Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Will redistricting be the compromise?

I have written on several occasions that I am skeptical of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s rhetoric concerning political reapportionment.

He has pushed for creating an independent body that would take over preparation of the maps that detail boundaries of political districts. Of course, the definition of “independent” can be open to interpretation.

It's not just a Texas issue. Provided by Texas Politics Project.
AS IN I wonder if it means anyone “independent” of the current political leadership who would deliberately favor the current political minority. It makes me suspect it to be an effort to undermine the current process – by which the boundaries are drawn by the legislators who (theoretically) are the representatives of the people who elected them.

In short, the people who couldn’t win the elections are now trying to find a new way to win – rather than going out and winning the election themselves.

So it is with some interest that I try to figure out what the significance is of the Supreme Court of the United States’ latest ruling on Monday – one that rejects the Arizona Legislature’s efforts to strike down the state Independent Redistricting Commission. It was created following a voter referendum, and was meant to take away the ability of legislators to draw political boundaries to favor themselves.

Although the real harm from the current process of redistricting is when politicos draw boundaries meant to screw over their opposition.

THE HIGH COURT on Monday ruled that there is nothing preventing a state from implementing a redistricting procedure that relies on someone other than the legislature to do the dirty work of political map-making.

RAUNER: Did high court give him a boost?
The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that officials in California are viewing the ruling as supportive of their own state’s efforts. Which makes me suspect Rauner was very happy as well.

The governor now has a very high authority (the same one that pleased progressives by backing healthcare reform AND gay marriage just a few days earlier) in his favor.

Could this become the measure that makes Democrats now hostile to Rauner for his anti-organized labor rhetoric a little bit willing to compromise? Heck, could support for this Rauner desire become THE compromise issue that allows for the state to get something resembling a budget compromise in coming weeks?

OF COURSE, I’M not thinking that Democrats in the Legislature would back something meant to deliberately undermine themselves. I suspect we’d have to get a commission that wasn’t so blatantly biased in favor of any political party.

MADIGAN: He'll figure out way to protect self
Because the honest truth is that there is no such thing as absolute non-biased. Everybody is going to have their preferences they will want to favor. And for those who suggest a computer to take the human element out, I’d question the biases of those people who program the device.

But is the fact that this issue appears to have some sticking power means Democrats in this state ought to try to get a grasp on it so that it doesn’t wind up being implemented in a completely hostile form.

Otherwise we’re going to continue with the current format in Illinois, which is one that always amazes political people elsewhere – the idea that the balance of power can (and often does) fall to the draw out of a hat (or, one time, from a crystal bowl once owned by Abraham Lincoln).

IT WAS PUT into the state Constitution that way because it was believed that the fear of an all-or-nothing draw, with someone getting nothing, would be so fearsome it would force people to cooperate.

Instead, the greed of political people and the chance that they can get everything at the expense of their opposition has turned out to be stronger.

I don’t doubt that some Republicans are viewing the 2018 gubernatorial election as being all-important because it would give the GOP a veto come the 2021 reapportionment that could result in them having a chance at the “all-or-nothing” prize.

Which could also influence the Dems with their current veto-proof majority that prevents Rauner from being able to push his ideological will down their throats to consider this issue further – because nothing lasts forever.


Monday, June 29, 2015

Time passes, but ideologues use same nonsense to try to justify themselves

It is a line of logic I have heard so often from so many different conservative ideologue pundits that I don’t know who deserves credit (or blame, if you prefer).

A colossal mistake?
It is the theory that the whole Civil Rights movement and the passage in 1964 of the Civil Rights Act was a mistake because it antagonized the “right” into being so opposed to the idea of equality for all regardless of race.

I HAVE HEARD it said that the Second World War was a major change on our society that forced people of different races together. It would have caused a gradual change that eventually would have brought about some form of integration.

Letting black people agitate and political people use the rule of law to thwart those people who insist the “American Way” of life is a segregated one caused distrust and hate. Black people harmed their own interest, and brought upon themselves all the ill will some continue to feel upon them.

Which is a load of nonsense!!! This was a case where someone was going to have to force upon the ideologues the sense of equality that our nation theoretically is based upon.

So excuse me for thinking that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and other ideologues are full of it when they suggest that gay activists screwed themselves over by pushing for gay marriage and having the high court implement it with their 5-4 ruling last week.

