URBAN PHILOSOPHER
Conscience Laureate

Friday, February 26, 2010

WHY YOU SHOULD LEAVE THE SEAT UP

WHY YOU SHOULD LEAVE THE SEAT UP If a man leaves the seat down when he urinates, there is a very good chance that he will “splash.” If the seat is upright, then any errant droplets will be on the rim. Therefore, if a woman enters a bathroom and sees the seat up, she is guaranteed that when she lowers it, she will have a sterile seat for her own use. I discovered a fascinating 2002 study, “Up or Down? A Male Economist’s Manifesto on the Toilet Seat Etiquette” written by Jay Pil Choi an economist at Michigan State (https://www.msu.edu/~choijay/etiquette.pdf), that analyzed mathematically why the toilet seat should be left up. His final economic analysis looks like this: Vuf =fMaxó− cf + óuf [ä{áVdm + (1−á)Vdf }] + (1−á)Vdf }] + (1−óuf )[− cf + ä{áVdm + (1−á)Vdf }]f and makes sense after one reads the entire 18 page investigation. He was very clever in pointing out that if the seat is left in the down position, a man must lift the seat up and then put it down when he is done. He has two steps to perform; while a woman only has one to perform if she has to lower the seat and does not return it to the original and upright position. His opening remarks in his treatise say, “ I show that the “selfish” or the “status quo” rule that leaves the toilet seat in the position used dominates the down rule in a wide range of parameter spaces including the case where the inconvenience costs are the same. The intuition for this result is easy to understand. Imagine a situation in which the aggregate frequency of toilet usage is the same across genders, i.e., the probability that any visitor will be male is ½. With the down rule, each male visit is associated with lifting the toilet seat up before use and lowering it down after use, with the inconvenience costs being incurred twice. With the selfish rule, in contrast, the inconvenience costs are incurred once and only when the previous visitor is a member of different gender. The worst case under the selfish rule would occur when the sex of the toilet visitor strictly alternates in each usage. Even in this case, the total inconvenience costs would be the same as those under the down rule if the costs are symmetric.” Why all the talk of returning something to its original and upright position? Because Japan’s All Nippon Airways announced that starting in March all international flights will have a women-only lavatory after a survey of women fliers identified it as the second most attractive service they desired with the first being offered desserts.
"We received many comments that having a women-only lavatory would be a factor in differentiating our airline from others," said an ANA spokesman. The spokesman denied that the new service was introduced following complaints about men soiling the bathrooms, telling AFP news, "Those opinions may exist, but we do not have that data on hand." Since 2006 ANA has pursued a one-month awareness campaign each year in which it asks domestic fliers to visit the bathroom before boarding to reduce their body weight and therefore cut the plane's carbon-dioxide emissions.
According to CNN, “One women-only lavatory will be designated in the rear section of the passenger cabin and will display a pink version of the universal sign for a ladies' room as a way to let male travelers know to look for another option. Women can still use any other lavatory. While restricting men from using the women-only bathroom, the airline has spelled out exceptions to the rule, such when required for safety reasons or when a passenger is not feeling well or when there are very few female passengers and the women-only designation has been lifted for the flight."
To repeat an earlier statement- All Nippon Airways is making this change because a survey of women fliers identified it as the second most attractive service they desired with the first being offered desserts. What kind of survey could this have been to get such stupid answers? There must have been a finite list of (a), (b), and (c) choices for one to choose from because otherwise in a survey of what one would like changed in an airline, the first choice would have to be more leg and arm room. Who would choose a free dessert instead of more space? An illustrious institute like the Pew Center for Research must not have been involved or All Nippon would have gotten better survey results. Sounds more like the Pepe Le Pew Center did the study.
In Judaism, chazakah is the Halachic (law) status of permanence that is established when an event repeats itself three times. So if a man leaves the seat up three times and the woman does nothing; then “seat up” is what becomes accepted as correct.
Since men and women are heterogeneous (consisting of dissimilar elements or parts) their use of the equipment in the bathroom is quite different. So who will win the war in the “up” or “down” battle? Probably the hermaphrodite; because they can go either way.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

“MILLENNIALS” Not Like Me At All!

“MILLENNIALS” Not Like Me At All! Conventional wisdom demands that each generation gets labeled so we have a simple phrase to describe them. It is the zeitgeist; the general cultural, intellectual, ethical, spiritual and political climate within a specific group along with the morals and cultural direction of that era. I am a Baby Boomer. Known by that name because it is the generation that spawned from the spike in fertility after World War II, it is considered to have ended in 1964 when the birth control pill was invented. Parents then were full of hope for a peaceful world and a better life for their children than they had experienced. Those born after 1965 were originally part of the “Baby Bust” generation, but the name got changed to Generation X. According to Wikipedia, the term was first used in the UK in a 1964 study of British youth by Jane Deverson. The study revealed a generation of teenagers who "sleep together before they are married, were not taught to believe in God as 'much', dislike the Queen, and don't respect parents," these controversial findings meant that the piece was deemed unsuitable for the magazine. Deverson, in an attempt to save her research, worked with Hollywood correspondent Charles Hamblett to create a book about the study. Hamblett decided to name it Generation X. The newest generation is the Millennials. Characteristics of the generation vary by region, depending on social and economic conditions. However, it is generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies.
The Pew Center just issued a 149-page study - "Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change" - the most ambitious examination to date of the age group. The study dubbed the young adults history's first "always connected" generation, treating phones and other shiny, handheld devices like body parts. But as my friend Constance Buscemi pointed out,” All of the technology the Millennials use today, the Baby Boomers invented yesterday.” There about 50 million of them and they tend to be more confident, liberal, upbeat and open-minded, the report found.
Chapter seven of the report tells us that 70% say they have tattoos hidden beneath clothing and nearly one-in-four have a piercing in some place other than an earlobe. My body does not sport either of those extra adornments.
But the biggest difference between me and the Millennials has to do with our priorities in life. The most important thing to them at 52% is to be a good parent and that followed by successful marriage at 30%. I am not married, nor do I have a child; so those priorities rank very low for me.
Third on the list at 21% is helping others; but a high paying job ranks only at 15%. When helping others it is de rigueur to have money (serving food in a soup kitchen is nice, but cash is what charities need!) The Millennials should have ranked those two in a different order.
The lowest priority for this generation, at only 1%, is to become famous; which has been my first priority all my life. To quote Pepe Le Pew from the movie, “Little Beau Pepe,” A pitiful case am I not?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

THE DOGS KIDS LOVE TO BITE (Even kids with chicken pox)

