April 29, 2007

Let me say this about that

Not a lot going on, and I'm still swamped with other business.

Here's an open thread for you to discuss anything that's on your mind.

April 18, 2007

32 innocent young people killed for no reason

When 32 innocent young Americans, full of promise and in the bloom of youth are senselessly slaughtered, a stunned nation can only ask itself why and devote it's energies to ensuring that it stops and look for ways to prevent it ever occuring again.

What happens staggers the imagination, the carnage, suffering, fear and pain, the 32 families left with an unfillable void, shock, grief that will never quite be erased, and left with nothing but memories of their bright, vital sons and daughters and left wondering just what they would have achieved had they not met such a violent end..... in Iraq.

32 young Americans have been slaughtered in Iraq over the past 10 days. Doubtless you're just as filled with horror, shock, and overwhelming sorrow for the families as you are for the victims of the Virginia Tech horror show.

April 17, 2007

Election Day

Go out and vote, then come back and tell us who you voted for and why.

Who's going to win? Who's going to get trounced?

Will this election set all time records for low turnout?

April 16, 2007

Hare to chair House session

Congressman Phil Hare will be filling in for Rep. Kathy Castor D-FL and will chair the House floor Tuesday evening from 4pm - 6pm.

Catch it on C-Span. It's not as exciting as professional bowling, but more interesting than watching paint dry. Plus, you'll get to assess Phil's ability to read cards presented by the parlimentarian, recognize representitives as they get up to speak and tell them how much time they have left. And of course, maybe even a gavel bang or two.

Due to the stampede of lemming-like congressmen flocking down to Virginia Tech to take advantage of a tragedy and add nothing but further confusion, chaos, headache and trouble to an area already suffering enough, Rep. Hare won't be chairing the House debate today.

April 12, 2007

So long Kurt

One of my favorite writers has died. As he'd say, "And so it goes."

I've read every book he's ever written with the exception of his most recent, and I intend to read that soon.

Vonnegut has been likened to the 20th century's Mark Twain, his wit and wisdom in examining the absurdity and sheer stupidity of mankind, all with an engaging fatalistic wit, will endure alongside Twain and other of the world's great writers.

A confirmed aetheist, he won't have to worry about what sort of mumbo-jumbo he's facing at the moment. Vonnegut had a rational and bemused lack of respect for authority types anyway, and that surely included any possible dieties.

One of many memorable Vonnegut phrases that often spring to mind, especially when reading the impecilic comments that a few particularly freaked-out people are in the habit of sending, is this: "Take a flying fuck at a rolling donut. Take a flying fuck at the mooooooooon!"

Thanks for that Kurt. Thanks for everything. Hope they have plenty of Pall Mall straights wherever you're at.

The picture posted on Vonnegut's website commemorating his death. Also note that they somehow incorporate one of his more famous doodles of... well, what it looks like, in the URL.


I've written 2,248 posts and the old counter on the wall has recorded over 200,000 visits to The Inside Dope in its 26 months of existence. That's a lot.

Of course, some national blogs get that many visits and more in a single day, but for this area, which still seems confused as to what a blog is, it's respectable.

Even though it's only been a little over 2 years in doing this, it seems like 27. My sincere thanks to all those who have contributed and made it worthwhile.

And to those who've found a new purpose in life in attempting to insult and antagonize me over the last couple years, glad you've found something worthless to do with your time. To those folks, I'd like to extend a sincere invitation to kiss my ass. I look forward to laughing at your garbage for the next 2 years.

As is obvious, production here has been light lately due to many other important things that demand my atttention, but I expect to be back in full swing at some point down the road.

Thanks again to all those who have supported and contributed to the effort over the last two years.

Imus crucified

Without going into my feelings on the matter. (it's complete and utter overkill) since it's dominated the news for several days, here's a spot to express your feelings about the insensitive remarks of Don Imus and the subsequent uproar and his show being cancelled on MSNBC.

I've been a regular viewer of his show, watching it nearly every morning, so I have a different view than those who simply hear or read his comments out of context.

There's also the bizarre fact that while Imus says such things in an attempt at misguided humor, there are more than a few right wing radio hosts who regularly say far worse, and are entirely serious. Their intent is not to get laughs, but purely to denigrate and inspire hatred towards minorities.

Yet they get a free pass from the Revs. and their networks. Why is that?

Anyway, how do you see the situation? Did he get what he deserved, or are outside forces making a mountain out of a molehill?

April 10, 2007

Iowa Senate passes ammendment banning red light cameras

The Senate narrowly passed an amendment Monday to ban red-light cameras, which two judges have already ruled were unlawfully used to issue citations in central and eastern Iowa.

