Saturday, June 30, 2012

Medrano gets place in Chicago political corruption realm – a repeat offender

MEDRANO: An encore?
I realize that Ambrosio Medrano is innocent until proven otherwise by federal prosecutors.

Yet I also realize that the operations of the Justice Department can be heavy-handed, and they have a way of hitting people with the weight of the world in those cases where the U.S. government decides it wants to go after an individual.

SO THE FORMER Chicago alderman is in a mess of trouble, and is likely to wind up doing some serious prison time – since very few of the Chicago political people who get indicted on corruption charges wind up being able to get themselves acquitted.

Yet Medrano has truly become a unique character in Chicago political history. He’s a guy who’s already been through the process.

He lost his seat as an alderman nearly two decades ago – prosecutors claim he took $31,000 in bribes back in the days of Operation Silver Shovel; the 1990s investigation when the feds were looking at corruption at City Hall and found a lot of it within Streets and Sanitation.

Specifically, prosecutors claim his taking of rewards after providing ghost-payroller jobs for two people on the City Council’s housing committee amounted to criminal behavior.

IN ALL HONESTLY, none of this is particularly noteworthy. It’s old trivia.

There have been many government officials who have done something that federal prosecutors thought was improper. They wound up going to prison. They did their time.

Then, they come back and wind up living their lives trying to work outside of government. In many cases, they try to keep a low profile. The average person forgets them.
Will the son have to maintain low profile too?

The average political geek remembers the name, but has no clue what became of them (personally, I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head what became of people like Miriam Santos or Larry Bloom, and I doubt I’m the exception).

UNTIL THURSDAY, IT seemed that Medrano would experience the same fate – even though he eventually wound up on the staff of now-former Cook County Commissioner Joseph M. Moreno and back in 2003 and 2007 had the gall to try to run for a seat on the City Council. Medrano wound up in one of those government posts that isn’t elected, doesn’t draw a lot of public attention, but puts one in a position to influence government activity if one has any brains and ambition.

So when the U.S. Attorney’s office (head prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s final day before leaving is Friday, so this is his “last hurrah”) investigated Moreno’s behavior in office, it meant that Medrano got caught up with it too.

Prosecutors say that Moreno took $5,000 related to behavior at a waste transfer station in suburban Cicero. Those same prosecutors say Medrano offered a bribe while working for Moreno to a person who turned out to be an undercover informant.

Which means that Medrano is that rarest of defendants in political corruption cases – a repeat offender! And one whose son with political aspirations of his own is going to have to live that down – since he’s a “junior.”

I HAVE NO doubt that upon conviction (if he’s unable to beat the rap), he’ll receive as close to the maximum sentence in prison as is humanly possible. It won’t be anything like the 21 months he did previously at the minimum-security facility in Oxford, Wis.

He may well get that Terre Haute, Ind., experience like George Ryan – only in the maximum-security portion of the facility rather than the minimum-security work camp like the former governor.

I couldn’t help but note that Medrano was denied the chance to post bail, with prosecutors arguing that he was most definitely a flight risk. Perhaps they think he’ll be in Cancun or Mexico City within days if he were allowed to walk out of the Federal Building.

It seems that Medrano is going to become the face of the unrepentant Chicago politician. He just never learns from his mistakes.


Friday, June 29, 2012

They times, they are a changin’ How much does that offend certain people?

A part of me can’t help but wonder what the ‘old guard’ (a.k.a., those old enough to think the Chicago police were justified in ’68,that Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., had that brick coming in Marquette Park, and that Bob Dylan's voice is atrocious) is thinking these days.

For the City Council that once would have ranted and railed in their favor on Wednesday went ahead and overwhelmingly voted toward decriminalization of possessing small amounts of marijuana.

THE DEMON DRUG that those people want to believe only freaks inhale – even though they probably ignore just how much of the leafy substance their grandchildren have used.

Then on Thursday, the Supreme Court of the United States went ahead and issued a ruling that pretty much gave Barack Obama what he would have wanted with regards to health care reform.

