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October 31, 2006

Barnburner

The big bucks are pouring into the Mike Boland-Steve Haring race for the 71st District state representative seat.

Boland, the incumbent Democrat picked up more than $50,000 today --a $15,000 infusion of cash from the Democratic Party of Illinois, $10,000 in cash from the Illinois Federation of Teachers and a $25,000 in-kind contribution from the IFT. The in-kind money is for production of a radio ad and airtime to run it, according to the report to the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Haring, the Republican making a second bid to unseat Boland, reported one Monday he got more than $50,000 as well. It's all from the House GOP campaign committee and is in-kind contributios, for purchase of TV, radio and cable advertising time.

Candidates are require to report contributions of more than $500 within 48 hours during the run-up to election. You can keep track of the money flow at the ISBE site:

-- Boland reports

-- Haring reports

Be prepared to wait a bit; the ISBE site for the most part is running like it's got superglue in it.

Posted by jcb at 03:09 PM | Comments (42)

October 26, 2006

Bits and pieces from the political front ....

The growing dissatisfaction with the choices the major political parties are offering voters this year can be measured in Illinois by soaring support for Green Party candidate Rich Whitney in the governor's race.

A SurveyUSA poll done last week pegs Mr. Whitney as the choice of 14 percent of likely voters, up from 7 percent a month ago. The number, of course, leaves him trailing incumbent Democrat Rod Blagojevich (44 percent) and Republican Judy Baar Topinka (34 percent) but it is astonishingly large for an under-funded, unknown third party guy who wasn't even certified as a candidate until Aug. 31, when the state board of elections finally rejected Democratic attempts to keep him off the ballot.

With Blagojevich pals and fund-raisers either under indictment or investigation on various corruption charges, a good many people think it's only a matter of time until the governor himself follows ex-gov George Ryan into the prisoner's dock. Topinka under-inspires voters. Whitney offers the disaffected a place to go; most everyone can find at least some issues on which they'll agree with the Greens.

-- The national Republicans are providing no financial support for 17th Congressional District candidate Andrea Zinga. That's none, as in zero, according to reports on file with the Federal Election Commisson.

There are two ways to interpret that fact: 1) The GOP is so certain she's going to win that it sees no need to provide additional help, or 2) the GOP is so certain she's going to lose that it doesn't want to waste money sorely needed as it battles to hang onto seats elsewhere around the country.

I'd go with interpretation No. 2. The 17th is a tough district for any Republican in any election. Zinga's problems are multiplied by the fact she's pretty much in lockstep with an unpopular president on issues ranging from the war in Iraq to fiscal policy that has turned budget surpluses into record deficits over the last six years.

The bizarre manner in which Democrats ended up with Phil Hare as their candidate left a bad taste in lots of mouths, including Democrat ones. Whatever leg up that might have provided Republicans is likely lost because of Zinga's 'stay the course' stances.

-- The paucity of money in the 17th race at least has the virtue of sparing residents with the ludicrous attack ads that are flooding the airways across the river in Iowa, where both parties and partisan PACs are pouring huge dollars into the see-saw fight between Republican Mike Whalen and Democrat Bruce Braley for the 1st Congressional District seat opened when incumbent Jim Nussle opted to run for governor rather than to seek re-election.

As always these days, the TV ads are nasty things that turn reputable candidates into caricatures of evil. The worst of the bunch so far is the anti-Braley spot that accuses him, in effect, of being a communist. It's difficult to believe that ad evokes anything other than laughter on both sides of the political fence.

Joe McCarthy has been dead for a half-century; the Soviet Union imploded nearly 20 years ago; 'Communist' China has become a major -- if not 'the' major financier of the U. S. economy over the last six years. And these guys think there's political hay to be made with some 'commies under the bed' routine.

Oh, my.

-- Speaking of nasty campaigns, the Rock Island County sheriff's race between Kraig Schwigen and Mike Huff is about as nasty as it gets -- it's an exercise in mutual character assassination that no doubt leaves many voters wishing there was a third alternative. Whichever one of them wins, the atmosphere in the sheriff's office is going to be so poisonous that it will be a miracle if the routine operations of the department are not impaired.

