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.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Judging The Judge in the Cop Beating Case

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Daily Observer

For more than 20 years as a columnist, I’ve kept my mouth shut whenever a judge or a jury makes a decision that I don’t believe is right. Even when every opinionizer in the country was fuming over the jury’s acquittal of O.J. Simpson of murder charges, I didn’t write in disagreement, although I was mightily shocked.

The reason is that I wasn’t in the courtroom, hearing all the facts and law. I wasn’t in the jury room, listening to peers shift through the evidence. Second guessing the justice system is a dangerous sport, weakening our respect for the law and criminal proceedings.

This self-imposed silence on my part is now challenged by one Cook County Circuit Judge John J. Fleming, who sentenced a big cop to two years probation for beating up a tiny woman bartender, as shown on a security camera tape that circulated digitally around the world. The 250-pound cop, Anthony Abbate, also was ordered to perform 130 hours of community service at a homeless shelter, attend anger management classes, observe a strict 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew during the probation period and undergo drug and alcohol evaluations.

Read more in The Chicago Daily Observer

Chicago Olympics bid team to hold secret meetings with aldermen

At every turn, Mayor Richard M. Daley, Pat Ryan and the Chicago Silly Council make themselves look ever more like dunces. Now comes word that Ryan's Chicago 2016 Olympic committee is meeting in secret with aldermen to brief them on a controversial move by Daley to secure the Olympics for Chicago in 2016.

The committee is trying to respond to the spreading public beef that followed Daley giving in to the International Olympic Committee by saying that he would sign a contract that requires the city to make up for any losses suffered by the Games if they are held in Chicago. Daley and Ryan said not to worry; the "private sector" would cover the losses by taking out a big, $500 million insurance policy.

These guys think that a series of secret meetings with aldermen are going to quell the growing public alarm over what Daley is getting us into?

Hal Turner's right to speak ends with death threats

This week's arrest of Hal Turner, a white supremacist, for threatening to murder three federal appeals court judges in Chicago is expected to set off the usual hand wringing among bloggers about threats to free speech.

Bunk.

He used his web site to call for the killing of three federal judges in Chicago. The Chicago Breaking News Center reported that the U.S. Attorney here accused Turner of posting the judge's names, photos and addresses, with such statements as "Let me be the first to say this plainly; These judges deserve to be killed." Their offense? They upheld ordinances banning handguns in Chicago and Oak Park.

Hunter's previous brush with the law over using such language on his site has set him chattering about the need to protect his "right to free speech." He screeched:

How would this affect you? Simple: People you never met, in places you've never been, can take offense to something you write on the Internet and have you jailed in THEIR state for it! Do you see the risk now? Do you understand how important this case is going to be?
The case in question then involved criminal charges against him filed by Connecticut for couple of weeks ago for "incitement to harm persons or property," a felony for which he could get one to ten years in prison. It stemmed from a posting a few weeks ago from his blog in his New Jersey home, in which he called Connecticut officials "tyrannical" and said citizens should "take up arms to put down this tyranny."

Not quite as bad as calling down a death sentence on three federal judges and helping violent nuts locate them; perhaps it might more properly fall under the classification as sedition, a word that hasn't been heard in these parts for years.

Well-established case law holds that the right of free speech, just as every other right such as bearing arms, is not absolute or unlimited. (The right to abortion is just about the only one that some would have us believe doesn't need to be balanced with any other persons' rights, but that's another story.)

Turner's blog proclaims "Free Speech: No Matter who Doesn't Like It!" He and his supporters will break out the heavy rhetoric about some fanciful government conspiracy to yank away our fundamental rights, such as free speech. Internet purists will claim that any restrictions on what is said digitally is entitled to special protections.

Maybe, as the Internet moves out of its adolescence and into adulthood, we'll understand and acknowledge that the Internet is just another form of communication that merits no special exemptions to law and decency.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How many helicopters will $13 BILLION buy you?

