Monday, December 25, 2006

The True Meaning of Christmas

A picture of the Christmas tree at the Barrett house.

When I was a child my family went to a Methodist church every Sunday. I remember that at this time of year a popular topic of conversation among the church-goers was how the true religious meaning of Christmas had been lost in recent times by the increasing commercialization of the season. At some point it struck me that although a lot of the people in the congregation talked this way my father and the minister did not. When the minister talked about what our religious duty was he never mentioned restoring the true Christian meaning to Christmas and purging the holiday of all its unchristian elements.

I asked my father, who had also studied for the ministry at seminary, about this and he explained to me that our minister did not believe that Christmas needed to be restored to its original religious meaning because in seminary they had studied the history of the church. They had learned that the supposed Christian meaning of the holiday – the birth of Jesus –was a non-historical graft onto an existing pagan celebration. Celebrating and gift-giving was the original meaning of Christmas. There was no true Christian meaning that needed to be restored.

It was about 45 years ago that I first heard people talking about how the true meaning of Christmas had been lost recently. Amazingly people are still saying exactly the same thing. I guess that must be something that people enjoy saying to each other.

Merry Christmas and Feliz Navidad!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Generals oppose surging troops in Iraq

The Washington Post has been reporting that the Joint Chiefs of Staff are unanimous in opposing the idea of sending 15,000 to 30,000 more troops to Iraq because those proposing the surge have not come up with a clear mission for those troops.

Although I believe strongly in civilian control of the military I think generals should have the right to tell the President they will not follow orders they consider ill-conceived and misguided. I hope they remain resolute about not sending more soldiers to Iraq in the absence of a mission and clearly defined goals. I also hope that if President Bush orders them to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities they would also refuse to do that.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Judith Regan fired over O.J. Simpson "confession" book deal

Judith Regan was just fired by HarperCollins because of her plan for a book and television interview with O.J. Simpson giving his account of how he might have murdered his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald L. Goldman.

It must be a cold day in hell. Someone was just fired for underestimating the tastes and sophistication of the American public.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Children Left Behind

Just in time for Christmas the federal government Grinch has left numerous children without parents by arresting 1300 Swift company workers (some of whom have already been deported).
(I found this picture at

In their public statments the ICE keeps talking about how they are catching identity thieves and other dangerous criminals but the statistics show that the vast majority of the people they are snatching are guilty of nothing other than being undocumented.

Announcing the success of its massive "Operation Wagon Train" yesterday, DHS officials insisted the raids that netted nearly 1,300 arrests were about busting up an identity theft ring. The stats tell a different story.

According to DHS' own tally, only 65 of the 1,282 arrests were for criminal violations, including identity-theft related crimes. That means that over 1,200 of the people arrested had no connection to any identity theft rings, and were guilty only of run-of-the-mill immigration violations.

Iowa Governor Vilsack's statement about the arrests in Marshalltown

The following statement was released by the Governor's office on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2006
DES MOINES – Governor Tom Vilsack released the following statement today regarding recent incidents in Marshalltown , Iowa :

"The actions at Swift Packing in
Marshalltown yesterday reinforce the demand from Americans that the federal government reform the nation's immigration and enforcement policy.

A straightforward path to lawful citizenship, reinforced with secure borders, is long overdue.

As Iowans, we all share the immediate concern of caring for the children in
who may be without one or both parents.

These innocent children must be protected until they can return safely to their parents. I have directed my office to assist in every way possible so that these children, many of whom were born and go to school in
Iowa, are properly protected.

We will also continue our outreach to families in the
Marshalltown community to ensure they are aware of the resources that state government can provide."

Joe Mowers
Sr. Policy Advisor
Office of the Governor
State Capitol
Des Moines , IA 50319


Is caring for the children (many of whom were born here and are citizens) who were abandoned when their parents were arrested at work and deported another unfunded mandate the federal government is imposing on the states?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Those with lighter skin were released immediately

A troubling report from the Salt Lake Tribune about yesterday's ICE raid on the Swift pork processing plant in Hyrum, Utah.
If only for a few minutes, Maria felt like an ''illegal alien'' in her homeland - the United States of America.
She thought she was going on break from her job at the Swift & Co. meat processing plant here on Tuesday, but instead she and others were forced to stand in a line by U.S. immigration agents. Non-Latinos and people with lighter skin were plucked out of line and given blue bracelets.
The rest, mostly Latinos with brown skin, waited until they were ''cleared'' or arrested by ''la migra,'' the popular name in Spanish for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), employees said.
''I was in the line because of the color of my skin,'' she said. ''They're discriminating against me. I'm from the United States, and I didn't even get a blue bracelet.''
Maria was one of hundreds of plant employees targeted by federal agents.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

U.S. Citizens are being put into chains until they can prove their citizenship

People in the Hispanic community in the Quad Cities have been getting phone calls today from relatives and friends who have family members working at the Swift pork processing plant in Marshalltown, Iowa. They are saying that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials raided the plant and shut it down. They are saying that Hispanics, some of whom were born in this country, some who have green cards and are legally entitled to be in this country and working and some who are illegal immigrants with false papers have all been put into chains and told to phone home and have someone come with papers proving their legality.

If ICE officials came into your workplace and put everyone who did not have papers with them proving that they were either citizens or legal immigrants into chains and said that you would be held until someone came from home with paperwork proving your legality how would you react?

I know what I would say. "This is the United States of America. You cannot hold me without probable cause. I don’t have to prove that I am legal. You have to have some reason, other than the color of my skin, to hold me. If you do not let me go immediately I am going to sue every one of you and your bosses all the way up to the President."

But, of course, I am not Hispanic. Hispanics in this country do not have the same rights of outrage as the rest of us.

475 years ago today the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego

From the Vivirlatio blog
Coming by any means at their disposal including by foot and by bike, hundreds of thousands are at the Basílica de Guadalupe in Mexico City to celebrate the Virgin of Guadalupe. Today marks the 475th anniversary of the alleged apparition of the Marian image to Juan Diego in 1531. The legend claims that the image apppeared to the Indigenous man in his shawl. The shawl is now in the basilica. Last night, as is traditional , Las Mañanitas was sung.

All over the country, even in places as unlikely as Wisconsin, the faithful are celebrating the dark skinned virgin and Juan Diego, who was made a saint in 2002 by Pope John Paul II.

Monday, December 11, 2006

March on Washington, Jan. 27, 2007

United for Peace & Justice is an organization that is organizing a huge march on Washington on January 27 to send a message to the newly elected Congress that we want the troops brought home from Iraq immediately.

The Iraq Study Group report calls for major changes in U.S. policy in Iraq -- but doesn't call for the only change that will help solve the horrible crisis there: Bringing all the troops home, now.

Join us in the streets of Washington, D.C., on Saturday, January 27, to deliver a resounding message to the new Congress: We don't want half measures that will only prolong the bloodshed. It's time to bring an immediate end to the war!

There will be buses going to Washington from this area. To book a seat email Chris Schwartz at

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Did the Founders view this as a Christian nation?

Some people are now claiming that this country was viewed by its founders as a Christian nation. In 1797, the last year of President Washington's presidency, a treaty with the "Bey and People of Tripoli" was signed, promising cash and other considerations to Tripoli in exchange for peace. The following provision was written by a governement composed of Founding Fathers:
As the Government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the law, religion or tranquility of Musselmen; and as the states never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mohometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinion shall ever produce an interruption of harmony existing between the two countries.

- 1797 Treaty of Tripoli Article 11

Unlike many European countries which had state religions the United States was specifically founded as not being "in any sense" a Christian nation -- a fact which was seen by the authors of this treaty as an advantage when dealing with Muslims. It would be a shame to throw away this foreign policy advantage our Founding Fathers bequeathed us.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Does the public really oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants?

Many Democratic candidates in the recent Congressional election were quick to say they opposed amnesty for illegal immigrants. Even those politicians who in other respects seemed very pro-immigrant shied away from the word "amnesty." Based on that you might think that they were reacting to polls which showed that the voters were overwhelmingly opposed to any path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in this country. If you thought that you would be wrong.

Quinnipac Poll, 11/13-19:

"Do you support or oppose creation of a guest worker program that would allow illegal immigrants to register for temporary legal status and employment?"

