URBAN PHILOSOPHER
Conscience Laureate

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

PUTTING CHILDREN SECOND Part 2



Earlier this week I wrote about the hearing that State Rep. Jack Franks ( D-Marengo) was gong to hold to investigate fraudulent billing in the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS.)  The hearing came about after a report issued by the Office of Executive Inspector General (OEIG) and the Inspector General of DCFS alleged financial misconduct at Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Now the results.

At the hearing, Rep. Jack Franks demanded of Quinn’s general counsel, John Schomberg, why Erwin McEwen, chief of the Department of Children and Family Services, was allowed to resign rather than be fired after inspectors discovered that George E. Smith, a friend of the former director, collected millions of dollars for shoddy or non-existent work. Schomberg testified at the hearing that McEwen stayed on for a month after the governor requested his resignation because he had "too much institutional knowledge" and was needed for a "thoughtful transition" at the department.  Smith and his various organizations collected $18 million in state grants from 2008 through 2011.

According to the Associated Press, “Franks asked Schomberg in jest if the transition was to train the next leadership team on ‘how to loot.’ And Franks pointed to a glowing press release announcing that McEwen was ‘leaving the agency to pursue new opportunities’ as possible evidence of an attempt to cover up the situation.”   Franks said by issuing a statement like that, "This government was deceitful to the public."

Schomberg also said that by accepting the resignation of McEwen the department avoided a potential law suit. "I can't believe the cowardice," Franks exclaimed in reaction, "Let him sue. Who cares? Do what's right."

Besides Franks holding a hearing to get answers, the Illinois attorney general’s office is working to recover some of the money collected by Smith.  He allegedly submitted fake papers, forged people’s signatures, turned in fraudulent expense accounts and falsely claimed he was a psychiatrist.

AP reported that Ann Spillane, Chief of Staff for Attorney General Lisa Madigan, said, “It’s a lot of money. We’re going to have trouble finding [enough assets].”  Spillane said that the matter has been given “a very high priority” and that the case has been referred to federal prosecutors.

If it were almost any other politician beside Jack Franks, a person could worry that the hearing’s purpose was merely to make a media splash.  Then the story would be forgotten as so many of the previous cases of abuses and fraud have been.  I have written about them and nothing ever seems to happen.  But Franks won’t let it go away.  The Governor will not be able to put his hands over his eyes like a three year old and pretend something does not exist just because he cannot see it. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

PUTTING CHILDREN SECOND Part 1


Last July, I wrote a blog, “Children First?,”where I shared my thoughts about the compliance examination report published by the Auditor General.  It concerned the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and the report covered the two years ending in June 30, 2010.  It was frightening to read, after I realized that the abuses in the system dealt with the state’s most precious commodities—its children.

The summary showed that there were 13 major problem areas noted, which was better than the 15 cited in the previous report.  But then, I realized that 10 of them were repeat findings from the last audit covering 2007 and 2008.  This was absolutely unacceptable!

Were any changes implemented at DCFS?  The answer sadly is, “no.”  Things got worse.

Last Friday State Rep. Jack Franks ( D-Marengo), in response  to a joint report of large-scale abuse and cronyism issued by the Executive Inspector General (OEIG) and the Inspector General of DCFS,  held a hearing to investigate how a close friend of former DCFS Director Erwin McEwen was allowed  nearly unsupervised control of more than $18 million in state grants.

“The sheer magnitude and depth of this abuse is breathtaking,” said Franks. “To add insult to injury, Director McEwen was allowed to stay on the job for months after the Governor was made aware of his deficiencies.”

After receiving the Inspector General’s report detailing widespread negligence under McEwen leadership, Governor Quinn waited four months before accepting the Director’s resignation. Notably, McEwen refused to cooperate with the Inspector General’s investigation, even though as a State employee he was required to legally. 

