Thursday, October 3, 2013

Just do it Boehner

John Boehner - Caricature
John Boehner - Caricature (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)
It is so galling to watch members of the U.S. Congress behave like bullies on a playground.

This is day 3 of the government's failure to operate, thanks to House Speaker John Boehner. If there is one person that could end this right now, and could have prevented it from ever happening in the first place, it is John Boehner.

What is his problem? Granted, he fears losing his position as House Speaker if he doesn't make everyone happy. Is he fool enough to think anyone could do that? Politics 101 teaches that it is impossible to make all the people happy all the time. Is the title worth it? Is the perceived power that goes with the title worth losing face, losing sleep, and losing the respect of the majority of Americans? Is it worth future history books writing that you shrugged off your obligation?

Boehner should never have been elected to a leadership position because he is clearly not a leader. He isn't even a good follower.

The responsible thing for John Boehner to do is bring the Senate's continuing resolution to fund the government in the short term, to the House floor to put the government back in business before further demands from Senate Democrats complicate his already untenable position. Clearly, this stopgap measure which largely contains Republican fingerprints, is just a stopgap measure, but would at least allow the government to operate. This is Boehner's only option. He should take it before his boots sink further into the muck. Democrats are in a position to make further demands. They have nothing to lose.

On Oct. 17, the House and Senate will be required to raise the debt ceiling. If they fail to act, I'm sure the President will evoke executive privilege to pay the country's bills. The way I see it, Boehner has no option to get what he wants, if he even knows what he wants. So, he ought to do the right thing. Bring the Senate resolution to the floor and let the chips fall where they may.

Boehner may be irresponsible but some of his cohorts are despicable

It was painful to watch photo-ops yesterday at the World War II war memorial and to see footage of congressmen harassing park rangers that are just trying to do their jobs.

After a group of World War II veterans traveled to Washington, D.C. only to find the memorial to their distinguished service closed, they brazenly removed the gates and visited the memorial anyway, as reported by ABC News.

Good for them, by the way. I find it totally offensive that the public can be kept out of places that are in essence ours. We pay for them; we should be able to use them, but that is another story for another time.

GOP Congresswoman and tea party darling Michelle Bachmann, greeted veterans on that first day, just so she could get her face on the news. Bachmann is gleeful about the shutdown of the government, saying it is what she wanted. So she thought she would take advantage of it for a little photo-op. You can never have your face on camera too often, eh Michelle?

While Michelle was posing in front of cameras, in another area near the memorial, U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, a GOP congressman from Texas was making his own statement. It didn't go over very well with those in attendance.

Yesterday Reince Priebus, the GOP National Committee Chairman made a grand gesture in front of the news media, of funding guards for the veterans memorial so it could remain open. Oh please! It was open anyway because the veterans took matters into their own hands to open it; and well they should because it is theirs!

This kind of stunt is so obvious to anyone with a critical eye. This behavior is shallow, self-serving, and pretty pathetic. Perhaps someone should tell Priebus and his cohorts that it was his own party that is responsible for the shut down of the veteran's memorial and the rest of the government offices, parks, and programs.

Once again, c'mon John Boehner, do the right thing. Bring a clean continuing resolution to re-open the government to the floor and let the entire House vote on it. Act like the Speaker of the House and not just the Speaker of the Republicans.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Government shutdown prohibits picnic at the lake

Lake Norfork
A calm and serene Lake Norfork
I'm really upset that I'm unable to go to the lake today for a picnic. There will be no yummy sandwiches, no homemade potato salad, and no tasty iced tea to wash it down. There will be no watching the Great Blue Herons along the shore or diving just below the surface of the water; no ducks swimming lazily in formation. I won't be able to watch the parade of squirrels chasing each other as they fight for their stash of acorns high in the oak trees whose leaves are starting to fall. I won't be able to watch boats zip across the water.

Truthfully, I had no plans to visit the lake today. I only want to because I know I can't. I am barred from the park by the lake because it is run by the Army Corps of Engineers and they were told not to report to work today. I'm no different than anyone else that is unable to enjoy my day. All federal parks, museums, the national zoo, and every other government facility is closed up tight; it is closed because the United States government is shut down due to inaction by the U.S. Congress to fund our government. 

If I was John Boehner, Speaker of the House, I would pack my picnic basket, get in my car, drive to the park, and ram it right through the gate. 

