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The circular firing squad in overdrive

Tuesday, Sep 27, 2011

* This story is almost too bizarre for words. DCFS has apparently refused to renew its contract with the Evangelical Child and Family Agency for foster care and adoption placement. The Illinois Family Institute is outraged, however, that the EFCA won’t complain about it

Catholic Charities refuses to capitulate to homosexual tyrants who seek to compel them to contravene their religious beliefs by placing children in the homes of men and women who affirm homosexual “identities.” […]

[But] ECFA has chosen not to oppose the outrageous DCFS decision, thus allowing the state to abrogate religious freedom.

* So, because the Evangelical Child and Family Agency won’t stand up and scream bloody murder about the state canceling its contract, the group’s director is then subjected to an extended ideological interrogation

During sixty minutes of discussion over the course of a two-day interview with ECFA director Ken Withrow, he carefully parsed his words in response to all direct questions regarding ECFA’s obvious position that they will not place children in the homes of homosexuals because ECFA believes homosexuality is sinful. […]

Multiple times in multiple ways I attempted to engage Withrow directly on the salient issue of homosexuality, but he studiously evaded any discussions of the rainbow-colored elephant in the room. In fact, it was clear that he became annoyed with the questions. When asked directly about placing children in the homes of homosexuals, Withrow responded repeatedly with the well-rehearsed talking point: “We recruit, license and place only with evangelical families.”

And this folks is one of the reasons we are in the cultural mess we’re in today. When leaders in distinctly Christian organizations and churches steadfastly refuse to courageously, unambiguously, and publicly affirm truth on the issue of homosexuality, they become part of the problem.

I’d be “annoyed” if I was Winthrow, too. Actually, I would’ve just cut off the conversation.

* The agency was also attacked for offering up the same compromise as Catholic Charities

Withrow explained that ECFA offered to refer people in whose care ECFA would not place children (e.g. homosexuals) to other adoption agencies. But is this something that any Christian organization should do? If a group of polyamorists were to seek to adopt, would it be morally permissible for any Christian to direct them to an agency that would place children in such a household?

Or imagine a Christian crisis pregnancy center telling a woman who seeks an abortion, “We don’t perform abortions because they offend God, but we can tell you where you can get one.”

We either believe homosexuality is a grave moral offense against a righteous, holy God — or we don’t. And if it is, we have no business facilitating it in any way.

* OK, to sum up: An evangelical organization loses its state contract because it won’t place kids with gay families, and an ultra-Right group viciously attacks it. And, of course, the Illinois Review links approvingly.

How sweet.

- Posted by Rich Miller   76 Comments      


This just in… Joey Cora fired by text message

Tuesday, Sep 27, 2011

* 1:32 pm - What the heck?

The strange end to the White Sox’ 2011 took another odd twist this morning when general manager Ken Williams essentially fired interim manager Joey Cora and replaced him with pitching coach Don Cooper.

Shortly after the Sox announced the immediate end to the Ozzie Guillen era Monday night, Cora, Guillen’s close friend and bench coach, was told he would serve as interim manager for the final two games.

A team official also told reporters that Cora would serve as interim manager.

But Cora received a text this morning from Williams telling him not to bother coming to the ballpark because Cooper is taking over the team for the last two games.

Williams is the one who needs to go, and quickly, before he ruins this team completely.

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      


SB 1652: A National Model for Smarter Regulation

Tuesday, Sep 27, 2011

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Prominent experts in utility regulation are speaking out about Senate Bill 1652 (Electric Infrastructure Modernization Act).

Here’s what they are saying:

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    - David O’Brien, former Vermont Commissioner of Public Service

For more information, visit www.SmartEnergyIL.com.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Tuesday, Sep 27, 2011

* We’ve had so much fun this past week with photos posted online by Gov. Pat Quinn, I thought we’d try another one

* The Question: Caption?

- Posted by Rich Miller   75 Comments      


Abundant speculation

Tuesday, Sep 27, 2011

* TickleTheWire.com talked to some folks about what they expect to see out of Rod Blagojevich’s sentence

“I’m just giving voice to what’s generally been a consensus in the community,” said Rodger Heaton, a former U.S. Attorney for Central Illinois and currently with the law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson, “but I’ve been hearing a projected estimate of eight to fifteen years. Some people have also said ten or 11.” […]

“My guess is ten to 15 years,” [said Dick Simpson, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois-Chicago] in a phone interview. “You have to look at other similar cases, and in particular I’m looking at former Governor George Ryan.” Ryan, the Illinois governor immediately preceding Blagojevich, is serving a six-and-a-half-year sentence after being convicted on federal corruption charges in 2006, though sentencing guidelines counseled for more.

* But this Madoff angle is something I’ve been considering for several weeks

Unlike many defendants, Rod Blagojevich testified at his own trial the second time around. And because the jury, in convicting him, rejected his testimony, he in effect lied under oath. He was convicted of violating the public trust, a sad theme that has played out in Illinois’ politics for decades.

