Friday, December 31, 2010

See you in 2011

Well today I get the evening off, unlike last year when I had to work the night of New Year's Eve. Like any other New Year's I'll just be sitting at home watching Dick Clark counting down 2010 in Times Square. Then watching the countdown in Chicago. We need a balldrop here in the Midwest as well.

Have a wonderful New Year, and take advantage of CTA's one penny rides if you plan to be out!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A proposed constitutional amenment

Well two courtesy of The Vail Spot (via Instapundit). This is the main one to consider:
"Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States ."
Reminds me almost of the "YOU first" principle.

The post goes further talking about another proposal for a 28th amendment. Talking about limiting retirement benefits for members of Congress and limiting the number of days Congress can remain in session.

There is also provision limiting the number of terms a person could be elected to the House of Representatives and the Senate. I have to admit however that I'm down on term limits for the reasons outlined in that post:
That was my original idea...though I'm not so sure that limiting the terms is the ideal solution.  The results of the last election would show that incumbents always win.  Though, what I'd rather see is each state redraw ALL their political districts geographically instead of politically.  It would force politicians to actually work harder as they wouldn't have "safe" seats, but would have to run in a far more balanced environment...though areas such as SanFran, CA would still be far, far left leaning. Limiting terms would have the collective effect of strengthening the congressional bureaucracy by making them more important because of simple longevity.  The "I know what I'm doing, Congressman..."attitude...
Changing the mode of redistricting would be more ideal than term limiting political officials. Perhaps the idea of permanent incumbents will be made more difficult if politicians weren't drawing their maps due to political considerations.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun wants newspaper columnist fired...

Remember that Neil Steinberg column I posted about on Monday. Well Carol wasn't amused by the column. She wants the man who is a "verified drunk and a wife beater" to be fired from the Sun-Times. You know all it shows is that Steinberg has earned his pay.

Even though the mayoral aspirant and former US Senate who once held the seat now occupied by Mark Kirk has been out of politics since her run for President in 2004 she had her supporters outside of the Sun-Times HQ:
Earlier on Tuesday, a small group of protestors marched outside the offices of the Sun-Times. What provoked their anger was a Steinberg column published in Monday ’s newspaper. It portrayed Braun as utterly clueless, to the point that she’d be unable to distinguish over-the-top mockery from genuine praise.
BTW, I didn't finish that quote from the first paragraph which is actually Carol's words. She was referring to Steinberg's arrest in 2005 for domestic abuse. The full quote is:
"He's a verified drunk and a wife beater who showed his disdain and disrespect for the African-American community in that article -- in several articles. He's got a history of this, and I'm just actually surprised that the Sun-Times would continue to give him a platform."
You know this wasn't the first time he was accused of disrespecting the Black community. He has some choice words to say about John Stroger when he fell ill in 2006 a week before the primary. Roland Martin went after him on his radio show back then as well. In any event, he later apologized for his remarks.

Congrats Carol you not only made it about you, but also about race. *smh*

Since today started talking about Mayors...

Congressman Danny Davis has a problem with former President Bill Clinton coming to town to campaign for former Congressman and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. He even plays the dreaded race card to keep Pres. Clinton out of this city's Mayoral race. For a guy who wasn't very visible in the 2011 mayoral race when Rahm finally did return to town he sure is feeling someone breathing down his neck right now!

Revolt: NY City Council members rip Bloomberg over snow removal

Found about this via Instapundit who used an often maligned late Chicago Mayor to take a shot at NYC Mayor Bloomberg for his failure to remove the snow after a recent blizzard. What this is really about is Bloomberg's chances at being an independent candidate for the White House. I think i'll just stick with the fact that well there was a comparison between Mayor Michael Bilandic and his handling of the 1979 blizzard vs. Bloomberg's handling of the 2010 blizzard.

I would like to show you what is considered in Chicago, the best response to a blizzard. An example from 1967 thanks the the father of the current Mayor.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"We Need a Libertarian Che Guevara": Activist Starchild

Reason.tv talks to Starchild, a San Francisco libertarian who talks about a variety of subjects such as whether or not libertarianism needs a "Che Guevara", the political culture of San Francisco, and why the left is less welcoming to new ideas than the right.

I linked to a page at Reason but here's a direct link to the video.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Steinbery: Carol, I miss you already

A Neil Steinberg column on the only Black woman to have held a seat in the US Senate, Carol Moseley Braun. She is currently running for Mayor of Chicago and this is a bit of a hilarious column:
See, that’s why I revere Carol Moseley Braun, in an ironic but very real sense, and will miss her when she returns to the deep obscurity she popped out of to stage her quixotic quest for mayor. Because she can say things like “I was quite surprised” after state Sen. James Meeks dropped out of the mayoral race last week.

Moseley Braun, the former senator, former ambassador, and current would-be mayor, was caught off guard when the pastor of the Salem Baptist Church took his ball and went home, while even third-rate pundits who live in the suburbs saw this coming a mile away.

From this column exactly 11, count ’em, 11 weeks ago:

“This is Meeks’ way of dropping out of the race,” I wrote, on Oct. 11, after Meeks, in the first of a series of jaw-dropping gaffes, vowed that he would keep his day job running a mega-church after he was elected mayor — a premise that might have pleased the flock “but, to non-parishioners, it seems a preacher-slick way of saying, ‘I quit.’”

Such obviousness whizzed past the brand of savvy that Moseley Braun brings to the table, and is why part of me wishes she had a snowball’s chance in hell of becoming Chicago’s next mayor. Never underestimate a politician’s entertainment value.
Then there's this:
Alas, after February we won’t have Carol Moseley Braun to kick around anymore, and I for one will feel the loss. She represents the egomaniacal muddle that Chicago black leadership has slid into, where calls for imaginary and self-destructive racial solidarity trump minor concerns like reason or history.

Which is why Meeks, in the comment that sealed his fate, could dismiss women and Hispanics as not being worthy of the title “minority.” Politics is the art of drawing people in, not shutting them out, and candidates such as Meeks fail because they don’t grasp that what drives them to their feet, applauding in the pews on Sunday, lands with a thud when delivered to the city in general.