IT’S LITERALLY THE same line that society was gradually headed in their direction, and how people would have become accepting enough that we eventually would have had Legislatures in all 50 states enact something to wipe out their old laws that prevented marriage from being valid for gay couples.

Now relegated to the 'junk' drawer?
“Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept,” Roberts wrote in his legal dissent to the high court’s ruling.

While Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote of how the desire by gay couples to marry shows just how much they respect the institution that they want to be included, Roberts insisted for the record that equality is not a Constitutional issue.

There also was Justice Clarence Thomas, who argued that people cannot be demeaned by the actions in opposition to their desire for gay marriage. Then again, he also argued that the Negro slaves of old “did not lose their dignity because the government allowed them to be enslaved.”

Put sign next to Klan robe at Smithsonian
OF COURSE, IT means the government loses any dignity and respect it might want to claim for itself by permitting such things.

As for the people who want to complain that five justices imposed their will on the masses, that is nonsense. Because the whole point of the balance of powers between the branches of government is that it is the courts that resolve disputes and intervene when the legislative and executive branches act improperly.

Which is what one can say was the situation where some states, including our own Illinois, willingly implemented gay marriage, while others such as Indiana had to have it forced on them by lower courts and a few states where the Confederate battle flag prevails despite its repulsion by the masses were determined to be the holdouts – fighting the issue to the very death.

There are those people who were never going to be swayed on this issue – and were eager to use their powers of intimidation to ensure that political people of a cowardly nature would never take a firm stance on the issue, one way or another.

SO IT ONLY became natural that the Supreme Court would have to intervene. It can be argued that had the court taken the approach its minority suggests, it would have been neglecting its duty.

Will we get 'gay marriage' coin in 2065?
On Sunday, we got to see a wilder-than-usual celebration at the Gay Pride Parade in Chicago. The annual event’s timing just two days after the high court’s ruling made it an occasion for the act’s backers to let their joy out in public. I don’t doubt the parade images will offend certain people who will never get over what the court did.

Then again, isn’t the fact that this issue is now resolved legally so we can start the process of moving forward the ultimate benefit.

Or do you really think we’d be better off on racial issues if the civil rights movement of a half-century ago hadn’t happened and we still had pockets of the country using “state’s rights” rhetoric to justify segregation?


Saturday, June 27, 2015

What happens now that sanity has prevailed over Supreme Ct., society?

Back in the days a half-century ago, you knew you were passing through “nut country” when you started seeing the billboards reading “Impeach Earl Warren.”

Would you have wanted to receive this postcard in the mail?
Referring to the one-time chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States who presided back in the days when many of the significant civil rights decisions were made.

IT WAS THE opinion of certain people in our society that the court should have been enforcing “the law” by striking all these actions down. Instead, the Warren-era court helped advance us out of the days when segregation was considered an “all-American” value of our society.

Those people are largely dead. By and large, it’s their grandchildren who are now the overly-vocal ideologues who are trying to perpetuate a certain vision of what the United States should be about.

And their vision took two highly-visible blows from the Supreme Court this week – the high court issued a final ruling that upholds the attempts by President Barack Obama to impose health insurance for all and strikes down a lower court ruling that tried to keep laws in place against gay couple from being legitimately married.

The end result is that gay couples can now not be denied a marriage license in places like Alabama and Mississippi. And the political people who will continue to strike down the Affordable Care Act that provides for subsidies to help people in need afford health insurance will have to admit it’s their own personal ideological hang-ups at work – and not any legitimate flaw in the law.

HOW LONG UNTIL we start getting the “Impeach John Roberts” billboards popping up in crackpot land?

ROBERTS: Will ideologues blame him?
Roberts is the Supreme Court justice appointed by a Republican president who was supposed to keep the high court’s rulings in tune with conservative ideologue desires, but wound up siding with health care reform because he saw how ideologically-motivated its opponents were.

To someone who is concerned about the letter of the law above all else, it makes sense to be scared off by ideology.

As far as gay marriage is concerned, Roberts was among the justices opposed to the idea. Although he wasn’t able to persuade a majority of the court to back him. To the ideologues, what good is being “chief justice” if you can’t strong-arm your colleagues into doing what you want?

SO THEY’RE BOUND to despise him. Even though the bulk of the country will wind up supporting him.

