Friday, July 23, 2010

There you go again, Your Honor

As if! As if we didn't have enough evidence that Chicago's elitist City Council has nothing but disdain for the proletariat class it is elected to serve. The new handgun ordinance, passed on the mayor's orders in the wake of the city's handgun ban being overturned in court, is designed to prevent a citizen from using his gun to defend himself. Are the alderman subjected to the same limits they forced on their peasants? Unlikely--after all, they excluded themselves from the handgun ban during its 28-year existence.

The city's Legal Department, led by Mara Georges, will spend millions of dollars the city doesn't have defending the law in court from challenges. These challenges come from citizens who dare to defend themselves from the thugs who own the streets in so many Chicago neighborhoods. What is the point, really, of a one handgun per month purchase limit? Of banning handgun possession on a porch or in a garage? The mayor's attempts to disarm the people are baffling. Restricting each residence to one operational handgun (the others disassembled) makes perfect sense if one presumes more working handguns endanger the residents. That's up for debate, and that decision should be up to the individual homeowner, not Hizzonerdamare.

Another part of the law bans gun stores within the city limits. This is almost certainly unconstitutional as a gun is now a legal product in Chicago. Mara Georges' reasoning was, Well, no alderman would allow a gun shop in his ward, so we decided to ban them.

How preposterous. And arrogant. This motley City Council crew of 50 men and women will not be aldermen forever. With luck, many will pursue other opportunities next year. Considering how popular urban gun ownership is, it's very possible a new, pro-gun alderman would welcome a gun store in his ward. The city ordinance doesn't allow for such an eventuality. The alderman would need to introduce a waiver to the law and persuade his colleagues to pass it.

Just as there are liquor stores and automobile dealers within the city limits, gun shops deserve an opportunity to conduct business. Mayor Richard M. Daley may not like it. When the law is thrown out, he'll find it's not always his call.

Chicago's 2011 budget $700 mil in hole

Where did the money go?

What is the price of corruption?

What is the City of Chicago's projected budget deficit for 2011?

There's a question with an answer. It's a mind-boggling $700 million. Assuming a population of 2.9 million, each resident would need to donate $241.38 to the city to balance the budget. ($659.18 per capita.) A grand for a family of four.

Remember the telethon for Detroit in Robocop 2? This is far worse.

It's almost inconceivable that the city's budget situation has reached this nadir. City residents spend thousands of dollars every year on taxes and fees. Vehicle sticker, handgun ownership fee, sales tax, restaurant tax, liquor tax, gas tax, parking garage tax, parking tickets, traffic tickets, red-light camera tickets, and amusement tax (a portion of the ticket price of a movie, sports event or show). Businesses in the city pay for operators' licenses, liquor licenses and an employee head tax. There are probably other examples. Tourists and business visitors are hit hard, with steep airport, hotel and car rental taxes and fees.

Parking meter revenue is not part of that list because the city doesn't see it. Mayor Richard M. Daley and a compliant City Council sold the parking meter revenue to LAZ Parking for 75 years. They sealed that deal less than two years ago, in December, 2008. Now the Sun-Times reports 90 percent of that up-front money is gone. Of course some of it was intended for immediate budget deficit needs. But all of it? Even if the city drained the fund to prop up its 2011 budget, a $520 million deficit would remain. And the parking meter revenue would still be off-limits for 73 years.

How did the city financial situation get this bad, this fast? There are two costs that are difficult to quantify but play major roles in budgeting malfeasance: corruption and the lack of any political opposition in the city.

There is a corruption scandal linked to Hizzonerdamare's office about every six months. It's always about money--lots of it--and contracts.

In other large cities, proposed budgets with their tax and fee increases are subject to lively debate. In Chicago, the budget is whatever the mayor wants it to be. As a result, there is no control--no system of checks and balances to fight tax/fee increases or egregious spending. The result is predictable: a $700 million shortfall.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Can Jan hang on?

Joel Pollack took down Rep. Barney Frank. Can he hold his own with another liberal House stalwart? After just two different Members of Congress represented the Ninth District in the House over the last 62 years,* the District could certainly use "A Fresh Start."

