July 31, 2007

Illinois budget crisis prompts rumors of possible government shut-down

Capital Fax has a post of the minute by minute drama revolving around the truly collossal budget battle. (If you're into that sort of thing.) More on the story in the Springfield Journal-Register.

Stunt pilot Jim LeRoy, featured at Davenport Air Show, killed in crash

Yet another incredibly talented and brilliant stunt pilot has lost his life in the risky pursuit of pushing aerobatics to the limit.

Jim LeRoy adds fluids to his Bulldog bi-plane before his recent performance at the Davenport Air Show. (click to enlarge)

Jim LeRoy, just recently featured in the coverage of the Davenport Air Show on this site, died after his Bulldog stunt plane struck the ground and errupted in flames at an airshow in Dayton, Ohio. LeRoy hit the ground at 200 mph after failing to pull out of a loop.

The Bulldog at the Davenport Air Show

Firefighting units responded immediately and LeRoy was cut out of the plane and evacuated in a Blackhawk helicopter but pronounced dead at the hospital. The local coroner reported that he died instantly, breaking his neck upon impact.

LeRoy lost his two partners in the "Masters of Disaster" aerobatics team just two years ago when they collided over an airshow in Saskatchewan Canada. LeRoy, though in the air at the time, wasn't involved.

In addition to being a world-class aerobatics pilot, LeRoy was also a former Marine, and an aeronautical engineer, graduating from the University of Illinois and had worked as a design engineer for GE aircraft engines previous to becoming a stunt pilot.

LeRoy leaves behind a 4 yr old son. Truly a tragic loss.

The Dayton Daily News has a slide show of the incident here. Links to video, slideshow, and diagram of how the incident occured as well as related stories from the paper HERE, and an article describing eye-witness accounts is here.

July 25, 2007

Smoking ban takes effect in Illinois

I think it's really over-reaching and unjustified.

But what do you think?

I realize this is likely a futile effort, as those who don't smoke will simply say it's a good thing, ignoring the larger issues of individual rights, whether such a ban is justified or even needed, etc. and smokers won't like it.

But perhaps even some non-smokers out there might see where it could be considered over-reaching. After all, I'm not sure it's anywhere in the consitution that government should ensure that no one ever be annoyed at any time. (and arguing that non-smokers are harmed by "second-hand smoke" argument doesn't fly in my opinion. Not only is evidence sketchy at best, it's hard to see how anyone could be damaged in any substantial way by breathing some wisps of smoke from someone sitting far from them, or how they could be harmed by a venue such as the Mark having an outdoor smoking area.)

Anyone given this any thought?

Is it the job of government to be health zealots? Is it their job to ban anyone from freely choosing to smoke in public? Isn't the fact that smokers contribute literally hundreds of millions in taxes enough to make up for any possible cost to society from smokers?

Obama, Clinton non-story puts Davenport, QC Times on the map

During Monday's "Countdown with Keith Olberman" on MSNBC, they were discussing the really disgusting effort by the press to try to find and over-hype even the slightest sign of conflict between candidates, and between Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton in particular.

During the CNN debate where people could submit video questions via YouTube, a question was asked whether the candidates would talk with our enemys. Obama, simply seeing an opportunity to state that he thought the Bush policy of refusing to talk to our "enemies" is stupid and counter-productive, said that the idea that refusing to talk to countries like Iran and Syria is some sort of punishment is ridiculous, which it is.

Clinton then jumped in and said that she wouldn't meet with any leaders of any "bad" countries because she didn't want to be used for propaganda, etc.

Not that big a deal, but boy the feverish imaginations of the political press, which truly function more like they're reporting on Hollywood or for E! television, were quick to try to make this a big deal.

It was not quite as ridiculous and insulting as when they tried to make a big play out of the fact that Hillary showed a teensy bit of cleavage while speaking on the Senate floor (what's WRONG with these people) and they then made up the stupid idea that this was all a calculated response to something they made up, namely, that Elizabeth Edwards comments somehow implied that Clinton wasn't feminine enough.

