Spring is supposed to be time for decluttering your closets. Me, I'm de-cluttering my politics. Mainly by boiling it down to asking candidates, "Whose side are you on?"
Yes, there are other questions. Are you a force for real reform, or a go-along-get-along with the rigged political structure? Will your policies lead to a more equal society or a more unequal one? Do you work for short-term fixes or long-term solutions? Are you fighting the growing surveillance state, or silent while we slide towards 1984? Are you down with war, or doing real work for peace? Will you fight to stave off environmental disaster, or will you be just more political dead weight as crises loom?
But, mainly - coursing through all of the above -- for whom will you govern? In tough fights, will you stand with those who speak truth to power? Whose side are you on?
In the Chicago mayor's race, hard decisions are coming down the pike. Taxes will need hiking no matter who wins. So fairness is paramount.
An Ethernet cable. Carrie Underwood's career. What Derrick Rose does to people at the top of the key. That Nissan with the really stupid commercials. They're all crossovers. And the next big crossover is coming our way.
They'll go by a lot of different names. You can call them Grand Old Party Crashers, or One Trick Pachyderms, or maybe just Those Meddling, Conniving Democrats.
They're the Elephants for a Day. And they're diabolically plotting to pull Republican primary ballots this March even though they're not really Republicans.
The argument over gun control is not, as some want to frame it, primarily partisan, let alone a battle between those opposed to violence and those OK with it. It's as much a geographic and cultural divide as anything else. Understanding the different perspectives stemming from the very different homicide rates in very different areas is key to overcoming simplistic sloganeering or unfounded assumptions, and is critical to basing policy on evidence. Consider Chicago and Iowa, for starters.
State Rep. Derrick Smith is projected to win his bid for re-election over his challenger Lance Tyson.
To an outsider, that may seem like a banal statement to read in the last month or so of campaign season. To a Chicagoan, it's just another strange moment in the history of our patented style of politics, considering that Smith has been expelled from the Illinois General Assembly and he's under federal indictment for alleged bribery. Nonetheless, the Sun-Times's Dave McKinney reports that he has a lead of 48 percent to 9 percent in one election poll. Should he win, this race may have one of the most maddening election outcomes since John Ashcroft lost his 2000 race to retain his senate seat to a deceased Mel Carnahan. McKinney points out that Smith's affiliation with the Democratic Party alone (in a race with no other Democrats, and one independent) might explain his extremely high polling numbers. Yet, his poll numbers almost defy logic for a candidate that comes loaded with considerable doubts to their ability to govern ethically.
Of course, Rep. Smith has yet to be convicted. Regardless of political affiliation, the United States law assumes all people are innocent until proven guilty in court. He will have an opportunity to defend himself. But until then, voters are left only with the realities of the court of public opinion. We know that he has been accused of bribery, and expelled from the Illinois Capitol. This is more than enough to give voters hesitation. The Feds don't typically arrest public officials on a whim -- see Ryan comma George or Blagojevich comma Rod for further. Rather than guide our decisions at the polls by the party we affiliate ourselves with, shouldn't we first and foremost consider the integrity of the candidate? Do we really want to elect someone who may end up in jail? In Illinois, where we are weary -- almost numb to corruption, shouldn't that be one of the most important questions we ask of candidates before we vote for them?
Similarly, don't Democratic leaders have a responsibility to preserve the integrity of their party, and demand honest leadership from their peers? Rallying to protect a seat in the general assembly for someone who eventually may be legally ineligible to sit in it has tremendous potential for backfire -- particularly in the state of Illinois where we have a bit of a corruption problem. We're not likely to solve voter apathy until our faith in government is restored. That isn't easy when we often find the people we elect on the other side of the law, and we see so few leaders taking a stand against corruption.
The outcome of this race may have more implications for Illinois politics than we think.
Guzzardi, a former journalist, did not concede the race on March 20. At that moment he was only down by 72 votes and a precinct had yet to be counted. Currently, Guzzardi only trails Berrios by 125 votes, or 1.6 percent of the vote.
In a press release, Guzzardi said, "We are committed to ensuring that every single vote is counted accurately. At the end of the recount process, we may have won, or we may fall short. But we owe it to the people of this district who showed up to vote to make sure their voices are fully heard."
According to the press release, Guzzardi's campaign received reports of "possible indiscretion or inconsistencies at polling places on Election Day and during early voting."
In a phone interview, Guzzardi said that the main reason for the recount was to follow-up on the reports made to his campaign.
If Guzzardi still has fewer votes than Berrios, the campaign will "Look at our options from there," according to Guzzardi.
The precinct captains, who had been preparing for election day for weeks, arrived at headquarters at 5:30am. A box of Dunkin Donuts, a campaign staple for liberals and conservatives, incumbents and challengers alike, was already waiting. Polls would open at 6 and not close for 13 hours; the day ahead would be long. Each captain was given a stack of door hangers, a list of addresses and a few volunteers while coffee brewed. The sole goal was to find as voters who had said they would support Will Guzzardi for state representative and ensure that they went to the polls.
To have informed the group of people assembled at Guzzardi headquarters that morning that voter turnout in the 39th District would be a record low this year would not have disheartened them. A low turnout rate could actually have been in their favor, because it meant that the machine operation of incumbent State Rep. Toni Berrios and her father Cook County Democratic Party chairman Joe Berrios, was underperforming.
Tellingly, it was not with voters on the street who campaign workers had the most fraught interactions last Tuesday, but with election judges at the polls. From reluctantly reported voter lists to lost tape to delayed results, many of the individuals who were voting and campaigning in the 39th district last Tuesday pointed to gross mismanagement on behalf of the Board of Elections. This claim made the final count, with Berrios leading Guzzardi by 111 votes, suspect to a number of Guzzardi supporters. The slim margin is frustrating to volunteers, some of whom have found it difficult not to want to find a connection between the strangely unprofessional behavior of the election judges and a loss that was just too close.
My disdain for primary elections comes from living in Iowa. After turning 18 and moving back to Iowa--I had been living in Chicago on my 18th birthday--I obtained a new driver's license and registered as an independent. June arrived and I drove over to the University of Northern Iowa bookstore to vote.