The polls report the president's approval ratings have fallen sharply. More seriously, a majority of Americans no longer trust the president to make major policy decisions. That's not the type of person Americans typically vote to re-elect.

Concerns about skyrocketing debt, the possibility of higher taxes and a Big Government takeover of health care and so much more would naturally lead to a year with big Republican gains in Congress.

How does this voter unrest translate to the Ninth District of Illinois?

Rep. Jan Schakowsky's most loyal voters, who already voted for her six times, love Big Government. They love higher taxes. They love entitlement spending. They love taxpayer-funded abortions. They love gun bans. They love unions. They love federal spending on the arts, as if the arts were at all the federal government's business. Some of them love sticking it to Israel.

So the Republican Party's alternate message may not resonate with many Ninth District voters. These voters' active dislike of conservatives may be so strong that they will vote to re-elect the Congresswoman just to annoy Republicans. Furthermore, Rep. Schakowsky does a masterful job of portraying herself as the underdog (a six-term incumbent loaded with campaign cash? Some underdog!) fighting the good fight against those bad Republicans and their "far right-wing agenda." This goes on even as her husband goes to prison for a check-kiting scheme. Putting fear into the minds of voters may will result in a surfeit of fund-raising cash and a seventh term in office.

In 1996, a great year for Democrats with a big re-election win for President Bill Clinton, Joe Walsh ran against 87-year-old Ninth District Rep. Sidney R. Yates. This was Yates' first serious opposition in 14 years. He was so concerned about losing his precious seat he flew to his home District to campaign and ended up winning re-election by eight points.

With almost no money and a loosely organized campaign force of volunteers, Walsh had Yates thinking about retirement. (Walsh is now running against Rep. Melissa Bean in Illinois' Eighth District. Yates retired in 1999 and died in 2000.) Could Joel Pollack close that eight-point gap? Stay tuned.

*Sidney R. Yates 1949-1999. Another member served 1961-63. Jan Schakowsky 1999-present.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

No more treif meals at restaurants on yontif!

July 7, 2010

De Pescara
2124 Northbrook Court
Northbrook IL 60062

Dear Sir or Madam:

I noticed that last fall, you advertised a Rosh Hashanah dinner at your restaurant. I am writing to ask you not to repeat that event this year because it is in direct violation of Jewish law regarding major holidays. Since driving and spending money are forbidden on holidays, Jewish holiday meals are traditionally eaten at home, not at restaurants. Furthermore, Jewish dietary laws present a host of problems for a restaurant accustomed to serving food off-limits to Jews. These food items include: shellfish, non-kosher meat and wine, and dishes with mixed meat/dairy ingredients.

You are probably unaware that it is in very poor taste for a non-kosher restaurant to invite Jews in to eat their holiday dinner. At the very least, it’s terribly inappropriate. I would never pretend to serve a traditional Italian dinner because my kitchen is not equipped to produce such a meal. Similarly, your kitchen is designed for traditional Italian cuisine, not a festive Jewish kosher dinner. I would ask again that you refrain from scheduling another Rosh Hashanah meal.


No thank you, Art Institute

July 19, 2010

Ms. Amy Katherine Radick
Membership Director
Art Institute of Chicago
111 S Michigan Ave
Chicago IL 60603

Dear Ms. Radick:

Thank you for your written invitation to join the Art Institute. The letter and accompanying brochure make a very impressive presentation, and the discount certainly makes the offer an attractive one. Unfortunately, I must decline the invitation at this time.

The reason for my refusal is what I consider to be the Art Institute’s outrageous admission price increase last year. The Art Institute no longer allows low- or fixed-income guests to pay what they wish, and special exhibits are now restricted to members during free admission periods. While the Art Institute is cutting itself off from those who can least afford it, it inhales hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer funding annually. Regardless of whether we visit the Art Institute or not, taxpayers in Chicago, in Illinois, and all across the country are “friends” of the museum.

