March 28, 2007

Blagojevich to stump for tax proposal at the Mark

Governor Rod Blagojevich is to give a presentation Monday at the Mark of the Quad Cities to both promote and explain his budget proposals as part of a Rally/Bus stop tour of the state.

The stop is to be announced at a meeting of the Democratic Central Committee later tomorrow at the Plumbers & Pipefitters hall.

The event will give attendees the opportunity to ask questions about the plan and get a better understanding of the proposal.

When: Monday April 2, event starts at 4:45 p.m.
Where: The Mark of the Quad Cities 1201 River Drive, Moline

Entertainment and food are being provided and you can RSVP if you wish at http://rsvp.illinois.gov

A website which provides details of the plan has been set up at http://www.investinginfamilies.com

So if you're not basking in the sun somewhere over spring break, and you want to find out what the big fuss is all about, show up Monday.

March 27, 2007

Substituting ideology for competence

The fine looking group of folks above are pictured at a college picnic while attending certified lunatic Pat Robertson's Regent University.

Can you spot the one who, after retaining one of the top D.C. criminal defense attorney's, recently announced they'd plead the fifth amendment if anyone asked them anything at all to do with the Gonzales scandal?

If you guessed the attractive woman second from the right in the front row, you win.

It's Monica Goodling, Alberto Gonzalez's "senior counselor" and Justice Department liasson to the White House who presumable knows a thing or two about this matter and who was involved at the White House.

But one of Goodling's lawyers, John Dowd, said in a statement yesterday that "the potential for legal jeopardy for Ms. Goodling from even her most truthful and accurate testimony under these circumstances is very real."

(A very interesting take on whether Ms. Goodling can even plead the fifth in this circumstance is discussed at TPM. Attorney's in the audience care to venture an opinion?)

That doesn't sound too good for the White House.

The pictures is from a Regent University web page, but old Pat must not be too proud of his successful alumi though, as he recently yanked the page down. The cached version is here.

Guess that's what happens when you value ideology over competence and put people with a recent law grad from Robertson's school in a top Justice Department position.

But this is just one of thousands of instances where this administration have given incredibly important posts to young political hacks as favors to the religious right or rich donors, most eggregiously in Iraq in the aftermath of the invasion where 20-something Republican shills with no experience were placed in such high positions that military generals had to do their bidding.

Prediction: Before the Bush regime is over, there'll be so many administration and Republican figures pleading the fifth that it will seem like the Kefauver committee all over again.

Principles? We don't need no stinkin' principles!

Maybe consistency IS the hobgoblin of little minds?

From Dispatch/Argus statehouse reporter Scott Reeder's blog, "The Statehouse Reeder" comes this tidbit about Sen. Mike Jacob's stance on Gov. Blagojevich's controversial tax proposal:
Sen. Mike Jacobs says voting for the Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s business tax hike would be political suicide. And he adds it would be devastating to the state’s economy and even more so in a bi-state community like the Quad-Cities.

But he says he’ll vote for the plan if Blagojevich ponies up the full $75 million to build Western Illinois University’s new Moline campus.

How is this for a statehouse motto: “Where’s Mine?”
Indeed.

And apparently large business owners in the 36th district are Jacobs' only constituency, as suggested by his considering a vote for the measure which would hike taxes on them but provide funding for health care and schools "political suicide". What about the people whom it might actually benefit? Ah.. I guess they don't contribute much, and probably don't vote. Screw 'em.

It's the same sad story. The politicians aren't interested in what the proposal actually contains, how it would work, who it would affect, who it would benefit, and what the likely consequences might be. They don't have the time or interest to actually learn about what they're deciding on. They leave that up to the lobbyists, interest groups, and/or big donors.

These are the people that get their ear, and in this case, they tell them it would be armageddon for business and wreck the economy. They get this daily from dozens of directions. Do they hear much in support of the measure from the poor and middle class people it is intended to benefit? Not so much. So.... guess in whose interests they vote?

I suppose committing political suicide is easier if there's $75 million going to contractors, unions, landowners and developers, and a brand spanking new WIU campus on the riverfront, which of course you'd then take sole credit for accomplishing, even though one vote and some political headaches seems a fairly painless and incredibly simple way to get that sort of tax money bonanza. That's IF Blago wants to play that game.

But isn't it refreshing to see a politician so unattached to principle that they can effortlessly flip-flop on such a major issue depending on how much you pay them off? I guess selling your vote is one way of getting something accomplished. Not exactly the most skillful, but.. the end result is the same. You just can't buy that sort of integrity.

Well, apparently you can.

A piece in the Sun-Times recently explained the latest manuveuring in the state senate over Blago's plan to impose a gross receipts tax on large businesses in the state.

Senate President Emil Jones has renewed efforts to support the governor's plans and has come out in opposition to a "tax swap" proposed by Sen. James Meeks, which would as described in the Sun-Times article,
... fund schools and lower property taxes by increasing the income tax for individuals from 3 to 5 percent, boosting corporate income taxes and imposing a tax on an array of services and entertainment such as haircuts, movies and dry cleaning.
The arcana of tax law is above my pay grade, but in general, which of these schemes would be best for the state and it's residents overall?

Support for the gross receipts plan is thin at best, based largely on fear of business interests scorn and their campaign cash drying up, but would a tax swap plan which further taxes (penalizes) work by increasing income tax rates be a step in the right direction?

Anyone have any opinion on this matter which will affect everyone, particularly in a border area such as ours?

Is the tax swap plan preferable to the gross receipts plan? Or would you rather see an entirely different system proposed, such as increasing sales tax while cutting income and property taxes?

Is the predictible sky is falling lament of business interests that this will "destroy" Illinois' economy simply short-sighted and selfish? After all, what good would it be if Illinois had more businesse but a poorly educated and unhealthy workforce?

Wouldn't a state with an excellent education system and an effective public health program be just as attractive to businesses looking for a place to locate?

After all, if they just want cheap labor to exploit and to squeeze out every short term dime of profit, they can move to Mexico like many already have.

How do you see this issue? Or does it make your eyes glaze over and hold little if any interest at all?

While it's clear that some of the politicians who actually vote on these things don't have to be bothered with knowing much about what the proposals are, how it would work, or what consequences they can be expected to bring, I hope someone out there might be able to enlighten us and provide some basis for evaluating these proposals.

Obama online organizing produces grassroots support

One recent example of the excellent use of online resources by the Obama campaign is the creation of thousands of individual house parties where Obama can speak to and with supporters across the country via live link up.

The pitch for the March 31st event reads:
This Saturday, literally thousands of Obama supporters will open up their homes to bring this campaign into communities like yours. Barack will be there too -- via live online video and a simultaneous conference call.

There's just one thing you need to do: show up.

Many hosts have never done something like this before. But they're opening up their homes to provide an opportunity for you to meet face-to-face with local folks who share your same hope for the future.

You'll see and hear Barack live from an event in Iowa, watch a special DVD created for the occasion, and connect with local supporters to plan what you can do to grow the campaign in your community.


The email announcement contains a link that takes the reader to a page where they can enter their town or zip code and get a list of "Obama party's" in their area.

This sort of thing has been done in the past, most notably by the Howard Dean campaign, but the response to this is amazing. It would be lucky if there were one or perhaps two people sponsoring such house parties in the Quad Cities for other candidates in the past. Sometimes the nearest place would be in Iowa City.

By contrast, eight people have already agreed to host events in their homes in the Quad City area so far: Moline,(2), East Moline, Silvis, Rock Island,(2), Davenport, (2), and LeClaire.

Perhaps the biggest will be at the Scott County Obama headquarters where local politicians and Dick Durbin are expected to be in attendance as well. Click here for details, maps, and info on that particular event.

Online communications has revolutionized modern political campaigns and will continue to do so in the future.

March 26, 2007

Back where they belong

I've long argued, (just one example here.) against firm opposition by some Democrats, that the idea that the country was conservative and therefore Democrats better cow-tow to conservative policies and ideas was a crock.

I've suffered for many years watching as spineless Dems all cowered in fear of actually standing for core Democratic principles and wimped out on countless issues where they'd bend to the perceived conservative desire of the country.

But I've contended that not only do a firm majority of Americans support Democratic policy positions over Republican, but my larger point has been that support for Republicans among the squishy middle, the middle to lower class folks who suddenly decided it was cooler to be macho Republican, was a mile wide and an inch deep.