“The first day an employee of mine stopped cooperating would be his last day on the job,” continued Franks. “Not only was Mr. McEwen using his position to facilitate the squandering of millions of public dollars, he was allowed to continue collecting a paycheck months after the Inspector General informed Governor Quinn of his findings.”

The report details alleged abuse and fraud perpetrated by business entities operated by Dr. George E. Smith. From ghost employees and forged signatures to excess billing for administrative costs and the administration of psychotropic drugs to DCFS wards without proper consent – the findings paint a troubling picture of inadequate oversight and failure to monitor grant contracts across several State agencies that paid out grants to Smith.

“As Illinois remains months behind in paying lawful vendors, the negligence and failure to undertake even the most rudimentary oversight of grants came at the expense of Illinois children and families that rely on legitimate service providers,” concluded Franks.


Franks, the chairman of the House State Government Administration Committee, and state Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), the chairman of the House Human Services Committee, will hear from witnesses across government agencies to fully investigate the report’s findings.

What happened at the hearing?  You will have to wait for the results.  Meanwhile, go sit in the corner and take a time out.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Robert  Felton, a contributing reporter to the Austin Weekly news, gave me permission to reprint his story about Justice Joy Cunningham's race for the Illinois Supreme Court.

Joy Cunningham looks to become first black woman on Illinois Supreme Court


By ROBERT FELTON
Contributing Reporter


Joy Cunningham knows a little something about making history.

The North Sider did that 8 years ago, becoming the first black woman president of the Chicago Bar Association. Her sights are set on another first and even higher position - becoming the first black woman ever elected to Illinois' Supreme Court. Cunningham, who sits on the state's Appellate Court, is running in the March 20 primary for the vacant Cook County seat on the high court.
Along with possibly making history, she also wants to provide of voice and perspective on the court she says has been lacking recently.

"I think it's important that the Supreme Court of Illinois reflects the variety of experience of those it represents," Cunningham said. "There are 13 million people in Illinois, and they have diverse backgrounds. I believe I bring a new perspective to the court that would benefit Illinois as a whole."

Cunningham, who lives in the Andersonville neighborhood on the North Side, was inspired to run following the retirement of Justice Thomas Fitzgerald last year. The vacancy presented a rare opportunity for prospective candidates, given that justices are usually elected to 10-year terms and usually run unopposed. Normally, seats open up because of retirements, deaths or impeachment.

Cunningham has been endorsed by U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-7th) and Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White. She's running against four other challengers, including Mary Jane Theis, a sitting Supreme Court justice who was appointed to a two-tear term in 2010. Theis is considered the front-runner.

She has the backing of Fitzgerald, and since May 2011 has raised more than $830,000 for the primary, according to campaign finance records on file with the Illinois State Board of Elections. Since June 2011, Cunningham has raised $342,000, according to the state board. Cunningham nevertheless feels she is the best choice.

"This process has almost always been a fairly straightforward one, with the outgoing judge naming his successor, who is then appointed without a serious challenge," she said.
"But I feel that the people should decide...It should not be a group of political figures handpicking a candidate to represent the interest of the entire state."

Cunningham's 35-year career began in her hometown of New York City. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in nursing from the City University of New York, she moved to Chicago in the early 1980s and worked as a critical care nurse.

She later attended John Marshall Law School and served as Loyola University's chief counsel for health care, and later as general counsel and senior vice president of the Northwestern Memorial Health Care System. She was elected the Illinois Appellate Court in 2006.

In 2004, Cunningham became the first black woman elected president of the 22,000-member Chicago Bar Association, the largest municipal bar association in the United States. She also serves on the board of directors of the Chicago Legal Clinic, which that provides legal counseling services to disadvantaged and underserved Chicago residents.

Its co-founder, Ed Grossman, says Cunningham's experience in both the private and public sectors make her uniquely qualified for the Supreme Court.

"What separates her, I think, is the variety of experience she brings to the table," he said. "She's worked with businesses, she's worked in management, she's worked with average Americans and corporations. She is very well-rounded in her experience."

