URBAN PHILOSOPHER
Conscience Laureate

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

With Honor Toward None Part Deux




In Monday’s blog, “With Honor Toward None,” I wrote how I felt it was wrong for schools to eliminate honors and advanced placement classes because the student population was not racially diverse.  I pointed out  a decision of that sort made as much sense as eliminating athletic competition because all people are not equally proficient in sports


In Mount Olive Township, New Jersey, the school district instituted a new policy last September eliminating the “D” grade for students. They did this by raising the failure score from 65 to anything under 70. According to an Associated Press story, “Superintendent Larrie Reynolds says the number of failing grades for district middle and high school students dropped 42.5 percent in the first quarter. And more students earned A's and B's.” Doesn’t that sound good? Wrong!




The story continued with, “They note the new policy allowed hundreds of students to retake exams and redo assignments following initial failing grades, often bringing up their scores and grades.”


Of course, a student will get a better score on a test if they are allowed to take it again! They already know the questions and probably the answers! How is this new policy any kind of indication of what the students really learned? It only shows that the students did better the second time around because they already knew the questions and could easily find the answers to the test, not that they knew the course work better. Anybody would succeed under those terms!


The other story that has me going insane was one that appeared in Sunday's New York Times Week in Review. It talked about how students should not be graded only on what their tests scores reflect but by their demeanor in life.


Last fall, over protests from parents of some of the above-average students, the eighth-grade math teachers at Ellis tried the new, "attitude in life" standards-based grading system, and this fall that new system is being used by the entire middle school and in high school for ninth graders. The theory of standards-based grading is that students should be rewarded for being friendly, prepared, compliant, a good school citizen, well-organized and hard-working, according to the New York Times story. Do we all live in a Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood now? A student cannot show proficiency in mathematics by being “friendly”!


So students know they will get better grades because they will also be based on how “friendly” they are. What happens when they are accepted to a college based on their “happy grades” and can’t succeed for lack of real knowledge?


The Times story also told us, “The percentage of students who attend college is rising; 67 percent of high school graduates now enroll in some sort of post-secondary school after graduation (up from 43 percent in 1973). But the reality is that many don’t succeed, in large part because they are not academically prepared. Federal data shows that fewer than 60 percent of students graduate from four-year colleges in six years. Among students at a community college, only one in three earns a degree. Recently released data from ACT shows that only 24 percent of high school seniors knew enough in four subjects — math, reading, science and English — to do college-level work.”


So high schools make it easier to get a good grade, but the student fails once they reach college. When are educators going to realize that they have to make high school tougher, not easier?


Mr. Rogers once said in his neighborhood, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." Well, I keep seeing scary things in the news and no one is helping.

Monday, November 29, 2010

WITH HONOR TOWARD NONE








Just as each fingerprint is a total unique entity, every person is a total unique entity. We are each comprised of a combination of genes that, with the exception of identical babies, no one else has. That is what makes us distinct individuals. Evanston Township High School wants to “punish” those individuals who are smarter than others by eliminating honors classes from the curriculum. The reason? There are not enough minority students in the mix.

According to the Chicago Tribune, “One of the most racially mixed high schools in Illinois, Evanston has a mission of embracing diversity and promoting equity and excellence for all students. But its own data show that few minority students make it into the school's most rigorous courses that will best prepare them for college and the future.” The story continues with, “Across the Chicago region, high school officials say they are making inroads in diversifying their advanced classes, but Evanston is considering the boldest step of all: eliminating an elite honors English course that has traditionally been offered to the highest-achieving incoming freshmen — usually white. The proposal has spurred an emotionally charged and race-tinged debate in the liberal, multiracial community that is home to Northwestern University.”


By eliminating honors classes because, they say, most of the students are white, would be akin to eliminating basketball programs because most of the players are black. The students are not chosen for the classes because of the color of their skin, but because of their scholastic ability. It is the same theory that athletes are chosen to play on a school’s team because of their sport’s prowess.


The Tribune also reported that, “In Illinois, about 71 percent of students in Advanced Placement classes were white in 2006, the most recent Office for Civil Rights data available. That compares with 9.7 percent black and 9.4 percent Latino students in AP that year.” So because there is an abundance of white students in honors and AP classes, the school should eliminate the classes instead of trying to help minority students reach the same scholastic level? This makes no sense!


At a school meeting last week, Evanston Township High School District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon said, "I'm excited about moving away from racially segregated classes." Again, this statement makes no sense! The students in the honors classes were not selected because of the color of their skin, but because of their academic intellect. The tests the students took to see whether they were prepared for honors classes are color-blind. The people who scored the results did not know if the test-takers were white, black, or purple.


I am fortunate to have been born with "intelligent" genes. I am a member of the genius organization Mensa and even though I participated in advance placement classes in high school, many times I was bored. If I had been in classes with non-super-achievers, it would have been worse because teaching is always "dumbed down” to the level of the slowest learner.


To achieve diversity by mixing vastly diverse intelligence levels will only hurt the highest achieving students because they will zone out when placed in a situation where they will not be intellectually challenged.


Competitive marathons seem to be won by an abundance of Kenyan athletes. Does that mean, to make it equitable, they should be handicapped in future marathons to ensure everyone an equal chance of winning? Do we tell seven foot basketball players to slouch so as to be competitive with someone who is only five feet tall? Of course not! We don’t do it in athletics and we shouldn’t do it in education.

Friday, November 26, 2010

WHO ARE THEY? Not The Usual Suspects

I am formally declaring my support for Gery Chico for Mayor of Chicago. This is an easy call because I have known Gery for almost 15 years since he was President of the Board of Trustees of Chicago Public Schools. In future blogs I will write about Gery and why he is the most qualified to be the next Mayor of Chicago. Today I will write about some of the other candidates—as of November 26th—because we know the list will be culled.

There is no need to research the usual suspects since major local media is already doing that. Who are some of the other people on the list of 20? I am taking the time to check out their references of a few of them so you don’t have to.

Rob Halpin


This is the gentleman whose family has been renting Rahm Emanuel’s home and refused to vacate the premises when Rahmbo decided to move back to Chicago. While Halpin denies accusations that he's only running for mayor in order to embarrass Emanuel, I have figured out why Halpin is in the race.