The amounts of the measure that got overturned truly are so miniscule that there’s no way the ideologues can “spin” this into a victory the way they tried to do on Monday with regards to Arizona’s attempts to meddle in immigration enforcement.

I’m sure these people are viewing the whole world as having fallen out of their hands and turned upside down. All because we had a couple of moments from various branches of our government where officials used a bit of sense in viewing public policy.

RATHER THAN LETTING the hang-ups of a few dictate policy to the many.

Everybody else is feeling the need to vent about health care reform – although personally I feel a certain peace about the issue. Even though I realize the partisan rhetoric is far from over. Seeing that this thing is not going to be reduced to rubble makes me hope it can be built upon in future years.

Because anybody with sense realizes that what Congress actually approved and President Barack Obama signed into law was a minor measure. Serious reform that provides adequate health services to all is going to require more work – and not of the sort that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, promises when he talks of repealing health care reform.

Some political people seem determined to live in the past. Hopefully, they remain in the minority.

JUST LIKE THOSE three aldermen on Wednesday who persisted in voting against decriminalization, which in all honesty is the policy already being followed in several suburbs. This isn't a new concept for the Chicago metro area -- just the city proper.

A part of me respects the sincerity of someone like 26th Ward Alderman Roberto Maldonado, who said he thinks people will “misinterpret” decriminalization and use it to justify increased use of the drug.

Which may be true for some people. Although I’d argue that those people probably would take anything as a sign that they should smoke more marijuana.

Reject decriminalization, and they’ll start thinking of themselves as revolutionaries who are engaging in an act of civil disobedience by inhaling – instead of the reality that they have become too addicted to a substance.

JUST LIKE THOSE people who will keep buying cigarettes no matter how high the taxes go because they need the nicotine fix, or those of the older generation who may well now be turning to a cocktail to steady their nerves in light of all the “insanity” they perceive as occurring these days.

Such attitudes are the reason why I have always thought decriminalization makes sense. It forces us to view the substance as less a crime and more a problem that should be dealt with.

Viewing it as a crime makes us think that locking people up is a solution. I do believe were better off letting police officers in Chicago spend their time on more serious activities than someone who can’t get through a day without making themselves so sleepy from cannabis sativa.

Personally, when I need to feel sluggish and sleepy, I read a court brief. Trying to interpret legalese can warp the minds of just about everybody.

PERHAPS EVEN THOSE people who on Thursday morning from both Fox News Channel and Cable News Network managed to get it wrong in the initial reports about the nation’s high court ruling Thursday on health care reform (then CNN compounding the problem by issuing a correction that was flawed).

Which makes me thankful that I turned to newspaper-oriented sites (it was the Chicago Sun-Times, quickly followed up by the Washington Post, where I read the news) to find out what happened.

So on these few days when I can claim our government is doing the “right” thing, and ignoring the rhetoric of a generation that can’t quite accept the fact that their time has passed (and that even many of their own generation disagree), I suppose my thought is that we should appreciate it. It's also ironic that both Obama and Mayor Rahm Emanuel (Obama's former chief of staff) can claim political victories, since Emanuel wanted decriminalization.

Because it will be just a matter of time before officials manage to do something that will bother us all once again, and all will be right (in a sense) with the world!


Thursday, June 28, 2012

EXTRA: A Thursday surprise!

I must confess, I expected a more partisan ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States when it came to health care reform.
Destined for an encore?

Although I’m sure that no one is going to have an epiphany after learning of the court’s ruling. The grand-children of the people who used to go around ranting that Earl Warren should be impeached will now probably be saying the same about Chief Justice John Roberts.

IT SEEMS THE high court got around to accepting the idea of a mandate that people buy insurance (or else face a fine) by thinking of it as a tax. And the federal government does have the legal right to impose taxes on people – as we all well know every time we hear from the Internal Revenue Service.

Does this mean that the anti-taxers will be the leading element in the political fight to try to overturn a measure that is meant to provide health care coverage to as many people as possible in our nation?

