This ain’t the victory the religious right thinks it is!

Whoever said, “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it,” was on to something.

And the best example of this oft quoted proverb’s efficacy I can think of is today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding Hobby Lobby’s aversion to paying for employee contraception.  reglious freedom

What amazes me is the vast capacity of conservatives, especially those of the religious variety, to willingly engage in a battle in which a victory means losing the war. Just ask Napoleon about Borodino. He’ll tell you exactly what a pyrrhic victory is.

So let’s move on to our examination of this decision:

1. Is it really a victory? The SCOTUS ruling only absolves closely held corporations like Hobby Lobby from covering assumed abortifacients like Plan B. They still have to cover the Pill, diaphragms, the Patch and all major contraceptives the Affordable Care Act originally intended.

Thus, this ruling is actually a massive loss for the Catholic Church which forbids contraception in any form. Since they’ve got nowhere left to go, they will be paying for the Pill.

One has to wonder if such a narrow win is worth the inevitable backlash evangelicals will now face from legions of aggravated women who may not otherwise have picked up that pitchfork and torch.

2. Plan B is not an abortifacient. When you hang your religious hat on an untruth, people will doubt you from here on out.

Back in my newspaper days, I spoke with a Princeton scientist on this very subject and he assured me that Plan B and similar pharmaceuticals PREVENT conception which takes place 24 to 72 hours after sexual intercourse.

Once conception has occurred, Plan B is utterly useless.

Thus, this decision may be pointless in the sense that it opens the door to determining exactly how these drugs work and, when the truth comes out, companies will have to cover them anyway.

3. We limit religion all the time. Religious practice is and always has been free only within the limits and boundaries of the law.

Sikhs, sworn to defend their faith at a moment’s notice, can’t carry their “Kirpans,” or daggers on airplanes. Mormon men can’t marry more than one woman. Despite faith-based opposition, same-sex marriage is a foregone conclusion. Church and state are still separate. Human sacrifice is frowned upon. Church buildings can’t simply spring up anywhere and they can’t hold services that would disrupt the surrounding neighborhood.

Your religious freedom ends at the very tip of my rather pronounced nose and if you truly believe that foisting your beliefs upon me will benefit you in the long-run then, as Judas Priest once intoned – “you’ve got another thing coming!”

The odds of a conservative president being elected in 2016 weren’t all that good before this decision came down.

4. It opens the door to other religious minority exceptions. And this is the real conservative killing irony here because the religious minorities that Christians love to hate now have license to do exactly what Hobby Lobby just did.

It could be something as simple and semi-innocuous as a Jehovah’s Witness run business balking at covering a blood transfusion. Perhaps a Buddhist based organization will refuse to pay for antibiotics, or a Christian Scientist outfit won’t cover anything at all.

But it could get worse – much worse!

The following companies have been or are currently owned or controlled by Saudis, Kuwaitis, and other oil rich Arabs; Saks Fifth Avenue, Carvel Ice Cream, Gucci, AT&T, Chrysler, Dow Chemicals, Atlantic Richfield, Church’s Chicken, the Chrysler Building and Santa Fe International.

And I can only imagine the ensuing tumult if any of these concerns had the temerity to ask for the kind of exemption that Hobby Lobby just did. The shrieks and howls of the blatant imposition of Sharia Law would make conservatives’ heads explode and deafen the rest of us.

We limit religion because it’s propensity for abuse is unlimited.

To wit, my good friend (and probably the best writer I know) Paul Dailing and I are forming our own faith (and corporation) right here in the Chicago area. We’re planning on trading off the pope and vice-pope roles every other year.

The key facet of our creed is a firm belief in a deity that frowns upon and forbids the remittance of taxes to any entity that would have the nerve to levy them. And for some strange reason, our god has ordained that anyone named Steve has to do whatever we ask them. We’ll soon be heading to Washington to plead our case.

So with Pandora’s box thrust wide open, I will once again warn conservatives; be careful what you wish for because you might just get it.

What happens when you always cry wolf?

Responding to a John Kass column is always a complicated proposition because, not only does it encourage him, but it lends a certain credence to his feeble attempts at whatever it is he does. On the other hand, you also know this writer simply can’t resist commenting on a clear cut case of irony.