I hope some ambitious University of Chicago sociology graduate student does her masters thesis on the search for a so-called “consensus” candidate among the marginalized black power structure in Chicago; it would make for a fascinating study in magical thinking.
This went from a comment about the "cluelessness" (?) of Carol Moseley Braun to an indictment of Black leadership in Chicago. To advance in politics anywhere, racial or ethnic solidarity isn't going to get an aspiring politico very far.

Christmas Day was movie night

On Christmas Eve I decided to reattach my "antiquated" DVD/VCR to my "antiquated" TV set. Through some trial and error I got the job done. Then the next task was to be sure that the DVD/VCR would be seen on channel 4 instead of channel 3.

Now that was just the craziest task as I needed to turn the TV to channel 3 in order to monitor what I had on the VCR. And I needed a remote and the remote that I had used for the TV no longer worked so had to go look for one that did.

Christmas Day was a fine time to want to do some shopping when most stores (if not all) were closed. I found another remote to be able to change the channel. Basically what was needed to change the channel from 3 to 4 was to play the tape then switch from channel 3 to 4. I succeeded and it was on to the double feature The American President and Star Trek.

On another blog I used to write I wrote a review of American President. It's still a favorite of mine although the political landscape of that movie is a lot different than it is today. A lot more polarized and blogs are a big thing today. Also it was mentioned somewhere about how gun control was the big issue in that movie and now we've had two SCOTUS rulings where it was ruled that an individual had the right to own a gun at home.

On second though I would wonder about how the attempt to cut down and fossil fuel emissions would fall today. I'm not sure there's an appetite for that. President Obama did talk a good game about creating fuel efficient vehicles, but I haven't seen a huge effort towards that.

The romance thing made this a real movie. Imagine a President as a man who's dating. He (she) would not only be in the political columns of the day but also the gossip columns. To be sure we haven't had a President marry in office since President Woodrow Wilson. Of course we do know of Presidents who weren't entirely faithful to their wives. Either way hey it's good for a night's entertainment.

Also there's Star Trek. I haven't finished the movie yet, it's very close to the end. That was how I wanted to end Christmas night too with a little sci-fi action adventure. Still very much look forward to the sequel.

I hope to do it again on New Years assuming that I don't have to work at all that evening. Last year I missed the countdown hopefully I won't this year!

I forgot to mention that I still have a VHS collection and I saw American President on VHS.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Have a happy and safe Christmas

You know, I took it down so that it would actually be posted on Christmas Day. Then I saw a comment, also I didn't realize that this blog now has over 4000 posts! How about that? :P

Friday, December 24, 2010

Unkown Chicago: Christmas Eve 1985

This is a different Magnificient Mile than exists today!
A little of what happened 25 years ago in Chicago on Christmas Eve:
As always, some shoppers had waited to the last moment.  Marshall Field's, Carson's, Ward's, and the other State Street stores were busy.  VCRs and the new digital compact disc players were selling briskly.  The one surprise gift of the season was the telescope.

Halley's Comet was coming back for the first time in 76 years.  Binoculars could be used to examine the heavenly marvel, but why not get something special for that special someone?  So now telescope manufacturers were running triple shifts--and still couldn't keep up with the demand.  Comet junkies were shelling out as much as $2,500 for a high-end model.

Out in Lincolnwood, they were getting ready for heavy traffic.  The homes there were known for their elaborate Christmas displays.  Most had gone dark during the hard times of the Carter years.  But now the economy was roaring, Lincolnwood was again bright, and all the thousands of drive-by gapers were returning.

Hmmm that seemed like a nice shot at Jimmy Carter. :P

Let's continue:
The spirit was carried forth in acts of charity.  On the South Side, 63 needy seniors received reconditioned fur coats at a free church raffle, courtesy of Mysel Furs.  In Little Village, a thousand chicken dinners were given away to poor families.  The Salvation Army again received an anonymous donation of gold coins in one of its street kettles.  This year the gift was five Canadian maple leaves, worth $1650.
Well I'm sure someone would consider this very selfish. Not unexpected in Chicago of course:
And this being Chicago, politics was in the news.  Mayor Harold Washington and the city council had been feuding for over two years.  But in the spirit of the season, mayor and council had come together, and found something to agree on.  They gave themselves pay raises.
This was doing the era of Ronald Reagan. During the time of President Barack Obama, there's a good chance of an outcry if the mayor and city council attempted that today. Well I would hope so.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

ABC7: Meeks drops out of mayor's race

UGH! And the Black community is only left with Danny Davis and Carol Moseley Braun. They're more well known even though one was turned out of the US Senate over a decade ago. The other has a long tenure in the US House of Represenatives and is hitting 70. Not that hitting 70 is a bad thing.

Sure Meeks had his issues. One of which was the fact that he's a big time Christian Pastor and he's made statements that only served to hurt his campaign, but I could've easily voted him in faster (much faster) than I would Davis or our esteemed former US Senator.

It's really hard to get worked up about this mayoral race. Really hard and if nothing else this is even more Rahm Emanuel's to lose. UGH!!!!!!11!!!1!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Would Illinois be down by two Congressional seats if it weren't for Latinos?

Check out this post from Capitol Fax. They talk about the reapportionment that was announced yesterday. Illinois has had 19 Congressional districts for the past ten years. Now we'll be down to 18. Apparently our state's population has grown, but not to the extent that it has in some of the Southern and Southwestern states.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Curbing excellence: The trouble with American education

In line with maybe my newly found interest in education, but the claims made by Steve Chapman in this column make sense. To start, the Evanston, IL school district (a city on the northern city limits of Chicago) opted to eliminate a high honors freshman English course. Why?
School administrators in Evanston insist the change is aimed at making the curriculum more demanding, even as they make it less demanding for some students. Thanks to the abolition of this elite course, we are told, "high-achieving students" will profit from "experiencing multiple perspectives and diversity in their classes to gain cultural capital."

In other words, racial balance will take priority over academic rigor. Blacks and Hispanics make up nearly half of all students but only 19 percent of those in advanced placement courses and 29 percent of those in honors courses.

