URBAN PHILOSOPHER
Conscience Laureate

Monday, November 30, 2009

WHERE ARE THE PARENTS? Ron Huberman, CEO Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has laid out a plan to try to stop the violence in schools. Melissa Harris gave a preview in her Sunday column in the Chicago Tribune of what Huberman reports he will be asking for from Chicago civic leaders.

"--Adopt one of the 38 schools Huberman says are operating "in chaos" because the students don't respect each other, and they don't respect the staff.--Give these kids jobs--Lobby to change Illinois law. Huberman says running the program would be easier if he had access to these kids' arrest records, which Illinois law forbids.

--Fund programs to keep them running. The $30 million in stimulus money that's paying for these kids to have full-time mentors (at a 4-1 ratio) runs out in 2012. He'll need donors to pay for the program to continue.--Build a statistical model to identify at-risk, elementary-age youth before they get arrested. --Managers and executive coaches need to volunteer.

--Finally, a leader -- perhaps another Patrick Ryan type -- needs to become Huberman's partner. “

Because Ron Huberman was born in Israel and his parents are Holocaust survivors, I will never write anything negative that personally attacks Huberman. That is a personal choice. I will, however, write negatively about what I think is missing from his plan to combat violence at CPS. Where are the responsibilities of parents on Huberman’s “wish list”? Everything that Huberman is looking at has to do with what OTHER PEOPLE should be executing and accomplishing. People who are not the blood relations of the students are being asked to bring about results that should start at home with good parenting. Why aren’t parenting classes on Huberman’s list? Why is it everybody else’s responsibility to step in when parents aren’t even being asked? As I wrote in my blog of July 21st (Pay for your own damned baby!),“Deciding to have a child is a personal decision and I do not understand why other people, companies or the government should bear the burden of the cost of the baby. Pay for your own damned baby or keep your legs crossed.” If you do not know how to raise a child, you should not have one! It is obvious from the violence problems among Chicago students that the children are not being raised correctly at home or they would know how to act like civilized human beings. Stop asking for outsiders to help when the insiders are doing nothing and are being asked for nothing.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF BEING A REGULAR PERSON

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF BEING A REGULAR PERSON I have often been accused of being an elitist snob. I think I have been burdened with an unfair characterization of my life and that depiction has come about solely because I do not take public transportation, wait on line, go food shopping or get my own gas. The exclusion of those activities from my life should not make me a snob; but rather should describe someone who is discriminating in the use of their time. I am uncomfortable being home when the housekeeper is there. It makes me feel lazy to watch someone perform menial tasks that I am physically capable of handling myself. I have the competence to clean my own residence; but certain duties like polishing the marble floors and cleaning the bathrooms are best left to a professional. When Souhey arrives, I always leave. (I am not even sure if Souhey is her name, but that is how I refer to her to myself. I never call her by name to her face.) On Black Friday, when Souhey showed up, I had no business appointments to attend to, so I had scheduled doing some “regular people” tasks. My car needed gas and an emissions test and I required a new glass shelf for one of my bathrooms. Seemingly very easy assignments that anyone could accomplish. Raoul my handyman had offered to buy the shelf, but I said I would take care of it myself. How hard could it be to buy a glass shelf? Being a geographically challenged person who can make no sense from even mapquest.com, I asked my doorman Ernie Banks how to get to Webster Avenue where the Illinois Emissions Testing facility was located. Ernie’s first response was to laugh and offer to take my car to get it tested as he had done in the past. I assured him that while I was grateful for his offer, I wanted to do this on my own. Ernie easily explained how to get to 1850 W. Webster from my location on Michigan Avenue. Very simple, I thought. On the way to the facility, I saw a gas station. Because I drive my car so infrequently I generally only need gas about once a month. I usually “trick” my imaginary big brother David into filling the tank for me, but since I thought David was out of town for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I was going to do it myself. I pulled into the gas station, turned the car off and then could not figure out how to open the gas tank. I called Jaguar service and they told me where the lever was. How simple! I swiped my credit card and the monitor popped up with the words,”Debit? Y/N? I kept pressing the NO button and nothing happened. I went into the station and paid the cashier directly. When I got back to my car, there was a “helpful,” but scary looking man standing next to the pump holding the nozzle who said he would fill my tank. I felt I had no choice but to let him to do the job and I tipped him $5.00. A snob would not have done that! A gold star for me! I drove off and kept driving and driving and could not find the street Elston that I was supposed to turn left on. I called Ernie Banks the doorman who reminded me that I was supposed to turn on Webster, not Elston, that is why I was lost. I turned around, drive a while longer and meandered through a lovely neighborhood with people walking dogs and I even passed Oz Park ; a location that I had heard of and had never been to before. It was like an out of state adventure! I finally located Webster turned west and arrived at the testing facility The electronic sign in front indicated only a five minute wait. How wonderful! I pulled up to the closed garage doors and waited for one of them to open. Nothing was happening. I called the phone number on the test papers and got a recorded voice asking me which facility I was inquiring about. I said, “Webster.” The voice replied, “Napperville,” and proceeded to tell me that there was only a five minute wait at the Napperville facility. How lovely for people in Napperville. I called again, and said, “Webster,” the voice replied,” East St. Louis,” which also only had a five minute wait. Frustrated I looked at the papers hoping to find a different phone number to call and noticed that testing facilities were closed on state holidays. Who knew the Friday after Thanksgiving was a state holiday? Why didn’t the recording tell me that instead of “five minute wait?” (On Monday I will call the Secretary of State’s office to complain about the stupid recording! You can bet on that!) I still needed to buy the glass shelf for the bathroom, so I called Ernie Banks once again and asked directions to get to Home Depot. I had never been to a Home Depot but I get their pamphlets all the time and they are supposed to sell everything one needs for the home. It seemed like a logical place to go. Well, Home Depot does not sell glass shelves for bathrooms. By the size of the store they sell everything else one would need for the home, but not glass shelves. Incredible! I called my imaginary big brother David to complain that he was out of town and that I was forced to get gas and shop by myself and it turns out he had not gone out of town so we are having dinner tonight. David directed me to an Ace Hardware store to locate a glass shelf. I doubt if it is necessary for me to tell that they did not have the shelf and suggested I go to Home Depot. So I am now home two hours later and did not get the emissions test or buy a glass shelf. Ernie will take the car next week for me to get the test and I will order the shelf on the Internet. Okay, I admit it, I am an elitist snob. No more “simple” tasks for me, they are just too hard!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

“I love mankind, it's people I can't stand”