Will Jim Tobin of National Taxpayers United be coming out with his Taxpayer Villain of the Month designation and issue a graphic depicting Roberts and the rest of the Supreme Court in a jail cell?

So it seems that President Barack Obama’s primary initiative during his first term as president will survive into law. It likely will get so entrenched in the operations of federal government that even if we do someday get an entirely GOP-dominated government, they wouldn’t be able to undo it – no matter how hard they try!
Will Gov. Quinn soon have company...

ALTHOUGH I HAVE no doubt they will try. As House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has already pledged.

Does this mean that our federal government in the near future is going to become bogged down in a partisan hissy fit, with the hardheads of the conservative movement engaging in rhetoric that shows just how cold-hearted they can be?

Because for all the times those people claim that the United States already has the best-quality health care system in the world, I’d argue that it doesn’t matter how good the quality is if there are significant numbers of people in our society who can’t afford it.
... from Chief Justice Roberts?

And those people threaten to be a drag on our society. Which is why I always have thought that Obama deserved praise for trying to address that aspect of the issue.

NOT THAT I expect future years to be filled with praise for Obama.

Just imagine the outrage we’ll hear when the actual implementation of health care reform gets botched and somebody gets deprived of proper treatment.

Even I will be offended if/when that happens.


Everybody eager to trash, but nobody serious about healthcare reform

I wish I could call the Libertarian-influenced Heartland Institute a batch of bloodsuckers for the way they’re offering up “experts” who are all eager to trash the health care reform initiative that President Barack Obama wants to be his significant contribution to society.

But if I did that, I’d probably have to come up with an ever harsher label for the Americans for Prosperity group, who also on Wednesday sent me an e-mail message informing me of who I can contact Thursday morning – which is when the Supreme Court of the United States will issue their ruling on the legal actions that have cropped up against health care reform.

AND JUST THINK of the nasty label I’d have to apply to the Obama re-election effort, which has various people sending out e-mails to try to spew their party line on many issues – including this one.

Consider an e-mail that I (and most likely millions of other people) received from Patrick J. Kennedy (son of the late Sen. Ted, which makes JFK his uncle) telling me that if those dastardly villains on the Supreme Court do manage to overturn health care reform, Obama allies have to be ready to fight back immediately.

“If the Court strikes down the law, Democrats will need to redouble our efforts, fighting to ensure universal health care that’s affordable and accessible to every American is a reality,” he wrote.

Of course, Kennedy also went on to say that even if health care reform wins, it could still be a loss because of all the irate rhetoric we will hear from the ideologues who will be disappointed and who will redouble their efforts to defeat Obama come Nov. 6.

THOSE ARE JUST a few of the groups or interests who have been cluttering my e-mail boxes in recent days, all trying to influence the way I perceive the high court’s anticipated ruling. I’m too lazy to look up every single group.

Needless to say, everybody already knows what they’re going to say – even though the high court has yet to issue their ruling.

Everybody has an opinion, they’re not likely to alter it, and they seem determined to try to do a job on our mindsets.

Just for the record, I did not give a $3 “or more” contribution to the Health Care Rapid Response Fund – which was the bottom line of that Kennedy message that warned me about how people like myself would be “demonized” for realizing the real need for health care reform.

I’D LIKE TO say it is because of a high-minded moral attitude against imposing myself in the middle of issues, although I should be honest – a part of me is just too cheap.

Toward all sides of a cause!

Kennedy warns of the “rampage” that “extremists” will go on. But a part of me wonders if he’s trying to trigger the anti-rampage. Which means we’re all going to have to endure many more weeks of rhetoric until Election Day.

And most likely more months of cheap trash political talk after that. Some people are just determined to be angry about this issue.

PERHAPS IT IS in that mindset that explains somebody like Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Richard Mourdock from Indiana. He had an opinion critical of Obama, and made it public with a video clip he put on YouTube for all to see.

Only he presumed that the high court’s ruling was coming last week. He praised health care reform’s demise before anything really happened.

