Sunday, April 30, 2006

Bush Administration worried Guantanamo prisoners may be abused

According to the New York Times,
"A long-running effort by the Bush administration to send home many of the terror suspects held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has been stymied in part because of concern among United States officials that the prisoners may not be treated humanely by their own governments, officials said." see the entire article

Did your irony meter just go off-scale? We need to keep the Guantánamo Bay detainees, who we have held without charges for over three years, imprisoned out of concern for their welfare. Does the Bush Administration have no shame? As Sen. Arlen Specter asked, "where is the outrage?"

Saturday, April 29, 2006

"Where's the Outrage?" - GOP Sen. Specter

According to the Washington Post:
"New expressions of frustration over how little information the administration has shared about the National Security Agency's warrantless eavesdropping on Americans flared yesterday in the Senate, one day after House Republicans barred amendments that would have expanded oversight of the controversial program.

"Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said yesterday that he will file an amendment to block the NSA program's funding -- but said he will not seek a vote on it at this time -- in hope of stirring greater debate on the warrantless surveillance, part of the agency's monitoring of alleged terrorists."

Read the entire article

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

American Job Slavery

A friend of my wife who lives here in Moline would love to change jobs but cannot because of the American system of private health insurance. She has on-going health problems that are covered by the health insurance plan of her employer but would be considered pre-existing conditions and would not be covered by any other health insurance plan she would join. So although she is not getting along with her new boss and has other job prospects she cannot pursue them. She cannot afford to pay for her on-going out-patient treatments out-of-pocket. She is stuck in her current job.
In countries with a single payer, national health insurance system like Canada, Britain, Germany and many other countries this is not a problem. The system covers all the citizens and changing jobs has no effect on coverage. These systems are also more cost-effective and efficient than the American system of health insurance since no resources are spent by the insurance company pursuing ways to avoid paying as is often done by American health insurance companies.
So who has more freedom, an American who cannot quit a job she does not like because of health insurance concerns or a Canadian who always has health insurance no matter what job decision she makes?

Cuba Has Better Medical Care Than the U.S.

An interesting article from the Huffington Post blog by Blake Fleetwood:

"Figures from the World Health Organization clearly show that The United States lags behind 36 other countries in overall health system performance ranging from infant mortality, to adult mortality, to life expectancy.

"20 countries in Europe and four countries in Asia have a better life expectancy than the U.S. If you are a male between the ages of 15 and 59, your chances of dying are higher in the U.S. (140 per thousand) than in Canada, 95, Costa Rica 127, Chile 134, and Cuba, 138.

"The U.S. Health system looks especially dysfunctional when you consider how much money we spend per capita on healthcare -- $6,000 plus per year, twice as much as any other country -- and how little we get for it."

Read the entire article

Monday, April 24, 2006

John Kerry is an anti-war activist again

On Saturday Senator John Kerry said,
"I have come here today to reaffirm that it was right to dissent in 1971 from a war that was wrong. And to affirm that it is both a right and an obligation for Americans today to disagree with a President who is wrong, a policy that is wrong, and a war in Iraq that weakens the nation."

"I believed then, just as I believe now, that the best way to support the troops is to oppose a course that squanders their lives, dishonors their sacrifice, and disserves our people and our principles. When brave patriots suffer and die on the altar of stubborn pride, because of the incompetence and self-deception of mere politicians, then the only patriotic choice is to reclaim the moral authority misused by those entrusted with high office."

read the entire speach

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

What the Generals are saying about Rumsfeld

When asked why he is being critized by military people Donald Rumsfeld talks about feathers he ruffled while instituting reforms.

"But," as Maureen Dowd said in this morning's New York Times(a subscription is required to view the article),
"the retired generals really want him to resign because he made gigantic, horrible, arrogant mistakes that will be taught in history classes forever."

Here is what Bernard Trainor, a retired Marine general had to say:
"He didn't worry about the culture in Iraq. He just wanted to show them the front end of an M-1 tank. He could have been in Antarctica fighting penguins. He didn't care, as long as he could send the message that you don't mess with Hopalong Cassidy. He wanted to do to Saddam in the Middle East what he did to Shinseki in the Pentagon, make him an example, say, 'I'm in charge, don't mess with me.' "

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Should candidate forums be open to the public?

