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Sunday, July 21

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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.

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Jeff Smith

National Politics Wed Sep 16 2015

Don't Bother, They're Here

Illustration by DonkeyHotey.

It's unclear at what point the clown car metaphor became too undersized, and a clown stretch minivan, with attached elephant trailer, more apt for the traveling circus that has become the Republican presidential nomination contest. What's clearer is that there are more GOP candidates than living Americans who can name them all.

The paper today said that someone named Gilmore, or Fillmore, or Milhous, was not invited to any of tonight's debates. Looking up from my coffee, I announced this with all the seriousness and sorrow I could muster. My wife, looking as if I had asked her to name the last three finance ministers of Kyrgyzstan, said "Who?!"

"Exactly," I replied.

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Jeff Smith

National Politics Thu Jun 25 2015

The Battle Over the Confederate Flag

Image: Confederate flag supporter Karen Cooper shares her story in the documentary "Battle Flag"

As the nation mourned the victims of the terrorist attack in Charleston, South Carolina, images of suspected gunman Dylan Roof featuring the Confederate flag sparked a movement calling for the flag to be removed from statehouses and store shelves. But some claim the flag is not a racist icon and should remain as a symbol of Southern heritage.

Battle Flag brings the personal stories of people on both sides of this debate into focus. By combining short documentary interviews with additional resources, the multimedia project adds some much-needed depth to the discussion.

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Mike Ewing

Police Wed Nov 26 2014

Chicago to Ferguson: City Hall Sit-in Turns to Evening March Through the Loop


Chay, an organizer with BYP 100 Chicago, speaks out against police militarization and brutality at a Tuesday evening rally in downtown Chicago. Photo by Emily Brosious.

Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets in downtown Chicago Tuesday evening to protest a Missouri grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

The march began around 6:30 p.m., after police ordered protesters off City Hall's fifth-floor, where they had been staging a planned 28-hour sit-in outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office.

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Emily Brosious

National Politics Mon Mar 10 2014

Big City Mayors, Including Emanuel, Talk Challenges, Success at UChicago Panel

1780704_428485477284572_1392924816_n.jpgPhoto courtesy of University of Chicago Institute of Politics' Facebook Page

The University of Chicago's Institute of Politics hosted a discussion last week on leading America's largest cities. The discussion featured Mayors Bill de Blasio, Rahm Emanuel, Eric Garcetti and Kasim Reed, of New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Atlanta, respectively.

About a fifth of the country lives in one of these four metro areas.

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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.

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Emily Brosious

National Politics Mon Sep 30 2013

Midwest Action Against Drones Protests Boeing Chicago Headquarters


This past Saturday, September 28, activists from communities across the region gathered at Chicago's Millennium Park for the Midwest Action Against Drones to protest drone warfare and surveillance.

After a number of demonstrators sounded off against U.S. drone warfare programs, the group marched through Chicago's Loop towards Boeing's headquarters to rally against the company's role in drone proliferation.

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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.

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Joey Delisi

National Politics Wed Apr 17 2013

Sen. Kirk Releases Video on Gun Control Legislation

Today Sen. Mark Kirk sent out an email to constituents sharing a video about the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act, the gun control bill he co-authored with senators Pat Toomey (R-PA), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Charles Schumer (D-NY), with reference to the recent gang violence in Chicago.

Dear Friends,

Last week, I met with Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy who highlighted an unfortunate statistic: 40 percent of guns were purchased without a background check. I have made it one of my top priorities in Congress to end gun violence in cities like Chicago and to dry up dangerous criminals' access to illegal weapons. Drug gangs like the Gangster Disciples exploit the loopholes in our current system, and they commit senseless acts of violence leading to the death of innocent people, like 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, shot and killed in gang crossfire. I invite you to watch my new video that explains Senator Manchin (D-WV) and my bipartisan legislation, the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act. This bill will reduce gun violence across the US and save lives while defending law-abiding citizens' Second Amendment rights.

It is an honor to represent you in the United States Senate.

Very Truly Yours,

Mark Kirk
U.S. Senator

Andrew Huff

Social Issues Wed Apr 03 2013

Sen. Kirk believes "the government doesn't belong in the middle." Women's Rights, Anyone?

Sen. Mark Kirk joins the ranks of other Republican elected officials who have announced their support for same-sex marriage. His stance was the opposite during his 2010 Illinois senate race citing religious reasons.

He states, "Same-sex couples should have the right to a civil marriage. Our time on this earth is limited; I know that better than most. Life comes down to who you love and who loves you back--government has no place in the middle."

He is the fourth Republican congressman to split from his party's adamant stance on gay marriage along with Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH).

His unexpected stroke last year has truly humbled him and made him more open-minded to the demands of American citizens. I applaud Kirk for being bold in his party; however, the quote, "the government has no place in the middle," makes me think of other places the government has no place: a woman's body.

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Sydney Corryn / Comments (3)

Chicago Tue Feb 12 2013

City Mouse, Country Mouse: Geopolitics and Guns

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.

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Jeff Smith

Election 2012 Wed Oct 24 2012

Third Party Candidates Debate in Chicago

The day after the final debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, four third party candidates made their case for why they should be the next president of the United States at the Hilton Hotel here in Chicago.

Jill Stein of the Green Party, Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party, Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party answered questions put to them by moderator Larry King that were submitted via social media.

Hosted by the nonprofit Free & Equal, the debate was not picked up by any major U.S. networks, but was shown through a live stream as well as on Al-Jazeera and the Russian Times.

Issues discussed included electoral reform, climate change and civil liberties -- many topics never mentioned during the four preceding presidential and vice presidential debates.

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Mike Ewing / Comments (1)

Election 2012 Wed Oct 17 2012

The Other Presidential Debate

free and equal foundationWhile millions have tuned in to see President Obama and Governor Romney debate, next Tuesday's presidential debate here in Chicago will be lucky to attract voters' attention at all. That's because it won't receive national television coverage, and it won't feature the Democratic and Republican Party candidates. Instead, the candidates participating are all the others -- the "third party" candidates shut out of the big show.

At 8pm on Tuesday, Oct. 23, the Chicago-based Free & Equal Elections Foundation will host a presidential debate at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave. All six presidential candidates were invited; Obama and Romney are not expected to show (they'll be holding their third and final debate the night before), but Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, Jill Stein of the Green Party, Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party will be participating. Larry King will moderate.

The debate will be broadcast on Al Jazeera and streamed live on, Russia Today and Viewers will be invited to submit questions via Free and Equal's website, or on Twitter using the hashtag #AskEmThisLarry.

The Hilton's ballroom holds approximately 2,000 people. "People in attendance will be mostly students, voters... left leaning and right coming together," said Antonia Hall, a spokesperson for Free and Equal. The foundation will be selling a limited number of tickets to attend the debate on its website beginning Thursday, Oct. 18.

Andrew Huff / Comments (2)

Election 2012 Tue Oct 16 2012

Demagoguing the Death of an Ambassador

Parts of the world are dangerous, and some professions are even more so in such places. It would be nice if politicians and commentators would use context to cool passions rather than fuel flames of outrage, Islamophobia, and jingoism as a result of the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which ambassador J. Christopher Stevens died. Instead, I was struck, as I watched the vice-presidential debate last week, how the first question out of the box was angry demand for some sort of mea culpa on Libya, and I am still struck by how the event is still being exploited for political fodder, a meme we can expect to see continued.

The context that responsible leaders would provide is this: serving far from home has its risks even when the placement is a Paris or London, but the risks are greater when the host country lacks the stability or other amenities we take for granted, and doubly so when the US had a role in that instability. Chris Stevens was hardly the first diplomat to die, and he won't be the last. The US foreign service lists 236 people who have died in the line of duty. For decades, the greatest risks were of disease: yellow fever, cholera and the like took many lives of embassy personnel in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere.

Victor Stanwood, a diplomat murdered in Madagascar in 1888, might have been the first US diplomat to die unnaturally, but since the 1960s, most US consular deaths have been violent. Gunfire, bombings, and outright assassinations mix with an unusual number of plane crashes to account for most diplomatic fatalities.

It's ridiculous to blame one administration for this. We lost US ambassadors under Presidents Johnson (John Mein, Guatemala), Nixon (Cleo Noel, Sudan), Ford (Rodger Davies, Cyprus; Francis Meloy, Lebanon), Carter (Adolph Gubs, Afghanistan), and Reagan (Arnold Raphel, Pakistan). Nor does the US have a monopoly on this occupational hazard. Worldwide, hundreds if not thousands more have given their lives in the service of diplomacy.

What does stand out in the list of US foreign service dead in the past 50 years is how many of the incidents have been in countries where the US has intervened in a civil war, has actively bombed or sent troops, is conducting covert operations, or has been a participant, right or wrong, in the violence or strife that claims citizen-victims of the host country. The 1998 African embassy bombings stand out as exception but are also linked to US presence in the Middle East.

Worldwide, terrorism against American makes up less than 8% of all terrorist attacks; however, attacks on US personnel over the past 40 years account for over 28% of all attacks on diplomatic targets. As recently as July, 2012, an IED was detonated outside a US embassy in Libya, a country where the US actively participated in the overthrow of a regime, and where the State Department's own website advises of instability and violence throughout the country. While the US maintained that its role in the 2011 war was not regime change but to be an "interlocutor" for "genuine transition," the subtle distinction might be lost on survivors of US Tomahawk missile and drone strikes on Benghazi.

Chris Stevens's death was thus tragic, but not actuarially unpredictable. Likely only in America, where it seems all tragedy now requires recrimination if not litigation and legislation, would his death become fodder for political attack or Monday-morning-quarterbacking. The attending physicians say Stevens died of smoke inhalation. The fire apparently was started by a rocket attack. Having more security at the consulate itself would not have prevented the fatal fire.

Worldwide, the National Center for Counterterrorism shows that terrorism fatalities have actually declined every year that Barack Obama has been president. Still, to accept a post in a place like Libya, that was inflamed most of 2011 in a civil war, takes some courage, and to recognize Ambassador Stevens's courage requires agreeing that his posting carried risk, including risk of death. It is not at all clear that the so-called global war on terrorism has done anywhere near as much to reduce such risks as has disengagement from Iraq; worldwide, terrorism had a dramatic increase after the US invasion of Afghanistan and then Iraq. Those two countries, along with neighboring Pakistan, a country with which the US is not at war but where the US has now also killed hundreds, became the locus of more than half the terror attacks in the world.

No one should demagogue the Libya incident and use it as excuse for further escalation of rhetoric or military action, a deeper plunge into a cycle of violence. Those who do are just making the job of the diplomats like Chris Stevens all the more difficult, and all the more dangerous.

Jeff Smith / Comments (1)

Republicans Tue Sep 04 2012

Do Major Romney Donors Like Rahm More Than the Chicago Republican Party?

chicago republican partyOn Sunday, the Chicago Republican Party called on Rahm Emanuel to cancel the speech he will give tonight at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC. In a statement, Party Chairman Adam Robinson wrote that it would be inappropriate for the mayor to leave Chicago while the city was still dealing with a looming Chicago Teachers Union strike and a seemingly never-ending murder epidemic, and demanded that he "provide immediate, visible and specific leadership to address the twin crises facing our city."

