The blog of Chicago-based freelance writer David Johnsen.
Friday, February 19, 2010
The Kick Is Up...
Former Chicago Bears kicker Bob Thomas now serves on the Illinois Supreme Court. He wrote the majority opinion ruling against our convicted former governor today:

George H. Ryan Sr. has clearly forfeited all of the pension benefits he earned from the General Assembly retirement system. As the victims of Ryan's crimes, the taxpayers of the state of Illinois are under no obligation to now fund his retirement.

...And it's good!

Too bad we can't send the Honorable Judge Thomas to the federal prison in Terre Haute, IN to personally deliver a serious kicking to Ryan's corrupt hindquarters.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Bastard of the Day
Senator Dick Durbin is a bastard for even thinking of asking for a commuted sentence for that hopelessly corrupt former governor of ours, George Ryan. In 2006, Ryan was convicted on 18 counts of corruption and sentenced to 6-1/2 years in the pen. He's been incarcerated for little more than a year, but Durbin apparently thinks that's enough:
"His family name has been damaged," Durbin said. "He has, at an advanced moment of his life, been removed from his family. He has lost the economic security which most people count on at his age. And he is separate from his wife at a time when she is in frail health. To say that he has paid a price for his wrongdoing, he certainly has. And the question is whether continued imprisonment is appropriate at this point."
First of all, any damage to his family name cannot compare to the damage to the families of those killed by unqualified truck drivers who stuffed cash in Ryan's hole to get their licenses.

Second, what is this crap about losing "economic security"? If Ryan hadn't squandered all of his savings trying to defend his corrupt ass in court, he'd still have that security. And how would freeing him make any difference in that respect? If he's broke, he's better off in prison where he doesn't need money to live. If he gets out, what is he going to do, be a Wal-Mart greeter? I wouldn't trust him in a job handling cash.

Third, sorry about his wife, but what kind of reason is that to let him out? Do we routinely set criminals free because of a "frail" family member? Would we commute the sentence of a gang leader so he could take care of his aging mother? Why does Ryan deserve special treatment?

Yes, Ryan has "paid a price." But the law doesn't say criminals must pay "a price" -- it says they should pay whatever and however the court decides (although policies like "good behavior" let them off easy). Can I mail in $5 for a $75 speeding ticket and argue that I "paid a price" and shouldn't owe a penny more? Durbin shows a wanton disregard for the criminal justice system with such reasoning.

Finally, why should Ryan -- or any other criminal -- get off essentially for being old? It isn't like he has spent decades behind bars and now he's a changed man; it's been less than 13 months. It took many years for the scumbag to be exposed and prosecuted -- years when he lived not only as a free man, but as governor of our state being paid with our tax dollars. Heck, if Ryan had been caught while he was still secretary of state, he would have finished serving his sentence years ago. Now Durbin thinks we should set him free because he's old. Well, plenty of old scoundrels languish in prison, and there's no reason Ryan shouldn't be one of them.

Maybe Ryan should have thought about all of the above before he committed the crimes that landed him in the joint. I mean, 18 counts -- that's not a careless, isolated slip-up, that's a culture of corruption.
But three former federal prosecutors who prosecuted Ryan in the licenses-for-bribes scandal said they opposed executive clemency for the former governor and noted he has never accepted responsibility for committing a crime. [emphasis added]
Excellent point. The man won't even admit he screwed up. Sit and rot, Ryan. Durbin, you should be ashamed of yourself.

I've generally supported the work Durbin has done in the U.S. Senate, but if he had floated this trial balloon a month ago, I probably would have voted for his opponent.

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Friday, February 29, 2008
Governor Knee-Jerk
If Illinois is strapped for cash, then how is it that grandstanding Governor Rod Blagojevich always manages to find money?

In the aftermath of the NIU shooting, he saw a showboating opportunity and declared that Cole Hall, where the shooting occurred, will be torn down.* It will cost 40 million nonexistent dollars (in bonds**) that could be better spent in 40 million ways, but then Blagojevich wouldn't get to play the hero. I'll bet he records the evening news just to watch himself.