This is because minority students at Evanston, which has an enrollment of nearly 3,000, generally score lower on achievement tests. Putting all students together is supposed to give everyone an equal opportunity.

But if you have a fever, you don't bring it down by breaking the thermometer. The low numbers of black and Hispanic students are a symptom of a deeper problem, namely the failure of elementary and middle schools to prepare them for the most challenging course work. Evanston has had a big racial gap in academic performance for decades, and there is nothing to gain from pretending it doesn't exist.
Evanston is said to be racially and ethnically diverse. Yet "minority" students still have issues achieving up in that part of the Chicagoland area. So the next paragraphs to that quote above are key:
Schools that group (or "track") kids by ability generally get better overall results. Chester Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, notes in a recent report, "Middle schools with more tracks have significantly more math pupils performing at the advanced and proficient levels and fewer students at the needs improvement and failing levels."

Why would that be? Teaching is not easy, and teaching kids with a wide range of aptitude and interest is even harder. Grouping students by ability allows the tailoring of lessons to match the needs of each group. Putting them all together is bound to fail one group or another. 
Then how do we decide ability or aptitude? It seems to me some of these measure are arbitrary. Although I know that many measures to decide ability or achievement have been proven.

Another problem is implementation. Surely it cost money to separate students out according to this idea ability or aptitude. It also costs money to hire personnel who can teach each group to their abilities.

You know it reminds me of the LSC meeting at Bennett this past month. They said that the special education students who aren't even at grade level (or more accurately are at a lower grade level than their peers) are still tested at the same grade level as their peers. That's right if a special ed student is only at a 1st grade level and they're in the 7th grade, that student is still tested in the 7th grade. That individual is doomed to fail.

Attaining a level of excellence is key to changing the perception of the public schools. Just have no idea how to get the schools there. Well all aspects of the urban school system from the students, to parents, to teachers and the administrators. There has to be a way.

Monday, December 20, 2010

State Budgets: The Day of Reckoning


If only other network newsmagazines could do the work as CBS' 60 Minutes has. I would watch them more like I used to. I used to watch 20/20 for John Stossel mostly and he's now at FOX News. Usually for my news I watch FOX News Channel other than that I could watch 60 Minutes.

And I missed a good segment last night as well state government is one of my interests. BTW, I got this video via Capitol Fax. That website is where you go to stay up to date with what's going on in Illinois state government.

Anyway 60 Minutes in looking at the fiscal picture of American states took a look at Illinois. Representing Illinois in this piece is outgoing state Comptroller, Dan Hynes (at about the 3:40 mark).

Unknown Chicago: Death of a Mayor (12-20-1976)

So today was the day, the current Chicago Mayor's father (then Mayor Richard J. Daley) had actually passed away. He was at the doctor's office getting his chest pains checked out, but just as the ambulance was on it's way he collapsed. He had passed on before the day was out.

It almost brings to mind what happened to Harold Washington. He was mayor a decade later and his fate was similar. Mayor Washington has also died of a heart attack and while I came too late to witness Mayor Daley's death. I was just in time for Washington's.

While I was quite young to comprehend that event, I do remember most of the media coverage. Surely it wasn't much different for the "last of the big city bosses".

Sunday, December 19, 2010

UPDATE to the previous post

In order to access the mobile template I had to use the special address. So you can read It's My Mind on your mobile phone @ http://itismymind.blogspot.com/?m=1. Of course if you use an iPhone, all you have to do is type the address minus the ?m=1 and you will be able to access the mobile version. Blogger really needs to work on that, but this is in "beta" anyway so they'll prolly find out soon enough.

By all means however let me know how you like being about to read this blog on your cell phone.

EDIT: On the other blogs where I have images for headers, on my BlackBerry those images are larger than the actual screen. I won't be able to see the whole header.

Well umm this blog would be in a new era if...

I could actually read this blog and my other blogs on my Blackberry. I had to pull up Shedd School blog on my mom's iPhone and it works perfectly. Blogger needs to step up it's game their focused on most of these touch phones and my Blackberry isn't there yet! C'mon Blogger, Blackberry Bold 9700 users need to read Blogger blogs on their devices as well. Surely they're working on the problem as they have recently rolled out the mobile template feature. Also Blogger may want to specify what kinds of phones that can support the mobile templates.

BTW, this blog is enabled. Just let me know if you're about to read it on your phone. Be sure to tell me what kind of phone you have.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Rev. James Meeks story linked on Instapundit

"WELCOME TO “POST-RACIAL” AMERICA: Meeks says minority contracts should only go to blacks." - Instapundit

Well you know I shouldn't be floored, but I am. Especially if I see this as more or less a local story. Critical to many others who are opposed to affirmitive action in any event. I would imagine Glenn Reynolds is opposed to affirmitive action. The story from the Chicago Sun-Times:
“The word ‘minority’ from our standpoint should mean African American. I don’t think women, Asians and Hispanics should be able to use that title,” he said. “That’s why our numbers cannot improve — because we use women, Asians and Hispanics who are not people of color, who are not people who have been discriminated against.”

Hours after making those remarks, Meeks back-tracked by saying he would only exclude white women if elected mayor. The set-aside program currently earmarks 25 percent of all city contracts for minorities and 5 percent for companies owned by women.

“I don’t believe white women should be considered in that count ….You have white women in the category. They receive contracts. Then, white men receive contracts. Where does that leave everybody else?” he told Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 news.
I really do admire Rev. Meeks for building a mega church on the south side. Especially building home big enough to be a future basketball area in a largely economically depressed part of Chicago. Actually the neighborhood where Meeks' sanctuary resides is a living historical landmark that thrives in some way thanks to its history.

I think he's right to take on the issue of public education. He went to New Trier to protest inadequate funding of public schools between rich and poor parts of the Chicago area. Now he supports school choice or school vouchers and attempted to push a bill through the General Assembly advocating for school vouchers.

