Monday, February 18, 2013

Jesse Jackson, Jr. deservedly disgraced

English: Sandi Jackson and Jesse Jackson
English: Sandi Jackson and Jesse Jackson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Some of the dastardly deeds of Jesse Jackson, Jr. have finally been noticed and acted upon--at least some of them. Good! Too bad he will likely never pay for all he has done.

The disgraced congressman from Illinois second congressional district has now been indicted for misusing campaign funds to the tune of $750,000. The actual indictment is shown here. Jackson's shame is also shared by his wife the former Chicago alderman, Sandi Jackson. As a result, the two of them could end up in jail, the place for plenty of other Illinois political figures before them.

If only the former congressman would learn his lesson. If only his situation could serve as an example to others who believe they are better than the rest of us and thus deserve more than the rest of us. If only the world could see that working hard is the way to get ahead, not gaming the system.

Sadly, that will likely never happen.

From what I have observed, and I have written about it numerous times in this very blog, Jesse Jackson, Jr. will stop at nothing to get what he wants, despite who or what gets in his way. He plays the game to win. He ignored all the rules and made them up as he went along, never considering that he wouldn't always come out on top.

He is in my view, a classic narcissist, which is a personality disorder that showcases ego and makes a person pre-occupied with all things self. Such personality types have seemingly filled our government at all levels. It has to be a real kick for people like Jackson to have tens of thousands of virtual strangers throw money and support your way in a campaign, but politics only feeds the disorder. Jackson and his famous father seem to share similar entitlement DNA. The difference is that Jesse Jackson's issues have been tempered with performing some outstanding work on behalf of others at times. I wish I could say the same thing for his son.

I know Jesse Jackson, Jr. had the potential and likely still does to be an excellent public servant. If only he could have gotten beyond serving himself first.

Watching Jesse Jackson, Jr. compromise all principles in his effort to sacrifice  the homes of landowners and farmers in eastern Will County where the state has been trying to cite an airport that has no logical purpose. The airport is evidence that he would stop at nothing. This is a man who cannot admit he is wrong. Yet, it was wrong when Jackson, the good Democrat, joined the efforts of the late Republican Congressman Henry Hyde, the man who was behind President Bill Clinton's impeachment. Hyde wanted to build an airport far away from O'Hare as a means of curtailing and possibly replacing it. He and Jackson teamed up with then Governor George Ryan, to form a trifecta of support for the ill-fated project. Hyde is dead; Ryan is currently under home confinement as he finishes his 6 1/2 year prison sentence for corruption; and Jackson--well he awaits his fate after his indictment. So much for Illinois' airport scheme...

The really sad part about Jackson is that he got people to believe him--to buy his snake oil--even though pathological lying is a symptom of narcissism. He lied to the U.S. Congress about the potential benefit of an airport in the cornfields and he lied to his constituents. He lied to south suburban mayors and clergy who still don't realize it was all smoke and mirrors. He got them to believe the hype--that an airport 40 miles away from Chicago was going to be their salvation.

It is too bad Jackson didn't enlist their support for some kind of real economic development project that might have helped them. In all Jackson's years in congress, some of the towns he represented remain the poorest in the state. It is too bad Jackson didn't use his talents and skills to make something happen that was doable and beneficial rather than merely to look at becoming an airport kingmaker to benefit himself.

When it came to the proposed Peotone Airport, Jackson would say anything to get it built. Never forget, he did it for himself. So many people over the 40-year history of the project have tried to get the unneeded, unwanted airport built. Remember Illinois is a pay-to-play state. Politics there isn't for the good of the people; it is for the good of the politicians who can wield contracts and control votes and campaign cash. No one has been able to build another major airport in Illinois, because right and reason really does trump wrong and foolish. In the end, the project will never be built because it really has no purpose. Air travel is never going to grow so much that O'Hare will be inadequate. It can always be expanded if need be.

I have no idea how long it will take for others just like Jackson to accept that, but one day, the beleaguered project will finally fade away. Jackson breathed the last dying gasps into it. His life will have to take a new turn now.  

The momentum he started more than a decade ago will have to slow at its own pace, but I predict it will, providing someone else doesn't follow in his footsteps. There is always someone willing to put themselves first in Illinois.

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Friday, February 1, 2013

Sorrow of loss; lives remembered

These times are hard.