Just as they'd been stampeded and conned into identifying as conservatives or Republicans, these people could just as easily be turned back to their natural affilitation with Democratic policies and prinicples. (after all, they've been backing a party who actively worked against these people's own interests for decades)

There are many reasons these fine folks were conned into identifying as Republicans, among them the billion dollar conserative media noise machine, the effective campaign to label Dems as "wimpy" or somehow not like the oh-so-manly Republicans, and the con-job to convince people that Republicans were somehow better at defending the country than Dems. And chief among the reasons as well was the massive Rove-inspired campaign to spread fear, division, and hatred as hard and as often as possible.

The Republican noise machine encouraged these folks to blame any number of groups for every problem they had in life, and then associated all of them with the Democratic party.

It was an incredibly massive campaign in which the right wing literally built a parallel system of government and media alongside the legitimate ones, and they largely succeeded, to the point where rank propaganda is now considered "news", and conservative "think tanks" are responsible for most government policy.
Kevin Phillips, the noted conservative thinker, has published several revealing and important books delving into the dark side of the Bush dynasty, the corrosive anti-democratic influence of the so-called Christian right, and three books examining the enormous and widening gap between the super-wealthy and the other 99% of the country and the creation of this plutocracy in America, "Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich", "The Politics of Rich and Poor: Wealth and the American Electorate in the Reagan Aftermath", and "Arrogant Capital: Washington, Wall Street, and the Frustration of American Politics".


Paraphrasing the title of Phillips' notable book which predicted the Republican majority all the way back in 1969, Paul Krugman writes, "The Emerging Republican Minority" in the New York Times.
But at this point 2004 looks like an aberration, an election won with fear-and-smear tactics that have passed their sell-by date. Republicans no longer have a perceived edge over Democrats on national security — and without that edge, they stand revealed as ideologues out of step with an increasingly liberal American public.

Right now the talk of the political chattering classes is a report from the Pew Research Center showing a precipitous decline in Republican support. In 2002 equal numbers of Americans identified themselves as Republicans and Democrats, but since then the Democrats have opened up a 15-point advantage.

Part of the Republican collapse surely reflects public disgust with the Bush administration. The gap between the parties will probably get even wider when — not if — more and worse tales of corruption and abuse of power emerge.

But polling data on the issues, from Pew and elsewhere, suggest that the G.O.P.’s problems lie as much with its ideology as with one man’s disastrous reign.

For the conservatives who run today’s Republican Party are devoted, above all, to the proposition that government is always the problem, never the solution. For a while the American people seemed to agree; but lately they’ve concluded that sometimes government is the solution, after all, and they’d like to see more of it.

Consider, for example, the question of whether the government should provide fewer services in order to cut spending, or provide more services even if this requires higher spending. According to the American National Election Studies, in 1994, the year the Republicans began their 12-year control of Congress, those who favored smaller government had the edge, by 36 to 27. By 2004, however, those in favor of bigger government had a 43-to-20 lead.

And public opinion seems to have taken a particularly strong turn in favor of universal health care. Gallup reports that 69 percent of the public believes that “it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have health care coverage,” up from 59 percent in 2000.

The main force driving this shift to the left is probably rising income inequality. According to Pew, there has recently been a sharp increase in the percentage of Americans who agree with the statement that “the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.” Interestingly, the big increase in disgruntlement over rising inequality has come among the relatively well off — those making more than $75,000 a year.

Indeed, even the relatively well off have good reason to feel left behind in today’s economy, because the big income gains have been going to a tiny, super-rich minority. It’s not surprising, under those circumstances, that most people favor a stronger safety net — which they might need — even at the expense of higher taxes, much of which could be paid by the ever-richer elite.

And in the case of health care, there’s also the fact that the traditional system of employer-based coverage is gradually disintegrating. It’s no wonder, then, that a bit of socialized medicine is looking good to most Americans.


The illusion that the majority of Americans were foresquare in support of all these often crazy movement Republican notions was just that. It was propped up by smoke and mirrors and held together with bailing wire and string, and would only last as long as Fox News and talk radio could keep it going.

Never let it be said that the American public aren't a frighteningly uninformed and easily swayed group, but even when it's years too late, they eventually do begin to "get it". And that's become apparent since the mid-term elections and the fact that we have made some steps towards a government which functions in the way it was designed to work.

March 22, 2007

White House opts for stonewall tactics

A few thoughts on the firing of the U.S. attorneys and the effort for congress to actually ask the people involved to provide the truth.

I ask readers to help me with a couple questions.

As you likely know, Bush recently brought in Fred Fielding, the very same Fred Fielding who as assistant White House counsel to Richard Nixon tried to protect that corrupt administration from investigation by stonewalling and invoking "executive priveledge, a previously unheard of claim.

In anticipation of the end of the Republican protection racket that ensured that the congress turned a blind eye to anything the White House or administration did, no matter how egregious or illegal or unethical, Fielding has been brought in by Bush to aid in their Nixonian stonewalling of congress.

Fielding announced yesterday the terms under which the White House would allow White House and Justice Dept. staff including Karl Rove and Bush attorney Harriett Miers and a key witness, the recently resigned Kyle Sampson, Gonzalez's chief of staff, who is rumored to be willing to talk, would allow congress to question them.

Under the White House terms, congressmen could only question them in a a private meeting, utterly off the record, not under oath, and no transcripts and notes would be allowed. As Rep. John Conyers scoffed, "We could meet at the local pub."

First, leaving aside whether the testimony should be in public or not, WHY would anyone refuse to testify under oath or, odder still, refuse to allow transcripts to be taken? What possible reason would the White House essentially reserve the right of these people to lie to congress without penalty, and for there to be no record whatsoever of their testimony? Help me out here.


Secondly, during a train-wreck of a press-conference for former Fox News flack Tony Snow (who railed against condemened the invocation of "executive priveledge" when it was invoked by the Clinton White House.) Snow was repeatedly asked whether Bush was consulted or whether he conferred about the matter of firing U.S. Attorneys.

Snow flatly said that Bush at no time was consulted by anyone. In other words, he didn't have a thing to do with it, no one ever brought it up to him, and he was completely out of the loop.

OK.

Now move ahead to the reasoning put forward yesterday by the White House and Bush himself for invoking "executive privelige" and refusing to allow Rove, et. al. to provide sworn testimony before congress.

The reason, they said plainly, was that allowing such testimony would have a "chilling" effect on the ability of the president's close aides to give him honest and unvarnished advise and counsel. In other words, the president's aides simply must feel free to speak freely without the threat that they'll be hauled before congressional committees every other week.

The merits of that argument can be argued.

But here's my second question.

Bush was completely "out of the loop" on this matter. No one every spoke a word about it to him and he had zero imput on it. No aides or anyone ever discussed it with him.

They say that Rove et. al. will not testify because it would preclude them speaking freely to the president.

How do those two notions make any sense whatsoever?

If they never discussed this matter or anything about it with Bush, then how can they simultaneously argue that demanding that aides testify, aides who they say never talked to Bush, would damage the communication between Bush and his staff?

It simply makes no sense.

If it does, please explain it to me.

There may be no atheists in foxholes, but there are in congress

Rep. Pete Stark, D-CA, a 75 year old who's represented his suburban San Franscisco district for the past thirty-four years recently acknowledged that he's, "a Unitarian who does not believe in a supreme being".

Normally, that simple statement would be the kiss of death to a politician, but Stark continues to enjoy support from his district.
Stark, 75, said he was shocked by the volume of letters, phone calls and e-mails since March 12, when he acknowledged his ''nontheism'' in response to an inquiry by the Secular Coalition for America.

Stark calls himself ''a Unitarian who does not believe in a supreme being.'' He was the only member of the 535-person Congress willing to say he or she was an atheist.

The coalition was offering a $1,000 prize to the person who could identify the ''highest level atheist, agnostic, humanist or any other kind of nontheist currently holding elected public office in the United States.'' The group wanted to highlight the difficulty politicians have declaring they don't believe in God, and organizers expected no one from Congress to come forward.

Stark, a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said he's received more than 500 responses since March 12; about 25 were negative. On Tuesday, the American Humanist Association took out an ad in The Washington Post supporting Stark.

Constituent Chuck Cannon of Concord compared Stark to civil rights leader Rosa Parks, praising him for bucking the trend of politicians who emphasize their religious faith and faithfulness.