THE DOGS KIDS LOVE TO BITE (Even kids with chicken pox)
The first automobile crash in the United States occurred in New York City in 1896, when a motor vehicle collided with a bicyclist. (U.S. Dept. of Transportation) In 2008, 716 bicyclists were killed in traffic accidents, a slight increase from 2007. In 2008 almost fifty percent of all bicycle deaths happened to children or about 350 fatalities. In 2008, nearly 400,000 children aged 14 and under were treated in hospital emergency rooms for bicycle-related injuries. Why these statistics? So the reader can have a comparison to the next set.
From www.topnews.com, “according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), hot dogs - one of the most popular foods at amusement parks, parties, and ballgames – are a choking hazard for children; and should, as such, come with a warning label from the manufacturers! Going by statistical evidence, choking is the cause behind over 100 child-deaths of below-14-year-olds in the US every year; out of which more than half are food-related - resulting from the so-called ‘dangerous’ foods like nuts, popcorn, raw vegetables, grapes, large chunks of meat or cheese, gum, marshmallows, hard candy, raisins and peanut butter. "
How many of these choking deaths involve hot dogs? About 17% of cases involve hot dogs, according to a report by the AAP. About 10,000 children go to the emergency for choking of all types. Therefore about 18 children die a year from eating a frankfurter and 350 die from bicycle accidents and the occurrence of hospital visits are 40 times greater from bike riding than from choking. It is very obvious, even to the non-mathematicians, that riding a bike is more dangerous for children than eating hot dogs.
So let us ban all bike riding by children! But bicycle safety is not the hazard of choice right now; it’s hot dogs!
AAP reports, "Food manufacturers should design new foods, and redesign existing foods to avoid shapes, sizes, texture and other characteristics that increase choking risk to children." It said hot dogs are perfectly shaped to "wedge tightly into a child's hypopharynx."
And how are food manufacturers supposed to “re-design” apples, grapes, raisins and vegetables? They are made by Mother Nature, not in a factory! The Mother of a child is supposed to cut up, or help their child slice, large chunks of meat and cheese. The phrase “bite-size” exists because it explains what sized portion one is supposed to swallow. But as Blog fan Dr. Bob commented on an earlier posting my “basic argument is flawed inasmuch as you have pre-supposed basic intelligence in the general population.” I guess people are stupider than I give them credit for.
The real story behind the story that everybody seems to have ignored is how politically incorrect the Armour hot dog jingle was; analyze the words:
Hotdogs, Armour hotdogs.
What kinds of kids eat Armour hot dogs?
Fat kids, skinny kids, kids who climb on rocks.
Tough kids, sissy kids
Even kids with chicken pox
Love hotdogs, Armour hot dogs
The dogs kids love to bite!
The jingle is outrageous! In 2010, a “fat kid” would be horizontally challenged; a “skinny kid” would be proportionally perfect; a “sissy kid” would be considered Gay; and why were the 4 million children who would suffer from Variella every year singled out as pariahs by the phrase, “even kids with chicken pox?” Where is the American Psychiatric Association to help me deal with the trauma of hearing that song during the years I was a horizontally challenged child?
Thinking back now, I am surprised I never choked on my hot dog while listening to it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

WHERE IS PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY?

WHERE IS PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY?
A NEW study that links soft drink consumption to obesity in children and adults ( why do we need a NEW study to tell us if one consumes too much sugar they will gain weight?) has been reported so California legislators vowed last week to pass a tax on sweetened beverages to improve the health of their state’s citizens. One study suggested that obesity and related problems cost California alone $41 billion a year in medical expenses and reduced productivity. In the past year, proposals to change the tax status of soft drinks have come about in 12 states, including a bill that recently passed the Colorado legislature. Chicago currently taxes soft drink sales; but since the tax is also on diet sodas it has nothing to do with obesity—just revenue. The same goes for Chicago and its tax on bottled water.
Besides some genetic or medical disorder that can affect one’s weight the factors that matter are diet and exercise. One intellectually knows that if they consume more calories than they burn up and do not exercise; they will gain weight. If someone ate 100 healthy apples a day; they would gain weight. The type of calories one consumes does not matter at all; it is the amount of calories. It is a simple matter of personal responsibility with one’s eating lifestyle and then doing the math. It is not a complex algebraic problem. Eat 3,000 calories and expend 2,000 and one will gain weight. Simple subtraction!
I don’t understand why the soda industry is always being singled out as a major cause of obesity? What about the cookie, cake, ice cream, bread, pie manufacturers? Or even Hasbro for encouraging children to cook desserts with the Easy Bake Oven?
Making informed choices is what is important and the soft drink industry is doing just that. The American Beverage Association is making it “clear on calories” with the following initiative:
· Product labels: Total calorie counts will be displayed on the front of labels for the entire container, up to and including 20-ounce products. A 12-ounce serving size will be used in displaying calories for multi-serve beverage packages (such as 2-liter bottles).
· Vending Machines: Total calorie counts for the entire container will be displayed on the beverage selection buttons of vending machines controlled by the companies.
· Fountain Machines: Calorie counts will be shown prominently on fountain beverage machines controlled by the companies. I wrote in my blog on November 5, 2009, “Coca Cola Cares,” about the corporation’s six figure deal with The American Academy of Family Physicians to be a sponsor on their health and wellness site. (http://www.familydoctor.org/. The Coca Cola Corporation did not have to do that, but they did. Thank you Coke!
It is one’s personal responsibility, not the government's, to decide what to put in one’s mouth. It is obvious we shouldn’t live like the Coneheads and consume mass quantities of food and drink; but the one of the most influential sentences in the history of the American language gives me the right to do so if I wish—my unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And to drink soda if I want to.

Monday, February 22, 2010

FROM SHORTCAKE TO SHORTSTOP

FROM SHORTCAKE TO SHORTSTOP Two people died last week whose lives had a profound effect on women. Both fashioned ground-breaking results; one more impactful than the other. Each significant though in their own way. Ronald Howes Sr. was 83 when he died in Cincinnati. He was an inventor whose products ranged from defense weaponry to electrostatic printers. As recently as last month, he still was tending to details related to his latest invention for the Defense Department. But Howes will best be remembered for his creation of the Easy Bake Oven in 1963 for Kenner products (now owned by Hasbro Toys)
He drew the inspiration for the product from a Kenner salesman who had just made a trip to New York City. Upon returning to headquarters in Cincinnati, the salesman wondered whether Kenner could develop a toy version of the chestnut roasters seen on New York City street corners. With that remark, the proverbial light bulb went on in his head.
Much of his experimentation was conducted in his own kitchen before he and other Kenner engineers finally settled on the concept that made the idea both safe and practical by deciding to use a light bulb to heat the oven. The original Easy-Bake Oven was designed to resemble a conventional oven; today's Easy-Bake Ovens resemble microwaves. Because one cannot see through the front door of the microwave Easy Bake, I don’t think the new version is as much fun as the one I grew up with. Watching the cake rise was certainly a major part of the excitement and anticipation.
More than twenty millions ovens have been sold in the past 47 years and the oven was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2006.
New Jersey Judge Sylvia Pressler died at age 73 of lymphoma. Judge Pressler was an especially prolific jurist, the author of hundreds of opinions in her 31 years on the bench. In 1995, she extended the legal rights of gay couples in a ruling that allowed a woman to adopt her partner’s 3-year-old twins. “They function together as a family,” Judge Pressler wrote of the two women, who had lived together for 14 years. “The twins are, by reason of upbringing, daily lives and ties of mutual affection, the children of both Mary and Hannah, and no court order granting or denying the adoption will change that.” Some states still do not allow gay couples to adopt; so Pressler’s ruling 15 years ago was ground-breaking.
As pioneering as that ruling was, she was best known for her decision in the Little League case, which she made before she was elevated to the bench. This was in 1973, when discrimination cases in New Jersey were heard by the Division of Civil Rights before government-appointed examiners, of which Sylvia Pressler, then a lawyer, was one.
According to her obituary in the New York Times, 38 years ago, "a 12-year-old girl, Maria Pepe, had played three games for a Hoboken Little League team before national Little League officials learned of her participation and threatened to revoke the local league’s charter if she continued to play. The National Organization for Women brought suit on behalf of the girl and all others in New Jersey. Ms. Pressler’s ruling in favor of them was upheld by the New Jersey Appellate Court, and in 1974 Little League Baseball agreed to allow girls to play on its teams and to start a softball division especially for girls. ‘The institution of Little League is as American as the hot dog and apple pie,’ she wrote in her ruling. ‘There is no reason why that part of Americana should be withheld from girls.’ ”
Baseball is as American as apple pie, Pressler wrote. Maybe the pie was cooked in an Easy Bake oven.

Friday, February 19, 2010

YOU OWE YOU SHOULD PAY!

