Monday, March 31, 2014

Quinn wants the Latino vote come November. Who will he honor to get it?

I’m starting to wonder if Gov. Pat Quinn is mistaking March for Hispanic Heritage Month.

Searching for voters at the theater?
Either he is, or maybe he’s just that eager to have Latino voters think he’s aware of us to the point that we’ll contemplate giving him our votes come the Nov. 4 election for Illinois governor.

IT WAS JUST over a week ago that Quinn went so far as to declare the day Benito Juarez Day across Illinois. For the one-time president of Mexico who helped ensure that the nation remain an independent entity and U.S. ally – rather than a French colony that would have given aid and comfort to those forces that wanted to split the United States in two back in the mid-19th Century.

Now, he’s made the declaration that makes Monday officially Cesar Chavez Day across the Land of Lincoln.

We’re not alone. This is actually the anniversary of the birth of the founder of the United Farm Workers labor union. He’d be 87 now, if he hadn’t have died at age 66 back in 1993. Many places with significant Latino populations (particularly in the southwestern U.S.) have made the same declaration.

Although it should be noted that Quinn made his declaration on Friday with a public appearance to add his praise to Chavez – who back in his own time would have had those who wanted to view him as a radical (just like Martin Luther King, Jr.). All because he touted the cause of people the establishment would have preferred to ignore.

BUT WHO NOW are much less venomous in their rhetoric – also just like King. Because they see now how ridiculous their rants were.

Of course, by doing his thing on Friday, Quinn got to get himself a plug on the same day that actor/director Diego Luna’s new film about the life of Chavez came out in movie theaters across the nation. It’s becoming his new tactic, just as he used to be the “Sunday press conference” man to ensure he’d get covered.

Which may mean all the people who felt compelled to see the film when it came out this weekend might be more inclined to think favorably upon the “Mighty Quinn.”

He wants to win
“Cesar Chavez organized the United Farm Workers to fight for fair wages, humane living conditions and basic dignity for some of the most oppressed workers on earth,” Quinn said, while also reminding us of the time he got to meet Chavez back in 1974 – back in the days when he was a low-level staffer in the administration of then-Gov. Dan Walker.

“HIS MESSAGE OF juntos podemos (together, we can) has stayed with me to this day,” said Quinn. Is he trying to be like Barack Obama's 2008 usurping of "Yes, We Can?" Or just different from Republican challenger Bruce Rauner -- whose minority vote strategy seems to be discouraging African-American voters from bothering to vote at all!

It’s not often that a governor is able to use a major motion picture release to try to gain himself some public attention. I don’t even recall him trying to use the Steven Spielberg film “Lincoln” to get himself support.

Then again, that film came out during a presidential election year cycle, and not a gubernatorial one..

Now I suspect that much of the audience for this particular film is going to be an ethnic-inspired crowd. I couldn’t help but notice that the one movie theater near I live that is actually showing the film is making a point of devoting two screens to it – one for showings of the film proper, and another for showings of the film dubbed into Spanish.

I KNOW SOME people are going to think it odd that a film about a Mexican-American (he was born here, and served in the U.S. Navy during the Second World War) needs to be dubbed into Spanish, as though it were one of those tacky Japanese films about Godzilla or Mothra.

Will Quinn seek support here too?
But this will be one of those films that will attract a larger-than-usual Latino film-goers crowd just because it will be one of the few films that depicts a Latino as something other than a drug-dealer or maid.

So Quinn trying to reach out to voters by giving days to people of Latin American ethnic origins could be part of the political strategy.

I’m just wondering if he has a list of possible people already prepared. If he turns out to be a big-enough bat for the Chicago White Sox, will we get Jose Abreu Day sometime between Monday’s Opening Day and season’s end?

  -30-

EDITOR’S NOTE: I haven’t gone to see the Cesar Chavez film yet, just as I will not be at U.S. Cellular Field on Monday. I suspect if I wait a few days, I can catch the film with a smaller crowd on hand. Just as the White Sox will play 80 more home games following the opener for 2014.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

More of us now have health insurance. That ought to be the ACA bottom-line!

We’re in the final days during which people can take advantage of the Affordable Care Act to try to sign themselves up for a health insurance policy, so as to guarantee that they are in compliance with federal laws requiring them to have some form of medical coverage.

OBAMA: Blame? Or praise!
The ACA that is a key part of Barack Obama’s desire for a presidential legacy requires people to be signed up for a health insurance policy by Monday – although the ones who literally waited until this final weekend before  trying to sign up will not have policies take effect until May 1.

