Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sen. Obama, Evangelicals and the community of faith

It has been interesting to read about the response of some evangelicals to Sen. Obama being invited to speak at an AIDS conference sponsored by Pastor Rick Warren. Apparently due to the Senator's stand on abortion and some other issues some feel he should not be invited to speak.

How this helps Senator Obama.

The hardcore evangelicals who use issues like abortion as a litmus test were never going to be Sen. Obama supporters anyway.

However a larger set of American Christians I think will respond positively because I suspect that to some extent they have started to grow tired of the role of faith in public life being reduced to stands on a select number of social issues.

I really feel this is going to be the key for Democrats in reaching out to evangelicals and Christians in general, using faith to explain why people and by extension their governments have a responsibility to help others. That the role of faith and morality is not just to judge but to aid. Look at who is still a work down in the areas hit by last years storms, it's the church. Why, because they have the organizations to get the job done, yes. But also because their members have a real desire to serve. Sen. Obama speaking about how the church can and should serve to make the world a better place will be an effective message.

You don't need to get a large number of people on your side, even a small percentage can make a huge difference. I think Sen. Obama has a unique opportunity to frame the discussion on faith and public policy and it seems he realizes it.



Bollywood Friday - It's a "Thriller"!

I've been MIA the past week or so due to Thanksgiving and work completely dominating my time. A friend was thoughtful enough to send me this gem when he ran across it.

FAR scarier than MJ managed to pull off, don't you think? ;)


More DCFS Deaths

The Belleville News-Democrat has done a splendid job turning over the rock under which the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services hides its blunders.

Last Sunday reporters George Pawlaczyk and Beth Hundsdorfer unleashed stories about DCFS lapses that led to the deaths of children worthy of the Chicago Tribune or Sun-Times.

Whether related or not, Governor Rod Blagojevich’s DCFS Director Rich Samuels resigned the week before publication. Samuels refused to be interviewed for the articles.

Yesterday, McHenry County Blog wrote about a 1979 death that might have been prevented by DCFS in Crystal Lake.

Here’s the guts of this week's story:

The News-Democrat found that 53 children died between September 1998 and January 2005 after DCFS workers and employees of contracted private agencies committed serious errors, made questionable judgments, and failed to follow department regulations.
The editors know you won’t want to read their stories. Here’s what they say,
Reading our series about 53 children who died as the result of botched DCFS cases is a distasteful accompaniment to toast and orange juice at breakfast, we know. Many people probably put the series down and never picked it up again. It's human nature to want to avoid or ignore difficult topics like this.

And actually, that's exactly how some people at the Department of Children and Family Services hope you reacted. If they had their way, the details of child death cases would never be made public. They like it that most records are sealed. A number of the workers worry about "heater cases" -- cases that can result in negative press. No negative press, no problem.
You can read the details of the deaths here.

A mother tells of how DCFS failed to protect her son here.

An article debating whether it the police could do a better job than case workers is here. The comments below the article, especially the ones from those in the know about DCFS are fascinating. Astounding is the number of times there was absolutely no discipline.

12 dead children could not be identified. The reporters ask for assistance.

Of course, DCFS is doing a review.

What happened to the caseworkers?
… out of the 50 cases that had substantial errors, not one worker was fired. Just seven workers were suspended, and then for relatively short times.
Sounds like not much has changed since 1979.

As the editors say,
But it's not that DCFS can't get rid of bad employees, it's that its leaders don't have the will to do it. It's easier for DCFS to avoid and ignore difficult situations, also, than to fix things.
Does that sound like any other public institution?

Claudia from Iowa wrote in the comments to the editorial entitled, “Hold DCFS Accountable,
I am a licensed master level social worker who also has a BA in Psychology and Sociology. I agree the system has to change but as I am reading these cases it seems that most of them were investigated several times with the same sad result! Even after many cases were investigated the workers involved only received a slap on the hand even when THEIR mistakes resulted in death!! Making these cases public is a great step.
There are a lot more good comments.

First posted on McHenry County Blog.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Powerful African-Americans and Bill Dock Walls

An email from Bill "Dock" Walls reads,

Typically, I ignore my opponent's fundraising efforts and concentrate on my own. I even attempted to ignore the Daley fundraiser scheduled for Thursday evening. However, local Print, Radio and Television news media sources have made it virtually impossible to do so. Over the past several days, the particulars concerning this fundraiser have been reported, over and over again.

The first two paragraphs of the following news article highlight the danger. The only difference is we will not sit idly by and watch history repeat itself. We will highlight the contradiction and call attention to the fact that Chicago is a tale of two cities.

Join us Thursday evening as we picket outside the entrance of this planned fundraiser.

Thursday, November 30, 2006, 6:00 PM 1301 North Astor (Astor and Goethe) Astor is 2 blocks west of Lake Shore Drive
Then links me to this ST story by Fran Spielman about a fund raiser on the Mayor's behalf organized two powerful black women. Peoples Gas president Desiree Rogers and Johnson Publishing CEO Linda Johnson Rice....
Walls offended by powerful African-Americans supporting a Mayor who, as Spielman writes, is a
...17-year incumbent battered by the Hired Truck, city hiring and minority contracting scandals
He sorta has a point.


George Ryan Free Until Appeal Over

When I read that former Governor George Ryan was granted his wish to stay out of jail pending completion of his appeal, I wondered who made the decision.

They are Frank Easterbrook, Terrence Evans and Diane Sykes.

Not having watched the appellate court, I have no grasp of the roles these folks play.

But, once the decision comes down, it if is not in his favor,

the grant of bail pending appeal will end automatically, without waiting for this court to issue its mandate.
Of interest is that “Volume II” of Ryan’s appeal is being kept secret from the public.

What can that be about?

First posted on McHenry County Blog. Photo from trial evidence.


First Judge Thomas and Now Father Stepek - Defame and Be Sued!

Class Action Lawyers bent on bankrupting every Catholic diocese in the name of protecting the innocent deserve greater scrutiny from the media, trial lawyers, insurance companies, and Catholics. Like The Simpson's Lionel Hutz every opportunity to bring charges is a Lotto ticket. Until now. Maybe, Father Stepek's stand will reverse this trend to blanket charges against dioceses in the hope of a jackpot.

This morning's Daily Southtown article by the estimable Stephanie Gehring deals with a priest accused of sexually molesting two boys ( now men) suing his two accusers.,291nws3.article

Note the tone taken by career pettifogger Jeff Anderson at the end of the article. Anderson, has bankrupted many a Catholic Diocese in this country and has set up shop here in Chicago, where pickings are plentiful.

The Catholic Church in America thanks to its gutless and PC addicted bishops have helped 'cottage-industry' ambulance chasers get MEGA rich on the suffering of young kids abused by priests, the inablity of the American Church to take responsibilty for predator priests, and the universal climate of shaken faith. Priests who molested young boys and girls were protected by bishops more concerned with PC and propriety opened the door for a a cottage industry that allows any priest, any man wearing a stiff-collar, vulnerable to an accusation and any diocese open for a looting.

All one needs to do is accuse a priest of sexual misconduct and a Lotto Ticket is printed by Class Action Suit Anderson.

I hope that Father Stepek not only goes after his accusers but also the industry that encouraged them.

Send Predator Priests to Pontiac, Michigan City, Terra Haute, Westville, and other penal garden spots, but do not allow shameless opportunists to get rich by bankrupting a Church.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Schools Fighting TIFs

I noticed a Chicago Tribune article on Monday by Susan Kuczka about more school districts fighting a Tax Increment Financing district.

Other school districts may have been ahead of Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47 and High School District 155. If so, I wasn’t paying attention because my tax bill was not in jeopardy of being hiked by a mayor and city council whose fate I have no influence over.

