Conscience Laureate

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


STATES TO SWAP POPULATIONS? The state of Michigan had announced plans last month that some prisons would be closed in order to save $120 million. California faces lawsuits because of the poor state of its prison health system, which a panel of federal judges has concluded is largely the result of state prisons filled to twice their capacity. California does not have the $2 billion necessary to update its prisons. What to do? Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm has suggested to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that Michigan take some of California’s prisoners off his hands—at a price to be determined later. In a letter Monday to Schwarzenegger, Granholm formally offered to house California inmates, noting their "mutual interest in resolving budget and corrections problems, perhaps in one fell swoop."
California already has inmates housed in private correctional facilities in Arizona, Tennessee, Mississippi and Oklahoma, so the deal would be nothing new.
Brilliant idea! But why stop at just swapping prisoners for money?
I have often said that cigarette smokers should be given a few specific states to live in where we could puff away to our hearts content and not have to deal with draconian laws infringing on our right to participate in an otherwise legal activity. We could take the tobacco states of Virginia and the Carolinas.
All the fashion conscious people could live in New York. They could flaunt their beautiful clothes and compliment each other all the time.
We could turn a few states into bike riding only and let them be joined by the population of ecologically loving tree huggers. Maybe Vermont and Wyoming would be good for them There are already a lot of retired people living in Florida and Arizona, so let’s turn those states totally over to anyone who is more than 65 years old. Dinner would be served at 4:00 p.m. and everyone would be in bed by 9:00 p.m.
The Appalachian states could be inhabited by beer and dog loving truck drivers who never go to the dentist. (I am bad!)
The corrupt politicians could live in Illinois and Louisiana where they would not have to pretend that they are honest, because they all would be crooked.
My population segregation idea might seem ludicrous, but if birds of a feather want to flock together, at least they will know which state to land in.

Monday, June 29, 2009


HONDURAN PRESIDENT OVERTHROWN IN COUP Sometimes I feel that I must be living under a rock here in Chicago because the local media never seems to cover any international stories, no matter how important they are. Unless, of course, the topic is what dress Michelle Obama is wearing while shopping in Paris. How did I not know that the situation was so volatile in Honduras that a coup was eminent and that for the first time in 16 years (when Guatemalan President Jorge Serrano was forced out in 1993) that there would be a successful military takeover of a Central American government? I certainly am well informed about which booths at Taste of Chicago will be serving pizza, I know second by second what occurred in the last minutes of Michael Jackson’s life before his passing and that a mechanical breakdown at the musical Mary Poppins caused the audience to be sent home.
Didn't the Chicago media think it was a major story that Honduran President Manual Zelaya was awakened Sunday by gunfire, and while still in his pajamas, flown to Costa Rico into forced exile? Isn’t it of major international significance that armored military vehicles seized the national palace and patrolled the streets of the capital city of Tegucigalpa with machine guns? Why were there no headlines? (The Tribune did have a short story buried in the paper, the Sun Times had nothing.)
I learned by researching on the Internet that President Barack Obama said he was "deeply concerned" and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Zelaya's arrest should be condemned. "I call on all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter," Obama's statement read.
I make jokes that I don’t like doing anything that is more than 5 blocks away from my home. I laugh that I live in my own little world, but it’s okay because they know me here. But today I am ashamed of my ignorance. Pero hoy yo me avergüenzo de mi ignorancia.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


A DOZEN EGGS FOR $120,000? THAT IS NO YOKE! New York has become the first state to permit researchers to pay women up to $10,000 for the “expenses, time, burden and discomfort” of donating their eggs for stem cell research. The Empire State Stem Cell Board (the Board) quietly voted on June 11th to allow funding for egg donation, but no one seemed to notice the story until the Washington Post broke it this week. The Board has $600 million in state funding for stem cell research. That will buy a lot of eggs! The Board issued a statement that read, “On June 11, 2009, the Empire State Stem Cell Board (the “Board”) voted to allow funding of research on stem cell lines derived using eggs (called “oocytes”) donated solely for research purposes where the donor was, or will be, compensated for the expense, time, burden and discomfort associated with the donation process -- within specified limits -- as is currently permitted when women donate oocytes for reproductive purposes in New York State. The Board’s decision followed extensive deliberation that included consideration of the great potential of stem cell research, national and international ethical standards, and mechanisms to safeguard the rights and welfare of oocyte donors. The Board agreed that it is ethical and appropriate for women donating oocytes for research purposes to be compensated in the same manner as women who donate oocytes for reproductive purposes and for such payments to be reimbursable as an allowable expense under NYSTEM contracts.” I guess the reason the media did not realize what was going on because The Board spoke of oocytes and who has that word on their Google alerts? A woman cannot just show up and drop off her basket of eggs and pick up a $10,000 check. The Board did acknowledge that the high payments could unduly influence women to donate but the Board has “previously instituted by contract a number of important safeguards, including requiring full disclosure of all physical and psychological risks associated with oocyte donation, directing that informed consent be obtained through a dynamic process focused on the donor’s comprehension of the information provided, and mandating availability of psychological counseling prior to donation." Men can donate their sperm with little or no psychological counseling, but it is quite easy for a man to perform the actions necessary to fill up a cup with their swimmers; the procedure is not so simple for women and eggs. An unfertilized egg is not a potential human being, so while I am Pro Life, I feel no ethical dilemma in this situation. I would donate in a minute to help scientific research, but unfortunately my eggs are already scrambled. .