Originally, Rahm planned to arrive in Charlotte on Tuesday and stay through Friday. But yesterday, he announced that he would cut his trip short and return to Chicago on Wednesday night -- denying that his new plans had anything to do with public pressure.

While the Chicago GOP makes a valid point about the mayor's priorities, there might be another underlying reason why the group is so eager to attack him: Rahm Emanuel gets more time, money, and attention from the rich donors funding Mitt Romney's presidential campaign than they do.

Continue reading this entry »

Jason Prechtel / Comments (2)

Health Care Wed Jul 18 2012

Wheaton College Sues Over "Preventative Services" Mandate

Wheaton College, in Wheaton, IL, is filing a lawsuit alongside the Catholic University of America in opposition to a birth-control-related mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services. The mandate requires most employers to provide health care that includes birth control coverage.

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Tyler Davis

The Left Thu Jul 05 2012

Socialism 2012: When Marx Rejoined Modern America

"Socialist" is the dirtiest insult in American politics.

So when I arrived at a hotel lobby last Thursday night to see what a conference that had the audacity to call itself "Socialism 2012" looked and sounded like, I wasn't sure what to expect. Was anyone actively involved in political and social struggles relevant to the average person going to be there? Or was this just going to be parade of faux-revolutionaries wearing t-shirts with pictures and quotes from radical icons, patting themselves on the back for their own self-righteousness? And more importantly, would anything happening over the next four days actually have an impact in the Chicagoland area (much less the world)?

Sure enough, I immediately found groups of 20-somethings in the hallways hawking t-shirts with sales pitches like "Get your Egyptian revolutionary socialist t-shirts here! Straight from Tahrir Square! $20!" But as the weekend progressed, I found much more than I ever could have expected.

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Jason Prechtel / Comments (4)

Mayor Fri Jun 29 2012

Life in the Neoliberal City: Post-Partisanship Wins!

America's big cities (and major metropolitan areas) are the laboratories of policy, if states are the laboratories of democracy. In metro areas and cities, universities, professional organizations, and trade associations and economic alliances are capable of exerting outsize influence and try to implement to approaches to social and economic problems that, again, are more easily identified and addressed because of high population concentrations in relatively small geographic areas.

Tell the nation! Draw near all ye with David Brooks columns bookmarked for other than hate reading purposes: Chicago and America's big cities have achieved post-partisanship! The very post-partisanship our President talked about on the campaign trail. As the post-partisanship machine takes firmer hold of our cities, it will move upward, capillary-attraction speed, to the states, until finally--finally!--we achieve the post-partisanship paradise pundits prattle on and on about.

What does that post-partisanship look like? Let Mick Dumke and Ben Joravsky tell you:

Welcome to part two in our ongoing series on the mayor's millionaire's club, in which we pore over the mayor's daily appointment schedule with the aim of shedding light on how the mayor prioritizes his time--and his far-reaching connections...

[O]nce again, we found that his days were loaded with rich guys, campaign donors, powerful contractors, union busters, charter-school supporters, City Hall insiders, aldermanic brownnosers, and other favor seekers.

But during these three months Emanuel found time for another type of visitor: major funders of conservative attacks on President Obama. As such, the mayor's calendar offers a glimpse of what passes for bipartisanship in Chicago--and shows the ways in which wealth and access, at least as much as party identity or ideology, have come to command the attention of politicians, leaving everyday people out of the conversation.


As a whole, appointments with neighborhood groups or community leaders were largely missing from the mayor's schedule. [Amisha] Patel [Director of the Grassroots Collaborative] says her group's requests for a meeting with the mayor have been ignored. She notes that Emanuel continues to find job subsidies for profitable corporations and developers at the same time he's cutting library hours, neighborhood services, and public-sector positions. "Let's talk about job creation but let's do it in a full way."

In fact, like many up-and-coming Republican stars, the mayor has shown a willingness--some would say an eagerness--to take on organized labor, especially the teachers union. He's also an avowed supporter of charter schools, paying them about as many visits, and arguably more attention, as he does regular public schools.

Post-partisanship means staying away from the organized (and thus cantankerous) disaffected and powerless, and hew to the already powerful and wealthy who must know what's best.

If this were just a Chicago phenomenon, it may be dismissed as yet another quirk of Chicago's sui generis politics.

It's not though! Phew, right? Post-partisanship lives to fight another day! In the form of...

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon

NATO-G8 Thu May 17 2012

Globe Money, Globe Problems

When civic leaders like Mayor Emanuel, his billionaire backers on the World Business Council, or the Commercial Club, talk about making Chicago a "global city," they don't quite mean making it a shining beacon to the world's reformers struggling to make the world a better, more egalitarian place; they mean they want to make it attractive to the already wealthy and powerful. They want to showcase it as a potential playground for those who can enjoy its luxuries; in a piece for Huffington Post, Tammy Webber quotes Richard Longworth from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs:

"We ought to be known for something more than the old stockyards, smog or Al Capone, but we aren't," said Richard Longworth, a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. "People are surprised when they visit, and that's why" Mayor Rahm Emanuel wanted the summit.

"We have to stop being a surprise," Longworth added.

When you do that, you create a stark relief between those who enjoy the recreation and those who can't pay the price of admission.

The litany of protests planned for the NATO Summit reflect this. If Chicago is to be a locus for convening the powerful, the powerless are going to want to confront them. Activists and reformers from all over the world are targeting the NATO Summit for what it represents: war as a priority, even while a devastating recession has thrown tens of millions of families into the dread of economic insecurity.

Today, Code Pink is marching on President Obama's reelection headquarters to protest "endless war" in Afghanistan and the killing of innocent families with remote-controlled drone attacks. On Saturday, the Mental Health Movement is planning to protest in Mayor Emanuel's neighborhood against the closure of six mental health clinics at the same time the Mayor and his business supporters are raising tens of millions of dollars to provide refreshments and entertainment for some of the most powerful people on Earth.

In turn, the city has a choice; are we going to treat activists and protesters as criminals-in-waiting and militarize our public safety (and expand our already troubling surveillance state) to the same degree that we become more and more global a city? Or accept that with global money come global problems and preserve Chicago's historical place as a center of intellectual and organizational freedom?

The introduction of equipment like the Long Range Acoustic Device, or LRAD, is not a good sign. Excellent at dispersing people because of the intense pain and sometimes long-term damage it causes, LRADs win the approbation of police forces because they appear harmless, even while causing real damage--in the words of some experts, a form of "acoustic assault."

Just as the city has been thrown into turmoil for its residents--street closures leading to business closures, traffic snarls making it difficult for people to move around, and intense security cordons that are discouraging residents from moving through areas of the city they'd otherwise enjoy on a weekend.

As we become more of that type of "global city," with more permanent institutions meant for the global elite, will a sanitized corridor controlled and maintained by militarized police empowered with new surveillance tools itself become institutionalized? In other words, is this the first of occasional nuisances, or the trial run for the long-term "globalization" of a portion of our city meant to create a comfortable space for the global elite at the expense of local desires, wishes, and needs?

It needn't be. Insofar as hosting events does indeed bring needed money into the city, that's a good thing; and protests and activists are integral to reminding the city's leadership why we need that money: to promote economic security for all of us and remember our priorities.

A global city is one that provides an example to the world, not a warning.

Ramsin Canon

National Politics Tue Apr 24 2012

Chicago Activist to Protest GE in Detroit

Chicago activists will depart the city tonight on their way to General Electric's annual shareholders meeting in Detroit. They will join thousands of other protesters from cities around the country in an attempt to question the company's terrible track record of an American corporation.

More than 150 Chicagoans will attend the protests as GE's tax dodging has cost the State of Illinois $200 million in revenue in 2010 alone, according the Stand Up! Chicago.

The organization also contends the money could be used to create nearly 4,000 jobs or help the state's budget crisis.

"While I've been struggling to find full employment, take care of my son and save my home from foreclosure, there's this multi-billion-dollar corporation that's actually paying less in taxes than I am," said Shani Smith in a news release. "That's why I'm getting on a bus late Tuesday. It's time GE got the message that enough is enough."

GE might be swarmed by nearly 3,000 protesters and a couple hundred proxy shareholders tomorrow. Activists want the company to pay its taxes, invest in American jobs, and stop its part in the ownership of our democracy by the global one percent.

Multiple actions are taking place in Detroit. For more coverage you can follow me on Twitter and read more at my site, The Political is Personal.

Aaron Krager

National Politics Sat Jan 21 2012

One Day, Two Downtown Protests

Two demonstrations occurred downtown on Saturday. A group of demonstrators gathered in support for the people of Egypt, while another unrelated group marched through the streets in support of sustainable seafood.

About 30 people gathered in front of the Egyptian Consulate, located at 500 N. Michigan Ave., and shouted, in Arabic, in support of the people of Egypt and against the military council currently in control.

Continue reading this entry »

Tyler Davis

National Politics Tue Jan 03 2012

Illinois Pols on the Romney Train in Iowa

by Tyler Davis

DES MOINES, Iowa - Many prominent Illinois political figures, including four in the U.S. Congress, and Illinois business-people have endorsed former Gov. Mitt Romney, but endorsements may not have much of an impact on Iowa caucus results, said some Iowa Republicans.

Last week, U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, a Republican representing Illinois' 18th district, joined Mitt Romney on the campaign trail.

"We were in Davenport on Tuesday, and we criss-crossed around the state on Wednesday," said Schock. "I introduced him at each stop and told why I support him."

Schock has endorsed Romney because "he's the most qualified to take on President Obama," and that, "once he is elected, he can do the job."

Schock is also on Romney's national finance committee, where he helps raise funds for the campaign. He will be campaigning with Romney in Iowa on caucus day.

First-term Illinois Senator Mark Kirk also endorsed Romney, as well as U.S. Reps. Judy Biggert and Robert Dold, former U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, according to Romney's campaign website. Rutherford is also the Illinois chairman for the Romney campaign and has donated $2,500 to the campaign.
Biggert donated $1,000 to the Romney campaign.

Hastert and Rutherford also endorsed Gov. Romney in 2008.

Iowa caucus participants, however, might not be paying much attention public endorsements and fundraising numbers.

"Endorsements don't make a huge difference in the long run [in Iowa]," said Kevin McLaughlin, chairman of the Polk County Republican Party in Polk County Iowa.

"What I think is a bigger deal are the people who stand up and speak for a candidate at the caucus," said Polk Count GOP chairman McLaughlin, referring to a portion of the caucus where individual representatives give a pitch of their candidate at each precinct.

"A prominent heart surgeon in Des Moines, Dr. Ronald Grooters, will be standing up for Newt Gingrich," said McLaughlin. "That might sway some people, especially if he's performed surgery on them."

"Endorsements might matter to the people who have been here [in Iowa] volunteering for months.The people who are more politically active," said McLaughlin.

Romney also has strong support from businesses in Illinois.

Of Romney's $32.2 million raised nationally, $679,714 of it came from Illinois, according to the last campaign finance report covering April through September of last year, the latest the data was available. Seventy-eight percent of the funds from Illinois came from contributions of $2,000 or more.

Chicago contributions account for $202,933 of Romney's funds raised in Illinois. Many in the Chicago business community have contributed, from attorneys and investment bankers to owners of Chicago restaurants like Tamarind in the South Loop and Arun's Thai in Irving Park, according to the campaign finance report. Neither restaurant owner could be reached for comment.

