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Another one

Thursday, Jan 27, 2005

I missed this column in today’s Star Newspapers by outdoor writer Bob Macilius.

It is virtually certain that the Springfield bureaucracy expected some reaction to Governor Blagojevich’s evisceration of the Illinois Department of Conservation, but I doubt they had prepared for what’s happening.

From Cairo to Winthrop Harbor, Illinoisans are livid with the cuts in staff, programs and services which the Governor claims were necessitated by the budget crisis. Petitions are being circulated at sports shows, organizations are pooling their resources to oppose planned budget cuts, even groups which rarely work together have joined the rush to have and programs and personnel cuts be rescinded.

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      

Go away

Thursday, Jan 27, 2005

I made this mistake once because I neglected to look at the constitution. But everyone who might be afraid (or pleased) that Alan Keyes might run for governor should look at this section (emphasis added):

To be eligible to hold the office of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Comptroller or Treasurer, a person must be a United States citizen, at least 25 years old, and a resident of this State for the three years preceding his election.

He can’t run for governor.

Maybe he’ll run for mayor instead.

I wonder what his onetime (it’s not clear if he still is) Chicago office manager thinks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      

Still flailing for relevancy

Thursday, Jan 27, 2005

Former Republican U.S. Senate candidate and state of Maryland resident Alan Keyes will be back in Illinois tomorrow night for the initial meeting of his nascent grassroots organization, Cook County United, which is ostensibly a branch of his Illinois United enterprise.

Tomorrow’s meeting which will take place at the office Keyes has rented in Chicago’s west Loop at 7:00pm tomorrow is invite only and billed as a meeting to bring together “40-50 of the best conservative activists in Cook County.” […]

Many leading conservative activists were not invited either and, further, are not particularly interested in Keyes’ return. And many are privately concerned that Keyes may form an exploratory committee to run for Governor.

UPDATE: Keyes is such a goof. Check this out (thanks to a commenter):

Cook County United is a tri-group effort by the Chicago, Northwest Cook and Sauk-Calumet Groups to bring activists together who are interested in working on environmental issues at the county level. A little less than half – about 12,000 - of the entire membership of the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club live in Cook County. We are rich in public lands with 67,000 acres in county control, but are poor when it comes to having enough county-level politicians who care about the environment.

I think the local Sierra Club might object if Alan Keyes, of all people, tries to highjack their name.

- Posted by Rich Miller   2 Comments      

This just in

Thursday, Jan 27, 2005

A Marine from Aurora was killed in Iraq. Hector Ramos was onboard a helicopter that went down in the western part of Iraq on Wednesday, killing 30 marines and one sailor.

- Posted by Rich Miller   1 Comment      


Thursday, Jan 27, 2005

What do you want to bet that the phonecall has already been made? Considering that the guv has packed that Board with his minions, this press release is most likely just a formality. (From a press release, so no link)

Gov. Rod Blagojevich today called on the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to renew funding for ten educational programs that serve more than 400 high school dropouts. The consortium of providers, which received grants from the State Board for almost two decades, lost its funding for Fiscal Year 2005 when the former State Board failed to renew its grant.

The providers have demonstrated success in serving this student population, graduating more than 4,200 former dropouts. These programs provide full-service education to high school dropouts, which typically include preparing for the GED exam as well as gaining skills for career and college readiness. The failure to renew the grant, which occurred prior to the Governor’s appointment of seven new members to the State Board, is jeopardizing services to more than 400 dropouts in the Chicago area.

“We need to give people a brighter future and a chance to reach their full potential, whether that’s landing a good job or going on to college,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “These programs can help people achieve these goals. I call on the State Board of Education to take swift action to ensure that these kids don’t lose services this year.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Thursday, Jan 27, 2005

I was just trying out the “Wayback This Page” Firefox extenstion a few minutes ago, and found one of the first Capitol Fax media pages. Notice that the Tribune in those days was only available to AOL users. The Trib was an early AOL investor.

I was a bit of a latecomer to the web. The site was created in February of 1998 (although the Wayback page is from December of that year.) But it was one of the first of its kind because it helped organize the Internet for a specific purpose.

Anyway, I gotta get back to work. Enough of this playing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Report Card

Thursday, Jan 27, 2005

Jim Nowlan completed his “mid-term report card” for Governor Rod Blagojevich this week. He sends along his many thanks to this blog’s readers for their input. He also included this in his email:

Below is a Report Card which all 120 guests at Wed. luncheon panel (on G-Rod at mid-term) at Sangamo Club were asked to complete. The audience was filled with lobbyists, agency people, Frank Watson and other knowledgeable people; I got a big laugh when I declared the group a perfect random sample of the Illinois electorate.

