Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Who is looking after Illinois used car buyers?

In today's Quad City Times we read how Iowa consumers are being protected from rip-off artists

A car dealership with a history of defrauding customers cannot operate in Iowa for four years and must pay a $20,000 fine, an order issued by a Scott County judge earlier this week says.

In addition, more than 100 customers who owe money on cars purchased from the business will be forgiven their debt.

Meanwhile, one of the businesses named in the Iowa Attorney General's lawsuit, The Car Boys, continues to operate in Moline but is restricted on how it can advertise to and conduct business with Iowa customers.

Read the entire news article.

Apparently they are free to continue to defraud Illinois customers. The Car Boys used car lot is on 4th Avenue between 54th and 55th streets, just a block from the East Moline border and across the street from Hardees.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tornado Warnings in the Quad Cities

The tornado sirens were wailing in the Quad Cities yesterday afternoon. The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for an area including the Quad Cities around 3:30 pm and then extended it at 4:30 pm. Stores in Northpark and Southpark shopping malls, presumably following some establish tornado warning policy, were shuttering their stores and moving people to "safe" locations. My daughter, who was terrified of thunderstorm as a child and now although all grown up at 18 still feels uneasy about them, phoned me from her job at Southpark to ask me if she should be worried. With the same certainty in my voice as that of a physicist dismissing reports of a perpetual motion machine I assured her there were not going to be any tornados anywhere near us. True to my word, by the time the thunderstorms reached the Quad Cities the storm cells had weakened and become less organized, as has happened so many times before and there were no tornados.

Although I would never claim that no tornado could ever possibly hit the Quad Cities, except when reassuring my daughter, I think a gambler could make a lot of money always betting against a tornado actually touching down in the Quad Cities, at least the older parts of the cities below the hill near the Mississippi and in the Illinois Quad Cities between the Mississippi and the Rock rivers. When you watch the storms on the television radar you can see the storm cells weaken as they reach the Quad Cities. It probably has something to do with the way the Mississippi flows due west here, the geography of the Rock River valley meeting the Mississippi River valley or something.

I guess since these storms did produce a little bit of tornado damage at a couple of spots before they reached the Quad Cities the Weather Service was right to issue the warnings. And I guess in public places it is prudent to evacuate people when there is a tornado warning. I just wish I could figure out a way to make money off of all these warnings. If I could find someone willing to bet there would be a tornado I think I could make some money.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Did Kelton Trice still have the gun when he was shot? Updated

The police have just issued a statement about the shooting that throws all my speculation into a cocked hat. Read about it here. I wonder if this blog spurred the statement. Anyway, I have been wrong before and will be again. I guess I read too much into the police silence on this issue and gave too much creedence to what the family had to say. Mea culpa.

Does a policeman have the right to shoot and kill someone who has just shot at him/her even if the shooter no longer has a gun? This may turn out to be the crucial question to ask about the recent death of a young man in East Moline, Kelton Trice. I only became aware that this was an issue after hearing about a conversation my wife had with a member of the Kelton's extended family. As far as I am aware none of the media accounts of the incident have even hinted that Trice may have thrown away the gun after he fired two times at East Moline Police Sgt. Tom Peterson and before Peterson returned fire. See here, here, here and here.

Did you notice that the police consistently say that the shooting was justified because Kelton Trice shot at them and not because he was armed and posed a danger to the officer and the public? I had thought there was something missing in the descriptions of the shooting I was reading in the newspaper and seeing on the tv news but could not put my finger on what that was. After hearing that Trice apparently threw away the gun as he ran, after shooting the officer but before he was shot, I began to make some sense of what the police were saying and what they were not saying.

There are investigations being conducted into the death and we should wait to hear their results before presuming to pass judgment on this particular police action. We do not know whether Sgt. Peterson knew that Trice no longer had a gun. But we can discuss the general question of whether the police are justified in shooting someone who has shot at them even if that person is no longer armed. As far as I know the police have never justified the shooting of Kelton Trice on the basis that he was armed and an imminent danger to the police officer and the public.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Are you still crazy after all these years?

Check out this op-ed piece in this morning's New York Times by Paul Auster. He was a Columbia University student in 1968 who hated the War in Vietnam and took part in demonstrations and sit-ins which helped turn the country against the war (although Tricky Dick kept the war going for 5 more years after having been elected promising that he had a secret plan to end it.) Doesn't it seem at the end of the column that the author is hinting that he would be willing to join demonstrations and strikes against the federal government aimed at ending the War in Iraq? He says he was crazy to participate then and he is still crazy today.

Are you also a Baby Boomer who demonstrated against the War in Vietnam? Do you remember those maps on the evening news showing all the universities that had been shut down by students striking and sitting-in? Do you remember how those actions had a much greater and more immediate impact turning the country against the war than all the debates, manifestos, peaceful protests and political campaigns put together? If so and such things started happening again today would you join in? If those students shutting down the universities in 1968 were crazy I guess we need some of that craziness today.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Cubs are in first place

As I write this the Cubs are alone in first place of the Central Division of the National League. There are just 144 games to go before the playoffs. (We Cubs fans can take nothing for granted and need to celebrate our victories while we can.)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

What he should have said

At a blog you probably don't usually read QuakerDave says what Obama should have said: link

Friday, April 18, 2008

Justice Stevens renounces the death penalty

According to an article in this morning's New York Times, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, a Republican anti-trust lawyer when he was selected to the court 33 years ago, has just renounced the death penalty.

[Justice Stevens] said, the time had come to reconsider "the justification for the death penalty itself." He wrote that court decisions and actions taken by states to justify the death penalty were "the product of habit and inattention rather than an acceptable deliberative process" to weigh the costs and risks of the penalty against its benefits.