All of these factors were cited by Jami Floyd in predicting a sentence of 20 to 25 years. Floyd is a long-time legal correspondent for national news outlets. She got her law degree from the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, and served as a law clerk at the California Supreme Court and had her own civil and criminal law practice.

“For me, the Madoff case is most instructive,” said Floyd. She had predicted back then that Madoff would get a long sentence, even life, while many others were predicting much lower sentences. Madoff, now 73, didn’t put up much of a legal fight and pleaded guilty in 2009. He ended up getting a whopping 150 years in prison, which will undoubtedly keep him behind bars for the rest of his life. [Emphasis added.]

* For those wondering when Blagojevich will be sentenced, here’s a little history of the length between guilty verdicts and sentencing dates compiled by the Tribune…

Scott Fawell: 103 days. Gov. George Ryan’s chief of staff was convicted in 2003 of racketeering and fraud for a wide-ranging corruption scheme that diverted government resources for political gain. He served 41/2 years at a South Dakota prison camp.

Betty Loren-Maltese: 139 days. The former Cicero town president was sentenced to a little more than eight years for stealing more than $12 million in an insurance scam. She served seven years.

George Ryan: 142 days. The former governor was found guilty in 2006 of more than a dozen felony charges, including racketeering, tax and mail fraud and lying to the FBI. He is in prison.

It’s been 92 days since Blagojevich was convicted.

* And is there a connection to the Cellini trial?

Former Governor Rod Blagojevich’s sentencing is being pushed back but does that mean he’s looking to strike a deal with prosecutors in the Bill Cellini trial? Some believe that’s the former governor’s plan but Political Scientist Kent Redfield says he doesn’t think so.

He agrees that people often cooperate with federal prosecutors in order to get a lighter sentence but he says Blagojevich’s perjury conviction compromises the integrity of his testimony.

His perjury conviction is one factor, and the fact that he testified on his own behalf and was almost completely disbelieved by the jury is another.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


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Tuesday, Sep 27, 2011

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More needless hype

Tuesday, Sep 27, 2011

* For the second day in a row, the Tribune has hyped a gloom and doom budget story

[Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka] said Illinois is pulling in less than expected from this year’s 67 percent increase in the income-tax rate, which makes her office’s job of paying the state’s bills that much harder.

I haven’t seen that phenomenon showing up in the Commission on Governmental Forecasting and Accountability’s monthly reports at all. So I called COGFA and asked what was going on.

“Based on our estimates, that’s not what we’re seeing,” said COGFA executive director Dan Long.

Long’s assertion was backed up by his revenue manager, Jim Muschinske, who said he looked at the latest numbers today, “and there was nothing that was eyebrow-raising at all.”

In fact, Muschinske said, as of today, “gross personal is up 73 percent, corporate 76 percent, and sales 13.7 percent. It’s hard to sound alarmist with those numbers.”

“I’m not really seeing what they’re seeing at this stage of the year,” Muschinske added. He was all the more puzzled because COGFA gets its daily revenue numbers from the comptroller’s office.

* It turns out, Topinka is using a different revenue projection than COGFA

Topinka said the increased tax revenues were projected to raise [$500 million a month], but that Illinois’ high unemployment rate left the state $60 million short of that estimate.

Net of refunds, which is the number that Topinka’s office told me it’s using, COGFA is projecting an average $400 million monthly revenue growth from the personal and corporate income taxes. That’s way different than Topinka’s $500 million estimate. Even without refunds (the “gross” numbers used above by Muschinske), COGFA’s projection for this fiscal year is an average of $441 million a month. Last month, Illinois brought in $490 million before refunds and $456 million after refunds. By COGFA’s estimates, we’re ahead of the game both ways.

* This, however, is probably spot on

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka on Monday said she fears what will happen in Illinois should the nation slip back into recession, warning the state’s finances are so bad there’s nothing to fall back on.

The veteran Republican statewide politician said she’s “very, very nervous” about recent economic signs that include growing unemployment, an erratic stock market and weak housing sales. State government already is trying to get out from under billions of dollars of debt accumulated in recent years, she said.

“Illinois just could not handle it, and we’d have serious consequences,” Topinka said while addressing the City Club of Chicago. “Unfortunately, I think we’re holding our breath right now.”

I don’t disagree at all.

* And I also don’t disagree with this statement by Rep. David Harris, a House Republican who today defended the state budget against criticism by the Civic Federation

Harris said he acknowledges the state is in financial trouble. But, he argued, the budget adopted by lawmakers this year plans to spend less than the state is predicted to take in.

“I don’t think they gave the legislature enough credit for doing what we did with the budget,” Harris said. […]

But Harris says this year was an important budget step.

“When you’re in a hole, stop digging,” Harris said. “And this year we stopped digging.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      


Report: Ald. Beale may run against Jackson, but there may be something else going on

Tuesday, Sep 27, 2011

* Roll Call reports that Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. might have another primary opponent. This time, an African-American

City Alderman Anthony Beale (D) is also considering running against Jackson, according to two Chicago-area Democratic sources.

Beale didn’t deny his interest in a Congressional bid in a statement passed on by his spokeswoman Monday.

