The Barbershop has re-located

The proprietor has moved the shop to ChicagoNow, a Chicago Tribune site that showcases some of the best bloggers in the Chicago area. You can logo on to the Barbershop home page here. The ChicagoNow home page is here.

You'll still be able to post comments with the same ease as in this location. The proprietor also will keep this web site alive if you wish to review old posts.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hsssss

Maureen Dowd at the New York Times is astonished that anyone with a degree from the University of Idaho (and not Harvard) could think herself qualified to be vice president, or even president. Keep it up, Maureen, and the only people who will be voting for Barack Obama will be Eastern snobs like yourself.

Sarah Palin: In her own words

The Sunday morning TV political talk shows were so full of pundits explaining the who and why of John McCain's running mate, Sara Palin, some folks might want to hear her speak for herself. Go here.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Looks good to me

Creepy Daily Kos poster accuses John McCain of checking out Sarah Palin's ass. Might this be the Koster's latest attempt to raise its usual level of discourse?

Hat tip to Newsalert

Maher: Embarrassed by MSNBC panting over Obama

Even Bill Maher said his colleagues' adoration of Obama was getting a bit too, err, vigorous. See it here.

Hat tip to Newsalert

Friday, August 29, 2008

What's the name for a woman Uncle Tom?

The National Organization for Women couldn't wait to trash John McCain's selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. Only moments after he announced he had picked her, they jumped on her with a press release calling the selection "cynical." Here is NOW's press release, in a taste of things to come:

Not Every Woman Supports Women's Rights

August 29, 2008

Statement of NOW PAC Chair Kim Gandy on the Selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain's Vice Presidential Pick

Sen. John McCain's choice of Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate is a cynical effort to appeal to disappointed Hillary Clinton voters and get them to vote, ultimately, against their own self-interest.

Gov. Palin may be the second woman vice-presidential candidate on a major party ticket, but she is not the right woman. Sadly, she is a woman who opposes women's rights, just like John McCain.

The fact that Palin is a mother of five who has a 4-month-old baby, a woman who is juggling work and family responsibilities, will speak to many women. But will Palin speak FOR women? Based on her record and her stated positions, the answer is clearly No.

In a gubernatorial debate, Palin stated emphatically that her opposition to abortion was so great, so total, that even if her teenage daughter was impregnated by a rapist, she would "choose life" -- meaning apparently that she would not permit her daughter to have an abortion.

Palin also had to withdraw her appointment of a top public safety commissioner who had been reprimanded for sexual harassment, although Palin had been warned about his background through letters by the sexual harassment complainant.

What McCain does not understand is that women supported Hillary Clinton not just because she was a woman, but because she was a champion on their issues. They will surely not find Sarah Palin to be an advocate for women.

Sen. Joe Biden is the VP candidate who appeals to women, with his authorship and championing of landmark domestic violence legislation, support for pay equity, and advocacy for women around the world.

Finally, as the chair of NOW's Political Action Committee, I am frequently asked whether NOW supports women candidates just because they are women. This gives me an opportunity to once again answer that question with an emphatic 'No.' We recognize the importance of having women's rights supporters at every level but, like Sarah Palin, not every woman supports women's rights.

###

For Immediate Release
Contact: Mai Shiozaki, 202-628-8669, ext. 116; cell 202-641-1906

Thursday, August 28, 2008

One more, and perhaps the most important, question about Jay Mariotti leaving the Sun-Times

Now that Jay Mariotti has left the Chicago Sun-Times and, one can hope, the city, there's one more question that begs to be asked:

Who decided to keep Mariotti on the paper in the face of his obvious and many failings? Who decided to sign him to a multi-year contract while the paper is mired in the depths of its worst financial crisis?

One has to assume that editor-in-chief Michael Cooke is ultimately responsible. Cooke is the latest in a long list of out-of-town editors inflicted on the paper by a parade of different owners, some of whom had no clue about the special nature of Chicago journalism and its newspaper readers.

If Cooke is responsible, how odd it seems that he now seems glad to see Mariotti gone. ''We wish Jay well and will miss him -- not personally, of course -- but in the sense of noticing he is no longer here, at least for a few days," Cooke said.

He told Chicago Reader media critic Michael Miner: "We’re not hearing from grief-stricken fans. The truth is quite the opposite. Quite the opposite. We've gotten hundreds of e-mails, including ones that say 'Now we’ll buy the paper.' By all indications our circulation will go up."

