Monday, January 31, 2005

Blagojevich gets a C- average from environmentalists


The Illinois Environmental Council issued its report card for Governor Blagojevich today.



Air and Energy




Conservation and Natural Resources


Yeah, that's horrible.

And he deserves those grades.

So listen to Pat Quinn for the next two years! He's right on all these environmental issues.

I'm sick of environmentalists getting the shaft from Governor Blagojevich, especially since so many environementalists endorsed him in the primary over Vallas. It's payback time.

Gene Moore screws over affordable housing again

One of the big disappointments of the last two days of the 93rd General Assembly was the lack of consensus on the affordable housing program that the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless had been doggedly pushing for two years.

Mark Brown fingers Cook County Recorder of Deeds Eugene "Gene" Moore as the culprit in his column here.

One reason why Gene Moore is able to get so many people to listen to him: he is also the Proviso Township Democratic Party Committeeman. And Proviso Township had more Democratic primary votes than any other township or ward in Cook County in 2004. It was the #1 organization in terms of raw Democratic primary votes.

I hope the tolerance for Gene Moore's mess-ups has come to an end in the General Assembly on this issue and the advocates can get the leadership to get this program implemented in 2005.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

LaHood won't be luring lakefront liberals

Tom Roeser's column here explains how Ray LaHood's gubernatorial campaign won't be a repeat of George Ryan's 1998 run, when he wooed lakefront liberals into the Republican camp, with an attitude of openness to civil rights for homosexuals, gun control and increased public investment.

Ray LaHood said that he would have vetoed the historic civil rights for homosexuals bill (what was SB 101) that Governor Blagojevich signed on Friday.

That puts him on the wrong side of history, and probably on the wrong side of ever-more of the suburbs.

And it means the lakefront will not be at all tempted to join up with LaHood. Tom Roeser might like that, but he's living in the capitol of Blue America now, and his opinion is a minority one.

Robert Kennedy Jr. for A-G of New York, calling out Bush as the most corrupt, immoral president in our history

Robert Kennedy, Jr., who has spent decades cleaning up the Hudson River in New York State from General Electric's cancer-causing pollution, may run for Eliot Spitzer's current job as attorney general of New York State.

This column by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman, lays out a bit of the context, and details how Kennedy is unafraid to call Bush's Administration as close to a fascist government as we've had in decades.

Why? Here are some quotes from his book, which you buy here.

"While communism is the control of business by government, fascism is the control of government by business," [Kennedy] writes. "My American Heritage Dictionary defines fascism as 'a system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership together with belligerent nationalism.' Sound familiar?"

--- and then in the column ---

"The biggest threat to American democracy is corporate power," Kennedy told us. "There is vogue in the White House to talk about the threat of big government. But since the beginning of our national history, our most visionary political leaders have warned the American public against the domination of government by corporate power. That warning is missing in the national debate right now. Because so much corporate money is going into politics, the Democratic Party itself has dropped the ball. They just quash discussion about the corrosive impact of excessive corporate power on American democracy."


So the challenge is if some of our better strategists, like Congressman Emanuel, who is also responsible for fundraising for congressional candidates, can figure out how the Democratic Party can stand for a rollback of corporate power. I hope he is up to the challenge, since (at least during his time in the Clinton White House), he has been an advocate of corporate-backed trade agreements like NAFTA and GATT and trying to make the Democratic Party the party of Wall Street.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Carol Marin nails it -- someone in the White House should be charged

In Carol Marin's column today, she hits the White House for its criminal conduct -- taxpayer-funded propoganda infecting our news. At least two commentators have been paid taxpayer dollars in order to trumpet how great the government's programs are. That's illegal activity. The commentators have been outed and apologized, but the people responsible for paying them remain unknown. The White House denies any responsibility and is trying to blame it on some rogue Cabinet members.

That's not right. Someone should be charged with criminal activity. The Bush Administration can't get away with spending our money to tell us how well they are spending our money.

Been ridiculously sick. Here are a few good bills

I've spent most of the last five days in bed, so missed out on all the new House committees. There are some excellent public interest bills introduced that ought to become law. Some of my favorites (disclosure: I'm working on some of them) include two tax measures designed to make Illinois a wealthier place by shifting some of the state's tax burden from our low-income earners to our high-income earners: HB 135 (Representative Willie Delgado) and HB 155 (Representative Will Davis). Currently we put too much of a burden on low-income earners (who can barely afford to make ends meet now). This ought to change.

