Monday, April 30, 2007

12 Reasons Why the GRT Won’t Drive Business Out of Illinois

The total bite from taxes and fees in Illinois will still be lower than half of the other states. We have the lowest burden of all of our surrounding states, and with the GRT will have the second lowest burden.

Affordable health insurance coverage will make Illinois a more attractive place to live, work and run a business.

Health insurance costs to businesses will be reduced.

With the State assuming a larger role in the funding of schools, the pressures to increase property taxes will be reduced.

The economy of the state of Washington, which has had a GRT for many years at rates similar to those proposed in Illinois, consistently out performs the national economy.

Job growth in Washington last year increased 60 percent faster than in the country as a whole.

The GRT spreads the tax burden more evenly across all business sectors, reducing the upward tax pressure on businesses that pay existing taxes.

The three states that have had a GRT for a number of years, Delaware, Washington and Hawaii, are ranked respectively 9th, 11th, and 24th by the Tax Foundation in its 2007 State Business Tax Climate Index.

In a Washington State Survey, only 8 percent of businesses said that the state’s tax system “had a negative effect on the ability to conduct business.”

A year after the GRT went into effect in Ohio, the Ohio Business Roundtable said, “Unlike the old business taxes, this new tax does not penalize job creation and investment, and also encourages participation in the global marketplace.”

The Texas Association of Manufacturers endorsed the adoption of a GRT in that state, calling the GRT, “a more broad-based, low rate tax structure that is reasonable and taps into the diverse business economy of Texas – ensuring that all businesses do their part in funding education for the future workforce of our state.”

There is no evidence that business is leaving Washington, Delaware, Hawaii, Ohio, Texas, Kentucky, New Mexico, or Arizona, all states that have some form of a gross receipts tax.

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Deja vu: Illinois Among Worst; Trial Lawyers Say 'So?'

It's not the first time -- and it's not likely to be the last time. Another national evaluation of the legal systems -- the systems that determine justice -- in the 50 states has been released and the great state of Illinois ... the "Land of Lincoln," according to our license plates ... ranks near the bottom.

According to a detailed poll conducted by Harris International, Illinois ranks 46th of the 50 states. The only states that rank below us are Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and West Virginia. Nothing against any of these states but they're not quite the states Illinois likes to be compared with.

None borders Illinois. None has a city of the magnitude of Chicago. None has a professional baseball ... or football ... or basketball team. While all have great state universities (we assume), none has a University of Chicago or Northwestern to go with the University of Illinois and DePaul and Loyola and Illinois State and Northern Illinois and Southern Illinois and John Marshall and Kent ... and on and on ...

But that's who Illinois is ranked with the by the corporate attorneys who participate in the Harris survey.

These are the attorneys who tell their bosses -- the general counsels and the CEOs -- that these are the states that have good (and fair) judicial systems and these are the states that have lousy (and unfair) judicial systems.

"So Mr. CEO or Mr. General Counsel, where do you think we ought to expand or relocate? Where do you think we'll be able to grow our business and hire hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of workers without fighting with a legal environment that drains our resources and views us not as a sources of economic development but as a target -- a big target -- for litigation. Illinois? Are you kidding?"
The trial lawyers and their buddies try to minimize this survey every year but they don't know how.

Do they flip the numbers and say, "No, Illinois is not the 46th; Illinois is really the 5th in our ranking because WE evaluate states based on where WE think the environment is best?"

They like to call the survey "bogus" because of who is being surveyed -- the legal people of major corporations in Illinois and other states. Who is best suited to evaluate the legal environment as it relates to business -- to the job-creators?

I'd suggest to the trial lawyers -- my friends at the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association -- that you conduct a survey that shows which states YOUR members think have the best legal environment.

In fact, a survey in Illinois showing which of the 102 counties ITLA thinks are the best from YOUR perspective would be useful to all of us.

Show us where the business community (and medical community and local governments) are wrong. It would be interesting to hear from you.

**

I'm not sure when he said it or what the circumstances were but this comment by Abraham Lincoln is one of many that marks his greatness:
"Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. As a peacemaker the lawyer has superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough."
Of course, discouraging litigation is not something any Illinois lawyer favors so while it's not surprising, it is somewhat hypocritical that the Illinois State Bar Association is using Lincoln as centerpiece of their new "educational" campaign.

President Lincoln, of course, is dead. So he can't say, "They're using ME to promote their sue-sue-sue, fabricate-fabricate-fabricate conduct?"

(Editorial note: we don't know that Lincoln would have said "fabricate-fabricate-fabricate." It is likely that the concept of fabricating 'wrongs' had not arisen.)

A story printed below, from the Sunday Springfield State Journal-Register, reports on the ISBA advertising campaign to promote the image of lawyers in Illinois. This advertising campaign has been reported on before but it is being intensified and the story reports ISBA is spending several hundred thousand dollars this time. According to the Journal-Register,
"a 12-page insert to be included in more than 30 daily and weekly newspapers across Illinois is the centerpiece of the campaign. The insert appeared in The State Journal-Register on Wednesday."
It seems as if ISBA could save a lot of money -- and improve their image -- if they'd sit down with the leadership of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association and tell them they ought to look in the mirror.

Cross-posted by Ed Murnane at Illinois Justice Blog.

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April 30, 1922: White Sox pitcher hurls first "perfect" game


On this date eighty-five years ago, Charley Robertson of the Chicago White Sox threw major league baseball's first "perfect" game. Well, not exactly, other perfect games had been hurled in the big leagues prior to 1922, but Robertson's unlikely gem was the first one to be called a perfect game, according to the book Unhittable,it was a Chicago sportswriter who coined the term, writing that the...

White Sox, according to captain Eddie Collins, had not let the thought of a no hitter, to say nothing of a perfect game, dawn on them until just three men stood between Robertson and the rarest of baseball glory.

Robertson was making just his third major league start; he was up against Ty Cobb's Detroit Tigers--the ornery one was managing the team then. Cobb protested the game, claiming Robertson was throwing spitballs, which had been banned the season before.

It's a common saying that "any pitcher can throw a no-hitter," just a little skill and a lot of luck are needed. For proof of that, here is one for you Metro East folks, there is Bobo Holliman of the St. Louis Browns, who in 1953 threw a no-hitter in his first major league start, and won just two more games in his very brief major league career.

Only the greatest pitchers, so it's believed, have the skill to throw a "perfecto."

But to counter that mantra, there is Charley Robertson.

Robertson had a much longer career than Holliman, but his career record ended up being just 49-80, the worst of any pitcher who threw a perfect game.

There would not be another perfect game thrown in the majors until the New York Yankees' Don Larsen performed the feat in the 1956 World Series. The next regular season perfect game would have to wait until 1964, when current US Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) tossed one for the Philadelphia Phillies.

To comment on this post, please visit Marathon Pundit.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Walking Over Allen Lee

Maybe I’m missing something.

Maybe 18-year old Cary-Grove High School student Allen Lee is so important that his actions deserve to be foisted by the Chicago Tribune on the brains of readers all over the metropolitan area.

Again and again and again.

Allen Lee’s essay has been featured on the front page of the Chicago Tribune THREE days this past week.

Does that strike anyone but me as overkill?

Or is the Tribune’s attempt to attract a younger readership?

Not to be outdone, two Chicago Sun-Times columnists weighed in with ridicule Sunday.

Mark Brown might have discerned the motivation:

He’s got a 4.2 GPA and probably doesn’t think he’s going to get much benefit from these last few weeks of school. So, he got an assignment he didn’t lie, and he acted out.
Can you remember how irrelevant the last few weeks of high school were?

And were you going into the Marines or onto college?

Brown also hits on the racism angle (as does Neil Steinberg) that I touched on yesterday in "Walking Over Allen Lee":
Unless somebody is holding back some important fact, this young man is getting a raw deal. He doesn’t belong in the criminal justice system. And the main reason he was treated this way is that people are on edge because another young Asian-American student killed 32 people two weeks earlier in Virginia. (emphasis added)
Brown is not kind to McHenry County State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi:
Maybe you are from the better safe than sorry school of thought.