Will he be among the people eagerly awaiting the Thursday morning high court ruling (about 9 a.m., our time) to see if he got it “right?”


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fire the family?!? Those are ‘fighting words’ to some Chicago politicos

“If a man can’t put his arms around his sons and help them, then what’s the world coming to?” – Richard J. Daley


DALEY: You know what he said!

Of course, there was another part of that exchange involving Richard Joseph and his attempt toward the end of his mayoral stint to direct some city insurance business to a firm run by the one son of his who didn’t get into electoral politics.

And I’m sure that part, which we’re all thinking about in our heads, is what Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios wishes he could spout off these days without creating a further stink.

TIMES HAVE CHANGED. We have come a long way since those early 1970s days when Mayor Daley, the first, questioned why he couldn’t use his government influence to benefit his family.

After all, if the insurance firm being developed back then by his son, Michael, had provided legitimate service to the city government, then where’s the problem? Somebody had to benefit financially from getting the city business?

Why not keep it within his family, within people he believes he can trust? I’m sure that back then, there were some people who would have accepted that line of logic. For all I know, there may still be a couple.

But I’ll bet that even those couple of people are disgusted with Berrios these days, who is getting national attention after the Associated Press picked up on a Chicago Sun-Times story about Berrios’ hiring practices.

FOR A COOK County ethics board has found that not only were a couple of Berrios hires within his office ethics violations, they may well also be fiduciary violations as well. Meaning the county may be losing money because of these deals.
BERRIOS: Not the whole problem

For the record, that ethics board wants Berrios to fire his son, Joey, and his sister, Carmen. The former is a residential assistant, while the latter is director of taxpayer services.

Joe Berrios, the former county Board of Review member who in 2010 got elected to the post of Cook County assessor, has become the face of political nepotism in Chicago.

Which really is a joke, when you think about it. In a city where families named “Daley,” “Cullerton,” “Madigan,” “Stroger” and “Jackson” (just to name a few, there are many more) have developed political influence that spans generations, it’s la familia Berrios that is “the problem.”

WHICH IS WHY I really wonder if Berrios wishes he could channel Richard J. Daley in responding to the Cook County ethics board request. He really is just doing things the way they have long been done.

The “Chicago Way,” if you want to be flippant about it, with your lamest attempt at a Sean Connery Scottish accent.

Personally, I think some of the Berrios babble is a bit much, particularly since none of us should be the least bit shocked he would operate in such a manner. This was the man who won his 2010 campaign despite the best efforts of the goo-goo element of our society to demonize him as a political hack.

Should we really be surprised to learn that he would see his election as an upholding, of sorts, by the voters of his way of doing things? He probably figures that if voters really cared about such things, we’d have Assessor Forrest Claypool these days.

I JUST CAN’T be “shocked, shocked” to learn that nepotism is taking place within the assessor’s office. Anybody who is shocked is seriously naïve, or else faking indignation to cover up some other hang-up.

Yes, a part of me wonders if some people think that nepotism is acceptable if the name is “Daley,” but not someone who appears much more ethnic. Although I don’t believe that’s the only (or even dominant) factor at work here.

I am curious to see how this situation plays out. Because I expect an act of defiance on the part of papa Joe before he ultimately has to kick his son and sister off their current spots on the payroll.

Only, in all likelihood, to have them turn up on someone else’s part of the payroll – someone who owed Joe a favor. That, if anything, is the real “Chicago Way” of doing things!


EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes, I voted for Joe Berrios in that last election cycle. I stand by my line of reasoning.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

EXTRA: Yoooo-uk?

We have the latest non-controversy of the campaign session – although I suspect the only people who truly are offended are those New England region residents who persist in voting for Republicans.

They do exist, although they’re about as populous as that segment of Chicago city residents who identify with the GOP.

I’M REFERRING TO President Barack Obama’s comment at a Boston fundraiser where he thanked those in attendance for the fact that long-time Boston Red Sox player Kevin Youkilis is now a member of the Chicago White Sox.