Here are the average grades given by luncheon participants:

Mid-term Report Card for Gov. Rod Blagojevich

A-Excellent (5 pts.)
B-Good 4
C-Acceptable 3
D-Poor 2
F-Failing 1

1.92 Management of state government

1.96 Budget management

2.58 Social Services

2.00 Political leadership

3.34 Public relations; re-electability

Thanks for your help with this.

So, on the important stuff, like running the government and providing leadership, the governor tanks. But on the REALLY imprtant stuff, getting re-elected, he does much better.

Of course, the participants were mostly insiders, but you can’t help but wonder whether the public will ever get clued into how this governor really operates.

And, by the way, I want to thank everyone who participated in the report card project, including those who sent emails and didn’t post here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      

Firefox upgrades

Thursday, Jan 27, 2005

If you haven’t tried the new Firefox web browser yet, you’re really missing out.

It’s not just the most stable browser I’ve ever used (including Mac’s Safari), but because it’s an open-source product, all sorts of geeks are working their little fingers to the bone making it better and adding upgrades and tweaks.

If you have Firefox, you should check into some of the available extensions.

I’ve downloaded several of them (probably too many) and am trying them out to see if they’re useful. I’ll let you know as I go along. But you really need to get the tab browser extension. It gives you a lot more options for tab browsing (and if you are one of those poor IE Microsoft diehards, you don’t know what that is yet and I feel really bad for you).

Adblock is another great tool if you’re bothered by websites that inundate you with advertising.

Highlight an address, right-click and then, voila! MapIt will take you to a map. You can choose your own map provider and even program in your home address to get directions every time.

There’s lots more, but, like I said, I’m still playing with them. I’ll let you know.

- Posted by Rich Miller   2 Comments      

Park fight

Thursday, Jan 27, 2005

Here are some excerpts from articles that I referenced in today’s Capitol Fax about budget cuts to state parks and the Illinois Department of Natural Services.

First, from Bernie Schoenburg’s column, “Job-cutting governor hasn’t visited parks, prisons”

When officials of the Sierra Club, the Illinois Environmental Council, Partners for Parks and Wildlife, and a state workers union were at the Statehouse last week to say planned personnel cuts would be a major threat to the state’s natural resources, another interesting point was raised about the governor.

Nobody at the event could say whether Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH has ever been to a state park while in office. […]

I asked the governor about that at the end of a news conference that week. The governor looked at me as he walked out of the room, but did not answer the question.

Blagojevich spokeswoman REBECCA RAUSCH said this week she does not believe Blagojevich has been to any prison or mental health center during his term. Although noting she has worked for the governor for only one of the two years he’s been in office, Rausch said she is not aware of any visits he has made to state parks.

And now, Dale Bowman of the Sun-Times from December 29 of last year (”Seeing Illinois from the bottoms up”)

Gov. Blagojevich has [state parks] under attack. Jan. 14 will be the last day for 87 employees in the latest round of layoffs at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

The sites matter to me. Not just well-known state parks, but the smaller unique spots.

Maybe collective memory can deflect the hatchets. I have many memories associated with Illinois’ public sites, including being married at one. Many readers do, too.

Beginning Sunday, I will run a weekly feature with a memory of an Illinois site.

Bowman’s column from January 16 (”State’s resources deserve sound environment”) made this point:

More hidden but just as devastating is the loss of fundamental office staff. Licensing is in shambles. Applications arrive days before or after deadlines. Data compilation of vital waterfowl surveys (vital to the public) are not getting done because Kathy Thornburg is gone.

If you feel as if the IDNR is sinking, you have the right sense.

And this from a Lew Freedman column in the Tribune early last year entitled “Blagojevich shows no feel for state’s outdoors legacy” and which may have sparked all the anger:

Blagojevich’s proposition is potentially calamitous to all outdoors interests. That’s why an attack on one is an attack on all, and unified opposition is necessary. If this plan is enacted, Rod Blagojevich may be remembered as the the governor who shuttered state parks. Not a pretty legacy.

Les Winkler of the Southern Illinoisan had this to say recently in a column entitled “BLAGOJEVICH IS CUTTING WAY TOO MUCH FROM THE IDNR”:

Re-election be damned! It’s time for Gov. Blagojevich to do what is right for the state.

In the past six months, the Blagojevich administration has gutted the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. […]

So, it’s time for the governor to make a decision.

Should Illinois citizens continue to be short-changed? Should conservation programs continue to be placed on the back burner? Or, should we take a step forward and introduce a minimal state tax to fund conservation programs.

There are a LOT more columns and stories like these, but you get the idea.

I saw some comments in a previous post about Starved Rock from people who want to see even more cuts at IDNR. But we’re talking about qualify of life issues here and the legacy that we’ll pass on to future generations. So, if you’re a crank who hates all taxes and spending and are permanently glued to your computer screen, then please don’t bother posting your goofy rants to this post. We ought to be able to have a discussion without the over the top ravings.