What's this, $13 billion to build new helicopters for President Barack Obama? That's $13 billion with a "b," putting the production of a handful of choppers to fly around the president in the same category as the entire expansion of O'Hare International Airport.

Is Obama out of his mind?

He might be, but you can't pin this gawker on him. Obama doesn't want the new helicopters and his Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has ordered the purchases terminated.

But Congress, bless its conniving soul, is gearing up to spend the money anyway. Why? The usual reason: pork. It's a case history of just how difficult it is to kill the pig, despite soaring promises of change in the way Washington does business.

In comparison, it makes Illinois' own prime cut of pork, FutureGen -- the $1 billion in federal magnanimity for an experimental Downstate power plant that hopes to burn coal cleanly -- look like pig's knuckles.

The VH-71 presidential helicopter program would buy 23 new Marine One-type helicopters, but it's six years behind schedule and costs are soaring.

But, say its backers, canceling the program now and reactivating it later to replace the aging helicopter fleet could amount to $17 billion. Some suggest that the best alternative is to pare down the order to 13 helicopters, thus saving . . . oh, what does it matter; it'll cost us billions any way you cut it.

So, what is Congress doing in the face of this conundrum? Being two-faced as usual. About a week ago, the House Armed Services Committee approved the fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill, tucking away in it a mealy-mouthed VH-71 proviso. It approved the Obama administration's request for $84 million to shut down the program, but directed the start of design work on a new presidential helicopter, to be called VXX. Then it released a report accompanying the bill that "strongly suggests" that the administration buy a few more VH-71s than the five that already have been built. "The committee notes," the report went on, "that this approach will leverage the investment already made by the taxpayer in developing a helicopter that would meet all normal requirements of the president."

Congressional Quarterly reported that the language was inserted into the report at the behest of Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Md.). High on the list of donors to Bartlett's political campaign is Lockheed Martin Corp., the main contractor for the VH-71. Bartlett told CQ he doesn't know who his donors are, and that he's not acting on behalf of the company. Uh huh.

Also, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has asked the Senate Appropriations Committee to continue the VH-71 program, citing the money that has already been spent. Lockheed Martin's plant in Owego, N.Y., is the main beneficiary of the contract and if the program is scratched more than 700 jobs could be lost in upstate New York. Only a few months ago, Gillibrand replaced Hillary Clinton as one of New York's U.S. senators and apparently has quickly caught on to how the game is played.

Not that Illinois is pure in that regard. In terms of cash, Illinois' FutureGen project doesn't compare, but in chutzpah, it comes close. The project, located in Downstate Mattoon, had been initiated and then, citing cost overruns, was canceled by President George W. Bush. Perhaps because of the Bush connection, a Democratic House staff committee report took the opportunity to bash the former president, calling the project "nothing more than a public relations ploy." Environmentalists have denounced it, arguing that "dirty coal" is and always will be dirty. Yet, here come Obama and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), reviving the project for their home state, mindful of the jobs and contracts it will bring and the tens of billions of tons of coal buried in Illinois, waiting to be scooped up and burned.

Ah yes, change we can believe in.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Daley’s Costly Genuflection to The Olympic Overseers

By Dennis Byrne

Is the International Olympic Committee so stupid that it is willing to accept the word of a mayor of a near-bankrupt city that it will cover any of the Games’ huge losses if it comes to Chicago?

Is the committee stupid enough to believe that Daley is a king and can commit Chicago to paying hundreds of millions of dollars all by himself?

Of all the stupid things that the committee has done to the Games (such as cheapening them by letting in professional athletes), this has to rank right up there with the worst. Daley, in a reversal, said he now will sign the standard contract that puts Chicago (and, practically speaking) Illinois on the hook for $500 million or more if the 2016 Games here are a bust.

Not to worry, Daley still insists, the private group that is pushing the games will take out extra insurance to cover that half-billion-dollars if something goes wrong. To which I say: then let the local 2016 committee, headed by Patrick Ryan, sign the damn thing....

Read more in The Chicago Daily Observer

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Senator questions firing of 3 inspectors general by Obama administration

Barack Obama brings more of the Chicago Way to the White House: Three inspectors general are gone. Why? Don't we deserve an honest answer?

