Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Has “shall” ever been such an issue? Pension reform wends way into courts

The lawsuits that were long expected against Illinois state government are now arriving.

Pension funding "reform" is going to wind up here, regardless of what route it travels in coming years
For the Illinois Retired Teachers Association managed to get their arguments against the pension funding reform measure the General Assembly managed to approve this year – and the teachers couldn’t even wait until the new year.

THEIR LAWSUIT IN Cook County Circuit Court got slipped into the legal process before Janet Davies could do her annual “sayonara” to 2013. Of course, there will be other groups representing various political interests who also will file lawsuits to make sure they’re represented in this political fight.

All of the groups that hate what the state Legislature did concerning pensions are going to want to claim it is their lawsuit that took down the law that is desperately needed.

All the people who are desperate to believe that the state is trying to resolve its financial problems at the expense of its retired employees aren’t going to care if their success in court winds up tossing Illinois government into an even bigger financial jam!

And all of those who just want to cause mischief for state government? They will be the big winners.

THIS IS ALL caused because of the fact that for many years going back to the 1940s, state government short-changed the amount of money it should have been putting into funds to cover the costs of providing pensions in the future to its retired employees.

Short-changing an expense works if you only do it briefly, then immediately come back and put a surplus of cash into the accounts to make up for the brief loss.

But as many people find out when they try doing the same thing to pay their own bills, the short-changed expense often does not get replenished in a timely manner. As time passes, it becomes more and more difficult to cover the cost.

In the case of state government, the debt had grown so large that it was eating up state funds that government officials would prefer to spend on other areas – such as education, health care, public safety or other programs.

THE COST-OF-living adjustments meant to account for inflation were causing the debt to grow so large. Something had to be done; something desperate and drastic.

Such as the limits on the adjustments in future years. The increases written into law won’t be as big. EXCEPT, …

The lawsuits are all going to find various ways of claiming that such a cut violates the clause in the state constitution that says public pensions are a “contractual relationship” whose benefits “shall not be diminished or impaired.”

They are taking such a literal, hard-lined interpretation that I suspect the masses of Illinois will become incredibly disgusted if they actually prevail in court.

THIS MAY BE one of those times when the fact that the courts have their own moments of being politicized may wind up giving us a benefit.

This year's issues will carry over into future
Because the perception by some political observers is that Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s influence over the courts is such that there isn’t a judge alive who would be willing to have his (or her) name on a court order that struck down the pension funding reform measure.

I’m not about to guess how this issue will eventually be resolved – other than to say that if “pension reform” does wind up getting struck down, any future attempt at reform by the Legislature will likely be even more punitive.

And we may someday see the organized labor interests that are desperately fighting against this version of pension reform wishing they had accepted it while they had the chance!


Monday, December 30, 2013

Most segregated, Chicago is? Or as close to integration as exists in U.S.?

One of my pet peeves is those people who always try to tag a label of “most segregated” when it comes to Chicago’s population.

Diverse or segregated?: Mexican Independence ...
They’re usually people who come from communities that are so overwhelmingly white (with people who like to say they’re “American” and not make any other reference to their ethnic origins) that the issue just doesn’t come up.

WHEREAS CHICAGO LITERALLY is a place where just about every ethnicity on Planet Earth can be found. And the city’s historic character has always been one of various neighborhoods representing ethnic states – of sorts.

The late newspaper columnist Mike Royko may have put it best in “Boss,” his biography of one-time Mayor Richard J. Daley, when he stated that the ethnic state-neighborhoods got along with each other about as well as they did back in the old country.

And in some cases, he wrote, they developed new prejudices to go along with the ones they already had.

I’m not denying the truthfulness of any of this back then, or the fact that it continues to exist to a degree in 21st Century Chicago.

BUT I COULDN’T help notice a study done by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia. They literally compiled a map of the United States that can show you the racial breakdown of just about every community across the mainland (no Alaska or Hawaii).

