URBAN PHILOSOPHER
Conscience Laureate

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

GAFFE IN MOUTH DISEASE

GAFFE IN MOUTH DISEASE Proving that he is his own worst enemy, Mayor Daley inserted his foot in his mouth when his critical remarks about Rio’s capabilities to host the Olympics were interpreted as a breach of protocol. The International Olympic Committee prohibits bid cities from criticizing their rivals. According to the Chicago Tribune, before he left Chicago for Copenhagen, Daley was asked whether Rio hosting the 2014 World Cup, which it has been awarded, will help its 2016 chances because it will show its capacity to host the Olympics. “I don't think so. The World Cup is completely different than the Olympics,'' Daley answered. “That's all soccer stadiums, it's completely different. They don't have all the other events there that we have.'' What Daley said about Tokyo and Madrid also could be viewed as critical of those two other finalists, since he minimized their chances based on geographical factors. Responding to a question Tuesday about Daley's comments, Rio 2016 bid chairman Carlos Nuzman said, through a translator, that such issues are “in the hands'' of the IOC ethics commission. “It is not on myself to make any comment about the Mayor of Chicago,'' Nuzman said. IOC spokesman Mark Adams said no formal complaint has been filed with the IOC ethics commission, though the IOC was aware of Daley's comments, “because they have been in the media.''This whole Olympic bid debacle reminds me of the 1803 landmark Supreme Court Case Marbury vs. Madison in which the Supreme Court established its power to strike down acts of Congress as unconstitutional if they so felt. The Supreme Court was declaring, “We say what the law is.” In Chicago, Daley says what the law is. The bid process has so polarized Chicagoans that they have either become enemies or friends of the Mayor depending on how they feel about hosting the games. Daley crossed the Rubicon when he and City Council voted to sign the Host City Contract as the IOC wanted it and not how the citizens of Chicago wanted it with monetary protections. In Julius Caesar’s case, it was an act of treason that triggered a civil war that eventually put Caesar in power. In Daley’s case, the outcome of the bid could put him out of power.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

AM I THAT OLD AND PATHETIC? I attended the Green Tie Ball on Saturday evening as a guest of Horseshoe Casino. My tuxedoed escort was Mark Salvador who is Director of Casino Marketing for the property. Mark is a blog follower so I know he will read this and expect me to report how handsome he looked. My doormen were quite impressed when a stretch limo pulled up and massively tall and gorgeous Mark exited the car to pick me up. I should have let the doormen believe I had a date that was such a hunk, but I told them the truth that he was just a friend. Stupid of me not to let “building buzz” enhance my reputation! At the party, Mark introduced me to two of his friends, Rob and Laura. I immediately remarked that their names would be easy to remember because they were the same as Rob and Laura Petrie. The response was a blank gaze. I said, “You know Rob and Laura Petrie from The Dick Van Dyke Show.” More vacant stares. “Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore? The show plays on Nickelodeon.” If I had mentioned the name of ousted Honduran President Manual Zelaya, they could not have been more clueless! This encounter was the first time that I really felt old and pathetic! The term generation gap first became popular during the 1960’s and edified the cultural differences between children and their parents. According to Wikipedia, “although some generational differences have existed throughout history, because of more rapid cultural change during the modern era differences between the two generations increased in comparison to previous times, particularly with respect to such matters as musical tastes, fashion, culture and politics. This may have been magnified by the unprecedented size of the young generation during the 1960s, which gave it unprecedented power, and willingness to rebel against societal norms.” I am part of the Baby Boom generation ( 76 million babies were born during the post World War II years) , and while I was not a liberal counter-cultural hippie, I still think I was”cool.” Jerry Rubin founder of the Youth International Party is probably famous more for his quote, “Don't trust anyone over 30,” then remembered for his leadership of anti-Vietnam War protests. We bought the concept because we were never going to be older than 30! That was too many years away. My generation is now not only older than 30, we are older than 50 and there are more of us than there are of any other generation. You would think because of our vast numbers we would “rule,” but we don't. Daily advances in technology have caused us Luddites to be light years away in understanding how to correctly social network and connect with people. My generation believed in free love; today’s generation just looks at naked pictures on the Internet. Who do you think had more fun?

Friday, September 25, 2009

CAB DRIVERS TELL PASSENGERS TO TAKE A HIKE

CAB DRIVERS TELL PASSENGERS TO TAKE A HIKE We all know that I do not take public transportation-- except for that one exciting time when a group of friends escorted me on a CTA bus down Michigan Avenue for my adventure in being a “regular” person. I used to take, on average, four cab rides a day, but with my new healthy life-style, I walk more and have cut that in half. With a hefty gratuity, my typical daily cab expenditure is about $15. Taxi drivers are asking for a 22% rate hike and the implementation of various fees; $1.50 to use a credit card, $1.00 for a phone dispatch, $1.00 for McCormick Place trips and a $50 vomit clean- up fee. The only one I agree with is the vomit clean-up fee. Let’s first discuss the 22% rate hike. Drivers can generate their own revenue increase by being smart. I have always been astounded at the stupidity of cab drivers who wait around at hotels hoping to get an airport trip from a departing guest. This is brainless for two reasons. The first is that a driver is generating zero income waiting on line; if he were driving around he would have a better chance of catching an immediate fare. The second is purely economic. An airport ride is not the best revenue generating exercise for drivers. If a driver makes one 25 mile trip to the airport his income is $47.25 before tip; if a driver makes five 5 mile trips his revenue is $56.25 before the tip. The difference in the profit of the two 25 mile scenarios is because of the flag drop the driver receives on each individual ride. The more flag drops, the greater the revenue. Five trips produce a 16% income than a single trip. So any driver can immediately raise his income by doing more single rides. My arguments against the fees are quite simple. Most people will tip more if they use a credit card because it is not cash out of their pocket. So a driver should be happy when a passenger wants to pay with a credit card because it is to the driver's advantage. In Manhattan, cabs have built in credit card machines that a passenger just swipes and signs. They are very easy to use. The use of a credit card also protects the driver against having to carry cash. When a cab driver receives a dispatch call it means he is guaranteed a fare. The driver should be thrilled to know he has a customer for certain. The driver should pay for the privilege of a surefire fare, not charge for it. I do not understand the request for a $1.00 surcharge for a McCormick Place trip. Why pick McCormick Place? I called the Department of Business Licensing and Consumer Affairs to find out why that location of all locations, but the Public Information officer was not in. Because I have never vomited in a cab, or even thought about vomiting in a cab, I never considered that a clean-up fee would be necessary. I guess it makes sense for a cab driver to ask to be compensated for the labor to clean the taxi and for the economic opportunity lost from the downtime. But why only ask for a vomit fee? What is someone bleeds while in a cab or delivers a baby? The wording in the ordinance on this new surcharge would have to be very carefully written. A nickname for a cab driver is a hack. This is derived from the term hackney coach which is a carriage for hire. The verb hack is defined as”to chop or cut crudely, roughly, or irregularly, as with a hatchet.” The drivers are asking for a rate increase at a time of economic downturn; are they cutting off their noses to spite their face?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

BOUNCING CHECKS? IT SHOULD COST YOU!