And this one starts with Kass’s rambling Sunday ruminations on his complete and utter shock at the lack of regular folks’ indignation over the IRS’ recent IT problems.


Briefly, in light of those tax folks targeting Tea Party groups, some investigators sought certain agency emails only to discover they’d been deleted and the hard drives destroyed. Now, you know I avoid conspiracy theories like a bad case of Ebola, but this one doesn’t pass the dog ate my homework laugh test.

But unlike Mr. Kass’s inexplicable incredulity, I firmly believe the lack of outrage over this not-so-sudden turn of events is eminently easy to explain. So though I’m surprised it needs to be done, being the magnanimous soul I am, here goes!

If you think the IRS providing extra scrutiny on groups that espouse the cause du jour is anything new, then I have a bridge over the Fox River I’m willing to part with cheap. In the 60’s it was the counterculture, in the 70’s it was feminist organizations, and in the 90’s it was gay rights groups.

If fact, the IRS managed to go after businesses and regular folks with such zeal that Congress felt compelled to rein ‘em in via the IRS Reform Act of 1998. Prior to that, the IRS was essentially an unregulated agency with very little oversight who abused their power as often as they saw fit.

These humorless folk work on a simple bell curve basis in which they look for those dreaded “red flags” that sit a standard deviation or two out on either end. In this case, it was the proliferation of conservative groups that got their attention.

For the sake of argument, let’s say they’re right and the IRS intentionally targeted the Tea Party. As one of my favorite attorneys likes to say, “What are your damages?” Not getting non-profit status as quickly as you hoped?

No one’s free speech was abridged, no one went to prison, and no one was beaten in the streets. So while it certainly shouldn’t have happened, if that’s the worst calamity that befalls your organization this decade, then you’re probably doing OK.

So that’s Kass’s first problem. Noboby’s getting excited about this proposition because there’s nothing to get excited about. Steve Forbes was right! Let’s go with a 15 percent flat tax and abolish the IRS! Problem solved!

But what really sinks Kass’s “what’s with all the apathy?” contention is my second point. After you’ve already cried “wolf” at every possible turn, when a real scandal finally rears its ugly head, no one gives a shit!

Conservatives have attacked the president for a fake birth certificate, phantom college transcripts, being weak, abusing drones, getting out of Iraq, not going into Libya, going into Libya, national health care, going on vacation, wearing “mom” jeans, helping the Syrian rebels, not helping the Syrian rebels, not going into the Ukraine, George W. Bush’s recession, faking the unemployment rate, being a “dictator,” and Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi.

Kass may not be the President’s worst critic, but considering how low these “true believers” will go, that’s like saying After Earth ain’t nearly as bad as Grown Ups 2. The truth is, you really don’t want to have to see either one.

Bolstered by a caffeine laced case of vanilla Coke, I scanned through years of Kass columns over the weekend and, while he was generally generous to George W. Bush, he blamed the President for everything short of the weather.

This included, but was not limited to, Benghazi, the closing of the World War II Memorial, the VA problems, politicking the “Chicago Way,” a supposed $300,000 discount on his Chicago house, the IRS scandal, Benghazi, shaking hands with Al Sharpton, referring to him as “President Selfie,” Benghazi, not standing up to Putin, Benghazi, slapping small business owners in the mouth, and issuing a bizarre call for the President to attend at least one funeral of a murdered and “ghettoized” Chicago black youth.

Kass’s increasingly acerbic attacks have been relentless, beyond partisan, and they evince a kind of irrational bitterness that most opinion columnists do their damndest to avoid. I suppose this wouldn’t be the first time a member of the Greek Orthodox Church couldn’t hide his true “colors.”

So now we finally have a real scandal and Kass, who has the nerve to complain about his own self-inflicted obsolescence, wonders why no one cares. Apparently there aren’t any mirrors in his house.

Kane County! Get ready to kiss that riverboat money goodbye!

To reiterate my well known stance, please let me clearly state that I firmly believe legalized gambling is never the answer. Whatever revenue that endeavor may generate is utterly outstripped by the ensuing social damage.

The thing is, just like my fine furry coyote friends, Illinois casinos aren’t going anywhere so there’s no point in arguing about it anymore.

