URBAN PHILOSOPHER
Conscience Laureate

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

SKATING ON THIN ICE

SKATING ON THIN ICE Jake Hartford, host of the show “Awake With Jake,” heard on WCPT (820 am) radio on Saturdays mornings from 7:00-11:00 a.m. alerted me to a Sun Times editorial, (Boycott Wrigley Rink to Bring Down Prices) about the new skating rink that just opened adjacent to Wrigley Field. He called it the “most outrageous piece of thinking from an editorial board in a long time.” I totally agree with him.
The main thrust of the editorial dealt with how the rink charges $20 for adults and $16 for children to use the facility. The Sun Times felt the fees were too high because the rink is partially owned by the Park District so taxpayer money is subsidizing the rink. The editorial said, “The Park District justifies the high prices this way: Any rink profits will help subsidize its other nine rinks, many of which don't break even. Two rinks, in Calumet Park and West Lawn, lose so much money that they are at risk of being closed, Park District officials tell us.” I think the justification of the high fees are warranted exactly for the reasons the Park District states. If a Chicagoan wants to skate for free, there are nine rinks where they can go; if they choose the Wrigley Rink they have to pay for it. (As a comparison it costs $21 to skate at Wollman Rink in Central Park and $19 at Rockefeller Center in New York City.)
The editorial also said (in reference to a family of two adults and two children), “So who can afford to skate at $72 a pop? A quick look at the rink last Sunday tells the story: wealthy, white Chicagoans.” What a racist statement that is! It implies there are no wealthy Black Chicagoans (what about Oprah and Michael Jordan?) and that there are no poor white Chicagoans (look at the people standing on line at Catholic Charities for Tuesday dinners).
Jake brought up some more interesting points, “Do they know how much rentis being paid, if any? Or how much the insurance premiums are to satisfy the City as well as for protection if anyone gets hurt? Do they know what it cost to construct? Do they know what the employees are paid? Do they know how much is for security? Or how much it took to buy skates so that people would have skates to rent? Until they know the amounts, how can anyone say that something is overpriced?” Jake also noted that the editorial argued “that ALL Chicagoans deserve to experience a unique Chicago event is hogwash. Can everyone afford a trip to the top of the Willis Tower? How about those harbors? If everyone can't afford a boat, should we close the harbors? How many people couldn't afford the hot air balloon at Navy Pier this past summer? Should that be kept away for next year?” He concluded with, “If people wish to follow the Sun Times lead and boycott the rink, fine. Just more room for me to skate.” Karl Marx, in his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program said “from each according to his ability to each according to their needs.” That statement summarizes the principle that, under a communist system, every person should contribute to society to the best of his or her ability and consume from society in proportion to his or her needs, regardless of how much he or she has contributed. While the Daley Planet we live in has its own set of laws, it is still governed under the Capitalist system— an economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned It is based on the principle of individual rights and freedoms. So it is my right to spend $20 to go skating if I want to spend the money and your right not to go skating if you don’t want to spend $20. I checked and there are no soldiers stationed at the ice skating rink with guns that they are holding to people’s heads to force them to skate. At least not today.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

COURTING MY VOTE

COURTING MY VOTE Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is heading “The O’Connor Judicial Selection Initiative,” created, staffed and funded by the University of Denver-based Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, in an effort to persuade states to choose judges by merit selection and not by election. According to the institute, 23 states and the District of Columbia have a commission-based system for at least some of their judges. No state has shifted to an appointive system in 15 years. In announcing the formation of the eponymous group, O’Connor expressed her concern that judicial elections lead to both a loss of judicial independence and a loss of public confidence in the court system, “Studies show that roughly 70% of the public believe judges are influenced by campaign contributions, and more than one quarter of judges agree. This is alarming because the legitimacy of the judiciary rests entirely on its promise to be fair and impartial. A judge’s sole constituency should be the law. If the public loses faith in that impartiality, then there is no reason to prefer the judge’s interpretation of the law to the opinions of the real politicians representing the electorate.” I am not for merit selection because it takes away my right as a citizen to decide who will best represent me in the Judicial branch of government. The members of the Executive and Legislative branches of government are voted on by citizens and so should the Judicial branch members. With Merit Selection, Judges will be picked by the very same politicians that are already being influenced by campaign contributions. At least if I am able to vote for a Judge, then it is my sole choice. With Merit Selection, if the party in power is the Democratic Party, then Judges selected will be those people that are in agreement with that Party’s platform; not necessarily what the general public’s platform is. In researching the types of Judges in Illinois, the numbers were staggering. There are Supreme Court Justices, Circuit Court Judges, Appellate Court Judges, Chancery Court Judges, Civil Appeals Judges, Criminal Judges, Child Protection Judges, and Child Support Probate Judges, Domestic Relations Judges, Juvenile Judges, Traffic Judges, Law Judges, Probate Judges and Judges that I have not named. Do I understand exactly what they do? No! But when a Circuit Court Judge slot is up for vote, I do research before I make a decision and pull the lever. If a citizen can educate themselves to decide who to vote for as President of the United States, why shouldn’t they be able to educate themselves on selecting a Judge? The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform issued a report last October warning that some state judicial selection programs “have been criticized for the absence of public input into the process, lack of transparency, secretiveness in their procedures and the political cronyism that can occur when commissions and the governor operate in what is essentially a closed system.” When Jesus said “Physician, heal thyself,” he meant that one should attend to one's own defects, rather than criticizing defects in others. That is what O’Connor is doing in saying that citizens are defective and do not have the ability to decide who can serve as a Judge. I say, “Justice, heal thyself,” and don’t take away my right to vote.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

I DON’T ACCEPT CARTER’S “APOLOGY”

I DON’T ACCEPT CARTER’S “APOLOGY” Judaism teaches the importance of teshuva (repentance). But an apology does not count as repentance unless it is sincere and heartfelt. Teshuva is about renewing a relationship that has been damaged, not simply curing one party's guilt. Maimonides, in his classic work, Mishneh Torah, describes the steps for doing teshuva; there has to be admission and regret over the misdeed. The individual must confess the sin to God, regret it, and promise to never do it again
A proper apology must show both regret and remorse; apology without remorse is meaningless. Also, the apology has to be contrite. Finally if someone’s apology is not accepted when first given, then according to Jewish law, one must try to apologize three times. After that, if the (sincere) apology is not accepted, it now becomes the other person's problem.
Former President Jimmy Carter has “apologized” to Jews in an open letter that he sent to JTA a Jewish wire service. He said he was offering an Al Het (Hebrew-for the sin), a prayer which is a plea for forgiveness recited only on Yom Kippur. His apology was for any past words or deeds that may have upset the Jewish community. "We must not permit criticisms for improvement to stigmatize Israel," Carter said in the letter. "As I would have noted at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but which is appropriate at any time of the year, I offer an Al Het for any words or deeds of mine that may have done so." I have a number of issues with Carter’s “apology.” (1) I don’t think it was sincere or heartfelt. He apologized for deeds that may have hurt Jews not that did hurt Jews. (2) There was no admission and regret about his past actions. (3) According to Jewish Law, I don’t have to accept it until he tries to apologize three times. (4) He has no religious right to claim his apology is an Al Het because that is a prayer only said on the day of Yom Kippur. It is arrogant of him to claim an Al Het on Christmas Eve day. (5) And the most significant reason I don’t accept his apology is because I feel it was only rendered to help his grandson’s potential Senate Race in Georgia. Grandson Jason Carter is planning to enter a race for an opening in the Georgia State Senate that will be created when current Georgia State Senator, David Adelman, is confirmed as Ambassador to Singapore. Jason Carter, who will be running in a district with a large Jewish population, said in a statement that his grandfather's letter was completely unrelated to his campaign and hailed the apology as a "great step towards reconciliation.” Jimmy Carter deeply offended Jews with his 2006 book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” and now magically four years later he is showing contrition? And he expects us to believe that his timing has nothing to do with his Grandson’s political career? Jews might be forgiving, but we are not stupid. You might knock three times on my ceiling that you want me to accept it, but I am banging twice on the pipe that the answer is, NO.”