OF COURSE, THE focus that some political people want to put on this is all negative. Either because they don’t want Obama to have anything in the way of public policy he could claim as a success.

Or because they really are clueless enough to believe that all those millions of people in this country who were going without health insurance were doing so because they chose to do so – and NOT because the insurance bureaucracy was such a mess that it was too complicated for many to get insurance.

Yes, the truth is that there are those people who would prefer to ignore the problem of so many millions going without insurance when they get sick – ignoring the fact that they wind up becoming a burden that the rest of us wind up having to pay for.

So when I read the reports indicating that some 6 million people who previously had no health insurance now have something resembling an insurance policy for when they become ill, I can’t help but be impressed.

THAT NUMBER MAY well be responsible for the assorted polls of recent weeks that show the total number of people opposed to Obama’s health care reform measures is on the decline (a Kaiser Foundation poll showed the gap between those who hate the idea and those who back it falling from 16 percent to 8 percent in the past two months).

Although the years of rancid rhetoric about the issue by Republican political operatives interested in doing the bidding of conservative ideologues have taken a toll.

Will this sign someday be as despicable ...
There are still many people who want to believe it is a sordid, un-American plot at stake to try to get insurance coverage for people so that a hospital stay when they become seriously ill does not bankrupt them.

Yes, we all heard those stories back in November during the early days of the sign-up period when there were assorted computer glitches that complicated the process.

AS A PERSON who was lacking a valid health insurance policy (in recent years, I've worked for companies that didn't want to provide such a benefit to me), I found that when I finally got around to using the websites put together by Illinois government officials to guide people through the process, they seemed to work very well.

... as this leaflet?
It took me about 45 minutes in all, but when I was completed I received notice that I was signed up for an insurance policy (and even got help in covering about 40 percent of its monthly cost).

I’m sure it helps that I knew off the top of my head all of the personal data that I had to provide, and that I don’t have any pre-existing medical conditions (at least none that I’m aware of). But it worked.

I will feel sorry, however, for those people who waited until the final days (literally, this weekend and Monday) to try to sign up. They may create a backlog on the Internet that causes some delays.

ALTHOUGH HOW SORRY should we feel for someone who waited for months before finally trying to do something? I don’t think we feel much compassion for someone who tries to file their income tax returns on April 16?

So what is going to become of this issue?

I know fully well there are Republican political operatives who are not only convinced, but also are counting on, displeasure among people with health care reform to cause so much anger against Obama that they take it out on him by voting for Republican political people for Congress.

There are those who tell you they are sure the GOP will regain control of the Senate and keep the House of Representatives – which would create such a hostile environment for Obama’s last two years as president. They WILL vote to repeal health care reform – forcing Obama to have to veto their effort in order to maintain it.

BUT WHAT HAPPENS if, despite all their years of griping, it winds up that people with insurance now no longer encounter problems when they become ill. What happens if the rancid rhetoric turns out to be cheap talk?!

I’m sure some will continue to let their partisanship get the best of them. But as for the real majority of our society, maybe this becomes a non-issue.

And the fact that some people were so desperately determined to oppose the idea of people having health insurance will become yet another point that they, and their descendants, wind up having to apologize for in future decades.

  -30-

Friday, March 28, 2014

The disappearing airplane winds up crashing into a remote part of the Indian Ocean? Of course it’s a Chicago story

One of the reasons why I have never really sought to work as a reporter-type person outside of Chicago (even when I was in Springfield, I was surrounded by Chicago-oriented people) was because of the fact that it seems just about every story of significance on Planet Earth has a Chicago angle.

The story of how an airplane like this ...
Have a disaster or military conflict that is killing people? There ARE ethnic enclaves somewhere in the city filled with concerned people wondering if their relatives are suffering.

THERE ARE GOVERNMENT officials around the globe who were educated, if not outright raised, in Chicago.

And how many foreign governments feel compelled to have consulates in our city to supplement the official embassies they maintain in Washington, D.C.? I can recall once having a job a couple of blocks from an ominous – and heavily secured – building I later learned was the Chinese consulate.

But back to the point – this is a place that is most definitely a part of the global economy; and one that takes full advantage of it. Our courts can wind up making rulings that have a significant impact on the planet.

Which is the real focal point of this commentary – because it seems the dominant news story of recent weeks is about to get not only a United States angle, but one that will cause it to get the dateline “Chicago.”

