Here’s the July 31st, 2014 edition of Left, Right and You!

 

Larry and I want to offer a big thank you to author, blogger and Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg for coming on the show today. His acute observations on the state of newspapers, the fact that he hasn’t left that job, and his clear understanding that he’s not an indispensable part of the Sun-Times future, are certainly worth the price of admission.

steinberg2

Remember! You can find his new blog here (everygoddamnday.com) and you can pick up his most recent book, “You Were Never in Chicago,” right here. I highly recommend it!

Then former Police Chief Larry shared some interesting insights  as to why the new hand-held cell phone ban isn’t working.  It kind of boils down to enforcement issues and an American mindset that prizes individual freedom over the collective safety.

Enjoy the show!

 

On rocks in my driveway, political pandering and why it all becomes white noise

The first time I found one of those stone filled baggies sitting on my driveway, I thought it was a very original way of advertising your landscaping business. And it worked in that I actually made an effort to read the small enclosed flyer.

Fast forward a decade later and, unless I clear them off the apron a couple of times a week, my driveway starts looking a lot like the remnants of a long-abandoned gravel quarry. And sure enough, another set of rocks was deposited this morning which I tossed into the trash without taking a second glance.

rocks

This, I believe, aptly describes the Sisyphean nature of trying to get your message out there. As soon as you get the boulder anywhere near the top of that mountain, it rolls right back down again or, in this case, a once interesting concept becomes just more white noise.

You either have to accept that a very small percentage of homeowners will read your stuff and adjust your expectations accordingly, or you have to come up with something that pops even more.

Then, like those shampoo label instructions insist, you have to consistently rinse and repeat.

The interesting thing is, the same dynamic applies to the too-regular pandering efforts of our political parties. With the 24 hour news cycle providing constant input and our national case of ADHD, even the best message generally fades away faster than a summer hailstone. But because, on rare occasion, someone’s sound byte does take off and exhibit staying power, the pols keep throwing the figurative spaghetti against the wall, hoping something  sticks.

The thing is, it takes the unique confluence that occurred during the 2008 presidential election for that to happen. We were losing 750,000 jobs a month, two wars weren’t going well, and we had a gifted orator who relentlessly drove the “hope and change” message home. For the first time since Ronald Reagan’s first campaign, a sustained political sentiment carried the day.

But despite the fact that virtually none of these partisan thrusts ever gain any real traction, buoyed by the cheers of the choir to whom they preach, it doesn’t stop the folks in Washington from coming up with their next silly slogan.

The problem is, like it is with our landscaping stone throwers, you have to come up with an ever increasing list of crazier contentions to get anyone’s attention. And, in a kind of hoist by their own petard circular circumstance, that’s exactly what the Republican Party is doing.

Mainstream Republicans – we’re not talking about the crazies here – have shut down the government, attempted to repeal the Affordable care act 50 times, and basically accused the President of everything short of treason, but none of it’s sent him fleeing back to Kenya.

Sure, his approval rating has taken a hit, but it’s not that far off the second term average and Congress’s 15 percent makes his 41 percent look stellar.

So now, to continually feed that eternally ravenous conservative beast, the GOP has to come up with something even bigger to keep their minions from turning on them. And just when I thought they had nowhere left to go, they managed to surprise me and pull it off!

It started with Sarah Palin getting the impeachment ball rolling, which, given her sliding media personality fortunes, might’ve been ignored had not the House moved forward with a lawsuit against the President over a variety of executive orders.

And while suing the President will certainly stir up your base, 60 percent of Americans are not amused.

However, in a massive irony, even House Speaker Boehner clearly understands how damaging any impeachment proceedings will be because a full two-thirds of the country is against that prospect.

In fact, Boehner even went as far as calling this move a ploy on the part of Democrats to rally their faithful and win November votes. But that insight didn’t stop him and his House cohorts from suing the President.

This, of course, begs the question, “what’s next?” Just how do the Republicans plan on topping themselves next time?

