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April 29, 2005

Huh? naturally follows when the gov talks

The main reason people are all the time thinking Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is up to something is because the gov's all the time doing something that makes no sense whatsoever.
Current case in point is his insistence that the state's Riverboat Gambling Act be amended to permit members of the gaming board to also serve on some other public body at the same time.

The gov says the change, which is unlikely to happen, is needed so that Sheila Simon, daughter of former Sen. Paul Simon, can serve on the gaming board without having to resign from the Carbondale City Council. Ms. Simon says she's willing to do the gaming board gig, but doesn't feel like she ought to forsake her duties to Carbondale.
But changing a good rule to accommodate an individual is hardly good policy. Ms. Simon is no doubt a wonderful person and would be a good gaming board member, but there are something more than 12 million people in Illinois and someone else can surely be found.

Here's a recent story on gaming board issues.

Posted by jcb at 03:09 PM | Comments (0)

Iowa Values? Civility used to be one

State Rep. Jamie Van Fossen of Davenport had to be restrained from going after Rep. Paul Wilderdyke during a Thursday incident at the state house.
The two Republican lawmakers nearly came to blows during a debate on the Iowa Values Fund.
Iowa values....hmmm, didn't those used to include civility among lawmakers?

Posted by jcb at 09:43 AM | Comments (0)

April 27, 2005

Let's leave vengeance to the Lord

The drive to re-instate the death penalty in Iowa is doomed, despite the anger stirred by the recent murder of a child in Cedar Rapids and the fact that two-thirds of the state's adults favor it.

Senate co-president Michael Gronstal says he'll continue to make sure the Senate doesn't consider the bill, and Gov. Tom Vilsack is sure to veto it if it does make it through the Legislature. I find, somewhat surprisingly, that I'm glad.

Never had a big problem with the death penalty for a good many years. Some people richly deserve to get fried and I'll shed no tear for the likes of Timothy McVeigh and a lot of others who've met the executioner. But ...

The "buts" started weighing heavily over the last few years, as inmate after inmate on Illinois' death row was proven to be innocent of the crime that put them there. The count's at 13 now, and Illinois is hardly the only state with a problem. Since 1973, 119 people on the death rows of 25 states have been exonerated.
One hundred and nineteen is a big number, too big for any person of conscience to ignore.

Illinois is trying to repair its death penalty law so that it can continue to execute the deserving, without worrying about killing the innocents. If that can be done, fine and good.

In the meantime, though, we know that the number of innocent people executed in Iowa since 1965 is zero. That's a number that's pretty easy to live with, as more and more Iowans acknowledge. Though 67 percent favor the death penalty, the number is down from 81 percent in 1993. Given that the most recent poll was taken in the wake of a highly publicized child murder, even the 67 percent figure may be a spike upward.

Iowa was among the first states to abolish the death penalty, and it's hardly become a hotbed of murder and a haven for murderers as a result. Only three states have lower murder rates than Iowa's 1.6 per 100,000 residents. Interestingly enough, of the 13 states with the lowest murder rates, eight are no-death penalty states, which pretty much destroys the death-penalty-as-deterrent argument.

I've been among those who've argued in support of the death penalty by saying it makes no sense to pay for keeping someone in prison for life; just kill 'em and save the money. Even this argument is falling as a hard look at the numbers indicates, however counter-intuitively, that executions are more expensive than a life-without-parole system. There's considerable controversy on this topic, given that anti-death penalty advocates were early sources for the numbers.

But rigorous official studies in Tennessee, North Carolina and Kansas, among other places, support the assertion that life-without-parole is a significantly less expensive option.

So the death penalty really isn't a deterrent, and it's more costly than the life-without parole option. What's left to justify it?

Not much, except vengeance, and "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord."

Let's leave it to Him.

John Beydler is news editor at Quad-Cities Online. email johnbeyd@qconline.com

Posted by jcb at 03:26 PM | Comments (4)

April 25, 2005

A bottom-feeder surfaces

Iowa State Sen. Mark Zieman, who called state workers asking for better pensions, "bottom feeders with their hands out" turns out to have quite a handful himself.
Sen. Zieman and his wife have collected something more than $1 million in farm subsidies.
"I readily admit I am one of those people who is using the system," said Zieman. "I don't like the system, but I know how to work the system."
And I ever so naively thought elected officials who didn't like the system worked to change it rather than milk it.