A married mother of one, Cunningham said one of the most difficult aspects of campaigning is the amount of time she spends away from home. Her husband, she says, is very understanding of her schedule. But win or lose, she's looking forward to spending more time with her family after the election.

"Campaigning is never easy, but I have a wonderful support system at home that has encouraged me every step of the way."

Monday, January 23, 2012

AN ALDERMAN, A CITY INSPECTOR AND A CONTRACTOR WALKED INTO A BAR.



The title of this blog sounds like the start of a bad joke.   So does Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s latest Ethics Reform Task Force and in both instances the punch lines are very funny.

Emanuel announced his Ethics Reform Task Force  last week. “I created an Ethics Reform Task Force in order to recommend reforms to Chicago’s ethics ordinance and better serve taxpayers,” Emanuel said in a press release.   The Task Force also has a web site where citizens can have a public dialogue about ethics reform.  Or as the Mayor said, “This website will assist the … task force to assess the current ordinance, consider best practices across the nation and make recommendations to ensure appropriate oversight of government activity.”

So how is ethics reform a joke?  Maybe because currently the City of Chicago seems to have more Inspectors General and Boards of Ethics than there are bus stops.  And there are bus stops on every corner! And if it ain't working now, it is not going to start just because a new ethics reform group is created.

Chicago is also very fortunate to have the Better Government Association, an independent not-for profit organization  where citizens can report government fraud and abuse and hold elected officials accountable.

At the end of this blog, I have created links to some of those  investigative ethics groups which have been in existence for decades to make your reporting job easier.  If people aren’t already whistle blowing, what makes Emanuel think they will start blowing now?  He must be hoping for a happy ending that only comes following a visit to a massage parlor.  Or is it all just a mirage?

SOME CHICAGO INVESTIGATIVE GROUPS:










Thursday, January 19, 2012

TELLING THE TRUTH



CBS News conducted a random telephone poll, the results were published in the February issue of Vanity Fair, of 951 adults nationwide and one of the questions was, “Would most people you know kill their favorite pet for $1 million?  What about you?  The results of the poll, above, prove my point that people lie when asked difficult questions in phone surveys when they are talking to a human being who might be judgmental.  I guarantee you if people could answer that question anonymously, the poll results would be very different.


If I owned (owning is the operative word here because pets are considered personal property) a pet and got that offer, I know what I would do. Now that you are getting ready to write a comment of righteous indignation, let’s change the wording of the question a few times.

“Would you or most people you know kill their favorite pet for $1 million if the money were needed to buy a car that was essential for your job?  You see where I am going here?

“Would you or most people you know kill their favorite pet for $1 million if the money were needed to pay for the college education of their children?  Change your mind yet?
  
“Would you or most people you know kill their favorite pet for $1 million if the money were needed to pay for the medical care of a family member that would save the person’s life?  Now will you answer “Yes?”

We all have a tipping point where we would kill our beloved pet.  It is a horrible topic to think about, but respected CBS News posed the question, not me.  Now you know why I am frustrated by polls and surveys.  They never ask the reason why a person would answer a certain way.  And under the correct condition 100 percent of us would kill our favorite pet.  Unless it was Lassie!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

TWO THNGS I DON’T UNDERSTAND


I WOULD NOT WANT ME AS A VOLUNTEER

Last week, The Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council (MCHC), Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) publicized a new public service announcement to raise awareness about Illinois Helps, a statewide database that registers volunteers to respond to major disasters and public health emergencies in the state.   Would you want me as one of the volunteers?  I think not!

MCHC, IDPH and CDPH want both medical and non-medical volunteers to register with IllinoisHelps so they can call on people to respond to any number of emergency situations including blizzards, disease outbreaks like H1N1 and bio-terrorism attacks. The registration process also allows hospitals to verify the licenses and credentials of professional health care volunteers who come to their facilities to care for the influx of patients experienced during emergencies.