Through all the mud-slinging, though, one fact keeps rearing its head: Mr. Huff adamantly refuses to open his personnel file for public inspection. The various excuses and explanations offered for that refusal don't really hold much water. No one expects perfection from a 25-year deputy who's been a controversial figure in a sometimes politicized department, and it's difficult to understand why he's unwilling to share his record with the people he's asking to entrust him with the county's top law enforcement job.

Posted by jcb at 02:04 PM | Comments (23)

October 19, 2006

The time to leave Iraq is soon, very soon

So, have you ever heard of General Sir Richard Dannatt? Or what he thinks of the war in Iraq?

Probably not. The Quad-Cities media, like that all across the country, has pretty much ignored the firestorm Sir Richard set off in Great Britain last week when he said the presence of British troops in Iraq 'exacerbates security problems' there and that the UK should get its troops out 'soon.'

He said foreign troops have worn out their welcome and are serving primarily to cultivate support for the global jihadist movement. Additionally, he warned, the Iraq commitment threatens to 'break' the British military.

Understand here that Sir Richard is not some retired guy doing a talking head routine on television. He's the serving chief of staff of the British army -- the top guy.

His blast at the 'naive' attempt to create a liberal democracy in Iraq is but the latest proof that this is the wrong war at the wrong time in the wrong place.

It's certain that a huge majority of Iraqis agree with him. Public opinion polls (yes, they do those in Iraq, too) show that 71 percent of Iraqis would like to see foreign troops, most specifically Americans, get out the country. Sixty-one percent say they approve of attacks on American troops. A huge majority says, too, that they'd feel safer if the U.S. pulled out.

The only cold comfort that can be found in the polls is that Iraqis hold an even lower opinion of Osama bin Ladin and Al Quaeda -- 94 percent say they disapprove of the organization and its leader.

The discontent in Iraq is easily understandable. The place is nothing but a vast slaughterhouse. Iraqbodycount.org, which tracks civilian deaths there, says that more than 48,000 civilians have been killed since the U.S. invasion in March 2003. Since the group counts only those deaths that can be confirmed through multiple sources, it acknowledges that its count is inevitably low.

At the other end of the scale, Lancet, the British Medical journal, just released a study that says the total death toll since the war began is 650,000, or one in every 40 people in a nation of 26 million. That number is hotly disputed, and the methodology used to get it is attacked as sloppy and insufficient.

For the sake of this discussion, let's just deal with Iraqbodycount.org's admittedly low number of civilian deaths. At just under 50,000, that works out to more than 1,100 per month, for 43 months now. That's shocking enough, don't you think? If Lancet's study is even a quarter right, the number is unconscionable.

While the slaughter goes on and on, and gets worse, American politicians babble on about how we can't leave because Iraq would descend into civil war. Of course, as every day's headlines make ever more clear, the civil was is already raging. The number of attacks, most of them Iraqi on Iraqi, is growing. The death toll is mounting, the numbers higher day by day. Deaths are running at 100-plus per day now. Most of the people dying are Iraqis; most of the killing is done by Iraqis.

As Sir Richard said, we're merely exacerbating the problem, and paying a high price in blood in the process. Nearly 3,000 American troops have been killed now, 20,000 wounded.

Our leaders took us there because, they said, we had to get rid of those weapons of mass destruction that, of course, turned out to be figments of their imaginations.

Once the military did its job with dispatch and efficiency, our leaders blew the next step with bad decision on top of bad decision. We've delivered on nothing in the way of improving services, the economy or the quality of life. Just the opposite.

No wonder that the vast majority wants us gone. No wonder a solid majority approves of attacks on Americans.

The time to leave is soon. Very soon.

Posted by jcb at 01:20 PM | Comments (29)

October 17, 2006

Go to this debate


Your best -- and perhaps last -- chance to see 17th Congressional District candidates Andrea Zinga and Phil Hare go face-to-face comes tomorrow night (Oct. 18) at Augustana College in Rock Island.

