Saturday, March 12, 2011


Congressman Peter King, Rep. NY, opened his hearings this week focused on his obsession with proving his preconceived notion that 80% of America's Mosques are supporting jihad against America. Nearly 60 years ago we were subjected to Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy's preposterous and endless hearings obsessed with proving his preconceived notion that 80% of State Dept employees during the FDR and Truman Administrations were Communists which made both FDR and Truman guilty of being fellow travelers to the Communist cause.

Hey, wait a minute. McCarthy was of Irish descent and so is King. That must be more than a coincidence. How about if a non-Irish American Congressman opens a hearing into the propensity of Irish American legislators to engage in witch hunts against a particular group of people, with absolutely no evidence whatsoever, to demonize them for political purposes?

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation making Illinois the 16th state to outlaw capital punishment today in a private ceremony in his Capitol office. Quinn was surrounded by longtime opponents of capital punishment but conspicuous by his absence was the man who arguably had the most to do with this momentous day - former Governor George Ryan.

It was Ryan who imposed the moratorium on capital punishment after Illinois became the poster state for blundering or worse, possibly framing numerous innocent men onto Death Row. Ryan, responding to public advocacy groups which uncovered errors, misfeasance and malfeasance leading to the exonerations, initiated the nation's first moratorium on the death penalty on January 30, 2000. Nearly three years later on January 11, 2003, three days shy of leaving office, Ryan commuted the death sentences of all 167 doomed souls on Illinois' death row to life imprisonment, arguing that the intervening three years since announcing the moratorium fully convinced him that the death penalty was a monstrous institution with no redeeming societal benefit whatsoever, and irretrievably broken.

Since my daughter was involved in the Northwestern Law School Center on Wrongful Convictions which helped exonerate several condemed men, I tuned into Governor Ryan's latter speech held, appropriately, at the Northwestern Law Center.

It turned out to be the single most moving and humane speech I've heard a public official give in sixty years of following public affairs. Given on a Saturday afternoon, most except death penalty partisans, both for and against, likely missed it. That is a shame. Every school in America should include Ryan's speech in civics class as an example of the high calling and enormous good a dedicated public servant can aspire to and achieve.

It is fitting, therefore, to give the Governor Ryan, still cooling his heals in the Big House long past the time that common sense and basic decency demands, the last word, on this momentous day, from the very last line of his magnificent speech:

"In the days ahead, I will pray that we can open our hearts and provide something for victims' families other than the hope of revenge. Lincoln once said: 'I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.' I can only hope that will be so. God bless you. And God bless the people of Illinois".

Originally published at, March 9, 2011

Sunday, March 06, 2011


I just received my IL Sixth District Congressman Peter Roskam's email bulletin titled "We did it", which trumpeted his Republican Party's passing $61 billion in spending cuts in the continuing resolution to fund the government. "We're forcing government to live within its means, and stop binge spending that has hurt our economy", Roskam averred.

The four paragraph email however, had nary a word about what was cut and more tellingly, what was not cut. In the interest of full disclosure I will comment on both omissions.

First the cuts.

Pell Grants to college students are cut by 15%, making college less affordable to 8 million college students at a time when our economic competitors such as China and India are putting the vital need of educated professionals on a fast track

Head Start loses $1 billion, wiping out up to 55,000 teacher and instructor jobs and demoting up to 200,000 underprivileged kids from the fast track to the snail track

Scratch $700 million for Title 1 grants to particularly needy school districts which will negatively impact 2,400 schools serving 1 million students. Oh yes, another 10,000 instructor and aide jobs go bye-bye

The Americorp program, started by President Clinton and increased 50% by President George W. Bush, will be wiped out entirely, ending this invaluable program in which 75,000 idealistic folks yearly volunteer in low wage jobs promoting educational and environmental projects

Food safety? The FDA's food inspection program loses just $100 million but that is on top of an already seriously understaffed inspector force. OMB Watch, the non-profit that monitors budgetary matters, argues that the ratio of inspectors to burgeoning food producers is inadequate stating "at no other regulatory agency does the size of the inspectorate need to be so closely aligned to the size of the industry it regulates".

Also knocked off the fast track, literally as well as figuratively, is Amtrak, while smart countries invest in high speed rail instead of further clogging their highways and airports

Assistance to less priviledged women for reproductive health services? Sorry, all $363 million in federal assistance to Planned Parenthood is eliminated along with the primary and preventative health care, including life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings, annual exams, family planning visits, birth control and HIV testing.

It may well be that Congressman Roskam omitted identifying the cuts because of the pain they will inflict upon our neediest citizens and how they will reduce investment in our infrastructure, both physical and intellectual, that is already turning America into a second rate economic power. But in fairness to the Congressman's real agenda, we need to consider how this savings will be utilized:

Someone must be tapped to pay for the $700 billion in tax cuts for the super rich over the next 10 years. Who better to pay for these tax cuts than the less priviledged folks least likely to vote and least likely to vote Republican if they do

There is a little matter of trillion dollars wars of empire in the Middle East that must by funded without reservation, debate or criticism. What better way to distract the citizenry from these outrageous wastes of our limited treasure than to demonize projects that help people in need or invest in our future, by terming them unnecessary big government giveaways. Pollsters have shown that the public falls for these sophistic political tricks every time.

You can take the title of Congressman Roskam's email "We did it" two ways. To the unsuspecting it means: "We Republicans are finally bringing fiscal sanity to America". To the folks who comprehend the campaign going on in this country to funnel middle class wealth to the upper 2%, it means: "Fooled those rubes again".