If so, you have a champion in McHenry County State’s Attorney Louis Bianchi, who told me Friday,
“If all of us hadn’t acted, we would be subject to criticism for not acting. We’ll never know if we saved lives in this situation.”
Oh, that’s cute. Well, then, Lou, maybe you should try to figure it out, because if lieves were truly in danger, then you haven’t really saved anybody yet with your disorderly conduct charge, which only served to muddy up the reputation of an 18-year old who was back out on the street a few hours later.
Neil Steinberg lists six reasons for Allen Lee’s arrest:
  1. Lee’s essay contained disturbing, violent images.
  2. There was a massacre at Virginia Tech two weeks ago.
  3. Lee is Asian, like the Virginia Tech gunman.
  4. Lee’s teacher is inexperienced.
  5. Her superiors suffer from the advanced form of stupidity particular to school district administrators.
  6. Bumbling “where’s-the-bullet-Andy?” police work by the suburban cops.
Nothing more need be said. Lee, the supposed culprit, is actually the only one who has a valid excuse, bring 18 and green in judgment. The charges against him of course will be dropped, as soon as anyone with a brain gets involved.
More, of course, at McHenry County Blog.

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Power to the People?

There are a few readers of this blog with whom I exchange e-mails on various topics from time to time.

One of whom, whose identity I have agreed to withhold, has given me the okay to print their e-mail last week regarding the issue of changing the status quo and addressing many of the complaints that the public has about government.
John I cannot disagree with you and other politicians who blame voters for not instituting change by the use of their vote. Incumbents have made it near impossible for upstarts or independents to get on the ballot let alone when a race. Add to that the passing down of political positions to family and friends and their are even fewer seats to be had.

Real change can only be made through guys like you taking political risks and holding other politicians to higher standards of ethical behavior and more importantly to serving the public rather than themselves.

The day of grass roots change has been over for years and you guys keep telling us the voters thats the only way things will get done but with so few challengers being able to crack the political machines in the cities and in the states far too few reformers get in at any one time to make effective changes and by the time the next election rolls around many have been sucked in to the game and just want to keep their jobs. Cynical but true.
You guys, the insiders have to make changes not voters. Voters cant pass a bill on term limits or campaign reform or patronage hiring or chauffers for political hacks etc. Only you guys can, so tell the fence sitters to stop waiting on voters to make the change and do some of the hard work we elected them to do.
So the question I have is, political theory aside, but as a realistic matter, do you think that the real power to effect change rests with the men and women who have the votes on legislation, or with the men and women who put us there?

To read or post comments, visit Open House

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Rob Warden: the moral challange of doing nothing

Rob Warden writing in today's Trib on Ignoring an injustice,

In 1982, Chicago Police Supt. Richard Brzeczek notified State's Atty. Daley in writing of credible evidence that Area 2 Police Commander Jon Burge and a group of subordinates had tortured a prisoner named Andrew Wilson.

Daley had the power -- and the duty -- to act.

He did nothing.
and,
Although for the time being the public remains largely oblivious to Daley's role in the torture scandal, the reality may begin to sink in as monetary damages from that period continue to soar.

To date, city and county taxpayers have coughed up more than $45 million to settle civil rights claims dating from Daley's time as state's attorney, plus an estimated $20 million in legal fees. And, on top of the $7 million the county paid for the special prosecutors' investigation, the city reportedly is on the verge of settling torture claims brought by Hobley, Howard and Orange for $15 million, lawyers involved in the case say.

History is unlikely to pass lightly over facts so plainly etched into the public record. Torture, it seems, is an indelible stain on the Daley legacy -- a damned spot that neither he nor his apologists can out.
Democrats beating the drums of retreat and isolationism now. Can't escape the challange to act though. In Chicago or in the rest of the world.

Durbin tells me years later he knew all along he was lied at those intel briefings on Iraq. Daley did nothing with Breczek's report. Give me an official who does their duty, with the information at hand, any time.

xp Prairie State Blue

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Socialism and Education

I read George McGovern and few days ago responding to VP Cheney about war.

People call McGovern the peace candidate now. I voted for him, but by campaign-time Nixon had started withdrawing from Vietnam, and McGovern's issues were domestic rather than war. A key one being a guaranteed national income. I remember arguing for McGovern's ideas in my economics classes at Grinnell College.

Now we have Colin Hitt over at Illinois Policy Institute offering this worthy proposal,

If their rhetoric is believable, if they’re serious about reforming public education, then Illinois lawmakers should consider creating an ‘earned education tax credit’: an annual $4,000 refundable tax credit for every student under the age of 23. The credit would count towards books and materials, but also towards the tuition costs of preschool, private school and college. A $4,000 tax credit – a scholarship in effect – would instantaneously deliver on promises from politicians on both sides of the aisle, and it would dramatically improve public education in Illinois.
My wife is a follower of Mike Ryoko and thinks higher education a waste and kids better off investing their college nest eggs in down payments on a two-flat.

So if we tweak Hitt's proposal here to a $4k credit to every Illinois young-adult for the four years between 18 and 22, that can be invested in education, or a business, or a two-flat; don't we have a program here worthy of Norman Thomas? Not exactly a guaranteed income, but a nice start in life, and without need of a bureaucracy too manage it.

Sounds progressive to me. In fact downright Red. I wish McGovern would have latched onto some of the ownership society ideas conservatives have taken from him, and mentioned those in that letter to Cheney.

xp Prairie State Blue

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Something Springfield should consider

via Publius Pundit

Iranian Secularist Movements applauded an historic bill which was passed unanimously by the California Assembly. The bill, proposed by Joel Anderson (R-El Cajon), "would prohibit California's public retirement funds from investing in foreign owned companies that do business in Iran."

According to Iranian freedom fighters, this is one of the best options the US has to effectively act against the Islamic Republic.

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Gov. Tom Cross

If people can run for president two years ahead of time, why not for Illinois governor three years before the election?

Look at this tid-bit in Sneed’s Friday Sun-Time column, obviously placed by a source friendly to Illinois House Minority Leader Tom Cross.

You can regale others with his liberal voting record in the comment section.

My soul is so aflutter I can’t.

Of course there is more on McHenry County Blog this weekend.

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Marriage: Your License To Screw

Oh it's fun watching fundies today. I've been having my fair share of laughs at the latest American Taliban Production known as stop the federal hate crimes bill. Their supposed reasoning is that a hate crimes bill is somehow akin to 'thought crimes' because in fundie theory the motive makes no difference to the crime. Of course, we all know each other well enough to be honest: It's because groups like IFI and Americans for Truth are about 2 hairs away from being declared hate organizations to begin and - in the world of the Jeebus freak it's their god given right to bash homos just like the big man did at Sodom and Gomorrah. Despite the Earthly shortages of both fire and brimstone, the fundamentalists always find a work around and it won't be long as the gay rights movement continues to quicken pace before that side starts with violence.

But the real fun these days comes from HB1331 or as IFI dubs it The Homosexual/Shack-Up Teachers Bill which gives some employees the right to grant their domestic partner their death benefits. It's interesting that IFI writes up as an 'excessive cost' issue as where if these particular teachers were married we'd be paying the benefits anyway therefore IFI's sole argument is that queer folk and people who don't subscribe to Christian extremist rhetoric about relationship validation through the church shouldn't get any money should their spouse pass. Remember: People who don't live the so called Christian life style are second class citizens and aren't entitled to superficial 'special rights' like money.

Side note: If you'd like to know why fighting gay marriage is entirely a lost cause, it's because even if SSM legislation doesn't come quickly, major employers are quickly adding domestic partnership benefits to their employment jackets and as the business world moves in that direction, so too will the public sector regardless of what trailer living fundies boycott - simply because queer folk on the whole have a profound amount of disposable income based on the fact that the vast majority of them are DINKs.

In order to really understand what's going on here you can spend some time taking a look at how the fundies view marriage but if you're really interested in seeing how they think, your best bet is to start with the fundie views on sex - simply because you'll find that almost every issue they take a huge stance on really relates back to sex. Even abortion, the long time fundie call (and probably one of the few issues where fundamentalists are on an acceptable side of the fence, though for entirely the wrong reasons) really is more about sex then it is about babies not being killed in the womb.

Jill Stanek was nice enough to admit it for us:


Gays and pro-aborts both fight for the same goal: Sex without judgment or consequences.