I was asked if I wanted a Republican or a Democratic ballot.
There was a problem with this: There were some Republican candidates I wanted to vote for due to their stance on multiple issues and some Democratic candidates I wanted to vote for. Flummoxed, I said "Democratic" and voted with a party I did not belong to.
South Side Chicago and the southern suburbs could be the battle ground for a Democratic heavyweight battle come next March. Former Congressional Representative Debbie Halvorson filed paperwork to explore a potential matchup in the second congressional district with Jesse Jackson Jr.
Governor Quinn, who cut a concession deal with AFSCME shortly before getting their endorsement, has since the election turned around and decided that due to budgetary reasons, the union's members should not get the raises specified in their contract.
It seems to me that in many ways, going back on a union contract with a union that endorsed you and worked hard to get you elected in a close election would be worse than having a governor who you knew was going after you from the start.
Suffice to say, AFSCME does not seem real happy about all this and I got to talk to AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Henry Bayer about Governor Quinn's move and next steps.
America, since even before its birth as a nation, has been defined as a place for seekers; a home where a variety of peoples, values, and aspirations can belong. Defining citizenship is part of defining America. Rather than melting into the national identity, each group of seekers has struggled their way past gatekeepers vigilantly guarding their own vision, interests and identity.
Carving out a place and claiming the rights that come with it is a political fight between those who stand on either side of the doorway to America. Who belongs? Who gets in? Who stays out? Who decides?
"Profanely." In a word, that is how Joshua Hoyt intends to address an announcement from Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn's office that services to immigrants will be cut by up to 74 percent in the proposed budget. Hoyt, as Director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), has a meeting with Quinn's senior staff and he intends to be direct.
There's a silver lining in the 2010 election for Illinois Democrats. Even though Republicans won a number of congressional seats here like virtually everywhere else, as Roll Call's Tricia Miller notes, on the state legislative level Democrats did just fine. Because the state legislature is in the hands of the Democrats and Illinois is expected to lose a congressional seat after the next census, Democrats will redistrict the state to their advantage.That means that when redistricting time comes around Illinois is more likely to push out a Republican congressman since it's the state legislature that handles redistricting, not the U.S. House of Representatives.
This is how redistricting is done. Miller reports that state Sen. Kwame Raoul doesn't plan on making redistricting this time around a partisan affair but don't be surprised if the "transparent" thing to do just happens to be the thing that helps Democrats. Miller writes:
Raoul, who represents a strip of Chicago's lakefront, chairs the Senate Redistricting Committee and will likely retain that job in the next legislative session.
"Having won both chambers and the governor's race, we could say, 'Oh well, to hell with transparency' and so forth, but that's not what we're doing," he said. "That's not what we were elected to do."
Efforts were made in 2010 to change Illinois' redistricting process, but they fell short. Both [Democrats] (http://www.senatedem.ilga.gov/index.php/sen-raoul-home/909-citizens-first-amendment-will-provide-significant-redistricting-reform) and [Republicans] (http://www.ilfairmap.com/) offered variations on creating an independent commission to draw the lines, subject to the state Legislature's approval. The concept stalled over disagreements about how to form the commission and who should be on it, among other problems.
Nonetheless, Raoul said his committee would do its best to respect the spirit of that conversation, even as it continues to push for changes to the process in future rounds of redistricting.
I think all this is an underappreciated aspect about elections. A lot of people pay attention to how many seats each party gets but just as important are the outcome of state legislature elections which are also an important factor in deciding how many seats each party gets. So with the 2010 elections, things weren't all bad for Illinois Democrats, just mostly.
As you may have heard, some people (but probably not very many) are going to be voting on some stuff tomorrow. It's been a wild campaign season locally and nationally, and both will probably see some shakeups. But unlike the fights for governor or senator, there's one tight race that isn't between a Republican and a Democrat and most Chicagoans (particularly those outside of the Northwest Side) know little about: the fight for state representative in the 39th district.
State rep races usually fly well below the media's radar, overshadowed by races for higher offices. This year has been no exception: much attention has been paid to Quinn vs. Brady and Kirk vs. Giannoulias. But the fight in the 39th district between eight-year incumbent Democrat Toni Berrios and insurgent Green Party candidate Jeremy Karpen should be worth watching tomorrow. While the winner will not be the most powerful politician in Illinois, an incumbent loss would result in the only Green Party politician in any state house in the country.
Two sons of Irish immigrants, mutual childhood friends from the old neighborhood, are in a close, nasty fight for a state Senate seat on Chicago's Far Northwest Side.
John Mulroe (next to the young woman) at a party in the North Austin neighborhood in 1979. Photo courtesy of Brendan Egan
Like me, both Brian Doherty - for the past 19 years the city's sole Republican alderman--and his foe in the November 2 election, John Mulroe--appointed to the seat in August after a long-serving fellow Democrat resigned from it--graduated from St. Angela School, in the North Austin neighborhood on the West Side. I am SAS '74, Mulroe is '73 and Doherty, '71.
Neither candidate for 10th District senator--Doherty, 53, a standout amateur boxer as a young man, who started in politics as a volunteer to a Northwest Side state representative 30 years ago; Mulroe, 51, a mild-mannered but tough and tenacious accountant-turned-lawyer, who is a relative political neophyte--is pulling many punches in the bout, which has been heavily financed by both party organizations.
Both candidates, like me, are from big Irish Catholic families.
Mulroe was the third of five children, all boys. The family, like mine, lived for several years in a two-bedroom apartment in a two-flat with relatives occupying the other flat, near tiny Galewood Park, a North Austin neighborhood hangout for countless youths, including me and several of my nine siblings.
Mulroe's father, a longtime laborer with Peoples Gas, often carted a gang of us kids in his station wagon to various sporting events.
On the campaign trail, Mulroe often recounts how he began his work career at age 13 as a janitor's assistant at St. Patrick High School, an all-boys Belmont Avenue institution, where I was a year behind him, just as I had been at SAS, where he later was a director of the St. Angela Education Foundation.