Support 65%, Oppose 32%

Currently illegal immigrants cannot apply for citizenship. If the law were changed to allow illegal immigrants to register into a guest worker program, should that program offer them the ability to work toward citizenship over a period of several years?"

Yes 69%, No 27%

Profits of Health and Insurance Corporations Politically Untouchable

Interesting reporting by Ellen's Illinois Tenth Congressional District Blog

Sen. John E. Sununu, R-NH told a group of New Hampshire business leaders that there is nothing that can be done about health care costs, so they should stop talking about how it's making US businesses less competitive.

Apparently, Sununu has decided that health and insurance corporations are more important than other businesses in the US because there is a lot that can be done, he just doesn't want to do any of it.

In an unrelated story, the insurance industry contributed $322,500 to Sununu's campaign war chest and the health care industry another 76,240.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

How to respond to the "War on Christmas"

I am starting to see blog entries and letters to the editor again this year talking about a so-called "War on Christmas." The evidence that a war is being conducted is that businesses are telling their employees to say "Happy Hollidays" rather than "Merry Christmas" when talking to customers and groups like the ACLU are mounting legal challenges to government holiday displays which contain specifically Christian symbols.

Of course, there are no objections to Christmas displays in individual homes or houses of worship, nor would any business object to their employees saying "Merry Christmas" to people they personally know well enough to be sure they would not be offended. Yet some Christians feel that home and church Christmas displays are not enough.

What sort of Christmas spirit is this? Why would a Christian, during what should be a joyous time of year, be indulging such negative thoughts. In such an overwhelmingly majority Christian society and culture why are some Christians feeling so persecuted?

I have a suggestion. As part of their Christmas spirit why don’t Christians show solidarity with religions that really are persecuted? When the Aryan Nation invaded Montana and Idaho in the 1990s this is how the people of Billings, Montana reacted as told by Jo Clare Hartsig and Walter Wink:
On December 2, 1993, a brick was thrown through 5-year-old Isaac Schnitzer’s bedroom window. The brick and shards of glass were strewn all over the child’s bed. The reason? A menorah and other symbols of Jewish faith were stenciled on the glass as part of the family’s Hanukkah celebration. The account of the incident in the Billings Gazette the next day reported that Isaac’s mother, Tammie Schnitzer, was troubled by the advice she got from the investigating officer. He suggested that she remove the symbols. How would she explain this to her son?

Another mother in Billings was deeply touched by that question. She tried to imagine explaining to her children that they couldn’t have a Christmas tree in the window or a wreath on the door because it wasn’t safe. She remembered what happened when Hitler ordered the king of Denmark to force Danish Jews to wear the Star of David. The order was never carried out because the king himself and many other Danes chose to wear the yellow stars. The Nazis lost the ability to find their enemies.

There are several dozen Jewish families in Billings. This kind of tactic could effectively deter violence if enough people got involved. So Margaret McDonald phoned her pastor, the Rev. Keith Torney at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, and asked what he thought of having Sunday school children make paper cut-out menorahs for their own windows. He got on the phone with his clergy colleagues around town, and the following week menorahs appeared in the windows of hundreds of Christian homes. Asked about the danger of this action, police chief Wayne Inman told callers, "There’s greater risk in not doing it."

Five days after the brick was thrown at the Schnitzer home, the Gazette published a full-page drawing of a menorah, along with a general invitation to put it up. By the end of the week at least six thousand homes (some accounts estimate up to ten thousand) were decorated with menorahs.
Wouldn’t it be great if when some hate monger tried to stir up a "War on Christmas" the whole nation responded by putting symbols of groups currently being persecuted in their windows? It could become a Christmas tradition to each year pick the symbol of a religion or group that was currently facing hardship to put in the window. That would be my idea of the true Christmas spirit.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

This Water Contains High Levels of Hydrogen

My wife, daughter and I are in Louisville, Kentucky today visiting friends. During a tour of their hometown we stopped to see beautiful Waterfront Park. In the center of the park is a fountain that was designed in such a way that it made me wonder how they kept people from swimming in it during the summer. I then noticed a sign that said. "Warning. This water contains high levels of hydrogen. Keep Out!" I immediately burst out laughing.

If you do not get the joke here is an article from Fox News that I found after returning from the park in which they carefully explained to their readers that there is nothing wrong with water that contains hydrogen.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Second-Class Citizens

What rights and privileges do natural-born citizens have that naturalized citizens are denied? If you read any civics books the answer given is that naturalized citizens have all the rights and privileges of natural-born citizens except they cannot be president or vice-president of the United States. The civics books also say that the only way a U.S. citizen can lose their citizenship is by serving in the armed forces of another nation or committing a very serious crime such as treason.

But that is no longer true for naturalized citizens. Since 1996 not only can a naturalized citizen lose their citizenship and be deported for crimes far less serious than treason but it can now be done by the INS on its own say-so without a judge being involved at all:

from the Columbian Law Review
In 1996, against a backdrop of partisan criticism of its Citizenship USA naturalization campaign, the Immigration and Naturalization Service promulgated regulations implementing, for the first time, an administrative procedure to revoke citizenship of naturalized citizens. Prior to this, naturalization could be revoked through judicial proceedings only.

It is almost as if we have to have an underclass in our society. When I was a child in the 1950s and 1960s I heard racist whites taking great satisfaction that however lowly was their status in society at least they were not black. Now I hear the same sort of sentiments being expressed by the anti-immigrant crowd who place great value on things that natural-born citizens possess and immigrants do not, such as speaking English without an accent and not having any emotional attachments to foreign flags or holidays.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Why now?

Two men came to Maria Hernadez’s door in Moline, Illinois Monday evening asking for her 19 year old son, Jose. They said they were from the Probation Office and needed to talk to him. This seemed a little strange since Jose had completed his probation several years ago but the family called him to come home. As soon as he came he was arrested and taken to the Rock Island County jail.

The men were federal agents conducting a sweep of immigrants in Illinois with more than one DUI arrest. A new law makes multiple DUI convictions a Class A felony. Immigrants who are not yet citizens and are felons are subject to deportation. For some reason a federal judge had issued an order and a sweep was being conducted. As of Tuesday evening at least 16 people had been arrested and were being held in the Rock Island and Henry county jails.

The Hispanic community in the Illinois Quad Cities is in turmoil. Many of the arrested, like Jose, had completed their probation and paid their fines years ago. Some had been advised by their lawyers to plead guilty to the misdemeanor rather than go to trial since no jail time was involved and this would not affect their immigration status. Many were asking why this was happening now. Did it have something to do with the recent elections? Why were the families not allowed to talk to them in jail? What was going to happen now? Would they be deported without the families being able to see or talk to them?

Jose was a student at Moline High School. Others were arrested at their place of employment. All of them have families. Many of those arrested were the primary wage earners leaving wives and children to worry about how the rent was going to be paid.

How does rounding people up and deporting them years after their DUI fines have been paid and probation served make us safer or improve anything? Who does this judge and these agents serve? Do you approve of their actions?

Read news articles about the arrests:
The Quad Cities Times
The Moline Dispatch

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Karl Rove actually believed the polls were all wrong

Newsweek claims that Karl Rove actually believed that Republicans would hang on to majorities in both the Senate and the House.
Rove's miscalculations began well before election night. The polls and pundits pointed to a Democratic sweep, but Rove dismissed them all. In public, he predicted outright victory, flashing the V sign to reporters flying on Air Force One. He wasn't just trying to psych out the media and the opposition. He believed his "metrics" were far superior to plain old polls. Two weeks before the elections, Rove showed NEWSWEEK his magic numbers: a series of graphs and bar charts that tallied early voting and voter outreach. Both were running far higher than in 2004. In fact, Rove thought the polls were obsolete because they relied on home telephones in an age of do-not-call lists and cell phones. Based on his models, he forecast a loss of 12 to 14 seats in the House—enough to hang on to the majority. Rove placed so much faith in his figures that, after the elections, he planned to convene a panel of Republican political scientists—to study just how wrong the polls were.

Funny how reality has a way of intruding into even the best laid plans.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The election results force the President to change course in Iraq

I have heard the convergence of factors leading to the overwhelming nature of the Democratic sweep of the midterm elections 2 days ago as a "perfect storm." Everything played its part including the President and Vice President insisting that a vote for any Republican for Congress was a vote for a 2 year continuation of the present policy and leadership in Iraq.