So since gambling ain’t going anywhere, it may as well be in the form of Elgin’s Grand Victoria because the boat’s owners, the Pritzker family, automatically recycle 20 percent of their profits right back into the community.

Please take note conservative Christian Republicans.  grand victoria

But things aren’t looking too rosy for the grande dame of gambling vessels these days. As DH reporter Elena Ferrarin just pointed out, Elgin’s almost always predictable casino cut just took an entirely unexpected 20 percent hit to the point they’re looking at a $1.8 million budgetary shortfall.

That ain’t chump change.

And this piece in today’s Tribune explains the specific reason for this fiscal failing are those “grandma casinos” that are popping up all over suburbia. Briefly, under the guise of serving food and sometimes alcohol, these “gambling cafés” install the legal maximum five video gaming machines which bring in 80 percent of their profit.

They’re the result of a sloppily written state law, they don’t have to exclude problem gamblers, they don’t have to monitor inebriated patrons, and, unlike the boats, the bulk of their revenue goes to Springfield and out-of-state corporate owners.

Right now, Illinois is seeing this scourge expand at the exponential rate of 800 licenses per month. Should this trend be allowed to continue, it will mean the end of the Grand Victoria and every other similar venue.

Of course, without the appropriate “incentive,” nothing will change because, again, it’s the State of Illinois that’s reaping this new revenue windfall and they need all the cash they can get their grubby little hands on.

So in an effort to save the boat, here’s what I believe is about to happen:

1. No more free banquet hall.

Most of you don’t realize that, upon request, the Grand Victoria will not only provide free space for your charitable fundraiser, but they’ll cater the food at no cost too. And the folks who love to rely on this particular largesse tend to be area aldermen promoting their favorite cause.

But more often than not, these are the very same city councilmen who voted in favor of the very video gambling that’s killing off that casino. So I’m guessing they’re about to be cut off from the banquet room and that’s exactly the way it should be because politics ain’t a game for sissies.

2. The Pritzkers will sell the boat.

One of the reasons the Pritizker family has more money than God ($30 billion) is because they have an amazing collective business sense. They know exactly when to purchase and turn around a distressed enterprise and when it’s time to cut one loose.

With the grandma casino handwriting on the wall, I’d bet my bottom dollar they’re getting ready to bail out of the Illinois casino biz while they can still get something for the boat. And I’d also be willing to hazard a guess that the new owner(s) won’t be nearly as altruistic as the current ones.

So while Elgin’s ever declining five percent cut is statutorily guaranteed, those local social services agencies and the Kane County Board won’t be so lucky. Within one short year, they may face the real prospect of kissing that $6 and $4 million, respectively, goodbye.

And that ain’t chump change either. How many times have riverboat funds saved the county’s budget behind.

So here are my two thoughts:

1. Every social service agency and worthy cause that depends on those Grand Victoria Foundation Grants, and that list is a long one, needs to start letting their state legislators know just how much that money means to them. Then they need to call their local aldermen and explain the havoc those expanding gambling cafés are about to wreak.

Because even if the Pritzkers stay in the game, the casino industry simply cannot weather this storm.

2. The first thing the Kane County Board should do is outlaw grandma casinos in the unincorporated areas. And they should do this purely on principle because virtually none of that money comes back to the county.

Then, if the board wants to be able to continue to rely on the Pritzker’s generosity, each and every one of them should start calling the local state reps and insist that they fix their mistake by greatly limiting the spread of and heavily regulating this mini-casino plague.

The fact that these grandma casinos got a license this year doesn’t necessarily mean they should get one in the future. C’mon! Why do they get to play by different rules?

Could I be wrong about this? That’s always a possibility. But I wouldn’t bet on it!

The latest edition (6-26-14) of Left, Right and You…

… is right here:

We had a couple of technical difficulties today including losing the first 90 seconds of the show. But rest assured, dear listener, the meat of what we all had to say is all there in all it’s unbridled glory.

Anna Moeller

Anna Moeller

First, Larry and I talked about coyotes and, though you probably shouldn’t hug one of ’em as I suggested, living in fear of them ain’t the answer either. Isn’t it funny how all my Republican neighbors went running to the Geneva City Council insisting that they do something to end this scourge. They love less government, but only for everyone else.