Our state's minimum wage of $6.50 will get eroded with inflation next year. The best way to protect against this erosion of purchasing power is to index the minimum wage to inflation. Two bills would do that: HB 411 (Representative Toni Berrios) and SB 37 (Senator Lightford). Public employees get a cost of living increase in their salaries. Pensioners get one. Most higher-income jobs include an annual raise. Our lowest paying jobs should adjust for inflation as well -- because if we don't adjust for inflation, then we are docking the pay of minimum wage workers every year.

Another reason why it's good policy to increase wages -- it would help solve the Social Security funding gap. I read somewhere that if real wages hadn't dropped over the last 35 years, we wouldn't have such a huge gap in Social Security liabilities. Makes sense. If people are making more money, there's more money to go into the pension system.

There are more, but I'm too out of it to write about them now. Time for more drugs. . . .

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Stroger, the race card and Blagojevich

This Tribune article details how Cook County Board President John Stroger, in his imperious, meandering way, cut off debate during the Cook County Board of Commissioners meeting to remark that many black constituents have been asking him if the (all-white) group of reform Commissioners are targeting his bloated budget because he is black.

The article's tone is a bit appalled by the "spectre of race divisions on the board."

Stroger argues that since Mayor Daley gets essentially a free ride fron the Chicago City Council on his budgets, and Governor Blagojevich gets an easy time from the Illinois General Assembly, why should he have such a hard time with his legislature?


On the issue of race and the County Board, Stroger said, "There are people who want to know why I have been treated differently from the governor and the mayor.


First of all, Governor Blagojevich has a harder time with his budget than President Stroger does. Second, it's a bad thing that our aldermen defer to Mayor Daley on the budget. We ought not be replicating that institutional deference in the County Board.

Third, I think the Trib is a little hard on Stroger. I mean, the man is simply telling the truth. I have been amazed at how many black people believe that Stroger is unfairly targeted because he is black. Not because he's an old school machine politician who would rather spend our precious resources on patronage than expansive public investment that benefits all of us, but because he is black. President Stroger simply said that lots of black people have told him what they think. And he went out of his way to say that he doesn't think the reform commissioners have a shred of racial animus.

Race is always with us. There isn't anything wrong with talking about it. And that being said: let's get some black commissioners to oppose Stroger's tax increases! With all the money we spend in Cook County, we might be able to offer universal health care. This is where progress will come from -- not D.C. but our overlooked, unglamorous local governments.

Voting equipment in Chicago and Cook County

We will soon be buying new voting equipment in Chicago and Cook County. For the best rundown on the different systems that the Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners and the Cook County Clerk are considering in a joint purchase, check out argues that Chicago's rumored early move towards an Inkavote system is an indication that the Machine is pulling the strings and looking for equipment that will suppress the black vote (by increasing the fall-off rate of thsoe people who intend to vote but for whatever reason, do not have their vote count).

I don't buy it. I think the government employees trying to figure out what equipment to buy are honest people looking for the best possible equipment. They are constrained by what the private companies develop for governments to buy. I believe they all want to minimize fall-off.

I just wish some wealthy progressives would invest in a voting equipment vendor that could create a completely open-source, transparent system.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Mark Brown on Illinois' gay rights law

Mark Brown in his Sun-Times column here has a great piece on an overlooked angle to Illinois' passage of civil rights protections for gays and lesbians.

Emil Jones, who helped convince the recalcitrant three Democratic State Senators Pal Welch (in one of his last votes), Lou Viverito and George Shadid to join with three Republicans and pass the gay rights bill out of the Senate, was inspired to support the bill in the 70s when he heard testimony from mothers of gays and lesbians who told how their sons and daughters were discriminated against.

It's worth a read, with one very minor quibble. The Cutback Amendment of 1980 that trimmed the size of the legislature devastated the Chicago Republican Party and the original sponsor of the bill Susan Catania by abolishing three-seat districts where the political minority could earn one of the three seats. That was the wonderful system where voters had cumulative voting rights (cast all three votes for one candidate) that we lost in 1980, and that we ought to revive. Mark skipped over that in his column (or some editor sliced it out).