He ran for State Senate against a long-time politico who brought up the issue of his allegiance to his church. Should a minister juggle his spiritual mission and his political mission. In my opinion he shouldn't, but some are better at juggling those two things than others. Ultimately an aspiring politico/minister must choose between the two. I think his talents are best spent in the state legislature. Even if I may not necessarily agree that he's choosing to juggle politics and religion.

Another thing to consider in the meanwhile:
A couple of years ago, Meeks and I sat down to talk after he’d said something or another about some racial thing. I scolded him pretty good, saying he’d been a black preacher for so long and a black legislator for so long that he apparently never bothered to learn how to talk to white people (and, I should’ve added, “everyone else”). I told him that he needed to learn some basic communication skills. Obviously, he never did.
I think a problem with plenty of black politicos. Although there are a precious few who do have some form of "crossover" appeal.

There was a clip of Rev. Meeks via that previous link where he wined to a fellow candidate about how if all the white people left the schools they take away art, music, etc. when the schools turn mostly black:
It’s not that he’s necessarily wrong. It’s just that the clip may show how much he sees things as a racial issue.
There are many in the black community who'll hear that. Outside of that black community, it could be alienating.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stossel: Why Do the Poor Stay Poor?

Hmmm, this syndicated column from John Stossel reminds me of something:
I go, but I'm skeptical. There sits de Soto, president of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy in Peru, and he starts pulling pictures out showing slum dwellings built on top of each other. I wondered what they meant.

As de Soto explained: "These pictures show that roughly 4 billion people in the world actually build their homes and own their businesses outside the legal system. ... Because of the lack of rule of law (and) the definition of who owns what, and because they don't have addresses, they can't get credit (for investment loans)."

They don't have addresses?

"To get an address, somebody's got to recognize that that's where you live. That means ... you've a got mailing address. ... When you make a deal with someone, you can be identified. But until property is defined by law, people can't ... specialize and create wealth. The day they get title (is) the day that the businesses in their homes, the sewing machines, the cotton gins, the car repair shop finally gets recognized. They can start expanding."

That's the road to prosperity. But first they need to be recognized by someone in local authority who says, "This is yours." They need the rule of law. But many places in the developing world barely have law. So enterprising people take a risk. They work a deal with the guy on the first floor, and they build their house on the second floor.

"Probably the guy on the first floor, who had the guts to squat and make a deal with somebody from government who decided to look the other way, has got an invisible property right. It's not very different from when you Americans started going west, (but) Americans at that time were absolutely conscious of what the rule of law was about," de Soto said.

Americans marked off property, courts recognized that property, and the people got deeds that meant everyone knew their property was theirs. They could then buy and sell and borrow against it as they saw fit.

This idea of a deed protecting property seems simple, but it's powerful. Commerce between total strangers wouldn't happen otherwise. It applies to more than just skyscrapers and factories. It applies to stock markets, which only work because of deed-like paperwork that we trust because we have the rule of law.
OK, I suggest you read the whole thing.

What you see at work here is the tenants of "classical liberalism". The main thing here is the rule of law. Also sanctity of private property and recognition of who owns that property or in this case land. I think another point made here is the usage of contracts, of course that's under the tenant of private property.

Furthermore, I still remember the debate over whether or not Africa should get more or less aid. Stossel did a segment on this before he left ABC many years ago. I saw a hut getting demolished by a bulldozer and it only brought home the point being made.

Many African nations are in the situation they're in because they don't recognize private property. Therefore those with businesses are afraid to expand because they may fear that government may instead destroy them instead of allowing them to flourish. Another thing about this is how to gain recognition. You might have to go in front of various regulators in order to gain recognition. That could be a discouraging prospect in and of itself. You could wear yourself out before you're good to go.

And you know Stossel also note that the upstarts in many developing nations are getting it faster than we are. We take it for granted as we are a wealthy nation anyway. However, Americans do tend to look at businesses or business people as a bad thing. Look no further than the current economic crisis with the financial industry.

In Chicago, there are stories of having to go through hoops in this city in order to startup an innovative business. There was a debate over allowing food service vans recently. In this post a start-up had a very unfortunate visit from city inspectors who didn't ask any questions just meted out some justice.

Anyway, one parting though. I also noted in another post my thoughts on capitalism. Not that I'm a hardcore capitalist or anything, but what makes sense to me about capitalism is that one must make the most of the system. If you make something of capitalism, you will gain the benefits.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reflection...

As the clock winds down on my birthday I reflect on what I may consider to be my own niche issue.

I have a friend who has in recent months found his own niche issue. It's in the form of illegal immigration and he's using the internet to encourage people to take this issue to their own US Congressmen and Senators. It's an important enough issue that he starting blogging about it and then became part of a website that promotes activism to fight illegal immigration.

Well I'm not particularly up on that issue. Not enough to want to be involved with the issue although I'm sure many who read this blog are concerned with illegal immigration. My niche issue is more close to home.

Starting in October I paid a visit to both Bennett School and Harlan High School Local School Councils (LSC). If you haven't visited your school's LSC I recommend it if only to hear about the issues your local public school is facing day to day. It doesn't matter whether or not you have a child attending that school. Such meetings are open to the public.

If you're not from Chicago, Local School Councils are charged with managing individual schools. They set the budget and an annual school improvement plan. They also evaluate and hire/fire principals.

These meetings discussed a variety of issues. At the last Bennett LSC meeting what struck me was the discussion of special education students. What to do when some of them don't belong in a school setting? Indeed when many of them don't function well enough to either hold a pencil or cause their own disruptions in school.

They also discuss the support these students get from their parents and how their parents respond to the efforts of the faculty on behalf of their students. At Harlan I hears about parents cursing out school staff because they dared to inquire about medical and lunch forms. Critical because without these the students could be excluded from school.

At Bennett they were concerned about those students who fell behind because there was no stability at home. These families had no problem with picking up and moving from place to place. Especially before the schools were ready to really work with a particular students as far as performance.

So far I have only attended three LSC meetings this year, two at Bennett and one at Harlan. The disappointing part is that so far, I'm the only member of the public who is actually attending these meetings. I hope that this isn't common.

We should care about what happens at our local schools. The primary reason being that the students who are at the schools are the ones who will prey on you in the future. They will be the ones doing the mugging, engaging in robbery, burglary or worse. They may well be attending neighborhood schools.

