Every day should be Veteran’s Day!

While I can certainly appreciate the efforts of all those facebook friends who took the time to post photographs of family members who so bravely served, as hard as I try, I cannot bring myself to feel that same cherished sentiment. It’s not that I’m not proud of my father’s service, because I am.

Despite being stricken with polio, like so many others, he faithfully served in the Korean War. And like so many others, he wasn’t the same person when he came back. Alcoholism, heart disease, marital problems, and the occasional psychological hospitalization plagued him for the rest of his life.

I don’t think he every fully recovered and I can say that because I’m the only one with whom he would regularly discuss his military service.

veterans day

Under the guise of photo reconnaissance, he was a member of the precursor to the Navy SEALS. They were the elite group who went behind the lines to blow up railroads, kill prison camp commanders, and interdict enemy shipping.

Sadly, I’m not so sure even he was proud of his time in Korea. He certainly didn’t want to talk about it. When I suggested co-authoring a book on his experience, the answer was an emphatic “No!” I can only imagine how tough it had to be on a sensitive only child from the north side of Chicago. Those late night conversations clearly conveyed the toll his service took.

So while I wouldn’t call it painful, whenever Veteran’s Day does roll around, I get this uneasy feeling in the pit of my chest. Again, I’m proud that my father fought for his country, but I can’t help but wonder what his life would’ve been like had the appropriate help been available when he came back from Korea.

Please don’t get me wrong! It is absolutely appropriate and correct that we post pictures and remember those courageous souls who were so willing to make the supreme sacrifice on the day set aside for that very purpose. But I hope I’m not the only one who feels that isn’t nearly enough.

Honoring fallen soldiers once a year is easy. What’s much more difficult, is honoring the 20 million veterans currently living is this country because so many of them could really use our help.

And I’m not talking about referring to them as “heroes” at every turn because that and four bucks will get you a small cup of coffee at Starbucks. I’m talking about implementing the kind of national safety net that will effectively get them back here in one piece – physically, mentally and emotionally.

Remember Omar Gonzalez? He’s the gentleman who jumped the White House fence and almost made in to the door. He’s a three tour Iraqi War veteran who suffers from PTSD and paranoia as a result. It ended his eight-year marriage. His Fort Hood psychiatrist gave him prescriptions for his condition, but as someone who worked with the mentally ill can attest, unless the appropriate support network is in place, they tend to stop taking their medications.

His former stepson told CNN that Omar was a “great, great guy,” who took great pride in serving his country. But instead of talking about improving the abysmal medical and mental health care options available to returning veterans, we discussed the Secret Service lapse and the need to extend street level barricades.

I’m sure our veterans would trade this one day for 364 others in which we acknowledged their service in a more meaningful way. Better social services, top flight medical and mental health care, job programs and so much more. That would be a far better way of saying “thank you!” Isn’t it far better to honor someone while they’re still alive?

The bottom line? Every day should be Veteran’s Day.

Should we call them “job destroyers?”

It’s not that I really needed another CD. I can’t possibly listen to the 2,000 LPs and 3,500 CDs I already own. In a chillingly biblical bent, my iPod Classic tells me it would take 40 days and 40 nights to listen to every bleepin’ song it currently contains. And when I use up that last scant 8.6 gigabytes, my only option will be to open the device and install a larger hard drive.

So there I was, doing my damndest not to acquire, “The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11 (Deluxe Edition),” which covers outtakes from Bob Dylan’s legendary 1967 sessions with The Band, when the dastardly Sunday Tribune published yet another halcyon review of those seminal proceedings. Any further resistance on my part was futile.

barnes and noble

But I didn’t want to fork over too much for that double CD either because we’re getting to the point where they’re gonna start releasing box sets of Bruce Springsteen’s various bodily noises. I’m sure one of the tracks will called “Bruce is Hungry!” And the sad thing is, I’d probably buy it too!

After the usual online suspects failed to meet my financial expectations, I thought, “why not give Barnes & Nobel another shot?” Perhaps after regularly enduring losses of $40 million a quarter they might have made some adjustments.

And wouldn’t you know it! At $15.39, the B&N “Basement Tapes” online price was significantly lower than their competitors. Not only that, but to put the transaction squarely into the almost as good as sliced bread category, there was a “Pick up in store” link. All you had to do is enter your name, Zipcode and email address and, after one short hour, the product would be waiting for you “at the counter.”

So I dutifully placed that order while harboring thoughts of enjoying Bob’s not-so-dulcet tones before the afternoon was out. “It’s nice to see Barnes & Noble making an effort,” I thought, “Maybe I should give ‘em another shot!”