If you are new to the subject of TIFs, it’s a method through which cities and villages can grab all increased tax revenue from property for 23 years (or even more, if they can get the General Assembly to pass an extension).

The taxes that school, park, junior college conservation and other tax districts, including county and township governments are frozen for that period of time.

All the extra revenue goes to city government to dispense pretty much as they wish within the TIF district. The city fathers and mothers talk about using it for “infrastructure,” but in Elgin developers have gotten massive direct subsidies to make their river front housing developments more profitable.

In any event, Monday’s Tribune headline read

Mall not worth tax loss, school officials say
That’s pretty much what District 155 said about the Main Street and Route 14/Vulcan Lakes projects. District 47’s board only authorized opposition to the Vulcan Lakes district.


Ironically, it was not because the two school districts would lose any tax dollars.

While they would not get the increased tax revenue from the TIF districts for the next 23 years, since both are below their maximum tax rates because of the ratcheting down effect of the Property Tax Cap, both would just raise their tax rates on everybody.

That means you and me and everyone else living in any tax district to which the TIF district properties pay taxes would have our tax rates and, therefore, bills hiked so the city fathers and mothers can play economic development games with the real estate tax dollars being diverted from the TIF.

In Lindenhurst, a town of 14,000, village officials was a town center. Quaintly, they will call it “Village Green.” It will be on 190 acres at the intersection of Route 45 and Grand Avenue.

Not exactly a shabby location.

Grayslake High School District 127, Woodland Grade School District 50 and Millburn Grade School District 24 are objecting. The schools estimate a tax loss of $141 million over the 23 years to local tax districts.

In Crystal Lake’s case the schools forced a 3/5-majority vote for approval on one of the TIF districts.

In neighboring Cary, the Village President Steve Lamal marshaled other tax districts having less at stake and managed to put down Grade School District 26’s and District 155’s revolt. Not that the village president had to worry about whether the vote were a simple or a 3/5-majority.

= = = = =
Photo is of the old Cary village hall on Route 14 that is now in Cary's new TIF district.

This was first posted on McHenry County Blog, where an exploration of State Rep. Jack Frank's attempt to elect a Democrat to the McHenry County Board continues.


You can't spell Christkindlmarket without Christ

From the AP (via the Chicago Tribune):

Worried that ads for "The Nativity Story" would offend non-Christians browsing in the traditional German Christkindlmarket in the heart of downtown, the city asked the German American Chamber of Commerce to reconsider New Line Cinema, which made the film, as a sponsor. The group then told the studio it would not be part of the bazaar that began Thursday.
Read the whole story when you have a chance, but let me give you the highlights, as well as my (admittedly unoriginal) take.

“Christkindl” literally means “Christ child” in German. So you have to wonder why the Mayor's Office of Special Events feels that advertisements for a story about the Christ child would be “insensitive to the many people of different faiths who come to enjoy the market” named for Him (or him, if you prefer).

“Cindy Gatziolis, a spokeswoman for the Office, said the city does not want to appear to endorse one religion over another” (emphasis added). This is a City that has a public college named after Malcolm X and an expressway named after a Bishop. Apparently the city isn’t concerned about appearing to endorse the Nation of Islam or the Church of God in Christ with these taxpayer funded public properties. So why are they concerned that advertising space purchased by a private film study would appear as an endorsement of Christianity?

I think that the City's unreasoning attempt at "political correctness" is far more offensive to many more citizens than any inclusion of Christ's story in the Christkindlmarket would have been. I’d love to hear your thoughts, but I’d love even more for you to share your thoughts with the City and the GACC:

Mayor's Office of Special Events

German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest

To read more or post comments, visit my blog


Monday, November 27, 2006

Taxes and Local Control

In my district, and most of the ones around me, you can pick any issue you would like, and I all but guarantee you that, these days, it takes a back seat to the issue of skyrocketing property taxes.

While we can debate ad nauseum the root cause or real fix for the problem, in the interim we are presently trying to lessen the dramatic negative impact that these taxes are having on residents in Cook County. (And by the way, to the extent that higher taxes result in less disposable consumer income, this is a problem for local businesses as well.)

We are hoping to call the "7% bill" for a vote this week, and everybody concerned can acknowledge that it will be a close vote. Yesterday, Crain's outlined a Civic Federation report on this issue, which stated in part:
Chicago homeowners would face a median increase of 36.4% in their 2006 property tax bills — up from 10.6% otherwise — if the General Assembly does not extend a 7% annual cap on most residential assessment hikes, according to a new report by the Civic Federation. Business groups say the cap shifts the tax burden to them, but the the Chicago tax-policy group says the value of residential property is growing so fast that, even with the cap, the median bill for industrial property will drop 10.8%, with a 4% median decline on office and retail buildings. The federation supports a three-year extension of the cap. (emphasis added)
As to the cries of doom from the opponents of the bill, I proffer this tidbit from the Tribune's article on the issue:
But the study found that commercial, industrial and apartment properties in Chicago are already expected to see their taxes go down in 2007, with or without the cap in place. Taxes on those properties would drop even further if the law were allowed to expire and more of the burden were shifted back to homeowners. (emphasis added)
Although it is not a replacement for comprehensive reform of the property tax system, the `7% cap' has contributed residential stability to the Cook County property tax system by both limiting and smoothing annual increases in the taxable value of homestead properties," the report says. "The Civic Federation believes that the benefits of the [law] outweigh its costs in terms of tax burden shifted to non-homestead properties and homestead properties that are appreciating slowly."
Interestingly, what I find most telling about the issue has nothing to do with taxes. People, especially conservatives, are always talking about local control. Here we have a bill that is rooted in that very concept. There is nothing mandatory about the bill, it is opt-in legislation that allows a county to implement the provisions if it so chooses. Those county officials eventually have to stand before voters and answer for their actions.

It is hard to imagine a Representative from another county arguing that allowing Cook (or any other) County to implement this measure would negatively impact their constituents. During my ten years in the Legislature, I have supported countless local control measures for other regions. I hope that my colleagues will allow us to take those steps necessary to address our issues now.

Sometime soon, when I am not under the weather, we can take up the whole debate of how we assess properties, how we fund schools, etc. I just don't have the energy or time to really delve into it now.

To read, or post, comments, visit Open House


Friday, November 24, 2006

Looking for Tribune's Rahm Emanuel's Hired Truck References

The only Illinois congressman I remember being mentioned in any of the Hired Truck scandal indictments was Rahm Emanuel.

Remember that Sunday piece where the Chicago Tribune wrote a whole section about how he guided the Democratic U.S. House candidates to victory. It took 9 pages on the Tribune internet site.

I searched every one of them for a "Hired Truck" reference and couldn’t find a reference to the Hired Truck scandal mentioned once. (I didn’t read the massive piece yet, but my search surely did not find the words “Hired Truck,”)

Why is that important?

The Hired Truck guys apparently helped get him elected in his Democratic Party primary against class act former State Rep. Nancy Kazak.

That’s what is said in the May, 2005, plea agreement of Water Department’s Director of Finance and Administration Gerald Wesolowski. Wesolowski was one of Donald Tomzak’s assistants.

Oh what McHenry County Blog does with its spare time.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

It's Always About the Children in Illinois - Ain't It?

I always get a kick out of the folks doing the Emmet Kelly for the TV cameras whenever Illinois public school issues surface and along with the long-suffering frown of the down trodden souls is the 'shout-out' for more tax-dollars - 'It's All About the Children! Don't You People Care About The Children?'

The next best public school related TV wide -angle shot and sound bite comes during the annual strike of teachers at Whitebread School District 637530- NIYEEIYAN, when a person who appears to take every meal and snack fired from a sling-shot throwing down the Emmet Kelly with aplomb and mewling 'It is Only About the Children!'