Friday, June 26, 2009


PRETTY PEOPLE It is no secret that very attractive people live in a “bubble.” They get the best tables at restaurants, they flirt their way out of traffic tickets; they just need to smile to get their way and the list goes on and on. The TV show 30 Rock devoted an episode to a handsome doctor (Jon Hamm as Dr. Drew Baird) who did not realize he lived in a “bubble” until show star (Tina Fey as Liz Lemon) made him live for a day hiding his looks. He did not like being a regular person and decided that living the superficial life was better for him. A disturbing Israeli study showed that 70% of abused or abandoned children had at least one apparent flaw in their appearance, which otherwise had no impact on their health or educability. So does bias against unattractive people start as early as the nursery? Researchers at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital released a study this week showing that women are more likely than men to reject unattractive babies. The findings are challenging the idea of unconditional maternal love.
“Our study shows how beauty can affect parental attitudes,” said Igor Elman senior author of the research, director of the Clinical Psychopathology Laboratory at McLean Hospital, and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “It shows women are more invested in raising healthy babies and that they are more prone to reject unattractive kids.” The research, published in the journal PLoS ONE, sought to determine whether aesthetic appearance affects how hard that adults are willing to work in order to watch pictures of babies. The subjects were shown photos of 80 infants, including 50 normal children and 30 who had abnormal facial features, including such problems as cleft palates, skin disorders, Down syndrome and others.
According to a report published in Harvard’s science newsletter, “Each photo was set to remain on screen for four seconds, but subjects could extend or shorten the viewing time of each photo by pressing certain computer keys. A second part of the experiment asked the subjects to rate the attractiveness of each infant on a numerical scale.
The study found that men and women expended a similar amount of effort – quantified by the number of key presses made to keep photos up on the screen – to extend the viewing time of the normal babies. At the same time, the attractiveness ratings given by men for these normal babies were significantly lower than those given by the women. However, when it came to the photos of abnormal babies, women made a greater effort to avoid looking at them, compared with men. Still, the women rated abnormal faces as unattractive as did men. The differences between men and women in motivational effort to extend or shorten the viewing time of abnormal-looking babies “may reflect an evolutionary-derived need for diversion of limited resources to the nurturance of healthy offspring,” the paper concludes. “
The findings question the concept of unconditional parental love, at least among women. “What our results suggest is that this is determined by facial attractiveness,” said Rinah Yamamoto, first author and a research fellow in psychiatry. “Women may be more sensitized to aesthetic defects and may be more prone to reject unattractive kids. Men do not appear to be as motivated. They didn’t expend the same effort.”
So what about attractive people in our city? Are women in Chicago pretty? The Tribune had a former talent agent for Ford Models stroll down Michigan Avenue looking for women who have the “it” factor for them to be considered as models. Out of the six women selected to be featured in the pictorial only one lived in Chicago. The rest were from Ireland, Australia, Kansas and New York. Are we an ugly city? Are other cities biased against us because our population is not as pretty as theirs?
That would be a good excuse for Mayor Daley to use if we don’t get the Olympics. Blame our looks. Our population is not as pretty as the people in Tokyo, Madrid or Rio. We just don’t have the “it” factor.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Question: When is a door, not a door?

Question: When is a door, not a door? Walking out of closed door meetings with Alderman, Chicago 2016 Chairman Patrick Ryan was quoted by the Chicago Tribune as saying, "There will be [public] hearings and there will be briefings before the hearings, so they're fully aware and informed before the hearings," Ryan said of the aldermen when reporters caught up to him outside the unannounced meetings. "We want to take any mystery out of this, there's no privacy going on, what we're really doing is explaining where we are, why we are where we are." According to the Illinois Open meetings Act, “It is the public policy of this State that public bodies exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business and that the people have a right to be informed as to the conduct of their business.” The Tribune also reported that, “The bid team is meeting with no more than 13 aldermen at a time -- the maximum number who can gather in private without violating open meetings laws. Daley spokeswoman Jacquelyn Heard defended the meetings, saying it's a common City Hall practice to hold briefings in small groups, excluding the public.” Since Ryan had already announced that he would have no new information to share on the details of the financial commitment the City would have to make to the International Olympic Committee for at least 45-60 days because the details of the insurance policy on cost overruns had not been arranged yet, then why was he meeting behind closed doors with Aldermen? Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) confirmed that he had not learned of any new information during Ryan’s meeting. "They asked for a little time to put together a package, and then we are going to have public hearings," Munoz said. Again, if Ryan had no new information to share, why is he holding closed door meetings? If at those meetings Ryan is telling Aldermen that he has nothing to share yet, why can’t those meetings be open and public? Ryan could hold a meeting with Aldermen on the steps of City Hall and announce he had nothing to say. He does not need the protection of a closed door to say he knows nothing yet.
So there must be some reason we don’t know about for the meetings to be held behind closed doors. There must be something else on Ryan’s agenda or the meetings would be in front of an open door. Question: When is a door, not a door? Answer: When it is a jar of Olympic bull.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


PUBLISHER’S CLEARING HOUSE WINNER ANNOUNCED When I write a blog I need to be mad or passionate about the subject—otherwise the words will not flow. I was in such a good mood today, with nothing upsetting me, so I was not going to post a blog. I had done research into the new “Car Allowance Rebate System“ (CARS) bill ( commonly known as Cash for Clunkers), but I just could not get into the subject. Then I received an e-mail that made me mad. Publisher’s Clearing House informed me that they had selected a winner and, of course, I knew it was not me. I fill out every form that PCH e-mails and snail mails me. I transfer every stamp and make decisions on whether I want yearly payments for life or a lump sum payment, I order magazines (even though I know that making a purchase is not supposed to enhance my chances of winning) and I have even ordered some of their “as seen on TV” stupid products even though I don’t need them. The e-mail invited me to watch the video of the winner being surprised--saying that they knew that it would be “entertaining” for me to watch the reveal. How stupid is that? Why would I be entertained by footage of some stranger finding out they had just won millions of dollars? Now I was mad! To keep my level of madness growing, I then read about how Oprah was spending more than $9,000,000 (1700 employees at a cost of $5400 each) to take her staff on a trip to Barcelona, Spain and then on a cruise. The excuse for the vacation was to celebrate Oprah’s 55 birthday which was back in January. Oprah has the right to spend her money however she chooses, but I bet the employees would have preferred cash instead of a cruise. But giving employees a cash bonus would not have generated Oprah the amount of publicity a cruise would. So today some random stranger won millions of dollars and Oprah spent millions of dollars. I had lunch at T.G.I. Fridays. The honey mustard salad dressing was delicious, so I am not mad anymore.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


"DON’T TELL, DON’T ASK" SHOULD BE "DO TELL, DO ASK" I hate the fact that we live in a society where people who “snitch” are viewed as pariahs. The word whistleblower is considered a pejorative. So it is interesting to note that Tom Shaer is now taking heat for NOT snitching on the machinations of David Hernandez in the Webio Ponzi scheme scandal. I have known Tom Shaer for about 15 years and think he is a great guy. I can understand why he would not report on what he knew about Hernandez because he probably felt that he would be viewed badly for “snitching.” That is society’s fault, not Shaer’s. How hard would it have been for Mike North and Chet Coppock to do a bit of research into Hernandez before they entered into a business deal with him? Hernandez has an easily traceable history of financial shenanigans. Maybe because they did not want to find anything that would hurt what they thought was such an unbelievably lucrative deal for themselves? Tom Shaer was gong to lose however he acted. If he told what he knew, he would be a “snitch,” if he did not tell then he risked North’s deal collapsing. But it is wrong for Shaer to be blamed for anything; society put the shackles of “Don’t Tell, Don’t Ask,” on his wrists. The San Francisco based not for profit, Common Sense Media, commissioned a poll on high-tech cheating by teenage students. More than one third of the students ADMITTED ( that means there are probably more) to using information on their cell phones to boost their test scores and grades and at least half admitted to using the Internet to cheat. What is so sad is that 25% of the students polled don’t think it is cheating to sneak a peek at notes stored on their phone. While one should be astounded that students don’t think it is cheating to look at stored notes, one must remember that these children are growing up in a society where marital cheating is casually viewed. Cheating is no big deal, but snitching on a cheat is! Our children’s priorities are all screwed up and that is the fault of their parents and society. A child should be taught the simple rules of right from wrong. One acts “right” and if one sees “wrong,” one reports it. We should tell and we should ask.