Should the elected Democratic precinct committeemen of the Illinois 17th Congressional District try to determine who the Democratic primary voters in their precinct would vote for to be the Democratic candidate for Congress given the choices now available by soliciting opinions and asking the primary voters in the precinct who they would vote for or should the precinct committeemen simply educate themselves and make the decision on behalf of their precinct? It would make no sense to ask the other primary voters who they favor unless all the voters have had a chance to meet and find out about all the candidates. Since Don Johnston has decided that only elected precinct committeemen, the candidates, people invited to speak on behalf of the candidates and reporters will be allowed to attend the candidate forums apparently he has decided that the precinct committeemen will be making the decision on behalf of their precincts.

My guess is that Don made that choice more as a mater of what is practical and possible rather than what would be best according to a theoretical ideal. How big a hall would have to be found for these forums if the public were invited? Could halls that size be found on such short notice? How much more would have to be paid for security and logistics if the public were invited? I can imagine that if I were in Don Johnston’s position I might have ended up making the same decision. What do you think?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Unusual Lamppost

Here is an unusual lamppost near my house in Moline. You cannot see it in the picture but besides holding a lamp it also serves as an address placard. Who can tell me what address is written on this dead tree?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Who gets to choose who replaces Lane Evans?

Don Johnston and John Gianulis seem to have different opinions about who will have votes in the selection of a Democratic candidate in the Illinois 17th Congressional District race to replace Lane Evans who decided not to run after the primary election was over. Don Johnston says that only precinct committemen who were elected in the primary have a vote. John Gianulis says that people he appoints as precinct committeemen in precincts in which no one was elected should also get to vote. It seems a rather lopsided argument to me. Don Johnston, along with Mary Boland, will set up and oversee the process and appears to me to have both the letter and the spirit of the law on his side. The law clearly intends that the persons who represent the Democrats of the precincts in the district vote on the nomination. How does someone who was selected by the county chairman just for the purpose of voting in this special election represent the precinct, especially if some of them won’t even live in the precinct?

So why is there so much arguing in the blogsphere about this when it seems so obvious?
The only reason I can think of is that some people are so used to the county chairman doing whatever he wants to with regards to selecting people to be the Democratic candidates that they think that that is the way it should always be.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

If I were a Democratic precinct committeeman..

If I were a Democratic precinct committeeman in the Illinois 17th Congressional District I would not be asking potential candidates how much money they raised in their last race or whether they had the backing of party leaders in Springfield or Chicago. Those are things the county chairmen are impressed by when they make a selection. But the county chairman are not going to have any more say this time than any other precinct committeeman. If I were a committeeman I would go to the candidate forums being organized by Don Johnston, Mary Boland and John Gianulis looking for someone I could get excited about the way John Kennedy and Lane Evans excited me and the way Barak OBama excites me now. I would want to vote for someone who seemed to care about more than just raising money and getting elected.

The news media and Ray LaHood are trying to convince us that the national Republican Party is going to be pouring money into this race and bringing in party heavyweights to help Andrea Zinga. If I remember correctly early in the campaigns of 2000, 2002 and 2004 such things were said but it never happened. Perhaps it will happen this time now that it is an open seat. Whether it does or not the Democrats are not going to win by nominating someone who gives voters the impression that he/she will do or say anything to get elected.

In the 2004 presidential primary I voted for John Kerry not because I liked him best but because I thought he would have the best chance in the general election. I was wrong. If the precinct committeemen vote for a candidate that does not excite them but because someone in the newspaper or some party heavyweight tells them raising money is the most important thing they will be making the same mistake I made in 2004.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A lot of people offering advice about who should replace Evans

John Gianulis, chairman of the Rock Island County Democratic Party, has no more legal standing in the selection of the replacement Democratic candidate for the 17th District congressional race than any other precinct committeeman in the district, according to Don Johnston, the 17th District Democratic State Central Committeeman.

According to a story in today’s Quad City Times both John Gianulis and Don Johnston are organizing forums for the precinct committeemen to hear from and about potential candidates.

My advice to the precinct committeemen is that they need to be very skeptical of everything they hear and half of what they see. The world is full of trickery and there is a lot of misinformation posing as sage advice and the voice of experience being offered concerning who they should select. If you select someone you personally feel good about supporting rather than someone you are told is a stronger candidate then you are less likely to regret your decision later.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

"You cannot call yourself Catholic if you are pro-choice"

I've been seeing letters to the editor lately concerning Democratic elected officials who vote pro-choice and are Catholic. These letters claim that these politicians should not be able to call themselves Catholic if they do not accept all the Church's teachings on all matters.

