Thursday, September 13, 2018

2 cents of advice for the Pope

Though the Catholic Church is worth billions, I'm offering two cents of advise to the Pope ahead of his pow wow with church leaders, five long months from now, on how to deal with the century's long clerical sexual abuse scandal. For what it's worth your Excellency, here goes:

  1. End celibacy for the clergy forthwith
  2. Identify and fire every priest, Bishop or Cardinal who covered up or otherwise enabled clerical sexual abuse of children
  3. Resign the Papacy

The solution, one might say, is as simple as One, Two, Three. Come to think of it, my two cents worth might save another $billion in settlements. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Roskam's lasting legacy? Fiscal irresponsibility

It's a tough call but fiscal irresponsibility will be Congressman Peter Roskam's lasting legacy to the Illinois Sixth District. Whether he's retired this November or goes on to another 12 years or more, the financial ruin he helped author last year in his Tax Cuts and Jobs Act may well outlive his tenure, however long. In championing that bill Roskam abandoned any pretense of fiscal responsibility he raised every time the Obamaadministration sought to spend wisely on infrastructure, health care, education and environmental sanity. Roskam's imprint is all over the tax bill that has already added $1 trillion to the deficit over the next decade, with a 21% deficit increase already in fiscal 2018 versus fiscal 2017. But instead of investing in America, Roskam's foolish deficits are investing in the wealthyist Americans who form his base, with a few dollars reserved for the middle class voters he needs for re-election. Since he has nothing else to run on, Roskam has decided to double down on the 2017 bill by supporting the next version of irresponsible tax cuts known affectionately as 'Tax Reform 2.0' that will make permanent all of last year's tax cuts as well as the $10,000 cap on property taxes that was inserted merely to punish voters in primarily blue states such as Illinois. Roskam's reforms depend on a pyramid scheme of endless prosperity to prevent a financial collapse. Even a mild recession will cause a dramatic crisis which Roskam and company will use to cut the social safety net of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Peter Roskam has no record to run on regarding the environment, gun safety, education, health care, sane business regulation; indeed every issue of concern in the Sixth. He's become a One Trick Pony handing out a pittance in tax cuts to workers, while enriching the already rich to obscene levels. That is not a conservative agenda for America's wealth and resources. It is a radical roadmap to economic ruin.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Moonves legacy: Trump

There won't be any GofundMe event to help out Les Moonves, ousted as head of CBS after 12 women came forward with horrific tales of his forced oral sex, gropings and career retaliation for their resisting. At $700 million and working to salvage a $120 million severance package pending the CBS investigation into the women's charges, Moonves can easily afford the $20 million he's promised the Just Say No movement if he gets it.
The scandalous news brings to mind the other scandal on the Moonves resume, this one political. Moonves will forever to saddled with the tag of chief enabler of the 2015-6 Trump phenomenon of free publicity CBS and the rest of mainstream media showered on Trump as his demagogic ravings of racism, xenophobia, insult mocking and lies propelled him to the White House. CBS and the rest of the entertainment titans masquerading as worthwhile news organizations, broke into their talking heads' programs to follow every word of fear and loathing Trump bleated at his hate rallies, knowing the ratings cash register was cha-chinging. While all followed suit, CBS gets the prize for Trump enabling with this Moonves quote from February, 2016, that will forever dishonor their coverage of 2016 election:
"It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS. Man, who would have expected the ride we're all having right now? The money's rolling in and this is fun. This is going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It's a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Your place in this election is a good thing.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Catholic Church has torn families apart - in more ways than one

Eighty years ago my pretty young aunt fell in love with her Prince Charming; a tall, handsome, charismatic fellow on Chicago's North Side. Alas, they couldn't follow a conventional route to happily ever after because of one roadblock; Prince Charming was a priest at her local parish. So they did as other star crossed lovers in those days; eloped. They tied the knot in DuBuque, IA, fled west to Denver, where he apparently partnered with another fellow in a gas station. Then it was off to La La Land where the 1940 census lists him as a hat salesman, while my aunt aunt was unemployed, expecting her child, my cousin, in December. Apparently, the child and his 34 years kept him out of WWII which found him working in a dairy. Around 1944, consumed by guilt at leaving the priesthood, he petitioned the Chicago Archdiocese to be re-instated. Sympathetic to his plight the Church advised no such consideration could be given while married so a divorce was obtained in 1946. Consultation with the Vatican followed and my former uncle was granted provisional status as a priest, having to serve a year's probation before re-instatement. Alas, during that year he became ill with cancer. Two weeks after being fully restored to the priesthood, he died. 

When I hear endless stories of priestly sexual abuse of children, which I firmly believe are rooted in the bizarre, destructive, unconscionable centuries long practice of celibacy, I ponder my own family's experience of three ruined lives and an extended family deprived of knowing and caring for them because of it.  

