Douglas to discuss something about communication between kids of different cultures. And the round-table discussion will feature mega-babe Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation magazine, Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria, and ABC News' George "Migraine" Will

Face the Nation
Sen. Joseph Biden, Sen. Richard Lugar, both of the Foreign Relations Committee, and then Doyle McManus, Washington Bureau Chief of the The Los Angeles Times and Josephine Hearn, The Politico.com

Faux "News" Sunday will have Newt Gingrich to spout about how he'll only run for president as a last resort, and Sen. Carl Levin from the Armed Services Committee.

Wolf Blitzer is chillin' in Las Vegas the last few days and will host Late Edition from there. His guests will be Tony Snow (doing a two-fer evidently), Donna Brazille, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Cabbage Patch, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Michael Steele, former Maryland lieutenant governor and losing candidate for Senate, Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, and someone who's actually interesting, magician Penn Jillette.

If you catch any or all of them and have some impressions or remarks, this is the place.

Republicans: We don't need no stinking debate

So much for debating a war which has drug on longer than WWII with no end in sight.
From Politico.com:
In a rare Saturday session, Senate Republicans blocked Democrats from debating a House-approved resolution rejecting President Bush's plan to send another 21,500 combat troops into Iraq.

Republicans united largely behind Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Cabbage Patch Doll, and refused to allow the measure to be considered unless they could offer an alternative declaring that funding for military personnel in Iraq would not be cut.

The vote on a cloture motion filed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was 56 to 34, four short of the 60 votes needed to begin debate.

Seven Republicans voted with the Democrats: Sens. John Warner of Virginia, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Gordon Smith of Oregon and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both of Maine.

Only Coleman and Collins had previously sided with the Democrats in an earlier bid to start Senate debate an Iraq resolution that would certainly have led to a rebuke of the president’s strategy.

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn., joined the GOP filibuster Saturday and voted against cloture.
A big thanks goes out to Smokin' Joe, the guy all the DLC types just love. Who would have suspected he'd bolt his party on such an important matter? (cough)

It's worth noting that John McCain skipped out on the vote altogther, choosing to stump in Iowa instead of putting down his marker on the issue.

The debate over whether to debate the escalation was just depressing in its vapidity and ugliness. Perhaps most disgusting were politicians of both parties, though overwhelmingly Republican, using "the troops" like some ragdoll prop and trying to push them into the middle of the debate in a way which they have no business being used.

This red herring about how a debate over the wisdom of escalation is somehow going to put all of our troops into some deep funk and depression is pure unadultrated hogwash, as is the notion spouted by some that if we don't pursue this phoney baloney and largely meaningless escalation, then we'll all be praying in a mosque before we know what hit us.

Pure stupidity, and it's truly jaw-dropping to actually listen to what some of these cretinous, mostly southern, Republican house members are willing to say on the floor of the house. If the intelligence of their remarks is any reflection on their constituency, then there actually are places in this country populated by the likes of the banjo playing guy in Deliverance where people swim in their own gene pool.

The worst moron this time around is the guy who's skeered to death a them mooslums. The same idiot who freaked out when the rep from Minnesota took his oath on a Koran in a private ceremony. I don't have the text of his remarks handy, and I've conveniently blocked out his name from my memory. (to save space) But I do recall his drawling on about how the Mooslums will be hoisting the star and crescent over all of our schools and capitol buildings if we debate Bush's phony escalation.

I think that's what you resort to when you're just plain out of any rational argument whatsoever. Try the good old "Muslim hoarde" tactic. (just like the "Yellow Peril" and "Red Menace" before it.) I also liked the way he pronouced their religious leader as "Moo-ham-ed". Nevermind the troop morale being affected by remarks in the House, hearing these morons depresses the morale of 90% of the planet! Makes you wince to think that anyone outside the U.S. might actually hear this sort of stuff. I hate to see these folks confirming their very worse opinions of us.