I find Stark's honesty in coming forward and acknowledging his beliefs refreshing, and a positive sign that despite many indications to the contrary in the area of religious freedom, the country may be making progress. The fact that a Muslim was elected to congress last year also inspires hope that the American people are not as close-minded as they often appear on matters of religion and government.

As politicians are sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, I find it hard to make a case that someone who happens to not have a belief in a surpreme being or who doesn't adhere to an established religion can't be fully capable of doing just that. As a matter of fact, a person who wouldn't be under undue pressure to either please those representing a certain sect of a religion or have his or her judgement affected by a peculiar religious belief would in many ways be a superior candidate to "support and defend" the foundation document of our government.

Too often, and in particularly in the Bush era, those with fundementalist or "Christian right" affiliations have shown themselves not only willing, but eager to tamper with the constitution and law and show a rather shabby disdain for the core institutions of government, openly proclaiming their belief that their particular interpretation of "God's law" supercedes the law and constitution of our nation.

I consider this to be the threat to the constitution that it clearly is, and it's not in the best interests of the country or it's citizens.

Until this historic moment, no politicians would dare acknowledge their lack of belief in a higher power, assuming, likely correctly, that it would be a kiss of death. As far as I know, no one to this day has ever been elected to high office who was openly atheistic.

The fact of the matter is that there have likely been hundreds and hundreds of elected officials who either were atheists or agostics, but they, being politicians, knew better than to admit it, and instead kept up the charade of religious belief for political survival.

So... I'm curious. Is there any rational reason why someone who is an atheist or agnostic could not be a perfectly good representitive of his or her constituents?

Why would professing belief in a particular religious faith be an absolute requirement for protecting and defending the constitution of the United States?

Or is an atheist or agnostic perfectly able to be a moral and ethical representive in government?

March 19, 2007

Polls show national vote of no confidence in Bush, Republicans

This isn't exactly breaking news, but Americans by a large majority don't like Bush, don't like the direction he's leading the country, don't like what he's done in Iraq, and don't think his current plan will work.

Across the board, Bush enjoys little support from the American public, and when you factor in world opinion, that means it's down to about Bush, Laura, and Barney that still think he knows what he's doing.

Latest Newsweek poll results here.

March 16, 2007

Some screen shots from Hare's "Better Know a District" appearance

A few stills from Phil Hare's appearance on The Colbert Report's "435 part series, Better Know a District".

**UPDATE**
Comedy Central now has the clip of this segment available for viewing here.
(Note: Due to the source who sent it in, I mistakenly thought the above link was to a clip on the Hare website posted by Hare staff. It's not. It's to the Colbert Report website. Sorry for the error.)

Intro graphic for the segment showing the freakish boundaries of the 17th District.


Decatur's official motto is, "We Like It Here."


"Which narrowly beat out....."

This is okay.


It'll do.


and....

Who am I kidding? Get me the hell out of here before I kill myself.


Colbert listed the five cities that make up the Quad Cities, then paused and counted on his fingers, leading one to assume he was pondering the eternal question: Why is an area consisting of five cities referred to as the Quad Cities?, then said, "That doesn't make any sense! Why would anyone name a town "Bettendorf"?"

"Nothing runs like a Deere, until it gets run over by a tractor."




Hare shakes hands with Colbert to begin the interview.

Colbert asks, "Is Phil Hare your real name, because it sounds made up, like Phil McCrackin or something.


Hare reacts.


Note: If anyone from the Hare office is interested in more stills from the segment, get in touch.

Strange doings

Someone wrote to say that local right wing crank "QC Media Ghost" had continued with his unprovoked and inexplicable attacks on yours truly, but that his site was apparently gone.

I try to avoid his blog like I avoid jock itch, but when I got done with other worthwhile pursuits, I went to the QC Online page that lists the output for local blogs.

There I clicked on the link to QCMedia's most recent ooze and it returned an error page saying the site couldn't be found. Due to some bugs in the QC Online blog page, it's not unusual for links directly to individual posts to not work, so I did what I usually have to do, and that is to click on the link below the title of the post that links directly to the source blog itself, in this case, www.qcmedia.blogspot.com.

But instead of the expected swinish insults, what appeared was a giant page full of large hardcore XXX pictures and come ons to view teen porn. For a moment I thought maybe QCMediaGhost had gone into another line of publishing. But evidently not.

I have no idea what's gone on, but my first suspicion is that someone must have hacked old QC's blog. If so, that's not cool. I expect it will get straightened out, assuming that QC himself didn't intend things to be this way.

But be warned. Don't go to www.qcmedia.blogspot.com from the QC Online blog page or here or anywhere else, or you'll be taken to a graphic XXX site which also tries to pop up all sorts of fake security crap and download malware to your computer.

Gotta admit though, it couldn't have happened to a nicer person.

March 15, 2007

Hare, 17th district go before millions on "Colbert Report" tonight


A reminder that 17th District Rep. Phil Hare will appear on the political satire show "The Colbert Report" for an interrogation by Colbert's on-air character, described as a "right-wing, poorly informed, high-status idiot" ala Bill O'Reilly. The spectacle will air at 10:30 p.m. tonight on the Comedy Channel.

Ironically, Hare appears on the show the very day a piece in "The Hill" newspaper reveals that top Democratic strategist Rahm Emanuel has urged freshman representitives NOT to appear on The Colbert Show.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), the Democratic Caucus chairman, has told new Democratic members of Congress to steer clear of Stephen Colbert, or at least his satirical Comedy Central program, “The Colbert Report.”

“He said don’t do it … it’s a risk and it’s probably safer not to do it,” said Rep. Steve Cohen. But the freshman lawmaker from Tennessee taped a segment that last week was featured in the 32nd installment of the “Better Know a District” series. Colbert asked Cohen whether he was a black woman. He isn’t.

Eyes (but thankfully, not heads) roll in Emanuel’s office when other freshmen stumble, such as the time Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) got into a debate about the merits of throwing kittens into a wood-chipper, or when Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio) explained that he is not his predecessor, convicted felon Bob Ney (R).
Wonder if there's any connection between Hare's decision and Emanuel's putting out the word? I guess we'll "better know" after we see the segment.

A previous post a month or so back featured a few video clips of stunningly disasterous and embarassing appearances by politicians on The Colbert Show.

Unfortunately, those YouTube clips are no longer available due to Viacom invoking copyright issues, but the clips included Colbert getting FL congressman Robert Wexler to say that doing cocaine with hookers is a fun thing to do, another congressional candidate that Colbert got to state that his opponent used drugs, and perhaps the funniest, an idiot GA rep who had sponsored a bill to require the posting of the ten commandments in courthouses and other public places.

Colbert asked him point blank to name the commandments as Colbert sat there with both fists in the air ready to count them out on his fingers. The guy couldn't name a single one.

Colbert is wickedly adept at making fools out of politicans by twisting their words and getting them to say things you can't believe you're actually hearing a politician say. He'll ask trick questions such as, "George Bush; great president, or greatest president?", and it gets worse from there.

Hare's interview tonight will be seen by an enormous audience, larger by a factor of thousands than any Hare has appeared before to date, and perhaps the last time he'll get such huge (inter)national exposure in his entire career. (The Colbert Report is Comedy Central's highest rated show and is aired in both the U.S. and Australia. I imagine it gets a few more viewers than C-Span or the local news.)

So gather up the kids, put out the dog and call the neighbors, Phil Hare and "The Fightin' 17th" are going to give the U.S. and Australia some yuks tonight at 10:30 p.m.

Leave your impressions here after the show.

**POST SEGMENT UPDATE**

Well, the segment just ended, and though Colbert didn't go too hard on him compared to others, overall I thought Hare did very well.

Colbert was only able to employ his trademark verbal gymnastics on a few traps,including suggesting Hare supports Bush and the war because the Arsenal produces munitions (true enough in it's way), suggesting that Carl Sandburg was murdered and Hare is allowing his killer to run free, that by his approval of the underground railroad in Galesburg, Hare was endorsing breaking laws we don't agree with, and spending quite a while trying to get Hare to say that, since Iraq is in a civil war, we're therefore "the Union", and Bush is the president, Bush therefore is like Lincoln.

Aside from one minor stumble, where Hare fell prey to the word play and convoluted logic and said, "It was wrong to break the law to get people out of slavery, yes.", he largly navigated the many pitfalls successfully.