I can understand the importance of having such a data base so people do not “fake doctor,” but I don’t like the part about non-medical volunteers.  What if people as pathetic as I am sign up as a volunteer?  What is the vetting process?

I went to the site to register but because I would have had to enter my Social Security number to get through the steps, I chose to not continue.  If anyone actually does register, please let me know the questions volunteers must answer.  I’m worried that people like me might be accepted! 

HOW TO USE TOOTHPASTE



I used to buy toothpaste that came in very nice stand up containers. This type was more expensive than the tube type, but I liked it better.  In fact, I put this type of toothpaste on my birthday list!  I had not shopped for toothpaste in a while because I had some in my closet inventory. But since I always need toothpaste, it would be a welcome present.

To my horror, I discovered that they are not producing toothpaste in the stand up containers anymore!  My friend Karen Phelan, carefully researched this and even wrote to some of the toothpaste manufacturers, but it was to no avail.  My favorite kind of container only has the bubble gum flavored paste for children.  I hate it.

Karen bought me at least 15 different types of toothpaste as a present for me to try.  I hate them all because I cannot figure out how to get the product from the tube neatly to my brush.  I make a mess every morning all over the bathroom counter!  I just don’t know how to use toothpaste.  Maybe one of the Illinois Helps volunteers can come help me in my toothpaste emergency!


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

THE SNOW HAS FINALLY ARRIVED IN CHICAGO



After an incredibly warm winter start in Chicago, we had our first snowfall.  Snow-covered streets inevitably lead to people shoveling out a parking space, and staking claim to it for months on end.  This is known locally as “dibs.”

Because I have many readers who don’t hail from the Windy City, I need to explain what the definition of "dibs" is.  This is a Chicago tradition.  People feel that if they clean the snow from a parking space on the street, they can “own” it, even after they pull their car out of the spot, by putting lawn chairs, boxes or other flotsam and jettison in its place.

Because I cannot parallel park, it personally does not matter to me if someone has reserved a snow-cleaned side-street parking place with some piece of old junk. I would not be parking in that spot in the summer and won’t be parking in it during the winter. But if I could parallel park, I think any legal spot should be available for my use. No lawn chairs, boxes or other flotsam and jettison should block neighborhood parking spaces just because someone feels they can claim the spot for the reason that they cleared it previously. No dibs, no more!

Chair Free Chicago is a group with a website that hopes "kindness triumphs over selfishness." The folks behind Chair Free Chicago believe that there are more people who are as frustrated by the concept of dibs as there are people who dig out parking spaces and claim them until the first thaw with a resin deck chair, cardboard box, old tires, or whatever detritus they can lay their hands on. To help further their movement, Chair Free Chicago sells fliers and signs online that can be taken as passive-aggressive in tone by the odd man who's this close to a coronary after shoveling out a parking spot.  But they feel that they're being nice in reminding those who claim dibs on parking spaces that we're all suffering through a Chicago winter together.

You can order sturdy signs from their website to tie around trees or print your own flyers to let people know that the area is chair-free.

The site tells us, “When it comes to saving parking spots, we believe people who are frustrated by it outnumber people who appreciate it. Chair-Free Zone signs can help communicate that sentiment. Some people are born with an extra chromosome of entitlement, and probably won’t change. For others, it’ll have them thinking twice about calling dibs on a public space (and screwing their neighbors in the process). And really, isn’t it worth a try?”

Laz Parking is the only company that “owns” public parking spaces in Chicago, no citizen does—until City Council Votes differently.

Monday, January 16, 2012

TANNERS BURNING UP ABOUT TAX



The Health Care Reform bill was passed more than a year ago, and while the constitutionality of it is being questioned, certain elements are already being implemented. One of those provisions is for a 10% tax on indoor tanning. Since the tax is expected to raise $2.7 billion during the next decade, I am all for it. Indoor tanning is a joke because it makes people look orange—a characteristic they don’t comprehend because their eyeballs are burned from the ultra-violet rays they subject themselves to.