Two hours later, I gleefully staked my spot in that B&N queue to eagerly await my prize. But when I got up to the front desk, the CD was nowhere to be found. And just when they were ready to start tearing the place apart, I mentioned it was a music selection and they quickly redirected me to a register in the back.

How difficult would it have been for the B&N webpage to dispatch me to that specific counter right off the bat? Even I can perform that basic level of Net programming.

Sadly, once I made it back to the music section, things didn’t get any better. That conversation went something like this:

“That will be $21.59.”

“21.59,” I exclaimed while pulling out my printed online order form, “The price I was quoted was $15.39.”

“That’s the online price,” the clerk said.

“I know that’s the online price because I placed the order online,” I replied.

“Yes, but the store price is different,” the clerk explained.

“But your website made no mention of paying the ‘store price,’” I added.

“I know,” the clerk said.

“Do you think customers will come back after Barnes & Noble pulls this kind of bait and switch?, I asked.

“I know,” the clerk repeated.

“Do you at least match your online price like Target and Best Buy,” I asked (understanding the irony of temporarily thinking fondly about Best Buy).

“No. We have to charge the store price,” he replied.

While the clerk was clearly affable and appropriately apologetic, I could tell this wasn’t nearly the first time he had that conversation. So I thanked him, walked out of the store, and ended up listening to the excellent Nils Lofgren box set instead.

Considering their insistent fiscal bleeding, Barnes & Noble has managed to survive longer than I ever thought they would, but I will reiterate my previous prediction that the reports of their impending death have not been greatly exaggerated.

And you thought the Bears were bad!

The November 6, 2014 edition of Left, Right and You…

… is a wrap! And you can listen to it right here!

First, Larry and I want to thank Bob and Pete who always make the best points whenever they call into the show! We want to hear more from them and all the rest of you lurking listeners.

LRY2Of course, the smiling conservative and I proceeded to cover all the elections results, add some interesting insights,  and interject a little levity in the process. It certainly doesn’t get any better than that.

And don’t forget! Next week we’ll have Tribune reporter extraordinaire Rick Pearson as we discuss whether Bruce Rauner will be able to contend with a Democratic general assembly supermajority.

Enjoy the show!

A second dose of Left, Right and You?

No! You’re not hearing double! Larry and I will be back on the airwaves at 3 o’clock this afternoon. So here’s the recorded promo:

Since we’ll actually have ’em, today, that smiling conservative and I will be discussing all the election results in detail. We’ll be answering those pressing questions like; How did Bruce Rauner pull it off? Was there an Illinois Republican surge? Were there any real surprises? And why do some folks even bother to run?

election results

Off course, I’m hoping Larry forgets I predicted a sizable Pat Quinn victory. We’d love to hear your thoughts on these fascinating midterm elections at 847-931-1410 as well!

That’s Left, Right and You every Thursday at 3 p.m. on WRMN AM1410. Don’t miss it!

The election night Left, Right and You!

All three glorious hours of it!

Larry and I fervently wish we could’ve brought you more results, but two new laws put the kibosh on that possibility. The first is that early and absentee votes cannot be processed until after the last polling place closes. In the past, county clerks would count those votes on election day and report ’em right after 7 p.m.

election 2014The second statute allowed people to register and vote in the same day which slowed some polling places to a crawl. I really think that needs to be re-examined because the last thing you want to do is create election day lines.

All that said, it was a blast having Kane County Board Member Kurt Kojzarek with us for the duration and we did have a fascinating conversation. We also want to thank Tim Elenz, Daily Herald reporter Jim Fuller, Kane County Deputy Republican Chairman Allen Skillicorn and Kane County Board Member Cristina Castro for calling in and making it a more interesting evening.

Enjoy the show!

An election night recap

Unlike Pat Quinn, I will concede that my rather persistent prediction of Bruce Rauner’s impending downfall was a wee bit wrong. And I’m even more surprised the challenger won by 3 full points. Apparently Governor Quinn’s failure to appear on Left, Right and You cost him the election!

When you consider the scant margin he managed to eke out in 2010, Quinn really needs to do the right thing and concede. Why ruin your reasonable reputation by being a dick in your final political act?

Truth be told, I was in good company with Nate Silver’s 538 blog prophesying the very same outcome. Given the circumstances, if I had to make that call all over again, I most certainly would. On a more visceral level, perhaps it’s as simple as Mr. Quinn’s amazing good fortune finally running out.

rauner wins

But despite that gubernatorial victory, there was certainly no Republican surge in the state of Illinois.

The two Constitutional Amendments and three Advisory Questions – all decidedly liberal in leaning – passed by huge margins. The evening’s biggest surprise had to be the comptroller race where, despite polls putting her up by as much as 33 points, Judy Barr-Topinka nearly lost to Democrat Sheila Simon.