A thoughtful Tribune editorial suggests that the university and the state take a little time to think about what to do about Cole Hall rather than impulsively plow it under. On Eric Zorn's blog, "Patrick" suggested a memorial scholarship as a better tribute to the dead than a razed building, and there are other possibilities, too. But Blagojevich does everything on impulse, usually pandering to emotions or a particular voting bloc.

I'm not necessarily interested in saving Cole Hall, just looking at all options with some distance from the heat of current events. Heck, they could plow all of DeKalb back into cornfields and it would probably be an improvement. Except the Paperback Grotto. Just leave the venerable adult bookstore standing in the middle of a field, maybe with a historical marker for the city. Porn in the corn.

* That NIU approached the governor with the idea first doesn't change anything. It was a sure bet on their part that Blagojevich would take the ball and run with it.

** To honor the dead, Illinois taxpayers will contribute for decades until those bonds are retired.


Friday, August 03, 2007
Bastard of the Day
I was nice to her throughout her pathetic gubernatorial campaign, but today's award goes to Judy Baar Topinka for trading on her diminishing fame to skewer the Berwyn Spindle in today's Chicago Tribune. If we cared about her opinions, we would have elected her.

She loses credibility with her opening line: "Berwyn is a west suburban treasure." My father-in-law lives in Berwyn, so I go there regularly. It's not a bad town, but a treasure? I suppose it is if you compare it to neighboring Cicero, but that's not saying much. If Berwyn is a treasure, what would Topinka call the really nice towns in the western suburbs like Riverside, which was designed by legendary landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted?

That's enough about her op-ed piece. The funniest thing about Topinka is how people liked her less the better they got to know her. She rose to a statewide office (treasurer) with broad support. My lifelong Democratic mom even liked Topinka, and she certainly was easier to stomach than right-wing nuts like Alan Keyes (to Topinka's credit, she opposed him from the start). But once she won the primary, her image went straight downhill. It wasn't only incumbent Rod Blogojevich's "What's she thinking?" attack ad campaign. She just came across as a goof. That's why Blagojevich stomped all over her in the general election.

I'm not pleased with Blagojevich these days, either (how about signing those bicycling bills on your desk, Governor?), but that's a topic for another day.

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Friday, July 06, 2007
The Dark Side of the Olympics
This article by George Monbiot should be required reading for Chicagoans. In all the hype about competing for the 2016 Summer Games, no one talks about stuff like this:

In every city [the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions] examined, the Olympic Games – accidentally or deliberately – have become a catalyst for mass evictions and impoverishment. Since 1988, over 2 million people have been driven from their homes to make way for the Olympics. The games have become a licence for land grabs.
Monbiot's article is directed at London, host of the 2012 Summer Games, but it certainly applies to us as well. While those getting the shaft will be mostly voiceless poor people (as usual), it doesn't always work out that way. For example, a story in this week's Chicago Reader describes the battle in Lake County over the proposed Olympic equestrian center. After reading Monbiot's brief history of Olympic displacement, I have little doubt that the equestrian center will be built regardless. At least he offers a solution in his conclusion:
None of this is an argument against the Olympic Games. It is an argument against moving them every four years. Let them stay in a city where the damage has already been done. And let it be anywhere but here.
That makes good sense for countless reasons (environmental, logistical, organizational, etc.), but I doubt it will ever happen. The International Olympic Committee thoroughly enjoys watching civic leaders from around the world grovel every time another host city is about to be named. The Olympics are big business, and a permanent location would spoil all of their fun.

(Note: In the past, I've posted positive comments about the 2016 Olympics on other blogs. Right now, consider me conflicted; I haven't decided whether it's good or bad overall. Of course, it matters little because those decisions will be made without regard for the common Chicagoan's opinion anyway.)

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Thursday, April 19, 2007
The Changing Face of Local Politics
What a week! First we lost Dorothy "The Hat" Tillman when she lost her run-off aldermanic election on Tuesday. Then last night Rosemont Mayor-for-Life Donald E. Stephens died. And this morning CTA whipping boy Frank Kruesi resigned.