That is in essence what he did when he refused to call a clean CR (continuing resolution) to the floor that had already been passed by the U.S. Senate. It would have passed by members on both sides of the aisle. Instead, he and his merry madmen took the country hostage over his insistence that there be changes in the Affordable Care Act. There were three attempts to pass the CR with amendments related to gutting the ACA or better known as Obamacare. One of the provisions in the amendments was to allow employers to opt out of providing women's reproductive rights. Do you want your employer to decide what is best for you or your wife? 

Boehner also tried additional amendments, all related to Obamacare. Senate leaders were clear that any CR related to Obamacare would not pass. They stood their ground.

Instead of doing the right thing, Boehner refused to allow the clean CR to come to the floor, something he could have done yesterday and could still do today. 

The parade of Republicans speaking for the various amendments, each one designed to harm President Obama's signature accomplishment. One of the amendments would delay the implementation of Obamacare for a year. It was scheduled to begin today. Indeed, masses of Americans signed up for health care through the ACA today. The government shutdown had no effect because the funding was already ensured.

Another House Republican amendment, which came out of the 'rules' committee, made up of 9 Republicans and 4 Democrats, would exempt congressional members' own employees from eligibility of the Affordable Care Act. Their final attempt, just minutes before the government deadline prior to the shutdown, was to establish a conference committee to iron out the differences between the two houses. That is customary when both houses pass two differing versions of the same bill. That was something members of the senate tried to do since March when both houses passed spending bills. It didn't happen because Boehner refused to appoint members to the conference committee. Instead, Boehner's House was busy trying to repeal Obamacare -- 42 times. 

The part that annoyed me the most, during my six-hour marathon session with C-Span and C-Span 2, as I watched all the action take place live, was how Republicans tried to act as innocents as they blamed everyone but themselves. 

Make no mistake about this, Speaker John Boehner must take responsibility for shutting down the government. He and his tea party members took the country hostage, refusing to do the people's business. His actions were reprehensible! 

My desire to enjoy a day at the lake will just have to wait until the government comes to its senses, if that ever happens. My disappointment pales in comparison to the millions of workers that were told not to come to work today, will not get paid, and who knows for how long? 

I certainly hope the American people remember this day on Nov. 14, 2014 when House members want you to trust them to do the public's business for another two years. 
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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Convicted Jesse Jackson, Jr. finally going to jail

English: Sandi Jackson and Jesse Jackson
Jesse Jackson and his wife Sandi
are both going to jail
Today, a judge sentenced ex-Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. to 30 months in prison for his misuse of campaign funds. His wife, a former Chicago alderman was also sentenced to 12 months, also for misuse of funds. The couple has been convicted of squandering $750,000.

While many saw Jackson as a rising political star, others of us have seen him doing far more than ripping off campaign funds. Yet, his other deeds have not even been broached in a courtroom, nor will they likely ever be.

Jackson's behavior is systemic. His biggest failing is that he would stop at nothing to make himself look good. It is a shame too, because he is bright, well-read, articulate, and could have become an influential congressman. He chose otherwise.

I once had respect for the Jackson family until I learned how they would use anyone or anything to advance themselves. I believe Jackson's father began his Civil Rights work for the right reason, but quickly learned to scam the system. Apparently, so did his children.

The deed that is particularly close to me began when Jesse Jackson, Jr. teamed up with an unlikely partner, the late Congressman Henry Hyde, (R-Wood Dale) to reignite the state's dead effort to build a new airport south of Chicago in the cornfields of eastern Will County. The South Suburban Airport (Peotone Airport) had been advanced by the State of Illinois for 45 years in its latest quest. In actuality a new airport was first proposed in the 1960's. It is amazing that the wrong-headed effort continues today, perpetuated by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.

Prior to Jackson's involvement, the airport was dead; it was killed in the early 1990's after Illinois Republicans' vigorous last-ditch effort failed to garner enough political support. In 1992 a bi-state panel voted against building an airport in a rural area. In particular, they opposed building a new airport near Peotone. The effort was revived by former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar, (R-IL) two years later, despite a growing lack of interest.

Then along came Jackson, a new up-and-coming black leader who was enthusiastic, well-spoken, and charismatic. His well-known last name didn't hurt at all. Jackson's enthusiasm brought new vitality to the effort. He didn't flinch as he used his own constituents' reputation as some of the poorest communities in Illinois, as he offered them false hope for economic vitality and the jobs they so desperately needed, even after the project was downsized from three times the size of O'Hare International to a mere one runway facility.

When Illinois elected former Secretary of State George Ryan as governor, now a convicted felon recently released from prison, Ryan urged IDOT to buy land in the vicinity of the airport, though not in the airport footprint. It began a groundswell of fear resulting in long time farmers and landowners selling their land to the state. They feared they had no other choice. The state bought up as much as it could.