The amendment, which passed 28-22, is part of a larger transportation bill that heads to the House.

"I propose using police officers rather than red-light cameras to enforce safety in this state," said the amendment's sponsor, Sen. Pat Ward, R-West Des Moines.

Ward proposed the amendment after two judges ruled that traffic cameras in Clive and Davenport are unlawful. Both cities have suspended the camera systems while appeals are processed.

Ward said the cameras are an invasion of privacy and wrongly target the owner of the offending vehicle, not the driver.

Sometimes they get it right.

April 8, 2007

Mercenary "military for hire" corporation building training camp in Jo Daviess County

One of the most under-reported stories of the Iraq disaster is the fact that the Bush administration and the neo-con ideologues who designed it determined before the war that it should be the first "privatized" war. Plans were made to contract out a huge portion of what the military had always done itself to outside, and of course, closely connected corporations, many of which sprang into sudden existence simply to reap the billions of dollars available in no-bid, no-accountibility contracts.

Among the largest members of the "coalition of the billing" in addition to Halliburton/Kellog Brown & Root, is Blackwater USA, literally an army for hire being paid untold millions of your tax dollars with no accountibility whatsoever.
Blackwater USA is a private military contractor offering "tactical training," firing range and target systems, and security consulting under the company's subdivisions: Blackwater Training Center, Blackwater Target Systems, Blackwater Security Consulting and Blackwater Canine. According to its website, Blackwater provides "a spectrum of support to military, government agencies, law enforcement and civilian entities in training, targets and range operations as a solution provider." Their slogan is: "Providing a new generation of capability, skills, and people to solve the spectrum of needs in the world of security."

Blackwater USA was co-founded by former Navy Seal Erik Prince, a "billionaire right-wing fundamentalist Christian from a powerful Michigan Republican family. A major Republican campaign contributor, he interned in the White House of President George H.W. Bush and campaigned for Pat Buchanan in 1992. He founded the mercenary firm Blackwater USA in 1997 with Gary Jackson, another former Navy SEAL."

Prince's father, Edgar Prince, and Gary Bauer started the Family Research Council, where Prince interned. Prince's sister, Betsy DeVos, is a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party.

Blackwater USA received no-bid contracts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and "post-Katrina New Orleans" from the current Bush administration.

5 blackwater mercenaries were killed when their helicopter crashed in central Bagdhad, 7 more were killed two years ago in another helicopter crash, bringing the number of Blackwater guns for hire killed to 21 at that time.

It was Blackwater employees that ended up being torched and hung from a bridge in southern Iraq a few years ago,
Blackwater—and private military contractors in general—came under increased public scrutiny following the public killing and mutilation of four employees in Fallujah, Iraq on March 31, 2004. This increased scrutiny lead the firm to hire the Alexander Strategy Group for crisis management, public and media relations.

According to Russel Mokhiber and Robert Weissman, a few days after the Fallujah killings, "Blackwater Security Consulting engaged in full-scale battle in Najaf, with the company flying its own helicopters amidst an intense firefight to resupply its own commandos."

Blackwater has virtually no accountibility to the congress or anyone else, yet are reaping enormous profits and providing essentially a rogue, completely independent military force in Iraq and elsewhere.

Business has been so good, they're now building a multi-million dollar para-military training facility right in our back yard.

The "City Barbs" blogger "Treefieldsky" recently posted an excellent and rather shocking account of the goings on 50 miles to the north of the Quad Cities.

Of course, the local press completely missed this, but will hopefully give it it's deserved attention sometime soon.
The stillness of tree lined Skunk Hollow Road in Jo Daviess County Illinois, twenty miles from the beautiful Palisades along the Mississippi River, will soon be shattered by gunfire. Not the gun fire of wild turkey hunters but the gunfire from a new training facility for the most powerful mercenary army in the world, Blackwater USA.

I had a view of Blackwater’s new Illinois facility that is usually reserved for the hawks circling overhead. I stood on-top their climbing/rappelling/shooting tower looking down at the bulldozers busy moving tons of earth to create more shooting ranges.

On eighty acres in this isolated corner of Illinois, one hundred miles from Chicago, Blackwater is creating another large training site. This site will eventually, according to Blackwater North’s vice deputy Eric Davis, compare to their headquarters in North Carolina. They have a full schedule of classes ready to roll beginning April 9th with a pistol shooting course that is already three over capacity. The first three weeks of courses are filled and the others are filling fast.

Many thanks to "yinn" for bringing this matter to my attention.