There is nothing you can do to stop coyotes from staking out their territory. So as I’ve said all along, if you see one chase it! It works every time and reinforces their fear of humans.

Then Larry and I want to thank Elgin State Rep Anna Moeller for coming on and discussing the effect of political rumors driven by those dreaded ancillary players. Even though the election isn’t until November, the folks who never emotionally graduated from high school are already at it.

Enjoy the show!

Listen to Left, Right and You…

…from 3 to 4 pm today on WRMN AM1410.

On today’s show we’ll be talking about how the entire city of Geneva has lost their minds over a few bold coyotes. My neighbors are a bunch of wimps!

Then Elgin State Rep Anna Moeller will join Larry and I to talk about political rumors. Some folks are saying she gave herself a huge raise!

Then there’s your calls at 847-931-1410.

Mauled by a mall part III

Here’s another one the local papers inexplicably missed.

Before the first silver spade carefully clutched in an eternally optimistic St. Charles alderman’s hands hit the sod, the Charlestowne Mall renovation has already been delayed by at least six months.

And just like a savvy third base coach flashing ten separate signs to confuse the competition, The Krausz Companies quickly cited issues such as keeping the existing anchor stores open, navigating the unusual 18 month project time frame, and noting “it’s a very complex undertaking and we just need to get it right.”  charlestown3

As any good dugout sign stealer will tell you, then they called the real play – a hit and run – by casually mentioning they were having difficulty securing tenant commitments.

Aye! That’s the real rub folks.

Trust me, anytime you hear someone give you the “we want to get it right” excuse, run as fast as you bleepin’ can! Because all developers really want to get is all that cash from getting the bleepin’ project online as soon as they possibly can.

Translated, what “we want to get it right” really means is, “Holy crap! We seriously misjudged this situation which isn’t going our way from the get go and so we need to reevaluate it and make some serious adjustments before it all goes up in flames.”

If a developer with a reasonable reputation like The Krausz Companies can’t get tenants to sign on the dotted line during the honeymoon phase…

The best evidence of my hypothesis is they’ve already acquired every last one of the required city permits. So,  if the spirit so moved them, the developer could break ground tomorrow. Tearing down the old building while you keep the anchors open ain’t exactly rocket science.

When Larry Jones and I discussed this Quad St. Charles mall conundrum on Left, Right and You, he made two excellent points. The first was that, sometimes city councils have to go with the best potential present possibility. He aptly noted that the City will be getting the current empty mall torn down for “free.”

The second was that city councils have to offer developers serious financial concessions or they’ll take their business elsewhere. So the fact that St. Charles gave Krausz a $20 million sales tax break was not only necessary, but essentially risk free because it won’t come directly out of the taxpayers’ pocket.

Even though it’s difficult to disagree with that logic, let me give it my best shot.

I will concede Larry’s concession argument because shifting that city council making the best offer mindset is never going to happen. Very few aldermen have that kind of foresight. The problem with this particular deal is the amount. Now you’ve primed the pump for everyone else to ask for $20 million.

But I will not give him the “no risk” argument because this Quad St. Charles proposition is fraught with peril, the least of which is putting a ton of time and energy into something that’s gonna fizzle and the most of which is yet another eternally deteriorating concrete slab like the one that was the former St. Charles Mall.

Has anyone else noticed that, despite all the foreclosure overhead, the housing and rental markets are coming screaming back?

So here’s my prediction. This will by no means be the only delay. In fact, they’ll probably stretch the current phase out over the next two years. Then, faced with no other option and no tenants, the developer will completely rework the plan into something far less beneficial to the City of St. Charles, while insisting upon the original deal.

In order for this project, in whatever it’s final form will be, to finally open for business, Krausz will demand even more concessions and the City Council will cave because, in for a penny… Then, given all the Randall Road and Internet competition, the Quad will become the Charlestowne Mall II five to ten short years later.

What so many folks don’t understand is, I hope I’m dead wrong about all this. The fact that I, or any other columnist, does their best to peer into the future and tries to make the correct call does not mean we’re pulling for our particular version of events to come true. It simply means we want the people in positions of power to consider this possibility and change course while they still can.