This morning The Chicago Tribune treated us with this Thanksgiving Day morsel about the good folks who lead the educators, who love the children, who can't do enough with the tax-dollars stuffing the treat bowls at Districts around Illinois.
In essence the story tells us that school CEOs from the Mean Streets of Wilmette, Hinsdale, and Hard-Scrabble DuPage yank down in excess of $ 300,000 per annum. It's all about the children.

I have a pretty solid knowledge that my boss, the CEO of an inner city Catholic high school for boys ( 100% African American), operates on a balanced budget, zero deficit, receives ZERO Archdiocesan subsidy, accepts EVERY student who wants to attend Leo High School - no one is turned away: We ain't Iggy, Never have been; Hell, many Leo guys got tossed from Iggy - is paid less than a back-hoe operator for Local 150 and that is without the Bennies. This CEO oversees an operation that sends 93% of its graduates on to West Point, Northwestern ( Hi, Akim!), University of Chicago, Loyola, DePaul, & etc. Bob Foster says 'If we don't need it we can't afford.' If something is needed that will benefit 'his guys' (Bob never says 'the children')no stone goes unturned until that program, apparatus or gizmo can be paid for - he does not use a credit card. Illinois Rep. Mary Flowers has helped Bob Foster pay for an after school boxing/academic program run by Mike Joyce. Last week, the Leo Boxers raised over $ 40,000 to help fight Breast Cancer at Chicago's Park West - it's a round world in the square ring. That is just a small example of what school choice could do.

If Illinois tax-payers really want to say 'enough is enough.' it is time to get serious about genuine school choice - VOUCHERS. The things Rep. Dan Cronin
and other genuine legislators who want to see an end to Illinois public school hemoraging of cash. Of course the Emmet Kelly Imitators live by the dictum that 'enough is not a feast.'

Happy Thanksgiving, Neighbors! This year, in between the cranberry triffle and the return for the dark meat sandwich - about eight minutes for me - give serious thought to School Choice - it makes for competition ( Hell, St. Rita and Mt.Carmel proved that last week and will again this weekend) and it will save Illinois some dough.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Now It Gets Interesting

Everybody knew that it was coming, the only question was when. The answer is now. From Crain's:
Trial lawyers on Monday filed a much-anticipated lawsuit seeking to overturn the law that limits jury awards for medical malpractice victims.

The plaintiff in the suit alleges a doctor at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in west suburban Melrose Park botched the delivery of her daughter in October 2005. The 13-month-old suffered permanent brain damage from of lack of oxygen during delivery and must be fed through a tube, the lawsuit says.

As I have previously stated, while I believe that there is a shortage of doctors in parts of our state, and while I agree that malpractice rates are higher than they should be, I do not believe that either of these facts were caused by our previously-existing malpractice laws.

It has been a bedrock principle of our legal system to have faith in an empaneled jury to assess and award damages in tort cases. To artificially limit such awards in an arbitrary manner is an unwarranted deviation from this core principle that was driven by politics and economics rather than any sense of constitutionality or jurisprudential logic.

For those who support the caps, I hope that the legal briefs that are filed on your behalf proffer a better argument than this one:

“If this rollback succeeds, it will drive doctors from the state and medical care costs will skyrocket,” Peter Eupierre, president of the Illinois State Medical Society, said in a statement.
It's safe to say that all sides are eager to see this issue litigated and resolved by the courts. And while that resolution won't come quickly, it's a good bet that whatever the court decides, this issue is far from over.

To read, or post, comments, visit Open House


Monday, November 20, 2006

Attention Wal-Mart shoppers: John Edwards coming to Chicago to discuss new book

Former senator John Edwards, who got into trouble last week for participating in a conference call for Wake Up Wal-Mart on the same day one of his staffers called Wal-Mart to cut into line so the Edwards family could get their hands on a coveted Playstation 3 device, will be in Chicago next week to discuss a book he edited, Home: The Blueprints of Our Lives

Edwards' partner in last week's Wake Up Wal-Mart call, Chicago resident Sen. Barack Obama, is being urged to run for president by John Edwards. Of course the former presidential and vice presidential candidate may run for president as well in 2008.

To comment on this post, please visit Marathon Pundit.


With a Capital C

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

Robert Sorich, the number two guy in Mayor Richard Daley's Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, was sentenced today to 46 months in jail. His conviction last Spring made the point that tying public jobs to political performance is illegal all by itself; there is no need for the feds to show that anybody took a bribe or other personal payment to encourage trading public quid for private quo. And now his sentencing shows that judges take this kind of crime seriously, too. Judge David H. Cour noted that "The offense is corruption - corruption with a capital C," adding that "for people to owe their jobs to political advancement rather than performance on the job stinks."

The verdict should also be a warning to anyone else considering or currently tying public benefits to political actions. What's striking about the Hired Truck scandals that have, so far, culminated in this sentencing is that the underlying criminal acts took place at the same time that Operation Safe Road was convicting people of nearly identical acts at the Secretary of State's office. Some of the allegations in Hired Truck indictments even took place after other City employees had been indicted. Some day soon, we hope, insiders everywhere, at the state and local levels, will get the message that it's just not worth it, that no one is immune, and the feds are looking for this stuff. And, so far, the feds' record is better than the Bears'.


Thanksgiving is an Illinois Initiative! Give Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving to all Illinois partisans and non-partisons. This great National Holiday is rooted in Illinois and seeded as a 'faith-based' initiative - this will really make the ACLU gag on its cranberries.

Here is a nice link to Abe Lincoln and the religious aspect of this most American and Illinoisan of Holidays!

President Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

Abraham Lincoln , 1863

Happy Thanksgiving!


Bob Kjellander

Today's Trib Editorial,

So: How best to solve this mystery of why the Illinois GOP is still stuck with Bob Kjellander?

Not much of a mystery, you say? The answer is too obvious? Kjellander should summon an ounce of self-respect and resign his committeeman post before he does any further damage?
No kidding


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Abortion and Gay Marriage

Not excatly Illinois but these are issues that impact rebuilding the GOP in this State.

A while back, Lexington in the Economist wrote A heretical proposal why overturning Roe v Wade could be good for Democrats.

The main reason, alas, why Democrats will stick by Roe is simply because it is a totem in the culture wars. Why should pro-choice forces surrender any ground? That argument makes sense if you want to defend “choice” right into the ninth month, as some zealots do. But for most Democrats who merely want to keep abortion legal under most circumstances, that right would be more secure if it carried democratic legitimacy.

Embracing the democratic process would send a powerful signal that the Party of the People has rediscovered its faith in the people. Relying on judges to advance the liberal agenda allowed conservatives to seize the mantle of populism. Roe has given Republicans a free ride: they can claim to oppose abortion in the comfortable knowledge that it will never be banned. But imagine if Roe were overturned. How many Republicans would vote for a ban on abortion that only one in five Americans support? The conservative coalition would be split asunder.
Democrats still clinging to the totems when it comes to abortion, and (and with same sex marriage in Mass where they're fighting putting it on the ballot), but Barone blog explains how the South Dakota vote (prompeted I'd wager by having Alito and Roberts on the court) has removed abortion as a litmus test issue,
Prolifers should learn from South Dakota that they aren't going to be able to ban abortion entirely, at least not in any but a few small places. Prochoicers should be noticing that the restrictions that legislatures have been placing on abortion do not prevent abortions from being generally and widely available. Voters even in South Dakota have shown themselves unwilling to agree with prolifers that abortion is morally entirely unacceptable. But voters who have supported restrictions on abortion have shown themselves unwilling to agree with those prochoicers who consider the provision of abortion an unalloyed moral good. The status quo is not acceptable to the rigorous purists among us, and is probably not entirely congenial to most of us. But it seems to be acceptable to the great majority. And so it may be that the abortion issue will be less of a motive force, on both sides, in our politics.
The Republican-Conservative consensus on the social issues should on Scalia's comment,
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia railed against the era of the "judge-moralist," saying judges are no better qualified than "Joe Sixpack" to decide moral questions such as abortion and gay marriage.
For me, that's the conservative principle worth fighting for. The lesson for the GOP in Illinois is taking these issues to the voters means first of all not demonizing the opponents and next realizing when the majority decides moral issues; we're going to get middling-resolutions. They may not be particularly moral resolution but unless you're arguing putting these decisions back into the hands of judges, it's going to be the best you can get.