Whom we all know is the president’s favorite ballclub (he adopted them upon moving to Chicago and settling in the Sout’ Side of the city). Only it seems that some people in that campaign crowd “boo-ed” the president (although some people on the scene claim they were really doing the “Yoooo-uk” chant that will no longer be heard at Fenway Park).

How dare the president rub it in the faces of Red Sox fandom that all of baseball isn’t supposed to bow down for their benefit! Because the perception of this trade is that the White Sox picked up a veteran ballplayer who could actually help their chances of making it to the playoffs this season, in exchange for a couple of fringe players who won’t mean much in the long-term.

Then again, nobody expected Sammy Sosa to ever amount to much when the White Sox gave him up to get a veteran ballplayer in the form of George Bell back in 1992.

BRENT LILLIBRIDGE OR Zach Stewart = Sammy Sosa? Not likely! Not on any level.

And Obama making a comment that Youkilis needing to change the color of his socks from Red to White equaling a legitimate campaign controversy? Even less likely!

Somehow, I just can’t envision the campaign cycle swirling around in reverse because of this one moment. No matter how much some political operatives (who, deep down, probably prefer football) would like to think so.

Real baseball fans have too much sense to fall for this nonsense.


Will anyone look at suburb corruption?

A part of me wonders if municipal officials in the Chicago suburbs will do their best Dick Daley impersonation when it comes to Dick Simpson.
SIMPSON: Still on the outside

Simpson is the former alderman (from the 44th Ward that back in the 1970s was up around the Lincoln Park neighborhood) with a liberal sensibility who used to get his microphone turned off during City Council debate whenever Richard J. Daley got tired of hearing him speak.

NOW, SIMPSON IS in charge of the political science department at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and his department came out with a study that documents acts of corruption in the 263 municipalities that comprise the Chicago suburbs.

Potential conflicts of interest in more than 60 municipalities and more than 100 people who either are village officials or police officers.

Will those village presidents and police chiefs who rule like potentates within their municipal boundaries decide they don’t want to hear about it, and find a symbolic way of “turning off” Simpson’s “microphone?”

It wouldn’t surprise me if we get a few reactions the equivalent of “Mind your own business!,” before the issue fades away.

BECAUSE THOSE OFFICIALS take advantage of the fact that nobody outside of their respective towns cares about what happens there. So they do what they want.

They also take advantage of the fact that even many of the people who live within their respective villages don’t pay much attention to what their local government does. In fact, I have known suburban residents who reside in those towns because they don’t want to have to care about a local government. They want to pretend it doesn't really exist, except for when they have to buy a village sticker (or stickers) to put on their cars every year.

Such conditions make it possible for local government officials to think they can do what they want. Particularly if, like in many suburbs, there usually are few people interested in holding those elective offices.

Too many suburban government officials get to run unopposed. In some cases, village presidents get to hand-pick their trustees by appointment because not enough people could be found to actually run for election to fill the posts.

SO A PART of me is rooting for Simpson, whose study calls for an inspector general to be created specifically to investigate suburban government entities.

Although I’m sure what will make it possible to ignore this request is the fact that he doesn’t specify who would create this position – or who would pay for it. I’m pretty sure everyone is going to claim they can’t afford to do it, and that it should fall under someone else’s jurisdiction.

While $1 million might not be much to some larger-scale governmental units, that would be a big expense for some suburban governments. And I doubt that state government (which might be the most sensible entity to have such a position) will want to take on any extra expense.

I can already envision the suburban-based legislators lining up to find more practical ways to spend $1 million. Practical being anything that doesn’t focus too much attention on their hometowns, which they’d like to think are bastions of purity compared to that albatross of Chicago.

YET IT DOESN’T surprise me that Chicago gets all the attention when it comes to corruption stories, which usually get covered for their titillating factors rather than the elements that deprive the citizenry of good government.

Too many people were intrigued by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich because of his funky hair and foul mouth on tape than they were the elements of what he actually did while in office.

City officials can get a national reputation. Whereas not even the most well-known of suburban officials have anyone who has ever heard of them outside of maybe a 10-mile radius of their home towns!