At least the one about comparing Bush to Lincoln was easy. I mean, how could you even get the words comparing Bush favorably to Lincoln out of your mouth, even unconsciously? No matter what the trickery, I think the words would stick in your throat.

Colbert didn't try to suggest Hare was gay or high at the moment, as he has with other victims, and Hare was spared the usual creative editing and cutaway shots showing the interviewee with odd facial expressions that are often employed to make the subject look weird at best or deranged at worst.

Hare's appearance has to rank up there with one of the very few where the politician didn't get completely flumoxed by Colbert and ended up either saying something or doing something embarassing and coming off like a jackass. I've seen dozens of these segments, and rarely does anyone escape without damage, but Hare managed to escape largely unscathed.

Despite the fact that Colbert didn't beat on him as hard as he has others, I'd give Hare a solid B+/A-. Very well done.

And even Colbert's jokes about the district weren't that cutting. I'd say "The Fightin' 17th" escaped humiliation, and in his case, Hare proved Rahm Emanuel's warning to be unecessary.

Countdown highlights

Tonight's "Countdown with Keith Olberman" contained an item with local flavor.

One of Olberman's nightly features is his "Top 3 Newsmakers" segment. Last night it featured one of our area's brighter inhabitants, Robert Alan Fry.

It seems Mr. Fry was arrested in Rock Island for suspicion of burglary after using a plastic card to jimmy the lock and break into an apartment.

That may have not been worth noting, except that Fry happened to leave the card behind after he burgled the apartment. Annnnnnnd the card he left at the scene happened to be the one with his name and picture on it that the Illinois Department of Corrections had issued to him when he was in jail two months ago.

Ooops.