Peter Roskam: The Phantom of the District

With 8 weeks to go till election day, my congressman Peter Roskam (IL-6) is still MID (Missing In District). He could just as well be living in Alaska as far as his visibility in the district is concerned. For much of his 12 years in Congress he has largely avoided local public appearances. The reason is simple; he cannot handle the groundswell of discontent from voters whose concerns on the critical issues he ignores. Voting over forty times to prevent, defund, overturn the Affordable Health Care Act shows an utter disregard to fixing the worst health care delivery system in the industrialized world. Denying climate change along with virtually his entire party puts district voters, their children and grandchildren in great peril in a world heating up near the point of no return. Siding with the most religiously fanatic to deny women the reproductive health they require is unconscionable. Helping author, promote and pass the biggest tax giveaway in history to the already wealthy, causing a trillion dollar budget deficit over the next decade, is breathtakingly irresponsible. It's no wonder that Roskam demurred on meeting his challenger Sean Casten before the Daily Herald Editorial Board in a public forum. It's a closed door session or no Roskam was the Congressman's response to the request. Pondering Roskam's inability to face the pubic in the Sixth, possibly the most important element of a congressman's respect for his constituency, reminds me of Lon Cheney in the 1925 classic 'Phantom of the Opera'. We know he's there...we just can't see him.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Uncle Sam addicted to war crimes in Yemen

US war crimes in the Saudi, Yemen civil war pile up endlessly. Two recent horrific Saudi bombings, facilitated with US planes, bombs, mid air refueling and intelligence, killed dozens of kids. Defense Secretary James Mattis pleaded with the Saudis to be more careful, essentially saying the endless slaughter of Yemeni innocents is causing Uncle Sam a public relations problem.  Now comes word the Saudis and their UAE allies are colluding with Al-Qaeda in Yemen to support their war against the Houthi rebels. Both the UN and Human Rights Watch charge the Saudi coalition in doing little to prevent civilian casualties and that civilian bombing investigations are a sham. One US senator actually spoke truth, pushing back against the atrocities we're enabling to both help goose munition maker profits and to undermine Iran, our imaginary bete noir in the Middle East. Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy tweeted "There it is WAR CRIMES. Funded and facilitated by the United States." Gee, only 99 senators to go and we might get our sorrowful Uncle Sam into rehab to cure his addition to war crimes in the Middle East and Africa.     

McCarthy should exit Chicago mayoral race next

Three city leaders, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, States Attorney Anita Alvarez and Police Chief Garry McCarthy, greatly exacerbated the Laquan McDonald shooting aftermath. Two of the three have left the Chicago stage with States Attorney Alvarez' 2016 Primary defeat and Rahm's withdrawal from the 2019 mayoral race yesterday. Alas, that leaves the third enabler who colluded to add needles time, pain and expense to a matter that should have been resolved in months rather than years, still strutting the public Chicago stage. McCarthy couldn't accept his share of the blame when fired, prompting his mayoral 'spite' bid to topple the mayor who fired him as, in his mind, the scapegoat for the shooting controversy.  To make matters worse, McCarthy is running as the 'law and order' candidate, a moniker often interpreted as being insensitive to the needs of the community to rely on a police force they can trust in Chicago's most violent communities. McCarty is a cop's cop, who parlayed his law and order street cred in New York and Newark to snare the Chicago job. His resume has virtually nothing else to recommend him to run a huge, troubled municipal entity. McCarthy should follow Emanuel's lead by just 24 hours and drop out today. He has nothing to offer Chicagoland except more pain as the trial of Laquan McDonald's shooter gets underway.  

Saturday, September 01, 2018

The saddest face

Though youthful and handsome, there is no sadder public face than that of police officer James Van Dyke. That sadness is palpable as he contemplates his upcoming trial for the 2014 shooting death of 17 year old Laquan McDonald. That sadness was on full display from his interview with the Chicago Tribune charging he's "a political scapegoat and subject to a bandwagon of hatred on social media." Van Dyke fears he'll be ripped from his family to serve a long jail sentence if convicted. He may be even sadder following the interview as prosecutors requested trial judge Vincent Gaughan hike his $1.5 million bail or even jail him immediately for violating its terms to not publicize his defense.
Van Dyke's sixteen shots into McDonald, immediately upon exiting his cruiser, while many other cops were simply corralling the drug addled shooting victim, is painful, indeed haunting to watch. I don't see a cop bent on committing murder. I see a 15 year police veteran who had never before fired his service weapon, conduct himself like one who never had one minute of responsible police training; possibly having snapped from the daily trauma of trying to stay alive while protecting the public on Chicago's troubled streets. Compare Van Dyke to the University of Chicago police officer who backpedaled for 30 seconds as a scarily garbed and drug addled student charged him with a lead pipe, one blow of which could have been fatal. That officer fired one non fatal bullet at the last possible moment to end the threat to himself and the public. Regardless of the eventual verdict, neither the public, nor even Van Dyke, will likely never know what possessed him to act as he did.

But we do know that had the mayor, the states attorney and the police chief done the job they're highly paid for, this case would have been brought forward within weeks and resolved a year or two ago. That unconscionable delay has extended the pain and sadness for the McDonald family, the Van Dyke family and the public.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