Whether we actually have children in these schools or not we ought to be concerned about what happens at our schools. This is why I choose to visit at the very least the schools I once attended. Hopefully one day, I can have a hand in keeping some of our students out of trouble and hopefully leading productive lives in the future!

While I have written a lot about the public schools at The Sixth Ward. I've set up a blog named for one of my former elementary schools (Shedd School) to talk about at the very least elementary education. I still need more material to find a point for that blog, however.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Judge Voids Key Part of Health Care Law

Health care reform was Obama's achievement for this year. Just when it didn't look like it will succeed, it did. And out of that brief success, a defeat months later. I just wonder if this has been a good year for the President:
A federal district judge in Virginia ruled on Monday that the keystone provision in the Obama health care law is unconstitutional, becoming the first court in the country to invalidate any part of the sprawling act and ensuring that appellate courts will receive contradictory opinions from below.

Judge Henry E. Hudson, who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, declined the plaintiff’s request to freeze implementation of the law pending appeal, meaning that there should be no immediate effect on the ongoing rollout of the law. But the ruling is likely to create confusion among the public and further destabilize political support for legislation that is under fierce attack from Republicans in Congress and in many statehouses.

In a 42-page opinion issued in Richmond, Va., Judge Hudson wrote that the law’s central requirement that most Americans obtain health insurance exceeds the regulatory authority granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The insurance mandate is central to the law’s mission of covering more than 30 million uninsured because insurers argue that only by requiring healthy people to have policies can they afford to treat those with expensive chronic conditions.

The judge wrote that his survey of case law “yielded no reported decisions from any federal appellate courts extending the Commerce Clause or General Welfare Clause to encompass regulation of a person’s decision not to purchase a product, not withstanding its effect on interstate commerce or role in a global regulatory scheme.”

Judge Hudson is the third district court judge to reach a determination on the merits in one of the two dozen lawsuits filed against the health care law. The others — in Detroit and Lynchburg, Va. — have upheld the law. Lawyers on both sides said the appellate process could last another two years before the Supreme Court settles the dispute.
OK since we may believe this may be politically motivated, I'm sure this ruling could be blown off for that very reason:
The opinion by Judge Hudson, who has a long history in Republican politics in northern Virginia, continued a partisan pattern in the health care cases. Thus far, judges appointed by Republican presidents have ruled consistently against the Obama administration while Democratic appointees have found for it.

That has reinforced the notion — fueled by the White House — that the lawsuits are as much a political assault as a constitutional one. The Richmond case was filed by Virginia’s attorney general, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, a Republican, and all but one of the 20 attorneys general and governors who filed a similar case in Pensacola, Fla., are Republicans. Other lawsuits have been filed by conservative law firms and interest groups.

The two cases previously decided by district courts are already before the midlevel courts of appeal, with the Detroit case in the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati and the Lynchburg case in the Fourth Circuit in Richmond.
Finally the justification for doing this under the commerce clause of the US Constitution:

The case centers on whether Congress has authority under the Commerce Clause to compel citizens to buy a commercial product – namely health insurance – in the name of regulating an interstate economic market. Plaintiffs in the lawsuits argue there effectively would be no limits on federal power, and that the government could force people to buy American cars or, as Judge Hudson remarked at one hearing, “to eat asparagus.”


The Supreme Court’s position on the Commerce Clause has evolved through four signature cases over the last 68 years, with three decided since 1995. Two of the opinions established broad powers to regulate even personal commercial decisions that may influence a broader economic scheme. But other cases have limited regulation to “activities that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce.”
...
Justice Department lawyers have responded that individuals cannot opt out of the medical market, and that the act of not obtaining insurance is an active decision to pay for health care out of pocket. They say that such decisions, taken in the aggregate, shift billions of dollars in uncompensated care costs to governments, hospitals and the privately insured.
So let's go back for a minute what is the administration banking on and what's the plan if any challenges proceed to the SCOTUS:
The officials stressed that the judge’s decision to not enjoin the law would defer any actual impact for years. They noted that the insurance requirement does not even take effect until 2014, when the Supreme Court presumably will have ruled.

The administration has said that if that provision eventually falls, related insurance reforms would necessarily collapse with it, most notably the ban on insurer exclusions of applicants with pre-existing health conditions. But officials said other innovations, including a vast expansion of Medicaid eligibility and the sale of subsidized insurance policies through state-based exchanges, would withstand even a Supreme Court ruling against the insurance mandate.
OK, well this might mean that health care reform needs to go back to the drawing board. That's OK because ultimately we need to come up with a truly beneficial solution. One that might mean that no more ambulances will have to be turned away. In addition to that people will have timely access to a doctor if they need it. And the need to lower costs somehow.




Sunday, December 12, 2010

University of Chicago ER turns away ambulances

I just hope these aren't emergencies that they're turning away. Although even if they were there are other hospitals in that general area they can go. There's Jackson Park near 75th and Stony Island. There's also Provident on 51st Street.

As University of Chicago Medical Center struggles to unclog its emergency department, one statistic keeps pushing back. Because of overcrowding — a growing, nationwide problem — the hospital turns away ambulances more often than any other ER in Illinois.

The city’s premier South Side hospital turns away ambulances for 13 minutes, on average, each hour. No other hospital comes close, according to Illinois Department of Public Health numbers obtained by the Associated Press.

In addition, some ER patients wait more than 24 hours for a hospital bed to open upstairs in the hospital.
...
A UCMC task force is quietly addressing ER crowding with some success, two years after the facility weathered a public relations nightmare involving an initiative to find community doctors for patients who use the ER for basic care. But other hospitals’ closures and a shortage of primary care in the impoverished area mean nearly 70,000 patients a year still arrive at the ER seeking help.

The nonprofit academic medical center has struggled with emergency room crowding for years. Many at the hospital see the stubborn situation as a symptom of a health care system that leaves many poor people without care and appoints emergency rooms as the one place that can’t turn anyone away — a problem that may only get worse at other hospitals in years to come.

