Tuesday, August 30, 2005

OBSERVATION: Government bans Opa!

I said "opa" not Oprah! Let me explain.

My friends at the super secret Liberal Imperious Beneficence Society (LIBS) are at it again. In this case, they have quietly done in a great American culinary tradition ... well ... at least a great Greek-American culinary tradition. (This is the very same LIBS responsible for the banning of rare hamburgers, chocolate milk in schools and attacking the Oreo cookie, by the way.)

The case in point.

I recently took the family to dinner at one of Chicago's famous Greektown restaurants. We requested seating on the outdoor patio in order to enjoy the dwindling number of perfect summer evenings. As is our custom, we ordered saganaki, that wonderful grilled cheese served flambé to a chorus of "Opas." To our dismay, the yummy appetizer was served in silence, and without the searing flame.

Seeing our bewilderment, the waiter explained that city official banned the traditional pyro platter except inside the eatery. The theory seemed to be that wind might fan the flame, causing nothing less than the second Great Chicago Fire.

Well, at first blush, the bureaucratic logic seemed backward (nothing new there). Personally, I would have predicted the banning of indoor ignition, where errant sparks could spread to table clothes or draperies. That would have made more sense – though I aggressively oppose ANY banning of saganaki burning.

When I am faced with such occurrences, I make it a habit to call my LIBS contact, Ms. Lee F. T. Nojoy. In her best clenched lip response, she condescendingly explained that if LIBS can save one person from injury or death from a saganaki conflagration, the ban on outdoor saganaki burning was well worth it. (She also intimated that this was only the first step toward total banning of public cheese charring.)

This "if it saves one life, it is worth it" is the droning mantra of LIBS – their standard rationale to the elimination of anything that is fun. For the cowered, it is an intimidating response. How can one argue against saving a life? I place a very high value on life, but I refuse to be cowered by LIBS. So I say, no. No, this new government edict is NOT worth it.

The fullness and glory of life is enjoying things that, on tragic occasion, cause death. If limitation of our free choices for fun and entertainment were predicated solely on the saving of lives, we would ban motorcycles as non-essential modes of transportation, and drop the highway speed limits to 20 mph. We would close all amusement parks -- nothing necessary there. Mountain climbing would be banned. Car racing. Skate boarding. Skiing. Virtually all sports. Even fishing. I mean, people do fall out of boats. Of course the list is endless. Everything we enjoy has a risk.

I say, if you are afraid of getting singed by flaming saganaki, stay out of Greek restaurants. Order out, so the rest of us can celebrate the kind of freedom that allows for adventuresome risk talking (even stupid risk taking, like the guy who lived among grizzly bears until he was consumed, literally, by his hobby). Unless we stand up in opposition to LIBS, we will be condemned to life without any hope of pursuing happiness, and where the only permissible earthly exit strategy is death from boredom.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

OP Ed: Mayor Daley in no win position

I sense the general mood regarding Mayor Daley is shifting from adulation to disappointment on the part of his admirers, and from fear to glee for his detractors. They both have one thing in common. They well recognize that this latest round of Chicago scandals is different. This is more than a momentary sputter in the Democrat machine that has governed Chicago since that GOP corruption poster boy, Big Bill Thompson, left office in 1931.

The current scandal is different in scope and magnitude -- even compared to past corruption eruptions that would, themselves, be considered huge in any other major city. Chicago has been renowned not only for corruption, but for the electorates tolerance of it. Over and over, the citizens paid the hidden corruption taxes and pretended they believed Da Boss was not culpable. Part of the automatic absolution of the mayor has been the countervailing belief that Chicago was a well run city.

Furthermore, the public saw Mayor Daley as “one of us” – a common neighborhood guy who loves and lives Chicago above all. The current mayor inherited that widely held sentiment from his father, who seemed to have truly lived it. However, this Mayor Daley may have squandered that legacy.

This round of corruption is different. The “never befores” are most telling.

Never before has publicized and provable corruption been on this scale. It is like the southeast Asian tsunami that stunned a region despite a fore warning history of lesser disasters.

Never before has the “corruption tax” been estimated to be so costly. Penny ante stealing, featherbedding, and city work crews spending afternoons in taverns instead of on the job were tolerable. After all, this was the “city that works,” even if all the pay rollers didn’t have to. However, seeing rich and powerful insiders making millions in complex scams, while folks in the neighborhoods are being slammed by property and sales taxes, has eroded public tolerance.

Never before has the family of the mayor been associated, even remotely, with front page scandals – at least not since that tempest in a teapot when the “Daley boys” benefited from city insurance business more than a generation ago.

The role model of the first Mayor Daley’s wife, Sis, as the quintessential wife, mother and homemaker made the family untouchable. On the other hand, Maggie Daley is seen more as a socialite, bit of a snob, and not beyond using pillow talk to achieve some civic goals -- such as that sweetheart O’Hare deal for a few of the “ladies who lunch.” One, maybe two, Daley brothers now have there names connected to portions of the ongoing investigation. John Daley is a county commissioner and, more importantly, boss of the 11th ward, where many of the indicted officials reside. No fire yet, but the smoke is billowing.

Never before has the mayor of Chicago gone so upscale. The incumbent’s father lived in the same family bungalow his entire adult life, Bilandic lived with his mother, until he married during his brief term, Byrne even moved into public housing, and Washington, raised in public housing, maintained a modest apartment. The current Mayors move from Bridgeport to trendy Printers Row, and soon to the elite Millennium Park, ended his image as the neighborhood good old boy – and with it, some of his political armor. At the precinct level, urban myth blames Maggie for that, too.

Never before has the mayor been subjected to so much media scrutiny. Like the citizens of yore, the Chicago press often minimized scandals, and showed no desire to press investigations that rose above low level employees or political figures with whom Daley was indifferent or adversarial. The relationship between publisher and politician was social, civic and friendly. Daley’s privilege of deniability was always protected. He now faces aggressive reporters and columnists, and no longer has the proactive benefit of sycophantic columnists, like the late Steve Neal, to support City Hall’s public relations strategies.

Never before has the mayor’s very management been questioned. “But it is a well run city…” is not selling. Congressman Rahm Emanuel tried to keep that argument alive with a ringing pro-Daley speech at the City Club. Judging from the candid off-the-record after lunch chatter (this author was there), the largely Daley-friendly crowd was not buying it. Tinged with sadness, for sure, the audience could not find a way to absolve Daley of management blame. Their usual arrogant optimism about his political future was notably absent.

Never before has there been a political “death watch” on the mayor. For the first time, an inability to get re-elected, resignation before the completion of his term, and even the possibility of an indictment, are suggested in news stories and street talk. Neither ignorance (“I was not aware…”), indignation (“I am shocked and hurt …”) , nor future intent (“This will not be allowed to go on …”) are sufficient answers.

Whether Mayor Daley is the reigning king of corruption, or merely the minister of mismanagement, he is a gravely wounded political figure. His moral leadership is evaporating. He has passed the point of any winning strategy. He cannot deny that he has presided over an unprecedented era of mass corruption. Whether it existed by his leave or by his direction is of little matter in terms of his public reputation. He has lost that battle already.

His only defense is in the hope of convincing the public that he is not personally dishonest, but rather (by inference), an incredibly aloof and incompetent manager of municipal affairs. His problem is that the latter is not a credible argument after years of wallowing in, and promoting, a reputation as an outstanding micromanager. Past image polishing makes his only defense incredible and unsaleable.

As far as his legal situation, public opinion is of little importance. Whether the mayor is found to be only politically damaged, or found criminally culpable, will be played out behind the locked doors of the U.S. Attorney, the FBI and the grand juries. Like observers at a bridge tournament, we will only see the previously dealt cards as they are played out by the professionals. But … never before have the words “indictment” and “target” even been speculatively associated with the name Daley.

And of course … never before have we had a truly independent, aggressive and effective public prosecutor.

And this is only today’s world. It does not take a fortune teller to predict a lot more bad news is coming for Hizzoner.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

REACT: Animals vs. humans at London zoo.

AOL News (Aug. 27) decided that the lead window story of the day was the London zoo's new exhibit displaying humans in a natural setting. Newpapers all around gave at least a photo and caption to the event.

First of all, let me say that the zoo's mountainesque diorama does not look like a natural setting for humans for at least a million years -- with the possible exception of the outdoorsy camper types. Personally, I never understood the lure of spending eons to progress to our high human standard of living just to go out in the woods to act like a cave man. I prefer to camp out where a there is a bellhop to carry my luggage.

Of course, there are some reasons why modern young human creatures may find a brief visit to a secluded forest worth the mosquito bites. That, however, was not part of the London exhibition. Had it been, I think a trip to the zoo might have been more alluring. Now, I assure you I am only thinking of science and the fullest study of all aspects of human nature.

On the other hand, and despite my concern for complete scientific accuracy, I do hope that the humans on display are more discreet than elephants or water buffalo when they find it necessary to relieve themselves. Somehow, even the majesty of an elephant is compromised by the sudden and unexpected excretion of large amounts of digested vegetation.

The effect of the exhibit is seriously compromised since the human specimen are not naked, or even in some scanty shredded patch of garment with titillating glimpses -- like the costumes seen in those 1950s prehistoric movies featuring tall Scandinavian women and highly buffed Arian cavemen.

Rather, the British exhibits are wearing swim wear of sorts – sometimes with paper fig leaf appliqués of the type elementary school children make in art class. Of course, there is enough flesh to yearn for more on a couple of the specimens. The others would be better more conventionally attired. And, by the way, what mammal beside homo sapien has figured out that the right clothes can make an average body look sexy? Every homo knows that ... or is it sapien.

Unfortunately, the London creatures' attire of bathing suits and gym shoes (with socks, in some cases) undermine the “au natural” effect. They look more like a group of high libido young adults resting during a rafting trip down the Colorado River.

To enhance the effect, the humans ape apes -- crouching down and picking at each other. Not at all sure of the educational value of humans imitating apes. Their actions may be the weakest argument in my contention of human superiority.

