Sunday, February 27, 2005

Cicero miracle

If you live in the Chicago area, you've probably already heard the big news: In last week's election, we saw Cicero Mayor Ramiro Gonzalez toppled by challenger Larry Dominick. For those of you who don't know, Cicero basically is god's gift to patronage, corruption, mob rule. this victory was Illinois politics' most unlikely upset in recent memory because Dominick ran on the campaign promise to hand Cicero's books over to federal auditors and to ... (from the Sun-Times):
    "...get rid of Ed Vrdolyak, the former Chicago alderman ... whose law firm bills Cicero about $1 million a year. Dominick claimed Gonzalez was a puppet of Vrdolyak, which Gonzalez denied. "Eddie Vrdolyak, you're gone!" Dominick told cheering supporters at Alessandro's Banquets on Cermak. "His days of controlling this town and getting rich off our tax dollars are over."
For all the ins, the outs, the what-have-yous, check out this Sun-Times article. It's quite fascinating.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Property rights issue awaits Supreme Court

From the Associated Press:
    Fifteen houses are all that remain of Fort Trumbull, a once vibrant immigrant neighborhood flattened into expanses of rutted grass and gravel. The homes stand in defiance of New London's plan to pave the way for a riverfront hotel and convention center, offices and upscale condominiums. Refusing the city's efforts to get them to leave, seven families are going before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, arguing that the city has no right to take their private property solely for economic development. The rebellious homeowners include an elderly Italian immigrant, a mechanic and a former deli owner. "It's a case of the rich eating the poor," said Matthew Dery, who lives in one of four houses on a compound his family has owned since 1901. "Sometimes the poor are difficult to digest."
Chicago is messed up enough with the mayor's development schemes (see Morse Hell Hole), but can you imagine what kind of license he'd have if the Supreme Court doesn't protect these people's homes? By the way, where's so-called property rights expert Joyce Morrison on this issue? Too busy connecting environmentalism to her blind cat?

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Mother of God

I'm so bummed (from the Chicago Sun-Times): ASPEN, Colo. -- Hunter S. Thompson, the acerbic counterculture writer who popularized a new form of fictional journalism in books like "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," fatally shot himself Sunday night at his home, his son said. He was 67.

Stroger hurls insults at Cook County Commissioners

The Chicago Tribune has an article on Cook County Board President John Stroger's (D) name-calling streak in which he's called insurgent Commissioner Forrest Claypool (D) "phony." He also called Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D) "cheesy" (although, there I think he was just hungry). Strogers attacks were bipartisen. He called the Republican commissioners "five losers." That reminds me, I've been a little lax in my draft campaign -- since high-profile Democrats and Republicans will be too chicken to take on Stroger, I'm hoping to recruit a celebrity opponent to run. Any suggestions? How about Bill Murray. Wouldn't he make a kick ass county board president? Sammy Sosa's out, obviously. But what about Ronnie Woo Woo? But seriously, someone, anyone, please run.

Blagojevich turns on Jones

Blagojevich turns on yet another ally in Springfield (perhaps his last). As if that's news. But I've said it before, and I'll say it again, if Blagojevich had a cozy relationship with the state legislature or the political machine in Chicago, we'd be in serious trouble. Remember George Ryan?

On secretly taped phone calls....

The New York Times reported on Bush conversations that secretly taped by Bush's friend Don Wead. Even though it sounds like he did it legally, that's a pretty low thing to do to someone. That's beyond low.