YOU OWE YOU SHOULD PAY! I would like people to remember that obtaining a line of credit and having a credit card with a low interest rate is a privilege that one earns through careful spending and then paying the bill. It is not a right bestowed upon the citizens of the United Sates by the Constitution. On May 23, 2009, I wrote a blog called, “Credit Card Companies are not bad,” that produced a lot of animosity towards me for defending the “big bad banks.” Be prepared to get hostile again! On February 22, 2010 the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009 becomes law. It includes a number of new rules designed to protect consumers from predatory practices by banks and credit card companies, such as hidden fees and sky-high interest rates. CARD protects consumers and I am all for that. But the accountability is all on the part of the banks; what about deadbeat credit card holders? They should have accountability for their misuse of credit. You buy, you owe, you should pay! You cannot afford to make your payments; you do not buy. It is very simple. You pay no interest or fees if you pay your bill off every month. But people are not fiscally responsible and these statistics prove that:
At the end of 2008, Americans' credit card debt reached $972.73 billion, up 1.12% from 2007. That number includes both general purpose credit cards and private label credit cards that aren't owned by a bank. (Source: Nilson Report, April 2009) The average outstanding credit card debt for households that have a credit card was $10,679 at the end of 2008. One year earlier, that average was $10,637. (Source: Nilson Report, April 2009)
In the last 12 months, 15 percent of American adults, or nearly 34 million people, have been late making a credit card payment and 8 percent (18 million people) have missed a payment entirely. (Source: National Foundation for Credit Counseling, 2009 Financial Literacy Survey, April 2009)
26 percent of Americans, or more than 58 million adults, admit to not paying all of their bills on time. (Source: National Foundation for Credit Counseling, 2009 Financial Literacy Survey, April 2009) Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE, CFF the author of Essentials of Corparte Fraud and Expert Fraud Investigation: A Step-by-Step Guide
, says “Credit card companies are notorious for being sneaky and exploitative. Don't let them do it to you. The only way to completely avoid these underhanded tactics is by refusing to do business with them. Let your wallet do the talking, and do everything you can to avoid predatory credit card companies.” One can avoid predatory credit card companies and their practices by simply using fiscal prudence and only charging items one can afford to pay off by the next billing cycle. Why doesn’t anybody say that? I watch all of the Judge shows on television and I am astounded by the number of cases that involve friends who co-sign for loans and open credit for a friend who has bad credit. As Judge Judy always says, “There is a reason your friend has bad credit. They did not pay their bills. Why did you think they would pay them now just because they are in your name?” One cannot expect a bank to loan (charging on a credit card is a short term loan) consumers the money to buy an item and then not expect to be promptly re-paid. If the bank is not paid, they have a right to charge interest and fees. If all consumers paid their credit card bills every month, the banks would go out of business because they would make no profit; or they would have to charge a fee to pay for their services. So I guess I should be glad that 58 million adults admit to not paying their bills on time. It means that the privilege to have a credit card personally costs me nothing.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

TWO MORE JOBS AVAILABLE AT CITY HALL

TWO MORE JOBS AVAILABLE AT CITY HALL
On February 2nd I posted a blog called THE CITY HAS NO JOBS (except for some interns and clerks). I now must correct that because two new high paying jobs ($110,000) have been posted on the City’s website. Since the deadline for submitting applications is tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 19th; people will have to move fast!
The “Help Wanted” sign has been put out for the vacant Aldermanic positions in the 1st and 29th Wards. Former 29th Ward Alderman Manny Flores voluntarily resigned to become chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission and former 1st Ward Alderman Isaac Carothers was forced to resign because he plead guilty earlier this month to accepting $40,000 in home improvements, meals and sports tickets from a West Side developer in exchange for zoning changes that allegedly netted the developer millions of dollars.
According to the Sun Times, Mayoral press secretary Jacquelyn Heard acknowledged that posting Aldermanic vacancies on the Internet was a departure for Daley. But, she said, "We'd like to get as many candidates as possible."
I cannot apply for either position because one must be a resident of each particular ward for at least a year; and I live in the 42nd Ward. While I would pass the requirement that I have not ”been convicted in any court located in the United States of any infamous crime, bribery, perjury, or other felony,” that condition would preclude a lot of other would- be applicants. Plus the fact that so many Alderman end up in jail after they take the job does not make the position very tempting.
The City of Chicago’s Personnel Rules manual, revised December 10, 2009, is 66 pages long with so many rules I don’t know how any employee can follow them all without committing some violation.
The requirements for the Aldermanic position are listed at the end of the blog. They list what qualifications a person must have to apply, but in my perusing the City of Chicago Employee Manual, I discovered the following on page 11, Section 7, subsection (e): Rejection of Applicant: The applicant currently uses cannabis or controlled substances illegally or abuses intoxicating beverages. So I guess that drunks need not apply either. The pool of potential Alderman is now getting smaller!
No drunks, no druggies, no criminals, no tax dead-beats; we know now who the Mayor can’t appoint to be an Alderman. In the Bizzaro world of Superman that would leave just Mother Teresa to fill the position. But since she’s dead, how would that work out? Mayor Daley Seeks Candidates for Aldermen in 1st and 29th Wards
Mayor Richard M. Daley is seeking residents of the 1st and 29th Wards who are interested in being considered for Aldermen to apply to fill the vacancies in those wards. Applications should be submitted to the Mayor's Office by Friday, February 19, 2010. Applications should include the following items:
A cover letter to Mayor Richard M. Daley expressing your interest in being considered for the appointment.
A resume that includes details about your community involvement and prior work experience.
At least three letters of recommendation from community leaders, business leaders, or residents of the ward.
Because Mayor Daley has only sixty days from the time of the vacancy to appoint a new Alderman, please kindly submit your application by Friday, February 19, 2010 to Mayor Richard M. DaleyCity Hall - Room 406121 North LaSalle StreetChicago, IL 60602
In order to be eligible to serve as Alderman, potential applicants must:
Be prepared to sign a statement of financial interest as required by Section 2-156- 150(c)(ii) and (d) of the municipal code of Chicago at the time of application.
Have resided in the ward for at least 1 year prior to acceptance of the position of Alderman (65 IL CS 5/3.1-10-5 (a)).
Owe no taxes or other debt to the City of Chicago (65 ILCS 5/3.1-10-5(b)).
Not have been convicted in any court located in the United States of any infamous crime, bribery, perjury, or other felony (65 IL CS 5/3.1-10-5(b)).
Be registered to vote (65 IL CS 5/3.1-10-5 (a)).
Not hold any other office under the municipal government during the term of office Alderman unless granted a leave of absence as required by 65 IL CS 5/3.1-15-15, nor shall the person hold any other civil service office under the federal, state or city government unless granted a leave of absence, except in the National Guard, or as a notary public, and except such honorary offices as go by appointment without compensation (65 ILCS 20/21-14(b)).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