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

If This is Wednesday, Then It Must Be Another City Hall Scandal

If This is Wednesday, Then It Must Be Another City Hall Scandal On Tuesday, July 7th, I wrote a blog called, “If this is Tuesday, then it must be another City Hall scandal.” The story was about James Kendrick, a city plumbing inspector, who broke a water pipe while performing a side job at a private residence. According to the Sun Times that day, “Kendrick dialed 311 to report the break. When investigators arrived on the scene, he identified himself as a city inspector and asked for city-owned parts—lead packs and copper-to repair the broken pipe, sources said.” Kendrick also did not have the necessary city permits and licenses for the work he was performing off duty. At the time, the Buildings Department spokesperson would only say that the department “was conducting an investigation into a report of an employee completing work without a permit.” Kendrick subsequently was fired.
Today is Wednesday, and the scandal of the day is that the fired inspector has been re-hired.
According to the Sun Times, “The Human Resources Board, which is appointed by Mayor Daley, has overturned James Kendrick's firing and converted his punishment to a five-month suspension without pay, which he has already served. Kendrick returned to work Thursday for the first time since July 17. He refused to comment.”
Buildings Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey, said that Kendrick's behavior "warranted substantial discipline," but not the firing ordered by Buildings Commissioner Richard Monocchio.
It is ironic that a city inspector whose job is to report contractors and people who work without a permit commits the same violation and also requests city owned copper piping to repair a break he caused is back working as an inspector.
Now we can really understand why my blog last week, “$40,000 City of Chicago Employee Survey a Waste of Money,” was so “on the money.” The survey, conducted by the City’s Office of Compliance included a report where Mark Meaney, first deputy director of the Office of Compliance, said “Among those who did observe misconduct, 81 percent felt, if they did report what they observed, there would be no corrective action taken.”
In the “real world,” an employee fired for such blatant misconduct would not be re-hired. But we live on the “Daley Planet” of a “politically connected world” where conduct is judged on whom you know and not how you perform. In reply to Superman’s statement that he is “Here to fight for truth, justice, and the American way," Lois Lane replied, “You're gonna end up fighting every elected official in this country!" Well, I’m just taking on the City of Chicago and Cook County, so my crusade should be easy.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I’m In Favor of Spying On Employees

I’m In Favor of Spying On Employees Back when I was a boss, there was no sophisticated technological equipment to be able to track key strokes on a computer, video cameras or voice mail. Employees could pretty much get away with stealing company time if they worked for me. There was that one time when someone went on vacation, and knowing I checked e-mail when they were away, stupidly used her company e-mail address to have conversations with a friend totally trashing me. I had her exit letter ready when she returned. Now days it is easy and legal to track what employees are doing behind their employer’s back and I am glad that I don’t have employees to monitor or I would probably drive myself insane once I discovered how much company time they were spending on personal tasks. I have compiled five easy ways for employers to scrutinize what the workers are doing. Because I have no employees to supervise, I will play the role of “work force guardian” and educate everyone on what they need to look out for and how to protect themselves from meddling bosses. (1) Phone calls- While one might think that their phone conversations cannot be listened to, it is perfectly legal for an employer to eavesdrop whenever they want to. An employer is supposed to stop listening once they realize it is not work related but if company policy prohibits personal calls, management can continue to listen. SOLUTION-If an employee suspects their calls are being monitored they should start talking about their urinary tract infection disease. That will make any outsider drop off the line! (2) Computer- Every key stroke on your computer can be logged, monitored and analyzed. Programs can be installed to check what web sites you are going to and how long you spend on those sites. SOLUTION-Visit boring religious web sites. Once the monitor realizes he won’t catch you on the fun sex ones, he will stop checking you. (3) E-mail-It does not matter if you erase, delete or trash your e-mails. They exist forever. Since it is possible for companies to monitor your personal e-mail account also if it is being used on a company computer, don’t think you are safe. SOLUTION- Send e-mails to your Aunt lamenting on the death of her 17 year old cat. That will set a base-line of your being the world’s most boring person and the company won’t waste security time on checking on you. (4) Voicemail- Voicemails are digitally stored and have the shelf life of one million years. Your voicemail will live long after you have died. To ensure that your voicemail is not continually monitored, make sure that your saved voice mails are the most tedious and lackluster messages. Hire Ben Stein to say, “Bueller, Bueller” a few times in his monotonous voice and salt away that message. (5) Video Cameras- These devices are so cheap and small an employee might not even realized they are installed. To guarantee that the spy police will not be watching you, pick your nose every few minutes. Whatever guard was assigned to look at your camera, will stop immediately! Of course employees could just do their work and not look for ways to thwart “the man,” but my way is so much more fun! Excuse my while I scratch my butt!

Monday, December 21, 2009

WHY WOULD YOU POSSIBLY WANT TO DO THIS?

WHY WOULD YOU POSSIBLY WANT TO DO THIS? Since 2004, a company called Couch Surfing International, a not for profit network, (http://www.couchsurfing.com/) has existed as a means to enable people to find homes around the world with families who will let them sleep over. The company claims that they have more than 1 million members from 62,000 different cities who speak 1,270 unique languages. Since they started they report that more than 1.25 million successful “Couchsurfing” stays have been experienced. Are there that many insane people who will allow strangers to sleep in their home? Have you ever heard of serial killers? The Web site allows users to create profiles and either offer up their own couches, free of charge, or search for one that is available in the area they are planning to visit. Or, instead of opening their couch for a night or week at a time, couch surfers can opt to instead have guests over for coffee or a drink, according to the Sun Times in a story published on Sunday.
The story profiled an Elmhurst couple who are members and have opened their home and provide their “vacant” downstairs couch to be available for strangers to sleep over. The family has hosted three surfers, two of whom traveled halfway across the globe from New Zealand and Australia for a one-night stay with the Smiths. The two men were coming to Chicago to do recruiting work for a Christian college and needed a cheap place to sleep. "That was pretty exciting to have someone from halfway across the world stay the night," Doug Smith said. Once again, how insane do you have to be to think it is exciting to allow strangers to sleep in your home?
The Couch Surfing web site describes the safety features they have to keep the process safe. First, they verify a member’s name and address. That is meaningless because serial killers have addresses. Second, they claim that because members have to make a “donation” to the not for profit organization it proves they are good people. Serial killers can donate to charities. Third, they have members vouching for other members. Serial killers have friends who will vouch for them not knowing they are serial killers. After a mass murderer has been caught the neighbors are always quoted as saying, “He was such a quiet man. He mowed his lawn and waved at us when he walked his dog.” If you Google the phrase “couch surfing horror stories” you get 19,000 matches. Too many bad experiences for me to share here!
Not only do the families have to worry that a serial killer might be their guest, the couch surfer has no idea what the family they are visiting will be like. What about a psychopath host who has carefully hidden their mass murder aspirations?
The Smith family said. "It’s no different than hosting a sleepover. You just don't know the people." The thought of sleeping on a stranger’s sofa is such an anathema; I can’t even fathom the idea. When I visit my beloved Aunt Helaine in New York, I stay at a hotel because I crave my privacy more than my wanting to save a few dollars. As long as it’s not the Bates Hotel!