Not only is the world seemingly falling apart around us, but my personal world isn't faring much better. So many people I have known and cared about are dying.

The sadness I feel is like a brisk wind on a hillside, eroding me. I have long believed that what eventually kills us is the act of living. With living comes pain.

I'm almost starting to regret having worked at a job I loved; I was a local reporter in a small town for more than 20 years. I got to know so many people that I likely never would have met otherwise. I had the privilege of really getting to know them, their families, their life stories. I grew to love many of them, who have become lifelong friends.

My interviews were generally so much more than merely a question and answer session. They were usually an emotional, conversational experience for both of us, that included sharing intimate details of life. So much more was said than what could ever have appeared in print. 

My goal was to capture the essence of a person's story, why and what they cared about, as well as what inspired them. To write about them, I wanted to get to know them. Ultimately it was the detail that grew out of those conversations that made the story. More often than not, the exercise resulted in friendship. 

When my husband and I retired and moved away, it was hard to leave all those friendships behind. I have stayed in close contact with many. 

A funny thing happens when you leave a familiar place. Memories remain indelible, unchanged by time or circumstance. It is as though time is irrelevant. I imagine people and places to remain exactly as they were when I last saw them, though the reality is that time has its way with us all.

Time and reality can be cruel. So many of those people have died in recent weeks and months. There are almost too many to count. Just before Christmas, there were five deaths of people I had known and cared about. So many good people have left behind families who grieve for them and sadness to those of us whose lives were touched by them. 

Despite the pain of my own sorrow, I'm grateful that I knew them. I didn't just write about these folks, their life story danced with mine. The dance will stay with me forever, etched in a moment of time. 

So many good souls...

Thursday, January 31, 2013

George Ryan finally gets Illinois' get out of jail free card

Disgraced, convicted felon
ex-Illinois Gov. George Ryan
It has taken six years for former Illinois Governor/attorney Jim Thompson to get his client, the disgraced ex-Illinois Gov. George Ryan, out of a federal penitentiary. This week he finally pulled it off. Ryan had about nine months left to serve on his 6 1/2-year prison sentence, but is now home again.

Ryan was not just Thompson's client and member of the Illinois governors club; Ryan was Thompson's Lt. Governor from 1983 to 1991.

Thompson represented Ryan pro-bono; he was first hired in 2002 during the 'license for bribes' scandal that ultimately resulted in Ryan's conviction of multiple counts  of racketeering, conspiracy, mail fraud, obstruction of justice, money laundering, and tax violations.

In the case against Ryan, Thompson's defense included every trick in the book. From hardship to appeal at every level, to requesting clemency of two U.S. Presidents, Thompson tried to get Ryan to remain a free man. He cited Ryan's health, claiming he could die in prison. Ryan did go home briefly to be with his late wife Laura Lynn, who died of lung cancer in June 2011.

Who knew halfway houses were equipped with revolving doors?

Today Ryan is practically a free man. He was released Wednesday, Jan. 30 from the federal penitentiary in Terra Haute, Indiana where he has lived since Nov. 7, 2007.

He was enroute to a halfway house in Chicago where he was scheduled to serve the remainder of his prison sentence. But just hours after arriving, he was on his way home to Kankakee. Ryan will remain confined in his spacious riverfront home until his sentence officially concludes.

Thompson told reporters he was surprised by the decision to allow Ryan home confinement, claiming that Ryan received no preferential treatment despite Thompson's own extraordinary measures to see his client and friend free from incarceration. Thompson claimed he did not arrange for his client's release, but that prison officials made the decision.

I wonder who will release those still suffering from Ryan's decisions. Two instances come to mind.

One is a family--the Willis family--whose six children were killed in a horrific traffic accident; killed by a man who obtained an illegal drivers' license when George Ryan served as Illinois Secretary of State.

The other is a group of residents in eastern Will County that still face a threat of eminent domain proceedings to make way for the Peotone airport that will probably never be built. It was George Ryan, the ex-governor who opened that Pandora's box when he ordered the first parcel of land to be bought for the project, even though it wasn't even in the airport site. It was close enough to begin panic selling that began in 2002 and continues to this day.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Violence prevention and safety initiatives rather than gun control

English: Detail of Preamble to Constitution of...
Detail of Preamble to Constitution of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Gun control is such a contentious issue, with both sides refusing to listen to the other. Real understanding of the source of some very deep-seated feelings are going to be necessary if this country will ever be able to curb the kind of violence that fills front pages of newspapers across the land.