It confirms a Chicago with a predominant white north lakefront and Northwest Side, with predominantly black West and South Sides. As for the southwest and northwest, there are strips that separate the white from the black comprised of the growing Latino population.

And all throughout, but usually not in the black portions of Chicago, there are visible dots that indicates pockets of people of Asian ethnic origins.

... South Side Irish, or ...
But to what degree is an ethnic enclave an example of racism and segregation – except to those people who would prefer that the particular group in a given neighborhood didn’t even exist!

THE COOPER CENTER map for Chicago was very predictable to someone who was born here (in the South Chicago neighborhood, and lived at various points in Pullman, the East Side, Belmont Heights, Ravenswood and even a summer on the Near North Side) and has lived his life moving back and forth from other cities.

Although looking at maps of places like Detroit (where 8 Mile Road is literally the dividing line between black and white) or Atlanta (where it seems like the majority is African-American, with Latino and Asian pockets mixed in with white people who live separately), Chicago comes across as having quite a variety of people.

Even Sacramento, Calif. – the capital city that the study calls a “well-integrated large city” – seems to be integrated because the Asian population mixes in with both white and Latino neighborhoods; while having a lack of black people overall.

Chicago definitely isn’t a black or white place like some other cities (such as St. Louis, where it appears black people are grouped on the north side and white people are to the south – Chicago’s negative image, so to speak) in our nation appear to be.

IN FACT, LOOKING at the United States as a whole (rather than zeroing in on specific cities), the nation comes across as a mass of blue (for white people) in the eastern half, with multicolored dots that pretty much indicate cities of significance.
To the west, the map is largely colored in white; as in vast areas that are so sparsely populated that not enough people live there for any race to register.
So when I hear people argue that my wonderous home city is so segregated, I can’t help but wonder if they’re merely revealing their own hang-ups with regards to race.
We as a society have a long ways to go in terms of true integration -- and it's not helped by certain elements who are determined to thwart such efforts.
... Bud Billiken parades?
BUT I CAN'T help but think that a city well on its way to being 30 percent black, 30 percent white, 30 percent Latino and the bulk of the rest being Asian has already taken significant steps toward that direction.
Maybe it's the rest of the U.S. that has to catch up to us!


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Dems try to use Obama impeachment talk to bolster their own fund raising

Personally, I saw the likelihood of Republicans trying to impeach President Barack Obama coming from the day in November 2012 that he managed to get re-elected to a second (and final) term as president.

If certain ideologues get their way, they will be printing up similar tickets for Barack Obama
Because Obama is not capable of running for another term as president (and would not want to seek a lower government post once he leaves the White House in January 2017), it means the only way that the hard-core conservative ideologues can bring the Obama legacy to a close in disgrace is to bring up the concept of impeachment.

EVEN IF OBAMA were to be impeached by the House of Representatives, then acquitted by the Senate (which is what happened to Bill Clinton, and what would occur if tried on Obama), they’d still be able to say that Obama was “impeached.”

Which sounds much more onerous than it really is. Then again, who cares about specifics?

Not the people who want the Republican Party to be the mechanism that enforces their conservative vision of what they want our society to be.

And apparently, not the Democrats – who are more than willing to use talk about the “I” word to try to raise money.

THE WASHINGTON POST reported earlier this month that certain Republican officials have talked of impeachment and have started the earliest procedural steps in that direction. It’s still at such an early point that it may go nowhere, and few are taking it seriously.

Except for those Dems – who sent out e-mails this weekend letting us know of screwball quotes from certain officials (Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Reps. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.; Kerry Bentivolio, R-Mich.; and Blake Farenthold, R-Texas) – who want campaign contributions so as to bolster the chance of electing 17 more Democrats to the House of Representatives in the 2014 election cycle.

CLINTON: Impeached, but acquitted
That is, after all, the number needed to give Obama a Democrat-leaning House, in addition to a favorable Senate.