John McCain and the Cult of Personality

Having followed John McCain's five decade trajectory from returning war prisoner to his expected death from brain cancer, I'm not surprised by the overwhelming adoration from all segments of American society. I must demur. McCain long ago stopped being scrutinized for his true record on the American political stage. On the domestic front I see a man who mainly followed regressive conservative polices down the line, criticizing his party just enough to snare the coveted 'maverick' moniker that fueled much of the myth he was an independent moderate.
But it's his utter wrongheadedness, indeed, dangerous war mongering on military adventurism that makes me cringe at his veneration as peace loving patriot. He displayed extreme bravery both as a pilot bombing Vietnam, then as a wounded and tortured prisoner in Vietnam. Sadly, instead of learning the folly of senseless and failed war, he exalted it; parlaying his John Wayne persona and war prisoner record to embark on a storied career, ending with elevation to the pantheon of American heroes. Attaining that status required McCain to never waver in the righteousness, not only of our Vietnam venture; but to support, often encourage every senseless intervention since. His enthusiastic support for the false, lie based run-up to the 2003 Iraq war enabled Shock and Awe. When it went bad, McCain cleverly just criticized Bush Administration tactics, demanding escalation. Week after week McCain was trotted out on Mainstream Media to blather on how more troops, more bombs, more wasted treasure was needed to secure a great US victory. He was never challenged; simply allowed to pontificate utter nonsense that has cost trillions while sentencing millions to death, injury and homelessness in a shattered Middle East. McCain traveled frequently promoting American exceptionalism round the world. Particularly offensive was his December 14, 2013, speech before anti Russian protesters in Kiev, Ukraine, egging on their overthrow of the elected pro Russian president. Neo Nazi elements in that Ukrainian opposition made no dent on McCain's conscience, just as rational introspection on the folly and waste of perpetual war never passed his lips or influenced his actions.
America, like many countries, needs to mythologize leaders that work their way into its collective consciousness of righteousness and glory. Americans hoot at countries that glorify in stone their Stalins and their Maos. Prepare for the avalanche of government buildings, highways, schools; maybe even a coin to honor Senator John S. McCain, III. Instead of McCain, how about a collective honor to the peacemakers, for it is they who may keep us safe from the doom of nuclear war.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Pope channeling Jack Benny on celibacy delimma

Funnyman Jack Benny's most famous gag involves his obsession with holding onto his money. A robber confronts him at night and demands: "Your money or your life." Benny is silent. The frustrated robber intones louder: "YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE." Another pause and Benny responds, "I'm thinking it over.".  I'm reminded of Benny's gag upon hearing Catholic hierarchy waffle on the celibacy controversy which many in the Church believe is the main driver of priestly sexual abuse of children which has claimed an incalculable number of victims since celibacy was mandated in the 4th century.  When the Pope and other church hierarchy are asked if celibacy will be ended, they pause and respond, "We're thinking it over". Benny's bit was too funny. The Pope's is too tragic. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

A century of progress?

August 8, 1925, 30,000 plus KKK members marched in Washington DC.
August 12, 2018, 30 plus white supremacists marched in Washington DC
Sometimes history doesn't quite repeat itself.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Bait trucks...and dangling watches

A long life gives one opportunity see political mis-steps repeat themselves. The news of the bait truck flap where Chicago Police helped Norfolk Southern police set up an unlocked trailer with goodies, hoping to entrap Englewood residents to commit robbery, unlocked a memory of the bait truck predecessor. Thirty years ago we were treated to the 'dangling watch' caper Chicago Police staged to nab evildoers on the El. An undercover cop would feign drunken sleep with a shiny gold watch clearly visible on his dangling arm. It wouldn't take long for a passenger to relieve the apparent drunk of his watch, at which point two other undercover cops would pounce on the discombobulated bandit. Every week the papers gushed over the high profile arrests. No innocent passengers were ever reported injured during the mid ride melees. Nor were any of the perps reported to be first time offenders started on a life of crime by overzealous cops pretending to be protecting the public. But the public ate up the dramatic accounts splashed on page one almost weekly. At some point the police and public realized that facilitating criminal behavior was a foolish waste of police resources. This time, thanks to social media, the waste of police resources in a city filled with loads of real violent crime lasted only one occurrence.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Solutions, not hand wringing, needed from Trib editorials on Chicago violence

Solutions, not hand wringing, needed from Trib editorials on Chicago violence
There was one positive aspect to the Trib's latest editorial on Chicago's massive gun violence problem: 'Why is there so much shooting and killing in Chicago?' For the first time the Trib Editorial Board didn't lay the blame on City Hall for not investing in the South and West Sides, and on the affected residents for re-electing the mayor and aldermen. That is good because such calls are meaningless non-solutions to a century long problem of racism, disinvestment and neglect that cannot be governed away by City Hall. Many thousands of guns pouring into these economic wastelands serve as gasoline on the smoldering ruin of once vibrant neighborhoods, producing uncontrolled violence. Just like the lack of investment in jobs, housing, health care and schools, it's the lack of sensible regulation that allows permits this arming of the most vulnerable and fractured citizenry.
The Editorial Board needs to re-examine its governing mantra of less government, less taxes, less regulation and less involvement in addressing problems unraveling our social fabric. Instead of supporting candidates and policies aimed almost exclusively at widening economic disparity between the privileged and the forgotten, the Trib needs to begin representing the folks left behind trapped in poverty, despair, and violence. Rebuilding these communities with federal and state leadership is not government overreach. It is self interest rightly understood. Curbing the manufacture, sale and distribution of the guns that inflict war like casualties on innocents is not government tyranny. It is sanity.
The Trib laments 'Chicago's weekend from hell.' The residents of Chicago's ravaged communities, walled off from the privileged majority, lament their every day from hell.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Non-theists deserve a more than ever

Though not unexpected, it's disappointing nonetheless for us non-theists Trump picked a Catholic to replace retiring Catholic Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. While we make up 23% of the population, our percentage of the Supreme Court is zero, zilch, nada. Moreover, we've never held a single one of the 113 Supreme slots in the 229 years since the Supreme Court was established in 1789. With Catholic Brett Kavanaugh, Catholics will continue to make up 67% of the Court compared to just 21% of the population (Neil Gorsuch raised a Catholic; now attends Episcopalian services). Jews make up the other 33%, an even bigger anomaly to their tiny 2% of the populous. Though Protestants haven't a single Supreme either, a large majority of all 114 Justices were protestants. The religious monopoly has left its mark on issues non-theists have no interest in interfering with.