Jackson was able to light a spark that finally caught fire when the unlikely team began to have an effect. He and Hyde drew upon their mutual dislike and distrust for Chicago's aviation prowess. Soon the effort to push an unnecessary airport was revived by Jackson and his unlikely friends.

Using some of the same histrionics that caused Jackson to spend campaign cash and become a convicted felon, Jackson convinced some of those poor communities to contribute to what had become his obsession--the Peotone Airport. Those poor communities ponied up dollars for billboards, marketing efforts, and whatever else that might convince Ryan's successor, then Gov. Rod Blagojevich, another Illinois governor whose above-the-law behavior landed him behind bars, to support the project. Much to Blagojevich's credit however, he didn't give in to Jackson who continued to promise jobs and economic development to the beleaguered communities in Chicago's southern suburbs.

Once Ryan was in jail, the Peotone Airport became a Democrat-led undertaking, with Jackson taking the lead. Even after Hyde died in 2007, Jackson persisted, by working with Hyde cronies in the western suburbs. They were united in their disdain for Chicago and its hold on O'Hare. The many efforts by O'Hare-area mayors over the years to wrest control of O'Hare failed. Chicago's opposition to another new airport 40 miles south of downtown was the Peotone Airport's biggest roadblock. Thus it was likely the biggest incentive for Jackson to make it happen.

Then, Jackson let his ego and lust for power guide his actions. There was nothing he couldn't accomplish, so he thought. Apparently that included his personal life. He set up his wife Sandi, the ex-Chicago alderman who was also sentenced today, in a well-funded campaign office. He continued fundraising.

Jackson apparently thought he could do better as a U.S. Senator. So when Illinois Sen. Barack Obama was elected President, Jackson tried to get Blagojevich to appoint him to Obama's vacant senate seat. Jackson allegedly tried to buy the position by offering Blagojevich favors and campaign cash. Apparently it was Jackson that went to the feds about Blagojevich's activities. But his own dealings, particularly in buying Obama's senate seat became fodder for investigation as well. He was named one of the most corrupt members in congress. He faced ethics violations. His house of cards began to tumble.

Yet none of that was covered in Jackson's recent conviction. When sentenced, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson indicated that Jackson, as a U.S. Congressman, should have been held to a higher standard. She said he violated the public trust.

Everything I have seen about Jackson, violated the public trust. From his teaming up with Hyde to participate in Illinois' pay-to-play system, to lying to his colleagues about the location of the proposed airport that was not even in his congressional district at the time, to completely misleading his own constituents for which he provided false hope that an airport miles and miles from their communities would be a benefit to them.

It is just too bad the charges against Jesse Jackson, Jr. couldn't be all inclusive of all of his misdeeds. Only then would justice really be served.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Food Network owes Paula Deen an apology

English: The logo of Food Network.
English: The logo of Food Network. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As a Food Network viewer for almost as many years as it has been on the air, I am appalled that it would fire Paula Deen over her so-called racist remarks. This is not the same Food Network that taught me how to slice onions and dice tomatoes with my butcher knife or demonstrate the ease of preparing fresh, whole food. I'm grateful to the early days of the Food Network that introduced me to cooks like Sara Moulton, Emeril Lagassee, Tyler Florence, Bobby Flay, and of course Paula Deen.

I was moved by Deen's story. She is beyond a doubt, a likable character who has always had an infectious charm about her. But beyond that, she epitomized the strong, successful women whose first priority was to raise her children and to make a living. Paula Deen had to have a little luck on her side too along with a savvy business sense, because she not only achieved her goals, but turned her ideas into a virtual empire. Now, it is coming crashing down for no good reason.                                                                                                       The Paula Deen story, that has unfolded on the pages of network news, in social media, and across the tabloids is not about the woman I have watched for years on television. The woman I've come to know is not at all hateful, yet she is accused of being a racist. The motive behind such an accusation would require hatred. Paula Deen just doesn't seem to fit the bill.
Now, I will admit; I don't personally know the woman. I simply know her image. I know the personality she projects. She could be one way on camera and another way in real life. But, I don't think that is the case. 

This isn't even a credible news story

What I have heard and read about this case which has focused on Paula Deen, is not a complete story and should have never gone beyond tabloid status. While on that subject, something should be done to regulate tabloids that print whatever they feel like, whether it is credible or not. It does a terrible disservice to the subjects of its rants and to the gullible reading public. What was even far worst was how mainstream media grabbed onto this story to further sensationalize a non-story story much the way it grabs all things these days. Mainstream media isn't much better than the tabloids. Sadly, our society is paying the price. 