Monday, June 22, 2009


CHUBBY IS GOOD! The United States is considered the most obese nation in the world. Thirty percent of Americans have a BMI (body mass index) greater than 30 Kg/sq.meters. The least obese country in the world is Japan, where only 3.2% of the population has that BMI level.
My svelte friend, the Honorable Michael Patrick Flanagan, pointed out to me that it is interesting that the thinnest country in the world did a study that discovered that being chubby was good!! A long term study of middle-aged and elderly people at Japan’s at Tohoku University's Graduate School of Medicine was released this week. The study found that “people who are a little overweight at age 40 live six to seven years longer than very thin people, whose average life expectancy was shorter by some five years than that of obese people.”
"We found skinny people run the highest risk," said Shinichi Kuriyama an associate professor at the University. "We had expected thin people would show the shortest life expectancy but didn't expect the difference to be this large," he told AFP by telephone.
The study was conducted by a health ministry team led by Tohoku University professor Ichiro Tsuji and covered 50,000 people between the ages of 40 and 79 over 12 years in the northern Japanese prefecture of Miyagi.
"There had been an argument that thin people's lives are short because many of them are sick or smoke. But the difference was almost unchanged even when we eliminated these factors," Kuriyama said.
The main reasons for the shorter life spans of skinny people were believed to include their heightened vulnerability to diseases such as pneumonia and the fragility of their blood vessels, he said. But Kuriyama warned he was not recommending people eat as much as they want. "It's better that thin people try to gain normal weight, but we doubt it's good for people of normal physique to put on more fat," he said.
So while we are advised not to purposefully gain weight to become chubby, we have found out that it is okay if we are already chubby. So I will do all I can to remain chubby to extend my life expectancy.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


OVERLORD TO ALL THINGS UNDER Mayor Joe Bernardini is now the Overlord to All Things Under in Brooksville, Florida. (An office held by Connie Buscemi in the Kathy Posner Fan Club) It was not a position he campaigned for, but was thrust upon him when the City Council voted 4-1 (The Mayor was the dissenting vote) to approve a new city employee dress code. The Mayor opposed the revisions to the code saying the underwear edict “takes away freedom of choice.” In expressing concern on how the new code could be enforced he remarked, "They said you had to wear undergarments, but who's going to be the judge of that? Sometimes when it comes to certain people going bra-less, it's obvious. But who's staring to see if that person doesn't have underwear on?" The city council voted recently to overhaul personnel policies and the new dress code was instituted as part of the policy to help improve the government’s public image. Under the new policy:
  • underwear is now required;
  • employees must use deodorant;
  • no halter tops or Spandex at work;
  • no skirts worn "below the waistline";
  • no other clothing that may be "distracting,, offensive or revealing";
  • only ears may be visibly pierced; and,
  • all cuts or wounds must now be covered.
Will the city hire deodorant sniffing bloodhounds to ascertain if employees are in compliance? If an employee wears white shoes after Labor Day will that be judged offensive? Trousers with stripes paired with a plaid shirt might be deemed quite distracting by the fashion police. Who will be the arbiter? According to Wikipedia Brooksville was named in honor of Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina because of the role he played in a drama which took place in the Chamber of the U.S. Senate. 1856, Brooks beat Senator Charles Sumner with his cane in the Senate chamber because of a speech Sumner had made critical of slavery and its southern supporters. I think a city named to honor a man in favor of slavery has a bigger problem with its public image than whether a public employee is wearing underwear or not. If they changed the name of the city to Sumnerville to honor the Senator opposed to slavery then maybe they could justify their Draconian dress code.

