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Tuesday, March 5

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The Mechanics

Democrats Thu Dec 31 2015

Where are the Peace Candidates?

Americans are statistically more likely to be killed by a storm or by their neighbor's dog than fall victim to an ISIS marauder or jihad-inspired rando. Nonetheless, the Conventional Wisdom seized on the Paris and San Bernardino massacres to declare that national security was now the top issue in the presidential campaign. Thus seemingly the entire first half of the most recent presidential debates consisted of "moderators" pressing the candidates not only to affirm being on board the national mass hysteria train, but to state how much coal they were ready to shovel into the firebox. As a result, you can search the entire 20,000-word transcript for the third Democratic debate without stumbling across the word "peace" passing any candidate's lips.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeff Smith

Environment/Sustainability Fri Jul 03 2015

Rehabilitating Wooded Island and Installing Yoko Ono's "Sky Landing"

Temporary Heavy Equipment Bridge
The temporary heavy equipment bridge through the west lagoon.

Jackson Park's Wooded Island is currently closed to the public while it is being reworked by a consortium of groups led by the Army Corps of Engineers, but last Saturday the Chicago Park District offered a special tour of the island's rehabilitation and Yoko Ono's in-process sculpture,"Sky Landing."

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David Schalliol / Comments (3)

Federal Government Wed Jun 10 2015

Hastert's Troubles Mount

Dennis Hastert, a former Republican Congressman from Illinois and former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, appeared in federal court on Tuesday to enter pleas of not guilty to charges that he violated banking laws and lied to the FBI in an effort to conceal his alleged sexual abuse of a high school student some 45 years ago.

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Thomas J. Gradel

Elections Wed Jun 11 2014

Bernie Sanders: 2016's Most Interesting Man

Bernie Sanders is a busy man these days. He's currently chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, which has been in the news a lot more than usual. He's also preparing to introduce a constitutional amendment before the Senate which would essentially overturn the infamous Citizens United ruling. And maybe -- just maybe -- he's about to run for president.

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Phil Huckelberry / Comments (4)

Federal Government Thu Feb 13 2014

Restore the Fourth Hosts Rally in Loop

photo.JPGRestore the Fourth - Chicago, a non-partisan political group concerned with restoring fourth amendment rights, hosted a march and dinner yesterday to keep the National Security Agency in check and fight back against mass surveillance.

The rally on a day dubbed "The Day We Fight Back" began with a rally at Daley Plaza and culminated with a dinner at Timothy O'Toole's Pub. About 50 people attended the rally.

"We demand that our government respect our constitutional rights, instead of using them to wipe its feet on before walking right in," said John Bumstead, organizer of the event.

Bumstead said that knocking down digital doors represents exactly the same violation as unauthorized home searches, and deserves exactly the same constitutional protection, yet it is painfully obvious that our government is completely oblivious to this fact

Attendees held up their signs and chanted as they made their way through Loop streets. Despite the weather, the reaction from the attendees and onlookers was universally positive, said Bumstead. Many onlookers joined in on the rally for short periods, and echoed the chants.

"My favorite of our chants is, 'What do we want? Privacy. Why do we want it? None of your business!'" said Bumstead.

Restore the Fourth - Chicago hosts weekly meetings on Tuesdays at CivicLab. For more information on how to get involved, visit the group's website.

Nenad Tadic

Federal Government Mon Oct 28 2013

Chicagoans Rally Against Mass Surveillance

Activists rallying against mass surveillance in Federal Plaza. (Photo/Emily Brosious)

This past Friday October 26, organizers and activists with Restore the Fourth Chicago rallied for Fourth Amendment privacy rights in Chicago's Federal Plaza.

The rally was coordinated in solidarity with a national Rally Against Mass Surveillance organized by the Stop Watching Us Coalition.

"We're holding this rally on the twelfth anniversary of the signing of the Patriot Act," Billy Joe Mills, an organizer and spokesperson for Restore the Fourth Chicago, said in an interview.

Continue reading this entry »

Emily Brosious

Crime Thu Aug 22 2013

Gun Violence Prevention Advocates Rally for Congressional Action


Demonstrators gathered Wednesday evening at Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago to rally for gun violence prevention. The event, which was coordinated by volunteers with Organizing for Action, featured activists and community members who spoke out about the harmful consequences of gun violence and called on Congress to take action and support commonsense gun violence prevention legislation.

Here in Illinois, Governor Pat Quinn recently passed a law requiring background checks on all gun sales. "While this is a great step in reducing guns entering the illegal market, we need a strong national law to keep guns out of the hands of criminals," said Mark Walsh, campaign director for the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.

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Emily Brosious

Good Government/Reform Fri Jul 26 2013

America's #1 Populist Tips His Hat to Illinois' Campaign Finance Reform Movement

If politics is a matter of who gets what, when, and how, then Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (2010) would aptly be described as a monumental political game changer. In the few short years since the Supreme Court of the United States decided money and speech are one in the same and withdrew restrictions on independent political spending, Americans have watched the whos, whats, whens, and hows of politics bending in one distinct direction: towards the interests of the 1%.

Former Texas Agriculture Commissioner, nationally syndicated columnist and radio commentator, New York Times bestselling author, and self described American populist Jim Hightower knows a thing or two about fighting corporate influence in government, and he is a leading voice in the movement to overturn Citizens United.

Continue reading this entry »

Emily Brosious

Federal Government Thu May 23 2013

Chicago Activists Call for the End of Guantanamo Bay


Marching in ominous orange prison jumpsuits with black hoods over their heads, activists marched amongst commuters and shoppers last Friday, May 17. The demonstration in downtown Chicago called for President Obama to shut down the infamous prison facility at Guantanamo Bay.

An ongoing hunger strike at the detention facility in Cuba has reached its 100th day with more than 100 detainees refusing to eat. This has drawn some attention back to the facility that President Obama promised to close down back in 2009.

Continue reading this entry »

Joey Delisi

Federal Government Wed May 01 2013

What Were Once Vices

The summer of 1974 is memorable not only for the release of a Doobie Brothers' LP that with its hit "Black Water" would form a soundtrack for much of the coming year, but also for the resignation of Richard Nixon. As Mechanics' attorney-in-residence, and possibly the only writer here who remembers dancing to either of the aforesaid, and as a nod to Law Day, I agreed to cover the forum last night at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics in Hyde Park featuring current and past U.S. Attorneys General Eric Holder and John Ashcroft. Moderated by former Chicago law school dean Geoffrey Stone, the event highlighted the publication of Restoring Justice: The Speeches of Attorney General Edward Levi, by Jack Fuller. Fuller, former Chicago Tribune editor and publisher, interrupted his long journalism career to serve as an assistant to Edward H. Levi during Levi's stint as the country's top lawyer during the Ford Administration.

