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Looking on the bright side

Monday, Oct 28, 2013

* Kurt Erickson has a response for those who are upset at the General Assembly for doing next to nothing last week

If you are a state retiree, the lack of action on pensions is a good thing. It means you will continue getting your current pension benefits.

If you are opposed to gay marriage or Emanuel’s tougher gun laws, the so-called “do-nothing state legislature” is perfectly OK. Gay marriage is still not legal. The controversial weapons law is not in effect.

The concept of gridlock, in other words, depends on your perspective.

Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


“And something flickered for a minute, and then it vanished and was gone”

Monday, Oct 28, 2013

* “What do you think I’d see / If I could walk away from me.”

Those lines from “Candy Says” pretty much sum up the late Lou Reed. Always struggling to get outside of himself to chronicle his own life and the rarely told stories of the untold thousands who lived existences beyond the “norm,” the losers, ne’er do wells and lowlifes who are routinely brushed aside as so much detritus.

More biting than Dylan, more painfully self-aware than Lennon, more accessible than Waits, less self-involved than HST and Bukowski. Lou Reed was one of our greatest underground American treasures.

* Consider, for a moment, his lyrics in “Heroin“…

Heroin, be the death of me
Heroin, it’s my wife and it’s my life
Because a mainer to my vein
Leads to a center in my head
And then I’m better off than dead

The song, as a whole, tells more about junky rationale than anything written.

* Or “Cremation,” written after the death of a close friend…

Will your ashes float like some foreign boat
or will they sink absorbed forever
Will the Atlantic Coast
have its final boast
Nothing else contained you ever

Morbid and touching at once.

* He was the embodiment of what the Beat poets used to only dream about - a bridge between poetry and music

“One chord is fine,” he once said, alluding to his bare-bones guitar style. “Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz.”

* “New York” will forever be one of my favorite albums. It starts with the hard driving guitars of “Romeo had Juliette“…

Romeo Rodriguez squares
his shoulders and curses Jesus
runs a comb through his black pony-tail
He’s thinking of his lonely room
the sink that by his bed gives off a stink
then smells her perfume in his eyes
And her voice was like a bell

* And moves to the horrors of poverty in “Dirty Boulevard“…

And back at the Wilshire, Pedro sits there dreaming
he’s found a book on magic in a garbage can
He looks at the pictures and stares at the cracked ceiling
“At the count of 3″ he says, “I hope I can disappear”
And fly, fly away

* The climax comes with Reed’s roar at the injustices of everyday existence in the closest he ever got to a rock anthem, “Busload of Faith“…

You can’t depend on no miracle
you can’t depend on the air
You can’t depend on a wise man
you can’t find ‘em because they’re not there

You can depend on cruelty
crudity of thought and sound
You can depend on the worst always happening
You need a busload of faith to get by

The futility of life and the path to hope all rolled into one, perfectly summing up the Lou Reed canon better than anything I could ever write.

* I’ll close with this

“All through this, I’ve always thought that if you thought of all of it as a book then you have the Great American Novel, every record as a chapter,” he told Rolling Stone in 1987. “They’re all in chronological order. You take the whole thing, stack it and listen to it in order, there’s my Great American Novel.”

No question today out of respect for the departed.

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


Couple of the Week: Chai and Mandi

Monday, Oct 28, 2013

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Mandi Hinkley and Chai Wolfman met while working in a bagel shop during their sophomore year of college. Before they knew it, they were inseparable.

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, they moved to Chicago.
Since then, they have built a life together. They live in Sauganash Park. Mandi practices law; Chai, an artist, gave birth to the couple’s twin girls, Autumn and Violet.

“I’m so grateful to live every day with the love of my life,” Chai says. “Creating our family together and raising two thoughtful, curious, energetic, and loving daughters is a dream come true.”

But despite their 13 years together, the state of Illinois treats Mandi, Chai, Autumn and Violet as second-class citizens. Our state denies them the protections that only marriage can provide.