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      

They make a great stocking stuffer

Wednesday, Jan 26, 2005

Who would buy these?

They won’t have a blooper reel and you can’t get them at Blockbuster, but Illinois House proceedings are now available on DVD.

In recent years the chamber’s sessions have been broadcast live on the Internet. As of Wednesday, the sessions are being recorded and copied to DVD for anyone who wants them.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, decided to archive the sessions and sell copies to make following state government easier, said spokesman Steve Brown. Some people could find the recordings interesting, he added.

“We’ve got a sense that what we do here has a bit of history surrounding it,'’ Brown said.

Each disc from the House clerk’s office will cost $5.

Bill Black probably has the answer to my question.

Still, Rep. Bill Black is concerned that the recordings may be put to political uses. The Danville Republican said footage could be edited, or even altered electronically, to make a lawmaker look bad and then used in a negative campaign commercial.

“We always worry about being taken out of context,'’ Black said. “But if you do that to a digital video disc and use it as a campaign commercial it could be devastating.'’

Brown said the House will do its best to prevent improper use of the video recordings by branding a logo onto the picture. But he said technology is such that if someone wanted to make an attack ad based on what goes on in the Legislature they “could probably create a virtual House debate with computers and graphics.'’

- Posted by Rich Miller   1 Comment      

Charlie sez

Wednesday, Jan 26, 2005

My ol’ buddy Charlie Johnston has one of the best analysis pieces I’ve ever seen at the Leader. I don’t agree with everything, of course, but it’s darned good.

A little taste:

Why, then, haven’t more county chairmen made common cause with dissenting conservative organizations? Bluntly, the caustic rhetoric and corrosive tactics of some movement conservatives have left county chairmen leery.

They suspect many movement conservatives would be more at home on a demolition crew than on a construction crew. Whatever their problems with the institutional party, they want to fix it; not destroy it.

This opens a great opportunity, both for movement conservatives and for the establishment, over the next year. If movement conservatives can tone down their rhetoric and demonstrate a credible approach to building a majority party they will find a lot of unexpected allies in the ranks of the county chairmen.

Similarly, if the top establishment can re-connect with county chairmen, entering into genuinely collegial dialogue and showing as much concern for what the chairmen need from the party as for what the party demands from them, it can re-cement the chairmen to the traditional party process. Neither side seems particularly poised to pull off such a diplomatic coup.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think the “movement” types will ever tone down their acts. Still, Charlie’s piece is a good roadmap for McKenna.

By the way, I don’t know the woman next to Charlie, but I’m sure the CrossBlogger hounds are now on the case. It says on this website that she’s a “press secretary/webmaster.” In other words, Dring and Rhodes could both be replaced in one fell swoop. On second thought, maybe they won’t do any further research.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      

Shooting in Peoria high school

Wednesday, Jan 26, 2005

And the Pundit is live-blogging the coverage.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Piling on

Wednesday, Jan 26, 2005

Hey, Larry, if you think his photo is weird, wait until you hear about his tooth

Syverson is a Republican who says he’s so dedicated to the cause that seven years ago he got a tattoo of the GOP’s elephant logo on one of his upper molars.

Yep, a molar tattoo.

OK, feeling guilty for piling on (and the pangs hit quicker than I expected - I must be getting soft in my dotage). Really, he doesn’t look so bad in this photo.

UPDATE 2: OK, I can’t help myself. This is from a 1997 edition of the Rockford Register Star. Sorry, no link.

‘Tattooth’ fame earns dentist TV appearance

ROCKFORD — Dave Syverson’s upper molar — the one adorned with a “tattooth” of the Republican Party emblem — has become the talk of the town, the state capital and the nation.

A story about the state senator’s red, white and blue porcelain elephant appeared Sunday in the New York Times, and the Family Channel is flying the dentist who implanted the GOP-festooned crown to Los Angeles to appear Monday on the cable station’s “Home and Family” show.

“I’ve got the most famous tooth in the country,” Syverson joked Wednesday.

The conservative legislator’s trendy dental work also was a hit at the Boone and Winnebago county fairs.

“People were standing in line to see his tattooth,” said Gloria Franklin, Syverson’s legislative aide. “It’s been unbelievable.”

The tattooth isn’t easily visible: Syverson has to stick his finger in his mouth and pull his lip aside to display it.

Since the tattooth story broke last week, Syverson’s office has been flooded with telephone calls, including several from colleagues in Springfield who wanted to tease him after reading about his racy conduct in the newspaper.

The 40-year-old senator was a guest on radio station WMAQ in Chicago and has more big-city radio interviews scheduled for next week.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      

Dick Walsh

Wednesday, Jan 26, 2005

Condolences to the family and many friends of Dick Walsh, who passed away this week. He was 74.