BOUNCING CHECKS? IT SHOULD COST YOU! If I have $50 cash in my pocket and want to buy something that costs $60; then I obviously don’t have the money to pay for it and cannot purchase the item. I could reach into the pocketbook of the woman standing next to me and take $10, but that would be stealing. I would be arrested for a crime; go to trial and even might go to jail. (Unless it were my first offense and I got probation!) By the same respect, if I write a check for $60 and only have $50 in my checking account, I am essentially stealing from the bank and should be punished in the form of an overdraft fee. And I also should pay an overdraft fee for every single check I bounce after that first one. Obviously our government does not agree with that theory. There is a bill (Consumer Overdraft Protection Fair Practices Act) pending in Congress now to limit the use of overdraft fees. Our legislative leaders have decided the fees are too high, so some banks have voluntarily cut back on overdraft fees in hopes of forestalling more government regulation of their business practices. Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase are the leaders of the pack. According to a story by Lita Epstein ( a financial author who has written more than 25 books, including The Complete Idiots Guide to Improving Your Credit Score) “both banks also agreed to cut down the number of time depositors could be charged a fee. JP Morgan will charge no more than three overdraft fees each day. Prior to this change, customers could be charged up to six fees in one day. That's more generous than Bank of America, which will limit the number of times customers can be charged overdraft fees to four times a day. Prior to this change, Bank of America used to charge fees as many as 10 times in one day.Under the old rules a Bank of America customer who was overdrawn by $5 or more could face a total of $350 (10 x $35 in one day). You may think it takes a totally incompetent to end up with 10 overdrafts it a day. But it's not as difficult as it appears. Suppose you make an error of $100 in adding in a paycheck just before your mortgage is due. The bank pays the mortgage first and then processes other checks. You wrote out nine other small checks or incurred debit charges, totaling $110. You could then be overdrawn by $10 and if all checks clear on the same day as the mortgage, you could be stuck with $350 in overdraft charges.” I realize everyone might not be as mathematically adroit as I am, but the use of a calculator makes balancing a checkbook easy enough for a four year old. Or one can use one of the many financial wizard programs (like Quickbooks) to keep track of one’s balance. People try to claim that with debit cards they don’t always remember to subtract from their balance when they use the card. That kind of stupidity is the person’s fault, not the bank’s fault. The bank should be able to “punish” the check bouncer for “stealing” money—because stealing is essential what writing a bad check is! If overdraft fees were HIGHER, people might be more careful when writing a check. By lowering the fees, banks make the punishment less painful. It is ironic that if I steal directly from your wallet, I could go to jail; but if I steal by writing a bad check, I might only have to pay $5.00. How paradoxical!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

WHY? I JUST DON’T GET IT.

WHY? I JUST DON’T GET IT. Today’s posting will not be historic, momentous or significant. It is about normal things in life that, “I just don’t get.” Last evening I was at a Shaare Zedek event and I invited my friends Ari and Sarah to Stella Black’s party for the next night. Sarah asked me what time the party was because she needed to go to the airport to pick up a friend. I laughed and told her how I “just didn’t get” the concept of the airport pick up or drop off. People seem to think it is perfectly normal asking for an airport ride. A pal doesn’t say to you, “would you drive me to the grocery store or the cleaners?” but for some reason people have no problem asking for a ride if there is an airplane involved! Why ask me to take hours of my time to drive you around (a round trip to O’Hare from downtown might take me longer than the length of your airplane ride)? Take a cab or the El. I am not your chauffeur!
Our Mothers always told us to wear clean underwear just in case we are in an accident. Hello? If I am in an accident, my body will become soiled with blood from my injuries and my bowels will probably release spontaneously. My undergarments will be filthy from the wounds. One should wear clean underwear every day because it is hygienic. I “just don’t get it,” why historically Mothers have used the accident theory to ensure their children are wearing clean undergarments! On a funny side note, I have an unnamed friend who always goes “commando.” The only time she wears underwear is when she is visiting the doctor. She says it is because the nurse always tells you to undress down to your underwear—so she has to have a pair on or her “Virginia Johnson” will be subject to viewing. Voice mail is more than 40 years old. It is a wonderful concept and serves a useful purpose—to leave a message for someone. Very simple to use by both the caller and the receiver. When a caller leaves a message, the receiver retrieves the message and is supposed to listen to the message. I have friends who never listen to their messages. They just see who called from the Caller ID and call back. I “just don’t get it,” why they refuse to listen to the message! I make the joke that I might have left a message, “Help me, I’ve fallen and cannot get up,” and if they just call back without listening to the message they won’t know why I am not answering the phone. I left a message because I had something important to say; the receiver should be courteous enough to listen to it! The Do Not Walk sign serves a purpose. It instructs people to not walk because cars might be coming. I “just don’t get it,” why so many pedestrians refuse to follow the instructions of the sign! Suburban perambulators do not realize that the Do Not Walk signs are in sync with the street stop lights. Cars with a green turn arrow need to make the turn before traffic starts coming in the other direction. If a pedestrian is crossing the street, obviously the car cannot make the turn and traffic becomes snarled. My friend David, knowing I am about to shriek at the do not walk cheaters, will beg me not to yell out and embarrass him in front of strangers. I do it anyway because I get so frustrated at their stupidity.
With all of the problems the world is facing, my irritation with regard to these insignificant items is laughable. But I have cardio-vascular problems and it is the “little irritating things” that can add up and cause me to burst an aneurysm. By venting today, I have prolonged my life. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

WHY I WOULD NEVER OWN A COMPANY AGAIN!!