“Chai and I want to do whatever we can to love, support, and protect our family, and the fact is that there are many things we just can’t do if Illinois doesn’t recognize us as a family,” Mandi says.

It’s not just about the legal protections marriage affords. It’s about dignity. It’s about equality before the law. It’s about fairness.

It is time for the Illinois House of Representatives to get on the right side of history and pass SB10. It’s time to stop excluding same-sex couples from marriage. Illinois families can’t wait. The time is now.

Watch Chai and Mandi’s video

For more information, visit IllinoisUnites.org.

- Posted by Advertising Department   19 Comments      


Attendance issues

Monday, Oct 28, 2013

* Attendance at Saturday’s protest outside Rep. Greg Harris’ office was sparse

About 16 Members of Gay Liberation Network on Oct. 26 staged a protest in front of state Rep. Greg Harris’ district office, 1967 W. Montrose Ave.

GLN members have contended that Harris, the chief sponsor of SB10, is acting more out of loyalty to political colleagues than to the LGBT community by not yet calling for a vote on the legislation.

“Harris needs to represent the interests of LGBTQ people and not Mike Madigan and other Democrats across this state,” said GLN member Bob Schwartz.

GLN members are calling for a party line vote by the Democratic Caucus.

“They have a supermajority,” said GLN co-founder Andy Thayer. “They have the power to do a party line vote. They do it for any number of slimy, power-broking deals that are wildly unpopular.”

* And their demands were often silly

The activists say that if Madigan won’t call the bill or it goes on to defeat, Harris should resign his seat in protest.

Yeah, that’ll help the cause. For sure.

Photos are here.

* Meanwhile, the Illinois Review
uses a second-hand account to challenge the official attendance figures at last week’s anti gay marriage rally

Rev. Robert Vanden Bosch told Illinois Review that a fellow pastor who was in Springfield on Wednesday wrote him about his experience on the steps of the Capitol the day of the pro-traditional marriage rally. He explained to Rev. Vanden Bosch:

    “When we went outside for the march around the capitol, there was a group of several capitol police officers standing on the front steps (about 6-7). A man dressed in a suit came out right after us,” …and “said to the officers: ‘So, the number we determined for yesterday was 3,000, right? [the officers nodded], well, then we are going to go with 2,500 today!’”

“I am not good at guessing attendance figures,” said Vanden Bosch. “But there had to be a lot more than 2,500 there. …With the official count of ‘3,000′ people at the Capitol on Tuesday [gay marriage rally], there was plenty of room for everyone. But strangely with the official count of ‘2,500′ at the Capitol on Wednesday [pro-traditional marriage rally], people were stopped at the door because the Capitol was ‘over capacity.’ It’s a good thing that there is no bias on the part of the Secretary of State’s office on this.”

The problem with Vanden Bosch’s theory is that most of the gay marriage supporters were at the outdoors rally.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 - Actual Gidwitz e-mail *** The damage done

Monday, Oct 28, 2013

* At first, lots of GOP insiders were grumbling that Republican money bags Ron Gidwitz was somehow pushing Jim Oberweis for US Senate. The theory that Gidwitz was supposedly operating under was that Oberweis would burn himself out and so discredit himself that he wouldn’t be able to challenge Mark Kirk in the 2016 Republican primary.

And then came the pushback, and it was massive. Bruce Rauner’s people were appalled at the prospect of Oberweis being on the primary ballot (because he’d likely gin up the right wing turnout) and the fall ballot (because he’d possibly take down the ticket). Mark Kirk’s people were not amused, either, and Gidwitz told Oberweis he should back out.