So picking out an indictment against a city official can get a prosecutor some news attention. While going after a suburban official? It’s like, What’s the point?!?

IF ONLY WE could see their actions for what they are. I think we’d soon realize that some of the most honest and sincere political people in our area are on the City Council. Along with some of the most incompetent. Most boring.

And a few who are truly corrupt.

Just like any government body, regardless of location.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Healthcare reform a case where partisanship makes absolutely no sense

Anybody delusional enough to try to claim that partisan politics isn’t behind their opposition to health care reform ought to pipe down.
OBAMA: Bulls-eye on his back?

Because a lot of the rhetoric we’re going to hear this week – both for and against – is so blatantly partisan and oriented toward Nov. 6. The legitimacy of healthcare reform as an issue is going to get buried.

FOR IT SEEMS that sometime this week, possibly on Monday, we’re going to get a ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States that will be meant to put an end to the legal issues that cropped up in the wake of the federal government attempting to approve a new law meant to provide health care benefits to all – even those who are not currently insured.

The ideologues have always hated this issue, partially because they don’t want Barack Obama being able to claim it for his legacy and also because many of them consider it a waste of time and resources to be concerned about uninsured people.

They probably are deluded enough to think that those people choose to be uninsured – which is such nonsense. About the only people who are more delusional on this planet are the ones who think the Chicago Cubs are going to win a pennant anytime soon.

Which is why I find it ridiculous that people are claiming health care reform is “unconstitutional” because it “forces” people to purchase a plan to help them cover the cost of medical care.

SO LONG AS the federal government also is helping people come up with a plan they can afford, where’s the problem? Except to those who would just as soon leave those uninsured off the rolls and with nothing!

That’s what this issue is really about, except their choice of rhetoric is meant to make their opposition seem more high-minded than it ever could be in reality.
MOURDOCK: Premature?

Yes, I am a health care reform supporter, because I view the problem of so many uninsured people as one that can drag down our society. It is something we must address, even if we’d prefer to think that “we” have insurance and the lack of it is someone else’s problem.

But I expect the conservative-leaning Supreme Court to find some way of restricting the measure – which the ideologues will use to spew rhetoric meant to say that the whole measure was “struck down.”

OF COURSE, THERE also will be enough of the measure that survives that will allow its backers to claim it was upheld.

Which means the “truth” will have to lie somewhere in the middle.

It certainly won’t lie anywhere near where Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock says it does.

He is a candidate for U.S. Senate from the Hoosier state who put together a video of himself praising the Supreme Court for rejecting the health care reform measure and put it on YouTube.

EXCEPT THAT HE goofed, and that video went up and became public on Thursday (which was the day that some originally thought there might be a Supreme Court ruling on the issue).

Somewhere, I can’t help but envision soon-to-be former Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., hearing about this, shaking his head in disgust, and thinking to himself, “I lost to this nitwit?”

For that reason alone, I’d like to see the high court wind up upholding significant portions of the health care reform plan – even though I know there are enough ideologues on the court who came into this issue viewing it as their “job” to put this thing in check.

Not that I think, as some want to believe, that such action would make Obama look weak in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 general election.

IF ANYTHING, I think the fact that the ideologues are out gunning for this may well convince some wavering people to think in terms of voting for Obama’s re-election – just to keep the ideologues from having too much control over government.

It may wind up making them look like such bullies that people could become sympathetic. Think I’m kidding? I couldn’t help but chuckle about the new poll commissioned by the Reuters wire service.

People are buying into terminology and the rhetoric being used by the Republican opposition (that Reuters poll only had 14 percent of Republicans saying they favor health care reform, compared to 75 percent of Democrats). Yet upon further questioning, they approve of the intent of the various provisions of health care reform.

Could it be that many of us realize there is a serious problem, but have had our minds warped by all the nonsense-talk being spewed by the ideologues who have always viewed this as a campaign tactic – and little more?