That reminds me of a story my father told me about his mother and their Polish-American neighbors when they lived in East Chicago, Indiana in the 1920s. My grandmother would hear the neighborhood women talking as they all hung up laundry in their backyards and was surprised to hear these devout Catholic women discussing using birth control. My grandmother, a Methodist minister's wife, was surprised and asked if their priest didn't tell them about Catholic teaching on family planning. The Polish-American women said, "Yes, but we don't listen to him about that."

These letter writers try to imply that it is only Democratic elected officials who are picking and choosing which Church teachings to follow, but that is obviously not true. The majority of American Catholics have been rejecting the Church's teachings on birth control for many generations, although only the elected officials among them are forced to take a public stand on the issue.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

No more St. Patrick's Day?

Lou Dobbs of CNN had this to say last Monday about immigrants waving the flag of their country of origin:

"I don't think that we should have any flag flying in this country except the flag of the United States."

When it was pointed out to him that he could not condemn Mexican immigrants for waving the Mexican flag unless he also criticized Irish-Americans for waving the Irish flag on St. Patrick’s Day he said, "But let's be clear. I don't think there should be a St. Patrick's Day. I don't care who you are. I think we ought to be celebrating what is common about this country, what we enjoy as similarities as people."

Celebrating being American and all the things we have in common as Americans is a good thing and we do that a lot, especially on the Fourth of July. But why should that be the only kind of celebration allowed? Why can’t Irish-Americans celebrate being Irish on St. Patrick’s Day? Why can’t Mexican immigrants celebrate being Mexican on Cinco de Mayo and why can’t Polish-Americans celebrate Polaski Day?

A lot of Americans, apparently not including Lou Dobbs, enjoy the ethnic and cultural diversity that America enjoys as a result of being a nation of immigrants. Lou Dobbs seems to think our diversity is a weakness rather than a strength. No wonder he feels so threatened.

My wife just received a letter from Congressman Lane Evans in response to an email she sent him about the immigration issue. Picking out a few sentences from the letter, "The history of the United States is infused with the contributions of millions of immigrants. Far from being a detriment to our country, this blending of cultures has produced a mosaic of peoples that make America the strongest nation in the world."

Those are the kind of sentiments that make me want to wave an American flag.

There is some serious smoke being blown

There was a front page store in today's Moline Dispatch talking about how competitive and expense the 2006 race to represent the Illinois 17th Congressional District was going to be because there is no incumbent running. There was a prediction that it could be even more expensive than in 1998 when the Republicans last mounted a serious challenge for the seat. All I could think when I read it was "someone is blowing some serious smoke."

Take a look at the map of the 17th Congressional District. It was obviously drawn to include every urban Democratic precinct in north western and west central Illinois. This was done after 1998 to make it a safe Democratic district and the other districts, Dennis Hastert’s and Ray LaHood’s districts, safe Republican seats.

In 1998 national polls showed the voters tilting toward the Republicans. The national Republicans targeted races where they thought they had a chance to win a Democratic seat, including the 17th District in Illinois. Things are very different this year. In addition to the redrawn district the poll numbers are very different. This year the polls show the voters tilting toward the Democrats and everyone expects Democrats to pick up seats. No one expects any safe Democratic seats to be lost to the Republicans, except possibly some local experts blowing smoke.

So when someone is blowing smoke at you it is a good idea to figure out why. In the case of the newspaper story it probably was a case of a reporter and a political expert pretending they had a more interesting and exciting race to cover than they actually do.

But other smoke is going to be blown at the Democratic precinct committeemen of the 17th Congressional District over the next few weeks by people hoping to get a particular person selected as the Democratic nominee. Sometimes it will be obvious who is being promoted and sometimes not. Someone trying to get Mike Jacobs selected, for example, will emphasize how important it will be for the nominee to be someone who can raise a lot of money. Someone supporting Phil Hare will emphasize how important it is for the nominee to have the support of Evan’s campaign and office staff and Lane’s friends in Congress. Mark Schwiebert supporters will emphasize how important it is for the nominee to be a proven vote getter who is attractive to swing voters.

Be sure to note that for any of this smoke to work the smokee has to be convinced that the race will be very competitive. If the precinct committeemen know that anyone they select as the Democratic nominee is going to win in November then they can select whoever they personally like and ignore any talk about who would make the strongest candidate in November. Also note that the supporters of candidates not thought to be popular with the precinct committeemen will be the most vigorous smoke blowers. Some may even post hysterical comments in response to this blog entry.