“I love mankind, it's people I can't stand” On September 11th, I wrote a blog, “Stupid is, as Stupid Does” about Laveta Mitchell. Mitchell was the first person waiting in line to see the taping of the Oprah Winfrey Show on Michigan Avenue. She arrived on a Monday at 11:30 p.m. for the show’s taping on Tuesday—more than 17 hours later. Of course, because the crowd of 1000’s of fans surged past her when the gates were opened, Mitchell 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. Mitchell is probably related to cousins Karen Wilson and Vernita Calbert who have proudly sat in the No. 1 or No. 2 lawn chairs outside the 5 a.m. Black Friday opening of Toys R Us or Target for seven years. According to the Sun Times, “ They head out at midnight or 1 a.m. with necessities in tow: sales coupons, copies of their favorite stores' e-mailed sneak-preview alerts, a store map, lawn chairs, picnic basket and a plan to quickly grab the best door-buster deals.”
The Sun Times continues with, “Calbert, of Chicago's South Side, will drive to Wilson's home in Country Club Hills to start their Black Friday adventure. They'll go to Wal-Mart in Country Club Hills, aiming for door buster specials on laptop computers and flat-screen TVs. While Wal-Mart is open overnight, it is advertising specials on HDTVs, netbooks and Blu-ray Disc players that start at 5 a.m. Friday. After they finish their trips to Toys R Us and Target, they'll rush to Menards for deals on stereo sets or household items.”
I would really like to be on Calbert’s and Wilson’s Christmas gift list if they are planning on buying laptop computers, flat-screen TVs, HDTVs and netbooks. Are the cousins so wealthy that they can afford to give out such luxurious presents? If they were that rich, they would not bother waiting in line to save a few bucks. I have a feeling that if we checked their shopping bags after their excursions to the discount stores we would find acrylic mittens and hats, not expensive electronics. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers., nearly 18 percent of the day-after-Thanksgiving shoppers plan to arrive between midnight and 4 a.m., and 36.2 percent intend to arrive between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. The National Retail Federation estimates that 134 million people nationwide will shop the weekend after Thanksgiving.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the total population of the United Sates is 304,059,724. If we subtract children from that figure we arrive at 253.7 million. Let’s also subtract the 10% who are unemployed and we now have 228.33 million people. I am now taking away the population of those older than 65 because they are not that stupid to be at a store at 5 a.m. and that reduces the figure by another 35.9 million, leaving us 192.43 million. If Christmas shopping is for Christians, then let us extrapolate 5 million Jews, 5 million Muslims, 1 million Hindus, and the 13% of adults who say they have no religion (33 million) and we are left with 148.43 million people who have a reason for shopping on Black Friday. Since I doubt that the prison population can shop (wardens don’t let them out for that reason), let’s lose another 8 million and be left with 140.43 million. My last subtraction is the 28 million people who are at or below the poverty level and my final figure is 120.43 million people. So how can The Retail Federation estimate that 134 million people will be shopping this weekend? It makes no sense! I realize that my numbers are duplicative because I have counted a 65 year old poverty stricken Hindu prisoner in more than one category, but I think you get my drift. Numbers can be made to appear however the mathematician wants them to come out.
By the same respect, the Black Friday prices are manipulated. Maybe a store has five flat-screen televisions at a special price but they will all be snatched up by relatives of the store’s sales force. “Real people” do not receive these bargains anymore than Laveta Mitchell received a seat in the front row at the Oprah taping on Michigan Avenue.
So as Charlie Brown from the Peanuts cartoon so wisely said, “I love mankind, it's people I can't stand.” My addition to the quote is, “the people I can’t stand are those so stupid to wait in line.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I LOVE TO COMPLAIN!!

I LOVE TO COMPLAIN!! As my friends Linda Shafran and Teresa Krazsinski are often wont to comment, “Kathy is not happy unless there is a crisis or she is complaining.” So imagine my shock and disdain upon reading that the city of Galesburg, Illinois has designated today, (Wednesday, November 25th) as "No Complaint Day." Well, I must complain about the stupidity of the Galesburg City Council for wasting precious government time on passing such a stupid ordinance.
The Associated Press story says, “Mayor Sal Garza says a resident brought the idea to him. He says she was tired of the negativity about the economy, unemployment and other issues. Garza says a positive attitude could help the city foster future economic development. He says businesses aren't interested in visiting a "cesspool of negativity." He says they're interested in locating in communities that are positive about the future. But Garza says the day is mainly designed to help residents reflect on the good things in their lives, such as friends and family. That's partially why it falls on the day before Thanksgiving.”

One can “reflect on the good things in their lives,” and yet still be able to complain about the bad things. The two have nothing to do with each other. According to the web site http://www.complaintfreeworld.org/, the average person complains 15-30 times a day. I don’t agree with that because, even I, a world class complainer, does not complain that much! A Compliant free World, Inc. is a non-profit, non-religious 501c3 organization which provides Complaint Free purple bracelets and other materials to help people affect positive change in their lives by becoming complaint free. Why would someone want to become complaint free? It is fun to complain! According to Will Bowen, Lead Minister of the One Community Spiritual Center in Kansas City, MO., and the founder of this organization, “people should wear purple plastic bracelets to monitor their success at eradicating complaining from their lives.” According to Bowen nearly 6 million purple Complaint Free bracelets have been sent to people in more than 106 countries. The purpose of the purple bracelet is to remind people not to complain. Scientists believe it takes 21 days to form a new habit and complaining is habitual for most of us. Wearing the bracelet is a reminder to be positive. Here are Bowen’s suggested rules:

1. Begin to wear the bracelet, on either wrist

2. When you catch yourself complaining, gossiping or criticizing (it’s ok, everyone does) move the bracelet to the other arm and begin again.

3. If you hear someone else who is wearing a bracelet complain, you may point out their need to switch the bracelet to the other arm; BUT if you’re going to do this, you must move your bracelet first!

4. Stay with it. It may take many months but when you reach 21 days you will find that your entire life is happier, more loving and more enjoyable.

My life would not be more loving and enjoyable if I stopped complaining. My life would become tense, stressed, nervous, anxious and panicky if I could not express my frustration with things that were going wrong. If I could not complain and let sales people, limo drivers, waiters, and the whole world know what I am mad about, how would they know what they need to correct?

What do I want to complain about today? I want to rant that according to Indian-American designer Naeem Khan the "Indian, chic, simple but very glamorous" that he designed for Michelle Obama to wear at the President’s first State Dinner, took 40 people three weeks to create in India. That translates into more than 1,000 hours of sewing time. Even at child labor wages, the salaries for that much work would total thousand and thousands of dollars. If Nancy Regan had worn a dress that required the work of 40 seamstresses, the media would have been castigating her as exhibiting “Republican Over-Indulgence.” But a Democratic First Lady can wear whatever she wants and just be called, “beautiful.”

So as one stuffs their face with turkey and dressing on Thursday and says “Thanks” for being with family and friends, remember to tell the truth and whine when the gravy is lumpy! How else will the cook know if you don’t complain?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

CHICAGO BOARD OF EDUCATION EXPENSE ACCOUNTS
At Michael Scott’s first meeting as Board President on March 25th of this year, the expense accounts of the Board members were doubled from $12,000 a year to $24,000. Scott's allowance rose from $19,200 a year to $36,000. According to the Chicago Tribune, the allowable expenses include telephone charges, transportation to and from board events, purchase of newspapers and journals, and miscellaneous supplies. The Board members are not paid a salary, so while I have no problem with their expenses being reimbursed, I don’t understand how someone can spend $3,000/month on such trivial supplies unless one is buying Mont Blanc pens and engraved Tiffany stationery.
The Tribune reported last week that Scott used his board credit card to pay for a trip to Copenhagen to lobby for bringing the 2016 Summer Olympics to Chicago. Scott, who traveled with his wife, stayed at the 71 Nyhavn, a four-star hotel on the Copenhagen waterfront, from Sept. 29 until Oct. 3. The Tribune also reported that he charged more than $3,000 for airfare, hotel, meals and a bar tab to his board credit card.
Since $3,000 did not sound like a lot of money to me for a 4 day trip to Denmark, I decided to do some investigating. If one checked into the 71 Nyhavn hotel tomorrow, the cost per night for double occupancy would be 2880DKK -- or for those of us who prefer our currency in dollars, $564.84. Using the exact dates of Sept.29-October 3rd for 2010, the same room price is $897.18. That results in an average cost of $731.01/per night or almost $3,000 just for the hotel. We still have to account for two airfares, meals and a bar tab. So while the board was quoted as saying Michael Scott used his board credit card for “more than $3,000,” it is obvious that is must have been A LOT more than $3,000. How much more?
The Tribune requested records on board spending practices on November 2nd. The school board’s Inspector General James Sullivan began investigating board members' spending after the schools administration gave a copy of the Tribune's request for board spending records to him. How does that fit with the timing that school officials said Scott had begun paying back the money, writing a check on November 8th? Would Scott have written a check if the Tribune had not asked questions?
Clare Munana, the board’s interim president announced yesterday that they board is now hiring Walter Jones, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice to investigate separately how members use their taxpayer-financed expense accounts. Jones will be paid $295/hour for his work. His fees will be paid by us—the taxpayers. If the board does not trust its own Inspector General, then why do they have him on staff? The board expense accounts are for miscellaneous supplies required in one’s work on the board. Whether Michael Scott was paying back the charges or not is really not the question that should be answered. The questions should be how was it even possible for him to charge personal airfares, hotel and a bar tab on a school credit card? Why wouldn’t the charges be flagged as “unusual activity” and a call made to CPS, the issuer of the card? When someone stole my credit card number once, I received a call when they tried to charge $600 worth of shoes at a Payless Shoe store. VISA knew I would never be shopping there, so they questioned the charge. Who at CPS approved the “unusual activity?” Let’s see if Sullivan or Jones gives us answers to these questions.
Paying back CPS is not enough; justifying why the charges were allowed to be approved in the first place is the key.