YOU ARE JEWISH IF YOUR MOTHER IS JEWISH

YOU ARE JEWISH IF YOUR MOTHER IS JEWISH
A person is considered Jewish if their Mother is Jewish. Before DNA testing became available to prove paternity, there was no absolute way to establish who the father was. Because witnesses could see the baby emerge from the birth canal of the woman, maternity could be absolutely confirmed. That is why a person’s birth Mother determined their religion.
Joseph and Rebecca Reyes were married in 2004. She is Jewish. Joseph was Catholic, but he converted to Judaism after the birth of their daughter, Ela (a Hebrew name meaning tree). After the couple separated, Joseph returned to Catholicism. At issue now is a disputed agreement that the one-time couple would raise the girl in the Jewish faith. The child attends a Jewish pre-school. Rebecca has sole custody of the child while Joseph takes his daughter every other weekend and every Thursday for dinner.
Last November Joseph had the baby baptized at Queen of Martyrs Catholic Church in south suburban Evergreen Park and sent his estranged wife pictures. Reyes said he sent the pictures just so Rebecca could see their daughter dressed up having a good time. (We all know he sent them just to be malicious!) After receiving the pictures in December, Rebecca filed for a temporary restraining order preventing Joseph from exposing their child to any religion other than Judaism. Cook County Circuit Court Judge Edward Jordan approved the TRO. The First District Appellate Court tossed out Joseph’s appeal.
To add fuel to the fire, in January, Joseph then allegedly defied the order by taking his daughter to Mass at Holy Name Cathedral in downtown Chicago, accompanied by a television news crew. How would Joseph have access to a TV station covering what he was doing? His attorney is Joel Brodsky, who has gained national attention defending Drew Peterson, an alleged two-time wife murderer. He probably has the phone numbers of all the assignment desk on speed-dial on his cell-phone. Brodsky said every parent has a right to take their child to their place of worship "as long as it is not harm to the child. I cannot see how taking a child to a baptism or church could ever be harm to a child."
Rebecca’s attorneys filed a contempt of court case against Joseph after he took the girl to church in violation of the restraining order. On Tuesday, Joseph and his attorney Joel Brodsky appeared before Judge Jordan and requested a new judge hear the case.
Jordan granted the request and the case was reassigned to Cook County Judge Elizabeth Loredo Rivera, in the divorce division. If Joseph Reyes is found in violation of the order, he could face as much as six months in jail and a $500 fine. Judge Rivera will set a date later for a trial on the contempt allegations.
While Joseph’s side says case goes to the heart of the Constitution: Freedom of Religion; Rebecca’s attorneys don't wish to talk publicly about the case.
According to the Chicago Tribune,” While many divorce proceedings involving interfaith couples devolve into bitter feuds over religion, Emily Buss, a law professor at the University of Chicago, called the order to temporarily limit the child to Judaism "striking.""The idea is we change religious views — that is what religious freedom includes," Buss said. "Even if (one) parent has more authority in the form of more custody, the other parent can (usually) … still expose the child to his or her religion even if it was not the religious practices within the family when it was intact."
I asked my most religious Jewish friend, Alison Slovin, her feelings about the case and she said, “Religion is and should be faith based. We shouldn't fall out of our beliefs as easily as we fall in and out of love. When you convert you make a promise before GD. The man in the divorce case freely accepted to become a Jew - you can't divorce that decision when the marriage falls apart. He also has a conversion paper proving he is Jewish. This case should be brought before a Jewish court of law - a beit din. Also remember, the two religions are very different as one accepts Jesus as the son of GD and one believes Jesus was a man/ a teacher. These are huge fundamental differences which don't allow a child to be raised in both. Also according to Orthodox Jewish law - if a child is born to a Jewish mother that child is Jewish for life even if they convert. Born a Jew - die a Jew no matter how you live your life in-between.”
In the Book of Kings, which is part of the Old Testament of the Bible, the story is told of a custody dispute between two women about a baby. To decide it, King Solomon said, "Bring me a sword!" So they brought a sword before the King. The King said, "Cut the living child in two, and give half to one and half to the other" Of course, the true Mother asked for the child’s life to be spared and her unselfish statement verified her maternal status.
Since King Solomon’s pronouncement was the first major recorded and published decision in the history of legal jurisprudence; and since both Catholics and Jews believe in the teachings of the Old Testament; therefore the solution is easy.
Just cut the baby in half. If it is Jewish, it will bleed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

ONE AND ONE EQUALS WHAT? I FORGET!

ONE AND ONE EQUALS WHAT? I FORGET! Is a Chicago Public school teacher smarter than the fifth graders they teach? Luckily, starting in September, future teachers will find it more difficult to pass the Illinois Test of Basic Skills for would-be teachers. But currently a score of 35% on the math portion of the test is considered passing; that number will jump to 75% in the Fall. Mathematically one could obtain a grade of 35% in a multiple choice quiz just by guessing at the answers. So while potential teachers will have a higher standard to obtain, it is frightening that current teachers had such a low bar to hurl. In Reading and Language Arts a 50% score is considered passing and in Writing Skills reaching 45% is acceptable.
In 2001, the Chicago Sun-Times Failing Teachers series found hundreds of teachers statewide had never passed what was then an eighth-grade level Basic Skills Test. One of 10 Chicago public school teachers had flunked it at least once.
According also to the Sun Times, The test maker, Evaluation Systems, insists the current test reflects "college-level" material, Linda Tomlinson, assistant superintendent at the State Board of Education said. However, two experts could not find any college-level math questions on the current sample math subtest. Tomlinson also reported that some would-be teachers have failed the basic test at least 20 times. Even if they pass on the 21st try; would anyone want their child taught by a teacher of such little competence?
I called a fifth grader I knew and asked her to answer the following question from the math section of the Illinois Basic Skills Diagnostic Practice Test:
An elementary school has 600 students, of which 15% are in the fourth grade. Of the fourth-grade students, 60% are male.
How many males are in the fourth grade? A. 30 B. 45 C. 54 D. 60
The answer was so easy to compute; she could do it in her head.
The new requirements will eliminate the overall minimum score and new, much higher minimums will be required for each subtest -- about 79 percent correct in reading and language arts, and 75 percent correct in math and writing. Tougher for future teachers; but what about teachers educating in the Chicago Public Schools now? They only had to obtain a score of 35% on the math skills! Scary!
The Sun Times report also revealed that textbook author Zalman Usiskin, director of the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project, said that doesn't mean all questions are easy. “Some covering middle-grade material are difficult because of the way they are written,” he said. He is speaking of questions that are “middle-grade material.” Repeat, “middle-grade material.” Not “college-level material,” but “middle-grade”! One would not want a doctor performing brain surgery by someone who only passed their medical tests with a minimum score; why would a parent want their child’s brain educated by a mediocre teacher?
Chicago Public School students score low on standardized testing because their own teachers barely meet minimum education standards. One can not teach, if one does not have knowledge themselves. As Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting the different results.” No wonder our CPS students continue to fail.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A TRAIN BY ANY OTHER NAME

A TRAIN BY ANY OTHER NAME Anita Ponder, a partner with Drinker Biddle brought to my attention that Metra is thinking of selling the naming rights for train lines and train stations. The last time I wrote a blog about selling resources was on October, 23, 2009 (What Assets Could The City Sell?) when I recommended the City of Chicago find people who had almost the same name as a landmark and offer them an opportunity to memorialize or honor themselves. I suggested that Chicago sell the name of the city’s parks to Drinker Biddle attorney Cindy Park; and it would then be known as “The Cindy Park District.” Selling the name to something is smart. Selling the physical asset is stupid! The City of Chicago has been selling tangible items (The Skyway, parking meters, etc.) that we cannot recover for 99 years; so Metra is being very smart to investigate this option of non-fare revenue.
Metra spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet did not know what Metra would charge for naming rights and said they are just exploring the idea of selling naming rights for train lines and train stations, as part of their ongoing pursuit to find new income sources during harsh economic times.
So I wondered; what are naming rights worth?
The record for the highest amount paid for naming rights belongs to Citi Field (opened in 2009) and Barclays Center (scheduled to open in 2011), both located in New York City. Each deal is for $20 million per year for at least 20 years, totaling $400 million. Companies pay massive amounts for the naming rights of a stadium because of the publicity that accompanies it.
When it comes to transit; not the same interest. While Barclay’s is paying $20 million/year for the name of the stadium, they are only paying $200,000/year for the subway stop located near the still uncompleted sports arena. This nexus of subway stops at Atlantic Avenue, Pacific Street and Flatbush Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn is the oldest and busiest station in the borough; yet the naming rights are 99% cheaper.
In Miami the Miami-Dade Transit is investigating sell naming rights to its downtown Metromover stations. A July report by Philadelphia-based Front Row Marketing Services, a company hired to study the market and explore selling naming rights to stations or the whole downtown mover system, suggests the county could charge rates ranging from $2,500 a year for Third Street Station to $48,000 a year for the stop at Bayfront Park. Not a lot of revenue. I tried selling the naming rights to the license plate of my Ferrari a number of years ago. I figured that everyone always looks when they see and hear a Ferrari coming down the street and maybe I could recover a few bucks for the costs of maintenance. Crain’s Chicago Business did a story on my quest; but I did not get a single company interested in paying me.
So while stadiums command big bucks, we discover that there is not a lot of money involved when it comes to the naming rights for transit. The Metra trains are long and straight; maybe if they set up rollerblading tracks inside the cars they could also become sports arenas! Then we could be talking real money!