In attempting to justify this … well … call it like it is … this cheap publicity stunt, zoo lady Polly Wills said that seeing people in such an environment “teaches the public that the human is just another animal.” Way no!! I think Polly needs a cracker.

I refuse to dishonor a few million generations of ancestrial evolution to place humans as “just another animal.” My great-to-the-127th-power grandfather did not drag himself out of the swamp by his stubby fins to have his progeny compared to the lackards who were too lazy to mount the evolutionary escalator.

One zoo guest, Tom Mahoney, bought into Polly’s perspective. He said that “lots of people think humans are above other animals … (this) kind of reminds us that we are not that special.” Maybe not you, my Neanderthal friend, but those of us who took sociology at a non-public school know we ARE very special. We are not “just another animal.” What more do you need to know than we humans do not defecate in public like that elephant.

Let me ask you, Tom … ever see a zebra cruising the Internet? You ever see a Jaguar driving one? We make clothes out of their skins, for goodness sake. You ever see a mink wearing a hairy human floor-length coat?

When given the chance, THEY eat us raw. We have evolved to know the culinary delight of cooking them with delicate herbs and spices at precisely the right temperature. And still, some cannot see the incomparable status difference.

They are known widely as “dumb animals.” Do we affix that appellation to huma … uh … bad example.

I understand that the members of PETA, and no few lonely old ladies, give parity to members of the animal kingdom. Their obsession with the lesser kingdoms is best handled by therapists – which is yet another thing the lowly animals never thought of. The only animals to see shrinks are those brought to human practitioners by … members of PETA and lonely old ladies.

I really do not want to open the entire spirituality debate – the human soul thing. Partially, because I think the case for human superiority of compelling without resorting to leaps of faith. But, I must remind you that “All dogs Go to Heaven” is just a cartoon. It is not theology.

Speaking of cartoons, we should never forget that the only animals that come close to our superior human level are cartoon characters. They are make believe creatures provided unnatural human skills for the amusement of our children. Name an animal that shows humantoons to the litter on Saturday morning.

Even after sharing millions of years of evolution, these poor creatures cannot come close to human talents and traits. Oh sure, there are a few things like Polly approximating human words without any comprehension of there meaning – referring here to a parrot, not Ms. Wills.

Dolphins and great apes can be trained to mimic language with a couple of instinctive synapse connections after intense training. But no dolphin has ever delivered a commencement speech, and no ape has ever written an alphabet.

Judging from the play the London zoo story is getting in the international press, I assume the British royal family has not done anything embarrassing lately … you know … like maybe Charles and Camilla being part of the exhibit. And now don’t going pointing to the royals in refutation of my “human superiority” argument. Remember, there has been a lot of inbreeding among that aristocracy.

If you do not think we humans (royals not withstanding) are leaps and bounds ahead in the race for evolutionary superiority, then flap your wings to the London zoo and see just how out of place humans (even silly ones) look in the animal domain. For my part, I am about to put on my leather shoes and suede jacket, and head out for some ground steer meat on a bun -- medium rare.

SPIN: Anti war news reporting -- news or propaganda?

Can anyone explain to me why the major American news establishment is so determined to promote Mrs. Sheehan into a counterpoint to the President of the United States -- other than a deep trench of philosophic bias against the incumbent? Even given the well documented liberal slant of the majority of the news media, this is a remarkable alliance. Mrs. Sheehan is a minor story on the legitimate scale of newsworthiness, hoisted to prominence by editorial decree. The news rooms of the elitist press are not reporting Mrs. Sheehan, they are promoting her.

Even with such promotional support, she lives each day as proof of her minor league status. The attempt at self proving prophesy – that Mrs. Sheehan is a catalyst for a growing anti-war movement – is evidentially not working. Her activities attract only a hand full of fellow travelers – hardly the longed for fulfillment of the prophesy.

Mrs. Sheehan is the personification for a small band of anti-social misfits determined to spread their self hatred to the greater public under the ruse of a noble cause. They are the extremist edge of that portion of the population that abhors the war. I do not brand all, or even most, who intellectually and rationally oppose U.S. policy – or even disdain Bush – as misfits. There is ample room for honest disagreement and rational discourse. It is just that the Sheehan contingent is the dregs of the larger opinionate. As the strident subculture’s icon, she is a sham and a shame.

One can proffer, without fear of refutation, that the extremist/media propaganda combine works to undermine our military policies, and therefore emboldens our enemies. It encourages them to recruit more aggressively and fight more viciously in the belief that eventually American resolve to defeat terrorism will evaporate.

These protesters believe that immediate withdrawal will spare future American lives. Though not true, this over publicized anti-war rhetoric will have its impact and, in fact, cause the deaths of more soldiers and civilians at the hands of a more determined and optimistic adversary.

There is no reason to believe that surrender to the maniacal factions will create stability or peace, as these misguided dreamers seem to think. In fact, the argument and history weigh heavily to the likelihood that pacifism and appeasement will only create more terrorism. This world wide battle is NOT a response to U.S. military action. Ours is the response of an unrelenting effort by fanatical extremists to destroy the infidels wherever WE exist --- man woman and child.

But how is it that so much of the national news media can be so tittled by the prospect of U.S. defeat and humiliation, and the victory of truly evil people, so as to become the public relations arm of the international murders, and their witless and unwitting allies in America? How is it that Mrs. Sheehan chooses not to direct her venomous wrath at the very people who compelled her son to volunteer for dangerous, but noble, duty? Why is it she chooses to point the finger at the person she accuses as a symbolic killer, while aiding and abetting the very people who really killed Casey Sheehan?

Friday, August 26, 2005

REACT: My bet? Edgar takes a pass on the run for governor

The burning question in Illinois politics is who is the next jail bound official. Oooops! That is not the burning issue at the moment. The issue de jour is the awaited decision by former Governor Jim Edgar as to whether he will make a comeback to take on Democrat Governor Rod Blagojevich.

I can only see one factor that makes a run tempting for Edgar. He could sit smugly in Springfield as his political nemesis in Chicago, Mayor Rich Daley, is twisting in the winds of scandal and controversy. There is no question, they do not like each other. I know that from personal experience (a story for another time). But ambition based on negative motivation is never a good idea, and especially true in this case.

My own guess is a big fat "no," but only after Edgar milks the publicity for all it is worth. This is not uncommon. The late Governor Dick Ogilvie used to encourage speculation about a mayoral run every four years. He would never say "no" until the last moment -- and I was never wrong predicting his final “regrets” despite hints to the contrary from "reliable sources."

You have to understand that the Jim Edgars and Dick Ogilvies of the world are afflicted with very large egos -- as are most successful politicians. When out of office, they suffer from "the phone doesn’t ring much anymore." They miss the daily press inquiries soliciting their opinion on everything from Iraq to West Niles Disease. And of course, the perks of office.

Every so often, these retirees have an opportunity to re-enter the speculation game. The phone starts to ring, and their thoughts are again grist for the media mill. For the most part, however, the post-office life is too comfortable, financially rewarding and with just enough publicly narcotic to asuage withdrawal symptoms.

That is the general case. Then there are the specific Edgar issues.

First and foremost, he left office with a much better reputation and legacy than he every deserved. He can do nothing but harm his lingering public image with another residency in the executive mansion.

He came to the governorship at much better times. The state was in better financial condition, and the issues were not as controversial or confrontational. In addition, he had a mostly supportive GOP controlled legislature.

Edgar has never been one to rise to a tough challenge. He was tapped for the Secretary of State office by his powerful friend and mentor, former Governor Jim Thompson. His road to the first gubernatorial nomination was paved by party bosses, including Thompson (much to the chagrin of indicted former Governor George Ryan.) This time Edgar would face a strong incumbent in a state that has tilted to the point of collapse to the Democrat party. He may even trigger a primary fight. Though an odds on winner in a primary, a bull dog right winger could bruise Edgar pretty badly.

Of course, not much has been said recently about the opinion of Brenda Edgar, who was reported to have loomed large in the decision to retire. Part of that was due to Edgar's heart condition -- still a consideration. Despite the calm exterior, he is reported to be a stress-prone guy.

In his two terms, all the prosecutors were politician friendly. Sure there was an indictment here and there -- usually guys out of favor with the GOP/DEM central power structure. These cases provided an appearance of independence, oversight and reform. Now Edgar would face a truly aggressive and independent U.S. Attorney.

Why should Edgar care? Because ... swept under the good publicity carpet of Edgar's incumbency are a number of troublesome issues. Despite the carefully burnished choir boy image were a number or ethical "irregularities." The influence of the mobbed up New Republicans in his administration and a questionable $100,000 donation about which Edgar claimed to know nothing -- even as he dined privately with the donors. His political intimates include recently indicted insiders John Glennon and Stuart Levine, the already convicted Don Udsten, and the unindicted, albeit infamous, Cellini clan.

In addition, Edgar would have to dip into the campaign fund he made off with. He has more than $1 million in unspent campaign contributions as a sort of retirement annuity for his personal benefit. Raising money would not be as easy this time since hs is not a shoo-in, and he could wind up liquidating that slush fund.

Another run would rewrite the closing act of his political career. Maybe from a "last hurrah" to a humiliating defeat. Or, if elected, from a popular governor to a failed chief executive. Perhaps he would wind up presiding over the indictment of friends and allies, wonder of his own fate.

Edgar would be a fool to run, so what could overcome all the negatives and make him decide to go for it. Oh yeah! That enormous political ego. THAT could trump good judgment and common sense any time.

I still say to those contemplating a run for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, do not pause for a second. Run like there is no Edgar.

UPDATE: The never ending annoyance of Mrs. Sheehan

I am afraid Mrs. Sheehan is a bit of a fraud, supported by a fawning press. I was around Washington in the Vietnam era, when 250,000 people descended on the city to protest the war – more than once. Huge anti war rallies in almost every major city. THAT was significant. The fact she draws only a few hundred “Bush bashers” after weeks of intense media promotion suggests more hype than reality. She draws less than one-hour attendance at the Crawford country fair.