WHY I WOULD NEVER OWN A COMPANY AGAIN!! Two stories that reared their ugly heads in the news recently affirmed why I would never own a company again. I understand the importance of laws to protect the rights of people who REALLY need protecting, but frivolous litigious employees and potential employees are taking advantage of the law. While one of the cases occurred in Spain, it is not uncommon to hear the same type of scenario in America. An employee in Gerona, Spain called his boss “a son of a bitch” and was fired. The employee sued and a court in Barcelona ruled that insulting your boss is not grounds for dismissal.
The ruling — first reported this week by Spanish human resources Web site Carta de Personal — said the worker should either be reinstated in his job or receive 6,483 euros ($9,472) in compensation. It is not known which option the employer picked. I am sure the employer did not choose to hire them back. How can you have an employee sitting around smugly knowing they can curse at you and get away with it?
"Without a doubt, both expressions are insulting," Judge Sara Maria Pose Vidal said in the ruling, She also wrote that the "son of a bitch" remark should be viewed in linguistic context. "The social degradation of language has caused the expressions used by the plaintiff to become commonly used in certain settings, especially in arguments," Pose Vidal wrote, calling his dismissal a disproportionate punishment.
So a person works hard for years, saves money and starts their own company. They expect their employees to treat them with dignity and respect. The employee calls the boss “a son of a bitch” and the court rewards them with money. Even though this was a ruling from a Spanish court, I wouldn’t be surprised if an American court would rule the same way. An employee defendant would claim they were emotionally distraught by the firing and should be protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act! A Muslim teenager applied for a job at an Abercrombie & Fitch Kids store in Woodlands Hill, Oklahoma. She was wearing a hijab and was told that her dress was inconsistent with the store’s “look policy.” The 17 year old girl took her complaint to U.S. District Court last week, where a lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In this case, the EEOC thinks it was possible for Abercrombie to accommodate the potential employee’s religious practices and is seeking back pay and a permanent injunction against A& F from engaging in (what the EEOC says is) discriminatory employment practices. Also being pursued, are monetary and non-monetary losses because of "emotional pain, suffering, anxiety, loss of enjoyment of life, humiliation and inconvenience." The suit also indicates that the plaintiff is looking for punitive damages. At the web site http://www.islam101.com/, there is a whole page devoted to the wearing of hijab and the legal precedents to protect the wearing of this type of clothing. It does not matter that an employer might set a dress code; what matters is what an employee wants. "Many cases have demonstrated an employee's legal right to reasonable accommodation in matters of faith. Examples: 1) The failure of other Muslim employees to wear headscarves is legally irrelevant. The employee need only show sincerely-held religious beliefs. (E.E.O.C. v. Reads, Inc., 1991) 2) There are no health or safety concerns at issue. (Cf.E.E.O.C. Dec. No. 82-1, 1982, also E.E.O.C. Dec. No. 81-20, 1981) 3) Companies cannot give effect to private biases. In other words, just because an employer believes customers will be prejudiced against a woman in a scarf, that does not mean the employee can be fired. (Palmer v. Sidoti, 1984, also Cf. Sprogis v. United Air Lines, Inc., 1971) 4) An employer must demonstrate "undue hardship" caused by the wearing of religious attire. (TWA v. Hardison, 1977) Hardships recognized by the courts include cost to the employer or effect on co-workers. 5) Dress codes can have disproportionate impact on certain faiths. (E.E.O.C. Dec. No. 71-2620, 1971, also E.E.O.C. Dec. No. 71-779, 1970)" If I own a company, where are my rights as an employer? Hungarian psychiatrist Thomas Szasz said "Insanity is the only sane reaction to an insane society.” So conclusively “all the world is mad save for me and thee, and sometimes I wonder about thee.” (Ogden Nash)

Monday, September 21, 2009

WHERE WILL THE MONEY COME FROM?

WHERE WILL THE MONEY COME FROM? I have been involved in philanthropic endeavors for more than 25 years. I am always looking to raise money for one of my causes. I have a fairly substantial closing rate when I make requests, but nothing like 2016 Chairman Patrick Ryan who brags how he has only been turned down once while collecting $72.8 million for the Olympic coffers. The refusal was from a man whose attitude Ryan described to the Chicago Tribune as "negative" and his excuse "flimsy." An informal discussion at the Kiva salon on Sunday produced the conclusion that companies might not be giving to the Olympics because they really want to, but because they are afraid it will hurt them in obtaining future business contracts with the City of Chicago if they say, “No,” to Ryan. An example of “pay for play” of Olympic proportions. The Tribune wrote that “Donald Lubin, a partner in the law firm Sonnenschein, Nath and Rosenthal, said he lent the bid group one of his best law partners and continued to pay her salary for two reasons: Because Ryan asked him to and because he feels Chicago is overlooked as a great city.” I wonder the size of the legal contracts Sonnenschein has or would like to have. The altruistic reason of his firm’s contribution because, “Chicago is overlooked as a great city,” would never make it past a tough prosecutor’s cross examination without further questioning. If Chicago is chosen as the host city, the 2016 Committee says they would need to raise more than $250 million during the next seven years; about $3 million a month or $100,000 every single day! (My formula allows no time off for weekends or holidays!) Even though The Civic Federation described 2016's fundraising goal as "aggressive but doable" in their report, they failed to address how other not for profit organizations will be impacted by corporate donations supporting a bunch of athletes instead of Chicago charities that have been here for years and will continue to be here after the Games. The Chicago Tribune reported, “Chicago 2016 discounts the idea that bid contributions impact donations to charities. It calculates that money given to the Games would soak up a mere 3.5 percent of about $1 billion that Chicago-area corporations and individuals give annually to charitable causes.” Let’s be real here! If “Corporation A” gives money to support the Olympics, it will inevitably result in less money they can contribute to a local worthy cause because cash is finite, not infinite. According to No Games Chicago, a group of citizen volunteers who have been tirelessly working to expose the downside of hosting the games reports,” Currently, the City of Vancouver, host of the 2012 Winter Olympics is on the hook for $6 billion in Olympics cost overruns - which may bankrupt the city. The 2012 Summer Games in London are 4-times over budget, with a total bill of at least $20 billion.” The Mayor and City Council have put Chicago taxpayers on the hook to foot the Olympic bill. So while Patrick Ryan claims the 2016 Committee would only have to raise about $250 million to fill the gap, I think his prediction is way too low. But even if the $250 million is accurate, where will it come from? It will come from the backs of local not- for -profits. They are the ones really subsidizing the Games.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

QUINN SAYS "LET THE PRISONERS GO!"

