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December 23, 2005

Moderation, to eliminate juvenile crap

This repeats what I've posted on the string: http://thepassing-parade.com/archives/2005/12/pig_plant_thing.html

General alert here: Someone is now playing games with email addresses, using the addresses of people who they clearly aren't.

So, I'm going to turn on moderation, which means posts will be held 'til I've had a chance to look at them. Sorry about the inconvenience but it'll stop the juvenile crap enough for me to enjoy the holiday. I'll be checking periodically to post legit stuff.

Once again, Merry Christmas.

Posted by jcb at 04:31 PM | Comments (1)

December 22, 2005

Judge sees nothing intelligent in Intelligent Design

Out in Pennsylvania, U.S. District Judge John Jones ths week sharply rejected the creationists' latest attempt to force schools to present "intelligent design" as an alternate explanation to evolution for life as we know it.

Among other things, Judge Jones said, "The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory."

The intelligent design crowd is fuming mightily. The Discovery Institute's John West said the opinion is "a real overreach by an activist judge who thinks he can stop the spread of a scientific idea through government-imposed censorship." He accused Judge Jones of having "delusions of grandeur."

To call Judge Jones an "activist" is the real overreach here. The judge, a conservative, church-going Republican appointed to the bench by President Bush, wrote a 136-page opinion that reflects a conservative approach to jurisprudence: He paid attention to the Constitution, the establishment clause in particular; he was respectful of precedent; and he carefully applied the facts presented in sworn testimony to the law. Not exactly what I'd call an exercise in "activist" judging.

Judge Jones, in anticipating the charges that would be leveled against him, wrote: "Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. This is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board. The breathtaking inanity of the (school board's) decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources."

He also said, "The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the (school board) who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy."

Ouch!

The ruling was somewhat moot in the Dover case by the time it was issued. The people of Dover have already acted, voting out of office all eight school board members who supported the requirement that "intelligent design" be presented to students as an alternate explanation to evolution. The district, with the new school board in charge, said it plans no appeal in the case.

The ruling will stand, though, as a beacon and guide to the other judges who, unfortunately, are likely to be confronted with the issue as the creationists, in some guise or another, battle to substitute theism for science in the schools.

Posted by jcb at 10:23 AM | Comments (3)

December 21, 2005

A giant fountain for the Q-C?

The Inside Dope has a discussion going on 3 ideas for the Quad-Cities. The giant-fountain-in-the-river is worth some thought, despite some big obstacles -- it is a workin' river.

Posted by jcb at 08:37 PM | Comments (0)

December 19, 2005

One of those trips

Am off to Clinton, Ill., to see Aunt Harriet to her final rest. (obit) She was a farm girl who got a college degree in a time when it wasn't common. Did a stint as Rosie the Riveteer in WWII, then made Rock Island home for nearly 60 years before going back to Clinton a couple of years ago.

She was a Proper Lady, in the old style. Quiet, kind, gracious and refined in dress and speech. Lord knows what she thought when Leslie brought me around. But, like I said, kind and gracious.

With the real grandmas rendered by distance to occasional appearances, she filled that role for our kids. They, too, are better for having known her.

Anyway ... will be MIA for a day or two.

Posted by jcb at 10:17 PM | Comments (0)

December 16, 2005

Pig plant things: Rumler 34, Jacobs 1; a bogus $2.7 mil

East Moline's pig plant controversy is providing the first real issue in the primary between Sen. Mike Jacobs and Paul Rumler. who Thursday urged the East Moline City Council to stall off the Triumph Food deal until it knows if a sister plant in St. Joe, Mo., can pass a smell test, once it goes operational next year.

That contrasts pretty sharply with Sen. Jacobs' vow to help the city make the deal work any way he could, though at the time he couldn't share the name of the company everybody was talking about.

If the election had been at Thursday's pig plant public hearing in Silvis, the vote would have been 35-zip Rumler. No. No. Make it 34-1 Rumler. Riverstone's Bob Imler was there, listening and taking notes. Give him a point for that; everybody else remotely associated with the proposal dodged invitations, though Thom Hart and Rick Baker did send nice letters making reasonable-sounding cases for the plant.

Hampton Township Supervisor Deborah Jackson made the most interesting point of the evening when she said the tax benefits being promised local governments are bogus. The numbers are all based on a $2.7 million assessed value, a figure supplied by Rich Keehner, E.M., asssistant administrator.