I guess there is just too much "cry for the cameras" to be sincere. The fact that she has a controlled blog and public relations firm suggests a carefully crafted image. It is almost never reported that she had referred to Bush as a “lying bastard,” filth spewer,” “evil maniac” and the world’s “biggest terrorist.”

And … she already had a meeting with Bush and another with top aides. She poses no real questions that remain unanswered. She is a person seemingly driven more by obsessive hatefulness and virulent vanity than sincere sorrow. She dishonors the heroism of her son, and will cause more deaths of soldiers and civilians by emboldening the truly evil killers. How dare this phony demand more – and shame on the press for building this mole hill into a media mountain.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

REACT: Another reason to hate the education industry

The Chicago Tribune (Aug. 25) did a front page feature on the high cost of text books. As a typical example, they noted that an average freshman at the University of Illinois (Chicago) pays $931 for textbooks (an unbelievable $698, if used). I am not making this up, folks.

If you travel through any commercial book stores, you are hard pressed to find any books in the $150 range of so many school texts. Since textbooks and enjoy brisk sales because they are "required," common sense and free market forces should keep prices down. (Yes, I know that means higher "demand," but the supply is unlimited and the purchases are imposed.) In other industries, the red flag of anti trust and price fixing would be waving vigorously.

The whole world of school books is as seamy as organized crime. Payola and lavish gifts for purchasing committees. In one case a bunch of nuns accepted bribes to purchase from a certain publishing house. Professors often pump sales by "requiring" their own books. The cut throat business of achieving a national standard text book -- with "political bias" playing an important role. While used books go for high prices, the sell back will net the student pennies on the dollar.

Maybe be prices are to compensate for the fact that almost no textbook will be turned into a highly profitable movie or television mini-series.

Instead of talking more expenditures for the silk lined pockets of the education industry, our lawmakers should be investigating just what makes textbooks so expensive.

REACT: Congressman Rahm Emanuel defends Mayor Daley

Having witnessed Congressman Rahm Emanuel’s (D-Ill) vote of confidence speech for scandal-ridden Mayor Richard Daley, I have to say he is a brilliant defense attorney -- having honed his skills as a top aide to President Clinton, no doubt.

He spoke eloquently of a mayor so attuned to details that he personally could deal with traffic congestion at six corners and specific need for a new neighborhood park. Of course, that is the mayor we have all come to know.

Methinks, however, that Emanuel damned the mayor by great praise. So compelling was his recitation of the mayor’s intimate knowledge of all that is Chicago that I became convinced such a micromanager could not have been, at best, unaware of, or at worst, culpable for the pandemic scandals surfacing like sky rockets at Grant Park on the Fourth of July.

Though exquisite in style, Emanuel’s “argument to the jury” fell short.

First, many of the cited accomplishments were refutable, such as when he spoke of Daley leading to a secession of racial politics and tension or holding the line on property taxes.

Secondly, Emanuel’s case for a schizophrenic mayor – the micromanager and ultimate decision maker on “issues” and the mindless, inattentive executive who “outsourced” politics – is not sustainable. There is no separation between “issues” and “politics” any more than one can separate “conception” and “implementation.” Also, these scandals are not the singular result of an errant worker, a freelance corrupt official. This is wide spread institutional corruption manage by, and for the benefit of, the political machine by his closest allies and family members.

The fact that virtually everyone knows how “the system” works in Chicago makes it impossible for the political scion -- reared in “the system” and promoted by his manipulations of “the system” -- to be oblivious. He has been forewarned about “the system” by past scandals that served as foreboding tremors of the coming earthquake. Editorialist, community activists and friends have repeatedly pointed to the sleaze beneath the polished civic image. Accepting the mayor as oblivious would only damn him to being remarkably inept and dangerously incompetent.

For such massive corruption to occur, top management cannot be oblivious. Management creates the culture. Underlings not only do as the boss “says,” but what they know the boss wants. For the mayor to say he never told anyone to do anything illegal is inadequate. Minimally, he apparently never told any one to stop it.

In the final analysis, Emanuel’s speech in the court of public opinion is irrelevant. Public opinion will not change the course of events. The fate of the mayor rests in his own culpability, if there be such, and the skills of the U.S. Attorney. Like bridge, I suspect the cards are mostly dealt. It is only for us bystanders to see how they are played out.

Monday, August 22, 2005

REACT: The ultimate attack on American culture

In recent month, increasing evidence points to an unprecedented assault on our American culture by the far left. It is their goal to transform our country from a land of personal freedom and opportunity to a nation in subservience to political correctness. We are to be force marched to a cadence set by a cadre of self-appointed elite.

Their mandate is not granted neither by a supreme God nor an elected public guardian, but imposed by the ruthless will of the oppressor. It is their arrogant sense of noblis oblige that compels them to manage the life affairs of those of us less intellectually capable or spiritually enlightened.

Yes, I warn you that this latest aggression in the battle for our future is among the most sinister and most dangerous. Defeat will strip us of our most basic rights, our most cherished freedoms. Liberal success will condemn us to a life of bland obedience within the sterile environment of a well regulated society.

Liberals recognize this issue as the fulcrum upon which our ideological debate teeters. We are now engaged in what could be the determinant battle -- the conflict that will empower its victor for generations to come.

I suspect that many of you already know of what I write. Surely, you have seen the battle clouds looming on the hueless horizon.

What? The Supreme Court? The John Roberts nomination? Iraq?

No! No, no, no! I am referring to the conspiratorial assault on the Oreo cookie. Our very right to eat as we please is being threatened. Not only is the Oreo sustenance of life, but it is the very fulfillment of the founders' promise of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

The left wing strategy, hitherto under the radar, has come upon us like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor with a Chicago Tribune front page series condemning the popular snack. Each feature article in the series reinforces the other’s bias against the greatest American cookie.

The anti-Oreo movement claims to be protecting our children (a most common liberal ruse). The left wing diet Nazis would snatch that scrumptious treat from the tender fingers of smiling youngsters -- fingers so sweetly coated with a mixture of milk and brown crumbs.

What life is not enhanced by the availability of those dark brown two-inch disks held together by a confectionary "glue" of creamy whiteness? Can milk even be contemplated absent the possibility of submerging an Oreo on occasion? Will we never again enjoy the chilled treat of Oreo bits entrapped in the milky perma-frost of ice cream? Will we again be doomed to consume cheese cake with only graham cracker crust?

The strident left wing activists have chosen their battle well. Passing up McDonald's hamburgers, fried rice, flan and Twinkies -- and cheese cake -- they have made the humble Oreo the main target in this latest battle for the heart and soul (and stomach) of America. They know full well that the fall of the Oreo is the fall of the republic for which it stands.

If we, as a nation ... a people ... cannot defend the Oreo, is their anything in our culture that and bring us together in common cause? This is our Armageddon .. our Appomattox ... the battle that will decide forever more the course of human events.

Our nation is predicated on the necessity to compromise. But, unlike the Oreo, this issue provides no happy center. It is the uncompromisable choice between liberty and death. The attack on the Oreo is not unlike the attack on America, itself. It is the most successful cookie in the world. It is number one. To topple the Oreo is to fell the flag of freedom from atop the patriotic parapet.

The liberal enemies of the Oreo are emboldened by the knowledge that this dietary delight was brought forth in a free market -- the product of corporate America, which the left wing so loathes. Had the Oreo, by chance, been produced by government edict, our current adversaries would be providing samples at every school lunch counter, and demanding taxpayer subsidies for distribution to the poor. It would be the subject of public service advertisements featuring the brown mustachioed grins of Martin Sheehan, Barbara Streisand and Michael Moore.

I come to this battlefield not as a theorist. I am a devout devourer of both freedom and the Oreo. I LOVE the Oreo. Well, I am compelled to confess, I really love the double stuffed variety. It is the perfect proportion of crispy wafer and soft creamy filling. When allowed to absorb its full measure of milk, tea, or coffee, it naturally melts into a slurry of indescribable sweetness with a distinctive chocolate flavor.

As a child, I would twist off one cookie and scrap the filling into my mouth with my upper two front teeth. Now, I usually consume the entire cookie in tact. On occasion, however, I remove the “caps” from two Oreos, then press together the two white surfaces to produce one quadruple stuffed Oreo -- to be relished almost as a religious rite, a communion between man and Eros, the god of love, romance ... and chocolate. (Why do you think "chocolates" is the gift of seduction?)

The very authoring of this call to arms has engendered such a craving, that upon completion of my writing, I shall be compelled to visit the all night convenience store to de-shelf a package of Oreos – double stuffed, to be sure. Hopefully some will remain for morning milk.

So in closing, let me call on all patriots to seize the moment as you recall our founder’s admonition that the price of liberty – the right to consume that Oreo – is eternal vigilance. I may disagree with what you eat (and what you eat may even disagree with you), but I shall defend to morbid obesity your right to eat it.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

BECAUSE YOU ASKED: What is with that transportation bill?

President Bush came to House Speaker Denny Hastert's Illinois district to sign the transportation bill. That was appropriate since a lot of money from the bloated legislation is earmarked for Mr. Speaker's homeland.

The transportation bill stands as testimony that big spending and pork barrel politics are not the exclusive domain of the Democtrats. As I watched the President signing away billions in unnecessary expenditures, the image on the small screen seemd to be morphing into Bill Clinton. And, that may be unfair to Clinton.

For all his other faults -- and they are many -- he was not the worst fiscal chief executive in recent times. I suspect many liberal Democrats were as pained by his surprise conservative approach to some money matters as I was by George Bush's willingness to praise that which he warned against so recently. Despite the fact that the appropriations for the transportation bill exceeded the President's ceiling, he signed it anyway.

This would have been a good time for him to take out his never used veto pen.