Read about it in the Chicago Tribune

Bush takes swipes at Obama policies

Fair is fair. No president other than Barack Obama in my memory has spent so much time thumping his predecessor. Through it all, George W. Bush kept his peace. But now, he has responded, as he should. He reminds us, for example:
[Bush] said his administration sought to address the "housing bubble" before the system broke down. "We tried to reform" mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, "but couldn't get it through the vested interests on Capitol Hill."
That's restraint. He could have correctly dumped the problem at the feet of Democrats such as Rep. Barney Frank.

The story is here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Our illusions about health care

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

If Sen. Edward Kennedy's 651-page bill reconstructing America's health-care system is any indication, the next few weeks will be confusing and exasperating.

Immodestly speaking, the Massachusetts Democrat thinks the government can bestow on Americans long-term care insurance for a far-fetched $65 a month. Right there is a great example of what the approaching weeks will be like as Congress opens debate on every utopian and fly-by-night idea for creating a perfectly healthy society, for a lot less than we're paying now. If there's ever a time for Americans to be skeptical, it's now, because the stakes may never be this high again.

What some are proposing to do with health care is akin to trying to take apart a wheezing old diesel engine and then, by adding a few new parts and a lot of stargazing, turn it into a jet aircraft engine. It has all the earmarks of President Barack Obama's fantasy that everything can be upgraded to excellent, if not perfect, condition in a few weeks by blindly blowing hundreds of billions of dollars out the door.

As a wise professor of mine once said, when you want to create or change public policy, what exactly are you trying to do? You've got to bore through the rhetoric, dogma and politics to find the heart of it. Do you, for example, want to insure every American for the sake of insuring every American, or is the goal to improve every American's health?

We keep hearing that we must provide medical coverage for what the Bureau of the Census says are approximately 47 million uninsured Americans, but there's no discussion of whether that's the goal itself, or a means to the goal.

It's made more difficult because the Census Bureau's survey doesn't delve deeply into why 47 million are uninsured: Because they're young and healthy and don't want to be covered? Because they can't afford it? Because of a disqualifying prior medical condition? No doubt, for all those reasons, but in what proportions? Also ignored is what proportion of the uninsured is nonetheless receiving health care through Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program. (By the way, the same annual survey shows that the number and percentage of uninsured children continues to decline.)

If you can't answer those questions with precision, you can't design a program that will do what the ultimate goal is -- better health care for all Americans, regardless of whether it is through an insurance program or some other way. For example, if 10 percent of the 47 million are young and healthy and don't want to be insured, forcing them all to buy a policy isn't going to do much to finance the new system. If 10 percent of the 47 million are involuntarily uninsured, then the problem isn't as bad as it is described, so we can ask: Why are we rebuilding the whole system?

Gets complicated doesn't it? Perhaps such questions will soon be answered with clarity. But my hopes aren't high because these kinds of questions have been persistently ignored in the health-care debate.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A firsit-hand glimpse of the Irianian thirst for freedom

Twitter has become one of the few ways that freedom-seekers are foiling censorship and communicating with each other. Check out here what they're telling each other.

Send Michael Moore contributions for his friends in the UAW


For some reason, Moore forgot to include them in this pitch.


Pro-reform marchers fill Tehran streets - Yahoo! News



Reading about the protests (here) made me think that Ahmadinejad's mistake when stealing the election was winning by too big of a margin, thereby instantly casting doubt on the results of the closely contested election. But then I thought of Mayor Richard M. Daley's Democratic Machine and all the precincts that routinely turn in 100 percent (or close to it) votes for Machine candidates. None of it seems to hurt Daley's credibility, but then again, this is Chicago, not Tehran.