QUINN SAYS "LET THE PRISONERS GO!" Every time I read a story about how the City of Chicago, in an effort to collect past due revenues, will allow people who owe parking or other fines to pay 50 cents on the dollar, I always wonder if people who had paid their whole bill the day before get mad. And what about the frustration of legal toll payers when scofflaws get off at a cheap price when the Illinois Tollway announces some reduced payment plan? It makes one want to wait before they pay a fine just in case some bargain payment program gets announced! When Cash For Clunkers was announced, I imagined the anguished cries of people across America who had traded their junkers in for a measly few hundred bucks in the months before the program was initiated. “If only I had waited one more day!” Illinois Governor Quinn has announced a plan (well not the details, just that he wants to do it) to provide early release of 1,000 inmates from prisons that he says will save the state about $5 million. But since it will cost the prison system about $2 million to monitor those who get out; the math shows a $3 million not $5 million yearly savings. Since the population of the State of Illinois is about 13 million people, that means that the resultant tax benefit is about TWENTY FIVE cents per citizen. The Chicago Tribune reported that an “Illinois Department of Corrections prisons spokeswoman said that only "low-level, non-violent" offenders who are in the last year of their sentence will qualify for early release and will be fitted with electronic monitoring devices.” The offenders who will qualify for the program will just be “drug and property crime offenders,” Corrections spokeswoman Januari Smith said. Inmates who are really “bad” like murders, sex offenders, domestic violence criminals won’t qualify for early release. In a statement, Quinn said the changes are focused on "protecting the public while also modernizing and improving the state's correctional system." The Tribune also reported, “Prison reform advocates said releasing non-violent offenders close to the end of their sentences will free up resources to allow prison officials to focus on rehabilitative programming for those with longer sentences, and in turn reduce the rate of inmates who often return to jail. "We should be using tax dollars wisely to be locking people up who present a physical threat to the community," said Hanke Gratteau, executive director of the John Howard Association and a former Tribune managing editor. "But to just lock people up to punish them without programming doesn't make any sense."
I am sure most of the 45,000 inmates incarcerated right now in the state are hoping they will be one of the “chosen few” for the “Cash for Prisoners,” program when the final details are announced. Their fellow inmates, who had to serve their full terms, “got screwed” with this program. The inhumanity! I just know that I will be happy to donate my 25 cents savings back to the state coffers, so current criminals have to pay the full penalty for their crimes.

Friday, September 18, 2009

ONE IS ENOUGH! LIFE ON NOT BEING A TWO

ONE IS ENOUGH! LIFE ON NOT BEING A TWO. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, National Singles Week, which starts this Sunday the 20th, was started by the Ohio Buckeye Singles Council in the 1980’s to celebrate single life and recognize the contributions of singles to society. The week is now observed in the third week of September as, “Unmarried and Singles Americans Week.” Though to be considered as a “true single” one has to have never been married, divorced or widowed. Until I started reading about “singles,” I did not realize how badly society treats and views us and that we need our own lobbyists to protect us. I have previously written about how I am discriminated against already because I am short, chubby and smart. (Everybody hates a smug genius!) Now I have discovered that I am being discriminated against because I am a “single.”
Nearly 96 million Americans 18 years old and older are currently single and nearly 60 million have never been married and are a true “single.” The total of all singles is 43% of the population, up from 28% in 1969. Our numbers are growing and we need to be treated with dignity and respect. Not everybody wants double occupancy.
Blog follower Connie called me this morning to comment on how statistics and discussion of singles never include the vast population of Baby Boomers who are the primary care-giver for an elderly or ill parent. “How are our rights protected?” she said. “I know of people who care for elderly parents and do not get the same consideration for time off at holidays. A mother is as important as anyone’s child.”
The Sun Times spoke to Bella DePaulo, a Harvard-trained social scientist, fellow at the Chicago-based Council on Contemporary Families and author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. "Several national surveys now show that single people are more likely than married people to be the ones who are reaching out and helping and supporting friends, siblings, neighbors and parents," she said.
Singles often don't qualify for time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which covers caretaking of spouses, parents and children, according to Tom Coleman, executive director of Unmarried America. “Why should equal rights depend upon your marital status? It's discriminatory," he said. "Siblings don't qualify, yet someone in their fourth marriage whose spouse is ill can take time off."
I like being a single and deserve the same rights any couple has. Studies show that people's happiness levels do not significantly boost when they marry. “Fifty percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce,” according to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri. If being two were so great, how come so many people become a one? If so many of us are single, then I guess one is not the loneliest number you could ever know.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

TRAFFIC SIGNS TAKE AN EXIT IN GERMAN TOWN

TRAFFIC SIGNS TAKE AN EXIT IN GERMAN TOWN I am a “car person.” I would drive everywhere if it were easy to park. My feeling is that the internal combustion engine would not have been invented if we were meant to walk. I am a careful, cautious driver and obey all the rules of the road. I come to a complete standstill at every stop sign and am irate when I see drivers who do a “rolling stop.” Blog follower Deb told me that some city in Europe had gotten rid of all traffic signs and lights. I told her she was insane because that was not possible. She sent me some research she did on the Internet to prove her point and it turns out she is correct. In the German town of Bohmte they have removed all traffic lights and road signs on the theory that the 13,000 daily drivers who traverse the streets would take extra care and show greater thoughtfulness if they were not forced to by the law. There are only two rules of the road now and they are that a car cannot drive faster than 30 m.p.h. and drivers have to yield to the right, regardless of whether it is another car, a pedestrian, a bike or a horse-drawn cart. Town officials reported there have been no bumps, hits, or pedestrian injuries since the plan started in July. Previously, there was at least one serious crash every week and scores of “fender-benders.” According to InfoShop news, because “Bohmte's main street is a state highway, the town cannot forbid truck traffic. Mayor Klaus Goedejohann knew that the heavy traffic spoiled the town's atmosphere, but that it also provided the town's livelihood. "How do we manage to meet the interest of all the traffic participants without excluding anybody?" he recalls thinking.Then Mr. Goedejohann heard of a radical traffic-management philosophy called "shared space." Pioneered by a Dutch engineer who thought towns were safer with fewer rules, it envisioned open surfaces on which motorists and pedestrians could "negotiate" with one another by eye contact, other signals, and a greater consideration for one another. “ "What's revolutionary about Bohmte is that it took off its signs on a state highway with a lot of traffic," says Heiner Monheim, a traffic management expert at the University of Trier, speaking at a European conference on sign-free towns convened. Beyond that, Monheim says, the model's real legacy is to have brought people closer to rediscovering and appreciating cities not only as traffic places but also as human, social places." One unexpected bonus of the program is that the town is saving about $7500/month replacing and repairing signs damaged through normal wear and tear or by vandals. Imagine if Chicago got rid of all the traffic signs and became a city where practicing civility, consideration and thoughtfulness were the only laws one had to obey? It would never work because there would be an Aldermanic uproar on what company would get the no-bid contract for the classes on manners we would all have to take!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

HIRE POLITICALLY, FIRE POLITICALLY!