Almost as remarkably, the Treasurer’s race is still too close to call with “sure thing” Tom Cross leading challenger Michael Frerichs by a slim 8,500 votes with 19 precincts and a scad of absentee ballots yet to be counted.

So now, Mr. Rauner, who’s used to getting his was at every turn, suddenly has to contend with a Springfield Democratic supermajority that he’s dissed at every recent turn. Proving my prognosticative failure hasn’t deterred me in the least, I’m predicting that Cullerton and Madigan will eat him alive so that Lisa can stroll through the mansion front door in four short years.

And then the surprises stopped.

Dick Durbin dispatched Jim Oberweis, but that 10 point margin was a bit closer than many pundits expected (including me). One has to wonder if the current iteration of Jim Oberweis could’ve won some of those earlier races. All that said, I firmly believe this was Jim’s last campaign.

Don Kramer easily bested Democratic challenger Willie Mayes in the Kane County Sheriff’s race and you can bet your sweet bippie that Larry Jones and I will hold him to his Left, Right and You no retribution vow. Running the Sheriff’s office is one of the toughest challenges in any county and experienced friends like Willie and Kevin Williams are often the difference between success and failure.

Bill Foster did away with Darlene Senger, Tammy Duckworth beat Larry Kaifesh, Randy Hultgren torched Dennis Anderson, Keith Wheeler trounced Valerie Burd, and Stephanie Kifowit destroyed Krishna Bansal.

While Senger and Kaifesh mounted capable campaigns and didn’t lose by too much, given their lackluster electoral efforts, I don’t understand why Anderson, Burd and Bansal bothered to run. Their combined margin of defeat was a dismal 80 percent!

Though he worked his butt clean off, Jeff Meyer couldn’t crest that steeply Democratic 43rd District State Rep hill and he lost to Anna Moeller by 20 points. Thankfully, as Larry and I frequently pointed out on the show, there are no losers in that district because both candidates were exceptional individuals.

I fervently hope that, next round, Jeff picks a race he can win. Taking on Deb Allen in the 12th Kane County Board district and then Anna Moeller in the 43rd is the very definition of tilting at windmills. If Jeff loses another race, that branding may well make it difficult for him to finally win one.

Had Ramiro Juarez put on any kind of meaningful 44th District State Rep campaign, he actually would’ve beaten slimy Democrat Fred Crespo. Please pay heed GOP! With the right candidate, you can win this one in two years.

And lastly, there were no real Kane County Board surprises though I certainly hope Kurt Kojzarek aims a bit higher the next time he runs.

So here are the things I took away from last night:

1. Illinois Democrats beware! By electing Bruce Rauner – but not completely rolling over to the Republican side – voters fired a clear warning shot. If the Democrats don’t fix the pension problem, there will be more electoral casualties.

2. Negative ads aren’t workin’ anymore! The best example of this new dynamic is Michael Frerichs who’s generally positive campaign put him in that virtual dead heat. One can only wonder if his final anti-Tom Cross push hurt him in the end.

3. The Illinois (and national) electorate is becoming more liberal with every breath (pun intended). Pot is now legal in Oregon and Washington D.C., the same-sex marriage question is well behind us, and, if you told me that the Illinois minimum wage Advisory Question would get 70 percent of the vote, I would’ve told your significant other to lock up the liquor cabinet – or to stop visiting Oregon.

As any stock market aficionado will tell you, it always pays to ignore the intermediate swings and focus on those long term investments. Conservatives need to prove they can do more than simply obstruct or they won’t likely get another chance to govern.

4. Good ground games still win elections!

5. I owe Tim Elenz lunch all because of that dastardly Bruce Rauner!

We’ll cover all this and more on the radio show on Thursday!

Don’t miss the special election night edition of Left, Right and You!

That’s right! Just when you thought election night couldn’t get any better, you’re about to get three full hours of your favorite political radio talk show. I’m getting goose bumps just thinking about it!

LRY2The festivities will kick off at 6 p.m. with Kane County Board Member Kurt Kojzarek joining us in studio. Tim Elenz will pop by a little bit later and Daily Herald reporter Jim Fuller will be calling in with his unique election day insights.

Time permitting, we’ll be talking with Jim Oberweis, Willie Mayes, Larry Kaifesh, Jeff Meyer, Anna Moeller, Ramiro Juarez, Stephanie Kifowit, D. J. Tegeler, Tom Hartwell, Cristina Castro, and Illinois Republican Chairman Tim Schneider. Don’t worry! We’ll be giving you the numbers just as fast as we can.

We’d really love to hear your thoughts too at 847-931-1410.

The bottom line? Larry and I hope you’ll tune in to WRMN AM1410 from 6 to 9 p.m. this evening to enjoy the kind of local political analysis that only Left, Right and You can provide.