Election attorney Burt Odelson is filing suit against Rambo’s candidacy on the residency issue. If there is someone ELSE in the race (think Halpin) who is living in the home that Rahmbo has filed as HIS residence, it makes the lawsuit more viable. Very obvious and smart legal move on Odelson’s part.

Howard Ray

The only information I could find on Ray is that he pays $3400 in property taxes on his home at 4320 W. Augusta. He probably thinks they are too high, so that is why he is running. Pure speculation on my part. But since he has no Mayoral web site, how serious can his candidacy be?


John Hu
Hu has a web site, http://www.citizenmayor.net/. that tells us:

“As you know I'm running for Mayor of Chicago. Like many of you, I've become fed up with the way Chicago does business. Career politicians have messed up this city. The Voice of the People can no longer be heard! We need more jobs. We need more police officers. We need help in our neighborhoods and in our schools. My background is not in law but in business. I believe a business minded person needs to become the next Mayor of Chicago.

As mayor, I would make government more transparent, efficient and

less wasteful. Our city, because of patronage, is moving in the wrong direction. I would like to change that so your voice will be heard once again, and I promise that every decision I make as Mayor will be for the benefit of the citizens of Chicago.”

What made him decide to run?

“After the City of Chicago sold the parking meter lease deal... that was it! How could these politicians who never pay for parking or even drive their own cars know what it is like to park in Chicago? I knew they had lost touch with the citizens.”

So we know that the parking meter debacle was the impetus for his candidacy. Good answer, we all hate that calamity.


Tom Hanson
Hanson is a Republican who was a candidate for the 5th Illinois Congressional District. Ironically, that is Rahm Emanuel’s old district, interesting connection. He had a web site for that race,http://vote-il.org/Intro.aspx?Id=ILHansonTom, but does not have one for Mayor.

In his Congressional race he said, “Since Congress has adopted the bailout, we now see what a mess the Democratic controlled Congress got us into and what Clinton's relaxing of regulations on the financial industry has done to Americans. The time is right to bring in an all NEW Congress, people, like myself who know what real issues are pressing their District and are willing to pass legislation and create solutions for these voters. My top priorities are going after Todd Stroger and the excessive taxation going on in Cook County that is stripping my voters of all their hard earned money. Second, is to develop qualified day care and after school centers for voters in each of my Districts neighborhoods. Having a safe and affordable place for their children while they are at work is one of the toughest challenges a family faces today. I want to address, through legislation, the reduction or stabilizing of prescription medication prices that Americans are over paying for. I am your neighbor, the person you sit next to in church, a father and small business owner, not a career politician.”

None of that has anything to do with being Mayor of Chicago. Wonder if he will update his message to be more current!


Frederick K. White
His web site, http://www.fredrick-k-white.com, says he will be a "Mayor For All of Chicago." What? As opposed to half of Chicago?

His primary goals are:

"Lower Taxes, increase city services, lower city unemployment and run a more efficient, ethical and morally correct administration."

 
"Recently a lot more people have jumped into the race for Mayor. Please listen to them carefully. All of them have one thing in common - THEY ARE COUNTING ON A NAIVE PUBLIC TO SEND THEM MONEY - MOST OF THEM WANT 5 MILLION DOLLARS OR THEY WON'T RUN! Once again they are trying to con the public. I just want you read my platform and e-mail it to your friends and family. If you would like a printable copy please e-mail me at the link below and I will send it. We as a society have to create jobs for the 40% unemployeed in Chicago and the future graduating college students."


The spelling of UNEMPLOYEED on his web site is his mistake, not mine.  The current mayor does not speak well, so maybe we need one who cannot spell!

Fenton C. Patterson


We know he exists, but I could not find anything on him.


Tyrone Carter


Tyrone Carter, while a famous player for the San Diego Chargers, is probably not the same gentleman who is running for Mayor of Chicago.

According to Wikipedia, the football Carter has a brother Hank who, “Was sentenced to five years in prison for not appearing at court for a charge of driving with a revoked license. Rather than report to prison on January 6th, 2006, where he was to serve a 6 month prison sentence, he instead traveled to watch his brother play three road playoff games and then in Super Bowl XL. Tank had originally been scheduled to report to jail on December 8th, 2005, but Circuit Judge Stanton S. Kaplan allowed him an extra month to spend the holidays with his family and children. When he finally turned himself in on February 13th, one week after Super Bowl XL, the judge added 54 months to his original 6 month sentence.”

That kind of familial loyalty is a trait of a true Chicago politician, so maybe he IS the Carter who is running!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

CHICAGO STORIES THANKS-GIVING

(1) Confrontation With Danger






Last week I attended City Clerk Miguel De Valle’s city sticker judging contest. More than 350 artistic drawings by Chicago students were on display in the City Council Chamber and our charge was to pick out our ten favorite designs. Those ten would then be published in the Sun- Times and the public gets to vote on their favorite. The winning design will adorn the city’s vehicle stickers for the upcoming year. Seemingly a fairly benign event. Not if I am in attendance! As I walked around the Chamber, gazing at the pictures, I noticed in front of me was Ronald Holt, the Director of the Community Alternative Policing Strategy office (CAPS.) Not one to shy from danger, I walked up to him and introduced myself.


For those with a short memory, I will remind you that a few weeks ago I, not only wrote a blog about what was happening with the reduction of police officers in the CAPS program, but I did television and newspaper interviews also. I totally “trashed” how the Brass at police headquarters were decimating CAPS.

I started to introduce myself to Holt, but he stopped me saying he knew exactly who I was! Then he started yelling at me, asking me why I did those interviews; basically who the hell did I think I was!

I had two choices, I could argue with him or I could make him my friend. I chose the later. By the end of the evening we were joking like old pals and are getting together after Thanksgiving to talk about CAPS.

My enemy is now my friend and a powerful friend he will be. Something to be thankful for.



(2) MY “PRINCESS DI” POSE
Recently I was the citizen Chairman of the City of Chicago’s Kathy Osterman Awards. This event recognizes the superior public service achievements of municipal employees. Twenty-five individuals are chosen; they represent every facet of public service from school teachers to clerical staff to program directors.