So now the games continue. Republicans apparently trying to force the Dems into putting their money where their mouths are by daring them to cut funding for the escalation.

I sincerely hope that the Murtha legislation succeeds. It requires that no troops be dispatched unless they are both fully trained, and fully equipped with necessary body armor, etc.

And perhaps most importantly, it would provide that troops have a full year between being deployed, as has always been the case prior to the Iraq invasion. This alone would serve to slow down any increase in troop levels.


I've just noticed that Dave Barrett over at Moline Democratic Maverick has a post up mentioning this cro-magnon I refer to above. He's a Virginia Representive by the name of Virgil Goode and he makes Goober from Mayberry look like Steven Hawking.

February 16, 2007

Vilsack on Leno

At the risk of being a bit Vilsack heavy, here's a clip of his appearance on the Jay Leno Show last night. Pretty funny.

Obama sponsored veterans bill honors Evans

I happened to be watching Countdown with Keith Olberman yesterday and he was interviewing Paul Rieckhoff, the founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. During the segment Rieckhoff mentioned the Lane Evans Veterans Health and Benefits Improvement Act, which he said was co-sponsored by Barack Obama and Republican Olympia Snow of Maine.

This link to information on the bill (S. 3988) doesn't mention Snow. (Update: A search on Thomas shows there are now 6 co-sponsors: Olympia Snow, R-ME, Joe Biden, D-DE, Sherrod Brown, D-OH, John Kerry, D-MA, Barb Mikulski, D-MD , and Chuck Schumer, D-NY )

It's a great tribute that this bill bears Evans' name.

From Sen. Obama's remarks on the Senate floor introducing the legislation:
Mr. President, I rise today to introduce legislation that is significant both in the problems it seeks to address and the man it seeks to honor.

Since the day he arrived in Congress more than two decades ago, LANE EVANS has been a tireless advocate for the men and women with whom he served. When Vietnam vets started falling ill from Agent Orange, he led the effort to get them compensation. LANE was one of the first in Congress to speak out about the health problems facing Persian Gulf war veterans. He's worked to help veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and he's also helped make sure thousands of homeless veterans in our country have a place to sleep.

LANE EVANS has fought these battles for more than 20 years, and even in the face of his own debilitating disease, he kept fighting. Today, veterans across America have LANE EVANS to thank for reminding this country of its duty to take care of those who have risked their lives to defend ours.

I am very proud today to introduce the Lane Evans Veterans Healthcare and Benefits Improvement Act of 2006. This bill honors a legislator who leaves behind an enduring legacy of service to our veterans. The legislation also is an important step towards caring for our men and women who are currently fighting for us.
Full text of the bill here.

It's Flap-Jackular

The Moline Democrats will hold a pancake breakfast this Sunday, February 18th from 8:30 a.m. until noon at the Moline American Legion, 1623 15th Street in Moline.

All you can eat pancakes, sausage, OJ, coffee and more. Lots of prizes and drawings as well. Cost is $6 per person, $5 senior, and children under 12 get in free.

Christie Vilsack to appear in Davenport Saturday

Christie Vilsack, wife of Presidential candidate Tom Vilsack will appear at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds 2815 W. Locust St. Saturday, February 17th for the Scott County Democrats Red, White, and Blue Banquet.

The even starts at 6:30 p.m.


Additional information on this event.

In addition to Vilsack, presidential candidates John Edwards and Joe Biden will also be at this event.

The official invite reads:

Congressman Bruce Braley with
Presidential Hopefuls and Elected Officials
on Saturday, February 17, 2007

for the Scott County Democrat's Annual
Red, White & Blue Banquet

Starlite Ballroom Mississippi Fairgrounds
on West Locust Street, Davenport, Iowa

Cocktails and "The Russ Rayman Trio" at 5:30 pm
Dinner and Program at 6:30 pm
Tickets are Choice $50 and General $30
Table sponsorships available

Contact Audrey Linville at (563) 324-7130

Thanks to an anonymous commenter for mentioning that Edwards and Biden will attend.