The e-mail, of which I received a copy, says this is a matter of giving Obama, “a Congress that has his back.”

I’LL BE THE first to admit that bringing up impeachment to score political points is sleazy. Although a part of me thinks it is equally tacky to bring the issue up to solicit campaign cash. And “No,” I don’t plan to make a financial contribution.

Particularly since we ought to keep in mind that Obama had Democrat-controlled House and Senate legislative bodies during his first two years as president – only to have Democrats (particularly those from rural parts of the United States) in Congress be willing to go against Obama’s desires! It might not make ANY difference.

ROGERS: A 'realistic' Dem?
It’s why I wonder at times if early 20th Century humorist Will Rogers ought to be regarded as the ultimate political scientist.

He may have hit it right on the head when he said, amongst other things, “Democrats never agree on anything, that’s why they’re Democrats. If they agreed with each other, they would be Republicans.”


Saturday, December 28, 2013

A DAY IN THE LIFE (of Chicago): We have to watch where we are

A week from Monday is when the new process kicks in that theoretically allows people to start carrying pistols on their person for self-protection

And as is to be expected, everybody seems confused.

I STUMBLED ACROSS a pair of news reports (the Chicago Tribune and the Bloomington Pantagraph) that makes it seem as though nobody knows what to expect from the new law.
All the exemptions for the Chicago area create conditions where someone can ride his bike through a public park or forest preserve property while carrying a pistol. But the instant that person gets off the bike, that person becomes an offender who could face jail time.

But the confusion in the rest of the state seems to stem from the fact that the Illinois State Police (who will issue the “concealed carry” permits) will have 90 days to act on applications (120 days if someone chooses not to submit fingerprints with their application).

Why would it take so long? And why bother to submit fingerprints – as though they’re some sort of criminal? Although the fingerprints are part of the background check to ensure that people with criminal records don’t get the permits.

WHICH IS SOMETHING that nobody of any sense ought to have an objection from.

Although I thought the Chicago Tribune came up with the perfect example of the chaos that will be created by the new law. Someone walking along Western Avenue during the South Side Irish parade who is trying to get to his car is not violating the law. But he is if he stops to try to enjoy the parade festivities.

How many drunken parade-goers will now try to claim they were trying to walk home, and just happened to wander into the parade?

What else is of note along the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan on this final weekend of 2013?

DOUBLE LAWSUITS, WHO’S RIGHT?:  Ninth Ward Alderman Anthony Beale filed a lawsuit this week against a former school principal whom he claims is trying to defame his public reputation.

BEALE: Victim? Or oppressor?
Of course, that principal, Dushon Brown of Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory school in Beale’s Far South Side ward, claims the alderman tried several years ago to get her fired after she refused to give him sex.

Beale says his retaliatory lawsuit is in response to Brown’s attorneys sending him letters asking for $1 million in order to settle her claims against the alderman. Who’s to say who is actually at fault in this case!

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Beale tried ignoring the former principal’s claims for as long as he could, while the newspaper was not able to contact Brown or her attorneys.

TAINTED MONEY? EXCUSES, EXCUSES:  Nobody seems to want to take a $3,000 charitable donation because the money was raised by a suburban Morton Grove man who is an atheist.

The Chicago Tribune has written about how he tried donating the money to his local park district. Then, to the local public library. Both of them turned it down – the first said it could create a “First Amendment issue” they didn’t want to deal with, while the latter had a board member who called the atheist and his web site “a hate group.”

Now, he says he wants to give it to a food pantry that benefits people in the northwest suburbs of Niles Township. Which would be of significant benefit to area communities. You’d think all would be willing to accept such a donation.

How often do people claim that “tainted” money winds up being cleansed, so to speak, by putting it to charitable use. Even if you really find atheism to be so abhorrent, you’d think somebody would want to use this as a way of benefitting the public good!


Friday, December 27, 2013

A suburban Christmas w/ the Klan?