On pots, kettles and invoking the color black

This one nearly got by me because it’s virtually impossible to make it through one of Courier News reporter Mike Danahey’s longer pieces without immediately slipping into a deep coma. Thankfully, a friend noticed Elgin Councilman Terry Gavin’s final quote and alerted me to the delicious irony involved.

To set the stage, as we speak, due to nine separate presentations, Senior Gavin and his council compatriots are embarking upon a special eight-hour city council meeting. The Mayor tried to move it to a Saturday, but some aldermen balked so they’re all taking a Wednesday afternoon off work.

Elgin Alderman Terry Gavin

Elgin Alderman Terry Gavin

This is one of the many reasons that alderman don’t get paid nearly as much as they should.

But back to the issue at hand! When faced with this marathon legislative session, Councilman Gavin actually had the nerve to say:

“There’s a consumption of time without having specifics to address. With council business to get to and vote on these presentations can drag on meetings. They need to be shortened. It’s a lot of talk with no action, and it wears you down.”

Before we continue, I’m gonna let you take that statement in for a minute because it really is one for the ages…….

Now that you’ve recovered, I’m going point out that I’m doing my damndest to let the outspoken councilman’s peccadilloes go because, a. It’s too easy to have fun with him; and, b. I do believe he harbors some good intentions.

It’s just that any potential altruistic tendencies are clouded by the fact that Brother Gavin always thinks he’s the most important person in the room when every knows it’s really me.

Not only that, but long city council meetings are by no means unique to The City in the Suburbs. If you really want to watch a waste of time, avail yourself of any Geneva City Council meeting video. Mayor Kevin “Shecky” Burns’ weekly “comedy” routines frequently make those get togethers go three times longer than necessary.

But what’s particularly fascinating about Gavin’s declaration is that he clearly lacks the slightest capacity to realize the reason so many Elgin meetings drag on ad nauseam is staring straight at him in the mirror! I may be in love with my own voice, but you can always change the station or advance the Internet page. Give Gavin a captive audience and he’s off to the races.

If it isn’t turning a simple $15,000 expenditure into a 20 minute “give me liberty or give me death” oratory, it’s starting an argument with the “liberal” council faction in an effort to delay a vote that’s a foregone conclusion. And once he gets going, the rest of the council naturally feels the need to respond which sets up a semi-circular dynamic.

Meanwhile, multi-million dollar expenditures get past him without so much as a cough.

It’s gotten to the point where Gavin will even go after the gallery if he feels the slightest bit slighted which is about an every 30 second occurrence.

The appointment of Rosamaria Martinez literally took ten times longer than necessary because Gavin (with a little help from John Prigge), felt the need to make every other councilman’s life abjectly miserable. Then he has the nerve to complain about overly long meetings? That’s just like John McCain castigating the President for being “wrong” about Iraq. Oh wait! He actually did that!

What makes it so much worse is, Gavin is essentially accusing the very people who put him in office of wasting his time. God forbid anyone should address his highness directly through the process intended to do just that.

All that said, and truth be told, if there was an expert on the prospect of offering “a lot of talk with no action, that wears you down,” we all know exactly who that would be!

Springfield’s loss may be our gain

If you read the political tea leaves correctly, it certainly seems like almost former State Senator and GOP gubernatorial challenger Kirk Dillard will become our next Metra Chairman.

Although, as is often the case, the mere fact he sought out that impossible endeavor should be enough to automatically disqualify him from contention. Considering Metra’s eternal foibles, the only gig that could possibly be worse is the governorship.

Kirk Dillard

Kirk Dillard

Having dodged that bullet, you’d think he’d be content to serve out his Senate time in blissful peace. Talk about your masochistic tendencies. So now I’m starting to think Kirk would greatly benefit from the services of a reputable licensed therapist. Well, either that or he needs to start doing some serious drinking.

But I digress.

Despite Bruce Rauner’s best Snidely Whiplash impersonation, with chief opponent and former DuPage County Board Chairman Bob Schillerstrom pulling up his chairmanship campaign tent stakes, it looks like Dillard has the required 11 of 15 board votes to move forward.

Though I’m not sure “forward” is the appropriate term here. Applying the briefest of summaries, in just the last four years Metra has had to endure:

1. A board so incompetent and lazy that a former director managed to make off with a half a million dollars. Then they all refused to resign.