FOR A CHICAGO-based law firm (Ribbeck Law, to be exact) filed a lawsuit this week in Cook County Circuit Court that demands information about the airplane specs of the type of jet used by Malaysia Airlines for the flight that disappeared – only to have officials convinced it lies in pieces at the bottom of the ocean.

... winds up in a remote place like this ...
The airplane was one designed by Boeing Co. The law firm – which says it may try to organize a lawsuit on behalf of the families of the Malaysia Airlines flight in question – claims its actions this week are to gather information so that they can hire experts who can find potential defects in the design.

That could potentially allow for any lawsuit to include Boeing; and we all know that having a big and rich company legitimately involved in a legal action increases the potential for a financially big payout.

That big payout, of course, is the reason why people would want to get involved in a lawsuit of any type.

... may be learned at this place.
WE DON’T KNOW officially what happened with that Malaysia Airlines flight that had 239 passengers – of which it would be miraculous if any of them survived the disaster itself, let alone were still alive now.

The early speculation was that the airline pilots themselves may have somehow hijacked the flight – although no one ever carried that theory out to the point of trying to explain “Why?” they’d do that!

Which would make it hard to sue anybody. How many international terrorist organizations are public enough to have assets that could be seized as part of a lawsuit settlement?

That is why the legal types are telling the Reuters wire service that they’re trying to show that it was a mechanical defect that caused the airplane to disappear, then crash into the ocean.

A FIRE ON board the plane, or perhaps a loss of oxygen in the cockpit? Either of which would have the effect of causing the plane to fly out-of-control for awhile before finally crashing.

Because it could be believed that if the pilots had been fully aware and conscious, they would have tried to make an emergency landing somewhere – anywhere – on land. Instead of letting the flight fly out so far into the ocean that there was no chance of survival for the passengers.

The world has been focused on Malaysia in recent weeks to find out where the plane disappeared to. It’s going to wind up focusing on that rust-colored building near the Picasso statue to learn “Why?”

  -30-

Thursday, March 27, 2014

EXTRA: “Quinnochio” against “Mr. Burns?” The electorate is the loser

It’s usually around July or August in a general election campaign cycle when the truly trivial stuff comes out.

Do you feel enlightened?
Yet in an example of just how nasty the Illinois gubernatorial campaign is going to dive, it’s late March and we’re already sinking to the silly stunts – particularly those of mascots whose purpose is to mock the opposition.

FOR THE RECORD, it was the gubernatorial campaign of Bruce Rauner that sank first – giving us Quinnochio, a goofy-looking clod who is supposed to make us think of Gov. Pat Quinn as someone incapable of telling us the truth.

Quinnochio made his first appearance Thursday outside a Quinn government (not campaign) appearance at Carl von Linne Elementary School in Chicago to talk about how he wants to reform public education funding.

Personally, I think the idea of a mascot like this trivializes Rauner more than it harms Quinn – just as much as Quinn made himself look silly with that Internet-only ad that appeared recently comparing Rauner to “The Simpsons” Mr. Burns character. “Burns” against “Quinnochio” come Nov. 4? We’re going to get a heck of a headache in coming months!
 
It does make me wonder about the copyright laws, and whether the "Pinocchio" character is old enough to clear the time period in which the Disney company can claim a violation of their intellectual property in the same way that Fox made a claim against Quinn being able to use "Mr. Burns."

Chickens should be fried, not out campaigning
SUCH MASCOTS MAY have been around longer, but the first campaign mascot I recall was that ridiculous chicken that used to follow President George Bush (the elder) around and contend that he was afraid to debate Democratic challenger Bill Clinton. Did that really do a thing to inform the electorate?

I wish we’d have the kind of campaign in Illinois where Rauner wouldn’t wish to sink down to Quinn’s level of triviality. Then again, this is Illinois, so I should know better!

  -30-

Are Uber, Lyft the ‘anti-jitneys?’ What is the future of a Chicago taxi?

I’ll be the first to admit to never having used Lyft, Uber or SideCar. And I’d suspect that there are many people who have not only used them, but have never even heard of them!

I've never seen those Lyft mustaches in my neighborhood
Because these transportation services, at least as far as they exist in Chicago, seem to be limited to the north lakefront neighborhoods. Maybe a few other patches of the city and a couple of the inner suburbs that border the city to the north.

THEY’RE FAR FROM being an integral part of the way Chicago-area people get from place to place. There are many times in my life that I need to get to places they just don’t want to go to.