How much would admission cost if the Art Institute refused public funding? In that case, major donors, members and visitors would be solely responsible for the Art Institute’s revenue—as it should be. In that case, admission prices and the CEO’s salary would not be public issues.

I realizes there is no admission fee on Thursday evenings (thanks to corporate sponsorship), and there is one free week in February. It is still very difficult for most families to visit during these times. Instead of the library admission card program, with its limited availability, I would suggest that each Chicago family be permitted one complimentary visit per calendar year. Sure, you could black out winter and spring break to control crowds. The people who unwittingly underwrite the Art Institute’s budget should have the chance to enjoy it.

Thank you again for your invitation. I will continue to visit the Art Institute on Thursday evenings.


Scott Rolen lays it on the line

All-Star third baseman Scott Rolen made the Chicago Cubs miserable during his St. Louis days. While his new team, Cincinnati, took three out of four from the Cubs over the holiday weekend in Chicago, Rolen spoke to the Chicago Tribune.

"The Cubs are very limited facility-wise, and that dramatically limits the work the players can do day to day. The clubhouse and weight room are significantly below par. They play a different schedule from everybody else in baseball. The day games are very hard to deal with day after day. Plus, when you have so many different starting times, from 1:20 to 12:05 to 7:05, then play mostly night games when you go on the road, I think the Cubs have their backs against the wall."


Scott Rolen gets it.

Wrigley Field's night-game limit of 30 games per season just about kills the Cubs' chances of winning a pennant. A majority day-game schedule was just fine when everyone else shared it. There was no nighttime Major League Baseball until Cincinnati turned on the lights in 1939. Teams added night games gradually. By the 1970's, all teams but the Cubs played a majority-night game schedule that continues, with some minor adjustments, to this day. The 55 night games other teams play at home is 83 percent more than the Cubs play.

Major League Baseball's move toward a night baseball schedule coincides almost exactly with the Cubs' pennant drought. I don't know whether the Cubs played any night games in 1945, their last pennant-winning season. I doubt it. The World Series was certainly a matinée affair as MLB did not schedule any Fall Classic games at night until 1971 (Pirates over Orioles in seven).

The Blackhawks' and Bulls' signings are done, and Bears' camp is still two weeks away. As much as they want to avoid it, the spotlight of Chicago sports turns to Cubs GM Jim Hendry and owner Tom Ricketts. Hendry and Ricketts should be able to produce coherent answers to media questions such as, "How do you plan on building a championship team?" "When can we expect another championship run with a pennant as a realistic goal?" The Cubs' postseason losing streak stands at nine games.

The lack of clubhouse space, training room space, exercise space and indoor batting cages at Wrigley is probably like a football team trying to compete without a weight room. The owner and GM should immediately designate a full-time employee to work to achieve a massive facilities upgrade and a full night-game schedule.

The Arizona Diamondbacks had their first season in 1998, playing in a gorgeous, taxpayer-financed, retractable-roof ballpark. They won the World Series in 2001, beating the Yankees in seven games. Now mired in last place, the owner fired his manager and general manager, signaling a complete shakeup of the ballclub.

I hope Mr. Ricketts is paying attention.

Gun ban advocates speak out

After the United States Supreme Court struck down Chicago's handgun ban, public reaction was swift. In the July 3 Voice of the People (letters to the editor) column of the Chicago Tribune, a liberal Chicagoan opines, "[The Second Amendment] was a good law when our nation was formed, but society has changed in such a way that the keeping of arms now poses more danger to the average American than it does to democracy."


Thank you, professor, for making this proclamation for all of us. I think the Second Amendment keeps American safe, but who am I to argue?

He goes on.

"I believe in 2010, a national poll would support the revocation of the Second Amendment."

Hmm. Makes one wonder, doesn't he?

No need to worry, Mr. H. Rasmussen just took a national poll. Guess what? Not so many people agree with you!

This is yet another example of the presumptuous, elitist left-wing mindset. This guy lives in a nice lakefront neighborhood in Chicago. He can afford ADT home security. He wants the people hardest hit by gang violence and home invasions to remain defenseless in their homes.

