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PENSION REFORM: ILLINOIS’ GORDIAN KNOTDec 05, 2013 -- 10:30pm
The Illinois legislature passed pension reform by the skin of its teeth on December 3rd; one more ‘no’ vote in the Illinois Senate and the measure would have failed. Governor Quinn signed the pension reform into law on December 5th. The state workers unions plan to sue and the whole question will wend its way to the Illinois Supreme Court. They’ll decide if Illinois’ pension reform is constitutional… And if the court declares pension reform unconstitutional, all the money saved by the reform will have to be repaid, and we’ll be drowning in red ink. Pass the Maalox.
Why is this issue so messy? That’s easy. Pension reform is falling on the backs of Illinois State employees, who aren’t responsible for the pension mess. They’re the victims.
The real villains are past legislators who for many years partially balanced Illinois’ budget by borrowing from the pension funds until they drained them; Thus killing the goose that laid the golden egg. Since there’s no law against raiding Illinois’ pension fund, Illinois state employees will receive less retirement benefits but also pay less into the retirement fund. Most likely the energizer bunny worked overtime powering calculators in many Illinois State Employees’ kitchens on December 3rd.
So why pass a reform that will ‘deform’ so many Illinois households, and may not be legal to boot? That’s also easy. If Illinois doesn’t reform its pension system, payback will drain the entire state budget; in short, less money for education, transportation, poverty programs, infrastructure, healthcare, Illinois' environment, and senior needs. Illinois is already 49th out of 50 states in funding per capita education. Many Illinois roads are pot hole central. Riding public transportation rivals travel in ancient Gaul. Eventually, we’ll need gas masks to go outside. Balancing Illinois’ budget isn’t an academic exercise; it’s crucial to survival.
There’s one other alternative. Like Detroit, Illinois could declare bankruptcy. But Detroit’s pensioners are getting 16 cents on the dollar, and are picking out their cardboard condos. That’s no alternative. Pension reform will just have to do.
LAMB CHOP 2.0: A THANKSGIVING STORYNov 28, 2013 -- 11:40pm
2013 hasn’t been a good year. One of my friends suggested we “fire” 2013, and start 2014 early. 2013 is almost over. But on November 23rd something happened that revealed even 2013’s gloomy cloud has a silver lining.
Lamb Chop 2.0 a show featuring Lamb Chop, puppeteer Mallory Lewis and produced by renowned artist, Nicolosi took place on November 23rd at Chicago’s Trump Tower. All proceeds were donated to curing childhood Leukemia. The show consisted of clips of Lamb Chop and Shari Lewis; Mallory and Lamb Chop talking and singing Hanukkah and Christmas Carols. The Naperville-based choir “Sleight of Hand” added to the festivities. Everyone from the toddlers to senior citizens had a great time. And it was announced that Lamb Chop will receive a U.S. Post Office commemorative stamp on February 14th.
Lamb Chop’s story began during the Great Depression. Folks knew Abe Lewis could be counted on to lend money when needed. When one man’s debt came due, but he couldn’t afford to pay it, he told Abe the truth, adding that his wife had made a puppet for Abe’s little girl. It was a little lamb with a lovely face that any child would instantly love; Abe’s daughter Shari was no exception.
That little lamb puppet launched a career; became world famous. Children of all ages loved Lamb Chop. Lamb Chop’s shows became a family affair, with Shari’s daughter Mallory producing them.
Then tragedy struck. Shari was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died shortly afterward in 1998 at age 64. One of the saddest cartoons I ever saw was of Lamb Chop lying down alone and sobbing. It was assumed that darling lamb died with her mistress.
Wrong! Shari left Lamb Chop to Mallory, and Mallory carried on. Lamb Chop’s alive and well entertaining again; recently receiving 3 stars after entertaining the troops on an aircraft carrier.
A lot has gone wrong in 2013. But I’m thankful that Lamb Chop has triumphed over death and the 2013 blahs. Thank you Lamb Chop, Mallory, and Nicolosi for giving 2013’s cloud one great silver lining. Happy Thanksgiving.