In the 1980s, while Mulroe was working days at Arthur Anderson as an accountant, he attended Loyola University law school at night. Then he served as a Cook County prosecutor for six years before, in 1995, opening a small, general legal practice in an office that is a block from Doherty's aldermanic office, down Northwest Highway in the Edison Park neighborhood, where the senator and his wife, Margaret, live with their two sons and two daughters.
Similarly, Doherty, the third of nine children, was a presence in my youth. My father, the late Jack Jordan (SAS '38), St. Angela's longtime volunteer athletic director, became close to the future alderman while working as a manager for the Chicago Park District boxing program.
At the time, the future alderman was in the midst of his amateur boxing career, in which I remember seeing the slim Doherty out-pound heavier boxers on his way to a 19-2 record and Park District and Golden Gloves championships.
Democrats rallied on the Midway Plaisance in Hyde Park on Saturday evening for the "Moving America Forward Rally with President Barack Obama." The estimated 35,000 attendees heard performances by Chicago rockers Dot Dot Dot and hip-hop artist Common, as well as speeches by a variety of officials and citizens, including Mayor Richard M. Daley, Senator Richard Durbin, State Treasurer and US Senate Candidate Alexi Giannoulias, Governor Pat Quinn, Alderman and Cook County President Candidate Toni Preckwinkle and -- of course -- President Barack Obama.
A photo essay of the event by David Schalliol is below.
Political movements don't happen overnight. Changing a political structure, especially one so entrenched in its own power as the Chicago machine, requires organization, patience, and an ability to focus on the long view. But since Mayor Daley announced that he won't be seeking another term, community organizers across the city have seen the window to mounting an effort towards overhaul crack open after years of being nailed shut. And in this context, one name has been on everyone's tongue--Harold Washington.
For many, the former Chicago mayor who tragically died in office represents a myriad things, from progressive politics to community activism to grassroots politics. What gets lost in the nostalgia, according to Harish Patel, are the long years of organization that went into Washington's successful campaign.
I can't believe how much is ink is being spilled over the race for Cook County Assessor. While the Assessor can be an important advocate and has some policy-making flexibility, it is essentially an administrative office. Actually, maybe I can believe the ink being spilled since nowadays it's not very much ink. Maybe we need to update that cliche. I can't believe how many 1s and 0s are being coded? Too nerdy. I don't know, I'll work on that and get back to you.
Here's a modest prediction regarding that election anyway: Forrest Claypool, the independent politics darling who took on John Stroger in 2006, will make the ballot despite the onerous 25,000 signature requirement. Claypool has gathered a sufficient quantity, and, oddly enough, Scott Lee Cohen may help ensure his signatures survive.
How does bad-premise-screwball-comedy Scott Lee Cohen play into this? His oddball pursuit of an independent run for the governor's office may bring enough additional media attention to the process in the beginning to allow the Claypool people to hype any signature-challenge chicanery (or perceived chicanery) early on. The Berrios campaign is actually at a kind of disadvantage--even following the letter of the law, by challenging signatures, they may look petty or, worse, fearful of a campaign against Claypool, which will only add to his esteem among independent voters (it probably won't help that Joe Berrios is the chair of the county party). While we should probably expect Berrios' campaign to be aggressive, the public attention on the process could give Claypool a significant boost that may not be worth the electoral repercussions should he survive the challenge.
Immigration activists wave American flags at a recent rally.
Immigration rights activists held a large rally Saturday at the Teamsters Local 705 hall in Chicago. Activists were calling on Congress to act on comprehensive immigration reform, and hoped that with the health care bill passed, that immigration reform would be next on the Democrats agenda in Washington. The loud and raucous crowd had immigrants from all over the world including South America, Asian, Africa and Europe.
It seems that immigration will be the next big issue for Democrats. The rally was joined by Senator Dick Durbin, the Senate majority whip and the second most powerful senator in the country. While one speaker urged Congress to ignore "cynics like Rahm Emanual who say that now is not the time for immigration reform," it seems as though they may not have to as Emanual is now stating that he supports taking action on immigration reform sooner rather than later.
Former County Board Commissioner Forrest Claypool has announced he'll take on County Democratic Party Chairman and Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios. Claypool in announcing his independent candidacy called Berrios a "clear threat" to Cook County taxpayers. That strikes a similar tone to his slogan when he ran for the Board Presidency in 2006, "It's YOUR Money, Vote Like It". Claypool's 2006 voters provided a base for Toni Preckwinkle's 2010 primary victory; good government Lakefront and suburban voters whose primary interaction with County government is to pay it. Preckwinkle's resounding primary victory may have provided a template for Claypool's path to an independent victory.
Still, going outside the Democratic Primary process is a cardinal sin in local politics. Taking on the Party Chairman is even more of an affront to party discipline, and making the Assessor's office an organizing focus for the good government wing of the party--as against the traditional Machine Lite elements--must be particularly galling for the party faithful. This is because party-connected attorneys have long made property tax appeals a lucrative revenue source.
If Claypool can get on the ballot, watch him gobble up the Preckwinkle voters--whether that will be enough to overcome Berrios' party line advantage is impossible to predict, but it could exacerbate a rift in the Machine Lite ruling coalition. Mayor Daley and the county party rely on a truce with the "Lakefront Liberal" good government groups on major issues; Claypool candidacy could force a public break between the party and independent organizations that would rub raw some sores.
Keep in mind that getting on the ballot is no sure thing--Claypool will need 25,000 valid signatures, and none of his petition-passers can have passed petitions during the primary. And with the Party apparatus behind him, Berrios will surely be scouring the petitions for technically invalid signatures.
On March 9, the same day that activists rallied in Washington DC to demand health care reform by making 'citizens arrests' of insurance company CEO's, a forum at the University of Illinois in Chicago School of Medicine showed the debates in the Left about whether or not the bills being proposed and voted on by Congress are worth being called reform.
While it was not billed as a debate, opinions about the bill came out. The big issue seems to be whether or not the health care bills in Congress would be an incremental step towards a universal single payer system (medicare for all), or simply a bailout for insurance companies.
Dr. Scheiner is one of the few doctors in the Chicago area who still does house visits and is a member of Physicians for a National Health Program. Scheiner simply stated, "I last saw [Obama] last 2 ½ years ago. Since that time, over a hundred thousand Americans have died due to lack of health insurance."
