Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Early Voting in St. Clair County

The St. Clair County has Early Voting available on the Diebold touch screen computers. After so many years of punching holes in computer cards, they are a refreshing change. The touch screen computers are easy to use, too.

  1. Slide the credit card in.
  2. Set the text size & screen contrast if necessary.
  3. Select the candidates.
  4. Review the candidate selections.
  5. Make changes if anything is incorrect.
  6. Print the ballot.
  7. Record the ballot.
A complete printout appears on a paper tape roll for a printed record. After formally recording the ballot, the credit card slightly pops out.

Employees in the county clerk's office are readily available for voter questions, comments, and concerns.

The scantron forms will be available at the individual polling places on 03/21. Touch screen computers are certainly better!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Candidate Forum Report

The Downstate Democrats for Change (DD4C) in Madison County held their candidate forum this evening. Dan Stover and Vic Roberts are the IL-19 congressional candidates. William “Bill” Berry and Bruce Stewart are the candidates for the 5th Appellate Court. Since Mr. Stewart had a previous engagement at a Jackson County fundraiser, Philip J. Rarick, a previous 5th District Supreme Court Justice, spoke on his behalf.

The 5th Appellate candidates began the evening. Judge Rarick was the first to speak. He reminded everyone about avoiding statements violating Illinois Rule 67 (A Judge or Judicial Candidate Shall Refrain From Inappropriate Political Activity) which includes avoiding making statements that commit or appear to commit the candidate with respect to cases, controversies or issues within cases that are likely to come before the court. He spoke about himself since Mr. Stewart and he seem to have philosophies that are extremely similar. When he responded to a question regarding Justice Karmeier and a case involving State Farm, he responded that judges should recuse themselves to avoid any appearance of impropriety. On HB-4610, Judicial Campaign Financing, and Merit Selection, voters should meet candidates, hear what they have to say, and ask them questions. The electoral system is good the way it is. For more specific questions on issues such as sex offender recidivism and capital punishment, members of the court need to address statutory law: Do the facts support the decision? States attorneys should file the necessary documents so that courts of review decide on bad sentences.

Bill Berry introduced the audience to his motto: Experience, Independence, Integrity. To him, any question of impropriety should have decisions based on a case-by-case basis. Merit selection is important to him. Voters need to know who is qualified or not for the job. It is too easy for candidates to give too much attention to special interest groups concerned about nothing but their own agenda. He reminded everyone that state courts do not decide on abortion or capital punishment cases. They go directly to the U. S. Supreme Court. The state legislation sets the type of sentencing, and the appellate courts cannot deviate from it.

The congressional candidates took their turn after the break. Regarding economics, Vic Roberts would like to repeal NAFTA and the Taft-Hartley Labor Act, increase tariffs, and address the issue of the Constitution allowing Congress to remain responsible for the currency. The country needs to address who is controlling the wealth. The Federal Reserve Bank System and an elite few Wall Street bankers and global financiers control the wealth and the country.

Mr. Roberts would like to see a national health insurance program. The millions of dollars that a few corporate CEOs make each year could fund the program. Many problems have a simple solution: lose the Republican Majority. They need to be a Minority. A true fiscal conservative would eliminate the waste and fraud. Mr. Roberts wants the U. S. military home. Pork barrel spending has to end and lose the tax cuts for the wealthy. The space program should be a lower priority as well. The bottom line is that monied interests grow larger at the expense of citizens.

Alternative sources are a viable answer to America’s energy problems. Mr. Roberts reminded the audience of wind power, geothermal sources, and coal gasification. Thermo-nuclear is also an option for consideration. He believes that citizens have the right to bear arms. In reference to campaign finance reform suggestions from James Carville and Paul Begala, Mr. Roberts said that big money would always have control, and legislators need to remove it completely. Unless politicians use public money for their campaigns, they will always have the potential to become puppets. Big money controls the media, and media has their favorites. Theodore Roosevelt had proposed such reforms 100 years ago.

Mr. Roberts ended his presentation with a few simple quotes. Among them were these two: “In the words of a great lady, Mother Jones, ‘Let us pray for the dead but fight like hell for the living.”’ “Evil triumphs when good people do nothing.” His website provides all the details on his views of the issues.

Dan Stover was the second congressional candidate. He listed the numerous endorsements he has received and believes that John Shimkus (IL-19) should keep his term limit pledge. He reminded the audience that the Republican Majority has given the country a national debt of $8 trillion -- That is $27,000 for every American. Everyone deserves quality health care. He visited the Gulf Coast states and provided disaster assistance so he has first-hand knowledge of that region's dilemmas. The Democrats have lost cohesion with their divisiveness and in-fighting. They have dropped the ball because of it.