HIRE POLITICALLY, FIRE POLITICALLY! One would not expect to read about my supporting Cook County Board President Todd Stroger in regard to his recent firing of Byron Steele First Deputy Director of Cook County’s Department of Facilities Management, but you never know what you are going to hear from me! The background for those who have not followed the story is this. The Shakman decrees are an agreement prohibiting politically motivated firings, demotions, transfers, or other punishment of government employees. There are certain exemptions for employees who are in policy making positions. Exempt employees are hired or fired at the will of the Mayor, Cook County Board President etc. They have no union protections at all. Byron Steel is a Cook County employee who is Shakman exempt. That means his hiring was politically motivated and his firing can be politically motivated. There is no guaranteed job security for a Shakman exempt employee. They live by the sword and die by the sword. Byron Steele is the son of former Interim Cook County Board President Bobbie Steele and brother of Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele; so we are speaking about someone here who has juice. Does one think that when Byron was hired 12 years ago at Cook County it was because of his unbelievable skill sets or because who his Mother is?
Byron’s brother, Robert, recently voted twice against County Board President Todd Stroger’s veto of a sales tax repeal. Stroger was angry. When Byron was fired he said his boss, James D’Amico told him “‘This is a decision from the president, it comes from on high.” Fyi, James D’Amico is the brother of state Rep. John D'Amico (D-Chicago) and nephew of Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th). D’Amico is a Shakman exempt employee also.
Robert and Bobbie Steel are upset at the firing of their relative. The Sun Times reported that Robert said “Politics are being played...It’s a terrible thing. This will hurt Todd Stroger’s ability to get elected.” Of course, politics are being played. Why pretend there is any other motivation for Byron’s firing? The Steeles are just distressed because this time they are standing on the wrong side of the street when it comes to where the power is.
The upcoming primary for the Democratic candidate for Cook County Board president will be an interesting one. Stroger has an approval rating of 10%. Cook County citizens must select the person who they feel is best for the job, not who has the most clout. (I personally am supporting Alderman Toni Preckwinkle) Blog follower Deb (whose birthday is today) told me, “Democracy is based on active voter involvement.” I adjoin that with the thought that one cannot act indigent if they have not pulled the lever. The Steeles and Strogers used clout to get their jobs; but now they’ll lose their jobs because their juice has no pulp anymore.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

BREAKING THE CODE OF SILENCE

BREAKING THE CODE OF SILENCE Monday was a rare day because I was with Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and had a meeting with the Chicago Police department that was also attended by an FBI agent. A day filled with law enforcement personnel—it is good I have not done anything illegal or it could have been scary! At my police meeting, one of the topics was an upcoming city-wide conference on how to “break the code of silence.” The FBI agent was at the meeting because she is a community liaison between the FBI and CPD and this issue is important to the FBI. The “code of silence” refers to citizens who are reluctant to report to law enforcement officials illegal activities going on in their communities. They are reticent because they are afraid of being labeled, “snitches.” I wrote in my blog of June 21st (DON’T TELL, DON’T ASK" SHOULD BE "DO TELL, DO ASK") the line, “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.” I spoke at the meeting and said that it was important to start educating children at a young age that it is acceptable and honorable to report any illegal activities that they see. They need to be reassured that it is admirable and commendable to aid the police. In 1944 a campaign was created by the Ad Council for the United States Forest Service with Smokey the Bear who told us, “Only you can prevent forest fires.” In a recent study, 95% of those surveyed could finish the sentence when given the first words. I suggested that we needed a campaign along those lines for kids to teach them how they can help prevent gang activity by reporting it. ( Any creative types should e-mail me their ideas for a campaign and I would be glad to pass them along.) The conversations we were having about the failure of people to report illegal activities were timely in light of Chris Kelly’s recent death. Kelly clearly participated in illegal activities, (he was to start serving prison time this Friday), and there must have been plenty of people who observed those activities. Did any come forward to report what they saw during the Blago years? No. Have any come forward now? That question can only be answered once Blago’s trial starts. Remember only YOU can prevent the continuing culture of corruption we observe in the city and state by speaking out and reporting illegal activities. One can not sit back complacently and complain about the forest fire if they did nothing to stop it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

CHICKEN OR EGG? OBESITY OR INJURY?

CHICKEN OR EGG? OBESITY OR INJURY? I have written in previous blogs about how obese people are an unprotected class when it comes to discrimination. Even though corpulent people are treated as second class citizens, they have no redress as other groups do. Now, in a ruling that will cause employers to think twice before hiring an obese person, an Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled that employer must pay for lap-band surgery for an overweight employee who was injured on the job in an accident unrelated to his weight. Adam Childers, a cook at a Boston's The Gourmet Pizza in Schererville, Indiana, was injured when he was accidentally struck in his back by a freezer door. Because Childers weighs 380 pounds ( at the time of the incident he weighed 340 pounds), doctors cannot safely perform back surgery to alleviate his pain because of his extreme weight. Lawyers for Boston’s argued they were not obligated to pay for a weight-loss operation that could cost $20,000 to $25,000, because Childers already was obese before he was hurt. The Associated Press reported that, “The Workmen’s Compensation Board and the court, however, said the surgery — and disability payments while Childers was unable to work — were covered because his weight and the accident had combined to create a single injury. They said Boston's didn't present any evidence that his weight had been a medical problem before the accident.” "This kind of situation will happen again ... and employers are undoubtedly worried about that," said Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute in Princeton, N.J., an offshoot of the American Civil Liberties Union. "I think employers are going to be really upset about this," said Maltby, whose group generally advocates for workers. Part of the reaction stems from people's attitude to obesity, he said. "Because we all think it's his own fault for being so fat, and it's such an expensive procedure, a lot of people would say it isn't fair to the employer." When an employer hires a person they hire them as they are at that moment in time. The Indiana court ruling could make employers reluctant to hire someone who is overweight because it might expose them to workplace injury payments in the future. I think this ruling hurts obese people because it places an unfair burden on the employer. I think the the Indiana Appeals thought their ruling protected fat people, but in essence it harms them. An employer will be forced to discriminate and NOT hire an overweight person because of fear of potential lawsuits. In this case, the Court put the cart before the Clydesdale. ( Note to readers-the last line of this blog is very esoteric and understandable by only an enlightened inner circle who have read previous blogs. Hint-check out the September 1st bog- The Little Engine That Could.)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Stupid is as Stupid Does