The salon owners are upset with Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who was instrumental in the health reform bill as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. According to a Sun-Times story, “Baucus' staff issued a statement that says the tanning tax is warranted because of the health risks associated with indoor tanning. The International Agency for Research on Cancer found that the use of indoor tanning by those under age 35 can increase that person's risk of melanoma by up to 75 percent. Of the $1.8 billion spent on treating skin cancer each year, $300 million is spent on treating melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.” The statement continues with, "It is clear that tanning adds additional costs and health risks to our health care system and it is certainly appropriate for the industry to pay a part in addressing that burden."

The American Academy of Dermatology says there is a direct link between ultraviolet exposure and skin cancer and their web site explains the facts.

Risks of Indoor Tanning


• The United States Department of Health and Human Services and the International Agency of Research on Cancer panel has declared ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and artificial sources, such as tanning beds and sun lamps, as a known carcinogens (cancer-causing substances).
 • Indoor tanning equipment, which includes all artificial light sources, including beds, lamps, bulbs, booths, etc., emits UVA and UVB radiation. The amount of the radiation produced during indoor tanning is similar to the sun, and in some cases might be stronger.


• Studies have found a 75 percent increase in the risk of melanoma in those who have been exposed to UV radiation from indoor tanning.


• Evidence from several studies has shown that exposure to UV radiation from indoor tanning devices is associated with an increased risk of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.


• Studies have demonstrated that exposure to UV radiation during indoor tanning damages the DNA in the skin cells. Excessive exposure to UV radiation during indoor tanning can lead to premature skin aging, immune suppression, and eye damage, including cataracts and ocular melanoma.


• Indoor tanning beds/lamps should be avoided and should not be used to obtain vitamin D because UV radiation from indoor tanning is a risk factor for skin cancer. Vitamin D can be obtained by a eating a healthy diet and by taking oral supplements.


• In a recent survey of adolescent tanning bed users, it was found that about 58 percent had burns due to frequent exposure to indoor tanning beds/lamps.


• The FDA estimates that there are about 3,000 hospital emergency room cases a year due to indoor tanning bed and lamp exposure.


Even with these scary health facts well-known, on an average day in the United States, more than 1 million people tan in tanning salons.


One on side there is The Indoor Tanning Association, an industry group for salon owners, which is touting the health benefits of tanning. They say the benefit is because human skin produces vitamin D when it's exposed to ultraviolet light and scientists say vitamin D helps strengthen bones and can help prevent other diseases such as diabetes and cancer.


The other side is the American Academy of Dermatologists which says "There is no scientifically validated, safe threshold level of UV exposure from the sun or indoor tanning devices that allows for maximum vitamin D synthesis without increasing cancer risk. Vitamin D deficiencies can be easily treated through diet and by taking vitamin supplements.”


So who do we believe? The fake bakers or the scientists? I go with the ones who have the college degrees.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

BLOWING THE WHISTLE REALLY, REALLY LOUDLY!!


On November 19, 2010, I wrote a blog “Blowing the Whistle A Little Louder,” about Illinois House Bill 6906 which was introduced by State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo).  The purpose of the bill was to make it easier for citizens to report allegations of fraud in Illinois government by adding a simple amendment to the Illinois State Auditing Act with a new section. The synopsis of the bill was:

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.”

One of the main problems with whistle blowing is that even though wrong-doing is often reported, nothing is done. The purpose of Franks’ bill was to give authority for an audit to be conducted and the information turned over to law enforcement. Once so many agencies became involved in the process, a cover-up of allegations would be harder to pull off.
At the time, 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.”

It is now 14 months later, and the new Illinois government fraud reporting hotline became operational and accessible this week. The hotline and online form is operated by the Office of the Auditor General, who is charged with referring the allegations to the proper law enforcement agency or government entity. Previously, Illinois had no single hotline for citizens to report fraud, waste or mismanagement in state government.