2. When the agency finally did catch up with that theft, the Director killed himself by jumping in front of one of his own trains.

3. They hired a new Director who discovered they were robbing the capital funds to pay operating expenses which is not the best business model. Then after having heavily recruiting him, the board forced the new Director out.

4. A set of winter service woes so severe that Chicagoans actually forgot about all the murders for a little while. Perhaps Metra management thought climate change was a little further along than the rest of us did.

5. Union maintenance workers who’ve turned loafing into an art form. Should you wish to observe this phenomenon, I would encourage you to drive along the tracks from Geneva to LaFox where they once put lawn chairs out at the Post Office and simply sat there in the sun.

Should Dillard get the expected nod, he said he’ll step down from the General Assembly which means taking a 66 percent pay cut. And we’re right back to the whole therapist thing.

But the Senator’s questionable vocational judgment may well be our gain because approximately 400,000 commuters rely on Metra’s good graces every day and if anyone can restore the agency to some semblance of stability, it’s Kirk.

We all love to bitch about “career politicians,” but that’s exactly what it gonna take to get Metra back on track. Only someone who knows and understands the players can keep the often contentious city/collar county board member kerfuffles from getting out of hand.

Not only that, but overly meddlesome folks like Mike Madigan can’t resist sticking their fingers in the Kool-Aid and it takes a certain Zen quality to be able to disappoint those people without igniting an Illinois political jihad.

Then there’s Metra management whom, despite a track record that makes Dick Cheney look competent, doesn’t feel the need to heed the board’s “advice.” Given that government cannot be run like a business, a certain brand of forthright subtlety will be required to get anything done.

In addition, Dillard has served on the Senate Transportation Committee and, having consistently borne witness to exactly how it shouldn’t be done, perhaps he understands the need for a sense of budget sanity more than most.

So if anyone’s up to this penultimate challenge, it’s gotta be the almost former Senator from DuPage County. At least there’s one thing working in his favor, the agency has nowhere to go but up.

Quick Hit: Jeff Meyer didn’t walk with Joe Walsh

Holy crap! The bleep really is already hitting the fan. Since I just defended Anna Moeller and turnabout is fair play, it’s time to clear up another rumor, this one regarding her 43rd District State Rep opponent, Jeff Meyer.

Aided and abetted by the ancillary players we’ve all come to dread, word on the political street was that Meyer was doing the door-to-door thing with ne’er-do-well former 8th District Congressman and WIND radio host Joe Walsh.

Jeff Meyer

Jeff Meyer

Given the controversy Joe recently fabricated by his liberal on-air application of the N and C-words, people were aghast at this turn of events. How could a fine, upstanding candidate like Jeff Meyer align himself with such a cad.

And once again, a very small kernel of truth was all it took. You see, some of Joe’s PAC people were walking the Elgin area on behalf of all local Republicans and that kind of thing happens all the time. It’s not the least bit unusual for PAC volunteers and other folks you don’t really know to intervene on your behalf.

Remember, there are times when it’s downright illegal to coordinate efforts.

But before I get something else going, I want to be clear that I’m not saying Jeff is throwing Walsh to the wolves either – nor should he. They are friends. As much as I’ve bitterly complained about the fractured state of the Illinois GOP, it would be disingenuous of me to insist that Jeff suddenly disavow himself of the former Congressman.

You don’t have to agree on absolutely everything to get along.

The truth is, Jeff Meyer has not been walking any precincts with Joe Walsh. And unless he manages to round up the Eagles’ guitarist, I think it would be wise to honor that precedent because Joe will cost you more votes than he’ll get ya.

Sheesh! You’d think the light-speed nature of the news and Net would greatly shorten a rumor’s half-life, but no! The medium actually makes them travel far more effectively and offers them immortality. Proctor and Gamble is still trying to convince folks their logo ain’t Satanic!

So please, please, please stop listening to the ancillary players and all their crap.

But since we’re on the subject of Mr. Walsh, it’s also important to note that, when he doesn’t have an audience, he’s completely normal. I’ve talked with him a couple of times, he’s been on Left, Right and You more than once, and he’s actually a thoughtful and polite individual.

But if you put him in front of just one person willing to respond to his conservative shtick, it’s off to the races. So yes! It’s all an act.