That 1975 appointment, of course, plucking Levi from the presidency of the University of Chicago, was a direct response to a national crisis in confidence in the Justice Department specifically, and in government generally. Watergate and related scandals saw lawyer-President Nixon impeached and resign, two of Levi's predecessors as Attorney General convicted of perjury, and the White House counsel plead guilty to obstruction of justice. Fuller's book debuts amidst the 40th anniversary of the scandals, cover-ups, shocking revelations, and legal-political drama that overshadowed much else in the nation in 1972-74. Since some of the same themes that then gripped the U.S. reverberate today -- electronic surveillance of Americans, bombings abroad ordered by the executive branch, and the power of the Presidency itself -- the forum held promise of potential fireworks and relevancy. The Institute did a pro job at logistics and presentation, and, let's be clear, is not required to offer all points of view. Unfortunately, what could have been more provocative ended up, by virtue of lack of balance, as a soft promo for continued perpetual war and expanded executive branch power, with only nods of concern to clampdown on civil liberties and ever-eroding privacy. I have to wonder if that's what Edward Levi would have wanted.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeff Smith

Op-Ed Thu Aug 23 2012

Op-Ed: Protect Free Speech from the National Defense Authorization Act

By Jason Neill

A tactic employed by TV attorneys, maybe even real ones, entails burying their opposition in paperwork when they want to conceal the important facts. I think a lot of us can understand how effective such a tactic would be, with the proliferation of constant news feeds and information of all varieties available at all times, it's hard to consume information responsibly. This is especially true when the loudest voices — mainstream media — are sucking up all the bandwidth with easily digested and polarizing drivel.

On the last day of 2011 President Obama, whom I voted for and may again, signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) [PDF]. Who isn't for national defense?... that's being authorized for sure. The problem lies with section 1021 of this law described by the ACLU:

"The NDAA's dangerous detention provisions would authorize the president — and all future presidents — to order the military to pick up and indefinitely imprison people captured anywhere in the world, far from any battlefield."

The wording of this law is so vague as to who may be detained and why, such that prolific author Noam Chomsky, former NYT foreign correspondent and Pulitzer recipient Chris Hedges and several other professors and journalists filed a lawsuit against the US government back in January 2012. The suit sought to clarify that by doing their jobs they wouldn't be considered to be "associates of terrorists" or "substantially supporting" terror, as the NDAA allows for indefinite incarceration without trial in these cases. An article dissenting against the government might be interpreted as substantially supportive based on sources or the stories themselves simply because the terms "supporting" and "associated" are never defined. The attorneys representing the government could make no such assurances. In fact they argued that section 1021 is of no consequence because prior law had already stripped the protections the journalists were seeking to assure.

In May, Federal District Judge Katherine Forrest of the Eastern District of the US Circuit Court stood up and ruled section 1021 unconstitutional, reasoning:

"Section 1021 lacks what are standard definitional aspects of similar legislation that define scope with specificity. It also lacks the critical component of requiring that one found to be in violation of its provisions must have acted with some amount of scienter — i.e., that an alleged violator's conduct must have been, in some fashion, "knowing." Section 1021 tries to do too much with too little — it lacks the minimal requirements of definition and scienter that could easily have been added, or could be added, to allow it to pass Constitutional muster."

This ruling effectively prevents the law from being enforced as it is currently written, although two weeks ago, without any noticeable media attention, the US government began an appeal hearing to overturn Judge Forrest's decision.

Why is no major media covering what is possibly the single greatest removal of a citizen's right to free speech? Why is no major media reporting on a citizen's freedom to present their own dissenting viewpoint? Whatever the reason may be, it leaves independent media and people like me and you to shout loudly.


Jason Neill is the co-founder of a small software company involved in futures industry in Chicago, who has two dogs and one lovely woman in his life.

Mechanics / Comments (2)

Housing Mon Jul 02 2012

"The CHA is trying to get out of the public housing business"

At least 20% of Chicago's public housing units are empty, according to an investigation by the evergood Chicago Reporter. It's a shocking number given the lack of affordable housing in the city--but should not be surprising. Over the last two decades, public housing has been the subject of a controlled hunt, with "mixed-income" housing, often resulting in gentrification, an important agent of neoliberalization.

Nearly one in five of the CHA's 21,204 units is unoccupied, the bulk for planning purposes, and that puts the agency at odds with written federal rules, The Chicago Reporter found.

CHA officials justify keeping a majority of the units "offline" because they've fallen into disrepair and could end up in litigation if they're leased out. The officials maintain that they're eligible to continue collecting millions in operating subsidies even though the units are vacant.

But some housing advocates point out that the disrepair is the result of the CHA's own doing. "The issue is not just vacancies," said Carol Steele, a tenant leader representing residents from the North Side's Frances Cabrini Rowhouses, where the occupancy rate slid to 21 percent this year. "The issue is that the CHA is trying to get out of the public housing business."

Ramsin Canon

Elections Tue Nov 01 2011

A Week of News For the Green Party

On Monday, Massachusetts physician Jill Stein announced she will be running for president as a Green Party candidate for 2012. Previously, Stein was a gubernatorial candidate for Massachusetts in 2010. Stein was born in Chicago and raised in Highland Park and attended Harvard for both her undergraduate degree and medical school.

According to a press release, Stein plans to create a "Green New Deal" by initiating direct action by the Federal government in order to create jobs, "ending the Bush/Obama recession," according to the press release.

Stein also would try to create a universal Medicare system, forgive existing student loan debt, ending home foreclosures.

According to the press release, the Occupy Wall Street movement inspired Stein and some of her stances on the campaign issues are similar to the demands of some of the Occupy protesters.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Green Party filed a lawsuit against the State Board of Elections regarding the interpretation of the statute that defines who can be considered an "established party." Laurel Lambert Schmidt, who is running for the Third District state congressional seat, also filed the lawsuit.

If the Green Party would win their lawsuit, it would potentially make it easier for candidates like Schmidt to run for office. According to the current law, established party candidates need 600 registered voters in a district to sign a petition while non-established party candidates need 5,000 signatures and a petitioned filed earlier than established party candidates.

Any decision made by a court could potentially affect those in other parties and make it easier to run for an office in Illinois.

Monica Reida

Elections Tue Jun 14 2011

Duckworth Resigns from VA; Congress Next?

The new Congressional map has not even been signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn but the jockeying for position is already underway. Former Congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth turned in her resignation from the Department of Veteran Affairs yesterday. It is an apparent first move to run for the newly created 8th Congressional District encompassing her home in Hoffman Estates.