Also traveling with Romney last week were New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, said Schock.


Occupy Chicago Fri Oct 28 2011

Tariq Ali on the Arab Spring and #OccupyWallStreet

"Hey! think the time is right for a palace revolution
But where I live the game to play is compromise solution"

"Street Fighting Man," often hailed as the Rolling Stones' most political song, was allegedly inspired by Tariq Ali — political thinker, novelist, filmmaker and activist. Ali was involved in protesting the Vietnam war, and has written more than two dozen works of non-fiction and seven novels. Last night, he spoke at the Biograph Theater on the relation between the protests that resulted in the Arab Spring and the occupy movements that are spreading across the globe.

While he sees Occupy Wall Street and its spin-offs as indication that "things are beginning to move" here in the US, he remains realistic — the occupations may not achieve the results the 99% want, yet are "creating a space" for something "totally different": for the realization that there is and must be an alternative to the "corporate capitalism" that rules what is effectively a one-party system. Democrat or Republican, the US government is comprised of what amounts to an "extreme center," in which politicians, when in power, wind up doing the same thing as their predecessor, regardless of party affiliation. And that one thing is simple: stay in the pockets of corporate capital, and stay in power.

Ali began his talk by pointing out how even the smallest beginning of a grassroots movement can have a global impact. When the Egyptians saw what the Tunisians had achieved — "not known for their political activities — they thought, "If they can do it, so can we." Those who ignited the Arab Spring were resoundingly doubted — no one thought they could do it. What the world witnessed during those months was not, certainly, unprecedented. Ali was clear that this had been brewing for three or four years prior to the eruption, as seen in factory strikes and demonstrations on a smaller scale.

The points here are two-fold: whether the occupy movements taking shape across the US and abroad would have happened at all without the impetus of the Arab Spring is doubtful, although possible in perhaps another form, and the occupy movements may amount to some of the "smaller demonstrations" that prefaced a larger uprising and true change brought about by Tahrir Square.

The Arab Spring and the occupy movements may differ in scale, but qualitatively they are very similar. The occupiers are railing against what they see as the "paralysis that has afflicted their politicians" and the "widespread disillusionment" in the wake of the Obama presidency. Obama (or at least the idea of him) who Ali cites as the "most inventive apparition the [American] Empire could develop," is little different from his predecessor. What the US got isn't change, it's "continuity with other imperial presidents before him."

At the end of the day, #OWS, #OccupyChi, and their brethren represent an opportunity, to which Ali really has only one thing to say: "Don't waste it."

If you missed last night's discussion, you can read more about his thoughts on the occupy movements and the Arab Spring here.

Megan E. Doherty

Social Issues Tue Jul 19 2011

Persons, Inc.

contributed by Brian Reilly

"OK, so these are the things converging with us," Annabel Park says over the phone from suburban Washington, DC. "One is the corruption, the level of corruption in Washington that really is impeding progress on just about every single issue that concerns the American people. So I think from climate change to campaign finance to Wall Street reform, all these issues that progress is desperately needed, is impeded by the influence of money in our government."

Park is a documentary film maker who in 2010 turned a primal scream of a Facebook post about incivility at Congressional town hall meetings into a national organization called the Coffee Party movement. In less than two years the Coffee Party movement claims to have an e-mail list of 75,000 people and 378,158 Facebook participants.

The Coffee Party has taken up the cause of bringing individuals back into the political process through what they consider to be a more civil and reasoned approach to discussing and advocating for issues. As Park sits down to talk, the Coffee Party has taken on the issue of getting banking watchdog Elizabeth Warren nominated to head the new federal Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

Continue reading this entry »


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

Urban Planning Fri Jun 10 2011

Joel Kotkin's Jihad on Logic

In some urbanist circles, the name Joel Kotkin prompts groans and grimaces. Kotkin - a frequent writer for Forbes, the executive editor for the website, Distinguished Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University (the credentials go on...) - is occasionally derided as someone who glosses over concrete statistics to prove points about broader trends that make his cases compelling, as Florida Coastal School of Law Professor Michael Lewyn vividly illustrated in his rebuttal of Kotkin's "The War Against Suburbia." Seen as a sprawl supporter or even worse, an apologist, this perceived bias can deflect urbanists from Kotkin's analysis and detailed demographic studies. Kotkin often tries to juxtapose his "everyday man"-isms against the "creative class"-isms of Richard Florida, as Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institute remarked in a New Republic article from last year. Yet, even as both urban theorists paint incomplete pictures of cities that rest on somewhat easy, homogenous models, they usually push a dialogue forward.

Some of Kotkin's more recent work does this successfully, such as when he gives careful consideration to the factors that shaped the unexpectedly suburban tilt of the 2010 Census. Articles such as "The Dispersionist Manifesto" and "Cities and the Census: Cities Neither Withering nor Booming" posit forth a legitimately sound version of urban demography that seems cut from the cloth of the Mike Davis/Los Angeles School of Urbanism, which deserve discussion at the urbanist table. Of course, it's just as easy to take the other side of the argument. One could point to the 2010 census and note the demographic shifts that have revealed tremendous population growth in innermost central-city cores from Chicago to Detroit to Philadelphia to Los Angeles. There's always another side to the story to be examined.

This duality is what makes discussion about dissecting cities, states, their populations, and the local, federal, and state policies that inform their shape, design, and viability so essential. Unfortunately, Kotkin's latest piece for Forbes and New Geography, "California's Green Jihad" leaves little room for duality and spurs very little actual thought for enlightened conversation. Rather, the article - whose basic premise is that the over-regulating environmental czars of California are enacting energy policy regulations in the disinterest of its people, and have developed a theocratic zeal for green energy that is on par with the Iranian government's Islamic fundamentalism - is a slipshod construction of ill-formed metaphor and mismatched thought. While there's certainly a case to be made against the unintended consequences of heavy state interference in a market economy (Disclosure: I've even written about such for New Geography in the past), Kotkin's comparison of theocratic thugs operating under the guise of some Bay Area greenies is disingenuous.

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Ben Schulman

Good Government/Reform Tue May 31 2011

Drawing the Partisan and Protective Map

For political junkies like myself there is little better than watching politicians subvert the electorate every ten years through the process of redistricting.

It happens every ten years after the constitutionally mandated census and requires states to reapportion Congressional districts. Watching how this ritual plays out suggests that maybe allowing elected officials to draw their own districts is not the best idea. They carve out neighborhoods and towns like turkey, looking for the juiciest bits of meat.

With Democrats controlling both chambers of the legislature as well as the Governor's mansion, the state party has redrawn the proposed map to benefit themselves. That is, after the 2012 elections.

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Aaron Krager

National Politics Sun May 22 2011

Tim Pawlenty Running for President

Tim Pawlenty, or umm, "T-Paw," is running for president. He says he's got the courage it takes:

Ben Schulman

Tea Party Mon Apr 18 2011

The 3rd Annual Tax Day Tea Party Criticizes Obama, Evokes John Galt

by Michael Volpe

On February 29, 2009, about two hundred folks braved the frigid Chicago winter to participate in one of 19 such rallies all around the country at the Daley Plaza. The movement had yet not had a name. President Obama was still enjoying near 70 percent approval ratings. The message of fiscal restraint and smaller government at that rally seemed odd and out of place to the public at large. After all, many blamed an inattentive government for creating the financial crisis. President Obama had ridden the hope and change of more helpful and sympathetic government. Rick Santelli had yet to have his infamous rant.

Less than two months later, on April 15, 2009, the crowd numbered several thousand and the protest moved a few blocks in front of the Dirksen Federal Building. The Chicago Tax Day Tea Party was one of nearly a thousand that went on that day. All in all, about one million people protested that day and the Tea Party ("taxed enough already") movement was officially born.

Two years and three days after that first Tax Day Tea Party, the Tea Party movement was back at Daley Plaza for the third annual protest. Much has changed since that frigid day in February of 2009. The movement has a name. President Obama's approval isn't near 70 percent, and fiscal restraint and the Constitution are back in vogue.

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Mechanics / Comments (1)

News Tue Mar 01 2011

Chicagoans Show Solidarity With Wisconsin Public Sector Workers

This article was submitted by Michael Volpe. For his piece on a deadly South Side blaze, see here.

When protests turned into riots in Greece in response to necessary austerity measures many commentators in the USA said chaos wouldn't happen here when our own budgets would inevitably cut. Yet, passions have been enflamed in all corners to prospective budget cuts. Friday, the scene was at the Daley Plaza as organizers lead by the anti eviction campaign protested proposed cuts by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Saturday, the scene moved to the John Thompson Center where Chicago played host to one of dozens of union lead protests all protesting the plan of newly elected Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker to cut most public employees benefits and limit their future collective bargaining rights. Despite constant snow and twenty degree weather, the crowd of nearly one thousand overflowed the square.

The signs were varied though singular in theme: solidarity, social justice, and anti Scott Walker and Republican party.

Some were clever,


Others weren't as clever,


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Mechanics / Comments (3)

National Politics Mon Jan 17 2011

In Memoriam

Ramsin Canon

Immigration Thu Dec 23 2010

Mechanics Contributor Yana Kunichoff Drops Some Knowledge on the DREAM Act

In the wake of the DREAM Act's recent failure in the Senate, assistant editor and occasional Mechanics contributor Yana Kunichoff sat down with the independent progressive bloggers at The Media Consortium to discuss the future of the bill and the U.S. immigration movement. Check out her comments at TMC's site or below:

Micah Uetricht

Economics Tue Dec 07 2010

One Hot Dollar in Your Chinese Pocket

The continuing clamor over the Federal Reserve's second round of quantitative easing seems poised to be elevated after last week's disappointing employment numbers were revealed. Fed Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is most likely getting as comfortable as one can get in the political cross hairs, as seemingly no matter what direction he moves in regards to monetary policy causes an uproar of contention. While the tenor of the anger may remain the same no matter what steps Bernanke takes, the frustrating sluggishness of the U.S. economy, the pervasiveness of the Great Recession's unemployment, and the dwindling bag of fiscal tricks that are left -- essentially, the catalyst for QE2 -- are indeed cause for serious concern.

On one hand, with the deteriorating situation all across Europe, the dollar and treasuries seem as if they are still relatively safe places for investment. But if the worldwide slump has taught the globe anything, it's that economic conditions on a global stage emerge from the handling of domestic situations, and in the U.S., the fiscal maneuvers to keep the financial ship steady are disappearing. The additional $600 billion purchase of bonds by the Fed may be a necessary step to further stabilize the market and try and get some true solid footing under the recovery, but it also hits off-center of the continuing problem (housing), and sends mixed messages about the value of U.S. currency. Such confusion can only embolden, and alienate, our trading partners.

Economic philosopher Georges Bataille stated in his book The Accursed Share that "It is not necessity but its contrary, "luxury," that presents living matter and mankind with their fundamental problems." It seems as if this dictum has come back to haunt America. Fatigued from a false sense of luxury fed by a glut of cheap credit, consumers aren't responding to any amount of propped-up liquidity to encourage them to spendthrift their ways towards economic salvation. It's not even that they're not responding necessarily, it's that the opportunity to spend isn't even out there, with increasingly marginalized credit lines and the continuing downward spiral of housing prices.

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Ben Schulman / Comments (3)

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.