KENNEDY: 'Equal dignity'
Because both of these issues are ones of great importance to our society.

The lack of health insurance by people is a problem that hurts us all because the fact that the United States offers access to the best health care in the world doesn’t matter much if one can’t afford it. If those people wind up relying on emergency rooms for their health care, then being unable to pay the bill, the public will wind up paying.

As for gay marriage, I honestly feel it’s none of my business who someone else wants to marry. I don’t think it is anybody’s business what a couple does. Until the day comes when a man is forcibly married to another man (or woman to woman) against their will, this isn’t an issue for the law to be concerned with.

THE COURT WOUND up siding the way they did, despite the outspoken criticism of justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia – the latter of whom was once a professor of the same University of Chicago Law School that Obama was once an instructor at.

Scalia was particularly snotty in his written diatribe against the gay marriage ruling, saying the line of logic used to defend marriage, intimacy and spirituality as Constitutionally-protected rights is at about the level of “a fortune cookie.”

As opposed to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the opinion that supported gay marriage, saying the fact that gay couples wanted to be able to marry was actually the utmost respect for the concept that they wanted to share in.

“Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions,” Kennedy wrote. “They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

SCALIA: Will ideology die with him?
WHAT I SUSPECT truly bothers Scalia and his ilk is the notion that they were appointed by ideologically-motivated presidents whose intent was to create a conservative tilt to the high court that would long outlive them. Perhaps Scalia thought his ideological leanings would outlive him and become a permanent part of our society.

Instead, it seems the court would rather follow the law than his ideology that won’t even outlast his term on the Supreme Court, and he and his followers will be the ones “condemned to live in loneliness” that they ultimately imposed on themselves.


Friday, June 26, 2015

EXTRA: Sandberg leaves Phillies, gets replaced by another w/ Chicago ties

I found it ironic to learn of Ryne Sandberg’s resignation Friday as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.

The long-time Chicago Cubs second baseman who went on to a Hall of Fame career for his play, then working his way up through the Cubs’ minor league managerial ranks before taking a top job with the Phillies got replaced by another Chicagoan.

IT SEEMS THAT Pete Mackanin, a Chicago-born guy, alumnus of Brother Rice High School and also of the University of Illinois at Chicago, will now finish the season for the Phillies.

Not that Mackanin ever played professionally for a Chicago ball club. The Washington Senators, Texas Rangers, Montreal Expos, Philadelphia Phillies and Minnesota Twins were the “big league” uniforms he wore.

Although Mackanin did finish his playing career with the Iowa Cubs back in 1984 (the year they won a division title with Sandberg as the guy who occupied the same position on the major league roster and would have gotten a big-league promotion if Sandberg had suffered some sort of season-ending injury).

It also seems that Mackanin’s own managerial career began with minor league stints with Iowa and the Cubs’ affiliate in Peoria, Ill., before moving on to other, more quality, professional baseball organizations.

DOES THIS MEAN that the Philadelphia Phillies are looking for a touch of Chicago Cubbie-ness in their future leadership? Particularly since Sandberg gave as his reason for quitting now a rumored change in the top leadership, as the Phillies reportedly are considering former Cubs general manager Andy MacPhail for their top spot.

If so, it will be quite a while before they return to the standards of 2007-08 when the Phillies won consecutive National League championships (and beat the Tampa Bay Rays in the ’07 World Series).
And too soon before they rival the Cubs for a string of less-than-stellar seasons of play.


EDITOR’S NOTE: How long will it be before some crackpot Cubs fan suggests that the Cubs hire Sandberg to be their field manager – making up for the fact that the team passed on him several years ago when the position was open.

Is idea of shifting public notices off newspapers all about keeping secrets?

It is a concept I have heard so many times that I don’t know whom to attribute the idea to – If you want to keep something secret, you ought to just post it somewhere on the Internet.

SANGUINETTI: What else will she do?
Because there’s so much gobbledygook and garbage out there accumulated on assorted website that here’s a good chance no one will ever read your particular notice.

AFTER ALL, THERE’S so much other stuff to occupy the public attention. Probably stuff that’s so much more titillating than the boring, dry information that might have public significance, but just doesn’t compare to that piece about “80’s teen stars and what they look like now” some three decades later.