So while Jill is busy cooking up arguments for why we shouldn't vaccinate girls against the HPV vaccine, the real reason is because it empowers men and women to have sex without consequence, which if I remember correctly I already told you people and here she is essentially admitting that I'm right and that all of you wingnuts babbling about the great evil of STD vaccination are also full of it. And yes, I am gloating. 


Anyway, I encourage you to read through the comments to notice that not a single one of Jill's supporters actually ask the question: "Why should sex have consequences?" Instead of asking tough questions of themselves and their own humanity, they go into diatribes of how to force feed their counterfeit Jeebus into the masses:


Their views are simply evidence of their rebellion towards God. With that said, their arguments are easily destroyed by wielding the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.



Sex was not created just as a pleasure mechanism!! Sex has a purpose: to create new life & to expand God's beautiful and totally unique creation on Earth!!! To bring Him glory!!

But remember, none of this stuff means they would argue in duplicity for what they say is 'protecting the family' but what is really bringing Jesus to the masses whether you like it or not.  You might also note that if it were a fundamentalist Muslim talking about the 'sword of the spirit', we'd all be demanding the FBI get over to this guys house and this guy would probably be screaming the loudest.



I couldn't make this stuff up. Seriously. I want you to look very closely at that Stanek statement and realize that those 14 words really are a nice peek into the extremist world view where all things related to sex and sexual empowerment is bad. In that world view, sex ought have consequences be it in terms of an unwanted baby, an STD, or being flat out told that you deserve violence against you for having sex with somebody who hasn't been approved by jeebus or not seeking validation of sex through the church.

And when you're pondering that statement and exploring the implied world view, ask yourself why exactly sex should have consequences?

So consider the rhetoric:
1. Sex outside of marriage is sin.
2. Public policy should punish those who have sex outside of marriage. This punishment may be done through action or inaction.
3. Christian extremists ought be able to choose who is and isn't allowed to get married.

Cool gag, ain't it? Their number one purpose with all their 'focus on the family' crap is to decide who screws and when - which is why the social sex control known as marriage is so important to them because it's the only societal control that allows them to expand past the ongoings in their own mega churches and into mainstream society.

So by public policy validating relationships in practice that otherwise remain unvalidated by the good lord, essentially the G is again departing from the default Christian control on yet another issue which continues to illustrate that their previous majority dominance is dwindling and so to is their ability to control the 'sin' around them via public policy.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Parental Notice Rollback Fails

Thanks to Family PAC's Paul Caprio for alerting me to the vote taken on the rollback attempt on parental notice prior to a girl's getting an abortion.

As I wrote earlier, I think the existing language is weak. In fact, I voted against it when it passed, outlining ten ways to avoid telling your parents before getting an abortion, if that House Bill 955 passed.

But this vote was a test between current pro- and anti-abortion forces in Illinois and pro-abortion Personal PAC, Planned Parenthood and their allies lost.

State representatives having constituents in McHenry County split 3-2.

Republican Mark Beaubien of Barrington Hills and Democrat Jack Franks of Bull Valley voted in favor of the weaker notification standards. Republican Mike Tryon stood in support of current law by voting, "No."

Caprio said that Family-Pac had initiated 33,000 grassroots calls to parents in eleven districts where House members were undecided prior to the vote.

And McHenry County Right To Life leader Irene Napier was certainly involved in stimulating calls in several districts.

“I understand that the pro-abortion lobby is threatening to launch a $250,000 campaign against members who voted with parents against HB317" Caprio continued. "

"Such a campaign of intimidation and misinformation against members will be met by Family-Pac with a massive grassroots response by parents:

'Bring it on.'”
The bill was sponsored by Chicago Democrat John Fritchey.

You can enlarge the roll call by clicking on it. More on McHenry Count Blog.

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Durbin's memory loss on Iraq

What am I missing here? I met Durbin at O'Hare back then. I shook his hand and told the him I'd say a prayer for him to make these decisions. What a fool I was.

Durbin in today's Washington Times,

The Senate's No. 2 Democrat says he knew that the American public was being misled into the Iraq war but remained silent because he was sworn to secrecy as a member of the intelligence committee.

"The information we had in the intelligence committee was not the same information being given to the American people. I couldn't believe it," Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said Wednesday when talking on the Senate floor about the run-up to the Iraq war in 2002.

"I was angry about it. [But] frankly, I couldn't do much about it because, in the intelligence committee, we are sworn to secrecy. We can't walk outside the door and say the statement made yesterday by the White House is in direct contradiction to classified information that is being given to this Congress."
From Thomas,
S.AMDT.4865
Amends: S.J.RES.45 , S.AMDT.4856
Sponsor: Sen Durbin, Richard [IL] (submitted 10/9/2002) (proposed 10/10/2002)

AMENDMENT PURPOSE:
To amend the authorization for the use of the Armed Forces to cover an imminent threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction rather than the continuing threat posed by Iraq.

TEXT OF AMENDMENT AS SUBMITTED: CR S10229

STATUS:

10/10/2002:
Amendment SA 4865 proposed by Senator Durbin to Amendment SA 4856. (consideration: CR S10265-10272; text: CR S10265)
10/10/2002:
Amendment SA 4865 not agreed to in Senate by Yea-Nay Vote. 30 - 70. Record Vote Number: 236.
Update: Powerline's take on our Senator from Illinois,
Durbin accuses himself of cowardice, but it's hard to know what he would say about the other Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee: as the Times notes, five of the nine Democrats on the committee voted for the war, and at least two of them, Levin and Rockefeller, specifically said before the war that Saddam was pursuing nuclear weapons. Apparently they didn't get access to the double-secret information Durbin now talks about, four years after the fact.

On balance, I would acquit Durbin of cowardice and convict him of mendacity.
Also check Flopping Aces.

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Dan Cronin: I hope people are watching

Eric Krol in today's Daily Herald,

Armed with a veto-proof majority, Democratic Senate President Emil Jones Jr. is under fire for choosing ComEd’s campaign cash over its customers, getting his wife a $70,000 pay raise in her state job and helping his son land a new job at taxpayers’ expense.

At the same time, Jones also is pushing for a massive tax increase — the largest in the state’s history — and advocates a major gambling expansion, an issue not exactly popular with the public.

[***]

With upcoming tough votes on major tax increases that Jones seems determined to force through, he could be opening the door for a Republican revival and putting newly won suburban seats in play. But given the moribund state of the Illinois GOP, it’s unclear whether even Jones’ management of the Senate will be enough of a defibrillator.

“I don’t know. I really don’t know,” said state Sen. Dan Cronin of Elmhurst, the incoming DuPage County Republican chairman. “I hope people are watching.”
Me too... I'm not optimistic about the GOP doing much if the people are watching though.

I'm watching the Greens and so far they seem befuddled on what to do with the slim chance the electorate gave them.

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The beatings will stop when you tell us what we want to know

CPD's Officer Dubek to John Rossi from CBS's Davi Savni's look at how the CPD handles complaints of cops out of control.

It took real crust for Rahm Emanuel to utter nonsense like this a few days ago,

The Administration would like the press and public to believe all of this corruption and cronyism consists of isolated instances and one-offs.
We've got the battered Chicagoans on video and the lawsuits Taxpayers will have to pay off. The pattern of corruption here couldn't be clearer. It's time Federal hearings be held and it's only the cronyism stopping them.

Update: More charges added to Abbatte's case,
He now faces seven counts of official misconduct, one count of communicating with a witness, three counts of intimidation and three counts of conspiracy, the Cook County state's attorney's office announced Friday.

Prosecutors said details of the superseding indictment would be unveiled at Abbate's arraignment May 16.

However, a law enforcement official said the new indictment alleges that a woman working on behalf of Abbate relayed to the bar manager that Abbate or other officers would plant drugs on or arrest anyone who gave the videotape to higher authorities. The woman, according to the indictment, also said officers would arrest customers for drunken driving, the source said.
You have to wonder how often this has happened before.

xp Prairie State Blue

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Nostalgia from '93


Please enjoy this photo of a button from a private fund raiser for Jon Burge in 1993. The fund raiser was held at a Union Hall on Ashland Avenue. I'm told attendance was surprisingly high for the event and that tickets had cost $50 bucks a pop. Photo by Dan L.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Blogger's Camera Bothers Officials

McHenry County Blog has some very imaginative readers.