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Jeff Smith / Comments (4)

Chicago Tue Nov 09 2010

Chicago Assyrians Protest Iraq Attacks, Official Inaction

AssyrianRally1.jpgMore than 1,500 members* of Chicago's Assyrian community filled the plaza in front of the Thompson State of Illinois Building on Monday, Nov. 8, to protest the killing of 58 Christians in Baghdad a week earlier, during a siege of a church by Islamist militants and a subsequent storming of the church by Iraqi commandos. The march was dubbed the "Black March" because of the decision by the protestors to wear black. Pre-made and hand-lettered signs carried slogans such as "Stop the Killing of Christians" and "Cheap Oil - Precious Lives."

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Jeff Smith / Comments (3)

Elections Wed Nov 03 2010

Election Wrap Up: Mechanics on WBEZ

Hey everybody! Thanks for stopping by Mechanics in between booking one-way tickets to Ottawa on Priceline in anticipation of the proto-fascist Republican takeover of the federal government or researching your upcoming blog post, "The Democratic Party is Toast (For Real This Time)."

I joined Lenny McAllister of WVON and Nenna Torres of UIC to talk about last night's election results with Alison Cuddy of WBEZ's 848. Highlights include me calling Pat Quinn "a tough dude." For the record, I was this/close to calling him "one tough motherflipper." You're welcome, BEZ. Check it out.

Ramsin Canon

Elections Tue Nov 02 2010

Sports Dollars in Politics

This article was submitted by Andrew Kachel

"Money is the mother's milk of politics." -Jesse "Big Daddy" Unruh

Back when Mike Ditka half-assedly ran for the US Senate then immediately backed out, he had this to say: "Five, six years ago I would have jumped on it and would have ran with it, and I know this, that I would make a good senator, because I would be for the people." Ditka said this at an impromptu news conference in front of Mike Ditka's Steakhouse on the near North Side.

Over the last two decades, American athletes and coaches as a group have been eerily quiet with their political opinions. Gilbert Arenas famously noted in the last presidential election that he wasn't voting -- both candidates were going to tax his enormous salary. When asked why he didn't back civil rights champion Harvey Gantt in the North Carolina Senate race, Michael Jordan shrewdly replied, "Republicans buy sneakers, too."

There's more than a little pressure from owners and management for athletes to conduct themselves as apolitical entities. PR coaches know this from the moment players step into their offices and ingratiate it into their psyches. Pro athletes aren't even supposed to criticize officiating (fines are inevitable when they do), so their ideas on the direction of foreign and domestic policy ride the third rail. Reporters don't ask and players don't tell.

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Mechanics / Comments (4)

National Politics Mon Nov 01 2010

A Chicagoan's Trip to the Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear

The following photographs are by Waleeta Canon, a Chicagoan who traveled to Washington, D.C. for the Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear on Saturday. Some are already suggesting that the event could be remembered as one of the most important events in modern political history. Regardless of its ultimate consequence, crowd estimates put the turnout at over 200,000, or two and a half times the number of people who turned out for Glenn Beck's D.C. rally.

The following photographs document scenes from the crowd while paying special attention to participants' signs.

Additional photographs from the satellite Chicago rally by GB flickr pool contributor Michael Courier are available here.

David Schalliol

Elections Sun Oct 31 2010

Moving America Forward Rally with President Barack Obama Photo Essay

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.

David Schalliol / Comments (2)

National Politics Sat Oct 30 2010

Terrorist Plot That Targeted Chicago Synagogues Foiled

Yesterday a terrorist plot to ship explosives in computer printer toner cartridges from Yemen to Chicago synagogues was foiled thanks to international cooperation and particularly a tip from Saudi intelligence officials. Although the plot coincided with President Obama's visit to Chicago for a Get Out The Vote Rally, The New York Times reports that the targeted synagogues did not include the one directly across the street from President Obama's house.

Via Lynn Sweet, here's the press release from Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-9) who is on the House Select Committee on Intelligence and also the Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations:

WASHINGTON, DC (Oct. 29, 2010) -- Today Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence and Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, released the following statement in response to a terrorist attempt targeting Jewish sites in Chicago through packages sent from overseas.

"I want to commend the Obama Administration and intelligence services for their coordinated efforts and successful interception today of a terrorist plot originating from Yemen and targeting Chicago synagogues. This plot is especially disturbing to me as a representative of the Chicago area and as a member of its Jewish community. I have worked with the Jewish community to help them obtain resources for enhanced security, and I will continue to do so.

"Today's event highlights a stark reality: terrorism on American soil remains a threat and we absolutely must remain vigilant"

Daniel Strauss

Elections Sun Oct 17 2010

Corporate Cash Flooding IL, National Federal Races

Holding signs with slogans such as "RepubliCorp: we buy democracy, one race at a time," members of MoveOn from Chicago and the northern suburbs held a press conference on Friday, Oct. 15 at the Northbrook office of Congressman Mark Kirk, who is also a candidate for U.S. Senate, to draw attention to a report entitled Buying Democracy: The impact of corporate and right-wing front groups on elections in llinois. The report's findings reinforce what many Americans have become aware of in recent weeks, namely, that an unprecedented flood of shadowy cash is making its way into the 2010 election. The northern Illinois group held their presentation in coordination with other MoveOn efforts taking place in all 50 states.

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Jeff Smith / Comments (21)

Urban Planning Thu Oct 07 2010

A Steel Tree: Return to Pittsburgh

The corporate headquarters of American Eagle Outfitters, situated on the South Side of Pittsburgh, sits on what is known as the "Hot Metal Campus." Inside the building, a rush of attractive 20-somethings swiftly move about with a persistent soft buzz as jeans are shaped and cut, and merchandise is tested, worn, developed and discarded. The Hot Metal Campus rests along the Monongahela River, which is easily traversed by crossing over the Hot Metal Bridge towards the city's East End and its Downtown. Like most other sites along the river, gigantic steel mills once proudly stood here. In their time, the mills and refineries gave Pittsburgh its raison d'etre, coloring its skies in money and soot.

j&L.jpg The J&L Steel Mill, Pittsburgh, PA circa 1951.

The particular parcel where American Eagle now stands formerly belonged to Jones & Laughlin Steel, which in its heyday held 15,000 people in its employ at the SouthSide Works plant. The quiet hum that pervades the site now would almost seem to belie its history, but is in fact just as indicative of the Pittsburgh of today as J&L was of Pittsburgh's past. Flanking either side of AE's building stand two large steel trees. The sculptures, at once massive and intricate, display not only the story of the Hot Metal Campus, but also the continuing story of Pittsburgh itself.

steeltree2.jpg A Steel Tree outside of American Eagle Headquarters, Pittsburgh, PA circa 2010.

A few weeks ago, this space spilled some digital ink on the Pittsburgh "reinvention" story. The piece seemed to pick up on a meme floating around of Pittsburgh as place. It may be the capital of what blogger Jim Russell calls Rust Belt Chic, it may be -- with its over 20,000 regional jobs waiting to be filled -- the next fertile ground for corporate expansion, or it may be one of the best places for families with young children.

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Ben Schulman / Comments (7)

National Politics Tue Aug 24 2010

Pittsburgh, and the Magic of Failure

In recent years, Pittsburgh has developed an almost exotic allure as a successfully reborn, recast city. Since its near complete collapse in the early 1980s, when 85,000 regional jobs were lost as the steel industry decayed, Pittsburgh has been shaking off demographic decline and slowly morphing into an updated version of its former self -- if not as a manufacturing colossus, at least in terms of having thriving street-life, dense, small-scale development supported throughout its neighborhoods, and a sense of economic vibrancy. This percolating renewal culminated, or at least achieved validity, with President Obama's decision to place last year's G20 Summit in Pittsburgh.

Obama's decision to do so set off a small media frenzy about Pittsburgh's determined grit and resiliency, with odes from Newsweek, The Atlantic, and Forbes all heralding the rejuvenation of one of America's most overlooked urban jewels. Of course, the G20 boost was just landing on the tail end of a long-arc of reformation, as the New York Times had noted even earlier in 2009. On a recent visit just a few weeks ago to the city nestled at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, the amenities, vitality, and cultural options available seemed to be mammoth for a place of its size.

Walking through the Cultural District downtown, crossing the Sixth Street Bridge to the Pirates' PNC Park (adjacent to the Andy Warhol Museum), heading a bit north to the devastatingly beautiful Mexican War Streets Historic District (home to avant-art capital The Mattress Factory), crossing over to the hipster haven of Carson St on the South Side, exploring the teeming Old World-Bronx-circa-1950 feel of the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, scarfing down the overwhelming deliciousness of the Saturday morning open-air food market that is the Strip District, or randomly stumbling into a milonga during the Lawrenceville neighborhood's First Friday evening artwalks, it isn't easy not to get caught up in the Pittsburgh reincarnation story. (Not even mentioned: Oakland, home to Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh; Shadyside, the host to some of the most impressive homes anywhere in the country, and many other neighborhoods of the 89 distinct 'hoods that make up Pittsburgh proper.)

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Ben Schulman / Comments (14)

Media Fri Jul 16 2010

The FCC in Chicago: A Confused Idea of Public Protection

[This is Part Three and the last in a series. Read Part 1 and Part 2]

The floating head of Julius Genachowski echoed throughout the Northwestern auditorium, his smiling digital image projected onto a large white screen. The effect was humorous. After all, not only was he addressing a forum which had been convened in part to discuss the future of online video, but one convened by the Federal Communications Committee, the federal agency to which, as its leader, Chairman Genachowski was now blatantly flaunting his absence.

That left Michael Copps in charge, the only FCC Commissioner to show up at Tuesday's hearing. Copps has long been a sharp proponent of government regulation over the telecommunications industry, and he didn't hold back as he addressed the issue at hand; a $30 billion joint venture proposed by Comcast and GE whereby the largest cable and broadband provider in America would acquire the fourth-largest producer of news and entertainment media.

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Timna Axel / Comments (2)

Budget Thu Jun 17 2010

Time for Chicagoland Residents to Take Control of the Country's Fiscal Future

An Op-Ed Submitted by Rev. Dr. Clare Butterfield and Herman Brewer

Some experts and policymakers believe our country could do more to prevent problems before they occur. In particular, instead of postponing our response to the nation's budget problems, we should use our resources today to prevent them from becoming worse. New reports show that current patterns in U.S. spending and revenue can't be continued in the long run. Decisions must be made about the goals we want our country to meet and how we raise the money to meet them; there are steps we can take today to prevent fiscal problems from becoming bigger and more costly to fix. The solutions we come up with will be important to all Americans.

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Mechanics / Comments (2)

Education Mon May 03 2010

The Education Revolt: The Chicago Model's Fallout

Teachers, parents, and students are not happy at Chicago's education leadership--there is mounting frustration with the Board of Education, the CPS bureaucracy, and the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) leadership. As President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan take the Chicago model of slow-burn privatization national, Chicago may just be seeing a full fledged revolt against it. With the recent revelation that there are now no educators among the CPS' top leadership, scrutiny of a reform program dominated by entrepreneurs and private interests (including a Board of Education stacked with financiers and real estate developers) is likely to sour people further.