The truly fascinating thing is, they either have to make an effort to do just that, or finally get back to governing and risk incurring the Tea Party’s black and white wrath. All I can say is, it will be very interesting to see what happens when the leaves start turning colors.

And speaking of the Great Western Trail…

It doesn’t get any better than that!

I’ve run the streets of Rome and I’ve dodged motorcycles on the sidewalks of Paris. I’ve run the hills of Orcas Island, the canal trails in Phoenix, and the beach in Charleston. I’ve run almost every inch of the Chicago lakefront, the streets of Seattle and the lakes of Minneapolis.

GWT

I’ve run in Pittsburgh, Buffalo, the Napa Valley, Virginia Beach, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Mexico, but the best place to run on the planet – bar none – lies squarely in the heart of Kane County.

It’s just a thin strip of an old trolley line, but from the forested early stages to the open farmland, that trail can take you anywhere you want to go. It’s almost magical to find yourself out there on an early Sunday morning. To quote the great Aliotta, Haynes and Jeremiah, “there ain’t no road just like it anywhere I found.”

But it gets better because while it’s really rare for a particular route to make you a better runner, I’m not sure why, but I’m faster, my heart rate’s lower, and I can go further on the Great Western Trail.

Though you will generally find an amazing fellowship among all runners, the athletes who avail themselves of the GWT seem to set the bar a little bit higher. There’s something about a shared experience that somehow makes it easer and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve waved at a familiar GWT face only to ratchet it up for the rest of the run.

And the people we have to thank for such a magnificent venue are the fine folks at the Kane County Forest Preserve because, in addition to its natural and inherent beauty, the trail is always safe and well maintained.

Though the GWT may be their crown jewel, the Kane County Forest Preserve has applied the appropriate vision, fiscal sensibility, and consistent effort to bring a number of quality sites to their constituents.

Think about it! Leroy Oaks, Tekakwitha, Nelson Lake, the Fox River trails, the Randall Road trail and so much more. I know it’s fashionable to mock and make fun of government employees, but the Forest Preserve District’s collective prudence on all fronts has made Kane County a much more fun and fascinating place to live.

The best thing about this whole thing is, when I think back to that 2011 referendum providing the KCFP with $30 million to purchase additional land at bargain rates, I have absolutely no regrets about voting yes. It certainly turned out to be money well spent.

So here’s to the Kane County Forest Preserve and The Great Western Trail – the most magnificent running forum anywhere. Maybe I’ll see you out there sometime!

This is your 7-31 Left, Right and You promo

steinberg

That’s right! This week Larry and I have premier Chicago columnist Neil Steinberg!

We’ll talk about his new blog, “Every Goddamn Day,” his latest book, the state of the Sun-Times and if there’s hope for newspapers in general. Given Neil’s propensity to speak his mind, this is one Left, Right and you don’t wanna miss.

So be there Thursday, July 31st, from 3 to 4 p.m. on WRMN AM 1410 because Larry and I know – you can handle the truth.

 

A challenge to all my Republican friends

Perhaps I should amend that to “all my moderate Republican friends” because there are far more of us than the wacky variety who currently dominate the political debate. Who needs those lunatics anyway?

So here goes! Tonight, 14th District Democratic Congressional nominee Dennis Anderson will be hosting a town hall meeting at Elburn’s Town and Country Library from 7 to 8:30 P.M.

Since I’m still waiting for someone – anyone – to name just one of Randy Hultgren’s accomplishments, I’m asking all my moderate GOP compatriots to head out to that get together and give Dennis a chance to impress you as much as he’s impressed me.

anderson

Now, before you stomp your foot and summarily say “no!,” please try to remember that no one understands just how exasperating the Dems can be like I do. So before you relegate all members of that party to some sort of contagious form of leprosy, please allow me to point out that Pat Perez turned out to be the best Sheriff in Kane County history.

And I backed him from the very beginning so you have to give me some credit for a capacity to pick good candidates.