Too bad it took so long for someone to figure it out.

Even more news that you won't hear at the Democratic National Convention

Daley's kin's firm could profit on museum move

More news you won't hear at the Democratic National Convention..

Or from the mainstream media

US economy shows signs of rebounding

The United States economy grew at a revised 3.3 percent annually in the second quarter of 2008, the Commerce Department said - much higher than its first estimate of 1.9 percent.

This news comes to us courtesy of Radio New Zealand, which along with other foreign news outlets beat the American newsmedia to the story, as shown on Google News. When the American media finally got around to reporting it, the tone was, "yeah but, wait until (the impact of the tax rebates wear off, or Europe's economy catches up with the decline, or take your pick) hits and things will get worse."

If you think this is outrageous, wait until Obama becomes president

His campaign tries to force a radio station to not air an Obama critic

Unhappy that Chicago's WGN radio would ask writer Stanley Kurtz what he has found in documents linking Obama with one-time fugitive radical Bill Ayers, Obama's henchmen organized a campaign to flood the station with angry calls.

Sure, it's their right to protest Kurtz' appearance on the highly respected and long-running
"Extension 720 with Milt Rosenberg," but it is clearly WGN's right to have as a guest anyone they wish. It says so right in the Bill of Rights.

Here's the Obama campaign's explanation for this attempt to muzzle Rosenburg:
WGN radio is giving right-wing hatchet man Stanley Kurtz a forum to air his baseless, fear-mongering terrorist smears," Obama's campaign wrote in an e-mail to supporters. "He's currently scheduled to spend a solid two-hour block from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. pushing lies, distortions, and manipulations about Barack and University of Illinois professor William Ayers.
It occurs to me that it is up to the listeners (read: voters) to decide for themselves the merits of what Krutz has to say--something that the Obama campaign is doing everything possible to prevent. Just last week, the University of Illinois at Chicago tried to stop Kurtz from examining documents that had been donated to the taxpayer-supported institution that disclosed Obama's role as head of a foundation in which Ayers was heavily involved. Only under intense pressure did the university finally open the files to Kurtz. Yet to be determined is who pressured this public institution to close the records; someone connected to Obama or his campaign? Obama himself?

The temptation for the Obama camp, of course, will be to smear Rosenberg as just another conservative wingnut talk show host, which would be a gross distortion. Rosenberg, a University of Chicago professor, is intelligent, fair-minded and respected for the level of discourse he has conducted for decades in the evenings on WGN.

Judging by the Obama camp's unhinged reaction to Kurtz and anything connected with Ayers, one would think that Kurtz is on to something. I haven't read Kurtz' article in the National Review magazine yet, but I sure will now. And I hope you do too. Every hit on the magazine's web site or every purchase of the magazine at the newsstand will be a rebuke to the Obama censors.

The whole mess makes me quake at the idea that a President Obama and his campaign brain trust--including such Chicago Democratic Machine hacks as David Axelrod--would have access to the Justice Department and any other tools available to squash criticism of the sainted Barack.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Cynicism run amok

The Democratic National Convention's sudden infatuation with all things military Wednesday night was beyond smarmy. As a veteran, I found it manipulative, insulting and cynical. For years, the Democrats held in contempt anything to do with the armed forces; now they pose as its greatest defenders.

Sure, honor the veterans, especially those who served in combat, but the accolades went so far overboard as to insult the millions of men and women who served selflessly and sought no special mention. The Barack Obama campaign is cynically using the veterans' service for the advancement of a political agenda.

And to top it off, PBS reporter Gwen Ifil's obsequious interview of three veterans who support Obama was an insult to the profession of journalism, my profession. She threw away any pretense of objectivity when she said it was an "honor" to have been able to view a Steven Spielberg short video on veterans, produced for partisan purposes.

They're all a bunch of poseurs.

Obama's lost law review article

Among the documents that the Obama campaign hasn't offered to disclose, is a Harvard Law Review article commenting on an Illinois Supreme Court case deciding that a son or daughter can't sue his or her mother for injuries sustained prior to birth. Interesting reading; to no one's surprise, he agrees with the court's decision that such lawsuits would infringe on the mother's privacy rights.