If Duckworth ran for the House again, she would have a much stronger position than the first time around. Her resume is more formidable -- since 2006, she has run the Illinois veterans agency and has been one of the top VA officials in Washington -- and she would be running from a more Democratic district.

Continue reading this entry »

Aaron Krager

Chicagoland Wed Apr 13 2011

Water Issues Critical for Illinois & the World

The recent assaults on the EPA moved me to dust off and finish some notes I hadn't had time to polish into a full-blown blog post. Because the cuts now threaten Illinois clean water infrastructure projects, however, in addition to the climate change programs that have gotten deserved attention, I'm compelled to give this a little more air.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeff Smith

Budget Sat Dec 04 2010

Kirk Votes Against Middle-Class Tax Relief

Staying true to his pre-election stance, Mark Kirk this morning, in practically his first official act as Illinois Senator, joined a solid bloc of Republicans and a handful of primarily blue-dog Democrats in voting against cloture of debate on a Senate bill to extend tax cuts to American families making less than $250,000 a year. Kirk then also voted against a softened version which would have extended cuts to those making $1 million or less a year. Both votes garnered 53-vote majorities, but under the "faux filibuster" rules of the Senate, a majority vote was insufficient to move the measures forward.

It's important, as Illinoisans and Americans look at these votes, to understand the background and context. Republicans are attempting to frame the Democratic move as a "tax increase" but that is -- how to say? -- well, I'll call it a lie. In order to understand that, let's review how we got here.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeff Smith / Comments (4)

Federal Government Tue Nov 09 2010

Schakowsky and Jackson Jr. Call For Hearings On Yemen Terrorist Attack

Yesterday Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (IL-02) sent a letter to the Committee on Homeland Security calling for public hearings of the terrorist attempt to bomb synagogues in Chicago by mailing explosives in printer cartridges from Yemen.

In the letter, Schakowsky and Jackson Jr. argue that there are still lingering questions about the failed attack such as whether the bombs were meant to explode at the synagogues or on the plane or if the whole plan was a "dry run" for a later terrorist attack.

"Clearly, the investigation into these attacks will last for many months. That investigation, will involve sensitive intelligence and security matters that must remain top-secret. In no way should any hearing jeopardize that classified information," they write.

Schakowsky and Jackson Jr. concede in the letter that public hearings would be time consuming but the hearings would also show the public that the government is serious about national security.

UPDATE: USA Today reports that British officials determined that one of the bombs were meant to explode during the plane's flight.

You can read the rest the letter below the fold.

Continue reading this entry »

Daniel Strauss / Comments (3)

Environment/Sustainability Fri Jun 11 2010

A Gusher of Oil, A Trickle of Truth

Above: Live video of the crude oil gushing from the BP well in the Gulf, right now.

Imagine if a tanker the size of the Exxon Valdez capsized off New Orleans, unleashing a flood of oil on the magnitude of that 1989 environmental disaster. Now imagine that a crash and spill like that happened once a week for the past month-and-a-half. Would that get your attention?

The latest best estimates from the U.S Geological Service's Flow Rate Technical Group gauge the gush from the BP well at between 25,000 to 30,000 barrels per day, with a possibility of as high as 40,000 barrels per day. That's an estimate, note, of the rate before the recent cutting of the riser pipe, which may have increased flow further. In other words, tanker-size volumes of crude oil, equivalent to the 250,000 barrels that poured out of the Exxon Valdez, have been spewing into the Gulf at least every eight to 10 days since April 20, and maybe every six days. This is not just the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. waters, it's rapidly becoming one of the worst pollutings of the planet's oceans, ever, under our very noses. Yet today it was buried on p.16 of the Tribune, trailing not only the Blagojevich trial and the Blackhawks pub crawl, but stories about the Burge torture trial, a little girl whose kayak capsized, and -- this is news? -- the pope coming out in favor of celibacy for priests.

The other day, some activists demonstrating in front of Jan. Schakowsky's office for removing oil companies' liability caps (which Schakowsky supports) reported back that numerous passers-by had no idea about the BP spill. In other words, one of the worst environmental disasters of our time is ongoing, but to many Americans and much of the media, it's a yawner -- or even a non-event. How can this be?

The answer lies at least in part in the under-reporting and downplaying of the disaster that began almost immediately. If there has been a frog-in-the-crockpot lack of awareness about the magnitude of the gusher, it's in part because a flow of misinformation has accompanied the flow of oil from Day One. A review shows that this misinformation almost certainly had to be deliberate. If the threat of criminal prosecution by the Justice Department is anything more than show, the obfuscation of reality ought to be a target of the investigation as well.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeff Smith / Comments (2)

Wage Theft Tue Apr 27 2010

Wage Theft Crime Spree: What Will Stop It?


Victor Hernendez addresses a rally in the state capital in Springfield. Hernendez was a victim of wage theft.

You work assuming you'll be paid, but too often, workers are simply denied what they're owed. It happened to Kim Kambra who worked at Jericho Products in Springwood. "They didn't pay me. I worked over 55 hours a week and they paid me for one week out of the last 10 weeks. My house went into foreclosure and I lost the legal rights to my house even though I still live there."

Kambra was one of many Jericho employees who were not paid. Computer programmer Bill Van Dusen worked for 12 years at Jericho but for three months in 2008 and another three months in 2009, Dusen was not paid. "I had to use the money we saved for our kids' education to pay our bills."

Jericho went beyond not paying their employees. The company "stole our deductions for health insurance and child support. They collected that but didn't pay it to the proper person they needed to pay it to," according to Van Dusen.

However, Jericho's owners have been paid handsomely. Kevin Lynch, one of the owners of Jericho Products would have wild venison for his dogs and chrome parts for his car delivered to the company while three employees' homes went into foreclosure.

Continue reading this entry »

Matt Muchowski / Comments (1)

Race Thu Apr 22 2010

Michael Steele: Selling Minorities Real Estate in Lake Michigan

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele makes Joe Biden look gaffe proof. It seems like every time you turn around on CNN, or load up Huffington Post, Steele is explaining how the Republican Party is the party of one-armed-midgets, Republicans fought to outlaw slavery in the Bill of Rights (it was actually the 13th amendment, not the first 10), and apologizing to Rush Limbaugh.

Which is why I went to the Chairman's appearance at DePaul University. I appreciate good stand up comedy.

Steele's appearance was sponsored by the campus Republicans and the DePaul Cultural Center. An odd combination considering that the Conservative Alliance had once sponsored an Affirmative Action Bake Sale targeting the cultural center and organized pickets against the speakers the Cultural Center invited such as Ward Churchill.

Steele is the first Black person to be the national chairman of the RNC and was to speak on Conservatisms appeal to minority communities. Instead he talked about its lack of an appeal.