Back to the Rasmussen poll. Eighty percent of gun owners support the right of Americans to keep guns in the home. That sounds a little low, but otherwise it's not surprising. Of Americans who do not own guns, 55 percent support the right of others to pack heat. So this poll contradicts this gun ban advocate's theory that America shares his views.

From Glen Ellyn, a nice, safe suburb deep in DuPage County, about 25 miles from Chicago: "The NRA and its Republican comrades can rest comfortably now that the conservatively packed Supreme Court has made it much easier for the purveyors of gun violence to make our society the armed camp they have long sought."

Great letter. Once again, another left-wing elitist believes it's the Supreme Court, the GOP and the NRA against all of America. The reality is that one-third of American homeowners celebrate their Second Amendment right by keeping guns in their homes. Does that constitute an armed camp? Too bad. That's America.

As a side note, Mayor Richard M. Daley raised the specter of the Wild West when he thought about losing this case in front of the Supreme Court. Statistically, Chicago is much more violent than the Wild West, with its handgun ban in place, even after adjusting for population.

The next letter is different because the author lives near Lawrence and Western Avenues in Chicago, which is a bit gritty and not so nice. Here is his second paragraph:

"If 30 shootings and three deaths occurred the weekend before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Chicago's handgun ban by a 5-4 vote, imagine the numbers after access to handguns is unlimited."

I am imagining. And I imagine the homicide rate will drop.

Many homicides in Chicago are gang-related. These teenagers and young men--murderers and victims--already have guns. The end of the gun ban will have no effect on gang-related crime. It will, however, reduce robbery and home invasions, with a commensurate drop in murder in the course of a felony.

These three left-wing elitists have this surreal concept that law-abiding citizens, once armed, will run amok shooting each other. This idea just isn't supported by the facts. In 48 states, citizens can pack heat inside and outside the home. Yet Chicago, that gun-free city where concealed carry remains illegal, has a crime rate and murder rate among the highest in the country.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Government-enforced elitism

As a card-carrying member of this country's intellectual elite, I chafe at the elitism of government. "We know what's best, so we're going to tell you what you can or cannot do; and we're going to take your money because we know best how to spend it." I understand that we live in a representative democracy. Approximately one-fifth of the citizenry are too illiterate to fill out a cheque; a similar number are functioning alcoholics. It's probably a good idea for public officials to have some semblance of intelligence. Unfortunately many of these same public officials let their intelligence go to their head.

This may be a recurring theme here. I'd like to focus briefly on three items that come to mind:

1. Handgun restrictions and bans. In my opinion, handgun bans are advocated for and passed by people who live in safe neighborhoods and can afford monthly ADT bills specifically to limit the ability of people who live in dangerous neighborhoods to defend themselves. The concept is idealistic--wouldn't it be great if America were gun-free?--but in the end, only helps criminals prey on defenseless victims.

2. Taxpayer-funded museums. It costs about $100 to take a family of four to Shedd Aquarium, the Art Institute, or the Field Museum of Natural History. Most families cannot afford that; or if they can, it's a very big deal and a significant portion of their fun fund. Yet these institutions inhale taxpayer money to the tune of the deep six figures each year. They receive support from the city, the state and the federal government so the privileged few can enjoy them. To me, this is outrageous. These institutions have ready access to millions in major-donor gifts and foundation grants. I think we should yank their public funding and make them private institutions. Then they may charge what they want, and those willing to pay may do so.

3. Taxpayer-funded media. With the infinite internet and thousand-channel cable television, our media choices are boundless. Yet the taxpayers are supposed to support PBS, National Public Radio and classical music radio? Why? Why should Joe Lunchbucket, who works 50 hours a week to feed his family, pay taxes to support institutions largely enjoyed by the high-income intellectual elite? How do these media outlets benefit him? They don't. It's the governmental elite telling Joe that his tax money is better off being spent on these media outlets rather than on his kids' shoes.

SCOTUS shoots down Chicago

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff in MacDonald vs. Chicago, a landmark case in which the defendant argued for the ability to deprive its citizens of their Second Amendment right to defend themselves with handguns. The Supreme Court affirmed that Chicago is indeed part of the United States, and regardless of the wishes of its mayor, its citizens are entitled to exercise their constitutional right to defend themselves.