Yet the companies that operate traditional taxicabs seem threatened enough that they will steal prime pockets of business that they now want the General Assembly to crack down with assorted regulations.

Or at least that’s the way the defenders of these services want to view this political fight brewing now in Springfield. These developing services just want to compete with the existing taxi services, only those goons are bringing out their lobbyists and cash to try to crush competition.

Personally, I view it a bit differently.

MORE LIKE THE companies who complain about how environmental regulations are killing their ability to compete on the business side.

Life isn’t as simple-minded as these people wish it could be. Nor should it be.

Now for those of us (a majority, I suspect) who are reading this commentary and wondering, “What’s he babbling about?,” an explanation is probably warranted. With the increased use of smartphones and apps, these services allow people to use them to call for rides.

The people providing those rides aren’t traditional taxi drivers. They’re more like independent contractors who provide their own vehicles. The fare structure, as I understand it, varies. Certain rides in more prominent areas of Chicago will cost more. There is none of the licensing that the traditional taxi companies have to engage in with Chicago in order to operate cabs.

WHICH IS WHAT supposedly makes them potentially more profitable than the traditional taxi companies – they have next to no overhead in terms of maintaining a fleet of vehicles.

But the reason that city officials developed so many of those regulations and licensing requirements for taxicabs is out of a sense of security. It is what ensures that there’s a chance that the taxi drivers operating the cabs are actually safe – even though some of us persist in making jokes about Pakistani taxi drivers and their wild ways!

Now I know there are those who use these new services (because the places they want to go fall within their range of the world they want to cover) who say they’re as safe, and in some cases safer and cleaner, than a traditional taxi cab.

But one has to have a lot of faith in these newcomers to trust that each and every ride is going to be the same. I wouldn’t know. They don’t come out very often to the land where places like Hyde Park and Bridgeport are “up north” and the North Side at times feels like a foreign land.

I ALSO FIND it amusing to learn that some people try to compare these services – which seem like they’re geared toward people who like to play with their smartphones and probably wish they could figure out a way to get their laundry done by phone rather than having to do it themselves – with the jitney cabs that for decades have operated in the predominantly African-American neighborhoods that the cab companies themselves try to ignore.

Those drivers weren’t licensed by the city – although they were subject to crackdowns from officials whenever someone political felt the need to get themselves law-and-order-related publicity. I'm sure somebody is going to want to believe it's the same sensibility at work here. But it's not!


Would Lyft riders have looked twice at a jitney?
The jitneys, in spirit and reality, are so far removed from these new transportation services. A part of me wonders if comparison is ridiculous, if not borderline offensive.

It seems these services want to get into the transportation business, but don’t want to go along with the rules. Which makes them come across like those people who argue that minimum-wage laws are unfair because they cut into the profit margins the business owners think they’re entitled to.

  -30-

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

EXTRA: Could ruling turn college gridders into student-athletes for real?

I was surprised to learn Wednesday of the National Labor Relations Board ruling that found the current and former football players at Northwestern University weren’t completely delusional in their view that they amounted to university employees who ought to have the chance to organize as a union.

Referring to college sports teams as "football factories" could take on new meaning for the players.
I thought for sure that the status quo would prevail, and that the universities that have major athletic programs (and even many who don’t) would be allowed to pretend that they use “student athletes” to wear their colors when they play sports for the glory of alma mater.

BUT THE LABOR board issued a ruling, that the university is determined to appeal, that ordered an election for the 85 students now on scholarship as part of the Wildcats’ football program.

I don’t believe the athletes playing for college sports teams ought to be in a position where they could be considered as university employees. But the reality is that probably does best describe how they are viewed, and used, by the colleges they attend/work for.

I would gladly hail Wednesday’s ruling as a plus if it meant that universities were to restudy the role of their athletic departments, and if it meant that the way the ballplayers on college teams were treated were to be something more along the line of students who happen to participate in a campus activity.

Instead of the current role for students in the major sports programs such as basketball or football, where some people who wouldn’t even give a thought to attending college go for a year or two because the NCAA programs have essentially become the equivalent of minor leagues for the National Football League or the National Basketball Association.

EVEN IN BASEBALL, the number of professional ballplayers who attended a college is on the rise. But the number who go to play ball in a competitive atmosphere before signing on to play in the minor leagues is also overwhelming.

It makes me wonder how many of them will have any glory moments of college ball, or are just viewing it as part of the preparation for a long-shot career in professional sports.