Cut Amtrak Loose

The federal government's subsidizing of Amtrak has been a massive failure. This year's Amtrak handout is $1.2 billion. That's billion, with a b. The number of actual riders is 24 million per year. That's million with an m. I was reading Amtrak's five year strategic plan, and I was struck by something I found under the heading of 'Amtrak myths.' Apparently, one of the myths is that Amtrak is profitable. I don't know that anyone has ever bought into that particular myth. But I do think that Amtrak could be profitable, but profitability could only be realized if Amtrak were broken up into number of smaller entities. I say that because as long as Amtrak relies on welfare, it could never improve its service and attract riders. I think back on my own experiences with Amtrak -- trips that were frought with stoppages/slowdowns due to problems with switches or freight trains crossing/sharing our tracks. The last time I rode Amtrak, the train was stopped for an hour and a half just south of Chicago due to a switching failure. I think President Bush is right on target by proposing to reduce Amtrak's federal subsidy to $0. It would do something that needs to be done once and for all: Cut Amtrak loose. And if Amtrak goes bankrupt, then take heart in knowing that Amtrak's routes could more efficient, more flexible and more reliable if they were leased, sold or spun off into private, independent carriers or handed over to state/local transportation authorities. Edited from earlier post...thanks to Carl Nyberg for pointing out an error (which I removed).

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Factually challenged, as always

Here's the latest Illinois Leader version of the whole Maya Keyes blog thing that happened before the election (my bold):
    The issue of Maya Keyes' sexuality came up during the 2004 U.S. Senate race in Illinois when Capitol Fax publisher Rich Miller discovered a blog apparently populated by Maya that discussed her family and her sexuality and included pictures of her kissing another girl.
That's okay. It's a step up from the "gay blogs" they cited as breaking the story in their original article. In that same article back before the election, it was clear that while I discovered the blog and posted a link to it late on Saturday night and the rest of the world knew it by Sunday evening, it wasn't until Monday morning that the Illinois Leader finally heard about it. In their newsletter from Rich Miller.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Crossing the line

Well, if you ever want to know what Modern Vertebrate said about the 2006 senate races a couple of months ago, you could always go here: I came across this site in a search for information about a related topic and found it quite familiar. There is no mention of where they copied it from, which makes it outright THEFT. UPDATE: I just found another example of pure theft: This one from something called the Council for a Livable World, whatever the hell that is. This one is even signed by John Isaacs. He changed some of the state analysis, but for several entries, he just lifted what I wrote. What galls me is that they have this warning at the bottom: "The contents of this page may not be reproduced with attribution in whole or in part without further permission." What nerve, to steal someone else's work, and then warn others that they'd better not steal it from them. I feel like sending them a bill.

Gambling boat sucks downstate city dry

A little news on the parasite in the water in downstate East St. Louis. I found the last two paragraph's particularly interesting:
    Casino operators say they have been more than good stewards. Shortly before Christmas, 3,800 elementary school pupils came to the casino to greet Santa Claus and receive a bag filled with Christmas goodies. "These kids wouldn't even have Christmas if it wasn't for this casino," said kindergarten teacher Pat Meeks, who plays the slots three to four times a week and spends about $100 a night. "What can be so bad about a place that brings money to a city that doesn't have it?"
Now, by her own estimation, this kindergarten teacher spends $15,600 at the gambling boat. Now, I'm not sure about the caliber of the gifts that were handed out in those Christmas goodie bags. But if you estimate that the goodie bags cost about $40 each, it would take the yearly gambling proceeds of just ten people like Meeks to purchase the goodie bags for all 3,800 kids. Instead of pissing their money away, those 10 people could have bought a new bike for each one of the kids. And that would mean that at least some of the 10 people would be actually buying their own kids presents instead of relying on the gaming industry for charity. At the very least, Meeks could have used the money she gambles away to purchase 390 bikes -- more than enough for every kid in her kindergarten class, I'm sure. The question is, what would give her more satisfaction. UPDATE: Sorry, I had some math errors (no more late-night calculations). What this lady spends at the boats was actually much higher than I calculated, meaning it would take the annual gambling proceeds of a lot fewer people (only 10) to match the generosity of the gambling boat, meaning that the casino has even less positive impact than I had thought.

Maya Keyes in the Washinton Post

...ahead of her speaking appearance at a LGBT event tomorrow. I thought this was moment in the piece is especially interesting:
    Still, when I asked Maya whether she is glad her father lost the election, she stopped short. "Should you really be asking that question? I mean, I suppose there is a conflict, but I'm not sure I wanted him to lose. I disagree with nearly all his views, but he's very honest and has a lot of integrity."
It goes to show you that blood is thicker than politics. Unlike her father, Maya seems to understand that there is nothing more important than family, regardless of who they are or what they believe. In spite of the fact that there are confessed murderers on death row who get more love and support from their families than Maya has from hers. If you can't have compassion for those who you've raised as your children or for those who have raised you, then that really puts you one notch down on the food chain, in my book. At any rate, now that she's fully out, Maya seems poised for a career in the public eye. I hope she runs for office someday.