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Gay marriage fight (or lack thereof) not something to be taken for granted

Perhaps it’s because I remember that period in the mid-1990s when Republican officials willing to do the bidding of ideologues used their control of state government to ram through a partisan agenda.
ALVAREZ: Backing her county's clerk

Including a new law that made it explicitly clear that marriage in Illinois had nothing to do with couples of the same gender.

AS WAS OFTEN pointed out back then, state law always said that marriage applied only to couples of opposite sex. But the Republicans back in the days of Pate and Lee Daniels and Gov. Jim Edgar felt the need to take a pot shot at gay activists who might be thinking in terms of advancing any thoughts on the issue.

A part of me always wondered if Edgar (in private) was embarrassed about his political party feeling the need to act on this – although it didn’t stop him from signing that measure into law.

Although I recall he picked a day in May when the Legislature was particularly busy, and the amount of space devoted in newspapers and airtime on television to this issue was minimal.

There were more important issues to fight for, unless one wants to let ideology dominate their thoughts.

NOW, WE COME to the present day, where that law approved by the then-GOP state Legislature remains in effect.

But there are same gender couples who are disgusted that their partnerships can’t have the legal benefits of marriage that other couples can get when they say, “I do.”
And they have one advantage that didn’t exist nearly two decades ago – legal officials who are sympathetic on a certain level.
MADIGAN: Taking a stance

It was earlier this month that Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez let it be known that her office, which in theory is supposed to defend the county whenever it gets sued, wasn’t going to put up much of a defense. Which is what her county's clerk has been saying for years should be done.

ALVAREZ’ STAFF SHOULD have been working to defend the county clerk’s refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Instead, she was saying she’d like to see a court rule that the county’s actions are illegal because the state’s law is improper.

That didn’t amaze me as much as the actions earlier this week when Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan also let it be known that her legal staff wasn’t going to do much to defend the law that state government implemented back in the days of Pate & Co.

Her office may well have to wind up appointing some private legal counsel to take up this cause, although that will be tainted because the attorneys in question will inevitably have the taint of political partisanship on their shoulders.

It will hurt their credibility with the courts – unless this case winds up before a judge who is eager to rule on conservative partisan grounds. In which case, THAT will be what causes the stink of politics to waft through the air.

BUT I DO realize that it should not be perceived as automatic that attorneys for government would realize there is a problem and would act according to what they believe is the “right” thing (as in proper, not ideological) to do.

For I remember when the whole death penalty debate was at its peak. There were times when officials would make the argument that the state attorney general’s office should be leading the fight – instead of putting up defenses of the capital crimes statutes that existed.

Madigan had no trouble back then hinting that while she personally might sympathize with death penalty opponents, there was a law she still had to help enforce.

Then again, those of us who remember her professional background from before she got elected to government office know that she was an attorney who specialized in cases of sexual harassment.

BUT SHE WORKED for a law firm that was often hired by the companies that were being ACCUSED of improper behavior. Which often meant that Madigan was the one trying to advise companies how to make themselves look less offensive when they had their “day in court.”

So Madigan, on a certain level, has no problem with defending a position she might not personally believe in. The fact that she is willing to take a stance on this issue is something that truly is unique.

So what will be the end result of this particular legal battle? I have no doubt that any court decision locally that upholds the current state law on this issue will wind up being an unpopular one among the masses that someday will be regarded as mistaken.

This just feels like an issue whose time has come! Perhaps that recognition is what is truly at stake with the actions of those two government attorneys.

IF IT TURNS out that the state restrictions against non-heterosexual marriage wind up falling by the wayside, somehow I suspect the only people who truly will be offended will be that group whom state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, spoke to earlier this week when he talked of “pushing” Chicago out into the lake with Gov. Pat Quinn “on the nose of the boat.”

Because if isolated Southern Illinois ever tried something like that, they’d find out just how quickly they would be the ones who got shoved back, and South, down into Kentucky.

How quickly would they come back, begging us for readmission?


Friday, June 22, 2012

It’s 137 more days ‘til Election Day – and I already have a headache

Whether it's Barack Obama with Betty White, or ...