Which if they make it is one thing. But if they don’t, then it leaves people in a position where they’ll wish they could have got the education they were supposedly getting while they were wearing the university colors.

I do believe that many universities would alter their policies in terms of athlete treatment and restore them back to something respecting the “student” part of the equation, if it meant they could avoid having to recognize the idea of collegiate student labor unions.

SO WHAT BECOMES of the Northwestern U. gridiron crew? I suspect this case will take so many years to work its way through the courts that none of the current players will be around, should the labor board’s ruling ultimately be upheld.

But perhaps there’s someone about 9 or 10 right now who doesn’t quite develop into a top player worthy of an SEC or Pac 10 school – or Michigan or Ohio State, either.

But as a result, he may get a bit more responsible treatment while taking the field at the former Dyche Stadium. And perhaps even some of those higher-skilled athletes also will gain some respect from their universities/employers as well.

  -30-

Bring back the Maroons! It makes more sense than having SIU in Big Ten

Every year in the Illinois General Assembly manages to bring about a bill or two that gets a lot of attention just because the idea being espoused is so knuckleheaded and absurd that we know it’s going nowhere.

Not a ringing endorsement for Ill. flagship
This year, it seems the nonsense bill in question is one based upon the idea that Illinois needs to improve its educational opportunities for students by getting another of its public universities into the Big Ten.

AS IF WE don’t suffer enough by seeing Fighting Illini and Wildcats sports teams get their behinds kicked by Michigan, Ohio State and Indiana, state representatives Michael Connelly, R-Lisle, and Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, somehow think that having the Illinois State Redbirds or the Cougars of Southern Illinois-Edwardsville in the mix will bolster things.

This is just ridiculous on so many levels. But let’s take the key point that Connelly made in talking to the Chicago Sun-Times about this issue. “”Big Ten,’ to me, means a top state school. There’s a lot of pride in that. The Big Ten has a cachet and a record of higher academic and athletic excellence.”

Now I’m not looking to go on a diatribe against the University of Illinois. I have known many people (including my brother, Chris) who were educated there. It’s a fine place. But that statement from Connelly is just a bunch of hooey!

The reason some people choose to attend universities elsewhere is because they have achieved such standards and reputations that those top students want to challenge themselves (either that, or they have “legacy” connections that get them in).


MURPHY: Placing too much faith...
WE ALL KNOW it’s not 100 percent accurate to recall Tom Cruise’s “Joel” character from “Risky Business” and his reaction to learning he probably wasn’t going to be accepted to Princeton. But the Urbana-Champaign campus doesn’t really get bonus points academically because it’s in the Big Ten conference.

And the Big Ten sure doesn’t get much respect athletically when compared to the other major conferences that comprise the world of NCAA Division I sports.

Somehow, I suspect some alum of an SEC school is laughing his behind off at the thought of the Big Ten being elite. Then again, some of those alums may not be literate enough to read this commentary, so who knows how they will react. And as for the Ivy League types, their snootiness lets me easily disregard them.


CONNELLY: ... in Big Ten label?
I just think that some people are equating an athletic conference with way too much significance. And in the case of the Big Ten, it doesn’t help that their latest expansion efforts have been to get into the big media markets. That is, if you think of Rutgers as New York-area and Maryland as Washington, D.C.

THE ONLY WAY I could see the Big Ten wanting a third Illinois-based academic institution is if it would put them in Chicago proper (Northwestern University is, after all, based in suburban Evanston). I just can’t see them caring about Normal, Ill., or suburban St. Louis (as in Edwardsville). And don’t even bring up the main campus in Carbondale – a place so isolated physically it makes Champaign seem cosmopolitan.

Besides, what does any of this have to do with academics? Connelly and Murphy say their concern is that University of Illinois standards have become too high and many students get rejected.

How about working on ways to bolster the level of the other state-funded public universities? Which has nothing to do with the Big Ten label.

There’s also the fact that Connelly and Murphy think that students rejected by Illinois are going to other states, and not coming back. Yet how often do we hear about University of Michigan (or other Midwestern university) alumni who beehive it straight for Chicago once they graduate?

SO WHAT COULD this all mean? Probably nothing. The bill that already has made it through a state Senate committee calls for a commission to spend a year studying the issue – if it even gets approved. Nobody is bound to do anything.

Which means we’re not likely to ever see anything actually happen with this. Not even a return of the one Chicago university that actually has a Big Ten history.