Stupid is as Stupid Does In the movie "Forrest Gump", when people asked Gump "Are you stupid or something?" he always replied, “Stupid is as stupid does.” According to Google Answers, “Forrest Gump's "Stupid is as stupid does" is a variant of an old adage, "Handsome is as handsome does." This saying appears in J.R.R.Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" and in Herman Melville's "Billy Budd," and can be traced as far back as the 14th Century.
"Handsome is as handsome does" basically means that true handsomeness has to do with a person's behavior, not just a handsome face. The saying is also phrased in the forms "Pretty is as pretty does" and "Beauty is as beauty does."
Forrest's version of the saying means that stupidity is not just asurface thing derived from a person's appearance. Stupidity is amatter of deeds, not looks. Like the other versions, it comes down tothis: judge people by what they do, not by how they appear.”
Someone who is stupid by both by what she did and how she appeared is Laveta Mitchell. Mitchell was the first person waiting in line to see the taping of the Oprah Winfrey Show on Michigan Avenue this week. She arrived on Monday at 11:30 p.m. for the show’s taping on Tuesday—more than 17 hours later. In the picture above, she is located to the right of each television set wearing a white shirt, white hat and dark jacket.
Because the crowd of 1000’s of fans surged past her when the gates were opened, Mitchell, 54, who has a kidney ailment, ended up in the third section back, about a half-block from the stage, behind a woman who was more than 6 feet tall and blocked her view.
"I read the Web site. I thought it would be first come, first served," said Mitchell. It was indeed first come, first served, said Angela DePaul, a spokeswoman for Winfrey's Harpo Studios, but there was "no guarantee of front row."
So while Mitchell still thinks of Oprah as her “she-ro,” she feels betrayed and wants “something” from Oprah or show guest magician Criss Angel. I think a box of chocolates would do just fine.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

AND THE ACADEMY AWARD GOES TO During the airing of the television show, I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here,” contestant Stephen Baldwin was the only competitor who did not buy Patti Blagojevich’s act. “The perfect little gleaming little shimmer on perfect Peppermint Patti?" he confided to the camera. "Starting to dull a little." Stephen went so far as to suggest she's not "authentic," saying, "She's got a plan, she's plotting, she's doing what she thinks she needs to do for herself that's in her best interest."
On another episode of the same show, in reaction to whether she might be indicted by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, she replied, “It’s like, yeah, well go ahead and do it then. You gonna take, you know, make our kids orphans?” Since the death penalty is not an option as a sentence for either her or her husband if they are convicted, how will her children become orphans?
We all act in our own best interests, so it is no surprise that the current “Peppermint Patti” media tour is designed to create sympathy and taint a potential jury pool in case she does gets indicted in the future. Patti Blagojevich says the U.S. attorney's office has not contacted her about the investigation. Still, there are signs that she remains on the authorities' radar; sources have told the Tribune the grand jury spent significant time looking at land deals involving the former first lady.
The Chicago Tribune conducted four hours of interviews with Patti and chronicled them in a story on Thursday (www.chicagotribune.com) The headline of the story was,” Patti Blagojevich Opens Up,” fooling the readers into thinking that they would get some juicy “Enquirer-style” information. With a sub-head of “Former First Lady ends silence on her Dad, Alderman Mell,” we then realize the story might not be as exciting as we hoped!
Patti does not “open up” in the story and it is basically a wet, sloppy kiss narrative of the trials and tribulations of her life after indictment. The Tribune reports that,”Focusing on the kids is a welcome distraction from nagging fears that federal prosecutors could indict her in an effort to pressure her husband into pleading guilty, she says. "You try to protect your children as much as possible," she says. "The most important thing for them is to keep their routine the same. Everybody goes to school. Everybody practices the piano. Everybody does their homework."
In the Tribune story, she “visibly steels herself;” she speaks, “slowly and quietly;” she is described as “rail thin;” all descriptives to cause us to feel sympathy. I almost feel that the Tribune made a pact with the devil to get the interview if they promised to present Patti in a compassionate light.
The story concludes with a Patti quote of, "This is a storm we have braved together," as she watches her husband receive accolades from New Yorkers in Times Square as they walk down the street after another TV appearance. I am salivating with anticipation to listen to her acceptance speech at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for Best Supporting Actress in a drama. She would play herself in the movie because there is no actress as good as she is herself!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

“Shall” vs. “May” and “Unlikely” vs. “Absolutely”

“Shall” vs. “May” and “Unlikely” vs. “Absolutely”
One of the big debates in the wording of the contract for the Olympics’ host city agreement is the sticking point of the words” shall” vs. “may.” The proposal presented by Mara Georges, the city’s top lawyer, reads that “the City Council "may" direct the inspector general to review quarterly reports from the Games' organizing committee.” Ald. Manny Flores (1st) wanted the agreement to have the word "shall," which would make it an inspector general review a requirement, not an option.
It is ironic that as Chicago support for the Olympics has fallen -- a Tribune/WGN poll shows that only 47% of city residents think the city should host the Games-- the City Council Finance Committee approved an ordinance that would authorize Mayor Richard Daley to sign the Olympics host city agreement. This contract would mean that Chicago taxpayers would be responsible for paying any major cost overruns for the 2016 Games.
The city and state have already agreed to cover up to $750 million in cost overruns and Olympic organizers say insurance policies would protect the public, making it “unlikely” they would even dip into the $750 million pool. “Unlikely” is not a word that guarantees to me as a taxpayer that I won’t be on the hook for the overruns! I prefer the word “absolutely.” In my blog on June 25th, I reported 2016 Chairman Patrick Ryan as announcing “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.” It is more than 60 days since June 25th (it is 75 days) and we have still not been informed of the details of the insurance policy to cover cost overruns. How can an Alderman vote for a contract where all the details have not been made public?
The full City Council is voting today on whether to approve the Olympic city host contract and my guess is that they “shall” approve it. I wish that my prediction were “unlikely,” and that I “may” be wrong,” but the Mayor will win this battle—“absolutely.” And in 2016 we "absolutely" will see our taxpayer dollars go up in smoke.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