Opponents view gun control as a way to limit their right to bear arms--their  hard-fought patriotic freedom as they believe God and the country's founding fathers intended.

The gods and guns crowd are largely traditionalists that may have lived in the same place all of their lives--in many cases--occupying the land where their ancestors first settled. Many are educated in the same small town by teachers they have grown up with; reading newspapers run by their former classmates; and filling church pews with an ever-increasing number of extended family members. Their daily lives revolve around the best life has to offer; loving family and good friends. These are not folks that seek change; they like things just the way they are. They are a trusting lot--putting faith in anyone that is like them and being suspicious of those who are not. This trusting trait allows others to take unfair advantage. It is hard to recognize that which is unknown to you.

Their experience with gun violence and frankly many of society's ills may be limited to an occasional hunting accident or possible suicide by a troubled teen or war veteran. Such occurrences are easily justified as the victim 'having a problem.' After all, even perfect communities and good families have issues. 

Although they read the headlines that deal with much bigger issues related to gun violence, they remain untouched by gang warfare, mass murders, and serial killings that happen somewhere else. 

Cultural justification makes it easy to ignore the big picture. But the gun control debate is big and complex and growing.  

In my view, it is foolish to attempt to protect the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which is actually a poorly-worded, undefined, interpretive piece in a much larger document that has so much more meaning than that one entry. The U.S. Constitution is a framework of how to govern a society. It is far more important than the singularly focused right to bear arms. A much higher priority should be placed in the constitution's sister document's right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Those rights should not be infringed either, but to fear going into a public place and being blown away by some yahoo with a handgun in his pocket has become reality. It is one that has been exacerbated by an over zealous desire to arm every citizen with concealed weapons, assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and armor-piercing bullets that turns a shotgun into a machine gun designed for mowing down multiple people in an instant and inflicting maximum damage to bodily tissue.

From my own observation, the discussion needs to be broadened--centered on violence--not just guns. The one place where I actually agree with the National Rifle Association is that violence in our society has gotten hideous. I abhor the violence on television, in movies, and through video games, much of which is inflicted by guns. 

First, we need to change the debate by changing the verbiage. The term gun control must be abandoned. It is too limiting and conjures up a notion of iron-hand dominance. Instead we need to embark upon violence prevention and safety initiatives.

We need to convey that our laws must not restrict gun-owners freedoms, but instead our aim is to expand overall freedom to include all citizens, no matter their view on firearms. It would be fool-hearty to wait for education through experience; to wait for violence to come knocking on more and more doors. We must change the conversation before that happens, by emphasizing freedom to be safe and secure in our homes and in public places. 

We must address growing crime. Why do thugs believe they can get away with walking into another person's home and help themselves to whatever they want? Why is there so little trust in our system of justice? Why do judges run for office as partisans? Do people trust their police force? Why are there cops on the take? Why in some instances is the penalty for growing marijuana more severe than that of the guy who brutalizes his wife? 

Violence in our society is a house of cards. Fixing any of these problems will lead to fixing so much more. If people aren't afraid to walk into a public place, they won't feel compelled to arm themselves. 

The bigger picture also includes a more critical eye toward the future. 

How many hunters are really sportsmen? How many shoot animals for food? Do we really need to kill animals in the 21st century? Wouldn't it be just as sporting to shoot clay pigeons or other non-breathing targets?

Just because we have long held traditions, doesn't mean we cannot or should not change with the times. The world is really a bigger place than the block where we grew up. Our thinking must also be bigger. We must also be cognizant that our home, a huge blue ball as seen from space, may seem huge to us, but that doesn't make it less finite. Let's face it; our home is our planet. It contains a highly diverse group of people, places, and things that must be seen in a larger context. Our future depends on it.

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Friday, January 11, 2013

We mustn't let the 'Annie get your gun mentality' prevail

Guns, guns, guns
Guns, guns, guns (Photo credit: paljoakim)

Freedom of choice is on the decline in this country spurred by the Annie get your gun mentality. I no longer feel free to live without fear of an encounter with a crazed gunman. They are everywhere!