Cheering is heard from the press box

Just after Jay Mariotti squeezed a big contract renewal out of the Chicago Sun-Times, the worm turns and says he's leaving the paper because newspapers no longer are...where it's at. This will be good news for hard-working and talented Sun-Times staffers who are facing another round of newsroom cuts. Perhaps his departure will free up some of the big bucks that foolish and red-faced Sun-Times bosses showered on Mariotti

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Newsalert: Cook County skims 3% from workers' charity donations

Unbelievable.

Well, maybe not.

News you won't hear at the Democratic National Convention

From the US Census Bureau:

* Real median household income in the United States climbed 1.3 percent between 2006 and 2007, reaching $50,233.

* The number of people without health insurance coverage declined from 47 million (15.8 percent) in 2006 to 45.7 million (15.3 percent) in 2007. The number of uninsured children declined from 8.7 million (11.7 percent) in 2006 to 8.1 million (11.0 percent) in 2007.

* Income inequality decreased between 2006 and 2007, as measured by shares of aggregate household income by quintiles and the Gini index. The share of aggregate income received by households in the top fifth of the income distribution declined, while the shares for the third and fourth quintiles increased. Meanwhile, the Gini index declined from 0.470 to 0.463, moving closer to 0, which represents perfect income equality (1 represents perfect inequality).

* In 2007, the family poverty rate and the number of families in poverty were 9.8 percent and 7.6 million, respectively, both statistically unchanged from 2006. Furthermore, the poverty rate and the number in poverty showed no statistical change between 2006 and 2007 for the different types of families. Married-couple families had a poverty rate of 4.9 percent (2.8 million), compared with 28.3 percent (4.1 million) for female-householder, no-husband-present families and 13.6 percent (696,000) for those with a male householder and no wife present.

We will be informed that these numbers don't count, because they don't reflect the recent economic "downturn." This is typically deceptive, because the statistics include a period (last year) when Democrats began hammering away at the economy, insisting that we were in a recession--although we still aren't in one.

Voters should be troubled by Obama's abortion stance

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

Can we just listen to ourselves? We're debating whether some babies born alive have a right to medical attention.

How have we come to this? Can't we all agree that everyone whose heart beats, brain functions and lungs respire at birth should have a chance to live? If we're a compassionate, rational and just society, we would say, "Of course, every infant has a right to lifesaving medical attention. Even if it's not wanted."

But an unthinkable debate is raging as a part of the presidential campaign, centering on how Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama voted while he was an Illinois state senator on legislation designed to protect the lives and health of all newborns. The debate over Obama's voting record has grown so arcane that we've lost sight of why this question ever came up: Some infants that survive abortion are denied medical assistance. They are left to die.

Jill Stanek, a former nurse at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, described in 2001 during congressional testimony how it happens: In a "live-birth abortion," doctors "do not attempt to kill the baby in the uterus. The goal is simply to prematurely deliver a baby who dies during the birth process or soon afterward." Medication stimulates the cervix to open, allowing the baby to emerge, sometimes alive. "It is not uncommon for a live aborted baby to linger for an hour or two or even longer. At Christ Hospital, one . . . lived for almost an entire eight-hour shift." Some actually are born healthy because they are aborted to preserve the "health" of the mother, or because the pregnancy was due to rape or incest. At best, they are left in a "comfort room," complete with a camera (for pictures of the aborted baby) "baptismal supplies, gowns, and certificates, footprinting equipment and baby bracelets for mementos and a rocking chair," where they are rocked to death. "Before the comfort room was established," Stanek said, "babies were taken to the soiled utility room to die."

Yes, there ought to be a law against this, and Congress passed one unanimously. It declares that a person is defined as "every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development." Born alive means any human being that after "expulsion or extraction" from the mother "breathes or has a beating heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, regardless of whether the umbilical cord has been cut, and regardless of whether the expulsion or extraction occurs as a result of natural or induced labor, Caesarean section, or induced abortion."

Pretty simple, right?

Well, not really. Some people fear that this fundamental protection, ensuring to all the first of the rights of "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness," is in reality a sneak attack on a woman's right to choose an abortion. To prevent this "Trojan horse," they insisted, and got, in the federal law a guarantee against construing the law to "affirm, deny or contract any legal status or legal right applicable to any member of the species homo sapiens at any point prior to being 'born alive'. . ." This mumbo jumbo is supposed to mean that abortions can't be restricted.