More are beginning to make creative contributions.

This fake ad came yesterday and it was a good thing I was not in a school hallway in Prairie Grove, because I was laughing so hard. Note the small print: "flash not included."

It was inspired by the proposed, new "you can take pictures in our dark county board meeting room, but only from the back corners" rule.

First the wanted poster cracked me up, now this creation.

You can enlarge the images by clicking on them.

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Games With Numbers

One of the wonderful things about numbers is the games you can play with them. They can be presented in so many different ways that you can tell just about any story you want to and find numbers to back it up.

This is particularly true about percentages. Going from 2 to 4 is a 100% increase. Going from 2 to 6 is a 200% increase. Going from 4 to 6 is only a 50% increase. And going from 6 back to 4 is a 33% decrease. The game is simple. If you want a large percentage to make your point, find a low number to start your comparison. If you want a small percentage to make your point, find a high number. And you don’t have to make up any numbers.

Which brings us to the gross receipts tax that has been called the largest percentage tax increase in any state in the last 10 years.

That is probably true, but true because Illinois starts from a base that is lower than 46 of the other 49 states.

Illinois is a low state when it comes to public expenditures. The latest available data from the Census and the Bureau of Economic Analysis (FY 2004) shows that total state and local government “general revenue from own sources” (which includes taxes, fees and interest, etc.,) in Illinois comes to $14.20 per $100 of personal income, well below $16.08 the mid point of all the states.

If the gross receipts tax is passed, total taxes will increase approximately $1.41 per $100 of personal income, bringing Illinois to $15.71, still in the bottom half of all the states, and below all of our neighboring states except Missouri.

If one is looking at “tax burdens” it is the total in taxes and fees that are paid that makes Illinois more or less competitive with other states. It will be the total that is factored into costs, not just one tax, or two taxes. When all taxes and fees are taken into consideration, even with adoption of the gross receipts tax, Illinois will be competitive.

And what the money will be spent on, an improved education system and universal health care coverage, will make Illinois more attractive as a place to live, to work, and to run a business.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Pay to Play Gets its Day

Just a few years ago, getting a bill like this called for a vote would have been an impossibility. Funny what a few years of headlines and scandal can do to help move reform forward in our state. The following is a press release sent out by Comptroller Dan Hynes.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- “This is the beginning of the end for play-to-play politics in Illinois,” Comptroller Dan Hynes said today, after the Illinois House of Representatives approved an ethics reform bill that will reduce the corrupting influence of campaign contributions on the awarding of state contracts.

House Bill 1, drafted by Hynes and sponsored by Rep. John Fritchey, D-Chicago, prohibits business owners with more than $25,000 in state contracts from making campaign contributions to officeholders awarding those contracts, requires contractors to disclose previous contributions and prevents individuals with conflicts of interest from receiving fees from state bond sales.

“The House sent a very clear message today that Illinois government is not for sale and business-as-usual will not be tolerated,” Hynes said. “These reforms will act as a strong deterrent to backroom deals and quid pro quo governance. It is my hope that they will also help restore public faith in government.”

Fritchey said passage of the bill would allow the Legislature to focus on other important issues. “For too long, headlines have been dominated by corruption and pay-to-play politics, rather than key issues such as education funding reform, property taxes, and affordable health care. This legislation will not only put an end to this practice which has no place in state government, but will allow us to focus upon issues that are important to the people of Illinois.”

Cindi Canary, Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, called on the Illinois Senate to follow suit and pass House Bill 1. “The House, by this solid vote, has recognized the concerns of Illinois voters and has stood up and done the right thing. It is now squarely in the hands of the Senate to respond in kind.”

Jay Stewart, Executive Director of the Better Government Association, applauded House passage of the reform bill. “This will help establish a separation between campaign contributions and lucrative state contracts. Given the contracting scandals that have beset the State of Illinois in recent years, the reform is long overdue.”

###

To read or post comments, visit Open House

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Rep. Sacia and the GRT

One of the best things about the Legislature is that you have 177 men and women who bring a wide range of life experiences to the process, which is essential to the notion of a representative democracy.

If you know Rep. Jim Sacia, you may know that he is a former FBI agent, a man of integrity, and a man not prone to hyperbole. What you may not know, and I didn't know until speaking with him last night, is that he is also a business owner, selling farm equipment. The point of this is that he brings a unique first-hand perspective to the debate about the Governor's GRT proposal.

The following is a letter from Rep. Sacia to the Governor, which I believe is also going to be published by the Chicago Sun-Times. No rhetoric, no posturing, just one man's story, and one worth hearing.
April 12, 2007

Dear Governor:

In 1997 my wife, my son, and I started a farm equipment business against all logic in the world. “Ag is a faltering economy” I was told. We asked for no perks, we struggled and we made it go. Today we provide fourteen good jobs and each employee is making between $26,000 and $60,000 per year. Each get their health insurance paid and fifty percent of their dependent’s paid. Each has a 401K plan. Not a bad place to work.

Last year our sales were $5.2 million and our bottom line was $32,000 in the black. That makes me a “corporate fat cat” according to you Governor. Why do we do this when the GRT will take that bottom line plus thousands more?

Here’s a promise Governor, I won’t do it next year if this tax is imposed. (You just lost $200,000 in sales tax.) Northern Illinois Tractor and Equipment (NITE) will become Southern Wisconsin Tractor & Equipment.

Very truly yours,

Jim Sacia

State Representative

Discuss as you see fit.

To read or post comments, visit Open House

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Too Charitable to Obama?

When I wrote “Giving Obama His Due,” I based by story on this year’s income tax return.

A Tuesday story entitled, “For Obama, charity really began in the U.S. Senate,” by the Chicago Tribune’s Bob Secter today makes it clear that I may have offered too much credit.

Secter looked at income tax forms for both U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and Barack (note that I spelled it correctly this time without being reminded) Obama going back to 1997.

Obama’s contributions in 1997 appear to be a bit less than 1% of income, with $400 to his church. Durbin’s were a bit below 2%. Secter notes the national average is 2.2%.

The Biblical admonition is a minimum of 10%, the tithe.

Both politicians had increased their contributions to about 4½% by 2005.

Obama, as I calculated earlier, gave 6.1% to charities last year. Secter does note that Obama contributed just 4/10ths of one percent of his income--$1,050 as recently as 2002.

The recent ramp-up lets Obama avoid the 1998 ridicule of ridicule of Al Gore for contributing only $353.

Secter reports that Obama’s church, Trinity United Church of Christ “encourages its members to donate 10 percent of their income…from 1997 through 2002, the Obamas reported devoting less than 1 percent of their household income to charity.”

While reporting the contributions and total income of President George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, the Tribune article left the calculations to the reader. Cheney was at 6.5%, while Bush gave 10.2%.

McHenry County Blog reported the 10.2% figure in a story comparing Bush’s percentage with Mayor Richard Daley’s.

More, of course, at McHenry County Blog.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Thompson's pregnant pause

Sun Times today on KMPG's Marilyn Stitt's response to former Hollinger corporate counsel Mark Kipnis's lawyer about a $15 million paid Conrad Black and other executives,

Stitt said under cross-examination that KPMG brought up the $15 million in non-compete payments at a Feb. 25, 2002, Hollinger International audit committee meeting. She said she believed former Gov. James Thompson indicated that the committee he chaired had approved the payments.

Kipnis' lawyer, Michael Swartz, asked if Thompson told Stitt that he'd never heard of the payments.

"Gov. Thompson didn't say anything," Stitt testified. She said there was a "pregnant pause" before the committee moved on to other matters.

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Breaking: Lawsuit alleges vote fraud in last week's 49th Ward election

A huge, huge hat tip to Tom Mannis of Rogers Park Bench, one of those bloggers who are on their way to making Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhodd the capital of blogger-dom.