I'd stick with Justice Scalia and put my trust in the people of Illinois.


Friday, November 17, 2006

Bollywood Friday-Bollywood killed the Video Star

From the classic 80's Bollywood flick, "Disco Dancer".

Ohh-WAH-Ohh-WAH!! These Bollywood pseudo-covers of American pop music are absolutely priceless.

All I have to say (and you should, too) is...BANG, BANG!


Was Thomas Trial About More Than His Reputation?

Tucked away in (Elgin’s) Daily Courier-News and the Northwest Herald’s articles on Illinois Chief Justice Robert Thomas’ victory over Shaw Newspaper-owned Kane County Chronicle (sister paper of McHenry County's Northwest Herald) were tid-bits that may have importance for future hotly-contested judicial races.

Consider this statement from Thomas attorney Joe Power, found in reporter Matt Hanley’s Daily Courier-News article:

We're hopeful this will stop the mudslinging in judicial races. On a whole, journalism is very good and very important to Americans. But the First Amendment doesn't protect lies.
This should send a message to special-interest groups and renegade journalists that this is no longer tolerated in this state or country. All they had to do was print some sort of retraction. And they wouldn't do it.
The Northwest Herald got a similar quote from Power:
It shows it will not be open season on the judiciary. This sends a message that special interest groups and renegade journalists are not going to be allowed to take their shots at judges.
Could something more be at stake in this case than the damage to Justice Thomas’ reputation?

The 2004 losing candidate for Illinois’ southernmost Supreme Court district, Gordon Maag, a trial lawyer-supported Democrat, sued those opposing his candidacy for the type of criticism he received for $110 million, claiming defamation.

According to the Madison County Record, the campaign flyer in question was entitled,
In Southern Illinois the 'Wheels of Justice' have ground to a screeching halt
and claimed it "cost him the election and future income," again, according to the Record.

Maag just lost in the appellate court.

The Record quotes James A. Knecht’s opinion as saying,
We understand plaintiff's outrage with the flyer. The flyer is full of disparagement and innuendo unbefitting a campaign for judicial office. Disagreement with a judge's decisions is acceptable and criticism is to be expected. Expressing such disagreement and criticism in an inflammatory and unreasonable manner is unseemly and unproductive and has no place in what should be a reasoned debate on differing judicial philosophies.
And, there’s much more along this line in the article.

Might Bob Thomas’ case be used to tone down campaign charges made by judicial opponents who are not part of the media?

= = = = =
Posted first at McHenry County Blog where the water fight article is not about firemen.


Patti and Rezko

Patti's $47K Rezko deal is the Sun Times headline.

I just wonder how many combinations of names with Rezko will be seeing in the future. We've already had Obama Rezko... I just wonder how many more are to come.

You got to wonder how long the ST sat on these records too.

The chain of events in December 2002 and January 2003 is detailed in records obtained by the Sun-Times. It's the first record of Patti Blagojevich making money off a Rezko deal around the time Rezko began seeking favors from the governor.
I hate it when MSM is vague like this.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Pay Raises Pass

Not the minimum wage but the pay raise for General Assembly members and Constitutional officers. Base pay for lawmakers will now go from $57,619 to $63,143 plus all the extra money they get from committees etc. At least they are keeping up with the average teacher salary. The Governor's starting salary goes from $150,691 to $165,138. The starting salaries of the Attorney General and Secretary of State will increase from $132,963 to $145,711, while the starting salaries of the Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller and Treasurer will increase from $115,235 to $126,283.

The State Journal Register had the story with a link to the roll call. Taxpayers needed 30 Yes votes to stop the pay raise from happening. We only got 25. The roll call is indeed interesting.

Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-24, Westmont) - Present
Sen. Carole Pankau (R-23, Bloomingdale) - NV, Didn't vote
Sen. Edward Petka (R-42, Plainfield) - Present
Sen. Steve Rauschenberger (R-22, Elgin) - NV, Didn't vote
Sen. Peter Roskam (R-48, Wheaton) - NV, Didn't vote
Sen. Todd Sieben (R-45, Geneseo) - Present
Sen. John Millner (R-28, St. Charles) - NV, Didn't vote
Sen. Wendell Jones (R-27, Palatine) - Nay (In favor of raise)
Sen. Adeline Jay Geo-Karis (R-31, Zion) - Nay (In favor of raise)

19 Democrats voted Nay, in favor of giving themselves a raise, a cost of around $5 million more per year. And the state can't pay healthcare providers what they owe them and we don't have enough psychiatric beds for the mentally ill.


Thomas Verdict - More

It might be interesting to read what the competitors wrote about Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court Robert Thomas’ court victory over a Shaw newspaper in Kane County. Shaw also owns the Northwest Herald, which ran its own account of the verdict.

Yesterday's article on McHenry County Blog suggested that more might be at stake than Thomas' reputation.

Now, let's look at what the jurors said.

The Daily Herald article, entitled,

Why a jury gave chief justice $7 million
by Tona Kunz is particularly interesting.
…the Kane County Chronicle’s management was negligent in its oversight of fromer columnist Bill Page,
the first paragraph summarizes.

Here’s what the Daily Herald reporter wrote about the jury deliberations:
Jurors raised concerns over the fact those involved in the columns, including Thomas, were not called for comment.

“Like it would be with any of us - if we were accused of being unethical, we would want to have a voice,” said Ken Sotern, a St. Charles merchandising manager.

“To me it kind of seemed Mr. (Greg) Rivara didn't do his job and didn't care,” said Kelly Groves, a workers compensation claim specialist from Aurora, referring to the Chronicle's managing editor who approved the columns for publication.

“We all understand and respect the confidential sources. We just felt that if (the newspaper) had done a little work they would have been able to find something to back it up and not just rely on confidential sources for allegations that large,” Groves added.

“It wasn't that he should not have printed the article, it just seemed he needed to take a little time so he had something to back it up.”
The Chicago Tribune, a minor competitor to the Northwest Herald, added,
"To have your integrity questioned in front of your family and the world, that was the most important part," said juror Ken Sotera, 46, of St. Charles.

Juror Kelly Groves, 26, of Aurora, said the jury blamed the Chronicle more than Page because the newspaper should have done more to verify the information.

"We all understand and respect confidential sources," Groves said. "We just feel if they would have done a little work they should have been able to substantiate this without confidential sources."
Northwest Herald reporter Kevin Beese included this from jurors:
“It was all about integrity,” said Ken Sotern of St. Charles, a member of the jury. “The way the confidential sources [used in the columns] were handled said a lot. There was no one who ever came forward to substantiate [what was written].”
(Interesting how the three papers spell the man’s name two different ways.)

The Northwest Herald continued,
Sotern noted that when articles or columns break news of wrongdoing, such as the allegations of lesser Gorecki sanctions in exchange for Spence support, an official investigation or some other action follows. He said that when no investigations or other media stories followed Page’s columns, it raised questions for members of the jury.

Juror Rick Shaw of St. Charles [no connection to Shaw Newspapers] also said the lack of support regarding the columnist’s confidential sources weighed heavily on the minds of jury members.

“Someone needed to provide information to go along with those statements,” Shaw said. “Someone needed to testify to the sources’ information. There needed to be some suggestion that [at least] some of the information could be confirmed.”