Gidwitz all along denied that he had encouraged Oberweis to run, and recently asked Oberweis to stop saying so in public. It hasn’t worked, as Bernie reports

Ron Gidwitz, a businessman and 2006 Republican primary candidate for governor, says he’s sorry he gave state Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, results of a poll that Oberweis said helped convince him to collect signatures toward a possible run for U.S. Senate. […]

Oberweis remembers things in quite a different way. He said many people were encouraging him to consider a run, and Gidwitz “was trying to talk me into running” before the poll was done. Afterward, Oberweis said, Gidwitz sent an email saying “the poll was strong and he thought that was enough to encourage me to run.”

Oberweis thinks the Gidwitz story changed because some in the “establishment wing” of the Republican Party believe Oberweis on top of the ticket could draw more conservatives to the polls, helping governor candidates Bill Brady or Kirk Dillard. Gidwitz is finance chairman of Bruce Rauner’s gubernatorial campaign.

“I’m not sure having Oberweis on the ticket helps Rauner any,” Gidwitz said, but he’s not “terribly worried” about that. He also thinks that having Oberweis on next fall’s ballot “may not be helpful to some of the other people running down-ballot on the ticket.” […]

Oberweis said after he got the “stunningly strong” numbers, he did plan a more in-depth look. But a Washington polling firm told him people were so angry at the GOP over the government shutdown that results would be skewed at that time, “so we decided not to spend the money.”

Gidwitz said that among other potential Senate candidates, West Point grad Doug Truax from Downers Grove “looks to me like a solid guy” who would be “much more acceptable in a general election” than Oberweis.

Go read the whole thing.

Oberweis says he’ll need big help from donors if he’s to make this race. Gidwitz is now helping to block those big donors. It’s a fustercluck for sure.

*** UPDATE *** Well, it sure looks like Oberweis was at least partially correct about Gidwitz. Oberweis forwarded a Gidwitz e-mail that included the now infamous poll. From a buddy…

From: Ron Gidwitz [mailto:Ron_Gidwitz@xxxxx.com]
Sent: Monday, September 23, 2013 9:15 PM
To: Jim Oberweis
Subject: Fwd: Poll results, attached

Jim,

You need to give the Senate race serious consideration.

Ron

Hmm.

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      


Rutherford has to redo petitions

Monday, Oct 28, 2013

* As long he’s fixed them now there will be no lasting damage. But Dan Rutherford’s infamously tight grip on every dollar means he doesn’t have many staff members, particularly those who could catch something like this

Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who is running for the GOP nomination for governor as the experienced pro who can lead the party to victory, had to junk his nominating petitions earlier this month after his campaign found a fatal wording error in them.

Mr. Rutherford now has new petitions on the street and is expected to easily qualify for the ballot when petitions are filed next month. But in the process, nearly a month of field work was undone — a bit of an embarrassment for a contender whose campaign website describes him as someone with “the professional and governmental experience” that is needed to lead.

According to Craig Burkhardt, an election-law attorney who recently joined the Rutherford campaign, the wording problem was noticed by the campaign sometime in the first week of October, about a month after Mr. Rutherford added attorney Steve Kim as his lieutenant governor running mate and began circulating petitions.

The petitions failed to include a notarized statement that they had been circulated “not more than 90 days preceding the last day for filing of the petitions.” That boilerplate language is required by law.

Oops.

…Adding… To avoid any possible confusion, please make sure to note that Craig Burkhardt was brought in to fix the problem. He wasn’t around when the mistake happened.

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


The disinformation campaign

Monday, Oct 28, 2013

* My Sunday Sun-Times column

“Where we go to church on Saturday or Sunday is under attack here,” insisted Rev. Lance Davis, pastor of Dolton’s New Zion Covenant Church, on Wednesday during a Statehouse rally against a gay marriage bill that’s languishing in the Illinois House.

Rev. Davis apparently has never read the legislation in question. There are no such threats in the bill, which specifically and unequivocably protects churches and pastors from all legal liability if they refuse to host gay weddings.

But, hey, let’s instill fear out there by violating a commandment against bearing false witness. Nicely done, pastor.