“JOHNNY WE HARDLY KNEW YOU…”Nov 21, 2013 -- 9:17am
It was a great Friday afternoon. My assignments were done, and I was remodeling a skirt for the Michigan State University Spartans’ game on Saturday. Beat Illinois & ‘State’ was Rosebowl bound. Then Lois came running up the stairs, crying someone shot the president. Lois never joked, so I grabbed my skirt and ran down to the TV room, just in time to hear Walter Cronkite announce President John F. Kennedy’s death. I never went to that football game—and Illinois went to the Rosebowl.
Instead, I mourned our fallen president and hero. President Kennedy symbolized the hopes and dreams of my generation. In the 1950s young women achieved success by getting their “MRS” degrees. The song “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught” summed up the way many Americans viewed those of different races and religions. Kennedy’s election meant that all of us could live together and that women could have a career. America would be great again.
Kennedy’s assassination, also, left a legacy of unanswered questions. Did Lee Harvey Oswald act alone? Was there another shooter on the grassy knoll? How could one bullet cut through Kennedy 11 ways, exit and hit Governor Connolly, and then turn up on Kennedy’s stretcher absolutely pristine? (Did the Lone Ranger drop by and pay his respects?) If Oswald acted alone, why did Jack Ruby to kill him? Was this an act of misplaced patriotism, or was Ruby paid to silence Oswald? If so, who paid Ruby?
Lately, evidence has come to light that places LBJ under suspicion. Some also suspect General Curtis Lemay ordered the hit. Don’t forget the usual suspects: Fidel Castro; the Mafia; The U.S.S.R. —and Lee Harvey Oswald. One of these days we’ll get some answers—and some closure.
I still mourn ‘Camelot’s’ unachieved legacies. Had President Kennedy lived, we might not have been caught in the divisive Vietnam quagmire. Had Americans not become so divided; we might be living in a more stable, prosperous, kinder country.
Indeed, the saddest words of tongue and pen are the words ‘it might have been.’
WHEN “I’M SORRY” ISN’T ENOUGHNov 14, 2013 -- 10:30pm
One of Javaland’s most esteemed residents, a savvy 93 year-old senior citizen called me, and was she hopping mad! “I have a blog topic for you,” she said. “Lara Logan said she’s ‘sorry’ she made a mistake when she gave false information in her recent story on Benghazi. That’s it. Why isn’t CBS investigating?”
In that 60 Minutes story, a so-called eyewitness asserted the State Department and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were negligent, doing too little too late, and that negligence resulted in the deaths of four Americans. It turned out the “eyewitness” either dreamed he was in Benghazi, or made the whole thing up. Either way, he struggles mightily to remain a legend in his own mind.
I usually blog about stories affecting Cook County, and this is a national story. Hence, I hesitated. But, this story has a “local angle.” We’re all watching Hilary Clinton closely, because she’s the frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination. This Benghazi material could well torpedo her image, making her vulnerable to Republican Governor Chris Christie, who’s looking more presidential every day.
If nominated, Christie will campaign on his “straight talking/up front” image. He’ll contrast his straight talk to Clinton’s alleged Benghazi inaction to attack her character. Ms. Logan’s story planted a seed and was the first salvo of a character assassination; commonplace in recent Presidential campaigns.
Winning Cook County big is critical to the 2016 Democratic presidential victory. If the Benghazi story starts a process that lowers Cook County’s Democratic vote, Clinton could lose Illinois—and the election.
Rule one of investigative journalism: You don’t publish/ broadcast without obtaining and fact-checking two reliable sources. Delusional partisans don’t count. “I’m sorry. I made a mistake” just doesn’t cut it. CBS must investigate this sorry fairy tale and fire all responsible.
Ms. Logan, there are reporters who risked their lives to tell the truth. You foisted partisan propaganda on an unsuspecting public. You shamed those reporters… and now say you’re “sorry?” Really? Shame on you!
You’re sure not Edward R. Murrow’s heir.