Mayor Daley flew in from Washington, D.C. to attend the ceremony. He had been in the nation’s capital because his wife Maggie was hospitalized there in October. When he entered the ballroom at the Hilton, he looked so sad. After the event he came up and thanked me for my efforts on helping run such a successful event. I hugged him because it looked like he needed it. He called for a photographer. I told him I did not want a picture because I always look fat, but he insisted.

A photographer walked over and I said, “Wait. I need to get into my Princess Di pose.” The Mayor laughed at that as the photographer snapped the picture. He then turned to me and said, “Thank you. I needed a reason to smile.”

(3) PROTESTING SECURITY






I have no problem submitting to a full body scan at the airport. My security is more important than my vanity. Grassroots groups are urging travelers to either not fly or to protest by opting out of the full-body scanners and undergo time-consuming pat-downs instead. How selfish!

My dear friend, Former Congressman Michael Flanagan sent me an e-mail that has been circulating on the Internet that is the solution to the controversy about the full body scans.

Forgive me if you have seen this joke already.


"All we need to do is develop a booth that you can step into that will not X-ray you, but will detonate any explosive device you may have hidden on or in your body. The explosion will be contained within the sealed booth. This would be a win-win for everyone. There would be none of this crap about racial profiling and the device would eliminate long and expensive trials. This is so simple that it's brilliant. I can see it now: you're in the airport terminal and you hear a muffled explosion. Shortly thereafter an announcement comes over the PA system, "Attention Standby passengers, we now have a seat available on flight number..."


A friend who wishes to remain anonymous told me:


“Because I had a knee replacement in the spring, the metal set off the scanner. I went through the full pat down on return from our last trip to Washington, about three weeks ago. It took 18 minutes. I told my wife that the next time we fly, I am going to get one of those two-to-the-pound Vienna hot dogs and tie it securely to the upper inside portion of one of my thighs, giving the patter quite an impression of my manhood.”


If that size were true, his wife would surely have something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving.


(4) JUST OBEY THE LAW


The Sun-Times reported that, “Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) is holding a free "Chicago Driver Survival Seminar" on Nov. 30 -- a 2 and ½ hour "boot camp" to help Chicago drivers avoid parking and speeding tickets. The seminar was created by Mike Brockway, known as the Parking Ticket Geek and publisher of theexpiredmeter.com. The seminar will be held at DeVry University, 3300 N. Campbell, Room 220 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) plans another seminar for the second week in January. Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno (1st) also will sponsor a seminar, Brockway said.”


I can teach people how to avoid parking and speeding tickets in two seconds: park legally and don’t speed.


How stupid does one have to be to sit through a 90 minute seminar on these topics?


I am thankful that I am not so dim-witted!









Tuesday, November 23, 2010

DRIVING WHILE DISTRACTED, SMOKING WHEN GAMBLING. Two Vice Stories

CELL PHONES AND CARS

United States Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is on a rampage to ban all cell phone use while driving. If that is not enough, he even wants passengers to be prevented from making a call. He is lobbying for devices to be installed in cars that will disable cell phone usage. LaHood has called distracted driving an “epidemic” and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that about 5,000 people a year die as a result of it.

In 2008, the NHTSA reported a total of 37,261 vehicle fatalities. Of those, 13,846 were alcohol-related. Why isn’t LaHood talking about installing BAIIDs (BREATH ALCOHOL IGNITION INTERLOCK DEVICE) in all cars? A BAIID measures a driver’s sobriety. According to the website of the Illinois Secretary of State, “The device requires an initial blow from the driver to start the car. Following that, the device will require breath samples at random intervals throughout the drivers trip. Thus, preventing someone else from blowing into the machine to get the car started.”

“There’s a lot of technology out there now that can disable phones and we’re looking at that,” said LaHood on MSNBC. LaHood said the cell phone scramblers were one way, and also stressed the importance of “personal responsibility.”

Well, we have the technology to prevent anyone from ever driving while alcohol impaired so why aren’t we using that technology? Almost three times as many people die as a result of alcohol related car crashes than do in distracted driving crashes.

Sandra D. Bruce, Assistant Inspector General of the U.S. Energy Department released a report Monday that the Tribune said, “showed that government agents hired to drive nuclear weapons and components in trucks sometimes got drunk while on convoy missions, including an incident last year when two agents were detained by police at a local bar during one.”  Now that’s really scary distracted driving!

Why stop at banning cell phones? As U.S. Sec. of Transportation, you would think LaHood would look into other means, not just banning "one" distraction. What about talking, playing the radio or Ipod, shaving, putting on make-up, eating, looking at the GPS screen, talking to the passenger(s), yelling at the kid(s)?

I have the perfect solution. Let’s just ban driving and then there will be ZERO traffic fatalities a year!

SMOKING WHILE GAMBLING

Illinois has lost about $500 million just in the last two years to competition from neighboring states where smoking is allowed in casinos. A measure to exempt the state's casinos from the smoking ban passed the House Executive Committee last week on a 9-1 vote. Several of the “yes'' votes noted that they have a problem with the bill and were merely voting to send it on for a full floor debate. It now goes to the entire House.

HB1846, House Amendment 1, would re-allow smoking in the state's casinos, “if smoking is not banned in gaming facilities located in the nearest neighboring state.'' All the usual suspects, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and the Illinois Department of Public Health, argued against the amendment. What I found amusing was that they were against the bill not only for health reasons, but that the exception would be unfair to bars and others that would still be under the smoking ban. Talk about trying to cover your ass!

I smoke and it is a filthy habit. But I do smoke. I gamble also and I have not been in an Illinois casino in years.

I get to Horseshoe Casino in Indiana by driving there. So if LaHood bans all driving, I won’t be able to get there. Both problems solved!

Monday, November 22, 2010

WHAT’S THE ANGLE? PART TWO



 On September 22nd I posted a blog, “What’s the Angle?," where I pointed out that in Chicago there is always an angle. Nothing happens for no reason; there is no “just because.” I could not figure out the reason that the CTA suddenly decided to remove all the remaining pay phones from train platforms and bus enclosures. I ended the story saying that we would probably see some deal with a cell phone carrier soon. Want to guess what is coming next?