Jackson's point: Asssessments are set by elected township assessors, in this case by Hampton's assessor. East Moline and Triumph can talk all they want to about $2.7 million or any other figure, but it's just plain pie in the sky. She's perfectly right, unless there's some sub-paragraph somewhere in the TIF laws that takes away the assessor's authority. Seems unlikely to me.

The funny number adds another inch or so to the already wide credibility gap of plant supporters.

Silvis Ald. Bob Zesiger, who called the hearing (and another at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Silvis Junior High School cafeteria), said the meeting was going to be orderly and civil; said he'd promised it would be when he was trying to talk E.M. Mayor John Thodos into coming. Mayor Thodos nevertheless couldn't make it, but the meeting was orderly.

The crowd tended toward middle-age and upwards, and those from Silvis seemed a lot less enthusiastic about the project than E.M. seems to be. Several pointed out they'd be a lot closer to the plant than anybody in East Moline.

Silvis Mayor Lyle Lohse said he's had several long talks with Mayor Thodos, but that he still has a lot of questions and concerns about the plan.

There was talk about pooling resources and hiring lawyers to fight the plant. People living closest to the site were advised to get appraisals done NOW and let Triumph know it could expect a law suit if property value went down as the plant went up.

People were exchanging names, numbers, info gleaned from the internet, talking about fighting back against the big corporations and about democracy and what not. Kind of stuff that scares the bejesus out of the hurry-up, sign-here, sign-now crowd.

(A purely personal aside here, to a few friends who may pass by: I miss Carol. She would have loved this story.)

Posted by jcb at 12:36 AM | Comments (52)

December 14, 2005

Sorry, guys, no `War on Christmas' here

This 'n that...

The thing I detest most about Fox newsies John Gibson and Bill O'Reilly is their unthinking determination to manufacture controversy and division out of thin air. Thus they would turn "happy holidays" into a "War on Christmas."

Nice try, guys. But I'm not warring on Christmas or Jesus if I say happy holidays, any more than I'm warring on Judeaism if I say Merry Christmas to my Jewish friends. They respond with a Happy Hanukkah and we go about our rounds wrapped in the warmth of the season. Pretty much the way it is with most folks, I'm guessing.

Whether "Christmas" appears in a store's advertising won't determine whether I shop there; neither will whether the greeters say happy holidays or Merry Christmas. Or, for that matter, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa or Happy Ramadan. I'll proceed into the store, wrapped in the season's warmth, which will be retained if the place has hired enough checkout people to handle the rush.

Anyway, John, Bill, you guys have a Merry Christmas. Hope your presents include a life.

Any of the rest of you who are masochistic enough to want to read more, there are a couple of links below.

-----------------------------

Meanwhile, in Davenport, what outgoing mayor, incoming aldman Charlie Brooke wants for Christmas is a new chambers for the city council. Seems kind of silly to me, notwithstanding this is season of giving.

Davenport's chambers are actually pretty nice. There's more public seating than any other Q-C council meeting place. The sound system works pretty good most of the time; you can hear what's being said, though that isn't always a blessing.

The place, course, isn't perfect. There are a couple of support poles that could obstruct someone's vision on those rare occasions when the room is packed.

It is dimly lit, and the dark wood paneling soaks up light. It could use some brighter bulbs, but what city council room can't?

--------------------------

A couple of weeks back, at the public hearing on East Moline's proposed pig plant deal with Triumph Foods, someone sitting at a table full of city officials said the proposed agreement would be posted on the city website the next day. As I write this 10 days later, it still hasn't been posted.

May not matter that much. More than 600 people have read it on Quad-Cities Online. (Here's the link)

Be nice, though, if the city managed to post the revised version being worked on. Maybe even in advance of the next council meeting, so people could be better informed if they want to go ask questions.

I'm guessing, though, that even the alderpeople will get to see the revisions about five minutes before they're asked to vote on them.

Be nice if the alderpeople, in the spirit of the season, are in a giving mood -- and what we all need is time, to make sure this is a dotted line we want to sign on.

--------------

Links promised above:

(Secular extremists still lying about their war on Christmas)

(Bill O'Reilly - War on Christmas Liar?)