Who is Milorad? Ask Dominic Longo.

The public letters between Alderman Mell and Chris Kelly on apologies and retractions has given at least one other former Blagojevich backers some inspiration.

Dominic Longo, an employee of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and a political operative, has sent a letter to "Governor Milorad "Rod" Blagojevich" demanding that he and his press secretaries stop defaming Mr. Longo's work ethic. Longo is widely portrayed in the mainstream media as a corrupt operative (I have no basis to know whether the portrayals are true or not), and apparently Governor Blagojevich is echoing that line with the press.

The letter is a nasty little piece.

Illinois Leader broke this story and has the letter on its website here.

[UPDATE: Maybe Rich Miller broke it, I can't tell. I should stop saying who broke a story. . . .but since I don't subscribe to Capital Fax yet, the Leader broke it for me]

These are the nastiest bits:

Making a point of calling Rod by his apparently given name: Milorad. Why? Some sort of old school dig? As in: I know your real ethnic background, Milorad, and how dare you leave me behind like some 'wild and crazy guy' that you are embarrased to be seen with?

Arguing that Blagojevich committed to "making Dominic Longo a rich man" after his 1992 primary win for state representative.

A threat to sue Blagojevich personally, his campaign fund (which is the proverbial 'deep pocketed defendant' to look for in a civil case) and apparently, the State of Illinois by suing Blagojevich in his capacity as Governor (which would be a stretch).

And the final one that captures why these old school Northwest side politicos really have hurt feelings: "cease and desist from your wrongful conduct, irregardless of how ambitious you are and how important it is to distance yourself from Dominic Longo." They feel that they brought this young guy up into politics, and now that Blagojevich is in a position of power, he wants to publicly embarrass them in order to appear like a clean-government reformer to the average voter.

I guess I'd have a tad more sympathy for these old school guys if they weren't using Blagojevich in the first place in order to extract more of the commonwealth for their own personal purposes (jobs or contracts).

We really can't let this sort of stuff define the Democratic Party in any way. Makes me wonder where we would be if Paul Vallas were our governor.

One reason why LaHood might have a hard time

This quote from the Journal-Register on the inauguration party ($40 million of our money during war) kind of sums up some problems he might have with the Illinois electorate:

“For me, it is exhilarating to experience,” said Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria. “I know it sounds corny, but I truly love President Bush. I really do. He’s an extraordinary man. I like his values. I like his family.”


When 55% of the state's electorate explicitly rejected the man, in favor of a charisma-challenged challenger (lots of votes against Bush, not so many for Kerry), the tighter LaHood is tied to Bush, the worse he will do.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Zorn blows it with an Obama '08 prediction

Eric Zorn swings. . .and misses.

He boldly predicts in today's Trib that Barack Obama will run for President in 2008.

And he is so wrong.

Zorn's reasons are that the momentum of all that attention (he and Michelle were on Oprah yesterday, in a particularly substance-free fluff interview) will inexorably draw Barack into a race, if only to keep up his national profile and lay the groundwork for potential runs in 2012.

I don't see that at all.

And of course, I'm willing to bet on it.

I'm challenging Zorn to put his money (or something of value) where his mouth is.

And any blogger can get in on this action. Just post something in the comments section.

The deadline is the Iowa caucus election in January 2008. If Barack is not actively campaigning in that caucus, then I win. If so, I lose.

I'll put a dinner on the line.

Why do I think Barack will sit out a presidential run in 2008?

Lots of reasons.

1. He'd make a better V-P candidate in 08 than a presidential candidate. The man has almost a decade of legislative experience, but only four years of foreign policy experience, and given the Bush Administration's taste for invasion, our National Guardsmen will still be patrolling dangerous neighborhoods in dozens of nations in 2008. (What are we we in: 50 nations with a U.S. military presence or something like that?)

2. It seems a little . . . untoward. That's one reason why Senator Clinton didn't run in 2004. Barack would have an easier time pushing that envelope since he didn't actively campaign on *not* running for president during his first term as Hillary did, but still. I think the deferential culture of Washington will mitigate against an Obama 08.

3. I suspect that he would rather spend his political capital in the next four years on electing more federal Democratic candidates and try to retake the U.S. Senate than on building his own network of Iowa and New Hampshire Obama supporters. His celebrity isn't going away, and he could help lots of marginal candidates. It's far more difficult to do that while also campaigning for president. And it is no fun to be in the minority.