Friday, June 19, 2009


THERE’S A NEW BETTER GOVERNMENT SHERIFF IN TOWN Recently, Andy Shaw was named the Executive Director of the Better Government Association (BGA). “For more than 25 years, as the main political reporter at ABC 7 in Chicago, I asked politicians from Presidents to park supervisors the tough questions about how they managed their governments and spent your hard-earned tax dollars. I held their feet to the fire. And now, after a short break to recharge my batteries, I’m back on the case., But I’m changing acronyms----BGA, the Better Government Association, is replacing ABC; and bosses----from the shareholders of ABC’s parent company, Walt Disney, to the voters and taxpayers of Illinois,” Shaw said in the announcement of his new position.
Daniel Burnham said,” Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood.” Andy is making big plans for The BGA that will hopefully stir men’s blood.
I ran into Andy at a restaurant and he started telling me about his ideas. I asked him to submit them to me for my blog so I could share the plans and those who wanted to get involved could contact Andy.
INITIAL ACTION PLAN FROM ANDY SHAW, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE BETTER GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION JUNE 2009 The indictment of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich for, among other things, allegedly trying to sell Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, is simply the most egregious example of a government that is all too often out of touch with voters and taxpayers, and frequently out of control.
We've been hit with record tax increases by the City of Chicago and Cook County, and Governor Quinn wanted to join the tax parade by hiking the Illinois income tax by 50 per cent without first considering alternative ways to manage the state’s fiscal crisis.
We have dodged potholes, wrestled with parking meters, paid out millions to settle lawsuits and watched bureaucrats sleeping on the job or inside their hired trucks. Meanwhile, federal prosecutors continue to charge and convict an endless series of politicians for corruption in this pervasive "pay to play" culture.
And groups like the Better Government Association, working with TV, radio and print reporters, continue to find glaring examples of government waste, inefficiency and cronyism. Will we ever be able to eliminate or at least reduce the so-called "corruption tax" that’s larded on to the cost of government when it’s wasteful, inefficient or corrupt? Or can Abe Lincoln finally "rest in peace" instead of "turning over in his grave," as U.S. Attorney Pat Fitzgerald said about the sad legacy of "pay to play" under Blagojevich?
The answer is yes! And that is my commitment as the new executive director of the BGA, a challenge I’m taking on after a 37-year career as a Chicago journalist, including the last 26 years covering politics and government for ABC 7 here in Chicago.
The BGA is a legendary corruption-busting watchdog group that believes every hard-earned tax dollar paid by Illinois workers and companies that have been stretched thinner than ever by the economic crisis should be spent on the goods and services we need, not the bureaucrats we don't need----the friends and relatives of the politicians. So we can stop paying the corruption tax. We also demand a level playing field on jobs and contracts so everyone has an equal shot, even if they’re not politically connected. And finally, we must have a government that is transparent---operating in bright sunshine, not obscured by clouds and fog.
Our mission----to investigate, monitor, speak out and, if necessary, litigate---is more important than ever as traditional media outlets reel from economic blows that deplete reporting and investigative staffs.
The BGA is a proud organization----founded in 1923 to fight mobster Al Capone's stranglehold on City Hall---but we are struggling. I inherit an organization with only two employees and a budget of only $350,000 a year.
So there’s obviously a lot of work ahead if we’re to realize my ambitious plans, which include: ---An Accountability Project that’s facilitated by a top-of-the-line interactive website featuring, among other things, media reports about corruption and government activities around the state of Illinois; email updates on those issues; a data base of budgets, contracts and government payrolls; blogs from reporter/monitors who will be watching and analyzing public meetings at City Hall, Cook County, the suburbs and Springfield; a Pothole Page with pictures and a live clock that tells us how long they go unfilled; a similar page with a calendar indicating how long people have been waiting for governments to comply with Freedom of Information requests; a Picture Page with viewer photos of visible waste or inefficiency, like five municipal workers standing around a job site instead of actually working; a Complaint Corner for citizens with gripes about what a particular branch of government is or isn’t doing; and a Whistleblower Page for anonymous tips about alleged corruption, waste and inefficiency. ----Monthly BGA forums to discuss and debate key issues like privatization, video poker, tax increment financing and the 2016 Olympics. The forums would feature experts and well-known leaders representing differing viewpoints on the topics, and each forum would be videotaped and digitized for the widest possible distribution on websites, social media outlets and, of course, to all the newspapers and TV and radio stations. ----A weekly “Good Government Guys” radio and TV show that deal with good government issues some of the time---interviews, tape stories and mini-debates----and fields allegations of waste, fraud, cronyism and corruption from viewers, listeners and on-line participants via Face Book and Twitter. ---Compilation of a "Good Government Report Card" or "Score Card" that will be handed out to all of the major office holders and widely publicized after a careful analysis of the way their offices perform in key areas, like the percentage of the budget that goes to vital goods and services vs. bureaucracy; the speed with which they respond to Freedom of Information requests; the number of employees who've been charged with corruption over the years; and the amount of taxpayer money that is paid out to settle lawsuits. ----A study of duplication at various levels of government that could lead to streamlining recommendations or a call to merge or eliminate certain agencies, departments or offices. ----Expanded waste, fraud and corruption investigations in partnership with traditional and non-traditional media organizations---including newspapers, TV and radio---but also on-line and freelance outlets that are currently doing valuable research under most radar screens. ----A training program, utilizing former reporters and editors and set up in conjunction with local colleges and universities, to prepare investigators who can work with media outlets on waste, fraud and corruption probes, and to train the monitors who will be covering the meetings and studying the budgets of government at all levels in Illinois. ----An aggressive internship program that loops the best and brightest journalism, political science, business and law school students into worthwhile projects for academic credit under our supervision. To accomplish my objectives, I estimate that I need a budget of about $1.5 million per year. And a staff that includes, at a minimum, a grant writer, a special projects coordinator, an office manager, a technology officer, a lawyer, a development director, an administrative assistant, a publicity manager, 5 investigators and 5 monitors. My fundraising plan includes an aggressive campaign to increase the involvement and the financial commitment of BGA Board members dedicated to the cause. I will also recruit a diverse group of new board members eager to lend their resources and expertise to the effort. And I will use my visibility and media access to ask reform-minded viewers, listeners and readers to become members of the BGA, and donors. My plan also includes an accelerated pursuit of foundation grants for specific projects from Chicago’s deeply committed philanthropic community. Many of the “action plan” items will be worked into specific grant applications over the next few months. We will be also be assisted initially by the development of a formalized Strategic Plan that one of our foundation partners is underwriting, and the temporary use of a dozen new lawyers who are being deferred by their firms for a year and made available to us for "pro bono" work after they pass the bar exam in August. They will work in a satellite office with the help of remote technology that I hope to have available. And finally, we will be looking for an "in kind" contribution of new and substantially larger office space when our lease at 11 E. Adams expires in November. This is my dream and my passion. After a long career in the news business, and a lifetime in Cook County, I know how the system works or doesn’t work, I know what's broken, I know where the bodies are buried, and I have a serious plan to fix it. But there won’t be any witch hunts or personal attacks---this is not about “gotcha,” it’s about good government. I've never been more excited about a challenge or an opportunity. But I need an army of supporters or I'll be tilting at windmills. Don Quixote was charming, but General Patton won the battle. Please join me. Andy Shaw ashaw@bettergov.org http://www.bettergov.org/ 312-386-9097 (office) 312-520-4999 (cell)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


WHEN DOES THE CITY EVER SHOW A PROFIT? The City of Chicago had resisted signing a contract guaranteeing that the host city will cover any financial shortfalls. Previously, Mayor Daley said he would not sign a contract because he and Olympic Committee Chairman Patrick Ryan were hoping that a combination of limited guarantees of $500 million from the city and $250 million from the state of Illinois, along with an undefined insurance policy, would be enough to placate the International Olympic Committee. Well, guess who blinked? A reminder of the Mayor’s position comes from a Chicago Tribune story on March 13th, “Chicago has told the IOC it would not be able to sign the host contract without modifying it because, unlike its rivals, the city will not provide the required blanket guarantee to cover any risks, from losses on the Games’ operations to overruns on construction projects to refunds required if the city backs out.” An update from the Chicago Tribune website on June 17th- In a major change of position, Mayor Richard Daley told the Tribune Wednesday he will sign the standard Olympic host city contract, which would give the city full financial responsibility for mounting the 2016 Summer Games. Crain’s Chicago Business reports that “in a news conference in Switzerland Wednesday morning, Mr. Ryan said that the Chicago bid “has secured additional private-sector resources to take the guarantee to $2 billion,” though he didn’t specify what those resources are. “That’s more than adequate,” Mr. Ryan says. He and Mr. Daley insist, however, that the city’s budget calls for a $450-million profit on the games, providing a cushion that would make it unnecessary for the city to step in with taxpayer dollars." Let me repeat Mr. Ryan’s statement just to let in sink in- “ the city’s budget calls for a $450-million profit on the games, providing a cushion that would make it unnecessary for the city to step in with taxpayer dollars.” I don’t think I need to repeat his statement a third time because hopefully, you have memorized it so if Chicago gets the Games and shows a LOSS, you will remember the statement. Why should Chicago taxpayers believe the Mayor and Mr. Ryan THIS time, when LAST last time they said they would not sign a financial guarentee?
“Believe us now and hear us later,” the wonderful quote from Hans and Franz, two characters on Saturday Night Live, is so appropos here. We should always just blindly believe what The Mayor SAYS even though we keep HEARING different messages. “I see,” said the blind man,”and the Mayor hopes we taxpayers see as clearly as a blind man.