But then, in a move that must have angered and frustrated Republicans who had just lost, immediately after the election the President fired Donald Rumsfeld and announced a change in direction in Iraq policy. If he had done that before the election some of those defeated Republicans might not have lost. What is going on here?

I remember hearing a story about President Franklin Roosevelt. After meeting with a group asking for federal action on civil rights FDR told them, "OK, you’ve convinced me. Now go out there and force me to do it." Although we always talk about the president as if he is the "decider" there are vast institutional forces at work constraining the president. He is probably being told constantly by his staff what he cannot do.

It is almost as if the Republicans in government were as unhappy with how things were going as the rest of the country but felt powerless to change what they were doing before the election. The election results forced the President’s hand. I may be imagining things but it almost sounded to me like he was relieved. Maybe the burden of being the "decider" is wearing on him, especially when things are so obviously going wrong.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Why was Karl Rove so confident?

As of this writing the Democrats look to have about a 15 seat majority in the House and possibly control of the Senate depending on recounts and legal challenges in Montana and Virginia and whether Joe Lieberman caucuses with the Democrats or the Republicans. (Joe Lieberman’s party affiliation reminds me of Abraham Lincoln asking how many legs a dog has if you call the tail a leg. Answer: 4 – calling the tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.)

These results make me wonder what happened to Karl Rove’s October surprise and why he was so supremely confident up to the end. Did he think that his dirty trick of harassing swing voters with robo-callers which deceptively appeared to be from Democrats would cause a last minute swing? Did he just assume that the Republicans would have a superior Get Out the Vote drive? Was Karl unaware that the powers that be in business (such as in the media and possibly the electronic voting machine companies) who had aided his efforts in previous elections had decided that the current situation in the country was bad for business and needed to change? Or did he really know what was going to happen and was just putting on a show of confidence?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A walk on Sylvan Island

Today was another beautiful sunny fall day in the Quad Cities. I took my dog, Bear, for a walk on Sylvan Island in Moline.

One of the main paths on Sylvan Island. (click on the pictures to see them full size.)

That's Bear up ahead on the right side of the path.

The Moline power dam and a popular fishing spot.

Cheney - "Stay the Course"

On ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” this morning Vice President Dick Cheney said that a vote for any Republican for Congress, no matter what the individual candidate may be saying about the war, would be a vote for 2 more years of the policies and leadership we have seen up to now. A vote for a Republican Congressional candidate was a vote for the war and a vote for a Democratic candidate was a vote against the war. Although President Bush may have backed down from "Stay the Course" Vice President Cheney most definitely has not.

If President Bush and Vice President Cheney had suddenly announced before the election that they were changing strategy and they had, ala Nixon, a secret plan to win the war this could have been bad news for the Democrats. The Democrats can breathe a sign of relief. The President’s and Vice President’s stubbornness and inability to admit to any mistake or miscalculation apparently prevent any such last minute surprises.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

"End Iraq" -- David Brooks

Conservative columnist David Brooks in his column today in the NY Times (requires a subscription) calls for ending our occupation of Iraq.
Partitioning the country would be traumatic, so after the election it probably makes sense to make one last effort to hold the place together. Fire Donald Rumsfeld to signal a break with the past. Alter troop rotations so that 30,000 more troops are policing Baghdad.

But if that does not restore order, if Iraqi ministries remain dysfunctional and the national institutions remain sectarian institutions in disguise, then surely it will be time to accede to reality. It will be time to effectively end Iraq, with a remaining fig-leaf central government or not. It will be time to radically diffuse authority down to the only communities that are viable — the clan, tribe or sect.

Mr. Brooks does not explain in his article whether he now believes that it was a mistake for the US to invade and occupy Iraq or if he still thinks it was a noble and worthwhile effort to try to bring democracy to the Iraqis at the point of a gun. It is not clear whether he believes the 3,000 American lives, the 40,000 to 650,000 Iraqi lives (depending on whose estimates you believe) and the billions of dollars of American tax-payer money spent (wasted) was an acceptable price to pay for a plan that (as is now clear to almost everyone) was doomed from the outset.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

John McCain on the sacrifices of our Iraqi War veterans

Yesterday Senator John McCain was campaigning with Peter Roskam who is the Republican candidate for Congress in the Illinois 6th Congressional District. Roskam’s Democratic opponent is Iraqi war veteran Tammy Duckworth, who walks on two artificial legs as a result of injuries suffered in Iraq. Roskam is not a veteran.

McCain had this to say about the sacrifice of our veterans:
I go out to Walter Reed quite often and see these brave young soldiers who have served and sacrificed so much. Many of them have lost limbs, as you know. And it's a very sad thing to see. But at the same time it's very uplifting.

But what was the sacrifice of our Iraqi War veterans for? When the war started we were told it was necessary to eliminate Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. When it turned out there weren’t any the stated reasons for the war shifted to bringing the benefits of western style democracy to the region. That no longer seems very likely so now we are told that the war in Iraq is part of the global war on terror. But many experts tell us that the war is increasing the likelihood that the United States will be attacked by terrorists rather than lessening it.

Maybe John McCain finds sacrifice itself inspiring even if the sacrifice accomplishes nothing. I guess everyone is entitled to find inspiration and meaning where ever they can, but if he feels that way why is he not campaigning for Tammy Duckworth rather than for her opponent?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Moline High School Annual Powder Puff Football Game

In the annual Moline High School Powder Puff football game at Browning field the Senior girls beat the Junior girls 27 to 18. In the half-time tug-of-war the Sophomore girls out-pulled the Freshmen.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Beautiful weather for a bike ride

It was perfect weather for a bike ride this afternoon in the Quad Cities. It was in the upper 60s, a light wind, low humidity and not a cloud in the sky. I stopped several times along the way to take pictures of the beautiful Sylvan Slough section of the Mississippi River between downtown Moline and downtown Rock Island.

It was also a beautiful day for paddling a canoe in Sylvan Slough.
(Click on pictures to see them full size.)

It was also perfect weather for fishing.

Four year old Matty and her father Brian preparing their fishing gear.

Did Rush Limbaugh just give the Senate to the Democrats?

This morning on ABC’s "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" George interviewed Michael J. Fox about his efforts to help elect candidates who support embryonic stem-cell research. Michael explained that the medication he takes for his Parkinson’s disease involves trade-offs. Larger doses allow him to move more freely and speak more normally and with more normal facial expressiveness, but also cause the involuntary motions which are so noticeable in his recent television appearances. If he took less medication there would be fewer or no involuntary motions but his face would be an expressionless mask and he would not be able to speak very easily or persuasively. He explained that he would look and act like Muhammad Ali does when he appears in public if he reduced his medication enough to avoid the involuntary movements.

Rush Limbaugh refers to Michael’s explanation of this difficult trade-off as a confession that he deliberately over-doses on his medication to cause the involuntary motions. Rush Limbaugh also seems to believe that Michael J. Fox is doing this because he hates and wants to hurt Republicans.

Later in the show during the "This Week" Roundtable the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne said that Rush Limbaugh, by asking the public to choose between him and Michael J. Fox, may have just handed control of the Senate to the Democrats.

We can certainly hope so.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

ABC News criticizes Democrats for ads they have not yet created

Cross posted from Media Matters
In a report on how recent campaigns advertisements are "getting ugly," ABC News, unable to point to a single instance of "nasty" attacks from Democratic candidates or their supporters, suggested it is only a matter of time before "the left" begins to "unleash its garbage as well." ABC News offered no evidence to back up its allegation that Democrats might soon resort to distasteful, negative advertising.

ABC News had no problem documenting ads, currently airing in campaign across the country, attacking Democrats, including one from the Republican National Committee about Democratic Tennessee Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr. In it, an actress playing a ditzy blonde bimbo says: "I met Harold at the Playboy party. ... Harold, call me." Critics, including one prominent Republican, have called the ad borderline racist.

