Saturday, December 31, 2005

Year in Review

From chimp to blogger.

Or is this a commentary on the intelligent design debate? See McHenry County Blog New Year's Day for an appropriate Message of the Day. And, here's my year in review, with a link to Eric Zorn's compilation from bloggers of all political stripes. Posted by Picasa

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Illinoisans to be able to "vote early and vote often" until 2008

Cross-posted at Marathon Pundit.

We can't let that great tradition of vote fraud in Illinois just whither away, can we?

Not till 2008, according to AP. More from that article:

Even though they'll miss a Jan. 1 deadline to have voter fraud-busting measures in place, Illinois' top election official says current systems safeguard against abuse and authorities are making progress in complying with the federal Help America Vote Act.

The law, passed three years ago after the 2000 presidential-election snafu in Florida, requires states to have comprehensive voter-registration databases working by Sunday to ease authorities' search for duplicate names, removal of outdated registrations and other anti-deception measures.

Illinois is in a precarious position when it comes to complying with election laws, given its history. The adage, "Vote early and often" originated in Chicago, where decades of machine politics managed to get dead people to the polls and spawned the legend of thousands of votes for Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential election resting at the bottom of Lake Michigan.

State Board of Elections Executive Director Dan White said Friday that a statewide database of voters was available to local election officials in 2004 so that they could compare their voter rolls to the state list. But the board still must create a two-way system, allowing counties and other local election bodies to send updated records to the state.

Of the statewide offices, all but one are held be Democrats, and all of those Dems are running for re-election in 2006. So voters will be able to fully participate in the 2006 state elections in Illinois, before the voter database is up and running two years later.

Interesting, isn't it, that this story comes out on a very low readership day.

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Friday, December 30, 2005

Fast food bad for political health

Cross-posted at Lincoln’s Logs

The Feds are at it again, this time looking at whether or not fast food chains linked to Tony Rezko received “lucrative leases” at the newly opened tollway oases.

According to Joseph Ryan of the Daily Herald:

Federal prosecutors are examining exactly how fast-food chains with links to one of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s top fundraisers landed lucrative leases at the newly opened tollway oases.

A federal grand jury recently subpoenaed an array of information from the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority regarding contracts with Subway, Panda Express and other oasis vendors, documents obtained by the Daily Herald show.

This latest subpoena expands U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s already wide-ranging probe of state hiring and contracting practices that has tarnished the reform mantra Blagojevich used to win election in 2002.

In addition to the tollway, the state’s transportation department, prison system, child welfare agency and even the governor’s office have been hit with federal subpoenas. Added to the mix are late-summer allegations contained in a federal plea agreement that Blagojevich and two top fundraisers devised a scheme to reward campaign donors with consulting fees and investment deals at the suburban and downstate teachers pension fund, a charge the administration steadfastly denies.

And this all comes as Blagojevich heads into an election year after promising voters he’d change “business as usual.”

Well, just what Rod needed before launching his re-election campaign, another Federal Investigation. Will the Governor ever realize that Rezko is a cancer on his administration?

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

The First Annual "Do As I Say Not As I Do" Award

The latest drivel from Kathleen Parker, a syndicated columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, a Tribune* newspaper irked me enough to interrupt my vacation.

Of all the stories leading America's annual greatest-hits list, the one that subsumes the rest is the continuing evolution of information in the Age of Blogging. [...]

It is this latter--our new enemies--that interests me most. I don't mean Al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden, but the less visible, insidious enemies of decency, humanity and civility--the angry offspring of narcissism's quickie marriage to instant gratification.

There's something frankly creepy about the explosion we now call the Blogosphere--the big-bang "electroniverse" where recently wired squatters set up new camps each day. As I write, the number of blogs (Web logs) and bloggers (those who blog) is estimated in the tens of millions worldwide. [...]

Schadenfreude--pleasure in others' misfortunes--has become the new barbarity on an island called Blog. When someone trips, whether Dan Rather or Eason Jordan or Judith Miller, bloggers are the bloodthirsty masses slavering for a public flogging. Incivility is their weapon and humanity their victim.

This is the same Kathleen Parker, Tribune* Media columnist, who approvingly quoted a friend calling for the execution of several presidential candidates.
Here's a note I got recently from a friend and former Delta Force member, who has been observing American politics from the trenches: "These bastards like Clark and Kerry and that incipient ass, Dean, and Gephardt and Kucinich and that absolute mental midget Sharpton, race baiter, should all be lined up and shot."

She later changed "shot" to "slapped," leading some to wonder whether she had made the whole thing up in the first place.

Incivility? There's plenty of that to go around. But the Tribune's* Parker, who, true to form, managed to work in a clumsy and not-too-oblique comparison of Al Qaeda and bloggers, has absolutely no room to talk.

*Newspapers may contain opinions or language that may be considered inappropriate by some viewers. The newspapers linked to do not reflect the opinions of Illinoize or Rich. The newspapers linked to are not affiliated or associated with Rich or Illinoize.

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Even with Quigley out, African-American base makes Stroger tough to beat

Forget the recent media gushing about his unselfishness, Mike Quigley's choice to opt out of the Cook County Board President race grew out of his ability to do First Grade math, not his dedication to the "reform agenda" and a lack of ego.

Anyone who can count knew Quigley and Forrest Claypool had no chance in a three-way contest with John Stroger. But Quigley also realized that even in a one-on-one race, Stroger will be tough to beat. Stroger is battered and bruised and seemingly slipping into a scandal-a-week tail spin. But he still has a rare and powerful electoral combination on his side: monolithic African-American support and the backing of some key regular Democratic ward organizations.

Looking at the numbers, the 2002 Democratic primary for governor is probably the best measuring stick to use in handicapping "Stroger vs. Claypool." (The '02 contest was a three-way race, but it still gives us a good idea of how much African-American support Stroger will get in the March primary.) Just over 747,000 votes were cast in Cook County in the '02 Democratic primary. Turnout will probably be a little lower in '06, but now that Rod Blagojevich has opposition at the top of the ticket, it won't be dramatically lower. And the level of participation by minority voters figures to be similar.

In '02, Roland Burris got just over 265,000 primary votes in Cook County -- good for 35.5 percent. That figure, made up almost exclusively of black voters, is an indication of what Stroger's base of support will be in the '06 primary. Paul Vallas and Blagojevich combined for just over 481,000 Cook County votes in '02 -- which makes it safe to assume the county's non-black voters accounted for 64.5 percent of the primary electorate that year. Claypool is likely to soundly defeat Stroger among these voters in March. But to overcome Stroger's large base of support among African-Americans, Claypool must do better than "soundly defeat" Stroger in white and Hispanic precincts -- he has to absolutely crush him.

Let's be optimistic and say about 700,000 votes -- a nice round number -- are cast in the '06 County Board race. Assuming Stroger matches Burris' African-American turnout numbers, he starts out with a base of about 248,000 black votes (35.5 percent of the projected vote total). To increase his share of the total vote from 35.5 percent to just over 50 percent, Stroger would need to add just 103,000 white and Hispanic votes to his base of African-American support. In order to collect 103,000 white and Hispanic votes, Stroger needs only about 23 percent of the county's non-black vote.

It's hard to imagine Stroger getting less than a quarter of the white and Hispanic vote, because unlike Burris, he does have pockets of support in vote-rich areas outside of his African-American base. Stroger should win all the Southwest Side organization wards except the 23rd, which will either be neutral or with Claypool. The 11th, 13th, and the 19th Wards alone should produce near 30,000 votes for Stroger, that will get him close to one-third of the non-black votes he needs to win. Stroger will also enjoy near universal support from the unions, which should keep Claypool from rolling-up big numbers in white-majority, working class suburbs.

Stroger will have to be careful, though. He needs an energized African-American electorate in March, but the more he plays the race card to fire-up his base -- something he has done with increasing frequency -- the more he risks alienating the white voters he needs to produce his margin of victory. There are, however, a couple of ways for him to mitigate any racial backlash that might cost him white votes. First, Stroger's campaign should stress the role Cook County government plays in the criminal justice system. This will allow him to pose as a "law-and-order" candidate and appeal to white male voters. He did just that in 1998 when facing a tough female opponent in the general election. His campaign commercials that year featured images of inmates marching at the Cook County Jail Boot Camp, making it seem like Stroger was running for sheriff, not county board president. He should repeat those ads in '06.

Secondly, Stroger can more subtlety and more effectively play the race card by engaging Claypool in a bit of class warfare. He should paint Claypool as an uncaring, budget-cutting technocrat from an affluent North Side neighborhood -- a part of town where people don't need or want Cook County Hospital. "Who's going to take care of poor folks if we don't?" -- should be Stroger's mantra when he campaigns in the black community.