Evangelicals and politics in IL

The Chicago Sun-Times has this interesting piece on how evangelicals don't seem to have much clout in Illinois politics. It mentions that new GOP party chair Andy McKenna will try to tap into the evangelical community here just as the Bush campaign did on a national level in the last two presidential elections. I'm sure this topic will only come up more and more as we approach the 2006 GOP primary.

Dean and the Democrats

By naming former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean as its chair, the Democratic Party is finally moving in the right direction. I think Dean will do a great job reinvigorating the party, helping define the issues and raising money. I think he can do that without selling out to conservatives. Most importantly, I think Dean will steer the party away from candidates who come across as elitist and out-of-touch, like John Kerry and Al Gore. Dean definitely grasps that these types of candidates are what's wrong with the party and that the solution lies in connecting with everyday people.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Two major developments in the federal investigation of Chicago's Hired Truck program: 1. State Sen. Antonio Munoz is cooperating with investigators. Munoz, known in court documents as State Senator A, is connected to Angelo Torres, who ran the Hired Truck program, but is apparently not the target of the investigation. 2. Daley scraps Hired Truck program and bans his campaign contributors from doing business with the city. Long overdue, to say the least.

Monday, February 07, 2005

A sad day

I would just like to note the passing of my beloved uncle Ian, who died this evening after battling cancer for a little more than a year. And though he had cancer and doctors had essentially given up on him, he continued to hold his head up high and remained engaged in life until the very end. I will always remember him at my wedding in late Oct., and though he knew he was dying, he still was, unfailingly, himself. Always a dancer, he and my lovely aunt Michelle danced the whole evening away. That was Ian. Fearless. Lively. An inspiration.


Just saw the movie "Ray" of those strange situations where I could see the Jamie Foxx getting the Oscar for best actor, but it would be an outrage if Ray were named best picture. So many gaping holes. Like in the first half of the movie, Charles twice freaks out while having hallucinations of the dead body of his brother and water. But then after the incident with his brother is revealed in the movie, the hallucinations just go away. No more hallucinations. Nor were the hallucinations realistic. In one hallucination, his suitcase is full of water and he pulls out a child's arm. Another one, the floor is covered with water and he reaches out and touches a small foot. But when you see the brother's drowning, Charles is just standing there. He doesn't go into the water or touch the body. It was all disconnected. Maybe I'm over analyzing, but in general I found the telling of the story overtly manipulative. The only other movie that I've seen in the best picture category is "the Aviator" which was a great movie -- really well done on every level.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

What to do with nuclear waste

It sounds like there will be pressure on Bush from power companies (aka his best friends) to make the final decision on where to put nuclear waste from the nation's nuclear power plants. Since we own Iraq, is that totally out of the question? Maybe if we send it there, it will cease to exist.

City Hall corruption

Great article in today's Chicago Tribune about Mayor Daley and the recent scandals that have plagued City Hall -- the article provides a nice overview of what's been happening, for those who haven't been following the blow-by-blow coverage in the daily editions. I think the problem is complete voter apathy. What else could it be? If Daley or any of the Chicago aldermen thought they might lose their jobs for allowing these scandals to take place under their watch, we wouldn't have nearly the level of corruption that we have now. Maybe Daley may never get a serious opponent and, thus, may never be rejected by voters, but aldermen had better be careful: the corruption is definitely going to come up in the next election. I'm sure there's nothing like having 50 pissed off community activists screaming at you at a town hall meeting.

Big Jim recovering from surgery

Former Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson (R) underwent surgery today to remove a blood clot in his brain. He's expected to make a full recovery. See Chicago Tribune story Best wishes to Big Jim on a speedy recovery.