So excuse me if I don’t think much of the suggestion that Illinois law do away with the requirements that governments be required to publish public notices about upcoming activity in their local newspapers.

These people claim it would be so much more efficient to put notices on their own government websites. They also try to claim that the only people who have objections are the publishers of some of the dinkier newspapers in the state – for whom the revenue they get for publishing such ads can be a significant part of their income.

Which they wrongly try to portray as the state being forced to subsidize the press. A whole lot of hooey, if you ask me.

NOW I’LL BE the first to admit that while I try to read as many newspapers as possible and have been known to read some rather obscure parts of the paper, I rarely pay much attention to those legal notices that get published.

I doubt I’m alone. Requiring that the notices be published in the local papers probably isn’t the most efficient way to spread the word about what actions are upcoming at the local levels of government.

But that’s mostly because of the laziness of the public, many of whom wouldn’t pay close attention to their local happenings if the notices were right on Page One.
Would you rather read a legal notice, or see Demi's bikini shot
Those people, of course, will then complain that it’s the laziness of the press in not keeping them informed about the actions they didn’t known enough to ask about.

WHICH ALSO IS a drawback to finding out information on the Internet. Many people use search functions to try to find relevant copy to the issues that intrigue their curiosity.

But those search functions are so crude in the way they view things. They are ultimate evidence that computers are dumb – only as smart as the people who use them.

I can envision many instances where a government would post something in an obscure portion of their website and no one would ever notice it. Which is probably the real goal of this particular measure that was recommended by Lt Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti’s task force on government consolidation.

That, and perhaps she’s envisioning some sort of payback to the newspaper industry as a whole for all the smart-aleck reporter-types who think she’s a political and intellectual lightweight.

I REALLY THINK it would be too easy for governments to use their websites to hide information in part because of my own experiences as a reporter-type in using government websites to gain some of the bare information they offer now.

Government units like to use their websites to promote the summer festivals or announcements about changes in trash pickup. The idea of using them to let people know when public hearings are to be held or when contracts are up for consideration is something they would rather not bother with.

Heck, I know some governments that claim to post their City Council or Village Board agendas, but are as much as a year behind. Others can’t even be bothered to keep up pretenses. So say what you want about the idea of nobody reading legal notices in the newspaper – at least it’s an outside entity.

Do you really trust your local government to have that much say over telling you what they’re up to?


Thursday, June 25, 2015

EXTRA: Keep playing politics, and all of Illinois will come across as losers

Gov. Bruce Rauner followed up his budgetary approval for public education expenses pretty much the way it should have been expected.

RAUNER: Veto was totally predictable
He used his veto power to reject everything else!

SO WITH FIVE days remaining before the end of the current fiscal year, the state still has no budget plan detailing how money will be spent during Fiscal 2016.

Except for the schools portion; where elementary and secondary education will get a $244 million increase in funding and early childhood education programs will get a $25 million boost.

Which isn’t as much as educators will claim they need. But it is better than the thought of the schools not being able to open up on time for the new school year because they aren’t getting their state aid payments.

The practical result would be that parents all across Illinois would have to make arrangements for their kids while they work because they can’t count on just sending them off to school for the daytime hours.

THAT WOULD BE a lot of p-o’ed parents who would look to the situation and see Rauner as the guy to blame.

There will still be many people who will view the budgetary standoff and blame Bruce for stirring things up all for his own ideological motives. But he’ll have a few friends.

Or if not quite friends, at least they’ll be people who won’t despise him quite so much!

As for the fact that Rauner used his veto power to reject the rest of the budget, it’s not a surprise. Because when the General Assembly’s Democratic supermajority used its power to approve a budget, they knew the governor would hate it.

BECAUSE THE BUDGET proposal essentially set spending levels at rates above the actual amount of money on hand. It’s the amount of money they’d like to have.

They saw it as a tactic to pressure Rauner to back some sort of revenue increase for state government – an action that the governor has said he would only consider IF Dems first gave him some of the anti-organized labor measures he has said are a priority for his administration

Which means Rauner isn’t giving in. Not yet anyways. He’s still delusional to think that the people who voted for him in November amount to the entirety of the Illinois electorate.

Hence, he’s issuing statements insisting everyone else has to concede to him – even though the reality is that he has a veto-proof majority of the opposition to cope with in the Legislature.