OBSERVATION: The (un)making of a Supreme Court justice

Imagine thousands of people going over every word you have written in your entire life, soliciting information on everything you said or done that can be used or misused ... reported or distorted ... to make you look bad. Their only purpose is to ravage and ruin your reputation simply to deny you the job you are seeking -- and the boss wants you to have.

Further imagine that this process will take place in public eye, with half the reporters in America in pursuit of personal fame and fortune by attempting to find or create some "smoking gun" in your past. They eagerly hope to be credited with your downfall -- your public humiliation. They hope to encourage so much controversy that you cannot be hired -- even though the controversy is unfair, unwarranted and based on untruths. They hope to write books contingent on your total demonization. Your truthful explanations will be disregarded or distorted.

Some of the shrewdest minds in politics will cobble together out of context statements and specious arguments to vilify you in public hearings. Your public image will be shaped beyond any recognition by your family, friends and loved ones. Many of them may even shed tears of anguish to see you so brutalized in the court of public opinion.

THAT should give you some idea of what Judge John Roberts is going through at this moment. The process is not grueling ... it is gruesome. And made more so by a highly partisan, strident, tradition breaking liberal Democrat leadership in the Senate.

OP ED: Anti-anti-gay is politically correct at Allstate

Allstate insurance company recently fired an employee, J. Matt Barber, for writing an online tract condemning homosexuality as morally wrong and harmful to society. As far as I can see, the written material did not propose harm or extreme action. Nor was there any apparent job performance issues. The bosses made no secret of the reason for the firing. He was first suspended for the writing, and then fired. All because he expressed an outside-the-office opinion.

I am in the mode of Voltaire, who said, "I may disagree with what you say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it." I do not share Mr. Barber's opinion. I tend to be one of those quasi-libertarian conservative types. My views on gay rights cuts both ways, depending on the specific issue. But, this is not about my views on that issue.

I am appalled that a major company would fire a person over private opinion. Allstate likely has many employees who agree with Mr. Barber ... and a lot who do not, including quite a number of gay workers, I suspect. It is chilling to think that a person can be fired, their career injured, over a legitimate opinion on a contemporary social issue.

We would be horrified if a person was fired only because they were gay, or privately expressed support for gay issues (at least most of us would be). Certainly those opinions would find objection and offense among many co-workers at Allstate. The fact that Allstate is a corporate sponsor of gay activities undoubtedly offends some workers.

However, it is a huge mistake for a company to get into the middle of the social issue by firing employees holding personal opinions. It cannot even be argued that Mr. Barber is expressing an unpopular opinion. Polls suggest that his may be the majority view, more or less.

To their credit and innate common sense, most workers, on either side of issues, share offices without consideration to their private political views. Republican and Democrat. Liberal and conservative. Pro this and anti that. They understand that the work place is not the arena to impose doctrine. Apparently, Allstate management is not so smart.

Allstate terminated Mr. Barber because they claim to be protecting their self proclaimed "diverse" work force. Apparently not so diverse as to include those with a views that are widely shared, albeit politically incorrect by liberal mores.

Personally, I hope Mr. Barber is successful with his lawsuit, and wins a ton of money in compensation. America will be better for it. It will have an appropriate chilling effect on companies that exercise their civic citizenship to the detriment of Constitutional freedoms. It is the same wish I would make on behalf of any gay worker who might be fired for publicly expressing quite the opposite view.

I guess Allstate, the insurance company, is too busy trying to avoid paying legitimate claims to premium payers to consider a little thing known as the First Amendment.

Friday, August 19, 2005

READING BETWEEN THE LINES: Did Mrs. Sheehan produce an anti war wildfire or a fizzled match stick.

Mrs. Sheehan is leaving her post to attend to her ailing mother. This is as it should be.

For me, the most interesting thing about her vigil in Crawford, Texas is the enormous ... I mean enormous amount of sympathetic and favorable publicity she received. She was reported to be the catalyst for a reinvigorated anti-war movement.

But ... have you been keeping track of attendance figures? According to media reports, only a few hundred placard wavers at peak times. That is not even good attendance for the Crawford county fair on a rainy day. Her effort was a public relations coup. It was hype over substance. The Crawford event was like a balloon, visually enlarged by lots of hot air -- without which it is a rather thin and flimsy nothing.

As she departed, it is reported that she left behind approximately 100 campers to carry on. She is wise to leave, for good reason or good sense. Her movement was fading into oblivion, and even the fawning press eventually would have to recognize the absence of a compelling national story.

She has surely captured the attention of the news media, and the liberal establishment that seems to have perma-access to the press, but the reaction of the grassroots has been a bit underwhelming.

Given the attendance, I wonder if the all-but-certain book and movie will make sense to those who have to risk the big bucks on attracting readers and theater audiences. It would be ironic if one showing of the movie drew more attendance than the event, itself. I am betting on that.

OBSERVATION: Why regulations always work?

Regulations that prohibit childen under 12 from riding in the front seat has drastically cut the death rate of children killed in front seats, according to the Air Bag and Seat Belt Safety Campaign of the National Safety Council. They are one of the leading groups that plunked the kids in the back seats. I am sure they are happy with their recently announced results.

There is a wee bit of a problem with the statistics. Of course the rate drops ... because there are not so many kids in front seats. If we ban kids from amusement parks, I guarantee you that there will be a huge reduction of kids puking on roller coasters.

Under the reasoning of the National Safety Council, you may be horrified to know that car airbags injure and kill more people today then they did twenty years ago.

A look at the other side of the children seating statistics is revealing. Now that we harness the kids in the back seat, the number of children's deaths in rear seats has ... increased.

Before any of you get the wrong idea, I think air bags are a great safety feature and I am totally in support of kids in the back seat. Even when you compare the statistics, there is a net reduction in death and injury. So keep the kids lashed in the back ... maybe even install taxi-like barriers between the front and back. That would make driving a bit more serene, and I assume a calm driver is a safe driver -- but I don't have statistics to prove it.

Our friends at the National Safety Council should give out the whole story, or we might start to think of their program as the Hot Air Bag and Seat Belt Safety Campaign.

REACT: Former Illinois Governor Ryan will not negotiate a plea bargain

You know how some things just make you laugh out loud.

The top drawer attorney for indicted former Governor George Ryan dismissed the idea of any plea bargain. "There have been absolutely no plea negotiations. And there won't be. I don't know how it can be any clearer that that," said Dan Webb. George wants his day in court. He will stand tall for exoneration.

Of course there will be no plea negotiations!! Ryan is the top prize, there is no one bigger to tattle on. He is the center of the target ... the prey ... the end of the line (or rope, if you prefer). Those beneath him are getting all kinds of offers from prosecutors for evidence on the ex guv. Who is he going to flip on? The President? The Pope? His wife? (Not the Pope’s wife, silly, Ryan’s).

Harry Truman popularized the adage "the buck stops here." Ryan must know full well that the "buck" can be a subpoena.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

REACT:Racial profiling or just good cautious police work?

The story is simple. Illinois State Senator and prominent Black minister James Meeks was stopped for a traffic violation -- his family was in the vehicle. At one point the officer pulled a gun and issued a stern command with the inclusion of a naughty word. No ... it was not a racial word, but the heard-everywhere "f" word. According to Reverend Meeks, he was being profiled and harassed -- and there was hell to be paid (plus no little fire and brimstone, I assume).

According to the officer, there was more to the story. Seems Meeks and his driver were both exiting his vehicle, which police discourage. At the same time (or later, depending on who is telling the story) Meeks body guards pull up behind the reverend and exit their vehicle. Out numbered in either case, the office admits he used the "f" word while ordering everyone to return to their vehicles. Police back up arrives, tickets are issue, end of story. Well, hardly.

This minor incident has been ballooned into a major story on the racial divide -- a "hot potato" blared one headline. The Police Superintendent goes to the minister’s church to apologize. The Mayor is questioned about the incident at a press conference. The Police union yells foul on behalf of the officer -- saying the gun, the command and the "f" word were all appropriate in the situation. The story runs for days, and will continue for more.

Yes, I called it minor incident. One of those mole-hill-to-mountain things.

Least you think I cannot relate to the Honorable Reverend Senator Meeks, let me say "au contraire." I have been confronted with guns on two occasions -- once by a police officer and once by a couple of dudes on the other extreme of the law. In one case I was the recipient ... of a ticket ... and in the other case I was relieved of my money and jewelry.

My experience with the officer was similar to Meeks, I was coming out of my car after being stopped, and my friend on the passenger side was also exiting. The office pulled his gun from its holster but did not aim it at either of us. He yelled for us to return to the car. He did not use the "f" word. However, let me assure you when cop has his gun at the ready and is yelling an order, the inclusion or exclusion of the "f" word changes nothing.

In the other incident, it was just your average run-of-the-mill armed robbers. Now this guy did point the gun at me, and did order me to hand over my "f-word" wallet. Again I was very obedient -- and I did not even advis him that he did not need to use the "f" word since I am conditioned to quickly obey commands from people pointing guns at me.

In both instances, the hand on the gun belonged to an African American. It never occurred to me, however, that either incident was racial. I never even thought of them as some big deal. Just one (or two) of life’s unpleasantries. I think it is too bad that Reverend Meeks did not feel the same, and let it go.

On the other hand, I guess if you are a man of God on "Caesar’s" payroll and find it necessary to have a chauffeur and two body guards to get you to a prayer service and back, you have a different view of yourself then I had when guns were pointed at me.

OBSERVATION: Upscale bowling???

Just so you know that it it not always the great issues of the day that catch my eye ...

The latest fad moving across America is upscale bowling. Sounds like an oxymoron ... sort of like palacial trailer home. It is true, however. The Lucky Strike ten-pin lanes (I can't even put the word "alleys" in the same sentence.) are glitzy affairs with fine dining and impressive wine lists.

I was stuck by this publicity photo (above) scanned from the Chicago Sun-Times. (Since I don't charge for this blog, I hope I am ok on copyright permissions.) Anyway ... you have to admit you can't get more upscale than bowling with spiked heels.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

OP ED: Unions need more than public relations

The Wall Street Journal (August 15) carried a story under the title "Labor's PR Problem." It chronicled the decline of organized labor, as more and more workers find unions irrelevant. Such articles always hit my launch button.

