Friday, January 30, 2004

Another lens on the Big Business Media -- how they make candidates 'unelectable'

The Black Commentator has an insightful article on how the Big Business Media makes some candidates (like Howard Dean) unelectable. I think it is less of a conscious decision by Big Business owners of the big papers and the television networks than part of their corporate culture, but the article is worth a read (and ever more reason to support and develop alternative media -- meaning get more people to read them).

Here is the article.

A nice, concise funny list of conservative hypocricy

This is a funny list. (I didn't write it).

Things you have to believe to be a Republican today.

1. Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a
conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers
for your recovery.

2. The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our
highest national priority is enforcing U. N. resolutions against Iraq.

3. Government should relax regulation of Big Business and Big Money
but crack down on individuals who use marijuana to relieve the pain of

4. "Standing Tall" for America means firing your workers and moving
their jobs to India.

5. A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but
multi-national corporations can make decisions affecting all humankind
without regulation.

6. Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary

7. The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in
speeches while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.

8. Group sex and drug use are degenerate sins unless you someday run
for governor of California as a Republican.

9. If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.

10. A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our long-time allies,
then demand their cooperation and money.

11. HMOs and insurance companies have the interest of the public at

12. Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy. Providing
health care to all Americans is socialism.

13. Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but
creationism should be taught in schools.

14. Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's
daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him
and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.

15. A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable
offense. A president lying to enlist support for a war in which
thousands die is solid defense policy.

16. Government should limit itself to the powers named in the
Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the

17. The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but
George Bush's driving record is none of our business.

18. You support states' rights, which means Attorney General John
Ashcroft can tell states what local voter initiatives they have a
right to adopt.

19. What Bill Clinton did in the 1960s is of vital national interest,
but what Bush did in the 1980s is irrelevant.

20. Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is communist, but
trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

Dick Durbin has a great speech on CBS' censorship of's TV ad

Senator Dick Durbin gave a great speech on the Senate floor on the spineless move by CBS to refuse to air a commercial paid for by the small donors (like me) of It's here.

I think we ought to retaliate against the Conservative Broadcasting Service (I lifted that joke from Durbin's speech). We should pull all state television advertising (about $12 million annually) from CBS. And companies that respect free speech should do the same.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Academy Award nominees use ranked voting (just like the Irish)

How did the Academy manage to pick a group of nominees that are so diverse that even Roger Ebert says it is a great selection (in his column here?)

One reason is the proportional voting system that members of the Academy use to pick the nominees. Voters get a first choice, a second choice, a third choice and so on. Roughly speaking, if any candidate gets 20% of the first-choice votes (and that's not a lot), that candidate gets one of the five nominations. So a quirky movie that's beloved by 1 out of every 5 members of the Academy can get nominated.

Here's a briefing I did a couple of years ago on the Oscar voting system for the entertainment press (when I lived in Los Angeles).

And here is a story in on the same (I'm quoted! Thanks, Timothy Noah!).

(The only post script -- my sister's short animated film The Toll Collector was up for a nomination, but didn't get one of the three slots. Perhaps if there were five slots, she would have been nominated. Academy, how could you!!)

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Gutierrez endorses Hull? Yikes.

Just heard that Luis Gutierrez has endorsed Blair Hull. Well, who would have guessed that? I wonder if that means Governor Blagojevich is coming next for a Hull endorsement.

Also, a friend of mine would like people to check out his book -- it's here at

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Rep. Costello calls for Cheney impeachment hearings! Right on!

All right! Finally, we've got some Democratic lawmakers going on the offense!

Illinois Representative Jerry Costello called for impeachment hearings for Vice-President Cheney, due to his ties with war-profiteering, no-bid-contractor Haliburton. It's about time that Dick Cheney is held accountable for ripping us all off.