Forget burglary, is there such a charge as aggravated stupidity? The cops gotta love it when the bad guys do their job for them.

~~~~~~~~~~~

And it's morning in America.

How do I know? Because you see stuff like this on TV these days.


No name, just "Turdblossom". It made me laugh and gave me that warm glow you only get when you see someone like Rove getting raked over the coals at long last.

I found it hilarious because I'm not sure everyone is in on the caption under Rove's smiling face. For those who are unfamiliar, "Turdblossom" is Bush's term of endearment for old Karl. I gotta give him credit at least for such a fitting nickname.

Get Gonzo Gone, and the right lies again.

AG Alberto Gonzalez should have been purged long ago, what with his memos trying to legally OK torture to all the other unconstitutional and reckless matters he's tried to justify with dubious legal double-talk in order to hand Bush nearly unlimited power.

The guy was a hack that glommed onto Bush decades ago and is now in a position he's not qualified for and never was, and is clearly more loyal to Bush and the administration than to the law he is to uphold and defend and the interests of the American people he's supposed to serve.

And, though it almost goes without saying with top Bush officials, he's a liar. He's been all over the map with the revelations about his firing of U.S. attorneys for not being sufficiently obedient to Bush's political wishes. The biggest whopper is when he says there was nothing political about the firings. Such a big lie from such a little man.

Now even Republicans such as Sununu are calling for him to resign amidst more and more evidence being revealed that they not only wanted U.S. attorney's fired for political reasons, but that Harriet Myers, the woman Bush tried to appoint to the damn Supreme Court, originally wanted to try to fire ALL of the U.S. attorneys wholesale and replace them all, presumably with those who were reliably obedient to the Republican party and Bush.

It's sickening. And if it wasn't nearly drowned out by all the other scandals falling like leaves since Democrats in Washington were finally allowed to do the job congress is there to do, it would be a HUGE scandal. As usual in these situations, it's nearly impossible to avoid noting what would have happened if Clinton had actually tried to pull something like this.

And despite the immediate effort by the right wing to somehow blame this on Clinton (he's still president, right? Everything that's happened in the last 6 years, the Republicans have blamed him for, so he MUST still be president, right?), and the right wing noise machine busy blaring their favorite refrain, "Clinton did it too!", you might actually believe that bit of deception and dishonesty.

But you know better than to take ANYTHING that comes out of Rove & Company's mouths at face value by now. If their lips are moving, it's a sure sign their lying.

And this is no different.

When they yelp that Clinton fired U.S. Attorneys, it was nothing remotely like what this crew has done. It's standard procedure to ask for resignations from political appointees when a new administration comes to the White House. Then the president gets to decide who stays and who doesn't. This is what Clinton did.

Clinton never attempted to wholesale fire every U.S. attorney at the beginning of his second term, as Meyers wanted to do, and neither did he selectively try to fire 8 in the middle of a second term for purely political reasons as Gonzalez actually has.

And keep in mind, the U.S. attorney's that Gonzalez fired were appointed by Bush himself.

The right wing is so busy trying to get this dishonest spin into the press than one news organization felt it necessary to print the truth. McClatchy newspapers Washington bureau reveals that the current situation is nothing like the one the right wing is howling about (as if that justifies what was done to begin with).

A piece in the NY Times details e-mail evidence that implicates the White House in directing Gonzalez, who is supposed to be utterly independent from such political matters, to purge these U.S. attorney's who, "chafed against administration initiatives.", in other words, weren't sufficiently abusing their positions for purely political prosecutions.

And on the heels of these damning revelations, comes results of a study which shows that during the Bush era 2001 through 2006, nearly 80% of all political prosecutions involved Democrats, compared to 18% Republicans. If the prosecutions were done completely even-handedly, the numbers would be closer to 50/50.
As is indicated by Table 1, across the nation from 2001 through 2006 the Bush Justice Department investigated Democratic office holders and candidates at a rate more than four times greater (nearly 80% to 18%) than they investigated Republican office holders and seekers. This was so even though, throughout the nation, Democrat
elected officials outnumber Republican elected officials at the rate of only 50% to 41%. Nine percent of elected officials are Independent/Other.

We believe that this tremendous disparity is politically motivated and it occurs because the local (non-state-wide and non-Congressional) investigations occur under the radar of a diligent national press. Each instance is treated by a local beat reporter as an isolated case that is only of local interest. The real Pulitizer Prize-winning story is the extent of the politicization of Justice Department investigations and/or indictments of local elected and office-seeking Democrats vis-a-vis their Republican counterparts across the nation.

Clearly the federal prosecutors office already WAS politicized to a huge degree. But this wasn't enough for Bush and Rove, who decided to get rid of the few who still appeared independent.

Take a look at the list of politicians prosecuted federally during this time and why. It doesn't do much to support the idea of honest politicians.

Hearings are sure to follow, with Sen. Pat Leahy promising to subpoena Rove himself.

FINALLY... some long overdue investigation and oversight. Things are looking brighter all the time with the promise that more of the inept, incompetent, corrupt, and criminal will be weeded out of the executive branch. The Republicans sure wouldn't do it, and Bush gives them medals of freedom. It's lucky for the country that someone finally is cleaning house.

March 13, 2007

"Why We Fight" an important film


It's not often that a film comes out that can awaken your awareness and change your perspective the way the award winning documentary "Why We Fight" can. It could be the "Uncle Tom's Cabin" of our age.

The facinating and well done documentary, which takes its title from a series of propaganda films created by Frank Capra during WWII, uses Dwight D. Eisenhower's Farewell Address as a touchstone to examine how the very dangers Eisenhower warned of decades ago have indeed come to pass. America has become essentially a war-making militaristic corporation/state almost entirely disconnected from its citizens in matters of war and peace.

"Why We Fight" doesn't approach the subject from a partisan or ideological perspective, and contains interviews with everyone from ordinary people on the street to those directly involved in promoting the invasion of Iraq such as Richard Pearle and Bill Kristol. Several conservatives are featured such as John McCain, as well as several military figures including the two pilots who dropped the first massive bombs on Bagdhad. (the myth of "smart weapons" or "precision bombing" is also explored.)

Eisenhower's eerily profetic speech warned of the rise of the "military-industrial complex", though his original draft more correctly described it as the "military-industrial-congressional complex". The film shows the role congress plays in furthering and compounding the utter domination of government and foreign policy by corporate interests who profit from war.

The Bush administration is packed with former defense contractor execs, and the defense contractor's corporate boards and executive ranks are filled with former government and military officials. Conservative think tanks have also taken their place among the military and government as a stopping point within the "revolving door".

This revolving door, in which figures in top positions of government go directly into corporate positions for sometime ten time their previous pay, and then sometimes move back into government as with Cheney, Rumsfeld and many others, contributes massively to nearly erasing any line between government and corporate interest.

Figures are constantly moving between military, corporate, and think tank positions. Think tanks have largely taken over the policy functions for our entire government, with at least this White House taking nearly all of it's direction in policy from conservative think tanks funded by right wing billionaires and corporations themselves.

Congress blindly endorses the spending of countless billions on defense projects, many of dubious use and many which don't work as promised. Not only do politicians often depend on the defense industry to fund their campaigns, they will never vote against anything that represents a few jobs in their district.

One example of this is the fact that parts for the B-1 bomber project were set up to be built in every one of the 50 states, thus ensuring total allegiance from congress. The B-1 is considered by many to be a multi-billion dollar boon-doggle, wasted on a plane that's not strategically needed and which serves little purpose. Yet enough money was spent on each of them to provide health care for tens of thousands of people or to build a dozen schools.

Americans like to think of themselves as a peace-loving country, yet our country is the most militaristic, agressive and war-like of any country on the planet, eclipsing the rest of the world by vast margins to the point where the U.S. has truly become one giant war machine in search of targets.

This is not a recent development, but rather got it's start with the massive build-up for WWII, and it's been growing out of control ever since. "Why We Fight" does a brilliant job of presenting this phenomena, and in particular how it reached it's zenith with the invastion of Iraq.

One revealing section of the film reveals how KBR, the military contracting arm of Haliburton, was commissioned to do a study while Cheney was Secretary of Defense. They were paid millions to look into the advisability of "privatizing" much of the military.

Surprise, surprise, they found that this was a fantastic idea, and the result was that much of the work which has always been handled by the military is now done by .... KBR and Haliburton, including everything from laundry and food service to providing armed security forces, corporate armies in essense, around the globe.

These contractors are being paid literally billions and billions of dollars with little or no oversight by the Republicans until this point, and are making astronomical profits in the bargain. And what little has been found out reveals that they provide tainted water and food to our troops, are paid money for services that are never provided, and are granted no-bid, "cost plus" contracts, which means they have carte blanche to charge whatever they want at any time.

A telling scene involves random people at a patriotic parade being asked, "Why do we fight?" They're clearly clueless, which is disturbing when you think about it.

The notion that we wage war for the ideals of "freedom" or "liberty" has long ago been proven to be a sham, which necessitates the massive efforts and millions of tax dollars spent to try to deceive, frighten, and manipulate the public (you) into thinking the reason for war is idealistic and justified. Somehow for the benefit of all of us.

The film shows clear evidence of how a handful of neocons in charge of foreign policy in the Bush administration, rabid ideologues from conservative think tanks for the most part, and many ex-defense contractor execs like Dick Cheney who fill the administration, laid out a clear plan for conquest and American empire far before Iraq, (the Project for a New American Century) feeling that as the last super-power, the U.S. should literally dominate the entire planet, spreading "democracy" at the point of a bomb.

The comparison to the Roman empire should not be taken lightly.

Rather than continue to describe the film, I'd just ask that you please take a moment to GO HERE AND WATCH THE PREVIEW. When the trailer is finished, it will take you to a page where you can watch and listen to Eisenhower's address something which is almost shocking in it's foreshadowing of the state of things we find ourselves confronting. (well worth reading in full.)
Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peace time, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence-economic, political, even spiritual-is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Take some time to learn more at the film's website, and then better yet, go to Blockbuster or see if it's available at your library or online, and watch the film yourself.

Not only will you be a better informed person, I guarantee you'll be glad you took the time to see it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Continuing The Inside Dope's Cavalcade of Cinema, I also highly recommend "Shut Up and Sing", a behind-the-scenes documentary on the Dixie Chicks, before, during, and after the insane right wing effort to demonize and destroy them for what was actually a very innocuous remark about Bush.

"Shut Up and Sing" is like getting two documentaries in one. Not only is it interesting politically by how it reveals the truly ugly and insane tendencies of the right wing and it's mindless support of the war, it's also an interesting peek behind the scenes and into the lives of a top touring musical group on the road, in the studio, and at home. And to top it off, it's full of their great music.

It says it's a "Blockbuster Exclusive", so I guess it's only available at that store. Grab it when you pick up "Why We Fight".

Hare's appearance on "The Colbert Report" to air Thursday

A high Hare staff source (well, I don't think they were actually high... but highly placed) informs me that Rep. Hare's previously taped "Better Know a District" segment on Stephen Colbert's "The Colbert Report" will air Thursday the 15th.

Colbert's show is seen on Comedy Central at 10:30 local time.

Sounds like must-see TV.

Call the neighbors, gather up the family, pop up some pop-corn, pour some big glasses of cold milk, and enjoy seeing your representitive on the TV without actually watching C-Span. (or waiting for them to be indicted or caught with a young staffer.)

A fetid belch of recognition

MediaGhost chats with his online friend "Yung Jok 14".

QC Media Ghost, pictured above in his younger days, pried himself away from the latest Hustler (he loves the cartoons), wiped the Cheeto dust off his chin(s) and had some deep thoughts about yours truly. (not worth linking to, trust me.)

I'm not sure what his point is (he rarely gets that far and evidently considers them optional) but I guess I frustrated him somehow. Though again, I guess we'll never know just what inspired him to such lofty rhetoric and trenchant thought. It's more like the mental flatulence of the un-hinged than anything else.

So here's to QC, if there were an "American Idol" to determine the next Rush Limbaugh, he'd be William Hung, one of the pathetically hilarious rejects that beg the question, why do they even try?!

I take it as a sign that I've driven at least one wing-nut to the verbal equivalent of taking a dump in their pants in public. Wearing shorts.

Keep trippin' dude. U Rock!


*UPDATE*
Someone reports that now old QC has determined that I'm "dangerous". I was pretty excited about that at first, until I realized that he considers EVERYTHING dangerous. Fear and hate dominates everything in his shrunken world and he apparently thinks Osama is going to be knocking on his door any minute now. He's always on the lookout for some stereotyped "them" to fear or blame and gets fed his cues on who to hate from the likes of Ann Coulter and the rest and believes it all. He sees "evil doers" behind every bush, so being labeled as "dangerous" by a paranoid biggot isn't that much of a distinction. Bummer. But I'll take it anyway.

March 12, 2007

Is Chuck Hagel the Republican's life-saver?

Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska was expected to announce his bid for the presidency today but deferred his decision until some point in the future.

With John "Give War a Chance" McCain and Rudy Giuliani's pro-choice and refusal to discriminate against gays both leaving factions of the Republican unhappy, Hagel may be just what the doctor ordered, socially conservative enough to placate the Christian pooh-bahs and their obedient flocks, yet a veteran who broke with the White House on the war before it was "cool" to do so.

If Hagel does get his party's nomination, I think he'd be a tougher opponent to beat than either McCain or Giuliani of Romney, at least at this point. Though it appears very likely that Hagel will indeed announce at some point, I'd be relieved if he decided against a run.

What do you think?

A few thoughts and observations

How far did the Dispatch have to scrape to find something negative to print about Obama the day of his visit to the Quads? Well, they had to dredge up a silly issue that had been raised and quickly dismissed weeks ago and try to put a local spin on it.

They noted that "pundits" question whether Obama is "black enough", whatever that means. Since when has what pundits think been fodder for banner headlines, number one. And the fact is that it was only one black woman who prominently raised the question to begin with, and pundits chewed on the question for about two days at the time, and that was.... two weeks ago or more. As far as pundits go, the issue is long dead. Did the Dispatch editors just sit on the story in order to wait and publish it when Obama appeared in the area? I doubt it, but it's very strange indeed.

The reporter did a good job of trying to get a local angle and write about a rather ridiculous subject, but the fact remains that her assignment was idiotic.

There's nothing to it, Obama's black support is strong and growing at an amazing rate, and it's simply a non-story beyond it's novelty weeks ago. Yet in their apparent desire to cast Obama in a questionable light the day of his appearance, the editors at the D/A felt the need to put this dumb story on the front page and in a banner headline.

Makes ya wonder.

~~~~~~~~

Little Bushkin has often warned us in apocalyptic tones that the so-called war on terror is the biggest threat we've ever faced and that the fate of our entire government and way of life is at stake. The "terists" want to kill you and your little dog Toto too.