White supremacist stuff is almost laughable. On the face of it, the materials they peddle come across as pathetic.

If not for canes, this Klan would be forgetable
One really has to have a depraved sensibility to find anything appealing about it.

WHICH IS WHY I have a hard time taking seriously the incident that occurred earlier this week in suburban Tinley Park, where the local police are investigating the distribution of a few fliers touting a group calling itself the Traditionalist American Knights.

As in a group that uses the imagery of the white robes and hoods of the Ku Klux Klan and tries to appeal to people who have their own irrational hang-ups about our society based on race.

It seems that five people living on a block in the southwestern Cook municipality reported having found fliers placed on their driveways in plastic bags – along with a candy cane.

How sweet. These racist nitwits who want to stir up fear kept in mind that it was the Week of Christmas. They gave a gift.

ON THE SURFACE, these people weren’t making a threat to the individuals who found the flier and candy. It seemed more to reassure people who live in the predominantly white (but also very ethnic) community that someone would sympathize if they’re the types who believe that all these Muslims who are moving into the southwest suburbs are somehow a threat.

The police may well be handling this incident properly. The candy canes have been collected as evidence, in the event that some sort of serious racial supremacist activity does develop in the suburb.

For now, it’s someone with a depraved sensibility leaving a candy cane. In and of itself, it’s not a crime.
Would these people have used candy canes?

But it’s the kind of thing that ought to have authorities concerned that criminal activity can develop. Although it seems that in Tinley Park, officials are less concerned with the Klan than the “16 and Pregnant” program of M-TV setting foot in town.

BECAUSE I’LL BE the first to admit the Klan, or the groups that use its imagery, aren’t anywhere near as organized as they’d like us to believe. The Klan of old that was fully-worthy of the label of “terrorist organization” is dead.

Instead, we have half-wits who try to reinforce their hang-ups by using the old imagery – as though they think everyone will cower in fear at their hooded presence. Instead of merely causing us to snicker at how pathetic they truly are.

I doubt this group, whatever its membership actually consists of, even bothers to wear the hoods and robes of old. They’re probably like a group of people I once encountered at a hot dog stand on the Northwest Side who were talking amongst each other about how to properly erect a cross so as to try to intimidate someone.

As far as I know, that cross was never erected in the neighborhood. It likely was a few meatheads blowing off some verbal steam.

NOW THAT WE have a candy cane chapter of the Klan (how else can we think of this latest group), it seems even more lame and laughable.

There always will be a few people who turn to the image of the hood or the swastika to try to reinforce their thoughts that it’s everybody else’s fault that they’re at the bottom of our society.

And that if things were just, someone else would rank below them. Which never will occur.

If anything, I have always sided with those civil rights activists who say that in the modern era, the bigots we ought to be concerned about are those who don’t wear sheets.

AS IN THOSE people who actually work their way into legitimate positions of power and authority – then use them to reinforce their racist thoughts.

I fear a government official or police officer with a racial attitude more than I ever will fear some clown in a hood who wants to idealize the nitwits who resorted to terrorist tactics to try to keep black people “in their place.”


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Oh, quit whining!

There’s always the schoolyard bully who thinks he can single out a particular person or group for his abuse. Then, when that person swings back and knocks him on his derriere, the bully winds up crying and whining and claiming that HE’S the one being picked upon.

RAUNER: Taking on labor
That is the image that popped into my head when I read the statement that Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner issued this week to complain about what he perceives as the labor unions planning an aggressive campaign against him.

RAUNER CITED A story from the Springfield-based Capitol Fax newsletter, which reported how the labor unions are planning to spend somewhere between $6-8 million on broadcast advertising spots whose theme is ABB.

As in “Anybody But Bruce.” The unions will use their political influence in the months leading up to the March 18 Republican primary to persuade GOP voters that they should pick any of the other candidates for the gubernatorial nomination.