To mollify pro-choice concerns, including Obama's, this was inserted in several versions of the Illinois legislation. But it didn't matter, because the legislation died anyway, with Obama's help. Whether or not he refused to vote for a version that contained the right-to-an-abortion provision isn't what's important here. What is important is that Obama put the supposed and vague threat to an abortion right ahead of a real and concrete threat to the most innocent of human lives.

Obama's response to all this is to sidestep any discussion about when human personhood begins, the key question in the abortion debate. Some say it begins at the moment of conception; others say it begins at birth. (Still others look for a middle ground, suggesting it begins when brain activity starts.) But by arguing against the born-alive legislation because it might in some distant and ambiguous way obstruct abortion, Obama implies that the right to an abortion trumps an infant's right to life, even after he is born.

Such logic is breathtaking. It says that even after birth, a mother's right to rid herself of the baby supersedes any right that a child, now independent of the mother's body and domain, has a right to live. Where America stands on this issue truly is a measure of its sense of justice and compassion. On this score, Obama fails.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Obama to DOJ: Block terrorist ad

The Obama campaign doesn't like what an ad says about him, so it asks the Department of Justice to investigate it. It could better spending its energies on responding to the substance of the ad instead crying to Mother Government.

The story is here. The advertiser's response is here.

Ask him how many cars he's got

In a typicallyl muddled column, New York Times windbag Paul Klugman seems happy--or is he?--that Barack Obama has dropped his knife and turned into a gunslinger in the coming showdown with John McCain. It's hard to to tell, because after Klugman intially seems glad that Obama is getting tougher on McCain, he goes limp, arguing that toughness isn't required because Republicans are so hated that McCain is bound to lose.

Klugman wrote:
The central fact of this year’s election is that voters are fed up with Republican rule. The only way Mr. McCain can win the presidential race is if it becomes a contest of personalities rather than parties — and if his campaign can instill in voters the perception that Mr. Obama is a suspicious character while Mr. McCain is a fine, upstanding gentleman.

The Obama campaign, on the other hand, doesn’t need to convince voters either that he’s the awesomest candidate ever or that Mr. McCain is a villain. All it has to do is tarnish Mr. McCain’s image enough so that voters see this as a race between a Democrat and a Republican. And that’s a race the Democrat will easily win.
So, no need to ridicule McCain for not knowing how many houses or cars he owns. Funny thing, though, the public continues to rate the Democratic-controlled C0ngress lower in job performance than the Republican president, George Bush. Perhaps voters are equally fed up with both parties, a concession that the Democratic pawn Klugman would never admit.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

How sad

16-year-old boy shot by cop on city's South Side

Yes, sad that a 16-year-old lost his life. And sad that a hour after this story was posted on the Tribune website, dozens of people had commented on it based on the presumption that (a) the cops had shot an innocent kid, again, or (b) the kid had it coming.

Can't we wait for a few facts before inflicting our pre-formed opinions onto the public?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Nepotism: Illinois Democrats and the Family Jewels

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Daily Observer

State Rep. Robert Rita has a strange take on government employment. When news broke that Senate President Emil (I Need a Raise) Jones was trying to hand his seat over to his son, Emil III, Rita’s justification was:

“Give him a chance to prove himself.”

Astonishing. Yet, odds are that Chicago and Democratic voters, if given the chance, would elect Emil Jones III to succeed his father. Demonstrating again that they are gratified to be led by the nose by a political system that is more akin to an oligarchy than a republic. Naturally, Rita would jump to defend such a system, in that he, like so many others, is a beneficiary of the system. His father, John, is the longtime Calumet Township Democratic committeeman.

Read more in the Chicago Daily Observer

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Open up Annenberg papers or return them

The University of Illinois at Chicago's explanation for not opening up the Chicago Annenberg Challenge paper collection makes a mockery of the kind of rigorous intellectual activity that is supposed to be conducted in higher education.

Here is the full and intellectually flabby response:
“The University Library supports the teaching, research, and service missions of the University by acquiring, organizing, preserving, and providing access to information. The Library is open to the public and dedicated to free inquiry. The University has not received ownership rights to the Chicago Annenberg Challenge collection. The university is aggressively pursuing an agreement with the donor, and as soon as an agreement is finalized, the collection will be made accessible to the public.”
When that will be (before the election?) no one can say.

So, if the university has no ownership rights, why is this tax-supported institution storing the papers? Is the university charging anyone (the university doesn't say who the actual donor is) for warehouse these papers? How much is it costing taxpayers? The university's failure to account for its actions here is outrageous.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A pawn for a pawn?