C’mon! Could listening to Dennis for a scant hour and a half really cause any kind of permanent damage? You might even consider asking a question or two. Because if you’re as tired of the D.C. gridlock as I am, then it’s time to color outside the party lines and vote for the best candidate.

Despite what the tea baggers will tell you, most of us want:

  • To have reasonable gun control
  • To take care of our veterans
  • To get our college graduates out from under unsupportable debt
  • To have a strong middle class
  • To have everyone pay their fair share
  • To improve our flagging national infrastructure
  • To have Congress implement a reasonable jobs program
  • To have reasonably priced health care available to everyone

And by taking a stand for those simple stipulations, Dennis Anderson represents all of us and not just the ones who carry the most cash or regularly scream the loudest.

Randy Hultgren signs on to the obstructionist Washington minority, who accomplish absolutely nothing, simply because he wants to hang on to the best paying job he’s ever managed to blunder into. That’s not a good reason to reelect someone.

So what could it hurt? Head out to the Town and Country Library this evening and listen to what a sane politician really sounds like. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

I’m unilaterally calling off the hand-held cell phone ban…

…because no one’s paying any attention to it and ain’t nobody enforcing it either.

Case in point! While waiting for the line of vehicles to pass before I could turn right onto Peck Road at about 6:30 this morning, the driver of the last vehicle, a black pickup truck, was happily chatting away on his cell phone – at 10 miles under the limit, of course.

cell

Since the Great Western Trail isn’t that far away and I will no longer allow something silly like traffic to become a stressor, I simply sat back and mentally prepared myself for the impending run.

But as we slowly approached Bricher Road, one of Geneva’s finest just happened to be sitting at that stop sign and I thought perhaps the errant driver would be pulled over. Given the GPD’s propensity to write warnings, that’s all this would’ve likely come to, but that process still makes a point.

But alas, though the motorist was completely oblivious to the police presence and the officer and I could clearly see he was on the phone, nothing happened. Ah well!

As we continued north, I thought to myself, “wouldn’t it be ironic if this gentleman turned into…” And before I could finish the thought, he headed into the Judicial Center parking lot and up the stairs to work.

So why did I even bother to go out and buy a Bluetooth headset?

Of course, one incident does not a statistically significant sample make, but considering how little I drive, it’s amazing how often I see folks gabbing away with their right hand glued to their ear.

And it’s not just the Geneva Police – no one’s enforcing this new law despite the fact that carrying on a hand-held cell phone conversation has proven to be far worse than driving drunk. Ah! But law enforcement will resort to those patently unconstitutional No Refusal Weekends which don’t even begin to make a dent in the DUI statistics.

So why bother with this kind of statutory pretense? Because if we really meant it, we’d adopt those far stricter European drunk driving standards and then we’d follow in the motherland’s footsteps by forcing folks to pull over for any kind of cell phone conversation.

But we’re not serious about it so we don’t. Therefore, in what might be called the equivalent of a citizen’s un-arrest, I’m unilaterally calling off the hand-held cell phone ban. It’s not like any of y’all were driving all that competently to begin with.

 

On ancillary players, conspiracy theories, and why Rich Miller got it wrong

Oh lord! With a full month left to go before that final sprint to November begins, the ancillary players are already out full bloom.

Again, we’re talking about those self-important, but ultimately chicken-shit folks who, under the guise of anonymity, start the vicious rumors, break non-scandals, and generally act like idiots just to keep the political feuds alive.

Since they’ve never managed to accomplish absolutely anything, they want to make damn sure nobody else does either. Eleanor Roosevelt put it perfectly when she said, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

And speaking of ideas, let’s get back to the whole efficacy of conspiracy theories thing because I was surprised to see Capitol Fax’s Rich Miller going for one whole hog last week. Maybe he’s been in Springfield too long.

I may not be his biggest fan, but despite the fact that he’s utterly besieged with those untidy folk, Miller clearly understands the inherent pitfalls of the ancillary players and generally does a decent job of ignoring their petulant white noise.