From a press release posted at RPB:

49th Ward Vote Fraud Release - April 24, 2007

For Immediate Release

Contact: Michael Harrington 773-262-9473

Mike Pilarz 312-943-9100

ROGERS PARK RESIDENTS CHARGE FLAGRANT
VOTE FRAUD IN 49TH WARD ALDERMANIC ELECTION

Voting Rights Hijacked In Aldermanic Election: Votes Cast for the Elderly,
Voters Registered At Abandoned Buildings, And Repeat Voters

CHICAGO, April 24, 2007 – “Vote fraud has taken away the voice of our community and it hurts us all,” a group of 49th Ward residents said today as they announced a lawsuit to contest the results of last week’s aldermanic election.

“As citizens we have a right to fair and clean elections. The violations that happened last week profoundly impact every one of us. We are outraged by the dirty tricks and illegal campaign tactics that occurred in many polling places in our ward,” said community activist Eva McCann. McCann is a plaintiff in the lawsuit along with community residents Blane Roberts, Eileen Foxman, and 49th Ward Aldermanic Candidate Don Gordon.

A lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court by the group on Monday cited numerous examples of vote fraud in the Tuesday, April 17, runoff election. They include elderly nursing home residents who were illegally assisted in voting, voters whose home addresses turned out to be vacant buildings, and voters who were issued two ballots instead of one. The group announced their lawsuit at 7724 N. Ashland Ave., an abandoned apartment building where a person identified as Delores Young claimed to be registered and was allowed to cast a ballot on April 17.

“We have confirmed multiple cases of votes cast by people whose addresses turned out to be vacant buildings and by people from outside the ward. We have an obligation to uphold the voting rights of the citizens of Chicago whose honest ballots were potentially negated by fraud,” said McCann. She noted that voters’ rights to a fair election were also “hijacked” when polling place election judges in numerous precincts denied requests to verify questionable voters and “systematically ignored” election laws.

Gordon, a 30-year community resident, said, “The mood in our ward has changed from concern over the outcome of the election to a more fundamental concern about getting a fair election in the first place. As a candidate, I didn’t sign up to lead a battle against violations of basic voting rights. But as a voter I will stand up for this.” He added: “Although an investigation will determine more facts about this election, we already know there is no doubt that its integrity is in question. I want to make sure that every voice is heard.”

According to the Chicago Board of Elections, Moore received 4,019 votes to Gordon’s 3,772, a 247-vote difference.

Co-plaintiff Roberts stated: “We have heard outrageous claims that our call to investigate vote fraud is racially motivated. That is simply not the case. Instead, the election has made us more aware than ever before of how race and class have been used to divide our community and keep us from focusing on real community issues.”

The plaintiffs called on Alderman Moore, government officials, and Chicago’s civil rights leaders to support the lawsuit and join in the call for an investigation.

“We expect people in public office to take a stand and help guarantee fair and clean elections. This is of far greater importance than a simple aldermanic election, and we call on everyone involved to join us in the investigation so that we can preserve basic voting rights for the future of all of Chicago,” Roberts said.

“We would not be here were this a simple matter of election error,” said McCann. “We have considerable evidence that points to a pattern of conspiracy, and more evidence will be presented as we move forward with this investigation.”

The residents, represented by Attorney Michael Lavelle, a former chairman of the Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners, are contesting the 49th Ward election results and seek an investigation into allegations of vote fraud violations and conspiracy to commit vote fraud.

SUMMARY OF 49th WARD ELECTION LAWSUIT CHARGES

1. Elderly nursing home residents who were “assisted” in voting without formally agreeing to be assisted as required by law (in Lake Shore and Sherwin Manor nursing homes)
2. Polling place judges who refused to obey Chicago Board of Elections guidelines requiring that questionable voters be given provisional ballots (in Precincts #11, 34, and more)
3. Votes cast by people registered to vote at vacant buildings and vacant lots
4. Polling place electioneering (at Arbour Health Care Center, 1512 W. Fargo Ave.)
5. Precincts where more votes were cast than there were voter applications (in Precinct #11 and others)
6. Precincts where voters were given two paper ballots instead of one (in Precinct #5)
7. Voters who cast ballots during the Early Voting period and again on the April 17 Election Day.

For additional information contact Citizens to Elect Don Gordon at 773-262-9473.

# # #

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Leftwing Hysteria Over Supreme Court Abortion Decision

Articles two days in a row on a national issue. First gun control and now abortion.

That’s got to be a new record for McHenry County Blog.

Don’t worry, it won’t happen often.

It’s just when I compared the rantings by Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg with what the Tribune’s Steve Chapman had to say Sunday, the interpretations were so great that I thought them worth noting.

Steinberg spends less space in his piece.

Comparing what Congress did to try to keep Terri Schiavo from being slowly starved to death and killed by dehydration, Steinberg says the Supreme Court has “popped up between the legs of the women of America and waved away any doctors who might want to perform certain late term abortions” which he says are “rare,” but “grisly.”

“…right-to-Lifers..(ha)ve lost trying to convince America to ban abortion, so instead they are nibbling away at the edges, on issues that give most decent folk pause, such as this procedure.”
I would note that such an incremental approach in the 1800’s was the way abortion was banned.

Chapman points out the problem that the decision presents abortion advocates:
It’s that it treats the fetus as more than a disposable inconvenience—as a living entity entitled to a measure of respect and protection. One you take that step, there is no telling where it might lead.
And let me share Chapman’s part describing the procedure itself:
The court cited one nurse’s account of this procedure:
The doctor, she said, “delivered the baby’s body and arms—everything but the hear.”
At that point, she said,
”The baby’s little fingers were clasping and unclasping, and his little feet were kicking. Then the doctor stuck the scissors in the back of his head, and the baby’s arms jerked out…The doctor opened up the scissors, stuck a high-powered suction tube into the opening, and sucked the baby’s brains out."
The striking fact about the debate here is not that some people are appalled and revolted by what is done in these instances, but that some people are not. They don’t flinch from the violence visited on well-developer fetuses in the name of reproductive freedom. Any abortion, in their eyes, is a justifiable abortion.
Chapman then takes on the “health of the mother” bugaboo.

He hasn’t room to point out that the provision is not in Roe v. Wade, but in Doe v. Bolton, a companion decision handed down the same day. The exceptions for health is so broad that it includes, as the second, long ignored case states, not only physical risks,
“but all factors—physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age—relevant to )her) well-being.”
As Chapman points out,
”The exception cancels the rule.”
To abortion rights groups like Personal PAC, the group whose candidate Rosemary Kurtz took me out of the Illinois House, as Chapman says without citing any specific group,
”any limit on ‘the right to choose’ is intolerable..."
…even if it is barbaric.

More parochial articles also can be found at McHenry County Blog.

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Rambling Thoughts About Business Reaction to the GRT

As the opposition witness slips from business groups representing every sector of the Illinois economy were being read off at the Senate Committee hearing on the GRT last week, the thought crossed my mind, “This is the strength of the GRT. Because it is so broad and hits everybody, the rate can be low. Everybody pays a little bit and the burden is spread out.”

If an alternative tax is passed, pity the business sectors that aren’t able to scramble their way out of being hit with that tax, because the rate of any alternative will be much higher than the GRT. Each business sector shouldn’t be thinking how bad the GRT is, but how much worse an alternative might be when they are one of the few sectors being taxed.

In putting out their analysis this week of the economic effects of the GRT, the Realtors used the same assumptions as the Tax Foundation, every business that is part of the production chain passes the entire tax on. Nothing else changes for any business that is not at the end of the line. Then they point to the last business in line and say, wow, look at how much that business is paying! In the Tax Foundation example, one small firm ends up paying the entire tax for 30 larger firms. Not likely!

Of course, we could just tax the last business in line. It is called a sales tax. To match the revenue from the GRT, the state sales tax would have to be raised from 5% to nearly 11%, which would make the combined state and local sales tax rate in Cook County 15.75%. Haven’t heard anyone promoting that plan!

I was in the State of Washington in February. Looked around. Didn’t seem to be any businesses missing! The supermarkets were fantastic. Retail, wholesale, manufacturing, banking, lawyers, all seemed to be present and accounted for.

Costco Wholesale, Microsoft, Washington Mutual, Weyerhaeuser, Paccar, Amazon.com, Nordstrom, Starbucks, Safeco, and Expeditors, all growing their way into the Fortune 500 and all prospering. The Boeing manufacturing plants are still there. The Washington gross receipts tax, in place since 1935, didn’t seem to be chasing anybody away, or causing much of a problem. Jobs in Washington last year grew 62% faster than the national average.