I mean, it's all so high-school, so purile and just plain dumb, not to mention that it's an appalling failure of the press to actually DO THEIR JOB and inform the public about important matters.

But anyway.....

In discussing the Obama/Clinton non-story, Olberman twice quoted an Ed Tibbetts piece in the Quad City Times in which both candidates responded to the other as the press desperately tried to fan the flames into some sort of conflict. They're itching for an Obama/Clinton fight so bad they can barely contain themselves.

When Clinton used the words, "irresponsible" and "naive", to describe Obama's response, they almost wet their pants. In that respect they resemble nothing more than a bunch of high schoolers trying to get two popular kids to fight. Once you think about it, the press truly does behave like juveniles, cattily discussing hair styles and clothes as if they are more important than what candidates are actually saying.

But what I started out to say, is that the Quad City Times actually had both candidates responding, and it was picked up by the national press. Olberman even said "Davenport".... wow!

And that's not all. One of the video questions choosen from among thousands to actually air for the candidates was from Davenport as well. It was from a woman who was sitting next to her mother, who, she explained, had diabetes. The woman stated the dismal statistics about the rise in the disease and problems getting proper care and asked the candidates what they would do about it. It was very well done.

So two Davenport mentions on national media in one night. Woohoo!

July 11, 2007

Not that fun at all

Last Thursday, in a split second, my computer turned into a very expensive paper-weight. It locked up, froze up, melted down... in short, it refused to do anything except run the cooling fans full blast.

From what I could gather, it looked like it may have been a hard drive failure, which would have led to heart failure on my part. But much to my surprise, I was able to get through to an ENGLISH speaking tech guy in minutes, who promptly had me doing open-heart surgery on the thing to try to isolate the problem. He said (from Timbuktu or wherever he was) that he thought I needed a new motherboard. Oh boy.

So I sat back to await the call from the computer repair guy who would come over to my place and scare the crap out of me as he rooted around in my computer like it was an in line 6 cylinder or something.

They said 3 to 6 days... and the magic geek showed up in two.. not bad. He slammed around and replaced the motherboard, then had me biting my nails as he roughly switched the processor from the old to the new board, plugged in all my expansion cards (not in the same places, which wasn't good) and booted it up. It didn't work. It was worse than it was before.

Now even the cooling fans didn't work. Nothing happened. He snarkily said "We have problems." Oh wonderful.

Then I looked over the situation, saw that he'd plugged it into a power strip (this was at a Dopette's house, not Dope Manor) and after a moment's desperate thinking, I said, "Maybe if I flip this wall switch...." upon which the thing whirred to life. Close call.

Long story longer, everything appears to be back in fine shape... no data loss, no damage. After rupturing a few discs lugging the thing around and putting it back in place, including at least 1,385 cables and wires which I had to locate and plug and/or screw into the correct spots on the back of the computer BY FEEL, and a few tweaks here and there, it was good as new.

I can breath again.

It was so bad without a computer that I actually accomplished all sorts of long delayed chores and read about 350 pages of a book I'd been reading sporadically and finished it. (Doris Kernes Goodwin's "Team of Rivals", about Lincoln and his cabinet, an excellent book. Highly recommended.) It almost got to the point where I was considering initiating human contact in person.

It was sheer hell.

But just wanted to let you know the reason there's been nothing new here and no comments have been posted. That was the reason. There still might not be much new on the blog, but not due to technical problems.

July 10, 2007

The cause is lost, whatever it was.

Like many Americans, we have put off that conclusion, waiting for a sign that President Bush was seriously trying to dig the United States out of the disaster he created by invading Iraq without sufficient cause, in the face of global opposition, and without a plan to stabilize the country afterward.

At first, we believed that after destroying Iraq’s government, army, police and economic structures, the United States was obliged to try to accomplish some of the goals Mr. Bush claimed to be pursuing, chiefly building a stable, unified Iraq. When it became clear that the president had neither the vision nor the means to do that, we argued against setting a withdrawal date while there was still some chance to mitigate the chaos that would most likely follow.