UNEQUAL EDUCATION

UNEQUAL EDUCATION George Washington High School (3223 W. Franklin) opened its doors for the first day of school today. GWHS cost $106.5 million to build and is the first Chicago High School to cost more than $100 million. The facility has a six-lane swimming pool, a dance studio, a wrestling room, a TV/broadcasting studio, a business academy and a medical academy. Another new school is Mark T. Skinner West Elementary (1260 W. Adams) that was constructed at a cost of $41.6 million. Skinner has computer labs, science labs, music rooms, art rooms and even an “outdoor classroom.” Other new schools opening this season are equally as luxurious. I am thrilled for the students who will have the opportunity to attend classes in such well-appointed facilities. Chicago also has schools like Doolittle Elementary (535 E. 35th Street). I have been doing volunteer work at Doolittle for about 12 years as part of the Principal for a Day Program. Doolittle does not have any special amenities. Doolittle did not even have a playground 10 years ago until I used “Chicago Clout” with the Public Building Commission to get one installed. Doolittle first got computers years ago when Hilton Hotels was generous to donate old equipment. Currently, the Illinois Institute of Technology has volunteered to help Doolittle keep their computers up to standard. A group of Doolittle students were able to participate in guitar lessons this year due to the generosity of VanderCook College of Music and the kindness of college President Charlie Menghini and music professor Dr. Julie Goldberg. Doolittle students were able to learn about dance through a program funded by friends of mine and implemented by Pam Avery of Studio One through the auspices of Cornell Barnett and U Two Mentorship. When it came time for the students to hold a year end recital, friends of mine painted the auditorium so the children could perform in a beautiful environment. The list of how my friends have been munificent for years in assisting Doolittle and its students would be pages long if I listed everything we have provided to the school. But this blog is not about what we have done for Doolittle, but to let people know what the Chicago Public School system has NOT done for Doolittle. How can we accept that we live in a city where educational opportunities are so vastly different for children who live just a few miles apart? We are not “separate but equal” in Chicago, but “separate and unequal.”

Monday, September 7, 2009

PRIVATE SNOW PLOWING TRUCKS?


PRIVATE SNOW PLOWING TRUCKS?






Nothing is certain in Chicago but death, taxes and snow. Last year in a fit of budget pique, the Mayor announced the city was cutting back on the snow plowing of side streets. It was almost as if the ukase were pronounced as a punishment to Aldermen who would have to bear the brunt of their constituent’s complaints while the Mayor’s guffaws could be heard chortling through City Hall.

The Daley administration has set forth a proposal to hire private companies to plow side streets this winter as a way to save money. Two options are being explored; one contract would pay a set monthly price for December through March and also half of November and April and the other option would have the city pay an hourly rate when services are needed.

The Chicago Tribune reported that “several aldermen said they were caught off guard when Daley officials told them of the proposals last week, and they want to have more input into potential changes in such a key city duty.”Nothing is more integral to city services than police and fire and city snow removal," Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said. "I think we have to approach this with a degree of trepidation."

I don’t like either option. Option one is the monthly rate plan. How can one decide in September how much snow is going to fall in the upcoming winter and be able to determine what the rate plan should be? One could use past and future weather charts to try to determine an expectation of how much snow will fall, but a “guestimate” is not how the city should decide pricing on anything.

Option two is the hourly rate. Under the hourly rate the snow plow driver would have no incentive to clear the street quickly. The longer it takes them to plow, the more money they will make. The hourly rate is just an inducement to plow slowly.

Not being just a naysayer; I have two options of my own to propose. One would be for the city to determine a flat rate per side-street. The snow plowing companies could bid on how many and what streets they want to plow. When snowfall reaches a certain level, the company would send their trucks out.

My second idea, whimsical though it might be, would to equip the Laz parking meter enforcement aides with riding snow blowers. It is a work-force that currently exists. The aides have to be on the streets checking if cars have valid parking receipts, so they are already in the field. I researched on-line and the riding snow-blowers have a speed of 6-8 mph—about the velocity one travels in a car in the city during inclement weather. Give the aides a few more bucks an hour and they could do the job.

So why hire trucks when just a blow job will do.












Friday, September 4, 2009

HOW TO BALANCE THE ILLINOIS BUDGET

HOW TO BALANCE THE ILLINOIS BUDGET Illinois State Representative Jack Franks (D-Marengo) has a simple message for Rod Blagojevich, “Don’t spend it all at once,” as he warns the former-governor that if he is convicted he will have to surrender all the profits from his book. Franks, a legislative leader during the impeachment of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, passed a law this year that will prevent Blagojevich from profiting on his memoir, “The Governor,” if he is convicted of the abuses of power on which he was indicted. Franks filed House Bill 4078 before Blagojevich inked the six-figure book deal in anticipation that Blagojevich would continue his habit of trying to turn a profit by feeding off the citizens of Illinois. House Bill 4078 was signed into law August 18, 2009. The new law will require Blagojevich, if convicted, to forfeit all profits gained from his participation in any activities based on his notoriety. That will include profits from “The Governor,” any paid radio and television appearances, his Web site and more. “The people of Illinois have paid dearly for the mistakes of Rod Blagojevich,” Franks said. “He should not be paid in return for sharing his story with the world. During his impeachment trial, he did a media tour to boost his publicity, as if it would somehow sway the legislature’s view of him as an executive. All it showed was his determination to continue to tarnish Illinois’ reputation and ensure that his name is forever associated with the mess our state is currently experiencing.” “Obviously, the law was inspired by Blagojevich, however, it goes much farther than him,” Franks continued. “All corrupt Illinois politicians need to know they are going to be held accountable for their actions. It’s no secret that Illinois is viewed as one of the most corrupt states in the nation, and citizens often refer to the engrained corruption in Illinois politics as a fact of life. This law is a step in changing that perception. It stands up to corruption in Illinois government and shows that lawmakers are serious about putting an end to it.” Franks was the first Democrat to speak out against Blagojevich, as well as the first legislator to call for an audit of a sitting governor in the history of Illinois. As Chair of the House State Government Administration Committee, Franks chaired the initial hearings that revealed Blagojevich’s abuses of power and led to the federal investigation that brought about the current charges against Blagojevich. He was a member of the House Special Investigative Committee during the Blagojevich impeachment proceedings and recalls voting to impeach Blagojevich as his proudest moment as a legislator. So, as citizens of Illinois, who are worried about our state’s finances, we need to wish for two things; (1) Blago is convicted and (2) his book is a New York Times best–seller. If those two things occur, it could mean millions of dollars for the general revenue fund of Illinois as Blago would be forced to surrender his profits. Now that is a novel way to balance a budget!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