It’s not that the unions want any of those people – Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale, Dan Rutherford of Chenoa or William Brady of Bloomington – to actually become governor.

It’s just that they really hate the idea of a “Governor Rauner,” whose number one theme of his campaign has been that organized labor needs to be restrained – if not taken down outright.

HE HAS BEEN rather clear about his opposition to the labor unions that are a part of the mechanism of state government. He doesn’t hide the fact that he is hostile to their desires and will push for actions that handicap them severely. The unions want to knock Rauner out early, rather than let him go head-to-head against the Democratic gubernatorial incumbent.

Now I’m not about to get into a diatribe about the place of organized labor in modern-day government.

LABOR: Preparing to fight back
It’s just that for all the hostile rhetoric Rauner has spewed on the issue, he has no right to be “shocked, shocked to learn” that labor leaders don’t like him. To the degree that the Capitol Fax newsletter reported how unusual this tactic is.

Typically, union officials would show their opposition to Republican partisans grandstanding at their expense by throwing their support to the Democratic challenger.

EXCEPT THAT IN this year’s election cycle, the Democrat (unless Tio Hardiman pulls off the miracle of the Millennium) is Gov. Pat Quinn – who wants another full term as governor.

QUINN: Labor not enthused about him
The unions aren’t that thrilled with Quinn these days. He did, after all, sign into law a pension funding reform measure that the unions believe wrongly cuts into the benefits their state government employee members will receive upon their eventual retirements.

They are the ones that will file the lawsuits that, they say, will eventually find the plan approved by Quinn and the General Assembly to be unconstitutional.

But for now, they’re so fearful that Rauner will win the primary and gain momentum that he might actually be able to beat the Mighty Quinn come the November general election.

PERSONALLY, I THINK that Rauner could wind up taking down the Republican ticket because his presence would drag down the vote in the rest of Illinois (as in, outside of Chicago). But in a four-way race (actually six-way, but the other two GOPers are mere tokens), it is likely that the “winner” will be the person who takes about 30 percent of the primary vote.

With the money Rauner is spending to try to appeal to the segment of society that wants to look down on organized labor, he could take that 30 percent.

Hence, the reason why Rauner and his operatives are using the word “hijack” to describe the efforts of labor unions to express their opposition to the man whose campaign theme seems to be to demonize their very existence.

The unions that Rauner wants to smack around in an effort to become governor plan to punch back. It’s politicking, as usual. For as author Finley Peter Dunne’s “Mr. Dooley” told us more than a century ago, “Politics ain’t beanbag.”


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Holidaze. Go do something real!

There won't be this Holiday bustle around Daley Plaza come Wednesday. Photograph by Gregory Tejeda

If it’s Wednesday the 25th and you’re actually reading this, I have but one thing to say. Get a Life!!!!!!

This is quite possibly the holiday of holidays. You ought to be out in the real world doing something enjoyable. The last thing you should be doing is logging yourself onto a computer (or any other kind of device) and paying any attention to the digital world.

THIS IS THE most analog of all holidays. Do something with others. Enjoy yourself. All the nonsense you think you’re going to read today will still be there on Thursday.

And as for many of those Twitter tweets and Facebook postings? Your life will probably be better off without them.

That’s why I’m not posting fresh commentary for Wednesday. It will return on the 26th. It would probably take something along the lines of a Barack Obama/Rahm Emanuel brawl to inspire me to write on this holiday.

Actually, even that could probably wait until the Day after Christmas.

AS FOR THOSE of you who don’t celebrate Christmas (particularly those of you whose festive moods were satisfied a couple of weeks ago with Hanukkah), I also think you should find some relaxation in the real world.

Even if you live up to that stereotype of going to a movie theater, then hit a Chinese restaurant. That sounds like a fun afternoon to me!