At the conclusion of its report on attack ads, ABC News insisted that "Democrats aren't necessarily running clean campaigns." Unable to cite any examples, ABC News reported, "As the races tighten in the next couple of weeks, the left will likely unleash its garbage as well."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

You cannot say that we were not warned

Now that even the president has dropped "Stay the course" and just about everyone admits that the Iraq invasion and occupation has been an unmitigated disaster I have a question for those Americans who supported the invasion. There were people who were knowledgeable about the region and its history telling you before the invasion that what was going to emerge after an invasion and "regime change" was much more likely to be civil war and an Iran-style Islamic dictatorship than a stable democracy. Why did you not believe them? I have a follow-up question. Billions of dollars have been wasted and thousands of lives lost (some estimates are hundreds of thousands of lives lost). Do you feel that you need to change something about how you decide who to trust and what to believe now that you see the disastrous results of not listening to the experts?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Update on uninsured Moline woman needing surgery

Connie Barrett of Casa Guanajuato has issued the following update on the appeal that Casa issued for help for Maria Hernadez.
I called General Surgery Assoc. to tell them that we were raising the funds and to make an appointment with them. They got back to me and told me that the billing office and the doctors had met on this, and the price was now $3,800, and they need the whole amount up front before they would schedule any surgery!

Thanks to the intervention of Stella Schneekloth and Rose and Dr. David Udehn, Maria was referred to Dr. Baner, an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist in Moline . He saw her right away, and scheduled surgery for Monday, October 30th. The cost is still $2,600, however, he will work with us. The important thing is to get the surgery done and relieve Maria of her suffering.

People have responded very generously and so far, we have $1,036. Maria is very grateful to everyone. Dr. Baner was so kind and reassuring as he explained the surgery to Maria, endearingly using his limited knowledge of Spanish to make her smile. I will be taking her for some lab tests on Wednesday, and Friday they will give her pre-surgery instructions for surgery on Monday.

We wish to thank everyone for the outpouring of support and concern. Thank you for spreading the word about Maria’s plight. We will continue to update you on her condition and the fundraising progress on her behalf.

Casa Guanajuato has set up a special account to accept donations for Maria’s medical expenses. Donations can be sent to Casa Guanajuato, 133 – 4th Ave. , Moline , IL 61265 or you can contribute online with a credit card by going to and clicking the PayPal button. Casa Guanajuato is a non-profit organization, and donations are tax deductible. Make sure we have your address so we can send you a receipt.

We have received very few donations using the online donation button I set up and none from self-identified compassionate conservates. Although Maria now has a surgeon who is not demanding his entire fee before scheduling the surgery it would be good to raise enough money so that Maria and her family do not have the worry of a medical bill in addition to their worries about Maria's condition and her upcoming surgery. The PayPal button to donate online is to the right, just below my profile.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

You can now donate for Maria's surgery online

In my previous blog entry I passed on an urgent appeal from Casa Guanajuato in Moline for donations to pay for surgery for
Maria Hernadez, a wife and mother of four who has lived in Moline for 11 years, who is having increasing difficulty swallowing.

Almost immediately people started asking me how they could donate online. In response to all these appeals (actually just one) I have set up an email and PayPal account -- -- to receive donations to pay for Maria Hernadez's surgery. Click on the button to the right, just below my profile, to donate online using a credit card or your PayPal account.

UPDATE: I am wondering if we will get more contributions from self-identified Conservatives, Moderates or Liberals. If you would like me to figure out which group is more compassionate mention your political leanings when you make your contribution. If you make your contribution through PayPal just type it in the space for item being purchased.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Are you a compassionate Conservative, Moderate or Liberal?

A Moline, Illinois organization that provides assistance and services to immigrants has sent out an urgent appeal for help. A Moline woman desperately needs surgery for a goiter which is making it difficult for her to swallow.
Maria Hernandez is an unemployed, 36 year old mother of four. Her husband works for a temp agency. They have lived in Moline for 11 years. Maria has a progressively enlarging goiter in her throat that is painful and makes it increasingly difficult for her to swallow. She was referred to a surgeon who recommended that she have it surgically removed. They have no health insurance and because she is not a US citizen, Maria is not eligible for a Medical Card.

Trinity Hospital has approved Maria for their financial aid program. There is no problem with getting her into the hospital. However, General Surgery Associates is insisting that she pay the total amount $2,600 up front before they will do the surgery. Even though the Hernandez family has paid their doctor bills so far, the doctor’s office will not accept a payment plan for the surgery.

At this point, we are asking the community for help. Each day that passes, Maria is in increasing discomfort. We understand that doctors should be paid for their work, and we appreciate the vital, life saving work they do. But as a caring community, we cannot stand heartlessly by watching while Maria suffers and chokes on her own spit.

Please help and donate what you can, so that Maria can have the surgery. If everyone who reads this or is told about this family’s plight sends a little bit, together we can raise the funds to help. Send your donations to the Casa Guanajuato Cultural Center (for Maria Hernandez), 133 – 4th Ave., Moline, IL 61265 or call Connie Barrett at 309-235-1160 or Stella Schneekloth at 309-558-9449.

I can personally guarantee that every penny donated to this fund will be used for Maria's medical expenses.

UPDATE: I have set up an email account and PayPal account so that donations can be made online - If you want to make a donation online click the "PayPal Payment" button on the right side of the screen, just below my profile. I am wondering if we will get more contributions from self-identified Conservatives, Moderates or Liberals. If you would like me to figure out which group is more compassionate mention your political leanings when you make your contribution. If you make your contribution through PayPal just type it in the space for item being purchased.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

If the Amish are not entitled to revenge, then who is?

If the Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania are not entitled to revenge then who is? It was one of the most despicable crimes imaginable. The victims were apparently selected simply because they were the most defenseless and vulnerable people the killer could think of – no phone or police nearby. Ten young girls were bound and then shot execution style.

Based the way many humans have reacted to such atrocities throughout history one could imagine the Amish demanding revenge and hating the family and descendents of the killer and people who shared his religion or ethnicity for generations. Instead, the Amish asked for nothing. When asked what people who wanted to help could do the Amish suggested that people could pray for them. When given money to help with the medical care of the injured and to pay funeral expenses the Amish gave some of it to the killer’s family. After all, they were hurting also

Every Christian knows that Jesus called on them to respond to hate with love. When slapped on one cheek turn the other. When people who consider themselves Christian demand revenge for wrongs done to them are asked if they are responding as a Christian should they sometimes say, "If I am not entitled to revenge, then who is?" I can imagine the Amish responding, "Indeed, who is?"

Imagine if the United States had reacted like the Amish to the tragedy of 9/11? Instead we have 3000 additional American dead in Iraq and who knows how many Iraqi deaths – the estimates range between 40,000 and 600,000. An eye for an eye and the whole world is blind.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Before You Enlist

This is a 15 minute video that you should watch if you or someone close to you is considering enlisting. Don't believe everything you hear in those recruiting pitches.

Click the arrow in the center of the screen to watch the video.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Colorful Kayaks in Slyvan Slough

Every time I go down by the river perfect pictures present themselves.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Pictures from my bike ride

I took these pictures during my bike ride this morning on the bike path along the Sylvan Slough section of the Mississippi River between downtown Moline and downtown Rock Island.

An egret sitting in a tree. The egrets seem to be particularly numerous in the Slough this year.

Fishing from boats in the Slough. The power dams just upstream from here create a particularly high concentration of fish in this spot.

Foley debate reveals psychopaths

Of all the reactions to the controversy over the Republican House Leadership’s cover-up of the presence of a sexual predator in their midst the argument I find most fascinating is that offered by Rush Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan and others. Their argument is that the House Leadership could take no action to stop Mark Foley from preying on underage pages because to do so they would have to "out" Foley as a homosexual. Limbaugh, Buchanan and the others who say this seem to think that this is a winning argument, presumably because they have heard their political opponents express sympathy and concern for the feelings of homosexuals who have been hurt by being "outed".

To me, and I suspect to all people who care about the feelings of others, this argument is amazingly wrong-headed. How could someone be concerned about Foley’s feelings but not be more concerned about Foley’s victims – the powerless and defenseless underage pages. The only answer I can come up with is that the people who advance this argument, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan and others, must not actually have any sympathy, empathy or concern for the feelings of others and are only pretending to in order to advance their political agenda.
How could someone who has no empathy or sympathy for others advance an argument based on their supposed concern? Here is how Wikipedia defines psychopath:
A psychopath is defined as having no concern for the feelings of others & a complete disregard for any sense of social obligation. They seem egocentric and lacking insight and any sense of responsibility or consequence. Their emotions are thought to be superficial and shallow, if they exist at all. They are considered callous, manipulative and incapable of forming lasting relationships, let alone of any kind of love. It is thought that any emotions which the true psychopath exhibits are the fruits of watching and mimicking other people's emotions. They show poor impulse control and a low tolerance for frustration and aggression. They have no empathy, remorse, anxiety or guilt in relation to their behavior. In short, they truly are devoid of conscience.