4. He doesn't need to run for president in order to build up a national network.

5. 2012 is just as much of a free ride as 2008, in that he will not be up for re-election to the United States Senate in 2012 (his six-year term ends in 2010 when he will presumably run for re-election).

6. The narrative of a new kind of politics ('seeing purple' and all that) doesn't neatly mesh with an aggressive presidential campaign in 2008. The narrative meshes better with a legislative record filled with integrity, progressive votes and common-sense language. Part of Barack's appeal to the very infrequent voter is his call for unity. Presidential campaigns are a call for partisan power, and those two messages tend to conflict.

So who wants a piece of this action?

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Illinois Issues interviews each legislative leader

Rich Miller tipped me off to this interview by Illinois Issues' Pat Guinane with each legislative leader. It's worth a read.

Speaker Madigan's language on the end of balloon payment financing was particularly interesting. And I'm glad he's a fan of raising the state income tax to fund half the cost of education. Too bad Blagojevich demagogues that one so much to triangulate himself.

North Siders: open house for inauguration

On Thursday, when corporate America and fundamentalist America toast their enduring alliance during President Bush's swearing-in ceremony, the Young Chicago Lakefront organization is having an open house in the 44th Ward Democratic Party's political office at 3248 North Clark from 6 to 8 pm. Come on by.

What local elections should not be about: patronage

This article in today's Sun-Times aptly demonstrates how some Democratic Party officials still see government the wrong way.


"Depending on the community, it could mean control over a couple of hundred jobs," said Barrett Pedersen, vice chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party. "It could also mean control over millions of dollars in contracts.

"Also, it allows you to change the direction of the community."


Yeah: government is about patronage and kick-back contracts. *Also* it's about public policy. As in: by the way, sort of on the side, when you have time after getting your campaign 'volunteers' jobs and your campaign donors a municipal contract, *then* you can figure out how to make life better for all citizens.

This poison infects Republicans as well as Dems, which is what ultimately caused the implosion of the Illinois GOP. The good-government forces are in both parties, and whichever party is more good-government tends to win statewide elections.

How about some civil service so we don't have opportunistic organizations converting municipal government into a jobs machine?

And ultimately, let's get some more candidates who don't see government as a business, but as a mission for justice (with apologies to Obama for using his line).

Monday, January 17, 2005

McKenna gets the nod for IL GOP Chair

The Illinois Leader broke another story: Andy McKenna is the new Chair of the Illinois Republican Party.

I wonder why Tom Cross or Frank Watson aren't leading the party. Maybe that's a better set-up, so there isn't any conflict between the needs of the legislative leader and the state party. I mean, Speaker Madigan is a brilliant guy, but it probably isn't the best situation that he is the party chair as well. It's not like Denny Hastert is the Chair of the RNC or Nancy Pelosi is the Chair of the DNC. Having someone else to focus full-time on helping to build the Illinois Democratic Party is probably a better move.

Maybe there's an exception for Michael Madigan because he's generally considered to be the hardest working and best strategist in Illinois politics. But that's a stretch. He's got to be over-worked now. We should probably have someone else be the Chair.

UPDATE: The Cross bloggers are claiming proper credit for breaking the story and I defer to them in all things GOP.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

My punditry on Democrats and abortion

We do get hammered on this issue by pro-lifers. On the flip side, pro-choicers have become one of the pillars of our party. However, we have the chance to reach out to pro-life voters more than Republicans have the chance to reach out to pro-choicers.

I think Clinton did it fairly well. I'm echoing the Tribune's editorial from a week ago or so, but we would be wise to frame out goal for abortion as "safe, legal *and rare*"

That rare part is a bit contentious for pro-choice advocates, but I think that's the better framing for Democrats.

Pro-choice advocates don't want to introduce the concept of a restricted right that ought be exercised rarely. Hence, the T-shirt that reads "I had an abortion" which sends the message that there is nothing shameful about an abortion. Because life begins sometime after the abortion, there is nothing to mourn over from a first-term abortion. Just as we aren't ashamed or sad about getting tonsils removed, so too (the pro-choice advocates argue) there is nothing sad or shameful or even ambivalent about an abortion.