Dr. Schiener was deeply critical of the right wing and the present health care system, "one of the things you hear Republicans saying, 'you don't want government between you and your patient.' Medicare has never interfered with me... you can't get around the insurance companies. They're sitting in my room, the insurance representative is there telling me what tests I can get, what doctors I can send them to, what prescriptions I can give."
Republicans often criticize Illinois Democrats for running a patronage army of loyal state employees. However this website is encouraging loyal republicans to be given state jobs as well.
Of course new administrations are able to appoint people to implement their vision for the state, to implement the policies that they campaigned on and were elected to enact. What is odd about this website is its tone, a confidence that the GOP will win Springfield back, and a gleeful lust for 6 figure jobs. In particular the site exhibits a tendency towards the corrupt and a disdain for "the awshucks-we're-sorry-for-having-principles-types."
When you click on the Jobs List, it lists different state departments that the Governor is able to appoint heads of. What is disturbing is the partisan descriptions for the jobs. Is the head of the Historic Preservation Society a partisan position?
The site implies that Republicans would only be interested in jobs enforcing Human Rights because, "Check out the pay scale here!"
It describes Homeland Security as "the new patronage place to be." A scary thought that our security and safety be entrusted to partisan hacks instead of trained and specialized experts.
It describes positions on the Illinois Gaming Board as though it were a casino, "Great spot to meet people and make money, come to work every once and a while, too!"
In what should be a scary comment to organized labor, the site claims that the GOP will, "rebuild [the Department of Labor] and remake it so that it is more efficient. Get on board and help."
The site is run by a woman named Jenifer Sims. It is unclear if she has any connections to the Brady campaign, the state GOP, or if she is just a crank writer. Attempts to gain quotes from the Brady for Governor campaign and the Tea Party Patriots were made. Neither gave any quotes.
In case you haven't noticed yet, you can now submit your resume to be considered by the Illinois State Democratic Central Committee to be slated and become the nominee for Lt. Governor. You can find detailed instructions at http://www.ildems.com/ltgovnominees.htm
Perhaps more entertaining than applying yourself, is sorting through the resumes and applications of those who think that they can achieve what Scott Lee Cohen could not. Over 40 applications have been submitted so far and are posted on the Illinois state Democrats website. What seems to jump out to me is that many of these candidates, with little experience with elected office, seem to think they can play in the big leagues without going to training camp.
Because, for one thing, the lieutenant governor in Illinois has virtually no power outside waiting for the governor to be in a position not to be governor anymore.
The Lieutenant Governor shall perform the duties and exercise the powers in the Executive Branch that may be delegated to him by the Governor and that may be prescribed by law.
That's it in terms of explicit duties.
So how do I have more power than the Lt. Governor?
In the Democratic party, the voters elect the folks who will serve as state central committeemen and committeewomen (the elect one of each gender from each congressional district). These are the folks who will decide who is going to replace Scott Lee Cohen as the Lt. Governor candidate.
On the Republican side, however, the central committee members are elected using a weighted vote of the elected precinct committeemen within the congressional district based off of the number of Republican ballots cast in the last primary in that precinct. So therefore I have about 50 votes to decide who will be elected one of these committeemen. This is the same group that decided that Alan Keyes for Senate was a good idea...
There is a move afoot to change the process on the Republican side (SB 500), but for now it is what it is.
So thanks to the rules of the Republican party, I have more power than the Lieutenant Governor.
Getting on the ballot should be easy. There are some regulations that make sense, but they should be stripped to their bare minimum: a small number of verified signatures and residency. The voters are perfectly capable of rooting out the losers and fringe candidates in the ballot booth. There's no argument against the loosest possible ballot access regulations that can't be answered by the fact of voting itself. Restricting access to the ballots is among the most effective tools of incumbents to protect their incumbency, and for political parties to protect their dynasties. There's no excuse for increasing restrictions.
So why are some Chicago Democrats trying to make those regulations more burdensome?
We recently stumbled across a bill (HB6000) introduced by State Rep. Joe Lyons (D-Chicago) that would make it a whole lot harder for new candidates to get on ballots in 2011. Lyons is attempting to bump up the number of required signatures on nominating petitions in Chicago elections to 500. Compared the current requirement -- a mere 2 percent of the votes cast in the ward during the preceding election year -- enacting the measure would raise the threshold in every ward. In some, the increase would be dramatic; last election cycle, for example, a 22nd Ward candidate only needed 87 names.
Tammy Duckworth, an assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, said today she was removing herself from consideration to be the Democratic nominee for Illinois lieutenant governor.
I made a commitment to President Obama and our nation's veterans to serve at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and I want to fulfill my promise before returning home," she said in a statement. "As an Illinoisan, I'm proud to continue to serve in the Illinois Army National Guard and I know that real work lies ahead as the state recovers economically."
Quinn said he met with Duckworth when he was in Washington last weekend for National Governors Association meetings and that she called him this morning to say she was staying put.
"I think it was an agonizing decision for her," Quinn said.
Was this a smart move on her part? Would there have been any controversy by not choosing any of the other candidates from the Feb. 2nd Primary, namely the man who came in second place State Rep. Art Turner?
BTW, the state's Democratic leadership will meet March 15 to decide the new lieutenant governor nominee for November.
On February 16, 2010, about 150 people attended a rally outside the Chicago offices of the death panel Aetna. While Aetna claims to be a health insurance company, the statistics tells a different and morbid tale.
The rally was organized by Health Care for America Now!, a project of Citizen Action Illinois, to publicize their report "Health Insurers Break Profit Records as 2.7 Million Americans lose coverage." The report publicized that the combined profit of the top 5 health insurance companies was up 56% to $12.2 billion in 2009. The companies were able to make such a sickening profit by literally allowing their paying customers to become sick. They dumped paying customers who became a liability, and denied coverage to those who apply. This ended up growing the number of people on public assistance and those without any coverage. The report claims that "people without health insurance coverage are more likely to delay care, to get less care, and to die when they fall ill."
The report cites one study which claims that 52 million Americans will be without coverage in 2010. That is 1/6th of the United States, with no realistic way to afford health care.