Of course, all it takes is covering the political process for a short time to discover that the people involved can barely make it to the bathroom in the morning, much less start pulling strings like some Wizard of Oz-esque puppeteer.

in fact, the only person who can pull that kind of thing off is Mike Madigan and it doesn’t require any investigative resources to discern this because he certainly ain’t shy about it.

miller

Miller’s theory is that the Sun-Times (ST) is heavily covering the Better Government Association’s (BGA) legal thrust to render the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) susceptible to FOIAs for self-serving reasons. And even though it’s strange that the Tribune has been mum here, Miller’s reasoning for the logic behind those ST stories – which came from an anonymous Capitol Fax commenter – is suspect at best.

His convoluted concept postulates that ST owners Wrapports somehow stands to gain from a weakened IHSA because they also own a company called High School Cube which provides live high school Net sportscasts. Thus, in order to protect their position and prevent the IHSA from licensing those lucrative local broadcast rights, Wrapports just sicced the salivating stringers on ‘em.

Now you see why you should avoid ancillary players? They have this unique capacity to take any set of unrelated “facts” and somehow create a scenario that proves the only reason we can’t succeed in this miserable life is because the Illuminati are controlling everything. So it’s sad that Miller fell for this bleep when no one but an ancillary player could read that story out loud and take it seriously for more than about two seconds.

To his credit, Miller admitted there was something to the BGA’s attempt to require the IHSA to respond to FOIAs and it was newsworthy. No matter how much they try to deny it, the IHSA operates on taxpayer largesse, membership is not nearly as ”optional” as they make it out to be, and they can summarily stop your son from playing any high school sport anytime for any reason.

And they’re accountable to no one.

So my best guess is, with or without the ST coverage, the BGA will ultimately prevail. But how does that do anything other than require the IHSA to respond to FOIAs? I’m sure we’ll be aghast at some of those sponsorship deals, but how does having to answer FOIAs prevent the IHSA from locking up high school sports broadcast rights – especially if they remit a reasonable chunk of change back to the cash strapped school district?

But here’s the real bottom line. The Sun-Times can barely keep their collective nose above the water, much less make a slew of old school news bosses, middling managing editors, and barely passable novice reporters act in concert without one of them letting the cat out of the bag.

ST talent is fleeing to the Tribune faster than the Palestinians and Israelis can kill each other off, they still owe the Trib millions of dollars in back printing bills, and the only reason their satellite papers are still alive is it allows them to artificially spread costs around which makes the parent company appear more attractive to some sucker willing to buy into a sinking ship.

Why do you think their best columnist, Neil Steinberg, is suddenly pumping a ton of effort and energy into his own blog…?

So somehow, in the middle of this abject chaos, the Sun-Times suddenly has the presence of mind to extrapolate this IHSA BGA FOIA fight out to it’s illogical conclusion and actually conceive of and pull off a plan to help their parent company without any of the ex-employees spilling their guts?

The Trib couldn’t even keep their frat house shit silent!

That’s why conspiracy theories are just that – theories with only the minutest grain of truth behind them – and sometimes not even that.

So my advice to Mr. Miller would be to stop listening to the ancillary players because, just like it is with those HBO zombies, if you get too close to ‘em you’ll become one. Let’s hope Capitol Fax can do better in the future.

The Grand Victoria shouldn’t be paying any rent!

Armed with some COW meeting intelligence accusing Elgin City Councilman Terry Gavin of getting even more outta hand than usual after the Grand Victoria asked for a rent reduction, I decided to go right to the tape.

And I’m not really sure if this is a good or bad thing, but while Gavin’s capacity to act like an utter jackass remains intact, there was no discernable difference between his behavior at this or any other city council get together.

That said, and even though I probably shouldn’t go here, I will admit that when that Alderman “asked” Grand Victoria GM Jim Thomason not to insult his intelligence, my first thought was, “It simply isn’t possible to hit a target that small.”