Monday, November 23, 2009

“ALL OF US HAVE FAMILY MEMBERS ON THE PAYROLL” In March 2006, Jacqueline King was named Commissioner of Human resources for the City of Chicago; she replaced Glenn Carr. King left in 2008, after a scathing report by federal hiring monitor Noelle Brennan that accused the city of regressing in its efforts of fair hiring practices. Homero Tristan was named to replace her. On July 7th of this year, Tristan resigned after then inspector general David Hoffman accused him of lying during an investigation of hiring abuses. Tristan vehemently denied that he tried to cover himself by lying to investigators when asked why he had failed to report an alderman for attempting to clout a Health Department employee out of a job transfer that would have taken the employee far from home. To replace him, Managing Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Human Resources (DHR), Karina Ayala-Bermejo was appointed Acting Commissioner. This week a new permanent Commissioner will be named. So in a three year period, the City will have had five different HR Commissioners.
Recently Mayor Daley announced that illegal hiring patronage in Chicago is dead and that the city is in "substantial compliance" with the federal decree on hiring practices. He is going to ask the court to life the decree and dismiss the federal monitor.
Alderman Isaac Carothers (D-29) has a different on spin with his recent statement, "All of us have family members on the payroll. That's nothing new." So who do we believe? Mayor Daley or Alderman Carothers? Carothers assertion reminds me of statement by Cook County Board President Todd Stroger on April 20th when he said, “I am sure employees get arrested all the time.” (See blog April 21st) So Cook County hires felons and the City hires relatives. What chance does a law abiding citizen not related to anybody have of getting a job in this town?
Since Carothers is already facing federal bribery charges stemming from his arrest in May and was cooperating with the Feds by having worn a wire, I tend to believe him more than Mayor Daley. He has nothing to lose now by telling the truth. But he still won’t respond to the question whether the William Carothers on his aldermanic payroll is his father, his brother or some other relative.
A Chicago Tribune editorial on Monday, November 23rd, revealed “dozens of questionable employees -- relatives, campaign workers, friends and friends of friends -- who were being paid out of a $1.3 million fund designated for miscellaneous office duties. The guidelines are conveniently vague: The money can be used to hire people for "secretarial, clerical, stenographic, research or other functions related to the office of aldermen."
The Tribune also reported,” Ald. George Cardenas, 12th, pays his dad $13 an hour for 180 hours of work each month. Ald. Virginia Rugai, 19th, paid Democratic Committeeman Matthew J. O'Shea more than $43,000 over 18 months. Ald. John Pope, 10th, hired a former Streets and Sanitation worker ousted over a sexual harassment complaint who is on a list of ex-employees who aren't supposed to be rehired. Pope also hired the mother of Al Sanchez, the Streets and Sanitation commissioner convicted of rigging city hiring to favor campaign workers.”
So we have a Mayor whose head is so buried in the sand that he can stand in front of the media and declare that the city is patronage free and seems to truly believe what he says. He is like an ostrich that believes that it is hiding from whatever dangers are about him while the biggest part of his body is still sticking out in plain sight. With one’s head in the sand you can not hear or see what is happening around you, so in your mind it really isn't happening at all. I wish I could live a life in such a stupor of oblivion. Maybe I really was a former supermodel!

Friday, November 20, 2009

VARYING DEGREES OF HATE CRIMES When I started this blog, one of the reasons was for me to have a forum to articulate what I believed without fear of censorship. If I am the editor, publisher and author; then I control all content. Some readers might find the latter part of this posting insensitive—but it is my blog and my opinion. I will post every comment that any reader has and not edit a single word. The worst example of a hate crime in modern history is The Holocaust. While the phrase “The Holocaust” is generally used to describe the genocide of approximately six million European Jews during World War II, some historians feel that the definition of the Holocaust should also include the Nazis' systematic murder of millions of people in other groups, including Catholics, ethnic Poles, the Romani, Soviet civilians, Soviet prisoners of war, people with disabilities, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other political and religious opponents. By this definition, the total number of Holocaust victims would be between 11 million and 17 million people. The 1969 Federal Hate Crimes Law, 18U.S.C. 245(b) (2) permits federal prosecution of anyone who "willingly injures, intimidates or interferes with another person, or attempts to do so, by force because of the other person's race, color, religion or national origin More than 77,000 hate-crime incidents were reported by the FBI between 1998 and 2007, or "nearly one hate crime for every hour of every day over the span of a decade," Attorney General Eric Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee in June. That number, while certainly large, still does not approach the millions of people killed during The Holocaust. For two years, Alissa Rodriguez said her family was harassed and intimidated by their neighbor, Joseph Marrone. On September 2nd of this year, a Cook County jury awarded $520,000 in damages to the Rodriguez family. Marrone, who is white and lives three doors from the Rodriguez family, did not attend the one-day trial or hire a lawyer to defend himself, said attorney Jenny Goltz, who represented the Rodriguezes. The Rodriguezes realize they might never see a dime, but she said she and her husband want Marrone to know his behavior is unacceptable. Marrone shouted out ethnic slurs against the Rodriguez family and repeatedly threatened to sexually assault their children, ages 9 and 6, and their mother, according to the court complaint. At one point he placed a derogatory sign in his backyard. "He said he was going to put us out of our misery, [that] we didn't belong in that neighborhood," Alisa Rodriguez said. "He threatened to rape me. He threatened to rape my children. He told my husband to watch his back because he was going to hurt him." Marrone threatened them with a knife in June 2008 and they pressed charges. Marrone was found guilty of misdemeanor aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and sentenced to 2 years of probation, court records show.
The intimidation the Rodriguez family experienced was horrific and they were correct in filing civil charges. Marrone should be charged with committing a series of hate crimes, but now read the next story.
Below I have copied a story from the Thursday Chicagoland section of the Chicago Tribune so as not to allow any personal bias in the reporting of the incident. The headline of the story was “Hate crime charged in scarf pulling incident” and was accompanied by a large picture of the Moslem woman whose scarf was pulled and a small picture of the woman accused of pulling the scarf. The Tribune story was written by Kim Janssen and Joel Hood.

“A suburban Chicago woman has been charged with a hate crime for allegedly yanking the head scarf of a Muslim woman in Tinley Park two days after the shootings at Fort Hood Texas.