It's a cheap shot against Claypool, but not as cheap as comparing him to Ed Vrdolyak, as Stroger has done in the past. And class warfare, as opposed to racial politics, will create minimal white backlash on the Southwest Side and in the suburbs. And it might tug on the heart-strings of liberal white primary voters, too.

Of course, Stroger won't be campaigning in a vacuum. Claypool is a formidable challenger who will have Stroger playing defense most of the campaign. And most troublesome for Stroger, the controversies surrounding him could reach a critical mass. Like the Blagojevich administration, there's a chance the Stroger regime could be sent reeling by a pre-election indictment or two. If that happens, the above Election Day math begins to crumble.

Also, Stroger has developed a bad habit of being his own worst enemy. He inexplicably picked a pre-holiday fight with a long-time ally, State's Attorney Dick Devine. (Politics 101 reminder: don't take shots at anyone who can indict you.) And instead of ignoring his opponents during County Board meetings, he routinely takes the bait and engages them in long, silly arguments, which contributes to the perception that he has lost control of county government. What's more, all the fighting provides his critics with media coverage they otherwise wouldn't get.

Now that he's in a one-on-one race, Stroger badly needs to stop acting like his re-election is a foregone conclusion and start taking some advice from political pros -- something he's stubbornly refused to do for years. Soon, he will have to weather a stinging barrage of negative television advertising from Claypool. Those attacks will prove all the more damaging if Stroger continues to govern and campaign in an arrogant and undisciplined manner.

Stroger can't control what Patrick Fitzgerald does, but he can exert some control over his own rhetoric and his campaign message. He needs to grab hold of the reins soon. If not, he might piss away the political advantages he enjoys and put his re-election in jeopardy.

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Conservatives Present Unified Questionnaire

It is often said that conservatives like to stand in a circle and shoot at each other.

Today, many Illinois social conservatives announced a unified questionnaire for candidates running for state office. You can read what is on their agenda in McHenry County Blog by clicking here. And, here's my take on 2005's best and worst, plus the take of Patrick Ouimet, the man who gave the 2004 scare to appointed State Senator Pam Althoff, on the Democratic Party upsurge in McHenry County.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Patriot Guard Riders form to control Fred Phelps protests

Cross-posted at Marathon Pundit.

The loudmouth kooks of the Westboro Baptist "Church" and the Reverend Fred Phelps have organized opposition against them, the Patriot Guard Riders. There have been significant counterprotests against Phelps, notably this bad day for the Westboro folks a few months ago in Tennessee.

I've been closely following the nuts from this church for almost six months. They've disrupted many soldier's funerals in Illinois. Lt. Governor Pat Quinn plans to introduce legislation next month to outlaw protests within 300 feet of military funerals.

The Westboro congregation consists of Reverend Phelps and his 100 or so relatives and in-laws. Phelps first gamed infamy for picketing the funerals of AIDS victims in the 1980s.

The mentally unbalanced Kansan is operating under the delusion the God is punishing America for its toleration of homosexuality--he views each soldier's death as a message from God that America needs to "repent." The group's web site is here, it's called God Hates Fags.

For the most part, wrongly, the MSM has chosen to ignore Phelps and his protests. As often the case these days, once again, this is a blog-driven story.

Bill Hobbs' blogging ignited the August Tennessee protests. Some Soldier's Mom sounded the alarm in Arizona. Here in Illinois, Peoria Pundit and Capitol Fax filled in the sizable void that the local media left for us.

Michelle Malkin has more on Phelps on her blog.

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New Game: Government Run As A Business

Let's play another round of the old game "Government should be run as a Business" All the whiners can shriek about how bad GRod, Howard Dean, etc are doing and good old Reddbyrd --- Illinoize Voice of Reason --- will serve more examples of how the GOPs(as in MOPEs) have sold out the citizenry

ENTRY #1

Below is a slice of State Board of Elections Contributions Report (just to provide the Illinoize connection) and a heart warming tale from Tuesday's Wall Street Journal. The whole piece is not here. I did leave out how Bush's "Spies Like Us Justice Dept." opted not to intervene in the suit against Gabelli

Gabelli Funds, Inc Corp Center At RyeRye, NY 10580
$1,000.00 3/15/1995
Individual Contribution Citizens for Jim Edgar

In FCC Auctions of Airwaves,Gabelli Was Behind the Scenes
Firms Backed by Financier GotSmall-Business Discounts;Suit Labels Deals a Sham

He Says Case Is 'Extortion'

By JOHN R. WILKE Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNALDecember 27, 2005; Page A1

When the government auctioned off slices of radio spectrum for cellphone service, one big winner was Victoria Kane, an aerobics instructor who had no experience in the industry. Her start-up firm, Aer Force Communications, paid $18.9 million for five licenses that were later sold in a deal valued at $144 million.

Ms. Kane's firm entered the auction as a "very small business," a designation that brought it millions of dollars in federal subsidies. They included a 25% bidding discount and a low-interest loan through the Federal Communications Commission. But her small business was backed by a big one: that of wealthy money manager and mutual-fund impresario Mario Gabelli, one of the most prominent names on Wall Street.

Affiliates of Mr. Gabelli incorporated her firm, filed its FCC applications and handled its bidding, according to documents filed in a civil suit in federal court that names Mr. Gabelli, Ms. Kane and others. Through various entities, the documents say, he also held a large stake in her company, lent most of the money she bid and profited handsomely on the sale of the licenses. In all, Mr. Gabelli or his affiliates backed more than a dozen bidders for radio spectrum, which is a license to use a portion of the airwaves in a particular region.

Call it the friends-and-family plan: Each of the principals had social, business or family ties to Mr. Gabelli. They included Trent Tucker, a Gabelli client and former New York Knicks basketball player with a graceful outside shot; Alfred Angelo, a New Jersey accountant who had referred clients to Mr. Gabelli; Nara Cadorin, an 82-year-old retired administrative assistant for a Gabelli associate; and Kathy Stafford of Moose, Wyo., a property manager at one of his vacation homes.

They all got small-business discounts despite their dependence on Mr. Gabelli, whose extensive assets would have made him ineligible for such breaks. Many of the bidding companies were formed just weeks or days before the auctions.

None of those who told the FCC they controlled these firms had experience in building or running a cellphone service. None provided such service to customers after winning a license. Gabelli affiliates put up most of the money for the bids and took 49.9% stakes in most bidding firms. Then, when the licenses acquired at auction were sold, the Gabelli firms collected the majority of the proceeds.

The FCC didn't say small bidders couldn't borrow from big business, and many other bidders did. But to exclude speculation and fraud, the FCC said backers couldn't control the bidding firms. Bidders had to stand "not merely as fronts for other companies, but as active entrepreneurs," the FCC said. FCC rules also said winning bidders were expected to start building cellphone systems.

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Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything. 14% of people know that

Ah, the wisdom of Homer Simpson......

Did anyone else notice this?

Today’s Daily Southtown: “Gov: Child support collection up 57 percent

Today’s Chicago Tribune: “State child-support collections up 10%”

If you read the articles to find out what really happened, you’d see that the Tribune headline is closer to the truth. The 57% increase proclaimed by the Governor through the Southtown’s headline is only the increase in the amount collected through the “New Hire Initiative,” while overall collections are actually only up 10%.

Now, before someone says it, 10% is certainly nothing to scoff at, and I am glad to see the numbers increasing. Far be it from me to dismiss or downplay a piece of legitimately good news just because it happened on the other guy’s watch.

Please don’t try and read any commentary into this posting. I just found it to be one of those interesting things, worth pointing out to others.

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Top 2005 Illinois conservative stories

Here's Illinois Review's list of top political stories in 2005:
Big conservative story #1: The Democrats cut a sweet state budget deal -- without one Republican vote -- built on delaying state employee pension payments. So confident that they won't need the approval of Republicans for the next year's budget either, Democratic leaders Emil Jones and Mike Madigan plan the upcoming session to adjourn in early April.
Big conservative story #2: With the help of every Democrat in the General Assembly, Governor Blagojevich passes nation's most expansive universal health care program with All Kids. He bypasses the legislature to set up taxpayer-funded embryonic stem cell research. He forces pharmacists to disperse so-called emergency contraceptives against their religious convictions.
Big conservative story #3: The governor faces accusations of campaign kickbacks and hiring deals as well as a Democratic primary challenger in 2006.
Cynical prediction for top 2006 conservative story: Republican conservatives are unable to take advantage of obvious weaknesses in current administration and unwilling to coalesce around one gubernatorial candidate; Democrats' abuse of power continues as majority increases in both houses . . .

Cross posted at IllinoisReview.com.

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Can they go all in?