That's a minority opinion, I'd suggest.

You could feel some momentum drip out of Kerry during the town hall debate when the younger white woman said something like "I'm pro-life. Senator Kerry, what would you tell someone who is thinking of voting for you, but has a moral obligation to protect life?" and Kerry basically said "I can't tell you how much I respect your opinion. . . . . I'm Catholic. . . I was an altar boy. . .but I'm for abotion. Sorry! But I really respect your faith."

Which clearly doesn't cut it.

What we should be saying is: if you vote for a Democratic government, there will be fewer abortions performed than if you vote for a Republican government.

Here's my source for that claim. If anyone's got better data, please send it my way.

So if it is true that Democratic governments end up with fewer abortions than Republican governments, then I'd suggest we Democrats should be happy with calling for abortions to be rare, as it's hard to make a pro-life argument for voting for the party that produces more abortions.

We need more pro-life votes. And if that data is true, then we deserve them.

Emil Jones is my President

That's the bumper sticker and T-shirt we should have in Illinois. If somebody opens up a store, put that up and I'll buy the shirt.

I'm giving credit to Michael Rocket Richards for that line. But apparently, Governor Blagojevich also delivered the line at President Jones' party on Wednesday, so Rocket and Rod can share the credit for coining the phrase as far as I'm concerned.

Back in town after communications meltdown

Sorry for the abbreviated postings -- my treo had a seizure and now is almost dead. Springfield blogging didn't go very well.

But this is the time to call your state legislator and ask him or her to introduce a bill. They are hungry for good ideas, as they are ridiculously under-staffed. The next big Democratic ideas are going to come from Springfield or Olympia or Boston or Providence, not from D.C. So get on the phone and start pitching some bills! is the new General Assembly website.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Era of good feelings in the House

Speaker Madigan voted for Tom Cross for Speaker today. . . .after 117 other members voted for him for Speaker. Those little gestures are creating a feeling of goodwill in the House not seen in a long time. At least today, the future seems bright for good improvements from all Members getting a fair hearing in the House.

The best time of year. . .first day of a legislative session

I love this. The new General Assembly convenes with 177 people and all is possibility. Want to invest in the lives of poor children? Want to wean our state off of imported oil? Want to raise wages to boost our economy? This is the time to think big and then to ask a legislator to carry a bill. And they are hungry for good bills. They want a bill that will solve a problem and make life better for people that isn't too large or complicated. If you have never called your state rep and state senator before, do it today. Just call and leave a message of congratulations. Especially for Blue America, this session is important. We are part of showing a counter narrative to the corporate-conservative agenda of the federal GOP. Life is better in Blue America and we are one of only a dozen or so states that can show the rest of the country how that is true. Let's get to work.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Gay rights passing today

History happening in the House of Justice. This is why I like hanging around the General Assembly. Right now the House is debating SB 3186 which ensures gays and lesbians can not be fired or denied housing based on their sexual orientation. When the debate turns lofty and includes phrases like 'that is not right' and 'let's stand for justice' generating applause from the gallery, good things are happening. Congratulations to the advocates and legislators who worked so hard on this policy.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Rahm leads DCCC. I'll bet he traded Ways and Means for it.

Rahm Emanuel has accepted the Leave No Democratic Donor Behind chore of running the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. I'll bet he leveraged the promise to do all that work for the party into a committee assignment from Pelosi to Ways and Means, one of the best assignments there is. I wonder if he will be more open to seeing the Dem advantage to neutral Congressional maps than other federal Democratic leaders have been (notably Bill Lipinski and Rod Blagojevich who both pushed through an agreement for the current GOP friendly Illinois map in 2001).

Friday, January 07, 2005

Illinois apparently has slacker high school graduations requirements

Interesting . . . .looks like our state's requirements for graduating high school are too easy. This Bloomington-Normal Pantagraph editorial lays it out quite nicely. We rank fairly low in the number of years required for English and science (only one year for science! according to the editorial).

Luckily, Senator Miguel Del Valle (D-Chicago) and Chair of the Education Committee is introducing a bill to ramp up our state requirements.

I wonder who is against this? People animated by "the soft bigotry of low expectations"? The school boards who want the right to set the bar lower than the rest of the state? Any insight will be appreciated.