Valerie Kenney, 54, a bank teller from Tinley Park, appeared at the Bridgeview Courthouse on Wednesday and was released on $5,000 bail. If convicted of the felony, Kenney faces up to 3 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. She is due back in court Dec. 3.

"I think (a charge of hate crime) sends the appropriate message that these kinds of race-based lash-outs are unacceptable," said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamc Relations. "Every time something like (the Fort Hood shootings) happens, the Muslim community prepares for a backlash."

Amal Abusumayah, 28, told police she was shopping at a Tinley Park grocery store Nov. 7 when a middle-age woman passed her in the aisle and made a loud reference to the killings at Fort Hood.

"She said, 'The man that did that shooting in Texas was from the Middle East,' in a really loud and angry voice," Abusumayah told the Tribune last week. Minutes later, while Abusumayah was paying for her groceries at a self-checkout, the woman approached her from behind and tugged hard on her blue and beige head scarf, she said.

"I turned around and looked at her, and she walked out of the store," she said. "My scarf didn't come off because it was on very tight, but my head was tugged back."

Abusumayah, who was born in the United States and raised in Berwyn by Palestinian immigrants, followed the woman into the lot and called police, who arrested Kenney within minutes.

Kenney declined to comment after the court appearance.

Reached at home Wednesday, Abusumayah also declined to comment, saying she did not want to provoke "a backlash."She said last week that the Nov. 5 shootings at Fort Hood, where 13 soldiers were killed, were "very upsetting and very sad to me -- as Muslims and Arabs we do not tolerate these kinds of actions."

My original conclusion to this blog was:
“While I do not condone the actions of Valerie Kenney, I am appalled that she can face up to three years in prison and a $25,000 fine for pulling someone’s head scarf. There are many degrees of separation in the definition of a hate crime, and this one is more than six degrees from The Holocaust. “
I did not immediately post the blog because I wanted to think about it for a while. I e-mailed some friends about my conclusion and asked for their opinions. The answers were varying in their extent of agreement or disagreement. It was not until someone asked me how I would feel if the incident had involved a Jewish male whose Yarmulke was pulled off, that I started to re-think my conclusion.
Valerie Kenny’s intention in tugging at Abusumayah’s scarf was clearly an effort to intimidate her and harass her for her religious beliefs. While on the surface it was a diminutive action, it really represents the precursor of possible escalating actions in the future and cannot be ignored. If other governments had taken a stance when Hitler first started his purges, then maybe there would not have been a Holocaust. So no matter how small a confrontation might seem on the surface, if we don’t act to stop it immediately at the core, the whole apple becomes rotten.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

THE CONCEPT OF “UNFRIEND” IS 60 YEARS OLD! In 1949, George Orwell’s dystopian novel (an anti-utopian novel where, instead of a paradise, everything has gone wrong in the attempt to create a perfect society) “1984” was published. In the novel a fictional language Newspeak was created to gradually take over Oldspeak (the current English language.) It is described in the book as "the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year.” It gets smaller because certain words are eliminated completely. One section of Newspeak explains how words can be made negative by adding the prefix un- to a word. For example, uncold would be defined as warm. By employing this theory, it became possible to bring about an enormous reduction in the number of words one had to learn. If you have the word good, there is no need for such a word as bad, since the required meaning is equally expressed by ungood. All that was necessary, in any case where two words formed a natural pair of opposites, was to decide which of them to eliminate from the vocabulary. Dark, for example, could be replaced by unlight, or light by undark, according to one’s personal preference. So when the New Oxford American Dictionary (OAD) announced on November 17th that “unfriend” had been chosen as the word of the year, as if it were some exciting discovery, I was stunned because the theory behind the use of “unfriend” is 60 years old! Christine Lindberg, senior lexicographer for Oxford's U.S. dictionary program, wrote in a statement that “unfriend”, "has both currency and potential longevity. In the online social networking context, its meaning is understood, so its adoption as a modern verb form makes this an interesting choice for Word of the Year." To write of “potential longevity” about a word that is actually 60 years old should be an embarrassment to such an eminent and august group as the lexicographers at OAD.
Orwell could have had no concept of personal computers and how every human would be connected to another through the Internet, so his precognition of life in 2009 is scary. He write in 1949, “There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized." Doesn’t that sound just like instant messaging?
So while the OAD might want to think that “unfriend” is such a novel concept that we should accept it as “word of the year,” the novel “1984” has already taught us otherwise.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

BROTHER CAN YOU SPARE A PEPSI? I pretend I was a former Super model even though I wasn’t. (Don’t tell that to Kevin my computer Gigolo because he really believes I was a former super model!) By the same respect, Chicago can’t pretend it is a convention city anymore if it does not have any conventions.
We all have heard stories about the outrageous fees that McCormick Place charges for products and services. Until I read in the Chicago Tribune what Tim Hanrahan the CEO of a Massachusetts company who attended a convention told what it cost to get some soda delivered to his booth I did not really believe it.
"The total charge for four cases of Pepsi, delivered to our booth, was $345.39. The invoice breaks down to $254 for the four cases of Pepsi, a 21 percent service charge, and a 10.25 percent Illinois state sales tax, a 3 percent Chicago soft drink tax, a tax on the service charge, and a food and beverage tax. Government taxes totaled $38.06, which is more than the legitimate retail price of the soft drinks. Now, a nice man in a tuxedo delivered the Pepsi, along with a couple of buckets of ice and a few cups. Good service? Sure, but not worth $345.39."
Chicago lost two conventions in the past week; the plastics industry trade show said it is moving to Orlando, Fla., for 2012 and 2015 after nearly four decades in Chicago and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society announced it was moving its 2012 annual meeting to Las Vegas. Both shows cited the high cost of doing business in Chicago as their reason for leaving. In 2009, The Health show attracted 27,000 attendees who spent an estimated $55 million.
We are not talking about small amounts of savings for conventions that are leaving Chicago, but massive amounts of money. According to the Chicago Tribune, “Plastics show officials said they expect their move to yield up to $20 million in savings for exhibitors and attendees.” Florida is a right to work state, so by moving to Orlando the average exhibitor costs would drop by 48 percent for utilities, 19 percent for on-site hauling and rigging, 23 percent for lodging and 11 percent for travel. So they will save twenty million dollars, experience the balmy Florida weather and be next door to Mickey Mouse. Why wouldn’t they leave? I wonder why they it took them 40 years to wise up.
This week a task force of officials from McPier, the convention bureau, the unions that work at McCormick Place, the restaurant industry and the city's hotels will meet to discuss ways to make Chicago more competitive. We don’t need a task force meeting to figure out how to make the city more competitive. The answer is very simple, if the unions don’t lower their wages and change their work rules, the city will continue to keep losing conventions. One does not have to be smarter than a fifth grader to figure this one out; a kindergartner is all that it takes