Note that psychopaths watch and mimic other people’s emotions. But since they are mimicking behavior without the underlying basis of that behavior they will occasionally get it wrong and betray themselves, as they have here.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

What are you going to say 20 years from now

What are you going to say 20 years from now when a young person asks you what you did when it became legal for the US government to grab people off the street, torture them and hold them indefinitely without charges? Are you going to have to say that all you did was mutter under your breath to a few like-minded friends? Or perhaps you will have to say that you agreed with it at the time because you thought it would make the country safer if suspicious people could be 'disappeared' and assumed that our government would never do such a thing to people who looked like you.

The people of Canada are very upset about their government’s role in the case of Maher Arar, an innocent man who was ‘disappeared’ and tortured for 10 months. There was a governmental inquiry and much soul-searching about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’ s role in the sorry episode (a much smaller role than the US government’s). There are plans to give Maher Arar a Canadian government job in compensation.

In the US there is no inquiry and very little outcry. The only official response so far is to block Maher Arar from suing in US courts to receive compensation. To the rest of the world it appears that no one in the US cares very much about this issue.
First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller

At some point in the future are you going to say something similar that starts with 'First they came for the Middle-Eastern looking men and I did not speak out because I did not look Middle-Eastern'?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Which side are you on?

According to the New York Times
A [Canadian] government commission on Monday exonerated a Canadian computer engineer of any ties to terrorism and issued a scathing report that faulted Canada and the United States for his deportation four years ago to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured…
The Syrian-born Mr. Arar was seized on Sept. 26, 2002, after he landed at Kennedy Airport in New York on his way home [to Canada] from a holiday in Tunisia. On Oct. 8, he was flown to Jordan in an American government plane and taken overland to Syria, where he says he was held for 10 months in a tiny cell and beaten repeatedly with a metal cable. He was freed in October 2003, after Syrian officials concluded that he had no connection to terrorism and returned him to Canada…[while he was being held in New York before being shipped to Syria] American officials denied Mr. Arar’s requests to speak with the Canadian Consulate in New York, a violation of international agreements. [And the US Government has blocked Mr. Arar from suing the United States government to receive compensation for his suffering.]

Read the entire story

Of course, none of this was legal even by the degraded standards of the Bush Administration. Mr. Arar was not an illegal combatant taken prisoner on a battlefield. He was a Canadian citizen on his way home to Canada from vacation.
He was seized at the airport in New York, held without being charged, not allowed to contact the Canadian embassy and then shipped off to Syria to be tortured. He could not have been arraigned or charged because it turns out there was not only no evidence of wrong-doing that would stand up in court -- there was no evidence at all because he had done nothing wrong and was not a threat or a danger to anyone. And now the US Government is preventing him from seeking redress and compensation for the wrongs done to him by the US in the US courts.

We overthrew Saddam Hussein in order to bring American style freedom and justice to Iraq. If this is American freedom and justice you have to wonder why we bothered. It seems pretty much the same as Iraqi freedom and justice under Saddam Hussein.

Judging by the actions (or inactions) of the Republican majority in Congress up to now it seems safe to assume that none of people in the United States responsible for this outrage will ever be held accountable for these illegal and barbaric acts as long as Republicans remain in control of Congress. Voters in the Illinois 17th and Iowa 1st Congressional Districts, as in many districts around the country, have a clear choice between a Republican candidate who backs the Bush Administration’s policies and actions and wants to see them continue and a Democratic candidate who does not.

Which side are you on?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Political Cartoon Homework Assignment

My daughter is in the 11th grade attending Moline High School. She was given a homework assignment to draw a political cartoon. She told me the sentiment she wanted to express and asked me for advice how to turn it into a cartoon. I told her to draw a rather portly man, label him "Republican Congressman" and have him saying "Immigrants are ruining this country." Then draw a man putting a ballot in a ballot box, label him "Voters" and have him saying to the Congressman, "No. You’re ruining this country. You’re Fired!". My daughter liked that idea, drew it up and turned it in.

The teacher gave it an A.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Andrea Zinga backpedals on extra airport screening for 'Middle Eastern men'

I just saw this story on Rich Miller's Capital Fax Blog. According to the The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Andrea Zinga, Republican candidate in the Illinois 17th Congression District, said Monday that all Middle Eastern men should get secondary security screenings as they board airplanes.

However, Republican Andrea Zinga's campaign manager, Charlie Johnston, said later "that's not what she wanted to say." He said she really meant to say that there should be no threat of anti-discrimination legal action against airlines if the pre-screening system to identify problem passengers identifies more than three people from the same ethnic group.

read the entire story

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Torture being done in our names

I have always thought that torture was something only bad and evil people and governments did. Yet, torture has been done for and by the people of the United States, for the last 5 years. How could 230 years of history be overturned without people protesting and saying that this was wrong? How could our entire military, the CIA and the FBI go along with such a change in who we are and what we stand for without some of them raising objections to what they were seeing being done and being asked to do? According to an article in today’s New York Times many of those involved did object:

Abu Zubaydah, the first Osama bin Laden henchman captured by the United States after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was bloodied and feverish when a C.I.A. security team delivered him to a secret safe house in Thailand for interrogation in the early spring of 2002. …. Within days, Mr. Zubaydah was being subjected to coercive interrogation techniques — he was stripped, held in an icy room and jarred by earsplittingly loud music …
President Bush pointedly cited the capture and interrogation of Mr. Zubaydah in his speech last Wednesday announcing the transfer of Mr. Zubaydah and 13 others to the American detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. And he used it to call for ratification of the tough techniques employed in the questioning.
But rather than the smooth process depicted by Mr. Bush, interviews with nearly a dozen current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials briefed on the process show, the interrogation of Mr. Zubaydah was fraught with sharp disputes, debates about the legality and utility of harsh interrogation methods, and a rupture between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the C.I.A. that has yet to heal.
Read the article

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Pictures from my bike ride

I took this picture this morning on my bicycle ride on the bike trail along the Mississippi River just west of downtown Moline. In the background is Arsenal Island. The boat and rowers are from the Quad City Rowing Association and are a common sight here in the summer, as is the egret (the white bird on the far shore). (Click on the picture to enlarge it.)

On the bike trail just west of the Moline/Rock Island border they have just torn down some unsightly industrial buildings and are building a park and resting spot for bicyclists. The walkway connecting the steps to bike path was just poured in the last few days. From what I have seen and heard about their plans they are going to turn one of the least attractive spots on the bike trail into one of the nicest. I am keeping close tabs on their progress.

Another common sight on the bike path just east of downtown Moline is this flock of domestic geese that seems to be loosely associated with the Moline Water Department for some reason.

Chris Dunn warms up the crowd for Jim Hightower

Chris Dunn of Rock Island, Illinois warming up the crowd for Jim Hightower last night (Sept 8, 2006) at Veteran's Memorial Park Bandshell in Bettendorf, Iowa. Chris did a excellent job, as usual, and had most of the crowd singing along with him and his songs of political protest and environmental concern.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Jim Hightower in Bettendorf

I just heard Jim Hightower, the progressive author, national radio commentator and political agitator from Austin, Texas, speak at the Veteran’s Memorial Park Bandshell in Bettendorf, Iowa. It was his sixth Iowa stop in the last two days on his “Sensible Priorities” tour arranged by Iowans for Sensible Priorities.

As always he had a lot of funny lines. “This administration sees themselves as the top dogs and us as a bunch of fire hydrants.” Of Dick Cheney – “a million sperm and you were the fastest?!?” When Rumsfeld called critics of the Iraq War the “blame America first crowd,” Hightower responds, “No, we are not blaming America. We are blaming you.” And a bunch more that I can not remember now. (I should have taken notes.)