Chicago's City Council probably won't change much, although Tillman was one of five incumbents swept out of office like cobwebs this week (alas Bernie "I deserve a raise" Stone was not among them). The CTA's much-maligned service isn't likely to improve immediately following Kruesi's departure, either. Our best hope from this week's news is that Rosemont's next mayor will change that hideous water tower design.
(Sorry the photo isn't better. I grabbed it from Rosemont's Web site. I'm afraid my camera might break if I try to photograph it myself.)


Sunday, November 05, 2006
Bastard of the Day
Today's bastard is the woman who reads TV ads for the National Republican Congressional Committee. Here in Chicagoland, her ads attack Melissa Bean and Tammy Duckworth. There seems to be at least one during every commercial break. While both parties employ ad readers with similar tonal qualities, the difference is that the Republican speaker punctuates each sentence with an obnoxious quiver of self-righteous indignation, as if she's so horrified by these radical women that she's about to burst into tears of woe for our wayward Congress (for what it's worth, neither Democratic candidate seems particularly radical to me). At one point I wanted to hunt down that bastardess and strangle her to death. I have since moderated my view -- I would merely rip out her larynx.

I've reached the point where I hardly care who wins on November 7 (especially since I can't vote for Bean or Duckworth anyway -- my congressional district is safely in the hands of Rahm Emanuel). I'll just be happy that I won't have to listen to those negative political ads anymore. Alas, 2008 is just around the corner, and I can only hope Chicago's mayoral election next year doesn't employ the same annoying tactics.

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Saturday, March 25, 2006
Bastard of the Day
For completely misrepresenting the Democratic primary in Illinois' Sixth Congressional District, today's Bastard of the Day is CNN's John Roberts. With all she's been through, it's sad that Tammy Duckworth has to deal with crap like this interview on yesterday's American Morning program.
ROBERTS: Good to talk with you. Hey, a tough question right out of the box, here: It was a very narrow victory that you had in your Democratic primary contest. Is that an indication that maybe this idea of running Iraq war vets for the Democratic Party isn't as hot an idea as some Democrats originally thought it was?
Obviously, Roberts knows nothing about this race, except perhaps the Republican talking points. Duckworth's victory margin was relatively narrow (though 4 percent isn't bad in a three-way race) for reasons completely unrelated to the Iraq War and Roberts should be ashamed of himself for his lack of research -- unless having Karl Rove coaching you through your earpiece counts as research.

Duckworth's closest opponent, Christine Cegelis, was the Democratic candidate in the last election, and she gave old Henry Hyde a run for his money. She took 44 percent of the vote in 2004, a pretty strong showing against a powerful Republican who had held a House seat for 30 years. After Cegelis accomplished that, a lot of people felt that she deserved another chance this year since Hyde is retiring, leaving an open seat. I haven't seen much about Duckworth (it's not my district), but the only thing I have against her is that she's taking a spot on the ballot that probably should have been Cegelis'. Party leaders recruited Duckworth to run even though Cegelis seemed to have a pretty good chance, so they effectively abandoned Cegelis by showing no confidence in her. Of course, the bottom line is that Duckworth won the primary despite Cegelis' popularity, no small feat.

For Roberts to make this all about the Iraq War and imply that Democratic voters don't want to support soldiers or patriots is reprehensible. Duckworth lost limbs doing something most of us, especially the chickenhawks running the White House and Congress, don't have the guts to do. Democrats are every bit as patriotic as Republicans claim to be, if not more. But wait... Bastard Roberts wasn't finished with Duckworth:
ROBERTS: Right. Well, certainly the Democrats are looking for some credibility on this issue of national security because polls historically, and particularly over the last few years, have shown that Republicans score much better on the issue of national security than Democrats. But there are some very smart political analysts who don't think that the Iraq war veteran thing is going to work for the Democratic Party, that you're not going to win the overall race, and that you're being held out there as sacrificial lambs just to get the Democrats a little more credibility and get that antiwar message across in this election.
First of all, the only reason the Republicans "score much better on the issue of national security" is that they point it out every time they get on TV. I don't agree, but what else could they claim to be strong on? The economy? Record deficit spending is selling our country out from under us. Health care? Their only idea, health savings accounts, won't help those who can't afford insurance in the first place. Absent any programs that help the ordinary American who doesn't have access to a corporate learjet, what else can they say? Hey, we're fighting wars so that makes us strong on national security! Yeah, sure. I still can't see how stirring up trouble in Iraq helps us at home or anywhere else in the world.