Posted by jcb at 02:41 PM | Comments (9)

December 12, 2005

More info on Triumph and its plans

A pair of weekend stories in the D/A shed new light on the proposed pork processing plant in East Moline, and on Triumph Foods, the company that wants to build it:
-- Odor, flooding issues worry East Moline-area residents

-- Pork producers pool resources

Good reads, both.

Posted by jcb at 03:08 PM | Comments (0)

Bye-bye to Valerie

Valerie Plame, the CIA agent whose outing led to a two-year-and-still-going investigation, retired from the agency Friday.

So far, the investigation has resulted in one indictment, against former vice president chief of staff Lewis Libby for lying to a grand jury investigating the leak of Ms. Plame's name; a continuing cloud over the future of presidential adviser Karl Rove; and the sullying of several journalists' reputations, including those of Judy Miller of the New York Times, Bob Woodward of the Washington Post and, now, Viveca Novak of Time Magazine.

It would take a Gone With the Wind-size novel to explain the ins-and-outs of the case at this point.

The main story line is that Ms. Plame's identity was leaked by vengeful Bush aides angry that her husband, Joseph Wilson, contradicted a central justfication for going to was against Iraq. "Her career was arbitrarily and whimsically destroyed by a mean political trick," said Vincent Cannistraro, a former chief of operations for the CIA's Counterterrorism Center upon her retirement. Also destroyed was the CIA front company she used as cover.

One of the giant questions, other than who told reporters about her CIA connection and why they did so, is how much damage the disclosures about her and the front company did to her overseas contacts.

Maybe special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who's still busy investigating, will yet fill in all the blanks.





Posted by jcb at 02:32 PM | Comments (0)

December 08, 2005

Belly of the beast

Geez, I'm stuck on pigs; time to change the subject for a moment. Hmmm, how 'bout teacher tenure.

Scott Reeder, capital bureau chief for the D/A and other Small Newspaper Group papers, set out to quantify the effort to weed under-performing teachers out of the schools. Mind-boggling amount of work.
The whole report is at The Hidden Costs of Tenure.

Some people are attacking it as one-sided or anti-teacher, but most see a problem and some are willing to talk about most anything to fix it. The Hidden Costs site includes a reaction page. Among other things, there are direct links to three threads on Rich Miller's blog.

Like most people, I'm bifurcated about teachers. Had some pretty good ones, some average ones and some that could have made an illustrated sex manual boring.

Seen the same divide as we've herded a couple of kids through school.
Ran into some great teachers, and the average ones. But we also saw too many of what's known at our house as time-servers and burn-outs.
They're no majority be any means, but I've encountered them at every one of the several schools I've become aquainted with over the last 22 years. They hurt everybody.

To try to devise a fair, effective means of weeding them out is truly to enter the belly of the beast. My lifetime of experience with school says we gotta try.

Posted by jcb at 10:37 PM | Comments (8)

December 07, 2005

East Moline and the Empire of the Pigs

"The Empire of the Pigs" is the title from a 1998 Time Magazine report on Seaboard Corp. The sub-title was: "A Little-Known Company Is A Master At Milking Governments For Welfare".

Folks in East Moline may recognize some of the names if they read the piece. Rick Hoffman, chief of Triumph Foods and the man who wants to build a a 600,000 square-foot slaughterhouse in E.M., is quoted several times. He was Seaboard's vice president of finance at the time the company wooed and won millions in subsidies from Albert Lea, Minn., then abandoned the plant and workers there when Oklahoma offered a sweeter deal.

Seaboard Farms, a Seaboard Corp. subsidiary of which Hoffman was once president, is recently formed Triumph's marketing partner.

Interesting reading. Wonder if any of the E.M. alderpeople will take a look?

Posted by jcb at 08:49 PM | Comments (3)

December 06, 2005

But what about the smell test?

But can the place pass a smell test? The proposed pig plant in East Moline, I mean.

Smell is the sense most offended by the idea, given comments from the 300 or so people at a cut-short public hearing Monday on the deal East Moline and Triumph Foods are talking about.

Most of us know what pigs smell like, and we know what a slaughterhouse smells like. There's one just up the road, at Joslin, if anyone whats to drive by for a refresher course.

But forget the collective experience -- hi-tech negates it. That's the essence of the message Triumph chief executive officer Rick Hoffman delivered to the city council after the public hearing. Inside docks, frequent washings, state-of-the-art scrubbers for air-borne emissions, negative pressure and what not will make the place odorless.