Serious campaigning for the presidential election shouldn’t really begin until around Labor Day. We’re not ready yet for the level of nonsense to be spiked up.

Yet that’s exactly what we’re getting these days.

WE’RE GOING TO be hit with a barrage of political trash talk and trivial and trite observations meant to give us the impression of great significance. I suspect I’m going to become addicted to some sort of pain killer by the time Nov. 7 comes around, and it’s all over.

Although I have to admit to getting my chuckle on Thursday from an e-mail message I received in the name of first lady Michelle Obama (not that I’m deluded enough to think that Michelle herself was pecking away at a computer keyboard, typing out my e-mail address just so she could send me a personal message).

It was another in a series of messages the Obama campaign has been using, offering up “personal time” to ordinary schnooks like myself, in some cases  a chance to have dinner with Obama.

The big one a few weeks ago offered a chance for a nobody to attend an Obama event with actor Sarah Jessica Parker (whom many people will always associate with “Sex & the City,” but whom I will remember for her early ‘80s role in Square Pegs).

NOW, THERE’S ANOTHER one, and it seems that we’re being given the chance (if only we make a large enough campaign donation) to have a “casual dinner” with Michelle Obama and her husband.

I don’t feel the need to write out a check just for that perk.

... Mitt Romney trying to appeal to NASCAR fans, all campaign activity can become headache-inducing. Photographs provided respectively by White House and Romney for President.

But what amused me was the Obama appeal, as she recalled the early days of her marriage to Barack Obama, when the two were political nobodies (actually, she was sort of on the fringe of the Daley administration, although he was a nobody).

Telling us of that early married life in Chicago, she wrote, “the winters there can be pretty harsh, but no matter now snowy or icy it got, Barack would head out into the cold, shovel in hand, to dig my car out before I went to work.”

AS SHE PUTS it, “he’s always looked out for me. Now, I see that same commitment every day to you and to this country.”

In my mind, I can hear comedian Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady” character. “Isn’t that special?,” she’d snap, usually just before proclaiming that someone or something was under the influence of Satan!

But what really amuses me is that as I write this, I am desperately trying to cool off. I’m dripping in sweat. The past few days have seen some serious heat in Chicago.

Come on, Michelle! You’re the Chicago native. You know very well that at this time of year, memories of winter and heavy snow and icy temperatures are so irrelevant. We’re at the other end of the extreme.

YOU’RE MAKING YOURSELF sound like you’ve gone D.C. on us. Have you forgotten a Chicago summer already? Or were you fooled by the mild temperatures that weekend you were in town for the Jarrett wedding?

Although this moment isn’t my only headache inducer.

I couldn’t help but notice a commentary published by United Press International on Thursday about the types of people who would be working in a Romney presidential administration.

It seems some policy geeks and ideologues are already sizing up office space and making place for the posts to which they would wish to be hired – IF Obama were to lose come Nov. 6.

AS THE WIRE service reports, it seems there are dueling factions of experienced pols fighting it out with the hard-core ideologues. We could easily get former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and career foreign service officer Eric Edelman in place, among others.

There would definitely be a lot of people who have been off the federal payroll since the days of George W. Bush as president. Which really makes it appear to be a load of people who have been biding their time the past three-and-a-half years to have a chance at a U.S. government position.

Which is interesting to me because this is exactly the attitude that the ideologues will try to make an issue of when they criticize people who work for the U.S. president in the Obama administration.

Many of them are holdovers from the days of President Bill Clinton, and the oldest even have experience from the days of Jimmy Carter (it seems that enough time has passed that we really don’t have the influence of Lyndon B. Johnson any longer).

“POLITICAL HACKS WHO can’t get a real job,” is how they’ll try to trash them. Yet it seems the GOP version of those same hacks already are getting themselves ready in anticipation for another White House gig to beef up their resumes.

Maybe it just really means there are certain people who are experienced in this kind of public policy work. And those people who want to try to trash them for this are best ignored.

Because all they do is bring on the headache. Maybe they have stock inTylenol?