THE SWAT HEARD ROUND THE WORLD President Obama’s line "I got the sucker," will be remembered as the “swat heard round the world.” While I do not agree with President Obama in about 99.9% of his actions, I am a staunch supporter of his killing the fly. We all await the political ramifications as PETA prepares its statement in opposition of the President. PETA's slogan is "animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment." The organization focuses on four core issues: factory farming, fur farming, animal testing and the use of animals in entertainment.. It also campaigns against the killing of animals regarded as pests. So the President loses out in two areas because ne killed a pest and video of the fly swatting incident has been used as entertainment. Since Wikipedia tells us that animal rights activists believe that the interest of animals should have the same consideration as those of human beings and that animals should be viewed as legal persons and members of the moral community, should we expect a murder indictment against the President filed by the Animal Liberation Front? (www.animalliberationfront.com) Swatting a fly dead with one flick of the wrist is near impossible and the process is not as easy as the President made it appear. The United Kingdom’s newspaper The Guardian supplied information on why it is so difficult to swat a fly. “Using high speed video, a team of fly physiologists led by Michael Dickinson, from Caltech spotted that flies make tiny adjustments in their foot position and stance when anticipating a fast-approaching object. Just like English batsmen don't.
In dealing with a full frontal assault, the fly shifts its legs back, extends them and angles its body to push off backwards. When attacked from the side, the fly leans slightly in the opposite direction. When detecting attack from the rear, the middle legs shuffle into position.
By making subtle adjustments to its pre-flight posture, the fly increases its take-off reaction time and thus escape velocity. All this happens in a few milliseconds, and is facilitated by the fly's compound eye, which has evolved to preferentially to detect movement over resolution, and has near-360 degree vision.”
So while I am proud of our President’s swatting ability, I am sure he wishes he could make other pesky problems disappear as quickly.

Monday, June 15, 2009


BIKE TO WORK WEEK Since I work from home, I had missed the big news that this is Bike to Work Week. I guess my apartment is large enough so that I physically could ride inside from one room to another, but I don’t own a bike. People who live in the suburbs own a bike. I live in a major city to get away from bikes. The festivities actually started with the Sixth World Naked Bike Ride on Saturday evening. The bikers traveled down Michigan Avenue—I know because I heard noise outside my window and looked. Unfortunately, I am too far up to have discerned that anyone was naked. I did not even know that this event was going on until I read about it after it occured. Otherwise, I night have gone downstairs to check it out! There will be a concluding “Bike To Work Rally” on Friday, June 19 at Daley Plaza starting with a free breakfast (nothing in this city is free, so there must be a catch), music, festivities (whatever that means) and the Mayor performing wheelies. Okay, I made up the part about the Mayor, but since he is such an avid bike fan it might happen! Chicago streets were not built for bicycling and bicyclists pay no attention to the road rules. They ignore stop signs, traffic lights, one- way streets, construction zones—basically they do whatever they want. They can get away with this attitude because they know they have the protection of the Mayor. It is almost impossible for a policeman to ticket a biker for a traffic infraction because the biker has no markings to visibly identify them. So away they go. I do not know a single person who is going to bike to work. My friends are sane business people who wear suits and commute by accepted means of transportation. It is ironic that at the same time it is Bike To Work Week, the SUN TIMES runs a story on how the CTA provides “company cars” with take home privileges to 68 employees. This includes 38 upper-level managers who are paid more than $100,000/year. CTA president Richard Rodriguez says he has been looking into the issue since coming to the CTA in March. “That was one of my priorities when I arrived,” he says. How can Rodriguez call it a ”priority” when it has been three months since he took over and the review is still going on! If it weren’t a “priority” how long would the review take? The CTA owns 62 of the ‘company cars” and 10 others are leased. Rodriguez lives in the city, but drives to work according to the SUN TIMES, “to give him a little extra time in the morning to spend with this children.” So the CTA President admits that driving a car to work is a better option for commuters who want more time at home than taking public transportation is. Maybe if he drove a tandem bicycle, he could take his children with him.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

AIR SEX WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP By the time you read this blog, you would have just missed your opportunity to participate in the Chicago “leg” of the national Air Sex Championship competition that took place on June 14th. But, if after reading this blog you deicide you want to try this out, there are still competitions “coming” up in Salt Lake City, Portland, Oregon, Vancouver, B.C., Bellingham, WA, San Francisco, CA, San Diego, CA, Los Angeles, CA and Tucson, AZ. Go to http://www.airsexworldchampionships.com/ for details.
In the competition participants simulate sex with an imaginary partner for two minutes; writhing to music that the participant pre-selected. One is not allowed to be naked, but can wear as few items of clothing as allowed by the laws of the state that event is being held in.
According to Wikipedia-“Air Sex is a performance activity invented in Japan; clothed men simulate sexual activity with an invisible partner, often in an exaggerated manner, set to music, and in a competition before an audience. This is somewhat akin to playing air guitar, explaining the name. The creator, J-Taro Sugisaku, says that it was invented in Tokoyo in 2006 by a group of bored men without girlfriends. The reigning "world champion" in air sex goes by the name of Cobra.”
How sad and pathetic does one’s life have to be for one to participate in this event? Pictures will be taken at the competitions and posted all over the internet. Imagine Grandma “googling” her granddaughter’s name and discovering the photos? A future employer researches a prospective employee and sees that “Johnny” might not be the correct person for the job.
In life, whenever someone has to make a decision on whether to do something or not, they should weigh the upside and the downside. Unless you are a budding porn star looking for more “exposure,” I don’t see the benefits in participating. Am I that old and pathetic to be missing something of value here?
The best fake orgasm ever performed was by Meg Ryan in the movie “When Harry Met Sally.” When a customer in the next booth (Director Rob Reiner’s Mother Estelle) said to the waitress, “I’ll have what she is having,” a comedic pinnacle was reached. Once you’ve been to Mt. Everest, why bother trying Bear Mountain?