As I checked out a book at the Collinsville Memorial Public Library yesterday I noticed a flyer advertising an event to be held in the community room that afternoon. Texas Hold em card game from 2-5. No money involved.

The Collinsville library has arguably been the best run tax payer supported entity in the city and always on the cutting edge of what's new and desired by the public. The director has a blog! The library has been wireless for a couple of years now! And this is why, knowing this, the poker announcement stopped me in my tracks. Aside from the internal debate about whether or not to go downstairs and watch or even play a bit, what I wondered was how this Texas Hold em fever could play out as local fund raisers.

I seem to remember an Illinois non profit group setting up a game night and then finding the laws prohibited it. Or, the laws denied monetary payouts. Maybe someone here knows the details. It might be interesting to learn what can and cannot be done with Texas Hold em nights because it looks to me, in a New Year's prediction mode, that this could be the next bingo or trivia night for charitable organizations to raise funds. Would this game played for fun and fund raising by American Legions and PTA's etc violate gambling laws?

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Care or Insurance

I may be abusing my Illinoize posting privileges today with two posts in a row, but this column by Madigan on Quick, someone call a doc: It's time to start a conversation about national health care. We should talk health to death, plan it out and then find a way to go for it just muddles an issue and readers deserve better.

There is Health Care. And there is Health Insurance. Madigan mixes it all up. Many with very good insurance get very bad care.

Many 20 and 30 somethings don't need care, and opt out of buying expensive insurance leaving a smaller pool of riskier folks.

We have problems with Care, and we have problems with Insurance. But they're different and require different solutions by different people.

Madigan does a big disservice by not getting the debates off right.

Just had to get that off my chest.

Thanks.

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Fred Barnes writing in The Weekly Standard and talking with Congressman Mark Kirk

Good column today in The Weekly Standard about the inburbs and outburbs.

Read it all but here's some,

Kirk had the 20 issues tested by pollster John McLaughlin in the inner ring of suburbs around Chicago. Twelve of the issues polled over 80 percent positive, and only two polled under 70 percent (while still receiving majority support). The top four were approved by 90 percent or more: teacher checks (95 percent), tax credits for small businesses that provide health insurance (93), portability of health insurance (93), and mandatory Internet filters (91). "If we talk about stuff like this," Kirk says, Republican strength in the suburbs will "snap back quickly."

To Kirk's surprise, one major issue in the exurbs-reducing traffic congestion-didn't register favorably in the suburbs. Asked if they wanted privately built toll roads, "voters said they'd rather the highways not be there."
If Eric Krol's dominating issues for the election aren't dominating in a couple of months, here's what's on suburban minds.

Cross Posted at Bill Baar's West Side.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Ghosts of Campaigns(and Contributions)Past

Some pundits have speculated that the primary challenger's name may keep him at bay, but history seems to indicate otherwise. At any rate, much ink has already been spilled over his enigmatic existence, from his familial wealth to Eisendrath's recent tenure at Kendall College. Though he is facing a candidate with a campaign war chest of nearly fourteen million, Eisendrath has not only his own funds, but, perhaps, the sizeable assets of (step) father's Lew Manilow. Manilow has made over sixty thousand in reported contributions to Illinois state Democrats, most in the past five years.

One thing that may mar Eisendrath's gubernatorial chances is an eerily similar past undertaking of his: the 1990 primary run against then cong. Sidney Yates. Eisendrath made the inflammatory suggestion that Yates, who was by then 81, was incapacitated by his age. That was, of course, before Eisendrath lost the three way race with not even thirty percent.

Another cross to bear is Manilow's ties to John Schmidt, former primary opponent of (now AG) Lisa Madigan. Manilow made a single contribution of $10,000 to Schmidt's (unsuccessful) 1998 gubernatorial campaign. As the saying goes, if Speaker Madigan(or, shall I say, honorary Blagojevich campaign chairman Madigan) ain't happy...

It seems that Kendall College President Howard Tullman's personal and political ties to Eisendrath brought the other man to the position of Vice President of Academic Affairs at the Chicago school best known for its culinary program. Eisendrath won kudos during his years with online innovator Unext, which did the unthinkable: attracted faculty from (more than) "respectable" institutions(U Chicago, Cornell, some of the Ivies) to teach online courses. The bursting of the internet bubble sent Unext(now the "Cardean Group) belly-up-but not before it attracted Michael Milken's interest.

Eisendrath's unconventional backstory-teacher, corporate exec, federal appointee-and enigmatic qualities-an uphill run against a popular member of congress-are strikingly similar to those of another heretofore little known progressive Chicagoan. Seems to me his name was something like Rod...
Cross posted to: Obiter Dictum

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Great Tribune article on high speed rail in the Midwest (more Michigan than Illinois)

This article by Jon Hilkevitch in the Tribune lays out Michigan's success at getting the Chicago-Detroit Amtrak trains up to 95 mph, and 110 mph by next year.

Faster trains can beat driving, which takes cars off the road, relieves congestion at airports and gives passengers a more civilized way to travel. Most importantly, reliable, fast, frequent trains are the infrastructure to build up our Downstate economy and help make Chicago's Union Station into the region's 'third airport' with all the economic vitality that passenger travel brings.

Illinois has put in some money on the Chicago-St. Louis track, but so far, Lockheed Martin (our contractor) hasn't figured out how to make the signaling system work.

If we had 110 mph trains -- not that far off, especially since Michigan is doing it now -- one could leave Chicago at 8 am and arrive in Springfield before 10 am, downtown to downtown. That's faster than flying.

And that's economic development for Downstate.

(Yes, I'm shilling a little bit for my client, the Midwest High Speed Rail Association -- become a member here -- but it is a cool article).

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Personal PAC Legislative Questionnaire

In 1990, Personal PAC’s goal was to take pro-life leader State Rep. Penny Pullen out of the General Assembly. The budding power broker failed in an Illinois Supreme Court recount decision that echoed during 2002 in Florida, but succeeded the second time around in 1992.

In 1996, 1998 and 2000 primaries and the 1998 general, Personal PAC targeted me for extinction. The fourth time was their charm. (Ironically, their choice, Rosemary Kurtz, was replaced in 2004 with pro-lifer Mike Tryon.)

In 2004, State Rep. Bob Churchill had a bulls eye painted on his back. He rebuffed the primary and general election challenges and is now running for the GOP nomination for Congress in the 8th district.

My guess is that defeating State Rep. Terry Parke is Personal PAC’s goal in 2006.

Read the Personal PAC questionnaire (click twice on image to enlarge enough to read) , which is due today, plus a five-part analysis starting today on McHenry County Blog. Here is part 2, part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.

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Monday, December 26, 2005

Contracts with Illinois

I think Eric Krol wrote this in the Dec 23, 2005 Daily Herald, (Krol's byline missing on the electronic version)

Here's your 2006 Illinois political preview. Next year's election largely will be determined by two factors: U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and the war in Iraq.
and devotes the balance of a good column working out the consequences.

Problem is both of these issues don't deal directly with Illinois's problems. So let's speculate if both become non-issues in the next few months.

I commented in an earlier post in Illinoize that I had read Major Garrett's Enduring Revolutionon; How the Contract with America Continues to Shape the Nation and wondered what a republican contract with Illinois today might look like. Extreme Wisdom responded back suggesting for starters,

1. Constitutional Changes

a)A SPENDING CAP on all State & Local Government funds (Inflation+Population Growth)

2. Conversion of all Pensions to "Definecontributionon" (Defined Benefit is unsustainable)

3. Binding Referenda/Initiatives - allowing voters to bypass our ossified & sclerotipoliticalal class.

A Bold Education/Tax Reform Plan

1. Abolition of Local Property tax for schools and education being funded 100% from the State, with an inflation indexed scholarship for each child - chosen by the family

2. Abolition of the School District and conversion of every school to an Independent Charter.
This post by Jeff Trigg that 64% of General Assembly races unopposed has been on my mind too, so let me suggest another piece of a contract here a long the lines of California's recently voted down Proposition 77 on redistricting.

I'm not certain what the Republicans will think of Extreme Wisdom and myself writing contracts for them, so why note ask the readers to write the contracts for the Democrats, Libertarians, and Greens too.

The contracts might come in handy for thinking about Illinois should Iraq's elections bring stability and Fitzgerald springs no surprizes.

All I ask is keep the ideas specific as something that could be turned easily into legislation. And while pledging no new taxes tells use what a party won't do, it's really nice to hear what the party expects too do given whatever budget limits they set up for themselves.

So if taxes aren't part of your solution, tell us how you'll solve Illinois's problems without increasing them. If you plan to spend a lot of money to solve problems, you better tell us how you'll pay for that too.

Interesting topic I hope for those of you on Christmas - New Years vacations.