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

SOLUTION TO CTA FINANCIAL WOES The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is a municipal corporation that started operations on October 1, 1947 upon the purchase and combination of the transportation assets of the Chicago Rapid Transit Company and the Chicago Surface Lines streetcar system. It is the second largest transit system in the United States; with New York City’s MTA being number one. In 1952, CTA purchased the assets of the Chicago Motor Coach Company, which was under the control of Yellow Cab and car rental founder John D. Hertz resulting in a fully unified system. So at one time the equivalent of the CTA was run by private companies. One solution to the CTA’s financial woes would be for Mayor Daley to consider selling the bus system when he talks about privatizing options; it would not be setting a precedent. But I have even a better solution to the problem if you read on!
Blog followers are well aware that I do not use any part of the CTA System. The buses are too crowded and I don’t want people standing inside the box I draw around myself. “Stay out of my square” as my friend Teresa Krasinski has been heard to comment. I don’t ride the buses, but as a taxpayer I am forced to subsidize the buses for everybody else’s use. I don’t like paying for something I do not use.
Jon Hilkevitch of the Chicago Tribune wrote, “The average fare collected by the CTA is 98 cents, according to the transit agency. It takes into account full-priced fares, reduced fares, passes and free rides. The cost for the CTA to provide service averages $7 per ride, including some capital costs such as maintenance and some system improvements. The cost per ride jumps to $9.90 if major projects such as the ongoing Brown Line capacity-expansion project or the planned extensions of the Red, Orange and Yellow/Skokie Swift Lines are factored in, CTA officials said.”
What business can survive if their expenses are eight times higher than their income? No company can unless it has expectations of higher future earnings and lower expenses. Can the CTA reduce its expenses? No, not when labor accounts account for more than 65 percent of the CTA's $1.27 billion operating budget in 2010 and in response to a question about salary concessions the answer of Darrell Jefferson, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241, which represents bus drivers and bus mechanics is "We're not giving up anything."
It is interesting that when a government entity is forced to reduce its labor force, it seems to be able to survive. Five years ago McPier had 700 fulltime employees and through attrition and job cuts the number now is at 500. Because of lowered income expectations, another 100 jobs will be cut to trim the deficit. So McPier will be able to function with 400 employees when in recent years they had 700. McPier had obviously been McFat if they had 700 employees on the payroll when obviously 400 would suffice. When forced to cut, they cut.
According to the Chicago Tribune, “CTA President Richard Rodriguez has said he will attempt to implement a new business model at the CTA, similar to what has become the norm in the airline industry. The hard-nosed strategy has focused on tearing up lucrative union pensions for pilots and other airline workers, reducing salaries, raising airfares and cutting service.”
Let us remember when President Ronald Reagan fired more than 11,000 air-traffic controllers in 1981 for staging an illegal strike. The move was a major blow to the power of labor unions. The bus drivers have not threatened a strike, but I am sure they would strike if Mayor Daley refused to make salary concessions. So my solution is to fire all the bus drivers and start fresh.
So then who could drive the buses? Replace all the bus drivers with taxi drivers and have the hacks lease the buses the same way they do their cabs! Taxi drivers complain they work long hours, make very little income and have no benefits. Driving a bus with pre-arranged routes and a guaranteed one million fares a day would be like heaven for a cab driver. Now that I have solved the CTA’s financial problems, I will move on to Streets & Sanitation. Fire all the street sweepers and replace them with Roomba vacuums. Robots are very cheap and require no health insurance!

Monday, November 16, 2009

I HATE TOURISTS! One million people are expected to crowd the sidewalks of Michigan Avenue on Saturday, November 21st for the 18th Annual Festival of Lights. Most of that populace will be suburbanites or tourists; two groups of people that I actually discriminate against when I observe the stupidity of their actions when they are wondering around in the “big city” like hayseeds and bumpkins. I might have lived in Chicago for the past 25 years and should have absorbed the Midwestern friendly mentality by now, but my native New Yorker hostility shines through when it comes to sightseers. Just as one should learn proper etiquette if one visits a foreign country, one should learn how to handle themselves in a bustling American metropolis. Please pass this blog along to your out- of- town friends so they can learn a few simple steps to make their visit more enjoyable for them and for me! One horse towns do not have pedestrian crosswalks, but we do in the big city. The crosswalks have traffic signals that tell one when to walk or when not to walk. These signals are designed to let pedestrians know when they can advance safely in conjunction with the flow of vehicular traffic. The signs clearly indicate with red and green symbols when one should proceed across the intersection. The first pedestrian crossing signal was erected in London in 1868. One would think that in the 141 years since the conception of these signals, people would know how to obey them. Au Contraire! Tourists think that the signals are just suggestions, not mandates. Red means stop and green means go. Very simple; learn it! The majority of street performers on Michigan Avenue have less talent than a reject from The Gong Show. Do not encourage them by giving them money and do not stop and watch them perform because you then clog the sidewalks and impede the flow of foot traffic. Those of us who are forced to endure hearing a musician play the same song 100 times a day do not need outsiders applauding a musician that they only have to listen to once. If the performer thinks he can make money, he will continue to torture those of us who have to listen to him everyday. If you don’t give them money, maybe they will go away. Some buildings in Chicago are very tall. Does a tourist realize how stupid they look when they stop and gawk looking upwards? One cannot see the top of a building while eyeballing it from the street level; so what are they looking up at? If one wants to see the top of buildings, go to the observation decks at The Willis (nee Sears) Tower or the Hancock building. Pay the $10 and look down at the roofs of all the tall edifices. How boring to me; but somehow fun for tourists. Chicago gourmets are comprised of two groups: pizza eaters and hot dog eaters. Pizza here has a very thick buttery crust that is up to three inches tall at the edge; it is not produced in slices that one can fold over and shove in their mouth. There is a utensil to the left of one’s plate called a fork. Use it to eat deep dish pizza. A Chicago-style hot dog is steamed or grilled – it is never boiled or broiled. It must be an all-beef dog on a poppy seed bun. The dog is topped with yellow mustard, onion, sweet pickle relish (usually a dyed neon green variety), a dill pickle spear, tomato slices, pickled sport peppers and a dash of celery salt. The complete assembly of a Chicago hot dog is said to be "dragged through the garden" because of the unique combination of condiments. Do not put ketchup on a Chicago hot dog. Clint Eastwood summed it up best in the movie Sudden Impact, “God this stuff isn't getting to me - the shootings, the knifings, the beatings. Old ladies being bashed in the head for their social security checks. Nah that doesn't bother me. But you know what does bother me? You know what makes me really sick to my stomach? It's watching you stuff your face with those hot dogs! Nobody - I mean nobody puts ketchup on a hot dog!” So tourists please learn a bit about Chicago etiquette and you will “Make my day.”