GM's deal erased many average Americans' savings

Maybe the bondholders should have formed a union and contributed heavily to Obama's campaign so they would have extorted better terms from his administration. Story is here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Today is Flag Day


Here's a thought.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

61% of Illinois Voters Say They Would Definitely Vote Against Roland Burris

Lots of interesting information in Rasmussen Reports about the views of Illinois voters, including this:
Governor Pat Quinn, who replaced Blagojevich following his impeachment, does not receive much reelection support from voters. If Quinn decides to run for a full term as governor, only 13% say they would definitely vote for him while 23% say they would definitely vote against him. Most voters (63%) say their decisions would depend on who is running against him.

America to Obama: Stop the spending

Most voters (53%) believe increases in government spending hurt the economy, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.

While that result is unchanged from last month, it’s up five points from 48% in January.

Just 27% now say increased government spending helps the economy, and 10% say it has no impact.

Read more in Rasmussen Reports

Friday, June 12, 2009

David Letterman is a jerk

So are his defenders.

I know it's too much to ask we remember something as far back as more than a dozen years, but let's try, anyway. Bill and Hillary Clinton had just moved into the White House along with daughter Chelsie. Some folks, including Saturday Night Live, cruelly made fun of her looks. Everyone quickly agreed that a politician's children are off limits. And that agreement held for eight years.

Now, David Letterman breaks that consensus by making Sara Palin's daughter (or was it daughters?) an object of ridicule, implying sexual misconduct, rape, or whatever it was we are supposed to believe.

Face it, Letterman and his hip persona just aren't funny. For some reason, though, he has accumulated an adoring audience of dolts. Such as this defender, whose comment appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
If the Palin (sic) are going to parade her kids on stage in front of the world, making them public figures, then they need to accept that they'll be subject to jokes, even off-color ones. As far as I'm concerned, they all got what they deserved, and maybe the Palin's (sic) will now buy a clue and realize if THEY want to protect their kids, they will keep them out of site (sic) in Alaska---and leave us alone--EyesWideOpen
Let us hope that no one applies this principle to President Barack Obama's daughters.

The adorable picture above is of David Letterman's son, Harry. Letterman bragged about him on his show, so....Well, you get the idea.

Bush, Obama and Kenneth Lewis

Democrats say the Bush administration pushed Bank of America's Kenneth Lewis too hard to merge with troubled Merrill Lynch. Republicans say the same thing about the Obama administration when it comes to remaking the auto industry.

They're both right. It's what you get when government takes over. The question is whether any of it is legal or even constitutional?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Here's a quote to remember:


"That's why I have already promised the [health care insurance] reform will not add to our deficit over the next 10 years."--President Barack Obama.

Oh, sure. The 10-year cost of the plan is estimated to be $1 trillion. Where will the money come from?

The silliness is here

Barney Frank can't take the heat

He flees the kitchen.


Remember the 21.5 % prime rate?

Well, it's coming back

Arthur Laffer warns in the Wall Street Journal that we need to get ready for inflation and higher interest rates.
To date what's happened is potentially far more inflationary than were the monetary policies of the 1970s, when the prime interest rate peaked at 21.5% and inflation peaked in the low double digits. Gold prices went from $35 per ounce to $850 per ounce, and the dollar collapsed on the foreign exchanges. It wasn't a pretty picture.
Get ready to be frightened, when he points out that:
unfunded liabilities of federal programs -- such as Social Security, civil-service and military pensions, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, Medicare and Medicaid -- are over the $100 trillion mark. With U.S. GDP and federal tax receipts at about $14 trillion and $2.4 trillion respectively, such a debt all but guarantees higher interest rates, massive tax increases, and partial default on government promises.

If Bush had done it...


Or, where is Comedy Central now?

This has been making the rounds on the Internet, and worth repeating:


If George W. Bush had made a joke at the expense of the Special Olympics, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had given Gordon Brown set of inexpensive and useless (to Tony Blair's UK video formatting) DVDs, when Brown had given him a thoughtful and historically significant gift, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had given the Queen of England an iPod containing videos of his speeches, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia , would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had visited Austria and made reference to the non-existent "Austrian language," would you have brushed it off as a minor slip?