“We have made progress in the battle to stiffen state ethics laws, but the pursuit to end business as usual lives on,” said Franks. “I believe strongly that the best way to end corruption and fraud is to shine a bright light on it.”

This hotline is the reporting vehicle for any allegation of misconduct, no matter what office of the Executive Branch of Illinois State government is involved.  “Increasing transparency is the best way to hold our executive officers and their respective staff accountable,” concluded Franks.

The window is open, let the whistle blowing begin! 


FRAUD HOT LINE INFORMATION
Persons wishing to submit allegations to the Auditor General’s Office may do so by:
  • Calling the Auditor General’s toll-free telephone hotline at (855) 217-1895 or (TTY) at (888) 261-2887;
  • Submitting the online form on the Auditor General’s website at www.auditor.illinois.gov; or
  • Mailing to Fraud Hotline, Auditor General’s Office, 740 E. Ash St., Springfield, IL 62703.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

TWO SHORT STORIES ABOUT MONEY


THE AMERICAN DREAM


Michael F. Ford, the founding director of the Xavier University’s Center for the Study of the American Dream,  wrote an article published in the Washington Post  about the Center’s second annual “State of the American Dream” survey.   The study revealed five myths about the American dream. My favorite myth was the one about the importance of money.  Ford wrote: “In a national survey of more than 1,300 adults  we completed in March, only 6 percent of Americans ranked “wealth” as their first or second definition of the American dream. Forty-five percent named “a good life for my family,” while 34 percent put “financial security” — material comfort that is not necessarily synonymous with Bill Gates-like riches — on top.


While money may certainly be part of a good life, the American dream isn’t just about dollars and cents. Thirty-two percent of our respondents pointed to “freedom” as their dream; 29 percent to “opportunity”; and 21 percent to the “pursuit of happiness.” A fat bank account can be a means to these ends, but only a small minority believe that money is a worthy end in itself.” So, if only 6% of Americans think wealth is important, why are the “99%” complaining about rich people?

WATCH THE BOUNCING BALL




When Sharon Sharp was Director of the Illinois Lottery, she invited me to be ball number 11 at a promotional party for the lottery.  I had a lot of fun.  I don’t play the lottery; probably because there are no lottery outlets by my home.  But millions of people in Illinois play the lottery.  The state of Illinois must think that winning a lot of money is part of the American dream, because the state has a plethora of games with “dream” its name, and even promoted an ad campaign that touted, “Dream a Little Dream with Me.”


Recently, some winners of the Illinois lottery’s scratch off game got a shock when the checks from the state bounced!  The lottery wrote 311 checks and mailed them to winners, but 85 of them were returned, marked “insufficient funds”.  Lottery spokesman Mike Lang said a mistake happened when a computer file wasn’t sent to the lottery’s bank correctly. Lottery officials did not key in the required security verification for the checks.


The lottery has apologized to the affected people and will pay for any bank charges that occurred because of the rubber checks.  The losing winners will also receive some free scratch off cards as an apology.


Since only 6% of Americans care about wealth, I am sure it did not bother the lottery ticket holders at all when their winning checks bounced because they are likely a part of the 94% who do not see wealth as a major priority. They probably just played the game for the thrill of it.

Monday, January 9, 2012

THE FRENCH FRYING NEW CITIZENS


Last week, tougher new immigration reform was instituted in France, making it more difficult for immigrants to become citizens. From now on, candidates for citizenship will not only be tested on French culture and history, but they will also have to demonstrate that they can speak the language as proficiently as an average French 15-year old.  Claude Gueant, France's conservative interior minister, described the process as a "solemn occasion between the host nation and the applicant,”  adding that “migrants had to integrate through language and an adherence to the principles, values and symbols of our democracy."   Reading about France, I wondered what a person would have to do differently to become a French citizen, as opposed to becoming an American citizen.