Cross Posted at Bill Baar's West Side

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The War on Christmas: The Chicago Front

Cross-posted on Marathon Pundit.

On December 17, Chicago attorney Andy Norman wrote the op-ed, Misunderstanding Constitution leads to censorship at school, decrying the secularists' attack on Christmas.

An excerpt:

Historically, students and teachers across America have celebrated the Christmas season by decorating classroom bulletin boards and Christmas trees, learning songs for the annual Christmas program and exchanging Christmas cards and gifts with classmates.

Yet, in recent years, misconceptions have arisen about the legalities of Christmas celebrations in public schools. As a result, many school officials have removed nearly all references to this historic day, including references to Jesus and the history of Christmas, and have begun new "traditions" that violate the Constitutional rights of students and teachers by prohibiting seasonal religious expression.

Daniel Elbaum of the Anti-Defamation League, disagreed, as he explained in his retort to Norman on December 22.

Here's an excerpt from his letter to the Sun-Times. (Note, this letter is no longer available as a free link on the Times' site.)

In ''Misunderstanding Constitution leads to censorship at school'' [Commentary, Dec. 17], Andy Norman overgeneralizes an important area of constitutional law and denigrates efforts to make our schools inclusive to students of all faiths and backgrounds. Norman writes that public school officials are not required to ''obliterate religious observance and expression.'' True, but the Supreme Court has made very clear that schools must not cross ''the laudable educational goal of promoting a student's knowledge of an appreciation for this nation's cultural and religious diversity, and the impermissible endorsement of religion.''

In a Marathon Pundit exclusive, below is Andy Norman's response to the ADL letter:

Dear Mr. Elbaum,

I enjoyed reading your letter in the Sun-Times yesterday, which responded to my op-ed piece. You have a legitimate perspective and I agree with most of what you wrote. However, I'd like to correct two misimpressions. First, I am not simply dealing with isolated examples of political correctness run amok. There is a concerted attack in our country to drive the free exercise of religion completely out of the public square and even some private settings, which is highly offensive to many of us who were raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition. In the (false) name of separation of church and state our religious liberties are being eradicated. This is a critical issue because our country has always embraced and accommodated religion. Moreover, there is no better time to raise this than now, at the time of Christmas and Chanukah, when people are listening.

Second, I disagree with your "heckler's veto" implication for the same reason you accuse me of citing isolated examples of political correctness. Jewish children adjust easily to the concept that they are a minority and we should not fear such minor offenses. I am Jewish and grew up in East Rogers Park, a mixed neighborhood, in the 1960's. Yes, I was uncomfortable because I did not know the words to the Christmas carols we sang and did not celebrate Christmas. But it never occurred to me or any of my Jewish friends to complain, or try to stop the Christian celebrations. I knew then as I know now that we live in a Gentile culture and they are entitled to commemorate their faith; indeed God chose us for His people because we were small and nondescript, and knew that we would be minorities in the Diaspora. Deut. 7:7. It is my belief that the "heckler's veto" approach taken by the ADL over-emphasizes the Establishment Clause to the point of endangering Free Exercise Clause freedoms. This is a dangerous imbalance which we will continue to fight against.

Chanukah Sameach v' Baruch HaShem.


Andy Norman

There is a book by Fox News' John Gibson--I read the first 50 pages of my niece's copy last night--about similar scenarios, and it's called The War on Christmas.

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Where's our delegation's talent?

from The Guardian,

An all-congressional band known as the Second Amendments will perform for U.S. troops over the holidays during a trip to the Middle East and Europe.

The bipartisan rock and country band features Reps. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., on guitar and lead vocals; Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich., on lead guitar; Dave Weldon, R-Fla., on bass; Jon Porter, R-Nev., on keyboards; and Kenny Hulshof, R-Mo., on drums.
Cross posted on Bill Baar's West Side as Congress Rocks the Middle East.

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Friday, December 23, 2005

Rush and Schakowsky vote against Christmas resolution

A longer version of this post can be found on Marathon Pundit.

From NewsMax again. This resolution was passed by the House of Representatives last week by an overwhelming vote of 401-22.

The text of the resolution read as follows:

Whereas Christmas is a national holiday celebrated on December 25; and

Whereas the Framers intended that the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States would prohibit the establishment of religion, not prohibit any mention of religion or reference to God in civic dialog: Now, therefore be it resolved, that the House of Representatives –

(1) Recognizes the importance of the symbols and traditions of Christmas;
(2) Strongly disapproves of attempts to ban references to Christmas; and
(3) Expresses support for the use of these symbols and traditions, for those who celebrate Christmas.

Those 22 who voted against the resolution were all (surprise!) Democrats. My own representative in Congress, Jan Schakowsky, along with Bobby Rush, were among the Grinches who voted against Christmas. No ho ho.

Of course, the Democrats are by their own admission, having trouble connecting with "people of faith." It's easy to understand why.

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Waiting to See Santa

This blog needs some Christmas spirit, so here's McHenry County Blog's message of the day. You can also catch up on the 8th congressional district mailings, Jack Franks' fine and how McHenry County GOP and Democrats did with committeemen filings. Fourth SEIU questionnaire piece up Saturday. Posted by Picasa

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Silent Night

Cross-posted from ICPR's blog, The Race is On:

The Race is On, but the ICPR blog will take a break until the New Year. Note that there are a few upcoming dates worthy of note: candidates who filed for more than one judicial office in the recent filing period have until December 27th to decide which race they really want to run in. The next filing period for judicial seats begins on January 3 and runs through the 10th. And the cattle call for state candidate petition challenges begins on January 4th (though ICPR's blog should be back by then).

In the meantime, why not poke around the Sunshine Database? Amaze your friends at holiday parties with your encyclopedic knowledge of your public official’s campaign warchest. The Database analyzes the official semi-annual reports filed by candidates for statewide, legislative, and judicial office, including the paper filers. If you’ve never looked, now’s your chance. Click here for financial profiles of all sitting House members, and here for all sitting Senators, and here for all incumbent statewides. (challengers coming after certification!) Click here for profiles of large donors, and here for the top twenty Career Patrons of the six statewides and the four tops. Go here to look up giving by a particular donor.

Have fun!

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The first nonparent to recognize Jesus as Messiah was a fetus

Queston: Who was the first person besides Jesus' parents, Joseph and Mary, to recognize Jesus as Messiah?

Answer: John the Baptist, when he was a fetus and Jesus was but an embryo.

The Gospel of Luke tells of a fasincating incident that occurred when John the Baptist was a 6-month-old fetus.

John's Aunt Mary came to visit John's expectant mother Elizabeth, her cousin. Mary was newly pregnant with Jesus. Luke 1:41 says when Mary greeted Elizabeth, John kicked. Elizabeth told Mary, "The instant I heard your voice, my baby moved in me for joy!"

Elizabeth prophesied, "You are the most blessed of all women, and blessed is the child that you will have. I feel blessed that the mother of my Lord is visiting me."

To read my archived Embryonic Jesus Story, go to WorldNetDaily.com.

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Joe Birkett and African American voters

Birkett is the only Republican I've heard talk much about appealing to African American voters.

Not that I've heard all that many of the candidates talk much about anything for that matter; so I may have missed what any of the others have said.

It's just I heard him talk about growing up in Austin in the 70's and that he had African American friends from Austin who had organized to support him. Birkett always feels like a city guy to me when I hear him talk. (Sounding city is good in my book. I can listen to Rostenkowski talk and feel warm inside.)

So what should the Republican strategy be towards African American voters?

I'm done posting here for the year. Merry Christmas to all of you.

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Illinois's dying cities

Milt had Paul Green, Jim Webb, the Chicago Tribune's Illinois political editor, and Dick Simpson, professor of political science at the University of Illinois Chicago and a former Chicago alderman on his show last night.

At one point they talked about Chicago's painful but successful transition from manufacturing, to service, and now to a global economy. They said no other city in Illinois had succeeded. Either Simpson or Green called Galesburg, Decatur, Kankakee, and all the other blue collar towns in Illinois as dying cities. All they had was the pain.

This expands a little bit on Wurfwhiles post below on DuPage demographics.

As part of the global cyber economy, I'm lucky to get out of my basement much less a drive downstate or even DuPage county.

Readers are going to have to tell me if the cities really dying, and if so how it will play in our elections. Seems like it's going to take more then no new taxes to revitalize wasting cities.

PS: Last night Green also said Chicago only thrives with strong Mayors. One reason Chicago could transition it's economy. A Pericles can't run the city.

Same true for the State? So I wonder who are our Pericles in the Gov's races, and who are the anti-Pericles (those would by Tyrants I guess).