When asked , "Why should Blacks vote Republican?" Steele responded without hesitation, "You really don't have a reason to, to be honest. We really haven't really done a good job of giving them a reason to... We have failed miserably in that regard. We have lost sight of the historic integral link between the party and African Americans."

Continue reading this entry »

Matt Muchowski

Chicago Thu Mar 04 2010

Gunning down the US Constitution

A South Carolina "Conservative" (placed in quotes so that you can decide for yourself what his philosopy is) who calls himself The Southern Avenger says that if the US Supreme Court just so happens to overturn Chicago's gun ban it can only damage the Constitution and increase the power of the Federal government. FTR, I do support a repeal of the gun ban.

What do you think?

Here's a news item about where the Court is at on the case regarding Chicago's gun ban.


Labor & Worker Rights Thu Mar 04 2010

Jobs With Justice Tells Wall St. "You Broke It, You Bought It!"

A crowd of 100 gathered in Federal Plaza on March 3, to demand that Congress tax Wall St in order to provide for a jobs bill. The rally was planned while Senator Bunning was filibustering a bill that would have extended unemployment benefits. Now that Bunning has withdrawn his filibuster, organizers used the opportunity to point out how much more needed to be done.

Organizer Susan Hurly explained, "What they did last night to extend unemployment for 30 days is rather pathetic in the light of the crises that we are facing. We are here to say that we need more, we need a federal jobs program" with better and long unemployment benefits. She continued, "Wall Street broke it, they gotta buy it."


The Senate Soup Kitchen intended to highlight the need for a jobs bill.

Matt Muchowski / Comments (2)

Health Care Thu Feb 25 2010

Health Care Reformers Rally to Pressure Obama's Summit


Rally attendee's hold signs to signify the number of people who die in Illinois everyday that health care reform is not passed.

The evening before President Obama's Health Care summit, over 300 Chicago activists rallied in the Chicago Temple to demand passage of a health care bill that would extend coverage and hold health insurance companies accountable. The rally was organized by Health Care for America Now! and was one of several rallies across the country.

The crowd at the rally challenged a representative from Senator Dick Durbin's office. Durbin has not yet signed a letter in support of the public option that is being passed around the Senate. The crowd began to shout, "Sign the letter! Sign the Letter!"

Andy Kurz, the former CFO for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Wisconsin, told rally attendees that, "I'm not here tonight to convince you the bill is good, far from it. I am here to say that this bill is necessary." Kurz explained that while much was compromised in the bill, that abolishing prior conditions, extending dependent coverage and other reforms will reduce the cost of medical care and make it important to pass the imperfect bills in Congress.

Continue reading this entry »

Matt Muchowski / Comments (3)

Chicago Mon Jan 18 2010

Where's the Neighborhood Stabilization Money?

An ad hoc group of community activists and community groups have come together to ask the city to hold a public hearing on the use and disbursement of federal Neighborhood Stabilization funds:

About a year ago, the City of Chicago received $55 million in HUD Neighborhood Stabilization funds with the expectation of leveraging an additional $58 million in private financing. The proceeds were to be used to purchase 425 abandoned foreclosed properties for rental and for sale housing in 25 neighborhoods most heavily impacted by the mortgage foreclosure crisis. An additional 100 dilapidated properties were to be purchased for demolition with the resulting vacant lots to be land banked and sold to developers and not for profit developers to build new homes. While HUD guidelines provide that essentially all NSP funds be committed within 18 months, public records indicate that 12 properties have been acquired to date. HUD announced on January 14, 2010 that Chicago will get an additional $98 million in Recovery funding to continue the program in the upcoming year.


The group, Chicago Citizens for Neighborhood Stabilization, has penned a letter to City Council Committee on Housing and Real Estate chairman Alderman Ray Suarez (31st) asking him to help initiate a public hearing on the NSP funds:

Letter to Alderman Suarez

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Federal Government Fri Dec 11 2009

Memo Drafted In Anticipation Of Possible Prisoner Transfer To Thomson

A White House draft memo has been leaked which proponents of moving the Gitmo detainees to the Thomson Correctional Center may find encouraging. According to Talking Points Memo, the memo doesn't indicate the White House has made a final decision on whether to move the prisoners to Illinois but it is a sign that Thomson is being given serious consideration by the Obama Administration.

Interestingly, the memo states that the prison, if used to house the detainees, wouldn't be limited to just former Gitmo prisoners. The memo says it would be used to "alleviate the Bureau of Prisons' shortage of maximum security cell space and could be used for other appropriate purposes." Thomson is a big prison and Illinois prisons are also overflowing so this is a wise use of the jail. It could be used to both relieve the overflow of prisoners in other jails and also close the prison at Guantánamo Bay. Andrew Breitbart's Big Government has the memo.

Daniel Strauss

Federal Government Sun Nov 22 2009

The Anti-Counterfeiting and Trade Agreement: Do You Know About This?

The Obama administration is a part of a multinational, closed-door negotiation aimed at developing a treaty to help curb media piracy. That's right--rather than go through a normal legislative process where the public would know what was happening and might--this is controversial!--actually have a voice, the Obama administration is working secretly to draft a treaty that would make Internet Service Providers (ISPs) responsible for policing their networks for pirated material. Using treaties to enact policy is frequently referred to as "policy laundering."

Lobbyists? Special interest groups? Hell no! This is Barack Obama's glorious presidency! He cares about YOU, not those big, rich bastards that run "companies" and "corporations" that step all over the little guy. Surely he wouldn't appoint "at least five former intellectual property attorneys from the Recording Industry Association of America" to his administration or refer to media piracy as a "national security issue!" Obama's benevolent rule will be rife with government subsidized happiness! You won't have to pay your bills! No more of that evil administration from before!

Continue reading this entry »

Conor McCarthy

Federal Government Tue Nov 17 2009

How Much Is Your Congressman Worth...

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?


Health Care Thu Oct 01 2009

Thursday Watch Party - Rep. Alan Grayson Owns Republicans on Health Care

Representative Alan Grayson Owns Republicans on Health Care

Representative Alan Grayson (D) - FL said that Repubs "want you to die quickly if you get sick" and called government's inaction on health care a "Holocaust". Republicans, of course, want to slap him on the wrist for his comments, by using the same mechanism used on ol' boy Ragin' Joe' Wilson.

Rep. Grayson is the same guy who introduced the Paid Vacation Act of 2009, which would catch America up to the Phillipines in mandatory time off per year (but still far behind every other industrialized nation on earth).

Timothy Morin

Federal Government Tue Sep 22 2009

Open Internet

Keeping the internet free from corporate consolidation is critical to the future of or democracy. Obviously democracy was fine before the internet, but our means of communication with each other should stay as free as possible. Check out the new Open Internet FCC website.