While Mr. Bush scorns deadlines, he kept promising breakthroughs — after elections, after a constitution, after sending in thousands more troops. But those milestones came and went without any progress toward a stable, democratic Iraq or a path for withdrawal. It is frighteningly clear that Mr. Bush’s plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost.
From an editorial in the New York Times HERE. (subscription may be required)


A Delta Queen

No, I'm not talking about some transvestite from Houma, but the real Delta Queen.

It's not often that she passes through the area, but I've been lucky enough to catch her on a few occasions, each time entirely by happenstance, as was this time when she passed through on Sunday the 8th.

Click to enlarge. Stacks are lowered for bridge clearance.

Built in 1926, the 81 year old Delta Queen has a remarkable history, and is the last true steam powered sternwheeler in existence. The boat is 285 ft long and carries a crew of 80 to accommodate up to 174 guests.

A trip to her engine room is like a trip back in time, with plenty of heat, oil, and grease around the massive steam engines and a maze of pushrods, valves, and pipes.

When I visited the boat several years ago, I talked to a deckhand who took me on a quick tour. At the time, there was an elderly african-american gentleman who had lived nearly his entire life on board the Delta Queen having been taken on as an employee when he was a boy.

There's also tales of hauntings by Betty Blake, the woman who was president of the Delta Queen Steamboat Company for many years, and many other interesting tales regarding this national historic landmark's long history.

The Delta Queen was actually built near Glasgow Scotland, and shipped in pieces to Sacramento California where it and her sister ship, the Delta King, were assembled and put into service running the Sacramento River between San Fransisco and Sacramento.

When an Ohio man purchased the boat, the Delta Queen was towed from San Fransisco into the Pacific, through the Panama Canal, and up into the Gulf where it made it's way to New Orleans, then steamed up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers before ending it's 5000 mile journey in Pittsburg where it underwent a refitting.

Sunday afternoon I heard the Queen's 1897 steam calliope playing (seen on the top deck above the paddlewheel) but couldn't see where it was coming from. I suspected it must be the Delta Queen, as you don't hear that distinctive sound too often. One of my favorite pictures is of my grandfather playing that very calliope. But it was only later that she appeared and glided past followed by the distinctive washboard wake produced by the sternwheel churning up the muddy water into crests several feet high.

It's always a thrill to me to catch a glimpse of this piece of history, especially one so intimately linked to the Mississippi herself.

Sharing a few sips with like-minded friends... what could be better?

The Moline chapter of Drinking Liberally is currently without an organizer. The job requires next to no effort, other than simply sending a weekly reminder to those signed up for the email list. It's a piece of cake. Surely someone could take on this worthwhile task. If you wanted to put a little effort into it, you might be able to grow it into a very popular social scene for people to get together and find out what's going on.

From the national DL organizer:

Dear Moline Liberal Drinkers,

We're looking for hosts for your local Drinking Liberally. Hosting Drinking Liberally is EASY! All you have to do is decide on a location and time and send out reminders. We set you up with a mailing
list and alias email and it's simple. Monthly, you'll receive emails from me and have the chance to participate in a national conference call.

Overall, it's no more difficult than getting some friends together.

It works best if people team up. So whether you have a friend you would like to work with or not, just let me know if you're interested and I'll link you with another interested leader.

Keep Moline connected to the network of 200+ other Drinking Liberally groups nationwide.

Any questions, feel free to send me an email.


Josh Bolotsky

Nat'l Program Associate

Living Liberally


July 8, 2007

Incompetent? Fervently believe in way-out ideology? Willing to have thousands die because of your misguided beliefs? Then we've got the spot for you.

If you're incompetent, been languishing on the fringes of serious thought for a long time, not really good at much except churning out twisted, convoluted intellectual cases in support of policies that will result in the death of thousands and unspeakable horror, the Bush company wants you. Sure, your crack-pot ideas will make a lot of people vastly rich, and of course you expect to be set for life for your trouble.

Well, not to worry. In Bushworld, cronyism is the name of the gang, and no one goes unrewarded for their service in enriching the rich over the dead bodies of the poor.

Here, failure and incompetence on a massive and deadly scale is not punished, but richly rewarded. After all, gotta keep you happy and filthy rich or else you might get the silly idea to actually spill the beans.