Got a letter in to the Sun-Times yesterday on statutory rape

The Sun-Times printed my letter here on why Dick Devine should be prosecuting men who impregnate girls. Maybe that will make some of these men think twice before they do so. And although it is possible for a girl to have a loving, consensual relationship with a man (a concession I'm making to one of the 23 posters below), it is very unlikely. Most men have far more power than most girls. We should enforce the statutory rape laws. Men can find women to sleep with. They don't need to sleep with girls.

(On a related note, has anyone else noticed the Tribune prints a ton of really dumb letters? As in: "I came to Chicago for a vacation. And boy, were the people nice! What a great town this is! Thanks, Chicago! Me and my wife will be back." I have much better luck with the Sun-Times printing my letters than the Trib, so you know that's why I'm paying attention to every dumb letter that fills up the Trib's page)

UPDATE: Thanks to Phocion, blog-master for the DraftVallas blog, for pointing out that Sunday's Sun-Times has an editorial on the topic. In the editorial here is news that the boyfriend was indeed charged with criminal sexual abuse and battery. Here's one challenge to conservatives: how can you justify opposing sexual education that teaches 15 year olds like this girl/mother about condoms and ways to have sex (like oral sex) that won't end up in pregnancy. I'm so frustrated by this picture and the tens of thousand of girl/mothers like this that I can understand why Clinton's first Surgeon General (what was her name? Jocelyn Elders or something?) would talk about masturbation and call herself the condom queen if it would help one of these girls avoid getting pregnant.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Awesome. Democrats with backbone.

I love it.

Debate away on the ridiculous failures of our democracy and the need for a federal constitutional amendment providing for the right to vote. That is Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.'s crusade.

(Yes, that's right. There is no constitutional right to vote. If, say, Pennsylvania was the crucial state and went for one candidate, and the state legislature decided to send the electoral votes from the slate of the losing candidate, they could do so and there would be no way to stop them. Just ask Antonin Scalia.)

It's time to modernize our democracy, and the two-hour debate is a great first step.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Arnold wants a neutral California map. I'm for it.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called a special session of the California legislature to debate his proposal for redistricting, handing the process over to a panel of retired judges instead of the legislature. The New York Times story by John Broder (any relationship to David Broder?) is here.

This would certainly create competitive districts (something that most of the country no longer enjoys) in about a fifth to a fourth of all seats, which would be a big advantage over the status quo.

If he really wants competitive elections, then he should support Austria-style proportional representation where the political minority can compete with the political majority in any part of the state and earn more seats with increased vote totals, even without earning a majority of the vote.

I think California Democrats should embrace the shift. Competitive elections should be a good thing for the Democratic Party, especially in California, where the two parties agreed in 2001 on a status quo map that protected every single incumbent, and froze for a decade each party's strength in the legislature. Republicans got the better end of that deal, because the Democratic Party is growing in California, and they were lucky to hold on to their 2000 levels of representation.

Similarly, a neutral map in Illinois would likely expand our federal delegation from the 10-9 D majority to an 11-8 majority (given that Illinois is at least a 55% Democratic state, and 11/19 is 58% while 10/19 is 53%). If pushed through a Tom Delay type of Democratic gerrymander, we could easily draw a 12-7 map.

So congratulations to Arnold. I hope the Dems take him up on his offer to get a neutral map.

Ryno a Hall of Famer. Sweet

Ryne Sandberg made it into the Hall of Fame. He was a mainstay of the greatest baseball team in history: the 1984 Cubs. Well, at least to me.

Here is the take on Sandber's inclusion by the greatest Cubs writer on the net: Coogan "Warm Can" Oldstyle. If you are a Cubs fan, email him at to get on his list of updates during the year.