A benefit of getting one of our team on the Court is tamping down the extreme prejudice the so-called religious practice against us non-believers. When polled, non-theists rank dead last in terms of a group folks couldn't bring themselves to vote for. Only 4% wouldn't vote for a black; 11% for women; 12% for Hispanics; 45% for gays; and a whopping 53% exclude non-theists. That must change. Though legally twisted and unenforceable, seven states, Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee, North and South Carolina still have laws forbidding a non-theist to hold state office.

A fitting coda to the 229 years of religious predilections deciding the most important legal cases on the fabric of our polity might be giving a non-theist a chance to play God.

Rep. Grayson finished Trib health care editorial title back in 2009

The Trib' editorial 'If you haven't had health care...' could not have a more heartless title and message. Without mentioning the numerous ways Trump and the GOP majority have undermined and degraded the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Trib promotes substituting cheaper short term insurance policies which don't qualify for requirements under the ACA which eliminate pre existing conditions and annual and lifetime benefits, but require covering all essential health benefits. That represents a return to the horrendous health insurance system that blocked 40 million Americans from proper health care, leading to bankruptcy, degraded health and unnecessary deaths for over 10% of our populous. To ponder that as "the triumph of personal choice over government diktat', is inexplicably cruel to the millions with little or no means.
Just how has the Trump administration undermined the ACA that brings the Trib to its draconian cure for the medically uninsured?
It eliminated the individual mandate penalties needed to keep overall insurance rates low. It withdrew cost cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies. It reduced federal advertising and enrollment assistance during 2017 that affected the 2018 open enrollment period which will lead to an additional 6.4 million people uninsured in 2019 compared with prior law
Increasing the aforementioned short term policy time limit of 3 months to one year, which the Trib applauds, will increase the number of people without minimum essential coverage by 2.5 million in 2019.
The combined effect of Trump's attacks on the ACA will increase 2019 ACA-compliant nongroup insurance premiums 18.2 percent on average in the 43 states that do not prohibit or limit short-term plans. This is not something to celebrate as the Trib does to encourage the uninsured to buy short term health insurance. It is simply the health insurance equivalent of a payday loan.
During the 2009 ACA debate in Congress, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) summed up the GOP health care plan for the 40 million shut out thusly:
"Don't get sick. But if you do, die quickly."
That still applies to today's unfinished Trib editorial title.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Not good for the Illinois 6th; not good for America

My congressman Peter Roskam spent his entire congressional career seeking to deny 40 million people in need from getting life supporting health care. That's not good the Illinois' 6th; it's not good for America.

Roskam has spent his entire congressional career promoting tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of the working poor.  That's not good the Illinois' 6th; it's not good for America. 

Roskam has spent his entire congressional career denying man made climate change, putting future generations at grave risk. That's not good the Illinois' 6th; it's not good for America. 

Roskam has spent his entire congressional career seeking to prevent humane, sensible immigration policy. That's not good the Illinois' 6th; it's not good for America.

Roskam has spent his entire congressional career taking cash from the NRA in exchange for thwarting sensible gun regulation. That's not good the Illinois' 6th; it's not good for America. 

Roskam has spent his entire congressional career interfering with women's reproductive health. That's not good the Illinois' 6th; it's not good for America. 

Roskam has spent his entire congressional career supporting trillion dollar failed US wars in the Middle East. That's not good the Illinois' 6th; it's not good for America.

Roskam has spent his entire congressional career promoting confrontation, possibly war with Iran. That's not good the Illinois' 6th; it's not good for America. 

Roskam has spent his entire career working to undo the regulations that keep workers safe and earning livable wages. That's not good the Illinois' 6th; it's not good for America. 

Peter Roskam's twelve years in Congress is not a proud record. It's a broken record. 

McCarthy lowers mayoral campaign bar beyond reach

It's unlikely Gerry McCarthy's 8 competitors to unseat Rahm Emanuel as Chicago mayor, can hit the nadir in campaign rhetoric sputtered by McCarthy over the Dan Ryan and Lake Shore Drive protest marches.

"We're spending money to facilitate criminal behavior. We're slipping into lawlessness." McCarthy then pondered whether State Police, who have responsibility for policing expressways, "should have arrested Chicago Police officers, including Superintendent Eddie Johnson, whey they marched arm in arm with Father Pfleger" on the Ryan. McCarthy then boasted about his preventing major highway shutdowns as Police Chief during the 2012 Chicago NATO Summit. But McCarthy omitted that the NATO protesters were outsiders here for a week. The Ryan and Lake Shore Drive protesters represent hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans trapped in the West and South Side swaths of poverty, despair and death for a century. And unlike NATO protesters, the Chicago protesters will never go away.

Non-violent civil disobedience championed by Martin Luther King and others was devised to disrupt the power structure that ignores truly dreadful conditions for a marginalized people,. It was created in the decade before McCarthy's birth in 1959. He knows its history and the truth that calling such protests 'unlawful' and demanding mass arrests, is the tactic developed by Southern police chiefs to maintain Jim Crow. The moral unlawfulness of those sheriffs dwarfed the technical unlawfulness of the protesters. McCarthy would be wise to pitch his campaign to confront 21st century Chicago problems, not pander to frightened Chicagoans of privilege like 1950's Birmingham Police Chief Bull Connor.