I cannot understand all the attention given to the remnants of American unions. Despite their decline into virtual irrelevancy, they continue to exert disproportionate power almost solely on the basis of past momentum, anachronistic viewpoints and an ever favorable press -- which reports union happenings as if they carry great importance in setting public policy or electing significant numbers of public officials.

First we have to look at the numbers. Less than 12 percent of the workforce is unionized, and that number decreases each year. Union protection is no longer seen as vital to the American worker -- white or blue collar. Workers prefer to keep the money that is solicited for union dues and fees. In many cases, they feel management is giving the best deal possible, anyway.

Union corruption plays a role. Who wants to belong to an organization where the leaders have funny nicknames, like "Big Ears" Ba ba doo or "Knee Caps" Ba da bing. A private club that is too often under investigation, indictment or taken over by federal judges (which also is not a good thing, in my judgement).

Family bread winners are not interested in solidarity. Mandatory strikes strain personal finances. Union members notice that while they walk picket lines to payless pay days, the union honchos are not only paid, but very well paid -- and lots of high roller benefits. There maybe more unions official in Cancun in February than at the national headquarters of the AFL-CIO. Laborites and their political friends (mostly Democrats) mutually peddle a mythology that unions are the strong voice of the American worker. Unions leaders and labor positions are put forward as THE voice of the working masses.

In the past, they could influence, if not outright select, the Secretary of Labor. The Department of Labor, itself, is still regarded by many as organized labor's Cabinet position. That mythology is evaporating, I am pleased to note. The more conservative culture in Washington, D.C. has made it known that it is the Department of LABOR, not the Department of ORGANIZED LABOR. The Secretary of Labor is mandated to represent the concerns of ALL workers, not just those in unions -- and many independent workers find their interests at odds with the platform of organized labor.

The great majority of workers in America do not see the union position as representing their views regardless of out the media represents it. The involuntary confiscation of political contributions from worker paychecks is a case in point.

Union leaders have not sold their private political agenda to the members. Despite labor leaders' massive effort to re-elect Jimmy Carter (1980) and elect Walter Mondale (1984), the majority of union workers and family members cast ballots for Ronald Reagan -- the perceived arch enemy of the labor bosses.

More recently, the AFL-CIO decided to place all its eggs in the Democrat basket. All the resources it could muster did not prevent the two-time election of George Bush and the increased majorities in the U.S. Senate and House -- not to mention enormous GOP gains at the state and municipal levels. The disastrous AFL-CIO strategy was a major factor with the decision of several major unions, including the powerful Teamsters, to withdraw from the AFL-CIO. The schism will leave the rebel unions stronger individually, but is a major blow to the already weakened union landscape.

Despite the headline in WSJ, no amount of public relations can salvage the unions. To suggest otherwise is to believe that public relations can get people to buy horse whips. When something as lost its purpose and relevancy, no amount of salesmanship can make the sale.

As the global economy emerges, it appears to advance very nicely without the grassroots zeal for unionization. Where once labor leaders could echo the call of the downtrodden working class, today there is no such call. Unions are not dying because of the skill or guile of management as much as the disinterest of workers.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

OBSERVATION: Now for the REALLY serious stuff on women

Little noticed among the big news of the day -- like Iraq's failure to approve a constitution, the slippage in George Bush's popularity and the fact that Ted Kennedy did NOT have a drink or grope any young cuties today -- is an under reported story with astounding implications.

Thanks to media bias against conservatives -- especially the Christian right -- most of you may not know that Liberty University, run by Jerry Falwall, is going to allow female students to wear pants and flip flops to class.

What else could Mr. Moral Majority do after the conservative While House allowed several members of a ladies championship volley ball team have photos taken with the President in flip flops. (No! Not the President in flip flops! The ladies. Geeez. Presidents don't wear flop flops, they engage in them.)

UPDATE: Poor Mrs. Sheehan

Mrs. Sheehan, the amazing mourning mother, is being divorced by you husband. He left her after the death of their son, and she became obsessed with meeting President Bush -- for a second time. Most people would be happy to have met the President of the United States once.

The Bush neighbors are already tired of the anti-war antics. One Texas good old boy showed his frustration in Longhorn style -- firing his shotgun into the air. Fortunately, it did no harm, and not sure it did much good either. Another neighbor took his Texas sports car (known elsewhere as an open bed pick up truck) and ran down the small wooden crosses erected on the public roadway.

Judging from the blogs and other expressions of mass opinion, the general public is growing wearing, too. Instead of the grieving mother, she is starting to be perceived (correctly, I believe) as a pathetic human being lashing out -- trying to affix blame on anyone she can.

As her quest drags on, without any real hope of succeeding, I have decided that my harsher criticism, and even making her the butt of humor, was uncalled for. I now see her as a truly damaged individual, incapable of expressing her sorrow in an appropriate fashion. She is not leading a movement, but captive of her own angst. She will soon learn that once the militants have depleted her value, she will spend more lonely times to contemplate her feelings.

I believe she can best benefit from professional counseling. Once her quixotic quest is completed, I hope she will seek the help she appears to need.

REACT: Respect for the judiciary?

Liberals have a new campaign. Respect for the judiciary, which means never criticizing liberal activist judges. The latest effort to engender respect really institutionalizes the notion of judges as demigods, which most think themselves to be, anyway.

Well, in the spirit that judges are better human beings than you and me, I was interested to see that a nutty guy got "life plus 40 years." for starting a fire in a courthouse. No one was hurt. On the same day I read about a woman who killed her long time friend over a business argument. The perpetrator brutally stabbed slashed the victim to death. The killer is now facing a maximum of 60 years in jail -- mostly likely to be shortened by parole at some time.

Both persons need to be punished, but how can you explain the uneven hand of justice? Maybe if the fire bomber had killed someone, he would have faced a lighter sentence. You have to think about such things when you are out committing heinous crimes.

Punishment meted out by the criminal justice system is supposed to reflect the seriousness of the crime. It appears that damaging a courthouse -- even scaring the hell out of the judge -- is a much more serious crime than mercilessly slashing you friend to death.

And they wonder why the rank in file American is getting fed up with the judiciary.

Monday, August 15, 2005

UPDATE: 16 minutes of fame for Mrs. Sheehan

Arrrrgh. I just checked out the new and there is another image of Mrs. Sheehan's face contorted in an expression of pain and agony -- with lots of cameras to record the event. I figure she is now running overtime on her 15 minutes of fame. Given the level of Mrs. Sheehan's prolonged crying, I think grief counseling is in order.

Personally, I think the neighbor who fired his shotgun in the air was the timekeeper, indicating Mrs. Sheehan's 15 minutes was up. Of course, Mrs. Sheehan immediately assured everyone that she did not care about her personal safety -- which was never in question anyway. But, it is always good to be assured.

She did predict that there was potential for violence. If such an unfortunate thing should happen, it would carry Mrs. Sheehan into overtime. One protester did not leave on Sunday as planned because she saw the encampment as history in the making. She obviously is no student of history. The signing of the Magna Charta -- that is history in the making. The Declaration of Independence -- that is history in the making. The Emancipation Proclamation -- that is history in the making. Dan Rather's exit from CBS -- that is history in the making. But the Crawford Texas anti-war camp out and hootenanny? That has a historic shelf life of ripe bananas.

OUTRAGE: Nothing is too good for our public servants

Buried in an article about easing up on airport security procedures is a proposal to completely exempt some passengers from screening. And guess who these privileged persons might be. Only one guess.

I am sure you got it right. No security hassle for federal judges, congressmen, Cabinet members, governors and top military brass. It is amazing just how many times our public "servants" exempt themselves from the rigors of the onerous restrictions and regulations they impose upon us mere citizens.

Looking at how judges adjudicate and the legislators legislate, methinks they may rank just behind terrorists as threats to our freedom and security.

REACT: Another Daley bud in trouble -- stiffs minority companies

You think Chicago Mayor Richard Daley hangs around the rich and famous of the city? Apparently his buddies are a lot of guys who never make the news unless they are visited by law enforcement officials. They are the rich and I-don't-want-to-be-famous people.

The latest is a guy named Richard Crandall, who has picked up more than $147 million in city contracts. He comes from the old neighborhood, serves on a local kids club with the Mayor, gets his insurance from the Mayor's brother, and, of course, donates to the Mayor's campaign.

One wonders how he can afford the contributions since he apparently does not pay his subcontractors -- mostly minority companies he needs to qualify for the BIG contracts. One company went out of business for lack of Crandall's payments -- 49 people lost their jobs. In another case, 9 people were let go because the Mayor's pal failed to pay.

This is just another example how the Democrat machine works. For all the blabber on the surface about minority rights, the Dems record is dismal. They use the minorities to enrich themselves, and then stiff them. Just consider this comment from one of the Black subcontractors. "I'm African-American and female, and everybody thinks they can screw me, and people have tried left and right, but never like this," said Deborah Dillon, owner of Dillon Power.

OBSERVATION: Liberal tears the latest media grabber?

Ebony publisher John Johnson was laid to rest over theweekend. I was personally saddened to see the passing of this wonderful man. (See my item, August 9). On the cover of this mornings Chicago Sun-Times was a photo of Mr. Johnson in repose, with a hanky-to-eyes Jesse Jackson standing over the open casket. The reverend is not about to be outdone in the press by Mrs. Sheehan, the defending champion front page weeper.

Why newpapers, especially the Sun-Times, thinks that the presence of Jesse Jackson is a reportable event several times a week I just don't know -- not that I fault Jackson for getting all the publicity he can. If we did not have the term "media freak," would have to invent it just for him. Even his son chided the old man recently, saying that he (Congressman Jackson) had not had five press conferences in ten years while his dad has that many a day.