OUT OF THE SHARDS: LESSON LEARNED WELLNov 07, 2013 -- 10:23pm
On November 6th, I awoke to the news that the Illinois House had passed the law legalizing same sex marriage; The Illinois Senate immediately followed suit, by passing the house’s version of the bill…and Governor Quinn already promised to sign this bill into law.
Come June every man or woman in Illinois will have the right to marry—regardless of sexual preference. That makes Illinois the 15th state to approve same sex marriage. Way to go!
This week also marks the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht: “Night of the Broken Glass.” On November 9-10, 1938 The Nazi government ordered the destruction of every synagogue in Germany; Jewish shops, vandalized; mass arrests, beatings and murders of Jewish Germans. Germany’s Jews discovered the Nazis meant business. But they also learned to their horror that few nations wanted them. Ironically, only Hermann Goering, Hitler’s second in command, protested this atrocity.
This year’s Kristallnacht commemoration will take place on Saturday, November 9th at Beth Hillel Congregation B’nai Emunah, 3220 Big Tree Lane Wilmette, IL 60091, 6:30-8:00 P.M.
The arguments Nazis used to justify their Jewish persecution are laughable. Some accused the Jews of a conspiracy to conquer the world; others insisted Jews stole Christian children, murdered them and drank their blood; still others decried Jewish sexuality and seduction powers. All anti-Semites agreed that Jews had betrayed God and, therefore, were sub-human.
These same arguments surfaced when bigots “justified” denying gays and lesbians the rights enjoyed by other Americans. The only things these libels reveal in both cases are the bigots’ insecurities. They’re hate’s byproducts, nothing more.
Kristallnacht presaged the ashes of Auschwitz. But the bill legalizing same sex marriage grew out of those ashes. G.I. Joe and Jane learned as they choked back tears that humanity doesn’t pray by one religion alone. They cried over the dead they liberated, whatever the race or religion.
Illinois’ legislators learned from their grandparents’ to uphold all human rights. These are trying times, but times notwithstanding, they stood proudly for what’s right...Betcha there will be lots of neat weddings come June.
CONGRATULATIONS AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MAXWELL STREET KLEZMER BANDOct 31, 2013 -- 10:54pm
The Maxwell Street Klezmer band, founded in 1983 by Lori Lippitz, has become a beloved member of the Old Town School of Folk Music. The band will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a pair of concerts on November 3rd. What’s Klezmer music? Lippitz defines it as European Jewish folk music which grew largely out of the Jewish Shtetls of Eastern Europe and Russia. Klezmer music was featured at joyful Jewish occasions (weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs). Highly rhythmic, it’s meant to be danced to.
But there’s a dark side: Klezmer music was nearly destroyed in the Holocaust. The Nazis’ efforts to kill off the European Jewish community succeeded in destroying the communities that created it. Those Jews who escaped the Nazi clutches wanted nothing of the music that reminded them of what they’d lost. Everyone in 1950s America wished to be “baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet” Americans. Klezmer music was from the “old country” -- not worth remembering.
But many of the left-wing organizations, The Workmen’s Circle and the unions did…and when Lippitz heard she, too, was entranced. She fell in love with it, and subsequently founded the band. Unfortunately, Lippitz had no experience with bands. She credits the band’s musicians with teaching her what she has needed to know about music. The Maxwell Street Klezmer has 22 instrumentalists and singers. Each of them scours garage and charity sales in search of historic 78 R.P.M. Klezmer records. They also support a Junior Klezmer Orchestra which meets in Oak Park and Wilmette.
Sunday’s concert will be joyful; proof positive of hate’s failure. It will take place Sunday November 3 at the Old Town School, 4544 N. Lincoln 773-726-6000. A 4:30 pm concert is already sold out, but tickets are still available for a 7:30 P.M. concert. Tickets cost $25 for general admission; $72 for VIP tickets. VIPs are invited to reception between performances, 6:00-7:00 P.M. Happy Birthday Maxwell Street Klezmer Band; all honors to you for bringing this music to life!
Now, go! Enjoy! You don’t have to be Jewish to love this music!
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