Walt Zlotow
Glen Ellyn

Friday, August 03, 2018

Trib A Game still missing from West, South Side protests

A visitor from another planet reading the Trib editorial 'A protest sure to provoke: Anger? Yes. Solutions? We'll See.' would have no idea of the unfolding daily tragedy on Chicago's South and West Sides. "Participants will rally to demand safer, more hopeful communities on the South and West sides with better schools and more job opportunities", just doesn't cut it. Where are the dozen folks murdered and several dozen more wounded by largely illegal guns every week? Were are the miles of wasteland, the Depression era unemployment rates, the revolving prison door, the third world drug trade? Instead we get this pablum: Protesters will "be marching in envy of the neighborhoods that will surround them as they proceed." When one of those protesters is watching their child bleed out in a drive by shooting they're not experiencing envy. The real audience for this editorial are the Chicagoans of privilege captured by the line "The more Chicagoans engage and push for positive changes, the more this next election becomes a referendum on ways to make Chicago a more successful, livable city for all residents." The protesters are not looking at the big picture of 'making Chicago a more successful, livable city'. They marching for survival by coming part of the Chicago which sustains life. The Trib's hope that the ten mayoral candidates will be inspired to offer real solutions outside of their pet project comfort zones is preposterous. This human crisis cannot be solved at the city level. It must involve the state and federal government working with city officials in a massive investment of many billions to undue a century of racism, neglect and disinvestment. Kicking the can of improvement 208 days down the road till election day is a non-starter. The protesters will be voting for change on Lake Shore Drive and at Wrigley Field today. They should be.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Yemen in the time of cholera - Part 6

We've learned recently that the US is considering selling death dealing drones to Saudi Arabia in their criminal and US enabled war against Houthi rebels in Yemen. While we sell the Saudis just about everything else to wage war, earning billions for the munitions industry, we've been reluctant to add less manageable drones. But since China has moved into the void, Uncle Sam is loathe to cede easy profits to an economic adversary. If you're surprised to read this, don't be. US mainstream media has put an embargo on virtually any mention of Yemen as the 24 million suffering under US bombs and US planes flown by Saudis are in the middle of our proxy war against Iran being fought by Saudi Arabia against the Shi'ite Houthi rebels aligned with Iran. In a choice between our most demonized pretend enemy Iran and our best weapons buyer Saudi Arabia, mainstream media goes along with Uncle Sam who whispers 'See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil' of Yemen in their news access starved ear.
Speaking of embargoes, besides devastating US bombs raining down on them, the 24 million Yemenis reel from the US enabled Saudi embargo of food and medicine that has caused a million cases of cholera, 2 million refugees, half a million on the brink of starvation, and 22 million looking for their next meal.

Saudi Arabia cannot commit these grotesque war crimes against Yemen without US support. And the US cannot maintain this support without the unquestioned cooperation of a media, print and electronic, which daily subvert and disgrace the function of a free press.

Friday, July 27, 2018

It happened at the Walgreen drug counter

Stepped up the man in blue and requested my antibiotic to snuff out an emerging toe infection. "How much?" I inquired. "$3.30" blue man responded. "Too much, can't afford it" I joked, drawing a pained look from the drug dispenser. "How much if no insurance, a hundred bucks?" I persisted, throwing out an absurdly high number. The annoyed employee looked at the paperwork and shot back, "A hundred and five". Now I was no longer amused. There is something very wrong when the richest country in the world charges a person of means $3.30, but slams the poor bloke of little or no means thirty-two times that for a vital medicine. That is why I work every day to elect people to office who support Medicare for all.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Congressman Roskam, take down this ad

The ad Congressman Roskam must take down is one of the must scurrilous and dangerous appeals to war I've ever seen in a political campaign. It's his internet ad trolling challenger Sean Casten for supporting the Iran nuclear deal with an exclamation point that Casten funneled billions to Iran under the deal. The congressman knows the 5 plus one Iran nuclear deal, agreed to by the US, Germany, Britain, France, China, the EU and Russia likely avoided war when struck in 2015. He knows it will live in history as the signature foreign policy achievement of the Obama administration. Yet, he never supported it, being a congressional backer of the war with Iran crowd composed of the extremist fringe of the US foreign policy establishment. Taking his cue from his self described wild card candidate Trump, Roskam backed America's pullout from the agreement, leading to histrionic outbursts from Trump he will annihilate Iran for even the hint of threats against America. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists didn't move the Doomsday Clock to two minutes to midnight (nuclear war), the closest it's been since 1953, because of the agreement. The did it precisely because of Trump's uninformed and unhinged threats to world peace. The fact that Sean Casten supports sane efforts for peace is my single most critical reason to elect him to Congress. If Roskam continues to provoke war with that reckless ad, we should bring back LBJ's famous 'daisy ad' used against war lover Barry Goldwater in '64, graphically invoking the specter of nuclear war as reason to keep Goldwater away from the nuclear button. Not in the name of God, but in our name and that of world peace...Congressman Roskam, take down this ad.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Another Tribune editorial. Nothing new happening here