Ramsin Canon

Federal Government Tue Aug 11 2009

A Mob of Senior Citizens

Via Reason:

Former Congressman Dan Rostenkowski (once the chairman of the US House's Ways & Means Committee) back in 1989 was chased down by some senior citizens protesting legislation, Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act. They complained that they had to pay more taxes for the additional benefits. Rostenkowski seemed more rattled by the citizens than some of the Senators facing their own angry mobs in the current health care debate.

If only we had those types of contentious townhalls here. I can't argue about the people putting their politicians to the fire!

Levois / Comments (2)

National Politics Thu Jul 09 2009

Roland Burris bows out of the 2010 US Senate race

We've had a very surprising week as far as 2010 is concerned. The big surprise was that Lisa Madigan is staying put at Attorney General. This seems to be the week where those who were just waiting to make their moves are making them essentially.

Well depending on your perspective, this report of Roland Burris not seeking election to his Senate seat might be surprising. Perhaps some of us might believe that his ego might cause him to run for a seat many of us certain that he will not even succeed in a primary.

But since he's choosing not to run for the US Senate, then that opens the field up a little. Otherwise if Burris remained in the race, it wouldn't be difficult for me to say that the Republicans could pick up this seat.

Well now it might be a little difficult to predict. We have Mark Kirk for the Republicans and that field has yet to form. While for the Democrats we have a Kennedy, our state Treasurer who just so happens to be friends with the current President of the United States, and a Black woman who heads the Chicago Urban League. Right now the interesting field might be on the Democratic side but I won't predict who might be able to take this seat.

What say you? Who might be likely to be our next sitting Senator after 2010? Is that person in the race or have we ever heard of that prospective Senator?

Levois / Comments (2)

Chicagoland Fri Jun 26 2009

Transportation Funding Needs Reform to Optimize Illinois Impact

Five local transit and planning advocates held a media briefing via conference call on June 25 to elevate the attention level of House Transportation Committee chairman James Oberstar (D.-MN)'s $500 billion surface transportation stimulus/funding bill, as well as to call for improvements in the bill. The consensus of the panel was that the bill provides much needed funding but still lacks some key elements, most prominently performance measures and a heavier mass transit emphasis, to effect meaningful change in national transportation policy.

Oberstar and Rep. John Mica (R.-FL) released the full draft text of the 775-page Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009 ("STAA") on Monday, June 22. A shorter 17-page summary was made available the week before. Fuller account below.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeff Smith / Comments (2)

Federal Government Mon Jun 22 2009

Chicago group reveals the truth in government accounting

Earlier this month, Americans crossed a significant milestone.

The amount owed to the U.S. Federal government by each and every American citizen reached $200,000.

A Chicago-area non-profit organization called the Institute for Truth in Accounting wouldn't be surprised if you haven't heard this news, much less the news that the national debt is nearly $62 trillion, not the $11 trillion depicted on the national debt clock in Washington.

Continue reading this entry »

Richard Lorenc / Comments (3)

Illinois Mon Jun 08 2009

Schakowsky Out of Senate Race: Giannoulias Clearing the Field?

Given how much Schakowsky has flogged her early support of now-President Obama, I wonder if his close relationship with state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, the other prominent Dem candidate (besides the--supressed chuckle--incumbent) weighed on her decision? Having months of leaked quotes stating that President Obama preferred his former basketball buddy would surely be humiliating. That is 100% speculation--I'd bet the President will avoid getting involved in any public way. But this is home state and his former seat; how absent can he really be?

UPDATE, 6/9: After getting some feedback from readers, my speculation doesn't seem to be the case. An interesting argument was made that, in fact, spots in Alexi Giannoulias' record--the Broadway bank loans to shady characters--could be a headache for the administration or state Democrats. That stuff was hashed through in '06, but obviously given the intervening humiliation of a Democratic governor getting indicted, it could have new teeth. In any case, the prospect of facing two immensely rich dudes (Chris Kennedy and Alexi) is more logically the overwhelming reason for Rep. Schakowsky's decision.

Ramsin Canon

Aldermen Thu Apr 16 2009

Three Bags of Tea for the Disloyal Opposition

It's hard not to guffaw like a frat boy every time I come across news or analysis of yesterday's "Tea Parties" (Rachel Maddow=genius). It is particularly hard to hear clips of protestors talking about how "it's time for us to wake up those folks in Washington to what people really think," as I heard over and over again on NPR last night, as if Obama wasn't just elected by fairly comfortable margins and doesn't enjoy 60% approval rating. (or even that a large percentage of Americans think the tax system is fair). Those of us who lived through the Clinton years had very few illusions about the ability of the "extra-chromosome right" as Al Gore called them to exist in loyal opposition. So we're now subjected to debates over Obama's role in promoting piracy, governors advocating secession, and whatever other outrages emerge from the miasma of the right-wing politics of victimhood.

Stepping away from the hypocrisy and potential danger of the inflamed rhetoric on the right, one can't help but be impressed with the fearlessness of conservative politicians, pundits, and activists. It doesn't matter that the last eight years are widely viewed as a series of exhibits on the failure of their essential ideology or that they were roundly repudiated at the polls in November. Even if their grievances are fuzzy and inchoate and their way out of the current situation is to apply the same medicine that got us here, only in higher does, they are so convinced of the dire consequences of not opposing the current president that they will engage in pretty ridiculous behavior to see him stopped.

It's becoming pretty obvious from the reporting of Ben Jovarsky, budget woes, and the three tires I've had to change in the last month that calling Chicago the city that works is a rhetorical stretch, to say the very least. A broke, pock-marked city that attempts to replace front line police officers with cameras, sell off all its assets to the highest bidder in return for slush funds for Mayoral fantasies of grandeur is not one headed down the right road. But yet we have a more or less completely compliant City Council that marches in lock-step with the flailing failing policies of our mayor while the media focuses on Todd Stroger's foibles while letting Daley's slide by. It's probably also true that the Mayor has done a great job of making himself, and not the tenant farmers of the City Council represent government in this city, so that voters and non-voters alike rarely hold alderman accountable. The situation is especially disappointing to those of us who worked hard to elect a slate of independent alderman, only for them to come back and say "you don't understand how scary the Mayor can be." Our city is crumbling and the most those who are charged with fixing it can say is that they can't speak out because of the hypothetical fear of losing city services in their wards

Maybe Chicago needs some disloyal opposition, some crazy "tea-baggers" who will throw caution to the wind and not be afraid of the retributive consequences, real or imagined. If right wing Republicans aren't scared of the President and Democratic Congress who just thumped them in elections, then why are we still electing alderman who defeat the machine candidate in their wards and remain afraid of the mayor?