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

DuPage In Transition - Demographics And Politics Foreshadow Political Diversity

[Cross-posted at WurfWhile.com]

I became politically active locally almost three years ago with the Howard Dean campaign. I remember attending my first meetings at the township level and talking about Howard, and what his campaign represented. While generally received well, I found that people who had spent many years with the local Democrats were concerned that newcomers like myself would be gone with the presidential campaign. I, and a number of others from the DuPage for Dean campaign, stayed involved.

Dean supporters and other Democratic activists have sought to reinvigorate progressive politics in DuPage, and while we have made progress, it has fallen short of electoral success. We have, from time to time, reevaluated what it is we're doing, and discussed how to do it better. Its from analysis over the years that I feel confident in saying:

Things are about to change in DuPage.

I wish that a lot of the hardworking people who have devoted tremendous amounts of time and energy over the years working for progressive change in DuPage could get more of the credit. Their effort deserves recognition, and it has helped. But the change that is coming is not primarily my work, or the work of those who have worked with me, or even those whose work I have admired but not directly participated in. If we have worked with sticks scratching the ground to plant seeds, the change that is coming is a plow, and it will magnify our efforts and offer more meaningful harvest. The change is demographic and political - and it will revolutionize DuPage politics beginning (and perhaps winning) in 2006 and in 2008.

The Evidence

Demographically DuPage has turned increasingly Democratic as people from around the country move here and people from Chicago move to the suburbs. As DuPage loses older residents it tends to lose more Republicans. While Demographics alone likely would produce competitive races over time, political considerations accelerate the trend.

Politically Republican DuPage and Democratic Chicago have often left each other alone, each party ceding political influence over geography to the other. DuPage, while the second biggest county for Democratic votes in Illinois, has always lacked basic funding and infrastructure from the state Democratic Party. Likewise, the Cook County Republican organization this year had less money in the bank at one juncture than each of a number of Township Democratic organizations in DuPage. While the status quo no doubt reflects political wisdom and calculations, those calculations changed November 2004.

Christine Cegelis' 2004 campaign against Congressman Henry Hyde in the 6th Congressional District (encompassing DuPage and parts of Cook County) showed that demographic change combined with an unpopular president (and a disastrous U.S. Senate candidate) had worked wonders. While some Democratic nay-sayers have pointed to Christine receiving fewer votes than John Kerry in the district (a 3% gap) - that misses the point (see below). DuPage voters have been increasingly willing to vote for Democrats at the top of the ticket, but votes trail off for those lower down, where funding for Democrats (and name recognition) has been virtually non-existent. There was no reason that Christine Cegelis should have name recognition with her limited campaign dollars. There was every reason that Henry Hyde, the congressman since 1974, should win based on name alone. Christine coming up with over 44% of the vote was earth shattering for DuPage. It proved votes were there for a Democrat at the congressional level with adequate funding - something voters in Hyde's district hadn't seen since before he was elected. After his first election, Congressman Hyde had always won by over 60% and as much as 75%, with the exception of the challenge he faced in 2000 against Brent Christensen, a lawyer with labor union and airline ties, who had lived in the district 33 years and spent $250,000. The 2000 election also was a referendum on Hyde's leading role in the unpopular Clinton Impeachment proceedings - something that was history in the minds of most voters by 2004, if it was remembered at all.

Congressman Henry Hyde's Winning Percentages
(see this pdf):

2004 (56%); 2002 (65%); 2000 (59%); 1998 (67%); 1996 (64%); 1994 (74%); 1992 (66%); 1990 (67%); 1988 (74%); 1986 (75%); 1984 (75%); 1982 (68%); 1980 (67%); 1978 (66%); 1976 (61%); 1974 (53%)

Local and state Democratic leaders saw the 2004 election in the 6th District and were impressed. This year we see the results. Four Democratic candidates have run for the 6th Congressional seat (one has dropped out). The current candidates, independent businesswoman Christine Cegelis, Wheaton College Professor Lindy Scott and the recently entered Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth all have better organization and funding than the vast majority of Democratic candidates that sought to defeat Congressman Henry Hyde. Far from a Democratic stronghold, contested Democratic primaries in the 6th District occurred only half the time in the last decade - and all those primaries had only two candidates.

Democratic Primaries in the 6th Congressional District

2004 (contested (2) Christine Cegelis (won), Tom Berry); 2002 (Tom Berry, uncontested); 2000 (contested (2) Brent Christensen (won), Tom Cramer), 1998 (no primary candidate), 1996 (Stephen De La Rosa, uncontested) 1994 (contested (2) Tom Berry (won), Keith "Jekyl" Petropoulos)*

* After hitting "Jekyl" I figured the larger point was made!

While it took Brent Christensen $250,000 to get 41% of the vote in 2000 (3% less than Al Gore in the district, and 6% less than Gore and Ralph Nader combined), Christine spent only $197,000 and got 44% of the vote in 2004 (3% less than John Kerry). Less money yielded a better percentage of the vote with less of a spread between the congressional candidate and the presidential candidate (most of the 3% Nader vote was likely Democratic). Christine Cegelis' campaign sent a message: Democratic positions and values can win in the 6th Congressional District.

Beyond the 6th Congressional District

The 6th Congressional District isn't necessarily representative of DuPage, and includes parts of Cook County, but it is the harbinger of things to come. The 14th District of GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert, covering a small part of DuPage, is hardly a traditional place to find numerous Democrats seeking office. Despite long odds, there has been an energetic Democratic primary race with three candidates (two that remain). The active candidates, John Laesch, who has developed an organization quickly and looks to be the front-runner and Ruben Zamora, who ran an intense campaign for the seat in 2004, are both articulate progressives running serious, if underfunded, races. Neither candidate has illusions about their chances, but both are running to win and see merit in pinning Congressman Hastert down in his district - something deserving the thanks of all Democrats and progressives.

If the 6th and 14th District races have attracted the most attention until now, it's the 13th Congressional District that could be the most telling - if only because it lacks the 'Cegelis breakthrough factor' and has better odds than the 14th District. The 13th District is largely in DuPage County, with parts of Will and Cook Counties. The race against incumbent Congresswoman Judy Biggert (first elected in 1998) has attracted two Democrats, setting up a primary between Bill Reedy, a Downers Grove businessman and former minister, and lawyer Joseph P. Shannon, a partner at Dolan & Shannon, who lives Woodridge, and previously lived in Naperville for about eight years. Both candidates will be better funded and organized than Gloria Andersen's campaign against Congresswoman Biggert in 2004, which raised $37,000 and lacked even rudimentary staff, but still got 35% of the vote (the Biggert campaign spent $543,000). The winner of the Democratic primary will likely face Representative Biggert, who faces a primary challenge on her right from Bob Hart, a Naperville architect who was a write-in candidate in 2004 and will run on an anti-abortion platform.

Three contested congressional Democratic primaries in DuPage in one year - with nine candidates participating (seven left) - and other high caliber candidates seriously considering running. It is no stretch to say there were people that never would have believed it would happen. Ever.

The Future

While one (maybe two) Democratic wins are possible in 2006, I expect we will have at least one Democratic congressional representative by 2008. Optimistic? Perhaps. Realistic? Yes. Demographic changes, candidate quality and the political environment have improved that much.

What will take longer is for state and local level races to catch up to the demographic and political trends, but they will. With at least one Democratic congressional representative, DuPage will begin to build the infrastructure necessary to develop future Democratic officeholders. The people I have worked with these past few years have often recognized the deficit local DuPage Democrats face, locked out of power at many levels of local, state and national government (the main exceptions being State Senator Don Harmon, who's district is mostly in Cook County, our statewide officials and our (statewide) U.S. Senators). A DuPage Democrat in congress will set the stage for greater competition in DuPage elections. Greater competition tends to foster greater accountability in elected officials, regardless of party. It's something we can all look forward to in DuPage.

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Cegelis Supporters Break Clean Campaign Plan

Just four days after Congressional candidate Christine Cegelis posted this blog:

It is crucial that this race stay positive. This will be a tough battle, and though it can be difficult to stay on the high road, I think it’s important that we not get sidetracked. We will win this race on our own merits. Focus on the issues and the candidates and not the behind the scenes players.
Cegelis supporter Kenneth Brummel submitted this letter to the Chicago Sun-Times, titled "Say No to the Duckworth 'machine'":
Duckworth, in other words, is a cog in Emanuel's elaborate national machine to be installed in the 6th District....now that the land has been paved, Emanuel desires to steal it from the residents of the 6th District and replace it with a casino whose profits will go to his national organization....The 6th District is not a suburban outpost ready to be colonized by the sleazy political machines of Chicago and D.C.
I don't want to get into a back-and-forth in the Sun-Times, but I thought it important to rebut some of the idiotic assertions and hypocrisies in Mr. Brummel's attacks.