Less than two months later, on November 10th, the CTA Board approved a 10-year-deal with Sprint for the wireless company to lease the use of the CTA’s subway communications infrastructure. CTA will receive approximately $3.1 million over the life of the contract The CTA announced that, ”installation and testing of Sprint’s base equipment — comprised of amplifiers, transmitters and receivers — within the subway will take place over the next several months. Following installation, service is expected to begin in early 2011.” Should we all act surprised?

At the same Board meeting, the members decided to put naming rights up for bid for L stops, lines and bus routes. Again, should we act surprised? We saw this coming when the CTA “allowed” technology giant Apple to spend millions of dollars to refurbish the North/Clybourn station right outside the door of their newly opened store in Lincoln Park. When Apple first made the offer in 2009, CTA spokeswoman Noelle Gafney said that in exchange for the renovations, Apple would have the right of first refusal of naming rights, “if that was something the CTA were to offer."


Is there anyone out there naive enough to think that Apple spent $4 million on renovation in ANTICIPATION that naming rights might BECOME available? I am in favor of naming rights, but let’s not have these “wink, wink” deals going on. How incredibly fortuitous the timing that the Apple store and the new station opened only a week ago and all of a sudden the CTA is exploring deals for naming rights? Please, we’re not that stupid!


The other big piece of news at the Board meeting was the approval of the 2011 budget of $1.337 billion. A CTA press release, headlined with, “Fares and Service to Remain Unchanged Next Year” said, “The budget is $66.7 million, or 5.2 percent, more than the 2010 budget due in part to contractually dictated union wage increases, along with pension and healthcare obligations. These fixed increases will be partially offset by management efficiencies that are expected to save nearly $54 million in 2011.” The release also said that the budget, “through cost-conscious management, maintains current fares and service levels for riders.” Remember the words “maintains current fares and service levels,” because I guarantee you that at some point in 2011 the CTA will ask for a rate increase.

There will be some reason when the CTA goes begging to the legislature in Springfield for a rate hike, I have not figured it out yet, but there will be one. It's Chicago -- there's always an angle!




Friday, November 19, 2010

BLOWING THE WHISTLE A LITTLE LOUDER


















I have written a number of blogs in support of whistle blowers and a number of blogs castigating those who decry whistle blowers. My basic philosophy is that without whistle blowers, vast amounts of corruption in government would not have been, and continue to be, exposed and those who consider whistle blowers as “snitches” obviously have something to hide themselves!


Probably 99% of the people who have information to expose corruption are afraid of backlash. Even though Illinois has whistle blower protection laws in both the governmental and private sector, there are still ways for employers to circumvent the law and punish the person who, even though they spoke the truth, suffer consequences.

State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock) has introduced Illinois House Bill 6906 to make it easier for citizens to report allegations of fraud in government. He is calling for a simple amendment to the Illinois State Auditing Act by adding a new section. The synopsis of the bill is:

Amends the Illinois State Auditing Act. Requires the Office of the Auditor General to operate a toll-free telephone hot line for the public to report allegations of fraud in the executive branch of State government. Authorizes the Office to conduct audits concerning alleged fraud and to refer allegations of fraud to the appropriate law enforcement authority or other governmental entity with jurisdiction over the alleged fraud. Effective immediately.”

One problem with whistle blowing is that many times it is reported, but nothing is done. Franks’ bill gives authority for an audit to be conducted and the information turned over to law enforcement. Once so many agencies are involved in the process, a cover-up of the allegations will be harder to pull off.


Franks said, “The culture of corruption in our state cannot continue. If we are going to change it, we must take the necessary steps to make information more available to citizens and provide citizens with the means to hold their government accountable. The government must be returned to the people and transparency is the first step toward that goal.”

He has more bills that he has introduced to clean the smudges off the window of Illinois government.

Prompted to action by the Department on Aging’s poor decision to lease new office space earlier this year, Franks also pushed legislation to add oversight to state agency leasing agreements. House Bill 1450 will require all leases to be filed with the Comptroller and the Procurement Policy Board. It also gives the Board the power to reject proposed leases within 30 days of their receipt.

“Our state is buried in a man-made financial crisis, yet our government continues to make decisions which perpetuate our bad spending habits,” Franks said. “The lease contracted by the Department on Aging is a good example of poor financial decision making, but it is just one example of a much larger problem. Adding more oversight to state government leasing agreements is a smart move for the financial health of our state.”

HB 1450 passed the House yesterday and now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Transparency and oversight of state government are great vehicles in exposing the corruption in Springfield. If passed, this legislation might be one small step by a Woodstock man, but it will be a giant leap for Illinois.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

“CHICAGOANS VERY SELDOM USE TAXIS.” WHAT??












It is very difficult for me to write a blog where I am upset with Chicago Alderman Ed Burke (14th Ward.) Ed and his wife, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, are wonderful, dear friends of mine. They support all my charitable events and are superb pillars of the Chicago community. But I will not allow emotions to get in the way of my speaking out on on my disagreeing with Alderman Burke’s latest pronouncement involving a surcharge on taxi cabs fares.

On Wednesday, Alderman Burke and Alderman Carrie Austin (34th Ward) introduced a proposal for a $1 surcharge on the “flag pull” that occurs at the beginning of a ride. The surcharge would not benefit the drivers but go directly to the coffers of the city. In speaking about his proposal, Burke said,” It’s going to go to the budget committee for a hearing, but it seems to me Chicagoans very seldom use taxis. These are mainly used by visitors to Chicago, the business people who are on expense accounts and it isn’t a big amount. A $1 surcharge isn’t going to hurt anybody in my opinion, and it doesn’t impact Chicago citizens.”

How can he say that Chicagoans very seldom use taxis? I use cabs every day and I am a Chicagoan! What? I don’t count!

Burke also said that the $1 surcharge would raise about $70 million a year for the city. Once again, my pencil comes out to crunch the numbers.

The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection regulates the cab industry so they closely monitor the statistics. In the past, they have reported that there are approximately 25 million cab rides a year. If one figures in the dollar surcharge that would result in $25 million for the city, not $70 million as Burke claims.