The wake is Thursday, from 3-9 at Dreschler, Brown and Williams funeral home in Oak Park. The funeral is Friday at 11 at St. Lukes in River Forest.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Madigan interview link

Wednesday, Jan 26, 2005

Here’s the link I promised in today’s Capitol Fax. And here are the relevant paragraphs:

SPEAKER MADIGAN: I think we ought to spend a lot of time on electric utility deregulation because, although Illinois appears to have successfully transitioned to deregulation, there’s a lot of serious issues to be addressed in terms of electric utility deregulation.

Number one would be the rate freeze that was put in place. At the time, it was argued that this would be beneficial for ratepayers, especially residential ratepayers. Over time, a legitimate question has been put, “Well, although we put a lid on what the rates might be, we may have also put a floor on what the rates could be.” And competition over the last couple years, without the rate freeze, may have driven those rates lower than they are right now.

In addition, we provided for what they call stranded costs at the time of the electric utility deregulation, which is an industry way of saying that the mistakes of the utility companies, notably Commonwealth Edison, in building nuclear plants would be paid for by the ratepayers. We did that.

Having done that, having done the rate freeze, you’re now looking at a cliff, in terms of where you go with cost for the utility companies and for the rates.

In the case of the telephone companies, there has been a great change in telephone service. You probably carry a cell phone. And so all of that should be reviewed now, rather than later, because of the dramatic changes in the industry and technology.

ILLINOIS ISSUES: The argument is that a move to a more free-market system would benefit everyone?

MADIGAN: And in the case of the phone regulation — privately, I put the question, and I guess I’ll put it publicly right now: Why couldn’t we follow the model that we followed in electric utility deregulation, where, in essence, we made Commonwealth Edison and the other distribution companies common carriers and took them out of the generation business. Why couldn’t we just make SBC a common carrier for distribution and take them out of the other aspects of it. I’m sure they have some kind of response, but I think it’s a question that ought to be put.

If you were to do that, then there’s a little more rhyme and reason to this idea that they’re deregulated, but the legislature or the Commerce Commission is setting the rate for wholesale sales from people like SBC to the others.

- Posted by Rich Miller   2 Comments      

Dylan diversion

Wednesday, Jan 26, 2005

A couple of months ago I ran across a bootleg Bob Dylan website. Every few weeks, some guy in Japan uploads new songs, mostly rehearsal tapes and studio outtakes.

There are plenty of Dylan bootleg sites out there, but this one is quite special. Most of the stuff I’ve heard so far is superior to just about anything Dylan has formally released. It’s far more relaxed and less self-important than his commercial recordings, and less distracted and choppy than his concert performances. And the recordings are a higher quality than most of the Basement Tapes.

Tonight, while waiting for a bad case of writer’s block to pass, I’ve been listening to outtakes from his 1983 album Infidels. There are three versions of “Sweetheart like you,” for instance (one of my favorite Dylan tunes), and you can listen as the lyrics evolve.

Got to be an important person to be in here, honey,
Got to have done some evil deed,
Got to have your own harem when you come in the door,
Got to play your harp until your lips bleed.

My absolute favorite track, however, is a jarring bloozy version of “You’re a big girl now” from a concert rehearsal in the late 1970s. Dylan perfectly captures the essence of the song in a way that he didn’t even approach in the commercial release. I never quite understood until I heard the bootleg that it was a great blues tune.

I’m going out of my mind,
With a pain that stops and starts
Like a corkscrew to my heart
Ever since we’ve been apart.

The latest upload from our mystery Japanese guy is a 1988 New York concert bootleg. It’s OK, but I prefer the studio and rehearsal tapes.

I won’t link to the site for fear of getting sued by some giant media monster, but I might be convinced to send you the link if you email me and ask in a nice way. Or, you could just follow the first link in this post and figure it out for yourself.

They say that patriotism is the last refuge
To which a scoundrel clings.
Steal a little and they throw you in jail,
Steal a lot and they make you king.
There’s only one step down from here, baby,
It’s called the land of permanent bliss.
What’s a sweetheart like you doin’ in a dump like this?

- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      

Finally, some good news

Wednesday, Jan 26, 2005

After losing thousands of jobs in the past four years, the Rockford area is finally catching a break. 1,000 high-paying factory jobs at Chrysler, plus lots of suppliers are building new plants in the area.

DaimlerChrysler Corp. will invest $419 million to upgrade the aging Belvidere assembly plant, adding up to 1,000 new jobs and a second production shift which will start in March 2006. […]

Halprin said when the work is completed the plant would increase production from one shift to two for the first time since 2000. […]

After refurbishing, the factory will manufacture a replacement for the Dodge Neon, which will cease production in September 2005.

The state will kick in $36 million, which works out to about $36 thousand per job, not including all the other new positions created by suppliers and construction. That’s not terribly huge, considering some of the other schemes that have been tried in the past.

- Posted by Rich Miller   1 Comment      

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