“It’s really a manifestation of what’s going on with health care in our country more broadly,” said Dr. David Howes, the hospital’s emergency medicine section chief, in an interview. “We are not alone and we are doing our very best to address this.”

Crowding is a widespread national issue. Patients across the country are experiencing the longest wait times in ERs since reports were first made available in 2002, according to Press Ganey Associates Inc., a health care consulting company. Many experts predict the problem will get worse after the new national health overhaul expands insurance to 32 million more Americans.
I don't really want to copy and paste the whole article here so read the whole thing. Also if only there was a way to open up clinics near these hospitals where people can get basic care. If most of the people can't afford to pay a doctor then hopefully these are non-profits where people can still see a doctor. And without having to visit an actual emergency room.

It's noted no other hospital comes close to the "bypasses" (read article for more info on that term), that the University of Chicago does. The medical center is in Hyde Park and that neighborhood is surrounded by less than affluent neigborhoods on all sides although there has been some redevelopment in those areas in recent years. It may have slowed due to the economy.

And this article even alludes to the fact that because of healthcare reform (or if you prefer the term Obamacare) it may get worse. So this is a problem that needs a resolution either from the Feds or from the states and it seems there isn't a lot of stomach to really get to the solution of this problem at either level.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

An anniversary recently passed

The arrest of Rod Blagojevich. No one felt like celebrating according to Rich Miller. What is there to celebrate? The celebration happened the day he got arrested and eventually removed from office.

Miller wrote this column talking a little about that Chicago magazine article that I mentioned a few nights ago. This is one reason how Blago got re-elected the second time when he really shouldn't have:
The biggest reason Rod Blagojevich was re-elected four years ago was because a real effort wasn’t made to defeat him in the Democratic primary. The people who run the Democratic Party didn’t go after Blagojevich because the last time they primaried out a sitting Democratic governor, the Republicans took control of the office for the next 26 years. But that decision was a huge mistake. The Republicans were too weak in 2006 to make any sort of inroads. Illinois’ independent voters are as scared of the GOP as Iroquois County voters are of the Democrats.
So in 2006 it was more important to keep the Republicans out of the governor's mansion for another 26 years instead of removing a dead weight on their ticket. Four years late the state Dems came very close to losing the Governor's mansion so how much worth it was protecting Blagojevich. Oh yeah and I also recognize that 2006 was a wave year for the Democrats as well.

Miller also knocks down a theory about corruption in Illinois:
“If you’re out on a farm, there isn’t all that much to be corrupt about,” former Illinois Republican Party Chairman Gary MacDougal told Chicago Magazine.

Back in the mid 1970s, my father was a deputy sheriff in Iroquois County. Most Chicagoans probably don’t even know where that is, but it’s a huge, rural farm county with almost no people. Its northern border is only about 70 miles south of the city on I-57.

It may be geographically close to Chicago, but it’s a whole other world. Iroquois is and always has been one of the most Republican counties in the state. It was one of the few that went for that wacky Marylander Alan Keyes over Barack Obama in the 2004 U.S. Senate race, for instance.

Anyway, my dad says the sheriff back then had a company that leased the deputies’ police cars to the county. The sheriff had a company that sold police uniforms to his own officers. Every week, as dad tells the story, the sheriff would stop by the jail to pick up a big package of meat that the county ostensibly bought for the inmates.

So much for MacDougal’s theory.
So the Chicago mag article stated that Illinois government isn't as clean as our neighbors in Iowa or Wisconsin. If those states are mostly rural, well Iowa is mostly rural, then how do we know that this story doesn't occur there. It brought to mind this scene in HBO's Truman.

In that film, Harry Truman was building his political career. He was elected to a county commissioner position thanks to a political machine in his part of Missouri, the Pendergast machine. He wanted to building some road by the political boss himself wanted it done because he already owns businesses that could benefit.

BTW, if that name rings a bell it should. The movie was about the 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Speaking of political dynasties....

Kind of what was mentioned in last night's post about corruption in Illinois one may start to emerge in the City of Gary thanks to this report from Chicago Public Radio. The daughter of former Mayor Richard Hatcher is seeking Gary's Mayoralty:
Right now, [Ragen Hatcher is] an at-large member of the Gary City Council. Instead of making a bid for another four-year term, she wants another position in the city: mayor. If she wins May’s Democratic primary, and then the general election in November, she would be the first woman to hold that seat.and, of course, she would be the second Hatcher at the city’s helm.

Gary’s next mayor, regardless of whether it’s a Hatcher or not, will face serious problems. The next mayor will have to reduce crime, improve the city’s failing schools and find ways to attract economic investment.  Plus, the city’s nearly broke, thanks in large part to Indiana’s new property tax cap system and major reductions in U.S. Steel’s tax obligations.
...
However it’s not a foregone conclusion that Ragen Hatcher will actually get an electoral boost by being associated with her father. After all, not everyone views the name ‘Hatcher’ through the rosy glow of the civil rights movement—some actually associate the name with the city’s deterioration during Richard Hatcher’s 20 year tenure the city saw a mass exodus of the city’s white population.

“Out in the suburbs, Hatcher’s name has a negative connotation,” said James Lane, history professor at Indiana University Northwest in Gary and co-founder of the Calumet Regional Archives at IUN. “Many blame (Hatcher) for having to loose their homes or sell their homes at bargain basement prices but that trend might have been hurried by Hatcher’s election but that trend was going on.”
Here's is who she will likely be facing well in next years Gary municipal elections:
One is another woman: Karen Freeman Wilson, a graduate of Harvard law school. Freeman Wilson has done a little of everything. She served as Gary City Court judge and was appointed as Indiana attorney general by Indiana Gov. Frank O’Bannon in 2000.  Another opponent, and perhaps the toughest to beat, is Rudy Clay. He’s held the office since 2006. Clay is also a veteran of Lake County, Indiana’s rough and tumble political game.

“Her name is only going to help her in the fact that she’s in opposition to the incumbent,” [Gary resident Derric Price] said. “Other than that, people are going to look for ideas. What are you going to do different?”
You should read the whole article. I'm going to assume Gary's municipal elections are next year. Of course Chicago's municipal elections will commence on February 22, 2011.