Don’t know how the Tax Foundation explains this one after all the bad things they have said about the Governor’s proposal. Hawaii has had a gross receipts tax (no sales tax) for 30 odd years and also has a relatively high personal income tax and very low property taxes. In commenting on Hawaii’s tax structure in its 2007 report on state business tax climates, the Tax Foundation wrote, “Hawaii’s overall rank, 24th best, would be much higher if the state could reform its individual income tax without causing damage elsewhere in what is otherwise a good tax system.” Most of the “otherwise” part is a gross receipts tax.

My good friend Tom Johnson, of the Taxpayers Federation, twice last week at public forums quoted an article saying only 16% of state services benefit business, and wanted to know if it was fair to ask business to pay more than 16% of the taxes. I read the article and looked at how the author allocated benefits. I would ask Tom these questions: Does business really get no benefit at all from our community colleges or universities? Would a business locate in a state with no schools? Does business benefit from the state paying the heath care costs of low wage workers that don’t get health benefits from work? How much would highway costs go down if there were only cars and no fully loaded 18-wheelers pounding the concrete?

Probably the most useful thing I have learned in 30 years as a professional economist: if you want to understand the numbers that come out at the end of a study, look at the assumptions made at the beginning of the study.

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Legislators Are Hearing From Home -- And Reading The Bill

There are signs that some members of the Illinois General Assembly who might have followed the trial lawyers pleadings to vote “yes” on a bill described by opponents as “deep pockets” bill and by a popular Springfield blogger and columnist as a “grotesque boon for plaintiffs” (his words, not ours) are wavering.

There is no doubt that support for the bill (SB 1296) in the House is less today than it was the day it was sent from the Senate to the House.

There are two reasons for that:

First, legislators are hearing from constituents who are being urged to call/write/e-mail by a large and diverse coalition of opponents whose views mean a lot more to the voters than do the views -- and greed -- of the personal injury trial lawyers.

Second, legislators -some, at least - are actually reading the bill and wondering why they are being asked to do this?

They have seen the words of revered former Representative Alan J. Greiman, now a member of the Appellate Court in Cook County, who described the intent of the current law when it was written in 1986.

These were Greiman’s words on June 30, 1986 on the floor of the Illinois House:

[J]oint and several liability … means that if you are one percent negligent, you must pay the entire judgment ... We have changed that. We have heard from ... people all across the state that we are concerned that we are minimally liable, five, 10 percent liable, 15 percent liable, and we’re stuck for the whole thing. So we have said that there should be a threshold. If you are twenty-five percent liable, you are not so much involved with causing the accident … that you should respond in damages for the entire amount. But you are less than twenty-five percent, they you should pay only your share … The minimally liable are no longer liable for more than their share.

84th Ill. Gen. Assem., House Proceedings, June 30, 1986 at p. 8-9.
Then why, some legislators are asking, are the trial lawyers asking for such a radical change, a change that would allow them to focus on the most wealthy defendants, rather than the most responsible? Why go after the “minimally liable,” as former Rep. Greiman said 21 years ago?

The answer is obvious and that’s why many legislators who frequently give the trial lawyers the benefit of the doubt are shaking their heads and rolling their eyes.

There is no doubt there has been a lot of contact between constituents and legislators on this issue.

Much of it has been generated by the many organizations and interests - - such as the ICJL - that oppose the bill. When legislators hear from constituents - not from one or two but from 50 or 100 or 500, they usually pay some attention and will at least look at the bill in question.

And that is what has been turning the tide against SB 1296.

Legislators read it and realize that it does what the opponents say it does and they understand why it has been referred to as the “deep pockets” bill.

Trial lawyer allies still have the numbers to win in the Illinois House so this fight is still in its early stages -- the bill has not yet been sent to the House Judiciary Committee but that could happen this week and a hearing could be held next week.

Some trial lawyer allies have talked about possible amendments to reduce some of the opposition -- "carving out" some of the interests or institutions that are opposed right now because they are severely impacted.

They are using every available tactic to neutralize the growing opposition. Bloggers -- some obviously trial lawyer staff members or close allies -- have been planting lies on the internet, including on Rich Miller's popular Capitol Fax Blog.

The fate of SB 1296 will be played out over the next four to six weeks and opposition forces need to continue the fight -- but other dark clouds loom on the horizon as several other trial lawyer pet projects await in the wings. HB 1798, which creates a new category of non-economic damages for grief and suffering in wrongful death cases. HB 1798 is on final passage stage in the House and could be called at any time.

Opponents of SB 1296 need to look at this bill too. Unfortunately, there are a few others out there.

Cross-posted by Ed Murnane at Illinois Justice Blog.

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Utility Donations and the Forby Amendment

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

Friday's vote in the Illinois Senate to add Com Ed to a rate freeze bill, only to have the effect of that vote nullified by a parliamentary manuever, has gotten a lot of press.

Certainly Com Ed and Ameren have a lot at stake in the vote. And they've given a lot in campaign contributions to incumbent senators. Much of the money they gave would be illegal in most other states, either because it came directly from the corporation (most states ban direct corporate giving) or because of the size of the donation (most states limit giving from each donor). Certainly, neither Com Ed or Ameren could have given as much to leadership as they did, if Illinois had laws like most other states do.

Some Senators may have cast their vote because they think it was the right thing to do. But some other factors may also have been at play, to varying degrees with different Senators. Campaign giving by utilities and transfers from leadership PACs affect all of them.

ICPR has posted a spreadsheet on its blog listing each Senator, how they voted on the Forby amendment, if they were targeted in 2006, when their seat is next on the ballot, and how much they received in 2005-2006 from electric companies (and, if 2006 targets, from leadership.). No one explanation likely covers all 59 Senators. But the answers to most of the votes can likely be found in these factors.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Protection Free Zones

I don’t usually comment on national issues, but this article from World Net Daily sent by a friend of McHenry County Blog is spot on and I've added an Illinois angle.

The very short article is entitled,

Death toll limited before campus gun ban
5 years ago, shooter subdued by armed students

It explains what happened January 16, 2002, when a student started shooting administrators at Appalachian School of Law.

A couple of students, one an off-duty police officer, got guns from their cars and subdued the gunman.

He was more than tackled by bystanders, as most press reports said.

Since then, the state legislature banned guns on college campuses last year in the interest of safety, the article says.

My gubernatorial campaign manager Ted Semon referred to areas where guns are banned as “protection free zones.”

Mayor Richard Daley’s reaction, of course, would have pleased the Virginia assemblymen who voted to ban guns on campus after the Appalachian School of Law murders.

ABC reported this Saturday:

The mayor's state legislative package includes laws that ban assault weapons and magazines that hold more than ten rounds.

"There just too many guns in our society," Mayor Daley said. "Too many guns leads to too many accidents, and you have too many victims."
He’s “pushing for what he calls ‘common-sense’ gun laws,” ABC says.

Common sense would suggest that what worked to limit deaths at the law school might have worked at Virginia Tech.

More at McHenry County Blog. I didn't spend the weekend in the yard.

= = = = =
And, Monday in the Chicago Sun-Times a Tom Toles cartoon appeared, the bottom of which said,
Also, if everyone on campus had been armed…it’s hard to imagine anything bad happening.

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Wal-Mart, Chicago, might compromise on "living wages"

Now that Chicago's municipal elections are over, it appears to be time for Wal-Mart and the City to revisit the big-box "living wage" debate.

Last year, in a bill sponsored by Alderman Joe Moore, the Chicago City Council passed a "living wage" ordinance that would've effected only "big box" stores such as Wal-Mart, Target, and Home Depot. Mayor Richard M. Daley vetoed that bill, and the Council failed to in its attempt to override.

From Crain's Chicago Business, free registration may be required:

Despite post-election chest thumping, the first signs of a potential compromise are emerging in the political war between Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and union-led advocates of a big-box minimum wage bill.

Sources on both sides say they're willing to sit down and talk at length, and they raise the possibility of a deal in which Wal-Mart would get zoning approval needed for more Chicago stores in exchange for agreeing to support a wider minimum wage bill that applies to more than the super-sized retail outlets known as big boxes.