Friday, February 12, 2010

CITY "STEALTH PAYROLL" IS NO LONGER RELATIVE

CITY "STEALTH PAYROLL" IS NO LONGER RELATIVE
Alderman Bernie Stone makes it so easy for someone to take him to task for his entitlement attitude that I am almost embarrassed to take another shot at him. My blog a few days ago, “Crooked Aldermen? A Job For The FBI According To Stone,” recounted Stone’s not wanting the City’s Inspector General’s scope of duties to include investigating Aldermen. It also included a few other juicy tidbits about his past. This week he voted AGAINST barring relatives from the Aldermen’s part-time “stealth payrolls.”
The City Council voted to ban the hiring of relatives that get on the city payroll by being paid from the budget item that allows Alderman to spend $26,000/year to hire part-time employees without benefits. Relatives currently employed would be grandfathered in.
Alderman Tom Allen had proposed the ordinance because public perception and public trust demanded the change. “If you walked down on the street and asked 100 people if they thought this was appropriate [to hire relatives], I would bet 100 out of 100 would say, ‘No,’ “ said Allen, who uses his contract allotment to pay college students $8 to $10 an hour to cut grass and shovel snow in his Northwest Side ward.
But did Stone vote in favor of an ordinance that would have been forward thinking and shown the citizens of Chicago that nepotism should be extinct like the dinosaur he is? NO! Stone argued that the ordinance turns aldermanic relatives into “second-class citizens.” “What’s unethical about hiring a relative?” said Stone. “Why do they have a different status than everybody else? What you’re saying to me is that my grandson, my daughter or [another] relative of mine can’t work as a contractual employee … A non-citizen could, but a citizen, a registered voter cannot because, by chance of birth, they happen to be related to me.”
For many years (and still might be) Stone’s daughter Ilana Feketitsch was employed as his Chief of Staff. That position is a full time job and not part of the contractual payroll. I tried to confirm if she still worked for him by checking on the City of Chicago’s web site; she was not listed. But I did confirm from past stories that in 2007 she had been employed on the city payroll for 12 years. Since I am writing this posting on Lincoln’s birthday when city offices are closed, I could not get an answer. But we do know that for at least 12 years she was on the payroll.
Four other Aldermen also voted against the proposal: Anthony Beale (9th), Lona Lane (18th), Willie Cochran (20th) and Ray Suarez (31st). I don’t know why they chose not to support the change; but the electorate in their wards should think carefully about who they vote for in the next Aldermanic election.
City Hall reporter Fran Spielman wrote in her story in the Sun Times, “The Chicago City Council took a baby step today toward reform. “ It might have been a baby step, but it was a step forward. In relation to progress, Abraham Lincoln said, “I walk slowly but I never walk backward.” A small step for man, but a giant step for Chicago.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

BUT WHAT ABOUT SO HELP ME GOD?

BUT WHAT ABOUT SO HELP ME GOD? Former Governor Rod Blagojevich was arraigned in Federal Court on Wednesday to revised federal corruption charges where he plead “not guilty” and his lawyers filed a petition requesting that all of the secretly recorded tapes be played for the jury.
Blagojevich said, "Today I’m throwing down the gauntlet. I know I have a constitutional right to try to suppress these tapes. And as a former prosecutor I believe there's a good chance that it would probably be granted. Here’s what I'm not going to do: I'm not going to hide behind my lawyers, nor will I hide behind technicalities in the law to try to block these tapes from being heard. Instead, I've instructed my lawyers to petition the court so that every second, every minute and every hour that the government secretly taped me is provided to both sides to be played in court. And I challenge the government to get on the side of truth and justice and if this is a crime spree like you claim it was, then don’t hide behind technicalities. Play the tapes. Play the truth, and play the whole truth. Play nothing but the truth."
It is easy for Blagojevich to say that he wants the tapes played; but there are more than 500 hours of tapes. If the jury were to listen to them for 5 hours a day it would take twenty straight weeks or five months just to hear the audio part of the trial. Would a judge subject people to that kind of torture?
I spoke to two attorneys, Brian Troglia (Stahl, Cowen) and Ed Grossman (Chicago Legal Clinic) and asked their opinions on whether the judge would have the jury listen to all the tapes.
For the non-attorneys who read my blog, the following is an education in legal matters. They both explained to me about a motion in limine (Latin: "at the threshold"). This is a motion made before the start of a trial requesting that the judge rule that certain evidence may, or may not, be introduced to the jury in a trial . This is done in judge's chambers, or in open court, but always out of hearing of the jury. If a question is to be decided in limine, it will be for the judge to decide what is admissible.
They both felt that the Judge would ask both sides to, in a sense, “sharpen their pencils,” and limit the scope of the tapes needed to be played. So Blagojevich can ask for all the tapes to be played; but he probably would not get it. (I hope I explained this to the lawyer’s satisfaction!)
I agree with Blagojevich that the tapes should be heard in their entirety. His lawyers could upload them on the Internet and we could all listen to them. A transcript would be fun to read; I am sure his lawyer’s must have one and they could share.
When Blagojevich likened the playing of all the tapes to the oath one takes before they testify or give evidence, he called for “the truth” (what he has experienced); “the whole truth” (leave nothing out) and “nothing but the truth” (he won’t tell any lies).
He forgot to include, “So help me God.” Without that phrase he won’t have to worry about being struck down by the righteous wrath of the Lord when he lies. And we know he will lie.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

THE CONE OF SILENCE

THE CONE OF SILENCE Get Smart, a television comedy that aired in the 1960’s, featured a device called the “Cone of Silence.” Whenever secret agent Maxwell Smart (Agent 86) wanted to speak to his boss (Chief) about a secret matter he would insist that they meet under the “Cone of Silence.” This comically defective technology never worked and people, standing outside of the cone, could clearly hear everything being said, while Max and the Chief could not hear anything. Often at the end of the belabored conversation, the Chief would become terribly aggravated and upset as it quickly became clear that the “Cone of Silence” is (as expected) completely useless. Mayor Daley has announced that he is using $500,000 of federal stimulus funds to launch a campaign to break the “Code of Silence” that exists because people are afraid to report criminal activity in their neighborhood to the police. Because the fear of repercussion from gang members is pervasive and the panic at being labeled a snitch is omnipresent; nobody “blabs.”
Yesterday Daley previewed a public service campaign, complete with radio, television and print ads featuring relatives of those who've lost loved ones to gun violence. The campaign, called “Silence Kills,” features relatives of victims of gun violence who share their gut-wrenching personal stories with the powerful message, "Stop the violence. Stop the silence. Silence kills." The "Silence Kills" campaign will also include community forums across the city to train young people to "carry the message into their neighborhoods."
At the press conference announcing this program, Police Supt. Jody Weis said he's well aware that residents of some crime-ridden neighborhoods are afraid to call police. But, he said, "You can't give in to 14-year-olds running around terrorizing your neighborhood. ... People know who they are. The criminals are not from outer space. It's someone's son. It's someone's son. It's someone's nephew. It's someone's uncle. It's someone in the community."
Funding for the three-year program will also allow the city to hire a full-time CAPS (Community Alternative Policing Strategy) officer to work with Chicago Public Schools and community organizations. This program will prove to be as useless as Maxwell Smart’s touted “Cone of Silence.” The Mayor said that ONE full-time CAPS officer will be hired for THREE YEARS; yet there are more than 600 Chicago Public schools to visit with a population of more than 400,00 students. Since students only attend school 180 days of the year, if the CAPS officer visited each school only ONCE, it would take FOUR YEARS for the officer to complete his rounds. The math does not compute on this. If we look at the $500,000 budget and subtract the cost of the CAPS Officer salary and benefits for three years that would leave about $300,000 to fund the advertising and forums campaign. How much did it cost to produce the television ads? Even if the Mayor expects radio and television stations to air the ads for free, what about the cost of the community forums? Those will have to be staffed and those salaries paid. Then even if the message is received and mentally computed by people; who is actually going to turn in someone’s “son, nephew or uncle” as Police Superintendent Jody Weis hopes? Even though the identity of the “snitch” is supposed to be protected; people in the community will be able to figure it out and the “rat” will be in fear of their life. Silence might kill; but unfortunately speaking the truth often does also.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