The Stagg Field of old (and its Big Ten memories) are long gone from Hyde Park neighborhood campus. Illustration provided by Chuckman Chicago Nostalgia.
Restore the Chicago Maroons to the athletic conference for the first time since the late 1930s? I doubt it, largely because university officials themselves would see the Big Ten as a hindrance to their academic mission!

  -30-

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I guess I’m with the 27 percent

As if the campaign season hasn’t been nasty enough (with just under eight months remaining), we’re going to have to rehash the ugliness of the “67 percent tax hike” that state officials allegedly imposed on us a couple of years ago.

QUINN: What will he propose?
Remember how the income tax got a boost from 3 percent to 5 percent back in 2011 (for individuals, corporate income taxes went from 4.8 percent to 7 percent), with the Illinois Legislature telling us it was just a temporary measure.

LANGUAGE WAS WRITTEN into the law that say it expires after the end date – which happens to be the end of this year. We all get to see that tax hike go away, and the income tax revert back to what it was.

Except that I don’t know of anyone who was that naïve. We’ll get a better idea where the governor stands when he presents us a budget proposal on Wednesday.

We all know better that these things have a knack of becoming relied upon to the point where some serious damage would be done to state government if we were to let that revenue disappear.

It’s not really a “67 percent tax hike” (it’s a 2 percent tax hike that produces 67 percent more revenue). If that money withers away into the political ionosphere, then our public officials are going to have to spend this election year that also is a legislative cycle devising a way to replace it.

WHICH WOULD MEAN some sort of significant tax increase, or a tax on something new. That would be even more complex.

Which is why I accept that the easiest way of handling this situation is to merely make permanent that which is already being paid. I accepted it years ago when the measure was approved and signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn that it would happen.

Anybody with common sense knew that, no matter how much we thought it stunk.

EVANS: Being practical?
So to hear people now complaining that we’re going to get hit with the massive increase? I want to tell them to “Shaddap!” “Quit yer whinin’!” Along with a couple of other choice expletives best not repeated in mixed company.

IT IS WHY I’m not going to take seriously the ideologues who will spend the next few months trying to get the electorate all worked up into pressuring legislators, for once, to do nothing.

Because if nothing is done, the funding goes away with the tax.

It is the reason why I’m not all that swayed by the poll released Monday by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute that says 60 percent of those surveyed want the 2-percent income tax increase to go away.

Only 27 percent are willing to say they think it should be kept in place. Which may mean that only 27 percent of the public (or at least those who got surveyed by the Southern Illinois University-based institute) is being realistic.

I REALLY SEE this as a matter of practicality. It is why I respect someone like state Rep. Marcus Evans, D-Chicago, who has said he supports a hike – even though he doesn’t know how large it will be or what form it will take.

People who seriously want to say that the income tax should shrivel back ought to have to suggest where the replacement revenue comes from. And I’m not all that interested in those who want to think everything can be cut.

Or at least everything that they have ideological hang-ups about – which is what this tax-cutting talk usually amounts to.

This is an instance where the responsible thing to do is to maintain what has become the status quo.

SIMON: W.W.P.D.?
BECAUSE THERE’S ALSO the fact that even with this revenue kept in place, there are going to have to be some votes by our legislators to find additional revenues for our state government structure.

Try eliminating the additional income tax revenue, and that creates even larger increases that will have to be found elsewhere.

It’s a headache, but not one that can be resolved by those people whose idea of a “pill” is a knee-jerk “no.!” Which is something I’d like to think even Paul Simon, if he were still amongst us, would realize – and vote accordingly.

  -30-

Monday, March 24, 2014

The issue that won’t wither away

I know there are those people who want to view the whole debate concerning marriage between gay couples as over and done with.

CROSS: Will he move up to treasurer?
Heck, the Washington Post last week cited the elections in Illinois as evidence that people have become comfortable with the issue and that the hard-ball politicking is over.

WHAT WITH THE fact that state representatives Ed Sullivan, R-Mundelein, and Ron Sandack, R-Downers Grove, won their bids for re-nomination, even though they had seriously-funded opposition.

Then there was the fact that state Rep. Tom Cross of Oswego was successful in his bid to get the Republican nomination for state treasurer.

What Cross, Sandack and Sullivan all had in common was that they were the few Republicans who were willing to vote “aye” when the issue of gay marriage becoming legal came up for debate and a vote in the Illinois House of Representatives.