The news report is here, from the Belleville News-Democrat. My tip-off came from Citizens for Legitimate Government.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

An outsider's 12 hours in the Iowa caucus with the Kerry campaign

Last night in Community Room D of the Lifespan Center in Dubuque, Iowa, where the 4th precinct of the city of Dubuque was holding the Democratic caucus (separate by a blue wall divider from a square dancing class), one of the two middle-aged women who had worked to bring out Kerry supporters said to the other: “I’m glad all those kids didn’t show up.” The 15 Dean supporters, huddled in the far corner of the room, were faced with the glum prognosis of ‘not viable’ as they needed 19 caucus-goers to cross the 15% threshold and have the right to send a Dean-supporting delegate onto the county convention. The kids, who had spent most of the day holding up signs and banners by the highways in the vain hope of inspiring passing motorists to show up no later than 7:00 pm at their caucus that night and support Dean, did not show up at Dubuque 4. Or, as it turns out, in much of the state.

I spent the day in Dubuque, celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by participating in the Iowa caucuses. Since I live in Chicago, I couldn’t vote. But I could help to run the caucus, which somewhat surprisingly, I did.

My friend Jay Rowell had a buddy working on the John Kerry campaign. He needed bodies to work the caucuses. I’m a Dean supporter, but since I’d take any of the four leading candidates, and I’d never seen an Iowa caucus, I thought I’d take the ride with Jay in exchange for helping out his friend. With two other friends, the four of us arrived in Dubuque (just west of the Illinois border) about noon on Monday.

The Kerry campaign had rented out a storefront downtown, and the place had the lived-in feel of a campaign with a field operation. We were assigned a precinct, and our job was simple: drop off a reminder flier to the people who were already declared Kerry supporters or likely Kerry supporters. These people had already been identified by the campaign through phone banking, door-knocking or word-of-mouth, and the job on election day is to ensure that they actually show up. Lots of campaigns neglect this axiom: supporters who stay at home are useless. Election day is not a day for appealing to undecided voters. Election Day is the day to focus exclusively on getting the people who have already pledged their support for your candidate into the polling place. If a campaign doesn’t have a list of registered voters (names and addresses) who have said they will vote for the candidate the day before the election, the candidate has already lost. In Dubuque, it looked like only the Kerry campaign had such a list.

After driving around a residential part of Dubuque and dropping off flyers into the homes of supporters (generally about two homes per block), we checked back into headquarters. I was assigned precinct 4, where I’d be playing a supporting role to two good organizers. My job was to take the list of Kerry supporters in the precinct, check off people as they arrived, and call everyone else on the list with a cell phone to implore them to come out to the caucus. The pitch was to start off nicely at 5:30 pm (“come on out to a pre-caucus potluck we’re having”) and by 6:30 pm ridiculously ratchet it up (“this isn’t about 260 million people, this is about 6 billion people, because if Kerry doesn’t get the nomination, Bush is going to slaughter us in November, and we must stop him, so get to this caucus right now! Do you need a ride?”).

At 5:00 pm, the community center was deserted. There were no signs. There were no people in the hallways. There was no one in charge. One woman sat by herself in Community Room C with some snacks. Two other women were in Community Room B, a large rectangular room with 150 or so chairs lined up classroom style. One of those women was the precinct captain, and she was decided which campaigns would be assigned which corners of the room (Lieberman and Sharpton were given the back corners with Gephardt, since no one was probably coming for the first two). A Kerry woman wandered in with a bag of posters, tape and markers, and we put up Caucus for Kerry Here posters in our assigned corner. This room was to be assigned precinct 5, and for now, I seemed to be the person in charge from the Kerry campaign.

Mike Connolly, a soft-spoken man who looked like a nice high school chemistry teacher and who was partial to the phrase “Bless your heart” arrived. He also served as the state senator from the area, and was going to serve as the temporary precinct chair to get the meeting in order. And he was a Kerry supporter, so had worked the precinct and had a list of pluses.

People, mostly older than 50, began to gather. I conscripted Maureen, the only other under-30 person in the room (and as it turns out, Mike’s daughter), to help me cross off the Kerry supporters (easily identified by their willingness to affix a Kerry sticker to their chest) from Mike’s list. Once someone was in the room, there was no need to call them. This would target our phone calling to only those people who might actually need to be cajoled to come. And with the race in a statistical four-way tie, every extra body in the caucus that all translated to a 0.5% or 1% increase could mean the difference between a close second and winning the election.

We also had to set up the room to prepare for the caucus, so after putting myself in Mike’s direction, he had me cart out dozens and dozens of chairs to set up in a class-room style. As more early arrivals began to fill up the room, congregating into different tables based on their differing candidate stickers, about ten of the people started to form a structure, setting up a sign-in table, pulling out official Democratic Party forms and finding a completely-transparent plastic podium for the front of the room.