Teachers, Parents, and Students, Oh My

Chicago's teachers are angry; but that matters less than the fact that even more are discouraged, leaving the profession, burning out and warning the next generation away from teaching all together. Teachers have been under a full assault by corporate interests and the disingenuous reformers they underwrite for decades, and this assault has only intensified since the election of Barack Obama to the White House and the elevation of former CPS CEO Arne Duncan to the top of the Department of Education. Obama and Duncan have undertaken to bring Chicago-style education reform to the level of national policy, without any evidence whatsoever that that reform works.

The (arguably illegal) Race to the Top program, which embodies Chicago Renaissance 2010 model of school turnarounds, privatization, and "pay-for-performance" incentives, is just getting underway, and teachers around the country are finding out, too late, that Obama et al are hostile to public educators.

But here in Chicago, where the method to this madness was born, teachers and parents are organizing revolts to protect their schools. Unhappy teachers are lining up to challenge a union leadership they characterize as ineffective or accommodationist and an insular Board of Education, as parents and students are fighting to keep their schools public and democratically controlled. And what happens here, at ground zero of school privatization, could presage what happens nationally as the federal government tries to strong arm school districts into dismantling their public schools; a policy instituted as a sop to "centrism" could end up sparking a serious fight in the moderate liberal wing of the Democratic Party as urban community groups and teachers union factions resist.

That's Why There Will Be a Change

The Chicago Teachers Union is in the middle of a bruising factional fight as union elections approach in May. Several caucuses are vying for leadership by running slates to unseat the current ruling caucus, the United Progressive Caucus (UPC) and CTU President Marilyn Stewart. The gentlest of the criticisms against the UPC are that they are inept, unable to effectively advocate for teachers and students; the more stinging criticisms allege outright accommodation by union leadership of the Board of Education (and, by proxy, Mayor Daley). Whatever the various grievances, there is undoubtedly frustration among teachers that they are being vilified and left hung out to dry with little support. Teacher activism is as high as it has been in years, and that activism is a direct result of the privatization policies of Renaissance 2010 and the inability of the CTU--under different administrations--to halt those policies.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (6)

Immigration Thu Apr 29 2010

Immigrant Rights Picket at Wrigley Field: Boycott Arizona!

Wrigley picket

Immigrants Rights Activists Picket outside Wrigley Field.

Chicago is finally getting some spring weather. In Wrigleyville, thousands of fans are enjoying the weather and catching a baseball game. Jeering the other team has a long history in sports, but today over 200 supporters of immigrants rights picketed outside Wrigley Field to protest against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Arizona's anti-immigrant SB1070 law.

The law forces law enforcement in Arizona to stop "suspected illegal immigrants" and make them prove their citizenship in order to avoid arrest. Leone Jose Bicchieri, the executive director of the Chicago Workers Collaborative explained that the law would "only increase racial profiling in Arizona." Describing what the law tells police to do, "You better go out today and you better stop suspected undocumented immigrants. When you say, 'Well what does that mean?' They say 'well you know, suspected undocumentented immigrants.' That means dark people."

Immigrants and civil rights groups across the country have begun a nationwide boycott against the state of Arizona in order to pressure the state to rescind the law and to prevent other state from passing similar laws.

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Matt Muchowski / Comments (1)

Republicans Fri Apr 16 2010

Chicagoland Tea Party Profile

Local blogger Carl Nyberg attended a Tea Party rally and wrote up some profiles of the folks there.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Immigration Sun Apr 11 2010

Democrats Target Immigration Reform - How Far Will They Go?

Immigration rally

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.

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Matt Muchowski / Comments (9)

Wage Theft Wed Mar 31 2010

The New Sheriff In Our Town

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis was in Chicago today, on a tour of the US promoting the Department's new "We Can Help" initiative. The initiative aims to raise public awareness of the national problem with wage theft by employers. Solis has announced she will be tripling the staff of the Department's Wage and Hour Division, and begin aggressively pursuing employers who steal from their employees. When Solis was confirmed in February of 2009, she announced that there was a "new sheriff in town" and pledged that labor law would begin to be enforced.

The Bush administration had focused their Wage and Hour resources on larger employers, but staff size was minuscule and the division was overworked and unable to pursue complaints seriously.

Wage theft costs Illinois workers hundreds of millions of dollars a year; in New York City the number is in the billions. It is a serious crime treated lightly ("They're lucky to have a job in the first place"), a function of the propaganda that employers are charitable "job creators" and everyone else fortunate vassals. Cities across the country are beginning to look seriously at local legislation to punish irresponsible employers who cheat their employees and undercut the vast majority of responsible employers.

Secretary Solis appeared in the East Terrace room of UIC's student center, overlooking Hull House, to announce the campaign. Pointing to the city's skyline, Secretary Solis reminded the crowd that it was the DOL's "moral responsibility" to advocate for those "work in those buildings by day, and clean them by night."

If you feel your employer has cheated you out of overtime, mandated breaks, or any wages, contact the DOL.

Progress Illinois posted the following video and have a more complete write-up.

Ramsin Canon

Education Fri Mar 26 2010

Jitu Brown and Pauline Lipman on Democracy Now

...and they're talking about Arne Duncan. And they are not particularly fond of him. Jitu Brown of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization is always great. Pauline Lipman is an academic from UIC.

Ramsin Canon

The Left Sat Mar 20 2010

Reflections on Anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq

Eugene Cherry from Iraq Veterans Against the War Speaks at Chicago's Anti-War Rally.

Every year around March 20th, I attend an anti-war rally. On March 17, 2010 over a thousand people rallied at Federal Plaza and marched on Michigan Ave. It came as President Obama is intensifying the war in Afghanistan. The protesters seemed to be mocking Mayor Daley's challenge, "Where are the anti-war people? They disappeared! They stopped marching!" No, we never did stop marching, even as Daley has continued to antagonize us.

It was March 20, 2003, seven years ago, that shock and awe began and our country invaded and began to occupy Iraq, the second largest source of oil in the world, a country with a civilization that dates back to before the bible was written. I was arrested that day at a protest, like 900 Chicagoans, and many more around the country were.

It was a scary time. Less than two years since 9/11, and it felt like the whole country was against the anti-war protesters. I had nightmares that I was thrown in Guantanamo Bay. Today, the majority of the country is against war in Iraq and most of the country has it's doubts about the war in Afghanistan.

I asked a friend if he was going to attend this year. He would rather apartment hunt. He asked me what difference going to the rally would make. Would it end the war? Would it stop the bloodshed? After we had such massive anti-war rallies before the invasion and those failed to stop it, what difference would this one rally seven years later, 95,000 dead Iraqis later, make?

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Matt Muchowski / Comments (3)

Media Thu Mar 18 2010

Amy Goodman Speaks at DePaul

On Friday, March 12, Amy Goodman, the host of Democracy Now!, spoke at DePaul University. She was one of the best speeches I have seen in a long time. She covered a range of topics; from the history of colonialism in Haiti, where she encouraged solidarity over charity; to the anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie and her parents civil suit against the Israeli military, to former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld's home which was the same home that abolitionist Fredrick Douglas and other slaves were beaten in.

Goodman spoke about the late historian Howard Zinn and how as a teacher at the historically Black Spellman College, he incited students to become active in the civil rights movement. His reward was to be kicked out of the school. However, 42 years later Zinn was asked to return to Spellman, where he gave a commencement speech and received an honorary degree.

Goodman then pointed out that, "Times do change. I hope time changes for DePaul too. I hope it takes less than 42 years for Norm Finkelstein to be invited back," which garnered applause. Goodman described Finkelstein's research as important. Finkelstein was a professor at DePaul who was denied tenure, after he raised controversy over Israel's human rights record in the occupied territories of Gaza.

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Matt Muchowski / Comments (1)

Education Wed Mar 03 2010

Obama's Olive Branch to the Chamber: Privatize Education

Glad they could come together on something. America's bipartisan consensus: privatize education.

While the Chamber, congressional Democrats and the Obama administration have found little common ground on climate change and financial regulation legislation, among other major issues, there is general agreement on the president's approach to education -- building on the reforms initiated under President George W. Bush.

Ramsin Canon

Event Mon Feb 22 2010

Neve Gordon at Oak Park Library Tonight

Among the small network of Jewish mothers in suburban Detroit that all played a part in raising me (my mother, my best friend's mothers', my mother's best friends) an email made the rounds last week. It contained a video of some young people at a Trader Joe's somewhere boycotting the sale of Israeli-made goods. The young people posted stickers with images of bombs on the products and informed shoppers about their boycott, asking that they not support a nation who occupies and oppresses a people.

In other words, they were voicing a very common human rights concern by non-violent means.

Of course, this being an email circulating among middle-aged suburban Jews, the comments on the video were filled with vitriol. "How could Trader Joe's let this happen," "This is hard to believe and harder to watch."

I don't know what the moment feels like when a generation reaches the point that it turns to its progenitors, at eye level and not looking up, and engages as an equal in dialog. In fact, I suspect that that may never fully feel right. The reverence and respect I have for the mothers in my life makes it even harder to think they are wrong. But I think in the Jewish community--at least in my Jewish community--there is a divide between the ages that needs to be discussed. Many of our parents refuse to see the err in any Israeli action. Many of them are far closer to the pain that brought about the state of Israel.

We can argue over the use of words like apartheid and occupation--and certainly those are arguments that ought to be had--but to become enraged at a boycott of a controversial nation that the international community has routinely condemned is to act blindly and of the same base sense of identity the worst acts have been done to us.

I have much family and many friends in Israel, which makes it even the more painful to see the logic in criticisms of Israel. Harder, in fact, than to challenge my mothers. It is also painful to hear the opinions of those living in Israel when speaking about certain other human beings. There is a deep and pervasive sense of racism in daily life in Israel, and I suspect that's a fact more widely known in my community than revealed. Those ties--familial, religious, emotional--should not cloud discussions of justice and policy. We sit on a priviledged perch, us American Jews, the better to see the world and its shades of gray (not my line), a luxury spared most Israelis.

Anyway, Neve Gordon is an Israeli that is trying valiantly to help Israel treat all people justly. A lot of Israelis don't like him for that. He will be at the Oak Park Public Library tonight, and was on Worldview earlier today. Please go listen to him, and hear about the important "binational solution."

Danny Fenster / Comments (4)

Chicago Thu Feb 18 2010

Health Care Activists Rally Against Insurance Company "Death Panels"

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.

Continue reading this entry »

Matt Muchowski / Comments (4)

National Politics Wed Feb 10 2010

Glenn Greenwald versus Kucinich on Citizens United v. FEC

Glenn Greenwald and Dennis Kucinich appeared on Democracy Now to discuss the Citizens United decision that deregulated corporate money in electioneering. Interesting (though short) back and forth:

Ramsin Canon

Elections Sat Jan 30 2010

Open Election Thread: Who Are You Voting For?

Feel free to chip in on local races, too. On election night, join me and other local political types over at WBEZ where we'll be liveblogging the results.