Then why does he continue to insist that literally trillions of dollars in taxes be cut, rather than raised for this monumental and cataclysmic struggle? And why should anyone take him seriously when he slashes taxes for millionaires and billionaires, essentially putting hundreds of thosands of dollars into the pockets of people who don't need it in the slightest, while sending troops into battle with inadequate armor and providing inadequate support for the wounded and psychologically damaged when they return?

Why are the very wealthiest in the country, many who stand to make even more millions from this "war" both directly and in the stock market, asked to contribute LESS, rather than more, towards what Bush always contends is a war of biblical proportions?

Which is it? Titanic struggle, or such a minor matter that we can cut trillions out of the tax base?

Could it be that the elite profit from this war, and the best way to do so is to both keep the public scared and inflate the threat and ensure that it's the poor and middle class that does all the fighting and dying so that they can then reap the profit, while suffering none of the pain or sacrifice, from the death and destruction?

I think at first companies salivated over all that Iraqi oil and the classic scam of having taxpayers pay hundreds of billions of dollars in order to demolish an entire country and then them getting to go in and rebuild what we just paid to destroy and for obscenely high profit. That worked for a while. Remember the billions in cash that was shipped there on pallets and distributed from the back of trucks?

Now things aren't quite going as planned, so they're lining up to get contracts to do what the military has always done, as well as getting paid millions to provide services, and then never provided them, to send empty semis up and down dangerous highways because they get paid by the trip, not the load, and so on. And of course, when you're under a money waterfall from Iraq, it's that much sweeter when you're exempt from all tax, as are companies operating in Iraq. And when as a millionaire or billionaire invested in these companies, you're personal taxes are cut by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

~~~~~~~~~~~

The revelations last week of the results of an FBI investigation into it's own abuse of surveilance powers granted by the Patriot Act is EXACTLY what opponents of the bill predicted would happen if this reckless and un-checked power were granted to the administration.

They found evidence of hundreds of requests to pry into people's e-mails and other business where there was insufficient reason and about a hundred cases where they were digging around in the private communication and financial records of the wrong persons to begin with.

Congress should need no more proof that many of the excessive power grabs contained in the Patriot Act should be repealed as soon as possible.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Bush's poll numbers are lower than a snake's belly and have been for some time. Every new poll brings even worse news, with only a fanatical (and delusional) third of people still thinking he has any credibility or knows what he's doing about anything at all.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Dick Cheney is a really strange person who has caused this country immeasurable harm by his pushing his hard right ideological theories into practice. It's been an utter disaster and has already caused so much death and destruction, screwed up our government, established an administration that doesn't know how to do anything but lie and decieve, barracade themselves behind the biggest wall of administration secrecy in history, and attack anyone who even appears to be trying to question their actions.

This administration, guided largely by Cheney and aquiesed to by a dim-witted Bush, has turned treasured American values and ideals on their head and plunged the country into a spot which will take generations to overcome. No matter what the area of government, this administration has been an utter failure. Their accomplishments have all been routinely negative and unproductive at best, and horribly destructive at worst for the country, liberty, and the health and well-being of the majority of the citizens of the United States.

What was it again that is so great about conservative principles such as "trickle-down" economics and a "screw-em" pre-emptive, beligerant and violent foreign policy?

And just how stupid are people that we fell for that "slash taxes on the rich, pile them on the middle class, slash social spending and public safety, increase military spending by gargantuan amounts" myth a second time after it was a proven failure under Reagan and Bush I? How many Republican presidents telling people that making the rich very much richer and slashing support for the poor and middle class will really be great for everyone will it take before people call BS?

How much longer are people going to be duped into supporting a government of the corporation, by the corporation, and for the corporations?

Are we truly safe from falling for this sort of non-sense again?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The American public is largely unaware of the enormous degree to which this "war" has been outsourced and privatized. There are several corporations, such as Halliburton and Blackwater, and hundreds more, who get HUGE no-bid, unlimited cost contracts paid for by YOU. And nearly all of them are started or headed by former CIA or military figures or those with close ties to the oil industry and Bush administration.

The degree to which the line between government and crony corporatism has been obliterated is a major scandal, and one which the country has been kept ignorant about.

These companies have their employees stationed with our military all around the globe, and they're utterly unaccountable to the government and they don't have to report what they're doing or what they've done. They're outside the government, yet raking in billions of dollars doing what the military has always done up until this point.

The country and congress needs to do some major investigation and debate the efficiency and effectiveness of this radical departure from the way things have always been done.

The mere fact that it was done without any debate or public input is a scandal in itself, as is the fact that the press has largely been utterly silent on the subject, as if it's taboo.

How much money are we paying these mercenary corporations? Where will it end? Are we simply going to hire the army in the future? Is this what this is all designed to result in? Private prisons, private Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines?

Is this simply another example of corporations gradually taking over more and more of the government in keeping with conservative dogma that the private sector will always do a job better and at less cost than the government?

~~~~~
And it's now been noted many times, including when I mentioned it in a post a week or so ago, but all of the Democratic presidential contenders have gotten married and stayed married to the same person. Among the candidates of the party of "family values", just Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Newt Gingrich alone have had EIGHT wives between them! (3,2,and 3 marriages respectively)

And the funny part is that the only guy in the race with only one wife is the Mormon.

March 10, 2007

Obamapaloosa in Davenport

Sen. Obama is making made an appearance at North High School in Davenport today at 5:30 p.m. and the crowd will be was large and excited. I suppose you could call his legions of fans the Obama Nation, but that sounds too much like abomination. Scratch that.

Those that attend can give their impressions here. What did you hear? What did you see? Tell us what your experience was like.

**BONUS UPDATE**

Cecilia O'Brien was kind enough to send along her piece on her impressions and thoughts on Obama's recent appearance. Thanks Cecilia.
Barak the Beat


Saturday, March 10, 2007

By Cecilia O’Brien

Anticipation was in the Quad City air for days but Davenport drummed up a big hit Saturday as fresh faced Rock Island youth pounded their rhythm in unison using internal skills unleashed and strong. Inspirational best describes the electric feel of the heavy toned drumbeat and cadences of each step, clap, and movement of the small though powerful metro youth group. So infectious was the phenomenon that many there, myself included, had to stand and stomp along enjoying each sensation. When Barak Obama entered the room and joined in the step clap cadence, the gymnasium caught fire.

Clear direction, thoughtful ideas, and leadership emanates from a word picture that spoken, becomes a hopeful dream that thousands heard in the North High gym, many who stood for hours. Barak Obama, once a skinny kid from the south side of Chicago, coming from humble roots, making it the American way, touches something deep inside us all.

Those in Democratic circles count their blessings for his presence and quality as a candidate, while the other side of the aisle is confounded by his ability to transcend party lines and pick up Republican admiration and support. Non-participating voters become active again once infected with the ideals infused in the straightforward platform crafted by Obama. All simply accomplished by an attitude of an honest fresh discussion with the public that somehow becomes a one on one conversation even in a room of thousands. I witnessed the group dynamic and the feeling in Davenport and connected to the message Barak gave us (me); that we are a nation and unified we are stronger.

Davenport is one of many cities that longs for an America united, longs for the troops to come home, longs for peace, longs for health care for all, and education for everyone. We drank up the words of hope Saturday from a candidate that showed us his vision and dreams convincing us that together we could climb any mountain and make our country great again. Barak Obama is not easily placed into a single category and has grown into a new forward thinking man, who just happens to be a candidate for President of the United States. Try as they may, his detractors seem to become darkened by their own hate in their futile attempts to tarnish Obama. Barak has what many desire and yet few ever attain and many in his opposition fear. Truthful Integrity.




*Update* A few shots from the event. (and maybe some video clips later) Please forgive the iffy quality, but it was the only way I could get the shots, seeing as I wasn't sure I was even in the same zip code as Obama and had to zoom far too much in order to show him as anything other than a speck and had to use low-light settings as well, both of which greatly increase the graininess of the shots.





The place was overflowing, but despite volunteers urging people to move to an overflow room which had audio, and later enticing them with promises that Obama would stop by and visit, no one moved out of the room.



The crowd. (click to enlarge and pan)

March 9, 2007

Gay stud for pay shows up at highest reaches of conservative politics? Haven't we heard this before?