NPR covers Obama-Rezko real estate deal

It's taken a while, but the Barack Obama-Tony Rezko real estate deal is finally catching fire outside of Illinois.

Earlier today, National Public Radio's Morning Edition covered the controversy, and yesterday, Michelle Malkin mentioned it on her blog.

The audio piece is three and a half minutes long.

NPR was tough on Obama, I expected a softball piece. Good for them. Their reporter, David Schaper, mentioned that the cash to make the down payment on Obama's South Side Chicago mansion came primarily from the advance he got from his book deal. As I've noted before, Obama received a large book-advance from his publisher while a senator-elect, not a senator--this allowed "St. Barack" to skirt senate ethics rules.

To comment on this and other posts, please visit Marathon Pundit.


DuPage County Board Budget Priorities - Smoke And Mirrors

[Cross-posted at]

Recently there has been discussion in local newspapers and blogs about DuPage non-profit organizations advocating a cigarette tax among other solutions to the county budget cuts and deficit. I understand why the non-profits are doing it - and I don't blame them. Faced with elimination, like the University of Illinois Extension in DuPage that provides necessary pesticide information as well as serves an integral part of the 4-H program that over 400 DuPage kids participate in, or the massive 60% cut to not-for-profit community service grants, or the cutting in half of Access DuPage funds providing critical health care to uninsured DuPage residents who can't get it elsewhere - faced with cuts like these, non-profits would be irresponsible not to advocate a preferred tax increase by the DuPage County Board they depend on for their funding.

But what is responsible for non-profits facing draconian cuts that will devastate members of the DuPage community they serve, is totally irresponsible for the all-Republican DuPage County Board, which got us into this fiscal mess, and which seeks an easy out through "sin taxes" and expanding budgets instead of better prioritizing budget spending. The County Board's penny-wise, pound-foolish effort doesn't pass even rudimentary scrutiny.

First, the cuts they're making to non-profit and social service groups do not even begin to substantially plug the holes in their half-billion dollar budget with a roughly $50 million shortfall over the next two years accord to today's Daily Herald.

Second, the cost of the cuts exceeds their savings. Here are two examples:

Access DuPage

Access DuPage is a partnership of DuPage area hospitals, physician and social service groups and county government started in 2001 that served 11,700 low-income, medically uninsured residents in DuPage County in its first three years. In 2004 hospitals and doctors donated over $12.7 million in care. Yes, that's right, DuPage County's $350,000 leverages over $12 million - but the county board plans to cut that in half to $175,000. With the number of uninsured people rising, it is likely we need more access to health care in DuPage, not less. Cut back on Access DuPage's low-cost care (including preventative care) and the low-income people Access DuPage serves will end up in local hospital emergency rooms for medical conditions that could have been treated much more cheaply earlier. The DuPage families, employers and others that depend on them will suffer too.

University of Illinois Extension

The University of Illinois Extension agricultural program, something some DuPage residents many not be aware of, is an incredible deal that more than pays for itself. Over 400 plus kids in 4-H require the Extension program for 4-H to exist - but even without 4-H programing, the extension is critical to DuPage - and a bargain at $100,000 a year.

The emerald ash borer, a beetle that kills ash trees, is one of the terrible pests that the U of I Extension in DuPage is mobilizing against to prevent local devastation. What kind of damage could this beetle, that has destroyed 20 million ash trees in the Midwest since 2002, do in DuPage? According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources a lot! Here's what it could do to Woodridge, a single relatively small part of DuPage,

"In 1996, Woodridge, IL (a 15 year Tree City USA community) received a grant for IDNR to conduct an inventory of their community forest. Based on the results of this inventory, this Illinois medium sized community (population 33,000) had a tree population of approx. 8,000 public trees. At the time of the tree inventory 25% of the public trees were ash. Therefore, if the Emerald Ash Borer were to infect all of the public-owned ash trees, Woodridge would loses [sic] 2000 trees. According to the survey the majority of the ash trees are now from 8- 18 inches with an average size of 12 inches. Using an estimated average for tree removal cost of $500 per tree to remove all ash trees, the potential cost for removing all ash trees in Woodridge would be: $1,000,000. Using the Northern Illinois tree replacement (purchase and planting) price of $400 per 3 inch diameter tree, it would cost an additional $800,000 to implement a tree for tree replacement policy. Therefore, EAB could cost Woodridge [an] estimated $1.8 million to remove and replace all public-owned ash trees should they become infected.
Suburbs and DuPage County Public Spaces were inventoried. According to 'Urban Forest Structure: The State of Chicago’s Urban Forest' by David J. Nowak, USDA Forest Service, in NE Illinois Cook and DuPage County suburbs there are 4,132,100 ash trees planted. If tree removal and replacement costs combined are $800 then the estimated cost to Illinois suburban communities would be: $3,305,680,000 or over $3 billion."

So, for DuPage County's $100,000 in funding of the Extension we get

- $100,000 in matching state funding

- $750,000 in services that includes
-> Horticultural industry support for local businesses and residents
-> after school and summer programs for at-risk youth; and
-> numerous education programs in nutrition and other areas for over 25,000 young people and adults.

- 4-H programming

- Protection against millions or billions of dollars of damage to DuPage ash trees

The DuPage County Board found room enough in the budget to increase their salaries this year. It's time they start really earning the money. They can start by noticing that you really don't save money by cutting relatively small programs that leverage tax dollars to provide many times their money's worth.

I'm not a smoker and am not an apologist for smoking - but given the Republican County Board's history of spending new found taxpayer money instead of controlling budgets, it seems unlikely that taxing the declining number of smokers is much of a solution. It's time to look outside of cutting the small, underfunded county social service programs and on to bigger issues in the budget. Until they do that, all the County Board is doing is using smoke and mirrors to avoid real spending problems. DuPage residents, and the non-profits that serve them, deserve better.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Little Village Lawndale High School Principal Martha Irizarry: We are a part of a struggle

Her words as reported in the People's Weekly World in appreciation of Citgo's $400,000 grant for a health clinic at the Little Village Lawndale High School,

Dr. Juliet Bradley of the Dr. Jorge Prieto Community Health Center, a partner with the project, told the gathering of the importance of the school-based clinic. “Students every day deal with migraines, asthma, seizures, eating disorders, anxiety and depression, and they need somewhere to go during school hours,” she said.

One of the school’s four principals, Martha Irizarry, thanked Citgo for the donation. “We are a part of a struggle,” she said, “and now I see we are being supported, our dreams continue. Thank you so much. So many lives will be touched because of this.”
Venezuela’s general consul in Chicago, Martin Sanchez, told the World that this project is an “expression of friendship and solidarity between the two people.”
In 1918, Lenin wrote on the importance of Accounting and Control for the Socialist Revolution.
The state, which for centuries has been an organ for oppression and robbery of the people, has left us a legacy of the people’s supreme hatred and suspicion of everything that is connected with the state. It is very difficult to overcome this, and only a Soviet government can do it. Even a Soviet government, however, will require plenty of time and enormous perseverance to accomplish it. This “legacy” is especially apparent in the problem of accounting and control—the fundamental problem facing the socialist revolution on the morrow of the overthrow of the bourgeoisie.
Part of the struggle in Chicago and Illinois is making sure the money doesn't go unintentionally into someone's pocket. I hope there's an audit attached to this grant. Lenin would have wanted it that way.


Abandoning the House Floor

Today the Illinois House will meet at the Old State Capitol.

The last time that happened was in the summer of 2000, when the GOP, led by Gov. George Ryan decided that the gas tax needed to be cut because fuel prices were so high. I think the members convened in the Auditorium of the Michael J. Howlett Building. Wasn’t the plaster being repaired in the House chamber then?