U.S. Senate Races

Alexi Giannoulias
David Hoffman
Cheryle Jackson
Jacob Meister

Mark Kirk
Pat Hughes

Illinois Governor

Pat Quinn
Dan Hynes

Kirk Dillard
Bill Brady
Andy McKenna
Jim Ryan
Dan Proft
Adam Andrzejewski

Cook County Board President

Todd Stroger
Dorothy Brown
Toni Preckwinkle
Terry O'Brien

John Garrido
Roger Keats

Continue reading this entry »

Mechanics / Comments (7)

Law Mon Jan 25 2010

Why the Citizens United Decision is Probably Right, and Good for the Left

News of the Supreme Court's decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was bone chilling. liberal talk radio and blogs lit up with fiery condemnations of a right-wing activist court determined to auction American democracy off to corporate power. It is likely that descriptions of the decision by a media caught in a cycle that could not have given them time to digest the 180+ pages of dense reasoning and citations contributed to the reflexive outrage. But a lay reading of the decision and the most relevant case law revealed that critics were not engaging the majority's arguments. Not only this, but much of the criticism was based on conjecture about political outcomes.

A few misconceptions about the decision arose quickly: first, that the decision was based on "corporate personhood", which it does not. Second, that the decision eliminated restrictions on direct campaign contributions. It did not: the court was looking at electioneering-style political speech (e.g., a television ad saying "Vote for Steve" or "against Heather"). Lastly, that the court was overturning some landmark Supreme Court decision or decisions: it did not. (And even if it had, so did Brown v. Board of Education overturn Plessy v. Ferguson.)

Ultimately, the court is saying that associations of individuals cannot be denied free speech rights because of their potential influence or who they are.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (26)

National Politics Thu Jan 21 2010

Illinois Dems on Supreme Court Corporate Spending Decision

Alexi Giannoulias' campaign released this statement on the Supreme Court's curious Citizens United v. FEC decision released today:

"I profoundly disagree with today's Supreme Court ruling. The very corporate special interests that got us into this economic mess should be given less power to influence elections, not more. I am proud to be the first U.S. Senate candidate in Illinois history to refuse money from corporate PACs and federal lobbyists because I believe that to get our economy back on track and create the next generation of good-paying jobs, we have to break the grip of corporate interests in Washington.

"My likely Republican opponent Mark Kirk doesn't believe there is a problem. In his decade in Washington, he has taken more corporate PAC money than just about any other politician. He then voted their way on one reckless Bush economic policy after another. That is why he refused to disclose how he would have voted on the confirmation of Justice Sotomayor and that's why he still won't speak about it even today. He cannot be trusted to be an advocate for working families or the middle class."

And this from Senator Dick Durbin:

"Today's decision by Supreme Court is a triumph for special interest and judicial activism at its worst. Overturning the ban on corporate spending on political campaigns opens the floodgates for the corrupting influence and the dominant hand of special interest groups."

"At a time when the American people have ample reason to be wary of powerful corporations focused on a selfish agenda, this decision will only fuel feelings of cynicism and distrust in our system. The power of large corporations and special interests is already immense; this decision will put overwhelming pressure on elected officials to bend even more in the direction of Big Business."

"We must now create a system where we finance campaigns fairly. It is the only way can ensure that our candidates and elected officials focus on addressing the nation's problems and not on the limited interests of the wealthy and powerful few."

Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Media Thu Jan 21 2010

KassWatch: I'm Against Politicians!

Sometimes, John Kass can make you forget why you so dislike his column. He can write a piece of deep empathy and feeling, with genuine concern for human solidarity and understanding of the human condition.

Then he drops an editorial deuce on you like today's ridiculous piece trying to draw a parallel between Scott Brown's electoral victory in Massachusetts and Illinois' upcoming election.

Of course, Kass isn't stupid; he's got a problem: Republicans ruled Illinois for a generation on and off, with an unbroken string of governors for about 20 years. You remember their last one, he went to jail after selling fugazi drivers licenses for campaign money, and a family died behind that. Also, "Barack Obama's Senate seat" that would serve in Kass' piece as the analog to Ted Kennedy's was held by a Republican six years ago. Oops.

Instead, Kass tries to duck that problem by saying that Massachusetts represented the Tea Party's power, but, uh, we need it here in Illinois against Republicans, too. Actually, Kass's piece is wholly incomprehensible. In his unending quest for Royko-hood, he wants to be seen as being against "da bums", but its clear he's a conservative of the unprincipled kind. He doesn't want to make clear who The Powerful are, because The Powerful are the big business corporate interests that serve as paymasters for both Democrats (sorry, Kass readers: I mean "Dumbocrats") and Republicans.

Go ahead, punish yourself:

What amazes me is that for months after Blagojevich was kicked out of office, the national Republicans didn't want to see the whole picture. Almost every evening, the cable networks would run a snippet of videotape to introduce their three minutes of BlagoHate. The tape showed Blago led to a podium by a rumpled fellow who looked like a political aide. The rumpled guy walked with his head down, yet attentive. The rumpled fellow's name? Denny Hastert, former speaker of the U.S. House, a Republican. And the networks never mentioned it. Since Tuesday night, the Massachusetts debacle has given establishment politicians the ability to see the future with the clarity of the damned. Whether that clarity makes it to Illinois depends on the voters. So which taste sensation will prevail when Illinois primary voters go to the polls Feb. 2? Will it be the Tea Party of Massachusetts? Or will Illinois voters continue to sniff, as the political class salivates over all that meat a' cookin'?

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon

Blagojevich Mon Jan 11 2010

The Real Ignorance Behind Blago And Reid's Comments

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.


Daniel Strauss / Comments (2)

Immigration Wed Dec 23 2009

Rep. Gutierrez's Immigration Bill

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:

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Health Care Mon Dec 14 2009

A Health Care Omen from the Immigration Process

Most bad government has grown out of too much government.
-John Sharp Williams in a speech about Thomas Jefferson

I have a friend who is in the process of obtaining a student visa in order to attend an a university here in Chicago. The loopholes that they require you to jump through are extensive and often ludicrous, but nothing has been quite as amusing in its absurdity as the questions on a mandatory questionnaire. I've included some of my favorites:

Do you have a communicable disease of public health significance such as tuberculosis (TB)?

Have you ever violated, or engaged in a conspiracy to violate, any law relating to controlled substances?

Are you coming to the United States to engage in prostitution or unlawful commercialized vice or have you been engaged in prostitution or procuring prostitutes within the past 10 years?

Do you seek to engage in espionage, sabotage, export control violations, or any other illegal activity while in the United States?

Continue reading this entry »

Conor McCarthy / Comments (6)

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

IL-SEN Thu Nov 12 2009

Sen. Burris Celebrates 40 Years of Public Service


Well, while I'm sure many may admire his stance in favor of the public option for health care reform, what hurts this celebration is that he took a U.S. Senate appointment from Rod Blagojevich.


National Politics Tue Nov 03 2009

Palin Robocall Highlights Republican Oblivion

Virginia voters on the cusp of a gubernatorial election recently received an automated call from the femme fatale from everyone's political porn fantasies: Sarah Palin. During this robocall, Palin's nasal voice encouraged voters to "vote [their] values" and "vote to share our principles." I don't want to put words in Palin's mouth, but I'm going to go ahead and assume that she's alluding to the moral principles upon which Republicans have campaigned recently.

This campaign strategy highlights the irrelevancy of the Republican party to the group that I affectionately refer to as the "New Conservatives." Believe it or not, there are young people out there that are conservative. Not every recent college grad subscribes to John Stewart's school of economic liberalism. Unfortunately, however, the Republican party seems largely disconnected from this growing group, continuously barking out stupid, uneducated and uninformed crap like this. The increasingly urban population either doesn't or can't afford to care about the hot button moral issues of yester-year. Gay marriage? That seems pretty unimportant when you're unemployed and wondering where your rent is coming from. Abortion? That's sad, but without health insurance a lot of young people (a fat chunk of the nation's uninsured) are wondering if they themselves will survive amidst life's daily hazards and the media's "OMG" epidemic of H1N1.

Continue reading this entry »

Conor McCarthy / Comments (3)

National Politics Wed Oct 28 2009

Burris Doesn't Like The Opt-Out

This isn't anything to get overly excited about but it appears that Illinois Senator Roland Burris isn't totally on board with the opt-out provision. He's been saying for a little while now that he wouldn't settle for anything less than a serious public option sans concessions and I guess he's...still serious about it. I'm still skeptical of how far he's going to go and Lynn Sweet reports that the White House is dispatching its health czar to talk with Burris which, I bet, will cool him down.


Daniel Strauss

Media Tue Oct 20 2009

Ken Burns v. Thomas Jefferson

Documentarian Ken Burns has been all over the place, promoting his beautiful new documentary on America's national parks, America's Best Idea. Part of his regular schtick in promoting what looks like an amazing documentary series has been to mention that while the idea in the Declaration of Independence ("All men are created equal") is a great idea, Jefferson actually meant (this is a direct quote) "All white men of property, free of debt." The national parks, Burns goes on to say, are the distilled spirit of that ideal set in practice. Thus why the national parks are "America's Best Idea."

Historians have made various excuses for Jefferson's owning of slaves, but none are wholly satisfying. That said, Burns' characterization of Jefferson's intentions is not fair or accurate. While Jefferson was definitely a hypocrite who couldn't square his idealistic Enlightenment radicalism with his very human weaknesses, Burns shouldn't irresponsibly put words in his mouth and motives in his heart.

The reason this quote stands out is because one of Thomas Jefferson's animating life experiences was the fact that basically from the moment of his maturation to his death, he was drowning in debt. This was not something that slowly built on him. He was in debt essentially his whole life; in fact, among the excuses historians make for his failure to manumit (free) his slaves was that his enormous debts would have essentially meant handing his slaves over to his creditors, who he feared would treat them no better. (This would not have stopped him from any number of other remedies, of course).

In any case, could Jefferson, who never uttered this phrase Burns keeps repeating ("white men of property free of debt") really have "meant" that the group of people created equal was a set that didn't include himself?

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon

National Politics Thu Oct 01 2009

Thursday Watch Party - Joe the Not a Comic

Oh man. Samuel Wurtzelbacher (aka "Joe the Plumber") doing stand-up. Look away. (But don't).

Ramsin Canon

National Politics Fri Sep 25 2009

Made-Up Death Panels versus Actual Death Markets

What should people be out in the streets chanting about? End of life counseling to provide for living wills--ie, the pretend "Death Panels" of bathshit crazy propaganda fame? Or the securitization of life settlements, essentially a giant Death Pool that is making some people really rich?

The mechanism here is basically the same as the one used for mortgage-backed securities. Wall Street buys up life policies from elderly or ill people, who sell them for up-front cash that can be enjoyed before actual death (similar to those brokered arrangements with terminally ill HIV patients that received so much attention in the late eighties). They then take those policies and dump them into a securitized pool, where they can then be packaged as bonds and sold to investors who would get paid off when the policyholders die.


But even beyond that... what the fuck??? This feels like financial innovation as practiced by Josef Mengele meets the Zucker Brothers; not just evil, but wacky evil. I don't even want to think about what happens when Goldman Sachs suddenly has a large financial stake in the premature deaths of a bunch of old people. Where are the crazy police? Where is the crack federal crazy squad with the big butterfly net? I don't know about betting on anyone's life expectancy, but I think I'd like to bet on whether or not this idea ends well.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

National Politics Thu Sep 24 2009

Thursday Watch Party: USA PATRIOT Act: 6% terrorism, 65% drugs

Russ Feingold (D-WI), the US Senator who will be hailed as a profile in courage for his lone vote against the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, drops a bombshell: the USA PATRIOT Act, surprise surprise, is being used for something other than what it was intended for.