April 4, 2007

Obama releases fund raising numbers

In a PR coup, building up the suspense for a few days and successfully ensuring that his figures would command a lot of attention, Barack Obama's campaign today revealed that their first quarter fundraising had brought in $25 million, within a million of top fund raiser of the Democratic field, Hillary Clinton.

Initial reaction among the jabbering class was that this was really amazing.

In terms of sheer piles of cash, the number is indeed huge, and it's very impressive in light of the fact that Obama essentially didn't exist a few years ago in terms of national attention, as well as the fact that he came within a dimes worth of difference to Hillary's total with her extensive and vast political and fundraising network built up over decades.

Comments? Reaction? What does it mean? Or, more likely, does it really mean anything at all?

April 2, 2007

Boland bill craters

This is old news... at least a few days... but I wanted to note it. Rep. Mike Boland's bill to ban smoking in cars in the presence of young children went down in flames, 91-18.

Guess it's proof that you can take nanny-state legislation only so far.

And that the system that makes legislators literally desperate to find something, ANYthing to put their name on and introduce often results in hare-brained ideas, and far, far, far too many laws in general.

When legislators behave like they're being paid by the bill, and when they crow about the number of bills they've authored or glommed onto as if it's some sort of score card, bad things result.

When candidate A says of candidate B, "Well, look, he's only sponsored 10 bills!", don't think that's a bad thing. 10 decent and half-way justified bills is far better than 50 half-baked, useless, and needlessly restrictive bills anyday.

McCain, Leiberman right as always... Iraq is going great!

The U.S. military death toll in March, the first full month of the security crackdown, was nearly twice that of the Iraqi army, which American and Iraqi officials say is taking the leading role in the latest attempt to curb violence in the capital, surrounding cities and Anbar province, according to figures compiled on Saturday.
Yet Lieberman and McCain are still crowing about the progress in Iraq. Lieberman, in yet another disgusting utterance, recently said that "at last" there were signs of real progress in Iraq, ignoring the fact that he's been touting how well things are going there for years. "at last"?

And McCain tossed away his last shred of "straight talk" cred by saying that it's so safe in Bagdhad that generals routinely go driving around in unarmed Humvees and people can just stroll around at will.

This at the same time people INSIDE the fortified Green Zone where the "important" Americans hide, were ordered that they should never go outdoors without a flak-jacket and helmet, as several people have been killed inside the Green Zone by recent mortar attacks.

What planet are these folks on?

Comments, the lost episodes

I just checked out the place where all comments go to live until they're moderated and to my great regret, found at least a dozen or more which had somehow slipped through the cracks (more like got lost amongst so many messages).

I've posted those that made sense and apologize to the authors for the delay.

I'll try to check for lost comments more often in the future.


Illinois is considering a bill which would allow "civil unions" between same-sex couples. OK, fine. No problem there.

It's supporters explain that they went with the semantically less threatening "civil union" rather than marriage due to some legislators who had religious problems with voting for a same sex marriage bill, but change the words to civil union, and they may go for it.

Leaving that bit of silliness aside, someone explain Sen. Jacobs remarks on the issue please.
"This strikes me as just feel-good legislation that doesn't address the issue. If they want gay marriage, they should introduce a gay marriage bill. That would be more honest than a `civil union' bill. I would be more amenable to a gay marriage bill than this," said Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline.

When pressed, Sen. Jacobs said he believes marriage should only be between "a man and a woman" and said he would vote against a gay marriage bill, as well.
That's hilarious!! He lays out all this junk in which he essentially takes the Republican stance on the important issue, as he very often does, and makes a valid point that he thinks it should be more honestly labeled gay marriage, rather than civil-union. Heck, if that were the case, Sen. Jacobs says, he'd be more amenable to it.

Then when "pressed", he spouts the typical Republican talking point about the issue then says he'd vote against the marriage bill he had just said he'd be amenable to. Pure comedy gold! ha!

Wow. Guess he kind of makes it up as he goes along. Ah well.

But Sen. Jacobs father Denny is doing something that will actually help people. It's very much worth noting and commending former Senator Jacobs for using his considerable skills at lobbying to help establish the new Oak Glenn Home in Moline. This is a hell of a lot more noble and helpful than being the gaming industry's guy in the Senate, and though a lot less lucrative, I'm sure it's a lot more satisfying.

Hat's off to Denny and the effort he's bringing to help care for our area's elderly and insure that even those who don't have a half million laying around can still be cared for with the dignity they deserve in their later years.

They say that a society can be judged by the way they treat their elderly. Denny's helping on that score.

Bush administration, neanderthals being left behind on global warming.