As the invite explains, tickets are $30 and $50 a pop.

February 15, 2007

What passes for right wing humor


This should be interesting. Kind of like the Hindenburg disaster.

Fox News is planning a rip-off of The Daily Show called The Half-Hour News Hour.

Two clips have leaked, and ... well.

Try to watch. Here's one. (the post also contains news about how Keith Olberman's getting a raise, his ratings continue to go up, while Fox's continue to slide.)

And here's another portraying a nightmare too hideous to comprehend.

February 14, 2007

Politicians all over the "internets"

The pole outside the Inside Dope International Communications Hub

A new web site has been launched to report on and serve as a sort of clearing house on uses of the internet and technology in the upcoming presidential contest.

It's called techPresident and keeps tabs on all the internet activitity of candidates. It's sure to be an interesting site to check in on as the elections approach.

The age of the wired politician has most definitely arrived.

Speaker Pelosi has started a blog.

Obama has one too, of course.

As does Hillary Clinton.

And of course, Edwards has hired two of the best to administer his.

Even Bill Richardson has one.

Tom Vilsack contributed to the Talking Points Memo blog the TPM Cafe as a regular.

Even John Kerry has a blog.

So every major candidate immediately launches their own blog, as have many other incumbant politicians

Setting up their own spots on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace which attract a huge audience among high school and college age viewers is common as well.

The Hare campaign effectively utilized their web presence to bring in a substantial amount in donations as well as a communications tool, proving at least in that instance my argument that websites are a very good tool for donors to quickly and easily donate, as well as offering a range of communication alternatives.

What does it all mean? What's the future in the nexus between political campaigns and the internet?

Is it still a bunch of hogwash and worthless as many commenters contended in previous discussions of the topic?

And are people finally getting some clue that blogs are not some sort of monolithic, cookie-cutter, one-size-fits all phenomena? Is it sinking in that blogs are as varied and different as the groups and people who run them?

Are the sore heads and neanderthals who've routinely bashed blogs and the web "getting it" yet?

And since I believe that a large part of the hatred and angry attacks against this blog and myself come from people who have no concept of what blogging is and/or tend to freak out when a blog doesn't fit whatever peculiar idea they'd dreamt a blog was "supposed" to be, just what is your understanding of blogs and blogging. Has it changed over the last year?

Scandalous and immoral

From the remarks given on the floor of the Senate today by Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont:

Over the past six years, we have lost three million manufacturing jobs, including 10,000 in my State of Vermont. Many of the new jobs that are available to those displaced workers pay lower wages and have lower benefits.

Mr. President, our health care system is disintegrating. While health care costs are soaring the number of Americans without health insurance rose to a record high of 46.6 million in 2005, an increase of 6.8 million since 2000.

Today, 3 million fewer American workers have pension coverage than when President Bush took office and half of private-sector American workers have no pension coverage whatsoever.

Throughout our country American workers, who now work the longest hours of any other people in the industrialized world, are finding it harder and harder to get jobs which provide them with a decent amount of vacation time.

Mr. President, while the middle class is shrinking and poverty is increasing in our country, there is another reality that is taking place. And that is that the wealthiest 1%, the people at the very top of the economic ladder, have never had it so good since the 1920s. According to Forbes Magazine, the collective net worth of the richest 400 Americans increased by $120 billion last year to $1.25 trillion. The 400 wealthiest Americans are worth $1.25 trillion. Sadly, Mr. President, the United States today has the most unfair distribution of wealth and income of any major country and the gap between the very wealthy and everyone else is growing wider.

Today, the wealthiest 13,000 families in America own nearly as much income as the bottom 20 million and the wealthiest one percent own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent.