Wait a second, the Bush administration used the national tragedy of September 11th as an excuse for a federal power grab? A massive expansion of federal power that really had nothing to do with terrorism and everything to do with accruing more power to the executive? Exactly as conservative presidents have done since John Adams' Alien and Sedition Acts? You mean conservatism doesn't really mean "less government" it just means "protect the status quo"?

Libertarians opposed it. Conservatives loved it--still love it. Talk of repealing it was anathema during the Presidential election because it would be construed as "weak". See, because libertarians actually oppose the coercive power of the state; conservatives only oppose coercive power of the state over personal property--or the coercive power of the state when it's not their guy.

Watch Feingold:

Then note that the streets called it first. Here's Self-Scientific:

They Accepted The Patriot Act To Stop Terror, When We The Only Targets For Those Weapons/Meanwhile The City Is As Hot As It's Ever Been

Here's Rhymefest:

Dime bag-ass n*s ain't large/When the Patriot Act come hit they ass with the terrorist charge/And we, is what they made it for/You think it's all about Arabs? It's a war on the poor, we gotta go

Ramsin Canon

National Politics Mon Sep 14 2009

What Rep. Joe Wilson Is and Isn't

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) is:

...extremely conservative. fact, outright right wing.
...ideologically repugnant.
...politically hypocritical.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) isn't:

...worth this much attention from the media.
...worth this much attention from Congress.
...worth this much attention from activists.
...worth this much attention from conservatives.
...particularly talented or smart.
...the anti-Christ.
...a hero.
...a proven racist.

Let it go.

Ramsin Canon

National Politics Wed Aug 26 2009

Ted Kennedy Passes Away at Seventy Seven

His nephew, Chris Kennedy, was appointed to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees today by Governor Quinn, as well.

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 Sun Aug 09 2009

Capitulation or Savvy?

Over at the Huffington Post there is a painful post up about President Obama's changes in his positions on health care negotiations. Most damning:

Capitulation to special interests? Or "political intelligence" that will get some form of health care reform through?

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Illinois Wed Aug 05 2009

Cash-for-Clunkers: We're Number Six!

I find this bit in a story in today's Chicago Sun-Times on the Cash for Clunkers program surprising:

Illinois ranks sixth among states in the number of cash-for-clunker dollars going to buyers: $2.44 million. It follows No. 1 Michigan ($3.4 million), Ohio ($2.93 million), California ($2.64 million), Minnesota ($2.62 million) and Texas ($2.5 million).

That puts us ahead of states like Wisconsin, Oregon, and Washington --places where I'd assume there'd not only be enthusiasm for environmentalism and/or fuel efficiency but also a lack of conservative skepticism toward the program. Personally I can't think of any really good explanation for any of the states I mention except maybe Oregon which is basically bicycle central. But for the rest, what's the deal? Why is Illinois, whose biggest city has a fair (but far from perfect) public transport system doing more trading than these other ones? Do that many people have more SUVs to trade in?

Daniel Strauss / Comments (6)

National Politics Mon Jul 13 2009


Are you ready to confirm!? That's right folks, today and today only, except for all the other days, watch dozens of our nation's heaviest-hitter legislators ask a scrappy, aspiring young jurist convoluted baseball-metaphor-themed questions about her judicial philosophy. You won't wanna miss the strikes and balls.

UPDATE: Lindsay Graham to Sotomayor: "Unless you have a total meltdown, you will be confirmed." Come on man. Give your buddies some hope.

Ramsin Canon

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)

Illinois Thu Jul 09 2009

Birkett versus Madigan, the Rematch might go a little something like this:

Birkett: She's not a prosecutor.

He's a loony prosecutor *cough* Rolando Cruz, war protestors *cough*.

She's soft on corruption *cough*dad is Mike Madigan*cough*.

Hey, I remember this guy; he's the guy I beat eight years ago.

Yeah, I remember that election; hey, who was at the top of your ticket that year?

You mean the guy I tried to get suspended from office?

Yeah, the guy who the Supreme Court laughed at you when you tried to get suspended from office.

Uh...All the women, who are independent, throw your hands up at me!

All the white dudes--uh, wait, nevermind...hey, isn't your dad Mike Madigan?

Sorry, I couldn't hear you over the balloon drop.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Republicans Thu Jul 09 2009

Kirk Enters Senate Race; Can He Survive Primary?

Poor Mark Kirk (R-IL10). Conservatives aren't crazy about him, considering a defector on cap-and-trade and coloring him as a Democrat-lite--or worse, a "coward". But Democrats aren't exactly fond of him, as Progress Illinois argues, he's "no moderate". So which is it?

The open primary system makes the life of a moderate difficult, if not impossible. And given that Illinois' Republican Party has shrunk, particularly in the interior Chicagoland suburbs, it means that the more ideologically committed Republicans--the more conservative ones--are disproportionately (to the population) represented in the primary electorate. That's not necessarily bad; a primary isn't meant to get the temperature of the population, it's meant to get the temperature of the party. If the party's temperature is further right (or left) than that of the population, so be it. On the one hand, Kirk would probably be Republicans' best shot at taking the Senate seat; Kirk has a good reputation in his district for constituent services, and while he's no progressive he's no reactionary and probably in line ideologically with lots of Illinoisans. On the other hand, he would be instantly alienated by his party's conservative activist base, particularly the strong abortion activist organizations in the collar counties and central and downstate Illinois county organizations that may not be willing to ignore his carbon cap'n trade cap-and-trade vote and friendly posture to GLBT issues.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (8)

National Politics Wed Jul 08 2009

Politics and Bad Basketball Analogies

I imagine most Gapers Block readers don't care much about Sarah Palin's machinations (at least not as much as Andrew "Fatal Attraction" Sullivan). But I'm offended by her and her spokespeople's terrible basketball analogies. (see Anderson cooper's hilarious confusion here and Deadspin's take here.

Sarah Palin was apparently as bad a basketball player as she is policy wonk. A good point guard, faced with a full court press, does not pass the ball and walk off the court as she is doing. I've watched some excellent point guards like Rod Strickland, Mark Jackson, Stephon Marbury, Derrick Rose, play basketball. A good point guard breaks down the defense with some great ball handling skills, skillful passing and fluid court movements. It seems that Sarah Palin went to the Kurt "dribble dribble dribble shot clock running out do something" Hinrich point guard school. Really good politicians are probably like good point guards. Some attack the basket and break down defenses (a la Rahm Emmanuel). Some probe the defense and force them into missteps and over commitments and break 'em down (Obama?). And then of course there's Richard Daley, who's probably less of a point guard and more of an Anthony Mason-Charles Oakely-Shaq intimidator.

Jacob Lesniewski

GLBT Wed Jun 24 2009

Gay Marriage and Why Evangelicals Shouldn't Care

Protests, yelling, legislation for, legislation against, Perez Hilton forcing us to hear the opinions of a Beauty Queen, that Beauty Queen thinking we actually care... This gay marriage situation has gotten out of hand. Whatever you think about the issue, I think that we can all agree that when Sean Penn starts acting like the gay community's MLK, something needs to be done. The last thing we need is Sean Penn thinking he has anything substantive to contribute to the conversation.

What we need here is clarity, and I aim to provide just that. We should begin, though, with something that has thus far been lacking: an understanding of the core issues with which each party is concerned. So, I will provide a summary of each side to the best of my ability, and then I will postulate a solution that I believe satisfies both parties.

The Pro-Gay Marriage Perspective:
Proponents of gay marriage see it as an issue of equal rights. These are Americans who want to enter into a contracted marriage relationship allowing for the legal rights allotted to such a relationship: inheritance, insurance benefits, medical decisions, joint tax filing, divorce, in-laws and children that don't respect you. They see the opposition as bigoted, prejudiced and hateful. Many compare the fight for gay marriage to the civil rights movements in the '60s. Although such a comparison is somewhat of a superlative, legally and constitutionally there isn't really a solid argument against gay marriage. The only argument against is religious, which brings us to the other perspective.

The Anti-Gay Marriage Perspective:
Be it Christianity, Mormonism, Orthodox Judaism or Islam, the practice of homosexual behavior is prohibited within most major religions. Whether people like it or not, it is a facet of each of these religions. Homosexual activity is deemed a sin. Marriage, thus, is believed to be only appropriate between a man and a woman. The people that oppose gay marriage do so, I believe, because they feel as though their religious beliefs are being threatened by society. They fear that legalization would encroach on their religion; they see themselves as the victims of a society whose morals are in direct conflict with those which their religion commands. They see a legalization of gay marriage as a "moral decline" in society. And although each of these religions has within its tenets a prohibition of homosexual activity, the loudest voice of all of them is the Evangelical Protestant. That being said, I will refer to the anti-gay marriage perspective as "Evangelical" from now on, but it should be understood that the aforementioned religions are also included.

Continue reading this entry »

Conor McCarthy / Comments (12)

National Politics Thu Jun 11 2009

Who Hyped the Kennedys / Was it You? / it Wasn't Me...

It might be a function of my age, under 40 or my political perspective, Republican but I have never gotten the appeal of the Kennedy's today that much.

With Chris Kennedy planning to run for the Democratic nomination in Illinois we were treated to this thought from Rep. Pat Kennedy from RollCall

"A couple hundred grand to Barack and playing hoops on the court with Barack, and you weigh that political capital next to the endorsement of my family for Barack at the critical juncture for his campaign when he did," Rep. Kennedy said. "And to me, if that were a fight, they'd have to stop it because it's a slam dunk for the Kennedys."

What makes you think the President is going to spend any political capital on the Illinois Senate Primary? If you were him, would you?

But I guess the idea that the President owes you (if you are Alexi or a Kennedy) is kind of silly on it's face.

Are the Kennedy's really that relevant anymore? It's been 40+ years since 1968 and since then you have had Teddy with some awkward moments and a congressman here a Lt. Governor there and that's about it.

You could argue that the Bush's and the Clinton's have been much more successful political dynasties in terms of power if not popularity.

It seems that Chris Kennedy is counting at least in part on some star power from the family name and I suspect that will help him some. But in general Democratic Senate nominees in this state have had some elected office experience before nomination, Obama, Braun, Durbin all had some elective service under their belt.

You may like Alexi, you may not (again, I am not going to be voting in this primary) but he has had the advantage of some vetting. As we saw with both Blair Hull and Jack Ryan there is some advantage to that. Imagine how different history might be today if the stuff about Hull's or Ryan's divorces had come out at different times.

I think he is going to regret ever running, I know I will be entertained watching...

OneMan / Comments (2)

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

National Politics Wed May 20 2009

Congressman Jackson Can Keep Our Lake Healthy

The "Healthy Lakes, Healthy Lives" campaign wants you to call 2nd District Congressman Jesse Jackson, who has decent seniority on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, and ask him to support President Obama's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

The campaign provides "5 Reasons Why Congressman Jackson should support" the initiative. I don't doubt that our readers will have several reasons why they think he shouldn't; and I think the number one reason will rhyme with "bexploding neficits".