Jacob Lesniewski

Federal Government Sat Feb 28 2009

Same Side of the Aisle

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.

Andrew Huff / Comments (5)

Federal Government Wed Feb 18 2009

Here Come the Vultures!

Greg Hinz says that Chicago Urban League CEO Cheryl Jackson is looking at a run for Burris' U.S. Senate seat. Here we go!

Probably the last thing embattled U.S. Sen. Roland Burris needs now is for another prominent African-American to make a move on his Senate seat.

But that's exactly what's happening.

Confirming political rumors, Cheryle Jackson, the president and chief executive officer of Chicago Urban League, says "I am considering a race" for the Senate seat now held by Mr. Burris.

"Given the economic crisis, I have to consider what I can bring to the table," Ms. Jackson said in an interview Wednesday. Whether she actually runs depends on where she concludes she can best pursue "my passion" of spurring economic development, she added.

Well I didn't think people would start declaring openly whether or not they'll run against someone. He hasn't been comfortable in his Senate seat for a month and people are already lining up against him. Of course we know why: It's been dominating the news since the weekend.

Continue reading this entry »

Levois / Comments (1)

Federal Government Wed Feb 11 2009

Big Numbers to Chew On

Some folks, like the bankers the Trib's Greg Burns quoted today, are saying that a trillion is so big no one can grasp what the bailout and stimulus numbers really mean. A trillion is a big number, but it's not impossible to understand. It's a thousand billions, or a million millions. You know what a million is, right? It's more than you probably make, and more than you probably have.

But this daunting figure is so large only because the U.S. is a big country of over 300 million people. Anything we do on a national scale is now, by definition, a big number. Break it down by population, and a trillion is easier to understand. And since this is money that ultimately comes mainly from you and me, let's break it down by taxpayer.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeff Smith / Comments (3)

Labor & Worker Rights Thu Jan 29 2009

Kudos, Dem Congress, President Obama

The Lilly Ledbetter Act is ridiculously long overdue. I remember Jesse Jackson fighting for equal pay in 1988. That there has been structural, institutional pay discrimination against a majority group in the population for the last, uh, forever, without public policy remedy is ludicrous.


"Ultimately, equal pay isn't just an economic issue for millions of Americans and their families, it's a question of who we are -- and whether we're truly living up to our fundamental ideals," President Obama said. "Whether we'll do our part, as generations before us, to ensure those words put on paper some 200 years ago really mean something -- to breathe new life into them with a more enlightened understanding that is appropriate for our time.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (3)

Democrats Fri Jan 23 2009

Hail to the Technocrat-In-Chief!

Wow. That was quick.

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.

Color me impressed.

On his second day in office, President Obama reopened to search engines. Just yesterday he issued a memo on FOIA requests, and made a forceful statement on the end of the unlawful detentions at Guantánamo Bay.

He's also made solid moves on ethics for White House staffers.

Now, Ramsin may not agree with this assessment, but the highest honor I can bestow upon the president today is that of Technocrat-in-Chief.

Since his time in the U.S. Senate when he co-sponsored a federal expenditure transparency bill with one of my congressional heroes Tom Coburn, Obama has been a consistent supporter of good government procedures.

Continue reading this entry »

Richard Lorenc

Column Wed Jan 21 2009

A Case for Contrarians

Contrarians are going to have a rough go of it for a while. That's OK, though; skepticism is easy when everybody agrees with you. It only counts when nobody wants to hear you.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (4)

Event Tue Jan 20 2009

Liveblogging the Inauguration

Follow along as we liveblog the Inauguration from Chicago and Washington, D.C. We have several correspondents on the ground, and folks watching it from here in Chicago.

(Ended at 12:35pm.)

Andrew Huff

Federal Government Mon Jan 19 2009

The Last Day of Bush

How are you celebrating or mourning the official last day of the Bush Presidency?

Ramsin Canon

Federal Government Thu Jan 15 2009

Roland Burris (D-Blagojevich)

MarathonPundit nicely captures in a phrase the whiff that will follow Senator Burris around Washington. I used to (cruelly) refer to Congressman Hastert as "Denny Hastert (R-Brisket)." Now we have "Roland Burris (D-Blagojevich)."

Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Federal Government Wed Jan 14 2009

IL-05 Fundraising Comparative

January 12, 2009


This is a graph I made based off numbers from, a Democratic fundraising site.

Continue reading this entry »

Daniel Strauss / Comments (1)

Illinois Mon Jan 12 2009

Time to Let Go of "Special Election" Dreams

Even after the Friday ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court made it pretty apparent that Roland Burris would be seated in the U.S. Senate, I continued to hear over the weekend scenarios by which various aspirants to fill Barack Obama's vacancy could still get there by way of a special election. The Chicago Tribune has been clamoring for one, putting the onus on, variously, presumptive governor-to-be Pat Quinn or Sen. Dick Durbin to somehow accomplish that.

Couple problems there.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeff Smith

Federal Government Tue Jan 06 2009

John Fritchey Is In

See what happens when you stay away from Facebook for a night? You miss an early announcement for a Congressional candidacy.

John Fritchey, State Representative from the 11th District (Lakeview, Bucktown, and Ravenswood) and Committeeman for the 32nd Ward (Bucktown, Ukrainian Village) announced this morning that he also will be running for the seat opened up by Rahm Emanuel's resignation.

As many of us predicted, the opening of this seat is going to create a wide-open race that could have repercussions for city politics over the next couple of years.

Contenders will include Fritchey's neighboring Rep, Sara Feigenholtz, newcomers Justin Oberman and Charles Wheelan, County Commissioner Mike Quigley, likely 40th Ward alderman Patrick O'Connor, and of course attorney and author Tom Geoghegan, among others. O'Connor, if he runs, would likely win the endorsement of the county party, although that's no certainty (nor does it guarantee a win). Feigenholtz and Quigley hold major fundraising advantages*.

Given the presence of Feigenholtz, Fritchey, and Quigley, this race will be won west of Kedzie as those three, among others, split their base vote.

*Commenter John points out that Quigley hasn't raised the money yet, only that he expects to. The misreading is mine, that Quigley meant that he plans to announce he'd raised as much money as Feigenholtz, not that he had yet to raise it.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (7)

Federal Government Tue Jan 06 2009

Geoghegan Is In

Labor lawyer and progressive writer Tom Geoghegan announced this morning that he will in fact be running for the 5th District Congressional seat opened up by Rahm Emanuel's resignation to serve President-elect Obama.

Geoghegan is engaging bloggers over at Daily Kos.