As a reader, I'd like to know more about Lisa Jackson, the plaintiff in this case. What is her motive? Is it just money? Was she really wronged? I read some of her deposition. She might have a case, but I doubt it. This reads more like a story of two kids getting into some battle on the playground; one goes to tattle to the teacher; the other enlists mommy for help. There are real problems that must be solved in the courts. This kind of foolishness isn't one of them. It wastes time and tax dollars and is frivolous at best.

It appears to me that Jackson has little legal leg to stand on. And, she has hired a bully of a lawyer. Paula Deen Enterprises is a lucrative business and has plenty of money. The thing is, Paula Deen isn't even the principle in the complaint. This is about her brother, for whom she is very loyal. He owns a restaurant  which she financed. He owes her thousands of dollars. Lisa Jackson worked for him. 

If I had to categorize this case, I would say that Deen's brother drinks a little too much; when he does he has a big mouth. I don't believe him to be a criminal. If he has a problem, perhaps a few Alcoholics Anonymous meetings would be in order. Or, perhaps seeing how much this has harmed his big sister may be enough to shake him into sobriety.

Is racism defined by name-calling now?

Deen may be living the life of a sophisticate, but I doubt that is who she really is. She was likely intimidated by the legal process for which she found herself entangled. Knowing she must tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, that is probably why she admitted freely that she had used the term 'nigger' in the past. She is right in asking, who hasn't? Since when did speaking a mere word signify a criminal behavior? 

That is one more thing that this case should highlight. Using the word 'nigger' isn't nice. But in itself, it is not a crime. IT IS A WORD! That is all it is. What is most important in determining whether or not a crime was committed is the motive behind it. If it is used in a hate crime, that has a very different connotation. That is probably why RAP artists are not arrested every time they use the word 'nigger' in a song. 

Perhaps we can all take a lesson here. Name-calling is not high on the priority list of things wrong with the world. If you know who you are, why do you care what others think of you? Why worry about what someone calls you? Chances are they are the one with the problem; not you. In my day, we called that developing a thick skin. If you just worry about yourself; don't let yourself be affected by someone that wants to demean or discredit you. You must know better. Be confident in who you are. Chances are if someone wants to call you names, they are just trying to bring you down to their level. Just don't let them get away with it. Be better than that. We need to solve our petty problems among ourselves. Things like this do not belong in the courts.

Food Network, you have done yourself a disservice. At the very least, you owe Paula Deen an apology.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Jesse and Sandi Jackson blew it

English: Sandi Jackson and Jesse Jackson
Jesse and Sandi Jackson in happier times. The two now await sentencing when they pleaded guilty for misusing campaign funds. (Photo: Wikipedia)
Finally, it appears as though Jesse Jackson, Jr. will be headed to prison. Such a shame! This kid had it all; everything was in his favor. He was smart, capable, had a familial lineage to fall back on. He could really have done some good as a U.S. Congressman. But instead of working for his constituents, he used the office to feather his own nest. Like so many, he just got too big for his britches. It is that simple. He got lazy and started believing all the hype. He thought he was a celebrity. It all went to his head.

Amazingly, even though he is now a convicted felon, he is still trying to call the shots. First he wanted to keep his records sealed. The man suffers from the delusion that he is still a congressman, where anything goes and the public is merely in the way of doing business. A judge ruled against him.

Then he decided he wanted to serve his sentence before that of his wife Sandi, who was also convicted of improper campaign cash spending. Doesn't Jesse get it? He is a convicted felon. He doesn't get to call the shots. This is jail; not the country club, even though in his case, his incarceration will more closely resemble a country club than solitary confinement.

The thing that bothers me about this and all other cases like it, ahem, ex-Illinois Gov. George Ryan. The conviction is a mere sampling of the wrongdoing that has actually taken place. It never includes all the dastardly deeds committed. If it did, the investigation would take much longer, but the perpetrators would likely be locked up for good. Instead, we have finite sentences, probably resulting in early release for good behavior, yada, yada, yada.

In Jesse's case, his self-over-all-others lifestyle harmed people along the way, deprived them of their livelihoods, and in some cases, destroyed lives. Why is he not paying for that? Why is a little $750,000 in campaign cash more important than that?

Perhaps we should be grateful that he is no longer in congress; no longer making decisions to benefit himself; making decisions for which we all must pay. My only hope is that he spends lots of time thinking about what good he could have done. Perhaps a different man will emerge on the other side. At least that is my hope.
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Friday, June 7, 2013

Letter to the editor and response--Peotone Airport legislation

Letter to the Editor: by Herbert Brooks, Jr. Will County Board Speaker

Herbert Brooks, Jr., Will County
June 7, 2013

To the Editor:

At the end of the legislative session, Springfield lawmakers quickly and quietly passed Senate Bill 20, giving governance to the South Suburban Airport to the Illinois Department of Transportation.