Having had my own personal experiences with Reverend Jackson, I don't trust the tears, even at such a moment of mourning. Ok. that is too harsh. Maybe he was truly moved to weep. But I have to tell you, the man is so media manipulative that nothing would surpirse me. I bet ya he timed is visit to the wake to ensure the presence of maximum press.

Frankly, I think there were others who should have been pictured in the page one tribute, like Mr. Johnson's widow (small photo on page 4) or family members, or even some of the other prominent persons in attendance.

Well ... judging from how well the prelims are going for Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, I expect we have not seen the last of liberal lacrymation. Not since Main Senator Edmund Muskie cried at the end of his presidential quest have I seen such an outpouring -- literally.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

UPDATE: Mrs. Sheehan's 15 minutes is about up.

You have to admit, the left is working overtime to keep the mourning mom in the for of the anti-Bush movement. It is making me a bit testy. So, setting my otherwise sunny disposition aside for a moment, let me be cranky.

While Mrs. Sheehan's son's sacrifice was real, and her initial grieving was real, she is now a threatical figure on the political stage.

She claims that her motivation came from her meeting with President Bush, when she found him "detached." Well if he is detached, she is downright unhinged. Her grief was so severe that she launched a personal website, and hired a public relations agency to promote her public mourning. Just wait, you know there is a book and movie in this -- especially since the publishing industry and Hollywood are still controlled by the ebbing left wing.

If you check out her photographs, she is usually slumped in a prompted painful "pity me" pose surrounded by innumerable lenses of every variety. Her act of mourning is now more act than mourning. It is difficult to sincerely pity her loss when she honors that loss by using it to pander to the press and public.

The fact that she acually had a meeting with the President gives credence to the adage that "no good deed goes unpunished."

Mrs. Sheehan, I am sorry you lost your son. I am sorry for so many who suffer. But, grief is not an entitlement to vulgar vanity. It will not excuse dishonesty. It cannot be rewarded with sympathy when flagrantly use to advance a political agenda. I read that your other children want you home. I suggest sooner rather than later. Your undeserved 15 minutes of fame is about up.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

REACT: Seven years in jail for John "Quarters" Boyle

The massive scandals surrounding Chicago's City Hall seem to produce one horrific abuse of public trust after another. Consider the case of John "Quarters" Boyle. He is on his way to prison for 7 years for taking bribes to hand out city trucking business. He is described as a "low level" political operative.

He got is nickname by stealing quarters from the Illinois Tollway Authority in 1992 -- $4 million worth.

First, let us consider that. If he did, indeed, take his ill gotten gain in quarters, we are talking about 16 million of those little shiny George Washingtons. By rough estimate, they would weigh 25 tons, and end to end, would stretch more than 240 miles -- or in a square, would be a bit over 100,000 square feet. Granted, he was running an armored truck service at the time, but still ...

Is it possible for the Tollway folks to lose $4 million dollars in coins and not notice. Oh! We're taking about a government agency. Perhaps taxpayers should just be thankful "Quarters" didn't take the dimes and nickels, too -- besides John "Loose Change" Boyle lacks a certain ring. One wonders how he could deposit all those coins without raising questions from the bank. Chicago is full of such mysteries.

What is funny, but not really, is the fact that after being caught and spending some time in taxpayer funded confinement, he returned to the public payroll -- running those hired trucks for the city. That operation is what now landed him some serious hard time.

Of course, Boyle did make some restitution to the taxpayers for his past misdeeds. Seems the judge ordered him to repay $2 million of his booty back to the citizens (nice discount). At the time of his most recent arrest, fifteen years later, he had already paid off a whopping $720.

As they say in mob circles, "Quarters" is a stand up guy. He refuses to cooperate with prosecutors. He is not one to (excuse the expression) "drop a dime" on his buddies or bosses. Maybe it was out of respect for Mayor Daley, who once publicly stated that saw no problem with convicted felon Boyle being hired by the city -- a show of support Hizzoner later retracted when it was brought to his attention just how incredibly stupid his statement was.

Of course his silence may also have been because, as a stool pigeon singing like a canary, he could wind up with his goose cooked like a dead duck.

Despite his criminal propensities, "Quarters" is a bit of a Robin Hood in the old neighborhood. He forks out money for charity and to folks in need. He gets "paid" for providing city services, like getting trees removed, and getting things fixed, like curbs, street lights and traffic tickets. "I tried to help my friends, but I broke the law," he laments.

Just so you fully understand how bizarre Chicago corruption can be, there is a side bar to this story. Seems that Boyle's Fire Lieutenant brother, Jeff, has been charged with setting a number of arson fires. In his own defense, Jeff claims his rather schizoid avocation was due to stress over his bother's problems. Sure ... that makes sense. I well understand, having had my own ne'r-d0-good brother prone to criminal behavior. Very stressful. And how well I recall getting an explicable urges to burn down property for insurance premiums just thinking about all the trouble my bro caused.

Unlike his brother, Jeff did not get a nickname in honor of his calling, like "sparks" or "flamer" (hmmm ... maybe just sparks). I guess Jeff was just trying to help friends, too -- and broke the law. Those Boyle boys -- real stand up guys.

Friday, August 12, 2005

OP ED: Who is lying about Iraq?

War protestors and a sympathetic news media are promulgating the notion that the war in Iraq was declared unilaterally by George Bush based on the "big lie" -- the presence of weapons of mass destruction.

That very contention, however, IS the "big lie." Any simple review of the history clearly shows that George Bush never lied to the American public. No parsing of words. No deceptions. No contorted language. George Bush NEVER lied about Iraq.

Bush's statements on the probability of the existence of WMDs were based on U.S. intelligence reports ... British Intelligence reports ... Israeli intelligence reports. There was a general supposition of their existence, or planned development. Virtually every nation, as well as the U.N. shared that opinion ... as did our U.S. Congress, based on the many of the same reports that were provided to Bush.

At worst, Bush's belief's and statements were unintentionally erroneous. At best, there were unproven truths.

There is some evidence that WMDs were part of the Iraqi military and scientific activities. Did WMDs exist, but were shuttled out of Iraq on the eve of war? Were contingency plans in place for their development? Those are unanswered questions. Given the treachery of Saddam Hussein, however, they cannot be totally discounted as the protestors would like to do. Hussein's history of lies, covert activities, defiance of arms inspectors and ruthless belligerence make all such possibilities reasonable.

The WMD issue is not the only lie being promulgated by the anti-Bush crowd.

Another "big lie" is that the presence of WMDs was the SOLE reason for the Iraqi invasion. This was not at all the case. It was well established that Hussein was rogue leader. He was, without question, promoting international terrorism on a grand scale, including providing safe harbor and training to international terrorists and offering rewards for terrorist attacks. He had already invaded a neighboring nation. He was behind efforts to topple pro-western Arab regimes. His rule was marked by the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of his own Muslim citizens. The need for regime change was widely supported by the world community.

A third "big lie" is that Bush acted alone, in defiance of the international community and the American Congress. Have we forgotten that the overthrow of Hussein was called for by virtually every civilized nation on earth, including those that shirked their duty when it came time to send in the troops? The United States invasion, specifically, was supported by resolutions of the U.N. In addition, President Bush was given the go ahead to invade by the Congress in a bipartisan vote -- that included the likes of John Kerry. The battle was joined by a coalition of nations. Bush did not go it alone.

A fourth "big lie" is that the Iraq war is an isolated battle. Frankly, I cannot understand the silence from the protesting left with regard to Afghanistan. Bush clearly advised the American public that Iraq was a critical part of the overall war on terrorism. It is not possible to address terrorism on a localized level. It does not represent a nation, but a network that spreads across client states.

A fifth "big lie" is that Bush said the war would be won in a short time. To the contrary, the Bush administration constantly warned the public that the war on terrorism will be long and painful -- and that it would not be waged or won with out human loss and devastation on our side. Bush was correct in congratulating our troops for the impressively swift manner in which they secured the fall of the Hussein regime. It was never said that the struggle to ferret out resistant terrorists and establish democracy would be easy. Bush's shipboard praise of our troops was never the end of hostilities, but only the reflection of a significant milestone, the fall of Hussein.

A sixth "big lie" is that the invasion of Iraq provoked the terrorist response in recent years. Terrorism was a fact of life throughout the world prior to the invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq. Munich, Lockerbie, the Cole, etc., etc., etc. Was the attack on the World Trade Towers provoked? Those who think Muslim extremism would end if we were complacent are delusional. The fact that we have engaged an increasingly more dangerous enemy will create heightened hostility. It is a painful and necessary operation to remove the ever deadly cancer.

It does not seem credible that the perpetrators of these "big lies" are simply misinformed. The active protestors are too well informed to have missed all the historic facts, and even a cursory check of old media reports will put the lie to the lies. The media most certainly should know better. Their willingness to propagandize is unprofessional, at best.

UPDATE: More on Mrs. Sheehan

Since I wrote the previous item on Mrs. Sheehan (Sunday, August 7), the war mother protesting outside Bush's ranch, the issue has exploded in a media frenzy. The more I read and see, the less I think of Mrs. Sheehan. I guess there are just too many "cry for the camera" photographs to be sincere.

To me she appears to be well over the initial depth of grief and mourning, and now into playing it up for public consumption. Instead of sorrowful, I now find her shameless -- using her son's death more than reacting to it.

In addition, I did not realize that she already had a audience with Bush, and made public comments not consistent with her current views. It is not unreasonable to wonder if she, herself, has not been twisted and manipulated into a publicity puppet.

Some of the publicity is now obviously manipulated. I visited a web site that was listed as her blog, and found public reactions included -- but I found no way to add a public reaction. They appeared to have been placed by the blog-meister for appearances sake.

She talks about how her son was forced into the military. Yet everyone knows he enlisted. From many other observations, it appears that her son did not share her anti war views. He appears to have been a genuine American hero -- his reputation now being besmirched by his own mother's view point.