1. Off the bat, it's ironic to note that this demand for autonomy for the 6th CD comes from a man who lives on Chicago's south side.

2. Attacks by Cegelis surrogates on Emanuel ring hollow. Cegelis herself actively sought Emanuel's support, and her campaign disclosures indicate she traveled to Washington, D.C. with her staff to rub shoulders with D.C.'s "sleazy political machines".

3. Mr. Brummel conveniently ignores that, while Cong. Emanuel is playing a key role in helping Maj. Tammy Duckworth get her campaign together, Duckworth also has the support of Sen. Barack Obama, Sen. Dick Durbin, and Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn. Why does Brummel ignore this fact -- because it clearly doesn't fit his framing of the facts.

4. Efforts by Cegelis surrogates to reframe this debate as an Insider v. Outsider debate also ring hollow. A review of Cegelis's campaign disclosures indicates that much of her financial support comes from outside of the 6th District, including "sleazy" Chicago and people across the country. Cegelis relied heavily on her ties to Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean in her 2004 race, and continues to refer to herself as a former member of the "Dean Dozen."

5. Brummel echoes the Cegelis party line by trying to give Cegelis single-handed credit for establishing a Democratic beachhead in DuPage County, an outright lie. First, Cegelis did worse than John Kerry in the 6th CD in 2004, and far, far worse that Barack Obama. If there are any Democratic candidates who deserve the title 'trailblazer" in DuPage, It's SOS Jesse White, who won the county in 2002, and folks like Dan Hynes and Lisa Madigan who continue to impress voters with their fiscal conservatism and highest ethics.

But the real fact is that demographic trends deserve more credit than any one candidate. And, following the Bean victory in the neighboring 8th CD, there's little doubt that Democrats would have taken a hard look at this seat anyway, absent Cegelis, and even if Hyde had stuck around.

So, why are so many Democratic leaders supporting Duckworth and not Cegelis? Much has been made of Cegelis' inability to raise money, so I won't go into it again. But despite her recent olive branch, Cegelis and her supporters have a long history of antagonistic behavior, ingoring the old adage that "Politics is a game of addition, not subtraction."

Exhibit A, this excerpt from an e-mail sent by Cegelis herself to her listserv on August 14, 2005:

Subj: Disturbing news for those going to DC
Date: 8/14/2005 11:22:08 PM Central Standard Time
From: _ccegelis@comcast.net_ (mailto:ccegelis@comcast.net)
Reply-to: _NovemberVictory@topica.com_ (mailto:NovemberVictory@topica.com)
To: _NovemberVictory@topica.com_ (mailto:NovemberVictory@topica.com)

There is a rumor and I will say is just a rumor at this point that the DCCC is polling my district to find if they can put in a self funder and defeat me in the primary. Again not sure if this is true.....

Those of you speaking to [DCCC staffer's name redacted] should keep in mind that he would be behind such a scheme. We are putting out feelers to see if any one can verify this and we should know before your trip.

BTW the DCCC will tell you they don't get into primaries but they do and they will lie to about it. I have had several people that worked for them say as a staffer they do get into a primary and then lie about it right to anyone's face. This is after all politics. (emphasis added)

Oh have a nice day!

Christine Cegelis

Not very statesmanlike, is it? And another great reason to keep candidates away from the e-mail at 11 p.m. at night.

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ON AIR WITH HOWARD COHEN

If you have ever met Jeff Berkowitz and his, um, tiny camera, you might cast him aside as a looney bin who has a cable show in his Mom’s basement.

Popping up here and there, and whining tough questions to dazed politicians, angry handlers have debated whether to ignore him or engage him.

But in the small Midwest, where weathermen are media stars, our political class is perplexed: his cable show is booked between test patterns, but he is on TV and that makes him a real reporter, right?

Probably not. Despite his boasting, watching him on TV makes one ponder whether he won his gig (and his suit) in a Kiwanis raffle.

That being said, the Shadow sees hope for attorney Berkowitz. His tenacity, rudeness, wit and stumbling reminds me of another irritant who also chucked the law for a microphone.

That cub reporter’s name was Howard Cohen, more commonly known as Howard Cosell.

In his middle life, Cosell exited his successful legal practice to pursue his dream. But the only job available was announcing little league games gratis before massive crowds of 27. For years, Cosell annoyed parents, berated children for striking out and treated every game like the World Series. But he refused to be ignored and eventually transformed himself into an icon.

Does Mr. Berkowitz’ future hold the same? Who knows.

But like Cosell, Berkowitz is not going away anytime soon.

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FIRE puts DePaul University's feet to the fire

Cross posted at Marathon Pundit.

Big hat tip to DePaul student Nick Hahn of My Political Agenda.

First, a flashback to Tuesday's Chicago Tribune article about Thomas Klocek's free speech struggle at DePaul University, as the Chicago college's president, Father Dennis Holtschneider, speaks out about free speech:

"I get accused of being against free speech," Holtschneider said. "But freedom of speech for students requires they have a professor who treats them with respect."

Well, the free speech problems at DePaul go beyond its reprehensible conduct in the Klocek affair.

FIRE, by the way, is short for Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

From the organization's mission statement:

The mission of FIRE is to defend and sustain individual rights at America's increasingly repressive and partisan colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience—the essential qualities of individual liberty and dignity. FIRE's core mission is to protect the unprotected and to educate the public and communities of concerned Americans about the threats to these rights on our campuses and about the means to preserve them.

Protecting the unprotected is FIRE's specialty, which is why it agreed to take up the cause of suspended DePaul Professor Thomas Klocek and the abuse of his free speech rights at DePaul.

It's apparent that the bullying of Klocek was not an isolated incident at the Catholic university.

On October 20, Ward Churchill spoke at DePaul. Churchill is best known for his comment that the victims of the September 11 terrorist attack were "Little Eichmanns," as in Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi bureaucrat who oversaw Hitler's holocaust.

The DePaul Republicans were almost completely stymied in their attempt to utitilize their free speech rights to protest Ward Churchill's on-campus appearance there. That speaking gig, it's important to point out, was partly paid for by tuition dollars.

It's believed Churchill was paid about $5,000 for his 90 minute speech.

FIRE has opened a second case against DePaul, the first one of course involved the Klocek incident.

Here is that new case, DePaul University: Censorship of Student Group Protesting Ward Churchill, which includes some really creative anti-Ward Churchill posters.

More from FIRE, specifically its online publication, The Torch:

DePaul = Deceit

Every so often, FIRE gets a case where the behavior of university administrators is truly mystifying. Our most recent case at DePaul is one example, and is the subject of today's FIRE press release. That press release, and particularly its related links, is chock full of information about how DePaul went about silencing a group that was critical of the university's decision to sponsor a campus lecture and workshop by Professor Ward Churchill. It's truly a chilling story.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

SEIU GA Questionnaire -- Willing to Hand Over Your First Born? (Part 1 of 5)

Nine pages, plus a cover letter. From a union claiming 160,000 members and maybe tens of thousands to come (day care workers) because of a stroke of Governor Rod Blagojevich's pen.

We’re big and we’re tough and, especially, if you’re a Democrat, you &#*XXX-well! better answer our questionnaire with replies we want to see.

Instead of all the questions, the union just could ask:

Are you willing to become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Service Employees International Union?

Oh, by the way. Send your first born for security.

If you want to see the kind of torture that Democratic Party candidates have to endure from Governor Rod Blagojevich’s largest contributor, McHenry County Blog has posted it here.

For the rest of the story, click here.

The other four installments will be posted Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday on McHenry County Blog.

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Rutherford and "The Question"

Cross-posted at IllinoisReview.com
When I mentioned to State Senator Dan Rutherford that I expected to receive tough criticism for publishing a 3-part personal interview reflecting positively on him and then not asking “The Question,” the senator asked me if I would like to know the answer to “The Question.”

“Sure,” I said. “I’m curious . . . ”

Continue reading "EATON: Rutherford and "The Question”" »

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Fair Campaigns (plus a judicial update!)

Cross-posted from ICPR's blog, The Race is On:

It took a while to tabulate the results, but we can now say definitively that 441 candidates filed with the State Board of Elections for statewide, legislative or judicial office during the recent filing period. 155 of them, or 35%, also signed the Code of Fair Campaign Practices. Legislative candidates led the way, with 47% signing the code, followed by statewide candidates at 35% and judicial candidates at 13%. To be fair, ICPR has been asking statewide and legislative candidates to sign the Code for the past four cycles; we haven’t ask judicial candidates to sign before, and they usually don’t return to campaigning like officers of the other two branches.

This is the highest percentage of statewide and legislative candidates who have signed the Code during the filing period in recent memory. Still, we hope more will sign the Code and conduct positive, informative, and educational campaigns. Candidates can sign the Code after filing, and ICPR will be writing to all candidates for statewide, legislative, and judicial office to ask them to do so.