I was torn between the demands of getting the Kerry campaign rolling and helping to get the caucus set up. Someone had to put a sign on the front door announcing that this was a caucus location for precincts 4 and 5. Someone had to help get the chairs in order. Mike was largely directing the caucus set up, but the rest of the people all seemed to know what they were doing as well. By 6:00, I took Mike’s call sheet and set up shop near the front door with Maureen.

By 6:15 pm, there was a crowd. Most of them wandered over to Maureen and I first, thinking we were checking people in. I’d ask if they wanted a Kerry sticker (the easiest way to tell if they were on Mike’s list of Kerry voters or not), and if not, that they could sign up fifteen feet away where four volunteers had emerged to check in caucus participants. Maureen called the people who had not checked in, sometimes leaving a message on the home machine of the person who simultaneously approached us. There was no hostility or antagonism, and almost everyone had a sticker or two on their chest for one candidate or another. There was a bit of a mad rush until 6:40 or so, when more than 150 people had made their way into the room and settled in. Mike called the meeting to order, and asked for a permanent chair to take his place. No one offered to take the job off his hands, so after a long enough pause to ensure there wasn’t a shy participate ready to take the reigns (Mike emphasized “I’d be happy to give up the job”), it was moved and seconded that Mike serve as the permanent chair. I suspect the caucus was impressed with his easily mastery of parliamentary procedure, and almost all of the people in the room had voted for him for state senate.

The cut-off was 7:00 pm and Maureen called through every person on the list in those last 15 minutes. Another woman left to pick up a straggling Kerry supporter. More than a few old people reached on the phone weren’t feeling well enough to make it out; more than a few at the caucus had left their spouses at home and didn’t they could get them to come, despite our entreaties to drag them over.

Chairing the meeting, Mike explained that 11 delegates from the caucus were to be selected that evening, based on the relative strength of each presidential candidate. For every 1/11 of the vote, a candidate would send 1 delegate to the county convention in March, where a similar winnowing process would decide the delegates to send to the state convention in May, and where in turn a final winnowing process would send the delegates to the national convention in Boston in July. But in order to be ‘viable’ under Iowa Democratic Party rules, a candidate must earn the support of at least 15 percent of the caucus goers. With 167 people in the room for Dubuque 4, that meant the viability threshold was 19 people. If a candidate had less than 19 people, the supporters could either go home, decide to remain uncommitted or choose another candidate to support in the next round of preferences.

Mike called the roll of every person who had signed up, and the precinct secretary (a Dean supporter) frantically and methodically kept the record. A straggler arriving at 7:04 pm without any identifying sticker, who was technically not supposed to participate, was waved in by the check-in volunteers. “We don’t want to discourage anyone.from participating,” one explained. Finally, at 7:10 pm, we were ready to show our candidate preferences. Corners were assigned to each candidate somewhat arbitrarily, and the assembled throng of almost all-white, mostly above-50 Iowa Democrats pushed back their chairs and began to shuffle about the room. It felt like the end of a high school assembly for a few minutes: one moment the class was sitting in a packed audience in quiet attention, the next moment the room was full of chatting people in a crowded space walking in every direction.

Mike had neglected to find a corner for Lieberman, Sharpton, Clark or the undecideds, and a few people seemed lost. Having nothing else to do, since the caucus had begun and there was nothing left for the campaign to do but wait, I jumped to help. An under-21 wanted to caucus for Sharpton. An older woman wanted Lieberman. Two or three were undecided. We put them all together in a little bunch, waiting for further instructions or to see if 18 other supporters would wander over. As the candidate camps coalesced in their corners, the undecideds grew a bit antsy. Mike gave them their options, but stressed that they should really pick their second choice, since they weren’t viable. Most of them went to the Kerry camp, as that’s where the largest crowd was. The two or three Kucinich supporters went to the Dean camp, posters in tow (notwithstanding a rumor that Kucinich had agreed to send his supporters to Edwards).