Mrs. Sheehan seems less a heroine, and more a woman driven by a toxic mixture of bitterness and vanity -- the latest fungible pawn in the media propaganda campaign.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

REACT: New president for lawyers group

The American Bar Association has elected a new President. He is Michael Greco. I know nothing of this guy, but I am already nervous. He eschews the atmosphere of extremism. However, as a gesture of appreciation, he acknowledged the presence of left wing extremist Fr. Robert Drinan -- a man he called his mentor, no less. His mentor! Geez! You can see why I'm nervous. It appears Mr. Greco's view of extremism is everything to the right of the left field foul line.

According to the Chicago Sun-Time, "he sees ... a disturbing trend that includes politicians trying to score points by bashing judges who won't jump on political bandwagons. "Now, perhaps he is talking about people like Ted Kennedy, Jesse Jackson and the leftist feminists, who say all those terrible things about judges with whom they do not agree -- but I fear he is targeting criticism only at judges with more conservative strict constructionist views rather than the liberal activists who have usurped enormous power.

Greco also wants to send lawyers to schools to teach civics. And why not, lawyers, with the help of activist courts, are gradually taking over the world. I say, we should treat lawyers the same way we treat sex offenders. Keep them away from the kids!!!

In his acceptance speech, he called for more pro bono (free) work by lawyers on half of "people in need." A good I idea, I say. I think the pro-life movement would benefit from some good legal minds. Or maybe lawyers protecting the Second Amendment rights of gun owners. But Alas, I bet that is not what he had in mind.

The ABA likes to play a unique and extra legal role of pre-screening judges for appointments to high courts. Recent Republican administrations have encouraged their opinion of the ABA, but have declined to give them an extraordinary role. With Mr. Greco in charge, I think a polite deaf ear is the appropriate response.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

IN MEMORIUM: A great human being passes away

During my years as Executive Director of the City Club, I got to know John Johnson, founder and publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines, the first national magazines for the Black audience. His accomplishments are many, and most are duly noted in his obituraries and tributes. I would just add one small voice to the chorus to say that he was a splendid human being. He was a most effective advocate of his people without the rancour and self importance that too often afflicts those called into civic and social leadership.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

REACT: Part 2: Chicago school scores

Recall our reaction to the improvement in Chicago school scores? Just as a footnote. It is now reported that some 100 teacher actually used a portion of the test itself to prepare students for the testing downstate. Why does this have anything to do with Chicago? Well, the "contamination" caused the state board of education to throw out that portion of the reading test. It was about one-third of the entire reading rest -- no small adjustment. Some suggest that the removal reduced the scores of the downstate students, to that advantage of the Chicago students. The snafu, say some, makes Chicago students look a bit better in test results.

So ... what do we make of all that? Is it possible that the headline grabbing announcement of improved reading is about as real as a full days work by a Chicago precinct captain? I would not be surprised.

OP ED: War mother wrong to blame Bush

No decent and caring person can be insensitive to those grieving over the loss of a loved one. It would be inhuman not to sympathize and empathize with the mother of a young service man killed in combat. As a society, we are all diminished by the deaths of both the innocents, and those who have taken up dangerous jobs to protect us as persons, and protect our free society. It is sadly ironic that those who protect us from harm can only do so by exposing themselves to great danger – whether police officers, fire fighters or those who serve in the military.

It is with this understanding that we share the grief, if not the total pain, of the mother of Casey Sheehan, who died in Iraq.

You may have seen the extensive press coverage she received for traveling to President Bush’s Texas ranch to join war protesters in demanding immediate withdrawal from Iraq. She accuses the President of killing her son. She endorses a movement that includes irreconcilable Bush bashers, brittle partisans and sincere moral-based pacifists. Whether motivated by principle, strident partisanship or psychotic hatred, the anti-war movement does a great disservice to “the republic for which we (most of us, at least) stand.”

Leaving the faulty foundation of the anti-war movement aside for the moment, I would like to reflect on Mrs. Sheehan.

Despite her grievous loss, it is unreasonable to expect the President to meet with her in person. No one person can expect such an audience, and the rejection is in no way an indication of disregard – although arrogant protestors will try to portray it as such. She has virulently accused the President of lying to intentionally start a war without adequate reason, and places personal culpability on the President for the killing of her son. That is more than sufficient cause to reject a meeting. She either has allowed her grief to distort her own thinking, or allowed herself to be used to advance the irrational extreme edge of the anti-war movement. In either case, her actions are providing more than enough evidence that she deserves no such meeting on demand.

She marches under a banner that says, “Honor the Warriors, not the War.” While some will surely argue against my opinion, I do believe that Mrs. Sheehan does a disservice to the memory of her son – and the many men and women fighting for what I (and many) believe to be a just and noble cause. They do not honor the warriors – living or dead.

My grandson will be shipped out to Iraq’s front lines in a matter of days. I hope and pray my daughter will never face a sorrowful reality visited upon Mrs. Sheehan. I wish he, and every other young man and woman could be on vacation on some tropical island rather than fighting a cruel and ruthless enemy in the sands of Iraq.

We are not an evil force fighting for acquisition. We are an honorable nation fighting horrendously evil people, who deplore the most ruthless of terror tactics against the most innocent of our world citizens. To the extent Mrs. Sheehan, and the rest of the anti-war crowd, are successful in diminishing public support for our engagement in Iraq, they will surely embolden our adversaries. For their misguided anti-war fervor, or for their own ruthless self interests, they will make the battle more difficult, last longer and at a cost of more lives. Will they hold themselves as accountable for each additional death, including civilians sacrificed for our cowardliness in the face of brutality?

Those who cannot see the difference between good and evil cannot fight evil -- and therefore will most certainly produce more of it.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

REACT:Illinois national GOP chairman promoted

Pays to have friends in high places -- even when those friends are in a bit of trouble.

Robert Kjellander, Republican national committeeman from Illinois is a very close friend of White House honcho Karl Rove. Kjellander has recently been elected treasurer of the National GOP, and no one fills that job without the assent of the WH. It is obvious from his selection that the White House, or at least Karl Rove, no longer gives a hoot about Illinois in future elections.

Just this week, I identified Kjellander as part of the Republican problem in Illinois, not the solution (which apparently stalled his selection by the D.C. crowd a fraction of a nanosecond.)

It is more than that $800,000 goodie contract he got from the Dems, his vision of the future is not inspiring. He represents the old guard in a state where most of them will be convening in prison. Kjellander says he will be able to bring more dollars to Illinois. I doubt it. But even if he does, they are more likely to be used to cram the wallets of his buddies without much consideration to the best interests of the Republican Party.

Brings to mind the fleecing of the Senator Phil Graham's presidential campaign by former Governor George Ryan. (Graham believed the Ryan team would actually perform work for the money. He was unfamiliar with the long standing Illinois tradition of taking political and taxpayer money and not working.)

I think I will get the jump on the television networks. In 2004, I hereby declare Illinois as a blue state. Remember, you read it here first.

REACT: What ever becane if what his name?

Quick quiz:

Who invented the Internet?
Who was the male half of the couple that inspired the movie, Love Story?
Who won the 2000 Presidential election?
Who was Vice president of the United States from 1993 to 2001?

If you picked Al Gore, you win. At one time or another, he has claimed each of these distinctions. Of course, only number 4 is true. He actually was the Vice President of the United States, though hardly anyone recalls that. Personally, I think he is fortunate to be forgotten in that role. Otherwise you might recall his declaring his boss, Bill Clinton, the greatest president in American history -- right about the time the Prez was getting impeached for adultery, sexual misconduct, perjury and bad manners.

Gore always had a tendency toward hyperbole (a fancy word for gross exaggeration -- which in my old neighborhood, was simply know as b***s***.) Many compare
Gore to Forrest Gump, but I suggest a choice of older literary characters, Walter Mitty or Baron von Munchausen. You see, the Forrest Gump character actually DID the amazing things in the movie. Walter Mitty fantasized, and the Munchman simply prevaricated.

Well, now Gore sees himself as a television mogul, launching the latest manifestation of liberal celebrity media, called Current TV. True to Gore tradition, his launch hype is a bit over the bar of truth.

Now, don't take my word for it. Maureen Ryan's television review in the Chicago Tribune (Aug4) lambastes the fledgling broadcast enterprise, which promises that the programming will "blow you mind."

She goes on to say that, "All the new-media spiel that chairman Al Gore and other Current hype-meisters have been spinning of late sounds like some fairy tale form the dot.com boom."

"Given the hyperbolic pronouncements about how it would change the face of television and the Internet and the culture, blah blah blah, Current's first 36 hours were particularly disappointing," she adds.

There is more. She says, "...Current is remarkably clueless and elitist."

If we look at the liberals-as-media-stars history, we find that they just can't seem to find a connection with the public. Recall when the dynamic duo of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and former Texas Governor Ann Richards were launched as the liberal answer to Rush Limbaugh, and all those other painfully popular conservative talkies. Then there was the highly publicized re-launch of Phil Donahue. Then the new liberal network, with comedian Al Franken taking the box office appeal role. They all imploded into a brief bright dot, like the image on the screen when you hit the "off" button -- then poof.

The only thing positive that can be said about Gore today is that he looks better without the beard he grew when he was playing the role of college professor.

On can only wonder who or what he will be after his latest role becomes past Current.

Friday, August 05, 2005

REACT: Durbin wants citizenship for Casimir Pulaski

Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has introduced a bill to grant Casimir Pulaski U.S. citizenship. I am sure Casimir would be very honored except for the fact that he has been dead for 226 years. He got knocked off by the British in the battle of Savannah.

What is with these meaningless posthumous gestures? He was a hero of the Revolution, drawn to America by the ideals of democracy. Or maybe, it was because he had to flee Poland. Seems he had a run in with the law --- over trying to dispatch the Polish king to the afterlife.

In America, however, Casimir has his own day (March 4). His name is engraved on tons of schools -- but thanks to the quality of our public education system, the students of those schools have no idea who he is. He has one of the longer streets in Chicago named after him, which was change half a century ago from Crawford. Well, not all of it is named Pulaski. Unpatriotic folks in the north suburbs clung to Crawford (whoever he is).