Maybe he's right. Lot of smart people been working on the pig-stink problem for years. Even the geneticists are on it, trying to figure out to make pig poop smell like roses or whatever. Still, it'd be nice to get a whiff before East Moline signs on the dotted line.

Impossible, apparently. Sniffing Joslin doesn't count -- old tech stuff. No other plant's suggested, except the Triumph plant in St. Joseph, Mo., and well, it won't go into operation until January. So that precludes any smell test there if the city council actually does rush the deal through Dec. 19, when it's next of the agenda.

Mr. Hoffman didn't attend the public hearing that preceded the council meeting at which he spoke. Too bad. One guy suggested he'd withdraw his objections to the plan if Mr. Hoffman would buy land next to it and build a nice new house there.

Odor was hardly the only concern expressed at the hearing -- traffic, flooding, a likely influx of immigrants to man the production lines just a few among them. All things that deserve more consideration than they're likely to get in two weeks.

Even Monday's public hearing got rushed. Scheduled for 4:30-6:30, it got started 'bout 15 minutes late but was shut down precisely on time even though a dozen people who signed up to speak or ask questions didn't get to. That provoked some hootin' and hollerin', and mostly confirmed the notion many of the people already had -- the city doesn't care what they think.

I don't get the hurry-up part, though it's clear Triumph is a company in a hurry. Formed in 2003, its owners include some of the biggest hog producers in the country. Triumph has a marketing partner, a contract with a genetics company, one plant about to open and they're looking for another plant site -- the plant they plan here is said to be the largest in the world. Triumph is a vertical play, apparently with an eye toward making the "perfect" pig, perfectly processed and perfectly marketed. American ingenuity at work.

Course, salesmanship is an area of American ingenuity, too. Lots of pigs-in-pokes been sold over the years.

Now, about that smell test...

Posted by jcb at 03:48 PM | Comments (1)

December 05, 2005

Of interest in the pig plant discussion...

In 1996, the Charlotte News & Observer won a Pulitzer Prize for public service for a series of stories on the impact of the pork processing industry on North Carolina.

Go to http://pulitzer.org, go to the archive and use the search by year function to find 1996. Interesting reading.

Posted by jcb at 12:23 AM | Comments (9)

December 02, 2005

Rushing off with Porky

If anybody in East Moline noticed Davenport's fine example of citizen inclusion earlier this year, they're ignoring it.

Facing a big to-do over a hurry-up development deal -- the casino hotel -- Davenport accommodated the many interested citizens by using its website to post successive drafts of the proposed agreement. Added to the intelligence of the hearings, I thought. Good number of people demonstrated through questions and comments that they'd read the documents.

East Moline, now facing its own to-do over a hurry-up development deal -- a pork plant -- seems to be doing its best to keep people in the dark. Been that way since Mayor John Thodos claimed several months back he didn't know what was going on, when there was already media stuff on the pork plant story.

Anyway, doing what I can to help E.M. with communicating with citizens in the 21st Century, here's the text of the proposed agreement on the pork plant. Public hearing at 4:30 p.m. Monday in the main cafeteria at United Township High School, 1275 Avenue of the Cities, East Moline.

Version handed out to the press on Thursday has blank pages for the four exhibits -- "Legal Description of Subject Property," "Anticipated Construction and Financing Schedule," "Eligible Redevelopment Project Cost Schedule" and "Form of Request for Reimbursement." Maybe they'll be filled in by public hearing time Monday.

The construction work and the 1,000 jobs the plant promises are no light matters -- they tip the scale sharply.

But the other tray isn't empty -- unless you'd like to have a 600,000-square-foot kill plant for a neighbor, then people out Barstow way deserve something more than a rush job.

The agreement says the plant area will be elevated above "577 feet at mean sea level." Folks downstream of the plant on the Rock will know a lot more about what that means than I do, and they deserve something more than a rush job, too.

Throw in traffic, pollution possibilities and whatever, and there's enough to talk seriously about.

Maybe there's not that many people that close. Maybe downstream flooding won't be aggravated much, if any. Maybe in the end, it'll seem the smart thing to ask the people most affected to take one for the team.

Course, they probably don't feel much a part of the team, given the city's obfuscating, rushing ways.


Posted by jcb at 11:58 PM | Comments (1)