On Jan. 22, William Kuntsler: Disturbing the Universe, a documentary about the legendary left-wing lawyer, premiered to a sold out crowd at the Siskel Film Center in Chicago. Directed by William Kuntsler's daughters Emily and Sarah Kuntsler, the film looks at the life and cases of one of America's most controversial lawyers.
William Kuntsler fathered Sarah and Emily late in life, and when he died, they were still young, so the movie became a way for them to know their father in a more adult way. It became a way for them to shed the simple childlike images of their father, and come to know him in a complex way.
The sold out Chicago premiere was hosted by the Next Gen, the young lawyers group of the Chicago chapter of the radical National Lawyers Guild. The theater was filled with activists, lawyers and law students. The amazing thing about the showing was how many people in the crowd had met or knew William Kuntsler.
National Lawyers Guild Next Gen members Sarah Gelsomino and Robert Luderman at the Chicago premiere of Disturbing the Universe.
I'm not entirely sure how I should feel after Tuesday's elections. Over a year of work on behalf of Rudy Lozano's state legislative campaign culminated in the single most bizarre Election Day I've ever experienced. Being there, at the Strohacker Park Field House at 4am on that snowy Tuesday morning was just the latest in a long list of "being there" days. Being there meant endless meetings plotting strategy, developing platforms, and setting up committees and what not to get the petition drive going. Being there meant the thrill of hearing words I wrote delivered in front of over 300 volunteers and supporters at Little Village High School on a warm August evening. Being there that day also meant having to go to the bathroom for 2 hours while collecting signatures and singing every Billy Idol song I knew waiting for the light at 25th and Pulaski to turn green before I wet myself. Being there meant days when we had big groups of volunteers knocking on doors for signatures and nights when it was just me, my 6 month old in a Baby Bjorn and Manny walking around Archer Heights. It was about late nights updating databases, running over to the Chicago Board elections for data CDs and ultimately, serving as a precinct captain on Election Day.
As most folks are likely now aware there are a host of allegations surounding the Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor...
Just a bit from the Trib
Cohen did not deny choking his wife, as she alleged in the divorce, but said he had no recollection of it, and it actually took place before they were married.
His ex-wife, Debra York-Cohen, was with him today and said she stood by the allegations in the divorce but said his philandering and volatile behavior took place during a brief period time when he was using steroids. The allegations included him frightening their four children and threatening her verbally and physically.
His response to all of this and the calls to step down also from the Trib...
"I'm going to respond that my honesty and integrity in putting it out there is the best thing that could happen to the party,"
Yeah, the best thing that could happen for the Republican party. For the Democratic party the best thing that could happen is that you quickly go away.
I am a Republican but still, this is beyond messed up. This isn't embarrassing, it's sad. Perhaps this is a lesson on not having the primary so early or even having a Lt. Governor's office. But this is bad for everyone. Instead of people focusing on the state's budget issues (or even the closeness of the GOP Governor's race) folks are going to focus on the Lt. Governor candidate who seems to have come from a Springer episode.
I don't know what is worse (besides the things he allegedly did) , the idea that he thought this wouldn't be a big political s--- storm? That you may have been told by folks around you that this wasn't going to be a big deal and agreed with them? That you spent that kind of money to get the Lt. Governor nomination? You think this is somehow a positive for the Democratic ticket and the Democratic party?
Each of those in my mind show someone who isn't in touch with reality.
The `roid stuff, yeah that could have been a teary moment on the local news programs and you could have recovered from it.
But everything else? As Mike Flannery put it on the news on CBS 2 today..
First thing accept the fact that the gloves are totally and completely off now and you can't put them back on. It has gone in the words of CBS 2, nuclear.
The Washington ad is huge for Hynes, he has gotten free media off of the ad. Any rational ad that gets free media play is something you have to reply to and address.
Remember one of the lessons from the Kerry campaign, you can't let this stuff go. You have to hit back and hit back hard. Yes, it's the primary and you are all supposed to be loving Democrats and negative campaigning is bad, yadda, yadda, yadda...
Remember, you have to win the primary to make it to the general and at this point your only focus needs to be on winning the primary, it's a long time between Feb and November, wounds will heal, losing the primary lasts forever.
"They never thought of the children first," Lillie Gonzalez exclaimed to several hundred people's applause at Malcolm X college. The small, but feisty, Latino community activist was speaking at the Democratic Alternatives to Renaissance 2010 conference organized by the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) and the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) on January 9, 2010. Gonzalez was "one of the lucky ones," who was able to stop the closure of Peabody Elementary School in 2009 in Chicago's Near West Side. The planned closure of the more than a century old school was a part of Renaissance 2010, Chicago's program to privatize its public schools.
"Renaissance 2010 and 15 years of mayoral control are 15 years of failure." Explained Kenwood Community Organization organizer Jitu Brown. Describing the conference, Brown stated, "we want to begin to project what we think should happen in our schools... Our vision, not a corporate vision."
President Obama's appointment of Arnie Duncan to the Secretary of Education made the conference particularly important. "The first thing that Arnie Duncan did as US Secretary of Education is fly to Detroit and promise Detroit Public Schools major federal funds if they were to adopt the Chicago model," Pauline Lipman, a professor at the University of Illinois Chicago, explained.
Lipman pointed out that, "Renaissance 2010 is a partnership between Mayor Daley and the most powerful financial and corporate leaders in the city. What is their goal?" she asked before answering "to train a low wage workforce and to support real estate development. That's their education agenda. Their strategy is to hand public school to private operators, undermine the teachers union, phase out local school councils, the only democratic community voice we have, and replace neighborhood schools with selective enrollment schools and gentrifying neighborhoods."
"They have a long term plan. If they don't kick you off this year, they will pick you off next year." Lipman explained.
I've been waiting for someone to analyze what's common about Harry Reid's comments and Blagojevich's but none of my regular writers have seen the pattern like I have. Basically, both comments illustrate what some white politicians think a black person is. If you synthesize the comments, a black person is someone who is poor, "shine[s] shoes", and has a "negro dialect" (presumably meaning somewhat inarticulate). The real tragedy behind both of these comments is they betray a perception of what it is to be black.