The new French immigration law also requires potential citizens to swear allegiance to "French values.”  According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services,”Deciding to become a U.S. citizen is one of the most important decisions in an individual’s life. If you decide to apply to become a U.S. citizen, you will be showing your commitment to the United States and your loyalty to its Constitution.“  Seems similar, so far.

While the U.S. does not require the same level of language proficiency that France does, there are three language components that the applicant for American citizenship must pass; reading, writing, and speaking. An applicant’s ability to speak English is determined by a USCIS Officer during the eligibility interview. For the reading portion, the applicant must read one out of three sentences correctly. For the writing test, he must write one out of three sentences correctly.

The United States also requires applicants to take a civics test, and sample questions are on the citizenship web siteThe actual civics test the applicants take is NOT a multiple choice test, but an oral test. During the naturalization interview, an applicant is asked up to 10 questions from a list of 100 questions. Six out of 10 questions must be answered correctly in order to pass the civics portion of the naturalization test.

Do you think you could pass a U.S. Citizenship test?  I have copied some sample questions at the end of this blog for readers to try.

Essentially, both countries want potential citizens to be loyal to the country that adopts them.  I agree.  While people can retain their original culture and heritage, if they choose to move to a new country, they should become a part of that country.

If you cannot swear allegiance to the flag, then don’t come!

SAMPLE CIVICS TEST QUESTIONS


When was the Declaration of Independence adopted?
December 7, 1787
July 4, 1789
July 4, 1776
March 4, 1789
 What is one responsibility that is only for United States citizens?
obey the law
pay taxes
serve on a jury
be respectful of others
 Who makes federal laws?
the Supreme Court
the President
Congress
the states
 What does the Constitution do?
all of these answers
sets up the government
defines the government
protects basic rights of Americans
 Who did the United States fight in World War II?
Austria-Hungary, Japan, and Germany
the Soviet Union, Germany, and Italy
Japan, Germany, and Italy
Japan, China, and Vietnam

What are two rights in the Declaration of Independence?
liberty and justice
life and pursuit of happiness
life and right to own a home
life and death
What did Susan B. Anthony do?
fought for women's rights
founded the Red Cross
the first woman elected to the House of Representatives
made the first flag of the United States

There were 13 original states. Name three.
New York, Kentucky, and Georgia
Washington, Oregon, and California
Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina
Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida

 What is one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for?
youngest member of the Constitutional Convention
third President of the United States
inventor of the airplane
U.S. diplomat
3. We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years?
ten (10)
two (2)
four (4)
six (6)
What is one promise you make when you become a United States citizen?
never travel outside the United States
give up loyalty to other countries
disobey the laws of the United States
not defend the Constitution and laws of the United States


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I DON’T WANT TO SEE YOUR SAGGING BREASTS!


When Michelle Hickman chose to publicly nurse her child in a Target store in Texas, employees asked her to move to a fitting room.  Since then, the group Breastfeeding Mothers in America has used the incident as a platform to complain about the “rights” of mothers to nurse wherever they please, regardless of the discomfort it causes to others exposed to the activity.  Hickman was sitting on the floor near a display of jeans when a store employee offered to find her a dressing room so she could have privacy during the milking process.  Instead of accepting the assistance, Hickman refused it and took offense.  Since then, nursing mothers banded together to create a national “Nurse-In” demonstration, calling last week for mothers all around the country to bare their sagging breasts at Target stores in retaliation.  Just because people have the legal right to engage in an activity doesn’t mean that they should do it. 

According to the NationalConference of State Legislatures, forty-five states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location.  Of the five states that don’t allow it, only West Virginia has nothing to say about public breastfeeding.  Of the others, Idaho exempts breastfeeding mothers from jury duty, Virginia allows women to breastfeed on any land or property owned by the state, and Michigan and South Dakota exempt breast feeding mothers from public indecency or nudity laws.