If George W. Bush had filled his cabinet and circle of advisers with people who cannot seem to keep current on their income taxes, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had ordered the firing of the CEO of a major corporation, even though he had no constitutional authority to do so, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had proposed to double the national debt, which had taken more than two centuries to accumulate, in one year, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had then proposed to double the debt again within 10 years, would you have approved?

So, tell me again, what is it about Obama that makes him so brilliant and impressive?

Can't think of anything? Don't worry. He's done all this in 10 weeks -- so you'll have three years and nine-and-a-half months to come up with an answer.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

More hypocrisy in Congress


The Washington Times reports that the House has restricted outside investigations in its members' ethics. Both parties joined in the move, a mere couple of years after Democrats took control because of GOP scandals.

Will it ever end?

In Defense of High Parking Meter Rates

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Daily Observer

Hold on a second; where does it say that you’re entitled to park cheaply on a public street?

You’re not, but that’s the assumption behind all the crabbing about the city’s “obscene” increase in parking meter rates. Put aside questions about the competence of the company now running the meters and whether Mayor Richard M. Daley could have squeezed another billion or so out of the company for the 75-year lease. Also, put aside how badly the company has bollixed the job and questions about whether it was a sweetheart deal.

That’s a lot to put aside, but if your gripe is about what it now costs to park on a street in Chicago, then you’ve lost me. I had thought from the decibel level that you were being asked for an arm and a leg, but then I looked at the rates.

Read more in The Chicago Daily Observer

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Sanetilli puts it to Geithner

Next reforms should take on term limits for legislative leaders

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

All of the suggestions for reforming the contemptible Illinois legislature won't go anywhere unless we strip its two leaders of their iron grip on how their minions vote.

Therefore, as my first suggestions for amendments to the Illinois Constitution, I propose limiting the length that any legislator can serve as House speaker or Senate president to one or two terms. How else to end the lock that House Speaker Michael Madigan (above right) and Senate President John Cullerton, both Chicago Democrats, have on both chambers so that the legislative bodies can function as they should -- true representatives of the people?

The legislature can be called a lot of things (bumbling, cowardly, selfish, sheepish, insane), but it's also a diarchy. Diarchy: (n) a government controlled by two diarchs (bosses). In most diarchies, the diarchs hold their position for life and pass the responsibilities and power of the position to their children or other family members when they die.

In the Illinois legislature, the diarchs are Madigan and Cullerton -- two familial names in Chicago politics -- without whose approval nothing will move through the otherwise constipated, ethically challenged legislature. Because they are elected from two safe districts in Chicago and because they rule with papal-like ex cathedra ("from the chair") authority, the rest of us are virtually disenfranchised.

Madigan is the longer-serving, Cullerton having replaced Emil Jones, the former enabler of the disgraced former governor, Rod Blagojevich. Madigan and Cullerton control their chambers by sitting on a pot of campaign funds to be doled out to their ever-grateful toadies. Of course, limiting the speakership or presidency to one or two terms doesn't mean that the campaign contributions from those seeking favor won't stop flowing into the hands of whoever succeeds them.

So, we'll need another amendment: No Illinois legislator may distribute campaign money to any other member of the House or Senate. Sure, there are other ways to distribute campaign money to other servile party members and requiring loyalty in return. But at least it will keep the direct ladling of political funds out of the governmental process.

There are other possible amendments that citizens can initiate. High on my list would be the restoration of the "cumulative voting" system for electing lawmakers. Years ago, as a citizen activist, Gov. Pat Quinn was instrumental in eliminating this system, which turned out to be one of the biggest anti-reform moves in decades.

Under the system, each legislative district sent three representatives to the House. Typically, Democrats and Republicans would each put up two candidates in each district, and voters were given three votes to divide among them. It produced a cohesive minority of some of the most independent, honest and competent legislators in the state's history. Quinn and his fellow utopians accomplished what the most die-hard party regulars couldn't have done on their own. They concentrated political power in the hands of a smaller clique of party regulars, while producing an assembly of conformist lawmakers.