Sunday, November 15, 2009

FIRE POLITICALLY, HIRE POLITICALLY! My September 16th blog (Hire Politically, Fire Politically!) was about the firing of Byron Steele, First Deputy Director of Cook County’s Department of Facilities Management. Byron Steele is the son of former Interim Cook County Board President Bobbie Steele and brother of Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele. It was rumored that Byron was fired because his brother voted twice against County Board President Todd Stroger’s veto of sales tax repeal. Since Byron’s job was Shakman exempt he could be fired for any reason. Now, two months later, he has been rehired by Cook County government.
Byron started his new position last week as an energy manager with the Environmental Control Department. He took a slight pay cut from his previous job ($100,000) and is being paid $43 an hour, or a little less than $90,000 a year. Steele was hired to fill a position that has been vacant for six years. Gene Mullins, Stroger’s spokesman did not provide a job description for the position, but acknowledged that the County Board just recently decided to fund the position after the department head said it needed to be filled.
Why was it so compelling for Stroger to fill a position that has been vacant for six years? Could it be because there are less than three months before the Feb. 2 Democratic primary for board president and Stroger needs the support of the politically connected Steele family?
Byron’s Mother thinks so. Bobbie Steele, a former Cook County Board Commissioner and former interim Cook County Board President suggested Stroger may have felt it was better to put the issue of Steele’s firing behind him as he approached next year’s Democratic primary, in which he faces three opponents. “As far as I know, Byron had a good record on the job,” she said, questioning why he was originally fired by Stroger. “There’s a lot of people out there who felt maybe that was not something (Stroger) should have done.”
Finding out that Byron Steel had been rehired reminded me of the Jerry Seinfeld episode about living in a Bizarro Superman world where everything is the exact opposite. “Up is down, down is up. He says "Hello" when he leaves, "Good bye" when he arrives,” Seinfeld tells Elaine as he explains this phenomenon. Also in that world, a costumed super-villain with a backwards “S” on his chest performs evil deeds in the exact opposite way that Superman does. Maybe the backwards “S” really stands for Stroger!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW! First some background. In my blog of September 7th, (Private Snow Plowing Trucks) , I wrote about how the city of Chicago was going to be taking bids for private trucking companies to clear the side streets this winter. I gave my suggestions for how the process should be bid. This past Thursday, Mayor Daley said, "The responses were not effective whatsoever, so we have to re-evaluate that. The bids didn't go through. ... We were doing 10-ton trucks; they wanted 5-ton trucks. So there’s a lot of things that we have to figure out ourselves." Therefore we are now back to having the Department of Streets & Sanitation clear the side streets of snow. The Department of Streets & San has a legendary reputation of employing workers who slack off. As recently as Friday night, I watched a segment with Jay Levine on WBBM news that revealed footage of S&S workers standing around doing nothing with no supervisor in sight. So how does the Department decide to fix the problem? Do they put them on probation? Do they terminate employees who are caught not working? Those solutions would be too easy and is what would be done in the “real world.” But Chicago union workers are protected and live in a bubble. They are not treated the same way as employees in private industry. The workers at S&S are Teamsters. Enough said. Instead the Department unveiled plans to put high-tech sensors in the snow trucks and to use the city’s network of surveillance cameras to spy on the workers. According to the Sun Times, “Sensors on the trucks will tell camera-monitoring supervisors how much salt is being spread, how many tons are still in the truck and whether the blade on a plow is up or down on the street clearing snow. And by using safety cameras, the city will be able to track the movement of snow plows without putting nearly as many supervisors on the street. “

So now the Department will have fewer supervisors on the streets to monitor the activities of the workers. Accountability of workers should not be determined by cameras and sensors; it should be monitored by supervisors on the streets eyeballing the truckers’ movements. Camera and sensors can be manipulated; actually physically checking on whether an employee is working or not cannot be influenced. Chicago needs to hire Donald Trump to be Commissioner of Streets & Sanitation, he is the one man not afraid to say, You’re Fired,” to the slackers!

Friday, November 13, 2009

THE DOG WALKER

THE DOG WALKER I live in a high rise building where a number of residents own dogs. Living busy lives, many of these people employ dog walkers. The dog walkers are paid $15/dog per walk. A very reasonable fee. I have seen numerous dogs being taken for walks by their paid handlers; yet I have never once seen a resident with their own dog. I find this very offensive. I understand if one wants to hire someone during the day to walk their dog, but a responsible dog owner should also walk their own dog when they are home. Spend some time on dog/owner bonding! The Obamas own a Portuguese water dog, Bo. They have been spotted walking Bo on the White House grounds. Many past presidents have also owned dogs and they also were spotted walking their dogs. No one knows for sure how much of the personal presidential dog walking was done solely for the media in attendance, but we know at times they actually did play with their pets. What does bother me is that Dale Haney, the keeper of the White House grounds also walks presidential dogs and has been since 1972. He has served eight presidents. He started at the White House as a gardener, and then was supervisor of grounds maintenance and lead horticulturist before becoming superintendent of all the grounds last fall. Haney’s position is very high-level. He typically arrives at work at about 6 a.m. and finishes around 4 p.m. Besides taking care of Bo, Haney handles 18 1/2 acres of lawns, trees and gardens, including the Rose Garden, the first lady's garden and Michelle Obama's South Lawn produce garden. He has a staff of about 20, including electricians, gardeners and repairmen -- all National Park Service employees. The fact that they are Park Services employees means their salaries are not part of the White House budget.
Because Haney has worked at the White House for 27 years, I am sure his salary is much more munificent than that of a mere dog walker. I find it offensive, as a taxpayer, to be responsible for the salary of a personal dog walker for a presidential dog. This is not a Republican or Democratic issue—because Presidents of both parties have owned dogs—it is an issue of whose responsibility it should be to tend to one’s pet. The President’s family or the taxpayers? Since Haney has been tending to Presidential dogs for decades, I wonder if he sometimes thinks of the quote from that most famous of cartoon dogs, Snoopy:” Yesterday I was a dog. Today I'm a dog. Tomorrow I'll probably still be a dog. Sigh! There's so little hope for advancement.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

ILLINOIS IS AN UNHAPPY STATE!

ILLINOIS IS AN UNHAPPY STATE! The Gallup Poll people analyzed data collected from more than 350,000 individuals who were interviewed between Jan. 2 and Dec. 30, 2008, to create a “Well-Being Index.” The index includes six types of well-being: overall evaluation of their lives, emotional health, physical health, healthy behaviors (such as whether a person smokes or exercises), and job satisfaction. Utah ranked first, West Virginia last and Illinois ranked 31st out of the 50 states. Why is that? Study researcher Jason Rentfrow of the University of Cambridge in England said that “to figure out why some states scored higher or lower than others, the researchers looked at the relationship between happiness levels and other variables, including economic indicators, education levels, personality factors and levels of inclusiveness. They found that states with higher gross regional product (GRP) per capita (a state's level of productivity and standard of living), income levels and median housing value, were significantly happier than poorer areas. That's not too surprising as wealthier individuals tend to be healthier, because they are better educated and thus more knowledgeable about healthy behaviors.” This study helps to reinforce my theory in my November 9th blog (Money Can Buy Anything, Well Almost) because it proves that having money results in a higher level of well-being and happiness. What can Illinois do to move its ranking up for next year’s study? Ed Diener, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana who studies well-being (and wasn't involved in this study), says "Our research shows that happy individuals are on average healthier and live longer, have higher incomes, better social relationships and are better citizens. Therefore, aiming to increase the happiness in one state is a valid goal." That is not an answer; it is just an obvious conclusion. Again, I ask, what can Illinois do to increase its happiness level? I am not a researcher, a psychologist or have any educational background in sociology to competently analyze this data but here are my unscientific thoughts. Elect political leaders who are not crooks; balance the state, county and city budgets; hire government workers based on their abilities not their political connections; improve the education system to make school spending fair and equitable across the state; find a solution to stop the gang violence; and as comedian Soupy Sales told children on his TV show in 1965 “get Dad's wallet or Mommy's purse and take out the little green pieces of paper that have the guys with beards on them and send them to me.” If all my readers send me money, then I will be wealthy and that will help improve the state’s well-being index ranking!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