On odd campaign mailers, term limits and political ego

There’s a good reason Mike Madigan consistently keeps Illinois Democrats in positions of power. He’s smart, he’s politically astute, and despite enjoying the longest undisputed reign of any political boss I can remember, he takes absolutely nothing for granted.

This clearly proves that if you’re one of those rare folks who can actually manage to win elections while sublimating your political ego, the electoral world will be your oyster.

But it’s far easier said than done! Once they start breathing that rarified Springfield air, even normally mild mannered folks suddenly start believing they’re invincible. Dan Walker, Ricky Hendon, Mel Reynolds, George Ryan, Keith Farnham, Dan Rostenkowski, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Rod Blagojevich and so many others have all fallen prey to the kind of egotistical meanderings that make term limits appear utterly unnecessary.

And I think we’re about to see another incumbent join that hoist-by-their-own-petard hall of fame – 44th District State Rep Fred Crespo. Though he should certainly take solace in the fact the he’s likely going to lose an election instead of being arrested.

To properly set the stage, you have to understand that the Illinois Democratic Central Committee generally runs incumbent general assemblyman campaigns. And they do it because Chairman Madigan’s basic theory is, “We’ll take care of the details, you get out there and walk.” And Democratic legislators typically take him up on that offer to varying degrees.

But not our Fred! Letting his ego get the best of him, Crespo told the Central Committee to stay out of out of it and proceeded to tab Hanover Township Board Member Steve Caramelli as his campaign chair. It would take far too much time to cover Mr. Caramelli’s fascinating history here, but, suffice it to say, our illustrious State Trooper, who thinks he’s the second coming of Karl Rove, managed to convince Crespo to put his political fate into his not-so-capable hands.

Taking a page from the Eric Cantor playbook, Caramelli immediately proceeded to launch a series of scathing attacks on Republican opponent Ramiro Juarez. Of course, anyone who’s ever passed poly sci 101 already knows, if you’re running against an unknown opponent with no cash, the last thing you want to do is mention his name at every possible turn.

Fast forward to the second week of October and, Madigan, who leaves nothing to chance, had the DCC commission two separate polls. C’mon! He certainly doesn’t want the malleable Crespo to lose that House Appropriations Committee chair.

And whaddaya know! Both of ‘em found the Crespo – Juarez race to be a dead heat! Utterly beside himself, the Speaker made a campaign offer our State Rep couldn’t refuse by sending three separate senior advisers to set things straight.

But before they could put their collective fingers in the campaign dyke, one more purportedly Crespo mailer hit the 44th District voters and it was a doozy. Let’s just say, Hispanic voters were not amused.

mailer 1

mailer 2

The front (above) depicts the smiling head of Ramiro Juarez firmly planted on the thinner body of a white man who’s mowing his lawn. I hope I don’t have to explain that stereotypical sentiment. On the flipside, we have the same landscaping effort while specifically referring to Jaurez as “…just the son of another illegal immigrant.”

It then goes on to extol Crespo’s “virtue.”

Oddly enough, the required “paid for” notation cites “People for Fred Crespo” which is a non-existent political committee. So when the shit hit the fan over this blatant bigotry, Crespo denied any involvement via robo-call, called on Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to investigate, and blamed the Juarez campaign for sending it out themselves.

But there are a couple of problems with that premise.

First, with all due respect to the candidate, the Juarez campaign ain’t smart enough and they don’t have the time, money or technical skills to pull it off. And second, I had a 44th District friend check all the mailers and, sure enough, each campaign addresses the voter consistently, but differently.

One uses “The Family of John Doe” while the other simply goes with “John Doe.” The flyer in question uses the Crespo camp’s methodology.

With all due respect to my good friend and Kane County Deputy Republican Chairman Allen Skillicorn’s hypothesis, Michael Madigan is not nearly stupid enough to send something that inflammatory out, but Steve Caramelli is.

Madigan understands Hispanic voters generally don’t make it to the polls unless you give them a really good reason to do so. So he’d simply let sleeping dogs lie. Ah! But Caramelli, unnerved by a looming defeat that would eliminate his power base, might just throw caution into the wind.

Granted I’m speculating somewhat here, but it’s the only scenario that makes any sense. The remaining question is, did Crespo know about the mailer before it was sent out?

But it really doesn’t matter because, instead of going with the kind of sure thing that Madigan’s campaign brain trust almost always provides, like so many fallen politicians before him, Fred Crespo let his ego get the best of him and decided to go it alone.

And now he might just lose to an unknown, underfunded, Republican Hispanic political upstart which only goes to show you, as long as political ego is involved, who the heck needs term limits?