That left four candidates in the running, but the Dean supporters had bad news: there were only 15 of them, 4 short of the magic number. And thus began a confusing ten-minute period of halting, public negotiations by a leaderless group. The Dean people had to decide whether to stick together and cut a deal with a different candidate and go together en masse, or whether to scatter to the other candidates based on individual choices. Kerry had 64 people, Gephardt had 28, Edwards just made it with 19 but Dean was short. At first, one of the Dean women appealed for 4 more people from each camp somewhat fitfully, but no one moving. Then the potential trade became apparent: the Dean people could join up with another camp in exchange for naming the additional delegate that the other candidate would be entitled to based on the Dean 15 from among the Dean camp. That Dean delegate would have to vote for the other candidate at the county convention, but at least the Dean campaign would have something for their efforts. Both the Edwards and Gephardt campaign appeared to offer that deal to the Dean campaign; it wasn’t clear whether the Kerry campaign did as well. There was no leader of any campaign, so no one could really speak authoritatively on any campaign’s behalf. But somehow, the Dean campaign accepted the offer from the Edwards campaign, and the Dean 15 marched over to join the Edwards corner.

This led to a final delegate distribution of 6 for Kerry, 3 for Edwards and 2 for Gephardt. One of the Edwards delegates would come from the original Dean supporters. And who would these delegates be? The unofficial body-counter of each campaign that reported the number of people in each corner then asked for volunteers to serve as delegates to the county convention. At first, they received mostly silence. But after some prodding, such as “I will put my own name in submission, but only if no one else wants to do it. Does anyone want to? Are you sure?” enough volunteers were identified from each camp.

That was the caucus. Everyone was friendly and it was fun to do. More analysis and description later – for now (4:30 am Tuesday morning), I’m going to bed.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Progressive future of NAFTA: The European Union. Time for Hands Across the Border.

This great article in The Nation by Jeff Faux of the Economic Policy Institute suggests that progressives in Canada, Mexico and the United States are now bound together by the corporation-centered NAFTA to improve the continent-wide rules and regulations that are driving wages down and granting corporations ever more autonomy.

We need a North American Department of Labor, a North American minimum wage, a North American Environmental Protection Agency and (ultimately, in my view) a North American legislature.

He is smart enough to focus on populist legislators (and not just calling on the 'groups' of environmentalists, labor unions and churches to do the work) as one key ingredient in the progressive coalition to build up a North American progressive constitution that lifts up living standards instead of driving down wages for all.

I know some populist state legislators in Illinois that would be interested. Anyone know some Mexican or Canadian legislators (state or provincial) that want to collaborate on a new deal for North America? Email me at to see about organizing a Canada-Mexico-US caucus!

What is a caucus?

My good friend K. Kal Lwanga asked me "Just what is an Iowa caucus?" Here's my answer.

The thing to remember about a presidential primary is that the real election is for the selection of delegates to the national convention, where delegates will select the nominee. So when Illinois holds our primary in March and you dutifully vote for the Good Reverend, or the Good Doctor, or the Good Non-Eyebrowed Former Minority Leader, you will actually be voting to send one of his local 2nd district delegates to Boston. The Democratic Party uses proportional representation, thank goodness, so a diverse group of delegates representing different presidential candidates will be awarded tickets to the convention. But the ultimate outcome of the Illinois primary is the selection of 200-some delegates from Illinois to attend the convention in Boston.

A caucus is the beginning of a process than ends with a similar result: the selection of delegates, broadly representative of the different wings of the party, to attend the national convention. The caucus is the smallest unit of these party gatherings. Here, at the caucus (roughly analogous to a precinct), any self-identified Democrat may participate. Their ultimate task is to select a caucus delegate who will then, about a month later, attend a county caucus with the other delegates selected from other caucuses in the county. That group of delegates -- roughly proportional to the different wings of the party, will select a smaller group of delegates to attend a congressional district caucus about a month later And that congressional district caucus will select a smaller group of delegates from among their number, again, roughly proportional to the different wings of the party, to attend a state caucus (or convention) about a month later. And at that state caucus (or convention), the Iowa Democratic Party will make its formal decisions, including perhaps most importantly its platform, and of course, the delegates to the national convention.