Friday, December 18, 2009

$40,000 CITY OF CHICAGO EMPLOYEE SURVEY A WASTE OF MONEY!

$40,000 CITY OF CHICAGO EMPLOYEE SURVEY A WASTE OF MONEY! In a time of budget crisis, when the expenditure of every penny matters, the City of Chicago’s Compliance Office spent $40,000 on a survey on what employees feel about feel about the ethics of their fellow workers. Since 1800 workers were questioned, that works out to an expenditure of $21 per response. I could have gotten results for a lot less money and here it is for free; people do not blab because they are afraid of how whistle blowers are viewed and treated. The survey details that employees say they report misconduct 50% of the time. Even though that figure is less than the national average of 66% reporting misconduct, I don’t believe it is even that high. I base that on the fact that Mark Meaney, first deputy director of the Office of Compliance, said “Among those who did observe misconduct, 81 percent felt, if they did report what they observed, there would be no corrective action taken.” If so many workers believe that nothing will be done and they fear retaliation, then they will not report. The Mayor does not seem to understand that. He proves his almost frightening misunderstanding of the results when he said, “If they feel that way — that nothing’s gonna change, we don’t need both of ’em. We don’t need the person who’s cheating [or] the other person not doing anything about it — because maybe they’re watching each other,” Daley said during a taping of the WLS AM (890) radio program, “Connected to Chicago,’’ to be broadcast at 2 p.m. Sunday. The categories of misconduct most often observed in the survey that was conducted last August and September by The Ethics Resource Center were: abusive behavior, 27% percent; lying to employees, 21%; discrimination, 20 %; hiring violations, 15%; and conflicts of interest, 15%. It is sad that that since only 62% of Chicago's workers believe City Hall has a culture of compliance and integrity; employees can’t trust that if they report misconduct that anyone will care. As long as the words “snitch” and “rat” are pejoratives and until whistle blowers are perceived to be honorable, City employees will continue to exist in an environment of cheaters. Only the Mayor can change that mind-set by lauding those who report and not saying he doesn’t need them.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

LOSING THREE TECHNOLOGIES AT ONCE

LOSING THREE TECHNOLOGIES AT ONCE Two days ago my TV picture dramatically changed. About one third of the picture on the left side was now on the right side of the screen. Since it did this on three different television sets, I knew it could not be the TV’s fault; it must be the cable hook up. I did not call RCN, my cable provider, figuring I would wait a few days and the distortion might magically fix itself. I turned the cable box on and off a number of times, and that did nothing to alleviate the problem. Wednesday morning when I tired to sign on the Internet, my broadband was out. I could not get on-line. Thinking it might be my computer, I attempted to get on-line with my laptop and that would not work either. So I knew it was not the computer’s fault, it was the fault of my broadband hook-up. My first reaction was to call Computer Gigolo Kevin in a panic. He told me to pull some cords out and then put them back in again (I have no idea what cords) and it still did not work. I called RCN—the company that provides both cable TV and my Internet and told them of my troubles They said they were aware of the broad-band problem, which was building wide, and a technician was on the way over. When I tried to tell them about my television problems they would not listen. They said the two were related. I said they could not be related because the TV problem first happened a few days ago. They still refused to discuss the TV problem. I said I would call them back after the Internet was fixed. Even though I knew the Internet problem was building-wide, I still asked Computer Gigolo Kevin to come over and show me how to hook up the old way by phone line because RCN could not say how long it would take to repair the broadband problem. While waiting for the Internet to be repaired, I called my friend Linda and asked her to check my e-mails in case I had anything urgent. Nothing was of vital importance. I cancelled my lunch meeting because I had to wait for Kevin. The Internet started working about 11:00 a.m. I checked the TV sets and they still had weird pictures. I called RCN again and told them that broadband was fixed; my TV picture was still weird so I needed repair. They said someone could come Friday night. Not wanting to wait that long, I e-mailed my friend who is Manager of RCN Chicago and told him of my problems. He had someone call me in a few minutes that they would be over in an hour. Computer Gigolo Kevin came over and he set it up so my computer could work on dial up if broadband went out. So I was glad that I had never cancelled my third phone line. We checked and old fashioned dial up worked! Yeah! I had a back up plan! While all this was going on, I was making arrangements for 75 bicycles to be picked up at Dick’s Last Resort and delivered to the police station because the Teamsters never showed up last night to do it. If we did not get the bikes over to the station, 75 children would show up that afternoon and not have their gift. Got that problem resolved. Broadband is working, cable should be fixed, and all seems calm. Then my phones stopped working! At first I only had static on my lines, but then they went dead. Dead except for when they started calling each other all by themselves! The ringing was driving me nuts! I went on-line for AT&T to report the trouble and received a repair ticket by e-mail that said they would have the problem resolved in FIVE DAYS!! That seemed like a long time to wait. I tried calling a human being at repair, but they don’t exist. I was going to have to use Chicago Clout. I sent e-mails to a few lobbyists friends at AT&T and begged for help. They said they would get on it. I then got a call from AT&T repair that someone would be over early Thursday morning. RCN technicians showed up and re-booted and updated the cable boxes in my home. Now the TV pictures are working fine. It is now 4:32 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon and I have Internet and television. Still missing telephone. But two out of three is good! Thursday morning I am dressed and waiting at 8:00 a.m. The technician called at 9:20 a.m. to say he would arrive in 20 minutes. He arrived at 10:04 a.m. He worked for an hour doing whatever and all three phone lines are working. What a day it was to have no Internet, bad TV picture and no phone. I was frustrated because all of the problems were related to technology that I could not repair myself. If I were a Luddite, my life would not be so complicated. In the old days when a pencil point broke, it would only have taken a simple twist of a sharpener crank to fix. Oh for simpler times!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? NO!