Jim Finnegan, the president of Illinois Choose Life, railed against homosexuality as a “dangerous, disease-filled, deviant and dead-end lifestyle” at the same Springfield rally.

Finnegan’s group (contributions, according to his website, are tax deductible) has been trying for years to convince and/or force the Secretary of State to issue “Choose Life” license plates. Money raised from the sale of the plates would be spent to promote adoption.

Apparently, Mr. Finnegan believes in only certain kinds of adoption.

But here’s a question for you: If you are truly convinced that all abortion is murder and are therefore committed to making adoption a far more viable alternative, then why limit adoptions only to heterosexual couples? Wouldn’t gay couples be doing the right thing by getting married and then adopting a baby, thereby lessening the chance that some women might have abortions?

I just don’t get it.

Rally participants brought lots of children with them, which boosted their estimated attendance to 2,500. One of those adorable little kids held a sign saying how he needed both his mom and his dad.

Well, of course he does. And I most definitely hope that little guy has both his parents for many long years to come.

But not all kids are so lucky. Sometimes, a parent dies. Sometimes, parents split up. Sometimes, one parent is never around. We don’t require as a society that all children always have both a mom and a dad. And, anyway, how does gay marriage take away either one of that child’s parents? It’s not like the state would be requiring people to marry somebody of the same sex. It just gives two consenting adults of the same gender the right to do so if they decide that’s the best option for them.

Plus, it would be pretty easy to find children who’d eagerly hold signs which read: “I need both my dads.” Should those kids be ripped out of the arms of their loving parents because some folks hate their “lifestyle”? And, if not, then why shouldn’t those parents be allowed to get married?

State Sen. Kirk Dillard also spoke at the rally. Dillard lost the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary to hardcore conservative Bill Brady by the slimmest of margins.

Since then, Dillard has decided to emphasize his social conservatism. He’s pledged to repeal the state’s civil union law, for example.

Dillard said at Wednesday’s rally that he was “honored and humbled” to be speaking that day and vowed to veto the gay marriage bill if it got to his desk as governor.

Dillard said the legislation would “denigrate marriage as we know it in this state.”

The last time I checked, the institution of marriage was chugging along fine next door in Iowa, where gay marriage is legal.

Want to live in a state with some of the nation’s lowest divorce rates? Well, move to Massachusetts, which has legal gay marriage. The same goes for New York and Minnesota and several others.

Let’s just ignore this disinformation campaign, pass the bill and join the 21st Century.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have written “just ignore,” I should have written “challenge with actual facts and then move beyond.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      


Rahm adding substance to debate

Monday, Oct 28, 2013

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

Back when Richard M. Daley was Chicago’s mayor, hizzoner would hold a big, splashy press conference every year with cops and prosecutors and crime victims to unveil his new state gun control legislation.

The Chicago media poobahs would shout their huzzahs, the NRA would fume and raise tons of money from angry members and then Daley would quietly go back to his job as mayor and nothing much would ever happen in Springfield.

Rahm Emanuel is not Rich Daley.

Mayor Emanuel’s Statehouse lobbyists are engaged in serious talks with the NRA and even the more strident Illinois State Rifle Association (something that Daley would never do, and vice versa) to try and work out a compromise on legislation to force convicted gun possession violators to remain in prison for a lot longer than they already are. Emanuel himself is said to be actively involved by phone.

It still remains to be seen whether Emanuel can succeed where Daley routinely failed. Some legislators said last week they believed the sides were closing in on a deal, but the NRA still had some objections.

The basic disagreement is over first-time offenders. Emanuel initially wanted some first-time gun possession offenders to do guaranteed prison time. The harsh reality is that too many people are getting light sentences for gun offenses, and then they’re coming out of prison to commit more gun crimes. The NRA, however, worries that otherwise innocent, law-abiding citizens who make a harmless mistake could wind up doing hard time.