Jeff "Gannon" Guckert showing up in the front row of White House press briefings, working for a sham conservative news organization and then revealed to have advertised his services as a gay prostitute for hire, Rev. Haggard, leader and hero to millions of evangelicals spending his off moments frolicking with gay prostitutes and buying (but not doing... cough) methamphetamine, and dozens of other instances of prominent right wing Republican figures caught being pedophiles or closet gays.

Is yet another such story even news anymore? The party that considers "fags" to be abominations seems to be awfully fond of them as long as they don't ask and don't tell.

Now we have the tale of Matt Sanchez, buff marine who recently was paraded around (in full military uniform) by prominent conservatives as a prop to demonize the left as an example of a brave all-American hero who had his feelings hurt by some fringe left group at a university. Sanchez parlayed that experience into a major push for attention (and bucks) by writing an op-ed for the New York Post, starting a blog, a MySpace page, and naturally, he's planning a book. (ugh) By the way, Sanchez was 36 and only a junior in college?

Why, the assembled conservative luminaries even presented Sanchez with the "Jeanne Kirpatrick Academic Freedom Award" at the conference.

Oooops. Turns out Matt was gay for pay, posing for pics and making pornos using the name "Rod Majors" and "Pierre LaBranche". (Though he later said that he was "bad at being gay". Wow. Gay, and not even good at it. That's.... sad.)

The "Joemygod" blog provides the story complete with links to Sanchez's escort page and an inteview with Sanchez/Majors/LaBranche.

Sanchez with admirer at CPAC.


A recent post here featured a video clip taken at the CPAC conservative fest by Max Blumenthal. One scene showed right wing loon David Horowitz flanked by a marine who added his two cents of agreement to whatever Horowitz said. It was noneother than "Rod Majors" himself.

Blumenthal explains at Huffington Post:
I don't know if David Horowitz knew Cpl. Matt Sanchez was once a gay porn star and male prostitute when he introduced him to me at last weekend's CPAC. But he did know that Sanchez was an eager yes-man, and a supposed victim of the campus PC thuggery Horowitz has made a career out of decrying.

As Horowitz played cardiologist, ranting to me about how each leftist "has hatred in his heart" and how members of the New Left to which he once belonged had "treason in their hearts," Sanchez stood faithfully by his side, muttering encouragement. "That's right. That's right," Sanchez would say, almost on cue. Whenever I spoke, Sanchez would mumble something under his breath like, "That's such a lie! Omigod!" or "See! Liberals are hateful."

Horowitz probably discovered Sanchez after the ex-Marine appeared on Hannity & Colmes alleging that while studying at Columbia University, he was called a "baby-killer" by members of that school's International Socialist Organization. This alleged episode, which was investigated by Columbia but never confirmed, also earned Sanchez a spot on the O'Reilly Factor.
MORE HERE.

And of course for those readers who it may escape, it's not about being gay, it's about the hypocrisy and trying to cash in with the right wing noise machine. I guess a whore is a whore is a whore, eh?

Bush goodwill ambassador, beloved around the world

Bush does Brazil:
As President Bush flew here Thursday on Air Force One, thousands of protesters shouting "Out, Bush!" marched down this city's main drag, Avenida Paulista.

Hundreds of riot police flanked at least 6,000 demonstrators near the city's financial center, and the scent of tear gas hovered along the march route. At least three protesters and a news photographer were reported hurt as baton-wielding police and demonstrators clashed, but there was no immediate word on their condition. Authorities later said that 16 police officers suffered minor injuries.

"We don't want Bush here!" shouted Marcelo Prado, 19. "Tell him to go home!"

March 8, 2007

Onward Christian (child) soldiers

Have you seen "Jesus Camp" yet? Then get off the couch and go to the store or Blockbuster or your favorite movie rental joint and check it out.

Take a peek into the world of "evangelical Christians" and their indoctrination camps where they produce child future warriors for Christianity and the Republican party.

It includes some scenes with the good Rev. Ted Haggard, shot much before his penchant for gay prostitutes and chrystal meth was brought to light. The irony in the scenes is astounding and leaves you marveling that it's real.

Just watch the clip from the documentary below, shot at Haggard's mega-church in Colorado while he was still fleecing the flock while getting freaky with a gay prostitute and buying meth.



Though the above clip doesn't include it, they continue with a short interview with Haggard after the service where he boasts of how huge the movement is, it's growth and the importance of getting kids involved. At one point he explains, "If the Evangelicals vote, they determine the election.", and sums up by exclaiming, "This life is FABulous!" Well, rank hypocrisy pays I guess.

The film's focus is primarily on a woman and the Christian camp she runs. The camp is called "Kids on Fire" and it's held, perhaps fittingly, in Devil's Lake, North Dakota.

The militaristic indocrination of these kids is truly disturbing, and verges on child abuse to my mind. If this were being done without the shield of Christianity, I'm certain authorities would shut it down, and society would condemn it.

It even includes at one point church leaders hauling out a life-size cardboard cut-out of George W. Bush and demanding that the kids praise him and pray for him as if he were actually there. (you might want to keep a barf bag handy)

And you get a close-up view of Christian parents home schooling their kids that they can safely ignore science in the matters of global warming and evolution and essentially turning them into ignorants for Jesus.

The theme of war and the kids being warriors against the "enemies in government" and other "ungodly" menaces is stressed heavily throughout, with the kids at one point noting with awe and envy how people who are willing to die for Christianity don't even care and aren't scared to die.

The comparison to the Taliban is too obvious to miss, despite the fact that the woman who runs the camp repeatedly refers to Muslims indoctrinating their kids in a militaristic way as a justification for her banging it into these kids that this is essentially a holy war, and they're the soldiers in it.

Without realizing it, she essentially argues that emulating the Taliban in her efforts if not only justified, but necessary, and though she doesn't strap grenades to the kids, one doesn't have much trouble imagining that she would if she felt the situation demanded it. She leads them in chants of "This means war! This means WAR!" and repeatedly invokes battle and warriors, soldiers, and dying for the cause.

It's twisted, disturbing, more than a little creepy, and as real as it gets.

I heartily recommend it to everyone who wants a look at a movement that has already gained a tremendous amount of power in this country.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

From the review on Amazon:
The feverish spectacle of a summer camp for evangelical Christian kids is the focus of Jesus Camp, a fascinating if sometimes alarming documentary. (Shortly after its release, the movie gained a new notoriety when Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, who appears near the end of the film, resigned his post amid a male prostitute's allegations of drug use and sexual misconduct.)

For most of the film, we follow a charismatic teacher, Becky Fischer, as she trains young soldiers in "God's Army" at a camp in North Dakota. Some of the kids emerge as likable and bright, and eager to continue their work as pint-sized preachers; elsewhere, the visions of children speaking in tongues and falling to the floor in ecstasy are more troubling.

Even more arresting is the vision of a generation of children home-schooled to believe that the Bible is science, or Fischer's certainty that America's flawed system of democracy will someday be replaced by a theocracy. (In one scene, a cardboard cut-out of George W. Bush is presented to the children, who react by laying their hands on the figure as though in a religious procession.)

Filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady maintain neutrality about all this, maybe too much so (they throw in some interviews with radio host Mike Papantonio to provide a liberal-Christian viewpoint) and one would like to know more about the grown-ups presented here. Power broker Haggard is the creepiest person in the film, an insincere smooth talker whose advice to one of the young would-be campgoers comes across as entirely cynical. Time will tell whether the film's Christian soldiers will be marching onward.




As an aside, something I'd seen and didn't note during the Haggard affair was that one of panel of three or four pastors who were "counseling" Rev. Haggard after his little slip up in order to get him back in the game was none other than Tommy Barnett, a pastor who got his start building a mega-church in west Davenport before moving to greener pastures in Texas I believe. He's now one of the top dudes in the Wal-Mart type branch of Christian churches with spawling gargantuan churches and tens of thousands of members who make many, many, many millions of dollars from their flock and who then translate that into political clout as well.

Governor's budget falls short on WIU, makes business interests howl

Gov. Rod Blagojevich's proposed budget seemed to contain something for everyone to complain about. From short changing the WIU riverfront campus development to proposing a revenue based business tax, it was hard to find anyone saying something good about it, except perhaps on a Swedish website that appears to have simply copied and pasted Blago's press release.

The budget proposes the largest tax increase in the state's history along with a proposal to provide health care for those in need, increased education funding and funding for school construction.