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? NO! Deborah Morrison has a family plan with Sprint. She has been a Sprint customer for two years. She pays her bill on time and upgrades to more expensive products when they become available. She is a customer that any phone carrier would be happy to have. But as of January 19th, Sprint has “fired” her as a customer. Morrison received a letter of termination from Sprint telling her that she “roams” too much. Until recently, she had been living in both downtown Chicago and in Grand Detour. Grand Detour, is an unincorporated village in Ogle County that was founded in 1833. The village is named because of an odd turn in the Rock River. Grand Detour is the historic site where John Deere invented the first successful steel plow. The population in the 2000 census was 742 people. It is a very small town. When she was living in downtown Chicago, there was not much roaming involved when she made calls with her cell phone. But Morrison recently gave up her home in the city and is only living in Grand Detour. This area does not have many Sprint cell towers nearby and this causes her cell calls to off-network roam. Sprint does not like this and has given her one month to find a new carrier. Sprint had previously sent her a letter telling her they would “give her an opportunity to change her usage habits,” but obviously she could not do unless she moved into an area with more Sprint cell towers. Morrison chose not to move, so Sprint “fired” her. In the current letter they wrote that to offset any inconvenience she would experience in finding a new carrier they would waive any applicable early termination fees. Since Sprint is terminating her, she should charge them a termination fee! . In the “About Us,” section of the Sprint web site (www.sprint.com) they describe themselves as company that: Sprint Nextel offers a comprehensive range of wireless and wireline communications services bringing the freedom of mobility to consumers, businesses and government users. Sprint Nextel is widely recognized for developing, engineering and deploying innovative technologies, including two wireless networks serving more than 48 million customers at the end of the third quarter of 2009 and the first and only 4G service from a national carrier in the United States; industry-leading mobile data services; instant national and international push-to-talk capabilities; and a global Tier 1 Internet backbone. The company’s customer-focused strategy has led to improved first call resolution and customer care satisfaction scores. Sprint says they offer the “freedom of mobility” to 48 million customers. Obviously the742 people who live in Grand Detour aren’t important to Sprint and won’t be given the opportunity to receive the services of Sprint’s “innovative technologies.” Maybe if the population reaches 1,000, things will change.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

HOLIDAY SHOPPING DOES NOTHING FOR THE ECONOMY!

HOLIDAY SHOPPING DOES NOTHING FOR THE ECONOMY! According to Marilyn Vos Savant’s column in Parade Magazine, total consumer spending accounts for about 70% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This spending includes housing, transportation, food clotting, etc. In 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average household expenditure was $50, 486. The National Retail Federation reports that consumers spent an average of $508 on holiday gifts last year. If we play with the numbers that means that only .74% (¾ of one percent) of the economy is represented by holiday spending. I am confused! If holiday spending is such an infinitesimal part of the GDP why do the media make such a big deal about Black Friday and holiday shopping expenditures? Why are every retailer’s cash register sales closely scrutinized and on-line spending analyzed to ad nauseum? The numbers prove that holiday spending has virtually no impact on our economy, yet the media wants us to believe else wise. We are being “scared” into shopping, afraid if we don’t shop the country’s economy will collapse. We are bombarded with useless information like a Rassmussen Reports national telephone survey that reports that with less than two weeks to go before Christmas Day, 60% of Americans have at least started their holiday shopping. Also thirty-eight percent (38%) of adults say they have not yet started shopping. Just one-out-of-five Americans (21%) have finished their holiday shopping, while 75% still have shopping to do. Oh,no! Seventy-five percent of people still have not done their holiday shopping! These people are smart because the closer to Christmas that one waits, the better the bargains will be. The smartest shopper does their holiday buying on January 2nd and saves the presents for the following Christmas. The statistic that annoys me the most is the one that reports that, when they are out shopping, 72% of people prefer to see signs wishing them a “Merry Christmas” rather than ones that say "Happy Holidays." Why should it matter what a sign has printed on it? All that matters for this or for any season is that we are all healthy. Wealthy and wise wouldn’t hurt either!

Monday, December 14, 2009

“B Minus” School Project Venerated Around the world

“B Minus” School Project Venerated Around the world Robert Heft died last Saturday at 67 years of age in Saginaw, Michigan. No cause of death has been announced. I doubt that any of the readers of this blog know who he was. I did not know his name and I am ashamed that I didn’t until I saw it in a very small story in the Sun Times. Robert Heft was the designer of the 50 star United States flag. In 1958, Heft designed the flag as part of a high school project. According to Heft, “The flag was made from our 48 star flag, but separating the red & white stripes from the blue field and then replacing the field with a piece of blue cotton broadcloth and then added 100 stars (50 on either side). I cut out the stars from a white piece of (Bondex) which has heat activated glue on the reverse side. I placed the stars on by using a yard stick and proportional dividers, tacking one little tip of each star, until they were straight and equally spaced. When this was done, I then pressed them on the one side, flipped the flag over and matched them on the other side.
His teacher, Stanley Pratt was not impressed with his student’s work and graded the project with a “B minus.” Heft felt his design deserved a higher grade and made a deal with Pratt that if his design were accepted by Congress, his teacher would reconsider the mark and make it higher.
When Alaska and Hawaii were being considered for Statehood, more than 1,500 designs were submitted to President Dwight D. Eisenhower by Americans. In an interview with the web site, “Our Flag,” Heft said his saga continued when,” I took the flag over to my congressman, Walter H. Moeller then Ohio 10th Congressional District, and he took it to Washington. He submitted it to the U. S. Flag Selection Committee and eventually to President Dwight D. Eisenhower.”
Heft's flag design was chosen and adopted by presidential proclamation after Alaska but before Hawaii was admitted into the union in 1959. His design has flown over the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” for the past 60 years that America has had 50 states. To cover himself, Heft also copyrighted designs for 51- through 60-star American flags—just in case.
His teacher later changed his grade to an “A.” It should have been an “A+”
Teenagers know the names of the back-up dancers for Brittany Spear, who Taylor Swift is dating and the last time Lindsay Lohan went into rehab. They might remember who Betsy Ross was, but they don’t know Robert Heft. Today there are 481,000 matches on Google for his obituary; it’s sad more people know about him now that he is dead.