The State Board of Elections had added a search function to its website to help voters find out who has signed and who hasn’t. From the Campaign Disclosure page, click on Candidates, and then input an election year and click the box labeled “Yes – Fair Campaign”. And, as always, ICPR will be publishing the names on our website in late January.

Also, unrelated to this post, but a recent post noted that some judicial candidates who had failed to file for retention had sued, which may mean that their seats would not be vacant for the January Filing Period. There's an update to that story: it looks like they will be on the retention ballot after all.

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Another Abeport?

Cross posted from The Eleventh Hour

I found out only recently that the proposed third Chicago area airport might be called the Abraham Lincoln National Airport. But wait. Illinois already has an Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport. (Out-of-towners: it’s here in Springfield). How many Abe airports do we need?

Look, Chicago area, Abe’s our guy. Springfield’s guy. Abe and State government are all we have. You guys have everything else. And even though I think Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport is a stupid name for our airport (previously known only as Capital Airport), we did think of the Abe link first. I think we need to ask ourselves, if alive today, FWWAF – From Where Would Abe Fly?

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Guy says, 'You Blog?' Some Madigan Stuff

Guy says to me, 'You Blog?' I says, 'Yeah, I Blog.' He says, 'You Blog Good?' I says, "Let's see.' He says, 'Blog this.'

I asked him if Edgar Allen Poe had a mustache and he says 'he didn't always.' I said, 'True.' But can you prove that he did at one time.' The guys says, ' Yeah, I got a picture of him with a mustache.' So I says, 'Ok.'

The guy says Blog this:

Liz Brown, a Mike Madigan staffer viewed Edwin Eisendrath's petitions at 9:43 A.M. and copied them at 10:49 A.M. . He (Edwin) filed in the Governor's race on Monday - Brown used a P.O.Box.

I wonder if she ( Liz Brown) was on a coffee break from her State job.

Sight to be seen, Mike Madigan staffers on the 6th Floor of the County building, monitoring petition challenges to Edwin Eisendrath's nominating petitions.

Isn't this the same type of behavior that caused the Feds to investigate former Illinois House Speaker Lee Daniels?

I says, I don't know from Daniels, I Blog. Common Talley View.

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What will drive campaign reform?

Cross-posted at Lincoln’s Logs

The Bloomington Pantagraph editorialized today about the need for campaign finance reform in Illinois as the 2006 election cycle is expected to “break spending records.”

For people who tire of seemingly endless campaign commercials and political mailings, speculation that the 2006 election season might break spending records is not good news.

It's not exactly good news for candidates who have to raise the money, either.

Those candidates should tell us how they would improve the system. More than that, they should take action if elected. The Legislature should put ceilings on the amount of money an individual, business or organization can donate to a campaign just as the federal government and nearly every other state does.

The political war chest Gov. Rod Blagojevich has filled during the last several years nearly $15 million at last count contributed to the reluctance of a few potential candidates to enter the race. In the 2002 general election, the Blagojevich for Governor campaign committee spent nearly $13 million between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2002. Citizens for Jim Ryan spent $6.3 million during that period.

While the Pantagraph rightfully admits that giving to a political campaign “is a form of free speech” and “a way to participate in the political process,” they note that:

Unlimited campaign donations can give the donors undue influence.

The possibilities of trading money for jobs or votes increase as donation levels increase.

This is exactly what we’re seeing come out of the Ryan trial and the scandal brewing in Blagojevich’s office and possibly Topinka’s office.

In closing, the Pantagraph wonders what will finally get lawmakers to act.

If an overly expensive 2006 campaign doesn't spur campaign finance reform in Illinois, perhaps a guilty verdict in a certain political corruption trial will make Illinois more ready for reform.

What are your thoughts? Does Illinois need tighter campaign finance laws?

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

ISMS opposes pharmacists dispensing emergency contraceptives without prescription

As a perennial Top Five PAC contributor to political campaigns, the Illinois State Medical Society is one of the most influential lobbying groups in the state.

ISMS's 2006 candidate questionnaire includes its position against pharmacists dispensing the morning after pill without a prescription. To read the question in its entirety, go to my blog.

ISMS's position is welcome news to those wanting to maintain common-sense physician oversight of this megadose of hormone(s) that require a prescription for lesser doses.

Meanwhile, an internal confidential email made public through the court case Gonzalez v. Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles reveals that Barr Laboratories, makers of the Plan B morning after pill, cut a sweetheart deal in 2004 to give "Planned Parenthood special pricing at $4.50 and $4.25, respectively, for the next five years."

Those singing the praises of Planned Parenthood's family planning altruism should know that Planned Parenthood of Chicago charges $21 for the MAP, a 366% to 394% mark-up (charging an additional $40 for a nonrefundable "online assessment" if purchased over the Internet). Planned Parenthood of East Central IL charges $24, a 433% to 464% mark-up (with an additional $28 "nonrefundable charge for [the] on-line service").

With its cash windfall in mind, why would Planned Parenthood push for IL pharmacies to dispense MAPs without prescription? Simply, it wants a monopoly on lucrative MAPs.

Take a look at HB2535. According to it, pharmacists could only dispense MAPs if entering into a "collaborative agreement" with an "authorized prescriber." Guess who plans to be the "authorized prescriber"?

Nevertheless, according to Planned Parenthood's confidential memo, "Our immediate interest is to develop and protect our market base."

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Judge Don Weber's volunteers walked the extra mile

Circuit Court Judge Don Weber, appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court in November on the recommendation of Justice Lloyd Karmeier to fill a vacancy, filed his petitions to run for the judgeship in November. While he had more than the legally required number of names (500) on his petitions to submit them to the State Board of Elections on the first filing day, December 12, his supporters asked that he hold off until they could gather even more names. They hoped to send a message to Madison County voters ,and by agreeing, Judge Weber was able to file a petition on the last day, December 19, with 1500 names.

While this may not seem terribly earthshaking to those in other parts of the state, it is an office of interest in southern Illinois and Madison County, especially after the vindictive Supreme Court Justice race in 04. This could shape up similarly, with a republican judge running in an overwhelmingly democratic area. Feelings among many democrats are still raw from the Karmeier victory and it could well be they pull out all the stops in an attempt to elect someone of their party to the Circuit Court. But the message has been sent, Don Weber has support as well.

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Geneva Illinois: birth place of the National Security Agency

Nice time to remember Geneva's Riverbank Labs and the story of William Frederick Friedman. Note Knowledge is Power engraved on his tombstone in Arlington.

After receiving a B.S. and doing some graduate work in genetics at Cornell University, William Friedman was hired by Riverbank Laboratories, what would today be termed a "think tank," outside Chicago. There he became interested in the study of codes and ciphers, thanks to his concurrent interest in Elizebeth (sic) Smith, who was doing cryptanalytic research at Riverbank. Friedman left Riverbank to become a cryptologic officer during World War I, the beginning of a distinguished career in government service.
Cross posted at Bill Baar's West Side.

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Andrea Zinga joins Republican primary race to challenge Rep. Lane Evans

On the last day possible to file candidacy petitions, Andrea Zinga has jumped into the 17th congressional district race. She faces fundamentalist real estate developer Jim Mowen of Moline and Aledo sports agent, jack-of-all-trades Brian "Gilligan" Gilliland in the Republican primary to challenge Rep. Lane Evans.

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Quint

Cross-posted from ICPR's blog, The Race is On:

As we noted last week, candidates for judicial office can file for as many openings as there are where they live. Come the March Primary, some precincts will have as many as 12 circuit court seats on the ballot, though candidates won’t be able to file for some of those seats until the January Filing Period. Candidates could file for as many as seven seats (nine, if you include the Appellate Court) if they lived in the right part of the state. No one did, but one, Margaret Ann Carrey of Chicago, filed for five seats.

All told, 147 candidates filed for 49 judicial seats, including 13 candidates who filed for two seats, 11 who filed for three, and two who filed for four seats. These multiple filers have done nothing wrong; they have taken advantage of the rules to find the most advantageous contest for the judicial post they want to hold. They have five business days from the end of filing to size up the fields and selectively withdraw until they are running in no more than one contest. As a Christmas present, they have until the close of business on Tuesday, December 27th to decide.

And don’t forget, the second round of filing is coming early next month – another 14 judicial offices are on the ballot, and candidates for those can file between January 3 and January 10. Not to mention the possibility that some incumbents who forgot to file for retention might challenge the open-ness of their seats, and the threat that the legislature will take away seats in the 19th and 22nd circuits. Judicial elections are worth watching.