The differences between a primary state and a caucus state are fairly clear. An 'activist' has much more of an opportunity to influence the platform of the party, or the candidates that the party nominates and/or endorses, in a caucus state than in a primary state, where we regular voters are limited to showing up and voting for a group of delegates based on their professed allegiance to a candidate we happen to support.

The reason why the Iowa caucus is given so much media attention is the game of perception and momentum. Even though the difference between the number of Kerry, Dean, Gephardt and Edwards delegates will be absolutely insignificant (if we believe the latest poll), the amazingly disproportionate conventional wisdom that a candidate must drop out for only getting 23% of the vote as opposed to the 'winner' earning 26% of the vote is overwhelming. (And when I say 26% of the vote, that can either mean 26% of the vote of an unofficial straw poll of caucus-goers held before platform planks are debated or delegates are selected, or it could mean a rough count of the actual number of delegates chosen).

That's my understanding of the caucus process. I've decided to go to Iowa later tonight with a friend of mine to see it up close. So I'll post something again if I learn something new.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Resistance to the draft -- an ounce of prevention . . .

Here's a neat site to check out, as talk grows in D.C. about an overstretched military:

Report on Pat Quinn's tax idea (income tax hike for top 2% to fund education)

Lt. Governor Pat Quinn has been aggressively advocating his Taxpayer Action Amendment that would amend the state constitution with a progressive income tax hike of an additional 3% of income earned over $250,000 and half that money going to a per-pupil grant divided equally among every school in the state and the other half going to each property-owner for property tax relief.

The Illinois Leader, the state's foremost online conservative news source, has this report on which local governments have reacted favorably and put the proposal on the ballot as an advisory referendum and which ones have said no.

Chris Lauzen's good idea -- get parents to read to their children

Senator Chris Lauzen, a conservative state senator from the far western suburbs, puts out some thoughtful essays on a regular basis. His latest one here reinforces an idea with a great return on investment: getting parents to read to their children for 20 minutes every night at bedtime.

If we can figure out how to reinforce that culture of reading to children every night, especially for parents who weren't educated enough to understand how important reading is, we'll end up with a much smarter, more educated student population with all the good things that flow from that.

What can government do? Public service announcements? Mailings to every household? If we can change some social norms on this cheaply, it would be a great thing.

Lessons in Cook County politics with Larry Suffredin

Thanks to Herb for putting together a really fascinating evening with Larry Suffredin. Here's my recap of the evening, for the benefit of those who couldn't make it. I'll also put it on my blog at

The Sun-Times front-page headline in December "Hell Freezes Over" described the massive political shift on the Cook County Board when, for the first time in at least 50 years, the President's submitted budget was not simply enacted as a matter of course by the Board. The Board finally emerged as a real legislative body, chipping away at the patronage-driven, top-down political style perfected by George Dunne and currently practiced by John Stroger.

Cook County has a budget of $3 billion. It runs the largest public hospital in the nation (not owned by a state or the federal government). It owns the largest nature preserve -- 68,000 acres of forest smack dab in the middle of the metropolitan area -- in the country that is literally in the midst of urban/suburban development. It runs the largest court system in the nation and a massive jail system that Amnesty International should be monitoring for potential human rights abuses. If Cook County were a state, it would be the 15th largest in the Union.

And yet it is the invisible government. Far more attention is paid to the Chicago City Council (and specifically the Office of the Mayor) than the County Board. Some people have been paying attention, however, and reformers have been steadily making progress for years. The end of 2003 might have been the most dramatic sign of progress, but there have been many steps to bring us this far.

The weight of history settles heavily on the shoulders of the County reformers. Racial divisions and decades of discrimination, real and perceived, color the politics of the county. These same divisions took over our meeting at IVI-IPO, unfortunately cutting short Commissioner Suffredin's presentation, but the unscheduled discussion on race did help to illuminate this powerful but often-upspoken motive in county politics.

The shift to single-member districts in 1990 (previously, 10 commissioners were elected city-wide from Chicago and 7 commissioners were elected suburban-wide from the rest of the county, leading to the predictable Dem sweep in the city and GOP sweep in the suburbs, as cumulative voting rights were not permitted) proved to be the beginning of a more democratic board. Incidentially, Commissioner Suffredin believes that if President Dick Phelan (1990-1994), had stayed on for a second term as President until 1998, he might very well have been governor.