1. Rep. Jackson's Congressional district, the Illinois 2nd, includes the Grand Calumet River Area of Concern (AOC) - a place designated by the EPA as especially toxic and need of cleaning. Factories long closed have left a legacy of disgusting and dangerous pollution in the district and its water, including PAHs, PCBs, heavy metals, phosphorus, nitrogen, iron, magnesium, volatile solids, oil and grease. Cleaning these toxins up will benefit the health and quality of life for all families in the area.

2. Full funding of restoration programs can bring those much-vaunted "green collar" jobs to the district. This includes both blue-green collar jobs updating sewer systems and directly cleaning toxic areas, and also white-green collar jobs in the science of restoration and wildlife management.

3. With the area's manufacturing economy all but dead, neighborhoods in the district are placing the lakefront and natural areas at the forefront of long-term economic development plans. Great examples of this are the green initiatives included in South Chicago's Quality of Life Plan and the ongoing recovery of the giant U.S. Steel South Works brownfield. Restoration funding would give these projects a boost and raise their chances for success once completed.

4. It's no secret Rep. Jackson has aspirations for higher office - telling outdoors enthusiasts how he helped save the walleyes they catch on fishing trips might help him win downstate communities in future Senate or statewide campaigns.

5. As a long time ally and fan of Barack Obama, who proposed the $475M Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and a Congressman who likes to fish and hunt with colleagues, Rep. Jackson is well suited to take up the torch in the House and bring his fellow Appropriations Committee members on board with The President's plan.

This initiative sounds like a good idea, but I don't know about number 4. Does Congressman Jackson really want to be seen as supporting this because he can "tell outdoors enthusiasts" how he helped to save some fish? I'm sure he'll make that calculation for himself.

Ramsin Canon

National Politics Wed May 06 2009

Libertarian Paradise: Come to Somalia! Government Free Since 1991

Libertarianism died a death with this latest global economic crisis ("The Great Financial Kerfuffle" if you will) just as socialism, its juvenile Utopian counterpart, did with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now we can happily insult and ridicule libertarians and their free market fundamentalist fellow travelers forever. Ha-ha!

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

National Politics Thu Apr 23 2009

Biden To Come To Chicago To Talk About Cities

Most people like to start praiseworthy comments about Joe Biden with something like "Sure he talks a lot but...etc." I'm not going to do that. Instead, I'm just going to share this press release I got today and say that not only is the Vice President (who likes high speed rail and perhaps cities) going to be in Chicago but so will Bruce Katz, head of Brookings' urban policy program going to be on a panel alongside some very distinguished fellow guests talking about how cities can be the vanguard of economic recovery, in Chicago! For extreme nerds like me this is basically Springstein or Woodstock. Check it out:

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to Keynote UIC's Fifth Annual Richard J. Daley Urban Forum: "Global Economic Recovery: Cities Lead the Way"
Forum to bring together mayors and municipal leaders from cities in more than 30 countries

WHAT: The 2009 Richard J. Daley Urban Forum, hosted by UIC and the Daley family, will focus on the most pressing challenge facing cities around the world: recovery from the global economic crisis and investment that will sustain long-term economic growth.

* Vice President Joe Biden
* Mayor Richard M. Daley
* Paula Allen-Meares, Chancellor, UIC
* Victoria J. Chou, Dean, College of Education, UIC
* Carol Coletta, President/CEO, CEOs for Cities
* Bruce Katz, VP, Brookings Institution
* Michael H. Moskow, Former President, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and Senior Fellow, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs
* Norbert Riedel, Corporate VP and Chief Scientific Officer, Baxter International, Inc.
* Bernard Shaw, principal anchor emeritus, CNN
* More than 30 mayors and other municipal leaders from cities including: Athens, Greece; Bangkok, Thailand; Beijing, China; Bogotá, Colombia; Casablanca, Morocco; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Kyiv, Ukraine; Paris, France; Vilnius, Lithuania and others.

WHEN: Monday, April 27
7:45 a.m.: Media registration opens
8:30 a.m.: Program begins
9:00 a.m.: Plenary Issues Panel, "Economic Recovery and Urban Reinvestment"
9:45 a.m.: Global town meeting, with mayors from more than 30 global cities
11:45 a.m.: Keynote address

WHERE: UIC Forum, 725 W. Roosevelt Rd.

Daniel Strauss / Comments (2)

National Politics Thu Mar 19 2009

Sazbo To Head FRA

Greg Hinz:

Yet another Illinoisan has won a top transportation job in the Obama Administration.

The president on Thursday announced his intent to nominate former Riverdale mayor Joe Szabo to be administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.

FRA is one of the operating units within the U.S. Department of Transportation. It supervises and funds surface railroads and related activities, including Amtrak. Mr. Szabo, now state director for the United Transportation Union, would rule on local funding requests for the Create freight-railroad bypass sytem and to develop high-speed rail passenger service here.

"Joe Szabo is uniquely qualified," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Il., said in a statement. "Five generations of his family have worked on the railroad, and he has worked as a yard switchman, road trainman and commuter passenger conductor."

Daniel Strauss

National Politics Wed Mar 11 2009

President Obama In A Word

Most Americans use the word "intelligent" to describe President Obama. Me thinks times have changed some.

Daniel Strauss / Comments (2)

National Politics Tue Mar 10 2009

Good To Know

Mechanics has been pretty quiet lately, likely because of the post-special-election-hangover, but the show must go on. So here's this tidbit about the stimulus money that the Land-o-Lincoln is gonna get (via CTA Tattler):

Meanwhile, the Government Accountability Office has named Illinois as one of the states it will be auditing and closely watching how it spends the $22.7 billion it is expected to receive in stimulus funding and tax cuts, Crain's Business reports.

And who can blame them? First, the state is set to receive the sixth-highest amount overall. Not to mention the fact it has been the laughingstock of the nation in the past few months with an impeached and ousted governor and a new senator under federal scrutiny about how he got his job.

No argument here.

Daniel Strauss / Comments (2)

Blagojevich Fri Feb 20 2009

Political Panhandling: A Modest Proposal

I've got an idea for stemming the corruption associated with money in politics. How about stopping the politicians from asking for it so much?

Among the many topics never taught in high school civics, and rarely in college political science, is begging. The "beg." The "pitch." The "ask." Otherwise known as the direct solicitation of money, by an officeholder or would-be officeholder.

The uproar over the Blagojevich-Burris follies might lead some to believe that the constant "touch" put on friends, acquaintances, and the not-so-well-acquainted was some freakish aberration on the part of the governor and his henchmen. Hardly so.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeff Smith

Obama Thu Feb 19 2009

KassWatch: Makin' Shit Up

John Kass makes me sad. He likes to pretend he's just a common sense South Side guy, who used ta play da stickball over by dere, tellin' it how sees it. Kass is the consummate phony tough guy, a name-calling hit-and-run artist who traffics in innuendos and sloppy arguments. He thinks by inheriting the physical space, and he has inherited the wit and wisdom of Mike Royko, who never got tired of sticking his finger in the eye of local politicians. Kass takes Royko's lovable grumpiness and turns it into unfocused hatefulness, meant to appeal to a certain kind of Chicagoan (actually, mostly former Chicagoans living in the suburbs) who idealize some (non-existent) past version of the city before the lib'ruls got a hold of it.

Royko, however, wasn't hateful. The reason he mocked power politics, identity politics and inefficient bureaucracy was because they failed to help the most needy in our society ("Mary and Joe, Chicago-Style"), not because he just hated those damned lib'ruls, like Kass. Royko was a New Deal Democrat who identified with the working class, not a White Flight principessa.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (12)

National Politics Tue Feb 17 2009

A Pitch to Ned Beatty to Make My Karl Rove Biopic

Dear Mr. Beatty,

I am writing you this query letter to surmise your interest in my screenplay, Plucky: The Karl Rove Story, a biopic about the life and career of GOP political operative extraordinaire Karl Rove. I believe that by getting an "attachment" from a big name such as yourself to play the title role, I will be able to secure the studio financing to produce the film. Attached is a copy of the screenplay; please note curly-cue font. That's to add whimsy. I feel with the Bush Presidency receding out of view, the time is ripe for a biopic about one of its most enigmatic operators.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

National Politics Thu Feb 12 2009

Does Anybody Know Stimulus Specifics?

So I was gearing up to blog about the stimulus bill based on this nifty chart from Pro Publica that Adam Doster at Progress Illinois brought up, but unfortunately more negotiations ensued so now I don't know exactly what the specifics of the current stimulus plan are. Does anybody know where I can find detailed info?

Daniel Strauss / Comments (3)

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)

National Politics Wed Feb 04 2009

David Cay Johnston on the Tax Code: It's Too Much Gherkins.

Well, that's not what he says, that's what I say; what he does say, though, is enough to make you want to man the barricades. David Cay Johnston isn't a doctor, but he's got a therapy for what ails us:

Stop Indenturing Students

Over the past 40 years, the cost of public colleges has doubled, and financing tuition is an $85 billion a year business for credit companies. Sallie Mae, the biggest of the private student loan companies, earns an average 48 percent annual return, three times the return of commercial banks. Students who sign up for loans with what appear to be low fixed rates may discover upon graduating that they face an 18 percent rate; if they make a single late payment, late fees will be tacked on every month until the debt is paid off. And the law makes no allowance for students who can't find a job in a bad economy, or can't work because of illness, or choose to serve their communities by, say, joining Teach for America. Albert Lord, Sallie Mae's chief executive, has become so rich from student lending that he built his own private golf course just outside the nation's capital.

Profiteering off students is not just an obscenity; it ultimately weakens the economy. The abuses at Sallie Mae and other student lenders deserve exposure via congressional hearings. Then perhaps lawmakers will find the spine to make the rules fairer. Indenturing the brightest young minds in an information society is the equivalent of eating your seed corn in an agrarian one. In the long run, you're doomed.

Damn. And that's not the least of it.

Cay Johnston is an expert on the tax regime in this country. I was fortunate enough to meet him once -- he has a beard. Also he is grumpy. But then again, I'd be grumpy, too, if I spent my time discovering things like this:

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon

National Politics Fri Jan 30 2009

The Best Recession Money Can Buy

Congressman Don Manzullo (Republican, Illinois 16th) appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show on Wednesday to discuss his (and every other House Repulican's) 'no' vote on the economic stimulus bill. While Rep. Manzullo should be given credit for wading into enemy territory, particularly when it is occupied by the smart, incisive Maddow, his arguments demonstrated a core misunderstanding Republicans have about economic matters. Maddow repeatedly asked the congressman to explain how $200 million to renovate the National Mall is not stimulus. Ever the seasoned politician, Manzullo, rather than attempting to argue a point he was certain to lose, instead explained some GOP ideas for stimulus. The Illinois 16th is home to a Chrysler manufacturing facility, so fittingly enough, the congressman pitched his idea for a $5,000 voucher to purchase automobiles. (Manzullo specifically mentioned the Jeep Patriot, a car that receives a mediocre 28 mpg.)

Continue reading this entry »

Carl Giometti / Comments (9)

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

National Politics Wed Jan 21 2009

Obama's Swearing-In and Inaugural Address

Courtesy of C-SPAN. Just in case, you know, you haven't been able to see it in its entirely!

I enjoyed the speech. Talking up many great American values in addition to saying the things that makes this nation great. As far as foreign affairs, Obama sounds quite hawkish. Perhaps his philosophy will be "speak softly but carry a big stick." Sounds like a great start already.


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)

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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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