As for pundits "who don't think that the Iraq war veteran thing is going to work for the Democratic Party," why is Duckworth's candidacy merely a "thing," a gimmick? She has views about important issues like health care, which she knows a lot about after spending a good deal more time at Walter Reed than the Republicans mugging for their publicity photos. She pointed out in a TV interview that she never could have received such good medical care as a private citizen without going bankrupt, and that she wants all Americans to have access to the care that she got as a veteran. Roberts dismisses all of that by claiming she's just a "sacrificial lamb" in the general election. In truth, Duckworth stands a pretty good chance of winning this open seat. After all, 44 percent of the electorate voted for a Democrat against a powerful Republican incumbent two years ago.

I give Duckworth credit for keeping her cool with Roberts' insipid questions, allusions, and allegations. I, on the other hand, will call him out for the bastard he is.

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Sunday, March 19, 2006
Bastard of the Day
With the Illinois primary elections just days away, today's Bastard of the Day award goes to the purveyors of political phone ads. With an unlisted phone number and my aggressive "don't call me ever again" policy (my wife weasels out with "she's not home right now"), we get very few calls from telemarketers. But in the past two weeks we have been inundated with prerecorded messages in support of either Forrest Claypool or John Stroger for Cook County Board President. Most have been from Citizens for Claypool, but I'm pretty sure one was from Stroger backers (I could be wrong since I don't listen closely before hanging up).

I've been leaning toward Claypool simply because Stroger has been in charge for too darn long. I'd like to see someone else's name on every freaking forest preserve sign in Cook County. Now, however, I am having second thoughts because I tend to support the candidate who irritates me the least. If you want my vote, don't call me. Let your opponent fall into that trap.

(Note: This entry doesn't consider the ramifications of Stroger's recent stroke. A vote for Stroger may really be a vote for the person that the party selects to replace him.)

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Saturday, March 11, 2006
Blagojevich May Not Want Second Term
I was walking home from the grocery store today and saw a familiar figure run across my path at the corner of Western and Wilson: Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. I've seen him run in the neighborhood before (our dog once lunged at him), but what surprised me today was his recklessness. Traffic on Western Avenue, one of the busiest surface streets in Chicago, had the green light, and yet Blagojevich ran across, dodging five lanes of traffic and at one point running along the double yellow centerline. His security detail, a state trooper on a bicycle, watched the governor's Frogger impression and waited for the light to change. He was shaking his head and smiling as if to say, "Man, that guy is crazy!"

On the other side of Western, the governor ran on Wilson Avenue instead of the sidewalk. Considering that Wilson is 3.5 lanes wide with parking on each side and two-way traffic (i.e., four lanes of cars on 3.5 lanes of pavement), that isn't a bright idea either. This behavior tells me that Blagojevich doesn't really want to be reelected. That is why he is endangering himself in this way. Someone looking forward to the future doesn't do things like that.

Political gadflies should note that this was a Saturday evening, so Blagojevich was not playing hooky from his gubernatorial responsibilities. On the other hand, he was crossing against the light and disobeying the "Do not walk" sign. Of course, that's not much of an offense compared to the crimes of his predecessors. It would be like busting the newest home run king for drinking Red Bull.