But we digress.

Given their waning fiscal fortunes, the boat wants the Council to cut their rent from about $1.7 million a year to a million flat. That’s a bit of an oversimplification, but for all intents and purposes it’ll work just fine for us.

Jim Tomason

Jim Tomason

And even though he was far too subtle in his attempt to make this point, Thomason reminded that governmental gaggle that when the local bars were feeling the economic pinch and begged for video poker, the Grand Victoria did not stand in their way.

I can’t remember the specific year, but back then Thomason said something to the effect of, “What’s good for Elgin is good for us!” Sadly, as is always the no good deed goes unpunished case, that decision certainly came around to bite them in the butt!

Now, I don’t usually like to leap forward and spoil the ending, but it’s important to note that those COW folks did move the rent issue along to the next full council meeting with only Senior Gavin and Toby Shaw casting dissenting votes.

With those supermajority numbers, you can bet your sweet bippie that the Grand Victoria’s lease will, indeed, be readjusted accordingly.

But despite doing the right thing, we’ve run into a massive city council irony that I simply cannot ignore. And it starts with City Manager Sean Stegal mentioning that no other Illinois floating craps game pays any rent. Well…there might be one that remits 50 grand a year, but neither Des Plaines, nor Joliet, nor Aurora pay one thin dime of rent to their host towns.

So where’s the irony you ask? Oh! I’ll tell you! I’ve managed to make it through more bleepin’ county board, city council, and school board meetings than the entire population of Pingree Grove combined. And I can’t tell you how many times  I’ve heard those council folk say something like, “We have to bring this fee/rate/tax in line with surrounding communities.”

Translated, what that really means is, “We need an excuse to raise taxes so we’re going to cite the fact that other municipalities charge more so we can too. However, if we accidentally discover that we’re a bit higher on some other fees and taxes, you won’t hear a peep out of us.”

So when Councilman Shaw argued that paying just 3.5 percent of their profit in rent was a great deal relative to other local businesses, my rebuttal would’ve been, “Yeah! But the other boat’s aren’t paying any rent at all!”

Because if you’re gonna use the relativity theory, then you’re bound by it on all fronts and my argument is really hard to beat. (I still love you Toby, but you’re dead wrong on this one.)

Once! Just once! I would love to Elgin, or any other village board, say, “You’re right! We’ve got to bring this in line with other communities. Jim! [Thomason] You’re off the rental hook!” I completely understand the ramifications of sudden unforeseen budget deficits, but ethically and philosophically, it would’ve been the right thing to do.

Of course, I’m sure Terry Gavin would responded to that sentiment with something like; “It’s not our fault you signed a really bad lease agreement and you’re just gonna have to live with it.”

But that’s why he’s an unrepentant braying jackass! Because even though he’s correct on a mere technicality, considering how the Grand Victoria and Pritzker Family have always made it a point to work with the community – instead of against  them – why wouldn’t you give them the same consideration?

Why does this relationship have to be so adversarial?

For better or worse, the fate of the City of Elgin and the Grand Victoria are inextricably intertwined and if the council doesn’t hold up their end of that implicit social bargain and things go too far, I guarantee you the Pritzkers will bail out and the next owners won’t be nearly as magnanimous on so many levels.

For lack of a better analogy, this relationship is just like a good marriage and that means you always try to do your best and go the extra mile. C’mon man! You got a good thing going! Please don’t tell me the thrill is gone or I’ll have to get out my B. B. King records and really annoy the crap out of the neighbors.

Not only should Elgin reduce the boat’s rent to zero on pure principal, but the Council should direct the appropriate city folks to consistently go out of their way to promote Festival Park events because a reinvented Grand Victoria is good for everyone.

And please try to remember that all this is coming from a staunch pain in the ass columnist who doesn’t believe in legal gambling anywhere. That said, how many goddamn billionaire families have the social conscience of the Pritzkers?