Voters also could initiate an amendment limiting the terms of all lawmakers, not just the leadership. Term limits aren't my favorite cause; I see good reasons for having experienced legislators. Yet, turning over the entire membership regularly isn't a bad idea, considering the manner in which the experienced hands have been conducting themselves.

This shouldn't exhaust the number of ideas for amending the constitution's Article IV, which sets out how the legislature does business. I'm putting these forward because after last week's column suggesting that voters use the citizen initiative process to shake up the legislature, a number of readers asked for specific suggestions. Other folks may have more or better ideas, and I hope to hear from them.

As I said last week, it takes about 270,000 registered voters' signatures to place an amendment on the ballot in the 2010 general election. It's not too soon to begin weighing the ideas and coalescing around the best ones. I can serve as a conduit for the ideas and for those who are interested in getting a movement started.

But I'm not an organizer. It's up to those with the moxie and the money to get this effort under way. I know there is interest out there, and we need to start somewhere. The Madigans, Cullertons and the rest have signaled that we don't matter; they need a reminder that we do.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Obama: We have only begun to spend


Finally, an accounting--grossly inadequate as it is--of stimulus spending:
In the three months after the Democratic-led Congress approved Obama’s stimulus plan, the government doled out about 11 percent of the emergency stimulus funds, according to a progress report released by Biden’s office on May 13.
The administration says it will commit about 70 percent of the money by the end of the next fiscal year, less than the 75 percent that White House officials projected in February.
Now, let's have a more detailed accounting on how well the money is being spent, before pushing ahead with the release of more record amounts of pork.

Springfield Tax Revolt

Wisdom in Springfield; is it possible?

A Wall Street Journal editorial found something praiseworthy to say about our pathetic Illinois legislature:
Taxpayer victories are rare these days, so let's cheer the good news in Illinois, where earlier this week the state House in Springfield voted 74-42 against a plan to raise the income tax rate on individuals and businesses by 50%.
One interesting fact in the piece:
One reason [Gov. Pat] Quinn's tax plan failed is because there was little effort to slow down spending that has increased 45% (to $4,700 from $3,250 per person after inflation) in the past decade.
Republicans, struggling to find a message that resonates with "moderate" voters should note all the Democrats who joined with every House Republican to kill the tax increase. Together, they made an overwhelming majority

Fair is fair


A state legislator is calling for the resignation of the University of Illinois President Joseph White (right) and trustees who participated in clouting politically connected and perhaps unqualified students into the school.

One suspects that it wasn't the school officials' idea, although they helped out or at least gave their implied consent to the practice.

But if it's fair to call for the heads of the school administrators, then why shouldn't the 100 politicians who pushed for the students' admission also resign. Among them, House Speaker Michael Madigan, who to no one's surprise, called this grossly unfair practice a legitimate "constituent service."

Friday, June 05, 2009

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Obama gets it right

His speech and his other pronouncements are an important start to achieving a two-state solution and ending the Israeli settlements.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Group Guilt and The Murders of Long and Tiller

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Daily Observer

Are pro-lifers any more responsible for the death of late-term abortionist George Tiller than anti-war activists are responsible for the murder of a young soldier outside of a Little Rock army recruiting station?

Of course not, but judging by the coverage of and reaction to the two killings, you would think that you can hang Tiller’s death on the rhetoric and actions of the (as one reporter said on PBS’ evening Newshour) the “anti-abortion crowd.” For days now, we have been deluged with stories about the suspect’s connections to that “crowd,” but nary a word about any influences on the alleged killer, reportedly upset by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, by the (if I may) the “anti-war crowd.”

Read more in the Chicago Daily Observer

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

GM expected to emerge stronger after bankruptcy

At least that's what they say. But here's a question: We (through the government) are essentially stockholders of GM now. So, do we get to vote our shares?

Get ready for higher taxes at O'Hare

You may not have noticed, but legislation is working its way through Congress that would allow Chicago to raise its ticket tax on airline passengers to $7, from $4.50.