Illinois has two statutes relating to the subject.  Ill. Rev. Stat.ch 720 5/11-9 (1995) clarifies that breastfeeding of infants is not an act of public indecency. (SB 190)  

ILL. Rev. Stat. ch.740 !37 (2004) created the Right to Breastfeed Act.  I like the wording in section 10:

Sec. 10. "Breastfeeding Location. A mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother's breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breastfeeding; however, a mother considering whether to breastfeed her baby in a place of worship shall comport her behavior with the norms appropriate in that place of worship."
 
I don’t understand the place of worship exemption clause.  Of all the places that one might seem to feel safe while nursing, a place of worship would seem natural!  Whipping it out while standing in line at the grocery store would seem like a more sensible exception to me.

The nipple exposure is already covered in the exemption from public indecency, but I loved that the legislature threw that in the statute.  Funny!

I don’t understand why a breastfeeding Mother would rather sit on the filthy floor of a store than retreat to a private dressing room.  Hickman just wanted to create a national furor and hormone-raging postpartum Moms seem like an easy “Target” for such angry and pointless protests.

I have no more desire to see a baby sucking on a breast any more than I do feet without stockings and flabby bare arms on women more than the age of 30.  Consider those who have to look at you before you decide how to comport yourself.  Proper etiquette and good manners should be part of one’s decision making process.  Remember- decency is all that is required to make sure one’s manners are properly attired.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A CURMUDGEON'S THOUGHTS





“NO” TO “HAPPY NEW YEAR’S” 

Just because one turns the calendar on a page, and the year date advances, does not make one bit of a difference in my life.  There is no distinction for me between December 31st and January 1st and I am sick of people saying, “Happy New Year” as if one day will vary from the next having anything to do with the date.

I turned off my cell phone on the evening of December 31st so I would not be awakened by all the stupid, “Happy New Year’s” texts that started coming in right after midnight.  When I looked at them the next morning, they were group texts, so they were meaningless and had nothing to do with me personally.

All day on the first, I was forced to respond to people chanting, “Happy New Year’s” until I wanted to start screaming!  I was forced to respond with greetings in return rather than seem like Andy Rooney ranting at the end of a “Sixty Minutes” episode.  Which, of course, will not happen again, since he died in 2011!

“NO” TO FACEBOOK AND TWITTER 



Facebook and Twitter are wonderful ways of disseminating IMPORTANT information to groups of people at one time.  Notice the caveat, “important,” because most of the postings have to do with such stupid inane items as visiting a friend's Aunt’s cat and drinking a beer at the Bulls game.

Why are people so egotistical to think that anyone cares about the mundane occurrences in their day to day lives?  You got a red sweater for Christmas?  Please!  Don’t bore me! Win the Nobel Peace Prize, and I would be thrilled to learn the news.

“NO” TO GIFT CARDS 


I think giving gift cards is the lazy man’s way to not being creative. Handing over a gift card as a gift shows that the giver does not care at all. It totally sends a message to the recipient that you did not care enough about them to discover what their interests are and what might be a pleasant surprise. A present should come in a beautiful box with wrapping and bows. It should not be in a flat envelope—unless it is a check for $1,000,000! If the person does not like the gift, they can always return it, but they knew that you took the trouble to spend time thinking about them.

I received $500 worth of Macy’s gift cards from a promotion I participated in. I did not want to keep them, because I knew I would lose them and forget about them, as I have with gift cards in the past. So I took them to Macy’s to pay my bill. Macy’s would not accept them. I argued in vain, that gift cards were the same as cash, but the manager would not budge. The store’s theory was that someone had given me the cards to BUY something and not to pay for something I had BOUGHT in the past. I asked, how did the manager know that? She had no response, except to tell me she would not accept the cards.

I wanted to tell her, “Happy New Year” with my finger extended, but I was too much a lady to do that. So, instead, I will ask Illinois State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo), who passed gift card usage legislation in Illinois to look into it. When I force Macy’s to accept gift cards as payment for my bill, I will Tweet it. Now that is important news!