In Blagojevich's defense, I have to confess as a former runner that I've done some pretty stupid things under the influence of adrenaline. One night I came to a railroad crossing that was blocked by a stopped freight train. Without a second thought, I scooted underneath a coupling between two cars. Ten seconds later, the successive clang of couplings down the line told me the train was moving again. My already elevated heartrate doubled when I realized how easily I could have become human sausage. As if that wouldn't have been bad enough, no one knew I was there and I carried no ID. My scrambled remains could have spent eternity in a potter's field.

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Sunday, February 27, 2005
Boy Genius And Alan Keyes
I just finished reading Boy Genius: Karl Rove, the Brains Behind the Remarkable Political Triumph of George W. Bush by Lou Dubose, Jan Reid, and Carl M. Cannon. I'll admit that I started reading with a huge chip on my shoulder about all that is evil in the modern Republican Party. While this book didn't change my mind (I doubt that anything could), it gave me an appreciation for Rove's political brilliance (and occasional dirty tricks). Sure, you could say that our current predicament is his fault, but he did a darn good job making it happen.

The book ends with a description of Rove's top-down management of the 2002 elections across the country. Rove hand-picked candidates and even discouraged or redirected the less desirable ones. For example, Rove convinced Norm Coleman to run for senator in Minnesota. He also talked Tim Pawlenty out of it, pushing him toward the governorship instead. Both won in 2002 (though Coleman was undoubtedly helped by the tragic death of his opponent, incumbent Senator Paul Wellstone).

This makes me wonder what the heck happened in Illinois in 2004. Republican Peter Fitzgerald did not seek reelection, and Republican primary victor Jack Ryan bowed out after some racy details came out regarding his divorce from actress Jeri Ryan (it was way overblown, but I didn't mind seeing a Republican victimized by the sort of moral witch hunt that Clinton endured).

Democrat Barack Obama was a solid candidate, but still he was only a state senator. When a couple of misguided Republican committee members (it was definitely not unanimous) pushed for Alan Keyes to replace Ryan, where was Rove? I know he had Bush's campaign to manage, but somebody at the national level should have stepped in to put the kibosh on that ridiculous idea. As it was, the GOP practically conceded an open seat to someone with no federal experience. Obama won by a greater margin than any senator in state history. Even worse, Keyes' ultraconservative ideology turned off a lot of Illinois voters who have a reputation for supporting moderate Republicans. I can't see how the Keyes campaign was positive in any way for the Illinois GOP.

Don't get me wrong; I'm thrilled that Obama won. It's just that the Illinois GOP's strategy seems even less explicable after reading Boy Genius. It also underscores the reason people like Rove have to manage everything--obviously the state parties cannot be trusted to make good decisions on their own.

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Sunday, January 02, 2005
Blagojevich & Gun Control
The Tribune had an editorial today about how Rod Blagojevich has softened his anti-gun stance since he went from the U.S. Congress to Illinois' governorship. Although my rabidly pro-gun father probably assumes that I am anti-gun since I have mostly liberal views, I think the word that best describes my feelings about the issue is apathy. I went target shooting plenty of times with my dad when I was younger. The hobby never caught on with me, but I don't have any problem with people who enjoy it. As a Chicago resident and the spouse of a police officer, I am concerned about gun violence, but I am not convinced that legally restricting gun ownership is going to solve our problems. I also believe that no statistics regarding guns exist that are not heavily tainted with bias from either side. Without a personal interest or reliable data, I choose not to take a strong stand on the issue. (For what it's worth, I thought Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's attempt to hold gun manufacturers responsible for gun violence was a ridiculous pursuit, and the courts recently agreed.)

There was one part of the Tribune article that irritated me, though:
Another initiative, an attempt to hike the fee for gun owner permits to help pay for better enforcement of gun laws, has become an absolute non-starter with Blagojevich. At $5 for five years, less than half the fee to camp at a state park for one night, the gun permits are one of the biggest bargains in a state government where Blagojevich has been pushing fee hikes left and right to make ends meet. The nominal gun fee, however, has become sacrosanct with the governor, largely because he pledged never to raise it during his campaign, to mollify the gun lobby.
Many pro-gun people say that what we need is not more gun control, but better enforcement of the laws we have. If they really believe that, then why would they oppose raising the permit fee to enforce those laws? (And as a small business owner whose fees have doubled during the Blagojevich administration, it bothers me that gun owners don't have to pony up extra money to help balance the state budget like I do.) One dollar per year is ridiculously low--people probably lose more than a dollar in change every year just getting their keys out of their pockets. Why not quadruple or quintuple the fee? It certainly wouldn't be a barrier to gun ownership if gun owners had to cough up $25 for a five-year permit.