Wal-Mart recently backed a similar law in Maryland, and while such a proposal would stir intense opposition from some partisans on either side of the fray, it might also provide a starting point for substantive discussions, sources say.

But sometimes, as with Palestinian extremists, people prefer to fight. When responding to the possibility of adding other retailers to the "living wage" battle, Madeline Talbott of ACORN said:

I don't know if you want every Walgreens and CVS on your case," Ms. Talbott says. "Wal-Mart is a great political enemy to have.

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Happy Earth Day


OK, it's shocking enough that global warming is on the tip of everyone's tongue, that Republicans and Democrats alike are lining up behind clean energy and toxics cleanup bills that would never have seen the light of day in Springfield, but this takes the cake - a warm, sunny Earth Day.

Here in Illinois, Earth Day is generally all the forecast you need to hear to dress for cold, sleet, gray, and perhaps a few flurries for scenic effect. So I can't help but wonder if today's weather might be the latest star aligning for the forces of good.

Whatever you do today, make it fun and positive. We have the rest of the year to worry about the messes we've made. Today should be about the positive - celebrating what each of us can do to make a difference, or even celebrating the simple, yet essential gifts the Earth gives us.

If you're in Chicago, you're invited to join us at the art event below.

Whatever you do, enjoy!



inspiring change:
An art exhibition raising awareness for global warming and benefitting the Sierra Club.

Celebrate Earth Day on April 20 or 22 by attending an art exhibition with the goal of using art as a vehicle to inspire global change. Twenty-one Chicago artists have each prepared a work for this event, and each will be available for purchase, with the proceeds to benefit the Sierra Club.

There is no charge for admission to view the works, or to meet the artists and other local Sierra Club members. Wine, soft drinks, and nibbles provided.

When:
Two opening receptions only:
Friday, April 20: 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm
Sunday, April 22: 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm
(No walk-ins or appointments at other times)

Where:
Space 900
1040 W. Huron Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
www.space900.com

Participating artists include:
Andrea Harris
Anne Hughes
Anni Holm
Barbara Schnell
Brooke Demos
Cheryl Holz
Clark Ellithorpe
David Mayhew
Doug McGoldrick
Gosia Koscielak
Hilary Norcliffe
Jean Poklop
Jeane McGrail
Joanna Pinsky
Holly Cahill
Laura Fatemi
Laura Lein-Svencner
Nancy Paul
Tania Blanco
Tom Berenz
Yelena Klairmont

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Internet Vote Reporting Confusion

It appears that McHenry County was not the only place where people depending on internet results after all the precincts were reported in where confusion occurred.

In St. Clair County, according to Respublica, the same thing happened with the Fairview Heights mayor’s race.

The confusion, Respublica writes,

stemmed from overlooking the new Illinois election law. This law, which went into effect in July, mandates that absentee and early voting ballots not be counted until after the polls closed.

The only results available on election night, at least early enough in the evening for newspaper/media deadlines, were those coming from voters who voted in person on Tuesday in their precincts.

St. Clair County chose to report the in person votes separate from the absentee and early voting which gave the impression that the election results were complete. This confused some when they read reports from the county which said, 29 of 29 precincts reporting, 100 percent. Give or take some precincts.

Madison County, on the other hand, did not report results until those ballots were included.
In McHenry County, results in the Huntley School Board race were posted. All precincts in.

Then, later in the night the numbers changed.

No explanation was posted on the web site, although the Clerk’s Office did explain to me what happened the next day when I figured out the people whom I thought had won probably did not.

Seems to me that the electronic posting should have columns listing how many votes in person, absentee and early and, then, the total so far.

Or follow Madison County’s example and wait until all the votes are counted.

Of course, that would still exclude the absentees that have not arrived by election day and are give 14 days to show up.

It’s really strange when the results change without an explanation.

Can you imagine the yo-yo of emotions when a candidate goes from victor to “also ran” in a matter of hours?

This is just one of the articles on McHenry County Blog this weekend, although goodness why you would be inside during daylight hours with the weather as good as it is.

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WorldNet Daily gets it wrong on my hometown

WorldNet Daily likes to jump in on stories quickly--sometimes too quickly. In response to the renewed debate on gun-control, WorldNet tried the tired high-school formula of "compare and contrast."

In 1981, years before I moved here, Morton Grove, Illinois enacted a handgun ban, the first in the nation. In response, the Cobb County, Georgia town of Kennesaw made it law that each household own a gun. Crime would go up in the "Wild West" atmosphere of the new Kennesaw, and go down in Morton Grove according to the "experts" at the time.

From WorldNet Daily:

The crime rate (in Kennesaw) initially plummeted for several years after the passage of the ordinance, with the 2005 per capita crime rate actually significantly lower than it was in 1981, the year before passage of the law.

Prior to enactment of the law, Kennesaw had a population of just 5,242 but a crime rate significantly higher (4,332 per 100,000) than the national average (3,899 per 100,000). The latest statistics available – for the year 2005 – show the rate at 2,027 per 100,000. Meanwhile, the population has skyrocketed to 28,189.

By comparison, the population of Morton Grove, the first city in Illinois to adopt a gun ban for anyone other than police officers, has actually dropped slightly and stands at 22,202, according to 2005 statistics. More significantly, perhaps, the city's crime rate increased by 15.7 percent immediately after the gun ban, even though the overall crime rate in Cook County rose only 3 percent. Today, by comparison, the township's crime rate stands at 2,268 per 100,000.

Kennesaw's population has soared for one simple reason--the town was overrun by the sprawl of Atlanta. The same thing happened to Morton Grove right after World War II, but as empty-nesters became prevalent in the 1980s among post-war suburban boom-towns, the population went down, as it did in hundreds of similar towns during that time.

I don't have the statistics in front of me, but crime in Morton Grove went up in the 1980s and 1990s largely because a seedy strip of motels on Waukegan Avenue became the residence of choice of drug dealers, prostitutes, and other no-goodnicks. The Village of Morton Grove, exercising its eminent domain powers, tore down the motels in 1999 so a renaissance of Waukegan Road could bloom. Crime went down a lot across Morton Grove (Gee, I wonder who committed all those offenses?) but the Waukegan Road commercial renewal is something we're still waiting for here.

But the new street lights are real pretty.

Since I moved here in 1999, I know of two murders in Morton Grove. The first one involved an Oklahoma drifter who somehow ended up dead in a forest preserve outhouse near the local running path. The other killing involved a businessman whose body was found around 2003, wrapped in concrete and placed on the roof of one of my favorite restaurants. Roofers working on a neighboring business noted something odd, and found the entombed victim, who was likely killed because of numerous bad business dealings. He was last seen alive in the mid 1990s.

I can't remember if the victims were shot to death, but even if there wasn't a handgun ban here, it probably wouldn't have made a difference for the two men.

The handgun ban is a stupid law, but to say crime is higher Morton Grove because of it is disingenuous. As with most middle class suburbs, Morton Grove crime largely consists of shoplifting, small-scale burglaries, domestic disputes, vandalism and incidents of drug possession. A local politician told me a couple of years ago that the only arrests he knows of involving violations of the handgun ban involve oblivious drivers being pulled over on a traffic offense--with the police discovering a gun inside the vehicle. Needless to say, although I'm not one of them, there are handgun owners living in Morton Grove

Do a little more research next time, WorldNet.

Oh, in late 2005, while running not too far from the spot where the drifter's body was found, a Cook County Forest Preserve policeman, on a bitterly cold day, confronted me about allegedly--and I want to reiterate, allegedly, urinating fairly deep inside a grove of trees. No one else was there, which says a lot about the law enforcement force derisively known at "the tree police."

I told him I was stretching, and he drove away.

That Morton Grove "crime" went unreported.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Giving Barack Obama His Due

Since I earlier reported the percentages given to church and charities by President George Bush and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, it seems only fitting that I do the same for U.S. Senator and Presidential candidate Barack Obama.

The Sun-Times reports he and his wife Michelle earned $991,296 last year.

And, they gave $60,307 to charities, including $13,107 to the Congressional Black Caucus 501(c)(3) Foundation, $15,000 to CARE and $22,500 to his church, the Trinity United Church of Christ

The percentage of income given to church and charity?