WOMEN IN WORKFORCE NOW A MAJORITY

WOMEN IN WORKFORCE NOW A MAJORITY According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, for the first time in U.S. history, women have surpassed men and now make up more than 50 percent of the nation's workforce. In 1967, by comparison, they accounted for just one-third of all workers. Women of Generations X, Y or whatever they are called have no idea how impactful that statistic is. They grew up with working Moms and are in the workforce themselves. The statistic that women outnumber men as employees is pretty much meaningless to them. This blog is to educate these women on what life was like before women “rebelled” and demanded equality. Fifty years ago, pretty much only single women worked and they were employed as teachers, nurses or secretaries. They worked only until they found a husband and then they became housewives. Women did not aspire to anything more than to be a great wife and Mother. After World War II, when many women had jobs because of the shortage of men serving in the military, they found it hard to go to back to just being in the home. In 1956, Smith College graduate and writer, Betty Friedman, conducted a survey of college graduates, focusing on their education, their subsequent experiences and satisfaction with their current lives. She discovered what she called "the problem with no name." This problem was the dissatisfaction women felt at being homemakers. She wrote articles on the topic and then decided to write a book about it. “The Feminine Mystique,“ published in 1963, depicted the roles of women in industrial societies, especially the full time homemaker role, which Friedan deemed stifling.
She wrote, "The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning [that is, a longing] that women suffered in the middle of the 20th century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries … she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question — 'Is this all?" The information in Friedan’s book was earth shattering to women of my Mother’s generation. I remember my Mother reading and re-reading the book and talking about its contents with her friends. The book gave “permission” to women to aspire for more in life than just making a bed. This new attitude is what Mothers taught their Baby Boomer daughters. We learned that it was okay to desire more than a life behind a white picket fence that actually was a prison. Friedan continued her quest and in 1966, she co-founded the National Organization for Women (NOW) which aimed to bring women "into the mainstream of American society now [in] fully equal partnership with men." With this latest employment statistic, it is obvious that women have won not only the battle, but the war. Fifty years ago it could not have been imagined that women would be the prevailing gender. In reference to his book, “The Decline of Men,” author Guy Garcia says, “Women really have become the dominant sex. What concerns me is that guys are rapidly falling behind. Women are becoming better educated than men, earning more than men, and, generally speaking, not needing men at all. Meanwhile, as a group, men are losing their way." It might concern men that they are falling behind in all categories; but it does not concern me as a woman. With in-vitro fertilization and sperm banks making birth possible without the physical intervention of a male, the importance of men has been diminished. They are lucky we still need them to open a jar of pickles or their species might disappear forever.

Monday, November 9, 2009

MONEY CAN BUY ANYTHING (Well, almost)

MONEY CAN BUY ANYTHING (Well, almost) There are only a few things money cannot buy and, with the exception of good health, (but money can help stave off death for a while with expensive health care) if one cannot buy it who would want it anyway? There will be people screaming as they read this that money cannot buy love, happiness, and other sentimental stuff, but they are wrong. We all have a price—it is just determining that price that separates greedy people from altruistic people. I am an admitted greedy person. Anyone who says that money cannot buy almost anything has no money. Because they have no money, they don’t know that you can buy anything for the right price because they have never had the opportunity to try it. People with money know they can buy anything—because they have done it. Since the world is populated with more people who don’t have money than those who do, the myth is perpetuated that money can’t buy everything. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was elected for a third term as Mayor of New York last week and he spent $100 million to achieve that goal. That worked out to $157.27 per vote. His rival, William Thompson, spent $13.12/vote. Bloomberg is a billionaire and he spent his own money. It is his money to spend and he can spend it anyway he wants to. He also donates millions to charitable and civic organizations, so no one can accuse him of “wasting” all of his money on a political campaign. He has plenty to spend on whatever he wants to spend it on. He earned the money; he can choose how to spend the money. The only people who complain that it is not fair for a candidate to try to “buy” an election are people without money. I don’t understand why they would rather choose a candidate who raised money from special interest groups-- who they then would have to pander to--instead of choosing someone who put up their own personal cash. In a Tribune newspaper story in reference to a candidate using their own money, political consultant Darry Sragow said, "You don't have to attend one endless fundraiser after another, shifting from one foot to the other, eating hors d'oeuvres you don't really need, having conversations you don't really want to have, all so people will give you money to pay for advertising." This statement underscores the contempt and resentment that poorly self-funded candidates have against the very people who are giving them money! The phrase, “put your money where your mouth is,” is exactly what Bloomberg did. He wanted to be Mayor of New York for another term and he bought it with his own money. He is my idol. It might have been a lot of cash to spend to be the person who gets to turn the switch that lights the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center but with all his money, maybe it will be a Menorah instead this year.

Friday, November 6, 2009

COCA COLA CARES!

COCA COLA CARES! If someone wanted health advice they would not go to the neighborhood gas station for guidance they would contact The American Academy of Family Physicians. It just makes sense! So how come the Coca Cola Corporation is being criticized for its generosity in their funding a six figure deal with the Academy to be a sponsor on their health and wellness site? (http://www.familydoctor.org/.) The Academy made the deal; if some doctors feel there is a conflict let them take the heat, not Coke! Coca-Cola is also just one among many corporate contributors to the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation, a separate philanthropic group. These contributors include many drug companies, McDonald's, PepsiCo and a beef industry group. If The Academy takes Coke’s corporate money for the Foundation, they can take corporate money for the web site. Academy CEO Dr. Douglas Henley said that the deal won't influence the group's public health messages, and that the company will have no control over editorial content. He said the new online information will include research linking soft drinks with obesity and will focus on sugar-free alternatives. The last time I checked, no one in America is forced to drink soda, eat candy or consume desserts. People ingest products with sugar because they are delicious. It is a matter of moderation, not total denial! So when Harvard University nutrition expert Dr. Walter Willett says, ”Coca-Cola, like other sodas, causes enormous suffering and premature death by increasing the risks of obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, gout and cavities," he should temper his statement by adding that it is vast quantities of consumption that cause these problems, not moderation! And if one drinks Diet Coke (the world’s greatest beverage) there is no sugar involved at all! When the deal was announced last month The Academy said the new Coca-Cola-funded educational material will be posted online in January. The idea is "to develop educational materials to help consumers make informed decisions so they can include the products they love in a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle," the academy's president-elect, Dr. Lori Heim, said at the time. Since Coca Cola will have zero control over the editorial content on the web site postings, how is The Academy being compromised? We have all met lots of physicians who are overweight, smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol while at the same time giving their patients advice on how to lead a healthy lifestyle. Until every Academy doctor is at their goal weight and spending 30 minutes/day on the treadmill, they have no right to be castigating Americans who drink soda and the soft drink company who is sponsoring their web site. When they are beyond reproach and purer than Caesar’s wife then maybe we can talk. Until then I will have my Coke and a smile.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

“GLOMING ALL THE SEATS”

Nothing would make a visitor to Chicago feel more welcome than their hearing a quote said at a City Council budget hearing yesterday about seating at the outdoor concerts at the Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park. “You have people from the suburbs who get there earlier and glom onto all the seats. ... They’re putting their blankets across rows and rows of chairs,” said Ald. Eugene Schulter (47th). “I was just wondering if there’s a way that there could be like a 15-minute time period where the people from our city have the opportunity to be seated first. Then after that, anybody” could be seated.” What warm, comforting words to a suburbanite who has just spent $30 to park their car in the city! The city is very proud of the Pritzker Pavilion and its world-class acoustics. The Official Millennium Park web site (www.millenniumpark.org) describes the Pritzker Pavilion as, “Frank Gehry, winner of the National Medal of Art, applied his signature style to this revolutionary outdoor concert venue. The Pavilion stands 120-feet high, with a billowing headdress of brushed stainless steel ribbons that frame the stage opening and connect to an overhead trellis of crisscrossing steel pipes. The trellis supports the sound system, which spans the 4,000 fixed seats and the Great Lawn, which accommodates an additional 7,000 people. This state-of-the-art sound system, the first of its kind in the country, was designed to mimic the acoustics of an indoor concert hall by distributing enhanced sound equally over both the fixed seats and the lawn.” This same web site also gives driving directions, parking directions and tells readers, “Visitors are encouraged to make the Millennium Park Welcome Center their first stop at the Park where specialists are available to help plan their Park visit. The Welcome Center is located at 201 E. Randolph Street in the Northwest Exelon Pavilion.” If a “Welcome Center” exists it means that the City of Chicago is encouraging tourists! I guess Schulter is not aware of that! In an effort to smooth ruffled suburbanites’ feathers, Cultural Affairs Commission Lois Weisberg diplomatically responded to Schulter’s comments by saying, “I don’t believe in any kind of favoritism — whether they’re city residents or suburban people. ... That’s how we treat tourists. ... The first rule is treat them exactly the same way as you would a Chicagoan.”
I am not sure though if suburbanites would want to be “treated exactly the same way as you would a Chicagoan,” because that would mean they would probably have to bribe a park employee to get a seat!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

WHAT MAKES SOMEONE A HERO?