The debate begins at 6:30 p.m. in Centennial Hall, 3703 7th Ave. Doors open at 6 p.m. The auditorium seats 1,200, and is free and open to the public.

Posted by jcb at 01:31 PM | Comments (35)

October 13, 2006

Yoo, Boehner, Iowa knows THAT smell

You gotta wonder if a good many politicians aren't caught in some kind of time warp, thinking it's 1806, when it was possible to say one thing in one place and the exact opposite in another place and expect to get by with it because of a general lack of communication.

That thought comes to mind today, after Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, the House majority leader, said in Iowa that Democrats endangered House pages by sitting on information about the misconduct of Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., so they could spring the information just before the upcoming elections.

This is the same Rep. Boehner who told the Washington Post when the scandal broke that he had informed House Speaker Dennis Hastert about the Foley problem last spring. He recanted after the Post reported his remarks, claiming that he didn't really recall having told Hastert anything. A couple of days later, in a radio interview back in his home district in Ohio, he once again was saying he'd discussed Foley's emails to pages with Hastert, and that he'd assumed Hastert had taken care of the matter.

But, today, in Iowa, Boehner's latest version is that it is the Democrats who were endangering pages, not Foley and the House leaders who put on blinders when they were alerted to the problem many months, or even years, ago.

Sorry, Mr. Boehner, but here in Iowa we know the odor of barnyard crap when we smell it.

Posted by jcb at 05:56 PM | Comments (1)

Ah, ha -- I told you so

Saying 'I told you so' isn't really very nice, but ... I told you so.

Eighteen months or so ago, when Davenport officialdom was engaged in its unseemly rush to approve a multi-million dollar package of subsidies for Rhythm City Casino so the casino could move its boat upstream and build a new riverfront hotel, I said Rhythm City was selling pie-in-the-sky. That judgment was based on the casino's claim -- uncritically accepted by a majority of the city council -- that the deal would benefit Davenport through a big increase in gambling revenues.

The new hotel and related improvements would make Rhythm City a 'first-tier' casino and draw patrons from an ever-wider geographic area, or so the deal's backers said.

The skeptics -- me included -- kept asking how that claim made any sense, given that new casinos are springing up in the region like dandelions in April.

Well, the hard numbers are rolling in now and the projections our city fathers accepted with child-like eagerness are now undeniably pie-in-the-sky stuff. Riverside Casino, one of four new Iowa gambling joints that were on the drawing board while Davenport was making its deal with Rhythm City, is now open. The results:

-- Rhythm City's revenue in September was down $455,000 from September 2005. Attendance was down 15,303.

-- The Isle of Capri in Bettendorf saw a drop of $1.1 million in revenue and a decrease of 27,606 in attendance.

The late summer opening of Riverside, south of Iowa City, is just the first of the blows those rosy revenue projections are going to aborb in the next couple of years.

Number two comes in the spring of next year, when a new casino opens in Waterloo. Waterloo is just 140 miles from the Quad-Cities, and my prediction is that a good many people in between who may come to the Quad-Cities to do their gambling now will be going the other direction once that casino opens. Whatever negative impact that has on gambling revenues here is going to be a particularly tough pill for Davenport to swallow since the Waterloo operation is owned by Isle of Capri, the parent corporation of Rhythm City.

Still to come, too, is the new Casino Rock Island. Assuming the plans don't get derailed, the huge new complex at which the Rock Island boat will be a centerpiece is certain to drain off existing customers for the Iowa-side boats in the Quad-Cities plus a good many of whatever new customers may actually come here from a region that's ever more heavily infested with casinos. With a convenient interstate-exit location, the casino/hotel/shopping/movie development will elevate Casino Rock Island from a grungy also-ran operation to the flashy equal of even Isle of Capri's Bettendorf location.

In the meantime, the Diamond Jo Casino in Dubuque, about 90 miles up the river, has announced plans for its own new complex there, and will undoubtedly siphon off more existing and potential Q-C customers.

So where exactly is all that new gambling revenue for Davenport going to come from?

The answer: There isn't going to be any.