Mr. President, I've given this thumbnail sketch of the economy in order to place the President's budget in context. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, the middle class is shrinking and the President, in the midst of this has presented this to Congress. Let's take a brief look at that budget.

The President's budget would cut Medicare and Medicaid by $280 billion over the next decade lowering the quality of healthcare for approximately 43 million senior citizens and people with disabilities who depend on Medicare and more than 50 million Americans who rely on Medicaid.

At a time when our child care and early childhood education system is totally inadequate to the meet the needs of working parents, the Bush budget reduces the number of children receiving child care assistance by 300,000. In addition, the Bush budget provides a $100 million cut for Head Start, at a time when only about one-half of the children eligible for this program actually participate due to a lack of funding.

While hunger in this country is increasing, the President's budget denies food stamps to 280,000 families and eliminates nutrition assistance to over 400,000 senior citizens, mothers and newborn children.

At a time when Veterans all over this country are finding themselves on waiting lists in order to get into VA facilities and when the President has thrown hundreds of thousands of Veterans off of VA funding, the President is significantly under funding the needs of our veterans.

Mr. President, in this great country, with so many people struggling desperately to keep their heads above water, we should not be cutting back on health care, nutritional benefits, Head Start, affordable housing, the needs of our Veterans and educational opportunities for millions of ordinary Americans.

This is especially true when the President's budget provides $739 BILLION ($739,000,000,000) in tax breaks over the next decade to households with incomes exceeding $1 million per year. The average tax break for this group of millionaires will total $162,000 by 2012.

Mr. President, let me very blunt. In my view, it is wrong and it is immoral to give huge tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, the people who need them the least, while cutting back on the needs of the middle-class and working families of our country.

Mr. President, is this budget a reflection of the values of this country? Is this what we really stand for? Let me answer that with a resounding no.

We are told over and over again that we don't have the money to reduce childhood poverty in this country. We don't have enough money to wipe out hunger. We don't have enough money to make sure that every qualified student who graduates from high school can afford a college education without going deeply into debt. We don't have enough money to keep the promises made to our Veterans.

In other words, when it comes to the needs of ordinary Americans, we just don't have the resources to help them, but somehow in the budget of President Bush, when it comes to tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, we have unlimited funds available. We have tens of billions to shower on those who need it least and nothing for those who need it most.

Mr. President: Included in the President's budget, amazingly, is the complete repeal of the Estate Tax - which would take effect at the end of 2010. As you know, the complete repeal of this tax would benefit only the top 2/10ths of one percent.

Let me repeat that.

The complete repeal of the Estate Tax, based on the changes and increased exemptions that Congress has provided in recent years, would benefit the wealthiest 2/10ths of one percent of the American public - families that are all millionaires or billionaires.

In other words, 99.8 percent of Americans would not benefit from the complete repeal of the Estate Tax as proposed by the President.

According to the President's budget this action, the complete repeal of the Estate Tax, would reduce receipts by more than $91 BILLION over the next five years and more than $442 BILLION over the next decade. But the long-term damage to our treasury is even worse. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, repealing the estate tax would cost over one trillion dollars from 2012 to 2021.

In other words, if the President's plan to permanently repeal the estate tax succeeds, the children and family members of the privileged few will reap a massive tax break. Instead of closing the gap between the rich and poor and instead of addressing the huge national debt problem that we have we are making both situations worse.

Comparisons of the Bush budget cuts with the tax breaks given some of America's wealthiest people.

The granddaddy of all of the winners under the Bush budget is none other than the heirs to the Wal-Mart Fortune.

If the estate tax was repealed, the entire Walton family would receive an estimated tax break of $32.7 billion

Meanwhile, the President's budget proposes to cut Medicaid by $28 billion over the next decade, driving up the cost of healthcare for tens of millions of Americans. In other words, one family gets a huge tax break, while tens of millions of healthcare consumers suffer.