6.1%.
As usual, McHenry County Blog is open this weekend with new content. And, if you missed my almost getting arrested for laughing too hard and taking pictures in the hallway outside a top secret, hush, hush meeting, you might want to look at a posts on Wednesday and Thursday.

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Hypothetically Speaking......


The Rock Island Argus/Dispatch prints one of the craziest, most rambling, incredulous editorials I've read in a long while, and that's saying something. Their jihad against pending legislation that would prevent the insurance industry from opening a loophole in Illinois' civil laws reads like a verbatim press release from the Illinois Civil Justice League from start to finish, and they probably should have charged them their standard advertising rates for it.

The most embarrassing passage from the entire piece is this:

Consider this scenario offered by the Illinois Justice League, which has launched a campaign, DeepPocketsIllinois.com, to oppose the measure:

"Imagine that while traveling home from Springfield you get hit by a drunk driver. Neither you nor the other driver is injured, but a passenger riding with the drunk driver is thrown from the vehicle and severely injured. To add insult to injury, the drunken driver has no insurance.

"Although you were minimally at fault, the lawyers for the injured passenger settle out of court with the drunk driver. Now they are suing you for the full amount of damage. It doesn't seem fair that you and your insurance company should be on the hook for the full amount of damages, when you were only minimally at fault. Unfortunately, if the trial lawyers successfully pass 1296, situations like these could become typical civil procedure in Illinois courts."

Hold it right there, guys.

First, when was the last time you saw an editorial board advertise the website address of an interest group in its editorial? Never, maybe?

When was the last time you saw an editorial board provide a 127 word verbatim quote (six direct quotes in all) of a registered special interest group in an editorial? Never, maybe?

Finally, the bogus hypothetic question. When in Illinois do they think that a jury of 12 people is going to award a penny to someone dumb enough to get into a car with a drunk, unlicensed driver, then ram another car, and blame the driver whose car they hit? How about a lawyer dumb enough to take that case, knowing they'll never get paid? Never, maybe?

The Illinois Civil Justice League's hypothetical question might as well have started out "Imagine while traveling home from Mars...."

I've got a better hypothetical question:

Imagine the Illinois Civil Justice League -- backed by the Insurance Industry -- has given $2 million to Republican candidates over the last decade.

Imagine that the biggest business in Rock Island, John Deere, has given $200,000 to Republican candidates over the last decade.

Imagine that one of the biggest purchasers of advertising in the Rock Island Argus/Dispatch is that region's largest employer, John Deere.

Finally, imagine that both John Deere and the Illinois Civil Justice League wanted to prevent Democrats from closing a legal loophole (being created by activist judges) that would benefit insurance companies and big businesses -- at the expense of injured every day citizens -- and maybe even help elect a few Republicans in the process.

Hmmm....I wonder who John Deere and the ICJL could call on?

Sadly, that's not to hard to imagine at all.

The phone numbers for the Rock Island Argus/Dispatch can be found here.

[Hat Tip, CapitolFax]

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Unsung Heroes Get Their Due

I was thinking about doing a story on some of the amazing people behind the amazing races we've seen in the last two years, but the Sun-Times' Steve Brown beat me to the punch, naming two of the most respected campaign managers in Illinois politics these days: Mike Noonan and Pat Botterman.

From Brown's column:


Steering [Alderman Bernie] Stone to victory was Mike Noonan, who emerged as one of the premiere local political consultants for Regular Democrats by piloting Lisa Madigan's first campaign for attorney general.

Directing Waguespack's historic upset of Ald. Ted Matlak was Patrick Botterman, who has made his mark in Illinois politics by running the campaigns of independent-minded candidates willing to take on the Democratic establishment.

In essence, Noonan is Mr. Inside in Cook County Democratic circles while Botterman is Mr. Outside.

What they share is a nuts-and bolts knowledge of winning elections, knowledge that each gained while working in the trenches.

You should read the whole thing. Brown provides good insight, although a couple of key points are overlooked. First he leaves out the race where Mike Noonan really first distinguished himself, helping elect a longshot Democrat in McHenry County in 1998, that no one thought could win: State Rep. Jack Franks. Franks remains an independent-minded, anti-machine tour de force in the statehouse, calling out Governor Blagojevich for his ethical lapses and supporting anti-machine candidates like alderman-elect Brendan Reilly.

More recently, Brown skips over Noonan's 2004 involvement in the U.S. Senate Primary, working on behalf of Dan Hynes and against Barack Obama. While Noonan wasn't brought into that race until very late, and certainly no one can fault him for Obama's victory, it's important to remember that as good as Noonan is at what he does, even he can't walk on water or stop bullets with his bare hands. I hear he makes one hell of a fajita though.

I'd be interested to hear other folks thoughts on who they think the really distinguished campaigners are out there in Illinois, Democratic and Republican.

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A moronic statement from Ald. Joe Moore

Back to Chicago's North Side: It appears that Ald. Joe Moore, barring a recount showing otherwise, has won reelection in the 49th Ward by 227 votes out of almost 8,000 cast.

Yesterday afternoon I watched WGN-TV's midday news, and Joe Moore made this comment about Tuesday's' election:

Whenever you fight for the common guy, people are going to fight back. My opponent was very well funded by some very powerful special interests, Republican interests....

Lies. Gordon did receive multiple contributions from the Illinois Restaurant Association, as well as the group Chicago Chefs for Choice. The last one must've had something to do with Moore's anti-foie gras legislation.

The former group is a big player in state politics, but seems to split its political spending money pretty evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Chicago Chefs for Choice? I'll see what I can find out, as I do know two conservative Chicago chefs.

Moore's campaign fund is dominated by contributions from the Service Employees International Union. And earlier this month, Moore received $10,000 from the Chicago Federation of Labor, and the same amount from AFSCME Council 31. That's big money for an aldermanic race

It's Moore's campaign that was dominated by special interests, but necessarily not Republican ones.

I haven't the time to add up Moore's and Gordon's contributions, but a quick look at the reports available at the Illinois State Board of Elections site clearly shows to the casual visitor that Moore easily raised more money than his challenger.

Joe Moore, liar.

To comment on this post, or to vote in the Pajamas Media predidential straw poll, click here.

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Columbine, Virgina Tech Threat at Crystal Lake High School

The email header at 4:21 PM read,

Massacre Threat at Central HS - slated for tomorrow.
I don’t know a lot of teens who go to Crystal Lake Central High School, but when this local mother wrote me she had heard that a threat of violence had been made today, I decided to follow up.

The email also said, "I understand that if the student does not attend, the day will be excused."

She also wrote that people calling the school were read a prepared statement.

I called the high school at 4:30 or maybe a minute afterward, but no one answered the phone.

A second mother, who has a child in my alma mater, told me:
My daughter just got home from track and in a boys’ bathroom there were sayings on the wall saying (something like)"If you think the Virginia Tech incident was bad, just think of the 4-20 thing, it will twice as bad (or maybe) much worse."
I asked, "What are you going to do?"

“I don’t know,” she replied.

A second mother of a child who attends the school had heard nothing. She asked if I’d like to talk to her son and handed him the phone.

I asked him what he had heard.

He turned the question around.

"What did you hear?"

I used the word "Massacre."

“It was probably taken out of context,” he told me

“Somebody wrote some s--ty thing on the wall saying something about combining Columbine and Virginia Tech.”

“Then you didn’t take it seriously?” I asked.

“No, I didn’t.”

It may not be being taken seriously by some students, but the Crystal Lake Police Department is taking the threat seriously.

Here is what Police Chief Dave Lindner said in a press release today:
The CLCHS has alerted the Police Department of the disturbing message found inside the school building. The unidentified author referred to both recent and past acts of school violence in the message. The police department has met with the school administration and the school district has determined that classes will be held tomorrow.

The pd takes threats of any kind seriously and as a result of the particular incident the police department will have an increased presence at all of the schools.

Any further inquires should be directed to the district 155 school office.
The press release was issued about 7 this evening.

= = = = =
This photograph of Crystal Lake Central High School teens was taken on that first 70 degree day--March 13, 2007. Click to enlarge the picture. More stories on less serious subjects on McHenry County Blog.

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