Here's a strategy that would really make Moscow stand up and listen

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

Russian boss-man Vladimir Putin probably figured he scored a big one for his reawakening empire by barging into the pro-Western, democratic nation of Georgia.

Fine, if that's how Putin Bonaparte wants to play it, we'll take . . . hmmmm . . . Cuba. We'll roll right in, just like the Russian tanks and fleet rolled into Georgia, and say, "Hello, Fidel. Good-bye Fidel."

Why not? The conventional wisdom is that we can't do a lot about Georgia, now a Russian captive nation like Soviet days of old, because ultimately we fear a direct face-off between U.S. and Russian military forces. Thus, we are limited to diplomacy and sanctions. We've got little to offer Putin that would appease his restore-the-Russian-Empire dementia, so diplomacy amounts to nothing more than a stink in a windstorm. Sanctions? To get the UN to impose any, the Security Council would have to approve them, over Russia's veto. We could impose our own sanctions, which might be considered an act of war. Throw Russia out of the global economic powerhouse of the Group of Eight or reject its application for membership in the World Trade Organization? Maybe, but who knows?

So, we are left with a game of "you take my pawn, I'll take yours." In Cuba, we could use the same kind of baloney that Russia used to justify its invasion of Georgia: We installed a free Cuban government for "humanitarian" reasons. Who in this hemisphere has suffered more at the hands of a tyrant than the Cuban people? Who needs more protection from the tyrant Fidel Castro than people would who risk their lives crossing 90 miles of ocean in an overloaded, open boat? Who has a greater interest in securing the liberties of the Cuban people than the tens of thousands of Cubans living in America whose gifts of billions to relatives back home is what has kept Castro's pathetic communist utopia going?

Cuba and Russia are on the threshold of strengthening relations, which were weakened after the Soviet Union fell apart, thanks to America winning the arms race and the intrinsic flaws of the communist system. Ever since Castro marched out of the hills and into Havana almost 50 years ago, Russia has considered Cuba a client state, just as Putin intolerably views Georgia as an American client state. Putin wants Georgia to be his client state, because he can't tolerate freedom on the doorstep of his empire, especially if the Georgian people, in their freedom, prefer to ally themselves with Western democracies.

So, what if Putin shuts down the petroleum pipeline to Europe and the West in retaliation? Fine. Declaring a national emergency, we take oil-rich Venezuela, which, under its emerging tin-pot communist tyrant Hugo Chavez, also is tending toward becoming a Russian client state. If Putin wants to engage in an empire-building contest, maybe we should take back all the countries that we once had, however briefly, and then gave back to become democracies—the Philippines, Panama and Grenada, for example. After all, they're in our "sphere of influence," just as Putin claims Georgia is in his. Two can play the empire game, and Putin and all his oil aren't up to the competition.

By now, you must be saying that I've got to be kidding. I am, sort of. I described this global scenario because Russia's invasion of Georgia is the scariest global moment since the end of the Cold War. This Putin-inspired conflict could spiral into a replay of the Cold War in all kinds of ways, with nuclear annihilation, mutually assured destruction and tens of millions of combatants, if not hundreds of millions of civilians, dying in a World War III. That's why the presidential and congressional candidates' response to Russia's attempted enslavement of Georgia perhaps is unexpectedly the most critical issue of this election cycle.

Both presidential candidates have issued standard statements calling for "restraint" and "talks," but a clearer understanding about how to meet this newest foreign policy challenge has yet to emerge. Recognition that we might now be engaged in two conflicts—one against terrorism and the other the traditional state-to-state variety—is a good place to start; then we can move on to the details.

Democrat Barack Obama already has said he favors, in essence, a weaker military because he apparently believes that state-to-state conflicts are old hat. Will events require Obama to change his position, again?

Monday, August 18, 2008

This is Chicago. What did you expect?

Why are files housed in a publicly financed university library not being made available for examination by the public?

UIC library is refusing to make available documents that could shed light on the relationships between Barack Obama and his "guy from the neighborhood," Bill Ayers, the unapologetic terrorist.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Obama Details Raising Taxes

We keep hearing that we're supposedly in a recession. If so, why would anyone want to take more money out of the pockets of Americans?

Obama Details Raising Taxes on Gains, Dividends - WSJ.com

Daley gets an Olympic eyeful

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Daley Observer

“Gulp.”