The Budget included reductions to education expenditures. This is typical for Republicans since they can afford private educations for their children. The economy controls school enrollment. Legislators always consider the issue a high priority until they get to office. Mr. Stover will always consider education a high priority -- period. He is an educator. For him, it is a national defense issue.

Meth production is the drug problem. Heroin is the “in” thing for young girls. Mr. Stover believes in interdiction, education, treatment, and the “last chance” drug courts that former President Clinton and Janet Reno hoped to create.

Legislation should provide alternative methods for obtaining much-needed prescription medication. Republicans are fiscally conservative (aka Social Darwinism). Democrats are fiscally responsible. Social Security, the national debt, health care, etc. are the greatest threats to U. S. citizens. President Bush has given them a debt with interest that they cannot pay.

Oil companies received tax credits and subsidies. The country needs to reduce its dependency on foreign oil. Mr. Stover feels that legislation has been too generous to car companies as well. Ethanol, coal gasification, and conservation are viable alternatives.

Current campaign finance reforms are a “sham”. The real concern is who is giving to whom. Rep. John Shimkus has more than $1 million in campaign contributions as a direct result of his energy contacts. Mr. Stover’s fundraising comes from the working Americans of IL-19. Unions have contributed approximately $2,500. He promises to never sell his vote, and voters are smart enough to know when a person has sold their soul. To him the choices are special interest or good government. Any reform proposals are really First Amendment issues. He recommends campaign disclosure within three days.

The Second Amendment is important to the economy and culture of Central and So. IL. This is a complex issue. Mr. Stover feels strongly about enforcing reasonable gun regulations. Society needs a balance. He wants to save children’s lives and remain a friend of gun owners. Legislation should focus on real problems. No one has ever committed a terrorist act with a modified 50 caliber gun.

President Bush is the best secret weapon for any congressional candidate. Just when it looks as if his activities have hit rock bottom, he discovers a new low: Libby, Tom DeLay (TX-22) contributions, giving away U. S. ports, etc. Mr. Stover feels that he offers IL-19 a better way. Legislators need to support the troops under any and all circumstances without following blindly. They should have an honorable and dignified exit strategy.

As for high crimes and misdemeanors, impeaching President Bush can never happen while the Republicans control the Senate and House of Representatives. This election is a litmus test. Corporate America has a voice in John Shimkus (R-Collinsville). Both Democratic congressional candidates assured the audience that whoever wins the Primary will receive the other’s complete support.


On a rather interesting note ---> At the end of January, the DD4C had sent their announcement of their February 27, 2006, candidate forum, open to the public, to all the local newspapers. The event appeared in the Granite City Press-Record and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Newspaper management for the Highland News Leader in Illinois refused the request. Instead, the February 27, 2006, issue featured an article that John Shimkus (R) IL-19, congressional incumbent, wrote. It appeared on page A4 above the fold with his by-line and picture. The Community Democrats had requested the announcement, and the Highland News Leader provided space to a Republican incumbent while newspaper management refused to announce or cover the forum. The decision of newspaper management raises a perception of bias in the context of newspapers' or other news-gathering units' responsibilities to report and comment upon such activities. This is a direct violation of American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) ethics. Highland voters should send a letter to the editors and the newspaper’s large-block advertisers. They should also send a copy of their letter to P. Anthony (Tony) Ridder, Chairman and CEO of Knight-Ridder, Inc. (NYSE: KRI). This is an opportunity for Democrats to send a message to newspapers of the Republican syndicates that they will not tolerate unfairness.

About the DD4C: Pam Gronemeyer, MD, created the DD4C in November 2005 to advance the cause of the Party. In her Highland, IL, office, she encourages ordinary people to return to the political process. The organization offers grassroots support and assistance to progressive candidates identified as having a viable chance of being elected in local, state, and federal elections. Their next meeting is March 15, 2006, at 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Follow the Money

What does a person do with $1,005,313? If the person is a congressional incumbent like John Shimkus (IL-19), that is a campaign war chest for re-election (IF he chooses to campaign for himself instead of someone else like he did in 2004). Some of it will probably be donations for the re-election of Tom DeLay (TX-22), election of Peter Roskam (IL-06), or to one of the many national funds for Republican campaigns.

The money comes from many different political action committees from many interests (in addition to individuals):

  1. Energy, Natural Resources -- 66,400
  2. Health Care -- 58,000
  3. Communication, Technology -- 44,953
  4. Organized Labor -- 42,500
  5. Finance, Insurance -- 25,500
  6. Business - Retail, Services -- 22,000
  7. Transportation -- 18,180
  8. Agriculture -- 18,165
  9. Manufacturing -- 12,690
  10. Single-Issue Groups -- 8,000
  11. Real Estate/Construction -- 7,000
  12. Law -- 1,500
The amounts are just for the 2005 – 2006 Election Cycle. For a “market conservative Republican” that consistently votes against pro-labor legislation, Organized Labor’s donations rank as the fourth highest on the list of 12 interest areas.