One of the compromises currently on the table would force state’s attorneys to initially charge some first-time offenders with a misdemeanor but allow prosecutors to go through a detailed “felony review” process which could result in much more severe criminal charges.

But the NRA frets that hardline anti-gun Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez would abuse the process to lock too many of the wrong people behind bars.

Indeed, word from inside the talks is that the NRA brought up an example of a man with an out of state gun permit who has been fighting off a Cook County felony weapons possession charge for two years. The charges were reportedly dropped when the state’s attorney was put on the spot during negotiations.

The NRA understandably worries that Alvarez, who once said “I don’t believe that people should own guns,” and “I would favor a law that no one could ever buy a gun,” will continue playing hardball with gun owners who don’t have criminal records.

The NRA also finds itself in the somewhat unusual position of being allied with several African-American lawmakers who oppose additional mandatory minimum bills after seeing thousands of their constituents disproportionately locked up under current mandatory minimum sentencing laws.

But all of this is the way things work on just about everything else. It’s how things eventually get done. People on all sides with strong positions sit down and find a way to compromise. But up until last spring’s concealed carry negotiations, which were forced on Springfield by a federal judge, that hadn’t really happened on gun-related issues.

If they do come to some agreement, the next hurdle will be Gov. Pat Quinn. The governor has historically been loathe to offend African-American voters, so he has maintained an unusually low profile on Emanuel’s mandatory minimum proposals, not wanting to get caught in the middle.

Quinn told the Illinois Radio Network that he wanted a ban on high capacity gun magazines included in the sentencing bill discussions. Such a provision would be a deal-killer for the NRA and Quinn surely knows this.

The danger here is if Quinn tries to use a carefully crafted bill to grandstand on gun control, as he did this past summer with his splashy veto of the concealed carry bill after refusing to participate in the negotiations. If Gov. Quinn uses his amendatory veto powers to insert the magazine ban, he could quite probably tube the whole thing.

Then again, if somebody is murdered by a repeat gun offender after Quinn vetoes the bill, the heat on the governor would be enormous, and a vindictive Emanuel would undoubtedly fan the flames. Quinn needs to tread carefully here.

* The Tribune had a different take

State lawmakers routinely paid little notice to former Mayor Richard Daley’s annual requests for tougher firearms laws, especially by the end of his tenure. While Emanuel’s rhetoric may be even louder, his effort is obstructed by a variety of factors: incarceration costs, geography, race, conflicting academic studies and the unknown effects of a new Illinois law allowing qualified gun owners to carry firearms in public. […]

No matter how negotiations turn out, the politically mindful Emanuel is in a position to gain at least a short-term victory. If lawmakers fail to act, Emanuel can blame the General Assembly for the city’s struggles in dealing with violent gun crimes. Should lawmakers reach a deal, the mayor can claim an important crime-fighting tool, though its actual effectiveness won’t be known for years.

“All of us are fully aware of that. That is what we all talk about,” state Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, said of the political realities behind Emanuel’s gun-sentencing effort. The legislature’s black caucus is opposed to the mayor’s proposal as offered, however.

“We are 100 percent against the violent criminals who plague our communities,” Dunkin said. “We don’t want to see these urban terrorists. We detest them like a cancer … and we want them out of our community quick, fast and in a hurry. Locked up and in jail. But a mandatory minimum sentence across the board would have too many unintended consequences for nonviolent people.”

For Dunkin and other black lawmakers, the issue of gun violence is outweighed by a deep-seated mistrust of prosecutors using their discretion to pursue cases requiring automatic prison sentences rather than allowing judges to have some ultimate leeway. The city’s African-American community has seen high incarceration rates as well as a return of released offenders from prison unable to find employment, so black lawmakers traditionally support tougher regulations and restrictions on the availability of firearms. That approach has been gutted by the state’s new concealed carry law that prohibits larger cities including Chicago from enacting their own gun laws.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


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