The gist of the editorial was that Blagojevich grandstands about issues of dubious import, and I agree with that. While video games are more graphic and lifelike than ever, video game violence is a tired old issue. Perhaps he's just trying to jump on the post-election morality bandwagon (although the importance of "moral values" was way overblown). I would think that our governor would have more pressing concerns.

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Friday, November 05, 2004
Blue City, Red State
I took some small consolation on Tuesday that at least I live in a blue state, one that stands for civil rights, peace, fiscal responsibility, and economic opportunity for all, as opposed to the red sea of people that oppose those traditional American values.

Then I looked at the county-by-county tallies from CNN. Cook County was the only county in the state to come out "strong Kerry," with 70% of the vote going to the Democrat. Kerry got 1,389,631 votes to Bush's 583,774, a margin of 805,857 votes. Kerry won Illinois by 513,342 votes. That means that if not for Cook County, Bush would have won with over 54% of the vote. I don't live in a blue state; I live in a blue city. No wonder my dad and others view Illinois politics as Chicago versus the rest of the state.

The only thing most of us could all agree on was that Obama would be a better senator than that nutcase Alan Keyes. However, CNN's county map shows that Keyes actually won a cluster of counties in southeastern Illinois, including Clay (57%), Edwards (60%), Effingham (57%). Jasper (55%), Wabash (54%), and Wayne (57%). Is there something in the water down there? He also won upstate Iroquois County with 51%. Nonetheless, Obama set a record for margin of victory in a U.S. Senate race in Illinois, with 70% to Keyes' 27% for a margin of 43%. Not bad for a non-incumbent, eh?


Monday, October 18, 2004
Political Vandalism
An article in today's Tribune talks about how Bush-Cheney signs are being vandalized at a rate unprecedented in political history. The GOP actually held a press conference downtown to discuss the theft and destruction of campaign signs. Slow news day, huh? Excuse me while I laugh myself silly. The tone of the article is so hysterical, it is ridiculous:

In Gurnee, Simpson said, someone got out of a car and ripped up a Bush-Cheney sign in a front yard as two young children played outside.
Oh no! Not in front of the children! I'm sure they'll be traumatized for life.

State Senator Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) said, "We're talking about something that is a federal and state hate crime." The Tribune reported this without noting that he is wrong. According to my police officer wife, "hate crime" laws only cover crimes based on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Maybe tearing down the Cheney sign is a hate crime because his daughter is a lesbian? Dillard could argue that this is a free speech issue, but it is not a hate crime. People just love to throw that term around, as if there is such a thing as a "love crime."

Incidentally, Democrats reported similar cases regarding Kerry-Edwards signs, but they didn't see any need to call a press conference to whine about it.

I am surprised that the GOP didn't mention the vandalism on stop signs in my neighborhood: "BUSH" stenciled in white paint below the word "STOP." No, it wasn't me.

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Monday, September 27, 2004
The Only Question About The Senate Race
The only question about the race for U.S. Senator in Illinois is, how big will Obama's margin be? This could be the most lopsided Senate race in Illinois history. I did a little research, and it looks like the biggest margin of victory since the people (instead of state legislatures) began electing U.S. Senators was in 1920 when William B. McKinley (R) defeated Peter A. Waller (D) 66.8% to 26.8% for a margin of 40%. I would not be surprised to see Obama maintain a margin greater than 50% and take over 70% of the vote. I predict that the major networks will call this election at 7:02 PM Central Standard Time.