Friday, December 11, 2009

NO SCANDAL, NO RELATIVES ON THE PAYROLL

NO SCANDAL, NO RELATIVES ON THE PAYROLL Sixteen years ago I was press secretary to Cook County Board Commissioner Maria Pappas in the Cook County Board President Democratic primary race against John Stroger and Aurelia Pucinski. History shows that Stroger won that race, but since Pappas went on to become Cook County Treasurer it proves that I did a good job of highlighting Pappas’ ability to lead. So the fact that John’s son Todd Stroger is currently the Board president is partially my fault. There is a contentious primary this year because some of the Democratic Cook County Board President primary contestants have more baggage than a luggage carousel at American Airlines and I am sure more scandal will be revealed as we get closer to the February 2nd election day. A Chicago Tribune/WGN poll of 502 likely voters released on Friday showed Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown leading the pack with 29% of the vote, followed by Alderman Toni Preckwinkle at 20%, Todd Stroger at 14% and Metropolitan Water Reclamation Board President Terrance O’Brien at 11% . The survey, conducted from December 2nd to December 8th, and with a margin of error of 4.4%, found that 26% of primary voters were undecided in the race or for someone else. With such a high undecided percentage, there really is no solid leader and no apparent loser yet. Every single vote will be essential in this race, so people need to pay attention to who the candidates are and the song they sing. I like Terry O’Brien so I won’t write anything negative about him. He had offices in the same building that I did in the West Loop years ago and he was a great neighbor. Brown has experienced a lot of controversy in her nine year tenure as Circuit Court Clerk, most recently for asking for and accepting cash gifts from her workers. Stroger has been humiliated almost every day with one scandal after another coming out of his office with too many to enumerate here. That leaves Toni Preckwinkle. Preckwinkle is the Alderman in the 4th ward on the southside where Doolittle School is located. I “adopted” Doolittle about 12 years ago and Preckwinkle has been a champion and a friend to the school. She is currently serving her fifth term in City Hall. She not only has not been tainted by one hint of scandal; she has no relatives on the payroll!
Preckwinkle has outlined a 12 step “Compact for Change” that I will copy at the end of this blog. She has clearly studied the problems in Cook County and has answers. As your parents always told you, “If you’re not going to practice we will give the musical instrument to somebody else.” It is time to take the trumpet away from Stroger and let Preckwinkle play her tune. Preckwinkle Compact for Change
1. Finishing the Job on Tax Repeal I believe that to make the most of taxpayer dollars, Cook County government has an obligation to deliver good services and to do so effectively and efficiently. As Cook County Board President, I will repeal the remainder of Todd Stroger's one percent sales tax increase in conjunction with implementing responsible spending practices, eliminating wasteful programs and ensuring that the County fully captures all due income.
2. Long Range Financial Planning Cook County has not developed and implemented any long-term process to guide its operations. Due to a lack of such plans, the public is ill-served and the County continues to stumble from one fiscal crisis to the next. As Cook County Board President, I will develop and implement a formal long-term financial planning process that allows for input from the Cook County Board of Commissioners as well as members of the public. Instituting long-term financial planning will enable us to more effectively manage our resources, prioritize our spending and identify problems before they become crises so reasonable actions can be taken.
3. Fighting Corruption As Board President, I will establish an independent anti-corruption committee, run by former prosecutors, to fight corruption in Cook County. They will be given the task of reviewing all contracts - past and present - in order to weed out abuse and fraud, potentially saving the County tens of millions of dollars. We will work closely with the State's Attorney's office and the Federal level to root out corruption once and for all. Cook County government and its hiring process lack both transparency and accountability. I will eliminate political influence in the hiring process that has obstructed the efficiency of County government and strained the morale of County employees. I will implement an independent agency-by-agency "desk" audit to determine the productivity, cost and benefit of each employee.As President, I will make public all Shakman-exempt positions. I will ensure online postings of all proposals, in every stage in the process, for all of Cook County's business endeavors. Every citizen has the right to know about the County's business activities. We must end the practice of having vacant positions. The present system allows for abuse whereby money is transferred to other parts of the budget without full transparency. If a position is budgeted, then that position must be filled. If not, the position should be eliminated.
4. Economic Development and Job Creation I will work with businesses to bring new industries to the region, stimulating our economy and encouraging job creation. Additionally, in order to support a transitioning workforce, I will support critical job training that focuses on new and growing sections of the economy. Specifically, I will explore and identify employment and job training opportunities to prepare workers for emerging 21st century jobs related to sustainability, natural resource conservation and environmental-related technology. I pledge to work with the existing network of job training groups and community organizations to better understand green job creation potential, green job training programs and worker retraining. This will help ensure that Cook County has a workforce ready to meet the coming changes in the world economy. In our current economic climate, the emerging green job sectors are showing the greatest growth potential. Furthermore, even now there is a significant number of entry-level jobs in energy efficiency and renewable energy.Small business is the number one generator of jobs in any neighborhood. I will establish a working group to consider means of attracting more venture capitalists to incubate small businesses and green businesses. I will also explore additional resources to support small businesses such as apprenticeship programs, tax incentives and workshops throughout the County.
5. Rebuilding the Cook County Health Care System In order to create a solid foundation for a fiscally-sound County health system, I will push for the independent Board of Directors to be made permanent. This is the first step in reducing the political influence that has been detrimental to the efficiency and morale of those health care professionals who work so hard to provide quality care.I will work to ensure that County health services are as efficient and effective as possible by striving for three basic objectives: Correct extensive waste and duplication in order to end the bureaucratic drain on health care services.Divert mismanaged resources into high-quality preventive care.Pursue cooperative ventures to create a network of specialists. Once the County health system is operating at its highest capacity, it will serve as the foundation for a rational and cooperative public-private network that maximizes human and financial resources to provide comprehensive health care to every uninsured resident in the neighborhoods where they live. I will work closely with the Obama administration to expand coverage and reduce the number of uninsured and underinsured, through the Exchange and through expansion of Medicaid, and therefore significantly reduce the strain on the County Health System. As Cook County Board President, I will collaborate with other counties to ensure that those other counties using our health resources pay their fair share. I will continue advocating for the improvement of the Health & Hospitals System's billing practices so we can collect all federal and state funds to which it is entitled; such improvements can generate many millions of dollars.
6. Fighting Violent Crime The first priority of government is keeping people safe. As Board President I will work with municipal police departments, the County Sheriff and State’s Attorney to coordinate efforts and crack down on drugs and gang violence in our communities and keep our families safe. I will advocate increased investment in FY2011 for fighting violent crime for the State Attorney's office. I will also actively pursue federal resources to help develop and support our anti-crime programs. As President, I would pursue a county-wide partnership with CeaseFire - an initiative of the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention. This partnership between government and community-based organizations would provide a unique approach to violence reduction with a focus on street-level outreach, conflict mediation and changing of community norms to reduce violence.
7. Sentencing Reform in the Cook County Jail Cook County's chronically overcrowded criminal justice system is a drain on the County’s budget and a threat to our public safety. As Cook County Board President I will expand resources for alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders and provide treatment for addiction, educational classes and life skills training. This will reduce recidivism and make our county safer. The benefits of this approach are three-fold: 1) decreasing the number of people sitting in jail, 2) facilitating re-entry and job training and 3) reducing repeat offenses. I will also expand the State's Attorney's Drug Abuse Program (SADAP), which provides treatment and drug education to first-time drug offenders. I will look to expand the State's Attorney's RAP Drug School and Cook County Drug Court, which serve as pre-trial diversions of non-violent drug offenders from jail into drug treatment programs. As current demand for these services exceeds their capacity, their expansion will unclog the County's courts and free up resources that will enable the State's Attorney's office to focus on the prosecution of violent criminals.
8. Consolidating Cook County Government As Board President, I will make County government more efficient by creating a commission on consolidation, to spearhead a reduction in Cook County's current separately-elected offices. This will save tens of millions of dollars, improve accountability and make the delivery of services more efficient. I will work with the Illinois General Assembly to make this a reality.
9. Reducing the County's reliance on outside law firms Currently, Cook County spends roughly $8-9 million to hire outside lawyers to defend County employees in lawsuits. While some of these cases require outside lawyers due to inherent conflicts of interest, there are many other cases - worth millions of dollars - that can be covered by the County's legal services. Specifically, cases involving more than one County employee as defendants. Typically, one defendant will receive legal services from the State's Attorney, while the other will obtain external legal services to avoid conflicts of interest. As Cook County Board President I will support Commissioner Bridget Gainer's effort to implement and develop the Conflict Council, which is comprised of County attorneys who report to, yet operate separately from, the State's Attorney's office. The Conflict Council is dedicated solely to taking on lawsuits against the County in which there is a conflict between parties of the County. This is one way to ensure that the County is conducting its business more effectively and efficiently; the Conflict Council incurs only a fraction of the cost to pay outside firms.
10. Human Rights and Diversity It's critical to have a staff that accurately represents the diversity of the County, and my hiring process will reflect this. As President of the County Board, I will work with all communities to ensure that the concerns most affecting their community are represented. I will leave a legacy of professionalism by attracting the best and the brightest from all corners of the County. This is not just about my term in office - I want to leave a lasting legacy of talented employees for County government.I will continue to act as a strong advocate for the LGBT community. I will actively lend my voice to the push in Springfield for marriage equality.I will ensure that all providers in the county are respectful and aware of the need to recognize all families and that no one is denied access to their loved ones for any reason in an emergency.
11. Strengthening the Forest Preserve District As Cook County Board President, I pledge to re-organize the District; instilling professional management and ending the patronage that has come to characterize the Forest Preserves. Specifically, we need to address the ratio between managers and front line employees (roughly 1:2) in order to devote more people to maintaining the forest preserves. I will institute a comprehensive "desk" audit of the FPDCC to determine the productivity and efficacy of all FPDCC employees. I will make public record all Shakman-exempt employees of the FPDCC and also support the recommendations of the District's court-appointed Shakman Compliance Administrators (DCA). I will work to make the District's Human Resources Department more independent and transparent; District job applications will be more accessible, regular performance evaluations will be reinstated and best practices for personal maintenance will be instituted. As Board President I will advocate for a better use of technology to self-assess the maintenance and efficiency of each division within the FPDCC. We need to be able to analyze which sections of the forest preserves are receiving more visitors, providing educational programs and upholding ecological and maintenance standards. This increases the efficiency and accountability with which resources are allocated within the Forest Preserves. The Forest Preserves are a County treasure, providing residents with a wealth of opportunities for outdoor recreation. I want to actively pursue additional educational and recreational activities to expand the opportunities for individuals - especially our youth - to experience the Forest Preserves. I will advocate for the consolidation of the Forest Preserve Police with the Sheriff's Department and look for other areas where consolidation could maximize the efficiency of County resources. By turning over responsibility for District law enforcement to the Sheriff's Office and eliminating wasteful spending, it is estimated that the County could save taxpayers up to $8.6 million. We must increase land acquisition efforts to forestall the rapid disappearance of open space. I am in full support of funding the purchase of the 7,000 additional acres that law allows the District to have. This must be done before there is no open land left.
12. Veterans Affairs We must develop a significantly more proactive Veterans Assistance Commission. I will work with state and federal agencies to strengthen our County services to ensure our veterans connect with state and federal veterans affairs departments and social and legal aid agencies that offer services, such as job training and placement.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