WHAT MAKES SOMEONE A HERO? There are many definitions of a hero but they all basically describe someone who is distinguished by exceptional courage and nobility and strength; somebody admired for their brave deeds and noble qualities; somebody who commits an act of remarkable bravery or somebody who shown an admirable quality such as great courage. These are words that aptly describe such historical figures like Henry Hudson, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Robert Kennedy and Kazimierz Pulaski. These are men worthy of being honored. What do they all have in common? There are bridges in New York City named after them. Who might soon join the ranks of those so honored? Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter. Bronx leaders have proposed naming the soon-to-be-built East 153rd Street bridge for the Yankee shortstop. "There have been conversations at the community board, and I know the idea is being examined," said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. who confesses to a "man crush" on Jeter. The 512-foot-long "Derek Jeter Bridge" would span the Metro-North tracks that bisect East 153rd Street between Park Avenue and the Grand Concourse. It will cost $87 million. I know that he has helped the Yankees win four World Series championships -- and is only a win away from his fifth. He was a World Series MVP in 2000, won three Gold Gloves and is a 10-time All Star. To sports fans all of this makes him a big deal; but it does not make him a hero in the true sense of the word. What has he accomplished that is worthy of enough honor to name a bridge after him? The name of every policeman or fireman who died in the aftermath tragedy of the 911 collapse of the World Trade Center buildings should be considered for naming the bridge before choosing a baseball player. There were 346 rescue personnel who died that day trying to save other people’s lives. That is enough names for many bridges, parks and streets in the years to come. They are the true Yankees who should be honored.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

NOTIFICATION, NOT PERMISSION

NOTIFICATION, NOT PERMISSION The Illinois parental notification law requiring medical providers to notify a parent or guardian when girls 17 or younger want an abortion was supposed to go into effect today but has been delayed until a meeting of the medical disciplinary board for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Board members want to ensure the judicial waiver process is accessible to all young women and girls in Illinois.
The original parental notification law was passed in 1984 and an updated version followed in 1995. U.S. District Judge David H. Coar issued the ban on enforcement in February 2007. A Federal court ruling in July court ruling overturned that ban. (See blog July 15th)
No notice is required in a medical emergency or if the girl declares in writing that she is a victim of sexual abuse. A provision in the law also allows girls to bypass parental notification by going before a judge, who would then have 48 hours to rule on the petition.
People should understand that in Illinois, a parent or guardian does not have to give consent for an abortion—they just have to be notified that the child is planning an abortion. For those who think notification is onerous, they should be aware that doctors performing abortions in our surrounding states of Indiana, Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin must have parental consent before going ahead with the procedure. So we are actually more lenient in Illinois than other Midwestern states. Thirty four states currently require parental notification.
A nurse cannot give an aspirin to a child without permission of a parent or guardian and a teenager cannot have their ears pierced or get a tattoo without parental permission. Even with parental permission, a teenager cannot smoke, drink alcohol, drive at night or sign a legal contract. A teenager does not have the maturity or mental capacity to make any decision much more difficult than if they want mustard or ketchup on their hot dog. A minor is a minor is a minor. They barely can wake up in the morning to get ready for school. So how are they capable of making a decision on their own on whether to end a life or not? They’re not.

Monday, November 2, 2009

PERMIT PARKING

PERMIT PARKING Yesterday I wrote a blog (Aldermanic Snoberry-November1) about the “pigginess” of Chicago Aldermen who feel they should get special treatment in certain circumstances. Chicago residents whose neighborhoods have permit parking are acting in the same elitist manner about another issue. Thirty years ago, the City of Chicago launched the neighborhood permit parking to prevent students at Northeastern Illinois University from using all the spaces near the campus. Now permit parking residents are complaining that the system is not working. The permit parking system should not have been enacted in the first place. Chicago is not the suburbs where there are private developments and the streets in front of your homes are for parking for people who live in the neighborhood. Chicago is the third most populous city in America with lots of cars all looking for a place to nest. Nobody should be “guaranteed” a parking place! I live at Michigan and Huron. There are metered parking spaces west on Huron and I could drive around looking for spaces and then move my car as the time expires. But I don’t. I choose instead to I pay $320/month for a monthly parking space in my building. In a story on November 1st, The Chicago Tribune shared the parking woes story of Elliott Small, a 23-year-old real estate consultant, “Who moved to Chicago's Wrigleyville area last fall to be near his office and favorite night life, he was hopeful that his $25 parking permit would guarantee him a parking space on his block. After all, that's the way zoned residential parking is supposed to work. Instead, Small found himself circling the packed block when returning home late at night. Sometimes it was so bad he paid $20 to park in a lot. Securing a parking space near his office during the day was equally difficult. After months of frustration, Small settled on a costly solution. He now rents two parking spots -- one behind his apartment for $100 a month, the other in a private garage near his office for $160 a month.”
And I am supposed to feel sorry for this guy why? Does the Declaration of Independence of the United States guarantee people a parking space as one of the unalienable rights of ” life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”? If I have to pay a small fortune to park my car, everybody else should also. Why do residents of neighborhoods think they should be any different and have special privileges that we who live in the central area don’t have? Just as with the Aldermen who want special privileges and think that “some animals are more equal than others,” these residents should also take a quote from Animal Farm; "No question now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

ALDERMANIC SNOBBERY

ALDERMANIC SNOBBERY In May of this year, Alderman Lona Lane (18th ward) introduced legislation to create "official placards" that Chicago's 50 aldermen could place on their vehicle dashboards. Lane said she would like the city to design a sign or sticker that identifies when a vehicle is being used by an alderman. Is the sticker supposed to serve as a “warning” to parking enforcement so they won’t ticket an illegally parked car? Alderman should not be above the law especially because they make the law.
Now Aldermen are putting pressure on Scott Bruner, director of Administrative Hearings, to allow them enter the city's central headquarters for administrative hearings building at 400 W. Superior without being searched or having to go through the metal detectors.
The Aldermen are not at that court in any authorized capacity as an elected official but in their role as attorney when they are with a client who has a hearing. Why should they be treated differently from anyone else who enters the building?
Bruner was in front of the City Council at a budget hearing; but the topic of searching the Aldermen was more important to them than the numbers. According to the Chicago Tribune, “Budget Committee Chair Carrie Austin (34th) was so "offended," she warned Bruner what might happen if he fails to "take another look at your policy."
"It's not a matter of giving anybody any preference. But us that are aldermen -- we are the ones who set your budget. If we're the ones setting your budget maybe we'll take an adjustment" downward, if the policy is not rescinded, Austin warned.
Bruner initially defended the policy, telling aldermen, "It's not my intention to offend anyone. It's only our intention to make sure that people coming through are searched. . . . We're trying to treat everyone equally." But he got the message and I am sure changes will be in store.
How egotistical of Austin to essentially “blackmail” Bruner to give in to what she wants or she will reduce his budget! The arrogance of Austin reminds me of a quote from Animal Farm by George Orwell, “All animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” Oink, oink, Aldermen!