Dear readers,
As the cubs continue to hibernate through the winter while the rest of the NL gets stronger, we have at least something to celebrate. A warm can of Old Style goes to Ryne Sandberg, who was voted into the hall of fame today. The baseball writers of America finally voted for something that makes sense. Sorry that Sandberg didn't kiss the butts of writers or run out on the field and perform flip flops unlike other recent hall selectees. All Ryno did was rule as the game's best all around second baseman from 1984 to 1990. Sandberg. Former GM Larry Himes treated Sandberg like sh*t. Sandberg never complained publically until he had left the game. The man is complete class, a quiet, underspoken legend. No other second baseman in the NL comes close to Sandberg in his era. Never had their been a power hitting second baseman. His homerun record for second baseman shattered loud mouth Joe Morgan. The record was recently broken by another Sandberg-like underrated contemporary--Jeff Kent. This warm can goes to Ryno.

warm can coogan oldstyle

Kerry says no; MoveOn, Moore and Jesse Jackson argue for an objection

In today's email to his nearly 3,000,000 supporters, Senator John Kerry called for federal election reform and confessed that he would not join Representative Conyers in an objection to the certification of Ohio's electoral votes.

That's a downer.

Jesse Jackson had a good op-ed here in the Sun-Times making the case for a two hour debate on the voter suppression in Ohio in Congress (whether due to negligence or intentional misconduct, the result is the same).

Today, MoveOn and Michael Moore both came out for a call for one Democratic Senator to join with Representative Conyers (and apparently about a dozen other Representatives) who will rise to object to the certification of Ohio's electoral votes.

I sure hope either Durbin or Obama rise with Representative Conyers to object to the vote. I've put in my calls, but the lines are busy.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Remember why Obama moved to Illinois?

He had just graduated from Columbia University and was looking for a job as a community organizer and a tiny-budget organization on the Southeast Side funded by some neighborhood churches was the only group that wrote him back.

Maybe we should be donating to some more community organizations to fund community organizers so we'll get the nation's best and brightest to move here.

Some overworked do-gooder living in the shadow of empty steel mills in the 10th Ward in the 1980s took the time to answer a letter from some guy with a funny name from New York City and offer him a job, for almost no pay, organizing residents to demand justice. And some parish leaders decided to kick in their funds to pay for some skinny guy to move to Chicago and. . . organize. They couldn't have had much money to spare. All the good steel mill jobs were leaving. Enough far-sighted people decided to invest their funds into a community organizer, and so Barack Obama moved to Chicago, twenty-some years ago.

Obama is sworn in today. What an odd feeling

It's a weird feeling to see Barack Obama become a product.

Check this out to see how much the whole world (at least the whole country) is interested in him. (Of course, lots of papers spelled his name Barrack, so you can't win them all).

If Congressman Conyers or Congressman Jackson, Jr. bring a challenge to Ohio's certification of their electoral votes due to the ridiculous voter suppression and suspicious activity with the voting equipment in order to call for a two hour debate on the topic, and no Democratic Senator joins them in bringing the challenge, I will be officially disappointed in Senator Obama.

I'm not sure that Congressman Conyers will try to bring the challenge, but if he does, then I trust his judgment.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Trib gets it wrong -- it's no sin to ensure every vote is counted

In this editorial today, the Tribune lumps in Phil Crane, Alan Keyes, Dino Rossi and the Reverend Jesse Jackson as sore losers unwilling to 'lose gracefully.'

They point to Al Gore and John Kerry as examples of how to lose gracefully, going so far as to say that John Kerry "did the nation a great service by publicly accepting defeat with grace" and not, the editorial implies, ensuring that the Ohio results are not tainted by mistakes or intentional misconduct.

The editorial cites Richard Nixon as another example to follow who "put the country first in the 1960 presidential race, declining to call for a recount that might have upset the nation at a particularly crucial point in its history."

What a condescending view of the citizenry. I can just imagine the nation, swaddled in diapers and sucking on a bottle, reacting to Nixon's call for a recount: "you mean. . . .Nixon thinks that the election was stolen. . . and he wants a recount to stop vote fraud. . . .but that might mean it takes an extra three or four weeks to see who won the election! Waaaaaaahhhhh! Why won't mean old Richard Nixon concede so we won't get *upset* by accuately counting the votes! Waaaahhhhhhh!"

We all need to get over this obsession with instant election results. There's a good reason why federal and state officeholders don't get sworn in for two months after the election -- that gives us all time to accurately count all the votes and weed out any vote fraud.

Dino Rossi in Washington has every right to call for a recount or a revote. I'm *delighted* that Democrat Christine Gregoire pushed hard for three recounts to make sure every vote was counted. And if there's any evidence that there was any vote fraud in Ohio, then the Congress should investigate that in a congressional debate by challenging the certification of Ohio's vote.