There were those who were convinced that the conservative voting bases in their legislative districts (all in the outer suburbs of the Chicago area, although Cross comes from an area where it is debatable whether he’s a suburban or rural legislator) would be so repulsed that they would easily lose.

THEIR VOTE IN favor of gay marriage being legitimate would haunt them. They would pay for it. Except that they didn’t.

Admittedly, Sandack had what was the closest campaign vote total of any in Illinois on Tuesday. But he won. Sullivan and Cross achieved victory by greater margins.

I have no doubt there are individuals who live (and vote) in those particular rural districts who are repulsed that they couldn’t defeat ANY of the three. Although I’m also inclined to believe that the real truth of the matter is that people are ready to move on.

SULLIVAN: Vote not an issue
They’re not interested in re-fighting this political battle over and over.

NOT HERE IN Illinois, or probably anywhere else in the nation.

Yet the same mentality of political people who are going to try to repeal federal healthcare reform initiatives so long as they live (because they don’t like just who it is who will get credit for its successes) also exist on this issue.

Take the situation in Michigan, where there are now more than 300 gay couples who got themselves a marriage license in recent days, only to be told on Saturday they can’t use it right away.

SANDACK: Oh, so close!
For those who rushed right away to get married, they now have to know that they may have wasted their time and don’t have any more legal legitimacy than they had all along.

IT WAS ON Friday that a federal judge in Detroit issued an order saying that Michigan’s law (passed in 2004 with 59 percent support of voters) that specified gay marriage was illegal IS in-and-of itself unconstitutional.

But Saturday afternoon, a federal Court of Appeals judge in Cincinnati put a stay on that order – on that will remain in effect at least through Wednesday. It was the state Attorney General’s office who asked for the stay.

Legal officials said they granted it so that the people who want to keep marriage for gay couples strictly verboten can have time to put together, “a more reasoned consideration” of the issue.

Except that so much of the reasoning on this issue is based on emotion and the need of some people to have the law uphold their own personal hang-ups. Adding four days, or making the wait indefinite, isn’t going to change anything about the debate.

SCHUETTE: Carrying on the fight
NOW I SORT of comprehend the difference between Illinois and Michigan. Our state had the Legislature and Gov. Pat Quinn impose the change in policy (and yes, back in the mid-1990s days of a Republican-dominated state government, Illinois passed its own law that specified gay marriage was NOT appropriate).

Whereas in Michigan, it was a court forcing the change in state policy. It would be nice if the legislative geeks who convene in Lansing, Mich., could reach a similar consensus. Perhaps they will, someday.

But I also suspect there are some places that are prepared to take a perverse level of pride in being able to say they were the last place to accept the concept of marriage for all. Or that they only did it under duress from a court.

Which means that court rulings similar to what came out of Michigan on Friday are going to be needed for this issue to truly become over and done with.

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Does Quinn’s Juarez tribute boost him amongst Chicago’s Latino population?

It may be pure coincidence. Perhaps I’m reading way too much into this.

QUINN: Seeking Latino vote?
But I’m sure Gov. Pat Quinn doesn’t mind the way the timing worked out over his participation in a ceremony held Friday in Chicago to pay tribute to the memory of one-time Mexico President Benito Juarez.

AS IT TURNS out, Friday’s events at the Thompson Center state government building to mark the 208th anniversary of Juarez’ birth allowed for a proclamation that said Friday was Benito Juarez Day in Illinois.

Which came one day after Quinn’s current political opponent, Republican gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner, released his first campaign advertising spot of the general election cycle – and it’s in Spanish.

I suspect that reaching out to Latino voters is going to be a crucial part of Rauner’s attempts to unseat Quinn – and that first ad telling us en Espanol how inept Quinn has been is just the first step.

Not that I think Rauner (“Mr. .01 percent?”) really cares about the growing Latino population. But any votes he can steal from Quinn help benefit his own desires.

WHICH MAKES ME wonder how much of Friday’s activities were Quinn’s way of showing he, too, cares about the Latino segment of the electorate?

He makes a gesture to show support to Latino (actually in this case, Mexican) culture. It doesn’t win him an election all by itself.

But it does show that at least somebody on his staff had a sense of history in mind, which allows for the governor to gain the benefits of a Friday morning ceremony at the Thompson Center – where a display had been erected in recent days to pay tribute to Juarez’ memory.