Mike Quigley's arrival in 1998 added the first persistent voice of modernization to the board. Other long-time independent-minded commissioners include South Sider Bobbie Steele, who knocked off an annointed candidate but currently is aligned with President Stroger, and Earleen Collins, long active in West Side politics.

Forrest Claypool who had worked for Pat Quinn and Richard Daley, and Larry Suffredin, an old-school liberal organizer and advocate, came to the board in 2002. A new spirit of reform and modernization came to the board after the November 2002 election, as old-time incumbents lost out. With 17 members, a majority needs 9, and the 'modernizers' -- still an amorphous, ambiguous coalition, as many of the newly-elected commissioners had never met each other -- seemed to approach the magic number.

Sensing trouble, President John Stroger (serving since 1994) had the lame-duck County Board approve the 2003 budget a few weeks after the November 2002 election, in order to lock in the budget before the newly-elected commissioners could do anything about it. It would prove to be the last budget the President would submit without any input from the board.

The President of the County Board personally controls 27,000 county jobs. While there is a civil service system in the county, all 27,000 office holders ultimately report directly to the President. Even the staff of the other commissioners can be summarily dismissed by the President at any time. This is the source of the President's power, and in patronage-driven organizations, it is an awesome office to control. It is, of course, remarkably corrupting, as the many of the 27,000 county employees can feel compelled to volunteer on behalf of the political candidates that the President supports, dramatically (and artifically) increasing the support of the chosen candidate and perpetuating the power of the patronage-driven organizations to the direct detriment of taxpayers and independent voters. It also leads to remarkably inefficient government, as employees need not do their county jobs well in order to keep their paychecks so much as do the bidding of the President's ward organization well.

When George Dunne served as President, the 42nd Ward Organization (located in the near North Side) hired a ridiculous amount of county employees and played a disproportionate role in county and state politics. Now, John Stroger's South Side 8th Ward organization hires a huge number of county employees and plays a huge role in decided which candidates win elections, because of its patronage army of campaign workers.

The need of the machine for ever-more patronage workers and the need of taxpayers and voters for an efficient government and affordable tax burden are in direct conflict, and the first showdown in 50 years to try to weaken the machine is over the Cook County budget. The county has been running a $220 million surplus for the last three years, overtaxing residents, and has also kept 2000 jobs -- funded every year -- vacant. This year, the county faces a potential deficit. President Stroger submitted a machine budget to keep those vacant jobs intact and with new taxes: a lease tax of 4% that will surely drive every suburban car dealer into other counties and a sales tax increase that will further erode the purchasing power of lower-income residents. Bad public policy, but good for the machine.

Would the modernizers get 9 votes to block the budget? The five Republicans were against the new taxes. The three North Siders -- Quigley, Claypool and Suffredin -- were united against the new taxes. But where was the ninth vote?

Joan Murphy and Deborah Sims, the two new south suburbanites, aligned with Stroger. John Daley and Jerry "Iceman" Butler stuck with Stroger, as did the two Latinos, Joseph Moreno and Roberto Maldonado. Stroger was the seventh vote. And Bobbie Steele decided to stick with Stroger.

But Earlean Collins, former state senator and West Side advocate, wouldn't go with Stroger. She believed that far too many county jobs were going to Stroger's South Side 8th ward organization, and told Stroger she wouldn't vote for his submitted budget. She was the ninth vote, and sent shockwaves through the machine.

President Stroger, sensing defeat, cancelled the board meeting in December and simply refused to call another meeting since.

At this point, the obvious racial divisions manifested themselves at the IVI-IPO meeting. The three black members there leapt to Stroger's defense, essentially asking why eight white commissioners and one black commissioner should disrespect the black President of the Board, when no similar rebellion ever surfaces against the white Mayor of Chicago.

And while our members agreed that Stroger was a machine politician, the fact that Stroger appeared to be singled-out for this political backlash when other similarly-imperious political leaders (notably Mayor Daley) did not suffer the indignity of political defeat felt like racism to them -- not any personal racism from any commissioners, but a nagging sense of unfair treatment of a high-profile African-American leader that no white leader has had to endure.