I have never been among the gun crowd; I have always hated guns and anything that has to do with them. The thought of shooting an animal turns my stomach. I never bought toy guns for my son. I shun all the shoot'em up movies. I abhor violence of all kinds. The older I get, the more I've embraced my life-long pacifistic tendencies. Until now, I have been free to live my life gun-free, but as I begin the autumn of my life, circumstances are forcing me to change my thinking. I say forced because it isn't something I want to do. My freedom to live peacefully without fear has been compromised.

Hate, fueled by ignorance is all around us. It was so evident in Barack Obama's 2012 election to a second term as President of the United States. I do not understand the kind of hatred that is fueled by racism, so much more prevalent than I ever knew. Folks were more inclined to elect a man who used people to get whatever he wanted. He was a proven liar who would say whatever he had to say to advance himself. Many knew it, yet he was a white guy, so he was a better choice in their minds. When Obama was re-elected, thankfully by the more open-minded, thinking people who recognized his attributes and potential to solve some of the deeply ingrained problems caused by the previous presidential administration, I felt relief.

But it was short-lived. A new horror awakened and shocked the nation. The murder of 26 people in Newtown, CT was the worst. Twenty tots along with six teachers and administrators in a public school were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The country seemed to awaken to a reality it didn't seem to want to face before, even in the light of so many needless deaths. No one could turn their eye from the unimaginable horror that filled the classroom on Dec. 14, 2012, the day the country regained a focus on the need to do something about guns.

The majority of the country gets it. There is a need to keep killing machines out of the hands of people who would do harm to innocents. A discussion has begun in earnest about this situation. And so the battle lines have been drawn. The leader of the opposition movement to a sensible solution is once again led by the National Rifle Association and the same voices that spewed hate during the election of our President. The NRA solution is more guns. They want guns everywhere as they make the claim that a well-armed teacher could have prevented lives. More sensible voices say just the opposite. The NRA with its televangelist campaign style rhetoric is fueling more hatred in the name of making more money by selling more guns. Even while the President moves toward a more saner climate, the NRA is fueling the hatred.

From my observation, it appears there are two scenarios.

The first is total paranoia that the government is going to confiscate all guns in some sort of Twilight Zone move to ignore the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The argument is fatally flawed, but is defended to the hilt. There is talk of banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, firearms and ammo that is designed for no other purpose than to kill people with rapid-fire ease. Why are these weapons defended by regular people? Who in their right mind believes average citizens should possess these military-type weapons.

The other scenario is fueled by the heads of the household who maintain a genuine fear of an intruder; someone who wants to rob, rape, or murder them in their own home. They want to keep guns on hand for their own protection. They refuse to think their child might one day find that firearm and use it accidentally or on purpose. They refuse to think about that firearm being stolen and used on them, as was done in the case of the Sandy Hook shooter who used his mother's assault rifle to murder her in her bed. The 'it couldn't happen to me' argument is nothing but a fantasy.

Part of the protection argument that may be the most shocking is not the one made by the head of the household; it is made by his wife. Apparently women continue to fear the men in their lives, so they defend their need to have a gun in the house.

Every day the local news is filled with domestic violence, murder, and mayhem that occurs in a not-so-happy home. So many families have become victims of gun violence.

Women have made so many advances in our society, but so many are being left behind, for whatever reason. I suppose when a U.S. Congressman proposes legislation that is degrading to women or others make foolish statements about women's health, it is a real danger sign.

When people vote against intelligence, capability, and integrity in favor of empty rhetoric and and impossible promises and lies, what can we expect? When hope turns to desperation, what can we expect?

I believe the majority of this country is advancing intellectually and socially, but a growing number of folks relate more to Honey Boo Boo than the men and women of science that have advanced our lives and changed our world for the better. I'm very frightened for the next generation. I shudder to think of what kind of America my grandchildren will occupy. The choices that are being made today are so vital. Their future depends on it.

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Good riddance 2012!

DEZEMBER 2012, December 2012
DEZEMBER 2012, December 2012 (Photo credit: eagle1effi)
It is a thrill to put 2012 behind us. As years go, this year was a disaster.

I just wish it were as easy to turn the page on politics and gun violence as it is to turn the page on the calendar. It seems we have experienced an all-time low in repulsive behavior on those two fronts.

Since I've been paying attention, I have never observed more petty, abhorrent, vile behavior as during the 2012 GOP election season. Fox News'  outright lies would have been humorous, had the stakes not been so high. Still, they had the trust of large numbers of people who actually believed them. The entire staff under the moniker of 'media' accomplished near decimation of an already suffering communication industry. Who can trust the media now, after all that has been done to destroy journalistic credibility by what we now know to be an admitted farce?