On a final note, I’ll leave you with some holiday-related videos from our childhood – particularly those who have fond memories of the late Ray Rayner. As for those of you younger types who are going to mock the idea of black-and-white “cartoons,” I have but two things to say.
Take whatever device you use to access content and “Stuff it!’ And, “Kid, you don’t have a clue what you missed without the great Ray to kick off your morning every day before going to school.


EDITOR'S NOTE: A trio of favorite holiday-related tunes (none of which involve barking dogs are the late Celia Cruz' take on "Jingle Bells," Chuck Berry's "Merry Christmas, Baby" and the future Catwoman's sultry tones on "Santa Baby." Enjoy!


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

State of the Press: Is being dumped by your owner a good thing these days?

I don’t quite know what to make of the newspaper business these days.

How long until it becomes WGN Tower?
On the one hand, so much of the actual content that fills the airwaves of broadcast outlets and the pages of assorted websites continues to originate with the work done by newspaper reporters.

THEN AGAIN, EVERYBODY seems way too eager to dump on those actual publications.

By dump, I mean literally.

The Tribune Co. has made it clear it wants to get into the broadcast business exclusively – and views its newspapers (including the Chicago Tribune) as a drag on the company.

To the point where they plan to break off the newspapers into a separate business entity – which they will then try to sell off to someone else in the near future.

WE’RE AT THE point where the Chicago Tribune will now have to pay rent for the office space it has occupied for nine decades at Tribune Tower – which probably should be renamed WGN Tower and thought of as the place where the radio and television interests named for the one-time World’s Greatest Newspaper (even though it never was) are headquartered.

For all I know, the Tribune newspaper interests may wind up some day having to rent space in the Willis Tower. Or maybe they’ll wind up getting office space in the same building on the Chicago River as the Chicago Sun-Times?

Will NW Herald be better sister ...
That would be the ultimate tacky joke!

The point is that the current ownership on Michigan Avenue no longer views the idea of a media entity that controls a major metro newspaper, a television station, a radio station with a signal powerful-enough to reach across the Midwestern U.S., a local cable news outlet and assorted other properties as being worth the hassle.

WE WILL GET to the day when the concept of WGN being both the Tribune’s all-powerful television and radio station that bolstered the newspaper's influence will be an alien concept. Future generations will get the same blank look at the concept just as much as the youth of today don’t get the point of how overwhelming Larry Lujack was in his heyday – and probably think WLS-AM always spewed a batch of political nonsense in between its commercial spots.

... to Joliet newspaper than Chicago Sun-Times was?
The times change, and I suppose we all have to adapt with them. Even if it means becoming something that gets dumped upon. Although the New York Times reported a story that speculated the Tribune Co.’s moves to maintain the broadcast properties may wind up hobbling any chance of the newspaper properties’ long-term survival.

Of course, we can always float down the Chicago River just a few blocks to the Sun-Times situation, where officials in recent days made it official that they’re selling off one of the suburban newspaper properties they acquired in the past couple of decades to strengthen the overall company.

Now, they need whatever cash they can get ahold of.

SO THE HERALD-News newspaper of Joliet goes from being a sister publication of the Sun-Times to being the sister of the Northwest Herald newspaper of Crystal Lake and the Kane County Chronicle of St. Charles. All are owned by the Shaw Media company that will take over Joliet. Although it seems Crain’s Chicago Business deserves credit for breaking this story.

Being dumped on by the Sun-Times may be a good thing here, because the sense was always that the Sun-Times company people were more interested in gutting the suburban properties they acquired to bolster the status of the downtown paper.

Now, the Herald-News may wind up with ownership that will care about it as an individual entity. Although whether they’re in a position to build it back up to a publication that can provide adequate coverage of Will County (the county that had the largest population growth during the past decade) is questionable.
Does remembering 'Superjock" make me old?

Could Sun-Times ownership have hobbled the paper to the point where nobody could rebuild it? We’ll have to wait and see.