Since historically it has been shown that when fares increase, ridership goes down, the result will be even less cab rides. So how does Burke arrive at the $70 million revenue figure?

While Burke is correct that a one dollar surcharge in itself is not a lot of money, one must remember all the other surcharges at the start of a cab ride. For our hypothetical ride we have two tourists getting in a cab at the Hyatt Hotel on Wacker Drive who want to go to Water Tower. The original flag pull is $2.25; then the fluctuating $0.50 for the gas surcharge; $1.00 for the second passenger; and $1.00 for the proposed Burke surcharge adds up to $4.75 just for getting into the cab! Add $1.80 for the mile-ride to the mall plus a 20 percent tip and the short ride totals almost $8.00! A $16.00 round trip to do a little shopping! Do you think those conventioneers are going to be complaining to the event booker that they don’t want to be in Chicago next year?

On average, I take two round trip cab rides per day. The proposed surcharge would cost me about $4/day or, allowing time off for being in the hospital and holidays, about $1,000/year. Suddenly, it is not just a dollar, it is a thousand dollars.

What is so ironic, number one, about Burke’s proposal is that two weeks ago, Chicago cabdrivers pitched aldermen on the need for a fare hike to offset rising costs and city fees they say are squeezing them to the point of destitution. The response from City Council? Alderman Thomas Allen, (38th Ward,) chairman of the City Council Transportation Committee, would not even schedule a vote on the proposed legislation! Since the last fare hike was in 2005, I don’t think drivers were being unreasonable in their request. What was NOT good for the goose now seems to be good for the gander.

And what is so ironic, number two, is that Alderman Burke has a private city driver and car, so he never has to take public transportation or hail a cab. I guess he was talking about himself when he said that Chicagoans seldom use taxis.













Wednesday, November 17, 2010

AROUND THE COYOTE








Was it REALLY a coyote that was video-taped running down State Street the other morning at 3:00 a.m.? Since no animal official has CONFIRMED that it was a coyote, how come it is being called that? I watched the footage and it looks like a German shepherd to me. (http://en.terra.com/latin-in-)america/news/coyote_runs_wild_through_chicago_streets/hof12528

Assuming that it WAS a coyote, I was surprised at the cavalier attitude of Brad Block, a supervisor for the Chicago Commission on Animal Care and Control who said that coyotes are in the Loop to deal with rats and mice. "He's not a threat...He's not going to pick up your children," Block said. "His job is to deal with all of the nuisance problems, like mice, rats and rabbits."

Block also said he thinks the coyote might be one of the animals fitted with a GPS device by the state of Illinois to monitor its whereabouts, but it was unclear whether this “coyote” is part of that program.

WAIT!! The state has GPS on coyotes that they let run free to deal with rodents? I had never heard of this before. Has anyone else? I researched and found programs about the Illinois Department of Natural Resources monitoring coyotes with GPS, but no articles about a coyote/rodent program. I encourage legislators to look into this.


In Japan, a singer, Hatsune Miku is topping the music charts and is a pop diva. She sells out concert stadiums and has become a cultural phenomenon. She has legions of screaming fans. You can watch footage of one of her concerts at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEaBqiLeCu0. Please view this before you continue reading the story.



What is so incredible about Miku is that she does not exist; she is a computer-generated avatar hologram with sings with a live band. She was created by recording the voice of Japanese actress, Saki Fujita, making individual phonetic sounds at different pitches and tones. The mad scientists then recombined the samples and fed them through synthesis software to produce a combination of words and sounds.

Even though people can watch her on their home computers, and even create their own songs, fans still attend “live” concerts. At these sold-out shows, she materializes as a 3-D hologram and parades and dances around the stage as she belts out pop-rock songs, while her human band provides the music.

She is not real! Just like the coyote on State Street. But we believe what we want to believe.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

LEGISLATORS ARE NOT LISTENING TO ME!








On April 30th, I wrote a blog, “Having Carnal Relations or Not Should Not Matter.”  It was semi-tongue in check about how the Illinois Civil Union bill did not have any language regarding whether the parties to the union have sexual relations or not.  While I might have been trying to be ironic in my writing, what I wrote makes perfect sense. 

Because there have been stories about how bill Sponsor State Rep. Greg Harris wants to bring up the matter during the upcoming veto session of the legislature, I checked the language of the bill again.  It has NOT been amended in any way to require a relationship that needs to be anything more than just friends "hooking up" solely for the provisions the legalized civil union allows.   It would give new meaning to the phrase, “friends With benefits.” 

Every story refers to the bill as legislation for gay couples, but there is no such language in the actual bill!  Governor Patrick Quinn supports the bill saying it sends a message to companies that Illinois has laws which respect the diversity of the state.  But the bill says nothing about diversity! It is just a legal way for friends to watch out for each other.  It clearly explains a civil union as “a legal relationship between 2 persons, of either the same or opposite sex.”  It also says that parties to a civil union are, “entitled to the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits as are afforded by the law of Illinois to spouses.”  Nothing about carnal relations needed.  Why aren’t the legislators listening to me?

Section 25 tells us who can NOT be in a civil union:

 “The following civil unions are prohibited:
(1) a civil union entered into prior both parties attaining 18 years of age;
(2) a civil union entered into prior to the dissolution of a marriage or civil union or similar legal relationship of one of the parties:
(3) a civil union between an ancestor and a descendant or between siblings whether the relationship is by the half or the whole blood or by adoption; and
(4) a civil union between first cousins.


The bill  Synopsis As Introduced:
“Creates the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act. Defines "civil union" as a legal relationship between 2 persons, of either the same or opposite sex, established in accordance with the Act. Provides that a party to a civil union shall be entitled to the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to spouses. Prohibits certain civil unions. Provides that the Director of Public Health shall prescribe forms for an application, license, and certificate for a civil union. Contains provisions regarding: application for a civil union license; certification of a civil union; and duties of the county clerk and Department of Public Health. Provides for dissolution and declaration of invalidity of a civil union. Provides that a marriage between persons of the same sex, a civil union, or a substantially similar legal relationship other than common law marriage, legally entered into in another jurisdiction, shall be recognized in Illinois as a civil union. Contains provisions regarding construction, application, religious freedom, severability, and other matters.”