Keyes Does The Inevitable
When I first saw campaign posters for Barack Obama before the Democratic primary, I snickered. I said to my wife, "How unfortunate to have a name that close to 'Osama.' He'd have to be a heck of a candidate to win with that dubious name recognition."

Lo and behold, he was a good candidate, and now he's running against Alan Keyes. And leave it to a desperate candidate like Keyes (trailing Obama by 51% in the polls) to make use of that nefarious name association. From a story in the Quincy Herald-Whig:
Keyes later led the crowd in a series of chants where they answered his questions with the refrain "Obama been lyin'."
Eric Zorn followed up with the reporter, Doug Wilson, who verified that "Obama been lyin'" was indeed intended to sound like "Osama Bin Laden:"
"I'm certain that's what they're doing," he said. "They're trying to equate (Obama) to a really, really bad man."
I do believe Dr. Keyes has reached a new low. Meanwhile, Obama is collecting money from people in Keyes' home state of Maryland who don't want to see him become a U.S. Senator from any state.


Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Pass The Ibuprofen
According to today's Chicago Tribune, Alan Keyes "plans to make 'inflammatory' comments 'every day, every week' until the election."
"This is a war we're in," one source recounted Keyes as saying. "The way you win wars is that you start fires that will consume the enemy."
Hey, wasn't that the BATF's strategy at Waco? (as one of my Texan friends says, "What A Cook Out.")

Eric Zorn is soliciting suggestions for inflammatory statements that Keyes might make in the remaining 48 days until the election. Those might be fun to read, but it will be hard to top the Doctor himself. In the mean time, I'll have to stop by CVS/pharmacy on the way home to get something for this Keyes-induced inflammation...


Thursday, September 09, 2004
For Once, I Agree With Keyes
Truth Girl posted an excerpt from Scott Thomas' interview with Alan Keyes on WYLL regarding his now infamous "selfish hedonist" remarks:
THOMAS: I contend that when someone buys a $70,000 luxury car when a $18,000 Saturn will get you where you need to go, that that's selfish hedonism. When I have a second piece of cake for dessert when I really should go out and walk off the first piece, that's selfish hedonism. One way or another, we're all selfish hedonists, aren't we?
KEYES: Couldn't it be, though, that part of the reason why that phrase kind of makes people uncomfortable is because it reminds us of the fact that the decision we're taking in this area of marriage actually reflects a larger problem that exists in this society as a whole, where we need to start asking ourselves--and there are large problems, like deficits and other things like this, where we would look around saying, "Are we sacrificing the future for our own short-term interest? Are we putting a burden on our future generations because we want to indulge ourselves today?"I think that that problem of selfishness is one of the key challenges on a lot of these public policy issues in our time, and maybe it's one we're uncomfortable with.
Selfishness is a huge problem in modern society. When people cut off other drivers or refuse to let them merge, that's selfishness. When people want to lower their own taxes and cut welfare programs for others, that's selfishness. When people shop at Wal-Mart to save money despite knowing that the store is screwing over its employees, that's selfishness. It keeps getting worse. People are so selfish that they cannot be bothered to interrupt their cell phone conversations to interact with the grocery store cashier. Self-interest has always been a prime motivator for humans, and capitalism is the ultimate in selfish economics, so I suppose this was inevitable. Still, it doesn't take a genius to recognize that the world would be a better place if we were all less selfish.

This is something that has been bothering me for quite a while now (probably since the 1980s), so kudos to Keyes for having the audacity to call us on it. It is certainly not a popular stance for a politician, as it offends nearly everyone. But it only offends us because we know he's right.

That said, I still don't agree with Keyes' moral opposition to gay marriage. However, I think the whole issue is a red herring that the Republicans are using to draw attention away from the administration's many failures in economic and foreign policy. One can easily see Karl Rove telling Bush to make this a constitutional issue in order to get Iraq off the front pages. The media bought it; the plan worked brilliantly. Rove is scum-of-the-earth, but I hope he writes a book someday.