But the thing he said that really struck me was during the question and answer period. Someone asked about the private contractors doing military operations in Iraq without any of the oversight, accountability or military justice that our soldiers operate under. Jim Hightower pointed out that a corporation operates in many respects exactly the opposite to how a democratically elected government should behave. A government should be open and democratic. A corporation is secretive and hierarchical. A democratic government’s highest priority should be the public good and the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people. The corporation operates only for the benefit of a small number of wealthy stockholders. And yet the current Administration’s stated goal is to run the government more like a business. And they have, much to our detriment.

All of our recent presidents have run the government for the benefit of the corporations. Ronald Reagan, Bush the elder, Bill Clinton, even Jimmy Carter. But with this Administration the corporations have actually moved into the White House. They are all corporate executives - George Bush (although a failed one), Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Phil Hare and Bruce Braley at Salute to Labor picnic

Phil Hare, Democratic candidate in the Illinois 17th Congressional District, addressing the crowd at the Salute to Labor picnic at Illiniwek Park in Hampton, Illinois.
Behind Phil are Mike Jacobs, Illinois State Senator and Alex Giannoulias, Democratic candidate for Illinois State Treasurer

Bruce Braley, Democratic candidate in the Iowa 1st Congressional District.

Salute To Labor Picnic, Labor Day 2006

This is a picture I took at the Salute to Labor picnic at Illiniwek park today.From right to left we have:
Richard "Dick" Leibovitz - Rock Island County Clerk
Vicki Wright - candidate for Appelate Court Judge
LuAnn Kerr - Rock Island County Treasurer
John Edwards - former US Senator and Vice Presidential candidate
John Gianulis - Rock Island County Democratic Party Chairman
Mike Jacobs - Illinois State Senator 36th District
Pat Verschoore - Illinois State Representative 72nd District
Mike Boland - State Representative 71st District

I was very impressed with John Edwards and what he had to say. I did not take notes or record the speech so what I say will be from my memory and impressions of what he said. He told us that people around the world were suspicious and dubious about the motives and objectives of the United States and what we are doing overseas but that was because they did not know the American people, who we are and what we stand for. The reason they do not know us is because Abu Graib and Guantanomo Bay do not reflect the American people. We are better than that! And if Democrats are returned to power in Washington the government's actions and polices will once again reflect the values and morals of the American people. [huge applause] He said more than that but that is the essence of what I took away from his speech.

The media is reporting that hundreds of people were there. That seems right to me.

Illegal Immigration being used as wedge issue

In the Illinois 6th Congressional District race the Republican National Campaign Committee is attacking the Democratic candidate, Tammy Duckworth, an Iraqi War verteran, on illegal immigration. Rather than highlighting the real differences between the candidates on this issue, how we deal with the more than 10 million illegal immigrants already here, the above ads lie about Tammy Duckworth's stand on border security and "amnesty" for illegal immigrants.
According to the "bridget in the sixth" blog, the Duckworth campaign will be sending out mailers this week to deny the charges that she supports an "amnesty" and does not intend to secure our borders.

click on the images to expand them

There are real differences between Tammy Duckworth and her Republican opponent on immigration policy but the Republicans are not talking about those. Instead they lie about things almost all Americans (and almost all Congressional candidates, Democratic and Republican) agree on -- the need to secure our borders and stop illegal immigration. Why aren't the Republicans sending out mailers talking about the immigration issues that really divide us -- how do we deal with the more than 10 million illegal immigrants alreay here, many of whom have been here many years, have children who are citizens and have strong ties to the community? Unlike the Democrats the Republicans, insofar as they have a common approach, seem to favor threatening deportation to keep the millions of undocumented workers as permanent second-class citizens without the rights and protections other Americans enjoy. Why aren't the Republicans sending out mailers saying that? Could it be that their polls and focus groups tell them that approach does not appeal to a majority of voters?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Who is going to give away your Social Security benefits?

The National Republican Congressional Committee is sending out mailers to voters in the Illinois 6th Congressional District race (and probably other targeted races) trying to scare voters by claiming that the Democratic candidate favors an immigration policy that would "let illegal immigrants get your Social Security."

My Social Security?!? Adding 10 million workers to the Social Security system would not threaten MY benefits. It would make the system stronger and more secure. Adding more workers to the system would make it more likely that I would be able to collect my benefits. What would threaten my benefits would be removing workers from the system the way the Republican plan for partial privatization would do.

So who is the greater threat to your Social Security benefits - the Democrats who want to add workers to the system or Republicans who want to remove them?

Thursday, August 31, 2006

How Bush is viewed in Utah

In the capital of the conservative and normally Republican state of Utah:
A crowd of thousands cheered Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson for calling President Bush a "dishonest, war-mongering, human-rights violating president" whose time in office would "rank as the worst presidency our nation has ever had to endure.
Read entire story

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

My Immigrant Ancestors Did Not Learn English

All Americans have immigrant ancestors, many of whom came to America not knowing English. How many of the 17th, 18th and 19th Century non-English speaking immigrants who came to America as adults learned English? I don’t know. I know that my great-great grandparents who came to Davenport in the 1880s from Schleswig-Holstein spoke Platt-Deutsch (low German) at least to their children their whole lives. My father remembers visiting his great-grandmother and having his mother and aunts translate.

Of course, those who came as young children and the children of the immigrants who were born here learned English perfectly even though English was not spoken at home.

How about your ancestors? Did those who came as adults not knowing English learn English?

Monday, August 28, 2006

"Choosing a Long Peace Instead of a Long War" - Deepak Chopra

The only response President Bush is offering us to the threat of Islamic terrorism is a long war. Deepak Chopra suggests a different course:

In the wake of the thwarted plot to explode bombs on flight from Britain to the U.S., several commentators echoed President Bush's slogan that fighting terrorism is going to be a long war, the defining struggle of this generation. No one mentioned striving for a long peace with the Arab world, which will also take a generation. The roots of terrorism are not insane. Real conditions gave rise to a huge disaffected segment of Muslims, mostly young and male. From northern Africa across the entire Middle East to Pakistan, there has been a population boom without much hope that any child will receive adequate education, except in the Koran, or adequate work. The governments are either militaristic or dominated by reactionary royal families.
Read entire article

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Must we sacrifice everything for jobs and tax revenue?

The nearby town of Keithsburg, Illinois is facing a tough choice. Either accept a business that most residents find distasteful, a bar featuring scantily clad waitresses, or lose jobs and tax dollars. Does that sound familiar?

Many residents of rural East Moline and Silvis, Illinois find the prospect of a proposed hog processing plant near them distasteful but have been told that they must accept it because refusing the plant means losing jobs and tax revenue.

The main difference between the two situations in my opinion is that the threat Keithsburg is facing is more dire and immediate:

The owner of the Keithsburg bar has closed all his businesses in town and is saying that if religious opposition to his business continues he will tear the building down.
If he razes any of his buildings that make up most of the sparse downtown in this community, still struggling from the devastating Great Flood of ’93, the structures cannot feasibly be rebuilt in the federally designated floodplain, city officials said. Read entire article

The threat to East Moline is that if they do not offer tax incentives to a proposed distasteful pork processing plant then the plant would be built in some other community. This is a less dire threat than that facing Keithsburg, but is obviously, to me at least, a similar threat.

Do we have to accept businesses in our community that we find distasteful because those businesses offer jobs and tax revenue? Does living in a capitalistic system mean that money always trumps our moral sensibilities, our sense of propriety and our environmental concerns?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Welcome to the Quad Cities Senator Biden

The headline of the story on page 3 of today's Moline (Illinois) Dispatch about the visit of Senator Biden to Rock Island was “Democratic presidential candidate has plagiarism, bluntness to overcome.” The first sentence of the article, written by Karl Alemeier, is “Sen. Joe Biden knows he has 33 years of legislative bluntness to smooth over if he wants to be president, but he also knows he has years of experience in foreign relations that should make him someone to consider.”

Welcome to the Quad Cities. Missouri is the “Show Me” state. Does the Dispatch want the Quad Cities to be the “Apologize To Me” metropolitan area? I, for one, do not think that Senator Biden first needs to apologize or overcome his “legislative bluntness” before I will consider him for president. I like his style and wish more Democrats in Congress would adopt it.

Will the Dispatch treat other presidential candidates the same way? When Senator McCain comes to town will the Dispatch headline be “Republican candidate has unwavering support for the war to overcome?” With over 60% of the public now against the war that question would be germane.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Can anyone identify these birds?

I was riding my bicycle on the bike trail along the Mississippi just west of downtown Rock Island when I saw this flock of birds beside the river.