Rep. Shimkus has acquired $2,788,271 in campaign donations since he entered Congress. Of that amount, Labor has given $146,424:

AFGE PAC -- 8,000
AFSCME -- 3,500

IL-19 has the highest unemployment rate in the state. Quality of life for members of Organized Labor has gone down not up following the election of the Collinsville politician. Obviously, Labor continues contributing membership dues believing they will get different results by doing the same thing. According to Albert Einstein, that is the definition of “Insanity”.

IL residents deserve better.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Donate Beanie Babies, Receive Children’s Smiles

For almost two years, military members assigned to the Mideast have been collecting little toys for the local children. Family, friends, neighborhoods, local organizations, anyone visiting BeaniesForBaghdad have donated Beanie Babies, stuffed animals, school supplies, Frisbees, balls, miscellaneous sporting equipment, toy cars (i.e., Hot Wheels, Matchbox , etc.), individually wrapped treats, and anything else that all children love and appreciate. They live with nothing so little things have a major impact.

Spc. Karl Johnson assigned to the 363rd MPAD published the following press release on February 1, 2006:

Strike Brigade brings security and smiles

BAGHDAD -- In a country where having a toy is a rarity, Soldiers passing out beanie babies to Iraqi children can become very popular.

"The children's faces just light up when they see you," said Sgt. 1st Class Alan Certain, Company C, 490th Civil Affairs Battalion. "It's amazing to see what an effect a simple toy can have on a kid."

The civil affairs Soldiers pass out the small toys during their missions in central Iraq. To date more than 150,000 of the miniature stuffed animals have been distributed throughout the war torn nation with the help of Beanies for Baghdad, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the rebuilding effort.

What started as an attempt to get one child to smile has turned into a project that is helping Soldiers build positive bonds with the Iraqi people.

"This is forming the beginning of friendships between the children and the Soldiers," said Donna Ward, Beanies for Baghdad project manager. "The hope for a better tomorrow is found in the children of Iraq."

"We are hoping to see an entire new generation of Iraqis who trust that we are their friends and that we're here to help them." said Capt. Darrell Retheford, C-490th CA Batt.

According to the project manager, the success of Beanies for Baghdad has just begun. "We have so much more we hope to accomplished," she said. "These little ones didn't ask to be born in the conditions they are growing up in and this is a way we can make a difference."

"I personally feel this is a small gesture we as Americans and other countries can do to help our Soldiers sew seeds of friendship and to give these children something to smile about in a war torn land."

More information about Beanies for Baghdad and how you can help can be found at their website, BeaniesForBaghdad.
Maybe Staff Sergeant Edwin H. Dazachacon from the neighborhood even participated. This little project brings a positive thought during a not-so-positive time.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Not So Vague

There are many differences between politicians. For many American citizens voting this year, the differences between Democrats and Republicans are extremely vague. Some voters see unequivical differences. Glenn Melancon (TX-04) has compiled a comparative list of the most obvious differences:

1) Democrats: We have a moral responsibility to look out for our neighbors.
---Republicans: YOU have a moral responsibility to throw stones at your neighbors.
2) Democrats: We the people have proven through Social Security, Medicare, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Civil Rights Act that we can make the world better.
---Republicans: Turn you back on your neighbor and you can be become rich. To hell with every one else.
3) Workers are the foundation of economic success.
---Republicans: Corporations are the foundation of economic.
4) Republicans control the Presidency, House, Senate and the Courts yet Osama Bin Laden is still alive and threatening the US. FDR, a Democratic, defeated industrial Japan and Germany in less time than the Republicans have had to catch a man living in cave.
5) Bill Clinton and the Democratic Congress passed a balance budget with NO Republican votes. Republicans not only spend more money but they can not deliver on Health Care, Education or War.
6) Yes, Democrats still believe in the Constitution and Human Rights.
7) A fool and his money are soon parted.
Corporate profit margin or citizen quality of life?
Mainstream Republicans or Democrats?
Incumbent Republicans or Progressive Democrat challengers?
A well-funded candidate with expensive PAC support or a grassroots candidate with national citizen support?
Write-in a body or choose none of the above?

The voters have choices to make in the November General Election. Some of those choices they have to make in the March Primary Election.