This comes on top of the $28.3 billion, 10 year cut the Republican Congress and the President already enacted last year which have resulted in higher co-payments for healthcare services for 13 million Americans; higher co-payments for prescription drugs for 20 million individuals; and benefit cuts for 1.6 million people.

In other words, if the President's proposed budget passes, millions of Americans will lose, while the Walton family wins.

This may make sense to someone, but it doesn't make sense to me.

The second major beneficiary of the President's tax cuts are the heirs of the Mars Candy Bar fortune.

They are slated to receive an estimated $11.7 billion estate tax break,
if the President gets his way. This is more than three times what the President wants to cut from the VA budget over the next five years.

Meanwhile, the President's budget proposes cutting the VA budget by $3.4 billion over the next five years. This comes at a time when hundreds of thousands of veterans are forced onto a waiting list to receive the healthcare benefits they were promised because of a lack of funding. Veterans lose under the Bush budget.

Another major winner in the President's budget is the Cox family, the heirs to the Cox Cable fortune. They will gain $9.7 billion if the estate tax is repealed.

Meanwhile, while the Cox family would receive almost $10 billion in tax breaks, the President wants to cut $1.5 billion in education.
The President keeps talking about No Child Left Behind, while his budget continues to leave millions of children behind. They are the losers under this budget.

Another major beneficiary of the President's budget is the Nordstrom family, owners of the upscale department store chain. By repealing the estate tax, the Nordstrom family stands to receive an estimated $826.5 million tax break, according to the April 2006 report from United for a Fair Economy.

Meanwhile, the President has proposed eliminating one of the most successful poverty reduction programs in this country - the $630 million Community Services Block Grant Program. CSBG provides the infrastructure necessary to deliver services to 15 million of the lowest income people in this country, people who are hungry, people who are homeless, people who are struggling to stay alive. They are the losers under the Bush budget.

15 million Americans living in poverty lose. The Nordstrom family wins.

Another major beneficiary of the Bush budget is the family of Ernest Gallo, who would receive a $468.4 million tax break.

Meanwhile, the President proposes to cut $420 million from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
According to the latest available data, 5.4 million senior citizens on fixed incomes and low-income families with children receive help paying their heating bills through this program each and every year. Millions more qualify for this assistance, but don't get anything due to a lack of funding. They are the losers under the Bush budget.

One family receives a $468.4 million tax break, while we don't have enough money to help keep 5.4 million families warm this winter. The Ernest Gallo family wins, millions of the desperately poor lose.

Another major beneficiary of the Bush budget is the family of the former CEO of Exxon Mobil Lee Raymond. His family would receive a $164 million tax break.

One family in America would receive a $164 million tax break from the repeal of the estate tax, as the CEO of Exxon-Mobil wins again. Exxon-Mobil becomes the most profitable company in the history of the world, millions of Americans struggle to pay for gas at the pump, and Lee Raymond receives a $400 million retirement package. And, now the President wants to reward Mr. Raymond by providing his estate with an estimated $164 million tax break from Uncle Sam. Mr. Raymond's family is a clear winner under the Bush budget.

But, who loses? How about the 480,000 low-income seniors, mothers and newborn children? That's the estimated number of Americans receiving one bag of groceries a month through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. Last year, this program received $108 million. But, the President wants to eliminate this program because we don't have enough money. We have enough money to provide a $164 million tax break for Lee Raymond's estate. But, we don't have enough money to provide a $20 bag of groceries to 480,000 of the neediest senior citizens, mothers and newborn children in this country. That is unacceptable.

Mr. President, to sum up, when it comes to our federal budget priorities we have got to ask: Which side are we on? The rich and the powerful or the middle class and working families?

And meanwhile, the religious right has us squabbling about gay marriage and abortion. With the media's participation, this serves the purpose of distraction, like a pickpocket yelling, "Hey, look over there!" while they rob you blind.

When is the public going to wake up to the economic grand larceny that has been happening to them while they were busy being scared out of their senses by the threat of "terrists"?