CROOKED ALDERMEN? A JOB FOR THE FBI ACCORDING TO STONE


CROOKED ALDERMEN? A JOB FOR THE FBI ACCORDING TO STONE In response to Chicago Mayor Daley saying that he wanted to add the responsibility of investigating Aldermen to the duties of the Inspector General, Alderman Bernard Stone said that the fact that 29 aldermen have been convicted shows there's no need for more scrutiny. "Law enforcement is doing an excellent job in sending crooked Aldermen to jail," he said. "Why do we need someone to duplicate that?" Hey, Bernie, maybe there would have been more convicted if there had been oversight?
The latest Alderman to plead guilty to corruption is Isaac Carothers whose Father, also an Alderman, went to jail for the same charges of taking a bribe in exchange for pushing through zoning changes for a developer. Carothers resigned on February 1st, but I guess the City of Chicago’s IT people do not know that because he is still listed on the city web site as the Alderman of the 29th Ward!
The developer involved with Carother’s, Calvin Boender, did not plead guilty and his fraud and obstruction of justice trial is scheduled for March 8. Boender’s lawyers have subpoenaed 10 Aldermen as witnesses. The Chicago Corporation Council, Mara Georges, is trying to block the subpoenas saying that if the Aldermen are asked why they voted in favor of the zoning change it would violate the principle of legislative immunity. Under that principle, lawmakers cannot be compelled to testify in court about their legislative activities.
Guess who one of the Aldermen is who is trying to duck the subpoena? Surprise! Alderman Bernie Stone! 
The same Bernie Stone whose two campaign worker’s trial of alleged tampering with absentee ballots in the 2007th 50th Ward Aldermanic race saw their trial postponed again in January after a two year wait.
The same Bernie Stone who said at the funeral of his best friend, the late Alderman Fred Roti of Chicago Mafia fame,” Our skyline should say 'Roti' on it. If not for Fred Roti, half the buildings in the Loop would never have been built."
Are we seeing a pattern here, Bernie? The Chicago Tribune reported my favorite part of Daley's proposal which is that city workers and contractors who fail to report corrupt activity would be punished. Glad to hear that the Mayor is encouraging whistle blowers. Some of my favorite people are whistle blowers because they are not afraid to speak the truth. A trait we should be proud of, but is always vilified.
Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, supported the expansion of his powers, "The proposal announced by the Mayor … constitutes a watershed moment in the history of the city. This proposal comes to grips with core structural reforms necessary to root out patronage and corruption in the city of Chicago."
Maybe Chicago should have an official poem. I nominate the following:
There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse.
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.
Could that house be City Hall?

Monday, February 8, 2010

“KNOW THYSELF” (Plato)

“KNOW THYSELF” (Plato) Scott Lee Cohen knew everything about HIMSELF before he entered the race for Lieutenant Governor. He was not hiding his past from HIMSELF, so when he decided to run in the Democratic primary he knew that his former indiscretions would be publicized. He even offered up details of his salacious life to reporters HIMSELF. So why he was not prepared for the backlash from the powerful Democrats who wanted him to drop out of the race once he won? He had to know HIMSELF that it would be coming. Plato (some say the world's most influential philosopher) also opined, “Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion and knowledge.” Cohen exhibited all three of those sources when in his speech on dropping out of the race he said, “When I decided to run for Lieutenant Governor, I did it with my heart and my soul. I thought that by opening up my life, I could represent the people in a fair, honest, loving, caring way.”
Very few people in the whole world knew who Scott Lee Cohen was before he won this race; now millions know his name. His poor reputation was not exposed nationally until Illinois Democratic leaders decided he was not good enough for them. According to the Chicago Sun Times, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan “made it clear to Cohen that stepping aside was the best course of action for his personal life and his career and that if he did so, he would have a chance to rehabilitate his image.”
BS! Cohen is a pawnbroker; why would he have to “rehabilitate his image” to help in that career? Cohen owns the pawnshops, it’s not like he had to be worried about what his boss thought of him. He is the boss. Cohen’s stepping aside was the “best course of action” for Madigan; not for Cohen.
What I think we all really want to know is what deal was made to help Cohen recover the $2 million of his own money that he spent on his campaign. Cohen is not stupid. He did not walk away from this race without assurances that he was going to be able to recuperate the cash. Mere rhetoric from Madigan would not be enough to make Cohen suddenly change his stance of digging in his heels to leaving like a cowering little school girl.
Simon Cameron, the United States Secretary of War for President Abraham Lincoln (1861-1862) said, “An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought.” I would bet that the Illinois Democratic Party bought off Cohen; I just want to know for how much.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

HOLIER THAN THOU: E Pluribus Unum

HOLIER THAN THOU: E Pluribus Unum Top Democrats including Governor Pat Quinn, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Congressman Phil Hare, U.S. Senator Richard Durbin, Congressman Danny Davis, Ill. Treasurer Alex Giannoulias, etc, etc, ( the list would take pages) are calling for Scott Lee Cohen , the Illinois Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor to step down and be replaced. Yet the most important Democrat in Illinois tells a different story.
People vote in elections. Everybody knew he was a pawnbroker. The media knew. Everybody knew that, right? He's already elected, that's your dilemma. It's a constitutional dilemma. Once you get elected in the primary, no mayor, no newspaper, no citizen can ask you to resign because I don't like you anymore. So anybody who's allegedly -- who's arrested and the case is thrown out, should not run for public office. Is that right? You want that done? I'm just saying, it's a very complicated issue. It's much more complicated than you think it is. Just because I don't like a person, he or she should not. If I did that, you would write editorials that the mayor is a boss, he's a dictator. That he's telling people who got elected in the primary that they should not be going to the general election."
The words of Mayor Daley. The words might not be grammatically correct, but I agree with his sentiment. The voters elected Cohen and he should stay put on the ticket. He spent $2 million of his own money to win the race and if the electorate were too stupid to realize who they were voting for, then shame on them, not on Cohen. When Democratic primary gubernatorial candidates Pat Quinn and Dan Hynes were asked during a pre-election discussion on Chicago Tonight of whom they preferred for the Lieutenant Governor spot, they both basically said to let the voters decide. Now that Quinn has won the nomination, he is singing a different tune and wants Cohen out. While I in no way condone the past actions of Cohen, he did not hide his background. Mark Brown columnist in the Chicago Sun Times wrote in his column almost ONE YEAR AGO, “Part of the reason Cohen said he sought me out to write about his candidacy is that he wanted to make a pre-emptive strike about some potentially embarrassing matters before they came up in the campaign.That got my attention, I must admit, although I advised Cohen it hardly seemed necessary as his candidacy was so unlikely to take hold.But he insisted on telling me about his 2005 arrest in a domestic battery case involving a girlfriend with whom he was living while his divorce was pending. The charges were dropped when the woman did not appear in court, he said, and he denied he did anything wrong in the first place.” All of a sudden Cohen’s ex- girlfriend, Amanda Eneman, appears saying he is not fit for office. Where has she been the past year? She came forward now, with high-powered attorney Gloria Allred representing her, probably just for the publicity and to get a reality show deal. Only two Jewish people have held statewide office previously in Illinois. Governor Henry Horner (1933-1940) and Samuel Shapiro who moved into the Governor’s position from Lieutenant Governor after the resignation of Governor Otto Kerner in 1968. Is Cohen the next Jewish person I want elected state-wide? No. Does he have the right to continue in his quest for the Lieutenant Governor position? Yes.
In four years (eight years if Kirk Dillard wins as Governor) I want to vote for State Rep. Jack Franks for Governor so the Jewish people can have an office-holder we can be proud of.
Illinois is not the Gaza Strip. We need peace. Let’s have a happy ending.