Read the entire article

American Conservatives must be getting very tired of Supreme Court Justices who were solid conservatives when selected to be on the Court by Republican presidents gradually become flaming liberals after years of the deep thought about the issues that being on the Court requires. Apparently not only do the facts have a liberal bias, as John Stewart famously said, but reason and logic do also.

Maybe that is why the main-stream press wants us to focus on flag lapel pins, speaking (and laughing) styles and other trivialities. If Americans actually gave some thought, rather than just emotional knee-jerks, to the issues, such as what is the most effective way to provide health care to all our citizens and what type of foreign policy would make us the safest they might all become flaming liberals.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Condi must go

A television ad that aired for the first time last night calls for the resignation of of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:

The people creating and airing the commercial issued the following press release:

WASHINGTON--, Brave New Films, and Democracy for America are launching and a new television ad campaign calling for the resignation of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. This week Americans were outraged by the news that Condoleezza Rice personally oversaw meetings where top Bush administration officials selected specific torture techniques.

The new site will feature a petition demanding Secretary Rice's resignation and a new video by Brave New Films documenting her involvement in torture and how she lied to Congress and the nation. The petition reads, "America will not stand for a Secretary of State who approved torture and then misled Congress. We call on the Presidential candidates to ask Secretary of State Rice to resign.", Brave New Films, and Democracy for America announced the next step in the grassroots pressure campaign: a television ad to air Wednesday night in Pennsylvania around the presidential debate. The ad, produced by Brave New Films and paid for by members outraged by Rice's role in authorizing torture, seeks to force discussion of this issue to the top of the public agenda.

"Condoleezza Rice helped decide how to torture people, that's the bottom line" said Online Director Matt Holland. "As Secretary of State, she is our country's face to the world, and now that the world knows that she spends her time in closed rooms personally planning the abuse of prisoners, we can't show our face."

"Secretary Rice's direct involvement is an embarrassment to our nation," said Jim Dean, Chair of Democracy for America. "Her shameful tenure as Secretary of State must come to an end."

"The very idea of a so-called Secretary of State planning torture gives Orwell a bad name. It is time to end this shameless and un-American abuse of power," said Robert Greenwald, President of Brave New Films.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Does he think he is better than me?

If you make a statement that causes injury to someone then they can sue you for damages. In America we have decided, however, that if the statement is true then it cannot be libelous. I think the legal phrase is that truth is an absolute defense against the charge of libel. I propose that we extend this principle to the suspicion that a person asking for your vote might think he/she is better than you. If they are in fact superior to you in intellect, learning and accomplishment then that should be an absolute defense against that charge.

I think that we already have agreed to this principle in most areas of life. I remember a television movie called "Brian's Song" about the relationship between Chicago Bears football players Brian Piccolo and Gayle Sayers. Early in the movie Brian Piccolo tells some of his teammates he doesn't like Sayers because "he thinks he's better than everyone else." His teammates object – "He is better than everyone else."

When we are choosing people to be our leaders we should be looking for excellence, not for drinking or hunting buddies. I would have thought that the disaster of the last seven years would have soured people on the idea of good-old-boys as president. As former president of the Harvard Law Review and a professor at the University of Chicago, Barack Obama should be absolved from the accusation that he thinks he is better than most of the voters. He is better and exactly the kind of person we should have as president.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Serious denial

Reading the newspaper and seeing the news on television is starting to be a surreal experience for me, as if, like Alice, I have fallen down a rabbit hole and am in some crazy place. The price of food and fuel have quadrupled in the last two years, as a result there is great suffering among the poorest of the poor, food riots are breaking out in some countries and yet most people in this country are oblivious.

We are in our fifth year of a "preemptive" invasion and occupation of Iraq. Over 4000 American service people have been killed, tens of thousands have been maimed for life and perhaps hundreds of thousands will suffer mental health problems for decades to come. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed, trillions of American tax dollars have been wasted and serious people on television talk about how bad things might happen if we withdrawal, as if extremely bad things have not been happening and will continue to happen as long as we stay. Yet people who call themselves liberal and progressive support a candidate who voted for the war and refuses to repudiate her support of it, citing domestic issues as reasons why she is the superior candidate.

There is overwhelming scientific evidence of global warming, the polar regions are shedding their ice faster than any of the scientists projections, raising the specter of sea level rising and disruption of the Gulf Stream – which would cause northern Europe's climate to resemble that of Siberia. Yet people who describe concern about global warming as hysteria and a hoax have their views regularly presented in the media as if they were one side of a still open question upon which reasonable people might differ. See here and here and here and here.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Things are seriously off track

According to an article in this morning's New York Times 81% of Americans think the country is headed on the wrong track.

Americans are more dissatisfied with the country's direction than at any time since the New York Times/CBS News poll began asking about the subject in the early 1990s, according to the latest poll.

In the poll, 81 percent of respondents said they believed "things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track," up from 69 percent a year ago and 35 percent in early 2002.

Read the entire article

Obviously, with the voters feeling this way the only way John McCain can get elected is if he somehow convinces the voting public that he is an agent of change and will pursue policies that are very different than those of the Bush Administration. You might think that would be a difficult task for him since he has had to cozy up to many of the Bush Administration's policies in order to win the Republican nomination, flip-flopping on issues such as campaign finance reform, global warming, comprehensive immigration reform and the advisability of the Bush tax cuts. But he may be able to pull it off with the help of the Main-Stream (allegedly liberal) Media. It may amaze you how the media keeps trying to portray McCain as a maverick on those issues in blatant denial of reality.

Here are a few examples of the media ignoring McCain's flip-flopping on his former maverick views: here, here, here, here and here.