THERE COULD BE one negative in this (or a plus for the Tribune, depending on how one wants to perceive it). Sun-Times people have claimed they are now the largest-circulation newspaper entity because they were adding in all the circulation of their suburban properties into one mass – and the total came to a figure barely bigger than the Tribune’s circulation.

Could the loss of the 25,000 or so copies of the Herald-News sold daily be just enough to dump the Sun-Times back into Second Place behind the Tribune?


Monday, December 23, 2013

EXTRA: Obama gives U.S. extension

President Barack Obama behaved Monday like the one-time college instructor that he once was – he gave the nation a day-long extension to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act to avoid Internal Revenue Service penalties.

Originally as crafted, the health care reform measure that is meant to give Obama his political legacy had a deadline of Monday.

ANYBODY WHO DIDN’T have a health insurance policy in place by now would face financial penalties when they file their tax returns come April 15. Not that they can’t still sign up for health insurance.

The deadline for that is the end of March. It’s just a matter of how much the IRS will ding them, and how quickly the new health insurance policy will actually take effect.

But Obama on Monday said he’s extending the deadline a day. People now have until the end of Christmas Eve in order to get themselves signed up AND make the initial payment. It makes me wonder how lenient he was with deadlines for students back when he was a University of Chicago Law School instructor.

Such leniency is still to be needed, even though federal officials say some 1 million people have used the health care reform provisions to get themselves some form of medical coverage for future incidents when they become ill.

THAT OUGHT TO be the focus of this particular issue – since those people who get hit with medical conditions that require even a short hospital stay can get a double-whammy of an unpayable bill that can drag them down financially.

And that winds up placing even more hits on an economy that may technically be improving, but for which there are still many people who haven’t yet felt a boost.


How many will miss Monday deadline?

Monday is the deadline by which those of us who haven’t been able to afford adequate health insurance were supposed to use the benefits of a new federal law and sign up for coverage.

Some will get hit w/ penalties for lack of coverage
Of course, there are many of us (myself included) who have failed to meet the deadline – people must have signed up for a plan and made the initial payment by Monday – in order to have coverage come Jan. 1 AND avoid a potential penalty from the Internal Revenue Service when we fill out our income tax returns for 2013.

NOT THAT WE’VE failed to comply with the Affordable Care Act, which allows people to keep using either the federal website or the websites created by various states through March 31 in order to sign up with an insurance company for coverage.

In all likelihood, I will deal with this issue for myself (as a freelance writer, I don’t have anybody offering me an insurance policy as a benefit – even though the entities I do work for expect me at times to perform labor similar to that done by a full-time employee) in coming weeks.

As I suspect many others will do.

President Barack Obama said last week that in California alone, some 15,000 people per day are signing up for insurance coverage. And that some 2 million people will have health insurance Jan. 1 that would not have had it otherwise.

OF COURSE, THE fact that there were glitches in the process for signing up when it began Nov. 1 (and that political people with ideological hang-ups about the idea that all people ought to have some health care coverage were more than willing to enhance the confusion) means that many people still have not been able to get around to dealing with the issue.

Actually, I wonder how much of a rush there will be come Monday from people who hope to avoid those IRS penalties (I’m not sure exactly what they will be) by signing up AND making the initial payment.

Which will all have to be done by the end of business Monday. It could mean a rush of people similar to the mess we get every April 15 for people determined to get their tax returns filed on time to avoid penalties.

OBAMA: Easing 'frustration" in Hawaii
It also makes me think that many people will get frustrated because they will fall short and miss the Monday deadline.

IF I WERE a conspiracy-theorist type of person, I’d wonder if the IRS was determined to have people fail to meet the deadline. Because then there are penalties that will be charged to people that I’m sure some officials already are counting as revenue for the federal government.

As much as I hate the thought of having to pay the penalty, I’m accepting the fact that it will be much less stressful for me now to just deal with it come April.

Which is why I’m not going anywhere near the Illinois website for signing up for health coverage on Monday.