The Trib Editorial 'Another march in Chicago. Is something happening here?' sticks its toe on the water of empathy for the century long disintegration of life on Chicago's South and West sides. But like the highly insensitive and utterly unhelpful op eds by Trib Editorial Board member Kristin McQueary, the sole focus of this editorial is for "Chicago voters to hold elected officials accountable." That is not much different than telling the defeated citizens of WWII Berlin to 'hold their elected officials accountable' for the rubble they were living in. The South and West Siders didn't create the dozens of WWII like square miles of devastation, the double digit unemployment, the double digit incarceration of young minority males, the thousands of shootings and hundreds of murders yearly thanks to tens of thousands of available guns. To say it's all up to the mayor and 50 alderman to magically come up with Marshall Plan type investment, social services, jobs, reduction of ubiquitous gun availability is preposterous, callous and a solution non-starter. The Trib brings home this point in its last line: "We also don’t know whether Chicagoans will look back on two summer protests as dimly remembered distractions. Or maybe they become turning points for a divided city." The 'Chicagoans' referenced are solely those of privilege; the only ones who could possibly contemplate the protests as 'dimly remembered distractions.' The hundreds of thousands crammed into the shame of Chicago and America will likely be too busy burying their dead, finding habitable housing, searching for a semblance of health care, and visiting their loved ones in prison to ever view the current marches as dimly remembered distractions.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Last defense

The evidence pours in daily on Trump's unprecedented legal problems, both moral and financial at home, and compromised loyalty by the Russians overseas. But Trump's defenders echo their leader, crying which hunt, fake news, sore losers and other epithets to turn away from the truth. Comedian Don Adams aptly caricatured this defense in this bit from the 1970's: "It's easy for the prosecutor to say this horrible things about my client...he's got proof."   

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Dismissing 'cheap talk' a cheap shot

The last line of Kristin McQueary's July 17 op ed 'The anti Rahm rumbles on the South Side' caught my eye: "We’ll see. Talk — even when shouted at protests — is cheap." She was referring to the shouts of protesters over the Harith Augusting police shooting last Saturday that elevated the shooting response to a violent confrontation between protesters and police. I understand McQueary was only making the political point in her piece that blacks routinely criticize Mayor Emanuel over police shootings and lack of community investment but re-elect him at voting time, and that may well happen again next year.
But to call protests, whether they echo at the planned Dan Ryan shutdown march, or crackle spontaneously in the violent streets bordering the Augustus shooting, cheap, is highly insensitive and insulting. They are cries of people left behind to wallow in third world pockets of poverty and despair, largely ignored by the federal, state and local governments in the 153 years since America's shame of slavery ended. I mourn from my perch of white privilege and comfort how all branches of our government turn away from the continuing shame that legacy left to devote governmental resources to widening the divide between those of privilege and those without. The protesters' voices are not cheap. It's the tone deaf characterization of McQueary and company that are not only cheap, they're a cheap shot.

DuPage Election Commission bill signing photo op missing key contributor

This Monday, Governor Rauner will do a photo op bill signing with DuPage County Board Chair Dan Cronin to abolish the DuPage Election Commission. One person will be conspicuously absent from the signing. She is Jean Kaczmarek of Glen Ellyn, Democratic candidate for DuPage County Clerk. Jean epitomizes good civic duty, having spent the last ten years working independently to highlight inefficiencies in the DuPage Clerk's office and need for it to absorb Election Commission duties, providing better voter services at less cost. Jean's tireless efforts have paid off with one major oversight: Jean's decade long contributions keeping this issue public have been totally ignored by the Republican governor and county board chair, allowing them to hog all the credit. Jean Kaczmarek must not go unrecognized for her contributions to good governance in DuPage County. We would all benefit if our elected officials would model their governance on her dedication and perseverance. Voters can recognize Jean's efforts by electing her DuPage County Clerk, November 6.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Real chaos over Ryan shutdown eludes clueless governor

It doesn't matter what Mayor Emanuel's motives were for bucking state and city police to facilitate Father Pfleger's Dan Ryan march. He did the right thing. Rahm brokered a deal to let the march go forward but allowing only 2 of 4 lanes to be used, in spite of Pfleger's call to shut it down. Rauner got on board as the compromise saved his face as the 'law and order' governor who wouldn't let the activist priest and his followers succeed. But Rauner went bonkers when the massive crowd forced state police to shut down the other two lanes, giving total victory to the Pfleger folks demanding a complete shutdown to raise the price of state and city refusal to address third world conditions in Chicago. Rauner's sore headed tweet speaks volumes of his bottomless insensitivity to his black constituents. "This is unacceptable. We had clear parameters that allowed the protesters to be heard while respecting law and order. Instead, they chose instead to cause chaos. Rahm’s Twitter retort was priceless: “It was a peaceful protest. Delete your account.” Rauner's tantrum over the ability of peaceful protesters to raise the issue of hopelessness in their community utterly demolishes his campaign boast that he's done the most to elevate the black community. The chaos wasn't on the was in the governor's head.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Teachable moment in COD Breuder saga

The immense legal bills in the years long saga of former COD president Robert Breuder may well reach the million mark before the case is resolved later this year or beyond. It's not pretty reading for we DuPage taxpayers but we can take solace for at least one teachable moment. The Chicago Tribune, in chronicling Breuder's alleged financial misdeeds that prompted his firing, called him an 'oenophile' without explanation. Sure sounds ominous and even this logophile was puzzled. But a quick search revealed 'oenophile' is actually a complement, meaning 'a wine connoisseur'. I have no problem with Dr. Breuder being an oenophile. I just wish he wouldn't have had to prove his oenophile bonafides by charging taxpayers for 18 bottles of hundred dollar wine at his 2013 staff Christmas dinner. We most certainly would have taken his word for being an oenophile without having to pay for the proof.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Pfleger channeling Randolph's 1941 proposed march