Posted by jcb at 04:23 PM | Comments (1)

Arrested teachers strike back

Good luck to Alice McCabe and Christine Nelson, a pair of 50-something school teachers from Cedar Rapids. They're suing the Secret Service, the Iowa Highway Patrol and the Linn County Sheriff's office for arresting them outside a political rally for President Bush last September.
The two were charged with interference with official acts, but the charges were later dismissed. Their real offense apparently was holding up anti-war placards.
Lot of people got hassled by officialdom during last year's campaign for nothing more than holding up signs or wearing tee shirts with anti-Bush messages at or near Bush rallies.
Be nice if some of the officials who so willingly strangled peaceful freedom of expression had to pay for it.
The hassling is still going on, too. Activists Ask Who Led Them From Bush Event

Posted by jcb at 01:35 PM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2005

Just a coincidence

Interesting, isn't it, how there always seems to be a politician's relative available and "qualified" when a new job of questionable value is created in government.
The job: Director of program outreach for Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
The pay: $60,000 a year.
The politician's relative: Leticia Reyes, whose uncle is Victor Reyes, a former aide to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and chairman of the Hispanic Democratic Organization. Here's the story
Here's another recent one

Posted by jcb at 11:42 AM | Comments (0)

April 21, 2005

Down on the Davenport levee

The good news is that we Davenport residents are going to get a chance to officially tell the city what we think of the plan to build a 10-story casino hotel on the downtown riverfront, about where the building housing the former Dock restaurant is now.

I'm not real crazy about the fact the opportunity to talk is costing $31,500 to pay a consulting firm "facilitation" fees, but city administrator Craig Malin insisted city staff doesn't really have what it takes to quickly translate whatever we say into reports complete with financial and design data.

The public "input" hearings are coming early next month. Plan on being there.

The city council, in the meantime, has declined to call off negotiations with the Isle of Capri Corp., which wants to build the hotel. Karl Rhomberg of the levee commission and Ald. Keith Meyer are among those suggestng the talks with IOC are premature until the public hearings are over.

Here are details on the public hearings, from the city website. The link is to a longish .pdf document. The info regarding the hearings begins on page 13.

Posted by jcb at 11:13 AM | Comments (5)

April 20, 2005

Bring on them chocolates

Here's some mighty good news: The government says it's been overstating the dangers of being fat.

That's certainly pushing things the right direction. I just know that someday we'll figure out that the secret to eternal life is laying about munching Snicker bars and smoking three packs of Camel straights every day.

Posted by jcb at 03:32 PM | Comments (0)

Of conscience and medicine

You go and see your doc, who decides you need this or that med, writes you a prescription and sends you off to the drug store.

There, the pharmacist takes a look at the scrip and tells you to forget it -- filling it would violate his/her moral principles. So, you're told, you should just bug off and go someplace else or come back later when maybe some morally inferior person will be on duty and will deign to do their job.

There you stand, slack-jawed in disbelief, ambushed in the cultural wars.

The Illinois front erupted this month when a couple of Chicago-area pharmacists refused to fill birth-control prescriptions. Gov. Rod Blagojevich, sensing a headline, issued an "emergency" order requiring pharmacies that sell contraceptives to fill birth-control prescriptions without delay. A couple of different pharmacists quickly filed suit against the governor, arguing that his order is an unenforceable violation of state law, and would require them to act contrary to their conscience.

So here we are in court, where the only sure result - other than the waste of money and time -- will be that whatever judges handle the matter will be attacked by someone as black-robed devils out to destroy the Republic.

What to make of all this?

While being sensitive to the needs of conscience, I can't work up much sympathy for the refusnik pharmacists. For starters, no one has to be a pharmacist. Neither is there any right to be a pharmacist.

The profession has a code of ethics. It emphasizes the primacy of the patient's needs; and it doesn't say "except when those needs, as determined by doctor and patient, don't suit my moral code."

If you can't in good conscience do the job, don't take it. Vegetarians generally don't work in slaughterhouses. Pacifists generally don't join the Army. People who think dispensing birth control is evil generally ought not be pharmacists.

I'm also sensitive to the notion that the market can take care of this issue; that is, people will simply go to pharmacies and pharmacists that do put customers first. The problem is that there's really no way to know the whens and wheres.

For example, at pharmacy X, you can get your scrip filled if Mr. A is working. If Ms. B's working, though, she won't do it, so you'll go somewhere else, or come back later, or whatever.

That's a situation guaranteed to drive up your blood pressure enough to require medication, assuming of course that the pharmacist on duty doesn't have some moral opposition to it.

John Beydler is news editor at Quad-Cities Online.

Posted by jcb at 03:02 PM | Comments (4)

April 19, 2005

Zoom, zoom

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack has signed a bill raising the speed limit on rural interstates to 70.

Guess that means that people driving the speed limit will be running only 5-10 mph behind everyone, instead of 10-15.

Posted by jcb at 12:25 PM | Comments (2)

April 14, 2005

Government and gambling: Watch that pea

The gambling games are fully afoot. Keep your eye on the pea, if you can.

In Springfield, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who used to be against any expansion of gambling, now wants to more than double the number of gambling "positions" available in the state.

First, Springfield.