Whatever were council members thinking, when they put our on money on the table like country rubes seeing bright lights for the first time?

The answer: They weren't.

Posted by jcb at 11:44 AM | Comments (5)

October 11, 2006

Time for "none of the above"

If one is to judge by the public comments on blogs and those attached to news stories on newspaper websites, the public is in a nasty mood.

The expected partisanship lacks any attachment to civility; there's a vicious name-calling air to it. Running through it, as well, is a non-partisan despair with the political system, with an almost pitiful plea for a choice beyond that being offered by the political parties.

While the mostly anonymous comments are often dismissed as the ranting of the unwashed, the general mood evident in them is reflected in national polls showing massive unrest among voters.

So maybe it's time for "none of the above."

Here's a couple of questions for legislative candidates on both sides of the Mississippi: Would you vote amend state law to include a "none of the above" line on the ballot in every race? And what version of "none of the above" would you support?

Though you don't hear that much about it, those questions are getting asked in a lot of states these day.

Nevada already has such an option on its ballot; has had since 1976. It's shortcoming is that even if "none of the above" wins, it really doesn't. If NOTA gets 90 percent of the vote, the candidate who gets the majority of the remaining 10 percent gets the office.

Massachusetts has legislation pending that would impose a binding NOTA -- that is, if NOTA wins, then a new election would be immediate called.

Another proposed variation would simply leave the office vacant for a term if NOTA wins -- that is, voters would be saying "we'd rather have no one than one of those people."

In the U.S., http://www.nota.org/ keeps track of and encourages NOTA movements in various states.

There's an international NOTA movement, too. http://www.noneoftheabove.ie/ details efforts in Ireland. Spain already has NOTA. Russia did, until the Duma voted this year to ditch it in elections in 2007 and thereafter.

While the Duma voted 347-87 to eliminate NOTA from the ballot, polls indicate Russian voters would prefer to keep it, by a 46-42 margin (12 percent said the question was "hard to answer.")

Therein lies a lesson, in all liklihood. If NOTA is to arrive here, it probably won't be through legislative action. Some citizen-based activism will have to drive it.

Nonetheless -- it you get the chance, to ask the legislative candidates what they think about the idea.

Posted by jcb at 11:15 PM | Comments (24)

October 07, 2006

Schwigen and Huff, Part III

In Schwigen and Huff, Part II, I tried steering the conversation onto those topics of that should be of import in the sheriff's race.

That was pretty much a total failure. Whatever bits of truth may have slipped in, it's mostly been garbage.

I'm particularly irritated by the re-appearing bit of flotsam that suggests Kraig Schwigen "started the mud-slinging." The evidence offered is a press conference at which he said Mike Huff once drew a gun on a fellow officer.

Folks, that's not mud-slinging. That's making a public a fact that each and every voter has a right to know as he or she weighs Mr. Huff in the balance.

Mr. Huff says the incident occurred more than 20 years ago and was "horse-play", without adding detail.

One assumes Mr. Huff has matured in the interim; nevertheless each individual voter is legitimately entitled to know about the incident and to give it whatever import they want to on Election Day.

Each voter also is legitimately entitled to know the set of facts in three 3rd Disgtrict Appellate Court rulings issued in a complex legal proceeding sparked by an attempt to fire Mr. Huff in 1995.

The county merit commission, the circuit court, the state labor board and the Fraternal Order of Police all played roles before the matter was concluded more than five years later. Mr. Huff was re-instated as a deputy, but was suspended and demoted.

I won't charactize the facts in any fashion. Read them for yourself, and give them whatever weight you will.


Appellate Court ruling, February, 1998

Appellate Court ruling, August, 1997

Appellate Court ruling, July 2000

There also are circuit court rulings, along with merit commission and labor board decisions. I may have missed an appellate ruling; I'm assuming someone will let me know if I did.

An alert to commenters -- facts are welcome here, opinions reasonably related to facts are welcome and, of course, real names are welcome. But the garbage is going.

Damn me as a censor all you want.