MEANING THAT IN theory, Democrats could unite and vote to reinstate the budget agreement that Rauner just vetoed. They could literally shove it down his political throat.

Except that the Legislature’s veto session comes in November. Nobody wants to see Illinois government have to operate for four-and-a-half months without a budget agreement where nothing could operate except the schools.

That would cause so much ill-will to go all the way around. Which makes it very likely that the special Committee of the Whole session scheduled for Tuesday is likely to turn into a gripe-fest by Democrats about how reckless and irresponsible Rauner has become.

In some ways, he has. But the truth is that this situation isn’t going to be resolved until both sides quit thinking in terms of how they can “win” this political fight. Nobody wins under those circumstances!


Rauner will have a few friends in coming weeks; schools get their cash

We’re less than a week away from the point in time when the lack of a budget for state government causes the government to shut down, yet Gov. Bruce Rauner ensured on Wednesday that he will have a few friends remaining.
This bank will get cracked; what about rest of Ill.?

Those “friends” will be the education community; who learned this week that they will continue to get their money – regardless of what happens to the rest of state government.

FOR RAUNER GAVE his signature of support to the bill that covered the part of state government that handled general state aid payments to public schools, early childhood education, bilingual education programs and the Teachers Retirement System.

Rauner had threatened a series of cuts he said would have to be made to state government to balance out the budget without any significant increases in income. Which was his way of saying he’d want some of his anti-labor measures implemented before he’d consider any tax adjustments.

Those cuts would have included a failure to make state aid payments that each and every single public school district in Illinois counts on to cover their operating costs.

Those payments for the upcoming academic year begin in August. Literally, Aug. 10 was the date that public schools would start to suffer because of the political stalemate.

BUT NOW WITH the education appropriations signed off on, Illinois government will be able to pay bills beginning Wednesday that relate to public education.

So we don’t have to worry about our local schools having to cut their spending for the upcoming school year. Or perhaps not having enough money on hand to even begin the new school year – which was a reality that cash-strapped districts in rural Illinois were facing.
RAUNER: Did he make friends, or enemies?

Now, the schools will still have a lack of cash and won’t have any money for extras. But parents all over the state will be able to breathe a sigh of relief at the thought that they’d be stuck with their kids because school couldn’t reopen following summer break.

Also pleased, I’m sure, are the school administrators who currently are putting together their budgets for the upcoming school year without knowing when, or how much, money they would be able to count on from state government.

ADMITTEDLY, THIS DOESN’T resolve the state’s problems. The rest of state government still faces the prospect of a shut-down because the governor and the Legislature’s leadership aren’t capable of coming agreement on how money should be spent.
MADIGAN: Still apart on rest of budget

Or even how much money the state will have for Fiscal 2016.

The fact that education got its appropriations approved first may wind up meaning everything else could wind up having to be cut even more than anticipated.

Even in the statement Rauner issued saying he had signed the education appropriation, he couldn’t help but take a pot shot at the political people who won’t just cave in to his ideological whims.

“I REFUSE TO allow (Illinois House) Speaker (Michael) Madigan and the legislators he controls to hold our schools hostage as part of their plan to protect the political class and force a tax hike on the middle class without real reform,” he said.

Although I’m aware that many educators are viewing this as a matter of Rauner trying to place the blame on them because the business class wants a tax break that will bolster their financial bottom lines.

Seriously, I have encountered many Chicago-area school administrators who are viewing Madigan and his staff to keep them apprised of what is happening in state government and why Rauner is too eager to throw that whole system out-of-whack.

Those people will now be less hostile toward the governor; a few may even come around to seeing his way of thinking. But I suspect he’s still going to have more than his share of enemies who will linger on long after this current partisan spat is resolved.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Resolving problems by creating even more; what's wrong w/ a snow day?

There are times when I think the technologically-advanced amongst our society ought to be told to “stifle” themselves, what with the way they think a computer device is the solution to everything they could possibly think of.

Is she really learning a thing?
Maybe it’s just the “Archie Bunker” within me, or the realization that the copy I generate now isn’t any more literate than the copy I produced three decades ago when I was banging it out on assorted varieties of battered typewriters

BUT SOMEHOW I am repulsed by the idea of a bill now pending before Gov. Bruce Rauner – one that purports to offer the “solution” to the problem of students missing so much school during the winter months due to inclement weather.