There is no mention of love, living together, sexual relations between the partners, etc. etc. etc.  It is a union that can be entered into by filling out a simple application and giving it to a county clerk. And then “a copy of the completed certification form the county clerk or the return provided to the Department of Health by a county clerk shall be presumptive evidence of the civil union in all courts.”

One does not have to be homosexual, lesbian, transgender, or bisexual because the parties can be of opposite sex according to the bill.  So why is it called gay civil union?  It’s not.

So like back in April, I write again, to anyone who has a good health insurance plan that allows for “spouses” to be covered, I say, “Will you Civil Union me?”


Monday, November 15, 2010

CHICAGO STORIES PARAPROSDOKIAN



Somebody (I apologize that I forgot who) sent me an e-mail asking me to use the word paraprosdokian (from Greek "ðáñá-", meaning "beyond" and "ðñïóäïêßá", meaning "expectation") in a blog.  What a great word!  It is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. That is what I hope to achieve when I write my Chicago Stories.

(1) THE BUS PEOPLE!


Unless one lives downtown in the Michigan Avenue area they don’t know about the “Bus People.” They are hordes of shoppers, mostly from Wisconsin, that arrive in the “big city” on tour buses to do their holiday shopping. They create a lot of problems: they don't know how to walk on sidewalks (guess they are used to cow pastures,) they block other pedestrians as they look up at the tall buildings, they don't pay attention to the 'Walk' and 'Do Not Walk' traffic signals and their busses clog up the side streets because they have no place to park and at the end of their shopping journey, when they are waiting for their bus pick-up, they sprawl on the sidewalks with all their shopping bags strewn about)



I should be happy that these people are spending their money in Chicago so we can take advantage of their 11% tax dollars. But what drives me most insane about these people? Their full shopping bags are always from The Gap, The Express or some other mall chain store! These are stores that exist in just about EVERY city in the world! Why would someone take a bus for a multiple hour round trip and shop at a store that is probably within two miles of their own home? Does anyone have an answer for this? The paraprosdokian answer is ,“Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.”














(2) FEWER INJURIES AT WORK!


Last week, The Bureau of Labor Statistics, reported that work-related injuries went down about 9% nationally last year. The unemployment rate for the same reporting period was about 9%. Do we see a trend? If everybody stops working, there will be no work-related injuries! With that kind of thinking, I am qualified to work for the government!














(3) I THOUGHT SCHOOLS WERE FOR EDUCATION


On Saturday, the media-appointed future King of the World, Rahm Emanuel, announced his first step in ruling the world by announcing his candidacy for Mayor of Chicago. He did this announcement at the Coonley Elementary School on the North Side. According to the Sun-Times, “Coonley, a Chicago public school, is a notable one for Emanuel. He helped get the school designated as a regional gifted center after a family raised concerns it would not meet their children's needs, sought federal funding for it." I don’t understand how a “regular citizen,” (he currently holds no office) could use public property for politicking? That seems illegal to me. Or at the least, unethical.

The principal opened the school on a Saturday to accommodate Emanuel. Who paid for the security, electricity, heating, etc. and other costs related to this event? I, for one, would like to see the check his campaign wrote to CPS to cover the expenses. Once again, clout rears its ugly head. I guess change is not inevitable, even from a vending machine.

The fact that Emanuel sends his own children to private school makes his choice of the announcement venue even more ironic.














(4) TWO METRA STORIES


There were two big Metra stories last week.



The Tribune reported that,” The air trapped inside the rail cars is often far worse than the air on the platform. Levels of lung and heart-damaging diesel soot pollution inside the cars soared up to 72 times higher than outside.”


A few days later, the Tribune also reported, “Prodded by Sen. Dick Durbin's call for a federal probe, Metra officials this week formed a task force of transit officials, union reps and environmental health regulators that is supposed to figure out how to clean up the toxic exhaust in the station and on the trains. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says diesel exhaust is one of the most dangerous types of air pollution. It has been linked to cancer, heart attacks, respiratory diseases, diabetes and brain damage.”

That information would scare me away from taking any Metra train!

So in an effort to bolster their public mage, Metra announced that, starting in January, during morning and evening rush hours, Rock Island riders get two “quiet” cars per train. In these cars, cell phones will be banned, along with loud conversations, leaky iPod earbuds and all high-decibel emitting games or music. This will be a two month test to work out the kinks and then expanded to other Metra lines.

I expect we will hear from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) about this. People with hearing problems (covered under the American With Disabilities Act) speak loudly because they cannot discern what their audible level is. Since loud conversations are banned in these cars, it is discriminatory to prohibit their using them. I speak loudly, but I don't carry a big stick.





 (5) I THOUGHT SCHOOLS WERE FOR EDUCATION Part 2

More than three years ago, the divisive Chief Illiniwek was “retired” as the symbol at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus. There has been no official mascot since then. The Sun Times reported, “The Illinois Faculty Senate and the Illinois Student Senate both called for the creation of a new mascot. Twenty student groups organized as Students for a United Illinois picketed outside a recent non-university sponsored Chief event. And the university formed a committee to study the school's values and find a new symbol representing it. “




Apparently, education is not of foremost importance to the students, but a mascot is. That is obvious by what David Olsen, the student body president and a senior in the College of Business said, "I think the students and members of the university community believe having a new mascot will help our campus move forward."


Want to “move forward” out of downstate Illinois? Hop a charter and go shopping on Michigan Avenue!  One of the "Bus People" can be the new mascot.



Friday, November 12, 2010

I DO NOT AGREE WITH THE TIRE!














On November 17th, the Michelin Guide will publish its first Chicago edition. The Michelin star rating is the most recognized rating system in the culinary world for all of Western Europe; chefs live and die by the number of stars the guide awards them. In anticipation of their major ratings, Michelin did an early release of their Bib Gourmand restaurants. Introduced in 1997, the label is described by Michelin as, “The Bib Gourmand designation denotes good cuisine at a reasonable price in a variety of comfort categories. Defined as “Inspectors’ Favorites for Good Value,” Bib Gourmand restaurants offer two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less (tax and gratuity not included), and are often of most value to a city’s residents, who regularly dine in neighborhood restaurants.” (www.facebook.com/MichelinGuides) Many wonderful reasonably-priced restaurants are not on the list, so I think the tire is full of hot air!