MONEY AND SCHOOL PERFORMANCE NOT SYNCHRONIZED

MONEY AND SCHOOL PERFORMANCE NOT SYNCHRONIZED U.S. News & World Reports magazine announced its annual rankings of high schools in America and the research I did on collating data comparing states and their school rankings was astounding when I discovered that various economic factors have no correlation to how states’ school’s performances are. I obtained all of my data from the U.S. Census Bureau National Data Book. According to the magazine, it uses a three-step process that analyzes first how schools are educating all of their students, then their minority and disadvantaged students, and finally their college-bound students based on student scores on statewide tests, Advanced Placement tests, and International Baccalaureate tests. U.S. News and its partner in the project, School Evaluation Services, surveyed 21,786 institutions. Thomas Jefferson High School in Virginia placed first for the third year in a row. There were no Illinois schools in the top 20. One would think that the salary level of teachers might be a factor in how well a school performs because a well paid teacher should be a more dedicated teacher. I was surprised to learn that Illinois ranks a very high number three in the nation for average salary for elementary and secondary school teachers at $58,686. Since the personal per capita income in Illinois is $40,322 that means teachers’ yearly earnings are about 45% higher than the state’s per capita income. Texas has four schools on the top 20 rankings and their average teacher salary is $41,744 (a ranking of a low 34th on the list). Florida has three schools on the list and they rank 28th with an average salary of $43,320. Since Illinois teachers are paid at a much higher rate then those in Florida or Texas, it proves that well paid teachers do not perform better for their students than lower paid ones. Illinois ranks 5th in the United States for Gross Domestic Product—a very respectable ranking, yet South Carolina ranks 28th and it has a school on the top twenty list. Illinois ranks 31st at 11.9% for people who live below the poverty level. Yet 16.3% of the people in Texas (9th worst state) live below that level. So there are 25% more poor people living in Texas than in Illinois, yet it has four schools in the top rankings. Seventeen schools on the top twenty list are in states that have a higher percentage of people living below the poverty level than does Illinois. The percentage of local revenue for school districts was highest in Illinois (59.1%), yet we rank 21st in spending per pupil at $9,555 with the national average at $9,666. Texas spends only $7818 and it has four schools in the top twenty. I could keep spouting statistics like those I have already written about, but it only becomes more depressing with each finding. What is the purpose of knowing these numbers? Since I had always thought that success in education was determined by the wealth of a state, the salary levels of the teachers and other such parameters, it was depressing to learn that I was wrong. Illinois is a leader in all of the categories that should lead to success. Yet these numbers prove that we have no excuse for the dismal failure of the educational system in Illinois. This is one time when money does not matter.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

NO QUIERO TACO BELL AOL had an article quoting an unidentified manager at a Taco Bell with complaints about people who do not follow the correct etiquette when using the drive through at fast food restaurants. I found most of his comments to be without merit when viewed from the perspective of the customer.
1. Know what you’re ordering. Why does the manager assume that a customer understands what every item on the menu represents? I was only at a Taco Bell once (when Mancow and I were hanging out at the food court of the State of Illinois Building) and when I looked at the menu I had no idea what were in the tacos, gordita crunch, burrito or quesadilla. I did not even know what they were. I had to ask questions. If I had been at a drive through, I would have held up the line because of my lack of knowledge. Just because Taco bell employees know what their menu items are comprised of doesn’t mean that a customer automatically knows. 2. Don't Add Additional Items at the Pick-Up Window. I can order any additional item I want. Sometimes one forgets to order something or decides at the last minute that they want to add dessert or a drink. More revenue for the restaurant is a good thing; don’t complain because the order taker is too lazy to have to make a change.
3. Have Your Money Ready, and Please, Nothing Larger than a $20. I can’t have my money ready until I know the total. The amount of time it takes to drive from the order box to the window is two seconds. I cannot get my money out while I am driving. I pull up to the window and get my window out of my wallet. I have not been driving around all day with cash in my console just waiting to go to a drive up window. And why can’t I use a $50 or $100 bill? A computer tells the cashier how much my change will be so it takes no intelligence at all to figure that out. If I pay a $2.04 bill with a $10, the change will be a $5, two singles, and three quarters, two dimes and one penny. If my bill is $49.99 and I pay with a $50 bill, that is only one penny back. I think the cashier can handle that without error.
4. No Eating at the Window. People are not necessarily eating at the window when they open their bag of food at the window; they are probably checking to see if the order is correct. When I was a regular fast food eater, I would estimate that 50% of my orders were incorrect. I cannot know if my order is incorrect if I don’t check it. Nothing is worse then getting home and discovering that they forgot your fries.5. Come Into the Restaurant for Large or Multiple Orders. The whole concept of the drive through is convenience for me the customer. If I have a large order it is easier to obtain it at the drive through so I don’t have to carry it from the restaurant to my car. The Chihuahua who proclaimed, “Yo Quiero Taco Bell” died this past July at 15 years of age after being a pampered pooch in the Taco Bell commercials for 10 years. She travelled in limos, first class on airplanes and even flew on the company’s private jet. If she were still around I would tell her, “No Quiero Taco Bell,” for the arrogance towards customers of this unidentified restaurant manager who clearly does not respect the patrons of the chain.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