In the veto session of 1973, House members met in the same auditorium for the veto session. Only then it was called the Centennial Building. Both the House and the Senate were undergoing major renovations. House Speaker Bob Blair and Senate President Bill Harris, Republicans both, were going to leave a legacy. Of course, neither knew of the debacle facing the GOP in 1974.

With the State Senate meeting in the Old State Capitol then, the biggest item on the agenda was passage of the Regional Transportation Act.

I knew suburbanites were in trouble after Blair briefed at a Capitol caucus in one of the old committee meeting rooms (where the press room is now, I think).

Blair outlined the bill. I think he had figured out that he couldn’t pass the bill without a public referendum.

As an outspoken (really?) freshman who had argued against the RTA on the House floor in June when Blair had last presented and quickly withdrew the bill, I asked,

Will any amendments be allowed?
The Speaker answered something like,
Of course.
I thought about his answer and asked a follow-up question:
Will any be accepted?
Blair’s answer was short and to the point:
I immediately walked down to the Legislative Reference Bureau to get them started on amendments.

Only one amendment was adopted. It was from my seatmate Bill Maher. It required the RTA Board to be re-apportioned according to population every decade. That has been done just once since then. Lake County’s David Barkhausen sponsored that bill after the 1980 census.

I think we had upwards of a 100 amendments in the works when Blair got someone to move for an immediate vote at about number 70.

My favorite, which did not get presented on the House floor, would have required the state to pay for subscriptions to each of the four daily Chicago newspapers for every household in the 6-county area. All four papers were staunchly in favor of taxing the suburbs to pay to subsidize commuters riding trains downtown.

I figured their real reason for their support was that one could not read a paper while driving a car. (And, yes, my tongue was deeply in my cheek when I asked for the amendment to be drafted.)

The RTA and CTA are back again, of course, seeking still more of a bailout from the suburbs. They unleashed their latest ”woe is me” round of whining the couple of days before the election.

= = = = =
The photos are of the Illinois House chambers, taken in May of 1974. This was after the fall 1973 renovation, which saw the chairs and carpet turn blue and a brass plaque put on the front of the podium saying W. Robert Blair was Speaker when it occurred. Some ways said that the carpet and chairs were blue so they would match Blair’s eyes. Both photos can be enlarged by clicking on their images.

In the top photo, Blair is speaking. Can you find these Republicans?
· Pate Philip in the aisle
· Adeline Geo-Karis in the second row
· Jim McCourt and Bill Kempiners, next to Geo-Karis in the aisle
· John Grotberg sitting next to Geo
· John Porter right behind Blair’s head
· John Friedland with his hand’s behind his head next to Porter
· Is that Bud Washburn sitting next to Don Deuster standing across the aisle from Blair?
· Tim Simms on the phone leaning back in his chair in front to Washburn and Duester
· Is that Paul Randolph on the aisle in front on Simms?
· Harry Leinenweber standing in the aisle holding up his hand
· Bill Walsh, Dick Walsh and Joe Ebbesen looking up at Blair seated right in front of him
· Next to Ebbesen, Vince Malloy looking straight ahead
· Ginny Macdonald and Herb Huskey, to Blair’s left
· Al Schoeberlein to Macdonald’s right
· Is it Charlie Claybaugh on the back row with white hair?
· Gene Schlickman sitting to Claybaugh’s left
· Tom McMaster, standing talking to Clarence Neff
· Cissy Stiehl in the back row behind Ron Griesheimer
· Mary Lou Kent sitting next to Stiehl
· Babe McAvoy standing near the middle of the entrance doors in the back
· Is Joe Sevcik standing behind the back row with the black background?
· Is Elmer Conti the last person seen on the left of the back row?
· Carl Soderstrom’s back in the front row center
Of the Democrats, can you spot the following?
· Jack Williams leaning on a desk on from the center aisle
· Is it Ike Sims standing up in the back row?
· And next to him, is it Louie DiPrima?
· John D’Arco having just climbed the steps
· Harold Washington sitting behind Deacon Davis, both on the aisle
· John Fary in front of Davis (no, you can’t see his drawer full of little bottles of liquor)
· Gene Barnes in the second to the last row, one seat in from the aisle (I don’t see a TV set, so the Watergate hearings must not be on.)
If you can help identify the ones I have missed, that would be appreciated. I’m having trouble with the back row, the person leaning back with hands behind his head behind Blair, the man next to Mary Lou Kent on the center aisle in the back, the man standing in front of Bill Kempiners in the center aisle,

And, if I have misidentified some, please let me know.

The second photograph has more Democrats. There is a Cal Skinner, Jr., I don’t recognize standing up, facing left, in the foreground.

Here’s what I see:
Romie Palmer is standing in the aisle facing Republicans
Standing two rows in front of John Fary on the Democratic Party side is Glenn Schneider
Art Berman standing up next to Fary
I need major ID help here.

The angle does not show Henry Hyde, who was in the back row near the men’s room.

= = = = =
The buttons are from the 1974 campaign. The official one of the opposition committee, kNOw RTA, is the cheap clip-on. Note that folks are invited to buy 20 for $1 by writing State Rep. Don Totten. The "NO RTA" button (which appears larger than it is) was produced by someone who thought out "kNOw RTA" button was too soft, I guess.


A new day in Illinois and a new chance for children in poor schools

[Cross-posted at]

The first day of veto session feels like the first day of school -- a lot of excitement to see old friends and a feeling of anticipation of something big around the corner.

The big news is that the freshman class (to continue the analogy) will be a supermajority for Democrats in the Senate. That's exciting.

It's particularly exciting because it means the 37 men and women of the Senate Democratic Caucus are now just as important as the Blagojevich Administration when it comes to setting budgets and policies. When a consensus is reached by the Senate Democratic Caucus, it is the public will and can override a veto by the Governor. That's a very big deal and represents a tremedous shift in power over to the 37 Senate Democrats. Particularly because President Jones is said to be very open to representing the consensus of his caucus, that means the sparkling opportunity and heavy responsibility of implementing progressive policies lies on the shoulders of the 37.

The biggest opportunity for social and economic progress is raising the state's 3% income tax and with the extra three billion or so buying better educations for the hundreds of thousands of children in poor neighborhoods who suffer from poorer schools and worse teachers.

There has been no significant progress on this front in at least a decade in the state, and the predictable result of kids dropping out from poor school districts and robbing them of the American promise of equal opportunity has blighted another generation.

For the last four years, Governor Blagojevich's clear opposition to any increase in the state's income tax has stymied efforts to raise the 3% income tax and buy better educations with the money (as well as provide some property tax relief -- a secondary concern in the scope of problems in my opinion).

Unfortunately, Governor Blagojevich decided to reiterate his pledge not to raise the state's 3% income tax.

Fortunately, the 37 Senate Democrats need not consider the Governor's veto as relevant to their consensus.

And very fortunately, some of the bright freshmen Senators campaigned on raising the income tax (and providing property tax relief).

(As a quick digression, the freshman class of Democratic Senators will likely be considered a major 'impact' class. Michael Frerichs, Michael Bond, Dan Kotowski and Michael Noland will be policy-oriented legislators who will have an immediate impact on crafting progressive policy. I haven't met Linda Holmes, but I've heard very good things about her too. And on another digression, Michael Bond and his campaign staff should be giving lessons on how to run a field operation -- it was the most sophisticated campaign I've ever seen).

Of course, many Republican Senators have long understood the need to raise the state income tax and (more importantly to their constituents) cut the local property tax. The potential defection of a handful of Democratic Senators who might calculate their districts won't support a 5% state income tax can and should be made up by Republican Senators, particularly representing poorer rural districts, to withstand an expected veto.

And keep in mind: 10% of voters last week cast their votes for a candidate who explicitly called for a 5% income tax. That's extraordinary. That's about as close to a mandate as a tax increase can ever get. And that means that the potential blowback is likely rather low (at least in those districts, like Senator Syverson's and Senator Luechtefeld's where Rich Whitney earned around 25% of the vote. 25%!).