Being a Bushie means never having to say you're sorry.

Take a stroll down memory lane and find out what the primary architects, leaders, and cheerleaders for the deadly fiasco in Iraq have been up to.

Where are they now?

July 5, 2007

Yeah, but he was a Democrat

Republican hypocrisy has long ago moved past the shameless point, but I found this glaring example interesting. Click on picture to view larger version.

Thanks to an alert reader for sending this along.


Hope you all still have all your fingers and eardrums intact post 4th. It's this time of year that I recall the brilliance of a pal of mine who, while riding in a car on the 4th decided to toss a big pack of firecrackers out the window.

He lit the fuse and then frantically cranked the window knob to toss them out within the second or two before they started exploding. (Yes, cars used to actually have things you had to crank to raise or lower the windows which required moving more than your pinkie finger. Amazing, but true.)

Only there was one tiny detail he'd overlooked; the window was already down. So he'd lit the pack of firecrackers, quickly cranked the window UP, tossed the fireworks against the now closed window, which resulted in them falling into his lap and blowing up in a deafening blizzard of bits of paper and sulfurous smoke.

He didn't get hurt as I recall, but I'm sure that the occupants of the car were half-deaf for a few days. So remember kids, check that window BEFORE you light the explosives.

Here's a few shots from the "Red, White, & Boom" fireworks shoot between Rock Island & Davenport on the 3rd. They followed a dramatic come from behind win by the Swing over the Clinton Lumberkings in the bottom of the 9th at John O'Donnell stadium.

As always, click on image to view larger.

The display was over the river with the soon to be no more Rock Island Armory in the background.

Oooooooooooo. Ahhhhhhhhhhh.
And if I have to listen to that nauseatingly insipid Lee Greenwood song one more time I'm going to hurl.

The grand finale starts...

...and the rockets red glaaaaaaaaare.

Smoke billows from the launching barge below a riot of exploding colors.

...and the sky glimmers with color before fading to black.

And of course, you can't stand within a mile of the Centennial Bridge with a camera and not take at least one shot of it.

July 3, 2007

Calling Dr. Hartley

Just a note to the few thumb-sucking angry, angry clods who still manage to find the repressed rage to lash out at me on a daily basis, even though I haven't written for weeks. Keep those hilarious comments coming! They make my day. You could be a little more creative, as hitting the same dumb themes gets old after reading them about 300 times or so. Surely you can pull yourself together enough to have an original thought, even if it's half-baked. I like to print them out and show them to my friends. They're always a hit.

By the way, someone said your breath always smelled like butterscotch. I thought that was odd, until they explained that I missheard them. They'd said it always smelled like butt or scotch. That was more easy to believe.

Speaking of crooks and habitual liars, what do you think of "Scooter" getting let off of serving his sentence? The Bush crime family always takes care of it's own. Scooter lied his ass off to protect Cheney and the administration and it's very hard to imagine that there wasn't some sort of deal worked out back then to let him skate on serving time if he continued to falsely lie to the court about Cheney's illegal activities.

He's getting fined a quarter million dollars, money that he's gotten several times over from wealthy right wing donors as well as other misguided boobs who think the rule of law should only apply to their political enemies. (of course these same people were the ones screaming "what about the CHILDREN" and saying that the entire system of law would be undermined if Clinton weren't impeached for supposed perjury, the very charge for which Scooter Libby was tried,convicted, and sentenced for.)

So the fine is a nothing, his multi-million dollar legal fees are already taken care of, and he'll no doubt be taken care of for life. Crime pays when you're hanging with the Bushies.

Bush says he respects the jury who convicted Libby. But this is the same guy who mocked Karla Fay Tucker pleading for her life before ordering her execution, which hundreds of prominent figures, including the Pope himself, opposed and pleaded with Bush to not carry out. But if you're someone protecting them from getting exposed as the tyrants they are who believe that the law does not apply to them, then when you get convicted and sentenced to prison (a cushy one at that), Bush finds it too harsh a punishment.

Funny, ain't it?