Not so fast, said the City Council. After first considering a limit of one handgun per person (illegal), the aldermen settled on one handgun per person per month. I'm glad I'm not limited to one blog post per month; or one members' meeting of The V Show Fan Club per month. Those limits would infringe on my First Amendment rights. The City Council's law infringes on Chicagoans' Second Amendment rights. Is there a constitutional difference? We'll soon find out. One alderman--Robert Fioretti (2nd), as I recall--warned gun advocates about taking the City to court. Of course, Alderman. The little people wouldn't dare assert their constitutional rights. The law enacts a $100 gun possession license valid for three years. Since this is more than the cost of processing, the license fee is illegal: the city cannot charge its citizens to invoke their Second Amendment rights. The law bans more than one gun in the home being operational; the others must be disassembled. Who is going to enforce that? Stormtroopers? (G-d forbid.) My sense is people who own more than one consider their firearms like fire extinguishers; they want one at the ready on each floor in case of intruders. I don't see how this part of the law is at all helpful in quelling crime; it seems only helpful in weakening law-abiding homeowners. The law also bans gun possession in garages, porches and outside staircases. So criminals know they're safe in those parts of a residence, where the Second Amendment doesn't apply. The law bans gun sales in the city--certainly unconstitutional. The city cannot ban from sale an item the U.S. Supreme Court insists is legal.

"I can't imagine why anyone would oppose these reasonable regulations," squealed Ald. Joe Moore (49th). Because they're illegal, Alderman. Because they restrict your peasants' constitutional rights. Because they want the same right your long-serving colleagues kept for themselves 28 years ago while banning it for their constituents.

On an issue seemingly controversial in the city, in which two residents successfully defended themselves with handguns they owned, and in which the Chicago Tribune estimates there are 100,000 handguns, this ordinance passed 45-0. I wonder if the aldermen excluded themselves from these restrictions like they did from the original 1982 handgun ban.

Quick question: how does one bring home his just-purchased gun from a gun store outside the city? If it is concealed in one's vehicle and one is stopped by police, who conduct a "probable cause" search, then the concealed weapon violates the state's ban on concealed weapons. If it is in plain sight, and the police see it from their vantage point outside the vehicle, then it violates the city's law against possession away from home. And how does one transport the weapon to the city's mandated target practice sessions? I would love to see the trial for the possession charge.

This is just another example of Chicago's City Council doing the bidding of Hizzonerdamare Richard M. Daley with no debate or public input. If the Tribune's estimate is true, perhaps 10 percent of homeowners protect themselves with handguns. Shouldn't they have a say in how their Second Amendment rights are being trampled upon?

Is this love built to last?

After Tuesday's friendly meeting at the White House between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pro-Israel Obama supporters are keeping their fingers crossed.

They're hopeful there will be no more new apartment complexes in Jerusalem that make the president David Banner-angry. Not like the ones that are built in Washington and New York all the time with no complaints from the Israeli government.

They're hopeful there will be no more flotillas that caught the White House off-guard by starting a disagreement between two allies.

In short, they're hopeful there will be no further developments that would put the president in a tight spot as the 2012 election draws closer: torn between his leftist, anti-Israel supporters and his overwhelming command of the Jewish vote, which is staunchly pro-Israel. During his Administration's 18 months, the president has tried to straddle the fence: appear pro-Israel at home while presenting an Arabist or neutral position abroad. This strategy produced sharp drops in the president's approval ratings in both camps.

Avoiding another incident seems almost impossible. It's likely better for the president if Israeli-Palestinian peace talks do not resume. Any progress peace talks produce would enrage Iran and Syria as well as mobilize the "Arab street." Another regional Mideast war might ensue, putting Israel at the top of the news and the president in the middle again. Aside from peace talks, it's only a matter of time before a terrorist is successful; or CNN shows dead babies; or Israel permits its citizens to build more homes. For the president, that spells trouble.