Geoghegan's entry could bring a little more national attention to the race, particularly from the progressive opinion leaders on the series of tubes we call the Internet.

Here's a sample from Geoghegan's "Issues" page:

"Indeed, all sides, even the Bob Dole Right, could stand a little more class-based politics, a little more Dunlop-type rationality. 'The great thing about class-based politics,' a professor once told me in college long ago, 'is that it's rational.' Instead of the Politics of Meaning, we talk $1.25. The purpose of such politics is not to heat the country up, but to calm it way down. Get back to the America of Dwight Eisenhower, when labor was at high tide and there was social peace. But to get back to that Era of Good Feelings, first we have to remind people, 'You're Being Robbed.'"

(6/23/95 American Prospect)

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Federal Government Tue Jan 06 2009

Accidental Eloquence of the Swamp Live Blog

As reported earlier, the Tribune's Swamp blog live-blogged Roland Burris' failed effort to get seated in the U.S. Senate today. Burris was not seated, and thankfully there were no fireworks.

Something eloquent about the closing lines:

Burris got into a silver minivan with Massachusetts plates at 11:03 am EST and drove away. It was an Odyssey.

Hey, could we make this a haiku?

Burris got into
a silver minivan with
Massachusetts plates

At 11:03
am and drove away. It
was an Odyssey.

Ramsin Canon

Federal Government Mon Jan 05 2009

Hotline on Burris Appointment

Check out what Hotline says about the current state drama with regards to Blagojevich's pick to succeed the President-elect in his vacated Senate seat. Of course, it's brief as they cover two other U.S. Senate stories.


Federal Government Mon Jan 05 2009

Laura Washington: Seat Burris

Laura Washington of the Sun-Times breaks down the politics behind the "keep-the-seat" pro-Burris forces:

The Burris contingent has a compelling case. The law is on their side, Burris passes the credentials test with flying colors, and the nation needs and deserves a qualified African American in the Senate -- right now, not two years from now.

The preachers are on board. Chicago's powerful cadre of black ministers knows how to deliver their lines with elan. We need a black man in this white, elite chamber. "Amen."

The U.S. Senate cannot represent all of America if 12 percent of its population is excluded from representation. "Hallelujah."

Burris seems pretty confident, announcing that he is in fact the junior senator from Illinois:

"I am now the junior senator from the state of Illinois," he said from the pulpit of a South Side church on what he said was the eve of his trip to Washington.

Ramsin Canon

Federal Government Sat Jan 03 2009

Tom Geoghegan for Congress?

Rick Perlstein, author of one of the best non-fiction books of the last five years, Nixonland, has started a Facebook group in support of labor lawyer and progressive author Tom Geoghegan running to replace Rahm Emanuel in Chicago's Fifth Congressional District. I don't believe Geoghegan (pronounced GAY gin, with hard g's) has officially announced his candidacy, but an ActBlue page and P.O. Box have been set up in support of a run.

If Geoghegan runs, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him garner national attention from progressive activists.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon

Federal Government Fri Jan 02 2009

Bobby Rush's "National Movement" on Behalf of Roland Burris

Rep. Bobby Rush (1st) is a guy with many facets. I pass along, without immediate comment, this email from his staff.

Well, OK, one comment: there will be no videos on behalf of this "movement." There is some downright repugnant demagoguery in this press release. That's two comments. Here's a third: Let it go, Congressman.

Fri., January 2, 2009, 2:00 p.m. 773-629-5948


Coalition plans massive support rally on Sunday, Jan. 4th in Chicago

CHICAGO -Today, U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush said he has organized a national coalition to ensure Sen. Roland Burris takes the oath of office next week in the U.S. Senate and he also reissued his call to Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) not to 'stand in the door of the Senate' and block the only African-American member from the legislative body.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (12)

Education Mon Dec 22 2008

Community Coalition Interrupts Duncan's Love Fest

On Wednesday, December 17, the Chicago Board of Education held its regular monthly meeting, one day after Barack Obama announced his nomination of Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan for Secretary of Education. The meeting began with a standing ovation for Duncan, local champion of school "turnarounds" and school choice. The board praised Duncan for his work in Chicago. Principals from various CPS schools were on hand, each giving their iteration of how Duncan was wonderful for Chicago and will be wonderful for the nation.

The public comments portion of the proceedings, the time when community members are given the chance to weigh in on their proposals and reactions to the CPS, sharply contrasted the preceding love fest. In this time, a coalition of teachers, parents, and students was there to voice its concerns over Duncan's model for urban education. The groups, including members of CORE (Caucus of Rank and File Educators), PURE (Parents United for Responsible Education), and the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization took to the mics during the public portion of the meeting to voice their concerns about the school closings, school turnarounds, and Mayor Daley's educational piece de resistance, Renaissance 2010.

Most on the list of forty-four speakers spoke critically of the policies under Arne Duncan. One notable exception was the principal of Namaste Charter School , who proposed a renewal of her school's charter, citing a decrease in the Body Mass Index of her students. Two foci of Namaste are continual assessment of students and yoga.

Continue reading this entry »

Kenzo Shibata

Education Thu Dec 18 2008

Duncan's Task in D.C.

Although our governors are making us the shame of the nation, much of the state is still feeling the afterglow of Obamamania. Slowly, we see our sons and daughter pack their bags and head out to D.C. to create change. The popular media have reported that Chicagoans are happy to see our citymen make the transition to the national spotlight.

Tuesday, Obama announced Arne Duncan, CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, to be his choice for Secretary of Education, to succeed Margaret Spellings. The popular media again report that we Chicagoans are all happy with the choice of Duncan, who they repeatedly mention as a "reformer."

Duncan comes from the camp of "reformers," a term widely used by the popular media to describe big-city superintendents who lead districts with vast disparities in educational opportunities using scarce resources. Duncan, Washington, D.C.'s Michelle Rhee, and New York City's Joel Klein share the belief that the underlying problem in education in the United States can be mainly pitted on "bad teachers." Solutions they propose: merit pay for teachers whose students make gains on standardized tests, giving parents the option to enroll their students in charter and specialized schools, and working around the much vilified policy of teacher tenure. These are all measures that keep budgets low but have unproven track records for success.

Continue reading this entry »

Kenzo Shibata / Comments (1)

Federal Government Fri Dec 05 2008

Stimulate "Value," Not Consumption

We've been artificially stimulating consumption for decades now. Isn't it time we stopped and thought about what we should be "stimulating?"

I think "stimulus packages" are nonsense, but if we are going to go down that path, shouldn't we rethink what we should be stimulating? We ought to be stimulating the production of value, and nothing else. Perhaps more importantly, stimulating the production of value goes hand-in-hand with preventing (current and future) the unnecessary destruction of value, which comes in the form of waste, corruption, duplication of effort, and any other misallocation of resources in both the public and private sector.