Obama last week said health care website problems were “a source of great frustration.” Of course, he made this comment just before he and the first family took off for their annual Hawaii holiday vacation.

WHILE THOSE OF us remaining in Chicago cope with the wet and snowy weather conditions that hit much of the nation this weekend and threaten to give us not so much a “white” Christmas as a wet-and-sloppy one!

Hoping and wishing that I can resolve my insurance situation sometime during the week between Christmas and the New Year holidays is my goal – one boosted in particular by the fact that for a freelance writer, this is usually the dead week where I struggle to cough up copy that someone will actually pay money for.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Political people way too eager to involve themselves in “Duck” outburst

I hadn’t planned to write a word concerning the recent alleged controversy over one of the “Duck Dynasty” characters making comments implying he’s not sympathetic toward gay people.

FOSTER: Will he benefit?
For one thing, I have never watched the television program on the A&E cable television station. The premise of it just strikes me as being stupid, and I don’t care what this person has to say about much of anything!

SO FOR ME to come out and denounce him for being a dink who needs to get a clue about this being the 21st Century and how we as a society have evolved just strikes me as being overkill. There already are too many people out there who feel compelled to trash this person.

Just as there are others who will eagerly latch on to the guy because he’s willing to “speak the truth” about “the homos” and other people whom they are determined to think ill toward. That says more about their own warped attitude towards people.

But those people do have the potential to cast ballots, which is why there are political people who are eager to cater to them.

Locally, the Illinois Review website (which also tries to appeal to many of those ideologue-motivated readers) pointed out how Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner has his campaign ads appearing on the web site maintained by the business of the family in the program.

THAT, IN AND of itself, doesn’t mean much. My understanding is that Rauner is using his personal financial advantage to try to get his name out in as many places as possible – giving himself so much name recognition that the rest of the GOP candidates are buried under it and can’t dig their way out!

While the Capitol Fax newsletter reports how one of Rep. Bill Foster’s challengers for the congressional seat – Republican Ian Bayne of Aurora – is going around calling Phil Robertson the equivalent of Rosa Parks.

JINDAL: Forgetting 'free' speech?
Bayne wants to think that Robertson willing to say what he did about gay people was “courageous” and “a stand against persecution of Christians.”

Which makes me wonder if there are some people who call themselves “Christians” who believe that persecution occurs whenever they’re not permitted to persecute other people! And how offended REAL Christians ought to feel that others are using the label to describe their own thoughts.

IT ALSO MAKES me wonder about the need of some political people who feel compelled to seek out the votes of these people.

CRUZ: From govt shutdown to Duck?
These government officials, many of whom aspire to higher offices in the future, are making a conscious choice about whose support they want come those future Election days.

Which is what made a Washington Post story from Friday all the more interesting.

Amongst the political people across the country who have decided to publicly side with Robertson include Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; and one-time Vice Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin.

IN PALIN’S CASE, I’m inclined to laugh. Who expects her to ever run credibly for anything again? But the other two have strong enough presidential aspirations that the day will probably come when the public is asked to contemplate whether either one deserves a stint living and working on Pennsylvania Avenue in the District of Columbia.

The Post also spoke with Ralph Reed of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, who defended the political people who are siding with Robertson by telling the newspaper, “These voters are paying attention, and they are going to remember who stood up.”

Actually, Reed – the one-time Christian Coalition director who himself has run unsuccessfully for office – is correct on this point.

People are paying attention to how these would-be politicians act. We will remember who felt compelled to take this incident as an issue that somehow felt serious enough to take a stand.

WE’RE GOING TO remember those, such as Jindal (who has said he “remembers when TV networks believed in the First Amendent”) who don’t comprehend the concept of free speech to realize that those who disagree also have the right to express that dissent.

Which may come back to roost to the point where politicos will wish they had just kept their mouths shut now.

Perhaps they never watched the Disney film “Bambi” and the moment when Thumper told us, “If you can’t say something nice, done say nothing at all.”