The truth is, for these guys simply being black isn't enough to qualify as being black, one has to fit the stereotype. President Obama is exceptional and thus not black in the usual sense because he's not poor and articulates his words. But that would make a lot of black people (me included) not black. But I'm regularly classified as black. People I meet at first think I'm black. On most documents that others fill out for me, they check the black box. My mother is black. By Reid's or Blagojevich's definition though, I wouldn't qualify as black even though I am, by definition, black.
In short, what those comments show is that being a black person is not singly having black skin, it's matching a stereotype.
Crains' Greg Hinz covered a new website, Next Chicago Mayor, that calls whence the next local executive. There's much fun to be had in voting for Bill Murray to run for Mayor, but that the site is getting mainstream coverage is telling of the fatigue people are beginning to feel for the Mayor's brand of power politics. But is Richard M. Daley the problem? Would just replacing him at the ballot box really fix any long-term problems?
Richard M. Daley infuriates people. Frustration mounts: the Mayor's long tenure in office and the unwillingness of elected officials and high-profile institutional leadership to frontally challenge him makes his critics feel helpless. Helplessness contributes to anger, to the point it becomes irrational. That element of the so-called "anti-Daley crowd" allows the Mayor's supporters to color all opposition as unserious, jealous, or neophytic.
Mayor Daley is powerful, but he isn't the problem, and the focus on him makes true grassroots democracy difficult to build. He has with the help of a diverse group of institutions and organizations rebuilt the Machine, though it looks quite different from the classical city Machine associated with his father. It's Machine Lite, and it doesn't wholly fit any particular political ideology or specific set of interests. Nor is it a reflection of one individual's thirst for political power: undoubtedly, the Mayor and his allies perceive the current political system as the best--or only--way to govern a city with a painful history of racial turmoil and class warfare. When the Mayor gets flustered and denies he controls a "machine" he isn't being duplicitous, he honestly believes it. He is surrounded by powerful people from different racial and ethnic groups, business and labor interests, who willingly cooperate with him precisely because they see a benefit to the concentration of power in the Fifth Floor.
Earlier this month Congressman Luis Gutierrez introduced a comprehensive reform bill (with the too-cute-by-half acronym CIR ASAP, Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act) that would provide a meaningful path to legality and citizenship for millions of families working in the shadows of the economy.
The immigration issue is often shuffled into the "social issues" rubric of American politics, but it is essentially an economic issue. Enforcing a legal regime that keeps a huge number of people participating in the lower rungs of the economy outside of labor law protections has a profound ripple effect. It weakens the bargaining ability of other workers and on a basic level denies some pretty elemental human rights to a lot of people. Mass deportations is neither feasible nor moral; and big business would despair at any move like that, given how much so many industries (particularly light manufacturing, agriculture, and construction) rely on cheap immigrant labor.
What is clear is that the current system is wholly unsustainable. Horror stories of immigrant (and some citizen) treatment by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have bubbled to the surface over the last year; potentially illegal coordination between local governments and ICE have caused friction between law enforcement and immigrant communities. Last fiscal year, ICE gained the dubious distinction of becoming the largest detention system in the United States:
It was a no-brainer. Conservative GOP dinosaur Phil Crane was trending unpopular in the far north suburban Eight Congressional District, made up of parts of Cook and much of Lake Counties, up to the Wisconsin border. Crane's misfortunes telegraphed the strong "Blue" trend in Illinois. In 2002, he had barely faced down a spirited campaign by newcomer and Barringtonian Melissa Bean. In 2004, he was on the top of the DCCC's list as a potential Democratic get. A chance to unseat a longtime Republican in my home state? Of course I was going to volunteer my time.
Phil Crane with Lake County Young Republicans, 1997
Indeed, I traveled up to the campaign office--taking the CTA, Metra, Pace, and feet to Lake Zurich (I think)--and asked what I could do to help. Two young staffers chatted with me and gave me some volunteer work. I spent hours editing names and titles in a database. I offered to organize some Chicagoans to come up and canvass a few weekends closer to election day, coordinating with their field director. I even got a nice personal letter from the staff thanking me for my help.
I recently came across that letter, and felt that mix of shame and embarrassment that usually comes with finding an old overwrought love letter you never sent.
On top of that, and perhaps not too surprisingly, two Illinois congressmen came out last week endorsing Stroger's opposition. Rep. Danny Davis endorsed Brown, ahead in the polls at the moment, because he wants "to be with the one who's going to win." Rep. Gutierrez endorsed Preckwinkle, he reportedly said, because of her progressive values.
But let's back up a moment. The interesting thing here, I believe, is Rep. Davis's reason for endorsing Brown.
Well, it can vary by quite a bit within Illinois. Let's look at the top and the bottom of the list.
Bill Foster from Batavia is worth someplace between $6.6 and $28.8 Million. Foster was quoted in the Beacon News as saying "he'd prefer the reports offer more specifics to give a clearer picture of net worth. 'I'd be perfectly happy if they gave more detail,' he said."
Nothing is preventing you from doing that Congressman....
Then at the other end....
Bobby Rush, who lists no assets or liabilities and lists a net worth of $0.
Perhaps he should get some tips from Bill Foster. But seriously, should we be concerned that the Congressman lists no assets?
We got an email from Jonathan Goldman about his candidacy for state rep in the Democratic primary for the 10th district.
I suspect when the email was sent they didn't figure it would be the suburban Republican who would do the item on it. But he makes some points I would like to take a closer look at. You can find what was in the email here.
Work to put Illinois' fiscal house in order. "We need to get serious once and for all about fixing the State budget, rather than lurching from one fiscal crisis to another. We need to restructure our tax policies based on ability to pay and address our structural deficit so that we can pay our bills on time and fully fund our pension obligations," said Goldman.
So bottom line, who is going to pay more? Who is going to pay less? As for the pension system, do you think the current state pension system should be available to folks who go to work for the state three years from now?
In another powerful display of spinelessness towards the robber-barons of the US financial industry, Barney Frank and Timothy Geithner are at the forefront of weakening legislation aimed at finally setting some tough standards on lenders. It looks like Milton Friedman's ghost still haunts us, even in the actions of people that are supposed to be working for us. When will we wake up and realize that unregulated free market ideas should have been thrown in the garbage can of history long ago?