The dreaded snow days that cause school to be closed, and more days having to be tacked on to the end of the academic year at a time when the summer weather can make a hot-and-humid school building a very unpleasant place to have to be.

The bill in question calls for a pilot program to be operated in up to three school districts during the 2017-18 academic year in which teachers would provide class assignments via computer for those days in which the snow is so heavy or the temperatures so cold that kids can’t come to class.

In short, there won’t be any need for school to not be in session. Perhaps a “virtual” classroom is the wave of the future.

THE IDEA BEING that this pilot program would be a one-year experiment that could – if it works out – someday be expanded to the nearly 1,000 school districts located across Illinois.

Personally, I hate the idea, because it pushes us in the direction of thinking that kids are somehow better off parked in front of a computer screen in their own homes rather than having to get off their duffs and interact with real human beings.

Which as far as I’m concerned is the whole purpose of education – it’s not like much of the facts and figures we were taught remain all that relevant. So much of it is now obsolete.

RAUNER: Give that man a veto pen!!!
What we really learned was how to learn, and keep learning and updating our collection of information so that we can get through our lives.

THAT EVEN EXTENDS to the idea of use of computers within the modern-day classroom. We’re teaching kids about technology that won’t matter anymore by the time they’re adults. It’s not the computer they should be learning – it’s the things they do with a computer that matter.

I’m also realistic enough to know that trying to teach class by computer is not the least bit realistic – in part because there are parts of Illinois where Internet access is weak even if one has the money to spare.

In other situations, there are people for whom paying for a decent Internet connection at home means adding to the utility bills that already are too high. And I can already hear the conservative ideologue types complain about the idea of having to provide an Internet connection to those people who can’t afford it.

This is an idea concocted by someone who thinks it’s the computer itself that matters most in life. An idea I find absolutely abhorrent – even though I own a laptop computer and am fortunate enough to have an Internet connection at home and several other places nearby for those occasions when my own connection dies out due to technological glitches.

ALTHOUGH I’M SURE there are those who disagree. I have been in classrooms as a reporter-type person where I see too many kids think of their smart-boards (kind of like a chalk-board, only hooked up to the computer so the teacher can post things from the Internet on it) as being some sort of super-cool video game.

I doubt they learned a thing.  Somehow, I’m skeptical they would learn anything lasting on a cold-and-snowy day in January when they weren’t able to go to school. Somehow, I suspect the television set would get paid more attention than the laptop.

Maybe the solution is to bring back a 21st Century take of Miss Frances, the 1950’s television host who gave us “Ding Ding School” – “the nursery school of the air.”
What would a 21st Century Miss Frances be like?
Then again, maybe that’s where this latest screwy idea came from. Let’s only hope that Rauner winds up showing some sense and vetoing this particular bill.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

One week remains until Ill.'s problems multiply; will things get worse?

I’m not the least bit surprised that we’re at this point in time without any progress having been made toward approving a balanced budget to allow Illinois state government to continue to operate a week from now.

We have political people in Illinois who act as though they’re still in college and waiting until the absolute last minute before they start work writing that paper that accounts for 50 percent of their total grade. All because they had to attend that wild party that is now nothing more than a haze in their minds.

SO NOW THAT we’re one week away from the end of the 2015 fiscal year, it seems to me that it is only natural state officials will now start to seriously think about what needs to be done.

In fact, I won’t be surprised that our officials are now just starting to fret about this issue. They spent all the past months “partying” it up too much.

Any serious break in the stalemate probably won’t come until this weekend, and probably won’t be resolved until June 30 proper. Maybe some time around 1 p.m., which will then result in a mad dash during the afternoon and evening hours to try to get the General Assembly to give its approval before 11:59 p.m. becomes Midnight.

Then again, we may wind up finding out this week that our political officials are more interested in prolonging this political fight well into the summer – believing foolishly that the people will be more than eager to blame the other guy!

I’M NOT ABOUT to predict how this situation will turn out, except that I emotionally am prepared for things to go to the worst.

Because we have a state financial situation where we don’t have enough income to pay for all of the obligations our state has.

Whereas Gov. Bruce Rauner seems more interested in pushing for the measures he hinted at during his campaign to try to restrict the power of organized labor than he is in ensuring that state government continues to operate without a hitch.