------

An addendum: The Schweign/Huff forum scheduled for Monday night in Rock Island is off. Don't know the ins-and-outs of that, but it's disappointing.

Posted by jcb at 01:12 AM | Comments (40)

October 05, 2006

The revolutions of '94 and '06

It's the kind of stuff you can't make up.

U. S. Rep. Mark Foley, a six-term congressman from Florida, founded the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. He was a chief architect of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, which toughened federal sex offender laws. He sponsored a law that permits organizations like the Boy Scouts and Boys and Girls Clubs to access FBI fingerprint records when vetting volunteers. He attempted to push through a bill outlawing websites that feature children in suggestive poses.

Through it all, it turns out, this public protector of children was in private exchanging emails and Instant Messages with minors, the content of which ranged from "overly friendly" to the sexually explicit. He was, in short, pretty much that which he professed to be fighting against.

Through it all, it also turns out, the congressional leadership, ever attuned to partisan considerations, turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to what was going on. In so doing, the leaders turned a story of personal shortcomings and failures into a crisis for the institution in general and for the ruling Republicans in particular.

Make that "deeper" crisis. Both Congress in general and the ruling party in particular were already about as low as you can go and still show up in public places. Former majority leader Tom DeLay is under indictment and is the subject of ongoing investigations. Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio has pleaded guilty to influence peddling and isn't seeking re-election. Former Rep. Duke Cunningham is in prison for taking bribes. The FBI raided the Capitol Hill office of Rep. William Jefferson looking for further evidence in a bribery case. A dozen or more other representatives are under investigation, many of them in connection with their dealings was lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Just when you thought the slime could get no deeper, along comes Rep. Foley -- actually, former Rep. Foley, since he resigned his seat this week and headed for a rehab center for alcoholics to await the outcome of various investigations into his conduct.

In the meantime, House Republican leaders are caught in one of those "what did they know and when did they know it" boxes. Dennis Hastert, the former Illinois high school coach who somehow or another ended up being Speaker of the House, declared last week he knew nothing until ... last week.

But Majority Leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said he told Hastert about Foley's questionable emails last spring. Rep. Tom Reynolds of New York, who is chairman of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, also said he told Hastert about the issue last spring

. Foley's former top aide says he told top staffers in Hastert's office that there was a problem two and a half years ago. Former congressional pages -- teens who work for a period in the Capitol and formed the pool in which Foley went fishing -- report that as early as 1995, Foley's first year in Congress, the word was out among the kids that care in dealing with him was advisable.

Apparently, though, all that was ever done was that Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois, chairman of the Page Board, visited with Foley, who denied anything untoward was going on. Shimkus told him to cease the emails and that was that. Shimkus, who made the call on Foley after hearing about the emails from the Louisiana congressman in whose district one of the recipients lived, tellingly did not share the information with the ranking Democrat on the Page Board.

Hastert's feckless lack of curiosity has made him the center of unwanted attention. The Washington Times, one of the conservatives' staunch press allies, has demanded the Speaker resign. So have various top figures in the conservative/religious/family values coalition that has otherwise been blindly loyal. Hastert was insisting at midweek he has no intention of stepping down as Speaker, but he was starting to sound a bit hollow.

A final irony: Foley was first elected in 1994, the year the voters handed Republicans control of a Congress made arrogant and corrupt by too many years of Democratic power. Now, he may have driven the final nail into the coffin of a Republican Congress made arrogant and corrupt by too many years in power.

Posted by jcb at 09:25 PM | Comments (10)

October 02, 2006

Beals and abortion


The position James Beals is taking on abortion, according to
this story by D/A Springfield bureau chief Scott Reeder, is, well, bizarre.

Regardless of one's position on abortion, there is generally some identifiable philosophical reason at work; a belief in the sanctity of life, the view that a decision whether to bear children belongs to each individual woman, that the choice belongs to the woman up to some or another point, etc.

Mr. Beals, the story says, believes abortion should be widely and legally available to anyone under 18, whose parents consent; but that it should be illegal for everyone over 18, even in cases of rape.

What?????????????


Posted by jcb at 01:54 PM | Comments (75)