Friday, February 5, 2010

I PASS ON TRASHING THE TOLLWAY

I PASS ON TRASHING THE TOLLWAY Typically I love when one of the major media outlets disparages a state or city agency. I welcome the opportunity to jump on the band wagon, delve further into the story and put my own spin on it. Nothing is more fun than humiliating elected or appointed officials and holding them accountable to the electorate. The Chicago Tribune published an “expose” how Illinois Tollway workers have free I-Pass transponders. Since I always assumed that they did, this was no shocking revelation! Now State Senator Susan Garrett, D-Lake Forest is up in arms saying, "This is a gigantic perk and a benefit that is not shared with other state employees." It seems that Garrett is always looking for a scandal. Put her name and the word “scandal” in Google and one gets 10,000 hits. Garrett is worried about “scandal-plagued” state boards, “parades of scandals,” etc. If the word “scandal” is whispered anywhere near her, she is ready with a quote. Except there is no scandal here with the free transponders. As Tollway spokeswoman Noelle McGinnis said,” Employees have enjoyed free tolls in one form or another since 1958, and the transponders since about 2000. Tollway employees are allowed free I-PASS transponders because the vast majority of them work at toll plazas or maintenance facilities along the 286-mile system.” For 52 years Tollway employees have gotten a pass on paying tolls. If it were that big a deal, I think it would have been exposed at an earlier date. But now, all of a sudden, it’s a scandal? As McGinnis also said, “Employees are the "eyes and ears" of the highway system, helping ensure roadways are properly maintained, reporting potholes and getting help for motorists in distress.” I agree. The distribution of free transponders to Tollway employees makes perfect sense. The only problem I see coming from the “exposure” of this scandal is that the Tollway has 1,642 employees and 1,400 have free transponders. Now maybe the 242 employees that don’t have them also don’t have a car so they have no use for the I-Pass. But if I were a Tollway employee with a car and no free transponder, I would be mad! I would call for a legislative investigation on why I didn’t get mine!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

CTA SERVICE CHANGES? HOW TO FIND OUT.

CTA SERVICE CHANGES? HOW TO FIND OUT. On November 17th I posted a blog called, “Solution to CTA Financial Woes.” Since labor costs at the CTA consume 70% of the budget, and the unions refuse to make any concessions, I suggested firing all of the bus drivers. My solution was, “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.” I know another way for the CTA to save money. DON’T TAKE OUT FULL PAGE ADS IN THE NEWSPAPERS ABOUT SERVICE CHANGES! The CTA is running full page ads (I don’t know for how many days because I just noticed the ad today when told about it by blog fan and radio talk show host Jake Hartford) giving an overview of service changes. According to a former advertising executive of the Chicago Sun Times, the open retail rate of a full-page ad is $21,517. Since CTA is probably advertising in other print venues I cannot even imagine how much money is being spent in total. Obviously the CTA needs to notify customers of service changes but since there are so many other FREE options available, why are they spending the money? (The answer will come later.) I pass bus kiosks walking around the city and have already seen the flyers that are posted on each kiosk. There are about 11,000 bus stops in the city and the people who are waiting at those kiosks are the very customers the CTA needs to reach about the changes. The express routes that are being eliminated will continue to operate as local routes. So one can still catch a bus on that route. Service hours will start earlier and end later at some stops and other routes will have less frequent service. I can learn all that information on the very flyer that is posted at the bus stop that I use. (If I took a bus!) If I want to find out about what is happening on a route that I don’t normally use in my commute, I can call 836-7000, from any local area code for travel information. I can also go to www.transitchicago.com which has more information than anyone could possibly need to know about the routes. More tech savvy than just the web? Sign up for CTA Bus Tracker, the official source for up-to-the minute arrival info for any bus where one can track by text message or e-mails alerts. CTA Bus Tracker uses GPS devices to report bus location data (and more) back to the CTA servers. It can show, in real time, where buses are on a map and estimate when they will arrive at your stop. The ad in the paper just lists what routes are getting service changes with no information of what those changes are. The information about service changes in the print advertisements is basically useless because it is not specific at all. Not detailed like the information one can receive by calling the CTA, visiting the web site or by texting and e-mails. So even if the print ads were donated to the CTA, the ads don’t tell customers the specific information they need for a particular route. So back to why is the CTA spending money on the print ads? The answer? Because the print ads include a letter signed by Chicago Transit Board Chairman Terry Peterson and CTA President Richard Rodriguez claiming the cut backs are not THEIR fault and blaming it on “a workforce that is more than 90% unionized.” Since Darrell Jefferson, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241, which represents bus drivers and bus mechanics, has already said, "We're not giving up anything." How do Peterson and Rodriguez expect to make “nice-nice” with the unions by throwing the blame on them? They are just fanning the flames. Since taxpayers support a huge subsidy to keep the CTA operating, we are all being punished fiscally because Peterson and Rodriguez want to take a shot at the unions. Is this “it’s not our fault” strategy part of the new business model that Rodriguez said he was going to implement when he spoke last November? British cook Delia Smith said, “A cake is a very good test of an oven: if it browns too much on one side and not on the other, it's not your fault - you need to have your oven checked. “ I say stick a fork in Rodriguez, he’s done.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

SOME WINNERS WON, SOME WINNERS LOST, SOME WINNERS WE DON’T KNOW YET

SOME WINNERS WON, SOME WINNERS LOST, SOME WINNERS WE DON’T KNOW YET The Cook County Democratic machine suffered a humiliating loss with County Board President Todd Stroger’s overwhelming defeat by Alderman Toni Preckwinkle in the Democratic primary for Board President. Even though polls had showed Stroger at the bottom of the pack, one still had to worry about the powerful Cook County machine and their ability to get out the vote on Election Day. Stroger’s patronage army of foot soldiers did not prevail, so the most competent person for the job won. It is almost rare in Cook County that a truly qualified person triumphs over an incumbent. No matter how unqualified that incumbent might be. Judy Baar Topinka won the Republican primary for Illinois Comptroller. Her last state- wide election was when she lost to former Governor Rob Blagojevich. If all the people who claimed they voted for her then, vote for her now, she will win for sure this November. Another candidate who deserved to win. As I write this we still don’t know who the candidates will be for Governor. The vote totals in both the Republican and Democratic primaries are so close, no clear winners can be declared. Kirk Dillard deserves it on the Republican side. I did not care about the Democratic winner until my dear friend State Rep. Jack Franks endorsed Dan Hynes. So I have to root for Hynes in that one just for Jack. My fake fiancée Alexi Giannoulias won in the Democratic primary for United State senate to fill the Barack Obama seat. I was upset that Alexi referred to his real fiancée Tara during his speeches and never mentioned me. But since I was not at his victory party, maybe he just forgot. Like with all men, out of sight, out of mind! I am heart-broken that Stella Black did not win in her race for Metropolitan Water Reclamation Commissioner. Unfortunately that race is so low-profile that the media does not really cover it at all. The candidates who can afford paid advertising and greasing the palms of the committeemen end up being the winners. It has nothing to do with who might be the best qualified for the position, but instead who spends the most money to garner name recognition. Stella’s grandchildren were worried that if she lost, I would not love them anymore. I assured them that the results of the race had nothing to do with how I felt about them. I am taking them to Ballerina Tea at the Palmer House to celebrate how hard they worked on their grandmother’s campaign. One cannot win if they don’t enter the race. The only “position” I ever “ran” for was Chairman of the Illinois State Treasurer’s Community Affairs Council. I lost. Know who beat me? Stella Black! So she was a winner in that race. I just wish she had won for Commissioner.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