So, why citizenship now?

I have a theory. Since all the lead sponsors are Democrats. I suspect that by granting him citizenship, they can get him registered to vote, in the long standing tradition of the Chicago donkey party.

Least you think me irreverent about the Polish revolutionary, you should know that my mother is a Sikorski, and my not-so-immediate family includes General Wladyslaw Sikorski, the Dwight Eisenhower of Poland. Furthermore, I was one of those lobbying for the creation of that special day for Pulaski. I had nothing to do with renaming Crawford, however. Although, I grew up just off of Crawford, as we use to say.

By coincidence, General Sikorski died the year I was born -- so I had nothing to do with that either. He died on the Fourth of July, no less. Some say that General Sikorski was murder by the British. (Do the British have a thing about doing in Polish generals?)

Someone should warn General Pulaski about the plot to make him a citizen. Not only will he have to vote in Chicago, but I suspect being dead is not going to get him out of paying taxes. We even have a tax known as a "death tax."

EDITORIAL: Backlog of pardons on Guv's desk

The Chicago Tribune (Aug 5) ran a lead editorial highlighting the suffering of individuals in line for pardons from Governor Blago.

Many pardons are not deserved, long shot attempts by people with serious criminal records and little proof of innocence. However, there are a lot of people who richly deserve pardons. Many were wrongfully convicted by a flawed judicial system. The pardon is their only avenue to the full productive lives they deserve. Without it, they cannot get in certain schools, cannot get jobs, and are banned from many rights of citizenship.

I know something of this corrupted system that has left so many lives in limbo. I hired a young Asian several years ago. He was railroaded into a drug conviction. Lawyers reviewing his case were appalled that he would go to prison boot camp without proper legal representation. They said his case should have been thrown out of court. However, his court appointed lawyer never even asked for a dismissal.

With little evidence to convict him, the prosecutors have this then 17-year-old lad just a few minutes to cop a plea -- six months boot camp or 17 years hard time. His attorney told him to take the bargain or he would go to jail for a long time regardless of his innocence or guilt.

You should know before his arrest, he was a top student and continued after boot camp to have a distinguished academic record -- graduated with honors. He is a hard worker. Devoted to family. Nothing in his life, before or after, would support his alleged criminal charge. It was bogus. There is a lot more to this young man's story --- and it all reaffirms his innocence and goodness.

This should have been a no brainer in terms of a pardon. He is supported by many distinguished people. His case has been brought before the Governor personally. I had two conversations with the Governor. In the first, he indicated a likelihood of a pardon based on the facts. In the second discussion, the Governor actually thought he had pardoned the young man. He turned to an aide and told him to have the young man's paperwork on his desk right away.

This has gone on for almost four years, most of the time the case buried in the offices of the Governor. For almost 9 years, this young man could not go to pharmacy school. He could not get jobs in the computer field -- his course of study. Most employers ask about felony convictions, and with it being an employers market, on black mark terminates the interview.

How long should he have to wait?

OUTRAGE: Killer flees, family not responsible

Despite his brutal and fatal beating of Tombol Malik, Muaz Haffer was granted bail. He fled, most likely out of the country. His father and sister took the Fifth Amendment when asked by a grand jury if they encouraged or helped him escape. Now, get this. Under Illinois law, parents, siblings and spouses cannot be arrested or punished for concealing a bail jumper or aiding in an escape, no matter how serious the crime.

What could possible induce a majority of the legislature and a governor to be persuaded to pass such a law?

SPIN: Headline writer politics

The Chicago Sun-Times (Aug 5) headline read, "Bush shrugs off al-Qaida videotape," followed by the subhead, "Day after 14 Marines killed, al Zawahri promises more dead." I say "shrugs off" is a loaded term. It clearly carries the connotation that Bush gave little meaning. Place next to the death of 14 Marines, the headline suggest callousness on the part of the President. The dictionary defines it is a gesture of "indifference" and," and "to minimize the importance of."

Such an impression was not evident in the report by Nedra Pickler. The story centered on Bush's reacton and resolve in the face of threats. By definition or connotaton, Bush did not "shrug off" the threats or the deaths.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

SPIN: Chicago Tribune cannot make up its mind.

Front page story in the Chicago Tribune (Aug, 4) chronicals the indictment of three attorneys on charges relating to the ongoing political corruption investigation. Reporters Matt O'Conner and Ray Gibson refer to the "big catch," Stuart Levine, as "a wealthy Republican insider," but do not apply a party label to the two others until later in the story. (Both are prominent Democrats.)

On page two, columnist John Kass calls Levine a "top Democratic fundraiser."

While it is true that Levine has played both sides, his far greater association, and the venue of his corruption, is within the Democrat party. The Republican reference is media spin.

Please understand, I am way not forgiving or minimizing Republican corruption and criminality. I have been a critic of that portion of the GOP "establishment " for a very long time. Not shedding an tears over the indictment of our former Governor George Ryan. Just that I think we should keep an accurate and unbiased scorecard.

REACT: Does U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald have a future in Illinois?

The headline poses the key question. Because the crusading prosecutor is making waves of tsunami proportions in the local and national political structures, there is speculation that he may be shown the door by President Bush. After all, he is investigating that pesky CIA leak that seems to be coming from upstairs, where top presidential confidante Karl Rove lives.

More importantly, Fitzgerald is destroying both the Democrat "machine" in Chicago, and its component GOP "gizmo." -- that the only true bipartisanship in Illinois is the mutual agreement between party leaders to secure personal power at all costs and to plunder the public treasury for self and friends.

As a supporter of the President. I have one bit of advice. DO NOT REPLACE PATRICK FITZGERALD!!! Keep him on the job as long as he will agree to send the corrupt to jail. I feel compelled to tell the President.

Firing or not re-appointing Fitzgerald is a deal breaker. If you do not keep him on the job, this fan will see you as one bad dude from Texas. And ... I am not alone.

We should also recognize that there is an interesting connection between the Rove issue and Illinois. Among Rove's closest pals is Illinois Republican National Committeeman Robert Kjellander. Bob is not one of the good guys, however. Though not in the crosshairs of the law, as far as we know, he is a product and supporter of the old corrupt system. He is compromised by taking big consulting fees form insider Democrats. He is part of the problem, not the solution. (Mr. President, I humbly suggest that you NOT take any advice from Karl Rove on the matter of the U.S. Attorney. But, I suspect you already know that.) Make no mistake, the old guard of both parties, are trying to figure out how to get rid of Firzgerald. This seems to include our own Denny Hastert, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. It is my hope, however, that Fitzgerald is "fireproof" by virtue of enormous public support. His departure would leave political blood on the hands of everyone involved. It is time for President Bush to state loud and clear their desire and intention to keep our superhero U.S. Attorney fighting for "truth, justice and the American way."

REACT: Improvement in Chicago school scores?

The Chicago Sun-Times gave a trumpted improved Chicago school scores with a huge headline, "CITY TEST SCORES UP, UP, UP. Inside banner headline, "Chicago reading scores surge."

When reading the article, I would have expected some really good news. But, nooooooooo. You have to turn to page 16 to find a little bitty header that says, "But math results decline across the board in state tests." Of course Mayor Daley said the the most important thing is reading scores. Rest assured, however, if math bested reading, he would have told us that in this high tech age, math is more important that reading. Science scores? Another small drop.

But, credit where credit is due. The highly hyped reading scores did show an improvement for the for the frist time in four years. No doubt, part of the improvement has to result from reforms in the school system supported by the Mayor, and crafted by the school leaders and me. (Me? Yes, indeed. I was senior consultant to president of the Chicago school board during the first phases of real reform. If the Mayor can bow on stage, why not me? <-- That was not a question meant to be answered, by the way.) It is also true that test scores were bound to improve. How could they not? Percentage improvement is relative to where you start. After being in the low ranks of achievement, a bump up will occur. It may be a one year anomoly. Won't know for another year. Some argue that the intense focus on reading programs actually caused the drop in math for lack of attention. Seems like the schools cannot rub their tummy and pat their head at the same time. The other thing to keep in mind is that "improvement" does not mean good. Chicago students are still lagging way behind the state and national norms. So, the good news is that the bad news is less bad. And, for Chicago schools that is good news -- but not worth all that ink on the S-T front page.

OBSERVATION: Korean's clone dog.

South Korea announced the cloning of a dog. In a country that has dog meat on the menu, does a cloned dog in South Korea constitute a left-over? (Hey! This blog is determined to ask the tough questions.)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

REACT: Chicago suburb flies white flag in Iraq

There is an old joke about a guy blowing a horn in downtown New York. When asked why, he responds that the sound repels elephants. When advised that there are no elephants in New York, he proudly attributs that fact to his activity. We can pause while you catch your composure.

Many years ago, I lived in Evanston, a suburb of Chicago, and recall when town leaders declared Evanston an "atomic bomb free zone." There were signs on chruch lawns -- you know, the never named religious left -- and in windows of the tweedy set. Well, I have to confess, Evanston has been spared nuclear devastation. No elephants in New York, no atomic bombs in Evanston. Hard to tell which is the joke.

Somehow, in their zeal, the alderpersons of Evanston never considered the absudity of their meaningless gestures. Crime was on the rise -- with drugs and gang activity as the only growth industry. The budget was bloated. Taxes soaring. Regardless, Evanston decided it needed a foreign policy.

Weeeell, they're doing it again, and this is no joke -- even though I find it difficult to stop laughing. This time the lakefront community is advancing a resolution to require our troops to withdraw from Iraq. Actually, two years ago, Evanston passed a resolution opposing the commitment of troops in Iraq. At least they are consistent.

Not many communities have a foreign policy, so maybe this is an effort to get into the Guinness Book of Records for the silliest municipal resolutions -- or the most unsuccessful ones. Maybe the record for the greatest number of times citizens of a small city can embarrass themselves.

So ... thanks to my old neighbors in Evanston for brightening my day with a bit of humor.