Put another way, 60% of voters supported a left or center-left candidate.

If there was ever a time for a 5% state income tax, 2007 is it.

And while the dynamics of the House may not have changed significantly, the Speaker and I'd venture a majority of the House Democratic caucus have expressed support for a tax swap. The House did pass a tax swap bill out in the late 90s only to suffocate from Pate Philip's Senate opposition.

There's still quite a bit of consensus-building to do: what accountability reforms need to be included with the billions in new spending, what tax cuts (either property or low-income) need to be included and what group of legislators can take the lead on crafting this consensus are all unanswered questions. But the future for poor Illinois children has not been brighter in a long time -- so long as our legislators decide that they have the opportunity and responsibility to craft a legislative consensus around a 5% income tax. The Governor's leadership on progressive policy (such as with the indexed minimum wage hike) will be in different arenas.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Obama, Edwards to address union-backed Wake Up Wal-Mart

Senator Barack Obama must be seriously considering a 2008 presidential run. His fellow Democrat, former Senator John Edwards is generally assumed to running in 2008.

Tomorrow, both men will be playing up to the hard-left (remember them?) Democratic base by participating in a conference call with Wake Up Wal-Mart.

That group is a fully-funded project of the United Food & Commercial Workers. Wal-Mart's stores are non-union, but so are the stores of its chief competitor, Target.

Wake-Up Wal-Mart is headed by Paul Blank, the former national political director of Howard Dean's failed presidential campaign.

This past summer, Wake Up Wal-Mart organized a bus tour across the country to spread its anti-Wal-Mart message. At many of the stops, Democratic politicians attended rallies that accompanied the bus tour.

So it's hard to see where the United Food & Commercial Workers, Wake Up Wal-Mart, and the Democratic Party begin and end.

To comment on this post, please visit Marathon Pundit.

Related posts:
Deaniac Paul Blank says Wal-Mart "Has officially declared war on the Democratic Party"

Anti Wal-Mart bus tour in Chicago Saturday with Cong. Jan Schakowsky


Justice Thomas Wins Libel Suit

Robert Thomas, Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, may own a newspaper.

Or a chain of newspapers.

Or, maybe, the chain of newspapers that owns McHenry County's Northwest Herald has really good insurance.

McHenry County Blog has just been told by two reliable sources that the jury has given Thomas pretty much what he asked for.

$7 million in total.

$5 of the $7 million was for damages to reputation.

Thomas had sued for libel and under false light statutes claiming that Kane County Chronicle columnist Bill Page had falsely claimed he had worked a deal to lessen the penalty against Kane County State’s Attorney Meg Gorecki in return for political support for a judicial candidate.

Thomas won both the libel and false light counts.

And the jury ruled that the columns were published with actual malice.

The Northwest Herald is the most important of Shaw’s newspapers it has almost 39,000 circulation. The Kane County Chronicle has about 14,000 circulation.

Published first, of course, on McHenry County Blog.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Rough Week for Republicans

I'm writing today for three reasons:

1) I don't own a gun permit.

2) I ran out of sleeping pills.

3) You can't get an honest razor anymore - just those disposable things that will only scratch you up a bit.

What a night last Tuesday was! Fortunately, I've been there before. While I was still a teenager I was a volunteer coordinator for Congressman Bob McClory - in the election of 1974, the Watergate election. It got better from there - until last Tuesday.

I am deeply saddened that some great candidates got swept away in the tide that washed across the country, but not entirely surprised by the outcome. Throughout this cycle the book, Animal Farm, by George Orwell, kept running through my mind. A lot of our guys had become indistinguishable from the guys we replaced 12 years ago. The commercials by both national parties were an abomination. They were not just negative, not just melodramatic, but downright macabre - like a trailer for The Texas Chainsaw Massacres. It made me ashamed.

In 1996 Bob Dole, who had once been dubbed the 'tax collector for the welfare state' campaigned haplessly as a born-again tax cutter. It lacked credibility coming from him. This cycle many Republicans ran gamely on behalf of a fiscal restraint we have not exercised in about six years. When your actions don't match your rhetoric, it's hard to win.

I have always been suspect of the vaunted Republican turnout machine. Ideas and performance drive elections. Everything else is a side dish. That 'machine' was a myth created by Democrats to explain why their ideas lost previously. Republican operatives ate it up because it made them seem more important than the actual candidates and ideas. Well, we didn't have a turnout machine in '94, but we had ideas and principles that we gave more than lip service to.

I am equally contemptuous of the glib assumptions of some Republicans that we will take it all back in two years and of some Democrats that they will now rule for a generation. A good rule to live by is when you have just gotten clubbed like a baby seal, you're not as bad as you think you are - and when you've just scored a huge victory, you're not as good as you think. Events will intervene - and ideas and performance will carry the day in the long run. I'm also contemptuous of the critics among Republicans who want to shoot the wounded. Most such critics have not done anything positive of any great weight. They're usually part of the problem; not part of the answer.

It seems to me that three things carried this election. First, the culture of corruption attack found its mark. We Republicans sure don't look like the bold idealists we were a decade ago. On more mundane matters, our performance did not match our rhetoric - the profligate spending had more of an effect than just profligate spending: it called into question our entire credibility. Do we mean what we say or are we just another group that will say anything to win? And finally it was, indeed, a referendum on the war on terror.

On the former two items, we Republicans are very much in need of serious reform. We deserved the rebuke we got. The latter is a matter of principle, which I would not change a bit. If Nancy Pelosi turns out to be right that terrorism is not a war to be won, but a situation to be managed, the Democrats will govern for a long time. If terrorists are an implacable foe bent on world domination (as I believe) the Democrats tenure will be very short. But if Republicans expect to fill the vacuum that would ensue, we will have to be a lot more honorable, a lot more principled, a lot more visionary than we have been in recent years.

A part of me wished that, just this once, the phrase 'none of the above' would have been on the ballot. If it had, I suspect both Republicans and Democrats would have good cause to gnash their teeth.


Rahm Emanuel - Getting Less Respect from the Sun-Times

Did Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg know about Congressman Rahm Emanuel’s having given exclusive access to the Chicago Tribune before he wrote Monday’s column?

Tucked in his lead piece, entitled,

is this sentence:
And it turns out that the kid’s also been working the corridors of power in Washington, trying to win special favors for his mon, like a wee Latino Rahm Emanuel.
The story is about Saul Arellano’s being sent by his mother to lobby congressmen for a private bill to allow his mother to stay in the United States even though she has twice entered illegally. (This is the woman who holed up in a storefront Methodist Church run by a former leftwing street activist who graduated from an Ivy League college.)

Also posted at McHenry County Blog, where you can read my take on the Tribune's advice to the GOP.


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Lincoln Bicentennial Commission playing with Lincoln Logs

In the latest print edition of the National Review, author John J. Miller writes about the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth in 2009. A commission to commemorate the milestone was appointed about a decade ago, and Miller is not impressed with what the group has accomplished.

From his article:

"We're still in the early stages," admits Harold Holzer, a co-chairman of the commission along with Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Ray LaHood, both of Illinois. "We may be a bit behind schedule." Time is running out. The commission expects the Lincoln festivities to begin in February 2008--a little more than a year from now.

(I visited the Lincoln birthplace site in Kentucky last month, and was reminded about this by the staffers there.)

More from Miller:

The panel's fundamental problem is its composition, its 15 commissioners are appointed by the president or Congress. A few of the lend the body some gravitas. Holzer is an impresario among Lincoln enthusiasts, Gabor Boritt is a prominent scholar, and Frank J. Williams is chief justice of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island and the author of well-regarded books on Lincoln. The rest are a mishmash of politicians, academics, and patronage appointees. Jean T. D. Bandler is a social worker whose claim to fame is that she is the daughter of Paul Douglas, who was a senator from Illinois in the 1950s and 1960s. Sen. Jim Bunning, the Kentucky Republican, holds a seat on the commission, but rarely attends its meetings.