THE CITY HAS NO JOBS (except for some interns and clerks)

THE CITY HAS NO JOBS (except for some interns and clerks) According to the 2009 Crain’s list of Chicago’s largest employers, there are approximately 36,000 people employed by the City of Chicago. That list excludes employees of Chicago Public Schools (43,000 employees), Park District, Water Reclamation District, Transit Authority, Housing Authority, and City Colleges. The City has a hiring freeze in effect except for grant funded positions, revenue generating positions and public safety—but there are four different positions listed on the City of Chicago web site. The jobs available are for law clerk at $13.82/hour (21 vacancies); a Supervising Investigator for the Independent Police Review Authority at $82,524/year; student interns for the City Clerk ranging from $8.75/hour to $9.50/hour depending on the college grade level (65 vacancies) and a Law Extern job that pays nothing and just provides the participant the opportunity to a challenging experience “that reflects the demands and rewards of public service.”
So if there are only four job categories with openings (one of them unpaid) available, how does Joseph Ferguson, the City’s Inspector General file a report in Federal Court last week which concluded, “the dangers of political hiring remain real and constant.” The $82,524/year Supervising Investigator job is the only one on the list that is really decent. So where are the dangers of political hiring?
The Chicago Tribune reported that Ferguson said his investigations into hiring abuses have been hampered because Daley’s top lawyer routinely invokes attorney-client privilege to stop him from obtaining crucial documents; the Mayor’s compliance office does not share key information; and the city has failed to discipline employees involved in illegal hiring practices.
The Tribune also reported that Ferguson’s critical report follows one filed in December by Noelle Brennan, the court monitor. She alleged the Mayor’s Office of Compliance, which would take over her duties once the court case ends, violated hiring regulations and misled her about efforts to deal with hiring abuses. According to Ferguson’s report, the inspector general found favoritism in the hiring of student interns. Investigators looked at intern hiring in seven departments from 2005 to 2008. The office found that about half of the 900 interns who got jobs had connections to city employees and a number of the connected interns later were hired into full-time city jobs.
Ferguson found that interns “were pre-selected based on their connection to a city employee, and in instances, the hiring criteria was tailored for the desired candidate.”
At present, the intern positions for the City Clerk are described as:
“Perform various administrative functions to support program activities; compile and tabulate statistical data and research and collect information for inclusion in studies and reports; use various software packages to type documents, create spreadsheets and maintain databases; provide general information regarding programs and services to the public; review and process applications for programs and services and explain program requirements to applicants; maintain records and prepare work activity reports; perform various office clerical functions; participate in the organization, set‑up and administration of special events and program activities; and perform related duties as required.”
The description for these internships is certainly not tailored to any specifically “desired candidate.” It is very generic. The pay offered is barely above the minimum wage of $8.00/hour, so I don’t see potential applicants beating down the doors of City Hall to be the first on line. Why would political clout be needed for a low paying job? Certainly in these instances it wouldn’t be required. No Alderman would expend political capital on something like this.
Throw out the internships and the under-compensated clerk jobs and there is only ONE, SINGLE job opening available for hire from the City of Chicago. There cannot be illegal hiring practices (plural) occurring when there is only ONE, SINGLE job available.
I don’t support City Hall a lot, but in this case I am “wit the Mayor.” Unless, of course, his nephew gets the job!

Monday, February 1, 2010

IN DEFENSE OF THE IRISH!

IN DEFENSE OF THE IRISH!
I hate stereotypes; and I don’t believe in them. There is absolutely no singularly described group where the members of the set share the same exact negative characteristics as to be pigeon-holed literally. No one ever uses the word “stereotype” in any positive way; it is always a pejorative (With the exception that all people named Kathy are beautiful. That is obvious!)
On St. Patrick’s Day it is said that everyone is Irish; so it is unfair that those who are REALLY Irish get their reputation sullied by random people who party out of control on this holiday.
Last March 25th, when The South Side Irish Parade Committee (SSIP) decided to cancel the traditional South Side Irish parade and to replace it with 10 days of Irish-centric events, the hue and cry was deafening. The new event, The South Side Irish Parade Family Fest set for March 13, is to include a children's art fair, Irish soda bread, best-dressed "Irish" dog contests, bagpipers, Irish dancers, live bands and a $10,000 raffle. Sounds like a nice family outing.
The SSIP Committee had to take the drastic cancellation measure because the traditional parade had gotten too raucous. Last year nearly a dozen police officers were assaulted; sixty people were arrested for public drinking and fighting and more than 300,000 people crammed into a 24-block area.
This parade is probably the only one in Chicago that felt it necessary to post on its web site last year: “This is also a reminder that drinking on the public way is a punishable offense in the City of Chicago. Offenders are subject to fines and other punishments. Please refrain from drinking where it is illegal.”
Chicago is not the only city to suffer from out of control revelers at a St. Patrick’s Day parade. According to “Inside Hoboken Now” at that town in New Jersey there were people urinating from rooftops at the 2009 parade. TVs and bottles were thrown from windows. There were more than 80 injuries, and reports of at least one couple having sex in plain view. Public Safety Director Bill Bergin said that he's had it: He wants to cancel the parade. "It's just gotten out of hand. Somebody someday is going to get killed, and I want to stop it before that" he said. Bergin said he respects the St. Patrick's Day Parade tradition -- his father, in fact, was once honored at the annual event -- but that the day is no longer about that "On Washington Street, bottles were thrown onto the people below. A girl and a guy were performing sex in a window when the parade was going by. One person spit in the face of a fireman. There were young, young girls that were blind drunk standing in the middle of the streets, so drunk that they didn't know where they were," he said.
So do people in Chicago accept the fact that the parade has been cancelled and replaced with a Family Fest? No! As Mark Konkol wrote in the Sun Times, “More than 13,000 people have made a Facebook pledge to show up in Beverly on the Sunday before St. Patrick's Day to give the late South Side Irish Parade a proper -- and drunken -- funeral. And another 7,600 folks count themselves as a "maybe" for what could turn the former parade day into the world's largest pub crawl.” The event listing is called “I say we show up at the Southside Irish Parade anyways"
Not all comments on the Facebook page have been pro-drinking,”On behalf of those who live in Beverly . . . If you don't have a party to attend please don't show up in the neighborhood, get blacked out by 10 a.m., puke, fight, go to the bathroom, or have sex on our front lawns or in our alleys or backyards," Sarah Cullina wrote on the site. "[The parade] was meant to be a neighborhood family-friendly parade to celebrate who we are, not a mini Mardi Gras. Thanks."
The Facebook group of “I am Irish, but don’t open the South Side Irish Parade, until people mature,” unfortunately only has nine members. The description of this group is:” I am Irish. I did go to this year’s SSIP but I don't think we should have it anymore, unless we get these immature kids and even adults that are drunk out of the parade. This parade was merely made to support your Irish culture, not embarrass the f***k out of it. It started out with a fun place, to show support, and families went. Now, we have really stupid and uneducated people go there, get drunk, and cause nothing but worries in Parents eyes. My aunt and uncle actual had to leave early because of the f***ing drunks. We don't need these assholes. ***WE DO NEED THIS PARADE BACK ON, BUT NO DRUNKEN ***You may not noticed this when you're "f*** up", but what is really disturbing is that people actually puke and push little kids. Show your support of OUR Irish tradition, with making us look better. All these culture parades are still up, except the SSIP. You know how embarrassing that is. I don't expect to get many people on this group, if that, any people. But what I am doing is just trying to get SOME point across to you deadbeats.”
So we have nine people as “friends” on the Facebook page of reason and more than 20,000 who say they are going to show up in Beverly anyway and hold their own party. The miscreant revelers will be doing a disservice to the reputation of the Irish. Maybe they will act with dignity and respect; but I doubt it. I think they will just add fodder to an unfair stereotypical drunken Irish image.