This legislation runs contrary to the established positions of the Will County Board. Furthermore, the legislation was moved forward without the opportunity for a comprehensive review and discussion of its merits.

Nevertheless, I believe it is vitally important for Will County to remain fully engaged in the development process to ensure that it is transparent, responsible, and respectful of our county’s residents. If managed effectively, the airport can be an economic engine for Will County and the whole state of Illinois. However, if the process is mismanaged, those of us that call this county home will suffer the most. Therefore, the Board is moving forward with a full and thorough analysis of the bill and will schedule public meetings to reveal our findings and make recommendations. We are hopeful the Governor, IDOT, and our elected officials will listen and strongly consider our concerns.


Herbert Brooks, Jr.
Speaker of the Will County Board


I appreciate Herbert Brooks, Jr. taking the time to comment on SB20 with regard to the Peotone Airport.
I have never agreed with the Will County Board's position on the proposed Peotone Airport. Will County officials have, since the inception of the project in 1985, to play both sides against the middle, seeking whatever potential economic impact possible at the expense of so many voices of opposition. It isn't just the people of eastern Will County that oppose the airport. Surveys have indicated that a majority of residents of Will County oppose it. The airline industry opposes it. Only those that stand to benefit monetarily by it favor its development.
That said, I agree with the speaker's desire to ensure transparency, responsibility, and respect for the residents of Will County. However, I must caution him that such behavior has never been associated with this project. 
I applaud his call for a full analysis of the bill as well as public hearings, which voting members of the State of Illinois have foregone. I too hope state officials will listen to what Will County has to say.
It must be made clear that Brooks, Jr. has been a member of the county board only since 2008, so my comments are not directed at him. But prior to his time on the board, the Will County Board has done none of those things he suggested. In fact, the Will County Board has done just the opposite, with just a few board member exceptions. 
After devoting so many years to my own study of the proposed Peotone Airport, I wish the speaker good luck in trying to do the right thing. However, I urge caution, since IDOT has a very long history of not listening to anyone that disagrees with its views.
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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Illinois government rejoices over its 'duh' moment

News reports now indicate that a major hurdle has been cleared to make way for the Peotone Airport. The House and Senate have approved legislation, as part of a whole package of pork, to pave the way for a public/private partnership to build the once-named third airport at Peotone. IDOT (Illinois Dept. of Transportation) will be the governing body. IDOT will hire a developer to build the new airport some 40 miles south of Chicago. All that is needed is the signature from Gov. Pat Quinn. That is pretty much a given since he seems positively elated about it all. This is so much for fun for Quinn than paying the state's bills and honoring promises made to state workers. 

This is just another chess move by the state that can't even capture the queen, let alone checkmate the king. It really isn't much of a revelation. In fact it is little more than a "duh" moment. IDOT has been pushing, sometimes all by itself, the Peotone Airport idea since the latest round of talks first began, twenty-eight years ago. The notion of a third Chicago-area airport has been on the table far longer, since the late 1960's. IDOT has tried to get the airport to become a reality through every means possible, but always to no avail. The thing is, it is not a very smart idea, and does not have widespread support. Even the airlines are against it. 

So now, we are to believe giving IDOT control is clearing a major hurdle? 

No Airport at Peotone
Farmland speaks to the sentiment of eastern Will County
residents who for years have said NO AIRPORT!
While it is true, this is the first time legislation has actually been approved to build the project, it hasn't even been cleared for takeoff by the FAA, (Federal Aviation Administration). That approval is up to two years away, if it comes at all. 

IDOT has used all of its dirty tricks, including taking private property through eminent domain. A Will County Court claims there is nothing wrong with taking some of the best farmland in the state, decimating a once thriving farming community, and making big plans for an airport that has never been deemed doable or desirable. It would have been interesting to see an unbiased verdict in a courtroom not in Will County where deals have been made for years on behalf of this project and the political figures involved. 

This new round of legislation awaiting Quinn's ready hand, is making the taking even more of a nightmare for property and farm advocates. The legislation authorizes quick take--the state's buy now, pay later plan. 

There is no revelation here. Giving IDOT authority over airport governance is akin to hitting someone in the head with a two-by-four. They can only fight for so long. Do it long enough and they will eventually crumple into a pile of dead flesh and simply taken away. 

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