One of them took off and I got this picture as it flew over me.

I can identify egrets, herons, geese and ducks, all of which were nearby and I can say with some confidence that these birds were not any of those. Although you can not see it in the pictures I thought I saw a little red around their heads. That makes me think they may be wild turkeys, but they don't look like any of the pictures of turkeys I can find.

There is some excellent political writing to be found if you look outside the corporate media

I was checking out the other Illinois political blogs and came across
this fine piece of writing by Ellen Beth Gill in Ellen's Illinois Tenth Congression District Blog
Friday evening, the Illinois Ballot Integrity Project and the Moraine Township Democrats sponsored a discussion with Mark Crispin Miller author of Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election and Why They'll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them). The discussion centered around the issues of vote supression and ballot integrity.

read the entire article

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Ideas that were once commonly held that now seem strange

Forty-five years ago, when I was in grade school, our American History books started with the statement that in the year 1492 Christopher Columbus discovered America. Although there were millions of human beings in the so-called “New World” at that point in time, with centuries of their own history, the authors of our text books considered everything that happened to non-Europeans before they were noticed by Europeans to be of no importance.

School children are no longer taught that American history started with Columbus. Now that it has been pointed out it is clear to almost everyone that the European-centric view of history which was taught until recently was a very strange way of looking at the world and a very strange way of thinking about history.

Which ideas and viewpoints, commonly held and accepted today, do you think will seem very strange 45 years from now?

Friday, August 18, 2006

"yesterday was a landmark in the effort to protect our civil liberties"

Representative John Conyers, Jr. on Judge Diggs' ruling:
As you probably have heard, yesterday was a landmark in the effort to protect our civil liberties from the Administration's ever increasing power. A federal judge in Detroit ruled that the warrantless eavesdropping conducting by the NSA was unconstitutional, a conclusion shared by the vast majority of legal scholars outside of the Bush Administration.

However, I am concerned about how some of the press is reporting on the decision. Compare the New York Times with the Washington Post. The President has been struck down again for overreaching in the so-called war on terror without a legal basis, yet the Washington Post editorial board dismisses this monumental moment to complain about style over substance.

In fact, they acuse Judge Diggs of being "long on throat clearing sound bites." They go on to cite only two sentences. Yes, two sentences out of 44 pages. As a lawyer myself, and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, I can assure the editorial board that most judges use rhetoric and it has nothing to do with the strength of their legal reasoning.

I am also surprised that after clearly denouncing the program as illegal as early as January of this year, and noting how tenuous the Administration's arguments were, that they are now surprised to hear a judge agree. Suddenly, the fight over illegal wiretaps is no longer "frivolous."

Of course the government "vigorously disputes" the ruling. That is the definition of litigation and does not confer merit to their argument.

And they could vigorously dispute that the sky is blue. It doesn't mean that the Washington Post has to report on it or give it so much merit just for trying to appear fair and balanced.

Representative John Conyers, Jr. was re-elected in November 2002 to his nineteenth term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is the second most senior member of the House and was re-elected by his Congressional Colleagues to remain the first African-American Democratic Leader of the pivotal House Committee on the Judiciary. Congressman Conyers is also a founding member and Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus. Most recently, he led efforts to investigate irregularities in the Ohio presidential election.

Can ordinary household liquids be easily mixed together to make a bomb?

Craig Muray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, has another article about the alleged plot to blow up airplanes with liquid explosives:
This brings us to one particuarly sinister aspect of the allegations - that the bombs were to be made on the plane.

The idea that high explosive can be made quickly in a plane toilet by mixing at room temperature some nail polish remover, bleach, and Red Bull and giving it a quick stir, is nonsense. Yes, liquid explosives exist and are highly dangerous and yes, airports are ill equipped to detect them at present. Yes, it is true they have been used on planes before by terrorists. But can they be quickly manufactured on the plane? No.

The sinister aspect is not that this is a real new threat. It is that the allegation may have been concocted in order to prepare us for arresting people without any actual bombs.

Let me fess up here. I have just checked, and our flat contains nail polish remover, sports drinks, and a variety of household cleaning products. Also MP3 players and mobile phones. So the authorities could announce - as they have whispered to the media in this case - that potential ingredients of a liquid bomb, and potential timing devices, have been discovered. It rather lowers the bar, doesn't it?
Read the entire article

Thursday, August 17, 2006

How close were they to blowing up planes?

Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, has an interesting analysis of the recently uncovered plot to blow up planes using liquid explosives:

None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports, which given the efficiency of the UK Passport Agency would mean they couldn't be a plane bomber for quite some time.

In the absence of bombs and airline tickets, and in many cases passports, it could be pretty difficult to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt that individuals intended to go through with suicide bombings, whatever rash stuff they may have bragged in internet chat rooms.

What is more, many of those arrested had been under surveillance for over a year - like thousands of other British Muslims. And not just Muslims. Like me. Nothing from that surveillance had indicated the need for early arrests.

Then an interrogation in Pakistan revealed the details of this amazing plot to blow up multiple planes - which, rather extraordinarily, had not turned up in a year of surveillance. Of course, the interrogators of the Pakistani dictator have their ways of making people sing like canaries. As I witnessed in Uzbekistan, you can get the most extraordinary information this way. Trouble is it always tends to give the interrogators all they might want, and more, in a desperate effort to stop or avert torture. What it doesn't give is the truth.

Read the entire article

Thanks to alert reader Saul (who reads this blog from Beijing China where he doing research for his PhD in Anthropology/History) for the link to this interesting analysis.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Conservative Congressman Hayworth in trouble

Conservative Republican Congressman J.D. Hayworth of Arizona, a 12 year incumbent, is in serious danger of losing in November. Both he and his opponent, Democrat Harry Mitchell, the former mayor of Tempe and a high school civics teacher, agree that immigration policy is the most important issue in the campaign.

Hayworth feels that illegal immigration is ruining the country. He has written a book "Whatever It Takes: Illegal Immigration, Border Security and the War on Terror" and authored an immigration bill with a goal of not only stopping illegal immigration but trying to force illegal immigrants already here to leave. He opposes any plan that would provide a path for legal status or eventual citizenship for any illegal immigrants.

Harry Mitchell agrees that we need to secure our borders and stop illegal immigration and he opposes amnesty. But he goes on to say
Still, we must deal with the millions of illegal immigrants who are already here. Catching and deporting 11 million illegal immigrants, as some have suggested, is neither realistic nor wise. I believe we should give families an opportunity to gain legal status if they pay a penalty for breaking the law, pay their taxes, learn English, and hold a job for a period of years.

In a solid Republican district which has elected Hayworth 6 straight times the polls are showing a very close race.

Corruption is also an issue:
J.D. is the top Congressional recipient of campaign contributions related to convicted felon and lobbyist Jack Abramoff. And he's refused to return or donate more than $150,000 he reported taking from those sources. Even today, the New York Times profiled Hayworth as one of seven figures in the Abramoff influence-peddling scandal.

It will be interesting to see how the immigration issue plays out in November.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Coffee with Phil Hare at the Thomas'

This morning, Saturday August 12, 2006, Democratic Precinct Committeeman Vince Thomas and his wife Margaret hosted a Coffee for Phil Hare, Democratic candidate for Congress at their home in Rock Island.

Phil Hare greeting and shaking hands. Vince Thomas is to the left of Phil and Phil's lovely wife Becky is at the far right of the picture.

Phil discussing issues with Stella Schneekloth and Connie Barrett of Moline

Phil and Stella and Stella's granddaughter Maggie

I have known Phil Hare for many years but had not heard him give a campaign speech before or talk very much about issues. I must say that I was surprised at how well he spoke and how much I agreed with him. So many politicians these days talk like they are trying to be on both sides of controversial issues and as a consequence sound like they don't believe in anything other than getting elected. Not Phil. After listening to him you know exactly where he stands and what he believes. He makes more sense when he talks about NAFTA, corporations getting tax breaks and still moving jobs out of the country, the power of corporations and illegal immigration than any politician I have heard. If you can make it to any of his campaign events you owe it to yourself to go and hear him.

Who do we bomb and invade now?