“I’m focused on doing the best job I can as Alderman of the 9th ward,” Beale said. […]

“He’s [Jackson] playing with an enormous hornet’s nest here, and he’s inviting a third party into the race,” one Chicago Democratic insider said. “What has brought all this to the forefront is his own doing.”

The two men have been allies for a while, but they’ve reportedly had a personal falling out lately.

From what I can gather, Beale offered not long ago to support former US Rep. Debbie Halvorson against Jackson. Apparently, that’s been circulating around the South Side for several days. So, we may finally be getting to the bottom of Jackson’s self-destructive tantrum over the new district map.

5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston, who voted against the disastrous parking meter deal, is also being talked up as a possible Jackson opponent.

It goes without saying that a credible African-American opponent for Jackson would be big trouble for the incumbent, whether or not Halvorson stays in the race.

Stay tuned, campers.

* Other things…

* RIP: Mary Joe Arndt

* Schock to speak at dinner

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


*** UPDATED x3 *** Kinda like the old days, but not

Tuesday, Sep 27, 2011

*** UPDATE 1 *** In the old days, a police report wouldn’t have even been filed

Lake County sheriff’s deputies were called to the home of state Sen. Suzi Schmidt (R-Lake Villa) Monday night for a reported domestic dispute, the sheriff’s department said this morning.

It was the second time in six weeks police had been called to the home for a disturbance.

Details of the incident Monday were not immediately known. Sheriff’s deputies spoke with Schmidt and her husband Robert Schmidt as they investigated the allegations and referred the case to the Lake County State’s Attorney’s office. That agency declined to pursue charges, the sheriff’s department said.

The last time there was trouble at the Schmidt home, the husband called the coppers. It’s not clear yet who dialed 911 this time.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Oy

According to a Lake County sheriff’s department report, police arrived at Schmidt’s home at about 6:30 p.m. Monday, where her husband, Robert, told authorities that his wife struck him with a cell phone, bit both of his forearms and scratched his face.

Suzi Schmidt told officials her husband had knocked her to the ground, got on top of her and struck her in the eye.

“Robert had a large laceration on his forearm consistent with a bite, and other injuries,” the police report said. “Suzanne had a red mark on her left eye.”

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* DuPage County is and has always been about small-town politics

Justin Kmitch reports that state Rep. Randy Ramey pleaded guilty to a DUI in DuPage County Court [yesterday].

His attorney’s name rang a bit of bell, so we did some checking.

Attorney Scott Marquardt is now president and chief legal counsel of Roger C. Marquardt and Co., an influential lobbying firm.

His father, Roger, the firm’s founder, ran James ‘Pate’ Philip (Randy’s stepfather)’s state Senate campaigns.

Marquardt is the lobbyist for DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office, according to the secretary of state’s lobbyist online search tool.

Just to be clear, both father and son are listed as lobsters for the state’s attorney’s office.

Small world.

However, in the old days, there would’ve been no guilty plea. Heck, he probably wouldn’t have been popped in the first place. So, at least there’s progress.

*** UPDATE 3 *** From Paul Darrah, Communications Manager for the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office…

“Just to set the record straight, the case against Mr. Ramey was prosecuted by the Village of Carol Stream, not the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office. It is also my understanding that the disposition reached in the case is typical for a first-time violator.”

* But this isn’t even close to old style

Brenda Stephens of Chatham [yesterday] resigned a job she started in July as an administrative assistant with the Illinois State Police, agency spokeswoman Monique Bond said.

Stephens, wife of Sangamon County Board member Don Stephens, R-District 5, had been placed on paid administrative leave pending review, and was still within a six-month probationary period. The job paid $34,140 annually. Today’s resignation was effective immediately, Bond said.

On Sept. 15, Don and Brenda Stephens both signed an agreement with Chatham Township to settle a lawsuit brought by the governmental unit that had alleged that when Don Stephens was the elected township supervisor, Brenda Stephens had been overpaid by more than $29,000 for work she did for the township. Under the agreement, $20,000 is being paid back to the township, but neither side admits any liability.

* And this is almost unheard of

Veteran Cook County prosecutor Laura Morask is used to being the one firing questions at those on the witness stand, but now she finds herself on the hot seat.

On Monday, Morask took the stand in her defense, accused of professional misconduct by the state agency that disciplines lawyers.

At the hearing at the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) offices, Morask, a supervisor at Branch 44 felony court on the city’s West Side, denied wrongdoing. She has been accused of delivering inflammatory and sarcastic closing arguments at three trials years ago and lying during a run for judge in 2008 by mischaracterizing an earlier disciplinary matter. […]

Morask is one of a relative few prosecutors in Illinois over the last three decades to be accused of professional misconduct, according to ARDC records.

That just never happens.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


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Tuesday, Sep 27, 2011

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Ozzie Guillen open thread

Tuesday, Sep 27, 2011

* As we all know by now, Ozzie Guillen has been released from his White Sox managerial contract. He managed his last game yesterday.

I woke up late this morning, so I’m running a bit behind. Discuss whilst I try to catch up. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   57 Comments      


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