Thursday, September 02, 2004
Illinois GOP Reaction To Keyes
Big Jim Thompson, who was my governor from second grade through junior year of college, said this:

"I think those views are not only extreme but offensive. I think the people of Illinois will find those remarks offensive, and I think it's an offense to the political process that we have to suffer a candidate on our ticket who says things like that."


Judy Baar Topinka finally cracked, apparently seeing that others in her party didn't expect her to keep being nice: "I think it's nasty, and I don't like nasty politics," she said. "You don't pick on people's kids. Kids are off limits."

They really would have been better off keeping Jack Ryan. I think Obama would have won no matter what, but Ryan would have made it a lot closer. That is, unless uneducated voters confused him with that other Ryan, George, who was so crooked that he made Richard Daley look like George Bailey.

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The National Senate Candidate?
It occurred to me today that I have never seen a Senate candidate make as many appearances on national television and radio as Alan Keyes has in the few weeks of his campaign. Keyes said he didn't want to speak at the Republican convention because he was more interested in delivering his message to the people of Illinois. Is that why he did an interview with a Seattle radio station? I'm sure there were a lot of Illinois voters listening to that!

The Illinois Republicans have been duped. Keyes is using his campaign as a way to get more airtime than he could ever manage as an also-ran presidential candidate.

Incidentally, right now I can overhear the bosses in the conference room down the hall yucking it up over how ridiculous Keyes is as a candidate--and these are the sort of guys who normally vote Republican!

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Monday, August 30, 2004
Truth About Keyes
One of my favorite blogs these days is Truth About Keyes. Truth Girl has taken on the task of parsing the ridiculous rantings of Alan Keyes, the Maryland Republican candidate in the Illinois senate race. It's hard to believe that the Illinois GOP had to go out-of-state to bring in someone who doesn't even represent the views of the Illinois Republicans that I know. I suspect that they knew Barack Obama would be hard to beat and decided to sacrifice an outsider. Picking an extremist was a big mistake, though--a lot of people will remember what he said long after he has gone home, and they will associate those views with the entire party.

I'll write more about Keyes in the future. I'd sooner vote for
SpongeBob SquarePants, but Keyes is almost as entertaining!

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Saturday, August 28, 2004
Illinois Toll Hikes: An Activist's Misleading Criticism
Governor Blagojevich (who happens to live just a few blocks from me) just unveiled a plan to double tolls for truckers and for people who pay cash instead of using the automated I-PASS system. From yesterday's Daily Herald:
Wadsworth resident Susan Zingle, of the Lake County Conservation Alliance, was not so patient. She said doubling tolls for drivers who pay cash will have a "devastating impact" for Lake County residents.

"That is an unconscionable burden to put on people," Zingle told the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority's board Thursday morning...
Now wait a minute. Ms. Zingle is trying to tell us this will have a "devastating impact" for Lake County residents? I sincerely doubt this. First of all, Lake County is pretty affluent overall. I don't think the guy driving his Lexus to work is going to sweat a higher toll. He probably has I-PASS anyway. Besides, there is only one tollway in Lake County, and there are plenty of alternatives (US 41 and IL 21, for starters). "An unconscionable burden," she says? Anyone who uses the tollway enough to be burdened will get an I-PASS unit. The people who will really bear the brunt of this increase are truckers, out-of-towners, and occasional users (am I going to get an I-PASS transponder for the 2-3 times per month that I drive on the tollway?).

Why are higher tolls "unconscionable?" With all the things going on in our country today, I hardly think toll increases are worthy of such hyperbole. Heck, using the tollway is completely voluntary. Nobody is forcing anyone to pay anything. In that sense, it is one of the fairest "taxes" around (vs. taxes for schools, libraries, forest preserves, etc., which we pay for whether we use them or not).

Ms. Zingle is clearly full of it, but at least I know why. Although Blagojevich said nothing about it, increasing tolls could eventually fund an extension of IL 53 into Lake County. That's why Zingle is getting all bent out of shape. I just wish people would be more up front about their agendas or at least that the newspapers would call them on it.

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