Thursday, June 11, 2009


THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO BE FAT! THE BILL OF RIGHTS SAYS SO. Okay, there is no exact wording in the United States Constitution or the Bill of Rights that I says that I have the right to be fat, but the first amendment may be open to interpretation. The beginning of the First Amendment reads: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States…” Could one take that to mean that I have the “privilege” to be fat if I so choose? And laws cannot be passed “abridging that privilege”?
Congress (AKA The Nutrition Police) is working on passing a bill that would require chain restaurants with 20 or more locations to list the number of calories per menu item and provide other nutritional information upon request. "America is facing an obesity epidemic which must be addressed at the national level," said Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who along with Democratic Senators Tom Harkin and Tom Carper, have backed menu labeling legislation. We have a monetary failure epidemic Congress, why aren’t you working on that!
The bill would create a national standard that would supersede the growing number of local and state calorie-disclosure mandates aimed at curbing obesity. "The national policy would be quite strong -- as strong or stronger than all the others" on a state and local level, said Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director for the labeling advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest.
We are in the midst of a fiscal crisis in our nation and CBS News reports, “Obama and Congress are moving across several fronts to give government a central role in making America healthier - raising expectations among public health experts of a new era of activism unlike any before. “ I want an era of “activism” on making my pocketbook FAT again, not an era of “activism” to prevent my body from becoming fat! The Fat Police groups have created cute names for what they want; Labeling Education and Nutrition Act, or LEAN and the competing legislation known as the Menu Education and Labeling Act, or MEAL. Listing calorie counts in restaurants might cause one to pause and not eat deep fried onion rings and instead substitute a salad (low fat dressing only!), but when one gets home, one will eat whatever they want to. High calories foods are delicious; vegetables are boring! Maybe we should all go on a illegal drug diet and be labeled heroin chic like a supermodel. Quite simply, I am overweight because of FAT (Failure At Temptation).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Obama's stunning offense to Israel and the Jewish people
When I write my blog, I normally research a particular topic, get a number of points of views and then make an assessment. This is not the case with today’s blog. I read an article in the Jewish World Review about Obama’s speech in Cairo, and found it so compelling, I decided to reprint the entire article here.
The author is A.F. Bayefsky, B.A., M.A., LL.B., M.Litt. (Oxon.), who is a Professor at York University, Toronto, Canada, and a Barrister and Solicitor, Ontario Bar. She is also an Adjunct Professor at Touro College in New York. Professor Bayefsky is the recipient of Canada's preeminent human rights research fellowship, the Bora Laskin National Fellowship in Human Rights Research. She is currently a member of the International Law Association Committee on International Human Rights Law and Practice, and Editor-in-Chief of the Series "Refugees and Human Rights," published by Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague.
Jewish World Review June 9, 2009 / 17 Sivan 5769
Obama's stunning offense to Israel and the Jewish people
By Anne Bayefsky
President Obama yet again makes his intentions clear
Jewish World Review June 9, 2009 / 17 Sivan 5769
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com President Obama's Cairo speech was nothing short of an earthquake - a distortion of history, an insult to theJewish people, and an abandonment of very real human-rights victims in theArab and Muslim worlds. It is not surprising that Arabs and Muslims in aposition to speak were enthusiastic. It is more surprising that American commentators are praising the speech for its political craftiness, ratherthan decrying its treachery of historic proportions.
Obama equated the Holocaust to Palestinian "dislocation." In his words: "The Jewish people were persecuted. ...anti-Semitism ...culminated in anunprecedented Holocaust.... Six million Jews were killed.... On the other hand,it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people - Muslims and Christians -have suffered in pursuit of a homeland." This parallelism amounts to the fictitious Arab narrative that the deliberate mass murder of six million Jews for the crime of being Jewish is analogous to a Jewish-driven violation of Palestinian rights.
Speaking in an Arab country to Arabs and Muslims, Obama pointedly singled out European responsibility for the Holocaust - "anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust." In other contexts, the European emphasis would be a curiosity. In Egypt, it was no accident. The Arab story line has always been that Arabs have been forced to suffer the creation of Israel for a European crime.
In fact, Obama's Egyptian hosts would have been only too familiar with Arab anti-Semitism during World War II (and beyond). After all, Obama was speaking in the country that schooled and later welcomed back Grand MuftiHaj Muhammed Amin al-Husseini as a national hero. This was the man who spent the war years in Berlin as Hitler's guest facilitating the murder of Jews.
Obama thought he would prove his even-handedness towards Israel by boasting of Friday's trip to a concentration camp and rejecting Holocaust denial. In this context, however, the move of doing Jews these supposed favors appears to be cynical political opportunism, especially having just set the Holocaust side-by-side with the "suffering" and "pain" of Palestinians "for more than 60 years." After all, the president made no emotive references to the "intolerable" "suffering" of Israeli victims of Arab terror "for more than 60 years." The word "terrorism" never left his lips. Far from bolstering the fight against terror and the anti-Semitism driving it, such maneuvers embolden more hate and violence against Israelis.
Instead, Obama sought Arab and Muslim approbation by drawing a moral equivalence between those who have rejected Israel from the outset (and still seek its outright destruction or a "right of return" intended toterminate a Jewish majority) and the Jews who have kept them at bay since May 14, 1948. In his words: "There has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history.... It's easy to point fingers - for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about byIsrael's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks." Calling the Israeli-Arab conflict a "stalemate" represents an abysmal failure to acknowledge historical reality. The modern state ofIsrael emerged after an internationally approved partition plan of November1947 that would have created two states, one Jewish and one Arab; this plan was accepted by Jews and rejected by Arabs. One people has always been prepared to live in peace, and the other has chosen war in 1948 and 1956 and1967 and 1973 and 1982, and renewed terrorism after its every loss.
Bereft of the most basic understanding of Judaism and Jewish history, Obama claimed that "the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragichistory that cannot be denied," for "around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries." A Jewish homeland in Israel is not rooted intragedy or in centuries of persecution around the world. It is rooted in a wondrous, unbroken, and spiritual relationship to the land of Israel and to Jerusalem for thousands of years. Coupled with the president's stress on"European responsibility" for the Holocaust, his words reinforced the lethal belief that Israel is the creature of transplanted, alien Jews.
Obama's stunning offense to Israel and the Jewish people went farther. Israelis have come to occupy territory in response to Arab-initiated wars of intended annihilation, but Obama analogized Palestinian "daily humiliations...that come with occupation" to the "humiliation of segregation" of black slaves in America and the "moral authority" of "people from South Africa."His Arab audience understood that the president of the United States had just given a nod to the single most potent defamation of the Jewish statetoday - the allegation that Israel is a racist, apartheid state.
After expressing his belief in a moral equivalence between the claims of Palestinians and the claims of the victims of slavery and apartheid, Obama juxtaposed his admission of Israel's "right to exist" with his assertionthat "the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements." Every word of this speech was carefully weighed. It was therefore no mishap that for the first time a U.S. president has denied the legitimacy of Israeli settlements, period. Such an assertion abrogates every agreement between Arabs and Israelis, which have always left the ultimate determination of which settlements will stay or go to a bilateral peace process and final status negotiations. Even the Roadmap reads: "Phase III:Permanent Status Agreement and End of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict ...afinal, permanent status resolution ...on borders, Jerusalem, refugees,settlements."
Furthermore, the idea that Jews are not permitted to live in any territory that might become part of a future Palestinian state means only one thing:apartheid Palestine. Twenty percent of Israel's population,1.5 millionpeople, are Arab (with more democratic rights than in any Arab state). Bu tthe notion of any Jewish presence in Palestinian territory is allegedly anabomination. Why should a future transfer of governmental authority mean "no Jews allowed"?
But judging by Obama's speech, only one "dislocation" counts. After placing the Holocaust side-by-side with the Palestinian "pain of dislocation," he ignored the dislocation of 800,000 Jewish refugees from all over the ArabMiddle East in response to the creation of Israel.
Jewish refugees from Arab intolerance were not the only human-rights casualties the president chose to dismiss. Three different times Obama defended the right of Muslim women to cover up their bodies. Never once did he mention the right of Muslim women to refuse to cover up their bodies - a right denied on pain of arrest and death by many of the very communities he was addressing. In the name of "freedom of religion" he chose to "welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah's interfaith dialogue." The Saudi Arabian government criminalizes the public practice of any religion but Islam. This manufactured human-rights fantasy has done a tremendous disservice to the oppressed across the Arab and Muslim world.
President Obama's meticulously planned and executed Egyptian speech markst he lowest point in the U.S. presidency's understanding and appreciation ofthe Jewish state, its history, and its people's future. Added to his administration's evident infirmity on Iran, the speech of June 4, 2009, by the supposed leader of the free world will be remembered as a major decline in human history.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act Moves Closer to Law In tough economic times, when people are just happy to have a job, the U.S. House passes H.R. 626 by a vote of 258-154. What is H.R. 626? It will give federal employees the right to take PAID leave for four weeks after the birth or adoption of a child. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the cost would be $938 million over the period of fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2014. The estimate takes into account a 50 percent probability that Office of Personal Management (OPM) would increase the amount of paid leave through regulations. The additional paid leave could result if the Director of OPM decides to increase the amount of paid parental leave available to a total of eight administrative workweeks, based on the consideration of: (1) the benefits to the federal government, including enhanced recruitment and employee retention; (2) the cost to the government; (3) trends in the private sector and in state and local governments; and (4) the federal government's role as a model employer. "These are tough times, regardless of what industry you're in," said Rep. Christopher Lee, R-N.Y. "Think about the retail workers who are being forced to do more with less. Think about that, when Washington turns around and offers more generous fringe benefits to public sector employees." According to THIS WEEK IN WASHINGTON ( sent to me by Former Congressman Michael Flanagan) “Critics are concerned that with the current state of the economy, now might not be the best time to be enacting such a large bill at taxpayer expense, especially when private sector workers are concerned for their jobs, let alone rarely receive such generous leave allotments.” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said he was sure President Obama would sign the measure if it reaches his desk. On Wednesday, the White House issued a statement saying it "agrees with the goals" of H.R. 626 and looks forward to working with Congress on the issue. I do not want to appear to be “anti-family” here or a Scrooge, but I don’t understand why American taxpayers should be forced to cough up someone’s salary if a government employee decides to have a baby. Having a baby is a personal choice, not a decision that should affect my life or my pocketbook. If the new law will also have a provision that when these babies grow up they have to come over and mow my lawn, I am all for it. Otherwise pay for your own damned kid.