Father Pfleger's proposed Dan Ryan march isn't the first mass protest designed to frighten America's rulers. The march is intended as a disrupting form of civil disobedience to prod, scare, shock the political establishment to address the poverty and hopelessness on the South and West Sides and its resulting violence. Sixty-seven years ago, A. Phillip Randolph, head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, threatened a hundred thousand person march on Washington, demanding jobs for blacks in the burgeoning defense industry. Full employment on America's march to war didn't include them as evidenced by the president of North American Aviation who didn't mince words: "While we are in complete sympathy with the Negro, it is against company policy to employ them as aircraft workers or mechanics ... regardless of their training.... There will be some jobs as janitors for Negroes." Ouch.
Randolph knew organizing, forming his railroad porters union in 1925, uplifting thousands of blacks into the middle class. FDR deflected Randolph''s demands in September, 1940, prompting Randolph's January, 1941 call for the first massive civil rights march in DC. 1941 was no 1963 as far as allowing such an event. FDR caved, issuing Executive Order 8802 on June 25, opening up defense plant jobs to black workers, skilled as well as menial, North American Aviation included. Though little spoken of today, the 1941 non march was one of the earliest thrusts toward black economic equality that inspired the future civil rights movement of the 50's and 60's.
Wouldn't it be fitting if Father Pfleger's proposed march also caused our governmental masters to actually begin the process of economic and spiritual uplift of America's poverty shame? Like FDR, there would be no shame for Governor Rauner and Mayor Emmanuel to cave when it allows the light of uplift and reform to shine in.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Bike The Drive....Walk The Ryan

As a two time participant in the annual Memorial Day Sunday Bike the Drive, I'm a tad confused over the fuss state and Chicago police are making over Father Pfleger's planned July 7 march on the Dan Ryan to protest violence and despair on the South and West Sides. Shutting down the 30 mile Drive is virtually seamless to the tens of thousands of us bringing our 'bikin' around money' into Chicago to boost the affluent Loop's economy. But shuttingdown the Ryan for a measly mile for no monetary gain has set the Power Elite's and the Law's collective hair on fire. The daily bloodbath, the double digit unemployment, the blocks of vacant lots, the runaway illegal drug economy, the despair are all a historical legacy of America's racist, slave holding past.
We need a Marshall Plan for America's inner cities and rural poverty pockets, be they black, brown or white. We need to govern where the money isn't instead of just where it is. We will never do that with the status quo. That is not acceptable for the truest Christian and his followers this Saturday. Shut it down Father. And if nothing gets done....shut it down again.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Roskam tax cut a looming economic disaster

My congressman Peter Roskam (IL-6) has bet his re-election to a seventh term on the gigantic tax cut he helped author and shepherd though Congress. His 2018 campaign is a virtual 24/7 touting of the the simplified tax code returning about $1,400 to an average Sixth District family. But before thanking Roskam with his vote, any constituent should ponder well what will never appear in the Roskam campaign. 

The new postcard size 1040 form that Trump kissed in appreciation becomes more complicated for those itemizing from the six new worksheets needed to itemize. 

But the big fib about simplification pales to the economic time bomb Roskam has saddled us with. Dropping his career long railing against excessive debt, Roskam will help spike our debt by $2.3 trillion over the next decade, raising the dept percentage of Gross Domestic Product from the current 78% to 100%. Domestically, this level of debt increases likelihood of fiscal crisis, giving Congress limited options to deal with major events such as another recession.  Internationally, dept that staggering imperils our global power and influence by discouraging foreign investors lending us the money needed to fund spiraling debt . 

Roskam will never reveal his huge corporate tax cuts are permanent, while the individual cuts go primarily to the already wealthy and expire in ten years. 

Congressman Roskam has spent his 12 years in Congress exploiting a manageable debt  to prevent expansion of health care to the needy,  rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, or any other societal benefit. But to retain office in what looms as his first truly serious challenge, Roskam has wiped clean the slate of fiscal integrity, embarking on a perilous economic future.    

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

120 years hasn't diminished Us cruelty to Cuba

Cuba has always been a prize for the US to exploit. Back in 1820, former President Thomas Jefferson proclaimed "The US should take Cuba at first opportunity." The unsuccessful 1854 Ostend Manifesto was designed to acquire Cuba as a slave state. Four presidents, Polk, Pierce, Buchanan and Grant all failed to acquire this economic plumb till the fifth, William McKinley, succeeded by declaring war on Cuba's ruler Spain in 1898. The US booted the Spaniards, making Cuba safe for rapacious American capitalism, before granting them independence in 1902. Freedom came at a price. Uncle Sam could intervene at will, which he did in 1906, 1912 and 1917. Tiring of keeping order, the US settled on puppet presidents starting with Gerado Machado in 1924. We hit the jackpot in 1933 when Cuban Army Sargent Fulgencio Batista staged a coup, taking over Cuba for a quarter century, becoming fabulously wealthy looting the Cuban people and treasury while allowing US companies and the mafia to gobble up the rest. Castro's successful 1959 revolution was both necessary and inevitable, quickly implementing political control and land reform which crippled the capitalists' and the mafia's cash cow. Instead of accepting that 61 years of unwarranted wealth was enough, the US, with help from the mafia, tried to kill Castro and reassert control. Undaunted by endless failure, America as maintained a cruel and self destructive embargo on the poor but unbroken Cuban people for the last 59 years.