The Supremes hand the know-nothings a defeat, another step in dragging them kicking and screaming into confronting reality.
The Supreme Court ordered the federal government on Monday to take a fresh look at regulating carbon dioxide emissions from cars, a rebuke to Bush administration policy on global warming.

In a 5-4 decision, the court said the Clean Air Act gives the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from cars.

Greenhouse gases are air pollutants under the landmark environmental law, Justice John Paul Stevens said in his majority opinion.

The court's four conservative justices -- Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas -- dissented.

Many scientists believe greenhouse gases, flowing into the atmosphere at an unprecedented rate, are leading to a warming of the Earth, rising sea levels and other marked ecological changes.

The politics of global warming have changed dramatically since the court agreed last year to hear its first global warming case.

"In many ways, the debate has moved beyond this," said Chris Miller, director of the global warming campaign for Greenpeace, one of the environmental groups that sued the EPA. "All the front-runners in the 2008 presidential campaign, both Democrats and Republicans, even the business community, are much further along on this than the Bush administration is."
The court had three questions before it.

--Do states have the right to sue the EPA to challenge its decision?

--Does the Clean Air Act give EPA the authority to regulate tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases?

--Does EPA have the discretion not to regulate those emissions?

The court said yes to the first two questions. On the third, it ordered EPA to re-evaluate its contention it has the discretion not to regulate tailpipe emissions. The court said the agency has so far provided a "laundry list" of reasons that include foreign policy considerations.

The majority said the agency must tie its rationale more closely to the Clean Air Act.

"EPA has offered no reasoned explanation for its refusal to decide whether greenhouse gases cause or contribute to climate change," Stevens said. He was joined by his liberal colleagues, Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter, and the court's swing voter, Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The lawsuit was filed by 12 states and 13 environmental groups that had grown frustrated by the Bush administration's inaction on global warming.

Money, it's a hit

It's gotten to the point where the money spend (some might argue squandered) on political campaigns could probably provide free health care for hundreds of thousands of children in America. That alone is a pretty sick symptom of our societal health.

But for those who still manage to read of the millions as if it's some abstract concept, not real money, and get more excited about the fund-raising race as it relates to points scored in a ballgame, then the fundraising totals for the leading candidates are something to look at without dismay.

Hilary Clinton lead the pack, having raised $26 million bucks from New Year's Day until the end of March. Together with the $10 million she transfered from her senate campaign treasury, she's sitting on top of a cool $36 million dollars.

John Edwards, who's funding no doubt got a boost from the grace with which his wife and he addressed her latest bad news, reported raising $14 million.

No figures from Obama as yet, though they will be awaited with interest.

On the Republican side, the numbers are similarly huge, and unprecidented. (Must be a LOT of people so rich they can throw money at candidates this early.)

Mitt Romney reported raising $23 million in the first quarter, which is stunning to me. (well, there are a lot of wealthy Mormons) and Tutti-Frutti, ahhh Rudy Giuliani reports raising a cool $15 million, $10 million of which aides said was raised during March alone.

Is this steady climb towards obscene amounts of campaign cash in order to even have a shot reached such extremes that some alternative scheme to finance campaigns might have a shot?

Or will the campaign industry continue to expand, becoming an even larger cash cow for TV stations, and the seeming millions of campaign "consultants" and campaign firms of every stripe which seem to multiply like algae, pocketing fat checks for telling politicians how to best dupe us all, be convincingly fake, and on the flip side, how to best demonize opponents?

Where will it end? Each vote costing $500? Why not just pay the voters?

What are your thoughts on the insane amount of campaign cash being spent?

Real estate mogul takes over Tribune Co., plans to sell Cubbies

Real estate mogul Sam Zell has succeeded in his bid to take control of newspaper publisher Tribune Co.

Zell agreed to take Tribune private in a deal that values the company at $13 billion, or $34 a share.

Tribune also announced it would sell the Chicago Cubs baseball team after the 2007 baseball season ends in a move to relieve some of its debt.

Man.... this is sure to cause wringing of hands in Cubville. What sort of cravenly commercial fools might end up running the sainted Cubs??

Of course, the title record couldn't get much worse... but it could nonetheless. And what if the new owners try to tinker with things ... or even move out of Wrigley Field? Scary stuff indeed.

I know! I got a few hundred bucks. Why don't you pitch in a little and we can buy the Cubs. They'll be holding the World Series trophy inside of 5 years! All we need is a few million more people to pitch in a few hundred clams and it'll be a done deal!

And as to the Trib.... well, that too will likely never be the same, as the new owner will likely try all sorts of wacky things to transition to focusing more heavily on online ventures. Another of the rapidly dwindling number of major dailies may be changed forever. Yikes.