It proposes spending $14 million dollars on the $75 million dollar WIU project.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Wednesday called for the largest tax increase in state history to pay for an ambitious program of expanding health-care coverage, increasing education funding and helping schools with construction projects.
Web extra: Read Blagojevich's speech


The proposed tax hikes, with no corresponding property tax relief, and a 10 percent increase in state spending drew a mixed response from lawmakers in both parties, ranging from tepid support to outright hostility.

In a 33-minute State of the State/ budget address before the General Assembly, the Democratic governor, as expected, called for a new tax on gross business receipts that would raise about $6 billion annually when fully implemented. He also called for a 3 percent payroll tax on businesses that don't provide health insurance for employees or that provide only bare-bones coverage, something that could generate another $1 billion.

Those tax increases would help pay for a $2.1 billion initiative to provide health insurance to 1.4 million Illinoisans not currently covered, a $1.5 billion increase for education and a $1.5 billion program to help schools with construction projects.

Blagojevich also said he wants to issue $16 billion in lower-interest bonds and lease the lottery for a projected $10 billion to pay down the $42 billion debt accumulated by the five state-funded pension systems.

Blagojevich described his budget plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1 as "prescribed by our collective conscience and by what I believe is a moral imperative." The $7 billion in tax hikes targeted at big business, he said, is a matter of fairness.

"The moral imperative is this: While the middle class pays more and huge corporations just walk, a child pays the price with increasingly crowded classrooms, the family in need of health care pays a price in health care they can't afford, the worker depending on a pension pays a price with a retirement that is no longer secure," Blagojevich said.

The D/A immediately found business types to howl about the proposal, including go-to guy, Bob Imler of River Stone, the same corporation which has projects slated for Big Island, and owns property where both the R.I. Casino is to be located as well as the property under the proposed Triumph hog slaughter plant, to decry the measure, as well as Moline Alderman Croty, who owns a metal plating business, and the owner of Teske's, who opined that the government is only to provide for defense, everything else should be determined by the market, a telling perspective.

The Chicago Tribune account put it:
Gaps in the Illinois health care system are more than a simple policy problem to Gov. Rod Blagojevich. They're a contradiction of God's intentions.

And state taxes aren't simply unfair. They "stick it to the people."

Trying to sell lawmakers and the public on his ambitious tax and health care proposals, Blagojevich framed the debate in terms of morality and class. Those who oppose him are, he suggested, turning their backs on what's right.

"To me, the choice is simple," the Chicago Democrat said Wednesday in his fifth State of the State address. "I stand with the people."

Some lawmakers accused Blagojevich of demonizing the opposition and using emotion to cloud an important debate.

"I want to cut through rhetoric and get down to the hard facts of what these things mean," said Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion.

Blagojevich proposed the biggest tax increase in Illinois history. He said the $7 billion in new business taxes should be used to provide health care to the uninsured and pump more money into public schools.

The state could cover 1.4 million uninsured adults, he said, while also providing a 23 percent increase in education spending next year alone.

Blagojevich argued that Illinois businesses don't pay their fair share of taxes, so taxing them more heavily would improve state services and ease the burden on regular people.

Rejecting the higher business taxes would "stick it to the people who clock into work, who count pennies and cut out vacations to make ends meet," he said.

The Chicago Democrat also proposed letting a private company take over the state lottery and borrowing billions of dollars. Those steps would generate about $26 billion that would be used to shore up the state's shaky retirement systems.

Business groups immediately condemned his proposals, particularly the taxes, as certain to drive up consumer prices and discourage companies from doing business in Illinois.


In an AP story on reaction to the plan, Sen. Jacobs is quoted as saying regarding Blago's plan to launch major new programs: "Do we really need new programs if our situation is so desperate we have to raise this kind of tax?"

He also indicated he'd hold his vote on the plan hostage to extort more money for the WIU project.


What's your two cents on the Governor's bold plan?

March 7, 2007

Blago's Budget speech today

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich will present his proposed state budget in a speech to the General Assembly tody, which means that among other things, we'll find out if he proposes funding for the multi-million dollar WIU riverfront campus project which he's previously said he'd support.

We'll see.

The speech is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and in a rather unique bit of high tech PR, the governor has arranged for the budget address to be broadcast to various locations around the state, assuming that people will want to gather together to listen to it much like people go to bars to watch pay-per-view wrestling or boxing matchs.

I assume that the Illinois Channel, which still has not been picked up by Mediacom in this area to my knowledge, will be broadcasting the event.

The gathering place to watch the Governor's speech locally is in Moline at The Clubhouse at Arbor Village, 900 E. 43rd Avenue. The location is apparently tucked away behind the Target store off 7th Street and south of John Deere Rd. and east of the 7th Street Trinity Hospital in Moline.

You Are There

Ever wonder what it would be like to go to a gathering of conservatives and just stroll around and talk to them? (I mean beyond going to a Chamber of Commerce meeting or Moline city council session.)

The Nation's Max Blumenthal did just that by actually going to the Conservative Political Action Conference or CPAC (where Ann Coulter is a beloved figure) and provides a short video of the experience for us to enjoy.

Thanks Max, for giving us a glimpse beyond the facade presented in the media. The Coulter remark was entirely ignored by the major media for days until the stir in the blogosphere forced them to address it. But this little video really gives the viewer a true taste of what today's conservatism is all about.

March 6, 2007

U of I falls short providing MBA scholarships above and beyond state grants for vets

Note: The following is a guest post by esteemed former fellow blogger "Huck Finn".

The University of Illinois Executive MBA program is breaking a promise of scholarships to Illinois vets and squandering an opportunity to build the premier EMBA program in the state. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) Exeutive MBA (EMBA) program is in a building across the street from the Sears Tower in Chicago. Students meet every other Friday and Saturday while they continue to work full time elsewhere and bring about 10 years of professional experience to the classroom.

The UIUC EMBA program is so overshadowed by Northwestern and U of Chicago's very highly-regarded MBA programs that I had no idea the program even existed until April 28th, 2006 when, during a Pentagon briefing, SECDEF Rumsfeld announced that the program would offer full scholarships to Illinois vets. The Illinois Veterans Grant program (IVG) provides returning Illinois vets with the equivalent of 4 years of tuition and fees at Illinois state schools. Since the UIUC's 21-month program is $72,000 (including a trip to China as part of the program) it exceeds the max amount the IVG will pay. The U of I had promised 110 scholarships to cover what remained after the IVG was paid out.

Here's a story from CS Monitor.

What a great deal, I thought. So I asked for some info and received a great package and a letter from Robert van der Hooning, the Assistant Dean. I called him one afternoon just to see if I got the story right and see if I was the kind of person he'd be interested in admitting to the program. It was true, 110 scholarships offered for the 2006-2007 academic year and expected to continue. He was building the program, and he envisioned that it would quickly become one of the best in the county. Since he was previously at Kellogg, I figured he knew how to make that happen. So, I put that idea in my hip pocket, and I've told countless other Illinois vets about it.

About a month ago, I was a guest at an event at Naval Station Great Lakes. I spoke with a young lieutenant who was one of our hosts. He told me that he planned to get out of the Navy at the end of his commitment, and I asked what his plans were when he left service. He told me he was a student at the UIUC EMBA program and he planned to stay in the Chicago area and look for work, since that's where he grew up. I was excited to meet someone who was in the program and asked him all about it. He enjoyed the academics and the others in his cohort, but he explained that there was a big stink with the veteran's scholarships for program and Mr. van der Hooning had left as a result. After hearing about it, I was shocked that such a great deal for vets was being cut at such an early point; and I was disappointed personally since Mr. van der Hooning and I had talked on the phone about what a great program he planned to build. I told him that he was lucky to be in the program and wished him the best of luck on his transition.

Since then, I've found out much more about the "stink" from some other vets that applied......and it is pungent! What at the surface could easily sound like a "misunderstanding" of expectations is clearly a case of broken promises. The best reporting on all of it comes from John Ruberry, who writes Marathon Pundit. John's post tells about the dirty details of how U of Illinois administrators went back on promises of scholarships and admissions, and how Mr. van der Hooning fought to do what was right...and lost his job.

You can read about it here.

Every part of it matches the stories I've heard from others, who all very clearly understood the process and what was being offered to them. Some chose to go elsewhere and some have fought back.