The GOP campaign, led by corporate giants with nearly unlimited amount of cash thanks to the wrong-headed conservative U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision tried to steal the election through no-responsibility campaign ads. Fortunately their candidate for president was a buffoon with little to no campaign smarts and zero integrity. His handlers weren't much better. I'm so grateful that enough of the public woke up in time to cast ballots for the incumbent.

But even more disheartening than the election debacle was the horrific gun violence in 2012 where 16 mass shootings resulted in 88 dead. The last one--on December 14--the needless slaughter of 26 innocent people, including 20 precious, little first-graders at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, may be and should have been the final straw to break the back of an undisciplined society gone awry.

The incident of worst-nightmare proportions brought a President to tears and so affected the general public that cries for better gun laws have begun to echo across the nation. Still, that is little consolation for the tiny unsuspecting east coast town that lost its innocence.

Changing the way the country looks at gun violence could be a start in the long road to help the healing. An end to gun violence could help if that were the end of the story. But it isn't!

Sadly, some of the same voices that supported artificial news during the presidential campaign are the same ones that now cry for more guns, not less. The National Rifle Association, which many fail to realize is little more than the marketing arm of the gun manufacturers lobby, has some of those same Fox News devotees squarely in its sites. They see no reason guns shouldn't be placed in the hands of school teachers to keep the students safe. Never mind that it didn't help at Columbine High School or at Ft. Hood where weapons actually belong and are issued to all the soldiers there.

It is unbelievable to me that anyone could believe that more guns could keep people safe from gun violence. That is like saying that keeping water in a toddler's bathtub will deter drowning.

I'm sick to death of the excuse that guns are for protection. Too often guns purchased for protection simply result in injury and death during a heated argument, or in an instant of despair resulting in suicide, or perhaps an accident by a curious child. Responsible gun owners should lock their weapon securely. So what kind of protection is that? Gun owners want it both ways, but it doesn't work that way. Protection from bad guys would require access to a loaded gun. Protection for family members requires locking away and securing the gun and ammunition.

Though this is a discussion that will likely span the entire new year, at least it is has begun. It is a topic that is long overdue, which is reason enough for optimism in the coming new year.

So once again, we wipe the slate clean. A new beginning with high hopes where anything is possible is upon us. Our future begins now. What we do with it is our choice.


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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ending gun violence must start with open discussion

English: The Bill of Rights, the first ten ame...
The United States Constitution
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Like so many people across the country I am sickened by the recent school shooting tragedy in Newtown, CT that slaughtered 28 people, including 20 innocent young children.

The number of gun-related deaths in this country makes is inexcusable. It has gotten to the point that people are afraid. I'm afraid.

I don't buy the fact that everyone should carry a gun. In fact, if I hear one more person say that if those teachers or the principal was armed, this wouldn't have happened. I am at a total loss to reconcile that kind of thinking. Less guns are needed on the streets and in public places; not more. Guns are hideous! The people that use every excuse as to why they have a love affair with them are worse.

No longer can I tolerate that whole second amendment rights tirade. The second amendment to the U.S. Constitution was written long before the kind of carnage assault rifles can create was conceived. Guns were meant to create peace and protection; not devastation and death. Yet that is the ugly reality. The second amendment is at best, outdated. People think nothing of updating their bathroom fixtures, but the laws we must live by, not so much.

Shouting gun control from the highest rooftops has no affect. There has to be a renewed discussion about not just changing the laws, but changing the attitudes.

I've found that good and decent people who think they are doing the right thing by arming themselves to protect their homes and families may in fact be a big part of the problem. The following is eye-opening and should be seen by every law-abiding citizen that supports carrying a weapon.

Concealed Carry Permit Holders Live in a Dream World

Varying views about how to end gun violence include polar extremes with every argument in-between. Some want the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution amended and brought up-to-date. Some believe every person should be armed. Others believed guns should be banned completely. With such a disparity of views about this important problem, one or none of those may be the answer. It may be a combination of them, or one that hasn't yet been proposed. But one thing is for certain--the discussion has to happen. Too much blood of innocent victims has been shed. All sides need to come together to solve this problem and return the United States to the a peaceful and caring nation our forefathers tried to create.

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