Gov. Blagojevich figures the increase in gambling "positions" would raise $300 million, which he says would go to the schools, which really, really need it. He also says he's not really proposing an "expansion" of gambling since there would be no new casinos, just more slot machines and table games in already existing ones.

I'll leave it to the politicians to argue whether the governor has flip-flopped on the expansion issue. The bigger questions involve the $300 million revenue estimate and whether any of the money would benefit the schools.

Color me skeptical about both.

I don't haunt casinos all over the state, but I do visit the one in Rock Island now and then. I've never been there when there weren't plenty of slots available, ready and waiting for players. Looks to me like doubling the number would mostly just mean, well, a lot more slots ready and waiting for players.

As for any increase in gambling taxes benefitting the schools -- ha ha ha. That's a golden oldie. "Earmarking" money for the schools is pointless so long as the amount the schools get is greater than the earmarked source, and it always is.

An example, using little numbers: Say state aid to schools this year is $100. New gambling taxes, guaranteed to go to the schools, bring in $3. That does NOT mean school aid next year will be $103. The legislature will still decide how much the schools get out of the general revenue funds. Might be $103, but it also might be $97, or $80; in other words, the guaranteed $3 plus whatever else the legislature wants to kick in.

Watch that pea.

In Davenport, city fathers are looking for someone to "facilitate" public workshops on the future of that part of the downtown riverfront where the Isle of Capri wants to build a hotel. There's apparently going to be a series of workshops later this month, with a report due by May 13.

I was a bit confused about why we need to hire someone to gather public ideas on this topic. Couldn't city staffers handle the job?

City administrator Craig Malin explained that, in addition to the work requiring specialized "skill sets," an "outside perspective" could be helpful given the heated feelings on the Isle's proposal.

I'm also a bit confused about why Davenport hired someone to develop a counter-proposal to Isle of Capri's proposal to build the hotel, with a generous boost from we city taxpayers. Couldn't the council, with our legal department's assistance, handle this? Guess not.

Our counter-proposer, a lawyer named Lorraine May, is said to be making progress in talks with the Isle's lawyers, though nothing specific can be shared yet.

I'm hoping our counter-proposal says no new hotel unless the Isle of Capri shows how it's going to dispose of its existing hotel, the Black Hawk, without it costing the city anything or becoming a giant vacant, bleeding eyesore.

I'm also hoping our counter-proposal says no public money of any sort to IOC's expansion plans. IOC is a huge corporation minting money off it gambling licenses, here and elsewhere. It doesn't need taxpayer subsidies.

John Beydler is news editor at Quad-Cities Online. email: johnbeyd@qconline.com

Posted by jcb at 01:59 PM | Comments (0)

April 07, 2005

Need a hero? Try Judge Greer

That poor woman down in Florida is dead but the exploitation may be eternal.

The Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation, "dedicated to protecting" Terri Schiavo's life and liberty, is re-dedicating itself to "assisting other desperate families in their efforts to protect vulnerable loved ones." You can, of course, continue to contribute your dollars. Just visit www.terrisfight.org and click on the "donations" link. PayPal works.

The website promises there will soon be updates on how the foundation will go about "assisting other desperate families." I don't suppose "leaving them alone" is among the options being considered.

Thought not. Once there's been a media circus big enough to tear the Rev. Jesse away from that other Jackson's superstar trial, there's no choice but to try again. So, if your family is among the tens of thousands that will face a when-and-how-to-die decision sometime soon, and if you'd like the circus to come to you, just let the foundation know.

Too cynical, you say? Maybe, but I'd say I'm just "consider(ing) all the evidence in the light of reason, common sense and experience," just like judges instruct jurors to do when they deliberate a verdict.

Speaking of judges, the much maligned and threatened George Greer simply followed the law as it exists, applied sworn facts as presented in court by all parties and made his decision. He then refused to be influenced by the mob in the streets or the ones in the legislative chambers. What more can you ask of a judge?

Not much, said the Clearwater Bar Association in praising his courage in the face of death threats and endless vilification.

You should read his 2000 order in the case that spawned the controversy. He discusses in detail the central issue; that is, what would be Terri's wishes, and how he came to decide she would not want to be kept alive in the circumstances. He also deals with the medical evidence, as presented in sworn testimony, which is different than the many affidavits you can find at www.terrisfight.org . These inevitably include the phrase, "I have not physically examined Ms. Schiavo..." and/or "I have not seen her medical records..."

Do the reading, then apply your own reason, common sense and experience.

If you still think Judge Greer's the villain, fine. Join the move to impeach him. Me, I think he kept his head when all about him, others were losing their's. That makes him a hero in a story way short on those.

John Beydler is news editor at Quad-Cities Online. email johnbeyd@qconline.com

Posted by jcb at 02:29 PM | Comments (4)