You wanna know what the really scary thing is? If I’m the smartest person in the room here, then we’re all in fucking trouble.

Here’s the 7/24/14 Edition of Left, Right and You…

… for your listening pleasure:

Julia McClendon

Julia McClendon

Larry and I want to thank 14th District Democratic Congressional candidate Dennis Anderson for calling in and providing a rational view on how democracy is really supposed to work. Randy Hultgren’s is in trouble. I’m still waiting for someone – anyone – to name one of Hultgren’s accomplishments other than occupying a chair.

Another big thank you to Elgin area YWCA CEO Julia McClendon for enlightening us as to that agency’s efforts to get women more involved in the local political process. Not only do Larry and I encourage this kind of thing, but yours truly will be speaking at their October seminar.

Enjoy the show!

 

Dennis Anderson can beat Randy Hultgen

As a result of a previous post outlining just how 14th District Democratic Congressional nominee Dennis Anderson can beat incumbent Randy Hultgren, I ended up sitting down with Mr. Anderson and one of his staffers for about 45 minutes last week.

But despite coming into that conversation already convinced the candidate would stick to the common campaign scheme and wouldn’t even consider my alternative conclusions, I left our meeting feeling confident he had a real shot.

And trust me, that doesn’t happen very often. In fact, this might be the very first time it has.

Anderson2

The one thing Anderson had going from him before he walked through the door was a decent 2012 showing. Some folks say that was the result of running in a presidential cycle, but Barack Obama had no coattails that go around. The Democrats were avoiding him like Ukrainian airspace.

So a 41 percent tally his fist time out while spending only a hundred grand against a Republican incumbent is the kind of showing that bodes very well for the future. Add the fact the 14th is becoming more Democratic with every breath and you’ve got the basis for an upset.

After we shook hands, the first thing I noticed about Anderson is, unlike Bill Foster, he actually has a personality. And If Hultgren could only manage to pull 51 percent of the vote against a generally listless 2010  Foster, imagine what a personable guy can do if he applies those talents appropriately.

Of course, what generally keeps Foster in politics is the fact he can finance himself. So what remains to be seen is exactly what kind of fundraiser Anderson turns out to be. Sadly, the national Democrats incorrectly assume the 14th is a lost cause so they certainly won’t be pouring any kind of cash into the race.

But what really surprised me about Anderson is his capacity to sit silently for long stretches and then carefully consider what you had to say. And I say “surprised” not because of anything I’d previously heard about the candidate, but because most office-seekers make up their minds early and can’t wait to show you just how much they already know.

It is truly a rare phenomenon when a candidate not only seeks out advice, but actually considers it.

But the thing I liked most about Anderson might surprise you! His entire self-image and ego wasn’t completely tied up in winning a Congressional bid. Don’t get me wrong, he’ll be thrilled if he pulls it off, but he clearly understands that life goes on long after the election is a distant memory.

You all know I’ve been saying this for years. The people who so desperately desire to assume the mantels of power are the very last ones we should put there. The reason so many political campaigns get so dirty is neither contestant can bear the thought of coming in second.

Ah! But the capacity to stay unattached in the face of pressing possibilities is a powerful position which will allow Anderson to make those often necessary quick campaign adjustments and serve his constituents instead of his own self-interest.

Meanwhile, this is the best gig that Randy Hultgren has ever had and he’s so desperate to hang onto it that he’ll gladly throw his lot in with the obstructionists and accomplish absolutely nothing just to get that fat paycheck. Can anyone tell me anything Randy has done? Other than lobby pork for a local science facility that’s long past its prime, that is.

We’ll talk more about him later.

Please understand that I’m not ready to predict an Anderson victory quite yet, but I am encouraged. If Dennis continues to stay this calm and he follows the blueprint laid out at our meeting, we might all be surprised.

And don’t forget! Dennis Anderson will be on today’s (7/24) edition of Left, Right and You where we’ll talk about this topic and more!