…3 of the 24 suspects arrested Thursday, in what the authorities have described as a plot to blow up airliners on trans-Atlantic routes, were converts to Islam.
“Born a Christian,” was the headline in The Sun, in its account of one of the suspects, Don Stewart-Whyte. He is the 19-year-old son of a late Tory politician who was said to have converted about six months ago.

Our nation’s leaders, both in Congress and the White House, still support the bombing, invasion and occupation of Iraq as the most important front in our battle against terrorism. It is certainly the most expensive in lives lost, money spent, our national reputation tarnished and our moral standing in the world diminished.

But if the way we fight terrorism is by bombing, invading and occupying countries that we believe harbor people who may attack us how do we respond to the threat revealed by the arrests on Thursday? Do we bomb London? Do we invade Pakistan?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Immigrants not assimilating

The British police have just arrested 20 people, cancelled large numbers of international flights and banned all hand luggage on flights out of Britain in response to an alleged plot to blow up at least 9 planes. Most or all the alleged terrorists were born in Britain to immigrant parents.

What particularly struck me about this story is that, as with the 9/11 hijacking leaders, these terrorists are 2nd generation immigrants from the Middle East and Pakistan – born in Europe. Europe seems to be having a very hard time assimilating their Muslim immigrants.

The United States, in contrast, is having no similar problem with its citizens born to immigrant parents. The only native-born American terrorists are of the Timothy McVeigh and abortion clinic-bomber type. Our schools are doing an excellent job and all of our 2nd generation immigrants speak English without an accent and desire and value the same things as other Americans their age – designer jeans, video games, etc.

And yet a large number of Americans believe that the United States has a problem with immigrants not assimilating. This is a belief totally at odds with reality. Unlike Europe, our immigrants are not rioting and turning into terrorists. When our immigrants held a mass demonstration recently it was remarkable peaceful. They were not angry at all. They just wanted to be accepted as Americans.

To claim that our immigrants are not assimilating, as many Americans do, is to claim that white is black and up is down.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The meaning of the Lieberman defeat

In the Connecticut Democratic primary Ned Lamont won a narrow victory over veteran Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman with a simple message: The war in Iraq is wrong and Senator Lieberman is wrong to continue supporting it.

Many commentators are saying that Lamont’s victory is due to the political bloggers who supported him. But why would that be? With the polls showing opposition to the War in Iraq running at over 70% and many people saying that the war is the most important issue determining how they will vote why would anyone credit Lamont’s victory to anything other than public opinion? Why would the presence of blogs be required for people to vote their consciences? One possible answer could be the almost universal support for incumbents, any incumbent, in the media, expert opinion and traditional sources of political power such as labor unions. Last Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” Cokie Roberts said, with a straight face, that a Lieberman defeat would be a “disaster” for the Democratic Party. How could it be a disaster to replace a candidate who has been an unrepentant cheerleader for a deeply unpopular war with one who agrees with over 70% of the public on that issue?

Commentators who give credit to bloggers when the traditional advantage of incumbency is overcome must believe that a large part of that advantage is the support of the traditional media, unions and party. If bloggers can diminish that advantage then that shows that people were supporting incumbents not because of some inner desire for the known and familiar but because the support for the incumbent was the overwhelming message they were hearing. How else could simply reading a few blogs cause them to vote differently than they otherwise would have?

Perhaps before we go off spreading democracy at the point of a gun we should work on our democracy here at home. If a few blogs with a different message than the corporate media can have such a big impact what would our society look like with truly free flow of information and opinion, rather than our current system where opinions backed by money and power get the most airtime?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Pat Robertson now believes in Global Warming

Conservative Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson said on Thursday the wave of scorching temperatures across the United States has converted him into a believer in global warming.

"We really need to address the burning of fossil fuels," Robertson said on his "700 Club" broadcast. "It is getting hotter, and the icecaps are melting and there is a buildup of carbon dioxide in the air."

Read the entire article

This must really be an "on the road to Damascus" style epiphany. As recently as last October Robertson said "the National Association of Evangelicals was teaming up with "far left environmentalists" for saying global warming was caused by humans and needed to be mitigated".

Of course, I have to wonder about someone who only comes to believe the evidence for global warming when they themselves are experiencing a very hot summer. What would it take for Robertson to come to the opinion that torturing people and holding them indefinitely without trial is morally wrong? Would being stuck for a long time in an elevator do it or would he have to actually be tortured?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Prosecuted for trying to save the lives of illegal immigrants dying in the desert

Prosecutors in Arizona have charged two volunteers who say they tried to save the lives of three sick migrants stranded in the desert with felony charges of transporting illegal immigrants. If convicted, Daniel Strauss, of Manhattan, and Shanti Sellz, of Iowa City, Iowa, both 24, could face up to 15 years in federal prison and a half-million-dollar fine.

…One of the parched immigrants they found last July 9 was lying in a ditch and couldn't stop throwing up when rescue workers tried to give him water. He had blood in his diarrhea and had been drinking contaminated water out of slimy cattle troughs.

....Strauss and Sellz got into a Subaru GL Wagon with the word "Samaritan" written in big letters on the side. They started driving the Mexican man and two others in similar condition north to a hospital in Tucson. Before they got there, Border Patrol agents pulled them over and arrested the migrants.

…"It seems like common sense that providing humanitarian aid to someone who is in an extreme medical condition can't be against the law," said Strauss, who grew up on the Upper West Side and attended the elite Fieldston School High School in the Bronx. "The act of saving someone's life shouldn't be something that's prosecuted. It's crazy."

Read the entire article

Federal prosecutors are charging people with a felony for trying to take people who needed medical care to the hospital? Does a government which would do that reflect your morality and values?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

They have names

I am in Modesto, California for the wedding of my wife’s brother. Last night we went to the Modesto Prospect Theater Project, a store-front theater with 70 seats, to see a production of “Hard Travelin’ – A Tribute to Woody Guthrie.” I really enjoyed the energetic and enthusiastic young cast and their spirited singing of Woody Guthrie’s music. I also was once again struck by how timely many of the issues that Woody Guthrie addressed in his songs still are 60 or 70 years after they were written.

I have heard Woody’s song “Deportee” many times over the years. The lyrics talk about the crash of a plane over Los Gatos canyon. Rather than listing the names of the victims as is usually done when a plane crashes the radio news account simply noted that they were deportees. Woody Guthrie did not know the victims but he knew that they must have had names.

When I heard the song last night I was struck by how Woody made poetry with the Spanish names and phrases:

Goodbye to my Juan, farewell Roselita
Adios mes amigos, Jesus e Maria
You won’t have a name when you ride the big airplane
All they will call you will be deportee.

I don’t think Woody ever studied Spanish in school. The knowledge of Spanish reflected in the above verse must have come from his encounters with Mexicans as he traveled around. They were fellow workers in some of the hard-scrabble jobs he held. They also were traveling around looking for whatever job they could find. From his lyrics we can tell that Woody thought of them as people like himself and did not like them being exploited and treated differently because of their illegal status.

Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can raise our good crops?
To fall like dry leaves and rot on out topsoil
And be known by no name except "deportee."

We would do well to remember Woody’s point as we debate immigration policy. The “illegal immigrants” we are discussing are people with names.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Eyewitness Report on California Heat Wave

Yesterday, Tuesday July 25, I flew from Moline, Illinois to Modesto, California with my family. My wife's brother Tim is getting married on Saturday. It was 112 degrees in Modesto when we arrived. It will be that hot again today but it is supposed to cool off a little by Saturday. The local news is full of reports of people and animals which have died from the heat. So many farm animals have died that the rendering plants are over-taxed and now in addition to the heat the piles of dead animals waiting to be hauled away are an additional sanitation and health problem.

We have not yet experienced any rolling blackouts but have experienced some of the other unique challenges California offers. My wife's niece who was driving up to Modesto from Los Angeles and had expected to be in Modesto in time to pick us up at the airport arrived hours late because a wild fire in the mountains had jumped the highway and all traffic was stopped for hours when the road became part of the front lines of the fire-fighting efforts. Fortunately we had already decided to rent a car and were able to wait for her in the comfort of our hotel room rather than at the airport.

The wedding and reception were planned months ago to be outdoors, usually a safe bet in the Central Valley in late July. With about 100 people expected there is no way to move everything in-doors. Everyone agrees that there exists no established appropriate dress code for a wedding and reception where the temperature is going to be 110 degrees. "Extremely casual" seems to be the consensus choice.