Most people do not realize that the Michelin Guide was created in the 1990’s by Andre and Edouard Michelin as a car and road trip guide. The brothers wanted people to drive around a lot so they would use up the treads on their tires. It is now the oldest such publication and is considered the most well-known and influential guide in the culinary world. Certainly by food snobs, not necessarily by “regular people.”

One of my reasons for being upset at Michelin is, because in an effort to publicize each restaurant’s designation, the company, according to their own press release, “commissioned a street team to travel to each Bib Gourmand restaurant in the Chicago guide. The team applied a stencil of the Bib Gourmand symbol to the sidewalk facing each restaurant. The Bibendum outline will remain in place until weather or foot traffic cause it to fade.” Maybe a good stunt, but totally illegal. It is graffiti! For their first foray to our fine city, Michelin should treat our sidewalks with dignity and respect. The PR firm that came up with the idea should be fired!


A gourmand is a person who takes great pleasure in food. The pleasure does not come from the price, but from the flavor. Michelin takes into account many characteristics that don’t matter to me, but might matter to gourmets. I know what I enjoy and I have reasons for liking a particular restaurant that have nothing to do with snobbery or a particular “famous chef.”


On the less expensive end, I love Dick’s Last Resort at 315 N. Dearborn, (www.dickslastreosrt.com) and TGI Friday’s at 153 E. Erie, (www.tgifridays.com)

For 19 years, Dick’s has been sponsoring a holiday party that I run for 75 underprivileged children. Not just some ordinary party with Santa, but every child gets a new bicycle! Its not just some ordinary holiday party with Santa -- every child gets a new bicycle! How can one not LOVE Dick’s just for that reason alone? They also underwrite Wing Madness for me, the chicken wing eating contest between police and firemen that benefits a local charity, and have never said “NO” when I have asked them to cater various other not-for-profit events for me. If their community service were not enough, they make the most fabulous “regular people” salad (no fancy field greens with stems) with honey mustard dressing to die for. Their barbeque ribs are dry rubbed and the meat falls off the bone. The bourbon glazed salmon is moist and flaky and the rib eye is perfection. It will never make a Michelin list, because it is not an “uppity” place. Tell manager Richard Fulghum that you are a “Friend of Kathy” (FOK.)

The same is true for TGI Friday’s; certainly not fancy, but a restaurant with a heart. They sponsor a breakfast for 100 underprivileged children for me every December at the 18th District police station. The event Cops, Kids and Kindness allows children an opportunity to hang out at the station, become friends with the officers and decorate the walls for the holidays. TGIF also serves a “regular people” salad with honey mustard dressing. The Jack Daniels glazed chicken breast is fabulous! I have my favorite waiters and eat there a few times a week. FOKs should ask for manager Corey and let him know who sent you.


If want something fancier, I actually travel to Evanston (don’t be shocked that I leave my zone!) to eat at Pensiero located at 1566 Oak Avenue (www.pensieroitalian.com). This restaurant is located in the Margarita European Inn and one feels as if they have entered an establishment in Rome. To validate how delicious the food is, I took Mancow and his Italian wife one evening. Mancow loved it so much, he has gone back and PAID for his meals! Since restaurants always comp him, the fact that he is using his OWN cash confirms how great this establishment is. Owner of the Inn and restaurant Michael Pure has seen a lot of FOKs recently. Use my name when you make a reservation.

If I want to stay in my zone and eat a bit upscale, nothing beats Capital Grille at 633 N. St. Claire (www.thecapital.grille.com) I have named one booth “The Cardinal’s table” (because that is where the Cardinal sits when he dines there, duh!) and it is mine as long as his Eminence is not in attendance. Manager Jim Lyman makes sure there is caffeine free Diet Coke for me and the food is delicious! Nobody serves a better steak in Chicago no matter what Michelin might decide.

So when it is time to make your dining decision, refer to the FOK dining guide. I’m fat, so obviously I know food!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I'M SCARED!



1983 cell phone


















When my computer gigolo Kevin or my webmaster Jason try to educate me in upgrading my computer or my web site, my comment is “I’m scared.” While the number one fear of most people is speaking in public (glossophobia,) I am thrilled to address 10,000 people or more. No paralyzing stutter for me. In fact, the more people paying attention to me, the better. But the thought of a computer upgrade? I cannot function.

Computer Gigolo upgraded my laptop to Windows 7 about three months ago. He upgraded on my laptop so I could slowly learn how to maneuver through the new system. Once I learned it on my laptop, he would upgrade my desktop. So what has happened? I have not used my laptop for three months because I'm scared!


What is so ironic about this fear of technology is that when cell phones were introduced, I was one of the first people to own one. The phone was in a giant bag that one had to lug around. When I had a cell phone installed in my car, the equipment took up half the space of the trunk. It is not communication that scares me - it is what the cell phone has evolved into that causes my panic.

The reason I am writing about this now, is that on Friday, I have an appointment at Sprint to get a new phone. My current phone is fine with me, but I really cannot read the e-mails very clearly on it and it has no apps. I don’t know why I need apps, but since everybody else has them, I obviously need them.


I have been to the Sprint store a number of times already. My friend Jill came with me once and was almost hysterical in her laughter as I walked around the store. I have looked at the phones, I have touched the phones and I have reduced my selection down to a few models. I thought I was all prepared for decision making and then what happens today? Microsoft comes out with a new phone!

The story on AOL said, “Congratulations, Microsoft! You've finally shaken off the shackles of your aging mobile OS, and joined the class of modern smartphones with Windows Phone 7 (WP7). Starting today, WP7-powered devices are available though Microsoft retail channels, on Amazon, and from AT&T and T-Mobile. T-Mobile customers have only one choice right now for WP7 devices: the HTC HD7. It packs a large 4.3-inch touchscreen and an HD video camera -- basically an EVO loaded with WP7 and T-Mobile-friendly radios. AT&T customers can choose between two models: the HTC Surround, which hides a pair of slide-out speakers behind its 3.8-inch screen; and the Samsung Focus, which is like a WP7-outfitted Galaxy S, and sports the Galaxy's same 4-inch Super AMOLED screen. “


I have no idea what any of this means. No where in the description does it mention phone calls! Isn’t the purpose of a cell phone to make calls? Not anymore. I invite anybody who wants to watch me make a fool of myself to come to the Sprint store on LaSalle and Randolph about 1:00 p.m. on Friday. My performance will be funnier than any Broadway in Chicago production. Tickets available online or through some app on your phone.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I WANT TO BE HAPPY!! Leave me alone!