You can check out Ms. Ragen Hatcher's campaign website here.

Charles Thomas: Danny Davis, M.I.A.

Signs that your campaign isn't very serious:
He still has no campaign office or website that this reporter can find, nor has he announced the appointment of a campaign manager or communications director.  And while State Senator James Meeks, City Clerk Miguel Del Valle, Carol Moseley Braun, Rahm Emanuel and Gery Chico are engaged in a discussion of the issues at various levels, physical or electronic signs of a Davis campaign are nowhere to be found.
...
In Washington early last week, I asked the Congressman about the mayoral campaign and he sounded like an old Sam and Dave song when he answered "Hold on, I'm coming".


The question remains...when?

Pols began whispering doubts about Davis' mayoral ambitions as long ago as his mid-November announcement.  Many of the prominent Coalition members who named him their "consensus" candidate did not bother to show up.

And Davis' Congressional colleague Rep. Bobby Rush--who was one of the original movers in the effort to rally financial and political backing around a single black candidate--announced his support for Carol Moseley Braun.

There is also whispered concern that Davis has not been able to raise enough cash for a campaign.
Just wondering if Congressman Davis has sat in his US House seat for so long that he may not know how to mount a campaign with a much broader constituency. The city may mostly have Black residents, but you need to get the votes everywhere you can. Besides even if Blacks are a majority of residents in this city you can still roughly divide the major ethnic groups in this city in thirds: Blacks, whites, and Latinos.


Thomas notes that Davis has a lot of things in his favor for this run:
On the 22nd, he led a parade of supporters to the Board of Elections where he presented petitions he said listed the signatures of over 50,000 Chicagoans who supported Davis' candidacy.


  Then on December 1st, Davis won the drawing to be the coveted first name listed on the ballot.
...
What Danny Davis does have is great name recognition, an admirable record serving Chicago in Washington and a voter base that stretches from the lakefront to the city limits on the west side.
Thomas also notes that the veteran pol doesn't have a lot of time if he wants to win the race for Mayor. Then again he's been in politics long enough to have survived without having a campaign website or a presence on "social media". But if one seeks office in the 21st Century, using only 20th century methods isn't going to cut the mustard.

I want to refer you to this earlier post about Davis being the consensus candidate. Bouncing off of Charles Thomas' report it was called a "lost opportunity".

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Why Is Illinois So Corrupt?

Reading this article from Chicago magazine. Gives a run down on Chicago/Illinois politics. Makes me wonder if this state is doomed to remain corrupt for the foreseeable future. I don't want to believe that, but I don't want to be seen as naive either.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Government can’t print money properly

Wait a second! What's the problem with our money now?
Because of a problem with the presses, the federal government has shut down production of its flashy new $100 bills, and has quarantined more than 1 billion of them -- more than 10 percent of all existing U.S. cash -- in a vault in Fort Worth, Texas, reports CNBC.

"There is something drastically wrong here," one source told CNBC. "The frustration level is off the charts."

Officials with the Treasury and the Federal Reserve had touted the new bills' sophisticated security features that were 10 years in the making, including a 3-D security strip and a color-shifting image of a bell, designed to foil counterfeiters. But it turns out the bills are so high-tech that the presses can't handle the printing job.


More than 1 billion unusable bills have been printed. Some of the bills creased during production, creating a blank space on the paper, one official told CNBC. Because correctly printed bills are mixed in with the flawed ones, even the ones printed to the correct design specs can't be used until they 're sorted. It would take an estimated 20 to 30 years to weed out the defective bills by hand, but a mechanized system is expected to get the job done in about a year.

Combined, the quarantined bills add up to $110 billion -- more than 10 percent of the entire U.S. cash supply, which now stands at around $930 billion.

The flawed bills, which cost around $120 million to print, will have to be burned.
This article reports that these bills would be the first with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's signature. So even he seems to have his name on this misfortune. Never mind the controversy over his taxes when he was first considered and appointed to head the Treasury Department.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Had no idea the UN could've come to Chicago?

Well thanks to John Schmidt @ Unknown Chicago. They may well have their own complex on Northerly Island. Northerly was once home to a small airport called Meigs Field and now there is a park there. Here is a justification:

"We feel absolutely confident that Chicago ranks high in the running," said Corporation Counsel Barnet Hodes.  "We are more convinced than ever that Chicago meets every requirement."
...
The war had been over less than six months, and much of Europe was still devastated and poor.  UN officials were frankly worried about the high cost of living in the United States.  That was one area where Chicago had an advantage over other American sites.

"We impressed on these people that they can get more for their money in Chicago," labor leader William McFetridge said.  Housing, food, recreation, and education were cheaper than in any of the other cities.  Foreign diplomats could live very well in the Windy City.
The Chicago delegation had an inside man at the UN to help them secure the HQ:
Adlai Stevenson, an up-an-coming Chicago lawyer, was then serving in London as deputy U.S. delegate to the UN.  Stevenson wanted to get into politics.  Helping make Chicago the Capital of the World would also help young Adlai's career.
Well just like Chicago lost the bid for the 2016 Olympic we lost our bid to become the "Capital of the World". The Rockefeller family gave a generous donation of land and that's all she wrote for Chicago. If only Chicago had some Rockefellers we'd have Rockefeller Center instead of its knockoff we called NBC Tower.

I meant nothing by that because NBC Tower is a nice building. Not as high as Rockefeller Center and I already have little interest in being in a very very tall building. Although Rockefeller Center isn't bad itself.

Schmidt just had to take a parting show at recent history:
Hey, since we couldn't get the UN, should we try to land the Olympics?
The UN isn't likely to leave New York anytime soon but for as long as there will continue to be Olympic competitions, Chicago will always have a chance. ;)

Time magazine ends their year in Detroit

So here's a retrospective podcast where they talk about their year in Detroit. I'll have to be honest if I said that I wasn't a regular viewer of this blog. At least the archives will remain however.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Trying to Ignite Spark of Revival in a Grim Gary

Let's hope this struggling Indiana city, a suburb of Chicago, can be revitalized by this man's efforts:

Anthony Broadnax clambered up the stairs of a vacant brick building in Gary, Ind., on Thursday, stepping through rubble left by thieves who had ransacked the structure for copper. The thick burgundy carpet was littered with trophies, microwave popcorn and plastic flowers.