Bunning is possibly the worst Republican senator in Congress.

Let's take a look at some of the other commission members.

Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr.--Why was he appointed to the commission? Anyone? I guess for the same reason Durbin, Bunning, and LaHood were. Lura Lynn Ryan: Yes, the wife of the soon to be imprisoned former governor of Illinois. I know why she was appointed, George insisted on it. Julie Cellini: Her husband is Bill Cellini, a bi-partisan piggish feeder at the trough of Illinois government.

Yes, I'm aware Mrs. Cellini is the on the board of directors of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, and that Mrs. Ryan is the former president of the museum's foundation, but no sober-minded person can possibly believe that they got those positions without consideration of who their spouses were.

Last words from Miller:

The money isn't exactly rolling in. The commission refuses to say publicly how much cash it has raised, but as of several months ago, it had not even reached six-figure territory, let alone millions or tens of millions of dollars. "If you have an imagination deficit, a financial deficit will follow," says a source familiar with the commission's workings.

February 6, 2011 will mark the centennial of Ronald Reagan's birth. As far as I know there isn't yet a commission appointed to celebrate the Reagan centennial. I'm sure something will come to pass--and if it does, it will go well. Nancy Reagan won't tolerate a failure.

To comment on this post, please visit Marathon Pundit.


Blue's Anatomy

While still coming out of a post-election haze and getting prepared for veto session, I wanted to attempt to briefly distill a couple of thoughts on the election.

First the big picture - Illinois and the rest of the country have never looked more blue. And while there is no doubt that the war played a large factor in the equation, I think that the result smacks of a more fundamental happening as well.

For a number of years now, I have been on the State Legislative Advisory Board of the Democratic Legislative Council, which is essentially the nesting place for centrist Democrats. I have aligned myself with the DLC because I believe that they are spot on in recognizing that the majority of our population resides in the ideological center and not on the respective fringes. I think that this election has ratified that belief.

For a number of years now, the Republican Party had been very effective in appealing to the centrist nature of many Americans, and the results were evident. But lately, for myriad reasons, the R's have been drifting to the right, and in so doing, they have left a void in the center. This has been especially evident in Illinois where moderate Republicans find themselves vilified, and abandoned, by their more conservative brethren.

This year, the Democratic party, under the national direction of my Congressman, Rahm Emanuel, acted decisively to seize this middle ground, on issues ranging from social policy to immigration to national security, and in so doing, made unprecedented gains. Locally, Illinois is bluer (sp?) than it has been in seventy years.

(On an aside, Rahm's efforts resulted in one of the funnier opening sentences I have ever seen in a political story:
Democrats across the country owe a big chunk of their new electoral success to a nine-fingered, ballet-dancing inspiration for a “West Wing” character with a reputation as a jerk.
Although technically, it's nine and one-half.)

I think that voters are becoming less likely to blindly follow party labels, and will increasingly support those candidates who espouse a message that resonates with them. This independence can be readily witnessed the ward where I live on the north side of Chicago where the results were all over the place. The results for some of the races are as follows:

L. Madigan 83%
Fritchey 80%
Blagojevich 59%
Stroger 46%

Now this ward had essentially no field operation in this election cycle, so I think that it provides a relatively objective view into the mindset of local voters. In the past, it would have been unheard of to see this much variance in party support, let alone a Republican carrying a major race like County Board President. These results show that at least for the near future, the rules of engagement have changed, with neither party being able to take any voting bloc for granted.

What remains to be seen is if the Democratic party will be mindful enough of the source of their fortunes to navigate a path that may not be as far left as some in the party may like. At the same time, it will be interesting to watch if the local Republican party recognizes the futility in trying to force an overly dogmatic approach onto a common-sense, mainstream electorate.

In both Washington and Springfield, the actions over the next six months could well chart the future for years to come.

UPDATE - I uncharacteristically didn't get to the Sunday papers until just now. Rick Pearson and John Chase have a very good article on the very subject of the Illinois Republican Party potential search for the center.

To read, or post, comments, visit Open House


Why Judy Baar Topinka Lost

This is in response to the Alan Keyes vs. Judy Baar Topinka numbers post below. I started to write this as a comment, but it became quite long so I thought better of it. Also, I think that these numbers are very telling of "what went wrong with Judy" and can spark a constructive conversation.

The only thing that the Keyes vote can ever tell me (as a political organizer) is the number of hardcore Republican or conservative voters in any given area. In other words, the folks who would rather not vote than vote for a Democrat. There's really not many other reasons why people would have voted for Keyes. Sure, you'll have a few people who may have voted for him for other reasons (such as a friend's recommendation or a personal connection), but those numbers are insignificant. My first question to myself upon speaking with a Democratic candidate in an area outside of Chicago is "What's the Keyes vote?". Pretty useful. Thanks for that, A.K.

The big difference between Keyes and Topinka is that Keyes was as conservative and religious as they come, while Topinka was quite moderate, especially on the wedge issues. While Keyes was everything movement conservatives could hope for on the issues front (I'm sure they weren't happy about his wackiness), Topinka failed to shore up that base because she ran against the grain of conservative issues, mainly of the wedge variety (guns, God, gays). I would be willing to bet that you'll find a larger amount of Stufflebeam write-in and Whitney "right to carry" voters in the Keyes voter base areas.

Rule number one in campaigns is to shore up your base first. The question then comes up as to who Topinka's base really was and how they worked to support her. We know it wasn't the Keyes voters or the hard D voters, so those can be immediately eliminated from the equation. The trouble for Judy was that these bases tend to be more politically involved, experienced and motivated. They are the people that are far more likely to act as evangelists on behalf of their preferred candidates. They are the people that influence the "5 minutes a week of thinking about politics" voters. They will likely log many unpaid hours knocking on doors and making calls. Topinka did not appeal to either of them.

So now we are left with the elusive "middle voter" base, which is really not a base at all. This is a generic term for a large group of voters that do not fit neatly into a little box and are motivated by a wide variety of issues. They are actually a huge number of very specific subgroups. It is difficult to get a handle on these people and "shore them up" because they are incredibly diverse. A campaign would need to shore up each of the specific subgroups without ticking off the others in order to do that, which is difficult to do within the timeframe of a campaign. We all know that campaigns have three very limited resources (time, people, and money) and these resources can be depleted in no time trying to get a handle on "the middle".

Add to this the fact that "middle voters" tend to care much less about the political process, a campaign then has the feat of trying to get these people to listen and actually care about what the candidate has to offer. And should the campaign actually manage to do this, the likelihood is slim that these people would act as evangelists and advance the campaign. The whole process of working on the middle and not at least throwing bones to each of the hard bases is altogether inefficient as a strategy to win.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that ALL voters, especially the middle, tend to vote for people they like and identify with as a person. So, the fact that Judy is who she is didn't work well to create a broad base of support. What may have worked for Judy to shore up a good-sized chunk of the "middle vote" would have been if she was...not Judy! Her funky look with the lime green suits, flaming red hair, and heavy makeup was essentially out of the mainstream. And the average person would never dream of saying things about someone like "he has slick, beady eyes" in public. Changing her image never would have worked as she has been in the public eye for a long time. If she had, it would have been seen as disingenuous and would have worked against her.

Judy lost for a variety of reasons, but mainly because she tried to appeal to the middle (when she herself was not part of the middle) and because she wrote off the conservative base. If she had thrown a bone to the conservative base, perhaps relying on the ultra-conservative Birkett to do it, she may have won.

My two cents. Please discuss.


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