Monday, June 8, 2009


TWO TALES OF ONE CITY When the media writes about the Obamas, everything the golden couple does is perfect. I thought it would be fun to take sections of Laurie Goering’s story in the CHICAGO TRIBUNE about the Obama’s Paris visit and re-write it from the angle of a random reporter as if it were a George Bush presidential visit. I have highlighted the changes in each paragraph so one can see how the flavor of a story can change with just a few different words. This is my imaginary two tales of one city. LAURIE GOERING, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: PARIS -- There's little doubt about it: An open bottle of Coca Cola -- Mon Dieu! -- made an appearance on the Obamas' bistro dinner table in Paris this weekend."That you must not do," laughed Jean Louis Ferrein, 49, a human resources consultant, as he shepherded his young son through Paris' Pompidou Centre on Sunday morning. "It destroys the flavor of the food." IF IT HAD BEEN A BUSH PRESIDENTIAL VISIT (Random reporter) PARIS -- There's little doubt about it: An open bottle of Coca Cola – how horrible! -- made an appearance on the Bush’s bistro dinner table in Paris this weekend."That you must not do," scoffed Jean Louis Ferrein, 49, a human resources consultant, as he shepherded his young son through Paris' Pompidou Centre on Sunday morning. "It destroys the flavor of the food. How else would you expect a provincial Texan to act?” LAURIE GOERING, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The family's sightseeing Sunday was private. But small crowds -- mainly surprised passersby -- gathered at each stop to cheer the visiting Americans as a light rain fell across the city. IF IT HAD BEEN A BUSH PRESIDENTIAL VISIT (Random reporter) The family's sightseeing Sunday went unnoticed. But small crowds -- mainly surprised passersby -- gathered at each stop to yell at the visiting Americans as a light rain fell across the city. LAURIE GOERING, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: When Michelle Obama ducked out of a children's clothing store Sunday afternoon with a gift-wrapped parcel and a smile, crowds attracted by the flashing lights of her security detail's cars applauded and chanted her name. IF IT HAD BEEN A BUSH PRESIDENTIAL VISIT (Random reporter) When Laura Bush ducked out of a children's clothing store Sunday afternoon with a gift-wrapped parcel and a smug smile, crowds attracted only by the flashing lights of her security detail's cars made noise and booed her name. LAURIE GOERING, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Le Parisien even went as far as to defend the American president's choice in dinner drinks, noting that while a Coca-Cola did grace his table Saturday night, Obama didn't touch it, opting for water with his leg of lamb. IF IT HAD BEEN A BUSH PRESIDENTIAL VISIT (Random reporter) Le Parisien even went as far as to castigate the American president's choice in dinner drinks, noting that while a Coca-Cola did grace his table Saturday night, Bush didn't touch it, and also rudely ignored the fine French wine he had been offered. LAURIE GOERING, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Morgane Jaslet, 41, a middle school teacher visiting Paris with her two children, both around the ages of the Obama girls, said she was impressed that the Obamas had turned down a dinner invitation with the French president in favor of having a family dinner in Paris."That [Obama] keeps time for his family, and that he went to a bistro with them rather than to the president's showed he has his priorities straight," she said admiringly. IF IT HAD BEEN A BUSH PRESIDENTIAL VISIT (Random reporter) Morgane Jaslet, 41, a middle school teacher visiting Paris with her two children, both around the ages of the Bush girls, said she was insulted that the Bushes had turned down a dinner invitation with the French president in favor of having a family dinner in Paris."That [Bush] keeps time for his family, and that he went to a bistro with them rather than to the president's showed he has little regard for our French president and has no manners," she said with scorn and disdain. _______________________________________________________________ Like the George Castanza character in the Jerry Seinfeld show, who in one episode decided to do the “opposite” of what he thought was right, the media needs to start reflecting on their own instincts and maybe do the opposite.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