AN IMMIGRANT IS NOT THE SAME AS AN ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT An undocumented immigrant is an illegal immigrant According to a story about illegal immigration reform in the Chicago Tribune,”Deportations have continued, with nearly 370,000 immigrants detained during the fiscal year that ended in October. That's more than twice the number in 1999, according to a report last week by Transactional Records Clearing House at Syracuse University.” This statistic has angered advocates of illegal immigration reform. If statistics showed that the FBI had arrested twice as many bank robbers in the past 10 years there would be cause for celebration. If the Chicago Police reported that they had arrested twice as many drunk drivers, they would be lauded. But when Immigrations Customs Enforcement (ICE) announces that 110,000 “criminal aliens” are incarcerated and 11,000 of those prisoners are serving time for murder, rape and other serious charges; there is no adulation for this fine agency. A new Chicago ordinance that takes effect January 1st, will allow police to impound the cars of unlicensed drivers. Many of those drivers are illegal immigrants. Reformers think this is onerous and unfair, I find it reassuring that drivers who probably have no insurance will no longer have a motor vehicle to operate. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Unemployment Report released December 4, 2009, there are a total of 21 million Americans looking for work. A Pew Research Center study estimates that there are 7.5 million illegal immigrants currently employed. These figures show that we could lower unemployment approximately 30% if all illegal immigrants were fired and American citizens were hired instead. It is also estimated that there are 11.9 illegal immigrants in the United States. Being here illegally is a crime so if only 110,000 of them are in jails and prisons, that means we have almost 11 million people who are essentially criminals just walking around. If there were 11 million bank robbers on the loose, we as taxpaying citizens would not tolerate it and demand something be done immediately. Instead reformers want an amnesty system implemented and everyone be made legal, “just because.” Should we forgive all criminal “just because?” Why chose just illegal immigrants to forgive for their transgression? One’s particular mind-set about how to handle illegal immigration is just as powerful as one’s stance on abortion. No one’s position is going to change because of random rhetoric from an insignificant blogger. But if I can make even one person understand that in the stories about immigration, every time a reporter writes, “undocumented immigrant” as a flowery way of describing someone who is here illegally, I have done my job.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Judge is a jurist, no matter what their sexual preference

On July 31st I wrote a blog, LBGT CITY CONTRACT SET-ASIDES; FOR OR AGAINST? The blog dealt with Mayor Daley and his support of a city effort to give preferential treatment of city contracts to businesses owned by gays and lesbians. Since I am not a lesbian, I was afraid anything I would write would sound discriminatory and biased. Thankfully, because of a great column by Greg Hines in Crain’s (Hines is gay); I was finally able to articulate what I wanted to say through his words. IN 1994, Thomas Chiola was elected as Cook County’s first openly gay judge. In a Chicago Tribune article Sunday, Chiola said "I took an oath when I became a judge to apply the law the best I can determine and how that relates to the facts in front of me." The story also told us that Chiola said that no matter their background or beliefs, judges must rule based on the law and the facts of the case. Chiola is no longer the only gay judge serving on the bench. With 15 gay judges, Cook County has one of the highest concentrations of openly gay or lesbian judges in the country. According to the story, later this month, Norene Love will take a new assignment in Maywood, becoming, as far as other judges can tell, the first openly gay or lesbian judge to preside over a Cook County felony courtroom. If judges are supposed to make rulings based on the law and the facts in front of them, why does it matter if a judge is gay or heterosexual? Why did a group of gay judges feel it necessary to form the Alliance of Illinois Judges? The Alliance says one of its initiatives is to lobby other circuit judges for the appointment of more gays and lesbians as associate judges. Alliance members said they believe judges should come from a variety of backgrounds, so that all elements of society feel they are represented in the judicial system. Again, if rulings are based on the law and not personal preferences or background, why aren’t we electing and appointing judges based solely on their knowledge of the law and not by whom they are sleeping with, the color of their skin, their ethnic background or their religion?
The Alliance of Illinois Judges is one of only a few such organizations in the country. Michael Sonberg, a New York Criminal Court judge who helped launch a group there in the early 1990s, said there are clusters of openly gay or lesbian judges in a few major cities and one openly gay federal judge in the country. If education and knowledge of the law is what is important to fulfill one’s role as a judge, I don’t understand why being gay or not should make a difference in determine one’s ability to serve as a jurist.
Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream was that man would not be judged by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character and Lyndon Johnson said, “Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men's skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact." The same statements can be changed to reflect attitudes towards gays and lesbians. Since all people should be viewed equally, I think forming groups that sets one apart creates a divisive and discordant atmosphere. We cannot be equal if we keep proclaiming our differences.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A MUCH TOO CORDIAL SOCIAL SECRETARY The White House Easter Egg Roll is a holiday tradition dating back to 1878 when President Rutherford B. Hayes officially opened the White House grounds to local children for egg rolling on Easter Monday. Successive Presidents have continued the tradition of inviting children to the White House Lawn for egg rolling and other activities and entertainment.On this day, The White House opens the South Lawn to children age ten and under, along with their families, to enjoy sports, cooking classes, live musical performances, storytelling and the traditional Easter egg roll. Historically people who wanted to attend the White House Easter Egg Roll would have to line up at the Ellipse Visitor Pavilion at 15th and E Street the Saturday before the roll. For 2009, it was decided instead to make the tickets available on the White House web site. Distribution started on the morning of March 26th and all tickets were gone by the end of the day. The tickets probably would have been gone earlier, but a staggered distribution was done. So one had to keep trying throughout the day hoping the site would be active when they tried to obtain tickets. That is what “regular people” had to do. Not so if you were an employee of Aqua Salon in Georgetown located at 1513 Wisconsin Avenue NW in Washington. In a Chicago Tribune story about White House Social Security Desiree Rogers and the gate crashers at the recent White House State dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, “Hair stylist Ron Clemente remembers last spring when she came into a Georgetown salon where she has had her nails done, and gave employees tickets to the White House Easter Egg Roll.” I called the salon and regular manicures start at $25, so it’s not a cheap neighborhood place. I am sure the employees are all very nice people and if they had gone on-line like the rest of “regular Americans”, maybe they would have obtained tickets to the Easter Egg Roll. But I am astonished by Rogers’ impudence! One wonders how a White House employee has the audacity to pass out coveted tickets to the Easter Egg Roll to basically people on the street. Key Republicans are threatening to subpoena Rogers with questions about the lapse of protocol at the Singh dinner and if her office contributed to the breach of security. They should also question her frivolous passing out of tickets to the Easter Egg Roll at a salon. If she provides tickets to random strangers at a beauty parlor, one can only imagine what favors she does for her friends.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