My favorite quote from this article: "We can't let the momentum for reform fade as the memory of the crisis recedes," states Geithner. Really, Mr. Geithner? If the crisis is fading, will this be another "jobless recovery", like in the 1990s? With millions of Americans still barely scraping by and with millions more without access to health care, this statement just shows how out of touch Obama and the Democratic Party is with working Americans.
Sun-Times reporter Abdon Pallasch has a beautifully written and deeply researched piece on the slating of Cook County Judges. The slating process--or "ballot management"--is a practice sacred to the County political bosses. The authority of slating is where they generate much of their political capital. Not only from the people they choose, but from the legions of people who serve the Party loyally in hopes of one day being slated--or of having a big enough name to get somebody else slated. Pallasch mentions a judge named William Haddad--Haddad's experiences gave me the idea to write the piece on ballot management I posted in 2004. It was an off the record conversation with Haddad about his endorsement by the Party that gave me some of the background ideas. That piece of course was based on casual hearsay conversations with various political hacks and precinct workers I would never call "journalism". Pallasch's piece refers to that 2004 Haddad campaign and really gets into how slating looks and works.
There is something to be said for this process--for all the horse-trading and political hackery involved, a society where the courts harden into a clubbish aristocracy is not what we want, either. There is a middle road in there somewhere.
My favorite bit, but, really, read the whole thing:
Here's who wins judicial elections in Cook County: Women with Irish names. For whatever reason in this county where roughly half the residents are women and 17 percent claim Irish ancestry, women lawyers with Irish names win more than 50 percent of all countywide judicial elections.
That's why lawyers of Jewish or other ancestry often legally adopt Irish names to run for judge here. That's why when party leaders slate men without Irish names, such as William Haddad, who would have been the first Arab-American full-circuit judge in Cook County, the party must recruit Irish women lawyers to run as "ringers" or "stalking horses" to flood the ballot and fracture the Irish-woman vote.
WBEZ has a great report from inside the Cook County Democratic Party Slating Committee meeting this week. The full meeting happens today.
Here are some interesting facts* that WBEZ didn't report on:
Alderman Dick Mell asked candidate for County Board Terry O'Brien, "I'm interested to know, in terms of the veto override provisions that are ultimately determined by the state legislature, Irishdingussayswhat?" To which O'Brien responded, "What?"
County Recorder of Deeds Eugene "Gene" Moore actually introduces himself by saying, "Hello, I'm Eugene 'Gene' Moore" while making air quotes.
Karen Yarborough, Commiteeman for Proviso Township, travels around with an aide who announces, "Proviso Township, Entering!" when she enters a room, and "Proviso Township, Retiring!" when she leaves.
Ald. Toni Preckwinkle yawned loudly during one of Committeeman Ira Silverstein's questions, and then interrupted him and said, "Man, Silverstein, you're so boring you make P.J. Cullerton (38th) sound like Randy Barnette (39th)!" She actually said the parentheticals.
Committeeman John Fritchey head-butted Steve Landek, but it was a "friend head butt".
When hotel staff wheeled in refreshments, Secretary of State Jesse White asked for a "tumbler" of Diet Pepsi. Nobody laughed.
Mike Madigan peeled an entire apple without breaking the skin, then revealed that it was actually a human heart.
In a spirit of unity, Secretary of State Jesse White pledged that the Party would unite behind any candidate it endorsed. "We'll tumble for you," he added. Some people laughed.
Committeeman Bob Rita took Committeeman Wilbert Crowley's hand and slapped him across the face with it, then asked him why he was hitting himself.
Howard Brookins asked John Daley if he liked Harry Potter more than Twilight. Daley rolled his eyes and said, "Is John A. Pope (10th) Catholic?"
*None of these are actually facts. Although I do think John A. Pope is Catholic.
There is a flaw in the motto "Elect More, and Better, Democrats." This motto of the liberal netroots--as a handy shorthand for the current generation of liberal activists--was laid out originally by Markos Moulitsas and adopted to various degrees by the other major netroots networks and organizations.
The flaw is the word "better". With no real left ideology (and therefore, no attendant analysis of the current political and economic situation) there is no real way to gauge what makes a "better" Democrat. With no definition of "better" in this context, we are left with "Elect more Democrats;" not only this, but without an ideology--an analysis--we can't gauge legislative progress--meaning we will never know when we have "enough" Democrats. Electing more Democrats is not a worthwhile goal until we know what makes a politician a "good" or "better" Democrat.
That is to say, without a party-independent movement capable of providing analysis of current political and social crises, we'll end up with a constant tension between those who think espousal of particular issues, versus partisan loyalty, define "progress", "the left" or "progressivism".
I would offer as my primary piece of evidence the Honorable Michael J. Madigan.
The state of the Illinois budget continues to be at the first stage of grief, denial. What we are denying is that some form of tax increase is inevitable.
What Illinois has, and would have no matter who is governor, is this: (1) a structural deficit, because our current tax structure just doesn't generate enough to fund the total state budgets and pension obligations at the rate we spend; (2) years of avoiding this through creative accounting such as fund sweeps and, in effect, using the pension funds as a credit card; (3) an overall tax system that is regressive, and arguably one of the more regressive in the nation; and (4) a huge revenue shortfall due to the recessionary economy, which has dramatically lowered revenues from income, from sales, and from the transfer of real estate. This last is what tipped the deeply troubling into the truly alarming.
It appears that at least for today the Illinois House has not acted on HB0007, the shell bill being used to carry the key campaign finance reform provisions of the ethics package. Because hardly anyone in Chicago has actually seen what is being debated and reported on, I have included here in several places the link to the actual bill.
I traded e-mails with my state rep, Julie Hamos, today, trying to keep up on what's going down, and advised that I'd probably vote against the bill if I was there, if it was a pure up-or-down. Often, any progress is better than none, but if Cindy Canary says a bill is "phony reform," I'd be pretty reluctant to give it my stamp of approval, because Ms. Canary lives and breathes the real thing, rip-snortin', no-holds-barred, tell-it-like-it-is passion for The Change We Need around here. And sometimes a half-measure is not half a loaf, it acts as a block to real reform, sometimes while making matters even worse.