Why is the mere stimulation of consumption a mistake? One obvious answer is that this the kind of nonsense that got us to where we are. Whether one likes demand-side ideology (Keynes -- "demand creates its own supply") or supply-side (Say's law -- "A product is no sooner created, than it, from that instant, affords a market for other products to the full extent of its own value"), the fact is we have played out the string on both of them. If you spend enough time on "econo-blogs," it becomes apparent that the two bleed into each other so much that they are virtually indistinguishable. Excessive government transfer payments are welfare for the unproductive/connected, and excessive tax cuts are welfare for the rich.

Continue reading this entry »

Bruno Behrend / Comments (1)

Chicago Tue Dec 02 2008

What is Good Government?

Last month I posted a blog that spring-boarded off an article from this website I like to read, The main thesis of this article is that the government by its nature isn't "liberal" and it doesn't do what it is supposed to do.

Well, needless to say, LewRockwell is a libertarian website that would say that there are some functions that government assumes but these functions are better served by the market. Well, the reason why I write this post isn't at this moment to argue about what offers the best services: private entities or the government.

I wanted to somehow relate that article with the state of government -- well, mostly in the city, since city government is delivering most of the services we rely on. We could expand this topic to talk about county government or state government. But let's focus on city government for now.

It has often been said that the residents of the city of Chicago will tolerate a certain amount of corruption as long as city services are delivered and government is well run. Never mind what the U.S. attorneys or anyone else might discover as far as something illegal in city government.

But perhaps someone should ask the question: What does good government entail to those of you who live in the city? Or indeed I could ask about any aspect of government in Illinois. What is good government?

A better question: What do you expect from your government?


Election 2008 Thu Nov 20 2008

More to Jesse Jr. Than Some Think

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.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeff Smith / Comments (9)

Federal Government Wed Nov 12 2008

Chicago Health Care and Card Check

Give him credit for connecting dots: Crain's Chicago Business crack health care reporter Mike Colias reports on the potential for an increase in union organizing in the health care industry in Chicago if President-Elect Obama delivers on his campaign promise of passing and signing the Employee Free Choice Act, or EFCA, which is referred to in shorthand as "card check." Colias:

Mr. Obama is co-sponsor of a bill that would require employers to recognize unions if a majority of employees sign "union-authorization" cards, eliminating the current secret-ballot process. The House passed the Employee Free Choice Act in 2007, but Senate Republicans blocked the bill. It faced a certain veto from President George W. Bush. ... Chicago hospitals appear ready for a battle regardless of whether the bill passes. After spending much of the last two years campaigning for labor-friendly Democrats, local union leaders say they'll quickly shift their focus to organizing. A sweeping labor-reform law would boost those efforts, they say.

Employers use the language of a "secret ballot" to portray themselves as defending their employees' rights, conveniently ignoring the fact that it is every single step up to the secret balloting that makes America's labor law regime outright hostile to private sector organizing. Currently, workers need to demonstrate a "showing of interest" by signing authorization or union cards (or a petition), file it with the National Labor Relations Board (which, since 1976, has been more or less dominated by conservative appointees, thus creating reams of hostile case law), and then the fun part starts: deciphering which employees are reasonably considered in the same collective bargaining unit, which specific employees can't be included, negotiating the place and nature of the election, etc. etc. All the while the employer is targeting and harassing union activists, and forbidding activists from campaigning for the union while they actively campaign against it -- basically, it would be a "fair secret ballot election" if you consider an election where only one side is allowed access to the voters, is allowed to campaign, and can fire voters who disagree with them as a "fair secret ballot election."

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon

Election 2008 Fri Nov 07 2008

Cities Sitting Pretty With Urbane Obama

The media, understandably, were quick to seize on Barack Obama's race and relative youth as reasons for his historic victory. These salient, obvious characteristics correlate neatly to two demographics - black voters, and younger voters - among which he did handsomely. Less apparent and far less discussed, but manifest in national voting patterns that go deeper than the over-tired red-blue electoral map, and with equally significant portent for future national policies, is Obama's urbanity. Not only is Barack Obama the first Chicagoan (albeit non-native) to gain the Oval Office, he is the first president in a long time who hails, at least in adult life, from a city.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeff Smith / Comments (3)

Education Thu Nov 06 2008

My Endorsement for Secretary of Education

It shocked many education wonks when President-elect Barack Obama announced Linda Darling-Hammond as his campaign's education policy adviser.

Their pick would have more likely been a staffer from one of the big-city school districts that adhere to the a very simple orthodoxy. The formula is simple. Deprofessionalize teaching, hire fresh-faced Ivy-League graduates ready to do their two years of service in the classroom (that they would normally reserve for the non-profit sector), privatize everything from school services to curriculum, and make the bottom line as small as possible.

Continue reading this entry »

Kenzo Shibata / Comments (1)

Election 2008 Thu Nov 06 2008

Illinois Congressional Delegation Musical Chairs

Senator Obama's victory Tuesday creates a senate vacancy; his request to Rahm Emanuel to be his chief of staff could create a Congressional vacancy; the appointment of a Senator to replace President-Elect Obama will likely create another Congressional vacancy; and the filling of those two Congressional seats will probably create two General Assembly vacancies. Who will go where? Political junkies love these games.

Greg Hinz at Crain's speculates on the larger question of Chicagoans going to DC. And who will be the new Senate President!? Could that factor in!?

UPDATE: Politico is reporting that Rahm Emanuel has accepted the job as President-Elect Obama's Chief of Staff.

Follow after the fold for more.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon

Federal Government Wed Nov 05 2008

A Preview For Those On Their Way To DC

Hurray! Barack Obama has been elected the next president of the United States. You always knew it would happen - perhaps as far back as 2004 - because after all, you're from Chicago. And if you're a Chicagoan in politics, chances are you're already thinking about getting that nice gig in DC.

Continue reading this entry »

Mike Fourcher

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Parents Still Steaming, but About More Than Just Boilers

By Phil Huckelberry / 2 Comments

It's now been 11 days since the carbon monoxide leak which sent over 80 Prussing Elementary School students and staff to the hospital. While officials from Chicago Public Schools have partially answered some questions, and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool has informed that he will be visiting the school to field more questions on Nov. 16, many parents remain irate at the CPS response to date. More...


Substance, Not Style, the Source of Rahm's Woes

By Ramsin Canon / 2 Comments

It's not surprising that some of Mayor Emanuel's sympathizers and supporters are confusing people's substantive disputes with the mayor as the effect of poor marketing on his part. It's exactly this insular worldview that has gotten the mayor in hot... More...

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