That must have been Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s reaction as he sat in the stands of Beijing’s Bird’s Nest stadium watching the $100-million, triumphantly staged Olympic opening ceremonies.

Daley’s vision of a 2016 Olympics in Chicago pales in comparison to China’s mind-bending pyrotechnics and its cast of ten thousands, the stupefying grandiosity of the stadium, clean-as-a-whistle new subway lines, the glittering infrastructure, the ebullient but always respective Chinese masses, the permanent new competitive venues and a list of other superlatives as long as the Great Wall.

If Daley wasn’t thinking to himself, “My God, what I have gotten us into?” he’s delusional, or worse.

Read more in The Chicago Daily Observer

Thursday, August 14, 2008

If we're to fight a war effectively..

we've got to level with the taxpayers. Taxpayers for Common Sense reports that the Congressional Budget Office lowballed the estimated cost of Iraq contracts.

Andolino in Wonderland

O'Hare expansion moving forward, project leader says -- chicagotribune.com

Rosemary Andolino, the project manager of O'Hare Airport expansion, says that everything is on schedule, despite it being two years behind schedule and say they won't pay for the second, most vital phase of the expansion.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Keep the kids in school

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

That was big of Sen./Rev. James Meeks to dare someone to arrest the kids he's leading out of the city's public schools in an ill-conceived protest, when he's the guy who should be pinched.

As for the students, truant officers ought to round them up and take them back to school where they belong. Of course, no one will do any of that because they don't want to appear mean, racist or elitist. And that's exactly the point of Meeks' plan to haul Chicago students out of the first week of school to protest, at downtown offices and at Winnetka's New Trier Township High School, the "inequities" of the state education funding formula.

"I dare the business community to arrest our children and send them to jail because all they want is a quality education," Meeks said. New Trier School Supt. Linda Yonke, for one, bent to this extortion, saying she wouldn't want to "undermine" his position by "engaging in a public argument." And what would she do? Hold a forum, she suggested. Oh, joy.

The issue already has been studied, protested and demagogued to death. Illinois school funding has fostered years of debate, lawsuits, constitutional revisions and a complicated formula for allocating state aid that will make your head spin. The formula ensures a "basic" funding level for every school district and takes into account local property tax base, student population, poverty and average daily attendance.

It entitles Chicago to more than $1.1 billion in state aid in 2008. Average spending per student for all grades in Chicago is $9,282, about 11 percent higher than the statewide average, according to greatschools.net, but certainly lower than the $17,184 spent on each New Trier student. But then, nearly everyone spends less than New Trier. That's because New Trier generally is free to spend whatever additional money it wants, and so it does, in large sums.

Would Chicago public school students do any better if this "inequity" were narrowed by New Trier spending less? Of course not. What New Trier spends has nothing to do with the performance of Chicago's students.

Truth is, the biggest problem with Chicago and other major school systems is manifested in the performance of black male students. A recent study by the Schott Foundation for Public Education concludes that African-American males in Chicago's public schools are less than half as likely to graduate as their white peers. The foundation attributes the poor performance to "the resource disparities that exist in schools attended by black males and their white, non-Hispanic counterparts." John Jackson, foundation president, lamented that this is the state of affairs 50 years after the Supreme Court decision ending school segregation. Meeks chimed in: "I want to keep kids out of the 'colored' schools. I don't want kids to have to go and drink from the 'colored' water fountain. I don't want them to use the 'colored' toilet or to have to sit at the 'colored' desk."

But if resource inequities account for the poor performance, why don't their white male, Hispanic and black female counterparts do as badly? After all, they are going to the same public schools in Chicago. Or are only Chicago's African-American male students shipped off to junkier schools, where they can only use the "colored" water fountain? Is it part of the state funding formula to somehow apportion less funding to black males? Are black males forced to use 20-year-old textbooks, while everyone else gets new ones? What precisely is there about how money is spent that mainly leaves black males so dismally out of it?

Maybe a complex of factors, other than funding disparities, explains the troubling performance of black males, and thus, a large part of the schools' problems. Perhaps the same thing that accounts for the decay of neighborhoods at the hands of black male gangs, or for the absence of fathers in the unraveling African-American family. These are symptoms of a cultural climate—corrupted by loosening morals, radical individualism, materialism, Hollywood's adulation of violence and parental irresponsibility, among other strands—that converges on African-American males in particular with all the focused and destructive force of a tornado. I dare say that in this cultural climate, if Chicago were able to spend as much as New Trier spends on each student, black males still would underperform. What is needed is not so much a change in the school funding formula, but a fundamental change in attitudes about family and society.