Here is the first speech I would give after announcing that I was going to run for governor:
I am a man of faith, I am the pastor of a large church in Chicago, a large Christian church. I know however there are people of faith who do not support my canidicy because of my views on some social issues.
I want to take this opportunity to reach out to them and point out how the faith we share can point us in a new direction as a state...
I am reminded of the word of the profit Ezekiel 16:49
"Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy"
-- Nothing there about the sins we more commonly associate with Sodom, but "she did not help the poor and needy", the same sin this state has been guilty of for to far long....
We have children in this state who are underfed, undereducated because of the neighborhood they were born in. We fail these children as a state and perhaps more importantly as Christians. I call on all of you to work with me to solve this problem. Christ spoke much more about how we treat the least among us than and of the issues that divide us.
You may feel uncomfortable with my stands on other issues, too comfortable to support or vote for me, fine I can accept that.
But what I can not accept as a Christian and as a leader in this state is a desire to ignore these issues and do nothing. That is why I decided to run for Governor as an independent, not to attract voters because of party labels but to attract voters who agree that something needs to be done. That the status quo can not be maintained, that we need to act as a state more like the Samaritan and less like the Pharisee.
Don't know if he is going to run for governor, but if he does, I would toss the gauntlet down and toss it hard.
A reader reported to us that she happened to fly back from a trip to DC on the same American Airlines flight Thursday as both Illinois senators Dick Durbin and Roland Burris. The flight was delayed three hours, during which time Burris worked the gate, shaking hands and talking with other passengers. Durbin was nowhere to be found until the plane began boarding.
The senators turned out to be seated right next to each other -- Burris by the window, Durbin in the middle seat, with a large gentleman on the aisle. Durbin and Burris didn't speak the entire flight, according to our source, who was two rows in front of them. Burris reportedly stared out the window the whole way, while Durbin appeared to be sleeping. They went in opposite directions once the plane landed at O'Hare. Considering their recent meetings have been tense, it's no surprise -- but you'd think they would have been able to switch seats.
"In January, I wrote a piece published in the New York Times about the need to hold a special election to replace not just Barack Obama, but all Senate seats that are vacated. I didn't write this for political expediency, but to point out that this was a century-old constitutional reform made to take power away from large, monied special interests. We don't need a new amendment. We just need to follow the one that's there: the 17th Amendment.
"Once again we see our political system at the local, state and federal levels flooded by the influence of big money. Banks receive trillions in bailouts while working people lose their jobs, health care and homes. We are in desperate need of reform in this country; let's start by holding elections to fill vacant Senate seats."
It's amazing that even in these stiff economic times the amount of money candidates raise is nothing short of huge. According to Greg Hinz:
In the latest news among the Dems, County Commissioner Mike Quigley reported raising $250,000 so far and signed up mega-Clinton fundraiser Bill Brandt as his finance co-chair. Mr. Quigley also led narrowly over state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz in a new poll, but she reported having pulled in more money, about $325,000, though others say the real figure is $500,000.
Of course, Quigley and Fiegenholtz are the projected political heavyweights of this race, but still...
Listening to the rhetoric from the state senate chamber in Springfield, you might think that we should consider ordering a few million caplets of Prozac from Canada.
Let's refrain, shall we?
I won't go so far as to say it's the state's finest day -- it most certainly wasn't -- but former Governor Blagojevich's unanimous conviction on impeachment charges today should be a proud moment for anyone who believes that the General Assembly has the sworn duty to remove a governor when he or she has lost the confidence of the people.
I never thought I'd find myself thinking this, but I agree with what Senator Meeks of Chicago said on the senate floor earlier today. "This is not a sad day for me," Meeks said. "This is a great day. We are not ruled by angels. We are not ruled by super-humans. We have, unfortunately, as our leaders of our state, city, country, people with flaws -- human beings, just like the rest of us who are prone to mistakes. We have leaders who make errors. However, when those errors drift into criminal activity or abuse of power -- when that happens and a leader oversteps his or her boundary, what a joy that we don't have to form a militia, that we don't have to form an army -- an upstate army and a downstate army -- and go down to the second floor, and get grenades and guns, and bomb the governor out of the second floor."
"What a joy we have a process," Senator Meeks said.
In fewer than 3 days on the job (or 2 if you were one of those who was getting ready to sue because of the flubbed oath on Tuesday) President Obama has moved decisively to expand government transparency at the federal level.
This may seem nit-picky, but doesn't he live with his daughters? And haven't we heard that the First Parents want to shield their young girls from overmuch media scrutiny? So how does publishing a cloying, effusive and vague letter "to his daughters," in a magazine called Parade nonetheless, make sense?
The First Family by all appearances are a model family, but enough already.
The letter itself is beautifully written but filled with meaningless cliches and purposeful ambiguities. I know it's supposed to be a proxy letter meant to actually go to ALL of America's children, but what is the point of writing a high-profile open letter without a clear purpose besides "I want children to succeed?"
I want all our children to go to schools worthy of their potential--schools that challenge them, inspire them, and instill in them a sense of wonder about the world around them. I want them to have the chance to go to college--even if their parents aren't rich. And I want them to get good jobs: jobs that pay well and give them benefits like health care, jobs that let them spend time with their own kids and retire with dignity. I want us to push the boundaries of discovery so that you'll live to see new technologies and inventions that improve our lives and make our planet cleaner and safer.
Thanks, National Dad! This is nothing that any politician wouldn't express, if not so eloquently.
If the President-elect wanted to write an open letter to the nation's children (doesn't seem so sweet when you put it that way) he should have done so. Malia and Sasha are included in that set. The obvious love of the Obama family for one another is a great national example, and we should be thankful for that. But given a choice between no eloquent open letters to family members or even more of an intrusive celebrity culture in politics, I'd nix the epistles in a minute.
By all accounts, Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr. is on the "short list" of possibilities to fill Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat for the next two years. Some newspapers and activists have been actively lobbying for Gov. Blagojevich, who has sole discretion in the decision, to appoint Jackson.
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