This is one of our progressive dilemmas: crusading against patronage and the inherent waste, apathy and lost opportunities for raising living standards for everyone that inherently accompanies patronage while recognizing that some of the beneficiaries of the wasteful government jobs, at least in Cook County, are disproportionately African-American. There is certainly white patronage (just ask Tom Hynes or Michael Madigan), but a large amount of those jobs go to black workers.

The conversation remained civil and Commissioner Suffredin was remarkably patient with losing the last half of his time to an unscheduled talk on racism. It taught me that white progressives must reach out to blacks and Latinos that share our values but do not share our white privilege of not having to think about race. (It reminds me of when I spent a week in Japan, and as the only non-Japanese face whenever I left my college group, I was constantly thinking about race). Since African-Americans and Latinos would disproportionately benefit from a better county government, as they would use the services of a better county hospital more than more affluent whites, the political leadership of minority communities are our natural allies. Many of them are still stuck in patronage-driven distribution of government benefits (as President Stroger certainly is), and we need to continue to attack wasteful government spending without triggering the ever-present suspicions of racial bias. And I do believe the burden is on white progressives to make the extra effort, because we're the fortunate ones that enjoy white privilege (which manifests itself in not getting pulled over as much, in being trusted more by people in power and lots of other little ways).

It's also incumbent on black and Latino progressives to elevate their fidelity to progressive principles above brotherhood to machine leaders who share their color but nothing else.

The next showdown vote is scheduled for January 22nd when the Board will vote on issuing a demolition permit for the old county hospital. There are 7 votes to save the hospital: Hansen, Gorman, Silvestri, Peraica, Murphy, Quigley and Suffredin. Claypool is a disappointing vote for demolition. The two potential swing votes for saving the hospital are Bobbie Steele and Earleen Collins. Make those phone calls now.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Rundown on upcoming IL General Assembly; Bush on ballot battle again

This excellent article from Kate Clements of the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette has a good run-down of the upcoming Illinois General Assembly session.

The Bush on the Ballot Battle is mentioned -- Representative Bill Black expects this to be resolved early (like January -- this week), which would be a bad cave-in by President Jones to let the Bush campaign get away with his September NYC convention.

They go in session Wednesday. . . .

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Asthma epidemic rages -- we have to stop burning coal for electricity

This report in the Sun-Times by health reporter Jim Ritter shows that we've got an asthma epidemic. Chicago's rate is above the national average of 12 percent. (12 percent!). One of every three Puerto Rican kids has asthma. That's staggering. Those kids can't breathe.

We have to stop burning coal for electricity. That pollution settles right into our lungs.

Since the D.C. Republicans are led by their corporate wing, we need action by the state and the city. We've got two filthy coal power plants in Chicago (Fisk and Crawford). It's time to force them to clean up and stop giving us asthma.

Here's some more information on a Chicago ordinance introduced by Ed Burke and Danny Solis to clean up the plants. I've put in a call to Alderman Burke's office to see if they are going to try to earn more co-sponsors for the ordinance.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Speaker of the House Denny Hastert running for precinct committeeman -- we've got to do this too.

Steve Neal found a great tidbit in today's column in the Sun-Times here -- Speaker of the House Denny Hastert is running for precinct committeeman.

We progressives have *got* to do this. We have just got to start running for local party positions.

In Chicago, the local party position is ward committeeman (and it is kind of B.S. that there aren't precinct committeeman positions in Chicago, as that would make it easier to build local party organizations that actually reflect the neighborhoods, instead of shipping in precinct captains from other parts of the city, as often happens with shipping in Southwest Side people to work North Side lakefront precincts).

I was happy to support John Fritchey's campaign for ward committeeman of the 32rd ward which includes parts of Bucktown and Wicker Park. But he cut some deal with Alderman Ted Matlak, so both Fritchey and Matlak withdrew their petitions for ward committeeman, leaving the incumbent, Terry Gabinski, the only candidate on the ballot this March for ward committeeman. I think John wanted to ensure that Matlak didn't become both the committeeman and the alderman, so in that sense, we can call it progress. But I would have liked to ask people to vote for John.

Anyway, we should wage write-in campaigns in these uncontested races for ward committeeman. If Speaker Hastert thinks it is worth his time, then it *must* be a smart thing to do.