But I'm not saying anything new, or anything that Meeks doesn't know already. All that I'm saying is that if Meeks truly has the interests of Chicago's students at heart he ought to concentrate his energies elsewhere. He can start by proving to the students why every day spent in school is precious.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The hypocrisy of affordable housing "advocates"

Not a peep was heard from them as Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley set out to bulldoze DuPage County's largest and most vibrant community of low- and moderate-income families.

Read it in the Chicago Daily Observer

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

No comment necessary

Ohio inmate sues in federal court arguing he's too fat for execution process to work properly -- chicagotribune.com

Democratic leaders need constitutional jolt

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

Why do Illinois Democrats keep voting for those clowns of theirs?

They'd probably reply that their clowns are a cut above the Republican clowns, and they may be right. But that still leaves the question: How can Democratic voters keep electing the very people who keep assaulting health care, child welfare and other social programs so dear to the Democratic heart?

Even the most reactionary, right-wing troglodytes have not been as successfully obstructionist as Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Senate President Emil Jones and House Speaker Michael Madigan—Democrats all—whose budget stalemate is giving social service providers fits.

The Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association warns that the budgetary inaction could throw 42,000 of their clients "out on the street." Almost $600 million in Medicaid-related cuts, which will cause the loss of federal Medicaid funds, will "artificially" hold expenditures to last year's budget levels in the Department of Children and Family Services, despite generally rising health-care costs, said Sen. Christine Radogno (R-Lemont). Other state agencies and providers have joined in the lament and demand action.

All told, Blagojevich line-item vetoed $1.4 billion out of the state's proposed $59 billion budget, with more reductions in the making. The governor made the cuts because, he said, the Illinois House, under Madigan's direction, had passed a budget without enough revenues to cover the costs. That is true enough.

(A clarification: "Cuts" is a term used too loosely by politicians and journalists. Cuts are not always reductions in year-to-year spending. In fact, a cut could leave a program with an actual funding increase over last year. That's because the cuts discussed here actually are reductions in what was originally proposed. Senate Republicans said of the $1.4 billion in Blagojevich's cuts, 70 percent are simply the elimination of proposed spending increases. For example, some politicians moaned that education funds were being cut, but schools still were in line for tens of millions of additional state subsidies.)

Anyway, the House has restored some of the governor's cuts, and the budget has now gone to the Senate, where Jones refuses to consider it until after the November election. Waiting until then is cowardly enough, but it's even worse. Jones and other lawmakers hunger for a 7.5 percent pay raise and if they wait until after the election, they don't have to vote on it to get the raise; it's automatic, thanks to an arcane system they have rigged to not get blamed for voting themselves more money. So, there'll be no vote on the budget until after the election, thank you very much.

I'm not usually the one pumping for more spending, but government support of private-sector service providers has become such a critical part of our social service financial infrastructure that it would be wrong to suddenly leave such agencies as Chicago's Haymarket Center, a refuge for the addicted and homeless, holding the bag. Of course, all this confusion and delay is part of a complex and self-destructive game designed by these top-dog Democrats to make each other look like idiots, which is about the only thing they have accomplished this year.

And now it is Jones' turn to look like the idiot, and to feel the heat. He should. His office denies that the delay of the Senate vote has anything to do with pay raises, but the excuse that is offered—that the Senate already has passed its own budget with sufficient revenues—isn't credible. If Jones were serious about his Democratic principles, he'd do the moral, responsible thing and find a way to get the budget done now. But I don't blame Jones as much as I blame the Democratic voters who keep electing these self-serving, petty people.

The Democratic leadership needs to be disciplined, if not stopped, and I am beginning to think that term limits might be the only way to pry these men out of their seats. That would require a constitutional amendment, which we know lawmakers would not approve under any circumstances. That leaves a state Constitutional Convention. Truly, I'd be glad if we didn't have to resort to opening up the entire constitution to alteration as the price of straightening out this state. But what else is there?

So, to the well-funded special interests that oppose a Con Con, as the convention is informally known, I again ask this question: What is your solution?

Dennis Byrne is a Chicago-area writer. His blog can be read at http://dennisbyrne.blogspot.com