The children’s meal sold by McDonald’s called “The Happy Meal,” has a very appropriate name. It makes a person (not necessarily just a child) feel happy when they eat it because it is delicious. I see nothing wrong with that! The toy it comes with is just a bonus, not the reason for eating it.

Last week, San Francisco became the first major U.S. city to pass a law that would require that restaurant kids' meals meet certain nutritional standards before they could be sold with toys. The Board of Supervisors passed the law with a veto-proof 8-to-3 vote. The San Francisco law, taking effect on December 1, would allow toys to be given away with kids' meals that have less than 600 calories, contain fruits and vegetables, and include beverages without excessive fat or sugar.


One of the sane Supervisors who voted against the law was Donald Gage, who said parents should be responsible for their children. "If you can't control a 3-year-old child for a toy, God save you when they get to be teenagers," he said.


Supervisor Ken Yeager, who sponsored the measure said, "This ordinance prevents restaurants from preying on children's love of toys" to sell high-calorie, unhealthful food. "This ordinance breaks the link between unhealthy food and prizes."


No it doesn’t!


Unhealthy food that is battered and fried will be eaten sans toys. Give any child the choice between chicken McNuggets with no prize and an apple with a prize and I guarantee the youngster is going for the fried clucker. But it is the PARENTS’ responsibility to make sure their sons and daughters eat healthy, not the GOVERNMENT’S!


This summer, The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) threatened to sue McDonald's if it did not stop using Happy Meal toys “to lure children into its restaurants.” A lawyer for that group said it is on track to file the lawsuit in the next several weeks. CSPI calls itself the, "The organized voice of the American public on nutrition, food safety, health and other issues."


America is becoming, not happy! Everyday another law is passed somewhere to “protect us,” from ourselves. I want to be able to make my own decisions and not have some “organized voice” speaking for me.


The late comedian George Carlin said, “I do this real moron thing, its called thinking, and I’m not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions.” I agrre with Carlin. Leave us alone on personal choice issues! I don’t understand why the Government feels it has to keep “saving us” from ourselves. Save me from Al- Qaida, not French fries!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Freeloading Five Don’t do their 24



















When the 2010 City of Chicago budget was passed in December 2009, one of the provisions was for all non-union employees, to take 24 unpaid and furlough days in 2010. Those 24 days are comprised of 12 regular unpaid days (the employee chooses the days) and 12 days of what used to be paid holidays. The new 2011 budget (not yet passed) includes the same stipulation. But are elected city officials obligated to take furlough days? NO! The budget did not include their having to do so. That is completely wrong!


Some of the elected officials and Alderman are taking the furlough days. The Mayor has taken 25 already in 2010. City Treasurer Stephanie Neely has taken none. How much time off have other officials taken? Dan Mihalopoulos of the Chicago News Cooperative calculated the information that I have copied below.


Five Aldermen have not taken ONE single unpaid day off. They are: Frank Olivo (13th), Howard Brookins (21st), Ricardo Muñoz (22nd), Carrie Austin (34th) and Rey Colon (35th). If they run for re-election in the February primary, their constituents would be fools to vote for them. Their arrogance is astounding.  Deborah Grahan (29th) has taken 32 days off.  She should be applauded.


Mihalopoulos questioned the Freeloading Five and reported that,” Brookins said he would take his unpaid days off before the end of the year. Muñoz said he took no furlough days because he had already agreed to decline the pay increase he was entitled to for 2010. Colon, Austin and Olivo did not return calls seeking comment.”


What is ironic about Austin is that she is the chairwoman of the Council’s Budget Committee and, according to Mihalopoulos, “has expressed her support for Daley’s plan to require more employee furlough days next year.” She supports everyone else taking a salary reduction except her. The inhumanity!


Almost as pathetic are Sharon Denise Dixon (24th), with two unpaid days off, and Willie Cochran (20th), with one.


I am proud that my Alderman, Brendan Reilly (42nd), has taken off 19 days. With 2 months left in the year, he is on track to max out.


How can Aldermen vote for a budget that has EVERYONE else tighten their belts except them? Do they think voters are so stupid not to notice what they have pulled off? Unfortunately, yes. I will remind everyone again of this as we get closer to the February election.


British author Quentin Crisp said, “It is not the simple statement of facts that ushers in freedom; it is the constant repetition of them that has this liberating effect.” So hopefully, my constant repetition will bear fruit.   Don't support the Freeloadng Five!


Elected Official   Ward   Furlough Days


Moreno                1            10


Fioretti                2            19


Dowell                3             19


Preckwinkle          4            20


Hairston              5            19


Lyle                    6            12


Jackson               7           19


Harris                 8           19


Beale                 9            21


Pope                  10          19


Balcer                11          19


Cardenas           12           9


Olivo                 13           0


Burke                14           19


Foulkes             15           5


Thompson         16            17


Thomas            17           17


Lane                18             7


Rugai               19            19


Cochran            20              1


Brookins           21              0


Munoz              22              0


Zalewski           23            18


Dixon               24               2


Solis                25              12


Maldonado        26              14


Burnett            27               19


Ed Smith          28               10


Graham            29               32


Reboyras           0                15


Suarez             31                21


Waguespack      32               19


Mell                  33               18


Austin              34                  0


Colon               35                  0


Rice                  36                18


Mitts                37                 15


Allen                38                  19


Laurino             39                  20


O'Connor           40                18


Doherty             41                 16


Reilly                42                 19


Vi Daley            43                 19


Tunney             44                 18


Levar               45                  18


Shiller              46                 19


Schulter           47                 10


Mary Ann Smith 48                 10


Moore               49                 15


Stone              50                  21