Or. . . .will the nation get upset? Are there some tears forming in the nation's eyes at the mere *mention* of trying to weed out any voter fraud in Ohio? Uh oh. . . don't get anyone upset. Just be still.

Look, Republicans still believe that Mayor Daley stole the presidential election in 1960. If they believed that, then Nixon should have demanded a recount!

To lump the pettiness of Phil Crane and Alan Keyes who refused to ever concede with the righteous demands that every vote should be counted is disingenuous of the Tribune.

John Fund (a cog of the vast, right-wing conspiracy) on Peter Fitzgerald

John Fund is a writer for the Wall Street Journal, and his take on Peter Fitzgerald is here. It's pretty good.

(The reference is to Hilary Clinton's -- as it turns out, accurate -- description of a vast, right-wing conspiracy out to get President Bill Clinton. Conspiracy isn't quite the word. More like 'corporate-funded network' since there isn't anything secret about it).

It's a good thing that Peter Fitzgerald didn't run again, because he could have beat Barack. Hate to say it, but it's true. (Unless the GOP was so alienated from Fitzgerald that they would have dumped him for Obama, but I don't really understand enough about the base Republican voter to predict that). I'm just saying Fitzgerald was very attractive to swing voters, and Barack's message wouldn't have resonated as well against Fitzgerald as it did against Alan Keyes. Man, I still can't believe that guy was the Republican nominee. Anyway, glad it all worked out!

Sunday, January 02, 2005

This makes me want to cry

The first baby born in 2005. . .is to a 15-year old girl.

This Sun-Times story lays out the first baby in Chicago born in 2005.

To a freshman in high school.

So terribly sad.

I don't know what it takes to end teenage pregnancy, but whatever it is, I'm for it.

UPDATE: Thanks to the discussion in the comments, one thing we can do is to prosecute these perpetrators of statutory rape. Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine makes these decisions. His website is

UPDATE TWO: Eric Zorn turns a memorable phrase on this story:

Teen sex-crime victims bearing babies out of wedlock is nothing to celebrate.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

$6.50 minimum wage in Illinois today -- thanks Rod and IL Dems!

Today, the minimum wage is raised to $6.50 in Illinois.

Now a full-time minimum wage worker makes $13,000. Before taxes.

The federal minimum wage is still only $5.15. That's $10,300 annually, gross.

The $2,700 difference is huge.

And since there is no job loss from a rise in the minimum wage -- none -- this is a big boost for the Illinois economy, since more Illinois residents will have more money to spend.

In Illinois, helping the Illinois economy.

And lots of the corporations that employ lots of minimum wage workers are owned by shareholders all over the world, so if their profit margin shrinks a bit, that's not Illinois' problem.

Raising wages is great for our state's economy.

And we have lots of people to thank for it, but one person who doesn't get a lot of public thanks lately is Governor Rod Blagojevich.

So thank you Rod. If you hadn't found a way to beat the Republican Party for the first time in 25 years, the state minimum wage would not have been raised.

Thanks to the state AFL-CIO, led by Margaret Blackshire, which put a lot of resources into the campaign even though very few of its members benefit from a raise in the minimum wage (people in unions already get higher wages -- that's why they are in unions).

And thanks to all the Illinois Democrats who ran hard, campaigned hard, donated greatly and walked many precincts to take control of the Illinois General Assembly for the first time in at least a decade.

Now, let's raise it again. And index it so it automatically rises with inflation.

Corporate America beats D.C. taxpayers for a baseball team

Oh well. Looks like the D.C. government is going to build a $500 million stadium for the new Major League Baseball franchise. It will be financed by a gross receipts tax on business in D.C., creating an incentive for businesses to move to the burbs. They will also charge $5 million in rent (only 100 years to pay off the bonds!), sales tax on stuff in the stadium and a 1 percent utility tax on nonresidential customers.

This is likely to be similar to the bonds that built McCormick Place and Soldier Field where the revenue from the project don't cover the costs of financing the project, so city taxpayers pick up the slack.

They should build $500 million worth of affordable housing instead and pay the bonds back with the rent.

In happier news: Happy New Year! (Did anyone else hear a visibly drunk and very funny Mark Giangreco say that someone was smoking a roach on ABC a few minutes before midnight, and hear Janet Davies shush him repeatedly?)