How nice, a higher tax on city, suburban, business and leisure fliers to fund a dangerous redesign of O'Hare Airport, when Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley for years had promised that it wouldn't cost taxpayers anything.

By the way, when you notice the tax applied to tickets at other airports, you should thank of Daley. He conceived it years ago as a way to expand O'Hare, and other airports quickly picked up on the idea.

The story is here.

Here's what the Illinois Legislature deserves: Amend the Constitution now

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

So, do you still think a state constitutional convention was a bad idea?

When voters had a rare opportunity last year to call a constitutional convention to fix the stinkpot that is Illinois government, an array of special interests, scholars, editorial boards and even some reformers insisted it was a bad idea.

The problem wasn't the state constitution, but the people in charge, they said, an odd thing to say because many of those people beating that drum were the very people who were in charge. Whatever their inconsistencies, their elaborate PR campaign worked and Illinois' frequently duped voters overwhelmingly rejected the constitutional convention. And then waited for the reform "movement," spawned by the outrages of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, to work its magic.

And waited and waited and waited.

Now the legislature has demonstrated again that it can't or won't rustle up the kind of reform Illinois needs. And all those voices that spoke against a thoroughgoing reorganization of state government appear to have been, at best, suckered, if not complicit with the three-ring circus that has been under way in Springfield.

With a straight face, Gov. Pat Quinn and House Speaker Michael Madigan, both Democrats, patted themselves on their backs for their wunnaful reforms, while failing to do the things that most need to be done, such as stripping the legislative leadership of its iron grip on campaign money and how it's doled out to Senate and House candidates. This is the club they use to bully legislative sheep into doing the leaders' bidding, and helps explain why corruption, "pay to play" and other misdeeds get the wink and nod. Nor did they do anything about the politicized method of redrawing legislative districts every 10 years, a system that is guaranteed to keep the sheep marching to the tune called by the leaders.

There's plenty more that Quinn and the legislature must do. But why bother enumerating them here? They'll be ignored thanks to a system of political inbreeding that has spawned generations of moral idiot savants who have brilliantly manipulated the government as prescribed by the constitution for their own reward. For all the scorn heaped locally and nationally on Blagojevich, he wasn't the problem. He merely was the progeny of a corrupt system.

The constitution won't permit another citizen-initiated constitutional convention for another two decades. But the constitution does give us citizens one opportunity: We can amend the constitution regarding legislative "structural and procedural" matters, without getting legislative approval.

The constitution provides that voters equaling 8 percent of the number that voted in the last gubernatorial election can initiate legislative amendments. In other words, about 270,000 voter signatures could place an amendment on the ballot in the 2010 general election.

What should the amendment or amendments do? There are too many appealing ones to go into here, any one of which would remove the smirk from the faces of the legislative leaders gloating over how they snookered us again. But work has to begin immediately; petitions have to be filed with the secretary of state at least six months before the general election. That might seem to be a long time from now, but reformers must confront these clowns head on now; tell them, "We tried to do it your way. Now it's our turn."

Monday, June 01, 2009

Was Benjamin Cardozo the first Hispanic Supreme Court nominee?

Who should care. Read this and lament where identity politics has brought us.

Army Recruiter Is Fatally Shot

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A United States Army soldier was shot to death and a second soldier seriously wounded outside a military recruiting station here by a man who opened fire from a vehicle Monday morning, New York Times reported.

Which says no more about peace activists than the killing of a late-term abortion doctor in Kansas does about pro-life activists.

FAA takes new look at O'Hare noise

The Federal Aviation Administration is launching a review of its longstanding airport noise standard after the new runway at O’Hare International Airport routed more departures north of Chicago, prompting complaints from residents and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston) reports Crain's Chicago Business.

Isn't that just wonderful. Schakowky shows her concern after the first runway is built. Can't do anything to upset the boss, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, ya know.

Lawmakers Keep Expenses Off-Line

But we know that Harry Reid, the irrepressible Senate Majority Leader, is spending a lot of dough for staff retreats.

Read about the hypocrisy of Congress in WSJ.com