DON’T BRING BYOBO (Bring your own body odor)

DON’T BRING BYOBO (Bring your own body odor) The Honolulu City Council will be considering a bill (#59-09) today that will make it illegal to "bring onto transit property odors that unreasonably disturb others or interfere with their use of the transit system, whether such odors arise from one's person, clothes, articles, accompanying animal or any other source." Councilman Rod Tam, a co-sponsor of the bill, explained why it is needed, "As we become more inundated with people from all over the world, their way of taking care of their health is different. Some people, quite frankly, do not take a bath every day and therefore they may be offensive in terms of their odor."
The Council Transportation Chairman Gary Okino said, “There's the whole issue about at what point does it become illegal." He also noted that city attorneys are researching the matter. "How smelly does a person have to be? Just to base things on smell, I just don't feel good about that."
Because I am a heavy smoker, I cannot smell anything. One could probably bring a skunk into my home and I would not even notice. Other people with “delicate noses,” can smell the pollen on a bee 10 miles away.
According to the American Institute of physics, “a smell is the sensory response to the complex mixtures of chemicals in the air around us, called odorants. We are able to sense these chemicals because they bind to protein receptors that line the cells in our nose. Each kind of receptor can only detect specific chemical compositions, producing the sensation of different smells. These receptor proteins are produced from about 1,000 different genes: almost 3 percent of our total gene count.”
Other prohibitions in the bill include no spitting, urinating or being intoxicated. Honolulu wants to prohibit people who smell, spit, urinate and are drunk? That sounds just like a Cubs Convention to me! I guess the Bleacher Bum better not go to Hawaii!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

OPRAH SHUTS DOWN MICHIGAN AVENUE

OPRAH SHUTS DOWN MICHIGAN AVENUE The Magnificent Mile will not be so magnificent when a section of Michigan Avenue (from Ohio to Wacker Drive) will be shut down to vehicular traffic starting Sunday night just past midnight and will not re-open until Wednesday at 5:00.a.m. so Oprah can shoot an episode of one of her shows Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. from an “outdoor studio” on Ohio Street. When asked by reporters about the inconvenience to downtown motorists, Daley said it's worth it. "I think they'll understand how important this is dealing with jobs, dealing with international exposure...this is a great opportunity," Daley said.
If jobs are so important to Mayor Daley, why didn’t he lobby Springfield to meet the tax credits Connecticut was offering to the Jerry Springer and Steve Wilkos shows? Hundreds of jobs were lost in Chicago when the shows moved to Stamford taking the cast, crews, producers, etc. Millions of dollars in revenue was lost by hotels, airlines, restaurants, limo services, etc when guests stopped coming to town for tapings. Who can even estimate the tax revenue lost to the city by the Springer and Wilkos shows leaving Chicago? But Jerry and Steve are not her highness Oprah.
Daley said Harpo Studios will reimburse the city for the costs of the show. Will Oprah compensate stores along the closed stretch for the economic opportunity lost from shoppers avoiding the area on Labor Day? Will Oprah pay for my blood pressure medicine for two days as I am greatly unconvinced and aggravated by what she is doing to interfere with the quality of my life? Will she reimburse all the unsuspecting, naive tourists who will find their purses and wallets have been pick -pocketed in the jostling crowds? I don’t think so! When Apple announces that they will be offering a new product for sale, the computer geeks start lining up the day before in front of the store at the SE corner of Michigan and Huron and spend the night. That one little corner becomes a nightmare—imagine the horrendous crowds for blocks for a chance of an Oprah ticket or sighting? The city announced that overnight camping will not be allowed, but I guarantee you, there will be sleeping bags littering Boul Mich on Sunday and Monday nights in anticipation of the Tuesday taping! The city also reports that pedestrian access will remain open at all times. Another myth to those of us who been blocked entrĂ©e to the sidewalks when street performers like the Tin Man and balloon guy are practicing their craft and perambulators bring traffic to a halt as they stop to watch. “This is a great thing we are doing,” Daley said to the Sun Times. “Wish we could do it every day. How much publicity we’ll receive throughout the world.” Chicago is in the international news almost every day already with stories of corruption and clout. But I guess clout is acceptable when it is used to benefit Oprah.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD

THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD The Chicago Triathlon was held last Sunday and the most important participant, for me, was Katie Konwinski. Katie is not someone who normally participates in athletic events. Like me, she is usually an observer of sporting events, and not someone who puts on a wet suit. The fact that she trained for more than four months so she would be able to acquit herself with dignity and respect is worthy of honor. Katie participated in the Individual International portion of the race, which is an Olympic distance triathlon. She did not take off until the 49th wave and finished the competition in 4:37:21. It does not matter that Katie was not first; or that she finished 1268 out of 1292. It mattered that she crossed the finish line. So, hands down, Katie was a winner. A perfect example of the little engine that could. Katie’s sister Laura had e-mailed me the final Triathlon numbers and suggested I write a blog about the race. Since I usually write about controversial subjects, I was not sure how I would be able to share the news of Katie’s victory without having a mushy blog. Then I went to the web site of the Triathlon and read something that made me mad. The Triathlon has many, many divisions all with different names designated to break participants up into their proper category. There is a division called “The Clydesdales Competition.” This competition is open to female tri athletes who weigh 150 pounds and more, and male tri athletes weighing 200 pounds and more. This is the only division named after an animal. An animal that is defined in the dictionary as a “weighty beast.” I found this category name offensive. Now I was mad. There is nothing wrong with having a division based on a weight category, but why use the word “Clydesdale” as a pejorative? I find it dysphemistic. A more pleasant name could have been found for a category of athletics that carried some extra weight. The participants in this division even have to endure a public weigh in, at the Clydesdale check-in table, to prove that they are a “weighty beast” and have the right to compete in the category. While many might think I am being too sensitive about a “weighty beast” animal name being used for this division; the fact that no other division has an animal name supports my argument. We have terms for racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, etc. to describe when a particular category of people are being discriminated against. A word does not exist to describe when people with an over abundance of flesh experience prejudice. I guess the world will just call heavy people Clydesdales and maybe we won't realize we are being satirized. We will just be eating our brownies and miss the reference.