Mr. Broadnax, 43, hopes to transform the building into the headquarters of a company that oversees revitalization projects. An engineer and Gary native who returned to the area from Houston four years ago eager to help transform his home town, he has big dreams: to turn an old library with a tree growing through its floor into a recycling center; to remake a towering apartment building with holes in its brick walls into a Hilton.

But the view from the building reveals the challenges that must be overcome. To the north are the belching smokestacks of U.S. Steel’s Gary Works, one of the few economic engines left in the city, but also a source of air pollution. Vacant lots and slumping abandoned houses line the road outside. The building itself was the headquarters of a company whose director pleaded guilty to 13 felony fraud-related counts, and stands as a symbol of the persistent corruption that is often blamed for failed efforts to revitalize the city.

Now, two unlikely partners — the Chicago-based Metropolitan Planning Council and The Times Media Company, publisher of the Northwest Indiana Times — have taken the lead in a planning process that they hope will ignite lasting changes and save Gary.
Another interesting piece about Gary can be found at Chicagoist. They basically take a look at this piece from a BBC reporter about how stimulus funds haven't benefitted Gary.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Civil unions bill won't be signed until next year

Well I did say earlier that the Governor will sign this bill. At the same time it won't happen soon now that we know civil unions had passed both chambers.

It should be noted that while civil unions were more or less a function of "marrying" gays & lesbians, civil unions in Illinois are for both homosexuals and heterosexuals according to Progress Illinois. In fact, Illinois Review really didn't like how the chief state House advocate for civil unions justified his position for it.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

National Journal: Democrats’ Diversity Problem

Well you know there is a reason why Black typically haven't been able to move at the very least from their own seats in the state legislature, city council, or even US House districts. This article (via Instapundit) seems to suggest that Black political leadership outright will not support those who seek even higher offices.

Not long ago I said something similar in a much more direct way.
The numbers reflect an inconvenient reality—even with their more diverse caucus, Democrats face the same challenges as Republicans in recruiting, nominating, and electing minority candidates to statewide office and in majority-white suburban and rural districts. The vast majority of black and Hispanic members hail from urban districts that don’t require crossover votes to win, or represent seats designed to elect minorities. They are more liberal than the average Democrat, no less the average voter, making it more difficult to run statewide campaigns.

These are far from trivial facts. This means Democrats lack a bench of minority candidates who can run for statewide office, no less national office. Most Democratic minorities make a career in the House, accruing seniority and influence but lacking broad-based political support.

The prime culprit in preventing minorities from having broader appeal is the process of gerrymandering majority-minority seats. It has guaranteed blacks and Hispanics representation, but at the cost of creating seats where candidates would have to appeal to a broader constituency, white and non-white alike. For decades, such districts were judicially mandated; in the South, officials still need clearance from the Justice Department to decrease the proportion of blacks voters in a district.

The logic behind gerrymandering stems from the Civil Rights era, when white voters were highly unlikely to vote for African-American candidates, so districts needed to be drawn so black voters could elect their own to Congress. It was effective—and necessary—to bring diversity to a homogeneous body. But now, the consequence of these contortions comes at great expense to Democrats and civil rights leaders alike.

The increase in minority representation comes at the cost of electing more moderate minorities best-positioned to win statewide. And by concentrating so many Democrats in one single district, it also protects neighboring Republicans -- a major reason why Republicans often are behind some of the most contorted gerrymandering plans.
...
The obstacle for many black Democrats, Davis argued, is liberalism, not race.

“There’s no question in my mind white Southern voters will vote for a black candidate if they believe they are sympathetic to their viewpoint,” Davis said. "Tim Scott's election in South Carolina is powerful, overwhelming evidence that even conservative southern white voters will vote for a black candidate, but they will not vote for someone who disagrees with them on every issue under the sun."

Meanwhile, talented black House Democrats looking to broaden their horizons have hit roadblocks—not from voters, but from party leaders and activists. Davis ran as a moderate in his bid for governor of Alabama, avoiding racial appeals and distancing himself from the Obama administration's policies. He didn't even get out of the gubernatorial primary, rejected by both black leaders for not toeing the party line and party activists, many of whom backed his more-liberal, white primary opponent.

Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., a rising star in Congress, finished a distant third in the Florida Senate race, capturing just 20 percent of the vote. He barely won the Democratic vote over Gov. Charlie Crist, according to exit polls, and won just 12 percent of the white vote. Much of his support was concentrated in black precincts.

In an interview, Davis put the reality for his party bluntly: If black leaders don’t broaden their appeal, there will be a permanent ceiling for them.

"If they care about their children being able to aspire to being senator or governor, then they're going to have to recognize that candidates that run only as leaders of the black community... those candidates can't win -- and they will be completely non-competitive out of predominantly black districts," Davis said.

“The only kind of black candidate who can win outside of a state like Massachusetts or New York is one who can win significant support from white, independent voters.”
So how did Barack Obama win election to the US Senate in 2004? It seems by the accounts that I have read he wasn't welcomed by Black political leadership in Chicago. Yet now he's accepted in Chicago, when he wasn't at the start of his political career and from the US Senate he became the first Black President.

Davis' bid for Alabama's Governorship and Kendrick Meek's bid for US Senate in Florida I could look at as examples of Black political leadership blowing it. Are they content with maintaining their gerrymandered districts that aren't hard to maintain?

What say you out there?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Looks like civil unions are coming to Illinois

Rich Miller gives us the run down at what happened in the state house yesterday as it passed there. Today it passes. Also a run down of what happened in Obama's old office, the Illinois state Senate. In addition videos of the debate on the state Senate floor. I would offer my own thoughts on this, but it's a little late right now. I'm very sure this will be signed into law by Gov-elect Pat Quinn. Well he's already Governor anyway. :P