CHICAGO CITY INSPECTOR GENERAL NOT AN INSPECTOR GADGET David Hoffman, the Inspector General of the City of Chicago, in no way resembles the bumbling cartoon character Inspector Gadget. The only similarity is that they both are fighting an evil nemesis. “I’m running this office as an independent entity-period,” he said in a Chicago Tribune article on Sunday. “People need to believe that you’re independent of every other part of city government, especially the mayor.” Dan Mihalopoulos of the Chicago Tribune wrote that the Inspector General’s duties are limited by “city ordinance to only examining the executive branch at City Hall—not the alderman—and it’s difficult to gauge Hoffman’s performance because the same law prohibits making public his findings of individual misconduct and disciplinary recommendations.” Patrick Collins, who worked with Hoffman as a prosecutor and on the Governor’s panel, said Hoffman has revived the Inspector General’s office much as Patrick Fitzgerald brought new energy to the U.S. Attorney’s office. “He understands politics, but is not political,” Collins said in the Tribune story Alderman Bernie Stone (50th) is an outspoken critic of the Inspector General probably because Hoffman investigated a Stone aide for voter fraud. Stone said in the Tribune story that the Mayor probably has voiced support for Hoffman, “... because he is afraid to fire him because of the reaction he would get. People might say he got rid of him because he’s criticizing the Mayor.” Statements like that from Stone are why it is important that Hoffman has focused more on public relations than his predecessor did. The more visible Hoffman is, the harder it will be for the Mayor to fire him or not re-new his contract. “It’s important for the public to know that independent offices like this exist and to know what they do,” Hoffman said. “You can’t live in a cave and expect to be successful.” Carton character Inspector Gadget’s main nemesis is Dr. Claw, leader of an evil organization known as MAD. The Inspector General’s main nemesis is Mayor Daley, leader of a City Council that won’t give Hoffman the authority to investigate them. Maybe the two Inspectors do have more shared characteristics then I first noted!

Friday, June 5, 2009


PEDICABS ARE COMING TO CHICAGO! I attended a committee hearing recently at the Chicago City Council on the issue of street performers (see Blog May15th. Update—City Council Committee voted for the new restrictions so we won!), but first had to sit through a presentation by Commissioner Norma Reyes on the issue of licensing pedicabs. I was frustrated during her presentation and subsequent questioning by Aldermen because, as an observer in the gallery, I had to listen only and not speak. I have no problem listening; I hate not being able to question the speaker! Commissioner Reyes told the Alderman that there are currently about 75 “Gypsy” pedicabs operating in Chicago and for safety reasons they should be licensed. While this argument makes sense, there are many other issues that don’t--none that the Aldermen addressed. As a friend of mine said to me, “In Chicago you have to follow the money to see why something is happening.” That relates to my first group of unasked questions. Commissioner Reyes said that the City would cap the licenses at 200 pedicabs. The license cost would be $400 for two years. No Alderman asked the question on how a decision would be made as to who gets each one of those 200 licenses or exactly how the process of deciding who gets the licenses would work. The requirements Commissioner Reyes gave for someone to be licensed were fairly basic (driver’s license, insurance etc.). I could apply for a license. Since there will be only 200 licenses issued, they might become a valuable commodity; could I sell my license to someone for a profit? Could I lease my license to someone just like cab companies do? The pedicabs licensing ordinance, if passed, would allow each ward Alderman to decide what routes pedicabs would be allowed to travel on a ward to ward basis. The pedicabs will be driven on the street; not on the sidewalks. (Think of that congestion nightmare!) There was no discussion how the Aldermen would decide what the allowable routes would be. Next unasked questions—how could a pedicabs operator possible be able to memorize the allowable routes in each ward? Even if the driver had a booklet explaining which streets were allowable in a particular ward; what happens when he crossed ward boundaries? A pedicabs might be allowed on Clark Street in the 42nd ward, but not in the 43rd. Navigation could become a nightmare! If I were a restaurant owner, I would lobby my Alderman to ensure the pedicabs could stop ay my location. Won’t the logistics of the navigation routes that each Alderman will have to decide be almost impossible to map? Commissioner Reyes said that no advertising would be allowed on pedicabs because there is not enough space on the pedicabs to allow it. If one visits the web site http://www.pedicabs.com/, one can see various configurations of pedicabs and how advertising is displayed on the sides, canopies, with flags etc. Commissioner Reyes statement makes no sense unless one realizes that an ordinance can be easily modified and an advertising allowance added later. Next unasked question-would only one company be allowed to offer advertising on the pedicabs just like JC Decaux has the monopoly on bus stop advertising? What company has the strongest lobbyists to be able to get the lucrative advertising contract? The unasked questions could go and on. It will be fun to follow the story of pedicabs as it unfolds in City Council. I will peddle my questions like the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz until we get answers.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


SWASTIKAS DON’T GET PLAY IN THE MEDIA Swastikas were spray painted recently on the garage of a Crystal Lake, Illinois home and on the sidewalk in front of another. The families who live at both homes are Jewish, police said. "Whether or not [the incidents] are related is speculative," said Deputy Police Chief Dennis Harris, adding police continue to investigate. The Chicago Tribune did a small paragraph on the story and the Sun Times wrote nothing. There will be no headline stories about the swastika painting incidents and not much attention will be paid to them, even by local newspapers, except if someone gets killed. Why should anyone care about these hate crimes because they are against Jews and anti-Semitism doesn’t seem to get a lot of play. But if anyone dares to speak out against people of any other ethnic backgrounds they are vilified! In announcing Judge Sonia Maria Sotomayor as his choice for the Supreme Court, Obama said he wanted a judge who would "approach decisions without any particular ideology or agenda, but rather a commitment to impartial justice." He said this about a person who was quoted in 2001 as saying, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." If we turned that quote around and a white male had said, “I would hope that a wise white male with the richness of his experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a Hispanic woman who hasn't lived that life," the white male would be labeled a racist and shunned from society. Jews make up only 0.02% of the world’s population and yet have received 129 Nobel Prizes. The global Islamic population totals 20%. If we figure the ratio of percentage of population to Nobel Prize winners, then Moslems should have been awarded 129,000 Nobel prizes, but they have only won seven. Does this make Jews smarter than Muslims? If one says that they would be labeled a racist. Benjamin Netanyahu ((Hebrew: בִּנְיָמִין "בִּיבִּי" נְתַנְיָהוּ), Prime Minister of Israel was quoted once as saying, “ If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.” What does an anti-Semite accomplish by painting swastikas on Jewish homes? He proclaims his ignorance. So put down your spray can, because you cannot paint us out; there will always be an Israel.