One can argue that such issues are irrelevant now and that our state officials need to put a budget into place to avert a potential shutdown of government activity – which is the option that hurts us all.

BUT I’M REALISTIC enough to know that isn’t going to happen. I also realize that Democratic leadership in the General Assembly has engaged in their own partisan gamesmanship with the budget. How else to explain the fact that they passed a budget proposal knowing it included a revenue shortfall; thinking they could shame Rauner into giving them what they want.

Except that our governor has no shame when it comes to this issue! Neither do our legislators.

We could very well fall into the situation where government continues to collect its revenue, but is not permitted to spend any of it because there’s no written proposal detailing how it is spent.

There are powerful egos on all sides of this partisan spat. Nobody is going to be willing to be perceived as being the one to “cave in,” particularly since business interests are putting their support behind Rauner and labor is depending on the Mike Madigan/John Cullerton combination to protect themselves from being stomped all over.

BUT OUR POLITICAL people have a knack of being able to pull things off at the last minute. Which is why nobody should be taking it all that serious that nearly a month has gone by since the General Assembly has finished its spring session without imposing its final action – a budget for Fiscal ’16.

It actually makes me reminisce about the days when the legislative session in Illinois continued through to June 30. The idea was that the legislative session ended with the fiscal year, and that the last issue to be voted on would be the budget itself.

Instead, we have state officials who want to think they’re already done – and that the budget is some sort of afterthought.

That is the real problem we face, and it is political people of all partisan persuasions who are to blame.


Monday, June 22, 2015

EXTRA: Cook County may resume its spot back on top (of the sales tax heap)

A part of me is wondering right about now who’s laughing the loudest – Todd Stroger or William Beavers.

PRECKWINKLE: Now, she wants the tax hike
Both of them surely are saying “told you so” at the thought that Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle let it be known Monday that she’s now pushing for an increase in the county’s share of the sales tax.

CURRENTLY, THE COUNTY charges 0.75 percent of the purchase price as a sales tax. Which when combined with all the other government entities in Cook County and Illinois makes the total sales tax some 9.25 percent.

Preckwinkle says she wants to add another 1 percent to the county’s share, which would bring the total sales tax to 10.25 percent – which would be one of the highest rates anywhere in the nation.

It’s ironic that the county board president is now pushing this issue, because she was the one who during her last term in office went out of her way to repeal a 1 percent sales tax hike that former county board President Stroger imposed.

And which was the primary reason why so many people ganged up on his campaign for re-election in 2010 that he came in fourth in a four-candidate field during the Democratic primary that year.

OF COURSE, SOME people were really upset that Stroger was the son of John Stroger, and they didn’t like the way the elder Stroger orchestrated his succession for his son to the top county board post when his health became so inclement that he had to step down.

Talk of the tax hike was really just their cover.

BEAVERS: How snarky would he be?
Preckwinkle made a priority of gradually knocking down the sales tax hike that Stroger enacted because the tax revenue was needed by county government to fulfill its financial obligations.

Now, she wants that money back. The real question is, Will the bulk of the Cook County Board be just as hard-headed in their opposition to the issue as they were back in the days of Stroger?

OR WILL THE fact that Preckwinkle has much more professional respect in her post than Stroger ever had when he served result in them being willing to accept the need for a revenue increase?

It won’t be just Stroger who thinks “told you so.” Because I can remember so many occasions in which the outspoken Bill Beavers denounced his critics for their tax opposition – always seeing it as a personal slight against Stroger rather than a serious critique about government revenues.

STROGER: Will his tax hike become real?
So many that I honestly lost count, and eventually quit noting them back in the days when I wrote about Cook County government. It got to the point where Stroger NOT criticizing his colleagues was more rare and newsworthy than when he did.

Why would Preckwinkle be willing to move now to repeal something that she previously fought against? Perhaps it is because that with all the different units of government facing financial problems, Preckwinkle wants to stake her claim to an increased share of the sales tax before anybody else can.

OR MAYBE SHE’S just more willing to accept such an increase if she winds up getting the credit for fixing the county’s financial problems.

Although I’m sure the people who are eager to back Gov. Bruce Rauner in his efforts to alter the state’s financial situation will be amongst the most outspoken critics of Preckwinkle for what she is talking about doing now.