Cinema's takes on Juarez ..
For those of you whose sense of history doesn’t go back any farther than the name “Ronald Reagan,” Juarez was a Mexican political leader who became president in the 1860s – a time when the United States was split in civil war and Mexico had its own mess with the French attempting to intervene by trying to reassert an American colonial presence at Mexico’s expense.

JUAREZ SPENT MUCH of his presidency in exile, but was able to maintain a movement of an independent Mexico that kept the French from establishing themselves permanently in North America, while also keeping the French from being able to offer aid and comfort to the concept of a Confederacy that would have split the United States in two.

... and Lincoln
He also had a vision of Democracy for Mexico, modeled after the United States. Which is how he got the tags, “the Abraham Lincoln of Mexico” and “Father of the Americas.”

It also is noteworthy that when Lincoln was elected president following the 1860 elections and was preparing to travel to Washington to assume the post, it was an emissary of Juarez who first met with Lincoln at his downtown Springfield home to offer congratulations.

So it’s not like there weren’t ties between Juarez and Lincoln. It becomes a matter of Quinn aides knowing their history that they were able to make the connection and stage the event that will make Quinn seem more aware.

AND THE FACT that officials from the Dominican Republic and Colombia took part expanded it beyond a merely-Mexican event, although I’m sure Quinn will now try to find ways to reach out to the Puerto Rican community (which does comprise the other third of Chicago’s Latino population).

RAUNER: Who would he honor?
It certainly is a better response by Quinn than that nonsensical (and Internet-only) ad the guv gave us Thursday that compared Rauner to “Mr. Burns” of “The Simpsons.”

Now as to Juarez’ birthday, how will Rauner retort? Is there a financier with Illinois ties whom Rauner can praise?

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Your personal video can no longer get you put in the pokey by the police

During the two-plus decades I have paid attention to our political people and the way they govern, I have seen some hard-core partisan actions taken. I’ve seen mean-spirited acts meant to single out certain segments of society for abuse.

The high court on Thursday saved us from our Legislature's worst instincts.
Yet the thing that allows me to continue to have faith in our form of government is that it often seems that sense and decency prevail. Someone comes along to do the “proper” thing.

SUCH AS WHAT happened Thursday with the Illinois Supreme Court, which issued a ruling that struck down the eavesdropping laws that were enacted a few years ago that made so much of everyday observation a criminal act.

As it turns out, part of the law was already struck down – the part that made it a crime to record anything involving the police. Legislators who approved creation of that stupid law claimed people were using all those newfangled cameras in their cell phones to catch the police in improper acts.

Which meant the police were under constant supervision that could inhibit them from doing their jobs.

These are the kind of people who think the real problem with that Rodney King police beating in Los Angeles in the early 1990s was that some smart-aleck happened to record it with a video camera.

CATCHING THE POLICE in improper behavior? They were just doing their jobs, some would have us believe.

Now, the entirety of the law is struck down. The people who were eager to protect government officials from being caught in their own incompetence have been determined to have gone too far.

In this case, the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of Annabel Melongo, who had objections with a court transcript in a case she was involved with. She had several telephone conversations with a court reporter supervisor at the Criminal Courts Building, and she recorded at least three of them.

In Melongo’s case, she made the recordings because she wanted to make an issue of what she saw as the court reporter’s incompetence. She created a website where she wrote about her problem, and included snippets of the recordings she had on the website.

PROSECUTORS USED THE law to determine that Melongo WAS the problem. She had six counts of eavesdropping filed against her. A jury ultimately could not reach a verdict, and the charges eventually were dismissed.

But because such a high bond was set against this “threat” to our society, she spent about 20 months in jail while the criminal case was pending.

Naturally, this case was filed by the state’s attorney’s office, which claimed that the problem was in the jury that wouldn’t give them a “guilty” verdict. They wanted the charges reinstated.

Their attorneys actually argued before the state Supreme Court that the intent of the Legislature (which was to favor the actions of law enforcement and other legal system types over those of the public) had to be respected, and that trying to alter it was outside of their legal authority.

IT SEEMS THE court didn’t buy into that argument.

“Judged in terms of the legislative purpose of protecting conversational privacy, the statute’s scope is simply too broad,” read the opinion issued unanimously by the state’s high court.

Which many of would have come to the conclusion back when the Legislature (in the Rod Blagojevich days) gave its approval to this measure.

Particularly since if strictly interpreted, it could make any tourist a criminal if – while in the process of taking pictures in the Loop – they happened to catch a glimpse of a cop or two in the background. Which isn’t exactly an impossibility.

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