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Intelligent Decision

cross-posted from Dome-icile

I actually have a bunch of stuff to get done today, but I just saw this and wanted to put it out there for everybody. According to CNN.com, a federal judge in Pennsylvania has ruled that "Intelligent design" cannot be mentioned in biology classes, ruling in "one of the biggest courtroom clashes on evolution since the 1925 Scopes trial".
"We find that the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount to a pretext for the Board's real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom," he wrote in his 139-page opinion.

The Dover policy required students to hear a statement about intelligent design before ninth-grade biology lessons on evolution. The statement said Charles Darwin's theory is "not a fact" and has inexplicable "gaps." It refers students to an intelligent-design textbook, "Of Pandas and People," for more information.

Jones wrote that he wasn't saying the intelligent design concept shouldn't be studied and discussed, saying its advocates "have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors."

But, he wrote, "our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom."

No word yet on when the judge will rule on the rest of Sen. Bill Brady's platform for Governor :)

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Tricky Decision

cross-posted from Dome-icile

So in light of Mike Quigley's (incredibly difficult and honorable) announcement not to seek the Cook County Board Presidency, I was thinking about the dynamics of the race and the big quandary that it poses for the Governor's campaign.

Why the Governor's race you ask? Well, here's how I see it. Obviously, the two remaining candidates in the Democratic Primary are the incumbent, John Stroger and Commissioner Forrest Claypool. With Quigley not only out of the race, but fully supporting the Claypool campaign, this race will be positioned clearly as the reformer taking on the old way of doing business. Sound familiar?

So here's where it get interesting. Stroger has not been shy about playing the race card in the past, and will subtly (or not so subtly) use it now in order to get voters to the polls. Similarly, the Governor's re-election strategy, to a certain extent in the Primary, but much more so in the General Election, is going to be very dependent upon not only a big plurality of the African-American vote, but also upon a big, fat turnout in the African-American community. In order to get that result, come November, he needs...Stroger on the ticket.

As I see it, this puts our reform and renewal Governor in a serious trick box. If he openly backs Stroger over Claypool, he will significantly damage his credibility among reform voters, not only in Cook County, but around the state. If you are for 'changing the old way of doing business', that has to be a position of principle, not convenience.

If he takes the opposite position, he alienates some of the powerful organizations that are already on the fence with him, plus he may very well shoot himself in the foot with a constituency that does not easily forgive and forget.

It is virtually impossible for him to 'stay neutral' in the race. Even if he doesn't formally take a position, which is the likely case, the efforts of his supporters and those close to him will be justifiably attributed to him.

One can point out the presence of SOS Jesse White on the ticket. But to Jesse's credit, the guy is so well-liked across the state, that I don't envision a rallying cry to get the vote turnout in order to put him back in office.

Accordingly, I think that the Governor finds himself in a very untenable position. Based on a number of things, I have a strong sense of what the Governor is going to do, but I thought that it would be more interesting just to put this out there for all of you to ponder and share your thoughts on. Have at it.

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64% of General Assembly races unopposed

78 of the 118 State Rep. races (66%) as of right now will have only one candidate to choose from in the general election. For State Senate, 23 of the 39 will be unopposed (59%).

101 of 157 General Assembly races unopposed for the general election.

A few of these candidates will probably get kicked off the ballot and a few more candidates might get slated to run later, but I doubt this number changes significantly.

In 2004, it was 61
of the 118 State Rep. races (52%) and 9 of the 22 State Senate seats (41%) that were unopposed. 70 out of 140 General Assembly races (50%).

Cross posted at my blog.
Thanks for the invite Rich.


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Chicago Tribune article on Thomas Klocek and DePaul University

Cross posted at Marathon Pundit.

Ron Grossman of the Chicago Tribune has written an excellent piece on Thomas Klocek and his free speech struggle with Chicago's DePaul University. Outside of ABC 7 Chicago, the local media until now has ignored this compelling story of political correctness gone out of control.

That article is here. Free registration may be required.

Since his suspension and de facto firing from DePaul after attempting to have a discussion about Israel in front of some Muslim students, Klocek's financial situation has gone from uncertain to frightening.

Republicans, conservatives and like-minded bloggers have come to Klocek's defense. Klocek, a Democrat who voted for John Kerry in 2004, has not gotten much support from the left side of the aisle.

A few excerpts from that Tribune article:

Meanwhile, Klocek does what he long has -- eke out an adjunct's living. Just before 6 p.m., he parked the car at Daley College. Sensing the handful of students in his first class hadn't done the assignment, Klocek had them read it aloud. He has learned to cut a little slack for young people who come to class after a day's work.

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Some newfound friends have turned his predicament into a demonstration of Karl Marx's proposition that history repeats itself: first as tragedy, a second time as farce. In his case, both are playing simultaneously.

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"I'm not the ideal poster boy," Klocek said. "But freedom of speech is a cause worth fighting for."

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His Side of the River: Quigley Out!

Chicago Sun Times columnist Mark Brown, whose heart and gift with pen, forced me into a recognition of Mike Quigley's torment. With biblical allusions drawn from a conversation Quigley had with a Chicago alderman who warned him that a 'prophet does not always get to cross the river, ' Mark Brown unveiled the torment of a candidate in crisis: the prohet who realizes that only his message must carry on and that he must slide into the back seat.

As a voter with a history of slight regard for Commissioner Quigley the public man, Brown's report was balm in Gilead. I have been eyeless in Gaza, to this Samson's agonistes. However, though rather feckless in Beverly, I was touched by the struggle in the man to give up the flag that he planted on the beachhead - that is Claypool's more martial metaphor.

Having gone from Lenin to aparatchik over this past weekend must have been some stuggle. The revolution in reform is in Forrest Claypool's horny hands. The Betsy Ross of the red flag of reform is on the opposite bank and he will semiphor stategy and tactics across the unquite waters.

Read Mark Brown's article it is quite good and touching. I say that without my usual obvious irony where Commissioner Quigley is concerned.

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Pantagraph gives bit,fat wet kiss to LaHood

The Bloomington Pantagraph editorialized in favor of campaign finance reform, and gave a completely unwarranted free ad borderline corrupt Congressman Ray LaHood:

LaHood is among those who think lax campaign financing rules contribute to corruption in Illinois.

"To think that someone can write a check for $50,000, $100,000 or even $1 million to a state candidate is obscene," LaHood wrote in his column. "To think that a contribution can come directly from the coffers of a business that may in return receive state contracts or directly from unions that may represent state employees, well, that is just plain wrong."

For now, the most valuable tool Illinoisans have is the state's campaign finance reporting laws. Candidates must report all contributions over $500. The frequency of reporting increases as an election nears.


The anonymous editorial writer at the Pantagraph is just as naive and uninformed as are most of the editorial board members at the award-winning (snicker) Journal Star.

First: Campaign finance reform generally works in favor of the rich at the expense of the middle class and the poor. People and corporations that have attorneys on retainer and a staff of accountants can always find ways around restrictions on donations. If nothing else, they simply hand out bonuses to mid-level managers with implicit instructions their names had better show up on the donor rolls.

Second: Please, Mr. Pantagraph Editorial Writer, make note that one such campaign finance reform LaHood favors would subject owners of Web sites -- including bloggers -- subject to the same disclosure rules that purely political organizations face.

According to C-Net, the Federal Election Commission is under court order to finalize rules that extend a controversial 2002 campaign finance law to the Internet. Unless Congress acts, the final regulations will be announced by the end of the year and could cover everything from regulating hyperlinks to politicians’ Web sites to forcing disclosure of affiliations with campaigns.

In other words, if I continue to link to politicians' Web sites—which I do for both Democratic and GOP candidates—I’m subject to campaign finance rags and will have to file documents. All it takes it a complaint from a politician I've criticized. I'm already on record: I'm going to link to whomever I please and will not file one damn thing with the Fed. I'll blog from jail if I have to. Perhaps the complaint that sends me to the Big House will come from Ray himself.

LaHood joined with Democrats to vote against a bill that would exempt me and other bloggers from this blatant form of censorship targeting the burgeoning citizen media.

Third: LaHood is dirty. He's in no position to pontificate on campaign finance rules. This isn't the ranting of some pissed off blogger with an ax to grind; it's all a matter or public record. LaHood went on several foreign trips, some of which were paid for by a group that lobbies Congress. Then he went on local radio and said none of the trips were paid for by lobbyists. Then, an Associated Press article ran in newspapers all over America and the world about Congressmen earning frequent flyer miles on trips that were paid by these groups. The lead to this article was a quote from Ray LaHood. This article did not run in the Peoria media.

I can't help but think that is the editorialists at the Pantagraph had bothered to read a blog or two, they might avoid running editorials as ill-informed as this one.

Cross posted to Peoria Pundit.


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