I’m also sure it will further bolster the arguments of those people who live near the county’s borders – because they’re going to argue it further makes it cheaper to shop elsewhere. Will County, or perhaps across the state line in Hammond?

Then again, I think anybody who’s willing to go out of their way to waste gasoline so they can save a few cents when they buy gas isn’t going to care about any line of logic that tries to justify the need for additional sales tax revenue.


Will dumping the Confederate battle flag really change anybody’s attitude?

What should we think of the fact that many people are stepping up the rhetoric these days following the shooting deaths of nine black people at a Charleston, S.C., church to dump the old Confederate battle flag?

For only $59 (plus $6.95 shipping), you can pretend to honor the South
There long have been those who argue the Southern cross flag of the Confederate armies is merely about “heritage,” the notion of a flag that depicts pride amongst those who grew up in that part of the region that once tried to break itself away from the United States.

BUT IT WAS pointed out that when South Carolina state officials last week had the flags at the Statehouse lowered to half-mast out of respect for the dead, the battle flag flying over a nearby Confederate soldier memorial still flew high and proud!

I have heard the official explanation that the flag was incapable of being lowered without someone physically climbing to the top of the flag pole and removing it by hand.

But I really wouldn’t have cared if a battle flag had also been lowered to half-mast. Its very presence some 150 years after the attempt at creating a new nation based on using state’s rights to justify slavery and segregation is what is offensive.

Which is why there are those who are hoping that South Carolina state Rep. Norman “Doug” Brannon, R-Spartanburg, is successful with his rhetoric that he will push for changes in state law to remove the battle flag from having a presence in the state that thinks it’s a point of pride that it provoked the Civil War.

NOT THAT I think it matters much. The kind of people with the racial hang-ups so intense that they’re willing to take up arms are going to keep that symbol no matter what anyone else says.
Take Dylann Roof, the barely-a-man who last week went into that black-oriented church and decided to kill a few people – but not all because he wanted witnesses as to his act of what he thinks is manliness (even though I wonder if that girlish haircut of his will make him a prime target in prison).

His Internet-published manifesto that has since been deleted included the photographs of himself waving Confederate battle flags and wearing a jacket depicting emblems of the apartheid-era South Africa and its neighboring nation of Rhodesia  (both of which tried to exist as white-only nations with European roots in portions of the planet where native Africans ought to have been the majority).

Now known as Zimbabwe to those of us who live in the real world.

Do you really want to see someone wear this?
THEN AGAIN, PEOPLE like Roof don’t live in our world. They live in their own world, and think the rest of us ought to have to live there with them. In a legally-mandated subservient position, of course.

So it really doesn’t matter if the symbols get banned. The crackpots amongst us will still feel the same way. Their real punishment is that they’re forced to live in our world – where they amount to a batch of nobodies.

Heck, the swastika of Nazi-era Germany has been an illegal symbol in Deutschland since the end of World War II, yet those Germans who still fantasize about the resurrection of the “Third Reich” are able to get them symbols – usually made right here in the U.S.A.

Insofar as Confederate symbols, we have generations of southerners who were taught a take on the Civil War (the War for Southern Independence, the Second American Revolution, the War Against Northern Aggression, to name a few) that totally justifies the idea that continued use of the battle flag has nothing to do with showing hostility toward the idea of black people being people just like anybody else.

THAT’S NOT GOING to go away any time soon. Knuckleheads will be knuckleheads, no matter what!

If anything, we need a better education process so that people realize what the Southern Cross truly stands for. Because it will only be when people recognize for themselves how tacky a symbol it is that people will relegate it to the dustbin of history.

And how President Barack Obama’s suggestion of retiring the battle flag to a museum (just like the Smithsonian Institute has Ku Klux Klan robes on display as physical evidence of this nation’s racist past) could someday become a reality.

EDITOR’S NOTE: My own experience with the Confederate battle flag was spending one year attending a high school where the sports teams were “the Rebels” and the flag flew over the school’s football field – along with being painted onto the basketball court. I remember thinking of it as being a silly symbol; one that has since been retired. Of course, I later transferred to a high school where the symbol was a generic Indian chief (think the University of Illinois’ Chief Illiniwek without the pretentious talk of it being an “honored symbol”). I wonder at times which symbol was more ridiculous.