I was reminded about America's 120 years of exploitation and cruelty against Cuba during my recent trip. Free enterprise there is up from about 10% early on to over 30% today. Infrastructure development is everywhere and all the equipment involved is Russian, Chinese, Indian, German, Italian, French; just about every developed country except mine.

It is heartbreaking. It is unnecessary. It must end.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Trib steps up to plate on Yemen...and wiffs

After 27 months it's a relief the Trib (June 23 editorial) has finally addressed the world's worst humanitarian crisis: the Gulf States' intervention in the Yemen civil war that has left fifty thousand dead from starvation, a million suffering cholera, and millions more at risk from a cruel blockade of food and medicine. But it should not take seven paragraphs for the Trib to reveal the ugly truth of this man made catastrophe: the US is an active participant with its "intelligence, munitions and aerial refueling for Saudi and UAE fighter jets". But to say "The US is not an innocent bystander in the crisis" works to paper over the magnitude of our complicity in what most certainly are war crimes against the innocent Yemeni people. Even with US help the Gulf States cannot militarily defeat the Shi'ite rebels who've captured a swathe of Yemen. Their new strategy rests on one grotesque tactic, starvation, with US compliance, if not encouragement. Why is the US doing this? Simple. It's more than a proxy war between the Gulf States and Iran. It's also a US proxy war against Iran, in which the millions of hapless Yemenis are simply 'collateral damage.' The Trib's plea for US to use its "sway" to "make the case for a halt to the offensive (blockade) on Hodeida" (remaining Yemen supply port) is laughable. The US can end Gulf State war crimes in Yemen by immediately ending all military support. In so doing the US will also end its war crimes there as well.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Any more Dr. Daughtrys out there?

I applaud Dr. Barry Daughtry of Oak Brook who left Illinois for Wisconsin under the 'Three strikes and I'm out' rule (Trib letter 'Fed up', June 22). The most egregious offense cited was the additional $7,000 in property tax he has to pay over the past 21 years living in toney Oak Brook. Offense No. 2 was inability of the Tollway Authority to process his online request to replace a lost I-Pass device. Strike three, which sent Daughtry to the dugout, opps, I mean Wisconsin, was a red light camera violation attributed to being "more tired than usual". During my weekly drive to Chicago from Glen Ellyn, I've got to plan my timing carefully to avoid tie ups from the mass of humanity driving in and out of one of the most vibrant cities and suburban areas in the country. Next time traffic slows on the 'Ike' I'll ponder if some of these folks might follow the good doctor on a one way trip north, never to return.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Roskam's 'wild card' in the White House makes plea for immigrant children ring hollow

My congressman Peter Roskam (IL-6) coming out against President Trump's atrocious policy tearing immigrant children from their parents at the border is simply too little, too late. Roskam eyed the racist, xenophobic candidate in 2016, who essentially called all immigrants criminals, and blessed his candidacy. "I do think time is Donald Trump's friend. I think people are saying... alright, I'm ready to hear this guy out, see what he has got to say with the flash and dash aside." Wrong congressman. The flash and dash hasn't been put aside in the 510 days since his inauguration. Everything we hear is scurrilous fear mongering, denigration of the defenseless, and appeals to the worst impulses in a minority base that loathes the 'other' in our society. Roskam knew better in 2016 and he knows better now. But political expediency required his unending obeisance to a man morally unfit to hold office. As long as Trump pushed Roskam's tax giveaway to the rich, Roskam ignored his malevolence.

Peter Roskam mulled the catastrophic spectacle of hysterical children and parents at the border over the Father's Day weekend and decided to appear reasonable. But for his 12 years in Congress he did nothing to solve the immigration crisis and protect millions of dreamers. He vehemently opposed Obama's sensible plan, preposterously claiming immigration was too big for one bill and needed to be addressed in 'chunks'. And the one and only chunk he ever advocated for was enhanced border security. Roskam's epiphany about distraught immigrant kids and their parents has more to due with the winds of change blowing in the Illinois 6th than ever doing the right thing about the most vulnerable in our society.

Friday, June 15, 2018

North Korea wise not to make Iraq, Iran, Libya mistake

We should all push back against endless US demonization, fear mongering and lying about the North Korea threat. We've been trying to unify Korea under the Western model since we created the artificial split of Korea at the 38th parallel in August, 1945, to thwart communist influence over Korean unification. Doing so meant condemning untold thousands to imprisonment, torture and death under the brutal US puppet leader Syngman Rhee in the US controlled South. Both North and South lusted for war to reunify Korea. Our preventing that inevitability sentenced several million Koreans to death, mostly at our our hands, dropping more bombs on North Korea than we dropped on Japan in WWII (635,000 tons v. 500,000 tons). We were never serious about keeping Korea nuclear free; our goal has always been regime change in the North. To counter that likelihood, conclusively proven by our betrayal of Iraq, Iran and Libya who did end their nuclear programs, the North's only trump card glows nuclear. Denuclearization only applies to countries we can't control. A nation planning a trillion dollar upgrade to its 6,500 nukes has zero credibility to pontificate to targets of US regime change policy.
North Korea will never and shouldn't give up its measly 15 nukes till the US makes it safe from regime change. That requires more than a temporary halt to provocative war games with the South. It requires ending sanctions, removing our soldiers from the Korean peninsula and pledging through the UN not to attack, something lusted for by US warmongers like National Security Adviser John Bolton and chief Senate war hawk Lindsay Graham, among others. If Uncle Sam wants to see the biggest threat to world peace...he merely needs to look in the mirror.