WHY DON’T MARRIED WOMEN GET CAUGHT? A University of California study in 1998 reported that 24 percent of men and 14 percent of women had had sex outside their marriages. Ten years later in 2008, the Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy, reported that approximately 50 percent of married women and 60 percent of married men will have an extramarital affair at some time in their marriage. Since the people having affairs are having them with other people—not their spouses--the current statistics on the percentage of married couples who cheat on each other means that in nearly 80% of marriages, someone is having an affair at some point. A bit confusing, but a statistic that shows that people of both sexes are cheating a lot! So why is it that married men are always getting caught and not married women? The juicy scandals of recent years all involved men; Eliot Spitzer, Mark Sanford, John Edwards, Jim McGreevey, Michael Jordan, and now Tiger Woods. There was some British royal scandal years back with Princess Margaret and Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson; but the big stories seem to be about wondering male genitalia. Why do single women openly admit to the tabloids that they are sleeping with a married man, but not the other way around? Data shows us that married women are having affairs with single men; but for some reason the men don’t spill the beans. One could argue that there are more famous men then there are famous women so that is why they are more likely to be caught; but with 50 percent of married women reported to be cheating there is enough infidelity for scandal to be popping up. I have a theory. I have no statistics to back it up; it is just my own hypothesis. A single woman secretly hopes that the married man will leave his wife and marry her. If the married man gets caught cheating then maybe his wife will divorce him and he will become available. A single man is in it for purely sexual reasons and has no desire to take on the burden of a divorced woman and her children. He does not want the married woman to get caught! He just wants to keep having uncomplicated sex with no commitment. So the single man keeps his mouth shut and the single woman proclaims it from the mountaintop. Krusty the Clown from The Simpson’s TV show tells us, "There are three reasons to own a gun; to protect yourself and your family, to hunt dangerous and delicious animals, and to keep the King of England out of your face." I say there is a fourth reason-to shoot the cheating bastard. Case closed.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

COMING CLEAN, CAJUN STYLE

COMING CLEAN, CAJUN STYLE
One of my favorite episodes of the television show 30 Rock involved some incidents where political consultant James Carville kept mysteriously showing up and advising people how to deal with their problems, “Cajun Style.” This method involved getting in “front of a story” and spinning it your own way. I have not written about the Tiger Woods car accident except to post a comment on Shia Kapos blog on Crain’s (www.chicagobusiness.com) in response to a story where sports agent Steve Zucker said Tiger should,” come forward, set the record straight about himself and not take questions." I wrote, “Tiger Woods has no obligation to share his personal life with the world. I applaud him for being private. He owes no one an explanation of his actions except his wife and family.” As I write this, 9:27 a.m. (CST), a CNN breaking news alert just came in with a report, “Golfer Tiger Woods said today that he regrets "transgressions" that "let his family down." I am mad about the CNN alert for two reasons; first, CNN should be breaking news of global importance and impact, not about a golfer cheating on his wife and second because Tiger should not have had to share that information with anyone except his family. I am not a famous person, but one can never tell what might happen in the future. When E! Television broadcasts my “True Hollywood Story,” I want to be in front of the narrative, “Cajun Style.” If I air my own dirty laundry on my own terms, then I won’t have to see headlines in the National Enquirer or Star Magazines. Let us start with when I was about 8 years old and I threw something at my sister at the bus stop and it cut her face. I don’t remember the details—the other students standing there that day 40 years ago might remember—but the incident was quite ugly and I regret it. I am apologetic for that occurrence and I swear that it will never happen again. When I was 18 years old, I had the choice of staying at college and taking my midterm exams or going to Palm Springs to play golf with Frank Sinatra and Lawrence Welk. As the picture on this posting shows, I went to the desert! I lied not only to my Mother about the trip, but to the nuns at Manhattanville College of the Scared Heart where I was a sophomore. I am repentant about my misbehavior and I swear that it will never happen again. Through the years I have had a number of affairs with married men. I cannot even remember their names because it was so long ago. But since they might remember me, once I become famous, I better fess up to those indiscretions also. I am remorseful about those episodes and I swear that it will never happen again. Since I never cheated on a school exam (members of Mensa don’t have to do that), stole candy, shoplifted anything, misappropriated money or coveted my neighbor’s goods; I feel confident I have revealed here anything that might embarrass me in the future. Unless you count my knowing where Jimmy Hoffa is buried.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

DOGGONE IT, TOO MANY DOGS! The suburb of Chicago Heights (named after Chicago) is described by www.chicagorelo.com as a place where “homes in the community reflect its history. There are areas where preservation districts protect old, turn-of-the-century mansions. Vast blocks of brick Chicago-style bungalows, ranch homes, and tri-levels look as good today as when they were built in the decades following World War II. The city has two new subdivisions of custom-built homes on large lots. “ This describes a nice, leafy area where dogs would be very happy to frolic in the parks. Yet Chicago Heights has a limitation on the number of animals and pets that one can keep in their home. Chicago Heights Law Sec. 6-23. Limitation of pets.
(a) No person shall keep or permit more than two (2) dogs to be or remain in or about any single-family residence, building or lot, or more than one (1) dog in any unit of a multifamily residence within the city.
(b) No person shall keep or permit more than two (2) cats to be or remain in or about any single-family residence, building or lot, or more than one (1) cat in any unit of a multifamily residence where cats are allowed out of doors. Where cats are not allowed out of doors, no more than four (4) shall be allowed in a single-family residence, building or lot, and no more than two (2) in any unit of a multifamily residence.
(c) The limit on the total number of animals, counting dogs and cats,allowed in a single-family residence is four (4), and in a unit of multifamily residence is two (2).
(d) Any number in excess of section 6-23(a) through (c) shall be constituted as a kennel and must be licensed, inspected and properly zoned. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 37% of American households own a dog. The average dog per household is 1.7 and 63% own only one dog. The Humane Society reports that 12% of owners, own three or more dogs. So the people who own five dogs or more are few and far between. In comparison we have the metropolis of Chicago where high rise buildings abound and there are not a lot of homes with big backyards for dogs to frolic in. So a proposed (and oft shot down) Chicago City ordinance that would limit ownership to five dogs or less would not affect many people at all. Only the few crazy ones who feel they need to possess more than five dogs. The proposed ordinance introduced by Ald. Ray Suarez, (D-31) says, "It shall be unlawful to keep, harbor or otherwise process five or more dogs over the age of four months within any household's residential dwelling unit. Any person who violates any provision of this section shall be fine not less than $100 or more than $1,000. Each day that a violation continues shall constitute a separate distinct offense." This would be a good way to help balance the city’s budget if the ordinance were passed and enforced!
The pet lover’s world is going insane at the thought of limitations! “It is an arbitrary and expensive proposition that will inappropriately punish many responsible owners and foster parents,” said Cynthia Bathurst of the Best Friends Animal Society. “
George Cardenas D-12), one of the Alderman backing the ordinance says, “We no longer live in the era of Lassie. We live in the era of Bone Crusher and Killer and the other names people use for dogs nowadays. So we have to have limits.”
I grew up owning dogs and think they are cute and cuddly; but they are not human beings. The people who call them family members need psychiatric counseling. The dogs also deserve a better life than being cooped up in a small city apartment with no backyard to gambol in. Since it costs, at a minimum, approximately $1,000/year to feed and provide veterinary care to a dog; five dogs would cost the owner $5,000. If someone can afford to spend that amount of cash on animals, and are not Steve Gates or Michael Bloomberg, their fiscal priorities are all wrong.
As usual, I have the answer to this contentious debate. Instead of limiting the number of dogs one can have by an arbitrary number; limit the number of dogs according to the square footage in one’s home. Since that is how the City of Chicago determines how many human beings can live in a space; adapt the code for dogs. If one’s home is 1,000 sq.feet or less, they are allowed one dog. Each additional dog requires another 500 sq. feet of footage. Dogs need room to run and play. A dog limiting ordinance based on the size of one’s home would be equitable to dogs and humans alike.
The most important thing to remember is that dogs are not humans and will never be humans. The rights of the humans who have to live next door to a smelly apartment with too many animals should have their rights protected before an animal’s rights.
As Snoop has told us, “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.” A dog by any other name would still smell like poop. So let us limit the poop.