And those who will scream that this is "class warfare", you're damned right it is. The rich are robbing the rest of the country blind with the Bush administration and Republican help. It's the poor and middle class which are being attacked.

February 13, 2007

Romney announces candidacy

Let's say you're planning on running for president. Let's say you're Mormon and need to depend on American's spirit of religious tolerance to succeed. And let's say you then pick ... the Henry Ford Museum, a monument to a notorious anti-semite, to announce your candidacy. Would that be a good sign?

Well, we'll find out, as that's exactly what Mitt Romney did.

Roger Simon (my new "close personal friend" -cough-) has a good piece on it.

What's your take on Romney and his chances?

Incidentally, in a photo search for "Romney", 4 of the first 8 pictures were of Romney sheep. This evidently is a popular breed, and perhaps a new moniker for particularly avid Romney fans?

Vilsack issues plan for energy future, challenges Obama to debate

Gov. Tom Vilsack hasn't been sitting still, despite the Obama campaign sucking up all of the media oxygen over the weekend.

He's issued the outlines of his plan for confronting the serious challenge of adjusting our dependency on oil and has called for a debate with Sen. Obama.

He'll unveil his energy plans at San Franscico's Commonwealth Club today.

"For more than 3,000 American soldiers, it (energy independence) has literally been a matter of life and death," Vilsack said in his speech. "Here we are - in a war in which more than 3,000 American men and women have died and thousands more have been maimed and wounded, and all we get is more talk and almost no action."

During his speech, Vilsack called for sweeping change in the government's handling of energy issues by scrapping the Department of Energy and reorganizing it as the Department of Energy Security to better reflect the nation's energy goals. The department would be focused on achieving the ambitious vision of an energy independent America:

"Over the past three decades, the Department of Energy has evolved into an advocate for fossil-based fuel producers, and an unfortunate source of inertia for energy policy," said Vilsack.

Today, Vilsack vowed to lead the nation, as president, toward a dramatic reduction in both energy imports and carbon emissions. To accomplish these goals, Vilsack outlined seven energy objectives that he will initiate as President to move America closer to energy security:

- Adopt a low carbon fuel standard to require all fuel providers by 2010 to reduce the amount of carbon produced by their fuel at a rate of 1% a year for ten years.

-Offer a new range of federal tax incentives, including a 25-cent per-gallon credit for the production of ethanol from cellular fiber.

-Amend the Clean Air Act so that carbon emissions will be cut by 20% in each new coal plant built in the U.S after 2010.

-Require that by 2020 all new power plants built in the United States be carbon-free.

-Enact a new renewable fuel standard and ensure that vehicles are 50% more efficient so that by 2030 America will use 60 million gallons of renewable fuels. Require that 45 billion of the 60 billion gallons of renewable fuels be cellulosic ethanol, biobutanol or biodiesel.

-Encourage technological developments and offer incentives so that by 2040 America's transportation system will be virtually petroleum-free.

-Create a mandatory nationwide cap and trade program to limit emissions of greenhouse gases such that by 2050 America will achieve a 75% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2000 levels.

Under Governor Vilsack, Iowa led the nation in ethanol and biodiesel production. Iowa is now third in the nation in wind energy production, trailing only Texas and California.
I believe Vilsack is the first presidential candidate to substantively address this pressing issue, and his outline shows promise.

The AFSCME union had wanted to hold a debate in Carson City, NV, but Obama declined saying that he would be campaigning in Iowa at the time. Vilsack, who had agreed to attend the Nevada debate, then responded by proposing that the debate be held in Iowa instead.

In a letter Vilsack sent to Obama, he stated:
I plan on attending the Carson City forum, but after the forum is over, I will fly back to Iowa in order to join you in the first Iowa forum. I have contacted AFSCME Council 61 in Des Moines to see if they would host this first candidate forum in Iowa during your visit to the state. They have agreed and I hope that you will agree to accept their offer.