First -- voters have to decide what exactly they want:
  • Guaranteed verifiable voting for all (e.g., open, verifiable elections, with printing of voting from computer touch screens) or corrupt elections
  • Basic health care for all Americans (e.g., a single payer system) -- the right thing to do with long-term cost savings or health care for the privileged few
  • Environmental responsibility as stewards of the Earth so that future generations will benefit from a healthy environment (e.g., there is no “away” just someone else’s backyard) or the continued irresponsible poisoning of water, air, and soil resources
  • A legacy of clean, efficient, renewable natural resources or the continued extinction of unique plant and animal species
  • Removal of U. S. military assets from Iraq honorably through international cooperation to stabilize a free Iraq and restore America’s honor and credibility as a world leader (e.g., online publication of all proposed legislation at least one week to eliminate illusory government anti-corruption rhetoric) or an increase of American deaths
  • Promote living wage American employment opportunities as an alternative to outsourcing of work or an increase in the population of working poor
  • Fair taxes through an equitable graduated tax structure to efficiently balance the Budget, reduce the debt, and provide for the real needs of the people instead of corporate interests or less taxes for the higher income brackets and more taxes for the lower income brackets
  • Strengthen Social Security and preserve retirement pensions or greater profits for financial institutions providing privatized accounts
  • Provide the American military, family members, and veterans with meaningful support or adding to the number of working poor and homeless
  • Strength social programs providing support to household caregivers enabling them to raise their children in healthy and loving homes in family environments or increased criminal activity
Second – voters have to submit their ballots on March 21 and November 7. With the availability of Early Voting, there are no excuses. It is time to elect federal legislators that will allow Americans out of the Land of OZ because President Bush needs a brain, Vice President Cheney needs a heart, and every Congressional incumbent needs Courage.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A Forum An Endorsement Does Not Make

At the beginning of every month, Coroner Steve Nonn updates the Madison County Democrats Calendar of Fundraisers and Events. It conspicuously lacks an item, and not because they lack the information.

The calendar contains labor meetings, council meetings, fundraisers, potlucks, golf tournaments, and an opportunity to meet the candidates. The single candidate events are naturally on the calendar because the Madison County Democrats have formally endorsed them. According to the group, they have already provided their endorsement to Bruce Stewart for the 5th Appellate Court. Therefore, the calendar cannot include the candidate forum that The Downstate Downstate Democrats for Change is hosting for congressional & appellate court Democratic candidates. The event will occur at the Holiday Inn in Collinsville between 7 and 9 p.m. on Monday, February 27, 2006. Anyone interested can view the event on the calendar for the Illinois Democratic Network.

The explanation sounds reasonable. Yet, the calendar includes the Wood River Precinct Meet the Candidates Night on March 16. The event sounds like an informal version of a candidate forum. Maybe it helps to know the "right" people.

On another note -- Bruce Stewart cannot attend the February 27 candidate forum in Collinsville. Philip J. Rarick, a previous 5th District Supreme Court Justice, is the Stewart campaign manager and will appear in his place.

With questions at the ready, all interested voters in the 19th CD and the 5th Appellate Court District should make note of the event and attend.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Candidate Forum Update

The Downstate Democrats for Change is hosting a candidate forum for congressional & appellate court Democratic candidates. The event will occur at the Holiday Inn in Collinsville between 7 and 9 p.m. on Monday, February 27, 2006.

Three of the four candidates on the Primary ballot will attend:

19th CD Representative
  • Dan Stover of Centralia
  • Vic Roberts of Taylorville
IL 5th Appellate Court
  • William “Bill” Berry of Collinsville
This is a draft of the evening’s format:
Approximate Timeline and Format:

7:00 Welcome; Information about Host and Forum Format
7:10 Introduction of Candidates for the 19th Congressional District
  • Credentials / Bio information provided by each candidate for the Forum Program will be read as the introduction
  • Each candidate will have 3 minutes to address audience and outline campaign platform
  • Order of speakers determined by a coin toss
7:20 Questions from the audience will be read by the Moderator
  • Each candidate will have 2 minutes to respond; opposing candidate will have 1 minute for rebuttal
  • Time will be monitored, with timing cards visible to the speakers
7:50 Closing Remarks from each Candidate
  • Each candidate will have 3 minutes to offer closing remarks, presented in the same order as introduced
7:56 Audience Break and Change of Speakers at Lecturn
8:05 Introduction of Candidate(s) for 5th Appellate Court District
  • Credentials / Bio information provided by each candidate for the Forum Program will be read as the introduction
  • Each candidate will have 3 minutes to address audience and outline campaign platform
  • Order of speakers determined by a coin toss should Bruce Stewart appear
8:15 Questions from the audience will be read by the Moderator
  • Each candidate will have 2 minutes to respond; opposing candidate will have 1 minute for rebuttal
  • Time will be monitored, with timing cards visible to the speaker(s)
8:55 Closing Remarks from the Candidate(s)
  • The candidate(s) will have 3 minutes to offer closing remarks, presented in the same order as introduced
9:00 Closing Remarks from Moderator
Downstate Democrats for Change is a grassroots organization of concerned citizens in Central and So. IL. They currently meet in Highland once a month at 6:30 p.m.

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